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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Interview with Craig Schaefer (Interviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


Official Author Website 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Long Way Down 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The White Gold Score 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Redemption Song 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Living End 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of A Plain-Dealing Villain
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Killing Floor Blues
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Winter's Reach 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Instruments Of Control 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Harmony Black
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Red Knight Falling
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Interview with Craig Schaefer

Craig Schaefer is an author who's surely zoomed on to the top of my favorite lists. His Daniel Faust series has become a favorite of mine. The Harmony Black series is a spinoff to it but with the release of three books so far, it's hard not to be enamored of it. Craig was very kind to answer a few questions and with the release of Glass Predator (book 3), this series is definitely something to watch out for. Read ahead to know why and what fans can expect from Glass Predator.

Q] Welcome back to Fantasy Book Critic. With the release of Glass Predator, you are now more than 50% through with the backstories of the Circus team. Could you tell us about the inception of Glass Predator & why you choose to highlight Jessie with it?

CS: Each of the first four books was designed to focus on one of the main four characters, as they deal with some piece of unfinished business from the past. In Harmony's case, it was the murder and abduction that shaped her life from an early age. In book two, it’s Kevin’s unresolved desire for a former teammate.

Jessie is the team’s leader and its muscle, thanks to the legacy of her father, a dead serial killer. Her father worshiped an entity called the King of Wolves, and performed occult rituals to infect her with its energy when she was a child. The process left her with enhanced speed and strength – as well as a craving for violence and the tendency to go feral when she lets her powers out to play. As Glass Predator begins, those feral bouts are coming on faster and becoming harder to control, and that’s when the team meets their new targets: a band of murderous bank robbers who have the exact same abilities as Jessie.

So, problems. The physical threat (Jessie is a wrecking ball – four people with her speed and strength are a nightmare) is made worse by Jessie’s loss of control. She’ll have to go all-out to face these killers down, at the risk of losing touch with her humanity forever. Oh, and of course they’re not just simple bank robbers. I mean, c’mon, that’d be way too easy.

Q] For your debut series, the tagline I’ve come up with is “Featuring a cast of anti-heroes and with a magician con-man as the protagonist, the Daniel Faust series is Richard Stark's Parker crossed with The Dresden Files and set in Las Vegas.” What would be your elevator pitch for the Harmony Black series?

CS: I believe the actual pitch to my publisher included the phrase “Men in Black meets Hellraiser, with a dash of James Bond.” I gotta say, several books in…yeah, that still works.

Q] For some authors the POV characters often speak to them in their head. Was this the case with any of your POV characters?

CS: I’m grasping for a way to say “I have extensive conversations with my characters while I’m outlining” in a way that doesn’t make me sound a little crazy. I’m just gonna have to roll with that. They call me on the phone, we drink, we go bowling, good times. Good times.


Q] I believe the fourth volume is tentatively titled “Cold Spectrum"? Could you please give us an inkling about it? 

CS: The mystery of Operation Cold Spectrum has run through the background of the series so far. The protagonists know that it was a black-ops program, that it was sanitized, and that elements inside the government are actively working to suppress the story (and kill anyone who gets too close to the truth). In Glass Predator, another key part of the mystery will be uncovered.

And in Cold Spectrum, the truth will come out. It’s an old comic-book cliché to say “nothing will ever be the same!” …but this time it fits. Book four will be a game-changer that shifts the entire scope of the series and changes the heroines’ lives forever.

Q] When you first made the decision to self-publish the Daniel Faust series you must have had some apprehension about the whole endeavor. But now looking back at the spectacular reception the books have received as well as the hard work you’ve put into making these books as fine a product as traditionally published work. What do you think are some of the highlights in your achievements?

CS: My most proud achievement is earning the trust of my readers. When I hear from readers who enjoy my brand, as it were – that they look forward to reading my books because they’re confident they’re going to have a good time – that’s the best feeling in the world. It makes me really want to bring the quality and deliver the best experience I can, each and every time, so that people know seeing my name on a cover means their money and time will be well-spent.

Other than that, the Faust books being optioned for TV was a pretty fantastic highlight. There’s a great team involved, and a collective determination (if we can make the show happen – it’s Hollywood, so no guarantees) to bring it to the screen with all the adult content and overall feel of the books intact.

Q] Harmony & Jessie have a strong bond which is expanded upon in this volume. After reading the three volumes, it was good to read their friendship tested in this way? Is this something which you have done on purpose?

