A MelanieM Review: Fire and Light by Berengaria Brown

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Rating: 2.5 stars ouf of 5 stars

Fire and Light coverSeveral years after the divorce, Hugh’s ex-wife decides that she doesn’t want her son and gives Hugh full custody.   Hugh loves his son and finds this a wonderful turn of events, even if it means he has to rearrange his life.  With 6 year old Orion living with him, Hugh and his son are adjusting to life as a family when a chance encounter with a man named Quigley changes all their lives forever.

This is a short story about a romance that starts in an equally small amount of time.  Hugh has just gotten custody of his son from his ex-wife.  She is in a new relationship and her boyfriend does not want Orion around.  Quigley is a man on a 2-week vacation.  All three meet cute in a surf shop and bond over board shorts and goggles.  In that 2 week time frame, the men fall in love and decide to be a family, along with Orion.  Orion adjusts beautifully.  Everyone is happy. The end.

That’s the story.  Short, sweet and has no character building, no foundation on which to build a realistic love story and certainly no depth.What it does have is loads of sex scenes, with a smattering of story.  It’s fluffy with some lovely scenes between Hugh and his son.  That is really the best part of Fire and Light, the father-son relationship.  Of course, that is also the component that makes the acceptance of a stranger and the instant family kind of creepy.

If Berengaria Brown is a must read author for you, then go ahead and pick this up.  But for the rest of us, I would give this a pass.

Book Details:
ebook, 2nd Edition, 57 pages
Published June 19th 2013 by Torquere Press (first published June 16th 2011)
ISBN 1610404882 (ISBN13: 9781610404884)
edition language English

A MelanieM Review: A Taste for Poison (Memory of Scorpions #3) by Aleksandr Voinov

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Even a king gets stung when he reaches for a scorpion.

ATasteForPoison_200x300Once the leader of the band of mercenaries known as the Scorpions, Adrastes is now King and a changed man.  Ruler of two countries, along with his sister/wife, King Adrastes has just survived an assassination, just barely.  In poor health and still recovering, Adrastes trusts no one and is determined to find the assassin and make the individual pay.  Wary of everyone now, including allies and friends, King Adrastes prepares his kingdom for war against the only kingdom and ruler outside his control, the Elder of Vededrin.  But not everyone supports Adrastes, including the man who loved and rescued him, Kendras.

Kendras, former lover to Adrastes and leader of the Scorpions, no longer blindly supports his king.  He’s watched Adrastes change and the orders from the King are making him uneasy and reluctant to obey.  And to go to war with Adrastes against Vededrin just might mean the end of the Scorpions for all time.  And replacing Adrastes in Kendras’ bed and heart is Graukar, newly appointed general to the king, an event the King is not happy with.  Kendras must figure out how to balance responsibilities and loyalties in a world gone increasingly complex and grey.  And quickly before someone he loves is injured.

As Kendras tries to work through his thoughts and feelings, a new threat arises to King Adrastes rule.  An anonymous outrider wearing a mask calling himself Death foments rebellion in the mountains, aided by a prophecy that promises he’ll stop the Black King.   Ordered to find and kill the man called Death, Kendras leaves feeling unsettled, uncertain and sure of only one thing…his love for Graukar.

From the moment I read the first book in this series, Scorpion (Memory of Scorpions #1), I knew that Kendras and the Scorpions would lead me on a remarkable journey.    It’s been a brutal, raw, and violent saga and one of the best in its genre.  The life of a mercenary is a hard and savage one, unsparring in the injuries and deaths that come as part of the profession.  Only the loyalty to each other and the tight rules and rich history of the Scorpions, make this band of soldiers a family.  Voinov’s saga begins with Kendras, his entrance into the Scorpions, his scant memories of his childhood, and the heartbreak and pain of finding and then losing Adrastes, not to another lover, but to the kingship itself.  Told from Kendras’ point of view, the character grows from a soldier with a single minded focus and goal to one floundering amongst the political seas at court.   It’s a mesmerizing and arduous scramble as Kendras rises up the social scale, pulled along by Adrastes, whether he wants to go or not.  Kendras must grow as a character and Voinov delivers that mental and emotional growth in spurts that come with despair along with great joy.

A Taste of Poison (Memory of Scorpions #3)  finds Adrastes suffering the effects of an assassination attempt, one that profoundly changes the King’s outlook on those around him and accelerates his goal of expanding his rule to all three kingdoms.  The man who rules is not the man Kendras followed and loved.  That dichotomy is cause for depression, and uncertainty, along troubling thoughts of disloyalty  is adding to unrest among the Scorpions and Kendras.  Voinov has made Kendras a man of honor and depth and to see and feel him floundering and pulled by this faction and that both enriches this story and ups the suspense for the welfare of all involved.

