Continue below to read my review of the book and to check out the rest of the stops on the 'After Sundown' Blog Tour brought to you by Random Things Tours, Flame Tree Press, and Mark Morris!
'After Sundown,' edited by Mark Morris, is a new horror anthology out on Flame Tree Press.
Specifically in the horror field, I've always been a big fan of anthologies. Over the years, I've discovered some of my favorite horror writers this way because they have a limited time to hook me and deliver and I've found if they can do that in this format, it's almost a sure thing in novels later on.
Of the 20 original horror stories included, 16 of them were commissioned from some of the top names in the horror genre. The cool thing about this anthology, which will hopefully be an annual non-themed horror anthology release, is 4 of those 20 were selected from 100's of stories sent to Flame Tree during a 2-week open submissions window.
What a great way to discover new talent and see how well they might be received!
Some of the short stories, as to be expected, are just slightly unpleasant 'what if' scenarios relating to post-apocalyptic situations, experimentation, or even sort of surreal pandemic settings. All of the stories are at least good.. but there are a few that I feel are exceptional.
I have to start with 'Wherever You Look' by Ramsey Campbell because he's just still such a master in the field. I can't even remember how old I was when I first discovered his work.. probably 15 or so.. and it was definitely in one of those old anthologies I was about to learn to love.
Campbell obviously loves to play with things that skirt the periphery of our minds. Those tricks our brains play on us when we sometimes think we get a glimpse of something out of the corner of our vision, only to turn and see nothing.. or things that are ever present, that we somehow manage to overlook until it's too late.
This story is no different in that regard and it's absolutely one I will carry forward with me. Even now the concept lingers at the back of my mind. I know the experience would be terrifying and love the slow, subtle approach he uses to torment both the character and the reader.
'Mine Seven' by Elana Gomel is a special story, as it takes place near the Arctic Circle and explores concepts of Chukchi folklore, an indigenous people who live within the Russian Federation. Leveraging shamanic themes and a more existential horror style, though the mythos itself is far different.. it carries an almost Lovecraftian feel in the tale's atmosphere. I loved this, as I don't feel we see nearly enough diversity in the industry as a rule, and in the US at least.. we so lack exposure to the eastern storytelling styles that readers often don't even know how to process the differences.
'That's the Spirit' by Sarah Lotz is another really disarming story. It's incredibly well delivered with such a delicate touch of foreshadowing it's actually difficult to see. While I thought I knew what was up, I was completely wrong. She took a classic theme and still managed to surprise me with its use.
'It Doesn't Feel Right' by Michael Marshall Smith is a fantastically creepy read. Smith writes with such an easy humor in the initial pages that I almost forgot that I was reading horror and so with the first glimpse of something really off.. I was so alarmed by it he had me thinking of some of my favorite classic horror films. I won't name them here, because I'd hate to ruin the experience for anyone.. but it was definitely chilling.
Though I'm hard pressed to pick just only one more, 'Alice's Rebellion' by John Langan must be it. I love stories born of Wonderland and it intrigues me that as dark as the original tale is, new perspectives are often even darker. This story is lovingly rendered in a style suitable to follow Lewis Carroll's, though it's less whimsical, it's just as wild. Yet, at the same time, one can't help but see the presentation of our modern world often in very literal, specific ways, throughout. It's a favorite, for certain.
If you like horror and anthologies at all.. do yourself a favor and pick this book up. It's actually probably the best collection I've read all year.. and there are plenty of gems inside. Plus, I'd love to see it get the support it needs to become that annual release they're hoping for.
Mark Morris (editor) has written and edited almost forty novels, novellas, short story collections and anthologies. His script work includes audio dramas for Doctor Who, Jago & Litefoot and the Hammer Chillers series.
