For YEARS now I have been so intimidated to start this huge, epic series of long books. Especially with Bookstagram and the pressure to turn out many reviews of new books, it is a huge commitment to take on a series of books with 700-800+ pages each of tiny print. It is interesting to note that when the book was first re released, it was split into two smaller books with larger print, and apparently marketed towards young adults. (I ended up with a later edition MMPB with small print LOL). I don’t really think it’s a YA read, but the main characters ARE teens, and its fairly appropriate.
That said, I found a buddy read that is taking on one book per month and discussing it on discord as we go, so I said… WHY NOT! and jumped in.
Bookish Quick Facts:
Title: The Eye of the World
Series: The Wheel of Time, #1
Author: Robert Jordan
Publisher & Release: Tor Books, January 1990
Length: 814 pgs *mmpb versions with prologue and glossary included*
Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 I think fantasy fans should give it a try, but there are many quest series with swords and sorcery out there
Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:
The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and pass. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.
Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.
The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.
When The Two Rivers is attacked by Trollocs-a savage tribe of half-men, half-beasts- five villagers flee that night into a world they barely imagined, with new dangers waiting in the shadows and in the light.
I…I can’t even begin to do a more coherent summary. Five villagers, a sorceress, a warden, and a bard, end up on this insane quest to provide protection to the young man the dark, formerly defeated entity is seeking. That said, “the Wheel spins as the Wheel wills”, and they end up on an epic adventure with plenty of danger, close calls, coming of ages, magic, mysteries, lore to be discovered, and countless other things.
I think, looking back, that without writing a five page essay, it’s impossible to talk about EotW … And I am appreciating the book a lot more.
The Worldbuilding: is amazing. It goes beyond scenery and weather, beyond local customs and food, descriptions of architecture and magic, to the legends that shaped the world. So much of the lore is based on the repetition of ages and cycles and stories, and Jordan just gives us so many ancient legends that are both interesting AND relevant to the present day characters. His descriptions, although long winded at times, fully paint the scenes and characters.
That said, it is a very plot driven book, which I love.
The Characters: are MANY. It took me forever to get them all straight in my head, and it took a while to kind of determine who was going to be important or not. I think the cast is way too large but the important characters do have very unique points of view in their chapters, told in third person present tense. All I will say in summary is that the more time I spent with the characters, the more I liked them, but it took 3/4 of the book before I started to care. Some are funny, some serious, some annoying, all very brave, and carrying the blood of legendary old lines
The Magic: makes sense. It is explained in detail as the book goes on, with females bearing the load of magic. It used to be equal, until the male sorcerers went crazy and broke the world. Now the women have different affinities, but men who can channel the One Power are seen as dangerous, since their magic is still corrupted. The book offers plenty of exciting magic, offensive and defensive, cool tricks, and plenty more.
EotW vs LotR: the comparisons made by many people between The Eye of the World and Lord of the Rings are many, and totally obvious .., I mean RJ literally ripped off certain scenes. Ex: a dark rider almost spotting the protagonist hiding in a shrubbery, looking around slowly – and he barely changes certain names, ideas, possessive objects driving their holders crazy… It’s so obvious that I think it’s totally intentional in book one, although RJ also inserts his own world building and endgame into the story
Overall: it wasn’t until I sat down and tried to write a review, that I realized how insanely complex and incredible the book is. I do think it’s one of many LotR-esque epic high fantasy novels out there, and the slow burn, lore based fantasy won’t be for everyone, but I do highly recommend giving it a try.
Thank you so much to Angry Robot for the early digital copy of Flame Riders by Sean Grigsby! This is a fast paced military fantasy, that is book 3 in a series but can be read as a standalone. All opinions are my own!
Bookish Quick Facts:
Title: Flame Riders
Series: Smoke Eaters, #3
Author: Sean Grigsby
Publisher & Release: Angry Robot, 06/22/21
Length: 320 pgs
Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟 for fans of military fantasy and action stories
Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:
The third and final instalment in Sean’s rip-roaring ‘firefighters meet dragons’ fantasy series
In the final instalment of the Smoke Eaters series, the New United States Army has taken over and America has devolved into a full-on dragon apocalypse. Smoke eaters are banned and have gone into hiding to avoid being held prisoner by the soldiers.
Guiellermo Contreras is a private in the NUSA, and when he’s accused of potentially being a smoke eater upon pain of death, he escapes and sets out to find the heroes who disappeared years before. But what he discovers is that the NUSA has been working on something unthinkable, and it’s going to take more than a few smoke eaters to stop them.
First off I just want to say that I may increase my initial rating once I’ve read the first two books!
Additionally the cover art is absolutely stunning for all three books.
This is a fast paced novel that occurs after some kind of apocalypse brought on by dragons, and apparently a Phoenix had something to do with it as well.
There is a ton of action and many fun fighting scenes where sci-fi and fantasy cross paths for hi tech battles of smoke eaters vs dragons. I would have liked more info on the experiments being done and technology used by the two forces.
