Review: I’m Not Dying With You Tonight, by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal

I was skeptical how good this book might be because one of its coauthors, Kimberly Jones, had a video about racism and social contracts that went pretty viral after the death of George Floyd. Part of me thought this book’s popularity was hype surrounding that.

I was 300% wrong.

This book had me turning the pages as fast as I could from cover to cover. I finished it in 3 hours. While juggling 3 children under 3 years old. There are very few things I can accomplish quite to this degree, but I made this happen because the book was THAT GOOD.

The book follows two highschool girls, Lena and Campbell, through a night that began as a normal highschool football game, and became a nightmare of protests and violence.  Along their journey, they discover their concepts of race aren’t as black and white as they thought.  And of course, they’re two girls in highschool, so amidst all of the chaos, there’s a very realistic naivete about priorities and expectations that are continuously challenged throughout the book.

The vernacular is on point, both in dialogue interactions and the headspace of these girls.  It made me feel like I was really there experiencing all of this with them.  The descriptions are excellent, the pace is fast and engaging, and it’s funny.  Despite the mature themes of this book, the two girls’ interactions, both when they work together and when they clash, are funny.  I don’t remember a time when I felt like laughing and taking to the streets for justice at the same time.  Usually those two don’t mix, but the combination here would not let me put this book down for a second.

I highly recommend reading this book.  You will laugh, get angry, maybe cry, and your beliefs about race will definitely be challenged as you immerse yourself in the headspace of these two girls, one black, one white.  It’s a must read.

It can be ordered from Amazon here. 

 

 

Review – The King’s Own, by W. Marshall

A colleague recommended the The King’s Own to me because his friend is the author, so I bought it and gave it a shot.  The first critique I have is that there is no synopsis on the back cover, which makes it look a little amateur and provides a potential reader no clue as to what they will encounter inside.  The front cover, while it’s not plain, doesn’t offer many more clues either except that it takes place in an age of swordplay.  That said, this book has quite a few good reviews on Amazon.com, 27 to be exact, which is no small feat for a self-published author.  This is a prime example of not judging a book by it’s cover.

The short review is this:

A mysterious story with multiple layers of intrigue, filled with unexpected twists and turns and a shocking twist ending.

Long version:

The King’s Own is the story of a man who goes from village farm boy to an elite assassin/guard of the king, and eventually to king himself.  The story begins with the murder of the king and the main character going on the run as the primary suspect, and then continues on, switching back and forth between backstory and present.  The author has done a really great job accomplishing a smooth flow and his ability to keep it interesting is impeccable, and he does it without confusing the hell of the reader.  The transitions from backstory to present and vice versa were seamless, and I was constantly intrigued to learn about the world and unfold the mystery surrounding the king’s death, which is far more intricate than you would ever expect.

This story is the closest thing to the third person objective that I’ve read.  We follow the main character, but we don’t really know what he knows or is thinking like more familiar third person stories.  Instead, we’re just watching, gathering clues, and trying to figure out what is actually going on.  Every scene is written so that we learn more about the character and his motives alongside the overarching plot of whodunit.  I’ve never read a book like this before, and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised at how well the author executes this.

Along with the main character, we also get to know his mentor and his sidekick who also have interesting backstories and unique parts to play in the book as well, culminating in a very shocking twist at the very end with his mentor which I didn’t see coming, and I was very happy in my surprise, and totally stunned.

There were a few grammatical errors that I saw, nothing really major that took away from the story or my enjoyment.

One major criticism I have is actually the first four pages of the book.  It begins with a fight scene which is meant to pull me in but it is way over-choreographed and confusing to follow, and it drags on far too long.  The scene is virtually impossible to visualize and I totally gave up doing it three paragraphs in.  Had I not committed to reading the whole thing to write a review I probably would have put the book down on page 2.  That said, once you get through those first four pages it picks up tremendous speed, so push through it, you won’t be sorry.

The other major critique I have for this book is the sex scenes.  They’re not written poorly, there are just a lot of them, and the majority of them do not do anything to move the plot along.  Every female (almost) that the main encounters in the book literally throws herself at him, and it just slows down the story, there’s no real reason for having the scene in there except just to have a sex scene, and I found it more bothersome than exciting.

