Category Archives: Sci-fi and Fantasy Books

Stolen Ink by Holly Evans

What a pleasant surprise to find Holly Evans’ first book in the Ink Born series. I recently interviewed Danielle Ackley-McPhail, one of the editors of the Bad-Ass Faeries anthology series and she mentioned Evans as an author she thought was going places. I’d have to agree with her on that one!

Evans takes a little bit of this and a little bit of that and tosses in a dash of this other thing over here and makes a world that is both familiar and different at the same time. In a city that could be anywhere, but most likely in England, resides Dacian. Dacian, or Dan, is a tattoo magician. He can help draw out the tattoo that his clients are meant to have. There is much more to it than that, but I don’t want to take away from the fun of discovery.

Oh, and did I mention that he has two tattoo animals, a cat named Kyra and a snake named Aris; a best friend who is his tattoo partner, former lover, and an elf; that he has dreamwalker and shapeshifter friends? Or that he is a lonely gay man in a world of magic and intrigue that seems to leave little time – or desire – for anything long-term? Or that he has a deep secret that he won’t even tell his best friend?

You’ll just have to read the book to find out about that secret!

Dacian feels compelled to get involved in a series of mysteries tattoo related magical deaths. He’s drawn to the killer through the ink. Like many a hero in fantasy he is reluctant and fights it all the way kicking and screaming. But along the way he learns something about himself, something that he is afraid to share with anyone and something that might lead to him having to flee for his life and leave everything behind that he has worked so hard to create – his tattoo business, his friends, and a budding romance that he didn’t even want.

If you like fantasy, faeries, magic, mystery, and a dash of romance this is a book for you. The love scenes are subtle and won’t even make you blush to read them on the bus or in a coffee-house. The action is intense at times and the road to self-discovery for Dacian is one that I do not envy him.

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Voices of the Stars by Rowena Whaling

Voices of the Stars, cover.

I’m most familiar with Rowena as a recording artist, having listened to her first album My Mother’s Song for far longer than either her or I would care to admit. Little did I know that she also wrote stories. For most of her life she has been a storyteller and writer. But it wasn’t until Spring 2015 that her first full length novel was published. Voices of the Stars is an epic novel that takes the story of Arthur the Pen Dragon and puts it into the perspective of the key players that we all know and love (or hate).

Somewhat similar in format to The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Voices takes us on a journey through the story – the myth, legend, AND history – of Arthur and his Round Table through the journals and letters of those who were there. A truly riveting story is told through the eyes and memories of Morgan, Arthur himself, Bedwyr, and the Lady Vivienne, to name a few. If you are a fan of the Arthurian legend I suggest you pick this tome up. It’s a great read!

Rowena takes poetic license with the story as we know it. She inserts bits of forgotten lore and history, as well as some of her own poetry and song, into this retelling of the tale. There are some intriguing twists to the story that long time fans of the genre might not like, but I encourage you to read with an open mind. We were not there in the time of Arthur and if we were, our memories may be faded with the passing of the ages.

Wait a minute. Did I just say “if we were” there? Yes. Rowena tells the story not only from the perspective of those who lived it, but with the idea that reincarnation is real and that some who read it might remember bits and pieces, or even whole chapters, of the book. Call it crazy if you want, but the story means so much more if you keep that in mind.

Battle scenes, love scenes, magic, Dragons, and an exploration into how Christianity influenced the politics of ancient Britain. Voices has it all. You won’t be disappointed when you read this novel. The first in a proposed trilogy by Rowena “of the Glen” Whaling.

From a Pagan’s perspective, the story as told by Rowena holds much more import than just the literary work that she has created. It contains much of the myth, the magic, and the reality of the age. Combining the thoughts and deeds of the well-loved (or hated) characters with the reality of the magical life that many of them led, Voices will give you a history of the magic and practices that may have been used during that time.

Ever wonder what it was like to be a practitioner or follower of the old ways back when they weren’t the old ways? In her debut novel, Rowena gives you an idea of what it was like. With explorations of the Divine from the perspective of the Lady of the Lake and her acolytes you will delve into the spirituality of how Rowena remembers things in her own mind. The Prime Mover, the Feminine Divine, even the Masculine Divine are explored in this literary style that will keep you turning the pages.

