A Paul B Review: Temple’s Touch (A Wizard’s Touch #6) by Amber Kell

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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Temple's Touch coverMadison Archer and Temple Stewartson have longed for each other for years. When Temple goes to school, they think they have missed their chance. When Madison goes missing, Temple will use all his connections to find his man.

Temple Stewartson was born the son of a wizard father and a werewolf mother. Unlike his siblings who were strong wolves, Temple favored his father’s side of the family. As his brother shows strong alpha tendencies, the Stewartson siblings decide they will start their own pack as soon as Temple has finished his schooling. Having been tutored by the wizards associated with his pack, Temple heads off to wizard school.

Madison Archer is an orphan who lost his pack in a flood when he was a young pup. He was adopted by the members of Temple’s pack. He considers Temple his best friend and longs for the day that he can make Temple his mate. But he feels that he must let Temple go to school so that he can fulfill his destiny to be a healing wizard.

The two have grown up in the same pack, having shared the same bed as pack mates often do but each long for more. Temple believes that since Madison is a full wolf he should feel something but hasn’t so they must not be mates. Madison feels that since Temple is part wizard, the need to mate must not be as strong because of his mixed heritage. Only with the help of Temple’s father do they realize that they are indeed mates.

Problems start just after their mating when a new wolf shows up near the pack house. The pack calls on Temple to calm the jittery wolf down but in doing so, Temple passes out. When he recovers the next day, Temple goes to school and Madison goes to work. When Temple returns from school, Madison is not waiting for him as usual and the new wolf is missing as well. Temple turns to his pack and their friends to find his missing mate and solve the mystery of just who the new wolf was.

This is the sixth book in the Wizard’s Touch series. It is helpful to have read the previous books to get some of the references that are mentioned in the book. Having said that, this book does time jump quite a number of years from the previous books in the series as Temple’s father was a wizard student himself in the previous books. As Temple is the youngest of three children, I would say approximately twenty years or so have passed since the last book. However, it is nice that most of the major characters from the previous volumes either make an appearance or at least mentioned in the storyline.

I enjoyed the characters of Temple and Madison. Given their different backgrounds, I could understand how they would come to the misunderstandings that they did about the other maybe not being their mates. Each assumes that the other would be recognizes that they are their mate and say something but neither do. This makes an important lesson that communication is essential even in were relationships.

The cover art by Posh Gosh depicts two young men in the background with a wolf in the foreground. Decent cover that reflects the characters well.

Sales Links:    Totally Bound Books       All Romance (ARe)      Amazon        Buy It Here

Book details: 
Ebook , 93 pages
Published: April 2015 by Totally Bound
ISBN: 978-1-78430-537-6
Edition: English

Series: A Wizard’s Touch
Jaynell’s Wolf (Wizard’s Touch #1)
Kevin’s Alpha (Wizard’s Touch # 2)
Farren’s Wizard (Wizard’s Touch # 3)
Elijah’s Ghost (Wizard’s Touch #4)
Porter’s Reaper (Wizard’s Touch #5)
Temple’s Touch (Wizard’s Touch #6)

Review: The Prince and the Practitioner by Christian Baines

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

The Prince and the Practitioner coverEliot had been practicing magic for most of his life but never had he been successful in summoning a demon…until now.  Far too impulsive for his own good, Eliot’s spell casting has always been a hit or miss proposition.  Sometimes it worked, mostly it didn’t.  So when the summoning succeeded and brought forth a demon, it didn’t work out exactly as Eliot had hoped.  Instead of a demon to control, the demon Prynthius now had control of Eliot.  With Prynthius deep within Eliot’s body, Eliot decides, to his horror and pain, that the only way to dislodge the demon is to pass him on to another unsuspecting body, one that the demon must approve of before the transfer is made.

Dean, tall, gorgeous and sexy, seems like the perfect target when Eliot sees him at the local gay hookup bar.  With the demon’s pain induced instructions echoing in his mind, Eliot accepts Dean’s invitation to return home with him for a night full of hot sex and kinky exploration.  But is Dean as straightforward as he appears?  Who will be left standing when all the secrets are exposed?

