Fantasy fiction

Blog Tour: The Sentinels Promotion

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The world is new, created from a great explosion caused by Chaos in a childish rage. Order is born from the intense light of the explosion, sent as a balance to the Dark One. As the world is created around It, Order realises that It cannot stand alone and creates the Sentinels. Extreme beings with amazing powers, they shape and mould the world, creating creatures and plants to inhabit it. A world of light and love.

Chaos cannot understand why these beings will not bend to his will and worship him. He tries to destroy their work and riles against them. In answer, Order forms a plan. A being; born of two of the Sentinels, with abilities stronger than their own. A child in human form, who must be raised by The People in order to understand their race. The One True Child.

Carling is that child. Raised in the sacred valley in secret, along with her four brothers. Raised by Tarl’a, the Keeper of the Stones and her husband, Mailcon. Her life is quiet and uneventful, until she turns thirteen. It is then she learns of her true identity and purpose on earth. Now she must come to terms with this great change and prospect of finally being able to leave the valley to be taught her skills by the Sentinels. She must do this before Chaos can find her and attack before she is ready.

It is a story of learning and growing, of making mistakes and building on them. It is good vs evil, light vs dark and love vs hate. Carling’s very life depends on the love of her family and he soul-mate. It is also a story about how the world will only survive if we can control hatred and learn to love.

From Chapter One

The rage knew no bounds as he held the world in his fist. He had created it to be his and his alone—for the people he had brought to life to serve only him and his ways. They did not appreciate what he had done for them—they had wanted more, demanded more. Now his rage would be the last thing they knew as he squeezed the world and brought it all to an end, creating a vast explosion that lit up the darkness surrounding him. A pinpoint of light grew and spread, for a moment blinding him, and he roared at his displeasure of it.

The light encompassed all, sending out waves, pulsating deep into the reaches of the universe. Fragments of the old world riding the shockwaves were flung into the depths. Fiery-hot chunks burning brightly spun out of control, attracting rock and minerals to circle them. As the spread of the explosion began to slow, the fragments began to cool. In the centre of the explosion, the bright light continued to shine; from its core, a Being became conscious and rose from the wreckage, glowing brightly with swirls of white light under Its skin.

The Being looked around and found a universe in chaos; order and stability were lost to the winds. It stood and looked out at the remains of a great world, gathering its memories to Itself. One large piece of rock It stood on, circling the star that warmed the ground at Its feet, and the Being began to weep for those who had been destroyed. All the history and the suffering they had endured under their cruel master brought forth great sobs from the Being. The tears It shed dripped down from Its eyes and onto the ground. So many tears for the loss of so many that a river began to run.

The river flowed away from the grief-stricken Being and filled all the low spaces on the rock, collecting into great lakes and seas. The sadness the Being had felt now turned to rage, and It struck the ground with Its fist. The land split, and the great molten core that had not yet cooled swelled up and burst out of the gap It had made. The hot magma created new land and boiled away some of the water, creating a great steam cloud that hung in the sky.

The distant star warmed the ground and condensed the water until the clouds were so sodden that they dropped from the sky. As the rain fell, the sunshine created a perfect form. An arc of light split into seven perfect shades of colour that stood out from the barren and dark landscape. The Being stood on an upthrust of rock and wondered at the amazing vision; It did not see the dark one approaching.

“You are not welcome here; this is my world, my universe. Who are you?” the dark one demanded of the Being. It turned to face the form that approached and recognised him as the being responsible for the turmoil that now reigned over the universe.

“I am from the light. The source of which is due to you, and in this place you shall never have authority. Never again will you oppress a people and use them for your own ends,” the Being said back, Its hands clasped in front of It and a sadness still in Its eye.


L.C. Conn grew up on the outskirts of Upper Hutt, New Zealand. Her backyard encompassed the surrounding farmland, river, hills and mountains which she wandered with her brothers and fed her imagination. After discovering a love for writing in English class at the age of eight, she continued to write in secret. It was not until much later in life that L.C. turned what she thought was a hobby and something fun to do, into her first completed novel. Now married, L.C. moved from New Zealand to Perth, Western Australia, and became a stay at home mum. While caring for her family and after battling breast cancer, a story was born from the kernel of a dream. The first book of The One True Child Series was begun, and just kept blooming into seven completed stories.

