Blog Tour: The Collection of the Negatives (Blood Rising Book #1) by Violet St. Karl [Review/Giveaway]

THE COLLECTION OF THE NEGATIVES
(BLOOD RISING BOOK #1)

BY: VIOLET ST. KARL

Publication Date: January 11, 2019

Genre: Sci-fi/New Adult

SYNOPSIS

In a world with skyrocketing inflation and unemployment, blood has become the new commodity, and the rarer your blood type, the more it’s worth.

After losing her job and watching her savings dwindle, Liri is persuaded by a resourceful friend to sell her blood to ABO Blood Group, where she learns she is O Negative, the most valuable and sought after blood.

Unable to afford living in New York City, Liri reluctantly decides to move back home and live with her parents, but her plan is interrupted when a virus is maliciously unleashed onto the island of Manhattan, resulting in a citywide quarantine. Before being able to devise an alternative plan, she is secretly informed of a covert mission by ABO to evacuate Negatives out of NYC. Although reluctant to trust them, it’s her only viable choice to stay alive, but unbeknown to Liri, she and the Negatives are vital to activating opposing agendas on Earth and beyond.

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REVIEW

The Collection of the Negatives is the first book in the Blood Rising series by Violet St. Karl. As a first book in a series, one of the main concepts to build up the foundation of the characters and the scenario at hand. On that level, it does a great job. The world here is reminiscent of futuristic worlds where the world has been technologically advanced and yet when the apocalypse arrives, only selected people are chosen to escape to hopefully find a way to survive and keep the humankind going on and in this premise, it is specially selected for those with negative blood types. It is a creative angle for the foundation of the story and where the key sci-fi elements are and where the story is the most strong. The new adult elements particularly the romance bits here were a bit over despite the fact that they used that angle to give the story its turning point and unravel some of the mystery as well. However, it felt like it could have been executed better.

One of the strengths of the novel is the characters. While there are some flaws further down in the novel specifically with the main character, the basis of the characters have a good balance and distinct characteristics that help give them their own edge and place in the story as a whole. Plus, there is a good basis of building up different relationships especially friendships and alliances. As I mentioned before, the romantic part is the bit that I think wasn’t done quite as well but it also has to do with the fact that its part of the “new adult” genre style which I’m not a big fan of but that is a more personal preference. Its just by the last act, there is something about it that binds together a lot of weird shift in events but then it is a good way to set up for the next book.

Overall, The Collection of the Negatives is a decent way to start up a series. It sets up its characters well enough. There are some flaws and some little execution issues but it delivers on the suspense and the sci-fi elements are very strong and also has a lot of good ideas even if its a little weird.

Goodreads: 3 out of 5

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Violet St. Karl

Violet St. Karl’s love affair with science fiction and fantasy began at the tender age of four when she first saw Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, but nearly three decades passed before she started transferring the stories in her head onto the computer screen. Unbeknownst to Violet at the time of signing her lease, her Upper West Side apartment was the former site of Edgar Allen Poe’s old farmhouse, where he completed writing the Raven. However, she didn’t begin writing until receiving another sign from the universe a year later. While spending extensive time in Barcelona, she learned her flat once belonged to Mercè Rodoreda i Gurguí, a famous Catalan writer, an indication that living in the former residences of famous dead authors was no coincidence, but a sign to start writing.

After over a decade in New York, Violet recently returned to her roots in the Detroit area where is an advocate and proud Ambassador of the Authors Guild. When not writing or focused on strengthening the local literary community, she is planning which country to explore next.

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Fables, Vol. 2 Animal Farm by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham & Steve Leialoha

Check out the Fables, Volume 1 review HERE.

