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Dragon Age: Last Flight

After I don’t remember how long and don’t feel like checking to see, I return triumphant with a review of a book set in the world of one of my favorite video games. I did wind up having a few minor spoilers in the review, but it isn’t for anything big.

Valya is part of a group of mages on the run from their Circle, trying to save themselves from rogue templars by seeking refuge with the Grey Wardens. When they arrive the Warden Commander asks them to prove their worth through research, and find something anything of use to the Grey Wardens, so he has a reason to keep them there.

In Liane Merciel’s Dragon Age: Last Flight we have a book that feels like it should tell two separate stories, one of Valya the elven mage in the present and one of Isseya the elven mage, sister to the hero of the fourth blight. It feels that way, but then we get woefully little of Valya’s story in favor of letting Isseya’s story take over. Ideally both stories would have been entwined in such a way that each supported or even mirrored the other to some degree and lead to more development for all the characters involved . I actually kind of wish that the author had been able to split this into two books so we could get Isseya’s story in better detail, instead of with the big time jumps that I’m sure are from the diary format, and then the next book with Valya finding the diary, getting to know some of the other characters mentioned, and then going on her hero’s journey.

The story as it’s told is a nifty piece of lore, giving us the reason that griffins no longer exist in Thedas and giving the reader a story of the fourth blight. It gives the sense that the blight has been dragging on for years. Some of the battles are amazingly well done. Unfortunately it falls flat because of the switches between time periods and the time jumps in Isseya’s side of the story. The diary framing ties the story entirely to Isseya and the people directly around her at any given point in time, normally this isn’t a bad thing, but in this case it restricts the scale of the story making it feel less epic. It also has the tendency to make Isseya herself kind of flat, we aren’t reading diary pages with the book, but since it focuses so heavily on her trying to make the griffins more effective and the repercussions of that it leaves out a lot of who she is as a character. There are moments when character shines through but , again, they just serve to make me want more. Another facet of the focus being so heavily on Isseya’s story is Valya being there almost entirely to bring Isseya’s story full circle. She solves the puzzle, but we aren’t really shown her doing it. She befriends one of the former Templars, but we get one conversation when they first meet and the next time we see her they’ve been friends for months. It’s frustrating and it left me not caring about that set of characters.

All that said, the story is enjoyable and it is a nifty addition to the world of Dragon Age. It has moments where it gets bogged down in itself, which slows the plot, but brings focus to the hopelessness of the character’s situation. And when Merciel chose to focus on other characters for any length of time, she did a really good job quickly developing them and making them interesting, I’d like to read more of her if she does that in most of her books.

So, over all, I enjoyed Dragon Age: Last Flight and would probably read Liane Merciel again, but the book has some serious issues with over focusing. It’s a decent addition to the world’s lore that could have implications for Dragon Age: Inquisition or a later game, but that isn’t required reading for either one. I give it a three out of five.

Guest Post: A.D. Starrling

R & D in Writing: What it takes to put science and technology in paranormal fiction

Seventeen the series falls under the wide umbrella of paranormal fiction. It can further be categorized as supernatural thriller, action-adventure, or urban fantasy. As such, these novels are full of action scenes involving unarmed and armed combat, a variety of bladed and projectile weapons, multiple worldwide locations, and some damn right scary bad guys with crazy ideas cooked up, sometimes literally, in a lab.

One of biggest compliments I’ve been paid about my writing has been the ease with which science and technology slips into the story, almost unnoticed. This doesn’t happen accidentally. It is very much the result of a rigorous exercise involving me staring at all the research I’ve done on a topic and finding the shortest and easiest way to incorporate it into the plot without making my editors’ and beta readers’ eyes glaze over.

Let me give you a few examples.

1. In Soul Meaning (Seventeen Book 1), Lucas Soul, the main protagonist, uses a daisho as his blades. A daisho is a Japanese weapon consisting of a long sword, the katana, and a short sword, the wakizashi. In combination, they are used in a style of swordsmanship known as the ‘Two Heavens as One’ or ‘Two Swords as One’ fighting style.

Why did I pick swords for the immortals to fight with? Because immortals have been around for millennia and were using bladed weapons for much, much longer than projectile weapons, i.e. guns.

