Tag Archives: review

Review: Script Kiddie (Assured Destruction #2) by Michael F. Stewart

I reviewed and thoroughly enjoyed the first Assured Destruction e-book and reviewed it here. Since it was only $.96, buying the dequel was a no brainer.

Jan Rose no longer steals data from the old computers she recycles. She doesn’t need to. As the newest member of the police department’s High Tech Crime Unit, the laptop of a murderer has landed on her desk. Her job: to profile and expose a killer.

But that’s not all.

A creep lurks in the shadows, stalking a friend, and Jan must stop him before the hunt turns deadly. The clock counts down for Jan to save her friend, her job, her boyfriend–maybe even her life.

I have found a YA character that I can really geek out about. Michel has created several interesting characters in this world, but as it should be, the main one is the star. She makes stupid mistakes and the kinds of assumptions that aren’t limited to the teen set. When that happens, the author doesn’t go easy on her. Still Janus has a good heart and you want to root for her as she tries to do the right thing.

There are a few plot threads that form the main thrust of the plot and then there are the struggles that carried over from the previous book. The shop owned by Janus’ mom is in deep water and sinking fast. Janus’ mom has severe health issues and Janus still doesn’t trust her mom’s boyfriend. On top of all that, she can’t seem to make her boss, her principle, or her boyfriend happy. Michael does a great job of keeping all of these threads woven into a tight tapestry.

Michael also uses his book to introduce us to the world of hacking. You don’t have to have a technical background to enjoy the story and you’ll probably learn a thing or two. While my hacker friends might (or might not) find fault with those aspects of the story, I don’t. Any shortcuts he takes serve to move the story along.

I want to go back to Janus. I admire that he’s created an imperfect and thus realistic YA character. There might by the temptation to make the protagonist of your YA story a model citizen. Given the tremendous pressures she’s under, Janus makes the aforementioned mistakes. She lies, cheats, and steals. She does it all for reasons that she thinks is good, but he doesn’t let her off the hook. This gives her lots of opportunities for growth and development. I look forward to the next story to see how he continues to put the screws to her and and to find out what Janus will do under pressure.

I give this story five out of five gray hats.

Michael’s Site
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Review – Ballad of Iron Percy by Ed Clark (Podcast)

I’ve been hearing about this podcast novel for a long time. It would come up whenever I asked what podcast should be next in my queue and for whatever reason it just wouldn’t make it into the queue. Finally, I have corrected that oversight.

Synopsis: It has been twenty years since the island nation of Great Hale conquered the New World and became an empire. Lord Percival Wilmore, the Hero of Naruna Isle, has been the governor of the New Jucata since the war’s end, and it has been his life’s work to make the colony a peaceful and prosperous part of the Halan Empire. By all accounts, he has succeeded. The city-states of Old Jucata have been dominated utterly, the old religion has been completely supplanted by the Halan faith of the White Veil, and Jucatan goods have made Great Hale the envy of the world. He is beloved by the people, and he has ensured that this Halan colony is built to last.

But New Jucata’s future is not as secure as it seems. As the head of state for the colony, Lord Wilmore is the highest legal authority in the land, and he is called upon to try a most curious prisoner. The events and outcome of this interrogation threaten to tear Halan Rule of Law apart and bring anarchy to the region.

Pandemona stands accused of being a Pak Shar – a dangerous and seductive demon previously seen only in Veil mythology. With her scarlet skin, lithe tail, and dainty set of horns, she certainly looks the part. Her way with words and alluring demeanor only serve to underscore this perception. Under Halan law, the punishment for being a demon is death by fire at the stake, but Pandemona is entitled to a fair trial by Lord Wilmore and the colony’s Curate before she can be convicted and executed. This interrogation is her only chance to escape. She must use all of her wit and guile to survive.

Is Pandemona really what she appears to be? What is she here to accomplish? Is she an evil and subversive creature, sent from the Abyss to torment mankind? Or is she simply disfigured and misunderstood? Whatever the truth may be, her presence is not a good omen.

