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The Bookwyrm Speaks

Graham, WA
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  • Smoke Rising: An Urban Fantasy Shifter Series

  • The Supernatural Bounty Hunter Files, Book 1
  • By: Craig Halloran
  • Narrated by: Holly Adams
  • Length: 5 hrs and 10 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 10
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 10
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 10

Bounty hunter John Smoke never liked the rules. As a result of his overly aggressive - and often illegal - arrest methods, he ended up behind bars. But the Bureau won't let him be. Placed in the able care of beautiful, tough-as-nails Sidney Shaw, his new FBI handler, Smoke needs to alter his loose-cannon ways to remain a free man. But there is an unchecked evil festering deep in the heart of the nation's capital, a shadow conspiracy that won't be defeated with a by-the-book approach to law enforcement. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Excellent opener to an Urban Fantasy series.

  • By The Bookwyrm Speaks on 01-02-19

Excellent opener to an Urban Fantasy series.

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-02-19


I read this previously when I got the paper copy, but I didn't yet have a blog, so I never reviewed it on here. With the recent release of the Audiobook, I thought a listen and review was in order.

Sidney Shaw, an up and comer in the FBI, has just been handed her dream assignment. Known as a troubleshooter, she usually gets cases that are outside the norm from the average agents experience. IN this case, she has been given a case on the Black Slate, the secret most wanted list for criminals who don't officially exist. No one has ever been able to run Sidney's new target to ground. In fact, several agent have disappeared or died trying. To help her, Sidney's superiors have given her a wild card: John Smoke. Ex Navy SEAL, ex cop, bounty hunter and now convicted felon after he maimed one of his bounties, Smoke is looking at his sentence being commuted if they can run this bounty down.

The strong willed Shaw immediately butts heads with the irreverent Smoke, especially since Smoke has no regard for her authority. Running afoul of both internal FBI politics and the corrupt powers of DC, Shaw and Smoke run down their target, only to discover that he is like nothing they have ever encountered before, and that there is so much more below the surface of society than they ever imagined, with repercussions that could rock society if they were ever known.

While there is strong world building and plotting, The characters are where this story really shines. Sidney and Smoke are polar opposites in temperament. She is controlled and calculating, he is brash and reckless. They are both strong, intelligent characters, and that tension between them really moves the story. The secondary characters are well written as well, and the villain, while being fairly typical of the genre, fits into the story well. All in all, there's something in the story for any fan of urban fantasy.

The audio narration is handled by the talented Holly Adams, who I consider to be one of the top five narrators working today. She is excellent creating unique voices for the characters, both male and female, and has an amazing range of tones an pitches to differentiate them. She can also handle any accent, which makes the characterizations even more diverse. Her narrative pacing is fantastic, and you just get right into the flow of her narration. This is definitely one of my favorites of her work. Definitely in my top 10 audiobooks of 2018.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Empire of Silence

  • By: Christopher Ruocchio
  • Narrated by: Samuel Roukin
  • Length: 26 hrs and 11 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 150
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 146
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 144

The galaxy remembers Hadrian Marlowe as a hero: the man who burned every last alien Cielcin from the sky. They remember him as a monster: the devil who destroyed a sun, casually annihilating four billion human lives - even the emperor himself - against Imperial orders. But Hadrian was not a hero. He was not a monster. He was not even a soldier. Fleeing his father and a future as a torturer, Hadrian finds himself stranded on a strange, backwater world. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Slow start, picks up the pace

  • By John on 07-12-18

Excellent and complex Sci Fi story.

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-25-18

This is one of those books, with it's fairly long run time of 26+ hours, that I wanted to try and get listened to in just a few sittings, realizing it might be a bit complex to break down over a longer period. Good thing I did, because this books swings all over the place, handling complex galactic politics, combat and personal interactions with equal aplomb.

Hadrian Marlowe, eldest son of a noble planetary governor, expects to be named heir. In a galactic empire that resembles the worst excesses of the Roman empire, this means a life of privilege and wealth, but also having to meet the demands of the empire. The problem is, he doesn't want to be. In the thinking machine tech phobic society he lives in, he would rather train to be a human computer (think Mentats from Dune). Unfortunately for him, his father has other plans. Thinking it would be advantages to have a son in the Chantre, the official church of the empire, worshipping fallen Earth, Hadrian has a future as a church Inquisitor, (the church's sanitized name for torturer), to look forward to.

