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SPFBO 2017 Review: Where Loyalties Lie by Rob J. Hayes


Where Loyalties Lie
AuthorRob J. Hayes
Series:  Best Laid Plans 1
Published:  May 2017
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 372 pages
List Price:  US$12.99 (print); US$3.99 (Kindle eBook)
ISBN:  9781545581926 (print); ASIN:  B071D6KB7D

SPFBO 2017 Review: Where Loyalties Lie by Rob J. Hayes
Everybody knows Drake Morrass is only out for himself.

As the fires of a dying city burn on a distant shore, Drake sees an opportunity to unite the other pirate Captains under his flag and claim a crown for himself. If he is to succeed he will need allies and the Oracle named Keelin Stillwater, the best swordsman in the isles, as Drake's right hand.

With enemy ships sailing his waters and setting fire to his cities, and the sinister Tanner Black threatening to steal the throne before Drake has even sat in it, Drake must somehow convince the other Captains that his best interests are also theirs.



Doreen's Thoughts

Captain Drake has decided he wants to become king of the pirates, despite Tanner Black holding the de facto title. However, Drake’s brother, the Oracle, predicted Drake would live a long life as the Pirate King, and Drake has been planning for years on how to make that happen. With the Five Kingdoms having decided to end the pirate scourge forever simply by killing everyone in the Pirate Isles, Drake has a chance to unite Captains, crews, and islanders all under his command.
Unfortunately, everyone knows that he is always out for himself, so when he attempts recruiting other Captains, there is a great deal of resistance. In addition, the Oracle stated that Drake needed to recruit Keelin Stillwater as his second-in-command to be successful, and Keelin cannot stand Drake. All of this creates a great deal of tension in the novel which Hayes handles well.

Hayes has written a rollicking pirate’s tale with interesting characters facing complex morale situations. Although Captain Drake is far from altruistic, he recognizes that he needs to begin to give priority to others, and during the second major attack, he is the first to start boarding the townspeople on his ship to rescue them and commands Keelin to do the same. Keelin has secret priorities of his own that allow him to align his fate with Drake, despite despising the man; however, as he watches Drake begin to take command and rebuild a pirate homeland, he cannot help but become truly supportive. Keelin’s childhood sweetheart and daughter of Tanner, Elaina Black is torn between loyalty to her father and loyalty to Keelin, whom she loves; but when Keelin appears to be in love with another, there is a question about how far she will go to punish him. Nearly every major character has serious questions about where their loyalties ought to lie.

All in all, Where Loyalties Lie was strongly written, with several different arcs in the story-telling, enough world-building to capture a reader, and only enough unanswered questions to warrant a second novel without creating frustration in the reader.

I give Where Loyalties Lie a 9/10.

SPFBO 2017 Review - Jack Bloodfist: Fixer by James Jakins


Jack Bloodfist: Fixer
Author:  James Jakins
Series:  Jack Bloodfist 1
eBook:  Kindle eBook, October 17, 2015
Publisher:  Robber's Dog Pub, February 17, 2017
Format:  Trade Paperback, 240 pages
List Price:  US$10.00 (print); US$2.99 (Kindle eBook)
ISBN:  9780997900118 (print); ASIN:  B015P90ZR8

SPFBO 2017 Review - Jack Bloodfist: Fixer by James Jakins
Jack Bloodfist fixes things. That's what his card says, anyway.

When the orcs and goblins of Summervale, Virginia need something done they call Jack.

He's the one who convinces the local PD to ignore any tribal violence. The guy who makes sure the goblins aren't evicted whenever they do something decidedly goblin.

He also does the little things that no one else is willing to do. Like handing keys over whenever a prodigal son returns, or identifying the body of said prodigal.

Then there's the occasional murderous paladin and his vengeful god to deal with.

All in a day's work.



Doreen's Thoughts

Jack Bloodfist is an orc; well, really a half-orc, half-goblin with a large tribe/family for whom he is responsible. He acts as a fixer – negotiating and coordinating deals and problems among his tribe/family and between them and the humans. His people had been led to this world by the wizard Jackson Smith, either as a reward or as a refuge after having assisted Jackson in some adventure, and they have lived quietly among the humans without much fanfare and with few humans even knowing about their existence.

Unfortunately, history has come back to haunt them in the form of Arthur Shield, another wizard and a paladin for the god, Saban. Arthur is prepared to destroy Jack’s family for a grievous offense against Saban. He begins a murderous spree, and Jack is drawn into the search for him. Like the reader, Jack learns about the backstory of his family and the reason for the offense during this hunt.

Jakins has done a good job of establishing a distinct voice in his main character, Jack. As a first-person speaker, his voice is characteristic of a relatively mellow individual who starts out in-over-his-head and then rises to the occasion. Most of his secondary characters are well-rounded as well, using action and the story itself to flesh out those such as the detective, Denelle Halldorson, and the love interest, Mogayne.

My only criticism involves the framing of the story. The first three chapters switch from first person to third person and finally back to first person. Jakins uses third person again whenever he discusses Arthur or Jackson. This would not normally be a problem, but the third person chapters read so very differently from the first-person ones. The chapters involving Arthur seem necessary to explain how the character gets from point A to point B. But the chapters involving Jackson almost read like a separate story altogether, and there is very little that ties them to the main story other than the character and the fact that he is a wizard. The story would have been stronger and tighter, had Jakins found a way to include those characters more naturally into the novel. I give Jack Bloodfist: Fixer a 7/10.

Review: Flame in the Dark by Faith Hunter


Flame in the Dark
Author:  Faith Hunter
Series:  A Soulwood Novel 3
Publisher:  Ace, December 5, 2017
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 368 pages
List Price:  US$7.99 (print and eBook)
ISBN:  9780451473332 (print); 9780698184510 (eBook)

Review: Flame in the Dark by Faith Hunter
Set in the same world as Faith Hunter’s New York Times bestselling Jane Yellowrock novels, the third, thrilling Soulwood novel stars Nell Ingram, who draws her powers from deep within the earth.

Nell Ingram has always known she was different. Since she was a child, she’s been able to feel and channel ancient powers from deep within the earth. When she met Jane Yellowrock, her entire life changed, and she was recruited into PsyLED—the Homeland Security division that polices paranormals. But now her newly formed unit is about to take on its toughest case yet.

A powerful senator barely survives an assassination attempt that leaves many others dead—and the house he was visiting burns to the ground. Invisible to security cameras, the assassin literally disappears, and Nell’s team is called in. As they track a killer they know is more—or less—than human, they unravel a web of dark intrigue and malevolent motives that tests them to their limits and beyond.



