Book Review: Dan the Destructor, by Rob Rimes

The blurb:

There have been countless legends and with that, countless heroes destined to be the “chosen one”. Dan is not that person.

Sucked into an exotic, barbarous world, Dan meets a jovial warrior and finds himself on an adventure he could’ve never imagined – battling monsters, demons, armies, and evil sorcerers.

Dan the Destructor is a mixture of sword & sorcery and post-apocalyptic B-movies presented in a quick paced pulp novel format. It’s fun, badass, fantastical, and action-packed.


If the blurb makes it sound straightforward, that’s because it is! But don’t think leaning into the schlock and pulpy goodness doesn’t pay off. This is a fun, imaginative read set in an interesting sword and sorcery world.

Plot:

The structure is tight, the pacing fast. Mr. Rimes is not at all interested in wasting time. Early on in Dan’s dive into the strange, magical, and yet apocalyptically futuristic world he’s swept up into, we have the opportunity to linger in a certain location while side characters advance the plot.

Rather than let Dan rest on his laurels (and perhaps enjoy certain sultry pleasures), the author pushes the soon aptly-named Destructor into motion through simple internal motivations that deepen his character.

Things like this appear throughout the book, adding shading and color to what could have easily appeared flat, black and white.

The plot itself is fun, with lots of dangerous encounters, scheming of delightfully wicked villains, and plenty of world and character mysteries to lead us into future installments.

Character:

As mentioned, the villains are great, each of them distinct in an old-school, almost Saturday morning cartoon kind of way. And they don’t all play nice, which adds a tasty layer of intrigue that progresses quite apart from the actions of our heroes.

We meet several secondary and tertiary characters along the way, each of them also suitably distinct, but for the most part we’re drawn along by Dan the man himself, and his native companion and mentor in this new world, Fenrik.

This jovial barbarian is one of my favorite kinds of characters. Big, helpful and friendly, yet strong and uncompromising. He’s got a life of his own we touch on a little bit, and his role in the world plays no small part in driving things along. We’ve seen this kind of guy a lot in fiction, but when well done, it’s not the kind of character we tire of.

Dan is rather simple, and that’s just fine. His internal issues revolve around a breakup he’s just processing, with promises of connections back to that in future installments. Outwardly he’s as jazzed as any of us pulp fans would be to be transported to a world of magic and moral brutality against the forces of evil.

Craft:

This being the first of Rimes’s novels, one can see the areas where he’s got room to improve. But I’ve read a lot of new writers and I have every confidence any of the little issues one could mention concerning this book will be ironed out with experience (and maybe a second edition sometime?) One simple example would be that, by the author’s own admission, this story started as a graphic novel script. In the process of adaptation, we ended up in what I’d say is a suboptimal use of present tense, with an unconventional way of tagging dialog (just read the sample, you’ll see). That said, the author’s own conventions in this book are consistent and overall the copy is really clean.

So if you’re in the mood for a rollicking adventure with manly men mercilessly battling evil in a weird barbaric future, grab a copy of Dan today!

Advertisement

New Release! Bloodbane: Quest of Lance

The long-awaited release of my first (simultaneously) gamelit and horror novel.

I had the idea brewing for quite some time of doing an homage to Castlevania, one of my most beloved game series. Eventually that morphed into a desire to include some litRPG elements, however light.

Immediately a blast to write, it wasn’t long before the story took on its own identity and grew into less a pastiche of CV and more my own thing, merely influenced by that game world. One of the primary drivers of this was the hero’s motivation – a simple need to get back to his family. It begged the equally simple but intriguing question: what can stand between a father and his wife and children? What can anchor him to his own world when a realm of darkness threatens not just him and his loves, but everything?

During the writing process, feeding the old brain with Castlevania OSTs for tone-setting, I developed the irresistible urge to write a soundtrack for the story as well. Now I didn’t want to ape CV’s amazing music too hard (as if I were that talented), and I was also beginning to listen to the obscure dungeonsynth genre. Thus was formed Bloodbane’s official OST.

