Category Archives: Fantasy

Fiction with strange or other worldly settings or characters; fiction which invites suspension of reality. Includes: fantasy (Dungeons & Dragons, High Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Epic Fantasy), fables (mythical creatures, like unicorns, faeries, ghosts, Greek and Roman gods, vampires, zombies, werewolves and other were-animals), non-Biblical angels and demons, and other non-sensical or magical creatures or characters.

Off to be the Wizard by Meyer

Martin was a completely normal geek. Until he found a hidden program and became a god.

Off to be the Wizard
Magic 2.0 #1
by Scott Meyer
narrated by Luke Daniels
Brilliance Audio
March 2014

The hidden file was on a hidden server and looked completely harmless. It seemed to contain random numbers and words, but Martin’s habit of searching for himself turned into the discovery of a lifetime. Or well, all life times. His name was there. And with some fidgeting and problem solving so was his age, weight and height, and – interestingly – his bank account balance. After thinking he was going crazy when messing with his height in the machine and seeming to actually change height, he changed the amount in there and checked. His bank reflected what the file said. In fact, everything in the file changed “reality.”

Quickly finding ways to shut down aging and making himself impervious to injury, he decides to make his life easy – way easy – by giving himself a lot of extra money. Of course, banks and the Fed have questions when bank accounts start getting money with no deposits. So they come a calling leaving Martin the option of trying to explain this to them or running to a safe place and time. He chooses England in the middle ages.

Thinking he would wow the residents of the first town he comes upon he quickly finds that he isn’t the only “wizard” who had the idea to go back and time and live like a king. He just happens to be the most recent hacker to find the file. Navigating friends from foes, keeping the “wizard” powers secret and living life as he wants to is going to be hard but with almost unlimited power, money and time, Martin looks forward to the challenge.

This very funny book, similar to Robert Asprin’s Myth books, with interesting comedic characters that exist mostly for the silliness of living in a Matrix-type world that they can control. Whether Martin defeats the evil [SPOILER] Merlin [END SPOILER} or not isn’t really the point. It’s the journey rather than the destination. And I enjoyed every minute of this laugh out loud journey.

A NOTE ABOUT THE AUDIO: Luke Daniels does a great job with differentiating voices, pacing of sentences, evenness of volume and – importantly – in comedic timing. His voice still comes into my head at times during the day, “Marrrtiiiin!” Excellent job.

The Deavys by Foster

DeavysI wanted to read this book for two reasons: 1) Alan Dean Foster has a great reputation and a long list of books, and 2) somewhere in the press for this book it was mentioned that Foster would use puns ala Terry Pratchett or Pierce Anthony. Within the first few pages, though, it didn’t matter who the author was – this is no Discworld or Xanth. In fact, for most of the book I was bored.

The Deavys
by Alan Dean Foster
Open Road Media Teen & Tween
February 2016

Simwan (pronounced “Someone”), his two and a half sisters (one phases in and out of physical reality) and their cat go on an adventure to find the “Turth” which was stolen and taken to [MILD SPOILERS] New York. The four kids (I count N/Ice as a person even if she isn’t always around, and yes, that is the terrible name of the third sister) and the cat travel to visit their uncle (a zombie) to start looking for the Crub, who they think is behind the theft. Along the way they come across several bad guys, none of whom are interesting, and good guys, ditto. They go to a place, do some stuff, somehow fight off terrible and powerful monsters (as four kids under 16 and their cat are known to do) and … well if you really want to know how it works out you can suffer through the book if you like. I’m not happy that I did. [END SPOILERS]

The book isn’t punny or funny. It’s long winded, hard to read at times (see above names for examples), and not that interesting. The idea that someone stole the Truth could totally be a great Xanth novel, but Anthony is busy writing much better books than this. I really hate saying all of this about the book. But it’s the Truth (there, I found it for you.)

I recommend you pass. Especially if you are looking for a funny, and fun, book.


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.

Black City Saint by Knaak

BlackCitySaintNick saved the world years ago in an event humans know as the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Unfortunately, another “opportunity” has come his way.