Another minor thing that I took issue with is one scene where they’re swimming through a moat to break into a castle at midnight, but somehow the main character sees a comrade get snagged, and goes back to free him.  I find it very unrealistic that he’d be able to see anything underwater in the daytime in a mucky moat, nevermind at midnight, but maybe I’m being too nitpicky on that point.

Overall though, I really did enjoy it, I finished it within a couple of days and was blown away at the twist ending.  Every new scene revealed something important about the character and the death of the king.  For swordplay lovers and mystery fans, I highly recommend this book.  I think this author is very talented and I’ll be watching for more novels in the future.

His book is available on amazon through this link here.

 

Editing tricks that don’t cost a dime

Editing.  It’s such a dirty word for authors because it means returning to  place you’ve already been, going back over something you’ve already done, and performing the tedious task of proofreading, grammar checking, rephrasing, rewriting etc.  In short, it’s a chore, one most writers despise.

I’ve read some articles and heard a lot of people say not to worry about editing until your manuscript is finished, and then to hire someone to do it.  I think this is a mistake.  While it’s likely true that you won’t be able to catch all of your mistakes or plot holes and you need a separate set of eyes, there are a lot of free avenues you can take to weed out as many inconsistencies as possible so when it comes time to pay a professional, you’re getting the most bang for your buck.

1) Write your manuscript in Courier or Courier New font.  This is old school typewriter font.  A few people have told me that it’s hard on their eyes or looks weird.  If this is you, then choose a different font, just choose one that is significantly different than Times New Roman, which most final drafts are submitted in.

2) Briefly edit as you go.  I’ve heard so many people say “don’t worry about mistakes, just write write write.”  I’m not a fan of this.  While it’s important to not get hung up on wanting it to be perfect (don’t do that!!  Read my article about that here), it’s also important for my own peace of mind to proofread sections during breaks in muse to correct spelling errors, replace redundant words, and rephrase things to fix flow if it’s a fast read through.  I don’t recommend spending more than 5 minutes editing a paragraph at this stage, do a quick once over to correct obvious mistakes, and then keep writing.

3) Reread your finished scene.  Again, so many people have told me to just keep going with my first draft until it’s complete and then go back over the whole thing.  But I must be honest, if I did 0 editing until the book is done, I would be rewriting my book over and over (which actually I have done 4 times because I followed the advice to go go go).  By rereading scenes as I go, I’m giving myself opportunity to figure out that I want a different cliffhanger, that I’ve already stated something in a previous scene, or that I want some other character to show up and do or say “the thing,” which will change the whole story.  Catching things like this after each scene can prevent the overwhelming book rewrites that are inevitable if you wait until you’re completely done with your novel.

Now, sleep on these changes and move on to step 4.

4)  For Scrivener users (if you aren’t one, I recommend becoming one!!), compile your finished scene into a standard double spaced word document using 12 pt. Times New Roman font.  This will allow you to utilize Microsoft’s spellcheck/grammar check feature for the first time, and can help you find the contractions and mistakes that you missed.  Microsoft’s concise feature is also helpful in eliminating common wordy phrases that bog down your narrative.

If you’re not a scrivener user, then just change your font to 12 pt. Times New Roman and double space your doc.

Why? Doing this allows you to see a new visual view/line/word placement of your work, and can really help you see at a glance sentences, phrases, and words that hinder flow, sound redundant, or need to be reworked.

Now sleep on it and proceed to step 5 tomorrow.

5)  Compile your scene into a novel-formatted (usually 5×9 page size), Times New Roman, 10 point font .pdf file.  Again, this is providing you a new unique look at your scene, and one that is extremely close to how it will appear in print, the ultimate goal.  Being able to see it in it’s “published” form will help you weed out anything else you’ve missed up to this point.

Follow the same editing process from step 4, and proceed to step 6 tomorrow.

6)  Print the corrected version out.  Same as above, it’s a different visual of your story, and something about paper vs. computer screen really helps to further highlight things missed.  Make any necessary changes to your computer file.

7)  Find another pair of eyes to look at your scene.  At this point, you have looked at your scene from 4 different angles and made edits.  But it’s well known that writers still miss so much when it comes to their own work.  We’re too attached.  We know every line, and our brains sometimes fill in gaps or skip over things regardless of how different we make it look with page and font sizes.

