Monday, June 27, 2016

Indie Book Corner: Sunborn Rising: Beneath The Fall, by Aaron Safronoff
Highly Creative, Incredibly Fun, and Full of Heart

The Quick and Dirty

+Fantastic fantasy world building.
+Creative ideas
+Exceptional fully colored illustrations highlighting major chapter events.  I can't overstate how much I loved these.
+A lovable cast of rascally characters along an enjoyable cast of sub-characters.
+Truly beautiful descriptions and vibrant world that seems like a character all its own,
+Black and white drawings throughout chapter than flesh out characters and events.
+A well rounded tone that's not too cheery and not too dark.
+Gives a Pixar movie vibe.  Who doesn't love Pixar?

-Slow beginning buildup.
-I needed a dictionary at all times.  There were more than 30 words I needed to look up as I read.  My ignorance is the main issue here, but I still found it annoyingly world breaking to have to look so many words up.  Some knowledge of the natural world helps too.
-Some illustrations don't match the action leaving some occasional temporary head scratching.

Full Review

I am reviewing a reviewer's copy of the book, though I liked it so much that I bought my own. 

It takes me a while to get into each book that I read.  During those first few chapters my mind is always screaming at me to go do something else.  It just yells, "Distraction, distraction, distraction" while I try to concentrate and slip into my new book.  I couldn't escape it during my first few chapters of Sunborn Rising either.

The book starts slow, as most fantasy tales do, and like most stories we are slowly introduced to the world and the book's cast of characters.  Barra, our main character, is joined by two others Plicks and Tory for the bulk of her journey.  It's established early on how close as friends they are and it’s also established that they always get into a lot of trouble together.  Barra and her mother seem to have a tumultuous relationship thanks to Barra's bad behavior and Barra herself is trying to investigate a mystery that was uncovered by her missing father.  It takes a while to get the adventure going, but when it does it rarely slows down.

Once our daring protagonists leave the village and start their adventure, we are introduced to a world (Cerulean) that is so strange and beautiful that I could read ecology books about it for days on end.  I love the way the sun is at the center of this vast ocean teeming with all sorts of life forms alien to me and how these massive trees float in the ocean and house all of the Arboreals.  Many of the organisms even have an out of this world cosmic feel to them.  I was left with a legitimate feeling of awe and wonder when I read the elaborate descriptions and gazed at the illustrations of this truly unique world with its wondrous creatures.

The amount of creativity that went into this book seems staggering to be honest.  I'm an indie author (and wannabe game designer) as well and just seeing how well-crafted this thing is makes me tired just looking at it.  The artwork brings this project to life in untold ways.  I'm not kidding when I say that I marveled at most of the illustrations for several minutes before moving forward.  They're just so rich and have so much to look at, so much detail to take in and it synergizes really well with the chapter you're reading.  You'll be reading a big scene and then the next page over may get an illustration that looks 100 times better than whatever you were imagining.  I love it!  I can't state that enough.  There are a few parts where the art doesn't match the scene, but it's so infrequent that it's not a real problem.  There were just two illustrations that come to mind and the most it did was cause me to scratch my head a bit and reread a description or two.

I loved the characters as well.  Barra's relationship with her friends and mom was really touching.  I like the whole community of Arboreals that make up the book.  The book features protagonists that are anthropomorphic animals.  Barra and her mother are Listlespurs, Arboreals that are human-like felines with whip like tails and purple fur.  The Arboreals have a unique set of customs and history that was interesting to read about.  And the journey is a journey to save the world and there are some big time consequences for failure.

I thought everything in the book felt organic and fleshed out including the way the story was told and how it unfolded.  There is never an overloading of one type of emotion and the book never tells you how to feel.  The book has a wealth of tone that ranges from light to dark, ebbing and flowing constantly.  There's some sad moments and there's a good amount of levity as well.  I must say I enjoyed the journey.  So I'll wrap this up here by saying that this book is a truly inspiring book, if for its ambition alone.  It has my endorsement and is well worth the buy.  I will be keeping up with the various Sunborn Rising media and will be purchasing any subsequent sequels in the future.  Kudos to Aaron Safronoff and his team!  I've posted the link for the book in the first image above.  Click the kolalabat below for the author's website.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Indie Book Corner: Bookminder by MK Wiseman
A well written book about a klepto wannabe mage and her reluctant guardian mage.

