Thursday 31 July 2014

Moment of Extinction by Paul Hardy

Title: Moment of Extinction
Author: Paul Hardy
Read Type: Indie review
Stars: StarStarStar Image from the Silk icon theme by Mark James *'''Source:''' photo HalfStar_zps439ec261.png

You can purchase a copy of this book from Amazon US - Amazon UK - Smashwords - Barnes & Noble - KoboiTunes
You can find out more about the author on Goodreads , his website and Twitter
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The last survivors of a doomed world have been rescued and taken to safety in another universe, but they’re still dying out. All their rescuers can do is take them to see the ocean one last time – and try to persuade them to let their last child survive.

This is a prequel to the novel "The Last Man on Earth Club", also available for Kindle (but there are no spoilers here to worry about).

Strong language: None
Drugs: None
Violence: None
Sexual content: None

I collected a copy of Moment of extinction via a free promotion on Amazon.

Moment of Extinction is a stand alone short story of an imminently dying species, but also the prequel to The Last Man On Earth club, a novel about a group of people, each the last of their species.

Moment of Extinction is a complex plot to be handled in such a short space. I felt this was dealt with well, handing out information in nuggets, around the emotional scenes, while leaving less urgent information as a mystery to be handled in another scene. As well as being complex I found it surprising and original, a real spin on "people are never really gone as long as well remember them".

As a species, the Yenoma are able to pass their souls on to somebody else when they die and still be able to take control of the body at times. At times this left people appearing to argue with themselves, switching ages and sexes. This process puts more strain on their bodies however, speeding the demise. It was a heart breaking process to read.

I found it difficult to rate the characterisations due to the switching of personalities, but as a species and people I was drawn to them. I found them diverse and enigmatic, sometimes a bit like that uncle everybody has but tries to brush under the carpet, but never cardboard cut-outs even when a particular character only had a few lines to express themselves.

I recommend this story and would be interested in reading the novel that stems off of it. I think when the author has more room to express themselves it will be something special.

I give this story a 3.5 but for the sake of ratings sites I will round it up to a 4

Thursday 24 July 2014

Shadowcursed by Gelo R. Fleisher

Title: Shadowcursed
Author: Gelo R. Fleisher
Read Type: Indie Author
Stars: StarStarStarStarStar

You can purchase a copy of this book from Amazon UK, Amazon US, B&N and Smashwords
You can find out more about the author on his blog
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 Bolen is a thief, plying his trade under the spires of an ancient and sprawling city. Worried that he's growing too old, Bolen has lined up a risky job, just to prove that he can still pull one off.

Tonight, he's going to break into a nobleman's vault and help himself to its contents. What he doesn't know is that inside is the key to a secret as old as the city itself.
Kings have killed for it, demons have coveted it, priests have prayed for it, and in a few moments it will be in his hands. And when it is, the adventure of his life will begin.

Strong language: None
Drugs: None
Violence: Some, graphic
Sexual content: None

I received a free copy of this novella in return for an unbiased review

Shadowcursed is a self contained story of a city buried under tyrannical rule for so long that nobody ever questions it. Yet underneath all that, all the way to the gutters where many people are forced to merely survive hand to mouth, we see the will to live and carry on. The story is set on a bedrock of magic, with unseen mages producing magical lights for the city, but more importantly a new and dynamic myth with refreshing creatures different from the usual supernaturals in modern fiction.

Bolen, our aging point of view thief, is one such person, making just a few coppers for a hard days work, when it's legitimate. One day he gets offered a big contract, one that could set him up handsomely – if he can pull it off and survive.

Bolen soon realises just how out of shape he is, and that maybe he should have given this up some time ago, retired into handing out the assignments instead. Reading his physical struggles was wince-worthy at times, the slipping, falling and protesting joints jumping out of the page to join mine feeling much the same in the summer weather (and all I had to do was lay in bed, no wall scaling for me!).

Bolen was written interestingly, I'm unsure if this trait was the intention of the author or not but it suited his trade. Thieves need to hide, to blend in, as Bolen is often thinking about, and when he is in a conversation, or listening in on one, he almost disappears from the writing, leaving it with a feeling of vague omniscient. Normally this would be a sign of weak writing, but for him it just worked. When he was alone he had a much stronger presence.

