Review: Swords, Sorcery, and Sundry (Edges & Embers #1) by Mina MacLeod

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

 A wizard, a soldier, and an assassin walk into a bar … 

SSS Edges & Embers - coverWizard Sylvain has just recently arrived in Abelia, the large capital of the Firmiana Duchy.  He’s hot, tired and just wants a drink before going up to his rooms.  Soldier Ashe is at a table nearby wanting to enjoy her food and  friendly banter with the bar owner.  Assassin Niklas is situated right in the middle, with an agenda of his own and hopes not to be interfered with.  Alas, once the trouble starts and it seems that Niklas has been ganged up on, then Sylvain and Ashe just naturally jump into the fray with sword and sorcery at hand.

But quickly things go awry as Sylvain accidentally sets the bar on fire and the culprits escape.  No one has any money to pay for the damages they caused.  With the Duchy’s guards at the door, and gold needed to repair the damage to the hotel and bar, the wizard, the assassin, and the warrior team up (it was their fault after all) to earn the money they required to keep them out of the jail and maybe make them even solvent.  But the mission they were hired for will take them into the Deadlands and in order to survive, the three will have to become a team to contend with.  What happens when a wizard, an assassin and a soldier combine and become something much more than any of them expected….

 When a story opens with a tongue in cheek reference to a long-standing bar joke, I just knew I was in for a rollicking great time and Mina MacLeod’s Swords, Sorcery & Sundry delighted me at every turn.  How I loved this story and MacLeod’s characters! From the very premise,three disparate people meet in a bar and bonding over a combined debt, I was hooked. And I stayed that way to the end of this adventure and the possibility of a series.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

Swords, Sorcery and Sundry is that wonderful and rare story that be listed either as a YA book or M/M Romance, an element that was intentional on the author’s part.  That is due largely because it is a story about the tight bonds of friendship first, and then the beginnings of a m/m romance between two of the friends secondly.  But always it is the ties of friendship that guides them and forms them into a family of sorts as well as a business.

Mina MacLeod has created some very charismatic characters for her story.  At first we are as much of a stranger to them as they are to each other.  Then believably that changes as a financial debt none can pay forces them to work together. I love watching the characters open up and reveal parts of themselves and their stories as the mission continues.  It felt both fantastical and realistic.  As the story progresses so does the friendship go from one of expediency to one of choice and close fellowship, the bonds shifting from the shallow need of a combined debt to  deep sense of comradeship and closeness.

All of the characters are both strong, equal in their own powers and talents, and open about their chances of success and pasts.  This turns out to be a close-knit group of friends.  Ashe, the women, is an amazing swords person and warrior.  Trust me, she needs no champion here, she is the champion.  She is sarcastic, smart, easy in her own skin, and doesn’t need a man to make her life fulfilling (although she doesn’t mind one on the side).  Nor does she fall in love with either of her friends.  What a relief!  A marvelous character you will connect with immediately no matter what manner of adventures or goings on she is involved in. Sylvain is a wizard, from the Muscari Aucheri kingdom of wizardry.  He is the first of the trio we meet as he forlornly enters Abelia on foot, having sold his precious mare to get the funds needed to eat and find room.  No longer in good standing at the Wizard Academy (no spoilers zone), he is at loose ends when he arrives at The Beckoning Siren Inn.  Disheveled, tired and thirty, it is still easy to see that Sylvain is a good compassionate man, haunted by his past but ready to move forward but where?  I loved Sylvain because while he has power, he is not a powerful presence and doesn’t dominate the proceedings or the other friends.  And then there is Niklas Valconaire, an assassin of great skill and little desire to be an assassin.  The dichotomy that is Niklas continues throughout the story. A tender killer, a shadow of death that covets life.  And Niklas is well aware of  the handsome wizard he is traveling with.   Niklas is the one character whose past is still waiting to be revealed whereas Ashe and Sylvain’s histories will become known by the end of their story.

There is a m/m romance here.  It’s sweet and gentle, even given the participants.  A first true relationship for both,and neither wants it to impede their friendship. So a dance begins between them that lasts the journey and the end of this tale.  But as I stated, their romance is a side issue, its the friendship that blossoms between them as they learn they can counter on each other to have their backs and support when needed.  Also a good joke, a flagon of wine, and perhaps even a lovely replacement mare, these are friends at ease with one another no matter the setting or situation they find themselves in.  That’s the best element of this story and reason alone to buy this book.

MacLeod has created a vivid, magical landscape for her friends to journey through.  It’s fraught full with the living dead, familiars, evil rulers and yes, corrupt businessman.  Not even fantasy can let us escape those.  And along for the journey is the new company born out of need and finalized in camaraderie. Swords, Sorcery & Sundry, a name picked by Ashe to Sylvain’s disgruntlement and  Niklas’ amusement as a way to sell their talents as a group.  As Sylvain is quick to point out time and again, he is not a sorcerer but a wizard.  But as Ashe remarks that doesn’t make a snappy title for their business and so a new venture is born.  And a series as well.

At the end of 330 pages, I still wanted their adventures together to continue.  I wanted more of their snark and funny dialogs, more of the surprises that are revealed along with new talents, and more of the marvelous friendship exhibited by all three.  Luckily for us all, Mina MacLeod is turning this story and characters into a series, Edges & Embers.   I can’t wait to see what new escapades and dangers will befall them.   All I know is that my expectations are as high as my excitement over this series and a new author to love.  Consider Swords, Sorcery and Sundry (well you can’t very well advertise Assassinations can you?) a must read and highly recommended story. I think you will love it as much as I do.