His recent work includes the official movie tie-in novelizations of The Great Wall and (co-written with Christopher Golden) The Predator, the Obsidian Heart trilogy (The Wolves of London, The Society of Blood and The Wraiths of War), the anthologies New Fears (winner of the British Fantasy Award for Best Anthology)and New Fears 2 as editor, a new audio adaptation of the classic 1971 horror movie Blood on Satan’s Claw, for which he won the New York Festival Radio Award for Best Drama Special, and a new audio adaptation of the M.R. James ghost story A View From a Hill, for which he won his second New York Festival Radio Award, for Best Digital Drama Program, and which has also been nominated for an ARIA (Audio & Radio Industry Award).
Continue below to read my review of the book and to check out the rest of the stops on the 'Voodoo Heart' Blog Tour brought to you by Random Things Tours, Flame Tree Press, and John Everson!
'Voodoo Heart' is a supernatural thriller set in the heart of New Orleans. Written by Bram Stoker Award Winner, John Everson, it follows the story of Detective Lawrence 'Cork' Ribaud.
After waking alone in a bloody bed with his wife missing and an even more ominous piece of evidence sitting amidst the still wet stain, Cork realizes she has just become the latest victim in a growing list of those who've gone missing under the same circumstances. Across the city, at some point during the night.. once a month, people are disappearing mysteriously.
Though he doesn't believe in voodoo, the bizarre crime scenes make him think that someone who does might be involved. Nothing left behind of the missing except a pool of blood on the sheets and a heart, presumably from the victim, his investigation turns toward the idea that someone may be conducting rituals of some kind or hoping to make it look that way.
The story itself is well put together and the mystery seems to hold up. I have far too much experience consuming this type of content probably, so I definitely saw some of the conclusive reveals coming in the early pages of the book.. but there was still a surprise or two along the way.
Everson does dialogue unusually well. The conversations all felt incredibly natural, rather than carrying with them forced emotion and posturing in an attempt to portray a certain image of a character. Their personalities aligned seamlessly with who they were as people.
There is a tendency to overuse a specific phrase, but thankfully it's all in one area of the book and doesn't reoccur later.. as long as you don't count the incessant need to keep calling attention to NOLA Hopitoulas IPA. Like, I get it.. it's his drink of choice.. and it's a local favorite, but a couple shout-outs are plenty. Also, I don't mind sexual situations in books.. with or without purpose.. I don't care how crassly it's referred to.. but the "the long tube of flesh that was growing even longer" made me laugh hysterically and that was unfortunate, because it was actually a pretty intense scene that could have had more of an affect on the reader if it had been worded differently.
I had some minor issues with details regarding New Orleans, but other than that, the story is richly tinted in darkness.. both that of very human impulses and potentially disturbing, even controversial moments. This book is definitely not for the squeamish, anyone wishing to avoid themes of black magic rituals, or those who are uncomfortable with very taboo sex.. but for me, those were probably the most interesting elements.
My favorite part of the story was actually the way Everson set up the regional.. let's call it disbursement of territories.. and the concept of how that was all developed from its origin to the modern design. I really enjoyed the idea and the way the parties were distinguished.. and actually would have liked to have seen more done with it.
If you're looking for a quick horror read and don't mind an unintentional laugh or two, you might give this a try. As for triggers, in addition to those above, the violent acts are on the extreme side, there is mention of domestic abuse, and even some non-consensual situations.
John Everson is a staunch advocate for the culinary joys of the jalapeno and an unabashed fan of 1970's European horror cinema. He is also the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Covenant and its two sequels, Sacrifice and Redemption, as well as nine other novels, including the erotic horror tour de force and Bram Stoker Award finalist NightWhere, the haunting thriller The Devil’s Equinox and his latest, Voodoo Heart. Other novels include The Pumpkin Man, Siren, The 13th and the spider-driven Violet Eyes .
