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Tavern by Deston J. Munden – Book Review

Tavern (Dargath Chronicles Book 1)

By Deston Munden

Reviewed by Ernest Russell

I always enjoy a good fantasy and an author who can twist tropes just enough to make the story interesting. The main character in Tavern, Xelnath of the Gnarled Root Clan, or Xel, is such a relatable character, full of flaws and self-doubt. A stout heart, loyal to his friends, and genuinely wants to protect his adopted home. All of this and he is not above using its secrets to make a living. He faces adversity despite his anxieties and depression while maintaining a positive feel to the story. You will quickly find yourself cheering and rooting for Xel rather than pitying him. In the first chapter, you learn what I mean by how well Deston Munden twists tropes in Tavern.

Xel isn’t the only well developed, every character is fleshed out, and you get to know them. The villain is one of my favorite types, they are the hero of their own story. You can see their point and still ask what made you think this was a good idea?

Tavern is the first of a planned series set in the world of Dargath. The world-building in this first book is impressive. Primarily set in the city of Lladad, a major seaport, you hear and see many of the different inhabitants of Dargath and their cultures. The city is alive in this story as you wander markets, slums, and royal abodes. Fear not, in Tavern, Deston Munden has resisted the urge to be overly detailed. There is enough description to set your imagination flowing while the characters and their dialogue drive the plot.

Role players who cut their gaming teeth on Chainmaile and Dungeons & Dragons while quoting Tolkien will find many characters they have known or played. If this series gains a following, campaign settings for D&D, Pathfinder, or any other fantasy RPG setting would be fun. I know I would play in them. Dargath is already a world where I would vacation and explore. That Tavern by Deston Munden reads like a game probably shouldn’t be a surprise considering his degree in Game Art and Design. Here is a description of the entire party assembled before a battle with the villain.

“Two forest orcs on the wrong side of the world, a tribeswoman assassin, a former dragon pirate turned mercenary, a lady from the Glade’s court, and a brilliant engineer in the shape of a dog. They were as rag-tag as they could get.”

These are my kind of people for an adventure.

The plot is well-paced, without being too fast or bogging itself down. This is a book in which the story is a joy to read. Tavern was edited by Dominion Editorial. I commend Deston Munden for seeking editors, so many independents do not, and sound editing makes a difference. The content editing and continuity are quite good in Tavern. The copy editing came up short. Dominion offers various packages for their service, and I don’t know if a copy edit was included.  Any book can miss a couple of things, often minor enough your mind fills in or corrects for it. These don’t tend to pull you out of the story. There are enough words missed, or incorrectly inserted, I was drawn out of the story multiple times. Fortunately, the story is strong enough and compelling enough to pull you back into it.

Tavern by Deston J. Munden is a book I recommend. The story is good. The characters are well rounded and developed, the subplots are well executed, and with all the elements combined, this is a book I can see becoming a favorite.

Thank you for reading,

Ernest

Ferguson Ink

U.S. MARSHAL BASS REEVES #1

IN AFRICAN-AMERICAN ADVENTURE FICTIONCOMIC BOOKWESTERN

Some things just make your day.

Many authors have several works in progress at once, and often a few finished stories filed away. I’m certainly no exception. About two weeks ago, I entered a contest. Quite a few authors enter contests. I have toyed with the idea but never took the leap.

Swan Song

The contest came across my inbox as they do. I knew it was legit, and reading through, I realized the story was already written. The prompt was, “Tell a story in which the main character asks a question at the end.” Swan Song was gathering digital dust, so I brushed it off and tweaked it here and there. Then through the magic of having a partner, who in a previous business life, who has been a copy editor for a small newspaper in Maryland, had it polished and sent in plenty of time.

The cool part was receiving an email today announcing there was a new comment on the story. I am going to share it with you.

“Whoah, great story! There is so much richness in your writing, that the 3000 word limit really didn’t do you justice.

First of all, I loved the way you did dialogue. I could clearly hear the words Zeke spoke in my mind and was able to fabricate a fitting image of him from that. The dialogue sounded authentic, like that’s how the characters would actually talk if they were real persons.

Secondly, the relationship between Zeke and Maude was so sweet! IT really felt like they were long friends, and it showed (at least to me) that Zeke was probably a bit lonely, traveling and prospecting, so he conversed with his mule as if it were a human. Very very well done!

And thirdly, the story within the story. I don’t know if this is a true legend, or if you constructed it yourself, but it sounds like a true folk tale to me! I loved how you described it, and how it all turned out, the people being turned into swans. Brilliant!