Deciding this is not the fate he would want, he escapes his home world with help from the last person he expects. Going into cryo-sleep, he expects to wake up 13 years later, ready to begin a new life. He instead wakes up in a back alley clinic many years later than he expected, on a backwater planet named Emesh. Penniless and weak from years in stasis, his life quickly falls into squalor as he becomes just another penniless vagrant, since if he is caught he will be turned over to the Chantre, which doesn't take kindly to runaways. This lasts for years, until a chance encounter reminds him he has martial training, and he becomes a Myrmidon, a fighter in the arena.

Finding a new life and family in the arena, hiding his past as a noble, Hadrian, called Hade by his companions, is more successful than he dreams. His dreams, however, become part of his downfall, as his native curiosity gets the better of him as he snoops around the arena's dungeon level when he hears they have a captured Cielcin, the only other space faring race and the enemy of humanity, locked away somewhere below. Finding the truth, he is caught in the act, with dire consequences.

Revealed as a noble to the local Count, he is thrust into the political world of Emesh, a world he loathes but is familiar with. Hiding his identity as just a tutor to the Count's children, he makes an enemy of a powerful priest. He also has a burgeoning attraction to Valka, a foreign Zenologist on Emesh studying mysterious ruins. This is the world he must navigate as outside forces steer him in yet more directions not of his choosing. After he is revealed at last as a noble, his path is even more controlled, and he has a series of life altering events happen, with consequences that will one day be felt across the Empire.

I have always had a fascination with Space Opera. That huge canvas spread across a galaxy, with all the myriad elements of politics, adventure and villainy. This book has those in spades. While it has superficial resemblances to books like Dune, it definitely takes it's own path. Hadrian Marlowe is no Paul Mau'dib. As much as he doesn't like the nobles of the Empire, he still has quite a few noble notions about class and peoples place in society. Bearing a striking resemblance to a Roman despotism, the Empire, separated as it is by distance and the limits of space travel, still manages to act as a cohesive unit. It is an excellent bit of worldbuilding, with much attention lavished on the political and religious systems, as well as the various outsiders. The plot is paced well, letting what needs to burn slow have time to develop, while letting the action set pieces barrel ahead full speed. The author does a fantastic job developing the characters, showing no fear in exposing them, warts and all, making them much more realistic than you would expect.

The narration was handled quite well by Samuel Roukin. This is the first book I've heard him narrate, but he did an outstanding job bringing the characters and story to life. His narrative pacing is good, and he definitely has a talent for creating memorable, individualized character voices. I look forward to his work in the future.

All in all, this is one of my top five reads of the year, hands down. Any fan of stories like Dune or Deathstalker should find something to enjoy in this book.

  • War Aeternus: The Beginning

  • By: Joshua Swayne, Charles Dean
  • Narrated by: Jeff Hays Soundbooth Theater
  • Length: 13 hrs and 58 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,613
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,525
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,528

Lee is a quiet and unassuming office worker who leads a life of solitude, comfort, and routine. Day in and day out, he shuts off his brain, keeps his head down, and goes about doing his job and minding his own business. That is, he does until a drunken god shows up randomly one day and whisks him off into another world, demanding that Lee serve as his pawn in a game between the gods. Now, trapped in a completely different world full of danger, magic, and creatures, Lee has to figure out how to stay alive long enough to make it back home.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • For Beginners.

  • By Austin on 09-30-18

A creative LitRPG title.

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-18-18

I got a review copy of this book a bit ago from the author, but somehow confused it for another title and this one just slipped through the cracks. Thankfully, the author reminded me he sent me a copy, and I am glad he did, because it was an enjoyable LitRPG experience.

Lee is the typical IT drone, making decent money but really just cruising through on autopilot, with no challenges other than raids with his gaming buddies. No challenge, that is, until a "god" named Augustus transports him to what amounts to the setting of a medieval RPG and tells him he is Augustus's new herald on the world, and he is to gain worshippers for Augustus if he ever want to make it home. Unfortunately for Lee, Augustus is being punished by the other players, "gods" of this world, and his herald is sent in at level zero, with a two month disadvantage over his rivals on the world. Not the best way to start a game where the stakes are life and death.

