Book Review: Agamemnon Frost and the Hollow Ships by Kim Knox

Edgar Mason is ready to embark upon his new life at Agamemnon Frost’s side. But all is not perfect. Through torture, Pandarus, his Martian overlord, has implanted a dark voice in his mind, a voice that urges betrayal. And though he can keep close to Frost, there’s little room for romance under the watchful gaze of the engineers from Station X.

That changes when Mason and Frost reopen their investigation into their old enemy’s whereabouts. Posing as double agents and investigating cryptic rumors of “hollow ships,” they find him impersonating a London banker and worm their way into his confidence.

But their success brings them trouble in spades. Pandarus takes them into the belly of his ships, where he plans to transfigure them into mindless automata. And with Earth on the brink of invasion, Frost’s old flame Theodora reappearing, and Pandarus’s brainwashing growing more effective, Mason and Frost will find their bond tested as never before.

YES yes yes yes and yes. An excellent second addition to the Agamemnon Frost trilogy, and I am PRAYING that Kim Knox finds a way to push this past a trilogy and make it a full series. Because this is just to awesome to stop.

While the first book explores Mason and Frost getting to know each other while battling the enemy and being turned into automata, this next book picks up where the last left off. Mason is still torn between his implanted allegiance to his Ilarches, and Frost, who he wants. Badly. Whenever Frost gets close to him, Mason is able to push the voice inside his head away for awhile.

Now that they’re both automata, their mission is to find Pandarus and take him out. But it’s not that simple. He’s changed bodies and he might suspect Frost and Mason (also known as Achilles and Patroclus) are traitors.

What follows is an adventure that will leave you on the edge of your seat, charged with both action and sexual tension as Mason continues to want Frost, but is confused as to whether or not Frost truly wants him too, or is just using him to defeat their enemy.

Next book, please!

Book Review: The Adorned by John Tristan

My name is Etan, and I am Adorned.

A living piece of art, I exist to please the divine rulers of Kered. With nowhere to turn after my father died, I tried my luck in the capital city. Little did I know how quickly I would be robbed, beaten and forced to sell myself into servitude. But I was lucky enough to gain the attention of Roberd Tallisk, an irascible but intriguing tattoo artist who offered to mark me with enchanted ink for the enjoyment of the nobles. I was given a chance to better my station in life, and I could not refuse.

But the divine rulers want not only the art but the body that bears it. In their company I can rise above the dregs of society and experience a life most only dream of, at the cost of suffering their every desire as a pawn in games of lavish intrigue. Their attention is flattering, but I find I’d rather have Tallisk’s.

Caught between factions, I learn that a revolution is brewing, one that could ruin Kered—and Roberd and myself along with it…

Wow.

I am left speechless and breathless at the end of this book, and find myself mourning that there is not more of this world for me to dive into. A five star rating system is not enough, and I feel that this book deserves its own category.

Normally I would wait to write a review until some time had passed, but at 1:30 in the morning I just can’t wait. I need to share how wonderful this book is. For the last twenty-four hours I have lived in Kered with Etan and Tallisk, and now that the book is over and I have left it, I feel like I have lost dear friends.

The book is long, but it is a carefully crafted journey that takes readers from the initial plight of Etan being turned out of his former home, his flight to the city, and how he ends up becoming one of the Adorned – a beautiful, living piece of art. His body becomes the canvas of Roberd Tallisk, a master tattooist whose art comes to life with the blood of the Blooded. Readers will follow Etan’s rise in fame as one of the popular Adorned, and see how he is used by the elite members of society for beauty, entertainment, pleasure, and more.

His growing love for Roberd is carefully nuanced throughout the novel, as are the feelings of Roberd for Etan. Told through Etan’s perspective, we see glimpses of it in his actions, but it can only be suspected. And though the protagonists are both men, their love is beautiful. Those who normally shy away from gay romances (or m/m, whichever you prefer) would be missing out on a superbly crafted tale. That said, if you prefer a…spicier gay romance, you won’t find that here. The scenes are subdued and fitting with the rest of the book.

There are moments of discord for the protagonists, though. The city is swept up with chaos, riots break out, and your heart will break. I felt like this story built me up into a wonderful cocoon of beauty and then sharply cut me out and cut me open. I admit I cried.

The ending is bittersweet, but a perfect ending is not always possible, even in fiction, even if we want it. And I think if the ending had been perfect, then all the trials Etan and Roberd went through would have cheapened the story.

This is a well-crafted novel. I am not only deeply saddened that it is over, but I regret that – since it is an e-book with a company that does not offer print – I will not be able to add this fine piece to my collection on my shelves. I will be revisiting this world often, and I look forward to more from John Tristan.

