Thursday 30 July 2015

The Crossover Alliance Publishing Company Grand Opening

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We are so incredibly excited to announce the launch of The Crossover Alliance, a unique online publishing company specializing in edgy Christian speculative fiction. Authors who enjoy writing Christ-themed speculative fiction containing real-world content now have a home for their manuscripts. With our Grand Opening finally here, there's a lot of exciting news we would like to share with all of you!

The Crossover Alliance seeks to put to rest the conundrum that many readers and writers face: a book is either too Christian for the secular market, or it's too secular for the Christian market. There are hordes of readers and writers caught in this limbo, and The Crossover Alliance wants to be a place where people can find gritty, edgy books that rest on solid Biblical principles. We shouldn't glorify the darkness but we shouldn't be afraid of it, either, nor should we be afraid of it in the books we read. The Crossover Alliance will bring you the most intense, hardest-hitting books the Christian market has ever seen, and we hope you'll join us in this adventure.

INFESTATION: A Small Town Nightmare 3: THE FINALE by Tanya R. Taylor



Marie has been on a journey very few people travel. She has seen the devastation before-hand and as each horrifying event unfolded, there was absolutely nothing anyone could do about it -- until now.

Travel with her to the end of the journey that leads to a place none of us can imagine we'd ever be. Will she be able to save this town or will they be lost forever?

The Guru's Review: 

Taylor has developed Episodes 1 and 2 very well to set the stage for this final episode where the confrontation between the town and the evil that is gaining more and more of a foothold takes place. 

The evil entity ups the anti and becomes personal. Marie Adams finds out what this entity is capable of as she and her husband are attacked spiritually, mentally and physically.

Taylor shows how insidious and toxic this evil is by including an attack on one of the members of the very church that it is associated with, the one that is under suspicion by Marie from the previous episode. 

This all builds until the reader gets to the 70% mark (kindle edition) and with the suspense building, one wonders how in such a short length left (this episode is 55 pages total) will this be able to be wound up and resolved? 

However, Taylor comes through with an action packed and very biblically based account of spiritual warfare with some Catholic tradition included and makes for a gripping ending. 

I was very impressed with the reason that Taylor has included as to why and how this demonic activity descended on the town of Bringham. It was not the usual reason that you read about or know what happens in reality, but nonetheless plausible spiritually. It turns out to be a very sobering message for the Church today and society as a whole as this shows what could happen if both the church and society continue down this path that Taylor outlines. I applaud her for this message.

I appreciate that this not only entertains but educates and equips the Body of Christ in spiritual warfare, being discerning and watchful at all times. Adams is the epitome of what a Christian should be in this regard, watchful, discerning and in touch with the Spirit as the Word states that satan prowls around searching for you to devour next.

Taylor very nicely places an event relating to her family estrangement that was
outlined in episode 1 as a direct consequence to the final outcome of this spiritual warfare and it puts the icing on the cake of this series. Another message that we need to never forget and apply every day to our lives in regards to our families. 

I have thoroughly enjoyed this episodic trilogy. Taylor has constructed a very entertaining and realistic account of what demonic oppression and possession can be like and the consequences when society does nothing and, therefore, allows by this default evil to take root and take over, ending in human destruction and submission and yet the solution is not complex just takes repentance and commitment to God and He does the rest.  

Highly Recommended

Sunday 26 July 2015

Prodigal Lost: Oasis of the Fallen, Book 1 by E.L. Pearson

Is he really destined to exist in the catacombs of human life, unable to die and unwilling to live?

Another name in another city; Mason Standing feels he’s in the twilight of life…if his life would end. That’s why his torturous existence makes so much sense. An angel who fell with Satan didn’t deserve comfort and happiness. Mason exists; he no longer lives. Until he meets a pair of hazel eyes and his bitterness turns to desire for this artist who can steal his breath with just her touch. But his past won’t let him rest. The Devil would find him here too, in the sordid French Quarter of New Orleans just like he found Mason in every other place in the world for centuries. This eternal vendetta would not be satisfied until Mason would see another he cared for dying in his arms as she is sacrificed to the Devil as the purest of blood on earth.

Centuries ago, Mason had severed himself from the factions of Lucifer. It all started in Rome and the catacombs with his desire for the light, to fight once again for what he believed was his true station. He belonged to God, and back in his Graces was where he would be again, if it took an eternity to accomplish. Each night in New Orleans, Mason vividly dreams about his struggle to get back into the folds of God’s creatures. All the sin that surrounded him, the Nephilim offspring of the other Fallen, Babylon…it was all rushing back to him. He fell with the others, but he never knew why. Did God listen to even a demon as he had been called? Was redemption possible for him? Would he find forgiveness and be allowed to return to the light of Heaven, welcomed by Jesus? As he remembers this previous life, he begins to see the signs that the Devil had found him again.