Black City Saint
by Richard A. Knaak
Pyr
March 2016

This is a fascinating setting: Chicago in the 1920s, the height of prohibition with bootleggers and gangsters warring for turf, and very few electronic devices. [SPOILERS] Nick even humorously ponders about how great it would be if there were such things as portable devices to contact people from their automobile, among other things. [END SPOILERS] The two gangs and name dropping of some real gangsters gave readers something to connect with in such a foreign world. A detective noir set in this world isn’t so much of a stretch, but adding in magic, fantasy creatures and more makes this very different from most books. But not all.

Fans of the Dresden Files by Butcher wont be able to miss the obvious parallels. [SPOILERS] An out of time detective that only solves fantasy problems, with fantastical, and not always trustworthy sidekicks, tied to a ruling council from another, hidden world, tries to stop the big bad from using their magic to destroy a Chicago. [END SPOILERS] As a fan of Dresden, more is usually better. But Knaak’s Nick isn’t the same as Butcher’s Dresden, though for one very big reason: the addition of Christian characters into the mythology.

I was introduced to Knaak in my adolescence via his contributions to the Dragonlance saga. Legend of Huma is a favorite all these years later. One thing a Christian who loves fantasy has to do is to distinguish between fantasy “gods” and the real “God.” I dislike (very much) when an author takes real Christian characters and changes them and their theology/ the theology they represent to fit the fantasy of their world. This was a real concern for me when [SPOILERS] Nick turns out to be Saint George (who fought the dragon), who believes in the real God, but also fights to keep the realms of humans and faeries separate. Faeries aren’t allowed to enter churches, holy water and blessed items hurt them, Saint Michael/ Michael the Arch Angel shows up possibly, and so on also conflate the issue. While I’m not usually a fan of this, Knaak did a good job walking a line here of being respectful to the characters while integrating them into the mythology. Nick Medea, for instance, is grounded even by his name – he is named after the real place of St. Georgius’ death, Nicomedia. [END SPOILERS] But the main issue for me still exists: the Christian characters have been merged with fantasy characters and included and treated like mythology. As a Christian, and acknowledging that the battle between St. George and the Dragon is very likely legendary, I prefer that Christianity not be included as just another source for mythology, because to me it isn’t.

This is a fast paced, fun fantasy noir that fans of both genres will enjoy.


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.

Hunt for Valamon by Mok

valamonHigh Fantasy. Intrigue. Heart.

Hunt for Valamon
by DK Mok
Spence City
April 2015

A prince of the Talgaran Empire is taken from the heart of the castle, in the citadel of the capital, by forbidden sorcery the hunt is on. Drafted into service, reclusive cleric Seris is joined by cursed champion Elhan on a journey to the outskirts of the empire passing through rich port cities, desert prisons, forest kingdoms, and ultimately to a villain that isn’t who she seems to be. All the while, the question of whether or not Valamon can be saved, should be saved or is even worth saving is on the table. Divided loyalty to the champion and cleric leads some in the empire to fight to help them while others seek to stop (or kill) them. All the while, a vast army unseen is advancing on the capital and the end of the empire draws near. Even the loyalty of gods cannot be depended upon.

During the adventure (or “hunt”) Seris and Elhan both develop from cliché to fully fleshed out characters. Seris finds himself and his purpose in the hunt, while Elhan realizes there is more to life than what was afforded due to her curse. (Her curse causes death and destruction for those around her, while keeping her safe through unlikely and amazingly lucky ways.) Both are interesting characters that this reader fully enjoyed. Other smaller characters are less developed but more nuanced than you find in normal, cynical fantasy novels. [SPOILERS] What I really liked about this book was the optimism and goodness of the characters. Valamon and Seris fully believe in the rightness of good and the value of every human. Elhan is jaded by her experience of being cursed, but comes to find that there is more to life, and life itself matters. [REALLY SPOILING SPOILER] Even the main “bad guy” Lord Haska comes around as she learns to release the hatred she feels at the loss of her parents at the hands of King Delmar. Unfortunately, King Delmar, Crown Prince Falon, the Captain of the guard Lord Qara, and the “evil” General Barratt and Sorceress Amoriel aren’t as well developed. The King and Queen show up for mere moments and then are gone. Falon does gain insight that he is not what he thinks he has to be, which is good, but his change is abrupt. By setting aside some of these characters and their stories (King, Queen, General and Sorcerer) we are able to have the ending that was so surprising and enjoyable, though. [END SPOILERS]

It is also a rare book that has so many strong, multidimensional female lead characters. While this isn’t required, it is appreciated. Two of the main “bad guys” are female. The Queen runs the kingdom. The captain of the guard is female. One of the main champions is female. The best part is that they are all excellent characters and none seem out of place or forced. It is sad that this is something that readers may notice, but the facts are that there are not enough great female characters in genres like fantasy or science fiction, or on TV or film. Kudos to Mok for writing these characters well.

