May 28, 2013

A Knight from Dein - Peter R. Stone: A Review

A Knight From Dein - Peter R. Stone: A Review


Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Overall: 3.5 stars
A Knight From Dein is the story of Carl Hardcourt, native to the island nation of Dein, traveling in the war-torn country of Tenham. Tenham's nobles are struggling against the amaleqhs, a strong but evil race bent on adding Tenham to its conquests. Carl is given the quest of rescuing the Heart of the elves, the Princess Taeisia - betrothed to the amaleqh king - and regaining the support of the elven nation, which is helpless to interfere on the humans' behalf for fear of endangering their Princess. Along the way he meets Ella, an impetuous, revenge-driven half-elven maiden, and learns to trust the Living One for strength and victory.

I found it quite similar to the Kingdom series by Chuck Black, only closer to the Lord of the Rings in scope and slightly better written. I would recommend it for mature pre-teens up to older teens and twenties, for violence and occasional language (which was unexpected but more realistic than a whole cast of unsaved characters who all have clean mouths.)

Concept: 3.5 stars
The concept of this book is a well thought-out and intriguing allegory. Several components are identical to those in our world, such as the Garden of Eden, the Fall of Lucifer, and the death and resurrection of Christ. The new parts fit in well and add to the story instead of detracting from it - the un-fallen elves, the amaleqhs, the Immortal Brotherhood. I support the overtly Christian theme of the book and found it refreshing. The world is meant to co-exist with ours, which makes me feel better about the Christ figure and the original Garden having the same names as ours.

Plot: 4 stars
The plot of this book was mostly what kept me reading it. It is not particularly fast-paced to begin with, but speeds up significantly as it nears the climax. It includes classic elements such as quests, prophecies, princesses, and orc-like creatures, but has enough twists and turns to keep you guessing. It's slightly rambling, but that only resulted in it feeling more like real life than a contrived story out of a can, and in me wishing I had read it in a less extended period of time. I'm sure I would have been able to follow it better if I hadn't set it down for weeks on end, but as I warned the author when he asked me for a review, I am extremely sporadic in my e-book consumption.

I liked the way the author switched between situations to keep up the tension - I nearly groaned in frustration when Carl was thrown in the dwarven dungeon, and then the perspective switched to the Tenhamese holed up in the city of Longford with an army of amalehqs outside their doors. I liked both almost equally well, unlike some books where I want to skip through one part to see what's happening with the character I just left. It might have been better, though, if he had stuck with one or two or even ten characters, instead of head-hopping between characters I didn't know very well, such as Felix, Cosington, and the Princess. I have little room to talk, since I have a total of seventeen perspectives in my novel, but you know.

Characters: 3 stars
The characters are the other reason I kept reading. Ella was my hands-down favorite. She had the clearest arc out of them all and was probably the most relatable. I was also quite interested in how she was going to reconcile herself to being only half-elf and an outcast. Others included the impulsive Terrance, the steady Carl, the ambitious Arno, and the fierce Felix. (Alliteration - how can I resist?)

Carl didn't seem to have a discernible arc, however, besides his growth in power from an emmisary of his father's to a figure of almost legendary proportions. I wished that had been a little clearer. Also, there were so many princes, barons, relatives, and squires that I had a time trying to keep them all straight. When it came to battles, I just gave up and tried to picture what Prince So-And-So was doing with his troops. Again, this might have been helped if I read it in a solid chunk instead of spreading it out over several months, and it didn't hinder me much, so it's not too big a problem. My other problem with the characters was the Princess - she felt a little too perfect. I wish she would have had a weakness so I could identify with her, but she - and most of the other elves, besides Ella - ended up feeling more like gods. Which is a pet peeve of mine - if I could call Tolkien down on this too, I would. xD

Execution: 2 stars
Here is my big beef with this book. The writing most of the time read like a ballad instead of a modern story, with all the demands of relatability and impact hanging over it. It's written in an old style, more like Naomi Novik's Temeraire series, but with less detail, which upset me. I eventually adapted and filled in a good deal of it with my imagination, but all the same I kept feeling like there was something missing. By all means, Mr. Stone, keep your archaic style - don't dumb it down as so many YA books are today - but give it more punch. More sensory input, more slippery fingers and throbbing heads instead of "it gave him a shocking headache" and "causing him to see stars". Don't tell me he saw stars, make me see them. This is what I say to everybody, so don't take it too seriously, but I really felt like if it had been filled in, I would have enjoyed it much more.

