Adrian Randall on Writing, Characters and his latest novel ‘Countermind’ (author interview and excerpt)

Standard

countermind-by-adrian-randall

Countermind by Adrian Randall
D
SP Publications
Cover art by L.C. Chase

Available for Purchase from

dsp-publications-logo

65a2f-waxcreative-amazon-kindle

✒︎

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Adrian Randall here today.  Thank you, Adrian, for sitting in our Interview chair and answering a few questions for us:

  • How much of yourself goes into a character?

It’s not really a question of how much as it is which parts. In the case of Countermind, Alan Izaki is a fugitive psychic, hacker, and thief on the run. Jack Smith, a government agent trained in a classified school of “counter-psychic” techniques, is trying to arrest him. The two of them run at very different temperatures: Alan is angry and indignant, whereas Smith is cool and conniving. I’m a pretty mild-mannered guy myself, so both of these characters represent very different extremes from me. But the nice thing about fiction is that you get to engage in behaviors that are a bit more outrageous than anything you’d do in real life.

  • Does research play a role into choosing which genre you write?  Do you enjoy research or prefer making up your worlds and cultures?

Writers should write what they know, which isn’t to mean that they should play it safe. Rather, they should go out and learn. The benefit of setting your story in this universe (or one close to it) is that you end up learning lots of cool stuff. Writing Countermind meant learning about topics ranging from hacking to spies to quantum physics and even video games. The risk is that you’ll get some details wrong, and actual experts will catch your mistakes and call you out on them, but it’s a risk worth taking.

  • Has your choice of childhood or teenage reading genres carried into your own choices for writing?

Probably, but I was a well-read kid so it’s hard to know which books influenced my writing and how. It doesn’t help that Countermind is a pretty adult novel, so it’s hard to say it was influenced by anything I read as a kid. I’ll say that one of the most formative books I read early in my life was A Wrinkle in Time. What that book taught me was that science fiction may be crammed full of big, cosmic ideas, but it can still be about the characters and their journeys. It taught me that genre fiction should still be character-driven. So I tried to make sure Countermind’s crazy plot also had a human heart pumping at its center. This weird little paranormal cyberpunk thriller is still, at bottom, a drama.

  • Have you ever had to put an ‘in progress’ story aside because of the emotional ties with it?  You were hurting with the characters or didn’t know how to proceed?

I had a couple works in progress that I’ve had trouble revisiting lately, just due to the current political climate. I started Countermind at a time when things were, if not perfect, at least more optimistic. It was easier to write dystopian literature without getting too bummed out. When I revisit these other projects, I’m going to try to make them a bit more hopeful, even if just because that’s what I need right now. (I’m also getting interested in the current “solarpunk” fad, for the same reasons.)

  • Do you like HFN or HEA? And why?

At the end of Stardust, Neil Gaiman writes that though the heroes were happy together, it wasn’t ever-after, “for Time, the thief, eventually takes all things into his dusty storehouse, but they were happy, as these things go, for a long while.”

But my own opinion is a little less certain. Without spoiling anything, I’ll say that one of Countermind’s characters doesn’t believe in happy endings, either for-now or ever-after, and is very surprised to end up getting both.

  • How do you feel about the ebook format and where do you see it going?

I haven’t been publishing long enough to have an informed opinion from a business standpoint, but, as a consumer of books, it’s been a godsend. You can read anything anywhere at any time without lugging pounds of paper bricks around with you. That’s revolutionary. But for those particular books that have special sentimental value to me, I do like to buy and display “analog” editions. (On that note, if you order Countermind from DSP Publications’ web site, you can get a free digital copy with the physical version, so it’s the best of both worlds!)

  • How do you choose your covers?  (curious on my part)

Like I said, I haven’t been publishing long enough to have much perspective on this process. I had lots of ideas about what Countermind’s cover look like, and I passed these along to the cover artist, but I mostly wanted them to have the freedom to surprise me with their own vision. And I’m so glad they did. I fell in love with L.C. Chase’s cover as soon as I saw it. The cool tones give the whole thing a very noir feel. Alan’s fixing the viewer with a guarded, wary look that really captures the character’s personality. And the arrangement of the cover’s elements, with Alan’s face, the Hong Kong skyline, and the text all at right angles to each other, puts the reader off-balance before they even open the book. It’s perfect.

  • What’s next for you as an author?

I’m not sure. I have a few ideas in mind, and a few projects in progress, but it’s a matter of deciding which of them needs to be written. We’ll see!

Blurb 

In a postprivacy future, secrets are illegal and all communication is supervised. Telepaths are registered and recruited by a government with no qualms about invading the minds of its citizens. Fugitive psychics are hunted by the Bureau of Counterpsychic Affairs, or Countermind.

Alan Izaki is one such fugitive, as well as a hacker, grifter, and thief.

Countermind agent Jack Smith is hunting him through the twisted underbelly of Hong Kong.

But Alan possesses a secret so dangerous and profound it will not only shake Smith’s loyalties, but the foundations of their society.

And Alan isn’t the only one on the run. Rogue psychic Arissa binti Noor escapes Countermind, in search of brilliant game designer Feng Huang. She hopes that together, they can destroy the government’s intrusive Senex monitoring system.

Their goals seem at odds, and their lives are destined to collide. When they do, three very different people must question their alliances and their future, because everything is about to change.

Excerpt

It was past midnight, and some parts of Hong Kong actually did sleep at this hour. The pawnshop was near Kwai Chung, its customer base mostly local workers pawning valuables just to squander their money on the races, men who wouldn’t have the resources to track down the goods they’d put up as collateral. Alan had chosen the shop for its proximity to a body of water, and it was just a minute’s hard sprint to the nearest container yard, then through that to the channel.

Alan charged downhill on roads still slick from the afternoon’s rain, gleaming with the reflected glow of the city. No neon signs or electronic billboards, just streetlamps and a few lit office windows. Droplets ran in steady trickling streams off the buildings, canopies, streetlights, AC units. Steel shutters of closed storefronts shimmered wet, and Alan’s skin glistened in the damp air. He didn’t hear any pursuing footsteps, didn’t bother turning his head to check.

He’d only gotten a brief glimpse of the attacker in the pawnshop, but that had been plenty. The man looked just a few years older than Alan, Eurasian, tall and lean, hale, clean-cut, clean-shaven. His attire had been dark but utterly nondescript. There was an impression of a black suit jacket, black slacks, and a black button-down shirt (but no tie, and open at the neck). Alan hadn’t the time for more lingering impressions, but the man would’ve been attractive under more civil circumstances.

The man wasn’t the shop owner, and was too well-dressed to be another crook or a triad member. That probably meant law enforcement, ample reason for Alan to make the quickest possible escape without sparing even a backward glance.

