A MelanieM Release Day Review: Dream (Aisling #2) by Carole Cummings

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

To reveal the intricate machinations threatening them, two men must learn to trust each other. But how can they, when their hearts and minds—their realities—are subject to manipulation?

When he set out to escort the prisoner Wilfred Calder back to Putnam, Constable Dallin Brayden didn’t anticipate the political betrayal and malicious magic threatening their lives at every turn. To his surprise, he slips into the role of protector—and it’s more than duty compelling him to ensure Wil’s safety as they’re haunted by strange dreams.  But does Wil dare put himself in the hands of a man he believes wants him dead?

Wil’s past weighs heavily on him, tainting his perceptions as he struggles his way through a tangle of lies. With both will and magic as his weapons, he fights desperately for survival—and his soul. For the Aisling is coveted by more than the Guild and the Brethren; ancient gods and soul-eating spirits also want what lives within him. His only chance might be Dallin and his goddess, the Mother, who Wil has been taught to despise above all others.

It’s hard to describe just how exquisite this book and saga actually is.  Dream, the second story in the Aisling Trilogy, picks up exactly where the first left off, with Dallin accepting that Wil is the Aisling, the one he is meant to protect above all else.  Why?  Because Dallin is the Guardian.  What that means, how they are to fulfill those roles start to be revealed here.

That revelation and the impact upon their relationship starts immediately.  One of the biggest issues here is trust and what each man has seen/been told will happen to them.  Do they learn to trust each other and that they can make the future their own?  Or is the future already written and are they simply trodding a path they are meant to go down?  What do the gods have planned for them if anything?

The world building Cummings starting in Guardian (Aisling, #1)  becomes even more complex and wide ranging, crossing lands and picking up cultures and peoples we had only heard about in the first novel.  Mirroring the complexity of the world building is the relationship and personal dynamics between Wil and Dallin.  From enemies to friends and now the slow move into a romantic relationship, Cummings has been careful to establish the necessary trust and communication that let’s this happen between them.  I love the slow courtship between the men.  Considering all Wil has been through, the slow emotional involvement that the physical one also implies makes perfect sense.

Even as we enjoy the small touches that illuminate the growth of intimacy between the men, Cummings is busy ramping up the suspense of the chase as well.  For the evil is never far behind them, the good men chasing them for the wrong reasons as well…even their destination is fraught is peril.  The author makes us  fear the smallest of breaks in the woods,  the turn of every corner in a village is reason for the reader to hold our breath.

There is no one element or section here I can highlight.  It’s all equally fantastic.  Characters are beautifully created.  I believe in them and their relationships.  Fear for their futures.  The evil here is horrific and about to deepen with the last story.  The gods and aspects of religion the author has devised is stunning in its originality.  How this will play out for Wil and Dallin in book three, Beloved Son, is something I can’t wait to read when it’s released in December.

As with the first story, Dream ends somewhat abruptly, most likely where the final installment will pick up.  Oddly, I’m alright with that.  After the ending in Guardian, I almost expected it. At the end here Wil and Dallin are poised on the precipice of knowledge.   That next and final story tips them and us over the edge.

If you love fantasy and are new to this trilogy, you have until December to get caught up.  I highly recommend this story (not a stand alone) and the first, Guardian.  Then join me in December for the release of Beloved Son.

Cover art by Anne Cain is perfect for the character and for branding the series.

Sales Links: DSP Publications | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 2nd Edition, 336 pages
Expected publication: October 17th 2017 by DSP Publications (first published June 15th 2011)
Original Title Dream
ISBN13 9781635336740
Edition Language English
Series Aisling #2
Beloved Son (Aisling Trilogy, #3)  coming Dec 13th 2017 and I can’t wait
Everything (Aisling #3.5)

A MelanieM Release Day Review: Guardian (Aisling #1) by Carole Cummings

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Aisling Trilogy: Book One

As he pursues a man who is not what he seems, Constable Dallin Brayden learns the lines between enemy and ally, truth and deception, and conscience and obedience are not only blurred, but malleable.

 

Constable Dallin Brayden knows who he is, what he’s about, and he doesn’t believe in Fate. “Wilfred Calder” has no idea who he is or what he’s about, and he’s been running from Fate for as long as he can remember. When Wil flees after witnessing a murder, it’s Dallin’s job to pursue him. Along the way, he’s pulled into a maelstrom of ancient myth, fanatical religion, and the delicate politics of a shaky truce between two perpetually warring countries—all of which rests on the slender shoulders of the man he knows is not Wilfred Calder.

