Saturday, July 30, 2016

Sassy Saturday: Escape from Mt.Heios

Welcome to another week of Sassy Saturday at Trickster Eric Novels.  Every week will be an excerpt from one of my novels showcasing a kick-butt heroine. If you want read about the original blog hop the link is here.

The previous Sassy Saturday post can be read here: Fighting zombies, mages and memories

The context for this post:  Tiza and Nolien along with other allies are attempting to escape Mt.Heios, which is basically a den of corruptive magical energy and really powerful monsters.  On Tvtropes, this sort of situation is what we call "The Godzilla Threshold".

_________________________________________________________


Their destination was Mount Heios, where Tiza, Nolien, and Vaya were running for their lives.

Monsters everywhere were eating each other. They were slashing, biting, smashing, pounding, and melting each other. The tussle between a reaper and a Bladi drove then into a frenzy. Every monster without a meal looked to the small, insignificant-looking creatures and deemed them an easy target.

The fungi that Neuro was thrown into was poisonous to mind, body, and spirit, so he was out of action. Tiza had to carry him on her back. In his current state, he was the lightest of all of them.

Looking around, Tiza scanned the horde for known breeds and quickly guesstimated what they were and what they could do. Large, old, grown strong on a diet of Fog and the mana-drenched meat of others, they ranked as B class monsters. She took stock of her equipment and her allies and possible strategies in a moment. Then she closed her eyes, removed her safety mask, and muttered, “Spider Daylra, all conditions have been met.” The monsters pounced. She opened her eyes and shouted, “Light come forth!”

Suddenly, the monsters halted. Their instincts shouted danger of the creature that multiplied its own power instantly. Tiza's eyes glowed with blue light and her body glowed with a pale blue aura. She blurred past a monster and side-kicked a second to open a path down the mountain.

She deflected a third monster reaching for Vaya and then turned aside a fourth bounding toward Nolien. Her light flickered, but she took a deep breath and renewed it. Then she tossed both her companions over her shoulder and ran down the mountain slope towards the edge of the Fog Cloud.

The monsters followed her. Hideous and misshapen, they chased her relentlessly. It was only by the power of Videlicet Mens that she stayed ahead of them. Only with the greatest effort did she maintain its effect. She took one deep breath after another and each one empowered her to greater heights. They also eroded her health and sanity.

Her hair was matted against her head with sweat. Her body heaved; a feat made dangerous by the thick Fog. No longer taking controlled breaths, the Fog began to pulse erratically within her body. Her skin turned both sickly pale and translucent. Nolien recognized the symptoms, but she did not. She was no longer concerned with them. She was not aware of them. The light of Videlicet Mens blinded her to everything but her goal. She was developing monsanity, the insanity known only to monsters.

As the seconds passed and she grew wearier, the monsters grew closer. They grew close enough for Nolien to count their teeth. A titanic monster stepped into her path, but Tiza jumped ten feet and kicked it in the stomach. Empowered by Videlicet Mens, the Fog, and her fierce determination, she knocked it over and then ran over its face. She jumped off it and continued her sprint uninterrupted all the way out of the Fog Cloud.

On her way down, she tripped and skidded down the slopes. The three people she was carrying tumbled in three directions. She breathed as deep and fast as she could but it was hard, painful, and futile in the thin air of Ceiha. Nolien rushed to her side to begin treatment, then paused when he looked back at the Fog Cloud. The monsters were following them.

They started heaving as he did when he first entered Ceiha's territorial waters. It was slow and clumsy, but they continued stalking forwards. The smallest ones adapted quicker and moved faster. Soon, they would be overrun. Nolien was calculating the odds of running again when he heard something shocking.

Tiza whimpered. Nolien would never forget it. Indomitable Tiza was afraid. His own safety was suddenly less important and saving her became his priority. Now...how do I do it...?

You can't do it, Honorable Elder Brother. Give up.

The healer ignored it and made more plans, but it followed him. It pointed out every flaw in every one. He could hear it laughing at him. Admit it. You can't do it.

Tiza flickered like a sputtering candle and, suddenly, it dawned on him. I can't!