I liked the team of characters and banter quite a bit. Brannigan and Happy were my two favorites, although I couldn’t really get behind Guillermo (the main character). He had a good start and end but lost me in the middle after he kept freezing up and putting his teammates in danger. Brannigan was absolutely hilarious and I kind of definitely want to go back and read his book.
One thing that Grigsby did well was create a lingo and sense of team for the smoke eaters, using terms like “scaly” to refer to a dragon and there is a definite sense of cohesion within the crew.
There was some pretty coarse language as well but not too much more than I’d expect in a military based book.
My main thing was that while the book definitely could work as a standalone, there is no background to know why there are dragons everywhere, how they got there, or who the heck all the returning characters are. I would definitely recommend for anyone looking for a hi tech fantastical military adventure, but would probably recommend reading the trilogy to meet the full cast of heroes first.
tforces.thank you again to Angry Robot for the early read!!
Thank you so much to 47North via NetGalley for the early read of Warrior’s Ransom! I am a huge fan of the Kingfountain books, and this sequel to Knight’s Ransom (click here for that review) is another big winner for me. All opinions are my own!
Bookish Quick Facts:
Title: Warrior’s Ransom
Series: The First Argentines, #2
Author: Jeff Wheeler
Publisher & Release: 47North, 5/18/21
Length: 363 pages
Rate & Recommend: 🗡🗡🗡🗡🗡 yes for fans of the genre, or those interested in fantasy/medieval/clean fiction!
Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:
A loyal knight is on a quest to save a dynasty from itself in the thrilling sequel to Knight’s Ransom by Wall Street Journal bestselling author Jeff Wheeler.
After a pilgrimage to the East Kingdoms seeking a blessing from the Fountain, source of the land’s magic, Sir Ransom Barton returns home in search of two dreams: Claire de Murrow, the heiress he loves, and a patron for his warrior skills. Unexpectedly, Ransom finds himself in the favor of Devon, the notorious Elder King. Brought into the ruler’s mesnie and given two wards of his own, Ransom is devoted to his privileged new position. He’s also privy to the running of the realm and to all its courtly intrigues—notably, the machinations of the king’s three remaining sons, all engaged in a manipulative battle to become heir to the throne.
As Ransom is thrust into the middle of poisonous family conspiracies and betrayals, allegiances are shattered, and Ransom fears he may end up serving his worst enemy—or worse, face exile for demonstrating loyalty.
Drawing on his developing powers, Ransom takes up arms against the dark forces coming in a war that will test the limits of his courage and determine the fate of the dangerous and fractious Argentine dynasty.
I read this book back before it was released, and honestly think it put me into a weeklong book and writing hangover.
You can read my linked above review for book one in the series, and know that I already love the characters and world so much.
The action in this one was pretty breakneck. I thought we were going to spend half the book on Ransom’s pilgrimage, and was pleasantly surprised to find him right back in Kingfountain trying to play peacemaker between the king and his sons again.
Intrigue, honor, knights and warhorses, and of course war…
What I especially liked about this sequel was how it examined everyone as a morally gray character. Ransom and the poisoner are two sides of the same coin, both with the potential for great evil. Ransom recognizes this and does his best to serve his king with honor, vs succumbing to the black morass of his war deeds and experiences.
Devon Argentine (the elder king) is absolutely an amazing character as well, he might be sadistic and dangling the kingdom in front of his sons, but I really think that he just wanted to ease one of them into a peaceful secession. Watching his arc in this book was more than a little bit heartbreaking. Message noted: thank your king / father /provider once in a while
I also love love love how honorable Ransom is towards women: in the age of publish all the promiscuity, Ransom was totally ready to marry that lady that kissed him in front of his men! But Clare, oh Clare… It’s time for some Clare in the spotlight.
Estian is back… Benedict is back… we gain a few new characters that are all really nice additions too, and the poisoner is absolutely terrifying in this one.
If you’ve read this far, you will learn what this book taught me… So Wheeler makes things really, really convenient for Ransom, almost to the point that it deducts from the story. He really doesn’t though: no one can deny that Ransom is a hero, brave as anything, and deserving of all his rewards. I think things happen conveniently because Wheeler wanted to set up a certain storyline going forward, and that’s where he put his intrigue and energy. I know a lot of authors do this, and I tend to deduct for it, but here I can pretty plainly tell what the real objectives of the story are.
If I think the author is just being lazy and having things fall into place, I can’t deal with it. I think this is the first book that is carried enough by it’s intrigues and action, that I can forgive the things handed Ransom in order to further the story along.
Lastly: I really liked how Wheeler is starting to explore some of the ancient legends of Kingfountain. I think after so many books he can afford to give us a little deep lore at this point, and I hope this continues in book two!
Dialogue, self reflection, great characters, and a plot of war between King and sons that will have your head spinning… Don’t forget Ransom’s terrifically ugly horse… I fully recommend the series to pretty much anyone!
Certain Dark Things was originally published in 2016, and is being rebooted through Tor Nightfire this coming September! I want to thank them for the digital ARC via NetGalley for review purposes! All opinions are my own.
