Having read, Heretics#1, I must say that THE SERPENT AND THE DOVE did not disappoint. Like its predecessor, it was an action-packed thriller full of suspense, heroic action, peril, as well as intriguing plot twists. The Heretics, as an organization, are about to go international and respond to training requests from teams in other countries.
Betrayal from within the organization leads to deadly strikes against the new teams and forces the Heretics organization to go into hiding until the betrayer can be discovered. Key to the disaster is a person called Veritas who uses human pheromones (a topic of scientific debate and speculation) to great effect.
This is a well-written story that kept me reading. I cared about the main characters and the suspense was handled well. Until the end, I was looking at rating it five stars, but I ended up at four. The author is clearly setting the reader up for the sequel, but there were so many loose ends that it left me somewhat dissatisfied. I, of course, expect some loose ends to make room for a sequel, but this story felt as if there were too many for my taste.
Perhaps, when the next book is available, and I have read it, the loose ends that trouble me now, will be the appetizer that will cause me to enjoy the sequel more thoroughly.
Langston Wheeler is a member of the Brotherhood of the Gentle Hand. That is to say he is a telepath with extraordinary powers that has pledged to use these powers only for good and in service to others and never to aggrandize power.
On being sent to the planet Felicitas to investigate a rogue telepath, he meets the beautiful, courageous, and brilliant Tia Dynn. As a Gentle Hand, Wheeler is only permitted by his order to marry other telepaths. As he struggles with his feelings for Tia, it turns out the rogue telepath is actually part of a preliminary incursion, preparing Felicitas for a full scale invasion by telepaths and their army of hybrids. Langston and Tia are thrown into a fight for survival. The terror, the fight sequences, and the narrow escapes are well-handled and contain some interesting surprises.
In summary, this is an interesting, entertaining love story and thriller in a sub-genre that might be termed superman meets supermodel. It’s a story I will likely read again. I heartily recommend it to others.
I rate Onslaught four stars.
J. K. Bailey’s first book is a wonderful testament to his vivid imagination and story-telling ability. The story follows the adventures of a boy Chen and is full of wonderful imaginative inventions: Zoas which are animal human hybrids, Wryym which are dragon beings, there is a creature called Bio-Weapon, and a mobile plant-being called, appropriately enough, Venus (reminiscent of the Venus flytrap).
I enjoy books that not only tell an imaginative story, but also make me think. At one point Chen, when talking about fear, makes the counter-intuitive observation that “strength does not do away with fear, love does.” I thought about that for some time and came to agree with him.
My rating: 4 stars
Andrew M Seddon is an author of Fantasy and Science Fiction who has written more than a dozen books. His four-star review of The Battle for Halcyon can be found here on Goodreads. On the other hand, for your convenience, it can also be found below.
You can check out the Andrew M. Seddon website here.
I typically don’t like to jump into the middle of a series, and so decided to read “The Halcyon Dislocation” before embarking on “The Battle for Halcyon”. I don’t know that it is totally necessary, because “Battle”, taking place a year after “Dislocation”, can probably stand on its own, but I appreciated knowing the characters and background situation first.
There is much to like about both books. Kazmaier has obviously put considerable time, thought, and effort into world-building, in the process of which he has combined science fiction with fantasy and created a unique and intriguing parallel Earth into which the island university of Halcyon is dislocated as the result of a physics experiment. Abandoned ruined cities, strange creatures, unusual races both human and non-human, the lurking threat of an ancient evil – all combine to provide a fascinating milieu for the story he aims to tell.
Particularly well-done is the depiction of the effects of atheism and secularism as embraced by Halcyon University – principles (anti-principles?) which flourish in our own universities and culture. The decay of Halcyon society following the death of the morally upright chancellor starkly depicts the consequences when the forces of secularism and atheism are set loose (as if the lessons of the 20th century weren’t enough). The death plants, which “resurrect” the dead into soulless, mindless beings are potentially illustrative of this (although whether this was Kazmaier’s intent or not, I don’t know). On an individual level, the imprisonment of a Christian student for “mental illness” because he prays and believes that God answers prayer, is chilling, and surely not beyond the bounds of credibility.