Over the past 25 years, his short fiction has appeared in more than 75 magazines and anthologies and received a number of critical accolades, including frequent Honorable Mentions in the Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror anthology series. His story “Letting Go” was a Bram Stoker Award finalist in 2007 and “The Pumpkin Man” was included in the anthology All American Horror: The Best of the First Decade of the 21st Century. In addition to his own twisted worlds, he has also written stories in shared universes, including The Vampire Diaries and Jonathan Maberry’s V-Wars series (recently sold to Netflix), as well as for Kolchak: The Night Stalker and The Green Hornet.
"The gown is only made of dignity," he said. "There are better materials to be had, of course, but this is what the brownies had on-hand. They were only too happy to rid themselves of it--they consider it quite useless, for all of the trouble that it brings."
'Ten Thousand Stitches' is Book 2 of the Regency Faerie Tales series and my favorite historical fiction series hands down, written by one of my favorite indie authors.. Olivia Atwater. This lady single-handedly won my appreciation for the genre with 'Half a Soul,' her debut of the series earlier this year and because of her, I've even learned to appreciate a couple of other historical fiction authors in recent months.
Honestly, I've always disliked the verbiage of the eras as a rule, so reading an entire novel full of it was a chore to me. Olivia's approach is different though.. and while there's enough language of the time sprinkled throughout her stories to set the atmosphere, she never overdoes it. She's found this balance.. where it's present enough that I don't find it too modern.. and I'm not distracted by it either.
In this story, we follow Miss Euphemia 'Effie' Reeves. A housemaid in the Ashbrooke manor who unfortunately falls in love with Benedict, a member of the family she serves.
Though she knows the tales of caution regarding the Fair Folk, when she happens across a faerie named Lord Blackthorn who desperately wants to help her win Benedict's heart, her unhappiness with her station makes her risk accepting his offer. Effie is given one hundred one days and ten thousand stitches.. to get Benedict to propose with Lord Blackthorn's help or she is sworn to become even more of what she already is in her servitude, but the faerie lord's overwhelmingly good intentions have a tendency to go wrong.
"If it makes you feel any better...Lady Hollowvale says that most faeries are very wicked indeed, by English standards. She tells me that I am a pleasant aberration."
One of the most wonderful things about Olivia's storytelling is the extensive knowledge through research or experience that she lovingly inks into every page. While truly fantastical, she infuses plenty of gritty texture too.. never shying away from the harsher realities of the time.. from the way people were treated to the challenges in their every day lives. She doesn't feel the need to make the ugly truths seem pretty and palatable, but rather allows the reader to see each layer for what it really is. And though she likes to pull back the veil a bit, she also writes main characters with so much heart.. the way they see the good of others around them is rather beautiful.
I love that she's unafraid to address privilege in her worlds and the way it is often wielded without care for those who don't have it. I also love the unapologetic way she paints her characters, not always needing to turn them into something new.. and instead, sometimes letting them learn to be happy with what they are.
Her world-building is spectacular, as is always the way her faerie magic tends to work. The origin of faerie fabrics is utterly whimsical. Born of emotions and traits, the things crafted from them are prone to inspiring certain reactions in those around them. Another of my favorite elements she employs, is the way the faeries tend to belong to their realms.. rather than the other way around.. and the resulting sentience it lends them.
"But you can grow...You have already grown, in fact. You simply haven't noticed it, because you are constantly looking at the sky, and not back down at your roots."
Effie is adorable. She's full of fire, even as she tries to keep it tucked away.. attempting to put her best foot forward and meet sometimes ridiculously unreasonable expectations. She cares about those around her strongly and cannot see herself to simply allow an injustice, even if it's not in her best interest at times to speak up.
Lord Blackthorn.. oh that lovely faerie made me emotional. Sometimes it was what he said.. and others it was what he didn't. Atwater does a beautiful job with him.. allowing him to be vulnerable in unexpected ways.. and he's just so earnest at times I found myself feeling very protective of him.. regardless of what disasters he might cause.
