The Second Coming by David H. Burton. Available in lots of formats, links are at DavidHBurton.com.
Summary: “Travel to a future of blood sacrifice, demons, witchcraft, and an immoral God that has returned to reclaim his former dominion.”
It’s Earth, in the future, after the planet has shifted on its axis. All sorts of demons, horrors, and magic have been released upon the world by the shift in energy. The undercurrent everywhere is fear and persecution. It’s in this environment that a brother and sister get separated, a monk leaves home to seek the Beast, and witch hunts are a daily occurance; all these separate plotlines converge in a giant battle of good vs. evil. The heart of this book is good guys against bad guys, but the good guys get confused, the bad guys change their minds, and the whole situation degenerates into a complete shitstorm, figuratively speaking. Literally speaking, it’s great reading.
This is a dark and secretive novel, but beautifully and delicately written. The worst-case scenario is usually the one that plays out, and all the characters struggle constantly between their wants, duties, and vices. It’s mentally tiring to keep up with all the burdens the characters have to bear. It goes both ways: I think some of the ever-present despondency I sensed was just my own brain projecting my feelings onto the scenes. I like when this happens, because I feel like I’m deeply connecting with the author and the story.
The book mixes some Native American and Christian lore in with new stuff, and some of the regions and countries retain their present-day names, which make familiar anchors for the reader in this otherwise foreign new fantasy world. Each character’s story and background are revealed in media res, through flashbacks and small tidbits revealed here and there. Infuriating at times, when something is revealed at the end of the story when crises would have been averted had it been mentioned at the beginning, but basically foolproof for making the reader stay up long past her bedtime.
The Bottom Line: Read it if you want to try out some dark fantasy with familiar elements to make it easy.
The Resurrection of Deacon Shader: Book One of The Deceptions of the Demiurgos, by Derek Prior. $1.99 at Smashwords.com. Also available for Kindle.
Summary: “The Sun Stone, inscrutable, ineffable, impossibly ancient, was entrusted to the shaman Huntsman until the day of the Reckoning when it unleashed the power of nightmare to destroy a civilisation. Deacon Shader, monk, knight, and spurned lover, enters the drama of the Sun Stone and unwittingly wields a power beyond belief. His deepest conflicts hold the key to the survival of creation itself.”
Score: 4.999/5 !!!
The Resurrection of Deacon Shader‘s setting is Earth, a few thousand years in the future, after magic has been released on the world by Huntsman, a Dreamer shaman. A few relics from the present day like handguns, flashlights, and street lamps still exist, but technology has regressed, and for all intents and purposes it’s unrecognizable as the Earth of today. It’s possible for people to become immortal, aided by talismans or dark magic, but not without side effects. Human nature, however, has not changed one bit, and no character in this story is as he or she first seems. A prominent theme is Christianity and Catholicism in particular. The Catholic church is still around, even after Huntsman’s hat trick, though its members are mostly shunned or persecuted. Politics have an effect on this, also. Deacon Shader’s conflicting feelings about what it means to be a Christian and how his actions fit with his own ideal form an important component of the story.
This novel is full of conflict. Each character has inner conflict, and conflict between characters and groups is the norm rather than the exception. Everyone is working on his or her own mercurial agenda. Idiocy, which irks me whenever and wherever I encounter it, is completely missing from this book. All the characters are intelligent, their actions and personalities are believable, and they do their best, which makes the bad things that happen to them that much worse.
Deacon Shader’s epic story and the world created by the author are elegant and polished. They are rich and varied, touching, maddening, and addicting.
The only thing I think this book is missing is a map. A map might be hard to view on an ebook reader, but if it were online, it might be downloaded and put on the reader as a photograph. Not until about three-quarters of the way through the book did I feel even a little comfortable with the geography of Resurrection. I was more than able to follow the story and remember who hailed from where without much trouble but details like the distance between places had to take a back seat to that info.
The Bottom Line: Buy it! If you like fantasy, or if you don’t know if you like fantasy but you know you like a book you can really get engrossed in and feel sad when you finish reading it, you won’t be disappointed by The Resurrection of Deacon Shader. Overall, highly recommended.
The Weight of Blood (The Half-Orcs, vol. 1), by David Dalglish
Available free at smashwords.com
Published on February 16, 2010
Summary: “Harruq and Qurrah Tun, half-blood exiles of elves and orcs, have sworn their lives to the prophet of a death god, gaining power in return for igniting war between the race of elves and man. Harruq’s love of an elf may save him from his dark path, but to protect her means he must turn against his brother and fight the killing nature with which he was born. No matter his decision, someone will die.”
Story score: 3/5. Overall, this is a good story idea. Two brothers are outcasts because of their race; the one tempted by evil convinces the other to follow him. Love and politics add complications, and chaos ensues.
Editing score: Sorry to say, 1.5/5. There are many errors in this book that are obvious even to a lowly English undergrad like yours truly. There are word choice issuses, too. Example: “sowed” for “sewed.” Also, it might be only me, but I didn’t care to see “yeah” and “gonna” in a fantasy novel. Passages with clunky wording and sentence structure abound, and it does get distracting. A good once-over by an experienced editor would do a world of good. I can tell the writing skill is there, since some parts of the book are excellent.
Style score: 3/5. I think the author is a great storyteller who needs a little more practice. Suspense keeps the reader interested during those times that the dialog and storyline seem forced. The book is fast-paced with lots of gory battles and well-written scenes with the villain. I would have liked to see more background info about the world, since only bare-bones information that directly relates to the main characters is given. I had to really suspend disbelief a time or two in the name of finishing the book (she just.. forgives him? REALLY??) which isn’t a deal-breaker, but the characters could have been more rounded and developed to avoid this.
The Big Picture: David Dalglish is definitely a storyteller; however, this book really needs to be more streamlined and concise. I wouldn’t recommend it only because of the poor editing, but I wouldn’t automatically write off any books in this series that follow because I think they will only get better.