Many suggest finding a family member or close friend to read over it, which is usually your quickest and easiest option.  Keep in mind though that family and friends may not be forthcoming about their true opinions of your scene, so I always recommend finding a non-biased person to review your work too.  A family member or friend also might not be very inciteful about writing style, genre tropes, or spelling or grammar because they may not be avid readers or writers themselves.  If they are, wonderful!

Critique groups are one of the best options for a non-bias perspective.  You get multiple pairs of eyes on your scene from avid writers (and readers) and they can help you with flow, plot holes, even weird cultural nuances and character vernacular that you may have not even thought about.  It also gives you a chance to share your writing knowledge with others and exchange tips and tricks (let’s face it, most family members aren’t interested in hearing about your writing process, but other writers might be!).  Best of all, critique groups are free!  Just find a group in your area and start attending.

One drawback (and advantage – it’s a double edged sword) to critique groups is that members aren’t shy about voicing their true opinion.  In the moment, this can be hurtful, especially if several members are commenting on the same thing, or they flat out tell you they don’t like it.  Members of critique groups don’t have a personal connection with you like your family and friends do, so be prepared to receive some criticism, but be confident that the feedback you receive is given by fellow writers and readers who are genuinely trying to help you improve your story and style.

Of course, also remember that you can take or leave anything they say.  You’re not under contractual obligations to make the changes they suggest.  Make notes, thank them for their feedback, and then decide what to do with the information.  If they have identified confusing segments though, consider carefully how you can correct these in your story.  Odds are, other readers (agents and editors too) will encounter the same issues.

If you’re unsure how to find a critique group, a good place to look is google, the meetup app, your library, or local college, or even Inkitt.  And if none of these options produce fruit, start one yourself!  I started the Augusta Writers Critique Group last October via the meetup app and it now includes 150 members.  There are always attendees at meetings and the feedback has been phenomenal!

After all of this, your scene has been edited and revised many times over and is in great shape.  Once every scene goes through this gauntlet and you’ve come to the end of your novel, reread your entire manuscript and tie up any loose ends you may have missed.

8)  Find a beta reader to read your book from start to finish.  If you can find someone to read your entire finished draft for free and give you their thoughts, fantastic!  Again, family members are prime suspects, or even a member of your critique group may volunteer.  There are also several online websites such as fiverr where you can find beta readers for free or for a small fee who will read your entire manuscript.  This step is important for evaluating the overall story plot and execution, which can be hard to do in a critique group where only one scene at a time is shown to a varied audience over a long period of time.

But now, if it’s in your budget, is the time I recommend hiring a professional editor to go through it and make suggestions.  Professional editors can be pricey:  4 cents/word is a common price I’ve seen, which is $3,200 for 80,000 words.  Ouch.  According to freelancewriting.com, basic copyediting on average charges anywhere from $25-40/hr and tackles 5-10 pages/hr.  More strenuous editing could cost even more for fewer pages.  Once your book reaches this stage, you want it to be as polished as possible to get the most bang for your buck.

The bottom line:  You don’t have to rely on expensive professional editors to produce a polished manuscript.  Further, skipping free ways to improve your book means that the intricate details a paid professional could find may not be found because of surface errors that you could have corrected yourself.  Also, a professional editor is still just one set of eyes, and one point of view, and no amount of money you spend on them will change that limitation.  The more opinions you have, the more fleshed out your manuscript will be.

This process has personally improved my writing by leaps and bounds, and has given me confidence to continue moving forward with my story.  I do not plan to completely scrap and start my novel over again from the beginning, and these steps are helping to ensure that the story I’m telling is readable, interesting, engaging, and free of mistakes, inconsistencies, and plot holes as much as possible.

Happy writing!

 

Review: Long Grows the Dark, by Catherine Labadie

A couple of years ago I reviewed Vixen by Sarah Catherine Muth.  This author has recently published a new novel under the name Catherine Labadie, and I was stoked to receive her request to review it!  I purchased the 427 page hard back edition of Long Grows the Dark and finished it in 3 days.  Suffice to say I was hooked from the start.

The back cover reads:

Glenna marveled at the increasing chills creeping up and down her arms. She tried to close the book, first casually, then attempting to force the covers together with both hands. Neither of them budged or gave the remotest indication that they would close, and the words seemed to be etched onto her mind’s long after she’d stopped focusing on them. To her horror, the book flipped to the opening page of its own free will and began repeating the message, over and over and over again in increasingly bright ink.

