Erian’s Lair by Troy Lee Henderson

HendersonErian'sLairWhy I Read It: Really enjoyed Book 1, Eathed, so had to give this book a try.

Where I Got It: A review copy via the publisher through Audiobook Jukebox (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Dragon stories and adventure – perfect for kids and dreamers.

Narrator: William Dufris

Publisher: Mind Wings Audio (2012)

Length: 2 hours 21 minutes

Series: Book 2, The Hill Brothers Trilogy

Author’s Page

Simon, our hero from Book 1, has been off studying for the last few years but has to return suddenly when he hears that his parents have passed away. His two younger brothers, Darien and Edwin, have been allowed to stay on the farm – if the new farm family will have them. The lord of the land gave the farm and all that lies within its boundaries to the new family, and they may or may not want two more mouths to feed. So Simon offers them adventure instead – a hunt for a dragon! They mean to seek out the daughter of old Eathed (from Book 1) and befriend her, hence having high adventure and gaining a mighty friend all at once. Along the way, they take up with professional dragon hunter Deandra, whose father was killed by a dragon. Not all turns out as Simon had hoped.

Once again, Troy Lee Henderson brings us a worthy dragon story. I was enchanted by Eathed in the first book and while Book 2 focuses much more on Simon and his siblings, Erian does get some important lines near the end. This book is also longer, giving the reader (or listener) more time for the adventure. The boys of course are on cloud nine to be off and way from dreary farm chores for a careless master. They get to spend some time bonding as people will do when off on a walking holiday, hunting dangerous prey. The boys live through some humorous antics.

Then there was Deandra, who seemed to have no sympathy in her heart for the nearly extinct dragons. She tells her tale of her parents’ deaths (separately) and she can’t bring herself to believe in good dragons that don’t mean humans any ill. This fire in her heart carries her through the story, making her courageous but single-minded. While Simon hopes to improve dragon-human relations, Deandra has no desire to do so.

The ending had a little twist at the end that I enjoyed. Erian reveals how she lost her mate and this touches one of Simon’s party deeply. It was quite well done.

All in all, it is a fun, short adventure perfect for that long car trip with kids, or dragon-loving adults.

Narration: William Dufris was excellent for this story, sounding like a young boy, or a stern dragon, or a furious young lady as the story required. He was a treat to listen to.

What I Liked: The cover is gorgeous; adventure and dragons; nice twist at the end.

What I Disliked: I could have used a little more of Erian earlier in the story.

Interview: Sarah Dalton, Author of Blemished

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DaltonBlemishedWelcome everyone to The Book of Apex Blog Tour! Today, I have Sarah Dalton here, author of the Blemished series, giving us an interview. She was kind enough to swing by again, having been here last week with her guest post: Cruelty Is Needed.

Myths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy fiction affecting human cultures today and how?

Well, I like to think that humans are a lot less superstitious than they used to be when we hunted dragons and unicorns! I’m not sure we’ll ever be that suspicious again, what with the internet and Wikipedia and everything. Maybe after the apocalypse.

But that doesn’t mean fantasy literature doesn’t have an effect on human cultures. Reading rich fantasy worlds can enrich our imaginations and influence a generation as they grow into adults. Fantasy worlds inspire art, and costume, and language. We only need to look at the success of ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’, and the wonderful TV adaptation, ‘Game of Thrones’ to see how it is inspiring artists, writers and enthusiasts. DeviantArt is full of wonderful fan art just for starters.

Given the opportunity, what fantastical beast of fiction would you like to encounter in the wild? Which would you avoid at all costs?

I like a good old-fashioned vampire. There’s definitely an allure about the prospect of an eternal life living in the shadows. Plus it would be fascinating to sit and talk to someone who had lived for a thousand years, to discover their opinions on war, or what life was really like.

Dragons I would avoid at all costs. I’ve played enough Skyrim to know you don’t mess with a dragon.

DaltonMyDaylightMonstersWith the modern popularity to ebooks, a book is no longer limited to a specific genre shelf. It is now quite easy to label place an ebook in multiple genres (i.e. YA, Fantasy, Horror). How do you see this affecting readers? Have you been inadvertently lured outside your reading comfort zone?

Yes! I have been lured outside my comfort zone. I’m a genre-hopping reader anyway, but I’ve recently ventured into reading New Adult. I’ve not read any romance for a long time, but there are some real gems in New Adult, and it’s a genre that may have not emerged if it wasn’t for ebooks.

I think we’ll see more niche markets and unusual books, especially in length. Publishers tend to have a preferred word count, but self-published books can be any length at all. I’ve published three novellas so far, books that probably wouldn’t have found an audience without epublishing. We will also see more book bundles and anthologies hitting the scene. I’ve worked with other self-published authors to put together anthologies and multi-author bundles. It’s a lot of fun and a great way to find new readers.

