Review: As the Crow Flies

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Hello, Gentle Readers!

A few months ago, I interviewed indie author Robin Lythgoe, and I am pleased to announce that this week, her book As the Crow Flies will be on sale on Amazon! Read onwards for a review!

As the Crow Flies is, at the heart of it, an adventure tale centered around the scrappy and self-sufficient Crow, a renowned thief. His enemies (to wit, a law-keeper named Tanris), his major weakness (his love for a dancer named Tarsha), and one fairly psychotic wizard (a noble named Duzayan), have all collided, sending Crow traipsing off into the middle of nowhere after a magical artifact, with a poison-ensured deadline on his activities, and his least favorite person (Tanris again) as an unwilling participant. In a nutshell, all the two have to do is get to the middle of nowhere without getting killed by bandits, find the artifact, defeat the incredibly powerful guardians of the artifact, bring it back to Duzayan, and hope that he decides not to just kill both of them and their loved ones.

Unless, as the synopsis points out, they come up with a better plan…

What I enjoyed: As the Crow Flies has plenty of twists and turns to keep you on your toes. There were several events I did not see coming at all, which helped keep the story interesting and fresh. The dialogue was snappy (if occasionally veering a bit modern) and our protagonists well-rounded characters. Duzayan, if he did not possess unexpected depths and backstory, was a very good power-crazed, diabolical maniac. The story wrapped up on a satisfying note, with plenty of room for more adventures, but no cliff-hangers!

What I enjoyed a little less: I got a little muddled with how much time was passing at any given point in the book, and there was a definite cluster of events at the very end while everything tied together, which oddly caused a bit of a slog, meaning that the ending was not as snappy as the rest of the book. In addition, I felt like one or two characters had disappointing endings; I had high hopes for one of them in particular, who disappeared about halfway through and returned as a minor antagonist. Oops.

Overall: I heartily recommend this book. I had a great time reading it, the issues were very minor, and there were were some touching moments. Also, there’s a lot of potential for sequels. Lythgoe is a talented author, and I am looking forward to her new releases! (She participated in NaNoWriMo, so we can hold out hope that sequels will be on their way shortly!) While it’s a holiday and you’re incredibly stressed and just trying to get to New Years…why not do so with a book you can read? 😉

You can find As the Crow Flies here (on sale, as mentioned above!), and Robin Lythgoe on Facebook here!

Author Feature: Robin Lythgoe

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For our second author feature, I am delighted to welcome Robin Lythgoe, author of As the Crow Flies. Read onwards, learn a bit more about Robin, As the Crow Flies, and upcoming works! (And then, if you have decided that it has been too long since you’ve read an awesome epic fantasy story with thievery and plenty of twists and turns, I encourage you to snap up As the Crow Flies today, while it’s on sale!)

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Can you tell us a little bit about where this story began for you? An image, a story fragment, or something else?
AS THE CROW FLIES started with the image of a man on a ledge—literally. He’s looking down from an upper story window into an icy, turbulent river, and he’s GOT to move. Now. Someone is coming after him! It’s windy and cold. His choices are few; which way does he go?
Tell us a little bit about your next work!
THE SHARPNESS OF THE KNIFE is the first in a series set in the world of Tairenth. It is more serious than Crow’s story, more emotional. Sherakai, the protagonist, is captured by a powerful mage with an ax to grind. Or maybe we should call it a blade? His goal is to make Sherakai over into a weapon that will earn him a prize he’s been denied. Sherakai is, understandably, disinclined to cooperate. I don’t want to call it a “coming of age” story because it is more than that, and covers a considerable period of time in Sherakai’s life, but I can say that there will be a good slice of the typical fantasy fare with my own twists and interpretations.
What is the book you buy extra copies of to give away to friends?
I have two at the moment (though that’s always subject to change!): The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams and Brood of Bones by A.E. Marling.
Who do you see as influences on your writing?
Tad Williams and A.E. Marling? Hehehe … I’m also a fan of Terry Goodkind, Robin Hobb, and is it possible for a fantasy reader and writer to be unaffected by J.R.R. Tolkien?
What do you do to unwind and relax, aside from writing?
I like to read and eat chocolate! I also like to take a break from the computer or e-reader screen, so hubby and I watch a little television together, and a new season with fun new fantasy and sci-fi shows has me geeking out. The real treat, though, is when my kids come over for dinner and games; our favorite is a version of Solitaire Frenzy, and it can be a little competitive!
What’s one thing about you that people might not guess from your writing?
Maybe … that I’m a fan of popera? (Operatic pop music)
What was the last book you bought?
Torrent (Rust & Relics, Book 1) by Lindsay Buroker. She got me hooked with her steampunk Emperor’s Edge books.
Which of your secondary characters has been your favorite to write?
Havoc Sadani. He will appear in the Tairenth books and, like his name suggests, he can be a little unpredictable and moody! He has a capricious sense of humor, his own definition of loyalty, and a bit of a temper. I look forward to introducing him to the world, but unfortunately he doesn’t appear in book one, but and there’s no fixing that. No, really. It’s impossible. Sad, but true …
And that’s all I have to say about that! Thanks so much for inviting me over, Moira!
You can find Robin on her website, on facebook, and on twitter, and you can find her books, including As the Crow Flies, over at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords!
Do you have a favorite author you’d like to see featured on this site? Contact me or leave a comment below! Happy reading! – M

