The Spider in the Laurel by Michael Pogach: Review by E.G. Stone

One of the things I love about dystopian books is the fact that they basically describe what could go wrong in the world, in great detail. And that list is almost endless. It’s fascinating to look at the way that things we take for granted, or believe to be innocuous, can be morphed into something entirely different. Michael Pogach’s The Spider in the Laurel does this exceptionally well.

This book takes place in a parallel reality to our own. In essence, the United States and much of the world has gone through a series of revolts or revolutions that have basically forbidden all talk of Belief, which includes religion, mythology, even much of mythic history. The new world order is doing its best to control what people believe, because if they can do that, they can control their people more absolutely—of course, they don’t say this out loud. Enter Rafael Ward, a Professor of mythic history who has been conscripted into helping take down believers. On his first mission, though, he gets in over his head and starts on a world-wide chase to recover something that may be lost to legend, but could change the world.

This plot is incredibly well-thought out. There is a lot going on, and it would be easy to get lost if it weren’t for the fact that everything is relatively logical and there are enough details and explanations of history and mythology to ground the reader. I enjoyed the massive scope of this novel; it was great to puzzle through and to think about. The characters made it even more entertaining, because their place in this interconnected maze was sympathetic.

Rafe Ward seems like a guy caught up in things beyond his control. He’s been conscripted into the REC to help destroy artefacts of Believers, but he teaches mythological history at university. The world surrounding him is incredibly complex and there are machinations behind machinations. Only, Rafe is far from dumb, so he figures things out before anyone would like him to; this only puts him into greater danger.

As a character, Rafe is very interesting to read. His character development from start to finish is quite staggering. Part of it is that we learn a considerable amount about him throughout the novel. Part of it is that the circumstances push him to his limit and he is forced to grow. But the amount of depth that Rafe displays is impressive. The only other character that comes close is MacKenzie, who also shows a good deal of depth, but not nearly as much as Rafe. Which, frankly, reads perfectly well.

I really enjoyed all of the historical digressions, discussing things that are apocryphal or mere legend. There was obviously a great amount of research done and I really liked to see the integration into the wider plot of the novel. That, and I just really like the application of history to the wider context of a book.

I think the only thing that was a bit off was to do with some of the more intense action sequences. They read well, but every now and again something would seem to jump and I would have to backtrack and figure out how we got from point A to point B. On the whole, this did not interfere with the story at all, but it was a little jarring and took me from within the story to without.

If you’re interested in a book that is both incredibly well written, and incredibly well thought out, this is definitely one for you. I would say that the intricate nature of this book was done extraordinarily well. I rarely see something so massive done to this degree of capability and I enjoyed it thoroughly. This book has great characters, fascinating world-building, a whole slew of entertaining plot points and history thrown in for good measure. The Spider in the Laurel is definitely on my list of best books for 2020.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Spider-Laurel-Rafael-Ward/dp/1946025445

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The Last Soul by J.M. Lively: Review by E.G. Stone

Death does not always mean the end. Certainly not in fantasy stories. But what if all of the ideas that you had about what went on after the grave were, well, somewhat mistaken? The Last Soul by Jonathon Lively is book one in the Oreniah Codex, an exploration of one soul’s journey through what comes next, but also how to get back.

The initial chapter, dealing with the cat soul Ches, led me to be extremely intrigued in what was going on. When we then encounter the main character, Lathan, I was thrilled to be able to see how he was going to interact with Ches and all the intricacies of Oreniah. Lathan’s life, though, does take a while to examine. Yes, it is important because it describes his relationships and his reason for wanting to get back—and therefore undergoing all the things he undergoes while on Oreniah—but it does take a while to get into. I found myself a little confused by how ordinary Lathan’s life was. However, this does change after a bit. We are introduced to some of the oddities which lead to his death. Then, things really start to pick up.

I would say that this plot may start off slowly (excepting the introduction with Ches) but it definitely does not continue that way. There is a lot going on in Lathan’s life after he, well, dies. And objectively, it may seem like simple things, but it is also so much more than that. Once this plot starts really going, it really goes.