“As I am Chaos, you are Order divine. As the sun to the moon, you shall shine. Take my power and me mine!” His slip made his face burn. He swore he could hear The Trickster laughing. “I mean like a leyline! MANA TRANSFER!”

A blue tether shot from his staff to Tiza's back and, instantly, all her fatigue disappeared. Empowered by Nolien, she grabbed the horns of the monster about to gore him and used it as a club to bash, smash, and flatten the last three monsters pursuing them. Then she tossed that one into the air, channeled enough mana to her blade to make it a mana blade, jumped up to the monster's level, and slashed off all its heads before it crashed to the ground, dead. She landed lightly and stood tall. Then other monsters caught up with it.

Unlike the three before, these were bigger than she was. Their spirits were far stronger and, unlike her, they were not exhausted. Instead of fighting them, she retreated. While she could not defeat them, Ceiha itself could. Artfully, she drew them further and further away from the Fog Cloud. One by one, they suffocated on the thin air. The sense of self-preservation in the remaining monsters kicked in and they retreated to the Fog Cloud.

Nolien had never been more in awe of her. Together with the blue dress, she appeared as a sapphire reaper. Then she faced him and he saw a monstrous look in her eyes.

__________________________________________________________
Looming Shadow, and the rest of the Journey to Chaos series, is available for purchase at Amazon

To learn more about the heroines of Journey to Chaos, visit the Tvtropes character sheet. 

The next Sassy Saturday post is Sassing Death Gods

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).

 

 

 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Movie Review: X-Men Apocalypse

I watched X-Men Apocolypse during a weekend in May and my overall opinion is positive. There are flaws in the narrative but Its The Same Now It Sucks, is not one of them.  I will do my usual of examining Plot, Character, and Polish while also addressing flaws that I have heard and read. Then I will assign a grade.

PLOT

The prologue is fantastic. It is basically the climax of a different story with different heroes who enact their plan to defeat the Big Bad and save the day. Then there's this cool-looking "time tunnel" for the credits. It's a great start.

On the other hand, the movie's main narrative starts out divided. Normally, I take this as a bad sign because it shows a lack of focus. There's a scene with Scott's Cyclops powers awakening, then something in Poland with a guy who is implied to be Magneto. It's a "how is this relevant" sort of feeling. Then there's a scene with Apocalypse waking up and walking around Cairo.

The rest of the plot is more unified and focused. Even the Weapon X (Essex) thing fits in with the likely/logical response to what happened previously. Also, the plot doesn't follow a standard escalation. The final battle looked to be something pen-ultimate before the tables turned again.

I've read how the biggest criticism of this movie is that it deals with the same themes as previous X-Men movies and doesn't break any new ground. In response to that:


1.  All of These X-Men Films are X-Men Films
-->Of course, they're going to be similar in themes and problems and conflict etc. They're all working from the same premise. X-Men without Fantastic Racism is not X-Men. Diabolic villains that are not influenced by something relating to such a theme is likewise a minority in their Rogue's Gallery.


2. "Not Breaking Ground" is Not a Flaw.
--> Dismissing a film because it is not ground breaking is like saying everything has to be innovative in order to be worth something. If something is "not ground breaking" then that it is not a problem because the person with this mindset would toss something innovative away once they have experienced it.  Look up "Seinfeld is Unfunny" on Tvtropes to see what I mean. 


 I am disgusted every time I see a review that is negative solely (or even mostly) because the reviewer thinks it is "same-old same old". They will never, ever, find anything original; not in any medium. It may sound "fresh" to them because they haven't personally seen anything like it, or no one has done anything recently like it, but that does not make it original. A well constructed and executed paint-by-numbers piece is worth more (in my opinion) than an original piece of crap. 

 3. These Characters and Plots are Not Static
--> if you're still looking for broken ground, or at least something different from previous films, then you're not looking hard enough. For instance, Magneto's not the villain this time.  He's neither the Big Bad nor does he usurp the Big Bad's plan or become the next Big Bad. If you're paying attention, you'll notice that Magneto's role has been different in every movie and none more so than this one.