The only thing that felt a little rushed or ended too soon was the ending itself. I liked it, but I think it would be even better with a paragraph or two more. Now, in all fairness, I think your whole story deserves to be expanded into a novella, perhaps a full-length novel even. It’s just so rich and vivid and the feel is authentic! Loved it! Hope to read more of your work! Keep writing 🙂 – H.V.”

When I read it, I wanted to jump up and do a fist pump. Not only is if very complimentary BUT SOMEONE UNDERSTOOD. This was almost as big a rush having a new book come out. Links have been placed in the document should wish to read the story.

Thank you for reading and sharing this small moment,

Ernest

Nightmare Asylum and other Deadly Delights – A Book Review

Nightmare Asylum and other Deadly Delights – Author Sonia Kilvington

Review by Ernest Russell

Nightmare Asylum and Other Deadly Delights by Sonia Kilvington starts at the cover. Your eye is drawn ever deeper upon viewing the cover art by Craig Douglas. This book, like the fabled abyss, will stare back at you as Sonia Kilvington plumbs the essential nature of human relationships. For these stories are not uplifting, Chicken Soup for the Soul, no, these stories are much more Charles Addams style. You see, each of these stories strips away normal. To quote Charles Addams –“Normal is an illusion. What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly.”

These are short stories at their finest, which are a different skill set than a novel. Novels have time to explore the full three-act structure.  In a short story, you often only have space to write a segment of the three-act structure, usually a portion leading to a significant, transformative event for the main character.

Good short stories will have an impact. They strike you and stick with you. Weird tales and horror stories can kick your adrenaline and hours, maybe days later, they still rattle around inside your head. In this style, Sonia Kilvington is a master.

From the title story Nightmare Asylum to the final story Winter Baby, this book will enthrall you. They are fast reads. We need to remember horror does not lurk solely in darkness, seclusion, and gore. Innocence, passion, greed, and yes, even beauty, can bring their horror. Only the lucky ones get out of this through death. For the unlucky, shredding sanity as madness takes its toll.

If you ever watched Scooby-Doo, you should know this lesson. The real monsters are people. Stroll through the pages of Nightmare Asylum and Other Deadly Delights by Sonia Kilvington and meet the monsters. I wager you might even recognize a few.  

You can find Nightmare Asylum and Other Deadly Delights by Sonia Kilvingston on Amazon. It is available in print and on Kindle.

Thank you for reading,

Ernest

The Photograph – Flash Fiction

A sample of Millie Thom’s delightful Flash Fiction

Millie Thom

singer

The Photograph

Dearest Papa,

I hope this letter finds you well and you continue to enjoy teaching the piano to your eager pupils. Yes, praise for your skills and patience in this pursuit has spread far beyond Mayfield.

As you see, I have sent you a photograph, which I found whilst inspecting the contents of an old chest that had been stored, forgotten, in my attic these past ten years. I hesitated to send it for some weeks for fear of causing unwanted memories to surface, but my darling Arthur assured me that your memory of my mother’s death would have diminished after almost fifteen years, and the photo of the three of us may bring you joy.

I remember that evening so well, Papa. Mother sang like a nightingale; your piano playing enthralled and the applause from the audience made me proud to be your daughter. Later that week…

View original post 268 more words

Shadow of the Raven – Book Review

Shadow of the Raven by Millie Thom

Reviewed by Ernest Russell

Shadow of the Raven by Millie Thom is excellent. She has taken known history, chosen a point with some ambiguity, and woven her fiction seamlessly. While reading, I spot checked her history from time to time. To discover the accuracy of the event each time was this history buffs delight. As someone who enjoys researching to find Beorthwulf, the King of Mercia was involved in the Thanet landings. Still, his death appears to have no surviving record of exactly how he departed sometime around 851-852. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles suggest Beorthwulf was put to flight by this invasion. The event of his death was well written. Thom using the ambiguity of his death as a springboard to the deeper story.


For a novel which is primarily driven by politics, Anglo-Saxon’s, and Danish raiders, another delight is the word Viking only appeared in the “About This Book” section, in reference to other books. This is no one sided account. Thom’s tale shows us both the good and bad parts of two societies, Anglo-Saxons and the Danes. These people are human. Just as we are today. They have similar desires, wants, and needs. You’ll find a full spectrum of the human condition in these people. A portion of my marvel of Thom’s work is her ability to have we, as modern humans, identify with these people of 1,100 years ago.


