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Category: fantasy (Page 1 of 3)

The Rite of Wands – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Mackenzie Flohr

In Mackenzie Flohr’s The Rite of Wands, twelve-year-old Mierta McKinnon is looking forward to his Rite of Wands ceremony, which will cement his role as a warlock. However, during the ritual, he experiences a haunting vision of the future – and of his own terrible demise. Meanwhile, sixteen-year-old Orlynd is another warlock, the soothsayer to the king, capable of seeing visions of the future. He’s not always taken seriously, though, to the detriment of those around him. Around them, a terrible plague is looming over the land, one that could devastate them all if it is not stopped.

In the beginning, it is a bit difficult to get the hang of The Rite of Wands, as in most fantasy novels as complex as this one. It takes a few chapters to get used to the dialects, pacing, and shifting perspectives, but the inclusion of language and dialect guides in the beginning of the book will help with that. Once readers get acclimated to the unique style of this book, they’re in for a treat. The Rite of Wands is much like the Harry Potter series in that it prominently features magic and is written for all ages; however, this book is also much different than Harry Potter in that it is more traditional and ethnic, though still unique.

The Rite of Wands is such an enchanting fantasy novel partly because of its complex, relatable, and believable characters. Mackenzie Flohr avoids the clichés of the genre, instead crafting a story that is so detailed, honest, and immersive that it’s hard to put the book down. Also, the descriptive language used is wonderful; although not extravagant, the words used paint a clear and vivid portrait for readers, and a very enjoyable one at that. The Rite of Wands is a great read for beginners or seasoned fans of the fantasy genre alike, and a promising start to what will inevitably be a phenomenal fantasy series.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Who’s That in the Cat Pajamas – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Sojourner McConnell

An adorable chapter book for young children, Who’s That in the Cat Pajamas? (The Dolcey Series) gives young girls a powerful life lesson while allowing them to step into a fantasy. Sojourner McConnell brings to life a young fairy who has powerful magic that she’s only just begun to start using to help others. When Dolcey here’s a child in need, she has been taught by her mother how to implement her powers to offer guidance and assistance. Who’s That in the Cat Pajamas? is her first experience in actually getting to help. She hears a young girl named Emily and rushes off to not only find her but help her get through the challenging time she is facing.

The colorful imagery within Who’s That in the Cat Pajamas?, illustrated by Ellie Barrett, add an additional element of fun and fantasy to Sojoruner McConnell’s story. These occasional images help bridge a gap between young students who are ready to read more difficult books and embrace more complex concepts with readers who aren’t quite ready to give up the picture book feel. Who’s That in the Pajamas? is a very well-written story and has a fun story line all while sharing a message of hope and a lesson on how to cope with big life changes that are out of one’s control. Sojourner McConnell’s Who’s That in the Cat Pajamas?, the first in her The Dolcey Series, would make for a wonderful tool for parents who are looking for something to help their children deal with a big move away from family and friends. It’s simply a must read!

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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[Author Interview] Kate Sander | Force: Book Two of the Zoya Chronicles

Featured Authors Talk About It

Author Interview

Kate Sander

ATAI: Tell us a little about you.

Kate: My name is Kate Sander. I’m 27 years old and work as a Primary Care Paramedic in my home city of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Canada. It’s a small city in northern Saskatchewan. I’m married and we have two dogs, a 5 year-old Labradoodle named Sammi (she’s the queen of the house) and a 2 year-old Goldendoodle name Pippin (yes, they are named after hobbits). I also have my Firefighting training and a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry. The combination makes for a very different and interesting take on plot and story-telling.

ATAI: How long have you been writing?

Kate: Not very long! I started writing in 2015 while I was working in the oil patch in Alberta as a medic. I’m not sure if anyone knows what that job entails, but it’s usually about 2 hours of paperwork and 10 hours a day of doing nothing by yourself. So I started writing. Never looked back.

ATAI: What was your most recent release?

Kate: Force: Book Two of the Zoya Chronicles was just released! It follows Senka through her newest adventure in our world and The Other Place. It’s a thrill, it’s fast-paced and in my opinion it’s better than the first.

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ATAI: What do you love most about writing?

Kate: My job can be very stressful at times and I find that there’s a lot of situations that I can’t control. When I write, I’m in control of the entire world (unless my character refuses to behave). I find that it’s therapeutic and can really help me out.

ATAI: What do you find most challenging?

