Category Archives: fantasy

Review of Return of the Dragons by R.S.Williams

As you will have noticed, I took the festive season off. Now I’m back!

Happy New Year to you all.

Today I’m posting a book review. I finished reading this book a while ago, but have only just got around to reviewing it.

Overview.

This book is the second part of the Kane Saga. It continues where the first book left off.

Story

Elijah, the prince who was believed to be dead, has returned and is now betrothed to Princess Sienna.

The dragons, hidden in human form, are making themselves known. 

But Elijah has to go on a quest and leave his beloved behind. The dragons tell him that two things are needed to defeat the Master. One is a staff and the other a time. 

He sets off with his trusty friend, Salah, a grumpy dragon called Maelor and a feisty elf.

Needless to say, all does not go according to plan.

The plot is interesting and gripping. But sadly, it does not resolve the problems but leaves you hanging in the air, waiting for the next book. I don’t like series that do this. It’s a serial, not a series. Although in all fairness, Ms Williams calls it a Saga, not a series.

Blurb

Having grown up in Rheanydd, all Elijah wanted to focus on was entering the annual Hollom horse race. A year later, he’s one of Princess Sienna’s Elite bodyguards in Adelith, where he learns more about his hazy past every day.

King Roderick’s solution to Eli being revealed as the missing crown heir is to marry Eli to Princess Sienna and combine their two bloodlines. But when a body is found with a blood-splattered message and the queen reveals a secret about Eli’s magic, a wedding is the last thing on everyone’s mind.

Eli starts to doubt the Dragon Elders’ motives when their answers only come in the form of cryptic messages. Yet he can’t help but feel a connection between the dragons and himself. So, he agrees to fulfil their task to get the relics before The Master’s Agents of Cyran.

But the agreement between the dragons and his father is due to end soon, setting the dragons free from their human forms and able to rebuild their race. Unless The Master gains control of them.

Can Eli and the dragons work together to stop The Master from getting the relics, or will he gain control over the dragons to rebuild the world and become a god?

Characters.

I enjoyed the characters in this book. They are all different, with their own characteristics. Maelor is always grumpy. Salah is always loyal. 

They are all well-drawn.

Writing.

Sadly, like the first book, this is riddled with errors. I found a number on every page. Grammar, wrongly used words, typos, syntax. Also, I understand that the author is from Somerset, England, yet at least once she uses the American, ‘gotten’. While not wrong in an American book, it struck a harsh chord here.

There were other things not strictly wrong, but that gave me a strange picture. Like ‘Eli dropped his eyes to the ground.’ Too many superfluous words, mainly prepositions, too. 

Punctuation also left a lot to be desired, too. Often there were commas where there should have been a full stop, and missing commas when someone was named. And there were a few places where I had to go back and read a sentence or paragraph more than once to make sense of it 

This is such a pity, because the story is good, but because of my experience with the writing in the first two books, I am wondering if I can manage to read the next one.

Review of The Allure of the Gypsies by Charles Yallowitz.

Overview.

An excellent continuation of the story begun in The Beginning of a Hero and The Prodigy of Rainbow Tower. It held my interest throughout. In this book, we learn the reason for Luke’s reluctance to return to his home town of Haven.

Characters.

We meet a new character in this book–a gypsy girl called Sari. She is very much a free spirit, and brings a new dimension to the characters we are already familiar with.

Luke continues to evolve. He gains new powers, but only after a difficult training. He learns much in this book, as does Nyx, his friend, and a powerful caster of magic.

I love Mr Yallowitz’s strong female characters. None of them are weak, simpering girls expecting the men to look after them. They are both physically and mentally strong.

The antagonists are equally complex. For example, Trinity, the Chaos Elf queen, has an ambiguous relationship with both Nyx and Sari. I look forward to learning more about her in the later books.

Writing.

Sadly, as with the previous two books, there are a lot of typos, incorrect grammar and a couple of wrongly used words. Or rather, the wrong word used. This, fortunately, is offset by a strong plot and interesting characters. This means that I can only give an otherwise excellent book 4*.

My ranking of books. In order to get a particular number of stars, it is not necessary to meet all the criteria. This is a guide only.

5* Exceptional. Wonderful story. Setting well drawn, and characters believable. Not perfect, but with flaws. Will keep you up all night. No typos or grammatical errors.

4* A thoroughly enjoyable read. Great and original story. Believable setting and characters. Very few grammatical errors or typos.

3* I enjoyed it. Good story. Characters need some development. Some typos or grammatical errors.

2* Not for me. Story not very strong. Unbelievable and flat characters. Setting not clearly defined. Many typos or grammatical errors.

1* I hated it. Story almost non-existent. Setting poor. Possibly couldn’t finish it.

Would you like an exclusive story by me? Of course you would.

It’s called The Haunted Table. To get your copy, simply click the link. This will take you to the page where you can download it.

Maria and Tom have bought an antique table for the old cottage they have bought. When they hear strange noises in the night that sound like crying, they worry their house is haunted, but the sounds seem to come from the table.

