Reviews

Chasing Destinyby M.Schaefer

Waiting for the 2nd installment in a book series is a lot like waiting for Summer vacation. You know they are both coming and in the case of summer vacation, you at least have a pretty good idea as to when it will begin. Books are subject to the vagaries of both writers and publishers.

Thus, when I heard the next book in M. Schaefer’s Destiny series was ready, there was much rejoicing. In preparation for my review of Schaefer’s Chasing Destiny, I opened her captivating story, Awaiting Destiny, in search of a few details and tidbits. I use the word ‘captivating’ because its sirenic qualities caused me to read the book once again.

The Story Thus Far

For those who may not be familiar with Awaiting Destiny, here’s a quick catch-you-up. Destiny Mariner is a 14-year-old girl living on her father’s sailboat at the Enchanted Cove Marina. Her mother has been missing – presumably at sea – for 14 years. Her father, Jacob Mariner, still keeps a candle burning in the window of his heart for his missing wife, Shellene. Destiny misses the mother she never knew but manages to assuage her loneliness by pitching in baseball games.

Acting on a letter delivered to her by persons unknown, Destiny steers the ship’s dinghy to a particular spot offshore and sets off on a journey of discovery where she finds:

  1. She’s actually a mermaid who can’t seem to get the tail bit working.
  2. A rather handsome merboy, named Kincade, who’s a few years older than she.
  3. Her mother is a princess which makes her, every young girl’s dream, a princess as well.
  4. That her mother has been, shall we say, indisposed for around 14 years. A reunion is imminent.

And that is all I’m going to tell you.

And now . . .

Two years later, when Chasing Destiny opens, we find Destiny still residing at the Enchanted Cove Marina, with her reunited parents, in as much pubescent bliss as any 15-year-old girl can expect. Her sixteenth birthday is just a few weeks off and with that comes the long-awaited driver’s licence. Oh yeah, there’s one other thing. She and Kincaid made a pledge to reunite by the time of her sixteenth birthday. They’ve been corresponding – by mermail, of course – every week, so she knows he’s still interested.

On this day, however, the mermailman brings her a not-so-nice letter from someone who is not Kincade; Queen Bali of Ameru – Kincade’s mother. It seems her son, who is traveling all the way from the Kingdom of Ameru[i] — against her wishes, of course – is missing, and she holds Destiny responsible. Our girl has until the next full moon to locate Kincade, or Queen Bali will rain all sorts of trouble on her grandfather’s kingdom.

There is not a moment to lose and the plucky girl is ready to go rescue Kincade. But first, Destiny needs a little more information. The best place for that is the local soothsayer who is conveniently located at the Mystique Boutique in town.

Nadja, the Greek fortune-teller, has been waiting for Destiny to come in and she agrees to help her, but at a price. In exchange for her help, Destiny must find Nadja’s long lost true love by the next full moon or all sorts of trouble will rain down on her. Obviously, the next full moon is going to be a busy one if things don’t go as they should.

And, She’s Off!

Having no choice but to accept, if she wants to rescue her own true love, Destiny accepts the offer. The fortune-teller gives Destiny some baffling portents. (Aren’t they always like that?) Thus prepared, it’s time for Destiny to put her golden tail in motion.

Their smiles held a thousand unspoken promises for the future. Destiny looked into his eyes and realized sharing moments like this made the risk of love worth it.

Destiny will embark on a harrowing journey across the sea to avoid being cursed, prevent catastrophe befalling her grandfather’s kingdom, and most importantly, rescue her one true love. If this is not empowering young girls, then this reviewer doesn’t know what is. Chasing Destiny is an exciting, enthralling adventure for both middle-school readers of the female persuasion as well as those at the lower end of the Young Adult range. (Mothers and Fathers take note; the holidays are on their way.)

Fathers have a way of making their daughters feel safe, no matter how old they are.

  1. Schaefer has modified her approach to telling this story from that used in Awaiting Destiny. Here, she alternates the focus in her narration between key characters. This means that part of her tale is focused on mermales, a sadly overlooked and under-represented class in stories like this. It also escalates the drama because the answer to the current crisis – and there are plenty of them in this story – is not always found at the start of the next chapter.

Chasing Destiny is also a very clean read with minimal typos, This means the reader gets to enjoy the story for itself rather than deal with editing blunders. Given the target audience is middle school and early high school, it is important that the necessity of good spelling and good grammar – this review excepted – are reinforced in young people.

As for the Future

What does Chasing Destiny portend for the future? Well, there are signs of a rapprochement between Destiny’s father, Jacob, and Shelleen’s father, Dolphinium, King of Mertopia. Destiny’s grandfather did not approve of the union.

Kincade’s mother, Queen Bali, certainly does not approve of his interest in Destiny. She is, after all, only a half-breed. There is good potential for conflict here. Will Kincade’s relationship with Destiny repeat that of her mother. Since he is Destiny’s one true love, it is obvious they will continue to show interest in each other. Only time and M. Schafer will tell us.

Recommendation

Chasing Destiny is an exciting and fun read that should be enjoyed by all who consider life as a mermaid to be an intriguing career choice. If you like mermaids – and merboys – then you must read this story. Those who are older, and bear the scars of dating and relationships gone wrong, will also enjoy M. Schafer’s story. Imagine, being only sixteen and finding your one true love.

I had dreams to backpack around the ocean, maybe meet an exotic, handsome merman to sweep me off my fins


[i] Ameru is located under the waters of the French Polynesian sea. Think of where Tahiti is and you’ll be fine.
My Rating:

Awakened Fate seriesby Skye Malone

  • Awaken
  • Descend
  • Return
  • Abide (Novella)
  • Arise
  • Become

Reading a five and ½ book series in less than a week leaves one in a somewhat breathless state. That breathlessness is exacerbated by the fact that the series of books was extremely difficult to put down. However, sleep, meals, and showers eventually prevailed.

Rather than review each book individually, a daunting task in and of itself, this reviewer will look at the series as a whole. This reviewer will also dispense with his standard examination of the first 45% of the story.

Overall, the Awakened Fate series is a non-stop, action-filled adventure and Young Adults – as well as older readers – will get their money’s worth and well more. For those of you searching for a simple recommendation, this is a good point to stop and click on the ‘Buy’ button.

This reviewer has read so many mermaid–themed books over the past five years, that he’s lost track. While it has been fun, this reviewer has learned to recognise mermaid clichés. Although it’s hard for authors in this sub-genre to avoid them, it is how they are employed which makes all the difference. Skye Malone has artfully woven them into a thrill packed adventure series where they are hardly noticed.

