#SPFBO Review of Vortex Visions (Air Awakens: Vortex Chronicles #1) by Elise Kova

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VortexVisionsVortex Visions is one of the titles on my list of books for the fifth SPFBO competition and was one of the books that I decided to roll forward after having read the first 30% with the idea of reading and reviewing fully.  In this respect I have 2 more reviews to follow which I’m hoping will be in fairly quick succession followed by a post to reveal my semi finalists and the book I will be taking to stage two of the competition.  So, straight to my review of Vortex Visions.

Firstly, I would point out that I haven’t read the Air Awakens series by Elise Kova, I understand that Vortex Visions is a book that can be read without having read the previous series however, it is possible that if you plan to read the first series this book and review could contain spoilers so please be aware of that.

As the book begins we meet Vi Solaris, heir to an empire. although she has never lived at it’s heart.  Little more, it seems, than a pawn in a political game of power.  From the ruling south she has been placed in the north as a means to keep peace.  That being said, Vi has led, to all extents, a happy existence, even though she dearly wants nothing more than to be reunited with her family and twin brother.

Great expectations rest upon Vi’s shoulders, particularly with regard to her magical abilities which seem, as the story commences, to be lying almost dormant.  She’s not unhappy in her situation although she deeply desires to return to her family home.  When a delegation from the South arrives it brings with it mixed tidings.  Vi’s friend and deliverer of messages from home, Jayme, returns with not only tidings from her family but also a new acquaintance. Andru, he seems to be an envoy from the South sent to judge Vi and her worthiness to rule.  Of course this puts Vi on the backfoot somewhat as she tries to go about her regular life whilst being observed and trying to make a good impression, but, meanwhile, Vi’s magic will awaken and far from giving her comfort it only serves to heighten the unusual predicament she is in.  She has strange visions, is able to make contact with an unknown entity and on top of all that her life is under threat.

Vortex Visions got off to a really good start.  I loved the writing style and became easily immersed in the world.

Vi finds herself a ward of sorts.  This was an unusual situation for me to come to terms with because I guess I’m more familiar with wards being taken by the rulers from the defeated as a means of forcing compliance.  In this case Vi is taken to the North (following their defeat) as a means of pacifying the Northerners that the heir of the Empire will be brought up sympathetically to the other realms.  There is more to this than at first meets the eye though so you do have to read further to discover more.

As the story begins you immediately feel Vi’s longing to return to her family, an event that is long overdue and you start to feel her doubts about why she hasn’t been recalled sooner.  She personally feels it’s her lack of magical ability and this new person, sent to judge her, certainly isn’t going to help her abilities manifest or help her to gain confidence.

Okay, I got off to a very good start with Vortex Visions.  It really is a strong start.  You get an immediate feel for the main protagonist and her situation, her desires and hopes.  You’re also introduced to the people surrounding her, one being a best friend.  Vi, Ellene and Jayme have a close friendship, the three enjoy all sorts of nonsense and gossip and they’re about to go on an adventure, a release for a few days as part of a celebration for Vi’s birthday.  This is where things start to change.

So, yes, a really good start to this, I was intrigued.  The writing is good, it’s an easy read with decent pacing.  I had my doubts about certain characters which I won’t reveal for the sake of spoilers (although these are only my own speculations and I have no real idea if they’re correct or not at this point).

I’m not entirely certain I understand everything about the world here.  Other than there seems to be a north/south divide.  Vi lives with people who live high in the trees,  The place sounds quite lovely and almost put me in mind of a Tolkien landscape of elves – but that’s probably my own imagination running riot.

The plot is really quite good, there’s more to Vi than meets the eye, plots are afoot and strangers are going to make some rather unannounced appearances and upset things somewhat.

In terms of criticisms.  I felt the first half of the book was the more gripping part of the story.  The latter half felt a bit more easy to second guess and didn’t really move things forward in the way I’d expected.  Also, Vi.  I couldn’t help feeling she bemoaned her situation much more than was necessary.  Of course I understand that she missed her family and felt abandoned or stranded a little but to be honest she was still incredibly pampered and privileged and so I couldn’t help but feel a little irritated sometimes by her thoughts.  Particularly as she wasn’t treated badly, she wasn’t a prisoner, and in fact the heir to the North’s own daughter was her best friend.

