Archives for posts with tag: Fantasy

Assassin’s Price by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. is the latest and eleventh novel in his bestselling Imager Portfolio series. Like all the other books in the series, Assassin’s Price is set in a world where magic is the literal realization of the imagination. Rex Lorien is back, though six years older than he was in the last book of the series, Treachery’s Tools from 2016. In this novel, more focus is on his eldest son, Charyn, and his attempts to learn more about Solidar and the economics of it, in order to better be prepared one day to take over from his father as the ruler. You can WIN a hardback copy of this page-turning, adventure-filled addition to the series if you are a resident of the United States of Canada and leave a non-Spam related comment below, saying what your name is and where you live, the state or province, to verify that you are eligible to enter! You also must be 18 years or older, and a few other rules are below. Daily entries are allowed.

While Charyn is eager to find out as much as possible about the economics and inner workings of Solidar’s government, his father, Rex Lorien, just keeps telling him things like that there is plenty of time to learn all of that. Caryn is tired of waiting, and he decides to take a stronger interest in Solidar, by educating himself with the help of the factors and craft masters of the land, as well as his father’s advisors. But, he wants to do it without attracting his father’s attention, though he knows that sooner or later, he will find out. Charyn just hopes by the time that happens, his father will understand why he acted behind his back, and that he won’t be too angry at him.

The efforts of Charyn to go behind the scenes, and behind his father’s back, to gain knowledge so he can one day be a worthy ruler of Solidar, sets up the plot and the action that follows. Solidar’s shipping is being disrupted by Jarolian privateers, something that Charyn cannot tolerate. When the privateers destroy ships containing much-needed goods, the prices of said goods are driven up.

A complication in the plot of Assassin’s Price is that an attempt is made on the life of Charyn’s younger brother, and notes that threaten Charyn and his entire family follow. Acts of violence against the rex and his family prompts swift action to be taken to prevent any loss of life or further violence to continue. One of the actions taken is to build more ships, to strengthen Solidar’s might and ability to conduct commerce.

L.E. Modesitt, Jr., has often been hailed as a master of world-building, and he showcases that talent yet again with Assassin’s Price. He also delivers characters that are three-dimensional that his legions of fans have come to know and love, and plots that are full of political intrigue. For the chance to win a hardback copy of Assassin’s Price, besides following the rules above, anyone who enters must not be related to myself, and also you must be prepared to provide your full name and snail mail address if you are the one randomly chosen as the winner. You can provide the requested information through a FB or Twitter message or via email, if you prefer not to reveal it at this website. The giveaway will run from Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, to Friday, Nov. 24, 2017, at midnight CT. The potential winner will then have five days to respond and provide me with his/her mailing information by midnight Wed. Nov. 22, 2017, so I can give it to the publisher of Assassin’s Price, Tor/Forge, who will mail out the hardback copy to the winner. If the person chosen does not provide the information within the five day period, a new winner will be selected. Good luck!

Due to Lack of Response, A Winner Was Not Selected in This Giveaway.

Written by: Douglas R. Cobb


The World’s Most Beloved Pterodactyl (Or is that terrier-dactyl)You asked for it, my adoring public, and you got it! At last, my third novel in my series, The Case Files of Lily and PAWS, has made it to ebook format, and will soon be in paperback, exclusively at Amazons WORLDWIDE! I will give the links to the USA and UK stores, but it’s available at ALL Amazons. In the USA, d/load it at: while in the U.K., d/load it at:

What can you expect to read in Lily Solves Them All? The unexpected, that’s what! Lily gains a new arch-nemesis, Professor Polynesia, who is bent on exposing Lily and PAWS as being, as best, second-rate detectives. Will Lily, her “owner,” fourteen-year-old Celeste, and PAWS rise to the occasion and take her challenge to solve 7 difficult cases using the methods of 7 of the world’s best-known detectives of literature and the Silver Screen; or, will she and her freinds hand their heads in shame, and give up being detectives forever? What do YOU think?

