+Book Review+ The Dragon’s Pawn (sequel to “The Pact”) by Mitchell S. Karnes

Posted Tuesday, 17 June, 2014 by jorielov , , , 9 Comments

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The Dragon’s Pawn by Mitchell S. Karnes

The Dragon's Pawn by Mitchell S. Karnes

Published By:  Black Rose Writing, 3 April 2014

Official Author Website: Site

Converse on Twitter: #CanaanshadeJourneys & #MitchellSKarnes

Available Formats: Softcover Page Count: 254

Genres: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, YA Fantasy

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Acquired Book By:

I was originally selected to be a tour stop on the “The Dragon’s Pawn” virtual book tour through TLC Book Tours. However, when the tour was cancelled, I personally contacted the author through his website to let him know I would still be interested in reading his book if it were available off-tour. I received a complimentary copy of the book direct from the author, Mitchell S. Karnes, without obligation to post a review. I opted to review this book on my own accord as a way to tie together my observations between the two novels in the series. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

On my connection to the author, Mitchell S. Karnes:

I felt a bit let down when I learnt the blog tour for “The Dragon’s Pawn” was cancelled through TLC Book Tours. I decided to take it upon myself to contact the author Michell S. Karnes to request the book for review off-tour. I was not sure if it would be available for review as when a tour is cancelled odds are in favour of the book not being available at that time. I was thankful to receive a response from the author, in which I had disclosed the following in my note:

I had signed up for this tour specifically due to our exchange of conversation after my review of “The Pact” posted. I never knew if you had seen my reply, but I had included mentioning that perhaps after I had read the sequel I would understand the first book a bit better. Thus, when the tour was offered I opted to participate and give the series a second chance based on your reply.

I wanted to honour the request he had given me after I posted my review of “The Pact” as much as I will admit, I was curious where the sequel would lead the reader as the story evolved forward. We exchanged a conversation through email, to where I learnt a bit more about the back-story of how the Canaashade Journey series was originally conceived and written. When he agreed to send me the novel, “The Dragon’s Pawn” it was sent without obligation to post a review as he was simply thankful I wanted to read his story. He included an extra surprise for me, giving me the official bookmark for the book of which I used as I read the story itself!

I am disclosing this, to assure you that I can formulate an honest opinion, even though I have interacted with Karnes via our conversations ahead of my review. I treat each book as a ‘new experience’, whether I personally know the author OR whether I am reading a book by them for the first time.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comBook Synopsis:

Back in high school Scott, Paul, Chris, and Luke made two pacts: to stay friends forever and to play Warriors and Thieves as often as possible. Twenty-four years later neither pact remains. Each man has gone his own way. Only Chris still plays the game, and he is dying of cancer. Will his friends reunite for one last game? The way they always dreamed of playing?

As they come together they realise Chris stumbled upon a way for them to enter their fantasy world of Canaanshade and play the game for real… as their characters of old. There’s a catch: they must return to 1989 and the bodies of their middle and high school selves first. Otherwise, any damage they receive in the the game will be upon them as well. What could it hurt? Little do they know, a dark secret from their past is haunting them, threatening not only their game but their very lives.

As the four boys enter Canaanshade and the bodies of their favourite role-playing characters, a strange thing happens. Each begins to slowly slip into oblivion and fade into his player’s consciousness. Will they realise in time? Mitchell S. KarnesAnd if so, can they do anything to stop the process?

One of them has sold his friends out to the red and black dragon. Will the others discover the identity of the dragon’s pawn before it is too late? Getting into the game was the dream of a lifetime; getting out was the nightmare no one expected.

