Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Legend of Witch Bane by Kevis Hendrickson

The Legend of Witch Bane, by Kevis Hendrickson, is an enjoyable tale about three young siblings faced with a nearly insurmountable challenge. An evil curse has been set upon the kingdom of Kaldan which has left nearly all its inhabitants in a state of indefinite sleep. Those immune to the spell are the three children of King Kruge and Queen Yvora Falinn. The children, Kodobos, Laris, and Anyr, soon discover that it is up to them to reverse the dark spell which has been enacted by the evil High Queen of the Northern Realm: Rhiannon Eldess. They embark upon a grand journey filled with magical creatures, perilous battles, and discover their true purpose in a greater cause. Witch Bane, despite some missteps, soars with creativity and brings to life the wonderful world of fantasy.

What struck me most about this book's author (with whom I am acquainted) is his passion for writing fantasy. Mr. Hendrickson clearly loves the genre, and this is evident throughout the novel, as his voice is clearly distinguished. He has a definite idea of what he is trying to convey, and he obviously enjoyed writing it. He incorporates familiar children's fairy tales which adds to the book's overall charm. This makes for a fun and exciting tale filled with imagination, interesting characters, fantastic artwork, unexpected twists, and good life lessons for children.

The Legend of Witch Bane is an easy read--a definite plus--as it is geared toward children, though it is not without its bumps. As I read Witch Bane, I quickly noticed certain trends, which--for me--dampened my reading experience. The author's voice is a part of the book's success, though it is also one of its flaws. The narration at times took away from what could have been a much more enjoyable experience. There's a saying in writing: "Show, don't tell." Unfortunately, the latter of the two is used almost to the point of erasing any and all suspense. Not everything has to be "shown," however, revealing crucial plot details well before they take place and explaining what just happened can cause a decline in interest. This was the case for me, and I struggled to plunge ahead.

Another point which detracted from my overall enjoyment was the overuse of the plot device known as "Deus ex machina." "Deus ex machina" is described as a surprising or unexpected event which occurs in a story's plot to suddenly and completely resolve an otherwise unsolvable conflict. This tool, when used sparingly, can add to the story; when used excessively, believability is lost. This occurs in numerous action sequences where the children are saved at the last second.

I am a firm believer in deep characters, and being that Witch Bane is a book aimed at a younger audience, I approached this story with a less critical eye. Kodobos, Laris, and Anyr are an interesting trio, though I believe they could have benefitted from an extra layer of depth so as to better round them. I like when the main characters are rooted in conflict-whether internal or external in nature. With that said, our young protagonists do live up to my expectations, though at times their conflicts are a bit excessive. The children all seem to suffer from an acute case of "Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde" syndrome. One minute they love each other, the next they say the most hurtful things. Children might act this way in real life, but when I am being led to believe these children--like Atreyu from Michael Ende's, The Neverending Story--are more mature than their age expresses, (7, 10, and 13) I struggle to grasp their behavior.

All the points of criticism I have mentioned cleared at the novel's end as the children's characters came full circle in the face of their enemy. Their numerous battles were both detailed and riveting. I came to care about Kodobos, Laris, and Anyr, and their cause. The Legend of Witch Bane concluded, and I find myself curious to learn of the children's further adventures. Fortunately, I know for a fact that Mr. Hendrickson is hard at work on the sequel. I will gladly join the children on their next quest, as will I recommend this novel to anyone--and any age, I might add--seeking to escape reality.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card

The Lost Gate is the first book in a new series by Orson Scott Card. I loved his Ender's Game series, so I decided to give this one a try. It's set in present-day Earth, but revolves around a set of people descended from the ancient gods with various magical powers. The hero, Danny, is a young teenage boy born to two of the greatest mages of his family. It's too bad he seems to be completely powerless and can't even manage the most basic magical tasks.

Eventually, he realizes he's actually quite powerful, but has a type of magic totally forbidden to the world: he can create gates from one place to another, connecting them instantly. Knowing his family will be forced to kill him if they find out, he leaves the family compound and enters the human world to pursue his powers.

It's a fun, engaging book, but Danny is a little TOO realistic. He is most definitely a young, irritating, whiny, immature teenage boy. It took away my enjoyment of the story a little, but I still enjoyed it overall. It's a bit expensive for the Kindle right now ($11.99), but if you can get someone to lend it to you, or wait until the paperback comes out in November ($7.99), I'd recommend it.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks

I wanted a book about assassins and this book was recommended by several friends. However, this book does not feature assassins, it features "wetboys." To call them assassins would be a terrible insult - assassins can't use magic.

