Sunday, December 30, 2018

Answering Review Request: Jack's Wagers: A Jack O' Lantern Tale for Halloween & Samhain

This is an old review request. I didn't receive it the usual manner (that is, by email) but through a giveaway on Goodreads (or maybe it was Facebook). Anyway, Wirton Arvel asked me to read it. The book tells an origin story for Jack of the Lantern (Jack O' Lantern). I will examine Plot, Character and Polish and then assign a grade.

PLOT

While ostensibly being about a human guy named Jack who becomes the legendary Jack of the Lantern, I see it as being more about the narrator. The way the story is presented makes me think of an anthropologist collecting tales about Jack and then trying to syncretize them. There are lines like "people say this about Jack" and "this story says X event happened but that story says Y" and often referring back to the Just So origin of the Jack O' Lantern. The narrator also speaks of the changing of cultures over time and how festivals changed in the process -  Samhain and All Saints days are compared in a scholarly sort of tone.


It has a really slow start. The narrator speaks of the many ways in which Jack is a loser: a skinflint, a drunkard, a gambler, someone who blames his problems on others. This covers many chapters. So it gets repetitive.

There are three major events once the story finally gets going: the wagers from the title, Jack "inventing" the vegetable lantern, and then being turned away from the Gates of Hell while unable to find the Gates of Heaven. These events are far more engaging than the previous character-study-like first section. Frankly, they sound like folktales, which I assume is the point.


CHARACTERS

Though a lot of people emphasize Jack's life in this story, it is in the scene of the crowd. Only three characters have any distinction. 


There's Jack, of course. He's portrayed as a clever individual but far too irresponsible to accomplish much of anything. Most of the money he earns doing odd jobs is spent on alcohol or lost in gambling. It is in applying this cleverness more effectively that he succeeds in securing his future fame, along with a large amount of maturing and self-reflection.

This story's Devil is cut from the mold of The Devil Is A Loser. He is described as appearing to be a wildly handsome, charismatic and successful individual but is fooled twice in a similar manner by Jack, and the first time when he is a deadbeat lush. However, this story highlights that he always keeps his word.

The third character is The Narrator (or maybe the author). The narration has too much personality otherwise.  I can just hear them saying all this to someone with that air of academic enthusiasm of someone who enjoys studying folklore.


POLISH

It is a short book and I see no grammatical flaws, so that's good.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Jack's Wagers: A Jack O' Lantern Tale for Halloween & Samhain" a C+


The author requested a review so I provided one. I can't remember exactly what they said beyond that.

Click here for my next book review (for fun): The Tao of Jeet Kune Do

Click here for my previous book review (a request): Amanda Moonstone and the Darkbane Sorceress

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).

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Sir Edric Promotion

Hello! Today I'm helping a fellow author with their holiday promotion. His name is Thaddeus White and the promotion is for his Sir Edric series. This is a parody of the Medieval European Fantasy genre, particularly of chivalric cycles and quest narratives. I've read the first book, "Adventures" and found it both clever and funny. You can read a full review here.
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Good news for fans of fantasy/comedy: from 23 December to 6 January all three of Sir Edric’s books (The Adventures of Sir Edric, Sir Edric’s Kingdom, and Sir Edric and the Plague) are being reduced to 99c each.

 

The adventures and shenanigans of Sir Edric and his pathologically loyal manservant Dog will be perfect for fans of classic British comedy. From battling mythic monsters to trying to evade his dangerous duty (and even more dangerous wife), there are twists and turns galore in three rollicking books.

 

A tiny selection of spoiler-free one-liners:

Adventures:

Very exciting. Not unlike having a scorpion dropped into your trousers.

 

Kingdom:

“How are you feeling, sir?”

“Depressingly sober. And my leg’s burning like a phoenix with chlamydia.”

 

Plague:

“I don’t wish to alarm you, sir, but you appear to be dripping amniotic fluid,” Dog said.

 

Purchase links:

The Adventures of Sir Edric



 

Sir Edric’s Kingdom



 

Sir Edric and the Plague



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Once again, the review for "Adventures" is here. I recommend it.

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).

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Answering review request: Amanda Moonstone Darkbane sorceress

Dan Wright asked me to review his story "Darkbane sorceress", which is the second book in the Amanda Moonstone series. I reviewed the first one and every other book that Dan has written for this setting. The review for the first one can be found here. I will examine Plot, Character and Polish, and then assign a grade.