The Ballad of Iron Percy is a song of glorious triumph, written to honor Lord Wilmore’s victory against overwhelming odds in the Conquest War. It is an iconic tune in New Jucata. The specifics of the verses vary in each separate rendition, but the overall tone is one of bravery, achievement, and joy.

Unfortunately for Iron Percy, his Ballad is not yet over…

Production:  This is a straight read. There is some good bumper music, but no effects or additional production values. The audio quality is very clean, but the version I listened to had some editing marks. The producer used audio cues to tell her where to cut and they were not always removed.

Grade: B-

Cast:  If you’re going to do an audio book and you don’t have the talent for reading, then please, please, please hire Veronica Giguere. You can find her at http://voicesbyveronica.com. She’s an author and an audio producer as well. She voices all of the characters and provides the narration and is one of those voice actors who remains in my top ten. She developed strong, consistent voices for each character, and while the red skinned lady in the picture steals the show, the rest of her performances are stellar. 

Grade: A+

Story: This is Ed’s first novel. It shows a little. Some of the prose could use a trim. Some things get over explained. Having said that, I love what he does with the unreliable narrator tropes. We get Pandemona telling her story over much of this, so it’s a little like Scheherazade regaling her captors. In fact it’s almost exactly like that. I imagine that’s on purpose. About half of it is this and the other half gives us other perspectives.

I do enjoy the world Ed built. The conflict between the church and the government is nicely done, as is the conflict between homelanders and colonists. The story has a lot of action and adventure, with a dollop of trollop-y action. (That means sex.) Ed also takes the opportunity of using the outsider’s perspective to examine what it means to be human. I  look forward to the sequel (which is apparently written, but yet to be released.)

Grade: B+

Verdict:  I highly recommend this podcast. Don’t make the mistake I did by waiting. Move it to near the top of your queue. It’s quite long, but worth every minute.

Grade: A


Review – West of Dead by Eric Bahle (Ebook)

This is another one of those books/authors that I found out about through the Twitter-verse. I saw zombies and wild/weird west and I was sold (though this one was another freebie when I picked it up).

Fans of Joe R. Lansdale, Robert Davis, and Adam Millard will love this fast paced tale of the Weird West.

What good is a six-shooter against a horde of the undead?

Nathaniel Caine wants to forget the War and see the frontier, and a trip by stagecoach seems like the perfect way. When the stage pulls into a deserted way station with obvious signs of violence, but a disturbing lack of bodies, he suspects things are going bad. Things go from bad to worse when the passengers fall under attack by people that should be dead, and Caine must call on old skills just to survive. He’ll also need the help of a fellow passenger who knows more than he’s telling if the restless dead are to be put back in the ground.

This book grabbed me from the very beginning. That’s important in a book like this (or perhaps any book really). The action and tension started at a fairly high point within the first few pages. Most of the characters are exactly as deep as they need to be for something like this. There is one character that was a nice surprise, but I won’t spoil said surprise. I don’t think Eric’s breaking really new ground here, but this is pure Saturday afternoon fun.

The thing I appreciate most about this story is that he makes an attempt at least to pay homage to zombieism’s historical roots. These zed heads are a good mix of walkers and their Caribbean ancestors. The latter is mostly for flavor, so it seems to me, but it’s a nice spice.

The writing is good. He kept the pace quick and I was “flipping” pages like mad to see what happened next. The only time I ever stumbled in the reading process was later in the book when he did some abrupt POV shifts. It’s good practice in my opinion to make some kind of hard break when you do that, but it didn’t happen a lot and I picked up and kept right on reading.

This book is now $2.99 at Amazon. The question is, is it worth it? If you want a fun, solid shoot-em up with some scares and a little gore this is the book for you. The only thing cerebral about this are the brains liberally spattered around during the last third.

I give this book four out of five brass cartridges.

Eric’s Site
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Review – Assured Destruction by Michael F. Stewart (E-book)

I love social media. It’s a great way to meet new authors and discover their works. Every once in a while I’ll see a “free book” re-tweet from a friend and it’s about an author I don’t know. I’ll almost always click and usually I’ll grab it. Will I always read it? Eventually I’ll give it a shot. Sometimes I’ve even glad I did.