Fables, Volume 2: Animal Farm
by: Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham (artist) & Steve Leialoha (artist)

fables vol. 2

Ever since they were driven from their homelands by the Adversary, the non-human Fables have been living on the Farm—a vast property in upstate New York that keeps them hidden from the prying eyes of the mundane world. But now, after hundreds of years of isolation, the Farm is seething with revolution, fanned by the inflammatory rhetoric of Goldilocks and the Three Little Pigs. And when Snow White and her sister Rose Red stumble upon their plan to liberate the Homelands, the commissars of the Farm are ready to silence them—by any means necessary! – Goodreads

Its been almost exactly 2 years since I reviewed Fables Volume 1. Volume 2 takes place a little while after the first volume’s events as Red Rose gets her community service sentence for the previous book’s events to go on a trip with her sister Snow White to the Farm to check on what’s going on there. Its when the revolution happens and Snow White gets caught up in the situation as things go from bad to worse. The story here is a lot of fun. It reminisces a twist on not only further fairy tale characters from Goldilocks and the Three Bears to Three Little Pigs and makes them more vulgar than innocent but also a take on Animal Farm, hence the title of volume 2 with the revolution of the animals to want more and to overturn the Adversary which looms over them. It dives deeper into the Fables world with just this revolution alone.

Retaining much of its art style and story writing, Volume 2 still has a lot of its charm. I can’t say that its quite as fun as the first dive into Volume 1. I can’t quite grasp what felt like it didn’t live up to it. Maybe its because I really like the Bigsby Wolf character and this volume mostly revolved around Snow White. However, to be fair, it gave us a better look at this female protagonist and she is much different from other Snow Whites that has been brought to life in fairy tale spinoffs and movies and TV series. It always fascinates me how these fairy tale characters can have so many faces and how Snow White is always used. Regardless, she is a decent choice. In some ways though, the goal here was to give a backstory on the bond between the sisters, Snow White and Red Rose while also giving a little deeper look at Red Rose.

There’s not a whole lot to say about Volume 2. I still think the best part is the art style and the dialogue and the story that it tells. Pity that The Wolf Among Us Season 2 won’t be happening on video games but at least there’s still more volumes of Fables to read (hopefully) soon, once I get a chance to pick up the next one.

Obsidio (The Illuminae Files #3) by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

You can check out the reviews of the previous books in The Illuminae Files series:

Illuminae
Gemina

Obsidio (The Illuminae Files #3)
By: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Obsidio

Kady, Ezra, Hanna, and Nik narrowly escaped with their lives from the attacks on Heimdall station and now find themselves crammed with 2,000 refugees on the container ship, Mao. With the jump station destroyed and their resources scarce, the only option is to return to Kerenza—but who knows what they’ll find seven months after the invasion?

Meanwhile, Kady’s cousin, Asha, survived the initial BeiTech assault and has joined Kerenza’s ragtag underground resistance. When Rhys—an old flame from Asha’s past—reappears on Kerenza, the two find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict.

With time running out, a final battle will be waged on land and in space, heroes will fall, and hearts will be broken. – Goodreads

The Illuminae Files series is one of those rare series that really keeps up their momentum throughout. It keeps a unique structure of telling the story through surveillance reports, radio transmissions, official documents, etc. The first two books had hints of paying tribute to certain popular horror classics in a sci-fi context with their own little twists added in. The characters are teenagers primarily as the main protagonists but yet also have their supporting characters in the crew to save their world. To be fair, all three books use a similar structure of having a countdown heading toward some possible imminent death. However, due to the time crunch that adds to the tension, there are the relationships who give the character depth but never let it overshadow the main issue at hand, survival. Its also the fact that we only get a chunk of the situation and never the full picture that there leaves mystery and a lot of spots to add in our own conclusions, if any can be made until the final act.

I’ve talked a lot about the general series up to this point. The fact is, The Illuminae Files are the most effective a unit together and for that, I have been debating to re-read the entire trilogy back to back. Even though I say that, because I did read each of these books, a year or two apart from each other, they still have a very nice self-contained element even if this final book, Obsidio brings together the stories of Illuminae and Gemina to create it, the level of connection to the characters is the main factor that gets pulled into the equation. The first two books are essentially two different stories. With that said, it is inevitable that the final book of the trilogy becomes less self-contained than the previous two. However, the story here, while still having some events overlapping the previous books, still manages to craft its own story and pulls together all the loose pieces lying about and pulls it all together and even gives us an idea of how these Illuminae Files came together. In the realm of what it does, Obsidio shows really detailed view of getting to this point and seeing the big picture of how to put together this story in a complete way.

