Tag: teen books

New Today! In the Shadow of the Dragon King

My author friend J. Keller Ford releases her debut novel today. Dragon fans and fans of young adult adventure won’t want to miss In the Shadow of the Dragon King.

Ms. Ford and I are more than writing acquaintances. More than Facebook friends. I’ve actually spoken to her on the telephone about her beta comments on my still-to-find-a-publisher young adult fantasy novel.

She’s seen my own criticism on an early draft of the sequel to this debut novel. Surprise, surprise, she even found it helpful.

So when she needed people to read and review this book before it released, I was happy to do it. As long as she still let me purchase an autographed copy from her (and she did! I have it!).

The electronic ARC arrived post-haste. I couldn’t wait to read it.

My Summary

IN THE SHADOW OF THE DRAGON KING eBook Cover 2700x1800In the magic, medieval land of Fallhallow, Eric wants to get noticed. Isn’t he more than a squire? When the dragon king attacks, all of Eric’s dreams and plans get a quick makeover. His knight disappears, accused of treasonous acts. Eric will find the Paladin and save the kingdom.

Then people will notice him. Finally.

In Tennessee, David and his best friend Charlotte are enjoying the last days of summer vacation. Until several strange visits reveal news David can’t believe. A magical creature whisks him and Charlotte off to a world of dragons, nights, sorcerers and sorceresses.

Apparently, David has some great destiny in this place. If he doesn’t accept his role and learn the basics of magic, the darker forces might destroy him – and all of Fallhallow.

It’s a story of friendship and faith. The characters struggle to grow up and give up on beliefs that no longer hold true. A coming of age tale for readers of our generation to connect with in the same way I connected with To Kill a Mockingbird.

My Review

David and Charlotte have a unique relationship which drew me in right away. I couldn’t relate to his circumstances (rich orphan) but she seemed down-to-earth and quite relatable.

What do you do when your best friend is the opposite sex? What if one of you wants to move beyond the friend zone? Do you risk the friendship in hopes the romance will last? I counseled my sons to steer away from converting friendships to romances until they were adults (or at least ready for a serious and perhaps permanent relationship).

This is an authentic problem many teenagers face. It will help readers love David and Charlotte as much as I do.

As for squire Eric, he rubs me the wrong way. Still. Even after he grew up some in the story.

First of all, he’s supposed to be older than the other two, but he acts more immature on many levels. Which didn’t make sense to me since he was in a land where childhood is forfeited early. His actions from the start seemed like something a younger kid would fall into.

Secondly, he acted like a sidekick with his best friend, rather than taking a leadership role. And he wonders why the knights have no confidence in him? Later, he seemed like a spoiled child, and I didn’t see how that would ever be a default reaction. His blacksmith father didn’t seem like the type to permit such behavior. A knight wouldn’t desire it from his squire.

Later, he runs amok without thought to anyone’s feelings but his own. Rather than trying to seek out people he knows and loves, he determines to find this mystical Paladin, who might be able to save the kingdom from the dragon king. There’s just nothing there for me to admire – but at least half of the story is from his perspective.

It was one of those books when I was dreading returning to a certain narrator.

I enjoyed the story. There was magic and mystery and action galore. Ford introduces some fascinating species in her world, and I’m looking forward to meeting more of them. The ice dragon with feathers is my favorite so far.

The magic system seemed shallow. While the rest of this setting seemed complete, the magical portions failed to compel, interest or convince me.

Why? It didn’t take much practice for David to master the spells introduced to him by a sorceress. Was there a drain from using the magic? Not that I noticed. Hopefully, we’ll learn more about how magic works in Fallhallow in the next book.

Check out the blog tour, including opportunities to win prizes, by clicking on the tour button.Chapter-by-Chapter-blog-tour-button

My Recommendation

I give the novel 4.2 out of five stars.

The plot and characters were compelling, but not universally so. Some of the events seemed a little “convenient” for rescuing the characters rather than being organic to the story itself.

Anyone who enjoys adventure stories similar to Percy Jackson will find this novel entertaining. The dialogue and interaction between David and Charlotte rival what you’d find between Percy and Anabeth in the early Percy Jackson books.

If you’ve been waiting for a good dragon tale, you’ll definitely want to latch on to this book. The nemesis dragon king is terrifying and overwhelming, bitter and fierce. My mouth went dry every time he entered a scene. And did I mention the smaller dragon with feathers? I love him to death.

In the Shadow of the Dragon King will transport you to a magical realm and pump you full of adrenaline for the trip.

