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Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Plague of Shadows by Travis Simmons Infected Me With a Desire for More!

I've been away from the blog for quite a while, and I expect that it'll be a while before everything is running smoothly again. Expect reviews to return, but to return a bit more slowly - no set schedule. This will help facilitate a healthy rebound for Undiscovered Tomes. I'd explain, but in all honesty I think I've given you the information you most care to hear:

The books are back!!!!

And besides... fantasy and sci fi readers are capable of coming up with far more entertaining reasons for my absence than the truth could ever offer. Abuction by an alien species tasked with saving the human race through manipulating the genes of an average human, stepping through a portal into the secret realm of the cookie fairies (Seriously... who'd ever leave that?!), temporary transmogrification... the possibilities are endless!

Regardless, I have an overwhelmingly huge list to get through, and today I have one that is well worth the long wait you've gone through. What kind of book, you ask?

A Plague sweeps through the land
Corrupting everything in its reach.
No one is safe.

See? I told you it was worth the wait!

A Plague of Shadows, the first installment of the Harbingers of Light series, is a fantasy written by Travis Simmons.

So what's it about?

Darklings have invaded the world of O. These creatures, born of pure darkness, can infect a person's soul merely by touching them. Shadow consumes the person, slowly transforming the victim into a tool of evil. Once a darkling touches you, only death by fire will save your soul. 
Abagail has grown up knowing that the only things standing between O and complete defeat at the hands of these darklings are the great fires lit to keep the creatures at bay, as well as the Light Guard, a group tasked with protecting the people. 
But one day a single mishap changes everything, making Abagail wonder if perhaps everything isn't as black and white as she believes.   

Perhaps what I like most about this novel is that it examines the mindset of a society whose belief system encourages the burning of witches.

That sounds pretty creepy, doesn't it? Let me explain...

We all know about the Salem Witch Trials. Many of us scoff at them. I mean, how could people have been as dumb as to believe women were dancing naked with a horned guy with cloven hooves? At night in a relatively cold area of the country. In an environment prone to mosquitoes. With thorns and rocks on the ground. I mean, imagine the agony of the mosquito bites alone... Each and every part of this hysteria feels ridiculous.

But A Plague of Shadows examines how this mindset takes hold. 

It focusses on an average woman placed into an unusual situation that forces her to reexamine beliefs she has long held to be true. In the world of O it's thought that once a person has been marked by a darkling, they're doomed. There's no way of fighting the impending evil that will seep into their soul.

Those who are believed to have been marked by a darkling are condemned to burn. It's necessary in order to save their souls. To keep them from becoming someone, something that they otherwise would never have been. A soulless husk, destroying everyone it touches with its diabolic sorcery.

Though protected, one day Abagail becomes marked.

Sure enough, she discovers new power surging within her. She recognizes that she's becoming a darkling.

But that's not all.

She also learns that she's not even from the world of O, and that most worlds within the branches of the World Tree are nothing like O. Much of what she's learned isn't entirely true. She's now in a race against time to save her very soul, traveling to places she never even knew existed.

Her black and white views of the truth have become gray.

I enjoyed seeing how somebody who has definite, concrete beliefs about good and evil can begin to recognize that her prior ideas may have been too narrow once they become personal. The internal struggle was fascinating.

While I felt this novel could have been a bit longer, my eyes were locked onto it from the beginning to the end. There was no wasted narration. Simmons got straight to the point, and wasted no time trying to impress the reader with flowery prose.

He didn't need to.

His words were well chosen, and he was able to paint a picture with minimal text, giving the reader the freedom to truly drift into his story. I like that.

A lot.

There were times that I felt statements made by Abagail, in particular, were a bit jarring, however. It wasn't because she wouldn't have said certain statements, but rather because I felt that she would have used different words to say them. This is a small flaw, however, and something that is easily overlooked. Indeed, if the narrative wasn't so spectacular, I probably wouldn't have noticed.