They set about trying to find what is causing the disturbances. The answer is stranger than either of them had thought.

(Clicking the link will add your email address to my email list, but don’t worry, you can unsubscribe immediately if you wish. Nor will you get any spam. I only send out an email each quarter, or if I have any exciting news–like a new release.)

Review of Darkwitch by Kat Kenney

OVERVIEW

This is the sequel to Dyrwolf that I reviewed previously. It is a good story, and I enjoyed it. It took me a little while longer to get into the story than the previous book, though. I’m not quite sure why this was.

STORY

This continues the story from Dyrwolf. The dyrwolves, a kind of werewolf, and the humans have learned to live together after the events in Book 1, although it is an uneasy truce, neither fully trusting the other. As well as that, some humans, and some Wolves have left the colony to form groups in opposition to the treaty, and each other.

It is in this scenario that Lea Wylder, a half wolf girl, and Henrick, a wolf shifter, find themselves. Lea is having visions of a mysterious man firing an arrow that kills Henrick. How true are her visions, and can she prevent them from happening?

There is a twist at the end that I didn’t see coming.

BLURB

After twenty years of oppression, Lea Wylder has freed the Colony, one of the last human cities in the Nordvend, from the wolves. But freedom has come at a terrible cost. Radical forces threaten unrest. Wolf shifters and humans are more divided than ever. Lea’s nightmares have returned, except this time it isn’t her own death she sees—it’s Henrik’s, the wolf shifter she saved the previous fall, who possesses a terrible magic that has marked him as a target among humans and shifters alike.

Attacks on the Colony increase by the day. Something lurks out in the dark, frozen woods, just beyond what Lea can see in her visions, and she must discover who is hunting Henrik before it’s too late.

CHARACTERS

I found I liked the characters in the story. Lea is battling with her heritage of being half wolf-shifter after she discovers this in Book 1. Her mother had been raped by a wolf-shifter, and given birth to twins. Lea and boy, Gunnar. Gunnar had been brought up with the shifters, and Lea with her mother and her husband whom she believed to be her father. When her mother left to find Gunnar, Lea believed she had been abandoned, and she has to battle this and the conflict when she finds her mother again.

All this and the growing romance between her and Henrick, the Darkwitch of the title, makes her a compelling character.

Henrick, too, has his demons. He has inherited great powers. Greater than all the other shifters. His mother had these gifts and misused them to hold power over the shifters in a cruel way. He is terrified he will becone like her.

The other characters are equally well-drawn and have their own problems to deal with.

WRITING

The writing is on the whole, good. Ms Kinney sets the scene well and draws the reader into the story and the characters. If I have one complaint it would be about the number of superfluous words used. An example is ‘Moonlight spills in through the yellow-paned window glass over my pillow.’

The words ‘in’ and glasse are not necessary, and it would read better, in my opinion, without it.

‘Moonlight spills through the yellow-paned window over my pillow.’

There are many instances such as this, and overuse of the word ‘just’, which most times can be left out to strengthen the writing.

Ms Kinney has built a wonderful world, full of vivid scenes. I can really picture where the characters are and the surroundings.

I give it 4*

My ranking of books. In order to get a particular number of stars, it is not necessary to meet all the criteria. This is a guide only.

5* Exceptional. Wonderful story. Setting well drawn, and characters believable. Not perfect, but with flaws. Will keep you up all night. No typos or grammatical errors.

4* A thoroughly enjoyable read. Great and original story. Believable setting and characters. Very few grammatical errors or typos.

3* I enjoyed it. Good story. Characters need some development. Some typos or grammatical errors.

2* Not for me. Story not very strong. Unbelievable and flat characters. Setting not clearly defined. Many typos or grammatical errors.

1* I hated it. Story almost non-existent. Setting poor. Possibly couldn’t finish it.

Destiny in Fiction

I recently read the following post by Charles Yallowitz on his Legends of Windermere website. While I suspect those of you who are not writers probably won’t find it useful, perhaps you will find it interesting. Just one of the many problems we have to sort out.

Very few tropes are as common in fantasy as the destined heroes. This motivation has existed since the days of mythology and continues to be used today. Authors find twists and variations on the concept of destiny and fate, but it tends to boil down to the same thing. The hero is on a path that was chosen for them by a greater power, which brings up the question of if they are in control of any of their actions. Needless to say, readers and authors have railed against the concept. Does that mean it should be shunned and ignored? I’d be a hypocrite if I said yes since the God of Destiny is a major player in my stories. In fact, Legends of Windemere is all about destined heroes . . . Of course, there’s more to it than that, which I will get into after we go over ‘Fate vs Free Will’.

This has been a debate for years if not decades. It shouldn’t be surprising since the concept of destiny has been overused to the point of ultra-cliché. Audiences see the use of destiny or fate or being chosen by a higher power as a cop out by the author. Why does the hero go on this dangerous adventure? Well, they don’t have a choice. More importantly, it goes against our desire for freedom, which is shown through free will. Readers want to connect to the characters and destiny can be a glaring obstacle.