Alan vaulted from the sidewalk over a steel railing, dashed across the street, leapt another rail, and charged down a covered stairway, letting gravity lead his charge toward the water, angling toward the red lights atop the cargo-loading cranes just visible over a row of gently swaying palm trees. He hit the next street with such speed he lost some momentum to a brief stumble. A red-and-silver taxicab blared its horn at him, and Alan ducked under the canopy of a shuttered dim-sum shop to get his bearings. He glanced up at the building corners in the nearest intersection and spotted the closed-circuit cameras. He couldn’t see which way they pivoted in their housings, but didn’t think they’d have a clear look at him where he stood. Just to be safe, he’d have to circle around, keeping shy of major streets if he was to stay clear of any more traffic cams, though his pursuer couldn’t be far behind.

Or was it pursuers? The man had attacked Alan alone, not a standard practice for an officer of one of the world’s most famous police forces. If he was a government agent, he had to know what Alan was, right? And what such agent would be so reckless as to challenge a rogue telepath completely solo? Alan doubted even a state psychic would risk such a confrontation, and this man had given no sign of being a psychic himself, had not attempted any telepathic attacks, relying entirely on physical force. Who was he?

Whatever he was, if he caught Alan, it would mean death or worse. He had no need to know who this man was, only to escape him.

Alan pulled his jacket tight around him and popped the collar up. He turned a corner for a side street with fewer cameras and fewer lights and strolled a leisurely path into the shadow of an elevated highway, traffic rumbling above him. From there, he made his way through a hole in a chain-link fence he’d prepared earlier tonight with the help of his bolt cutters, slipping into the container yard, and then he sprinted across the yard toward freedom.

He ran straight into the agent.

The man stepped around the corner of a container and flashed Alan a razor smile as he kneed him in the stomach, allowing Alan’s own momentum to double him over. Then the man threw Alan into the side of the steel container with a clang that echoed inside his head as his arm was twisted behind his back. Alan was strong for his size, but the agent was using some sort of judo leverage shit. Alan tried to wrench free, nearly succeeded, and then the man compensated for his strength by spinning him into the side of another container.

The man tightened his hold and hissed into Alan’s ear.

“How many counts of resisting arrest?”

Alan gasped, gulped, and tried to talk his way out, forcing the words. “Come on, man. You never said you were arresting me.”

“I thought it was implied. You did flee.”

“After you shot me!”

“With a government-issue ranged electroshock device. Pay attention.”

The agent tripped Alan roughly to the ground and buried his knees in Alan’s back. His hand forced Alan’s face against the concrete, and Alan wheezed as the air was squeezed out of his lungs.

Alan screwed his eyes to the edges of their sockets, trying to see up through the corner of his eye. The light of a passing ship winked between the container towers and slid over the man’s features: dark eyed, dark haired, darkly smiling.

“Resist some more,” the agent said. “I don’t need to excuse brutality, but it helps with the paperwork.”

Alan realized—a bit belatedly and with scant sense of relief—that he was now very much in danger of physical harm.

He expanded his thoughts outward and upward, seeking out the luminescent glow of his assailant’s mind as if reaching for a firefly in the night. He found it, wrapped telepathic fingers around it, and squeezed tight.

There you are, Alan thought at him.

Fleeting impressions of the man’s surface cognitions filtered through the permeable membrane of Alan’s consciousness: mild surprise, then recognition, and then a strange kind of resigned satisfaction.

“And there you are,” the man whispered

.

About the Author

Adrian Randall is a PhD and a dual-class bureaucrat/scientist. A native Floridian, he lives in Alexandria with the love of his life and their many beautiful board games. He has a tenuous grasp on reality, owing to a steady diet of novels, comics, and other distractions. All his ideas start as character backstory for MMOs and RPGs, and he does all his writing while listening to video game soundtracks. So if he’s gaming instead of working on a book, it’s not procrastination, it’s workshopping. He usually spends his free time geeking out about some damn thing or another. You can geek out with him through any of his social media channels. If he doesn’t respond, it means he broke his phone again.

Twitter: @cyberpreppy

Tumblr: cyberpreppy.tumblr.com

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/cyberpreppy

A MelanieM Release Day Review: Countermind by Adrian Randall

Standard

Rating: 4 stars out of 5* with notations

countermind-by-adrian-randallIn a postprivacy future, secrets are illegal and all communication is supervised. Telepaths are registered and recruited by a government with no qualms about invading the minds of its citizens. Fugitive psychics are hunted by the Bureau of Counterpsychic Affairs, or Countermind.

Alan Izaki is one such fugitive, as well as a hacker, grifter, and thief.
Countermind agent Jack Smith is hunting him through the twisted underbelly of Hong Kong.

But Alan possesses a secret so dangerous and profound it will not only shake Smith’s loyalties, but the foundations of their society.

And Alan isn’t the only one on the run. Rogue psychic Arissa binti Noor escapes Countermind, in search of brilliant game designer Feng Huang. She hopes that together, they can destroy the government’s intrusive Senex monitoring system.

Their goals seem at odds, and their lives are destined to collide. When they do, three very different people must question their alliances and their future, because everything is about to change.

If there was ever a book I could divide up and give different ratings to, it would be Countermind.  Its taken me a while to decide how exactly to approach this review because I have such mixed emotions over this story.  If I had my druthers, the ratings would look something like this:

Rating: 2.5 stars for 50 percent of the book
Rating: 5 stars for the remaining 50 percent of the book

And that changes as I remember different parts, both good and bad.  Sometimes its 60/40 or 40/60.  Or even 30/70.  Really, this book confounds me.

Most of the lower ratings would come at the beginning, and yes, the middle as well.  The fragmented narrative, even from present day to future, from character to character (s) in the plot timeline was confusing at best, incoherent at its worst.  It was like getting snatches of plot and people only to be thrown into another situation entirely.  Jarring doesn’t begin to describe how a reader feels. Its so densely packed with information and plot threads that its overwhelming and the leaping here and there only serves to make a reader lose track of what has just been laid out in the short previous section.  Really, I started taking notes.

But I plugged along as this was an ARC I’d been given (and I’ve never had a DNF yet) and a funny thing happened.  Randall abandoned his broken storytelling, the narrative became linear and Countermind evolved into the story it could have been all along.  It turns into an masterful tale of suspense, an alternative universe where psychics are sought because they are regarded as both dangerous to the States as well as a highly regarded commodity or tool for the government to use depending upon their personality.  Randall also brings all those previously unconnected or loosely connected puzzle pieces together and locks them into the drama so now we are firmly invested in these characters futures (if they have any) and the next precarious, breath-taking turn of the page.

Why oh why didn’t this happen sooner?

I can understand if the author didn’t want us to connect the dots early on but surely there was another way of doing it other than frustrating the heck out of a reader and making the book as disjointed as this was in the beginning.

Even at the end, the author just can’t leave things alone.  Unless, Randall is planning on this being a series which is possible.  There is that whole thing about Korea and….no, I won’t go there.  But I thought that was more than a tad absurd too.  Damn, forgot about Korea.  Should have cut that out altogether, unless of course, there’s a sequel coming.  Wouldn’t surprise me at all.   See what I mean about this story? Shakes head.

