Book Review: Blood Heir by Ilona Andrews

Blood Heir

(Aurelia Ryder #1)

by Ilona Andrews

Genre: Urban Fantasy/Dystopian Future

Stand alone or series? Book one of a trilogy.

Romantic Subplot? File that under “It’s complicated.”

Steam? There was some sexual tension between the main character and her love interest. This is not a kissing book.

Violence? Gory battle violence typical of the urban fantasy genre.

Plot: Julie Lennart has returned to Atlanta as Aurelia Ryder. She’s on a mission to investigate the brutal murder of a holy man, but must keep her presence in Atlanta a secret from her parents. 

What I liked about it: I loved all ten books in the Kate Daniels series and this book stuck close to all the things I adored about those books: solid world building, excellent plot, memorable characters, vivid action scenes, and witty dialogue.

What I didn’t like about it: I am always hesitant to give negative feedback, especially with a fan base as large and devoted as Ilona Andrews’ has, but it would be remiss to not give my honest opinion. 

While I loved the story overall, I found myself reading through a lot of exposition regarding the Kate Daniels series and the eight years between fictional events. It seemed like they wanted to catch us up on ten books worth of world building and backstory that made the first half of the book drag. I feel there could have been a short story (did I miss it?) about Julie’s transformation rather than being told about it.

In some parts, it felt like I was reading Kate in a blond wig and green contacts. I hope Aurelia keeps her mom’s values but shows her own personality more.

That said, now that the backstory has been told and Aurelia’s predicament established, I’m looking forward to the next two books in the trilogy. 

Author Interview: T. J. Deschamps

Q: What inspired you to write your first book?

A: In August of 2019, I went to Dublin for World Con. While I was there, I went on tours of Ireland, falling in love with the tragic history of the Emerald Isle, the magical way the tour guides shared their accounts, the ruins and functioning historical sites, the forests in the north, as well as the resiliency and humor of the Irish people. 

I also loved the Ballad of Tam Lin. I always thought the Queen of the faeries was betrayed and that making a promise to a fae and breaking it would have consequences. So, I combined the tours and that concept for this tale. 

I started doing research into the Ulster Cycle and came up with an entire series based on these myths of love, sacrifice, betrayal, and in my series, ultimately redemption. All the characters you meet in Tam Lin: A Modern Queer, Retelling have a story in the series that sprang from this novella.

Q: What are your current projects?

Warrior Tithe is the story of Fergus and Aoife, two side characters in Tam Lin. I wrote a story within a story framework of the couple in the present and how they came to serve Mab in the past. Two books in the Faerie Tales series will be from their perspective. I’ve also brought Cu Roi mac Daire from the Ulster Cycle as a villain in this story. Warrior Tithe will be up for preorders in February and will debut in March 2021.

Eastside Hedge Witch is my other project. I’m in the developmental edits stage of that story. This book is very different in tone and is a full-length novel. It’s paranormal women’s fiction with a middle-aged protagonist. I had so much fun writing and writing in a humorous, tone. Crossing fingers and toes the publishing house I’m working with will publish it this year. 

Q: Do you see writing as a career?

A: I see writing as a passion. I love crafting stories, coming up with fantasy worlds, my own take on supernatural creatures and magic-world building. I see revising, editing, and publishing as a career, or the business side of writing. 

Q: Which famous person, living or dead, would you like to meet?

Taika Waititi. He’s brilliant. He can take a profoundly tragic or a complex subject, such as the foster care system and the treatment of ex-cons and explore with humor. I think it is much harder to write comedy than tragedy. I’d love to meet him and pick his creative brain. 

©T.J. Deschamps

Cover Art for Warrior Tithe/ Update on Eastside Hedge Witch

I received the art for paperback this morning and it is…well look at it! It’s gorgeous! I described a scene in Warrior Tithe to my cover artist. She created a perfect image that only previously existed in my head.

I’m excited to see the final layout and will share it with you here. Also, I will be putting the story on preorder on February 1st so look out for reminders to get your copy.

If bloggers would like to let me do a ‘takeover’ or interview me about Warrior Tithe or the cover reveal, please contact me through my contact page.

Lastly, I will be looking for ARC readers to leave a review. Please contact me through my contact page not this site if you’d like to receive a free advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

In other news, yours truly and a little bit about Eastside Hedge Witch will be featured in the Mad Raptor Productions newsletter, so if you haven’t signed up for that, head over to MRP’s website here:

Hope you’re all doing well!