In regards to the villains, there has been plenty of diversity in villains. In fact, Apocalypse is the first "take over the world" villain in this series. The first movie was about turning humans into mutants, "X2" was a psychic genocide against mutants by a non-mutant, and "The Last Stand" focused on the mutant cure and the rampage of Dark Phoenix.  In "First Class", Shaw had this Nuke 'Em option which probably would have killed everyone (mutant and otherwise) and in "Days of Future's Past" there is the Sentinel plan which goes horribly wrong and wipes out everyone. Apocalypse is unlike all of them. 
 
 
In terms of flaws, I would point to the divided narration after the prologue and the lack of set up for Jean's Phoenix Force. There are a few indications of it before it comes to the fore.

 The Ending is great. There is resolution to the Apocalypse conflict but both smaller personal problems remain and the larger struggle for mutant-human coexistence continues.

CHARACTERS

Xavier. It's interesting to see him in this film because it is half way between what he was like in ''First Class'' and how he appears in the first X-Men movie of the original trilogy. He's started the school, become this All Loving Hero teacher and he's in a wheelchair but he's still (comparatively speaking) young and inexperienced.  He's started down the path of becoming the "wise old sage" Professor X is generally known as but he is still young and still tender, so he's kind of a student too.  He's also not a Wide-Eyed Idealist. He is still The Idealist but not wide-eyed.  He shares Erik's fears about mutant oppression but he is confident that they can be overcome.

Raven has evolved into a counterpoint to her foster brother. Instead of teaching control and self-acceptance in a safe mansion bubble, she is out in the trenches rescuing mutants from human cruelty. She urges him to teach his students how to fight; not to go to war but to prepare for a war.  You could say she is the Realist to Xavier's Optimist.

Erik is cynic.  He's tried Xavier's way and it cost him his family a second time. He even tried the "protect those that fear you" thing when saving a co-worker. Now he's back to working on mutant supremacy. It's kind like of like watching someone fall back into addiction after being sober for a while. Yes, he's done awful things and, yes, he adds a few more in this movie, but he's not a monster. He's someone that has been broken by grief, several times, and recruited by someone evil when he was at a moment of weakness.

POLISH

It looks amazing. Whoever put together Quicksilver's "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" scene deserves an award.

Trickster Eric Novels gives X-Men Apocalypse an A+

The previous movie review is Ant Man

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).

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Sassy Saturday: Fighting Zombies, Mages and Memories

Welcome to another week of Sassy Saturday at Trickster Eric Novels.  Every week will be an excerpt from one of my novels showcasing a kick-butt heroine. If you want read about the original blog hop the link is here.

The previous Sassy Saturday post can be read here: Plundering Dengel's Treasury

The context for this post: The Crimson Killer of Ceiha has launched a plan to eliminate Dragon's Lair Team Four, but he wants Tiza alive. Therefore he sends his minions and partner to kidnap her.
Fun Fact: I like listening to "Before my Body is Dry" while re-reading this scene.

_____________________________________________


Back at the camp, Tiza was about to become a hostage. Then, just as Sosuke set the cuffs around Tiza’s hands, two mana bolts generated from them and blew her and Kazuma away. Two more at her feet did the same to Haru, who was holding them together. They had the force of goat kicks and knocked the wind out of all three of them. Tiza grabbed two daggers from under her pillow and stabbed Sosuke in the chest. Then she mana bolted the boys again as they recovered and fell on them in turn.

She walked out of the tent with her sword on her back, her gauntlets on her arms, and one ring on each hand. There was dagger in one and the handcuffs in the other. Haburt fired a mana bolt at her feet powerful enough to crater the ground. It sent shrapnel flying and cut her dress (it quickly repaired itself to perfect condition).

“Why are you still conscious? The chloroform should have put you under for hours!”

“I’m immune to it.”

“How could you be immune to chloroform?”

“Are you kidding? That was the first thing Spider Daylra made me immune to.”

“Did she make you immune to this? Wind Vault!” 

Winds picked up all around Tiza and began solidifying into walls. She ran towards Haburt and the wind followed her, still solidifying. She cocked a punch, only to hit a wall made of nothing.

“No!”

She pounded on the barrier between her and Haburt.

“Let me out!”

