Fiction

How Captain Marvel could have been the MCU’s Wonder…

To begin with I’d like to state that this critique will not involve any discussion of any of the controversy surrounding the Captain Marvel movie or Brie Larson. I intend this to be solely an exploration of how the rather lackluster movie could have been so much stronger. Frustratingly, I believe this could have been easily achieved by changing the emotional arc of the story while maintaining most of the scenes that already exist.

The Challenge

Captain Marvel has had a troubled history for much of the last twenty years. In the comics, the character has been rebooted anywhere from 7-12 times (depending on who does the counting). Yet Marvel Comics continues to try and find a way to make this character work. The probable reason is not surprising – a strong female superhero that shares the company name is a highly desirable marketing tool. Still, the comic division of the company appears to have failed repeatedly in their attempt to ingratiate this character with the hardcore fans.

Enter Captain Marvel, the MCU version. Yet another attempt to ‘get this character right’. Wtihout going into details of the internet battles fought around this character and the movie, certain promotional choices made by Disney/Marvel suggested they never truly had confidence in this version of the character either.

They didn’t let the movie evolve organically from the characters and it shows.

After seeing the movie, I believe they were right to be concerned — at least with this entry into the MCU franchise. My take on the movie is that it probably could have been at or near the top 5 MCU movies, instead of languishing around 14th place, if the directors/producers would have realized what movie they were actually making and play to its strengths instead of attempting to force the movie into the story they thought they wanted to make. That is, they didn’t let the movie evolve organically from the characters and it shows.

Let me explain.

How to Improve The Movie

Needless to say, if you haven’t seen Captain Marvel yet…

***** SPOILER ALERT ********

Yes, really. A lot of spoilers.

But that should be obvious.

Are you sure you’re ready?

Okay then, on with the discussion.

***** SPOILERS BELOW ********

The Wrong Emotional Arc

The biggest problem with the Captain Marvel movie is that the directors/producers attempted to force the story around the wrong emotional arc. That led to too little time develop the necessary emotional aspects of the story they wanted to tell, and too much time developing the emotional aspects of the story they weren’t telling. But a bit more on the movie to help you understand what I mean.

A Brief Summary of the Movie

Captain Marvel begins on the Kree homeworld of Hala with a nightmare/flashback that ‘Veers’ doesn’t understand. to get over it, she wakes her senior officer for a sparing match where he warns her against losing emotions and that she won’t achieve her true potential until she can defeat him without her powers (yes, we see her already with powers from the start).

To make things brief, they go on a mission that is an ambush by the hated Skrulls and she is captured. As they probe her mind we begin to learn about her past on Earth, including short clips of all the times people doubted her abilities, completely devoid of emotion. She escapes, single-handedly battling through the entire ship of Skrulls (it would have been useful if they had the device that stunned her originally) and escapes, plunging to Earth where she crashlands, without a ship, in a Blockbuster store, completely fine and barely even stunned.

She meets Nick Fury and Agent Colson, and chases some Skrulls, before discovering more of her history including a scientist she used to know and the identity of her former best friend (before her amnesia). And a cat. Chased by more Skrulls, they blast off in an experimental ship and land at her old friend’s house to a heartfelt welcome and a heart-to-heart with the head Skrull. He helps reveal her true past and the betrayal of the Kree. They then discover the hidden laboratory they’re looking for is in space, they modify their ship and blast off to find… the tesseract and a ship full of Skrull refugees. Turns out Skrulls aren’t the scourge of the galaxy but relatively innocent victims of the Kree who are looking for a new homeland.

Battles ensue, Captain Marvel is captured by frees herself from the influence of the Kree superior mind after finally realizing the Kree didn’t create her, they’re inhibiting her. She can now fly, is invulnerable and doesn’t require a space suit in space, essentially becoming Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, and the Hulk all combined. She chases off the Kree ships and everyone is happy. Then she flies off to stop the Kree/Skrull war… cue credits.

Despite all the action and all the potential, this movie falls flat. We don’t really care about any of the characters except maybe the Skrull refugees and there’s nothing to interest us in much of the rest of the story, as cool as it sounds on paper. As a writer, I’m very interested in why this movie fell flat and, of course, I think I know or I wouldn’t be writing this article.