©T.J. Deschamps 2021

Review: Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba (anime)

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba is a manga written and illustrated by Koyoharu Gotōge. I haven’t read this manga (waiting until comic book stores are open again to find the English version), but I’m watching season one of the anime on Netflix with my youngest. After watching most of season 1, I felt compelled to write something about it as it is an excellent example of storytelling.

Plot: The anime starts out with as saccharine as beginnings as you can get. Tanjiro Kamado and his whole family are a bunch of cutesy cinnamon rolls. Tanjiro is an obedient, family oriented boy, with all the traits that will get absolutely get you bullied on the American playground. However, after watching so much disfunction and dystopia, it was a refreshing start for me. I know enough about story craft to know this set up of idyllic mountain life in Taishō era Japan would not last.

Spoiler Alert:

Don’t read this section if you don’t want any plot spoilers for the first episode.

Skip down to “What I Liked” section.

Tanjiro is delayed by an elder, who insists that Tanjiro stay the night at his house because demons run throughout the mountains, feasting on human blood during the night. Tanjiro, being the sweet boy that he is, does as he’s told and figures the old man just wants company. The viewer learns through inner monologuing that Tanjiro plans to brighten the old man’s life with visits from his cinnamon roll family so that he isn’t so lonely and crotchety, and dismisses this demon talk as nonsense. (A lot of inner monologuing goes on in this series and is an anime trope I had to get over to enjoy the story.)

When Tanjiro returns home, he finds his entire family slaughtered except his sister, Nezuko. Unfortunately, she has been made a demon.

A demon slayer appears, intent on killing Nezuko. It’s Tanjiro’s bravery, defending his sister and her defense of Tanjiro that changes the slayer’s mind. He sends Tanjiro off to a master, who will train Tanjiro and possibly help him find a cure for Nezuko’s demonism.

Tanjiro goes on a hero’s journey style quest to find a cure for his sister Nezuko, finding himself among the ranks of Demon Slayer Corps along the way.

What I Liked:

  1. The hero isn’t propelled into action to avenge his family’s death. His motivation is to save his sister Nezuko from the fate of being a demon the rest of her life or being slayed by a demon slayer.
  2. Tanjiro’s first mistake is not taking an elder’s wisdom seriously. It cost him his family. Respect for elders is something lacking in a lot of entertainment.
  3. Friendships and family are important and community is emphasized. Loners aren’t successful for very long.
  4. Overlooking your friend’s shortcomings and seeing their value. There are some annoying characters along the way, but Tanjiro befriends them anyway, inner monologuing away about their good qualities.

What I didn’t like:

  1. The inner monologuing of all characters. The expository “telling” in the omniscient point of view could sometimes be redundant. Sometimes fight scenes got weighed down by this, but it is an anime trope, not exclusive to Demon Slayer.
  2. The overreactions/acting. The screaming characters can be a bit much for me, but also a trope and I simply turn down the volume.

Would I recommend Demon Slayer:

That depends on who’s asking.

Fantasy writers seeking to improve their craft, teenagers, and anime fans? Yes.
People who don’t like cartoons or overly dramatic dialogue/monologue. No.

Hope you’re all doing well.

©TJ Deschamps

Publishing Plans for 2021

Today I wrote “The End” to Warrior Tithe. Or rather, I wrote “To Be Continued.” I’m writing the Faerie Tales series in serial fashion. My plan is to publish each novella every three months, starting in March.

Told as a story within a story frame, Warrior Tithe is both a pseudo sequel to Tam Lin: A Modern, Queer Retelling in its prologue and epilogue, and a prequel.

The prologue and epilogue is written from Fergus’s point of view. He’s ancient at this point, and he and his wife Aoife are indentured to the Queen of the Sidhe, Mab. Fergus is tired of seeking out the reincarnations of Tamlin…and killing him for the queen over and over again. So, he and Aoife plot with her sister to do something about it. For the series, the frame story will be about their attempt to free themselves.

The interior story is about how the couple became indentured to the queen and ties into the exterior story. The interior story for first installment in the series told from three perspectives: Fagan, a peasant, who has lost everything. Aoife, a kelpie, escaping a marriage where she’ll be used for her sight. Cu Roi mac Daire (shortened to Roi for my sanity) the sorcerer king, who needs Aoife’s sight to find where his first wife disappeared, and will stop at nothing to find both women.

I’ve seen the preliminary sketches my cover artist made for Warrior Tithe. I’m so excited to do a cover reveal later this month and get the preorders started.

