Emissary by Michael Leon

Emissary by Michael Leon
Publisher: self published
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (283 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Review by Rose

Emissary tells the tale of Vincent, a scientist plagued with strange nightmares since childhood. He has successfully treated his mental illness with drugs and kept it hidden from his colleagues, particularly Ella, the beautiful and intelligent scientist from whom he also struggles to hide his affection. But what if his experiences were real and the dark energy that crawls inside him now threatens the existence of the universe?

As his nightmares return, Vincent unravels the secrets of his past, with the help of Ella and ever-guarded Constantine. Revealing their other-world origins, they need his help to destroy the Entity that was created when Ella created a portal to Vincent’s universe. As Vincent grapples with his love for Ella, he traverses Europe in pursuit of answers, learns how to travel at the speed of light and confronts his perception of what is real. But can he trust his friends? Could he ever truly be with Ella, and what is his scientific destiny so revered by his colleagues.

Emissary is a science-fiction adventure novel that travels at the speed of light, where multiverse theory collides with quantum mechanics on the dark side of Saturn’s moon.

What an exciting book! From the very first the reader is dropped into the action, and the mystery surrounding Vincent. This is science fiction like it is meant to be and I could so see this on the big screen (some of the special effects would be awesome).

The characters are wonderfully drawn. I really enjoyed them and their interactions, all the while rooting for the developing relationship between Vincent and Ella. There are some sad moments, but I don’t want to give away any spoilers.

The book is vibrant and is full of surprises. The author takes the reader on a whirlwind of new discoveries and forever changes the lives of the characters in it. Kudos, Mr. Leon. I’m looking forward to reading more of your work.

Citadel of Fire by Matthew Wolf

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Citadel of Fire by Matthew Wolf
Publisher: Self
Genre: Fantasy (YA)
Length: Full (562 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rated 4.5 stars
Review by Poppy

Seventeen-year old Gray is descended from a legendary hero known as a Ronin and haunted by his forgotten past. He returns home to a wizards’ keep, unaware he is now labeled a murderous traitor for killing his best friend.

Now he must cross a dangerous desert full of thieves, mythical beasts, and other magical unknowns, all to return to a home that may be his demise. At the same time, a poisonous evil seeks to convert the world to their dark mantra, “strength is life, weakness death.”

Gray may have hero’s blood in his veins, but how can one kill a belief?

I’m a huge fan of fantasy novels, and this book absolutely fits the bill.

I didn’t know this was the second book in a series when I picked it up, and I admit to being confused for a bit because the action here starts right off the bat. We meet several groups of people in the first few chapters and learn about things that were clearly important to the story (like the “spark” and the ronin and more) that were a little too ambiguous for me to get immediately. However, I hung in there and got a big payoff.

The characters were so amazing and well drawn, the writing crisp and descriptive but never dull and the plot solid. The author skillfully wove in information tidbit by tidbit and kept me reading and longing for more. I didn’t realize, at first, that Gray is the lead here, because there are other characters given just as much space. I like Gray though, and he’s the reason I have every intention of going back and reading book one to catch up. He’s an interesting anomaly, as is the woman he meets near the beginning, Faye, who I really, really liked. I don’t think I was supposed to like her quite so much, but her self-confidence, smart mouth and swagger really spoke to me.

There’s a touch of LOTR here. At first, when he mentions the nine kings, I felt that was a deliberate nod to Tolkien and his nine kings (who ultimately became the ring wraiths). I wasn’t sure if I should be irritated or not, but honestly aside from their number, they are nothing like those LOTR kings.

It was interesting to watch the author merge all the various groups of people together and see how they were able to overcome much to work against defeating a common foe. The author truly created amazing characters who were real, flawed and unique, and although the plot was certainly gripping, it was those characters who kept me completely invested in the story and turning pages.

I have little negative to say here, other than the fact this didn’t stand alone as strongly as one might hope. But that doesn’t matter … book one is out there and just asking to be added to my library. Then I’ll be all caught up and waiting for the next in the series very eagerly.

I highly recommend this book (and the first) to any reader who loves epic fantasy. There is so much depth here and truly great writing. I’m never certain what to expect from self-published works but this one was clean, well written and worth every penny. It’s a book I’ll want to read more than once, as I’m certain I missed things here that will only add to the richness of the story.

