The First Assignment

The First Assignment by Billy Kramer

Book reviewed by Timea Barabas

What happens after death? This is one of the greatest questions. While there are numerous theories and visions of the afterlife, there seems to be no absolute universal certainty of what lies beyond. Billy Kramer joins the ranks of wonderers by offering a cohesive and immersive narrative of the afterlife and life in The First AssignmentPurchase Here.

This young adult fantasy novel opens the gates to a gripping tale of self-discovery, becoming, and the interconnectivity between people. The tale, characters, and events evoke a strange familiarity in the reader. Some elements seem like a distant memory lost in the fog of time or a dream that dissipates at first light.

The First Assignment centers on life after death following the experiences of seventeen-year-old Shawn Turner. After waking up under strange circumstances, Shawn finds himself transported to a brave old world. Alone among strangers, his survival instincts kick in while he tries to understand his new reality.

Shawn is just one of many recently deceased who were chosen to join Wayward Academy. An academy of the dead in service of the living. This complex institution is a learning center, work center, and living space for those enrolled. While reapers seem to take the center stage, this is merely one of the groups that animate the space.

Bombarded with new experiences and concepts, pulled down by the weight of the unknown, Shawn soon finds comfort in the familiarity of new friendships. He soon builds a connection with a few other first-year students at the WA. Through shared experiences, whispered secrets, and knowing glances, Shawn begins to gain strength.

After being subjected to a series of intellectually, emotionally, and physically challenging tests, the new students are assigned to their respective jobs. Then, Shawn receives his first assignment. Waiting for someone to die offers Shawn ample space for introspection. Bound by strict regulations and under supervision, he sees a glimmer of hope to break through the chains and make a difference. However, taking this path would mean silencing his survival instinct.

Billy Kramer creates a magical universe caught in a mystical realm somewhere between life and darkness. The First Assignment builds the foundation of a new worldview that invites further expansion. While Book 1 may be finished, Book 2 lingers on the horizon.

 

Monsters are Babies

Monsters are Babies by Nicholas Tana

Reviewed by Teri Davis

Living in a home with a big brother can be difficult. The older sibling expects a playmate who obeys their older sibling. There is usually a disappointment when the baby does not fulfill this role. Instead, the family member is a screaming, messy, smelly creature who demands all of the attention. The parents now are more tired and cranky than before the baby appeared. Resentment is common. Purchase Here.

Now someone brilliantly discovered a way to enjoy the babies for older siblings. The baby keeps all the monsters and things that make noise in the dark away. With quiet nights, a cry frequently annoys everyone in the household. What if those screams scare away all the monsters hiding either in the closet or under the bed?

Wouldn’t you almost welcome those loud noises to cover the usual thumps and bumps in every house? What sounds are unnoticeable during the day, seem to draw attention at night. From a dripping water faucet to the warmth of a furnace, clicking to turn on the night seems mysterious with noises. Due to natural occurrences, monsters hiding in the dark crevices are believed to be creating the sounds of those creaks and bumps in the night. They hide under beds and in dark closets. This reality has been a problem for eons. Darkness and house sounds scare small children, especially ones who don’t fall asleep quickly. Young children tend to believe in monsters making the noise of a furnace clicking on or a clock ticking. Can you imagine the response to a baby’s cry when being abruptly awakened in the dark?

Monsters Are Afraid of Babies is an enchanting story about a young boy adjusting daily to a baby sister into a family. The few words along with a story that perfectly matches the illustrations makes this an intriguing read for children of all ages, particularly three-year olds. The book is perfect for pre-readers because the story can be easily followed through the colorful pictures. Author, Nicholas Tana is a writer in every sense. From writing feature documentaries, comedy-horror series, songs, comic books, a movie, commercials, and now this special children’s book. The illustrations are phenomenal. The night with shades of blue and olive green is perfect with the monsters colorfully hiding in the closet. The warmth of family love penetrates each page enriching everyone’s lives.

The Ashorne's Ingress

The Ashorne’s Ingress by Seamus Eaton

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

Truly a prolific read, Seamus Eaton’s The Ashorne’s Ingress excites the imagination with a multifaceted, and complex fantasy epic which proffers to readers an enticing narrative rich with the craftily blended elements of fantasy, horror, gore, magic, science fiction, and sex.  Purchase Here.

Initially, events start out on earth, the year is 2020 and we are introduced to the focal character William Gentry, who is in the midst of a softball game when his whole world comes tumbling down as he receives the news that his family was severely injured in a freak kitchen accident, that leaves his wife and son dead, and his daughter’s life hanging in the balance. Meanwhile, as he struggles with his emotions and the devastation of the loss, William finds himself approached by two beings claiming to be ambassadors from a land called Arba, located on another world. Claiming to have knowledge of his true identity and legacy, they extend to him a very odd offer, that if accepted would lead to saving his daughter’s life, and possibly more, they only catch is he has to drown himself in a specific river, at a specific time and carry with him an odd triangle they left with him called the Germ of Reismyl. Distraught, in disbelief and teetering on the edge of insanity, he initially misses the opportunity to take the plunge, resulting in the unfortunate death of his daughter.

