Category: Book Review

Hopebreaker by Dean F. Wilson

Hopebreaker by Dean F. Wilson(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

In the world of Altadas, there are no more human births. The Regime is replacing the unborn with demons, while the Resistance is trying to destroy a drug called Hope that the demons need to survive.

Between these two warring factions lies Jacob, a man who profits from smuggling contraceptive amulets into the city of Blackout. He cares little about the Great Iron War, but a chance capture, and an even more accidental rescue, embroils him in a plot to starve the Regime from power.

When Hope is an enemy, Jacob finds it harder than he thought to remain indifferent. When the Resistance opts to field its experimental landship, the Hopebreaker, the world may find that one victory does not win a war.

[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook copy in conjunction with the blog tour in exchange for an honest review.]

Two years ago I really couldn’t have told you what steampunk was but it’s really been growing on me, particularly of late.  So when I had an opportunity to read Hopebreaker, I leaped at the chance.  It sounded like some pretty good steampunk from the blurb and it turns out that I was not wrong in trusting the description.

What is really striking about the world of Wilson’s The Great Iron War series is that it’s a mixture of fantasy and science to create a special blend of steampunk.  On the fantasy end, we have demons controlling the human population by swapping out the souls of human fetuses with the souls of demons.  Magical amulets are worn by rebellious pregnant women to prevent this from happening.  On the science end, we have things like the Hopebreaker and the other machines used by the Resistance and the Regime.  They’re classic steampunk complete with steam-powered engines and a mixture of cold machinery and elegance.  And the world-building itself was quite good because Wilson’s grasp of politics is also good.  Not everything is so black and white in his world and oftentimes there are people caught in the middle of the faction fighting that just really want to live their lives in peace, thank you very much.  There are traitors on both sides of the line and nothing is as it seems.

The main character Jacob was both excellent and hard to relate to.  On the surface he is an excellent character: he’s a thirty year old man who has been smuggling as a way of staying alive and rebelling against the Regime.  In theory he supports the Resistance by getting the demon-preventing amulets into the hands of women throughout the city but he really just wants to survive.  He doesn’t support the Regime because of the whole demon thing but he doesn’t actively support the Resistance because sometimes they can be just as bad as the ‘bad guys’.  But when he’s captured by the Regime and saved by the Resistance in a raid he really has no choice but to fight with them, particularly as he wants to stay alive.  Then he finds out that maybe he’s not as neutral and uncaring as he would have liked, particularly around the smart, brave and morally ambiguous Resistance leader Taberah (she’s not the supreme leader but she does command a fair number of men).  But once he meets Taberah that sort of gets to the crux of my problem with him as a character: I can’t connect with him on an emotional level.  Sure, he displays emotions in theory but I really wasn’t feeling them from him.  Maybe it’s just me but it was sort of disappointing that he seems to go through the novel with minimal emotional reactions to the crazy events unfolding all around him.

Despite my little quibble with Jacob, I did otherwise enjoy the novel because the plot was well paced and although it was sometimes predictable there were enough twists thrown in to keep things interesting.  You can probably guess the end of the novel by about a third of the way through but it’s well written so it’s actually quite an enjoyable journey that will have you eagerly turning the pages to find out what happens next.  Dean F. Wilson is excellent at writing suspense even when the outcome isn’t really in doubt and he sort of keeps a line of tension running through the novel that slowly ratchets up until things seem ready to explode.  So like I said, you’ll probably be able to predict the ending but you’ll enjoy the plot and want to know what happens next all the same.

If you’re looking for a little steampunk in your life or just a great suspenseful novel with generally good characters, Hopebreaker is for you.  It’s a great introduction to a steampunk world that I’m really looking forward to learning more about.

I give this book 4/5 stars.

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Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran

Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

When the British Empire sets its sights on India in the 1850s, it expects a quick and easy conquest. After all, India is not even a country, but a collection of kingdoms on the subcontinent. But when the British arrive in the Kingdom of Jhansi, expecting its queen to forfeit her crown, they are met with a surprise. Instead of surrendering, Queen Lakshmi raises two armies—one male, one female—and rides into battle like Joan of Arc. Although her soldiers are little match against superior British weaponry and training, Lakshmi fights against an empire determined to take away the land she loves.

Told from the perspective of Sita, one of the guards in Lakshmi’s all-female army and the queen’s most trusted warrior, The Last Queen of India traces the astonishing tale of a fearless ruler making her way in a world dominated by men. In the tradition of her bestselling novel Nefertiti, which Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander series, called “a heroic story with a very human heart,” Michelle Moran once again brings a time and place rarely explored in historical fiction to rich, vibrant life.

