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Flashes of lightning

By theredsheep, author of Pyrebound

Mar 30, 2019: Imagine watching a battle at night during a thunderstorm. Everything appears in bursts: heaps of hacked bodies, their blood trickling into the puddled water on the ground. Blue flashes reflecting off shining swords. Screams of men and horses mixing with the howl of wind and the clap of thunder. It’s all very vivid, very intense. But you’d be hard-pressed to tell anyone what exactly was happening, which side was winning, or what it was for.

I picked up this story because it had a vivid blurb, written more or less exactly the way they tell you blurbs are supposed to be written. I clicked through to a professional-looking site, with a nice map and pictures and even an official teaser trailer. I read a story, written in perfectly manageable chunks, with good grammar and spelling. The writing was evocative, rich with emotion, pithy in its description of scenes and moments. Snow, mead, woodsmoke, steel, fog and clouds—it’s all gorgeously bleak and tragic and Nordic.

I’m just not at all sure what’s going on, because it’s all flashes of lightning. You see moments—nicely written moments!—interspersed with dollops of backstory, but not much straightforward description of the plot. It’s all alluded to en passant, never told. You have to infer what’s going on from the wry curses and fears characters express as asides, or else guess based on tropes. The runaway magic girl is apparently the protagonist, since she’s written with sympathetic traits. There’s a stern warlord after her, who’s bad because stern warlord.

Halfway through its current run of seventeen short chapters, I pieced together a bit more than that, but it’s so staccato that I didn’t have much invested in it. There’s no time to stop and breathe, to find out the big picture or what’s at stake. There used to be an unpopular queen, but I’m not at all clear what she was queen of, or why they don’t like her now. There’s people fighting, but I don’t know what they’re fighting for. Everyone feels doomed and hopeless, like the world is ending, and I don’t know why.

Just for example: in the second chapter, a lone headless body rides into a stableyard and falls off its horse, scaring the hell out of the local help . . . and that’s it. That’s the entire chapter, start to finish. She just describes it more artfully. There is no further context given as to why this corpse is significant, and it doesn’t come up later. I didn’t even feel the need to say spoilers, because what are you supposed to do with this information?

Three stars is "worth a look." It’s certainly that. But mind the rain.

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Vikings, sea monsters and wicked love – A Raveling Night by E.M Redshaw

By Storyworldofem, author of A Raveling Night

Mar 28, 2019: A Raveling Night is the book I’ve always wanted to read.

Viking clans in constant rivalry, underdogs, warriors, found families, magic, (anti)heroes with sad and dark pasts, forbidden love stories, mythology inspired by my norse ancestors, a fantasy apocalypse, dragons, sea monsters, toxic family relationships and wonderful family relationships . . . 

It’s a story about finding where you belong in a world that wishes you dead.

About being different, fighting adversity, finding home, and loving yourself for who you are. About weak people that become strong.

They told me that if you don’t see the book you want to read in the shelf, you need to write it yourself.

A Raveling Night is ultimately the most perfect book I know, because I wrote it. I’m kidding, it’s not perfect.

But it’s everything I’ve always wished for in a fantasy story about vikings, sea monsters and wicked love.

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Basically Everything I’m Looking For.

By TakenTongue, member

Nov 13, 2015: Disclosure: Part of a review swap, but still an honest assessment.

I say with clear intention that Kings & Queens has everything I’m looking for in a serial, because quite honestly that’s the truth. It may not be a perfect story, but it’s certainly got enough going for it for me to really want to keep up.

Kings & Queens opens with a first chapter that introduces you to its world without burying you in jargon or new terminology. The mythos of the world is explained throughout the chapter by the events unfolding, not for the sake of explaining. It makes for a tight, quick narrative that has short enough chapters to make me keep going, as well as consider editing my own first chapter, it’s done so well. As a side note, each chapter in Kings & Queens (at least in the beginning) are on the shorter side. Personally, I really enjoy this, but if you enjoy longer chapters, fair warning.

(As an aside: I really liked the chapter titles coinciding with song names. It helps that my musical taste seems similar to the author’s.)

I don’t want to give away any plot elements, but aside from a few minor issues in pacing and tone (specifically the transition between chapters 5 and 6 threw me off momentarily), this story is a fantastic start into a world that I legitimately want to keep learning about.

As for the rating of four stars; I feel as if the direction on the story will alter the score, most likely for the better, but it’s a fantastic start and I’m ready to see where it all goes. If you’re into urban fantasy that seems much more grounded than fantastical, this is an excellent story for you.

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