Why did I pick these particular swords for Lucas Soul? Because I absolutely adore Japanese manga and anime, particularly Tite Kubo’s Bleach, where there are many, many bladed weapons, and because I wanted Lucas to have trained with the best samurai who ever lived.

So I started my research by looking up the world’s best samurai from actual history. And I came across an Edo period ronin by the name of Miyamoto Musashi, who wrote a book on the art of war called ‘The Book of Five Rings’ and who created the Hyoho Niten Ichi-ryu, the ‘Two Heavens as One’ or ‘Two Swords as One’ fighting style. My research not only incorporated reading up on Musashi, who had a most fascinating life and remains recognised to this day as one of the world’s best swordsmen, but also looking at images and videos of the two sword fighting style itself.

I then worked Musashi into Lucas’s past and had the great samurai gift the immortal with a katana engraved with the latter’s birthmark. When you come to this part of the story, I explain it in as matter of fact terms as I have written about it here.

2. In one scene in the book, I have Lucas open a safe using a computer. In another crucial scene, he breaks through a sealed, high-containment stainless steel door thousands of feet below ground using a digital cell phone. The latter scene was one of Kriss Morton’s favourite because of the simplicity of the explanation. There were several hours of research on digital communications systems in modern mines and overriding coded security algorithms involved in writing those two paragraphs.

3. A large part of the Soul Meaning plotline revolves around molecular genetics and biotechnology, two subjects that I loved when I studying Biology A level and medicine. As such, I had to work these elements slowly and organically into the story, while the enemy’s plans were gradually uncovered. There was a particularly charged scene where Lucas and Anna, his love interest, had to decode a journal left to Anna by a scientist. In order to write confidently about cryptography, I first had to learn the basics of encryption and decryption. Cue lots of articles on the history and development of this mode of secret communication, with a particular emphasis on the ciphers that came about during the Second World War. I also had to find a way of incorporating genetics into the codes and this involved a revision of the molecular structure of DNA and its replication. Two days of research were thus compressed into two pages involved an animated dialogue between Lucas and Anna in Chapter Fourteen.

4. One of my favourite scenes in King’s Crusade (Seventeen Book 2) is Chapter Two, when you meet the modern day Alexa King, a very much grown up protagonist compared to the younger version you experience in the prologue. Because Alexa is the definition of the perfect immortal warrior, this second introduction had to be a spectacular one and had to set the tone of what this character was all about: focused, efficient, deadly, and with a 100% mission success rate. The image of her jumping off a cliff and skydiving toward a plane came to me incredibly easily. Writing the scene was anything but. It necessitated hours of research, from reading up on the exact geography required, including a desert flight path between two airports, to the structural and mechanical details of the type of plane I could use, to how I would get her from the cliff to the plane. One of my work colleagues happens to be married to a serving soldier (who is also an engineer) and he helped me figure out the height, velocity, angles, and techniques I could use to achieve this goal. Their cats were particularly fascinated by the base jumping videos we watched over pizza.

5. In Greene’s Calling (Seventeen Book 3), I ended up having to change the enemy’s plans because of the very research I did to formulate a feasible plot for the storyline. This involved travelling to the British Geological Survey in Keyworth, Nottingham, to talk to an expert on a complex subject matter. I had to scrap my original grandiose idea as it wasn’t scientifically viable, with too many unknown variables involved. The alternative plan I came up was hypothetically possible.
There is a lot more than goes into writing novels such as the Seventeen series than meets the eye. I know many of my friends and colleagues are constantly surprised by the amount of work involved and find it hard to believe that I have hardly been to any of the locations depicted in the books. In a sense, that’s another great compliment for me as a writer. Because it means I’ve made the complex stuff easy to read.

For those of you who have read the books and wish to find out more about my writing process, do check out the Bonus section of my website.

Author Bio:
A.D. Starrling was born on the small island nation of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean and came to the UK at the age of twenty to study medicine. After five years of hard graft earning her MD and another five years working all of God’s hours as a Pediatrician, she decided it was time for a change and returned to her first love, writing.