I’ve got to give Rowena props. She incorporates the “Charm of Making” into the story, just as the classic film does. She does it in such a way that those who know the Charm will know what she is doing and what it means, but without revealing the full charm. For those in the know, the Charm is used in the film, but badly mispronounced. Reading the Charm as she has it in the book will not cause the results of the Charm, however. Unless you finish the Charm out loud or even in your head.  She leaves off before the Charm is completed, switches languages, or otherwise leaves it incomplete in the book. She does the same with the “Charm of Unmaking.”

Simply put, this novel is worthy of five stars. At least in my book.

Hear an interview with Rowena on the Pagan-Musings Podcast Channel and an upcoming episode of Green Egg radio with the Maiden, Mother and Crone on January 16, 2016.

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High Magic’s Aid – Gerald Gardner

Available through Amazon and other online retailers.

This is one of those books that I am asking myself why I waited so long to read it. Gerald Gardner published this work of fiction before the anti-witchcraft laws were abolished in England. He had to couch his beliefs and his rituals in a work of fiction to avoid the microscope of suspicion. After those laws were abolished he was able to openly discuss the contents of the book and how each of the rituals and other practices detailed in the novel were based on actual magical practices.

Published in 1949 and attributed to a mysterious fellow simply called Scribe, High Magic’s Aid is the story of a young man, his brother, a witch, and the ceremonialist who has befriended them. This young man knows that he is meant to be something more than he is, that he is meant to live in the castle and rule over the land, not hoe the field and feed the cattle. He has his heart set on regaining that which was taken from his family. His brother, knowing the truth of their family, stands beside him in all things. Even putting his life and soul in peril by becoming the vessel for a demonic spirit to communicate to his brother.

The demon that takes over his brother’s body direct them to seek the Witch of Wanda, and this they do. At this point the novel explores the horror of the witch craze in England and elsewhere in Europe. Taking the three intrepid friends through the country side to a far off village that is in total squalor and finding this witch they were told to find. She is to provide them with the tools necessary for the ceremonial magician in their midst to create the magical tools necessary to draw the demon back into their circle without the necessity of possession. Those tools are the athame and the white handled knife, or boline. The bladed tools of most Wiccan’s practice.

Gardner certainly draws on what would later be published has his book of shadows, in several forms, and become the text used by Gardnarians and Alexandrians alike – in deed by most practitioners of Wicca in the modern age. He also draws heavily on his background and experiences with secret societies such as the Rosicrucians.

Gerald Gardner

This edition, pictured and linked above, is full of typographical errors. I wrote it off to the efforts of non-professionals converting the text to digital format. That may be. I believe that some, if not all, of the errors were intentional. Most of them appear in the text of the rituals, changing the spelling of an angel or demon’s name, making the pronunciation of one of the names of God different from the Hebrew. For Gardner’s text includes detailed rituals and incantations that have been used for a very long time by various societies, including the Masons.

The story gripped me.  It told a story that made sense to me. One that rang true for the time setting and for the content of the author’s intentions. What Gardner had set out to do was to share the rituals and spells of his own practice with those who would recognize them for what they were. Those that did not see them as true rites would read them as plot points. But if you read carefully, those scenes read as instructions. Telling the ritualist what he or she would need to do to summon up angels and demons.

Interspersed with these high magical rites are the more simple rites of a hedge witch, a practitioner of the Old Ways. A witch and priestess. Her simple rites are just as powerful as the ceremonies portrayed as the aid given by the master. The two paralleled show what would later be known of Gardner’s beliefs and practices in his later instructional works on the budding movement that would become modern Wicca.

Throwing references to how the Catholic church operated during the witch hunts, Gardner also makes allusions to how the Church taught the ideas of the high magic to some of her priests, but refused to allow them to practice those ideas. He also makes inference that the same Pope who launched the Inquisition was somehow involved in a quest for a particular kind of “high magical aid.” But that is something that few who do not know the history of the Inquisition would catch until … Well, no. If I tell you that it would dampen your enjoyment of the story.

Whether you are Wiccan or some other kind of Pagan, or just have an interest in good fantasy books, I’d recommend Gardner’s High Magic’s Aid. I think this may be a book that add to my “highly suggested” reading list for students of the arts magical.

 

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Hisses & Wings, a short story by Bledsoe & Frohock

You should all know by now that I enjoy a good read. Long books, short books, essays, poetry and even short fiction. One off my newest favorite authors joined forces with another author I had not heard of before and put out a short story combining two of their worlds. Alex Bledsoe, author of the Tufa Tales and other books, and T. Frohock published their collaborative short fiction e-book in December 2014. Just in time for Yule. I of course made sure to get it. Bledsoe’s Tufa stories are just too good not to read and I was intrigued by the idea behind Frohock’s Los Nefilim.

