Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Answering Review Request: "Sheep's Clothing"

Elizabeth Einspanier asked me to review her novel "Sheep's Clothing". She describes it as a "Weird Western" because it takes place in the Wild West and involves the supernatural. I will examine Plot, Characters, and Polish before assigning a grade.


A vampire hunter comes to the frontier town of Salvation chasing a Vampire Lord and he recruits the local doctor to finish the job.

I like this plot because it is straightforward, compelling and concise. It's like "this is the enemy, this is what we need to do to kill him, let's do it." It is neither too long with filler, stretches or otherwise unnecessary items, nor is it too short with unreasonable breaks for either side or idiot balls to facilitate action. Nor are there info dumps. Wolf explained as necessary, which informs his character as practical.

Miss.Einspanier straight away gets into the meat of the matter. The introduction scene is Doc Meadows pulling a piece of silver out of Wolf and remarking on the oddness of the injury and of his latest patient. By the start of the next day, they are a hero-sidekick pair.

There's a good deal of action here. Those seeking fight scenes will not be disappointed. However, the more important part is the investigation. Wolf and Meadow are similar to detectives in this regard because they have to discover Russeau's lairs before they can be destroyed.

Another thing I like is the discarding of the You Have to Believe Me trope. Doc Meadows is suitably skeptical of vampires and such, but after seeing the peculiar wound in Wolf and watching Russeau -minus glamor he is willing to listen. Other people in town are similar. There's none of that desperate straw pulling I've seen in other stories (novel and otherwise).

As for flaws I have only one and it is a minor one. I thought the fight against the second vampire minion was anti-climatic given her identity. Otherwise, no complaints.

Ending is fantastic. Conflict resolved, character development, all that good stuff.

This story is classic vampire hunting matched with Wild West Vigilantism. The word for that is "Cool!"


There is little time at the start to develop the protagonist (the doctor, not the hunter) and none of it is spent making him "relatable". It is a trick to make a first person narrator a fully fleshed character and it is even more impressive when they are a supporting protagonist. It is easy to tell and quick to catch that Nathaniel Meadows is a Gentleman and Scholar, a Cowardly Lion, and all around a Nice Guy.


Crowie Wolf is an excellent hero. He's gruff and foul mouthed but not a jerkass. He's full of heroic spirit but not a blindingly bright boy scout in a cape. It's difficult to hit that sweet spot. Another point I like about him is that he is an educated man but in a separate way from the doctor. You could say he has a Bachelor Degree in Supernatural Hunting and Lore.

Russeau is an old school Dracula style vampire; an evil blood sucking demon. No sparkling! He can look human but without his glamour it is clear to anyone that he's only pretending the part.


I found one thing misspelled but I forgot what it was it was because it was just the one. Nothing wrong in terms of grammar.
I liked the use of the first person narration. It's not self-conscious or obstructive.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Sheep's Clothing" an A+

Click here for the next review request: "Disconnect"

Click here for the previous review request: "Kindling Ashes"

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Answering Review Request: Kindling Ashes

Laura Harris asked me to read her story "Kindling Ashes". It features a conflict between the Firesouls, who want to revive the dragon race, and the dragon slayers, who want to finish the job they started sixteen years ago. I will examine plot, characters and polish, and then then assign a grade.


The story begins in the aftermath of a war between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Auland.  It ended with dragon extinction, but unknown to most humans, the dragons have been hiding out inside humans as disembodied spirits.  Now the dragons seek to regroup and return to dragon bodies before their hosts go up in flames. It's a sympathetic conflict and drives one of the two protagonists up the wall with in-decision.

There are two protagonist because this book features a dual-protagonist system. Every chapter switches the perspective of the story between Giselle, a firesoul sympathetic to the dragons, and Corran, a firesoul who wants to kill dragons. It works well not only because it underscores the grey and grey morality of the story.  For instance, one chapter will have humans recall dragons tearing towers down and burning humans alive while the next will have dragons recall raids by humans that ended with dead mates and shattered eggs.

The cause and nature of the war is revealed over the course of the story. It's an interesting deconstruction of the age-old idea that dragons hoard treasure in caves.

It's not action packed by any stretch of the word but I read through it quicker than I do many review requests because the world building intrigued me and I liked the characters. Corran, in particular, was fun to dissect for his true motive and which side of the fence he would fall on.

There are a couple problems but all of them occur near the end of the story, leaving the rest spotless.

1. There's a Whatever Happened To The Mouse with a major villain, which is puzzling given the situation, but a protagonist notes the absence and also that there's a more pressing matter to tend to. Thus, it's easier to overlook.

2.  There's a Diablos Ex Machina that prevents one of the two protagonists from living happily ever after as of this book, instead of waiting for the end of the series. It happens early enough, and there's enough development before and after that I feel it will become something more than that. Thus, it's also easier to overlook.


Giselle is the leading lady. I like her. She has this vulnerable toughness thing that makes her a endearing and sympathetic protagonist. There's also her fighting skills. Considering she's a host for a dragon, one would think the author would make her this super powered warrior but that's not the case. She's as strong and skilled as you'd expect a teenage street urchin whose never seriously fought before the story to be. When outmatched, she runs away or uses guile instead of god mode dragon powers.

Corran is the leading guy. What's interesting about him is that he spends the book pulled in three directions. He's from a family of dragonslayers, holds the soul of a dragon but isn't fond of either group because the former (save one member) is abusive and the latter he has been raised to hate as evil monsters. It's like he's walking on a fence for the entire story and wobbles this way and that while plotting his own course. It was fascinating to debate whether really wanted to kill dragons to be a hero or just wanted to show up his big brother bully; in other words, if he was a hero or a villain.

Frang gets a mention because he's my favorite character. He's a dragon soul stuck in Corran's head and a large part of the reason that Corran's side of the story (his mental processes and such) is so interesting. He shows the boy his memories as proof that dragons are not evil and so the boy has to go to greater lengths to justify his hatred. He's also a witty snarker that, at the same time, has a bigger role and wider personality than simple comic relief.

I could go on, but I only have more good things to say about the characters.


No spelling or grammar problems. I like the split narration because it is consistent and adds value to the story. Other books I've reviewed use this technique but it reads like two or more separate stories. This is two sides of the same one because they reflect each other and constantly intertwine.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Kindling Ashes" an A+

Click here for the next review request: "Sheep's Clothing"

Click here for the previous review request: "The Underworld King"