Released in July 2012, Soul Meaning is her debut novel and the first in the award-winning supernatural thriller series SEVENTEEN. The second novel in the series, King’s Crusade, was released in May 2013. The third novel, Greene’s Calling, was published June 2014.

She lives in Warwickshire in the West Midlands, where she is busy writing the next installment in the series. She still practices medicine. AD Starrling is her pen name.

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The Ghost Host: Tour Stop

The Ghost Host

Somehow, I always knew the people I saw hovering around looking aimless were ghosts, and it never really bothered me. Sometimes I talked to them when I was little. They never talked back. Sometimes they would play with me, though. My mom used to tell people what a good baby I was, how I never cried or fussed. She thought she had just lucked out with an easy first kid. Really, I always had someone standing over my crib smiling at me or making silly faces. Ghosts really seem to like being around babies for some reason.

It wasn’t until I got a little older that I realized some of my ghostly friends were hanging around for a reason. A few of them were just lonely and either weren’t ready to move on or didn’t know how. I haven’t got a clue about how to send them on their way, so I figure the least I can do is keep them company.

Others, they had messages they wanted to pass on. At first, I didn’t know how to do that without getting into trouble. My mom refused to make phone calls or send my letters to who she deemed were random strangers. I found ways to get the letters in the mail, at least, without her knowing, but it wasn’t easy and they occasionally got sent back to us when the address proved inaccurate. Mom wasn’t happy when she found one and realized what I’d been doing.

Holden was the one who came up with the idea for the webshow. It made things a lot easier since my parents think it’s just a funny hoax we like to pull, and it gives us a hobby and keeps me out of trouble for the most part. That’s the biggest reason they let me do it. As I got older and more capable, more able to help the ghosts, they became more insistent. That’s when things got really bad.

Up until that point, I didn’t know the ghosts could affect my dreams, and not in a good way. The nightmares got progressively worse, morphing into full on night terrors. The headaches followed, though I’m still not sure if the ghosts were trying to talk to me, or just doing whatever they could to get my attention. Sometimes, their presence would become so oppressive as they tried to communicate that I would completely zone out… which sent my grades into the toilet and my behavior into the realm of unmanageable. The worst by far is when they try to touch me.

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Ghost HostThe Ghost Host by DelSheree Gladden

Everyone thinks Echo Simmons is crazy, but being The Ghost Host isn’t just a YouTube hoax like people think. It’s the only way to control the ghosts haunting her…at least until the FBI shows up asking questions.

The first eighteen years of Echo Simmons’ life have been less than ideal. On more than one occasion her parents have considered committing her. They don’t believe she sees ghosts or that they harass her on a daily basis. So when a rogue ghost begins tormenting her, they’re the last people she’s going to tell. Her best friends Holden and Zara are doing their best to help, but ghost attacks are only the beginning of Echo’s problems.

Handling the ghosts by giving them a voice on YouTube through her webshow has been her saving grace—even if her parents think it’s all a hoax—but that gets a little complicated when the ghost of Madeline Crew reveals a little too much about her previous life and the FBI shows up at her door wanting to know how she gained access to long-buried government secrets.

It just keeps getting worse from there. Madeline’s message to her great grandson sparks a strange connection between Echo and Malachi, which leads to Georgia, secrets, mistakes, love, lies, and life changing revelations.


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delshereeAuthor DelSheree Gladden

DelSheree Gladden was one of those shy, quiet kids who spent more time reading than talking. Literally. She didn’t speak a single word for the first three months of preschool, but she had already taught herself to read. Her fascination with reading led to many hours spent in the library and bookstores, and eventually to writing. She wrote her first novel when she was sixteen years old, but spent ten years rewriting and perfecting it before having it published.

Native to New Mexico, DelSheree and her husband spent several years in Colorado for college and work before moving back home to be near family again. Their two children love having their cousins close by. When not writing, you can find DelSheree reading, painting, sewing and trying not to get bitten by small children in her work as a dental hygienist. DelSheree has several bestselling young adult series, including “Invisible” which was part of the USA Today Bestselling box set, “Pandora.” The Date Shark Series is her first contemporary romance series, and her first book in her upcoming new adult series, The Ghost Host, will be releasing 2015.