In Hisses & Wings we meet a young Tufa who has discovered a buried secret, a literal broken record.  She pieces it back together and is inspired to pursue the message of the long dead Tufa who made the recording. She takes flight one night on  the dark winds and winds up across the Atlantic – just following the music.  There she meets  Los Nefilim and is challenged to a musical duel…

It’s a short piece, so I don’t want to go into any more detail about the story. Just suffice to say that I devoured it in one sitting and was wanting to read more! Bledsoe’s novels are my pile of must-read and Frohock’s works are quickly finding their way there as well.

H&W is available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You can follow the link attached to the cover on this page to find direct links through Frohock’s page. A very nice way to get acquainted with both authors without too much commitment, though I dare say you will want more!

A little background that shouldn’t spoil the fun: The Tufa, Tuatha de Dannan who have relocated to the Appalachian region of the Southern U.S., and Los Nefilim, a band of Spanish Nephilim, have one distinct thing in common. Both races derive their magic through music. H&W brings that to life in a brief, yet vivid, tale that this reader personally enjoyed. I’ll let you read the short story and decide for yourself if you want to read more. I know I do!

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The Aetheric Artifacts by Wendy Callahan

Right after finishing Daniel Ottalini‘s steampunk novels that I wrote about in an earlier post, I dived head first into the works of Wendy Callahan. Ms Callahan is another steampunk novelist.  She’s also somewhat local to me in Nebraska. If it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t have come across Ottalini’s  Roman steampunk.

Reader’s comments: “Warehouse 13 meets Sherlock Holmes.”

“Wild Wild West meets Sherlock Holmes.”

I’d go so far as to say that Friday the 13th (the series) meets Sherlock Holmes.

Callahan combines action, adventure, and romance with hints of the paranormal to grab the reader’s attention. Set in the late 19th Century, her stories of Demetra Ashdown and her companions will appeal to Anglophiles and fans of Victorian romance, as well as the steampunk fans out there.

I’ll give you just a little background: Demetra Ashdown is the daughter of an inventor. She’s half Aetheral, a race of beings who can trace their bloodlines to the ancient gods. There are Infernals and Celestials. Demetra has a close-knit bunch of companions, including her human father, Lord Francis Winterton – the man who broke her heart (The Gilded Gun), her best friend Simon Warom, and her half Infernal aunt Verti (The Daemon Device and The Enigma Engine). Through her adventures she meets such intriguing and historical figures as Samuel Mathers and Elizabeth Bathory (The Chronos Clock).

BIO

Wendy Callahan

Reading the collection as an omnibus I had the pleasure of reading everything in story line order. Callahan wrote The Chronos Clock and other works before she did the prequel that starts the omnibus, The Gilded Gun. Reading them from the beginning gave me a wonderful introduction to the author’s writing style. Sometimes simple, but rarely simplistic. Any sophomoric tendencies in her writing are more than made up for with her accurate use of Victorian era social niceties and etiquette.

Simply put, each and every one of these stories from Callahan will grab you and drag you willingly through the escapades of Demetra and her companions. Along the way you will learn about her own special abilities and those other Aetherals she encounters, get a history lesson in the mythos and the fact of Celestials and Infernals, and take a journey through the 1890’s landscape of the United States. You’ll also plumb the depths of romance between Demetra and Francis and the unrequited love that can come out of a life long friendship.

I’d go into details on each story, but I’d hate to spoil the read for you. Suffice it to say that you will be entertained throughout the read of each story.

From an editor’s stand point, the book had very few if any continuity flaws. As is usual with just about any ebook edition I have ever read there are a few errors in formatting and some apparent typos that escaped the editor’s notice. Over all they were not very distracting.

I’m looking forward to reading more from Wendy Callahan in the future. Perhaps some fantasy or even steampunk erotica.

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The Wolf Gift, Anne Rice

I’ve been a fan of Anne Rice’s books for decades. I devoured the Vampire Chronicles as soon as I could get my hands on them. As a teen I was obsessed with her vampire stories so much that I took “Lestat” as my handle on dial-up BBSes in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Some of my friends from that time still call me Lestat. I’ve not read her Christ stories, not all that interested in them. To be honest, in recent years I’ve found myself drifting away from Rice’s books, though I own just about everything she’s written.

