After

Two grand slams in one month! I’m excited to tell you about this one, dear Reader!

I’m going to start out by saying that I’ve never been a fan of zombie stories. 

Just, keep that in mind.

When I first read the complete Five Enchanted Roses collection, one of my favorite stories was Wither by Savannah Jezowski.

Now… After is a kind of prequel story to Wither. It is set in the same world, and there is even a pretty big cameo by the characters who feature in Wither, but the story itself follows a different set of characters and their story.

When I first read Wither, I really liked the chilling setting and sort of creepy flavor it had. But when people started talking about “the zombie story” in Five Enchanted Roses, I was honestly extremely confused. See, it went straight over my head that “creepers” were, actually, her version of fantasy-themed zombies. Totally missed that!

But these are not zombies like you’ve ever seen them before. They bear all the hallmarks you’d expect… they are people who have died, but have not stayed buried like they’re supposed to. In the fantasy world of Pandorum, this strange epidemic is a problem people live with, and accept as something they can’t solve. The creepers wander aimlessly, existing somewhere between life and death, and are usually fairly placid, though loud noises can get them “riled” which makes them more dangerous.

Eli, the main character in After, is a “spook” who basically guards his section of town against creepers and helps transport them outside the city gates when he finds them.

But this is not a story about creepers. They are part of the story, but they are not the focus… in many respects, they’re not even on the main stage.

After is a story about a man and his brothers. It is a story about family and forgiveness and faith. In her Author’s Note, Ms. Jezowski says that the Neverway Chronicles are a sort of picture of what the afterlife might look like in a world where the Savior has not yet come. And that is where this story takes a hard left turn away from what a classic zombie story normally looks like. It is this lens through which the story is written that allows it to be stunningly, breathtakingly beautiful. 

Seven Things I Loved About After:

- Conrad Ellis the Third. Also known as “Eli,” is the main character and he is the heart and soul of this book. Most of the story is told from his perspective. Eli is my favorite thing about this book, and I just want to hug him… though he certainly wouldn’t appreciate that at all. The main bread-winner for his family, he shoulders far more than he should, and keeps everyone at arm’s length. He rarely shows his true emotions or says the things he’s thinking. He actually cares — with a deep, extravagant, fiercely loyal love — for those he’s let into his heart… but, of course, he doesn’t tell them that! Brooding, sarcastic, and grumpy, and with no patience for anything that he feels is impractical, Eli is an eminently likable character, despite his dour moods.

- Ivan. Ivan is Eli’s younger half-brother by seven years. He is almost the complete opposite of Eli in every way. Cheerful to a fault, and with an eye for extravagant, impractical things, you can’t help but love Ivan. The interactions between him and Eli are constantly entertaining, but there is a deeper story of respect and love between them that builds throughout the story… beneath all the little digs and jibes and sarcastic comments… and it is lovely to watch it unfold.

- The world-building. Pandorum is extremely well thought out. The way that the city is structured, with each section separated by guarded gates, until you reach the center of the city where the rich and powerful are located, was easy to follow and see. It was also neat to follow with Eli as he journeyed to the heart of the city on his assignment and see him realize that the golden heart of Pandorum was just as afflicted by problems and corruption as the Quarter, his home section of the city.

- The humor. Did I mention this book is funny? I know that might seem weird to find in a story of this nature, but it really is. There is a sarcastic, witty sense of humor lacing its way through the book, and Eli himself has a rather dark sense of humor that I found highly entertaining.

- Brothers… the brotherly relationships throughout this book are fantastic. They are just so very real and deep and multi-faceted. There were multiple spots in the second half of this book that had me in tears. Not because the story was sad (though there are moments of that, as well), but because what was happening in the story was so perfectly beautiful and RIGHT for the story in that moment. There is a moment between Eli and Ivan where they’ve been sniping back and forth at one another and Eli realizes that he has wounded his brother deeply, and … I can’t tell you any more because: SPOILERS, but it is my favorite moment in the entire book and I couldn’t read for a bit because the pages were too blurry to move on.