The protagonist in this series is a 17 years-old red-head named Chloe Kowalski. She has spent all of her life in the American mid-west – Kansas to be specific – and has been blessed (or cursed – you decide) with a set of hydrophobic, nutso parents. The parental Kowalski’s have done everything in their power to obliterate references to the sea in their lives. Naturally, Chloe loves the idea of the sea, and as a result, has been grounded so many times, she ought to think she was a gopher. Her parents would no doubt like that.

Her best friend and next-door neighbour, Baylie, is off to see the other half of her blended family in Santa Lucina, CA and invites Chloe along. Being your normal late adolescent in a YA novel, Chloe agrees to go. She also fails to tell her parents.

An Awakened Fate

Chloe’s visit to the beach in Santa Lucina is one of those watershed moments in a person’s life. One of those moments where one starts to discover they are not what they thought they were. This moment sets off a roller-coaster ride of capture, imprisonment, escape, flight, surprise, terror, torture, threats to Chloe’s life, and duplicity. Lots and lots of duplicity. A lesser person would have cried ‘uncle’ after the first or second book. Fortunately, Chloe has a strong survival impulse. She also has some good friends in her corner.

Among those friends are two boys, Zeke and Noah. These two could not be more different. One is a merman – a prince to be precise – while the other is a greliaran. In case you’re wondering, these are beasts of magical origin, programmed to kill any merman or mermaid – referred to as dehaians – that dares to set foot or fin on the shore. Fortunately, Noah – along with his father and brother – is a changed being who has curbed his primal instincts.

While one may sigh that it’s just another ‘which one do I choose’ scenario[1], this one is different. It also contains an unexpected end. The reader is kept guessing until the story’s conclusion.

Magic

In a previous paragraph, I mentioned the ‘M’ word; Magic. The Awakened Fate series is infused with magic. This can be tricky, however. It is often used as a crutch to support a weak plot. In other cases, it is a driving force within the story. Skye Malone has done a brilliant job of weaving the magical element into the series.[2]

There are car chases across the country as well as numerous plots against Chloe’s life. One of these includes a demonic version of Dr. Cliff Huxtable. (The irony is intentional.) This reviewer could blether on and on about the worthiness of this series but Awakened Fate speaks for itself and stands on its own merits.

No matter if you are YA, NA, OA, or even OF,[3] the Awakened Fate series is a must read for anyone who likes a mermaid-themed thriller with plenty of action and a healthy dose of magic. 

My Rating:  Four Pipes


[1] For a more traditional version in a mer-themed context, please read The Fairytail Saga by S.K. Munt

[2] For a mermaid story with a bare minimum of magic, please read Urban Mermaid by Howard Parsons. This is a shameless plug, but I have bills to pay.

[3] Young Adult, New Adult, Older Adult, Old Fart.

Mer Tales # 4

Mer Tales # 4

by Brenda Pandos

Over the past four years, Brenda Pandos has entertained readers – both young and old – with her Mer Tales series. Evermore is the latest and hopefully, not the last, installment. Like its predecessors, Evermore is a fast-paced story with copious plot twists and turns which will keep fans guessing until the very end.

The story opens following a very eventful five months for both Ashley Lanski and Finley Helton. Fin has saved Ash’s life, the couple have become promised mates, Ash has become a mermaid, Ash has discovered she was originally born a mermaid, the couple have been part of a coup d’etat in Natatoria, and all this only begins to scratch the surface.

Now, the two are preparing to return home from Natatoria, the aquatic realm beneath the earth’s mantle with a political system worthy of a dozen doctoral dissertations, and reunite with her adoptive parents. If only things were that simple. Ash and Fin will arrive on the shores of Lake Tahoe to find they are in hot water with the authorities, Ash’s parents, and there are still four more weeks of school left before graduation. Throw in the announcement that Ash and Fin are engaged and plan to be married in August and you have the beginnings of a perfect storm.

My heart gushed with happiness as I listened to him defend his love for me, that I was his everything.

Natatorian males have a persuasive way about them and no, this does not mean brass knuckles. They possess the ability to sing their way out of most situations involving humans and Fin is quite capable when it comes to handling things. This is precisely what Ash does not want him to do. She is tired of watching her family enter a zombie-like state whenever Fin warbles their way out of sticky situations.

Ash would prefer to handle things with carefully thought out and honest – well, mostly honest – explanations. This desire is honoured more in the breach than the observance as there are just too many odd things happening and too many sights which should not be seen. This conglomeration is something that simply cannot explained away as their wedding day approaches. Ash fears her human family will wind up with minds of mush before it’s all over.

As if there was not enough drama, Ash discovers she is in the family way and the wedding needs to take place sooner rather than later. The reason for this is because Brenda’s mermaids have a radically foreshortened gestation period. While it is not too unusual for human brides to be carrying something in addition to a bouquet as they walk down the aisle, Ash will be on the cusp of an exponentially expanding baby bump when the wedding takes place three weeks hence.

With the bride’s three month planning schedule contracting into three weeks, additional help is needed to stage this wedding before the bride starts experiencing contractions. Help arrives in the form of Natatorians, most of whom have never been out of their native waters. Most are eager to pitch in while some – like Ash’s biological mother – are simply nosey. There’s plenty to be done – building a honeymoon cottage is high on the list – and before too long, a sense or organized chaos takes hold. Now, if only the hired help would remember how to act and speak like humans.

Brenda’s genius for writing and imagery really comes to the fore at this point in the story and she has expertly crafted action which is readily visible in the mind’s eye. Fantasy writers will often place constraints on their characters to limit what they can or cannot do in various situations. Superman and Kryptonite are one such example. In the case of Brenda’s Natatorians, their Kryptonite is sunset – a time of day when they revert back to their natural fishiness. Throughout the Mer Tales series, the reader has been treated  to scenes of Fin shredding his blue jeans and board shorts because he’s pushed the envelope just a little too much by talking to Ash on the phone longer than he ought to.

“I know we’ve had our issues, but I feel like this wedding has healed us. That by bringing Fin into our family, I finally understand you.”

Evermore sees Ash, the newly minted mermaid, run afoul of the setting sun. Fin has persuaded the Lanski family that Ash needs to go to her room and study every evening and once the door is closed, they are not to disturb her. Meanwhile, Ash will open her window, climb down a conveniently placed trellis, and dash for the lake in those last fleeting moments of daylight.

