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Thursday, June 4, 2020

The Kingdom Of Liars by Nick Martell (reviewed by Caitlin Grieve)



Official Author Website
Order the book HERE

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFO: Nick Martell was born in Guelph, Ontario, where he lived for 7 years before moving to Huntington, New York. Nick started writing in 5th grade, beginning to explore the world that would fully emerge in The Kingdom of Liars.

Nick attended Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and a minor in French. Since then, Nick has done a wide range of jobs that had nothing to do with his major in university from a Quality Insurance Tester for an engineering company in New York City to a volunteer on an organic farm in Ireland.

The Kingdom of Liars is his debut novel.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Michael is branded a traitor as a child because of the murder of the king’s nine-year-old son, by his father David Kingman. Ten years later on Michael lives a hardscrabble life, with his sister Gwen, performing crimes with his friends against minor royals in a weak attempt at striking back at the world that rejects him and his family.

In a world where memory is the coin that pays for magic, Michael knows something is there in the hot white emptiness of his mind. So when the opportunity arrives to get folded back into court, via the most politically dangerous member of the kingdom’s royal council, Michael takes it, desperate to find a way back to his past. He discovers a royal family that is spiraling into a self-serving dictatorship as gun-wielding rebels clash against magically trained militia.

What the truth holds is a set of shocking revelations that will completely change the Hollows, if Michael and his friends and family can survive long enough to see it.

FORMAT/INFO: The Kingdom of Liars was published in hardcover in the UK on May 5th, 2020 via Gollancz. It will be published in hardcover in the US on June 23rd, 2020 by Saga Press. It is 608 pages spread over 53 chapters, with a prologue and epilogue. It is told in first person through Michael Kingman. It will be available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats.


OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Ten years ago, Michael Kingman's father was executed for murdering the Crown Prince. Since then, Michael has grappled with dueling legacies: that of the Kingman ancestral duty to be protectors and advisors to the royal family, and that of the ruined family name that comes with being the son of a traitor. He has searched for years for answers as to what happened that fateful night without success. But when he comes to work for High Noble Domet, the man becomes a surprising ally in Michael's quest for the truth. With Domet's help, Michael joins the Endless Waltz, the annual nobility courtship events, where he hopes to gain access to information kept secret by the royal family. As he delves deeper into court politics, it becomes clear that there are gaps in his memory from the time of the attack, and entire people he no longer remembers knowing. But if his father wasn't responsible for the death of the prince, who was?

The Kingdom of Liars is a novel that has an incredibly intriguing setup that I ultimately just didn't connect with. Let's start with the good parts. There were many aspects of the worldbuilding I enjoyed, including the idea of a magic system where overusing your abilities could cause you to lose your memories. This meant magic users have to take precautions to keep memories safe, from journals to tattoos. The shattered moon that occasionally rains debris onto the city was also something I'd never seen before, and I loved the concept of the Endless Waltz, a series of events the nobility attend to arrange marriages and form political alliances.

After the broad strokes of worldbuilding, however, I found myself lost in the minutia of details that were left vague or unexplained. To name a few:
- How exactly (in normal times) did the Kingman family operate in their role as intermediaries between commoners and the royal family?
- What exactly is a person who is a Sacrifice?
- How on earth did a character who was a commoner when the book began suddenly show up as part of the Crown Prince's inner circle?

Some of these questions are answered late in the book, and it was at the point that things started being explained that I finally found myself enjoying the intrigue at hand. The night of a fateful ball in particular was an outstanding scene, full of tension and confrontation, but also providing understanding of some key concepts that had been eluding me up to that point.

I also found myself struggling to connect with the characters. Most of them felt only roughly sketched out. Some of this stems from the fact that, for an unknown reason, Michael can't recall certain details of his childhood, including specific faces of friends he knew for years. But even the close friends he had in present day felt more like acquaintances than people Michael would put his life on the line for.

As for Michael himself, he's purposely written as brash and impulsive, which can sometimes make him a bit hard to read. But he also does carry an enormous burden. Since childhood, he's had the weight of being literally branded a traitor, reviled by everyone for his father's actions. At the same time, there's the weight of the ancestral family name - Michael comes from a long line of legends, of men and women who don't live history, they cause it. He wants to uphold this legacy, not out of any sense of nobility, but because it's what he was raised to do. It's hard not to feel some sympathy with a character who is hated for something he had no control over, who is also under pressure to live up to the names of heroes.

The Kingdom of Liars was a book I unfortunately wanted to love much more than I ended up doing. Although it has some original concepts, it just didn't deliver as wholly realized a world as I hoped. I will say that the last third of the book went much better for me than the beginning, as reveals and twists finally brought things to a head, especially as Michael uncovers what is buried in his missing memories. There were scenes where I could definitely see why this book has resonated with others (again, the scene at the ball is my favorite of the book), but overall, it fell just short of making me want to continue onward.
Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Spotlight: Intriguing Titles In SPFBO Part II


Continuing from yesterday, here’s part deux of our intriguing titles spotlight. The books we are highlighting within this post caught our eye due to their blurbs, their covers, as well as potential subject matter.

We would like to reiterate that this list is in no way an indicator of our choices going forward in the contest. But simply details titles that we WOULD like to read.

So without further ado, here's a list of the noteworthy titles (in random order):


Of Honey And Wildfires by Sarah Chorn

Official Book Blurb: From the moment the first settler dug a well and struck a lode of shine, the world changed. Now, everything revolves around that magical oil.

What began as a simple scouting expedition becomes a life-changing ordeal for Arlen Esco. The son of a powerful mogul, Arlen is kidnapped and forced to confront uncomfortable truths his father has kept hidden. In his hands lies a decision that will determine the fate of everyone he loves—and impact the lives of every person in Shine Territory.

The daughter of an infamous saboteur and outlaw, Cassandra has her own dangerous secrets to protect. When the lives of those she loves are threatened, she realizes that she is uniquely placed to change the balance of power in Shine Territory once and for all.

Secrets breed more secrets. Somehow, Arlen and Cassandra must find their own truths in the middle of a garden of lies.



The Flight of the Darkstar Dragon by Benedict Patrick

Official Book Blurb: Impossible world. Impossible dragon. Impossible adventure.

Lost with her ship and crew in an unfamiliar land, Min’s first command could be her last. Nothing here behaves the way it should:

The magic that powers her skyship has been drained, rendering it immobile.
The sky is an endless twilight, lit by the luminous fish that swim in it.
Off starboard, there’s also the country-sized dragon that is looking particularly hungry.

