Contemporary Fantasy

Quest For The Holey Snail

Quest For The Holey Snail
Published: April 4, 2016
Author's Twitter: @RobJohnson999
WANTED: Gainful employment of an adventurous nature but without risk of personal physical harm. (Can supply own time travel machine if required.) When Horace Tweed places an advertisement in a national magazine, the last thing he expects is to be commissioned to travel back through time in search of the long extinct Holey* Snail. But this isn’t just any old snail. The helix pertusa is possessed of an extraordinary and highly desirable property, and Horace’s quest leads him and his co-adventurers to Ancient Greece and a variety of near-death encounters with beings both mythological and not so mythological. Meanwhile, Detective Chief Inspector Harper Collins has her hands full trying to track down a secret order of fundamentalist monks whom she suspects of committing a series of murders – the same monks who are determined to thwart Horace in his... ...Quest for the Holey Snail.

November 14, 2016

4 Stars

Fans of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy will enjoy Quest for the Holey Snail. The story starts off with a rather average, if somewhat dimwitted, main character, Horace Tweed, in search of a common item—a Swiss Army knife. He needs the knife in order to unsnarl the tape that he’s bollixed up, in order to reconstruct the letter that his dog has ripped to shred. In his search for said item, he encounters a number of other equally bizarre characters, and ends up on a quest to find a holey snail—that’s correct, not holy as in spiritual, but holey, as in a creature with hundreds of tiny holes in its shell—which is also being sought after by several others; among them, an order of homicidal monks, a strange man who hires Tweed and his companion, Norwood Junction, to find the snail, and a pharmaceutical company. And, why, you might ask, are they doing this? Because, said snail possesses an extraordinary and highly desirable property.

The story then takes off from there, switching from Tweed and his search to the murderous monks, to the police officer investigating a series of unusual murders. These seemingly unrelated events, despite their macabre nature, are narrated in a style that elicits chuckles at first, that quickly morph into guffaws, as one improbable event after another—with the occasional digression to give the author’s satirical take on historical events—unfolds, the reader is sucked deeper and deeper into the thread of the story.

There is, however, method to this meandering, as the author pulls all these disparate threads together at the end into a conclusion that satisfies. The universe, which has been twisted into unimaginable shapes, is put back into a semblance of orderly disorder.

I give this title four stars.



The Mighty

The Mighty
Published: February 3, 2016
He's not crazy. Honest, he's not. He's just Wyatt. Wyatt the Mighty. Fifteen-year-old Wyatt has been sent to a treatment center for "disturbed youth." No one understands him. He wants nothing more than to escape from it all. And he does. Through a magic he doesn't understand, he finds himself in Hagion, a realm of fantastical creatures and immense wonder. He quickly finds himself in the company of a runaway warrior and two Children--a strange race of underground creatures that seem forever joyful. They claim Wyatt is a Druid, a powerful figure of myth and legend, sent to restore peace to all of the Realms. He doesn't bother correcting them. Finally, he can be the hero he's always dreamed of. But claiming to be a hero and actually being a hero are two different things. And it's a lesson Wyatt may have to pay dearly for.


5 Stars

The Mighty, Book 1 Of The Druid’s Guise is one of those rare fantasy tales that takes you to another plane while keeping you firmly grounded in our reality. Most fantastic tales, even the best ones, often take characters from our reality and plunge them into a magical world, separating them from their normal lives entirely, only to return them at the end having completed their quest. The Mighty takes you on the journey, but plants your feet firmly in the present, real world. While the character grows and accomplishes the tasks set in front of him, it is clear from the outset that this is an introduction to a sprawling universe that has much more to give us. This is a book that will scratch the adventuring itch as well as remind you that the world we come from is itself a broken and unjust place. Wyatt is a hero in both of these planes.

The story begins with Wyatt as a new patient/student at a school for children with special psychological needs. To Wyatt, he alternates existence in this world and the land of Hagion, where he is believed to be a powerful wizard and combat tactician, and not just a boy without a home who likely lies somewhere on the autism spectrum.

Wyatt’s journey can be taken as a coming-of-age tale for those who see themselves in captivity. It is a bildungsroman that takes place in the mind, and the depth and reality of Hagion is indeed seen almost entirely through the eyes of our protagonist, who we are shown from the outset might not be entirely in control of his cognition. This allows the reader to give as much credence to the fantastical elements as they like. Is Wyatt really a transplanar avatar, imposing his will across vast distances of time and space? Or is he a young and unwell child, abandoned and coping by escaping from reality? The book will pull you in both directions, and Wyatt’s story hits all of the emotional notes.

The supporting cast of characters compliments both worlds. In the children’s home of Shephard’s Crook, Wyatt is antagonized by bullies, managed by a staff of volunteers and social workers and befriends a girl with a troubled past named Athena. In the fantasy realm, he is beset upon by all manner of fantastic beasts, ranging from half-flora/half-fauna fern wolves to the undead Fallen and the ominous Regents. He makes friends in the form of Mareck and Gareck, two golem-like beings who call themselves Children, in service to the Mother. He also meets a character that is very much like Athena in the Draygan (a half-dragonlike race) Rozen. At the beginning we are told that the world of Hagion is a vast and fantastic place, and a map Wyatt wields (albeit poorly) reveals locations like The Barren Plains, The Endless Sea, Krémnos, The Wastes, The Shadow Forest, Ouranos, Mesos, and the Peaks of Servitude. Fans of the work of J.R.R. Tolkien will find lots to like about the main quest, punctuated with gritty action sequences that will have you imagining them taking place on the big screen. The pacing is good for an adventure tale, and the dialogue is sharp and funny. The book is well-edited overall and great care has been taken to shape the world of Hagion.

