Category Archives: Reader Reviewed

Reader Review: The Book of Deacon by Joseph R. Lallo (2011)

The Book of Deacon by Joseph R. LalloSmashwords / Amazon / Author’s Site

This is a reader-submitted review written by Rick Taylor.

Reader Rating for The Book of Deacon: 3/5 stars

Myranda is a young woman more interested in staying alive than being a hero. Orphaned by a continent-spanning war that has gone on for decades too long and shunned for failing to support it, she has been on the move since she was only a child. One can hardly blame her when she thinks that the chance discovery of a fallen soldier’s priceless cargo is the moment that will change her life. No one could predict just how great that change would be. It will lead her through an adventure of rebels and generals, of wizards and warriors, and of beasts both noble and monstrous. Each step of the way will take her closer to the truth of her potential, of the war, and of the fate of her world.

The Book of Deacon is a very well-written ebook that breaks from the stereotypical model of a leading male hero saving the day. Instead the hero, Myranda, is a young woman who is abandoned by her family and has to make her way in a world that hates what she stands for. She must strive for her very survival at every stage of the story and at the same time is trying to find a way to stop the endless war in her world. This foundation gives Mr. Lallo a platform to explore a harsher side of reality where a person is a generous friend one day and is trying to kill you the next.

Myranda is not exactly innocent as the book starts, but is a bit naive and overly trusting. This slowly begins to change as the book goes on, but these traits are never lost. Her character never seems to grow in wisdom, and is always at the whim of more mature and more forceful characters that steer her direction through life. That being said, she is a very believable character, and one that you really begin to like and to a degree even pity as the story matures. In the beginning of the book she is cast as stereotypically weak girl, but as story progress there are signs of her becoming stronger. I expect in the next book to see more of that growth as Myranda grows into her hero role.

The book is told in the third person point of view, but almost exclusively follows Myranda, which gives the book some of the feeling of intimacy that you can only get in first person narratives. It breaks from this pattern in a few key places that seem to be there as a way to get information to the reader that Myranda cannot know, but helps the reader better understand some of what is going on. The problem with them is that they are infrequent enough that the switch to a new perspective is sometimes a tiny bit jarring. He is very good at only telling the reader enough to understand what is going on with out giving too much away that Myranda would not know. In many ways he leaves the reader guessing almost as much as Myranda.

The story itself is falls in the category of fantastic events happen to a downcast person, which turns that downcast person into a mighty hero who will eventually save the world. It does a good job of using this story type in a way that is entertaining and even has some twists in it that can surprise the reader. While the path that Myranda’s story follows fairly predictable in the large sense, it is varied enough in the details to keep it enjoyable. You do not ever seem to have that “wow that was totally unexpected” moment, you do have the “huh, did not see that coming,” moment from time to time.

Most of the story is clean enough that Disney could make a G movie out of it and market it to children. There is no cursing, no sex, and most of the violence is tame. It does touch a little on religion, some people do die, and there is blood spilled, but nothing that would give me pause in recommending this book to any reader.

The world in which the story takes place is fairly bland. Several towns are described in the book, but they all have the same feel making all but one of them hard to keep separate in your mind as you think back on the events in her life. The very last town she stays in is distinctly different and is much more fleshed out then the others. That town shows the beginnings of building a world that is both deep and wide. Mr. Lallo’s style seems to be one that de-emphasizes the world itself in favor of telling the story.

The strength of this book is definitely in the story telling. He keeps you interested with his use of language, emotion and small surprises that largely make up for any weakness in the book itself. I enjoyed reading the book, and while it is longer than most ebooks I did not feel it was too long at all. That being said, it was just a little shy of being great. It is the kind of story that you enjoy picking up and reading, but not the kind that can draw you from across the room and keep you up till the wee hours of morning, turning pages as fast as your eyes can go.

I am not one to care much for perfectly polished grammar, spelling, or syntax but I did not notice anything in the copy I downloaded from Barnes and Noble that gave me any trouble. If there are typos in this book, then they are few enough and far enough between to not be noticeable. I read the book on my Nook Color and had no trouble with the file. Chapter breaks and headings were in place and all seemed to be fine in that respect.

