An entertaining, if occasionally uneven, fantasy tale about a parallel Earth and the strange creatures therein.

In this fantasy novel, a king in an alternate universe plans to conquer an entire realm, and he kidnaps people from our Earth to do it.

Sixty-five million years ago, a comet crashed into Earth, resulting in mass extinction—and the opening of a gateway to a parallel universe. Later, in 1585, Father Sebastian Vlogentia Garcia Lopez leads residents of his village to a small island to hide from Spanish inquisitors. As they explore their new hiding place, Father Sebastian stumbles upon a glowing, floating orb, which transports him to an entirely new world. He soon realizes that he’s found a place that could be truly safe for his villagers. Years later, in the Second World’s kingdom of Vlogentia, founded by Father Sebastian, a woman named Bianca celebrates the new year by spending time with her boyfriend and taking part in a sport before an audience of thousands of spectators; then one of her teammates leads her to a group of kidnappers. Back on our Earth, Jason Blankenship and his wife, Margaret,are taking a trip to investigate a new job offer. Before long, they’re abducted, as well, taken to an island in the middle of nowhere, and sent through the portal to Vlogentia. Now Jason is being forced to help his kidnappers create a poison—which is just one step in the king’s plan to take over all of the Second World. Now Bianca, Jason, and Margaret must work together to escape their captors and foil the plot. Over the course of this fantasy novel, Somers offers an often engaging, if uneven, tale of two worlds coming together. The author appears to have done his research when it comes to aspects of Mayan and Mesoamerican culture and how they permeate the architecture and culture of Vlogentia, which is an impressively addition to the overall worldbuilding; he also includes several appendices regarding these elements at the back of the book. However, some of the dialogue leaves something to be desired; for example, Jason’s kidnapper often speaks like a bad movie villain, as when he advises his cohorts to “do your destructive best.”

An entertaining, if occasionally uneven, fantasy tale about a parallel Earth and the strange creatures therein.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73578-790-9

Page Count: 328

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2021


From the Empyrean series , Vol. 1

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

On the orders of her mother, a woman goes to dragon-riding school.

Even though her mother is a general in Navarre’s army, 20-year-old Violet Sorrengail was raised by her father to follow his path as a scribe. After his death, though, Violet's mother shocks her by forcing her to enter the elite and deadly dragon rider academy at Basgiath War College. Most students die at the War College: during training sessions, at the hands of their classmates, or by the very dragons they hope to one day be paired with. From Day One, Violet is targeted by her classmates, some because they hate her mother, others because they think she’s too physically frail to succeed. She must survive a daily gauntlet of physical challenges and the deadly attacks of classmates, which she does with the help of secret knowledge handed down by her two older siblings, who'd been students there before her. Violet is at the mercy of the plot rather than being in charge of it, hurtling through one obstacle after another. As a result, the story is action-packed and fast-paced, but Violet is a strange mix of pure competence and total passivity, always managing to come out on the winning side. The book is categorized as romantasy, with Violet pulled between the comforting love she feels from her childhood best friend, Dain Aetos, and the incendiary attraction she feels for family enemy Xaden Riorson. However, the way Dain constantly undermines Violet's abilities and his lack of character development make this an unconvincing storyline. The plots and subplots aren’t well-integrated, with the first half purely focused on Violet’s training, followed by a brief detour for romance, and then a final focus on outside threats.

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9781649374042

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Red Tower

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2024


From the Empyrean series , Vol. 2

Unrelenting, and not in a good way.

A young Navarrian woman faces even greater challenges in her second year at dragon-riding school.

Violet Sorrengail did all the normal things one would do as a first-year student at Basgiath War College: made new friends, fell in love, and survived multiple assassination attempts. She was also the first rider to ever bond with two dragons: Tairn, a powerful black dragon with a distinguished battle history, and Andarna, a baby dragon too young to carry a rider. At the end of Fourth Wing (2023), Violet and her lover, Xaden Riorson, discovered that Navarre is under attack from wyvern, evil two-legged dragons, and venin, soulless monsters that harvest energy from the ground. Navarrians had always been told that these were monsters of legend and myth, not real creatures dangerously close to breaking through Navarre’s wards and attacking civilian populations. In this overly long sequel, Violet, Xaden, and their dragons are determined to find a way to protect Navarre, despite the fact that the army and government hid the truth about these creatures. Due to the machinations of several traitorous instructors at Basgiath, Xaden and Violet are separated for most of the book—he’s stationed at a distant outpost, leaving her to handle the treacherous, cutthroat world of the war college on her own. Violet is repeatedly threatened by her new vice commandant, a brutal man who wants to silence her. Although Violet and her dragons continue to model extreme bravery, the novel feels repetitive and more than a little sloppy, leaving obvious questions about the world unanswered. The book is full of action and just as full of plot holes, including scenes that are illogical or disconnected from the main narrative. Secondary characters are ignored until a scene requires them to assist Violet or to be killed in the endless violence that plagues their school.

Unrelenting, and not in a good way.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9781649374172

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Red Tower

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2024

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