Alison Reviews: Dragon Consultant by Mell Eight


Title: Dragon Consultant
Author: Mell Eight
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Length: 30,000 words
Characters: Dane & dragon kits’ father
POV: Third
Sub-Genre: Alternate World, Family
Kisses: 4.25

Blurb:

The FAA has been struggling with dragons attacking their planes, and hire Dane, a supernatural consultant, to look into the matter. What Dane finds in the woods is not quite the problem he expected: a group of dragon kits and their sick father.

When he learns the real reason the family was in the woods, his case only grows more dangerous, and while Dane is plenty experienced at watching his own back, taking care of baby dragons and their handsome, distracting father almost makes danger look easy.

Review:

“Dragon Consultant” is a sweet story set in an alternate contemporary setting where the beings of legend (naiads, witches, dragons, sirens, banshees, centaurs, and a whole lot more) are as much a part of the world as humans. Dane, who has set himself up as a Supernatural Consultant, troubleshoots any problem that might have a supernatural component, for a fee.

I think the best part of the story were the dragon kits. I really loved them, although it was Lumie who stole my heart. And I the details the author put into the story, like the different ‘types’ of dragons, were brilliant.

I have read a fair few of Mell Eight’s stories, and find they tend to go from nice but not particularly memorable to enjoyable and sweet. This story is definitely one of the latter, as is “Cleanly Wrong” if you have not yet read it.

If you are looking for a sweet story with a bit of detective work and a wry humor, this one’s for you. “Dragon Consultant” will definitely be staying on my ereader, and I’m sure I’ll re-read it whenever I need a quick pick-me-up.

Reviewed By: Alison

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Alison Reviews: The High King’s Golden Tongue by Megan Derr


Title: The High King’s Golden Tongue
Author: Megan Derr
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Length: 107,000 words
Characters: Prince Allen and High King Sarrica
POV: Third
Sub-Genre: Fantasy
Kisses: 5+

Blurb:

Prince Allen has trained his entire life to follow in the footsteps of his illustrious mother, who has made their kingdom one of the wealthiest and most influential in the empire. For the past few years he has trained to become the new consort of the High King. The only thing no one prepared him for was the stubborn, arrogant High King himself, who declares Allen useless and throws him out of court.

High King Sarrica is ruling an empire at war, and that war will grow exponentially worse if his carefully laid plans do not come to fruition. He’s overwhelmed and needs help, as much as he hates to admit it, but it must be someone like his late consort: a soldier, someone who understands war, who is not unfamiliar with or afraid of the harsher elements of rule. What he doesn’t need is the delicate, pretty little politician foisted on him right as everything goes wrong.

Publisher note: this is a highly expanded, completely re-written version of the free short that was previously available under the same title.

Review:

The Harken Empire consists of a complex combination of languages and classes, and has been at war in some way or another for far too long. The current High King is the perfect example of this. He’s an ex-soldier whose deceased husband was also a soldier. As often happens with Monarchs, since it’s been years since his husband died, he’s being pushed into marrying again. Enter prince Allen, a silver tongue (translator) who knows more than ten different languages fluently and has been training for the past two years for the position of High Consort, and who is nothing like the soldier partner High King Sarrica wants. Allen and Sarrica are both stubborn and determined, and despite Sarrica snubbing him at their first meeting, Allen is determined to do what he was trained for.

For those of you who may not know, the first version of “the High King’s Golden Tongue” was a short free read written for the Goodreads MM Group’s 2012 Don’t Read in the Closet event, and although I did enjoy the first edition, I felt that there was a lot missing. The new edition doesn’t just fill those holes, it creates a whole new landscape. For one, ‘alternative sexualities’ (such as the LGBTQ rainbow) are taken as being as normal as hetero leanings, and transgender people are accepted as being the gender they feel rather than what they are born as. For example, Sarrica’s first husband was male yet carried their children, and one of Allen’s siblings is asexual (obviously that’s not the term used, though). I must admit, I loved that acceptance, as it is how I feel it should be always. In top of that, the Harken Empire is made up of many different languages with many dialects and the confusions such things cause, yet gender is not taken into account when it comes to careers, lifestyle, or status.