[Full disclosure: I requested and received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

I have to say that I’ve had mixed experiences with Michelle Moran’s books.  The first book I read by her was Cleopatra’s Daughter and I absolutely loved it.  The second book I read by her was Nefertiti and I both hated it and was supremely disappointed by it.  As a result of the second book I never read any of her other works but the blurb on Rebel Queen and my previously good experience with Cleopatra’s Daughter convinced me to give her a second chance.  In the end, I am so glad that I did.

Rebel Queen reveals to Westerners like me a society and culture that we rarely think of.  I’m ashamed to admit that before I read this book I knew essentially nothing about Indian history other than the odd occasion when they came into contact with empires and cultures I did study like the Mongol and Alexandrian Empires.  So imagine my surprise and my delight when I learned that not only was Rebel Queen mostly historically accurate, it taught me so much about Indian culture.  I loved learning in a very organic way about the different gods and goddesses in the Hindu religion that are really just aspects of one god and I loved learning about how various cultures influenced India up until that point.  The concept of purdah brought in by the Muslims (the practice of separating and sequestering women) was definitely interesting to see in Sita’s little village and when she finally travelled to become a bodyguard to Queen Lakshmi it was in stark contrast to the open, more equal expectations of men and women in the capital city.  Of course I don’t know how accurate all of this is but Michelle Moran seems to have done her research and only changed a couple of the place names and the chronology just a tiny bit throughout the whole book so I think it’s safe to say that it’s at least mostly accurate.

Sita was a very interesting character.  When her mother dies giving birth to her little sister, the only hope her family has of providing a dowry for one of them is for Sita to start training as a Durgavasi, the elite all female bodyguard to the rani (or queen in English).  There are only ever ten Durgavasi at any one time so Sita has to become an expert in the bow and arrow, pistols, swords and daggers as well as learn both English and another one of the main languages in India in order to be a valuable member of the court.  When she’s chosen as the newest Durgavasi at only 17 it’s the culmination of a lot of hard work but also the start of a new type of hard work.  There’s of course the physical side of training but Sita also has to become versed in the little intricacies of the court as well as learn how to speak, act and dress like a member of the rani’s court.  Not everyone in the Durga Dal is so kind to her, however, and one in particular seems out to get her constantly.  As she learns to integrate, Sita certainly grows as a person and her main concern is always her little sister back home.  But when the British start to annex Jhansi, Sita is forced to make heart-rending choices as she is forced to choose between her family and her rani, who has become a friend to her.  I think we all know essentially how the story ends but it’s Sita’s journey that makes it worth reading.

For historical fiction, Rebel Queen is very fast-paced but by most standards it’s in a sort of happy middle.  It’s fast-paced enough to stay interesting but at the same time there are times the plot slows down to allow you to get your bearings and learn more about the characters.  Character development is never sacrificed in the name of the plot and I loved seeing not only how Sita grows into her role but also how the rani goes from being childless to being a mother to a figurehead/peacekeeper and finally the full on rebel queen that history knows her as.  It’s an interesting journey and even if the plot had been slower paced it still would have kept my interest.  Michelle Moran is a pretty good writer in general so it’s great to see the proof in this book that the disaster that was Nefertiti was a fluke.

If you like historical fiction I really can’t recommend Rebel Queen enough.  Even if you’re like me and no absolutely nothing about Indian history, it’s very hard not to love this book.  You’ll fall in love with the characters and cheer them on even though you can probably guess how things end and maybe you’ll learn a little bit about Indian culture and history like I did.  So go on and buy this book!  It releases today here in Canada and the US.  (It releases in early April in Britain under the title The Last Queen of India.)

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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The Silver Pear by Michelle Diener

The Silver Pear by Michelle Diener(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

An unlikely princess . . .

Kayla is determined to master her new-found abilities as a wild magic witch. She’s learning everything she can so she and her betrothed, Rane, can put a stop to the sorcerers who are recklessly gathering their power, building up their magic to take each other on in a war that will destroy the countries of Middleland.

An even more unlikely sorcerer . . .

Mirabelle’s father was one of the greatest sorcerers in Middleland, but when he used the magic in the silver pear to bespell his pregnant wife to give birth to the greatest sorcerer who would ever live, he never thought that child would be a girl. Mirabelle is nothing like a usual sorcerer, confounding every expectation, and when she comes to the rescue of Rane’s brother, Soren, she makes a decision few sorcerers would. She saves him, rather than herself, losing the silver pear in the process.