After defeating his first opponent through luck as much as anything else, Lee, who the world system recognizes as an NPC, starts leveling up. Meeting a a bloodthirsty giant firbolg named Donovan, who is a player in the system, Lee starts recruiting followers as he goes, including Ling, an NPC village girl handy with a bow, who suddenly gains independent awareness around Lee. Questing through the area, Lee and his followers must complete the quests to help Lee fulfil his duty to Augustus so he can get back home, all while trying to not get killed by the other god's heralds, all who are more powerful than Lee with their two month head start in leveling up. This all leads up to Lee's confrontation with another god's herald, sending shockwaves through the game world.

While I think as a genre LitRPG is hit or miss, this was much more a hit than miss. Starting with a meta kind of premise, that "gods" play an RPG on a server hosted by a creator, in which real people are the in game characters, the author makes use of the standard genre tropes but spins them in some creative ways. Lee is fairly standard as a character, but grows into his role, all while silently hoping he isn't doing the wrong thing converting the masses. The secondary characters are fun, if a little cliched. The setting should be familiar to anyone who has ever played an RPG, and that comfort level makes it easier to get into the story. The plot moves along at a fairly brisk pace, and readers should be able to power right though the story.

The narration is handles by the always excellent Jeff Hays. Basically the king of LitRPG audiobook narration, this title is no exception. He is excellent creating various characters in the listeners mind though use of tone, pacing and accents. Donovan especially stands out, as Jeff basically channels his inner Ahnold voice for the rampaging firbolg. His narrative pacing is excellent, and really keeps the listener engaged. Another excellent effort on his part.

While it isn't perfect, War Aeternus is definitely a series I can wholeheartedly recommend. Any fan of the genre should be able to find something to enjoy in it.

  • King's Envoy

  • Artesans of Albia, Volume 1
  • By: Cas Peace
  • Narrated by: Rebecca McKernan
  • Length: 11 hrs and 51 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 8
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 8
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 8

In Albia, the fourth realm, the precious Artesan gift is dying. Although born to the craft, Taran is struggling to achieve his potential. Against his friends' advice, he embarks on a foolhardy plan to acquire the teaching he craves. Alone, he crosses into Andaryon, the fifth realm, but instead of finding a mentor, he stumbles upon a treacherous plot.  

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Amazing world building.

  • By Natalie @ ABookLoversLife on 10-29-18

Excellent fantasy story

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-10-18

When a young man with a gift for magic who is struggling to reach his potential hatches a daring plan, his actions cause ripples much bigger than himself. Struggling to reach his potential in his own land, he creates a magic portal to another more magic rich realm, where he hopes to gain an apprenticeship and learn more magic. Instead, things go sideways, and his appearance in the other realm cause an excuse for retaliation on his realm, and causes drastically unforeseen consequences that could spell doom for many people. With some fantastically drawn out characters, a fast paced plot, and some twists and turns to keep things interesting, The King's Envoy is a fantasy story fans can easily get into. Rebecca McKernan's narration is also top notch, bringing each character to life and engrossing the listener in the story. Highly recommended.

  • Through a Glass Darkly

  • By: Miss Mae
  • Narrated by: Owen McCuen
  • Length: 1 hr and 7 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 31
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 30
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 30

Computer viruses no longer exist, yet Vexen and Remard's medical transport is held hostage by one. The hologram engineered to combat the deadly program develops an identity crisis. An alien intruder is discovered stowed away in the cargo bay. And the evil reptilian Delphan demands immediate surrender of her ship. Can anything else possibly go wrong?

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Great

  • By Cheryl a DeMont on 07-16-16

An exciting thrill ride of a novella.

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-02-18

I am not normally that into short stories and novellas, but this one piqued my interest. I have been on a huge sci fi binge lately, and this story just appealed to me. I always love seeing where authors will take visions of the future, and this book provided a glimpse of a possible future which is pretty realistic. With excellent characters, solid worldbuilding, and a fast paced plot, it is the kind of story that is perfect for listening to while stuck in traffic or taking a trip. Owen McCuen does a good job with the narration, keeping good pacing throughout, and using a variety of tones and voices to differentiate the characters. All in all, a fine piece of work by both author and narrator.


I have voluntarily provided a review of this audiobook copy I received from the Author.

