fantasy


My next Robin Hood story is on Amazon!

When I started writing this story, I though that it would be a story for the Derelict themed anthology for Zombies Need Brains. But it wasn’t. Then I thought it would be a ghost story. Instead it became Robin Hood and the Fairy Knight.

I’ve been wanting to write a story from Marian’s point-of-view for a while now. When I was in the middle of the third chapter I realized that this was that story. So, I wrote the rest of it and wrote a new beginning from Marian’s POV. I hope you enjoy it!

Marian and her husband Robin Hood are trying to save a young girl from a horrible marriage. But a mysterious man kidnaps her righ in front of their eyes. Can Marian and Robin rescue her before she’s lost forever?

Fairies in Sherwood follows the adventures of Robin Hood, his wife Marian, his best friend Little John, Will Scarlet, and the other Merry Men. The series has also fairies who can be wicked or merely mischevious. But when mortals meet fairies, often the mortals lose.

Robin Hood and the Fairy Knight is a fun, lighthearted historical fantasy adventure novella. It has about 12,500 words.

The third book in the Daevabad trilogy.

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Publication year: 2020
Format: Audio
Running time: 28 hours 37 minutes
Narrator: Soneela Nankani
Publisher: Harper Voyager

This is a good ending to this Middle-Eastern fantasy series.

This third book has the three familiar POV characters as the first two. But the ending of the second book changed the status quo. This book starts only moments after the end of the second book.

Nahri and Ali are exiles, struggling to survive and to return to Daevabad. But they’re alone. What can just two people do against the powerful enemy who has taken over the city? Especially when the conqueror has Dara by their side? Meanwhile, Dara is having more and more doubts about the person he’s serving when he sees how the people of Daevabad are treated.

This is a huge book, almost 800 pages. It’s full of twists, surprising revelations, and our heroes learn surprising things about themselves and others.

However, because of the ending in the second book, Kingdom of Copper, many of the political machinations which were such an integral part of the first two books, are mostly abandoned. In fact, since Nahri and Ali aren’t in Daevabad anymore, the story takes us to new places and introduces new characters, most of whom I enjoyed.

On the negative side, I didn’t care about some family revelations which I don’t think were foreshadowed but came out of nowhere. There was also a big difference in tone between some chapters (the desperation in Daevabad and Dara’s personal hell compared to the Ali and Nahri chapters). I also think that Dara’s arch was pretty brutal and he never did find out some very crucial things. Also, he should have seen what his master was doing wrong quicker. Ali also didn’t really face consequences for his attitudes and actions.

Still, I enjoyed this ending for the most part.

A stand-alone spy novel set in an alternate 1938.

Publication year: 2018
Publication year in Finland: 2019
Publisher in Finland: Gummerus
Finnish translator: Tero Valkonen
Format: print
Page count: 320

Rachel White is one of the few women in British Empire’s Secret Intelligence Service. She and a male colleague are handling a man who has defected from Soviet Union to UK. But the ex-Soviet doesn’t tell anything and in the end, he kills himself just after he has whispered to Rachel the codename of a Soviet mole in UK afterlife, the Summerland. She’s sure he has told the truth, but her hidebound, chauvinistic superior won’t hear of it and demotes her to desk duty for allowing the defector to die without giving any useful information.

But Rachel is determined to dig out the mole. She just doesn’t know whom to trust. Her husband is a war veteran, but not a “normal” war but one where men ate each other’s’ souls and it has changed him permanently. He doesn’t work for the SIS and Rachel must keep secrets from him, which is slowly destroying their marriage. She has made a lot of sacrifices to get a career.

The other POV character is the mole, Peter Bloom, who is dead and now works for the Secret Service in the afterlife. Ironically, Peter hates lying and tries to keep to the truth as much as he can. Through the whole story, we see glimpses of his life, what made him, a middle-class young man to turn to his country’s enemies.

This is not a James Bond –type story. It’s more like a cat and mouse game with very high stakes. The plot isn’t a simple one.

