The second book in the Blank Slate series, DAMAGED GOODS, has finally been released into the world. Today, I’m chatting with the author of that YA Dystopian series.
Welcome, Jennifer!I’ve read both of these Blank Slate books and the universe intrigues me. I especially liked viewing too much online interaction as “evil.”
I’m insistent with my kids that we don’t have technology out while we’re having a family dinner, but it seems like texts, notifications and other things distract us from each other at every other time. What gave you the idea to have cell phones cause brain tumors and be seen as a “big evil” by The Vestal founder?
I’m addicted to my smartphone as much as the next person. In fact, I’m probably more addicted because I’m on social media so much. Turning off my phone and paying attention to the people in front of me is something I struggle with, but I try hard to be a good role model for my kids. They aren’t old enough for iPhones yet, but when they are, I don’t want them to copy bad habits.
The idea about phones and brain cancer came to me when a friend was describing what it was like visiting her old sorority house at college. At my college, everyone had normal dorm rooms, but at her sorority house, there was a sleeping room. One person was in charge of waking everyone up at the allotted time, that way there wasn’t a gazillion alarm clocks going off all morning. My friend was shocked when she visited because nowadays, instead of a person on duty waking people up, all the girls just slept with their cellphones right on their pillow with silent alarms. She wondered if that was safe, having Bluetooth, etc. right next to their brain matter. That’s what gave me the idea for GENESIS GIRL and the cancer epidemic.
I find the billboard advertising in the series somewhat ironic. In a totally tech society, shouldn’t advertising in that way be extinct?
In my imagination, they were more like digital billboards, with changing screens. In real life advertising infiltrates our lives at every possible moment. There’s Disney Princesses on my daughter’s chicken noodle soup! But in the future, who knows how advertising will evolve? It will be exciting to see.
Of course, Blanca’s attraction to the billboards is also interesting. I always loved reading them when we traveled by car. They seemed more “honest” than TV commercials to me, but why would I think that?(rhetorical question) And why does Blanca see being exposed there as acceptable while online media revelations are dirty and evil?
Blanca’s okay with the billboards because they are approved advertisements from the companies the Vestals represent. She wants complete control of how her image will be shared. So if McNeal solar shares a picture of her, Blanca is excited. But if a total stranger snaps a shot of her standing at a bus stop, Blanca would freak out. It’s kind of like how some people never want their friends to share pictures of them online unless their hair and makeup is perfect.
A major theme in the new book is trust. It’s interesting that Blanca keeps big secrets and doesn’t trust the right people but doesn’t see those things as a lack of trust or even a problem. What are you hoping your teenage readers take from this?
Knowing who to trust is one of those hard lessons everyone must learn on the path to adulthood. Don’t be the first person to fall asleep at a slumber party, for example. But for Blanca, trust is exceptionally challenging since she grew up in a controlling environment where she was brainwashed. My hope is that teen readers take inspiration from Blanca’s commitment to survive, think for herself, and follow her instincts.
Thanks so much for writing such “page turners” and for taking time out to stop by my blog. And now for a totally “fun” question. If you could have a super power, what would it be? Why would you choose it?
Thank you for having me! I would love to be able to fly—or make dog poop disappear. Either one!
Check out my FOUR STAR review of the book on Goodreads.
Read more about DAMAGED GOODS and don’t forget to enter the giveaway.
Title: DAMAGED GOODS (Blank Slate #2)
Author: Jennifer Bardsley
Pub. Date: January 17, 2017
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook
Find it: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | TBD
Blanca has everything she ever wanted, a hot boyfriend named Seth and the loving support of her foster father, Cal. She’s finally escaped the abusive control of her birth father, Barbelo Nemo, and her tortured childhood at Tabula Rasa School.
But the scars of Blanca’s Vestal upbringing run deep, especially when the FBI start asking questions. Blanca feels abandoned by Seth who is hunting for Lilith, Blanca’s only blood relative. The Defectos, a support group of Vestal-Rejects, offer Blanca comfort instead.
While the Vestal order crumbles, Chinese rivals called the Guardians rise to power and wrest control of important Tabula Rasa contacts. Now Blanca’s life is in peril once more, and this time, Blanca struggles to recognize friend from foe.
