The Shards of Heaven
Julius Caesar is dead, assassinated just before his finest moment, and now the civilized world is ripped in two. Tensions run high between Rome and Alexandria, with the fate of an Empire hanging in the balance. In Egypt, Antony has aligned himself with Cleopatra and her son Caesarian, the blood-heir of Julius Caesar. In Rome, Caesar’s adopted son Octavian gathers his forces for a war that seems inevitable. Meanwhile, the Numidian prince Juba scours the Earth for an object of power that will allow him to avenge himself on Rome for the subjugation of his people. What he finds could bring the world to its knees….
The Shards of Heaven is the first in a new series that takes the real-life history of the birth of the Roman Empire and infuses it with a healthy dose of historical fantasy behind the scenes for a fast-paced romp full of engaging characters. If you know your history, then you know certain characters are doomed from the start, but that doesn’t stop you from rooting for them. The central conceit here is that there are several artefacts that have shaped history through the ages, giving rise to myth and legend, always half-remembered versions of the truth. Poseidon’s trident/Moses’ staff, Zeus’ Aegis…and the Ark of the Covenant, the most powerful Shard of Heaven in existence. Some things were not meant for the hands of man.
Maya Rising (Last Call for Caviar, vol.2)
SPOILER ALERT: The following contains spoilers for Volume 1 Last Call for Caviar.
This sequel to Last Call for Caviar is equally delicious as the first installment. A warning for persnickety readers, this is not a standalone volume. It will make almost no sense if you havent read the first book. This isnt to say that author Melissa Roen doesnt weave the storylines together seamlesslyshe doesbut she doesnt fully set up volume 2 the way she does volume 1. I recommend reading the books in order to get the full effect. And do NOT miss the prologues. Start at the very beginning.
Having said that
Destruction, death and blood cultsoh my! Maya Jade is still stranded on the continent during what can only be accurately described as Armageddon. Having finally found her way out of the Riviera and back into the arms of sexy surgeon Julian, the future is anything but certain. What perils lurk on the interior of Europe? Will they reach their destination in the safety of Switzerland? Will the safety promised there be real? Again, there are more questions than answers. And the few answers there are lead Maya further into trouble and the deviant and devious schemes for power and control that broil beneath the surface of a splintered civilization.
Finally reunited with lover Julian, Maya believes she has escaped the dangers of her past until they appear right on her tail bumper ready to rear end her into oblivion. And we are there to watch her dangle on the edge. Maya Rising jumps right into the action, and it doesnt let up. The plot winds through the French countryside and down back into the Riviera, coming full circle. Maya is forced to face the demons that have hounded her steps throughout both volumes.
The earth trembles with a mystical power that haunts Maya. The mysteries of this force seem to hold her destiny in its grip and the blazing red eye of the Purifier scorches. Through the melee, Maya has to figure out if her love for Julian is as strong as shes always believed. Could her feelings for another powerful man jeopardize their fairytale ending? Could unfinished business render all of the questions moot? Always just one step away from the end, Maya Jade is on an unrelenting journey toward her truth and the fate of the world.
This novel is a fast paced whirlwind of adventure, hurdling towards an odd conclusion that will keep you guessing until the very end. Roen is cruel in her conclusion. I implore her to reconsider, and serve us at least one more serving of Caviar.
The Light Who Shines
During the 1600s, the first Vampire was created, bringing about extreme chaos and the beginning of the Red Ages.
Over two thousand years later, Bluebell Kildare, homicide inspector for the Supernatural Investigation Bureau, is faced with solving the murder of a boy found naked, tortured, and beaten near a bar. She is able to examine the emotions and feelings left over in the area, as well as of those near her through the use of her sixth sense; she is Gifted, and very good at her job. By closing her other senses off, she can focus in on the many emotions that permeate the area, so as to center her attention in on evidence and clues that others may miss.
Sadly, despite Blues passion for her job, and the other Daylight Vampires who ensure the safety of the people around them, not everyone during this time is so understanding of sharing the world with people who have come to be so different from themselves. Extremist groups, such as the Dilectus Deo, are constantly protesting the very existence of the Gifted humans among them and the Daylight Vampires that protect them from the dangerous Dark Vampires — beings who have fallen prey to their more base natures and given up their ability to roam in daylight after killing in bloodlust. It is a dangerous world, and it takes only the best and bravest to search after criminals who would do harm to others.
Fortunately, Blue is not only a talented investigator, but she also counts on the help of her boss, Jack Tanner or as she prefers to think of him, quite possibly the sexiest man alive. He exudes danger in a quiet, stealthy sort of way. I often think I should be frightened of him quite possibly because hes a very old and incredibly strong Vampire. But I cant seem to muster any fear, even when hes in an obvious rage. That only makes me question my sanity. Its a complicated and strained relationship but the clear and palpable tension between them only makes watching them work together all the more enjoyable.
In The Light Who Shines, Lilo Abernathy has created an amazing and fantastic world in which normal humans, Gifted humans, Daylight and Dark Vampires must coexist despite the magical dangers, intolerance, and greed that run rampant on a day-to-day basis. The mystery of the tortured boy is the driving force behind this intriguing novel. As clues are discovered, witnesses questioned, and tips followed from one place to another, it becomes progressively more disturbing to get closer to the person responsible for such a heinous crime. Yet, the more we learn about Blue and her commitment to fight for those who have been victimized by this bigoted society, the more we realize she is just the investigator needed to get to the bottom of these kinds of transgressions. She proves to be not only fully dedicated to her job despite any dangers that come her way including her own safety and surprisingly strong-willed for someone whos most prominent gift is the ability to sense emotions. Still, it is her imperfections and limitations that make her an even more likable character we can all relate to especially when it comes to her weakness for Jack.