Kazmaier illustrates the consequences of willful departure from God by creating several races of humans: the Ancients, who possess some capabilities that regular humans lack, still seek to follow God; their opposites are the Bent Ones, followers of the evil Meglir who corrupt the good creation for their own ends; the Lesser Men, humans like ourselves, but lacking the wisdom and some characteristics of the Ancients; the Halfmen, degraded humans that follow their lusts; and the Apeman, soulless creatures that obey the will of Meglir. Best of all are the amiable Hansa, lacking the intelligence of humans, but wise, good-natured, and self-sacrificing creatures.
This depiction of the corruption and degradation of humanity and society is perhaps the strongest aspect of the two novels.
For those who like adventure, there is more than enough and to spare as the Halcionites, most prominently Dave Schuster and his friends Al, Pam, and Floyd, adjust to life in their new world. Dave’s slow journey towards faith is handled discretely. Spiritual themes are generally woven in naturally, although Kazmaier is not afraid to have his characters engage in frank discussions when appropriate. There are fewer instances of this in “Battle” than in “Dislocation,” perhaps because of the increased focus on action in “Battle”.
The romantic relationship between Dave and Arlana (an Ancient) is handled with humor (I love how she likes to call him “Youngling”), while that between Al and Pam is rockier but also satisfying.
While I enjoyed both books, “Battle” does not feel as polished as “Dislocation”. Both come across stylistically as a little stiff, perhaps because Kazmaier prefers to use dialogue tags such as “said Dave”, “answered Al”, “encouraged Pam”, rather than the reverse. Other readers may not mind this. First person thoughts interjected into a third person narrative felt intrusive. And there are several inconsistencies. For example, Dave is distraught when he loses his New Testament when captured by Halfmen, but there was no mention of him possessing or reading a New Testament before, and no mention of one ever again. Similarly, a Swiss Army knife and flashlight appear out of nowhere.
“Battle” could benefit from additional proof-reading and polishing. There are numerous missing commas and quotation marks, repeated phrases, too many dialogue tags, and a tendency to use a character’s name repeatedly, when “he” or “she” would suffice.
But technical and stylistic details aside, it is really the story that matters, and Kazmaier’s Halcyon Cycle is certainly a worthwhile, enjoyable series with spiritual depth that is natural and not forced. On the level of storytelling, Kazmaier delivers. Not everything is resolved at the end of “Battle”; Kazmaier wisely leaves the door wide open for a sequel. The battle of good versus evil isn’t over. And surely there is more to come for Dave and Arlana…
I definitely recommend this series.
Reviews are valued by all authors since they represent feedback from very significant people–our readers. When those readers are also authors themselves they often bring an added level of insight from their own writing experience. I am grateful for this four-star review by J. R. Baude. By all means check out the original either on Amazon or on Goodreads. If you love fantasy and science fiction, why not check out J. R. Baude’s book, The Lazarus Chain on Goodreads or Amazon?
Links to the Original Reviews
Review on Goodreads
Review on Amazon
If you can’t find this review elsewhere …
The battle for Halcyon is a classic “second in a series” kind of book that moves it’s characters through a dense landscape of worlds and cultures. It is a journey picking up from the opening act (Book one which I unfortunately didn’t read before this) and leaving us wanting more in the end and looking forward to the third book. The story contains too many facets to elaborate here (and not to add spoilers as well), but as a whole, the novel has something for everyone with some deft surprises one would expect from any well-crafted, world-building speculative fiction.
There is a lot going on here, so any reader will want to consult the glossary in the back periodically to gain background and some history in regards to pretty much everything in the book. It’s a thoughtful addition by the author to aid the reader. Also, The length of the book is rather daunting and if I have one gripe, the writing can be over-detailed making the pace a bit too patient at times for the reader.
