Saturday, January 30, 2016

Sassy Saturday: Mercenaries are crazy confident

Welcome to another week of the Sassy Saturday Blog Hop.  Except, it's technically no longer a blog hop. Jasmine Walts, the founder, decided to discontinue it last month (December 2015) due to lack of participation and her own lack of time to promote it. However, I like the idea of it so I'm going to continue with my own excerpts.

The purpose of the blog hop used to be showcasing excerpts from our novels about kick-butt heroines. Every Saturday is a new post. If you want read more about it, the link is here.

They sat in the damp and dark cave. The darkness was so thick, visibility was the reach of their fire. It was as if the rest of the world did not exist. There was only Eric, Tiza, Anuzat, sleeping Nolien, injured Basilard, dead Aio, and their fire.

The feeling made Eric paranoid. Every drip, creak, or crack could be the xethras. His heart would race and he would spin his staff in the direction of the sound, only to confront nothing. It was more a security blanket now than a weapon. He knew it was useless against the xethras, but it was all he had; he held it so tight his knuckles turned white. With Basilard unconscious and Nolien exhausted, he and Tiza wouldn't stand a chance. He could only hope the xethras didn't find them.

It was the first time Eric wished to go back to his home world; his own Threa. The dangers he'd been in before were nothing like this. He was too busy panicking or planning against Laharg, the Cecri, and Dark Staff to think about anything else. Now, as he sat in the darkness, he wished he were snug in his bed in his safe apartment and monster-free world. It didn't matter that in Threa he was jobless, friendless, and soon to be homeless. At least he was safe. Is this Tasio's idea of helping me? Putting me out of my misery?

“Sncagsraf,” Nolien snored.

“Ahaaaaaa!” Eric cried.

“Hahaha!” Tiza laughed.

Eric stared in disbelief. “What's wrong with you!? Aren't you scared?”

Tiza looked at him with the same disbelief. “Why should I be?”

“Hello! We're stranded in a dark, damp, smelly cave, our sergeant is badly injured, we could be surrounded by C class, and you want to know why you should be scared!? You should be scared because we're gonna die! Die! Just like Aio! Stone cold dead! Like the stuff we're sitting on!”

“You should stop screaming . . .” Tiza said deadpanned. “. . . or you'll alert the xethras.” Eric's hands flew to his mouth as his eyes widened. Tiza chuckled. “Relax, Dimwit. We'll be fine.”

“And you know this because?”

Tiza shrugged. “I just do. Would you rather I was a nervous wreck like you?” Eric dropped his head in shame. “Dimwit, look at me.” Eric tilted his head. “I'm not calming you like Tenderfoot. Forget it. But I will tell you the story of a mage who didn't think his team could handle a Cecri—”

“Nolien did most of that . . .”

“Don't interrupt me! But they killed it without getting a scratch in return. Or how about the story of the same mage who didn't think he and the fighter of his team could handle a band of kidnappers—”

“It was two against one and we still almost lost . . .”

“Are you gonna let me finish or not?!” Eric apologized and she continued. “And they succeeded in capturing one of them, thanks to the fighter's miraculous aura power.” Nolien snorted in his sleep and Tiza was tempted to swat him. She didn't because that would wake him up. “Once we get back to the Guild, I'll tell you the story about how this mage and his team escorted a merchant safely through a deadly cave without their mentor's help.”

“But we haven't done that yet.”

 “That's why I think we'll make it. Cause it's gonna make a great story to tell back home.”

“I don't know whether to admire your confidence . . .” Anuzat said. “Or think you're crazy.”

Tiza gave her a lopsided smile. “Daylra says all mercenaries are a little crazy; like chaos, we overturn our own fortunes every day.”

The previous Sassy Saturday post is Running on Adrenaline and Spirit

The next Sassy Saturday post is Chatting with a defiant captive

To learn more about Tiza and A Mage's Power, visit Tvtropes at

A Mage's Power, and the rest of the Journey to Chaos series, are available for purchase at

Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Answering Review Request: Rebel Trap

Lance Erlick asked me to read his novel "Rebel Trap". It is a Twenty Minutes Into The Future style dystopia story. It's basically a teenage girl from one division of her country's police department going under cover to investigate corruption in the other division. I will examine Plot, Character and Polish and then assign a grade.

