The Shadow War by Stephanie Flint

Shadow WarThe Shadow War is another amazing book by Stephanie Flint. Inside you’ll find great character development, action scenes, witty dialogue, and, of course, magic! Toranih and Daernen return as main characters in the second volume of The Wishing Blade series, except this time, Toranih’s sister, Siklana, plays a leading role as well. The three are separated at various times in the book, allowing for different points of view, which I always enjoy, especially when the bad guy gets some of the talking time. The story continues where it left off in Book 1. Some questions are answered, while others arise. I was pleased and intrigued to find out who the mysterious “Destroyer of Worlds” turned out to be. My imagination flew, trying to figure out how the person came to be this way. No spoilers, though!

In this volume, Toranih, Daernen, and Siklana go to Cirena to warn the inhabitants of the impending shadow army’s arrival, only to find they are too late. Shadows are spreading through the town, turning townspeople into shadows themselves. Daernen, the only one who can terminate a shadow, faces his conscience when he learns there may be a chance the shadows can be saved. Much of the book is about the moral and weighty decision of stopping the spread by killing the current shadows (who are, after all, innocents), or letting the spread continue with the hopes of saving them. This reminded me of zombie/viral infection dilemmas. Do you sacrifice the few to save the many? Or do you try to save the few, at the risk of killing everyone? Daernen experienced a lot of emotional growth in this book. When Toranih is no longer able to help, he has to take the lead and grows up quickly. It was a fantastic read and definitely a mind-bender with loops and twists that have you turning the pages. Below is Ms. Flint’s back cover blurb.

Though a shadow is as good as a ghost, with no free will to speak of, they may still be saved…  The kingdom of Cirena is under attack from an army of shadows—beings who can only be hurt by magic or fire. Magic has been stolen, and as the shadows spread, infecting all they touch, the last two ribbon mages race to the nearest port city to warn them of the impending invasion.  One of those mages, Toranih, is among the few who can see the Trickster-cursed army, and she’s determined to get magic back—no matter how much she distrusts it. When she is captured by shadows and a dark secret is revealed about her future, her best friend, Daernan, is left to defend the city. But his only methods of stopping the shadows are by fire and the devastating magic of the shodo’charl.  With the knowledge that the shadows are innocent townsfolk forced to do a warlord’s bidding, Daernan must choose between saving the shadows or saving those who have not yet turned.

If you enjoyed Magic’s Stealing, you will certainly like The Shadow War. To purchase the book, click on one of these links:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

BN.com

iTunes

Kobo

Smashwords

Paperback Edition

 

-Reviewed by Julie LaVoie

 

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Magic’s Stealing by Stephanie Flint

magic-pictureThe very first amazing book we’re showcasing came to us from self-published author Stephanie Flint. Magic’s Stealing is the first novella in her YA Fantasy series, “The Wishing Blade.” What struck me most about this book was Ms. Flint’s attention to detail. Her excellent world-building introduces the history, atmosphere and politics, and I was able to immerse myself fully in the story without confusion. Like the whimsical magic ribbons the characters wield, the backstory was weaved in lightly and effortlessly. The settings are fully fleshed out and the characters have three-dimensional personalities. Also, the cover art is high quality and the chapter headings in the print edition are equally cool (the page turns from dark to light with an aurora lights-style illustration at the top).

So, on to the story itself. In the first chapter, we’re introduced to the two main characters, Toranih and Daernan. The first is a teenage girl, the latter a teenage boy. Now, let me pause here for a moment. Teen girl plus teen boy does not always equal romance. And in this book that’s definitely the case. The story is pure fantasy with zero romantic drama. No handholding, no kissing, and no gazing into each other’s eyes. And you know what? That’s alright with me. The plot has enough going on, it doesn’t need to be complicated with the typical love triangles you see in YAs. This may change as the series develops, but for now, they’re just friends.

Toranih comes from a noble family who practices ribbon magic, but she prefers to wield weapons. Not everyone in this world can practice (or see) magic. They all know it exists, but about half are ordinary people and the other half are mages. Daernan is an expert at using ribbon magic and often shapeshifts. Over the course of the book he shifts into an owl, a dog, and a horse, which is pretty neat. Ruling over this world are levels of Gods similar to Greek Gods but with different names and they interact with the mortals in times of need. I won’t go into too much detail about the plot because I don’t want to give anything away, but by the title you can at least guess that at some point, the magic in the land is stolen and Toranih and Daernan are put in a position where they need to get it back. Here is the back cover blurb:

For centuries, ribbons of magic have provided the kingdom of Cirena with light, healing, and protection. Then, in a span of minutes, those ribbons fly from their masters, stolen, save for the magic of a few chosen mages. One of these mages is Toranih, a young noblewoman who would rather have a sword in her hand than use her powers to heal or throw fireballs. As a result, her magic skills are lacking. But with former mages dying from magic withdrawal, and the looming threat of an army of shadows who are impervious to mortal weapons, she must either embrace the responsibilities of a mage or watch her home perish.