Undercover Magic by Judy Teel

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Undercover Magic by Judy Teel
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Paranormal, Science Fiction/Fantasy
Length: Full (208 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rated: 4 Stars
Review by Rose

In a dystopian future where paranormal creatures have assimilated into human society, a young woman fights to expose the mastermind behind an illegal drug only to discover that to stop him, she must risk losing everything – including her humanity.

Abandoned at birth, Addison Kittner’s been on her own since she was a kid–ever since the paranormal terrorists attacked cities around the world. Battling creatures that go bump in the night nearly destroyed human society. Good thing not all paranormals were evil and the terrorists were eventually stopped. Bad thing? Nothing would ever be the same again.

For one, highly addictive drugs can be made from vampire venom now that the truth is out. Add in a little magic and the drug becomes irresistible. Addison’s partner and on-the-sly boyfriend, werewolf FBI agent Cooper Daine, has been trying to find out who’s behind this new threat to humanity. But when he gets too close to the truth, he finds himself falsely accused of taking bribes from the very drug cartel he hunts.

Addison knows he’s innocent, but the FBI have other ideas and suddenly she finds herself in their sights. When they come knocking on her door and decide breaking it down is more effective, she does what any smart ex-street kid would, she runs. Next thing she knows, someone’s trying to assassinate Cooper, Lord Bellmonte is threatening to hurt her friends if she doesn’t find out who’s making the drug, and talented kid practitioners are disappearing from their school without a trace.

As the lies pile up, one thing becomes clear–the mastermind behind the drugs is someone more powerful and evil than anything she’s ever come up against. Addison doesn’t stand a chance of winning. Not without giving up the one thing she treasures most– Her humanity.

We’re in for a fun ride with this second installment of Judy Teel’s MAGIC series. We first met the characters in Shifty Magic and I strongly recommend you read that book first. Ms. Teel drops the reader right in the middle of the action in Undercover Magic and it would be helpful to already know who the players are and how they relate to each other.

Addy is a strong character who is not only trying to figure out who/what she is, but is also navigating the relationship circuit with Cooper while at the same time staying one step ahead of a corrupt FBI agent. Not to mention she also has to deal with the head vampire, Lord Bellmonte, who still has his own agenda going on.

Cooper has been accused of taking bribes, so Addy and her cohorts try to find the evidence to clear him– oh, and stay alive at the same time.

These characters are wonderfully drawn– you care about what happens to them. It’s an easy book to get lost in. When reading Judy Teel’s MAGIC books, I find myself in their world. I could so see these made into a movie/TV series and can’t wait for the next book in the series.

The Blood that Cries in the Ground by Gregory Bellarmine

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The Blood that Cries in the Ground by Gregory Bellarmine
Publisher: Christian Books Today Ltd
Genre: historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (220 Pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Rose

The Greatest Myth Ever Dispelled …

Italy. A tough master of novices, Father Dante encounters the bold young priest Antonio who challenges his identity and accuses him of being THE Saint Nicholas. But despite the Father faking his death, a determined Antonio discovers a rather alive Dante arrayed in kilt and armor.

In return for Antonio’s silence—and to protect the town from attracting all manner of darkness—Dante agrees to tell his life story. Without explanation, Dante orders Antonio to meet him at night in the abandoned Cathedral, the site of a former battle that the Church has kept secret for a generation.

Until today.

The Criskindl. Ice Steeds. The Unborn. Saint.

From the Dark Ages’ when Poet-Sorcerers ruled kings, to the Holy Land when a new civilization was rising, to Revolutionary France where love is lost and gained, Father Dante pursues the one responsible for both his master and his mother’s deaths:

Black Peter, his brother.

This book begins with Antonio, a young novice, curious about Father Dante– there’s a lot of mysterious things about him. Antonio begins to suspect that Father Dante is actually the legendary Saint Nicholas and confronts him about it. And thus sets the framework for this book: Father Dante “dies” and, to stop Antonio from talking, agrees to tell his life story to the young priest. The rest of the book is told from Nicholas’ POV, with an occasional comment from Antonio to show us where the two are physically during the book.

