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Roderick Donald

Welcome to the News & Reviews section here at Doctor Who Online! This is where you will find all the latest Doctor Who related news and reviews split up into easy to use sections - each section is colour coded for your convenience. The latest items can be found at the top, and older items follow down the page.

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18 July 2021

Publisher: Inklings Publishing

Written By: Fern Brady

RRP: £12.04 / $14.95 (Paperback) | £3.92 / $5.43 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Nathan Jones

Fern Brady's United Vidden - the first book in her Thyreins’s Galactic Wall series - is a highly creative, compelling Science Fantasy / Space Opera story set in an imagined future of our universe, with a unique romance theme at its core.

The story revolves around Princess Verena, daughter of the widowed King Dekkyle, ruler of Dravidia—the northern half of the Vidden continent on planet Jorn, one of fifty-one major populated planets in Thyrien’s Galactic Wall (wall, we believe, meaning galaxy). The second major player is Prince Amiel, ruler of the southern half of the Vidden continent—Aulden. Amiel seems set on ruling over the whole continent and winning the heart of the fair and courageous Princess Verena. His motivations, however, are questionable.

Across the eastern Black Ocean, or western Green Ocean, the Gortive people of the Parthia continent seem to be preparing for war, so perhaps a United Vidden would be in favour its people, who usurped the aboriginal Gortive from “their” lands eons earlier.

More than anything else, United Vidden is a wonderful combination of royal court drama (reminiscent of Elizabethan times) and adventure. The changing allegiances of the aristocracy as the story progresses are captivating and led by the intriguing twists and turns of the masterful plot. The main characters are truly unforgettable and far from static, changing and developing as the gripping story unfolds. Their tempestuous journeys make this a real page-turner.

The machinations of the Wall’s magical religious sects (Rajin, Nijar, The Elamin Order, and more) overlay the plotting and romances of the book’s “ordinary” folk. And on a higher level than this, we get hints at The Wall’s interplanetary politics, between members of the Intergalactic Council such as planets Schol, Drulin, Fratern, and Fridgia. The various levels of power and influence give the read a true sense of being a space opera, along the lines of Frank Herbert’s Dune.

This book would make an amazing movie, it very much plays out like a blockbuster in the reader’s head. One that would appeal to both Sci-fi and Fantasy fans. Understandably, as this is the first book in a series, many of the plot lines remain open at the climax, but the ending of the novel is very satisfying regardless.

As this was released in June, 2020, we’re very much hoping the sequel will be released sometime soon.

+  United Vidden is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!
+  Follow @Fbrady03 (Fern Brady) on Twitter.
+  Follow @NathanJonesBook (Nathan Jones) on Twitter

14 July 2021

Publisher: Journey Fiction

Written By: Grimly Darkwood

RRP: £9.99 / $9.99 (Paperback) | £1.46 / $2.01 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

Grimly Darkwood's 'The Shop On Peculiar Hill' (book 1 in his 'The Vale Of Strange' series), is a captivating children's fantasy that equally and wonderfully captures the imaginations of adults alike.

The story focuses on Peter - an orphan who has been sent to live with his Uncle Bob and Aunt Maggie, who are shop owners in (the awesomely named) Peculiarshire. Lurking within Peculiarshire is the mysterious Vale Of Strange - a foreboding place where tourists go missing and are never heard of again. A young boy goes missing and Peter, together with new-found friend, Amanda, begin a truly thrilling journey to discover what is really going on...

The author has peppered the mystery, intrigue and suspense perfectly throughout the book, and despite being aimed at kids, even as an adult I have to admit that it had me on the edge of my seat on several occasions. There are shocks and scares and Heeble-Greebs and...ahem...Bogeys (no, not those kind), and at every turn, there’s a genius new plot twist or device that propels the reader into the adventure further.

Whilst there is darkness, Darkwood gives us a much needed dose of humour throughout. Actual laugh-out-loud moments, that make you question whether the author had a previous life as a comedian! This balance of dark and light sews together a truly charming adventure that feels so much larger than the sum of its parts.

Everything is so vivid and visual - even in the darker places, and you cannot help but hope that this gets turned into a tv series or movie. Its practically begging for the big screen!