What to tell you.  Well the great bits about this story are just that…really great.  Mind-bending, suspenseful, hold your breath, just loved it great!  And the stuff I found absurd, dense, and fragmented?  Bad enough to make you not want to plow further into the story.  But I found it worth it.  It all depends upon if you like this genre enough to want to read Countermind.  If you do, tell me what you think.  I’m truly interested.

Cover art by L.C. Chase is terrific.  Works great for the character and storyline.

Sales Links

dsp-publications-logo

65a2f-waxcreative-amazon-kindle

Book Details:

ebook, 286 pages
Expected publication: February 28th 2017 by DSP Publications
ISBN 1635332699 (ISBN13: 9781635332698)
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Free Dreamer Review: 18% Gray (Task Force Iota #1) by Anne Tenino

Standard

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

18-gray-by-anne-teninoIn a future where the United States has split along party lines, Agent Matt Tennimore’s job is to get people out of the Confederated Red States, whether they’re captured special ops agents from his own country or gay CRS citizens who’ve petitioned for asylum. He never expected to have to retrieve his high school crush, aka the guy who ostracized him for being gay.
Rescuing James Ayala isn’t going to be easy: he’s crawling with tracking nanos and has a cybernetic brain implant that’s granted him psychic power he isn’t sure how to control. That’s the good news. The bad? The implant is compromising James’s mental stability.
So they’re on the run, avoiding surveillance by AI aircraft and hiding from enemy militia. Then James confesses he tormented Matt in high school because James wanted him. Matt can’t resist the temptation James offers, but he wants so much more than sex, assuming they ever make it home alive. Is James really a good bet when he’s got a ticking time bomb in his brain and there’s the question of how much he’s actually changed?

I was really looking forward to this book. I’ve wanted to read it for years, so my expectations were of course especially high. Unfortunately, “18% Gray” ultimately didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

The idea that the USA will split into conservative and liberal parts in the distant future is not something I’ve come across before. I think that’s actually somewhat realistic, though a bit more historical background as to why and how exactly that happened would have been nice.

James’ brain is essentially a ticking time bomb. The implant in his brain is acting up and giving him weird new abilities he seems to have no real control over. That part was utterly intriguing and very well written.

Matt is a badass mercenary guy who’s still hurt because James called him a fag once in high school. Too bad he now has to go and rescue James. I’m usually not too fond of the enemies-to-lovers trope but it worked here. There wasn’t a huge gulf separating the two of them, so I was much more inclined to believe they were able to overcome the hurt feelings of the past. Still, I never quite felt any real chemistry between the two of them.

What bothered me the most was the amount of sex in this book. Or maybe not exactly the amount but the moments when they chose to have sex. James and Matt are running for their lives and yet there’s a time for a quickie? Even though the enemy is hot on their heels? Even though the enemy could easily discover them if they make too much noise? They were never able to keep their hands off each other, no matter how dangerous the situation. That just seemed incredibly unrealistic and really spoiled the suspense for me.

Most of the time it felt a bit as if the plot had to take a backseat, just so the two of them could either have sex or sink into relationship angst. It was just over the top.

The supporting characters were very clichéd and sometimes pretty annoying.

Overall, I still liked some parts of the story and mostly felt entertained. There is room for improvement, though. I probably won’t read the next part of the series, even if the next couple promises to be exciting as well.

Long story short: If you like steamy romance between two badass military boys with a dash of dystopia, then this is the book for you.

If, however, you’re looking for dystopia with serious world building and a realistic romance, then keep looking.

Cover: The cover by Anne Cain shows our two heroes with a desolate landscape in the background. It fits the story and the shirtless eye-candy is also very nice to look at.

Sales Links

        

Book details:

ebook, 280 pages
Published August 1st 2011 by Dreamspinner Press (first published July 31st 2011)
Original Title18% Gray
ISBN 1613720793 (ISBN13: 9781613720790)
Edition LanguageEnglish

SeriesTask Force Iota #1 settingIdaho (United States)
Oregon (United States)

A MelanieM Review: Skyships Over Innsmouth by Susan Laine

Standard

Rating: 3 stars out of  5

skyships-over-innsmouthTwenty winters have passed since the Cataclysm brought down society and robbed people of their memories. Humanity, vastly reduced in numbers since the initial chaos, has started anew in Canal City with the aid of library books and steam technology. The Scout and Ranger Corps was established to search for possible survivors and to replenish dwindling resources.

Dev is the captain of the scout airship Smoke Sparrow, and Shay is the scholar of their newest expedition. Their destination is Innsmouth, Massachusetts, a small fishing town that is mentioned in obscure books but shows up on no maps. Might its secrets offer answers? But within the fog-covered, ruined hillside town by the bay lurk unspeakable dangers and horrors beyond imagining. The expedition team soon learns that Innsmouth is one town that should have been left forgotten.

Skyships Over Innsmouth by Susan Laine is more of a horror steampunk story than a romance.  Taking place in a post apocalyptic world, Laine imagines what’s left of humanity living without memories of their past, in small societies run by steam and cobbled together knowledge from left over books.  The event that wiped out their memories and killed most of the world’s population?  Only mentioned by name, the Cataclysm, it brought the world almost to oblivion.  No one living can remember past “twenty winters”, and most of those alive are young.

Its a fascinating foundation.  Our main characters live in a place known as Canal City (its familiar name we will find out only towards the end of the story).  All the people, Shay, Dev, even the remarkable Malia (one of my favorite characters) is mostly a blank slate.  They have no history, no past, and unfortunately, that lack of foundation to their characters, leaves them shallow and lacking.  I understand that its part of the narrative but it left its mark here on the men too. Malia is a stunshine gun wielding, armor wearing security guard for the Smokey Sparrow. She’s the most vivid, sparkling character in the entire story.  I loved her.  She outgunned, out powered and basically out charactered every darn thing in this  story.  Not good for Dev and Shay. Even the villain.

Laine did spooky rather well.  The atmosphere over the town of Innsmouth practically shouted “run, you fools”.  Typically, no one ever listens.  I loved some of the descriptions of the town, the evil elements I can’t describe here without giving away plot points, and a host of other vile goings on.  I liked those.  But they kept being interrupted by Shay and Dev and a romance I never, ever believed in, not once.    It went from shy, “I Lurve You” glances, to instant hot in love.  I never felt any real connection between the two, all while trying to escape the town, and save themselves and others.

Nope, I wanted more  of Malia.

The explanation, when it came…well, I’m not sure that I understood it all.  But Malia was there kicking butt and somehow it all came together.  The almost to the end was smashing!

As a horror/adventure tale, I liked Skyships over Innsmouth by Susan Laine.  Definitely not as a romance.  Its really up to you.

Cover Art © 2016 Staf Masciandaro. I liked the cover art.  Spot on for the story.

Sales Links

DSP Publications

7104e-waxcreative-amazon-kindle

 

 

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages
Published August 2nd 2016 by DSP Publications
ISBN 1634769902 (ISBN13: 9781634769907)
Edition LanguageEnglish

A BJ Review: Crisped + Sere (Immemorial Year #2) by T.J. Klune

Standard

Rating:    4 stars out of 5

Crisped + SereTwenty-one days.