It was time to take a stand – starting with the voodoo shop down the street. And this time, Oasis wouldn’t be lost, unless Mason was. Accompanied by another reformed fallen angel Mac, Mason has a renewed purpose - find his way back just as he had done before, but it had to be soon. Pursued by a relentless mob of Lucifer’s committed followers, he has no choice. He must conquer the Devil where he hides and put this chase into his own terms before it is too late. And when he awakes to find both Oasis and Mac missing from a room with signs of struggle, the fight between good and evil has begun.

The Guru's Review: 

I don't know what preparation E.L. Pearson undertook for this novel, but it has definitely paid off. Whether it is just her natural talent and passion for writing and her research of this subject matter, or this coupled with any writing course, instruction or mentoring she has been trained in, the end result is a well-crafted and comprehensive novel. If any reader does not know that this is her debut novel, they would be convinced that Pearson is one very experienced and seasoned author.

I find this novel gives her a grand entrance into the world of fiction and especially in
 the emerging and ever-evolving genre of edgy, Christian speculative fiction. Pearson may have well found her niche in this genre. There is no shallowness on any level, everything seems to have been developed well; characters, plot, pace, atmosphere, even the edginess and speculative elements. It is one very well rounded work of creativity. 

This could also have been due to Pearson's writing. Just as any piece of writing, whether fiction or non fiction is enhanced by a well developed command of the English language, so is Paradise Lost by Pearson's command of English. I found this added a richness and depth to the construction of this novel. Descriptions were specific and easily pictured in my mind, dialogue realistic and portrayed the emotion of the character and what they intended to say, the plot flowed smoothly and connected each scene. The author showed and not told what was happening. The overall effect was that I was engaged throughout this entire novel.

I really appreciate that Pearson has included an Introduction where she outlines why she has written about this subject matter. I encourage every reader to not skip over this Introduction, as the subject of fallen angels is controversial enough (the edgy element) without throwing into the mix the concept of them being redeemed (the speculative element) when the Bible states that they are imprisoned until judged by the Lord after He returns. Pearson explains her curiosity concerning these two topics especially the latter and I pray that it encourages the critical or sceptical reader to consider for a moment the 'What if....?' question that makes a topic speculative. I consider this to be a clever tactic as without this explanation, the critical or sceptical reader ends up having a field day being critical as to why this author had the audacity to go down this path in a Christian novel (I can here the word Heretic being shouted!) and then starts to deconstruct everything else the author has created. With this Introduction, Pearson gets her motivation and reasoning out there to quell any potential criticism and attack on her credibility as a debut author. It also prepares and enables any noncritical/nonskeptical reader, the one who is simply curious about this subject matter, to jump into the plot and be better entertained and given plenty of things to consider and investigate without any previous bias. On another level, it is just plain, good old information to hear from an author about a hot potato of an issue that they are writing about! This adds to their credibility as an author and their novel.

Pearson very skillfully creates two worlds that Mason and Marchosias inhabit, the past in Rome where they served satan under sufferance and humiliation, fell in love and found redemption, and the present where they are living in New Orleans having escaped satan's dominion and but always on guard, ready to defend their freedom and find their true purpose as redeemed (as outlined in The Authorless Book, that is Mason's prized possession). Both worlds are very different from each other, the former mentioned I found very dark and tense but balanced with the joy of finding love, being redeemed and trying to honour God while the latter mentioned is lighter, serious, but action packed as Pearson brings everything to a head and ties everything up very nicely and sets the stage for the next volume. How these two worlds transition between each other is effective as the world of Mason and Marchosias' past is relived in Mason's dreams and the reader is transported back and forth as directed by events in Mason's present or by God speaking directly to Mason's mind. 

One thing that impressed me about this novel is that the characters are very real and well developed. I related to the mateship of Mason and Marchosias, these two compliment each other very well and I found I related on two levels, individually and as a mates/friends, inseparable. I am very fond of these two. Any reader will be drawn to the sincerity of Mason and his determination and passion to be reunited with God and his love for Him. And for Marchosias as well for his loyalty to Mason and devotion to God. They both remind me of a Paul and Barnabas type friendship from the Bible. Pearson has also created a strong character in Oasis, she is vulnerable, mysterious, independent and I get the impression that she may be in the next instalment as well.  I became very fond of Sybl as the almost damsel in distress with Mason as the knight in shining armour to her rescue, while Marchosias seemed the big brother protector type to Lumenesca despite his love for her. I am pleased that Pearson has not dealt satan with the nice card but has depicted him as the lying, devious, conceited, hateful, defiant, malicious and spiteful (to name a few traits, I could go on!) entity that befits his prideful rebellion against God. 

