Killjoy by LeVar Ravel

Witty, cautionary

Killjoy by LeVar Ravel, 188 pages, January 14th, 2014, Genre: Fantasy/Mystery/Suspense. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland

A ‘killjoy’ is a person who takes the fun out of any event they attend. The title is most fitting for the theme of this story. The moral of this tale is to live life to the fullest, with hope, honesty, exuberant feeling, and joy. It’s a lesson mankind always seems in need of as we, throughout our generations, conform and adhere to the ‘correct and proper’ lifestyle du jour.

The assassin, whose true name is never told, is delightful with his many accents, costume changes, and faux personalities. He clearly enjoys satirizing people as well as trying to better understand them and their emotions. He’s the perfect assassin, never leaving a trace, always affecting the appearance of suicide to his victims. Everyone wonders, “How does he do it?” His clients, mostly mobsters, are appreciative and consider him to be the best in his field. He’s made a niche for himself dealing with difficult victims, such as musicians, comedians, politicians- the famous, for whom there can be no hint of foul play.

My favorite character was Elizabeth “Gwen” Orangegrave, the wife of the pseudo-religious mobster Charles Edward Orangegrave. As a young girl, she knew joy and love. Due to hardship, she lost this desire for joy and traded it in for wealth, security, practicality, and success: the things society tells us we should want. The assassin takes a peculiar liking to her also. In the end, she sees what she chose against the backdrop of what she left behind and makes a different choice, a better choice.

I felt the politician Corbin Locke represented what I imagine most of them are really like behind their smiles and speeches. Charles was a bit two-dimensional, but of course, that was sort of the point- that he would contrast the life his wife once knew and represent her choices. Written in third person narrative, the writing was enjoyable and engaging. A novella, the book can be read in about three hours. I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys suspense with a hint of darkness.

This book is presently available at Amazon at Killjoy.

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A Merchant in Oria by David Wiley

Humorous Fantasy!

A Merchant in Oria by David Wiley, 42 pages, OWS Ink, LLC, April 27th, 2017, Genre: Fantasy/Short Reads/Epic. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

by Leigh Holland
A Merchant in Oria is a novella set in a fantasy world populated by humans, dwarves, and lizard-men. It has the feel of a familiar, traditional fantasy setting, as found in Tolkein’s work. However, this story is more humorous and light-hearted.
Firion dreams of getting his first big contract as a merchant. Although his family warns him not to head to Oria, he is certain this is where he will find his fortune and establish himself as a great merchant. He travels there alone with his goods, satchel full of samples, and his horse and wagon. Upon his arrival, things seem out of sorts. Something is rotten in the state of Oria. Firion just can’t seem to put his finger on what it is. Meeting up with the lizard-man Salazar, the ‘new’ leader of the Dwarven merchant guild, Firion makes the contract of a lifetime and hauls home gobs of gold marks. However, Firion discovers what’s so wrong in Oria, and is pressed to return and meet an epic destiny.
My favorite character was Firion. He was naïve, good-natured, hilarious, sympathetic, and charmingly simple. Melody, the female dwarf, was a cute, well-shaved Dwarven female love interest for Firion. The themes were good versus evil and freedom from oppression. The plot was well-constructed and pacing steady.
I enjoyed reading this book. It is a short read; I read it over lunch. I’d recommend it to anyone who loves fantasy stories looking for a quick read. It can be found for $2.99 currently at Amazon.
You can find it at A Merchant in Oria by David Wiley.

Demons and Destiny by Catherine Milos

Adventure of Lifetimes!

Demons and Destiny (Angels and Avalon Volume 2) by Catherine Milos, 276 pages, October 26th, 2016, Genre: Paranormal and Urban/Dark Fantasy. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

by Leigh Holland

Demons and Destiny is a story about gods manipulating men who were formerly angels across multiple lifetimes. The second in the series, it can be read as a stand-alone novel, however I highly recommend reading them in order as I feel the experience would be more enjoyable by having more knowledge of the first book. Currently, the set is available at Amazon on Kindle for $3.98.

In his lifetime as a Viking translator and warrior, Tyr joins him mortal brethren on Celtic shores, conquering villages and taking thralls. Rarely one to ask for such spoils, Tyr sees Madigan, a beautiful blue-painted Celtic warrior woman. Realizing that the others may harm her should she be taken by one of them, he asks for her as his thrall. He promises to one day free her when it is appropriate if in return she answers his questions to assist him in negotiating trade with her people. Not only does he successfully do so with her help, but she ingratiates herself among the men with her herbal and cooking skills. Nuada, Madigan’s god, instructs Tyr to make her his wife. Tyr convinces her and they find wedded bliss for a time. Nuada has other tricks up his sleeve, resulting in her tragic death. Nuada strikes a deal with Tyr. Once Tyr removes all demons from Earth, Nuada will reunite him with Madigan.

