Book Review: Transgressor Trilogy (book 1): The Fated Sky

The Fated Sky: Transgressor Trilogy Book One (Fortune's Fools 1) by [Swift-Hook, E M]

Caer’s breath hissed between his teeth. For some reason he had assumed that offworlders would be frail, with weak, puny bodies. From all he had heard they were feeble, using machines they had invented to do the work of their muscles. But this one was strong and his body was built like any ordinary man. His flesh carried several old scars and his muscles were clean and compact beneath the skin. The thought struck him that this man would fetch a fortune in the Alfor slave pens. The castellans would be scrambling over each other to purchase something so rare and exotic as a genuine offworlder.
“See, he is a fighter, Captain. This and this – they were made by blades,” Zarul said, pointing at the scars. Caer nodded.
“Well, if he lives, perhaps we shall find out what kind of fighter he is, this man from the stars.”

Temsevar is an insignificant Periphery world on the very fringes of galactic civilisation. Settled long before the rise of faster-than-light technologies and left isolated for hundreds of years, its population have degenerated into the barbarism of a medieval culture. This primitive world has nothing the wealthy planets of the Coalition could want, until it becomes unwitting host to one of their most dangerous enemies – Avilon Revid.
From the moment he wakes up in the caravan of the merchant-princess Alexa the Fair, Avilon has to fight simply to survive in a world where he is seen as alien and dangerous. It is a battle to obtain his freedom,that pushes his skills and resources to the limit,so he can find a way off-planet before his enemies in the Coalition track him down.

 

But Temsevar has its own brutal conflicts being played out against the backdrop of its harsh and unforgiving climate. The society is dominated by a ruthless Warlord, intent on subduing the entire continent to his will and whose brilliant general – Jariq Zarengor – has earned a reputation for callous bloodshed. And then there is the enigmatic Durban Chola, trading information to whoever pays him for it, while playing his own, highly dangerous, game with fate.
The Fated Sky is the first volume in a new series of character driven books, which combine the action and space opera of science-fiction classics with the intrigue and political duplicity of the fantasy and historical genres.

 

Expectations

Having had a chance to visit with E.M. a bit on Facebook, I had a suspicion this book was going to be a fun tale to devour.  I did not miss judge.

World Building

I’ll start this off with a question:  Where’s the tourist pamphlet for this world?!?  E.M.’s careful attention to unusual details, despite a few unfamiliar words (easily comprehended from context) made me want to go visit.  The story doesn’t play out against a tapestry, it plays out in full 3-D visual for me, which is highly unusual.  Most of the time stories are played out in front of a rich tapestry, or like a well-done film.  In this story, the world itself almost becomes a character that interacts with, molds, and shapes the underlying story.

Every time you think you’ve gained a good understanding, a new layer is added which continues to add a living vibrancy to the world – both the physical elements, and the political elements.  Though this installment, I thoroughly looked forward to discovering what was “just around the bend”, and I usually despise stories with a heavy political element.

Character Development

While not quite on par with the world building, the character development was also very well done.  There are a few shallow characters, some that have depths I hope are explored, and everywhere in between, just as in real life.  The reason I say this isn’t quite the same quality as the world building is because the characters are still developing, which leaves a lot of questions unanswered about motivation, and who the characters are at their core.

The main cast had some decided unexpected changes, a few of which I’m still struggling to wrap my head around.  I’ve seen such sudden about faces in other tales with characters who weren’t quite as dedicated to their ways as E.M. describes her own, so these don’t quite ring true for me.  (As a note to E.M. I’m still grousing about the nomad, blast it!)

Pacing

With as strong as the other areas of the writing are, I found the pacing a bit out of kilter.  The first 3/4 of the book were spot on – a nice organic development of excitement, and expectation.  The last 1/4 felt like it was falling apart.  There are several threads left open for the next books to pick up and carry on with, yet these same threads made the excitement of the tale begin to unravel for me.  Perhaps, when I get a chance to read all the books in a single run it won’t be as visible.  And, I AM going to get the rest of the series!