I don’t know if I could say I had a best bit, per se, but I did love the fact that all of the main characters had their own strengths and weaknesses, the teasing between friends and family, and the way each character was affected by their past in different ways. To be honest, I couldn’t put it down, and my sister gave up trying to talk to me until I finished the book because I either didn’t hear her or had to ask her to repeat what she’d said. (I’ve actually trained myself to mostly not do that anymore, since it’s dangerous to be oblivious to what’s happening around you for hours on end.)

I would recommend the second edition of “The High King’s Golden Tongue” for anyone who enjoys reading stories with action, drama, fantasy, wit, or people who persevere despite the odds. I will admit that I am a fan of Ms Derr’s but even so, I would put this story among the best she has written in the fantasy genre.

Reviewed By: Alison

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Barren by Anna Hedley


Title: Barren
Author: Anna Hedley
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Pages: 480 pages
Characters: Blair and Ren
POV: Third
Sub-Genre: High Fantasy
Kisses: 5+

Blurb:

All the women of Yarn have died. King Daniel sends out his twelfth best warrior, Blair. But having learned from the first eleven that warriors aren’t to be trusted, he orders Ren, scholar and advisor, to go with him.

Blair thinks the Amorphous, a race of formless and seemingly omniscient beings, know more about the death of the women than they’re saying. Ren suspects Blair’s prejudices are skewing his judgment, and they’re looking in the wrong place.

If they’re going to solve the mystery and set Yarn right, it’s going to take understanding on both their parts.

Review:

I wasn’t sure about this book, even though I love high fantasy. I’m glad I read it. Not only is there an interesting society, one starting to cope now that the women have been gone for over twelve years, but there are multiple races: human, felin, the various elementals (naiad, dryad, etc), and a strange, non-corporal being.

The story has some really neat touches (like the country being called Yarn, the main river Twine, main city Rumple, and the felin being anthromorphic cats). The history, both recent and long past, are well thought out and the plot comes up with surprises here and there.

At first, I thought Barren would just be one of those enjoyable stories you read and then put away to not really think about. I was wrong. It snuck up on me and before I’d read a quarter of the story, I was enthralled. Although it really started to get my attention when Ren told Blair off when they first met.

Ms Hedley has crafted a wonderful story that takes you on a ride you won’t forget. A great book for high fantasy, suspense, or mystery stories. I’m definitely looking for more of her books and this one’s going in my favourites.

Reviewed By: Alison

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Modern Serpents Talk Things Through by Jamie Brindle


Title: Modern Serpents Talk Things Through
Author: Jamie Brindle
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Characters: Tina the Dragon and Kate the Human
POV: Third Limited
Sub-Genre: Fantasy, Lesbian
Kisses: 3




Blurb:

Tina is a modern dragon, or at least she struggles to be. She’s (mostly) sticking to her diet, she goes to the gym, doesn’t lounge on her hoard for (too) long, and she’s steadily working through some issues with her therapist.

Like the humans and dwarves that recently invaded her home and shot her with an arrow. She didn’t like killing them—mostly humans seemed like sad little creatures—but they did attack her and so she destroyed them. Except for the one she locked in the cupboard. That bit she’s still working up to telling her therapist about…

Review:

This is an odd, sweet little story. Set from the dragon’s point of view, it gives a bit of the sense of being a dream, which was added to by the impression that a “day” for a dragon is actually much longer for a human. Dragons have a society similar to that of humans now, and humans are pretty much at the barbarian level.

Having said that, it is a story about love and how it comes in all sorts of packages. It’s sweet, and you can’t help care for Tina as she muddles through her “issues”. Much like the issues many of us have now, she worries about her figure, whether she’s seen as the right type of dragon, whether she’s too aggressive, not aggressive enough, and such things.

It’s an interesting read, and like most FF stories I’ve read, has no sex (for those who care–I don’t). I’m still not sure if I really like it, but it is likeable, if a little confusing.

