Tag Archives: Fantasy

The Mysterious Noise: A Review of The Echo in the Valley

Book cover for The Echo in the Valley by Zak Standridge. Image on cover is a black-and-white photo of a woman in a white dress sitting on a horse at the edge of a large forest. The woman’s head is shaped like a ram and has two large horns curling out of it. Title: The Echo in the Valley

Author: Zak Standridge

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: March 28, 2021

Genres: Fantasy, Mystery, Paranormal, Contemporary

Length: 33 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

“What about you? Long after sunset and way past midnight, when you gaze into that dark forest… have you ever seen a light?”

Review:

Content Warning: Murder. I will not be discussing it in my review.

Some questions are so big even the Internet can’t answer them.

It’s fairly rare to watch characters age from childhood to adulthood in a short story, so I was thrilled to keep meeting the protagonists over and over again beginning with who they were in their preteen and early adolescent years. There were all sorts of wonderful little hints about how they’d grown and changed over time. Kel and Tim always retained those parts of their personalities that made them unique, though, and and I loved seeing how their true selves stuck around no matter how much everything else around them changed.

There was too much foreshadowing in this tale in my opinion. I figured out the twist in it pretty early on due to all of the hints that were provided about it. Since that twist was such a central part of the plot, I would have preferred to either work a little harder at piecing everything together as I read or have some other conflict to occupy my mind for the last two-thirds of the storyline instead. This is something I’m saying as someone who enjoyed this piece quite a bit and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys these genres.

I adored the open-ended final scene. While it included a basic explanation of what was happening in the woods every year on April 22 that so terribly confused everyone in their small, rural community in the Ozarks, it also left plenty of space for the audience to come up with our own interpretations about what this phenomenon meant and why it happened. This was the perfect approach to something that so easily defied any logical explanation. There was room for a sequel if the author ever decides to write one, but I also found myself quite satisfied with how all of the most important things were tied together in the end.

If you like  paranormal stories, The Echo in the Valley might be right up your alley.

 

Whispers from the Past: A Review of Ghost of the Mountain

Ghost of the Mountain by Elvira Dahl book cover. Image on cover shows a hazy ghost walking down a black and white path. Title: Ghost of the Mountain

Author: Elvira Dahl

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: November 5, 2019

Genres: Horror, Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary

Length: 65 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

“Some parts of the earth are not meant to be disturbed.”

Oscar Brandt’s career as operating technician at one of Sweden’s biggest IT companies is going exactly as planned. Thanks to a new big-shot client, the company’s rock shelter facilities are to be expanded with a new server hall. And Oscar is up for the promotion of his career. But while blasting away inside the mountain, a tragic accident occurs that open the gates to the underworld. Suddenly, a ghost from Oscar’s past starts haunting him, and he soon finds himself in a familiar, dark place he might not escape from again.

Ghost of the Mountain is a tale of caves, underground server halls and abandoned mines. Of the mythic creatures that guard the deep. And of two kids with Gameboys, bonding in the darkest of places.

Review:

Content Warning: Blood and devil worship. I will not be discussing them in my review.

Quiet places aren’t always peaceful ones.

To be perfectly honest, I was somewhat confused by the flashbacks at first. They didn’t seem to have anything to do with Oscar’s current life, so I was curious to see what the connection there might be. Be patient if you have the same reaction to these scenes because they do pay off in the end. I can’t go into much further detail about them other than to say that the author knew what she was doing here. As soon as I figured out what was going on, I grinned. The payoff was so worth it in the end!

I would have liked to see more attention paid to the folklore in this novella. The characters shared tantalizing hints about what they might be dealing with here, but there wasn’t quite enough of it for me to go for a full five-star rating due to how many unanswered questions I had about the legend they mentioned and how it was related to what happened to Oscar. This was my only criticism of something that was otherwise well-written and fascinating.

The ending was quite satisfactory. I was originally expecting a completely different conclusion to it all, so I once again had the opportunity to rethink my assumptions and pick out the clues that the author had left in earlier scenes about where she was going with this piece. Yes, I know I’m being more vague than usual in this review, but this really is the sort of tale that works best if new readers know as little about certain plot twists as possible in advance. Just know that there are answers coming and they’re well worth the wait!

Ghost of the Mountain made me shudder. It’s a great pick for anyone who loves spooky stories, especially as Halloween season approaches.