While Warrior Tithe is with my editor, I’ll be working on a couple of Simone Cummings’s short stories I’ve had in the works. I hope to throw up on Smashwords as well as Amazon.

Hope you all are doing well. Happy writing!

©T.J. Deschamps

Antagonists: Mental Illness is an Overdone and Ableist Trope

I recently had a fellow writer comment that Roi, the antagonist for Warrior Tithe, gave them “Ramsay Bolton vibes”. I took it as a compliment. A character readers love to hate.

However, I want to say this. Cu Roi mac Daire is a legendary figure from The Ulster Cycle, not someone suffering from mental illness. Bláthnat, his wife in the legend (and in my story) meant nothing but a war prize to Roi. He claimed her when he and Cu Chulainn raided her father’s castle. She gave Cu Roi’s secret to Cú Chulainn to escape a husband she never wanted, not because he was canonically, in the legend or in my story, cruel and abusive to her. I think that makes for a better story than a boy that was cruel because his daddy was cruel to him.

In my story, Roi is not a narcissist or a sociopath. He struggles with some of the choices he makes and has his regrets. He has several chances to do the right thing, but rationalizes that saving his skin, staying immortal, and staying king is worth the lives he ruins and takes.

Usually, victims of abuse do not turn into violent criminals. People who suffer from mental illness are not inherently violent, and it is time that writers stop using mental illness as a villain trope.

©T.J. Deschamps

Indie Author Spotlight: Delivering Evil for Experts by Annette Marie

Delivering Evil for Experts

(The Guild Codex: Demonized #4)

by Annette Marie

If you’re not familiar with Annette Marie’s books, I’d start with Three Mages and a Margarita (The Guild Codes: Spellbound #1). The Spellbound books (8 total) and Demonized books (4 total) are parallel story lines in the same world that sometimes intersect. For reading order go here:

Genre: Urban Fantasy
Romantic Subplot: Marie is the Queen of Slow Burn.
Steam: Not fade to black but not graphic either.
Diverse: Eh. Side characters from the Guild Codex: Spellbound are diverse and intersect into this series, but the MC is a cisgender, heterosexual white woman.
Action: Marie’s action scenes should be taught in UF writing classes. They’re so vivid but not bogged down with description.

POV character:
Robin (1st person perspective)–Book smart, linguist, demonica class mage, who overthinks everything. She has big feels but holds them inside Stress baker. (Sidenote) A. M. needs to write a cookbook because the bribe cookies in this series sound so yummy.

Plot: Delivering Evil for Experts is the wrap up novel for the Guild Codex: Demonized series. Robin is searching for a way to send Zylas, the demon, home while at the same time secretly pining he’ll stay. She grows a lot in this book and begins to open up. The story ties in with Guild Codex: Spellbound’s eighth book Damned Souls and a Sangria.

Recommend? I highly recommend these books. Actually, everything written by Annette Marie. The only books by her I haven’t read are her Red Winter novels.

©TJ Deschamps 2021

Are you an indie author? Do you write Urban Fantasy, Fantasy, Fairytales, or Science Fiction would like to submit your book for review? Go to the contact page. Your submission does not guarantee a review, but I will contact you if I plan to post one.

A Writerly View on Recent Events

I debated whether I’d say something here or not because this is my author website, and a writing and review blog, not a current events forum. However, I wanted to say this. Writers are keen observers. How is that related? Let me tell you.

When a writer goes out in public, whether they be introvert or extrovert, they’re people watching. They’re eaves dropping on conversations and they’re watching patterns of behavior. It’s not all the time, and no, we’re not stalkers. It’s all about creating believable characters. It’s all about understanding humans and their interactions.

When a writer watches a riot, they’re not watching for the sensationalism. They’re wondering what motivated people to do such a thing. What will their lives be like when they go home. What will happen next. There is fear and all the other emotions any empathetic person would feel while observing violent events, but they ask the question why.

Plotting a novel, short story or whatever fiction narrative we write requires that question. What I saw wasn’t a bunch of angry people. I saw afraid people. I saw them fear that if they lose their enabler, they would have to experience personal growth and face why they think like they do. Introspection is terrifying to someone who would follow a man who says ‘law and order’ in one breath and then incites a mob to stop exactly that. The rioters were acting based upon emotion, not reason and logic.