There’s so much to love about Obsidio. Fact is, at this point, the characters are all such a crucial element. With each hardship, they grow and develop a little more. Obsidio is done with so much care for the situation at hand, the sci-fi factor but also keeping in check that these characters are young and have to make some difficult decisions and become such a pillar and being pulled into a situation that they didn’t want to and the courage they have. Its a fast-paced novel with layers of tension, sarcastic humor and adventure. Its a book full of surprises and twists and turns and done in such a clever way.

Goodreads: 5/5

The Illuminae Files may be done but I’ve finished just in time as this author duo’s next book (maybe starting off a new series) is going to be released soon and I cannot wait to read it.

The Two Sisters of Borneo (Ava Lee #6) by Ian Hamilton

If you missed the reviews on the previous novels in this series, you can check out these links:

The Water Rat of Wanchai
The Disciple of Las Vegas
The Wild Beasts of Wuhan
The Red Pole of Macau
The Scottish Banker of Surabaya

The Two Sisters of Borneo
(Ava Lee #6)

By: Ian Hamilton

two sisters of borneo

Ava has been in Hong Kong looking after Uncle. She has also set up an investment company with May Ling Wong and her sister-in-law, Amanda Yee. One of their first investments — a furniture company owned by two sisters in Kota Kinabalu, Borneo — runs into immediate problems with a Dutch customer. Ava goes to the Netherlands to investigate, but her life is threatened when she is confronted by a gang of local thugs in Borneo. Out of the shadows comes a mysterious man from Shanghai – IMDB

One of my favorite series ever and one of the most random discoveries that was a pleasant surprise is diving into the Ava Lee series. I picked up the first book of the series, The Water Rat of Wanchai because of its Hong Kong location title. Six books in now and almost 4 years since I read the 5th book, I have a lot of catching up to do but the most important thing is that, the world is still so amazing to jump into. The best thing about this book series is the whole commitment of being fairly self-contained. The investigation in question may have characters from previous books but they always have sufficient information to make sure they are outlined enough even without knowing about the previous books.

Over the course of the books (and I urge you to start this series from the beginning), Ava Lee has developed a lot and still has a lot of room for it. Its really nice especially in The Two Sisters of Borneo because it hits close to home both with her personal issues but also with the investigation she dives into showing us that Ava Lee is very much a tough woman but also vulnerable in her own way as well making her very human and keeps adding new elements and twists to her forensic accounting skills. While I love the self-contained aspects of these books, the other characters have also grown and as we get to know Ava’s family and friends more, they become these staple characters and have built at this point to something that can be described as the first phase over with in the Ava Lee series at the end of this one. To me, that is a pretty smart move because it will give it a whole new dynamic but I won’t say how to avoid any spoilers.

I am getting ahead of myself to lets reel it back in. The Two Sisters of Borneo brings us to yet another exotic Asian location paired with a European location as well. Ava meets some interesting people to say the least. It is no doubt there is always a great plan at play. The best part of these mysteries is that while we can see the game at play, there is always a fairly surprising twist. In this case, it was a bit more obvious (for me) however, the whole process was still a page-turner. Its always the big reveal that has an eye-opening experience and how Ava chooses to approach the mastermind to retrieve the compensation or return of wealth that makes it even more intriguing. There’s a whole array of different people that seem like they will get another chance to come back as Ava Lee steps further into what I’d say is a phase two to the series. While a lot of foundation as already been done, there is a real sense of a second build in foundation here to get ready for more great mysteries to come.

Book Blitz: The Onyx Crown by Alan Hurst

The Onyx Crown
by: Alan Hurst

The onyx Crown

Publication Date: January 27, 2019

Genre: Fantasy/Adventure

SYNOPSIS

The Onyx Crown is an exciting foray into the world of African fantasy. From the searing heat of the desert to the vastness of the savannah, it tells the story of three children–Sania, Gesi, and Jorann who grow up in a pre-medieval era of wars and successions, not fifteen years after the greatest king in the history of the continent has been deposed and assassinated. They must overcome the traumatic circumstances of their birth as well as many dangerous trials to fulfill the destiny bestowed upon them as infants. Can mere children use their courage, wits, and uncanny abilities to defeat legendary warriors, entire tribes, provinces, and kingdoms–allowing them to lead the worthy to the greatest prize of all, the Onyx Crown?