There are more characters, more cases, more friends, and more foes than ever in this third book. There are copper automatons (Can you say “steampunk”? I knew you could!), evil Leprechauns, werewolves, a mad scientist called Dr. Chronos, vampires, witches, ghosts, aliens, and much, much more!

The 7 detectives Lily must use the methods of (I altered their names) are Sherlock Bones, Nero Wolf, Colombo, Miss Marvel, Hercule Parrot, Sam Specter, and Inspector Bluessaeau. The cases are Lily’s and PAWS’ most challenging yet, and include some of the most page-turning and humorous cases so far! I invite you all to partake–it is not a requirement to have read the first two ebooks/paperbacks in the series, Lily, Unleashed & Lily and PAWS: The Ghosts of Summer; but, hey, I’m maybe a tiny bit biased–they are great, too, and I hope you read all three, as well as my awesome Great Gatsby-influenced ebook/paperback, My Brother The Zombie (The Zombie Revolution: Book One). What’re ya waitin’ for?

Part murder mystery, part science fiction time-traveling tale where realities bleed into each other, like in Philip K. Dick’s SF novels, The Man From Primrose Lane is a quirky, suspenseful read that will haunt your dreams for years to come. Its melding of different genres has caused some critics to react, at least in part, unfavorably towards James Renner’s debut novel, while others, who seem to “get it,” have given The Man From Primrose Lane glowing reviews. Why is this? Is The Man From Primrose Lane a great novel, which you’ll want to add to your reading lists; or is it one you would be better off avoiding, at all costs? This review will attempt to answer those questions, and help you decide if it’s worth your hard-earned dollars to buy it.

I think it’s a good thing to read what several reviewers have written about a book before you decide to buy it. You run the risk of having a couple of spoilers revealed, but you might read about a book you’ll fall in love with, which you would never have known even existed, if you hadn’t read the review. But, also, you will not be (hopefully) disappointed as much as you might otherwise be with the purchase of a book, because you will know ahead of time if it’s a book that will appeal to you or not.

I’ll admit, right from when I heard the title of this novel, I wasn’t all that sure I’d like it. The Man From Primrose Lane is not a title that told me much about what the novel is about, other than it will deal with, on one level or another, a–duh–man from Primrose Lane. But, what sort of a man? Will he be the main character, will the novel be mostly about his life, will there be a mystery involved? I had a lot of questions about the novel, just from having read the title–though, it’s not a bad title–it just didn’t really tell me much about what the book would be about.

Just as you shouldn’t always judge a book by its cover, I found out that you shouldn’t always judge a book by its title, either. I really enjoyed Renner’s The Man From Primrose Lane, but don’t get it if you’re only a fan of mysteries, or are only a fan of science fiction, or you probably won’t get into the book very much.

Who is the man of the title? He is an odd man, who has a penchant for wearing mittens, no matter how warm or cold it is outside. He has the reputation of being a street person, though he has a house, with a closet full of boxes of mittens. Learning why he enjoys wearing mittens is one of the mysteries of the novel you’ll find out as you read it.

Why would anyone want to brutally murder such a man, who may seem to be, on the surface, anyway, harmless, if eccentric and reclusive? He is murdered at the very beginning of the novel, his fingers cut off of his hands while, apparently, he’s still alive. Was it a madman who killed him? A serial killer? Or, maybe someone who had been victimized or wronged by the man in the past?

Enter the author David Neff, who is asked by his publisher to write a book about the “Man with a Thousand Mittens.” Neff, a widower with a four-year-old son, Tanner, becomes the main focus of the novel, the main protagonist of this schizophenic (in a good way) novel. He’s written a bestselling book, The Serial Killer’s Protégé, about the convicted serial killer Ronil Brune and his rommmate, Trimble (the actual murderer), so his publisher thinks that Neff would be a good choice to write a book about the murder of the Man with a Thousand Mittens.

Neff’s book is about the series of murders of young, innocent ten-year-old red-haired girls that was blamed on Brune, who was executed 10 years ago. Through some “haunted letters,” he discovers, Neff learns that the actual murderer was Brune’s roommate, Trimble. The murders followed the hibernation cycle of the cicada. Somehow the identity of the Man with a Thousand Mittens.” holds the key to the ongoing series of murders. Though Brune didn’t commit the murders, he is far from a saint, and his spirit tries to possess Neff’s body. Can Neff figure out the information he needs to prevent the murderer from striking again?