I felt overall the descriptions in this story were vivid and in depth, really bringing the crumbling, dirt and filth encrusted city and its inhabitants to life. This was left to the back burner however when a conversation was going on, I would have like it to have been more consistent.

As the story progress and Bolen realised just how much trouble he was in the tension amped up nicely. Some scenes were lacking in explanation in why he took such a treacherous path, when there was next to no chance of it working out. This increased the tension, but also the confusion I felt. In the end there usually was an explanation, albeit one Bolen could not have known would happened, leaving, for me, a plot hole.

Overall I thought this was a very nice, stand alone novella, light in its language and an easy read. While it is self contained and tied up all the loose ends I would like to see it as a part of a series of stand alones, covering the mages we never saw, the myths of times gone by and the enormous changes the city is about to undertake.

For escapism and adventure I give this book a 4.5 out of 5. For the sake of reviewing sites I am going to forget the minutiae of issues and give it a well deserved perfect 5

As a side note there is a video game to go with the novella. I have yet to try it (if I can set it up to run with an Xbox 360 controller I will do a separate review of it), but the screenshots are gorgeous. In the meantime there is a good video of somebody playing the game if you would like a preview:

In Requiem you step into the shoes of Bolen, a thief living in a sprawling medieval city. As the game starts, your most reliable fence has just sent you an urgent note telling you to come over to his house. You have no idea what he has in store, but with the sun setting it sounds like you might be in for an interesting night.

Requiem is a companion piece to Shadowcursed (but has a totally new story) and is free for anyone to download and play.

You can find many more screenshots here, and installation instructions here. If you play it please take a second to leave the developer and author a note.

Monday 21 July 2014

PROMO TIME: Mylea by Phil Elrod

Promo Time

Keep reading for a discount voucher

Mylea: A Science Fiction Novel

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Please note as the author has kindly offered a limited time discount voucher I decided to give him a promotional slot before I read the work. From the excerpt I have read this appears to be a well written novel, but I cannot vouch for it in its entirety.

Now I pass over to the author:

My name is Philip C. (Phil) Elrod. Mylea is my first novel. It is Sci-Fi in genre, but it is not like most Sci-Fi stories. No giant lizards devouring humans - no fantasy beings with supernatural powers – just a people much like us trying to save themselves from an approaching cataclysmic event.
Mylea is the story of a very technologically advanced civilization that faced a deadly peril. Their only hope for a solution to the crisis was a monumental project that ran into an unforeseen problem. Their only hope to solving their enigma rests on a single human being, here on Earth.
How can their mission be accomplished with the least possible contact with Earthlings? Can they trust the Earthlings they contact? Can the Earthlings trust them?
This interesting tale involves a unique set of characters, including a young Rhodes Scholar, a mysterious old man, a demanding canine diva and a colossal computer, all of them involved in a game of "who do you trust". The story moves from Washington D.C., to Tokyo, to China, to outer space and then back to Washington D.C. for the grand finale.
Authors Bio:
Philip C. Elrod was raised in a small town in Alabama. He served two years in the US Army, stationed in Germany and returned to attend college at the University of Florida and Florida Southern College Majoring in Industrial Engineering and Economics.
Mr. Elrod’s professional career included many years in medical instrumentation and computers. Currently he is a full time futures/FOREX trader and has written many technical publications, several of which have been published by FXTraderMagazine.
Mr. Elrod currently resides in Richardson, Texas, a suburban community of the Dallas-Fort Worth area. His interests include astronomy, photography, outdoor cooking and travel, especially RV travel with his wife and pets

To Redeem the voucher, for 50% off, until October 31st 2014, visit the Mylea Smashwords page and enter the code: XK46T

Red Desert - Point of No Return by Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli

Title: Red Desert - Point of No Return
Author: Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli
Series: Red Desert series 01
Read Type: ARC
Stars: StarStarStarImage from the Silk icon theme by Mark James *'''Source:''' photo HalfStar_zps439ec261.png

You can purchase a copy of this book from Amazon UK, Amazon US and Smashwords
You can find out more about the author on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, YouTube, Google+, Pinterest, Smashwords, and her website
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Thirty years after the Mars exploration mission ‘Hera’, whose crew died in mysterious circumstances, the ensuing political issues that slowed NASA's race to conquer space have finally ended. This time the five members of the new ‘Isis’ mission will not travel the 400 million kilometres for a short visit. This time they are destined to become the first colonisers of the Red Planet.