And using magic always exacts a price . . .

With war not just a possibility but simply a matter of time, there are no neutral parties and no fence-sitters in Kayla and Mirabelle’s new world. Everyone is either an ally or an enemy and there is a price to pay for everything. The question is, how high will it be?

[Full disclosure: Michelle Diener gave me a pre-approval widget for NetGalley so I could receive an ebook in exchange for an honest review.]

I must admit that while I downloaded The Silver Pear in fall 2014, I was so busy that I didn’t have time to re-read the first book, The Golden Apple and so I didn’t actually get to read it until a couple weeks ago in February 2015.  So by the time I finally got to read this book, I was more than ready to slip back into Michelle Diener’s awesome fantasy world to learn Kayla and Rane’s fates.

What makes this book different from the first one is that it’s told from four different perspectives grouped into two main sections: Kayla and Rane get alternating chapters before the viewpoint switches to Soren and Mirabelle for alternating chapters before switching back to the first pair.  In the hands of some authors this would never work but Michelle Diener makes each character’s voice so distinct that it would be very hard to confuse the points of view of the four different main characters.  And the alternating points of view sometimes overlap but they’re never just a recap of what happened in the head of another character just one chapter ago.  That makes the plot move forward constantly at a really unrelenting pace; it’s part of the reason why I stayed up to read this book until way too early in the morning.

As with the first book, the characters are amazing.  Kayla still remains my favourite because I love seeing her grow into her power as a wild magic witch but Mirabelle is an interesting new addition to our unlikely quartet.  She has a fantastic backstory that’s filled with both tragedy and privilege and once she learns to trust Soren she reveals it bit by bit in a natural, very organic way that never slows down the plot.  Both Rane and his wayward brother Soren were excellent characters as well and you can tell that both of them care very much for not only their sibling but for the amazing women they travel with for a large chunk of the novel.  All four main characters are well fleshed-out but Michelle Diener also never neglects her secondary characters, particularly Ylana, the earth witch Kayla froze in The Golden Apple.  Ylana is not all that she appears to be and she definitely plays her cards close to her chest.  At the end of the day, you never really know what side she’s going to choose and that kept me in suspense for a fair bit of the novel.

So here we have a great plot and very believable, realistic characters, but how was the world-building?  Like with the first book, I was blown away by Michelle Diener’s world-building.  Only this time our adventures are not confined to the Great Forest!  We get to see many of the kingdoms that make up the world of The Silver Pear and the toll the feuding sorcerers have taken on those kingdoms.  Battles between sorcerers can get very, very nasty and the politics behind which king backs which sorcerer are complex and often fraught with danger.  Will Kayla and the gang be able to corner the worst sorcerer, Eric the Bold and his companion before they both destroy the kingdoms?  I’ll leave it up to you to figure that part out when you read the book.

Really, if you read and loved The Golden Apple, you’re going to love the second installment in the Dark Forest set.  If you haven’t picked up the first book I would definitely recommend reading it before tackling The Silver Pear but it’s not totally necessary because of the handy summary of events Michelle Diener has at the beginning of the novel.  I can’t recommend both books enough so if you like unique fantasy with three dimensional characters and fascinating worlds, you can’t go wrong with either this book or the first book.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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Losing Heart by Donna Brown

Losing Heart by Donna Brown(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

“I hate you. I hate you with all of Sylvia’s heart.”

Helen has waited for months for the heart that will save her life. After reaching out to the grieving mother of her donor heart, Helen realises that a second chance comes at a price. The price, she soon realises, is much steeper than she’d ever have chosen to pay.

There’s more than one way to break a heart. There’s more than one way to destroy a life…

[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook copy through Masquerade Tours’ Reader Round-Up in exchange for an honest review.]

I didn’t even really read the blurb all that closely before I requested the book, to be honest.  So the events of the book were somewhat of a shock for me.  A pleasant shock, as it turns out.

Helen is an amazing character.  At first she learns that she’s dying of congestive heart failure when she’s still so young, only in her 40s.  Then, thankfully, she gets a donor heart from a young woman killed in a car accident and thus gets a new lease on life.  Of course she feels guilty that she thrives from another family’s suffering but she is very eager for life to go on.  Except that everyone around her really is acting weird.  Her husband calls her an ingrate for being tired while recovering instead of going around and volunteering to house the homeless and be perpetually cheerful 24/7.  The donor’s only living family, her mother, contacts Helen and at first seems rather nice but starts to reveal a darker side involving some pretty interesting mind games.  And of course Helen starts an affair with a doctor, who turns out to be a really awesome guy but feels guilty that she’s immediately doing a ‘bad’ thing upon getting a new lease on life.

