To Raise a King by Justin Orton

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About the book:

When Matt escapes a Scottish boys’ home to search for his parents, he instead finds himself fleeing for his life. Cast back in time to the brutality of 6th-century Scotland, he is sent on a dangerous quest – a race to recover the missing fragments of King Arthur’s broken crown in an epic bid to save two worlds from certain destruction.

Love, betrayal and murder follow Matt as he battles against a backdrop of powerful magic and political intrigue that soon erupts into open war. Matt’s faith in himself, and his trust in his friends will be put to the ultimate test as he fights to Raise a King.

“To Raise a King” is the first novel in the “Broken Crown” series, and builds on the original Arthurian legend that says Arthur did not die, but was placed in eternal sleep by Merlin.

Follow Matt’s struggle for survival, and his harrowing journey across Scotland. Experience a young man’s struggle as he deals with the loss of innocence, an unexpected romance, and the shocking discovery of his own heritage.

“The Broken Crown” provides a remarkable glimpse into dark-age Scotland, and weaves together history and legend to produce an action packed tale rich in characters and adventure.


My review:

This was an interesting read, but I’m still not sure how I really feel about it. I’ve been fascinated by the legend of King Arthur for most of my life and enjoy seeing all of the different interpretations of the stories. To Raise a King, while it is definitely a reworking of the legend of King Arthur, focuses a lot on Merlin: his backstory and his role in Arthur’s life and “death.”

And that’s where it gets really weird. Orton has chosen to depict Merlin as a “Marsonian” — a former inhabitant of Mars. Yep, you heard me right, Merlin’s a martian. Everything else in the story related to the legends of Arthur is very well-researched and lines up with recent historical finds, so the whole martian thing just seemed so out of left field for me. I was glad to get past that section of the book and get lost in the quest.

My other big issue was head-hopping. We jump perspectives a lot (though it does get better toward the end of the book), skipping from one character’s ideas/thoughts/views to another’s with no indication that there is a change until you have to stop for a moment and figure out whose eyes you are looking through. It makes it a bit hard sometimes to stay in the flow of the story.

Yet, Orton’s descriptions of the scenery in Scotland are absolutely lovely. I was mesmerized by the beauty he describes and so want to be walking through those glens and alongside those lochs. And the overall plot following Matt’s quest was definitely enjoyable.

So, while it was not a perfect read for me, there was enough to make me kind of like this book and even want to read the next book in the series. If you like your Arthurian legends with a healthy dash of science fiction, you’d enjoy reading this one, too.

Many thanks to Justin Orton and NetGalley for the digital copy of this book for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

 

**Note for parents of readers: while this is a YA novel (the main character is only 17), I would rate it a PG-13++ for language, violence, and some sexual content. And it is definitely not a Christian novel, so don’t be expecting anything along those lines. 🙂

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The Story Peddler by Lindsay A. Franklin

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About the book:

SELLING STORIES IS A DEADLY BUSINESS

Tanwen doesn’t just tell stories—she weaves them into crystallized sculptures that sell for more than a few bits. But the only way to escape the control of her cruel mentor and claw her way from poverty is to set her sights on something grander: becoming Royal Storyteller to the king.

During her final story peddling tour, a tale of treason spills from her hands, threatening the king himself. Tanwen goes from peddler to prey as the king’s guard hunts her down…and they’re not known for their mercy. As Tanwen flees for her life, she unearths long-buried secrets and discovers she’s not the only outlaw in the empire. There’s a rebel group of weavers…and they’re after her too.


My review:

The first time I heard about this book last year, I knew I had to read it. What a captivating idea: a storyteller who weaves tales into crystallized sculptures! And once I got my little hands on this book, it outpaced my expectations so greatly. 🙂

I was drawn into Tanwen’s world immediately and didn’t want to ever come out! Tir is well-built and easy to imagine and filled with a charming cast of characters you can’t help but fall in love with.

But the story itself is the best part of all. It is a tale of finding strength in weakness, of love conquering even death, and of the power of art to bring beauty and truth and hope. The Story Peddler is a delightful tale with a compelling message and you don’t want to miss it!

How do I put into words how wonderful this book is?? It’s pretty impossible, but I will say that Lindsay A. Franklin has brought a fascinating premise to extraordinary life, weaving her own story strands into a lovely piece of art for all to enjoy. And I can’t recommend it highly enough 🙂 Buy it! Buy it now! Preorder it and then wait by the mailbox for it to arrive, make a cup of tea to relax after all the anxiety of waiting, then snuggle in for a fabulous read!!

Many, many thanks to Lindsay and Gilead Publishing/Enclave for the advanced copy of this wonderful book for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

Alara’s Call by Kristen Stieffel

Welcome to the Alara’s Call Blog Tour! I’m so excited to be a part of the launch of Kristen Stieffel’s debut inspirational fantasy novel.