At first, Lathan seems, I have to admit, like a bit of a bumbling fool. He is obviously in love with his family and he really enjoys his life. He does seem to be a bit oblivious to some things, though, and that really shows in his relationship with his wife, Tara. However, when push comes to shove, Lathan is a definite hero. He has a firm sense of right and wrong. He will do as much as he can to help those he cares about. He listens and tries to understand.

Also, his soul—and related abilities—is pretty awesome. Controlling the air? Very cool!

My favourite part would probably be the bit near the end where Lathan and Justice finally get to whollop their opponents and see what sort of team they can be. I can, unfortunately, give you no more than that because of spoilers, but believe me when I say that it is not only a great character building moment, but it is also just an epic throw down.

What can I say? Sometimes I like the bits where they just hit stuff. It’s therapeutic.

My biggest critique is probably to do with the worldbuilding. That is to say, the world of Oreniah and all its lore is extremely interesting and very cool. However, the way that this world is described overwhelms the story a bit.

A lot of the scenes that are pivotal to character development or plot development or just a really big fight are interspersed with huge amounts of description. This means that the world itself is very clear, but it can also be a bit too much. For example, there were a couple of fight scenes where I had to go back and re-read a good deal of the action because every movement and detail was depicted. This made it hard to imagine in my head because what might have felt natural for me to imagine was not what was depicted. This isn’t to say that what was depicted was wrong or off, just that it was a little too much. This also happened a few times with simple descriptions of scenes. There were just too many details and it overwhelmed what was actually happening with the characters themselves.

On the whole, though, I thought this book was really very interesting. The story was unique. The characters were well written and very interesting. I think they will continue to expand and grow in subsequent books and that will be a great journey. The action sequences are done on an epic scale and that is highly entertaining to read. So, even with the world itself being perhaps a bit too much for the characters and the action, I would say that this book was definitely fun to read. I would say that it is good, bordering on very good.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Last-Soul-Oreniah-Codex/dp/1646062485

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The Apple of Idunn by Matt Larkin: Review by E.G. Stone

Mythology is something that has fascinated us for countless generations. They are stories of beings so powerful that their actions shaped the world. Some of the myths involve the creation of the world. Some involve those beings that humans are meant to pray to in order to reap protection, good crops, fortune, success in battle, and countless other things. In modern times, though, mythology has become something else: a story to explore, one that reflects the world in a unique way. Matt Larkin’s The Apples of Idunn, Book One in the Gods of the Ragnarok Era does just that, but in a way that stands out amongst retellings of mythologies.

Of the mythologies out there, Norse mythology is one of the more difficult to retell in a way that modern society understands because it is incredibly complex and the stories do not always make sense. Nor, often times, do they end well. Matt Larkin, though, manages to capture the essence of Nordic folklore and put it into a form that is both compelling and true to the original.

The Apples of Idunn explores the life that Odin Borrson led before he was a god. Odin finds himself jarl of his people after his father was slain by a frost giant. He is consumed by rage and seeks revenge, but there are some unusual happenings that might very well get in his way. He is supported by his blood brother Loki, his other brothers, a loyal follower of his father, and a goddess. Odin must not only face down the legends of his own people, he must work to unite them under his kingship or they will surely perish under the encroaching mists.

The way that this story is put together is really quite impressive. There are often details that are left out in mythologies—or there are details in multiple stories that conflict widely with other accounts—and this can make a coherent story difficult to craft. This book is expertly put together. The details are thorough and interesting and they mesh together in a way that makes perfect sense. This is done primarily through worldbuilding. The world is familiar, as one would expect from a retelling of familiar mythologies, but it is distinctly crafted. This is a society and a civilisation that is not the one we belong to in modern times. The people hold different things to be valuable. Honour and pride and righteousness do not look the same. Nor does justice. However, when taken in the context in which they are provided, these values fit perfectly within this society. It makes sense. It never confuses the reader. And the resulting tale is correspondingly epic.