I wasn’t sure what to think when I learned that she was writing a story arc around the Werewolf legend. My hesitation in regards to these books comes from my love of Anne Rice’s sister’s werewolf books. Alice Borchardt had a wonderful feel for her werewolves, both as humans and as wolves, that I was afraid Rice couldn’t come close to capturing. Now I know, they are not the same person. Their stories are not related, they don’t even come close to touching upon each other.  That didn’t stop me from being reticent when it came to The Wolf Gift.

Like many of  Rice’s series, the first book plods along for a while. Interview with the Vampire started slowly, I was nearly a third of the way through before I was hooked. The Witching Hour took me three copies before I was able to finish it – a lot of back story and my copies disappearing. The same holds true with The Wolf Gift. A lot of back ground – not really back story. Reuben’s story is at first disconnected from the theme of the werewolf. But we do get the connection soon enough.

Taking advantage of internet media, historical references to werewolves, and the American obsession with serial killers, Rice ties them all together in a way that is uniquely her’s. Returning to her Gothic genre, Rice takes us on a journey of transformation and self-realization. Reuben is a freelance reporter, the son of a successful emergency surgeon and a literature professor. He’s handsome, youthful, financial secure. Yet he’s questing for who he is as a man. When he’s sent by the paper he’s been writing for to do an expose on a mansion in northern California that has a mysterious history – the current owner wanting to sell and move on with her life, he falls in love with both the house and its mature female owner. That night they are attacked in the mansion after an evening of adult festivities and there the story begins.

We see it all from Reuben’s point of view. His self discovery, his family issues, his horror-turned-fascination with what he has become. The parallel story is even more interesting. I don’t want to reveal too much of that…. The builder of the mansion and his friends have disappeared, for all intents and purposes they are dead to the modern world. But as Reuben and his new love explore what is happening to him and discover the secrets of the house we learn that these men have a history that is not unlike that of Rice’s vampire saga – ancient and hidden, yet parallel to the history of human civilization.

Again, I do no want to say too much more. Other than I am glad I finally decided to pick up this more recent literary contribution by Anne Rice. I’m looking forward to reading more of this story arc as well as her return to the Vampire Chronicles this fall with Prince Lestat.

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Laurell K. Hamilton writes for Star Trek

I’m one of those odd balls. I love paranormal books, I love vampire novels. But I do not like the Anita Blake series and other such works by Laurell K. Hamilton. That said, I do love Star Trek. So when I came across a Star Trek: the Next Generation novel that was written by Hamilton I still read it.

In Nightshade we meet two new alien races. The Orianians and the Milgians. The Orianians have been at war with each other for over 200 years and they have been destroying their planet. They’ve asked the Federation to step in and send Captain Picard as an ambassador to help establish peace talks and save their planet. There are three factions on Oriana, the Torlicks, the Venturies, and the Greens. The Torlicks and  Venturies are war-like while the Greens are peaceful (no stretch there, considering American politics). Picard beams down with a limited party of Lt. Worf and Counselor Troi and soon finds himself at the center of a murder investigation. The leader of the Venturi has been assassinated right in front of him and both the Venturies and the Torlicks have singled out Picard and the representatives from the Greens as the only possible suspects. Worf finds himself acting as ambassador and investigator on behalf of the Federation while Troi finds herself trying to tackle the empathic overflow from the Orianians and their wild empathic talents.

Meanwhile Riker and the Enterprise answer the distress call from a Milgian ship whose engines are threatening to explode any minute. Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge and Dr. Beverly Crusher beam over with an away team to see what they can do, both for the crew and the ship. The Milgians are a stubborn lot and most refuse to beam off their vessel, preferring instead to go down with their ship. Geordi’s VISoR shows that the Milgians and their ship are constructed in much the same manner, Crusher discovers something similar on board the Enterprise as she administers aid. Crusher and Geordi agree that they might be able to repair the engines if they work together.

You’ll have to read the book to find out how things work out. I was pleasantly surprised by the story. Hamilton’s not as adept at the science as most of the other authors for Star Trek, but the hard science doesn’t matter in this story. The human aspect, if you will, is what matters. A centuries long civil war, children dying, a planet dying. We stuff like that all the time in our own lives. The almost constant state of war that we are in someone on this Earth, starving people, children born with birth defects due to environmental pollution – all these things that the Orianians experience are mirrored in our own world. Originally published in 1992, Nightshade could easily be making an allusion to the first Gulf War, but its content is valid even for today.

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