Everything is heightened here in A Taste of Poison.  Goals, loyalties, love, trust…the bar is now so high and the repercussions of any deviation or conflict are swift, exacting, and devastating.  Voinov reveals more of Kendras’ past, unknown even to Kendras  Also revealed are hidden alliances, and schemes to depose one ruler or another.  There are no black and white sides, only grey as Kendras has been slow to learn.  And with every startling exposition and shattering event, we are pulled deeper into the lives of all the Scorpions and their leader, Kendras.

Voinov has delivered a saga rich in character development, alive with action and battle sequences, and complete with the horrors that love and jealousy can and does inflict on all involved.  Aleksandr Voinov has said that the quote from Leo Tolstoy: “The best stories don’t come from “good vs. bad” but “good vs. good.” helped shape not only the characters of  Adrastes and Kendras but the stories themselves.  Only a tilt of the prism or a slight change of perspective will make either character “good” or “evil”.  Is it evil for Adrastes to want to solidify the 3 warring kingdoms into one for the betterment of all?  At what price is that not acceptable?  Is Kendras’s feelings and actions betrayal or loyalty?  Whose goals are the ones that should be honored by personal sacrifice and love?  That Voinov is able to bring all facets to life in each of these strong personalities is not only a marvelous achievement but makes this a series worth reading and remembering.

The Memory of Scorpions series is astonishingly inventive, beautifully crafted and fiercely passionate. From the bloody sands of battle to the lethal layers and complex rituals of court, Alexandr Voinov brings his world and characters to life word by word, page by page using vivid imagery and an attention to detail that leaves no construct of person or kingdom feeling shallow or undone.  Just masterful.

I don’t know if this is the end of the Scorpions.  Voinov is silent about future stories.  I hope not.  There is so much here I still need to know.  The Black King still lives…if the prophecy is correct, who will bring him down?  What is ahead and possible for Kendras and the Scorpions?  This amazing story and series begs the questions.  Hopefully Aleksandr Voinov will answer.  Meanwhile, pick up this wondrous series and get acquainted with some of the most powerful and engaging characters around.  One of Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words “must reads” and highly recommended stories of 2014.

Cover art by Reese Dante.  Love that cover, powerful and perfect image that speaks to the story within.

Sales Links:   Riptide Publishing    All Romance eBooks (ARe)     Amazon      A Taste of Poison

Book Details:

alternative world, gritty fantasy, warrior mercenaries

ebook, 265 pages
Expected publication: October 13th 2014 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN139781626491557
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/a-taste-for-poison
seriesMemory of Scorpions #3

Books in the Memory of Scorpions series in the order they were written and should be read:

Scorpion (Memory of Scorpions, #1)
Lying with Scorpions (Memory of Scorpions, #2)
A Taste for Poison (Memory of Scorpions, #3)

Scorpion coverLying with Scorpions coverATasteForPoison_200x300

Enter the Addictive World of the Scorpions! On Tour with Aleksandr Voinov’s A Taste of Poison

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ATasteForPoison_TourBanner

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One of my favorite series from Aleksandr Voinov is the addicting and dangerous universe of the Memory of Scorpions series , an ancient mercenary band of brothers (and sister) with a history as rich as the kings they work for.  Now comes the latest installment, and hopefully not the last, A Taste of Poison (Scorpions #3) by Aleksandr Voinov.   You can follow Aleksandr Voinov on tour with all the dates here.  For now, let’s focus in on Aleksandr Voinov on his Scorpions:

 

“Good versus Good”

Hi, I’m Aleksandr Voinov, and I’m happy to talk about my newest release. Thank you for the invitation!

I recently stumbled over this quote from Leo Tolstoy:

“The best stories don’t come from “good vs. bad” but “good vs. good.”

It struck home for me, because while some writing courses tell you that you need a “villain” (in m/m, it’s the “evil ex”), and the more villainous the villain, the more tension we get. I think it’s bollocks, to use a lovely British term. Even if we have an almost cartoonish level of over-simplification, in, say, Star Wars (I love Star Wars), the much more interesting evil guy is Darth Vader. (Palpatine is more “cartoon evil”) Why? Because he used to be “good” and Luke believes passionately that Darth Vader, his father, can be redeemed. And it’s amazing, because that levels the playing field – while Luke is still in training, Darth Vader is seen as “just evil”. Once Luke comes into his power, he gets almost literally hamstrung (arm-strung?) by the revelation that Darth Vader is his father, and the decision to get him back to the good side. It’s very difficult fighting a duel against somebody you want to save/redeem, especially when that somebody seems absolutely set on destroying or breaking you.

What a conflict.

So often we do have the villain with the redeeming feature (“He only wants to bring peace to the galaxy”). But studying real-life evil, I’m usually struck by how some of the evillest men ever fully accepted they were doing “bad things”, but they usually did it not out of lust for destruction, but because they were looking for a higher good. The evil they did was seen as a “price worth paying”. In short, they were twisted idealists. Some stated that the “work” (read: atrocities) wasn’t pleasant, but they sacrificed themselves, their sanity, their peace, their souls, to do it. And that’s really disturbing. “Personal sacrifice” is actually a virtue.