What do you think about the idea of destiny in novels?

This month is National Reading Group Month.

October is National Reading Group Month.

If you are a member of a reading group, would you like to share with us what your group is reading?

I would be interested in what you have to say about reading groups.

  1. Do you think they are helpful? If so, in what way?

2. How does your group choose the books you are going to read?

3. How long do you have to read it before you meet to discuss it?

4. Do you meet and discuss parts of the book?

5. What kind of things do you talk about when you meet?

6. Are there any groups that specialise in particular genres; for example, historical fiction, women’s literature, science fiction, literary etc.

If you aren’t in a reading group, perhaps you could tell us something about your favourite genre, and what is your favourite book?

I’m not in a reading group. However, I enjoy fantasy, historical fiction and science fiction. Having said that, there are many books not in those sections that I enjoy.

As to my favourite books. Well, that’s a difficult one. It might well be the last book I read, provided it’s not dire!

I really enjoyed reading the latest book by Diana Wallace Peach, The Necromancer’s Daughter. You can read my review of it in last Monday’s post.

Miserichorde by Cynthia A. Morgan is another fantasy I’ve enjoyed recently. You can read my review here.

Of course there is The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan. A brilliant series. The characters really gripped me. It is currently being filmed by Amazon and screening on Prime. I’ve not reviewed any of these books, but be assured, they are excellent.

I enjoyed Down to the Needle, by Mary Deal, too. Another talented writer. This is a gripping tale of a woman’s search for her daughter, and her fight to save her from execution. My review is here.

Shadow Stalker series by Renee Scattergood is another good fantasy series (my review of book 2 is here.) as is The Secret of Excalibur and the other Excalibur books by Sahara Foley. (My review of Book 2, the Revenge of Excalibur is here.)

Please answer in the comments box.

And while I’m at it, Jealousy of a Viking is now available as an audiobook. Here is something of what the narrator, Ink Arnadine, said about it.

I am absolutely loving the book and have read on to chapter 20 in the guise of ‘prep’ but honestly, it’s because I am loving the story! These are the signs of a really enjoyable, great read and it’s a real pleasure (and honour) to have the opportunity to narrate it.

I like your writing, the flow is elegant and informative and utterly compelling. Absolutely fab. Your amazing narrative flow is the absolute backbone of this story.

You really are a great writer and although this is only the second book of yours I have read, I am keen to add more to my recreational reading list! There is an honesty of emotion and emotional strength in your writing that I absolutely adore.

If you would like to listen, here are the links.

UK audio and US audio

Or if you prefer to read it, follow this link and it will take you to where you can buy it from your favourite supplier.

A Visit from Diana Wallace Peach, and an Exciting New Release.

Today, I am honoured to be a part of Diana Wallace Peach’s blog tour. She is stopping by to tell us about the book she has recently released. It’s called The Necromancer’s Daughter, but I’ll let Diana tell you about it.

Take a seat and help yourself to a biscuit while I pour you some coffee.

Isn’t this a beautiful cover?

Now you’re comfortable, I’ll hand you over to Diana.

Thanks for having me over to your blog, Viv. I’m delighted to share a thought or two about The Necromancer’s Daughter, and in this case, the challenges of crafting “good” characters.

My latest book has a couple of virtuous characters, different from my usual mixed bag of flawed souls. I think characters with flaws, inner conflicts, and ambivalence are easier to write because they’re inherently more interesting and often more active as they go around messing things up.

So, what did I do for my characters who aren’t emotionally compromised or moral wrecks?

Barus, my necromancer who starts off the book, is one of the sweetest people around. He’s led by his heart, and though that gets him into some dicey situations, his main challenge is simply to stay alive.

Fortunately for this writer, he fades into the background early on when Aster, the necromancer’s daughter, takes the forefront. She’s more of a challenge since she has to carry the story to the end.

She’s also “good,” and in her case, it’s that quality that creates danger for her and ambivalence for other characters. Her sweet nature gets her into trouble more than it saves her.

One way to make life miserable for our nice characters like Aster is to give them lose-lose choices. (Writers are ruthless, aren’t we?) And that’s exactly what I do to my poor heroine. She is constantly having to choose between two bad options, and that creates a lot of inner turmoil while also testing her convictions. By the end, she just might discover that there are worse choices than death.

Something about the story

A healer and dabbler in the dark arts of life and death, Barus is as gnarled as an ancient tree. Forgotten in the chaos of the dying queen’s chamber, he spirits away her stillborn infant, and in a hovel at the meadow’s edge, he breathes life into the wisp of a child. He names her Aster for the lea’s white flowers. Raised as his daughter, she learns to heal death.

Then the day arrives when the widowed king, his own life nearing its end, defies the Red Order’s warning. He summons the necromancer’s daughter, his only heir, and for his boldness, he falls to an assassin’s blade.

