Fractured: Dereck Dillinger and the Shortcut to OZ ISBN: 9781483599373 apparently published copyright 2017 and written by Eddie McPherson.
Thirteen-year-old Dereck is plagued with requests from his younger sister Jessie to read and re-read stories of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel and more. If he does not she runs to their mother complaining. However, he loves his little sister and complies. His widowed mother must make a short trip leaving him to take care of Jessie. A violent storm arises during the night, she awakens him calling for help, the electricity fails, attempting to find his way he falls into the cellar and steps into a seemingly bottomless hole. Eventually he strikes bottom and discovers it to be the same rabbit hole that provided the prominent beginning of activities in The Wizard of OZ. However, here he is offered a short cut to the Wizard which will allow him to return home much more quickly to discover what has caused his sister to call him.
Discussion: The author has developed a plot woven around the basic Wizard of OZ with added fragments of other of Grimm’s Tales, additional fairies, good and bad witches and similar figures of fantasy. Fundamentally it is a well-written action packed thriller with humor and periods of suspense that provides a strong positive message of kindness, perseverance and family fidelity. It should have an appeal to children in the 6 to 12 or possibly slightly older group and as an aside, parents may find it somewhat more enjoyable to read to their younger children.
4* As described.
Haliden’s Fire, A Pine Tree Book, published, copyright and written by Christopher R. Sendrowski.
The plot is centered in a time of the past in a land comprised of nine kingdoms with Circle and Tritan the governing houses. The protagonist is a particularly famous artist who has returned home while fleeing from a conflagration that is engulfing the entire collection of kingdoms. It is being accepted as the will of the gods by a cult of ‘Firestarters” who aid and abet the carnage. To act as a carrier of the entire town’s important documents, he becomes a “runner’ for them in the hope of reaching a safe place and must dispose of all of his wealth and most of his pictures to join the masses fleeing before the rapidly moving flames. He is assailed by constant thoughts of the wife he lost by neglect through his incessant need to paint, although during his flight he does experience some happiness with his very first love, whom he again encounters and also loses. The flight takes him through numerous most unappealing and perhaps even revolting, situations and places during which he is under constant threat and actual attacks by others in flight, as well as by horrendous beasts. The story eventually reaches an unpredictable but logical finale.
Discussion: Basically this book is a dark fantasy thriller and has been very well received by several reviewers and they have provided their reasons. Contrarily and most regrettably, this reviewer is far from being in accord. Although I can appreciate and enjoy selections from among fantasy tales, this one impressed me rather negatively as repetitive activity on the same theme with the only differences being in slightly different approaches in similarly unpleasant circumstances and places. Unfortunately, from my perception the author has described quite succinctly the reason for our ‘differences of opinion’. In his “About the Author” statements at the end of the book he says that writers “dig and toil among our private wastes, sifting through toxic sands and sipping swill alongside beggars and scoundrels. It’s where I’m most at home, at peace. But like all things in life, it sometimes comes from darker times, darker places. It’s a toll worth paying, though, and perhaps what’s necessary to spur my particular muse.” This reviewer has published 4 award-winning novels (plus several text books) and most fortunately has not found it necessary to delve into such depths to gain the necessary insights to compose. Neither have any of the authors of my acquaintance. However, this is not criticism per se. It simply offers an explanation for this reader’s opinion of this book.
2* Explanation for this reader’s review above.
The Prince of Manhattan an e-book assumed published, copyright and written by Alexi Iskander.
The reader is introduced to Prince Leofric, the son and heir apparent to the throne of King of Northumbria, one of the seven kingdoms existing in the northern part of Great Britain roughly in the years 600 – 900. Cedric, his father, is holding a victory dinner celebrating a huge victory over the “Howling mad Picts’ as they raided from the north and descended upon the kingdom in the early summer months. Leofric is watching his uncle Aethelred closely because he believes he will attempt to do away with his father Cedric and take over the kingdom. This is exactly what transpires when he manages to kill Cedric, place blame on the son and, with the help of Siana, the most powerful witch of the time, has him transported through time, as well as space. Leofric awakens ultimately in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Concurrently Miranda Hazelgrove, a young NYU student from Albany, has finished work at a restaurant where she works to supplement the financial support she is receiving from her parents. Deciding to take a bus rather than the subway because it is a shorter distance to manipulate her tired body, she is accosted by two killer rapists. Leofric is nearby, hears her screams and rescues her. His attire with sword and all, as well as his manner of action and speech do not cause her any unusual thoughts because there is an event taking place in the city where people are acting out their individual idiosyncrasies of thought. After expressing her thanks she discovers that he has no place to stay for the night so invites him to share her apartment. He does and from here the reader is introduced to a recounting of their activities, both individually and collectively until a finale of sorts is reached.
Discussion: The author has presented a fantasy/romance/space/time travel story that apparently a number of readers have enjoyed. Most regrettably this reader is not one of them. From this perspective the tale provides abundant physical activity but it is set forth either with little understanding of the extent of training an individual such as the prince would have received or to present him as quite incompetent, in which case it is amazing that he would have survived his life in Northumbria. Thus, much of the story seems forced. There also is abundant repetition, missed words/spelling and even usage; e.g. people do not “saddle up” to people they sidle up to them.
3* For romantic YA, Young-at-Heart or those interested, amused by era differences.
CURSED: Dragon’s Curse: Book One, A pure fantasy, assumed published, copyright and written by S. L. Morgan.