  • Agent G: Saboteur

  • By: C. T. Phipps
  • Narrated by: Jeffrey Kafer
  • Length: 6 hrs and 30 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 22
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 21
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 21

Agent G has left the service of the International Refugee Society, the world's biggest provider of murder for hire, in order to work for the US government. Unfortunately, they are sending him after his former employers, and they know him as well as he knows them. The clock is ticking, though, until the Society's remaining leadership starts eliminating their opponents and attempts to seize control of the presidency. A traitor is also providing them with all the information they need to survive until their puppet is in power. Will G and his allies survive the purge? 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Professional Hitmen Never Retire!

  • By AudioBook Reviewer on 11-28-18

Slowly evolving from Sci fi spy to Cyberpunk.

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-11-18

When I heard this was coming out, I checked the blurb, being a big fan of this author. I got super excited about the premise, and couldn't wait to get it. Well, I got a copy and listened to it in one sitting. It blew me away, it was that good.

The story revolves around Agent G, an assassin who works for the Society, a charity front that arranges high tech assassinations for large sums of money. If you have the money, they have the assassin for you! Assassins, named A to Z, are mind wiped, and are told they will be well paid and get their memories back after 10 years of service to the Society. This is the scenario G finds himself in. All the agents are cybernetically enhanced, both mentally and physically, and have beyond imagination black technology, real secret squirrel stuff.

This is the situation G finds himself. After he is ambushed at the Boston airport by a rival organization, the Carnivale, during a recall of all Society agents, it is discovered the Society has a mole in its midst. The mole is uncovered, and G is tasked with infiltrating the Carnivale and assassinating its leader, the Caesar and his daughter, a killer assassin in her own right. What commences is a wild ride of betrayals, plans within plans, gunfights, killer cyborg duels, torture and discovery for G, as he discovers more about the past that was wiped from his mind. In the end, he finds who he can really trust, and it's not who he expected. He has to decide what he really wants to be, and if the price for being that person is worth paying.

As always with a CT Phipps book, the story is very character driven. Whether its G, who is conflicted on many levels, his handler Marissa, with a shady past G is only becoming aware of, Persephone, the shadowy ice queen director of the Society or even the Caesar and his children, the characters are well defined, their actions making sense in context with their characters. They are fleshed out in subtle but important ways, being much more than just two dimensional cardboard cutout stereotypes of spies, assassins and villains. The setting is interesting, with locations and action occurring around the world. The dialogue is also crisp, swinging between serious and snark easily, depending on the situation. The story never lags with unneeded exposition, keeping a taut thriller feel.

As far as narration goes, Jeffery Kafer was definitely at his best for this one. Whether the voices were male or female, cyborg, computer, Italian or a variety of American accents, Jeffery nailed them all. He brought each character to life, giving them a vibrancy you get really attached to. His narration of the story never lags, keeping a good flow and is never monotonous.

Overall, I would have rated the whole effort six stars on Audible and Amazon if they had that rating. As it is, get this book if you like sci fi or thrillers!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Paltronis

  • By: David V. Mammina
  • Narrated by: Annie Alder
  • Length: 4 hrs and 34 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 11
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 11
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 11

In Mammina's first fairy tale novel, the theories of justice and corruption are tested. This tale is about a ghostly knight named Spirit Warrior who dared to defend his own people against an assortment of villains, including that of an evil corrupt king and a vengeful sorcerer. In a quest to secure justice and peace, Spirit Warrior selflessly challenges all obstacles at once--giving rise to this classic saga. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Good story with some great storytelling.

  • By The Bookwyrm Speaks on 10-15-18

Good story with some great storytelling.

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-15-18

I listened to this fairly quickly. It grabbed me from the first paragraph. It starts with an interesting premise and really expands on it nicely, with a series of twists and turns that keep the listener interested. The characters are well written, with realistic motivations. It had solid worldbuilding, and the plot is fast paced, leading to a breathtaking final act. Highly recommend this audiobook.

