Category: Earthen Magic

Exploring #DesertFantasy this #WyrdAndWonder | “Speechless in Achten Tan” (Book One: The Sands of Achten Tan series) by Debbie Iancu-Haddad

Posted Tuesday, 31 May, 2022 by jorielov , , , , 0 Comments

#WyrdAndWonder Book Review Year 5 badge created by Jorie in Canva.

Acquired Book By: I stumbled across a reviewer request on Twitter in the middle of #WyrdAndWonder which intrigued me because it was for a novel which had a very bewitching premise! The lead character had lost the ability to speak, and she was on a Quest to find her voice! I had a few concerns in regards to the content of the novel which I discussed with the author prior to accepting the novel for review consideration. Plus, given that our 5th Year of Wyrd And Wonder was already underway, I did have concerns about being able to read it in time before our event concluded. The book took a bit longer to reach me but I was overjoyed once it did arrive as there was something uniquely different about the story and I was hoping that it wasn’t too Dark for me to enjoy reading.

I received a complimentary copy of “Speechless in Achten Tan” from the author Debbie Iancu-Haddad in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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Hallo, Hallo dear hearts!

Sometimes stories have a way of FINDING YOU rather than the other way round. When I asked the author directly about content warnings she mentioned to me about ‘fade to black’ romantic encounters and a limited number of explicit words as there was a replacement stronger word given as this is a Fantasy novel. Although one universally known word does make an appearance ever so briefly which I was grateful to hear about as well. Being this is a Desert Fantasy novel with a strong empathsis on Weird Fantasy aesthetics, I had a feeling I would enjoy being inside this world quite well! I wasn’t sure of course about how dark the world might evolve as I knew Mila was going to go on a Quest as all cavern witches must do at some point if they cannot ascend to the next stage of their development but one thing was for certain: I knew the visceral imagery and the enveloping of the world-building would be wholly new and original to discover as I do not spend a lot of time reading these kinds of Fantasy. Although, at some point I need to finish reading Empire of Sand.

I am grateful I was able to connect with the author via Twitter and include this reading with my stack of novels and stories this 5th Year of Wyrd And Wonder! And, perhaps by our sixth year I’ll have more joys of reading more stories in Achten Tan as I am dearly curious about the anthology Tales from the Year Between, Volume One: Achten Tan (Land of Dust and Bone) as much as I am eager for the sequel, too. It would be interesting to see what aspects of the world are explored in the anthology and of course, how that parlays into the series now being written. As the anthology was writ by different writers (all of whom would have different POVs) it would give an interestingly impression about Achten Tan and of course, a lot of curious possibilities of where Iancu-Haddad might take the series itself.

This is another example of why I lament about the blessings of being a socially bookish reader right now in today’s world because readers and writers can find each other in social settings which allow the reader to find stories they might have missed otherwise. I have long been a champion of Indie Publishers and Press as well as Self-Published or Hybrid authors — finding Skull Gate Media through reading this novel was an added bonus whilst continuing to seek out the Indie Fantasy section of a genre I love made my heart feel wickedly happy this Wyrd And Wonder. I love being a book cheerleader for #IndieFantasy storycrafters each May and thankfully I continue to be able to seek out the stories which are elevating my joy of discovery within the genre itself. As even outside of Wyrd And Wonder – these are the stories I desire most to read every week and month of the year.

Rainbow Digital Clip Art Washi Tape made by The Paper Pegasus. Purchased on Etsy by Jorie and used with permission.

Exploring #DesertFantasy this #WyrdAndWonder | “Speechless in Achten Tan” (Book One: The Sands of Achten Tan series) by Debbie Iancu-HaddadSpeechless in Achten Tan
Subtitle: The Sands of Achten Tan : Book One
by Debbie Iancu-Haddad
Source: Direct from Author

Mila hasn't spoken in the five years since she became an Onra, a first level Everfall witch. After failing the test to reclaim her voice and control her magic, her mentor sends eighteen-year-old Mila to Achten Tan–City of Dust–a dangerous desert town, built in the massive ribcage of an extinct leviathan.