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$25 Blog Tour giveawayBlog Tour Giveaway

$25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash

Ends 10/29/15

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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Thanks so much for having me here at Lauren’s Book Shelf! I’m thrilled to introduce you to Illusion, the third and final book in my Hoodoo Apprentice trilogy, which is out now. I’ve also got a great blog tour giveaway for you, but first I’d like to tell you a little bit about hoodoo magic and some of the spells that appear in this book…

Hoodoo magic is an African American folk healing and magical art, not to be confused with voodoo, which is a religion. Hoodoo originated among enslaved Africans in the South Carolina and Georgia Lowcountry and is largely based on African traditions, but has also been influenced by Native American, European and other practices.

In Illusion, Emma Guthrie uses many hoodoo spells to protect her true love but now-ex boyfriend, Cooper Beaumont, and her twin brother Jack. She’s also called upon to break some of the jinxes laid by her enemies. To give you an idea of the kind of hoodoo charms Emma confronts, I thought I’d share a few with you today. These come directly from my favorite and most informative hoodoo resources, the

Bottle Spells

A bottle spell is just what is sounds like: a magical spell contained in a bottle, that is intended to work for one’s desires. They are not limited to hoodoo and appear in many different kinds of folk magic traditions. Bottle spells are often buried under the threshold of a house or hidden in a chimney to keep witches or those who’d do evil away from your home. This explains why they’re often referred to as Witch Bottles. These bottles are often filled with commonly found and sharp items like pins, nails, glass shards, hair, and even urine. In Illusion, Emma works a Black Hen Feather Witch-Bottle spell that she buries beneath the front porch of one of her worst enemies. It’s filled with black hen feathers which are thought to be useful for reversing jinxes. For more fascinating information on bottle spells, click here.

Candle Spells

Many hoodoo practitioners use candles in their spells, and not just any candle will do. Each “light” is specifically selected for its individual color and the power associated with it. For example, white candles are thought to bring spiritual blessings; blue will bring peace and harmony, green are used in money spells, red for those involving love, pink for attraction, brown will bring luck in a court case, and black can repel dark thoughts, sorrow or bring freedom from evil. In Illusion, Emma works several powerful candle spells. One deals with love while the other is designed to send back evil to the witch who first performed it. I loved exploring this kind of magic and putting it in Emma’s capable hand. For a full run down on candle magic, check this out.

Psychic Visions

In hoodoo, psychic vision spiritual supplies are said to enhance the user’s spiritual insights and induce prophetic dreams. They can be added to anointing oils, incense, in sachets, bath crystals, or in specially blended candles. The Psychic Vision spell is one of the only instances in which I’ve strayed from authentic hoodoo for the purposes of my books. In Illusion and the other books in the series, Conjure and Allure, Emma uses a psychic vision spell to watch events that occurred in the past. Because these events happen in a vision, she watches the events in real time as if she was watching a news program on television. This gives her, and the reader, a front seat to the action, some of which occurred up to three centuries ago. These have been some of my very favorite scenes to write, but as I said, they are not reflective of how hoodoo practitioners use psychic vision spiritual supplies in real life. To read more about these supplies are put to use by real hoodoo practitioners click here.

I hope you enjoyed this introduction to hoodoo magic and some of its spells. Though these charms seem simple on their surface, many people believe in their power and rely on them to offer protection or grant their most fervent desires. For more information about hoodoo magic and more examples of spells, I highly recommend that you check out the Lucky Mojo Curio Company’s website. It’s owner, Catherine Yronwode, has painstakingly recorded the history of hoodoo, collected oral histories of spells, and is a well respected manufacturer of authentic charms.

Thanks so much for having me. This was a lot of fun! Best of luck to those who enter the giveaway!



Things aren’t always as they appear…

New school. Cross-country move. Broken heart. If only these were Emma Guthrie’s worst problems. Instead, she must battle a trio of enemies–human and spectral–who may or may not have joined forces against her and everyone she loves. All while pretending to be over Cooper Beaumont, her ex-boyfriend and true love, to shield him from her arch-nemesis’s revenge.

Worse, when the fight escalates, Emma is tempted to use black magic, which will endanger her soul. As her enemies close in, join forces, and fight with new and dark magic she’s never seen before, Emma must harness the power within her to fulfill an ancient prophecy, defeat a centuries-old evil, save her family, and reclaim the only boy she’s ever loved.

