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Monday, September 28, 2015

GUEST POST: Genesis of The Spider in the Laurel by Michael Pogach

I didn’t come up with the title of this article. My publisher’s Publicity Coordinator emailed me and wrote: “Fantasy Book Critic would love a post about the Genesis of The Spider in the Laurel.” Here’s the thing. She had no idea just how perfect a title that is for a piece on the origins of this novel.

In the beginning, I was a short story writer. Not genre. Literary fiction. Cerebral stuff mostly. Almost all of the action in the protagonist’s head as he or she deals with whatever conflict is there, be it relationships, war, life, death, whatever. So when I decided to try my hand at a novel (a decision which I’ve tried to recall numerous times without any success; I truly have no idea what made me finally say, “That’s it. I‘m writing a novel”) I wanted to get physical. It was going to be an Indiana Jones styled adventure.

The first draft went untitled for about half a year. As it neared completion the need for a title grew, so one night my writers group and I kicked around ideas over pizza and drinks. The winning title was: Genesis Lied. The premise of the novel, at that time, was wrapped up in a linguistic quirk of the Book of Genesis which says, “Let Us make humankind in Our image.” I seized upon the plural “Us” and “Our” to posit that there had once been two Gods. But one had overthrown the other and presented Himself as the only God in Heaven.

Yeah, I know. I’m going to piss off some people with this.

Anyway, I got to liking the title Genesis Lied. And I focused my first revisions on strengthening that thematic focus. In time, I even began querying the book as Genesis Lied. It didn’t sell. But I did get a handful of generous and blunt personalized responses. The idea of the book was well received. The pacing of the action was good, they said. But the main characters didn’t carry the novel.

Back to the drawing board. And the pizza and alcohol. I spent another year revising. The word count went from 80,000 to 103,000. The scope of the novel’s reinterpretation of religion was scaled back. The main characters were redefined. Their relationship became central to the book. The storyline came alive. Only after this did I go back at the religious background. I broke out of Genesis. I sought out older mythologies which influenced the Bible. I invented and reinvented new evolutions of belief. I developed an entirely new view of ancient man’s relationship with the gods. Finally, I changed history.

In tomorrow’s America, belief is the new enemy. That’s the catch-phrase for the book. But I needed a reason for my future America to be secular. A reason for it to have outlawed all faiths and expressions thereof. I looked for times in US history that the nation had been united in a goal. The two best examples were after Pearl Harbor and after September 11, 2001. I chose the latter.

The timeline I built from that day forward involved an America with a singular purpose in the early 2000’s. Eliminate all fundamentalists. And if that meant eliminating all religion, so be it. There was, of course, a war. The secularists won. And out of the darkness of terrorism and extremism, was born the beacon of the Citizens Republic of America.

Raise your hand if you know what happens in fiction when a new government takes over on the promise to build a perfect, harmonious future. That’s right: dystopia!

The book’s new focus in hand, I needed a new title. The Spider in the Laurel is actually a line from a Herman Melville poem titled “The Ravaged Villa.” I’d found the poem while building the story’s new mythos. Part of the thread the heroes follow is an obscure fairytale I invented which features a devilish little golden spider hiding in a laurel crown and whispering into the princess’s ear that it can grant her greatest wish. We all know how that’s going to go, don’t we?

Well, the fairy tale had already taken its name from the poem. And when I made a list of potential new titles for the novel, the fairytale’s title was the most striking of the bunch. Genesis Lied became The Spider in the Laurel.

I started out trying to write an Indiana Jones adventure. And somewhere along the way, I developed a whole new world that was part V for Vendetta and part American Gods. And at the heart of it is a historian who is being forced to destroy the relics of history, and a believer who has trouble believing in anything but herself and her guns. Whatever the title, I hope you’ll read a few pages. Then maybe some more. And, with a little luck, find yourself drawn in.


Official Author Website
Order The Spider In The Laurel HERE

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Michael Pogach began writing stories in grade school. He doesn’t remember these early masterpieces, but his parents tell him everyone in them died. He’s gained some humanity since then, even occasionally allowing characters to escape his stories alive. Michael lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and daughter. The Spider in the Laurel is his first novel.