To reclaim her power, Mila must steal a magical staff capable of releasing it, from Bone Master Opu Haku's sky-high lair. Her only resources are the magical luminous elixirs of the cursed caverns where she grew up, and a band of unlikely allies; a quirky inventor, a giant-ant rider, a healer, a librarian's assistant, a Tar-tule rider, and the chief's playboy son.

But in the City of Bones, enemies & friends are not who they seem, and trusting the wrong person can be deadly. If Mila fails, she will never speak again and her bones will be added to the wasteland. This book includes a kick-ass female protagonist covered in tattoos, giant ants, first-person present-tense narration, magic, banter, lots of innuendoes, and cute boys kissing.

Genres: Fantasy Fiction, Dark Fantasy, Sci-Fantasy, Weird Fantasy, Upper YA Fantasy



Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 978-1956042061

Published by Skull Gate Media

on 20th February, 2022

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 425

Published By: Skull Gate Media (@SkullgateMedia)

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NOTE: This novel began as a short story called “Speechless” and was originally published in Skull Gate Media’s anthology: Tales from the Year Between, Volume One: Achten Tan (Land of Dust and Bone). Whilst Skull Gate Media is an interesting new publishing company as it is a collective amongst the writers who co-own it together.

Notation about Cover Art and Design: The one observation which confused me about the book cover was the fact Mila on the cover looked a bit different than I visualised her in the story. Especially I was missing the artful way her braids had bones threaded through them and for being a gnome she looked far taller than I thought she would as well.

Available Formats: Trade Paperback, Ebook

About Debbie Iancu-Haddad

Debbie Iancu-Haddad

Debbie Iancu-Haddad is a Jewish Israeli author living in Meitar in the Negev Desert. Author of Speechless in Achten Tan a YA fantasy novel. And The Bone Master, forthcoming.

She spends her time taking part in Anthologies (seven to date with three more on the way), writing VSS on Twitter, and buying way too much stuff online. Her goal is to promote body positive characters and include characters dealing with physical challenges. #ownvoices

For her day job, she gives lectures on humor, laughter yoga workshops, and chocolate workshops, and sees how often she can make her two teenagers roll their eyes.

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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

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Posted Tuesday, 31 May, 2022 by jorielov in #JorieLovesIndies, #WyrdAndWonder, Book Cover | Notation on Design, Book Review (non-blog tour), Brothers and Sisters, Compassion & Acceptance of Differences, Content Note, Dark Arts (Dark Magic), Deaf Culture in Fiction, Death of a Sibling, Death, Sorrow, and Loss, Debut Novel, Desert Fantasy, Domestic Violence, Earthen Magic, Earthen Spirituality, Equality In Literature, Fantasy Fiction, Fantasy Romance, Fly in the Ointment, Good vs. Evil, Indie Author, Invisibility, Science Fantasy, Siblings, Speculative Fiction, Trauma | Abuse & Recovery, Traumatic Injury, Twitterland & Twitterverse Event, Upper YA Fantasy, Upper YA Fiction, Vulgarity in Literature, Weird Fantasy, Witches and Warlocks

Exploring #ForestFantasy this #WyrdAndWonder | “The Namer of Spirits” by Todd Mitchell

Posted Monday, 30 May, 2022 by jorielov , , , 0 Comments

#WyrdAndWonder Book Review Year 5 badge created by Jorie in Canva.

Acquired Book By: I stumbled across one of my author’s newsletters which was mentioning the works of other writers who were going to be at the same event. Laura Resau is an author I have loved reading for many years now (well over a decade and a half!) and it was her newsletter which mentioned this story “The Namer of Spirits” by Todd Mitchell. I had been keenly hopeful I would discover a Forest Fantasy novel I hadn’t learnt of previously before or during Wyrd And Wonder this year and as I read about the premise behind this novel, I felt it was a wicked good fit for me to read!