Reviewed By: Alison

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Lies and Reverie by Camilla Quinn


Title: Lies and Reverie
Author: Camilla Quinn
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Length: 27,000 Words
Characters: Liddy
POV: Third Limited
Sub-Genre: Regency FF
Kisses: 4




Blurb:

Liddy spends the majority of her life minding her father’s shop and trying to keep her sister, Caroline, out of trouble. What little time she has to herself is spent largely in daydreams about kissing beautiful princesses.

Then her sister catches the eye of a nobleman, and the sisters are thrust directly into the tangled world of upper class society. Liddy crosses paths with the beautiful, compelling Lady Sophia Sinclair, the most powerful woman in Dunnshire.

But what chance would a poor shop girl ever have with a real life princess?

Review:

“Lies and Reverie” is a beautiful tale of a imaginative woman who knows she is not attracted to men and has perfected the art of being a wallflower. Liddy is a dreamer, happy that she doesn’t get the attention her more emotional older sister does. She loves her father and is especially close to her sister, even if she does end up mediating between the two more often than not, and always has a book on hand. But the real action happens in Liddy’s daydreams, which often reflect what is happening in her life in some way.

Ms Quinn’s story is a gentle, sweet romance about the decisions middle- and upper-class women had to make in the regency era, and the gentile style of writing enhances the setting perfectly. I must admit, I did love the way the story shows how bending to what others want can break you and lead to bad decisions whereas being true to yourself can set you free.

I don’t read a lot of regency or historical stories, but I rather enjoyed this one and will be at least reading the blurb of any future stories by Ms Quinn. Definitely a recommended read for anyone who likes gentle, sweet stories about family and societal expectations, secrets, and unspoken history.

Reviewed By: Alison

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Nobility by Kayla Bain-Vrba


Title: Nobility
Author: Kayla Bain-Vrba
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Length: 12,000 words
Characters: Nobelle and Princess Danna
POV: Third Limited
Sub-Genre: Fairytale / Fantasy Lesbian
Kisses: 4 Kisses

Blurb:

Determined to escape an arranged marriage, and with very few options available, Danna brings a curse down on herself and settles into life in an enchanted tower. The very last thing she needs or wants is to be rescued, no matter how beautiful or compelling her unexpected rescuer is.

Nobelle is desperate to avoid the hangman’s noose, and as last ditch efforts go her life could be worse than rescuing a bratty princess. But an easy way to stay alive turns into a complicated tangle of lies as she and Danna grow closer and Nobelle has no easy way to admit that she’s no knight in shining armor…

Review:

Princess Danna has dreamt of a true love marriage since she was twelve. She’s over twenty now and it still hasn’t happened, so her parents arrange a marriage for her with a neighbouring king. But Danna wants her true love match, and what could guarantee true love more than a curse and being locked in a tower? Unfortunately, her rescuer is in no way a noble knight, and the fact the curse isn’t broken means the woman isn’t her true love, either.

I found Danna to be a bit vapid at first, especially compared to Nobelle, which I am sure is the impression you are supposed to get. I sympathised with Nobelle right from the start, even before the two met. “Nobility” is worth sticking with, however, as you learn about Danna with Nobelle. And I really like the way Ms Bain-Vrba changed the True Love storyline but still kept the heart of it.

I have read some of Ms Bain-Vrba’s other works and find that they tend to have more of a dark overshadowing than many other fantasy stories and I do need to be in the mood for them. Of those stories I have read by Ms Bain-Vrba, although I liked “Words of Divinity” more, “Nobility” is definitely not the one I liked least.

There is no on-page sex in this story, for those who prefer it, but I found it suited the story perfectly. “Nobility” is what I would classify as a Happily-For-Now sliding into a HEA as they do work out things between them but there is an overshadowing of certain problems to come. I’m not sure if this is because Ms Bain-Vrba intends a sequel or whether this is just a reflection of the real world where a relationship is always in flux, but it’s more like a meet-cute than the whole story. Either way, this was a lovely way to take a short break.