Friday, September 25, 2015

"Rules of Ascension: Winds of the Forelands Book 1" by David B. Coe (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

Visit David B. Coe's Official Site Here

OVERVIEW: For 900 years, since the Qirsi War, the Forelands have enjoyed relative peace. The Qirsi leaders, Weavers whose powerful magic could bend to their will not only the elements but also the thoughts of others, were all killed. The rest of the pale-skinned Qirsi were scattered throughout the realm. They were no longer a threat without their multi-talented leaders.

But though most Qirsi live normal lives, and some even serve lords as advisors, all is not well in the realm. There is a Weaver in the Forelands again, secretly sowing seeds of rebellion against the physically hardier but unmagical Eandi.

Lord Tavis of Curgh, raised to succeed his father as duke, and engaged to the beautiful Lady Brienne of Kentigern, seems bound for greatness. But just as his life seems complete, he is accused of a horrific act. Little can Tavis know that the Weaver is using him as a pawn in a vast plot.

Now, only a Qirsi gleaner can help Tavis survive his doom, reclaim his good name, and prevent a devastating civil war in the Forelands.

FORMAT: Rules of Ascension is the first book in the Winds of the Forelands quartet. It is a high fantasy novel that contains elements of political intrigue, magic, a murder mystery, conspiracies, a little romance, and some battles.

Rules of Ascension was first published in 2002 by Tor Books. It stands at 672 pages.

ANALYSIS: Sometimes we get so caught up in reading and reviewing newly released books that some oldie but goodies get overlooked. These classic fantasy novels tend to be pushed to the back burner because everyone thinks that they should have already read them and know about them.

Every year I try to make an effort to read some of the "older" fantasy and sci-fi novels. I have been reluctant to review them based off of their publication dates, but I want to share my love and enthusiasm for some of these novels. As long as the book is available in some format for purchase, I will highlight it.

I am featuring David B. Coe's Rules of Ascension novel as the first novel in this featurette. Rules of Ascension is the first novel in the epic fantasy series Winds of the Forelands. This first novel starts the series off with a bang. There is pretty much everything in here that you could imagine – political intrigue, who-done-it murder mystery, conspiracies, warring kingdoms, evil villains, magic, and detailed, relatable characters. There is even a small smidgen of battles and fight scenes thrown in, but not too much.

Rules of Ascension, for me, started off slowly. It wasn't a painfully slow pace, but Coe definitely takes his time developing not only the world in which we are a part of, but the characters that are involved with the story. I never got to a point where I wanted to give up on the novel, but if you are looking for a series that immediately starts off running; this is probably not the novel for you.

It wasn't until maybe the 25% mark that things really started picking up. Once I was comfortable with the world, understood a bit about the magic, and there was a solid plot established, the novel just seemed to fly right on by. I was easily able to read 100 to 120 pages in one sitting and when I had to stop, I just wanted to jump back into the novel and see what was happening.

There are two major things that made Rules of Ascension stand out to me. First, was the complex nature of the characters. Every character was extremely detailed. They have their own quirks, their own powers, and their own agenda regarding certain things. Of course, the bad guys appear evil, but there are layers to them and they aren't just doing things because they are bad.

The detailed nature of the characters really helped to draw readers into the story. No one was back or white, good or bad. There were shades of gray. I enjoyed this aspect because it made it more lifelike. I was able to feel like I knew these characters their entire life and wasn't just being thrown an abridged version of who they are and how they react to certain things.

Another aspect that I enjoyed was the amount of detail Coe goes into regarding the history of the land and even the people who live in that land. Things weren't just dumped on readers with a 'here accept it' mentality. We were guided through important aspects of history and explained how and why things were happened.

That being said, the history parts didn't seem like they were info dumps. Yes, there is a lot to learn about everything, but it wasn't presented in long, drawn out ways that would bore you. It was more of a fun, learn while action is going on type format. In my experience, that made it a win-win.

Even though I absolutely adored Rules of Ascension, there were a few things that could make it a confusing read for some readers. The major problem would be with the amount of characters involved. There are dozens of different characters throughout the novel that we – the readers – encounter. This could easily become overwhelming for some individuals because you aren't just following Character A or Character B, but you are following a ton of other people who all play major and minor roles in the plot.

