Mayhempalooza 2017

If you happen to be in the Des Moines area this coming Saturday, stop by Mayhem Comics and Games in Des Moines for their Mayhempalooza event. They are hosting local authors and illustrators for a free event. I’ll be there all day, and would love to see you.

Find out more and let me know you’re coming by joining the Facebook event page I created for the event:


Book Review: A Merchant in Oria

A wonderful review from Andrea.

Andrea Lundgren

Title: A Merchant in Oria

Author: David Wiley

Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy (Novella)

Book Blurb per Goodreads: Firion is a young merchant descended from generations of merchants. His first big break comes along when he sets out to trade with the wealthy dwarven kingdom of Oria. He has always dreamed of visiting this grand kingdom, having heard his father describe it in detail a hundred times while he was younger. But when Firion arrives in Oria, he is jarred by the details present that contradict with the image etched into his mind. Something dark and sinister seems to be afoot in Oria, but Firion knows he is no hero. He is just a simple merchant, and what can an ordinary person do in the face of danger and deception?

Book Review: David Wiley is a good author friend, and when his novella was published, of course I wanted to read…

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The Book Knights Blog Tour – Interview


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About the Book:


Author: J.G. McKenney

Pub. Date: July 5, 2017

Publisher: J.G. McKenney

Pages: 272

Formats: Paperback, eBook

Find it: AmazonGoodreads

From the award winning author of EON’S DOOR comes an Arthurian tale like no other. 

When her parents are condemned to death by Morgan Fay for the crime of reading, Arti Penderhagen becomes a fugitive. Hunted by Mordred, the sadistic police captain who recites poetry to enhance his physical strength, Arti escapes to the Isle of Avalon, a sanctuary for outlaws. There she meets an old librarian named Merl who tells her about the Grail Tome, an ancient book in Morgan Fay’s possession that can alter the course of history. Can Arti steal the book in time to save her family?
THE BOOK KNIGHTS is a fantasy adventure in which knights wield words as weapons, librarians are wizards, and books can change the future.

Your book is a modern reimagining of King Arthur, which I think is fantastic. What made you decide to place these characters in a modern setting rather than provide your own spin on the classic tales?

I thought the story would be more relatable to readers if I placed the characters in a modern setting. I want readers to understand how important the power of words is to us now, and make clear the threats posed to our freedom to think and live the way we choose.

Can you tell us a little about Arti, who is the heroine in this story? What inspired you to cast the modern King Arthur as a young girl?

I chose a young girl because I wanted to challenge the classic Arthur stereotype of the active male hero. I wanted Arti to be a model to all those smart young girls and women whose love of books and reading gives them the power to overcome obstacles, no matter how daunting.

When did you first become interested in the Arthurian stories? Is there a particular tale that is your favorite? What makes that one stand out from the rest?

I’ve always enjoyed the Arthurian stories, but rather than one part standing out, I really like how they work together to explore the heroic journey. In writing THE BOOK KNIGHTS, I drew on Arthur’s pulling of the sword from the stone, the Lady of the Lake and Excalibur, and the quest for the Holy Grail. They are all equally important to the story.

Adobe Photoshop PDF

The cover is really awesome. How did you come up with the idea for that design?

I’m glad you like the cover. It’s a representation of the Grail Tome, an ancient and magical book. Arti Penderhagen and her “book knights” must steal the tome from Morgan Fay so Arti can write the book’s final page to change the future and save her friends and family.

Where did you get the idea of reciting poetry to provide a magical effect, such as boosting physical strength? Did you encounter any challenges with the idea?

The power of words is a key theme in THE BOOK KNIGHTS, so I thought it would be cool to have words/poetry used in combat. In the story, it’s referred to as “the strike of words” and I think it really works. The difficulty I faced was in creating a language and a fighting method that were believable but not overly complicated or confusing.

About J.G.:


Although the name on my books is “J.G.” McKenney, you can call me John. I’m a writer and a teacher. I also consider myself a book knight, but you’ll need to read my latest novel to find out what that’s all about.