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EXCERPT

The Equinox Hunt was the once-every-ten-moon foray into the chakkha, or jungle, made by only the most celebrated hunters of the Nabii tribe of Numeria. It’s primary purpose was to keep the beast population to manageable levels, and stop them from foraging into the grasslands, but had long ago become a reliable way to create fortune for some Nabii tribesmen (simply called ‘the Hunters’), and their families.

Although wealth and riches beyond all imagination could be found beyond the gates of the chief Nabii citadel, Abir City, if the Hunters knew where to look, for most families it was more likely that they would return to the gates destitute, starving, and missing several family members.

K’Nan knew this as well as anyone. He knew he was looking at mostly dead men. Damn men are such fools, he thought. Most of these hunters were already successful enough to provide for their families, own property, perhaps even bribe for themselves a pathetic position on the council. Success was never enough, and, in fact, it spurs on the hunger drive for more success.

This time, he th ought, things just may turn out differently for them. Why he had decided to lead the Hunt this year was a puzzle even to himself.

He knew better than to rely on the nonsensical rumors that had been trickling out of the wilderness for the last year and a half. Tales of mythical beasts and fearsome fighters attacking the Numerian migrants seemed just that, more myth than reality, except…

Except he’d also dreamt of them for the last ten years of his life. He could probably count the number of peaceful nights he’d slept in that time quite easily if he stopped to think about it. There damned sure hadn’t been many.

How could he sleep? The unimaginable horror of some of the things he’d seen during those dreams weren’t easy to forget—man-eating beasts, blood thirsty warriors, and infants dying in the wilderness.  

It was this last dream, the one about three infant children that spurred him toward the savannah. The innermost reaches of the savannah were referred to as the chakkha—the destination of the Equinox hunters, the Win-Daji.  

“Why does it bother you so much?” he said to himself. “It’s just a dream like any other, and those other three are long lost now.”  

And yet here he was. All because of a dream.

He shook his head at himself. “When will you finally give up hope?”

The winds started blowing even more briskly now, bringing a mini-sandstorm to the town gates. Instinctively, everyone covered their eyes and faces, through conditioning more than fear.

It was apparent that they were in no danger from sand this far from the wilderness, but hiding from it was a habit both born and bred in them from childbirth. Heat can indeed kill you, but in the wilderness you learn to fear the sand much more than the heat.

Luckily for the Win-Daji, the summer had not begun. In the summer, sandstorms morphed from deadly catastrophic—it was widely known that the one approaching would last for many months and be one of the hottest ever recorded.

The hunter talking with the sentries now was unique enough to catch K’Nan’s interest. This man was tall and pale-skinned (a rarity this far south) with a scar leading from the corner of his left eye to his left ear, a love kiss from a Deluthian rhino most likely, K’Nan’s imoya, or spirit, told him.

He wore his hair in the traditional Nabii tribesman style, shaved on the sides with a strip of hair about two inches high down the middle. On his hip he carried a crescent sword, very worn and very menacing, and two bows slung carelessly across his back.

Tied around his left thigh was a two-cubic-long dagger with a polished bone handle covered with notches. This man has done some killing, thought K’Nan, and without a doubt not confined it to beasts.

Whatever he was arguing with the sentries about must’ve been important. Gradually all of the other Win-Daji and Halanbi moved closer to them to listen in. Some were nodding and raising their weapons. Every now and then there’d be a little shout of encouragement from the group. Meanwhile the guards were shaking their heads all the more emphatically.

K’Nan ended his reverie and motioned his two companions, Semri and Semarion, to follow him down the rocky path toward the gates. The steadfast twin brothers hastily complied.

They had fought and hunted with him the better part of the last five years and were two of the only people he felt he could really rely on, despite the fact that they were not full-blooded Numerians. So, he’d asked them to accompany him, without telling them the true reason.

What are you so worried about? He asked himself. Aren’t you K’nan the Savage Slayer, a legend in all three territories of the savannah, defender of the Numerians, the scourge of all Panthia? How many countless men have died under your two-bladed spear, deservedly all?