While Barus hides from the Order’s soldiers, Aster leads their masters beyond the wall into the Forest of Silvern Cats, a land of dragons and barbarian tribes. She seeks her mother’s people, the powerful rulers of Blackrock, uncertain whether she will find sanctuary or face a gallows’ noose.

Unprepared for a world rife with danger, a world divided by those who practice magic and those who hunt them, she must choose whether to trust the one man offering her aid, the one man most likely to betray her—her enemy’s son.

A healer with the talent to unravel death, a child reborn, a father lusting for vengeance, and a son torn between justice, faith, and love. Caught in a chase spanning kingdoms, each must decide the nature of good and evil, the lengths they will go to survive, and what they are willing to lose.

My Review of The Necromancer’s Daughter.

OVERVIEW:

This book is a definite page turner. I loved it all the way through and although I couldn’t put it down, I definitely didn’t want to get to the end.

The cover is beautiful.

CHARACTERS

Fantastic characters. D. Wallace Peach has brought us amazing people. They seem real as they have failings as well as good points. They struggle with knowing what is right and wrong amid conflicting views.

Aster has the ability to resurrect the dead. Is it evil to do so? She does not think so. Some think the Blessed One alone should have this right of who lives and who dies, and to go against her wishes is evil. But can Aster stand by and allow a death she could prevent? If the Blessed One did not want the dead person to be revived, surely she would not allow it?

Facing danger in the Forest of Silver Cats, Jorah questions his whole life. He has promised to help Aster get to Blackrock, against everything he has been taught to believe—that necromancy is evil and necromancers should be put to death. He is conflicted as to why he agreed to do so. His concerns trouble him throughout the book.

<p>Teko is a simple man. One whom the ‘civilised’ people consider to be a barbarian, but he is a loyal protector of Aster.

Finally, there is Barus. He is a man with a crooked spine. A truly good person. He resurrected Aster after she was stillborn and brought her up as his own daughter. He is a wonderful man whom I find difficult to forget. </p>

WRITING

The writing is amazing. This is one of the few books I’ve read recently that I have not had to get my metaphorical red pen out to correct errors.

D. Wallace Peach has a wonderful way with words. Her descriptions are beautiful, and I love her metaphores and similes. She takes you into the world of magic, dragons and kingdoms at odds with each other and makes you believe in it.

If you are a fantasy fan, I would recommend you go and buy it now.

Here’s a bit about Diana.

A long-time reader, best-selling author D. Wallace Peach started writing later in life when years of working in business surrendered to a full-time indulgence in the imaginative world of books. She was instantly hooked.

In addition to fantasy books, Peach’s publishing career includes participation in various anthologies featuring short stories, flash fiction, and poetry. She’s an avid supporter of the arts in her local community, organizing and publishing annual anthologies of Oregon prose, poetry, and photography.

Peach lives in a log cabin amongst the tall evergreens and emerald moss of Oregon’s rainforest with her husband, two owls, a horde of bats, and the occasional family of coyotes.

You can buy The Necromancer’s Daughter by clicking here or on the cover of the book.

Review of Kingdom of Lies by R S Williams

I would like to thank R S Williams for letting me have a free copy for an honest review.

OVERVIEW

A good story, even if it is a fantasy trope. A prince, hidden to save his life from an unknown enemy who has killed the rest of his family. A birthmark that proves he is the missing prince. He has no idea of his true identity.

Having said that, the fact that this idea is not an uncommon one does not mean it cannot be dealt with in a different way, and be an entirely different story which Kingdom of Lies does.

I love the cover. It’s magnificent.

BLURB

Magic is back in Adelith, and with it the return of Cyran.

Elijah spends his days preparing for the annual Hollom horse race and working at his guardian Merrick’s forge. That is, until Merrick is summoned back to Castle Aebarrow in Adelith by the king.

Unable to stay in Rheanydd without a legal guardian, Eli is forced to go with Merrick who takes up the position of captain and trains the new guards. But the more time Eli spends in Adelith, the more his lost memories resurface-and they throw up worrying questions about his past.

As a member of Princess Sienna’s Elite Guard, Eli saves her life when it’s threatened by the presence of a mysterious Missing Prince. Eli’s heroics incur the wrath of a mad sorcerer known only as The Master, hell-bent on ending the courting prince’s life.

Elijah enters a dangerous path of self-discovery where magic and secrets intertwine. The truth about his past is within reach, but can he unlock his memories and solve the riddles in time to save the true heir to the throne? Or will the castle be brought crumbling down once more?

CHARACTERS

Elijah, the prince, is a likeable character, although he does not have much depth. 

There was little to distinguish most of the characters from each other, except for Leon. 

When we first meet him, he is antagonistic to Elijah. He is mouthy to his superiors, but never gets punished for it. Then, suddenly, at the end, he’s suddenly friendly and joking, and talking as if he’d been best friends with Elijah all along. But Leon is a minor character.

There was little change in most of the other characters throughout the book.