You can learn a lot about someone looking through their hard drive …

Sixteen-year-old Jan Rose knows that nothing is ever truly deleted. At least, not from the hard drives she scours to create the online identities she calls the Shadownet.

Hobby? Art form? Sad, pathetic plea to garner friendship, even virtually? Sure, Jan is guilty on all counts. Maybe she’s even addicted to it. It’s an exploration. Everyone has something to hide. The Shadownet’s hard drives are Jan’s secrets. They’re stolen from her family’s computer recycling business Assured Destruction. If the police found out, Jan’s family would lose its livelihood.

When the real people behind Shadownet’s hard drives endure vicious cyber attacks, Jan realizes she is responsible. She doesn’t know who is targeting these people or why, but as her life collapses Jan must use all her tech savvy to bring the perpetrators to justice before she becomes the next victim.

This young adult science fiction novel was a great read. I’m a big fan of Cory Doctorow and this reminded me a lot of Little Brother. The protagonist is a smart and sensitive kid who gets in over her head fast, just as Cory’s protagonist did. In this case Jan doesn’t end up going to prison, but things get dire for her fast. It’s written in first person and the pages fly by. First person doesn’t work for everyone, but I like the intimacy it can deliver. Jan’s a character I can identify with. I knew kids like her growing up and I know some adult versions of her. Having a strong, and yet far from perfect, lead is vitally important in fiction in general, more so when you make the first person POV choice.

The other things I enjoyed about this book were all of the issues it raised about cyber-security and the need for it whatever your age might be. I geek for a living and the technical details Michael includes are spot on, but he includes them in a way that won’t go over the head of most teens. This is the world most of them live in. We put our trust in companies of all shapes and sizes, giving them every bit of data they need to sink us. Many of us, myself included, put our lives online for hundreds of people to see. As an adult, I hope I do it responsibly. As a teen, I know I wouldn’t have and many today don’t. I hope this makes the readers think about it and have some fruitful discussions with their parents. The whole book is very timely.

The plot and pacing are very tight. This is a thriller and Michael keeps raising the stakes and making things tough on Jan, her family, and her friends. There are also elements of a mystery. He kept me guessing all the way through, though a more scrupulous reading may have told me what was going to happen. Regardless, this book did what mystery thrillers need to do.

Finally, let me make an appeal. I would love to see this as a graphic novel. If there are any artists reading this, give it a look and contact Michael. 😉

I give this story five thumb drives out of five.

Michael’s Site
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Amazon Kindle Link
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Review – Is a Good Man Hard to Find? by Gorgon Duncan (Paperback)

Why another book about men, Godly men, training Godly men, elders, and all of that stuff? The simple answer for another book is that we need to keep looking at the scriptures, looking at what we’ve done (and not done), asking good questions, and then we need to look at the scriptures again.

And hopefully, in the process, we will see Godly men grow, be raised up, and reproduce themselves for the church, for the good of everyone involved, and ultimately to the glory of God).

This book is a humble attempt at just those things. Available July 9th everywhere, “Is a Good Man Hard to Find?” hopes to be an honest confession and guidebook to help us get there.

I’ve known Gordon for about two decades and I’ve seen him go through a variety of changes, but one thing that’s never changed is his devotion to God and helping people understand scripture. I’ve also seen his writing grow. He has an ability to explain things in a concise, frank manner with wisdom and humor. All of these are good things, especially when it comes to writing a book on what it means to be an elder and how a body should chose the right man for the job.

I enjoyed this book a great deal. It’s a fairly quick read, but it’s anything but a superficial treatment of the subject. He tackles the scripture behind the topic and gives his audience a clear exegesis. While he and I don’t see precisely eye to eye on all spiritual/theological matters, I find no fault with how he presents things in this book. He challenged and encouraged me.

The only ding I have with this is, I’m not sure who the audience is. If it’s intended for elders I would think that they already have a grasp of this (though a refresher never hurts). If it’s for candidates/laity then it’s worth having a look at.