In a world ravaged by fire and descending into madness, Cavalo has been given an ultimatum by the dark man known as Patrick: return Lucas to him and the cannibalistic Dead Rabbits, or the town of Cottonwood and its inhabitants will be destroyed.

But Lucas has a secret embedded into his skin that promises to forever alter the shape of things to come—a secret that Cavalo must decide if it’s worth dying over, even as he wrestles with his own growing attraction to the muted psychopath.

Twenty-one days.

Cavalo has twenty-one days to prepare for war. Twenty-one days to hold what is left of his shredded sanity together. Twenty-one days to convince the people of Cottonwood to rise up and fight back. Twenty-one days to unravel the meaning behind the marks that cover Lucas.

A meaning that leads to a single word and a place of unimaginable power: Dworshak.

Like the first book, this one is dark and creepy. The excellent world-building continues, and the character development of all the people we met in book one was excellent. Also, this read smoother to me than the first, whether because I had a background now and wasn’t confused as I had been often in the first, I’m not sure. I don’t think there was as much of the hopping around like in the first book, there was some, but it flowed better.

This time we get more of a relationship between all of the characters. It’s not just about Cavalo and Lucas, but about all the people that formed his strange family. As before, Bad Dog was a huge favorite for me during the whole of this story.  I was glad to get more info on Lucas and came to feel the connection between all four of them (including the robot SIRS) as a family that worked. Cavalo thinks of himself as a monster, a bad guy, and yet in this we see him risk everything to help others, including those outside of his little family. While I didn’t feel invested in them as a couple in book one, by the end of this book, I most definitely did. And loved the end. Reminded me a bit of Star Trek, and I am a trekkie since a teen.

The way it was written without us really knowing if Cavalo actually heard Bad Dog and Lucas in his head, or if it was part of his mental issues, worked for me. As a movie, this would definitely be horror… maybe something like The Stand, only even more gory. There are definitely plenty of visual images to fill that screen with action, special effects, and blood. I’d like to see it.

The pace in this one felt right most of the time, but I think it could have been tightened up and the story shortened and still read just as well. There was an event about midway that made me say… UGH, not again. However, later on I came to accept it and even like that it had happened because of what else came after.  It really came to bug me how they kept speaking of killing Lucas, not just once but so many times.

BTW, when reading the first book, I didn’t actually realize where the titles originated. This time I did. It’s from the poem Ulalume by Edgar Allan Poe. I feel like I should have gotten that, but I’m not much of a poetry reader.

While not everything was bright or wrapped up, this ended much more hopefully than book one and does not have a cliffie. I’d still like more in this world though to see if they rebuild and how.

The cover is creepy as hell, and the feel of it fits the book.

Sales Links

DSP Publications

DSP Logo

7104e-waxcreative-amazon-kindle

Book Details:

ebook, 340 pages
Expected publication: August 23rd 2016 by DSP Publications
Original TitleCrisped + Sere
ISBN 1634770684 (ISBN13: 9781634770682)
Edition LanguageEnglish

Series: Immemorial Year

Cover reveal for ‘Cardinal Sins’ by Lissa Kasey (excerpt and giveaway)

Standard

 

cardinalsins_final04

Cardinal Sins (Hidden Gem #2) by Lissa Kasey
Release Date: November 13, 2015

Goodreads Link
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Shobana Appavu

Buy the book: Dreamspinner eBook & Paperback

Banner300x250

Blurb

Paris Hansworth, star whore turned senator and the most powerful man in City M, has been hiding his terminal illness for years. Searching for a way to reverse the toxic environment that’s killing him, Paris stumbles upon a lost research facility, and a merman named Rain.

Years alone has made Rain long for companionship, and the beautiful man on the other side of the glass intrigues him. But Rain speaks the wrong language, and is decades out of touch. He isn’t quite sure what to think of the new environment he’s been thrust into.

As a virus spreads through the city targeting City M’s most private residents—A-Ms—Paris realizes he’s out of time. He’s willing to sacrifice everything, even his own life, to stop it. But Rain might just be the missing DNA link to explain the mutations created in the last plague, maybe even the cure.

Watching Paris race to save his friends, Rain knows he’s found someone special and will do anything to stay by his side. But the past Paris thought he’d escaped is seeking revenge, and he’s forced to adapt yet again, possibly even becoming a monster. He only hopes Rain will still want him.

 

Pages or Words: 105,000 words
Categories: M/M Romance, Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy

 

Excerpt

When the light aura faded from his sight he began to move the mobile unit again trying to find the small blip he’d seen before. Again just on the edges of the screen, so Paris turned the unit, following the movement. The snow was heavier this way, but when he looked back he could still see the copter in the distance and the people spread across the ice with different equipment.

The tires on the mobile unit spun as it hit something and was apparently stuck. Paris frowned and went to dig it from a fairly deep snow bank. It was wedged far enough that he had to chisel a bit of ice away to unhook the front from an unusual ice shelf. It probably wasn’t more than a few inches higher than the rest of the ice, but it had a lip. Paris hoped the mobile unit wasn’t damaged. He set it down and brushed the snow away from part of the shelf. The edges were shaped like water had spilled over the top and frozen—a sort of tiny waterfall. The snow was loose and light, so Paris shoved it aside, glad Candy had made him take two pairs of mittens instead of his normal driving gloves. The cold froze him to the core regardless. At least his hands weren’t numb yet.

The shelf was probably four feet long by six feet wide. Paris leaned over the cleared edge and brushed away the last bit of the snow. Maybe the facility was here and that’s why the water seemed to come up. Oddly the ice over the shelf was dark instead of white. Did that mean it wasn’t solid? He wasn’t dumb enough to try to step on it.

Paris picked up the mobile unit and set it on the shelf, moving it around for a scan. The ice was very thin. Less than a foot deep. How odd. Still there was nothing moving. Paris had hoped to find some sort of exotic fish or something so he could tease Aki relentlessly about his mermaid dream.

Something appeared on the screen just as Paris was reaching to put the mobile unit away. What was that? He stared at the screen as the blip came closer and got larger. He peered over the edge into the dark murky depth, not expecting to see anything at all. Most people would have been blind out here anyway. Paris’ night sight was better than most. He could almost make out a shape in the darkness. Was there something down there? The scanner was thermal so did that mean whatever was down there was cold blooded—perhaps had even adapted to the cold of long brutal winters and icy water?

He set the scanner aside and crouched low beside the shelf, then brushed away a bit more snow. There it was again. Something was moving down there. Something large. It could have been a fish, maybe, but a very big fish. There was definitely a fin. Whatever the movement was it was further to the side than Paris was. He got up and brushed the snow away, walking carefully around the edge just in case the ice wasn’t as solid.

The scanner began beeping—a signal that something large was close. Paris stared through the thin sheet of ice watching for movement. Was that something right there? He leaned forward, hand on the ice to steady himself.