It will take all of Min’s training and experience to get her people safely back home, but as the truth about the Darkstar Dimension begins to be revealed, Min will have to prove to her crew - and to herself - that she is still the best person for the job.


The Brightest Shadow by Sarah Lin

Official Book Blurb: The arrival of the Hero was worse than anyone could have imagined.

To take her place as a full warrior of her tribe, Tani must travel across the vast grasslands of the Chorhan Expanse. But she has her sights set higher than a mere ritual journey: she wants to uncover a solution to the impending war that threatens her people. Her world has never been peaceful, torn between the many cultures that meet on the Chorhan Expanse, but the greatest threat is an expansionist army of monstrous non-humans who call themselves the mansthein.

Legends tell of monsters who will attempt to conquer the world, but are the mansthein those monsters? Tani believes that peace may be possible, but there are others on both sides who believe in the legends with zealous devotion. All around her, warriors have their eyes on a glorious victory with no concern for the piles of bodies they'll create on the way.

Tani will be joined by a killer pretending to be a healer, a mansthein commander struggling with his orders, a thief who pawned her heart of gold, and a strategist exiled from a foreign land. But none of them are the Hero. It doesn't matter how many shades of gray might exist, some people see only in black and white. And the terrifying truth is that the stories they tell might not be just legends.


Rumble in Woodhollow by Jonathan Pembroke

Official Book Blurb: Sydney was bored--bored with mixing potions in her aunt's alchemy shop and bored of life in the faery homeland of Sylvan Valley. So when her sister Marla sends her a letter and asks Sydney to bring some family documents to the crime-ridden city of Woodhollow, Sydney leaps at the chance--only to discover Marla in charge of one of the criminal syndicates competing for control of the Woodhollow underworld.

Before she knows it, Sydney finds herself embroiled in a gang war and must maneuver her way through the plots of rival thugs, ogre peacekeepers, and the semi-immortal ruler of the city. And through it all, she learns she has drawn the attention of a mysterious order of assassins...who want Sydney for some sinister purpose of their own.


Night of the Bloody Tines by Rogan Feltmate

Official Book Blurb: ENTER the city-state of Klinghammer, a former global superpower run by old guilds and older families. Its archaic corporatist government is the last of its kind, and Lord Mayor Trav Pinion sees the writing on the wall. With a pending bid to join the Concert of Tines—an international economic and military alliance—Klinghammer is on the cusp of taking its seat on the global stage once more. However, the Corporation’s repressive policies against magic have sparked outrage across the land, prompting Kasters to rise up…

Amid the tumult, Chelsi Ashbruner applies for an internship at Guildhall, and gets much more than she bargained for. She is hired as the Auxiliary to Airn Dutta, an up-and-coming political luminary and a descendant of the City’s most powerful industrial dynasty.

An attempt on the Lord Mayor’s life ignites a political powder keg, threatening to expose Klinghammer’s dirtiest secrets. An aged vigilante, a legendary swordsman, and a detective fallen from grace, are forced from retirement. Along with Chelsi and Airn, they’ll soon discover whether the City can survive its past when confronted by its eldest foes…


Shadow of the Lantern Bearer by Chris R. Underwood

Official Book Blurb: Magic is a disease. It spreads like a plague and drives the infected mad with power. Death is the only cure.

Seventeen-year-old Kole Felmen is destined for a life spent executing infected sorcerers and disposing of their tainted remains. But his first execution ends in disaster. Fearing he has been infected with the sorcerer's plague, Kole sees only one option: flee his village before his mind snaps and he destroys everyone he loves.

His chance for escape lies with a band of treasure hunters traveling to a lost ruin from a plague-ravaged empire, where ancient dangers lurk and the shadows of the past still linger…


Feast of the Mother by Miranda Honfleur and Nicolette Andrews

Official Book Blurb: Beneath the murky waters of the lake, an ancient being slumbers, and Brygida is its servant. Kept sheltered in the woods by her mothers from the nearby village, Brygida has never had so much as a friend—until the day she meets a charming stranger painting by the lake. He invites her to the village’s harvest feast, but her taste of the forbidden ends with a murder.

Called into service for the first time, Brygida must take up her ancestral duty as Reaper of Death and solve the murder within three days. If she brings the murderer to the lake on the third day, the being she serves will be sated. If she fails, Brygida herself will be drawn beneath the murky waters, and the village massacred. There’s only one problem: the main suspect is her charming painter, Kaspian.

As Brygida investigates, the dangers are many and answers few. The village and her family stand against her, and with time running short, the lake demands a price. Brygida believes Kaspian is innocent, but can she stake her life on it, when failure means condemning the rest of the village, and being dragged into the deep...?


The Obsidian Psalm by Clayton Snyder

Official Book Blurb: Betrayed by those he trusted. Resurrected by a man he should loathe. A head full of memories he didn’t make. Rook is forced into a bargain that might kill him if he refuses, and if he accepts, could mean the end of existence. Trapped in a shadow war between necromancers, his choices are dwindling to one: Cut a bloody swathe of revenge across humanity’s last remaining city.


Limbo by Thiago d'Evecque

Official Book Blurb: The fate of the world hinges on a forsaken spirit, a mad god in a sword, and 12 mythological beings.

The Limbo is where all souls — human or otherwise — go to after dying. Some don't realize where they are. Death is a hard habit to get used to. Gods and mythological figures also dwell in the plane, borne from humanity's beliefs.

A forsaken spirit is awakened and ordered to dispatch 12 souls back to Earth to prevent the apocalypse. Many don't take kindly to the return. Accompanied by an imprisoned mad god, the spirit must compel them.

Each of the 12 unlocks a piece of the spirit's true identity. Memories unfold and past wounds bleed again. The journey will reveal buried truths about gods, angels, humanity, and the forsaken spirit itself.


Chains Of Blood by ML Spencer

Official Book Blurb: One is the son of a demon. The other, the son of a hero. Together, they must break the chains that bind them to their past and forge their own legacy.

Rylan Marshall is the son of the most despised Battlemage to ever walk the earth. Gil Archer is the son of a dead hero whose legend still haunts him from the grave. In any other war, they would be bitter enemies.

But this is not a war about enemies and allies. It is a war for the human spirit.

When their homeland is invaded by a society that roams the world preying on others, Rylan and Gil must put aside the ghosts of their past in order to fight them. For their enemy uses chained mages as weapons, and capture means assimilation.