Doreen’s Thoughts

As Hunter eased us into the world of Soulwood, she used her primary character, Jane Yellowrock, to introduce us to Nell Ingram, a young widow fighting against the efforts of a cult-like church to return to the fold. The first two novels involved spillover from Jane’s world, but in Flame in the Dark, Nell is on her own and in the thick of it. She has been accepted as a junior member of the PsyLED team, and as the book opens, she is doing grunt work after an attack on a powerful senator.

The great thing about Hunter’s novels is that she mixes action and mystery with heart and soul. As the pursuit for the assassin becomes more dangerous, the group begins to speculate that the killer is a member of an unknown paranormal group. Nell herself is attacked and nearly killed as she finds a critical piece of evidence. There are burning houses and exploding cars, and a young boy who can cause burns with a single touch.

But at the same time as the investigation, life goes on for Nell. Occam is continuing his pursuit of her, inviting her to dinner. Her relationship with her family is better than ever; in fact, the family is making efforts to send eligible bachelors to Nell in hopes that she will return to the church and help modernize it. The PsyLED team has accepted her as a member, no longer making accommodations for her newness and her lack of “townie” ways. Lastly, Nell’s sister Mud has come of age and appears to have the same powers that Nell has.

Hunter’s skill as a writer comes as she intertwines Nell’s every-day, ongoing life with PsyLED’s adventurous day job. The descriptions of the group meetings always involve food, and the office has a set up for changing and sleeping. The PsyLED group has become Nell’s second family, one for whom she would risk her life, as she does in this story.




Previously

Review: Flame in the Dark by Faith Hunter
Book 1
Review: Flame in the Dark by Faith Hunter
Book 2

Review: A Peace Divided by Tanya Huff


A Peace Divided
Author:  Tanya Huff
Series:  Peacekeeper 2
Publisher:  DAW, June 6, 2017
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 384 pages
List Price:  US$26.00 (print); US$12.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780756411503 (print); 9780756411527 (eBook)

Review: A Peace Divided by Tanya Huff
The second book in the action-packed Peacekeeper series, a continuation of Tanya Huff’s military sci-fi Confederation series following Torin Kerr

Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr had been the very model of a Confederation Marine. No one who’d ever served with her could imagine any circumstance that would see her walking away from the Corps.

But that was before Torin learned the truth about the war the Confederation was fighting…before she’d been declared dead and had spent time in a prison that shouldn’t exist…before she’d learned about the “plastic” beings who were really behind the war between the Confederation and the Others. That was when Torin left the military for good.

Yet she couldn’t walk away from preserving and protecting everything the Confederation represented. Instead, ex-Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr drew together an elite corps of friends and allies—some ex-Marines, some civilians with unique skills—and together they prepared to take on covert missions that the Justice Department and the Corps could not—or would not—officially touch. But after their first major mission, it became obvious that covert operations were not going to be enough.

Although the war is over, the fight goes on and the Justice Department finds its regular Wardens unable to deal with violence and the people trained to use it. Ex-Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr has a solution: Strike Teams made up of ex-military personnel, small enough to maneuver quickly, able to work together if necessary. Justice has no choice but to implement her idea and Torin puts her team of independent contractors back into uniform. It isn’t war, it is policing, but it often looks much the same.

When the scientists doing a preliminary archaeological dig on a Class Two planet are taken hostage, Torin’s team is sent to free them. The problem of innocents in the line of fire is further complicated by the fact that the mercenaries holding them are a mix of Confederation and Primacy forces, and are looking for a weapon able to destroy the plastic aliens who’d started and maintained the war.

If Torin weren’t already torn by wanting that weapon in play, she also has to contend with the politics of peace that have added members of the Primacy—former enemies—to her team. Before they confront the mercenaries, Torin will have to sift through shifting loyalties as she discovers that the line between“us” and “them” is anything but straight.



Doreen's Review

I’ve enjoyed Tanya Huff’s novels for years, particularly her fantasy, but her Confederation series, also known as the Valor series, really got me hooked on Sci-Fi military novels. I’m really not into guns or other weapons; I respect and honor those who choose to serve in the military, but I could never really understand their devotion and enthusiasm for their service until I began reading about Torin Kerr.

The Valor novels begin with Valor’s Choice and Torin and her platoon assigned to yet another dangerous mission on behalf of the Confederacy. The Confederacy is made up of the Elder Races, those with the earliest and best technology who organized and invited other races to the Confederacy, and the Younger Races, who are recruited because they still retain the violent tendencies necessary to fight the Galactic War against the Primacy which has raged for centuries. All the Valor novels follow Torin as she evolves in her role as a gunnery sergeant until she discovers a massive secret about the creation of the War that finally leads to peace with the Primacy. Just when it seems that there is no need for entities with her skill set, she is recruited by the Wardens, the peacekeeping hand of the Confederacy, to help enforce laws where the Elder Races even lack the ability to use / understand violence.

A Peace Divided starts after Torin’s first adventure as a Warden in An Ancient Peace, where she and her team discovered that some military groups are searching for ancient weapons developed and then destroyed by one of the first Elder Races. A Peace Divided follows the plot started in that novel and continues.

Rather than describe the plot, I want to focus on some other elements of this novel, particularly the characterization. In this new series, Torin is a military veteran who has had some horrific experiences during her career, leading to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Her charge as a Gunnery Sargent who lead some people to their death weighs on her, physically, as she feels the containers of ashes of the dead on her combat vest. She has finally agreed to see a counselor and come to the realization that the process has helped her and will continue to help her, and as a reader, it is possible to see that change when comparing her decision making in this novel to the decision making in the novels of the other series. More than almost anything, I enjoy watching characters grow and change through the experiences they have between the pages. Tanya Huff does an excellent job on this, not only with Torin, but with the other members of her team.

In addition, the other members of her team are very creatively drawn. Huff has made the military units to include a mixture of alien races, by law, and emphasizes the equality among them. When she initially describes an alien race, she includes a little background about their evolution and history that allows the reader to understand that oddities that make them alien, whether they be body parts or eating choices, or mental perspective.

As military Sci-Fi, the novel has weapons and they are described in detail as well as designed scientifically to consider issues such as firing projectiles within a starship. Lastly the method of travel is described both scientifically as well as mathematically, again making it fit well within the Sci-Fi genre. Most important to me are the battles that make it military. Huff can go from a macro description to a more minute individual view all within a single paragraph and have it flow well. The strategy of the battles often reflect the attitudes of the specific race against which the team is fighting. To me, that’s great writing. The surprises that Huff often adds through Torin are delightful.

Overall, it would be possible to read A Peace Divided on its own, because Huff provides just enough background on the big plot issues and the personalities, without being too repetitive or boring for a long-time reader like myself. However, why deprive yourself of the entire realm of the Confederacy? Starting with Valor’s Choice (Valor 1), you can only win.





