The Awesome Indies Seal of Excellence for Outstanding Independent Literature has been awarded to Spiderworld by Richard Bunning! Read a brand new review of Spiderworld below!
In Spiderworld, a quirky sci-fi novel by Richard Bunning, Orlando Oversight, a time-lord, space historian, and adventurer, using Bunning as a vehicle, tells us of a future that is yet to happen. In Orlando’s version of the future, Earth has been invaded by an octopedal species, the Aranian ungolian, who have transported most of the planet’s humans to their home planet as slaves—and a food supply.
Through the author, Orlando tells how an escaped breeding yeng, which is the Aranian word for the human slaves, Jack Baker, manages to maintain his freedom against the physically superior spiders. Central to the story is Bokung, an Aranian slave breeder, who is maneuvering to get a special project launched, a project that has the potential to change the destinies of homo sapien and octoped alike.
The author does a masterful job of describing an eerie alien environment in which humans must struggle against aliens and each other. As fanciful as it is, it also paints a fairly accurate picture of what happens when a relatively unsophisticated race encounters a technologically advanced group.
Spiderworld has a bit of everything: religion, slavery, romance, greed, and advanced technology, along with the interpersonal and social dynamics that exists between different groups. Despite some gory descriptions of Aranian eating habits, it also has a touch of humor, so you have here a story that should appeal to a broad range of reading tastes. That’s shorthand for, you’ll like this book.
This is an intriguing story, with a strong plot and compelling characters. It revolves around Eloise Winslow, a vampire who has lived in America since colonial times when she, her sisters and their friend Crow were ‘turned’ on Dark Day. Imprisoned in a silver mine for murdering her sister, Tabitha, Eloise is given a chance for early release if she will provide the details of the crime, and agree to work with the Vampire Marshals.
Little Rabbit by Barb Ettridge is a slightly different take on the vampire story. Part fantasy-thriller, part mystery, and part romance, it shows the ‘human’ side of vampires—human weaknesses in a near-immortal shell.
The way the story starts with Crow, a Vampire Marshal, offering Eloise release more than seventy years before completion of her sentence, if only she’ll provide details surrounding her murder of Tabitha, her older sister—also a vampire. In addition, she must agree to work with the marshals after her release. This forces Eloise to come to grips with things in her past she would rather forget—if only she could.
The first chapter shows Eloise’s reluctance to dig up the pain of the past, but she chafes about being held by the power of the silver in the mine to sap her strength. The narrative then transitions immediately to the events leading up to her sister’s demise, and this is where the real strength of the story lies. The author does a fantastic job of letting the speech and actions of characters show us their motivations. By the middle section of the book, the reader feels—at least this reader did—an intimate association with Eloise, and in-depth understanding of the characters who revolve around her.
Told entirely from Eloise’s point of view, the suspense is electric as Crow comes closer to solving Tabitha’s murder. Crow’s love for Eloise is also clear, as is her affection for him, leaving the reader to wonder until very near the end if Crow will be able to fulfil his duty. Even though the opening chapter makes it clear that Eloise was caught and punished, we do not know the agency of that punishment until near the end.
The setting was probably the weakest part of the story. We know where we are, a small town in New England, not far from Boston. But, other than knowing the approximate date when Eloise and the others were ‘turned’ to vampires, we can’t be sure when the events in the story take place. There are some popular culture references that hint at late twentieth century, but it’s never made clear. The geographical setting, descriptions of the town and its environs, is great, and adds to the dark tone of the story.
A great job of showing rather than telling. The British (or Australian) spellings and grammar stick out, especially as the story is set in America, which wouldn’t be an issue if it had been set in colonial times, when one can assume that colonial Americans still retained English forms, but it was a bit unsettling at the outset. The story is so compelling, though, that by the one-third mark, I no longer paid spelling or unique non-US constructions much mind.
I give this book a solid four stars.
Ara is the daughter of Sultan Mohammed the Sixth, ruler of Granada. A willful girl, she chafes under the restriction placed upon a Muslim girl in the society of the time, especially those applying to the daughter of a ruler. When a series of misfortunes—which Ara suspects are caused by magic—plagues Granada’s trade, and exposes it to possible invasion by its greedy neighbors, Ara and her cousin, Layla, are sent to Africa on a trade mission to reverse the kingdom’s fortunes. Fatima, the sultan’s elder wife, is sent along as chaperone, and they are joined by Tahirah, a Sufi mathemagician, and Suleiman, the court’s senior eunuch. Thomas, the son of an Italian trader, is also sent with them. Thomas, like Ara, has seen the magic, which they learn is coming from a young jinn, who has passed from his realm to the realm of the humans, and for unknown reasons is creating havoc.