- Mystery. I’ve noticed, as I’ve now read three different stories by Ms. Jezowski, that she has a habit of writing a good amount of mystery into her stories. She tends to set you down in the middle of her worlds and then race off, leaving the reader to pick up the clues of how the world works as the story unfolds. I love this habit of hers. I love exploring with the characters and having these little “Aha!” moments throughout the story as things click into place. The mystery is fun and exciting, but it isn’t so central to the story that you wouldn’t want to re-read it… if that makes sense. Knowing the answers to the mysteries doesn’t ruin the story.

- The allegory. I like allegories. Not all the time, and not when they’re too over-the-top, but when they are subtle and poignant, then I love them. This book is everything an allegory should be. It’s not a representation of our world, and it isn’t meant to be. But it asks an interesting question, and then strives to answer it, and does so with a fascinating story full of incredible characters that you will absolutely fall in love with.

Honestly, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It has completely stolen my heart, and I can’t wait for the author to write more books in this world so I can journey there again. It releases tomorrow, so you should definitely go grab a copy!

Five dragon eggs!

dragonEgg5star

~ jenelle

Minstrel’s Call Blog Tour + Giveaway Extravaganza!

Minstrels Call BLOG TOUR BUTTON - banner

Y’all.

It’s RELEASE WEEK!

Hehe… he. Yep, that about sums it up. Thanks, Pinkie Pie.

Welcome to the blog tour and giveaway extravaganza for my latest release, Minstrel’s Call!

Maybe not a true “extravaganza,” but it’s a fun word to put on the invitations! We have so many fun things planned over the next two weeks, it is almost ridiculous.

But before we get into all the details, I just want to say, “Thank you.”

Thank you, dear Reader, for sticking with me. For encouraging me. For rooting for me. For leaving comments on this blog, for following me on facebook and twitter and instagram…. and possibly even on my poor, neglected Pinterest. Thank you for reading my posts, for reading my books, for loving my characters. Thank you for leaving reviews, for telling your friends, for bringing others along with you. Thanks for sending me fan art. Thank you for your patience. I’m not the fastest writer, and I don’t churn out books quickly, and I appreciate how long some of you have waited for this final chapter. Some of you have been waiting since King’s Warrior’s first publication under a different title, even! To you especially, I tip my hat. Without you, dear Reader, this whole endeavor wouldn’t be nearly as much fun.

But let’s get to the exciting stuff, shall we?

First of all, a SALE!

To celebrate the release of Minstrel’s Call, the first three books in the series — King’s Warrior, Second Son — are each being offered at the special, discounted price of just 99 cents, and Yorien’s Hand is on sale for just $1.99 from February 27 – March 6!

(Sorry about that, dear Reader. I thought I had scheduled Yorien’s Hand to be 99 cents as well, but I must have hit the wrong button when scheduling things. Sigh. Well, 4 books for under $5 on 2/27 & 2/28 is still a pretty good deal! And if something had to go wrong with the release, this is a pretty small thing… right?)

Here is the official teaser:

Minstrel's Call Cover

MINSTREL’S CALL

War threatens. The game board is set. But the Minstrel is missing…

Advancing his growing power, the Dread Prince breaks free of his prison and brings a faction of dragons under his control, stirring unrest and hatred in the newly united kingdoms of Tellurae Aquaous.

When the dragon wards of Kallayohm are targeted in a ruthless attack, the High King travels there to administer justice. But the trial results in a crippling blow that leaves him reeling.

On the heels of defeat, an unexpected message from the erstwhile Minstrel arrives, pleading with his friends for rescue. Together, the High King and his companions must follow the fragile trail, braving peril and darkness that will test the measure of them all…

 

Second, the BLOG TOUR!

So many fabulous bloggers have signed up to help out with the blog tour for Minstrel’s Call, I am quite honestly staggered. These folks are simply amazing. They will be posting about the book’s release, some of them are interviewing me or my characters, and a few of them had me over for guest posts. You won’t want to miss that. And make sure to pop back in here occasionally over the next two weeks, as I’ll be sharing some snippets and other things.

Blog Tour Schedule

Third, a FACEBOOK PARTY!

FB Party

I’m teaming up with a couple of other authors who are also releasing their new books this week. We have quite an awesome line-up of authors coming to chat about their books and various other writing-related topics. The FACEBOOK PARTY is on Wednesday, February 28th from 6pm – 9:15pm EST. I’ll be running the 8:15 – 8:45 time-slot (that’s Eastern Time)… there will also be GAMES, GIVEAWAYS, TRIVIA, and more! You won’t want to miss it!