Reviewed By: Alison

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High and Mighty by SS Skye


Title: High and Mighty
Author: S.S. Skye
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Length: 20,000 words
Characters: Lynley
POV: Third Limited
Sub-Genre: Fairytale/Fantasy, Intrigue, Lesbian
Kisses: 4 Kisses

Blurb:
Lynley has been stuck in a tower for over a month, and each day is worse than the one before. She doesn’t know why she’s there, or who’s responsible for it, but the very moment her feet touch the ground there is going to be hell to pay.

Review:

First of all, this story is a little different in that it ends up being from the points of view of four different characters, two of whom are the main characters. Secondly, I think Lynley’s romantic interest was done a disservice by being left out of the blurb, but I can see why she was. Thirdly, for those who like on-page sex, there isn’t any, which left room for more story. And lastly, although “High and Mighty” is based on a fairytale, the dreamlike quality of fairytales is not a part of this story.

I like Lynley. It’s made clear from the start that she hasn’t just sat on her arse waiting to be rescued—she’s searched the entire tower to find everything that might be even remotely useful for an escape. Unfortunately, whoever put her there knew her enough to severely limit her options—as an example, the bedsheets are of such poor quality that even braided into a rope, they’d probably snap as she was climbing down.

When the move was made from Lynley to the castle I was a little confused, at first, but it eventually became evident why the move had been made. I won’t tell you much about the story—if you want to know, read the book!—but I will say that it has a gritty feel, and that I loved the way it ended by showing the understated strength of the relationship between Lynley and her romantic interest. Overall, this story is more of an intrigue with a romance sub-plot, and I think I liked it all the more for it. Perfect for anyone who likes a good intrigue, whether they read FF or not.

Reviewed By: Alison

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Rangers over Regulus by Alex Powell


Title: Rangers Over Regulus
Author: Alex Powell
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Length: 51,000 words
Characters: Liberty and Rory Dalhart
POV: Limited Third
Sub-Genre: Science Fiction
Kisses: 4.5




Blurb:

Liberty is a vampire living on a space station where those who seek to avoid the government always land, and spends his days working for the assassin who runs the place. Life is as peaceful as a colony of thugs at the edge of civilization can get. Then a Ranger shows up…

Review:

Having read the blurb, I was unsure about purchasing “Rangers Over Regulus” but now I’m glad I did take advantage of the Author of the Month sale and buy it. Somehow the author managed to give a science fiction space station a Western (yes, as in cowboys and Indians) edge. Alex Powell obviously put a lot of thought into the story, the world, and the characters, and it shows. I won’t say too much as I don’t want to ruin the story, but I would definitely recommend this story if you like westerns, crime, science fiction, paranormal, or all of the above.

Liberty is an great example of what I feel a vampire should be: he drinks blood for a living and doesn’t feels the slightest bit of compassion for his food. As an assassin, he takes pride in his skills, and he is feared by those on the station as both a vampire and an assassin, yet he has an interesting friendship with the person who maintains his weapons. As an interesting contrast, Rory is a Ranger who, while aware of how corrupt and vicious people can be, still does his best and sticks to his personal morals.

Keep an eye out for the horse. She almost steals the show.

Reviewed By: Alison

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Swords, Sorcery and Sundry by Mina MacLeod


Title: Swords, Sorcery, and Sundry
Author: Mina MacLeod
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Words: 90,000 (novel)
Characters: Wizard Sylvain Zhamell and Assassin Niklas Valconaire
POV: Third Person, current tense
Sub-Genre: Fantasy Adventure
Kisses: 4.5 Kisses




Blurb:

A wizard, a soldier, and an assassin walk into a bar…
Wizard Sylvain just wants to sit down and have a drink, after days of walking when a shortage of funds forced him to sell his horse. Soldier Ashe would like to enjoy her evening, and not have it ruined by trouble. Assassin Niklas wishes they had both minded their own business and not made his bad night worse.
The bar they accidentally burn down is only the beginning, and they quickly learn that if they are to survive their penchant for trouble, teamwork will get them farther than standing alone.

Review:

“Swords, Sorcery, and Sundry” is not a typical romance story, rather it is more a fantasy adventure story that happens to include the beginning of a relationship. I was worried it was going to be a ménage, what with the mention of Ashe, but the romance is purely between the two males of the trio.