As the trilogy unfolds, the stakes get higher and the enemies more diverse and powerful. The series spans thousands of years, visits civilizations both thriving and fallen, and hurls two different worlds into a collision course. It is a bold chronicle of gods and man, demons and pawns, magic and warfare, and the very nature of humanity.


Incursion by Mitchell Hogan

Official Book Blurb: Seventeen years have passed since the Necromancer Queen Talia was overthrown and slain, and her capital city destroyed by the Knights of the Order of Eternal Vigilance.

Anskar DeVantte, raised in the sacred disciplines of the Order, is now ready to face the brutal initiation trials to become a consecrated knight-sorcerer.

But the further Anskar rises in the ranks the more his faith wavers, and he is beset by harrowing dreams and uncertainty. As troubling powers awaken within him, a schism grows between Anskar and his hallowed Order, and he draws the hungry gaze of the vanquished queen’s fanatical followers.

As Anskar pieces together the mysteries of his early life, and begins to understand the malevolent forces gathering in his path, he finds himself with a crucial choice to make:

Remain loyal to the Order’s righteous mission, or control the dark powers growing within him. Either way, his destiny is steeped in war. The only question is, which side will he be on?


A Prince's Errand by Dan Zangari and Robert Zangari

Official Book Blurb: The history of the amulet…

…is the stuff of dreams and legends.

But what if the myths are true?

It is called the Crimson Eye, hidden for centuries by the Keepers of Truth and Might. An aging warrior is asked to find the Keepers by a mysterious scholar named Krindal. Cornar is a reluctant adventurer at first, but eventually he agrees, and his life is changed forever.

They have one lead…

…a magical map.

Has Krindal done enough to truly give them a chance?

This long journey, cloaked in secrecy, takes Cornar and his band through lands plagued by violent earthquakes and controlled by the Wildmen—descendants of the Klindala Dynasty twisted by magic. They are not the only threat. The Sapphire Guard searches, too.

Who will win the race to rediscover the Keepers?


Fires that Forge by R.J. Hanson

Official Book Blurb: Murder... Betrayal... Magic? One knight takes up his hammer to hunt a killer concealed. Will he discover the truth in time to rescue a friend from the executioner’s ax?

Murder in Moras is treated as an everyday affair; until it touches the nobility. The aristocracy demands someone pay for these heinous crimes. Yet, they want someone to hang before too many questions can be asked. What old truths do they fear? What if the one that stands accused is innocent?

Amid the shining streets and dark alleys of this great trade city, events will twist the Fate of two life-long friends. In this city of knights and rogues, templars and merchants, a career soldier must become a cunning detective. A young physician must prove his innocence before the hangman calls. When Dunewell learns that his good friend, Silas, is the sole suspect, the decorated veteran turned King's Inquisitor undertakes the duty of saving him. The only way? Root out the killer.


The Bloodless Assassin by Celine Jeanjean

Official Book Blurb: An assassin with a fear of blood.

A mouthy street girl.

They can't seriously be the city’s only hope?

Being Damsport’s most elegant assassin is hard work. There are devilish poisons to concoct, secret identities to maintain…and tailoring to consider. But most importantly Longinus must keep his fear of blood a secret or his reputation will be ruined.

When Rory discovers Longinus’s blood phobia, she makes him a deal. Train her, and she won’t ruin his reputation. What she doesn’t expect is that her new master has more eccentricities than a stray dog has fleas. And that in aligning herself with him, she now finds herself in the crosshairs of another, far more dangerous assassin.

Now, not only does Rory have to keep herself and Longinus alive, she has to stop a conspiracy that threatens to bring the city to its knees.

An impossible task?

It's even harder with Longinus under the delusion that he’s the hero of the story. That would be funny, if it didn't make Rory want to throttle him.


Midnight Monster Club by Gerhard Gehrke

Official Book Blurb: Digger and the fel of Loom Island have one law above all others: harm a pureblood and lose your life.

But when an enigmatic woman named Isabel invades his brother’s bar seeking refuge, it gets hard to play by the rules.

A gang of pureblood noblemen is hot on Isabel’s heels in pursuit of a stolen treasure. But helping her puts Digger’s neck and everyone else he loves in line for the chopping block.

Digger will have to trust Isabel and a group of lowlifes as they fight to protect the bar and avoid the gallows. As the law catches wind of the unrest, the unraveling situation threatens to reveal secrets Digger thought long buried. And word of Isabel’s ill-gotten prize has only started to spread.


The Longest Shadow by Stephen Murray

Official Book Blurb: A charnel wall of fog creeps across the western horizon bringing with it ancient terrors and walking nightmares, spoken of in fearful whispers as the Perash. On the farthest reaches of the Hardic Empire, disgraced general Tybir Galingar is faced with a dire choice between certain death at the hands of the Perash or, to return to his former home and the vengeance of an Emperor he once sought to usurp.

The Stillborn King, Hector Aris sits atop a teetering throne. Cursed by his inability to sire an heir, his enemies circle ever closer and the weight of the crown grows heavier with each passing day. With the Hardic Empire in a crisis of succession and an otherworldly threat encroaching from the west, Hector is forced to confront the failings of his past if he is to salvage any future for his people.

In the secretive order of the Praetory, a young girl named Pan toils reluctantly to join the caste of imperial guards and spies known as the Praetors. Abandoned by a war-mongering father and ward to an Emperor, Pan finds herself embroiled in a web of conspiracies, wending a bloody path towards the throne.

All paths converge in Virangan the jewel of the Hardic Empire, where knives are drawn in shadow-draped streets and a climatic confrontation with the Perash decides the fate of all.


Dragon's Reach by J. A. Andrews

Official Book Blurb: The truth is neither plain, nor simple.

Sable, a reluctant thief from the slums, can feel truth when people speak. For years she’s been using that skill to try to break free from the vicious gang boss she's indebted to. Escape comes in the form of an odd set of companions:

-a dwarf running from the past,
-an actor with a magical, glowing tree
-a too-helpful kobold,
-a playwright with a knack for getting stories out of people, and
-a man and woman with suspicious, magical powers.

But Sable’s freedom is short lived. Out on the edges of civilization, they discover hidden, terrifying lies in the offers of peace from the brutal Kalesh Empire. Now, she must return to the city she fled, and along with her companions, attempt an impossible task—convince everyone, including the powerful Dragon Prioress, of the truth.

Except the Kalesh web of lies has ensnared everyone. With her land, her people, and everything she loves hanging in the balance, Sable is the only one standing between freedom, and certain death.


