Tag Archive | Fantasy Novel

A Blaze of Magic by J.L. Clayton

Last week, I read A Spark of Magic by J.L. Clayton and loved it. (A Spark of Magic Book Review) I loved it so much that I put my next intended read on hold to read the sequel, A Blaze of Magic. There were so many unanswered questions and readers are left with a fantastically frustrating cliffhanger that I cannot imagine what those who read it before the sequel was released went through during that period! We were left wondering how Charlie was going to handle the fact that she was a supernatural with magic powers and that her Mum and Dad weren’t her real parents.

A Blaze of Magic is quite different in comparison to the first novel. It is quite fast paced and there are many more supernatural happenings than in the first one. I read it quicker than the first one, over two nights. Whereas with A Spark of Magic, there was a lot of necessary characterisation to inform the reader of the key characters, A Blaze of Magic is pure, unadulterated action from start to finish. We are introduced to a number of new characters, Asher the vampire being my favourite, and after being totally anti-vampire up to now, I think Asher may be the exception to the rule. I’m not going to say whether he falls into the “goodie” or “baddie” camp as I wouldn’t want to give too much away but either way, he’s very alluring.

Charlie gains her powers very early in the book and it seems that she is more than just your average supernatural being; she is a super-supernatural being called a Cypher. She has the ability to suck the powers from others to use herself and is expected to be the champion of the Supernaturals to destroy the Traveller, Crispin, the enigmatic, Christian Grey-like (in my opinion) character from the first book. However, she struggles to cope with the enormity of the task being put to her and she also struggles to control the powers that she has. Considering she is only 16 it is no surprise that she is finding it difficult to put her thoughts in order to deal with this situation, and like in the first book, it is easy to forget that Charlie is so young.

One of the powers that Charlie acquires is to read the thoughts of the other characters. This works as a great technique to allow the reader to know what the other characters are thinking as Charlie gains her super-powers. However,  when it is used to give clues about which of the characters from A Spark of Magic will betray Charlie and the other “sups”, I think it was all a bit too obvious. Perhaps this was the author’s intention but it could have been dragged out a bit more and been more of a surprise when Charlie is faced with her enemy. However, this is a small niggle, and does not by any means ruin the plot.

Like in A Spark of Magic, the narrative voice switches from Charlie to other major characters in the book and the writing style for each voice is barely recognisable from the previous one. This is a real testament to Clayton’s writing ability and you really feel like the personality traits of each character is emanating from the page as she switches from snarky, self deprecating Charlie, to the poetic, formal Crispin with incredible ease.

As the action moves location right at the beginning of A Blaze of Magic, to the supernatural town of Callamose, the sense that Charlie knows this place well even though she doesn’t remember ever being there is handled really well. Having been here before many times but had her memory wiped each time lets the reader know why she was so drawn to Jace when she first met him. They were great friends at Callamose, and Jace was in love with Charlie. Jace plays a much more prominent character in this novel and while I was possibly Team Tru in A Spark of Magic, I was definitely Team Jace by the end of A Blaze of Magic. We receive justifications for Jace’s often arrogant or unreasonable reactions in the first novel and honestly, I can’t imagine how Charlie and Tru’s relationship would work given the history that has been revealed at the end of the first novel and in A Blaze of Magic. Jace displays real, true love for Charlie and I’m not sure Tru will be able to compete with him, even though Charlie hasn’t really given up on her relationship with Tru by the end of this second novel.

Crispin looms in the background throughout A Blaze of Magic and I still love this character.  His end game is still a little unclear and it appears that he is very attracted to Charlie as he invades her dreams. We are given the idea that he intends to end Charlie and her friends in Callamose and that she is being set up to be his nemesis, yet he courts her like a potential lover and she is definitely attracted to him. I’d like to think that perhaps Charlie’s influence will imprint a little goodness in Crispin and they could become some superpower ridding the world of evil but perhaps that is just my imagination running away with me and I’m trying to find some justification for finding this totally evil character rather attractive! However, I get the impression that this is not the amazing Ms. Clayton’s intention and that Crispin is, and will always be, evil. I’d definitely like to see more of him in the next novel.

Charlie is still battling with her feelings for the men in her life and the arrival of Asher adds to the mix of confusion for her. I love the way that our opinion of Asher is continually challenged throughout this book. Not as bad as Crispin, but definitely not as inherently good as Jace and Tru, he adds an extra layer of indecision for Charlie. I like Asher a lot. Charlie continues to mentally berate herself, not just about her attraction to Tru, Jace, Crispin and Asher but about her abilities as a supernatural. However, she shows great promise as the saviour of the supernaturals against Crispin and she rises up to the challenge somewhat in her actions throughout this book, albeit against a lesser power.

