Review: Space Drifters By Paul Regnier


cover_SpaceDriftersI’ve been away from blogging for a week, but not actually by choice. I had a health issue that kept me doing little more than eating and sleeping. And reading.

Reading really is a wonderful pastime, but without realizing it, I’ve gotten away from doing as much as I usually do. So it felt great to get back into books again.

I read some good titles—mostly fiction, but I gobbled down one autobiography and am working on a couple more at a slower pace (now that I’m back to writing). Today I want to give my review of a very fun science fiction, Space Drifters by Paul Regnier (Enclave Publishing).

The Story

Glint Starcrost, the captain of an older spaceship, has a bounty on his head. He’s broke, his ship is falling apart, and his computer is going a bit haywire. Add to that, a time traveler from the past has landed on his bridge, and a fleet of Zormian star pirates has surrounded his craft. Oh, and then there’s Jasette, the beguiling beauty who masquerades as a bounty hunter but who is actually a princess with a secret agenda of her own.

All Glint wants is to reverse his ill-fated luck, which he believes he can do if he can find the Emerald Enigma, a treasure he’s only heard about and which some believe to be a myth. Of course, he isn’t the only one searching for it. Hamilton Von Drone, his old nemesis from the Space Academy who stole his rightful place atop the class of space pilots, is also plotting to track down the priceless object.

Fortunately Glint has his faithful friend and right hand . . . well, lizard, Blix, at his side through all these adventures. Technically Blix isn’t a lizard. He’s a Vythian, a lizard-man with shiny copper scales, a brown bandoleer filled with daggers criss-crossing his torso, and charcoal pants over “his muscular reptilian legs.”

Quite the motley cast of characters and quite the story! Can Glint evade the bounty hunters, find the Emerald Enigma, best Hamilton in their latest confrontation, and survive the crash of his computer, Iris, who has a warped view of her relationship with him?

I’ll let you read the story for yourself to discover the twists and turns that develop along the way.

Strengths

As you may have surmised by my story intro, this space opera is a bit tongue-in-cheek. There is lots of humor and a healthy dose of parody. The characters are likeable, to be sure, and the interplay between them is delightful.

Blix reminds me of a character in Donita Paul’s DragonKeeper Chronicles—Rigador, a meech dragon. He’s also a bit like a lizard-ish version of Spock, the Vulcan in Star Trek. He verbally spars with his captain and is right most of the time, and as it happens, is the character who is most intrigued by the Bible. Of course, he’s intrigued by anything he can read. It’s the time traveler, Nelvan, who brought the Bible aboard.

The presence of a Bible, and I suspect, of a Christian, fits in naturally to the story. Without giving anything away, the Bible turns out to play a significant part in the story, but not in the way most people would think. It’s set up perfectly without any suggestion of heavy-handed preaching. In fact, it’s treated with no more regard than any other book, though there’s every opportunity for that to change in volume two of the series.

Each of the characters comes across as an individual, and they each have their own set of problems and goals. Their voices are strong and unique, which makes the story particularly feel like a movie, or at least, a book I can visualize. [As an aside, I think it’s interesting how voice can make a book feel more visual!]

Weaknesses

This first point is related to the parody aspect of the story. I think: there’s a plethora of hard-to-pronounce names of strange places and races. And things. It’s one of the dangers of writing speculative fiction, I think—a danger I may fall into in my own writing. Certainly the strange names can give a story the feel of otherness, which is necessary for worldbuilding, but it can also be a deterrent to some readers who don’t want to wade through so many strange pronunciations.

Secondly, there were a few times when I wanted our fearless captain to treat people differently—with less anger and hostility. Fortunately, this story is related in the first person so we readers are privy to Glint’s thoughts. We know he says a lot because he’s trying to create a certain persona which he thinks starship captains are supposed to portray. His inner musings let us know what he’s really like, and it’s that person I enjoy the most. So I found myself wishing for more “nice Glint” sections, though honestly, I don’t know if “nice Glint” would work as well.

Recommendation

Space Drifters is a fun story with characters that seem like real people. Anyone who enjoys space opera and humor will love this book. It’s a fast read, one I happily recommend.

Advertisements

CSFF Tour Wrap – One Realm Beyond


CSFFTopBloggerFeb14One reason I like blog tours is because I inevitably learn something from other tour members about the featured book or a related subject. The February tour for One Realm Beyond by Donita Paul is no different.