Shadow of the Raven by Millie Thom lovingly and with passion created a compelling novel. A tale of intrigue, adventure, and revenge that would enthrall Machiavelli. This is a well told tale for a wide variety of readers. A brilliant start to the series sure to grace my bookshelves.

Shadow of the Raven is available on Amazon. It is available in print or on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited.

Thank you for reading,

Ernest

All about the changes…Update

Life is changing for us all. Fortunately, in the past, the human race has proven itself quite adaptable. I certainly hope we can adapt to our new conditions. Don’t expect anything deep or philosophical here. There are plenty of people out there, blogging about their pandemic experiences and how they believe it will change behaviors.

Change

Nothing so prosaic here tonight. A few random thoughts about my own life. Possibly a bit of whine and just a little trepidation.

I’ve been back at the regular job for two weeks. It’s been difficult finding the flow again. While off work for 45 days, I worked, not 9-5 exactly, more like 1pm to 3am. Definitely a night owl. My production for writing, book reviews, pitches, and more were better than the previous six months.

It’s all about time management. Comes down to I get an average of 90 minutes a day to working my writing.

Off today, and I did get a lot done. Edited and submitted a story for a contest on Reedsy. Looked like fun, and I had one on file that fit this week’s contest. Wrapped up a chapter and sent it to my collaborator. All while home ill. More done in one day while ill than the last two weeks.

Oh, the illness. Spoke to my doctor, and though the symptoms could all be caused by other things, he wants me tested for COVID because of several underlying medical issues.

So yeah, that where I am right now. I know one who has died from this, two that have had it and recovered. Both of them younger with no underlying medical issues and quarantined at home. Watching them go through it was heart wrenching.

For now, I am going to try and sleep on it. Thanks for letting me ramble.

Update: Received my results on 5/25…Negative for Covid. Seems have bad sinus infection and my heart is acting up again. Rock on 2020.

As always, thank you for reading.

Ernest

Pantheon – Eric Syrdal

When Pantheon by Eric Syrdal first released on Amazon, it was my pleasure to review it. This incredible epic poem is now being re-released through Indie Blues Publishing.

Pantheon

Photo courtesy of Jon Barmore

Pantheon, the debut novel by Eric Syrdal, is unique. His free verse poetry weaves mythology for modern times while being entertaining, insightful, and visionary in its scope. Told in semi-epic verse, his passion within each tale skillfully blends modern constructs with ancient forms. Mixed within are fairy tales and spaceships, where you’ll find characters you not only want them as a part of your life but want to be them.
This genuinely ambitious work is creativity at its best. The compelling story within Pantheon is on a level with Homer’s Odyssey or Virgil’s Aeneid.
Just as these epics are rooted in the mythology of their time, Eric has carved new mythology for ours.
Mythologies have existed as long as our species has been able to communicate. Myth has provided us with explanations for the world around us, and answers for existential questions such as:
Who am I?
Why am I here?
For centuries, artists have turned to ancient myth as reference for their art. Today, I have finished reading modern mythology worthy of being added to the archives of inspiration. For if a picture is worth a thousand words, contained within this debut novel by Eric Syrdal is a museum’s worth of art.
Syrdal’s heroines are; The Queen of Hearts, Grace, Karma, Courage, Fate, Mercy, and Hope. The story unfolds as our narrator meets or reconnects with these personifications of human concepts, for what else is a god or goddess, who have each influenced and assisted the hero through his many journeys.
The many tales woven throughout the myths of Pantheon create a rich tapestry, showing us in vivid imagery the journey through a multi-verse of genres. Our protagonist explores worlds set in Science-fiction, Fantasy, and Time Travel as he learns what he really seeks. Eric Syrdal has blended these concepts and different visions of reality with skill and deftness surpassing any single genre story. The imagination required to create this mythos is greater than the sum of its parts.
To experience life in all of its variety, the joy, and heartbreak, and it all echoes the spirit within so we may experience the exhilaration of life. This hero’s quest is not one to save the world, but ultimately, ourselves, as the tales unfold, the questions asked, only to find we are the answer.
The semi-autobiographical mirror held up by Eric Syrdal reflects not only paths he has trodden but sheds light on the path we have chosen for ourselves. It demonstrates why we should be deliberate in our travels, not settling, but choosing only the path with heart for you. The way will not always be easy, but if you take the traditional way, you may never realize your own potential.
An epic poem, the style was as enjoyable to read as it was fresh. My eyes flowed as freely as the verse over each page. The drama, humor, and flights of fancy, as you follow, will keep you turning page after page. For within are multilayered depths of meaning and experience. I have followed Eric’s writing for many years, was able to watch as this incredible work developed, and with each reading, I find new concepts to regard and consider.
One of my favorite myths within Pantheon is Amor Vincit Omnia (Love Conquers All), which is the story of Fate. If it does not move you, then you may need to check your heart.
I want to offer this short excerpt from the myth ‘The Dragon and the Damsel.’
“This time it’s not a roar
No
it is a sorrowful
pitiful howl
of an animal that is realizing
and the odds of escaping
with its life
are not good…

‘Never heard that before’ says Angel as she takes her first
steps toward the door sword in hand.