Previously

An Ancient Peace
Peacekeeper 1
DAW, October 4, 2016
Mass Market Paperback, 432 pages
Hardcover and eBook, October 6, 2015

Review: A Peace Divided by Tanya Huff
The thrilling first installment in the military sci-fi Peacekeeper series continues the adventures of Torin Kerr and her team of marines

Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr had been the very model of a Confederation Marine. But when she learned the truth about the war the Confederation was fighting, she left the military for good.

But Torin couldn’t walk away from preserving and protecting everything the Confederation represented. Instead, she drew together an elite corps of friends and allies to take on covert missions that the Justice Department and the Corps could not—or would not—officially touch. Torin just hoped the one they were about to embark on wouldn’t be the death of them.

Ancient H’san grave goods are showing up on the black market—grave goods from just before the formation of the Confederation, when the H’san gave up war and buried their planet-destroying weapons…as grave goods for the death of war. Someone is searching for these weapons and they’re very close to finding them. As the Elder Races have turned away from war, those searchers can only be members of the Younger Races.

Fortunately, only the Corps Intelligence Service has this information. Unfortunately, they can do nothing about it—bound by laws of full disclosure, their every move is monitored.

Though Torin Kerr and her team are no longer a part of the military, the six of them tackling the H’san defenses and the lethally armed grave robbers are the only chance the Confederation has. The only chance to avoid millions more dead.

But the more Torin learns about the relationship between the Elder Races and the Younger, the more she begins to fear war might be an unavoidable result.





The Valor / Confederation Series

Review: A Peace Divided by Tanya Huff
Valor's Choice
Valor 1
DAW, April 1, 2000
eBook, 416 Pages

The first book in Tanya Huff’s action-packed military sci-fi adventure Confederation series

Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr was a battle-hardened professional. So when she and her platoon were yanked from a well-deserved leave for what was supposed to be “easy” duty as the honor guard for a diplomatic mission to the non-Confederation world of the Silsviss, she was ready for anything. Sure, there’d been rumors of the Others—the sworn enemies of the Confederation—being spotted in this sector of space. But there were always rumors. The key thing was to recruit the Silsviss into the Confederation before the Others attacked or claimed these lizardlike warriors for their side. And everything seemed to be going perfectly. Maybe too perfectly….




Review: A Peace Divided by Tanya Huff
The Better Part of Valor
Valor 2
DAW, June 5, 2007
eBook, 416 Pages

The second book in Tanya Huff’s action-packed military sci-fi adventure Confederation series

Never tell a two-star general what you really think of him….

That was the mistake Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr made with General Morris. But as a battle-hardened professional, she took pride in doing her job and getting her troops back alive. So after she’d saved the mission to bring the Silviss into the Confederation—instead of losing them and their world to the enemy known only as the Others—she let the general know exactly how she felt.

And Torin’s reward—or punishment—was to be separated from her platoon and sent off on what might well prove an even more perilous assignment. She was commandeered to protect a scientific expedition to a newly discovered and seemingly derelict spaceship of truly epic proportions. And Confederation politics had saddled her with a commanding officer who might prove more of a menace to the mission’s success than anything they encountered.

Only time would tell if the ship was what it appeared to be, or a trap created by the Others—or the work of an as-yet unknown alien race with an agenda that could prove all too hostile to other life forms….




Review: A Peace Divided by Tanya Huff
The Heart of Valor
Valor 3
DAW, June 3, 2008
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 432 pages

The third installment in Tanya Huff’s action-packed military sci-fi adventure Confederation series

Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr was a Confederation Marine’s marine. She’d survived more deadly encounters—and kept more of her officers and enlisteds alive—than anyone in the Corps, and she was determined to keep the record intact. But since her last mission, she’d been sidelined into endless briefings and debriefings with no end in sight.

So, of course, she’d jumped at the chance to go to the Crucible—the Marine Corps training planet—as temporary aide to Major Svensson. The major had been reduced to little more than a brain and spinal cord in his last combat, and he and his doctor were anxious to field test his newly re-grown body.

It should have been an easy twenty-day run. After all, Crucible was only set up to simulate battle situations so recruits could be trained safely. But they were barely on-planet when someone started blasting the training scenarios to smithereens.

And suddenly Kerr found herself not only responsible for the major and his doctor, but caught in a desperate fight to keep a platoon of Marine recruits alive until someone discovered what was happening on Crucible….




Review: A Peace Divided by Tanya Huff
Valor's Trial
Valor 4
DAW, June 2, 2009
Mass Market and eBook, 416 pages

The fourth book in Tanya Huff’s action-packed military sci-fi adventure Confederation series

After surviving the perils of the Crucible, the Marine Corps planet where a routine training assignment had taken a deadly twist—Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr returned to Ventris Station just in time to link up with her old platoon and head out to a new war zone, an area of space where the enemy known as the Others appeared to be building up its forces for a preemptive strike.

Sent to pull back troops who’d moved up to an indefensible position, Torin was caught in the heaviest fighting just as a devastating air strike reduced the whole area to slag. The Corps concluded that she was dead. But despite irrefutable evidence, neither Torin’s father nor salvager Craig Ryder agreed.

And the truth was that Torin had survived. She woke to discover that she was trapped in a series of underground caves that appeared to be an enemy-run POW camp. But everyone knew the Others never took prisoners—or did they?

Could Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr escape this prison that shouldn’t even exist, taking as many Marines as possible with her? Though she was determined to get herself and her Marines back to the Confederation, Torin had no idea how crucial her attempt could prove, not only to her own well-being, but to the course of the entire war.




Review: A Peace Divided by Tanya Huff
The Truth of Valor
Valor 5
DAW, September 6, 2011
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 416 pages

The thrilling final installment in Tanya Huff’s military sci-fi adventure Confederation series

Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr was the very model of a Confederation Marine. She’d survived more deadly encounters than anyone in the Corps. No one who’d ever served with her could imagine her walking away from the Corps. But that was before Torin had learned the truth about the war the Confederation was fighting…before she’d been declared dead and had spent time in a prison that shouldn’t exist….

It was Salvage Operator Craig Ryder who had refused to believe Torin was dead. Craig who found and rescued Torin. And so, when her mission was complete, Torin resigned from the Marines to start a new life with Craig aboard his tiny salvage ship, the Promise.

But civilian life was a lot rougher than Torin had imagined. The salvage operators were losing cargo and lives to pirates. Because salvagers were an independent lot unwilling to turn to the OutSector Wardens for help, no one in authority seemed to take their ever-increasing threat seriously.

