Tag Archives: book review

Book Review: The Bitterbynde Trilogy – where Celtic lore meets orcs

“The rain was without beginning and without end. It pattered on incessantly, a drumming of impatient fingers. The creature knew only the sound of the rain and the rasp of its own breathing. It had no concept of its own identity, no memory of how it had come to this place. Inchoate purpose drove it upward, in darkness. Over levels of harsh stone it crawled and through dripping claws of vegetation. Sometimes it slept momentarily or perhaps lost consciousness.”

Looking for an epic trilogy? Want one that’s already finished, so you don’t wait endlessly for more?

The Bitterbynde Trilogy by Cecilia Dart-Thornton was first conceived over a decade ago, but it wasn’t until recently that I stumbled across the fantasy series in a used bookstore in Australia. I snatched it up and soon discovered what I was missing. Nestled in a corner shop on the edge of a bustling beach, I thanked my luck I was able to find all three novels side-by-side. Needless to say, much of the next two days was spent with my nose pressed into the yellowed pages (when I wasn’t out snorkeling or hiking the beautiful shores of Airlie Beach).

The Bitterbynde Trilogy

The lovely trilogy I picked up from a used bookstore in Australia.


Beginnings …

The trilogy is a wonderfully concocted fantasy that brings folklore, magic and heroism to life. It all begins with a scarred, despised and mute foundling surrounded by superstitious servants and pompous lords. As the mute seeks the help of a wise woman in the outside world, it runs into trouble and is eventually saved by an adventurer who gives it the gift of communication through hand-speak and, most importantly, a name. Imrhien then sets off into a journey where she meets new friends, unkind foes, crazy wights, frightening monsters and ultimately falls in love…

For more, visit BreakingModern here.

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Blood of the Demon by Rosalie Lario

“You’re telling me that this book is supposed to create zombies?” -Brynn Meyers

Lawyer turned novelist, Rosalie Lario is a relatively fresh-faced author entering the genre of urban fantasy crossed with paranormal romance. Her latest novel, Blood of the Demon, begins its inter-dimensional tale with Keegan, a stunningly handsome demon, and his three (equally drool-worthy) half-brothers. As bounty hunters for the Elden Council, the four brothers are given the task to capturing their father, Mammon, and also stopping his plans to begin an apocalypse.

Of course, there is always a starring lady. Enter beautiful Brynn Meyers, an art gallery owner who is able to read memories embedded in objects and whose simple touch can drain people of their life force. Unbeknownst to her, until otherwise informed, her abilities indicate demon ancestry and a past that makes her the key to unlocking the powers from an ancient zombie-raising book. To stop Mammon from imprisoning Brynn and summoning said zombies, Keegan and his brothers must work to protect her by any means necessary.

I am pleased that Loria wrote Brynn as a strong female character, regardless of the overdone concept of being tossed into a precarious situation where new worlds, demons and the things that go bump at night exist.

Another good point in the book is the character interactions, particularly in regard to the brothers. Their sibling squabbles and friendly discussions were entertaining; it all leaned heavily towards bromance, and reminded me at various points strikingly of Dean and Sam Winchester — entirely charming, to say the least.

Keegan is a mix of Dean and Sam in a tall, dark and handsome package. He has the older-brother-must-protect syndrome, combined with unnecessary emotional angst towards finding love and moral rights. Part demon, part dragon. Similar to his other brothers, each of whom are part demon, part something else.

Also in this book’s favor are the compelling action scenes, although they were far too few. But what little action scenes there were — more so near the end — were good enough to make me wonder why Lario didn’t include more of this kind of thrilling adventure into her paranormal tale.

But my main problem with this otherwise entertaining novel, ignoring the clichéd plot, is the level of hotness of each character. They are all depicted as beautiful, sexy, steamy — well, you get the point. Not that I have an issue with beautiful people — it just gives the characters a level of vanity I could do without. This coupled with several cheesy lines gave me a good laugh. Case in point: “Would she taste just as sweet?”

In all, Blood of the Demon follows a typical plotline with no elaborate twists or turns. Boy given task to protect girl from evil parent, boy and girl lust-love each other, boy fights parent, girl kills boy’s parent, boy and girl end up together. Lario writes an entertaining novel that is a good, easy read for when days are long and you want to cuddle up with a blanket and cup of tea.

And I must admit that I am curious to read the second book in this series, slated to be released only a month after this one, featuring this time the romantic entanglement of Keegan’s brother, Taeg.

