#SPFBO books five and six

It’s that time again. Up this week for review are:

A Gaze of Flint by Sandy Hyatt-James and The Age of Mages – Book one of the Mage Tales by Ilana Waters.

This week I will head straight into my reviews of the two excerpts. As usual, click on the book title below the cover image and it will whizz you over to their Amazon page should you wish to download the book. Please remember this is purely subjective and personal. Plus I’m only reading the excerpt and not the whole book, so my review is based on this section only.

A Gaze Of Flint by [Hyatt-James, Sandy]

A Gaze of Flint          Score 6/10

In terms of fantasy books, this is the type of sub-fantasy I generally find myself reading the most. I love Urban fantasy, which is what I am assuming this is from the opening chapters.

A Gaze of Flint opens with the protagonist, Elizabeth, having her passport photos taken in a booth. When the photo comes out she notices that the third photo is of a young girl instead of herself. She can’t understand what she is seeing and asks several people in ‘Loots’ (Boots?) the store she is in, whether they can see the girl too. They all answer no, and spooked, she rushes off back to her car only to catch a glimpse of a strange man who disappears when she looks in her rear view mirror. This makes her even more jumpy and she heads to her sister’s house for comfort.

As it transpires, Elizabeth has been chosen as a ‘Seer’, the man who was watching her a Mardak from a parallel universe. He is on Earth only because he has volunteered to test a new technology allowing him to travel between Earth and this parallel world, named Earthzadian. We learn, pretty quickly, that Mardak women, whilst unable to travel to Earth, are able to send telepathic visions to Earth women chosen as Seers. These visions are presented as premonitions so that  a crime can be prevented. Neat huh?!

In Elizabeth’s case she sees a little girl who, presumably, she needs to save from something sinister about to happen. This is confirmed when, at one point, the image of the little girl changes and a bruise appears on her face. Also neat.

The male Mardak, Orion, who Elizabeth sees in the opening chapter, is the first Earthzadian to get through the barrier between the two worlds. He is there purely because he volunteered to test out a new piece of technology allowing him to enter Earth, and only seems to have done so for the ‘hero’s welcome’ he is expecting on his return. I didn’t warm to this character at all. He’s an arse, but if I’m guessing correctly, the author would want me to think he’s an arse.  I suspect he’s building up to some redeeming qualities later in the book.

Prior to this ‘breakthrough’ technology, contact was made with ‘Earthlings’ through telepathy only (as Elizabeth is experiencing). The chosen Seers aren’t allowed to know about the twin dimension Earthzadian in case it causes a war with the Sveltans.  Apparently, ‘Svelta’ has a ‘pathological fear’ of Earth people, and if the Markans were to let the people of Earth know they existed – the Sveltans would wage war on the Markans. At this point in the book I’m not really sure who the Sveltans are, as they are mentioned in a passing comment – I am assuming this will be revealed more later on.

From what I can gather in the opening chapters, the whole point of the story is that Orion will somehow assist Elizabeth in saving the little girl, even though he isn’t supposed to be seen, for reasons I’ve already mentioned. That appears to be where the story is heading, and that’s perfectly fine.

However, I am left wondering how Orion can help Elizabeth if he isn’t allowed to reveal himself to her? Why would the Earthzadians invent a piece of technology that allows them to enter Earth to be used ‘for the good of Earth people’ when, in practical terms they are unable to do so because they can’t reveal themselves in case world war three breaks out?

Like Orion, himself, points out, if he could just materialise in front of Elizabeth, tell her what she needs to do to save the little girl then life would be so much simpler. I agree, it absolutely would, but then I guess there’d be no story?

However, to confuse matters, Elizabeth did see him in the opening chapter? So either the piece of tech wasn’t working or Elizabeth is ‘special’ and can see him despite the fact he was invisible, but hold on, he materialised in the back of her car and she didn’t notice him then, so maybe not?? The other thing that niggled me was that he returned to Earthzadian with a flick of a button, but it was set up as being almost impossible to enter Earth. It just seemed way too easy for him to get back?

Listen, I love the possibility of parallel worlds. I like the clever twist the author had with the photo (rather than your usual premonition). These are great ideas, but, for some reason, something is stopping me from suspending disbelief enough to want to find out what happens next. Maybe it was the info dumping in the beginning, or maybe it was because I didn’t really warm to either Elizabeth or Orion enough to want to continue with the story? I can’t put my finger on it.

Either way for me, these opening chapters didn’t quite capture my attention enough to want to read on, but I’ve awarded a 6/10 because I do really like the ideas presented.

The Age of Mages: Book I of the Mage Tales by [Waters, Ilana]

The Age of Mages  8/10

Firstly, can I just point out that I love this cover! It’s striking, blue, magical thunder-cloud hovering over the city, and hunky torso really caught my eye. It is actually one of my favourite covers in the selection. I am guessing just from the cover that this is also an Urban Fantasy…. (she rubs her hands in glee).

The opening sentence rocks: “Most conversations with my father take place through a dead woman”… yep I’m liking it so far…

Joshua is a mage, and he is funny! The first few chapters are first person POV (Joshua’s) and I found myself quickly smiling at some of the things he was saying during his fight with a Vampire. Which, by the way, as opening scenes go, kicked arse (quite literally) but I digress.

So, in Chapter two, we find out Joshua is the son of a 2000 year old Roman general, Titus. He’s a tyrant, but he’s also quick-witted and funny in a mean, disappointed kind of way, rather than an abusive way. Joshua and Titus are both looking for Joshua’s mother, missing, once presumed dead and it all, seemingly, has something to do with a crystal in her possession. A crystal that reputedly holds a wealth of power. A crystal some ancient, possibly dormant vampire called Callix Ferox is after. I like the sound of him already.

Roman Vampires, witches and mages? Cue lots of excited clapping on my part.

The excerpt ends with the two men, having killed the vampire, heading back to their hotel and Titus deciding that their search should focus on finding the crystal. Hmm, me thinks Titus has his own agenda (but this is just a guess).

I read this excerpt pretty quickly, probably because it was so well written, and the characters made me laugh out loud. There’s nothing like a funny Vampire, Spike from Buffy the Vampire springs to mind here. Did I enjoy this excerpt, hell yes. Would I buy the book, yup! So what’s my score.

It’s up there with the best. This was a well deserved (laugh out loud) 8/10.

Up next are:

Feyland – Book one Of The Dark Realm by Anthea Sharp


The Empire of the Dead by Phil Tucker