The world has lots and lots of very interesting ideas. When live humans found a way to communicate with the dead souls, it changed the world. The souls who don’t have a Ticket simply fade away. So, most people only care about getting a Ticket, which allows them to flourish in the Summerland. Then, death isn’t the end and there’s no need to grieve. In fact, some people kill themselves after getting a Ticket.

I was a bit disappointed that people can’t get away from dreary work even in afterlife. It wasn’t explained what sort of jobs most do and why, but I think they’re paid with energy which keeps them from fading and able to visit living humans. And apparently, Queen Victoria is still the head of the Empire, even if she rules from the other side. There’s also some very interesting stuff on how religion can support this afterlife and who people are worried that the living will have to support an ever increasing crowd of dead.

The Soviets, on the other hand, have engineered a group mind, the Presence, which is trying to destroy Summerland.

This is marketed as science fiction, but personally I put it in fantasy. Even though some (if not most) of the ideas in the book are based on real, if old scientific ideas.

A collection of novellas and short stories set in these writers’ own worlds, except for Marr.

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Publication year: 2009
Page count: 358
Publisher: EOS

Originally, I bought this collection for Drake’s story because I love her Dark Days series. The only one I haven’t read before is Marr. All of these stories assume that the reader is familiar with the world and the characters.

Ley Line Drifter by Kim Harrison: The main character in this story is the pixie Jenks who is Rachel’s main sidekick in the Hollows series. A strange pixie enters his home but the pixie is there ask for help and not try to challenge him. After thinking it over, Jenks agrees to try to help him.

I love Jenks and this a great story about him. However, it’s further along the series than I’ve read and refers to things I don’t know about. Also, Harrison doesn’t open the world or the characters at all but assumes that the reader is familiar with the violent world of the pixies in the Hollows series. Also, the story is left unresolved.

Reckoning by Jeaniene Frost: the main character in this story is the vampire Bones. New Orleans’ vampire queen summons him. Her closest minion gives Bones the task of killing a pair of ghouls who eat their victims alive. Also, another vampire is hunting Bones.

Bones is a very powerful and charming vampire and uses his powers of seduction and intimidation to the max. He’s the main love interest in the Night Huntress series but carried this story alone well. Also, I think this story stood alone better.

Dark Matters by Vicki Pettersson: This is the story of the parents of Pettersson’s Signs of the Zodiac series. A superhero has an affair with a supervillain. They know from the start that their relationship is doomed because they can’t alter their behavior or destiny. But they’d drawn together anyway.

I really don’t care for the way that the characters are born to good or evil in Pettersson’s series, so the story didn’t work for me.

The Dead, the Damned, and the Forgotten by Jocelynn Drake: Fire Starter vampire Mira is the Keeper of her town of Savannah. Most supernatural people in her town know to keep their secrets from human eyes. When a vampire is killed and left for humans to find, Mira has a big problem in her hands, especially when another vampire comes to town, intending on dragging Mira to Venice for punishment if she can’t solve the murder quickly.

This was a great Mira story, set right before the series starts. It gives her and her second in command Knox relationship a little bit more depth. Fans of the series won’t be disappointed.

Two Lines by Melissa Marr: this is apparently her first adult supernatural thriller. Eavan was born to a family of monsters, the glaistig, who feat of sex and death. Eavan doesn’t want to be a monster like them, she wants to stay a human. So she has avoided both so far. But now she’s become obsessed with a very attractive drug dealer who is drugging young women senseless and selling them. Eavan wants to stop that but doesn’t want to kill him and is very attracted to him. The matriarch of her family, Nyx, wants to turn Eavan to a full glaistig and forces a very attractive bodyguard on her. The bodyguard, Cillian Owens works for Crypto Drug Administration and knows something about the supernatural world. However, he’s less than thrilled when Nyx bribes and threatens him to become Eavan’s bodyguard. But he takes his job very seriously. Eavan is also very attracted to Cillian and doesn’t want him to get to any danger because of her.

This was an entertaining story with a lot of sexual tension.

These were entertaining stories but I’m not sure how well the first four will open to readers who aren’t familiar with the series.

My next Robin Hood story is on Amazon!

xmas

Happy Christmas Robin Hood is a Christmas short story.

I lots of fun writing it because I used one my favorite tropes: enemies forced to work together, for a while at least.

