Traitor Angel {review}

In Traitor Angel, the second book of the Angelkiller Triad,  the war between The Army of Light and The Enemy continues behind the scenes. Unknown to the general population, the battle for control of humanity is heating up.

Jonah Mason, called Angelkiller, faces more than one decision. His Army resistance cell is wounded physically and emotionally, on the brink of falling apart. The mysterious allies calling themselves Knights are pressuring him to abandon his people. Meanwhile, the world outside draws closer to Armageddon.

As Mason and his friends pursue their campaign against Dorian Azrael’s global megacorporation, Andlat Enterprises, the stakes get higher with each desperate foray into the enemy’s computers. They are fated to lose one of their number and gain an unlikely ally, but any advantage they gain could be fleeting at best.

If they fail, it could mean the end of The Army and all resistance to the forces of Darkness.

Traitor Angel is the second installment in H. David Blalock’s Angelkiller Triad. I don’t normally read books concerning a “war in heaven”–to be honest, books about angels typically strike me as being a variation on the same theme. (If you’ve seen The Prophecy, you’ve read them all.) However, the concepts behind this trilogy have intrigued me for a long time and as a result, when the tour opened up, I decided it was well past time to give the book a chance.

There is a lot about Traitor Angel that distinguishes it from other books in this genre which I found a pleasant surprise.  It begins with a war, yes, but it is a war waged largely in cyberspace.  The terminology used is different as well–while there are angels and demons, they are referred to as the “Army” and the “Enemy.”  The war is important but it’s not waged with a literal fiery sword–instead, it relies more on the kind of technology you might see in a MMORPG.

I felt that the story itself had a bit of a DaVinci Code feel to it though I don’t know whether this was intentional on the author’s part.  It was the events that pulled me to the book rather than characterization.  I love a character-driven novel and would have liked to have seen more focus on characters but having not read the first book, I didn’t have the same attachment to them that I might otherwise have had.  The events, setting, and plot were strong enough to keep me really interested in the story so in the end, this isn’t a criticism of the book so much as it’s a suggestion that reading both novels would be likely to add more layers to an understanding of what is a fairly complicated piece.

Traitor Angel brings to mind books like Jacqueline Carey’s Banewreaker in terms of its willingness to push the tradition of good versus evil into new places (though its world is very, very different).  All in all, I think that this book would  appeal to fans of the genre who look for books that fall outside the norm and who like innovation in setting and story.  This book (and its predecessor) are available on Amazon.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for review from First Rule Publicity from the author as part of a virtual book tour. I was not compensated nor was I required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


The Lamplighter’s Special {review}


Lizzie and her sister are forced to work in a huge manor and on a steamship to support their family.

They are caught up in several mysteries:

The squire’s oldest son cannot leave the attic
An old typewriter seems to move time and space
A passenger hides in a secret room
A beautiful visitor is plotting against them

And Lizzie discovers that she has a strange, new ability.

She and her sister must discover the secrets of The Lamplighter’s Special before their enemy catches up with them.

This story, third in Alison DeLuca’s Crown Phoenix series, was a fun, delightful little read that I found a great relaxation after the rush and bustle of the past two weeks in my life. Sometimes, you need to just dive right into someone else’s world as an escape from your own. This was a world that I had no problems dashing into.

First, a disclaimer–I have not read the other two books in the Crown Phoenix series and came to The Lamplighter’s Special with little prior knowledge of the story. I mention this because DeLuca doesn’t seem to rely on knowledge of the first two novels to establish the story and characters in Lamplighter. There were a couple light references to the others (and I did finish it thinking that I will go back to read the others simply because I enjoyed the third so much) but this is a piece that could be read as a standalone quite easily.

There was much to enjoy about this story. The setting is rich, reminding me of a movie that my daughter loved in her younger years, “A Little Princess.” It is definitely has the character of that period without all of its darker undertones. Though DeLuca does reference some of the problems of the era (class issues, in particular), she doesn’t dwell on them. In some respects, this was for me a slight disappointment as I would like to see what she would do with more emphasis on those themes but at the same time, this is not the novel for that story to be told.

I feel that this book fits neatly into the YA genre. Despite the historical setting mentioned earlier, the characters are likable and the language easy to read without being simplified for our own times (not an easy feat!). Lizzie and Ninnie are endearing characters, ones that female readers especially will relate to with their close relationship. It is the bond of family that adds the emotional impact to Lamplighter, something that kept me engaged throughout the course of the story.

All in all, I found this novel to be a good read and would recommend it to those who like a pinch of magic and mystery with their Austen or Burnett. You can pick it up (along with the first two in the series) at Amazon.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for review from First Rule Publicity from the author as part of a virtual book tour. I was not compensated nor was I required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Singularity is Coming: Review of Digital Rapture

The title of this post, “The Singularity is Coming,” is actually something of a lie.  After reading some of the stories in the anthology Digital Rapture, I seriously found myself questioning whether or not the singularity was already here.

