Book Reviews, Fiction Blog

Indie Book Review: The Sons of Brabant by Michael Bolan

sons-of-brabantThe Sons of Brabant (Book I of the Devil’s Bible Series) by Michael Bolan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Sons of Brabant is the first novel in the Devil’s Bible Series by Michael Bolan (it’s also FREE on Amazon at the time of writing). After the Duke of Brabant dies, his family falls apart. The eldest son, Reinald, inherits the Duchy after manipulating the Duke on his death bed. The younger sons, Willem and Leo, and their sister, Isabella, leave the Duchy in a rage. They establish a mercenary band and vow to one day return to Brabant and liberate the people from Reinald’s tyrannical rule. Meanwhile, Duke Reinald has teamed up with some of the most powerful people in Europe in an attempt to bring about the biblical End of Days and Second Coming of Christ.

The Sons of Brabant takes place in 17th-century Europe, during the Thirty Years War. I should preface this review by saying that, while I enjoy history, I’m not well-versed in this particular time period. The novel seemed well-researched and historically accurate but, to be honest, I wouldn’t know if it wasn’t. However, from the little nods throughout the text, I get the feeling that there are a lot of historical “cameos” and references that history buffs will appreciate.

Where The Sons of Brabant deviates from history is in the fantasy elements — and as a fantasy author, these were my favorite parts of the book. I loved the mythology behind Conor’s Irish homeland, and I hope to see more it in the later novels. Also, it’s no secret that I adore apocalypses, and I found myself enraptured (pun intended) with the plot to bring about the Rapture. The “Four Horsemen” have woven an intricate plan, and the political, economic, scientific, and militaristic scheming were fascinating.

From a writing standpoint, The Sons of Brabant is solid. The characters are developed and have clear motivations, and while this novel didn’t provide enough time for them to grow too much, I can see how they might evolve over the course of the series. The narrative style fits with the formality of the time period, and the plot, though complex, is clearly explained. In fact, it may have been too explained. At times, the action would stall when the exposition or the characters (in dialog) would repeat a detail already given or summarize action that had already been shown. For the most part, though, the story moves along at a steady pace.

The Sons of Brabant strikes a nice balance between history and fantasy, battle and political intrigue. It serves as an intriguing introduction to the characters and the larger plot to bring about the Rapture, while also providing hints at the action to come. Recommended for those who like historical military fiction, mythology, and religious thrillers.

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You can find out more about Michael Bolan on his website. He also discusses the theme of fear and his favorite literary villains (including Duke Reinald) in this guest post.

sons-of-brabantIf you are interested in reading The Sons of Brabant and would like to help sponsor my writing and research, you can purchase it at my Amazon Associates Store. By doing this, you will not pay a cent extra, nor will the author receive a cent less, but I will receive a small commission on the sale. Simply click the book’s title or the book’s image.

Book Reviews, Fiction Blog

Indie Book Review: Dead Magic by Kara Jorgensen

dead-magicDead Magic (IMD #4) by Kara Jorgensen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dead Magic is the fourth novel in Kara Jorgensen’s Ingenious Mechanical Devices series. Since many of you may not have read the complete series, I will keep this review vague to avoid spoilers. If you would like to read my reviews of the other books in the series, I’ve included links to them at the bottom of this post.

Continuing the pattern established in previous books, Dead Magic leaves behind Eilian and Hadley Sorrell to once again focus on the lives of Immanuel Winter and Emmeline Jardine. Dead Magic marks the series’ grand entrance into the world of (you guessed it) magic. Though hints of magic have occurred throughout the other books, this novel dives deep into the rules of magic and its practitioners. Both Immanuel and Emmeline must learn to harness the magic within themselves as well as prevent a darker magic from consuming them… and the rest of London.

As always, Jorgensen’s characters are complex and well-crafted. Though I’d already spent much time with Immanuel and Emmeline in previous novels, Jorgensen still manages to reveal more about them through the obstacles they face in Dead Magic. It was deeply gratifying to see Immanuel start to heal and watch his relationship with Adam Fenice grow. Likewise, I appreciated that Emmeline remained her headstrong self, even when her stubbornness lead her astray.

Despite being separated by Immanuel and Emmeline’s perspectives, the plot of Dead Magic masterfully weaves together. The story contains a perfect balance of physical action, magical action, romance, and introspection. While I can’t say any of the events were huge surprises, the story held my interest from the start, and I enjoyed every page. With each novel, Jorgensen’s deft skill with words deepens. She has a great ability to write in a way that is both clear and lyrical.

Overall, Dead Magic is a wonderful addition to the Ingenious Mechanical Devices series. I feel like every time I read one of these novels, I pronounce the latest installation my favorite, but I have to do it again here — the series just keeps getting better and better! Highly recommended for readers who enjoy steampunk, Victorian era London, historical/dark fantasy and a dash of steamy romance.

