Book Review: Darkness Rising – Chained (Prism series) by Ross M Kitson

I’ve been meaning to write a review for this book for ages, but you know how it goes – things just get in the way and the good intentions get pushed lower down the pile. Since reading this fantastic book, I’ve devoured the next three in the Prism series (there will be six in total), so I’ve decided to treat you to all four reviews, one after the other. Here is the first one; the rest of them will follow over the next couple of weeks.

Anyway, down to business.

DR1

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The Blurb

Wild magic comes at a cost… that of the mind.

Emelia dreams of escape from her life of servitude. She dreams of magical powers; she dreams of dark things. When tragedy awakens the sorcery within her she embarks upon an epic journey in the company of two charming thieves.

In the Dead City an ancient evil awakens. The Lord of the Ghasts covets a magical Prism, the clues to which lie with Emelia. And when he begins to share her dreams, surely it is only a matter of time until she succumbs to his power?

My Review

I’ve always loved fantasy so when this book was recommended to me by a friend, I jumped at the chance to read it. I expected it to be good, but it wasn’t – it was fantastic!

Emelia is an impoverished girl who was sold into servitude by her island-dwelling parents. She works hard, dreams a great deal, and has a sassy side (although she doesn’t dare show it at the beginning). She has a voice in her head (Emebaka), an alter-ego of sorts, who often encourages her to step outside her comfort zone yet is occasionally the voice of reason. When Emelia’s closest friend is murdered by the father of her unborn child, Emelia’s wild magic awakens within her.

I loved Emelia’s growth as a character in the story. When she meets Hunor (a thief), and Jem (a sorcerer and thief), she’s gradually accepted into their ‘team’ and learns survival skills; she becomes proficient in the use of weapons, Hunor teaches her how to steal without getting caught, and Jem guides her in gaining control of her magic.

Emelia is not without flaws, but that makes her more real, and I found myself rooting for her.

The main supporting characters of Hunor and Jem were extremely well-crafted. Hunor comes across as a cocky, cheeky chap with a ‘devil-may-care’ attitude. He’s an accomplished thief who has made quite a few enemies on his many journeys yet he seems, on the surface, to have no fear. Jem’s Obsessive Compulsive Disorder adds a twist to his character. He’s obviously gifted in the magical arts, but at the same time, there’s a vulnerability about him that is refreshing.

Vildor, Lord of the Ghasts, is deliciously evil. He and his minions will stop at nothing to get what they want and, as one might expect, are prepared to murder, subvert and possess whomever they choose.

I found all the characters to be totally believable in their respective roles and superbly written. They are complex, riveting and vibrant. I loved the way they grew naturally through the story.

One of the most important things in writing an epic fantasy is the world-building and Kitson has built a memorable, realistic and relatable realm. His description brings each city, each land, to life with colour and clarity. The history and cultures of the different lands and the events which shaped them make an impressive and interesting background which has been cleverly created. It’s richly detailed, diverse and its inhabitants are as atypical as those in our own world.

The plots and sub-plots have many twists and turns, and while some may view the overall premise of the tale as ‘predictable fantasy fodder’, I found it exciting, compelling and unexpected.

This book is incredibly well-written. The author took me on a fantastic journey that I didn’t want to end. Ross Kitson is certainly a name to watch out for – if there’s any justice in the world of publishing, he’ll be bombarded with offers and contracts!

If you love an epic fantasy that grabs you in the first couple of pages and leaves you breathless at the end for more then don’t hesitate – get this book NOW! 5 STARS FROM ME!

 

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Characterisation

This post was hosted by the lovely Madeline Dyer during the Heart Search Blog Tour. She asked me to write on something I’m quite passionate about – characterisation. Here it is:

There’s no easy way of saying it, so I’ll be as blunt as a spoon. It doesn’t matter if your story is character-driven or plot-driven; if you don’t breathe life into your main cast then your story is like a decapitated chicken – dead from the neck up! So how do we make sure our main characters come alive for the reader?

Okay, so here we have our two main characters. Let’s call them Paula and Fred. At the moment they are like cardboard cut-outs. Sure we could add a bit of colour by saying Paula has black hair and hazel eyes, and Fred has ginger hair and blue eyes, we could say they are tall or short, thin or chubby or variations in between. We could go one stage further and include that Paula has a tiny scar above one eyebrow or Fred has a wart on the tip of his nose; it’s a start – it gives the reader a little something to picture – but is it really breathing life into them? The simple answer is, no.

We need to give them personalities, emotions, hopes and dreams, in short we need to make them realistic and relatable.

You need to spend some time getting to know Paula and Fred; find out what makes them happy or sad, angry or soft and gooey, what their aspirations are, whether they are essentially good or bad and what makes them tick. Once you’ve gone through this process of building a personality profile for them you then need to make that personality come alive.

The most effective ways are through dialogue and through showing their emotions.