I loved how this author depicted the path to Redemption that is scattered throughout the majority of the plot. Including the use of a book, The Authorless Book, and found in the Library of satan's lair (and by the sounds of it, not even he knew it was there), was a very clever tactic and served to pique the reader's interest throughout as to how and when this would take place. I found it very satisfying and successful in that it needed to be a constant thread throughout the novel as this was its main theme. 

Pearson needs to be applauded for the way she has depicted the spiritual warfare elements in this novel. They are depicted true to their biblical origins and what is says how they should be applied. It was good to see the principle of obedience where Mason obeyed God's call in what to do and say when the final confrontation between himself and satan and that in the Name of Jesus, demons and satan must flee. Even though that was only a short piece of writing, it was one very exciting piece of narrative and stands out as to how a Christian can confidently, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, stand up and be victorious against demonic forces in our lives. 

There is only one aspect that I struggled with. I am not one for romance as a genre even in Christian fiction, however if romance is a subplot to the genres that I read, then I do enjoy that. However, I cannot fathom or understand the romance that Pearson has included in Mason's past once redeemed and his present. Before he was redeemed, I can understand him falling for Sybl and Marchosias for Lumenesca, as they would have been like the other fallen angels, where desire for human women was the norm, but as a redeemed angel, this is not part of their attitude and behaviour and not what is expected of them from God. This is also the case with Mason towards Oasis in the present, where he expressed his feelings towards her. It was desire for human women that was part of the angel's sin in the first place so based on this, I don't understand why including romance as a redeemed angel and one that is on a special mission from God was necessary. I am sure Pearson has a reason for this, I just don't see it and find it confusing. 

From what Pearson has achieved in this novel concerning fallen angels' redemption, I can see that the remaining novels are ones that are going to be action packed as more of the edgy speculative elements of her original premise are explored and revealed. As with most readers, I am already impatient for the remainder of the story. How I wish that the whole series could be written first and then released about 6 months apart. Ted Dekker has done this successfully and I am sure a few other authors have as well. However, this is a very affirming compliment for any author to hear and one that I am sure forms part of the basis of their continuing  to write.

I strongly recommend this edgy, Christian, speculative, well crafted novel by this aspiring new author and one that we need to support and encourage. I am glad I approached Pearson to review her work. It has well been worth it.

Thursday 23 July 2015

INFESTATION: A Small Town Nightmare 2 by Tanya R. Taylor

INFESTATION: A Small Town Nightmare 2


Evil lurks in the most unlikely places.

The town of Bringham—once a peaceful, God-fearing community, suddenly and abruptly finds itself in a major crisis. Strange things are happening which defy logic even in the slightest sense of the word. Yet, one resident has seen the devastation before-hand and knows that if something isn't done quickly to eradicate the evil that is upon them, the town they know and love will be a distant, tragic memory.

What no one can possibly fathom is that the seemingly pious and good-natured may be the reason the darkness has found its way to Bringham in the first place.

As you pay close attention to this story, each episode will bring you closer and closer to the truth.

In this sequel, discover what else has been uncovered in this small town.

The Guru's Review: 

The following is what I included in the review of the previous instalment, episode 1 of Infestation, 
I am looking forward to Taylor introducing more of the spiritual side to this story, notably from a biblical worldview. So far, I am pleased with what I have read despite the fact that the only spiritual aspects are that the evil is demonic and a few references to living and treating people according to God’s standard as outlined in the Bible.
A very easy read with some promising plot lines laid down for further development. I am looking forward to seeing the horror elements developed and the countermeasures to deal with this, hopefully from a biblical worldview and perspective. Bring on the spiritual warfare!
Well, in this episode, the demonic oppression deepens, more murders, seven in one incident, and a new church which seems to be honest on the outside but is not as it seems  has Marie suspicious that this could be connected to the source of this 'infestation'. 

She also finds more clues from interviewing one of the perpetrators  of multiple murders from the previous episode. From  all these events, she is even more suspicious about what is the real cause of these heinous crimes that are taking over the town but Marie is not forthcoming yet and I can see that this will happen in the final episode. Towards the end of this short, the demonic events escalate with one of Amy's friends having a demonic experience with tangible physical results, and it this that makes Marie realise what is happening in Bingham is more serious than she thought. 

Taylor has included more biblical principles of discernment, asking for guidance through prayer, and not speaking out against God's appointed leaders without the leading of the Spirit. I did appreciate Taylor's depiction of Marie's vulnerability and struggle to carry out what God has appointed her to do. This is a very realistic depiction and one that I am sure most Christians can relate to. 

I was expecting more events of the estrangement of Marie's family in this episode, but it is not there. If this is not finalised in the final episode, I don't see what role it served in this entire story as it will remain unfinished with no connection to the plot. This short does not seem to be as action packed or involved as it predecessor and I wish it could have been. However, it was still a very enjoyable read and the suspense and intrigue builds as it takes you along for the ride. Personally, I would like each episode to be longer so more of the spiritual aspects could be more fleshed out. I can only hold out for the final episode to see what the icing on this cake is going to be like.