Terms in All Caps are tropes, and their definitions can be found on Tvtropes.


I thought this book was a stand alone and that the first book "Rebel Within" concerned a different cast; same setting but different people. For this reason, I thought the start was In Media Res. It is not but it is constructed well enough, and enough information from the first book is provided in an unobtrusive form, that I thought so until I looked at the premise for book 1 on Amazon. Kudos to Mr. Erlick for that.

What we have here is a cop intern named Annabelle who is investigating the local police force on behalf of the leader of the mech corps, which are basically an elite police/border guard outfit. At the same time, she is kinda-sorta helping an Underground Railroad organization smuggle boys out of the country so they won't be killed for sport or experimented on. She's also looking into an assassination attempt on her mother, a senator who opposes such blood sport legislatively and whom both her bosses would love to pin like a roach. Yes, it's pulled in a lot of different directions.

TvTropes would call this the "stale beer" approach to espionage. It is dirty, not glamorous; stressful, not exciting; so classified that Annabelle has trouble doing any kind of spying because she can't talk to anyone about it nor can she hack databases for fear of being tracked. I got the sense that her secret boss was sticking her out like a candy bar so when her public boss grabs for it, the secret boss can cut her hand off.

This is a special section because it is big enough to warrant its own space.

It is hard to take this setting seriously due to the drastic changes made from what is America in reality and what is in this fictional history. Don't give me "But it's not drastic! Stuff like this is already happening!!!" I don't want to hear it. This is absurd, both in terms of the scale of politics, the fundamental change in society, and the sophistication of technology given the scant time from the date it was written.

I don't see the point of including separate gender society with the police state dystopia. It sounds like the stories the ancient Greeks told about the amazons; warrior women who oppressed the men in their society. The general message was "we oppress them so they don't oppress us."
My other thought is that the point is to counter the belief that a matriarchy would make for a kinder and gentler world. In that case, Mr. Erlick's thoughts on the subject are that women are just as capable of corruption, oppression etc. as men.

There's so much backstory and world building that I'm missing that I wonder why Mr. Erlick asked me to read the second book in the series before the first. Judging from the premise of the first book, it ends in a cliffhanger because this second book starts in such a way that the first can not have had a clean ending. Then judging from this, I suspect that Mr. Erlick knew that I didn't like cliffhangers. If this is the case, it is appreciated.

The ending is satisfying. It closes the book's conflict in a satisfactory manner but the series' conflict is still open and being developed.


Annabelle has a lot of personal angst and is given to voicing it frequently. Because of the first person narration, the reader will hear all of it. Also, while she regularly speaks of how awful her society is, from the stuff that's banned for some reason to the corrupt officials who do the stuff anyway and pay the police to ignore them, her tone is disinterested apathy. It's like she's annoyed by it instead of a more heroic outrage.

Janine is Annabelle's younger sister and is also in the mech corps. I found her preferable to her sister because she doesn't angst as much as Annabelle, and when she does, she takes action on it. While her sister has this grumpy fake politeness, Janine can more convincingly play the part. She compares it to pastel wallpaper; something everyone sees but no one truly notices, or acknowledges.

The immediate villains are here a couple of police officers who act petty and nasty due to personal grudges they've held for far too long. There's a more visionary and far reaching Evil Plan but the reader will not hear of it or its main actor for over one hundred pages.

Annabelle's mech boss is a Stern Teacher who is fond of the Secret Test of Character.  She also strikes me as the kind of person to say We Have Reserves.


It looks good. No errors.

Trickster Eric Novels gives The Rebel Trap a C

This has been a free review request. I received nothing in exchange except a free copy of the book.

Click here for the next review request: Winterreise - An Urban Fairy Tale

Click here for the previous review request: The Warble

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Sassy Saturday: Start of the First Escort Mission

Welcome to another week of the Sassy Saturday Blog Hop.  Except, it's technically no longer a blog hop. Jasmine Walts, the founder, decided to discontinue it last month (December 2015) due to lack of participation and her own lack of time to promote it. However, I like the idea of it so I'm going to continue with my own excerpts.