 

Even Dallin’s success proves a hollow victory. Wil is vengeful, rebellious, and lethal, and his tale of magic and betrayal rocks the carefully constructed foundations of Dallin’s world. Suspicious and only half believing, Dallin must question not only his own integrity and his half-forgotten past, but the morality and motives of everyone around him—including those who hold his own country’s fate in their hands.

I’m going to come out and say I gave this 5 stars despite the ending.  Guardian is just that good.  The first in Carole Cummings’ Aisling Trilogy, it doesn’t so much end as stop, clearly waiting for the next story to take over.  No cliffhanger, just a cessation more or less in the storyline.  Argh as they say.

But everything that comes before that ending? Just outstanding!  From the incredible world building to the nuanced characters full of anguished pasts and unimaginable pain to a present to comes with a slow buildup of suspense and a flight of terror against faceless enemies, this story is one you cannot put down.

And it starts off  so calmly with our introduction to Dallin Brayden, an orphan whose fate is tied up with the man he’s about to meet.  All the characters here are densely layered,  with revelations about who they are peeled back over the course of the story. Dallin’s character is imminently likable and that only increases the more we get to know him.  His own doubts and confusions let us understand him while the innate goodness Cummings has written into his personality makes him an anchor for us to connect with.  Then there’s Wil. Oh, my, there are hardly any words for Wil.  You must meet him, go along the journey here with him to begin to understand why you will fall in love with him so.  And fear for him.

Cummings is building a complex mythology here along with her relationships and cultures.  It all works to a stunning detail.  I’m so tempted to wait until the last two books are out and read through the entire trilogy to the end.  I don’t think I can handle another ending like that.  Just too frustrating as this story is that good and I want to know how it  ends!  You will too.  You decide what sort of reader you are.  Can you handle a story one book at a time?  If so, then pick this up and get started on the Trilogy and a couple you’ll want to meet.  If you are someone who wants to know how it will all end, you might want to wait until all three books are out and read them all together.  Either way,  I’m in line for the next one to come out!  This author has me hooked on Aisling!

Cover Artist: Anne Cain.  I’m not sure I’m a fan of this cover.  It fits in a way, just a matter of taste.

Sales Links:  DSP Publications | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 285 pages
Expected publication: August 15th 2017 by DSP Publications
ASIN B073Q8GV1G

A MelanieM Review: Blue on Black by Carole Cummings

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Blue on Black coverKimolijah Adani—Class 2 gridTech, beloved brother, most promising student the Academy’s ever had the privilege of calling their own, genius mechanical gridstream engineer, brilliantly pioneering inventor… and dead man. But that’s what happens when a whiz kid messes with dynamic crystals and, apparently, comes to the attention of Baron Petra Stanslo. Killed for his revolutionary designs, Kimolijah Adani had been set to change the world with his impossible train that runs on nothing more than gridstream locked in a crystal. Technically it shouldn’t even be possible, but there is no doubt it works.

Bas is convinced the notoriously covetous and corrupt Stanslo had something to do with Kimolijah Adani’s tragic and suspicious end. A Directorate Tracker, Bas has finally managed to catch the scent of Kimolijah Adani’s killer, and it leads right into Stanslo’s little desert barony. For almost three years, Bas has tried to find a way into Stanslo’s Bridge, and when he finally makes it, shock is too small a word for what—or, rather, whom—he finds there.

I am often at a loss as to how to categorize a Carole Cummings novel.  Sometimes its fantasy, or alternate universe, or steampunk or a bit of all of those.  But no matter how  you want to classify them,  the fact remains that Carole Cummings is one of the most inventive, imaginative storyteller out there.  Cummings’ Wolf’s -Own series, stories I love, is a perfect example with its blending of cultural mythology, action/adventure, mystery and romance.  So I was very excited to see a new book, Blue on Black, was being released by DSP Publications.  Did the new story meet my high expectation for a Carole  Cummings novel?  A resounding yes in every way.

Our main narrator, Bas, provides our view into his bleak, tech driven world.  Its a place where a catastrophic event or series of events has changed both the political and  natural landscape…for the worse. Bas’ society runs by and is dependant on its psionic gridTechs, of varying strengths and abilities.  These techs, few by nature, are in so much demand that they are often captured, or kidnapped to be sold at a sort of Underground Tech Black Market.   Bas is a Directorate Tracker and its his job (along with his fellow trackers) to find the missing Techs, shutdown whatever operation or group had them, and return  them to the Directorate.  Its a tough, often perilous job that often means working undercover. Only now Bas is being sent undercover to do not only his job as a tracker but to cover for a dead Directorate agent as well.  Why?  Because someone has to get into the town of Stanslo’s Bridge, no matter the cost.  An evil is spreading out from there and at its heart is the Baron Stanslo.