WRITING

The writing was poor. As I read, I thought it was the first book by a novice writer who had got to the end and pressed ‘publish’. There are many mistakes, both typos and grammatical errors. Sometimes this caused confusion. 

The author confused me at times by using a pronoun that did not refer to the last person mentioned.

There were several places where the syntax was confusing, and she also had disembodied eyes floating around on more than one occasion. (Elijah’s eyes fell to the floor.)

There were other places where I was confused, and could not understand what was going on, and a few places where she contradicted something she had said previously.

I was surprised to read in her acknowledgements that she thanked her critique partners and her beta readers, as I saw nothing to indicate any input from them.

If I hadn’t promised a review, I don’t think I could have finished this book in spite of the good story, as I kept being annoyed by the poor writing.

I give the book **

Do you think the writing is important if the story is good?

Please tell us in the comments box?

If you would like to receive an exclusive, free short story by me, called The Haunted Table, simply click the link. This will take you to the page where you can download it.

Maria and Tom have bought an antique table for the old cottage they have bought. When they hear strange noises in the night that sound like crying, they worry their house is haunted, but the sounds seem to come from the table.

They set about trying to find what is causing the disturbances. The answer is stranger than either of them had thought.

(Clicking the link will add your email address to my email list, but don’t worry, you can unsubscribe immediately if you wish. Nor will you get any spam. I only send out an email each quarter, or if I have any exciting news–like a new release.)

Review of The Prodigy of Rainbow Tower by Charles E. Yallowitz

Review of Prodigy of Rainbow Tower by Charles Yallowitz 

OVERVIEW:

This is a continuation of the story told in The Beginning of a Hero. In this book, Luke and his companions, Fritz, the gnome, Nimby, the halfling, Aeden, the priest,and Fizzle, the little dragon-like creature known as a drite, set off to escort the heir to Duke Solomon home to Gods’ Voice.

First, though, they need to collect a caster apprentice from Rainbow Tower. She is a very prickly individual. Her first meeting with Luke does not go well.

The book is full of action. On the journey along the L’landrin River, they meet with traps and agents of the litch from book 1 that are trying to kill them.

We also learn that the litch is serving a much more powerful master that even the gods themselves fear.

This book has some shocking twists, but \I won’t spoil it by letting the cat out of the bag.

You will laugh and cry reading this book.

BLURB

Luke Callindor and his friends are about to learn that the life of an adventurer can be brutally unforgiving.

Hungering for another adventure, Luke agrees to escort the heir of Serab along the L’dandrin River and into the safety of Gods’ Voice. A deadly gauntlet of cunning traps and savage creatures lay before the young warrior and his companions. Lacking the powerful magic needed to combat his enemies, Luke’s survival and victory may be in the hands of his newest ally. That’s if the temperamental Nyx doesn’t set him on fire first.

Luke will bravely face everything that is thrown at him, but how can he defend himself when he’s ignorant of the truth behind his mission?

CHARACTERS

Mr Yallowitz has continued to enthral his readers with his story. We meet a new character in this book. She is the Prodigy of the title. Her name is Nyx and she is an extremely powerful caster. Sadly, she has a character flaw. She loses her temper extremely quickly, and with her being such a powerful caster, with a tendency to use fire magic, she is a dangerous individual.

Mr Yallowitz writes strong women. I love them.

We meet a new enemy, Trinity, the Queen of the Chaos Elves, who wishes to exact revenge on Nyx after they fight over the rooftops. Of course there is the Hellfire Elf who seems almost human in his desire to get his revenge on Luke.

There is the usual squabbling between friends, but nothing serious. This is how friends behave in real life. And we see lasting friendships beginning to form.

Nyx’s growing friendship with Luke makes her become less prickly.

As before, Luke and his friends are well-drawn. I fell in love with them all, but especially Fizzle.

WRITING

The world is believable, and fully realised and described.

We are introduced to a number of fight scenes that Mr Yallowitz describes excellently. As I have already said, the characters are well drawn and believable, and change as we progress through the book.

Sadly, though, this book has many typos, as well as grammatical errors and the wrong word used in some cases. (as Nyx’s weapon, a morning star, which Mr Yallowitz calls a mourning star all through the book.)

This gave me a problem as to how to rate it. The story deserves 5*, but the typos and grammar should have put it at 3*. I compromised by going with the average.

I gave the book 4*

My ranking of books. In order to get a particular number of stars, it is not necessary to meet all the criteria. This is a guide only.

5* Exceptional. Wonderful story. Setting well drawn, and characters believable. Not perfect, but with flaws. Will keep you up all night. No typos or grammatical errors.

4* A thoroughly enjoyable read. Great and original story. Believable setting and characters. Very few grammatical errors or typos.

3* I enjoyed it. Good story. Characters need some development. Some typos or grammatical errors.

2* Not for me. Story not very strong. Unbelievable and flat characters. Setting not clearly defined. Many typos or grammatical errors.

1* I hated it. Story almost non-existent. Setting poor. Possibly couldn’t finish it.