Suddenly a face appeared on the other side of the glass. Not that of a fish, and not quite a person. A hand reached for him. Paris stumbled backward breath caught in his throat. What the hell was that? The ice thumped like whatever was on the other side was trying to get through. Paris took another step back. There was only a half a second warning of crackling before he was suddenly falling through the ice, though thankfully not into water. He rolled a few times, hit a few things on his way down but landed in a pile of fluffy snow surrounded by what seemed to be a frozen water fall.

“Holy fucking hell.” Paris sucked in a few heavy gasps before floundering his way out of the snow pile. Even with his good night vision everything was pitch black. The moonlight trickling through the break in the ice above gave him the impression of ice over rock, but he couldn’t be sure. He flicked on the light attached to his suit, happy it hadn’t been broken in the fall.

The ground was solid concrete here—not ice—or at least as far as he could tell it wasn’t ice. Very faintly over the far opening enclave that led off to darkness there was a number. Five. Apparently he’d landed in the middle of the missing facility. Part of it. The Great Lakes facility had twelve aqua ducts and tanks, all containing different species of fish. There had never been an official area for APs since APs were not known by the general public. Paris wondered if any of the records were intact. Everything seemed to be under heavy sheets of ice and water.

“Senator?” Paris’ radio crackled in his ear. “Location?”

He pushed the button hoping it would work and turned on his tracker. “Aqua duct five, I believe. Down a very deep hole. Watch out that first step is a killer.” He stared up at the broken layer of ice that had formed over what appeared to be an old stairway that was now covered in several haphazard layers of ice. Had there been a building on top of all this at one time? That made sense didn’t it? It would have been washed away in the flood.

A moment later several lights peered down the hole. “Do you need a medic?” One of them asked. The others were talking about rope and equipment, not sure if they had anything long enough to get them in and out or even pull him up. If Paris hadn’t slid his way down and landed in a pile of snow he’d likely be dead. The drop was over fifty feet.

“Nothing broken,” Paris shouted back. Bruised, sore, but mobile. The giant wall of ice in front of him was actually glass with a layer of ice over the top making it somewhat murky. “Did you really see a face, Hansworth?” He asked himself. “Soon you’ll be babbling about mermaids like Aki. It was probably just your reflection. Couldn’t have seen much through ice that thick anyway.” He adjusted the cuffs of his jacket and glared at the dark space beyond. The light reflected back his own weary face. His mask had fallen off in the fall, but toxic air couldn’t do much damage to him anyway. He was already dying. No need to dwell he reminded himself. He wasn’t one to focus on the misfortune of the past. He was wealthy and powerful. No one should pity him. Not even himself.

Something was glowing on the other side of the glass. Paris clicked off his light. The men above called to him that they were coming down. He ignored them. The brightness intensified. First in green, then blue, and finally purple. Not one or two things but hundreds lighting up to illuminate the darkness beyond the glass. Fish. Nothing Paris recognized from any file or book, but hundreds of glowing fish swirled and moved beyond the glass. A few even came close enough to brush by his outstretched hand like they knew what he was.

“Fish don’t look like people,” he told himself. These fish were beautiful. Something that might be found in the deepest ocean. Some looked deadly with large teeth and long antennae. Most were longer than Paris’ arm, a few as small as his hand. They moved in schools circling close before moving away.

Paris found an almost boy-like joy in watching them. He’d never experienced an aquarium before. There were two left in all the united cities, one on the west coast and one on the east coast. He’d never had time to go to either. Of course he grew up with videos that showed him of such things. Virtual environments could almost simulate going to one of these places. Or at least that’s what he’d thought until now.

The fish moved aside, seeming startled but unafraid by something else moving close. Paris watched with fascination as something swam toward him he was sure wasn’t possible. Hot damn, he owed Aki an apology. It stopped before the glass, reaching out to lay webbed fingers over where Paris rested his mitten-covered hand. A mermaid? Merman? Paris couldn’t tell as it was a swirl of fins and hair, but it did look sort of human on the top and all fish on the bottom. Multicolored scales decorated its torso in batches and even covered a good deal of its face. How odd.

 

 

BannerTemplate

Meet the Author:

 

Lissa Kasey lives in St. Paul, MN, has a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing, and collects Asian Ball Joint Dolls who look like her characters. She has three cats who enjoy waking her up an hour before her alarm every morning and sitting on her lap to help her write. She can often be found at Anime Conventions masquerading as random characters when she’s not writing about boy romance.

 

Where to find the author:

.


Tour Dates & Stops:

Parker Williams, BFD Book Blog, The Hat Party, Happily Ever Chapter, Carly’s Book Reviews, Jessie G. Books, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, Bayou Book Junkie, Vampires, Werewolves, and Fairies, Oh My, Inked Rainbow Reads, Molly Lolly, Boy Meets Boy Reviews, Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews, Charley Descoteaux, Cheekypee Reads and Reviews, MM Good Book Reviews, Three Books Over The Rainbow, Elin Gregory, Mikky’s World of Books, Velvet Panic, Multitasking Mommas, Michael Mandrake, It’s Raining Men

 

Final

Giveaway

Enter to win a Rafflecopter Prize: One winner of a print copy, and one winner with the name of their choice in the next Haven Investigations (model) book.  Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.  Link and prizes provided by the author and Pride Promotions.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
//widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

 

 

WillPride

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Author Discovery: BJ on Author Lia Black

Standard

authdiscorange copy

BJ on Author Lia Black

With the plethora of competent m/m authors around these days, we fans have a daunting variety to choose from. I’ve sampled and enjoyed a book or two from hundreds of authors, but there’s only a handful whose books I just can’t seem to get enough of. Their books call my name the second they’re released. Lia Black is one of those authors.

She’s published five m/m novels to date, and I’ve devoured every single one with relish. All were five star reads with one exception that I rated 4.25, not because of the writing… oh, wait a minute, maybe it was the writing. Because what else was it but her brilliant writing that got me so thoroughly invested in (or should I say in love with?) the two main characters that I just couldn’t stand it when they were separated for a portion of the book? The frustration of that separation made me want to scream. And that right there is a key to why she’s one of my favorite authors.

Lia Black’s storylines suck me in; her characters fascinate me; and her writing always works its way deep down into the recesses of my neglected, dusty, middle-of-nowhere heart and plucks at my emotions. Hard.

Lia’s writing is a bit hard to pigeonhole. Her goodread’s author page states that her work is fantasy, sci-fi, LGBT romance. But that doesn’t quite tell the whole story. You see, Ms. Black does tend to live up to her name. There are dark parts in each and every story I’ve read by this author. Sometimes very dark indeed. So, if you want light and fluffy with a cherry on top, you should probably look elsewhere. But if you’re okay with a story that can make you gasp, that can smash your heart into the gutter and step on it, then ever so tenderly and exquisitely rip it to shreds before putting it back together—read on. You won’t be disappointed.

This author’s characters are sometimes broken yet not angsty, glamorous yet sad, weird yet beautiful, extreme and even gross yet still awesome and cool in their own right. Some of them even have long hair (well, what can I say, long-haired men are a thing for me so I had to mention that!)