Dont’ Fear the Haters

The emotional arc that Disney/Marvel went for in Captain Marvel was essentially ‘don’t listen to the haters’. We eventually learn, through flashbacks, that Carol Danvers has multiple experiences where her abilities are doubted, including as a kid, during military training, and even with the Kree she is constantly doubted by her squad commander. However, not only are these shown through rapid flashbacks, but we rarely see them having any emotional effect on the character, so likewise, we’re emotionally unaffected. Once Carol Danvers learns to grow past those who have held her back (physically represented by an actual inhibitor implanted in her neck) her full power is unleashed and she becomes unstoppable.

If this was truly the character arc the writers/producers wanted to develop, they needed to show us in much greater detail how Carol was affected by the doubters. We needed to see more than just brief flashbacks of those scenes, we needed to actually be there with her for at least one, but preferably several, in some detail. In fact, I would suggest we needed to follow her through some scenes as she grows up and even through basic training.

Instead, the flashbacks all feel quite rushed and we eventually understand what has happened without truly empathizing with her, leaving us to develop no emotional attachment with her.

The Power of Friendship and the Sting of Betrayal

In truth, instead of developing Carol’s ‘insecurity’ arc, the movie spends most of its time – apparently without realizing it – developing a ‘friendship/betrayal’ arc for Carol. We spend a lot of time with Rambeau and her daughter, Carol develops a strong relationship with Fury, she was good friends with Mar-Vel the Kree scientist, and even has very strong camaraderie, laced with a hint of one-sided romantic overtones, with Yon-Rogg her Kree commanding officer and ultimate betrayer, where we also spend much of the early movie. She’s even able to make friends with the Skrull, overcoming her Kree-programmed hatred of them.

The current story structure of the movie leaves us with too little time seeing the impact of the ‘haters’ to empathize with Carol, and too much time developing friendships for us to feel she’s been wronged by the haters. The time spent on each doesn’t appear to match what seems to be the intended emotional arc, leading me to believe that Disney/Marvel didn’t realize which movie they were making and perhaps, which they should have been making.

Rambeau and Danvers walking to their planes.

Instead, if Disney/Marvel would have developed the ‘importance of friendships/avenging a betrayal’ arc, the scenes would have fit much better, albeit in a different order.

I suggest the story should have gone something like this:

We begin with Carol Danvers and Rambeau as friends and pilots who get involved with the strange, secretive plot of their scientist-friend Lawson (Mar-Vel). Before the spaceship chase scene, we develop the friendships fully and hint at a mystery surrounding what Mar-Vel is working on. Things go bad and Mar-Vel needs a way out, Carol offers to fly her out of there and they’re attacked and brought down. Mar-Vel is killed and Carol goes unconscious as the power-source they were carrying explodes. She only sees the attackers identity through a haze.

Next, we fast forward through a montage of ‘rebuilding’ and training years to the the point we start with in the current movie. Carol is beginning to remember things, but the Kree appear unable to explain what she remembers although we get hints they want to keep something from her.

At this point we can follow forward with the story arc of the movie almost entirely as is. Now that we’ve developed the proper emotional arc we will see and feel the horror of the truth that the Kree betrayed her and used her, stealing her away from her home planet and her friends. We will also be continually curious about how she will regain her memories and what her reaction will be. We also meet her without powers and see her character before she becomes the superhero. And the short flashbacks will be useful in the emotional arc, rather than just being there for a bit of the story. In this way, the movie would have much greater emotional depth.

Frustratingly, this is such a small change to the story arc but, I believe, would have resulted in an immensely better movie with a deeper emotional arc.

An Incomplete Heroes Journey

The changes above would have made it much more apparent why this second change would be necessary. A smaller but equally important thing the movie gets wrong is forgetting to finish the heroes journey.

