Vissarion, Dark Sight 2.5 by T.G. Ayer

I voluntarily read and reviewed a copy I received from the publisher.

This is a nice little book that gives us a look at Maximus Vissarion’s life and how he came to be the Guardian of the Pythia in TG Ayer’s Dark Sight series.

It’s a fun story and helps explains how Max got to be the person he is. It’s also a sweet story about his friendship with Aurelia, the Pythia prior to Allegra.

Book Review: Crossfire by Andrea Domanski

Crossfire (Omega Group #1)Crossfire by Andrea Domanski
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book at no cost from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“Crossfire” is the story of a young Amazonian warrior who lives among humans, fighting to protect them from the evils of the world, and, no, her name is NOT Diana Prince. In fact, aside from that brief description, this book has little in common with the adventures of Wonder Woman.

Our heroine here is Mirissa Coleson, a 19-year-old young woman who, until her 18th birthday was completely in the dark about her unusual heritage. While understandably shocked and a bit hesitant at first, Mirissa soon takes to her new reality – and the responsibilities it brings – with gusto.

“Crossfire” is a really fun book. Mirissa is a likeable hero. She’s tough, smart and compassionate with enough vulnerability to avoid coming across as too perfect and invincible. Her companions are developed well enough that they stand out as individuals, making it easier to remember who’s who without having to flip back through the pages for reminders. I especially appreciated the clarity with which the action scenes are written. Too often it’s easy to lose track of what’s happening in the various face-to-face skirmishes that take place in the overall battle, but I didn’t find that problem here, making it more enjoyable than similar scenes in several other books.

The main story in the book is nicely wrapped up rather than left as a cliffhanger with enough threads left from various subplots to accommodate future tales.From what I’ve seen in the blurbs for some of the other books in the series, it appears that – in most cases – the books each focus on a different one of Mirissa’s companions, which I think sounds rather interesting. I’m looking forward to getting a chance to know these other characters better.

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Book Review: Cursed Sight by TG Ayer

Cursed Sight (Dark Sight Book 2)Cursed Sight by T.G. Ayer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book at no cost from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

In this second volume of TG Ayer’s “Dark Sight” series, Pythia Allegra Damascus and her guardian Commander Max Vissarion are headed to Peru where Allegra’s visions have shown her an event of massive destruction is soon to occur. Upon arriving, however, she discovers that not everyone is thrilled with her desire to help, perhaps not even the representatives of her home country’s government who are supposed to assistant her – and she has no idea why.

“Cursed Sight” introduces us to several new characters, including the staff who had cared for Aurelia, Allegra’s predecessor as Pythia. I found Mara, Aurelia’s handmaid, to be a delight. She’s a mischievous and cantankerous older woman who’s as sharp as a tack and hides beneath her gruff exterior a deep devotion for the women she serves. I hope we see more of her in future installments.

We also learned more about Allegra’s enemies and a few breadcrumbs were dropped that point to a possible future betrayal that had the potential to be devastating. I can’t wait to see how that develops!

While there were a number of mysteries that kept me guessing up until they were revealed, there were a couple of cases where the foreshadowing was a bit heavy-handed making their eventual revelations a bit too obvious for me. That said, the book as a whole was very enjoyable and has me looking forward to what happens next.

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Book Review: Dark Sight by TG Ayer

Dark SightDark Sight by T.G. Ayer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Dark Sight gets TG Ayer’s new series “Daughter of Pythia” series off to a good start. Set in an alternate reality where America is known as New Germania and society is based on the Roman Empire, governments around the world hire or consult with oracles to help with solving crimes, averting disasters, strategizing and other such matters. The most powerful oracle is known as the Pythia and is a descendant of Apollo’s oracle at Delphi. When she begins to recieve visions of an apocalyptic-scale disaster in the near future, she must work with officials from the New Germanian government to piece together the clues her visions present in an attempt to thwart the cataclysm.

I really enjoyed this book, though I did have a couple of problems with it. The characters were complex and relatable and the plot avoids most of the more predictable traps often found in urban fantasy and romance novels. The one exception is that that the potential romance between the leads hits a roadblock because one decides to put a brake on things out of fear that the other will reject them if certain information becomes known rather than discussing it. This particular trope is the one that annoys me the most because talking about it would show trust and a willingness to be vulnerable, both of which can actually make a relationship stronger. Plus, if the other person is going to reject them upon learning the information, wouldn’t it be wiser and less painful to find out early on? My other issue with the book is a sub-plot that felt to me kind of like filler. The impending disaster presents numerous opportunities for dramatic tension without needing to add a secondary villain, especially since that section didn’t really provide much additional information that couldn’t have been revealed while resolving the main plot. Fortunately, this detour isn’t terribly long so the story gets back on track quickly.

Despite these issues, I found myself drawn into the book’s world and the characters’ lives enough that I was dissapointed to find I’d have to wait a bit before the next volume is released. There’s considerable promise in this book, and having read her Valkyrie series (which begins with Dead Radiance I know how fresh Ms Ayer’s writing can be.

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Book Review: Gears of Fate by Wilbert Stanton

Gears of Fate (Forgotten Gods #1)Gears of Fate by Wilbert Stanton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book free in exchange for an honest review.

“Gears of Fate” is a fun read, but it gets off to a bit of a slow start. The world the story takes place in takes a bit of explaining, and the idea of the Norse and Greek Gods working together felt a bit odd to me – though that may be more a function of my great love for the Norse Gods and their lore than anything else. The biggest hurdle for me to overcome, though, was that the lead female character came off rather spoiled and self-centered, leaving me wondering how enjoyable taking a journey with her would be. Thankfully, once the preliminary “setting up” of the story is done and we’re off to the adventure, we see that there’s much more to her than that initial impression suggested and I quickly succumbed to her charms.

