Tag Archives: fantasy

When The Night Wind Howls

Title: When The Night Wind Howls

Author: Pamela F. Service

Sidonie and her mother have recently moved to a small Indiana town, and as a way of fitting in, they’ve gotten involved in the community theater. But this theater appears to be haunted. When Sid starts digging into the rumors of ghosts, she finds far more than legends . . .

This is a solidly-written book, but I didn’t like it much. I’m not huge on ghost stories, and not familiar enough with theater to recognize the various plays and musicals, so I didn’t have a lot invested in the plot. And when the big reveal comes out, I got annoyed by a lot of theological points (some of which is just annoyance at Sid and her minister for taking movies more than Scripture as a guideline for how to deal with the devil).

It was an amusing take on what makes a theater “haunted.” Sid, her friend Joel, and the mysterious Byron Vincenti are the heart of the book, and I like how the two kids keep changing their minds about Byron as they figure out more of the problem.

I’m not so fond of the use of witchcraft, the lack of involvement on God’s side (for what’s supposedly a two-sided dispute, one side is not exactly shown participating), or the spotty use of Christian theology. I realize this is just an updated take on the same play the theater is performing, so it’s not like the book is trying to show how to deal with demons as much as it is retelling an old folk tale.

Overall this isn’t necessarily a bad book, but I didn’t care for it, and won’t be reading it again. I rate this book Neutral.

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Vision Quest

Title: Vision Quest

Author: Pamela F. Service

Kate Elliot was used to a military family that moved around constantly. After her father dies, though, she and her mother have a more permanent home in an old run-down town in Nevada. Kate is tired of losses, and determined not to make friends. Determined not to get hurt. But an ancient Indian artifact draws her into the lives of two ancient shamans . . .

This story is more about the shared visions that link an ancient shaman boy with Kate and later Jimmy. The story can be a bit more literary, but still fast-paced due to the short length.

The characters are well-drawn. Kate’s grieving and loneliness has turned into a determination not to be hurt again, which leads her to isolate herself. She’s particularly irritated at having to rely on Jimmy for anything—because her mother will consider them friends, and want her to be social. Jimmy was amusing too. He thinks Kate is crazy, but when the visions start coming to him too he commits to helping her get rid of them. I also really liked his insistence that Pete’s racial slurs be correct—he’s less offended by the slur and more offended that Pete keeps confusing him with other nationalities, even after he corrects him.

Wadat’s portions were good too. He’s not sure he wants to be a shaman, but his mentor and father-figure is, so he’s sort of fallen into the training. He keeps having visions of a strange spirit who follows him around, but as he’s familiar with spirits in general, he’s not bothered by the visions as much as curious what this spirit might want. He’s used to placating the spirits, and if this one wants something in particular, he’ll try to do what he can for it.

Overall this is another solid title, though not my favorite. I rate this book Recommended.

The Reluctant God

Title: The Reluctant God

Author: Pamela F. Service

Lorna Padgett is the daughter of an archaeologist, and more at home in Egypt digging up sites with her father than at her boarding school in England. But when a chance find uncovers an untouched tomb, her knowledge of the ancient world is needed in an entirely different way . . .

Ameni was the second son of the pharaoh. Constricted by a life of duty, he longs for adventure. But his life has a destiny he never imagined, and soon he will get an adventure he never wanted.

It’s been decades since I last read this, but I still remembered enough of the plot for it to feel like a reread than a new read. The two individual stories alternate long enough to build up both Lorna and Ameni before the single event that changes each life. After that it turns into a race to recover the missing urn.

I liked the hints of mysticism around Ameni. He’s in the line of Pharaoh, who is considered a living god, but he doesn’t understand what that really MEANS until the mantle passes to him. He’s still a man, somewhat. But he has a different relationship now with the gods, and can speak to them and hear back from them. And the ways Anubis particularly keeps stepping in for him are really neat.