I am, however, really looking forward to everything coming to a head in this final episode with all being explained and wrapped up nicely. 

Strongly Recommended.

Wednesday 22 July 2015

Author Spotlight: C.L Ragsdale, Fun Fiction With A Pinch of Weird!

If there was one cartoon show I loved while growing up it was Scooby Doo! 

I loved Shaggy, Daphne, Velma, Freddie, and of course the dog, Scooby Doo! Him and Shaggy were always up to something and it always went pear shaped! I loved the investigative, detective like mind of Velma, the leadership, common sense of Freddie and the practicality of Daphne. What I especially loved about the show was that in each episode, the fist third showed the mystery, the paranormal elements that have been spooking the community, the next third with the team being drawn into the mystery and seeking to solve it, and the last third the revealing of what is really causing this mystery and paranormal events.

I never thought I would come across an author who would write novels with a similar framework like the Scooby Doo cartoon series! I first came across Cindy L. Ragsdale in one of the Facebook groups I belong to when she was asking advice on the reworking of the cover of one of her books, The Mystery of Hurtleberry House. What piqued my interest in her was that she actually mentioned that this cover had a Scooby Doo look about it! Then I looked at it again and I totally agreed. It really does have the Scooby Doo style! I then found out the Cindy creates her novels in a similar way to the Scooby Doo series, with everything not as it first appears.

Based on this I thought it would be good to have Cindy as my latest Author Spotlight guest to see what makes the author of this unique style tick and expose more readers to her and her books. Admittedly, I have not yet read any of her books, but I have bought The Mystery of Hurtleberry House (The Reboot Files Book 1)
 to get me started. 

So sit back and let Cindy entertain you as she takes you into her world. 

Over to you, Cindy! 

My name is C.L. Ragsdale (the C’s for Cindy, and the L is not what you think) and I write cozy mystery stories.

Just so you know, my stories aren’t exactly like the best sellers you have may read. Mine are what are referred to as grown-up Scooby Doo. Which means rather than romance and murder you get fake paranormal and non-lethal crimes.

It’s a little different, but then so am I.

So, you may ask, how do I get my plot ideas for this different type cozies? From things that creep me out. Where the different comes in is what is creepy to me may seem perfectly harmless to you.

Such as?


Seriously. They’re creepy. Just read Algernon Blackwood’s story The Willows sometime. You’ll see. But to be fair to the enemy…I mean the trees, let me state my case.

Behold, the photographic evidence of the extremely creepy looking trees that live behind my house.

See what I mean? They’re just…there. Waiting. For what? Who knows? That's creepy. But that doesn't mean they don't do annoying stuff like leaving disgusting leaves that I will now have to clean up.

Now that is just rude because I have gravel for a lawn. You ever tried to clean up leaves from gravel? But that's not the point, the point is that it never ends! I live in California, so we don’t have a “stop dropping your leaves already” season! They just keep at it all year long!

It's a conspiracy, and the end game is…I don’t know what, but they’re up to something.

Worst of all is their allies, the creepy birds that live in the creepy trees.

Okay, so it's fake chicken on a bush. I couldn't get a real bird to pose. Why? Because they're creepy too, they know it, and they don't want it documented. I’ve read The Birds by Daphne du Maurier (way scarier than the movie by the way). I recommend it, and then you’ll never look at Tweety the same way.

But back to the trees. My mother, a very logical person, so she never listened to me, told me that I needed to get over this tree conspiracy thing because they’re just trees after all. But don't confuse logic with the creepy facts.

Sure they're pretty, but that’s to lure you into their evil, creepy plot to…again, I don’t know what, but it’s going to be bad.

Remember Day of The Triffids by John Wyndham? Sure he doesn't come right out and say that the plants that are getting up and around and eating people are trees, but trees are plants so you can't rule it out.

Mark my words, you’ll change your tune when the creepy trees and birds rise up to destroy us all….oops, sorry, I got a little carried away. I’m a writer, I do that.
So where did all that come from? My relatively normal childhood growing up in a location where scary stories abounded.

I know, it warped me for life.

First, there was The Orchard, the evilest place on earth. It was gone by the time I got old enough to remember things, but I was told by my sisters that it was truly the most frightening place ever. They know because our older brother Jack told them so.

Then there was The Gully, a forest…okay a grove… okay a line of trees (it looked big when I was a kid) where you went in but never came out. I know this because my sisters told me and Jack told them...oh you've noticed a pattern here, huh? It's true, Jack was known to love to torment his little sisters with scary stories, but get tree roots into your plumbing sometime and you begin to wonder if there's not an evil genius at work somewhere.