Bookish Quick Facts:
Title: Certain Dark Things
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Publisher & Release: Tor Nightfire, 9/7/21
Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟✨ yes for fans of the genre! (See below)
Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:
From the New York Times bestselling author of Mexican Gothic comes a pulse-pounding neo-noir that reimagines vampire lore.
Welcome to Mexico City, an oasis in a sea of vampires. Domingo, a lonely garbage-collecting street kid, is just trying to survive its heavily policed streets when a jaded vampire on the run swoops into his life. Atl, the descendant of Aztec blood drinkers, is smart, beautiful, and dangerous. Domingo is mesmerized.
Atl needs to quickly escape the city, far from the rival narco-vampire clan relentlessly pursuing her. Her plan doesn’t include Domingo, but little by little, Atl finds herself warming up to the scrappy young man and his undeniable charm. As the trail of corpses stretches behind her, local cops and crime bosses both start closing in.
Vampires, humans, cops, and criminals collide in the dark streets of Mexico City. Do Atl and Domingo even stand a chance of making it out alive? Or will the city devour them all?
I think one of my favorite things about this book is how hard it is to pin down. The vampire lore is briefly explored and there are types of vampires featured from all over the world, from different mythologies, but there is also a brief sci-fi element, some fantasy, that whole noir-horror-punk overlay, and also an underlying theme of Mexican socioeconomic movement!
It moved so quickly too that I never had the chance to be bored. Atl is on the run and Domingo meets her on the subway, and the Book flies from there. We learn about vampire drug cartels, rival gangs, and how vampires aren’t even allowed in Mexico City anymore so their presence is a big deal with local law enforcement.
We aren’t meant to get attached to the characters, but they are a nice mix of interesting, sarcastic, and horrifying. Rodrigo was probably my favorite point of view. I think the less you know about the characters going in, the better, but Moreno-Garcia had wanted to explore the (sometimes questionable) choices that some Mexicans make to better their situations, and she succeeded there in Rodrigo and Domingo.
One thing I unfortunately don’t think she succeeded in was making Mexico City itself a character – there is too much else going on for the setting to truly permeate in most places. I will say though that the settings are well described, vibrant, and generally very well done. There is a glossary in the back with more information about the types of vampires and lore, which is helpful to give background without creating an info dump in the story.
Definitely recommend for those who would like a fast paced, fresh take on vampires from a very plot and action driven book!
Thank you so much to Feather and Dove Tours, and Rachel Hetrick for having me on the book tour for Curse of Infiniti! This is a clean reading, fast paced, and compulsively readable fantasy novel with a mystery twist.
Bookish Quick Facts:
Title: Curse of Infiniti
Series: The Infinity Trilogy, #1
Author: Rachel Hetrick
Publisher & Release: Via Veritas Vita Press – November 2020
Length: 331 pgs
Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟✨ yes for fans of the genre!
Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:
Can she collect enough fragments of her past before the nightmarish figure from her dreams catches up with her?
As she wakes up in a bedroom she doesn’t recognize, Ellayne becomes increasingly aware of one thing: she has no memories-no identity-no name. Dark figures not only haunt her nightmares, but also stalk her in reality. Ellayne finds herself on the run, chased by a hooded archer with deadly aim.
When the source of her memory loss is uncovered, Ellayne and the companions she’s made along the way must find a way to reverse the damage done to her by magic before she loses her memories again.
*If you enjoy escaping into enchanting worlds full of adventure, mystery, magic, and with a hint of romance, then pick up this story today and find yourself lost in the magical land of Phildeterre. (This is a clean novel appropriate for all ages).
I will first say that the book is definitely appropriate for all ages! The main character states she is 22 though so technically not a YA but I would still totally recommend for the age group.
The Plot & Story: This is a super fast paced read. Ellayne wakes up with no memories, and we pretty quickly realize that things seem fishy in the Black Forest. What follows is a twisty adventure as Ellayne escapes a mysterious and deadly pursuer, meets some boys who rival her own level of snark, discovers magic in the world around her…and eventually the fate of the royal family. How does it all the together?
Setting & World Building: I liked the Black Forest setting, and how well the trees and inhabitants were described. There was also some mention of food, buildings, and magic, although in whole I think the world, in the broadest sense, could have been fleshed out a little more. Three moons are a pretty visual, what else is unique and magical about the land? I especially liked a magic pub under a waterfall, and one overflowing bookshop! Is there any lore? There is plenty of room in a trilogy to grow the world.
I also liked the inhabitants, sirens and elves are described as well as magic runes and some unique jewelry. There is a good amount of history as well with magic vs non magic wielders…and a map. Bonus points for the map!
Usually I comment on the magic system but I feel like it’s spoilery, so just know that there is magic!
The characters: this is a novel driven by characters and plot. Ellayne is snarky, articulate, caring, and persistent, essentially everything I like in a main character.