On one evening, Ash is caught out by a poignant scene with her mother where veils and wedding plans are discussed. Ash makes it to her room in time to close the door but not in time to slink down the trellis and she must spend the night in the bath tub. Of course, her bratty younger sister, Lucy, is no help at all. Such are the dangers of being a mermaid in the world Ms. Pandos has created.

It is against this reviewer’s policy to divulge details of the latter part of any story. The goal, of course, is to give the potential reader a taste of what is to be found within the story in the hope that they will want to buy a copy and learn the rest for themselves.

Rules are meant to be broken – or at least bent a little – and this reviewer will divulge two phrases that describe the action in the Evermore’s later chapters.

  • Heart-breaking
  • Heart-stopping

It’s now upon the reader to find out just what is meant by those phrases – preferably sooner rather than later.

Once again, Brenda Pandos has given us ample proof of her marvelous skills as a spinner of stories. Her memorable characters of Ash and Fin are guaranteed to find their way into the reader’s heart and stay with them for many years to come. It does not matter if the reader is in their Young Adult years or decades past that point, Brenda’s gift of Evermore will be a lasting treasure.

No doubt, many readers – including this reviewer – assumed Evermore was to be a last hurrah; a victory lap of sorts wherein all loose ends would be tied up and the beloved characters of this series would swim off into the sunset. Apparently, this is not the case as Ms. Pandos has asked her followers if they would like to read more about Ash and Fin. If Brenda Pandos can maintain the level of crisp, engaging story-telling demonstrated throughout her Mer Tales series, then the answer is a resounding, unequivocal, “YES!”

In the interest of full disclosure, I was provided an electronic copy of Evermore in exchange for a fair and honest review.

My Rating:

It goes without saying that I’m a big fan of mermaid tales. No, I’m not obsessive compulsive about them; you only need to see my pipe collection to understand the true meaning of the term OCD. I’ve found many of the YA (Young Adult) mermaid stories to be a LOT of fun.

It’s refreshing to be able to forget about being an (older) adult for a while and lose yourself in the much simpler problems of those much younger. (Just wait ‘till you have to start worrying about retirement & Medicare, kiddos!)

YA Author, Brenda Pandos has a new installment in her Mer Tales series titled, Evermore. I’m one of the lucky few who get to read this story in exchange for a fair and honest review to appear online no later than Nov. 23rd. That gives me 12 or 13 day window to finish the story and cobble a pithy review. Besides being posted on The Parsons’Rant, it’ll also appear on Goodreads.com, Amazon, B&N, and any other place I can post it.

Believe you me, I’ve been looking forward to this. In the meantime, I have another 3 chapters to review in what is rumoured to be the final, final, absolutely final edits of Urban Mermaid.  I’ve got a fun, fun, fun week-end ahead of me.

While I’m on the subject of Urban Mermaid, Brenda Pandos, Derrolyn Anderson and several other authors will get a shout-out in the story. These mentions will be in the form of subtle references to their novels. Don’t blink or you’ll miss them! To find out for yourself, you’ll just have to buy a copy.

sower_comes by Melissa Eskue Ousley

Believe it or not, there are some things even more mind numbing than waiting for the last day of school, having a job you hate or waiting to be “grown up”. One of those things is sitting in a desert, endlessly counting grains of red sand without pause. It is so mind numbing that one could easily forget their own name. That is precisely the situation in which Abigail – sometimes known as Abby – Brown finds herself in the opening chapter of Melissa Eskue Ousley’s The Sower Comes, the third and final installment of her Solas Beir Trilogy.

This, then, is The Wasteland – the world that serves as a place of perpetual punishment. Blessed with a dome of cobalt blue sky, it offers nothing else but red sand as far as the eye can see, and is only reachable through a portal between the worlds of Ms. Ouseley’s vivid imagination. It is not important at this moment to know just how Abby wound up in this place. As for herself, counting those red grains of sand is the most important thing; not escaping.

At first, Abby doesn’t notice that she’s suddenly not alone. It takes the instant pecking of a large, black as night raven. This bird is named Brarn and has been a somewhat minor, but nonetheless significant, character since the first book in this series, The Sign of the Throne. Brarn doesn’t have a speaking part, so we don’t expect him to say “Nevermore” or other such pithy phrases. Brarn does, however, know the way back to the world of Cai Terenmare; he knows the way home. It is up to Abby to follow.

Suddenly, she felt very small. She looked down at her fingers, her hands, but they were gone. In their place were white wings. She was the white raven once again.

The black raven cocked his head toward her and then dove through the glass of the mirror. Abby followed.

A lot has transpired since Abby was sidetracked into a career as a sand-counter. Lucia, who seemed to die at the hands of Tynan Tierney once her usefulness to him was over, has been restored to health and now occupies a cell in the dungeon, awaiting trial. The havoc that she has wrought upon Cai Terenmare’s inhabitants is equal to the damage done by Tierney. David, the Solas Beir, will sit in judgement and given that she was both responsible for his abduction and indirectly responsible for the brutal deaths of David’s foster parents in The Sign of the Throne, Lucia is going to have to pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat in order to avoid a sentence of death.

The Dowager Queen Eulalia is due to marry the knight of her dreams and will soon be followed in matrimony by Abby and her betrothed, David. There are a couple of issues that threaten to put a damper on things such as Abby’s childhood friend, Jon, being MIA and presumably still held captive in the city of the Eastern Oracle. And then, there are the strange deaths in a fishing village and in the highlands to the north. Yes, there are worrisome things in the offing but nothing will spoil the happiness of the two upcoming weddings.

One of this reviewer’s favourite quotes of all time comes at the end of William Goldman’s The Princess Bride and serves to convey – at least to the reviewer, anyway – a sense of what is to come in Cai Terenmare.

However, this was before Inigo’s wound reopened, and Westley relapsed again, and Fezzik took the wrong turn, and Buttercup’s horse threw a shoe. And the night behind them was filled with the crescendoing sound of pursuit. . . .

The ‘what’ or rather, the ‘whom’ that is to come is The Sower, an offspring born from the unholy coupling of David’s father and the Western Oracle of the day who was, by anyone’s standards, a nasty piece of work. However well-intentioned his father’s liaison may be been in order to protect his kingdom and his son-to-be, it is that same son, David, who must deal with the results of that pairing – the monster which Tynan Tierney has finally unleashed upon the world of Cai Terenmare.

Something was rising from the pool, something dark with reptilian scales like armor and a spine ridged in horns. The spikes protruding from the creature’s back looked sharp enough to impale him.

David’s fear increased tenfold. He’d been hoping to engage in hand-to-hand combat with a man, and, worst-case scenario. Figured he would have to battle Sholto’s spirit animal. But he had no idea that the Sower would be a leviathan like this.