I’m not as sold on the message of Osiris being a god of love, or the other gods actually loving the people who worship them. That’s not exactly evident in the myths. I can go with it for the sake of the story, but it does pull me out a bit now.

Overall this is a fast read that has an interesting concept, but it’s not a story I see myself going back to. Still, it was an entertaining read. I rate this book Recommended.

Weirdos of the Universe, Unite!

Title: Weirdos of the Universe, Unite!

Author: Pamela F. Service

Mandy is determined to be weird. When she meets Owen, who is even weirder than she is, she’s happy to have a friend who shares some of those ideals. But after a homework assignment goes strange, mythological creatures are suddenly invading their lives, the world is in danger, and their group of misfits seems to be chosen by the Fates to stop it . . .

This was an amusing mashup of various characters from several mythologies banding together to stop an alien menace, with plenty of Star Trek and Star Wars references sprinkled in. Unfortunately, the short length felt like a detriment, because no one ends up with a lot of depth. This is more about the absurdity of Coyote, Baba Yaga, Sigfried, Lung Nu, and the Wild Huntsman banding together (with a tribble!) to fight aliens whose main fault is that they have no imagination.

I suppose the main reason it didn’t grab me was that with the exception of Lung Nu most of these characters were too familiar to feel weird, and the short length works against substantially adding to or deviating from some of the expectations. Knowing Coyote, the “dog” routine was obvious from the moment it showed up. Same with the rest. To people who aren’t as familiar with mythology, the story probably flows better.

Overall this was another fast read, and amusing enough. It’s a standalone story and ties up well by the end. I rate this book Neutral.

Being of Two Minds

Title: Being of Two Minds

Author: Pamela F. Service

Connie and Rudy are two teenagers on opposite ends of the globe, but they’ve been connected since birth. Each one is prone to strange spells which leaves their mind inside the other’s. It’s a condition both of their families would like to cure, but Connie and Rudy themselves don’t want it to end. But Rudy is a prince of a tiny country, and when politics intervene, their connection might be the only thing that can save him.

One thing I really appreciate about older children’s books like this is that the story doesn’t waste any time. Connie’s predicament is clear from page one, and the relationship between her and Rudy is both a blessing and a curse to the both of them. They desperately want to share more than they are—taste and smell don’t translate, nor can they communicate while in each other’s consciousness—but at the same time, randomly passing out causes those around them to consider them seriously unhealthy.

The only real complaint I have is that I’d like to see more of these two and where they go in the future. This being a stand alone book, any future adventures will have to stay as hints.

Overall, though, it’s a very quick (less than 150 pages) read that tells a solid story. I rate this book Recommended.

Dark & Day (Dark & Day #1)

Title: Dark & Day

Author: Israel Grey

Series: Dark & Day #1

Jonothon lives in the Twilight—the border country that separates Dark and Day. But when he finds an ancient artifact, he might have set off the end of his world. Now he’s racing to keep the artifact out of the hands of the Queen of Dark, before the forces of Day are crushed . . .

This book is made of awesome. The sheer amount that’s packed into the story should make it feel confusing, but it all just works. Because Jonothon is of the Dark, we get more detail about the Dark. Loosely, it’s science versus magic, on a world where the sun only ever shines on one side of the planet. Both sides have a multitude of races, but the Dark also has mechs, cyborgs, and “hollows”—holograms. In fact body modification is so common in Dark that staying “natural” is equivalent to choosing to live like a caveman. And given the way they do computers, it’s also true.

I liked the layers of mythology with the stories of the seven seraphim, and the way it’s never quite clear how much of this is true. I liked how the story challenges Jonothon about dealing with reality, and how both Dark and Day have their own stories that blind them to what they might otherwise see. I liked that it wasn’t quite as black and white as it initially appears.

The illustrations are gorgeous. My only wish is that they’d show up in color when I read it on the computer. It was great to see all the characters, and some, like Celeste, were a reference I didn’t catch until I saw the picture.