Christian Baines’ first novel, The Beast Without, was a terrific supernatural tale of horror.  It contained multidimensional characters and a complex plot.  At 234 pages, the author gave himself the length necessary to explore in detail the world he was creating as well as construct a complex history for his main and secondary characters.  It was a refreshing take on creatures dominating all forms of media these days,  vampires and werewolves, and I loved it.

The Prince and the Practitioner has many of the same elements that exemplified The Beast Without but at approximately 27 pages it seems to be missing the breadth and detail necessary to make this story feel as well constructed and polished as the one that preceded it.

Once again Christian Baines has chosen to feature in his story a couple of creatures seen often in novels and on tv and movie screens these days, the demon and the wizard.  Baines appears to enjoy tearing away any romantic overlay from often used character types to pare them down to the horrific bare bones they are capable of.  That is certainly the case with his characters here.     Eliot is not an especially admirable person.  He is certainly not one most readers will relate to.  His is a slapdash morality, one more composed of expediency and self interest than one based in any sort of ethicality and righteousness. Prynthius is everything a malevolent demon should be or at least the backstory provided by the author makes him out to be.  Prynthius is more a dubious outline of a monster than a fleshed out one.  And that lack of solidity lessens the impact his demon is supposed to make.

Dean only snaps into place as a credible character midway through the story.  I can understand why the author made this decision but again it delays the cohesion to the narrative.  The story starts off more like a simplistic piece of porn than a tale of horror.  Had Baines given the reader a little more substance, a little more back story to the opening scenes of The Prince and the Practitioner, this would have felt more polished and solid than the story it finally morphed into.

I don’t have to like a book  or its characters to admire the cleverness of the plot is or the preciseness of the prose, both of which can be found within this story. Like fun house mirrors, nothing is as it seems here but still I had an issue or two with Eliot. With characters whose sense of morality has the same properties as a puddle of muddy water, one character’s righteous indignation at the end seemed false and out of place, especially considering the events that preceded it.  Either the author meant to show Eliot’s gift of self deception to be as endless as I felt it was or the hypocrisy of the scene didn’t bother him as it did me.  This departure from the persona the author has created felt like a break in the characterization, an unnecessary one to my mind.

I do feel the twist at the end elevated The Prince and the Practitioner past porn into a story with layers as opposed to merely sequential sex scenes.  I only wish that the author had included trace elements early on that hinted at the depth and twists of plot to come.  So too does any tenderness and compassion feel completely out of place among these egocentric masters of magic.

This short story contains elements of bdsm (whipping to be precise), D/s, and non con.  For some readers, including lovers of horror, this quick read might be just the thing for you.  For others, especially those lovers of stories of romantic love, I recommend you look elsewhere and to another author as romance does not seem to be in Christian Baines’ box of literary ingredients the way horror and the supernatural most certainly are.

I am looking  forward to what his imagination turns to next.  At any rate I expect it to be entertaining and worthy of discussion.  I leave any recommendations up to you.

Cover art by Wilde City Press.  This cover has a generic feel to it.  It certainly does not speak to the magic and demon you will find inside.

Book Details:

ebook, 1st Edition
Published January 15th 2014 by Wilde City Press

Review: The Last Grand Master (Champion of the Gods #1) by Andrew Q. Gordon

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Rating: 4 stars

The Last Grandmaster coverGrand Master Farrell, the Prince of Haven, is visited by an avatar of his God, Honorus, the first of the Gods. The giant white eagle  tells Farrell that a messenger in dire need of his help approaches the Kingdom .  The true entity behind this messenger’s request?  None other than Honorus’ sister god, Lenore. who is sending her messenger directly to Farrell.  Her messenger is the unicorn Nerti and it is the legendary beings, the Muchari who are engaged in a losing fight against the evil wizard Meglar and Farrell is their only hope.  But the gods also tell Farrell that his true mate is among those under siege and he must hurry or all will be lost.