So if you were writing a scene where Paula was angry about something Fred had done and she was giving him a serious tongue-lashing, the worst thing you can do is just pen the obvious drivel some writers call dialogue. Put yourself in Paula’s shoes and make the dialogue realistic to fit the scene. It’s okay for Paula to stutter in her anger and call him names. It’s fine for her to get her words a bit mixed up in the heat of the moment. Isn’t that what happens in real life? Now think of how Fred might defend himself (if he does at all – that’s your call. He might be the type of guy who holds his hands up, admits he’s dropped the ball and wants to make things better) and make his dialogue as realistic as hers.

Now we’re getting somewhere. But what is the magic ingredient? Showing!

Think about the expressions on their faces and describe them. No you don’t have to go to the nth degree, but a phrase like ‘her flashing eyes narrowed and her voice was laden with venom’ paints a very strong picture for the reader to get hold of. Now think about body language or gestures they might be using. ‘Fred held his hands up as if to ward off her words, taking a step away from her’- again this allows the reader to form an image of what is occurring in the scene. Using small phrases to show how your character is feeling and reacting to a given situation makes them much stronger, which culminates in a story which is now much more interesting than two-day old dishwater.

The vast majority of readers want to connect with the characters in your story, they want to feel their emotions, be able to picture the scene and see how each person is behaving, some even want to imagine themselves as either Paula or Fred. But they can only achieve this if you bring those cardboard cut-outs to life.

A quick tip to help you with characterisation is to people watch (and no I don’t mean for you to stare at people until you get a punch on the nose or a visit from someone wearing a uniform and carrying a badge). Take snippets from what you see and hear around you. When you’re out shopping or at the movies or wherever, watch how people relate to each other and listen to extracts of their discussions. Make mental notes or even better, carry a notepad around with you and if you see or hear something you think you could use, jot it down.

All your characters need to be given life; they need hearts and minds to make them relatable and speech to make them realistic.

 

A Flash of Inspiration – Or Is It?

The next post to appear for the Heart Search Blog Tour was written for C M Skiera. He gave me the topic of inspiration to write about and I decided I was going to do something a little different for this one. Here is the end result.

Inspiration – what does that word mean to you? In the dictionary it’s defined as:            1. Stimulation to do creative work; stimulation for the human mind to creative thought or to the making of art [found inspiration in the landscape around her]. 2. Somebody or something that inspires; somebody or something that inspires somebody to creative thought or to the making of art [His book is an inspiration to all would-be travellers]. 3. Creativeness; the quality of being stimulated to create thought or activity, or the manifestation of this [a moment of inspiration].

As writers we all need inspiration to put pen to paper or our fingers on the keyboard. Yet there’s a missing ingredient here – imagination. To me, inspiration and imagination go hand in hand, like eggs and bacon or toast and marmalade. Yes you can have eggs without the bacon or toast without the marmalade, but will it taste as good?

So let’s explore imagination for a minute. As children we had truckloads of it; we would do drawing and paintings, play with dolls or toy soldiers making things up as we went along yet as we grow into adulthood our imagination seems to get stifled by life. Yeah, sometimes it’s hard to let our imagination run riot when we’re worried about paying bills, work, and maybe we’ve got kids and a spouse. But to be a writer we need to allow our imagination out of its box and go wild.

The dictionary defines imagination as: 1. Ability to visualise; the ability to form images and ideas in the mind, especially of things never seen or experienced directly. 2. Creative part of mind; the part of the mind where ideas, thoughts and images are formed.

Do you see the link between the two definitions?

Okay, so let’s put the two together and see what we get. Your scenario is – you’re out for a drive in the countryside and you come across a little church tucked away behind some trees or bushes. You’re intrigued so you stop for a closer look. It’s just a small abandoned church with weeds and overgrown grass in the yard. Or is it? Now let your imagination soar . . .

Why is the church abandoned? Perhaps it was used for pagan or satanic worship and a posse of god-fearing folk drove them out. Maybe there was a small town around the church at one time – what happened to the people and houses? Did a plague wipe out the town and the homes razed to the ground to eradicate the disease? Was there something supernatural which drove the people away, like a poltergeist? Perhaps a serial killer methodically wiped out the town, one family at a time. Did extra-terrestrials have something to do with it?

Going back to the church itself, is something hidden in the crypt, something magical? Is someone or something evil buried beneath the church? Is the crypt now used as a vampire’s resting place? And what about the churchyard – have the grass and weeds been allowed to grow wild to hide something? If so, what could it be? Do some of the gravestones hide clues to a secret treasure or symbols to summon demonic forces.

Now you’ve let your imagination picture all these possibilities for a simple abandoned church, you have created the inspiration to work some magic with it. Now you can grab your keyboard or pad and pen and begin to sketch out a story. Once you’ve decided which scenario you’re going to write about you can then start thinking about characters and building your plot.

