Category Archives: Action & Adventure

An adventure story is about a protagonist who journeys to epic or distant places to accomplish something. The protagonist has a mission and faces obstacles to get to his destination. An action story is similar to Adventure, but the protagonist usually takes a risky turn, which leads to desperate situations. Includes spy novels, westerns, superheroes, etc, like James Bond, Dirk Pitt, Indiana Jones, and most stories that include explosions, fight scenes, daring escapes, etc.

His Majesty’s Hope by MacNeal

imageMaggie Hope is back – this time on a secret mission to Berlin during World War 2. It’s supposed to be a quick in and out drop off and intelligence run… Supposed to be.

His Majesty’s Hope
Maggie Hope #3
by Susan Elia MacNeal
Bantam / Random House Audio
May 2013

Maggie quickly makes things more complicated by deciding to stick around a little longer to gather intelligence when an opportunity to work for high ranking officials opens up. This leads to daring escapes, dramatic fights, terrible persecution and a fun story set in an era that is one of my favorites.

[MILD SPOILERS] The problem I have with this novel is that I’m constantly being jerked out of the story due to the questionable ethics being promoted by the main characters and cliché storylines. I despise when everyone in a story is related (although they may not know it at first.) The main bad guy is who? The helper at university is who? The boyfriend is where? Are there only 10 people in the whole world? Why must we go back to this tired form of storytelling?

As far as ethical issue, sure Maggie Hope is like a female James Bond so sleeping around doesn’t surprise me as much as it should considering that this is a World War 2 era story with a female protagonist. Her roommate being a (smart, fashionable, witty) gay man just trying to live his life in peace with his gay lover (who of course get attacked for being gay by some drunk ruffians). It’s just so cliché!

And consider the other heroine, Eliza, who wants to be a nun and seems to take her faith seriously except that she enjoys frequent premarital sex in the alley outside dance halls. (And who is related to our protagonist, of course.)

But Eliza’s hypocrisy is part of an anti-religious theme in the book that I didn’t appreciate. Along with Eliza, Maggie’s main contact in Berlin went to school to be a priest but is a borderline abusive, mean-spirited, sour man who never comes across as interesting, smart, or sympathetic. And he is terrible at apologetics. (Or great at being Maggie’s straw man.)

Consider how terribly this man answers the witty, smart, charming atheist Maggie about the issue of pain and suffering in Berlin. The man says that the pain and suffering and evil is something God provides to mold us and teach us lessons. While it is true that Christianity believes that God uses suffering we don’t believe that God is responsible for evil and suffering. This is a step too far and reveals a negative bias by the author against Christianity. The arguments that the wannabe priest make are merely set-ups for Maggie to knock down; easy straw man arguments create for Maggie, the atheist, to win. And why is there conflict anyway? Many of the greatest heroes from World War 2, especially in Germany, were the Christians who sacrificed everything to undermine the Reich. (Consider Bonheoffer, for some more knowledgeable and appropriate responses to Maggie’s questions.) And there really ought not to be a conflict between science and religion either, but that is the way the author chooses – the easy way – instead of really wrestling with the question of evil in Hitler’s Germany.

The story is fun and Maggie is a charming character. But the way the book heavy handedly promotes carnality and atheism made the story less enjoyable for me. And I believe can also cause issues for the other 80% of the world that believes in a faith tradition.

I don’t recommend it.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Battle of Verril by Lallo

verrilThe final book in The Book of Deacon trilogy, Myranda and the Chosen must face the invaders from another world. But the generals of the D’karon are fearsome enemies that apparently can’t be killed. Even more troubling, the prophecy that brought the Chosen together states that only four of them will survive the final battle, and one will die.

The Battle of Verril
The Book of Deacon #3
by Joseph Lallo
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
July 31, 2012

As the final book of the trilogy, the author’s writing shows quite a bit of improvement, and I can only imagine that the act of writing such a lengthy trilogy was a growing experience and a labor of love.

That said, it was quite a labor to reach this point in the story, and there are plot holes and problems from the previous books that continue to overshadow the successes made with this final chapter of the trilogy.

The characters, both good and bad, actually begin to take on more layered personalities, but their rocky foundations still leave much to be desired.