Traveling on the back of the unicorn, Farrell enters the battle and meets the mighty  immortal Muchari warrior Misceral, the one the Gods have said is his mate.  Misceral too has been informed that Farrell is his one true love, something his father, the lord of the Muchari finds distasteful.  But their foretold bond must take a backseat to the battle at hand.  For the evil wizard Meglar is determined to capture all the Muchari and turn them into invinsible soldiers of evil that will help him conquer the world.

There is only one wizard left in the world powerful enough to fight back against the evil Meglar, and that is Farrell, the Last Grand Master.  But Farrell is hiding a powerful secret from all of those around him, one that will either bring him help him succeed in defeating Meglar once and for all or bring about the ruin of everyone and everything he loves.

It is the action, the wild magic wielding military combat/battles sections of this book that really garnered the 4 star rating. From the opening page, Andrew Q. Gordon propels the reader along with Farrell into battle and brings it to life with vivid descriptions and a concisely worded narrative that kept me on the edge of my seat, thrilling at each new magical encounter.    The author moves us quickly through each hard fought engagement, delighting us with inventive uses of magic by our young resolute wizard, making us gasp with each near escape from death and destruction, and marvel at the sights and sounds Farrell is encountering during his ferocious battle of the magic wands.  There are humongous raptors, unicorns of both sexes who are bonded to our heroes, aged crones and more magical explosions than in a Die Hard movie.  How I loved this part of The Last Grand Master, cue “Wild Thing”.

During this opening segment of the novel I also found I liked the manner in which we meet and watch Farrell handle a variety of situations, all stressful and fraught with danger.  But, and here is the first quibble, the reader is left wondering about half the time about Farrell’s world and what has happened to it for it to get in such a state.  I am not a fan of those books where you must slog through glossary pages of world building minutiae before the story even starts, preferring the author to frame it out during the narrative.  But here some of the most basic of exposition seems to be missing and it hurts the reader’s connection to the story.  I had to read Dreamspinner Press’ blurb to figure out about the “war that shook the earth,”  and the Six gods of Nendor, otherwise I would have been clueless as to some of the most basic facts of this story.

My second quibble would be the characterizations.  I loved the Farrell we first meet,  The confident, brave young wizard sure of his powers and his ability to see his mission through to the end.  But that persona wavers like the image in a fun house mirror throughout the story.  Sometimes he is so unsure of himself he flees down hallways, or misjudge conversations and while that may make another character more vulnerable and real, here the manner in which these character fluctuations happen to Farrell just serve to bemuse the reader and make us wonder what happened to the young man we fell in love with at the beginning of the story.  Each time he turns a corridor in the castle, it seems that we see yet another Farrell and such uneven character building just drags the story and the rating down with it.  Even his soulmate, the legendary immortal Misceral just comes across as the sweet boy down the hall.  Honestly, there is not much about him to make us believe in either their bond or his mythic attributes. In fact most of the characters we meet, while not exactly one dimensional, have a certain blandness about them that just doesn’t measure up to the sensational descriptions of battles, and cities under siege, and magical enchantments gone awry.  That is where this author and this novel excels.

Gordon’s ability to make us believe in this world, even populated with less than notable characters, elevates this fantasy story up from the mundane and into the marvelous.  Even his small touches such as the endless pockets on Farrell’s clothing where Farrell can retrieve his sword or anything else for that matter.  I want those.  Redesigning your quarters with a flick of a wand instead of months of renovations?  Yep, want that too.  I loved the spells and artifacts used for conjuring, the large white  eagles and peregrine falcons.  When this story goes to battle, then it really soars along with the unicorns with all the energy and magical flare one could hope for (and then sags when the participants are at rest).  So even with all the unevenness I see within, this book still rates 4 stars because when it gets going, it is great and for now that is enough for me.

Cover art by Paul Richmond.  It really suits the book, great job.