The reader can be forgiven for drawing parallels to Lemony Snickett's Series of Unfortunate Events, as there is definitely a similar vibe here, also flavours of Harry Potter with the in-depth, in-world characters and ecology, but Darkwood very much cuts his own creepy path here. 

Book 2 ('Stranger Days On Peculiar Hill') is already out, and you better believe we're going to be along for the ride to find out what happens next in this brilliantly bonkers fantasy for all!

+  The Shop On Peculiar Hill is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!
+  Follow @DarkwoodGrimly (Grimly Darkwood) on Twitter.

5 July 2021

Publisher: Self Published

Written By: Jim Hamilton

RRP: £8.09 / $9.95 (Paperback) | £1.64 / $2.27 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

Back in April we had the pleasure of reviewing Jim Hamilton's first entry in his Chaos Trilogy; The Chaos Machine - an epic Science Fiction adventure that spans 7000 years. For book 2; Second Contact, Hamilton brings down the timeframe from 7000 years (in the first book) to a much smaller one here, but don't think that you get short-changed on any of the action... It's all here in spades, and we'd actually argue that this is an ever better story than the first.

"When aliens from different parts of the Universe encounter each other in 5342 AB, old friendships are renewed and new friendships begin as 19-year-old Cassiopeia upends the ancient Shoomaran Empire. And when she's done, nothing in the Universe will ever be the same again."

Set mainly in the year 5342AB, we follow our protagonist, Cassiopeia (and by god what a great, strong female lead she is) who is at the centre of a multi-faceted fight for Human / Shoomaran acceptance and harmony. This is moreso a political tale that its precursor (akin to Star Wars: The Phantom Menace), where you can almost foresee the foreboding ramifications if our heroine isn't successful in her mission.

Ultimately, this is a story of hope - something that in a year of viruses and restrictions and lockdowns, we can all sympathise with. That hope resonates with the reader - not just because of the events in the story, but for the parallels of our own world.

Once again we have clear-cut characters who are believable and naturalistic in the way they're described as well as their inter-species dialogue. Sure there are aliens, but Hamilton paints them in such a real way that suspends your disbelief without question.

As with The Chaos Machine, the author's use of timelines is genius; whilst on the outside it may look complex with all the many strands, Hamilton's peripheral hand-holding (without patronising) really makes you feel like you are present in the action, and it somehow all somehow feels transpicuous.

This is an author who is clearly full of great ideas and knows exactly how to execute them. He also knows how to hold onto ideas and put them in his back pocket for use later. Little things from book 1 come back here for book 2, and its not hard to see how the events in Second Contact are going to play out in the third part of the trilogy (Mankind 2.0). Another palpable hit here from Hamilton!

+  Second Contact is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!
+  Follow @Chaosity8 (Jim Hamilton) on Twitter.

25 June 2021

Publisher: Self Published

Written By: Spaulding Taylor

RRP: £9.34 / $19.67 (Paperback) | £0.99p / $1.37 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

For a first SciFi novel, Spaulding Taylor has hit the ground running with 'Last Star Standing' - a truly well-thought-out, dystopian thriller with bags of adventure, suspense and well-placed humour.

The story focuses on our protagonist, Aiden Tenten, and is told in a first-person narrative, which makes you feel that much closer to the action. It's a post World War Three setting, where Earth is all but decimated by aliens, and we're in it for the long haul as Aiden tries to complete his mission against all odds.

There are tremendous action scenes which Spaulding brings to life in such a way that it feels like it has all the budget of a Hollywood blockbuster movie, and due to the narrative style it's close, real, and perfectly epic. 

'Last Star Standing', whilst obviously a work of fiction, has a lot of echoes into our world, and you can almost forsee some of the events within coming to fruition. It somehow feels like a warning to the reader and you'll notice many parallels that make you stop and think.

With flavours of Star Wars, 1984 and a tiny dash of Starship Troopers thrown in for good measure, this is a Science Fiction yarn that will offer much needed escapism in a time where, let's face it, we all need to escape for a bit. 