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Starrise at Corrivale by Diane Duane

“Excuse me, Ambassador, but what’s a bedbug?” –Captain Dareyey

Best known for her Young Adult series Young Wizards and, unbeknownst to me, numerous New York Times best-selling Star Trek novels including Spock’s World, Diane Duane brings the much anticipated Harbinger Trilogy from the world of Star*Drive.

The first to write within the Star*Drive universe, Duane has not been the last. TSR’s science-fiction role-playing game Alternity, which I’m slightly intrigued about and may end up playing soon, is brought to life through the protagonist Marine Lieutenant Gabriel Connor.

While I have never read a game-related novel, Diane Duane is a childhood favorite. Add to the fact I have never played Star*Drive, and I really didn’t know what to expect.

What I found was a very much recycled story that revolves around a soldier duped into taking the fall for a sinister plan, disgraced and given the boot. Said character aims to uncover the corrupt system, to regain lost honor, while becoming a hero in the process.

A Marine for Galactic Concord, Lieutenant Gabriel Connor is the typical attractively intelligent man, who climbs the ranks quickly. He has the favor of Ambassador Delvecchio, a sharp-witted women who commands those around her with the wave of her finger at 133-years-old — a character who’s ferocity and personality I quite admire.

After Connor is assigned to become part of the military contingent accompanying a diplomatic mission, in which war has waged for hundreds of years, he is thrown into an unexpected position of handling negotiations between the two worlds. Accused of assisting in a murder, Connor is — as is typical — discredited and told to leave.

Given a second chance for redemption by Concord, Connor grabs the opportunity. Along the way he befriends an alien and meets many interesting people.

Much of the first few chapters are a slow progression, introducing characters and establishing the plot. While space combat is always interesting, Duane is at her best when her characters interact. Delving into the psyche of both mankind and aliens, Duane brings up moral dilemmas and pressing situations.

Duane’s style of writing is quite, even surprisingly, different from that of her young adult novels. If not for the name on the cover, I would be easily duped into thinking it was another author. Duane’s traits for establishing characters and keeping the interest of readers is still within the context of the novel, but the manner in which she describes the scene and foreshadows the future is much more complex.

Slow to start, but action-packed with an intricate political skew, Starrise at Corrivale brings to life a much-beloved gaming universe and makes it work. While this first novel in the Harbinger Trilogy can be considered snail paced at times, it works by establishing the world for its two successors. It does take some free time to read as it gets dense and wordy, but it may be just for you.

However, there are some issues with editing, so if that kind of thing annoys you, stay away.

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Book Review: The Adamantine Palace by Stephen Deas

“That’s it, is it? I’ll be remembered as a fine speaker, because no one has bothered to write anything else? But then why remember at all?” – Speaker Hyram

Powerful limbs, sleek bodies, leathery hides, strong snouts, block-long wings, jaw-dropping flames… there are many reasons to love dragons. I had my first taste of these fire-breathing creatures when I first read The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch, with its humorously blunt dragon — though, admittedly, the idea of a sniveling prince and a heroic princess probably did more to spark an interest in an independent little girl’s mind. It wasn’t until my teens, when I stumbled across Anne McCarthy’s Pern world, that I fell in love with the scaly creatures.

I have picked up many a book about them since, and while each has individually been great in its own way, none have captured my attention for long. It was during a search for some schoolbooks at a local bookstore I came across Stephen Deas The Adamantine Palace. An appealing cover graced the novel: dark with a blueish-white dragon flying across it. Interest sparked.

In a world once dominated by dragons, humans now control the dragons’ minds with well-kept secrets of alchemy and potions. Kept under harness and tightly controlled, dragons turn into domestic creatures, no more intelligent than four-legged mules. This is, at least, until one prized white dragon manages to escape and regain his long-suppressed memories of a time when humans cowered in fear.

We have Prince Jehal, charming, handsome and vile. Ruthless in his ambition to gain power for himself, he betrays, lies, plots and murders to stay two steps ahead. There are moments where you see him slip and you think it’s possible for him to come back; that he can be redeemed. Then he turns around and makes you shake your head in sorrow. We also have Queen Shezira, poised with a strong personality, is not without aspirations herself. Not entirely sympathetic to the quailing of others, she uses her daughters as pawns for marriage alliances, as she was herself, to secure and influence her own power.

Add in a rogue dragon — full of intelligence and fury — bringing back the memories of his enslaved kind and setting the humans to warring and politicking and you have a fast-paced, brutal dragon tale.