It becomes easier to follow who characters are and what they are doing as the novel goes on, and you become more familiar with the characters. But it could be a bit disorienting at first. If you can hold on, you are in for a definite treat. And it does get easier. Ideally, an index or something would be helpful to help readers, but I understand why that is not possible.

Overall, I loved Rules of Ascension, even more than I really thought I would. Once I hit a groove with the novel, it was smooth sailing and I hated having to put the book down for any reason. I really feel this is an overlooked series – at least from the first book. If the other books are anywhere near as good as this one, it will quickly become one of my top favorite series in fantasy.  
Wednesday, September 23, 2015

GUESTPOST: "Men With Breasts Or Women With Agency?" by T. O. Munro

There is a 1997 film called “As Good as it Gets” where Jack Nicholson plays a celebrated but misanthropic author with severe obsessive compulsive disorder. Nicholson has a talent for playing the obnoxious and the arrogant with total conviction, but there is one particular exchange which stuck in my mind. A female fan is gushing enthusiasm at Nicholson’s irritable character and asks

How do you write women so well?”

To which he replies “I think of a man, and I take away reason and accountability.”

While no-one I know of could seriously adopt such a stance, the quote highlights questions which have scratched at my conscience for the last few years now.

How does a man write women well?” and “What does it mean to be a well written female character in the context of epic fantasy?”

It is perhaps a little late for me still to be considering these questions. I am a man and I finished my epic fantasy trilogy last October. The bloodline books feature a number of leading female characters whose point of view I have portrayed in the throes of both joy and despair, facing triumph and disaster (though this being a dark and epic fantasy the balance is not exactly 50:50). Half a million words in, I should probably be more confident of having answered my own questions, but then, like my leading lady Niarmit I am forever tortured by duty and self-doubt.

As a father of four daughters and with a sister who has soared to quite exalted success in the world of international banking, it is natural for me to want to give women their rightful place at the table of power and influence in my books. While only one of my daughters has enough of a liking for epic fantasy to have read my books, that hasn’t stifled discussion with the others about the representation of women in film and books.

It was my eldest daughter who first objected to my use of a relatively popular phrase “strong female characters” To use that adjective, when one would not so naturally use it for a male, implies a default representation of women as weak characters. To be complicit in a convention that they are usually mere straws blown by the wind of other (male) personalities. So, Niarmit, Dema, Hepdida and Quintala are my leading female characters, (Giseanne, Elise, Marvenna and Persapha also have their parts to play in key point of view scenes).

It was the same daughter who told me of the Bechdel test on the equality of representation of women in films and indeed in books. It’s a simple three part question. Does the work feature:

• At least two named women,

• who talk to each other,

• about something other than a man?

It is a test which many of my second daughter’s favourite Avengers movies rather comprehensively fail, even though research has shown that films which pass the Bechdel test are higher grossing, lower costing than those that fail it. My own books do pass the test, though they do so incidentally rather than by design; writing must always be driven by the stories and the characters rather than by any notion of meeting a politically correct formula.

At the same time, the stories any author wants to write will be shaped by their own beliefs and experiences. I loved Lord of the Rings – still do – but found it left me wanting more in three key ways,

• A great weapon whose power was not vaguely awesome but was revealed to the reader in precise detail

• A big bad guy who was not merely a malevolent influence at the periphery of vision but had a real presence, personality and distinctive voice

• More female characters in the front line of the story – Eowyns and Galadriels aplenty seizing the centre stage.

But beneath that commitment to roles for women lurks the undeniable fact that I am not a woman (Though one internet personality quiz did give me a rather high score for femininity). There is a sense of presumption in setting out to accurately portray a female point of view and a constant fear that I may have done it wrong.

There are, for me at least, two dimensions to this dilemma.

The first of which is what role do the female characters fulfil – the question “Are they men with breasts or women with agency?” That is to say does one write a host of Eowyns riding into battle out-men-ing the men at their own game and crying out “Begone foul dwimmerlaik” as they scythe down the great captains of evil. Or is it better to populate your pages with the likes of the historical Eleanor of Aquitaine, wife of two kings, mother of three and an absolute political and historical heavyweight despite never having “come between a nazgul and his prey”?