“Fantastic”, Jon breathed. “It’s a freaking Godzilla.”

All too often, the final instalment of a series turns out to be the final wheeze from the author who has somehow lost the concept somewhere along the way. A series that started out so brightly is met with a discordant sigh of relief when the reader turns the last page and closes the book.

This reviewer is happy to report that Melissa Eskue Ousley has avoided that fate and has done so quite handily. Her writing is as fresh and as riveting at the end of The Sower Comes as it was in the opening pages of The Sign of the Throne. Ms. Ousley built upon that early momentum in The Rabbit and the Raven and maintained it superbly throughout this final installment.

Adolescence is a time when young minds begin to stretch themselves and wander through both strange and familiar realms of possibilities. The Sower Comes and its predecessors place the Young Adult reader in the heart of a marvelous and chilling adventure that may very well seem as real as life itself. Is the plot of this story and the situations which it presents a metaphor for the life and choices that we must all face at one time or another? It is up to the readers to determine that for themselves. It cannot be denied, however, that Ms Ousley’s books are among the best in contemporary Young Adult Fiction.

When the entire courtyard was alight, David spoke one last time. “It is the power of the light and the power of love that ensure peace and prosperity for all in our kingdom.”

He turned to Abby, and as one, they let their orbs go, guiding them gently into the air with their hands. Around them, everyone released their cerulean spheres.

Together they watched the shimmering orbs float up into the night sky until they were indistinguishable from the stars.

Pouraka Cover Art

Pouraka Cover Art

by Dianne Lynn Gardner

Nihil novi sub soleThere is nothing new under the sun. This Maxim from Ecclesiastes could certainly be said to hold true within the realm of mer-fiction as it is a ground which has been plowed many, many times. Plots involving vast undersea cities, sub-aquatic strife, sea-witches, battles with monsters and/or humans, unrequited love, and of course, the perennial favourite of a teen-aged girl/boy suddenly discovering that they are in actuality, a mermaid/merman. This is not to say that such stories boasting these plot-lines – or variants thereof – are dull-making or not worth reading. Indeed, they can be fun, exciting, thrilling, endearing, and a veritable fin-fest. Every once in a while, however, the devoted connoisseur of mer-fiction yearns for something new, something different.

All is not lost. Of late, there have been two mer-novels that have covered fresh territory and have proven to be quite enthralling. The first, Flippin’ The Scales by Pete Tarsi, has already been discussed by this reviewer. The second entry, Pouraka by Dianne Lynn Gardner, is the subject of this review and is undoubtedly a quite noteworthy book.

We poor, landlocked humans are inclined to think of mermaids – and mermen, of course – as living a wild and free existence in the oceans of the world, having the occasional dolphin sidekick with whom they pass the time of day and are happy and joyous 24 x 7. The world which Dianne Garner has created for this story is far different than the one of our imaginations. It is a world where merfolk are a hunted species under constant encroachment by humans, tourists, and oil rigs. The ocean waters that border the land are rapidly becoming an inhospitable place to abide, evocative of the book of Amos, 7:17. “ . . . your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword, and your land shall be divided by line; and you shall die in a polluted land . . . “ Their dire situation invites the reader to apologise for being human.

Tas is a merman who can no longer remain silent or idly by while his clan slowly dwindles. They continue to be hunted by humans and first his beloved mother fell victim and now his older brother has been wounded by their harpoons. To spend another season where they presently are risks extinction for the entire group. His idea is to take the members of his clan – including the aged and the wounded – North where the hope of a better life – or even simply life itself – beckons.

Conditions are somewhat different for merfolk to the North where Barnacle Bay lies. The merfolk have, overall, a better life and their home cavern – called in the mer tongue, Pouraka – has long provided a comfortable home and although pollution has impacted their food supply to a certain degree, they are much better off than those who live to the South. One of their advantages is that they and their home are protected by the humans who reside in the town beside the bay.

Cora is one of Pouraka’s denizens and she is rather fond of the humans who live on the shores of barnacle bay. Though the magic of Pouraka’s waters, which are jealously guarded by the merfolk, Cora is able to leave the sea behind and walk amongst her shore-bound neighbours, not the least of whom is her best friend, Beth. While Cora is always quick to defend her human friends and protest that not everyone who walks on two legs is a threat to mer-kind, she is nonetheless somewhat naïve as to how the world above the water’s surface works.

Despite the initial impulse of some merfolk to turn away the refugees from the South, they are given shelter and in time, absorbed into the Pouraka colony. It is through this gift of sanctuary that Cora meets Tas and he soon begins to play an increasingly important role in Cora’s emotional life. Sadly, whatever respite the southern merfolk might have gained by seeing refuge in Pouraka is short lived. The northward progression of oil hungry humans continues bringing with it arrogance, death, greed and plunder. The merfolk may be able to run but they cannot hide and a time is fast approaching when hard choices will need to be made.

Dianne Lynn Gardner has woven a thoughtful and provocative story for young adults that is as much about the choices in life which we all must face as it is about scales, tails and survival below the surface. Through the eyes of the mermaid, Cora, readers will learn that life and the world in which we live is not always as simple as we would like to believe. There are two romances in MS Gardner’s story and before the final word on the final page, irrevocable choices will need to be made and each will result in a sundering. Readers – both young and old – will enjoy this story for the plot itself as well as the thought provoking questions which it presents.

Dianne Gardner is without a doubt one of those multi-talented people that those of us who fall into the realms of ‘ordinary’ and ‘really ordinary’ cannot help but envy. Aside from being an author, she is also an illustrator, oil painter and filmmaker. Pouraka is Dianne’s first real foray into the genre of mer-fiction and it is this reviewer’s considered opinion that she seriously contemplate one or more return visits. If she can maintain her fresh approach to the subject, MS Gardner will find a ready and enthusiastic audience.

My Rating:

Visit Dianne Lynn Gardner’s Website at gardnersart.com

Anime_Days Summer_Girl The_Visitors Once_Upon-A_Time_In_America
Bits Girls_Girl Changes More_Changes
Dress_Up Wheels Wunderkinde Its_A_Swiss

British author Madeline Bell’s series of twelve – so far – Gabby novels chronicles the misadventures of a young British cycling phenom from the cusp of turning thirteen to the end of his fifteenth summer. Along the way, Drew develops as a force to be reckoned with in the field of Junior cycling. Drew also develops in other ways to be discussed later. Drew is cursed with the misfortune of being cute, a description that sets his teeth on edge. The appellation is not used in the context of “I met this really cute boy named Drew Bond” but rather in the “Drew is such a cute girl and I’m jealous of her” frame of reference. In fact, Drew is regularly mistaken for a girl and the fact that he winds up in female costume from time to time does not help matters at all. At first, it was all a bit of a lark; attend a school dance with his – mostly female – mates dressed as characters from Japanese Anime but that has brought with it a whole set of problems, not the least being that one of his good mates, Clive, takes a fancy to the new girl in town.