The science fiction series “Red Desert”, set in the near future, includes four books.
The first one, “Point of No Return”, is a novella.

In what looks like a suicide attempt, Swedish exobiologist Anna Persson, crew member of the Isis, secretly leaves Station Alpha at the crack of dawn to travel deep into the Martian desert in a pressurised rover.

As she journeys to the limit of her two day oxygen supply, she shows us memories of events from her past leading up to the mission. Little by little, as time and oxygen run out, she reveals the real Anna.

Whatever her goal, wherever it is, will Anna reach her destination?


Strong language: Mild
Drugs: Vague
Violence: None
Sexual content: None

I was offered a free copy by the author in return for an unbiased review.

Earlier in the year I had the chance to read a pre-release version of this novel, a translation from the original in Italian. Now it is available to English speaking audiences, with the sequel, the second of four, coming out shortly.

Red desert is a novella told largely in flashbacks about the end of a space mission and how it all began. The woman is seen in "present-day" and in the flashbacks from several years before look from very different lifestyles. Slowly you can see the shy version of her morph into a determined woman, often being hit back by events, and creating a complex life experience for her to pull from. I found this progression realistic and interesting. At times I would have liked a clearer marker for when I was in her timeline however.

The story gets going immediately with the protagonist in a airlock, ready to go out onto the surface of Mars. We are given enough information to know how that would work and limitations, but all information about why when or how the character got there are left until later. Let the adventure commence.

There were some places, ironically often in the tension based scenes, where the writing felt a bit slack, but I feel this was more to do with the translation than a judgement on the writer's abilities.

I would give this a 3.5 but I round it up to a 4 for the sake of ratings sites.

Saturday 19 July 2014


Author: Timothy McLendon
Read Type: Indie Author
Stars: StarStarStarStar

You can purchase a copy of this book from Amazon UK and Amazon US
You can find out more about the author on Facebook
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TWISTED ENDINGS 2 is a collection of five mystery and suspense stories with unexpected endings. This collection revolves around a workaholic who believes his wife is cheating on him with the pretty boy next door. A lesbian teenager who tries to convince her parents there is nothing wrong with her lifestyle. Two veterans who stand up for what they believe is right, no matter the cost. A soap opera star searching for her birth mother. An insomniac who will do anything to sleep.
2X more action than the first! The characters in these five short stories aren't prepared for what happens next. You won't be either! Just remember, bad things happen to good people. Really bad things. Strap yourself in for an adventure that never lets go

Strong language: Yes, mainly mild
Drugs: None
Violence: Yes
Sexual content: negligible, implied

I received a copy of this story free in return for an unbiased review

This is the second volume of Twisted Endings. You can read my review of the first volume here, but it is not necessary to have read that before reading this.

Bed bug conundrum 3.5 / 5
This had a good set up, showing the stress the main character was under, very believable. It built at a good pace. I did think in the pay off scene, however, that it was lacking a bit in emotion and the use of show don't tell.

Perhaps not the best starting story out of this selection, but not a bad read overall.

Mama's cherry pie 4 / 5
The first person voice of this story, right from the first line was very engaging, and drew you straight in. I would have said however, that the POV was little over half her age from the speech. This wasn't necessarily a bad thing however, it added to her innocence.

There were lots of red herrings in this as to what would happen. I enjoyed it and felt it was a surprising and strong ending.

Panhandled 4 / 5
A tale of two soldiers, one current, one veteran, with a suggestion of ptsd from their early actions. This kept a military theme with short, snappy sentences. There was a limit to overt emotion, but this felt right for the case.

The end was heart wrenching. It doesn't matter what country these soldiers were from, no matter where you live it has a effect on you.

Feels like family 3.5 / 5

Written through the eyes of a famous and rich lifestyle, this for me at least was a different point of view to my life. The emotions however, well written here, are the same as I would feel in the point of view's situation. She's had life handed to her on a platter, some would say, but she just wants what every little girl wants if she doesn't have it. I felt however too much time was spent going back and forth, losing the great emotions being built.