I feel I’ve built about as complete a world as I can with this release, using the skills I have at hand, and I do hope people of various reading and listening habits can enjoy it!

The blurb:

What a horrible night to be invaded by psychos from the 65th Dimension.

Lance Cutfield just wants to get home to his wife and daughter.
But in his way stands a legion of Once-men, blood sorcerers, and countless foul creatures infesting the wilderness.

Lance must use his working man’s strength, and every tool at his disposal, to bring the fight to his foes.
Little do these ‘Baneborn’ know, they’ve chosen a predator for their prey…

Quest of Lance is a pulpy gamelit adventure with very lite RPG elements.

Elements in this book:

Classic NES game story start with a fast pace.
Not-so-subtle nods to the Castlevania series, but with lots of variation.
Surprising alliances…
A simple, gear-based progression system.
Lots of combat.
Light crafting.
Subtle notes of Resident Evil and Metroid.
Light sequence-breaking.
A masculine hero.
Orbs.

Book Review: An Atlas of Bad Roads, by Misha Burnett

The blurb:

There are many strange places off the beaten paths in this great land of ours. From the abandoned shopping malls where squatters revel in violent nihilism to the new subdivisions built atop ruins where tragedies lay buried, Misha Burnett is your guide to the weird and out of the way places that are haunted by the past and the future.

This all new collection from Misha Burnett includes 16 strange tales of the macabre as well as 16 original poems, exploring the mysterious nature of the seemingly mundane world, where the run-down warehouses, shady night clubs, and even 24-hour gas stations may be home to magical fae creatures or skulking maniacs.

You’ve been offered a map to these beautiful vistas and disturbing local attractions. Just try not to get lost.


Misha Burnett is well-known in our pulp revolution circles for being a master of weird fiction. He certainly wouldn’t claim the ‘pulp’ moniker but because of interactions and frenships gets lumped in with the riffraff more often than not.

His long relationship with publisher Cirsova has brought us many splendid stories and a few anthologies. The latest is this collection of horror tales, each of which started with no real intention of being horror, as the author states in his introduction to the work.

Since this is an anthology, I’ll forego my usual format and play it loose.

Every story is great, treating me to an effortless read devoid of eye rolls and temptations to skip ahead. The writing is solid and poignant, a given for any work of Burnett’s. And the collection’s concept contributes to a real sense of tense discovery, as we never know what’s going to happen next.

This is probably the main strength of the work, and with a bit of a trained eye you can see how the concept pervaded each work and begged Burnett to build the collection. The stories seem to all be discovery-written, meaning there was no plotting in advance, which allowed the author’s imagination and subconscious to run wild and pull out of the aether horrors both old and new.

It results in a fairly loose structure and leaves a lot of questions open, and this is of course in keeping with the theme and concept.

This is a great book to sit in the dark with, sip coffee, tea, or something harder, and lose yourself in along with our beset and often cursed characters.

Spotlights:

Mystery Train – an excellent and claustrophobic supernatural mystery featuring a highly virtuous main character. You’ll be guessing at motives and the nature of the threat until the big reveal! There’s also a strong faith element and a really fun ‘begone thot!’ moment.

Black Dog – a somber and sweet, haunting tale featuring the traditional ‘black dog’ a lot of folks from my generation will recall a version of from our legendary Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, a sacred tome indeed.

Dead Man’s Chest – features a really weird premise that almost veers into the whimsical. It’s all the more horrifying when more graphic elements pop up. While I don’t think I fully grasped some of the implications toward the end, there was still something evocative about the way the concept manifested. You are what you eat.

The Lord of Slow Candles – this was my favorite of the bunch, though I had an odd desire to have chosen one of the previously unpublished stories to take that honor. The story is a very imaginative and fae-infused dive into the life of a girl everyone must think is insane. But to her, the strangeness of the world makes perfect sense, and it’s implied that in fact she’s more in tune with the real reality of it all than anyone else. Burnett makes use of one of my favorite concepts (devices?) – elevating the most mundane things to a higher metaphysical level – the obvious prime example being mention of a mysterious being called ‘The Lord of Slow Candles’.

