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BOOK REVIEW: Eyes of a Hawk


How people tell stories is a fascinating topic, as old as humanity itself. The tools the tellers use to add emphasis and veracity live alongside the executive decisions translators make to emphasize (or de-emphasize) certain aspects of the story for this generation's retelling. Look no further than Cornelia, history's perfect woman—the nature of whose perfection depends broadly upon who is translating her story and in what era.

Eyes of a Hawk: Yggdrasil's Gaze is a story of stories: not just the tale of Hawk, its legendary central hero, but of the people who come after. The book is bookended by fictional notes by fictional scholars, making reference to other figures of this real world. While we spend most of our time with Hawk, following him on his century-spanning adventures, these future readers are always in the backs of our minds.

Sean Crowe's writing style for Eyes of a Hawk is not only intriguing, but also shows a legitimate deep knowledge of early poetry. Much of the book, while not arranged in verse (a decision noted in the fictional translator's prologue), maintains alliterative meter for emphasis. What's intriguing, though, is that this Old English writing style butts up against decidedly modern verbiage. Fictional items of our own world—such as adamantium and Silmarils—are blended into the metaphors. Brash language takes the reins, and occasionally falls into the alliterative verse itself. Several other modes of wordplay are all at work, weaving in and out of each other.

I haven't mentioned the actual story yet, which is because (as interesting as it is) it feels almost secondary to itself. Hawk is a mighty warrior in the employ of the Guild. His world contains dragons and dragon riders, magic alongside an awareness of some version of quantum physics, and has regrown after multiple ice ages. There are ancient legends that sound like and unlike our own. He fights literal and figurative monsters, gets wound up in politics, and—by the end—is in well over his head as he and his equally mighty wife Ilyia see her colossal aspirations through to the end.

Hawk's stories may well contain the fingerprints of centuries of translation and interpretation in his own world, as is hinted at in the prologues and epilogues. But it also, whether ironically or deliberately, has a COVID Chapter. Plagues are nothing new in either fiction or reality, but—much like the adamantium and Silmarils—the treatment of this chapter's subject matter claws its way off the page, reminding the reader of the here and now. Considering how deft Crowe is with mimicking this aspect of ancient literature in the fiction itself, I would like to believe that this was a deliberate move. The metaphor clawing its way through layers of worldbuilding to flick us in the forehead, to remind us that no translation will ever be pristine, that every modern writer will always lean into The World Now while interpreting The World Then. After literal months of reading the expected wave of COVID Books, each less cathartic and more depressing than the last, I want to give him that credit. So I shall.

As I was reading, I noticed something: I was desperate to understand how this setting came to be. The anachronistic metaphors, characters with names just slightly similar to mythological figures I knew, ice age upon ice age... I began to wonder what the deep, rich prehistory of this world was. But the more I looked for clues, the less I found. And I realized that I was becoming another of these historians, desperate to inflict my own meaning on the book rather than to engage with it. Again, I have no idea whether this was a purposeful move, but I will give Crowe the benefit of the doubt here.

Eyes of a Hawk: Yggdrasil's Gaze is a lot. If you're not a fan of ancient mythology and legend already, you may find yourself adrift in the words. But I still recommend giving it a try. If you are well-read in these areas, it's a must. Crowe shows a deft eye and hand for the writing of both the ancients and their modern interpreters, creating a work of fiction that simultaneously lauds and critiques its source.

Eyes of a Hawk: Yggdrasil's Gaze is now available.

BOOK TOUR: Turmali and the Light Savers


The World of Turmali has been invaded by Aliens who have set out to destroy the Rainbow Bridges and leave the seven lands isolated and dark. 

Will the 12 Light Saver characters from Earth and their robot friend help the Turmali people defeat the Alien invaders? 

Our multi-national Light Savers promote an ethos of diversity and inclusivity. The twelve children must problem-solve, grow in confidence, show determination and make important decisions in order to achieve their aims. 

The stories include a multitude of interesting topics to keep readers engaged and informed.