This is a very ambitious book, spanning centuries and different historical eras. This is both the book’s strength and its weakness. There are so many things going on and is a bit disjointed that it is sometimes hard to follow.

It is worth pushing through, though, because the characterization is wonderfully done, and the book is definitely filled with action. It is not a lighthearted book, but is a dark look at an interesting figure. The author has obviously done his research into not only St. Nicholas, but also into the history of the times.

Aundes Aura by Ryan Sullivan

Aundes Aura by Ryan Sullivan
The Válkia Chronicles Book One
Publisher: Self
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, YA
Length: Full Length (252 Pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Rose

Since their father was taken to the dungeons of the capital city, Eoin and Saera have had to fend for themselves. If Eoin can find an apprenticeship in the capital, they can work on freeing him.

But Saera is afflicted with an evil goddess’s light, and when her Aura flares up in the middle of the street, the power-hungry Church Regency are quickly on their heels, keen to eradicate the threat.

With more than the Regency after them, their only hope is to relinquish the Aura. Making alliances they would never have dreamt of, they find themselves swept up into a struggle against the kingdom they once called their own.

This book is the first of a series, but according to the author the books are all going to be standalone. I hope there is a lot of crossover between characters however, because I really enjoyed getting to know the characters in this book.

The main characters are Saera and Eoin, siblings who are always there for each other–and it’s not always easy because Saera has been “gifted” with powers from one of the deities of the land. In the kingdom they live in, this is definitely a problem. Their only chance of survival comes from getting to another kingdom–one that is more tolerant of the Auras than their own. But, that’s easier said than done.

Mr. Sullivan has created a wonderful world and I’m very much looking forward to his next book in this series. And, like I said, I certainly hope I get more opportunities to see the characters in this book. I was sorry to put the book down once I was finished.

Mahaha’s Victims by Giselle Renarde

Mahaha’s Victims by Giselle Renarde
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary, Horror, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (11 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

When crafty Kooloo takes Gyta out in her truck, things get a little too hot and heavy for Gyta’s liking. The attention is nice, but she just wants to go home. En route, the truck hits something big. Damned if it isn’t a girl! And not just any girl–with her bare feet, sinewy limbs, blue skin, and sharp acrylic fingernails–this willowy slip could only be Mahaha, the mythological Inuit monster.

In the elders’ stories, Mahaha’s long fingers were able to tickle a person to death. She was a cruel creature, but easily tricked by any clever Inuk. Just lead the monster to the water and push it in. Easy enough.

Kooloo’s got a plan to escape the monster’s ticklish clutches: push the half-naked creature into the local watering hole. Gyta doesn’t know who to feel sorrier for–Mahaha, or the boys at the bar. But can the women execute their brilliant plan before it’s too late?

Gyta and Kooloo’s date isn’t exactly unfolding the way either of them had anticipated. What could be worse than seeing someone who wants the sexual aspect of your relationship to progress more quickly than you do?

If only Kooloo and Gyta knew they were about to face a much bigger challenge. Despite their communication and boundary issues I enjoyed the banter and chemistry between these characters. Had they met after Kooloo gained some emotional maturity and Gyta learned to make peace with her sexual orientation they would have made a great couple. As the plot progresses I saw glimpses of the peaceful, productive life they could build together if they joined forces.

The ending of this story shocked me. There didn’t seem to be any clues earlier on in the plot about how it was all wrapped up, and reading the last few paragraphs was disjointing. While the ending fits into what readers figure out about the rules of this universe it would have made a bigger emotional impact on me had there been a few clues about what was happening early on.

With that being said, the pacing in this tale was excellent. From Gyta and Kooloo’s interrupted date to a race against time, each scene blended into the one preceding it with ease. I was on the edge of my seat from page one of this wild ride.

Mahaha’s Victims is a good choice for anyone who loves folk tales and secretely wonders if the creatures described in them are ever based on a kernel of truth. This is a modern day twist on an ancient legend that made me shudder as I read it.