If you like faerie tales and historical fiction.. I cannot recommend this series to you enough. 'Ten Thousand Stitches' is out Tuesday, October 20th.. and book 3 is right around the corner too. In fact.. 'Longshadow' is already available to pre-order! Personally, though I read this in ARC form, I've already eagerly pre-ordered copies of both book 2 and book 3.
Continue below to read my review of the book and be sure to follow this link - [TOUR SCHEDULE] to check out the rest of the stops on the 'Sisters of the Moon' blog tour brought to you by Xpresso Book Tours and Alexandrea Weis!
"A monstrous fate will turn a girl into a legend."
I know.. that tagline grabbed me too!
'Sisters of the Moon' by Alexandra Weis is the story of a slave named Durra who is sold for taxes. Two companions, Emily and Leida, share her fate. After an unpleasant journey with the tax collector, they find themselves on a remote island shrouded in mystery.
Taken to a convent where the Sisters of St. Gertrude accept them and draw them into the close familial setting, things seem odd.. leading Durra to search for information in the Sisters' library and Emily to seek an escape. A vengeful act unveils a gruesome secret and changes their lives forever.
From a writing standpoint, the book is great. That is to say.. structurally the story is well put together and moves fluidly. It's a single narrative told in a linear nature.
Durra is a clever character that was easy to connect with. She, like the other girls, have have a rough start in life.. but it makes her no less likeable. She cares about others, often looking out for them before herself and she doesn't complain. Rather, she just does her best to navigate through whatever rocky path lies ahead of her.
Curiosity getting the better of her, she probably accesses some information before she's ultimately meant to.. which forces a confrontation, but she owns that too.
There are a couple of creative plot points regarding the origin of the Sisterhood, but otherwise the story is just rather average. The benefit is it's also a quick easy read, which I got through in about two and a half hours.
While Weis has the skill to put the story together, for the most part those two points I mentioned were the sum of the creativity. The rest is a lot of old supernatural cliches being reused and honestly, I think she has a ton of potential to grow that innovative thinking because the hard part is already mastered.
This is a fine book for a light read, particularly if you just want to cozy up in a cushiony chair with a warm drink and pass a chilly autumn evening...
Alexandrea Weis, RN-CS, PhD, is a multi-award-winning author, screenwriter, advanced practice registered nurse, and historian who was born and raised in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Having grown up in the motion picture industry as the daughter of a director, she learned to tell stories from a different perspective. Infusing the rich tapestry of her hometown into her novels, she believes that creating vivid characters makes a story moving and memorable.
Weis writes romance, mystery, suspense, thrillers, supernatural, and young adult fiction and has sold approximately one million books. She lives with her husband and pets in New Orleans where she is a permitted/certified wildlife rehabber with the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries and rescues orphaned and injured animals.
She is a member of both the International Thriller Writers Association and the Horror Writers Association.
I got excited when I saw 'A Vow So Bold and Deadly' by Brigid Kemmerer listed as 'Read Now' on NetGalley. Unfortunately, it wasn't marked as such.. but it turned out to just be an excerpt.
That being said.. it was still really good!
Admittedly, I haven't read the first two books in the series yet. I was interested in them and even purchased the first a year or so back, but I wasn't in a rush. However, the excerpt changed all that.
Though it was only a brief, 30 page sampler.. it gave me a glimpse of each major character so far as I can tell and left me wanting more so badly that it pushed the previous books up on my tbr pile to 'urgent.' lol
There's tons of conflict, both between the characters and within them. Lots of little unrests, cases of insecurity or even remnants of betrayal and anger from the previous books and I'm desperate to know more. I already love both Grey and Prince Rhen for different reasons and the villianous Lilith is intriguing as can be.
Time to go pre-order..
"I'm an infidelity orphan. We're exiles, my brother and I. We fled the "we can work it out" regime."
'Swamp Thing: Twin Branches' by author Maggie Stiefvater and artist Morgan Beem is finally here! I'm so excited to review this lovely graphic novel and I want to thank DC Comics for sending me a free copy to read and share with you!