Neff is romantically drawn to the character of Elizabeth, a moody and mysterious lady, who eventually becomes his wife. But, at least in part because of Neff’s obsessive drive to prove that Trimble was the real murderer, and the psychotic episodes Neff has until his therapist prescribes a strong medication, Elizabeth commits suicide. We also read that Elizabeth had a twin sister, who was one of the girls who were abducted and killed.

In the second section of the book, Neff goes off his meds, contrary to the advice of his therapist. It’s four years after the murders that Neff has written about in his bestselling book, and it’s when his editor assigns him the job of writing about the “Man with the Thousand Mittens.”

Then, in the third section, Dave’s character splits in two and half of him travels to the year 2036. Is he going insane, or has he (a part of him, anyway) actually traveled forward in time? Could it be that there’s a second serial killer? Good advice Neff could have used: Beware of peculiar black cats and black eggs.

The Man From Primrose Lane is a fascinating debut novel, and I look forward to reading and reviewing more books from James Renner in the coming years. It is a tangled mix of story lines that is somewhat tricky to keep up with, but if you like novels that cross and blend genres in very inventive ways, The Man From Primrose Lane is one you’ll want to add to your reading lists. Check it out today!

You can now purchase Lily, Unleashed as a paperback for just $8.99!  It’s published by CreateSpace, an Amazon company. In the next few days, it will be at Amazon, as well, which will give you another place to purchase my debut novel. For now, though, you can read about Lily’s adventures as the leader of PAWS with her 13-year-old “owner,” Celeste, by buying it at CreateSpace:

If you are a fan of fantasy novels and puns, you are probably already very familiar with the Xanth series of books by the esteemed and talented author Piers Anthony. If you have never read any of Anthony’s novels, you owe it to yourselves to check them out. At times, Anthony gets a bit carried away, perhaps, with his puns; but, they are always relevant to the context of the storyline, and fit in well with the action, adventure, and very cool and personable characters he creates.

The puns extend even to the titles of the Xanth novels. For instance, Well-Tempered Clavicle (2011) is the thirty-fifth Fantasy novel in the Xanth series, following Knot Gneiss. The first novel in the series, though, doesn’t have a pun in its title; it is called: A Spell for Chameleon.

The demon Xanth plays a very important role in the series. He is not always one of the main characters, but characters often refer to him, and have been influenced by him. He is not, generally speaking, an evil demon; but, he is actually liked and even admired/respected by many inhabitants of Xanth.

Knot Gneiss, the novel right before Well-Tempered Clavicle, is one example where I’d say Anthony may get a little carried away with puns. I enjoyed reading it, but when you read about a character called Wenda who has violent mood swings and then read that her swinging on her favorite swing, a “Mood Swing,” was the cause of her mood swings, seems to me to be carrying the whole premise a little too far.

Picka Bone is one of the protagonists in Well-temered Clavicle. He and his sister Joy’nt are skeletons (the offspring of Marrow Bone and Gracew’l Ossein) who share a portion of a soul that has made them have a conscience and help others. Still, Picka Bone believes that he and his sister are living a rather dull life, guarding–mostly strolling around–the grounds of a cemetery. They are doing so at the request of two ghouls who desire a break from guarding the cemetery.

Their lives are dull, that is, until three animals show up, a bird, a dog, and a cat, named after the parts of a speaker: Tweeter, Woofer, and Midrange. They are not afraid of the skeletons, and Picka Bone saves Woofer from where he is trapped. This seals their friendship, and the two skeletons are talked into going on a quest with the animals in search of an adventure.

Woofer, Tweeter and Midrange were in the previous novel, Knot Gneiss. They are from Mundania, and are the Baldwin family pets. They’d heard they could escape getting older in Xanth, so they had decided to move there. As a side benefit, they are gaining new magical abilities. Joy’nt’s magical scroll enables the animals to communicate with the skeletones, and vice-versa.