If there is one thing that did distract from an otherwise excellent fantasy it was Mok’s constant early use of jokes, obscure language descriptions and anachronistic phrases and descriptions. It is like Mok really, really wants the reader to know clever and fun they are. Most of the descriptions follow this pattern: serious, serious, silly. Like, “Mutterings, exclamations and the occasional axe bounced around the tables…” (p 17) or “They looked out into a sea of longbows, shortbows, crossbows and the occasional confused javelineer” (p 20). People in the kitchen die of “Too Much Pudding” (p 2) and clerics have “remarkable therapeutic potatoes” (p 9) and so on. Other phrases or terms are joltingly out of place “violence floats like smog” (p 19) where there is no industry to create smog. Or references to rhinoceroses in a world that doesn’t have them otherwise, like “sombrero” (p 15) in a non-Latino world. There are also obscure words used every so often, that jar the reader, like hessian (used often, instead of hemp) or sangfroid (p 4, instead of cool composure in the face of danger). The good news is that once the silliness is established, it becomes more and more rare throughout the novel allowing the characters to be themselves (mostly – as there is an odd horse perspective passage that seems very out of place during the thick of the final battle.) Even with these quirks, the reader is able to quickly get back into the story.

What the reader gets in the end is a fantasy that is fully developed, complicated but approachable, fun and adventurous and overflowing with heart. It will be enjoyable for teens and young adults as well as high fantasy readers. As for this reader, I have to admit that this was the most fun I’ve had reading a fantasy in a really long time.


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 Taken by Iserles

the-takenFROM THE PUBLISHER: The first book in a thrilling fantasy trilogy starring one of the animal kingdom’s most hunted heroes. Foxcraft is full of excitement and heart, and a touch of magic.

The Taken
Foxcraft #1
by Inbali Iserles
Scholastic Press
September 2015

Isla and her brother are two young foxes living just outside the lands of the furless — humans. The life of a fox is filled with dangers, but Isla has begun to learn mysterious skills meant to help her survive. Then the unthinkable happens. Returning to her den, Isla finds it set ablaze and surrounded by strange foxes, and her family is nowhere in sight. Forced to flee, she escapes into the cold, gray world of the furless. Now Isla must navigate this bewildering and deadly terrain, all while being hunted by a ruthless enemy. In order to survive, she will need to master the ancient arts of her kind — magical gifts of cunning known only to foxes. She must unravel the secrets of Foxcraft.

REVIEW: A fox, Isla, returns to her home one day to find it destroyed and her family missing. So she goes in search of them. To find them she will have to gain new magical abilities (Foxcraft). While this is a pretty straight forward premise, this story diverges from the expected by placing the world of the magical foxes firmly in contemporary human society (think muggles). This isn’t just about fantastical creatures who live in a fantasy setting and I appreciated that. Personally, I found the book to be a little slow at times and ended up skimming some chapters to get to better ones later on. By the end, there was a satisfying set up for the next book in the series. I found it a fun, interesting, easy fantasy read. But I’m not the target audience.

Here’s what my 12 year old daughter thought: “This book is absolutely amazing! It’s so full of adventure and mystery. I really loved the idea of foxes and how the story was laid out. I enjoyed the interactions between the characters and how they acted differently towards each other. I think everybody will enjoy this book a lot for those reasons! And many many more!” So satisfied target audience: achieved.


Sunshine is a 12 year old avid book reader who we love to ask what she thought of the books she reads so we can share a young reader’s perspective with you!

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 Galaxy Pirates: Hunt for the Pyxis by Ferraris

galaxypiratesFrom the publisher: On the night Emma Garton’s supposedly boring parents are kidnapped, she is forced to face the truth that they’ve been lying to her about many things. The most important of which? They aren’t even from planet Earth.