Then, on their first real run together, pirates attacked the Promise, kidnapping Craig and leaving Torin to die. But leaving Torin behind to die was never a good strategy. Against all odds, she survived, and certain—despite no evidence to prove her correct—that Craig was still alive, she decided to mount a rescue mission. When Craig’s salvager friends refused to join her, Torin had no choice but to call in the Marines—some very special Marines.

Then she discovered why the pirates had been trying to kidnap salvagers. And suddenly Torin’s mission expanded from saving Craig to stopping the pirates from changing the balance of power in known space….




Review: A Peace Divided by Tanya Huff
A Confederation of Valor
Valor 1 and 2
DAW, February 3, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 576 pages

In Valor’s Choice, Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr and her crew get yanked from a well-deserved shore leave in order to participate in an “easy” mission. They are to act as an honor guard for a diplomatic visit to the world of the Silsviss, reptilian aliens with a strong appreciation for war and conquest. Ideally, the visit will result in an alliance and a new member world for the Confederation. Sure, there’d been rumored sightings of the Others on the planet, sworn enemies of the Confederation, but there are always rumors. Everything seems to be going perfectly. Maybe too perfectly…

In The Better Part of Valor, Torin Kerr’s outspokenness gets her in a load of trouble. After she tells a two-star general what she really thinks of him, she finds herself separated from her platoon and sent off on a perilous assignment. She’s ordered to escort a scientific expedition to an unidentified alien ship abandoned in space — is it a trap set by the Others or simply a derelict? It’s Torin’s job to find out — and to babysit a commanding officer who might prove more of a menace to the mission’s success than anything they encounter.


Review, Excerpt and Giveaway - The Holver Alley Crew by Marshall Ryan Maresca


The Holver Alley Crew
Author:  Marshall Ryan Maresca
Series:  A Streets of Maradaine Novel
Publisher:  DAW, March 7, 2017
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 352 pages
List Price:  US$7.99 (print and eBook)
ISBN9780756412609 (print); 9780756412616 (eBook)

Review, Excerpt and Giveaway - The Holver Alley Crew by Marshall Ryan Maresca
The exciting debut to Marshall Ryan Maresca’s Streets of Maradaine series, blending fast-paced heists with epic and urban fantasy across interconnected series of novels

The Rynax brothers had gone legit after Asti Rynax’s service in Druth Intelligence had shattered his nerves, and marriage and fatherhood convinced Verci Rynax to leave his life of thievery. They settled back in their old neighborhood in West Maradaine and bought themselves a shop, eager for a simple, honest life.

Then the Holver Alley Fire incinerated their plans. With no home, no shop, and no honest income—and saddled with a looming debt—they fall back on their old skills and old friends.

With a crew of other fire victims, Asti and Verci plan a simple carriage heist, but the job spirals out of control as they learn that the fire was no accident. Lives in Holver Alley were destroyed out of a sadistic scheme to buy the land.

Smoldering for revenge, burdened with Asti’s crumbling sanity, the brothers and their crew of amateurs and washouts swear to take down those responsible for the fire, no matter the cost.



Doreen's Thoughts

With his newest book, Marshal Ryan Maresca continues to develop his fantasy world, Maradaine. His first two novels focused on the criminal side of the world while his second two looked at the constabulary, those individuals catching the criminals. With The Holver Alley Crew, Maresca looks at the commoners who live on the streets and often are caught in the middle.

The story opens in the midst of a horrific fire, catching Verci Rynax, his brother Asti, his wife, and their daughter in their home by the flames. They rescue themselves and some of their neighbors, while waiting for the fire crews, but the firefighters appear too late. The fire eventually takes out not only their building, but a huge chunk of the neighborhood, including the shop the brothers had planned to open in their efforts to leave the criminal life.

Because of the debt they owed on the building, Verci and Asti are forced to seek criminal work once again. However, when it becomes apparent that the fire was set intentionally, the boys vow to find those responsible and hold them accountable using a ragtag team of their fellow victims.

Maresca excels at this type of rollicking adventure. His writing exemplifies showing, rather than telling. While he gives hints in the beginning about his characters’ backstories, the story itself reveals more about their personalities and problems. Maresca hints early on that Asti’s work as a spy had not ended well, but he leaves the nuts and bolts of the story and its aftermath for later. For example, the reader immediately sees that Asti is having problems controlling his violence by his reaction to seeing a shopkeeper attacked by thugs. It seems obvious that this is related to his past.

In addition to developing his characters, Maresca also outdoes himself with action. From the opening scene until the close, there always is some type of action taking place. Maresca does not use much introspection or dialogue when an old-fashioned brawl will do. His action scenes, such as the opening fire, go on for pages. He offers lots of fights, chases, and crashes, and he does so joyfully.

It is obvious that Maresca has a lot of fun writing his stories. He genuinely likes the characters that he is describing, even the so-called “bad” guys. While the Rynax brothers are technically thieves, they steal because circumstances force them to do so. Ultimately, they believe in a concept of justice, which is why they choose to go after those who set the fire. The same is true of Veranix, who is a vigilante fighting against a major crime lord. In Maradaine, very few people are ever solely good or wholly bad. Just as in real life, Maresca’s characters have a humanity that allows for shades of grey.




Excerpt

“Julien!” he called. The big man pushed his way through the crowd, Asti meeting him partway.

“You all right, Jules? Your house all right?”

“No,” Julien said, his wide, sad face covered in ash and soot.

“I’m sorry, Julien,” Asti said. “Win Greenfield and his family are still trapped.”

Julien nodded, and charged without further prodding. Verci scrambled out of the way as

Julien smashed his shoulder into the door. It splintered and cracked.

“Asti Rynax, what in the name of the blasted saints do you think you’re doing?” Helene Kesser, Julien’s cousin, had come up right behind him, grabbing his wrist tightly. Her face and nightclothes were covered in ashes, black hair a tangled mess, and bare arms scraped and bleeding. “I barely got Jules out of our house. Don’t you dare have him—”

“I just need the door open,” Asti said. He glanced over at Raych, still crying at Verci to come away from the burning building. “Keep everyone else out, Hel. Especially Verci.”

“How the blazes—”

“Just do it,” Asti said. He took off his pack and handed it to Helene. Without another word, he pulled a cloak out and took it to the well spigot nearest Greenfield’s shop. He pumped it hard, but only a trickle of water came out. While he was doing that, Julien broke the door off its hinges with a loud crunch. Smoke poured out through the open frame.

Asti took a deep breath, put on the damp cloak, and ran into the shop. He could hear Helene yelling from outside, telling Julien not to go in after him.