Ingenious Mechanical Devices reviews: The Earl of Brass (IMD #1), The Winter Garden (IMD #2), The Earl and the Artificer (IMD #3)

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dead-magicIf you are interested in reading Dead Magic and would like to help sponsor my writing and research, you can purchase it at my Amazon Associates Store. By doing this, you will not pay a cent extra, nor will the author receive a cent less, but I will receive a small commission on the sale. Simply click the book’s title or the book’s image.

Book Reviews, Fiction Blog

Indie Book Review: Maledicus (The Investigative Paranormal Society Book I)

maledicus-finalMaledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society Book I by Charles F. French is a horror novel that mixes elements of paranormal suspense with historical fiction. In the relatively sleepy town of Bethberg, Pennsylvania, the Investigative Paranormal Society (IPS) team (Roosevelt, Sam, and Jeremy) search out strange happenings, then debunk them or dispel disgruntled spirits, as appropriate.

In the series’ debut novel, the IPS faces off against its toughest opponent yet: a demon named Maledicus. Once a proud (and depraved) Roman citizen, Maledicus now delights in bringing terror to the living. When Maledicus targets a young girl and her aunt, the IPS must stop him before he can devour their souls.

Before I dive into my review, I want to add two quick disclaimers. First, as always, I’ll be keeping the content details vague to avoid any spoilers. Second, I’m inclined to note that I received an advance copy of this novel. Therefore, it might have gone through further revision before publication (thus rendering some of my comments moot).

One of my most important concerns for paranormal novels is whether the story follows “the rules of its world.” Maledicus does exactly that. The paranormal content is believable within the story and “the rules” remain consistent throughout. French uses vivid language to bring the paranormal activity and demon Maledicus to life, which makes the scary moments all the more chilling for the reader. Without spoiling anything, the plot follows a clear trajectory, contains a great balance of action and quiet suspense, and reaches a satisfying conclusion.

Though the plot itself remains rather linear, the narrative structure of Maledicus jumps back and forth between different times, locations, and character perspectives. At first, I found this a bit odd to read. Like many classic novels, the narrative often reads more like the author is telling a story, rather than the reader is in the moment with the characters. However, once I adjusted to this style, it did flow rather well.

French offers the readers chapter flashbacks into the human life of the demon Maledicus (which makes him all the more despicable), as well as mini flashbacks within scenes that feature the IPS team. These are clearly given to add depth to the characters and succeed in that goal. However, personally, I would have preferred for the scenes featuring the IPS team members to stay in the present day, with hints at backstory peppered throughout. Of course, this might have just been my impatience to see if/how the evil Maledicus would be defeated!

As for the characters themselves, I found them to be well-rounded and distinct personalities. In particular, appreciated that they are mostly middle-aged to elderly, as I believe literature needs more diverse/fewer stereotypical representations of “older” characters. Roosevelt is the classic gentlemen, while Sam feels every bit the ex-cop (and jokester), and Jeremy perfectly fits his role as the more introverted one of the group. The main side characters are equally well-developed and compelling – I especially liked Helen’s passion for learning, dedication to her family/students, and unwavering bravery.

My only criticisms with the characters are that sometimes the dialogue came off a bit stiff and that I felt they were over-described. Many physical and emotional details were repeated multiple times, and while that is always a writing no-no, it was superfluous with such distinct characters.

maledicus-finalOverall, I enjoyed reading Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society Book I. Horror in plot, paranormal/historical in details, and literary in narrative style, it’s a well-crafted debut novel with compelling characters and a nice balance of action and quiet suspense. Recommended for readers who like ghost stories, history, and cozy mystery.

Charles F. French was kind enough to contribute a guest post to accompany my review, where he discusses the theme of evil in Maledicus. Check it out here. If you’d like to read Maledicus, pick up your copy from Amazon.

Book Reviews, Fiction Blog

Indie Book Review: Hammer of the Gods by Christina Ochs

hammer of the godsHammer of the Gods (The Desolate Empire Book 3) by Christina Ochs
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I was given a free electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Hammer of the Gods by Christina Ochs is the third novel in the Desolate Empire series. You can read my reviews of the first two books, Rise of the Storm and Valley of the Shadow by clicking their titles. For the sake of avoiding spoilers, I’ll be focusing on the quality of Hammer of the Gods itself and my personal reactions to it.

I’ve said it once with these books, and I’ll say it again now: the Desolate Empire series is all-ages Game of Thrones. Ochs has crafted a vivid and complex world, with a large cast of engaging characters who are constantly locked in political maneuvers, fierce battles and other life-and-death struggles.

And Hammer of the Gods is the most intense yet. The story picks up right where Valley of the Shadows left off, and the reader is thrown straight into the action. The only thing I struggled with in the beginning was remembering some of the supporting characters and the world’s geography. If you’re in the same boat: don’t worry. Ochs provides maps at the beginning of the text and a glossary of persons and locations in the back to help you out.

