The House of the Four Winds by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory : Review


The rulers of tiny, impoverished Swansgaard have twelve daughters and one son. While the prince’s future is assured, his twelve sisters must find their own fortunes.

Disguising herself as Clarence, a sailor, Princess Clarice intends to work her way to the New World. When the crew rebels, Clarice/Clarence, an expert with rapier and dagger, sides with the handsome navigator, Dominick, and kills the cruel captain.

Dominick leads the now-outlawed crew in search of treasure in the secret pirate haven known as The House of Four Winds. They encounter the sorceress Shamal, who claims Dominick for her own—but Clarice has fallen hard for Dominick and won’t give him up without a fight.

Full of swashbuckling adventure, buoyant magic, and irrepressible charm, The House of the Four Winds is a lighthearted fantasy romp by a pair of bestselling writers

The House of the Four Winds (A Dozen Daughters, #1) is the first book in a new series by veteran authors Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory. Reading new books by Mercedes Lackey is always a difficult thing for me do, not because I dislike her books — she is without a doubt my favorite author, but because her Valdemar books have set such a high standard that any of her other books do not compare. James Mallory on the other hand has only a few books that I have read, all written with Mercedes Lackey, and each one better than the book written before it. I am more than happy to say the House of the Four Winds stands up very well when compared to anything else either author has written. With swashbuckling pirates, strange magic, and hidden treasures this story has a bit of everything it needs to grab your attention and never let you go.

With her family unable to provide the support and dowries of her and her eleven sisters, Princess Clarice of Swansgaarde sets off into the world in attempt to make a living for herself in her chosen career, a master swordsman, but to be considered a master requires the experience and reputation she does not have. To get both of these things Clarice disguises herself as the well-off traveler Mr. Clarence Swann and signs on with the first merchant ship that will take her on as a passenger. When the crew of the ship she has chosen finds itself forced to mutiny Clarice and the rest of the crew are quickly labeled pirates. She soon finds herself sailing in search of hidden treasure and a way to clear the names of the crew, all while attempting to keep anyone from discovering her secret.

There were only a few minor issues that irked me with this book, one of which was Clarice being a princess. It is made very clear she is from a duchy, part of a larger kingdom, so would she not be merely a lady until she married into the peerage? The only other issue I had is that this book was supposed to take place in an alternate version of earth, one with additional countries and a strange magic, but other than a few similar names there was not much to suggest that we shared a common world in any way, which disappointed me to a small degree.

That being said, this is definitely a book I think everyone should pick up and read. While it seems to be more romance than anything else, it has a great plot with an interesting magic system. The characters are very believable and enjoyable that you can connect with on many levels. Not to mention it’s written in part by Mercedes Lackey, and I don’t think I would be able to live with myself if I didn’t do what I could to convince everyone to pick it up and read it. Trust me, you won’t regret it!

Already I find myself obsessively checking to see if the sequel has been announced yet, and if so, when it will be published.

The House of the Four Winds is set to be released August 5th by Tor Books.

I received a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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Posted by on July 22, 2014 in Review, SJardine


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Review: William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: The Jedi Doth Return, by Ian Doescher

Once more unto the Death Star, dear friends! 

The epic trilogy that began with William Shakespeare’s Star Wars and continued with The Empire Striketh Back concludes herein with the all-new, all-iambic The Jedi Doth Return – perchance the greatest adventure of them all. 

Prithee, attend the tale so far: Han Solo entombed in carbonite, the princess taken captive, the Rebel Alliance besieged, and Jabba the Hutt engorged. Alack! Now Luke Skywalker and his Rebel band must seek fresh allies in their quest to thwart construction of a new Imperial Death Star. But whom can they trust to fight by their side in the great battle to come? Cry “Ewok” and let slip the dogs of war! 

Frozen heroes! Furry creatures! Family secrets revealed! And a lightsaber duel to decide the fate of the Empire. In troth, William Shakespeare’s The Jedi Doth Return has it all! 

Friends, we have come to the final installment of William Shakespeare’s Star Wars, and when I saw it on the shelf as I was walking out of the bookstore I nearly gave myself whiplash. Naturally I bought it right away and began reading it the next day, and loved every moment of it.

The Jedi Doth Return was, stylistically, more similar to Empire than to New Hope; it uses monologues, dialogue, and speeches to explain action sequences; the chorus comes up only a couple of times in the play. This was, overall, a very good choice; the characters could give their thoughts and views on a situation, which fleshed them out and made the sequences more fun to read. Once again, side characters were expanded upon and motives explored more in-depth, and characters who had little to no personality in the original were given clear characters – a prime example being Salacious Crumb, Jabba’s odd laughing pet, who gets several lines in the play. This expanding of dialogue meant that I occasionally got a very different impression of characters than I do when watching the movie, especially regarding the Han-Luke-Leia love triangle, which made reading the play a fresh experience in some ways and a slightly different experience than the movie.