CS: I see Harmony and Jessie’s friendship as the emotional core of the series. There aren’t nearly enough series focusing on female friendship (and I mean actual friendship, not some love-triangle BS where they mostly end up competing for a guy’s affections). They’ve got chemistry, and their banter is always a treat to write.


Q] So far, with each volume you have shone a light on the pasts of Harmony, Kevin, & Jessie. Why did you choose April for the fourth volume and as the end of the first arc?

CS: April has admitted that she’s never been a paragon of medical ethics. Her particular past business, though, poses a greater danger than anyone could expect – and ties directly into the mystery of Cold Spectrum.

Q] Following on from that question, it seems that you have purposefully shied away from revealing anything in Dr. Cassidy’s past? Why is that? What makes her such an enigma?

CS: April is a very closed-off, private person. She’s spent the bulk of her life learning to read people, to profile them and pry into their minds. She’s very sensitive about anyone doing it back to her. Of course, book four is coming…

Q] In Glass Predator, I would have loved to see Jessie in her teens but we only get a very, very small look into her psyche back then? What made you not choose to go down that route?

CS: It was a matter of pacing and flow. The outline originally had an extended video flashback to her childhood and how April raised her (after a childhood of being trained to kill by her father). While a shorter version of that scene made it into the book, the chapter-long one just killed the pacing and I couldn’t find a way to make it work. It remains in my notes and will, like most of my snippets, probably eventually make it in somewhere else.

Q] Please tell us about the Harmony Black series and the world/universe within. So far I believe you have four books set & if given the opportunity to write to your heart’s content. How many volumes do you think you will need to completely tell Harmony’s tale?

CS: All of my books (Harmony Black, the Daniel Faust series, and the Revanche Cycle) take place in a shared multiverse. It isn’t a happy one. God and Lucifer are missing. Hell exists, but no one knows if heaven does – including the demons. Criminal cartels use black magic to enforce their will, Earth has been secretly colonized by the courts of hell, and humanity is a tiny guppy in a vast, merciless ocean.

But in a universe that dark, hope becomes all the more powerful. And the bonds of love, loyalty and friendship can get us through the worst of times.

How many books? Well, book four will mark the end of the first major story arc for Harmony and her team, and radically change the status quo. After that, we begin a new adventure. I couldn’t put a number on it, but I will say the series won’t be ending anytime soon.


Q] Each volume of the Harmony Black series has been a different sort of thriller so far. HB had a definite horror aspect to it. RKF had an adventure feel to it and this book felt more akin to a chase thriller? How are you able to give each book a different feel while making the story flow seamlessly?

CS: Planning, planning, and more planning. I’m a little obsessive about plot threads and seeding things for future books, and I absolutely hate “make it up as you go along” plotting where the author obviously had no idea what was going on. (For instance, I had the big Cold Spectrum reveal hammered out before I wrote the first paragraph of Harmony Black. If I hadn’t, I never would have been able to parse out the clues along the way or – hopefully – make it all come together in a satisfying way in book four).

I also like to keep things fresh. When I first proposed the series to my publisher, I made it clear that I didn’t want to do a “team of monster hunters goes to Place A and fights Monster B then rides off into the sunset every single book” kind of thing. Rather, the idea was to take the core concept of black-ops demon hunters and use that to propel all kinds of related stories. I think mixing things up is more fun to read, and definitely more fun to write.

Q] Thank you very much for your time and for answering these myriad questions. What would like to pass on to your fans both old and new? And what should they look forward to in the future books?

CS: Here’s some survival tips, in case you find yourself in my neck of the woods. Never play cards with Daniel Faust. Never challenge Jessie Temple to an arm-wrestling match. Always bring magic to a gunfight, and guns to a magic-fight. Never break your word to a witch. And never buy appliances from Diehl Innovations -- but if you do, get the extended warranty.

As for what folks can look forward to? Hell has a new competitor. The Network is coming, fueled by the power of alien kings and mind-searing magic, and their presence will be felt in both the Harmony and Faust novels. Their reach isn’t merely global: it’s interdimensional.

And in Glass Predator, Harmony has to go shopping for a dress. So that’s a thing to look forward to.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

GIVEAWAY: Win a Copy of Shadow Run: Kaitan Chronicles Book 1 by AdriAnne Strickland and Michael Miller





Fantasy Book Critic is excited to offer you a chance to win a copy of Shadow Run by AdriAnne Strickland and Michael Miller. It is the first novel in the Kaitan Chronicles which is like a combination of Firefly meets Dune.

