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

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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…

The Book of Things to Come by Aaron D. Gansky

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For years, Laurel has dreamed of a fantasy world she calls Alrujah–a place where she imagines herself to be the beautiful girl she doesn’t see herself as in her real life, where she doesn’t have to spend her days playing second fiddle to her “perfect” little sister or arguing with her mom. Laurel has written so much about this land and its people that it seems almost real to her. Her genius best friend, Oliver, has even taken her ideas and turned them into a video game. But when she wakes to find that she, Oliver, and two other teens from North Chester have been transported to this mythical land, have been somehow sucked into their own game, Laurel and Oliver will have to use all of their knowledge of Alrujah and all of their skills to find a way to get them back home.

I could not put this one down! The Book of Things to Come is fast-paced and well-written. The story is beautifully composed with a perfect score of detail and emotion. And while the characters are teenagers, this book is definitely not just for young adults (although, I’m quite sure they’d enjoy it, too!).

This is one I highly recommend for Christian fantasy lovers. You will most definitely enjoy getting sucked into Alrujah alongside Lauren and Oliver!

Bonus review (because I couldn’t wait to share!):

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The Blood Sword, book two of the Hand of Adonai series, finds Laurel, Oliver, Aiden, and Erica all still battling the evil forces of Alrujah to get to the Book of Sealed Magic before the Mage Lord does; and it finds Bailey Renee still searching for her sister. When these two worlds collide, will the Hand of Adonai prevail or be severed by the Blood Sword?

I thought book one was great, but I enjoyed book two just as much, if not more! The action does not stop and the characters grow in depth and complexity.

Definitely grab a copy! These books will draw you in and lead you to a greater understanding of the power of God to accomplish all things, even changing the hearts of those who have denied Him. Absolutely fabulous!