Get your copy here:  Google Play | BAM | Chapters | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | TBD | iBooks

Now, I’m off to read my autographed copy. See you in Fallhallow!

The Storyspinner

Magical realms call to me. You know it. You’ve seen what I like to read – and write. It’s no surprise that Becky Wallace’s The Storyspinner has been on my Goodreads to be read list for many months.

In fact, each time I see the cover and read the blurb, I want to open the book. This is why I’m thankful for Amazon wish lists (note to self: add that to your 365 days of gratitude list).

I added the book to my wish list. One of my children purchased the book for me at Christmas. Of course, the pile of books I hauled in that day (which doesn’t include the electronic versions) will take a few months to devour.

(On a side note: I love the title to this book. As a spinner of stories, it set my imagination on fire. Kudos to the author for writing a story worthy of such a compelling title.)

I should have started with The Storyspinner. It is an epic fantasy (even by the definition given be fantasy faction) and I loved it anyway.

Yes, you read that right.

Usually, epic fantasy doesn’t float my book boat. There are too many characters that I don’t like, but I have to be in their heads for the sake of the story sprawl. The author generally kills off the ones I do like (yes, George R.R. Martin, I’m looking at you). And there’s too much description bogging down the pace.

Why am I giving five stars to this book that is the first in a new young adult epic fantasy series then?

The Blurb

StorySpinner CoverIn a world where dukes plot their way to the throne, a Performer’s life can get tricky. And in Johanna Von Arlo’s case, it can be fatal. Expelled from her troupe after her father’s death, Johanna is forced to work for the handsome Lord Rafael DeSilva. Too bad they don’t get along. But while Johanna’s father’s death was deemed an accident, the Keepers aren’t so sure.

The Keepers, a race of people with magical abilities, are on a quest to find the princess—the same princess who is supposed to be dead and whose throne the dukes are fighting over. But they aren’t the only ones looking for her. And in the wake of their search, murdered girls keep turning up—girls who look exactly like the princess, and exactly like Johanna.

With dukes, Keepers, and a killer all after the princess, Johanna finds herself caught up in political machinations for the throne, threats on her life, and an unexpected romance that could change everything.

My Review

This book has the main ingredients any fantasy novel needs to grab my interest: an interesting magical system and a strong heroine (or hero, preferably both).

The books starts off with only a few pages from Johanna’s normal world. We get to meet her father and see inside her idyllic family life. By the end of the prologue, all that changes.

I’m intrigued by The Keepers. The small glimpse we get inside their government makes me think of wizards only more political. The magic they wield is elemental magic, but accessed in a unique way. In fact, much about the magic was left to my imagination (which I prefer), but it will be interesting to learn more about its origin and adaptation as the series continues.

There is romance – two of them even. I’m usually not a fan of the “hate each other at first sight” trope, however, Wallace uses it effectively. The first meeting between Rafael and Johanna can’t help but create some animosity. It took me longer to understand and accept Rafi’s negative responses, but in retrospect I see this as well-written by the author.

Action piles on top of action. There are sword fights, magical fights, and tension on every page.

If you like the bard character in medieval literature, you’ll enjoy this story since that’s Johanna’s performing strength. Although some stereotypical Gypsy performer elements were present, there was a new element infused into it that made those characters more than that.

I’m interested to see where the author will go with the idea of The Keepers being considered deities among some of the people. I like that the “good guys” are appalled by this idea, while the “bad guys” use that reverence. They twist it into fear and use it to enslave people.

Johanna didn’t act like a typical teenager. She’s older and thrust into a position of responsibility, which explains part of it. Most of the time I forgot I was reading about a sixteen-year-old.

Still, all the characters were well-drawn and pulled me further into the story. I enjoyed jumping between the different perspectives, not finding any of them tedious to read.

My Recommendation

There are a few thematic elements and scenes of violence that might be difficult for younger readers. I would suggest this book for mature teens only (I won’t put an age because some are more mature at thirteen than others at eighteen).

This novel is perfect for a fantasy lover (like myself), someone who enjoys action and adventure and even those who like historical fiction. Yes, this is set in a different world, but it has many elements associated with the medieval time frame. Apparently, that’s a requisite for epic fantasy (see this post).

The romantic elements are present but not overwhelming. The adult romance toes the line of becoming too descriptive, but it isn’t a book that needs disclaimers about sex.

Upon finishing, I raced to Amazon to purchase the sequel. Sadly, it isn’t available until March 22.

And, yes, it’s on my Amazon wish list.

Because sometimes those wishes are granted.