Author Feature: Alexes Razevich

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When I decided that I wanted to feature other authors on the website, Alexes Razevich came to mind at once. At that point, we had never talked, but I had just picked up her debut novel, Khe, and I was impressed by the immersive writing and the incredibly detailed world! Alexes kindly agreed to be the very first featured author – and today I am pleased to present you with some details about Khe, Alexes’ next work, and her life outside of writing!

I loved the world and immersive quality of Khe. Can you tell us a little bit about where the story began for you?

This sounds almost silly, but Khe popped into my head fully formed with red skin and emotion spots, bald and earless, at work on the commune. Developing her world was a slower process. The greatest challenge was working with no human characters. Not only did the entire world—society, family relations, methods of reproduction, foods eaten—have to be developed solely from imagination, but the two sets of alien species had to be distinct and unique, yet close enough to us that the reader could relate. Once that was done, it was a matter of letting Khe and the others live in their world. It was such fun to discover how clever and determined Khe was, and to watch her come into her own.

Which of your secondary characters has been your favorite to write?

Marnka, without a doubt. She’s completely unfiltered. I keep wondering what happened to her. I’m planning to start the second Khe book next month, and hope to find out.

Tell us a little bit about your next work!

“Shadowline Drift” is a sort of paranormal tale set in the Amazonian rainforest. The main character, Jake Kendrick, is sent to negotiate with a local tribe for benesha—a mineral that holds the potential to end world hunger. He’s chosen not only because he’s good at his job, but because he and the tribe’s chief are both three and a half feet tall. He soon realizes that benesha is not the salvation of humanity, but a threat to its very existence. Blocking his escape to warn civilization are the dangerous jungle, a mysterious group of indigenous people, a teenage sorceress, a beautiful anthropologist – and madness. “Shadowline Drift” will be released in December.

What is the book you buy extra copies of to give away to friends?

It varies by the friend. I like to give books that fit someone’s preferences or is maybe just a little outside.

Who do you see as influences on your writing?

Tough question. Rather than a person, I think I’m influenced by originality and craft. When I read a great book, hear a wonderful piece of music, see great art, read about a scientist or someone working in his or her garage who’s made an amazing breakthrough or discovery, I think, Wow! I want to be that good at what I do. I’ll keep working and working until I get there.

What do you do to unwind and relax, aside from writing?

Read, of course. I love ice and roller hockey and play on several teams. During the professional season, days are spent writing and nights either playing or watching the pros, though I play all year round. I like to crochet, and usually have a project or two under construction.

What’s one thing about you that people might not guess from your writing?

That I’m in my sixties.

What was the last book you bought?

“Self-editing for Fiction Writers,” by Renni Brown.

Alexes Razevich is the author of Khe, available now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. You can follow Alexes on Facebook and Twitter!

The Parajunkee Indie Summer Blog Tour!

Hello, and welcome to the Parajunkee Indie Summer Blog Tour! The blog tour is close to the end, but there’s still time to complete the treasure hunt and win a Kindle Fire! (Whee!) You can find the earlier blog tour stops here, and I encourage you to check them out. There are multiple genres being featured, and you may find some new favorites!

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As you will certainly know if you’ve been following along thus far, the theme of the scavenger hunt is travel – where would I like to travel? Where would my characters like to travel?

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I myself have always wanted to see Iceland. I cannot think of a landscape that is more wildly evocative than the glaciers, volcanoes, barren isolation and unexpected beauty of the island. Like the burren in Ireland, Iceland is a place where life triumphs in unexpected ways: tiny, exquisite flowers blooming in crevasses, lichen and moss gaining a foothold on a seemingly desolate expanse of rock. In the winters, the long nights bring the aurora to life, and the crispness of winter is offset by yuletide festivity.

