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Archive for the ‘Adventure Fantasy’ Category

Description From Goodreads:
The Kingdom of Sieunes is rife with taverns, dirty streets, and clay pipe smoking citizens all toiling to feed their families and keep themselves in something little better than rags. With a foiled revolution just ten years prior still burning in the hearts of many, the royals enlist the aid of assassins to keep things in order. The townsfolk entertain themselves by dreaming of better times to come and regaling in stories of the undead said to walk the graveyards at night… and of Cameo the killer with corpse-like eyes…

Scarred and jaded Cameo is one of the most effective assassins in the employ of the Association, moving from one mission to the next as long as the alcohol keeps flowing. Her acceptance of the murder-for-hire lifestyle is thrown into doubt when she meets a local highwayman with a penchant for fine clothes and women, and then she begins to think about breaking with the company but no one ever breaks with the Association under good terms.

CAMEO THE ASSASSIN, by Dawn McCullough-White
Available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Review: *** 3 Stars
The characters drew me into CAMEO THE ASSASSIN, and though I hated the ending, the novel was an entertaining read, and a nice break from physical perfection and honorable heroes.

Characters: **** 4 Stars
It was nice for once to have characters who aren’t physically perfect, or even very desirable. The author did a great job making me feel connected to these imperfect people and able to relate to their foibles.

Cameo is a coldly compassionate assassin, with dead gray eyes to match. She has a fairy tale monster reputation for living in graveyards and killing children who don’t go to bed, but she doesn’t kill indiscriminately…well, unless she’s paid to do so.  When she’s assigned to kill Black Opal, a notorious highwayman, she finds she can’t go through with it, and ends up alienating herself from the Association she works for in order to keep him alive. She’s an interesting mix of self-loathing, empathy, loneliness, warrior, and friend.

Black Opal, the apparent love interest, is a bit of an enigma. A dandy with a passion for fine coats and makeup, he is described both as pock-marked and handsome, and he has only one eye. While he is a womanizer, constantly picking up on ladies and whores alike, he has a soft spot for Cameo and becomes incredibly jealous any time she takes any interest, platonic or not, in another man.

Secondary characters include Bel (Opal’s partner in crime), Kyrian (a young acolyte who’s more than what he appears), and Wick (the leader of the Association and a witch capable of convincing everyone but Cameo that she’s a beautiful young temptress rather than an ugly old woman who smokes too much). Overall, a very well-rounded cast.

Plot: ** 2 Stars
The plot wasn’t terrible, but the ending killed it, no pun intended. There was a reasonably strong story arc with a good balance of action sequences and character development. However, it sometimes felt like the author was trying to build suspense by not telling the reader something that the character knows. For example, Cameo is given a task by her Master, but we’re not told what that task is until she’s practically done achieving it. Even given that, I probably wouldn’t have given the plot two stars, except that there was no ending. The book ends seconds after the climax, literally ending with an ellipsis and the word “End”. There are several plot points left open and no emotional release. I know the story continues in a trilogy, but each book should still be a complete novel.

Setting: ** 2 Stars
The story is set primarily on the road out of Lockenwood, in a quasi-eighteenth century world, but the characters just go back and forth, back and forth, back and forth…you get the idea. The description is limited, even when they visit taverns or inns along the way. I really wanted more sensory detail throughout the novel.

Romance: ** 2 Stars
Cameo and Black Opal are an odd pair. Arguably, neither is the ideal of beauty, and yet they are attracted to each other from the beginning. That being said, Opal is more concerned about his makeup and being desirable to everyone than he is about wooing Cameo (not that she would be easily wooed, but that’s beside the point). Meanwhile, Cameo is stuck in a loop of self-pity and can’t see that Opal likes her, despite his obvious jealousy when she’s around other men. Though they help each other through some rather horrific and violent events, they don’t actually come together in a romantic way until the last couple of pages.

Genre – Dark Adventure Fantasy: **** 4 Stars
CAMEO THE ASSASSIN is a pretty good representation of a Dark Fantasy novel, despite its flaws. There’s blood and violence, undead creatures, and two different graveyards. While I abhorred the ending of this first book, I imagine that the entire trilogy is probably a pretty decent story, and I may even give the second book, CAMEO AND THE HIGHWAYMAN, a chance.