As final battles go, things continue as you would more or less expect them to. Although I couldn’t help but wonder why a war that has lasted for over a century and was supposedly engineered by an invading force from another dimension would only just now be reaching its conclusion.

In the end, the overall story isn’t bad, just poorly executed. The entire series would have probably done better as a single book and with a generous amount of editing. Still, the author has shows quite a bit of improvement and has since written a few side stories that take place in the same universe, but have a much higher quality of writing.

Anyone who has managed to make it this far, should definitely check out some of the author’s later works.


Matthew Scott is the Dark Fantasy & Horror Editor of BookGateway.com who describes himself as just another average reader who enjoys sharing his opinion on various books, authors, and whatever else may cross his path.

The Great Convergence by Lallo

greatconvThe second book in the The Book of Deacon trilogy, picks up directly where The Book of Deacon left off. Now that two of the Chosen have been found, it would seem the Perpetual War may finally end. But Lain isn’t interested in stopping a war, and while the prophesied spirit named Ether has finally been summoned, she has emotional bearing of a petulant child. With an end to the war in sight, Myranda has taken up the charge of finding the remaining Chosen, but dark forces are gathering to oppose her.

The Great Convergence
The Book of Deacon #2
by Joseph Lallo
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
July 31, 2012

Delving a little deeper into the world, The Great Convergence actually starts to build up to a workable plot. Unfortunately, it still suffers from a lot of the problems that plagued the first book. The overall story is still rather convoluted, and the characters too often come across as flat archetypes.

We do, however, finally have a villain or troupe of villains to address. As it turns out, Myranda’s world is being invaded by forces from another dimension, and the war that is currently being fought is really just an excuse to wipe out humanity.

But the villains all come across as the exact same, and I honestly had trouble trying to keep their names straight, since they all seemed to be clones of one another.

Myranda attempt to actually take charge in this book, but since she has no means of forcing the Chosen to act, her attempts to direct them just comes across as whining and nagging.

Lain remains flat and dull as he constantly broods in the background, and his friend Desmeres is little more than greed incarnate. (Actually both characters seem to have absolutely no moral compass and are motivated solely by their own selfish reasons, so it’s little wonder they get along.)

Ether and Ivy are introduced and act like spoiled children throughout the entire story. Ether is snobbish and cruel, looking down on everyone but Lain and herself. Meanwhile, Ivy has all the social grace and attitude of a five year old. And while it’s clear that the author wanted Ivy to be painted in a sympathetic light, her childlike naivete and constant whining wear on the nerves rather quickly.

Ultimately, the story doesn’t really go anywhere, since once again, the narrative comes to abrupt end and we’re left to wait for the next book. But for anyone who has bothered to read this far, the final book is more of an inevitability than anything else.

The Book of Deacon by Lallo

bookofdeaconOrphaned, homeless, and alone, Myranda is a young woman who is just trying to stay alive. The Perpetual War has been raging across the land for years now, and Myranda is one of the few people who sees the constant bloodshed as a waste of life. Her views make her unpopular, and she is forced to wander from town to town seeking shelter. Her life is completely changed, however, when she finds a dead soldier in the frozen wastes and ultimately takes his place in a prophecy that might just save the world.

The Book of Deacon
The Book of Deacon #1
Joseph Lallo
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
March 18, 2012

Before diving too deep into this book, it should be noted that this is the first in a trilogy. However, unlike a traditional trilogy, the books aren’t self contained stories. Instead, the narrative in the first two books simply drops off and is immediately picked up in the sequels. This makes it a bit difficult to get a clear picture of the overall story from just one book.

As for the characters, themselves, they’re rather poorly designed. Myranda is hopelessly passive and spends the majority of the book being tossed from plot point to plot point. The fact that she has all the personality and bearing of a sack of grain makes her a poor protagonist. She isn’t so much a part of the story as the story happens to her.

Leo/Lain might as well have truly been two completely different characters as his entire nature changes halfway through the first book. We aren’t really given an explanation for his sudden shift in personality, except that the story seemed to call for it.

The rest of the characters randomly appear and disappear, all for the sake of moving the scenes along. Their personalities are little more than archetypes to the point that they might as well have been named like the seven dwarfs in Snow White (Happy, Grumpy, Bashful, etc.).