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Review – Implant by Michael Wallace and Jefferey Anderson (Podcast)

This book was recommended to my by my buddy Odin at View From Valhalla. It was less of an endorsement and more of a “try this one”.

Synopsis: Neurosurgeon Julia Nolan places cortical implants into the brains of field operatives to record data from their auditory and visual cortices. One of her subjects, an operative named Ian Westhelle, suffers a psychotic break and kills his handler before he can be recovered.

Julia tracks Ian to an asylum where the CIA warehouses insane former soldiers, scientists, and others with security risks too great for conventional psychiatric wards. Agents from the national intelligence directorate discover her snooping and target her for elimination.

A collaboration between bestselling writers Michael Wallace and Jeffrey Anderson, Implant is a heart-pounding thriller that will keep readers guessing until the final, chilling conclusion.

Production: This is a straight read. The audio is a little uneven places in terms of volume. I also wasn’t the biggest fan of the music that they chose for the podcast. The audio quality itself wasn’t bad, but nothing great either.

One thing proved problematic. As a note to all podcast fiction producers, for any scene break you should at least include a pause or some sort of musical cue. It lets your listener know what’s going on. More than once there was a POV shift or some other scene break within a chapter that left me momentarily confused.

Grade: C-

Cast: This is read by one of the authors. His vocal quality is generally fine. He’s definitely reading, rather than performing it. The problem is, his reading is flat. For the most part there’s very little energy or emotion. You can tell which characters he likes more as there’s a little more oomph. It occasionally gets in the way of the story.

Grade: C-

Story: This is a fairly well written bit of sci-fi/thriller. It’s a collaboration, but there’s very little indication of who wrote what. I’m not familiar with either author’s work, and it felt like a single writer was responsible. The writing was the only thing that kept me going past the first few episodes.

If you’re into thrillers with action, political intrigue, and a dash of SF I think you’ll enjoy it. The characters are reasonably well developed. A few of them will surprise you, in that they depart from the tropes.

The biggest strike is that it does take some time to get where it’s going. Some judicious editing would tighten up the story.

Grade: B-

Verdict: I can’t really recommend this as a podcast. If you want to experience the story your best bet might be buying the e-book. For $3.99 it’s worth it. Since I’m reviewing the podcast, my verdict’s grade reflects mainly that.

Grade: C-


Review – Exorcising Aaron Nguyen (Ebook)

The murder of Millroad Catholic Academy’s resident genius, Aaron Nguyen, shuts down student life at the boarding school in rural North Carolina…for about a week. With the resilience of youth, the student body bounces back, and the memory of murder is nothing but a streamer of caution tape fluttering in the breeze. Unfortunately for them, Aaron’s spirit has some resilience as well. The school priest’s exorcism fails, and before long Aaron is breathing chills down the students’ necks and hurling Bunsen burners at nuns.

Georgia Collins doesn’t give a shit about ghosts. All she wants is a story to prove her underground school news blog is more than a gossip column, closure on her one-sided relationship with her best friend Hiroki, and a vanilla latte. She wasn’t expecting Aaron Nguyen’s death to be anything more than a cold spot in the science hall, but since Hiroki has the curse of Spectral Sight, he is the only person who can see and speak to Aaron.

As the ghost’s demands for attention become increasingly violent, Hiroki wants Georgia to help him investigate the crime, claiming that Aaron isn’t likely to budge until his killers are caught. Still hoping for spontaneous romantic combustion, she agrees to help bring Aaron’s murderers to justice and set the vengeful spirit free…but it’s not quite the close encounter she’s hoping for.

I’m not a native North Carolinian, but I’ve been here since I was thirteen. When I saw that Lauren had a book coming out that takes place in this fair state, I was interested in giving it a look. When I understood what it was about I was even more interested. I’m a big fan of modern fantasy and I know that Lauren is a talented creative.

