Iskra lives in a small village with an abundance of laws to keep her safe, but do they keep her from happiness too?
Award-winning author Evelyn Puerto has given us a gift: Flight of the Spark Book One of the Outlawed Myth Fantasy Series. Like many authors, she spent years writing her first novel, but as you’ll see below, those years were well spent.
A lover of borscht and liberty, Puerto presumably also loves her psychotic cat.
My Thoughts on Flight of the Spark
Most fantasy takes a few chapters for me to settle into as I get used to the world the author creates and work to pronounce the names of the characters (perhaps the one thing I’d change about the genre). Flight of the Spark starts with Iskra, the main character, traveling from her little village of Gishin to Shinroo with a friend and the traders. Because Puerto took the time to introduce the world in a way I could process as I read, the story of this 15-year-old traveling a dangerous path wasn’t hard to grasp. It opened up my ability to savor the story without worry of forgetting some worldly law.
At first, I expected my review to discuss how Flight of the Spark shows the vast differences between communism and capitalism. People burdened by the laws forced on them in the name of safety, and the people who soar because few laws keep them from their dreams–aka the riskers.
But the more I read, the more I realized that while the story does have similarities to communism with leaders who live lavish lives while commoners live in cookie-cutter hovels, it focuses more on one emotion everyone experiences: fear. The villagers surrounding Iskra may be burdened by laws and aspects of communism, but fear keeps them in bondage.
Fear kept Iskra in bondage. Then Xico, a risker, saves her from a bandit, and a new world opens up to her. With that new world fear crashes down, and she has to decide what matters most in life.
The story, alone, intrigued and later amazed me, but the writing and characterization reaches levels every author wishes to attain. The years Puerto spent perfecting this novel shines through, brightening her talent for all to see.
Flight of the Spark falls under the YA fantasy genre. However, it does have closed-door sex between a married man and a prostitute, which is shown later in a negative light through his grief. There is also closed-door sex between husband and wife.
The Official Blurb
Iskra doesn’t question the rules. The rules are there to keep her safe from those who are deemed unsafe or unfair. Anyone who breaks the rules is taken, never to be heard from again. But that’s the price everyone gladly pays for peace and safety. And no one wants to live like the Riskers–barbarians who reject order and justice, and could kill or be killed at any moment.
When a friend is taken because of Iskra, the guilt forces her to do the unthinkable: seek out the Riskers. Iskra’s quest to save her friend quickly entangles her fate with a cryptic prophecy and a young Risker named Xico, who ensnares her heart and is willing to put it all on the line to win her.
With every risk Iskra takes, the closer she gets to true freedom. But every choice carries a consequence. The choices she makes set events she never imagined into motion, and the price of her freedom could very well be her life and the life of the man she loves.
Purchase your copy of Flight of the Spark on Amazon
As I’ve mentioned before, Amazon is riddled with poorly written fantasy. So much so, I am extremely careful when determining what fantasy books to accept for reviews. It would, then, make sense that becoming an award nominee in the fantasy category would not be a simple task. Yet, as I suspected, M.L. Farb managed the task. Don’t be surprised when The King’s Shadow shows up in the next Whitney Awards round. Just as wonderful as the first in the series, this book captures hearts.
The King’s Shadow continues the story of brothers Yoseph and Halavant. After traversing the King’s Trial and helping to save their people from Halavant’s evil mother, Yoseph remains with his brother. Together they work on a plan to equalize their people. But Yoseph is dying. In a last ditch effort to save him, Halavant travels to the land of the Carani in search of a cure for what ails his brother.
With old and new characters joining the story, readers follow the journeys of Yoseph, Katrin, Halavant, and Elise. Each battle their own demons as they strive to protect one another and their country. Fighting for all but themselves, they also learn to trust those around them and Yoseph’s god.
Filled with plenty more action, romance, and a story line that instills faith in God within its readers, The King’s Shadow has me hooked just as much as its predecessor. Expect mild war scenes, some PG-level violence, and mild kissing.
Two princes lead a war-broken people. One rules while the other serves in the shadows, haunted by encroaching death.
Halavant overthrew his queen mother to save his people from slavery, and now she seeks his life. Yosyph acts as the new king’s eyes and ears, but being invisible comes at great cost and his life is slipping away.
To save his closest friend, Halavant travels to the land of the skin-carving Carani, leaving Yosyph to rule a troubled people despite his ill health and the nobles on the verge of rebellion.
Unless Halavant can survive in the land of his enemies to find a cure and Yosyph can unite the frightened and starving people against a second war, both will die and their budding democracy will crumble under a new tyrant.