After wandering aimlessly across the countryside, three strangers converge at a bar they end up accidentally burning down. This story is about the journey sparked by an overly enthusiastic fireball. Broke, or close to it, all three are now responsible for the cost of repairing the main room of the inn. A fortuitous offer of employment sends them off on a trip to a deserted city and by the time they return they are fast friends. Feeling like they have known each other forever, even though they just met, the trio decide to go into business together.

To be honest, if it hadn’t been for the fact the story is written in present tense instead of past tense, “Swords, Sorcery, and Sundry” would have a 5+ rating from me. The characters are well written, and I love Ashe “Something of Somewhere”. A swordswoman of no small skills, she is confident, bold, and loves nothing more than a good fight and a good celebration afterwards. In our times, she would be labelled a feminist. Going into business together is actually her idea. And their reasons for each being on the road and in need of finances are varied and suit their personalities perfectly.

The best bit was the boisterousness and spunk of the characters. Even Sylvain, who is a little quieter than the other two, has some interesting traits. Like missing the horse he had to sell and hoping she forgave him. Or answering “sanity” when asked if they had forgotten anything before they went off on their first job together.

I would definitely recommend this for fantasy adventure lovers and people who enjoy great character building. It’s a long book, but don’t expect to be able to put it down easily before you reach the end.

I haven’t read any other books by this author, but I am looking at maybe getting one or two. Hopefully they won’t be written in present tense like this one, but even if they are, I’m fairly sure they will be an enjoyable read at the very least.

Reviewed by Alison

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Signal to Noise by Talya Andor


Title: Signal to Noise
Author: Talya Andor
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Words: 65,000
Characters: Sebastian (Bastian) and Theodor (Theo) Kautzer
POV: Third Person
Sub-Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian
Kisses: 4.5 Kisses

Blurb:

It’s been three years since the Incursion; three long years since Bastian and his twin brother Theo became the sole survivors on the planet Noise. Their distress calls have gone unanswered, and they are running out of supplies. They have no one but each other. And when the long-awaited rescue finally arrives, it brings with it complications that make being alone and forgotten look easy.

Review:

Firstly, this is a twincest story, so if that’s not your thing, stop now. Secondly, although the boys are only sixteen, they are legally considered adults. Rather than a romance, “Signal to Noise” is more of an adventure story, although there is a relationship between the twins that contains sex.

The twins are the only survivors on Noise, a planet that was once home to over six hundred humans and many more animals. The only other creatures on the planet are the “Invaders”, the alien species that wiped out the settlement and continues to attack their safe base. It has been three years since the invasion and, from what they can find on the galactic net, Noise was only one of the first planets taken in a war that, after three years, shows no sign of stopping.

Noise is a barely habitable planet only settled for the fuel that could be mined there. In the three years since the invasion, the human worlds have been rapidly depleting their stores of the rare mineral in their fight against the aliens, and so a “rescue” mission is sent to rescue any survivors, evaluate the readiness of the mine, and hopefully bring some of the fuel back. Survivors are not expected, which throws a few wrenches in the works.

I really like the boys and the way their story develops. The characters are all realistic, fully formed, and the scenarios extremely likely. But I’m afraid my favourite was actually Lieutenant Daniel Bane, the commander of the elite team of FPO special forces sent for the “rescue mission”. A few of the scenes are from his POV, and his cynical understanding of human politics and business really helps to add dimension that you wouldn’t get if the story were only told from the twins’ POV.

I think the best thing about “Signal to Noise” was the way the author managed to give the story a hopeless, depressed, dystopian feel even as Bastian and Theo have a chance of being rescued. Due to this atmosphere, I probably won’t be reading the story again in a hurry, because I tend to read for the hopeful, positive feeling. You will likely find it on my ereader though.

“Signal to Noise” would be best enjoyed by dystopian lovers. Classic science fiction fans should also take a look.

The only other book I’ve read by this author is “Body Option”, which is staying on my ereader, but I am considering the sequel to “Signal to Noise” which will be coming out soon.

Reviewed by Alison

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