For characters that exist in a world that is apart in both time and scope to our own, the characters are still relatable. You feel the pain that Odin feels at the loss of his father. The other characters have motives and desires that we can understand, even if they may act on them in a different manner. Except for Loki; he remains mysterious throughout the book. Honestly, though, this is a wonderful manifestation of him and the mystery only heightens the story.

All the characters are crafted in such a way, though, that they are still interesting to read. I enjoyed journeying through their struggles. I enjoyed watching them grow. Especially, I enjoyed Odin’s progression throughout the novel. He grows tremendously despite events that are conspiring against him. He does sometimes act like an idiot before he things situations through, but he does all he can to remedy his wrongs. Tyr, though, I do not care for as much. He is a loyal follower and supporter of Odin, but he seems to be doing all he can to perform his duty without necessarily believing in his duty or himself. I do not know if this is a characterisation issue or if this is purely one of Tyr’s struggles.

As far as the actual prose is concerned, I would say that this is one of the best written novels I have seen in a while. The prose is well-paced. It flows exceptionally well from one sentence and thought to another. And—my favourite—there are descriptions and dialogue that remind one of slang, only from a world that fits with the retelling of Norse mythology. These instances lend this story such verisimilitude that I got lost in the story for a while.

Overall, I would have to say that The Apples of Idunn is an extremely well crafted book. The story is interesting and draws you in. The characters are entertaining to read and still relateable. There are instances of action and of fear and of magic. All of this, combined with the fact that this story retells Norse mythology in a way that is both familiar and gives a greater understanding, means that this book most definitely is on my list for Best Books for this year.

If you are interested in grimdark fantasy, well-written books, even in reading something that fixes what the Marvel comics, ah, got wrong, this is the book for you. (Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the Marvel comics. There’s a whole lot of very cool special effects. Interesting ideas. But this book is better.)

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Apples-Idunn-Eschaton-Cycle-Ragnarok-ebook/dp/B01N5SOHQ1

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Sci-fi Book Dusk Mountain Blues with Deston Munden on the Podcast

Author Deston Munden

This is the Books and Authors Fantasy Podcast Episode 105 with Deston (D.J.) Munden.

Good day and welcome to this episode of the Books and Authors Fantasy Podcast. I’m your host, podcaster and author of Fun Fantasy Reads, Jamie Davis. This podcast is exactly what the title says it is, a show focused on everything in fantasy books.

From Epic Fantasy, to Urban Fantasy, to Sword and Sorcery, and everything in between, expect to find the best and brightest authors from all the various corners of the fantasy book world. Plus we’ll add in a few other very special guests as well along the way.

To kick off this week’s episode, let me tell you what I’ve been up to. I’m still working on book 5 of my Huntress Clan Saga series. Quinn, the main character is in some deep trouble with wild magic in this story and it’s allowing me to explore some quirky additions to my story world.

I’m also getting ready to release book 4 in that series, Huntress Scout, next week on May 5th. I always get a little antsy with a new book release on the horizon. I really love this book and I hope you all will, too.

If you haven’t picked up the first three books in the series, now’s the time to do that. Check out the entire series over on Amazon starting with Huntress Initiate, the first book in the Huntress Clan Saga.

You can check out more information on what I’m up to, including sneak peeks of upcoming covers, special giveaways, and more, by visiting my fan group on Facebook, Jamie’s Fun Fantasy Readers and over at my website and blog, JamieDavisBooks.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

This week’s guest author is Deston “D.J.” Munden, a fantasy and science fiction author, living near the Outerbanks of North Carolina. Somewhere in the vague realm of his late twenties and early thirties, he lives with his brother in a small house in the woods where he taught himself how to imagine and write down worlds with orcs, swords, and magic (and sometimes mutants and spaceships).

When he’s not writing, he’s playing video games with his best buds, rolling horribly on multisided dice, eating double his weight in food, trying out new recipes, collecting samurai memorabilia and watching as much anime and reading as much manga as humanly possible.

