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: Blessed Curses by Madeleine Ribbon

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Blessed Curse coverWhen David was 8, his world came crashing down around him, isolating him from his family and all of society.  David had been cursed by his 9 year old brother in a fit of jealous anger and it stuck.  Despite everyones efforts, including the best sorcerers of the time, no one could undo the curse, a curse that made people fear him and unable to be in his company for longer than a minute.

Now, years later, David has adjusted to his life and the curse, or as much as anyone could be.  He works the night shift at his cousin’s magical practitioner shop and then goes home to his video games and lonely life.  Then one day at his brother’s wedding, David is introduced to Vaughn, a magical enforcer. The firm Vaugn works for is the law enforcement agency charged with picking apart complex curses and making sure sorcerers stay within the law.

Vaughn is intrigued immediately by David. David has long been known to them as The Impossible Kid because of the cure he carries.  But Vaughn also finds David handsome, shy, and kind of heartbreaking in his loneliness. Vaughn loves solving supposedly irreversible curses like David’s and can dampen the magical fields he comes in contact with, enough so that he can stand near David without screaming…for most of the time.

Vaughn vows to help cure David of his curse, but finds that the more he gets to know David, the more personal his quest becomes,  David is more than a puzzle to Vaughn, he just might be the love Vaughn has always wanted.  David seems to want him back.  But before a relationship can happen, there is a curse to be dealt with and Vaughn is not having much luck.  What will happen to them both if David’s curse is truly unbreakable?

Madeleine Ribbon is a new author for me.  Blessed Curses is only the second book of hers that I have read but already I look forward to her stories because certain elements of her books are so well done.  Ribbon’s world building is terrific.  She gives us a credible universe for each story, one that is complete without going into scads of details when it is not necessary.  Ribbon also has the gift of bringing magic and its practitioners to life as thoroughly as any common place profession and its employees.  This enforcement agency suffers from cut backs, dingy office space and overworks it employees because of budget cuts.  Within this world magic is both commonplace and a talent to be taught and nurtured.

The characters that Ribbon creates for her stories are just as well done as her world building.   David is such a tragic figure but one that never gives in to self pity or bitterness.  Vaughn too has many interesting layers.  A self described “slut” for most of his years, Vaughn is tired of his promiscuous ways and wants to find someone to love.  The author makes both men authentic sympathetic individuals who she then surrounds with equally moving and real secondary characters.  I especially love the grumpy Trekker, Vaughn’s partner at the agency and Cole, a young homeless sorcerer.  They really helped bring this story to life.  Less well rounded in personality was Todd, the brother who cursed his brother and has spent the rest of his life being his companion.  Given his was the curse that started it all and that he was bound to his brother by guilt as well as love, I think his character should have reflected more of the dichotomy inherent in their situation.  He seemed a little shallow to me unfortunately.

The beginning of this book will absolutely make you cry.  In fact the poignancy and heartbreak of those earlier scenes is so powerful, so pain filled that the feelings they engender are never fully recaptured.

David sat down on the next swing over. It hung just a little too low to be comfortable, but he didn’t want to lose this taste of friendship by moving down to the other end of the set.

He managed to kick his way up almost as high as Andy, though he had to keep letting go of the chain to push his shaggy brown hair out of his eyes.

Todd would see them when he got home from camp. David wondered what sort of a reaction he would get, once Todd realized that his friends didn’t mind David quite so much as David had been led to believe.

It was nearly dark when Todd finally found them talking and laughing, still on the swings. David stopped pumping his legs when he saw his brother stomping toward them. “Davey,”

With the joy of the scenes before when a lonely young boy realizes that someone will play with him, the boys swinging together on the playground, a rarity for young David, to the sight of his  angry brother stomping towards them, well, it will feel absolutely spot on to anyone who knows young kids and sibling rivalry.  But in this case, a fight between an older jealous sibling ( who has consistently bullied his brother) and his baby brother will have far more grave consequences than can be fixed by a bandaid and a time out in their room.   The innocence of David combined with a child’s fear and sense of betrayal will haunt this book for several reasons.  One reason is that it is so beautifully written, the emotions flowing from the boys are visceral in their impact.  And secondly, the consequences upon the siblings and their relationship is never spelled out to the readers satisfaction.  Yes, Todd became his brother’s companion but how did they feel about that?  Where is the realism to their complicated relationship? Nor do we see what is Todd’s (the brother) reaction to the curse being lift.  This whole element is lacking from the story and when it is such an emotional component right from the start, it should be included in the story as well to make this a well rounded plot and feel complete at the end.