I had planned to interview Mr Mitchell during Wyrd And Wonder – either as a fifth chat on Twitter or more traditionally on my blog, however, as my work life became a bit more complicated and my health took a few sidesteps as well as a result, I wasn’t able to firm together those plans. I opted instead to focus on reading the novel and sharing my ruminations during the event whilst I planned to re-connect with the author afterwards to see if perhaps I could still interview him about what I had read and the story he had written.

I was not obligated to post a review on its behalf. I am sharing my thoughts on behalf of this anthology for my own edification and a continued journey of sharing my readerly life on Jorie Loves A Story. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

NoteI received the Press Materials from the author Todd Mitchell – who kindly sent them to me at my request after I explained how I was going to read his novel during Wyrd And Wonder. He is my fifth and final #WyrdAndWonder guest authors this year – on the 31st of May – wherein we’ll be chatting on the tag #WyrdAndWonder as the previous four guests were conversing via #SatBookChat which is the tag for @SatBookChat, the chat I developed early-on as a book blogger.

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Hallo, Hallo dear hearts!

It wasn’t until I was reading through my authors’ newsletters (which I receive by email) ahead of Wyrd And Wonder this year that I discovered The Namer of Spirits as forementioned. It was @LauraResau who had tipped my hat towards finding this novel and it led me into reading the story during the last weekend of the event whilst hosting a live interview with Mr Mitchell on our final day of Wyrd And Wonder which is the 31st of May.

Todd Mitchell Twitter Chat banner created by Jorie in Canva.

I was especially grateful to Ms Resau for including the news about an event they were both attending as otherwise I might not have discovered this story this year at all. And, that would have been a keen disappointment as from the first moment I started to read the story, I could tell it carried with it a lot of the themes we were hoping to uncover throughout Wyrd And Wonder this year. Especially about the spirits who live in the forest, forest communities and also, how a society would either live in harmony with the forest or against it; given different approaches in narratives and scopes of stories or series.

I am thankful I have a chance to both read and talk about the story on Jorie Loves A Story but also, speak directly with the author and talk about how he approached writing this narrative as much as what inspired it to be written. I am hopeful others might be drawn inside his creative Forest Fantasy world and take out the joys I had whilst reading it.

Rainbow Digital Clip Art Washi Tape made by The Paper Pegasus. Purchased on Etsy by Jorie and used with permission.

Notation about Cover Art and Design: I was immediately drawn into the scene on the book cover but it wasn’t until I was reading the story itself did I fully understand what I was observing! It was one of those rare moments where you realised that the cover artist and the design of the cover was an equal match to the contents of the story! The large beast seen on the cover was an illwen and that is Ash standing in front of them. I won’t reveal what is happening as it is an important scene of the story but wow! The illustration of that scene is wicked fab and I also appreciated the imagery of the dao faro and mistcat on the back cover, too! Of course, the author’s photo also makes more sense once you’ve read the story, too! His photo and the cover art are clues about “The Namer of Spirits”!!

Exploring #ForestFantasy this #WyrdAndWonder | “The Namer of Spirits” by Todd MitchellThe Namer of Spirits
by Todd Mitchell
Source: Purchased | Personal Library

“A dangerous town carved out of unforgiving forest, a young girl who can name spirits and tame monsters, a race against time to save the natural world: The Namer of Spirits is what readers want and the world needs.” –Eliot Schrefer, New York Times bestselling author

In the frontier village of Last Hope, people dismiss twelve-year-old Ash Narro as a flighty child who claims to hear the true names of things. But when enraged forest spirits attack, Ash shows that the names she hears have power. After taming a destructive forest spirit, Ash teams up with Fen, a wild forest boy, and embarks on an unusual journey to save her village. In this steampunk eco-fantasy, the perils of deforestation and the power of friendship are explored through a fantastical adventure involving giant mistcats, tempestuous forest spirits, a supernatural puppy, and a girl with a special gift for shaping what things become.