The purpose of the blog hop used to be showcasing excerpts from our novels about kick-butt heroines. Every Saturday is a new post. If you want read more about it, the link is here.

This week's post is the start of Dragon's Lair mercenary Team Four's first C rank mission. "C" is the start of the truly dangerous missions and so Tiza is excited for it. Be careful what you wish for.....


The monsters here put up more of a struggle than the ones outside. The giants were badly injured regularly, but only until Anuzat's human healers mended them. To Tiza's delight, they couldn't work fast enough to fill the ranks so Basilard allowed her to fill in. Even shorthanded, the giants, humans, and camels of Anuzat's Caravan fought off the monsters with little help.

After leaving the stomach area, they entered a zigzag with more branching paths than Eric could count. Different breeds attacked and Basilard lectured on their abilities and the best way to kill them while Anuzat's group provided visual aids. She told the non-combatants to look for the southern exit. Eric struggled to track their progress; getting lost down here would be worse than a monster attack. They traveled deeper still and the Fog grew thicker. Eric's charm warmed his skin and he took it off. No wonder these are so cheap . . . monsters are everywhere in places like this.

Time passed and in the darkness the caravan was attacked by another threat; a foul odor. An unholy mixture of melted rock and waste and dried blood mixed with the Fog. Bird poop is nothing compared to this . . . Another two hours came and went.

“Mercenary Leader, do I get my money back if you don't do anything?”


Another hour passed. Tiza let out a long, bored, sigh and let her sheath drag on the ground. It stirred the now knee-level Fog. She couldn't even watch the giants fight if nothing attacked. Then she saw Eric anxiously checking pillar shadows. She grinned. Quiet as a mouse, she sneaked up behind him and shouted in his ear. He jumped three feet straight up, spun, and brought his staff down on Tiza. She blocked with her targe.

“Chill, Dimwit, or you'll wear yourself out.” Eric glared.

One more hour and the caravan entered a wide-open chamber. No pillars could be seen nor were there any sky holes to illuminate them. This deep in the caverns, only glowing crystals lit their way. Anuzat's giant employees put on sunglasses and pulled large rocks from out of their packs.


 The rocks lit up the area. Rocks charmed to be floodlights; I wonder what kind of spell is used. The giants spread out in a circle, dropped their burdens, and sat down next to them. Anuzat's human employees set up camp: building a fire, pitching tents, and giving food to the giants.

Basilard accepted a meal from one of the humans and sat next to Anuzat. “You already seem to have capable guards in your giants, so why'd you hire us? And I find this very relevant to my job.”

“I live by rules, Mercenary Leader, and one of them is you can never be too careful.”

 “Then why'd you hire novices?”

“Squad Five Senior for a bargain; why pay for three regulars when their mentor is all I'll need?”

“You've done your homework.”

“As would any merchant worth their salt.”

The novices sat nearby. Tiza dropped to the stone floor, but didn't eat with her usual enthusiasm. “I don't believe it. I thought escorts would be exciting, but this is even duller than mowing that guy's lawn. At least then we were doing something.”

“You should consider yourself lucky to be so bored,” Nolien said. “You'd be terrified if you actually met a C class.”

“Why!?” Tiza demanded. “‘Cause I'm a girl!?”

“No,” Nolien said, surprised at her barbed tone. “Only fools are fearless.”

“Well, I'm not a fool, but I'm still not scared of anything!” Tiza yelled.

“All right, all right, you're not scared of anything.”

With a look of triumph, Tiza finally dug into her meal.

Why is Tiza so determined to be strong? Or, at least, make others believe she's strong? He knew he shouldn't bother; girls were complicated and even if he guessed right, he'd have to ask her to be sure. I probably wouldn't live through that. The question nagged. It was a puzzle and he liked puzzles. This one's going to drive me insane. So he focused on his meal instead.