Without spoiling things, there isn't a cliffhanger as such, and a lot does get wrapped up whilst also  offering a springboard for a sequel. Looking forward to seeing what's next from this talented author!

+  Last Star Standing is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!

7 June 2021

Publisher: Self Published

Written By: Razi Imam

RRP: £10.37 / $12.95 (Paperback) | £FREE / $4.01 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

Razi Imam's 'Masters Of The Broken Watches' is an exciting new entrant to the science fiction genre.

This is a story that focuses on two groups of protagonists; a Vietnamese fisherman Pham Kai and his wife Minh, and the other on Sebastian Miles and his team of fellow scientists. The juxtaposition of these two worlds is stark and acts as a refreshing change in tone.

It is clear just how much research the author has put into the book; from the cultures we encounter to the locations we visit - all are written so richly and vibrantly, and in doing so Imam brings so much from the page to life. Some of the exposition at the start may seem a little slow at first, but its totally necessary in fleshing out the characters and places and making them feel that bit more real.

As the title suggests, time plays a part in the story, but in a totally brilliant way. Fans of Douglas Adams' work may feel at home here, although there are no cheap gags and everything is played straight-up with sincerity. Some of the more 'out there' elements of Masters Of The Broken Watches end up making you suspend your disbelief and it is these shining moments that make the story truly magical.

We mentioned about this being a Science Fiction novel, but it is so much more than that; it's a thriller, a scientific quest, a heart-breaking story of love (and the lengths a person will go because of that love). In many ways this is a genre-bending adventure that very much carves its own unique path.

Keep your eyes on this author as we expect more great things from his fantastic mind!

**This book is FREE to download for DWO visitors TODAY! 

+  Masters Of The Broken Watches is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!

16 May 2021

Publisher: The Wild Rose Press

Written By: Kimberly Baer

RRP: £12.98 / $16.43 (Paperback) | £3.60 / $5.06 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

What's not to like in Kimberly Baer's captivating story, The Haunted Purse? The premise is brilliant:

"That old denim purse Libby Dawson bought at the thrift store isn't your run-of-the-mill teenage tote. It's a bag of secrets, imbued with supernatural powers. Strange items keep turning up inside, clues to a decades-old mystery only Libby can solve."

One could be forgiven for thinking that Libby (our central character) has found an old item belonging to a time lord; a seemingly transcendental bag where mysterious objects turn up, sounds like something straight out of an episode of Doctor Who, but The Haunted Purse is very much its own thing. In fact, as a plot device, the concept of a mere purse that can help drive the plot forward is simply genius!

If you read the Acknowledgments section at the start of the book, you discover how the author conceived the concept for the purse, and who it was that gave her the inspiration. Needless to say it's a wonderfully apt and perfect little bit of detail.

In this Young Adult story, Libby is a teen who has had a relatively hard life, having been abandoned by her contemptible mother, and now living alone. The titular purse paves the way for a good old fashioned mystery - almost Nancy Drew meets Doctor Who.

There's a fun cast of characters too, Libby and her friends are all layered with their own quirks and there's some great inter-character development and discourse that evolves throughout the book.

This was a surprisingly gripping story, the likes of which, I must confess, I've never really experienced in a book of this genre. Baer's pacing and peppering of mystery was that of a seasoned author let alone a debut novel.

The ending, for us at least, was one of the most satisfying conclusions to a young adult novel that we've read in a long time. It was bittersweet, and whilst we won't draw on the detail, its nice (for a change) to know that a book can just 'be' without the promise of a sequel. The Haunted Purse is a beautiful standalone story that teens and adult alike will enjoy. Recommended!

+  The Haunted Purse is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!

15 May 2021

Publisher: Self Published

Written By: Roderick Donald

RRP: £12.50 / $14.99 (Paperback) | £3.99 / $5.53 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

The Mind Controller, by Roderick Donald, it the first book in the author's Cait Lennox: Femme Fatale series; an urban fiction that straddles the thriller, paranormal and fantasy genres.

*It's worth noting that there is actually a prequel to Book One called 'The Awakening'. Whilst you do not necessarily have to read it, there is a handy 'The Story So Far...' section at the beginning of book one, which fills in some gaps.