The tale zips forward to modern day. Tyr is reborn as Tyrel, a security expert and P.I. Other characters from the first book, former angels reincarnated by choice as mortals with magical powers, join him in his feverish quest to dispose of all demons and regain his lady love. Tyr’s wife has been reborn without her memories as Madison, a biologist with no belief in demons or magic. Nuada continues to manipulate characters, especially Tyr, to further his own selfish ends. Most of these schemes lead to conflict and violence, providing obstacles for the characters to overcome. While some of the characters find happiness and resolution, others are left with their fates uncertain.

Demons and Destiny has many varying conflicts, such as man versus the supernatural, man versus man, man against himself, and man versus nature. Its themes include fate versus free will, the strength and nature of true love, the responsibilities and shackles of having power, and the bitterness of envy. The pace moved quickly through most of the book. The plot, world, and characters were interesting but I felt I would have enjoyed them more had I read the first book beforehand. My favorite character was Elizabeth. Although she lost a great deal, she didn’t allow it to swallow her whole. Instead, she moved forward, trying to use her knowledge to help her friends. I was also fond of Alan, Gabriel’s manservant. Alan was a font of loyalty and gentlemanly courage, even in the face of grave danger.

I enjoyed reading Demons and Destiny. I’d recommend this book to lovers of paranormal urban fiction. You can find it at Amazon at Demons and Destiny.

The Birr Elixir by Jo Sparkes

The Birr Elixir by Jo Sparkes, 196 pages, Oscar Press, May 31st, 2013, Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy/Adventure/Sword and Sorcery. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

The Birr Elixir is a Young Adult Fantasy novella that has wider appeal. Jo Sparkes masterfully draws together elements of action, adventure, sports, fantasy, and sorcery in a likeable, exotic world. The Birr Elixir is the first installment in “The Legend of the Gamesmen” series. It is the winner of the Silver Ippy award and the BRAG Medallion.

Marra’s mentor recently passed away, leaving her a book containing potion recipes. When the sportsman Drail spies the recipe for the Birr Elixir in the book, he must have it. Marra makes a batch for Drail and his team. They win the Comet game against the Skullan team, a feat which has never been accomplished.  The team takes Marra with them and they head to the main tournament at the port city. Marra awakens a stranger, Tryst, from an enchanted slumber. He, too, is anxious to get to the port city. As a master of the sport Comet, Tryst mentors the team. It will take more than magical elixirs to win the tournament: they’ll need skill, too. However, evil men offer Marra a rare herb she needs to make the Birr Elixir. In exchange, she must give another sleeping potion to Tryst and allow the men to recapture him. If she fails, they promise to harm her. What will Marra choose?

Jo Sparkes weaves timeless themes into this magical tale, such as good versus evil, the importance of loyalty, and refusing temptation for the greater good. My favorite character was Marra. She is quiet, keeping her thoughts and opinions to herself. Marra has lived a rough life, yet secretly dreams of being so much more. Marra feels affection for Drail; she regards him as the man who redeemed her from a life of near-slavery under a cruel shopkeeper. She is a genuinely good person at heart.

I enjoyed reading The Birr Elixir. I was whisked away to a land that was at once both imaginative and believable. The characters were interesting and unique.  The plot is well designed and unfolds quickly while creating an atmosphere of suspense. The fictional sport Comet is dynamic, fun, and energetic, much like a Quidditch match. The Gamesmen storyline creates a mood much like the Heath Ledger film “A Knight’s Tale”. I’d recommend The Birr Elixir to readers who enjoy Fantasy and Action Adventure genres.

This book can be found at The Birr Elixir.

View the amazing book trailer at Jo Sparkes’ site.

Dragonsoul by Kayl Karadjian

A Struggle for the Soul of Dragon and Man Alike

Dragonsoul by Kayl Karadjian, 265 pages, October 18th, 2016, Genre: Young Adult/Science Fiction/Fantasy/Coming of Age. Warning: May contain spoilers.

by Leigh Holland

Dragonsoul is a tale of two worlds: Evenar, the land of color and vibrancy; and Hainabal, city of gray shades and gloom. The world each character is born into shapes their worldview, informing their actions. However, each is much more than the world that shaped them. Each of them must deal with their internal struggle and rise above for the sake of all.