An interesting ending, I'm undecided on my thoughts there.

Death Trance 5 / 5
This story had a fantastic start to it, very strong emotions played through to the reader. I felt all through the story there were great twists getting stronger and stronger the more you read. This story was the real cream of the crop.

Each of these stories is ideal for a short single reading session, ideal for a lunch break or just a quick chill out. Each one has a well developed world built in just a few sentences. I thoroughly enjoyed this, much like it's prequel.

I give this set of stories a 4 out of 5

Thursday 17 July 2014

The Table Of Less Valued Knights by Marie Phillips

Title: The Table Of Less Valued Knights
Author: Marie Phillips
Read Type: ARC
Stars: StarStarStarStar

You can purchase a copy of this book from Amazon UK and Amazon US
You can find out more about the author on Goodreads

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Sir Humphrey du Val of the Table of Less Valued Knights - Camelot's least prestigious table, with one leg shorter than the others so that it has to be propped up with a folded napkin - doesn't do quests ... until he meets Elaine, a damsel in distress with a secret to hide.

Meanwhile, Queen Martha of Puddock is on the run from an arranged marriage to the odious Prince Edwin of Tuft. But an encounter with the Locum of the Lake (standing in for the full-time Lady) leaves her with a quest of her own: to find her missing brother, long believed dead.

The two quests collide, introducing a host of Arthurian misfits, including a freakishly short giant, a twelve-year-old crone, an amorous unicorn, and a magic sword with a mind of her own.

With Gods Behaving Badly Marie Phillips showed that she has a rare gift for comedy, giving the Greek Gods an ingenious contemporary twist. In The Table of Less Valued Knights it's Camelot's turn, and you'll never see a knight in shining armour in the same way again.

Strong language: Some
Drugs: None
Violence: Yes, fighting
Sexual content: Some, implied or description of images

I received a copy of the novel from Random House via Netgalley for free in return for an unbiased review.

This novel was a funny look at Camelot and Arthur's knights. Overall it was light in feel and witty in how it wove in Arthurian legend.  But it wasn’t without its deeper moments, such as addressing what it is to be disgraced as a knight, which roped the reader into the story underlying the humour.

We begin in King Arthur's hall with the annual Pentecost party going on, attended by all the knights of the realm: the Round Table, the Table of Errant Companions, and the Table of Less Valued Knights. A party that brings the biggest quest of the year. Whoever completes this is said to get in Arthur's good graces. Soon somebody runs in with a mission, naturally assumed to be the Pentecost one, and the party truly commences.

Fast forward several hours when all the knights are drunk, or have otherwise found their way to a bed, leaving the hall empty–except for one. Humphrey is a knight of the Less Valued Knights table, where all the elderly, injured, or somehow disgraced knights are placed and banned from taking quests. He is shocked to see a distressed maiden fly through the doors, and quickly realises that a mistake has been made: this is the true Pentecost mission. Rather than call one of Arthur’s knights he "forgets" his standing and takes her quest on. They steal away into the night, along with his young giant squire, and the fun begins!

The comedy was interlaced throughout the story, from the story name, the squire, Conrad, and his unusual steed to damsels not-in-so-much-distress, taking Humphrey for a roll in the nearest semi-isolated location. It took little dialogue to tell this tale; instead it was covered with the action and adventure. It felt fitting that people of such different classes, while working together, chose to show appreciation through action, from a clip round the back of the head to an attempt to seduce.

Humphrey’s back story of how he found himself on the Less Valued knights table, was a pause in the humour to tug at our heart strings. By the end of it I really felt for him and had a much better idea of who he was and where everything fit in the story. After this much appreciated break that really allowed the reader to get to know the heart of Sir Humphrey, the story reverted to its comedy roots, as his attempts become increasingly haphazard to complete the quest and prove himself.

Come part two, we switch time streams and characters, to a princess who is about to be crowned queen. This part had a very different, much more slapstick feel, yet harbouring more tension. She has to fight her "destiny" every step of the way, but surrounded by such ethics as a woman should be seen and not heard, she doesn't get far. This woman is far more vocal and independent, even when making huge mistakes and cavorting with magic. She brought much more drama and mystery to the foreground of the story.

The characters were the real glue of this story, whether funny, emotional, or bringing mystery to the group, they all played an integral part–even the character built to be annoying, though he drove me up the wall at times!