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And here are the gorgeous new covers for the first two books in the series, Conjure and Allure:

Conjure and Allure - New Covers Side by Side

And now for the giveaway, a super awesome Illusion Blog Tour Prize pack. The Grand Prize includes a $25 Amazon gift card, a custom Hoodoo Apprentice tote which features the gorgeous new covers, and six authentic hoodoo spells from the Lucky Mojo Curio Company. There’s also a second prize $15 Amazon gift card, and a third prize $10 Amazon gift card. So what are you waiting for? Enter below to win!

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NolanBioPic-CROPPED-Med Res copy
Lea Nolan is a USA Today bestselling author of Contemporary Romance and YA. Her books for young adults feature bright heroines, crazy-hot heroes, diabolical plot twists, plus a dose of magic, a draft of romance, and a sprinkle of history. She also pens smart, witty contemporary stories for adults filled with head-swooning, heart-throbbing, sweep-you-off your feet romance. Born and raised on Long Island, New York, she loves the water far too much to live inland. With her heroically supportive husband and three clever children, she resides in Maryland where she scarfs down crab cakes whenever she gets the chance. Learn more at her website, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Goodreads

Guest Post: Cindy Dees

Let the record show, I was never a gamer, I thought live-action gaming sounded lame, and I wanted nothing to do with geekdom in general. And then I got tricked, yes tricked, into attending a live-action gaming event. Five hundred people were dressed up in crazily detailed costumes, wearing make-up, prosthetics, real chain mail, and running around in the woods like maniacs in the middle of the night. I had to know why.

So, I reluctantly gave it a try. Big mistake. Huge. I fell in love with it, and my life as geek was launched.

It helped matters that I’d been lured into an amazing game called Dragon Crest created by a brilliant guy named Bill Flippin. He’d built a world that was so complex, so gigantic, so real, that it blew away all my pre-conceived notions about fantasy gaming in general. Players had to make heart-wrenching sacrifices, overcome impossible odds, find the hero inside themselves. I mean, sure, they were fighting other players dressed up as bad guys and monsters. But the stress was real. The choices were real. The heroes were real.

And that was when I knew I had to write a book set in this world. I actually wrote THE SLEEPING KING in secret. I told absolutely nobody about it, not even my family. I would do my usual writing for the day (I’ve published fifty suspense and thriller novels), and then I’d sneakily open up the Sleeping King file and gleefully type for a few pages.

As I wrote, I found it pretty easy to describe the characters because I knew exactly what the actual characters looked like from running around in the woods with them. Something like twenty-five of the characters in THE SLEEPING KING are based on real people. The major plot arc of the book was, and is, one of the major story lines being played out in the live-action game. In some ways, I’m more of an archivist than a writer on this project.

Of course, Bill and I dug deeper into the world and expanded the story the players saw into the bigger and more nuanced one that readers can enjoy now. But the main kernel of the story comes from our players.

The hardest part of writing a book that originates in the minds of dozens of players is telling it in a way that satisfies all of them. One character doesn’t like a bad guy in the live game, but to move the book forward, I need them to become allies. I’ve had to negotiate a few peace treaties with players before I could move ahead with the books. One player wanted to be known in the books for making great stew. Done. Another wanted to be known as grouchy all the time. Easy peasy.

But then there was the guy who played the baddest bad guy of all. Would he mind terribly if I immortalized him as a greedy, selfish, psychopathic jerk, please, pretty please? Fortunately, that player is a really nice guy with a big sense of humor, and he agreed to let me write him into the novels in all his horrible glory.

The best part of writing a novel about a live-action game is all the funny, smart, unexpected things a bunch of gamers come up with and then let me weave into the books. It makes writing the stories such a joy. I have this rich, vibrant, colorful world to choose from as I sit down to write. It wasn’t hard transitioning from a live game to a book. But it was murder trying to choose which parts not to put in!

And yes, there are a whole bunch more Dragon Crest novels on the way. Bill and I just finished drafting the second big novel. It’s called THE DREAMING HUNT, and comes out next September. The third book, THE WANDERING WAR is in development right now. As for the fourth book? The players haven’t played it yet, so I have no idea what will happen in it. If and when they save the world, I’ll be sure to write book four!