I have zero doubt that Adrastes in the Memory of Scorpions series considers himself the “good guy”, and Kendras is being bothersome, dishonest, disloyal, and also in league with mutinous soldiers. Apart from the obvious jealousy with regards to Kendras and Graukar, Adrastes is driven by the need/desire to rebuild the empire, to end internal wars, to be strong against outside invaders, and to have peace and prosperity. And if he has to kill, torture and wage war for that noble end – well, he’s good at it, and there would be much worse people to do it. Less competent, less decisive, less thorough. He truly believes he’s doing the right thing. And we’ve seen him as the charismatic, self-sacrificing leader who looks after his men. Regardless of what he does later, we know he’s not “evil”. He’s very possibly not “good”, he’s just human. Like they all are. We buy more into Kendras’s version of the story because we never hear the story of the other characters, but chances are, if we did, we’d buy their version and consider Kendras “evil” or “wrong”.

And that’s really where I’m coming from. I can’t do sparkly shiny heroes versus dark and twisted evil guys, because I don’t believe that’s how it happens in real life. I can have characters cross the line (arguably, once Adrastes begins assassinating political enemies and using his father’s intimidation tactics, that’s where he crosses the line), but even in fantasy, which is full of dark gods and demons and tyrants and whatnot, I just don’t believe in that model of the world.

For me, pitting idealists with strong values against each other is far more fun, so I can root for all of them. It keeps me engaged and happy as an author, and I hope it has the same effect on readers.

 Title: A Taste of Poison (Memory of Scorpions #3) by Aleksandr VoinovATasteForPoison_200x300
Publisher:  Riptide Publishing
Cover Artist:  Reese Dante
Page Count:  260 pages

 

A Taste of Poison Blurb:

ATasteForPoison_200x300Even a king gets stung when he reaches for a scorpion.

After barely surviving an assassination attempt, King Adrastes is a changed man—one who mistrusts even his allies and friends. He readies his empire for war against an enigmatic enemy, the Elder of Vededrin, but not everyone approves. While courtiers dare only to whisper dissent, an outrider called Death foments rebellion in the mountains, aided by a prophecy that promises he’ll stop the Black King.

Kendras—former lover to Adrastes and leader of the Scorpions—is sent with his elite mercenary force to bring Death to justice. But when Kendras learns who’s hiding behind the mask, he must choose between his lover Graukar, newly-appointed general to the king—and King Adrastes himself.

With no man to call master, the Scorpions could flee the danger and intrigue. But Kendras cannot abandon the man he once loved—or the man he’s growing to love—without first uncovering the real threat to the Empire.

– See more at: http://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/a-taste-for-poison#sthash.n5Pu5nYZ.dpuf

A Taste of Poison Excerpt

(read more at A Taste of Poison Excerpt page at Riptide Publishing)

Chapter 1

“Officer, Lady Nhala wishes to see you.”

Kendras had barely sunk into the hot bathwater to wash the sweat and dirt off when Runner stepped into the room. He groaned and ducked his head underwater, scraping over his scalp with both hands, then emerged again, blowing out a breath.

“How urgent?”

“She looked like it was a pressing matter.” Runner walked over to the stool next to the bath and picked up a linen towel, unfolded it, and offered it to Kendras. Her ironic expression forbade any comment that she wasn’t a bath slave and he could dry himself. Kendras crumpled his washcloth into a ball and ran it over his chest, belly, armpits, and groin. No leisurely soak to loosen up his tired muscles, then. Duty was calling. He tossed the cloth into the water and stood.

She enveloped him in the towel, and he reached for a corner of it to dry his face and head before he stepped out of the bathtub. “Get me my boots and leathers.”

“At once, Officer.” She turned and walked off.

Kendras rubbed his skin dry and was almost finished before Runner returned. He tossed the towel over the rim of the tub and began to dress. “Let her in.”

He was just pulling on his boots when Nhala appeared in the doorway. He felt her gaze linger for a moment on his bare chest, then she straightened almost as if standing at attention. “Officer.”

“My lady.” He closed the top of his leathers and began tightening the straps and laces. “I’m at your service.”

She stepped further into the room and glanced over her shoulder back into the barracks, checking for witnesses, no doubt. “We are all called to war council. Immediately.”

Kendras bit down on a groan. After a long, hot day on the training yard, and before any food, standing for hours in his heavy plate armor while generals bickered over the best strategy to achieve a victory wasn’t a prospect he relished. He much preferred when the plan was set and the only issue left was when to act. “Who’s issued the call?”

“The king.”

“The king’s—”

More dead than alive. Maybe dead.

 

– See more at Riptide Publishing’s A Taste of Poison page.

Memory of Scorpions stories in the order they were written and should be read:

Scorpion (Memory of Scorpions, #1)
Lying with Scorpions (Memory of Scorpions, #2)
A Taste for Poison (Memory of Scorpions, #3)

Lying with Scorpions coverScorpion coverATasteForPoison_200x300