The ruthless Sheriff of Nottingham has cancelled the Christmas feast for the poor. But Robin Hood has barely time to wonder what’s going on, when he’s knocked unconscious. He wakes up in a cart, tied up. Next to him is the Sheriff, also a prisoner. Can they overcome their loathing for each other long enough to escape?

“Happy Christmas Robin Hood” is a fun historical fantasy short story

The first book in the alternate reality/steampunk Burton and Swinburne series but can be read as a stand-alone.

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Publication year: 2010
Format: Audio
Running time: 14 hours
Narrator: Gerard Doyle

This story is set in1861 in Albertian England. Victoria was assassinated when she was young and King Albert is a recluse as a monarch. This book has a gorgeously realized alternate reality where Charles Darwin’s theories have greatly diminished the importance of religion and London’s streets are filled with various steampunk engines and also enhanced animals. Two very different factions influence British society: Techonologists and Eugenicists. The first ones, of course, create machines while the second faction create genetically enhanced animals which work in very specialized areas, such as parakeet who deliver messages. Then there are the Libertines who want everyone of be free of social conventions. The Rakes take the Libertines’ values even further to callous sexual and drug addled deviancy without any restrictions at all.

Sir Richard Francis Burton is a renowned scholar and explorer. He and his former partner John Speke explored Africa and Middle-East a lot. As a consequence, his reputation is bad. Still, when king Albert calls him to serve, he can’t say no. However, the missions will put him in jeopardy and as a result, he breaks up his engagement with Isabel Arundel. Her parents are very relieved but she takes it badly.

Burton is charged with finding man-wolfs who are apparently kidnapping poor children. And he meets with the Spring Heeled Jack who is pretty much a bogey man in this London. The Jack roughs him up and demands that Burton “do what he’s supposed to do”. When Burton tells about this strange encounter to the Prime minister, he orders Burton to find out more about the Jack.

Burton’s closest associate Algernon Swinburne is a young “failed poet” who drinks too much and longs for life-threatening adventure so that knows that he’s alive. He practically forces his help on Burton.

This was a strange book, as the title promised, with alternate history turned up to ten. I’m not so sure that Queen Victoria’s death alone would have caused all this and later we found out that it didn’t.

Many historical people appear in the story and a couple of them are dragged in the mud as the villains. I didn’t know about them so I won’t spoil the surprises from anyone else. Burton and Swinburne are both historical figures, themselves. Spring-heeled Jack is also a real historical mythical figure.

The last third of the book really goes deep into the Jack and I found it fascinating.

The writing style is quite, er, Victorian. Especially at the start we’re told pretty much everything about the characters and their backstory. Shameless info dumps abound. The steampunk technology is very comic book like. If you like the writing style, I think you’ll like the book.

I liked it enough that I might read the sequel at some point.

A short story set in the world of Robin of Sherwood TV-show!

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Publication year: 2019
Format: Audio
Running time: 49 minutes
Narrators: Barnaby Eaton-Jones, Andy Secombe, Michael Praed, and Nickolas Grace

I recently realized that a company called Spiteful Puppet has done several short Robin of Sherwood books! Three of them are available on Audible and I snatched up the one which has both Michael Praed and Nickolas Grace (Robin and the Sheriff!) among the readers.

It’s very short, so it’s not very complicated. The sheriff and a couple of his knights have accidentally met Robin at edge of the forest and are chasing him. They come across an abandoned church. Robin is wounded and falls through ice to the icy river.

He wakes up inside the church with a priest who seems more than a little odd. The priest rants that Robin is tainted by violence but offers him sanctuary at the church. But the sanctuary extends to everyone.

This was great, short adventure very much in the spirit of the show. I don’t know what people who haven’t seen the show would think, but as an old fan I was very pleased. It was great to hear the familiar voices and the audiobook even has the main theme!

The only thing I could complain about is that it’s too short, and I would have loved for the Sheriff and Robin confrontation to be longer. But otherwise, it’s very entertaining.

The third book in the Casino Witch humorous fantasy cozy mysteries.