I love the juiciness of this. What, or who, is he? What does he do? Whom does he choose as his subjects and why? We don’t get clear answers on this and thus it lodges in the imagination, no doubt to resurface later through the subconscious in what one thinks is a novel thought.

Burnett also populates the invisible corners of the world with creative forms of cryptids that all have their own odd fixations on stuff in the ‘real’ world.


All in all it’s a brilliant collection, and well worth your time, especially in spooky season. I haven’t even mentioned the poetry that salts the book, as while I appreciate it, I’m not well equipped to offer critique on it. Purty words read good.

So grab your copy before some ghostly black dog ushers it to the realm of the dead!

Book Review: Jiao Tu’s Endeavor, ep.1

The blurb:

On a multigenerational colony ship five hundred years off course, a lagomorph warrior must survive using only his wits and his sword.

Jiao Tu has been hired to rescue a young kidnapped mousling. A tip leads him to the Below, home to the engines that keep the world in motion. His mission has hardly begun when an encounter with a monstrous being plunges him into the midst of a struggle not only for control of the Below but for the world itself.

Teamed with an untested ratling warrior and the ratling leader of a gang of thugs, Jiao Tu must stop the monster and save the mousling—and the world—before it is too late.

Drawing inspiration from sources as diverse as Leigh Brackett’s planetary romances, Gene Wolfe’s Book of the Long Sun, Robert E. Howard’s Solomon Kane stories, Hideyuki Kikuchi’s Vampire Hunter D, Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo, and the wuxia tradition starting with Water Margins and Journey to the West, Uitvlugt has created a world all his own that promises a far-future adventure unlike any other.


The second entry in Periapsis Press’s Summer Indie Spotlight!

Donald Jacob Uitvlugt’s bodyguard bunny channels a lot of classic wandering hero/ronin energy into a setting that is intriguing, mysterious, full of danger and sometimes weird.

This is more than capable prose with great characters and action, in a fresh voice with an tinge of the old school.

Plot:

What a great example of a story whose plot is driven by the characters and factions, while still being tied to the fate of the world at large. It feels close and personal, and yet the threat of possibly world-changing danger looms. Are our heroes destined and able to affect the fate of their seedship, or is their mere survival the best we can hope for, as the world around them runs its course?

In part because Uitvlugt wrote this in bite-sized serial chunks, the pace is fast and the plot is tight enough to shut out the endless cold of space. It’s an effortless read that maintains depth while getting straight to the point.

Character:

Jiao Tu is an immediately likeable wandering hero. His martial competence is unquestionable, yet many situations can’t be solved with mere violence and so his honor, integrity and social skills come into play as well. I’m intrigued to learn more about his past, his relationship to the sentient sword Black Fang (collectible replica please?), and the history of the wayward colony ship that resulted in the creation of all these colorful characters.

The supporting cast is varied and everyone has their own believable motivations. No one is relegated to two dimensions or upstaged by their fellows. Everyone plays their own part.

Of particular interest is the relationship between Jiao Tu and Farrah going forward, connected as they are by some various mysteries.

Craft:

Again, excellent prose in a bit of a heightened voice that recalls classic hero tales without being archaic. Structure is on point and greatly benefitted from the serial mode, in my opinion.

Try as I might, I simply couldn’t think of the obligatory minor flaw to comment on. I suppose for my own tastes the inter-factional dramas are not the greatest points of interest, but they’re so entangled with the world-building – and I sense the series arc – that obviously it’s not something that could be changed. In other words this is a shining example of the kind of story it is.

Grab your copy today, comment on Periapsis Press’s review for a chance to win a print copy, and test your lagomorph mettle against the denizens of the Below!

#book-review, #fantasy, #furry, #martial-arts, #ronin, #space

Super Summer Book Sale!

The talented techno-thriller author Hans G. Schantz is leading the charge on this amazing sale.

You can get tons of killer (and not woke) fiction here for 99 cents or free!