Red is the color of Fate, and Scarlet the color of the Blood, Glenna thought, the words not entirely her own. Crimson be the tide that will sweep over the land should hope fade to dark.

The room grew warm, then hot, as if bonfires were burning in the vicinity. Yet her chills remained, wracking her body with shivers she could not explain. When the book flipped to the last page with t-t-t-t noise as the parchment fluttered against itself, she felt the cold settle into her bones.

Prepare Yourself.

****

An interesting preview that gives the reader an idea that there is magic and mystery between the covers.  The words “Glenna thought” while she’s actually reading the text though bothered me a bit, but alas, it didn’t keep me from delving in.

This book has something for everyone, medieval fantasy, urban fantasy, supernatural beings, magic, romance, intrigue, creativity, good dialogue, battle, and more!

Long Grows the Dark follows Glenna, an enchantress from many centuries ago who is in love with her best friend’s fiance; and Gwendoline, a college student living present day who is actually (slight spoiler) Glenna reincarnated.  Both time threads center around Glenna/Gwendoline’s relationship with her best friends, and we soon learn that Glenna and crew failed to vanquish an evil in the past, and now it’s back in the present, and Glenna must figure out how to not fail this time and save her friends.  Each chapter switches between Glenna and Gwendoline’s POV and lays out the dilemma of yesteryear and today with a nice flow and at a great pace.  About 1/4 of the way through the book, the magic of a fated spell book unites the two timelines in the present, giving us just enough to connect with the past and to understand the peril without taking anything away from the present conflict.

I will try not to give away any spoilers, but I will say a few things that I really really liked about the book.

  1. The very first chapter with Gwendoline told me a lot about her, not by info dumping, but through clever dialogue, attitude, and action.  Her interaction with her best friend was so natural that I was smiling because it reminded me of myself with my best friend – it was great
  2. The whole script was so naturally written that I didn’t have a hard time imagining the scenes unfold, and they weren’t forced on me either.  The author has a writing style that describes it enough to picture, but not enough to squash my own imagination.  I really appreciated that and give kudos, that is talented writing
  3. Magic is part of this world as much as people wearing clothes.  The author does not delve into detail about how magic works or why, she just uses it, everywhere, and trusts the reader to understand and accept it, and it works.  I was not disappointed, annoyed, or confused.  There are familiars, supernatural powers, enchanted objects, spells and curses and the author does not info dump at all and with her writing style she doesn’t have to, it was like magic
  4. The enchanted object named Niles in the present, and the knight named Niles in the past added a layer of mystery that kept me wanting to find out how they were connected, it was a little obvious that they were one and the same, which made finding out how that came to be intriguing and fun, especially since Niles is a very witty and charming character
  5. Describing separate timelines in the same world can be challenging to make distinctive and paint a clear evolution between the two that is believable to the reader, but Labadie executes this nicely.  I’ve read many novels where literally the only thing that separates centuries of time is clothes and cars, and that is super annoying to read, but Long Grows the Dark paints a believable transition even where the use of magic is concerned – a small difference with a huge impact
  6. There is a passage where Glenna is struggling with her enchanted book Niles and it’s giving her attitude.  The way she tells this struggle was humorous, not overly descriptive, and enjoyable.  It added a natural lightness to the flow and story that I really liked – so much so that I made a note of it
  7. The author knows how to write a tasteful sexual encounter.  There are two sex scenes and the author did an excellent job in not making them icky, cliche, awkward, or filled with grimace-worthy descriptors for private parts (thank you!).  Not an easy task.  They were also well placed and added to the story, which is a must for sex scenes in my opinion.  They weren’t thrown in as an extra because the book has a romance arc
  8. The realistic portrayal of friendship and its challenges.  I appreciated the way the author has developed her characters’ friendship in the past and present, and includes the ugly reality that no one really wants to admit exists.  Without any spoilers, there are some things that happen with the friendship in both timelines with far-reaching consequences.  A lot of books focus on friends ultimately vanquishing evil and becoming united, which this book does too, but after the dust settles the author focuses a lot of attention on the toll of the battle, the decisions leading up, and the scars that remain after victory.  This isn’t a book about defeating the foe and going back to the same grind or happily ever after, this is a war that has a lasting impact on the characters and their friends.  As I read it, I honestly did not know what was going to happen, the unpredictability was refreshing
  9. The final battle.  The climactic finale to the entire book was a really enjoyable read, there is significantly enough time devoted to it, it is action packed, the lead up was great and thrilling and page turning, and the moving parts all went very well together.  There is a ton of magical elements woven in that both add to the story and feel natural to the setting and not forced, and there’s even an encounter with a supernatural that is interesting and ties up some loose threads, and of course an action packed battle scene with good choreography and tension