Even when he was young, Drew’s sister used him as a dress-up doll and that tradition continues in his circle of friends who are mostly female. His appearances as ‘Gabby’ become more and more frequent and of longer duration. A six week student exchange trip to America and allowing his cousin to do part of his packing lands Drew in ‘Gabby’ mode for most of the trip. There are a (very) few discerning adults who twig that this cute teen-aged girl is really a boy but their numbers are reduced as the series progresses and even those who do know the score are still wont to think of him as a her. His family’s relocation to Germany offers a chance at a fresh start as Drew but unfortunately, that change fails to bring the expected relief. His new instructors tend to think of him as Fraulein Bond and his circle of friends there is almost exclusively female. Most – if not all – of his school mates think of Drew as a cute – if somewhat tomboyish – girl and when he is chosen by the great and the good of his town as their ‘Wine Queen’ for the coming year, all hopes of resurrecting ‘Drew’ seem to go out the window.

It appears that nature has conspired against him as well. Drew has had some increasingly worrisome medical concerns. At first, it was anemia that played havoc with his endurance. Then he began developing breasts. The doctors were concerned that puberty had yet to begin. Trouble was, it already had. It took a cat scan at a German clinic to reveal that Drew had ovaries and a uterus. But wasn’t Drew a boy? Well, yes and no. A karyotype of his chromosomes revealed that Drew had Klinefelter’s syndrome.

For those of you who slept through high school and/or college biology, a brief explanation follows. If science tends to make your eyes glaze over, you are welcome to skip the next 2 paragraphs.

Most humans have two chromosomes that determine whether they are male or female and are commonly known as the X and Y chromosomes. Females have two X chromosomes whilst Males have an X and a Y. People with Klinefelter’s have three sex chromosomes; XXY. This is the result of a ‘sticky’ X chromosome that follows its partner during Meiosis rather than staying with the other 22 chromosomes that will comprise the ovum or the sperm cell. When fertilization occurs, the resulting embryo will have three sex chromosomes; XXY. On the whole, most individuals will develop as males and live normal lives without knowing of their genetic condition. Some will develop the various traits associated with the syndrome and a small minority will develop as either intersex or female.

To complicate matters a bit, one of the two X chromosomes becomes inactive following fertilization. Nonetheless, this inactive chromosome does influence things. Females with only one sex chromosome have Turner’s syndrome and are subject to a whole raft of physiological problems. See The Physiological and Behavioral Manifestations of Abnormal Numbers of Sex Chromosomes in Humans. H. Parsons, 1973 – NC Wesleyan College.

Drew Bond is one of that minority who develops as an Intersex child with a strong female bias. He looked all the world like a male in his pre-teen years but as puberty entered the picture, secondary sex characteristics and gender identity complicate things. Though Drew may express indignation at his lot in life, staunchly proclaiming his male-ness, his body and brain have other ideas. As the series progresses, his appearance and behaviour becomes more typical of a teen-aged girl rather than a boy. As his cycling prowess increases, so does his obvious femininity. Even Drew recognises that he has no future as a male but that does not mean he has to like what fate has ordained and he rages against the coming of the pink. Resistance is futile.

Madeline Bell has created an addictive series of stories in her Gabby novels and it is quite entertaining to see the scrapes her hero(ine) gets him/herself into. While the series is aimed at young adults, older ones can and do easily get hooked and bewail the fact that Ms. Bell cannot turn out the next installment as fast as they would like her to. The author caters to an international audience with illustrations and footnotes that help explain linguistic, cultural and geographic differences. Ms. Bell also provides the reader with an intimate look into the world of bicycle racing. Who knew that there was so much strategy involved? At the end of the day, Drew’s stories helped make this year’s Tour de France much more interesting.

The series is not without its flaws, however as the earlier installments suffer from spelling and punctuation errors. While Madeline Bell has released a few revised editions of earlier installments, many of the errors remain. Things are remarkably better in the later installments but still, some problems persist. The stories are told in a combination of both first and third person and while it seems to work overall, there are instances where it is difficult to determine just whom is speaking.

Flaws aside, The Gabby Series is a fun and enthralling read for both young and old and well worth the time spent. If anything, they are difficult to put down, even for a few minutes. As a final note, Madeline Bell donates a portion of the proceeds from each book to a British charity which provides support for gender variant children and for that, the author deserves a special round of applause.

My Rating:

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by John Swan

The debut novel by a new author can be a disquieting time for all concerned. The author worries about what the reviewers will make of his months – if not years – of hard work. Another worry is how the book will be received by the readers themselves. Professional reviewers – or at least those who pretend they are – hope that they will be among the first to proclaim an emerging talent and worry that other reviewers will not agree with them. In Your Dreams by John Swan is an impressive story for an author’s first outing and does not disappoint. John’s early influences included J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, C.S. Lewis, and Robert Jordan and that influence – especially of J.R.R. Tolkien – shows in the prologue, A Lullaby of Ages. If the reader takes Mr. Swan’s Tolkien-esque world-building as an indication that The Aldaya Series will be merely yet another attempt to ride the coattails of Middle Earth, then they are making a grave mistake.

The scene is Aldaya, a large island on a water planet not too far – in astronomical terms – from our own. The civilisation there is not what it once was and after suffering a global catastrophe, a sort of dry rot has begun to set in. Sic transit gloria mundi. The squabbling of territories, which goes back over a thousand years, has intensified of late and alliances are on the brink of crumbling. War seems to be almost inevitable. In the centre of all this is High Lord Éolan, Steward of the City of Nausica, council member and spouse to the Premier-elect. Aside from all the disturbing things going on, Éolan’s dreams have been troubled of late. The subject has always been the same, year in and year out; a pale blonde waif-like girl. Those dreams have become much more frequent … and now, quite vivid.

It had taken place somewhere deep in the Endless Marshes to the east, and in an old canoe had lain the body of a girl. She was young, perhaps fifteen, and all the colors in the dream were muted shades of grays and blacks save her golden blond hair. She was ghostly pale, almost to the point of being translucent, and cold to the touch. Éolan had been having similar dreams of the girl off and on for many years, but lately they had become much more frequent.