One of the things that I’m always on the lookout for is a book that features a strong female lead. I felt pretty sure I’d find that here, and I wasn’t disappointed. Georgia is exactly that. She’s got her fair share of insecurities and weaknesses, but none that are crippling or too dark. A sense of fun is also something that I’m on the lookout for when it comes to YA fiction in general. Too often I see characters or situations that depress me as a reader. This book is hardly SUPER HAPPY FUN TIMES!, as it does deal with the death of a teen, but it doesn’t get mired down in darkness.

Georgia has a good supporting cast in the form of her love interest Hiroki and the school’s chess master Bishop. All of the characters are as well developed as any can be in a novelette of this length. It’s the characters and their interactions that move this book along at a brisk pace, rather than the plot, and that’s another plus. The banter and humor between them go a long way towards telling us what we need to know about them and it keeps the story fun, even when things get bleak.

The only real disappointment I had with the story is that I wanted the location to play a little bit more of a role. The setting itself, a boarding school, is very important, but it feels like this could take place in just about any southern state. That’s not too much of a detraction, but more local flavor would have enhanced the story.

For people looking for a new story for their teen, I do want to give a bit of a fair warning. I don’t recall if the ages of the characters are mentioned, but context tells me that they’re in their mid to late teens (tenth grade I believe). There’s some strong language and frank sexual talk that some people might not find suitable for younger teens/tweens. I don’t think any of it is excessive a la Chuck Wendig. I was a teen myself and I seem to recall doing my fair share. But if I were to rate this a la the MPAA guidelines, I’d give it a PG/PG-13. As someone who prefers less as more when it comes to violence, strong language, etc. I think Lauren balanced those elements well. I’d easily give this to my thirteen year old in another year or two.

It sounds like this is the beginning of a series, which is all of the rage these days (and I think that’s a good thing). I look forward to what comes next for Georgia and her friends. I enjoyed this book a great deal and I strongly recommend it.

I give Exorcising Aaron Nguyen four and a half out of five rosaries.

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Review – A Minor Magic by Justin R. Macumber (Paperback)

Minor Magic Cover

I’ve been a friend of Justin Macumber’s for some time. He’s had me on the Dead Robots Society podcast a time or three and we’ve collaborated on a few projects together. All of that said in the spirit of full disclosure. As soon as I saw this new book and read the excerpt, I plunked down my money to get a copy.

Over the course of a single night, mystical fires tore through the sky and reduced most of Earth to ash. Ten years later magical fire burns again, but this time it’s in the hands of a young girl named Skylar. Exiled from her adoptive home, Skylar must now struggle through ruined lands and religious zealots who believe she’s an agent of the Devil. An even greater threat exists in the form of shadowy sorcerers from another world who covet her blood. Along her journey, she meets a motley band of outcasts who not only know the secret of what happened to Earth, but also of Skylar’s true origin. Will Skylar be able to accept this fantastical truth? But more importantly, can her powers and raging heart be tamed in time to stop those who once burned the world and now seek total domination?

I love a good post apocalyptic story, particularly when you bring the fantasy element into it. One of my favorite cartoons growing up was Thundarr the Barbarian. This is a little like that with fewer sunswords and Moks and more female sorcerers.

What we have here is a solid YA fantasy novel. There’s a bit of “coming of age” and a little “fish out of water”. There’s also an endearing bit of romance. With all of that, as someone who’s in no way the target audience for this book, I enjoyed it quite a bit.

What did I like? First and foremost there’s Skylar. The world has taken a big old dump on her and it continues to do so throughout the story. How does she react? She gets crabby, downright angry, scared, and sad. That’s how real people would react and it’s nice to see. She falls in love and at first I thought it was a little too quick and easy, but the love interest is a life boat to her. They’ve had some common experiences and they’re young, the only young people on this road they travel, so it makes sense. Perhaps the only thing about it that didn’t ring entirely true was there was little conflict in their relationship. Considering how little time they had to explore the relationship though in the midst of all of the other conflict going on, perhaps that makes sense.

That’s one of the other things I like about this novel, it moves quickly. There’s a fair amount of action and about the time the characters have time to breathe, something else happens. There’s no shortage of tension.