Jennifer Bardsley writes the parenting column “I Brake for Moms” for the Sunday edition of The Everett Daily Herald. She also blogs at Teaching My Baby to Read with the mission of sparking a national debate on the important roll parents play in education. Jennifer is a graduate of Stanford University and a member of SCBWI. She lives with her husband and two children in Edmonds, WA.
The first novel in this series, GENESIS GIRL, released in 2016 and is about an 18 year-old girl whose lack of a virtual footprint makes her so valuable that she is auctioned off to the highest bidder. Jennifer is represented by Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Literary Agency LLC.
See the rest of the tour schedule here.
I’m a fantasy author. I’m a fantasy author. *dances around the desk singing* Read my debut story in Masked Hearts today.
Join the fun on the blog tour for the next two weeks. There are reviews and interviews and chances to win prizes. I know you don’t want to miss any of that.
I’m excited to introduce the world to my beautiful woodland elf, Alyona Wyrden, who travels to the earthen realm (you know, where we humans live) in search of her missing brother. I hope you’ll fall in love with the amazing magical artifact detective, Agent Camden Kerr. His job is to protect humans from dangerous magically charged items.
Items like the amulet Alyona is using to travel between realms and track her brother’s location. Will he get the artifact? Will she find her brother? What sort of choices will they make between “Duty and Desire”?
Here’s a sneak peek of their first meeting:
Agent Camden Kerr shoved his fingers through his hair, long layers, mussy. Nothing like he’d worn when soldiering full-time. Staring into the nearly spotless icebox encouraged his stomach to growl. Looked like he needed to grab groceries or head out for dinner.
He shuffled across the kitchen. As his hand covered the coil of keys holding down the newspaper he’d yet to read, a click from the hallway stopped him. He tilted his head toward the sound from the laundry room, and his right hand sneaked along his chest until his fingers rested on the handle of his service sidearm.
Service. As if working as a Recovery Agent for the Magical Artifact Reclamation and Quarantine Society amounted to service. That bunch of stingy, wealthy sponsors had some interesting conspiracy theories about magic. Working for MARQS hardly gave him the same feel-good sense of accomplishment he’d felt while recovering stolen weapons, formulas and documents for the government.
Woodsy air wafted into the room. Hair on the back of his neck prickled. If they were in his office, he knew exactly what they were after. But how did they find him? He’d been careful when he’d lifted the medallion from the evidence room at the police station. Seriously. A drugged-up prostitute shouldn’t have anything so valuable in her possession in the first place. Whoever killed her hadn’t known what it was, or the police wouldn’t have been bagging and tagging it with regulated routine.
Cam eased the gun from its holster. His booted feet slithered over the kitchen tiles as silently as a rattler on rocks. Waiting for his eyes to adjust to the dim light wasn’t an option. He had a better idea. A grim twist of his lips, and he slammed open his office door with his shoulder, smacked the light switch beside it with his left hand.
A slender woman with eyes glittering like emeralds twisted toward him, hands flailing toward the ceiling in a hypnotic, graceful arc. Her chin was a sharp point in her heart-shaped face. High cheekbones, slashed with ruddy shades of sunset, offset her peachy complexion. The mass of beige blonde hair topped off a perfect picture.
“Where’s my brother?” Her accented English wasn’t difficult to understand, its cultured tones free from panic.
His fingers tightened on the pistol’s grip, index finger straightening away from the trigger. He raked her lithe figure with a single glance, noting no suspicious bulges to indicate a concealed weapon. The rise and fall of full breasts beneath some sort of leather tunic didn’t escape his attention. Or the slender legs encased in form-fitting leather, down to the moccasin-like booties on her narrow feet.
“You’ve got the wrong house.” Cam kept the gun aimed center mass, even as he felt the tension drain from his shoulders.
“I don’t think so.”
She shifted away from the desk. Cam stiffened again, finger dropping onto the trigger, eyes honing in on his target.
And a fine-looking target, too. Messing up that chest with an armor-piercing round would be a total waste.
Not to hog the stage in my excitement over my own story, here are the blurbs for the other four fantasy romances.
