The Lotus and the Gathering Storm

The Lotus and the Gathering Storm

W. Dale Jordan

* Review copy provided by the author *

I was first introduced to Jordan’s work through his contribution to the horror anthology, Worst Laid Plans, and was very impressed.  With that in mind, I was thrilled when the review copy of this novel (his debut and book one of the Eagle and Heart Trilogy) appeared in my inbox.  I was a bit apprehensive, though, because it is nowhere near the same genre that “Deep in the Heart” is.  Romance/fantasy has never been on my radar really, so this was an adventure for me as well, albeit a very enjoyable one.

Throughout the pages of the book, I met a multitude of characters, all of whom live in the delightfully magic-infused realms of Avalon.  In this tale, Avalon (ruled by one of the main protagonists, High Prince Altair of the Throne of Nights, and accompanied by his better half and Consort, Prince Whelan of the Realm of Waters) is under a constant threat from an unknown force.  Assassination attempts in the early section don’t help the cause, but the two main goodies find plenty of time to assess those situations, without sacrificing time in the bedroom.

The characters are the driving force for this book, and they are fleshed out very well.  Most are elves, but centaurs, merfolk, and even a giant wolf show up from time to time.  As more individuals are introduced, you begin to see how each race of elf is connected, while still maintaining a certain degree of separation.  Picking a favorite type of elf is tough, because they all play a very important role; not only in the story, but in the land itself.  From Plains to Fire, Night to Blood and everywhere in between, all elements of the world are represented.

Each character has his or her own form of magic that their kingdom relies on.  Water Elves control every form of H20, including traveling to and floating through clouds, which I thought was a clever addition.  The ebony-skinned, red-eyed Blood Elves heal, and the green-shaded Forest Elves nurture the land by connecting with seedlings in the ground to produce trees and other needed flora.  While Altair’s knack for opening portals to anywhere in the world came in handy on more than one occasion, I found that Whelan’s particular talents were the most enjoyable.  With a swipe of the hand, great halls turn to beautiful forests, and crystals sing when touched.

The storytelling is, for the most part, very well handled.  The characters are interesting, and the world is gorgeous and whimsical in all of the right spots.  I enjoyed the dialogue, as well.  Each character has their own unique personality, without going too far in opposite directions, resulting in a fully believable society and kingdom.  Jordan has a knack for distinct language, and when tragedy shows, you feel it.  Without seeing their faces or hearing their inflections, you understand every heart flutter and stomach jump that they go through.

The relationship between Whelan and Altair is incredibly romantic, leaving no doubt that the two care for each other deeply.  Their conversations do border on being a little too over-the-top lovey at times, but this is forgivable, given that they are essentially in the honeymoon phase of their relationship.  What doesn’t work for me at all are the overly ambitious sex scenes.  They are well written and impeccably visual, but seem of a different style, and change the vibe of the book entirely for a few moments.  The overall feel of the story is that of romance and impending doom and could have fit in any fantasy list, if these scenes were not written as they are.  The love-making, which only focuses on Altair and Whelan, is incredibly graphic, vulgar and seems to come from nowhere.  Had that been the style Jordan was attempting throughout the entire work, great.  As it is, it just simply doesn’t fit, and clashes with the rest of the story.

The only other complaint I have is the overuse of certain words.  When describing another’s mate or spouse, for instance, they are most generally, “lover.” When referring to the garments that the elves wear, the term rovhai is used each time, when robe or even poncho would work just as well.  This results in those terms showing up several times on a single page, interrupting what would be a very nice flow.  It’s a small thing to focus on, but it’s one that stands out to me.

The overall theme of the book is solid, however, and generally keeps up the momentum for the entirety of the tale.  The ending seems a bit rushed, but given that this is only book one of the series, I’m sure it will all level back out. There are real-world themes included therein, as well, but I will not dive into those for fear of spoilers.