In a few places around the middle there were a lot of characters and plot threads to keep track of, however, these were tied up before they became an issue. The ending was very fairytale- and fable-esque; it felt fitting. I would like to see more of the world. I feel the main characters in this story have covered their potential plotlines nicely, however I felt there was a lot more room for growth either in a different timeframe or with other characters we met briefly.

Overall I found this novel to be a fast, funny frolic in a land where anything, can, and did, happen. I would recommend this to anyone looking to lighten their day with a laugh or two and an enjoyable read.

Thursday 3 July 2014

Finnian's Fiddle by Chandler Groover

Title: Finnian's Fiddle
Author: Chandler Groover
Read Type: Indie review
Stars: StarStarStarStar

You can purchase a copy of this book from Amazon UK and Amazon US
You can find out more about the author on Goodreads
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Dragons can often be obstinate, and when one dragon arrives at a rural seaport demanding to hear a child prodigy perform the violin, the townspeople must strategize. They send a boy named Finnian to the city to learn how to play.

Unfortunately for Finnian, the task isn’t so simple. Everyone from bandits to scheming aristocrats seem to stand in his way, and before his quest has ended, he will have to contend with a devious plot stretching into the fairy realm itself.

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Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

 I was given a free copy of the book by the author in return for an unbiased review

Strong language: None
Drugs: None
Violence: None
Sexual content: None

This book was written in several parts, each of which has its own feel and flow, so I will review it as such, with an overall review at the end.

The Overture – 5/5
This short, unusual beginning I found most charming, I was through the eyes of a dragon abut his life, or rather his life during his sleep and how he relives his memories. This is how he comes to terrorise a town and send a boy or an occasionally harrowing adventure

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Prologue: The Monster – 4.5/5
This section held a lovely whimsical tone. It reminded me of the original 1911 version of Peter and Wendy, the novel that started the Peter Pan universe. It was simultaneous holding that magical shimmering barrier over everyday life that the best children's books do but also had access and didn’t talk down to adults.

In this section the dragon arrives, demanding the fiddler who played for him in this village once before – no other fiddler will do. Yet nobody knows who this fiddler is and soon have to broker a deal or all become char grilled snacks. They are to send one boy off, from this village in the middle of the middle of nowhere, to the city to learn the violin and hopefully convince the dragon he is the same boy he once saw.

Finnian did not strike me in any way as a normal boy, probably the only way he would ever survive even the first day of this book! He likes to daydream, he sees fairies at one point (but hey, we have a dragon, who knows if these are real or not!) and seems generally disconnected from other children his age. His personality here came across a bit erratic, at one point manic, but by and large just very laid back, what will be will be.

During this section there are adults arguing endlessly, and while Finnian has the troubles, as well as excitement, of what he must undertake, what I really liked was he was a family boy who looked after his little sister first.

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Part I: The Road – 3.5/5
Hmm, we have an entire section devoted to the road, I'm sure this will be a smooth journey to the city!

It was clear from the outset that Finnian really had no idea how to travel, especially when it came to nights. I also suspect is teacher, who had supposedly taught the class geography, mainly to do with getting to the city, had either spent very little time showing him what to do, or more likely, never been herself and was just using what she'd read.

His trials went from bad to worse, yet at this point, despite his danger and potential death many times I felt a disconnect from the character. He didn't seem to worry that he had run out of food, even if he didn't know how little a way he had come. He went through trial that would make many panic, but he took it in his stride, even when he was taken up by a company and on the main road he never asked if he was heading towards or away from the city that was the only chance to save everybody he had ever met.

There was a lot of back and forth here, I wasn't a fan of a lot of it. I was glad however when he did at least seem to remember why he was travelling, even if it still felt like he relied on others to do everything for him without him asking.

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Part II: The City – 4/5
I felt this part largely went back to its whimsical roots from the prologue. Finnian is once again on his own for a bit, completely clueless and causing havoc. He seems to remember why he was on this quest in the first place at last, about time, but does little about it at first and doesn't really seem to care.

He soon finds himself in a strange predicament, at first I thought it would be an awkward relationship, but it rather reminded me of the relationship in The Magician's nephew with the old man. At this point I swung back and forth on my opinions of where the story was headed, I could see no feasible way out of what Finnian had gotten himself into without losing what little chance he had to save his village.