Massive thanks to Shannon at Reads and Reels for all her work in coordinating this blog tour! Don’t hesitate to check out the author on Amazon if this sounds up your alley!


Fantasy fiction, Young Adult fiction

The Most Likely Tag


Disclaimer: Utterly and completely stealing this from SM Metzler’s post where I first saw it a couple weeks back.

This is a tag about characters, that I’m applying to my cast from The Order of the Twelve Tribes. (By the way, some of these questions are a bit odd, but I didn’t come up with them, so can’t be held accountable.)

What shall we discover about my fictional darlings? Let’s find out!

Most likely to become a poet: Flynn Driscoll

Definitely Flynn. He’s such a romantic. And he’s well read, so I’m sure he’s familiar with the classic poets.

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Most likely to dance in the rain: Emma Novak

She has that carefree, good-natured, take-life-as-it-comes spirit. Plus, she loves to dance. And she’s not the kind to get bothered by her clothes getting wet.

Most likely to get punched in the face: Amelia Coeur D’Alene

For those of you surprised by this one (“Hey, wait, isn’t she an angel?!”), remember that she made some decisions that were extremely unpopular or challenged by several other characters (among them, Emma, Avery, Sophie, and the changelings she was looking after). And since most of the time she’s not a very intimidating angel, a disgruntled mortal or halfbreed probably would give her a smack if the chance presented itself.

(And realistically, she’d accept their reasoning for this action, and just move on.)

Most likely to drop everything and become a sheep herder: Avery McKinnon

This technically did happen! Since she ran off to the fey realm before the age of 18 when life in the “regular” world got to be too much…

Most likely to be found in a library: Pretty much all the Scholars.

Happily so.

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Most likely to say “oops” after setting something on fire: Miles Torrington

Poor Miles, the youngest of the Torringtons, who still has such a strong glamour on his halfbreed self, and therefore doesn’t really know how to use his magic yet. I can totally picture this occurring as part of an attempted enchantment gone terribly wrong.

Most likely to survive a zombie apocalypse: Max Brisby

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(He looks nothing like Daryl Dixon, by the way. I came up with the character before I was introduced to this everlasting hero.)

Max is a veteran Hunter who comes from a Scholar family. This means he’s adept at using a variety of weapons, hiding from monsters, working long hours, thinking on his feet, finding obscure information, and taking care of minor wounds/injuries with little outside help. He’d absolutely make it to the other side.

Most likely to fake their own death: The Nephilim

That’s because they already have. This is an old trick of the fallen angels, in the hopes of evading detection by the Order or their enemies.

Most likely to die and haunt friends: Sophie Driscoll

Though she wouldn’t do it out of any malice or spite. She’d want to know what was going on with her family and friends, how they were doing, what they were up to. (And if they lost something, the chances are very high she’d retrieve it and put it somewhere they’d be sure to see it. That’s how she rolls.)

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Fantasy fiction, self-publishing

Mini Reviews: Fellow Indie Authors!

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Good morning! The title of this post gets right to it! Today I’ll be reviewing two indie author titles I recently read, and previewing one that I’ll be featuring in the near future!

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Christmas in Talesend by Kyle Robert Shultz

This was actually released last Christmas season, but I only got around to reading it (ahem, sorry, everybody) this year (2018). Anyway, it was all so worth the read, regardless of time frame compared to original publication. These holiday stories are so charming and fun, all packed with Shultz’s trademark humor and wit, as well as plenty of heart, and more than enough reference to past events in the Afterverse and foreshadowing towards things likely to come up in future books to please even the most pedestrian fan. This is a lovely, simple, straightforward fantasy series — in terms of just being fun fantasy stories based around fairytale retellings — and then it deviously rips your heart out and requires you to buy stock in Kleenex. I’m continually pleased with whatever is produced from Shultz’s pen, and always look forward to more.