The Galaxy Pirates: Hunt for the Pyxis
by Zoe Ferraris
Crown Books for Young Readers
August 2015

To find her mom and dad, Emma and her best friend, Herbie, must leave Earth and enter the Strands—the waterways of space, where huge galleons ply the intergalactic seas. But a journey through the constellations won’t be easy—not with every scoundrel in the galaxy determined to find them and the pyxis, a mysterious amulet that holds the key to saving their world.

REVIEW: I really enjoyed this book! I think that there was a lot of thought put into this book, and a lot of creativity, and that’s why I personally love it so much! I was of the edge of my seat the whole time I was reading because I was so excited to find out what would happen next! It’s a very adventurous and imaginative book, so I think that anybody who likes adventure and intensity will love this. I really enjoyed reading or watching the characters really come to life from the pages. They are so well described and thought out and all their personalities are amazingly put together! When I was done reading I felt as if I knew them as real people. They felt so alive to me, after reading that book I just feel very inspired to go out and do something fun or adventure somewhere with friends. I really think this could be considered enjoyable to all ages I’d say around 12-13 and up due to some of the language. Overall all I can really say that I didn’t enjoy about it was all the bad language they used. Because the characters come out to be so young…I didn’t really expect that from them, but I guess I can’t blame them…the were basically living with pirates haha. My personal favorite part is when they go to space for the first time and they get to explore everything and they just seem so astonished by their surroundings! I wish that I could live in this book. I really hope a second one comes out soon! I just know everybody will really love reading this amazing story.


Sunshine is a 12 year old avid book reader who we love to ask what she thought of the books she reads so we can share a young reader’s perspective with you!

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

Wabanaki Blues by Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel

wabanaki-blues-coverMona Lisa LaPierre’s parents give her little notice that she’ll be spending the summer after graduation  in a remote cabin with her curmudgeonly grandfather.    Mona must learn who she is in the face of family secrets and her dual Native American heritage.

Wabanaki Blues
by Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel
The Poisoned Pencil
June 2015

When Mona’s parents announce they’ll be heading to Russia to study bears, Mona is shocked to learn she’ll be spending the time with her granfather in remote New England woods.  She is forced to miss graduation and the chance to get her crush, Beetle, to notice her before they part.

Mona, the child of both Mohegan and Abenaki tribes, has a passion for blues.  This passion and the voice of her grandmother Bilki keep her grounded as she goes on a journey to learn the truth about a young woman’s disappearance and in reality, about herself.

Zobel, being Native American herself, really paid tribute to her heritage.  Instead of watering down Native traditions and stories, they took forefront in this novel.  Zobel shares her traditions and writes them with such reverence and respect.

I REALLY wanted to like this book.  Unfortunately, too many story lines and crossing details made it hard to keep the different parts of the story straight.  It’s a genuine coming of age story told in an uncoventional way, which I appreciate.  It just became very complex in a way that wasn’t able to keep me engaged.  Complex in the name of suspense is fantastic.  This just fell short of that for me.


Robin Gwaro is the Young Adult and Women’s Literature Editor at Bookgateway.com. She currently spends her days wrangling her 8 year old science nerd and 5 month old busy body.

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

 

The Blood of Angels by Sinisalo

booldofangelsOrvo, a Finnish beekeeper, has been watching the spread of the collapse of colonies of bees worldwide with trepidation and fear. And now one of his colonies has disappeared as well leaving only the dead queen in their wake.

The Blood of Angels
by Johanna Sinisalo
Peter Owen Publishers
October 1, 2014

In the United States and other places around the world the collapse of bee colonies has heralded economic disaster. No pollinization means no fruits or other plants that require bees to grow and develop. Without that food, domesticated animals and humans don’t have enough to eat. Prices skyrocket. Inflation brings nations to their knees. It looks a lot like the apocalypse to Orvo. But what has his attention as much as his newly collapsed colony is the activities of his son.