Other interesting characters that I liked in Well-Tempered Clavicle are Princess Dawn and her sister Eve, who are sorceresses. and Mumfrey, the Good Magician. Mumfrey has five and a half wives, and he grants people answers to their questions if they can find the solution to three challenges he presents them. There is also an invisible giant who joins the three animals and the skeletons. They believe that Picka Bone has a hidden talent, and they journey to ask Princess Eve for help in finding out what the talent is.

The problem is that when they arrive at Castle Roogna, they learn that Princess Eve is away, visiting her husband’s realm. Hades. The adventurers decide to ask Eve’s sister, Princess Dawn, if she will help them. She is available, and what’s more, she fortunately has a free pass that will take them to Hades and allow the entrance to it.

They have many humorous adventures on their way. The plot of the novel changes to one where Princess Dawn is looking a suitable husband, but the animals and the skeletons still play a major role in the plot.

As in all of the Xanth novels, Piers Anthony’s chapter titles are one more reason I am a fan of his writing. Examples include: “Knucklehead,” “Granola,” and “Rules of Engagement.” In the ebooks I have written, I also try to engage my readers by thinking up clever chapter titles. Whether or not I am halfway as good at it as Piers Anthony is a subject of debate, but I always like it when authors try to intrigue their readers right from the very beginning of each chapter, from the title of it onwards, to make them want to read more.

Well-Tempered Clavicle by Piers Anthony is a funny, pun and fantasy-filled addition to the Xanth series. Anyone who loves the Fantasy genre, whether you’re a long-time fan of the Xanth series or are new to it, is sure to enjoy reading this novel. Anthony dedicates his novel to his daughter, who passed away while he was writing it. I am looking forward to reading the next installment, The Luck of the Draw. The Xanth series has legions of fans around the world; check out Well-Tempered Clavicle to find out for yourselves why!

If you’re a fan of tales of the macabre, and you dig reading Edgar Allan Poe’s stories, then you will also want to check out Frank G. Poe’s collection of tales and poems titled Raven Wings and 13 More Twisted Tales for the low price of $10.95 for the paperback edition. If you click on the title, you’ll be taken to Amazon where you can purchase the book. Elsewhere at this site, I reviewed the second book of Poe’s tales, Star Child and 13 More Twisted Tales, which is another page-turning collection of delightfully twisted tales and poems.

What do you get when you buy this book? Is it one worth your money, one that would make a great addition to your personal library? As with Star Child, in the introduction, Frank relates some details about his past, and his near-death experience as a result of his MS, which blinded him temporarily, as well. He battled back from being bedridden, and then in a wheelchair, to currently, when he can walk with the use of a cane. Frank can trace in his lineage as one of his ancestors the famous author, Edgar Allan Poe, and he relates in his introduction that he is actually Poe reincarnated. Whether this is true or not, you can decide for yourselves; but, the tales are fascinating gems which Poe might, if he were alive today, have written.

Does this mean there are poems similar to “The Raven,” or “Lenore” in this collection? Or, stories like “The Masque of the Red Death,” or “The Pit and the Pendulum”? No, but Edgar used an archaic way of expressing himself, to help build the atmospheric mood of his writing. I would imagine if Edgar was alive today, he would write in the vernacular of this age, and perhaps go for shock value to attract the attention of his audience, as Frank does; so, is Frank Poe the reincarnation of Edgar? I’ll just say his short stories and poems are good in themselves; the Edgar Allan Poe connection certainly can’t hurt his own chances at garnishing fame & fortune.

As the title suggests, you get fourteen short stories in this collection: “Raven Wings” and 13 more. And, you get to read 6 twisted poems that Frank has penned for your reading enjoyment. I will only touch on a few of these, to give you an idea what subjects are included in this collection. They’re all good, though, and I’d say worth your time and money. A couple of reviewers mentioned they found some of the tales to be “lewd” and “crude,” and they are, to a degree; but, they are relatively tame compared to many other short stories/novels I’ve read. Controversy and shock–Edgar was known for it–so, Frank shouldn’t, IMO, be overly criticized for doing it himself. Stephen King’s short stories, for example, are often much more violent, lewd, and crude, but are still–generally speaking–very cool, fun tales to read.