What is the singularity?  According to the wikitionary, this is “a predicted future event in human history caused by the ever-increasing ability of new technology to speed up the rate at which new technology is developed.”  Editors James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel do an excellent job of discussing what is a very difficult (and all-embracing, at times) concept in their introduction.  They travel between the stories of H.G. Wells to medieval ascetics to intellectuals of today, all while asking questions of the reader and inviting them to form their own judgments.  Rather than feeling extraneous as many editorial narratives do, this story is fascinating and the threads of the discussion carry on even in introductions of the pieces presented here.

A standout piece in Digital Rapture was “Hive Mind Man” by Rudy Rucker and Eileen Gunn.  In an age where human beings are increasingly encouraged to share more and more of their personal lives and thoughts in the global blogosphere, this story does not feel as far-future as it should.  The protagonist struggles with a boyfriend who is asked to effectively give his life to the pursuit of constant data-mining and promotion.  I found this a great cautionary tale–at what point does spewing out our thoughts and ideas into the ether turn us away from being individuals and instead, becoming part of a national, or worldwide, consciousness?

Another piece particularly compelling to me was “Crystal Nights” by Greg Egan.  In “Nights,” Egan examines the question of building a race from scratch.  The process of evolution as seen through the eyes of one who wants to control it is fascinating to observe, moreso when things begin to go awry.  I hadn’t thought of this particular theme as being an aspect of singularity and yet it is, beautifully done here.

There are many other stories by those that I’d regard as the greats in this field–Asimov, Stapledon, Sterling, etc–and I would recommend taking the time to sit down and read this particular anthology not in one sitting, but in several.  The questions that it raises are relevant and topical.  I think that careful consideration of Digital Rapture will reveal more about ourselves and our time than the casual reader suspects.

Review: The Sword & Sorcery Anthology

Anyone who’s read The Universal Mirror may be aware that I cut my teeth on old sword and sorcery novels as a teenager.  There’s just something about that school of adventure fantasy that brings me joy and so, when I received an advance reader copy of The Sword and Sorcery Anthology from Tachyon Publications, I was ecstatic but also, I confess, a little concerned.  I hadn’t read the genre in a long time and there’s something about holding to the myths of childhood.  I didn’t want to open the pages and discover that, in fact, what I recalled of these stories wasn’t what they actually had been.

Oh, I was wrong about that.

This is a fantastic anthology and a great introduction to the genre.  The editors (David G. Hartwell and Jacob Weisman) have done a stellar job in compiling a work that spotlights many authors that I would consider pivotal (Robert Howard, Michael Moorcock, Fritz Leiber…the list goes on) while also featuring those that I’ve always thought of in the context of other work.  (Ramsey Campbell, for instance, who I associate with his excellent horror stories.)  The list of stories is extensive and can be located at Tachyon’s website.

Among my favorites in this work was “The Unholy Grail” by Fritz Leiber.  A Grey Mouser story, this piece is among the most evocative in the genre with description that trembles on the border of dark fantasy.  The wizard’s apprentice finds himself caught in the webs cast by a young woman and her father.  Testing where her loyalties lie is the only way that Mouse decides he can escape and this results in a series of twists and turns that reminded me once again why Leiber has always been a personal favorite.

Another standout for me was “The Adventuress” by Joanna Russ.  Russ is an author that I’m not familiar with (though I know of her).  The thing that I appreciated most in this tale was the subtle interactions at its heart.  It is a story of two women–rare enough in this genre–but the dynamic between these women was incredibly intriguing to me.  I was never quite certain how they stood in relation to one another emotionally and while in other hands, this might have been maddening, the delicacy with which Russ handled it was what made this story work.  It was a good balance and somewhat unexpected in an anthology of this genre.

Inclusion of those kinds of pieces is really what makes The Sword and Sorcery Anthology a great primer to fantasy and gives it its heart.  There is plenty of action in the book–swordfights, magic, and feats of daring–but the editors have struck a good balance between stories that focus on those aspects with others that give us a more introspective glance at character.  While I know that this is a genre that not all readers are interested in (and I will freely admit that some of the older pieces in this may seem dated to our age), this book is definitely worth checking out.

About the Book:

The Sword and Sorcery Anthology, edited by David G. Hartwell and Jacob Weisman

432 pages.

Tachyon Publications

Available in a number of formats, including via Amazon.

Q&A: Why Write Amazon Reviews?

Courtesy of Boni Idem.

As anyone who is or knows an author knows, many of us frequently go around wishing and hoping that our book will receive reviews on that book giant, Amazon. (I also wish and hope for Powell’s and Barnes and Noble’s but as more and more authors publish exclusively through the Big A, that’s what this blog post is about.) I thought that I’d explain my own reasons for wanting reviews and how they work. I’m choosing to address this via questions that I’ve received from friends and family.