The Raventree Society (season 1) by JE Purrazzi

I won an annotated ARC in a giveaway, and this was the first time I’d read something by this Phoenix Fiction Writer, so it was doubly an event! The Raventree Society is about one of those TV shows that go to “haunted” houses and films “encounters” — but in reality, it’s all faked. Until the day it isn’t; until the day the host’s brother crosses perilous paths with a real ghost. This collection of stories was an intriguing, creepy, and unexpected take on this sort of scenario. I was surprised at how gritty the author was willing to be; and for the subject matter of such a tale, it really worked to get across all the powerful and raw emotions the characters were experiencing (as well as highlight the unfortunate tragedy that surrounds sudden death, a fact we like to ignore but would be unwise to forget). Those of you who get jumpy over paranormal thrillers, be forewarned; there’s plenty of suspense and scares and unpleasant description; but Purrazzi used this technique to poignant effect, and not simply for “shock and awe,” so it fits the genre and yet doesn’t cater to some of its more debase tropes. And she’s working on the sequel — so you’d better get reading the first! Just…leave a light on.

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The Beast in the Machine by EB Dawson

This is an ARC I was given by the author (the release date of which will probably be confirmed later in 2019), and I am very excited to get to it when time permits. This is a sci-fi retelling of Beauty and the Beast, and no one does twists on sci-fi quite like EB Dawson. So this will be a pleasure to read and review. (I promise I’m getting there, Beth!)

One of my goals for this year is to read more titles by indie authors — toss me your recommendations in the comments!

blogging, Fantasy fiction

To Dream the Blackbane Blog Tour

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Hello, everyone! Today I’m helping out Shannon at Reads & Reels with her blog tour for To Dream the Blackbane by Richard J O’Brien. First of all, big thanks to Shannon for providing the materials and coordinating all of this and many other blogging events!

To Dream the Blackbane

Publication Date: December 29th, 2018

Genre: Fantasy/ Urban Fantasy

A cosmic event in 2015 fused Earth with the faerie realm. Scientists referred to the event as The Anomaly. A byproduct of The Anomaly was the advent of hybrid beings—people who became mixed with whatever animal or object was closest to them the moment the event occurred. Humans, or pedigrees, soon relegated fairy refugees and hybrids into ghetto zones in large cities.

Seventy years later, Wolfgang Rex, a second-generation hybrid—part human, part Rhodesian Ridgeback—is a retired police detective who runs a private investigation business in Chicago’s Southside. It’s a one-hybrid show; though Rex couldn’t survive without his assistant, the faerie Sally Sandweb.

One night, two vampires visit Rex and offer him a substantial reward for the recovery of a stolen scroll. Later that same evening, Charlotte Sweeney-Jarhadill, a pedigree woman from Louisiana, visits Rex and hires him to exorcize the headless ghost of a Confederate soldier from her home.

To complicate matters, the private detective ends up falling for Charlotte. Meanwhile, the vampires demand results in the search for the missing scroll. When Rex’s assistant Sally goes missing, he must stay alive long enough to find her. Charlotte and the vampires, however, have other plans for Rex.


Well, this was quite interesting. A genre mashup of noir-film-inspired private detective fiction and popular paranormal lit, this ebook doesn’t hold back on the tongue-in-cheek sexual humor, criminal-and-crime-action sort of tropes that are often featured in the first genre, as well as a rich mythological background from the second. The cast includes everything — faeries, orcs, ogres, animal-human hybrids, gargoyles, vampires, ghosts, nasty evil spirits from other dimensions. The author packs in a ton of well-laid-out backstory and worldbuilding that draws on a number of real-world legends and lore.

The characters are a little cliche, but mostly likable, and Wolfgang is a protagonist you can cheer on (and hope the vampires, or ghosts, or orcs, or anything else, don’t do him in). The blending of legendary creatures into a near-future urban-environment Earth was well-done.

Parts of the narrative included rather foul language and overt sexual references (just a note for more conservative readers), but it wasn’t consistent throughout. The paranormal/paranormal crime scenes (which was a lot of the story) did get a little graphic; not to a level that I couldn’t stand, however. My only major issue with this text is my usual — it carried on several pages longer than I felt was completely warranted.

To Dream the Blackbane is, overall, a fun and intriguing ride, and I do truly hope that for those whose cup of tea is such a unique tale, they’ll give it a try.