On the whole, I had a good time with Vortex Visions.  The writing is really strong and persuasive, it had a little bit of a ‘set up’ feel for the next instalment but I imagine this would only increase readers eager anticipation, particularly in terms of the romance that seems to be budding.

I would like to thank the author for the copy of ‘Vortex Visions.  The above is my own opinion.

 

 

#SPFBO5 Author Interview and Teaser : Elise Kova

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Today I’m really pleased to welcome Elise Kova to my blog.  Elise is one of my SPFBO authors and I’m very excited to pick up her book Vortex Vision – book one in the Air Awakens: Vortex Chronicles #1.  I have a question and answer session followed by a short teaser from Failed Future, No.3 in the Vortex Chronicles, which is scheduled for release today.  For information I will share covers and links at the bottom of the article.

So, firstly, welcome to my blog Elise and thank you so much for agreeing to pay me a visit.

Obviously I’ve read the book description but can you give me a quick idea (in a nutshell) of what to expect from Vortex Visions

Vortex Visions is a young adult fantasy with touches of elemental magic, slow burn romance, and royal intrigue all wrapped in a grand adventure to save the world. A seventeen year old princess discovers she has a rare power from a captive sorcerer and their fate is tied with that of their dying world.

Your new series is set in the same world as the Air Awakens series but a few years down the line.  Can this series be read without the benefit of having read Air Awakens?   

Yes! There’s three series set in the Air Awakens universe: Air Awakens, Golden Guard Trilogy, and Vortex Chronicles. The first book in each series (Air Awakens, The Crown’s Dog, and Vortex Visions, respectively) can all be read “first” without reading other books in the universe

However, because it is about twenty years after the conclusion of Air Awakens, there are light “spoilers” about the main villain and characters from the original series. Who lives, who dies, those types of things. So if a reader is very sensitive to spoilers, they may enjoy reading the original series first. 

But Vortex Visions was written with the intent that new and old readers alike can enjoy it regardless of how much they read before!

Being a series from a world you’ve already created how difficult is it to balance coming up with something new for established readers whilst giving a good feel of place for readers who haven’t read other books from your earlier works? 

It’s so tricky! Honestly, it was harder than I expected because I’d always planned on writing the Vortex Chronicles, but I needed some space before I was ready to write it. So I thought that because I’d laid the foreshadowing for Vortex Chronicles in Air Awakens it would come easily. It didn’t!

What really ended up helping was the fact that Vortex Chronicles focuses on new characters, a new conflict, and is in a new place. So even existing readers have a lot to learn about this new world. I also focused the first book on those new characters and places to give both new and existing readers alike a chance to get grounded in this brand new narrative.

I’m interested in having a feel for the era in which the books are set and the inspiration behind the world building. What sort of place is Solaris? 

Solaris is an Empire that draws inspirations from a number of sources. It’s somewhat Roman-esque in that it spread out to conquer an entire continent (the final conquest occurred in the original Air Awakens series). But I even hesitate to say that it’s “inspired by Rome,” because I don’t like the “cookie cutter” feel of basing one location off one real world place. Furthermore, each of the different regions of the Empire are also distinctly different.

How much of your own personality goes into your MC and does this present issues when you come to write a new series from a completely different POV?  Is there a danger of both of them becoming too similar?  In fact, how difficult is it to tear yourself away from a beloved character and start anew?

Oh this is difficult! I try not to have one character represent any other one person — myself or others, fictional or real. Naturally, there’s always parts of myself that make it into my characters. But it’s not really a conscious choice.

I’ve been a full time author now for going on four years. As a person I’ve grown and changed leaps and bounds in that time. So even with a little bit of “unintentional influence” from me… the person who I am has changed so that influence has changed.

Luckily, though, Vi is the daughter of the main character of Air Awakens. So in writing her I could have some similarities with her mother. But I also wanted her to remain her own unique person and felt very strongly about that

As far as tearing myself away and starting over… I find it a lot easier than you may think. At the end of a series, I find myself ready to see the conclusion of a character’s story. So when I get that satisfying ending, I’m ready to move on.

Finally, I’m curious about your experience of self publishing and how it compares to the more traditional publishing route?

Oh man, this is a tough question with lots of layers because there’s so many differences! And the really exciting thing about self publishing (or indie publishing, as I like to say) is that it’s constantly evolving and changing.