1) I’m no good at writing an Amazon review. What do I say?

The beautiful thing about Amazon reviews is that you don’t have to be Roger Ebert. You can click a star rating and then write a couple of sentences about the book. Reviews can be as simple as “This book was really good. I wish there was more romance” or really elaborate.

Here are some things you could put in a review:

  • Adjectives that describe the book (it was good, it was awful, etc).
  • Say something you liked about it. Things that you could focus on could include the plot, a particular scene, characters, how things changed during the course of the story, etc.
  • If there was a moment or character that personally impacted you in some way, don’t be afraid to say so. Put yourself in the review. Authors love to know their readers and I know that I’m always touched when I can tell someone made a personal connection with what I wrote.
  • Talk about what you wanted to see more of or what needs improvement. Do you wish another character was in the book more? Say so. Did bad spelling distract you? Tell us that too.

Tips to remember:

  • Don’t be afraid to be honest. Do, however, remember to be helpful. Don’t just say “it sucks” but tell everyone why it sucked.
  • Don’t give away the ending of the book. You can allude to it very vaguely (“the ending surprised me”) but don’t say specific plot details.
  • You’re not being graded. Write a review as long or short as you want. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece of art—think of it more as a conversation or what you might tell people you know about this book.
  • Make sure that you read the book before you review. This seems like it should be obvious but… it’s not.

2) Do Amazon reviews actually affect a book’s sales?

I have to be honest with you and tell you that I don’t yet know for sure as I don’t have the “magic number” yet. This is what I understand to be true from conversations with my publisher and other authors:

  • Around 20-25 reviews, Amazon starts including the book in “also bought” and “you might like” lists. This increases your chances of someone finding your title.
  • Around 50-70 reviews, Amazon looks at your book for spotlight positions and the newsletter. This is HUGE. This is my personal goal although I use Amazon reviews for other reasons (more later on in this post).
  • Number of reviews may affect Amazon sales ranking. (Again, this is anecdotal–I have no actual proof of it.)
  • Some websites will not consider or promote your book unless you have a number of reviews on the page (this is very true of those sites that highlight free promos—I can attest to this).
  • And, of course, readers may read through your reviews and decide to purchase or not purchase the book based on this.

3) Whatever. I don’t care if you sell this wonderful/awful book. Why should I write a review if it doesn’t change how you write the next one?

Oh, but it does.

When I read my Amazon reviews, they tell me things that my editor might not. Let’s face it, an editor is only one person and even with beta readers, you’re working in a group of people who are familiar with the craft of writing. What an author also needs is the opinion of the average reader, that person who just picked up their book and doesn’t have an English degree.

While you have to have a tough skin about reviews, as an author, they’re very helpful. They can reaffirm something that you were already working on. For instance, I’d already decided to make one of my minor characters in my first book a point-of-view character for the second—my reviews have told me that people wouldn’t be uninterested in him. They can also point out things that you need to work on. In my case, exposition!

Likewise, positive reviews tell you what you’re doing right. If people rave about your characters, then that’s likely a good place to keep going. If reviews talk about the fighting scenes in a positive light, then you know you’re making a difference.

So, in short, yes, what you write in that review is fairly likely to change something about the book I’m working on now. Writing is a process.

4) But I really hated the book! Should I still review it?

Here is where I probably differ from some other authors so I’m going to speak only for myself here.

Yes. Absolutely. How will I know where to improve unless I get reviews that tell me so? Yes, it can be painful to read some reviews but am I ever going to say that there isn’t truth in them? No.
After the initial sting, I’ll read it again and take something home from that. I’ll be a better writer for it. To be honest, not everyone likes every book. There are people out there who hate Harry Potter. It would be a little presumptuous to think that all of my reviews would be golden for any book (they’re not now and I don’t expect that to change. Especially not if anyone reads this post. ).

The only thing that I ask is to please make sure you have something to say about why it is bad. The only review that I’ve ever been really irritable about was a one-star on an old short horror story I posted for fun where the reader said they were underage and hadn’t read it.

Having said all of that, it is really tough to be a small press or self-published author (I am the former). Bad reviews can kill a novel if they’re the first ones a book receives or if they’re all that the book has. Please hold this in mind if you decide to go forth. This post by Anne R. Allen does a good job of explaining the impact in more detail than I’ll get into here.

Now that you’ve read all of that, if you have any questions, feel free to comment and I’ll try to answer them. I am speaking from an author’s standpoint but perhaps others will chime in with their own thoughts on the process.

(Feel free to share this post or copy it for your own blog. All I ask is that if you do, please keep my author note here at the bottom.)

Gwen Perkins is a fantasy novelist who is always on the hunt for Amazon reviews for her first novel, The Universal Mirror (Hydra Publications, 2012). She can be contacted through email at