We talk about his Dusk Mountain Blues book and a whole lot more on the podcast. Check it out.

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Sci-Fi and Fantasy With a Touch of Romance with Mercy DeSimone on the Podcast

Author Mercy DeSimone photo

This is the Books and Authors Fantasy Podcast Episode 104 with Mercy DeSimone.

Good day and welcome to this episode of the Books and Authors Fantasy Podcast. I’m your host, podcaster and author of Fun Fantasy Reads, Jamie Davis. This podcast is exactly what the title says it is, a show focused on everything in fantasy books.

From Epic Fantasy, to Urban Fantasy, to Sword and Sorcery, and everything in between, expect to find the best and brightest authors from all the various corners of the fantasy book world. Plus we’ll add in a few other very special guests as well along the way.

Kicking off things this week, I’ll start with my author update. I’m deep into writing the first draft of book 5 in the Huntress Clan Saga series, titled Huntress Cadet. Book 4 is set to come out in just a few weeks on May 5th.

If you haven’t picked up the first three books in the series, now’s the time to do that. Check out the entire series over on Amazon starting with Huntress Initiate, the first book in the Huntress Clan Saga.

You can check out more information on what I’m up to, including sneak peeks of upcoming covers, special giveaways, and more, by visiting my fan group on Facebook, Jamie’s Fun Fantasy Readers and over at my website and blog, JamieDavisBooks.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

Today on the show I get to chat with Mercy DeSimone about her new book, a sort of sci-fi fantasy with a romance twist. Mercy is the youngest of 6, who’s always been a voracious reader. To this day she has an obsession with Dr. Seuss. She remembers her sister passing books down to her after she had grown too old for them (she’s 10 years older), some of which, like A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, became lifetime favorites. She liked to sneak some of her mom’s racy romance novels starting when she was 12.

Here’s my chat with Mercy on the podcast. Check out her book Spectral Vibrations for something exciting and different in the SciFi Fantasy genre.

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COVER REVEAL: The Secret of the Jewels Series by JMD Reid

Diamond Stained (Secret of the Jewels Book 1)

To escape his dark mistakes…

…Obhin must wield his magical blade again!

Life had gone wrong for Obhin. Once a respected palace guard, now he sells his sword as a bandit. Trapped by his mistakes, he has no hope.

Until one young woman sees more in him.

Avena, passionate and headstrong, has no patience for bullies. Dedicated to healing, she struggles to escape her own bleak past. In Obhin, she sees a chance for them both to escape.

In Kash, a city of poverty and vice, the two must find trust in the other to protect those they care about. Dark sorcerers, underworld crime bosses, and brutal bandits scheme to use and destroy them.

Can they polish clean their stained souls?

You’ll be enthralled by this exciting fantasy story because the flawed characters will keep you reading.

Get it April 28th.

http://mybook.to/diamondstained

Ruby Ruins (Secret of the Jewels Book 2)

Betrayal cuts deep.

Obhin has found new life defending Dualyn, the famed magical engineer and his servants. With the daring Avena at his side, Obhin takes the fight to the enemies that seek to use Dualayn’s talents for their dark and selfish ends.

When a raid goes bad, Obhin finds an enemy that not even his resonance blade can face. A betrayal that cuts so deep it shakes him to his core.

And threatens to destroy Avena.

Only in the ruins of the ruby city can hope be found. Can Obhin find the strength to face the darkness once more?

You’ll be enthralled by this fast-paced and exciting fantasy story because of the rich characters will keep you reading.

Get it May 5th.

http://mybook.to/rubyruins

Obsidian Mind (Secret of the Jewels Book 3)

How deep into the darkness…

will Obhin plunge to save his love?

Last summer, Obhin thought they had hidden the most vulnerable part to Avena, the woman he loves. If any one were to find her disembodied mind, they could threaten her life.

Their enemies have found it.

Now Obhin has to risk not just his life, but his very soul to earn it back. With his magical blade, he’ll have to commit high treason. A bleak future lies before him. An irreparable act which will forever sunder him from Avena.