(There’s a giveaway for the ebook happening, too!)

About the Author:

Richard J. O’Brien is a graduate of the Fairleigh Dickinson University MFA in Creative Writing Program. Richard’s novels include Under the Bronze Moon, Infestation, and The Garden of Fragile Things. His short stories have appeared in The Del Sol Review, Duende, Pulp Literature, The Dr. T.J. Eckleburg Review, Weirdbook, and other magazines. Richard lives in New Jersey, where he teaches at Rowan College at Gloucester County and Stockton University.


For your chance to win a copy of To Dream the Blackbane, click on the link below! (Sorry, North America only!)



Fantasy fiction, self-publishing

Announcing The Super Secret Project!

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Note: Reminding everyone I don’t own any of these images nor take credit in any way for the Minecraft videos referenced here. They are under the complete creative control of Rainimator.

Good morning! So, at long last, here I am with official news of the Super Secret Project! The reason I dubbed it so was because I’d been considering writing a standalone to go with The Order of the Twelve Tribes for a while, but really wasn’t sure just what I wanted it to focus on, nor did I want to promise a storyline that later changed (I do enough shuffling on publishing “deadlines” as it is). So I decided I’d refer to it as “the Super Secret Project” until I had more concrete details mapped out.

Well, this spring, White Fang got involved in the planning process, and he agreed that keeping it under wraps so that we could later do a big reveal was good. And now, here we go…ready?…

The novel will be called Fire and Wind, and its protagonist actually makes her first appearance in Volume 3: Healers and Warriors! It’s a short scene, but it establishes her presence in the Order world and sets up some important things about her character. Right now, she doesn’t have a name; she’s known only as…the Demon Girl.

She’s a character White Fang developed, based on inspiration he had from a YouTube Minecraft video series by someone whose screen name is Rainimator. These videos have it all — action, adventure, well-done animation, fitting music, plot twists to make you cry. If you or a young person you know are into Minecraft at all, I recommend checking out this channel.

So here’s the original inspiration:

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White Fang put together his own origin story for his “Demon Girl” (often referred to in Hunters’ notes as simply DG), and together we outlined the role this character will play in the rest of the canon and the standalone. She’s shrouded in mystery in her Volume 3 entrance, and Fire and Wind shall dispell it and uncover her true self. In Healers and Warriors, it’s not very clear — is she truly evil? is she an antihero? how does she have vital connections to high-profile figures in the mortal and fey realms?

All this and more will be found in the pages of Fire and Wind. Publication shall occur in the summer of 2019. (Can you believe it — that’s not too far away!)

If you haven’t read Volume 3 yet, don’t worry, you can still enjoy (and follow) Fire and Wind. Though I, as a conscientious author, kindly suggest you’re all caught up on the canon so that nothing about DG’s introduction takes you by surprise.

*shameless plug sequence concludes*

So, this does indeed fill you in on the Super Secret Project! More news to come on other fronts as I carry on and move forthwith into grander scales of writing completion!

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Fantasy fiction, self-publishing

The Relaunch of the Afterverse!

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Good morning! So, today, a bit of a departure from my usual discussions or rants or flailing. Though there will be some flailing, as I am participating in the big, awaited announcement from fellow indie author Kyle Robert Shultz — the official relaunch of his Beaumont and Beasley and Crockett and Crane series will soon be underway!

The big news (via the author):

  • All his books will be available on Kindle Unlimited
  • There shall be 3 new (free!) stories for his email subscribers: A Spoonful of Aether (Beaumont and Beasley), The Centaur Express (Crockett and Crane), and The Haunted Hoard (Blackfire). (I will personally cut down said hoard myself to get to this dragon. For those of you who don’t know, I am utterly in love with Malcolm Blackfire, and he is my future spouse — no arguing.)
  • Kyle is also providing a free Halloween story (Ravenous, part of the Crockett and Crane series) on his Patreon page
  • If you wish to support Kyle via Patreon, you can do so for as low as $1 a month, and he’ll make sure you get monthly short stories
  • For those of us who have been following the releases of the Beaumont and Beasley novellas, some repackaging is going on with those. (Basically, he’s combining two novellas in one book, for a total of 3 editions of 2 stories in 1 installment. Due to technical difficulties, I am unable to bring you the links that explain this better. If you have questions, though, Kyle is open to being stalked — ahem, I mean, contacted on social media.)