You can purchase this book on its release August 12, 2013 from Amazon.

Book Review: Tapestry by Hallie Burton

In Ollas, anything that stirs the emotions is forbidden by the governors—especially music. So when Tallie Tarmelin, a farm boy from a lower-tier guild, is offered a scholarship for his talent in design, he keeps his head down and follows the rules. He’s terrified of breaking one of his society’s many laws and ruining his future. But feeling lost and alone in an unfamiliar city takes its toll, and Tallie accepts sympathy from a guildless social outcast even though he knows it could destroy his reputation.


Despite the rules against casual touching and fraternizing in public, Jonis Sinter offers Tallie comfort instead of denouncing him for an excessive emotional display, and they fast become friends. Secret friends, though, because Worran, the respectable son of a governor, has asked Tallie to be his partner.


When Worran’s mother learns of Tallie’s association with an outcast, she dispatches the militia. Worran sends Tallie a warning, and Tallie flees the city and civilization with Jonis. Surviving the wilds will take every ounce of perseverance they can muster, and the rediscovery of music might be their only solace— unless they recognize the love that’s growing between them.

First of all, I adore the cover. But aside from that, here is my real review:

Wow. Where do I even begin with a book like this? I’m not even sure what genre it would be categorized under. It has some elements of fantasy, but not like in major fantasy novels, as the magic is not real, just assumed. It’s epic in scope, and features a utopian society. Parts of me feel like it takes place in our future where a section of our country is partitioned off by some method and then they seem to regress in some ways. So… historical at the same time? I even felt a bit of steampunk in there at times. Overall it’s a wonderfully disorienting experience when you read something so refreshingly new.

Tallie and Jonis are wonderful characters that I loved throughout the novel. At many parts they tugged at my heart and I needed a few moments to compose myself before reading on. I wanted to rush through the story to get at the end, and yet at the same time I forced myself to slow down and enjoy it. I didn’t want it to end. I want more from Tallie and Jonis, yet it feels like their adventure is over at the end of the book, especially given the last line. Another story in that world would be great, and yet I don’t think it would be as enjoyable without Tallie and Jonis present.

What a wonderful experience this book was, and that’s just what it is. An experience. Hallie Burton fully immerses readers in the world she created where loving someone of the same gender is so completely normal that it’s not questioned in the slightest. No one objects to it. The things that are objected to, the things that are forbidden, are elements we take for granted, such as music and dancing. And affection. Can you imagine living in a world without those things? I can’t.

Book Review: The Pyramid Waltz by Barbara Ann Wright

I hope you have some time to read, because you’re not going to want to put this one down.

About the book: To most, Princess Katya Nar Umbriel is a rogue and a layabout; she parties, she hunts and she breaks women’s hearts. But when the festival lights go down and the palace slumbers, Katya chases traitors to the crown and protects the kingdom’s greatest secret: the royal Umbriels are part Fiend. When Katya thwarts an attempt to expose the king’s monstrous side, she uncovers a plot to let the Fiends out to play.
Starbride has no interest in being a courtier. Ignoring her mother’s order to snare an influential spouse, she comes to court only to study law. But a flirtatious rake of a princess proves hard to resist, and Starbride is pulled into a world of secrets that leaves little room for honesty or love, a world neither woman may survive.

I can only say that this book was incredible. The characters were complex and well-written. The dialogue was fantastic and often humorous. Each character brought something new to the book and was very distinct. Not a single one felt forced or unreal to me. By the end of the book I was so caught up in their world that I found myself wish I lived in it.

It’s not just the main characters, Katya and Starbride, that are well-written, though. Each secondary character became larger than life and had a huge stake in the book as well. I could easily see each one having his or her own book because I wanted to know that much more about them.

Wright creates an interesting world where magic is harnessed through pyramids, and Fiends lie sleeping just below the kingdom, controlled only by the humans in charge. In this world, love knows no bounds, be it gender or ethnicity. Starbride is from Allusia, another country, and it is visible in her looks. While some of the other courtiers scorn her, she does find some friends. And, of course, the Princess.

I loved Brother Brutal. I want to know more about his chapterhouse and how he seeks enlightenment through fighting. And Pennynail is such an intriguing character! Communicating only through gestures, he does not talk, and it seems the only person who knows his true identity is Crowe. It makes me wonder just who or what Pennynail is. I also have to admit a fondness for Lord Hugo and Countess Nadia.

If you enjoy fantasy with romantic elements, this is one book you will not want to miss out on. Finding the identity of the true enemy will leave you guessing until the last page. Wright weaves together a wonderful tale full of peril, intrigue, romance, and magic.

This book will be released on September 18, 2012. You can preorder the book from Bold Strokes Books or Amazon.