Summary of Shadow Run:
Firefly meets Dune in this action-packed sci-fi adventure about a close-knit, found family of a crew navigating a galaxy of political intrigue and resource-driven power games.

Nev has just joined the crew of the starship Kaitan Heritage as the cargo loader. His captain, Qole, is the youngest-ever person to command her own ship, but she brooks no argument from her crew of orphans, fugitives, and con men. Nev can't resist her, even if her ship is an antique.

As for Nev, he's a prince, in hiding on the ship. He believes Qole holds the key to changing galactic civilization, and when her cooperation proves difficult to obtain, Nev resolves to get her to his home planet by any means necessary.

But before they know it, a rival royal family is after Qole too, and they're more interested in stealing her abilities than in keeping her alive.

Nev's mission to manipulate Qole becomes one to save her, and to survive, she'll have to trust her would-be kidnapper. He may be royalty, but Qole is discovering a deep reservoir of power--and stars have mercy on whoever tries to hurt her ship or her crew.

A huge thank you to Random House Children's Books for sponsoring this giveaway. To enter follow the directions below. Good luck! 

***************************************************************************
 

Giveaway Rules
1. This contest is open to the US.
2. Contest starts March 28, 2017 at 12:00 a.m. EST and ends April 6, 2017 at 12:01 a.m. EST. Entries after this time period will not be considered. 
3. Only one entry per person. 
4. To enter please send an email with the subject "SHADOW RUN" to FBCgiveaway@gmail.com. Please include your name, email, and physical address you want the book sent to. 
5. One entry will be picked at random to win a copy. 
6. All entries will be deleted once a winner is picked and contacted.
Monday, March 27, 2017

"Secrets of the Dragon Tomb: Secrets of the Dragon Tomb Book 1" by Patrick Samphire (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)



 Visit Patrick Samphire's Website Here

OVERVIEW: Mars in 1816 is a world of high society, deadly danger, and strange clockwork machines.

Twelve-year-old Edward Sullivan wants to become a spy like the ones he reads about in his favorite magazine, Thrilling Martian Tales, but he’s far too busy keeping his eccentric family from disaster. All of that is about to change. In the north, great dragon tombs hide marvels of Ancient Martian technology, and the villainous archaeologist Sir Titus Dane is determined to loot one.

When Sir Titus kidnaps Edward’s parents, Edward, his sisters, and their mysterious cousin set off in pursuit across the Martian wilderness. Together they must battle Sir Titus’s minions, dodge hungry pterodactyls, and escape fearsome Martian hunting machines in order to rescue Edward’s parents and uncover the secrets of the dragon tomb.

Secrets of the Dragon Tomb by Patrick Samphire is a classic adventure story, full of fun, humor and heart with stunning illustrations by Jeremy Holmes throughout.

FORMAT: Secrets of the Dragon Tomb is a children's sci-fi/fantasy novel. It has historical elements, mystery, adventure, space travel, aliens, dragons, dinosaurs, and lots of creepy-crawly bugs/creatures. The novel stands at 322 pages. It was published on January 12, 2016 by Henry Holt and Company.  

ANALYSIS: When it comes to writing – and publishing – there is a desire to stick with what works. Authors and publishers alike are often afraid to step too far out of the literary world's comfort zone in a fear that something won't work. This leads to a slew of novels that are good, but relatively lacking in originality. So, imagine my surprise when I encountered the children's novel, Secrets of the Dragon Tomb, which definitely doesn't conform to the norm.

Secrets of the Dragon Tomb is a children's novel that mixes so much into a small novel. It has sci-fi elements, steampunk, English history, a little romance, adventure, and a touch of humor. This might seem like a hodgepodge of elements that when combined wouldn't work out, but Secrets of the Dragon Tomb makes it work.

Readers are taken back in time to 1816, but it isn't like anything you would expect. In this alternative world, Britain has successfully colonized Mars. Travel to and from, and even around, Mars is made possible by dragon pathways. Everything from the way people talk and act to the style of the homes and even the society hierarchy is similar to what would happen in 1816 Britain; the only difference is that people live on Mars. Living on Mars has its challenges, there are unique creatures that may or may not be friendly, native Martians, dinosaurs, and lots of undiscovered areas that could hold untold riches.