The Way of Shadows follows the journey of Azoth as he desperately tries to get off the streets and become an apprentice to the most feared wetboy in the city: Durzo Blint. To succeed, he must cast off his previous life and become someone new: Kylar, the killer. Probably the best part of this book is the balance between becoming a cold-blooded killer who doesn't value life and remaining human. Although Kylar isn't the same person as Azoth, he still values his friends and finds it extremely difficult to cut off all ties with them. As the story progresses, he also realizes that his master and hero, Durzo, might have a few secrets of his own.

This book is very long (688 pages print), but I blew through it in 3 days. It's an amazing story about a world on the brink of war, where Kylar is unknowingly right in the middle of the action. Although I was sometimes confused about all the history, politics, and the multitude of characters in power, it didn't stop me from greatly enjoying the story. There are some disturbing scenes, so it might not be best for younger readers, but I highly recommend it for an adult audience. It is the first book of a trilogy, which I will definitely be picking up. The Way of Shadows currently $7.99 on Kindle (or $19.99 for the entire trilogy).

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is a fast-paced, dystopian story that will constantly keep you guessing. Though there are countless comparisons to books like Ender's Game, this story takes on a life of its own as we learn about a grim, destitute world through the eyes of a cutthroat yet fascinating teen girl named Katniss Everdeen.

Katniss is thrown into a life or death tournament where the fate of her starving people is thrown onto her back. Though its also categorized as YA, there's definitely enough bone-crunching and violence to make this book more appropriate for adults than younger readers.

In case you're not aware, a film production is currently in development. I can't wait to see how well they translate The Hunger Games into a movie version.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Jenny Pox by JL Bryan

Jenny Pox is the first book in a fantasy horror series by JL Bryan about a girl whose touch amounts to a deadly plague.  It's hard to explain the story much better than the description:

Jenny has a secret: her touch spreads a supernatural plague.  

She devotes her life to avoiding contact with people, until her senior year of high school, when she meets the one boy she can touch, and she falls in love.  But there's a problem--he's under the spell of his devious girlfriend Ashleigh, who secretly wields the most dangerous power of all.

Now Jenny must learn to use the deadly "Jenny pox" she's fought her entire life to hide, or be destroyed by Ashleigh's ruthless plans.

I have to admit I've heard a lot of people talking about Jenny Pox lately, and part of that might be because its sequel Tommy Nightmare was just released. Jenny Pox was the #1 Horror book for Red Adept's Indie Awards in 2010, and promises to be a raw and gritty story of contagious superpowers for fantasy fans.

Get Jenny Pox on Amazon for just 99c now!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Bright of the Sky by Kay Kenyon

The Bright of the Sky by Kay Kenyon is the story of Titus Quinn, a husband and father who found himself in another world after an accident crippled his spacecraft. Years later, he returns inexplicably to Earth with a bizarre tale that nobody believes until a team of scientists discovers the existence of that other world. Quinn is offered the chance to return, where he focuses on finding out what happened to his wife and daughter, only to discover that he isn't welcomed back.

This was a captivating science fiction novel, very well-written and imaginative. Though the reader is plunged into the story with little introduction and may struggle to make heads or tales of the situation in the beginning, he quickly becomes immersed in this fun and exciting tale. If you prefer stories full of rich prose and elegant description, this one isn't for you, but if you like a well-plotted novel that tests the moral fiber of likable characters, I recommend The Bright of the Sky. It's book 1 of The Entire and the Rose, though it does have a complete story arc and stands alone quite well. 

As of this moment, the Kindle edition is free at Amazon. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Hollowland by Amanda Hocking

For zombie fans, it's hard to find a better story than Amanda Hocking's Hollowland, which features a rogue teen protagonist named Remy who's trying to desperately find her brother in the never-ending post-apocalyptic wasteland. Together with a few tag-alongs, she encounters loosed zoo animals, shady cults, and packs of brain-hungry undead.

I just finished this book not too long ago, and I stand by my convictions that Amanda Hocking is a great story teller. This one has got a lot of action, some interesting twists, and characters who both fit into an easily recognized mold and manage to find innovative ways to break out of it.

If there's one thing this book manages to do, it's wow readers. Only 13 of 127 reviews are less than 4 stars. The writing does leave something to be desired, but it's obviously not stopped people from getting into the story.

Check out Hollowland on Amazon for just 99c!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Review: Gods of Dream by Daniel Arenson is also going to be occasionally featuring reviews from reviewer Robert Duperre and The Journal of Always. Our first one is for a book I personally read and enjoyed, The Gods of Dream by Daniel Arenson.