This particular incarnation of the story follows twins Alec and Walker Holland as they leave home to stay with cousins in the country for the summer when things blow up between their parents. One is predominantly introverted, preferring to spend his time alone amongst his experiments and the other is the life of every party.. that person who just walks into a room and automatically seems to make friends.
Despite their differences, the brothers are inseparable and Walker continues to push Alec to go out and be social in a somewhat misguided attempt at making him more popular and 'happy.' Unfortunately, the things that make Walker happy are not the same things that fulfill his more studious brother.
As the summer progresses, the two seem to go farther and farther in the opposite directions. Walker parties it up and Alec settles into a summer school lab with the local science kids to work on something he brought with him from home.
I've always loved the underdog Swamp Thing stories. He's everything we tend to be drawn to over and over.. the King Kong of the swamplands. He's heroic and kind, but deeply misunderstood.. judged often by his frightful visage.
First appearing in comics back in 1971 as a stand-alone story, the character was given a series later on. It's even had a couple of theatrical films and a few tv series since.
The artwork in this graphic novel is actually fairly diverse in style. Most of the people are simply drawn, which allows the supernatural creatures to really stand out, and they are beautifully dark.
Stiefvater build a sweet, relatable relationship between the twins. They don't always get along, but deep down they love each other enough to make sacrifices you might not think they would and they are loyal to the core.
I was thrilled with the scientific factoids thrown into the story here and there as well. I love science and read about it casually even now, but I still learned a couple of really fascinating things I didn't know.. which started me down the research rabbit hole right after finishing the book.
Definitely a worthwhile read for anyone looking for a light, page-turner told with lots of heart.
"There are many ways a land like ours can be threatened, both from inside and out," Kennan states. "As Bards, we have to be prepared to face any threat and prevail."
'Hush' by Dylan Farrow was another of my most highly anticipated reads for 2020.. and it absolutely exceeded my expectations.
Shae, our main character, is a girl of seventeen who lives a quiet life in the small village of Aster with her mom.. the last living member of her family. Terrified of the plague that killed her baby brother, she lives in constant fear that she's cursed.. a fear that's reflected back at her by most of the townspeople.
Treated as an outcast, the only friends she has are Fiona and Mads.. both of whom do their best to make her life a little better.. but there are rules with harsh punishments enforced by a group called the Bards. These justice bearers come dressed all in black and gold, claiming to use the magic of Telling to keep the people safe.. so long as they provide appropriate tithes.
When she finds her murdered mother's body, the discovery exacerbates everything. All her fears and those of the community.. come down hard around her.. and that's where her journey begins.
This is one of those extremely rare instances where the synopsis not only leaves the best parts of the story out.. as well it should.. it even leaves out some of the most intriguing aspects told in the very first pages. It's actually kind of mind-blowing.. how bland the blurb is when compared to even the opening of the tale.. and it only gets better from there.
The brooding Bard with secrets of his own has an absolutely magnetic pull and I desperately hope there will be another book so I can learn more about him. Everything seems to imply there will be considering the way it wraps up.. but I've seen no confirmation anywhere yet.
"The Book of Days.
It is the repository of all truth, brought to our land by the First Rider. In its pages is the record of everything we know. The fabric upon which all reality is shaped."
As for the magic system, I loved how the importance of balance was displayed and how it seemed to work. Especially good was the play between illusion and magic grounded in reality. It created a sense of uncertainty, not only for Shae.. but a bit for the reader at times, so that one might wonder which way things would go.
Through it all runs an important message that the author alludes to in her acknowledgements. The importance of speaking out, the strength it often takes to do so.. when those around you seem aligned against you, and the celebration of those who do so anyway. It's certainly a position Farrow knows personally and I think that showed in the conviction and sometimes wavering bouts of despair that Shae struggled with.
