Book Review: The Timekeepers’ War

81C6jQyqOVL._SL1500_The Timekeepers War is the debut novel of Saskatchewan based writer, S.C. Jensen, but you wouldn’t know it. Skillfully written and edited, there is no hint that this book is written by anyone other than an author at the top of their game.

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We are taken to a disconnected and post apocalyptic world, some hundreds of years into the future. There, people like the protagonist, Ghost, scrabble a hand-to-mouth existence amongst the ruins of the City, living in fear of one another, and of the burning rays of the Sun. Some have moved underground entirely, and these scenes did have resonances with Neil Gaiman’s ‘Neverwhere’ for me.

Unknown to many of the City’s inhabitants, others, considering themselves an elite, moved up, into a guarded luxury undreamt of by those below. This is the Elysian Empire: a dictatorship, run by the tyrannical Ursaar.
The Elysian Empire is a skilful and nightmarish blend of the worst of all worlds – think of Nero’s Rome with unbridled genetic engineering, and you’ll have something of the flavour of it. Psychologists would delight in picking apart the various conditions of the Ursaar, who is plagued by paranoia, megalomania, and best of all, a substitute Oedipal complex.

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It is hard to write about this book without including too many spoilers, but I can say that Jensen has created a believable and complex world, peopled by strong characters. Many of them are not beauties, either physically or morally, just as most of us are not in real life. One thing I did love was the way that the book avoided painting anyone as entirely black or white – no-one is an angel, and motivations are mixed and sometimes obscure, again, truly reflecting society. Written as the first part of a series of books, you are often left wondering what people’s real aims are, and I’m sure that will provide ample fodder for the next books.

In the same vein, it was refreshing to have a kick-ass heroine who is strong, and can look after herself, and yet acknowledge that she has doubts and fears just like everyone else. Ghost is no superhero, but perhaps a woman steeled by the hardships of her existence.

There is plenty of action, guerrilla warfare, and even spirituality in The Timekeepers War, which will lead you through a rich world of secret societies, secret passages, steamy townships and impossibly rich gilded imperial gardens. A lengthy but necessary section of explanation and back story in the middle of the book is kept flowing well with intrigues and a deepening of the relationship between the main characters, Ghost and the mysterious Lynch.

Overall, The Timekeepers War is a highly accessible book, which deserved to be widely read. It would make a fine film, and I look forward eagerly to the sequel.

Five stars from me.

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I received a free ebook of The Timekeepers War, in return for an honest review.

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Fantasy Genre – Guest Post by Cheri Roman

Today, I have the good fortune to have a Guest Post by the talented Cheri Roman, who has just released her first novel, Descent. It is being very well reviewed, and you can see my personal take on it here. She writes for us on a subject close to my heart – fantasy, the improbable, and how ludicrous it is to discount ‘genre’ fiction. Enjoy!

earth-ship-clouds-sailing-sailfish-fantasy-otherThe Oxford Dictionary defines the word fantasy as “the product of imagining impossible or improbable things.” That’s not a bad start for defining fantasy as a genre. However, when you have such a name, it can be challenging to get the literary world to take you seriously.

One of the things that appeals to me most about fantasy writing is that literally anything can happen. You can have sentient storm clouds and flying houses and mice who fence and speak with the facility of an Elizabethan stage actor, because it’s fantasy. Nothing is out of bounds so long as it fits within the plot line.

That said, fantasy is not fluff. The basis of all fantasy stories lies in the question stem, “what if…” What if a boy found out that he was really a wizard? What if a group of siblings was transported to an alternate universe? What if a group of supernatural beings came to Earth and fell in love with humans? Such questions are interesting, not just in and of themselves, but for the deeper answers they point to about what it means to be human. Heroes and villains in fantasy are experimental models we can mentally climb into for a test drive. In fact, a good book in any genre should be like entering one of those virtual reality games, but with fewer limitations. By immersing ourselves in the world and characters created by a talented author, we are able to safely explore the extreme edges of moral and emotional dilemmas we hope we never have to face in real life. And just like lifting extra weights at the gym, the lessons we learn in those imaginary worlds can strengthen us for the everyday challenges of real life.

The boy wizard begins by searching out who he really is, something all of us must do at some point. The group of siblings must decide whether landing in a new world means finding a new moral center. Their example can inspire us to cling to our own moral code under much more “normal” circumstances. The supernatural beings have to learn that there is a cost to every decision we make; a fact we might ignore or fail to discover on our own. None of these are “light” matters. All of them hold eminently human lessons. The value of fantasy, and indeed of literature in general, lies in its ability to reveal such lessons, allowing us to see the world from a point of view other than our own, and learn from it.