There is a validity to both approaches. In contemporary life we are used to the notion of career ladders segregated by glass ceilings for women, so why should a women not be the kick ass sword wielding demon. I recently saw and shared a facebook post on the six intrepid female archaeologists who went caving down a seven inch rock tube lined with shark tooth edges in order to recover remains of a previously unknown hominid species from a place so dangerously inaccessible no man could reach it. There is a need to challenge every stereotype of what is the preserve of men and of what women can do. But at the same time there is a risk in portraying women’s only access to success as being by out-manning the men.

Equality of representation operates across a continuum not at a point. The sword wielding demons are at one end of that spectrum – and right out on point is Nysta – the heroine of Lucas Thorn’s Revenge of the Elf. They are those who succeed inspite of being a woman. At the other end there are those who succeed because of being a woman – those who out-woman the men. And in between there are blends of both approaches.

It is a spectrum that runs:

•   from George R. R. Martin’s Arya to Sansa in A Song of Fire and Ice,

•   from Joe Abercrombie’s Thorn Bakhu to the young Queen Skara in the Shattered Sea Trilogy,

•   from Mark Lawrence’s eagerly anticipated Red Sister to Katherine ap Scorron.

•  from Mazarkis WilliamsGrada the knifesworn assassin to Mesema partner to two emperors.

In my own work, while Niarmit, Dema and Quintala all kick butt to varying degrees, Hepdida, Giseanne, Rohdra and Elise exert influence of a more subtle kind.

It is the existence of that continuum which may lead some to say there is no issue with writing women. We just write people some of whom happen to be of the female persuasion, but who can nonetheless be all things to all men and women. This is a line Mark Lawrence takes in his blogspot on the completion of his “Red Sister” and in particular a question he asked of his beta readers.

I asked, if I changed every she to a he, every convent to monastery, every abbess to abbot ... would it now ring false? Would my boy characters now seem 'girly'?"

"There was some talk about girls and women being 'more about relationships' and 'interpreting more levels in a conversation' but at the end of the answer was 'no' - if I swapped everything around my convincing girls would be convincing boys.”

This brings me to the second dimension in my dilemma of being a man writing women. How far can or should the character’s gender show in their actions and their words? If one swopped the pronouns and masculinised the names as Mark Lawrence hypothesised would the story still read as well. If a character’s every “she” became a “he” if Hepdida became Hepdidus would their words and actions still work?

On the one hand, one might argue that it should still work – that women are people after all, that we are writing characters not genders, that each gender is equally capable of the full range of human emotion and motivation. But on the other hand you could argue that, if swapping pronouns and names makes no difference, then how can we claim to have written a woman well, rather than say writing a person well. How can we claim to have written a woman at all?

Let us be honest, men and women are different. Sure it is a fractional genetic deficiency that makes a man rather than a women. (That old Y-chromsome is just an X-chromosome with one leg missing – which is why, in my science teaching days I could honestly tell classes that girls were genetically more complex than boys.) But that difference shapes more than just shape.

My second daughter will ring us when she’s walking home from university, she doesn’t like to appear alone or out of contact when walking the streets. There is a vulnerability to being a woman which men can easily forget. The closest I can get to it is imagining my days as a small school boy walking home past the local comprehensive, trying hard not to cause offence or draw attention with a misplaced look. I only got hit a couple of times but that sense of everyday vulnerability lingers on into adulthood for many maybe even all women.

As a teacher I noticed a yawning gulf in confidence (arrogance even) between the girls and boys in my science class. I crudely summarised it at one parents’ evening as “A boy can understand 10% of something and think he knows everything, a girl can understand 90% of something and think she knows nothing.” It is a difference in attitude that I saw perpetuated into senior management as a deputy head in a girls’ school which shared a sixth form and a close working relationship with the co-located boys’ school. While there was rarely more than a cigarette paper’s width difference in the outcomes the two schools achieved with the brothers and sisters from the same families, there was a robust confidence in the leadership of the boys school a focus on what had been achieved, while at the girls’ school we were more keenly aware of what had yet to be accomplished.

For all the significant overlap between the genders there is a difference and while the French may celebrate it with the phrase “Vive la difference” there is still the question of how does one faithfully show it or “Montrez la difference.” Mark Lawrence was asked if he would ever refer to menstruation given the female lead in his new work and his view was that he would no more do that he would write about other bodily functions which, while they undoubtedly existed and were attended to, had no part in moving the story forward. That said, I do recall one reference to Jalan dangling his backside off the side of a boat and rueing the fact this was not the best attitude in which to woo the attractive young woman sitting in the sternsheets.

