A MelanieM Releases Day Review: Absolute Heart (Infernal Instruments of the Dragon #1) by Michael Vance Gurley

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Rating:  4 stars out of 5

Infernal Instruments of the Dragon

As the British Empire builds power based on new clockwork and steam technology, Ireland draws its might from its potent magical traditions. Only two boys with little in common can end the fighting between the two nations and prevent a terrible worldwide war.

Gavin Haveland’s dreams are in the sky with the airships, while his reality as a High Councilman’s son means hiding secrets that will get him executed if revealed.

Orion of Oberon is not just a powerful mage, he’s the nephew of the Irish queen, and the one she’s sent him on a quest for the ancient Dragon Stones that will bolster her fading power. In the process, he might restore his family to their rightful place in society.

With enemies determined to stop them by any means necessary and war or peace hinging on their success, Gavin and Orion must find a way to work together, despite the centuries of mistrust between their nations.

Absolute Heart (Infernal Instruments of the Dragon #1) by Michael Vance Gurley is the first that I read by this author and it won’t be the last.  If for no other reason then this story is but the first in a new series, something that thrills me for several reasons which I’m going to go into here.

Gurley spends a good amount of time within his novel world building and it pays off.  He has a world torn apart in the past by an all too powerful mage bent on world domination, the consequences of that horrific battle have come down through the ages, with an Ireland fiercely holding on to its magic and mystical energies and the land.  While in England and beyond, steam power and coal is driving industry and the Empire forward.   Such divergent natures and thoughts of living are written into every part of Gurley’s world, including those who would rebell.

Each side is represented by a young man.  Gavin,a would be pilot of steamships, the son of a Counselor of England’s most powerful.  And Orion, son of Oberon, mage, for the magical Ireland. Two sides of the coin of a broken realm that’s forever at battle with each other.

Gurley has laid them both with a giant tasks and several prophecies, only one of which is covered here, both are fated for greatness.  And as this fast paced plot shows there are so many elements here that the author has just become to reveal.I love how the author cobbles together a sort of misfit gang to backup Gavin on his flight across London and success in his journey towards fulfilling his destiny.  Oh my, Landa (a master artificer in a top hat quite won my heart), Wish, and what’s his name, right  Lucas.   Each with their own relationship issues with family and each other.  Landa a girl who dresses/identifies as a boy (it’s never clear) nor practically steals the novel.  I actually found Landa to be such a leading character, with such a strong identity and layered personality that she often put Gavin into the “pale” at times.  So did her relationship with Wish, another steely, persistent, almost loutish types who wins you over.   Then there is Lucas who just barely comes into his own at the end.  Most of the time I couldn’t remember his name.  The problem with this is that he’s the romantic other half for Gavin.  Or supposed to be.

Then Orion arrives.  And clearly that’s who Gavin is supposed to be with.  Excerpt the author wants Lucas, at least in this book.  And there is a Lucas wannabe named Riley for Orion back in fairyland.  Just as bland with with little backstory for us so meh.

As you can tell, my issues with this story are with the romance relationships.  Well four of the relationships. Gavin and Lucas.  Orion and Riley.  To be exact.

The rest of this novel?  5 stars worth  of fantasy steampunk action adventure.  That’s so well written and thoroughly enjoyed every word of it.

But when it came to write YA romance?  Well, excerpt for Landa and Wish who are at the “at least you  aren’t insulting me” stage anymore, the other two just don’t have any chemistry.  We are told they do.  But we don’t see it or at least I didn’t.   We don’t get any feel for Riley other than he follows Orion around like a puppy dog, ditto Lucas for Gavin.  In many respects you could switch those two out for each other.  Only Gavin and Orion had a semblance of spark between them.   It would have almost have been better to have left this without any romance but a total steampunk fantasy crossover.  That would, imo, have left me feeling better at the end instead of resigned at what I felt was a banal ending for two couples.

Maybe the next story will fix that.  Here’s hoping there’s still more to put aright with the world ….

