Moving along

Hey, how do you like the new duds?

I changed the theme on my blog. If you read via something other than a browser, you might want to come take a look. It is called Sunspot, and is the latest free offering from WordPress. I thought the colors matched my old and current Gravatar picture. Plus it seemed to match a lot of my sunset/sunrise pictures and my old fire photos. Sweet! I think I’ll stick with this for a while.

New Zealand Sunset

Seeing as I kept it for almost a year, I really enjoyed using the Chateau theme, but sometimes a girl just has to move on.

In the spirit of moving forward, here are some updates in my writing life:

What I’ve read

Yes, writers read. Or they should. I’ve read and enjoyed Mike Shevdon‘s Court of the Feyre series. I’ve reviewed Sixty-One Nails and The Road to Bedlam, and I’ve even managed to sneak into Mr. Shevdon’s busy schedule and interview him. He’s a great guy and the series is a lot of fun with plenty of intrigue. In my humble opinion, the cool factor is ramped up in this series, and I can’t wait for the eARC to come out so I can read the next installment: Strangeness and Charm.

I have taken up Jon Sprunk‘s series again with the second book, Shadow’s Lure. You can read my review of Shadow’s Son and see that I had some reservations about the book. Which is one reason it has taken me some time to get back to it. Still, Ciam, our hero assassin in this series, has lured me back. Be sure to subscribe to my blog The Atheist’s Quill for my upcoming review.

I’ve also finished reading a few unpublished works (both novels and short stories) over on Critters and for critter-friends. Man, is there a lot of talented writers out there. I am humbled and thoughts of quitting my own efforts are strong, but only so that I can have more time to READ! There’s just so much good stuff out there.

On the non-fiction front, I’m reading Sam HarrisFree Will at the moment. Like Gladwell‘s Blink and The Tipping Point, Free Will has some very interesting ideas that will have you re-thinking everything.

What I’ve written

I am almost 20,000 words into my re-write of Devil’s Blood, now called The Denouncer. My other projects are limping along (or shelved) as I dedicate most of my free time (do I have any?) to The Denouncer.

My writing coach sessions are going well. I am trying my best to absorb everything, but new concepts and skills are not miraculously turning my crap into readable prose. What I am discovering more and more each day is how much I truly suck, even as I rush to reach my daily word count goal.

I once met a woman who said she wrote. I asked her about her stories and how she was going about getting them published. She said, “Oh no. I’ll never publish them.” I asked, “Why not? If you enjoy writing them, I bet there are folks out there that will enjoy reading them.” She explained to me that yes, she enjoyed writing them, but she didn’t want anyone else judging her work. Content to just enjoy the writing process, she promptly put her stories in a drawer when she was finished – never to be read again.

Wow, I had thought, what a waste.

But now, as I realize that my writing may not be everyone else’s cup of tea, but that I really do enjoy the process of writing, her methods do not seem so outlandish. Maybe my stories are just for me. Maybe I can be content with enjoying the act of creating, and foregoing any of my half-baked dreams of publication. It is a tempting thought.

Until later, don’t forget to read.

Shadow’s Son: A Review

I just finished reading Shadow’s Son by Jon Sprunk.

Shadow's Son Cover
Shadow's Son Cover

Over on Goodreads, I gave this baby four stars, but I’m really conflicted about it.  The reader in me wants to give this five stars for the epic fights, cool shadow beasts, and awesome hero.  But (and this is a big one), this book is the author’s debut novel and the writer in me is not a happy camper.

By the way, spoilers ahead.  Stop reading this review if you plan on reading Shadow’s Son. You’ve been warned.

The book starts out slow.  We have Caim, a youngish, but experienced, assassin about to take out some royalty with an arrow.  His sidekick, a fairy named Kit, is bugging him and something throws off his perfect shot.  All hell breaks loose and he’s running through the castle, out a window, back into a window, and then dispatches the guards, the duke (or some noble, can’t remember now, and too lazy to look it up – yeah, I’m that kind of a reviewer), and the duke’s son.

Damn.  How can that be slow?

I don’t know, but that’s how it came across to me, and I just couldn’t get into the book.  I set it aside (well, not really as this is the second book I’ve read on my iPhone, but you get the picture), and I didn’t pick it up again until two days ago.

I figured, I paid for the darn thing, and it cost way more than the award-winning book I’d just finished, that damn it – I’m gonna get my money’s worth.  So, I forced myself to keep reading.  Okay, I’m exaggerating, but I did have to push myself a little to keep going.

I’m so glad I did.

After our assassin/hero Caim meets Josey, the book changes.  Hell, it explodes!  The pace picks up, cool shit happens, and the plot thickens and complicates in unexpected ways.  The story turned into a huge, fun romp.  I was up till 2am in the morning trying to finish the book!  (Another advantage to e-reading: reading in the dark. :D)

When Caim goes to get paid for the job he messed up, he’s given another one.  (Why?  He just messed up the last one!  This is one of my pet peeves with the book – our great assassin isn’t that great.😉 ) Just one last job before he decides to get out-of-town because political unrest is on the horizon, and things are getting too hot for him.  (Again, the writer in me is saying: but, dude, that’ll be the best reason to stay – lots of work!)  But someone has beat him to it.  His target is dead, but his daughter, Josey, isn’t.  Inadvertently saving Josey, he ends up kidnapping her to figure out what’s going.  This is where things pick up in this book, and, in my humble opinion, is where the story should have started.

Once he’s got Josey, a host of problems besiege Caim, and for the rest of the book he’s pretty much on the run (fun!).  We find out that Caim is not just a lucky guy quick with knifes and graced with a bit of shadow power, but a bit more complicated person with a mysterious past.  Religious and political uprisings paint the backdrop for this novel and keeps things interesting.

Along the way, Josey ends up turning into a princess/empress (a touch of the deux ex machina, but it is part of the story and ultimately works), a dark sorcerer appears, the populace revolt, and general mayhem ensue.

Also, Josey gets raped.

And I better address that right here and now.  I’ve noticed some reviews of this book have really slammed the author about the rape scene.  Saying that her reaction to it, and how the author transitions away from the scene, is anything but appropriate.  And I agree that Mr. Sprunk didn’t get it “right”.  But, you know, I’m not sure I would have done better.  Rape is not an easy thing to do and, to be honest, most authors get it wrong.  Since this is the author’s first novel, I’m willing to give him some slack and hope that if he ever does something like this again, well, I hope he “gets it”.

Okay, we can move on.

The ending is awesome.  I can’t really describe it because there was so much going on.  Suffice to say the reader is rewarded with some very cool fighting on a rooftop during a raging storm.  The princess is saved, the city/empire is on the mend, and our hero is miraculously alive.

One very satisfying read.  I highly recommend it to anyone who likes assassin intrigue, fight scenes, and a bit of romance.  By the way, I liked this WAY better than Brent Week’s assassin series (though I didn’t get past the first book, my review here).

However, this book does have some major flaws.  So much so that I warred between giving it four or two stars.  In the end, the reader in me won out and I gave it four.  I won’t pick it apart in this review.  I’ll let you do that on your own.  If you can bury that critic in you, sit back in your favorite chair and just read, Shadow’s Son delivers an exciting story that leaves the reader with a smile on their face.  Check it out.