Joe Abercrombie, in contrast, was lambasted by one reader for explicitly mentioning menstruation in “Half the World” when Thorn in a midnight search for the necessities to attend to her feminine hygiene needs stumbles across a conspiracy in process.

However the depiction of women by men has to go deeper than acknowledging the biological differences of form and function. It has to go further than striving to prove women are “as good as” men because they can do all the jobs and roles that men traditionally held in fantasy fiction. It has to show them not just as credible people but credible women too. In the planning of my books Niarmit was always female, as was Hepdida and – for reasons that will be obvious to a reader – so too was Dema. In an earlier iteration of the story Quintala the half-elf was Quintor and in her character at least there is perhaps still a degree of the “his/her” androgyneity that Mark Lawrence referred to. I hope the others are convincingly and unmistakeably unswitchably female, but I am a man and I don’t know. In the context of this article it is a little ironic perhaps that the catastrophic accident which befell Dema was in answer to the question, “What would a determined woman do to succeed in man’s world?”

You could ask at this point (or indeed at any point) do female writers either agonise or get challenged to the same degree in their portrayal of their male characters? I am a male reader of female authors who write about men, but the flipside of the question I torture myself with has never even occurred to me.

Can a woman write a convincing male character? Mazarkis Williams, Theresa Frohock, Elizabeth Bear, Mercedes M Yardley, Claire North (and, if she would only get on and finish and publish it – Agnes Mezsaros) all create credible male characters who never trigger so much as a moment’s doubt in me as to their authenticity. Some might say that I am inappropriately highlighting a non-problem, that I am whipping up a non-existant issue (and furthermore that for the sake of emphasis I am tautologically saying the same thing twice!). Why do I ask of myself and my fellow male authors a question I would not ask of women?

Well, we live in a world of inequality. Education is a constant battle to address inequality, remove disadvantage, and even up access. I see a dominance of male authors, of male power, of male perspectives in many aspects of life and the world. Where there is such imbalance there is an obligation on those who have or personify that advantage, to scrutinize their own actions so as to ensure they offer no contribution or endorsement of that disadvantage. I will and do defend every author’s right to write the story they want to tell. I am not saying social forces and political agendas should shape a story, but they should shape an author and in so doing shape how and what those authors want to write.

So, I came here with questions and I still have them. If you have read my books – and according to my kindle self-publishing reports there are a few thousand of you out there who have – I would love to know what you thought. In the meantime I should return to my work in progress and a kitchen in Salicia where two women armed only with a baby are arguing their way out of arrest by the local secret police.


Official Author Website
Order Lady Of The Helm HERE
Order Wrath Of The Medusa HERE
Order Master Of The Planes HERE

AUTHOR INFORMATION: T.O.Munro works in education and relocated from Kent to Belfast in 2014. He started writing naval novels in the Hornblower tradition when he was 13 and has graduated through murder mysteries to writing epic fantasy. Having completed his bloodline trilogy he is now working on a two volume extended epilogue in a more sword and sorcery vein. He once helped catch two bank robbers in a London street but hasn’t yet worked out how to work that experience into a fantasy novel.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

"Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George" (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

 Visit Jessica Day George's Website Here

OVERVIEW: Society girls from New York City circa 1890, Dacia and Lou never desired to know more about their lineage, instead preferring to gossip about the mysterious Romanian family that they barely knew. But upon turning seventeen, the girls must return to their homeland to meet their relatives, find proper husbands, and—most terrifyingly—learn the deep family secrets of The Claw, The Wing, and The Smoke. The Florescus, after all, are shape-shifters, and it is time for Dacia and Lou to fulfill the prophecy that demands their acceptance of this fate... or fight against this cruel inheritance with all their might.

With a gorgeous Romanian setting, stunning Parisian gowns, and dark brooding young men, readers will be swept up by this epic adventure of two girls in a battle for their lives.

FORMAT: Silver in the Blood is a YA/middle school fantasy novel set in 1890 Romania. It tells the tale of two cousins who happen to be NYC socialites as they make their journey to visit their family in Romania.