One very specific mistake the movie makes is near the end. Carol confronts Yon-Rogg, her Kree mentor who has constantly taunted her that she won’t truly be ready to lead until she can beat him without using her powers. It’s obvious that his taunt is in large part because he knows he can’t beat her now that she fully come into her powers and her response is to blast him mid-sentence with her pulse beams claiming that she doesn’t need to prove anything to him. I’m not sure whether this was meant to be a ‘girl power’ moment, a ‘stop mansplaining’ moment, or a hat-tip to Indiana Jones, but it fails for one big reason. The showdown with Yon-Rogg is the natural conclusion to her heroic arc. He is the person that gained her trust, lied to her, betrayed her, and then tried to kill her. She’s right that she doesn’t have anything to prove to him, but as a hero she should have a need to prove it to herself. She has to demonstrate to herself that she’s more than just fancy lights from her hands.

When push comes to shove, a hero is not the sum of the powers but the strength of their heart. If their powers are removed they still remain a hero. That’s what we see in Iron Man 1, that’s what we see in Thor 1, that’s what Steve Rogers demonstrates before becoming Captain America, that’s what T’Challa demonstrates in the challenge of Black Panther. Even Dr. Strange has to learn that before he truly comes into his powers (when he’s between the power of his doctor skills and the mystical powers he gains). But Carol Danvers doesn’t. And if the proper emotional arc had been developed in the movie, this would have been self-evident.

In the current form of the movie, we experience almost no heroic qualities from Carol Danvers prior to receiving her powers (except a fairly short flashback with all emotion drained from it) and the only larger-than-life deeds we see her accomplish are with her powers. And she only gets stronger and more invincible as the movie goes on. So we never see her truly challenged. The one chance for this important part of the heroic journey to be fulfilled was in the face-off with Yon-Rogg. A scene that utterly fails to fulfil its purpose.

In Summary

Captain Marvel is an action-filled bore-fest that didn’t need to be that way. The lack of empathy and engagement from the audience comes from the producers failing to develop the proper emotional arc. Frustratingly, this didn’t have to be the case. All the elements were there for a strong story. For whatever reason, the producers just decided to make a different, less engaging story.

Fiction

Specular Superhero Novel Giveaway

As someone interested in superhero stories, even to the level of having published the start of my own superhero series online (Echoes of the Past: Altered Destiny), I love to see stories of new and original superheroes. Enter Specular. Published in August 2018, Specular by L.K.Brooks-Simpson, is the origin story of a hero with mental health issues, in an original setting. If you enjoy superhero stories, there’s an exerpt below as well as a giveaway for a chance to win a copy!

Specular
L.K Brooks-Simpson 
(IXI COMICS, #1)
Publication date: August 16th 2018
Genres: Superhero, Young Adult

The first installment of the IXI COMICS series by author L.K BROOKS-SIMPSON

This novel is of the fantasy/superhero fiction genre and tackles some important implications of mental health and Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).

Imagine being afraid to fall asleep in fear that you will not wake up to the life you know. This is exactly what Tre Moon experienced at nine years old. He awakes to his second dissociative identity having set his house aflame. With his home ruined and his parents murdered at his own hands, he is sentenced to trial for a life sentence. Young Tre Moon is forced to walk a path that will change his life forever.

When seventeen year old Tre comes into contact with a prohibited substance called Colloidal Supersilver his life will change forever when he finds out he has the ability to change how light refracts from his body. His new powers come with new challenges to an already complicated life, having battled Dissociative Identity Disorder for the majority of his youth.

Follow the origin story of IXI COMICS first hero as he becomes Indiana’s newest vigilante, Specular! In a city full of crime, recession, drug underlords and other mysterious vigilante’s, the legend of Tre Moon will unfold, all the while, his dark past tries to catch up with him…