The behavior I witnessed on January 6th was not akin to the French Revolution, or any revolution with righteous anger at a corrupt system. That insurrection was nowhere near close. I’ve volunteered for my children’s schools since they were in preschool, observing children and their group dynamics for almost fourteen years. What I saw on the news resembled scared children afraid that the class bully was going to get expelled and they would not be able to terrorize children they bullied all their lives. That the rioters would be held accountable for their actions and that didn’t sit well. The rioters behaved like teenagers, who broke into the principal’s office and trashed the teacher’s classroom who gave them an F, not serious adults with actual demands.

The class bully didn’t use his power to immediately shut down their actions. He gave a speech in front of the class so he wouldn’t get kicked out two weeks before graduation–A day too late. This event will go down in history, at least in my mind, as the Class Prank.

However, they are not children, and it wasn’t just the principal’s office the perpetrators vandalized. People died. Documents that threaten national security were stolen. They are adults and should be held accountable for their actions.

Painful as it might be, the country needs to grow up, learn to manage our emotions, and deal with our problems at home and elsewhere like rational adults. Hopefully, we can move forward as a nation.

©T.J. Deschamps 2021

Update: I just read that they found two pipe bombs and a cooler filled with Molotov cocktails.

Book Review: Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin

Serpent & Dove

(Serpent & Dove #1)

by Shelby Mahurin

I am a sucker for fairy tale retellings done well. And I’m an absolute fool for Beauty and the Beast retellings. At first, I didn’t recognize Serpent & Dove as such, but Amazon kept insisting in its recommendations that this book was for me.

Serpent & Dove takes place in fake France and has French proverbs and swear words interspersed throughout.

Thankfully, it isn’t a kidnapping trope story. I highly doubt Lou, one of two mcs and a thief who knows how to get out of sticky situations, would have stayed in a locked room for long. The book has one of my favorite tropes: enemies to lovers.

Reid is a witch hunter and Lou is a witch. Lou is a thief and Reid wants to catch her. In the process of his pursuit, she does something that will tarnish his reputation and that of the Chasseurs (witch hunters ordained by the church). The Archbishop gives Lou a choice, go to jail as a thief or marry Reid. Both object. Both have good reasons, but they both acquiesce for different reasons.

I thought that the Archbishop’s reasons were thin until the end. Wow. The plot twists and the revelations throughout were so delicious.

I love when everything a character thinks he/she/they thinks they know is true is absolutely wrong. It goes to show that our convictions should never come from blind belief, that we should always question and challenge why something is the way it is, especially if people are oppressed or killed because of it.

I’m glad I purchased it on Audible with a credit because the voice acting was superb. I think the actor was the same one who does Jay Kristoff and Amy Kaufman’s Aurora Cycle books. This book was so good, I think that I’ll give it a (re)read.

©T.J. Deschamps 2021

Book Review: Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Black Sun

(Between Earth and Sky #1)

by Rebecca Roanhorse

For a fan of epic fantasy and historical fantasy, being swept into Pre-Colonial America was a treat. Roanhorse builds a sweeping world but also gets into pictures of everyday life. She brings the mystical and extraordinary into the ordinary with Black Sun.

We get an epic fantasy lens of multiple perspectives tying together the present and the past masterfully. I was riveted from page one.

The POV Characters:

An avatar for a god named Serapio. Serapio’s backstory is classic fantasy, where he is trained by many teachers, but it quickly comes into question whether he’s a hero, an anti-hero, a villain, or a dupe for his mother and her friends, who were bent on revenge. Black Sun really explores the whole nature versus nurture debate. I think it is more profound than that. The book also explores what happens to children who lack love are willing to do to get it.

A Teek woman named Xiala. Xiala is a ship captain charged with taking Serapio to Tova. She’s got time and weather constraints, an untrustworthy crew, and secrets. I found this character the most fascinating. She’s lusty and hedonistic, but she’s no terrible male trope in a woman’s body. There are reasons behind her behaviors. And, I’d like to shout out for bisexual representation done right.

A sun priestess named Naranpa. Naranpa is a woman who came from humble beginnings to rise to the highest position possible in the priesthood. She’s a smart and capable person, who is so blinded by faith she cannot see treachery all around her. I didn’t like her character at first. I’m not down with holy types trying to impose their religion on everyone else. The moment she sought out her gangster little brother, you’ll see the lengths Naranpa will go and why she deserves to be on the top.

Each of these characters’ stories would be enough but combined and how they’re tied together is what makes this story a masterpiece. Usually with epic fantasy, you’re bogged down with world building for the first several chapters, but Roanhorse artfully uses the multiple points of view to show the readers the world rather than tell.

I’m eagerly awaiting the next installment in this series.

©TJ Deschamps 2021

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