We follow our protagonist, Cait Lennox - a strong female lead, who slowly discovers her paranormal abilities. At first glance, there doesn't appear to be anything particularly exciting about Cait, but as the story progresses, we watch her transform into a multi-layered force of nature.

There's a particularly harrowing scene a few pages in that merits some slight caution for those of a sensitive disposition, but it's an important and poignant one that gives us our first taste of 'The Gift' that binds itself through Cait's journey.

Donald's use of description is simply wonderful; his almost poetic scenic descriptions bring the reader within a hair's breadth of the setting in such clarity that you genuinely feel you are there. Here's a perfect example from the very first chapter:

"In a glance, she [Cait] took in the heavy, steely clouds casting a sad spell over everything; clouds pumped so full of moisture and hanging so low in the air she felt she could eat their contents. A damp mist, cold and lingering as surely as if it had been sent by the devil himself had settled on all things mortal, leaving evidence of its passing with waterdrops clinging to leaves and umbrellas and clothing and hair, with seemingly no discretion or choice."

Donald, Roderick. The Mind Controller: Action-packed Contemporary Urban Fiction (Cait Lennox: femme fatale series Book 1) (p. 3). Kindle Edition. 

For a story that is bathed in the paranormal - a genre that traditionally looks to the past, there are some rather refreshing nods to modern-day life; Wi-Fi, WhatsApp and Facebook all get name-checked. That's not to say that the past isn't referenced... there's plenty here and even a few pop culture classics from yesteryear, thrown in for good measure. Heck, "Say Hello, Wave Goodbye" is Cait's ringtone. How's that for some time-spanning juxtaposition?!

By the time we reach the end of the book, (and not wanting to spoil too much) we realise that Cait is merely at the start of her journey of self-discovery and the powers she is just learning to harness. There is a strong sense of her new purpose to help those in need and defeat evil, and all of this together bodes for an exciting follow-up in Book Two: The Assassin's Apprentice.

This is truly a well thought out series that paces well and leaves you wanting more. We're in it for the long haul and strongly recommend you come along for the ride!

+  The Mind Controller is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!
+  Visit Roderick Donald's official website

23 April 2021

Publisher: Self Published

Written By: Jim Hamilton

RRP: £9.25 / $17.68 (Paperback) | £1.64 / $2.29 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

The Chaos Machine is the first book in The Chaos Trilogy by Jim Hamilton; a SciFi adventure spanning 7000 years that's light and easy going on the reader.

"When the crew of a Shoomaran freighter find themselves stranded on Earth in 5342 BC, they learn that the native inhabitants are destined to die out in only a thousand years. Aided by a machine that can foretell the future, they are able to make minor changes from time-to-time in order to keep mankind on the path to survival. However, in spite of all of their efforts, the clock will finally run out for everyone in less than a year from now. Unable to find a solution on their own, they turn to those that they have watched over for more than seven millennia. But will the humans be able to find a way to save the solar system from annihilation?"

First off, the use of timelines is genius; from 5342 BC to present day and then darting around the 15th, 19th and 20th centuries, the reader genuinely feels like they have been on an actual adventure, and because of the regular changes in time, you never once feel bored or that the storyline becomes stagnant. Often when multiple locations are used over and over again in a story, the reader can quickly become tangled in a web of confusion of the author's making, but Hamilton guides you clearly though his journey through time and space.

Kudos to the author for his use of location, too; San Francisco, the Persian Gulf Delta (and sea floor), Turkey, New Jersey, Germany, Las Vegas, London, Tennessee and the alien home world of Shoomar are all brought to life in crisp detail, and agin add to that sense of adventure.

If you like first contact stories, The Chaos Machine will tick a lot of boxes for you. Forget the likes of Independence Day, 2001: A Space Odyssey, or Alien, though - this is very much seated in a more plausible scenario; aliens coming to Earth to essentially help us. Sure, on paper having aliens target Earth for an attack may look better, but it's far more interesting in the long run to actually see how friendships can be formed and what we can learn from one another; something that is at the heart of this particular story.