Told through the eyes of several protagonists and minor characters, the book reads solidly. While focusing mainly on the conversion of power of the Speaker (an over-king position coveted for its power), his retirement and his heir successor as fought between royalty, Deas cleverly weaves underground passages in the narrative, allowing the dragon element to slowly come back in full force.

Each character is developed through ever-changing circumstances, becoming nastier, stronger, or more determined to seek vengeance. Deas constantly adds another layer, getting down to the gritty details. While certain aspects of this are welcome, the curveballs of supposedly strong females turning into whiny, spoilt princesses does make one wary. I understand the necessity of annoying, naïve characters in furthering plot lines. I do. But I wish there would be less of them.

I strongly detest weak (naïve, stupid, pouty) female characters. Females can kick ass too without being over-sexualized! Paper Bag Princess, come on!Aside from Queen Shezira and (at least near the end), her eldest daughter Almiri, I felt that in comparison to the number of women that were introduced, the number of strong women is sadly lacking. Grudgingly, if I include the evil, two-faced bitch Queen Zafir — who is too ambitious by far — the numbers are still dismal.

Granted, the male protagonists were equally upsetting.

I suppose this is why I enjoyed the book as much as I did. The Adamantine Palace reveals the coarseness of humanity in its sins and need for power. Deas manages to put life into each personality, and while at times I felt overly irritated with many of the characters and their self-entitlement, lust and greedy fingers, it all does point to the flaws of humankind and the troubles we put onto ourselves (as the history books full of destruction and war clearly show).

Overall, brilliantly written and an excellent read, and a wonderful set-up for the next installment. It isn’t McCaffrey’s Pern (nothing, NOTHING I SAY, will ever come close) but it is certainly the beginning of an outstanding new dragon series.

Oh, and go dragons!

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Book Review: Gratitude by Joseph Kertes

“This story has haunted me my whole life and I am writing a novel inspired by a family anecdote. The events in my story occurred before my time. But I have tried to create a novel around these people, turned them into characters and given them lives. What the story says to me—and what I hope sets it apart from others on the subject—is that all of us—victims, perpetrators, Christians, Jews, saints and criminals alike—are capable of making mistakes with tragic consequences.” – Joe Kertes

In a captivating sequence of events, Joseph Kertes introduces emotionally riveting characters. Set during the Second World War, Gratitude spins a tale of a Hungarian Jewish family and the people they meet along the way.

The opening scene follows the actions of Lili Bandel, a 16-year-old who was presented her mother’s bridal dress in the early morning before German militia arrives and has her hiding behind a wardrobe in her parents’ bedroom. Her birthday cake burns in the oven downstairs as Lili is left to wonder about the fate of her family. From her optimistic journey searching for her missing family, Lili ventures from Tolgy into Budapest where she is found by the Beck family.

Through cuts and flashbacks, members of the Hungarian Jewish Beck family are connected, loved, separated and lost, as a waging period of darkness leaves many unsettled.

Each character manages to ensnare you to follow their path. Lili with her charm and wit; her saviour Dr. Robert Beck and his wife Klari and son Simon; Istvan Beck, and Paul Beck tell their own tale of life, love and misfortune; their courage, anguish and laughter.

What appears at first glance to be shallow philosophical-thinking characters, you become drawn into their passions and human flaws and watch as they rapidly grow, adapting to losses and pain.

Kertes brilliantly writes about the ability of mankind’s darkest moment, and with the same hand wield an unending contrast of surprising humanitarian aid. The Second World War is wrought with death and torture, but through it comes joy and happiness. Kertes draws the epic novel to a close on Jan. 17, 1945, on a high note of marriage and a new day.

Gratitude is a novel that explores the intricate balance of the human psyche and its emotional and physical desperations. It blends itself into a torn family portrait where a group of people are tossed together and learn to live in a broken European empire.


Joseph Kertes was born in Hungary but escaped with his family to Canada after the revolution of 1956. Encouraged in writing by Irving Layton and Marshall McLuhan, Kertes studied English at York University and the University of Toronto

He founded Humber College’s distinguished creative writing and comedy programs, where he is currently Humber’s Dean of Creative and Performing Arts.  He is a recipient of numerous awards for teaching and innovation.

Four previous written works have been met with acclaim: his first novel, Winter Tulips, won the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour. His second novel, Boardwalk, and two children’s books, The Gift (Groundwood) and The Red Corduroy Shirt (Fitzhenry & Whiteside), were received with praise.

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