Note: This review was requested by the author. The only compensation received was a free copy of the book.

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Description From Goodreads:
When shy and retiring Llandry Sanfaer discovers a mesmerising new gemstone, she suddenly becomes the most famous jeweller across the Seven Realms. Demand for the coveted stone escalates fast; when people begin dying for it, Llandry finds that she herself has become a target.

Lady Evastany Glostrum has her life in pristine order. Prestigious, powerful and wealthy, she is on the verge of crowning her successes with the perfect marriage. But when her closest friend is murdered for the jewellery she wears, Eva is drawn into the mystery surrounding the curious “istore” gem.

The emergence of the stone is causing chaos across the Seven. Gates between the worlds are opening at will, pulling hordes of creatures through from the shadowy Lower Realm and the glittering Uppers. As Eva works to discover the culprit behind the spreading disorder, Llandry must learn the truth about her precious istore stone — before she herself becomes a victim.

DRAYKON, by Charlotte E. English
Available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Review: *** 3 Stars
At first, DRAYKON seemed a bit juvenile, with winged fairies living in trees and an insecure young protagonist, but after a few chapters, the book really grew on me. The world-building was unique, with three different planes of existence and multiple realms within the “middle” plane that aligned themselves with one or the other of the “upper” and “lower” planes. As the characters traveled through the world and the plot unfolded, the complexity and true depth of the story was revealed. However, while I enjoyed the story, and it was fun to read, nothing hooked me to the point of never letting go. It was like taking a stroll through a lovely park, rather than riding a fast and furious rollercoaster; enjoyable, but not thrilling.

Characters: *** 3 Stars
Llandry is an immature twenty-something, afraid of crowds and insecure in her own skin. A young jeweler, fame overwhelms her when she discovers a rare gemstone and uses it in her designs. As the story progresses, Llandry starts to take some risks and attempts to assert herself, to mixed results, but I enjoyed seeing her grow and develop.

Eva is almost an opposite to Llandry. She’s older, wiser, and confident in her abilities. She is also friends with Llandry’s mother and as their worlds collide, she provides a good foil for the younger woman.

Devary comes in to the story as a mystery, and stays that way. I’m not sure if he is a love interest, a babysitter, or just a friend of Llandry’s mother, but he does help bring Llandry out of hiding and into the world, literally and figuratively. I imagine more will come to light about him in later books, and I definitely wanted to know more about him and his role in Llandry’s world.

Plot: **** 4 Stars
DRAYKON moved along at a nice easy “goldilocks” pace; neither too fast nor too slow. The author does a great job of twisting together different plot lines until they finally meet toward the end of the novel, revealing a big “AHA!” moment.

My one complaint was the choice of the name of the jewel: an istore gem made me think of an Apple product, as in an ipod or an iphone, and I couldn’t get that out of my head for the whole story.

Setting: **** 4 Stars
DRAYKON seemed like a wonderful world, very well-drawn and easy to imagine, though fantastical. I loved the concept of the realms being aligned with the “upper” and “lower” planes, the upper being light, bright, and airy, and the lower being dark, shadowed, and chaotic.

Eva’s realm, Glour, is aligned with the lower realm, and exists in the dark. As a result, all of the people of Glour are extremely sensitive to the light and the environment has evolved to thrive in nighttime conditions.

Meanwhile, the Glinnish people are winged and live in perpetual daytime. The author did a great job incorporating the flying into the story, where danger can come from above and Llandry’s escapes had to be faster or higher than her pursuers.

Romance: * 1 Star
Llandry and Devary seemed to have a bit of a “thing” going on, but they never did anything about it. There was a nice scene at the end, when Llandry saves Devary’s life, but at that point it was too late to have a great romance. Perhaps in later books their relationship will deepen, but for this first book I wanted more from them both.

Genre – Adventure Fantasy: *** 3 Stars
DRAYKON is a fun, easy story to read, but lacks the extreme highs and lows of a great adventure. It’s a book that would be a great beach read, when you want to have something undemanding that you can put aside for a little while but quickly remember when you return.

Note: This review was requested by the author. The only compensation received was a free copy of the book.

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