The official relaunch date is October 31st.

On that day and thereafter, all the currently-available-to-read-and-purchase books shall be found on Kindle Unlimited, with updated covers, and a fresh round of professional edits — and new stuff to enjoy as well. Such as the free short stories for those of us who subscribe to Kyle’s email list. (Visit his website: for more information on how to do such things.)

Whether you’re a new fan to this wonderful world called the Afterverse, or you’ve been along for the ride for a while, this is a great opportunity to delve more into these great tales, and share your obsession with friends.

Titles in the Afterverse:

Beaumont and Beasley

The Beast of Talesend (1)

See how it all began, how Nick and Crispin met Cordelia, and how the Beasley brothers discovered fairytales are more than just bedtime stories. The reader soon finds out that there’s much more to the old tale of “Beauty and the Beast” than they ever thought, either.

The Tomb of the Sea Witch (2)

Nick, Cordelia, and Crispin travel to Warrengate Academy of Advanced Magic, and here enters my beloved and betrothed, Malcolm Blackfire, as well as a number of terrific secondary characters that we all now need in our daily lives. Together they’ll take on a version of the evil sea witch from “The Little Mermaid.”

The Stroke of Eleven (3)

This installment involves wibbly, wobbly, timey-wimey stuff, and the stakes are raised higher than ever for our heroes. There are some stunning character arcs, and this third in the B&B series will leave you on the edge of your seat, and demanding more tissues. There are references here to “Cinderella,” but in honored Shultz tradition, the happily-ever-after you think you know you just do not.

The Return of Beaumont and Beasley (4)

Featuring The Janus Elixir and The Hound of Duville

The Janus Elixir

This story is about Malcolm, so if you guessed that I was absolutely enthralled with every single word written from Mr. Blackfire’s perspective, then you’d be a million-dollars-right. It’s actually set a hundred years before The Beast of Talesend, but trust me, it all works. And if you’re a fan of the classic “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde,” buckle up!

The Hound of Duville

Back in present day Talesend with Nick, Crispin, and Cordelia, some months after the events of The Stroke of Eleven. Somebody’s transforming men into dogs. It’s hilarious and beautiful. (And Malcolm has a heartstring-tugging appearance — oh, my handsome dragon love!)

The Strange Cases of Beaumont and Beasley (5) (to be released)

Featuring The Geppetto Codex and The Hare and the Hatter

The Geppetto Codex

Remember Gareth the faun and Sylvia the dryad from Tomb of the Sea Witch? Well, this is about their chance to solve a mystery! And Shultz’s take on “Pinocchio.” (I will admit, this is the only title that has me shaking in my shoes a little. Puppets give me the creeps. But I shall brave through for the sake of more time with Gareth and Sylvia.)

The Hare and the Hatter

This centers more on Crispin, and his part in the events in Stroke of Eleven — and he seeks help from the best, most qualified dragon in the world, so cue my happy dance. And, yes, folks, those are “Alice in Wonderland” references in the title.

The Fall of Beaumont and Beasley (6) (to be released)

Featuring The Unsinkable Molly Beaumont and Schism

The Unsinkable Molly Beaumont

Warning: This may be hard to read for fans of Molly, Crispin’s mermaid girlfriend and Cordelia’s distant cousin. (I have no idea why, but the author is already warning people, and the official blurb suggests the need for — dun, dun, dun! But be honest, you’re already dying to get your hands on it.)


This promises magic, danger, mayhem, and humor. Cordelia and Malcolm need to work together — a tall order — to fight the nefarious Jekyll and Hyde. DUN, DUN, DUN! I’m ready for the heartbreak. Bring it on.

The Last Days of Lady Cordelia (Beaumont and Beasley Case Files, #1)

Told from Cordelia’s point of view, this is also slightly timey-wimey, but also presents an interesting suggestion — what if Nick had never met Cordelia?