Author Biography:

Mitchell S. Karnes was born in Kansas and spent his childhood in Illinois. He lives in Franklin, TN with his wife, Natalie, and five of their seven children, where he serves as the Pastor of Walker Baptist Church. He holds a Bachelor’s degree and three Master’s degrees. Mitchell’s first novel, Crossing the Line, made the Southern Writer’s Guild’s “Must Read” list. His short stories include: “When Nothing Else Matters,” “A Family Portrait,” and “Grampa Charlie’s Ring.” He hopes to entertain, challenge, move and teach through each and every story. The Pact is just the beginning…the first book in a four-part series.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comSequel gives adequate precursor:

Prior to getting into the heart of the story, of where this installment lies inside the series of Canaanshade, we were graced with a review of the epic climax of events which had put me a bit past my edge of acceptance on behalf of the first novel, “The Pact”. I had a hard time struggling to come to terms with the inclusions of the heightened violence and the intense display of domestic disturbances within the adolescent years of the main characters. However, encouraged by the author himself to read the sequel in order to understand the series as a whole, I entered this story with a renewed optimism of spirit.

Although I knew the intensity of the subject at hand, the sequent deaths in the story came at quite a shock as did the level of rage. This is a cautionary tale of how sometimes the lines between fiction and reality can become blurred and the true lesson is knowing the signs of when someone can no longer separate the difference of the two. – quoted from my review of “The Pact”

The Prologue is a re-telling of the fated events where two teens lost their lives on the railroad tracks, as one boy survived being tossed into a river in the middle of a carpet roll. The boy who was paralyzed and unable to run down the tracks to help until he was needed to swim to save his drowning friend is the lead protagonist again in this installment: Scott Addison. The story originally was a tale of caution and of utmost urgency to realise how devastingly real role-playing games can become when those who are playing the games in earnest are not always aware of how serious the other players can take their roles. For me, the original beginning was both heart-wretching and difficult to read due to the depth of where the story led.

Luke might be a war-monger in Warriors & Thieves, but I was curious to seek out what was motivating him to push Chris and Paul out of their comfort zones of reality into the common bloodshed of warfare. There are many ways to accomplish self-confidence and self-advocacy without pushing the envelopes of violence, especially unrelented violence in a game which is usually grounded in skill, maneuvers, and obstacles. Chris on the other hand has a brilliant way of keeping the rules of the game intact by pushing the action of the game forward within the confines of the realm, but lacks the clarity of knowing how to enliven the story of which the world-building is meant to carve out of its niche. Paul is the innocent of the group, learning as he builds confidence through his friendships. Scott comes from playing the game through his father’s advice. Endeavouring to give a bit more of a back-story to each of the characters which gives you a lifeblood to the game eliminating the one dimensional interface. One of my favourite revelations is when Scott shows Paul his hand-drawn map of Canaanshade which he created with his father. The intricacy of the world arc is exactly what all of us hope for in our fantasy realms of reading adventures! Lit alive with creatures and characters you want to know more about. – quoted from my review of “The Pact”

The sequel on the other hand, gives a great precursor to where we find Addison now, as an established teacher and coach at a school. It allows us to re-enter his life at a point in time where he is struggling to resolve not only his past (where the “The Pact” is set) but to see if he can knit the pieces together from the present where he struggles to find logic, sense, and strength of faith where only fate felt guiding his path previously.

My Review of The Dragon’s Pawn:

Karnes begins the second book in the Canaashade Journeys series with the ability of taking a reader directly into the mindset of Scott Addison as though the person did not previously read “The Pact”. In doing so, he allows the series to stand not only on its own merits of validity, but he allows the reader to skip the first book altogether in order to read the sequel which in my opinion might be a better place to begin the saga. I appreciated the juxtaposition of Addison as a child verse Addison as an adult longing for semblance of normalcy and buoyancy in his life. I appreciated that nothing from the prior book was glossed over and righted by the time you enter the sequel, as there was such a heavy hearted ending to the original story, I was hoping for this to be found in its sequel. To find the characters are still on a journey towards finding themselves as much as they are shifting towards reconciliation of the past.