Turmali and the Light Savers is a 14-book series for young readers. The first, appropriately titled How it all began, introduces the world of Turmali. This far-off land, initially Earth-like, is made up of continents floating in the sky rather than separated by seas. There was a time when these seven continents could be easily spanned via rainbow bridges. But due to the invasion of evil aliens and their quest to obtain the world's magical tourmaline deposits, the world and its connections have gone dark.

How it all began aims to introduce young readers to the series as a whole, laying out the lore of the world and the cast of characters. From there, children can choose which of the other 13 books to pursue first—one for each of the 12 Light Savers, and one for their robot IKE.

More information on the series, as well as a bookshop where you can pick up all the books so far, can be found on the official website.


This blog post is part of a book tour organized by The Book Network.

REVIEW: The Ultimate RPG Tarot Deck


When I was in college, I had such a thing for tarot cards. I had an Alice in Wonderland deck, a good old Rider-Waite, and several others. The symbology always fascinated me, independent of the fortune-telling aspect. It's excellent for storytelling, and just a few weeks ago some homebrew-flavored tarot popped up in a Blades in the Dark game.

So I was eager to have a look at The Ultimate RPG Tarot Deck, even if I wasn't fully sure what I was getting. An RPG-themed deck is just a fun idea in general, and throwing some actual fortune cards into your weekly game adds another level of immersiveness. What I wasn't expecting, though, was a multipurpose deck that can do everything from quickly generate an NPC to randomize encounters. Oh, and tell fortunes, of course.

While the Major Arcana and Minor Arcana are traditional and inspired by familiar card compositions, they're also tied directly to fantasy RPG concepts and designs. On the surface, this is just fun. It's a cool theme, and it shows that the deck's creators put a lot of thought into every single card.

There's a bonus when using these as regular tarot cards, though. If you're not versed in tarot but you are versed in Dungeons & Dragons, these cards become much easier to parse. There's a well-written guidebook to help you understand each card's meaning (and more, but more on that later). But just knowing which familiar characters, spells, and story beats align with each of the cards helps you understand the nuance that much better. It's done a better job explaining tarot to me quickly than any book I've ever read.

In addition to including a variety of traditional spreads and analyses of every card, the booklet also includes multiple ways to use the cards. There's a guide to quickly generating NPCs on the fly, using the Minor Arcana suits as personality traits. You can also pull cards to make choices or generate random encounters—kind of like that one session of Oxventure, but with tarot cards instead of Magic cards. The RPG keywords at the bottom of every description in the booklet help with this, too.

We actually gave the deck a test run at my Thursday night table—I'm not the DM, but Phoenix was nice enough to integrate the cards into my fey wanderer ranger's attempt at praying to the local deity of knowledge. This was the part that interested me most: the idea of using them for augury and other messages in-game. DMs are naturally encouraged to interpret any draws in a way that actually aligns with the campaign and characters. Of course, this would be doubly good with a character who happens to be a fortune teller.

I was expecting The Ultimate RPG Tarot Deck to be a novelty—when it's actually a highly versatile toolkit. Players and DMs alike should absolutely have a copy to hand, whether it's to spice up a campaign or to add some intrigue to a storyline. Best of all, the booklet betrays the creators' deep love and understanding of gaming: the storytelling, the culture, and the camaraderie. It belongs right next to your binder and your dice bag.

The Ultimate RPG Tarot Deck goes on sale June 6.

Meet Percy


Being a guinea pig owner is pretty great... or I wouldn't have been at it for half my life. I got my first pig when I was in college. (Which the college didn't like.) Sadly, guinea pigs are rather short-lived naturally. Their lifespans tend not to go above the single digits. And while most of mine max out their lifespans, some things just can't be accounted for.

HiFi (that's not him above, mind) passed away suddenly on Mother's Day. He was fine in the morning, fine in the afternoon, and then in the evening he was suddenly extremely lethargic. I've dealt with enough poorly pigs in my time to know when it's too late. And as I was loading him into his carrier, I realized he would almost certainly not survive the length of the drive to the emergency vet. The best thing I could do for him was sit with him. He was gone well before my friends who were coming to check on me got to my house.