My fascination with fantasy and adventure began at a young age when I discovered works like THE HOBBIT and THE CALL OF THE WILD. That early love of reading has matured into a need to tell stories that transport readers into worlds full of wonder and enchantment. It’s an addiction I don’t intend to kick. The problem is I’ll be dead long before I can write all the books I’ve got in my head. There…just thought of another one.

In the winter, if I’m not at work keeping tabs on my Co-op students, you’ll find me at home working away on a manuscript, reading someone else’s book, or walking with my wife and best friend, Wendy. If it’s Friday afternoon, I’ll be playing hockey with the boys.

Summer’s my favorite season because it gives me more time to write. It’s also the time for boating, swimming, and reclining in my zero-gravity chair under the shade of the maple trees next the lake shore. Oh, and walking with my wife. If it’s Thursday afternoon, I’ll be playing golf with…you guessed it…the boys.

I’d love to hear from you. Follow me on Twitter @JGMcKenney or reach out through my “Contact Me” page with your questions or comments. I’ll let you know about my promotions, including when I offer free books!

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Giveaway Details:

3 winners will receive a finished copy of THE BOOK KNIGHTS, US Only.

3 winners will receive an eBook of THE BOOK KNIGHTS, International.

Rafflecopter link:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Review: God’s Hammer by Eric Schumacher


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Title: God’s Hammer (Book 1 in Hakon’s Saga)

Author: Eric Schumacher

Independently Published in 2005

352 Pages (Paperback)

Blurb: History and legend combine in the gripping tale of Hakon Haraldsson, a Christian boy who once fought for the High Seat of a Viking realm.

It is 935 A.D. and the North is in turmoil. King Harald Fairhair has died, leaving the High Seat of the realm to his murderous son, Erik Bloodaxe. To solidify his claim, Erik ruthlessly disposes of all claimants to his throne, save one: his youngest brother Hakon.

Erik’s surviving enemies send a ship to Wessex, where the Christian King Athelstan is raising Hakon. Unable to avoid his fate, he returns to the Viking North to face his brother and claim his birthright, only to discover that victory will demand sacrifices beyond his wildest nightmares.

I was swept up in the action and enthralled by the descriptions of Hakon’s struggle. -Roundtable Reviews-
I highly recommend this historical fiction novel, both for its entertaining story and historical information. -Historical Fiction Review-

My Take: This book gripped me from the first chapters and never let me go. The further I got into the book, the harder it became to put down at the end of a lunch break or when it was time for bed. The appeal in the book was more than the excellent immersion into medieval England, Viking culture, and the conflict of a Christian King ruling over a pagan group of people. The storytelling and character development were excellent, making me care about Hakon and those he came to care about along the way.

The historical expertise of Mr. Schumacher is on full display throughout the entire story. He manages to make the period of history come alive, complete with the conflict that surfaced as Christianity and Paganism clashed. Hakon himself is an outcast everywhere he goes: his story begins as a Pagan child coming to serve under a Christian king. When Hakon’s father dies, he returns to his homeland as a Christian leading Pagans. And this is where the greatest conflict arises, and is handled quite well along the way. By the end of the book, there isn’t some magical conversion of the entire country, so there is promise for continued tension in the sequel.

Overall this was one of my favorite reads of the year. It has great historical immersion, an engaging plot, internal and external conflict on multiple levels, and complex characters. What more could you ask for from a book? I’m very much looking forward to reading the next book in the series to see what happens in the aftermath of God’s Hammer.


Tackle your TBR pile in September – Sign up now!

Allison D. Reid

A little something for both readers and writers, shared from Chris the Story Reading Ape’s blog. Join the Read-a-thon, or if you’re also an author, host your own giveaway or challenge.

September 11th to 24th sees the fifth TackleTBR Readathon, thanks to Tressa at Wishful Endings.

The goal you set is entirely up to you – maybe you don’t even want to set a goal.  

Apart from reading books to shorten your list, though, the read-a-thon includes challenges from participants (with prizes to enter for), activities to join in, and general fun and mayhem.