Minotaur Revisited by David Gelber


Minotaur Revisited by David Gelber
Publisher: Ruffian Press
Genre: Historical, Paranormal, Fantasy
Length: Full Length (244 pages)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Legend states that the Minotaur was confined to the Labyrinth, slain by Theseus and then laid to rest by thousands of years of Greek mythology. But, the truth is far different. Read the Minotaur’s own words as he recounts his full life as god, king, warrior, matchmaker, midwife, monk, sage, father, mother, husband and, most of all, witness. The fierce Minotaur lived to see and be a part of the best and worst of humanity during a life spanning thousands of years. Part bull, part human, the Minotaur struggled to find his place in this world and, in the end, left his unique mark on history.

The book begins in the present with the arrival of the Minotaur as a guest lecturer to a room of students. I am sure they got as caught up with his words as I did when the huge bull-headed beast told his life story, reflecting on the historical ages and events he witnessed. He made me feel as if I traveled with him during his long life. I experienced his escape from the Labyrinth and accompanied him as he traveled through events in the past I’d read learned about in history class. Now the Minotaur colored in the pictures and brought the smells, sights and sounds to life. His story not only revealed historical facts and pictures, I also found out how the Minotaur felt, what he thought about mankind and bovine (he is half bull) and why at times he shunned both man and animal and lived a life of seclusion.

I enjoy reading Greek Mythology so wasn’t really sure I’d like a fictionalised version of the classical story, especially as it was written in the first person. A lovely surprise was in store for me; the book kept me spellbound from beginning to end.

It doesn’t matter if you haven’t read or don’t like Greek Mythology, or if history is not quite your thing; this book tells it as it is with no long treatises. It’s pure entertainment from beginning to end. I commend the author for his attention to detail and for writing a story I thoroughly enjoyed and was sad to put down (because I’d reached the end of the book).

Wind’s Aria by Tessa Stockton


Wind’s Aria by Tessa Stockton
Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing
Genre: Fantasy
Length: Short (106 pgs)
Heat: Sweet
Rated: 3.5 Stars
Review by Poppy

Elected as the Songstress, Aria takes her place on the sacred platform to sing before every dawn. As long as she does so, peace and abundant life belong to her people. One morning, amidst a strange wind that brings with it a curse in its eerie howl, Aria loses her ability to make music. But the encroaching death that transpires isn’t her biggest tragedy. It’s that she adores the cause of her blunder, for he’s a magnificent winged creature who’s stolen more than her voice.

Author Tessa Stockton has an amazing voice for fantasy. Wind’s Aria is beautifully written, descriptive and sweet.

We’re presented with a young girl who carries the weight of her world on her shoulders. She’s required to sing before dawn each day to ensure that her world has sunlight and water. One day she falters, only for a moment, as she senses something is different. Though she finishes her song, her misstep throws her world into chaos.

The powerful, handsome winged being charged with destroying her and her world ends up falling for her instead. He does, however, put things in motion to allow his master to do the job. Aria’s world loses the sun, water and she loses her voice. When all else fails, she’s sent on a quest to find the one they worship in order to repent and hopefully fix their world.

I really enjoyed this sweet fantasy romance. Truthfully, Aria “felt” very young and this book would be more than appropriate for teens and the young adult market as well as those adult readers looking for a sweet escape. The story was very well written, exciting in places, touching in others and I never wanted to put it down. I loved Aria and the Il-Bora, enjoyed watching them together and appreciated their fight to be together against what seems like insurmountable odds.

However, the ending was a bit of a disappointment — not in the resolution, which was more than satisfying — but in the execution. The entire book is working its way to this moment and then zip-zap, it was over in just a few pages. I was sad that it felt so rushed, because the rest of the story is just so lovely and well executed. I also would have liked just a bit more of the H/H at the end, so we would have the satisfaction of finally seeing them together at last.

Still, Wind’s Aria is a story I’m glad I read. And Tessa Stockton shows amazing promise as an up and coming author. I look forward to reading more from her. Good fantasy isn’t always easy to find, and she clearly knows how to write it.