Still, romance aside, the rest of this story is fantastic.  A great mashup of fantasy, steampunk, magic, and action/adventure.  I’m looking forward to the next installment  Pick up this story and see what I’m excited about.  And check out Landa!

Cover art, which is uncredited, show a disturbing trend in not matching the cover to anything that has to do with the subject matter of the story.  Which includes magic, fae, flying ships, swords, steampunk and battles over London.  Instead you get this with that metal heart. But really?   Considering where it is for much of the story.  Nah.

Sales Links: Harmony Ink Press | Dreamspinner Press (paperback) | Amazon |

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 288 pages
Published July 23rd 2019 by Harmony Ink Press

 

 

Michael Vance Gurley On Writing YA and his new Release Absolute Heart (Infernal Instruments of the Dragon #1) + Giveaway

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Absolute Heart (Infernal Instruments of the Dragon #1) by Michael Vance Gurley

Dreamspinner Press
Publication: July 23rd 2019
Steampunk / Teen Fiction

Buy link  at Dreamspinner Press  (paperback) Kindle link to come

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Michael Vance Gurley here today talking about the new YA Steampunk release Absolute Heart (Infernal Instruments of the Dragon #1). Welcome, Michael.

✒︎

 

 

I have a dark and dirty secret I am going to confess to your faithful readers: I love the young adult genre and I’m not afraid to admit it. I remember when we had to hide the YA books, and deny reading them. Now it is pretty widely accepted and they are being turned into movies. There’s an easy buy in to the struggles of young people and the instant underdog vibe of these stories. There are so many high risk situations explored in YA but the feel is fresher and less saturated with blood and murder overall compared to adult books. Although YA is changing, it is still so focused on relationships as much as the plot, and I find it refreshing. I am a devout reader. At any time I can be appropriately accused of reading a novel, listening to an audiobook, reading a graphic novel, and sitting next to a stack of comics I’m tearing through, like four seasons in one day. I get asked how I can do it without mixing them all up and then I remind folks of how many TV shows they are into weekly. Then they nod and seem to get it. I like opening people up to the idea you can read a bunch of stories at the same time. I’m not quite Elvis and his TV sets yet though.

I think my writing is influenced by what I read in some metaphysical way, as much as how the people I meet or the places I’ve been inform characters and the arenas I invent. I love Scott Westerfeld and Cassandra Clare’s Steampunk worlds, and the adventure style of a Holly Black faerie book. I think the challenge is in creating your own clockwork alternate history or your own faerie culture that is true to the genre but isn’t a clone of some great author. The creative process has no limits in YA unless we as authors, or as readers, start giving in to the idea that tropes have to be filled or our book won’t be accepted or we won’t enjoy the read.

A big roadblock to writing younger used to be having to end happily ever after. This is changing so much. Harry Potter had to win at the close of each book, but there was such a breakthrough there of a massive experience that spanned books. Ending on a high note where everyone but Chewbacca gets a medal isn’t totally necessary anymore. Hunger Games taught us this too. Now the human living in faerie doesn’t have to win in book one, and in fact can leave us worried for their sanity and safety. Steampunk is a growing sub genre and like fantasy, often lends itself to multi book epics. It is also growing more common in YA to dangle some threads at the end, mix it up, maybe not have the good guys win too fast. You don’t have to leave teens or the largely adult reader hanging, but I enjoy finding a way to mess up the status quo so even though we are almost happy for now, we might also hate that the book ended in that rough spot.

However, after my first  over, The Long Season, left the reader in charge of making some conclusions, I challenged myself to hand out a few figurative medals at the end of this one. I wanted people to be somewhat satisfied but also to say, “No way, that can’t be it.”