“I’m not a damsel in distress.” Ellayne narrowed her eyes at him. “I’m a woman with a curse. There’s a difference.”
She meets and is rescued by two men who are best friends, and their snark almost rivals hers. The banter and dialogue had me cracking up and taking the time to enjoy the book.
“I’d classify myself as a tragically handsome elf with the passion of a young fairy and the wisdom of the oldest dragon.” He held out his hands and shrugged, raising an eyebrow. “But no,” he said with a wink. “I’m no saint.”
Armannii the Elf
There are also some hilarious side characters and evildoers, but I kind of feel like the less you know about the characters the better. It’s enough to know that they are likeable!
Misc: I kept thinking there was going to be a twist that no one saw coming, and she waited until the tail end of the book to drop it on us! I did really like this one, and can’t wait to read the sequels!
If the book sounds good to you, here are the purchase links!
Spinning Silver is yet another book that I have had forever and wish it hadn’t taken me so long to get to! I love the Temeraire books and some how never got around to reading her others .. Until now
Bookish Quick Facts:
Title: Spinning Silver
Author: Naomi Novik
Publisher & Release:Del Rey, July 2018
Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟✨yes for pretty much anyone!
Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:
Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father’s inability to collect his debts has left his family on the edge of poverty–until Miryem takes matters into her own hands. Hardening her heart, the young woman sets out to claim what is owed and soon gains a reputation for being able to turn silver into gold.
When an ill-advised boast draws the attention of the king of the Staryk–grim fey creatures who seem more ice than flesh–Miryem’s fate, and that of two kingdoms, will be forever altered. Set an impossible challenge by the nameless king, Miryem unwittingly spins a web that draws in a peasant girl, Wanda, and the unhappy daughter of a local lord who plots to wed his child to the dashing young tsar.
But Tsar Mirnatius is not what he seems. And the secret he hides threatens to consume the lands of humans and Staryk alike. Torn between deadly choices, Miryem and her two unlikely allies embark on a desperate quest that will take them to the limits of sacrifice, power, and love.
Part of me wants to just sit here and gush about Slavic/Polish fairytale tropes, or compare the magic in Spinning Silver to that in the Winternight trilogy, but I’ll mostly spare you and just talk about the book
The World-Building & Magic: Novik is such an amazing world builder. We are in a cold winter country of Slavic inspiration, where the Boyars own everything and the Tsar is unfortunately possessed by a demon. Frost vs fire/summer/chaos is a reoccurring theme in these tales and in this case it takes the form of a nameless, cruel winter king vs the flame demon. The magic of the Staryk (including the King’s Road) is introduced slowly until the plot turns to their kingdom and the real magic is revealed.
I think giving glimpses of the magic was a great tactic to build the tale slowly and not overwhelm Miryem’s story at first. The whole story has great descriptions though from the snow and weather to the people, lore, food, forests, animals and everything else. A standalone doesn’t have room to drown in politics or religion but we are given enough of both to understand the country’s issues and power struggles as they relate to the book, also giving it a depth that many retellings don’t achieve.
A power claimed and challenged and thrice carried out is true
The Characters: as much as I liked the magic and world building, the characters are brilliant too. Miryem was always strong and smart, a true thorn in the villagers sides, and eventually an equal to the Staryk King. The trope is “headstrong maiden takes on Winter King.” Novik’s take on it was fresh and interesting to me and I didn’t even dislike him a tiny bit at the end. Their arc included much bargaining and begrudging respect and was generally fun to read
I wouldn’t hold myself that cheap, to marry a man who’d love me less than everything else he had, even if what he had was a winter kingdom.
The rest of the characters, and there were many, all brought something interesting to the book. Women were the property of their fathers and husbands and Wanda totally transcended that to bargain for her own future. Irina surprised me by being cunning and strong when her people needed her. Stepon had a curious point of view in which he narrated a few interesting and exciting events, and I think there was a hidden significance there that was lost on me.
There were Staryk characters too that surprised me and Miryem’s parents were just lovely people. The found family aspect was ❤❤❤❤❤
Themes: oh gosh there were so many good themes, such as not judging people for their race or religion. Not taking people at face value. Keeping to your word and knowing the value of a bargain. Knowing your own self worth and standing defiant in the face of anything less. I think this is a really great young adult book as far as themes and content go.
A note on the audiobook: the audio is 18 hours long, distributed by Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group. LisaFlanagan is amazing with the Slavic accents and distinguishing between the characters. It was hard though sometimes to tell which point of view was speaking at first – and that is the only fault I found with the book as well is that I think we should have had headers or new chapter titles with the name of the speaker. I really enjoyed listening though!
Overall: if you like tales with a twist of magic, fiercely strong female characters, Frost Kings and equally frosty moneylenders, lore and lyrical writing in a cold, cold world…. This is definitely your book!
Thank you so much to By the Book VBP tours for having me on the Instagram tour for TheGuardian of the Palace! This is a fast paced, urban fantasy + invasion story mash-up that surprisingly works really well. I would recommend to contemporary fantasy fans!