Read all about it at Wishful Endings and sign up at any time through to 20th September.

I’ll be doing a Goals post on the first day of the Readathon, so you’ll see what I’m planning to read then.

I’ll also be setting you a challenge on 19th September, for which I’ll be giving a…

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Medieval Book Club: Judith, Dream of the Rood, & Juliana


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Welcome to my sixth Medieval Book Club entry. For this month we read through some Anglo-Saxon poetry (in translation, of course), found free online here and here and here. If you haven’t had a chance to read them yet, follow those links and give them a read. Let me tell you, I really enjoyed reading through those poems this month, which seems to be a repeating trend with Anglo-Saxon poetry. After May’s disappointment, it was nice to retreat to what is becoming my safe space for Anglo-Saxon literature.

For July we will be reading Viking Age Iceland by Jesse L. Byock. The preview post for this one can be found here, and I am looking forward to reading that book. If you are at all interested, I would love to have you read along and come back to discuss that book on July 20th!

My Thoughts on Judith:

This poem was an interesting one. I enjoyed it, and how Judith beheaded Holofernes in the beginning and it turned out to be a fairly significant event by the end of the poem. I can’t be the only one, though, who found it fairly humorous that the warriors were standing around, afraid to interrupt their lord because they imagined he was still laying with Judith:

So the retainers in the morning-time chased down the strangers,
for the whole time until the lead-warriors of that militant people,
who were hostile, perceived that the Hebrew men had shown
a severe sword-swinging to them. Wordfully they went
to reveal that fact to the most senior of the lordly-warriors,
awakening the pennanted soldiers, and fearfully announcing
the frightful news—the morning-raid, the terrible play of blades—
to the mead-wearied. Then I heard at once
that the warriors doomed to die shook off their slumber
and the fallen-spirited went thronging in a crowd
to the sheltering tent of the baleful one, Holofernes.
They intended at once to announce the battle to their lord
before the terrible power of the Hebrews.
They all thought that the lord of warriors
and the bright maiden lay together inside that lovely tent,
the noble Judith and the lecherous one, terrifying and fierce.

There was not one of the nobles though who dared
to wake up that warfaring man or to discover how
the warrior had done with that holy woman,
the maiden of the Measurer. The armed might of the Hebrew people
drew nearer, fighting fiercely with hardened battle-weapons,
requiting with blades their ancient quarrel,
with splattered swords, their elder grudges.
Assyrian glory was diminished by that day-work,
their pride humbled. The warriors stood around
the tent of their lord, quite troubled, with downcast spirits.
Then they all together began to cough, making loud noises
and gnashing their teeth, deprived of the good, enduring grief.
Then was the end of their glory, of their blessings,
and their brave deeds. Then the earls considered how to awaken
their friendly lord—it prospered them not a jot.

That is probably the best scene there, with them coughing and gnashing their teeth outside the tent. Trying to subtly get his attention without raising his ire. And then the dramatic reveal: he is dead, and so they are all now doomed to lose to the Hebrews descending upon them.

All in all, this was a fun little poem, and it might be my favorite of the three this month. Dream of the Rood is close enough in standing that it might be a tossup between those two. But I really did enjoy this one, especially because of the humor woven in these scenes.


My Thoughts on Dream of the Rood:

This is a poem I have read several times now, and I always find myself enjoying this one. I actually was able to engage in a good discussion with some close friends about this poem, and it was fun to break it down a little and to consider how this poem almost appears to elevate the Cross to a saintly, idolic status to rival Mary.

On me, the Child of God
suffered awhile. Therefore I, triumphant
now tower under the heavens, able to heal
any one of them, those who stand in terror of me.
Long ago I was made into the hardest of torments,
most hateful to men, until I made roomy
the righteous way of life for them,
for those bearing speech. Listen—
the Lord of Glory honored me then
over all forested trees, the Warden of Heaven’s Realm!
Likewise Almighty God exalted his own mother,
Mary herself, before all humanity,
over all the kindred of women.