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From the back cover:

Tales are often told of heroes who fulfill ancient prophecies. Alara’s Call is the tale of a woman who gives new ones.
Alara sees visions of other’s futures, but never her own.
A young clergywoman with a fiery passion for her Telshan faith, she has been assigned to a mission abroad but longs to lead a congregation in her homeland. Her father, the prime minister, jeopardizes her dream and her safety when he coerces her into what he calls a diplomatic mission.
But it’s a ruse.
The trip is meant to end with her marriage to the crown prince of a foreign nation, where members of Alara’s faith are persecuted and women oppressed. All for a trade agreement her father is desperate to enact.
But her mentor intervenes and takes Alara to Dorrel, the suitor she left behind. They believe they are safe, but foreign soldiers are under orders to bring Alara to the king’s palace…by any means necessary.


My Review:

Alara’s Call was a comfortable read. I don’t know if that makes sense, so let me explain what I mean: I felt, not like I’d read it before, but like the author combined some of the best parts of some of my favorites into one lovely story. This is a read that will appeal to fans (like me) of multiple genres: low-fantasy (no magic or orcs in this one, but a fascinating story world, nonetheless), historical fiction (while not actually written about a time in our world history, it feels like it could be), romance, swashbuckling adventure, and more. Just about any reader can find something to enjoy in Kristen Stieffel’s debut.

Alara Kordelyon is a Telshan curate — not a princess! 🙂 — who strives and, very realistically, often fails to follow the will of Telshi, following her human thoughts and heart all too easily. She is my kind of herorine. She’s trained to fight (as are all Glynrellan women) as well as any Glynrellan man, and better than many others. She doesn’t take guff from anyone and stands up for what she believes in, no matter who she has to deck in the process!

The main characters follow the Telshan religion, which is a play on Christianity. They have prophets (like Alara) and Scriptures and spiritual gifts, and these become plot points upon which some of the big moments hinge. The only part that made me slightly uncomfortable was the fantasy element wherein the Trinity of the Telshan religion is female. It felt awkward to me at first and I had to keep reminding myself that it was part of the story world. But Stieffel does such a lovely job of building her world, that it begins to feel natural and honest for Alara and her faith.

I really enjoyed reading Alara’s Call and look forward to the next installment in Alara’s adventure. You should grab a copy, too, and settle in for a lovely read.

Many thanks to L2L2 Publishing for the advanced copy of this novel for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂


A Bit About the Author:

Kristen Stieffel is a freelance editor and writer who specializes in speculative fiction. Although she edits projects in varied genres for both the general market and the Christian submarket, she is a novelist at heart. Member of the Editorial Freelancers Association and Christian Editor Connection, mentor with Word Weavers International, and on the planning committee for Realm Makers, Kristen stays busy doing what she loves most. She is also the associate editor of Havok, a flash-fiction magazine focused on science fiction and fantasy. Visit www.KristenStieffel.com to learn more about this many-faceted author.

To grab your own copy of Alara’s Call, check out the L2L2 website: http://www.love2readlove2writepublishing.com/books/alaras-call/

And don’t forget to join in on the fun and prizes at the Facebook Launch Party on Thursday, September 21, 2017
https://www.facebook.com/events/1045774898890338/

Release Date: September 19, 2017

Paperback: $16.99, eBook: $4.99 (Pre-order Price of $2.99) Love2ReadLove2Write Publishing, LLC

Genre: Inspirational Fantasy, 430 pages, ISBN: 978-1-943788-19-4

Tainted by Morgan L. Busse

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What Happens When Your Soul Dies?

From the publisher: “Kat Bloodmayne is one of the first women chosen to attend the Tower Academy of Sciences. But she carries a secret: she can twist the natural laws of life. She has no idea where this ability came from, only that every time she loses control and unleashes this power, it kills a part of her soul. If she doesn’t find a cure soon, her soul will die and she will become something else entirely.

“After a devastating personal loss, Stephen Grey leaves the World City Police Force to become a bounty hunter. He believes in justice and will stop at nothing to ensure criminals are caught and locked up. However, when Kat Bloodmayne shows up in his office seeking his help, his world is turned upside down.

“Together they search World City and beyond for a doctor who can cure Kat. But what they discover on the way goes beyond science and into the dark sphere of magic.”

So, this was my first foray into the steampunk sub-genre, and I’m sure glad I started with this one! What made the book great was that the steampunk elements did not overwhelm the story, did not hijack the tale as I assumed they would. Instead of steampunk practically being a character in its own right, the elements enhanced the plot in (most often) subtle ways. And the story was awesome – it began with a fascinating premise (“What happens when your soul dies?”) and grew into a powerful tale of love, loss, trust, and truth.