Check out the main sale page here.

But grab my books first while there’s still time!

How Black the Sky – $free

Out of the Deep – $0.99

RawJack – $free

Coming to Power – $0.99

Life City – $0.99 anywhere, or at Amazon.

Author Tools – AI cover art – state of the tech

Cover art is one of the biggest barriers to entry in the indie author space. It runs from cheap to unobtainably expensive, from terrible to transcendent. Everyone has different tastes and visions, and opinions on style run the gamut.

But everyone agrees on one thing – it matters and it has to be good.

One of my biggest challenges and points of growth has been to understand and accept that covers that get a response on the market may not be what I prefer to see. At least in the affordable space.

Thus, when I saw indications that art AIs had ‘leveled up’ since the last time I played with one, I deemed it time to run some experiments.

I’ll start with a summary of my personal preference. I like illustrated art that depicts a scene from the book, or something close to one. The prime example of this is Michael Whelan’s cover for Sanderson’s Way of Kings. This is a book I bought because of the cover, when the blurb may not have been enough to convince me and I did not yet know the author.

Obviously this quality of art is out of reach for a beginner author, and I am not the only indie who has attempted to access the illustrated style by getting the best I could afford.

I spent the third most amount on this illustration of all my books, and it’s the best of the bunch overall, so far. It also had the greatest reception of all my illustrated covers. Nevertheless you can see (or at least I can see) a few issues. The pyramid ship is incorrectly scaled, and the Krashmobile is far too small compared to its description in book. Still, the picture gets the point across, and the colors are engaging. Could I have fixed my issues with it, or added more characters to the scene? Sure, but I couldn’t increase the budget.

General wisdom is, if you can’t afford an illustrated cover where one would be appropriate, get a photo real composite. Some indies approximate this by using 3D renders. In general, I dislike both and they do not draw me in.

While these are decent quality examples of both styles, something about them just turns me off. Would not click. That said, someone would, and people do. Thus, authors like myself must figure out how to meet our prospective readers where they are. For me, this has meant practicing my design skills and deciding how to source affordable images.

Enter AI.

Roughly two years ago I played some with Artbreeder, before they locked it down and started pushing their pricing tiers a little harder. In general, it did not produce art I found suitable for covers. But I did get a small set of abstract sci-fi pieces that I was willing to use if it came to it.

I’d say these are somewhere between old school and obviously indie, and frankly don’t leave too much to be desired other than giving off a more chill vibe than the books actually possess. So far as I saw, this is the best Artbreeder could do for our purposes. A pattern begins to emerge, however – the colors and overall vibe are spectacular.

Having left AI alone for some time, I was pleased to see recent posts by people using things like Midjourney and Dall-E 2. I also came across DiscoDiffusion, which can be accessed for free but takes some fiddling.

Without access to Dall-E 2, I’ve only been able to test the others.

Here are some tests with Disco Diffusion. Two are attempts at a photo real but stylized Bloodbane cover, with Castlevania art as an init. There’s one where I tried to get it to isolate a cyberpunk building for game art purposes, and then a general cyborg concept.

You can see the big weakness here is humanoids. Proportions, faces, angles. Everything is off. You can get the AI to do decent portraits, but generally we won’t find those useful for cover art.

Disco just couldn’t figure out how to portray my lumberjack warrior, nor could it really grasp where the axe should be incorporated. That’s to say nothing of trying to get it to render him using a polesaw as a weapon. On that the AI was just clueless, since there is no precedent for that in its trained images.

Once again, the color palette and vibes are beyond excellent. If the covers didn’t need to be coherent, these would be very close to serving their purpose.

Which brings us to Midjourney, which you may have seen me playing with on Twitter.

For reference, here are my two illustrated Hero’s Metal covers, which I love very much for what they are.

But I have to be honest – they do not fit in with what else is on the market. Would I click them? Absolutely. But not enough other people are. In the absence of an $800+ illustration, we need something photo real.