Asti couldn’t see anything; thick smoke filled the shop. Eyes shut, cloak over his face, he went by memory to the back counter. He didn’t need to see to find his way; it was five steps straight, and then three to the right to the door leading to Win’s workshop.
“Win!” he called out. He could barely hear his own voice over the roar of fire. Blindly he found the door to the back room, and gave a silent prayer that it would be unlocked. He pushed his way in and tripped over something on the ground.

The fire blazed throughout the workshop, but on the floor the smoke was thinner. He had tripped over Green- field’s body. Winthym lay flat on his face, breathing shallowly.
Asti shook him. “Win, come on.” Asti shook him again, but he didn’t wake.

Through the smoke, a hand touched Asti on the shoulder. Verci came crawling in, stopping right in front of Win’s body.

“What are you doing?” Asti shouted at his brother. “Same as you,” Verci said. The ceiling crackled and creaked above them.





The Giveaway

What:  One copy of The Holver Alley Crew by Marshall Ryan Maresca from the publisher. US / Canada Only

How:
  • Send an email to theqwillery . contests @ gmail.com [remove the spaces]
  • In the subject line, enter “Holver Alley“
  • In the body of the email, please provide your name and full mailing address. The winning address is used only to mail the prize and is provided to the publisher and/or The Qwillery only for that purpose. All other address information will be deleted once the giveaway ends.

Who:  The giveaway is open to all humans on the planet earth with a US or Canadian mailing address.

When:  The giveaway ends at 11:59 PM US Eastern Time on March 17, 2017. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules and duration are subject to change without any notice.*





About Marshall

Review, Excerpt and Giveaway - The Holver Alley Crew by Marshall Ryan Maresca
Photo: © Kimberley Mead
Marshall Ryan Maresca grew up in upstate New York and studied film and video production at Penn State. He now lives Austin with his wife and son. His work appeared in Norton Anthology of Hint Fiction and Rick Klaw’s anthology Rayguns Over Texas. He also has had several short plays produced and has worked as a stage actor, a theatrical director and an amateur chef. His novels The Thorn of Dentonhill and A Murder of Mages each begin their own fantasy series, both set in the port city of Maradaine. For more information, visit Marshall’s website at www.mrmaresca.com.




Twitter @marshallmaresca







Previously in Maradaine

Review, Excerpt and Giveaway - The Holver Alley Crew by Marshall Ryan Maresca
The Thorn of Dentonhill
A Novel of Maradaine 1
DAW, February 3, 2014
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Veranix Calbert leads a double life. By day, he’s a struggling magic student at the University of Maradaine. At night, he spoils the drug trade of Willem Fenmere, crime boss of Dentonhill and murderer of Veranix’s father. He’s determined to shut Fenmere down.

With that goal in mind, Veranix disrupts the delivery of two magical artifacts meant for Fenmere’s clients, the mages of the Blue Hand Circle. Using these power-filled objects in his fight, he quickly becomes a real thorn in Fenmere’s side.

So much so that soon not only Fenmere, but powerful mages, assassins, and street gangs all want a piece of “The Thorn.” And with professors and prefects on the verge of discovering his secrets, Veranix’s double life might just fall apart. Unless, of course, Fenmere puts an end to it first.



See Doreen's review here.



Review, Excerpt and Giveaway - The Holver Alley Crew by Marshall Ryan Maresca
A Murder of Mages
A novel of the Maradaine Constabulary 1
DAW, July 7, 2015
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

A Murder of Mages marks the debut of Marshall Ryan Maresca’s novels of The Maradaine Constabulary, his second series set amid the bustling streets and crime-ridden districts of the exotic city called Maradaine. A Murder of Mages introduces us to this spellbinding port city as seen through the eyes of the people who strive to maintain law and order, the hardworking men and women of the Maradaine Constabulary.

Satrine Rainey—former street rat, ex-spy, mother of two, and wife to a Constabulary Inspector who lies on the edge of death, injured in the line of duty—has been forced to fake her way into the post of Constabulary Inspector to support her family.

Minox Welling is a brilliant, unorthodox Inspector and an Uncircled mage—almost a crime in itself. Nicknamed “the jinx” because of the misfortunes that seem to befall anyone around him, Minox has been partnered with Satrine because no one else will work with either of them.

Their first case together—the ritual murder of a Circled mage— sends Satrine back to the streets she grew up on and brings Minox face-to-face with mage politics he’s desperate to avoid. As the body count rises, Satrine and Minox must race to catch the killer before their own secrets are exposed and they, too, become targets.



See Doreen's review here.



Review, Excerpt and Giveaway - The Holver Alley Crew by Marshall Ryan Maresca
The Alchemy of Chaos
A Novel of Maradaine 2
DAW, February 2, 2016
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Veranix Calbert is The Thorn—the street vigilante-turned-legend—and a danger to Willem Fenmere, the drug kingpin of Dentonhill. Veranix is determined to stop Fenmere and the effitte drug trade, especially when he discovers that Fenmere is planning on using the Red Rabbits gang in his neighborhood. But Veranix is also a magic student at the University of Maradaine, and it’s exam week. With his academic career riding on his performance, there’s no time to go after Fenmere or the Red Rabbits. But when a series of pranks on campus grow deadly, it’s clear that someone has a vendetta against the university, and Veranix may be the only one who can stop them…




See Doreen's review here.



Review, Excerpt and Giveaway - The Holver Alley Crew by Marshall Ryan Maresca
An Import of Intrigue
A novel of The Maradaine Constabulary 2
DAW, November 1, 2016
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

The neighborhood of the Little East is a collision of cultures, languages, and traditions, hidden away in the city of Maradaine. A set of streets to be avoided or ignored. When a foreign dignitary is murdered, solving the crime falls to the most unpopular inspectors in the Maradaine Constabulary: exposed fraud Satrine Rainey, and Uncircled mage Minox Welling.

With a murder scene deliberately constructed to point blame toward the rival groups resident in this exotic section of Maradaine, Rainey is forced to confront her former life, while Welling’s ignorance of his own power threatens to consume him. And the conflicts erupting in the Little East will spark a citywide war unless the Constabulary solves the case quickly.



See Melanie's review here.





Upcoming

The Imposters of Aventil
A Novel of Maradaine 3
DAW, October 3, 2017
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

[cover not yet revealed]
Blending vigilante justice with epic fantasy, this third Maradaine novel finds student Veranix Calbert returning to fight crime • “Veranix is Batman, if Batman were a teenager and magically talented.” —Library Journal

Summer and the Grand Tournament of High Colleges have come to the University of Maradaine. If the heat and the crowds weren’t enough to bring the campus and the neighborhood of Aventil to a boiling point, rumors that The Thorn is on the warpath—killing the last of the Red Rabbits—is enough to tip all of Maradaine into the fire.