Rating: 4.8 out of 5

All my life I’ve held the opinion that fairy tales come to us from the darkest depths of imagination.They are stories of suffering and grief wrapped up in a bundle of cutesy imagery, mythical beasts, and social disorder. They come as warnings: Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel against the allure and dangers of child predators, Jack and the Bean Stock against the perils of experimentation and exploration without first understanding the consequences…and these are only a few examples. They are at their core disturbing, grim tales, meant to pass along a necessary social message.

This is what The Gods of Dream, written by Daniel Arenson, accomplishes. In spades.

The Gods of Dream is the tale of Cade and Tasha, twins from a never-disclosed, war-torn country, whose parents were killed during a bombing at a local market.They are forced to leave their home and travel to a new country, where they are alone, afraid, and despondent. Tasha hates life and has tried multiple times to end it.Cade does his best to support and coddle her, his own war-ravaged hands constant reminders of the past they left behind. He does everything he can to give his beloved twin a reason to live.

Well, they have one. For reasons never fully explained (and thankfully so), Cade and Tasha have been granted access to Eloria, the true land of Dream. In this reality they are Talon and Sunflower, children of the illusory wilderness, unscarred (both physically and emotionally) by their guilt, sorrow, and the horrors of their past.When in Dream they cavort like the free youths they should have been, before the real world cruelly tore all that away from them.

This carefree existence is not to last long, however, for it seems that Phobetor, the ruler of Nightmare, obviously the counterpoint to Dream, has set his sights on conquering the sleeping paradise. Cade is recruited into the fight, told he must defeat the evil prince, and heads out on a long, long quest. Tasha, for some reason left out of the original plan (actually there is a reason, though it’s never spoken, and that reason is sublime and necessary), sneaks in and joins her beloved brother on his journey, disguised as a mouse.

Along the way Cade and Tasha meet all sorts of strange and wonderful creatures.They are the gods of Dream, and they’re fantastic creations with roots firmly planted in Native American (or any other naturalistic culture’s) lore. Each resides in (and is master of) a certain location and aspect of Dream. These gods have lived for thousands of years, and they take it upon themselves to assist Cade and Tasha in whatever way they can.

The twins journey for weeks (possibly months) through the landscape of Dream and enter Nightmare. I could go on and on describing every step of their journey, but I won’t. This review would be ten pages long if I did that. Just believe that there are a great many plot points in the book that are worth mentioning, but what interests me more than anything are themes, and that’s what I’m here to discuss right now.

One of the first things I noticed when the chapters started shifting between events happening in Dream and Nightmare, respectively, was the paradigm of these realms.Just as Dream’s gods are constructs of the “real world” – elks, cats, lions, hippos, pandas, etc – so is the landscape. It is filled with earthly trees, grass, rivers, and gardens of flowers. There is a day and night. There are oceans and beluga whales.There is also a natural order to the land, represented in pockets that depict the seasons of Earth. The lands of Nightmare, on the other hand, are cracked and burnt in some places; in others, the ground is covered with what could be skin. The trees there are likewise fleshy, covered with eyeballs. The creatures that inhabit it are gruesome, beasts of fangs, spikes, hooks, fur, and bodies that don’t seem to follow a natural order (aka shark head on a wolf’s body, etc). These unsavory citizens carry themselves with utter hatred and intend to harm, and every emotion is taken to the extreme. To break it down, Dream is the land of balance and healthy imagination; Nightmare of radicalism and brooding darkness. Sure, at first glance one might say, “But doesn’t the existence of Nightmare balance out Dream?” And the answer to that would be no. Some of Nightmare’s inhabitants were born in Dream, and they were born the way they are – wicked, cursed, unsavory – and at least one was told he did not have to leave despite this. That, in and of itself, demonstrates that the world of Dream is evenhanded. Because of this, Nightmare is actually a weight that tips the scales toward darkness.

(Not to mention that Dream exists seemingly of its own accord, while Nightmare needs a motor. It’s powered by a subway system that runs beneath its soil. I won’t explain what this subway system is or how it operates, because I wouldn’t want to give that away, but trust me when I say it’s one of the most inspired and original ideas I’ve ever set my eyes upon.)