Publication year: 2018
Format: ebook
Page count at Goodreads: 189

About a year ago, Ella’s dad was murdered and she found out that she’s a mage. Her father’s death is still a mystery but she doesn’t have any clues about who did it. She doesn’t have any memories of her mom. She also doesn’t know why her dad kept her a secret from everyone in the magical community or why he didn’t tell her that she’s a mage. Her dad’s old friends Badger and Bear agreed to train her. About six months ago, Ella declared herself a Monza, a follower of “old way” who must stay celibate. She did it to get out of the clutches of mage law. She had, and still has, feelings for handsome, if aloof and unfriendly, security consultant Vin.

For six months, Ella has been training or rather burying all her feelings in training. She’s also pushed her best friend Vanessa to train with her. But now Vanessa is putting her foot down. Her mother who is Ella’s teacher, is away for a week. Ella has pushed them to go through all the exercises in just couple of days and Vanessa wants to stop doing them.

Their friend Natasha comes to Ella’s loft. Natasha has her own comedy show in on the casinos. Two of the women working in her show have left and she needs help. Vanessa jumps at the chance but Ella hesitates. She wants to keep practicing.

After Vanessa and Natasha leave, Ella’s tutor Bear stops by. Apparently, the girls from Natasha’s show haven’t left: they’re dead from drug overdose. Bear wants Ella to investigate. Ella agrees and a job at the comedy show is a great way to go undercover. However, she decides to keep the investigation secret even from Vanessa.

This is a more serious entry in the series. While we still get wild antics from Patagonia, Ella’s huge black familiar cat, there aren’t many other jokes or humor, especially compared to the previous book which was set in a hilarious cheese convention. Ella investigates the overdose with a drug which seems to affect only mages. Also, a handsome new love interest appears. The mystery around Ella’s dad and childhood deepens, though.

While I didn’t enjoy the plot as much as in the previous book, I did enjoy the characters and quite a lot of other things, like the descriptions of Ella performing on the comedy show. She thought it would be just a small thing but it’s really not and panicked at first. Vin doesn’t appear much which is good because I can barely stand him. Natasha is a great character and I’d like to see more of her.

The first book in the urban fantasy series Santa Olivia. Can be read as a stand-alone.

Publication year: 2009
Format: Audio
Running time: 12 hours 51 minutes
Narrators: Susan Ericksen

I freely admit that I had pretty high expectations from this book. Based on reviews I expected it to be an unconventional superhero book. The ideas were good but unfortunately, it didn’t really work for me.

The main character, and the third person narrator, is Loup Garron who was born and raised in the small town of Santa Olivia. It’s set in a future (or alternate reality from ours) where there is a demilitarized zone between Mexico and Texas. Santa Olivia is in that zone and it’s inhabitants are prisoners in their own town: they can’t leave and their access to the outside world is limited. The US military controls the town. Apparently, the rest of the world don’t even know that town exist and the town’s name was even changed to Outpost number 12. The only entertainment they really have are boxing matches. Sometimes the town’s champion can box against the military champion and if the town’s man wins, he wins a ticket out of the town. Nobody has ever won. Oh, and US doesn’t have female soldiers anymore.

The story starts before Loup is born, with her mother Carmen as the POV character. She has flings with some guys, essentially living off them because her waitress job doesn’t really pay enough. She falls in love for the first time and the man dies, leaving her with a little boy, Tommy. Six years later she meets and falls in love with a deserter, Martin, who turns out to be a genetic experiment. He has really dense muscles and he doesn’t know fear. For a few months Carmen hides Martin and they have mind-blowing sex. Martin is supposed to be infertile but isn’t. In the end, a jealous local turns Martin in and he must flee. Carmen stays in town with Tommy.

Before Martin left, he told Carmen and Tommy that they must keep Loup safe. She can’t do it herself because she won’t know fear. She will also be faster than humans and stronger. Throughout her childhood, Loup must always be on guard to hide her abilities.

Carmen raises the two kids but she dies when Loup is fourteen. Tommy is old enough to get a job and also practices boxing so that he could take Loup out of Santa Olivia. Loup goes to the local orphanage where she has a hard time keeping her secret.