And her writing makes me feel… a lot. Sometimes that means quivering in disgust and wanting to roll into a ball like a pill bug and hide but being too entranced to put the book down and do it. Sometimes it means aww moments when my heart wants to melt in my chest cuz I’ve just fallen in love with a character she breathed such life into that I have a clear picture of them in my head, not of a generic sexy man that could fit for a character in any number of stories I’ve read, but someone I feel like I could pick out in a crowd… one I could pick up my paint brush and paint a portrait of except I usually don’t, because I wouldn’t do him justice since I paint dogs and not people.

Lia Black’s stories leave emotional paper cuts on my heart. They’re by turns exhausting, frustrating, horrifying, amazing, fascinating, and touching. But always riveting, and always, in the end, healing. Deliciously dark stories that somehow light me up inside.

I think this excerpt from my review of Fidelity sums it up well: “Not for the faint-hearted, one particular scene at the beginning took my breath away with its grisly, shocking cruelty. But amidst the bloody battle scenes, there is humor, small joys, and sweet tenderness. Amidst the dismantling, I was put back together. The ride to get there was gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, and painful to read. I absolutely loved it.”

So if you’re looking for something different, something to expand your boundaries or to touch on places that maybe you haven’t explored, something to make you feel and not always in a fluffy, sweet way—look no further. Read Lia Black. And if you need help picking which of her books to start with, check out the links to my full reviews below.

Oh, I have one other thing to say about her writing, and I really hope she’s reading this. I desperately need to read more.

About The Author

Lia Black tends to do everything the hard way; beginning with being born backwards into the world and now Lia Black Iconraising a teenage daughter by herself in conservative Upstate NY. Her career choices are no less extreme, including occupations of fine artist, computer geek, firefighter, and mortician’s assistant— just to name a few.

A fellow Author describes Black’s mind as “a glorious kaleidoscope of f*ckeduppery”; she loves the challenge of writing about people who probably have no business being together on the same planet, and who occasionally deal with questionable sanity/morality. It’s fun to glue broken things together and try to make something interesting and new.
–She especially loves broken boys who have lots of fascinating pieces.

Her characters often suffer through the worlds she creates for them, which leaves them a little cranky and sometimes less lovable than others in a romance genre. Yet Black swears that someday, “there will be comedy.”

Follow Lia Black at:  Goodreads | Website | Twitter |

BJ’s Reviews of Lia Black’s Novels

Spiretown coverFidelity coverA King's Ransome coverWhere The Willows Won't Grow cover

Goodreads Link                          BJ Review Link

A King’s Ransom                              BJ’s Review

Spiretown                                           BJ’s Review

Fidelity                                               Link to BJ’s Review

Where Willows Won’t Grow          Link to BJ’s Review here

A MelanieM Review: Who Knows the Storm (The Vigilante #1) by Tere Michaels

Standard

Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5

Who Knows the Storm coverSometime in the future, a mysterious climate event caused torrential rains to fall, raising the water levels in New York City so high that huge areas were soon lost underwater and what civilians that could were evacuated, never to return.  Now a vastly different New York City is rising up from the flooded land, one where decadence reigns—gambling, the flesh trade, a playground for the wealthy. And underneath? Crime, fueled by “Dead Bolt,” a destructive designer drug.

Left behind in the initial evacuation as a young teen, now a grown Nox Boyet leads a double life. At night, he is the Vigilante, struggling to keep the streets safe for citizens abandoned by the corrupt government and police. During the day, he works in construction and does his best to raise his adopted teenaged son, Sam.

High priced whore, “model” Cade Creel, a high-end prostitute working at the Iron Butterfly Casino is asked by one of his influential “regular” clients to hand deliver an envelope to a person named Sam Boyer.  Never did Cade expect his delivery to take him into the worst parts of town where mugging and killings are frequent, and the best options where even worse outcomes have been known to occur.  A “rescue” by the Vigilante and the delivery made to Sam trigger an intense attraction between Nox and Cade, one that  ignites as dark figures from Nox’s past and the mysterious peddlers of Dead Bolt begin to descend—and put all their lives in danger. When things spin out of control, Cade is the only person Nox can trust to help him save Sam.

My hopes for Who Knows the Storm ran high.  The author?  One of my favorite and an automatic buy for her stories.  The synopsis?  Intriguing and current, especially the element of a climatic weather event drowning New York City, a possibility that many experts expect to happen in the not so distant future.  Plus it was the first in a new series called The Vigilante, another bonus.  Unfortunately, while Who Knows the Storm has many fine attributes, taken together they never add up to a logically constructed, gripping whole story. Sigh.

Set in some vague dystopian future, the settings and locations made sense while the backstory did not.  Everyone expects the sea levels to rise, especially given recent storms like Hurricane Sandy which left a wide path of destruction in its wake, including submerged subways and highly populated boroughs underwater. But here there was no effort made to reclaim the city, leaving it to crumble,falling into such disrepair and unhealthy state that no one returns to live there?  That’s the first premise the reader has to buy into and its a huge one that never feels believable.  New Yorkers giving up on their city?  The rich and influential fleeing, leaving their riches behind?  Uh no.  Especially when there are already cities (think Amsterdam or Venice or…) with the working technology to erect sea barriers.  There exist pumps to flush out the subways (which they did in Sandy), and so much more that is general knowledge that this “world building” is off to a shaky start on a foundation built on plot that never comes together.  I never bought into this dystopian world  and that lack of believability and connection damaged the rest of the story.

Then there were the characters.  Nox Boyet’s past is seen through the eyes of an abandoned 15 year old, one living through an ecological disaster of immense proportions.  This element of the story is both moving and affective.  We don’t need a reason for the rains to become affected by a young person in danger in uncertain times.  The descriptions and scenes are desperation incarnate and the frailty of Nox’s situation pulls the reader in…for a while.

Then we transition from the past, forward to a year and then to the nebulous present and Nox as not only an wary adult but a father of teenaged son.  The vast gap between the child left behind and the aged Nox just highlights the missed opportunities to flesh out the world building and answer the many questions floating around in the reader’s minds.

The pov switches from character to character, transitioning in a manner that’s not always as smooth as one could hope.  Michaels is also trying to establish all the main series plot threads, events and characters while balancing the need of the immediate storyline and character growth.  Sometimes it works and other times not so much.  Events from the past are reintroduced throughout the story but often lead to more questions not answers.  There are character with multiple identities and everywhere a facades are erected to hide the actual events and people responsible for them.  I rather liked the “smoke and mirrors” aspect to Michael’s plot.  There are some nasty little surprises in store for the main characters and shocks for the readers as well.  It’s a convoluted trip Tere Michaels takes us on.  There are white-knuckle moments galore, and gut clenchers (yes I know that’s not a word but it should be) to satisfy most picky of  action/suspense readers around.  But…..it never all comes together and feels like a harmonious whole.  It’s feels jumbled and a bit dense in places, and the “aha” moments  come and go a little too quickly.