From your own writings, are there any characters you would like to cosplay?

Oh wow, that’s a tough question! Most of my characters are teens, so it would be a pretty unrealistic cosplay. The MC for my upcoming YA fantasy has a white stag to ride. That would be particularly awesome.

DaltonWhiteHartIs there a book to move/TV adaptation that you found excellent? Is there a PC game to book adaptation that worked for you?

I love Game of Thrones. Who doesn’t? For some reason I couldn’t get into the books, despite them being well-written and engaging, but the TV show is probably my favorite show airing right now. The costumes, the acting… it’s all fantastic, and I think the characters are brought to life beautifully.

What does your Writer’s Den look like? Neat and tidy or creative mess? can you write anywhere or do you need to be holed up in your author cave?

Creative mess! The messier it is, the more I’m struggling with a plot bunny. I get steadily more and more untidy as I delve into the writing process. Every now and then I have to have a complete tidy to clear my head and focus.

I prefer to write in my office, but I can work in other places. It’s better in silence, so working in cafes, as lovely as it looks in films, isn’t usually very practical. Also I stare into space when I’m writing, which freaks people out in public.

DaltonFracturedFinally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

I’m working with an amazing bunch of authors to put out a YA dystopian bundle of six books. I’m really excited about that.

I’m also working on two new series, one a YA high fantasy called White Hart about a young girl born with the craft, a magical power which binds her with nature, the other called Mary Hades, which is a YA paranormal horror. I’m in the early stages of this one. It’s a follow up to my gothic novella My Daylight Monsters, about a girl who can see ghostly beings that help her solve mysteries.

Places to Stalk Sarah

Facebook

Goodreads

Website

Blemished Website

Twitter

Want to see more of blog tour? There’s reviews, interviews, guest posts, even more giveaways. Well, don’t hesitate to jump over to Little Red Reviewer (the maniac who organized this delightful blog tour) to see what all is going down this month.

Of course, you can always check out Apex Magazine for more SFF goodness.

The Hatching by Liesel K. Hill

HillTheHatchingWhy I Read It: I read Hill’s Persistence of Vision which was pretty good.

Where I Got It: Own it.

Who I Recommend This To: Dragon fantasy junkies will enjoy this short story.

Publisher: Self-published (2013)

Length: 14 pages

Series: Prequel to the forthcoming Dragon Magic series

Wenlyn (AKA Ratboy) and Canya are precocious children. And this day promises excitement, if only they can sneak away from the scullery for several minutes to witness the Servant and his dragon. The Servants often check in at the estates to see if there are messages or needs or complaints. Today, the Servant has several stops and Elder Nymon’s Estate is only one of them. He can only spare a few minutes on the ground. Of course, that is when Wenlyn accidentally falls out of a tree, startling the dragon, and earning himself several curses and perhaps some kicks. But he wasn’t expecting the Servant’s reaction.

Now this is a short story, so I won’t say anything more about the plot. There’s still plenty for you to discover on your own. So allow my to gush about this story for a few paragraphs. I have read Liesel Hill‘s full-length novel Persistence of Vision, which is time travel, dystopian science fiction. It is very different in length and genre to this book. It was good. This, The Hatching, is great. The pacing was so smooth, I gobbled up this story way too quickly. By turns, it was clever, down to earth, insightful. Basically, I want more.

While I had such a short time with the characters, I connected pretty quickly with Wenlyn, Canya, and eventually the Servant. I think it must be tricky to show character development in such a few short pages, but Hill makes it happen. There’s enough of a setting to give the reader a feel of a time and place where humans were largely scattered pockets on Estates with the Servants and the dragons keeping humanity connected. The ending was cleverly done, being something I did not expect.

OnceUponATime7What I Liked: Wenlyn and how his precociousness lands him in trouble and adventure; there’s dragons; the ending was clever, touching, and promises further adventure.

What I Disliked: I don’t have a dislike on this one – though I am eager to see what Hill has in store for us with the forthcoming Dragon Magic series. So, if I had to say something, it would be that this tale is short and I want more.

Today marks the last day of the seasonal reading event Once Upon A Time hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. If you didn’t join this year, you can still pop over there and see all the Fantasy genre fun from around the blogosphere.

What Others Think:

On Starships & Dragonwings

The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley

The back of Pico's head...and a good book.

The back of Pico’s head…and a good book.

Why I Read It: Robin McKinley has long been a favorite.

Where I Got It: The library.

Who I Recommend This To: While I found it in the YA section, this book has lots to offer fantasy quest lovers of any age.

