Pangaea; the Sunslinger, Bolivar Beato

Pangaea; the Sunslinger, Bolivar Beato

Pangaea; the Sunslinger: (Age of Immortals)

Pangaea is an epic fantasy-style story that makes a valiant effort to be all things to all people. Peopled with semi-immortal, metres-tall races, Pangaea is not a peaceful area. The young of the ruling class spend centuries of their long lives learning the arts of war, and subsequently the rest of their lives applying that knowledge.

I found that this book, while some of the settings were interesting, tried to mix and match too many cultures and races to permit focus on the actual story. It read rather like the literary equivalent of a tube of glitter mix – pretty, but neither logical nor coherent.

It is also a smorgasbord of mythological references, relying heavily on Norse legend, but mixing in a variety of Greek and Eastern influences as well. Everything from Valkyrie to lamassu shows up at some point, and while I applaud the eclectic representation, I didn’t find that most of the various types of legends did more than figuratively appear on stage and take a bow; for the vast majority, their history and significance had no role in the story other than to show up.

I also admit I had difficulty finding much empathy for the protagonists. The perfect heir in hiding, famous in his hometown for his mastery of pretty much everything he put his hand to, and the high-born but utterly useless princess both lacked appeal for me. I do feel that with a thorough developmental edit to unearth the bones of the story from the rest, this story could have worthwhile elements, but as it is, the reader is left, like a lone archaeologist, to attempt to unearth stray threads of the plot from the surroundings that they’re buried in.

Shifting Identities, Cris and Clare Meyers

Shifting Identities, Cris and Clare Meyers

Shifting Identities (Criminal Elements Book 3)

Shifting Identities combines the excitement of an international vault heist with shape-shifting shenanigans. Carlos, reluctant apprentice criminal and shape-shifter, didn’t realise that the job description came with trips to Europe included when he joined up. However, between ancient European magical families, rival criminal groups, and deadly intrigue, he doesn’t have much time left over to admire the scenery. With Grace, the outfit’s con-woman, he has a key role to play in the group’s latest adventure, and a lot of very fast learning to do…

The latest instalment in Cris and Clare Meyers’ urban fantasy series, Shifting Identities, moves the focus onto Grace and Carlos. Featuring a high-speed tour of Western Europe and vault-breaking that includes deadly magical traps, this book is well-paced and filled with the series’ signature dialogue-centred adventure. I found that the underlying focus on Carlos’s growing into his place within the group allows for his ongoing education to inform the reader without straying into info-dump territory, and the glimpses into Renee’s much-hinted-at past were suitably intriguing. One of the strong aspects of this series is a solidly-developed magic system; a system that includes downsides, and isn’t the magical equivalent of duct tape for any situation. That, and a divergent cast of characters, makes this book, and the series, very enjoyable to read.

The Venom Protocols, John Murray McKay

The Venom Protocols, John Murray McKay

The Venom Protocols

The Venom Protocols  is a thriller with a twist on the typical genetically-enhanced military solution gone wrong scenario. Charlotte was all but living on the streets when she jumped into the middle of an alleyway fight. When she came around in hospital, she discovered she’d saved the life of a Mob enforcer – leading to Charlotte becoming the local Mob’s ace-in-the-hole. Unlike most ex-junkie teenage girls, Charlotte had an affinity for any weapon that came handy. Unfortunately those skills came with a price, and Charlotte found herself one unintended massacre ahead of jail-time, trying to find out what made her how she was.

The basic story for the book is a solid classic that fans of the TV show ‘Dark Angel’ will be familiar with, albeit with a semi-mystical twist that adds interest. I found the underlying concept to be good, but the protagonist didn’t really keep my attention; Charlotte read as a bundle of sensory information and not much else, and didn’t elicit much sympathy as a character. The two drag queen secondary characters, Richard and Peter, were the ones that stole the show, to my mind. In addition, there were minor ongoing technical issues in the book. While they weren’t major enough to derail the read completely, they were annoying.

I couldn’t help but feel that this book would have profited from a bit more character development, to draw the reader in, and a detailed copy-edit to keep them from being yanked out of the story by absent punctuation or a clunky bit of phrasing.

2018 reviews at By Rite of Word!

2018 reviews at By Rite of Word!

2018 reviews and overview at By Rite of Word!

2018 is the second full year that By Rite of Word has been up and running, and we’ve been lucky enough to get a lot of great books in and reviewed. As always, the first order of business is to say ‘thank you’ to all the authors who have been willing to share their stories with us – thank you for sharing, and thank you for writing. The world always needs more storytellers.

To quote Sherlock Holmes ‘give me data, I cannot make bricks without clay’ – so here’s the 2018 reviews in review!

Books reviewed

%

5 star reviews

%

4 star reviews

As I said, a lot of awesome books; a five-star review means that someone blew our socks off, totally wowed us, and obtained a new author-stalker (anyone been having that sensation of binoculars on them??). We also tweet about those five-star books regularly, or as regularly as our organisation level permits, so as to get the news out to as many people as possible.

Oh, and we also absolutely do have favourites. Here are the top three in the genres that we read from 2018:

Sci-fi

Our #1 top pick out of 15 great sci-fi reads this year….

Stalk the author in their lair and on Amazon!

Thriller

And, our #1 winner out of the 6 thrillers we read…

Stalk the author in their lair and on Amazon!

Fantasy

Our #1 top pick of the 20 fantasy books we reviewed…

Stalk the author in their lair and on Amazon!

So if you have a few days off, and no idea what to read, pick up one (or more!) of those and enjoy – they’re our top picks from the 2018 reviews.

And remember – leave a review and make an author happy.

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