I hope people enjoy exploring the Steampunk world, the airships and warlocks, artificers and pilots of this late 1880’s England set adventure. Gavin is prepped, his goggles firmly on, gloves gripping the wheel to guide the reader into the high stakes of coming out and coming of age during war. He openly shares his best friend, the ever impressive tinkerer Landa, and the handsome Irishman who brings danger everywhere he goes. These friends have important things to do if they are going to give the reader a happily ever after, and it all starts here.

You can read the first chapter on the purchase link at the Dreamspinner and Harmony Ink sites, but here’s an excerpt which showcases the meet cute I hope brings a smile to your face amidst all the war and risk the boys are facing.

Excerpt.

Orion slipped away from the hut and headed around several tents and lean-tos until he found himself at the side of Victoria’s tent. A simple distraction spell caused the people who walked by to look away as he dashed through the flap and gently dropped it closed behind him.

Orion stopped and gaped at what he found inside. In front of a tub stood a slim boy about his own age. He was poised to lower himself into the steaming water. The lanterns in the room danced across his thick brown hair and illuminated the bruises on his thin sides and back. Something stirred deep inside as Orion glimpsed the muscles in the boy’s legs and backside contract and release as he lowered himself into the water, hiding what he thought to be an attractive arse.

“Ahhh.” The lad let out a long sigh of relief as his body melted into the hot bath water. He leaned his head against the wooden back, his eyes closed. He looked like someone trying to forget a hard day. He took another deep breath and let it out slowly. Another and his shoulders drooped farther into the tub.

Orion suddenly felt guilty, secretly standing in the room with this bather. The lad massaged his own neck with one hand. Orion had to adjust himself when he couldn’t control the excitement he felt. He knew he needed to discover a way to the Dragon Stone, which the handsome British lad could lead him to. Or at least he could, according to the visions.

“Hope I’m not interrupting,” Orion stated with more than a little humor in his voice.

The boy bolted upright to his feet and turned to defend himself, splashing water over the sides onto his clothes and everywhere. “What the hell?” he said. Before he could cover himself, Orion took him in.

“Well, at least I know the water isn’t cold,” Orion complimented, trying again to fake an English accent. After the incident with Victoria, he worried his British impression would not work but needed to try to blend in. He knew he shouldn’t but couldn’t help from looking as the water dripped down the small but muscled chest to his….

“Huh?” the lad answered, staring at Orion’s face, his mouth agape. Orion noticed how this young man’s lips curved in a Cupid’s bow. Orion was the one fully clothed but suddenly felt self-conscious and nervously tucked his hair back into his green hooded cloak. The other lad’s cheeks looked flushed but he felt hot.

“Uh-hmm, it’s rude to point,” Orion said, his gaze traveling the lad’s length until he glanced at the boy’s crotch. The young man peeked down quickly to notice his penis had indeed begun to betray him. He snatched a towel from the side table and haphazardly wrapped it around his dripping torso.

“Who… who are you?” he managed to eke out.

Orion stepped forward and thrust out his hand to shake, which resulted in awkward towel readjustment so the boy could return with a free hand.

“I am called… Zachariah,” Orion lied. He held the hand firmly but gently for a long time, studying his face. “Yours?”

“Gavin Ha—Gavin. Why are you in here?”

“I’m sorry, is this your tent?”

“Well, no, but I’m….”

“I am only joking. I heard there were other new people here and thought I’d get to know them. You.”

“Do you mind?” Gavin asked as he motioned to his clothing on the floor by Orion’s feet. Orion bent down and retrieved the pants and the undergarment still in place inside them and handed them to Gavin.

Gavin blushed.

“So you’re the one who arrived yesterday? How did they capture you?”

“I wasn’t captured,” Orion said, a little laugh escaping his lips. He batted his eyelashes at Gavin. “I came here of my own free will. And as far as I can tell, you could leave when you wish as well.”

“That’s what Victoria said,” Gavin replied. He moved behind a changing screen to put his pants back on. “Why did you come?”

Orion grinned, but it was wasted since Gavin hid behind a screen. “So you and your friends came in one of those infernal clanking machines?” Orion chided himself for the slip immediately because British people didn’t express hatred of machines.