If you are a fan of speculative fiction, you should give this a read.
Check out Peter’s books here …
Reviews are valued by all authors since they represent feedback from very significant people–our readers. When those readers are also authors themselves they often bring an added level of insight from their own writing experience. I am grateful for this four-star review by Jes Drew. By all means check out the original either on the Drew blog or on Goodreads.
Links to the Original Reviews
Author Jes Drew’s Blog
Review on Goodreads
Review on Amazon
If you can’t find this review elsewhere …
Strangely enough, I read the third book before reading this, the second in the series. That was an interesting experience, but not a bad one. Suddenly, all the foreshadowing became references that I had inside knowledge of that the characters didn’t yet. Also, it was quite charming to see a couple that I knew as already married and established in their relationship first meet and fall in love. Theirs was a very interesting dynamic that I wasn’t expecting, knowing their future selves!
My favorite aspect of this particular book was probably that particular romance, because it was so sweet and charming. It reminded me somewhat of Aragon and Arwen from the Lord of the Rings if they met later in life instead of growing up together.
Another aspect of this book that I really like that also reminds me of The Lord of the Rings is the strong bond of friendship between the protagonists. While I haven’t yet read the first book to find out all of the friendship origins, I have seen how they have been tested and held true.
Also, it was great to visit this world (these worlds?) again, because it really is quite unique. There is something about it that combines fantasy, science fiction, and Biblical/apocalyptical together like the three strands of a braid.
Anyway, for anyone who likes speculative fiction, romances between immortals and mortals, and books in general, this is the series for you.
I received a copy of this book from the author, but was not required to give a favorable review.
Review first published on my blog: https://agencyofbooksandspies.blogspo…
Check out Peter’s books here …
Link to the original posting
Re-printed below in a more readable font
The main difficulty for me with the Halcyon Cycle has been the interval between books! On this occasion, (having previously written to ask when this was coming out) Peter kindly sent me a free review copy, which I found waiting for me on my return from a trip away. I was tired from my travels; so that made a perfect excuse to put my feet up and read – and I devoured over a third of the book in one day! After that, I decided I had better catch up on my other work and rationed myself quite severely. One tip: if, like me, it’s about 2 years since you read the last book I’d recommend re-reading that first. Maybe even re-read both. I found that I had become pretty hazy over some of the details: but I was so intent on following the story that I failed to notice the helpful glossary and maps at the back until I’d almost finished.
The book is very fast-paced, as Al and his friends engage in an increasingly desperate search to trace his wife and adopted son before they are lost forever in the terrifying abyss called Sheol. This leaves them less time for philosophical debate than in previous books. Nevertheless, the philosophical element is still present, covering such issues as the social bankruptcy of [tyranny], duty in the face of despair and whether the goodies are always good or the baddies irredeemably bad.
The book ends on a high note: but this is very evidently the calm before the storm. Key questions remain unanswered; and the eventual outcome is far from certain. Will good ultimately triumph over the evils that may arise from the depths of Sheol, from within the ranks of the Ancient Ones, or from Earth itself? Is there going to be another trilogy? I won’t be satisfied until I see the next series.
The first review of The Dragons of Sheol appeared months ago on Goodreads. I have always found David Hershey’s reviews thought-provoking and insightful. Here is his review of The Dragons of Sheol as well as the link to the original posting. I found this in my draft collection on my website and thought I should belatedly make it available for completeness since I have linked to several other reviews. David Hershey rated The Dragons of Sheol as 4 out of 5 stars. I have taken his comment of “there needed to be a summary of where we’ve been so far” to heart.
This is the third book in the Halcyon series and the third that I’ve had the privilege of reviewing for free. Social media has lots of problems, but one of its positives is that you can connect with people. [I’ve] never met Pete, but I’d almost consider him a friend. Or perhaps a kindred spirit.