The Sword of Wisimir by Allen Stroud

Official Book Blurb: Opportunistic thief, Jack Von Drey thinks his luck is in when he steals the Governor's taxes from the back of a treasury wagon. But it turns out, this is a game with higher stakes than he bargained for.

City Minister, Urin Braymes makes one bad decision. Unfortunately for him, it opens him up to being blackmailed for the rest of his life.

Magister Leel's scheme to recapture his position of power seems to be right on track. But, when he makes a bargain, he finds he has unleashed magic that even a wizard cannot control.

And Jarno Herren? Well he just wants to find out the truth.

The Sword of Wisimir is a fantasy tale of crime, intrigue, life and death. Where ideals are cheap and, in the end, everyone finds out what they'd sacrifice to survive...


The Dragon’s Banker by Scott Warren

Official Book Blurb: Finance: The lifeblood of any country’s beating heart and the life’s work of Sailor Kelstern — Merchant Banker. While wizards brood in their towers and great warriors charge into battle Sailor is more interested in the price of ore, herbs, and alchemicals carried by the trade ships.

But when a spell of bad fortune and bitter rivalry leaves him scrambling to turn a profit on little more than winds and whispers, one such whisper catches Sailor’s ear— a dragon has been seen in the west. Sailor soon finds that the dragons are very real, and not at all what he expected. And they practice a very different sort of economy — one of subterfuge and fire.


Immortals by Joshua Smith

Official Book Blurb: For thousands of years, stories had been told of the terrible Sorceress who'd given all her power to end the ancient world. But those were just stories. Now, new stars dot the sky—signs of Sorceress Jocina's power returning so she can finish the job.

For A’banna, these signs mark the end of her service to the Sorceress as priestess. Commanded to sacrifice a living being in Jocina's name, she can't go through with it. A’banna flees into the jungle, but the wide world is much different than she knows. Further, she’s being hunted by Jocina’s sadistic son and her monstrous creations. Nature itself seems set against her.

Bedel and Raynt, two of the Magical Affairs Commission’s elite agents and powerful essencers, might be her only hope. They've dedicated their lives to holding back the tide of Jocina's darkness, and preventing her inevitable return, but when they discover A’banna on the edge of death, all missions are postponed in an effort to protect her.

Might this strange, defecting priestess hold the keys to defeating the Sorceress once and for all? Or will she cause two of the most powerful remaining essencers to meet their doom for nothing?

The Faith Machine by Tone Milazzo Book Excerpt



Welcome to our stop on Storytellers on Tour’s blog tour for Tone Milazzo’s The Faith Machine. Here's the schedule - follow it and learn more about the book.



Official Author Website
Order The Faith Machine over HERE(USA) or HERE (UK)



AUTHOR INFORMATIONTone Milazzo is the author of Picking Up the Ghost, The Faith Machine, and the ESPionage Role-Playing Game.

Stories have always been Tone's first love. When the first hunter told another about the one who got away, stories made us human. Stories lead to understanding. Fiction, religion, biographies, gossip, gaming, and history, it all goes into the slow cooker and out come stories.

To those ends Tone's been around, professionally speaking. Marine, taxi driver, teacher, assistant to scientists, and coder. This breath of experience has given Tone a little knowledge about a lot of things, good and bad.

He lives in San Diego with his wife Melissa Milazzo (author of Time is a Flat Circle) and two dogs, all of whom are more capable than he is.

BLURB: Welcome to the dangerous, clandestine world of ESPionage. Welcome to The Strip, where operatives on the fringe command teams of ‘Cards’: Agents cursed with subtle, specialized, and sometimes sloppy psychic powers. Dr Ken Park, Korean-American psychologist and spy, dares to lead six of these Cards. Together, they tackle esoteric threats the Department of Homeland Security cannot.

Park takes his team to Africa to retrieve the Faith Machine. Built by the Soviets to turn prayers into suffering, the psychotronic device fell into the hands of a demented warlord. Tragically, the mission fails and the madman slaughters hundreds of innocents while the machine burns.

They return to the States in disgrace, and into an ambush by the mysterious and brutal Casemen. Cut off from command and each other, the scattered agents rush to their safe house in the west. While spy agencies from around the world want retribution for the catastrophe in Africa. Park’s team outplays enemies left and right, while uncovering the true threat. There’s another Faith Machine, one destined to bring hell on earth.


FORMAT/INFO: The Faith Machine published on May 10, 2020, with Running Wild Press. 