“What’s that?”

“Did you come from London?” Orion quickly added to cover his slip up. His accent and native colloquialisms came out the faster he talked.

“Do you not know what’s been happening?”

“Tell me, please. Recently my head’s been way up in the clouds, it seems.” Orion couldn’t help himself. His wit had gotten him into trouble more times than he could recall, but it was also the only way he could expel the restless energy he had felt from the moment he stepped into the tent. When Gavin came out from behind the changing screen in a crisp shirt tucked neatly into tight pants and a sharp vest pulling it all together, Orion felt himself being drawn to him.

“Faeries attacked London, maybe beyond,” Gavin said. This shocked Orion out of the haze caused by infatuation.

“Faeries? It couldn’t be. There hasn’t been an attack in—”

“Well, there has been now,” Gavin finished. “We were barely able—”

“Oh Gavin—” a tall, lanky boy entered and startled them. The boy took one look at Gavin and his wet hair, then Orion, and stopped.

“Lucas, this is…,” Gavin began, before seeing how Lucas looked on Orion with anger. Lucas composed himself quickly and turned away from Orion.

“Miss Hanover has assigned us sleeping quarters for the day since we didn’t really get much rest.” He paused dramatically, then continued, “She put Landa in her own room, Wish in one with a family, and we are sharing a room in the pub.”

“There’s a pub?” Gavin asked.

“The others have already gone to bed. Let’s go. I’m zonked.” Lucas was acting possessive in front of Orion, and Gavin’s frown spoke volumes. They weren’t together. Not really. Orion could tell that much. Gavin breathed too fast, his body tense with growing anger until he closed his eyes to calm down.

“I will let you rest, then, but tonight over dinner, I want to hear all about your daring escape from London,” Orion prompted.

“That would be fine, Zachariah,” Gavin said.

“I’m Lucas, by the way. We will see you at dinner.” Gavin shot Lucas a frown, and Lucas returned the look.

They walked away, Gavin sneaking a peek over his shoulder on the way out.

 

Blurb

As clockwork-powered England and magic-driven Ireland war against each other, two boys will rise to their destinies.

The son of a powerful British councilman, Gavin Haveland is more interested in airships than politics. He’s also hiding not one, but two secrets—and either one could cost his life.

Orion of Oberon is the nephew of the Irish queen, tasked with crossing the sea and finding the Dragon Stones that will restore her flagging power. Along the way he hopes to defeat the unscrupulous Brotherhood of the Mage and regain his family’s honor.

Fate throws them together, but they’ll have to follow their hearts and trust each other to prevent war from breaking out on a global scale and evade the agents their governments send to sabotage them.

About the Author

Michael Vance Gurley writes fiction with unconventional settings. Whether he is writing about hockey players in the Roaring Twenties or magicians in Victorian England, he promises something different. His first novel, The Long Season, discovered the secret world of professional athletes from the Jazz Age who fall in love with one another. Traveling around the world with a passion for history brought about a kiss of the Blarney Stone, which sparked the steampunk/magic blended Absolute Heart.

Michael won a “Pitchapalooza” literary event and garnered high praise for his books from readers and authors such as Jeff Adams, Brent Hartinger, and Jay Bell. His work with children in schools and LGBT outreach allows him to tap into the YA genre with authenticity and the respect of others. Michael has written short stories, comic books, and poetry since he was a little kid, eventually owning his own comic book publishing company. Not so secretly, he wants to be Green Lantern.

When not writing or working, Michael wanders from Chicago and the best pizza in the world to see Broadway plays, Alaskan glaciers, penguins in Antarctica with his husband, and once sang in a band in Italy. He reads constantly, takes photos with stars, and plays with his dog, Finnegan.

Giveaway

The author has graciously brought an ebook copy of Absolute Heart to giveaway to one of our readers.  Just leave a comment here with your email address and one winner will be chosen and  notified.Must be 18 years of age or older.