I learned, for example, that Mrs. Paul has put up a Pinterest board for my favorite character Bixby. You can learn some fascinating facts about the character from Julie Bihn’s post, “Five Things I Learned from Bixby’s Pinterest – CSFF Blog Tour.” I also learned about the appearance of dragons and serpents and the purpose of symbols in Shannon McDermott’s day 3 post.

There were some excellent reviews, such as this one by Chawna Schroeder and much discussion about favorite characters. (By my unofficial tally, it’s a tie between Bixby and Bridger).

In all, twenty-nine bloggers took part in the tour, posting forty-four articles. And now that the flurry of blogging and visiting other sites and commenting is settling, there are only two things left to do–buy your copy of One Realm Beyond, if you don’t have it yet, and put your hands together for this month’s winner of the CSFF Tour Top Blogger Award – Shannon McDermott.

Congratulations, Shannon!

Published in: on February 21, 2014 at 6:04 pm  Comments Off on CSFF Tour Wrap – One Realm Beyond  
Tags: , , , ,

CSFF Blog Tour – One Realm Beyond by Donita Paul, Day 3


Donita PaulDonita Paul can claim a number of firsts. For example, her DragonKeeper books were the first Christian dragon books, at least that I’m aware of. DragonSpell came out just ahead of Bryan Davis’s Raising Dragons, which I happened to be critiquing before publication. Hers was also the first book CSFF featured back in 2006 when the tour started. In addition, she was the first recipient of the Clive Staples Award for Christian Speculative Fiction back in 2009.

Those are just interesting tidbits and not relevant to the rest of my post–a review of Donita’s latest young adult novel One Realm Beyond, book 1 of the Realm Walkers series published by Zondervan.

The Story. Young Cantor wants to be a realm walker. In fact, he’s destined to be a realm walker, but he cannot go off on adventures on his own until he receives permission from his guardian and mentor. Even then he must first travel to a particular location and choose his dragon partner, his constant, before proceeding to the Realm Walker Guild where he must train.

When at last Cantor starts out on his own, he’s faced with some surprises: a dragon who has picked him instead of the other way around, another realm walker named Bixby looking for her constant, and citizens who aren’t always willing to help him on his way. But the greatest surprise might be that the leaders who ought to be working with the Realm Walkers Guild to secure the safety and just treatment of the citizens, are actually the ones oppressing, robbing them, and kidnapping their young men.

What can two young, untrained realm walkers do to make a difference against the forces of the king? Especially without their dragons (unless you count Bridger, the tag-along dragon who Cantor doesn’t really want).

Multiverse_-_level_II.svg_Strengths. The Realm Walker series takes place in a different kind of fantasy world, more nearly a multiverse than anything. In her first post about One Realm Beyond, Jill Williamson discussed the unique world, offering several maps she found that helped her understand the description.

Interestingly, Bruce Hennigan a guest contributor at Spec Faith, recently wrote about the multiverse, so I had a picture I could call to mind. Whether it’s anything close to what Donita intended, I’ll let other readers be the judge.

At any rate, the whole concept of traveling through a portal from one plane to another is unique. C. S. Lewis, of course, had other worlds in his Narnia series, and Narnia itself could be accessed through a portal of sorts. The various worlds, however, were separate pools contained in a sort of holding place–obviously quite different than Donita’s stacked planes.

Besides this interesting setting, One Realm Beyond has delightful characters and at least one formidable adversary. Each is credible given the parameters of this story. Hence, the fact that the mor dragons can sit at the table with the humans or turn into boulders or trees at will, is plausible.

The story is also intriguing, and as Shannon McDermott noted, a tad darker than previous books by Donita Paul. There’s oppression to fight and a mass murder plot to thwart and missing loved ones to find. The story is filled with conflict which tests the mettle of the protagonists.

In spite of all these strong elements, I think the strongest might be the theme. Often Donita’s books, because they are of the gentler side of fantasy where violence is not as prevalent, are frequently referred to as fun. I’m sure I’ve used that word to describe them myself. And it’s appropriate for One Realm Beyond as well. However, people don’t often couple fun with thought-provoking, but I think that’s what we have in this novel.

All is not right in the very place that should be the seat of justice–the Realm Walkers Guild. Here, where the realm walkers are trained and where leaders of other realms turn for support against opponents of peace and harmony, where those pledged to serve Primen ought to be most faithful and true, there is corruption, plotting, power struggles, pride.