Narrator: Roslyn Alexander

Publisher: Recorded Books (1992)

Length: 9 CDs

We start with a young Aerin and her world of magic, dragon hunting, and castle politics. In fact her near cousin manages to poison her with a magical plant and it takes her years to recover. During her recovery, she spends time with her father’s lamed war horse, Talet. Talet’s rear haunch was sliced deeply while in battle and the King brought him home where he was treated and put to pasture. With time, both Aerin and Talet find friendship and healing. As she grows older, she delves into the herbal secrets of mythical paste that can protect tender skin from dragon fire. Eventually, Aerin will go on one quest after another, each time more insurmountable. Each time she must give up a little more of herself to accomplish the task.

There were so many things to love about this book. First off, our young hero-in-the-making doesn’t suddenly come into magnificent powers. No, she has to work for it, and overcome several obstacles such as poisoning, the hatred and distrust of her father’s people for her dead mother and her people. Over time, she bonds with the lamed war horse, Talet, and he becomes such an integral part of the story with his own personality. Equine lovers will especially enjoy Talet being treated as a full character in this novel.

With time and training, Aerin becomes an accomplished horse woman, sword master, dragon slayer, and herbalist. Yet, this is not enough. Her quest to save her father’s kingdom takes her far, and she looses much. She’s not invulnerable and when she is hurt, she is truly hurt, requiring mending and time before she can go out adventuring again. This tale was not about one single quest, but rather about several challenges a young lady faces as she comes of age.

The narrator, Roslyn Alexander, was an excellent voice for this story. She had the perfect auntie story-telling voice. I could almost see her with knitting needles in a comfy chair by the fire spinning me a yarn.

OnceUponATime7What I Liked: Lead female; when the characters were hurt, they didn’t miraculously mend in a night; Aerin had to earn her talents over time; Talet is a favorite character.

What I Disliked: The cover – for reals. That cover is not exciting.

The magic is thick in the air over at Stainless Steel Droppings where Carl is hosting the Once Upon A Time reading event, cerebrating everything fantasy. Join us in the fun!

Greatshadow by James Maxey

Heldig

Why I Read It: A good friend recommended it and I really enjoyed Maxey‘s Nobody Gets the Girl.

Where I Got It: From my friend.

Who I Recommend This To: This ain’t your standard fantasy adventure, so if you’re ready for something new, check this out.

Publisher: Solaris (2012)

Length: 416 pages

Series: Dragon Apocalypse 1

This book is in the top 10 of my favorite new reads of the year. I know, I’m being blunt. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I was chewing through 50-100 pages a night and only put it down when I was too fatigued to read any more. This book turned me into a little kid – I didn’t want to sleep, or do the dishes, or get dressed. I simply wanted to read this book.

OK, I’ll set the gushing praise aside for a moment and tell you why I loved this book. First, nearly all the story is told from the view point of a dead guy, Stagger. He and Infidel were ruin hunting in the jungles and came across some pygmies and Stagger bit off more than he could chew. Even Infidel, with her super-human strength and invulnerability, could not keep him breathing. Luckily for the story line, he becomes a ghost that gets to follow her around for the rest of the book. Second, Infidel is a kick-ass 30 year-old woman who is the true heroine of this tale. She is fascinating, flawed, and trying to do the right thing after loosing her best friend of many years.

Third, there are primal dragons who are the embodiment of various facets of nature, such as fire or cold or entropy. This tale involves a dragon hunt of the primal fire dragon Greatshadow who resides on the island that Infidel and Stagger have haunted for some years. Infidel ends up joining the hunt along with the ice ogress Aurora (Reason #4). I could go on about the story line and ruin everything for you, or I could get abstract.

Abstract it is: The Black Swan (Reason #5) and her mysterious abilities set the stage for Infidel to second guess herself, providing the reader that inner character strife that often lacks in dragon fantasies. James Maxey put together such an eclectic crew for the dragon hunt and then not all of them made it through to the end. Luckily, one of my favorite characters Menagerie (Reason #6) makes it through to the end. His power comes from tattoos and blood magic letting him be one of the most powerful shape shifters I have seen in fantasy.

Trust me. This books kicks ass and will have you calling in sick to work and family engagements.

What I Liked: The cover, the primal dragons; Infidel; the philosophy rambles; the mix of serious and humor was perfectly balanced; the characters have histories that are hinted at and revealed in little bits; the ending; Stagger was a real guy with fading hair and a little pot belly.

What I Disliked: The death of some of the unique characters in the first half of the book gave me a little sniffle.

I am participating in a weekly Read & Review Blog Hop hosted by On Starships and Dragonwings. Make sure to check out other great books reviewed by other book bloggers.