Eventually, William (who comes across as a very sympathetic character) does take the plunge, later and winds up in Arba a world in turmoil, where greed, filth, sex, violence, slavery, treachery, magic, and the Triumvirate elite sacrifice beings for the sheer pleasure of attending a party, is the way of life. Arba is not an easy place to exist for its vast array of Denizens, which range from human to many creative varieties of beings, including goat people, reptilians, and amphibian humanoids. Moreover, as an entrant in Arba, William is forced to endure tremendous horrors, while making his foray into the Arban environ.

Meanwhile, stories within the story play out as different parts of the Arban environ, come into view chapter by chapter with a slew of characters and subplots which all fuel the story into the expansive fantasy epic that it turns out to be. Ultimately events around the Arban environ are shown to be playing out as devious machinations behind the scenes put into motion a hellish plan that would alter the Arban environment for the much worse.

Overall, The Ashorne’s Ingress made for an absorbing, entertaining epic of a novel that I enjoyed. Seamus Eaton wields literate lucidity with his writing style which successfully kept me wholly immersed and completely engaged within his epically expansive, adult-themed, fantasy world. I personally enjoyed the horror and fantasy elements that seemed reminiscent of author Clive Barker, one of my personal all-time favorite authors, particularly when it came to the more horrifying elements of the story. Additionally, there are other perks within this work besides the overall story including a detailed map of the Arba, letters from the journal of another human in Arba which gives great backstory elements, also a glossary which is very helpful, and a detailed history, as well as calendars. Ultimately, I would undoubtedly recommend this for fantasy fans seeking a new and extraordinary world populated with well-formulated characters to become immersed in. The read is well worth it.

Zintara and the Stones of Alu Cemah

Zintara and the Stones of Alu Cemah by Michel and Dominic Bohbo

Reviewed by Ray Palen

The debut novel from brothers Michel and Dominic Bohbot is a dynamic fantasy tale inspired by the love of speculative fiction instilled in them by their father. This is seen not only in the dedication of ZINTARA AND THE STONES OF ALU CEMAH but also throughout the narrative.Purchase Here.

We are taken to another world, one that contains mythical and imaginary creatures alongside human characters. There is a synopsis of many of the characters at the start of the novel and I admit I had to turn to it several times during the reading as there are a lot of names and relationships for the reader to juggle. The Prologue finds a young Zintara, human in all features aside from the great black wings that thrust out from her back, being sent away by her mother as her family and their empire falls in a violent manner. The antagonist of this tale, Korban — human warrior and sorcerer — is on a quest for the three Stones of Alu Cemah which will purportedly bring him the ability to rule over all.

Zintara is taken away by M’Hancha, best friend of her late father, who raises her and keeps her safe. We see Zintara grow into a young woman, her magnificent wings now displaying a mighty span. She is confronted by Korban, in possession of one of the three stones, and threatens to kill her the way he took her mother’s life if she does not give him the location of the remaining stones. Zintara gets away, but the battle with Korban costs him his hand — a deed he will no doubt seek to avenge to the fullest.

As Korban plots to find the other two stones M’Hancha is trying his best to protect Zintara from further confrontation. He also seeks to keep her away from Prince Ardelann, heir to the realm of Takla, and the burgeoning romance that seems inevitable between them. It is not long before a member of their realm, the nefarious Duke Galhuri, outs Zintara and calls her a winged demon and traitor. He holds in evidence a casket containing a bloody feather allegedly coming from Zintara and proof that she attacked the ailing Prince Ardelann. Zintara has no choice but to flee — on a mission to clear her own name and prevent Korban from obtaining the remaining stones.

M’Hancha advises Zintara to hide in the islands where she will be safe but still within his reach. It is here where she literally finds herself and this includes a meeting with an ancient dragon who assists her in recognizing her destiny. Meanwhile, Korban has become successful in his villainous quest for the Stones of Alu Cemah. To show the power they wield his first act is to create a monstrous armored warrior — a small taste of the abilities the demented sorcerer now possesses. The narrative drives forward towards the anticipated showdown between Zintara and Korban. He arrives riding an impressive dragon steed and, wearing a glove that calls to mind Thanos from Marvel comics, displays the three stones that give him power so mighty that Zintara may not be able to overcome it.

The Bohbot brothers are said to be at work on the next novel in this new series which should continue the saga of Zintara. ZINTARA AND THE STONES OF ALU CEMAH is an entertaining first effort as a novel, but for me the real winner is the outstanding artwork by Michel Bohbot with illustrations that truly brings the tale to life with each successive page.