Spirit’s Destiny by Ken Dawson – Nothing “Dreadful” Here …

Yeah, I know … my titles are rubbish: but they make sense to me  and the author, so who cares?

This is my 4th blog post in 3 days – good God! I’m doing well!

Ok, this is my review of Ken Dawson’s (KD) book “Spirit’s Destiny” – a  fast paced space adventure aimed at the late teen market.

Sci-fi is often a neglected area in literature, it’s difficult to write (contrary to popular opinion) and those that read it are often “purists.” They prefer a set plot, a set style and nothing more, so hats off to KD!

(There’s a promising newbie author by the name of Ross Harrison releasing his sci-fi book in a few weeks – I’m rather excited and looking forward to reading Shadow of the Wraith, but I’ll save that for another time …)

So, what’s Spirit’s Destiny about and why is it good?

Well, we’re quickly introduced to the feisty protagonist Ella Bland and her life, awkward, a little lost, and about to start university (she’s a character that a lot of young females will be able to identify with). She’s thrown into a world of robots (or droids) manipulation, war, destiny and organisational interfering. There are secrets around each corner and the characters are not what they seem. It’s exceptionally difficult for me to talk about the plot without revealing some of the twists.

This is the Amazon description/blurb: “…When Ella Bland leaves home to attend university on another planet, the last thing she ever expected was to be dragged into a secret, ancient and bloody war.
On one side stands Eclipse – a genocidal creation hell-bent on slaying all humanity, whilst on the other lies a shrouded organisation that will do anything to make sure that mankind’s annihilation never happens.
As the violence senselessly rages between both sides, Ella must place her trust in a young secret agent and an unusual female droid if she is to have any chance of escaping this gory nightmare alive.
Yet as she becomes deeper involved, Ella discovers her role in this conflict will be far greater than she could ever possibly imagine …”

When reading the book, I immediately clicked with the authorial voice and how it guided us through the story without ever taking over or being a pretentious or overpowering show of ego. What a lot of readers don’t realise is just how hard it is to write a YA book. The language, pace, scene and setting have to appeal to an audience who don’t have the attention span (younglings, please don’t hate me!) for long, complex books on moral rights and wrongs/specific literary issues or complex themes.

KD manages this very well, while he pitches this for the late teen market – personally, I think it’s suited better for the mid to late teen age range; his original artwork and the style of his drawings paired with the dialogue and vocabulary will definitely appeal to teenagers whereas adults might find the story a little simplistic and if it’s pitched purely as late teen and adult – he’ll miss out on a HUGE fan base and potential sales.

Now, that sounds like a criticism – it’s not, not at all  – modern (not classical sci-fi like Dick or Wells) adult sci-fi is usually long and complex, with pages and pages of explanation detailing the engine management system, fuel and resources, oxygenation system … Zzzz … but you get the picture. I read recently that there is no market for space operas or light and action packed sci-fi (a report written by a mainstream published sci-fi author with an ego the size of the moon)- but I disagree, I think adults will happily read (sci-fi) books tagged as YA or a light-hearted space adventure as long as they don’t pretend to be something they’re not.

Spirit’s Destiny is pure and transparent. It’s fun, it’s a great ride with a nice pace and, a FABULOUS case of characters that each have their own traits and issues (S.A Gemma Chapman is just excellent). I knew from the moment I read the blurb that this was going to be a nice easy-to-read story that I could pick up and switch off to. It didn’t disappoint.

I’m not without criticisms, I do think that there were a few areas that could have been improved, the description of the ship for example, a bit more on Ella’s background and there were some small issues with commas in the direct speech – but (and I know people hate the word but) this is the first book in a series – so I imagine there will be A LOT more to come, and the grammar/punctuation is a small niggle, I actually feel harsh mentioning it.

Why do I feel bad? Because Ken Dawson has done something that most “wannabe writers” never do – he has taken a leap of faith in his story and writing and published his book, investing in print copies and throwing hours of work into some really amazing cartoon drawings. I think anyone who chases their dreams is worth my respect.

I think the book is currently priced at £4.11 on the kindle – which some will feel is quite pricey for a SP book of this length. Normally I would agree with the masses – but the artwork inside makes it worth the price. I have to admit however, I’ll be buying a paperback copy when available (believed to be a couple of weeks) because I think the difference in price is well worth it – oh, and the author can sign it for me!

Overall, this is a 4 1/2 * book – but, as we’re taught in maths, you round up – so it’s a 5* tale.

I recommend to anyone who wants and enjoys pure escapism on a rainy afternoon, a train journey or something for when you just want to kick back and relax.

I’m not one for long author interviews, but I asked Ken a few questions and thought I’d share his responses.

Q. Why did you write the book?

A. After school I went to study graphic design and art, in the hope of doing something vaguely related to manga or animation. Slowly I wrote little stories to go with the paintings I did in my spare time. Eventually the stories became more important than the actual images. Originally I had three big ideas. I used one of them called ‘Time Eclipse’ for my final piece of my animation degree. Soon after that I decided to write a full tale of it, but include all my close friends as characters. I guess the only reason for doing it was simply a desire to.

Q.What advice do you have for budding writers?

A. My only advice to budding writers is ‘Get it started, and get it written!’ Forget all spelling, grammar and plot holes until the piece is fully written. You can smooth those things over later.

Q. What problems did you come up against when publishing?

A.  I think the problems of getting published is that there is no clear direction of how to go about it. Researching everything and everyone will avoid you handing over your hard earned cash to unscrupulous people promising you fame and fortune. It take time but it’s worth it.