 The rock lights shattered and the caravan was plunged into darkness. In the dim light, Eric could see blue-brown wolves rushing their position. Xethras! The pack surrounded the caravan and attacked in groups. One engaged while a second bit their ankles and a third ripped their throats out. The perimeter was broken at once. Monsters are mindless!

“Looks like you won't be bored after all, Tiza,” Nolien said grimly, his staff in hand and already glowing. The fighter said nothing. All she did was grip her sword and stare.


To learn more about Tiza and A Mage's Power, visit Tvtropes at

A Mage's Power, and the rest of the Journey to Chaos series, are available for purchase at



Tuesday, January 19, 2016

New Release! Landry in Like

Today I'm helping to spread the word about Krysten Hager's newest book: Landry In Like. Below is a blurb and excerpt with purchase links at the end.

This is the second time I've hosted one of her new release promotions. The first one was Best Friends.....Forever?


Series Info: The Landry's True Colors Series is a clean reads young adult humor series about friendship, self-esteem, fitting in, middle school and high school, frenemies, crushes, and self-image.

Genre: contemporary clean teen fiction

Landry in Like (Landry's True Colors Series: Book 3)

Blurb: Things seem to be going well in Landry Albright’s world—she’s getting invited to be on local talk shows to talk about her modeling career, her best friends have her back, and her boyfriend Vladi has becoming someone she can truly count on…and then everything changes. Suddenly it seems like most of the girls in school are into hanging out at a new teen dance club, while Landry just wants to spend her weekends playing video games and baking cupcakes at sleepovers. Then, Yasmin McCarty, the most popular girl in school, starts to come between Landry’s friendship with Ashanti. Things take a turn when Yasmin tells Vladi that Landry is interested in another boy. Can Landry get her relationships with Ashanti and Vladi back or will she be left out and left behind?  


I wanted to call my friends and tell them about being on the talk show, but Mom said we had to be at the TV station super early — even before school started. She said I could text them, but I had to turn off my phone and go to bed.

“I’m waking you up at four a.m.,” she said. “You have to be there at five-thirty.”

“Can I just call Peyton and Ashanti? Please?”

“Fine, but you have five minutes and then that phone is mine and you’re in bed.”

I dialed Peyton, but her mom said she was in the shower. I told her mom about the show tomorrow and said my mom wouldn’t let me stay up any later to call Peyton back.

“How exciting! I will make sure Peyton knows, and I will be watching you tomorrow. Good luck, honey,” Mrs. Urich said.

I called Ashanti next and told her.

“Get out. Get. Out. No way. This is so exciting!”

“I’m so nervous. My stomach is already doing cartwheels. I can’t do one, but my stomach can. Seems unfair. What if I throw up before I go on? I did that right before I went on at the statewide IngĂ©nue modeling competition in Detroit, and my mom had to give me a cough drop to cover up the smell.”

 “I’m sure you’ll be fine, but… just in case, take a cough drop with you,” Ashanti said. “Good luck. You’ll be great and I’ll go set the DVR now.”

 I hung up and sent a text to Vladi, India, Devon, Thalia, Tori, and Ericka, so no one would be mad and feel left out. Then I shut off my phone. Mom poked her head in the door to make sure I was in bed.

“Night, hon. Try to get some rest,” she said.

Easier said than done. I stared at my ceiling while thinking about all the things that could possibly go wrong tomorrow. Seeing as the show was on in the morning, I never got to watch it, so I had no idea what the set was like — did it have super high chairs and I’d struggle to get into them? And what if it had those higher stools that were kind of tippy and my rear overshot the seat and I fell off? Or what if the prep questions got lost and the interviewer asked me random things like my feelings on nuclear war or asked me about some foreign political leader who I had never heard of before, and I appeared stupid? Why did I say I’d do this? I tried to get comfortable and it felt like I had just dozed off when I felt my mom shaking my shoulder.

“Rise and shine, TV star,” she said.


Author bio: Krysten Lindsay Hager is the author of the Landry’s True Colors Series, a clean reads young adult series and the new ​Star Series. Krysten writes about  friendship, self-esteem, fitting in, middle school and high school, frenemies, modeling, crushes, values, and self-image in True Colors, Best Friends…Forever? And Landry in Like, as well as in, Next Door to a Star (Star Series). Her sequel to Next Door to a Star will be out March 22 2016.