Kate: Finding time! Between work and life I find it hard to just sit down and write. I also find myself getting obsessive when writing a novel. That’s all I think about, all day, every day, until it’s done. So I try to take breaks between novels to try to keep everything fresh and to stop from burning out. Unfortunately for my readers it means long gaps between novels. However I think the break helps me deliver a better product.

ATAI: Where do your ideas come from?

Kate: No idea. I’ve always had a really over-active imagination, so I guess it comes from that. Now, instead of standing in the shower and “winning” the argument I had with someone 5 months ago, I’m thinking of plot and character development.

ATAI: What is your writing process?

Kate: I use a solid mix of pre-plotting and writing by the seat of my pants. I pre-plot main ideas loosely. My chapter and book outlines are very fluid and I’ll change them a hundred times before I finish the book. I find that this allows me to follow the creative process. It also allows for plot changes when my character makes a really stupid decision.

ATAI: Do your characters (or message) ever seem to have a life of their own or an agenda of their own?

Kate: Yes! I try to write my characters as being flawed and human. So sometimes they make really stupid, life-altering decisions. And once they are on paper, in my mind they’ve occurred so I can’t change it. It leads to really interesting plot points, but sometimes really annoying character flaws that I have to work through.

ATAI: What’s your favorite part of your book (or one of your books)?

Kate: My books tend to focus on female characters. I LOVE it when they kick ass against all odds. I work really hard to make the fighting believable, and as I have a black belt in karate I understand a little on how to use a smaller frame against a bigger body. This makes my women ultimate badasses and I absolutely love when they let loose and kick ass.

ATAI: What are you working on next?

Kate: Currently on a bit of a break. Next will be the next two Zoya Chronicles. I have plans for 2 more books, and I don’t write in order. So hopefully book 3 finishes before book 4 but no guarantees.

ATAI: Where can people find you online?

Kate: My website is www.zoyabooks.com. You can get signed paperbacks and merchandise on that site, and also get in contact with me about anything you need. My facebook is www.facebook.com/katesander. My twitter handle is @K_Sander10. My author email is katesander.author@gmail.com. I try to answer everyone.

ATAI: Thank you for sharing with us and our audience.

Kate: Thanks for the interview! I really appreciate the opportunity to be featured on your site.


*NOTE: ATAI does not edit the responses of the authors.

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Steel, Blood and Fire – Entered in 2017 Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Allan Batchelder

In Allan Batchelder’s Steel, Blood & Fire, legendary warrior and “Reaper” Tarmun Vykers is an unstoppable force of destruction – that is, until he is caught and his hands and feet amputated. Abandoned in the forest, Vykers descends into a madness-fueled survival mode, his only company a mysterious spirit from beyond the grave. Beyond the forest, though, a wizard who calls himself the End-of-All-Things is plotting to destroy the realm and all its inhabitants. Vykers is certainly no hero, nor is he the “Reaper” he once was, but nevertheless, he remains the last hope of victory in the war to come.

The beginning of Steel, Blood & Fire is rather dull, with too much mundane dialogue and frequent POV switches, and not nearly enough intriguing plot development. It isn’t until much later in the book that anything starts getting interesting. Many aspects until then have promise, but are not as well developed as they could be. Also, Steel, Blood & Fire is, perhaps, trying to balance too many characters and subplots at once; it hardly spends enough time on any of these to warrant true empathy or intrigue from the reader.

However, there is plenty to love about this unique fantasy novel. Allan Batchelder has a great style and voice for fantasy; he nails the genre right on the head. As for the battle scenes, those were spectacular, full of excitement and detail. Using an anti-hero as the protagonist in these battles is a refreshing and fascinating choice – a choice that really paid off for this novel. Steel, Blood & Fire could certainly use some sprucing up in some areas, but it excels in many others. Overall, this is a worthwhile book to read, particularly for fans of the fantasy genre.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Pyre – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Eric J. Hull & C. M. Stultz

Eric J. Hull and C. M. Stultz’s Pyre is a gripping fantasy tale about Prince Aaren, who has had the strange ability to set fires with his mind since the day he was born. However, every time Aaren causes a fire, the princess of his rival kingdom, Sare, burns, too. They both must wear enchanted jewelry to protect them, but their safety is only temporary. Meanwhile, a peasant boy named Michael makes a strange discovery in the depths of the woods by his house. A flaming pendulum and mysterious voices guide Michael on a terrible quest, one that could result in unspeakable tragedy for the young, fire-connected royals.