Q. Apart from “The Tapestry of Fates” series – do you have other stories planned? 

A. Well apart from the two books that follow Spirit’s Destiny, I have a free monthly horror vampire novel on my blog called Fallen Tears. I also have several other projects that will expand the universe of Spirit’s Destiny, as well as a set of novels based around an idea called ‘Phoenix’ I had at sixteen for which I have hundreds of pieces of art for. It is mentioned briefly in Spirit’s Destiny.

 

Spirit’s Destiny has a dedicated webpage, where Ken has uploaded character bios and pictures:-

http://www.tapestryoffates.com

The book can be bought on Amazon:-

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Spirits-Destiny-Tapestry-Fates-ebook/dp/B006YJR88S/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_1

Those who enjoy vampire stories that don’t involve bloodsuckers that sparkle or prance around full of teen angst can find Fallen Tears on Ken’s blog:-

www.kennydreadful.com or on Harper Collin’s site for writers (Authonomy) http://www.authonomy.com/books/41727/fallen-tears/

And those that link his artwork can find more at:-

http://kenny-dreadful.deviantart.com/

 

I’ll add here, none of these reviews are for personal gain. I won’t give gushing praise and I won’t mince my words. 

 

 

Advertisements

The Last Mask by Stephen Winterflood – It’s Certainly Nothing To Joke About …

This is long overdue, but as I wrote a few posts back – I am waaaay behind with my blog posts. However, my resolution is to improve.

I bought this on Amazon for my kindle back in January. I think it was £1.74, which I thought was pretty good value and having spoken to the author briefly on Facebook – I was intrigued. Stephen Winterflood (SW) has a dry and yet very witty sense of humour and I thought “hmmm, I wonder what his book will be like?”

It sat in my virtual “to read” pile for a few weeks and every time I went to read it – I was distracted by work, play or my own scribblings. … but, one rainy night in Feb I managed to lock myself out of the house (yes really) and had to sit in the garage on a giant outdoor beanbag and wait for my husband to return home from work to let me in. Cold and at a loss, I started reading.

And then I kicked myself, severely and repeatedly – I’d had this book for nearly a month and not started??? Boo.

I was immediately drawn into a well crafted and developed world. As a lover of all things fantasy, I was initially uncertain where to place this in a genre that often ends up with the dregs and left-overs: after speaking to SW he described the book as “theatrical decadence” and he’s absolutely 100% right.

The two main characters (Joe and Kelly) are well crafted, with depth and individual personality traits. I had absolutely no problem visualising them and following them on their journey to “The Joke” – a place where nightmares and dreams can come true, but a place so dark and twisted that it bewitches the reader and seduces them, dragging them along for the ride – which isn’t always pleasant. With echoes of Gaiman and Burton in visualisation I found myself really loving this story, more so an any other self-published book I’ve read (*** see end of review for explanation). But it didn’t end there, not just a linear story involving one set of protagonists and one set of antagonists, I counted at least three separate stories all coming together. No, wait … four maybe? Each one hinting to something more and involving relationships, betrayal, secrets and loss. The book ends without a natural conclusion, the stories are unravelling fast but nothing is concluded; now, some people will find this frustrating – but I personally love book series and think this is a great thing! I can’t wait to read the next one 🙂

Structure wise – I felt it was spot on, at around 80-85k (I think) it’s a nice length and the pace is steady. We have enough “breathing time” between action and revelations and the balance between prose and dialogue is great. I do have one criticism (just one!) – with the dialogue and the speech of Joe and Kelly – I thought that more contractions were needed, purely because of colloquialisms, patterns of speech, I think most people say “don’t” “couldn’t” and so on – that’s my only grumble though, and I’ve mentioned it before, so I won’t harp on.

I adored the layout of chapters, slices and reflections – very clever, very well done and incredibly effective.

Overall, I can honestly say, this to me is a 5* book.

A lot of people give high stars and raving reviews for people that they know – mostly because they are afraid of giving a critique and hurting their friend’s feelings; but in this case – it’s thoroughly deserved. I usually think to myself when I review/crit “what would I change?” and apart from the one thing mentioned – there’s nothing.

I’m wishing the author the very best of luck, I really hope that he starts to actively promote this book as it needs and deserves to be read, he’s tapped into a niche and individualised corner of the fantasy market and this trilogy is creative and fresh enough to attract attention.

Now … on a final note – I emailed Mr Winterflood and asked him why he wrote the  book and his reply was:-

“You mean apart from the fame, fortune, and bevy of beautiful ladies following me around.

I did the Last Mask as I wanted to write a book with no limits on the imagination. I felt that a lot of fantasy wasn’t fantastic enough and so created the world of the Joke to allow me to write a story where you were never sure what you were going to bump into around the next corner.”

His wonderful book can be found on amazon here:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Last-Mask-Book-ebook/dp/B006NWQYVI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1335037443&sr=8-1

And his blog and deviant art sites are here:

http://stephenwinterflood.blogspot.com/
http://winterflood.daportfolio.com/   (seriously, his artwork is beyond cool)

***

Explanation as to why I differentiate between self-published (SP) and mainstream published (MP) books…

MP’s have a team behind them, editors, publicists, marketing, artists and illustrators, professional reviewers with “links” and so on … they are crafted and honed to what the publishing house believes is perfection.

SP’s are usually managed by one person – the author. Sometimes the author will employ an editor and maybe an illustrator for the cover – but 9/10 times they take on all the above roles as well as working full time in the job that “pays the bills.”

So, when I say this is the best SP book – it really is. It is UNDOUBTEDLY as professional as a MP book – but I do like to separate the two when reviewing. I can’t help it.

My review of this can be found on Goodreads and on Amazon – each review is unique and not a copy and pasted job!