The Quick and Dirty

+Well written. Detailed descriptions, good pacing, and dialogue that flows and feels natural.
+Multi-layered, flawed, and sympathetic characters.
+Well thought out magic system with uniqueness to it.
+There is legitimate excitement to be found whenever magic is used. There's such a build up for it thanks to our magic starved protagonist and we get a detailed description of how it works usually making the unreal seem real.
+Magic isn't just some limitless ability. It requires resources, focus, and skill. Liara's learning is tempered with great realism.
+Wiseman's subtlety and understanding of human nature made Liara a complex and interesting character to read about, despite her frustrating tirades. Very good stuff.
+Takes place in the real world.

-It takes a while for the plot to get moving
-Towards the middle and end Liara's self importance and poor decision making really make many of her chapters detestable to read despite the great writing.
-Nagarath's apologetic nature and unwillingness to put Liara in her place also tended to grate on my nerves because it was repeated so often. I wish he stood up to the foolhardy Liara more. Same can be said of Father Phenlick.


Bookminder, by M.K. Wiseman, is a clever book to read for fans of complex and unique magic systems. As a matter of fact, the whole book is dripping with this sort of magick from start to finish. It's two protagonists are mages, from Liara the wannabe to Nagarath the master mage. One of the coolest aspects about this book is that it takes place in the real world, some time in the past. Great references are even made to historical events, fairy tales, and even that famous wizard Merlin.

The book is also very well written. I had no problems slipping into the Croatian locales of Dvigrad, Parentino, and Vrsar. All the dialogue between the characters felt natural and nothing of note took me out of the story. I mostly enjoyed the multi-layered and flawed characters such as Father Phenlick, Nagarath, and even the impetuous Liara (though she frustrated me to no end). I felt great sympathy for them as they tried to succeed in their various goals and lamented past mistakes as we all do. Their flaws, failures, and desires to fix them resonated deeply with me.

One of the cooler and funner aspects about the book is its magick system, which is based in real life lore. I had fun learning about some of the origins of the magick here as well as the rules to its use such as the Laws of Magick Creatio and Transferre. Very unique stuff that also happened to have a huge impact on the story. With the way that the magick was explained and implemented, there was excitement each time that it was used. There was a weight and consequences to using this world's magick. Magick isn't just some limitless resource in Bookminder. It requires resources all its own, great focus, and great skill. I thought Liara's learning of it had a nice grounded realism to it, which I always enjoy when I read fantasy. I like touches of reality that add consequences and weight to the story.

I loved this book in every possible way except for one. The only thing that annoyed me about the book at many turns was Liara's own selfishness and the way that the other characters seemed to get wrapped up in trying to help her but be made the villain by her and their own guilt-ridden consciences. It wasn't pleasant to read, I must admit. I hate seeing brats get their way and this happened more often than not. was handled very well at the end of the day. One scene comes to mind as Liara makes horrible decision after horrible decision and comes to lament past mistakes about trust right as she is making the exact same mistake. She can't see that she is making a series of the worst mistakes in her life even while continuously making them because she is young, foolish, and way too wrapped up in her current existential crisis. That's good writing in my book (ugh, no pun intended).

Though this portrayal makes the characters involved unlikable at many turns in the story, it is also true to character and true to circumstances. The circumstances that each of the characters find themselves in along with the reasons they are connected to Liara properly setup their motivations. Though annoyed with Liara's self importance and stubbornness and the other character's lack of willingness to simply tell her to shut up, by the end I found her to be someone that I could root for.

The overall plot was not really anything too special, but it was a nice setup to motivate these characters and see them in action. The ending mostly wraps up everything, but leaves some possibilities open for a sequel. I'm not sure if one is planned or not but I would certainly get read it as I found Bookminder to be highly enjoyable.

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