After running away from his abusive father, a masked child known only as Zero is rescued from the streets by the king. Zero works hard to become a seasoned knight, serving his king. He and his men destroy all things within the gloom-covered landscape with any hint of color, such as books and dragons. Believing his king honorable, Zero never questions whether or not his orders are truly in the best interest of the kingdom.

Outside the city yet within the Gloom, a fourteen-year-old farm boy named Denyth discovers an egg. Taking it home, he is shocked when a baby dragon emerges. Raising the colorful Littlehorn becomes the most wonderful experience of Denyth’s previously colorless young life. Their bond is genuine and eternal. As Zero and his men are in pursuit to slay the last dragon, Denyth and Littlehorn flee with the aid of the Evenarian shapeshifter Nelai and enter Evenar seeking the help of the Wind Queen. By the end of the tale, these characters must come together to save the realms.

Two major themes throughout the book are good versus evil and the struggle within. “Color” represents the positive forces, including inspiration, wisdom, compassion, hope, and paying kindness forward. “Gloom” represents the negative forces within and around us, such as hopelessness, despair, anger, vengeance, and acceptance of these forces without struggle. Even so, the Gloom is comprised of shades of gray, not absolute darkness, therefore anyone can redeem himself. Another theme is that leaders and their choices affect the destiny of their people.

The story is told through shifting perspectives in a narrative style. The characters are well developed and the plot well-constructed. Descriptive devices conjured interesting settings without lengthy exposition. The writing style is reminiscent of beloved young adult fantasy books from my childhood such as “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle and “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis. Overall, I enjoyed reading this book. I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys young adult fantasy fiction.

Dragonsoul can be found at Dragonsoul on Amazon.

Ahe’ey: The Complete Collection by Jamie Le Fay

Epic, romantic fantasy!

Ahe’ey: The Complete Collection by Jamie Le Fay, 696 pages, March 8th, 2017, ISBN: 978-1370765775, Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Social Issues, Girls and Women. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

by Leigh Holland

This is a story about true love between a star-crossed pair: Morgan Lua, a human champion for female rights, and Gabriel, a supernatural prince from a hidden, mystical realm. The scenes switch perspective between familiar Earth and the ethereal land of the Ahe’ey; the distant past and modern day; and between major characters. Le Fay weaves a magical tale with complex characters, hidden histories, political intrigue, and desperate desires yearning for fulfillment.

But this is no traditional fairy tale. We human beings vacillate between hope and despair, living in a world where simple deeds of loving kindness can move mountains, while simultaneously the worst acts of evil we can imagine are committed. We worry about which worldview and values will triumph and resonate throughout human history. In each generation, we stand at a crossroads, and we support those with power and influence whom we think can steer us in the best direction. Morgan Lua is not content to stand on the sidelines. As the leader of the Hope Foundation, she works to improve human rights for women and minorities around the globe. Morgan is opposed by the white supremacist, far-right wing politician Zanus, who is responsible for attempts on Morgan’s life. Enter Gabriel Warren, leader of the Ahe’ey Foundation, determined to stay by her side and ensure Zanus and his hateful agenda fails. Experiencing a natural chemistry and attraction they’ve never felt before; Gabriel and Morgan fall in love.

As the story progresses, Morgan learns that there’s more than meets the eye where Gabriel is concerned. After an attempt on her life that leaves them both at death’s door, Gabriel’s mother, Viviane Queen of Ange’el, brings them back to their hidden home realm to recuperate. At first, the land of the Ahe’ey seems like a blend of fairy and angelic realms, a celestial delight. Its people are beautiful, strong, swift, and magical, none more so than the pure blood royal family. The royals believe the power within their genes will one day save humankind. As a result, they intermarry to preserve their genetic purity. A matriarchal society, women appear to be in control, but lower ranking women are controlled by higher ranking women. The caste system limits the freedoms of both royals and non-royals, men and women, alike. Although the Ahe’ey traditionally guide humanity, we find they are every bit as much in need of saving.

          Ahe’ey presents many important themes and thought provoking ideas, such as nature versus nurture, the battle of the sexes, the meaning of sacrifice, the ethics of evil for the greater good, the loss of privacy in the modern age, and forging identity in a multi-cultural world. An epic, romantic, fantasy adventure, it nevertheless provokes deeper thinking on many issues facing us today.

           Ahe’ey: The Complete Collection was originally released in twelve separate episodes. Although the collection is formatted as a single novel, its episodic nature provides it with a slightly different structure and rhythm than a traditional novel. Currently, readers can find the first three episodes free at Amazon, with each subsequent episode at .99 cents. The entire collection is priced at $4.99 and can be found at Ahe’ey: The Complete Collection. I’d recommend this collection to anyone who enjoys romantic fantasy adventure with a social conscience.