I voluntarily reviewed a review copy of this,audiobook provided at no charge by the author, narrator or publisher.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Two-Faced: An Urban Fantasy Adventure

  • Legend of the Treesinger, Book 1
  • By: James Hunter, eden Hudson
  • Narrated by: Holly Adams
  • Length: 8 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 24
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 23
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 23

Winona Treesinger is a Bigfoot - and no, she doesn’t just have large feet. She’s literally an eight-foot-tall walking myth, and the last great princess of the People of the Forest. All she and her people want is to dwell in the deep places of the forest, well away from mankind and the destruction they bring to the land and the world. But when Winona hears about a string of grisly murders in the nearby city of Missoula, she knows in her gut it’s the work of an ancient evil, driven away from their lands long ago. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Harry Dresden and the Hendersons style fun!

  • By Ray Johnson on 08-04-18

Fantastic Unique Protagonist

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-28-18


Being a huge fan of James Hunter's Yancy Lazarus books, when I heard he was spinning the characters in his novel Wendigo Rising off into their own series, I was justifiably excited. When I heard the audio version was being narrated by one of my favorite narrators, Holly Adams, I was sold on the spot. After listening to it, I can tell you that my expectations were not only met, but exceeded in every way.

Winona Treesinger, princess of the Chiatonka (Sasquatches) near Missoula, Montana, is unhappy with her role in life. After the tribe was betrayed by one of its own, who happened to be her betrothed, Winona is upset at the Elder council's ruling that the Chiatonka must stay separate at all costs from the little brothers (humans). After she and her father helped Yancy Lazarus, human mage, defeat her betrothed and his evil human allies, Winona was convinced humans were unprepared for dealing with the supernatural, and that the Chiatonka should help, as they did in the past. This leads her to start patrolling outside their forest heart home, and where the trouble begins.

Coming across a trail of something foul, Winona follows the trail and comes across a police car. Seeing the police have followed the trail, she continues the chase and comes across Detective Chris Fuller as he fights for his life against some unknown supernatural entity. Winona charges in to save him, and fights the creature to a stand still, taking many wounds herself. The creature escapes, and Winona brings Chris to her village, against the rules as that may be, and treats him. Being chastised for it by the Elders, she is told to erase his memory and return him to the human world. Defying this edict, she steals a talisman that will allow her to change shape into a human and goes back with Chris to help hunt the monster.

As Winona helps Chris in the guise of a native American shaman psychic, people all over town are turning up dead. As they investigate, a disturbing pattern emerges as to the motive behind the murders, and to the nature of the creature committing them. The victims may not be so innocent after all, and the killer may be more than it seems. As the chase continues, it also comes closer and closer to Chris's life, and violently intrudes on the life he has made for himself in Missoula. This all leads to the climactic final scene where Winona and Chris face off against a monster that may not have been the crazed killing machine they expected it to be. Can Winona stop the monster and find redemption with her clan? Well, you need to read or listen to it to find out!

Like all of James Hunter's books, and now with Eden Hudson, this is a very character driven story. Winona and Chris are excellent protagonists, playing well off of each other, especially as their cultures are so very different. Their species are so different in the way they look at life, its amazing they can work together at all, but they did, quite effectively. The politics of Chris's office, reeling from the revelations in Wendigo Rising, where the police were involved in the crimes of Winona's betrothed and his human accomplices, makes it a volatile environment, especially as Winona is no cop, but he needs her help to find the killer. The side characters are well written and feel like real people you would meet in everyday life. Even the antagonist has motivations that will surprise. The setting is well described, and you get a real feeling of being in the scene. Definitely strong worldbuilding.

The narration was handled by one of my favorite narrators, Holly Adams. She is such a talented voice actress, being able to do a huge variety of voices and accents. She has excellent pacing, and her narration never lags or bogs down in a monotone. She adds gravitas to Winona especially, and this may be my favorite character she has ever voiced. I can't recommend the audio version enough. In fact, any fan of urban fantasy should run out and get a copy of Two Faced now.


  • Lucifer's Nebula

  • Lucifer's Star, Book 2
  • By: C. T. Phipps, Michael Suttkus
  • Narrated by: Eric Burns
  • Length: 10 hrs and 12 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 28
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 28
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 28

Captain Cassius Mass can only run so far from his problems and the galaxy isn't big enough to hide from those pursuing him. Cassius soon finds himself blackmailed into a mission that will clear him of all charges as well as protect him from future persecution: bring an end to the civil war currently racking the galaxy. Accompanied by a new set of untrustworthy allies, the crew of the Melampus, and the A.I duplicate of his dead wife - Cassius needs to figure out how to not only deal with his target but also his employers. Because the entire universe is at stake.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Universe survives but with funny bad decisions!