Goodreads / Amazon

EXCERPT
CRACK!
The howl of several sonic booms consumed the first room and cocooned Tre in place. The wind came from plates that had unfolded in the walls and by the extreme reverberation, Tre was held prisoner by the process of acoustic levitation. There were immense forces being applied to his body, so immense in fact, that his anatomy was sent into anarchy: his ear drums were tapping out from the sheer volume. He could feel his bones rattling against the surrounding tissue and he was being held in place, against his will. Over the roars of sound, he was sure he could hear a faint alarm blazing from outside the room. Heron’s suit looked fainter than ever through the murkiness of the colliding waves. He struggled to move and to breathe because the power of sound knocked both momentum and oxygen from the stream. Just when Tre thought he would find no salvation from his asphyxiation, calm struck. Gently, Tre returned to the ground and an ever so smooth stream of air was available for him to breathe. When he looked around the sonic shockwaves were still blasting from the folds of the first room, however there was a thin layer between his skin and where the shockwaves would have made contact. This thin layer drowned out the noise around him and gave him peace in the chaos surrounding him. Tre did not question, he merely proceeded to the second room. Once again, his first step was met with instant reaction. In the walls of the second room, seven square folds disappeared and, in its place, seven turrets emerged from within. Without warning, each turret fired a beam of laser directly at him. Tre felt the unknowingly hot singe of the laser for a millisecond before it cooled to a warm ambience that spread to this layer around his body. Unbelievably, the point the lasers contacted his body was only the beginning of a new path, as they were redirected outward. All without leaving a single scratch on the teenager. He noticed that when he moved at certain angles the laser would refract at different angles also. Overcome with the natural urge to do so, Tre opened his hand outward and focused. Suddenly the point of the laser’s redirection changed once again and he watched with his own eyes as the beams slowly crawled across his body like obedient serpents and formed at the destination of his palm. Tre admired the ball of laser; he felt the consistency in his hand and even tracked the harmless trail from the ball, across his body, the point of contact and back to the turret where it came from. It truly was a thing of xenology. Tre squeezed his fist tightly and watched as the lasers fought to free themselves from his hand. They slipped from the gaps between his fingers and shot outward, destroying the turrets that originated them in a series of destructive ricochets.

Author Bio:

L.K. Brooks-Simpson is a native of London, England. He is an English Literature graduate and Film Production student.
Aside from his creative ventures, he is a strong supporter of philanthropy. He cites his biggest influences as J.R.R. Tolkien, Sanyika Shakur, J.K. Rowling, Tsugumi Ohba, Stan Lee and Maya Angelou, among many others.
Three sentences he would use to describe himself – A book is for the mind. Travel is for the heart. Family is for the soul.
Lara has always considered himself a student of literature and story form and for this reason, his taste is eclectic. Ranging from novels to manga – poems to screenwriting and even comic book story boards. Just as genres define certain works, there are a lot of elements that define his creative process. He has aspirations to write in many different genres.

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Cover Reveal – Game, Set, Deathmatch by Edwin H…

Here is the cover for my new Science Fiction novel. Based loosely on First Person Shooters, it follows DaemonS and the Apocalypz Cowgirls who find their Death Match hopes derailed by disaster as they uncover a plot to end all life as they know it.

Release Date: November 15, 2018

Fiction

Confessions of a Government Spyder

Personal-Journal.com


Friday 18 November, 2039

It’s not a good sign that I’m writing here again. Seems I only come back when life sucks.

And right now — life sucks.

Okay, that’s not completely true. What I mean is that work sucks. But since work is such a big part of life, it’s almost the same thing.

Wow I’m rambling. This is why I hate journals. I’m going to start again.

Today I was responsible for locking up an old lady. Seventy-four and I helped put her in the slammer. She’s my thousandth incarceration since starting this position two years ago. That sucks.

I can’t believe it either. 1000 people I’ve put away. Garbage men, painters, grannies, priests, cops, teachers, shopkeepers, and so many others. None of them were dangerous. None of them were a threat. They all just wanted to know what was happening with their country. They all just wanted some answers.

They’re not dissidents and they’re certainly not the public menaces they’ve been labelled as. At most they’re just people who are having trouble adjusting to change. And who can blame them? The world is speeding forward at such a rapid pace that beliefs and institutions of a generation are all but dust before that same generation even dies. But as fast as some things move forward, other things move backwards.

So, what did this woman do? She posted to the global MeHIVE one too many comments criticizing our government’s new social structuring policies. And what did she say that was so horrible?

‘Equality used to mean everyone had an equal chance.”

That’s it. That’s what I locked her away for. She would have been safe — well, safer — posting it to a local MeHIVE but the oldies have trouble keeping up with the constant change. This kind of thing is probably the most common flag I receive for the over 60’s. But once they’re flagged, once they enter our web, it’s over for them. No one escapes the government Spyders.