So making the trees the bad guys is all my brother’s fault. He was so effective that to this day I still tend to give them a second or third look before enjoying their shade during hot California summers. When I'm desperate.

You never know, they may be up to something.

Now, you just cannot be introduced to Cindy's world without then seeing how her unique style and view of mystery, suspense and a touch of the weird is expressed in her books! So I have listed them here. Click on the title to view more of the book on Amazon. 

The Mystery of Hurtleberry House (The Reboot Files Book 1)

The host of a paranormal investigation show? For REBOOT? The worst TV station EVER?! 
Not the career move that reporter Irene Waters ever wanted, but with a scandal now on her resume she can't be picky. So teamed with a cameraman who thinks he’s seen it all, they are sent to a rumored haunted house called Hurtleberry. 
With a name like that who wouldn't be terrified? 
Things soon take a turn for the weird, just not the kind of weird they were expecting. But it's interesting, and might even be dangerous. 
Still, if they pull it off The Reboot Team might actually get a good story out of it. If the story doesn't get them first.

The Island of Living Trees (The Reboot Files Book 2)

Things are looking really bad in Reboot Land just now.
But if host Irene Waters can deal with a few minor issues they just might end up with an exciting episode.
All she has to do is keep her cameraman’s mind on filming and off the pretty environmentalist.
Stop said environmentalist from trying to turn the Reboot Team against each other for reasons unknown.
Getting the would-be politician to keep her opinions to herself (Irene has her doubts on that one).
Then there are those pesky walking trees...
Correction, things are looking really, really bad in Reboot land just now.

The Harbinger of Retribution (The Reboot Files Book 3)

The Harbinger of Retribution is a thing of beauty and of nightmares. A seven foot tall statue depicting a cloaked woman with two swords crossed over her chest. It resides in a back room of a local church in the small town of Redemption which has seen more than its share of unfortunate events due to its mere existence. Truly it is a messanger of doom...
At least that's how the story goes, and why Irene's Eerie Adventures has come to town.
Cameraman Troy Stenson is elated to find that the object of their investigation does not disappoint in the sinister factor, and it even has a curse. His partner, Irene Waters, refuses to judge by appearances alone. To Troy’s chagrin she is proven right, again, when they find out The Harbinger doesn't have a curse, it has two, and they conflict with each other.
So the question becomes is it the statue that's causing the trouble? And is there any trouble at all?

Once upon a time there lived a beautiful woman named Virginia whose life was filled with disappointment. With the rejection of her one true love she ended her life. Now her vengeful spirit haunts the shores of Lake Morona seeking the destruction of all who cross her path.
Or so the story goes.
Pretty standard fare for Reboot TV reporter Irene Waters and her cameraman Troy Stenson. But a strange assignment is made even stranger by their station manager tagging along for no apparent reason, and having competition for the first time ever for the story.
Then there is a suspiciously cooperative 'ghost' who, it may turn out, isn't even the right ghost.

After their latest assignment is debunked before they can even get started, Irene Waters and Troy Stenson take the opportunity to help out an old friend.
Bob Cullens has been sidetracked from his retirement to design an elaborate corn maze for the Franklin family. But now he has trouble. Scarecrow trouble.
So what could be the trouble with scarecrows in a cornfield? Well, they’re getting up, walking around and making a general nuisance of themselves. Then there's that pesky legend that this could have dire consequences for the Franklin Clan.
But Bob's not worried.
Because he knows that for Irene and Troy, this is just another day at the office.

The Woolly Weegie: The Reboot Files #6 - A Christian Cozy Mystery

You know the trouble with Monsters? They're never what you think. 
That is a lesson Reboot's "ace" reporter Irene Waters and her cameraman Troy Stenson are about to learn the hard way when they find themselves on the hunt for a local legend called The Woolly Weegie. Or so they're telling everyone. Truthfully, they're actually out to uncover a cheating ring at a local private high school. 
But just as it seems they have escaped the weirdness they usually find on a story, weirdness finds them. When The Woolly Weegie comes pounding on their door. Literally! 

Superheroes exist to "Save The World". But what if the world needs saving from the superheroes?
The Mighty Superhero Security Squad came together to protect mankind. Then something went terribly wrong and they became super control freaks bent on world domination. For everyone's own good of course.
So what happens when you're the only superhero standing in their way? Annie Brunswick is about to find out. But first she has to learn how to control her superpowers, which she just got, figure out what is really going on with The Squad, and then save the world. Nothing to it.
But in a world where superheroes are out control, she's the only hope left.

Short Christmas mysteries and holiday recipes by the authors of Cozy Mystery Magazine blog

Six short holiday mysteries from the authors of Cozy Mystery Magazine featuring holiday menus and recipes to help celebrate the season!