Christmas in Talesend (Beaumont and Beasley Case Files, #2)

Includes 4 holiday-themed stories, The Red Muffler, Dash Away, The War on Christmas, and Saint Nick.

The Red Muffler

Walking home with his arms full of Christmas parcels, Gareth the faun stumbles on a lost little girl standing by a lamp-post. Naturally, he invites her in from the cold…but is she really what she appears to be?

Dash Away

Alan the centaur isn’t a licensed veterinarian, but he does have plenty of experience with tending for sick animals – both natural and unnatural. However, he may be in over his head when he’s kidnapped to assist in a very unusual birth.

The War on Christmas

Crispin Beasley has had a strange, complicated year. He’s hoping that Christmas will afford him a break…but a case of mistaken identity on the rooftops of Talesend adds yet another bizarre twist to his unusual life.

Saint Nick

Nick, Cordelia, and Malcolm take a brief detour on their way to a Christmas party. At least, it’s supposed to be brief. An accidental tumble down a chimney changes that. What is the secret of the mysterious being known as Krampus? And who, exactly, is the Christmas Dragon?

Crockett and Crane

Horseman (1)

Set in the Afterverse 1891, in Shultz’s version of the Wild West, pulling in centaurs, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” and some very familiar mentions (no spoilers, I swear), this is a departure from Beaumont and Beasley in terms of plot and characters, but not at all in the author’s trademark style and humor. Definitely check out Crockett and Crane if you haven’t already.

Deadwood (2) (to be released)

The sequel to Horseman, Shultz picks up with the adventures of Todd and Amy. There’s more alternative-history-Wild-West magic and peril awaiting readers old and new.

Kyle Robert Shultz developed the power of creating zany, fantastical worlds in his early teens, when he was bitten by a radioactive book. He is the author of multiple series set in the Afterverse, a parallel universe where myths, fairy tales, and classic stories are real events and part of history. He lives in self-imposed exile in the southern Idaho desert, far enough away from humanity to protect innocent lives should he lose control of his awesome fictional powers and rip a hole in the space-time continuum or something.

Kyle is a Christian who believes in writing high-quality stories free from agendas, politics, and objectionable content. His stories are clean, but not remotely safe. In reading them, you assume all risks—Kyle cannot be held responsible for any damage wrought upon your emotional well-being or cardiovascular health by unforeseen plot twists. When he’s not dreaming up new ways to torture his characters and readers, Kyle enjoys singing, hiking, horseback riding, and caring for a motley collection of animals.

Fantasy fiction, Young Adult fiction

My Love for the Undersung Stiefvater

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In the last 10 years, I’ve only discovered a handful of new authors who really excite me. Maggie Stiefvater is one of them. I adore her flowing, lyrical prose, her in-depth characters, her willingness to try new takes on common mythos or story forms. I have read almost everything she’s published, and been severely impressed by nearly all of it.

Which is why it’s a source of ongoing irony and bittersweet realization for me that I cannot stand The Raven Cycle. When people ask if I’ve read it, with a heavy heart, I roll my eyes and answer, “Yes…and I wish I liked it.”

Why didn’t I like The Raven Cycle? Well, several reasons. One: It relied too heavily on archetypes — the special snowflake (Blue), the tragic star-crossed lovers (Blue and Gansey), the apparently fruitless quest for a lost king. And I thought that wasn’t really a Stiefvater trait. Two: It had wayyyy too many throwaway secondary characters and subplots — again, that felt out of character (for me) for this author. Three: The pacing felt totally off. I honestly thought she could’ve written one novel detailing, start to finish, Blue and Gansey’s particular journey, and then spent the other 3 in the series focusing on all the subplots, like all the psychics and the lost Welsh king and the Raven Academy and dream thieves. Everything seemed to go on tooooo long.

So, in short, her bestselling series is not for me, and it kind of made me sad.

But, the biggest disappointment — in my opinion — was the fact that I was constantly comparing The Raven Cycle to her other books…and found it continually lacking.