Behind the shadows lies the truth…
A magic mirror and a houseful of ghosts await Kristen when fate leads her to Wanderly House. Secrets and spirits consume her days, but one look in the magic mirror and her heart falls fast. A mask, a cloak, and a key leading her to an enchanted evening in the faery garden might be Kristen’s end as all that glitters may well have sharp teeth.
Magic mirror on the wall…
Connor is trapped in Faery. With only a view through a bewitched mirror to the real world, his attention is nabbed by a curious cat shifter with a ghostly following. Can he find a way to break the spell that binds him so he can reach the girl that haunts his dreams?
When the forces of Faery and Wanderly House collide, will Kristen and Connor’s love be enough to save them?
Sparks fly when a Spanish water woman, and an African two-horned horse shifter meet at a masquerade. Kimoni has gone to ask Isidora to use her skills to aid him with his ailing grandfather. When strangers claiming to be Isidora’s relatives try to force her to share her powers, the pair is plunged into danger. Isidora and Kimoni look for a way to fight the ruthless intruders, while also saving his grandfather.
Using their combined powers, they meet the challenge, all the while conscious of the growing attraction between them. It has been a long time since Isidora has met a man who calls to her as Kimoni does. The strong, handsome horse shifter sings to her senses, and she sees a matching spark in his eyes. Can love between them blossom? Can a water woman and a horse shifter find happiness together?
The kingdom of Baelin is under attack. A terrifying dragon rains fire down on the capital city, burning all in his path. The people’s one hope lies with the Princess Draxa, who – in accordance with an ancient rite – must willingly sacrifice her future to sate the beast’s wrath.
For her kingdom, Draxa will do it. She will leave Andre, the fierce soldier she loves with all of her heart, don her red cloak, and make the treacherous trip into the heart of the mountain, to face the monstrous Lord Siouxlian in his lair.
Brooke Adair’s autism has turned the world into a constant puzzle, especially when it comes to men. When she meets fellow swan shifter Blake Landen in a dream, though, Brooke feels a potential connection to someone who could understand her. If she lets him.
But trusting in Blake takes a whole lot more courage than Brooke has. After all, if she doesn’t take this leap, Brooke might miss out on meeting the one man she could actually learn to understand.
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Happy Book Birthday to Soul of Dust and Adam Millard!
Soul of Dust
By Adam Millard
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: December 7, 2015
Publisher: Roane Publishing
Sometimes being semi-immortal just isn’t enough.
Kate West, beautiful and complex in equal measure, with a problem only Jack can solve. Daemons, magic, voodoo, and vamps; it’s all very real, and Jack Bridge is the last line of defense against the creatures of Elsewhere.
Sometimes being semi-immortal just isn’t enough.
About Adam Millard:
Adam lives with his beautiful wife, Zoe-Ray, and their wonderful son, Phoenix Justice. There are also chickens, rabbits and cats, but the less said about that the better.
Follow Adam on Twitter @adammillard
Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code. No purchase necessary, but you must be 18 or older to enter. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter, and announced on the widget. Winner well be notified by emailed and have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. The number of entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Roane Publishing’s marketing department.
Rick Riordan writes middle grade and young adult adventure books in a way that makes me drool (as I’m rapidly turning pages to discover what happens next). His newest series, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, delivers nothing less.
When a book begins with the main character’s death, you know something interesting has got to happen next. Otherwise, the story would be over. Epic fail.
Will he be resurrected? I know it isn’t all a dream because Riordan is too skilled to fall into that trap. Is it all going to happen in the afterlife?
All in all, it earns a solid 4.5 stars from me. Yes, I am surprised that it didn’t make five stars -it’s the amazing Rick Riordan-but I’ll explain my reasons during this review.
Magnus Chase (if you recognize the surname here from another series, you’re not wrong) has been living on the streets since his mother’s murder. Apparently, this is a relatively safe thing for a boy to do in Boston. Or maybe just because two other homeless guys are watching out for him.
The story opens with his relatives looking for him. What? He had relatives and they just let him live on the streets? You’ll understand the reasoning before too long.
Magnus has an important destiny in the scheme of the Norse doomsday, Ragnarok. This brings a fire giant, slinging meteors, into downtown Boston. There’s a showdown. Magnus goes over the bridge and wakes up in Valhalla.