How many beasts have you saved these wretched villagers from? You’ve dined with tribal chieftains between both seas, shared their spoils, and bedded their daughters. How could a life as full as yours end so quickly? Have you forgotten what the prophetess told you?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alan Hurst

Alan Hurst is an author and entrepeneur. Hurst who spent most of his childhood reading Asian wuxia fiction, Marvel comics and encyclopedias is delving into trilogy territory with THE ONYX CROWN. He briefly studied religion at Harvard.  Later, he settled in Washington, DC where he founded a software consulting firm, hosted the Urban Nation Radio podcast, and occasionally played the World Series of Poker.  When not writing or enjoying time with his family, he prefers to take his Ducati motorcycle out for the occasional spin!

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Blog Tour: The Princess and the Peacock (Bird of Fae #1) by C.S. Johnson [Review/Giveaway]

Blog Tour

The Princess and the Peacock
(Birds of Fae #1)

By: C.S. Johnson

the princess and the peacock

Publication Date: January 25, 2019

Genre: Fantasy/Fairy Tale Retelling

SYNOPSIS

The first time I fell in love with Princess Mele was when I saw her smile, and I fell in love with her the second time the moment I heard her sing.

Two memories burn within Kaipo’s heart — the death of his mother, which left him alone to die, and the arrival of Princess Mele, which gave him a new reason to live. Together with his adopted brother, Kaipo seeks out Jaya, the Fae Queen who lives on the Forbidden Mountain, in order to gain the beauty he requires to win Mele’s heart. But Jaya has other plans for the scarred outcast who climbs up her mountain …

The Princess and the Peacock is the first in Birds of Fae, a fantasy fairy tale novella series from C. S. Johnson.

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PURCHASE LINKS: Amazon

REVIEW

I don’t know whether to call this novella a fairy tale retelling that mixes together elements of Aladdin with Beauty and the Beast together while changing up certain details as well. For the most part, the story here works and its especially well structured to fit the novella length. C.S. Johnson gives the characters and plot development enough depth to make it good while still having the proper pacing to make it intriguing to read. In the end, this is somewhat a story about our Peacock here, Kaipo who learns to embrace inner beauty and not view so heavily and value himself for more than his appearances. There are values of traditions, morals, loyalty, friendship, brotherhood. The positive messages portrayed here all come together nicely at the end. The characters are numerous and yet seem to serve their own purpose in the story which is always good to have.

The only issue with the story itself is the feeling that there was never much of climactic point. Things seemed to be fairly flat and predictable as the plot points would be fairly contrived and lacked a bit of natural progression. What I mean to say is that things happen, such as in the beginning, the brother and the peacock end up encountering a prince who then takes them and happens to also be going to the palace and offers them as a gift for the hand of the princess. There is also an effort to slowly reveal what makes Kaipo so in love with the princess and we soon find out. There is a whole revelation but probably because this is a fairy tale retelling of sorts, it still has a lot of similarities to other stories that makes it lack the more impactful sort of story. Its not saying that its not still pretty good because it is well-written and packs in a lot of next technical bits from character to understanding the world where its set.

Goodreads rating: 3/5 (if there was half points, this would be 3.5/5)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

c.s. JOHNSON

C. S. Johnson is the award-winning, genre-hopping author of several novels, including young adult sci-fi and fantasy adventures such as the Starlight Chronicles, the Once Upon a Princess saga, and the Divine Space Pirates trilogy. With a gift for sarcasm and an apologetic heart, she currently lives in Atlanta with her family. Find out more at http://www.csjohnson.me

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Print copy of The Princess and the Peacock

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Blog Tour: One Flew Through the Dragon Heart (Favan & Flew #1) by C.S. Johnson [Review & Giveaway]

One Flew Through the Dragon Heart
(Favan & Flew #1)

By: C.S. Johnson

one flew through the dragon heart

Publication Date: December 21st, 2018
Genre: Steampunk/Fantasy

SYNOPSIS

A Chinese Legend. A British Secret. Star-Crossed Lovers with Incompatible Magic.

