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The Self-Published Fantast Blog-Off Post 2: Bloodrush & The Thief Who…

The Self-Published Fantast Blog-Off Post 2: Bloodrush & The Thief Who… published on

About the Contest

The Self-published Fantasy Blog-off (SPFBO) is sponsored by Mark Lawrence and carried out by 10 hard-working blogs. You’ve probably heard of Mark Lawrence. He’s written a few books.

The contests itself is explained HERE.

And the final results of the contest are given HERE.

Galleywampus is not directly involved in this contest. However, I will read and review the ten finalists. And maybe, if we’re lucky, we’ll be invited to officially take part in the contest next year. I know I want a tower of independently published novels myself.

I’ve decided to write two reviews per post.

The first post can be found HERE, and featured Priest by Matthew Colville and Under a Colder Sun by Greg James.

This second post will feature Bloodrush by Ben Galley and The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids by Michael McClung.

The books at the SPFBO are also being rated by the blogs, so I determined to add my own ratings to the mix. I gather that these ratings are on a 1-10 scale. I am comparing these books to my own general preferences, and these preferences tend toward the center. I don’t often assign a 9 or a 10, unless the book truly blows me away. I also don’t assign 1-3 ratings often, unless the book is really, truly something that I can’t find a good thing to say about it. Most of the books I review fall into that 4-8 range.

Reviews

 

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Bloodrush by Ben Galley is sort of like those old books about an old world teen coming to the American frontier. I’ve always wondered if I view these books differently because I am on the frontier end rather than the point of origin. But this isn’t quite By the Great Horn Spoon or “An American Tail: Fievel Goes West.” The whole “feel” if this book is nostalgic.

This is a world similar to our own, but the tweaks are intriguing. America is a kingdom, at least in alternative 1867. Faeries are real and they’re not Tinkerbellesque. Spirits of the land, compiling bodies from railroad ties and rails and broken wood, destroy Railroads in America and eat people.

The magic (sorry, magick!) has been deeply considered, and I enjoyed that aspect. Bloodrushing is interesting, and it reminded me favorably of the magic system developed by Brandon Sanderson for Mistborn. Both involve ingesting a substance to obtain specific powers, and both are limited by what the person is capable of turning into a usable result.

Merion isn’t perfect. He’s a kid, thirteen, who has lost a great deal, and then shipped to another country to live with an aunt he didn’t know existed. I understand his perspective. Going from posh England to Middle-of-Nowhere Wyoming is tough to handle. He does whine a fair amount. But I’ve read a lot of YA and children’s fiction, and I don’t think it is more than I see in many of those works.

His aunt, Lilain, is fairly likable, in an eager frontier-woman sort of way. Rhin and Lurker are also somewhat stock, but I feel they overcome their humble origins and add something interesting to the tale. We see a few surprises through Rhin, and surprises always make me happy.

This is a coming of age story. We see a boy become a man here, and the sequel will likely follow the young man into adulthood.

I’m left with a wary feeling for this book in one area, and this is in regard to the native inhabitants to the Americas–the ones settlers forced into smaller and smaller areas while their land was taken away. You know, the Shohari. No, not the indigenous Americans, or “Indians” as some call them, or as they were often called in the 1800s. As far as I can tell, the Native American humans don’t exist here. Rather, there are humanoid inhuman, somewhat more animal than person, beings who take the place of the “majestic savage” here. Considering the amount of dehumanizing that happened to the Native Americans in the real world, it makes me awfully uncomfortable to see them erased and re-imagined for the sake of magical beings. I don’t think this was the intention of the author, but it kept popping into the back of my mind as I read the book.

Overall, I liked it. I liked it a lot. I enjoyed it enough that I picked up Bloodmoon already and will have a full review of that book up, er. Eventually.

Rating: 8.0

 

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The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids by  Michael McClung.

This was an enjoyable tale. It felt sort of like a western, though it is obviously a fantasy work. The primary character, Amra Thetys, is a no-nonsense, frontier-woman feeling character who happens to be a hell of a thief. She tends to stay out of trouble, but she has a hard time keeping this philosophy when a good friend is murdered. She digs into the motivations and events that led to his death, and from there things get really weird. And dangerous. And fun–for the reader, anyway.