The cover of Raven Wings is kind of odd in itself, and I wondered what it was depicting until I read the first story, “Raven Wings”. It’s a tale of a Goth girl who gets into masochism, like having hot melted wax dripped on her body during sex, etc. The only way she can experience pleasure is through pain, and when she cries, and her mascara runs, the result resembles raven’s wings. She eventaully requests that the narrator of the tale chokes her out; and, who is he to refuse? The trouble is, it’s kind of difficult to know when enough’s enough when it comes to choking someone….

“The Spider and the Fly,” is a captivating tale of tangled webs, love, sex, and capturing prey. What happens when a male spider realizes what his fate will be, but still desires to have sex with a female spider? Is there a way to satisfy his urges and live to have sex another day? Perhaps a fly called Sushi will enlighten the spider Domino on the secret to sexual happiness–or, is he doomed to lose his head?

“New Vampire bible: Genesis II” is a quirky little gem about the origins of vampires upon the Earth. It’s a retelling of part of Genesis, and the relationship Adam had with his supposed first wife, Lilith. In the tale, it’s a relationship sanctioned by God, that resulted in the creation of the first “sanguine” vampires–ones which drank blood. The humans that resulted from Adam’s and Eve’s couplings were also vampires, but “pyschic” ones. Due to a terrible apocalyptic war, the Vampire Nathan’s coffin gets filled with blood, he manages to break out of his coffin, and discovers that he is one of the last living beings on Earth. Some will find this tale to be sacreligious, as it refers to God as the “Great Vampire” and mentions Christ’s vampiric heritage; it’s still a fascinating story, however you might feel about this retelling of Genesis, incorporated into a tale of Christ’s Second Coming.

I’ll briefly talk about three of the poems. The second poem in this collection (the first being “Modern Day Ghost”) is called “Card” and is about credit cards and how they are ruining the lives of many people who abuse them. It also gets into America’s international debt crisis, and how Americans have been told that spending helps by “Stimulating the economy.” Frank often includes pop culture references in his tales and poems, and this one is no different: in it, he mentions Conan the Destroyer, Don Knotts, and George Bush.

“Cosmic Butterflies,” uses the metaphor of butterflies having been transformed from caterpillars to describes how humans are similar, in that we experience a second, spiritual existence and transformation after we die. One line I liked in this brief poem is: We don’t begin to live until we die,/And transform into Cosmic Butterflies.”

The last poem I’ll discuss is “The Rocker Squeaks”. It’s a poem about a father rocking his newborn baby, but as with all good poetry, it’s more than that. The imagery Poe uses is very expressive, and he paints a picture with his words of ripening papaws that raccoon will: slip/Into their watering mouths. It’s another poem that involves transformation, as poe writes that the father’s: callous hands transform/Into velvety butterfly wings/By touching the infant’s cushiony skin.

Raven Wings and 13 More Twisted Tales by Frank G. Poe is a collection of macabre tales and poems I’d recommend to anyone who loves reading suspenseful, quirky tales. They will attract your attention, and hold you spellbound. It’s a collection of tales and poems you’ll want to add to your reading lists.

Even today, long after his death, Edgar Allan Poe is recognized as a master of horror and the macabre. A movie’s coming out soon, The Raven, based on his tales & poems, starring John Cusack. Now, a new master of horror has surfaced, a distant relative of Edgar’s: Frank G. Poe, Jr. He may even be, if the stories about him are true, Edgar reincarnated to walk this Earth and write further spellbinding imaginings of the intellect. His first collection of tales, Raven Wings and 13 More Twisted Tales I will also review here, in the coming weeks; but, as Star Child is just out, I will review it first.