I love Finnian's nemesis in this part, he had just the right level of cockiness without seeming to ridicule himself. In a way I was happy to see this section end, especially when I saw the most curious way it would do so, as I was staring to tire of the more structured atmosphere, that was beginning to take the quintessential essence of daydreaming, anything-is-possible Finnian and put it in a box to forget under the stairs.

I think up to this point this was the part that left me with the most anticipation for the next one.

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Part III: The Forest – 4/5
Ok, I take that last part back, this was my favourite part. Once again we went back to confusion, uncertainty and weirdness that felt like the best parts of the previous sections had been plucked out and mashed together here.

Given the title of the section the fact that he travel should not come as a surprise to you… if it does, you sure will find a lot of them in this book! Or any book for that matter.

Once again he found himself in a caravan, and different people, a slightly different feel, but overall a sense of déjà vu and more in a morning than a creepy way. The reappearance of someone did catch my attention.

This part in itself, soon turns inside out and I found myself in the most bizarre of destinations to date – that's saying something considering what I went through to get there. At first this was frustrating with far too few answers coming forward as to what was going on. Finnian had once again remembered his violin for a few seconds, but seemed to forget it pretty quickly as an active thing to do himself… then again his attempts had been painful at times, even if the book didn't have volume.

When the veil of questions was revealed I was very happy to be where I was, one of my favourite destinations in general in novels. The scenery and variety was rich, but I felt Finnian was melting into it, whereas this was so different from his home that he should be gaping and shocked pretty much all of the time. I will allow some of this to his daydreamer nature filtering back in and letting him absorb what he had probably imagined most of his life, but I would have liked to have seen him study the world a bit more.

The banquet scene however… fantastic, possible the best thing I came across by a mile.

Too soon for my liking however, just as he began to take an interest, as well as try to get some attention about this piece of wood he carries around in a case (I'm beginning to struggle to call it a violin, as one would get played, even if cat-screechingly badly occasionally.

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Part IV: The Mountain – 5/5
This section was plain strange, but also interesting in a rather dark way. Clearly the big ending, all cards were laid on the table, all the obstacles the author had left were thrown on the path ahead. The imagery used was fantastic.

A bad dream? Death? Hell? The devil? A certain character's interference who keeps showing up throughout the book. All of these crossed my mind. I felt it was a suitable climax, but I cannot say much about what happened without giving too much away.

For a young boy I felt at times he acted too old for his age, even countering in the fact that he had travelled alone for the best part of a year and faced challenges at every turn.

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 "Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op. 47" by Sibelius

Epilogue: The music – 5/5
And the end is here. I thought it was very fitting, considering everything that had happened and how Finnian had dealt with it though the year.

But what is fitting for a boy who intermittently forgets he has a fiddle, finds himself in various situations with no escape and travels through many worlds? Is it to have returned home and found the dragon gone? Is it to have the village turned into a barbecued snack? Is it for him to have learnt to play and appease the dragon? Is it for him to stay inland after seeing smoke rising from where his town once was? Or is it for the daydreamer to be brought out of his daydream with a call to eat tea?

The answer – well, you'll find that out when you go and buy the book!

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My Overview
Those were my reviews, written as I read each part, treating each part essentially as a standalone, leaving what passed before elsewhere. The book was charming, intriguing, had many changes as it went, and overall kept you on your toes.

However, it had one failing. Had you given me any of those parts as a stand alone novella I would have easily given them a 4, probably higher. But when you put them together there is a problem in that the theme, speed and style changes part to part, not to mentions Finnian himself, that I was repeatedly jarred around and never felt like I had sure footing. Sometimes this is good in a book, but for this example I tired of the rather sudden changes that were not remarked upon.

As a result of these issues I struggled to give it an overall rating because I didn't know whether the individual sections were more important that what followed each one. In the end I decided on 4 stars. I considered 3.5 stars, but then thought of how each section made me smile and realised I had answered my own question as to what was more important.

I wish the transitions had been a bit smoother so I could have rated higher. I hope in the author's future works this is the case.

Musical scores are as named above and in the public domain.
All other images are copyright of Chandler Grover and used with his permission.