Owl Dance by David Lee Summers

Narrator: Edward Mittelstedt

Publisher: Sky Warrior Publishing LLC (2017)

Length: 9 hours 10 minutes

Series: Book 1 Clockwork Legion

Author’s Page

Set in the 1870s, this Wild West steampunk adventure is full of surprises. Ramon Morales and Fatemeh Karimi make a great pair of heroes as they travel from New Mexico to California. Gun fights, dirigibles, steam-powered mechanical wolves, a Russian plot to take a chunk of the US, plus an unexpected alien influence called Legion provide a dangerous playground for our main characters – and plenty of entertainment for us.

I read this book back in 2011 and it was great to see it come to audio! I enjoyed it more in this medium as the narrator did it justice. If you love your Wild West and you like it weird, then this is a great series to get into. The story includes several different ethnicities and I love that about this book. The frontier West was a very diverse place and having that reflected in this work is worthy.

Our Persian healer, Fatemeh, has traveled far from home and she’s a bit vague about why. I love that we have this little mystery about her. Also, she talks to owls… or does she? She claims that she only understands their nature but to others it looks like she is actually communicating with them. While I felt the romance between her and Ramon sparked a little too easily, I also feel they make a great couple. Fatemeh is of the Baha’i faith while Ramon is Catholic and this sets up a dynamic to explore not just culture clash but also these different religions.

Meanwhile Ramon has recently had a big shift in his life. He was a sheriff in Socorro, NM and then things went south.. and so did he while he fled with Fatemeh (who was about to be executed for witch craft). Their search for work takes them all the way out to California. Along the way they meet the eccentric inventor, Professor Maravilla. He’s got a thing for steam-powered mechanical beasties. I loved his owls!

Then there’s the bounty hunter Larissa who I look forward to hearing more about later in the series. She’s got plenty of gumption and loves her independent life but she’s drawn into this bigger plot as Russia starts making moves to invade the West coast.

Now lets talk about that alien influence Legion. We come across it early on but it’s not clear right away if it’s something supernatural, man-made, or from outer space. Whatever it is (and yes, we do get that cleared up in this book), it has a hive mind and can communicate directly with humans as well as influence them. So we got the Wild West (yay!), steampunk (awesome!), and now this unknown big picture influencer. The author does a great job of pulling this all together.

My one real quibble with the story is that sometimes it’s a little too easy for Ramon and Fatemeh to convince a ‘villain’ to assist them. It seems like everyone is really a good guy at heart and was just simply misunderstood or was acting under some false or incomplete data. I think the story would have benefited from a real villain or two.

The Narration: Edward Mittelstedt did a really good job. His Spanish accent was consistent throughout the story. Now, his Spanish pronunciations were sometimes different from what I expected. Living in New Mexico, I expected a certain accent (like for Chavez or Maravilla). Mittelstedt’s pronunciation isn’t wrong but it’s not the local dialect either. I believe it’s the difference between high proper Spanish and the Southwest Hispanic accent. Besides that, he was great with keeping all the characters distinct and also with the various emotions throughout the story. He also gave Fatemeh a consistent Persian accent. His female voices were believable.

What I Liked: Gorgeous cover art; Wild Weird West!; Steampunk!; the mix of ethnicities; the owls; the hive-mind influence; Fatemeh and Ramon make a great duo; the ending leaves us ready for further adventures.

What I Disliked: There was no true villain; the romance between Ramon and Fatemeh sparked up rather easily.

What Others Think: 

RJ Blain

Steampunk Journal

Steampunk Junkies

One-Way Ticket to Midnight by Gary Jonas

JonasOne-WayTicketToMidnightWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: J. Rodney Turner

Publisher: Sky Warrior Publishing (2014)

Length: 6 hours 37 minutes

Author’s Page

Roy Porter has to go with the cops to the Tulsa morgue to identify another body. This time it is Willy, another homeless man that Roy knew. The cops have their ideas about who is killing the homeless but Roy has seen this pattern before. He knows that there’s something supernatural to it. With trepidation, he goes to Jim Hartford’s to ask for his help. But Jim isn’t interested, having his own demons to fight off with a bottle of booze.

This story has a noir feel to it. It’s part mystery, part urban fantasy. It was interesting and engaging. Loner biker Jim has a lot of secrets and we never learn what they all are. However, we do know he defeated whatever this is in the past and there’s hints from the beginning that it cost him dearly. Roy is the true hero of the tale mostly because he has to step up and own his power and become that hero instead of holding himself back. There were plenty of references to blues music icons that I didn’t get, but that’s OK. Roy used to be a musician himself and I can appreciate the music icons through him.

There’s this mysterious place called Safe Haven that’s introduced early on and then revisited later. The folks that live there have the ability to fight this evil, but they would have to give up their hard won sanctuary to do so. Obviously, they are very hesitant to do so. I liked this aspect to the story because it lent weight to Jim’s instance that his previous win against this evil cost him too much. But I can also see that Roy doesn’t get why these folks, Jim included, are not initially willing to assist.

The evil itself comes in the form of a man. It’s complex and the killings are pretty gruesome. The bodies look like they have been stung or bitten or gnawed upon, each body being a little bit different. As Roy and eventually Jim dig into this mystery, Roy learns exactly why the bodies end up the way they do. It’s eerie and spooky. Let me just say that I now have a minor scorpion phobia due to this book!

Sadly, all of the ladies are secondary or tertiary characters. Trent, the Tulsa detective, is the most interesting.The Reverend who tries to help the homeless has several lines, but she’s not an important minor character like Trent. There’s references to Jim’s old girlfriend Trisha and then there’s Susan in Safe Haven. Out of all of them, I would have liked to see more of Trent and her detective skills.

All told, the story kept me engaged throughout. I would have liked more about Jim and of course I hope for a sequel to find out what Roy does after this. I wouldn’t mind a prequel showing Jim’s first encounter with this particular evil.

The Narration: J. Rodney Turner had a great voice for Roy and a good one for Jim. They started off distinct but then sometimes blended into one another later in the story. The female character voices are OK. Sometimes I had trouble figuring out if it was a teenage boy character or a woman. Still, I really liked the ruff gravelly voices for the 2 main characters.

What I Liked: Awesome cover art; the mystery behind the killings; Trent’s hard-nosed detective persona; Roy’s hidden abilities that he refuses to embrace; Jim’s sad and perhaps violent past; the supernatural evil itself; scorpions!; the mystery of Safe Haven; satisfying ending.

What I Disliked: The female characters were mostly toss away characters.