So Helen is going through all of these crazy emotions at once and as a reader it was absolutely fascinating.  The fact that she didn’t immediately turn into a saint but rather continued living as a normal person was far more believable and her guilt over her affair was palpable but we also got to see her happy, which she clearly isn’t with her husband.  It’s kind of jarring to see how her new boyfriend treats her in comparison to her husband, who seems increasingly distant and critical of Helen.  Especially when Sylvia’s mother is around as a living reminder of the heartbreak that gave Helen a new lease on life.

The plot is amazing.  I think you can kind of guess the gist of it from the blurb but I have to say that the actual plot is far better than the blurb really hints at.  I can’t really describe it all that much without spoiling the whole thing but let’s just say that not everyone is as they appear in Losing Heart.  Donna Brown’s characters are people and that means they are flawed; sometimes they lie, cheat or cover important things up in order to get what they want.  Sometimes they have misunderstandings with their friends and/or partners that lead to disaster.  Sometimes they put their needs ahead of the needs of everyone else.  So while the plot is fast-paced because the book is so short, it really is character-driven and very realistic.  The ending is sort of predictable but also sort of surprising.

And no, that last sentence really won’t make sense until you read the book.  So go and pick up Losing Heart!  It’s definitely worth your while.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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*Not available.

Bursting the Atmosphere: What Happens When Rain Falls Up by Robert Ben Mitchell

Bursting the Atmosphere by Robert Ben Mitchell(Cover picture courtesy of Amazon.)

Nostradamus and the Bible foretell the end of times. In school we learn that five billion years from now the sun engulfs and incinerates the Earth. Recent headlines say asteroid 1950 DA might wipe out all life on Earth if it collides with us in 2880. But what if none of this matters? What if none of this can harm us, because what if all life is gone from Earth before the year 2100? Using both thermodynamics and the Ideal Gas Law, Robert Ben Mitchell explains how global phase change (not global warming) is the ever present danger that might very well be the end of the world as we know it.

Author’s Note: “For those who seem a little intimidated at this point by words like thermodynamics and phase change, do not run to find your high school or college physics books just yet. In some ways, I fully understand your trepidation in engaging in an ivory-tower discussion about such a lofty topic. That fear notwithstanding, I was once told by a professor of mine that if you can’t explain your ideas at eleven o’clock in the evening to the graveyard shift waitress who is serving you coffee at an all-night diner, then no one is ever going to understand what you are talking about. So drop your books and pick up your aprons, because I am going to try and make this explanation easy to understand.”

[Full disclosure: I accepted a free ebook from the author in exchange for an honest review.]

Global warming, climate change, global phase change…call it what you will, normally I would not touch the topic with a ten foot pole on my blog.  In part because I don’t have a good background in environmental science and also because despite the overwhelming evidence that it does exist, the climate change controversy invites some heated debate to put it mildly.  I honestly didn’t think it was worth it until I got a review request from Robert Ben Mitchell asking me to review this relatively simple yet scientific explanation of why we should all be a little more worried than we are about climate change.  I was a little reluctant but I decided to give it a go.

As promised in the Author’s Note in the blurb, this is not an overly complicated highly technical book.  Your average high school student could read this book and understand the science behind it quite well because the author is able to explain the science in a more accessible way.  He doesn’t dumb things down so much as use regular language to explain the concepts behind climate change and add in statistics that present to us the fact that it is a clear danger to human life as we know it.  Even if you have little or no science background I think you’ll find his explanations very easy to understand and at the end of every chapter there’s a bullet point summary of all of the concepts discussed so the information sinks in much better.  Overall it simplifies things without talking down to readers but there are some times where I did feel like I was being spoken to like a child.  That creeps into the information rarely but it definitely is there.

One of the things I liked very much about Bursting the Atmosphere is that the flow is very logical, organized and none of the sections are overly long.  This is the kind of book where you could read a section when you have fifteen minutes to spare at lunchtime and then go back into it at dinner without getting confused.  Robert Ben Mitchell organizes things in a logical fashion: first he talks about the controversy surrounding climate change, then he goes into the science of it and then he uses the science he just explained to extrapolate his findings to what might happen if something isn’t done soon.  He does point out that life on earth will be extremely difficult for millions if not billions of people but it’s never done in a sensational 24 hours news like manner.  That doesn’t make it any less terrifying, however.