As with all epic fantasy novels, Pyre’s plot tends to be complicated in some areas. Especially for the first portion of the book, it can be difficult to follow the characters and how they relate to one another. Some aspects of the plot seem too vague, at first, adding to the confusion. This does eventually clear up, though; in many ways, Pyre is a book that should be read more than once, in order to fully grasp the depth of the story.

Pyre is incredibly well-written, though; its imagery is superb and the plot carefully constructed. Each character is complex and intriguing, even the villain. The use of multiple perspectives was insightful and well executed, and the story itself was creative and fresh. Also, for having two authors, it is impossible to tell which passages were written by Hull and which by Stultz. Their voices blend together seamlessly into one creative force. Pyre is a fantastic entry in what promises to be a phenomenal fantasy series.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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The Severaine – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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K.J. Simmill

The Severaine by K.J. Simmill is a fantasy story that recounts the adventures of a band of heroes, led by a grief-stricken Daniel, as they set off into a world being tormented by the Severaine, a darkness that is set to destroy humanity. Told with action, emotion and packed with recognizable fantasy tropes, The Severaine sets itself up to be a fantasy novel to rival the very best in the genre.

While this is the second book in The Forgotten Legacy Series, the story acts well as a standalone novel, and readers will quickly pick up on the plot. Simmill has worked hard in creating a world and characters that readers will relate to, and with classical themes around revenge, loss and good vs. evil, readers will be quickly drawn into the quest and action sequences. The Severaine also seems to play homage to more traditional quest literature, such as the Odyssey with some glaring references to the Greek Epic as well as other mythologies.

However, while Simmill is creative and her world well fleshed out, it lacks focus, and the inclusion of magic, Greek Gods, portals, medicinal herbs, monsters and new characters hinders the reader’s ability to focus on all these elements; and in turn, forget their relevance to the story. This is a real pity as Simmill has something to offer this genre. Another issue with this novel is the dialogue. Many times, it feels unrealistic and is quickly swallowed up by descriptions and the need to describe every facial cue or action that precedes it. There is no doubt that The Severaine is an ambitious project but with better focus and fewer characters and creations, readers could be more invested in the central quest. The length of the book, at 624 pages, also speaks to the sheer “quest” that the reader must undertake to get through this novel.

Overall, The Severaine is a fantasy novel jam-packed with creative ideas. Fantasy readers will enjoy what Simmill must offer, but may not have time to appreciate and digest one fantastical element before being met with something equally shiny and exciting.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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The Kingdom of Oceana – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Mitchell Charles

The Kingdom of Oceana by Mitchell Charles is an enchanting story that transports its readers to a mythological age of Hawaii. The story follows Price Ailani as he sets out on a quest to save his island from an evil curse. There are adventurous sea quests, magical shape shifters, family infighting and a blossoming young love.

Charles is a talented writer, and his simple yet descriptive style brings to life the world of sea creatures and magic. The mythology is well researched, and the inclusion of Hawaiian words brings a sense of realism to a story steeped in mysticism. The Kingdom of Oceana is well paced, and readers will be quickly drawn into the action and the development of Ailani, his relationship with his ill-fated brother Nahoa, as well as the over-arching plot.

The story flows like ancient story-telling, and this quality makes it special in modern literature. The shape-shifting magician and dark magic are coupled with landscapes that bring the real Hawaii to life. The success of this story stands comparable to the recent Disney hit Moana, and there is no doubt that Charles has created a spectacular hit with this story.

The one minor let down of the novel is the cover because the artwork seems clichéd for a book set in a tropical location. While the tiki head (depicted on the cover) holds significance in the story, the overall power of the book is lost with the stereotypical cover.

That being said, The Kingdom of Oceana is a timeless story that readers of all ages will enjoy. It is easy enough for young readers to read and holds enough literary power for any adult to appreciate. There is an enduring wonder to The Kingdom of Oceana and being the first in a series, there is no doubt that what comes next will be just as imaginative.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Jorie and the Magic Stones – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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A. H. Richardson

In A. H. Richardson’s Jorie and the Magic Stones, Marjorie Weaver, who prefers to be called Jorie, is a spunky almost-nine-year-old with a personality as bright as her long red hair. After going to live with her aunt in the intimidating Mortimer Manor, Jorie discovers a mysterious book about dragons under the floorboards of her room. Soon after, she finds herself magically transported to the mystical land of Cabrynthius. There, Jorie discovers that she is the prophesied “Child with the Hair of Fire,” who must locate the three Stones of Maalog and return them to the great dragon, Grootmonya. She returns with her friend, Rufus, and the two children then embark on an imaginative adventure, full of dragons, magic, and peril around every corner.