CHAPTER ONE


CHAPTER ONE

To say the Colonial Motel was past its prime assumed it ever had one. Run-down, infested by a dozen kinds of vermin, and stuck between cities off I-94's run through Indiana, the motor lodge was a good place to make a drug deal and a likely place to get robbed.
Which summed up Park and Ainia's evening.
Dr. Ken Park sat, back against the bed, and stared at the lamp's torn shade. He was no stranger to hallucinogens, but the woman's psychic attack had sucker-punched him in the prefrontal cortex. His pistol lay on the stained carpet, empty and out of reach. Colors still pulsed and shadows twitched, but he'd straightened out for the most part. The trip felt like hours. The clock said fifteen minutes.
Sweat ran into his eyes as he crawled toward the open door after Ainia, his best agent. She'd chased after the psychic and her boyfriend. No telling what would happen out there if the woman's card -- jargon for psychic power -- had set Ainia tripping too. The mission might be a wash. What mattered now though was her safety.
Ainia dropped into the doorway, curled in a squat, like a cat ready to pounce. She was dressed in a sports bra and shorts, hair cut short like a boy's, body a tight coil of muscle, her life written across it in scars. Park knew most of the stories. None were pretty.
"Ainia," he mumbled, "it's fading. Just another ten--"
She closed her eyes and hissed.
He rose to his heels, hands up. "Stay calm, wait this out, and you'll be fine." An aggravated, hallucinating Ainia scared him more than the unexpected trip did.
She caught him looking at his gun. "Don't bother. I'm fine." She rolled inside, leaned against the bed, and covered her eyes. "Wouldn't do you any good, even if it was loaded."
He waited on the floor with her for a few more minutes, until the shadows stopped flowing. "I'm good now. How about you?"
She nodded. "Why'd you unload your gun? You should've been firing it."
He gathered the pistol and empty magazine. "Those two were gone before I could draw. I didn't want to risk shooting you." He picked bullets out of the worn carpet, loading the pistol magazine with sweaty, shaking fingers. A round slipped out of his grip, arcing through the air.
She caught it and handed it back. "How sweet."
He slid the magazine back into his pistol. "What happened to your shirt?"
"I tore it off, thought it was filled with bugs, hundreds of biters. In this place it might have been. Still, maybe the cops were right. Could that be some kind of aerosol weapon?"
He shook his head, stood, and jammed the pistol back into its underarm holster. "The cops didn't know what they were dealing with. It sure wasn't like any drug I've ever tried. I think the woman was the psychic we're looking for. Everything went weird after she hit that snuff bullet."
"Snuff bullet? I thought that was some kind of asthma medicine. What if she's not psychic? What if it's in the drug itself?"
"Then we'd be in a lot of trouble. Fortunately, cards are in people, not chemicals. It's psychosomatic. Ingesting the drug just activates her card."
The empty spot on the floor between their bags reminded Park of his failure. The bait had been too good. A ten-pound bag of sugar pills, pressed to look like Sudafed. The tweaker and her boyfriend had snatched it and run. "Shit. Have we ever had a mission go south so fast before?"
She stood and loosened up her neck. "Doesn't matter. We fall, we learn, we get up, and try again."
He checked himself in the bathroom mirror. His hair was stuck to his forehead with sweat. "I look like crap."
She pulled a yellow lacrosse ball out of her gym bag and idly began rolling it back and forth between her hands with hypnotic grace. "At least we identified the target. I bet you're glad we didn't have the real stuff with us."
He washed his face. "That'd be great if we were here to flood the market with dummy meth. But our mission was to evaluate the psychic. Now they're gone, and I didn't even get a chance to talk to her."
"You think an addict is Project Dead Blind material?" She took her turn at the sink.
He peeled off his sweaty coat and shirt. "They deserve a chance, like everyone else. The new girl, Agent Gabby, she's in recovery and has a lot of potential."
The hotel phone rang. She stopped the ball, balancing it on the back on one finger. "Is that who I think it is?"
He shrugged and went to pick up the phone. "We won't know until we answer will we?" He lifted the receiver. "Hello?"
"Hi, Dr. Park. It's Exposition Joe." He nodded at Ainia. She threw her hands up and stepped back. The chipper-voiced teen continued, "You ever heard of urban decay?"
"I'm..." Park sighed, bracing himself for another asymmetric conversation with Project Dead Blind's precognate. "I'm aware cities aren't exempt from the force of entropy. If that's what you mean, Joe."
"Kinda. More like the people who are all about it. They take pictures of ruined old buildings and post them online. Sometimes they break into places, like this water park in Indiana, Splash Down Dunes. It used to be an amusement park called Enchanted Forest. I guess it's still amusing, if you think about it --"
"Are you saying our target robbed us, then ran off to an abandoned water park?"
"Something like that. When you go there, you'll see what you need to see. Hey, I gotta go. Say hi to Ainia for me." Joe hung up.
He put the phone back in its cradle. "Joe says hi."
"Yeah. Great." She rocked the lacrosse ball on the back of her hand. "What else did he say?"
"He told me about an abandoned water park near here." Park powered up his satphone and called up the map.
Ainia flipped the ball over, snatching it in the palm of her hand. "'Near here'? How does he know where 'here' is? He's not on this mission. I don't trust Joe."
"The same way he knew the phone number to this room."
"That doesn't answer my question."
He didn't have an answer that would satisfy her. "But he's never wrong. Let's see this abandoned water park."
She dropped the ball back into her bag. "If you're lucky, the balloon animal guy will still be around."
"I can make my own balloon animals," he said, a note of defensiveness in his voice.
She cast a skeptical look in his direction, but reconsidered. "You probably can, too. Dork." 
Real Name: Ken Park or Park Hyun-Ki
Born: 1985 Centreville, VA
Lives: Washington DC
Appearance: Asian (Korean), black hair, black eyes, 5'7", thin build
A spy before he graduated from sixth grade, Agent Park self-trained in sleight of hand, lock picking, information gathering, technology, and surveillance.
He came to Project Dead Blind's attention after exposing his eighth grade math teacher for selling grades in an elaborate sting operation, which started with statistical analysis of data, and ended with Park averting a violent confrontation with the teacher and his three sons. He sealed them in their car with fast-drying epoxy.
Since then, I've groomed Park to be the field leader for the Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs, as my knees weren't going to be up to the job forever. I guided his education through a BA in Cognitive Psychology, a PhD in Abnormal Psychology as well as the best training the private sector has to offer.
Park is skilled and capable, but soft, maybe too soft for this work. I intended for him to be my successor, but I'm starting to wonder if his leadership has hit its limit in the field.
-James Ensign



Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Spotlight: Intriguing Titles in SPFBO Part I


We thought it would be fun to highlight a few titles among the 300 books that caught our eyes. The books we showcase within this post (and tomorrow's one) have caught our eye due to their blurbs, their covers, as well as potential subject matter. A few we have read, reviewed, and hence are on this list.

We would like to state that this list is in no way an indicator of our choices going forward in the contest. But simply details titles that we WOULD like to read. 

So without further ado, here's a list of the noteworthy titles (in random order):




Official Blurb: Clarence St. Claire is a programmer who cherishes an orderly life. His motto: ‘work is important; people, not so much’. His determination to be The Most Serious Person on the Planet is threatened when he becomes haunted by a mysterious manuscript from his past: 300 pages of possibly random bird tracks. Risking his career and self-possession, St. Claire dares to pursue the manuscript against the opposition of hackers, the NSA, the ghosts of famous writers and doubts of his own sanity. 






Think being a superhero is hard? Try being the first one.

Will’s life is a proper muddle—and all because he was “accidentally” inflicted with the ability to run faster and leap higher than any human ever. One minute he’s a blacksmith’s apprentice trying to save his master from debtor’s prison. The next he’s accused of murder and hunted as a black-hearted highwayman.

A vengeful politician with dark secrets and powers even more magical than Will’s has duped all of London into blaming Will for the chilling imprisonments of the city’s poor. The harder Will tries to use his abilities to fight crime, the deeper he is entangled in a dark underworld belonging to some of Georgian England’s most colorful characters.

Only Will stands a chance of stopping this powerful madman bent on “reforming” London by any means necessary. Unfortunately, Will is beginning to realize becoming a legend might mean sacrificing everything that matters.


A Tale of Infidels - Erik A. Otto




A WORLD RIFE WITH RELIGIOUS PREJUDICE

Where cryptic prophesies of gravity-defying events and stories of mythical beasts are regular undercurrents to daily life.

POLITICAL TENSIONS ARE MOUNTING
The omens are clear, troops are mobilizing, and war has sprung.

