Review: A MEDDLE OF WIZARDS (and a #giveaway) by Alexandra Rushe

Time for a book review! …(And stay tuned for tomorrow’s blog on my 2017 reading list and 2018 goals.)

Today, on its release day, I’m reviewing A MEDDLE OF WIZARDS, a debut fantasy from author Alexandra Rushe. and the first in a new fantasy series.

ABOUT THE BOOK: Welcome to Tandara, where gods are fickle, nightmares are real, and trolls make excellent bakers . . .Raine Stewart is convinced she’ll die young and alone in Alabama, the victim of a chronic, mysterious illness. Until a man in a shabby cloak steps out of her mirror and demands her help to defeat a bloodthirsty wizard….Raine shrugs it off as a hallucination—just one more insult from her failing body—and orders her intruder to take a hike. But the handsome figment of her imagination won’t take no for an answer, and kidnaps her anyway, launching her into a world of utmost danger—and urgent purpose….Ruled by unpredictable gods and unstable nations, Tandara is a land of shapeshifters and weather-workers, queens and legends. Ravenous monsters and greedy bounty hunters patrol unforgiving mountains. Riverboats pulled by sea-cattle trade down broad waterways. And creatures of nightmare stalk Raine herself, vicious in the pursuit of her blood……But Raine isn’t helpless or alone. She’s part of a band as resourceful as it is odd: a mage-shy warrior, a tattered wizard, a tenderhearted giant, and a prickly troll sorceress. Her new friends swear she has powers of her own. If she can stay under their protection, she might just live long enough to find out . . .

WHAT I LIKED BEST:

The worldbuilding is fascinating, both rich and diverse. I love a good multiverse, and you’ll find it here. Shifters? Got ’em. Trolls? Love ’em. Elves? Wizards? Yes and yes. There are also old gods and giants and goggins and sea-cattle. But the world is never forced or confusing. The author manages to weave it together artfully, without resorting to heavy backstory. We find out about the strange new world she inhabits–and the centuries-old grudge against her new family–right alongside heroine Raine.

And while Raine does fall into the “human girl falls into a new world and discovers she has powerful, as-year-unknown powers” trope, she’s not your normal heroine. First of all, she’s from Alabama and is sickly and alone but for a quirky ghost named Mimsie. When she’s jerked from Earth into the land of magic and mystery, she doesn’t come upon her new powers right away. For most of the book, she’s culturally (and sometimes literally) adrift, so we learn her heart long before we–and she–even begin to suspect her powers.

WHAT I LIKED LESS:

I’m admittedly not a big reader of epic fantasy, but they seem to be primarily of two schools. There’s the LORD OF THE RINGS school, where underdogs are on a quest, traveling from spot to spot and meeting evil and obstacles (and unexpected aid) along the way. Then there’s the dark and violent SONG OF ICE AND FIRE school, where politics and treachery and violence are the norm. I’m generally of the dark and treacherous fandom, where A MEDDLE OF WIZARDS is definitely written as a quest with Raine traveling through various lands on her way to seek aid in learning to fight the evil wizard. BUT this is the first in a series, and the book grows darker and more deadly as it progresses. From the very satisfying ending to this book, it’s clear that Rushe has plans to take the FLEDGLING MAGIC series into darker and more treacherous territory. So I’ll be waiting for book two.

CONCLUSION: 

This is a strong beginning to a new epic fantasy series. There might be some romance in the future (I have my eye on one dark, mysterious character), but this is not fantasy romance by any stretch. It introduces us to a fascinating new world with big stakes and big characters who are deeply and wonderfully drawn. I’m looking forward to book two, and give this one five big gators!

Want to win a copy of A MEDDLE OF WIZARDS? Leave a comment with your favorite type of fantasy character (elf? wizard? faery? hobbit?) to enter for a copy in your choice of print or digital. The winner will be announced on Monday, January 15.

Sorcerous Moons and Evaluating a Series with Jeffe Kennedy (and #Giveaway)

 

Today, join me in welcoming one of my favorite people and authors, Jeffe Kennedy, who’s here to THE FORESTS OF DRU, book four in her Sorcerous Moons series. Isn’t that an awesome cover?

ABOUT JEFFE: Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author whose works include novels, non-fiction, poetry, and short fiction. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award.

Her most recent works include a number of fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns; the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion; an erotic contemporary serial novel, Master of the Opera; and the erotic romance trilogy, Falling Under, which includes Going Under, Under His Touch and Under Contract.

Her award-winning fantasy romance trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms hit the shelves starting in May 2014. Book 1, The Mark of the Tala, received a starred Library Journal review and was nominated for the RT Book of the Year while the sequel, The Tears of the Rose received a Top Pick Gold and was nominated for the RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2014. The third book, The Talon of the Hawk, won the RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2015. Two more books followed in this world, beginning the spin-off series The Uncharted Realms, with The Pages of the Mind in May 2016 and The Edge of the Blade in December 2016.

She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.

Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the popular SFF Seven blog, on Facebook, on Goodreads and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy.

http://jeffekennedy.com

https://www.facebook.com/Author.Jeffe.Kennedy

https://twitter.com/jeffekennedy

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1014374.Jeffe_Kennedy

ABOUT THE FORESTS OF DRU (Sorcerous Moons #4): An Enemy Land: Once Princess Oria spun wicked daydreams from the legends of sorceresses kidnapped by the barbarian Destrye. Now, though she’s come willingly, she finds herself in a mirror of the old tales: the king’s foreign trophy of war, starved of magic, surrounded by snowy forest and hostile strangers. But this place has secrets, too—and Oria must learn them quickly if she is to survive. A Treacherous Court: Instead of the refuge he sought, King Lonen finds his homeland desperate and angry, simmering with distrust of his wife. With open challenge to his rule, he knows he and Oria—the warrior wounded and weak, the sorceress wrung dry of power—must somehow make a display of might. And despite the desire that threatens to undo them both, he still cannot so much as brush her skin. A Fight for the Future: With war looming and nowhere left to run, Lonen and Oria must use every intrigue and instinct they can devise: to plumb Dru’s mysteries, to protect their people—and to hold fast to each other. Because they know better than any what terrifying trial awaits…

Buy links can be found here: http://www.jeffekennedy.com/the-forests-of-dru/

And now let’s hear from Jeffe as I put her on the spot!

THE SERIES CONUNDRUM

So, Suzanne has thrown down the gauntlet for me today, pointing out that THE FORESTS OF DRU is the fourth book in my Sorcerous Moons trilogy series. She asked me questions that plague all authors of series, I believe:

How to know when to continue a series?

When to end it?

When to morph one into a spinoff?

It’s funny timing for me, because just last night I was messaging with another author friend about series and reader expectations. I mentioned J.D. Robb’s In Death books and how the 44th book in that series is coming out on February 7. (Which, hooray!!) She said, “Good gawd. I’d have burnout as either reader or writer with a series that long.” Then belatedly asked me if I’d read them all.

My answer? Yes, I have. I have those books on auto-buy and eagerly look forward to their twice-yearly arrival. And in 2014, I went back and read the series from the beginning through book #39 (plus the nine short stories and novellas), just to see how she pulled it off. Because I have not burned out on that series. Not to say that there aren’t plenty out there that I have stopped reading—and would opine that the authors of those should have long-since stopped with them—but this is one that remains evergreen for me.

Now, J.D. Robb (which is a pseudonym for mega-selling author Nora Roberts) doesn’t have any concerns about her publisher cutting off the series. This is something that happens all too often in traditional publishing. Series get “orphaned” when the publisher decides for one reason or another (and puzzlingly, not always because sales are bad, or at least, not dismal) to not contract for any more books. I can think of five authors offhand who planned trilogies (or four or five books) where the publisher stopped buying them after the first two. Some of them had large fan followings who were disappointed not to find out what happened next.

In the bad old days, an author had little to no recourse. The series would be effectively killed. These days, authors have the option to continue the series on their own (unless they signed a terrible, restrictive contract) and self-publish it.

But then we come back to Suzanne’s questions. Should they??

I think the first thing to consider is the fan base. If the publisher dropped it because of poor sales, how bad are they, really? This isn’t always easy to know, because traditional publishers look primarily at Book Scan for these decisions and that counts only print books sales. All the successful self-publishing authors tell me that ebook sales make up over 90% (or more) of their sales. For the traditionally published author making this decision, ebook sales of the series are the key parameter. Also, it’s easy to be swayed by the passionate imploring of fans to continue the series, especially when they make personal contact, but if you figure on investing likely at least $2K in self-publishing the next book, you need more than 20 people to buy it to make back your investment.

Then the other side is how much the author cares. In a couple of those cases where I stopped buying and reading a series, the author had clearly stopped caring. I know of one who didn’t even want to write the last three books, but the publisher offered her so much money that she did it anyway. In other cases, the author might *care* but has lost touch with shaping a book with a complete arc. These series become almost masturbatory after a while, with the author just pleasing themselves and a few obsessed fans.

In the end, once the sales have been parsed—because those numbers do give a good reality check—it comes down to creative choice. An author might love a series enough to keep writing it even if the sales aren’t there.

That’s what it comes down to—a feeling of love for the story, world, and characters. Maybe that’s not the right word, but I don’t know a better one. With Sorcerous Moons, I’m still loving that tale and I’m not done telling it yet. I will be soon, in another book or two. I sometimes get asked if I’ll write more books in the Covenant of Thorns series and I don’t know that I will. That series feels done(ish) to me. I don’t have that same sense of connection. I don’t feel that love for it. Maybe if I go back to it, I’ll feel that passion for it again, but unless I do, I think anything I’d write would fall flat.

Thus my short answers to Suzanne’s questions are:

How to know when to continue a series? When you still love it!

When to end it? When you don’t love it anymore.

When to morph one into a spinoff? When that feels like the right thing to do.

Great summary of the whole problem, Jeffe! Of course, I asked for purely selfish reasons as I’m pondering the end of several series for different reasons that cover the gamut of emotions you mention—one I don’t love anymore, one the publisher abandoned because of its genre despite pretty good sales, and two that are on the fence and whose future I’m pondering.

What about you guys? Are there series you’ve abandoned? Some you’ll follow forever? Leave a comment for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card or Book Depo equivalent if you’re outside the U.S. And be sure and check out Jeffe’s Sorcerous Moons series!