This was easily one of my favorite works from the blog-off. There is enough history and weird powers and secrets to keep things grounded, with enough action and humor to keep the book moving along at a brisk pace. It’s short, but I think it was the right length for the book. And knowing there are more books in the series, I’ve already downloaded the second book from Amazon. I’m looking forward to delving deeper into The Thief Who… stories.

Rating: 8.0

Review: The Spider in the Laurel by Michael Pogach

Review: The Spider in the Laurel by Michael Pogach published on

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About the Book

From Goodreads:

The Spider in the Laurel combines elements of Indiana Jones adventures and Jason Bourne thrillers with a V for Vendetta dystopia, and an American Gods fantasy.

The Spider in the Laurel is the story of history teacher, Rafael Ward, in a world that has outlawed the basis of most of our history: religion. When Ward is forced to take a job destroying the relics he cherishes, it will take the uncompromising faith of an outlaw as an ally, and the acceptance of his guilt for his mother’s death, to help him break free of the government’s yoke. If he’s lucky, he might just prevent the coming apocalypse, for which this secular future is completely unprepared.

The Spider in the Laurel straddles the line between simple adventure fun, and the kind of novel which can force a reader to question his or her own beliefs.

The Spider in the Laurel was released by Ragnarok Publications on 9/19/2015.

It can be purchased at Amazon HERE.

Review

Reading the synopsis gives a fairly honest perspective of what this book is about. My own “it’s like” description for this book is “It’s like The Da Vinci Code set in the world of 1984.” It isn’t that precisely, though. It definitely has shades of “Indiana Jones” (even to the point that a character says, un-ironically, “It belongs in a museum,”) and the Bourne books (the lead character, though a new-ish agent, has training and executes well in some amazing hand-to-hand and fight and a few shootouts). I don’t personally see much American Gods, but there could be shades I missed. I’m a big Gaiman fan, so my rose-colored glasses might be limiting my critical perspective. They are both books about a man who lacks faith and who goes through some spiritual/psychological torment in the process of potentially acquiring it.

Faith is an important aspect of this book. I did not in any way find the book to be “Christian fiction” even though Christianity is a key factor in the events of the story; this isn’t a book like the Left Behind series, the sort of story that can only be seen through a single lens. The protagonist’s past has been deeply affected by Christianity, he spent his early adult life studying it (and other “mythologies”), he has recently taken up (for the government, not that he has a choice, really) collecting and destroying its relics, and he spends a lot of this book thinking about whether or not he believes in it. There are a lot of Christian allusions, with little things (such as a door opening three times, feeling much like the many instances of occurrences in triplicate in the Bible). Christianity and history are strong parts of this book’s backbone. It wouldn’t exist without religion. And it asks some interesting questions about what a society might be like if religion was no longer allowed to exist.

This book is about a man’s crisis of faith, a life in flux. It is also a high-action, fast-paced, gun-heavy, sometimes-gory, world-traveling adventure that kept up the punches through the final pages.

The book ends without definitive statements. We can believe what we want about the ending, and that is perfect, considering the nature of the questions asked by the author throughout. I don’t think this book is for everybody, but I think many readers can find something to like here. I was not sure what to expect; I was pleasantly surprised by the absence of (literal) spiders.

Excerpt

He spun. The other man–the taller one–was there at the opposite curb. With a military glide the man approached, his hand over his heart for quick access to the weapon in his jacket.

Ward slowed his breathing. I should be in a library, he thought. Books. Everything was so much easier in books. But that single lament was all he had time for. Clenching his fists, Ward rushed forward.

About the Author

5785591Michael Pogach is an English Professor and the author of the dark fantasy/sci-fi thriller The Spider in the Laurel. His short stories have appeared in various journals such as New Plains Review, Third Wednesday, and Workers Write. Michael lives with his wife in Quakertown, Pennsylvania.

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