 

Overall score?  A strong 4 of 5 stars from me.  I’d love to give it a full five, but with the way the story begins to unravel, I just can’t.  However, I can, will, and DO recommend if you like science fiction, you hop over to Amazon Here and pick up a copy.  I honestly don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Book Review: Aquarius Rising (book 2): Blood Tide

Blood Tide by [Burt, Brian]

 

Megalops is an Aquarian, a human-dolphin hybrid who lives in one of the many reef-cities that thrive beneath the waves on an Earth ravaged by climate change. Some of the Humans who cling to the barren lands blame Aquarius for their plight and unleashed the Medusa Plague that entombed Megalops’s wife and daughter in stone. Tormented by that loss, Megalops dedicates everything to avenging his murdered family, no matter what the cost. He unleashes a Vendetta Virus as cruel and lethal as the Medusa Plague, a bio-weapon that transforms living Humans into Aquarian corpses.  Ocypode — one of the heroes who stopped the Medusa Plague — and his band of Human and Aquarian allies battle desperate odds to prevent Megalops from committing an act of genocide that will escalate into global conflict, dragging the Earth’s other humanoid species into the chaos. War demands sacrifice. If Mother Earth and Mother Ocean wage war against each other, will anyone survive?

Winner of the 2016 Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal award for Science Fiction.

Expectations

I’d picked this book up much too long ago to remember much about it, other than I wanted to read it.  Even with the description, I really couldn’t remember what intrigued me about the book in the first place.  So, with that, I had to go with what the cover and description led me to expect:  some type of thriller, or horror with a sci-fi or fantasy twist.

World Building

As I started reading this one, I found myself a bit lost.  When I double checked the cover, I discovered why – this is the second book in the series.  The world building is adequate enough for a new reader to understand what is going on, and where things are happening.  However, I am certain that I missed quite a bit of depth that would have been present had I read the first book.  There are a few places that felt as if there was a small inside joke with the way the world developed in this book, which just rang hollow without the background to understand them.  Also, there are some political interactions that felt shallow without the previously published material.

Overall, the world building in this installment is decent, but it didn’t really shine for me the way most well written stories do.  I’m thinking this is due to not having the previous installment to build on is the main cause.

Character Development

If the world building was lackluster, the character development more than made up for it.  Despite having a prior installment to work from, the characters were easily distinct (though the names were a bit of a tongue twister for me, though suitable for their species).  Each character had their own motivations, virtues, and flaws – even the ones who quickly stood out to be the antagonists in this part of the story.  As the tale unfolded, the characters behaved realistically – accepting, or distrusting the others they were with – which made the cast come alive and really shine.

Pacing

Overall, the pace of this book felt a touch on the slow side with bursts of activity.  Despite having the central focus for the events on a battle, which inevitably causes a feeling of “hurry up and wait,”  the build up remained very slow.  Also, toward the end, things became a bit too pat – every action had an almost immediately balanced reaction, which stalled any feeling of building momentum.

 

Overall rating?

Intriguing as this one should have been, it fell short of the mark.  I’m inclined to think, as I stated earlier, that it is due to not having the entire story from the beginning.  As such, I’m giving this one a tentative 4 of 5 paws from this pukah.  It definitely is a character driven story, but some of the events in the latter part of the book really kill the tension creating a feeling of “is this just going to go on forever”?  There is a twist, yet sadly, it doesn’t salvage the lackluster presentation.

 

 

The story itself is well written, just parts of it didn’t quite make a full connection with me.  If you like character-driven, military-based science fiction you may enjoy this one.  Why not give it a try by picking up a copy on Amazon Here.

Book Review: Orussian Quarantine

 The Orus system’s Orussians had found a brilliant way to harness the power of labor by engineering ant-monkeys, a hard-working and unswervingly loyal slave species—until the uprising.
Having further manipulated the genes of her own male ant-monkey, Inoatar, and granting him free will, bioscientist Uriëlla has grievously breached the code of conduct. The barbaric penalty for these acts would not only involve her, but her entire clan as well. As a result, she must wrestle with emancipating Inoatar despite desperately needing him.
The uprising, Uriëlla’s actions and their subsequent fallout lead to a struggle of biblical proportions which promises to forever alter Orus civilization.