And then the book ends. Where we’re going and why we’re going there is never really explained beyond a few vague references to a prophecy. The story does pick up and improve as we move to the second and third book, but it still has a tendency to drag.

If you’re looking for something fantasy based that is light, fluffy, and doesn’t require too much thought, the book isn’t too bad. But if you’re not willing to read through all three books to get the whole picture, I’d advise you not to even start.


Matthew Scott is the Dark Fantasy & Horror Editor of BookGateway.com who describes himself as just another average reader who enjoys sharing his opinion on various books, authors, and whatever else may cross his path.

Bad Radio by Langlois

badradioDuring WWII, Abe Griffin was a member of a special task force that took on the strange and supernatural. One event in particular, however, left its mark on Abe. Now, sixty years later, Abe hasn’t aged a day, is preternaturally strong, and can heal from just about anything. But Abe’s abilities are more than they seem. The same ritual that gave Abe his abilities is being recreated, and the man responsible is determined to finish what he started. All he needs is Abe, and he’ll kill anyone that gets in his way.

Bad Radio
The Emergent Earth #1
Michael Langlois
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
August 21, 2011

Corpses and living people filled with parasites, giant worms, and blood rituals ensure that there is no shortage when it comes to gore in this particular tale. Throw in some psychics and obscure magic and you’ve got yourself a story. Or so you’d think.

But the truth is that this story just suffers from plain old bad writing. Characters are mortally wounded one moment and then they’re fine the next. Nobody even questions the fact that Abe seems to be able to heal from multiple stab wounds in minutes until three-fourths through the story. (Although no explanation is given as to how everyone else is alive and up walking around. All that blood has to come from somewhere.)

The story also has a nasty habit of using any and every lull to drop into lengthy exposition. I honestly almost laughed during one scene where a character was lying on the ground, supposedly bleeding to death and waiting for an ambulance, but manages to have an entire cellphone conversation chronicling Abe’s past.

Even worse is the fact that some of the exposition is literally a repeat of information already shared. It’s as though the characters have forgotten the details of each other’s lives, despite the exact same conversation having happening two chapters ago.

Really, I could go on, but the point is that the book is a mess. There’s already a sequel and I imagine this first book is meant to be part of a series or a trilogy, but I honestly don’t think I could bring myself to read more.


Matthew Scott is the Dark Fantasy & Horror Editor of BookGateway.com who describes himself as just another average reader who enjoys sharing his opinion on various books, authors, and whatever else may cross his path.

Abhorsen by Nix

Abhorsen2Concluding the Abhorsen Trilogy and picking up where Lirael left off, Abhorsen details the final battle between our heroes and Orannis, the Destroyer. With an evil necromancer and a Greater Dead manipulating Nicholas Sayre, the problem of Orannis’s resurrection has been solved by an unlikely fusion of magic and science. To make matters worse, the current Abhorsen Sabriel and King Touchstone are no where to be found. Lirael and Sameth must stop the Destroyer and save Nicholas, but neither are experienced enough to carry out such a monumental task. But if the Destroyer awakens, all their lives will be lost.

Abhorsen
The Abhorsen Trilogy #3
by Garth Nix
HarperTeen
October 6, 2009

Abhorsen brings the events of Lirael into fresh light and finally reveals the truth behind Lirael’s past, Sameth’s skills, and the origins of the Disreputable Dog and Mogget.

Much of the history of the Old Kingdom is explained, and we learn just how this strange and complex world was originally created. Of course some mysteries still abound, but answers to the larger questions are finally revealed.

Nix skillfully ties together the various threads of plot, and brings the story to a satisfying climax in which good and evil, life and death, and creation and destruction must battle to win. Of course no victory is assured without sacrifice, and Nix does well to draw the reader in with the promise that not all of our heroes may survive.

Looking back over both Lirael and Abhorsen, a lot of information and quite a few events are thrown at the reader. By the time I got to Abhorsen, I found myself in need of a refresher, having long forgotten some of the smaller details and side characters presented in Lirael.

With that in mind, I would strongly recommend anyone interested in the later story to at least start off with Sabriel as a way of easing into the more complex landscape of Lirael and Abhorsen. As far as good fantasy books with a touch of darkness go, I definitely recommend all three books.


Matthew Scott is the Dark Fantasy & Horror Editor of BookGateway.com who describes himself as just another average reader who enjoys sharing his opinion on various books, authors, and whatever else may cross his path.