It is clear that the author has a big plan in mind for the series, and the breadcrumbs laid out in this first tome - whilst maybe not evident right away - actually  set things up for the bigger picture to come in books 2 and 3. That being said, everything ties up nicely in The Chaos Machine, so you're not left hanging uncomfortably when you reach the final page.

This was Hamilton's first book, and you really wouldn't know - it's incredibly well put together and the skill shown in the world-building and character development is that of an author with many books under their belt. A truly fantastic read!

+  The Chaos Machine is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!
+  Follow @Chaosity8 (Jim Hamilton) on Twitter.

8 April 2021

Publisher: Self Published

Written By: Simon J. Walker

RRP: £7.99 / $10.44 (Paperback) | £0.99 / $1.30 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

Review Posted: 8th April 2021

We take a sideways trip in the Dark Fantasy genre for Simon J. Walker's Battlebridge novel - a thrilling alt-universe saga (or sequence, as the author puts it) that feels like a genius mash-up of Nineteen Eighty-Four meets His Dark Materials.

The events surround a 1977, authoritarian government controlled London (called Lund, here) - instantly, we love all the subtle changes between our own world, and Walker's. Located to the north of the River Tames (again, nice little change) is the dark and dingy district called Battlebridge. The author describes Battlebridge in darkly poetic detail:

The filthy back street warrens were easy to get lost in and unwary travellers finding themselves in those streets would undoubtedly be robbed, if not dispatched with a certain degree of bloodthirsty enthusiasm. For those not in the know, the Battlebridge canals, flowing through the manor like veins in an arm, were simply a no-go area for outsiders.

Walker, Simon J.. Battlebridge (p. 41). Kindle Edition. 

For those in Battlebridge, it's a real struggle for survival and our protagonists find themselves at the heart of this struggle. Dripping in mystery, and peppered with memorable characters and beautifully described locations, it's a deep, yet surprisingly straight-forward read. Normally where alternate universes or multiverses are concerned, the reader can easily get lost in the detail, but this particular author holds your hand throughout, and the best part is you don't even know it's there.

There's something incredibly fresh in the overall feel for a book of this genre; it doesn't ever seem cliche or that it's treading old ground. There's a gradual build in the pacing that culminates in a surprising and ultimately memorable ending (which we won't spoil here) that has you desperate to find out what happens next for our characters.

Final point of note is the wonderful prologue and epilogue which have a warm, almost campfire quality to them that reminded us a little of Peter Falk's character in The Princes Bride. Whilst the main bulk of the story leaves you hanging, so does the epilogue in its own brilliant way.

This book is the first in a trilogy called the Battlebridge Sequence, and all three titles are available now via Amazon.

+  Battlebridge is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!
+  Follow @JDiarist (Simon J. Walker) on Twitter.

16 March 2021

Publisher: Austin Macauley Publishers

Written By: J.L. Haynes

RRP: £6.07 / $9.74 (Paperback) | £2.80 / $4.86 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

Review Posted: 16th March 2021

We love a good space fantasy and J.L. Haynes' 'Zara Hanson And The Mystery Of The Painted Symbol' ticks all the right boxes.

The story centres on the titular Zara Hanson - kind of an interstellar Scully from The X Files with a dash of James Bond and Indiana Jones - but with superhuman powers. There's actually a scene in the story that will have fans of 'Moonraker' smiling and punching the air!

We live in a time where we are finally getting to see more and more strong female characters (we've seen it happen in Doctor Who, with a female lead for the first time in the show's 58-year history), and it's great to see it here in a space fantasy adventure. She has purpose, drive and strength, but balanced with the vulnerability of her own sense of self.

Zara Hanson And The Mystery Of The Painted Symbol is very much a story with mystery at its heart; not just for the mission our protagonist goes on, but for her own journey of self-discovery. One of our favourite parts involves the pyramid in Alaska - the whole section just grabs you as a reader before catapulting you into other worlds, dangers and mysteries. It's fantastically fresh and diverse, and with every turn your attention is held throughout.

This is a very different beast to similar titles we've reviewed recently; at times the narrative almost feels like an academic observation of our universe, and you'd be forgiven for being swept away believing what you are reading as fact. Such is the skill of the author, that the level of detail and language used, thrusts you head first into this galactic yarn.