  • By AudioBook Reviewer on 08-31-18

Dark Space Opera at its finest!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-06-18

When I read a book I really enjoy, I often have reservations going into the second book. Will it be a letdown? Will it take the characters in directions I won't like? Will the plot just be filler trying to get to the next book in the series? Well, I am happy to say, Lucifer's Nebula, the followup to the wildly inventive dark space opera Lucifer's Star more than lived up to my expectations. Not only did they write a compelling plot, but the directions taken with the characters not only fit, but expanded on who they were, as well as creating opportunities in future books to flesh them out even more.

The story starts with the crew of the space freighter Melampus, captained by the former Arch Duchy of Crius Count Cassius Mass, on a job transferring weapons for some shady characters. Unfortunately, said shady characters, being shady, are more than willing to screw them over and try to kill them. In the middle of the double-cross, another shady group interrupts, and a fire fight ensues, allowing Cassius and his medical officer/lover Isla, to escape. Upon escaping, they are contacted by Ida Claire, the former captain of the Melampus, who also happens to be the leader of The Commonwealth's spy agency, The Watchers. She has a job for Cassius and crew that will wipe the slate clean for them, as well as pay big: bring the reconstituted Arch Duchy of Crius, now known as The Free Systems Alliance, leadership, who have been kicking the Commonwealth's tail, the terms of surrender for the Commonwealth!

This is where things really take off, as Cassius and crew determine to follow this mission, even though they suspect it will be a trap. They also have the secret of Judith, the Cognition AI who happens to be modeled on Cassius's wife to protect, which would have them made outlaw anywhere in the universe. In the course of fulfilling the mission, Cassius and crew face betrayal on all sides, Including from people they had every reason to trust. They also have a family reunion for Cassius, including with a member of his family he thought long dead! This sends things spiraling in a wild direction, as they discover that The Free Systems Alliance is not at all what it appears.

There is a much bigger conspiracy behind it all, with elder races who have passed beyond mortality, the Community of aliens who hover on humanities borders, and an ancient Evil locked away in Lucifer's Nebula all pulling strings behind the scenes for their own various schemes to come to fruition. Humanity, unfortunately, may be the ones to pay the price! Cassius and his friends and new allies must figure out which side to back, all while avoiding the betrayal mentioned before, from someone you just don't expect. At the very end, Cassius and crew are forced to decide if running away is worth the price of the potential destruction of humanity itself, even if that humanity has betrayed them time and again.

Since I have started reading their books, I have been a huge fan of how Charles and Michael have been able to create such relatable, exciting characters. They flesh them out so well, even the side characters. The motivations for their actions, even in a distant, sci-fi future, are realistic, never forced. Being willing to fight for friends and crew, no matter the odds, is a trait that any reader should be able to admire. The characters have flaws, and make mistakes, making them even more relatable, but they still try to do the right thing. Well, right enough.

The plot is fast moving, smoothly transitioning from one action packed scene to the next, while allowing character interaction and growth. There is humor sprinkled throughout, with a lot of pop culture references, which is a hallmark of their writing. The settings, whether on the ship, or in the various planetary settings, are well drawn out. You can feel like you're right there in the scene, in the middle of the action, especially in the scenes in the Nebula. You never get the feeling this is a retread of some other sci-fi property.

Narration, like the first book, is handled by the talented Eric Burns. He has a real knack for bringing each character to a life of their own, and you are never confused about which character is which. His narrative pacing is excellent, never dropping into a monotone, keeping the listeners engaged in the story. Overall, an excellent narration job.

Overall, I feel this is a great addition to the series. The writers took what worked in the first book, and really ran with the ideas, expanding on the themes, adding new characters, and exploring new ideas to round out the story. I can heartily recommend this story to anyone who likes strong character driven sci-fi.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Jurassic Jackaroo: Jasper’s Junction

  • A Hunted Tribe Prequel
  • By: Roma Gray
  • Narrated by: Terry F. Self
  • Length: 4 hrs and 43 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 11
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 11
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 11

How does the greatest gunslinger of the old west end his career? By hunting a dinosaur animal spirit, of course. Karl Redgrave has a big plans for his retirement party. He's bringing together the world's greatest criminals, murderers, warriors, and assassins to hunt something worthy of them all: a highly intelligent, seven-foot tall dinosaur spirit; known to the natives as the Grishla. Of course, Karl wants only the best on his safari, so he has pitted these men against each other in a deadly contest in an old ghost town, with five winners securing a place in the hunt.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Interesting prequel.