Krysten is a book addict who has never met a bookstore she didn’t like. She’s worked as a journalist and writes YA, MG, humor essays, and adult fiction. She is originally from Michigan and has lived in Portugal, South Dakota, and currently resides in southwestern Ohio where you can find her reading and writing when she’s not catching up on her favorite shows. She received her master’s degree from the University of Michigan-Flint.


Author talk show interview:

True Colors (Landry’s True Colors Series Book 1):

What people are saying about True Colors (Landry’s True Colors Series Book One):

From Teenage Book Recommendations in the UK: “This is a fantastically relatable and real book which I feel captures all of the insecurities and troubles which haunt the modern teenage girl. It is about a young model who has to go through tough times when she is torn between a life as a model and managing her friendships. You learn which friends she can most trust and which will create the drama typical of teenage life. Follow the life of Landry and try to see if you can find out which are her true friends before their true colours are revealed. This book is all about relationships, hopes and truth. I loved this book!”

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Sassy Saturday: A typical day for novice mercenaries

Welcome to another week of the Sassy Saturday Blog Hop.  Except, it's technically no longer a blog hop. Jasmine Walts, the founder, decided to discontinue it last month (December 2015) due to lack of participation and her own lack of time to promote it. However, I like the idea of it so I'm going to continue with my own excerpts.

The purpose of the blog hop used to be showcasing excerpts from our novels about kick-butt heroines. Every Saturday is a new post. If you want read more about it, the link is 

 The next morning, Tiza ranted and raved in the Guild lobby. Before anyone asked,she shouted, “There's not a single mention of me in the paper!”

“What do you mean?” Nolien asked.

Tiza thrust it at him as she would a smelly shoe. “It goes on and on about the kidnapping, but nothing about me! I captured Dark Staff!” Basilard coughed. “ . . .With help. Where's my credit!?”

Nolien shrugged. “It can't be helped. The knights were shamed enough to admit that the princess was taken under their watch. This is the only way for them to. . .oww!”

Basilard withdrew his hand. “You sound like a conspiracy theorist. Tiza, the truth of the matter is that your exclusion is part of the compromise that brought you your bonus.”


“Instead of 'Tiza Spiral and Eric Watley captured Dark Staff,’ I offered to amend the event to 'Dragon's Lair security consultants assisted the Royal Guard in their capture of Dark Staff' in exchange for an additional consultant fee.”

The look in Tiza's eyes was nothing short of betrayal. “What!? Why would you. . .oww!”

Basilard withdrew his hand. “My way puts more gold in your pocket and more guild advertising on the internet.” He showed her the screen on his scry. “The hits on our website have skyrocketed since the paper came out.” Tiza grumbled, but said nothing more.

“Mia, what do you have for us today?”

The perky receptionist reached into her desk drawer—Eric didn't think she actually kept anything there—and pulled out a piece of paper. It was not a mission bill, but a tissue. Now that he looked closer, she looked pale and tired. She didn't greet them. She wasn't even smiling. She MUST be sick. She sneezed and crumbled up the tissue.

“Bless you,” Nolien said and Mia ripped the tissue in half, revealing the mission bill.

“Ta-da!” she cried. Nolien stared in surprise, Tiza chuckled, and Eric clapped.

Basilard shook his head in amusement. “Mia, where do you get these ideas?”

“I have a lot of free time,”she said with a shrug. “You know, since I can't go on missions.”

“Why not?” Eric asked. Basilard and Mia stared at him. “Long story?” They nodded.

“The Longhorn item shop needs to be repainted,” Mia said. “The owner will fill you in.”

Tiza continued grumbling the entire way, but by the time she had a brush and bucket in hand, her mood improved. Nolien's steadily soured. It reached a peak when Eric accidentally knocked over a bucket and it fell on the healer's head. No amount of apologizing could make Nolien feel better about being covered in sticky white paint; Tiza's laughter certainly didn't help. He shouted the words of a nasty-sounding spell; when he paused, pushed his fists together at his chest, and took a deep breath. Without looking up from his dirty book, Basilard waved his hand and all the paint rose off Nolien and dropped back into Eric's bucket.