The Loyal Companion: A Review of The Origins of Constantine


Book cover for The Origins of Constantine by D.C. Gomez. Image on cover is of a cat hovering above a pyramid. Title
: The Origins of Constantine

Author: D.C. Gomez

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: February 27, 2019

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Contemporary

Length: 87 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

When the god Anubis needed a friend, the universe sent him the most unlikely companion: a feisty little cat.

Discover how the infamous five-thousand-year-old talking cat, Constantine of the Intern Diaries, became a permanent fixture in the life of Death.

This fast-paced, action-packed Novella will have you turning the page and falling in love with the most unlikely of duos.

Review:

Content Warning: Tuberculosis and the death of a pet. I will not be discussing these things in my review.

Even Death himself can get lonely sometimes.

The character development was handled nicely for everyone from the protagonist to the kind friends he relied on as he adjusted to being the right hand cat of Death himself. I enjoyed peeling back all of the layers of the characters I met. My first impressions of many of them were quickly adjusted as I learned new things about them that I wouldn’t have necessarily guessed in advance. Other characters were more forthcoming with their personalities, but I still had a wonderful time finding additional examples of their kindness, courage, and other positive traits as time went on.

I would have liked to see a little more time spent on the world building. The author provided tantalizing hints about this version of ancient Egypt that I kept hoping would be explored in greater depth than they were. It did make me wonder if the full-length novels in this series had the space to dive further into this time and place, though, and it was a minor criticism of a novella I otherwise really liked. Based on my first taste of this world, I’m definitely curious to learn more about it!

Ms. Gomez had a playful sense of humour that worked perfectly for this setting and these characters. There were multiple times when the dialogue made me chuckle out loud, especially when Constantine made another one of his wry comments. Her characters knew exactly how to gently goad each other into doing the right thing even if it wasn’t always necessarily for the right reason. The juxtaposition of their occasionally mixed motivations and their often surprisingly wholesome life choices was delightful. I love meeting nuanced characters like these who can find the funny side of even the most serious topics.

This is part of a series, but you don’t have to be familiar with the previous works to enjoy it. I had no trouble jumping straight into this world as a brand new reader.

I’d recommend The Origins of Constantine to any teen or adult who likes alternate history.

 

 

What a great sense of humour this book has.

 

CHARACTERS

Constantine – the cat. Five-thousand-years old and right hand man of Death (Anubis or Anpu, although he hates the latter name). Also the guardian/trainer of all the Interns that worked for Death.

Bob – his human in present day

Isis Black – Bob’s friend who saved him from being sacrificed by volatile witches. Can see the dead.

 

Camaro – aka the bumblebee.

 

Constantine grew up in Memphis, the first capital of the United Kingdom of Egypt in 3100BC. It was the pride of Menes, the king who united Upper and Lower Egypt.

 

3140 B.C. Is exactly when this tale is set.

 

Cats were worshipped in the Hiku-Ptah or the Inbu-Hedj (city where Constantine lived).

Ammon – head of the house. Took in kitten Constantine saved.

Saqqara – the necropolis of the Inbu-Hedj.Where Constantine went to escape the roaming gangs of cats looking for him.

 

Bastet – another god.

Moses – kitten Ammon took in and saved.

Pilis – Ammon‘s best friend. An orphan. Spends most of his days with Ammon and his sister and mom.

 

Taweret – god of healing.

 

”You are too obsessed with this god of death thing. We need to work on your identity.”

 

 

Overdue Consequences: A Review of The Swell

The Swell by Adam Vine book cover. Image on cover shows reflection of child standing on a pier and looking into a mostly-still body of water. There are a few ripples of water around the wooden columns holding the pier up. Title: The Swell

Author: Adam Vine

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: March 1, 2021

Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Mystery, Contemporary

Length: 11 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 2 Stars

Blurb:

Ana Barrington’s son is missing – and so is everyone else’s child. Every kid in Santa Cruz has vanished, leaving no trace but a single, cryptic message directing their parents to the sea…

Review:

Content warning: Death of children. I will not discuss this in my otherwise spoiler-free review.

Even the brightest day at the beach can hide some dark secrets.

One of the most interesting scenes happened in the beginning when Ana first realized her son Dana was missing. She briefly argued with her next-door neighbours about which of their missing children was a worse influence on the other one. I thought that moment was a great chance to get to know her better and a realistic look at the sorts of things a worried parent would bicker about while frantically looking for their child.