We’ve got access to everything everyone has ever done. All e-mail, all text posts, all images, all audio or video from the time you were born. In fact, we even have your baby pictures. We know all your school grades, we know what you ate every day, we know what time you arrived and how you treated your teachers and classmates every hour you were there. And we know the same about you for every job you’ve ever had. If you’re self-employed, we extrapolate the information from the tone of your social posts. We can even access your private logs without consent if the publicly available ones don’t have sufficient information, although that’s rarely necessary.

We know everything about you. That includes all your crimes, no matter how big or small. And everyone has committed a crime.

I mean that. Literally. Everyone.

The web of laws is so complete now that no one can escape it. If you’re still free it’s only because the government finds you useful or hasn’t found a reason to lock you up. It stopped being about guilt or innocence several decades ago. Now, it’s about ‘keeping the peace’. It’s about creating a docile population that allows the government to do whatever they want. So if you’re useful, they keep you around. If not, as soon as you come onto their radar someone like me starts the data-mining algorithm and you’re found guilty. Yep. I don’t even look at your file. I just plug your name and personal details into the software and it compiles your life story, fitting to it whatever crimes apply. Then we charge you retroactively.

And when you’re proven guilty? All your assets are liquidated. Ten percent is put into holdings for you on the chance you get out and can somehow restart your life. The rest goes to the government. It’s ironic, in a way. It’s the 90% tax rate so many were fighting for, only it applies to everyone, not just the rich. We’re finally all equal under the law. All equally guilty.

Anyway, you’re then sent to a government internment town, one of hundreds around the country, where you’re given a dormitory and a job in your new society. You don’t pay rent, but you don’t make any money either. The number and size of these ‘towns’ are growing incredibly. Pretty soon there will be more of them than free towns. But most of us suspect that’s the government’s plan. This allows them to keep tight order while filling unpopular jobs with unpaid labour. Yep, under the guise of keeping the peace, the government has become the new slaver.

As I said, while tech speeds forward, our social structure speeds backwards. We’re now living in a high-tech feudal society. I feel like a henchman for the Sheriff of Nottingham.

Anyway, there’s nothing to be done about it now. It’s just — a thousand! It caught me by surprise. But it’s the weekend now. I’ll drink the feelings away and come in Monday ready for a new week, just like I always do. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy I have a job that keeps me off the radar.

Rant ended.

Perfect time to sign off, I just heard a knock at the door.

Fiction

Out Of Sight book review

Out of Sight
Matthew S. Cox
Publication date: August 13th 2018
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult

 

Most Citizens hold Outcasts in dim regard, but Sima never expected they’d throw her off the planet.

In 2411, overpopulation has spread a plaque of filthy, congested city to the corners of the Earth. Government has raised corruption to an art form, and no one hears the cries of those left to die in the dark passageways of civilization. Following the End of Nations, people cling to the only division left: social status.

 

Sima Nuvari ran away from a dysfunctional home at twelve and has been living as an Outcast on the streets of the globe-spanning city. It’s a dirty, dangerous place where everyone is trying to either use you or kill you and friends are hard to come by. Now, at the ripe old age of sixteen, her best years of begging are behind her — those darned kids are getting all the top ‘glint’ — and she’s faced with the decision of moving forward as either a prostitute, a drug runner, or a member of the strange new government ‘progenitor program’. As it turns out, fate makes the decision for her as she finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time and is captured by the government security forces.

Out of Sight is an interesting book. It has an intriguing premise, it’s well-written, and has a fully developed world. However, it attempts to sell itself on something it is not. It’s clearly not a Dystopian story, although it’s set in a corrupt, futuristic world. It’s not a story about social status, although that does feature in the story. It’s not really even a story about surviving in the wilderness of a new world, although the characters do undergo that challenge. Rather, it’s a story about finding a family when you had none and learning to take responsibility for others, even though no one has ever taken responsibility for you.

There are many interesting characters in Out of Sight, and the world they live in (both of them) appear to be rich and detailed. The writing was also enjoyable to read. Where I had the most problem with this story was in the pacing. Despite a lot of action, the plot seemed to plod along and I kept waiting for something to happen that would move us from just following the character’s life, to involvement in the plot. I truly believe this book could have worked just as well and been many chapters shorter. Alternatively, the author could have built in a more driving plot throughout the ‘day in a life’ sequences (which were most of the book). I especially would have liked to see more development of the mystery of Mirage. Although I suspect the author will do that in future books in the series, it would have been nice if that was more of a plot line in this book. Having said that, the ending of Out of Sight was satisfying and fit the story well.

