Friday, January 21, 2011

Review: Dawn of Avalon by Anna Elliott

Dawn of Avalon by Anna Elliott is a prequel to her Twilight of Avalon Trilogy, which so far includes Twilight of Avalon and Dark Moon of Avalon both of which focus on the romance of Tristan and Isolde. Set in Arthurian England Dawn of Avalon looks further back at the beginning of the romance between Morgan and Merlin and establish the family relationships prior to the events of Elliott's other novels. As this novel is set apart in time, it stands alone as a complete, if short, work and it is not necessary to be familiar with the Elliott's other books to enjoy it. 

Morgan is a seer and a healer who is serving in the camp of Uther's enemies with the hope of assisting in his down fall. Disguised as a young boy and assisting in the torture of an enemy soldier, she finds that her cover may be blown and must make a choice whether to save the soldier's life and risk her own or allow him to die. It is this choice and the possible consequences she can foresee which force Morgan to confront her anger and doubts about who it is foretold she will become and question her commitment to her country.

While this is, at its heart, a romance, Elliott skillfully puts us in the mind of a young woman of great power who has to make choices which impact much more widely than just herself. The novel is fast paced as the event progress and I felt swept along with the predicament the characters find themselves in. While you might expect this 'free' novel to merely advertise Elliott's other novels, it is a fully complete, stand-alone novel with an engaging plot and characters. This type of publication is one of the many hidden gems of the ePublishing industry, and one I hope many other authors will take note of.

Title: Dawn of Avalon
Author: Anna Elliott
Style: Historical/ Fantasy/ Romance
Price: FREE
Date of publication: September 22, 2010
Length: 25 000 +
Can be found at:
Smashwords (Kindle, ePub, PDF, RTF, LRF, PDB, Plain Text & Online)
Amazon (Kindle)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Review: Into the Shadows by Karly Kirkpatrick

Into the Shadows falls within the paranormal/fantasy young adult genre, which by any measure is fairly saturated right now, but brings fresh ideas and positive changes which make this an excellent addition to the field. Karly Kirkpatrick has also added elements of a political thriller to create an engaging and often gripping tale of an intelligent young woman forced to make decisions about her life well before she is ready to. The novel begins with Paivi Anderson dealing with common teenage problems, the desire for a boyfriend, an annoying younger brother, school bullying, and ends with her world changed so far as to be almost unrecognisable.

While the beginning of this novel adequately introduces Paivi through descriptions of her thoughts and feelings about her world, it is the ways she reacts to the troubles she faces that makes her a likeable and involving protagonist. By the last half of this novel I greatly admired her, and began to reflect unflatteringly on some of the other female protagonists of this genre, and by the close of the novel, which clearly sets up for a sequel, I was impressed by her growth and maturity and by Kirkpatrick's skill in creating this character, which is unfortunately not fully utilised in the novel's opening.

In weaving so many elements together, Kirkpatrick has created a thrilling and original novel that should satisfy those who usually read any one of these genres. If her writing improves as much between the first and second novel as it does between the beginning and end of this one, then the follow up to Into the Shadows will be outstanding.

Title: Into the Shadows
Author: Karly Kirkpatrick
Style: Young Adult/ Paranormal
Price: $2.99
Date of publication: October 19, 2010
Length: 60,000+
Can be found at:
Smashwords (Kindle, ePub, PDF, RTF, LRF, PDB, Plain Text & Online)
Amazon (Kindle) (LINK)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Review: Crime Always Pays: A Screwball Noir by Declan Burke

Crime Always Pays: A Screwball Noir is a fun, yet complex novel, which definitely falls under the heading of screwball, but not always 'noir'. There are many of the characters you would expect of that genre though, including cops and robbers, some crooked and some with hearts of gold, there are mysterious dames and shady lawyers, and a crazed wolf thrown in for good measure.

Burke's novel starts some time after a confrontation between many of the main characters, leaving some injured and all feeling like they are owed something, usually money, by one or more of the others. The large cast of characters each get their turn in the spotlight, with the narration jumping from one to another, often in the middle of an event. While this does create tension and interest, until I had a clear grasp of the characters and their relationships I found it confusing and at times frustrating.

Burke does an excellent job of quickly outlining each character and then slowly revealing further details about their past, their motives and giving hints at important aspects of their personalities which come to bear in future. The dialogue is humorous and generally realistic but becomes over the top at some points, much like many of Guy Richie's films, which seems to be a common and accurate comparison. Even though many of the characters are amoral, violent, or just greedy, and each has reason to hate one or more of the others, they are all easily likeable and by the end of the novel you want all of them to get what they want, even when that seems impossible.

There were many aspects of Crime Always Pays which I greatly enjoyed and only a few things which I found distracted me from the story and characters. If this is your 'go-to' genre than you may find the jumps between characters, the complex web of relationships, and the over the top gangster slang easier to get past than I did. Once I overcame these very minor irritations I became engrossed in the events of the novel, the characters, and the questions posed by many of the characters regarding morality. The unique mixture of a fun cops and robbers caper and the complex plot and character relationships makes this novel highly enjoyable and worth a read, or even a re-read.

Title: Crime Always Pays: A Screwball Noir
Author: Declan Burke
Style: Humour / Crime / Road Trip
Price: $1.99
Date of publication: March 30, 2010
Length: 80,000+
Can be found at:
Smashwords (Kindle, ePub, PDF, RTF, LRF, PDB, Plain Text & Online)