The slow-ish start aside, the only real issue I had with the book is that while the steampunk elements work beautifully in the sky-city setting, there are times when the characters are on Earth that it feels a bit tacked on. So much of the Fae world has a natural and organic sense to it that having a creature need its engine wound or seeing a fairy with metal wings jars a bit, though by no means did it stop me from enjoying the story and the world in which it is set.

I particularly liked the way that the author avoided many of the tropes found in the young-people-on-an-impossible-quest genre, and he does a nice job of providing just enough foreshadowing that when a late-in-the-book twist is revealed, it doesn’t feel like it came from out of nowhere.

While this book is subtitled “Forgotten Gods #1” I was quite pleased to find that the story didn’t leave me hanging, waiting months to find out how things turn out. In fact, I initially thought it was a stand alone book, though there is easily plenty of room left for more stories to be told, and I look forward to visiting this world and these characters again.

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Book Review: “Erato” by Sharon van Orman

Erato (The Sophia Katsaros Series # 2)Erato by Sharon Van Orman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Erato by Sharon van Orman

The last time we saw Dr. Sophia Katsaros, she had just returned from a trip to Greece – where she’d gone to find her missing brothers – only to discover an entirely unwelcome guest waiting in her apartment. She soon learns that she’s been targeted by the Enforcers of the werewolf pack who have come after her because no one who learns the secret of the pack is allowed to live.

When she begins finding gruesome messages being left for her as warnings, she decides to go to the pack alpha and get him to call off the dogs, as it were. There she learns that her situation is even more precarious because someone has been killing wolves from the pack and Sophia is the number one suspect. She offers the alpha a deal – if he’ll call off the Enforcers, she’ll prove she isn’t the killer, and use her scientific skills to help him find out who is. So begins a uneasy alliance and a trip back to Greece to track down a killer.

As in “Lykaia,” the story is told from multiple perspectives, with Sophia as the main narrator, written in first person. We also follow one of the Enforcers, see a few scenes from the killer’s point of view, and learn more about the Dryad and Dryad magic in general. I found the system that van Orman has set up for the Dryad magic to be quite interesting. I also liked that as skeptical as Sophia was to start with, as she becomes more excepting of the magical world, you can sense a greater openness in her in general. 

Something I really appreciated was that even though it was obvious that the pack alpha and Sophia found each other attractive, there was no insta-romance to be had here.  They were working together out of necessity and each had very good reasons not to trust the other. While their relationship warmed up some throughout the course of the book, it would have felt cheap to have them jump into bed with all of the questions that is still lingered.

We also spend more time with Illyanna, the girlfriend of one of Sophia’s brothers and mother of her soon-to-be-born niece. The friendship between Sophia and Illyanna is a lot of fun, especially as they learn more about the magical world. There was a natural easiness between them that carried over from the first book as they bonded over their mutual love for Sophia’s brother, and I hope that we are not done with their story.

“Erato” does a great job of wrapping up the story begun in the “Lykaia,” and the pair make for a very satisfying tale. Dr. Sophia Katsaros is an easy character to like and the world van Orman has created has a great balance of the fantastical and the realistic. There are some nice threads that could be easily woven into additional stories – and I sincerely hope they are.

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Book Review: “Lykaia” by Sharon van Orman

Lykaia (The Sophia Katsaros Series #1)Lykaia by Sharon Van Orman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lykaia by Sharon van Orman

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I love werewolves. When it comes to paranormal creatures only witches hold more interest for me than our short, dark and furry friends, so when I had the chance to check out a series with a new take on their origin, how could I pass that up?

Lykaia actually tells several stories. The main story is that of Sophia Katsaros, a medical examiner from Ohio whose younger brothers had gone to Greece for the summer and are now missing. Another tells us about Stavros, a young boy being trained to serve as the high priest for the werewolf pact. A third tells us the true history of how werewolves came to be, and not the myth that has been circulating for centuries. And I the fourth, we learn about a Dryad whose daughter was instrumental in the werewolves’ origin – and who may still have a role to play in their future. 

The book alternates between the four stories in a fragmented fashion that can be a bit tricky at first. While the changes in perspective only happen at the start of a new chapter, we’re not told when the perspective is changing or whose perspective we’re changing to. I soon got a feel for the different voices making the changes much less jarring. All of Sophia’s story is told in first person, the rest are in third, but each has a distinctive voice and tone.  There are also two short vignettes which provide a glimpse into the life of two people who wind up on Sophia’s morgue table. Why these vignettes were included isn’t clear, but they’re both quite short and don’t really detract from the story as a whole.

In spite of the unusual presentation of the different stories, I found the book to be a fairly quick read and quite enjoyable. I’ve always loved the idea that myths came about as ways to explain things mankind couldn’t quite grasp, and Van Orman uses that concept to good effect, especially in the way scientifically-minded Sophia find her beliefs challenged as she searches for answers to the disappearance of her brothers.

The only real complaint I have about the book is that there are several Greek words used throughout the story – and many of them are variations on the title – Lykaia – but there’s no guide as to how the words are pronounced. For me, seeing these similar strings of letters without being able to mentally differentiate then by how they sound left me feeling at times like I was listening to a storyteller who kept mumbling. It wasn’t enough of a problem to keep me from thoroughly enjoying the book, but it did occasionally send me looking pack a few pages to refresh my memory on what a particular term referred to.

The book ends on a cliffhanger, setting up the next volume, “Erato,” but even if it hadn’t, I found the story and the characters enjoyable enough that id want to spend more time with them anyway.

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