Now on to a few things that I felt detracted a bit from the story:

  1. Throughout the novel there are several places where it could have used a beta read and spellchecking to identify a few inconsistencies.  For example, at the end of chapter 6 Everleigh is looking at Niles with a fiendish expression, but then the beginning of chapter 7 states that she hadn’t noticed him yet, so that seemed a little inconsistent to me.  It was minor, but it made me squint
  2. The use of “exact replica” to describe the resemblance between Glenna and Gwendoline.  The word replica to me doesn’t seem like a fitting word to compare two people, and it felt a bit lazy.  Bringing this detail out in dialogue or even just a thought in Niles’ head would have sufficed, once.  The description that the bad guy has pointy teeth is a little overstated as well
  3. In one scene, Gwendoline casts a protection spell in her yard in order to practice fireballs, but when the fireball goes into the neighbor’s yard and destroys the trash can I was a little confused what good the protection spell was for.  I still enjoyed the scene, but this made me pause
  4. One of the heroes dies in a dual, (kind of spoiler???) and during the fight there’s excellent action, I’m on the edge of my seat and then….. he gets distracted for several moments and gets killed.  I didn’t find this realistic at all for a trained warrior to be in a life or death situation with one opponent and then just squirrel out and die – I was very upset.  This was a good character, and it seemed like such an uncharacteristic rookie mistake for him to make
  5. At one point the author describes Glenna’s reaction to finding out she is a reincarnated sorceress as “The story founded fantastic, unbelievable to the extreme even for a magic based world”.  This sounds like commentary more than character POV, and using “Magic based world” as how Glenna perceives her own world (the only one she knows, or at least, the only one that we know she knows) seemed odd, what other world would there be?  It just seemed like the author was trying to justify her magic to the reader when she didn’t have to
  6. There is a place also where it mentions the bad guy biting the neck of the princess in some kind of bonding ritual, but then the bond obviously didn’t stick and it was not fully explained what exactly biting someone would do nor why that was necessary since he isn’t really a vampire.  The other magical elements needed no explanation but this one could have used a bit more.  It’s only mentioned once or twice in no great detail so it seems weird to be there.  Perhaps it will be explained more in book 2
  7. The final battle.  I’ve already stated that I enjoyed the final battle scene and the lead up.  The part I had an issue with was the Deus Ex Machina – at the last second Gwendoline understands how to use her superpower without any guidance or training or….anything….and through this knowledge is able to defeat the bad guy.  I may have been able to let it slide except that this final blow to the enemy is a pretty complicated maneuver to just happen to figure out on the fly, and her much more sophisticated and magic savvy past self didn’t come close to figuring it out.  The move itself definitely worked, tied up some loose ends, and was badass, but I really wish that Gwendoline had maybe come across a passage in an ancient script or some mythology article she’d read online, a TV commercial (kidding…?), some hint that alluded to this superpower that she could recall later, or that at least would help her piece together the final move in a way that wasn’t just horribly convenient.  As cliche as that would have been, it seemed unlikely to just “know”.  Despite the adequate attention and lead up given to this final confrontation, this one thing made it feel a bit unfinished.

The things I mentioned are certainly not deal breakers.  This book was a fun and thrilling read, and I’ve already recommended it to a few friends.  Despite raising a 1 year old, working full-time, and going to school, I found time to read this book cover to cover in 3 days.  Long Grows the Dark was creative, interesting, easy to follow and smooth to imagine without forcing an image into my head.  The dialogue was funny, descriptive, relevant, and natural.  I really enjoyed having my imagination fully engaged and I could very clearly see how much original thought and talent went into this book.  It was hard to put it down, and I scarcely did.

I will continue to watch this author to see what she writes next.  She is two for two, as her first novel Vixen was also a great read.  If you wish to purchase this book and read it for yourself, you can click this link – Long Grows the Dark – Catherine Labadie.  You will not be sorry!