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It may seem odd to you if you’ve just begun reading the Light & Shadow books, but I very much think that Miriel and Catwin would enjoy a sojourn to Iceland as well. Catwin, of course, would be only too happy to escape the court, and Miriel, however much she might seem to thrive in her pursuit of the king, is not so simple a character as she might appear…

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Last but certainly not least, don’t forget to check out the other two Shadowborn blog stops, on Papercuts Blog and Erzabet’s Enchantments! There are giveaways for e-copies of the entire Light & Shadow series (because who wants to have to stop reading to download another book? Honestly), and both blogs feature reviews of other delightful indie books!

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Enjoy!

-M

Vacation!

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Gentle Readers –

This weekend is vacation, but with a few exciting details scattered within…!

  • The Light & Shadow short stories are close to completion! I am setting myself the goal of completing them by the end of September, and releasing them by mid-October!
  • While visiting my hometown, I was able to reconnect with an old friend who is also writing! Her first book was The Power of Poppy Pendle, and I am beyond excited to crack it open on this trip! (Also, it’s worth noting that the recipe for shortbread on her website is GOLD. Gold, ladies and gentlemen. Shortbread to make you weep.)
  • I continue to beat my head against this new SciFi piece. That’s not exactly an exciting detail. Whoops.
  • The Parajunkee Summer Blog Tour is winding onwards, and I am very excited for my tour stop on September 12th! As a reminder, the tour is a scavenger hunt, paired with a giveaway for a Kindle Fire – answer a question about each author, and you’ll be entered to win! You can find the tour here.

I hope your summers are going well, gentle readers!

-M

 

What’s Moira Writing?

Hello, Gentle Readers!

It is always reassuring to know that the author is writing, is it not…? And so – an update! Hooray!

Light & Shadow Short Stories: a set of short stories to give you a glimpse of your favorite Light & Shadow characters, and a peek into the backstory of some characters you would not know so well! So far, there are plans for stories told by Roine, Marie de la Marque, Temar, and Miriel. If you have a favorite character, and would like to hear their story, speak up! I’m aiming for a set of six or seven stories total.

Origins and Inheritance: this would be a prequel and sequel (respectively) to Mahalia, my first novel. Inheritance follows the story of Mahalia, Nasrin, and Faseira when Pale Ones, their distant cousins, arrive from another land and demand the return of the magic that has been woven into the Yeshuhain. Origins is told by Isura, Mahalia’s sometime-enemy, and is set during the acquisition of the Great Oasis – a time of upheaval and tension across the desert.

Heaven: the story of the first human venture to a habitable planet, told through a series of vignettes from the point of view of different characters. It is difficult to describe this piece. Hopefully, it will be released sometime soon!

Purity: a three-part science fiction epic centered around the remnants of terran culture on a distant planet. It is hard to say too much more without giving away spoilers!

For now, Heart of the World is on the back burner, but it may make an appearance in my writing shortly!

-M

 

Giveaway!

Alright, everyone. A while ago, I said that if I hit #1, I would be doing a giveaway. And I did! In France! Hooray!

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So here’s the deal: the giveaway runs until midnight on August 8th. Leave a comment here and I will use random.org to select a winner for a signed copy of Shadowborn, to be sent anywhere in the U.S., the UK, Canada, or Europe (that’s right!). Feel free to share this post – the giveaway will also be running on Twitter and Facebook!

Thank you all!

-M

World-building

“People are afraid of information-dump, but I turn away far more manuscripts for being set in Generic Fantasy World A.”

-Fantasy editor, overheard at Convergence

World-building is important. There’s a chance that you’ll be able to squeak by without your readers noticing (or caring) that you haven’t built a complete world, and there’s certainly no reason to flesh out every single aspect of things, but the depth that good world-building brings to a story is incredible. Below are some of the more important aspects of world-building for you to consider. If you have one you’d like to add, leave a comment below!

Maps and Geography: this will inform your writing, whether or not you release the map with the book(s). I strongly recommend that you mark cities and geographical features. Things like mountains, deserts, and waterways (especially waterways) will have strong effects on cultural development, both through the harshness and variability of the climate, and through aspects like trade.

Flora and Fauna: I was lucky enough to attend a fantastic world-building panel at Convergence 2013. One of the best pieces of advice was to consider ecosystems and flesh out the flora and fauna – there are more than just deer! You’ll have domesticated animals, most likely, as well as their predators (foxes, tigers, bears), and your populace will likely not be fond of these nuisances and dangers. There will be birds of all kinds, insects that destroy crops. Speaking of crops, there will be crops! Refer back to your geography, and consider types of trees, flowers, and grasses.