There's every possibility he had a congenital issue. I've had piggies with all sorts of problems. It could easily have been something that finally just kicked in out of nowhere. I wish I knew, and I wish I could have stopped it. But I'm relieved I was able to be with him.

That said, pigs don't like being alone. Espresso and HiFi were litter mates and have literally never been apart, so even one night alone was hard on the remaining pig. I rarely wait long to introduce new cage-mates when necessary, because piggies will pine. And Espresso was already starting to.

Thus... meet Percy.

Percy is an Abyssinian, meaning he's got those whirly little cowlicks all over him. He's about three or four months old (I'm going with three because of his utter smallness). And fortunately for all of us, he acclimated pretty much immediately.

He's a good-tempered little guy, but I also made sure to introduce the two of them outside the cage. Espresso is very territorial, and I've read that introducing pigs in the cage can make the resident pig see the other as an intruder. Whether that's the case or not, this went extremely well, and Espresso treats Percy like his own baby.

Maybe he just likes being the big pig of the cage. Or maybe he misses HiFi and likes having a friend who likes him back. But it's been a week and they're pretty much joined at the hip. I couldn't be happier. Well, I could under the circumstances... but about this specifically, I'm happy.

HiFi is going to remain my poster pig on the right-hand side of the blog for the time being. He was a sweet boy who loved to be cuddled, loved attention, and always ended up snuggling with Espresso even if they'd gotten on each other's nerves during the day. Guinea pigs only stay with us for a little while, but their loss is always rough.

Incidentally, if you're a pig owner, I highly recommend checking out GuineaDad. (Not sponsored, I just really love this site.) Their fleeces and cage accessories have made the cage really cozy for the boys, and that's been a big part of Percy feeling at home so quickly.

If you need more pigs in your life, check out my Instagram. I'm going to try to be better about at least sharing stories of the boys.

BOOK TOUR: The Phoenix Chase


The X-Men confront space pirates and intergalactic war in this stunning space adventure featuring Kid Omega and a quest for the legendary powers of the Phoenix Force. Kid Omega’s latest scheme to set up his own mutant school goes horribly awry when mysterious aliens called The Remaining kidnap his “students”, demanding a rare Phoenix Egg – source of the awesome Phoenix Force – in exchange for their lives. Wildly out of his depth, Kid Omega turns to Cyclops for help. He gets a ride with space pirates the Starjammers, and someone more responsible: Cyclops’ brother Alex “Havok” Summers.
Their mission: rescue the students, recover the Egg, save the day. But it won’t be easy. Galaxy-hopping sleuthing, heists, and action lead the X-Men to clues that reveal a monstrous plot using the Phoenix Egg to ultimately conquer the universe.


If you can't keep track of every Marvel eventuality, I don't blame you. Fortunately, there's only one thing you need to know to enjoy The Phoenix Chase by Neil Klein: omega-level psychic powers are great for memeing.

The Phoenix Chase by Neil Kleid takes place amongst the next generation of X-Men. Two schools, one each headed up by Cyclops and Wolverine, continue the work of Charles Xavier. But Kid Omega (a.k.a. Quentin Quire) thinks that's dumb. He's gearing up to create the ultimate remote classroom experience: Mutants Without Borders, a school that exists entirely inside his mind. Unfortunately for him, an intergalactic threat calling itself "The Remaining" uses orientation day to kidnap his closest friends for ransom. The price?

Summers. And the Phoenix Egg.

You don't have to know a lot about the X-Men to know that "Phoenix" means "bad news." And even if you don't, The Phoenix Chase fills you in on everything you need to know, as any good tie-in does. Rather than involve Cyclops, who (understandably) has big feelings on the whole Phoenix thing, Quentin turns to Scott's brother Alex, a.k.a. Havok. The two then set off across the galaxy on the universe's most dangerous egg hunt.