Genres: Fantasy Fiction, Eco-Fantasy, Middle Grade Fantasy, Sci-Fantasy, Steampunk



Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 978-1-945654-82-4

Published by Owl Hollow Press LLC

on 5th October, 2021

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 316

Published By: Owl Hollow Press, LLC (@owlhollowpress)

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Genre(s): Middle Grade | Fantasy | Adventure | Magic
Steampunk | Eco-Fantasy | Eco-Lit | Environmental Fantasy

Available Formats: Trade Paperback, Ebook

About Todd Mitchell

Todd Mitchell

Todd Mitchell is the author of several award-winning novels for young readers, teens, and adults including The Last Panther (Penguin Random House), The Traitor King (Scholastic), The Secret to Lying (Candlewick), and Backwards (Candlewick).

His two newest books came out in fall 2021 — one for writers, artists, and creators titled Breakthrough: How to Overcome Doubt, Fear, and Resistance to Be Your Ultimate Creative Self, and a Middle Grade novel that's been optioned for film/TV development titled The Namer of Spirits.

In addition to his books, he’s also written for comics, including A Flight of Angels (Vertigo, a YALSA Top 10 Pick for Teens) and Broken Saviors (an alien invasion comic available on ComiXology). Currently, Todd directs the Beginning Creative Writing Teaching Program at Colorado State University. You can visit him (and learn about his squirrel obsession) on his website.

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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

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Posted Monday, 30 May, 2022 by jorielov in #WyrdAndWonder, Book Cover | Notation on Design, Book Review (non-blog tour), Content Note, Earthen Magic, Earthen Spirituality, Eco-Fantasy, Environmental Fantasy, Fantasy Fiction, Fly in the Ointment, Middle Grade Novel, Premonition-Precognitive Visions, Reincarnation, Science Fantasy, Speculative Fiction, Steampunk, Transfiguration, Twitterland & Twitterverse Event

A #WitchyWednesdays Book Review this #WyrdAndWonder | “Trans Witch: College of Secrets” by E. Chris Garrison

Posted Wednesday, 18 May, 2022 by jorielov , , , , , , 0 Comments

#WitchyWednesdays banner created by Jorie in Canva.

#WitchyWednesdays is a curated collection of #WitchyReads this Wyrd And Wonder on Jorie Loves A Story. I have long held a fascination with Paranormally inclined stories involving witches and wizards as well as magic schools. I read either Contemporary or Historical releases as well as completely fantastical worlds featuring a Witchy premise and storyline. This year for Wyrd And Wonder, I’m focusing on specific stories I’ve been wanting to share and discuss either during our annual event in May OR our sister event #SpooktasticReads in October. Every Wednesday there will be a new Witchy story to discover as I share my readerly adventures into Witchy Fiction this month. I am considering keeping this a mainstay of focus both during May & October for our events for Wyrd And Wonder.

In regard to the name I chose for this showcase of reviews, I sort of stumbled onto the name when I was deciding which day of the week I wanted to feature Witchy Reads this year. I thought it was original until I ran a search online, I saw others use the #WitchyWednesdays tag however, I did not source an origin of the tag – only a collective recognition for it attributed to different creative projects or venues whilst I didn’t find an actual meme origin for it on a blog or website. If someone knows who started it – kindly let me know so I can add attribution.