Brixton Flew works as a professor of wielder instruction at Rembrandt Academy, hoping to erase the regrets of his youth along with the resulting debt. But when he comes face to face with his biggest regret—the woman who broke his heart, Adelaide Favan—Brixton soon realizes his troubles have only begun.

Unable to control her magic, Adelaide knew leaving Brixton was the only way to protect him when they were younger. Now she discovers he is the key to recovering the Dragon Eyes, a legendary treasure connected to her magic and her family’s disgraced legacy—and she knows the risk is great, to both his life and her heart.

With others seeking the power of the Dragon Eyes, Brixton and Adelaide must outwit their foes and face down their families to save London from an ancient legend that sleeps beneath the magic portal in their city.

But the renewed passion growing between them may prove to be the greater peril …

One Flew Through the Dragon Heart is the first book in a new steampunk series by C.S. Johnson, blending together history, romance, mecha-dragons and magic against the glittering backdrop of 1880’s Victorian London.

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EXCERPT

“Brixton.”

His sixteen-year-old self was scurrying past the materials room when he heard his name spoken with a soft, foreign lilt. The sound broke through him like a magic spell, disrupting his intellectual musings and forcing him into an uncomfortable position.

He was in a hurry; his professor would be upset if he was late for class. As a star pupil, Brixton knew he had a certain reputation to live up to, and he had learned well not to call any negative attention to himself.

But at the sound of Adelaide Favan calling for him, he felt helpless—helplessly nervous and helplessly intrigued. It was almost as if some part of him had been waiting for her to call, and he had been more than ready to answer.

Out of guilt, if nothing else.

He nearly lost his grip on the stack of books he carried as he stumbled to a stop and glanced back at the doorway to the materials room. He could see a slim shadow at the back, where her dark skirts whipped around as she moved between stations, pulling out supplies and looking for spare coils, cogs, or anything else she decided she needed.

He did not have the faintest notion why she would be calling him. Adelaide never seemed to talk to anyone unless it was out of necessity.

“Are you coming in or not?” Adelaide straightened, looking up at him from behind a thick pair of black-rimmed goggles, the kind that magnified her eyes behind the protective glass.

Brixton felt a quick twinge of regret. She always wore them when she was working on something. He had a sinking feeling he was going to be late for class—but he stepped into the room regardless.

“I’m surprised,” she said as he tentatively approached her.

“Why? You were the one who called me.”

“Is that what I need to do to get your attention?” Adelaide put her hands on her hips as she stepped back from the table, where a box full of wires and screws and other various building materials winked up at him.

Brixton felt his face turn red. “If you’re talking about earlier, I—”

“I don’t want to talk about earlier,” Adelaide said. “You know who my father is. Do you think your friends are the first people to make fun of me because of my family?”

“They’re not my friends. Not exactly.” Brixton sighed. “They’re just people we go to school with. You don’t have to be friends with them. You just have to get along with them until we graduate.”

“Is that your plan?”

He shifted his feet as the clocks chimed loudly, the pleasant ringing turning sour in his ears. He was officially late for class. Brixton glanced back at the door.

Adelaide did not pay attention to the clock. She saw to her work, fiddling with one of the gearshifts. Brixton noticed she was also still wearing her workshop gloves. Along with her goggles, they were a semi-permanent part of her wardrobe. They were thick and black, going up past her elbows. The school issued them as part of the engineering department; Brixton hated wearing them, since the synthetic material of the gloves interfered with his ability to use magic. Adelaide was the only one who consistently wore them.

“It’s mostly my plan,” he said, finally answering her.

“Seems like a silly plan, especially for the next four years.”

“Earlier, when those girls were picking on you, I didn’t say anything—”

“I said I didn’t want to talk about earlier. People have made comments about me all my life. Getting accepted into Rembrandt two years earlier than everyone else is merely another unearned privilege in their eyes.”

Her voice was calm, but Brixton saw that her fingers, even buried in her large gloves, shook ever so slightly.

“I don’t presume—”

“But you do.” Adelaide pushed up her goggles onto her forehead again, brushing back her long black hair.

Brixton hated how he stared at her. Up close, her eyes were cloudy gray, speckled over with a silver lining. He noticed they were slanted, ever so slightly; along with her flattened nose and full lips, there were plenty of hints at her Chinese heritage. He had heard the whispers of her family, especially her father, the famous Captain Favan who led Her Royal Majesty’s Airship Force.