This is essentially a coming-of-age story and focuses on the people around Loup, on overcoming hardship more than actual fights. It only has a few fight scenes. A couple of times Loup and her friends act like vigilantes against men who have wronged the townspeople. But mostly it deals with her growing up: getting friends, dealing with her mom’s death, her awakening sexuality. Through it all, Loup must keep her secret or the military will drag her away. It has romance, especially near the end but the romance isn’t the focus of the story.

To me, Loup felt a very composed character. She rarely has strong emotions. Her main motivation is to keep the people around her safe and herself out of trouble. Of course she makes mistakes, she’s a teenager. She knows that she’s different from everyone else and dreams of escaping the town and finding her father.

The book has an interesting cast of characters. Loup’s big brother Tommy is very protective of her but he’s also single-mindedly focused on winning the boxing championship. I quite liked him but didn’t like what happened to him, but I guess it was inevitable. Another strong secondary character is the boxing teacher who is an older man and apparently knows the military commander quite well.

A larger cast develops when Loup goes to the orphanage. I found them to be an interesting mix and enjoyed them a lot.

The first book in the Cleopatra’s Daughter historical fantasy series. It can be read as a stand-alone.

Publication year: 2011
Format: ebook
Page count: 351 at GoodReads
Publisher: Berkeley Books

This story follows the early years of Cleopatra Selene in Roman captivity. She’s the daughter of Mark Antony and Cleopatra, the Queen of Egypt. It’s written from Selene’s first-person POV.

The story starts just before Cleopatra’s death. Selene, her twin brother Alexander Helios, and their younger brother Ptolemy Philadelphos are coming to see their mother. The twins are ten and Philadelphos is eight years old. Selene is carrying a woven basket and she can feel something moving inside. They meet their mother who is preparing to die. She gives them last advice and also gives them each a memento and a power. Then she sends them back to the palace and reaches for the viper.

When the Romans invade Alexandria, Queen Cleopatra is dead. The three children are confined to the palace. Eventually, they’re brought to Rome for Emperor Octavian’s triumph. They’re paraded in chains in front of the city populace which is a terrifying and humiliating. Selene must beg for their lives which her proud twin refuses to do so. The Emperor gives them to his sister to raise.

His sister Octavia is Mark Antony’s former wife. Her household has Anthony’s other children so Selene meets for the first time her half-siblings. They’re resent her and her brothers.

Selene and her brothers are raised in the strict Roman way and they can’t worship their goddess, Isis. Perhaps even worse, they’re pawns in the Emperor’s political games. Selene must grow up quickly and learn to play politics herself, to survive.

This is a coming-of-age story but quite a unique one. The Romans try to raise Selene and her brothers as Romans because they view Egyptian ways as decadent and immoral. Octavian is especially scornful of women and lectures that women must be modest and work hard. He hates Selene’s mother. He also hates Isis’ worshipers and to them Selene and Helios are prophesied saviors.

I was fascinated by this portrayal of Isis worship. Her worshipers have a personal connection to her, which is very unusual for the time. Her worshipers also come form all walks of life, from slaves to high-born. Roman didn’t approve of this kind of religion and oppressed the worshipers. Isis worship was portrayed as a clear forerunner to Christianity.

Since the book is from Selene’s POV, the Romans and the Roman culture is seen as evil. Octavian is a moody, sickly, power hungry manipulator and his wife Livia is very strict and cold and indulges her husband’s every whim. Octavia is also very strict but does have a soften side which isn’t seen often. Cleopatra’s and Antony’s faults and not really mentioned.

Selene was raised as a Princess; she knows many languages and can dance and play kithara. The Romans view dancing as sinful and they put the children to work doing chores. During the book, Selene also wrestles with her faith: how can Isis be real and allow her parents to die and Egypt to suffer? She also wrestles with how she feels about her mother.

The book has several magical elements, most of them focusing on Selene and Isis. A couple of times hieroglyphics suddenly appear on her arms, carved in her own flesh, her blood dripping from the wounds. There’s also some prophesies and one character can see different Rivers in Time.

I enjoyed this book but more for the glimpse of Ancient Rome and the culture clash than the characters.

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