#SPFBO Review : The Flight of the Darkstar Dragon by Benedict Patrick

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300 books           10 Judges            1 winner

The 1st of June marked the start of the sixth Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (details here.)  My Introductory post is here.

You can find my updates for batch 1batch 2batch 3, Batch 4 and Batch 5 by clicking on the  links.

This week and next I will be posting reviews for the ten books I rolled forward to read fully.  Hopefully five reviews this week followed by an update and cuts and semi finalist announcements on Saturday.  I will then repeat this format the following week. I won’t be posting a rating for the books at this point.

FlightofThe Flight of the Darkstar Dragon has to have one of the most fascinating settings that I can recall reading for some time.  I had a really good time reading this, it’s incredibly creative and very well written.  The world building aspect almost puts me in mind of Pratchett where the number of possibilities feel infinite and there’s a certain charm about the story that creates a flavour of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland.  Plus, the unique world of the Darkstar Dimension and the number of prospects for exploration that it offers gave me Startrek vibes – simply because Min can, and will, boldly go (although, to be clear, there is no spaceship or space travel here).

As the story sets out we are thrown immediately into a bizarre situation.  The crew of the Melodious Narwhal, a skyship powered by magic, have been thrown to the deck (literally) and are all beginning to awaken from some sort of stupor and are all suffering from collective amnesia.  Min Choi, First Officer onboard, needs to pull herself together quickly and reassert command, especially as the skyship seems to have lost all power and is plummeting out of control.

Now, I’m not really going to elaborate too much on the plot.  I think it’s more important to give an outline of the world here and the characters that we spend time with.  This isn’t to say that the plot isn’t entertaining, because it is, but I think this has a first in series feel with plenty of elements being established which means certain elements feel a little more sketchy.  This isn’t a criticism I hasten to add.  I was totally immersed with this book and found myself really enjoying Min’s story.

So, to the setting  It’s difficult to pin this down and I have no doubt that my thoughts are going to be a mess.  The Darkstar Dimension is a world almost in reverse, or maybe more correctly a world that defies physics.  Everything here has a purple hue, the sun is encircled by a huge hungry dragon, fish can fly and a multitude of rifts can be seen that are constantly in motion.  The dragon I mentioned, due to its mammoth size, is continually hungry and sometimes steals magic from other realities creating rifts (and stranded people).  These rifts are perpetually in motion around the sun and the dragon which allows travel to different places as rifts become close enough to journey to.

There are a number of characters.  Min is the First Officer. She’s only recently graduated and so, although she’s been given command of the skyship she isn’t a captain – and this is a bone of contention with some of the crew who never miss an opportunity to snipe at her.  She seems to be constantly trying to win approval and yet in fairness, if not for her quick thinking, they’d all probably be long since dead.  We have a scholar on board called Abalendu, basically he’s the son of an Admiral in search of a mythical land.  His father gave the posting to Min thinking it would be good experience!  Zoya is a warrior taken on as a bodyguard to Abalendu.  She wears a magical artefact known as a Parasite Glove which gives her great strength and speed but comes at a cost (as the name implies).  Jedda is the Ship’s artificer, constantly relied upon to come up with impossible solutions.  FInally, we meet a new character called Brightest.  Brightest found himself similarly stranded in the Darkstar Dimension but seems to have made a home there.  Well, a mud tower constructed upon the back of a turtlemoth called Stickle.

There is drama, fascinating travel to some really crazy places and a general feel that there is so much more in the pipeline to look forward to.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, this is only fairly short and yet there’s a lot to fit in.  I think the setting steals the show in this instalment with the characters and plot playing second fiddle – but, I don’t think that’s a problem because the world building has me not only intrigued but hooked.

I can safely say that I would love to read more of Min’s adventures to infinity and beyond.  Sign me up.

I received a copy courtesy of the author, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

#SPFBO – My Next Steps

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300 books           10 Judges            1 winner

The 1st of June marked the start of the sixth Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (details here.)  My Introductory post is here.

You can find my updates for batch 1batch 2batch 3, Batch 4 and Batch 5 by clicking on the  links.

So, this is slightly new territory for me in that this year I’ve left all my possible books to the final month to read and review and I’ve decided to leave things fairly loose.  To be honest I’d like to read all 10 books before choosing semi-finalists but I’m also conscious that time is moving on and I need to keep on top of things and not leave everything to the last few days.  With that in mind I’m going to provide an update after I’ve completed the first five books, 

And, the following (not listed in any particular order) are the books that I will be reading (slight spoiler alert, in case you’re thinking this seems like a lot to get through I can say I’ve already completed three of these so hopefully my first update will come on swift wings

  1. Tuyo by Rachel Neumeier
  2. Voice of War by Zack Argyle
  3. The Flight of the Darkstar Dragon by Benedict Patrick
  4. The Child of Silence (The Burning Orbit Book 1) by Joseph O. Doran
  5. Trial of Thorns (Wicked Fae #1) by Stacey Trombley
  6. Calico Thunder Rides Again by T.A. Hernandez
  7. The Usurper (Brutal Saga #0.50) by James Alderdice
  8. The Hammer Of The Gods: So You Want To Be A Star (The Druid Trilogy #1) by Andrew Marc Rowe
  9. Knightmare Arcanist (Frith Chronicles #1) by Shami Stovall
  10. Incursion by Mitchell Hogan

On a final note – if any of my authors have audio versions available and would like me to check those out then just leave me a comment.

Good luck to everyone.

#SPFBO Review of From the Shadows of the Owl Queen’s Court (Yarnsworld #4) by Benedict Patrick

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ShadowofFrom the Shadows of the Owl Queen’s Court is the fourth book from Benedict Patrick’s Yarnsworld and is a book that can be read as a standalone.  This is one of the titles on my list of books for the 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 5 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.

The story follows two main characters, Nascha and Bradan, both will find themselves on a magical journey and their paths will eventually cross as they try to help each other through the forest.  Nascha serves in the castle, she has developed an unusual friendship with the Queen’s daughter, Princess Laurentina, although it’s a fragile friendship at best.  Nascha has her own secrets, for example, every month she takes poison, it’s not exactly clear whether this is something that is forced upon her or is taken willingly but what is clear is that Nascha is hiding and the reasons why soon become apparent and place her in danger.  Nascha’s only option is to flee the castle with the aid and protection of a stranger called The Gentleman Fox.  You could say out of the frying pan and into the fire and you wouldn’t be far short of the mark.

Bradan lives in the forest, his father has assumed some of the magic of the Magpie King and he protects the people of the forest.  The magic he has taken on his slowly poisoning him and he is slowly descending into madness and rage.  Bradan lives in the shadow of his father, he is desperate to be able to help and relieve his father but no parent would want that for their child and Bradan’s father is no exception.  He keeps Bradan away from the magic but this doesn’t keep Bradan from seeking other ways and means of gaining power for himself.

I won’t go into the plot further, both Bradan and Nascha will face danger and both will make difficult choices.

This is a story that is full of atmosphere, I enjoyed the writing style and the time spent in the forest which is a foreboding and cruel place to live.  I think the really winning elements to this story are the arcs that both characters enjoy and the way the story is sprinkled with folktales that pull the story together.  I loved these tales, they’re so imaginative and work really well with the overall storyline – I confess I eagerly awaited each new story.

The writing is really good, it has a certain simplicity that allows the world here to shine through, the forest is a scary place, full of different magics quite often competing with each other.  BP has a certain way with words that easily brings the forest to mind.  On top of that this is a confident display, it’s creative and strangely alluring, sexy for want of a better word.  I would just throw in at this point that there is a wedding scene that has to be one of the most unusual things I’ve ever read – you’ll know when you read it exactly which scene I’m referring to.

In terms of criticisms, I don’t really have much.  I had a slight dip in the middle of the read but not enough to really slow things down for me.  I wouldn’t say that we really spent a lot of time in the Owl Queen’s Court but then again this is called ‘In the shadows of’ so that explains that and to be honest I far preferred the time spent in the forest.  I do think that this would have been even better had I read the other books from the Yarnsworld series.  To be clear, this can be read as a standalone, but I think it maybe lacks a little of the fullness or complexity that comes with reading all the books in a series.

Overall, though, I thought this was a really good read and I will certainly read more of this author’s work.

I received a copy courtesy of the author, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.