Primen is without apology an allegorical representation of God. He is supreme, he is held in highest esteem, he is served, and he is worshiped. In fact, he is the power behind the guild.

Consequently when the protagonists visit the Sanctuary, a gathering of people serving Primen, there’s a bit of a shock when the large facility only has a smattering of people seated in the pews.

Then there was this description of part of the ceremony:

The homily given by a man in elaborate robes said little other than to try to think good thoughts,. According to the speaker, this practice of thinking good thoughts would order the rest of your life. As if thinking about daises would eradicate sewer problems.

There’s the key, I think. The realm walkers and the guild are supposed to serve Primen, to protect the people, to put things to rights. But they aren’t doing their job. They aren’t speaking truth. And they’re falling away.

In short, I believe One Realm Beyond is a story about the church. I for one am interested in seeing where Donita takes her next book in the series.

Weaknesses. Every book has things a reader can pick at if they have a mind to. Was the pace too slow? Was Cantor likeable enough? Were the characters adequately motivated for each of their decisions? While these are valid things to discuss, many of like kind are in the eye of the beholder.

My hope is that those things don’t distract readers from taking this fun book seriously and thinking more deeply because of it.

Recommendation. I’m all in. Yes, this is a young adult book, but it’s dealing with subjects adults should care about just as much or more. I highly recommend One Realm Beyond and suggest readers get on board now, at the beginning of the Realm Walkers series.

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a review copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Published in: on February 19, 2014 at 5:57 pm  Comments Off on CSFF Blog Tour – One Realm Beyond by Donita Paul, Day 3  
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

CSFF Blog Tour – One Realm Beyond by Donita Paul, Day 2


onerealmbeyondcover

Favorite characters.

Donita Paul has written some of the best fun fantasy characters of all time, I think. This trend continues in her new novel One Realm Beyond, first in the Realm Walkers series.

In the past some of her minor characters have been quirky and interesting and unique. Sometimes they’re wise. Often their appearance belies their true status. They impact the story in unexpected ways.

Here are some of the memorable ones:
Lady Peg in Dragons of the Valley. Her distracted state and odd observations add enjoyable humor and wit.

Rigador in DragonFire and DragonLight. This last (or so we thought) of the meech dragons is fearsome, precocious, elegant, and strong. He commands the page as much as any room he might walk into.

Sir Dar, a doneel, makes an appearance in a number of books, but nearly upstaged the protagonist in DragonSpell. He is fastidious about his clothing, though his outfits might be considered somewhat garish, and he loves to prepare meals properly. He added a great deal of humor.

Leetu Bends, an eccentric hermit-like emeraldian, who is wise, mysterious, capable plays a key role in DragonQuest.

Toopka, the silly little doneel child who bonds with Rigador.

Wizard Fenworth is such a remarkable character, both in the DragonKeeper Chronicles but also in Dragons of Chiril series, with bog creatures nesting in his beard and his habit of becoming treelike to the point that it’s hard to tell him apart from the real thing.

And what about Gymn, the fainting minor dragon?

I wish I could remember them all.

But I reminisce about all these creative characters because I believe Donita Paul has done in her latest work, One Realm Beyond, what I’ve longed to see her do. Rather than making her quirky character a minor sideshow, she’s taken one of the best ever and brought her front and center.

I’m talking about Bixby, one of the point of view characters in this first installment of the Realm Walkers series. The story opens with Cantor, an eager pup of a boy who wants to get on with his destined role as a realm walker. But readers soon meet Bixby who then becomes a second point of view character. In the end, it’s clear she is as important as Cantor. Maybe more.

But what makes Bixby so special?

First, she’s unpredictable. I’d even say, surprising. She’s small and for all appearances, weak, but she can keep up with Cantor and even out-maneuver him at times. She has special abilities. So in some senses, she’s a bit of a superhero. She’s also wiser than Cantor, but she has secrets, and this makes her interesting, too.

Another quality that won me over to her is her courage. Despite her vulnerable size, she never backs away from a challenge, never tries for an easier assignment. She’s not foolhardy, but she’s not about to stand around and watch when lives are on the line. She’s compassionate and caring and willing to take a risk.

Along with everything else, she has the perfect dragon constant for her temperament. Totobee-Rodolow, with her love of bright and beautiful accessories, her love of shopping and fine dining, her connections and sophisticated manners, is the perfect fit for little Bixby.