If you’re not current with your Norse mythology, never fear. Riordan does a great job weaving the information you need to understand what’s happening into the story.
Magnus makes a few friends. Gets his Valkyrie fired. Is the subject of a dire prophecy. Dies a few more times in practice battles. And sneaks away from Valhalla to embark on a quest to regain the Sword of Summer and stop the end of the Nine Worlds from happening.
Magnus is an engaging character with an interesting background. Meeting him on the streets made me consider the ugly fact that there are plenty of homeless children living in similar situations. For real. Hopefully, none of them are being hunted by fire giants.
Even though Riordan explains the familial situation, I still have a hard time accepting that Magnus would have been abandoned. His family is searching for him now, but why didn’t they do it two years ago? Why are they assuming he’s still alive? And when we find out WHO he’s related to, it seems even more unlikely (although we don’t really know the time relationship between this story and the two series featuring Percy Jackson).
I admired Magnus for holding onto his sense of humor (since that is how many of us cope with difficult situations). His flippancy was a nice change from the constant sarcasm Percy Jackson uses. In other ways, though, they are similar: reluctant heroes who don’t know their fathers.
I wasn’t put off by the contradictory depictions of Odin, Loki and Thor shown here (and I’m a huge Avengers fan). It’s a different universe, folks. Of course they are going to be different. Only a lazy author would make them carbon copies of something he’d seen in the movies.
The biggest issue I had with accepting this story world is a single question: where are the Greek and Roman gods?
Case in point: Magnus must go out and barter with a sea goddess. They only mention her husband the sea god in passing, but it isn’t Poseidon. How many deities are willing to share their realms with other deities? Shouldn’t there be a scuffle about territory?
There’s no attempt to answer this burning question. It’s like those individuals don’t exist. But we know they do. The presence of Annabeth Chase brings their existence front and center. Maybe this is when they’re all amassing in Greece to face down the giants and Gaia. And yet…wouldn’t their absence be cause for even more turmoil in their domains?
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed the book. I just wish Riordan would have set it in a different universe. He could have used our contemporary world and made that work fine. But by bringing Annabeth into the story (even in a minor way), he reminded me that there is plenty of turmoil in this world already, but it isn’t even alluded to by the Norse deities or the human world.
If you love Riordan’s writing (like I do), you won’t be disappointed. He delivers another page-turner with non-stock characters.
If you’ve read all his other books (like I have, with the exception of the Red Pyramid series), parts of this book will bring a sense of deja vu. Haven’t we been here before? And yet, how could that be true when we’re entering the Norse mythology of Nine Worlds?
You will laugh. You might even tear up. If you want a fast-paced book with likable characters and as much humor as action, this is a book you’ll want to read.
If you have read this book, what were your thoughts? Do you think I’m overreacting about questioning where the Greek and Roman (and perhaps Egyptian) deities are hiding?
Kagawa’s story of dragons living among us has been on my to be read list since I first read its description. Yes, I’m talking about Talon.
When it came, it appeared on my Overdrive app just in time for the weekend. *sigh*
Ember and her twin brother are on the last leg of their training. If they can successfully assimilate into human society, they will earn their position in Talon, the international organization of dragons.
Ember wants to taste freedom. She befriends the locals and finds a love of surfing. Not as good as flying above the waves-which is forbidden-but enthralling nonetheless.
Her summer is cut short by the arrival of adult dragons to train her and her brother. Separately. Wait a minute! They’ve done everything together for their entire sixteen years of life.
Soon, Ember is chomping at the restraints Talon places on her. Encouraged to defy their rules by a rogue dragon, she finds herself doubting everything she knows about dragons and drifting further from her beloved brother.
Enter the spies from St. George, the dragon hunter’s organization. Garret is known as the Perfect Soldier, but when Ember pushes him to embrace living, unexpected emotions – and doubts of his own – emerge.
Kagawa creates two complex organizations with ideologies that diametrically oppose each other. She throws a teenager from each together. Conflict results. This conflict is central to the story and really the best part of the book.