Sometimes it is hard to read poetry from a time when the Christian thought was predominantly Catholic in slant, as is the case with most Anglo-Saxon literature, because there will be things that stand out as being theologically inaccurate. And that is something I could talk about with all three of these poems, but I won’t go into those details here.

In spite of the attempts to make the Cross (known in the poem as the Rood) a significant symbol (which you could argue it has become that in our modern society), the approach on this poem is so unique that I always enjoy reading it. The dream of this man, retold in poetry, gives life and personality to the cross:

The young warrior stripped himself then—that was God Almighty—
strong and resolute—he climbed up onto the high gallows,
mindful in the sight of many, when he wished to redeem mankind.
I quaked when the warrior embraced me—
yet I dared not bow down to the ground, fall down to earthly regions,
but I must stand there firm. The rood was reared. I heaved the mighty king,
the Lord of Heaven—I did not dare to lean.

This is a poem I will return to time and again, and hope to someday soon revisit it in the Anglo-Saxon language. It is short, yet expressive and imaginative. Which is something I really enjoy in poetry.

My Thoughts on Juliana:

For those who thought the Medieval Literature would be silent about women, this month should have proven that thought wrong. Of the three poems read, this is the second one starring a woman. And wow, Juliana had quite the story about her life in here. You might dislike the emphasis on Juliana’s value being placed on her virginity, saving herself for Christ, it would have been a common perspective in this period. Without doing any research at all, I do know that a fair number of female saints had virginity as a trait among them. Likely because Christ was born of a virgin mother, so that would be viewed as the highest state in which a woman can achieve – equaling Mary’s accomplishment (although I’m not convinced she remained as such after the birth of Christ, so that really brings about a flaw in virginity equaling holiness for women. But that would be another discussion for another day…)

The scene where Juliana is talking to the demon (disguised as an angel) was an interesting one. Instead of taking the angel at his word, she prays to God for guidance and is instructed to grab hold of the angel. After that, she is able to get a very full confession out of the demon, and I feel like we’re missing something critical in that whole process because of the missing part of the manuscript. The deeds that the demon confesses to are curious to read, and I almost am left wondering if this could have partially been an inspiration to C.S. Lewis for his creation of The Screwtape Letters. It is likely not, but I did get a feeling that this could have inspired it and Lewis almost certainly would have read this poem in his time as a Medievalist.

And, of course, we have another piece missing after this discussion and then we jump straight into Juliana being tortured. Or, at least, they are attempting to torture and kill her but God protects her from all sorts of cruel and hideous methods. This echoes what is seen in many of the saintly stories – supernatural protection for them in body for a length of time but eventually they will suffer a death. Yet through it all, the saint is praising God and His glory. And, as is also common, the death appears to lead some to conversion.

Overall the poem spends a ton of time with Juliana interrogating the chained demon. We’re missing much of what Juliana suffered through prior to her death, which some might prefer to have it absent. While I enjoyed the poem and plan to read it again in the future, it didn’t stand out to me as much as the other two poems. This one was longer than the other two combined, yet I preferred them more.

Which of the three poems did you enjoy reading the most? What about that poem made it stand out from the others?


Medieval Book Club Preview: Viking Age Iceland by Jesse L. Byock


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The popular image of the Viking Age is of warlords and marauding bands pillaging their way along the shores of Northern Europe. In this fascinating history, Jesse Byock shows that Norse society in Iceland was actually an independent one-almost a republican Free State, without warlords or kings. Combining history with anthropology and archaeology, this remarkable study serves as a valuable companion to the Icelandic sagas, exploring all aspects of Viking Age life: feasting, farming, the power of chieftains and the church, marriage, and the role of women. With masterful interpretations of the blood feuds and the sagas, Byock reveals how the law courts favored compromise over violence, and how the society grappled with proto-democratic tendencies. A work with broad social and historical implications for our modern institutions, Byock’s history will alter long-held perceptions of the Viking Age.