Finally, this is a post apocalyptic novel, so it is pretty dark. It’s nicely balanced though. We’re not talking The Road level of darkness. There are enclaves of people dealing with things badly. There are monsters lurking in pockets of wyld magic. There’s a feeling of disconnect from the world as it used to be from the younger characters and some reminiscing for the way things used to be from the adults. Justin paints a good picture of the destruction that has been wreaked. In spite of all of that, he keeps a small spark of hope burning. These people are on the way to save the world, as best they can, and you get the sense that they just might be able to pull it off.

Any down sides to this book? Not very many. If you’re looking for some kind of fully fledged magic system (and I know there are fantasy fans that want that) it’s not here. Magic is new to the world and its hard to do. In that sense, this would probably be considered “low fantasy”. The ending felt a little bit rushed to me. The characters meet the “big bad” and it gets resolved in a satisfying way, but I would have liked it to be a little harder/more complicated. In a way it reminds me of the Wizard of Oz. The story is more about the journey than about the destination. Again, not a big deal, but another chapter or two about what takes place in the other world and perhaps an epic battle scene and I would have been happier.

The most telling things is what I did when I closed the book after the final page. I handed it to my thirteen year old daughter to read. She’s a voracious reader and I know she’ll enjoy it. Finding a book that can please a crusty old man and a teenage girl is sort of the Holy Grail of YA. There are a few crusty old man words, but nothing you wouldn’t hear in a PG movie. You can’t expect a post-apocalypse, fantasy world to be all Disney-fied, and I wouldn’t want it to be.

I give this book four and a half Demon Dogs out of five!

Publisher’s Page
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Review – The Mask of Inanna by Alicia E. Goranson (Audio Drama)

This week’s podcast came recommended by Odin1Eye; pirate, podcaster, and podcast reviewer par excellence. It is his blog that I owe my review format to. So, check out View From Valhalla. This week I review the audio drama, The Mask of Inanna.

Synopsis: The world isn’t kind to dreamers.

Like any boy of the radio era, Leonard Allen dreamed of hitting big in New York and Hollywood; to write or host that one big show that would make everyone notice. Even after he had his chance at both, that dream still burns inside him. He’s always been able to spark the divine somewhere in his work. And he’s been noticed.

He doesn’t know the lengths people will go to take advantage of such gifts. So when the mysterious David Lewis asked him finish his classic radio drama “After Dark” after a half-century from a pirate radio station in a New England lighthouse, Len didn’t realize it wasn’t as simple as that. The truth is that Lewis served a more powerful entity than even public opinion: the goddess Inanna, Sumerian patron of love and war both.
Sometimes, a god wants a sacrifice. Sometimes, a god wants praise and devotion. But the most fickle, and the most dangerous, are those who demand a show.

Journey into the creative mind of award-winning author Alicia Goranson, as she explores the nature of power and those who covet it in a genre-busting work that blends classic fifties radio drama, tense, paranoia-fueled thrillers, and the intimate knowledge born of a career working behind-the-scenes in the performing arts. Marvel at a stunning collection of award-winning stage actors, the Post-Meridian Players, as they provide the voice and heart to a cast of over thirty. Follow Allen and Lewis as their ideological conflict threatens to consume their friends and family, a battle neither can yield.

Is magic simply a tool, or a living thing to be respected? Does man have a right to make demands of the gods? What lengths would you go to for the power to protect what you love? Whatever you believe, don’t get caught out After Dark, in THE MASK OF INANNA.

Production: This is an audio drama that’s split between audio formats and time periods. Part of the production, the “real” story is as crisp as you could ask for. The parts that are “broadcast” over the radio have the sorts of artifacts you’d expect. It really is quite clever and well done. If I have a complaint, it’s that some of the dialog was hard to hear when they went really heavy with the sound effects. There’s some irony there, when I heard a line about how crucial it is not to miss a word in the old radio play days. I didn’t miss any important dialog, that I know of, but it costs them a few points.