Now we’re talking. Abstractness remains, but the machine’s ability to generate realism while also stylizing has come a long way. You can see the emblem style is the most focused, while the landscape is the most beautiful.

As usual, colors and vibe are the best elements. But the AI’s sense of lighting has greatly improved, we made use of style matching, and the sense of photo realism has greatly improved. Book 4 in particular is still in iteration, but I wanted to include it as an example of what we can do with multiple generations and compositing, for posterity.

Here are two more pieces I generated, for stories I concepted in tandem with the prompts:

I consider this level of art more than usable, and in fact have updated Hero’s Metal 1 and 2 on Amazon. We will see if they generate more clicks/buys. In any case, the reception on Twitter was great, so I’m taking that as a good sign.

I’ve signed up for the Dall-E 2 access, and will report if and when I can. I will also follow up with tips for prompting such AI, should there prove sufficient interest.


The verdict then, for now, is that emblems, landscapes, and somewhat abstract pieces are generate-able and usable. Be aware that it takes some playing with the AI, which means subscribing to one, which means paying out. But I’ve got at least 4 covers here for a much more than reasonable price.

While we would all much prefer to pay talented, working artists in our circles for amazing and beautiful cover illustrations, I think this route for our cover art is not something we can easily ignore.

Questions? Critique? Hit me up!

And click on those beautiful covers above to buy Hero’s Metal and all my other fantasy adventures.

Summer Indie Spotlight Book 1 – Dawn of the Broken Sword by Kit Sun Cheah

Follow the Summer Indie Spotlight event here at Periapsis Press and remember to buy, read, and review each novel to give amazing indie authors the boost they deserve. There’s even a free book giveaway!


The blurb:

Li Ming is a small-town boy with big dreams.

In the era of the Five States and Ten Corporations, the immortals of the jianghu stand head and shoulders above the masses. Li Ming aspires to join their ranks.

But the world of the rivers and lakes is fraught with peril. Deception and danger lurk in the shadows. Bloodthirsty beasts roam the wilds. Martial cultivators constantly battle for wealth, glory and status.

Armed with his ancestral swordbreaker, Li Ming enters the jianghu as a biaohang, eager to deliver justice with steel and magic—and to chase the dream of immortality.

But first, he must prove himself worthy.

Author’s Note: This series is not a power fantasy. There are no LitRPG / GameLit elements, no unconventional relationships, and no sexual content. It is, quite simply, a cultivation story—in the actual sense of the term.


I followed the creation log of Dawn of the Broken Sword eagerly from the moment Mr. Cheah announced the premise on Twitter many moons ago. As a sometime reader of (only the best) litRPG, the idea of Cultivation intrigued me. Having also read the author’s Dungeon Samurai and heard his opinions on the genres involved, I simply had to see what his take on this would be.

Superficially, these are indeed what the book feels like – an MMO-like world without the intense gamification of litRPG and plus the deep tradition of martial arts cultivation. Our hero Li Ming inhabits a world of clear and rigid structure, with a known and well-trodden path before him, and a concrete place in the world that is nicely juxtaposed against the mysteries that arise as the meta plot sets in.

Plot:

Being that this is my first cultivation novel, I can’t say whether this style of plot is standard, but it feels like one part action, one part slice of life (it’s a really cool life too). We follow Li Ming as he enters a world he is aware of but is not yet trained into. We train with him, meet challenges at his side, and feel his awe at the mysteries he discovers along the way.

This is not an adventure, and so the plot structure may feel different to western readers, but rest assured that there is no shortage of action, violence, and intrigue. The two juiciest series threads – one of them being the mystery of the titular swordbreaker – find their footing over the course of the book and set us up for more to come, no doubt with even greater intensity.

Character:

Li Ming reminds me a lot of the author’s Heroes Unleashed superhero, Amp, which isn’t a bad thing. He’s fiercely dedicated to his training and utterly concerned with honor and heroism. It’s unclear to me at the moment how his hunger for Immortality will be, or is, affected by those facets, but I assume those answers will come in time.