This is the seventh entry into the monthly Medieval Book Club, and we are shifting gears for two months and looking at Medieval Iceland. This month we’re immersing ourselves into Viking Age Iceland itself, learning a bit more about it historically. In August we’ll be reading on of the Icelandic Sagas, which should be a great deal of fun. I’ve held a pretty strong interest in this period for a few years now, and I have actually written a few stories that took place in the Viking era. So these two months should be a huge treat for me, at least, and I hope you enjoy joining along with them as well.

Here is the breakdown of chapters:

  • Introduction
  • An Immigrant Society
    • Language and the Term “Viking”
    • Leadership
    • Mord the Fiddle: A Leader and the Law
    • The Sagas: An Ethnography of Medieval Iceland
  • Resources and Subsistence: Life on a Northern Island
    • Turf Housing
  • Curdled Milk and Calamities: An Inward-Looking Farming Society
    • Provisions, Subsistence Strategies, and Population
    • Bad Year Economics: Difficulties of Life in the North Atlantic
  • A Devolving and Evolving Social Order
    • Ranking, Hierarchy and Wealth
    • Complex Culture and Simple Economy
    • Privatization of Power in the Tenth Century
    • A Proto-democratic Community?
    • Icelandic Feud: Conflict Management
  • The Founding of a New Society and the Historical Sources
    • The Effect of Emigrating from Europe
    • Land-taking and Establishing Order
    • Dating the Settlement: Volcanic Ash Layers
    • Closing the Frontier and Establishing Governing Principles
    • Written Sources: The Book of Settlements and The Book of the Icelanders
  • Limitations on a Chieftain’s Ambitions, and Strategies of Feud and Law: Eyrbyggja Saga
    • Arnkel’s Quest for Wealth and Power
    • Ulfar’s Land Shifts to Arnkel
    • Thorolf’s Land Shifts to Snorri Gothi
    • Ulfar Claims Orlyg’s Land
    • Ulfar’s Demise
    • The End of Arnkel’s Ambitions
  • Chieftain-Thingmen Relationships and Advocacy
    • The Nature of the Gothorth
    • Advocacy
    • Arbitration and Legalistic Feuding
    • The Flexibility of the Gothi-Thingman Relationship
    • The Social Effects of Concubinage
    • Distinctions of Rank
    • Hreppar: Communal Units
    • The Orkneys: A Comparison
    • Freedmen
  • The Family and Sturlunga Sagas: Medieval Narratives and Modern Nationalism
    • The Family Sagas
    • The Sturlunga Compilation
    • The Sagas as Sources
    • Modern Nationalism and the Medieval Sagas
    • Conclusions
    • The Locations of the Family Sagas
  • The Legislative and Judicial System
    • Thing: Assemblies
    • Options
  • Systems of Power: Advocates, Friendship, and Family Networks
    • Advocacy
    • The Role of Kinship
    • A Balancing Act
    • Friendship (Vinfengi and Vinatta)
    • Women and Choices of Violence and Compromise
      • Vengeance and Feud: Goading in Laxdaela Saga
      • A Goading Woman from Sturlunga saga
      • Retraint Within a Major Chieftain’s Household in the Sturlung Age
  • Aspects of Blood Feud
    • Territory
    • Marriage and Confused Loyalties
    • Some Conclusions
  • Feud and Vendetta in a ‘Great Village’ Community
    • The Language of Feud
    • Norms of Restraint
    • Bluffing and Violence
    • Outlawry
  • Friendship, Blood Feud, and Power: The Saga of the People of Weapon’s Fjord
    • Inheriting a Foreigner’s Goods
    • Brodd-Helgi’s Revenge against Thorleif
    • Struggle to Claim a Dowry
    • Skirmishes over a Woodland
    • Seeking a Thingman’s Allegiance
    • Brodd-Helgi Breaks Vinfengi
    • Geitir Establishes Vinfengi
  • The Obvious Sources of Wealth
    • Sources of Income Available Only to Chieftains
      • Early Taxes
      • Price-Setting
      • Additional Privileged Sources of Wealth
      • The Sheep Tax
    • Sources of Income Available to All Freemen
      • Trade
      • Slavery and the Rental of Land and Livestock
  • Lucrative Sources of Wealth for Chieftains
    • The Acquisition of Property in the Family Sagas
      • Disputed Property in the East Fjords: The Saga of the People of Weapon’s Fjord
      • Disputed Property in the Salmon River Valley: Laxdaela Saga
    • Inheritance Claims in the Sturlunga Sagas
      • The Struggle to Inherit Helgastathir: The Saga of Gudmund the Worthy
      • Inheritance Rights to Heinaberg: The Saga of Hvamm-Sturla
      • Resurgence of the Dispute over Heinaberg: The Saga of the Icelanders
  • A Peaceful Conversion: The Viking Age Church
    • Pagan Observance
    • A Viking Age Conversion
    • Geography and the Church
    • Early Bishops, Priests and Nuns
    • The Beginnings of a Formal Church Structure
  • Gragas: The ‘Grey Goose’ Law
    • Manuscripts and Legal Origins
    • Women and the Law
    • Marriage and the Church
  • Bishops and Secular Authority: The Later Church
    • Bishops
    • The Tithe and Church Farmsteads
    • Bishops and Priests in the Later Free State
    • The Church’s Struggle for Power in the Later Free State
    • Priests
    • Monasteries
  • Big Chieftains, Big Farmers and their Sagas at the End of the Free State
    • Big Farmers and the Family Sagas
    • Advantages Enjoyed by the Storbaendr
    • The Saga of the Icelanders in the Sturlunga Compilation
    • The Storgothar, Not Quite Rulers
    • Iceland’s Jarl
    • 1262-4: The Covenant with Norway’s King and the End of the Free State
  • Appendix I: The Law-speakers
  • Appendix 2: Bishops During the Free State
  • Appendix 3: Turf Construction
  • Appendix 4: A Woman Who Travelled from Vinland to Rome