Silver in the Blood could ultimately be read as a standalone novel. There may be plans to add other novels to this series in the future. Silver in the Blood was published July 7, 2015 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens. It stands at 358 pages.

ANALYSIS: I am a huge fan of Jessica Day George's fairy tale retellings. She has the ability to take a familiar fairy tale, give it a twist, and still make it good. When I heard about a new potential series by her, I had to jump at the opportunity. After all, she's written over a half dozen different books that have all been amazing, so why would this new series be any different? Unfortunately, it was.

Silver in the Blood is one of those novels that doesn't just have one major thing wrong with it. Instead, it has a lot of little things that, when combined, make for a truly poor novel.

First, Silver in the Blood is an extremely slow novel. It was almost unbearably slow. For the first 200 pages or so, readers are given slight hints into what the 'big' secret may be for the family. The characters threw out a lot of side comments, such as 'wait until three days' time, you will understand all' or 'Yes, you will fly, as soon as you learn what it is like to be The Claw'.

Now, I understand the use of foreshadowing, but unfortunately this was taken to the extreme. I found it extremely difficult to understand how a family that had kept a secret for nearly 17 years would just all of a sudden start dropping these major bombshell comments. It just seemed overdone to the point that eventually I just wanted to scream "Tell me what this all means!".

When there weren't not-so-subtle hints to the family's big secret being dropped, there was non-stop talk about dresses and fashion. The two main characters, 17-year old cousins Dacia and Lou, were extremely obsessed with fashion and dresses, and we – the readers – had to be just as obsessed with it. There were lengthy paragraphs about dress shopping and details about what clothing was worn and why it was worn.

I completely understand, and appreciate, details about the clothing characters wear. Unfortunately, these characters went a bit overboard. There would be major events going on throughout the book and instead of being upset that there was a kidnapping going on, they would be worried that they hadn't dressed appropriately or that someone saw them in their undergarments.

I get that at the time, around the 1890s, that women were not as independent or free as they are today. But I would think that if – say a guy was stalking your cousin and creeping her out – you would be more concerned with her safety than what she was wearing or why you haven't received the latest dress from Paris.

Another aspect that really interrupted the flow of the novel was the random letters or diary entries between chapters. They didn't fit. Sometimes a scene would be interrupted in the middle to show a letter. The reader would read the letter, which didn't have anything to do with the scene, and then the scene would pick up right where it left off in the next chapter.

For the most part, I was willing to go along with the novel and chalk it up to a light, fluffy middle school/YA read, until 'the scene' happened. I call it the scene because it will be a deciding factor in how you feel about the novel. In order to understand the scene properly, I need to give a little back story.

Prince Mihai believes that he should be the rightful king of Romania. Dacia and Lou's family have sworn to help him, and his family, place him on the throne as the rightful king. A few things happen, but ultimately things do not go as smoothly as he wants them to and in an effort to get his way, the evil/bad Prince Mihai has one of the cousins kidnapped. It is while she is kidnapped that the dreadful 'scene' happens.

Before the scene, Prince Mihai is portrayed as a bit mean, a little evil, and ultra-handsome. Readers aren't sure if he's just a goofy, misunderstood villain or a super bad guy. And then this happens. Dacia is kidnapped and out of nowhere Prince Mihai utters this little monologue:

"If she (Dacia) refuses, I will simply force myself on her, and ruin her more effectively than simply being abducted in her underthings has already done. And if she still refuses I will tie her to this chair and force her to watch while I have my way with you (Lou)."

I am not sure what the exact purpose of this scene was or why it was necessary. Mind you, before these scene things were all fashion, cute boys, and life is easy. All of a sudden the major villain is threatening to rape one cousin and if he doesn't get his way he will continue to rape the other while the other one watches. Now, remember this is ultimately a middle grade/YA novel, so there is some room to debate how appropriate it is for this type of character development.

I don't think this scene would have been as upsetting, if it had served some purpose. It felt hastily thrown in there and out of place for the character. Not to mention, it never came up again. It was added purely to create drama and make it known to readers that Prince Mihai is evil. It was also done as a way to make women look and feel helpless and without power. It was the jarring effect the scene had that really just confirmed that it wasn't a book I was going to love.