I found the setting nearly as fascinating as the story itself. Shae's home village is described so cleanly, I feel like I can see it.. and the castle.. wow. It's a vast fortress of training grounds and corridors, a hidden maze, and a multitude of dangers.
If I was looking for something to improve on.. I'd say the dialogue could be better.. but that's not to say it's bad either. The conversations feel a little contrived at times, but there's definitely better dialogue chemistry once she reaches the home of the Bards.
Anyway, this book was fantastic! I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a wonderfully creative fantasy read.
Continue below to read my review of the book and be sure to follow this link - [TOUR SCHEDULE] to check out the rest of the stops on the 'Children (The Ten Worlds Book 1)' by Bjørn Larssen' blog tour brought to you by Storytellers On Tour and Bjørn Larssen!
'Children (The Ten Worlds Book 1)' by Bjørn Larssen is a retelling of the Norse myths, centered around Magni and Maya.
Magni is the son of the God of Thunder himself.. Thor.. but it's his mother he grew up close to. Thor represents everything the young god despises.. murderous and alcoholic. A being who was never really part of his life.. and whose name only brings up feelings of resentment and memories of a cold, distant man.
When Thor destroys everything Magni holds dear, he becomes determined to put a stop to his distant father's violence. His dream is peace and prosperity for the Nine Worlds and a quiet life with the man he loves, but escaping the shadow of his father is difficult because they look so similar that he's frequently mistaken for Thor.
Maya is a sorceress who was spirited away from her human family by Freya and Freyr.. the God of Sex and Goddess of Love.. but she has no interest in the greatest of pleasures.
Having been sent back amongst humans to serve a thick-skulled brute of a King with no promise of when or if she'll ever return home, Maya's yearning for freedom has only grown. A skilled magic wielder, her rage at the games they've played is more powerful than even she realizes, but escape seems to elude her as well.
Though this book wasn't what I was expecting.. which is to say something bold and a bit lyrical.. it was well written. It's far more than bold.. and too raw to be lyrical.. but that isn't a bd thing.
The prose actually takes on more of the brutish traits of the world the reader is thrust into.. the language often simplistic. I found the dialogue to be on the weak side, but in truth.. that's the most difficult thing for most writers to get right, in my opinion.
While the journey is certainly a struggle and natural story investment builds within the telling, I wasn't particularly attached to any of the characters.. which surprised me. I just didn't find them all that likeable.. but that's a very personal thing and has no reflection on the author.
What's really cool about the story, is the unorthodox approach Larssen took to the retellings. His perspectives feel unique while still containing enough core mythos to keep the reader's path forward clear.
Told through a shifting narrative between Magni and Maya, each voice is distinctive.. which is really important to me with multiple-pov perspectives. I like that I know who I'm reading by their tone and even their language.. that I don't have to check and see whose name is present in the chapter.
As for trigger warnings.. if you're uncomfortable with depictions of sexual, physical, and emotional violence.. you may want to skip this one. However, if those don't bother you and you're looking for a story told in interesting and unfamiliar ways.. this might be it.
Bjørn Larssen is a Norse heathen made in Poland, but mostly located in a Dutch suburb, except for his heart which he lost in Iceland. Born in 1977, he self-published his first graphic novel at the age of seven in a limited edition of one, following this achievement several decades later with his first book containing multiple sentences and winning awards he didn’t design himself. His writing is described as ‘dark’ and ‘literary’, but he remains incapable of taking anything seriously for more than 60 seconds.
Bjørn has a degree in mathematics and has worked as a graphic designer, a model, a bartender, and a blacksmith (not all at the same time). His hobbies include sitting by open fires, dressing like an extra from Vikings, installing operating systems, and dreaming about living in a log cabin in the north of Iceland. He owns one (1) husband and is owned by one (1) neighbourhood cat.
I have another awesome cover to share! This book sounds creeeeeeepy!