What can you expect from Star Child? The original Poe’s boots would be difficult for anyone to fil, as any legend is always difficult to live up to and match. I’d say, for starters, don’t expect Edgar’s old-fashioned uses of words that are rapidly fading from general usage. But that’s okay–it certainly worked for Edgar, but it would seem archaic for anyone to try to write mimicking Edgar’s style. If he was reborn, undoubtedly he’d be a man of his times, as he was then, and use current turns of phrases.

Ultimately, Frank G. Poe Jr.’s tales succeed because of his own talent, wherever it might originate from, and he deserves all the credit or blame for however the tales have turned out. But, the good news is, the tales collected in Star Child are very well-written, and I believe Edgar would be proud to know someone in his lineage has taken up the torch and is continuing to attract a wide audience to the horror genre. I can’t do justice to the entire collection by discussing each of the tales in much detail, as that would take at least one paragraph apiece; but, I will touch on a few of the stories that stood out as highlights to me.

I’ll begin from the beginning, with a tale with the very cheery title “Because They Eat Children.” Alexander Popovich is an extremely dedicated and protective fourth grade teacher, who gets a bit carried away with thinking he needs to watch over his young flock. He tells them anecdotes of children being eaten by evil people, and even by their own parents, in times of dire famine, or because they have developed a perverse taste for human flesh. He means only to make the children aware of the dangerous world around them so they can better be on guard. But, word gets back to the parents of the children, and things start to go very downhill for Alexander from there on. If only poor Alexander was taken more seriously…but why cry over spilt blood?

The second story is an homage to The Lord of the Rings. “Tolkien Revisited,” shows Poe’s interest in and love of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings novels. In the tale, Frodo, Gandalf, and the rest of the band stop at a roadside inn on their way home from their adventures and the destruction of the ring. They relate their adventures to the innkeeper, who happens to be Tolkien. The innkeeper thinks he can spice their story up, and he invents new characters, such as Gollum/Smeagle, and he changes/adds details. When he tells the new version back to the adventurers, they are spellbound–indeed, the innkeeper has vastly improved the tale. But, at what cost?

“The Blue Knight’s Tale,” is the third tale of the collection.
It’s a story of modern-day knights, jousting on a–ahem–nightly basis at a Medieval Tournament and Feast resaurant. There is, of course, a Lady Fair, as well, Kitty. She is engaged to be married to the Black Knight, her current boyfriend, Stephen. Austin, the Blue Knight, used to have a “puppy love,” for Kitty, but that ended badly after their senior prom. Still retaining his boyishly good looks, Austin has recovered from his puppy love, with semingly every female in the audience anxious to make him their next mark on their lipstick cases. Or, has he fully recovered? What happens when their old romantic is rekindled? Find out the shattering result when you check the story out for yourselves!

Before I mention a couple of other tales, I would be remiss if I didn’t relate that Frank, like Edgar, writes poetry as well as short stories. He has three poems in the collection “Holocaust,” “Melancholy and the Internet Madness,” and “Contact.” “Holocaust,” is, as you’ve likely guessed (being the astute people that you are), about the Holocaust and our reactions to it, including those of naysayers. The second poem, “Melancholy and the Internet Madness,” is about the obsession of many people with the Internet in general and social media in particular. One begins to feel sometimes filled with a self-importance based on Likes, Follows, etc., that is unrealistic. The obsession is like a form of madness at times. Finally, “Contact,” is about Stephen Hawkings and his fear that our first contact with aliens might well prove to be our last. Poe has a very different take on the ensuing result, though, in the last of a very imaginative and thought-provoking trio of poems.

I’ll briefly mention two of the other tales in Star Child to give you a further taste of the menage of genres and stories that await you. These two tales are the title one, “Star Child The Discovery,” and “After the Apocalypse.”

“Star Child” is another foray into the science fiction genre by Frank, and it’s an engrossing and brilliant gem of a short story. An artifact from an alien civilization is discovered–and, though the dig team is sworn to secrecy by the federal government, they feel that the information they’ve discovered is too important for the public to not learn about. But, they also don’t want to get into legal trouble, so they decide to make a “fictional” account of the whole story available to everyone and the names of those involved will be changed. Though it’s walking a fine line, they feel it’s worth the potential risk. But, is it, really; and, will the public even benefit at all from what they read, if they believe it to be fictional?