She punched and kicked, but all she accomplished was making her hands and feet sting and her wrists sore. She sword-slashed and mana bolted, but only wasted energy.

Memories flooded her consciousness; wind closing in, a woman shouting for her, and three men fighting. Haburt carrying her to a prison somewhere and another woman smiling and forcing something down her throat. “How are you feeling today, Vaya dear?”

“AHHHHH!”

Videlicet Mens activated and she resumed battering the walls of her cage. Every inch of her flared blue light as she put every ounce of her power into escaping. Haburt held it firm. As a greater mage, he was leagues ahead of her in spiritual power. Escape was impossible. Eventually, the aura faded and Tiza sank to her knees. Dropping her sword, she breathed heavily and hugged herself.

“You must think me a monster for this, but it’s the only way to reunite with my daughter.”

“S-spare me…the shit… asshole.”

Tiza pushed a button on her hilt and the bottom dropped out. Along with it was a tiny vial of Mana Juice. She unscrewed the top and threw back the contents in one shot.

“You don’t care about anyone but yourself. I've had nightmares about this spell for years and I couldn’t tell if it was a memory or not. I was terrified of you without knowing why. I suppose I should thank you for trying a second time. Now I can conquer my fear.”

Haburt gulped. He told himself it was impossible. She was a novice fighter. Nothing she had could possibly overcome a greater mage’s spell. Tiza stood up and smirked. It was impossible, but a sinking feeling in his gut told him otherwise.

 Tiza clenched her right fist and then extended her middle finger to show off the tiger’s eye ring.

“Hard as stone, every bone: Earth Empowerment!”

Brown light shined from her eyes and her skin. She picked up her sword and the brown light spread to the tip of its blade. Her soul was now putting out earth-tinged mana, thus making her an earth-aligned creature. Her sword was now the perfect key for a cage made of wind.

She clenched her left fist and then extended her middle finger to show off the pale sapphire.

“Be gone air, I will not despair: Wind Banishment!”

Soft blue light flashed and the Wind Vault waned. The walls were now thinner and the winds themselves weaker.

She took a breath and thrust her sword through the wind wall. Haburt pushed back, but little by little, the blade penetrated until it emerged on the other side. With a wordless cry, Tiza slashed upwards. She stepped through the gap and pointed her sword at Haburt. Her killing intent made his knees weak.
________________________________________________________

The next Sassy Saturday post is Escape from Mt.Heios
Looming Shadow, and the rest of the Journey to Chaos series, is available for purchase at Amazon

To learn more about the heroines of Journey to Chaos, visit the Tvtropes character sheet. 

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, July 19, 2016

Answering Review Request: A Matter of Belief

Matthew Ward asked me to read his novel "A Matter of Belief". It takes place in the same verse as the "Shadows of the Raven" story that I reviewed some time ago. You can read that review here.  This one features Erika Nierev as the protagonist in a murder mystery. I will examine Plot, Character and Polish, and then assign a grade.

PLOT

This story is a prequel to Shadows of the Raven. Erika Nierev is a sergeant instead of a lieutenant so it must be some time before.


I describe this book as "everything good about Shadow of the Raven compressed into a smaller space". There is intriguing mystery, a rich mythology, engaging characters and an edge of supernatural that builds up and comes to the fore. The difference is that it is much shorter; 54 pages in total instead of several hundred.
 
There are good twists. Perhaps someone more familiar with the mystery genre will spot them sooner than I did but they caught me by surprise.  Chekhov's Gun is used skillfully.

For those that have read Shadows of the Raven, there are fun call forwards, cameos and other connections. 

It has a satisfying conclusion.


 CHARACTERS

Erika Nierev gets a lot more characterization here than Shadows of the Raven. She has several awesome moments in that book but Edric's first person narration gives the sense of her being foisted off on the police force by her family because she failed to distinguish herself in any other way. Wow, he couldn't have been more wrong, which goes to show how little he knew about the society he lived in. Nierev can be described as a Knight in Sour Armor; grumpy about her job and the problems around her but resolute in being a good cop.