The story unfolds as they journey from Granada, with a series of mishaps, magical and mercenary, and Ara, with the help of Tahirah, Layla, and Thomas, confront the jinn. In the process, each learns about themselves and the power of magic, and are transformed, to emerge whole at the end, as they confront the awesome power of the efrit jinni.
The plot is well laid out, with seemingly unrelated events tied together at the end. Readers who have enjoyed The Arabian Nights or The Adventures of Aladdin will find a number of implicit references in this story, and will be pulled into the narrative as it unfolds. The characters are all well developed, and their growth as the story progresses is logical and well-explained.
The book was fairly well edited, with only a minimal number of typos or formatting issues in the electronic version.
I give this book four stars.
The Ahe’ey Series by Jamie Le Fay is a tale of paranormal romance that takes the reader on a fantastical journey while encompassing the narrative in subject matter heavily anchored in our own political reality. This is a book (series of episodes) with something for everyone, and many readers will be able to comfortably find a home here. There is a special attention paid to feminist ideals that this reader thinks will resonate most powerfully with younger female readers, but readers of other demographics should not be turned off by this, as the adventure that unfolds is chock full of suspense, allure and strong characters that attend to heroic quests while simultaneously tackling real human issues.
Readers should be aware that throughout the majority of the story, the narrative is very much in flux. This is a book that reflects the current political landscape, and as such the characters, motives, and landscape can change seemingly instantaneously. Fortunately, the driving idea does not change, and this results in a book that powerfully reflects one author’s view of modern soceity – albeit through the lens of fantasy. Morgan, the main character, is a foil of herself, and full of all the conflict that makes great heroes. While she is well-drawn and interesting, some of the secondary characters can fall into stereotypical roles. As this book can be viewed as political commentary, this doesn’t take away from the intent, but could draw the reader’s attention away from Morgan’s journey.
The world that Le Fay crafts is intriguing and desirable, but like any envisioned utopia has sustainability issues. The author doesn’t shy away from discussing complex matters, and dedicated readers will be rewarded with an entertaining story that also sends a message. This book isn’t for everyone, but I think most readers will be able to get into the story, and at the very least learn something, from giving The Ahe’ey Series a shot. I give the collected series 4 Stars.
Curse Breaker by J.T. Bishop is an enjoyable paranormal suspense novel with a romantic angle. The book itself is the fourth in the Red Line series, but I found the book entertaining and easily followable without having read the previous three. The main character, Grayson Steele, seems to be affected by a curse which leads to the death of any woman he loves or falls for. This, of course, has a severe effect on his mental stability and well-being, and even causes him to become suicidal. Before things can get worse for Grayson, a woman named Gillian Fletcher enters his life to help solve the mystery and a romantic entanglement in which both parties are constantly in danger ensues.
The characters of Grayson and Gillian are well fleshed-out, and the secondary characters are also well-written. There are some instances where the dialogue can seem a little unnatural, and the book does have some minor pacing issues, but nothing that took me out of the story. While the action takes a little while to get started, once it does it ramps up quickly and by the end the reader will be absolutely enthralled. It would be impossible to discuss the ending of the book without giving away too much, but I can guarantee that readers who pick this up and make it through will be rewarded with a number of surprising and satisfying twists and turns and an ending that they won’t soon forget.
The author does a masterful job of leading (and misleading) the reader on an incredible adventure that deals with the supernatural while remaining firmly rooted in our reality. Fans of the Red Line series will surely be happy to spend more time in the world that J.T. Bishop has created, and readers new to the series will find a lot to like in this book (and it makes a fine entry point to the series, as the author mentions it can be read before or after the original trilogy). As mentioned, there are some minor hiccups with the seeming naturalness of some of the dialogue and the pace during the exposition, but I felt that neither of these criticisms warranted the deduction of a full star. I give Curse Breaker by J.T. Bishop 4.5 Stars, rounded up to 5.