“Thank you, Daylra,” Nolien said.

“Couldn't you have done that to the shop?” Tiza asked.

Basilard turned the page. “I don't think the owner wants a giant paint blob on his front door.”

As calm and poised as an acrobat on a highwire, Nolien insisted on switching places with Eric. Much to Tiza's amusement, he was later pooped on by birds flying overhead. Later still, he “accidentally” knocked a bucket of paint on her head.

By the mid afternoon,Team Four somehow managed to get the item shop looking good as new. Basilard accepted their fee and then the owner did something surprising: he offered the novices a reward from his shop.

“You painted my shop and gave me a show. I feel I've only paid you for the former.”

“We couldn't possibly—”

Tiza elbowed him. “Refuse your generous offer!” To Nolien, she whispered, “What are you doing?! You don't turn down free stuff! It's insane!”

“But it isn't polite.”

“Then don't pick anything. Don't ruin it for the rest of us.”
To learn more about Tiza and A Mage's Power, visit Tvtropes at

A Mage's Power, and the rest of the Journey to Chaos series, are available for purchase at

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Sassy Saturday: Running on Adrenaline and Spirit

Welcome to another week of the Sassy Saturday Blog Hop.  Except, it's technically no longer a blog hop. Jasmine Walts, the founder, decided to discontinue it last month (December 2015) due to lack of participation and her own lack of time to promote it. However, I like the idea of it so I'm going to continue with my own excerpts.

The purpose of the blog hop used to be showcasing excerpts from our novels about kick-butt heroines. Every Saturday is a new post. If you want read more about it, the link is here.

This week's post is the third of a three part scene. It's the conclusion of Tiza and Eric's fight with the rogue mage Dark Staff (part 2), whose organization was humiliated by Princess Kasile in their attempt to kidnap her (part 1)
1. Kasile vs the Black Cloaks
2. The Danger of Dark Staff

Tiza fired. Dark Staff didn't budge. She didn't need to; her barrier stopped them for her. Tiza lunged for her sword and fired again. With a spin of her staff, Dark Staff reflected them all back at her. One, two, three and Tiza was knocked to the ground. Dark Staff chuckled as Tiza struggled to her hands and knees before falling again.

“It’s been fun, Wannabe, but—”

“Take. That. Back.” It was soft, but also a growl, and so cold that Eric felt a chill. Even though she was on his side, and even though she was face down in the dirt, he was afraid of her.
“All right, here's something better; damsel. You're the kind of helpless that doesn't believe they're helpless. A damsel in distress that thinks a sword and a tough attitude makes her a warrior.”

“Now you're gonna get it!”
Suddenly, a brilliant blue aura sprang forth and lashed angrily in all directions. She jumped to her feet and resumed a ready stance. A beam of blue light appeared at Dark Staff's weapon. With a yell of rage, Tiza charged. Dark Staff sneered under her hood. Eric knew this aura. He knew it was useless in a head-on collision. She's gonna get herself killed! I have to do SOMETHING!

He took a deep, painful, breath and pointed his staff. Tiza slashed. Dark Staff struck. A feminine scream of pain followed and Tiza stood behind Dark Staff, unharmed. Her teammate's barrier absorbed the blow; it broke instead of her. Dark Staff, on the other hand, bled from her side.

She fell to her knees and glared at Tiza with a burning hatred. “How!?” How did you--” Eric nailed her blind spot and she fell face first. Tiza leaped forward and brought her sword down hard on Dark Staff's head. She shook for a moment, then went still.

Tiza's aura faded. She leaned against the wall and slumped to the ground. She poured sweat and breathed deeply, but remained conscious. Dark Staff started to get up. Tiza's aura rekindled and the latter impaled the former with enough prejudice to bury the blade to the hilt in the ground.

“Well . . . they say . . .” Tiza's skin was now deathly pale and her eyes glazed. “Any plan . . . you live through . . . is a good one.”