Quintus gets to shine as the Big Good. He is wise, reasonable, action-forward and his behind-the-scenes maneuvering keeps the peace in the city. Nierev notes an amusing quirk of his; despite being from a noble family he likes to act as though he is not but still above commoners. In other words, like he's in neither camp.

 Stefan Dalrand was a delightful surprise. His death starts the plot of Shadows of the Raven and so it was interesting to see this personality that was Edric's only friend before he defrosted. He strikes me as this distinguished and scholarly elder gentleman, who is also a troll.

POLISH

It looks great. I didn't see any errors.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "A Matter of Belief" an A+


Click here for the next review request: Dawn of Steam: Gods of the Sun

Click here for the previous review request: Plaint for Provence
 
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).

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Sassy Saturday: Plundering Dengel's Treasury

Welcome to another week of Sassy Saturday at Trickster Eric Novels.  Every week will be an excerpt from one of my novels showcasing a kick-butt heroine. If you want read about the original blog hop the link is here.

The previous Sassy Saturday post can be read here: Bureaucratic Battle

The context for this post: Dragon's Lair Team Four has arrived at Dengel's Lair. While Eric investigates the inner sanctum, Tiza searches for loot.
____________________________________________________________________________


Dusty stone and old cobwebs; locked doors and mystic runes. This was the home of a mage arrogant enough to build himself a castle. To historians, it was a precious window to the past. To mages, it was a holy site. To Ceiha, it was taboo. To Tiza, it was a container for adventure and loot. While Eric was gone, she discovered an additional area of the tower. Now she prowled them with sword in one hand and healer in the other.

“Are you going to tell me why we're doing this?”

Tiza answered without looking back.

“Professor Pathetic isn't the only history buff in the world. Anything here could be worth a fortune to the right person.” She continuously scanned the walls, floor, and ceiling for traps, but mostly for loot. Due to the ambient mana in the stones, everything was blurry in her Third Eye, but she managed, thanks to Spider Daylra’s training. “Just imagine what we could find!” 

“I am. That's why we should stay with Basilard.”

“Look!” She pointed to a plaque above a door: a crest with a chest. “That must be the treasury.”

“Then there will be traps.”

“What's more important to a mage as egotistical and fixated on magic research as the Old Fossil: his vault or his lab?”

“His lab.”

“Then doesn't it stand to reason that the lab would be better protected?”

“Yes, but –”

Tiza yanked him forwards before he could finish.

The door's lock was ancient but not rusted. Like the rest of the building, it was preserved by its master's power. The mechanism looked like it came out of the forge last week instead of the last millennium. Tiza considered shattering it with her hilt and strength charm but decided on a different approach. She withdrew a pouch of metal picks and examined the lock with Third Eye. Eventually, she was rewarded with a click and she pocketed her first loot.

“An authentic lock from the Ancient Dengel period of Dengel's castle. In perfect collector’s edition and exclusive in number. This could pay for another shield.”

“Or a lot more shoes...” Nolien muttered.

Tiza whacked him, but he dodged, so instead, she entered the vault while muttering angrily. As she crossed the threshold, a rune activated. A cage dropped on her, but Nolien pulled her back before it could trap her.

“Wonderful!”

“You're welcome. Let's leave.”

“Haven't you heard the phrase ‘pirates don't bury nickel’? Placing a trap means there's something worth guarding, which means there's something worth stealing.

Nolien backpedaled Tiza out of the room and placed himself between her and the door. He used his barrier to keep her out. She did something between a scowl and a pout while he examined the cage.

“This cage has a paralysis rune on the inside of its roof. If this fell on you, you would be helpless. You couldn't even call for help.”

“That's the beauty of the buddy system; you'll save me because you're a coward.”

“No, I'll have to save you because you're reckless.”

“I found a trap –”

“You were caught by a trap –”

Tiza's expression was now one hundred percent scowl. “– and it was a restraint trap. No matter what happens, you can just free me afterwards. What's the worst that could happen?”

“Dengel could escape the Abyss, re-enter this world, float to this mountain, possess me, use my body to drag you somewhere, and then make you his slave.”