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Acquired Book By: I have been a reader of Ms Chris’s stories since my first year as a book blogger when I first discovered her Tipsy Fairy Tale trilogy with “Blue Spirit”. Over the years, this led to our friendship as we’re both writers and avid readers. I’ve completed my journey with the Tipsy Fairy Tale trilogy last year during Wyrd And Wonder (see also Review) whilst I gifted myself a copy of “Trans Witch” (in paperback) to celebrate Wyrd And Wonder, Year 4. Whilst I was about to dive into “Trans Witch” the author happily surprised me with an audiobook copy of the novel. Thereby I shifted from reading the story to reading whilst listening to the narrator narrate the story! One of my favourite things to do is to read and hear a narrator’s performance, so this made my final selection for Wyrd And Wonder extra special last year!

Likewise, I have showcased the collective works of Ms Chris over the years – you can read my reactions to the omnibus edition of the Road Ghosts trilogy (see also Review); listen to our vlog interview or revisit my review for the second Tipy Fairy Tale novel “Restless Spirit”. I also featured a guest post about her joy of participating in cosplay.

I received a complimentary audiobook copy of “Trans Witch” direct from the author E. Chris Garrison in exchange for an honest review. Whilst the paperback copy I was reading whilst I listened to the audiobook edition was a self-purchase of my own. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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Hallo, Hallo dear hearts!

I was originally hoping to read & listen to this novel during our 4th Year of Wyrd And Wonder (in 2021) however, I was only able to begin the story last May whilst I re-attempted to listen to it during #SpooktasticReads that following October during our sister event for Wyrd And Wonder.

Every year, I feel as if I have a lovely road to walk settling into stories, rooting out new voices in Fantasy and finding myself captured by the stories & characters I’ve read along the route of the event. This year what is brilliant is being able to curl inside stories writ by authors I already know are my top favourites as well as being able to gather books by authors I have genuinely been curious about reading for several years and of whom, I’ve featured their stories in spotlights on my blog but never had the chance to properly read until now.

This was a special addition to my reading stack in 2021, as I hadn’t been aware of “Trans Witch” until just before Wyrd And Wonder began. Thereby when I went on a personal #bookhaul binge to bring more of Ms Chris’s stories into my personal library, I *knew!* Trans Witch had to be among them because I fell in love with the premise quite immediately! Who wouldn’t?

Set within the same Skye-Blue universe I’ve been reading all along, “Trans Witch” is currently a stand-alone novel without a series attachment, however, word on the winds has this earmarked as a potential series but whether we see it develop into one is something we’ll have to wait to find out! Be sure to message the author via Twitter if you’ve picked up a copy of “Trans Witch” and if you’ve enjoyed it – let her know if you’d like more of this world & character in other words! As previous novels were once one-offs too and were developed into series – including the Tipsy Fairy Tale!

Also: leave your comments for Ms Chris on this post as she’ll be checking for your notes throughout Wyrd And Wonder!!

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On my connection to Ms Chris (aka E. Chris Garrison):

My path first crossed with Ms Chris through a podcast sponsored by an Indie Speculative Fiction publisher which led me to hosting blog tours which celebrated her stories. Since our first encounter with each other, we’ve developed a friendship I am blessed to have and I appreciate getting to know a bit more about an author whose not only developing a unique style in the world of Fantasy but is receptive to the thoughts readers have as they gain impression by reading the stories themselves.

I am disclosing this, to assure you that I can formulate an honest opinion, even though I have interacted with Ms Chris through our respective blogs, the twitterverse, the podcast world, and privately. 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. For more information, I disclosed a bit more on my first 10 Bookish, Not Bookish Thoughts (read No.7!).

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Why I love reading E. Chris Garrison stories:

Ms Chris has incredible continuity – not just through the Tipsy Fairy Tale series but through all the stories which interconnect into this series as well. It is quite the large universe of stories and characters (as the Road Ghosts series is inter-threaded as well) – seeing how she’s brought everyone back to centre in this story was just wicked brilliant! I even loved seeing Frannie again as I felt she had a bum rap all along and it was good to see her step into her own so to speak at the height of the frenzy! I am so grateful I had the chance to read Blue Spirit all those years ago because it lead me into a series I am blessed to have read start to finish.