Bookish Quick Facts:
Title: The Guardian of the Palace
Series: The Guardian League, #1
Author: Steven J. Morris
Publisher & Release: Indie, 01/22/21
Length: 358 pg
Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟✨ for fans of the genres!
The Plot & Story: So the book actually doesn’t list a synopsis, and I am going to give you the key points really quick. There is a huge four-block-wide building going up in NYC called The Palace, and Garnet “Red” Hernandez is hired on as a security head as construction continues. She is ex military special ops, and her team of three friends are the other main human characters of the story. Red sees something strange in the lower levels of The Palace, and before we know it there is a two fronted alien invasion going on. The fun part is finding out why, how, and who exactly these invaders are. To what lengths will the Guardians go to save Earth?
The prologue was incredibly gripping, and the book never let me go until the end…and I’m glad that book two is coming out soon.
The Characters: We also see a bit of Red’s military career to show where she and the rest of the characters came from, how they bonded, and what kind of people they are. Red is a strong person who believes in rights, humanity, and the power of a strong team. Rocks, Bear, and Scan are the rest of her group and I liked them too. The banter is interesting, they seem like real people, and extended amounts of good dialogue can be hard to find these days. The chapters tend to stay pretty short and are mainly told from Red’s point of view.
I REALLY like the non-human characters. Let’s just say there is an Elf, a troll, and a dwarf, and they are a little bit hilarious in their own ways.
The World Building: One of my favorite aspects was how Morris was able to blend the non-human and fantasy aspects into the modern day setting, giving plausible explanations for non-fantasy readers to follow fairly easily. He gives enough info for the Infected and the other aliens that the explanations make sense, without doing any huge info dumps.
Misc: The place where I docked half a star was that when the other characters start having point of view chapters, I didn’t think their voices sounded distinct enough. Not so much Agent Smith, but Rocks and Scan sounded very similar, and Grundle sounded extremely human in his thought processes.
I like how towards the end, the characters for the next book are set up and introduced more. Morris presented a clear path going forward, with a bit of a cliffhanger to keep me wanting to see the next book.
Thankfully, book two, Stars in the Sand, is coming out soon! I will be touring that book on June 2nd so keep an eye out for the review!
Hi everyone! As promised this week, I have a special interview to bring to you guys! Have you read the Crisanta Knight books?? If not, I guarantee you will want to after reading this amazing interview!
I want to take a quick second to thank Geanna Culbertson for taking the time to answer a few questions about her writing, content, content in general, and plans going forward! I originally became a fan of her clean content and writing style after winning a giveaway that introduced me to the books, and even more so once we incidentally got to chatting about inappropriate content! (See Question 3)!
Alright I’m done talking, here she is!
Meet the author!
Geanna Culbertson is the award-winning author of The Crisanta Knight Series. The series follows the kids and siblings of fairytale characters, all of whom live in a magical world called “Book,” where citizens train to be the next generation of main characters in stories. The majority of this coming-of-age series is told from the empowering, sassy perspective of Cinderella’s daughter—Crisanta Knight.
Her full biography can be found on her website, here:
1) How did the Crisanta Knight books take shape for you? Did you know from the start it would be a fairytale re-imagining?
When I was a sophomore in school I took a course devoted to classic and contemporary fairytale analysis. It was a fabulous experience that I loved. Having all that exposure to the classic tales filled me with so much wonder and inspiration, and one day on my way to class the name for the school in my book series: Lady Agnue’s School for Princesses & Other Female Protagonists popped into my head. Later that week I drew out a map of the world, aka the realm of Book and I wrote the prologue and first chapter to go along with it. So that’s how it all started!
In terms of the “reimagining” aspect—I am a girl who is a big believer in the power of change and moving forward. People remake stories all the time; I want to know what happens next. Furthermore, I am someone who is extremely passionate about heroic female characters and living a life where you are always challenging yourself to be better, stronger, wiser, etc. Those qualities helped my main character of Crisanta Knight take shape.
As the plot formed, fairytales were the main backdrop, but my love of superheroes, princesses, action-packed comedy, and elaborate world-building fused with that and started to grow. The idea for the story simmered in my mind for a little while and then eventually I came to a point where I had to explore it. And so the adventure began . . .
2) I like the focus on character, identity, and friendship in the books so far! What are some of the topics and themes you think are important for girls and young women to see on-page?
At the beginning of my author journey, I set out to write a story that would inspire others the way my favorite tales have inspired me, featuring characters who balance heart, humor, and a genuine sense of honor. I always thought it was important that a great story not just be about an exciting external plot—magic, adventure, larger-than-life stakes—the true power of story has to be in the internal arc. Some themes I explore throughout my series that I think are very important for girls, young women, and all people are: self-acceptance, trust, taking fate into your own hands, making proactive choices, fighting for what matters to you, understanding, respect, perseverance, and more. However, the overarching theme of my series is CHANGE. To paraphrase a line in Book One, change is a beautiful thing because within it is the opportunity to do anything and become anyone. I hope that as my readers experience the series, they are inspired by all these themes to try and live as fiercely, wisely, kindly, and optimistically as possible.