Giveaway Winner!

This is a couple of days late because of work stuff, but I have a winner for the The Left-Hand Path giveaway.

Congratulations Elise Smith, you won!

You have three days to respond with a way to contact you, or a new winner will be drawn.

Alright everybody, I’ve got a copy of Tom Doyle’s The Left-Hand Way up for grabs for one lucky follower in the United States or Canada.

How do you enter? Just follow this blog and leave a comment, tell me what you figure the big difference between science fiction and fantasy are or if there is one at all. You can gain an extra entry by following my twitter Tymp3st.

The winner will be selected by a number generator and announced on Friday the eleventh. As usual, you’ll have three days to claim it or another winner will be chosen.

Good luck everyone!

The Body Institute
Date: 09/01/15
from Goodreads:
Meet Morgan Dey, one of the top teen Reducers at The Body Institute.
Thanks to cutting-edge technology, Morgan can temporarily take over
another girl’s body, get her in shape, and then return to her own body—leaving her
client slimmer, more toned, and feeling great. Only there are a few catches…
For one, Morgan won’t remember what happens in her “Loaner” body. Once
she’s done, she won’t recall walks with her new friend Matt, conversations with
the super-cute Reducer she’s been text-flirting with, or the uneasy feeling she
has that the director of The Body Institute is hiding something. Still, it’s
all worth it in the name of science. Until the glitches start…
Suddenly, residual memories from her Loaner are cropping up in Morgan’s mind.
She’s feeling less like herself and more like someone else. And when protests
from an anti–Body Institute organization threaten her safety, she’ll have to
decide if being a Reducer is worth the cost of her body and soul…



the Author
a YA writer represented by Kelly Sonnack of Andrea Brown Literary. My sci-fi
novel THE BODY INSTITUTE explores the themes of society, identity, and body
image. I live in the beautiful, green state of Oregon and have a Studio Arts
degree; I’m an SCBWI member.

You’ll usually find me in my writing cave, surrounded by my dragon collection
and the characters in my head. I also enjoy reading–mostly young adult
novels–as well as drawing, painting, and quilting. I also attend writing
conferences, walk with my husband, and enjoy music and dance of all kinds. 

Author Links:

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Blending Magic and Technology in The Left-Hand Way.

The second book in my American Craft series, The Left-Hand Way, is a new set of adventures for the magician-soldiers and psychic spies I call “craftsmen.” These craftsmen are armed with both spells and bullets, and my books have been described as fantasy techno-thrillers. This sounds like a contradiction in terms. Fantasy is associated with magic and supernatural creatures. The techno-thriller is associated with gritty, concrete details of the latest gadgetry, weaponry, and military/intelligence practices. How did I go about combining these disparate story forms of magic and tech?

One way these elements fit together in my series is, paradoxically, through the tension and conflict between their world views. The fantasy perspective allows for a critique of our reliance on tech and may reaffirm the continued importance of personal trust and connection. For instance, the villain of The Left-Hand Way has a preternaturally augmented ability to interfere with the texts, voicemails, and other communications of the heroes. The heroes are nonetheless able to find and help each other because of their mutual knowledge and trust, yet they also have a lot of low-tech self-reliance when isolated from modern networks.

The technological perspective may in turn provide a critique of the elitist or anti-democratic elements that are inherent in many fantasy tropes. With magic in the possession of an aristocratic few, my mundane authorities have a continuous problem of keeping even loyal practitioners in check. As much as I may sympathize with the perspective of my magical heroes, it’s easy to see that their very existence could pose a threat to democratic institutions.

The conflict between these elements comes to a head with the problem of life extension. Up until now in my cryptohistory, the quest for practical immortality has been the monopoly of evil practitioners, the so-called Left Hand.  But as technology increases, so does the prospect of significantly enhanced life spans for all. Why should my characters continue to forego immortality or other magical abilities that may be available to everyone through technology within a generation or two? In our real world, should financial elites forego certain post-human technologies or alterations, at least until they are generally available? Such questions lead to the corruption of the craft secret services, and will continue to haunt my third book, War and Craft.