Except Veranix Calbert, magic student at the University, is The Thorn, and he’s not the one viciously hunting the Red Rabbits. Veranix has his hands full with his share of responsibilities for the Tournament, and as The Thorn he’s been trying to find the source of the mind-destroying effitte being sold on campus. He’s as confused as anyone about the rumors.

When The Thorn imposter publicly attacks the local Aventil constables, the Constabulary bring in their own special investigators: Inspectors Minox Welling and Satrine Rainey from the Maradaine Grand Inspectors Unit. Can Veranix find out who the imposter is and stop him before Welling and Rainey arrest him for the imposter’s crimes?

Review: Kingdom Come by Jane Jensen


Kingdom Come
Author:  Jane Jensen
Series:  An Elizabeth Harris Novel 1
Publisher:  Berkley, January 5, 2016
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 304 pages
List Price:  US$15.00 (print); US$9.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780425282892 (print); 9780698407084 (eBook)

Review: Kingdom Come by Jane Jensen
Amish country in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, has always been a place of quiet beauty—until a shocking murder shatters the peace, and leaves a troubled detective picking up the pieces…

After her husband is murdered, Detective Elizabeth Harris turns in her NYPD badge and moves back home, hoping that a quiet life in remote Pennsylvania Dutch country will help her overcome the dark memories of her ten years in New York. But when a beautiful, scantily clad “English” girl is found dead in the barn of a prominent Amish family, Elizabeth knows that she’s uncovered an evil that could shake the community to its core.

Elizabeth’s boss is convinced this was the work of an “English,” as outsiders are called in Lancaster County. But Elizabeth isn’t so sure. All she’s missing is an actual lead—until another body is found: this time, a missing Amish girl. Now Elizabeth must track down a killer with deep ties to a community that always protects its own—no matter how deadly the cost…



Doreen's Thoughts

Jane Jensen’s Kingdom Come offers a realistic view of the Amish who live in Pennsylvania Dutch country and their interactions with the English (anyone who is not Amish). Elizabeth Harris is a police detective who has returned to Pennsylvania after the death of her husband. She is the lead investigator when a young woman is found murdered in an Amish barn. Her police colleagues are convinced that the killer cannot be Amish, but Elizabeth suspects everyone, including the young Amish man to whom she is attracted.

This was a quick read, but the story was fairly elaborate. Jensen has created realistic detectives in Elizabeth and her colleagues. She even illustrates some of the politics that can interfere in a murder case by having the Amish elders request that Elizabeth be removed from the case for becoming a “bad influence” on their community. While the attraction between Elizabeth and Ezra was somewhat unbelievable, their relationship and interactions seemed genuine.

There are several suspects who may have committed the murder, and although surprised, I was very satisfied with the reveal of the killer. Jensen has started an intriguing mystery series with unique characters who have seldom appeared in other mystery novels. The Amish touch should be enough to appeal to those who may be burned out on straight murder mysteries.

Review: The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R. King


The Murder of Mary Russell
    A novel of suspense featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes
Author:  Laurie R. King
Series:  Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes 14
Publisher:  Bantam, April 5, 2016
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 384 pages
List Price:  US$28.00 (print); US$13.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780804177900 (print); 9780804177917 (eBook)

Review: The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R. King
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell–Sherlock Holmes series weaves rich historical detail and provocative themes with intriguing characters and enthralling suspense. Russell and Holmes have become one of modern literature’s most beloved teams. But does this adventure end it all?

Mary Russell is used to dark secrets—her own, and those of her famous partner and husband, Sherlock Holmes. Trust is a thing slowly given, but over the course of a decade together, the two have forged an indissoluble bond.

And what of the other person to whom Mary Russell has opened her heart: the couple’s longtime housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson? Russell’s faith and affection are suddenly shattered when a man arrives on the doorstep claiming to be Mrs. Hudson’s son.

What Samuel Hudson tells Russell cannot possibly be true, yet she believes him—as surely as she believes the threat of the gun in his hand. In a devastating instant, everything changes. And when the scene is discovered—a pool of blood on the floor, the smell of gunpowder in the air—the most shocking revelation of all is that the grim clues point directly to Clara Hudson.

Or rather to Clarissa, the woman she was before Baker Street.

The key to Russell’s sacrifice lies in Mrs. Hudson’s past. To uncover the truth, a frantic Sherlock Holmes must put aside his anguish and push deep into his housekeeper’s secrets—to a time before her disguise was assumed, before her crimes were buried away.

There is death here, and murder, and trust betrayed.

And nothing will ever be the same.



Doreen’s Thoughts

The Murder of Mary Russell is the 14th novel from Laurie R. King in the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series which also includes several short stories. Because of that, I recommend that readers start with the first novel, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice.

For the most of the series, Mary Russell has been the narrator, with occasional chapters focusing on Sherlock Holmes in the third person. In The Murder of Mary Russell, King takes a huge step away from her former format and focuses on Clara Hudson, Holmes’ housekeeper. This not only is a departure in style, but also leads the reader to believe that Mary herself may be dead, ramping up the suspense.

The story starts innocently enough with Mary waiting at home for her husband, Holmes, to return, when a young man appears at the door looking for Clarissa Hudson, Mrs. Hudson’s apparent former name. Samuel Hudson claims to be her son and aims a gun at Mary. Then the story immediately changes and begins relating the history of Clarissa, alternating with Holmes’ desperate search for Mary and Samuel, after finding them missing with signs that one or the other is dead. Clarissa’s history changes a reader’s entire perception about the mild-mannered housekeeper and her role in Holmes’ life.

I absolutely loved this book. It probably is my favorite in the entire series and really breathes new life into not only the myth of Sherlock Holmes, but also King’s work. The story about a young poor girl masquerading as one of the ton, the aristocrats of the Victorian age, is slightly reminiscent of the old romance novels that I used to read as a teenager. But this one is darker, more vivid, and definitely more sinister. It also introduces a young Sherlock Holmes, just beginning his career as an investigator, and expands upon one of Sir Conan Doyle’s earliest mysteries.

Without giving away the secret of the title, I was thoroughly satisfied with the ending. King has revitalized her series. Where she goes from here is a mystery, but I will read anything else she writes, hoping it is half as good as The Murder of Mary Russell.

Review: Dreamer’s Pool and Tower of Thorns by Juliet Marillier


Dreamer's Pool
Author:  Juliet Marillier
Series:  A Blackthorn & Grim Novel 1
Publisher:  Roc, November 3, 2015
Format:  Mass Market Paperback, 464 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (print); $7.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780451467003 (print); 9780698139169 (eBook)
Previously:  Hardcover and eBook, Nov. 4, 2015


Review: Dreamer’s Pool and Tower of Thorns by Juliet Marillier
Award-winning author Juliet Marillier “weaves magic, mythology, and folklore into every sentence on the page” (The Book Smugglers). Now she begins an all-new and enchanting series that will transport readers to a magical vision of ancient Ireland….