You can interact with Cindy on the following links:

C. L. Ragsdale Books

C. L. Ragsdale Amazon Author Page

CL Ragsdale Books Facebook Author Page


Email address:

Cindy, Thanks for letting us see into your world and your books! 

I am looking forward to reading The Mystery of Hurtleberry House! 

Sunday 19 July 2015

Guest Post by Janet Ursel, Dear Professor Wotton

I recently discovered a new author, Janet Ursel, and her debut novel, Disenchanted. I read and reviewed an advanced reader's copy prior to the release of this book on July 14. To help celebrate and promote this release, I asked Janet to be a guest on this blog and asked her to write about anything she wanted concerning her writing, journey to published author or her novel, Disenchanted.

I was very very pleased to say that Janet has created an account from the main character, Blayn Goodwin, who provides some backdrop to the theme of wizards and wizardry that forms some of the world-building to Enchanted. This account is not in the novel but is the background to one event that did happen in the novel, where the main character Blayn wanted to know from Professor Wotton, a Southlander, why the Southlanders dislike the Coventree people and their way of life. After quite an explicit account of why this is, Blayn decides (in this letter to the Professor, that is not in Enchanted) to explain some of the background of the Wizardry hierarchy to help the Professor understand that his claims against the Coventree Wizards and their behaviour may not be entirely well founded. It almost reads like a deleted scene or an Appendix! 

So sit back, enjoy this segment of the wonderful world-building that Janet has created that exists in Enchanted as Blayn explains the hierarchy of Wizardry and the training of wizards.

Dear Professor Wotton, 

In response to your request for information about Wizardry and how it works in Coventree, I thought I would give you a list of all the steps required to become the Supreme Wizard (or Wizardress, although that is rare). I hope that you will find the information useful for your classes. All of this is such common knowledge for those of us in Coventree, it’s easy to forget that students in the Southlands would not know. 

The process usually begins when a witch or magician goes looking for an apprentice, although in some cases the parents of the child take the initiative. The child is usually about twelve at the time, although exceptions can be made. I myself was only nine. It still astonishes me that my mother allowed it. Strong preference is given to children who are Mageborn, and apprentices with no wizarding background will find it difficult to rise through the system. This difficulty may account for Edgar Saville’s willingness to look outside Coventree for ways to enhance his chances. I suspect that is changing now.

Apprenticeship usually lasts seven years, not because it really takes that long to learn the basics of magic, but because apprentices provide a cheap source of labour for their masters. To be fair, it probably would not be wise for most young people to advance to the next stage much younger anyway. Maturity is needed as well as knowledge. When the apprenticeship is complete, the new sorcerer or sorceress receives his or her athame (the ceremonial dagger) and leaves behind the apprentice’s tunic for light brown robes. 

Sorcerers are under no obligation to continue through the ranks. They can settle down and marry and provide whatever services they have been trained for. This is especially common for herbalists, like my mother, or experts in powders and philtres. Others just use their wizarding skills to give them an advantage in their family’s business, or use the opportunity to break into something different. 

But those who do wish to rise higher must go on a period of Wandering. They explore Coventree, getting to know witches and magicians from different towns and shires, to expand their knowledge beyond what their own masters could teach them. They are also expected to develop something new: a new spell, a new remedy, a new use for something already known. I am rather sorry for my own discovery; it has resulted in many deaths. 

Then the aspiring witch or magician must undergo the Witch’s Flight: anointed with a salve made of henbane, belladonna, and mandrake, they undergo an illusion of flying, among other things. This is supposed to open their minds to greater things. Some do not survive, and this is supposed to indicate the choice of the gods. Alan Phips has since told me that my own flight was “eventful”. 

After all this has been accomplished, and approved by the shire wizards, the young man becomes a magician, the young woman, a witch. The functions are the same for both: bestowing blessings, officiating at Circles, plus whatever specialized skills they have to offer. In small villages, they often become a central power. They are not allowed to marry in order to keep their focus and commitment on their craft. They are allowed to consort with other witches and magicians, but are not supposed to form any lasting ties. This has always mystified me. I wonder now if even this might end up changing. 

Witches and magicians wear a flat, cylindrical cap and robes in the colour of their shire to indicate their status. They are addressed by Mistress or Master with their surname. 

To become a wizard or wizardress, one must be invited to join the Grand Council of one of the six shires. Each of these is made up of six wizards and six wizardresses. Wizards carry a staff with a pewter knob on the top, wear a linked pewter belt, and a cap like a magician’s but embroidered in silver. They stop using their last name, being presumably too important to need one. Thus Master Phips became Master Alan once appointed to Council, for example. 

Each Grand Council is led by one Grand Wizard and one Grand Wizardress, who are also their shire’s representatives on the Supreme Council. They wear the cylindrical hat of the Supreme Council, a belt of silver medallions, and carry a silver-knobbed staff and are referred to as Grand Master or Mistress. 