In this sequence, Addison is dealing with the devastating loss of his wife and childhood sweetheart Susan, compounded by the fact that although he has four beautiful children, his heart is shattered to accept the reality of what he is facing alone. His trial now is to find an anchor in the present to help guide him forward and continue towards the light he always had known with his wife. Meanwhile, Chris has grown up with an affinity of love for Warriors and Thieves, their childhood role-playing game where they all lived unique lives outside of the realm of reality. Chris is facing his most difficult obstacle yet, as he has terminal cancer. Luke on the other hand grew up to be a psychologist who has his own battle of will and mind to sort out before he can hope to help another in his practice. The three are uniquely tethered to their current paths to where they are living separate lives outside of the comfort of friendship.

The more interesting bit to The Dragon’s Pawn, is how reality is folding in on fantasy, and how the characters who live in the fantasy realm are breaching into the daylight of reality. Characters from the Canaanshade game are becoming flesh and bone realistic to their counterparts and there are aspects of illusion and delusion that are affecting the minds of Addison and Richards. Rooted in the prequel’s belief that there are times where the gameplay can supersede the realm in which one lives as much as the game itself can become dangerous to the mind of those who play it; if they are not able to separate the game from the life they are living.

Luke, Chris, Scott, and Paul are transformed into their younger halves whilst entering the game from a place they have never started before; a transparency of reality shared amongst their subconscious minds, where what they feel, taste, and experience on a sensory level affects them on an intellectual and emotional one. Canaanshade is vibrantly alive and real, a fully tangible experience for all to see and notice, because the world in which was once imagined now has its own unique lifeblood which allows it to evolve into an existence between the worlds. Karnes painted the realities inside Canaanshade with a deft hand for detail any fantasy reader would absorb into on sight.

In the middle of the action, I found myself wondering when the intensity was going to ease and the realm would be restored to peace. The level of intensity never let up, and each step and turn the characters took inside Canaanshade led to a greater challenge than the previous one they had fought. I think for me, the story is simply a bit too intense, but the continuity aspect of the series remains intact for a reader who likes well conceived worlds stitched together and held firm from one book to another. I would recommend this series to anyone who can handle the harder hitting passages, the visual nature of the action sequences, and the level of depth that the author has written into the chapters. The message from The Pact carries straight through The Dragon’s Pawn, and for that Karnes should be commended.

My favourite part of the The Dragon’s Pawn was the hyposensory experience of the conjoined dreamstate awareness of when the men returned as boys back to their childhood game. For me, the most creative aspect of the novel was how they physically did not leave their ordinary lives but they took a spiritual plane of existence and acted out the game on a new plane of perception completely. It was quite clever and awe inspiring to walk through the chapters where Karnes explored how they were able to transform their reality to one they could only previously imagine and hope to see.

Inspirational Messages underneath the drama:

One of the things that I find such a blessing to the way in which Karnes writes his novels, is that he always includes a measure of inspiration for his readers to find inside the books. His inspirational guidance is not strong or overhanded but rather graceful and practical to shine a light on what is right, wrong, and perhaps the middle of the two. He allows his readers to fully accept the situations he is presenting in the stories, and then, allowing them the freedom of choice to make up their own minds about the paths each character took and how their lives reflect on the choices that can be determined in real life.

I even found it inspiring that he showed an honest reaction to an incident at school, where Addison over reacted to save a teacher’s life by having his mind break from that chosen reality to the reality of how his wife died. Karnes brought the full horror of that incident out of Addison’s life to the forefront, where he transposed it against the intensity of the moment where a student was attacking a fellow teacher. In that slight moment of illogical reaction, we saw the full depth of Addison’s grief and the tipping stone of how far he needs to come back to the life he is nearly about to lose. The realism in that choice to bring one circumstance to a new height out of the depths of one man’s sorrow shows the level of strength Karnes has for his writing and for taking his characters to further depths than perhaps they were even willing to share themselves.

Fly in the Ointment:

There were piercing instances of fight sequences and scenes whilst they were inside the realm and world of Canaanshade, and I must confess, that I am a reader who prefers less excessive violence moreso than any other kind. Chilling scenes of intense drama or even moderate violent instances which are warranted for the sequence or scene in which they arise, as sometimes certain stories have a measure of intensity more than the others I typically read, but in this story, I must be honest as I was pushed a bit past my envelopes of tolerance. I am just not a reader who needs to read about what happens when you take a sword and for better or worse due extreme harm to your opponent without having anything left to the imagination. I believe the visuals on page 126 would have fared better for me if it had merely said Garrett mortally wounded the hill giant! For me, the scene was heightened to a level of ick because honestly, do I need to read in graphic detail what happens after the sword goes through a giant?! No!