Purchase your copy of The King’s Shadow (The King’s Trial Book Two) on Amazon.
Kneeling at the tomb, Isaac tells the story of finding the Christ Child in the manager to his son.
Kneeling in the garden, I gazed at the tomb, which now lay open. All that I had seen as a boy flashed within my mind, reminding me of the knowledge God had given to me and the other shepherds. I turned to my son. “Now He has risen, the boy I once saw lying in a manager.”
“Abba,” my son’s curious gaze fell upon me. “You really saw Him as a babe?”
The winds swept past our feet that night, the cool breeze causing us to build small fires. Like most nights, I stared into the flames, the warm amber tinted with reds and blues. Drawing upwards, they danced with the air currents, the dry wood popping beneath them.
“Isaac, she peeks at you again.” My father tapped my foot with his staff. “You should say hello.”
Though I refused to shift my eyes to the pretty daughter of my father’s partner, Benjamin, I couldn’t help the small upward curve of my lips. Attention from such a pretty and smart girl would make any boy’s ears tingle with excitement.
I winked at my son, who plucked a flower from the ground. Nearing the age I had been then, he too, had a young maiden who peered at him with longing in her eyes.
“Abba, the story. Speak of Liza another day.”
“But such a pretty young thing, humor me, my son. Your mother once made me pluck flowers from the ground.” I chuckled and clasped his shoulder with my hand, squeezing lightly.
I prodded the coals, forming a place for our pot to warm the evening stew. Then a warm sensation from somewhere other than the fire entered my heart. Light brighter than the flames soon surrounded us. The sheep, though usually suspicious of change in the environment, remained still. My father stood beside me. I had never seen such brightness at night, and I shielded my eyes as I searched for the source. When my gaze discovered a man dressed in white floating above the ground, I joined my father and the shepherds of the field and we stumbled backward, frightened, until the being spoke.
“Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”
The warm sensation, which had entered my heart earlier, pushed outward, and I felt none of the coolness of the breeze, nor did fear remain within me.
The incredulous look in my son’s eye reminded me of myself before the experience that night. It reminded me of some of the looks strangers gave me when I told them my story, too.
“Son, we kneel at the edge of the tomb for one who is no longer there. Do you question my words?”
“A man floating above the ground? Was it a dream?”
“No, not a dream. An angel of the Lord.”
He raised his hands outward and said, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”
“Where?” my father questioned.
“How will we know Him?” Benjamin asked.
“And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
The angel who had spoken dropped his arms as hundreds more joined him. Each heavenly host sang an anthem. The notes are a soft memory, but the words remain fully ingrained in my mind. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
“Christ the Lord, my son. We had heard the stories—read from Isaiah in the synagogues, but dare we believe? Dare we hope? The Saviour of the world. How much could He do for us? Some believed He would save us from bondage as Moses once had. But my father taught He would save us from something far greater.”
I nodded. “Our sins. Temporal and spiritual death.” I studied his eyes hoping to see understanding. “Without Jesus, we would be lost to everlasting darkness. Only He could pave our way to God. With His birth came hope.”
“So what did you do?”
None of us would wait to find the Christ Child. Gathering together, the men decided to trust the flocks to the dogs. If the Son of God was born, then certainly, the Father would watch over our flocks as we went to worship at His Child’s feet.
With haste, both man and woman, boy and girl left the fields, rushing into the town of Bethlehem. Inn after inn, we searched the stables. Families, there to be counted for the tax, crowded into each dwelling, but the stables held no Christ Child.
Forlorn, I looked toward the sky. A star shone toward the earth, brighter than any I’d seen before. Following its gleaming light, I took a step forward. Then another. In our search, we’d missed perhaps the most humble dwelling of them all, a small inn, hidden in the shadows of the rock.
I heard my father’s footsteps first, then the rest as they trailed behind me. Entering the inn, I asked the question we had asked so many times before.
“Does a new child wrapped in swaddling clothes reside in your stable?” The owner peered at me, his eyes widening in wonder as he nodded and showed us the way.
“My son, the dreary stable, carved out of rock held sheep, donkeys, cattle, and all that one usually finds in such places. As you might imagine, it was no place for a babe. But He lay there, in a stone manager, with nothing but loose linen, swaddling clothes, to keep him warm.”
“How did you know it was the Christ, Abba?”
We immediately fell to our knees as the mother and her husband welcomed us into the single corner of the stable. The Babe’s eyes fluttered opened and He studied us as we gazed at Him. The animals made no sound. And the warmth I had experienced as the angel spoke reentered my heart, telling me we had found the Christ Child. The one who would save us.