The author is transgender which gives her an inside edge towards how to write stories that are highlighting characters like Skye who are trying to lead lives without their sexuality, gender or orientation leading to prejudicial exclusions inside their everyday lives. This is quite apparent when the laws currently in place in the author’s home state are mentioned in Restless Spirit in regards to marriage equality as well as the perceptions of how some of Skye’s friends or friends of her friends view the relationship she has with Annabelle.

The relationship with Skye and Annabelle is more fleshed out and focused on in Mean Spirit – I was celebrating the joy of seeing this inclusive of the narrative because at the heart of the series, I always wanted to see Skye happy and settled into a relationship which was a good fit for her as a character. She’s had such a hard-won journey until now, it was nice to see something in her life was working out. Ms Chris tucked us into those quiet moments between the two women in love and gave us a wink and nod into how their lives were merging together in a way that I think even surprised Skye. It was a wonderful f/f romance inside a paranormal suspense set within an Urban Fantasy world.

I consider this series pro-positive for both LGBTQIA+ and Allies alike, as everything pertinent to this side of Skye’s life is told organically and shifts between being humourous and serious, depending on the nature of the exchange or the situation at hand. This is positive I think as it has a very realistic vibe attached to it. Skye is not afraid to speak her mind or to live her authentic truth, even if others are not as prepared to accept her on her terms, she still lives her life owning the truth she has within her and that’s something to applaud. She has her faults (who doesn’t?) but her strengths are her willingness to take-on challenges head-on and remain faithful to those she cares about whilst sorting out mysteries of the unexplained.

This is definitely an author to bookmark if your seeking #diverselit and stories of Equality where all characters are realistically written and openly honest about expressing their thoughts, views and feelings.

-quoted from my review of Mean Spirit

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A #WitchyWednesdays Book Review this #WyrdAndWonder | “Trans Witch: College of Secrets” by E. Chris GarrisonTrans Witch: College of Secrets
Subtitle: Can Lily conjure the clue's to find her missing wife?
by Ms Chris (E. Chris Garrison) of Silly Hat Books
Illustrator/Cover Designer: Anne Rosario
Source: Direct from Author, Purchased | Personal Library
Narrator: Danielle Muething

Professor Lily Shelley is frantic to find her wife Penny, who vanished two weeks ago. No one else seems to be looking very hard, not the police or even Penny’s family. As Lily refuses to give up hope, she continues searching for clues, even as she teaches English at Moraine University. In her search, she stumbles into a magical world; a college for wizards hidden in forgotten places at the University. Her favorite students come to her aid, helping her retrace Penny’s steps to learn the secrets of the School of Applied Metaphysics – as well as her newfound powers – in hopes of rescuing her wife.

Genres: Fantasy Fiction, Paranormal Urban Fantasy, Portal Fantasy, Sci-Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Genre-bender



Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 978-1953763280

ASIN: B0959B64W9

Also by this author: Mean Spirit

Published by Silly Hat Books

on 27th February, 2021

Format: Audiobook | Digital, Paperback Edition

Length: 7 hours and 5 minutes (unabridged)

Pages: 212

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Audio Extract graphic created by Jorie in Canva.

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Visit the Trans Witch page via Silly Hat Books

Converse on Twitter: #TransWitch & #SillyHatBooks

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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

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Posted Wednesday, 18 May, 2022 by jorielov in #JorieLovesIndies, #WitchyWednesdays, #WyrdAndWonder, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Book Cover | Notation on Design, Book Cover | Original Illustration & Design, Book Review (non-blog tour), Compassion & Acceptance of Differences, Earthen Magic, Earthen Spirituality, Equality In Literature, Fantasy Fiction, Fantasy Romance, Good vs. Evil, Illustration for Books & Publishing, Indie Author, LGBTTQPlus Fiction | Non-Fiction, Parapsychological Gifts, Parapsychological Suspense, Realistic Fiction, School Life & Situations, Silly Hat Books, Supernatural Creatures & Beings, Supernatural Fiction, Teacher & Student Relationships, Urban Fantasy, Urban Life, Witches and Warlocks