As with the first novel, there are some issues with the proof-reading, but I implore anyone who would be put off from reading it because of this to get over it and appreciate this wonderful narrative for its substance because it is truly gripping and a wonderful reading experience. I do not usually like fantasy novels, but I’m becoming increasingly aware that I should not rule out any novel just because of the genre it fits into. My new-found liking for crime fiction, for example, should be testament to this. I cannot wait to read the next book in the Chosen Saga and I hope my new friend, Jennifer Lee Clayton, will be sure to give me the heads up on a release date so I can make sure I pre-order in good time! There are plenty of unanswered questions again at the end of A Blaze of Magic and again, one massive cliffhanger that promises a fantastic third book in this brilliant series. The action at the end of the novel occurs very quickly that you are left thinking “What just happened?” and initially, I wasn’t sure that this was a good thing, frustrated that I has been left wanting more but in reality this is a perfect ending. The reader is left reeling and desperate to know what happens next, sure to pick up the next book in the series, which is what, I would imagine, every author wishes for. Jennifer Lee Clayton’s Chosen Saga just keeps getting better and better and I can promise you this: once you have read the first book you will feel compelled to read the next one, and the next one, and the next one…



The Branches of Time (Volume One) – Luca Rossi

Science Fiction/Fantasy novels are really not a favourite of mine. While I was studying, I dragged my way through Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick and The Time Machine by H.G Wells, both sci-fi classics. However, I didn’t connect with them at all. I need a strong sense of a possible reality in the books that I enjoy, and magic/fantasy directly contradicts this. That being said, I did find myself strangely gripped by Luca Rossi’s The Branches of Time. I’d felt obligated to read it after receiving a lovely email from Mr Rossi and, if I’m honest, I started to read it with a bit of trepidation but I was drawn in very quickly and I actually quite enjoyed it.

The Branches of Time is about a secluded island called Turios which is protected by magical forces whose inhabitants are struck down during the wedding ceremony of Bashinoir and Lil by a shower of stone shards. Only an injured Bashinoir, Lil and the priestess, Miril, survive and the bodies of the slain inexplicably disappear from the island. As Bashinoir recovers from his injuries, Miril asks Lil to forsake her marriage in order to become a priestess to assist her in protecting Turios. Lil reluctantly agrees and as she learns the rituals and magic required for her new role, she grows further and further apart from Bashinoir who, thanks to a mysterious shadow that follows him as he treks round the island’s coast, finds himself grow increasingly more depressed and angry that Miril has taken his wife from him.

Unbeknownst to Bashinoir, the shadow is actually an astral projection of an apprentice wizard from the island of Isk. Bashinoir’s ancestors had fled from Isk to Turios many years earlier. Ilis is working for King Beanor, a revolting masochistic sex maniac who has more wives than he can keep track of. Beanor, like his ancestors before him, has tried to penetrate the force field that protects Turios. Originally Ilis works for the wizard, Aldin, who meets a sticky end after trying to escape to the island he thinks he has defeated with his rock shards but his ship runs into the still-intact island’s defences. Now he works for Obolil, a former wizard for Beanor, who has been tortured for years after he failed to penetrate the island, but who had been reinstated after Beanor’s treacherous advisor, Truil suggests it.

The action is rarely static in this novel with most characters throughout the novel betraying their friends, loved ones and employers. In fact, the only character who remains true throughout is the awful King Beanor! I think I was able to enjoy this book because, while there is undoubtedly a fantasy base to it, the portrayal of relationships and the subsequent betrayals is not unrealistic at all. Neither is the idea of disgruntled inhabitants fleeing their homeland to make a home elsewhere then being attacked repeatedly for doing so. Rossi has captured potential real life scenarios and given them a fantastical touch.

The narrative is a bit confusing at times. There are occasional flashbacks where I felt more baffled than informed. The time travel elements went a bit over my head too but I guess that would be because of my relative inexperience at reading this genre of novel. However, Rossi writes beautifully and I really was taken in by the characters and the relationships. The relationship between Miril, the lonely but powerful priestess, and the naïve, impressionable Lil is exquisitely depicted, as is the sense of ennui that Bashinoir feels when he wanders the island instead of tending to the island’s livestock while Miril trains Lil in her priestess duties.

Sexual activity is a recurring feature in this book and whilst some of the sex scenes gives you an idea of the debauched personality of Beanor, I’m not sure that every sex scene was necessary to move the plot on. I felt that the chapter where Bashinoir was imagining an encounter with Lil would have been more powerful if there was more evidence of Bashinoir’s love for Lil rather than his sexual attraction to her. Up to this point, I had felt some sympathy at what he had been expected to accept as Lil’s duty and a necessity to their survival but this scene changed my mind and I just felt that this episode gave the impression that Bashinoir was not all that different to Beanor in his thirst for sex, and not really concerned about losing Lil as a loving wife.

The action in the final chapters occurs very quickly and I had to read a couple of times to work out exactly what had happened. However, I have to say, I am quite eager to find out what happens in Volume 2 as this novel ends right in the middle of an action scene with lots of loose ends. I have found myself (somewhat surprisingly) invested in this novel and with the characters. I want to know what happens next! I never expected to enjoy this novel as much as I did and while there have been elements of The Branches of Time that I didn’t like, overall it was a really good read. The narrative is cleverly composed and there is a real depth to the characters as the reader is wondering who to trust and who is double-crossing who. For a real sci-fi/fantasy fan, I am sure that this novel would be extremely well received. Luca Rossi has written a great book and I look forward to reading the next installment.