I love a book that just sweeps me along, pulling me into worlds and situations so fantastical that I felt like whooping with glee.   That’s Blue on Black, where we go from the territory and city of the Directorate to the wild, wild west of the badlands or lost lands that surrounds the town that is the domain of an insane tyrant.  There is only one way in and out.  To take any other route means death,  given the strange creatures that exist out there and the extreme uninhabitable landscape.  The  tales shifts from high  tech to wild west steampunk, and gets richer in description and sheer inventiveness.

What else pulled me in ? An element that had me sold from the beginning. Remember the old movie “Laura”?  It’s one where a detective is investigating the murder of a young woman and falls in love with her portrait and the person she was from the pieces gathered from  his interviews.  From its haunting theme song to its film noir atmosphere, it remains a favorite and that element happens here.  Bas is fixated on Kimolijah Adani—Class 2 gridTech whose death has hit everyone hard whether they knew him or not.  Kimo was a genius on the brink of a major discovery   concerning the  Techgrid when he died.  And Bas can’t get him out of his head.  From Kimo’s writings to his photographs, the deceased psyTech is contantly in Bas’  thoughts.

His journey to hell and discover starts at the broken down train station, the one with a corpse of a scryTech nailed to the door.  Bas takes one barely running steam run train and then must switch to another (all in the company of some of the tyrant’s gang).  Here is Bas in the second train:

It’s different than any train Bas has ever been on before. Instead of the heavy ka-chunk ka-chunk of wheels on tracks, there’s more of a wheezy hum, smoother somehow, and it just has a lighter feel to it. Instead of the thick haze of stoke smoke and steam, there’s a hot reek of burnt gridstream and a charge to the air. It’s sort of exhilarating, because Bas has no doubt whatsoever he’s riding on a train that’s being powered solely by gridTech, and he’s pretty sure he’s one of a very few to even see something like this, let alone get a demonstration. It takes a little bit, but it does eventually occur to him that that’s likely the reason for the switch and the way station. Harrowgate is isolated, yeah, and even more so now that there’s no more relay office, but people do live there, and rumors do find a way of traveling long distances. If Stanslo doesn’t want anyone outside of his little desert barony to know he’s got what looks to Bas like a train that runs on independent gridstream, then he’d do best not to let them see it at all.

I was right, Bas thinks again and blinks when his jaw clamps too tight and his eyes narrow down to angry slits. Kimolijah Adani was killed for his designs. And now I’m riding into hell’s teeth on one of them.

And what Bas finds when he finally enters Stanslo’s Bridge is shocking, bleak and terrifying.  What’s worse?  Bas has to fit in as one of Stanslo’s enforcers.  This story is full of heartbreak, pain, death, magnificent inventions and hope.  I moved from one emotion to the next, swept along by Cumming’s vision and  amazing characters.  I felt so connected to them all because each person felt alive and believable, no matter the circumstances.

DSP Publications releases stories where romance is not the main element in the plot.  There is some here but for those looking for unadulterated passion and romance?  That is not Blue on Black.  What I found here was so satisfying and complete that I never felt the lack of any element.  But others might.   This is not a hearts and flowers story by any means.

I won’t go further, too many spoilers would pop up but the beauty of Cumming’s language sinks you  deeper into this story and characters, the words can transport even while making you believe in the ugly, mean, stripped down place that is Stanislo’s Bridge.   At times, I found myself holding my breath, tense, waiting for the next awful thing to happen, the suspense darn near killing me.  At  other times, I just marveled at the people trying to hold onto their lives, no matter how miserable the Baron had made them, that sense of hope floats over the story like a hawk in flight.  And that ending,, a perfectHFN, sings with a fierce joy and  lyricism  that makes me read it over and over again.

This is a book to relish, one to hunker down with and read in one session.  I highly recommend Blue On Black by Carole Cummings,  In fact, I recommend all of Cummings stories.  Pick this one up and get started today.

Cover art by Anne Cain.  I like the cover.  But it doesn’t contain any of the  darkness that fills the story.

Sales Links:  DSP Publications |   Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 380 pages
Published June 16th 2015 by DSP Publications
ISBN139781632169501
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.dsppublications.com/ *

[Note: DSP Publications is a non romance imprint of Dreamspinner PRess.  DSP Publications books and stories are not meant to have a romantic element, although some do.  Those looking for total romance should turn to Dreamspinner Press].