Eric couldn't believe his ears. He was happy that they lived, of course, but the rest of the kidnappers got away with the princess. They failed. Tiza was counting on me for cover fire! If my magic was stronger, I could have broken Dark Staff's barrier. It's all my–!

“Cheer . . . up,” Tiza said. Eric couldn't believe his eyes either; Tiza was smiling.

Adrenaline Junkie . . .!

“Cheer up!?” Eric demanded. “We lost the princess, got banged up, almost killed, and you want me to cheer up!?” He said all that in one breath and immediately regretted it, because now he had to inhale and that made his chest pain flare.

“We might have . . . missed the princess . . .” Tiza flopped helplessly as Dark Staff's body wriggled. “. . . but we still . . . got one . . . of the kidnappers  . . . she can tell us . . . where she is.”

“You killed her,” Eric pointed out. Then he thought of shamans and of calling out to the dead. It was absolutely ridiculous in his own world, but in this one, it seemed like anything was possible so long as you had enough power, knowledge, and determination.

“No, I didn't   . . .  get over here . . .”

Eric got to his feet, his chest screaming at the effort, and walked over to Dark Staff's body. The wound in her side was rapidly healing. Their kidnapper's head had a nasty bruise, but no puncture and even that was rapidly fading. The wound in her stomach was more an inconvenience.

I will kill you both as soon as this Fog lifts.”

Eric looked at Tiza in amazement, but she looked back with annoyance.

 “Until then . . . we're alive . . . uninjured . . .” She rubbed her jaw. “. . . mostly uninjured . . . We have a lead . . .” Dark Staff attempted shapeshifting away from the sword, but an eye on the pommel glowed with non-light and she failed. “I'm not . . . an idiot . . . you know.”

“No, you're not.”

Eric layback against the ground as his limbs jellified. Adrenaline left his system and it was replaced by fatigue. His chest ache was getting worse. On the bright side, they were alive and the Dark Fog was clearing up.

“Over there! I see something!”

Footsteps; heavy footsteps, like someone in armor. Soon they were close enough for Eric to see who was making them: knights in full armor and mages in long robes.

A knight stood at the head of the group and demanded, “Who are you? Identify yourselvesssss!”

“We . . .” said Tiza, still gasping for breath. “. . . are mercenaries . . .of the Dragon's Lair.” She tapped Dark Staff's head with her scabbard. “And we . . . caught a kidnapper.”


The next Sassy Saturday post is: Mercenaries are crazy confident

The previous Sassy Saturday excerpt is: The Danger of Dark Staff

To learn more about Tiza and A Mage's Power, visit Tvtropes at

A Mage's Power, and the rest of the Journey to Chaos series, are available for purchase at

Brian Wilkerson is a freelance book reviewer, writing advice blogger and independent novelist. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Answering Review Request: The Warble

Victoria Simcox asked me to read her book, The Warble. It is the first in her Bernovem Chronicles series. I will examine plot, character and polish and then assign a grade.


This is a Trapped In Another World Macguffin mission, for preteens. Kristina is transported from her world to Bergoen by a magic trinket and now she has to take it somewhere in order to go back home.

The beginning is Ease Into Adventure with a typical day for our protagonist. The school period itself is skipped over, which is nice, because it would have been filler. The only parts that are focused on are the relevant parts; the two bullies that will follow Kristina and the mysterious teacher who gives Kristina the Warble. I assume that Miss. Simcox' goal was to create a Woobie out of her protagonist, and in this case she is successful. Kristina could certainly use a hug by the end of the day.

The plot is split among several perspectives. This diminishes Kristina's screentime and increases that of other characters. She may seem less important for this reason, being that she is supposed to be this "chosen one" savior figure but it makes sense. She's a child without the special abilities that a protagonist in this sort of story would typical have. She is not useless by any means, just bewildered and out of her depth. She may be the "chosen one" but she doesn't have to do everything herself.  This end result is less of a "superpower wish fulfillment" thing and more of a "The Power of Friendship moral", which I say is more valuable for a book aimed at this age group.