Truly, this little mite of a girl—closer to a fairy, perhaps than any creature Donita has created before—is a star. I for one love to see such a strong character given the floor so she can have the spotlight shine on her all the longer.

Don’t forget to tour the other participants reviewing and commenting about One Realm Beyond. I might especially point you to Shannon McDemott‘s excellent review in which she says

It is such a fun book, such a light-hearted book, with entrancing characters and a terrific setting. I like fantasy, and I like sci-fi, and I hold a special fondness for well-done science fantasy – which is what One Realm Beyond is.

CSFF Blog Tour – One Realm Beyond by Donita Paul, Day 1


dragon

Dragons

Look wise,
say nothing,
and eat
only those
who annoy you.

Read DragonKeeper Chronicles.

It wasn’t intentional; I truly wasn’t trying to dress the part I would be playing later in the day. In fact I didn’t really think about it until I began to work on my post for this month’s CSFF feature: One Realm Beyond, the first in the Realm Walkers series by Donita Paul. Nevertheless, the tee shirt I pulled out of my closet, a favorite, pictures this dragon and that saying.

Yes, I got it some years ago in connection with Donita Paul’s earlier books.

Appropriate, then, that One Realm Beyond also has dragons. Of sorts.

One of the most inventive parts of Ms. Paul’s writing, in my opinion, is her development of interesting, unique species. Her earlier books had a wide array of both good and evil species, large and small. But on top of this assortment were various types of dragons as well–most good, some more intelligent than others, and one particular, rare species, the meech dragons, I believe, that were extraordinarily gifted.

In One Realm Beyond, the mor dragons reminded me a great deal of those meech dragons, only they’re a step up. Ms. Paul was not content to make the same dragon with a different name. She gave the mor dragons additional abilities. The most notable is their capacity to shapeshift.

We’re talking about an Odo from Deep Space Nine kind of ability to take the shape of objects or people or other animals.

These dragons also mingle with humans to the degree that they are seated together in fancy eating establishments, wear some clothing and/or accessories (at least the one who loves to shop does), and converse freely (though a dragon and his constant can also mind-speak).

I mentioned “inventive,” didn’t I?

In short, the dragons in the Realm Walker series are not your old school dragons.

I’ll have more to say about One Realm Beyond and post my review later in the tour, but for now you might want to check out what other participants are saying, including new members Mike Coville and Audrey Sauble.

Each check mark below links to a CSFF Tour article, so have some fun reading what others are talking about in connection to this book. Feel free to leave a comment and tell them Becky sent you. 😀

Gillian Adams
Julie Bihn
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Mike Coville
Pauline Creeden
Carol Gehringer
Rebekah Gyger
Janeen Ippolito
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Emileigh Latham
Jennette Mbewe
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Joan Nienhuis
Nissa
Donita K. Paul
Writer Rani
Audrey Sauble
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Jojo Sutis
Jessica Thomas
Steve Trower
Shane Werlinger
Jill Williamson

Blog Tours In The Age Of Social Media


csffbannerWhen a group of us speculative writers started the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour, social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus, Tumblr and the like did not exist. Blogging itself was fairly new. The concept of a blog tour seemed like the perfect way to create a community of like-minded people willing to talk about the books we wanted to see in bookstores.

When we first approached Donita Paul, *our first author, about touring one of her books, she asked, What is a blog tour? For some time we answered that question fairly regularly, but before long, the concept caught on. Now there are sites dedicated to setting up and running blog tours.

As late as three years ago, however, I had an industry insider note the lack of immediate book sales from a particular tour, then say, “It seems that the main body of people reading the blog tour reviews consisted of other reviewers on the tour.”

At the time I thought that comment was short-sighted. No one other than the blogger knows the traffic his or her site receives unless there’s a visible stats counter. No one else knows how many subscribers are receiving the blog in their email in-box or in a reader. The fact that people who had read the book in question were carrying on an intelligent discussion about it should have been appealing to other visitors. And why would those who had not read the book jump into the conversation? That they were silent doesn’t mean they weren’t listening.

Add to that the marketing idea that a buyer needs to hear about a product X number of times (I think it’s 7) before buying. Here CSFF voluntarily puts the name of these various books out over the Internet for any number of people to get their first nudge, or third, or sixth.

Clearly, I believe blog tours, from the beginning, have helped books sell though their impact may not be immediately felt.