The Supreme Council is presided over by a single Supreme Wizard or Wizardress, bringing the total number of members to thirteen on the Council. The Supreme Wizard gets the tallest hat of all (never with a brim—the wind would rip it off his head) and dresses in dark brown robes with gold for his staff, belt, and embroidery. He is chosen by the other Council members and usually remains for life, or at least as long as he can function. As you can imagine, a lot of politicking goes into these choices, although the Supreme Wizard is not that supreme on council. He still has only one vote and must rule by influence more than anything else. Still, his influence, both on Council and in all Coventree, is vast. I say “he” because women very seldom manage to develop the power base to be chosen. This angered my mother a great deal, although she seldom spoke of it. When she did, it was explosive! 

I trust that will satisfy the curiosity of your students and fill in any gaps in your own knowledge. I really do long to come visit you again in Sunbury, but now that I am free to move about as I wish, I am too busy to do so! 

May God hold you in his grace, 

Blayn Goodwin

Thanks Janet for a very entertaining and comprehensive account of one of the aspects of the world-building that you have so masterfully constructed in Disenchanted.

If Janet's account has whetted your appetite for more of Disenchanted, it can be bought at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online and Christian bookstores.

Saturday 18 July 2015

The Called: Chosen (The Called Series, Book 2) by Justin Price

The Called Series continues with Chosen. The Antichrist has unleashed something terrible on earth that is gaining power by the day while believers must flee for their lives. Nations rebel against Samyaza al Assad and the World Council, causing global war to break out. More twists and turns await in the second installment of the series as the tribulation officially begins and the called of God find their place in a world that has become brutal to them.

The Guru's Review:

I was really excited to be back in this novel, with familiar characters,  its setting, past pace, suspense, and I am so glad to see that Price has continued what he started in the previous volume where I described that he,

blended the genres of the supernatural, science fiction, apocalyptic and eschatology into a multi-layered construct that works very well and adds depth to the plot and the overall enjoyment of this novel.
This provided strength to the previous novel and does the same with this one. Price has progressed everything in this novel. The plot is developed more with the evil plans of Samyaza al Assad, the world population becomes deceived by his charm and deceptive schemes, the one world political system forges deeper roots into the threads of society with more control of the masses and Christians are further persecuted with an ever increasing search to destroy their underground residences and force them to recant their faith or be executed. This adds to the pace making it a cannot put down tale just like the previous installment. Despite the pace, Price still manages to develop the characters further and their fear, despair, trust in God, faith is very evident and I found myself relating to their emotions in a tangible way. I kept thinking that I pray this is what I would do when similar plot lines become reality in this world. 

This is one thing that I enjoy about novels like this. May sound like an oxymoron but while being entertained immensely, Price paints a very sobering picture of what the future could be like and it is this that provokes the Christian reader into thinking about their faith, being ready for this, and drawing closer to God in preparation. We are encouraged in the Word to always be ready and to be prepared to take a stand for our faith. Price succeeds here. I would love to think that a reader who does not have a relationship with Jesus would also be encouraged to consider their future as well and to identify that God needs to be a part of this. 

I loved the example of Abbie, how being submitted to God, she risked everything out of obedience to Him to have her singing career instrumental in bringing multitudes to Christ and despite being reprimanded by the government for it, she still found it worth the cost. I pray that this encourages Christians to stand firm in their faith through whatever trial or adversity they are going through, whether now or in the future as depicted in this novel, that they lay down their lives and count the cost for Christ.

It is also good to see that Price has continued the work of the Spirit in bringing people to Christ by using various characters as a witness to Him. Seeing one major character from the previous installment come to Christ and another being on the verge is very encouraging as the Word tells us that there will still be conversions to Christ in the last days before Jesus comes back and during the Tribulation Period which this novel has as its setting. It is through plot lines like this that an author gets to deliver the message of the Gospel in a showing and not telling/preaching manner. Price does this well and it is very refreshing.

Price continues his inclusion of angelic visitation and I appreciate his depiction of them as Messengers that they are, as described in the Bible, that they seek no vain glory or attention to themselves; they just want to deliver God's message, encourage those they have been sent to minister to and be on their way. Another aspect of the realistic world building that Price has created. 

I can see that the next installment will have more of the supernatural and spiritual elements developed as this installment lays the foundation for this. Demons and or demonic beings are released into the world at the beginning, but do not have any involvement in this novel, other than being prepared for their role which will take place in the next installment. Sounds like that is going to be one even more action packed read. Bring it on, Justin!

I consider that Price has developed his writing skill and plot development further in this novel than the previous and this is good to see, shows he is becoming more seasoned as a writer and creator of edgy, speculative fiction.  