Review: The Immortal Serpent – K.E. Barron

I was very thrilled to receive an email from the author of Eye of Verishten requesting a review of her second book, The Immortal Serpent last year.  Due to having a baby and some other life changing events, I haven’t had the opportunity to review it until now.  I’m also very flattered that she gave my blog a shoutout on her front page.  So, here is the long awaited review of The Immortal Serpent!

The synopsis reads:

Always forward; Never back

Jeth, cursed at birth, is forced to leave his homeland and find a place for himself in a world descending into war.  Overnight, he goes from fervent soldier to desert thief who now must lie, cheat, and steal to survive in a hostile, foreign land alongside an enigmatic and sultry companion.

Across the ocean, Vidya undergoes a harrowing transformation into a winged weapon that will avenge her mother and save her island nation.

Their fates are entwined by the infamous Overlord of Herran.  One is running from him, the other is hunting him.  Neither can escape the Immortal Serpent.
Pretty attention grabbing description.  I’ve read the Eye of Verishten (EOT), written by this author, and was blown away by it, so I was very excited to read this one.  Just like with EOT, this author has created her scenes with familiar hollywood imagery that makes it easy to imagine, but in a way that sets it apart and makes it stand on its alone.  I’m going to first talk about the things I loved about this book.

The story begins with Vidya and her transformation, and it sucked me in immediately.  The intense imagery, the violence, the mythology, the emotion of the scene, it was all so intriguing I was hooked.  A very well done opening.  I’m a huge mythology — especially Greek mythology — buff.  And while the Siren colony in Immortal Serpent isn’t exactly like the Greek myths, it certainly resonated with me, especially being at the start of the book.  I love how the author took a well known concept and transformed it into something unique.

Then we switch to Jeth, the main character, and who we met in EOT where he played a side kick/comic relief role.  The author has maintained the comedic witty character here, and I’m happy that I recognize him in more than just name between the two novels.

The first thing I’ll mention is the dialogue.  There were so many excellent interactions throughout the book between Jeth and the other characters, and the scenes felt very organic and real.  The author is very talented in coming up with realistic conversations and witty phrases, and I was really drawn in by them.

I also appreciated the subtle references made to EOT, like little Easter eggs for fans through phrases here and there.  They were not overdone and were interesting.  Even with these references, they’re so subtle that this book still stands on its own… for the most part.  More about that later.

The map at the beginning of the book was a nice addition, it put everything into perspective as I read and eliminated the need for boring drawn out descriptions of where the characters were going.  There was a lot of traveling around in this book, and the map made it very easy on the eyes and brain to keep track.

Where EOT focused primarily on Ingleheim, this book weaves together many different regions, and she does it quite seamlessly.  There is a lot going on, but it’s balanced well.  At the root of it all and bringing all these regions harmoniously together is the mythology.  About 3/4 of the way through the book, this mythology is clearly laid out in one scene that I absolutely loved.  I really appreciate a good mythology, and the author has created a completely new world, with new gods, a new creation story, a new Apocalypse —  it’s fantastic.  I really enjoyed this piece and the book really picked up speed after this mythology is explored in depth, and I could not put it down after.

I really appreciated several of the supporting characters in this book, namely Snake-Eye, who at first seemed to just be a powerful overlord type but really ended up being a complicated figure more central to the story than I expected.  I also found humor in the fact that Jeth and Vidya held differing opinions on whether Snake-Eye was a male or female, which was never truly revealed to the reader, and that added some lightness to this character and mystery that I enjoyed.

I also liked the character Melikheil, the mage.  He is mentioned in EOT and is painted as a rather unsavory character there, but in the Immortal Serpent, his moral character is left to the reader’s interpretation, and we’re only allowed to watch what he does and judge him based off of that, which I appreciated.  I still feel like he’s a nasty person, but what he does in this book makes me wonder about his true motives, and it’s a good kind of curiosity.  So well done on that point as well.  I have a feeling that the author has a special place for this character in her world.

The book ends well and wraps up the main story arc, while still leaving a few things left to explore for book 2 – namely the origin of humanity according to the mythology, which I am very interested to learn about – and it also opens a new arc for Vidya and her conquest to save her island.  I find it fitting that the book should both begin and end with her, and both ends leave the reader wanting more.

Now onto a few things that I had some issues with.

