Shadow Eyes by Dusty Crabtree

Shadow Eyes (Shadow Eyes Series 1) by Dusty Crabtree, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2nd Edition, 328 pages, June 27th, 2016, Genre: Paranormal and Urban, Young Adult. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

“Shadow Eyes” is a story about good versus evil. It’s also a story about feeling imprisoned by false feelings of helplessness and inadequacy, feelings each of us has had at some point in our lives, particularly during our teenage years. It has been said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” In “Shadow Eyes”, this lesson is learned through a series of struggles by Iris Kohl.

Iris Kohl is a seventeen-year-old girl whose life seems typical: she has divorced parents, two older sisters, a couple of close friends at school, and a favorite teacher. But there’s nothing typical about Iris herself. After a traumatic event on her fourteenth birthday, Iris gained the ability to see “shadows”. These shadows are really more like demons, invisible, but influencing them subliminally, hanging on their shoulders. These shadows don’t appear to have the ability to force people to behave a certain way; rather, they wait until the person is in a difficult situation fraught with negative emotions. This is their opportunity to pounce, to subtly influence a person to step over the line and commit an immoral act they were already tempted to commit in a moment of weakness. The shadows terrify Iris and she pretends not to see them most of the time. She learns to stay away from people who are surrounded and infested with them, for her own safety. The more she observes the shadows, the more Iris comes to believe people are truly wicked, and that she’s powerless to do anything to change it. Iris makes friends with some new students at school, Patrick and Kyra. Kyra sets an example for Iris to follow by helping those in the grips of the shadows and works to build up Iris’ self-esteem. Patrick, meanwhile, is crying out for help, filled with guilt over things he has done. As Iris sees her own family being pounced on and influenced by the shadows, she knows she can no longer sit by the sidelines. She has to gain enough confidence to make a difference. She has to act.

My favorite character, hands down, was Kyra. Filled with security, peace, confidence, and concern for others, Kyra is a role model for the others to follow. She allows her friends to make their own choices, but is always only a moment away in their time of need. Iris makes a good choice when she befriends and looks up to Kyra.

The story was well-written and centered more on characters and their challenges than on plot twists. I enjoyed watching Iris learn and grow as a character and I’m curious where her newfound purpose and sense of confidence will take her. I’d recommend this book to anyone- but especially to young adults- who likes paranormal stories of good versus evil.

This book is available on Amazon at Shadow Eyes.

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Blessedly Bound (An Elemental Witch Trials Novel Book One) by Lucretia Stanhope

Blessedly Bound (An Elemental Witch Trials Novel Book One) by Lucretia Stanhope, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, February 6th, 2017, 218 pages, Genre: Paranormal. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

Blessedly Bound features a female witch as the main protagonist, depicting magic as a blend of shamanistic abilities and energy manipulation. After hundreds of years in Western culture of witches being depicted in an incredibly negative light, it’s refreshing to read a story in which they’re presented in a more positive manner. Although the genre is listed as paranormal, I’d also ascribe elements of romance and mystery to the work.

Gwen Hensley is a witch, a woman born with innate potential to tap into the natural elements and thereby use power for either good or evil as each witch sees fit. Gwen comes from a long line of witches. Raised in an orphanage since an infant, after the death of her mother, Gwen has never known her family but has always dreamed of finding a place and people to belong with. Gwen has a familiar, Lewis, who takes the shape of a raven or a man as needed and has been Gwen’s best friend and closest companion most of her life. Bonded to her, his job is to teach Gwen magic and boost her power. When her grandmother, Lizzy, is murdered, Gwen and Lewis arrive on the scene to solve the murder and inherit her sizeable estate. Traipsing about town, Gwen gets to know Lizzy’s friends and joins her knitting circle as she prepares for a memorial for her grandmother. Among Lizzy’s friends is the attractive, suave Sebastian. Sparks fly between them as Lewis grows envious over time.

Lewis is quite possibly the worst familiar ever. He teaches Gwen nothing, yet teaching her magic is his job. Lewis broke her heart when he rejected her romantic advances prior to the onset of the book. Apparently, if a familiar and his witch become romantically involved, the bond between them is broken, weakening them both magically. He treats her as a child, making choices that affect her future without her consent. Gwen, for her part, is a very young and inexperienced lady and witch, struggling to discover her family’s past and forge her own identity. Lewis makes mistakes, resenting his witch for his own romantic and magical frustrations. I was rooting for Lewis and Gwen to find a way to end up together, but by the end of the book, I decided Lewis needed to do some serious soul searching and maturing before he’d be the right fit for Gwen, as either a familiar or a lover. Gwen needs to grow and come into her own before she will be ready to commit to someone with all her heart, so I was satisfied that no permanent commitments were made. Sebastian is an intriguing character with a past still not fully revealed. The most mature of the trio, he serves as a balancing force and mentor for Lewis and Gwen.

There were two themes in the work that stood out to me. From the romantic aspect, this was about longing, reaching out for the fruits of love but never quite touching them. Every interaction seems to be permeated with this longing. I’ll never look at knitting the same way again. The second theme is about unpleasant truths. We like to think that honesty is always the best policy and truth is a goodness. But things aren’t always so clear cut. “Sometimes the illumination of truth makes things darker.”

The book was well written, but the mystery’s solution was predictable. I wish the mystery had been more difficult to solve as I relish an element of mystery in any genre. Overall, I enjoyed reading Blessedly Bound. I’d recommend this to those who enjoy a paranormal series featuring a non-traditional magical female protagonist, particularly if the reader enjoys romance and the interplay between male rivals.

This book is available at Amazon at “Blessedly Bound”.

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.