Li Ming’s drive to be the best version of himself is palpable. But one thing that didn’t entirely connect for me was the hint that he might have anger issues. I like that certain things, particularly unfairness or injustice, make him angry, but while his anger does threaten to cause issues, I didn’t feel it viscerally whenever the emotion asserted itself. This is a really nitpicky craft comment, to be sure. The character is overall engaging and more than worthy to follow to the end of his road.

The other prominent characters are distinct and it’s cool to see everyone’s varying martial styles in play. It will be interesting to see how Li’s friend and competitive rival’s relation to the series plot will play out.

Craft:

Cheah’s planning and diligence come through as always. The world is lovely and intriguing and clearly well-thought-out. I love the mashup of cyberpunk and a martial-arts dominated society.

I felt that the author’s prose in this piece had more of the emotion, passion and beauty I typically wish to see more of in the other works I’ve read by him. It’s clear that this subject matter and world are something he cares very much about, and that crafting a proper cultivation novel is paramount. All of this love and passion comes through, especially in the descriptions of forms and cultivation ‘magic’.

Overall this is a wonderful book and one I’m glad I started my cultivation exposure with! I can only hope that, though Cheah has set the bar high for other cultivation works, he hasn’t set it too high for me to enjoy some of them as much as I did this book!

#cultivation, #fantasy, #indie, #litrpg, #review, #sci-fi

Summer Indie Spotlight!

Summer is upon us, and what better way to spend as much of it as possible than reading great books?

My friends at Periapsis Press are running an Indie Author spotlight to bring attention to some most deserving SFF authors.

Check the descrip:

Join Periapsis Press this summer for our 2022 Indie Spotlight, supporting indie authors by drawing attention (and hopefully reviews) to three new releases!

Each month, we will read one book and post a review, an excerpt, and an interview with the author. While Periapsis Press is spearheading this event, there are a number of other blogs that will be posting reviews of these titles, too!

You can also participate in the event by reading along, reviewing the book yourself, sharing the reviews on social media, and tuning into the live book discussion at the end of each month.

There’s even a potential prize of not one, but three killer books.

So watch this space for my contributions in reviews, and any updates that come along!

#books, #giveaway, #indie

Anthology Review: Pulp Rock!

The blurb:

ADVENTURE ROCKS
Space pirates and superspies, ghostly singers and half-orc bards, lost cities and deals with the devil . . . all this awaits and more in Pulp Rock: Twelve musically inspired tales of adventure, excitement, and horror by some of the most exciting voices in science-fiction and fantasy. Come explore the nexus between music and the written word, and get ready to rock.


Now you’ll find short blurbs for each story on the Amazon page, but I highly recommend buying the book without reading those, and just enjoying the surprises of discovery.

There isn’t a weak story in the bunch and, unlike with some other anthologies I’ve read, I suffered no temptations to skip! It reminded me of listening to an album the old school way – straight through.

The authors have got a ton of variety in here – adventure, fear, despair, joy, mystery, violence, metaphysics, wonder, transcendence, and of course the love of music. Backing the book was a given for me, since most of my own work is heavily inspired by the music I listen to. It was a lovely treat for me to see how these talented authors manifest rock-infused prose and plot in their own styles.

The stand-out story to me was Entomocronicity by Alexandru Constantine. I hadn’t read anything by him before but I did expect his piece to be the most litfic, and it was. There’s a ghostly kind of horror, touches of madness, and even some sci-fi-ish metaphysical stuff. Trust me when I say it’ll take you places you didn’t expect and dig a knife into your heart.

My favorite world of the bunch was the one depicted in Keep It Burning Bright by the anthology’s creator and editor, Alexander Hellene. It really feels like a tiny (but important) corner of a much larger world. The interaction with transcendence at the story’s climax is absolutely my kind of fantasy.

And my favorite character was Drummerbot from David V. Stewart’s Farewell to Once and Future Kings. This isn’t surprising to anyone who knows me because I love friendly robots, AI, and I myself am a drummer. He was just such a great addition to an already great spy story. Also of note in this piece is Stewart’s clear knowledge of music composition, which was woven into the conflict in an interesting way. Oh, and he also has best girl.