Despite its shorter length, 126 pages, he does pack quite a bit in and it does feel longer which is a good quality for a novel of this fast pace and subject matter. It is enough to drop you in the mix of it, allow you to be taken for a fast paced ride and then left with one riveting cliff hanger, dangling for more. The opening sequence to this next installment based on this ending, should make the reader hit the road running. I look forward to this immensely. 

Highly Recommended. 

Sunday 12 July 2015

Disenchanted (The Coventree Chronicles, Volume 1) by Janet Ursel

Disenchanted (The Coventree Chronicles) (Volume 1)

In this Christian fantasy, one young wizard with a hunger for wisdom and some dangerous secrets finds himself pitted against another ready to reach for power with the darkest forces possible. Wizards have never in the history of Coventree, renounced Wizardry. But Blayn Goodwin finds himself growing detached from the practice of Wizardry, even as he rises through the ranks to become the youngest member of the Supreme Council. He has lost interest in the usual gods in favor of a god without a name, not that he makes that fact public. Edgar Savile has his own traitorous secrets and kidnaps Blayn’s eldest son to prevent Blayn from probing into them. Meanwhile the Supreme Wizard, suspicious of Edgar, sends Blayn to retrieve an ancient book from the Other World, hoping it will arm them against Edgar’s treachery. What Blayn finds is not what anyone expects, and threatens to tear Coventree’s fraying system apart at the seams.

The Guru's Review: 

I am so glad I investigated further this book when I saw a Tweet about this. I definitely found another worthy author of Christian fantasy to follow. This is Ursel's debut novel and reading it, it is hard to recognise this fact. It reads as if penned by an experienced, seasoned author with many books under her belt.

The first thing that struck me was the quality of writing. It is well written, adds depth to the description of characters and world building and plot. Maybe this is due to not just her imagination but also the fact that Ursel has a very well developed command of the English language. I found myself giving the dictionary function of the Kindle a good workout. I love writers who include words that I have not seen before and love seeing the context in how they have been used. My issue now is remembering them! Thank goodness for the Vocabulary Builder function of the Kindle, they are all stored there and I can review them at my leisure.

Ursel's world building is superb. I was transported to the world of Coventree and it surrounds, I could picture very clearly in my imagination, the setting, what the characters looked like, I reacted to the various moods of the plot, the joy of the romance between Blayn and Morwen, I despised Edgar, became fond of the Professor, Grand Wizard Martin, admired Owen, became protective of Peter when he was kidnapped, to name a few of the various emotions and reactions of the characters. I became tense and angry at the abuse from Peter's mentor, felt oppressed at the evilness of the Black Magician and even the description of the Black Temple and its evil atmosphere, and also at Edgar's evil nature, manipulation, deceitfulness and disregard for all things human to get his way. I love the very medieval feel and flavour that Ursel has so very successfully created. I was totally there, very much a part of this world. 

The first half of the plot seemed to be constructed to set the stage for the faster paced second half and while I started to get a bit impatient to see where Blayn's quest for the forgotten book would be introduced, I know enough about fantasy world building to go with the flow and to identify when an author has just lost their way with the plot or whether there was a purpose to what seems this delay. The latter is the case here, as I have discovered from Ursel's writing thus far, she is very consistent and thorough, there is structure to everything she plots. It was worth the wait, as this second half is enriched by this structure and plot development in the first half. 

I loved how the author described Blayn's desire to know more about the sky god very real and convincing, and especially when he realises who this god really is, albeit later in the novel and the joy, peace and spiritual transformation that takes place. I must confess, I became emotional as Ursel's description of this for Blayn brought back very similar feelings and memories of my own conversion and transformation all those decades ago. I treasure this from this novel and thank this author for recreating what such a transformation can be like through the power of the Spirit. 

It was very refreshing seeing Blayn transform through the reading of the forgotten book and his surrender to God. I loved the spiritual lesson that Ursel includes without preaching or being condescending, that the Christian is only strong in God's power by surrendering to Him and doing it in His strength and Might and not his own. Brilliantly outlined when Blayn tried to defeat the Black Magician at the final confrontation at the end of the novel. 

I keep mentioning in reviews such as this, that I believe Christian fiction, through whatever its sub-genres, should not only entertain, but edify and educate the reader. Entertained very much in this novel, edified in that my relationship with God has been encouraged and strengthened as described in previous paragraphs, and educated in spiritual warfare biblically, surrendering to God, standing up to what you believe in and allowing no compromise.

I am looking forward immensely to the remaining novels in this trilogy. Ursel has set herself a high standard and I look forward to being enriched in my reading of her future novels and existing flash fiction and poetry (see her website).

All in all a wonderful fantasy world rich in its characters, plot, spirituality, world building and is pure entertainment and enjoyment.

Highly Recommended