The last tale I’ll discuss is “After the Apocalypse.” Based in part from an old Appalachian saying, “Root hog or die,” this is one of my favorite (of many) in Frank G. Poe Jr.’s collection. Then again, how could I NOT like it, as one of the main characters is named Lilly, which is our family “dog’s” name, though ours is spelled with only two l’s? Lilly’s Granny Sugar is the propagator of the saying, and living through the Great Depression as she did, she demanded her daughter, Rose, to learn survival skills from childhood on. Lilly compares this brutal sort of existence to the scenario of Lord of the Flies, and there is at least some truth to that. Since Granny Sugar comes from Pike County, Kentucky, where the McCoy clan (of the infamous Hatfield/McCoy feud) lived, it’s not much of a wonder that she believed in the philosophy of: “When society breaks down only the strong survive, root hog or die.”

This and some of the other tales, though they’re fascinating reading, contain some language that makes the collection more suitable for older teens and adults than younger children. I suspect that back in the time when Edgar wrote his poems and stories, many people found them morally offensive, as well, though now they’re generally considered to be fairly tame in comparison with even what children see on the Nightly News. Perhaps this collection will porve to seem tame to future generations. Don’t get me wrong; Poe is never explicit, and he only uses adult language at times because it’s warranted by the subject matter of his tales and to make the characters who speak the words more realistic. Right or wrong, most of us use four-letter words on a daily basis, so I, personally, wasn’t offended at all by any of the tales in Star Child.

If you are a fan of Edgar Allan Poe, Stephen King, or Frank G. Poe’s first collection of macabre tales, Star Child is a Must Read! And, if you love the horror, fantasy, and SF genres, I would also recommend this fine selection of quirky tales to you. I look forward with great anticipation to reading more from Frank in the coming years, and to reviewing his first collection in a couple of weeks or so.

The land is ravaged by war and strife. Dragons piloted by elves with mortal blood flowing through their veins fly the skies. These dragons are not ones entirely of flesh-and-blood, but are biotechnolgical hybrids. Although the city of Babel is a central character in this story, The Dragons of Babel remains at its core a tale of Will coming to grips with his past, present and future – whatever it may be – and in so doing, ordinary dragons, if such things ever existed–no, they are biotechnological marvels, which run on fuel and drop bombs upon their enemies. One of the only creatures who can bring about their deaths are the basilisks. When several dragons fly above Will le Fey’s village one day, and a basilisk brings one of the dragons down, the creature is not quite killed–instead, though its wings have been torn from its body and it is injured, the dragon is still powerful enough to make itself the king of Will’s village.

Will le Fey becomes the dragon’s assistant and lieutenant. At first, Will cooperates because the dragon forces him to, piercing his wrists with needles and invading his body and mind. The dragon insists upon learning Will’s true name, so that he can have even more control over him; but, Will is enable to tell the dragon, as he doesn’t know himself what his birth name is, having either never known or forgotten. The dragon learns that Will is a mortal, and has one hundred percent human blood in him, which potentially makes him into a candidate to be his pilot.

The first part of the novel by Michael Swanwick, rereleased in paperback by Tor, The Dragons of Babel, is about the relationship that develops between Will and the dragon. Will leaves behind his old friends, including Puck Berrysnatcher, whose leg gets blown off by a landmine. Puck gets placed into a coma by the healing ladies of the village, and buried in a swampy area. When he is revived a week later, his hair has turned white, and he now turns against Will, organizing a group of youths to fight against the dragon.

Besides the relationship that develops between Will and the dragon, the first half of the novel is also about Will’s exile from his village brought about by a showdown with the dragon, and his arduous trip to Babel. The novel is set in the same universe as The Iron Dragon’s Daughter (1997). On Will’s train ride to Babel, he is joined by two companions: a magically-touched girl name Esme and a donkey-eared con man named Nat, who has many other aliases. I won’t get into many other details, because I don’t wnat to spoil the plot for anyone who would like to check this great novel out, but Will and Nat come up with a con whose consequences resonate throughout the novel.