But today we have another whole layer to our blog tours–social media. In the past, if someone wrote a particularly good review, the author might link to it or excerpt it for his blog or website. That may or may not have attracted more readers.

With the growth of social media, however, authors can link to posts on their author Facebook page or Tweet to their followers. In turn, those fans can read and share posts to their social media contacts. So, not only are visitors to my site finding out about the tour reviews and the books we’re featuring, but in essence, the author’s loyal followers are now sharing the reviews with their friends and followers as well. People I don’t know and can’t reach are getting the word.

But the author could do that without the tour, some say. Not really. The author can’t say, Go look at this post, if there is no post to go look at. The tour, operating independently of the author, gives him something to point to.

Interestingly, the tour works best when there is either controversy or positive accord. The books that garner tepid posts won’t stir up a great deal of conversation or receive outside notice. Those that create some passion in the tour participants, however, end up having memorable posts, discussions, and reviews to which the author can point.

In short, blog tours seem to me to be more effective than ever, as long as they do more than regurgitate the back cover copy of the book they are featuring and as long as the book is well written. Somehow, it still comes down to that point, doesn’t it.

– – – – –

* For the record, CSFF opened in May 2006 by featuring a Christian fiction reviewer’s website, specifically a page he called “Focus on Christian Fantasy.” We highlighted Donita Paul the next month as our first author. If you check out that inaugural post, you’ll see a few names you may recognize as current active tour participants.

Published in: on April 25, 2013 at 5:36 pm  Comments Off on Blog Tours In The Age Of Social Media  
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Books Make Good Gifts


Just have to point out the rare occurrence: today is 12-12-12. We won’t see that month, day, year number being the same … well, ever, unless you live a really, really long time. 😉

– – –

I’m assuming that there are people like me who haven’t finished up their Christmas shopping. (I’m sorry, but half the fun is hunting down the right present at the last minute. It gets the adrenaline pumping. 😉 ) Might I make a suggestion? Think, BOOKS.

I’d even suggest narrowing that down. Think, Christian fantasy.

There are four books that I think come in at the top of their category, and I can happily and whole-heartedly recommend them to you.

Angel-Eyes-Cover1First in the category of young adult novels for girls, I suggest Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore. Amazon reviewers have given it, on average, four stars, but they lie. Well, OK, not lie so much as disagree with me. 🙂

Interestingly, in the reviews that lowered the average, there were two main complaints I saw.

First, some people didn’t like the “Christian themes that have gone overboard.” (I’m not sure what that person expected from a novel about angels.)

The second complaint was that it was too much like Twilight because it was about teen romance. So … no book from now on can be about teenage romance without being compared to Twilight? See why I disagree with those reviewers? You can read my much more accurate and truthful review to counterbalance these scurrilous attacks deviant claims contrasting ideas.

dragons-of-the-watch-coverMy second recommendation is Donita Paul‘s excellent cozy fantasy for all ages, Dragons of the Watch. This is the last in the delightful Dragons of Chiril series, and I rate it as the best of all Ms. Paul’s novels. Of course, technically this book ought not be rated with the others in my list because it came out in October of last year (see my review here). Still, I don’t think it’s received the attention it’s due. Perhaps people are scared off by the fact that it’s part of a series. Of all the stories I’ve read of Ms. Paul’s dragon books, this one reads most like a stand-alone. It’s also a good introduction to this series and to the DragonKeeper Chronicles.

new-recruit-coverRecommendation number three is The New Recruit, a young adult boy book by Jill Williamson, winner of two Christy Awards. This novel, published by Marcher Lord Press, is perfect for the reader who wants a fast-pace, soft fantasy. The supernatural elements are minimal. The fantasy really comes largely from the premise–the existence of a Christian spy organization. It’s unique, it’s fun, it’s contemporary, it’s action packed, it’s so very typically teen. Wonderful story. (Here’s my review).

cover_thspiritwellLastly I recommend the adult science fantasy, The Spirit Well by Stephen Lawhead. To be honest, though, this is one that is best read after the first two in the series–The Skin Map and The Bone House. Personally I think this Bright Empires series has the potential to become a classic, so I suggest getting in on the fun now. There’s wonderful character development (something I don’t always find in Mr. Lawhead’s books), intrigue, historical settings, time-ish travel (you have to read the books to understand precisely what I mean there). For a closer look, here’s the review I wrote for this one.

Undoubtedly I’ve left out other good titles. What Christian speculative fiction would you recommend for Christmas?