Fourth, a GIVEAWAY!

Enter the rafflecopter giveaway below for the chance to win one of three fabulous prizes: a signed paperback copy of Minstrel’s Call, a 252-piece puzzle featuring Angelina’s watercolor cover art, and a DRAGON SWORD! Sadly, the dragon sword is not a replica of the Fang Blade. Someday, I dream of commissioning an actual Fang Blade through somebody like the Baltimore Knife and Sword Company… but that is not this day. So, instead, I found this lovely creation on Amazon, and as dragons and swords are both important fixtures throughout the entire series, I thought it would be a good stand-in until such a time as I have the financial ability to offer something more accurate.

Giveaway Graphic

The giveaway is open to all countries and territories. However, due to the restrictions that the standard postal office has for shipping weapons (even of the decorative or cos-play variety), and the lack of any reliable dragons to carry them for me… should anyone outside the Continental USA win the Dragon Sword, I will substitute that prize with a $35-Amazon gift card (the approximate cost of the sword).
a Rafflecopter giveaway

~ jenelle

The Last Motley – Book Review

Seldom do I come to the end of a book with such a strong desire to flip back to the front and re-read the entire thing, just so that I can hang out with the characters some more, but The Last Motley was one where I was sorely tempted to do just that. However, I have other reading commitments at the moment, so re-reading this delightful adventure will have to wait. But I can relive it a little bit by telling you about it. I shall attempt to avoid spoilers…

Slide over, Tolkien, Lewis, and MacDonald, there is a new fantasy author on the scene and he deserves a spot at your table. This book is epic, poignant, and beautiful. The characters step off the page and into your heart, the language is crafted with care, filling the book with prose that reads like poetry, and the adventure is gripping and fast-paced, with a few twists and turns along the way.

The story revolves around Roderick, a simple tailor who happens to have a chance encounter with a Motley — a young boy whose skin is covered in a patchwork of colors and has a powerful, but dangerous, magic at his disposal. Roderick is not your typical fantasy hero. He is happily married and has a daughter, and all he really wants to do is stay home and take care of them. He doesn’t have much in the way of survival skills, early in the book he is considering how hard times are and the fact that he can’t just hunt for food like his father did, “He couldn’t shoot an arrow into the river if he was drowning.” However, when Jacob comes into his life and a mysterious group of scholars tells them that the only way to keep Jacob, and the world, safe from Jacob’s magic is to take a long trip to a place where they can safely remove Jacob’s magic from him, Jacob says he will only go if Roderick comes with him. Led by Master Kendall, one of the older scholars, the three unlikely companions begin the long journey across the world of Arinn.

Along the way, they will face nightmares, thieves, roving bands of wildmen, soldiers sent by powerful men to kidnap and harm Jacob, and skirt a sudden war in order to keep Jacob safe and reach their destination in one piece.

Of the things I loved about this book, Roderick was definitely my favorite. He was just such a refreshing character. A man of humility, integrity, and a strong nature bent on protecting those around him, Roderick is exactly the sort of person I’d want to go on a journey with. He reminds me a little bit of Bilbo Baggins or Sam Gamgee… maybe not the person you’d pick first for an epic journey, but once he’s there, he’s committed, 110%. I also loved how Edwardson wove in Roderick’s faith in Adonai seamlessly throughout the book in a way that was beautiful and compelling, and it never once seemed out of place. I also enjoyed that Roderick was a veritable repository of tailor-related sayings. “Oh, buttons!” is his catch-phrase throughout the book, but he also just sort of thinks in sewing-related terminology, and I LOVED that about him.

Jacob is another favorite. With his too-wise face that has seen too much sorrow already, I just want to scoop him up and give him a hug… pretty much on every page.

Along the way they meet a thief named Nagan, and he stole my heart completely, with his colloquialisms that don’t quite make sense, and his sense of humor, Nagan is in many respects the complete opposite of Roderick. He’s a shady fellow with a penchant for thievery, and a complete disregard for anything resembling integrity. However, falling in with Roderick and company does prove to be good for him, and in the end, his mettle is proved to be solid gold beneath the coarse exterior.