Grade: A-

Cast: Apparently the cast are part of a community theater group in Boston. They really are all quite talented. As I’ll get to in a minute, they’re stretched over multiple characters and I was never disappointed. The chemistry between Scotty and Len was perfect.

Grade: A++

Story: There’s a lot going on here. You have the story that takes place in the fifties, that of a group of radio players who are split up by one of the stars going to Hollywood to seek fame. Then there’s the present day story of the former radio star being taken out of his retirement home in order to relive his glory days on a little island while assuming the role of a lighthouse caretaker. Finally, you have nine or ten stories that make up the broadcast of “After Dark”, the radio show that all the hubbub us about.

The main story, almost a framing device, but a lot more, is well written. I do have a pet peeve with any story that jumps around in the time stream as much as this one does. I’m much more a fan of linear story telling. Still, the way it plays out, it never failed to catch and keep my interest. It all starts out as very “real” and the deeper you get into the story the more fantastic things become.

The After Dark episodes are fantastically cheesy, both the story telling and the acting. That’s all very appropriate for what they were trying to do. My favorite (and it might just be because it was the last one) was the Sinbad story.

The mark of really good story telling is that it makes me think about a lot of things. This is more than just entertainment. There’s love, sacrifice, the power or friendship, the power of STORY, and it asks the question, “what would you give up for the people closest to you?” Mask is top notch.

This is a matter of personal preference, but I will be dinging them a little for the jumping around. I also had a little trouble getting into it initially. I like a mystery and a slow build, but it was almost too slow. Ultimately it was worth it.

Grade: A-

Verdict: If you’re a fan of audio drama then there’s a good chance you’ve already heard this. If you’re a fan of old school radio shows I’m sure you’d love it. Each episode is at least and hour and there are ten of them. You’re in for at least twelve hours of solid entertainment. Put this near the top of your list.

Grade: A


Review – Sabriel by Garth Nix (Paperback)

Sabriel Cover
Sabriel Cover

I went onto the Twitter and asked for book recommendations (note to self, write a post about how important those are) and someone recommended that I take a look at the Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix. I believe the person said it was an interesting take on Necromancy. I read the synopsis and ordered the whole trilogy used.

Since childhood, Sabriel has lived outside the walls of the Old Kingdom, away from the power of Free Magic, and away from the Dead who refuse to stay dead. But now her father, the Mage Abhorsen, is missing, and Sabriel must cross into that world to find him. With Mogget, whose feline form hides a powerful, perhaps malevolent spirit, and Touchstone, a young Charter Mage, Sabriel travels deep into the Old Kingdom. There she confronts an evil that threatens much more than her life and comes face to face with her own hidden destiny.

This sounds like the basic set up for any fantasy world. It’s not, though. The thing that fascinated me the most is that this world is fairly analogous to Earth in the 1940s. They have the sort of technology and culture that England had during that time, and that’s not all. The world is divided into two halves, the New Kingdom and the Old Kingdom. Technology doesn’t work in the old and magic doesn’t work in the new. The wall, a dividing line between the two, is constantly guarded on both sides and not just anyone can cross. Sabriel, the daughter of a powerful necromancer, is an exception to that rule. She possesses her father’s abilities and knowledge and, as the synopsis hints, has to use them to quiet the rising dead and their new ruler.

In addition to what’s, in my mind, a great bit of world building, Nix has created some very good characters. Sabriel is the sort of strong female character that I like to see in YA fiction. She doesn’t need rescuing and in fact at one point rescues a royal male. She’s not over the top though. She has her own fears and worries. She’s far from indestructible and needs to adapt quickly to the changes in her life. She makes mistakes and earns her place in my heart. My other favortie character in this story is Mogget. He plays a reluctant and not entirely trustworthy adviser to Sabriel. There are truly some funny bits to their interactions.

This is a well written novel. Not for nothing, it won an award or two. The world building is largely seamless. The threats to the characters are well handled. You feel pretty certain who’s going to survive and who won’t, but never so certain that there’s no tension. There’s plenty of action and suspense, with a dash of romance. I immediately handed this to my thirteen year old daughter to read. I give this five out of five wands.

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