Another beautiful discovery brought about by the Fellowship of Fantasy book club, Dragonfriend by Marc Secchia has become an instant new favorite. Fall into a truly fantastical world full of volcanic islands and airships and dragons. Meet Hualiama “Lia” for short, the royal ward with no knowledge of her parentage, but who secretly dreams of flying with dragons – a major taboo to even think about. When the king is betrayed and dethroned, Lia attempts to defend her adopted family, only to find herself nearly fatally wounded and tossed from an airship to her death. Fortunately for her, a curious little dragonet sees her plummeting to the ground and, uncharacteristically for his kind, seeks to slow her fall and care for her wounds. When she awakes, she must find her way through vast dangers and immense obstacles to not only get off the island she has landed on, but also to free the royal family from their imprisonment so that her adopted father can retake the throne. But there is more to Lia’s story than a simple quest for vengeance, for her own past is about to catch up with her in a meaningful but startling way.

This book captivated me within the first page and kept me reading hungrily, despite being the first ever book I’ve read in e-book format. On my iPad… which is not a recommended experience. I NEED this book and series in paperback so I can enjoy it more thoroughly, but I decided to take advantage of the free e-version so that I could read this with the book club. And despite the e-reading experience, this book was absolutely fantastic.

Not only is the plot fast-paced, enjoyable, and filled with various twists and turns, but the characters are superb. The interactions between the characters is almost more fun than the story itself, and it was fun to simply bask in the sometimes serious, sometimes banter-filled dialogue. The attention to detail in these interactions, and the intricate details that they highlight in various ways in the main character unfolds gently, like someone meticulously unwrapping a present so that the paper can be reused.

I also loved the tiny hints of steampunk flavor throughout the story, mostly in the way of airships. And the complexity of the world… which I look forward to exploring more in later books in the series. I wasn’t quite sure if the islands were floating in the air or separated by water, but I might have missed that simply due to reading on the iPad. Either way, the world was unique and full of surprises.

The author is obviously a lover of enormous words because Dragonfriend is full of them: enough to stretch even my fairly extensive vocabulary, which is always a fun experience for me. And yet, these large vocabulary words are woven so seamlessly into the story that they never felt like they detracted from the tapestry of plot and characters. And they were cleverly placed so that I never felt the need to grab a dictionary. They never seemed “tossed in,” either, but rather chosen with care.

Overall, I highly enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it to anyone who loves fantasy, dragons, and big words.

One tiny little nitpicky niggly thing that detracted from my complete enjoyment of the story… and I do mean “nitpicky” was that there were a few instances where the words “awesome” and “sweet” were used in various moments of dialogue to mean “that is extremely cool.” Because I grew up and went to high school in the 90s, when those words were the preferred slang of the day, every time they showed up these words yanked me straight out of the fantastical world of Fra’anior and plunked me down in the halls of my high school. I know that seems like a minor thing, but these words just seemed starkly out of place in a tome that was otherwise replete with carefully chosen sesquipedalian terms.

I would caution younger readers as there is a lot of violence, some of it described on the moderately graphic side. Lia’s wounds and their description made my skin crawl a bit. Also, there are a few more mature themes that come out in the story: abuse, a very delicately hinted at instance of rape, and some innuendo as Lia tries to teach a dragonet about the differences between human and dragon cultures. Due to those themes, though I would still term this a “clean” book, I would probably hesitate to recommend it to readers younger than 16.

Four Dragon Eggs


~ jenelle

Fellowship of Fantasy Read to Review

I think I may have mentioned the Clean Indie Reads group I found on facebook a year or so ago. Well, the fantasy-writers in that group have created a sub-group just for our little fantasy genre! And they have been such a wonderful place full of new ideas and fun things. They are behind the Fellowship of Fantasy Book Club that began in January of this year. They are creating anthologies of short stories (the second one is underway). And now there is a Read to Review program you can participate in!

If you enjoy reading fantasy, reviewing books, and being able to get new books to read for free… then you should definitely head on over to the Fellowship of Fantasy’s site and check out the read-to-review program. Many of our authors (including myself, though I’m not listed in the directory yet) are offering their books FOR FREE in exchange for a review, which you will post (through a very easy submission form) on the FOF website. To make it easier, we’ve done away with a “star rating system” and you just give your honest opinion of the book and answer a few questions about the content of the book. You get a free book, and perhaps the ability to fall in love with a brand-new story! Browse through our authors, select a book that strikes your fancy, and email your request to the administrators at: burke@fellowshipoffantasy.com

You can read all the details and guidelines HERE!

If you enjoyed the last two character interviews I did for the InterFiction Gazette, then head over there immediately, because both authors are offering their books as part of the Read To Review program!!


~ jenelle

The Firethorn Crown

Lea Doue’s The Firethorn Crown is a novel I’ve been wanting to read since I first saw the cover and heard that the premise was loosely based on the fairy tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses. That is one of my all-time favorite fairy tales, and one of the less-well-known ones, so it is always fun to find a retelling of it. However, I had not quite gotten around to reading it… and when the Fellowship of Fantasy Book Club picked it as their February read, that was exactly the motivation I’d been needing. I bought a copy late in the month and managed to devour it in two or three sittings – as I actually had an entire blissful afternoon to spend curled up with a good book one day, not something that happens very often around here!

Everything about this story was delightful and enchanting. The twelve sisters are well-written and developed. Such a large cast in a short story can be a bit difficult and cumbersome for an author to handle well, but Doue does a fantastic job distinguishing each sister from the crowd. Some of them were focused on more than others, but none of them felt like flat “additions” to the story simply because the tale called for 12 sisters. And while the classic fairy tale was well-adhered to (with many references to other fairy tales woven in, with tantalizing hints that those will be expounded upon later in the series) there were enough things to make the story unique that it felt fresh and new.

The world also felt very well thought out, and I am quite looking forward to entering this fantastical realm once more in the sequel and subsequent stories that are promised to come. The villains were also done quite well.

Even the frustrating moments: like when the main character – Princess Lily, the eldest of the 12 princesses – realizes that she must spend her days mute and unable to speak unless she wishes to doom herself and her sisters to a fate worse than death, were handled so cleverly and interwoven with the dialogue from the other characters that I did not feel at all like tearing my hair out or shouting at her. I also liked the twists and turns that the story took as she had to navigate the intricacies of the curse, court-life, and a sudden and unexpected deadline by which her parents expected her to name a suitor she would accept.

Lily’s most zealous suitor is a man who is truly shudder-worthy, and while it is necessary for him to be as repulsive as he is in order to understand why Lily runs away from him and hides in a place she probably wouldn’t have ventured had she been thinking clearly, he truly made my skin crawl. Because of him, I would recommend this read for ages 13 and up. I did appreciate the characters being somewhat horrified by the cut of some of the dresses they are forced to wear during the story, and I enjoyed the author making a big deal out of their modesty… and having it be a good thing.

Overall, the story was beautifully written and extremely fun to read. I was well-satisfied with the end, and felt like it wrapped up the main story well, while still leaving enough things open in the lives of the secondary characters for plenty of stories yet to be written in this world.

If you love fairy tale retellings and fantasy, you will enjoy this book.

Five Dragon Eggs


~ jenelle