The girl with the blond hair and purple eyes, of whom Éolan dreams, is named Mim and she has dreams of her own..

 A woman stood above her, her kind purple eyes shining with love, and radiant golden hair just as Mim had. She disappeared, and as Mim sat up the woman was now seated with her head turned away and staring into an ornate crystal hand mirror. Upon it were etched images of gods and goddesses dancing under the night sky and beneath ancient trees.

As she began to sing, the mirror began to glow, as did the woman’s eyes. The song was a tale of seven sisters that guarded the heavens, and the melody was so beautiful that Mim floated upwards and over to the woman’s lap. Her reflection showed a toddler, but Mim knew it was her and giggled. The woman began to laugh as well. She let go of the mirror, but instead of it dropping and shattering on the marble floor, it stayed suspended in the air.

Mim is fifteen years old, parentless and lives in a flyspeck of a town named Slaidburn in a blighted area of Endmoor, bordering the Endless Marshes. Slaidburn’s cash crop seems to be mildew and the benefits of civilization appear to be receding; the roads are in deplorable condition and lamplight has become more the rule than the exception. A foundling raised in foster care until the age of 12, Mim has been on her own for three years now, and lacking the necessary wealth for secondary education, works as a kitchen assistant at The Last Stand Tavern which provides her with enough money for clothes and a place to sleep. Like many people in Slaidburn, Mim is just barely getting by.

All of this is about to change for her because, on a chilly, misty night, three unwelcome visitors enter the tavern after closing. Two of them have no name but the third is a thin woman dressed in black who the reader learns is Morra Losis. Morra has an appetite for people … as dinner … and Mim is an intriguing morsel who might otherwise become the blue plate special except that the person – or thing – Morra serves would be quite interested in the girl and thus she decides to spare her but only just. There is nothing for it but to run; first to her rented shed and then to as far from Slaidburn as is humanly possible.

Her hope is to eventually make her way to the seat of learning in Aldaya, the Charis Vale. Interestingly, Lord Éolan is on his way there himself to attend an annual gala which will inaugurate the autumn term at that institution. The weather plays a key role in this story, no doubt because of John Swan’s Bachelor’s Degree in weather and climate. Because of a weather system that just won’t go away, Lord Éolan is forced to travel by coach along the southern highway, bordering the edge of the marshes, to reach the capital of Endmoor in order to catch a north-bound airship to reach his final destination. Their paths cross at the junction of the highway and the road leading to Slaidburn where Mim helps thwart an ambush by brigands. It is from this point forward that their journeys – and indeed, their fates – are intertwined.

The world of Aldaya is one most carefully crafted and John Swan’s prose allows the reader to sense the fetid miasma of the Endless Marshes, the dank atmosphere and crushing poverty of Slaidburn as well as the glories of the cities of Alastria and Iccobar. Those fortunate to read In Your Dreams will catch a glimpse of the terror that permeates both Mim’s encounter with Morra Losis and her perilous journey through the marshes. Through the power of Mr. Swan’s vision, readers will vicariously experience Mim’s sense of awe and wonder as her first journey on an airship lifts her above the mundane world and carries her far away from the blighted province she has known all her life. In fine, John Swan is a lexical mage, conjuring a pellucid world for all who choose to peruse this fantasy.

In a time before ours, when the universe was much younger, a great civilization lived upon the surface of an infant world not much different than our own. It was tucked away on our same distant arm of the galaxy, with its twin moons shining unblemished in the night sky, and its surface full of spirits both great and small.

These two opening sentences are so much more evocative than “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…. “

John Swan’s vision for In Your Dreams was to write a story that was both readable and understandable by those thirteen years-old and above. It is this reviewer’s considered opinion that the author has ably achieved his goal. He has created an exciting and enthralling story that should attract readers with a passion for the fantasy genre. Do not let the fact that this is a Young Adult novel dissuade the reader in the least. YA fiction is a not-so-guilty pleasure for many people and In Your Dreams provides all of the reading pleasure with none of the guilt. Mr. Swan envisions the Aldaya Series as a six book saga and promises that this is merely the beginning with many more works to come. If In Your Dreams is any indication, he has a distinguished literary career before him.

My Rating:

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Publicity Inquiries Attn: Natalie Spasic | email publicity@nataliespasic.com

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 by Katie O’Sullivan

Within the span of a few months, Shea MacNamara’s life has changed dramatically.

OpenQuote  To anyone watching him, he looked like a normal teenager, out walking his dog on the beach in the early morning. He wore a plain white t-shirt that clung snugly to his muscular frame, along with cut-off jeans and sandals. His long hair was the color of golden wheat and his tanned skin set off his bright green eyes. He looked like so many other local kids who spent a lot of time along the shorelines of Cape Cod. An ordinary boy. Except Shea no longer fit into that category.

He lost his father, moved from the Great Plains to Cape Cod, found his mother, found his grandfather, found a girlfriend and found out that he was Royalty. Oh yeah … one other thing … he found out he was a merman. A lot of changes for a fifteen year-old boy. However, finding things can be short-lived. Earlier that summer, Shea had a ringside seat to an attempted coup d’état which he and his girlfriend, Kae, helped to foil. His mother was being strong-armed into a dynastic marriage with a king young enough to be her son and Shea’s brother, but the coup has changed all that. Young King Theo was a casualty of the plot and Shea’s mother has departed to take over the sea throne of the Southern Ocean and his girlfriend is due to follow her once she goes to Atlantis to give testimony against the evil – you can ‘Boo’ if you want – Prince Demyan. Regent to the late King Theo, the not-so-bonny Prince was the power behind the coup and was last seen hot-footing it – or is it hot-finning it? – out of town.

On the morning of Kae’s departure, Shea is standing at the water’s edge, fulminating at the unfairness of life and perhaps secretly hoping for one final assignation with the love of his young life. She doesn’t show up. Her father, however, does. Kae is missing and what is more, she was last seen in the palace gardens the previous afternoon, holding hands with a young merman – a young merman whose name was not Shea. We will learn that Kae has been abducted and rather than joining the search for the missing mermaid, Shea is charged with the task of giving testimony before the high court of Atlantis in her stead. What is a young merman to do?

Katie O’ Sullivan has followed up on her 2013 success of Son of a Mermaid with the equally exciting Blood of a Mermaid. Katie writes in a fun and captivating style that should enthrall both young and older adults. Targeted at the younger end of the YA spectrum, her latest novel is suitable for middle schoolers and perhaps younger readers when enjoyed in the context of a library reading circle. This reviewer is pleased to find a novel in the YA sub-genre of Merfolk stories that is equally appealing to both boys and girls.