In exchange for help escaping her long and wrongful imprisonment, embittered magical healer Blackthorn has vowed to set aside her bid for vengeance against the man who destroyed all that she once held dear. Followed by a former prison mate, a silent hulk of a man named Grim, she travels north to Dalriada. There she’ll live on the fringe of a mysterious forest, duty bound for seven years to assist anyone who asks for her help.

Oran, crown prince of Dalriada, has waited anxiously for the arrival of his future bride, Lady Flidais. He knows her only from a portrait and sweetly poetic correspondence that have convinced him Flidais is his destined true love. But Oran discovers letters can lie. For although his intended exactly resembles her portrait, her brutality upon arrival proves she is nothing like the sensitive woman of the letters.

With the strategic marriage imminent, Oran sees no way out of his dilemma. Word has spread that Blackthorn possesses a remarkable gift for solving knotty problems, so the prince asks her for help. To save Oran from his treacherous nuptials, Blackthorn and Grim will need all their resources: courage, ingenuity, leaps of deduction, and more than a little magic.



Tower of Thorns
Author:  Juliet Marillier
Series:  A Blackthorn & Grim Novel 2
Publisher:  Roc, November 3, 2015
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 432 pages
List Price:  $26.95 (print); $12.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780451467010 (print); 9780698139237 (eBook)
Forthcoming:  Mass Market Paperback, Oct. 4, 2016

Review: Dreamer’s Pool and Tower of Thorns by Juliet Marillier
Award-winning author Juliet Marillier’s “lavishly detailed”* Blackthorn & Grim series continues as a mysterious creature holds an enchanted and imperiled ancient Ireland in thrall.

Disillusioned healer Blackthorn and her companion, Grim, have settled in Dalriada to wait out the seven years of Blackthorn’s bond to her fey mentor, hoping to avoid any dire challenges. But trouble has a way of seeking out Blackthorn and Grim.

Lady Geiléis, a noblewoman from the northern border, has asked for the prince of Dalriada’s help in expelling a howling creature from an old tower on her land—one surrounded by an impenetrable hedge of thorns. Casting a blight over the entire district, and impossible to drive out by ordinary means, it threatens both the safety and the sanity of all who live nearby. With no ready solutions to offer, the prince consults Blackthorn and Grim.

As Blackthorn and Grim begin to put the pieces of this puzzle together, it’s apparent that a powerful adversary is working behind the scenes. Their quest is about to become a life and death struggle—a conflict in which even the closest of friends can find themselves on opposite sides.

*Publishers Weekly



Doreen’s Thoughts

Juliet Marillier has started a new series with two equally wounded characters, Blackthorn and Grim, who met in the dungeons of Lord Mathuin awaiting execution. The night before her execution, Blackthorn is offered a bargain by one of the Fae lords – he will help her escape if she agrees to move to another country, become a healer woman again, to help anyone who asks, and put off her vengeance for seven years. Despite her intense desire for revenge, Blackthorn agrees and Conmael causes the prison to break open. One of her fellow inmates, Grim follows to help her and she cannot bring herself to send him away because of the bargain.

Written in alternating chapters from each character’s perspective, both Dreamer’s Pool and Tower of Thorns take a basic fairytale and rewrites it in a completely new way. In Dreamer’s Pool, there is a princess who mysteriously changes when she arrives at her betrothed’s palace. After corresponding with Flidais, Prince Oran has fallen in love with her. However, the reality of her in the flesh is nothing like the picture he fashioned from her letters. Finally, he requests that Blackthorn and Grim come work at his castle for a time and “spy” on Flidais to determine if there is something odd about her.

In Tower of Thorns, there is a monster who wails from sunup to sundown. Lady Geiléis has requested that Prince Oran help remove the creature that is threatening her people. Oran turns to Blackthorn and Grim for a solution, and they travel to Bann to investigate. At the same time, an old friend from Blackthorn’s past has arrived and requested that she return to fight against Lord Mathuin, the man upon whom she wishes revenge.

Each of these novels eventually gives some of the background stories for Blackthorn and Grim, with Blackthorn's story coming in the first book and Grim's in the second. Both of them have experienced horrifying losses that affect their lives tremendously. Marillier does a terrific job of illustrating their damage at first without explaining the reason for it, and that draws the reader further into the story.

While each novel has its basis in a fairytale, Marillier has tweaked them enough that the reader does not determine the original story until almost the very end. Again, Marillier does her best work by layering the tale, hinting at the origin but only truly revealing it in the final chapters. This makes it very difficult to put either book down once it is begun. I can hardly wait to see what new secrets she will reveal for Blackthorn and Grim.

Review: Bohemian Gospel by Dana Chamblee Carpenter


Bohemian Gospel
Author: Dana Chamblee Carpenter
Publisher:  Pegasus, November 16, 2015
    November 8, 2015 (eBook)
Format: Hardcover and eBook, 400 pages
List Price:  $25.95 (Hardcover); $12.99 (digital)
ISBN:  9781605989013 (print); 9781605989020 (digital)
Upcoming: Trade Paperback, October 4, 2016

Review: Bohemian Gospel by Dana Chamblee Carpenter
Set against the historical reign of the Golden and Iron King, Bohemian Gospel is the remarkable tale of a bold and unusual girl on a quest to uncover her past and define her destiny.

Thirteenth-century Bohemia is a dangerous place for a girl, especially one as odd as Mouse, born with unnatural senses and an uncanny intellect. Some call her a witch. Others call her an angel. Even Mouse doesn’t know who—or what—she is. But she means to find out.

When young King Ottakar shows up at the Abbey wounded by a traitor's arrow, Mouse breaks church law to save him and then agrees to accompany him back to Prague as his personal healer. Caught in the undertow of court politics at the castle, Ottakar and Mouse find themselves drawn to each other as they work to uncover the threat against him and to unravel the mystery of her past. But when Mouse's unusual gifts give rise to a violence and strength that surprise everyone—especially herself—she is forced to ask herself: Will she be prepared for the future that awaits her?

A heart-thumping, highly original tale in the vein of Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian, Bohemian Gospel heralds the arrival of a fresh new voice for historical fiction.