Book review, review of Legends of Windemere, Charles Yallowitz, The Prodigy of Rainbow Tower, fantasy, fantasy review,

Extract from my latest work in progress.

I don’t seem to be getting on very well with Book 4 of The Wolves of Vimar. Somehow, life keeps getting in the way. Anyway, it’s currently undergoing critiques from a couple of online critique groups I’m in. As it’s chapter by chapter, and I need to do crits for others before I can post, it’s a long process. Still, we’ll get there. Eventually!

I’m still waiting to hear about my poetry book. It’s been nearly 5 months now, but I hope it won’t be much longer. I’d self-publish it, but as it has pictures, and the formatting of poetry is not straightforward, I’m reluctant to go down that road.

For your delectation, today I’m going to post a bit from Immortal’s Death, Book 4 of the Wolves of Vimar series. Please, remember, though, that this is just the first draft, so might not be perfect. In fact, it’s unlikely to be perfect!

Here Goes.

This is from near the beginning of the book. Thadora was brought up as a thief in the Warren at Hambara, but she was recognised as a daughter to the Duke of Hambara when he saw her remarkable resemblance to his grandmother. He adopted her, thus legitimising her.

Here, Thadora is attending the wedding of her sister, Randa, the duke’s elder daughter, to Prince Almoro. It’s rather long, so my apologies.

Thadora

Outside the great banqueting hall in the palace, Thadora found herself standing next to Sandron, brother to Duke Larrin of Sendolina.

“Have you seen Larrin?” he asked.

She shook her head. “He must be here somewhere. There are so many people it’s easy to miss someone.”

Sandron frowned. “I didn’t see him in the temple, either, but you’re right, he’ll be here somewhere. Allow me to escort you into the banqueting hall, Lady Thadora.” He bowed.

Thadora giggled. “Now you’re Sandron, the courtier. Different from when we first met.”

They had met when a group of bandits, led by Sandron, captured Wolf after they found Sauvern’s Sword. The youngest son of the late Duke of Sendolina amused himself by leading these bandits, but Randa recognised him and he quickly released her and her friends when she promised not to tell his father how he had been amusing himself.

 Youngest sons often found they had little to do, and so long ago they formed a band of mercenaries and called themselves The Red Hawks. 

On Randa’s suggestion, Sandron recruited enough young men to form a new group, also calling themselves The Red Hawks in memory of the band from the past.

Thadora took Sandron’s proffered arm and the pair entered the banqueting hall. 

As they crossed the threshold, Thadora’s shoe caught in the hem of her dress and she staggered, hopping, as she tried to release her shoe without tearing it. “Zol’s balls, I’ve been promising myself I wouldn’t do that.” 

Sandron laughed as he managed to steady her. “Being the Duke of Hambara’s second daughter hasn’t improved your language any, has it? Nor your grace in a dress.”

Thadora pressed her lips together to prevent the swear word that rose to them, this time at Sandron. Instead she simply elbowed him in the ribs.

He groaned and rubbed the sore spot. “Sorry, Lady Thadora.”

Lady Thadora stared daggers at him. “Stop mocking me, Lord Sandron, or it’ll be the worse for you. I won’t always be in a dress.”

He laughed and Thadora joined in.

As the sister of the bride, Thadora was seated at the table next to King Perdillon unable to find words to say to her royal neighbour. 

I must mind my manners. I must mind my manners, she told herself, over and over again.

When the king spoke she thought he sounded so ordinary that she forgot about his royalty. He asked about her adventures and the formation of Wolf, and seemed genuinely interested in her answers.

“So this sword, the one that belonged to King Sauvern, is magical and will be needed soon?”

“Yes. Carthinal found a prophecy. But you know about that. He thinks this Branlow he met in Frelli is the Never-Dying Man, and can only be stopped by using the Sword.”

She looked around the room. The crowd made a continual buzz. How was Fero coping? He never liked crowds, and with Randa marrying someone else, it would be even more difficult.

As her eyes sought her friend, she noticed a couple of spare seats. 

She turned to Perdillon. “Who hasn’t come to the wedding? There are two empty seats next to the Duchess of Eribore.”

The king looked to where she indicated and raised his eyebrows. “I think that’s where my wife put Duke Larrin of Sendolina. I wonder why he’s not here?” He leaned across to Almoro.

“Duke Larrin isn’t here, Almoro. Do we know why?”

Almoro shook his head. “He answered the invitation saying he’d be here. It’s not like him to go against protocol.”

Thadora leaned forward. “Sandron was looking for him, too. He thought his brother should be here.”

“No doubt it’ll sort itself out. There must have been some emergency we’ve not heard about.”

The banquet continued through four more courses, then a messenger came and whispered something in Perdillon’s ear.

The king blanched, stood and left, apologising. 

His wife, Queen Helloria looked up. “What is it, Perdillon?” 

The king told her it was probably nothing, but he had to go and see someone. 

