Naidin’s Song: Blood Bound, J’nae Rae Spano

Naidin’s Song: Blood Bound, J’nae Rae Spano

Náidin’s Song: Blood Bound (A Novette in the Náidin’s Song Cycle)

Naidin and his twin brother are supposed to be on a supervised journey, making ready for their adulthood. However, a flooded river put paid to that plan, and they found themselves in a human enclave, unescorted and with members of their own people trying to have them exiled – the permanent way. When Naidin’s brother is assassinated, and a pure-blood elf comes into town who he finds entirely too drawn to, Naidin decides to make a break for his people’s settlement, regardless of the risks.

J’nae Rae Spano’s Naidin’s Song: Blood Bound is a fast-paced young adult fantasy novella, offering elements of a rich background story and a well-developed main character. This was one of the few novellas I’ve read recently that felt as if it was constrained by the length; some aspects of the plot were introduced a little abruptly, and I felt that the background merited more development in context to support the characters’ interactions, but the basic story was strong and compelling. Some of Ariena’s reactions seemed a little odd for a being out of her own time by a substantial amount, but Naidin’s mourning for his brother was particularly well-written, and the adventure segment, overall, held together nicely and kept my interest throughout. Definitely a story worth the read; short, suspenseful, and with hints of more to come.

Amber in the World of Shades, J K Riya

Amber in the World of Shades, J K Riya

Amber in the World of Shades: The World of Shades Series, Book One

Featuring a cursed ring, an evil wizard, star-crossed true love, and a fairy princess, Amber in the World of Shades is a YA fantasy novella mixing many of the traditional elements of the genre. Despite the colourful backdrop to the story and the imaginative mix of secondary characters woven into the plot, I found that the read was lacking the substance that would have kept me hooked.

Among other things, I’m a sucker for a strong protagonist, and unfortunately Amber’s main strength proved to be in getting other people to mount a timely rescue. Without someone else’s intervention in the nick of time, our heroine would have died something like five times in the novella, which wouldn’t have been a problem for me if she’d actually contributed more to her own survival. Her main contribution to the plot was being the catalyst through which a secondary character took their moment in the spotlight, which made her hard for me to relate to.

The plot also felt a trifle simplistic as I read; notably, the level of cooperation to kill the evil wizard that suddenly materialised apparently simultaneously with Amber. Some of the secondary characters, including some fairly kick-ass magic users, had spent up to half their lives imprisoned by this wizard, but within a few months of Amber’s appearance, they’d all learnt to pull together and get rid of him. Between those elements, the story failed to really convince me, and so, with regret, I can’t give this more than two stars.

Wondrous, Travis M. Riddle

Wondrous, Travis M. Riddle

Wondrous: A Novel by Travis M. Riddle

Wondrous is the story of Miles, a nine-year-old boy thrown across a rift between worlds to a place where several species are in the middle of a war. Magically transplanted, Miles slowly develops a number of magical skills, increasingly making him a weapon against the danger dividing the kingdoms.

While I feel that this book could make a worthwhile novel for younger readers, as it tells the story from the point of a small child whose parents are in the midst of a divorce and interweaves scenes of the family divorce as the basis of Miles’s burgeoning magical skills, I didn’t find that it pulled me in.

Although the range of species was impressively varied, they were all, at heart, good old guys willing to spend more or less endless time and resources looking after a somewhat spoiled nine-year-old while in the middle of a war. I didn’t find that beyond the scene-setting, there was any exploration of differences between the species. In addition, the frog-like Rompun species spoke bad French, and unfortunately my sense of humour is a very small verging on non-existent target to hit, so this didn’t really do much for me. The final nail in the coffin for me in terms of plausibility was that at least two of the main players walked away from certain death to come back and provide vital support for our young protagonist. If this book was designed for a very young audience, I can see why that decision might have been made, but the implausibilities made the story impossible for me to get into.

Not yet released

The Remnant, William Michael Davidson

The Remnant, William Michael Davidson

The Remnant

In 2061, a virus with a nearly 100% infection rate destroyed humanity’s urge to believe at a genetic level. Religious fundamentalism was eradicated, and those rare people who escaped the virus are now considered dangerous. Colton Pierce is an Extractor with the Centre for Theological Control, one of the organisation’s most successful operatives, with an outstanding record of hunting down and capturing those who exhibit symptoms of religious belief. His job is his life, and his only ambition is to rise to the position of Chief Officer and see legislation passed that will allow the CTC to kill the imprisoned, theologically ill. However, when it becomes personal, Colton has to choose between Gus and his job…

William Michael Davidson’s The Remnant showcases a truly unique storyline, where he posits that the urge towards religious belief is genetic, and draws the readers into a world where religious violence has been largely eradicated. The plot offers two very black and white alternatives: the genetically atheist, who hunt down any remaining believers without mercy or trial, and the few, noble and persecuted believers, engaged in a David and Goliath fight against oppression. I found this aspect of the book to be a little too simplistic to really capture my imagination, which is one of the main reasons why this got a three-star rating. I also found that the protagonist was a little lacking in depth; there was no self-doubt or tendency toward introspection that heralded his (very) sudden about-face halfway through the novel. I would have found it much more plausible if the seeds had been there before the key event.

So, overall, while the basic idea of the book made me very happy, and the writing was technically strong, I think that a bit more digging into the gray areas and a lot more foreshadowing could have boosted this from a three-star read to a five-star read.

Blue Vision, Marie Lavender

Blue Vision, Marie Lavender

Blue Vision: The Code of Endhivar Series Book 1

Ganardebragh Trantusa, aka Colin Fielding, is one of the team sent to research and evaluate new worlds and civilisations in search of a new homeworld. Ganardebragh has been assigned to a planet named Earth, and he’s aware it may not be an easy mission. Ships have vanished there. He expected the population to be dangerous; he didn’t expect to have his crash landing observed. He really didn’t expect to fall irresistibly in love with the wary, emotionally damaged woman who came to see what had happened. In fact, nothing about Earth was exactly what he’d imagined…not even where it concerned his own race.

Marie Lavender’s Blue Vision: Code of Endhivar Series is an entertaining, well-paced romance read, starring a hunky alien explorer, a rough landing, and a woman on a solitary holiday. The book definitely has a number of strong points, not least of which the author’s undoubted imagination and story-telling ability. It’s also very solid technically, which I always appreciate: there are no typos and other grammatical nuisances to yank a reader out of the story, and the scene-setting is evocative and detailed. I found that Colin’s complete change of heart (can’t give too many details without a massive spoiler here) halfway through the book was a little unheralded, but it certainly allows for a very nice, dramatic wounded-hero scene.

So why three stars? Feeling Grinch-y? I have to admit, I’m a cynic. I don’t believe in love at first sight. I can, plied with sufficient alcohol, just about crank my credulity high enough to credit lust at first sight; after all, that’s largely based on pheromones and sure, maybe. Given that, I found that the immediate falling in love aspect of the plot stretched my ability to suspend my belief a trifle. It’s why I make a lousy romance reviewer, and this, despite the sci-fi elements, is definitely a romance story first and foremost. All that said, I think romance readers (as opposed to cynics like me) would highly enjoy this book; it’s got location, it’s got love at first sight, it’s got sexy scenes, and it’s well-written.