In this first novel of the series, we are introduced to Edward, a young 12-year old boy, who lives on British Mars. Edward longs to have exciting adventures that are similar to what he reads about in the books he loves, but he hasn't had the opportunity to experience these types of adventures. Edward's adventure begins when his father's steampunk-style invention known as the water abacus attracts the attention of some bad guys, the family goes missing, and somehow this all seems linked to the rumor that there is an undiscovered dragon tomb somewhere on Mars.

I absolutely loved Secrets of the Dragon Tomb, more than I thought I would like it. I was unsure how all the elements of sci-fi, space, steampunk, adventure, and history would mix together, but it was extremely well-done.

The first thing that jumps out at you Secrets of the Dragon Tomb is the world building. It is done in a way that makes it easily to understand what is going on. It isn't 'dumbed down' for children, but it is done in a way that makes it easy for younger readers to get an understanding of the historical and unique aspects. Even though it is geared towards the younger reader, older readers will be able to enjoy the world building as it doesn't feel as if it is solely geared to the youngest reader. In fact, I think older readers will be able to appreciate how much work went into creating such a detailed world.

The characters in Secrets of the Dragon Tomb didn't really grab my attention at first. Most of my focus was on the world building and action, but slowly the characters started to grow on me. By the end of the book, I had grown super attached to them and was ready for the next adventure.

I will say at times the humor isn't laugh out loud funny. It is more light hearted and will certainly put a smile on your face. Many times the definition of humor in children's books is farting, burping, and other juvenile elements. That isn't the case with Secrets of the Dragon Tomb. The humor is age appropriate for children, but it will still appeal to adults, too.

Overall, I loved Secrets of the Dragon Tomb. I wasn't 100% certain what I would get when I started reading it, but it was amazingly well done. I was surprised to see how well the historical, sci-fi, steampunk, adventure, dinosaur elements blended together. It was also refreshing to see an author willing to take a risk with his novel and have it work out.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for something different, but who doesn't want to spend a lot of time reading a doorstopper novel. It is also great for children who are tired of seeing the same old, same old or for those who aren't committed to reading traditional fantasy novels. The adventure, mystery, and fast pace of this novel is enough to capture the attention of readers young and old.
Friday, March 24, 2017

"Daughter of the Pirate King: Daughter of the Pirate King Book 1" by Tricia Levenseller (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)





 Visit Tricia Levenseller's Website Here

OVERVIEW: There will be plenty of time for me to beat him soundly once I’ve gotten what I came for.

Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map—the key to a legendary treasure trove—seventeen-year-old pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship.

More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate, Riden. But not to worry, for Alosa has a few tricks up her sleeve, and no lone pirate can stop the Daughter of the Pirate King.

FORMAT: Daughter of the Pirate King is the first novel in a proposed duology. It is a YA adventure novel involving pirates with a heavy dose on the romance. The novel is told purely in the first person from Alosa's POV.

Daughter of the Pirate King stands at 320 pages. It was published February 28, 2017 by Feiwel & Friends.

ANALYSIS: Daughter of the Pirate King promises to bring readers a tough, female pirate captain who has just a dash of Jack Sparrow mixed in. Considering that pirates – and female ones at that – are rarely found in YA fantasy, I thought I'd give this novel a shot. I mean action, adventure, and a female pirate captain? What more could you ask for?

In many ways, Daughter of the Pirate King is very much a debut novel. I wouldn't say the writing is juvenile, but it reads like it was a first novel and has many problems I've encountered with a first debut novel from an author. Problems such as repetitiveness, inconsistent writing style, a heavy focus on romance when other elements should have been highlighted, telling readers and not showing them things, and a case of trying just a bit too hard to make the main character funny and likeable were some of the things I encountered.

Repetitiveness was a huge issue in this book. Alosa is, as the title suggests, the daughter of the pirate king. While this is a huge part of the story, it is mentioned ad nauseam. I am really not sure we went more than two or three pages without having someone – Alosa or the pirates that 'kidnapped' her – mentioning that Alosa was the daughter of the pirate king. If the pirates weren't saying "We are looking at the daughter of the pirate king", then Alosa was telling people and saying things like, "I am daughter of the pirate king. Do these people know who I am?".

When someone wasn't saying it out loud or Alosa was thinking it, she was reflecting on what being the daughter of the pirate. Her internal dialogue would include memories of being the daughter of the pirate king or thinking to herself that she was daughter of the pirate king. It was just a little bit too much.