Fantasy Friday – Dragons Of The Watch, A Review


Dragons Of The Watch is the final (I think) book in the Chiril Chronicles by Donita Paul. To date it’s my favorite by this talented author who specializes in the “cozy fantasy.” Written for all ages, the books have a decided lean toward young adult, and this one is no exception. But enough with the introduction. On to the review.

The Story. In the imaginary world where Wulder is the One Supreme Being, Creator of all, seven high and seven low races people the various continents. In Chiril, however, there are few urohms–gentle giants reaching as tall as fourteen feet.

When Princess Tipper sends out invitations to her wedding to all citizens of Chiril, a young tumanhofer country girl named Ellicinderpart Clarenbessipawl (she goes by Ellie) wants to attend in the worst way. Her aunt agrees to take her, but as the trip begins, Ellie must corral one of the family goats, her favorite. Her aunt instructs her to meet up with their carriage after she takes care of her responsibility.

After capturing her pet amid inclement weather, Ellie gets turned around in the fog. She heads toward a shaft of light and walks, or is pushed by her goat, through a shiny surface. When she turns to look for the trail, she can no longer see the countryside she left. Instead, she is in an enclosed city founded by urohms from another part of the world. Now she is the only tumanhofer, and perhaps the only person, in a place built for giants. Or is she?

That’s really just the set up. The story is all about what happens in Rumbard City, and it’s good, oh, so good. But I don’t want to give any spoiler.

Strengths. As always, Donita’s strength is her characters. I was very quickly caring for Ellie, longing with her to attend the wedding, exasperated at the delay she faced, fearing as she did that she might miss it all, that she might never see her home again.

Ellie, it turns out, had never heard of Wulder, but she isn’t an ugly, mean-spirited, or unkind girl. Just the opposite. She is pleasant, wise (though she thinks herself quite unsophisticated and therefore the target of mockery), industrious, and compassionate.

The other characters are either equally likable, or they are interesting. In other words none in the entire cast drags the story down or makes it uninteresting.

The plot is quite good, too. Ellie has a clear goal, but when there seems to be no way out, she makes new plans and works to carry them out. The story, therefore, moves forward at a good pace, and I found myself cheering for Ellie to succeed.

There are lots and lots of good thematic threads in the story, all placed very naturally, rising from the circumstances and the character needs. I’ll add that I think in the current climate in Western society, these truths are especially important. I’ll give you a hint–they center on child-rearing.

The story is light and fun. There is definitely conflict, and the obstacles seem believably difficult and/or scary, yet there is an undercurrent of humor and joy and hope. It’s hard to imagine that tragedy will strike, though it threatens in such a believable way, I had to remind myself a time or two, This is a cozy fantasy. A cozy!

I’m a fan of twists and there is one significant twist toward the end that I didn’t see coming at all. It added another layer of tension to the story and provided a perfect set-up for the climax and resolution.

Weaknesses. Toward the end I thought there was a plot point that could have been developed more. Late in the story the characters discover an underground system of tunnels that connected to an ancient, abandoned city. However, the reader was not privy to the first efforts to explore this area. Instead, through narrative one character discloses that there have been daily trips searching out the tunnels.

Soon after, the reader does enter the tunnels with the main characters, but all that happens there could just as easily have taken place in Rumbard City proper. Furthermore, I don’t recall any explanation of how the underground city came to be or what its connection was with the urohms who lived above.

I found one element in the story to be predictable, but it fit well with the cozy fantasy genre–where danger is an arm’s length away instead of in your face–so I didn’t mind the way this particular event played out. Others might think it was too obvious.

Recommendation. Dragons Of The Watch is a must read for fans of Donita Paul. I highly recommend it to readers who enjoy a light fantasy–not light-weight in substance, but not dark or filled with angst. It’s an uplifting story, a book I looked forward to pulling out when I had time to read.

Published in: on September 14, 2012 at 5:26 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , ,

CSFF Blog Tour – Dragons of the Valley, Day 3


What, you may ask, does “Dragon Bloggin’” have to do with the latest CSFF Tour feature, Dragons of the Valley? Besides the word “dragon,” both are creations of Donita Paul, the latter her latest novel and the former her fantasy blog. While I wanted to draw your attention to this fine blog where Donita posts her tour articles whenever she participates in CSFF (as she did this week), my intent today is to give you my review of Dragons of the Valley.