The creative inventions of the world aside, the emotional threads are spectacularly done as well, in fact more so. Cade and Tasha really feel like damaged souls.They’re full of doubt and guilt. Tasha is nearly pathetic in her unhappiness, and you pity Cade for how hard he tries, even while he’s doubting his every action. In every way it makes sense that these two were the ones chosen to save Dream, because they needed to be saved just as much. They needed to rediscover beauty even in the face of ugliness and evil. And I think that might be the main point: that there is splendor all around you, that if only you’d take the time to actually deal with the hardships that come upon you, you’d bust out on the other side realizing all you’ve had and all you could have. Tasha, herself, embodies this. She is small in soul and scope at the start of the novel. In this way, it’s no wonder that she chooses to be a mouse when she crosses into Dream. For she is afraid of everything, her fear and sorrow have made her as insignificant as a creature that makes its home in shredded bits of discarded paper. In this case, that discarded paper is her life, both former and present.

All of this is sad yet beautiful to read, and I have to admit that on more than one occasion I found myself getting teary – especially at the beginning and end of the book. The middle is where the action is, and it is wonderful, but let me tell you…the emotions that run through these opening and closing segments are just about perfect.We see Tasha staring at her bandaged, scarred wrists, and we sob for her, when it would be very easy, if the work wasn’t crafted as well as it is, to say, “Just get it over with, already.” The writing helps in this regard, with flowing sentences and vivid description. Really, I can’t say enough good things about it.

So why, one might ask, did it not receive a perfect score? (Yeah, I have to be a little bit critical.) Two reasons. First of all, author Arenson has a habit of repeating things, important points that need to be remembered (such as the reminders that Cade and Tasha have to save Dream…or else.) Now, I get that, but I thought it was done just a tad too much. I understand that this is the author’s style, however, and it really doesn’t distract from the story. The second is the character of Phobetor, the ruler of Nightmare. His repartee his demon wife is eerily similar to the interplay between a pair of characters in another one of Arenson’s books. Now, I almost didn’t mention this, but I felt the need to, if only to assure readers who’ve read the author’s other works that these sections are short and few. In fact, there are only two scenes that actually have both characters in them. However, they’re both towards the beginning of the book, and I want to tell any who might notice that the characters are, in fact, quite different, as the meat of the tale bears out and their interactions cease. I wouldn’t want anyone to put the book down because of something minor such as this.

On a whole, The Gods of Dream is a very impressive, nearly impeccable work of art. It’s The Neverending Story meets The Dark Crystal meets The Odyssey. It surges in parts, lingers in others, and always leaves the reader with the impression that they’re taking in something important. It teaches a lesson about pain and what it takes to withstand it. It shows how important life is, how important love is, how important family is, be them blood or otherwise. It takes you on its journey of imagination and leaves you both panting and sighing at the fantastically bittersweet, yet hopeful, ending.

In other words, it’s magnificent. And I have a sneaking suspicion The Gods of Dream  (Just $2.99) is going to end up being one of the best books I read in 2011. It gets the highest recommendation from me that a single book could possibly ever get.

Plot - 10
Characters - 9
Voice - 10
Execution - 9
Personal Enjoyment – 10

Overall – 48/50 (4.8/5)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

Many thanks to everyone who's visited and joined the site so far! We look forward to bringing you lots of great new books, but we hope you won't mind if we reach back for the occasional favorite.

One of the things I prize most in the stories I read is originality. I want new worlds and new magical constructs. Yes, the tried and true, such as wizards, elves, and dwarves, will never really go out of style, but there's definitely something to be said for an author who goes completely off the beaten path.

The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials is a perfect example of this. This book, the first in a trilogy, is about a  rambunctious teenage girl who is constantly accompanied by her own animal shape-shifting daemon. Her name, Lyra Balacqua, is one of my all-time favorites in literature, and the story of how she ventures out after the kidnappers and her father on a mythical quest that will take her far outside her own world is stunning.

Of special note: the movie version of this book was a horrid abomination that should be wiped out of existence. If you haven't yet, read The Golden Compass to see how this beautiful story really comes to life!

Review of Elfhunter by C.S. Marks

When reading Elfhunter by C. S. Marks, I was struck by the profound development of the main antagonist, Gorgon Elfhunter. His tale was dark and anguished. There were times I pitied him. As horrific as his wanton acts of violence were, I knew there was so much more to him than the skin of a cold-blooded murderer. He was a tormented soul, and his hatred of the Elves was the underlying foundation of Elfhunter's plot. Why did he harbor such personal enmity against this race? Would his bloodlust ever be satiated?

These were a couple of the questions I asked myself as I ventured into the enchanted world of Alterra and journeyed alongside Gaelen and Nelwyn, two Elven cousins. They sought to exact revenge upon a creature (Gorgon Elfhunter) bent on eliminating their entire race. Their journey led them far across the map of Alterra where they met many people, some of whom accompanied them on their taxing quest.