The inconsistent writing style wasn't a huge issue, but it was noticeable at times. Most of the book both the narrated sections and the dialogue were written in modern English. Every so often there would be a random old time word thrown in. Something like 'Tis' or 'ye'. It wouldn't have been bad if it was during a conversation, but it was usually done in Alosa's internal thoughts. It was hard to understand why 99% of the time she'd talk normally then have a random old time word thrown in.

The romance issue was extremely noticeable. The novel revolves around Alosa trying to find a map on a pirate ship. To find the map, she gets herself kidnapped. This is what should have been the main focus of the novel, but instead this romance instantly becomes front and center to the novel. The minute the love interest is introduced, our "strong" main character immediately turns to mush. While she is fighting she thinks things like 'wow... why does he smell so good' or when being intensely questioned she thinks 'Oh you are so handsome. I wonder what you are like to kiss'.

Don't get me wrong, romance can be good for a novel and in some points necessary. It just seemed to push everything aside and made what should have been the main plot seem secondary. It is also extremely frustrating when a female character is supposed to be super strong and tough, and then the minute a good looking guy walks in her brain turns to mush and her thoughts center on his smell, hair, body, voice, etc.

Telling and not showing was another huge issue in Daughter of the Pirate King. Almost everything that happened, all the information and world building was told to the readers. This was usually done through very long, lengthy monologues given by the characters.

Some examples of telling instead of showing include the following situations. Alosa is supposed to be this tough, no nonsense pirate captain. How do we know this? Because she tells us that she could beat people up, she could kill, that she is tough. Time and time and time again she tells us this, but she doesn't ever really show it to us. There is a brief fight scene here and there, and she even kills someone, but for the most part her tough persona is developed because she tells us she is tough.

Another example is her training and upbringing with the pirate king. The pirate king was apparently mean, cruel and really hard on Alosa. Readers are never really shown how this happens through memories or anything. Alosa just told us it was rough and hard growing up with him. It would have been nice to see some of the stuff instead of being told everything after the fact.

The last issue was – and this is just a personal opinion – I felt the main character Alosa tried too hard to be a female Jack Sparrow. The stuff she did just came across as immature instead of funny. For example, she is locked up in a cabin. She doesn't want to be locked in the cabin and she is upset. So she throws things on the floor, messes up the maps, jumps on the guy's clothing. When that doesn't work, she then hums loudly while he tries to sleep or makes noises so he can't sleep. Remember – Alosa is the toughest pirate captain, so you would think that her approach to things would be rougher.

In addition to the immature antics, Alosa has a habit of trying to have this witty banter with comebacks to everyone. Most of the time it just seemed like she was trying too hard, but sometimes – rarely – the conversations came across as funny and witty. It almost came across as a parody of Jack Sparrow, but I don't think that was the intent of it.

Even with all these problems, it would seem like I didn't enjoy the book. I wouldn't say that was the case. It was an average read. There wasn't anything that made it stand out and it was a fast paced novel. There were a few twists and turns thrown into the novel, but most of them were easily predictable which sort of ruined the 'surprise' element of them. It is also a debut novel so some of these issues may go away in the future. I believe if the book had been portrayed as more of a romance novel or had things been a bit more polished, it could have taken this novel up a notch and made it stand out.

I do think that there might be an audience for this book, especially if you go in knowing this is going to be a light-hearted, sometimes silly novel with a lot – and I mean a lot – of focus on the romance. However, if you are looking for rip-roaring, action and adventure with rough and tumble pirates, you will probably be fairly disappointed.

The question I am left with is – would I continue with the series? I would definitely give the second novel a chance. I understand debut authors have some kinks to work out and I see potential. I would say to weigh what I said and if you still find it interesting to give it a shot. It might surprise you and be a novel that you enjoy.
Tuesday, March 21, 2017

"The Valiant: The Valiant Book 1" by Lesley Livingston (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)





OVERVIEW: Princess. Captive. Gladiator.

Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king, the sister of the legendary warrior Sorcha, and the sworn enemy of Julius Caesar.

When Fallon was a child, Caesar’s armies invaded her homeland, and her beloved sister was killed in battle.

Now, on the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is eager to follow in her sister’s footsteps and earn her place in the fearsome Cantii war band. She never gets the chance.

Fallon is captured and sold to an elite training school for female gladiators—owned by none other than Julius Caesar. In a cruel twist of fate, the man who destroyed Fallon’s family might be her only hope of survival.