Really, if you’re looking to understand the science behind climate change and really don’t have a strong science background, this is the book for you.  It’s not overly data heavy but there are places where you can fact-check everything the author presents and he cites his sources quite well.  It’s a well-written analysis of climate change and it is definitely accessible to the average person.  Sometimes he talks down to his readers but those instances are rare and don’t really detract from the arguments and data he presents.  All in all, it’s a pretty good if terrifying look at the possible future of our planet.

I give this book 4.5/5 stars.

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Voracious by Mia and Mason Darien

Voracious by Mia and Mason Darien(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Sometimes, life doesn’t begin until after you’re dead.

Days stretch out in a series of predictable steps. A to B to C to A. Work. Friends. Life. But for some people, it’s not enough. It’s not enough for D. Possessed of a ravenous hunger for more, he’s at a loss for how to find it.

Until he meets Cielle. She’s everything he’s looking for: new and exciting.

And a vampire, which he’s less crazy about.

But when “new and exciting” Turns him, D is forced into an undead life he never anticipated. Trying to adjust to this new existence is hard enough, but he’s about to get more than he ever bargained for.

Will it be enough to sate his hunger?

[Full disclosure: I obtained a free ebook through the blog tour for the series but was under no obligation to review it.  As always, this review is honest.]

Sometimes collaborations between authors work, sometimes not.  Sometimes authors collaborate with their spouses to write a book just like Mia Darien did.  Again, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.  But in the case of Voracious, it most definitely worked.

D is a man who we have no full name for but that’s about as mysterious as he gets.  He’s just a regular guy at a nine to five job but deep down he yearns to be something more.  In the beginning, the Dariens do a really good job creating this sense of “there’s gotta be more to life” for him, this inescapable energy, this mysterious urge to have something more out of life.  It’s really hard to describe but in the book it is done extremely well.  And it of course leads to D becoming a vampire, lured in by the mysterious Cielle who turns him somewhat against his will.  Being a vampire would certainly add spice to anyone’s dull life but D takes it pretty badly because of the whole “against his will” thing.  In his situation I wouldn’t really do much different but unfortunately his ignoring Cielle despite her pleas leads to her death.  Then D is left to transition to a vampire without a sire and to hunt down the people that killed Cielle.  It’s when he decides to do this that we finally see some of that drive of his satiated as he finds a new role both as avenger, and oddly enough, protector of a woman he saves.

A lot of books with unnamed narrators just don’t work in my opinion.  The author tries so hard to create an air of mystery around characters that it becomes laughable.  However, the Dariens are more than capable of pulling this off.  They depict D’s drive to have something more so well that you start to feel the same as he does by about the end of the second or third chapter.  He is so well written that it’s hard not to connect with him despite his sometimes ethically questionable actions.  He is, in essence, a perfect character because he’s interesting and readers can easily connect to him on an emotional level.  Haven’t we all wanted something more out of life at one point or another?

The plot was pretty amazing.  I really had no idea where Voracious was going for the majority of the book so the ending was kind of a pleasant surprise.  It’s certainly not your perfect fairytale ending but it is emotionally satisfying and you have fewer questions than you do at the beginning of the story.  Of course as always we get to see Sadie (the main character of Cameron’s Law, the first book) through the eyes of another and really appreciate what a great person she is for helping out so much in the supernatural community.  She certainly helped out D during his adjustment period and when he had no choice but to turn another vampire, something that is sort of forbidden for new vampires.  Although the plots of the first two books were fast-paced, Voracious is probably one of the more action-oriented books of the series.  It never sacrifices character development for the plot, though.

As always, the world-building in the Adelheid series is fantastic.  When we meet Sadie she’s already been a vampire for several decades so it was nice to see how a new vampire would be treated, especially since Cameron’s Law was passed and they didn’t have to hide their new abilities.  One of the things I actually liked the most, however, was seeing how the animators in the series work.  We saw an animator bring back a dead person temporarily to get their side of the story in the second book, When Forever Died, but seeing the other uses for animators was fascinating and oddly touching.  Once again, Mia Darien has expanded the world of Adelheid and she’s done it to great effect in collaboration with her husband.  It’s really hard not to love Voracious.

Even if you haven’t read the previous two books, I highly recommend picking up Voracious.  Since every book in the series is only slightly connected and features a different character you can pick up a book anywhere in the series and still enjoy it.  And really, starting with D’s story is as good a place as you’ll get.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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Search for the Golden Serpent by Luciana Cavallaro

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00044](Cover picture courtesy of the author.)