Fantasy is often discounted as “light reading,” or worse, the less than brilliant sibling of science fiction, herself a distant cousin to literary fiction. But don’t sell it short. Considering the lyrical prose and plot complexity created by such authors as Ursula K. Le Guin, J.R.R. Tolkien, and George R.R. Martin in the mix, one should resist the temptation to dismiss fantasy as “light” anything. Instead, we should judge the writing by its own merits just as we do any other genre, and thereby enjoy the ride twice as much.

Cheri blogs at The Brass Rag, which is well worth checking out.

You may also like this post by Sabrina Garie, about her favourite fantasy character: the lovely, practical and not at all ethereal Samwise Gangee.

Kay Nielsen’s Stunning 1914 Scandinavian Fairy Tale Illustrations

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These are too beautiful to miss, so I thought I would reblog them for you.

I particularly like the sense of line, and the carefully chosen colour palettes. If only I could get some illustrations as gorgeous as this for my novel and short story collection: I’ve been thinking for some time that it would be nice to release a version with illustrations. Somehow the lack of time gets in the way – not to mention that my own style of drawing tends rather to Dr. Suess than Errol LeCain. 🙂

You can see more of these lovely illustrations at:

Kay Nielsen’s Stunning 1914 Scandinavian Fairy Tale Illustrations | Brain Pickings.

Book Review: Descent

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Click here to reach the Amazon page for ‘Descent’

Descent is the first in the Rephraim series by Cheri Roman, and I have been lucky enough to read it hot off the press!

I should preface this review by noting that my tastes in fantasy tend to run to the flippant, and also that being an atheist, I was not as comfortable as many others would be with the religious references in Descent, although I’m sure that would be no impediment to most readers.

Descent is the story of seven angels, who under their military commander Fomor, decide to desert and plead neutrality in a heavenly war. To avoid the conflict, they come to Earth, and this is the tale of their exiled adventures and entanglements with humans – and the Fallen.

This is the first in a series of books, and as such Roman does a great job of strongly establishing the characters and setting in motion a chain of events which will make you eager to read the next book in the series.

There is drama here in aptly biblical proportions – birth, death, love and loss, and lots of action to keep you turning the pages into the night. It is moderately gory in parts, which does establish an appropriate level of revulsion towards the Fallen and their offspring.

Overall, a gripping read from Cheri Roman, and well worth a look.

Avid Reader’s Cafe

PrintJust a quick note to let you know that my novel ‘The Artemis Effect’ is being featured over at Avid Reader’s Cafe at the moment.

The cafe is part of an initiative by the Independent Author’s Network, which I’ve finally joined after all this time. I’m not sure how many people find their books here, but fingers crossed someone will find and enjoy mine!

It’s really rather daunting the huge number of books out there, and many of them are genuinely worth reading. I wonder sometimes, whether the huge explosion in published books will be looked back on as a time of Renaissance – a flourishing of ideas? Will the best ones really rise to the surface, or will only the ones with the best marketing make it? Did Leonardo just have a great agent?

Golden Flash

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I weep for my race. Mute, ancient, unseen, we are slowly plucked from the earth. A tortuous, babbling end to fine minds.

Through an eternity we have watched the stars turn, traced the perfection of their mathematical arcs, wondered at creation. We had all the time in and of the Universe to think – we thought.

Being our planet, lodged and rooted in the rocks, we are a geological race; our synapses golden, nerves of bright copper. Blind to one another, we are yet vibrantly aware of our companions. Slow discussions through the ages: philosophy, poetry and sweet pure mathematics.

Now all that is changed, in a flicker of men faster than the flash of a super-nova. No more than a prickle at first, an itch on our skin, they scampered about in their frenetic, pitiful way, and we paid them no mind.

Then one of our minds started to fade, its golden neurons thoughtlessly mined away, descending into nonsense and confusion. We weep for that mind, and yet cannot assist, cannot prevent the erosion of our people.

The scars of men’s building and digging spread unchecked across our face, myopically delighting in their unfound riches.

If they slow their scrabbling and scratching long enough to consider the current of our pulsed and electric thoughts, will compassion outweigh greed?

The next big thing

Although I have been sadly remiss in letting this go, I was flattered, chuffed, humbled and generally pretty cheery to be tagged as one of the authors in ‘The Next Big Thing‘ by the very talented Marc Schuster, for my debut novel, ‘The Artemis Effect‘.