Which was the other thing that made me smile. There are callbacks to Final Fantasy, Tolkien, and more. It’s not so big as to be a ripoff, or so obvious as to be distracting, but it’s a nice little wink to those who recognize names like Wedge and Biggs.

Overall, if you have any interest in fantasy adventure stories, read this. The world is bursting with detail, the pace never lets up, the story careens around all sorts of twists and turns, and the end pulled everything together in a satisfying conclusion. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

Discern (Mosaic Chronicles #1)

Title: Discern

Author: Andrea Pearson

Series: Mosaic Chronicles #1

Nicole is settling in her freshman year of college at Katon University. Despite an exemplary high school life, she’s nervous: this is a university for Aretes, those with magic, and although she’s supposedly capable, she hasn’t yet been able to call any magic. But college life throws even more surprises than she expected. Her dorm room is haunted by spiders. A magical book is determined to follow her around. And an expedition is coming up which offers both opportunity and danger . . .

This wasn’t terrible, but it has a lot of really bizarre logic near the end to make the plot work that backfired for me.

The characters were generally good. Nicole comes from a very wealthy background, but her attempts to remain independent of her controlling parents means she’s trying to get through things without them. I actually wish this had gotten a little more focus, particularly when she has to deal with her mom directly. I didn’t see the emotional upheaval I expected (having seen this play out in real life) from having to confront someone who’s trying her hardest to undercut Nicole’s independence. Because despite how much she might hate her family, that’s still a lot of baggage to overcome, and could have provided a bit more depth to the plot.

On the other hand, her struggles with finding out how to release her own power were well-drawn. Only fourth children have magic in this universe (I guess seven was stretching credibility), and although the world appears to be exactly like ours the magic is well known and generally accepted. I do wish the small hints about its origin had gotten a bit more explanation. Magic on the whole appears to be a hard career, as users are limited both by ability and by how much they train and study. Nichole has the studying side down, because that’s the only variable she feels she can control.

I don’t care for romances in general, so I skimmed the parts where Nicole is noticing the hot prodigy who refuses to talk to her. That plays out pretty much how you might expect, from the initial frustration to the growing attraction to admitting that they actually are interested. I would have preferred more of getting to know him instead of mostly being shown he’s hot and super powerful, but at least there were a few scenes that dug in, and since this is a series I expect he’ll have time to develop. I did find it odd when he revealed the big secret that it was so brutal, and he was so calm talking about it. It doesn’t really seem like he’s over it, and either way he should’ve had a bigger reaction to some of what they found at the excavation because of it.

Now for the bizarre logic. Everything up through the start of the expedition made at least plausible sense. Then we get to the “remote” expedition that’s still close enough to a town for one member to spend the night in a hotel and the days on site. So the problem is, when people start finding bodies brutally murdered, WHY IS EVERYONE DETERMINED TO STAY IN TENTS ON SITE? Tents. TENTS. And then things escalate and they’re STILL staying in tents and wringing their hands about the tragedy.

This is the point, by the way, that I’ve long since stopped being nervous about anyone and am instead laughing as each new gruesome discovery is unearthed. The police are notified about the dead body, but it isn’t being treated as a crime scene at all (no one is telling the group to evacuate until way too late). There’s a scene at the end where Nicole is expecting the authorities to arrive with backup, but she and very few others decide it’s a better idea to go after the murderers by themselves, down tunnels that the enemy knows far better than they do . . .

I actually might keep reading this series purely for the comedy value. Which is sad because the story was going for a horror vibe and ended up feeling like a campy horror B movie instead. The small details worked a lot better when it was just ordinary college life stuff, and not an archeology expedition that by the way has terrible, terrible practices (just pick up any ancient magical artifacts and bring them to us for evaluation! No need to worry about possibly live curses or keeping the site documented for actual archeologists!).

Overall this was a decent effort, but would have been better served if the expedition had either never taken place or had been completely overhauled. I rate this book Neutral.