I like the idea of Fairy Blossoms.
1. These are magical flowers that are a stable of the inhabitant's life style. Not only does it provide them with energy and heal injuries but it can even halt aging. Strategic use of Fairy Blossoms becomes a key aspect of Kristina's quest. She can use it to support her party, to recruit others to her party, or for bartering. Kids who play RPGs will recognize this as a recovery item and relate to that.
2. Furthermore, it's just one item and yet it accomplishes a great deal in terms of world building. Pre-series, Queen Sentiz dug up a lot of the Fairy Blossoms and replaced them with thorns and the consequences of this are everywhere. It explains why the denizens require someone to save them; they lack the energy and strength otherwise. It explains why the queen did so in the first place; by controlling the source of Fairy Blossoms, she has significant leverage over her unwilling subjects. By planting thorn bushes in their place, the queen creates visual propaganda. It reminds them of her magically enforced rule.

One thing that I don't like about this book is that there's a lot of backtracking. For a Quest Narrative, I find this frustrating. Kristina travels over the Indra River and then stuff happens and she goes back across it, and then she crosses it a third time before she gets to the Final Dungeon. There is also a sideplot with the bullies that exists separate from the main plot and contributes little other than the build up to a given character's Heel Face Turn. It makes the book longer. The climax itself is drawn out, zigzagged, and over passed until the resolution is not triumphant or tragic but just a relief that something finally happened.

I am left with a lot of questions at the end of this book. This is the sort of thing I'd have wondered about when I was a kid. One or two is fine but there are a lot in here.
What is the nature of Seintiz's curse? How does the Warble break it? What is the Warble? How did it get into Kristina's world? Why did Miss. Hersley have it? Why did she give it to Kristina? Why didn't she say anything about it to Kristina? Why did the Warble delay in activating the world jump? Why did all four of the kids land in the same place? If only the Warble can end the queen's reign then why is Werrien so important that one of her spies passes up a golden opportunity to steal it just to lure him out? Crows dropping grenades is cool, but were did the crows get them? Why do the king and queen have as many as five pieces of world traveling stone fashioned into jewelry and yet have no idea how they work beyond "red light means it's activating"? Are these things made from the same stuff as the Warble? Where did they get it?
Given that this is the first book in a series, I assume the answers are forth coming.

The ending, while not personally satisfying, does a good job of closing the book's conflict while leaving open the possibility of future conflict.


Kristina is what I like to call a Reconstruction of the Summon Everyman Hero. She is an Ordinary School Student from a non-magic world that is summoned to a magic world to be a savior. A deconstruction would point out that she is a child who has never been on her own before, so she should be scared, unsure of what to do, homesick, lacking adventurer skills etc. A reconstruction would rebut that, yes, she is all that stuff but she can still fulfil this role. First of all, she adapts quickly by recognizing the importance of resources like Fairy Blossoms, second is that she doesn't have to do everything herself (I.E. there is no Team Cannon Fodder here), and Werrien, who is more accustomed to travel and fighting, is the one carrying the Warble for most of the trip because he is better able to guard it.

Werrien is the deutragonist of this story and he is more typically The Hero of such stories than Kristina. He is the rightful prince of Bernovem who is currently living in hiding because of a usurper, he is skilled with bow and arrow, and he has the personal charisma to rally armies. Thus, he and Kristina are an example of when The Hero and The Protagonist are separate people; he rarely gets his own POV.

Miss Simcox has skill with making kids that are nasty and in a kid-like way. One of them is spoiled, the other is jerkish professional butt kisser, and the third is just stupid and self-interested. It would be hard to argue that any of them are evil, just immature and bratty. This leads to a Beauty Equals Goodness theme. Kristina and her friends/allies are all described as good looking and everyone else is ugly. The mundane world bullies are snotty and fat, while the zelbock mooks are disgusting creatures. The queen is implied to have used magic to make herself better looking and even then the part of her that the narration most often draws attention to is her claw-like finger nails. It's quite vivid.


I found perhaps two errors in grammar throughout the whole thing.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "The Warble" a C

This has been a free review request. I received nothing in exchange for it except a free copy of the book.

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