Marvel fans will see a lot of familiar faces along the way. A few of the Guardians of the Galaxy have a look-in, as do bigger and smaller names, both in person and in flashback. Expect to see friends and foes from all across the universe... and expect Kid Omega to have something to say to all of them.

Quentin and Alex are a surprisingly satisfying odd couple, both dealing with similar issues in vastly different ways. In the end, it'll take a bit of Kid Omega's chaos and Havok's levelheadedness to save the day. But is the day really saved? Or just stabilized for later catastrophe?

Even if you don't have an encyclopedic knowledge of Marveldom, The Phoenix Chase guides you through its many locations and characters with ease. That's a must for a solid tie-in, as I say quite a bit. But it's also got another: a story that could hold its own even if you filed the serial numbers off. If Quentin was an off-brand psychic and the Phoenix Egg was a sci-fi McGuffin by any other name, the story would still be strong, and his and Alex's reluctant friendship and mutual growth would still matter.

If you're in the U.S., you can grab The Phoenix Chase now. U.K. readers will have a little longer to wait—July 20.


This blog post is part of a tour hosted by The Book Network.

BOOK REVIEW: The Puzzle Master


Acquired savant syndrome is both very real and very rare. For some people, a traumatic brain injury can actually cause extraordinary new abilities—be they scholarly, artistic, musical, or otherwise. This is what happened to Mike Brink, the protagonist of Danielle Trussoni's The Puzzle Master. And while he's found a way to make use of these abilities while appeasing their unpleasant side effects, said abilities and coping mechanisms are about to lead him down a twisting path of mystery, conspiracy, and strange spirituality.

Mike's brain injury may have ended his football career, but it's turned him into a puzzle master... whether he likes it or not. His tendency to see formulas in everything is debilitating, but he's focused it into both solving and creating puzzles. These puzzles have caught the attention of Jess Price: once a renowned author, now serving a prison sentence for murder. She's as keen on puzzles as Mike is, but she's dabbling in things far beyond her pay grade.

After visiting Jess and receiving some odd encoded messages from her, Mike soon finds himself fully tangled up in her world. She visits him in steamy dreams and seems to remember these encounters. And her diaries from before her arrest take him even further down the rabbit hole... into a world of golems, religious puzzles, doll-making, and demons.

The Puzzle Master is intriguing in that it hides its hand early on. It would have made for a perfectly serviceable crime drama with a reluctant detective at the helm. But as it opens up bit by bit, it brings more and stranger fascinating turns into play. By the end, what looked from the outside like a Rubik's cube has opened up into a complex and thrilling Lament Configuration.

Trussoni has a masterful storytelling style that is evident throughout The Puzzle Master, keeping the reader engaged as the story travels across multiple interlocking narratives. That said, the first few chapters are a bit infodump-y, cramming Mike's story into several rounds of oddly placed exposition. Trussoni's characterizations of everyone else, especially Jess Price, flow naturally into the narrative. Perhaps it's a narrative choice: a more structured, up-front exposition for the highly logical Mike to set him apart from the rest of the cast. Unfortunately, for readers new to Trussoni's work, it sets up an expectation that this is how all exposition will be approached. It is not, though, and pushing through this first series of chapters leads to writing that's much more rewarding.

For the most part, the story is compelling. Much as Mike is pulled down unexpected rabbit holes, so is the reader. What starts as a deep dive into the history of porcelain making turns into a conspiracy of Biblical (literally) proportions. The comparisons to The Da Vinci Code seem a bit unfair; Trussoni's work is much more respectful of and grounded in the ancient puzzles and mythologies it references. And while the plot does inflate to potentially affect Life As We Know It, the story still remembers who and what is at its core. Brink's affliction is never truly treated as a blessing. We are never allowed to forget the true trauma of having your entire life and worldview suddenly altered forever. As much as Mike can feed and appease his sudden genius, we also see his longing for normality, for his brain to stop behaving in the way that's earned him so much admiration. It's a very compassionate approach that I was pleased and relieved to see at play.