Elfhunter was set in a beautifullycomplex and detailed world wrought with intrigue. Alterra's origins were heavily marked by J.R.R. Tolkien's influence. C. S. Marks, however, has created her own unique flavor to a fantastical setting.

In my opinion, Tolkien's plot guided his characters, but Mark's plot was guided by the characters. I grew to care about the unique individuals of Mark's novel, but my affection toward them was slow in development. Early in the tale, I struggled to distinguish the personalities of the four main characters. They were all so noble and so well-spoken that I often forgot who was who. As the adventure unfolded, Gaelen, Nelwyn, Orogond, and Galador eventually emerged as distinct individuals. I look forward to seeing their growth in the next novel.

A few minor issues I felt noteworthy about the novel were the need for a quickened pace at select scenes and a more limited dialogue amongst the characters. In view of the novel as a cohesive and interesting work, however, these issues did little to detract from my reading experience.

Overall, Elfhunter was an enjoyable novel and one I was glad to have read. I would recommend this novel to anyone who wishes to be whisked away on a grand and fantastical adventure. Get Elfhunter now for just 99c on Amazon!


Review of His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik

I'm not a big fan of dragon books, nor am I a fan of books about life at sea, so when I started reading His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik, I didn't expect to like it. Because it came highly recommended by a friend, I resigned myself to reading at least half, to give it a fair chance. It didn't take nearly that long before I was irrevocably hooked. 

This is the story of a man who comes into dragon ownership by happenstance and finds himself deeply bonded to a noble creature and having to use it in war. (And I appreciated that much of the story takes place on land and in air.)

It was charming, engrossing and meticulously well-crafted. The writing style is perfect for the story. Action scenes were well-described with enough detail to leave the reader panting for breath. Although the dragons were more richly drawn than most of the human characters, it was a terrific book. If I hadn't known this was the author's debut novel, I would never have guessed. I highly recommend His Majesty's Dragon. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Review of Rider: Spirals of Destiny by Jim Bernheimer

Rider (Spirals of Destiny) was recommended to me and at first glance, I was more than wary. Unicorns, really? Now, I was as big a fan of unicorns as any five-year old girl, but well, it's been a while since I was five years old. However, these are not your fairy-dust and rainbow unicorns; these are battle-scarred, killer unicorns, trained in magic and war. Definitely more of my sort of book.

The book opens with a bundle of mysteries. The unicorn, Majherri, should not even be alive after he lost his original rider in a battle he cannot remember. Instead of withering away like other unicorns who have lost their rider, he manages to create a second magical bond with a girl, Kayleigh, who is years older than the other girls and had no idea that she had any magical abilities. Throw in the fact that Kayleigh is far more powerful than any other girl in the academy, but has no control over her magic, and I was hooked.

Now, I definitely saw some of the twists and turns coming from far off, but others had me guessing until the very end. Unlike Bernheimer's other book, Dead Eye: Pennies for the Ferryman, I could relate to the main characters as they struggled to be accepted. I will be eagerly awaiting the sequel to this book, which should be out later this year.

I highly recommend Rider (Spirals of Destiny) for anyone searching for a magical adventure with unicorns, mystery, and fiery battles.

Welcome to GreatFantasyEbooks!

It can be hard to know where to find books you love, especially when you want them to be ebook compatible. Most websites we've seen seem to focus on cheap books, and while cheap certainly isn't bad, the presumption is that people will drop $$$ on any old book just because it costs only a few dollars. It seems likely that people are a little more discerning than that. When people go looking for new books, they've already got an idea of what they want in mind. How it feels and what it does. And if you're anything like us, you like tales that stretch the imagination, delve into worlds unknown, and excite our senses of what's possible in the universe. Hopefully that's why you've found us here at

Who are we? We're a collective of readers and writers whose tastes savor epic fantasy, dabble in sci-fi, and relish adventure. It's highly likely that we'll be touching on fantasy books that also lean into horror, dystopian, urban fantasy, young-adult, paranormal, and suspense. We'll also be bouncing back and forth between traditionally published and indie books. These are books that we're giving our seal of approval to because we're highly familiar with them, not just books we happened to dredge out of the chamber pot. So what do you say we kick things off with our first book?

Let's start with George R. R. Martin's incredible masterpiece Game of Thrones, which just began airing on HBO and as a result has shot up to #6 on Amazon's Kindle Store at the time of this posting. I can't say I'm surprised at the sudden attention the book is getting. The episode was an impressive display of how gritty fantasy can be, doubtlessly compelling people by the boatload to finally pick it up as soon as the show ended.

If you haven't read this before, you've got more of a reason than ever and probably more company than ever. This is the book that everyone's going to be reading for the next couple months.