Shea has his own set of problems. Aside from discovering that he’s not human – at least in the conventional sense – and not your ordinary sort of merboy, he has been told to stay out of the water lest he becomes too easy a target for abduction or worse. And … there’s one other thing. It seems that his choice of Kae as a girlfriend isn’t going over well with some people – especially her father, Lybio. It would appear that sub-surface royalty marry much more often for alliances and connections than for actual love.

Lybio let out a long sigh, cursing under his breath. He turned his head to look at Shea. “It may not be your choice, my Prince. Royals are never free to marry whom they choose.” He let his words sink in for a few moments before adding, “In the end, you, my Prince, will always need to do what’s best for the clan.” Shea thought of his own mother, having to leave her husband and child behind. He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. He would never let that happen to him. Royal or not, he wouldn’t abandon the people he loved, not in a million years.

Like any good father, Lybio does not want to see his daughter drawn into a hopeless relationship, no matter how nice the boy may be. For his part, Shea isn’t too keen on this Prince business, either. It helps to explain his birthmark but has not brought much in the way of tangible benefits. While he may have a brilliant career as a merman awaiting him, living in Oklahoma did have at least some benefits. For one thing, no one called him ‘My Prince’ there. It goes without saying that Shea’s struggle to have a relationship with the one he chooses rather than the one who may be chosen for him will be a continuing theme through the rest of this series.

As Shea makes his way to Atlantis, he will have to rely on his wits to save both himself and those who are traveling with him. Katie O’Sullivan’s story of intestinal fortitude is a fine example of her values in writing for this particular target audience. Both Shea and Kae demonstrate examples of courage and determination in this series where – so far – the good guys are really good and the bad guys are truly wicked. Even the mage who plays such a pivotal role in Kae’s abduction demonstrates remorse and redemption by the story’s end. Ms. O’Sullivan has penned a truly good and exciting story for young readers; one that parents, et al. should not worry about those in their charge reading. For those of us who are – ahem – somewhat older, Blood of a Mermaid is a fun and exciting story from a time that recedes in the rear-view mirror with each passing day.

If you – and by that, this reviewer means readers who are young and/or young at heart – enjoy fantasy, adventure, young love and all those intangibles that make our lives what they are,  Blood of a Mermaid by Katie O’Sullivan is a fun and very worthwhile read. One need not be fascinated with those living beneath the waves who swap their fins for feet to enjoy this story but the reader may very well find the world of merfolk to be a rapture of the deep.

 
My Rating:

Katie’s website may be found at katie-osullivan.com

Katie’s blog may be found at katieosullivan.blogspot.com

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 by S.K. Munt

Over the course of the past year, I have had the distinct pleasure and privilege of reviewing S.K. Munt’s Fairy Tail Saga and have enjoyed each story from start to finish. Inasmuch as Stained Glass is the conclusion of the series, I have chosen to deviate from my usual approach to reviewing novels and instead, have looked at the story through an analysis of the four central characters in this story. S.K. Munt has an extraordinary gift for developing the characters that inhabit her stories and each of them deserve their moment in the reviewer’s spotlight. Taking this approach also reduces the number of spoilers and I do not wish to take anything away from the reader’s pleasure in perusing this “must read” conclusion to the series.

Submitted for your consideration; A four-time loser named Lincoln Grey who has squandered the sympathy of his peers by trying, in less than a year, to emulate the lifetime accomplishments of his greatest rival and has failed miserably. Feeling used and discarded – again – by the love of his life, Ivyanne Court, Lincoln uses and discards his friends and allies in a bid to prove that he is much more than a nobody. While “Oh yeah? I’ll show her” may be the rallying cry throughout history of every lover who has been pipped at the post by his competitor, Lincoln Grey’s campaign to somehow show the woman who spurned him that anything Tristan Loveridge can do, he can do better is a disaster and Link does not even realize it. Try as he may, he can’t capture Tristan’s aura … at least among merfolk.

Ivyanne has been out of the picture for eight months and a lot has changed in the interim. She has been around the world on her post-nuptial tour, uncovered the back-story regarding her family’s origins and become a mother – not to just an heir but to triplets. The women of the Court dynasty seem to have been hitherto cursed not to bear children until after their first century but Ivyanne has apparently broken that curse and she has returned to the Seaview to find that much has changed there as well.  Her knight – Sir Lincoln Grey, as it were – has used his reward to refurbish the resort and is continuing his masque as an alcohol-fueled bon viant and playboy. Despite all of his debauchery, Link seems to be thriving, his buff body even more attractive than before. Sadly, Lincoln Grey, the person, has become increasingly less attractive to the people who should really matter.

… and though he didn’t remember most of it well, he hadn’t forgotten how perfect that coupling had felt.

Lincoln’s amorous adventures have largely been a parade of bed-partners in a desperate search to replace or relive his time with Ivyanne. Somewhere in the alcohol induced haze, there was one perfect night with one perfect partner. That relationship has gone by the boards, as has his relationship with Grace. Though she had promised to wait until he was ready, the beast he has turned in to is much more than Grace can bear and she has fled to the Philippines. Pummeled by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Link writhes in emotional and psychological anguish like a fish impaled on a spear. The past eight months have been an attempt at self-medication which has – as it usually does – failed.

S.K. Munt has deftly turned the sympathetic character of Lincoln Grey into one that the reader wants to wash their hands of and she does it in a one hundred and eighty degree tour de force that leaves the reader wondering just what it was Grace or Ivyanne ever saw in him. There is more than one point in Stained Glass where the reader expects to hear a single gunshot and then Ivyanne and her mate swim off into the sunset as the credits start to roll, the only question being who pulled the trigger.

In direct antithesis to Link’s character is that of Tristan Loveridge. The author has taken the crowd-pleasing character and made him more likeable as a person whilst showing more depth to the royal consort. Tristan is truly and deeply in love with Ivyanne and will do anything to protect what is his even if it includes shooting Link, the poster boy for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder who doesn’t seem to understand the meaning of “No” and “Go Away”. The question is, would Tristan really liquidate Lincoln and if so, would Link thank him for it? Tristan’s attitude towards his former rival seems to be an odd mixture of compassion and scorn. It is Tristan who wants to break things to Lincoln gently and it is Tristan who really feels for the guy and yet Tristan looks down on Link for once again feeling sorry for himself. Given Lincoln’s string of losses throughout the Fairy Tail Saga, feeling sorry for himself seems to be the only viable alternative to using the .22 calibre pistol hidden in his safe. For over a decade, Lincoln Grey has been the man of constant sorrow and it could well be that Tristan’s attitude is due to his own life of privilege. Even the ‘perfect’ have their imperfections.