3) We talked a bit about “clean reads” and your philosophy on content, could you talk about that a bit?
There is a word I came up with in college: “scandalosity.” It’s a term that encompasses inappropriate, intimate things that take a movie from PG-13 to R, if you catch my drift. I tried to put that word into one of my college English papers lol, but the TA said she’d dock me a letter grade. Anyway, my books are scandalosity free. It’s not my thing, neither is extreme violence or gore—basically anything that would cause adults to want to cover the eyes of their under 18 children.
I think that there is a lot of unnecessary violence and scandalosity in stories these days. You don’t need to rely on that to create something compelling or intrigue an audience. Strong storylines should always take the lead and if you are going to have romantic moments, action, death, etc. it needs to serve a greater purpose and push the story forward. If it’s just being used for shock and awe, it has no point there and it is lazy writing—storytellers trying to make an impact through cheap shots.
Action and drama can be handled with style and class, and should genuinely matter to plot/character development. I once heard director David Leitch say something akin to: “You should learn as much about a character from a good action scene as from dialogue.” I agree with that. Death (the killing of characters) can also be a valid event in a story if it truly is integral to plot/character development. But again, there is no need to make it overly graphic. Like, maybe a death needs to happen, but there are many ways that it can be portrayed. No need to scar someone traumatically.
Also, if utilized in a story that targets younger audiences, death should be eased into. Take Harry Potter for example. You don’t start in Book One with characters dramatically dying left and right. The story progressively explores the themes of loss and death—each book getting more intense so audiences of different ages are eased into some of the harder moments as they grow with the characters and the scope of the story.
Romantic encounters are also fine if they meet the same criteria of being integral to plot/character development (though it’s important to note that you can get the feel of intimacy across without random boobs or whatever flying in your face). I come back to the idea of handling things with style and class i.e. the choices of how intense moments are portrayed.
I’m often quite surprised by the types of content targeting the YA and middle grade markets. I feel like every other TV channel is showing something with murder or scandalosity. However, I firmly believe that audiences of all ages want more than that. People watch those darker things because that’s what’s on; that’s what the media is putting out there the most. But there is plenty of cleaner, goodhearted programming out there that is beloved, proving my point. There just needs to be more of it.
That is what I have brought, and intend to keep bringing to the world. My stories will have action, romance, drama, and deal with intense topics—morality, loss, anger, and so forth—but they will always be handled with care, finesse, and consideration of all the above factors. Any book I ever write can be equally and appropriately enjoyed by an eleven-year-old, a twenty-five-year-old, and a seventy-two-year-old.
4) I wish I had read all the books to know where this is going, but so far (The end of book 3) you have Crisa worrying about herself before she starts worrying too much about boys! Is there hidden advice in that?
Growing up, most of my favorite stories have had male main characters. I think part of the reason for this is that while a male main character may have a love interest, that love interest/romantic relationship is never the point of his story; it is just another factor. Meanwhile, in most female-led fiction, the love interest/romantic relationship is of equal value and importance to that female protagonist’s individual journey. It shouldn’t be that way. She should come first. Most girls have more on their mind than boys. They just do. The complexities of growing up, taking ownership of your choices and goals, accepting yourself, and learning who you are and who you want to be is way more pivotal to a person than deciding which hot guy you want to end up with. So while there are romantic, shippable elements to my series, I do not belittle my female characters and their potential by limiting the scope of what they focus on to romantic entanglements.
5) What is your favorite fairytale? Do you have a favorite fairytale twist that you’ve written so far? (Mine is definitely everything you did with Aladdin, from the sarcastic cave to the flying furniture!)
In terms of my favorite fairytales—Cinderella has been close to my heart since I was very little. That’s why I made my main character Cinderella’s daughter. If we’re talking strictly about Disney interpretations of fairytales, The Princes & the Frog is one of my favorites. Then in terms of the classic, old-timey tales I have a lot of respect for Snow White because that story created the roots of the fairytale-loving culture we have today.
In terms of the twists I’ve written, that’s such a hard question!!
I have highlighted so many fairytales and classic tales in my series now—diving really deep into quite a few. For example, the majority of Book Five takes place in Camelot, so there are a lot of characters, myths, and settings I work with there. In that space, developing Merlin as a character has been really interesting, specifically regarding his relationship to Crisanta. However, as Book Eight is freshest to me, I would have to say that diving into Mulan and Alice in Wonderland lore in that novel has definitely been one of my most challenging and rewarding fairytale exploration experiences thus far. All of Book Eight really was an intense adventure to write—Toyland, Swan Lake, Rumpelstiltskin, there’s just so much!
6) Many books in the series have been nominated for and received Feathered Quill book awards (yay -congrats)!!! Can you talk about that a bit?