Tiza drew a dagger, punctured a hole in Nolien's barrier, and ripped it open. The shock made the rest of it disappear and Tiza marched past him once again. “I am not some lily-handed lady whose chastity you have to protect.” Then she stopped and added in a small voice, “If that really did happen....would you save me?”

Before he could reply, she ran away, dodging two more traps and avoiding a snare, and then turning a corner. Capturing no one, they instantly reset and Nolien carefully edged by them.

_________________________________________________________________________
Looming Shadow, and the rest of the Journey to Chaos series, is available for purchase at Amazon

To learn more about the heroines of Journey to Chaos, visit the Tvtropes character sheet. 

The next Sassy Saturday post can be read here: Fighting Zombies, Mages and Memories
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).


Saturday, July 9, 2016

Sassy Saturday: Bureaucratic Battle

Welcome to another week of Sassy Saturday at Trickster Eric Novels.  Every week will be an excerpt from one of my novels showcasing a kick-butt heroine. If you want read about the original blog hop the link is here.

The previous Sassy Saturday post can be read here: Tiza the Tank
The context for this post: Being queen is difficult and tricky so Kasile regularly vents her frustrations to the one person she feels comfortable doing so, Eric. This is one of those times.

After Tiza's action hero exploits last week...huh? You say that was three weeks ago? My, how time flies...Anyway, I felt that Kasile's "fighting" in her government was a tempting contrast.

______________________________________________
 
Kasile's guards opened the door for him and Kasile herself welcomed him with poise and grace. She dismissed the guards. It was only when he sat down across from her that he saw her legs jittering underneath her heavy skirts.


“The Knight of Education is an insufferable ass,” she said while pouring tea.
Eric sipped it. “You don't say...”
Kasile made an unqueen-like groan. “Yes! She created a new scholarship centered on a trading card game just so her grandchildren can attend a private high school at taxpayer expense.”
“A trading card game? That’s ridiculous.”
“I know! My auditor protested that she had the gall to play the ‘diversity’ card and accuse him of discrimination against the non-athletic.”
“Are we talking about a political maneuver or the card game?”
Kasile rose without elegance and hiked up her skirts so she could round the table and smack him on the head. Then she slumped back into her chair.
“She’s the kind of smug, entitled, and entrenched bitch that my dad warned me about before he was possessed by an enforcer. That condescending tone she took when I summoned her…! ‘You’ll understand when you’re a grandmother, my little queen’ GRRRR! She makes me want to splash this tea in her face!”
Eric munched a biscuit. “What are you going to do about it?”
“I’m going to host this card game tournament of hers and personally invite the best players I can find. The prize will be the scholarship. If her smothered brats want it, then they have to earn it!”
Eric drank more tea and poured himself some more. “Why don’t you just say ‘no’?”
Kasile threw her fan at his forehead and, after it impacted, she held out her hand in a silent command for him to return it. He pushed it back into her reach without a thought.
“If I did that then I’d open myself up to ‘the queen is anti-education’ propaganda and I don’t need that kind of press right now. Besides, Ataidar is not an autocracy and my status as a demi-goddess does not entitle me to ignore the free will of others. Indeed, my divine ancestor is the Goddess of Desire and as such –”
This was followed by a summation of over two thousand years of political philosophy mixed with fire-themed theology. It went all the way back to the founder of Ataidar and earlier. Eric involuntarily tuned it out. It was a habit from listening to Dengel all day and all night. Because of this, he didn't realize she asked him a question until she smacked him again.
“Are you listening?”
“You lost me around King Steiner IX and Queen Fran the XII. Why do all your ancestors copy each other’s names?”
“Irrelevant. Besides, the card game is trendy right now, and so I can use it as a fundraiser for mana mutation projects.”
“Like me going to the Mana-less Abysshole to look for Dengel-era research.”
“I don’t expect you to find anything. The point is that I’m making an effort.”
You are making an effort?”
“Yes, me. As queen, I am an administrator. If a god wants to get something done, they don’t descend from the Celestial Realm to do it themselves. They tell a monk or a nun to do it. I work through agents like you and Gruffle. I stay here in my heaven while you go out into the world to put my plans in motion and watch my enemies.”
“So that’s why Gruffle is following Nulso.”
“Of course. Arresting a mana mutation pioneer who turned to ordercraft is also bad press I can’t handle right now, so I assigned someone to watch his movements.”
“You trust him to do that?”
“Of course not. That’s why I placed a Fire Blood spell on him. If he breaks his parole, then his blood will turn into fire. This means he can’t leave Nulso behind or work against my interests.”
“Couldn’t Nulso negate it with his own power?”
She tried to smack him a fourth time, but Eric caught her wrist. Then, noticing that the biscuits were gone, he moved her fingers into his mouth and mimed chewing them. She made a face and pulled her hand back, wiping it on a napkin.
“I am a divine being. I have divine blood, which means I use divine magic. Furthermore, I am the lawfully designated authority in this country and I administer punishment for crimes occurring within my own home. Put these two facts together and Nulso cannot touch my spell.”
Until the meeting of the Noble Council, they spoke of other things. There were other knight departments giving her grief, nobles that hounded her with proposals, the Summit projects, and the soon in-coming suitor line. This led to talking about Siron and his honoring ceremony that very night. He was a brilliant hero during Tasio’s prank and she wanted to make sure everyone knew it.
“Thus my excuse for why I summoned you: I need your opinion on the Tazul attack.”
 