As with the other two novels in this series, Hammer of the Gods rotates from multiple perspectives, with short chapters that allow you to breeze through the book despite its length. Ochs manages to cover years’ worth of action without making you feel like you’re missing anything. While sometimes this does result in more “summary” than I personally like, the fast pace and the detail of the main scenes make up for it.

Whether from Och’s writing talent, the intensity of the plot, or my now three-book relationship with the characters, I found myself having uncharacteristically strong emotional reactions to Hammer of the Gods. At different stages during my reading, I found myself fist-pumping, biting my knuckles, grinning from ear-to-ear, and holding back tears — all while on the train, of course.

If you’re a fan of “soft” cliffhangers, you’ll adore the ending. Like the other two novels, the main battles of Hammer of the Gods come to a close, but the individual characters leave us with some burning questions as to their fates and/or next moves. I found each character’s journey and growth profoundly satisfying, and I’m pleased with where each one is left at the end of the novel. There were a few twists that I did not expect throughout the story, and I’m very excited to see how they affect the next novel.

Fans of epic fantasy, historical fantasy, and/or military fiction need to read this series. Between bloody battles, political collusion, romances, religious zealotry, and even a dash of magic, Hammer of the Gods has something for everyone. Do yourself a favor and buy the entire Desolate Empire series NOW. And hell, at the time of this writing, Rise of the Storm (The Desolate Empire Book 1) is FREE on Amazon — there’s literally nothing stopping you from making your reading life 100x better today.

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You can find out more about Christina Ochs on her website, and you can read an interview with her on The 2016 2K Indie Books Tour here.

hammer of the godsIf you are interested in reading Hammer of the Gods and would like to help sponsor my writing and research, you can purchase it at my Amazon Associates Store. By doing this, you will not pay a cent extra, nor will the author receive a cent less, but I will receive a small commission on the sale. Simply click the book’s title or the book’s image.

Book Reviews, Fiction Blog

Indie Book Review: The Earl and the Artificer by Kara Jorgensen

eata-final-coverThe Earl and the Artificer (IMD #3) by Kara Jorgensen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a free, electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

SPOILER ALERT: While this review does not contain major spoilers for The Earl and the Artificer, it does contain spoilers for The Earl of Brass, the first novel in the Ingenious Mechanical Devices series (you can read my review of The Earl of Brass HERE).

The Earl and the Artificer by Kara Jorgensen follows Eilian and Hadley Sorrell to Brasshurst Hall (Eilian’s family home) in Folkesbury following their marriage. Both characters are struggling with their newfound roles as Lord and Lady Dorset. Eilian fears that he will never live up to his noble role, nor be a proper husband for Hadley, and Hadley is concerned that she will never succeed as a proper society lady and always be viewed as an opportunistic upstart.

Jorgensen’s character development with Eilian and Hadley is logical and all-too-relatable. Their fears and concerns tap into the deeper fears of rejection and desire for acceptance that all humans feel in one realm or another. Yet, despite their insecurities and a few incompatibilities, they manage to stay supportive of and caring toward one another. Their relationship is not perfect, but through their dedication and devotion, it remains a relationship the reader will admire.

While at Brasshurst Hall, Eilian and Hadley do their best to fit in with the wider genteel society. Through these efforts, the reader is introduced to a new cast of characters. Most notably, Jorgensen provides us with a new antagonist, Randall Nash (Eilian’s second cousin) and a few new friends in Nadir Talbot (a romance author) and his cousin, Mrs. Rhodes.

What I liked most about these secondary characters is that they are exceedingly complex. Jorgensen explores their personalities from various perspectives, and the reader can find relatable and despicable qualities in each one. Personally, Nadir was my favorite. Through his character, Jorgensen commented on several social themes (including gender, race, and imperialism), and it delighted my inner sociologist.

Overall, the plot of the novel moved at a steady pace, though I did not find it quite as captivating as the story lines of The Earl of Brass and The Winter Garden. To me, the other novels had higher stakes and more action throughout, which made them more gripping. However, The Earl and the Artificer has a nice elevation to it. The drama, and the danger, grows as the novel progresses, and moments that seemed insignificant before become key parts of the plot toward the end. While I saw some of the twists coming, there were a few that surprised and delighted me.

In sum, The Earl and the Artificer is a fitting addition to the Ingenious Mechanical Devices series. Fans of Eilian and Hadley will enjoy watching their characters and relationship grow. Fans of the steampunk genre will be entranced by the ominous Brasshurst Hall, eccentric Nadir Talbot, and dangerous turn of events. Highly recommend for anyone with a love of steampunk, historical fiction, and mystery novels.

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You can find out more about Kara Jorgensen on her website, and you can read more about her inspiration for The Earl and the Artificer here.

eata-final-coverIf you are interested in reading The Earl and the Artificer and would like to help sponsor my writing and research, you can purchase it at my Amazon Associates Store. By doing this, you will not pay a cent extra, nor will the author receive a cent less, but I will receive a small commission on the sale. Simply click the book’s title or the book’s image.