Overall, Out of Sight by Matthew S. Cox is a good read filled with interesting characters and well-developed settings. If you enjoy character-driven SF that is light on plot but heavier on relationships, you might want to look at this book.

* * * I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review * * *

Goodreads / Amazon

 

Author Bio:

Born in a little town known as South Amboy NJ in 1973, Matthew has been creating science fiction and fantasy worlds for most of his reasoning life. Somewhere between fifteen to eighteen of them spent developing the world in which Division Zero, Virtual Immortality, and The Awakened Series take place. He has several other projects in the works as well as a collaborative science fiction endeavor with author Tony Healey.

Hobbies and Interests:
Matthew is an avid gamer, a recovered WoW addict, Gamemaster for two custom systems (Chronicles of Eldrinaath [Fantasy] and Divergent Fates [Sci Fi], and a fan of anime, British humour (<- deliberate), and intellectual science fiction that questions the nature of reality, life, and what happens after it. He is also fond of cats. Awards: Prophet of the Badlands (excerpt) – Honorable Mention – Writers of the Future

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

 

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Fiction

Your chance to win Out Of Sight by Matthew…

Out of Sight
Matthew S. Cox
Publication date: August 13th 2018
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult

Most Citizens hold Outcasts in dim regard, but Sima never expected they’d throw her off the planet.

In 2411, overpopulation has spread a plaque of filthy, congested city to the corners of the Earth. Government has raised corruption to an art form, and no one hears the cries of those left to die in the dark passageways of civilization. Following the End of Nations, people cling to the only division left: social status.

Since running away from home four years ago, she’s managed to stay a step ahead of death―or worse. At sixteen, she’s getting too old to survive from begging, despite her best effort to pretend she’s younger. Worse, the sidewalks teem with little kids edging in on her turf, monopolizing Citizens’ charity with their wide, pleading eyes and genuine innocence.

A chance meeting with suspiciously nice cops leaves her more confused than ever. Between deadly gangs, unforgiving security forces, and a terrifying madam eager to exploit a girl her age, merely getting older is the biggest threat to her life. With no good choice to make, she risks the least of three evils.

Sima thought her life on Earth had been dangerous…

She hasn’t seen anything yet.

Goodreads / Amazon

 

Author Bio:

Born in a little town known as South Amboy NJ in 1973, Matthew has been creating science fiction and fantasy worlds for most of his reasoning life. Somewhere between fifteen to eighteen of them spent developing the world in which Division Zero, Virtual Immortality, and The Awakened Series take place. He has several other projects in the works as well as a collaborative science fiction endeavor with author Tony Healey.

Hobbies and Interests:
Matthew is an avid gamer, a recovered WoW addict, Gamemaster for two custom systems (Chronicles of Eldrinaath [Fantasy] and Divergent Fates [Sci Fi], and a fan of anime, British humour (<- deliberate), and intellectual science fiction that questions the nature of reality, life, and what happens after it. He is also fond of cats. Awards: Prophet of the Badlands (excerpt) – Honorable Mention – Writers of the Future

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

 

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First Look! Cover for Jack Jetstark’s Intergalactic Freakshow

Jack Jetstark’s Intergalactic FreakShow
Jennifer Lee Rossman
Publication date: December 4th 2018
Genres: Adult, Science Fiction

Jack Jetstark travels the universe to seek out the descendants of superpowered freaks created long ago by VesCorp scientists. The vibrations encoded in a particular song transform the members of Jack’s crew into a firebreather and an angel, a wildman and telepathic conjoined triplets, so they hide the truth of who they really are with the theatrics of a carnival.

The song plays every night through the receptor Jack carries with them, but when one night it has a different ending and their temporary powers become permanent, Jack believes the change is a signal from the woman who sent him on this quest in the first place. He and his freaks must navigate a universe at war to protect the love of his life.

But does the ruler of VesCorp really need protecting?