Will you join me in reading this book? You can pick up a copy on Amazon at this link. The post for this book’s reading will be on July 20th, which is the third Thursday of that month.

Which of the chapters and/or subsections interest you the most? There is a lot of ground covered in 373 pages of book here, and I expect I’ll find most of it to be quite fascinating!

Check out the full list of books we’re reading this year for the Medieval Book Club.

Book Review: A Patch on the Peak of Ararat by Gary Bower


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Title: A Patch on the Peak of Ararat

Series: A Faith that God Built book

Author: Gary Bower

Illustrated by: Barbara Chotiner

Published by: Tyndale Kids (February 2, 2017)

Pages: 32 (Hardcover)

Blurb: The Faith that God Built series by Gary Bower uses the same whimsical style of storytelling as The House that Jack Built, using rhyme to introduce preschoolers through second graders to favorite Bible stories. Gary has a well-developed talent for creating engaging narratives that also teach biblical truth through rhyme.

In Patch on the Peak of Ararat, Noah follows God’s plan, resulting in his rescue from destruction.

My Take: This book promises whimsical storytelling, and in that I suppose it delivers. Many of the pages are packed full of words, with each new element in the story being added in to the repetitive cycle of the story. This is definitely a pattern that children in the targeted age range, preschool through second grade, might enjoy. It also helps to prompt memorization after enough reads, because the pattern of adding to that repeating chorus of phrases.

The illustrations are pleasant to see, displaying Noah and his sons and the ark and pairs of animals. There is some good color, and so it will hold some visual appeal to children. One thing that confused me, though, was the choice of animal inclusions. For instance, page 19 mentions hamster and hippo, hyena and hare. The images on the two shown pages have hippos and hares, but also peacocks and bears (instead of hamsters and hyenas). I would have expected the images to match the words, especially in the instances where those animals are mentioned so you, or your child, can point to each of them as they are mentioned.

