My rating: 3 of 5 stars
A nicely plotted first book in a new series, Grave Beginnings by R.R. Virdi is the story of VIncent Graves. Or, at least, that is what he is called now. Vincent is dead, and has no memory of who or what he was before he died. His soul is reincarnated in the bodies of those who have died by supernatural means, and Vincent is tasked with solving the murders, and bringing the supernatural entity responsible to justice. When Grave Beginnings opens, Vincent awakens in a coffin. He breaks out and begins the search to find the killer of his current body, a museum curator named Norman. Along the way, he meets federal agent Camilla Ortiz, and together they fight their way through fire-breathing salamanders, Elementals, and statues come to life to get to the real bad guy.
The premise of the book is intriguing: that a soul can come back to inhabit another’s body in order to avenge a murder committed by a supernatural being. This first story is well-concieved, with some nice twists and surprises. Vincent is fun to read. He’s a bit of a smart ass, with a sardonic sense of humor that lends itself to the style of the story. Ortiz is a bit stereotypical, in that she is the skeptic who thinks Norman/Vincent is simply crazy until she is faced with some very real, very otherworldly threats. She does serve her purpose well and when she is in danger, you worry for her- always the sign of a good character. Vincent’s contact from the afterlife, known only as Church since he appears to Vincent in churches, is somewhat archetypal, but is enough of an enigma that he left me wanting to know more about him.
The story is fast-paced for the most part, and the action moves along at sometimes break neck speed. The style is reminiscent of hard-boiled detective stories’ with a gritty, dark feel. There is enough mystery and action to keep the pages turning.
So, with all that, why three stars? Because the book fails where many independently published book do: the errors. There are mechanical errors, like missing commas and other punctuation mistakes. There are several instances of a noun being used as a verb. The run-on sentences, which often don’t do much more than restate the same thought in different words, often interrupt the quick, sharp flow of the style. And there is one physically impossible scene that popped me out of the story near the end. It’s not a long book as it stands, but could do with some judicious editing to improve pacing and avoid reptition.
I don’t want to say don’t read this, because I truly did enjoy the story, and the premise intrigues me. It is a first in a series, so I do hope the problems can be improved as it goes on. I am looking forward to reading more about Vincent Graves and his next assignment.
Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy by M.A. Kropp is a set of short fantasy stories. Meet wizards, imps, gangster angels, and frogs in this group of varied tales of magic and mischief. Escape from the everyday into worlds of fantasy with Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy.
Download a free sample or purchase in your favorite ebook format at:
Also available at:
Amazon: (Now also in paperback)
Apple iTunes Bookstore
Barnes and Noble:
I discovered DeChancie’s Castle Perilous books many years ago. I read a couple and enjoyed them, but they are a bit older and can be hard to find. I finally managed to snag copies of all of them, and have been catching up on the ones I haven’t read.
The stories are set in Castle Perilous, the linchpin universe, if you will, that all others branch off of. Inside the castle are 144,000 aspects, or doorways to alternate worlds, one of which is Earth. There are permanent residents of the castle, including the King, Lord Incarnadine, and several humans and aliens. When you enter the castle, you discover that you have a latent magic talent that the castle enhances. Each story takes you to one or more of the different aspects, as well as the goings on inside Perilous itself.
In Castle Kidnapped, things seem to be falling apart in Perilous. There are earthquakes that cause parts of the castle to degenerate, and portals to close off without warning. Gene, a human, gets stranded in one such aspect, and has to deal with a world with intelligent, but unpopulated cities, plus the native inhabitants, as he struggles to find his way back. Snowclaw, from a frozen tundra world originally, is stranded on Earth, not the best place for a huge, white-furred, somewhat bear-like fellow with horns and fangs. Meanwhile, Jeremy, a computer hacker, is transported to Perilous when an aspect opens allowing him to escape the authorities. Incarnadine is trying to figure out what is going on, and how to stop it. As usual, things get worse before they get better, and everyone has to use their castle-given magic as well as their wits to solve the puzzle before Perilous is destroyed, taking all of reality with it.
These are light-hearted stories, with a lot of stretch your believability in them. There is an abundance of fun, a good dash of action, a sprinkling of mystery, and not a small amount of mayhem. Yes, they are a bit dated now, but a good story is a good story, and if you can put the fact that this was written in the late ’90’s aside, it is still enjoyable.
Castle Perilous is the star of the series, in many ways, despite its role as setting. Other characters are enjoyable and believable, if a little archetypal. Light, fun reading that doesn’t have a hidden message or deep meaning, the Castle Perilous books are perfect for a quick, easy read for anyone who likes their fantasy laced with humor.
I love Neil Gaiman’s writing. He is one of the authors that just strikes a chord with me. I have thoroughly enjoyed everything I have read by him, and this story is no exception.
The unnamed narrator of the story is back in his hometown in rural Sussex for a funeral. With time to kill, he decides to take a ride and ends up at the home of a childhood friend, her mother, and grandmother. When he was seven, he met the Hempstocks and befriended Lettie, the daughter. They drew the boy into their surpernatural world and take him on an adventure he only recalls now that he is back.
As is common with Mr. Gaiman’s tales, he draws heavily on mythology here. The three aspects of the goddess, the water of life myths, and a healthy dose of evil just bordering our world are all gathered here. The story is told with style and grace, and nothing feels cliched. It is a bit whimsical at times, and at others frightening. Gaiman has a very defined voice in his writing, and it comes through clearly here. I found myself hearing his voice as the narrator in my head as I read it.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is Gaiman’s first adult novel since Anansi Boys, and it was well worth the wait. I recommend it highly.