My one consolation is the fact that the character inside of Garrett is Addison, and he like me, decided that bloodshed and violence was not the way in which he wanted to travel either. Although, like I said, the reader in me could do with less visuals and still have the effect of the moment which arrived in his section of Canaanshade experience.

Likewise, the blood bath in chapter twenty-four was skipped over, as I already knew what to expect when Bentheos would grow in power and master the sword of which he always sought to wield power over. I honestly had a feeling this might have been included because his master was Luke, the boy with the heart of war in his chest and the sight of bloodshed in his eyes. The boy never knew limits, and likewise, that rubbed off in effect on his character inside the game, except for one slight difference, the boy had remorse, his character was without the feeling for it.

On the writings of Mitchell S. Karnes:

Karnes fuses memory with fiction, as he takes elements of his own life’s experiences and places them into the context of a story which can serve to help teens and children who may not be as aware of the dangers that can lurk within the shadows of a game. He provides a blueprint of a reality in which the root cause of bullying is examined and the after effects of how that bullying can take a toll on those who have to deal with the onslaught of attack from their peers. The blessing is how he chooses to teach the lesson by giving his characters near complete freedom to tell the story in the manner in which applies to each of their personalities. For me, the prequel I felt was a bit too strong in how it was delving into the darker sides of the story’s heart, but perhaps, for this particular story it had to be painted dark because of how dark the mind was of the bully who was responsible for everything that occurred in the climax.

Having read The Dragon’s Pawn, I can now say that the scope of the series is far more apparent and the heart of what the story is attempting to share with its readership is simply one of warning. To be mindful of your actions and to be cautious of the friends you keep as much as the games you play in the realm of fantasy and fun. There are plenty of games that can turn deadly or harmful if they are played the wrong way or for the wrong reasons, but all games at their center can be celebrated for their common goal of companionship, friendship, and the joy of playing the game for what it is rather than turning it into something that it is not.

Previously I had the honour of hosting Mr. Karnes:

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This book review is courtesy:

The Dragon's Pawn
by Mitchell S. Karnes
Source: Direct from Author

Genres: Young Adult Fiction, YA Fantasy, YA Urban Fantasy


Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

Also by this author: The Pact

Published by Black Rose Writing

Format: Paperback Edition

Of the author Mitchell S. Karnes, who gave me the opportunity to read “The Dragon’s Pawn” even after the blog tour was cancelled. I cannot thank him enough for allowing me to see the fuller scope of the story in which he has conceived through the Canaanshade Journeys series. I appreciated the chance to continue the story as much as for giving me a new sense of the reality the characters faced not only in the prequel but the larger scope of depth through this second installment of a quartet series. The two work well together and are bookends of each other.

NOTE: Mr. Karnes is hosting a giveaway on his blog for both “The Pact” and “The Dragon’s Pawn” independent of my review of “The Dragon’s Pawn”. Please direct your attention to his website for the details. This giveaway is not connected to Jorie Loves A Story.

Be sure to scope out my Bookish Upcoming Events to mark your calendars!!

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Reader Interactive Question:

After reading this review and clicking over to read my review of “The Pact”, what is your takeaway of the benefit of having young adults and middle school children read the series? What do you think their reaction would be realising how far bullying can lead you down the wrong path and how dangerous lives can hang in the balance when you choose to do harm?