His mother was Mary, who named the child Immanuel—God is with us—Jesus. We had read Isaiah, and we knew the rumors of a Joseph who had wed an expectant woman claiming to have known no man. We could not deny what we had seen and heard in the fields. The prophesies were true. Before us, lay the child prophets had proclaimed would come.
There, in that stable, I knelt next to the same pretty, young girl my father had teased me about and gave her little thought. I only wondered at the child foretold to carry the weight of the world on His shoulders. None of us really grasped what that meant, but we knew it meant something beyond anyone’s understanding—except God’s.
As we left the stable, my heart still soared. I couldn’t stop myself from telling everyone what had happened. Those who knew me well, they listened and wondered. We watched together as the child grew. He grew as most any other child—first babbling, then forming sentences. But once taught a rule, He never, ever broke it. As perfect as I thought I was, I soon learned differently.
I chuckled as my son smirked at the thought of my perfection. We both knew better.
“I think Eema plays a part in your perfect, Abba.”
“Perhaps.” I grinned wryly.
The stick I used to draw in the soil stilled, and I dropped it. Grasping my son’s hands I held them tightly. “All these years, your mother and I have watched Jesus and have seen proof of what the angel told us while in the fields. His works. The healings He performed. You witnessed five loaves of bread and two fishes feed a multitude of five-thousand people at His hand. We all listened to His words of peace and love.
“Now we kneel where His body was laid, and it is gone. Peter said He has risen.” I paused searching my son’s eyes, looking for the spark I knew he held within. “The faith and hope your mother and I discovered that night as we knelt next to a stone manager in a rock stable… I cannot question it. I’ve seen so much more. You asked if I saw Him. I did. Son, I did, and so did your mother.”
My son’s hands tightened their grip on mine. “The hope you had at His birth is fulfilled. Now we celebrate His life.”
Just as Betty’s life comes into focus and all she wants is almost within reach, tragic circumstances rip it all away in Sunlight and Shadows by Jessica Marie Holt.
Jessica Marie Holt, one of my favorite short-story authors, has released her first novel Sunlight and Shadows. Set in 1870 in North Carolina, this wonderful story whisks you away to where power tools don’t exist and the characters still remind you that some tribulations echo throughout time.
My Thoughts on Sunlight and Shadows
While technology advances and knowledge increases, some aspects of society never change. Secrets, jealousy, responsibility, and insurmountable pain lives within the pages of history similar to the way they exist in most of our digital journals.
Sunlight and Shadows allows us the benefit of another time period with horses and hand-built furniture as it deals with some of the same hardships we have today. The author provides us with another benefit by creating relatable characters with certain talents and undeniable faults.
I started this book and then struggled to put it down. It delves into the life of fictional character Elizabeth (Betty) Everleigh as everything she knows nearly tumbles into a pile of unrecognizable fodder. But as time continues and her life’s story becomes clearer, she finds it easier to relate to those that hurt her most.
Sunlight and Shadows includes some sweet romance and deals most with parent-child and sibling relationships. You’ll also find wholesome themes such as faith and forgiveness as Betty finds her way through life’s trials.
Well-written and edited, this book is a dream for lovers of period fiction as well as general fiction. As a historical fiction piece, this book includes that which is necessary for the story; however, the story is not based on historical events. Don’t let it stop you from reading it, though. It is phenomenal from start to finish.
The official blurb
At seventeen, the only thing Betty Everleigh wants for her future is what she’s always had–a cozy home, a loving family, and a quiet life just outside of town.
Just when her dream is in reach, a sudden tragic event shatters her simple existence. As she picks up the pieces, she learns that her idyllic life was just a façade, and the truth beyond it is more complex and heartbreaking than she ever imagined.
To pull herself and her family together, she must find grace enough to forgive, faith enough to let go, and courage enough to move forward.
Purchase your copy of Sunlight and Shadows on Amazon.
Many have died traversing the King’s trial, but Yosyph has only one chance to save his people from the Queen’s wrath.
Many have died traversing the King’s trial, but Yosyph has only one chance to save his people from the Queen’s wrath.
After years of staying up at night and telling stories to her sister, M.L. Farb enters the world of fantasy with her newest book The King’s Trial. A story filled with adventure, royalty, heroes, and a smidgen of romance, this is a tale lovers of fantasy won’t want to miss.
My Thoughts about The King’s Trial
Though I write women’s fiction and read several genres, fantasy stands as one of my favorites. Don’t spend a second longer wondering why; it’s because I can’t fathom the amount of talent it takes to create worlds and abilities, let alone understand the finer points of swordplay. I’ve enjoyed it for several decades, and still do, when it’s written well.