As the story unfolds, it becomes increasingly evident that there is much more at stake than meets the eye. The torture and death of this young boy leads Blue down a path of unprecedented self-discovery and a much larger role she must play not only at the Supernatural Investigation Bureau, but the world. Furthermore, it brings her and Jack much closer than theyve ever been. The Light Who Shines is a fast-paced, extraordinary, and provocative tale of high stakes and deep losses that demands to be read!
The Children of Darkness
In this case, you really cant judge a book by its cover. The Children of Darkness is not at all the post-apocalyptic tale that you might expect, based on the cover or the title. It is, in actuality, a delightful sci-fi/fantasy story about three kids trying to find themselves and achieve their potential through understanding their history and, consequently, the history of the world. While not categorized as a YA novel, I think it should be. There is probably more meat here that kids on the cusp of adulthood would find nourishing than more mature readers (although its not an unwelcome trip down memory lane).
Orah (the smart girl), Nathaniel (the strapping leader), and Thomas (the nimble artist) unwittingly embark upon a life-changing journey to find the truth after each has a teaching encounter with the vicars of the Temple of Light. In this post-post-post-modern world with little-to-no technology, defined castes, and isolation between communities, the Temple of Light controls all life functionsfrom how many children may be born to what citizens may think. These three kids bumble into a treasure hunt that will finally lead them to the truth about the darkness.
Litwack has created a gem that incorporates some of the best of the genre: Orah will likely remind many readers of J.K. Rowlings Hermoine (Harry Potter). Elements of the story arch are classic, but will seem particularly familiar to readers of Terry Goodkind (The Wizards First Rule). And while Litwack uses typical archetypes, his characters approach conflict in some ways that diverge from expectation while also providing enough of the familiar, tried and true not to disappoint.
The pacing of The Children of Darkness drags in places; all of the inner dialogue and story setup may not be appealing to every reader, and so you may feel a niggling desire to skip a few pages to get back into the action. But, in general, there is careful craftsmanship at play that endeavors to provide enough description without becoming bogged in unnecessary detailswhich could easily happen as Litwack creates an in-between world that is not quite medieval, but not modern either.
There are also seems to be a bit of a struggle with light and darkness not just in the themes but in the presentation as well; there is a tension in the novel that Im not sure is intentional. Litwack seems to want to convey the darkness of humanity but seems timid in just how much to describe, how dark to go. The story hovers in an uncomfortable realm that suggests horrors, but never truly shows them. There is order, but a sinister element bubbles just under the surface; however, Litwack never really allows us to look at it. Never giving into the grotesque or graphic for graphics sake, Litwacks restrained pen seems to be the balance to contemporary sci-fi productions (Mad Max: Road to Fury , Dredd ). There is something about the seemingly inevitable direction of the story that wants some moment of violence, something explosive in the pot that the three young adults stir.
If it is Litwacks project to complicate the notions of good and evil, he succeeds. In unexpected ways, he shows the fallibility and potential of human beings as a race and as individuals to effect changeperhaps neither for good nor ill. There is much to unpack here and a great deal worth expecting in the sequel.
A good read if you check your expectations at the door.
Illidan: World of Warcraft
Novels that take place in role-playing games are a big business and can greatly expand the universe. Just look at the Warhammer series, the novels are incredibly popular and span both fantasy and science fiction. Now it seems World of Warcraft wants to get into the game and publish books that expand its universe. Even though one game is board based and the other is computer based. Honestly as an early effort this falls a bit flat, and William King is well known for his Warhammer books so this effort is surprising. We follow Illidan who has been locked up for thousands of years after betraying the people he was ruling, but now the darkness returns and Illidan is the only one that can stop it. He must gather together a fearsome army, but not everyone trusts him.
This feels like a weak Warhammer book and I will forgive people if they have a hard time telling the difference, the names are similar to what can be found in Warhammer books. If Blizzard is looking to differentiate itself from the other universe it could have done better.
Tomorrows End Book One
Tomorrows End is the first book in a series by author G. R. Morris. This book starts with some pretty basic science fiction themes and extrapolates out in some interesting and unexpected directions. Focusing mainly on two teenage main characters who come into their abilities in varying stages of reluctance, this novel follows Daren, a girl trapped in a horrible foster home, and Kevin, a boy trapped in a home with an abusive stepfather. Both characters become major players in an age old battle of light vs. dark. Mr. Morris also introduces a very interesting theory about free will and destiny in Kevins story arc, while also informing readers about alien technology that is running the world, as well as aliens who are impersonating and replacing humans.
Part one unfortunately begins with a few stumbles and has lines of banal text such as; Some people believed love conquers all. And they were right. It had beaten him. However, I would urge readers to keep reading past the initial pages and really discover the original ideas that Morris has integrated alongside traditional sci-fi staples. The dual story lines are not perfect, but they are handled well and have completely different styles and tones. I enjoyed Darens story line more because the audience was allowed to share her story and her experiences, we got to know her as a person. Kevins story seemed more like exposition. There was an entire three or four chapter section in the middle of the book devoted to explaining the philosophy behind the story. At one point the author seems to even make light of the length with this exchange; Stop interrupting. Robert yelled, I have a whole speech going on here. Sorry, Im beginning to get bored Kevin laughed.
While Tomorrows End may not be the most entertaining novel I have read recently, it is one of the more thought provoking. In a genre that is already crowded with rehashes of ideas, it is truly remarkable to find a debut novel with something new and compelling to offer readers. I hope to see this creativity continue throughout the rest of the series.