That was one of the main reasons he had tried to befriend her before. Brixton had approached her when she was first introduced to their class, eager to talk about her father’s legacy and how it was his dream to be in the Airship Force one day, too. Adelaide had ignored him then, brushing off his introduction.

Remembering that, he frowned. She has some nerve, admonishing me for poor manners.

He cleared his throat to give himself a moment to recover. “You should know you’re presuming that I’m presuming something. I don’t know you well enough to presume anything.”

For the first time, Adelaide softened her expression. Brixton briefly wondered if he had hurt her feelings, or if it was possible he had successfully pointed out her double standards.

She tugged the goggles down over her eyes a moment later, returning to the project before her. She said nothing as she picked up a suturing iron and began to burn a twisted bunch of wires together.

For a long moment, Brixton watched her. Despite her gloves, her movements were very precise—so precise that they almost seemed awkward.

Just like the rest of her, he thought with a small smile.

Adelaide was fourteen years old, two years younger than everyone else at Rembrandt. She had transferred into the school during the middle of their second semester, and ever since their failed first meeting, Brixton kept his distance from her, even if he continued to watch her out of the corner of his eye. He knew the others in his class teased her for her youth, her connections, and her ancestry.

He could sympathize with her some in that regard, given he received plenty of his own mockery. He was only at Rembrandt because of his scholarship. Most of the students were from the aristocracy, and the idea of rich merchants or lower-class workers—such as his parents—sending their children to Rembrandt was nothing short of scandalous.

He easily dismissed those who badgered him; he was here for an education, and nothing more.

But as Brixton gazed down at Adelaide, he suddenly wondered if she was able to do the same.

She was such a small thing. She was not only two years his junior, but she was also at least a foot shorter. The Rembrandt Academy uniform nearly swallowed up her body. He could see her vest was pinned in the back, and her long skirt was clearly hemmed. Brixton had a feeling she liked to wear the goggles on her forehead if for no other reason than they lent her another two inches in height.

“Why did you call me?” Brixton asked, daring himself to speak again.

Adelaide bit her lip, and Brixton found himself staring again.

Finally, she sighed. “I need you.”

His breath caught and his body went still. He was only able to move after she added, “I need your help.”

The words came out with a ripe bitterness in each syllable, and Brixton almost laughed at her discomfort. It was clear she never asked for help if she could avoid it.

He cleared this throat again, swallowing the last of his laughter, and nodded. “Tell me what it is.”

“I need help assembling this,” Adelaide said, pointing to the neat array of metal scraps and parts before her.

“What is it?”

“A dragon heart.”

“Beg pardon?” Brixton dropped his books, missing the table and causing them to clatter to the floor. He was certain he had misheard her as he bent to pick them up, but he was even more surprised when she laughed.

Her eyes were pushed back into slits behind her goggles, giving her a wizened, animated look as her smile widened. Brixton stared at her as he picked up his books and stacked them neatly beside hers.

“I’m only kidding,” Adelaide said, before she arched her brow. “Or maybe I’m not. Either way, I need your help with this part.”

She opened the top panel and pointed to a small knot of wires lined with alloy and copper. “This is an energy loop I’ve been working on. It’s a special type of power source. The Board wants to develop more efficient batteries, especially since the Edison Project has shown promise. Now they want to see what the wielders can do to improve it.”

“I talked with Professor Ohm about this,” Brixton said. “He wanted to find a way to generate perpetual energy. He thought electricity could possibly be infused with magic.”

“I know. I overheard your conversation after class a few days ago.”

“You did?” Brixton took the suturing iron out of her hand.

“He was dismissive of the idea as an alternative life source, but he was interested in seeing if you could figure out how to make his own theories work.”

He bit down on his cheek. He knew which conversation Adelaide was referring to, and it was one where Professor Ohm spent several minutes admonishing him for his eclectic reading tastes.

“What?” Adelaide asked.

“It’s rude to eavesdrop.”

She jutted her chin forward. “It’s also rude to ignore people who need help.”