The last thing?  The ending, which leaves major components and figures unresolved and unidentified.  That’s actually ok with me as this is the first in a series, and I can see the author using this mysterious scheme and head villain as an “umbrella layer” for all the books to come.  I was left strangely unsatisfied at the end of the story.  I just don’t think this part of the story was part of that unsettled feeling.  I’m still thinking about that one.

If you are a Tere Michael’s fan or a lover of dystopian stories, you might love Who Knows the Storm (The Vigilante #1).  This is a story that could go either way with readers, some will love it and others won’t make it to the finish.  You will have to be the judge.

 Cover Artist: Angsty G.  The coloration is nice.  I wish the idea of a New York Red District rising out of filth laden waters would have translated to the cover.

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press                    All Romance  (ARe)                   Who Knows the Storm             buy it here

Book Details:

ebook, 240 pages
Published October 17th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781632162175
edition languageEnglish
seriesThe Vigilante #1

A MelanieM Review: Hidden Gem by Lissa Kasey

Standard

Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

hiddengem_final03With a past that haunts him with nightmares, Misaki “Aki” Itou became a “contracted companion”, a whore, in order to survive , leaving  his starving existence on the streets behind. Aki is a  psi—a person with mutated DNA granting him psychic abilities.  And that makes him both a danger to himself and an object of fear and interest to the government scientists of the North and South.  Only his contract and position as the “shining jewel” and  top companion at the Hidden Gem,protects him while making enough money to buy the prettiest, most sparkly shoes he can find.

Det. Shane McNaughton is a cop, the Head of Missing Persons,with a completion rate so high that no one can top him. McNaughton  survived the Third World War for one reason only, one he hides.  Shane McNaughton is a A-M, one of many animal mutations that occurred as part of the chemical warfare between the North and the South.  And while it gives him supernatural abilities it also makes him a monster when the virus isn’t dormant.  His secret is known only to a few and that makes Shane McNaughton one lone  wolf.  Except when it comes to Aki Itou.

For two years Shane has been paying for Aki’s services, both for Aki’s sexual favors and for Aki’s psychic abilities.  Always Shane has wanted more from Aki, and always he has been denied.  When several children of the wealthy go missing only to be found dead, its up to Shane and Aki to combine their powers to find the children in time and expose the killer.  But nothing prepares either one for the forces they unleash from the past that continues to haunt them both.

What a fantastical and inventive story Lissa Kasey has created for her release, Hidden Gem.  Complete with a complex back story for her universe that includes a World War III where the weapons were chemical and their impact upon the populace diabolical and disastrous, Kasey manages to paint a portrait of a world gone dark and deadly, full of dead bodies, camps, and experimentation.   That the descriptions aren’t incredibly graphic doesn’t take away any of their horror and impact.  Relayed to the reader through memories of several of the characters, those past events come across as fresh and terrifying, a vision that haunts the narrative from start to finish.

Overlaying the past like a infirm veneer, the present is a place of secrets, hidden agendas, and where a sanctuary can be the last place anyone would consider safe and desirable.  That last place, of course, being the Hidden Gem, a high level brothel known for its desirable male and female contracted companions.  Aki and Candy, his best friend and fellow high paid companion, are happy and safe within the confines of their profession and contracts.  Kasey lets us into the  intimacies of their friendship and the daily operations of the Hidden Gem.  It’s a fascinating world full of equally intriguing and memorable characters, not the least of which are Aki and Candy.  Aki whose dress and makeup never try to hide his eyes which give away the fact that he is psi.  And delectible Candy, whose mind reflects colored clouds and happiness back to Aki, is a jewel in his own right.  I only hope that Lissa Kasey has another story in mind for this universe featuring Candy, he deserves it.  The darkness of the companions pasts are always present, although pressed into the background or saved for their nightmares.

At the other end of society’s spectrum is the police unit headed up by Shane McNaughton, a cop who no longer considers himself a man.  He is also tormented by his past and present.  Only being in the presence of Aki, is that pain alleviated for Shane. Kasey makes Shane as fully realized a being as Aki, although his darkness and past are more fully known then Aki’s for most of the story.  Shane is a powerful figure and he moves through the narrative with a blunt forcefulness that can take your breath away.

There is a malignant center to this story and a mystery of the most chilling and heartbreaking kind.  Children are being kidnapped and  horrifically killed.  Kasey weaves her mystery thread through all the other filaments pulling together to make this an outstanding tapestry of a tale.  Its not enough that each character carries a truckload of pain and secrets behind them, the author also keeps in mind each character’s emotional, mental and physical needs as well.  All are juggled in a high wire balancing act that ends in an astonishing conclusion  that will stay with you long after the story is over.

I hope this is not the last we have seen of the Hidden Gem universe and characters.  Lissa Kasey has left herself plenty of room for more stories to come.  They and the readers deserve them.  Consider Hidden Gem and Lissa Kasey highly recommended by Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words!  Grab it up today and start reading.

Cover Artist:2014 Shobana Appavu.  Love the cover.

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press  Paperback     All Romance eBooks (ARe)      Amazon    Hidden Gem

Book Details:

ebook, 246 pages
Published September 26th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781632161994

Review: King of Dublin by Lisa Henry and Heidi Belleau

Standard

Ratings 3.75 stars out of 5 (rounded up to 4)

ARC fullcoverTwenty years ago a virus spread around the world, and the resulting deadly pandemic left all countries in ruin, its populations and governments destroyed in the aftermath.  Darragh Fergus Anluan and the other children of the Irish village Cuíl Aodha survived when their elders died but only just.  Hard winters and a disease which seems to return on a cycle has left the small group further decimated.  Desperate for medicine, Darragh is leaving his home against the pleas of the others to search for medicine to help them survive another winter in their small village.  Unsure of what has survived, Darragh is horrified to find that Dublin is nothing more than a ruin, ruled by a sadistic despot who has taken the name of King Boru.

King Boru rules by fear and force, accumulating an army of thieves, murderers and rapists eager to do his bidding.  Those who oppose him are killed or sold off as slaves.  And sitting at his feet is his Boy, a pretty sex slave, whose looks entrance Darragh even as the abuse and rape the Boy endures at the hands of the King and his soldiers draw out Darragh’s protective instincts.  If Darragh is to get his hands on any medicine, he must appear to join the ranks of the king’s men.

Ciaran Daly is the son of a high official in Belfast, a place of relative civility and safety. Ciaran wanted to help out Ireland, believing good deeds and good intentions would triumph over the problems and issues he thought he  would find in Dublin.  So Ciaran and his band of naive friends gathered together supplies and snuck away from their families and friends. But they were unprepared for their capture at the hands of the brutish soldiers of Boru as soon as they crossed the border.  All died except for Ciaran.