I was curious about how the Ewoks’ dialogue was going to be rendered in the play, and I was amused to find it was written as four-line, half-nonsense little poems; the first and fourth lines were gibberish while the middle lines were odd-sounding English that gave character to the Ewoks and let us understand them while preserving their distinct way of speaking. Doescher had previously used similar tricks to great success in Empire (Yoda speaks in haiku, Fett in prose) but this is the first time he’s done it with an alien language to make that language understandable – Chewbacca’s and Jabba’s dialogue, as well as that of the Jawas and other aliens, is left untranslated. Reading the way they spoke and the conversations they had with C-3PO was quite fun.

Unfortunately, Darth Vader doesn’t say “prithee” in this play like I hoped he would, but it was still a fun read and a nice ending to the trilogy. Nevertheless, we still get great and innumerable shout-outs to the original Shakespeare, like one monologue that references “All the world’s a stage”. By the way, if any of you are planning to put on a production of these plays, now would be the perfect time, because you could perform them all back to back and either invite me to watch or send me a video of it (I’m still waiting). In conclusion, I’ll just say that this series has been great from beginning to end, and that if you haven’t read The Jedi Doth Return yet, you should immediately.

Overall rating: 4.5/5

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Posted by on July 18, 2014 in ARamone, Review


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Elderwood Manor by Christopher Fulbright and Angeline Hawkes : Review

Elderwood Manor

Things fall apart—Bruce Davenport knows this all too well.

On the heels of his wife’s death, laid-off and penniless with an eviction notice on the door, the only thing left for him and his four-year-old son Cody is Bruce’s childhood home, secluded deep within Ozark forests, haunted by the ghosts of his past.

After he receives a strange phone call from his dying mother, who has lived alone in the house for the past 15 years, Bruce reluctantly returns to the estate with his son.

But they soon find that something else dwells in the home, in the earth, in the woods. Unseen things are out for vengeance and blood. If they can survive the night, they may just find out what truly lies within the walls of…Elderwood Manor.

Elderwood Manor by Christopher Fulbright and Angeline Hawks is a new story from publisher DarkFuse’s novella line, and the first book by either author that I have read. I have been on a horror story binge these past couple weeks, always looking for that story that will keep me up at night reading, and leaving on the television before I go to bed afterwords. DarkFuse has delivered yet another creepy story I was unable to put down until I had finished, it kept me up till well past three in the morning, and left me wishing it hadn’t been quite so short.

Widowed and destitute, on the verge of both eviction and starvation Bruce Davenport receives a call from his dying mother and soon finds himself along with his son Cody on the road back to his childhood home. Returning to the dark and foreboding Elderwood Manor after so many years of thinking himself free from his miserable past is a final desperate act for Bruce and an attempt to secure some sort of future for his four-year-old son Cody. Barely reaching the manor ahead of a vicious winter storm that snows in and ices over the road behind them, Bruce soon finds out his mother has been long gone and the dark and malicious force has taken possession of the house, and he and his son must find a way to survive the night if they want any chance of ever leaving the manor with their lives.

The descriptive writing of the authors is one of the things that made Elderwood Manor an enjoyable story, they made it really easy to see the manor in your mind and to feel the dark presence that has taken root inside of it. I’m a huge fan of both horror movies and stories, and it is very rare for something to truly scare or creep me out, but this did it. I found early on in the story that I was huddling in on myself as I read and freezing at even the slightest noises from inside and outside my house. I had to put on something upbeat and funny on the television after I had finished in an attempt to stave off nightmares. It did not work, and that I think is more than enough reason for anyone to read it. Not to mention the fact I found myself attached to the characters very early on, especially Bruce’s four-year-old son Cody, and found myself hoping the story did not have the dark ending that I feared it might.

Elderwood Manor is set to be released July 15, 2014 by DarkFuse.

I received a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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Posted by on July 10, 2014 in Review, SJardine


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The High Druid’s Blade by Terry Brooks : Review


Legend has it that Paxon Leah is descended from the royals and warriors who once ruled the Highlands and waged war with magical weapons. But those kings, queens, and heroes are long gone, and there is nothing enchanted about the antique sword that hangs above Paxon’s fireplace. Running his family’s modest shipping business, Paxon leads a quiet life—until extraordinary circumstances overturn his simple world . . . and rewrite his destiny.

When his brash young sister is abducted by a menacing stranger, Paxon races to her rescue with the only weapon he can find. And in a harrowing duel, he is stunned to discover powerful magic unleashed within him—and within his ancestors’ ancient blade. But his formidable new ability is dangerous in untrained hands, and Paxon must master it quickly because his nearly fatal clash with the dark sorcerer Arcannen won’t be his last. Leaving behind home and hearth, he journeys to the keep of the fabled Druid order to learn the secrets of magic and earn the right to become their sworn protector.