A #WyrdAndWonder Book Review | Exploring Dark Fantasy within “The Shadow of the Skytree” by K.J. Taylor

Posted Monday, 9 May, 2022 by jorielov , , , 0 Comments

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Gifted Book By: This novel “The Shadow of the Skytree” was part of a gifted #bookhaul of mine from my Mum and Dad for #WyrdAndWonder, Year 4! They happily surprised me with a lovely bundle of books I featured during Wyrd And Wonder Year 3 celebrating the Indie Publisher Odyssey Books! This continues my readings of those novels as I was overjoyed I can read all the lovely stories I had either showcased and/or featured but wasn’t able to read during our Year 3 Wyrd And Wonder.

Thereby, I was gifted a copy of “The Shadow of the Skytree” by my parents and I was not obligated to post a review on its behalf. I am sharing my thoughts on behalf of this novel for my own edification and a continued journey of sharing my readerly life on Jorie Loves A Story. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Note: I received the Press Materials last year from the publisher and had asked if I could re-use them if and when I was able to read and/or review the stories I was featuring during Wyrd And Wonder Year 3 (2020); and thankfully was given permission to do so which is why I am using them during my readings this 5th Year of Wyrd And Wonder.

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Hallo, Hallo dear hearts!

This 5th Year of Wyrd And Wonder, I am finishing my readings of the Odyssey Books Fantasy stories I showcased during our 3rd Year! Except for one of the novels which I am still trying to secure a copy of and has remained a bit elusively out of reach.

Last week I was completely absorbed into the world of Tarya within Rachel Nightingale’s Harlequin’s Riddle novel which sets the stage for her trilogy. I knew I wanted to read her trilogy back-to-back but I also wanted to read Taylor’s novel which has had me curious about how she was going to introduce us to her dwarves, elves and gnomes as well as other recognisable fantastical creatures within the pages of The Shadow of the Skytree.

Before I share my thoughts about the story, I wanted to share an excerpt from our conversation and implore you to re-visit the interview before you continue to read this review or shortly after you’ve read my reactions. All the authors I interviewed through this publisher and/or hosted with guest posts during our 3rd Year were very giving of their time and you’ll find a wealth of loveliness to read through if you go back through those showcases.

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As your novel “The Shadow of the Skytree” has both elves and dwarves inclusive to the world – how would you describe both of them to a first-time reader who hasn’t read too much Fantasy outside of Tolkien and has limited knowledge of elves and dwarves? What is uniquely different about them compared to your gnomes like Lavendar?

Taylor responds: Speaking of avoiding tropes, one I was particularly tired of is elves written in imitation of Tolkien but with all the flaws removed so you end up with an obnoxiously perfect race of superbeings who are the best at everything. I wanted to explore the idea of what a functionally immortal people would more realistically be like, and especially when they’re so cut off from the rest of the world. Which is why my elves are hunter-gatherers with no technology. Their magic means they never needed to develop any, and their longevity makes them so slow to change that they found themselves incapable of adapting to a world that was changing around them and became insular and extremely xenophobic. And I gave them a darker skin tone because you’d realistically expect a race of people who spend their lives mostly outdoors to have adapted accordingly.

As for the dwarves, I won’t lie – I partly designed them for the sheer coolness factor. Stereotypical dwarves live underground and spend most of their time mining, and I thought – well, what if they were so well adapted to living among minerals that they could literally live off the stuff? They’re pretty much living humanoid versions of the volcano they call home – black on the outside, full of fire on the inside. So it made sense that they’d live off a diet of mostly charcoal; if they don’t keep that internal fire fuelled, they die. And they ride on giant lizards because that’s just metal as hell. (Well, and big reptiles would be attracted to hot places. Horses would quickly sicken and die if they had to live in a volcanic environment with no grass).