It’s not where he appears, it’s when.
What if you’re born during another time grew up in the 21st century and thrust back into the past? Confused? So is architect, Evan Chronis.
Evan drawn by screams ventures out to his backyard and sees blood trickling down the limestone steps. He steps off the veranda and finds himself in the days of great and marvellous power, a time when the gods ruled the universe.
To return to the 21st century life he longs for, he must risk his life in search of powerful, treasured relics older than the Holy Grail. But what he finds might be more than he expected.
Will Evan find the relics and return home or will he remain forever stuck in a world so different from his own?

[Full disclosure: I was contacted by the author and provided with an ebook in exchange for an honest review.]

I’ve read quite a few of Luciana Cavallaro’s previous works so I was pretty excited to read Search for the Golden Serpent.  The only problem was that she had previously only published short stories and I was a little worried about how she would transition into longer works like this one.  After all, a 354 page novel is not the same as a 40 page short story.  Still, I was more than ready to give her a chance.  In the end, I honestly didn’t even need to worry in the slightest.  Her debut novel is just as good as her previous short stories, even better in many ways.

Evan Chronis is a very memorable character.  In the modern world he’s a successful architect who absolutely adores his job.  Then Zeus decides that he’s needed back in his real time: the early years of ancient Greece, after the sinking of the mythical Atlantis.  I don’t know about you but being immersed in the modern world and suddenly being contacted by a god who drops you in the ancient world would be a little jarring to say the least.  Evan, understandably, really doesn’t handle it all that well in the beginning until he begins to speak the language and make friends.  But poor Evan, called Evandros in his own time, doesn’t ever really get a break: Zeus and the other gods have sent him on a mission to recover powerful artifacts to prevent their eventual fading into historical fiction in the modern era.

He really does have a remarkable physical journey but also a mental and emotional one.  When he goes back to the past he fights it tooth and nail, desperate to go back to our own time.  However, when he realizes that his only option is to recover the artifacts he throws himself fully into the task.  In the beginning Evan is also a little arrogant in his own way, utterly convinced that the people in the past are more primitive and somewhat inferior.  Yet through his journeys he tends to appreciate them a little more and realize that many ancient cultures had more accomplishments than just their fantastic architecture.  And when he befriends Phameas on the ship that rescues him and is forced to learn an entirely new language in a very short time, it sort of humbles him.  He learns a lot on his journey and it was really interesting to see how his character changed throughout the course of the novel.

One of the things I absolutely loved is that Luciana Cavallaro has clearly done her research.  She so vividly describes past cultures that we very rarely read about in historical fiction that you feel like you’re really there.  From the streets of Carthage to the temples of ancient Egypt and a ship from Phoenicia, you will feel totally immersed in the world of the ancient Mediterranean.  It’s brilliant because it shows old empires like Egypt and contrasts it with the rising might of the Greeks.  It’s so rare in historical fiction to get a more international picture like this one and it’s a real treat to have it handled by an author with such a passion for history.  Obviously Evan and his group are fiction but many of the main events and where they occurred are real.  It’s absolutely fascinating and I’m not really doing it justice with this description.

The plot begins a little slow but that’s quickly remedied as Evan is contacted by Zeus and is forced to become Evandros, the version of himself that was raised solely in the past instead of just being born in it.  I suppose some people will find Evan’s period on the Phoenician ship a little boring but I really enjoyed his adjustment period as he learned more about the world he was suddenly dropped into.  It helps that Evan’s point of view is interspersed with scenes with the gods, who are more than a little worried about their fate as well as scenes with the rest of his crew, who are understandably wondering where the Evandros they knew and loved has gone and whether or not he’s even alive.  By the time I got to the end of the book I was on the edge of my seat, anxious to see what would happen next. The ending was a cliffhanger but it was a good place to stop and it was a fairly satisfying end.  It made me want more but I had fewer questions than when I started out.

Luciana Cavallaro really has a gift for making you care about her characters and their fates even if you don’t necessarily think they’re sympathetic or likeable.  That much was obvious from her short stories but she really transitioned into a longer work really well.  The beautiful descriptions that were the hallmark of her short stories for me are expanded and add so much more to the richness of the world she brought to life.  So if you loved Cavallaro’s short stories, you will also love Search for the Golden Serpent.  And if you’re never ready anything by her, you need to pick up one of her short stories and/or pre-order a copy of her debut novel.  You certainly won’t regret it.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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