Jorie and the Magic Stones is a wonderfully creative chapter book for children, similar to classics like The Chronicles of Narnia in depth and content. It’s full of complex magic and an alternate world detailed enough to satisfy adult readers, while narrated by the innocent, age-appropriate voice of a child. While Jorie and the Magic Stones does contain themes of darkness and/or evil, it never feels too scary. Rather, it promotes kindness, intelligence, creativity, and perseverance in a manner that is both straightforward and thought-provoking.

A. H. Richardson’s descriptive writing style and pure creativity made Jorie and the Magic Stones a pure joy to read. It’s exciting and immersive, and chock full of humor, adventure, and magic that will thrill readers of all ages. Although it is meant to be a children’s book, Jorie and the Magic Stones is the type of exhilarating fantasy book that the whole family will enjoy.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Vengeance – Entered in Romance Novel Contest

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KK Gould

Vengeance is the first novel in KK Gould’s Immortal Savior series, in which a vampire-werewolf hybrid, Elizabeth Mason, is being held captive by a deadly and sadistic vampire. He abuses her relentlessly until she manages to escape, and soon afterwards, she is rescued by a nearby pack of werewolves. They protect and relocate her, and she assumes the name Eliza North and moves on with her life. However, her peace does not last forever; another vampire named Braxton Slater is seeking his own vengeance against the same monster who abused Eliza, and intends to use her as bait to catch him. All of that changes, though, as Eliza and Brax begin to fall in love with one another, against anyone’s expectations. 

Vengeance is basically drowning in cliches. The feisty, smart-mouthed, and inexplicably irresistible heroine finds herself in the middle of a dangerous conflict between werewolves, vampires, and fiery alpha-male characters, where she just happens to find passionate love- now where has anyone seen that before? It’s like Twilight fan fiction, to be blunt about it. There were also several odd aspects to the plot, such as the strange guardian angel/ghost/god character, for one. The entire storyline seemed overly rushed and underdeveloped; the pieces of the puzzle are all there, I suppose, but the final picture didn’t come out right. 

However, it was a little refreshing to see the heroine not fall head over heels for the first man she met in the novel. A good half-dozen male characters were introduced before the actual love interest showed up; for each one, I thought, “Okay, here he is,” only to be proved wrong. For that alone, Vengeance redeemed itself a bit. Another area of redemption lies in its imagery; KK Gould writes with a good deal of description, and not just for physical appearance, either. It is obvious that KK Gould is a writer with great ideas and a whole lot of promise, but Vengeance didn’t quite live up to that.

Originally reviewed by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com

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Virtue of Death – Entered in Romance Novel Contest


4 Stars

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Randi Perrin

Randi Perrin’s Virtue of Death, is a story about an earthbound angel whose duties are to be the hand that leads the souls of the dead into purgatory. Sera was chosen to be an earthbound angel on her 18th birthday, the same time she decided to go to culinary school, against her parents’ wishes. Twelve years later, Sera owns her own bakery in Southeastern Virginia and when a reporter, Destin, calls her baked goods banal, she finds herself in his office giving him a piece of her mind. Little does she know, they’d end up falling for each other which leaves her in the quandary of whether or not she’ll share her deepest secret of being an immortal earthbound angel of death.

Virtue of Death is a predictable romance with generically beautiful characters such as Destin; the reporter who is constantly in suits, has a six-pack, a 5 o’clock shadow and perfectly tussled hair along with Sera, a blonde baker who does yoga every morning and has a great personality. While the romance was a bit amateur, it is reminiscent of a romance we’ve all had at some point in our lives. A romance filled with pet names, feuding with best friends because you’re deeply and blindly in love, and the feelings of “I’d do anything for you” prior to a proper first date. Perrin’s scene descriptions are very detailed which puts you right in the characters’ shoes, but the story moves quickly from “Call me when you get some time, okay?” to “Sweetheart, if you hadn’t figured this out yet, there’s not much I wouldn’t do for you,” which can be quite off-putting due to its dramatic telenovela feel. Still, it’s very easy to find yourself rooting for some of the story’s characters which makes Perrin’s book a page-turner. Nonetheless, Virtue of Death is a great casual read.

Originally reviewed by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.

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