Now Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries and deadly fights—in and out of the arena. And perhaps the most dangerous threat of all: her forbidden yet irresistible feelings for Cai, a young Roman soldier.

FORMAT: The Valiant is a YA fantasy/historical novel. It is listed as fantasy because of its alternative version of history and doesn't contain any real magic or other typical fantasy elements. The Valiant stands at 372 pages and was published February 14, 2017 by Razorbill.

ANALYSIS: The YA genre has a habit of creating unique, likeable characters, but many books tend to 'fall in line' and follow a bit of a template format. That isn't to say they are bad, just they tend to all play out in a very similar fashion. The Valiant is one of those rare YA novels that starts out with a setup that makes you think you know what is going to happen and how things are going to play out, and before you know it nothing – and I mean nothing – happens the way you expect it to happen.

The Valiant starts off with Fallon training with her secret boyfriend. Fallon is trying a very daring and difficult fighting technique that very few have every accomplished. Learning this technique, and fighting, allows her to follow in the footsteps of her older sister – Sorcha – and become a part of her father's fighting team. Sorcha was killed several years ago in battle and there is a prophecy of sorts that says the same thing will happen to Fallon. Even with this prophecy in place, Fallon still wants to become one of the greatest warriors of all times.

The big day finally arrives and Fallon is set about to formally accept the invitation to join her father's troop of warriors, but things don't play out the way she thinks it will. Her father, instead of asking her to join as a warrior, announces that he has promised her hand in marriage. And who is she promised to? The brother of her secret boyfriend. Fallon is furious and storms out in a fit of rage.

This may sound familiar. A girl in love with a secret boyfriend, promised to the boyfriend's brother, and meanwhile she has her heart set on becoming a fierce warrior and living up to her older sister's huge reputation. It certainly sounds like the same old, same old, but sometimes books have a way of surprising you.

Literally, within the first few chapters, things took an unexpected turn and from there just kept getting better and better. Of course, there were a few things that were predictable or easily guessed at, but for the most part this book had a lot of unexpected twists and turns that made for an amazing story. I don't want to say too many of them because I think the 'unknown' is what made them so great, but things really aren't what they seem.

I will say that if anyone had asked me to describe this book early on, I would have said that it was one of those romance novels that are marketed as alternative historical fiction but are really just about love, romance, and love triangles. The beginning of the book certainly feels like that would be the case, but it turns out differently.

If you are planning on reading The Valiant and aren't a fan of romance, I give you this piece of advice – don't give up. I think, if anything, that is the biggest weakness of the novel, is that it starts off with a major romance almost shoved at the reader, and it isn't really indicative of how the tone of the rest of the novel. I feel people who might have enjoyed the novel could have set it aside because of its almost romance/love triangle beginning.

There are other aspects, besides the unexpected twists and turns, of The Valiant that make it outstanding. Livingston does an amazing job of detailing an Ancient Roman society. Readers aren't bogged down with huge paragraphs of historical context or descriptions, but everything from the culture to the political structure is laid out in a way that is easily understandable. I am by no means an expert on Ancient Rome, but I certainly felt as if I was right there

Another amazing aspect of The Valiant was the actual follow through of creating a kickass female character. Some novels promise that they have this amazing kickass, tough female and by the end of the book I think "I could take her". The follow through just wasn't there. Not with Fallon and even her supporting cast of characters.

Fallon was tough. The world she grew up in and found herself in was tough. She had to do a lot to survive that she never expected she would have to do. The other girls in the sisterhood of warriors were just as tough, just as brutal, and it really helped make this novel what it is.

The absolute last thing that has to be mentioned is the fight scenes that take place in the arena. I am a reader who prefers character development over action/fights, but this book really had me yearning to read more about what happened inside the arena. The action scenes were detailed, but not overly graphic and they were super suspenseful. I honestly felt like I was in the arena watching the women fight it out.

The Valiant is just the first book of a series, but I have to say the way it ends, it could very well be a standalone. There are plenty of adventures readers can be taken on it the future and I will gladly follow along, but it is a complete solid single novel.

The Valiant was a surprising read for me. I wasn't 100% sure what to expect or even if I would like it at all. What I ended up with was an amazing novel that really took me for an adventure and back in time. I can't wait to read the sequel. Give this novel a shot if you are a fan of Ancient Rome, kickass female leads, and action/fight scenes that are realistic.

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