At just 244 pages in length, it's relatively short and perfectly manageable for a weekend read, but despite this length, it's a story that will stay with you for some time. It is heavily layered with philosophical, comical, and, at times, religious brush strokes, and the reader will come away with their own questions about the world and indeed universe around us. 

It definitely feels like the beginning of a much wider saga, and look forward to where Haynes will take the story next. Read it - you'll feel surprisingly smarter by the final page turn!

+  Zara Hanson And The Mystery Of The Painted Symbol is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!
+  Follow @JLHaynes4 (J.L. Hayneson Twitter.

9 March 2021

Publisher: Gate Key Publishing

Written By: J.G. Blodgett

RRP: £7.17 / $9.99 (Paperback) | £2.16 / $2.99 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

Review Posted: 9th March 2021

For fans of epic fantasy, J.G. Blodgett's 'The Dark Light' (Book 1 in The Gate Key Chronicles) delivers a gripping, well-thought-out saga, that will have kids, teens and adults alike captivated.

It focuses on Jimmy Mankins and Amelia Miller; childhood friends who share a mysterious secret that opens the way to a dark threat from another world.

The book begins with the prologue and a mystery; Jimmy (simply known as 'Boy'), wakes up at the edge of a field with a hazy memory of who and where he is. He quickly discovers Amelia, and with the help of both their Father's, they return to a place of warmth and safety. As the prologue draws to a close, however, questions are left unanswered - tantalising the reader by wanting to know more.

We are then properly introduced to Jimmy and Amelia, and the next few chapters beautifully captures the beginning of their special friendship, as well as, despite some differences, touching on the many parallels between their lives.

There is a wonderful scene in Chapter Three that juxtaposes Jimmy and Amelia's home environment - but, like with most of their relationship, there's something that connects them. Rather perfectly, (and sure this may sound odd), it's reflected in broccoli; Jimmy's dinner is a humble one with sausages, mashed potato (out of a packet) and broccoli - whereas Amelia is tucking into a steak dinner, with broccoli as her accompaniment. It was so poetically written, and I don't think I've ever seen a vegetable used in such a meaningful way!

As the story unfolds, Amelia entrusts her own secret to Jimmy, and we discover how everything is connected and why their world's are fatefully thrown together. The author uses time to dip back and forth in the narrative to fill in some gaps along the way. It acts as a nice break in the story-telling, whilst fleshing out our protagonist's backstories.

There is, of course, a lingering threat throughout The Dark Light (as the title suggest). Something that you know is coming, but not entirely sure of what form it will take. Be it school bullies, dark creatures, or an oncoming storm, you feel protective of our protagonists and want nothing bad to happen to them.

The relatively small cast of characters are incredibly well-rounded and layered. Jimmy's father (Donald), for example, is someone you don't necessarily like, but one simple line a few chapters in: "time in the Vietnam War" - instantly gives you a small sense of sympathy and understanding for him. Amelia also sees Donald's redeemable qualities; "he was capable of being the father he once was".

As a reader, I was unaware of just how much emotion there could be in the story. The rich relationships between the characters, between father and son, father and daughter. The way in which loss is dealt with (or not), and how faith is something that can drive you through even the toughest situations. Yes it's a fantasy, but it's one with a surprisingly grounded heart that makes you simply feel every word on the page.

If there was a comparison, I'd say it was Stranger Things meets The Neverending Story. It's simply screaming out to be made into a Netflix series.! You can almost feel the natural cliffhangers to each episode and with more books to come, there's a lot of mileage, here. 

I am so pleased and feel privileged to have read The Dark Light. It was so much more than I had hoped for (hence the length of this review), and whilst I have no idea what form Book 2 will take, believe me when I say that I will be hounding the author for it's release, as it can't come soon enough!

+  The Gate Key Chronicles: The Dark Light is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!
+  Follow @JGBlodgett on Twitter.

22 February 2021

Publisher: Self Published

Written By: Nathan Burton

RRP: £4.00 / $5.25 (Paperback) | £2.00 / $2.51 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

Review Posted: 22nd February 2021

From the stunning cover, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Tales Of The Starmen: Volume 1, by Nathan Burton was a graphic novel, but this is in fact a short but punchy space saga.