 

 

 

 

 

 

World Building

  • A lot of potential in this one.  Unfortunately, Rob wasn’t able to deliver on that potential.  This is a short story, and he’s trying to develop 3 (4? 5?) planets with wildly different eco systems and political structures.  As the tale unfolds, there’s even more chaos introduced without adequate development, leaving the reader lost and wondering where this bit of information came from, or how it fits into the bigger picture.Most of the story focuses on the Orus system, with small glimpses of a larger political structure outside of this small piece of space.  Unfortunately, that bigger structure has a lot of impact on what goes on here, and there’s no real explanation of why and/or how those decisions are made, or why they have such impact.  Even the internal political workings aren’t that well defined, which blunts quite a bit of the existential tension Rob is trying to build up.

Character Building

  • The world building fell down, but this is a short story.  Gotcha.  That means there will be a small, well developed cast, right?  Nope, missed on this one too.  The villains are better developed than the heroes.  There are a few places where the main cast swap sides, but with the final character introduced, things solidified and no one flip-flopped any more.  Unfortunately, this left a lot of questions unanswered and made the characters start to feel like cardboard.  The set up, disjointed and confusing as it was, let the characters begin to develop their potential into rough clay forms that just needed to be refined.  When they turned into cut-outs, the disjointed story smoothed out into a better flow, but became less interesting until the villains reappeared.  Then, my sympathies switched – I hoped the villains would win, not the good guys.

Pacing

  • The pacing in this was extremely jerky at the start, then smoothed out as the tale unfolded.  Nothing felt rushed, per se, just felt like I was caught in a time loop that wouldn’t ever get past the “In the beginning” phase of the story.  Once into the main body, things smoothed out and had an even flow.  Almost felt like Ron was writing to a formula, rather than letting the tale develop organically.  Perhaps, this is because of the format – short stories and novellas don’t really give the write much room to maneuver, and that can have a major impact on the writing style.

Overall score?  Sadly, I can only give this one a 2 of 5 star rating.  As a narrative story it didn’t work for me.  Perhaps, if it had been written in the episodic journal or letter style, it might have worked better.  The opening doesn’t give enough information on any one character to really understand who’s who, and the last part of the tale has some strange time jumps I’m not sure how they fit in.  Also, the short story format does a disservice to the overall potential.  It almost feels like there’s three distinct story arcs crammed into 49 short pages.  This is one I will likely never come back to.

 

If you are interested in reading the Orussian Quarantine for yourself, you can find a copy on Amazon Here.

 

Character Interview: Delta

 

Welcome back Julian. I see you brought a friend. Can I get you to introduce him, please?

  • *My name is Delta* (He’s speaking directly into your mind)
    “Er yeah this is Mister Delta.”

Welcome Delta. It’s nice to have you here with us today.
I’m going to go ahead and ask a couple of nosy questions real quick.

Would you consider yourself human, or another race or species?

  • *I’m only here because this peasant knows my control sequence. He’s told me to answer all your questions. As for human or not…I’m afraid the answer to that is complex. Simple answer is yes. More complex answer is my classification would be Homo Engenesis

Control sequence? Surely you’re not enslaved.

  • *Slavery? Since coming to this world I’ve experienced this attitude. Some would consider me a slave. I do not. With power comes a need for control. My betters chose to limit me so I have purpose.”

That makes sense.

Since you still have outside control, did your parents ever help you to learn control when you were a child?

  • *No, the Whitecoats did.”
    *I received special training and challenges because of the creche, I am the strongest Telepath. Of course I’m nothing compared to the Kings.*

Kings? Is that a special rank, or a family name?

  • *Soon you will know of the Monarchy when they arrive to make their will upon this world. I am merely an instrument of their will.”
    Of their Glorius Will.”

Interesting, though I’d debate you about that one. I’m a bit too independent.

You said you were raised in a creche. Were there others there with you?