AND NOW, INFIDELS ARE EMERGING
Sinners and traitors are being cast out. These are despicable liars. They are twisted, half-wit heathens. They are deceitful scum...

...and they're the only ones that could save millions of lives.


Black Stone Heart - Michael R. Fletcher


A broken man, Khraen awakens alone and lost. His stone heart has been shattered, littered across the world. With each piece, he regains some small shard of the man he once was.

He follows the trail, fragment by fragment, remembering his terrible past.

There was a woman.

There was a sword.

There was an end to sorrow.

Khraen walks the obsidian path.

The Nothing Within - Andy Gielser



Root is...different.


Though raised in a fearful society that reveres tradition and conformity, she's irreverent, outspoken, and deeply curious. Her congenital blindness sets her even further apart.

Centuries after the Reckoning, a global biotech disaster, savage chimeras still threaten human survival. After Root hears a voice that no one else can hear, she flees into the wilderness. Outcast and hunted, she must confront a dire threat to her people--and unravel the mystery of who she really is.

Blackbirds Sing - Aiki Flinthart



Four-and-twenty extraordinary women; one chance to save a kingdom.



What would you sacrifice to save your family, your loved ones, yourself?


In September 1486, the reign of King Henry VII of England is again threatened by York loyalists. The only thing standing in the way is a four-hundred-year-old sidhe who just wants to be left alone, and a group of London women with a lot to lose if England is plunged back into war.

But, in 1486, women have no power. Only the ability to make difficult choices and sometimes-heartbreaking sacrifices.

Become immersed in the fascinating, perilous lives of these women, as told through the medium of 25 interwoven short stories. A prostitute selling her daughter’s virginity to pay her debts; a nun returning to the world after 30 years; laundress whose son is murdered; a lady’s maid hiding her Jewish culture; a blind musician running from a forced marriage; and more.

Each story is a piece in the puzzle. Each woman faces her own trials as she plays her small part in the desperate attempt to protect King Henry and his wife, Elizabeth of York.

Because if they fail, England will once again be thrust into civil war between the Yorks and Lancasters. And these four-and-twenty women have already sacrificed too much.

The Jealousy of Jalice - Jesse Nolan Bailey



The Realms have split apart, the Stones of Elation have been hidden, and warnings of dokojin drift among the tribes.



The land and its people are corrupted. The Sachem, chief of the Unified Tribes, is to blame.


It is this conviction that drives Annilasia and Delilee to risk their lives. Afraid of the aether magic he wields, they enact a subtler scheme: kidnap his wife. In her place, Delilee will pretend to be the chieftess and spy on the Sachem.

Unaware of this plot against her husband, Jalice is whisked away by Annilasia. Pleading with her captor proves futile, and she rejects Annilasia’s delusional accusations against the chief. After all, the Sachem has brought peace to the land.

Yet a dangerous truth hides in Jalice’s past. As she and Annilasia flee through a forest of insidious threats, they must confront the evil plaguing the tribes and the events that unleashed it.



HOW CAN HE STOP THE ULTIMATE ASSASSIN?



In the sixteenth year of its founding, the city-state of Wyverna teems with vitality, rife with crime, secrets, and sorcery. Like its namesake, the wyverns that hunt from the mountains above, Wyverna is a city of predators. Its pirates sail out to plunder the wealth of nations, while at home the capital seethes, an uneasy amalgam of the old ways of its anarchic peoples and the newly imposed rule of law.


The young noble Gorgo navigates these complexities with ease, until one night he learns of a plot to assassinate Wyverna’s legendary founder, the Warlord. The rebels have obtained a mighty relic: an ancient copper golem created to be the ultimate assassin. Invulnerable and relentless, the golem destroyed the civilization that birthed it. If it kills the Warlord, Gorgo realizes his city too will fall, ripped apart by civil war.

Armed with nothing but his wits and his courage, Gorgo sets out to find a way to save Wyverna. His mission will take him from the elegant casinos of downtown to the chaotic docks where smugglers prowl, from the hot sands of the arena to the cold midnight of magic-shadowed streets. But even he cannot foresee where his path will ultimately lead, and to what consequences.




Amid the music, lights and energy of 1928’s Paris, something sinister pulses through the æther. The Radio of the Gods manipulates minds across the continent and its creator, the arrogant god Marduk, will sacrifice everything to keep his kind from perverting his masterpiece. Attempted treason and bitter betrayal force Marduk to escape into a new, unknown body. Worse still, the previous owner, an opium-addicted jazz guitarist, is still inside. Desperate, drug-addled and fighting for control, Marduk is forced to rely on the few friends he has left – and one terrifying enemy — to see his mission to fruition. If Marduk and company fail, the gods’ vain machinations will destroy everything they’ve built, including civilization itself, all made possible by his RADIO.

Godless Lands - Sean Crow


In a plague-ravaged world, humanity struggles to recognize itself. The Blight, a vicious disease that decimated mankind, beasts, and even plant life has left its crippling mark on the world. Isolated havens, once prosperous cities, selfishly hoard what little food remains. Yet, hope lives on where least expected. Wandering the Godless Lands between the havens, Ferris, an aged and Blight scarred soldier turned vagabond finds himself thrust into the role of guardian for a desperate noblewoman and her daughter. Thinking he does only a small kindness, Ferris soon finds himself on the run from Ser Arlo, the infamous Death Knight. With no other options, Ferris leads his wards to a hidden community amidst the desolation and hazards of the Godless Lands. What Ferris doesn’t know is that others stalk the death poxed land; a danger that the world is just becoming aware of. The Butcher of Riven is on the prowl, and he hunts for the Hungry God...

Ranger’s Oath - Blake Arthur Peel


The barrier between worlds is broken. Only he knows the truth...

Magic has protected Tarsynium for a thousand years, shielding its people from being ravaged by bloodthirsty demons. When a young ranger's apprentice named Owyn Lund discovers that the Arc of Radiance has been breached, he tries to warn anybody who will listen.

But legends aren't supposed to be real.

When a village is mysteriously destroyed, rangers, mages, and rebels all point the finger, blaming each other for the demons' brutality. However, Zara Dennel, a mage's ward, has heard Owyn's tale—and she's inclined to believe him.

Together, they must prove that friendship is greater than intolerance, unity is more important than division, and that even the most powerful magic can sometimes not be enough.

Failure means the end of all things. A second—and lasting—Doom.

Experience the beginning of a thrilling Epic Fantasy series suitable for all ages. It's perfect for fans of Sabaa Tahir, Sarah J. Maas, and Brandon Sanderson.