Courage smiles, ‘All this time you’ve heard what it sounds like when it’s in control. When it’s on top. Now…for the first
time, dear Angel, you will know what it sounds like
when it is afraid. And it is. It is afraid of you.’

And together
They step through
the doorway to engage
in a battle,
the outcome of which,
is not only a victory for one woman’s soul
but for the soul of mankind.”

Please look for more by Eric Syrdal on his blog My Sword and Shield
and on Facebook.

Thank you for reading,

Ernest

Bombay Sapphire – New from Pro Se Productions

BOMBAY SAPPHIRE RETURNS TO FACE THE DESTROYER! ‘BOMBAY SAPPHIRE: EPISODE FOUR-SHIVA STRIKES’ DEBUTS!

Bombay Saphire

Kallia, a demon sent by Shiva, is ordered to convert or kill Bombay Sapphire. When the blue superheroine tries to hold back a landslide, Kallia attacks her, and Bombay Sapphire is buried under the rubble. More determined now to rescue her sister Savitra from the gang known as the Deccan Dholes, Bombay Sapphire is called away by Agni, who has empowered her. He sends her and her friend Atasi, a reporter, to Bhopal. There, Bombay Sapphire is exposed to toxic gas in a preview of what is to happen in Bhopal. She is isolated and unconscious. Is the city now doomed?

BOMBAY SAPPHIRE EPISODE FOUR: SHIVA STRIKES by Tyree Campbell. From Pro Se Productions.

Featuring a compelling cover by Larry Nadolsky. Print formatting by Antonino lo Iacono and Marzia Marina, BOMBAY SAPPHIRE EPISODE FOUR: SHIVA STRIKES available in print on Amazon for $7.99.

The latest installment in this digest novel series is also available as an eBook formatted by Antonino lo Iacono and Marzia Marina for the Kindle at for only $2.99. The book is  available to Kindle Unlimited members for free.

For more information on this title, interviews with the author, or digital copies for review, email editorinchief@prose-press.com.

To learn more about Pro Se Productions, go to our website for open calls, submission guidelines, and catalogue.  Like Pro Se on Facebook for the latest news and releases.

Thanks for reading,

Ernest

The Collection: Flash Fiction & Short Stories -Book Review

“Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it.”
― Haruki Murakami293486902

A fitting quote to begin a review of “The Collection: Flash Fiction & Short Stories” by G. Edward Smith, Death is indeed a part of life. In the ten flash and short stories included in this macabre tome, Death is examined from many different points of view. Each of these weird tales has a twist. They may be ironic, a cruel twist of fate, gruesome and quite often thought-provoking. Unless you are a member of the Addams Family, you will not find humor.
Within these stories, Death plays many roles, from the main character to an interested observer. While never personified, Death is the common element woven throughout these stories. Human frailty, capriciousness, and cruelty carry us into tales of cannibalism, fraud, irony, and shape-shifting monsters.
As with any anthology or collection, quality varies. While the writing has moments of brilliance in many of its plot twists, a couple of the stories are stiff. The plot forced to fit a mold rather than flow naturally. Still, overall the stories keep you engaged. Editing is better than many self-published books. More editing would have served the author well. There were times I stumbled on a sentence because of the wrong word. In each case, what presented as a word out of place. They are words spellcheck alone would not catch, my for may or on for one, as examples. There are a few places a change of punctuation might have made a sentence read smoother. Yet the story still pulls you back into it.
For any flaws, this is an enjoyable read. Being a short read, even with interruptions, I finished it within two hours. It would be an excellent book to curl up with a cup of hot tea on a rainy day. Thematically, this book is definitely for mature audiences only.
Would I recommend “The Collection: Flash Fiction & Short Stories” by G. Edward Smith, yes. This book is especially suited for those lovers of weird tales, the macabre, and those who enjoy questions to ponder.
DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for writing an honest review. I was not obligated to give a positive review, and all thoughts are my own.

Thank you for reading,

Ernest