I feel very grateful for the many awards that different books in my series have won. In terms of Feathered Quill, I have won six awards so far. Winning such an array of awards in the last two years has been awesome—two awards for Best in Teen Fiction (13-18 years), two awards for Science Fiction/Fantasy, Best of Backlist, and The Write Companion Award for Best Overall TOP PICK (Adult, Children’s and Young Adult categories included).
Winning these awards, combined with the wide array of other awards that my series has won, is quite flattering. I think what makes me the happiest about this range though, is that it shows the huge scope of audiences that my series appeals to. I have always believed that one of the strongest elements of my series is how many different kinds of people it can connect with. If in one week I can get fan mail from a nine-year-old girl, a twenty-year-old college student, a forty-year-old woman, and a fifty-year-old father, then it means I have done my job right. Because, at the end of the day, this isn’t a story about a princess, or even fairytales. This is a story about a good-hearted, honorable person trying to figure out how to best live her life, live up to her potential, and do right by the world, the people she cares for, and herself. That’s a story anyone should be able to relate to theoretically.
7) As an author looking for feedback from reviewers and readers, what do you hope to see from those people?
I love positive reviews; I mean who doesn’t? But I particularly love it when people go into specific details about their favorite parts or moments in a book. Getting five stars is awesome, but knowing how specific jokes landed, or how twists affected my readers, what they connected with most, etc.—it is great feedback for me.
Also, I like to use a “Mario Cart” comparison when it comes to how reviews affect me (you know, the video game). So in that videogame, as you’re driving your racecar along, players can throw exploding mushrooms or other brickabrack at you. When that hits you, your car spins or you crash temporarily or slow down. That’s what negative reviews are; they don’t take you out of the game, but they can still hit you hard. Positive reviews are like the magical stars or rainbows or bonus coins that you pick up as you’re driving along. You could still keep going on fine without them, but they give you extra power and supercharge you. ☺
8) Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed! Is there anything else you’d like to talk about or add?
The Crisanta Knight Series is my beginning. I have so many other wonderful series and standalone novels coming down the line. For example, in addition to working on the Crisanta Knight finale right now, I am working on the first novel in my new “guardian angels” series that releases next year. Also, my magical, heartwarming Christmas standalone novel releases November 3, 2021—official book announcement and book trailer launching in June.
***Audiobook Two for The Crisanta Knight Series releases this summer as well.
Thank you so much to W.N. Cleckler for sending me the second book in The Wisprian World series, The Day Star! This is an epic fantasy series that is unapologetically Christian in nature, perfect for the Easter time of year. I am totally delighted by this book filled with cunning and gore, hope and hopelessness, war and betrayal, as well as found family, faith, friendship, and sacrifice.
Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ yes for those who like a healthy dollop of faith with their fantasy!
Here is the Synopsis from GoodReads:
Perfect love. Ancient rebellion. Overwhelming redemption.
The shattered heavens empower unlikely heroes to overcome the origin of darkness.
Before the spoken earth, Alphega treasured His whispered world, Wispria, from the heavenly realm of Agapia. Yet, after destruction of the Agapian Gate, by the Archeon leader, Lure, and his legions, Alphega wept tears of power over seven Wisprian companions. These survivors must discern when to use them, journey to find magical shards of agapate, and use their elemental abilities against the evil that seeks the stones. As the darkened world grows colder ushering in an age of ice, can these unlikely heroes overcome Lure before he reaches Agapia and enslaves The Wisprian World?
With a cast of fantastical characters, new adventures in undiscovered lands, ancient rebellion, overwhelming redemption, and perfect love, W.N. Cleckler’s fantasy series will have you unearthing a new world of possibilities in our ultimate origin story.
The Plot and Story: I find it endlessly difficult to summarize these books! Basically now that Lure has formed his armies, he is ready to march across Wispria to the main city and this book encompasses what I would call the first open conflicts.
The seven adventurers from book one also reunite and learn more about their destinies. Vague prophecies don’t help so much, but they must discover how to use their gifts and agapate to survive, and fight back against Lure.
I felt some of the same disjointedness from book one in this novel as well, except it made more sense as we learn a lot more about each hero and Lure’s history on Wispria. I think the author realized where the holes in the World Build were and really shored it all up so the books can move forward!
I was certainly never bored though, there is just so much going on in the different storylines, and the battles were so exciting!
The Characters: The original seven tear bearers from book one are back, and we learn a lot more about their back stories. Duolos became an unexpected leader, Pales and Animus became real people, and each character really has to accept their role as an uncelebrated ‘hero’ in this war.
I liked spending more time with each character and how they embraced each other as newfound family.
There is one new character, Kit, who deserves mention – Telle the unicorn took him under his wing to go accomplish side tasks, and I am extremely interested in his role moving forward. There is so much juxtaposition of good vs evil in this book and Kit (a nephilim) vs the various depravities of the Dephilim are in as much contrast as the Archeon (angels) vs Archestokos (essentially fallen angels).
Themes: Really if you haven’t guessed yet, good vs evil is the main theme in these novels. This splits beautifully into faith in the creator, trusting Him, free will and choice, identity, personal sacrifice, and obviously a soul crushing war as well.