Jeth’s love interest, Anwarr, is introduced as a sly, sexy, sophisticated woman who is out to get what she wants and is not interested in looking back or feeling sorry for whoever gets in her way.  She is a very strong character at first, and I liked her a lot.  As the book progresses however, she morphs into a sort of whiny, sensitive type that is common in most romance novels, and she quickly lost her sophistication and mystery, making some of the scenes with her and Jeth drag on.

I didn’t feel a real connection between them, and in fact, the whole time I thought their relationship was temporary until Jeth’s first love mentioned at the beginning of the book came into play.  When she never did, I felt a bit misled.  I would have invested much more interest into Anwarr and Jeth’s relationship if I had not been holding out for the other girl to arrive on the scene.  After finishing the book, why she was even mentioned at all is confusing to me.  There was very little conflict with Jeth in letting her go and starting his relationship with Anwarr, and it made him seem very shallow, which doesn’t really fit with the rest of his personality.  This other love interest was never mentioned again, and it felt like a tiny loose end that had a huge impact on how I viewed the entire story.

There’s also a very erotic sex scene that comes out of nowhere and does little to enhance their relationship or move along the story, and there is nothing for the reader to imagine since it is so choreographed and detailed.  The style isn’t consistent with the other sexual encounters Jeth has in the book either, making this one seem really out of place.  It didn’t help that I was a disenchanted with their romance at this point.

Anwarr’s true importance to the overall story snuck into the last quarter of the book.  The mystery surrounding her at the beginning was highly warranted for her part later, but somewhere in the middle it took a vacation.  I was honestly expecting her to disappear forever at one point, and not have such a key role.  Her final scene in the book was very heart-wrenching, shocking, and again, came out of nowhere, which redeemed her a bit, but Anwarr’s character seems to change and shift so suddenly throughout the book that she just seems lost between her great start and gripping ending.

More about the middle of the book:  There are lots of scenes where Jeth and/or Vidya are getting into arguments or fights with each other or another character, the typical “that’s my girl not yours” type arguments from Jeth, and the “I’m a badass chick who can snap men like twigs” type scenes from Vidya.  Scene after scene of brawls, thrown fists, snide back talking that turns physical, tables and shelves etc that are dislodged by some altercation or another, bodies flying, that it really became reminiscent of a 90s TV show, Xena came to mind.  Every episode of Xena has a fight scene in it, and every chapter, or so it seemed, had some kind of exaggerated tension, and much of it didn’t move the story along at all, it just slowed my progress through the middle significantly, and was very unnecessary for character development.  It is very clear by the opening scene that Vidya is bad ass female.  Same with Jeth, his strength, skills, and devoted personality is so well laid out early on that these scenes were repetitive, not to mention super choreographed and reminiscent of a screenplay more than a novel.

I mentioned earlier that this book, though taking place in the same world as EOT, mostly stands on its own.  Where it deviates from this is the part of the timeline where Jeth goes to Ingleheim.  The readers who have not read EOT will find this very confusing.  In the space of a paragraph, Jeth goes to Ingleheim and returns, and characters he meets in EOT are mentioned as though the readers of Immortal Serpent know who they are.  For fans of the author, this is not really a problem, and the Easter eggs may bring some nostalgia.  But for new readers, this would be highly confusing, and would seem to introduce new characters and story arcs that fizzle out immediately.  There is also an EOT bad guy named General Nadila who is brought in at the end and given no introduction, even though his interaction with Jeth makes it obvious that there is a previous relationship.  Readers who have not read EOT will be very confused.  Given that this book is marketed as a standalone, I really think it detracts a lot from the story.

In the end, the gods of the mythology actually start battling which I thought was super duper awesome!  I love bringing higher powers into mortal conflicts, it really makes me tingle, especially when the mythology is as good as the Immortal Serpent.  However, it felt rushed, and was given less attention than the brawl scenes that encompassed page after page.  For the overarching impact this battle had on the story, the attention given to it was severely underwhelming, and it had so. much. potential.  This was the climax of Jeth’s entire journey, and I wanted it to be EPIC.

Overall, despite the issues I had with it, I really did enjoy this book, especially the first half and the way the author wove her complex world together with so many different cultures.  The mythology, wit, charm, and mystery surrounding the novel’s main theme was very complex, well thought out, and kept the pages turning.  I will definitely be reading the sequel when it comes out.

The Immortal Serpent, by K.E. Barron, can be purchased on Amazon and through her website www.kebarron.com.  There is also some pretty awesome book art that she has up on her website too that brings a little more magic to her novels.

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