Overall I think the book is great for anyone looking for a female hero in a good clean and fun story that is an enjoyable light read. If you are looking for complex world building, combat, and deep character development–you should probably give this book a pass.

I am giving the book three stars based on Adarna SF’s rating system. The book is good and well-written, but it’s a little shy of great. I would gladly read it again, and will likely read the next book in the trilogy.

Reader Review: NetherWorld by Daniel Pagan (2011)

NetherWorld by Daniel PaganSmashwords / Amazon / Author’s Site

This is a reader-submitted review written by Rick Taylor.

Reader Rating for NetherWorld: 2/5 stars

A young man opens a door to a world inside his computer while playing a video game. Drawn into this cyber dimension, where green data streams flow from the Silver Forest into the Walled City, he embarks on a journey. His guide, a dizzy blue sphere known as WhizzyWig, helps him reach his destination. He encounters the Duke of Floppys, NazKlan of the Salted Sands, and the Tainted Ones.

Daniel Pagan’s NetherWorld is a third-person omniscient account that follows Nick through his adventures in a cyber dimension. The omniscient narrator explains the world that Nick is in as he tells the story, and here is where we see Daniel Pagan’s strongest writing skill. He has built a complex world filled with many different races of creatures, and through the use of satire you can see some messages about our society. He even has built up a full caste system and a religious system complete with a holy book, songs, and verses. To help understand this world, Mr. Pagan has included a glossary in the front of the book that gives the reader a jumpstart in understanding the world. I did not read this glossary before starting, yet I was able to follow along just fine. However, if you are not familiar with computers, and especially software development terminology, it might be harder to make the jump without the glossary.

The main character in the book is a teenager named Nick who, for the most part, does nothing of his own accord; instead, the story is about all the things that happen to him. His character does not have any opportunity to grow, and you never get to know him very well. There are a few other characters in the story who control the flow of events. One of them, WhizzyWig, is much more proactive and leads Nick through many of the events that happen to him, but like Nick, WhizzyWig does not grow at all in the story. He has a single focus, and that is to get Nick to Nick’s final destination. In fact, none of the key characters show any depth or growth throughout the story.

The storyline itself is a typical hero tale where the hero must get from point a to point b in a certain amount of time and complete a specific task once he reaches point b to save the world. It is a fairly linear drive from start to finish along that line with almost no distraction or side trials. As typical with this kind of story, along the way Nick is challenged both by the antagonist and by the dangers that are innate to the world that they are in. Mr. Pagan does a good job at keeping things believable and in character with the story. The book does have a surprise ending, which I will not speak on, but it does show nicely that Mr. Pagan can break from the traditional mold and shine if given a chance.

From an editing standpoint the book needs major help. There are whole paragraphs of material that are repeated, sometimes even on the same page. There are several holes in the plot of the story and a fair share of typos. Most of the time I was able to figure out what the author was trying to convey, but there were several times I just had to skip a sentence and move on. Also along these lines, I felt the narrator gave away too much information too early. Overall, I think this book has great potential, and I feel that if Mr. Pagan could arrange a deal with a good editor that he could let his imagination shine through.

I would not recommend this book to anyone that cannot deal with typos, formatting issues, and other problems of that kind. On the other hand, if you love world building and hero stories where the hero is pulled from the least likely among society and treks through the more gritty areas of the world to get to his goal, this might be right up your alley. The story is not deep or complex, so it is perfectly suited for light reading times, especially when you are too tired to track any details from page to page.

NetherWorld is currently a free download at Smashwords.

Reader Review: The Emperor’s Edge by Lindsay Buroker (2010)

The Emperor's Edge by Lindsay BurokerSmashwords / Amazon / Author’s Site

Hey, it’s our first reader review! This review is from m. s. jackson who blogs at Lapsus Calumni. He reviews fantasy books and blogs about fantasy, RPGs, and other sorts of goodness.