Knightmare Arcanist - Shami Stovall


Magic. Sailing. A murderer among heroes.

Gravedigger Volke Savan wants nothing more than to be like his hero, the legendary magical swashbuckler, Gregory Ruma. First he needs to become an arcanist, someone capable of wielding magic, which requires bonding with a mythical creature. And he’ll take anything—a pegasus, a griffin, a ravenous hydra—maybe even a leviathan, like Ruma.

So when Volke stumbles across a knightmare, a creature made of shadow and terror, he has no reservations. But the knightmare knows a terrible secret: Ruma is a murderer out to spread corrupted magic throughout their island nation. He’s already killed a population of phoenixes and he intends to kill even more.

In order to protect his home, his adopted sister, and the girl he admires from afar, Volke will need to confront his hero, the Master Arcanist Gregory Ruma.

Inkarna - Nerine Dorman


The first time Lizzie dies is a learning experience. Then again, anyone new to an ancient Egyptian reincarnation cult would have no idea what to expect once they’ve made it past the Hall of Judgment.

Now that she’s been sent back to find out why her husband from her past life is missing, the last thing Lizzie expects is to wake up in the wrong body, stuck with the mess its previous tenant left behind. In fact, she’s in agreement that whoever ran Ashton Kennedy over with a big shiny SUV did the world a massive favour.

Some secrets, she soon discovers, are better left buried, especially in a world where enemies are eternal, and death does not offer a final solution.

Queens Of The Wyrd - Timandra Whitecastle




Raise your shield. Defend your sisters. Prepare for battle






Half-giant Lovis and her Shieldmaiden warband were once among the fiercest warriors in Midgard. But those days are long past and now Lovis just wants to provide a safe home for herself and her daughter - that is, until her former shield-sister Solveig shows up on her doorstep with shattering news.

Solveig's warrior daughter is trapped on the Plains of Vigrid in a siege gone ugly. Desperate to rescue her, Sol is trying to get the old warband back together again. But their glory days are a distant memory. The Shieldmaidens are Shieldmothers now, entangled in domestic obligations and ancient rivalries.

But family is everything, and Lovis was never more at home than at her shield-sisters' side. Their road won't be easy: old debts must be paid, wrongs must be righted, and the Nornir are always pulling on loose threads, leaving the Shieldmaidens facing the end of all Nine Realms. Ragnarok is coming, and if the Shieldmaidens can't stop it, Lovis will lose everyone she loves...

Fate is inexorable. Wyrd bith ful araed.

Queens of the Wyrd is the brand-new epic Norse fantasy adventure by Timandra Whitecastle.

If you love mothers as heroes, epic dragon battles as well as stand-out characters you can root for, BUY QUEENS OF THE WYRD TODAY!

Auring’s Wrath - Justin DePaoli


The lands of Covecus bleed magic and power, but its storied civilizations have been long forgotten, buried under the inexorable march of a deadly blight. Now, the scourge looms before the last peoples of Covecus, whose hope depends on the rise of a hero. And there's never been one of those.



Until now.



From the north, a young warrior seeks revenge for his imprisoned parents. He would take up arms against the blight itself to free them.

From the south, a huntress desires more than the raw power of sorcery she possesses. She knows the scourge has a weakness, that it's alive. That it can be killed.

As secrets are unearthed and godless beasts descend upon the last living civilization, two unlikely heroes will rise. Or a world will fall.

Night Latch - Anela Deen


Sam Alvarez doesn’t just open locks. He’s the key.

Living in Bellemer, Iowa, Sam leads a typical small-town life. When he’s not looking after his Nana or dealing with his mother’s expectations, he runs a one-man locksmith company. Unlike regular locksmiths, he can open anything with a touch and a wish, but Sam keeps that secret to himself. No reason to alarm the neighbors, after all. And if he sometimes feels an indefinable pull to do more with his life, well, that's probably just indigestion.

Then one day, an unsettlingly beautiful out-of-towner asks for Sam’s help to open a door. Only one problem: The job’s in a graveyard. And the client? Turns out she’s Death.

Maybe that’s two problems.

When Sam unlocks more than he intended and demons come out to play, he discovers he’s far more than a locksmith with a hidden quirk. Now, he needs to figure out who he is and what he’s been called to do before darker forces close the door on him for good

The Demonic Compendium - David Viergutz


The slaughter of the royal family has awakened an unspeakable evil. 



Prince Shaw returns from death with the help of The Demonic Compendium, a sentient tome of demonic knowledge with its own agenda.



Caught between his soul-bound tasks and his personal mission, Shaw must find a way to honor his agreement with the book, avenge his family, and retake the throne.

Little does he know; forces of darkness are plotting against him.

A demonic army has been raised, with the malicious intent to annihilate the world.

With enemies closing in from all sides, Shaw discovers his only hope to survive lies in the hands of an ancient entity with a death wish all its own.

Sound the drums of war and prepare for battle! Can Shaw take his place as the rightful king? Or will the nation he loves crumble before his eyes?


A vengeful dragon. A forgotten terror. And the one man who is least qualified to stop them.



Nothing is more dear to Griffin than his magic school, but for a man with no magic, life there has its challenges. They laugh at him. They exclude him. And that's just his fellow teachers.



So when a dragon no one else has seen delivers a chilling warning for Griffin's ears alone, it's no surprise that his colleagues don't take him seriously. Unfortunately, convincing them that the magistery stands at the brink of destruction is only the beginning of his troubles.

As an ancient struggle between dragons and men reignites, Griffin's only hope lies in deciphering the secrets of a long-dead madman. But the deeper he goes, the less he knows who to trust, on legs or wings. Dodging both suspicion and betrayal, Griffin is caught in a desperate race for the one weapon that can save his home—or reduce it to ashes in an instant.

The Lost War - Justin Lee Anderson



The war is over, but something is rotten in the state of Eidyn.



With a ragged peace in place, demons burn farmlands, violent Reivers roam the wilds and plague has spread beyond the Black Meadows. The country is on its knees.


In a society that fears and shuns him, Aranok is the first magically-skilled draoidh to be named King's Envoy.

Now, charged with restoring an exiled foreign queen to her throne, he leads a group of strangers across the ravaged country. But at every step, a new mystery complicates their mission.

As bodies drop around them, new threats emerge and lies are revealed, can Aranok bring his companions together and uncover the conspiracy that threatens the kingdom?

Strap in for this twisted fantasy road trip from award-winning author Justin Lee Anderson.