He returned shortly and walked over to where Duke Firbolt of Meridor sat next to his wife. The duke looked unwell. His health had not been the same since the mysterious illness that had killed King Gerim, and many of the dukes. The king bent and whispered something in his ear. The duke immediately stood, said something to his wife, and both hurried out of the room.

Without speaking to the master of ceremonies, who announced the speeches, Perdillon lifted the man’s gavel and banged on the table.

“May I have your attention, ladies and gentlemen.” 

Silence fell as King Perdillon began to speak.

“I apologise to Almoro and Randa for this interruption to their wedding festivities, but there has been a serious event. It seems that the army of Erian has entered our territory. They have taken Meridor.”

A hubbub of voices broke out. Meridor had never been taken in battle until now. People called out asking questions, but the king banged the gavel once more.

“From what I have been told, Meridor capitulated without a fight.” 

Gasps were heard around the gathered crowd. 

Perdillon continued. “We have no idea why the Duke Firbolt’s steward surrendered without a fight. The duke has gone to find out. We also noticed the absence of Duke Larrin of Sendolina. We hope there isn’t a similar problem in that duchy.

“Again, I apologise to Almoro and Randa, but, in view of the situation, I’m calling an immediate meeting in the council room. Would the dukes please attend me there? The rest of you please continue with your meal.” 

The king strode out of the banqueting hall, followed by the dukes. 

Everyone else remained sitting in silence. The joyful occasion had turned sour, and few people wanted to eat anything more. 

Seeing this, Almoro stood. “This has spoiled a happy celebration. I’m sorry. I think we should abandon the meal. You can either leave for your accommodation, or we’ll meet in the ballroom. Thank you all for attending, and for the generous gifts you have given to my wife and me.”

~*~

Thadora spotted Carthinal across the room. His deep blue robe looked startling with his shoulder-length auburn hair, and almost matched his indigo eyes. He had trimmed his beard to a short stubble.

No doubt about it, he’s a handsome man.

Sitting next to him at a low table was his wife, the elf, Yssalithisandra. She had plaited her golden hair and wound it around her head. Her robe was a rich burgundy. She smiled at their daughter, Starralishinara, who played with a stuffed dragon.

Starr, as she was known, had her father’s auburn hair, and her mother’s blue eyes, paler than her father’s.

Thadora made her way over to them, accompanied by Randa and Prince Almoro. The three drew up chairs and sat. 

Sandron approached with the little dragonet, Muldee, sitting on his shoulder. Thadora exclaimed with delight at seeing this small relative of dragons. His iridescent scales gleamed in the light coming through the large windows on the south side of the huge room. They changed colour as he moved.

“You’re here, Muldee.” She tried to put her arms around the creature, but he flew into the air moments before her assault. “I thought you’d gone back to the lake to join your brothers and sisters.”

“I did, for a while, but after the excitement of living with Sandron, it was boring. When I came back, and Sandron told me Randa was getting married, I had to come. I wouldn’t miss the wedding of one of my friends.” He studied Randa. “You look lovely, Randa. But Sandron told me to stay away from the actual wedding. What did he think I’d do?”

Sandron tossed his head back and laughed. “I had no idea what you might do. That’s why I said you weren’t to come to the ceremony.”

Thadora looked around. The ballroom had been decorated in blue and white in a similar way to the great hall. Tables surrounded an open space in the centre of the room. 

I don’t suppose the dancing will take place now. That’s good. I would probably fall over my own feet and end up in a heap, the laughing stock of the whole court.

Thadora glanced towards the door where Queen Helloria entered with three year old Crown Prince Gerim. Dowager Queen Carrolla accompanied her. Seeing Randa and Almoro, they approached.  

The company bowed or curtsied to the two queens, Thadora barely managing to keep her balance as she stifled the swear word that sprang to her lips. If she swore in front of two queens, her father would definitely kill her.

“I am really sorry your wedding has been spoiled.” Queen Helloria shook her head and hugged Prince Gerim tightly. “I hope we can avoid a war with Erian. What’s this Master doing, attacking us? We’ve been at peace for so long.”

Little Prince Gerim squirmed. When the queen released him he ran towards Starr. Yssa and Queen Helloria moved off to discuss the merits of their children. 

Queen Carolla turned to Sandron. “I wondered why your brother wasn’t here. Do you think it’s anything to do with this crisis?”

“I don’t know, Your Majesty,” Sandron replied, “but I think Muldee, here, might be able to help find out.”

“Ah, yes, your little dragonet. I heard…”

Muldee interrupted the queen dowager. “I’m not his little dragonet. I’m my own little dragonet. I’m not a pet to be owned by someone.”

Thadora stifled a grin that Muldee should speak so to a queen, but the monarch smiled.

“My apologies, Muldee. How can you help find out?”

“You might have heard we dragonets are telepathic. We can hear people’s thoughts. Oh, not everybody, and not all the time.” He giggled. “But it’s fun sometimes to listen to the thoughts of people if they don’t know about blocking.”