The Treasure of Isian by Serena Clarke

Why I Read It: The description sounded like a fun fantasy read.

Where I Got It: Review copy from the author (thanks!)

Who I Recommend This To: For those who like a simple, sweet fantasy love story.

Publisher: Red Mountain Shadows Publishing (2012)

Length: 265 pages

The story opens with manling Prince Garin and his trusted servant Elani (and a whole retinue of soldiers) setting off on another treasure hunt, seeking the Treasure of Isian. The fact that no one in the party knows what the treasure is nor where Isian is does not hold them back. Prince Garin has found other treasures before, why not this one? Elani, a girl on the cusp of womanhood, has been his unquestioning servant for the past 13 years. She adores Garin and would willingly live her life for him, even if there wasn’t a geis on her forcing her to follow through on any and all of his commands.

The reader gets to follow along on this fast-paced, G-rated adventure; through giants, water witches, dragons, warrior women, and a few other perils. Both Garin and Elani gain in depth as the story progresses, but never get bogged down in details of the past or too much inner turmoil. While Elani gets to wield a sword a few times, her character over all is subservient to Garin, in particular, and to anyone else in general. Garin starts to see his long-time companion as something more than a servant as new-found friends refuse to treat her as one.

Overall, Serena Clarke gave us a book that is a sweet Disney-like fantasy romance (violence isn’t detailed, simple plot, light kissing, happy ending). While I could tell from the beginning where the book was going, I was still engaged in Elani’s character and in the dynamic between her and Garin. It was gratifying to see Garin’s self-centered behavior change over the span of the book. Elani’s character, however, only gained so much depth and then stopped and her overall goals never changed. While there are a few female side characters, she is pretty much the only female character with an important role. Some of the other female characters were evil witches, lust-filled battle harden crude warrior women, and a self-absorbed princess. The male characters had larger roles to play and fewer of them were evil or crude or selfish, which gave the tale an unbalanced quality in the never-ending Battle of the Sexes. However, despite these simple flaws, I still enjoyed the tale as the main characters felt like familiar friends by the end.

What I Liked: Smooth, easy reading; several small adventures tucked into a larger quest; Elani’s perseverance; watching Prince Garin change; Elani gets to save the Prince.

What I Disliked: Most of the female characters are evil; there is only 1 main female character cast among a sausage fest; the 1st time Elani wields a sword in the story I think it is her 1st time ever and learn much later that she has had training (author could have put 2 sentences explaining that earlier in the book as I had a hard time believing Elani had conquered an early foe so easily for about a quarter of the book).

Eathed: A Dragon’s Tale by Troy Lee Henderson

Why I Read It: Honestly, it was the beautiful cover that drew me in.

Where I Got It: From the publisher through Audiobook Jukebox (thanks!)

Who I Recommend This To: I think kids up to adults whoa re into dragons would enjoy this short story.

Narrator: William Dufris

Publisher: Mind Wings Audio (2011)

Length:  1 hour and 17 minutes

Troy Lee Henderson has brought us a succinct and enchanting story of mystery, adventure, coming of age, tolerance, and accepting death. Yeah, all that in less than it takes for me to get ready for work in the morning. Henderson kept the story simple and built in a sense of wonder and appreciation for life and the wild. Eathed is an aged dragon, on his way out. He seeks out a nice cool cave to take his final rest in, only to be awakened by three mischievous brothers – Simon, Darian, and Edwin. Of course, finding a dragon rates high on the Pucker Factor for the boys and they high-tail it out of there, running to the parents and babbling of their discovery. The father takes the oldest to the ruling lord to report the issue; subsequently an elderly dragon hunter is sent to investigate. Sir Allistair Bayne is Simon’s grandfather, and he takes Simon on as his squire.

I’m not going to spoil the rest of the story for you. Rather, I am going to gush about how I liked this simple tale. I loved how three generations were brought into the story. Simon being the oldest grandson gets to do most of the thinking in this story. Timidly, he develops a friendship with Eathed, and from there a deeper appreciation of aging wisdom. I truly loved how this story didn’t cut any corners on death as part of the natural world.

Our narrator William Dufris delivered this tale with a story-tellers awe and excitement. Truly, I felt like I was listening to this tale at a Renaissance Fair while eating a roasted turkey leg. During the exciting parts, his voice rushed along with the story’s need. In moments of tenderness, stupefaction, and wonderment, Dufris slowed and hushed his voice. His characterization of the bad guys, Eathed, and Sir Bayne were all excellent and distinct.

What I Liked: A sense of the wild; death is natural; boys filled with curiosity; not your typical dragon and knight tale.

What I Disliked: I want to see more by this author!