Romance, magic, sex and tragedy fill the pages of Jordan’s first novel, and they do so well.  Only a couple of instances slowed my enjoyment while reading, but that was easily forgiven as the rest is very good.  The characters are fantastic, unique and relatable, and the world is diverse and beautiful.  I look forward to eagerly devouring the rest of this series.

 

 

Worst Laid Plans Review

Worst Laid Plans: An Anthology of Vacation Horror

Various Authors

 

* Review copy provided by Grindhouse Press via Samantha Kolesnik*

 

Worst Laid Plans, as stated in the title, is an anthology of short horror stories, each written by a different author and edited by Samantha Kolesnik with a foreword by Sadie Hartmann.  While they take place in different spots around the globe, they all revolve around one central theme:  vacation.   The fourteen stories featured in the collection take you through a multitude of areas involving the supernatural and the weird, as well as good old fashioned serial murder and, yes, dolphin sex.  No pieces are the same, and they all produce their own feel, as well as set a scene specific to the story, however weird they may end up.

The book works very well when it hits the ground running.  The stories featured keep the pages to a minimum for the most part, all of which staying well under twenty.  This works to its advantage in the grand scheme, although some of them seemed a bit long still.

A perfect example of a short bang is the book’s opener, “You’ve Been Saved” by S. E. Howard.   Howard’s addition involves two friends following an RV driven by an older couple, who’ve appeared to have kidnapped a younger woman.  The dialogue works well, if a little sappy at times, but the characters are engaging enough to keep you hooked until the twist.  Side note:  The classic Frasier episode where Niles gets trapped in an ammo wielding couple’s RV set the mental picture for Bill and Libby.

A few tales did feel a tad long in the tooth, as the writer(s) seemed overly wrapped up in character development, realizing in the last couple of pages that their time was coming to an end.  This led to an abundance of things happening in such a quick succession that it became overwhelming, feeling rushed.  For most of these inclusions that, too worked out, though as a slap in the face was just what I needed to keep moving along.

One example of this is “Peelings” by Kenzie Jennings.  It is written well, overall, and follows a four-piece family during their trip to the “happiest place on earth”.  It flows nicely, and the characters are believable.  The pacing was a bit of a slog for me, resulting in too much of a buildup, although the payoff is a decent one.

On the flip side of that particular coin, the majority of stories in the collection zipped by before I knew it, keeping me engaged the entire time.  My favorite instance of this is “Deep in the Heart” by Waylon Jordan, a tale about a small family on a cave tour in Texas.  The scene is laid out perfectly, the dialogue is absolutely believable, and the story arc is quick and to the point.  It’s the right amount of bloody, and doesn’t spend too much time on the characters, resulting in my favorite selection from the collection.

The second feature, “Summers with Annie” by Greg Sisco, is nothing like anything else in the book.  The plot takes you to an island in the 1930s and 40s, and centers around a boy struggling with the idea of a movie that potentially steals the people he loves.  It’s sad, but also heartwarming at the same time, because you want the boy to be happy, but you’re not sure if that’s going to happen or not.  A perfect contrast to the bloody monsters found throughout the rest of the pages.

Speaking of bloody monsters, one that I didn’t particularly enjoy was “The Cucuy of Cancun” by V. Castro.  In this, an ancient creature in the form of a pretty lady preys on tourists at a hotel.  The premise is sound.  Creature feature.  That’s my favorite type.  With that in mind, however, this did not click with me as much as it should have.  I felt Castro put too much emphasis on vulgarity and curse words, when they just simply didn’t need to be there.  I’m not one to oppose the use of earthy language by most means, but it distracted from what could have been a high point in my time with the book.

Despite this, Worst Laid Plans does keep you engaged and entranced throughout.  Along with the stories I’ve mentioned above, you’ll find yourself wondering what sort of people have sex in crocodile suits, who that lady in the shower is, and what the hell kind of shortcut did Mike just find in the Badlands.  Every story is uniquely different, and most are very well written.  If you’re a fan of short stories and horror, you will not be disappointed.

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