Pete loves fantasy and has worked hard in creating his own fantasy world. I recall loving the first book, The Halcyon Dislocation, and liking the second, The Battle for Halcyon. “Recall” is an appropriate word there, as it’s been years since I read them. I guess I’ll start the review with a negative (well, I did say nice things about Pete first!): there really needed to be a summary of where we’ve been so far! Even Stephen King did this in his Dark Tower series and you can find summaries of that all over the internet. I imagine reading these books closer together would remedy this. But apart from the main characters, I struggled to remember.
On top of this, the primary big bad of the first two books is barely mentioned (Meglir). Instead the antagonist is Bigelow, a lieutenant of Meglir’s who has a personal vendetta against Al, one of the mains. But I couldn’t remember who Bigelow was. I pieced enough together as the story went, but a summary would have been nice.
Another thing to note about this book is simply its brevity. In a world of Sanderson and Jordan and Martin where world-building is everything, a lot is left to the imagination here. That’s not necessarily a negative. Yet it would be nice to know a bit more about secondary characters like Dwight and Tom and others who are usually around and sometimes say and do things but don’t seem well-developed.
Before I said Pete’s work reminds me of Lewis and Tolkien. Lewis’ Narnia stories were brief and the world was a bit shadowy as Lewis relied on the reader’s imagination. Even Tolkien’s The Hobbit includes 13 dwarves in Thorin’s company but most are not well-developed at all. Dwight and Tim are like Ori and Nori: they’re always around but you don’t know them. [Honestly], this book reminded me a lot of Terry Brooks Sword of Shannara series as I recall a few primary characters being complex and others just being there.
That said, I’m not gonna fault Pete for not writing a Wheel of Time rip off! Sure, a 600 page book full of details would be fun, but it’d be easy to lose focus. This book is about Dave and Al and Floyd and maybe 1-2 others. They are who we know and their actions drive the story. Each of them is a strong character. Reading their adventures remains fun.
And adventure they have! Dragons and spiders and other creatures chase them around the island of Sheol. Sheol, with its real world connotations was distracting as it’s quite different here. It’s not an underworld or land of the dead, though it is not a pleasant place either. Once I rid my mind of preconceptions, I found Pete’s creation scary and riveting.
Overall, it’s a great read. Pete’s best skill remains thing in real world style conversations into the story. Al and Floyd argue about God, Al reads his Bible, people pray. The characters aren’t preachy or unrealistic, they are simply Christian characters (or interested seekers) having an adventure and having conversations. Imagine Legolas and Gimli discussing the gods and such over a campfire during the quest. That’s what Pete gives us: the conversations other authors skip.
If you like fantasy, check this one out.
C. S. Wachter is a fantasy writer with more than seven books published including the four volume The Seven Words series. It is both delightful and instructive to read an encouraging review from an accomplished world-builder and fantasy author on the third book in The Halcyon Cycle, The Dragons of Sheol.
In case the links stop working and also for your convenience, the 4/5 star review is posted below …
When Al Gleeson’s wife and child are kidnapped by an old enemy, Al and his friends travel to Abaddon to stage a rescue mission. Abaddon is a fearful place filled with strong enemies; and, yet, the rescuers find friendship and help when least expected. The story is filled with twists and the rescue mission seems destined to fail at every turn.
This is an exciting story with superb world building. I felt the terror as the Necoran attacked and the ground rumble as the pachydons charged. The way the rebels work through the Guild and the feel of the city of Seth is wholistic and believable. And . . . of course, the dragons! Black. Brown. And the loveable Green.
So much of the action takes place on the terraces where my fear of heights caused me shivers when I thought of the immensity of the drop offs. Not for the faint-hearted but excellent fare for an armchair adventurer.
The action of the story begins with Dave, but he is only one of many characters. (The POV is restricted to only two—Dave and Al—so it is not overwhelming) Though there is a degree of depth to the characters, the depth is the fact that this is a plot driven story.
