Mists of the Dead, by Travis Adkins, takes the tradition of high adventure and adds a liberal helping of modern day zombie horror to bring something to the page that is both familiar and yet fascinatingly unique.
We are introduced to Warrel, a roguish charmer of a bard who has it made being the house balladeer in a tavern run by man of questionable means. Still, Warrel yearns for a life of adventure. His chance for something more occurs when Kogliastro, the most famous wizard in the world, decides to leave his fortress behind and venture out into the wide world once again. With a bit of finesse, Warrel is able to convince the magic user of his potential usefulness as a scribe on his journeys, and thus begins a saga that will take the old mage and young, impetuous bard (along with their dwarf warrior companion) to a strange new land filled with both mystery and the eponymous mist.
Being someone who grew up on Dungeons and Dragons, this tale has much that was familiar to me, from the magical items and spells the character’s use and discover, to the chosen professions of not only the three adventurers but others they meet in their travels. The world the author has created is filled with gods and monsters of his own creation as well as those taken from the pages of the manuals I devoured as a fanatical fantasy gamer in my youth. Adkins puts his own spin on the mix, in particular related to the gods of Erda, the world in which Warrel lives, and how his characters communicate. Warrel in particular uses an entertaining mix of the classic ‘ye olde’ common tongue and modern vernacular that put a smile on my face at is creativity.
While the story can be easily classified as traditional fantasy, Adkins does not forget his own history, which includes at least two traditional modern-day zombie apocalypse novels. The zombies our adventurers meet don’t share the traits of magically enchanted undead, raised up by dark priests and necromancers, but adhere in many ways to the zombies we are familiar with these days-those who die within the mists rise up and are compelled to devour the brains of the living.
Naturally, given my own life-long fascination with both fantasy adventure and the undead, I am probably a biased reviewer of this tale, but I must say that the characters are solidly fleshed out, as is the world(s) the author has created. If perhaps there is an area I would be critical of, it is the length of time it takes for Warrel to go from committing to leaving his home behind to travel with a famed wizard and actually doing it. While the detail the author commits to Allswell, the city that Warrel calls home, and the cast of characters he has relationships with is tremendous, it perhaps takes a bit too long for the real adventure to begin. With that said, for me, Mists of the Dead was both an exciting journey into the unknown and to places I am very familiar with and love returning too.
Mists of the Dead can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XC5Q794
Not too long ago, I was approached by an author friend of mine with a request to help promote their new fantasy novel on my blog, which I did, happily. I tend to write reviews of horror novels, but I thought that since I am a big fan of fantasy as well I would also read her book, and not just promote it. So here is my review of her book, which I would say fits nicely in the realm of young adult fiction, with both fantasy elements as well as a bit of horror-with werewolves and vampires playing a prominent role.
Charming Incantations: Enticed tells the story of Lisa, a young woman whose parents were tragically killed in a fire, which thrusts her into a world she never knew existed: one with supernatural creatures that expect her to do her part as the surviving heir to the human representatives on a council that works to keep the world safe from darkness.
While the story provides a prolog explaining the alliance between the six races: human, werewolf, vampire, shape-shifter, witch, and banshee, the first chapter of this tale bypasses Lisa’s initial realization of what she must do or any revelations she has that there is an entire world that has been hidden from her. Instead, her tale begins with her knocking on the door of the meeting place of the six representatives of the six races. There she meets the five other generals, or leaders of the armies that hold back the evil known as goblins from taking over the world. One of them, Romulus, the leader of the werewolves, will take her in and protect her from danger until she can be trained to protect herself and take over her duties as a leader.
Lisa faces a great deal of challenges, not the least of which is the fact that she is falling hard for Romulus while she is trying to grasp this new world that surrounds her. She fears these supernatural races but must come to terms with them all so that she can insure that her status as protector of humanity comes to pass.
This tale is part romance and part fantasy adventure. There is magic here, and I am sure there will be passing comparisons to Twilight, but this is a tale on a far grander scale. Lisa is learning about this new world as we learn about it, and is forced into battle even though humans are deemed the weak link in the alliance. She cannot raise her own army of humans because the secrets of the other races must be kept, so the burden is even greater for her than for her counterparts. In some ways, this is a coming of age tale as well, with Lisa doing her best to find her place in a world that is scary, exciting, and quite dangerous.
This is the first book of what I believe will be a series, but this story can certainly stand on its own as a tale of a young woman coming into her own in a world filled with both dangers, delight, magic, and mayhem.
Charming Incantions: Enticed can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Charming-Incantations-Enticed-Monique-Snyman/dp/0987874721/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1336631184&sr=1-1
Donovan Vicar is a man with a special gift. He is a feeler, which the author describes as someone who feels the vibrations of those around him. It becomes clear rather quickly that this is only scratching the surface of this gift…a gift he will soon need on a strange journey he must set out on across time.
Fractured Time begins in the present era, in the year 2007 in the city of Bitternest, Louisiana. Donovan is working to manage his power as a feeler, which tends to knock him for a loop every time he is around someone who has a negative or evil aura. So when someone walks by that has the most potently evil aura of anyone he has ever met, it compels him to follow them. Donovan fears the danger they represent. In the past, he has discovered too late that when he senses such evil, something horrible is about to occur. Not long after this discovery, Donovan finds himself traveling backwards in time in pursuit of this evil man. Fifty years in the past to be exact, to the Bitternest of 1957. It becomes clear rather quickly that the man he was tracking is responsible for this new puzzle, and it is up to Donovan to figure out how to stop whatever foul plan the man has for the world and to hopefully find a way back home, to the present.
Fractured Time is a good old fashion mystery spiked with magic, imbibed with ancient evil, and with just the right touch of nostalgia mixed in for good measure. Alan Draven has created a city shrouded in darkness and strange alien forces, and populated it with a cast of colorful characters that are quite entertaining. I enjoyed the almost retro feel of this story, and not just because the vast majority of it was set in a world fifty years in our past. This is a good old fashion tale of sorcery and evil men who crave absolute power who are willing use the blackest magic in their cause.
Naturally, no story is perfect, and this one suffers a bit from what I would say is the author’s enthusiasm to share with his audience as many details as possible about the world he has created. The thoughts and motivations of not only the main characters are revealed, but those of most of the secondary characters are as well. Mysteries are unraveled at a pace that is probably faster than I would have preferred for this type of tale, and leaving some questions left unanswered would have been just fine by me. The epilogue is an example of this. While probably necessary, to fill in all the blanks, some of the answers seem almost abrupt-loose ends that are sewn up in a hurry, so nothing is left to puzzle over.
Even so, I can understand the enthusiasm the author wants to share with us over his creation. Bitternest holds up a strange, fun-house type mirror to what would be its sister city of New Orleans, another Louisiana city filled with oddities, magic, and strange tales of the occult. Alan Draven has given us old magic and old gods that feel right at home in this strange city, and I can understand his passion for sharing every last bit of it with us.
Fractured Time can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Fractured-Time-Alan-Draven/dp/097699478X/ref=sr_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1314631559&sr=1-7