Doreen’s Thoughts

Living in an Abbey, Mouse is a young girl who has learned about Christianity but never been allowed to fully participate herself because of her mysterious birth. While both Abbott Father Lucas and Mother Kazi love her despite her birth, her ability to see souls and demons could label her as a witch, and she is always an outsider in her only home. When a wounded King Ottakar arrives at the Abbey, Mouse uses her healing skills to save him, and he invites her to come to Prague as his personal healer. Ottakar, son of King Vaclav, became king by rebelling against his cruel father; however, his father has invited him to Prague to reconcile and end the war. In Prague, the politics of the court and the church nearly overwhelm Mouse. Mouse does feel an overwhelming attraction to Ottakar and he also responds to her. As she works to protect the king from his enemies, he works to discover the name of her unknown father.

Bohemian Gospel is an intriguing read. There is the mystery of Mouse’s parentage and the question of why she appears to lack a soul. In addition, there are the mysterious black demons that seem to follow her from place to place. Finally, there is the intrigue and plotting in the court. Altogether this makes for a robust story. It is easy to feel Mouse’s longing to belong, to anyone. Her mysterious birth, her magical powers, and her position in the court all create a tremendous isolation.

However, while the first two-thirds of this novel work very well, the last third seems rushed and almost forced. Instead of telling about a single day in a chapter, one chapter covers decades. In addition, the relationship between Ottakar and Mouse seems almost one-sided. Ottakar obviously wants her physically, and if he were not a king, he might be able to be the person that Mouse needs, but his position requires him to take actions for the good of the kingdom, not for himself and Mouse.

This novel is not a quick read, but the characterization of Mouse is excellent. Dana Chamblee Carpenter has created a character with whom readers can relate, even if they lack her unique powers. The politics are interesting, but there are almost two stories here. I would have preferred if Carpenter had divided this one into two separate novels and spent more time on the last half. That said, I definitely recommend Bohemian Gospel as a terrific read.

Review: Infinity Bell by Devon Monk


Infinity Bell
Author:  Devon Monk
Series:  A House Immortal Novel 2
Publisher:  Roc, March 3, 2015
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 368 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (print and digital)
ISBN:  9780451467379 (print); 9780698140233 (digital)

Review: Infinity Bell by Devon Monk
Return to national bestselling author Devon Monk’s heartpounding House Immortal series, where eleven powerful Houses control the world and all its resources. But now, the treaty between them has been broken, and no one—not even the immortal galvanized—is safe….

Matilda Case isn’t normal. Normal people aren’t stitched together, inhumanly strong, and ageless, as she and the other galvanized are. Normal people’s bodies don’t hold the secret to immortality—something the powerful Houses will kill to possess. And normal people don’t know that they’re going to die in a few days.

Matilda’s fight to protect the people she loves triggered a chaotic war between the Houses and shattered the world’s peace. On the run, she must find a way to stop the repeat of the ancient time experiment that gifted her and the other galvanized with immortality. Because this time, it will destroy her and everything she holds dear.

Caught in a cat-and-mouse game of lies, betrayal, and unseen foes, Matilda must fight to save the world from utter destruction. But time itself is her enemy, and every second brings her one step closer to disaster….



Doreen’s Thoughts

Infinity Bell is a continuation of the story begun in House Immortal, with Matilda as a “stitch” – a creature made of various parts stitched together with an invention called “life thread.” In the first book, Tilly was removed from her farm to the City where the 11 Houses rule through twelve other “galvanized” beings, who are also stitches. Tilly makes a deal with one of the Houses to rescue her brother and then ends up on the run after the murder of one of the galvanized and one of the heads of the Houses.

Traveling with her are Abraham, one of the galvanized and someone to whom she is very attracted. Her brother Quinton, his ex-girlfriend Gloria, and two-headed Neds are also included in the escape and effort to avoid capture. Quinton, a genius like his father and grandfather before him, believes that the world has been out of synch timewise ever since the experiment that created the galvanized. He thinks that he needs to go back in time and make a mathematical correction to the original experiment or the world as everyone knows it will end. Tilly, of course, is certain that she must be the one to go back in time to protect her brother and everyone she loves.

Infinity Bell is basically a chase story – with the fugitives on the run using unauthorized airplanes and unknown railroads to travel back to the farm where Tilly was born. This allows Monk to illustrate more of the world of the Houses as well as the disparity between those who have and those who have not. There are several fight scenes in the novel, which move quickly.

Ultimately, this book would be very confusing for someone who has never read the first one. In fact, it was almost confusing to me because I put it down about halfway through and had to backtrack to pick up the storyline once again. The ending was totally unexpected, but it works with the time travel premises. Again, I feel this series offers a small commentary on the use, and misuse, of resources and potential outcomes should the worst occur.





More House Immortal Novels

House Immortal
A House Immortal Novel 1
Roc, September 2, 2014
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 368 pages

Review: Infinity Bell by Devon Monk
One hundred years ago, eleven powerful ruling Houses consolidated all of the world’s resources and authority into their own grasping hands. Only one power wasn’t placed under the command of a single House: the control over the immortal galvanized….

Matilda Case isn’t like most folk. In fact, she’s unique in the world, the crowning achievement of her father’s experiments, a girl pieced together from bits. Or so she believes, until Abraham Seventh shows up at her door, stitched with life thread just like her and insisting that enemies are coming to kill them all.

Tilly is one of thirteen incredible creations known as the galvanized, stitched together beings immortal and unfathomably strong. For a century, each House has fought for control over the galvanized. Now the Houses are also tangled in a deadly struggle for dominion over death—and Tilly and her kind hold the key to unlocking eternity

The secrets that Tilly must fight to protect are hidden within the very seams of her being. And to get the secrets, her enemies are willing to tear her apart piece by piece.…

FIRST IN A NEW SERIES!


See Doreen's Review here




Crucible Zero
A House Immortal Novel 3
Roc, September 1, 2015
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 368 pages

Review: Infinity Bell by Devon Monk
The national bestselling author of Infinity Bell returns to her “fresh and unique”* world where the truce between the ruling Houses has shattered and chaos now reigns. Only one woman has the power to save the world—but she could also destroy it. . . .

Matilda Case never thought of herself as a hero. But because she is galvanized—and nearly immortal in her stitched, endlessly healing body—she doesn’t have much of a choice. Even if she doesn’t want to save the world, she’s the only one capable of traveling in time to do so.

But her rescue attempt hasn’t gone as planned. She’s stuck in an alternate universe, and her world is in danger of disappearing. Worst of all, an unfathomably powerful man who can also travel through history doesn’t want her to put things to rights. He’s willing to wage bloody war to stop Matilda, unless she surrenders control of time to him.

Now, with the minutes ticking, Matilda must make impossible decisions, knowing that one wrong choice will destroy her—and any chance of saving everything she loves. . . .

*A Book Obsession

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