Some of the biggest differences lie in control, distribution, and income. 

A self published author, for better or worse, has total control of every aspect of their work—cover art, interior design, content, and editing. A traditional author has a lot less, or no control about most of these things. However, traditional publishing can give authors the chance to break into markets they could never reach (or would have a very hard time reaching) like brick and mortar bookstores and libraries on a mass scale. 

The income also changes dramatically; you get a much larger “cut of the pie” as an indie author. But the pie can be much larger in traditional publishing (if you’re successful), even if you’re getting a smaller slice of it.

As an author who’s been both traditionally and independently published, I can honestly say I like both, and both have pros and cons. I’m just glad that readers continue to move past the days where indie authors’ books were stigmatized. I think people are more focused about the content within, rather than the publisher behind the book.

Elise, thank you so much for taking part, I hope readers love your answers – I found them really interesting and it makes me so eager to pick up Vortex Vision.

Now, here is a short teaser taken from Failed Future, No. 3 of the Vortex Chronicles:

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“Now, last I saw you, you were traveling with the Voice himself. Where is he hiding?” A pulse of magic rushed over her, disorienting and powerful. Vi vaguely recognized it from the field that night—it was the same magic that had disrupted Taavin’s Lightspinning.

“I’ll never tell you.” If Taavin was still operating to plan, he was positioned somewhere in the square, hood up, as inconspicuous as possible, watching the entrance of the bar.

“No matter.” Fallor turned his eyes to her. “He’s not here now. Good. I wanted to speak with you alone.”

“And what makes you think I want to listen to you?” Fire crackled around her balled fists, singeing the bar. “I’m much stronger than when you last met me. I could—”

“Spare me.” Fallor waved a hand through the air, as though he could wave away her words like a bad smell. “If you so much as make one move against me, your father dies.”

“What?” Vi whispered. The spark stilled, iced over with horror.

“Adela is the pirate queen—do you think she rules by being everywhere at once?” Vi stayed silent, allowing him to continue in whatever way he wanted. “No, she delegates, as any good ruler would. As I’m sure you would understand.”

“Get to your point,” Vi ground out through clenched teeth.

“I know you’re not threatening me, are you?” Fallor looked to Charlie. Charlie leaned against the bar, fumbling with a large hoop earring in his ear. “Because, you see, Charlie here has an imprinted token of Adela’s.”

Vi’s hand went to her watch at the mention of an imprinted token. She knew what that was. It was what had started it all—it was the same as her watch. Though Vi had never seen one made, she knew they could be used to communicate over any distance.

“He’s not the only one.” Fallor’s grin grew wider, verging on the point of mad arrogance. “Each one of my crew has a token. If Charlie so much as thinks you’ll use one bit of magic, he’ll activate it. If he, or I, don’t return in due time, the rest of my crew will activate theirs.”

Each one of his words was like a hook to her flesh—digging in, pulling, peeling, exposing her. They had so quickly put together a plan… none of them had thought for one moment Fallor would have a better one to counter with.

“So, not one more word. Not one bit of fuss for my colleague here,” Fallor commanded as Charlie slowly collected his cards. “You’re going to come calmly onto my vessel, or your father dies. Do you understand?”

Vi bit the insides of her cheeks. She wanted to scream juth at him until her voice was hoarse. She wanted to burn the whole brewery down to ash, them inside. She wanted to sever head from spine with the blade of her scythe.

Maybe Fallor was lying. Maybe she could kill Charlie fast enough that he couldn’t get to Adela. But could she kill Fallor before he flew away? Could she, Taavin and Arwin take him down in the middle of Toris—a town where the majority of the population would stand for Fallor? And even if they could, how long until the pirates aboard Fallor’s ship would raise an alarm?

These were risks Vi couldn’t take—not with her father’s life on the line.

All she could do was nod.

“Good.” Fallor pushed away from the bar, starting for the back door. “Now, remember Vi, your father’s life depends on what you do next.”

More than you know. Because while Fallor had out-planned them, he had also overplayed his hand. Vi knew what she was dealing with. And most importantly, Fallor had just confirmed her father was alive. He was too valuable a bargaining chip for Adela to let him die without gaining something for it.

All Vi had to do now was get out of this.

***

Intrigued – luckily book 3 is due for publications today!

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Books 1 and 2: