T.E.J.Johnson

Fantasy Author of Cataindar: The Discovery

Month: August, 2014

Book review: MASKS by E. C. Blake

 

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E.C.Blake’s MASKS pulls readers into the masked land of Aygrima.

Wait what? I hear you say.

Yes. The masked land of Aygrima. The ruler of the land the Autarch masks his citizens once they are fifteen. The Masks denote people’s status and profession and the masking serves a secondary purpose; it weeds out those that carry evil in their heart. If you fail a masking your fancy mask cracks and worse – smashes your face in. I mean literally smashes your face in. You do not want to fail a masking.

The unmasked get sent to work in a brutal concentration camp mining the precious magic that powers the land.

Meet Mara Holdfast. She is our protagonist and her father is the most gifted mask-maker in the land. She is sure to have a bright future following in his footsteps until… Mara fails her masking.

“The mask squirmed and wriggled like a basket full of snakes, faster and faster, harder and harder. Mara gasped, then screamed, as she felt the skin above her cheekbones rip, the skin of her forehead split, her nose break. She fell to her knees, eyes squeezed shut, scrabbling at the Mask, tearing at it with her fingernails, but it wouldn’t come off, it was going to kill her – ”

And so the adventure begins.

There was a lot I really enjoyed reading MASKS. The lands of Aygrima are a cohesive well-developed world. There are some neat historical hooks for the series, such as the tales of the Lady of Blood and Fire, and how the Aygrima used to have trade-relations with another, sea-faring nation, until the boats just stopped coming.

I absolutely loved how Blake described the Masked citizens of Aygrima, you can totally *see* their amazing masks, and how it would change people’s communication as you read.

Mara holds an incredible power, a shocking, violent power – and I think this is the most exciting aspect of Masks. Seeing Mara develop her use of magic.  Like precious metal, magic is mined for the gifted to use, and Mara is very, very gifted.

The kind of gifted that she could accidentally blow your head clean off.

The novel is fast paced and Mara gets herself in and out of a million-tangles as she falls from a high-born Aygriman citizen, to concentration-camp prisoner to unmasked rebel.

MASKS is a great read – best of all the sequel, SHADOWS has just been released too – with the third FACES in the works.

I would thoroughly recommend this novel; it is a great page-turner and a fantastic start to an exciting new series.

I’ve already bought SHADOWS, and am just about to turn over Page 1. (Remember that sea-faring nation that just stopped showing up? Check out this cover! ) So there shall be a review to follow with that soon!

Happy reading my friends.

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Words in the Park

I had the great pleasure of listening to some fabulous authors speak this lunch time.

There is always a magic in spoken word, a tone that you may miss if reading, a timing in live word that adds emotion, a personal connection that you may have not understood.

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Today we listened to (L-R) Sheilia Bautz, Keith Foster, Beth Goobie emceed by Annette Bower. So we had a ton of Sasky talent up on the mic.

A wonderful initiative by the Saskatchewan Writer’s Guild.

Shiela Bautz:

Shelia read from her novel; Walking the cutline, When Companies Kill, A Memoir. It deals with the death of her husband  while seismic drilling in northern Alberta and subsequent investigation. You could absolutely feel the passion and the warm memories, and Shiela’s determination through the read.  She is alsp working on a Fantasy novel, which, given how good her read was- I am sure will be awesome. More info about Shiela is here.

Keith Foster:

Keith Foster has won several awards for historical writing. His narrative poems, stories, and non-fiction have been published in more than two dozen anthologies and numerous magazines.

Keith read some wonderful entertaining narrative poems, including Red Shoes; about his wife’s concerns about being mistaken for a hooker in Mexico, and about the time when he came home naked from the waist-down.  He was ‘exploring a cave’ and that is where we shall end that! Keith’s warm wit came through every sentence, and he had the audience all smiling and laughing.

Beth Goobie:

Beth Goobie has thrice won the Saskatchewan Children’s Literature Award. She also won the 2001 Canadian Library Young Adult Book Award, and has twice been shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award for Children’s Literature. Her many YA novels focus on issues such as bullying, physical and sexual assault, substance abuse, gangs, first love, sexual orientation and the process of learning the balance between rights and responsibilities as a young person comes into her/his own.

Today Beth Goobie read from her poems, each one had a wonderful, mesmerizing quality. A fun poem that drew some laughs was dedicated to  Chris Haynes, a weather reporter of CBC with a great love of adverbs!

In a conversation after Beth asked if I might track down this weather reporter gentlemen – and gave me the poem. I said yes of course.

Though in retrospect I should have also asked her to sign it first!

 

 

Book review: Johannes Cabal The Detective by Jonathan L. Howard

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Book review of Johannes Cabal the Detective 

 

I picked this book up, saw a reference to Broken Sword and immediately bought it.
I didn’t read the previous Cabal book, but Howard has crafted this one to bring you up to speed pretty quick. Johannes Cabal is the dark anti-hero that seems to have recently got a heart. However, right now he is a very unpopular necromancer in need of a swift exit and he blags his way onto a luxury airship… and so the story REALLY begins.

 

There are some great diagrams in the book, efforts like these don’t go unnoticed and as a just make you feel special. Bravo Random House, bravo. Check it out,

 

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Cabal is a great protagonist to root for; OCD, rude, weird but a total bad-ass; he makes you laugh, cheer and read on and on through his adventure.

Imagine Murder on the Orient Express except featuring a skinny Poirot loves guns, isn’t scared to kill people and can do back-flips…oh yes… and is able to bring recently murdered people back to life.

Now I think that sounds pretty sweet.

 

Want me to review your YA sci-fi or fantasy? Shoot me a note.

 

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