Michael Swanwick is excellent at worldbuilding, with Babel itself becoming a major “character” in the novel. It is a fully realized world, and there is a lot of room for the author to continue the series with sequels. It’s difficult to classify The Dragons of Babel as being more of a Fantasy novel, or a science fiction one. It’s not really a Steampunk one, as there are no inventions that rely on steam power, so I’ll say it’s a Fantasy novel with science fiction elements to it. But, it’s also more than this; it’s a coming-of-age narrative, filled with political intrigue, and it’s a who-done-it, a romance, and a story about a father’s and son’s love, among other things.

The Dragons of Babel by Michael Swanwick is a page-turning novel that fans of both the Fantasy and SF genres will love reading. There are dragons, basilisks, and other cool legendary creatures to please Fantasy fans, and enough mention of technological advances that readers of SF should get into this terrific book. Add it to your reading lists today!

By: Blake Charlton
Published by: Tor/Forge
ISBN: 978-0-7653-1728-5

5 Stars

I was blown away by Blake Charlton’s debut novel in his trilogy, Spellwright. I was expecting that the second book, Spellbound, would be equally as good, but it’s not–it’s even better! Spellbound is set ten years after the events in Spellwright. Nicodemus Weal is still pursuing the demon Typhon, because he needs to get the Emerald of Aarahest that Typhon has. It contains a part of his soul and a cure to his cacography, or inability to do certain spells. Without the Emerald, Nicodemus cannot learn spells in other magical languages. With it, he can become the Halycon, the prophesied savior of magical language; without it, he is the Storm Petrel, the prophesied destroyer of magical language. Will Nicodemus defeat Typhon and recover the Emerald of Aarahest, or is he doomed to be the Storm Petrel?

Francesca DeVega, a healer/cleric in the city of Avel, becomes even more important to the trilogy in Spellbound. Her storyline, in fact, is the first one taken up in the novel. While she is operating on a patient, using her magical healing sentences, she does something wrong, and her patient–Dierdre–dies, despite Francesca’s best attempts to save her life. Dierdre is a demigoddess, an avatar whom a goddess has inhabited.

She is also an unwilling servant of Typhon, who can only find freedom from him for the short time of around an hour whenever she “dies,” and is then restored to life. Dierdre had made it almost impossible for Francesca to succeed on purpose, so that she could use her hour after being restored to life to scheme against Typhon and try to defeat him. The avatar tells Francesca of a chain that’s around her ankle that Typhon had placed there which would prevent her from leaving Avel. Francesca doesn’t believe her, and is stunned when she sees it’s true when Dierdre removes the chain and show it to her.

Nico is also in the city of Avel in his pursuit of Typhon and the Emerald. Dierdre has told Francesca that she must meet Nico and warn him, but to not touch him. Francesca has heard tales of Nico and the dead bodies he left behind at the Starhaven Academy, so doesn’t want to have anything to do with him, but their meeting is the beginning of romance between them. Francesca’s character adds a lot to the novel. Her escape with Dierdre from the clutches of the Savanna Walker, a sort of half-dragon, half monster servant of Typhon’s, was one of the many exciting moments of Spellbound.

I liked how the author even manages to make Shannon, who died in the first novel, an interesting character in Spellbound. He’s a ghost, or at least a reasonable facsimile of one, created through and with magical sentences by Shannon before he died. How he figures out ways to help Nico despite being a ghost, and his escape from a construct that’s a warkite that’s trying to kill him, were exciting to read about and Charleton made him very believable.

Spellbound does not suffer from the usual sophomore slump that occurs with the second book of a trilogy. I really enjoyed reading about the inventive magical system that Blake Charlton came up with of using silver and gold sentences that a person inscribes in one’s skin and flings out with his/her fingers to cast spells. Spellbound by Blake Charlton is a truly impressive sequel that can also be enjoyed as a stand-alone book. I highly recommend it to anyone who’s read Spellwright, and to anyone who loves the fantasy genre.

–Douglas R. Cobb–

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