The first Stiefvater book I ever read was The Scorpio Races, and from then on, I was hooked. Her style, her characters, the way she slowly unwound a story, so that one could simply enjoy the path she took the reader down, was so glorious and mesmerizing. Since making the transition from juvenile to adult fiction, I’d found myself more and more let down; genres were leaving a strong impression of cliches and worn-out devices; I prayed there had to be more to it than this. When I picked up The Scorpio Races in the library, I didn’t even notice, or care, that it was marked as YA. I was just sucked into the world of man-killing horses off a remote British island, and didn’t want it to end.

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More than re-igniting my love for reading, Stiefvater prose and concepts hinted to me there may be different (better) ways of writing.

While The Scorpio Races is far from a forgotten novel, many fans of The Raven Cycle either aren’t aware Stiefvater wrote other titles, or they haven’t been read. Whenever I see Scorpio getting love on social media, I do a little happy dance.

Ms. Stiefvater has amassed a good bibliography for her age. While her most recent release, All the Crooked Saints, has been getting a bunch of attention, and Raven fandom is definitely going strong, I’ve seen my other favorite of hers, The Wolves of Mercy Falls, sadly sliding into the background.

A few months ago, I introduced White Fang to the catalogue of Stiefvater, and it was such a brilliant experience — for both of us. He fell in love (a bit literally in terms of Isabel Culpepper) with Shiver, then raced through the rest of the series. He was awed by the ending of All the Crooked Saints, and ate up The Scorpio Races. And he wholeheartedly agrees with me about The Raven Boys.

So, what makes this author’s earlier works truly stand apart? Considering that, at any given time across the last year, all 4 books of The Raven Cycle are somewhere on the bestsellers list, why is it that this quartet falls hopelessly short for these bookdragons?

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The Wolves of Mercy Falls is written so compactly; no, it isn’t an action-packed, quick-paced page-turner. It focuses on a character-driven plot, and if you’re after lots of explosions, you’ll need to try something else. But there is such beauty in this slow and relaxed unfolding of the tale of Sam and Grace, Isabel and Cole. And there isn’t a single secondary character or subplot that doesn’t seem to fit or becomes an unnecessary tangent. Stiefvater remembers all these little references and mentions from earlier, and keeps going back to them. She knows just who’s important to each main character, and why they need to pop up again at this point, and why it will matter later to the individual arc. By the last page of Forever, I didn’t think there were any loose threads (apart from one minor niggle, which she then addressed in Sinner).

The characters are not trope-y. Grace is an ordinary teenager, who is thrust into extraordinary circumstances; she isn’t a special snowflake, she doesn’t have a quest, the fate of the world doesn’t rest on her overburdened shoulders. As much as I love Harry Potter, we need to move beyond The Chosen One. It was sooooo refreshing to read about normal adolescents concerned with normal things: their parents, their significant other, friends, teachers, college, if they remembered to charge their phone. It’s real, it’s relatable.

Yet while most of the characters are teenagers, the focus isn’t on high school drama, another huge plus. Grace and Isabel know there are more important things in life, and they want to concentrate on them, rather than get swept up in hystrionics that won’t matter worth a speck in 6 months. Even as an adult, these girls were highly sympathetic.

Successfully writing deep first person POV is tough — and Stiefvater pulls it off. Switching voices and getting the reader to believe you’ve changed narrators is even tougher. She manages this, too. Usually switching narrators trips me up when reading, but not with Wolves. I know Grace, and Sam, Isabel, and Cole, and how they understand each other. I get a look at the relationships from both sides. It’s such a well-rounded portrayal.

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I just didn’t develop the heart for the Raven characters that I do for Wolves and Scorpio. And while Crooked Saints didn’t frustrate me, I simply wasn’t as impressed as I hoped to be. While I’ll happily look forward to what Ms. Stiefvater produces next, I’m rapidly coming to peace with the fact that, for me, her works are in two camps.

Literature is completely in the eye of the beholder. Readers shouldn’t be made to feel bad about that. I believe this is a perfect example of “it just wasn’t my cup of tea.”

And I have honestly tried all of her novels that I’ve read with an open mind. My favorites will remain my favorites; my reasons will stay the same. But this doesn’t discount me from wanting to dive into whatever is printed in the future with her name on the cover. Regardless of the premise, tale, or potential tropes inside.

That’s probably the highest compliment we can give an author.

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