Class, Groups, and Social Mobility: this is almost always highly relevant in fantasy, often relevant in scifi, and yet often not fleshed out very well. What are the social classes and groups in your society? What are their ways of life, characteristics, and internal divisions? And what are the possibilities of moving between them? Often this means caste and social stratification, but not always. Consider that geography and religion can play a huge part here. Speaking of which …

Religions: you should know the place and importance of religion in your world, and, if religion is highly important, some things about rituals, important figures such as saints, and core tenets. Religious strife, sects, and power grabs are all pieces of this. The rituals of the High Church versus the poor is another cultural division. Is the religion strong? Fading? Is it seen as foolish? Is there no religion? (If so, there will probably still be rituals of some sort around marriage, birth, death, etc – these should be planned out.)

Physical Mobility and Trade: trade has a near-unparalleled level of effect on religion, social structure, stability, and war. You should understand how and why the groups in your world trade (or don’t), and what effect this has on culture. Merchants and trade often have significant power.

Magic: this encompasses more than you might think. Magic is not just a system of power, the types of effects conjured, and the rituals to conjure them. Magic also appears in non-magical worlds, in the form of fringe-groups and cults; almost every human society features this. In addition, magic interacts strongly with religion. Whether religion and magic are combined, or whether they are opposed, you can bet that your religious groups and governments have strong opinions about magic. 

Government: it should be clear to you (at the least!) how leaders and advisors are chosen, how succession works, and how laws are made and enforced. Bear in mind that if you have a democracy or common-people-centric society, it is likely that the events leading to that will be fairly important.

As you can see, all of the above points interact with others. There may be additional aspects you need to work in, but this should be a good jumping point. Is there anything you’d like to add? Feel free to leave a comment!

-M

Review: Tigana

One sentence review: Tigana is a masterful work, a complex and character-driven epic.

What I liked: There is no element of carelessness to Kay’s writing. His sentences seem carefully crafted, and his worlds are well thought-out. Important elements of the world are by and large explained (I can only think of one major example, and that would be the disproportionate strength of Brandin’s sorcery), although exposition is kept to a minimum. The story rarely drags, and it is easy to get invested in the lives of the characters. Epics generally run the risk of being self-important or very dry, and Tigana does not fall into that trap.

What I liked somewhat less well: The ending. It wasn’t specifically the elements of the ending that fell flat (although there was one storyline that resolved in a less than satisfying way), it was just that the ending seemed so…quick. The setup for the ending was so exquisitely done, a slow build. There was a real sense of the wider pain caused by Brandin’s curse. But when the ending (final confrontation) came, it seemed oddly limited.

Things about which I am undecided: Dianora’s storyline. Kay has done a similar thing since, of course, in Under Heaven. He’s very good at allowing his stories not to wrap up neatly. However, since finishing the book, I have been stuck on Dianora.

In conclusion, Tigana is a book that has earned its reputation as classic epic fantasy. I highly recommend it, and feel free (in the comments now, or several months down the road) to tell me your own opinions on the ending!

-M

Review: The Pirate’s Wish

I was lucky to pick up The Assassin’s Curse so close to the release date for the sequel, The Pirate’s Wish – I didn’t have to wait to read the rest of Ananna’s adventures! So:

One sentence review: The Pirate’s Wish is an action-packed, funny, and sweet wrap-up to the story begun in The Assassin’s Curse.

What I liked: The plot moves along quite quickly in a way that is unpredictable, but always ties in to the larger plot arc. This meant that the story was an experience of discovery, plunging the reader into a multi-faceted world. I found the descriptions in this book far more vivid, and I enjoyed learning more about minor characters, seeing the different cultures (court, Confederation and non-Confederation ships, and even a peek into Naji’s world), and watching the relationship between Ananna and Naji. Speaking of this, the romance is definitely a driving force behind the book, but ties up in a satisfying way that leaves both major characters, well … in character.

What I would have liked to see: What was up with those Hariris? Seriously. They’re clearly Big Bads, dabbling in all sorts of illicit technology and magic, and we know from their attempted assassination of a sixteen-year-old that they’re fairly brutal. I could ramble on here, but mostly I was hoping for the villains to be fleshed out a bit more, both the Hariris and the one from the mists. Further, Naji expressed some serious doubts about the continued mission of the Jadorr’a, but later, at a relevant point in the story, those seem to have disappeared. While I understand that Ananna’s culture involves plenty of killing, and Clarke likely had no inclination to go into the rights and wrongs of assassins’ and pirates’ lives, I did feel that those things were glossed over somewhat. (But. This is YA.)

In short: If you enjoyed The Assassin’s Curse, this will be a satisfying conclusion to the story! If you have not yet read Curse, but like adventure and pirates and a fresh YA fantasy setting, for the love of little green apples, go get it! (After all, now we know that the story only gets better the second time around.) It’s on all platforms, but here’s the Amazon link: whee!

What are you reading? Is there a book you’d like me to review? Leave a comment to let me know!

-M