It’s a lovely way for us to share some of the books we have really enjoyed. Having spent some of this afternoon in the garden enjoying our gorgeous autumn weather, I can’t help but think of it in terms of the jungle, which my garden is increasingly resembling. Sometimes the big plants shade out the small, which may be especially lovely things, and this is perhaps a way of letting in a bit of light, and bringing them to other’s attention.

As presumably I can’t tag Marc Schuster’s ‘The Grievers’ back, much as I enjoyed it, I’d like to tag the following from my recent reading:

Fires of Justice‘Fires of Justice’ by Sabrina Garie. This is an erotic romance, but with a fun and highly cohesive fantasy element. It is, in short, a romp and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who needs to escape, in te words of Tom Lehrer, ‘their drab, wretched lives.’

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‘Rich Pickings for Ravens‘ by Tom Conrad. A truly unusual and funny who-dunnit, starting with the lead character’s death, and his subsequent quest to find out who killed him, and why.

 

‘Ththe-jpeg-of-graves-3_desolation-ware Prince of Graves’ by W.E. Linde. In the tradition of Tolkien, this fantasy novella is the first part of what will be a truly epic trilogy of books. Amazing battle scenes by an author who obviously loves the genre.

 

 

I look forward to seeing their recommendations, and also your opinions of these books if you’ve also been lucky enough to give them a go! 🙂

Book Review: Embassytown by China Mieville

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‘Embassytown’ is the first of China Mieville’s books that I’ve read, but based on this sample, I’d certainly be interested in trying some more of his work.
That said, at first I was far from convinced. It starts off with a lot of apparently made-up words and concepts without explanation, which is one of my pet peeves of sci-fi. Call me dull, but I don’t find this kind of thing intriguing. I’m torn instead between irritation that I don’t understand what the author is talking about, and a sneaking suspicion that they are doing it to seem clever.

Courtesy of xchd.com

Courtesy of xchd.com

However, in this case, once you plough on through the first few chapters, it is hard to see how Mieville could have written this story without the jargon, and remained true to the voice of his narrator, Avice. It is a slow seduction of a book. After a while, you realise that it is genuinely hard to put down, and that all the strange terms are second nature to you.
To give you some idea of the story, Avice comes from Embassytown – a place on the edge of the navigable universe. It’s a place very much locked within its own boundaries, both physical and political, as the human inhabitants are there only by the generosity of their very alien Hosts. Even the atmosphere is rigged up within the city to be breathable by humans, but it’s a tiny bubble of humanity in a very alien world. One oddity of the Hosts is that they speak with two voices simultaneously, and there must be a mind behind the words. Generations of Ambassadors – perfect human clones – have been bred to be able to speak to the Hosts with minds so close that they are effectively one soul. When a new Ambassador comes from their ruling planet and speaks Language, everything goes horribly wrong.
In fact, over and over again, just when things can’t seem to get any worse, they do. It does keep you on tenterhooks.
This is a highly political story, and also one which at its core has a fairly technical linguistic point. The story is not short of action, but it’s certainly not for dummies either. I think this would actually be a terrific book to study at school, although the act of studying it might kill the story, because there are so many aspects of society, empire, and political systems which could be studied, on top of the impressive world building and finesse of linguistics.

The scope of imagination which Mieville brings to this book is truly awe-inspiring, and I’d highly recommend it.

My rating: 5 stars

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Book Giveaway!

To celebrate some lovely reviews I’ve had lately (which I will reblog for those interested after this post), I’m holding a Goodreads Giveaway! There are five paperback copies of ‘The Artemis Effect’ up for grabs in many countries around the world, so if you’ve been tempted to give it a go, here is your chance!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Artemis Effect by Kasia James

The Artemis Effect

by Kasia James

Giveaway ends January 29, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

If you’re not yet a member of Goodreads, don’t despair. It’s free to join,and you may just meet some other people with similar reading interests. 🙂

The Artemis Effect – the real thing!

After much impatient waiting, the final proofs of my novel ‘The Artemis Effect‘ have arrived in the post! I can’t say how odd and exciting it is to hold the real thing in my hands.

Hardback available from Lulu

The hardcover version (via Lulu), and paperback (via Createspace) arrived within days of one another, and I’m very happy with the quality of both.

I’m hoping to run some giveaways on Goodreads soon, but in the meantime, I’ll be thoroughly reviewing the proofs to make sure that there are no serious bloopers in there.

Interior of paperback (and my fingers!)

If you think you might like a copy (and I’m more than happy to sign and dedicate them if you’d like), please drop me a line at kasia_oz(at)hotmail(dot)com. Could be a great Christmas present for that sci-fi fan you know! 😉

Paperback from Createspace