But of course, the merging of fantasy and technology in my series can’t be exclusively through their conflict; they must also dovetail cooperatively to fit into the same world. Part of how I keep the fantasy elements in line with a “realistic” techno-thriller tone for my novel is by excluding any nonhuman magical entities. I’m as big a fan of a good vampire, werewolf, or elf tale as the next fantasy reader, but some techno-thriller fans will tune out of a story that includes such creatures.

Another way that I keep the story tone appropriate for a techno-thriller is how I handle the magic itself. First, rather than contradicting what we know of the world, my magic system largely fits beneath the facts of science and history, and my modern characters think of magic in the language of technology. The protagonist of my first book, Dale Morton, describes his spells as skewing the probabilities of events rather than running directly contrary to natural law. Certain uncanny incidents in American history, such as how George Washington’s army was saved at Brooklyn Heights, are almost as well-explained by magic as anything else. Arthur C. Clarke wrote that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” but what my characters think is that any sufficiently advanced magic is also indistinguishable from technology.

Also, the magic in my series has limitations similar to other armaments. It has logistical issues: craftspeople find it easier to recharge their power on home ground. Magic is also like a normal physical ability. A well-rested and healthy craftsperson will have more power than one who hasn’t slept or is wounded.

For my practitioners, magic is not viewed as contradicting their religious or other beliefs and practices. Craftspeople come from the full spectrum of belief or non-belief. For my modern-day Puritan protagonist of book two, Major Michael Endicott, magic fits within his ideas of Christian prayer. In terms of ritual language, simple words in the native tongue of the practitioner often work best, so long as the mind is properly focused.

A last component of having my supernatural elements fit into a techno-thriller context is the realism of my locations. In The Left-Hand Way, my characters are scattered across the globe in cities such as London, Tokyo, and Istanbul. I can make my far-flung settings seem real to the reader because I’ve been to most of them, and I think the spells in a location seems more concrete when the sights and smells are true.

Thanks to Tympest Books for inviting me here. If you like to find out more about The Left-Hand Way and my other stories, please go to


Tom Doyle is the author of the American Craft fantasy series from Tor Books. In the first book, American Craftsmen, two modern magician soldiers fight their way through the legacies of Poe and Hawthorne as they attempt to destroy an undying evil–and not kill each other first. In the sequel, The Left-Hand Way, the craftsmen are hunters and hunted in a global race to save humanity from a new occult threat out of America’s past. Tom’s collection of short fiction, The Wizard of Macatawa and Other Stories, includes his WSFA Small Press Award and Writers of the Future Award winners. He writes science fiction and fantasy in a spooky turret in Washington, DC. You can find the text and audio of many of his stories on his website.

Thrones and Bones: Frostborn

Karn is a champion at the game Thrones and Bones, but not much of a farmer or trader. He wants to see the world and all it has to offer rather than be tied to his family farm for the rest of his life. Thianna is a frost giant, as able in the snow and ice as any, but an outcast because of her human mother. When they are introduced at the yearly trade meeting at the Dragon’s Dance, a friendship is born. A friendship they will soon have to rely on for their very survival.
Lou Anderson’s Thrones and Bones: Frostborn is a middle-grade fantasy novel set in a world based on, essentially, Viking lore. The main characters are fairly easy to get into, and I appreciate that Thianna is the physically more active of the two. It’s a nice turn-around from what is usually done and fits with her being half-giant. Karn’s being the smart one seems a bit more tied into the Thrones and Bones game than I would have liked, but when that’s the title of the series you kind of have to expect it to be important. The side characters weren’t as well done, but served their purpose.
The only real issues I can think of are fairly minor. There was a lot of toilet humor, while it’s not totally unexpected it might have been more effective to tone it back. Also one of the villains was meant to be tricky about their villainy but for all their behavior might as well have been named Antagonist MacEvildude. Again though, middle-grade novel it probably isn’t as obvious to the intended audience.
So what’s the verdict? While the humor was a little hit or miss and the bad guys could have been better, I really dig that cleverness won the day as often as fighting did and that the protagonists were as well rounded as they were. Thrones and Bones: Frostborn earns a four out of five.


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