Praise for The Lost War:








Emperors and kings thought it had been buried long ago: the Order of the Candlestone was defeated, the grim deeds of its assassins forgotten and its dangerous alchemy shunned. But Arasemis, an eccentric warrior-scholar, is determined to revive the Order and return the continent to its primitive origins, if he can control his apprentices.


Arthan Valient is a young nobleman from a respected family who wrestles with providing honorable service to a weak king. Thrust into a powerful position before he is ready, Arthan must navigate the political intrigue of a court in slow collapse, while avoiding Arasemis's new assassins.

Arasemis, Arthan, and their companions learn that help can be found in the most unlikely of places, even as the shadow of war looms across the continent. But trust is always elusive.

Dames & Demons - G. Campbell


Twenty years ago, a pandemic ripped through the world and forever changed society. Where Man once stood, now stand the Women and the Demons. They rule the city through magic and money. Men like Tom and Chris Redfield have nothing. The brothers live under the heel of society and fight over the scraps dropped by the upper classes. Or at least they used to.



Things change with the discovery of a Demonic book. The brothers might have a shot at a better life, but they’re not ready for the chaos the book unleashes. Suddenly, the Redfields are thrown into the tangled machinations of the spiteful Sororities and the fastidious lords of Hell. Forced to become players in an intricate game, the brothers will have to use their wits and all the magic they can afford if they hope to survive.



Cock your pistols, sharpen your swords, and fill your magic reserve… Not everyone’s going to make it out alive.
The Demon In The Metal - Blake Michael Nelson


Fifty years ago, the brilliant chemist Guilder Owen unlocked the secrets of the metal aurichalcum...and changed the world forever. The Chemical Revolution led to the invention of rifles, cannons, copperlights, and brassfire bombs; armies were shattered, borders were redrawn, and the king of Eleutrinia, the most powerful nation in the world, was overthrown.



In the aftermath of this civil war, Eleutrinia's gloomy capital, Dais Eleutrené, has become a breeding ground for plots and conspiracies. World-weary inspector Drom Overholt, investigating the murder of a wealthy old man, soon finds himself caught up in an especially dangerous one; meanwhile, Guilder's granddaughter Aemilia, eager to become a chemist herself, has just unlocked a secret of her own — one that may have put her life in immediate danger.



And far away, at the very edge of the known world, treasure-hunter Luc d'Fensi, hired to guide a group of scholars to a distant, crumbling ruin, begins making his way into the primordial wilderness of the far west. He has no idea what awaits him there: an ancient evil, older than mankind, waiting for an opportunity to arise...and intent on extinguishing the light of the Chemical Revolution forever.

Shadow of A Dead God - Patrick Semphire


A dead god. A brutal murder. A second-rate mage.



It was only supposed to be one little job – a simple curse-breaking for Mennik Thorn to pay back a favour to his oldest friend. But then it all blew up in his face. Now he’s been framed for a murder he didn’t commit.



So how is a second-rate mage, broke, traumatized, and with a habit of annoying the wrong people, supposed to prove his innocence when everyone believes he’s guilty?

Mennik has no choice if he wants to get out of this: he is going to have to throw himself into the corrupt world of the city’s high mages, a world he fled years ago. Faced by supernatural beasts, the mage-killing Ash Guard, and a ruthless, unknown adversary, it’s going to take every trick Mennik can summon just to keep him and his friend alive.

But a new, dark power is rising in Agatos, and all that stands in its way is one damaged mage…


Across The Broken Stars - Jed Herne







Leon was once an angel – a winged warrior, sworn to protect a realm where people live on discs floating in space. He failed.


Twenty years since fleeing the war that killed his fellow angels, Leon’s a broken man, desperate to forget the past. He thinks he’s the last angel. But then a young fugitive stumbles onto his doorstep. She’s an angel, too. And she has a riddle leading to a mythical land, where legends say angels still live.

Desperate for redemption, Leon begins a perilous quest, guided by myth and folklore. Hunted by an Inquisitor determined to eradicate the last surviving angels, will Leon and the fugitive reach their legendary destination? Or will Leon lose his final chance for salvation?

Read now to experience a flawed antihero’s search for forgiveness, set against the backdrop of an incredible fantasy world. Perfect for fans of Brandon Sanderson’s vivid worldbuilding and Joe Abercrombie’s complex characters.

The Headlock Of Destiny - Samuel Gately


Some say titans are descended from giants. Others say they are risen from men. But there's never any debate about where to find them. They will be in the center of a roaring crowd, beating the hell out of each other. From contenders like the Savage and Scott Flawless to pretenders like Richard the Living Portrait and Troll-Blooded Thom, a titan's lot in life is the same: To wrestle for dominion and glory in the squared circle.



Van, a quiet titan from the brewery town of Headwaters, wants no part in this. He'd prefer to be left alone with a beer. But destiny has him in a headlock, and it is prepared to drag him into battles that will shake the land and change his world forever.



Step into the ring with this one-of-a-kind novel, brewed special for fans of epic fantasy, fans of professional wrestling from the Golden Era and beyond, or simply fans of a good tale.
The Race to the Blackened Nevers - Douglas Bain



The race is on! The gods careen toward the Blackened Nevers. Pray you don't get in their way!

An army of criminals runs to reclaim its honor. An old knight wakes to find a child pointing to the finish line. A prison guard is cursed to return to the start. And the last two members of the Rowlach tribe run to ask their god why the race was more important than his creations. Meanwhile, deep inside their mountain, a brother and sister run to prevent the awakening of a leviathan. Will it rise to destroy creation, or is it just their god's cynical attempt to increase his odds of winning?

‘The Woeful Wager’ is the first book in the new, dark fantasy series ‘The Race to the Blackened Nevers’. It won the Gold Medal in the 2019 SPR Book Awards, and was a finalist in the Fantasy (Adult Fiction) category of the 22nd Annual Foreward INDIES Book of the Year Awards, and the 2020 Feathered Quill Book Awards (Science Fiction/Fantasy).

Come join the race of the gods!





With no magic, no brawn, and no pirate crew, Zala seeks to steal back the one treasure that matters to her most: her husband.



To succeed she needs a ship—and not just any ship, but the latest, secret invention by the Vaaji Empire. An airship.

Zala will have to use her wits to overcome scoundrels and nobles alike on her journey through the clouds.

But if she's smart enough, she may just have what it takes to save her husband—and go down in history as the first sky pirate.
Delve into a pirate fantasy inspired by the West Indies, The Swahili Coast, and Arabia, where Zala will encounter ruthless raiders, arrogant aristocrats, and imperial secrets.

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