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Book review: The Sword and the Flame: The Forging and The Sword and the Flame: The Purging, by CP Bialois

The Sword and the Flame, by CP Bialois

 

This is a review of the books The Sword and the Flame: The Forging and The Purging, by CP Bialois. I know I don’t normally review more than one book at a time but it seemed pointless to do only one here when they are very much a set. They are set in a fantasy world of magic, elves, dwarves, halflings and gods, and follow the adventures of a group of travellers seeking their freedom.

The series starts with the halfling Janessa and her human friend Viola, who is a Mage in training. In this world, halflings are known pickpockets and are treated with mistrust, so to have a friendship like this is rare. They venture outside their city walls to visit a travelling company of merchants & entertainers, where they encounter Mern, a Mage with ulterior motives who befriends Viola; Berek, a human with unexplained super-sensory abilities; and Galin, a dwarf who has forsaken his kind who live underground to instead live the life of a travelling salesman.

Normally I don’t like to comment much on editorial errors in self published books. The fact is, if you’re picky enough then you will find mistakes in even traditionally published works, and usually it’s not of any magnitude that matters. These books, however, could really have done with a good proof-read. Run-on sentences are commonplace, and the author seems to have trouble with homonyms – for example, a village was raised (rather than razed) to the ground, a character was moving his personal affects (rather than effects) on a cart, and there were references to a journey to another plain (rather than plane). Done occasionally, this isn’t a big deal, but it happened often enough to detract from my enjoyment of the story.

Once I got past that, though, it was an entertaining, if not high quality, read. The story of Berek’s escape from his slave-holder was well done, and the growing bond between Galin and Janessa was a pleasure to behold. Viola’s journey from trainee to mage was also enjoyable.  Parts confused me at first, like the cleric Gilliam’s mistrust of magic-users when he uses spells himself, but when that was explained later it made enough sense for me to gloss over the initial confusion. I also felt that some parts of it were rushed a little: Fleir’s addition to the company was one example, and the battle in Solava (especially its conclusion) was another. It was like the author had too many subplots and events that he wanted to fit into the story, and I felt that if some of these had been fleshed out a little more it would have made a better read.

Finally, I thought the title was a little misleading. I’m the first to admit that titles are really difficult to get right, and I’m not willing to offer an alternative, but I thought that they implied that there would be a special sword that was forged and used to win the war. Instead, what is forged is the strength of the unlikely company, and what is purged is selfishness and greed. It’s still relevant, but a lot more obscurely so than I had expected.

Overall, if you are looking for a decent fantasy read that tells an entertaining story, The Sword and the Flame is worth picking up. If, however, you are distracted by editorial errors and flimsy segues, then perhaps it might be worth waiting until a new edition is released. An entertaining series, yes, but not without it flaws.

 

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The Sword and the Flame: The Forging and The Sword and the Flame: The Purging, by CP Bialois
Published by Amazon Digital Services
442 and 397 pages (paperback)
Available from Amazon.com as paperback and ebooks

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Author interview and novel excerpt: A War Below, by Peyton Farquhar

Something a bit different today, in that I’m doing a hybrid guest author post – part interview, part novel excerpt. The reason for this is that the author, Peyton Farquhar, is not just plugging her newly-released books, but is also spruiking for charity as well. Peyton has decided that proceeds from her series will go to charity – indeed, a different charity for each of the three books released so far. I thought this was a fascinating approach for an author to be taking, so I asked her about her motivation for this, and of course about the books themselves.  The series follows Moses Jones, a slave whose attempted escape to freedom triggers events that force him into an underground world of espionage, revenge and murder. It is inspired by true stories from the Underground Railroad and its secret involvement behind the scenes of the American Civil War.

Tell me about the series. What inspired you to write it?

The series is about a slave, Moses Jones, who attempts to escape his evil owner, Simon Dred, just a month before the American Civil War begins. His escape triggers a series of events that force him into a dark world of revenge, espionage and murder. And while he fights to survive on the run, he’s forced to deal with his lack of faith and a secret love he’s always had for one of his fellow escaping slaves. The four books in the series track the four major stages of his reluctant transformation from slave to underground freedom fighter.

I initially wrote the story as an eight-episode mini-series screenplay over seven years ago and always wanted to see it evolve into something. So I went to work converting it into a fiction series about a year and a half ago. The story is inspired by actual events and sewn together with theory and fiction.

I wanted to show a different side to the Underground Railroad – not just scared slaves hiding from slave hunters. There were slaves that not only stood up and fought for their freedom, but some were also involved in secret operations during the Civil War. There was a secret organization of ex-slaves and free-born blacks that ran a clandestine war against the Confederates. I wanted to shine a light on those heroes.

The first three books in the series are now available in the Kindle Store, the iBookstore and the Nook Store. Visit my website for links:http://www.awarbelow.com/


What made you decide to donate the proceeds of your books to charity?