Morgan Busse is a marvelous writer. She must be if she’s made me want to be a steampunk fan 😉 If you’ve never tried steampunk, start here. If you are a huge fan of the genre, Tainted is also for you. I highly recommend it. Book two, Awakened, is supposed to be released sometime this Spring, and I’m very excited to grab a copy and see what happens in the next part of the adventure. 🙂

**Special Note: I received a copy of this book (along with many others) as a winner of the Christian Book Box, sponsored by authors Charles Franklin and Mandy Fender. If you head over to their websites (just click  on their names), you can enter to win your own book box and be blessed with a plethora of books by Christian authors and other goodies. I got the box last November and am still being blessed by it 🙂 **

Of the Persecuted by Angie Brashear

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From the back cover: “Laila Pennedy awaits death by hanging. For the Rendow Clan rules the Woodlands Region, aiming to slaughter the Faithful. And she deserves to die.

“But Lars Landre, the man destined to lead the Faithful out of persecution, has other plans hidden behind his rare and mysterious blue eyes. Rescue.

“Following the daring escape, Laila seeks the path of a warrior and vows revenge against the Rendow Clan. She embarks on a dangerous journey with Lars, one in which they endeavor to reach the promised safety of a magical village, to train for battle, and to ultimately assure freedom for those with faith in the Maker.

“Clashes of weapons and souls. Brutal loss of lives. Unrequited love. How in all the Woodlands will Laila survive?”

The action of this book starts on page one and doesn’t stop. And that’s not even what I enjoyed most about reading it 🙂 I appreciated how the author showed Laila’s emotional and spiritual growth throughout her ordeals. She started out as a character that I was not especially fond of – easily distracted by a pretty face and full of constant self-doubt. Yet, as she let go of her self and leaned on the Maker, she transformed into a heroine worthy of this epic tale.

And epic it is – from fire-breathing dragons to chameleon-like bears to gemstone-horned unicorns to visible spiritual battles…it’s got a bit of everything. It even has the promise of more to come. So, I’d definitely recommend you fantasy fans pick up a copy of Angie Brashear’s Of the Persecuted and join the adventure. 🙂

Defier: The Girl Who Stood by Mandy Fender

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From the cover: “Seventeen-year-old Lennox Winters is no stranger to loss. She’s lost her parents, her home, and is in constant danger or losing herself. As she struggles with what to believe she encounters Christ in a way that she cannot ignore. The raised scar on her chest reminds her she has a purpose. Kept alive by her newfound faith and accompanied by her loyal best friend, Lennox bravely emerges into a world at war on a quest for the truth. Only after Lennox has journeyed through perilous territory, eluded biologically altered predators, and overcomes the most intense of challenges does the real work begin.

“Will Lennox continue to fight for faith no matter how personal the cost?

“The fate of humanity rests in the answer.”

Sounds like a great book, right? That is exactly what I thought when I read the description. I went into this book with very high hopes, so excited to read it. Unfortunately, I am very sad to say that it didn’t meet my expectations.

Let me clarify that statement: the general idea of the book is great for a Christian young adult dystopian story. However, this novel finds itself in serious need of some honest and informed beta readers and a really good editor. The grammar problems, even for a grammar lover like me, can be forgiven if the overall story flows nicely, the plot devices are well-structured, and the characters are nicely drawn. I didn’t find that to be the case in Defier. There are many situations in the book that severely stretched the fabric of plausibility, almost to the point of absurdity, which could easily be rectified if the plot were well-developed. It felt as if the author really wasn’t sure where the story was going, so she just shoved in devices and situations to move the story along, but which seemed rather inexplicable to me. And if a character did something unexpected, an annoying explanatory aside was randomly thrown in to explain the history behind that choice. Lots more telling than showing, as English teachers are wont to say.

But, believe it or not, I don’t think this book is horrible. There are some poignant moments that hold a lot of beauty and truth in them. Again, the basic idea of the book is great. The theme of standing up and being brave in Christ is awesome. This could be a wonderful book, but it needs some work to get it there. I sincerely hope that she finds someone to help her polish it, and that she puts out a second edition soon. Until then, however, I don’t feel right recommending it to you, my fellow readers. Bummer!

The Healer’s Rune by Lauricia Matuska

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From the book: “Three hundred years after a great war shattered the Council of Races, the warriors of Rüddan have all but eradicated their cousins, the faerie Aethel. In so doing, they decimated the Dryht sages and enslaved mortal Humanity. Now a young voice with a dangerous secret calls her people to rebel. Young Sabine, one of the Human slaves, must overcome centuries of lies and prejudice to forge an alliance among four enemy races. But what chance does Sabine have when her very existence threatens the planet?”

This is a superbly told tale – full of magic and mystery. Sabine is wonderfully realistic: she doesn’t always make the right choices or see the big picture, or think before she acts, but that’s what makes her so relatable and interesting.

And the story itself is well-imagined and gracefully plotted. I so enjoyed The Healer’s Rune that I found myself waking in the middle of the night (on vacation, mind you), grabbing my Kindle, and reading some more, just so I could see what would happen to Sabine next! And now I have to wait for the next book in the Ceryn Roh saga…