Technical: 2.5 stars
This is my other big beef. The multitude of typos, passive tense, and other small grammatical errors had me shaking my head. Practically every time a character was supposed to have spun around, he span. I don't know what that is, but it sounds painful. Also, too many exclamation points. I've been worried that I use too many, but I think I know why editors warn you against them now. By emphasizing so much, very little was actually emphasized. After reading this book, I would like to tell all exclamation-point-users: Throw them away. Take them all out of your prose, at least - if you must use them in dialogue, do so, but find other ways to emphasize. However you can. Just throw them away. xD

In conclusion: An entertaining and refreshing read, with solid characters and a plot epic in its scope, but a few errors to be corrected. If the author was to re-publish or write more, I would encourage him to research the craft of writing further, and hire a proofreader. All the same, it left me smiling.

Also, a sequel about Taeisia would be interesting.

May 20, 2013

The Zone

       Once upon a time there was a hermit. But this was no ordinary hermit. She lived out on a prairie covered with corn and soybeans and could count seven houses and a highway from her front yard. She smiled and laughed with neighbors and family when they came to call, ran her siblings in a wagon along a driveway so old the rocks had snuggled into each other and grown rims of fluffy moss and clover like old ladies' hair.
        But mostly, she listened.
        To people. To their sorrows, their joys. To birds and wind and water, and the precise sound the motorcycles made when they rumbled past the house on a soft spring evening.
        Then, she described.
        To herself, in her mind. Or jotted down carefully in one of a dozen notebooks. Or murmured like a charm when there was no one else to hear. Tapped out on the keys of her precious, battered laptop, or shared with her mother, who understood those things.
        But never had she gone out.
        She had heard of others who had. Scattered across the many thousands of miles of her land, others of her kind had emerged here and there every so often in a flurry of crazed activity - cicadas, making a lot of noise and a lot of bustle for a few weeks before everything quieted down to normal again.
        That's nice, she thought, watching them from a distance. Maybe I'll go when I'm ready.
        But it came too soon.
        Realm Makers.

         Those two words were enough to strike dread and fierce exhilaration into her little hermit heart. Her own people, gathering, this summer, less than two hours away. Imagine the opportunity. The enlightenment. The fellowship.
         "They're having a costume dinner," she whimpered.
         But her quiet, devious brain whispered doubts to her quiet, timid heart. What if they don't like you? What if you embarrass yourself? What if you can't think of anything to say?
          "What if your head explodes," her mother said practically. "If you want to go, go."
         "But -"
          She woke up early one morning two weeks later with those two words pounding around in her head.
         Realm Makers. Realm Makers.
         She looked at her calendar.
          Less than two weeks left to sign her life away.
         Or at least, two terrifying days of it.
         She scribbled out her thoughts in frustration, alone in the half-light but for the birds and her purple pencil and her trusty thesaurus. Because even now, she wanted to get the words right.
         She laid down her paper and stared up at the ceiling. Her sister rolled over and threw an arm over her. She smiled. She was happy here.
         But weren't people always saying to get out of the zone?
         Your comfort zone?
         She wondered what it was like out there.
         She clutched her thesaurus to her heart and whispered, "What should I do?"


May 4, 2013

Creative Juice {Product Review}

Thought I'd do something different tonight.

Unfortunately, typing "creative juice" into my Amazon search bar doesn't bring about the desired results (which may or may not include instant inspiration), but it does include a product I'd like to share with you all today. ;)

Yes! Aromatherapy! I have no scientific evidence to back this up, just personal experience (though I'm sure you can find some if you look.) This one in particular smells like kheer - an Indian rice pudding with cardamom, raisins, almonds and sometimes coconut - with a citrus tint.

I can vouch for the effectiveness of the scent, and not because it makes me hungry. If I'm having a slow time of it inspiration-wise, I can almost always pull this out and finish something by the end of the day. The oils included are bergamot, lemon, and cardamom. Often I can put two or three drops on a kleenex, set it by my laptop vent, and voila! Instant diffuser! Within a few seconds, the whole room smells like cardamom.

You can buy it on the Aura Cacia website, here:

According to Google, online prices vary from $6 to $20 for .5 oz, which has lasted me around a year with no visible decrease in volume.

So there's my first product review.  Has anybody tried this before? What did you think of it?