Meanwhile the gnomes are naturally underground dwellers who are very in touch with the natural world, but are naturally childlike and simple-minded compared to everyone else. Your average gnome doesn’t have a mean bone in her body and can’t really comprehend wanting to hurt anyone, which is why our heroine, Vender, finds the whole conflict going on around her so bewildering. Why can’t people just say sorry and learn to get along?

I love when I find authors re-invent a creature or species other authors have made famous – either to redirect us onto a different path of understanding them or to entreat into a different viewing of them entirely as a race. As like you said, without flaws and without a way of showing growth – the context of those species can become stagnant and predictable. I could also see why you patterned their beliefs and behaviours as you had – as they were definitely a more exclusive race and have kept to themselves in order to survive. I oft wondered about skin tones – sometimes I read a story (Fantasy or otherwise) and know a character is predominately outside – yet, it is not reflected in their character’s profile or disclosed in their story. Even a heavy tan would make better sense than to give the illusion anyone can spend copious amounts of time in direct sunlight without any affect of that kind of exposure to them.

I had to laugh – about why lizards won out over horses. The laughter was sparked because of how true of a statement this is – and how some might have overlooked its importance! Besides anytime you can use a different animal for a species transportation that is outside the box is one I’m going to enjoy getting introduced too! I also had to smirk about the dwarves diet and why they are attracted to volcanoes! They can definitely have that environment – I live where there is volcanic heat (sans the volcano) and humidity – I melt yearly and hope to live elsewhere eventually. This clime doesn’t work for some but I could see a family of dwarves settling into it as if they found the best ‘vacation’ spot of their kin!

I agree with your assessment about gnomes. Mind, to this day, the only route of understanding them was a children’s programme on tv called “David the Gnome” (does anyone remember that one?) I oft felt they were the innocents of their world and had a very positive outlook on everything round them as well.

-quoted from my interview K.J. Taylor

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A #WyrdAndWonder Book Review | Exploring Dark Fantasy within “The Shadow of the Skytree” by K.J. TaylorThe Shadow of the Skytree
by K.J. Taylor
Source: Gifted
dnf

The reserved elf Lyell Blackfletch is an ambassador for his people – and the holder of a dark secret. Plague is spreading among the human race, with the fire-loving dwarves already driven to the edge of extinction. Only the human Fiorella is close to finding a cure for the sickness, and with her death it is up to her friend Lavender the gnome to deliver it to her people in the steam-powered city of Vaporcitta.

Naïve but rebellious, Lavender chooses to place her trust in Lyell – but is her confidence in the cold-hearted elf misplaced? With the cure stolen and a secret genocide uncovered, they must both make a choice – but it may already be too late.

Genres: Australian Lit, Fantasy Fiction, Dark Fantasy, YA Fantasy



Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

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ISBN: 9781925652796

Also by this author: The Shadow of the Skytree

Published by Odyssey Books

on 25th November, 2019

Pages: 244

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Published by: Odyssey Books (@OdysseyBooks)

Converse via: #YAFantasy, #ShadowOfTheSkyTree
as well as #OdysseyBooks & #WyrdAndWonder

About K.J. Taylor

K.J. Taylor

Canberra author Katie J. Taylor attended Radford College, where she wrote her first novel. She studied for a Bachelor's Degree in Communications at the University of Canberra, and graduated in 2007 before going on to do a Graduate Certificate in Editing in 2008. She is also the author of three fantasy trilogies.

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Posted Monday, 9 May, 2022 by jorielov in #WyrdAndWonder, Content Note, Dark Fantasy, Earthen Magic, Earthen Spirituality, Elves & the Elven, Excessive Violence in Literature, Fantasy Fiction, Fly in the Ointment, Folklore and Mythology, Horror-Lite, Indie Author, Twitterland & Twitterverse Event, Upper YA Fantasy