This book has a wonderful balance of dialogue, planning, and fight scenes as one would expect in a quest story such as this. It’s a fast read and there’s a fair amount of mystery to keep your interest piqued. One warning though. The ending isn’t exactly satisfying because remember this is the first book in a series. If you want to find out what happens next you’ll just have to wait for Book 2, The Shadow War. No need to pout though. In stalking Ms. Flint’s site, I happened to see she has a sister short story set in this world that just came out called Stone and String.

If you’d like to purchase Magic’s Stealing, you can find it at these locations:

Purchase on Amazon US

Purchase on Amazon UK

Purchase at BN.com

Purchase for Kobo

Purchase on Smashwords

Happy reading!

-Reviewed by Julie LaVoie

A Wounded World by Crit Kincaid

wounded worldAuthors have been inquiring into what our reviews might look like. So to give you an idea, I thought I’d start with a young adult book that has stuck with me for over a year. A Wounded World by Crit Kincaid is a perfect example of an amazing self-published book. I do not know Mr. Kincaid personally apart from his Facebook page, which tells us he’s a water systems maintenance coordinator. That sounds about as exciting as my day job. When I purchased his ebook on a whim last year it took me by surprise. This man has a gift. Not just with words, but with evoking emotions. Making us care! He does it so well, he can introduce a character, and in the length of one page, yes ONE page, have you bawling your eyes out at their death.

Before I summarize the story I need to warn you about something. This is not a book to read while you’re waiting for your daughter to get out of dance lessons, or on your lunch break at work. Or even on a day where you intend to actually show your face in public. You will be crying. A LOT. I went through an entire box of tissues, then had to move onto the toilet paper. And after all was said and done, I had to patch up the raw skin beneath my nose with petroleum jelly and take two ibuprofen for my crying headache. Wow, I’m really selling this, aren’t I? I assure you though it’s all worth it. A satisfying ending that changes your outlook on life.

I would describe A Wounded World as a mash up of Bridge to Terabithia, The Shack, and Mean Girls. It’s a literary novel with commercial components, similar to The Fault in Our Stars. The seamless transition between gorgeous, literary prose and mean girl “teen speak,” is utterly ridiculous. How can one writer be so good at both and to combine them in one book? But Mr. Kincaid does just that, all while tugging our heart strings over and over again.

The story follows a boy “self-named” Normal after he’s the sole survivor of a tragic car accident that takes the lives of his parents and twin sister. At the young age of 9, he goes to live with his Granny, who later is found to have ALS (we’ve all seen the ice bucket challenges.) At 14, both he and his Granny move into a Hospice-style home where Normal meets a multitude of quirky characters. Surrounded by death, and not having accepted his own past, he faces his demons nightly in the form of nightmares. The only thing that gives Normal any kind of happiness is his art. But nothing truly gives him a reason to live.

Told in dual POV, the other character is Koren, a girl from Normal’s high school who is climbing the popularity ladder. She has it all, although death hasn’t left her family untouched either. Her mother dies of cancer when she’s 14.  But unlike Normal, she chooses to remember her mother with a memory book. For her, it’s looking past her shallowness, and learning the true meaning of love she finds difficult.

Amongst the high school drama of bullying, isolation, pranks, and teen suicide, this unlikely couple is forced together by circumstance, and finds in each other what both were missing.

I found the dialogue believable, the imagery realistic, and the pace perfect. For me, this book is a new coming of age classic. It not only deals with deeper issues of grieving and death but other problems all teens face like bullying and teen suicide. Honestly, it’s a masterpiece in the making. I say “in the making” because the cover art could be improved upon and there were a couple of typos. But this is commonplace for self-published books so I can’t fault the author when the rest of the book is magnificent.

Mr. Kincaid’s tale, so wonderfully spun and packed with soulful characters, needs to be shared with the world, not just the twenty people who have given him 5 star reviews on Amazon. So please read the book, share it with others, and hopefully, we can get it out to as many people as possible. And as I said before, I have no idea who this Mr. Kincaid is, but he’s earned my respect, and as a fellow author, he deserves my support.

If you’d like to support him too, and read an amazing heartfelt story, you can order A Wounded World here.

-Reviewed by Julie LaVoie