But treachery is afoot deep in the Druids’ ranks. And the blackest of sorcery is twisting a helpless innocent into a murderous agent of evil. To halt an insidious plot that threatens not only the Druid order but all the Four Lands, Paxon Leah must summon the profound magic in his blood and the legendary mettle of his elders in the battle fate has chosen him to fight.


The High Druid’s Blade (Book one of The Defenders of Shannara) by Terry Brooks is the first book in the second last trilogy of the Shannara series. Reading this novel with that knowledge made it bittersweet. For over a decade now, I’ve been following this series, there’s always been another book to look forward to, another adventure of the Ohmsfords, Leahs, Elessedils, and the druids. However, the world has moved on past the Ohmsfords — a family which has been the focal point for the series, yet, besides for being mentioned in passing, none make an appearance, and they’ve all died, and/or moved away; no longer residing in their homelands. As well, the Leah’s are no longer kings, queens, nobles or have any sort of distinctions such as that either.

That being said, The High Druid’s Blade takes place around 150 years after The Dark Legacy of Shannara, and follows Paxon Leah, a descendant of both the Ohmsford and Leah families. This novel is very much a coming-of-age story, with Paxon being a hero in the making.

My feelings toward this latest installment in the Shannara world are mixed. As aforementioned, this is going to be a bittersweet trilogy to get through. Brooks’ novel was an engrossing read, and he managed once again to make the world seem alive. The High Druid’s Blade is an action-packed read, filled with magic, intrigue, twists and turns (some of which were a tad predictable). In this installment, Brooks’ seems to have taken a step back from the complex plots and instead focuses more on the two main characters — Chrys and Paxon. However, the new villain — Arcannan is wonderfully complex, and I’m hoping we see much more of him in the next two books.

This story in many ways felt like it was targeted more towards readers new to the Shannara series, as well as to those a bit younger. To me, it had the feel of a story on the brink of being YA. While I did enjoy it, for me, it certainly doesn’t rank among my favourites in the series. The first 1/3 or so of the story is pretty slow-going, and it lacks some of the edginess that earlier novels contained (it does have some dark moments though), and seemed to even fall flat at times. It was never boring, just it wasn’t particularly a spectacular read either.

I do believe that readers both new, and those familiar to his prior books will enjoy reading The High Druid’s Blade. Those new to his series should have no issue starting with this book, though, there are many allusions to events in past books.

Already, I eagerly look forward to The Darkling Child (Book two of The Defenders of Shannara), and I’ll undoubtedly be reviewing that as well.

The High Druid’s Blade is set to be released July 8th by Del Rey

I received a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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Posted by on July 4, 2014 in Interview, Review, RLovatt


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The Exiled by William Meikle : Review


When several young girls are abducted from various locations in Edinburgh, Detective John Granger and his brother Alan, a reporter, investigate the cases from different directions. The abductor is cunning, always one step ahead, and the only clue he leaves behind at each scene are the brutalized corpses of black swans.

When the brothers’ investigations finally converge at a farmhouse in Central Scotland, they catch a glimpse of where the girls have been taken, a place both far away yet close enough to touch. A land known throughout Scottish history with many names: Faerie, Elfheim, and the Astral Plane. It is a place of legend and horror, a myth. But the brothers soon discover it’s real, and, to catch the abductor, they will have to cross over themselves.

To catch a killer, John and Alan Granger will have to battle the Cobbe, a strange and enigmatic creature that guards the realm, a creature of horrific power that demands a heavy price for entry into its world. The fate of both realms hangs in the balance…and time is running out…

The Exiled by William Meikle is a bit of Scottish mythology, detective crime fiction, and horror all mashed up into one. I was originally not all that interested in reading this story and kept putting it off despite the fact I was looking for something new to read on a daily basis. It took only a couple pages of the book before I was sucked into the story and unable to put it down until I had finished it. I found it to be a fitting addition to DarkFuse’s catalog of dark and twisted stories.

After a young girl goes missing from a seedy housing complex detective inspector John Granger finds himself caught up in a series of missing children cases where the only evidence left behind is the mutilated remains of a black swan. Meanwhile reporter Alan Granger is has found a trail that may lead them to the missing children and their abductor. The only problem is when Alan and John follow the trail back to its source no one may believe the secrets that they uncover. The two brothers soon find themselves drawn into a battle that may decide the fate of more than just the abducted girls.

Containing extremely dark and graphic imagery, you learn early on this novel is not for the faint of heart, and I would not recommend it for those who do not enjoy reading such stories. That being said, I think anyone who reads this story will agree that William Meikle is an amazing author with a unique writing style and vivid imagination. He has created a story that you will be unable to put down once you’ve picked it up and started reading. I found the characters to be likable and to have believable flaws that made you like them all the more, and the plot had enough twists and turns that kept me guessing just where it was going and how the story was going to end.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys horror or dark fantasy in addition to anyone who enjoys great writing, believable characters and an ending you will never see coming.

I received a copy of this publication for free in exchange for an honest review.

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Posted by on July 3, 2014 in Review, SJardine


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