Review: Frostwick (Wick 1.5) by Megan Derr

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Rating: 4.25 stars

FrostwickStarwick is a Frostwick and a shadow of King of Lyus.  It was while he was on a mission for the king when he and the Crown Prince were attacked by a sorcerer thief intent on killing the Prince and stealing the royal seal he wore. When the thief threw a killing curse at the prince, Starwick stepped forward and took the curse upon himself.  Now Starwick is dying, his death postponed by a magical wards that hold off his death as long as he remains in the closest of proximities to the charmwick who cast it.  But the charmwick whose wards support Starwick? That would be Tyrwick, a master swordwick as well as charmwick and the bastard son of the King.  And Starwick has been in love with the black coated Tyrwick for years, a feeling that has never been returned.

Now the two must travel together to Draius, home of the Wick School and the most concentrated group of Wicks known throughout the Kingdoms.  Here they must find a spell to counteract the killing curse, aid in helping to apprehend the thief, and recover the powerful ring before the thief strikes again.  But the curse is getting stronger, and Tyrwick’s cold, disregard is sending Starwick into the depths of despair.  When all looks to be lost, can hope and a hidden love come forward to save Frostwick?

Frostwick is a short story, 64 pages, that  manages to bring back all the couples from one of my favorite books, Wick, by Megan Derr.  Wicks are sorcerers or magicians and each has one or more specialties or fields they control.  There are swordwicks (masters of fighting and protection), lyrewicks (masters of song magic), firewicks, waterwicks, well, you get the idea.  Once their power manifests itself, usually at a young age, then wick is added to the last part of their name.  Star became Starwick when he found he could not only control water but water in its cold forms of ice, snow, etc.  Starwick is first mentioned in various stories in Wick as he was the romantic love of two brothers, neither affair ending well.

Typical of Megan Derr, Starwick is not an easy man to like, he doesn’t even like himself very much.  He despises the job he does for the king,  along the line of  being a royal assassin.  Starwick has many layers to him and the same abusive background that the other wicks who attended the Royal College for Wicks suffered.  He is paired with an equally enigmatic character of Tyrwick, who treats Starwick with a rough distain. Readers of Derr’s previous novels will realize quickly that all is not what it seems between the two men and the joy is in Derr’s storyline, watching the interplay between the men, especially once they reach Draius where all the other wicks await them.  They are all here.  Creawick (my favorite), Tolkiwick, Roswick, Tolliwick,Fenwick, and all the others.  How I love them all.

And then there is the matter of the plot, which is a nifty one.  A charmwick thief throws a killing curse on the Prince which fails, but still manages to steal the ring.  He too has managed to get to Draius where he needs to steal a book Tokiwick has to help him use the power of the ring.  Megan Derr builds up our anxiety over Starwick and Tyrwick’s quest as Starwick’s pain is becoming increasingly debilitating and he loses all hope.  Powerful stuff.  The reader just aches as Starwick gives up and prepares to die, his pain made worse by having to be so close to the man he loves unrequitedly.

Here is the problem.  Frostwick is just too short to wrap up this intense, complicated story.  The end comes before you are prepared for it, and in a manner that leaves far too many questions unanswered, including who the thief was and why he wanted the Crown Prince dead.  The ending was so abrupt that I couldn’t quite believe it when I reached the last page.  The shortness of length also hurts when it comes to explaining who all these characters are, their backstories and interlocking relationships.  If you come to this book without first reading Wick, you will be utterly lost. And if you come to this book after reading Wick, you will end up a little frustrated at having so little time spent with characters you love.

But did I love this book with all the quibbles I had with it?  Yes, I did because even a short time spent with any and all of the wicks is time well spent.  And there is always the promise of more books in the Wick universe.  So yes, pick this book up but not before you start with the first one, Wick.  Or pick them both up and settle to indulge yourself in a remarkable universe full of vivid locations, wild and wonderful creations and wicks  of all sorts.

Herre are the stories in the order they should be read:

Wick (Wick #1) – read my review here.

Frostwick (Wick    #1.5)

Lovely cover designed by Megan Derr.