There’s so much other great stuff in here I could hit, but honestly the best way to discover it is to just dive in and enjoy. Let’s wish a great launch to this killer anthology, so we can all look forward to a volume two!

Grab a copy today.

#book-review

Book Review: Heroes Fall by Morgon Newquist

The blurb:

Victoria doesn’t need a cape and a name to be a hero.

Living and working in the slums of Serenity City, she has become its faceless and nameless defender. She turned her back on the glittering world of professional superheroes years ago. If she has her way, she’ll never go back.

But the young and forgotten teens she helps are disappearing from the street, and nobody seems to care. As Victoria unravels this mystery, she is lead back to her old life in the star-studded glamourous superhero circles. No matter how much she hates it, she can’t abandon the helpless when they need her the most.

All clues point back to The Rampage, the terrible day when their mightiest champion Achilles fell to darkness. Will Victoria uncover the truth of what actually happened twenty years ago in time to help her lost boys and girls?

And what will happen when the fallen hero Achilles escapes, and Victoria is the only one who can stop him?

Morgon Newquist blazes on to the Superhero scene with the first Serenity City book, bringing nuance, emotion, and superpowered fights in spades. A solid, engaging launch to the brand new shared Heroes Unleashed universe, Heroes Fall will hook readers right in and leave them wanting more.

Can Victoria solve the twenty year mystery of Achilles’ fall from grace in time to save Serenity City? Or is there another, more sinister player who will destroy the very idea of superheroes?


I entered the Heroes Unleashed universe via Kai Wai Cheah’s killer thriller Hollow City, and every one of these books has been great. It was about time I circled back to the first in the series, and I’m so glad I did!

Newquist’s approach is as unique as each of the other authors and displays great technical skill and imagination, leveraging interpersonal dramas to delve deep into what it means to be a hero in this shared universe.

One thought in particular that kept coming to mind for me was, “She does The Boys-ish style superhero drama better than show!” (I’ve never read those comics, so I can’t comment on that.) That’s not to say that’s all this book is. It’s at once more kind, lighthearted, and deeper, less superficially ‘gritty’. There’s a lot here to enjoy and I hope I can do it justice.

Plot:

Once again we have an HU entry with a cast of clearly defined, engaging and useful characters. Everyone’s strengths and flaws come into play, and in fact all of the plot concerning the mains is specifically driven by these things.

What you’re in for here is an engaging drama and confrontation with fate, punctuated by slick action scenes with surprisingly technical and realistic details.

The plot runs tight and every scene contributes to forward motion. You will hardly notice as the pages fly by.

Character:

There’s a deliberate fuzziness between hero and villain here, which is part of why I made the connection to The Boys. Watchmen could be brought up as well. Some characters wonder what they truly are, while others pretend to be heroes when they’re not. Some aspire to be better, and others tend to hunker down and hide. It all comes off really juicy and authentic.

Victoria herself is the perfect window into the drama between the two heroic titans involved, Achilles and Pendragon. Though she’s strong, she’s only barely capable of holding her own among the older guard, and must often rely on cunning to get herself out of a fix. She’s likable and it’s easy to root for her as she figures out her place in Serenity City.

Craft and Critique:

Morgon is a more than solid author. Her appreciation for classic literature comes through, in no small part via her inclusion of quotes from the Iliad. It’s a nice way to punctuate the beginning of chapters and frame the central conflict in epicness.

The prose is easy and smooth, with a certain quality that put me in mind of Paula Richie’s Penance (also in the series and also very good).

If I had anything to say by way of critique it might be that I found Victoria a little too reactive in the early chapters, waiting for a time to act while the plot revs up around her. This makes sense in context of course, since the character is at that point making up her mind how involved she even wants to be. Thus it may be more of a feature than a bug!

Overall this is yet another excellent addition to the HU series. If you’re in the mood for superheroes, or even just a good action tale, Heroes Fall is for you!

#book-review