Anything you see, no matter how ordinary can be made extraordinary just by using your imagination. This also applies to people. A man walking down the street looking shabby could be a millionaire, a celebrity in disguise, a spy, a witch hunter, a wizard or a homeless ex-soldier.

If you struggle to find inspiration for your writing it’s probably because you’re not allowing your imagination to feed it. So as you travel to work, walk down the shops or out in the countryside, or drive somewhere in your car, really open your eyes, let your imagination take flight and allow yourself to be inspired.

The lesson from this is that inspiration is all around us – we’ve just got to open our eyes and see!

Night #BlogFlash 2012

Hi Everyone. It’s Day 21 and the #BlogFlash prompt for today is Night. There’s something fascinating about looking up at the night sky, seeing the moon and stars, and letting your mind just wander and imagine what could be out there in the universe – things/places/other species which we haven’t discovered yet. Anyway, I decided yet again to try something different for this post and I hope you like it.

 

Night

Onyx satin above our heads

Half orb of opal luminescence

Reflection causing a halo of light

Diamonds glisten radiantly

Making shapes across the firmament

A hoot nearby breaks the silence

An owl spreads its wings taking flight

A cloud of bats journey

Exploring, hunting for sustenance

In the quiet, tiny creatures rustle

Moving in the safe camouflage

I sit and gaze in wondrous awe

My bed beckons, tiredness ignored

The magic of the night surrounds me

Welcomes me into its heart

And I succumb to its delights.

 

Fireworks #BlogFlash2012

Hi. It’s now Day 19 on #Blogflash2012 and today’s prompt is Fireworks. I’ve seen some incredible displays over the years, one of which was at the Opening Ceremony for the London 2012 Olympics. However, for me there’s one which sticks in my mind like superglue and I’ll never forget it!

Fireworks

The most fantastic display I’ve ever seen was at Disney in Florida. Hurricane Charlie had ripped through the area the night before, but it was business as normal in the Disney complexes.

The Epcot Centre

At the Epcot Centre, the day ended in the most breathtaking firework display I’d ever seen. I was mesmerised by the beautifully orchestrated display to a point where it was almost hypnotic.

Like a concerto, the colours danced in the night sky, each new part increasingly exquisite as it rose to a crescendo of coloured light exploding in glorious abundance.

The last vestiges faded, my trance ended yet the magic remained . . .

forever etched into my mind and heart.

Wild At Heart #BlogFlash2012

Hi. The #BlogFlash2012 Day 18 prompt is Wild At Heart. There are so many ways this topic can be explored and here are my thoughts on it. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Wild At Heart

Sometimes I yearn to break free from the yoke society places on us; I think there’s an adventurer in all of us straining at the leash.

Breaking free

There are so many adventures I’d love to experience: skydiving, as I love flying; an archaeological dig and finding a rare treasure; getting back in touch with nature in all its glory; roaming the world, finding tiny places/islands and exploring them.

But most of all I’d love to dive into a fantasy world, where magic is the norm and I’m a powerful mage who saves the day.

I can dream, can’t I?

 

Book Review: The Lamplighter’s Special by Alison DeLuca

Before you moan at me – yes I know I’ve done 2 book reviews in a row, but both books are so worthy that I just had to pass on my thoughts to you all. So forgive me, enjoy my comments and then go and get the books – you won’t be disappointed!

The Lamplighter’s Special

 

I have been eagerly awaiting this third book in the Crown Phoenix series, having read and immensely enjoyed The Night Watchman Express and Devil’s Kitchen, and I’m overjoyed to report, it was well worth the wait.

This book centres primarily around Ninna and Lizzie and how they become embroiled in the magic surrounding the Crown Phoenix.

This story starts a little slower as the author sets the scene for what ultimately culminates in an unexpected and somewhat explosive ending.

Despite the slower pace at the beginning, Ms DeLuca intricately weaves an amazing tale which connects to the previous two books in unforeseen ways, making it all the more exciting.

Once again, she has given her characters great depth and the reader can truly relate to them. I found myself connecting with Lizzie and Ninna on many levels; some of the more emotional scenes tugged on my heartstrings, especially their concern and worry about their parents and younger sister.

Her fantastic world-building is as believable as it is imaginable, and that to me is one of her great strengths. She describes her settings with such skill that you can picture yourself there whilst still leaving enough to the imagination to make it enchanting.

The fantastical and magical elements are totally unique and have been devised with great ingenuity. What’s more, they have been written with great skill whilst still not revealing all the secrets. She definitely leaves you with unanswered questions, but not to the extent where it spoils the unfolding tale.

The gripping twists in the story are fabulous tie-ins with book 2 of the series and even though The Lamplighter’s Special was only released yesterday, I’m already chomping at the bit for book 4!

Alison DeLuca is a master storyteller who deserves much more recognition than she gets. I would not hesitate to recommend not only this book, but the entire series. This is Steampunk adventure at its best!

Available from Amazon.com  http://amzn.to/K2W9q3  or Amazon.co.uk http://amzn.to/J4EWn2