The two secret societies battling each other is a perfect backdrop for this novel. What do teenagers care about some remote war?
Ember wants freedom. She’s not going to find it in Talon. Ever.
For Garret, he’s been a soldier his whole life. He learned to kill dragons at 14 and has more kills than anyone his age. But is there more to life than hunting the beasts that killed his family?
Some reviewers complained about the ease with which Dante and Ember fit into human society since they’d lived in isolation for sixteen years. Ember’s inner thoughts made it believable to me. Dragons have a natural chemistry for soothing people, easing in, making people trust them.
I enjoyed viewing the dragon society through the different eyes of the three narrators. Is Talon the evil organization the rogue dragon believes? Is there a greater purpose behind their disguises? Those answers must wait for the sequel.
Usually, I’m not a fan of love triangles. In this case, it didn’t bother me (as much) because it was obvious that Ember had a duality – dragon and human. Each side of her preferred the guy from its race.
I wasn’t thrilled with the ending because, while the story question was resolved, it introduced the problem for the sequel. Was she afraid we wouldn’t read the next book unless she wrote it this way?
It still earned 4.5 out of five stars from me because I loved the characters, the conflict, and the constant tension. Were there unbelievable moments? Not enough to throw me out of the story.
But I predicted the outcome fairly early on (although I didn’t guess every angle). And the ending could have been stronger.
If you love dragons, you want to read this book. They are everything you expect while being unexpected in their human disguises.
If you like snarky heroines, you will enjoy this book. Ember Hill has attitude. Being inside her head made for a great ride.
This book has violence but it’s handled with taste and delicacy, so the story is suitable for younger teenagers. The romantic element is secondary to the character development. A PG read in that respect too.
The biggest drawback of this book – the library didn’t have a copy of the sequel available for me to check out.
Rogue, consider yourself added to my TBR list.
I won this book from the publisher when it was first released in October 2014. It’s been sitting in my Kindle queue for many months. Why?
Before I won the book, I interacted with the author, discovering the story has some graphic scenes of violence against the adults. Later, kids take up arms and are shooting each other. All of these are disturbing images, and the horror aspects of this story kept me away. After all, I had plenty of other reading choices.
What changed my mind? The second book in the series came out in April and so the title popped back into my news feed. I decided if I just read the book in the mornings while running on the treadmill, I shouldn’t run too serious of a risk of netting myself any nightmares.
Shane and his dad aren’t getting along. Shane has lost his mom and grandmother, and in the midst of this grief, strange events begin to happen. He gets the unfortunate experience of being present when an adult he cares about meets the crazed assassins of nature.
While he’s holding out hope that he can save this person, he meets up with his secret crush and her sister, only to learn the rampaging cattle he noticed earlier stampeded their parents. An tortuous vehicle ride later, watching another adult meet their end and discovering too many bodies to count, these three reach the high school gym where a bunch of other kids are gathered.
Even though Shane is neither the strongest nor the smartest, the kids defer to his leadership. They hatch a plan to evacuate to a nearby military base using school busses for transportation. While they’re out gathering supplies and gassing the buses, a group of juvenile delinquents attacks and terrorizes the kids remaining at the gym. (A heart-wrenching scene)
When they travel on toward Georgia’s capital, things get worse. At the military base, they discover the soldiers have survived but are now turning on each other. A radio transmission explains the cause of all the strange events (government project gone wrong) and gives these teens an objective.
In the end, they manage to stop the craziness, but the body count is high.
This book earned four stars from me in my Amazon and Goodreads reviews.
The story was well-constructed and moved along at a steady pace. By the mid-point, I found myself reading it on my lunch break as well as the treadmill. I wanted to find out how they would survive. You will too.
Most of the characters didn’t move or interest me. I was particularly disappointed in Shane. Not that he didn’t have courage, skills and a good heart. He just wasn’t the best choice of leader. The author didn’t convince me that Shane should lead, so it felt contrived that the other kids wouldn’t choose someone more popular as their leader.
The horror aspect of the story is real – and revolting. The more critical issues of teen-on-teen crime was handled with finesse. Even though we hate to see kids hurting each other, their motivations are realistic and well-drawn. The crimes aren’t glorified or exaggerated. Harris showed himself a skilled writer in his handling of these events.