Lirael by Nix

liraelpbFourteen years have passed since the events of Sabriel, but all is not well in the Old Kingdom. In the second book of The Abhorsen Trilogy, we are introduced to Lirael, a daughter of the Clayr. However, unlike most Clayr with their dark skin, blond hair, and light eyes, Lirael is pale to almost white and her hair and eyes are black. Even more troubling is that Lirael has never once shown any sign of possessing the Sight, the ability to see into the possible futures and the birthright of the Clayr. But Lirael may be more than she imagines, and her life among the Clayr may soon be coming to an end. Something more terrible than the Greater Dead is coming and Lirael’s unique heritage may make her the only one able to stop it.

Lirael
The Abhorsen Trilogy #2
Garth Nix
HarperTeen
October 6, 2009

As is the case I find with the second book of many trilogies, Lirael doesn’t have a true ending. Instead it suddenly cuts off and is picked back up in the third and final book, Abhorsen.

The content of Lirael is much more in depth, however, and we are introduced to a host of new characters and dynamics. Sabriel, Touchstone, and Mogget all return, but they are no longer the central characters. Instead we meet Sabriel’s children, Ellimere and Sameth (although not much focus is given to Ellimere), as well as Sameth’s friend from Ancelstierre, Nicholas Sayre.

Part one focuses mainly on Lirael and her adventures with The Disreputable Dog, whereas part two switches to Prince Sameth, who struggles with his title of Abhorsen-in-waiting and the knowledge that he must one day take over for his mother.

Part three, brings Lirael and Sameth together, but ends with Nicholas missing and a terrible, ancient force threatening to be released.

Since much of the book is effectively just build up and only half of the whole story, it’s hard to really judge the book or its content. Nevertheless, I will say that the book did a wonderful job of immersing me back into the world of the Old Kingdom. Divided into three parts, each sub-story has it’s own mini-plot and challenges, while slowly introducing us to the characters.

The pacing is quite a bit slower than in Sabriel, but the story is just as captivating. It’s definitely worth a look.


Matthew Scott is the Dark Fantasy & Horror Editor of BookGateway.com who describes himself as just another average reader who enjoys sharing his opinion on various books, authors, and whatever else may cross his path.

Sabriel by Nix

sabriel_coverSabriel is the daughter of the Abhorsen, a man tasked with ensuring the dead stay dead and are not left free to feast on the living. But Sabriel has been going to school in the non-magical land of Ancelstierre, where magic doesn’t exist and few believe such a thing even exists. However when her father goes missing, Sabriel must travel past the Border into the Old Kingdom and take up the title of Abhorsen for herself. The Greater Dead are stirring and something very old is threatening to break free past the gates that separate Life from Death.

Sabriel
The Abhorsen Trilogy #1
Garth Nix
HarperTeen
October 6, 2009

The story of Sabriel is a very simple one, yet Nix weaves a very complex world of ancient magic and necromancy. The author doesn’t waste time with history or back story, and instead dives head first into the action. What little we do learn about the magic, necromancy, and the Old Kingdom is slowly pieced together through information spread out through the story.

Yet Nix’s easy going pace and simple prose doesn’t require the reader to understand more than the basic of concepts. At it’s heart, this is really a story about a young woman growing up, experiencing love, and finding her place in a confusing and troubled world.

If I had one complaint about Sabriel, it is that there wasn’t more. While Nix’s approach is sure to make the reading more palatable for those not wishing to be bogged down with the finer details, I found myself utterly swept away by this amazing and complex world. But the author expertly slips us only a taste of the Old Kingdom’s history and never tells us more that we absolutely need to know.

Fortunately, Sabriel is only the first in the Abhorsen trilogy. The book stands alone quite well, however, and even those not interested in continuing to the sequels are sure to enjoy this remarkable tale.


Matthew Scott is the Dark Fantasy & Horror Editor of BookGateway.com who describes himself as just another average reader who enjoys sharing his opinion on various books, authors, and whatever else may cross his path.

Star Wars: Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison

19 years prior to A New Hope the largest Imperial officer graduation ceremony becomes ground zero for a massive coup.