The Mighty, Druid’s Guise Book I sets up a series with a lot of room to grow. The characters we are introduced to are quirky, but have a lot of depth. The places we are brought to are brilliantly realized and the author’s attention to detail is reminiscent of the great classics of fantasy. I look forward to reading the next book in the series, and give this first adventure of Wyatt, The Mighty 5 stars.


The Last of the Firedrakes

The Last of the Firedrakes
Published: August 15, 2015
Author's Twitter: @FarahOomerbhoy
16-year-old Aurora Darlington is an orphan. Mistreated by her adopted family and bullied at school, she dreams of running away and being free. But when she is kidnapped and dragged through a portal into a magical world, suddenly her old life doesn’t seem so bad. Avalonia is a dangerous land ruled by powerful mages and a cruel, selfish queen who will do anything to control all seven kingdoms–including killing anyone who stands in her way. Thrust headlong into this new, magical world, Aurora’s arrival sets plans in motion that threaten to destroy all she holds dear. With the help of a young fae, a magical pegasus, and a handsome mage, Aurora journeys across Avalonia to learn the truth about her past and unleash the power within herself. Kingdoms collide as a complicated web of political intrigue and ancient magic lead Aurora to unravel a shocking secret that will change her life forever.    












The Commons: Book 1: The Journeyman:

The Commons: Book 1: The Journeyman
Published: June 19, 2014
Author's Twitter: @michaelapeck
 “Paul Reid died in the snow at seventeen. The day of his death, he told a lie–and for the rest of his life, he wondered if that was what killed him.” And so begins the battle for the afterlife, known as The Commons. It’s been taken over by a corporate raider who uses the energy of its souls to maintain his brutal control. The result is an imaginary landscape of a broken America-stuck in time and overrun by the heroes, monsters, dreams, and nightmares of the imprisoned dead. Three people board a bus to nowhere: a New York street kid, an Iraq War veteran, and her five-year-old special-needs son. After a horrific accident, they are the last, best hope for The Commons to free itself. Along for the ride are a shotgun-toting goth girl, a six-foot-six mummy, a mute Shaolin monk with anger-management issues, and the only guide left to lead them. Three Journeys: separate but joined. One mission: to save forever. But first they have to save themselves.

Reviewed by Katt Pemble

4 Stars

I don’t really know what to say after finishing The Journeyman… my mind is still whirring around putting things together, rehashing scenes from the start that held hidden meanings that only revealed themselves after you’ve finished the book.

My first thought was around how instantly engaging and interesting the story was, even though it began as a slice-of-life type of story. The first few chapters welcomed the reader into Paul’s world, showed a young man who had struggled through life, had been beaten to the curb time and time again.

Annie and Zach also added to the delightfully well-constructed characters. I especially liked that they were both a bit different from the traditional characters. Zach appeared to be on the spectrum, while Annie is a strong minded, single mother, data analyst and injured war veteran.

Brilliantly different and yet, someone that just about anyone could relate to on some level.

The idea of a purgatory or interim afterlife has been done before, but not with this sort of fantastical element. When the book changes from slice-of-life to The Commons the whole world is turned on its head. This left me a little lost as to what was happening, and while a little disorienting, the fast pace meant you really couldn’t stay focused on that for too long.

This will either encourage the reader to just ‘go with it’ or potentially put them off completely (which is what I’ve seen in a couple of the other reviews). For me, the unanswered questions around what was happening and who all the new people were, was more intriguing than annoying. But I can completely understand how some people would get ‘over it’ quickly.

My biggest criticism, and probably the only one really, is to do with the pace of the book. The action starts at chapter 5, and it does not stop until you read the last line of the book. Now, at times, this works brilliantly. The epic battles and racing through dark tunnels was fantastic at a frantic pace, but normally as a reader you need some slower parts. Parts that allow you to digest what has happened and to form intricate and emotional bonds with the characters; It’s a part that was almost missed because of the frantic pace.

The emotional impact of one of the pivotal sad moments in the story was a mere molehill to me because of my lack of emotional attachment to the characters. The reaction that should have occurred was nowhere to be seen because my level of emotional commitment to the character was still in its infancy. Had there been a few softer, quieter moments with this character, ones to forge emotional bonds with, then I’d probably have been crying like a baby at that climatic scene. I wanted to, I really did.

Are you crying?

This isn’t to say that Michael can’t make the reader care about the characters, because he does. I really felt for little Zach and felt my heart lurch along with Annie’s as she worked her way through the puzzles along her journey, but these scenes were about characters that’d been with me the whole way through the book. I knew something of them, I wanted to read more about them and experience things with them.

When it comes to antagonists, Michael really shone. Mr Brill was insidious in his evilness and yet, still not out and out creepy. There was an intelligence about him and a polished exterior that was somewhat misleading. I also liked his little side-kick Gerald Truitt, he was an interesting character. I can see bigger things for him too.

All in all, this is a fantastic book. One that is well written, flawlessly edited and thoroughly engaging. If you want to try something that’ll get your imagination flowing, pick this book up today, you will not be disappointed.

**Note: I was provided an electronic copy of this book in return for an honest review***