_________________________________________________________________________
Looming Shadow, and the rest of the Journey to Chaos series, is available for purchase at Amazon

To learn more about the heroines of Journey to Chaos, visit the Tvtropes character sheet. 

The next Sassy Saturday post is Plundering Dengel's Treasury
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).

Friday, July 8, 2016

A Mage's Power print version update

This right here is the real deal.
 
If I didn't know any better, I'd think I brought it home from some book store. I skimmed through it several times to check for errors but it all looks good. The margins are stable, the headings consistent, the words fit on the page, and the map at the start is not blurry.  This is really cool.

The ebook version has been out for a while (3.5 years to be more exact) but holding the physical copy in my hands is a different experience. It feels more real; more official. The first time I was too overcome with just how amazing this is to properly look for errors. Ebooks are great when it comes to being economical or convenient but they can never have the charm of a physical book. I've decided to put this one on the shelf across from my desk so I can stare at it while I write future books.
 
 
All that remains is to make the final decisions on cover finish, list price etc. and then click the "approve" button. I don't know how long it will take between then and the paperback option appearing on Amazon but it could be as soon as next week!
 
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, July 5, 2016

Answering Review Request: Plaint for Provence

Jean Gill asked me to read her book "Plaint of Provence", the third book in her Troubadour series. I have already read for review the other two books, "Song at Dawn" and "Bladesong". You can read my reviews for them at these two links. For this book I will examine Plot, Character, and Polish, and then assign a grade.


PLOT

The premise here is that the area of Provence in France is caught between the control of two families. There was already a war to this effect and tensions still run high. The legal ruler is making a goodwill visit that could quickly and easily turn into a war.



Dragonetz and Estella have both been invited to the Court of Les Baux by its de-facto ruler, Lady Etiennette in preparation for the arrival of its absentee lord, Ramon Barcelone. The invitations are contrasting in their nature: Estella will provide entertainment to impress Barcelone with the sophistication of Les Baux, and Dragonetz will help her prepare for a second war against him. The catch is that Dragonetz has received the same invitation from Barcelone himself, and he hasn't decided who he will support.


If this sounds similar to the premise of the previous book, that's because it is. Estella even expresses her frustration at him playing "the double's game" again and how much danger it put him in. Dragonetz just winks and says "so I've had practice". Indeed he does; this could be Miss Gill leaning on the Fourth Wall.


This book could be a twin to "Bladesong", but its better looking and more intelligent twin. Every flaw I saw or complaint I had regarding "Bladesong" has been rectified in "Plaint for Provence", and in some cases, those flaws make Plaint for Provence even better than it would have been otherwise. This is not to say that I think "Bladesong" is a bad book. On the contrary, I think it is a good book, but it does not reach the same level as "Song at Dawn" and "Plaint for Provence".