Sadly, I'm not in a position to discuss my favorite aspect of The Puzzle Master, as even bringing it up would give away a portion of the surprise twist ending. Suffice to say there's a nice bit of mirroring that hints at the true solution to the high-end puzzle Brink finds himself working with.

If you're a fan of puzzles, history, and Judeo-Christian mythology, The Puzzle Master is worth your time. It's an intriguing ride which, while it does stumble at the starting line, races strong to the finish and keeps you guessing from chapter to chapter.

The Puzzle Master goes on sale June 13.

BOOK REVIEW: Dragonfall


When fantasy and dragons collide, they generally follow one of two paths: either the dragons are gone and we're trying to bring them back, or the dragons are here and we're trying to get rid of them. L.R. Lam's Dragonfall, the first book in in the new Dragon Scales trilogy, introduces a potential third option: romance the dragon.

In fairness, this is more like a fourth or fifth option. The setting of this new trilogy is a world in which humans have achieved the use of magic though—as far as the humans are concerned—the blessings of dragon gods. This magic is carefully controlled through the use of seals, which are tied directly to individuals and have a degree of identity protection on them. Ask the dragons, however, and they'll see it differently: humans stole the magic of dragons, banishing the dragons to a different dimension.

That's not the only theft going on in this book, either. Our protagonist, Arcady, kicks things off by committing some light identity theft for a good cause: to prove their grandfather's innocence. But the spell required to begin using their grandfather's seal has a side effect. Everen, currently the only living male dragon, is dragged through a tear in the Veil, trapped in a weakened human form in the human world. But this has been foretold, and his kind see it as an opportunity: use Arcady to his advantage by the next big human festival, and dragons may have a chance at taking back what's rightfully theirs.

But then, Everen starts to fall for the human. And as their magical bond strengthens, so does their emotional bond... leaving Everen conflicted.

While Everen and Arcady's strange blossoming romance is the heart of Dragonfall, the bulk of the central plot is a heist. And we all love a heist. While the whole book is a fascinating read, the actual elaborate scheming of the heist is well-crafted and fun. It slots nicely into the worldbuilding that came before, with a nice balance of risk and reward colored by the setting's magic system. For example, a clever (magical) disguise is a key piece of the plan—but there are plenty of opportunities for intriguing slip-ups.

The enemies-to-lovers romance between Everen and Arcady isn't slow-burn so much as hot and cold. It's clear there's a long way to go between these two as they figure each other (and themselves) out, and the book leaves off on a tantalizing cliffhanger. Readers who are hoping for drawn-out steamy scenes may find themselves disappointed; those who are in it for the long haul will, I feel, be rewarded.

Overall, Dragonfall has a good flow, deftly balancing worldbuilding and storytelling. The plot does occasionally screech to a halt for commentary on the construct of gender—something that's already shown well as each character contends with their own identity and place in this particular corner of the human world. Short of Everen's education in hand signs for pronouns and introduction to the concept, it makes little sense for people for whom this is a normal part of life to stop and expound on how weird it would be to think otherwise. This feels more like being taken aside by the author than immersion in a world where this is the norm and we are being invited to see it as the norm. Both Arcady and Everen—one versed in this society, one having left a world where masculinity is seen as automatically violent—give ample opportunities to explore this simply by existing near and with each other.

There is a secondary plot that I am deliberately leaving out... and that is because to say much about it at all would spoil an amazing final-chapter hook. While the book's outro for our romantic leads is compelling enough to bring readers back, this finale rolls in like a mid-credits sting to insist on our presence for book 2.

There are still plenty of questions left for this trilogy to answer. What was the original relationship between humans and dragons truly like? Will we ever get to see this at full power with Arcady and Everen? What about Arcady's grandfather? Heck, what about... that final-chapter sting? There's so much more to come, all of it exciting.

Dragonfall is equal parts searing romance, heist adventure, and high fantasy. The world it introduces us to is fascinating, and one readers will be itching to return to as soon as possible.

Dragon Scales 1: Dragonfall is now available.