I like how the final page not only has a nice, colorful image, but it also has a memory verse and directs the reader on where to find the full story in the Bible (Genesis 6-9, in case you are curious). This is a nice inclusion, and could be a great lead-in as the children get older. Overall this is a nice children’s book for any collection. Kids will enjoy the repetitive style of storytelling, and it succeeds at helping to learn the story of Noah and the flood.

Book Review: Blood and Bile by J.C. Boyd & Joshua Robertson


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Title: Blood and Bile

Series: Book #1 in the Legacy Series

Authors: J.C. Boyd and Joshua Robertson

Published on: June 7, 2017 (Crimson Edge Press)

Pages: 310 Pages (eBook)

Blurb: “Before the world came to be, there was nary beginning nor end, nary sky-shield nor night-wheel, nary war-garb nor shield-foe, nary fate-heeder nor fate-weaver, nor any thing living or dying or dead.”Ranvir ripped meat from bone, the dew of deep wounds dribbling between his fingers. He packed the flesh into his teeth-house, chewing happily.

His wife gaped at him, word-land soundless, forehead-stones devoured long ago, and wound-necklace torn from ear to ear.

She had never looked more beautiful.

His hands probed into her blood’s-seat for another bite, nails scraping against cartilage, fingers squeezing organ and fat, seeking a tasty morsel.

Ranvir heard the rasping of his tent flap open, but did not turn from his meal. Snaer’s brisk breath briefly touched his back. and then he felt it no more. He swallowed another mouthful and pulled at his wife’s skin to gaze at the glossy remains.

A voice, light and feminine, spoke.


My Thoughts: I have read a few books, short and long, by the tandem of Boyd and Robertson. There is no hesitation when I declare this is, without question, the best of their books that I have read so far. It exceeded every expectation I had going into the book, and was such a joy to read. However, this book will not be for every fantasy reader.

To understand why this was a hit for me, you must understand my ancillary interests reside in Medieval Literature and culture. I read Viking Sagas and am working to learn Old English on my own. I am immersed in that time period in a scholarly manner, even if self-directed in nature. Because of this interest, there are many things within this story that hit the right spots for me. From the smattering of kennings woven throughout, to the throw-back to archaic language, to the culture and dark setting itself; all of these things are almost as if they were planted into the story just for me.

That isn’t to say that an interest in those things are essential to enjoying the story – they merely enhanced the work that was already there and Boyd did a fantastic job with weaving them all into the story. The story itself is masterful in its own unique way and it holds Robertson’s markings all over it. The characters are interesting, the problems that arise are interesting and keep you wanting to turn page after page. The story is very unconventional in its own way – readers of modern fantasy may find themselves wishing the story was a bit faster in pace and that more things would simply happen. That, too, is a harkening to the older age of literature.

I applaud Boyd and Robertson for taking steps back toward the roots of literature in this Dark Fantasy series. It won’t be for every reader, but it dares to be bold and hearken to the days when stories needed less action and was able to be more about development and setting and evoking the time period. This book sets the stage for a promising series, one that I plan to purchase every installment of as they are released.

If you want a traditional fantasy, dark or otherwise, this might not be the book for you. But if you are willing to take a chance on a book that blends modern and ancient, that pulses with the lifeblood of the old world, and a book that makes kennings a pure delight to read once again, then this is a book you should not miss.

A Merchant in Oria by David Wiley

A nice, thoughtful review for A Merchant in Oria!

Being a columnist at Our Write Side, I got my hands on a copy of A Merchant in Oria by David Wiley as an advanced reader copy. Other stuff happened that led to me not getting this review done until now. So—Dave, I am sorry this took way longer than expected—without further delay, here is my review of A Merchant in Oria.

A Merchant in Oria is a fantasy novella by David Wiley. Firion is a young merchant who thinks he is a savvier trader than he really is. It is his dream to trade with the dwarves from Oria. Little does he know the adventure in store for him when he attempts to make that dream come true.51+17JTU5YL._AC_US218_


First off, one of my favorite things about the book is how Wiley creates a lovable but inept character in Firion. The believability of Firion’s naïve ineffectiveness is spot on. He is very much…

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