Happy Reading!

Cover art by Le Burden Design.  I am a fan of the old cover design favored here.  Lovely job.

Buy Links:          ARe        LT3   Amazon  

Book Details:

ebook, 330 pages
Published May 21st 2014 by Less Than Three Press LLC
original titleSwords, Sorcery, and Sundry
ISBN139781620043639
edition languageEnglish

On Tour with Lee Brazil and the “Less Than All” Book Blast

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ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords is happy to welcome Lee Brazil here today.  Lee is one of our favorite authors, most notably through the Pulp Friction author group and series.  Today Lee is talking about his latest release, Less Than All.  Be sure to check out the excerpt that follows further down in the post and the contest for a $10 All Romance Gift Card.

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Book Name: Less Than All
Author Name: Lee Brazil
Author Bio:

Somewhere in a small town in up-state New York are a librarian and a second grade teacher to whom I owe my life. That might be a touch dramatic, but it’s nevertheless one hundred percent true.

Because they taught me the joy of reading, of escaping into worlds crafted of words.

Have you ever been nine years old and sure of nothing so much as that you don’t belong? Looked at the world from behind glasses, and wondered why you don’t fit?

Then turn the page and see… there you are, running from Injun Joe in a dark graveyard; there you are fencing with Athos; there you are…beneath the deep blue sea- marveling at exotic creatures with Captain Nemo.

I found myself between the pages of books, and that is why I write now, it’s why I taught English and literature for so many years, and it’s why my house contains more pounds of books than furniture.

If I’d had my way, I’d have been a fencer…or a starship captain, or a lawyer, or a detective solving crimes. But instead, I am a writer, and that’s the best thing in the world to be if you ask me, because as a writer, I can be all those things and more.

If I hadn’t learned to value the stories between the pages, who knows what would have happened? Certainly not college…teaching…or writing.

Author Links:
Twitter: @leebrazil

Less-Than-All400x600Book Details:
Cover Artist: Laura Harner
Photograph: Dan Skinner
Publisher: Lime Time Press
Blurb(s):

Nicholas Danville doesn’t trust his lover to share the depth of his attraction.He knows full well Victor must marry to fulfill his duty to his aristocratic family. Assuredly marriage will mean the end of their liaison.

A youthful indiscretion leads to a humiliating encounter between Nicholas Danville and Lord Victor Ware. Nicholas is sent home in disgrace, and Victor continues life in the Ton. Years later, Nicholas’s reproving parents send him to town to attain a degree of polish before he prepares for life as a member of the clergy.

A chance encounter with an old friend leads to a new confrontation between Nicholas and Victor. This time, the attraction between them burns brighter, Nicholas is old enough to know his own mind, and Victor is done with self-denial.

From ballrooms to gardens and opera houses, Victor sets about proving that a passionate liaison between two men is possible even under the narrow gaze of the Ton.

Excerpt:

Peter had evidently taken the time to pull his glossy Hessians back on because Victor had swallowed half the glass before he heard the door click behind him. Lifting the glass to study the amber liquid in the firelight, he spoke without turning around.

“I pay you an adequate allowance to cover your own establishment Peter, exactly because I do not wish to find hordes of drunken revelers have invaded my home.”

“I’m glad for Peter’s sake that you’re a generous man, My Lord Ware. But I’d hardly call our little gathering a horde.”

Victor whirled about to find Danville lounging in altogether too close a proximity. A single lingering glance impressed upon Victor the slender lithe frame, lovingly outlined by tight buff colored breeches, fine white linen shirt open at the neck. Both his discreetly embroidered waistcoat and his black tailcoat hung open. Danville’s inappropriate dishabille enticed him as the devil tempted sinners. He held up a hand as though to ward off the smaller man, but Danville stepped impossibly closer, and Victor groaned as his blood thrummed and his head swam.

Strong arms wrapped around his neck, tugging his head down, and soft wet lips pressed lightly against his mouth. “I’ve waited years for this moment, Ware.”

Then Victor gave up listening, gave up fighting the response of his body as an agile tongue probed the seam of his lips, seeking entrance. He accepted Nicky’s kiss, opened his mouth to suck at the questing tongue. He chased Nicky’s tongue for what seemed like ages, his body hardening and heating with lust.

His arms closed around Nicky’s slender waist, hauling the man close so he could seek solace for the ache of his prick in grinding against the silk of Nicky’s evening breeches. The shattering of his whiskey glass on the hearth broke the mood, and Nicky pulled away, retreating to the door.

“I’m going now.” He paused, hand on the doorknob. A strangely earnest expression crossed his face as he tilted his head to glance back at the stunned Victor. “Shall I return? Or do you forbid Peter’s friends the run of your home?”

He slipped from the room while Victor struggled to frame a coherent response.

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Tour Dates: June 26, 2014

LessThanAllBadgeTour Stops: Parker Williams, Amanda C. Stone, Fallen Angel Reviews, Love Bytes, Emotion in Motion, Havan Fellows, MM Good Book Reviews, Rainbow Gold Reviews, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, Hearts on Fire, Book Reviews, Rants, and Raves, Prism Book Alliance, Top2Bottom, Kimi-Chan, Iyana Jenna, Because Two Men Are Better Than One, Wicked Wolves and Dreaming Dragons, The Hat Party

 

Contest:   Use the Rafflecopter link provided to enter.  Must be 18 years of age or older to enter. Rafflecopter Prize: $10 AllRomance Gift CardWillPride

Buy Links:            Amazon                 ARe

 

 

 

 

 

 

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