Amazon is riddled with poorly written fantasy. In fact, as a past product review blogger, I eventually refused indie books in the genre. However, having read a few other stories of Farb’s and knowing her writing ability, I decided to give The King’s Trial a chance, and I’m glad I did.
Farb clearly paints a picture of the kingdoms where this story takes place. The abilities given to characters are not overdone and there are no ridiculous monsters. Swords, honor, courageous fair maidens, and a clearly stated evil exists. The main character fights his way through personal demons while exerting himself physically. The characters are well-rounded and easy to like – or not.
As in many fantasy stories, the main character in The King’s Trial has to trust a higher power. Obviously based on Christianity and the idea of faith, The King’s Trial is perfect for all ages. Those who are not Christian will find the same integral standard we all desire in ourselves and for our children: honesty, kindness, and selflessness.
Written in first person, from the perspective of two characters, readers enjoy two adventures and are rewarded with the desired suspense as they wind together. Plenty of twists and turns exist, and at no point will one become bored. I sure didn’t.
The official blurb
In a land where stories of the Shadow Demon keep children shivering in bed and tales of the Yorel bring hope to the commoner, Yosyph is both the reason for their fear and their hope.
By day Yosyph appears nothing more than a mute tavern-hand. By night he plans a revolution and slips through shadow, rescuing those marked for death by the xenophobic queen.
When he learns that thousands of his people will be sent as slaves to the mines, he must choose—fight the royal army with an ill-prepared rebellion or journey to the land of his ancestors through the deadly King’s Trial. If he succeeds, he’ll win his kins’ loyalty and their help.
His journey grows complicated when he rescues a maiden and enrages a prince, but if he doesn’t return with help in time, the people he’s loved and secretly served will be gone.
The King’s Trial is available on Amazon beginning July 16, 2019. Enjoy your free e-copy if you pick it up July 16-17, 2019. Enjoy it for $0.99 July 18-22, 2019
Sarah daydreams about the Resurrected Christ and the multitude and discovers her own miracle.
Sarah, holding her mother’s hand, stared at the marble Christus. The hands spread wide, welcoming her closer, the facial expression gentle. Her tight curls bounced across her head as she leaned back and gazed at the large statue. She wondered at the shiny white surface. Sunday school stories of Jesus calling for the children, children like her, sowed a simple peace in her heart. Her mother squeezed her hand.
“I’m going to look at the pictures on that wall. Stay in this room.”
Sarah nodded, resting her hands at her side, careful not to touch the velvet rope that separated her from the Christ. Her focus landed on the soft hands, where carved marks of the nails rested, then to his feet and side. Her heart thrummed in her chest, soft but apparent, as she wondered what it was like for Thomas to feel the nail prints in his hands and the sword print in his side.
As she focused on the statue’s palm, the marble appeared to change, white darkened, a warm golden tone taking its place. Sarah’s eyes widened, but recognizing the signs of a daydream, she remained in place.
Seconds later, she discovered herself surrounded by people. Children rested on fathers’ shoulders. Babes cooed in mothers’ arms. Clothing of every color blurred as it pushed past her, yet happiness and peace filled her soul. Those around her fell to their knees, heads bowed. But she remained, staring into the soft eyes.
With his finger and a wink, he motioned Sarah toward him. Her slippered feet carried her closer. His strong arms ensconced her, bringing her face to his eye level. He smiled. After the gentle hug, he held his hand in front of her, and she reached her fingers toward it. Pulling back slightly, she eyed him from the side.
The mark swallowed her finger as she lightly caressed it. The softness of the skin nothing like the hardness of the nails that had pierced it.
“You could have stopped it, saved yourself?”
He nodded, a twinkle in his eye.
“But you didn’t.”
He leaned toward her ear and whispered more. A smile rushed across her face, and she wrapped her arms around his neck before he placed her back on the ground. Moments later, she joined the crowd, the cool ground contrasting the warm feeling coursing through her.
The Savior called for the people to come forward, and Sarah watched as, one by one, men and women, the young and old got to their feet and stepped forward. A warm smile and welcoming arms greeted each one as they received the personal time they desired with the Savior, just as she had. Their fingers touched his hands, feet, and side. Some women cried as they kissed his feet, wiping away tears with the hems of dresses. Men unabashedly wept as they embraced him.
Time passed slowly, but children never fought and babes never cried. Adults talked of miracles and knelt in prayer. No one pushed or shoved to the front. Patience and love intervened, the procession one of reverence.
When the last returned, the Savior called the sick, disabled, and those otherwise in need of healing. The man standing next to her lifted a woman in his arms and carried her forward. Standing with his arms outstretched, Jesus motioned all the afflicted forward.