  • By Natalie @ ABookLoversLife on 01-30-18

Grimdark Weird West mixed with Wild, Wild West...

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-30-18


I discovered this one on a Facebook audiobook promotions group offering Audible codes for honest reviews. I had a bunch of other books to finish, but the author was local, and the premise interested me, since I have always been fascinated by Native American superstition. I'm glad I took a chance on it, since I discovered a talented author and a fantastic narrator.

In the turn of the turn of the 19th century western US, a retired gunfighter who has more money than he can spend meets a Native man with an interesting story to tell. A story about his tribe, and a curse that brings death from an ancient monster to all that speak of it out loud. An ancient monster his tribe brought about with their shamans' magic and hubris. Right then, part of the roof collapses and the Native runs out of the room, leaving the gunslinger to wonder if what he said was true. Following the native out of the saloon, he finds him, just as he is being slaughtered by a creature of nightmare. Speaking to it, he finds he's not a target, since he hasn't spoken of the monster. This gives him an idea for some excitement in his life, something sorely lacking since he retired.

A bit in the past, we see a young native boy talking to his mother, confused why she is so sad. Turns out, she was supposed to pass her magic on to her children, and since she didn't, well, the tribe wants the magic back from her. They get it back too, in a horrific scene the young boy is forced to watch. Ten years later, a girl he had a crush on when he was younger is about to meet the same fate. Instead, he convinces her to run away with him to the white mans world, where hopefully, the tribe and it's evil wont be able to find them.

A year later, we find them working a ranch with an immigrant Australian couple who moved to the states to start a ranch. They are happy and accepted by all the local townsfolk and church members, and have begun to reconstruct their lives. Then, out of nowhere, the girl is captured by their tribes shamans, who have managed to track them down and need to get her back to complete the sacrifice. The boy and the rancher determine to take off after them and get her back. This leads to a series of misadventures as they try and get her back before they reach the tribe, but things don't quite go as planned.

Meanwhile, in Jasper's Junction, a ghost town the gunslinger had made as a prop, the Gunslinger has invited a bunch of gun fighters, warriors, thieves and assassin's to compete in a hunt in the town for items that, when found, will show their skill and get them into the game of riches the gunslinger has proposed. All they have to do is find one of several Fabergé Eggs recently stolen from the Tsar of Russia's collection, and get them to the saloon. Of course, they have to make it through lethal traps, hired gunmen out to kill them as well as each other, since millions of dollars are on the line and they will all kill anyone in their way. This interesting group of characters is whittled away until only 5 are left, and the gunslinger gives his proposal: Be part of his safari to hunt a mythical monster which he wont give details about to avoid invoking the curse.

Meanwhile, in the mountains, the young native man and woman face their tribe as they are about to do the unspeakable to them. Suddenly, a commotion arises, and the ceremony is disrupted and chaos ensues. In this confusion, the young native man is given an offer of a chance to come out on top if he's willing to make a rather unpalatable deal. Seeing no other choice, he accepts, spinning the future onto its head, and leaving us to ponder where his story will go next.

For a fairly short book, the world building in this one is well done. You get a good feel for where the story takes place, especially Jasper's Junction, which feels like an old west version of the Marvel Comics villain Arcade's Murderworld, only competent in killing people. The characters are well executed, with their motivations and actions feeling natural and organic to who they are and what they have experienced. The villain, if you can call an ancient spirit monster a villain, is excellent, keeping hidden and only striking when the moment is right, and it's final appearance turns the whole story topsy-turvy. The whole thing feels like a combination of Grimdark weird west mixed with the inventions and adventures of Wild, Wild West. All we needed was Robert Conrad to make a cameo to make the whole thing perfect.

Narration was handled by Terry F. Self, who did a fantastic job both bringing the characters to life and keeping the narration flowing. He avoided trop accents for the natives and foreign characters, taking a nuance approach. His change of tones, inflections and emphasis definitely differentiated each character, and he is definitely a reason to consider checking this book out.

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