Add to Goodreads / Pre-order

 

Author Bio:

Jennifer Lee Rossman is a science fiction geek from Oneonta, New York, where she cross stitches, watches Doctor Who, and threatens to run over people with her wheelchair. Her work has been featured in several anthologies and her time travel novella Anachronism will be available in June 2018. Her debut novel, Jack Jetstark’s Intergalactic Freakshow, will be published by World Weaver Press in 2019.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

 

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Storm of The Gods book review

Newly released Storm of the Gods by Canadian author A.R.Braun! I’m happy to have been given an advanced review copy from Xpresso Book Tours and here is my opinion on this new urban fantasy set in a California filled with newly awakened Greek gods, human scions, and mythological creatures.


Storm of the Gods
Amy Braun
(An Areios Brothers Novel)
Publication date: August 27th 2018
Genres: Adult, Urban Fantasy

Welcome to modern day California! Only, this isn’t the California you know. Thirty years ago the Greek Gods reawakened from their two thousand year hibernation after battling the Titans… and they didn’t like that the humans had all but forgotten them, turning them into stories for children. So they each seized control a region of California, their own districts to govern as they saw fit.

Derek Aerios and his blood-bonded brother Liam are scions of Ares, the God of War. They have never known a world where the gods didn’t exist. Their magic, the ability to generate and control fire, is a small fraction of that of their patron god, but it has made them formidable War Scions. Their job is to do Ares bidding and, although they don’t like the violent, immoral god, they serve him well…until they’re attacked by the scions of four other gods while on a routine mission; scions who are looking for something called The Heart of the Devourer. Suddenly Derek and Liam’s lives are turned inside out as they’re pulled into a struggle for the fate of all humanity. They must stop the rebirth of the Titans, even if it means challenging the gods themselves.

Storm of the Gods is an entertaining story of what it might be like to have gods living among us. Not the friendly gods of our childhood stories, mind you, but the actual Greek Gods with all their immoral power games and lack of concern for human existence. The story has magical humans, violent action, romance, overpowered Gods, and a mystery that could spell the end of humanity.

Seeing such a world fleshed out was incredibly entertaining, as we are treated to the districts of Athena, Apollo, and Aphrodite. Strangely, we saw little of Ares district, except from the inside of what seemed like the central headquarters of a police state that would make the Nazi Gestapo blush. The gods themselves, the few we meet, act in very believable manners as overpowered avatars of the natural aspect or trait(s) they represent. And, of course, they have little patience for the interests of humans.

The human scions, heirs and embodiments of the gods they serve, are also interesting. Although several weren’t fleshed out well, the ones we met the most were well-developed characters. Most notable among these were the main characters Derek and Liam Aerios and Selena, scion of Athena, who comes with her own mystery of who she is and what happened to her memory (I suspect you should be able to guess the truth by the end, although you’ll have to wait for future books to find out for sure). I would have liked to have seen Cory, scion of Hermes (possesser of superspeed!) developed a bit more, as well as Gage, the scion of Hades. It might have been nice to have seen some of the story from his viewpoint, to add more sympathy to a tragic character and develop the mystery a bit more.

As for the story itself, the mystery of the hidden items and who was planning to do what with them was the most interesting part for me, but it often took a distant back seat to the action and romance…

My feeling was that the romance was underdeveloped for this story, although it was ongoing. In my opinion, this comes from the current trend of not wanting the female lead to seem weak if she falls too easily for the male protagonist. Unfortunately, the effect is an unsatisfying story arc that feels almost unnecessary and burdensome, as it doesn’t lead anywhere. What I’d like to see the author do in future books to overcome this would be to give strong story arcs and viewpoint scenes to both the male and female leads and then interweave them into the overall plot (instead of the single viewpoint we have in Storm of the Gods). This would allow readers to observe both characters as strong heroes in their own rights, and allow for a much more fulfilling romantic plotline with romance among true equals.

My other issue with Storm of the Gods was the combat sequences. While I didn’t find anything inherently wrong in the details, they often seemed to go on forever. It got to the point where I was skimming the sequence just to get to the end of it so I could continue on with the plot. This book has to have some of the longest combat sequences I’ve ever read, with the final climax being worthy of a martial arts anime series.