“Stop chattering, Muldee.” Sandron turned to the queen who had a slight frown on her face. “I apologise, Your Majesty. Muldee has no idea of rank and treats everyone the same. As to hearing your thoughts, he rarely tries, and even if he does, most people are not telepathic.”

The queen smoothed her face and smiled. “What’s your idea about finding out about your brother?”

“I can ask Muldee to go to Sendolina. It will be much better than sending someone on a horse. He can slip in, listen to people’s thoughts and find out what’s going on.”

“What a good idea.” The queen dowager beckoned to Sandron. “Follow me. We must put this to my son.”

When Sandron and the queen dowager left, the other members of Wolf approached. 

Asphodel smoothed the white robes that showed her as a priestess of Sylissa, the goddess of healing. She curtsied to Prince Almoro before sitting next to Randa. 

Thadora watched The Cat as he squirmed in his seat. She understood why the small thief was uncomfortable. Not long ago he had been a wanted man in Bluehaven and had fled to avoid capture. Now he was here in the royal palace in the company of members of the royal family. He ran his fingers through his dark hair and looked everywhere except at the prince and the queen.

Grimmaldo looked at ease in his yellow robes. She liked the young mage. He made her laugh with his sense of  fun. He did not talk much about his family, but she understood he came from Frind, in the far north, and that his family had been well off merchants. 

Many guests sat on chairs assembled around small tables surrounding the dance floor. From what Thadora could hear, most were discussing the missing duke.

Footmen strolled around the room with glasses of wine and fruit juice. 

All the members of Wolf chose to drink fruit juice, although Basalt exclaimed he would have preferred a good glass of dwarf spirits.

Thadora watched Fero as he looked sharply at the dwarf. “Bas, this is not the place for drinking dwarf spirits, nor any other strong drink. You know what happens when you start.”

“And you’ve never got drunk with me, ranger?” He glanced at Randa and Almoro. “I would have thought this was a perfect time for you to get drunk.”

Fero shook his head. “No, friend. It would spoil her day. That I will not do. I will, however, get blind drunk with you tonight. And perhaps tomorrow, too.”

Review of Beginning of a Hero by Charles Yallowitz 

OVERVIEW:

I got this as a bundle of 3 books, but I am going to review them separately as I read them.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Luke Callindor, even though he has a very Earth-like name for a half-elf!

It is filled with action and great characters. We have a mystery at the beginning. Luke is contracted to safeguard the heir to Serabia. There is only one problem. He doesn’t know who the heir is, for even whether he’s protecting a male or female. When Luke discovers who it is, he is plunged into further problems as he is pursued by a powerful lich and a demonic elf.

BLURB:

Every hero must take the first courageous step into adventure. For Luke Callindor, it’s more of a blind stumble.Depending more on bravery than common sense, Luke sets out to protect a royal heir who is attending the prestigious Hamilton Military Academy. With a demonic assassin in the shadows, the determined warrior will have to think on his feet to defend his charge. If only he waited long enough to find out which student is the hidden noble.With Luke’s dream on the horizon and a deadly enemy on his path, how will he transform from a reckless adventurer to a true hero of Windemere?

CHARACTERS:

Luke Callindor is the main character in this story. He is a forest ranger, tasked with keeping the forest in good health, but he is not the only one of interest.

There is a halfling called Nimby who is great fun. He’s a retired thief and helps Luke in his quest to find out whom he is supposed to be protecting.

Fritz, a gnome, is an illusionist and his illusions are a help in the story. His steed, bizarrely, is a sheep!

Luke, Nimby and Fritz are joined by a half-elf priest, Aedin who is invaluable when people get injured. As they do during the practice fights in the Acadamy.

My favourite character, though, is not humanoid, but a small dragon, a drite called Fizzle. Fizzle is a simple creature, but not without intelligence. He loves apples, especially when baked in a pie.

And there is Luke’s loyal companion, a dog called Stilletto.

As the main character, Luke develops from an inexperienced young fighter to one who learns that strength isn’t the only way to win fights.

All the characters are well-drawn, and have their own clear characteristics, as well as character flaws.

WRITING:

There are a few typos, and, in a couple of places a wrong word is used, but on the whole the writing is good.

Mr Yallowitz paints a clear picture of the world he has created. He shows us how the characters react to each other so we can easily picture the scene.

I enjoyed reading this book and will soon be starting on the second one.

I gave the book 4*

How I rank books.

In order to get a particular number of stars, it is not necessary to meet all the criteria. This is a guide only.

5* Exceptional. Wonderful story. Setting well drawn, and characters believable. Not perfect, but with flaws. Will keep you up all night. No typos or grammatical errors.

4* A thoroughly enjoyable read. Great and original story. Believable setting and characters. Very few grammatical errors or typos.

3* I enjoyed it. Good story. Characters need some development. Some typos or grammatical errors.

2* Not for me. Story not very strong. Unbelievable and flat characters. Setting not clearly defined. Many typos or grammatical errors.

1* I hated it. Story almost non-existent. Setting poor. Possibly couldn’t finish it.