After the ever-increasing pace of the narrative, the ending rushed in and tied things up too neatly. It truly felt like a set-up for the sequel. If you’ve read many of my reviews, you know how I feel about that.
If you enjoyed the Gone series by Michael Grant, you should read this book. Even though the plots are dissimilar in many ways, many of the themes are the same. The biggest question: how would young people survive if all of the adults suddenly disappeared?
I caution parents and younger readers about the graphic content in this book. Being covered in cockroaches is horrifying to imagine. If the cockroaches have the intention to kill? It’s worse. Nightmarish. If you have a vivid imagination – like me – I would recommend reading the book during the middle of the day.
In order to get your discount, use the following code at checkout:
Stock up all month long and enjoy!
Today is Release Day!
I hope you’ll join the festivities and check out the different blog posts on the tour over the next two weeks.
Some things you’ll find:
- What authors like to eat
- Prize giveaways
- Inspiration behind the stories in this anthology
- More romance writers to love
Here’s an overview of the stories you’ll find in this anthology:
Guiding Hearts by Claire Gillian
Description: Is a lonely woman’s GPS sentient or is her subconscious taking her by the hand to help heal a scarred heart?
When Jemma Ernst’s GPS malfunctions and sends her to the home of handsome and engaging Gabriel Nash, she writes it off as a fluke. But she can’t seem to reprogram him out of her thoughts nor her GPS.
Better Latte Than Never by Katrina Sizemore
Description: Single and cold on Valentine’s Day, Hailey Merritt is not looking forward to working all day at the coffee shop while everyone around her is cheery with romance and she’s stuck trying to figure out her next step in life.
But, when a special bouquet arrives for her from a secret admirer, she decides to reserve judgment on this holiday and find whomever sent the flowers.
Maybe Cupid has a plan to make this her favorite Valentine’s Day ever.
Dream Architect by S.L. Hughson
Description: Taylor and Sons Custom Design keeps ASHLIN TAYLOR at arm’s length from her dream job. If only she were a son, she could follow her architectural dream. In the Taylor creed, girls get married and boys have careers. DYLAN CUTRIGHT focuses on finishing college and landing an architectural engineering job in a large firm. Minus emotional ties.
After their accidental encounter, their attraction is amplified during their work interaction. Unlike her family, Dylan encourages Ashlin to pursue her dream by enrolling in college. He even argues her case with Uncle Mike. All of this support confuses Ashlin because when she moves closer to him, he rebuffs her for reasons she can only speculate about.
Valentine’s Day might be the perfect opportunity for Ashlin to make him notice her. They are working together – alone – on the most romantic day of the year. Dylan builds her dream of career, but will he ever lower his walls and become more than just the man IN her dreams?
One Hot Angel by Jaylee Austin
Description: Oblivious to Tiffany Jenkins in three short weeks her life will end—unless she makes the perfect choice. Will she chose revenge and expose her ex-husband? Or chose love and surrender her heart to the only man who can save her?
Rock My Bones by Wendy Sparrow
Description: Jared has been eyeing the sexy mural painter from inside the museum’s paleontology lab, but she’s way out of his league. He can’t let her paint that obviously misplaced fern, though…even if it means initiating contact.
You could call her a paleontology groupie, but Shay Meyers is interested in a more modern specimen. An adult male Homo Sapien to be exact—one who needs to be dragged out of his lab for a practical course in mating rituals. If she’s lucky, this will be the Valentine’s Day she rocks his bones.
You can find my review of the stories I didn’t write in the anthology here.
Buy the collection now by clicking here.
Link for Accidental Valentine on Goodreads:
Link for the tour button:
Click here to check out a Rafflecopter giveaway and win your copy!
Fantasy novels entice me. As you know, I’ve learned that novels of epic scope aren’t really my cup of coffee. Novels with an epic premise or story? That would be Eye of the Soul by Terri Rochenski.
I was introduced to the writing of Rochenski through an anthology I bought to support one of my writer friends. You can check it out here. Since that time, I’ve been following the publisher, J. Taylor Publishing, on Facebook.