The narrator discovered hints here and there, but the brief explanations for how those things were connected only made my confusion about this storyline stronger. This is something I’m saying as a reader who prefers stories that expect their audiences to put work into figuring out a tricky mystery or subtle plot development. I have no problem with open-ended final scenes or not having all of my questions answered, but I really struggled to figure this one out or connect to it despite my strong interest in the beginning.

I enjoyed the way the message of this story was shared with the audience. Normally, I’m not a big fan of tales that are written as a warning for their readers, but I thought this one struck a good balance between pushing the plot forward and making its point. It was short and matter-of-fact on the issue it wanted to bring our attention which is always a good thing in my opinion.

If you love dark fantasy, The Swell might be right up your alley.

Chasing Victory: A Review of The Sea Witch

Title: The Sea Witch

Author: Bethany Hoeflich

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: February 21, 2021

Genres: Fantasy, Historical

Length: 30 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

For years, Ula has been content to hide behind her reputation as the sea queen’s quirky, loner sister.

Isolation and mistrust are her shields, protecting the secrets of her past from resurfacing.

When the sea king offers her the position of court sorcerer, Ula sees an opportunity to reclaim what had been stolen from her.

How could she anticipate it would cost her everything?

The Sea Witch is a villainous short story inspired by The Little Mermaid.

Review:

Content Warning: Blood and death of a parent. I will not be discussing these topics in my review.

Villains come in all shapes and sizes.

I enjoyed seeing how the world building unfolded. There was just enough of it in this tale for me to develop a good sense of what this mermaid society was like and why Ula was so frustrated with her lot in life. The smallest changes in a mermaid’s life could lead to radically different outcomes years later, so it was important to put all of these pieces together during the short time I had with her. If the author ever decides to write a sequel, I’d sure like to take a deeper dive into this society and the unique mermaids who are part of it.

It would have been helpful to have more character development, especially when it concerned Ula. She was such an intelligent and resourceful individual that I found it difficult to understand some of her choices. I could think of so many other ways for her to resolve the conflicts in her life and achieve her goals. It puzzled me to see how often she skipped ahead to more drastic measures when she had so many other options to choose from. I would have liked to get to know her better so that these decisions and her thought processes behind them would make more sense.

Magic was both an art and a science in this universe. It’s effects could generally be predicted in advance, but any mermaid worth his or her fins knew that it was impossible to predict every possible outcome if one ventured down this path. It was amusing to see how Ula had learned to cope with the unpredictable elements of her occupation while also doing everything she could to get the desired results when she cast a spell. The author struck a nice balance between describing how all of this worked and allowing readers to fill in other pieces of puzzle for ourselves.

The Sea Witch was a fun summer read.

A Review of Lux Terra – An Origin Story

Title: Lux Terra – An Origin Story Author: Zachary Hagen Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: March 9, 2021 Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Contemporary Length: 10 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 3 Stars Blurb: This is a prequel and origin story for the world of Lux Terra featured in the upcoming… Read More

Second Chances: A Review of The Ghost of Beth’s Mother

Title: The Ghost of Beth’s Mother Author: Twylla Johnson Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: February 20, 2021 Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Historical Length: 12 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 3 Stars Blurb: Beth was a homely little misfit girl who lived at the Maudlin Mary Magdeline Orphanage. She claimed her mother,… Read More

A Muddy Quest: A Review of The Storm

Title: The Storm Author: Alex Cross Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: January 2, 2021 Genres: Fantasy, Historical Length: 10 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 5 Stars Blurb: A storm rages in the night. A dark and perilous journey through the southern forest. Doran races against time. Will he make it… Read More

A Review of This Time Around – A Canadian Werewolf Story 

Title: This Time Around – A Canadian Werewolf Story Author: Mark Leslie Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: February 16, 2013 Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary Length: 70 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author  Rating: 3.5 Stars Blurb: Caught Between the Moon and New York City  Being a werewolf isn’t all about howling at the… Read More

Unsettling Art: A Review of 300 Down

Title: 300 Down Author: Keith Minnion Publisher: White Noise Press Publication Date: January 21, 2021 Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary Length: 11 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 4 Stars Blurb: Arthur Hubbard just purchased another painting for his NYC art gallery: an Expressionist portrait of a red-headed woman in a… Read More