Star Wars: Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison
written by Haden Blackman
art by Agustin Alessio
Dark Horse
April 2013

Laurita Tohm, our narrator via his report on the coup attempt, can’t wait to graduate as an officer. When the attack comes he battles his peers – members of a secret group loyal to a high ranking Imperial who is tired of seeing his cadets die in wasteful wars – when he finds himself with Darth Vader working to save the Emperor, who has been poisoned.

The only safe place to run to while the Emperor is healed is a secret prison full of ultra violent criminals and rebels (not in the sense of the movies). Once there they work to recruit an army imageof deadly prisoners to take back the Empire. (Some of the best scenes in the book can be found here.)

Ultimately, this is a story about Vader and how he becomes the monster hinted at in Episode III but fully realized in Episode IV. A fascinating and multifaceted portrayal that sheds light on the once hero, now villain, and one day to be redeemed right hand of the Emperor. Watching and learning from Lord Vader is the highlight of Tohm’s life – and of this book.

image

The artwork is outstanding. In a world dominated by Jim Lee clones, Alessio hits exactly the right balance between artistic freedom and realism. (Right).

The story is never interrupted by oddly shaped, overly buxom women or overly buff men. Vader and icons of the Star Wars universe are instantly recognizable and extremely well done.

The cover art and full page pinups are also outstanding. Wilkins does a great job artistically portraying Vader! I love his Vader / skull pinup! (Left).

This is a great graphic novel. It’s well written, adds to the universe, and is beautifully done.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Makai Queen by Tara Fairfield

There is a debate in the study of literature as to whether or not books should be for a purpose, or if they are purely artistic and not necessarily meaningful. Tara Fairfield, in her book Makai Queen, would say otherwise.

Makai Queen
by Tara Fairfield
Deep River Books
February 2013

In her underwater adventure she allows readers to follow the young protagonist, Tessa, who gets thrown into an entirely new world and difficult circumstances that test her character. Fairfield, as a Christian Psychologist who works with many struggling teens, definitely throws in her experience into the character of Tessa. Evidence of this can be seen at the end of the book where Fairfield includes study questions that correspond with the chapters in the book. They are not extensive questions, by any means, but they do help the readers think about their own life and how to make the book relatable to themselves. Whether or not you agree with an author doing this is beside the point. The fact of the matter is it’s nice and even admirable that Tara Fairfield wants to use her literary works to impact society and help individuals through their struggles.

The book itself is pretty interesting. At first, the cover scared me because it came off as being for really young girls (of which I am neither young or a girl), but I was completely wrong. I know, I know, don’t judge a book by its cover. The novel is very fast paced, so I was never bored with what was happening. However, there were many times where Fairfield could have slowed down the pace of the story and add more detail in order to make the book even better. In fact, right from the beginning of the book, readers are immediately thrown into the action without much backstory. This was my biggest concern with the work as a whole, but it did not make me dislike the story. The end of the book left things unanswered, so perhaps Fairfield will be continuing the story and thus strengthen these parts of her story.

Since the weaknesses of the story have been dealt with, I must stress the strengths. Fairfield does an excellent job at creativity; the story is interesting, the setting is intriguing, and the plot kept me reading. Every time one question was solved, another popped up, which definitely helped create a satisfying and fast read. Although there weren’t many details in the underwater setting, I still was able to picture the scenes and feel as though they were actually tangible. Additionally, there was a great balance between action, romance, and mystery that should be able to grab the attention of a wide variety of readers.

Overall, I did enjoy this book and will look forward to any preceding works that Tara Fairfield comes out with. I sincerely believe that this author has the potential to touch the lives of many younger readers through her literary works. With over twenty years of experience as a Christian Psychologist, she understands the struggles and the minds of teens, which is evident in Makai Queen. Bringing this experience into the literary world gives her a unique voice as an author, one that can consistently make her works impactful and meaningful. Although Makai Queen can certainly be for any type of reader, I encourage parents to purchase this book for their younger pre-teens and teens and see if they enjoy the book and maybe even use the study guide to probe into their own hearts.


Michael Krauszer is the owner/founder of Christian Literature Review. Currently he is a senior at The College of New Jersey, working to complete his BA in English, along with attending Veritas Evangelical Seminary for his MA in Theological Studies. If you’re an author and would like him to review your book, contact him at Mike@Christianlitreview.com.