Alex Oxley is the young prince of the peaceful Pemdei Empire, long designated as the protectors of earth from various intergalactic threats. He, like his father the emperor, is a trained warrior with many intergalactic missions and the capability to function as a Time/Space Traveler. He, like his twin sister Alysia share this unique ability along with other occult powers. In a short journey into the future he discovers that his mother has been adversely affected by an element that had been specifically constructed to guard earth. Stefon, a crafty villainous ruler from another galaxy suddenly appears saying he enjoys playing games and decides that he and Alex should play a game. He will send the young prince on a trip to attempt to find the cure for his mother’s illness and if he can survive, he will find the cure and return with it. It seems that Stefon’s occult powers are considerably more extensive than those possessed by Alex or any of his family. So, with a snap of his fingers, Alex is dispatched spinning uncontrollably in a dark void, eventually being brought to an abrupt and jolting halt against some very hard object. Here he is discovered by the young princess Kira of another, seemingly less sophisticated galaxy, where she has been wandering for some time to continue eluding capture by the evil invaders who had overthrown her family’s rule. From this introduction we follow the convoluted path of the two young royals as they attempt to restore her to her rightful place, allow him to find the required antidote for his mother’s illness and return for its administration. Unfortunately, accomplishment of these goals are impeded by a sizeable number of factors, most of an occult nature. This basic introductory plot provides a sound base for the ensuing action that no doubt will be set forth in the subsequent volumes.
Discussion: From this reviewer’s perspective, a certain amount of difficulty is encountered in following the story’s threads as they are presented. Similarly, the amount of emotional swing demonstrated by the protagonists as well as the unpredictability with respect to their purported ‘warrior’ and other abilities. However, the amount of dark magic, abundance of witches, winged horses, fairies, shape-shifters, fire-breathing dragons, space/time travelers and more, should be most appreciated by the true fantasy devotee.
5* For the tried and true fantasy devotee.
Hunt for Harald’s Gold ISBN: 9780996657396, assumed published, copyright and written by Jack Dancer.
This book is sub-titled A Scottish DNA Love Story and appears in part to have some semblance to these elements. Ostensibly a group of twosomes has been gathered together who have been discovered to be DNA-matched lovers to journey to Scotland to search for a huge gold nugget that has been lost for centuries. The group’s leader is a physician specializing in DNA research who had spent time in Africa where she encountered strange characters who pop up later in the story while the couples are searching for the huge nugget. Simultaneously it seems that a large group of African school girls had been captured by Boko Haram, transferred to an evil woman doctor who dismembers them to sell body parts as requested, on the black-market. Her headquarters and laboratories are on the Isle of Skye. One of the recruited members of the DNA couples is Tucker, who is the designated partner of Billie, the DNA specialist leading the couples on the nugget search. The reader discovers that he has had a former encounter with the evil doctor that has left scars, in spite of being partially successful. The other group members are of varied backgrounds and many not what they supposedly represent. The body part suppliers and the gold hunters cross paths by design as we discover and the tale proceeds to no ending but rather this volume serves as a first installment for the next.
Discussion: On the good side, readers may find much of the book to be an amusing read with a mass of action contributing in a highly confusing manner. A caveat must be include however in that there is abundant, often irrelevant sexual activity and most graphic depiction of un-anesthetized anatomical destruction. Furthermore and regrettably, from this reviewer’s perspective, the author has written a totally confusing volume with a bizarre admixture of Scottish legend, the fairy world, romance, a bit of science, activity by an unusual transgender hero and many improbabilities typically found in the fantasy genre. It also apparently is the first in a series.
Summary: A multi-genre book for readers who enjoy zany tales and don’t mind reading serials.
3* 4* Multi-genre zany tale for devotees; others 3 – 2*.
We Are Voulhire A new Arrival under Great Skies is an e-book assumed published, copyright and written by Matthew Tysz.
This is the first of two books that follow the fortunes of Galen, a young man who has escaped from a war torn society/country through help provided by a solicitor who was paid handsomely by his dying grandfather to accomplish this rather dangerous feat. He is totally naïve in the sophisticated ways of this new environment and gradually begins to learn in this first instalment. The country itself is wealthy but lacking in any cohesive identity. It embraces various levels of culture and a wide range of technologies but also various levels and types of magical performance that seem pervasive and often dominant as well. Numerous powerful individuals, several of whom are viciously destructive, appear to be rising into the more powerful positions as this episode ends and the reader must wait to discover whether the seemingly portended hope for the future the young Galen represents actually evolves.
Discussion/Conclusion: The author has set forth a fantasy containing all of the elements that should appeal to younger readers. It is a well-conceived fantasy set in ancient times of the restricted world knowledge of the day. It has a nicely conceived plot with thought-provoking philosophical features, nicely done descriptions and characters with whom some degree of empathy may be developed. Unfortunately however, from this reader’s perspective, there may be a few problems most of us reviewers overlook. We all are somewhat beyond an age group for which we are attempting to provide a meaningful review and we often forget to really observe the developing members of society for whom we cavalierly express our views of what they will or will not enjoy. This story opens slowly, even a little confusingly with new characters being rapidly introduced and the basic theme of good vs. evil actually does not become evident until pretty well into the book. It must be remembered that younger people are more inclined toward a faster mode of life with regrettably most often lesser involved in philosophical thoughts. One simply must observe their choices with respect to music, movies, games, conversation and their activities in general. An amusing aside perhaps is the fact that recent studies have shown that the average attention span level now resides at a mere eight seconds. Thus, long passages of description, even well-done avenues of thought, may present some cause for hesitation. The evolving generations also seem less likely to enjoy reading something for which the final note is designed to arrive sometime in the future. Most appear to prefer the ‘now’. In summation, this is a well-conceived fantasy that provides the usual philosophical thoughts so prevalent in stories in this genre and can appeal to the usual reviewer. However, one must occasionally indulge seriously in a little introspective activity to ascertain whether we are actually reviewing a book from our perspective rather than that of a member of today’s seemingly somewhat differently developing type of individual.
3* 4* Interesting well-written Fantasy; 3(?)* Apropos discussion.