[SPOILERS] His son blogs for animal rights and equality. As he moved from basic questions and a call for right treatment to radicalization he ends up on the wrong side people who would rather kill him than dialog. And they do. [END SPOILERS]

Dealing with all the loss, Orvo happens upon a magical gateway to another world in, of all places, the upstairs of his barn. The doorway leads to a pristine world that seems to be without humans but abundantly full of bees and plant life. The question is what to do about the door, the impending apocalypse and his personal struggles.

Sinisalo breaks the narrative of her novel into bite sized – or I should say blog sized – entries. All counting down to the final day after the first collapse. In between Orvo’s story we get blog posts, with comments, to move the story along and fill in back story. Since the book does not move day by day, instead it jumps days, we miss some things only to read of them later. This device serves to add tension and interest to a premise that could be rather tedious. After all, other than visiting the “Other World” Orvo doesn’t leave his home for the duration of the novel.

While the story builds to a predetermined end day after collapse it ends in a way that is not sure to satisfy all readers but in a way that is true to Orvo’s character. Without spoiling the story, we see an outcome that leaves the reader with exactly enough to continue to think of the story but not enough to close it out and put it on the shelf to be forgotten. And I think that’s the point. Whether or not Sinisalo agrees with her protagonists son – especially on some of the more radical posts, the message is clear: are we destroying our planet? What would happen is colony collapse were real?

Oh, yeah: it is real. Search for bee collapse online and you’ll find quite a bit to substantiate that bees do in fact seem to be on the brink. And how that would affect our world would be devastating.

A surprisingly intriguing story about a topic that wouldn’t normally be considered as a thriller. A mix of fantasy, science and family drama this book is worth a read.


@ashertopia is the Managing Editor of BookGateway.com. He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

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

Guardian Herd: Starfire by Alvarez

GuardianEvery 100 years a black foal is born to destroy or unite the five herds. Last time the foal nearly destroyed everything. The question is whether or not this new one, Star, will follow in those hoof prints.

The Guardian Herd: Starfire
by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez
Harper
September 2014

The other horses are afraid of Star’s first birthday and do what they can to stop him from ever becoming who he is prophesied to become. The book is about whether or not Star will make it to his first birthday and the realization of his powers. Other herds decide they want Star to get his powers – but for their designs. War between the herds ensues.

I gave this to my 12 year old daughter, an avid reader, to try but she couldn’t get through even a few chapters before becoming bored. I have to admit that while the book recommends this to 8 to 12 year old kids the truth is that the age really is closer to 8 to 10. This is strictly written for elementary students in my experience. It’s very simplistic and fantastical, but not in a mature way that will hold more mature reader’s attentions.

It is well written, however, and there is a lot going on in the story and is set up to be a series of easy reads. Language and content is clean as well.


@ashertopia is the Managing Editor of BookGateway.com. He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

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

The Harbinger by Huntingford

An unbelievable good book. This new writer has a vivid imagination that will delight and thrill you as you read this amazing book.

The Harbinger
by Christopher Huntingford
Self Published
August 2013

The main character is Prince Alexander Wolfield, the fourth son of King Magnus. The dynasty has ruled the Kingdom of Alveus for the past 300 years. Today is Prince Alex’s 18th birthday. Today he is to select his own private guard from the King’s men. Father Malachus presents Alex with an amazing light-weight armor. The armor is infused with the blood of the gryphon. But that may be the only thing that is going well for Alex at his celebration. When Alex can’t find a guard he can trust he declines to select one and the King is very angry when he is told about the lack of following custom prompting Alex to leave the castle – taking only his horse and his dog with him. And so the adventure begins in earnest as Alex searches for twelve good men that will be loyal only to him and along the way he finds much more than he bargained for.

Alex’s journey gets him into all kinds of trouble. He is almost assassinated, visits far off realms, and finds that magic and magical creatures still exist in the land. He also uncovers a plot to destroy his homeland. Racing to stop the plot and save his people the question remain: will Alex’s destiny be revealed?

I loved the book. It is full of mystery, courage, misplaced loyalty, a mother’s love and just plain good. This is truly a page turner and a keeper. Maybe the author will write a sequel. Will Alex ever become king of Alveus?

Highly recommended for readers of all age.


The Golden Reviewer, is an 80 year old avid reader reviews the newest in Christian fiction and non-fiction with a sprinkle of the secular on top..

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