{SOURCES:  Mitchell S. Karnes photograph and biography, The Dragon’s Pawn book cover and book synopsis were provided by Mitchell S. Karnes and used with permission. Book Review badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

read more >> | Visit my Story Vault of Book Reviews | Policies & Review Requests | Contact Jorie

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Posted Tuesday, 17 June, 2014 by jorielov in Balance of Faith whilst Living, Blog Tour Host, Book Review (non-blog tour), Bookish Discussions, Bullies and the Bullied, Children's Literature, Coming-Of Age, Death, Sorrow, and Loss, Excessive Violence in Literature, Gaming, Good vs. Evil, Heroic Bloodshed, Heroic Fantasy, Indie Author, Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction, Light vs Dark, Literature for Boys, Middle Grade Novel, Questioning Faith as a Teen, Realistic Fiction, Role Playing Games, Sports and Jocks, Teenage Relationships & Friendships, Wrestling, YA Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction




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9 responses to “+Book Review+ The Dragon’s Pawn (sequel to “The Pact”) by Mitchell S. Karnes

    • Congratulations!

      I am happy that you clicked through and participated in his special surprise! :) I thought it was quite a nice surprise for visitors to find on his site! How lovely! Truly thankful to hear this and likewise, down the road a bit when you get to read the stories, we can perhaps talk about them in greater length! I will appreciate hearing your views, as you now already know my own.

  1. The synopsis has me interested, so I’ll return to read your review after I read it myself! :)

    As of now, the thing I want to see worked out in the book is how going back into your younger body to avoid injuries is possible, as it would seem that would also affect your current body? Unless it is not considered time-travel at all…Hmm. I’ll have to see!

    Thanks for introducing me to a new book & new author!

    Michelle @ In Media Res

    • Hallo Michelle,

      Thank you for dropping by my blog! I am so thankful that I have helped you find a new author that your excited about reading for the first time! Yes, I would love to hear your thoughts on “The Dragon’s Pawn” after you’ve read it! I could answer your enquiry about the game dynamics involving age but I believe you want to go in ‘blind’ without too many answers, so I will refrain and it is something we can discuss after you’ve read the book! I had a few theories of my own about this part of the book, and so, I will enjoy the conversation!

      Likewise, I look forward to visiting your lovely blog!

  2. Wow, Jorie, this is one in-depth review! Thank you for that :) This sounds like a very impactful series. Bullying is something that’s as old as humankind and anything to help enlighten people is a good thing!

    • Thank you! :)

      I have appreciated your presence these past weeks, as you give great feedback & I love seeing the joy of your reactions as you read my blog! I will be leaving my replies tonight on previous posts, as I did not get the proper chance until today to do so! I simply wanted to say ‘thank you’ for being interactive & giving me a lift of joy in knowing how much you are appreciating what I am blogging about! Such a blessing!

      Yes, this series is beyond impactful especially on behalf of bullying and the lengths of which it can erupt into something so much stronger and powerful than what occurs in childhood! I am hopeful as the books gain traction with readers, they will be seen as cautionary tales to help forestall the behaviour that is simply growing out of control in today’s youth.

      I always hope the books I bring forward on my blog will enlighten those who find the authors & stories for the first time, and in this small way, both “The Pact” & “The Dragon’s Pawn” have a special place in young adult literature.

      • Jorie, it’s obvious you are passionate about literature ’cause it shows in your reviews! I tend to skim lightly over synopsis because I don’t like to know too much about the story itself and only want to get a hint that way. I’m most interested in the type of story, the quality of writing, the elements such as humor, mystery, etc., if the characters are compelling, is it a page-turner, a fast or slow read, plot and/or character driven, stuff like that so I can judge if I should consider adding to my TBR list which is already piled high! lol

        I LOVE honesty with reviews, especially quality ones. Yours are both :) So when I see a book that looks like subject matter I like, I’ll be reading your review to find out :)

        • Ms. Donna Marie,

          All I can say in response to this wonderful note on behalf of my book blog and of my writing style for reviews is a simple note of gratitude! My heart swelled with thankfulness in hearing you write about your impressions of my blog, and I cannot tell you how much it meant to me to hear a reader’s point of view of how they feel each time they step inside my world and read the thoughts I observe as I read. My gratitude is yours and my joy is doubled knowing how impactful my words are becoming to my readers.

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