Ostensibly held as a hostage, Ciaran has been reduced to Boy, King Boru’s sex slave.  The continual abuse Ciaran suffers has torn away all hope but the arrival of Darragh in the King’s court sparks it back to life.  Darragh is different no matter how hard he tries to hide it.  And Darragh’s gentle attraction to the King’s pet is a dangerous one should anyone notice.  The madness that is King Boru is just the type, however, that incites treason instead of loyalty.  And soon Darragh and Ciaran realize that if their hopes are to become reality, then the King must fall.*

Heidi Belleau has a fondness for Ireland and its culture, all of which translates to her writing (see The Druid Stone).  Lisa Henry shares Belleau’s fascination with the Irish people and their culture.  So a dystopian society based in Ireland, where the characters bear Irish names that speak of the past and the lore of the people makes perfect sense. From the names to the places and mentions of Irish history, this story is steeped in the love of Ireland.  And no matter how bad it gets (and it gets very bad indeed), the moments of cultural recognition and love shine as in scenes at Newgrange, home of The Dagda, and the high kings of Tara.

If you are familiar at all with the novels of Heidi Belleau and Lisa Henry, than the shear scope of the universe and the enormous amount of attention to detail given to the world building here is to be expected from these remarkable authors.  So too is the level of darkness and brutality of existence in the dystopian society created they have created. As society and governments fell, so too did all laws and structure that would have protected the remaining populace.  Instead, it deteriorated into a deadly scramble for power and the acquisition of material wealth and modern vehicles such as cars and gasoline.  Dublin becomes a harsh and deadly world, ruled by gangs and petty despots of which King Boru is at the top of the corrupt pile.

Belleau and Henry are never ones to shy away from difficult material or subject matter. The descriptions of the ruined Dublin are vivid and intense.  Urine soaked courtyards and streets full of human misery, and waste, the authors bring their dystopian society alive.  Here is an excerpt as Darragh goes on his first patrol with King Boru’s soldiers:

People.

The warehouse was full of people, penned in like cattle. Worse somehow than the heads on posts, because they were still alive. Still full of fear and hope.

“Trader can get three hundred for one in good condition,” Hugh said. “That’s worth a few bags of supplies our way.”

“What happens to them then?” Darragh asked. His brain felt like it was stuffed with cotton. He couldn’t think.

Hugh shrugged. “Don’t much care.”

“Isn’t that the way of it though,” Seamus said, “Even in the old days, the only thing Ireland ever had of value for export was the Irish.”

But never like this.

“These traders. They are . . .” Darragh struggled for the word. It seemed so childish, a word from a fantasy like elves or wizards, but no, he knew it was real as well, even if it seemed absurd. “Pirates?”

Noel laughed, the sound terrible and twisted in this place of human suffering. “I think Viking’s the better word, considering, but sure, some are pirates. And some are pirates in the hire of governments, not that the ones paying them would ever admit it.”

Governments trading in human chattel, and the king turning a profit.

And now Darragh was aiding them in the effort.

Medicine. He needed medicine. Not wealth or power or boys dripping with gold.

Medicine, upon which the lives of his people depended.

He looked down at the pens below, at the people standing huddled together, shifting and hugging themselves in the cold. Men, women, and even children. The whole place stinking of desperation and human waste.

Their lives for the lives of Darragh’s kin.

A grim trade, to be sure.

As grim as any the king might make.

With its rank slave markets down by the docks, heads of Boru’s enemies on stakes lining the harbor, the grim reality of life in Dublin is made real to both Darragh and the reader.  Death and enslavement have been made common. So when abuse and rape arrive as part of the norm of this brutal regime than it follows that those details and sometimes hard to read scenes are included in the narrative as well.

The characters found here are as intense as the situations they find themselves in.  There are scenes of constant degradation and humiliation to go along with the continual rape and abuse.  Its overpowering and its meant to be.  Darragh is everything that King Boru and Dublin is not.  Darragh is the best that Ireland has to offer.  He is compassionate, unwaveringly loyal to those who deserve his loyalty, and he has a moral center that did not decay along with rise of disease.  The contrast of Darragh against the terror and horrific extremes of the court of Boru is frightening, heightening up the anxiety and suspense for Darragh safety and mission.

Ciaran’s character is far more complicated.  Ciaran’s naive idealogical crossing of borders without thinking of the possible consequences seems so unbelievably unworldly and gullible. Sheltered in Belfast, a northern city that remains healthy and relatively safe, Ciaran and his friends actions and belief that their ideological and righteous intentions would act like a shield to keep them safe seems idiotic. But one only has to look to current events and the media to find examples of just such behavior in like minded American youths today. Ones who expect their nationality and beliefs to raise them up over the problems they think they will face only to find it a chimera, no more solid than smoke and or able to keep the worst from happening. Which it did.  For them and for Ciaran.

Kept starved and in the dark in a state that mimics a deprivation tank, Ciaran’s isolation by Boru is such that the alternative however hellish is preferable.  That seems authentic as a state of mind.  Victimized, abused, raped, Ciaran struggles to hold onto remnants of who he was, fearing he will disappear into Boy for good.  However, later on in the story, that same naïveté and stubbornness that brought him to Dublin and into the clutches of Boru continues, surfacing and impacting his actions until I had problems with staying invested in this character. At what point does naivete turn into stupidity and stubbornness become a cover for self centered delusion?  Each reader will have to answer those questions for themselves.

Moments of shattering emotional impact are made more hurtful because these characterizations are so well done that it feels as though it is happening to people we have gotten to know. And  instead of being able to keep our distance as we could with one note personas we are trapped in the moment with Darragh, Ciaran and Rabbit (another wonderful character). When the authors put these people in danger, then scenes such as these demand a response from the reader equivalent in emotion to the ones the characters are experiencing. Trust me when I say it will double the impact of the events unfolding in front of you.

And just when the graphic abuse and the horrific intensity of Ciaren’s pain and humiliation get to be too much, then Belleau and Henry give their characters and the readers a much needed  break as the narrative takes a turn towards hope and freedom.  For me, it didn’t come too soon.  I was starting to have some issues with the major characters starting with Ciaran. He’s learned nothing apparently until its almost too late.  And in my opinion, that aspect of his character makes it a tougher sale in keeping the readers fully invested in Ciaran.

Darragh too has gone through some transformations, understandable given the events he survived. Part of that is that Darragh apparently forgets all about the medicine his people need in his obsession over Ciaran who continues to lie and manipulate him. We can relate to his actions  to some degree but still I am not sure that Henry and Belleau made that case here for Darragh completely dismissing his mission to the degree that he does so.

But other characters arrive to take hold of your affections, chief among them is Rabbit, a young boy of extreme resourcefulness and rough charm.  He actually became my favorite at the end.

King of Dublin has much to recommend it, great characters, intense storytelling, and a realistic dystopian Irish society.  If you find that the descriptions and scenes of graphic abuse are ones that you can adjust to, then I recommend this book to you.  If, on the other hand, sexual violence and scenes of non consent are outside your comfort zone, then I would look to many of these authors other stories. I am sure you will find one there to love.

Cover Art by Vongue, http://vongue.deviantart.com.  This cover is well done in conveying the characters and the setting in Dublin.

Book Details:

ebook, 375 pages
Published February 24th 2014 by Riptide Publishing (first published February 22nd 2014)