But what else can he do? Let her die?

You’ll be enthralled by this exhilarating and heart-pounding epic fantasy story because of the rich characters.

Get it May 18th.

http://mybook.to/obsidianmind

Emerald Strength (Secret of the Jewels Book 4)

Even the broken can find…

the strength to fight!

Crippled by the assassination attempt, Obhin has to adjust to his new life. No longer can he swing his magical sword and fight at Avena’s side.

And she’s never needed his help more.

The White Lady and the Brotherhood are scheming to break the Warding and flood Kash with demons. Avena is giving her all to keep the city from falling into chaos and prop up the king’s weak rule.

How can Obhin help her when he can’t even stand.

He will have to find that strength within him to rise to the fight. If not, he’ll be swallowed by his own darkness and lost.

Will he stand? Or will he fall?

You’ll be enthralled by this exciting and emotional epic fantasy story because of the strength of characters.

Get it June 9th.

http://mybook.to/emeraldstrength

Amethyst Shattered (Secret of the Jewels Book 5)

Darkness has cracked the world!

The White Lady’s plan has succeeded!

Obhin and Avena’s fight to protect their home has never been more deadly. The world has cracked. A Rift of Night opens onto a demonic realm. Monsters out of forgotten myth rampage through their city.

Obhin must rally the defenders before all is lost. With his magic blade, he’ll plunge into the horde and drive them back.

Will his sword be enough?

As Obhin fights, Avena must delve into esoteric secrets. Only by unraveling the secret of the jewels will she have any hope of sealing the rift. Time is running short. If she cannot discover the truth, destruction will consume her home.

Does she have the strength to fight through her own guilt? Or will she be lost to the darkness, too

You’ll be enthralled by this exciting fantasy story because the flawed characters will keep you reading.

Get it July 7th.

http://mybook.to/amethystshattered

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/JMDReid/

Website: www.JMD-Reid.com

Book 1: http://mybook.to/diamondstained

Book 2: http://mybook.to/rubyruins

Book 3: http://mybook.to/obsidianmind

Book 4: http://mybook.to/emeraldstrength

Book 5: http://mybook.to/amethystshattered

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Epic Fantasy from Poetic Roots with Robert Cano on the Podcast

Robert Cano Author Head Shot Photo

This is the Books and Authors Fantasy Podcast Episode 103 with Robert Cano .

Good day and welcome to this episode of the Books and Authors Fantasy Podcast. I’m your host, podcaster and author of Fun Fantasy Reads, Jamie Davis. This podcast is exactly what the title says it is, a show focused on everything in fantasy books.

From Epic Fantasy, to Urban Fantasy, to Sword and Sorcery, and everything in between, expect to find the best and brightest authors from all the various corners of the fantasy book world. Plus we’ll add in a few other very special guests as well along the way.

Kicking off things this week, I’ll start with my author update. I turned in Huntress Scout to the editor last week so I’m already digging into Huntress Adept, book 5 in the series. I’ve plotted the book out and it is looking to be a blast to write so far.

Huntress Scout comes out in a few weeks on May 5th. I urge you to check out the whole series starting with Huntress Initiate, the first book in the Huntress Clan Saga.

You can check out more information on what I’m up to, including sneak peeks of upcoming covers, special giveaways, and more, by visiting my fan group on Facebook, Jamie’s Fun Fantasy Readers and over at my website and blog, JamieDavisBooks.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

Okay, let’s get to this week’s featured guest. I got the opportunity to sit down and chat with Robert Cano. An artist who has chosen to paint with words, Robert began a journey years ago which has finally culminated in him finding his momentum with the Soul of Sorrows series.

He brings his poetry roots to his novels. Inspired by Tolkien, Le Guin, Shelley, and Wordsworth, he builds worlds with a classical feel and infuses them with hard realities. A constant student, he is always seeking to perfect his craft.

We talk about his Soul of Sorrows series including The Suffering and The Dark Archer. Here’s the interview.