The world of Arinn is fascinating and epic and everything a fantasy world should be. The journey takes the reader across much of the map, and it is obvious that the author spent a great deal of time crafting this world and pouring thought and effort into the different cities and villages and areas, making them feel different and unique from one another while still obviously part of the same world. (As a side-note, the inns all have really fun names)!

I already mentioned the exquisite language of the book, and I just want to show you a small example of what I mean by sharing one of my favorite lines:

“By noon, the sun made a feeble attempt to push its way through the soggy rag which was gagging the sky.”

Isn’t that beautiful?

I loved how important family was in this story, and how the strength of his love for his family is what keeps Roderick going. He doesn’t just think about his wife and daughter with a sort of “oh, I miss them” kind of longing, but he sees their faces, he thinks about what his wife would say about various situations or people, or how his daughter would react to seeing certain things. He carries them in his heart, and it is beautiful.

Another thing I love about this book is the humor. It’s not always a laugh-out-loud sort of humor (though there were moments, like the line I shared earlier about Roderick’s lack of hunting skills, and most of the time when Nagan is talking), but there’s also this subtle, wry, whimsical sense of humor running throughout the story and I can just imagine the author grinning as he wrote the lines, hoping that his readers would find them as amusing as he.

Honestly, I could go on and on and on… but I’ve come too close to handing out spoilers already, and really, I’d rather you go out and buy yourself a copy of this epic, wonderful, GEM of a story than stay here reading my review of it! What are you waiting for? Go get a copy!

Five Dragon Eggs

dragonEgg5star

 Also, don’t forget that DJ is currently running a GIVEAWAY in conjunction with the release of The Last Motley, and the prizes are epic! The giveaway ends today, though, so get your entries in ASAP!

~ jenelle

What’s So Wrong With Tropes?

February Fantasy Month Banner

Hey hey! I’m feeling a little bit better, so let’s talk tropes.

“Trope” of late, has become a bit of a bad word when talking about stories, and I want to take a closer look at them… because I don’t think they’re all that bad. It’s possible they’re simply misunderstood.

What is a trope, anyway?

Merriam Webster’s dictionary (my big, hardback version) defines TROPE as: “a word or expression used in a figurative sense.” Other online dictionaries define it as, “Any literary device or figure of speech.” Or, “a storytelling shorthand that the audience will recognize and understand instantly.”

In effect, a trope is nothing more than a literary device used to make a story relatable or feel familiar. This is not a bad thing.

Fantasy is full of tropes.

Chosen Ones (particularly chosen ORPHANS), Evil empires ruled by the evilest of all evil villains, magical weapons that hold the key to everything needed to save the world (or destroy it), ancient mentors who are cryptic and extremely powerful, rag tag groups of random individuals who barely get along but must go on a quest to save the world and eventually become the best of friends, princesses in distress, enormous and terrifying monsters, hero discovering that he or she is actually RELATED to the evilest of all evil villains… and the list goes on.

 

And I would argue that they are, to a certain degree, necessary. Due to the massive and extensive world-building that goes into a creating a fantasy world, there is a certain amount of “anchoring” that is important to helping readers identify how this new world and the characters within are relatable to them.

There is little use in attempting to get away from tropes. Ecclesiastes 1:9 tells us that “there is nothing new under the sun.” And that was written quite a while ago. In addition to this, I’m going to pull from some of my English classes the information that there are only 7 types of conflict available in any given story: Man vs. Man, Man vs. Self, Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Society, Man vs. Fate, Man vs. Machine, Man vs. Supernatural… and it becomes apparent fairly quickly that a certain amount of the familiar or “trope-ish” is going to be a necessary part of any story.

Where tropes fall apart is when they become cliches. It is important to remember when writing fantasy, that if you are going to use a trope, you should try to think of something fresh and new you can bring to the table. What can you do with that trope or storyline to make it more relatable to your audience, while also putting a different spin on it? You can spend your life trying to come up with “one original thought” like John Nash in A Beautiful Mind, or you can work with the tools at your disposal and come up with something familiar, but ultimately, uniquely YOURS.

 

~ jenelle