The Story. This second volume in the Chiril Chronicles begins a week after the events at the end of The Vanishing Sculptor. Same primary characters, same immediate threat, different opponent.

Strengths. The Characters. Donita has outdone herself in this one. First, she created a truly formidable foe for her cast of heroes to bring down. The Grawl was fearsome and believable. To be honest, he reminded me of a very evil Rigador (I think I have that name right), the meech dragon in the DragonKeeper books.

But true to form, Donita also brought some of the secondary characters front and center so that they nearly upstaged the primaries. Lady Peg played a critical, and hilarious role. Wizard Fenworth was at his best, and we met a delightful kimen named Hollee who made everything more fun.

Then there was a new minor dragon, Rayn. This little chameleon dragon was a jack of all trades and no slouch when it came to mastering them. He started out as such a needy little stray, my heart went out to him before I realized he would be the most talented of all the minors.

Themes. Donita’s stories are rich with spiritual truth. The Chiril Chronicles are actually evangelistic, mapping the way in which a people who forgot God learn to know Him. But there are other significant threads—the importance of following God even when it takes you out of your comfort zone, of accepting and loving those who are different than we, of rejoicing in the beauty of the world God has made. Donita even shows a little of her former teacher self and makes a point (humorously) about not ending sentences with prepositions. 😉

Writing style. This is where Donita puts her stamp on the book. She uses an abundance of light-hearted humor alongside an adventure quest. It is a story of good versus evil, with joy.

Fred Warren, one of our blog participants (and an author in his own right), came up with the perfect term to describe Donita’s stories—cozy fantasies. Nothing could be more apropos.

It seems Donita’s writing is a mirror of her, as you might expect. In a fun interview, another of our blog participants, Noah Arsenault, asked Donita to choose a song that would describe her books. Her answer? “Amazing Grace sung to the tune of Gilligan’s Island.”

What a classic answer. Front and center is Truth, God-honoring Truth, but it’s delivered with a healthy dose of humor.

Weakness. It hardly seems important, (and I know this sounds nuts) but the plot could be stronger. It hardly seems important because Donita’s stories are not the kind that induce one adrenaline rush after another. Going in, we can pretty much guarantee that the good guys—all of them—will win, with little blood shed.

This softening of fright and violence is a motif of the “cozy fantasy.” But at the same time, someone who wants an unpredictable story with a huge clash at the climax will probably be a little disappointed.

Yes, the victories are easy, the wounds healed quickly, a lot of the hitting and hacking told, not shown. But that’s part of what makes the stories perfect for all ages, as the front cover declares.

What could make the plot better? I think more direct confrontation with The Grawl, where he is creating roadblocks to keep Tipper and company from their goal of protecting the statues. But even so, there is plenty of plot to keep the pages turning

Recommendation. This is a fun book that families can read together. A must read for the fans of the cozy fantasy.

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

CSFF Blog Tour – Dragons of the Valley, Day 1


The CSFF Blog Tour is making up ground we lost last October. Consequently we have two tours here in the month of January — this one for Donita Paul, the author who helped us get started more than four years ago, and her for-all-ages fantasy, Dragons of the Valley.

Astute observers will note that the book in the picture to the left, while containing a dragon, is not Dragons of the Valley. This is intentional. While I certainly plan to talk about our featured book in the next few days, I can’t pass up the opportunity to point fans of fantasy to Donita’s web site.

Besides the Adventure Contest, a writing event for children, Donita is holding a Creative Cakes Contest in which you send her cake. No, just kidding. You send her pictures of the dragon cake you make.

These two events are promoting Donita’s children’s books. Yes, you read that correctly. Children’s books, as in picture books. You can learn more at her web site. As writers can about her Monday chats discussing The Art and Craft of Writing Fiction by Jeff Gerke.

There’s more, so much more — a list of resources, an art gallery, recipes, games, links to her blogs, free downloads, and of course the Zazzle shop where you can buy cool dragon items like tee shirts and mugs.

For writers, I say take a look at someone who is getting the most out of her web site. For fans, I say take a look at her web site to see how you can maximize the fun of the books you love. For those who have yet to read a Donita Paul book, I say, check out what the other participants of the tour are saying about Dragons of the Valley, then go buy a copy and get in on the enjoyment. 😀

Here are the other tour participants:

Published in: on January 24, 2011 at 2:03 pm  Comments (6)  
Tags: , , ,