Sunday, July 29, 2018

Mini Excerpt - The Highest Power chapter 20 second draft

Lately, I've been sharing these mini-excerpts at my Facebook author page. Unlike Sassy Saturday, they are from works in progress instead of published work. In fact, I typically post stuff that I wrote the previous night or several days before (as the case may be).  They were smaller so I put them there instead of here. However, I think putting them here is a better idea. What pushed me over the top in this decision was the apparent character limit to the "Your Page's Story" sharing option.

Though this is second draft material, it is not fully finished or completely polished. Please forgive spelling mistakes or whatever because my editor hasn't seen this yet.

This excerpt is from the chapter that I finished revising about three hours ago. The context for it is too involved to explain in brief. It is also heavy into spoilers.

"My day has been busy, thanks for asking!" Slamming the tray down on a wagon the baker shouted, " Matthew! The bagels!" A small tiger jumped out of hiding and stood at the front of the wagon, looking fierce.

            "Local custom?"

            The baker sat next to the cat and clacked the reigns. "Onward!"

            Eric jumped aboard. "Well?"

            "Get off my cart, boy, before I kick you off and feed you to my tiger!"

            Eric nonchalantly stroked the cat's head and it nuzzled his hand. The baker groaned and face palmed. "Some protection....The golden haired beast will laugh at me."

            "Golden haired beast?" Eric asked. "Is a monster bothering you?"
            The baker raised an eyebrow. "You ate with it!"

            "Kallen? She's not a monster. She's-"

            "A monster! She may have been human once but she's a monster now. Those stripes in her hair prove it. Hair is fundamental DNA and hers has changed. That's why she did such a terrible thing to her own sister!"
The next excerpt of The Highest Power is chapter five of draft #3. You can find it here

 To learn more about the Journey to Chaos series, you can visit Tvtropes at

The Journey to Chaos series is available for purchase at Amazon:

 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).

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Read for Fun: Don't Know Much About History

I think I was given this book as a gift years ago. it's only now that I've read it all the way through. It's a snapshot of America history from the pre-history settlement by Native-Americans all the way through the contentious presidential election between George Bush and Al Gore.

This is accomplished through focusing in on specific events of key relevance to the era, and broad overviews of certain subjects. Despite the subtitle, it is not "everything" about American history. In fact, in the introduction, the author states that he thinks of his book as "the first word" rather than the last one on each of these subjects and recommends one or more books that deal exclusively with each subject that he touches on.

The question-and-answer format is useful for such a broad stretch of time and is often funny. However, it is also rather opaque as to what the question refers to. Some are clear, definitely, but some of them are references or jokes about what he's talking about, which means a reader would have to be familiar with the subject matter to know at a glance. This diminishes the book's usefulness as a reference guide, but not enough to affect the grade. I'd say most of them are fairly indicative.

Each section is between one and four pages long. It is enough to get across the event itself, its significance in the larger history, and some contrasting views on it. The exceptions are the timelines made for some of the wars. They are funny and informative.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Don't Know Much About History" an A+

Click here for my next book review (also for fun): Sword Art Online volume 10

Click here for my previous book review (a request): Traitor's Prize

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).

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Answering Review Request: Traitor's Prize

Thaddeus White asked me to read his novel "Traitor's Prize". It is part of his Bloody Crown trilogy and the sequel to "Kingdom Asunder", which I have reviewed here.


Basically, this entire review is spoilers. Not only for the previous book but also for the book itself. The reasons for the things I say only make sense if I bring up spoilers. SO.....



This one picks up right where the previous one left off. The civil war is still on-going. 

If one were to identify plot-lines specific to this book then they would be two in number. 1.) King William's fealty problems in North Western Denland, around Norcot and Belgate.  2.) Sophie Hurstwood's journey home. There are many events and just as many separate viewpoints but all of them relate to one of these two points (although Stuart Esden's pillaging is more indirect than most). Both are well-developed and well-written, but as I read, there was something of a problem.

Honestly, I'm not entirely comfortable calling it a "problem" because the events make sense and there is an in-universe reason for them. However, they affect how the story reads structurally and also affect my enjoyment of reading them. 
 The problem is that of a mechanical advantage ball.

1. A thousand Kurtrisch mercenaries offer allegiance to William Penmere, and then the ruler of Albergenian promptly turns against him over him accepting them.

2. Sophie arrives at Hurstwood shortly after it comes to terms with Stuart Esden. On the other hand, the one person who makes Stuart's siege pointless arrives immediately before he leaves.

3. Galmoth flip-flops on King William; it was originally for him and then turns against him at the start of this story and then goes  back towards him without a fight or even preamble at the end. Even he notes that the terms of "surrender" are extremely generous, so neither one of them lost anything over the scuffle. 

4. After a whole book about how heavily David Esden outnumbers William Penmere and the need to avoid a fight, Penmere's envelopment strategy works flawlessly and the army is put to route.

5. Sophie's guardian is killed only to be immediately replaced with another one just before she is recaptured. She is on her third by the book's end. 

It is like watching a tennis match, only not quite as exciting.

It is a good book, a solid read, and a worthy follow-up to "Kingdom Asunder" but it did not impress me as much as "Kingdom Asunder" or the other books that I have read by Thadeus White such as "Journey To Altmortis" and "The Adventures of Sir Edric".