I will admit that if you stick it out, the book does pick up a little – very little. Approximately around page 225 or 250, things really pick up and there are some action scenes, the characters tend to do more than talk about boys, and the pacing really speeds up. Unfortunately, by that point I think readers are already going to have given up and stopped reading, or they will just be plodding along and not really feeling the story.

If there is one thing that I did like about the novel, and probably the only reason I kept reading, was the Romanian setting. I found the culture and buildings and time period fascinating. It wasn't enough to offset the other aspects of the novel, but it kept my interest.

Jessica Day George is an extremely talented author. Silver in the Blood was one of those novels that really just didn't have the 'it' factor to be wonderful. I think die-hard fans of George's other books may find this book interesting and probably enjoy it, but it certainly is not her strongest novel. Minus the rape scene, I could definitely see the middle school audience enjoying the novel, but I think for an older audience it just doesn't have what it takes to captivate people's attention.
Monday, September 21, 2015

GIVEAWAY: A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

Read or Learn More About A Thousand Nights Here
Read the First Four Chapters Here

Fantasy Book Critic is excited to host a giveaway of A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston. We have one prize pack that will be awarded to one lucky winner at the end of the giveaway.

A huge thank you goes out to Disney-Hyperion for providing all samples and prizing for this giveaway. 

The prize pack includes:
  • A Copy of A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston
  • Branded Nail Polish Set 
  • Tea Bag Dispenser 

About A Thousand Nights 
"A story threaded with shimmering vibrance and beauty, A Thousand Nights will weave its spell over readers' hearts and leave them captivated long after the final tale has been told." —Alexandra Bracken, New York Times best-selling author of The Darkest Minds series

Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to her village, looking for a wife. When she sees the dust cloud on the horizon, she knows he has arrived. She knows he will want the loveliest girl: her sister. She vows she will not let her be next.

And so she is taken in her sister's place, and she believes death will soon follow. Lo-Melkhiin's court is a dangerous palace filled with pretty things: intricate statues with wretched eyes, exquisite threads to weave the most beautiful garments.  She sees everything as if for the last time.But the first sun rises and sets, and she is not dead. Night after night, Lo-Melkhiin comes to her and listens to the stories she tells, and day after day she is awoken by the sunrise. Exploring the palace, she begins to unlock years of fear that have tormented and silenced a kingdom. Lo-Melkhiin was not always a cruel ruler. Something went wrong.

Far away, in their village, her sister is mourning. Through her pain, she calls upon the desert winds, conjuring a subtle unseen magic, and something besides death stirs the air.

Back at the palace, the words she speaks to Lo-Melkhiin every night are given a strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. With each tale she spins, her power grows. Soon she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king, if she can put an end to the rule of a monster.

 About E.K. Johnston 

E. K. Johnston is a forensic archaeologist by training, a book seller and author by trade, and a grammarian by nature. She spends a great deal of time on the Internet because it is less expensive than going to Scotland. She can probably tell you, to the instant, when she fell in love with any particular song; but don't ask her, because then it will be stuck in both of your heads.

Giveaway Rules and Information 

1. We have one prize pack that will be given to one lucky individual.

2. Giveaway is open to US addresses only.

3. Contest starts September 21, 2015 at 12:01 a.m. EST and runs until September 28, 2015 at 12:01 a.m EST. Entries after this time frame will not be eligible for the giveaway.

4. Only one entry per person, please. Multiple entries will be deleted.

5. To enter send an email with the subject line 'THOUSAND NIGHTS' to Please include your name and address, as this speeds up the time it will take to send out the package.

6. All information is used for the sole purpose of the giveaway and will be deleted immediately upon completion of the giveaway.

Good luck and may the odds be ever in your favor.


 Click Here To Order “Barnaby The Wanderer” by Raymond St. Elmo
Order HERE


 Click Here To Order “Barnaby The Wanderer” by Raymond St. Elmo
Order HERE


 Click Here To Order “Barnaby The Wanderer” by Raymond St. Elmo
Order HERE


 Click Here To Order “Barnaby The Wanderer” by Raymond St. Elmo
Order HERE


 Click Here To Order “Barnaby The Wanderer” by Raymond St. Elmo
Order HERE


 Click Here To Order “Barnaby The Wanderer” by Raymond St. Elmo
Order HERE