To Dance in Liradon by Adrienne Clarke


To Dance in Liradon by Adrienne Clarke
Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing
Genre: Fantasy
Length: Full (220 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4 Stars
Review by Rose

Seventeen-year-old Brigid O’Flynn is an outcast. A chance encounter with the Faerie Queen left her tainted in the eyes of the villagers, who blame the Faerie for the village’s missing women and children. Desperate to win the village’s acceptance, Brigid agrees to marry her childhood friend: Serious, hardworking, Connell Mackenna. But when Connell disappears before their wedding, Brigid’s hopes are shattered. Blamed for her fiancé’s death, Brigid fears she will suffer the same fate as the other village outcasts, the mysterious Willow Women. Lured into Faerie by their inhuman lovers, and cast out weak and broken, the Willow Women spend their lives searching for the way back into Faerie. When Connell suddenly reappears, Brigid is overjoyed, but everything is not as it seems. Consumed by his desire for beauty and celebration, Connell abandons his responsibilities, and Brigid soon finds herself drawn into a passionate, dangerous world of two.

When Brigid discovers the truth behind Connell’s transformation she’s forced to choose between two men and two worlds. Brigid’s struggle leads her into glittering, ruthless Faerie, where she must rescue her true love from a terrible sacrifice or lose him forever.

To Dance in Liradon is a faery tale… not of the Disney version with fairy godmothers and dancing mice, but like the darker faery tales of Hans Christian Anderson or the Brothers Grimm. The fae are not to be trusted–as 17-year-old Brigid found out to her sorrow. As a child, she had met the Queen of the Fae after picking a flower for her mother–only to find out that keeping it came with a price–the death of her father. This was particularly hard on Brigid, for he had told her story after story about finding her true love and romance.

Shunned by the village because of her encounter with the fae, Brigid found unwanted favor from the Lord of the village. A childhood friend, Connell, proposes –to keep her safe and to help her gain acceptance from the villagers. However, even though Brigid accepts Connell’s proposal, she still wishes for the romance she has dreamed of all her life. When Connell comes back from a trip changed–romantic, attentive, loving–Brigid has won her heart’s desire–or has she?

Ms. Clarke does an admirable job presenting the dark side of fae and the appeal of giving up the daily toil for a chance at a lifetime of pleasure. In the Willow Women, she presents the alternate reality for those who have joined with the fae for a season.

There are many layers in this story of the search for true love and I highly recommend it.

A World Apart by David M. Brown

MEDIA KIT A World Apart - David M. Brown

A World Apart by David M. Brown
Publisher:  Self Published
Genre: Fantasy
Length: Full (822 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Review by Poppy

Demetrius makes his first mistake when he lets his best friend Halcyon marry Eleyna, the love of his life, without saying a word. On the day of the wedding, he walks away from the Elencheran town of Dove’s Meadow and joins the army.

He makes his second mistake when the pirate Black Iris tricks him into letting dozens of men, women and children die in a fire. Demetrius is imprisoned in grief and disgrace.

But he can atone. The Black Iris is dead. The Ivory Rose has risen to the top of the pirates and is leading brutal raids on the coast. If Demetrius can capture and kill her, he’ll win his pardon.

And then Demetrius discovers the Ivory Rose is Eleyna. He must decide which will be his third mistake: losing his last chance at a pardon or destroying the one woman he’s ever loved.

So … wow… this was pretty amazing.  From start to finish, it’s just epic — lavish, full of description and history.  Reminded me of the fantasies I grew up on thirty years ago.

I admit to being a bit surprised that, aside from a short beginning with Demetrius in his old age, the book spends quite a bit of time on his grandfather, and then his father before Demetrius is even born. I understand that the author wanted to give us some background, but it really slowed the story for me. Truthfully, had I not been reading this for review, I might not have continued. However, I’m glad I did.

Demetrius’ story is … well, I can’t say “wonderful”, because it’s largely heartbreaking, but so rich in texture and living and adventure (good and bad), that it was a joy to read. Once I put aside my romantic heart, and just enjoyed this for the story it was, I was so pleased.

The author has a way with words and certainly has honed his craft. The reader can feel, see, smell, hear everything in great detail. We were right there on the pirate ship, in the pub, herding sheep. Even better, I caught no grammar errors or typos, and for this I’m truly grateful.

Still, in case you didn’t see the number of pages up top of this review, this isn’t a quick or easy read. It’s dark in parts, with heavy messages and difficult times. It’s interesting, edifying and well written, but still quite a workout to read.

If you love real, hard core, epic fantasy, I highly recommend this for you.