For instance, in "Bladesong", the plan to recruit Dragonetz was needless complicated and drawn out. It involved abducting him,  holding him captive for a prolonged period of time, getting him addicted to opium without his knowledge of it, and then tossing him between three people across the Holy Land who have never met him. Here it's just a straightforward invitation that is supported by two of his friends. He is also much more active in this book, and therefore more of a character instead of a MacGuffin.

The reason for conflict is also much improved. Instead of a bible, which while highly symbolic, also had little narrative weight since the people fighting over it treated it like a bauble. Here, the conflict is lordship over a large territory where both sides have differing but legitimate claims to it.

A third point is Estella's role. Her arc in "Bladesong" was largely disconnected to the main plot and her screen time reduced.  Here she is integral and has much time to herself; a deuteragonist again. 


There is a smooth plot progression through several distinct events. While they are distinct and have different players and settings, they all move toward the book's conclusion. They are mini-arcs that move the resolution forward. It is a "unity in diversity" sort of thing.

The story has a good resolution. The conflict over Provence is basically over but not completely. It is certainly over for our leading lord and lady, who move on to their next adventure.

CHARACTERS

Dragonetz continues to be an engaging character. As I've said before, he is a Broken Ace; skilled in many diverse fields, accomplisher of much and charming to all he meets, but he also has haunting failures and feelings of inadequacy as he can never quite reach his goals. This book introduces a new demon; opium addiction. For all his bravery and determination in other fields, fighting his own desires are the hardest. On a different note (pardon the pun), his attempt to produce in reality the songs that he heard in his dreams are poignant. I can relate to that as an author myself.

Sancha was a good character in "Song at Dawn" but in retrospect, there was a lot of focus on her SPOILER! at the expense of her character. Here she is presented with much greater personal depth and backstory along with a more holistic integration of SPOILER! and the rest of her character.

Estela has a marvelous character arc in this book. She has become more realistic in her worldview in that she doesn't expect courtly romance to turn out like a ballad, but at the same time she has not become jaded and consider such things to be frivolous.
She has also developed her interest in and knowledge of medicine in a way that feels more personal and vivid than "Bladesong". There's this funny running gag about her considering the path of the surgeon while her friends look in horror at her butchered embroidery. Snippets from the books she reads (real life books and authors from this time period) are fascinating in their historical paradigm.
The conflict with her step-mother is poignant in how it reveals what she thinks about her identity and history. Those who have read "Song at Dawn" will remember that "Estela" is not her birth name, but by now, she considers it to be her real name.

Geoffroi De Rancon, as I stated in the PLOT section, receives greater depth here. He is not a deceptive man-child on a vendetta of misguided aggression but a grown man torn between knightly ideals and personal anger. He is now someone that is more fitting to be Dragonetz' Evil Counterpart: charming, chivalrous, skilled with both the sword and the song, but also full of negative emotions and disillusionment. The difference being that Dragonetz blames only himself and De Rancon blames Dragonetz. In this regard, Maria is an intriguing Morality Pet.


There is no Big Bad because Miss Gill skillfully creates a Grey-and-Grey-Morality setting, and what is more impressive is that she does this without making everyone into a morally ambiguous jerk. 
On one side, you have Lady Etiennette Les Baux, whose family has traditionally ruled in Provence, lives in the area, and is popular among both the commoners and the nobles for her sophisticated court and fair-minded administration, but lacks the legal right and is willing to wage continuous war in order to regain it despite signing a peace treaty after already losing once.

On the other side, you have Ramond Barcelone, whose has the legal right to rule (by way of his regency for his nephew, the one inheriting) and would do a good job of it because he earned the nickname "El Sant" (i.e. "Ramond The Saint") for his sterling character. However, he would be an absentee lord and thus unable to personally hear the population's legal cases or defend them from enemies. There's also the unusual manner in which his nephew came to inherit Provence; Lady Etiennette was in line for it and then legal stuff happened within her family. Third, there's the suspicious manner in which  Lady Etiennette's husband, Raymond Les Baux, died under his care and made her sons sign a peace treaty that they were too young to understand.

POLISH

I found one missing word in 250 pages. Otherwise, it looks really good.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Plaint for Provence" an A+

Click here for the next review request: A Matter of Belief

 Click here for the previous review request: TitanBorn

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).