|"Books" photo via Pixabay.com|
So, today, I'd like to introduce you to two wonderful new books I've recently read, from my publisher, Blue Ink Press. (You may remember that Blue Ink Press will be publishing my middle grade book, Zephyr Stone and the Moon Mist Ghost, in 2021.) Before reading my reviews of each book, below, I think it’s important to note that although historical fiction, Hard Road South by Scott Gates, and young adult fantasy, The King’s Oracle by Sherry Torgent are from completely disparate genres and target readership age groups, they both excel at voice, pacing, world building, and character development. Both books succeed in making the reader care about the characters and become emotionally invested in the outcome of the story and how it affects those characters.
the novel’s setting a medieval quality. Because of a long-ago clash and disagreement among the civilization’s leaders, approximately half of its population (the Alrenians,) resides in the tree canopy, living and moving about by an intricate network of rope bridges and platforms, and the other half (the Uluns,) are earth-bound, attempting to survive on the ground, much of which was made toxic during a past event known as The Great Destruction, when fire rained down upon the earth.
Another element they have in common is the theme of a journey. Journeys can be geographical or spiritual or a combination of the two. In the best stories, the physical journey leads to spiritual growth, as it does in these two novels. And when I speak of spiritual, I refer to the core of the person on the journey. That which is home to, and a reflection of, their true selves, regardless of the physical vessels in which they are housed. Following, are my reviews for each book in the order in which I read them.
Hard Road South by Scott Gates(Published by Blue Ink Press and available through Amazon and independent book stores listed at IndieBound )
Hard Road South is historical fiction set in the era just after the end of the
American Civil War. On an April morning in 1869, former union solider, Solomon Dykes, leaves his Connecticut home, of which he has little to hold him, and begins his journey to a place that caught his heart and imagination during the American Civil War—the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. He doesn’t make it quite that far, but settles in Loudoun County, near Middleburg, Virginia. There, his life becomes entangled with a South struggling to recover, both physically and spiritually, from the ravages of war and that which drove the nation to civil war.
|Hard Road South by Scott Gates|
Jeb Mosby is a farmer living with his wife and his elderly father, a father whose mind and body, both, tend to wander. On their farm, just outside of Middleburg, Mosby coaxes crops from the rocky ground as his lovingly tends to the needs of his home and family. It’s one of his Pappy’s wandering spells that brings Solomon Dykes into Mosby’s corner of the world. An encounter that forever changes the life trajectory of both Mosby and Dykes.
Although written for an adult readership, it would be appreciated by young adult readers, as well. After all, high school-aged readers are not limited to reading books written specifically within the Young Adult genre. High school is where I discovered and devoured some of the great works of literature, from Shakespeare to Dostoevsky to Hemingway. Although parents have less influence over their teenaged children’s reading habits than they did when those offspring were younger, they can rest assured there is nothing, in this novel, that could be construed as inappropriate for younger readers. If it were a movie, I’d rate it PG-14 for subject matter and interest.
The story is told, primarily, from the points of view of its two main characters, Dykes and Mosby, with a smattering of chapters told from the viewpoints of minor characters. Each chapter is devoted to one POV at the time and skillfully captures the voice of the character in dialogue, thought, and action.
|Scott Gates, author of Hard Road South|
Scott Gates wisely sets the pace of the book to that of a gentle, but steady and unceasing, plow-driven mule. It perfectly matches the pace of the era and the reader easily slips into that 19th century spirit, never boring, always pushing forward. The author seamlessly weaves in details of life in the 1860s, which add to the interest and credibility of the “historical” part of this historical fiction.
The King’s Oracle by Sherry Torgent
(Published by Blue Ink Press, available June 16, 2020 and may be pre-ordered through Amazon and independent book stores listed at IndieBound)
Set in an indeterminate time, the clothing, modes of travel, and weaponry give
|The King's Oracle by Sherry Torgent|
Twenty-two-year-old Wynter is a member of the Alrenians, the people of the eagle, and, like her father before her, is a Transporter, whose job is to transport items from place to place among the branches. We first meet Wynter as she reluctantly and secretly takes the place of her cousin, Jack, as an escort for the Alrenian queen. What follows, tests not only Wynter’s ability to disguise herself as a man, but her ability to think on her feet when she finds those booted feet, not skittering among the Alrenian treetops, but planted firmly on the dangerous ground of the Uluns.
The other primary character is Gideon, heir apparent of the Ulus, the people of the wolf. Troubled by a disturbing and recurrent dream of interaction with the Alrenian queen, he seeks the counsel of the Ulun seer, a Merlin-like character named Gotz. As the future king tries to make sense of the dream-induced vision Gotz presents him, and how it plays into his destiny as leader of the Uluns, Wynter enters his world of ground-dwellers and an uneasy partnership of sorts emerges as they both attempt to do what is best for their people.
|Sherry Torgent, author of The King's Oracle|
I was privileged to receive a digital version of The King’s Oracle as an advanced reading copy (ARC) and have, since, pre-ordered a paper-printed edition of this intriguing novel. Call me old-fashioned, but when I truly enjoy a book, I long to hold it in my hands and give it a home on my bookshelf!
Although it falls within the young adult genre, I believe it has crossover appeal to both older (11-12 year-old) middle grade readers and adult readers. Parents of older middle grade readers will find the subject matter and its treatment, entirely appropriate for that younger readership. Although, at twenty-two years old, the main character’s age falls beyond the common young adult genre’s teenaged protagonist, “the star of the show,” Wynter, has a youthful personality to which teen readers will relate. (I use the phrase “the star of the show,” because the book has a cinematic quality, which engages the reader and makes the book hard to put down.)
Although the majority of The King’s Oracle is told from the point of view of either Wynter or Gideon, the POV of a few other characters is also entwined throughout the book, with each chapter titled with the name of the character whose viewpoint is utilized in that section. By this method, the reader learns not only the thoughts and actions of the two main characters and their views of the world, but also becomes privy to the co-existing intrigue of other characters of which Wynter and Gideon are unaware.
There is just enough humor to buoy our spirits as the action moves swiftly along among forays into both realistic battle scenes and into the desires and sometimes confusing emotions of the human heart. Sherry Torgent has managed to weave together the look and feel of a long-ago time and far-away fantastical land with a fresh, contemporary voice that invites 21st century readers to feel at home amid the strangeness.
I invite you to read more about the authors, Scott Gates and Sherry Torgent, at Blue Ink Press.
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