Aside from this gap in the narrative, I loved this story.  I did feel the denouement lacking in intensity.  It just sort of happened.  Another missed opportunity.  Others may not feel that way.  The majority of this story is terrific. In fact its downright magical, including elements of angst in the form of a young teenager discarded by his family.  I definitely recommend this story and am off to locate more of Madeleine Ribbon’s stories to read,

Cover Art by Brooke Albrecht is gorgeous.  I think it know where the design was going with the picture but I am just not sure anyone would know what the story was about from the cover.  I wouldn’t and it that part of the cover’s job?

Book Details:

ebook, 168 pages
Published August 7th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press (first published August 6th 2013)
ISBN 1627980571 (ISBN13: 9781627980579)
edition language English

Autumn Comes to Maryland, Vote 6 for Equality and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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Good morning to all and what a spectacular day it is here in Maryland.  The sky is that crystalline crisp blue that I only see in Fall, the clouds fluffy white and a huge flock of Canada geese just flew overhead, their cries trumpeting the arrival of Fall.  How I love this time of year, my pulse quickens, my step is a tad more brisk (such as it is these days), and I feel like rejuvenated after the sweltering heat of summer. The Monarch butterflies are flitting through the garden on their way to Mexico, and what a journey they have in front of them, over 3, 000 miles of ingrained need to fly to a place they have never been.  Amazing when  you  consider they are fragility on wings.

Autumn is a time of movement, a time of activity, both measured and frantic.  Beaver and muskrats are busy with caches of food and antlers, so too are the squirrels and white footed mice. All have plenty to do to make sure the food stores are full for the winter.  Bees zoom around the garden, gathering pollen and nectar from the spectacular profusion of gold, white and purple flowers of the season.  The  New England asters, goldenrod, the Black-eyed Susans, and the Joe Pye weed that linger on.  Most people think of Autumn colors as red, yellow and orange, but the fall gardener knows that the harbinger of Fall also carries the colors of white, gold and purple to all the gardens and fields around us.

Fall brings change.  Leaves swirl to the ground as the sap returns to their roots in preparation for Winter, seeds are scattered by wind and animal alike, and the animals start their migration to the winter feeding grounds.  The songbirds seek the safety of the night for their travels while the raptors, secure as top predators of the air, wing their way south during the daylight hours, soaring above as they follow the coasts and mountains. I watch the squirrels stuffing leaves into the neighbors chimney with all the energy and enthusiasm of teenagers on energy drinks.  I have never seen those neighbors use their chimney and hope that for the squirrels sake that this continues.   My old bird feeder finally fell apart from the relentless onslaught from the non flighted visitors and  a new one should arrive any day, carrying with it the hope of a squirrel proof feeder. Hah, I say from experience.  My money is on the squirrels.

I am hoping for another change in Maryland this fall.  It is 51 days until the election and I am hoping that this fall brings Marriage Equality for all in the state of Maryland.  If you  live here, please vote for Question 6 and make it legal for all GLBTQ to marry here.  It is long past time for this to happen, equal marriage rights are long overdue.  Let’s be a voice for progress and become a partner in movement for equal rights for all.  Vote yes for Question 6 and let’s make the promise a reality!  I will be there on voting day and hope you will join me.

Finally, October will see several special events on my blog.  First up, actually the very first week is Regency Sci-Fi week with JL Langley in preparation for My Regelence Rake release October 1st.  I have an interview with JL, recap of the series to date, a discussion about  Regency novels, and a contest to give away a copy of My Regelence Rake to someone who comments during the week!  Whew!  I am also participating in the Howloween Blog Hope at the end of October where I will be giving away a Amazon gift card during the blog hop!  So stay tuned, my pretties, we have a great time planned this fall.  Change is in the air, I can feel it.  Can you?

Here are the books to be reviewed this week:

Monday:                         Life As A Fairy Thrall by Katey Hawthorne

Tuesday:                         Making Contact (Sci Fi Anthology)

Wednesday:                   Nate’s Deputy by Lavinia Lewis

Thursday:                       Gregory’s Rebellion by Lavinia Lewis

Friday:                             The Melody Thief by Shira Anthony

Saturday:                         Wolf’s Own Book One Ghost by Carole Cummings