Title: 'The Between'
Author: Ryan Leslie
Publication Date: April 27th, 2021
Publisher: Parliament House Press
"While landscaping his backyard, ever-conscientious Paul Prentice discovers an iron door buried in the soil. His childhood friend and perpetual source of mischief, Jay Lightsey, pushes them to explore what's beneath.
When the door slams shut above them, Paul and Jay are trapped in a between-worlds place of Escher-like rooms and horror story monsters, all with a mysterious connection to a command-line, dungeon explorer computer game from the early '80s called The Between.
Paul and Jay find themselves filling roles in a story that seems to play out over and over again. But in this world, where their roles warp their minds, the biggest threat to survival may not be the Koŝmaro, risen from the Between's depths to hunt them; the biggest danger may be each other."
'Crownchasers' is the first book in a brand new duology by Rebecca Coffindaffer that is billed as being perfect for fans of The Hunger Games, Aurora Rising, and Three Dark Crowns.
Alyssa Farshot, explorer extraordinaire and Captain of the worldcruiser.. The Vagabond Quick, is our main character. Paired up with 'Hell Monkey,' the sweet, sarcastic engineer on her ship, Alyssa's spent years trying to escape her family legacy and responsibilities.
Having left behind the Kingship, her uncle.. the emperor, she's forced to return when news of his rapidly declining health reaches her.
When the dying emperor announces a crownchase, an event the kingdom hasn't seen in 700 years, she's thrust full on into the race whether she wants it or not. The prize? Rule of their world as the next to sit on the throne. All she has to do is find the royal seal hidden on one of the 1,001 planets within the empire. Sounds easy enough, right? The first problem is.. she doesn't really want it.
I was waffling back and forth on this one for awhile.. but hear me out.
When I first saw the book pop up on a friend's Instagram stream (thank you @gingerly_reading for bringing it to my attention), I was really excited. The cover art has an almost classic Star Wars feel, though that imagery is sunken into the character portrayal and the tagline is the kind of gold this rebellious-natured reader is a sucker for.
"They can make the rules...but they can't make her follow them."
Upon starting to read the book, initially I thought I was going to be disappointed. The wild streak feels a little forced, the sarcastic comments a little cliche, and the engineer's name seemed ridiculous. It was very hard to take him seriously at first, but as I proceeded.. I realized there was a reason for this funny, carefree outer shell and in time the name actually grew on me.
The innocuous looking design of the chase from clue to clue is far more dangerous than it's meant to be.. and that's saying something, because it does seem to be made to really challenge the competitors with hopes of finding the right person to lead. And while all they're chasing all over the empire, there are indications of sinister machinations elsewhere, making you wonder what the real outcome is going to be.
I will say, I saw a couple of major plot points coming early on, but that's normal for me as a seasoned reader and I didn't mind at all. There are plenty of surprising moments spread throughout the story along the way and Coffindaffer did make me tear up a couple of times, especially in a certain inhospitable atmosphere.
From my perspective, the author felt heavily influenced by Star Wars and Aurora Rising. In particular, in the way the characters interacted with each other and the ambitious attempts at steady banter in the dialogue. This is the one thing I think could have been improved upon. Sometimes, whether or not you intentionally draw comparisons between your own writing and such distinctive works from other authors, if it happens.. you have to work twice as hard to pack the same punch.
In this case, the dialogue just felt a tiny bit too much like mimicry for probably the first half of the book or so. But as the tale evolved, so did these exchanges.. and by the middle of the tale.. the author was coming into her own.. or perhaps.. I was settling into the story. Either way, I expect the second book will be even smoother.
That's really the only small criticism I have. Overall, it's a relatively fast-paced story that I didn't want to put down. I read it nearly straight through in just over 3 hours and I really enjoyed it.
Both the space battles (even the more complex ones) and the personal altercations were exciting and easy to visualize, the characters were distinguishable from one another.. generally likeable where they were meant to be, and I was fully invested in how things were going to go down.
I cannot wait for book two.