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COVER REVEAL: Rebels by Joanna White

For many decades, the Aretul have ruled the world of Averell with an iron fist. Any man or boy is taken to the prison Zagerah and never seen again, left at the mercy of the vicious Hunters.

Why?

How did the Aretul take over Averell and why? Why did they create the Hunters and for what purpose? Who were the Hunters before? Read stories through the eyes of all the side characters from Hunter, and more. Immerse yourself in the world of Averell and watch its history unfold with every turn of the page.

This story is meant to be read as a companion to Hunter, Book One in the Valiant Series.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0874PSFCR

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Dragons, Dragons Everywhere with Amber Morant on the Podcast

Amber Morant Fantasy Author Logo

This is the Books and Authors Fantasy Podcast Episode 102 with Amber Morant .

Good day and welcome to this episode of the Books and Authors Fantasy Podcast. I’m your host, podcaster and author of Fun Fantasy Reads, Jamie Davis. This podcast is exactly what the title says it is, a show focused on everything in fantasy books.

From Epic Fantasy, to Urban Fantasy, to Sword and Sorcery, and everything in between, expect to find the best and brightest authors from all the various corners of the fantasy book world. Plus we’ll add in a few other very special guests as well along the way.

I’ll begin with my author update. I sent in Huntress Scout, book 4 of the Huntress Clan Saga to the editor this week. That is set to come out very soon on May 5th. If you like fun, kickass urban fantasy stories you should check out the series. Get started with Huntress Initiate, the first book in the Huntress Clan Saga.

You can check out more information on what I’m up to, including sneak peeks of upcoming covers, special giveaways, and more, by visiting my fan group on Facebook, Jamie’s Fun Fantasy Readers and over at my website and blog, JamieDavisBooks.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

In this episode I get to chat with author, Amber Morant. Amber is an author and full time mother living in the Dayton, Ohio area. She has published multiple books in the dungeonpunk and fantasy genre. Exploring worlds outside of our own and collecting swords from different parts of the world has become part of who she is.

From the time she was in fourth grade trying to write the next “great Harry Potter” book in 2001 to now, Amber has been writing non-stop and finding magic in her everyday life. Outside of writing, Amber spends her time reading, playing video games, and chasing dragons.

Here’s my interview with Amber coming right up where we talk about her Shadow of the Crown, book 1 of the Dragon Guardian Wars series.

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The Assassination Protocol with Andy Peloquin on the Podcast

This is the Books and Authors Fantasy Podcast Episode 101 with Andy Peloquin .

Good day and welcome to this episode of the Books and Authors Fantasy Podcast. I’m your host, podcaster and author of Fun Fantasy Reads, Jamie Davis. This podcast is exactly what the title says it is, a show focused on everything in fantasy books.

From Epic Fantasy, to Urban Fantasy, to Sword and Sorcery, and everything in between, expect to find the best and brightest authors from all the various corners of the fantasy book world. Plus we’ll add in a few other very special guests as well along the way.

To kick off this week’s episode, I’ll start with my author update. I plan to wrap up the editing on book 4 in the Huntress Clan Saga series this week. I can’t wait to share this one with my readers. Watch for it next month if I can pull together the release for you in time.

If you haven’t picked up the first three books in the series, now’s the time to do that. Check out the entire series over on Amazon starting with Huntress Initiate, the first book in the Huntress Clan Saga.

You can check out more information on what I’m up to, including sneak peeks of upcoming covers, special giveaways, and more, by visiting my fan group on Facebook, Jamie’s Fun Fantasy Readers and over at my website and blog, JamieDavisBooks.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

Moving on to the main attraction, I’m excited to bring back best-selling fantasy author, Andy Peloquin. He was one of the first guests on this podcast and it’s great to have him back on the show. Andy calls himself a storyteller and an artist and now his art has led him to write a sci-fi series to share with his loyal readers. We talk about his Assassination Protocol, the brand new book in his new Cerberus series.

Check out my interview with Andy right now.

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