Reader rating for The Emperor’s Edge: 4/5 stars

I will be honest, I picked up this eBook with a bit of trepidation. Ms Buroker is a new, fledging author and even though I loved her other book, I wondered if Flash Gold could have been a fluke. I will also admit the cover threw me off. Looking at the cover (I had not seen the previous cover), it reminded me of some dramatic rambling historical love story, or one of those serious thought provoking explorations of love amid the backdrop of World War II on an Indian island.

That said, wow was I wrong!

The book is sub-titled “A high fantasy novel in an era of steam” and is a hybrid of Victorian era stylings with touches of steam technology and fantasy elements such as slight magical effects and spells. Neither of these play too much importance in the story. Magic only affects the story by forcing the characters to take certain paths mainly because they themselves have almost zero access to magic. This setting is exactly the sort of thing I enjoy and has all of my favorite things. Lindsay, add a zeppelin and I could marry you.

I will set up the tale briefly. The book tells the tale of a strong, smart and exceptionally able young woman named, Amaranthe Lokdon. Due to Ms Buroker’s great skill at writing, I will put aside my normal complaint of odd names that are a pain to mentally read each time I come across them in text.

Amaranthe is what amounts to a beat cop as the story begins, but she soon finds herself thrown into the middle of a mysterious whirlwind of crime, royalty, and organized crime. Beginning as a bit goody-two-shoes and wet-behind-the-ears regulation spouting stuffy she changes during the course of the book. As the story unfolds, Amaranthe comes into her own and ends up being a confident and formidable opponent, usually not by her skill at weapons, but her deft and admirable wit. She is a very likable and interesting character. I often found myself chuckling at the sidebar mental comments she has, especially when she is dealing with the other main characters in the book. Ms Buroker is amazingly witty in her prose.

I do not want to give away too much, but the colorful troupe of characters she ends up running with are some of the most entertaining fellows one could hope to meet. Maldynado, I think I spelled it right, was instantly my favorite and his interaction with Amaranthe are some of my favorite in the book. The budding romances Amaranthe finds herself drawn into (mind you these never get beyond thought and in no way is this a romantic story) add depth and sub-plots that the author could easily expound upon in the future.

Each of the characters are well thought out and have a recognizable ‘voice’ if you know what I mean, making conversations easily read without the usual descriptors to define who is speaking. The individual side plots of redemption and discovering that you are more than a simple hunky model, or street scum, or old drunkard, or murderer are all engaging and make you want the character to not only survive their ordeal, but rise to the top. There is a moment, oh so Hollywood, where the lead character says she will go alone, that this is not their fight and then one by one they all select to follow her. This scene is…well, heartwarming and cliché but Ms Buroker’s skill makes it hard to recognize it as cliché ! I found myself very pleased that events progressed as they did.

My only complaint with the tale was that Amaranthe seems strangely adept at getting herself into trouble throughout the book. At one point near the end, I actually said to myself “Oh goodness, she gets captured…again!” That said, these do serve a point and clearly shows the depth of Amaranthe’s growth as a character in the course of the book. In the beginning she clearly needed rescuing, not even considering an escape, by the end, escape is formulating in her mind before they have shut the cell door behind her.

I have a hard time doing this because having rated Flash Gold four stars, no doubt someone will just say I was bribed, or I am a friend of the author, but I have to say this book was so excellent, such a good read, that I am giving it four stars as well. It is easily one of the best I have read in a long time. I spent an entire Sunday, that I should have been doing other things, doing nothing but turning my digital pages, eager to see what happens next.

Do yourself a favor and get in on the early works of a great up coming author, and don’t miss the great adventure she has spun for us to enjoy.

This review can also be found on m. s. jackson’s blog here.

Thanks to m. s. jackson for the review. I’m reviewing The Emperor’s Edge in a little bit, so it’ll be interesting to compare our thoughts on the book. My first introduction to Buroker’s work was also Flash Gold. It’s starting to make me wonder if her books could be described as (1) action-packed fantasy adventure (2) set in a steampunky and cold environment (3) female protagonist with moxie paired up with a tall, dark, and assassiney sort of guy. Feel free to chime in if you’re familiar with Buroker’s other work. I’m not complaining about that mix (especially when I really enjoyed it the first time around), but it’s hard to not notice the similarities :P


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