The Christianity is woven through the story in snippets of conversation, thoughts, and prayers. Some of the rescuers question the existence of God while others exhibit a strong faith. This is not a treatise on religion, but a fantasy and Kazmaier handles the Christian aspects well. But, deeper than any character’s faith or lack thereof, the very existence of Abaddon, Sheol, and the Bent Ones establishes the foundation of a Creator within the world-building itself. The Green Dragons express a hope in the Creator. Once again, well done.
Personally, I prefer character-driven stories to plot-driven stories. So, for me, this earns a four-star rating. It is a well-written book with interesting scientific details interspersed. I recommend you read the series starting with book one, The Halcyon Dislocation, to get a better feel for the characters.
I received a copy of this book for review purposes. This review is my own unbiased opinions.
Writing a novel is a bit like cooking dinner for someone else: a badly prepared meal will appeal to no one, but even a well-prepared main course will not appeal to everyone, since tastes legitimately differ.
Having said that, it is always a special pleasure for me, as a writer, to find a kindred spirit that seems to appreciate the same things in novels that I do. I am so grateful for speculative-fiction-author Tessa Stockton’s thoughtful and insightful five star review of The Dragons of Sheol. Check the links below …
In case you have difficulty accessing the review on these sites, see below …
After having finished reading The Dragons of Sheol, I can’t help but come away feeling as if this is one of the most solid, well-balanced novels within a high fantasy, epic journey setting. This is not a subgenre in which I often read, as it’s not one of my favorites in the speculative fiction realm. However, the amount of work and detail the author skillfully presented was impressive. That in itself won me over, never mind the successful plotline.
This is some of what I appreciated about the book: deep symbolism, amount of fine detail, weapons hosting names, well-developed and likeable characters, as well as villains who make you cringe. There’s an array of interesting creatures—and I enjoyed that a vicious lup was adopted and turned rather cute and helpful. I also favored Hanomer, a critter with a hand at the end of his tail, and the green dragons were downright cool. The story held intriguing manners of communication, and the powers of nature were highly descriptive. Abaddon is evil and the dark magic that presides there invokes fear and trepidation as it should. The Dragons of Sheol is a complex story well carried out.
As a Christian reader, there are refreshing surprises along the way. One is with Al, a protagonist who kick-starts this journey in a search to find his kidnapped pregnant wife and stepson. The honesty that is painted regarding his sense of failure and defeat followed by purpose is realistic and relatable. And I appreciated most of all how questions were presented about the nature of God via down-to-earth conversations between characters; therefore, it never came across as preachy. A teaser from one of my favorite exchanges comes from character Dave in speaking to Al: “At the end of the day, my question still stands. Can God really love me if he’d let me choose a destiny that involves eternal torment?” It’s this kind of philosophical exploration that works—really works in causing one to think and ask those tough questions regarding spirituality and fate.
Overall, I was impressed with the amount of creativity, philosophy, purpose, sheer writing skill, and also a unique addition of scientific elements to cap this outstanding world-build. We are gifted by the author with the explanation of air pressure and how it is that dragons can fly, the topography of Abaddon, contour of the terraces, relative maps, and an in-depth glossary.
In offering something constructive, it would be with the chapter titles. Seems like an insignificant thing, and maybe it is. However, I as a reader find that an air of mystery would have had more impact. Many of the chapter titles here flat-out told me beforehand what to expect, and that kind of killed the suspense for me (because I especially love elements of suspense and mystery). As an example, when I read the chapter heading, “Necroan Attack,” I thought, “Okay, something called a Necroan is going to attack,”—and I was right! With all the interesting twists throughout this book, the chapter titles seemed, in contrast, too direct in telling. One of my writing coaches from back in the day said the best thing for a writer to give a reader is room for their own imagination to fill in some blanks. Tease them with hints of what a chapter might be about, but don’t summarize the chapter by its heading.
Those who admire J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis will really dig this epic fantasy by Peter Kazmaier, as their influences are evident. Yet, I can also recommend this book in general, even if it isn’t what you’d typically read, because it’s very well done and deserving of a five-star review.
I received this book as an ARC for free and am giving it my honest review voluntarily.