The author has painted an even more detailed portrait of Ivyanne in Stained Glass that reflects her sorrow for the pain and misfortunes that her family seems to have dumped on the Greys through the years. It is questionable, however, if she is really to blame for these misfortunes or is merely where the buck finally stops. She sincerely wants to make things right but can that ever be accomplished completely? In one sense, she already has made one thing right. Ivyanne was unwittingly responsible in a way for Lincoln losing ten years of his life to misery and sorrow and yet, because of his renewed association with her, Lincoln has gained centuries in return. S.K. Munt has made one aspect of Ivyanne abundantly clear; she really and truly does love Tristan Loveridge though the reader does sometimes wonder if his physical attributes have anything to do with it.

Finally, there is Grace Londeree, the somewhat spoiled child of privilege who latched onto Lincoln like a limpet in Heads or Tails. Although Grace was seen as an incorrigible flirt – as least where Lincoln was concerned – she also showed an amount of maturity which was often lacking the other characters. However, in this, the finale to Ms. Munt’s Fairy Tail Saga, it is Grace’s overall lack of maturity that is her undoing. Lincoln is searching for a clone of Ivyanne and he repeatedly cites Grace’s immaturity as an impediment. Even though Grace said that she’d wait, Lincoln’s womanising – or is it mermaidising? – was too much for her and she walks out on him. He hardly notices and the story finds her trying to ride out Typhoon Bopha with her music students. On the one hand, she dealt with Link by walking away but yet, there is still something about him that speaks to her soul. Does she hope for a rescue from Link and even if she were to accept one, what form would that rescue take? Stained Glass will see Grace Londeree grow up in the course of having responsibilities thrust upon her. While readers – and this reviewer – will miss the eighteen year-old with the hots for Lincoln Grey, the post-Bopha nineteen year-old is much more of the woman she needs to be – for herself and for her future.

Our cast of characters assembled, it is now time to consider the central thread of the plot in Stained Glass.  Ivyanne Court has discovered than an unseen hand has shaped events affecting the Court and Grey families for nearly a millennium. It is a hand bent upon destruction and its endgame is one of extinction. His name is Luca. After dumping Lincoln Grey in favour of Tristan Loveridge, Ivyanne Court has the unmitigated gall to walk back into his life and ask her knight to lead an expeditionary force to neutralize Luca. As one learns the extent of Luca’s power and the forces that he controls, the reader is left to wonder if she is asking him to go a suicide mission. The reader will also wonder just how dumb can Link be and why is he even considering this? Is Lincoln simply obsessed by Ivyanne or is there something else at work here? Even Ivyanne seems to be unaware of Link’s true mental state. Will he ever have the strength of will to tell Ivyanne to go away or is he simply a wounded animal – a rogue shark, if you will – that needs to be put down. All arguments may well be moot if the characters find that the enemy is already amongst them.

Over a five book series, S.K. Munt has treated readers to a very hot and very wild ride through the secret world of mermaids and mermen, fate, lust, and blood-lines. Up until Stained Glass, the main mystery has been which suitor would wind up with Ivyanne. In her thrilling conclusion to The Fairy Tail Saga, Ms. Munt presents the reader with the mystery of why all this is even happening and what will be the ultimate outcome. This reviewer has devoted much of this concluding review to the main players as the author has a natural flair for character development. Lincoln, Grace, Ivyanne and Tristan have made this series what it is and they each deserve a curtain call.

Besides characters, S.K. Munt has displayed a talent for provocative writing and in the series finale, the Queen of Steam has delivered once more. Those readers of tender sensibilities should avert their eyes from the following excerpt:

He’d been drunk, and she’d been comforting him. She’d started kissing away his tears and before he knew it, she’d whispered her plea that he take her. He loved remembering how her vulnerable, tight little body had trembled in his arms, and how her teeth had sank into his neck as he’d gently eased himself into her- and how her tears had rolled hot and wet down his shoulder blade for only a few minutes before her pleas had become wild and her trembling had become violent, ecstatic shaking.

None but the truly jaded can read passages like this and not want a cup of tea, a long walk or a cold shower. As in her previous books, the characters, the plot and the romance of Stained Glass all come together in an expertly woven tapestry of love, lust, loss, gain, suffering and ultimate triumph. Although Lincoln Grey may have found himself to be a punching bag throughout the saga, relatively minor characters such as Pintang Kayu-Api have suffered as well and Ms. Munt has given them the same detail as she has the major characters and the story itself. For her, there are no half-measures.

This includes her treatment of Lincoln Grey’s character. Although his fans may be somewhat dismayed by what happens to Link, having him hit rock bottom is a necessary requirement that will lead to his ultimate redemption. Just below the surface lies the unspoken truth that Lincoln and Grace are more alike than the casual observer might think.

In summation, Stained Glass is a thoroughly enjoyable story which the reader will want to peruse more than once. No one who takes the time to read and absorb the finale will come away feeling that it is anything less than a wicked good tale and time well spent. To say more would only be gilding the lily.

Throughout The Fairy Tail Saga, this reviewer has admonished potential readers to start at the beginning of the series and he once again offers the same advice. This is not one of the serial novels where a person may come in during the middle or the end and easily deduce what has come before. S.K. Munt’s Stained Glass is the capstone of a carefully developed series of stories, all the more enjoyable because of what has come before. To paraphrase Bette Davis, this reviewer urges readers to Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

This reviewer lacks any and all qualifications to teach and yet, he would dearly love to conduct a semester’s course covering Stained Glass and all the books that come before. It is not merely the mythology but also the characters and their interactions with each other as well as the plot itself. S.K. Munt has a true gift for storytelling and creates fascinating multi-level characters along the way. Her stand-alone novel, Unchained Melody is positive proof that her talents extend well beyond the realm of mermaids. Those who choose to dismiss her series as simply a hot fairy tale for adults, do so at their peril.

And now, before the curtain call is over and the applause fades away, it falls to this reviewer to cry “Author! Author!” Ms. Munt, it’s time for you to take your bow.

In the interest of full disclosure, Stained Glass includes a bit of fan fiction written by the reviewer as an exercise in preparation for his forthcoming novel, Urban Mermaid – the first installment in his series, Tails from Colony Island.

 
My Rating:

Follow S.K. Munt on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/skmunt?ref=br_tf or on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7159848.S_K_Munt/blog
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