When they posted that the first book in a series would be FREE to celebrate the release of the second book in the series, you know what happened. I clicked the link. Amazon offered its wonderful “Buy now with 1-click” option and another book added itself to the ever-expanding queue.
Not every book in that queue will be read by me. Several I snagged for FREE weren’t worth the price I paid for them.
Not so with Eye of the Soul.
Copied from Goodreads:
That should be Hyla’s first thought as her people are chained and imprisoned for no imaginable reason. Instead, Hyla finds herself traveling through a land void of Natives, with human soldiers pillaging in desperate pursuit of her, and in search of the mystical Pool of Souls—home to the one man who can save her people.
Or so she believes.
Led by her faith in the deity Fadir, Hyla is met along her journey by Jadon—a human male and fierce King’s warrior, and his childhood best friend Conlin—one of the few Natives aware of his Fadir-given Talents. Protected by Jadon, guided by Conlin, and with an unfailing belief in the purpose of her pilgrimage, Hyla carries on.
Like her, though, another searches for the Pool, and should he gain access first, everyone she loves, and everything she knows, could be lost.
The novel opens with the capture of Natives by an ambitious High Priest. The Natives appear as elves in my mind – fair skin, pointed ears, (supposed) mystical abilities. I liked that Rochenski uses a different name for them, leaving her plenty of space to conform them to the story she’s telling.
Hyla, a nineteen-year-old orphan, is away collecting roots and herbs for the healers when the attack comes. Right away, we see she is fearful, which makes the reader wonder why. That backstory is sprinkled in at all the right moments.
Through a number of narrators, the story unfolds. A High Priest with a vendetta against the deity of the Natives emerges as the villain. We want to hate him; his despicable misuse of power and authority begs it. Yet, we see he has a secret past – a motivation not unlike that of Mr. Freeze (of Batman fame).
Jadon and Conlin enter the story as childhood friends who share the spotlight as the male heroes in the story. They are like night and day, but their camaraderie and realistic interactions pull the reader further in to this fictional realm.
Hyla’s Talent (mystical power) is the only one that isn’t dormant as the story opens. And she resents it because it shows her the true intentions behind every word and deed. It’s a curse, and she doesn’t understand why the king and others want to use it. How can it help win a war?
In a dream, she is called to the Pool of Souls. When the High Priest discovers its location, he sends his own combined group of soldiers and gifted (but unawakened – so he believes) Natives.
Conflict unfolds and the course is clear. Who will make it to the Pool? What does the Pool actually do? Will Hyla accept her calling? And, will she choose Conlin or Jadon?
The characters are well-formed and realistic. Although the motivations of some of them are unclear or questionable, most of them acted and reacted consistently. Intrigue surrounds the powers of a few “non-Native” people in the story: where did their powers come from? Why do humans have these “gifts”?
The problem is straight-forward and the plot un-convoluted. We know the goals of the characters and, except where they are keeping a secret, we understand what motivates them. This is by no means a simple story, it is just easy to follow. Rather than shrouding information, the author shares it – to the end that it creates more questions and adds tension.
This story gets a solid 4.5 out of 5 stars from me. It took me awhile to decide I liked Hyla – needed to understand what made her so mistrustful. Although Jadon is likeable, he seems rather stereotypical. If it weren’t for his friendship and interaction with Conlin, I might have written him off as an egotistical, womanizing jerk.
Give these characters the chance to grow on you, and you won’t be disappointed. Nothing about the story line or premise (racial discrimination, anti-religion and revolutionary tendencies) disappoints.
This is the first book in a series. I’m delighted to meet these characters again. I’m also thrilled that Rochenski handled the story in the proper way: one problem for this book is tackled and resolved, while the larger series problem is clear but still hangs overhead at the end of the book.
The epilogue introduces a new twist and creates immediate anxiety because it pushes one of the heroes into the line of fire. This is a great way to encourage readers to put down book one with the left hand and pick up book two with the right. It was added to my Amazon wish list with a single click, and you’ll see it on my Goodreads “TBR” list, as well.
If you like magic, sword fighting and quests, this is a book you’ll want to read. Whether you’re looking for a great story or a deep story, Eye of the Soul grants your wish.
Have you read this book? What did you think?