Animus’ speech about heroes and family was absolutely everything
The World: I’ve already described how intricate and well fleshed this world is, in both reviews. The Day Star expands on individual kingdoms, weather, customs and highlights in individual regions, and some of the utter atrocities that Lure is committing.
I liked Tears of Alphega quite a bit, but The Day Star truly takes the time to invest the reader in the world and characters.
Where did I dock a star? I hate to do it but this book honestly needed one more proof read. Nothing too glaring but there were typos, inconsistencies in the narrator’s voice (most of the time when Alphega spoke to the reader directly, it was italicized – but not always. This was confusing). Additionally towards the start there were just a ton of commas, and intermittently words that I think were left when edits were made.
This is a beautiful book with gorgeous artwork, rich development, and so many intricacies. I think it’s an absolute must for epic fantasy fans and Christian readers!
Thank you so much to Storytellers On Tour for having me on the book tour for In the Orbit of Sirens by T.A. Bruno! This is a sci-fi adventure novel with excellent plot and world building, plenty of action, and a classic sci-fi feel.
Title: In the Orbit of Sirens
Series: The Song of Kamaria, #1
Author: T.A. Bruno
Publisher & Release: Indie, October, 2020
Length: 502 pg
Rate & Recommend: 5 ^ and yes to anyone with even the vaguest interest in sci-fi!
Here is the synopsis:
THE LAST FRAGMENTS OF THE HUMAN RACE ARE FORCED TO ADAPT TO A DANGEROUS NEW WORLD OR FACE EXTINCTION.
When starship mechanic Denton Castus is caught in the destructive path of a devastating war, he abandons his home and seeks refuge on a distant planet. However, this new safe haven has undiscovered threats of its own.
Eliana Veston, a scout preparing the planet for the refugees, struggles with a deadly pandemic that is killing off colonists. The hunt for a cure unleashes a new threat to humanity-the Sirens-mysterious beings with incredible powers and a deep hatred for invaders.
This is one of those independently published gems that I think deserves all the exposure in the world! From the cover to the internal illustrations, section titles, dual timelines, and storylines for days, this is definitely one to check out
The Plot& Story: There is a lot going on in this book, causing the pages to just fly by. One storyline is happening on the new planet, where the scientists and settlers are trying to ready the settlement for the rest of the refugees from our current solar system. An invading race is chasing humanity away from Sol, and the second storyline picks up at the end of this war where the very last humans are making their escape.
The new planet is not all fun and game; the air is breathable but causes humans; lungs to lock up, and not all of the planetary natives are friendly. These two plot lines marge fairly quickly and a third develops, but you’ll just have to read it to learn why an army veteran wreaks havoc and then disappears
First contact, exploration, tons of danger, plus a romantic subplot as well….. for a 500 page novel it’s an achievement to say that I was never once bored!
The World Building & Setting: This is a world build that I could truly get lost in. There is just enough history given of the expansion and war in Sol to know what is going on, and then that element was closed in a most satisfying way. The settlers’ new planet, Kamaria, is so rich in wildlife and fauna and Bruno’s descriptions made me feel like I was there! The descriptions of the white trees, purple grass, lazily grazing animals, and the bird-like natives, gave everything a lovely alien feel. Other regions have different fauna and it always made me want to see what the scouts and scientists would discover next. There is slang and local tradition and everything you need to make a solidly immersive world.
There is lots of lore and storytelling from the two main native species. The story of the sirens and the Auk’nai are kind of heart breaking. I did have a few questions about the choice of planet and spaceship technology, and funny enough the Author then said he had written these answers into an earlier draft but cut it out for length, so I felt better knowing that he had thought the holes through!
The Characters: Lets just say the characters are real people with tons of resilience. There is death and murder, an inhospitable new world, and a war against a crazed Siren, but Eliana and Denton and the others just keep striding forward. I enjoyed watching them overcome so many obstacles and discover where they really fit into life in the colony. Sometimes I find a lot of character building boring, but absolutely not here. It helped to know everyones strengths, weaknesses, and personalities before the battles at the end of the book. These people have suffered and I think Bruno really makes a statement about the resilience of humanity. There are tons of good and funny side characters as well, some with surprising character arcs of their own! Maybe don’t get too attached to anyone though *wink*
Overall: This is one of those reviews where I could talk about a book forever and point out so many cool things, but I think it’s best to just read the book yourself. Go hike through those forests, meet those natives, and fly into battle with the characters. Go be a part of their banter, sit in on the memorial services. This is an immersive, page flying sci-fi adventure that you won’t regret picking up! I mean honestly it’s one of my favorite modern scifi reads!
If you are more of an audiobook fan, this was recently released as well! Check it out at
T. A. BRUNO grew up in Chicago and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the film industry. Since then, he has brought stories to life for over a decade as a previsualization artist. At home, he is a proud father of two boys and a husband to a wonderful wife. IN THE ORBIT OF SIRENS is his debut science fiction novel