I'd say that my favorite part of this book is the fight between Hugh and the Kurtrisch vs the Elerin, which is a supernatural swamp monster native to Denland. It is a good battle sequence; well set-up, the monster's Dreaded status established in advance, and well executed. Which, now that I think about it, is a nutshell of my opinion of this book.

See, an elerin can only be defeated by magic. Any sort of physical damage is eventually mended automatically; even cutting its head off and throwing it away will only make it the body retrieve it.  Since Hugh's party had no magi, all they could manage was a stalling action. They accomplished nothing. Which is the same to say of both sides in this war.
1. Penemere gained mighty mercenaries but lost the north coast because of them. It lost and regained Galmonth as bookends. It killed another one of the Esden brothers but everyone knows  that the remaining one, Stuart, is going to be the biggest hurdle (and, personally, I think he would have killed his older brothers after the war ended anyways, so he could crown himself). It secured Norcott as an ally, but Norcott's lord is reluctant to part with enough soldiers to help its war effort. It defeated a big army, but considering how outnumbered it is supposed to be, the fundamental situation may not have changed, and now William's army is carrying around a lot of prisoners (thousands of them) so the army is still kind of a threat.
2. Esden trampled Haledale, but its lords had already evacuated everyone and taken everything of value, leaving the army hungry. It "conquered" Hurstwood but couldn't pillage anything due to an agreement enforced by magi, and the non-aggression is likely to expire soon. 

What saves this book for the author is the revelation at the end. Charlotte and her Felarian mercenaries were revealed to be double agents for William Penmere in the last book. Here, it is revealed that her true master is the leader of neighboring Felaria, who wants to invade. The fact that both sides of Denland's civil war have expended much effort and resource to ultimately go nowhere is exactly what Charlotte wants.  While she isn't responsible for everything (at least, I don't think so, but maybe.....), part of this mechanical advantage ball is her fault.


The cast and its members are more or less the same. I'll only list some highlights here.

Elena was presented as this shy and fragile Woobbie in the previous book. She is on much better footing here, and is a much more developed character. For one thing, she is a lot bolder in her interactions with Stephane.

Sophie Hurstwood has more opportunity to show her Action Survivor chops in this book then the last one. There she had an ill-fated escape attempt. Here she shows off quick thinking, guile, and determination without its foolishness.

David Esden makes a fine foil for his younger brother, Stuart. Although he seems competent at organizing troops and making strategies, he does not enjoy war. He strikes me as a "court's darling" sort of character, which makes Stuart appear all the more brutal and savage.


It looks good. The map of Denland at the start of helpful for tracking the events that occur, and the spelling and grammar are error free as far as I can tell.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Traitor's Prize" a B+

This has been a free book review. Thaddeus White asked for an honest review so I provided one.

Click here for my next book review (for fun): Don't Know Much About History

Click here for my previous book review (a request): Curses of Scale

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).

Saturday, July 14, 2018

New Release Spotlight - Aerisian Refrain

Hello everyone!

Today I'm spreading the word about a fellow author's new release. This time it is Sarah Ashwood's Aerisian Refrain. It is the first book of her Beyond the Sunset Lands series.

Book Blurb:
Following the prophesied Artan’s victory over the Dark Powers, the land of Aerisia is finally at rest, until ancient beings, long imprisoned, begin to stir…
            Eight years after Annie Richards’ stellar voice and musical talents skyrocketed her from rural Oklahoma to international fame, haunting visions have begun threatening her sanity. While she’s returning to her childhood home to convalesce, creatures straight from her nightmares bring down her plane. Annie wakens in a parallel world, Aerisia. Here, she discovers her musical gifts translate into magical powers—the legacy of a banished race who have been invading her dreams.
Mistrusted by Aerisia’s most powerful factions because of her heritage, Annie finds allies are hard to come by. Supporting her are one Simathe warrior, Cole, who refuses to label her as evil, and one woman willing to stand against anything and anyone to help a friend: the Artan herself. Seizing control of her destiny will mean defying both her ancestors and the Aerisian leaders. Mastering her magic may mean making the greatest sacrifice of all…or risk becoming the reason Aerisia itself is torn apart. 

Find Aerisian Refrain on Amazon and Goodreads.

Author Bio:

Don’t believe all the hype. Sarah Ashwood isn’t really a gladiator, a Highlander, a fencer, a skilled horsewoman, an archer, a magic wielder, or a martial arts expert. That’s only in her mind. In real life, she’s a genuine Okie from Muskogee who grew up in the wooded hills outside the oldest town in Oklahoma and holds a B.A. in English from American Military University. She now lives (mostly) quietly at home with her husband and three sons, where she tries to sneak in a daily run or workout to save her sanity and keep her mind fresh for her next story.

Sarah’s works include the Sunset Lands Beyond trilogy and the fantasy novella Amana.

To keep up to date with Sarah’s work and new releases, sign up for her newsletter. You can also visit her website, or find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter. __________________________________________

Me again!
Personally, I like the sound of this book. Annie Richards doesn't seem like a This Loser Is You sort of protagonist, which is always a plus in my opinion. I wrote a blog post explaining why, which I'd like to link to, but I feel that doing something like that would be crass in this case.
I also like the idea of mundane singing ability translating into magical spell casting ability because of the similar structure of songs and classic rhyming spells. In this case,  it helps to explain how Annie would learn to use it (thus alleviating Instant Expert).
Overall, it sounds like an exciting adventure. 
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).