PLOT


This is a revenge narrative. Thus, it has a much different look and feel from the previous plot's story of a villain maintaining power. This villain is also far more sympathetic, which makes the conflict tragic.

It has a theme of parenthood, and how devastating it is to lose children or fail them in some way. Indeed, many of the heroes and villains are defined by tragic experiences with their parents and/or children. It changes them personally and influences their behavior.

What I especially like about this story is the way in which it justifies events which would otherwise be narrative weaknesses, and thereby, instead turning them into narrative strengths.

For instance, there are points in this story where Saevita could kill the heroes cleanly, easily, quickly and without any Can't Kill You Still Need You caveats. She SAYS this is because she wants them to suffer as part of her revenge, but there are a number of things influencing her decision. I count three of them. Even when she whirlwind banishes the heroes to a spot within spitting distance of the one person in all of Celtland who could help them stop her, Fridge Brilliance states that this is her subconsciously sabotaging herself.

There is one thing that strike me as...how to say...lack-luster. It is the two principal villains, Saevita and Vladrac. By themselves, they are great (more detail in the next section) but they bear a striking resemblance to villains in Trapped in Draconica. To say is more spoilers for both books (Dan! If you want details, let me know and I'll send you a private message). As a long time reader of Dan's stories, this similarity stuck in my mind. Personally, I prefer Trapped on Draconica so these two paled in comparison.
 
The book has, in my opinion, the best kind of ending. The current conflict is resolved but its aftermath lingers and the conflict of the series continues.
 
Also, Daniar Dragokin cameo! Fun.
 
CHARACTERS
 
Amanda has certainly developed since the last book. Since she was in a bad spot in the previous book, I'm inclined to think this is more true to her natural self. A showwoman, a friend-to-all-children and fiery tempered.

Her issue with magic deserves its own paragraph. She clearly puts a lot of her self image into her knowledge of, and skill with, magic. She sees herself as "Amanda Moonstone the dragon gem sorceress". This goes back to her childhood, where we see her reading books about previous users of magic and desiring to use it herself. Over the course of the story, she has to confront this reliance in more ways than one.


Wilfred is a classic Useless Boyfriend (husband in this case). An amusing early scene is him heaving around one heavy bag while Amanda effortlessly lifts several with wind magic. While he is something of a Butt Monkey, he is also more than that. He is a Cowardly Lion and a pillar of emotional support. If he got some royal guard training, then he could be a fine Sword for his wife's Sorcereress.


Saevieta Darkbane is Amanda's foil. She is what Amanda would be given the wrong decision at the wrong time. It's like that Batman comic "One Bad Day".  She is sympathetic and tragic while also possessing classic Evil Is Hammy and a funny running gag that...in a nutshell...gets dark.

Vladrac is a nasty piece of work. Known as "The Butcher" and the leader of a mercenary group "The Singing Screams", he would be a vicious character even before one factors in certain Reveals. He is responsible for the most heart-wrenching tearjerker Dan has ever written. Seriously, those two scenes were hard to read.


Polish

I counted maybe five or so technical errors in total. This across several hundred pages so it is pretty good over all.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Amanda Moonstone Darkbane Sorceress" a B+

This has been a free review request. The author asked for an honest review so I provided one.

Click here for my next book review (a request): Jack's Wagers: A Jack O' Lantern Tale for Halloween & Samhain

Click here for my previous book review (for fun): The Lives of Confucius


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).

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

A Grown Man Playing with Toys - miniatures as writing aides

When I was a child, I would stage battles with.my action figures. Heroes on one side and villains on the other for the "fight". I would speak for them and move them along my room's floor. My furniture was their landscape; a bedside table was a fort and my bed a mountain.

There were stories involved. Immature stories they have been but I planned them out. One such story was a grand villain alliance trying to over-run a hero base.

As I grew older I stopped using the figures to tell the stories. I started keeping everything in my head. This was less expensive for someone as young as I was; my allowance went mostly into batteries for my Gameboy, and such.  So the figures I already had watched me move myself around the room while I thought out the story.

Now, as an adult, I have come full circle. I am using toys to tell stories again. They may be D&D/pathfinder/etc minis instead of Transformers but the point is the same.

I use them to mark the positions of characters during battles.

It is a useful writing aide. In my newest story (after The Highest Power), I used them to keep track of six or so soldiers that fought my new protagonist. I moved them along the wall of a keep to flank her and then decided how she would respond. Without this aid, the scene would be less structured and clear. It most likely wouldn't have such a grand conclusion either.


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).