  • *Of course, how could there be a creche of one?*
    “Be nice.”
    *It was a stupid question.*
    “Be NICE.”
    *Fine. My half brothers and sisters made up the rest of the creche. Alpha, Beta, Charlie…I’m sure you can work out the rest of their names.*

::chuckles:: Yeah. Did you have names you used between yourselves, or was that ever allowed?

  • *N-*
    “Argh.”
    Twitch.
    “Only with one of my half-sisters. Juliet. She called me Dee.*
    *But only in the mindscape before we’d go to sleep*

It sounds like you and Juliet were friends. Were you able to develop friendships with any of your other half-siblings?

  • *You lack the capacity to understand the creche bond. It is pointless for me to explain it to you.*

I’ll agree that I have not had that experience. That is part of why I asked about it. To learn more.

Would you say the experience prepared you for what you do now?

  • Even through the mask he wears you can feel the sneer.*The creche created a cognitive gestalt. What one felt, all felt, what one thought, all thought. The combined being greater than the sum of it’s parts. You have no experience that comes close to understanding the bond of the creche. But they died. Killed by rebels. The loss of the creche is the greatest tragedy and well-spring of pain in my life. So yes, it prepared me. To do what is necessary. The be the hidden hand of the First of Five and be the instrument of his will in whatever capacity I can serve.*

What about personal wants? I hear how you’re eager to please others, but nothing about doing something for yourself.

  • *Individual wants and desires are intrinsically at odds with the greater good. A true Citizen considers oneself secondary to their community.*
    Delta, I think you just proved your point. We are very far apart in the way we approach the world.

One last question, then I’ll let you go with Julian.

If you were to go to sleep and have your most secret wish granted tomorrow, what would you wake up to?

  • *The glorious reign of-*
    Ow,
    *The monarchy to-*
    Ow.
    *Secrets are bad-*
    Ow.
    *I don’t wa-*
    Ow.
    “Answer the question Delta, then the pain will stop.”
    *To find out if what Alpha predicted all those years ago is true.*

I did not mean to cause you pain Delta. Forgive me.

Julian, thank you for taking the time to return, and for bringing Delta with you today. I have enjoyed the visit today, even if I did not understand some of the answers.

Julian, before yo go, however. Where may someone find Delta’s story?

  • He’s one of the Characters in Suffrage. I’ll be cosplaying as him at the forthcoming Supanova convention on the Gold 21-23 April, where I will be selling copies of the book.

 

If you enjoyed the interview, and wish to read Delta’s story, you can pick up a copy of Suffrage on Amazon by clicking on the cover below.

Suffrage (World Key Chronicles Book 1) by [Green, Julian St Aubyn]

If you would like more information on the convention, click Here to head over to their site.

 

 

#YourNextFavoriteAuthor 10/17/2016 Writing Prompt-Safe

Found in a safe:
Money from around the world.
A collection of watches
A note with the words Save Yourself written in thick black ink.

 

After they read the will, I slowly approached the safe.  Of all her possessions, this was the one I didn’t want, and the one I’d gotten.  There were more at the reading than I’d expected, so why did I get saddled with this enigma?

Carefully, I tumbled the combination to open the thing.  Just like she did any time she showed me where it was.  Ever so slowly, I pulled the door open until I could see what was inside.  That much was new.  She’d always made sure I couldn’t see before.

When I saw the piles of colors – red, green, gold, silver, blues, yellows, and everything in between – I sank to my knees in surprise.

With trembling hands I reached in to pick up the one thing that stood out – a stark white corner of paper.  When it came free, tumbling her collection of expensive watches onto the floor with a rattle, I rolled to the side in shock.  The office was quiet, and those metal bands hitting the hardwood floor sounded like gunfire.  The same gunfire that had taken her life that day.

When I finally realized there was something on the paper, my breath caught.  I read the words, “Save Yourself,” written in that thick, black ink from her favorite fountain pen I wanted to scream.  Was she coming back from the grave to save me?

 

This post is a mirror of my reply to the original post.

 

 

You can find more writing prompts and replies on Your Next Favorite Author blog, so why not head on over and check it out.    This is a great way to discover your next favorite author.