Overall, Storm of the Gods by A.R.Braun is an entertaining story in a well-developed world. I do, however, believe that it with a small change in approach, the author could make this series truly amazing.

Fiction

Book Giveaway! Storm of The Gods by A.R.Braun

I’m happy to introduce another book by a Canadian Author. Storm of the Gods by A.R.Braun, just released today! Read on for your chance to win a copy and watch for my review tomorrow.


Storm of the Gods
Amy Braun
(An Areios Brothers Novel)
Publication date: August 27th 2018
Genres: Adult, Urban Fantasy

The first in a brand new urban fantasy series where gods roam and mortals fight, STORM OF THE GODS follows two brothers who are caught in a conspiracy revolving around ancient artifacts, and find themselves siding with their supposed enemies rather than the Olympian who demands their loyalty…

Thirty years ago, the gods of Greek legend returned to the world. Their return restored their powers, which had been spent in a cataclysmic battle with the Titans. With the ancient deities imprisoned in Tartarus, the Olympians now reside in Néo Vasíleio, formerly known as California.

Twenty-four-year-old Derek Aerios is a war scion, a descendent of Ares, the God of War. He and his brother, eighteen-year-old Liam, capture mythological creatures and rogue scions as part of Ares’s elite military force. As he struggles to cope with his violent powers and the scars of a traumatic childhood, Derek tries to keep the two vows he has made: protect his brother, and never kill a human again.

But when Ares forces him to hunt and kill four rogue scions under Athena’s control—by threatening Liam’s life—Derek chooses to go after the scions in order to save his brother and keep his promise to himself.

Yet the closer Derek gets to the scions, the more he realizes that his orders are part of a deeper conspiracy that put him at odds with his mission and his conscience. Athena may not be the enemy, a traitor could be in their midst, and the Titans could be closer to freedom than ever before.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo

 

Author Bio:

Amy is a Canadian urban fantasy and horror author. Her work revolves around monsters, magic, mythology, and mayhem. She started writing in her early teens, and never stopped. She loves building unique worlds filled with fun characters and intense action.

When she isn’t writing, she’s reading, watching movies, taking photos, gaming, struggling with chocoholism and ice cream addiction, and diving headfirst into danger in Dungeons & Dragons campaigns.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

 

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Fiction

The Devil’s Standoff book review

Part three of three for The Devil’s Revolver special this week, my book review for the second story in the series, The Devil’s Standoff.



The Devil’s Standoff
V. S. McGrath
(The Devil’s Revolver #2)
Publication date: April 2nd 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

Welcome to the birthplace of the Devil’s Revolver, where untold danger lurks for Hettie Alabama and her companions…

The Devil’s Standoff picks up shortly after the end of The Devil’s Revolver, where we see Hettie Alabama, her sister, and companions ‘Uncle Jeremiah, and Walker Woodroffe making their cautious way to the Mexican border, desperate to avoid any attention from either the Pinkerton Agency or the American Division of Sorcery. Events conspire against them, however, and they force their way through a heavily magicked border wall before racing for the home of Javier Punta, where many surprises await them as Hettie holds hope that Javier, the creator of the demon gun, can unmake his creation.

A worthy successor to the first book, The Devil’s Standoff ups the ante at every stage of our heroes’ journey while introducing new, wondrous and terrible magic, and a deeper lore for both the land and the history of El Diablo. I found this book every bit as engrossing as the first. I loved how the magic of the land was fleshed out and how the author developed and interwove separate plotlines for some of the major characters.

If I had any complaints about this story they were that (1) it still played on the trope of characters not telling each other important information to move the plot along, and (2) the love interest between Hettie and Walker seemed forced. This latter bothered me a bit because while I did feel a natural romantic interest developing between them, I didn’t think the author needed to force it more than it would occur through the natural flow of the story. I can only suggest that someone mentioned to the author that female-led YA stories have to have multiple love interests, so she forced a few in. Fortunately, they didn’t detract significantly from an otherwise excellent story.

In conclusion, I’m very happy to have read both books in this series and they’ve been among the best books I’ve read recently. I can’t stress enough that if you like the idea of a wild west filled with magic, a strong female protagonist, and believable characters, this is the series for you.

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