“I don’t know if you’re saying that to make me feel bad about before, or if it’s just to make sure I stay here and help you,” Brixton muttered. “Do you care to tell me which?”

“I have an extra pair of gloves if you need them,” Adelaide offered.

He rolled his eyes as she sidestepped his question. “I don’t use them if I can help it.” He called up the power that resided inside of him. He could feel it flowing from his heart down to his fingertips, filling his palm. “I like working with my hands better. It’s easier to conjure up my talent. That’s my magic, as you might have known already. I can build things. Anything, really.”

“Well, no wonder you’re so good at this.” Adelaide pouted as Brixton undid her work. “You’re using magic.”

“And you don’t? Why are you in school to be an engineering wielder if you’re not using magic?”

“I like working with machinery,” Adelaide said. “I’m here because Rembrandt produces the best engineers in London. The fact that it’s a magical school does nothing for me.”

“Do you even have magic at all? I thought that was a requirement for coming here.”

“It is.” Adelaide went silent, and for the first time, Brixton saw her blush. With the small patch of red on her cheeks, he could just make out a light trail of freckles across her nose.

“Ouch.” He flinched as the suturing iron slipped across his fingers.

“Pay attention to what you’re doing. You don’t have to worry about my talent right now. All you need to know is that it’s not helping me fix this.” She crossed her arms and looked away.

“Right.” Brixton turned back to the item in front of him.

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REVIEW

One Flew Through The Dragon Heart is the first book in the Favan & Flew series, set in a Steampunk alternate reality in London, one that filled with magicians and humans living together but with their own prejudices, perhaps fear towards those with magic and different from them. The setting itself is very good and able to really bring out this powerful setting especially for a starting point for both the characters, especially when the chapters change focal points between the two main characters, Adelaide Favan and Brixton Flew and follows them from how the met and their story, slowly revealing their present state and the deeper story that links the mysteries behind Adelaide’s magic and Brixton’s capability. Its interesting especially to see that the magic in this universe change in context for each magician as they each have their own skillset and not everyone is all powerful with powers to control everything, except perhaps when they get the Dragon Eyes which is the main “treasure” in this story. As a starting point, the stage is set very well with a good amount of foundation and a great amount for setting and back story for each of the characters, giving them enough substance to find them intriguing to read about.

Aside from that, I’m always a big fan of anyone who tries to pull some Chinese legends into their story, especially mixing Eastern with Western because it can create a nice contrast and back story. Dragons are a traditional symbol in the East, especially in Asian and because of that its a great spot to start especially giving a basis for what curses Adelaide and her family. It gives us a nice background of the families involved as well. At the same time, there is a sense of mystery and heist situation which works very well here. Its keeps the pacing fun and entertaining to read. Its a mystery and always layers to learn more about what else will happen next and the secrets involved. The writing itself carries very well.

My biggest criticism is that the romance involved here between Adelaide and Brixton always feels a bit forced. I can’t say unnecessary because its the motive behind why a lot of their story unravels because of their love for each other and its this forbidden love sort of situation. Perhaps its the familiarity of this material and how it, at times, feels very redundant and the dialogue very clunky which makes it hard (for me) to get into. There are some lines that truly feel too rigid to be a part of this story and breaks the immersion of the bigger and more dire situation presented here. There is no doubt that the relationship between Adelaide and Brixton and breaking her curse is going to be a big part in the series but hopefully the dialogue and situation will be less repetitive as they have moved on from the reuniting phase in this book.

Overall, One Flew Through The Dragon Heart is a pretty decent book. Its adventurous and mysterious and packed with a good bit of suspense. The magic in each of the characters and how it is structured from the set up of the society is all done very well and pretty intriguing to learn in general. Its a good foundation. Other than the lackluster romance here, every other element works well and sets a good foundation for future books in the series.

Goodreads rating: 4/5

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

C.S. JOHNSON

C. S. Johnson is the award-winning, genre-hopping author of several novels, including young adult sci-fi and fantasy adventures such as the Starlight Chronicles, the Once Upon a Princess saga, and the Divine Space Pirates trilogy. With a gift for sarcasm and an apologetic heart, she currently lives in Atlanta with her family. Find out more at http://www.csjohnson.me

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