I was inspired by the real-life heroes that were the basis for the characters in the series. They risked their lives (and some died) to help others. That’s something many of us couldn’t begin to imagine doing. I thought it would be pretty cool to allow their acts to continue helping people nearly 150 years later.

How did you choose which charities to involve?

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has always been a charity I’ve supported. I was blessed with a healthy childhood, but some are not so lucky. The last place a child should be is lying in a hospital facing death, and St. Jude’s is doing amazing things to fight childhood cancer and other catastrophic diseases. Their daily operating costs are $1.8 million, and that number is primarily covered by public contributions. So every dollar donated is important. (http://www.stjude.org)

Wounded Warrior Project is an amazing organization that helps injured military service members. These individuals fought and sacrificed for my freedom and the least I could do is help an organization that helps them transition back into their “new normal” life. WWP provides wounded veterans with everything from employment opportunities to combat stress recovery. (http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org)

Help-Portrait is a very unique movement, and that’s what I love about it. While St. Jude’s and WWP help those in need by way of “straight-forward” or “conventional” methods, Help-Portrait takes a different approach. They are a global collection of photographers that donate their time and talent to provide portraits to those in need. Every time I describe this charity to a friend, the reaction is always the same. The idea of giving a person in need a photo of themselves seems too simple and useless. But I urge you to visit their website and listen to some of the stories of those that benefitted from this movement. I’ve always appreciated people that take a different approach to things. Help-Portrait does just that, and I’m happy to support them.  (http://help-portrait.com)

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A War Below series by Peyton Farquhar

 

Excerpt from the first book in the series (A War Below: Run)

Suddenly, a dark silhouette moved out of the shadows of the bunkhouse across the yard from Moses. He was startled by the shadowy figure quietly creeping toward him.

“Have you made your decision?”
It was Solomon Vesey.
“How did you find me?” Moses asked.
“The others told me you might be here,” Solomon replied. “So?”
“So, what?”
Solomon walked closer and sat down on the step next to Moses.
“I asked you a question. Have you made your decision?”
“I thought I told you earlier today. Did I not make myself clear?”
“Yeah, but I thought I’d give you some time to think about it. I have the count from the others. There are five going. That means we’ve got one more spot. What do you say?”
“I say piss off,” Moses replied.
Solomon stood up and took a few steps away from Moses. He paused and turned around.
“I’m not going to fill the spot,” Solomon told him. “If you change your mind, there will still be room.”
“I’m not going to change my mind. Leave me alone.”
Solomon stared at Moses through the darkness for a moment. He turned to walk away but stopped. He spun back around, walked over to Moses and sat down next to him once again.
“There was this one slave about four or five years ago. My partner and I were running the same scam on his plantation owner. Back then we were moving smaller numbers. We didn’t have the number of folks we do now, so it was harder to move big groups. We would only move about one or two slaves at a time. So it was important to pick the right ones. It always took some time for me to weed out the ones that deserved to go. I would only pick the leaders, the smart ones, the strong ones – the ones that would be more likely to make something of themselves once we got them North. We thought that maybe they would join the cause and help others get to freedom. As I was saying, there was this one slave…what was his name? Doesn’t matter. Anyway, he was smart…smarter than you, Moses. No matter how much I tried to talk him into it, he wouldn’t run either. I guaranteed his safety, but he still wouldn’t do it. When I asked him why, he told me he was afraid. When I asked him what he was afraid of, he just shook his head and walked off. And then I figured it out. He wasn’t afraid of being hurt or killed. He was afraid of being nothing. All of his life, he had been the smart one. He had been the one that every slave looked up to. He was the king of slaves on that plantation, and he thought that if he left that plantation and went out into the real world, he would be nothing. He knew that nobody would ever respect him the way that those other slaves respected him. That’s why he didn’t escape. He was afraid of being nothing.”
Solomon stood up.
“But there was something he didn’t realize, Moses,” Solomon added. “When you’re a slave, you’re already nothing. You’re just plain property. You see, getting free is like getting born. In one push, you become your own person. Regardless of how much respect you get from others, you’re finally your own person. And when you have that, there are only two things that lie in front of you…life and possibility. And those are two beautiful things.”
Moses looked back up at the stars.
“We are meeting inside the barn at the north end of the plantation at midnight tomorrow night,” Solomon said. “I’ll leave the spot open for you. Come if you want.”
Solomon turned and walked away. The night swallowed him up.

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Peyton Farquhar is from Nashville, Tennessee, USA.  The first installment of A War BelowRun (currently available from iTunesAmazon andBarnes & Noble) was released in February 2012. Hunt and Run followed later in the year.  Peyton has written a guest post for this blog before, which can be found here. You can follow Peyton on twitter @peytonfarquhar, and you can find out more about the series at www.awarbelow.com.

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