The story focuses on two brothers; Helion and Eckron, who, despite their disparity, must fulfil their royal duties.

There is a great variety of pacing here; we go from a vicious space fight to a street race in Kingson, Jamaica. Both these scenes act as stark metaphors for the differences between the two brothers. One just wants to win a race (Helion) and the other wants to ascend the Nova Throne (Eckron). That being said, there are more to the characters than their differences - particularly Eckron. Sure, he is unlikeable and power hungry, but, rather geniusly, there's a redeemable side to him that you discover near the end of the book. One particular line we loved from Eckron near the end, was as follows:

‘He said he wanted to be like me. Perhaps I should make some effort to be more like him.’

For a story so short, there's actually some decent character development, and whilst the cast of characters are relatively small, each have purpose and place within the narrative. We also love the diversity; this is very much a black-centric royal family and outside of the likes of Black Panther or Coming To America, its fantastic to have a black royal family represented in literary form for us Science Fiction fans.

It is clear that the author is a SciFi fan - and a well-seasoned one at that. There are hints of Star Wars and even The Fifth Element here, but Burton makes Tales Of The Starmen very much his own.

Whilst this is Volume 1 of a proposed series, it also acts as a satisfying conclusion. For those who hate cliffhangers, you can rest assured of a stress-free ending. Whenever Volume 2 does come out, it will mark a new chapter in this fun, gripping, pleasantly manageable saga.

+  Tales Of The Starmen: Volume 1 is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!
+  Follow @Nattybe96 (Nathan Burton) on Twitter.

19 February 2021

Publisher: Self Published

Written By: Jodi Bowersox

RRP: £10.13 / $7.14 (Paperback) | £3.05 / $4.26 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

Review Posted: 19th February 2021

Mars Madness is book 1 in a 3 book series by author, Jodi Bowersox. It's self-titled as an 'out of this world romantic adventure' and boy does it deliver on that promise! What was left out of that headliner, however, is just how funny it is, too. 

We follow divorced mum of one, Katrina McKenna as she reluctantly buys a lottery ticket (on her daughter's insistence) for a luxury, two-year Mars adventure. The chances of wining are astronomical  to say the least (if you pardon the pun), but chance finds its way to Kat and before she knows it, she finds herself, begrudgingly on her way to Mars.

Thing is... her ex husband, who works for the company sending her to Mars, is also going to Mars, and he will be bringing their daughter along for the ride. All isn't as straightforward as one would think, though, and half of the fun we have is just getting to Mars. Hell, even leaving Earth has its fair share of setbacks with errant robotic maids, stowaway daughters and... an Israeli terrorist?!

We love the dialogue between Kat and her husband Doug; they really do reflect a real life ex-couple - complete with all the fallout (bad and good) that comes with it. Their daughter, Francesca is the magnet that has kept them in each others lives, and whilst you can see why they have gone their separate ways, there's this underlying feeling of wishing they could work things out.

Bowersox is a wizard in the way she sets up the situations our characters find themselves in. They present themselves as quietly comic (and not so quietly in some places) playlets, and whilst there are undoubtedly predictable outcomes that you relish as a reader, the author also takes you in unexpected directions.

It's tricky not to spoil things, but we will say that the ending wasn't at all what we were expecting, and it is absolutely a better story as a result. It sets up book 2 perfectly, and there's even a little sneak peek at the prologue for the sequel (Beware The Eyes Of Mars) at the very end.

There is a wonderful phrase that states; "The fun is in the journey", and nowhere is this more present than in Mars Madness. A fun read that has heart and soul!

+  Mars Madness is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!
+  Follow @JodiBowersox on Twitter.

9 February 2021

Publisher: Self Published

Written By: Xavier Marcé

RRP: £14.47 / $19.99 (Paperback) | £FREE / $FREE (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

Review Posted: 9th February 2021

Modern Warfare meets SciFi in Mark Of Odin: The Awakening - a gripping story from the pen of Xavier Marcé.

The events of the story are set in 2012, where Luis (our main character) is set to graduate in Aerospace Engineering. Everything is going his way until Luis begins to have recurring nightmares from mythical beasts from Norse mythology.