It should also be noted that one more round of organic proofreading would be a good idea. I say organic, because the errors I noticed wouldn't be caught by spellcheck. There aren't many of them, but the story is so enthralling that they're easily spotted.

But again, each flaw was spotted only because the overall story was so consuming.

A Plague of Shadows is well worth reading. It's easy to get through, since the story flows so well, and you'll be determined to find out what the author has in store for Abagail and her companions as they journey away from the world of O.

I'm looking forward to finding out what happens in the next installment, as well. The ending of this one did a great job of making me demand more!

A Plague of Shadows can be found on Kindle.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Amy Flint's Shadows in the Mist is Powerfully Fun

Antagonistic colleagues,

Restless spirits, 


Angry, telekinetic mothers that teleproject?!

No worries. Porter Biggleswade is on the job and ready for anything.

Shadows in the Mist is the first book within the Porter Biggleswade series, paranormal fiction by Amy Flint.

So what's it about?

Porter Biggleswade has just accepted a position with the Paranormal Investigation Unit, or PIU, within All Saints University in York. A famous paranormal researcher, she's known for looking at each case with a careful eye, and being able to tell true hauntings from fictitious ones. 
Of course, a large part of that is due to the fact that she can actually see ghostly apparitions, plain as day. Called the Shadow Reader, Biggleswade is who you call when you've lost all hope of a more logical, reasonable explanation for strange occurrences. 
And with a jealous and ghostly author, a mean and unreasonable old woman, and some glow in the dark sheep on her hands, she has her work cut out for her.

The first word that comes to mind when I think about this ebook is fun. 

While Porter Biggleswade herself has a rather dry personality, she's surrounded by a wealth of interesting people that end up getting her into all kinds of crazy situations. A bit of a loner, and quite content to be one, very often she's dragged into social situations that end up becoming quite colorful.

Of course, that's the sort of thing that happens when you have a flatmate that sells magical crystals, a drunken mother, and a hostile colleague with a mind to make you as miserable as possible.

Biggleswade also has a fine assortment of cases to keep her busy. When she's not trying to figure out what's making Charlotte Bronte's bedroom into a disaster zone (Yes, that Charlotte Bronte), or why employees at a new development are being harrassed by visions of people within a quarry that had been filled in long before any of them were born, she's trying to discover why a living woman appears to be haunting her daughter.

And don't even get me started on the glow-in-the-dark sheep she has to investigate...

Yep. She's one busy person. Thankfully, she has a workaholic student intern to help her out. The dynamic between Porter Biggleswade and her intern, Clarice, is quite interesting. Often, Clarice appears to be the grounding force within Biggleswade's life, ensuring the investigator stays on task, while helping out with the overwhelming workload.

Flint created some amazing and entertaining characters, but more than that, they all had substance to them. I never once doubted that they were 'real.' Dialogue flowed smoothly, and felt very much like real conversation. Enough so that I think it's very possible she spoke each line before typing. 

Just to make sure it felt true.

Seriously. I didn't have to reread a single piece of dialogue so that I could feel where the inflection was supposed to be. I just knew. Nor did I ever think, "This person wouldn't say this." I didn't have to.

Each personality was unique, and nothing was misphrased.

Formatting, on the other hand, needed some work. I often discovered lines that didn't wrap appropriately. What I mean by that, is that instead of finding, say, the word 'there' on a single line, I'd find it chopped up with the 't' on one line, and 'here' on the next. Very distracting.


In the author's defense, it may have just been a flaw in the copy I was reading - it was a free review copy, so there's a high chance that this error was fixed in the published version. If you read the amazon sample, you'll be able to see if that's the case.

I also felt that the story ended too abruptly, with a few too many loose ends. There is a sequel, of course, so I'm sure those loose ends will be tied up, but I would have appreciated it if things were tidied up a bit more than they were.

Or perhaps that's just my need for an end-of-story cooldown talking. It's possible.

Even with that, however, this book was well worth reading. I was never bored, and I felt as though I was listening in on true conversations as they happened. Flint's command of dialogue is superb.

Shadows in the Mist can be found on Kindle, and Nook.