Pebbles poked at her knees as Sarah knelt on the ground, and she brushed them away. She suffered no ill but thought of her father, who lay in a hospital room ravaged by cancer. Even as young as she was, she knew the harsh treatment he received left him weak for days at a time. Just as he felt a little strength return, it was always time for another round. Prayer after prayer had been said on his behalf. Her mother wept every night for his relief. For her own, too. Tears came to her eyes as she watched the Savior lay his hands on the afflicted, healing them one by one.
As the last of the afflicted leaped from his bed, Jesus instructed the people to pray. Together, they bowed their heads and lifted their voices as he knelt a distance away.
“Hosanna, blessed be the name of the Most High God,” cried the people.
Tears streamed down Sarah’s face as she joined them. Though people often assumed age affected one’s ability to recognize God, she knew the truth. She might not understand everything, but she understood he loved her. She understood he loved those who hung him on a cross. She even understood he loved that mean guy who lived down the street and shouted at her every time she stopped to look at his pretty flowers.
When the Savior returned, warmth from her heart rippled through her arms as he spoke to the crowd. The day had passed, and the people still focused on him, but their eyes appeared tired, and their shoulders drooped with similar strains. Tears filled his eyes as he scanned their faces.
“You’re tired. Rest.”
No one moved. Sarah’s own heartbeat strengthened. She didn’t want to leave either. It couldn’t be time.
Brushing a tear from his eye, Jesus called for the little children. Parents carrying babies and holding the hands of their little ones helped them forward. Boys and girls sat on his lap, and he held a babe in each arm. Sarah’s lip quivered when he called her to join the others.
As she stepped forward, a bright light opened above him. People dressed in white, as beautiful as the Savior, surrounded the children, blessing them. One took her by the hand and walked with her.
“Child, you do not have a wish for yourself, do you?”
Sarah shook her head, eyes wide.
“But Jesus whispered to you. What did he say?”
“Not to worry. That everything would be okay.”
“Have you been worrying?”
Sarah nodded, her lip quivering again. “My daddy’s sick.”
“Do you know who Jesus is?”
“Can you tell me what he did for you?”
“He helps my sins go away, and he died for me so I can return to Heavenly Father.”
“Do you think he can heal your daddy?”
Sarah bowed her head and studied her feet.
The angel squeezed her hand, then lifted her chin, encouraging her to answer.
“If it’s the best thing he can. Mama says it depends on God’s will.”
“That’s right. It’s time…”
The daydream faded at the sound of her mother’s voice.
“Sarah. It’s time to go.”
One more glance at the Christus in front of her and Sarah hurried to her mother.
“Where are we going?”
“To the hospital. Daddy had a scan today, and he wants us to hear the results with him.”
“What’s a scan?”
“The scan tells us whether or not the cancer is gone.”
She tugged on her mother’s arm, trying to run faster. “It is. It’s gone.”
Her mother pulled her back and crouched beside her. “We don’t know that Sarah. Most of the scans haven’t been great.”
“He’s better. I know it.”
“I hope you’re right, but if you’re not, it’s okay. God will take care of us and Daddy.”
“I know. He already has.”
Biting her lip, her mother rose from the ground and clasped Sarah’s hand. Tears floated in her eyes.
The quick drive to the hospital soon delivered Sarah and her mother, and they hurried to her father’s room.
“Where’s the doctor?” Sarah eased onto the foot of the bed with her mom’s help and stared at her dad.
“I’m right here.”
She turned in time to see the doctor walk into the room.
“My daddy’s better right?”
The doctor raised a brow, then quickly furrowed them. “Well. Let’s take a look. The last scan showed an increase, correct?”
Her parents both nodded.
A picture of her dad’s insides appeared on a lighted board, and the doctor pointed here and there, talking to her parents. Their faces crumpled, and Sarah stared from one to the other.
“He’s better, right?” A little butterfly entered her belly even though she’d been so sure.
Arms wrapped around her as her mother picked her up and swung her in a circle. “He’s better!”
She eyed her daddy. “You feel better, right?”
The room broke out with laughter.
“No, pretty, I don’t feel better yet. Cancer and my treatments hurt me a lot, but the doctor says my cancer has gone away.”
“I know that.”
Lifting her to stand next to her dad, Sarah’s mother met her gaze. “How did you know?”
“Jesus told me not to worry.”
“He did, did he?”
Her father poked her side, and she giggled.
“When did he tell you that?” her mother asked.
Sarah looked at her. “Today, at his statue.”
Tears swept into her mother’s eyes. “She stood by the Christus the whole time.”