We want to start by drawing particular attention to the prologue (set in Norway, 60,000 years ago), which instantly submerses the reader into the author's fantastic use of descriptive exposition;

"The city resembled a marble ocean in shades of blue and green; it was formed by palaces and large buildings that were dotted all over with the lush greenery of trees and cleaved through by wide stone avenues. The port area thronged with the city’s inhabitants who were heading to the ships with their most prized possessions. One vast building with a dome of titanic proportions stood out above the rest, dominating the centre of the city."

After being introduced to Luis and one of his nightmarish dreams, the story then switches tone, pace and location completely as we are introduced to Lieutenant Colonel Jack Preston of the United States Air Force, who is working on a prototype which ties in with what Luis is working on, half a world away. Soon their worlds collide, and, without giving too much away, their world's are not the only ones to collide...

The tying in of Norse mythology with that of a modern day setting is incredibly well thought out and successfully executed, and the final four chapters will have you gripped as there are flavours of Independence Day with a dash of Thor. That being said, there's no emulation here - Mark Of Odin is very much its own beast and with a conclusion that guarantees more to come, you'll be counting down the weeks, days and minutes until the next instalment.

It's worth mentioning that Mark Of Odin was originally published in the author's native Spanish, and having seen this with other books in the past, it normally comes at a cost in descriptions and sense of character. We were very pleased to say that nothing is lost in translation, and it stands shoulder to shoulder with its native version. The book is steeped in the flavour of Spain; from touching on its society to its history, you really get a rich sense of identity in the novel.

Rather ingeniously, once you are done reading Mark Of Odin, you can continue the reading experience  via an online pass which unlocks a digital edition with bonus chapters and stories. This really boosts your whole experience of the story and also gives you direct access to the author himself, via the online forum. It it because of this exciting way of creating and distributing additional content, that it really does feel bigger than the sum of its parts and, as such, we look forward to delving further into Marcé's world!

+  Mark Of Odin: The Awakening is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!
+  Follow @MarkOfOdin (Xavier Marcé) on Twitter.

7 February 2021

Publisher: Self Published

Written By: Duane Simolke

RRP: £5.65 / $8.00 (Paperback) | £2.31 / $3.15 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

Review Posted: 7th February 2021

Alternate realities and parallel timelines are the hot topic of the moment in both the cinematic and televisual worlds, and whilst one could argue that the concept has been around for years in the hallowed halls of written fiction, there have been slim pickings on the spread of titles we have read that feel refreshingly different.

Sons Of Taldra by Duane Simolke is exactly that - refreshingly different, and at its beating heart is some much needed diversity that slots in effortlessly and with purpose. And why shouldn't it?! When we think of the future and interactions with alien species, one can only accept diversity in all its many, beautiful colours. Colours that Simolke captures perfectly within the pages of this story.

Surfing the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres, as the title suggests, Sons of Taldra follows Taldra (Leader of Valchondria - an alternate Earth), and her twin, gay, 19-year-old sons; Argen and Telius. Together they fight off an alien attack, but what quickly becomes apparent, and what is rather poignantly paralleled by the author, are the battles closer to home.

There are most definitely flavours of Star Trek: Discovery, which is particularly interesting as the book was published in 2016 - a full year before the first series of the aforementioned show. Just like Discovery, there is a broad spectrum of diverse characters - each with purpose and prominence, and despite being a short read, everyone fits in perfectly without any overcrowding. 

It is a short book, coming in at just 106 pages, but don't let that fool you into thinking this is a throw-away "short story". This is hands-down one of the most rounded books of this length that we have ever read. It's engaging and thought-provoking and whilst it may be a work of fiction, you cannot help but see the seeds of a future we could be heading towards.

As far as conclusions go, it's one of celebration, and one that ties back into the diversity we mentioned earlier. It's a beautiful end, and the last sentence in particular is one that we wish would be even more prevalent in our own time. Top marks to the author on this incredibly well-accomplished pocket SciFi.

+  Sons Of Taldra is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!
+  Follow @DuaneSimolke on Twitter.

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