Monday, April 14, 2014

REVIEW: Braineater Jones / Stephen Kozeniewski

TITLE: Braineater Jones
AUTHOR: Stephen Kozeniewski
PUBLISHER: Red Adept Publishing
AVAILABILITY: Amazon (Kindle), Amazon (paperback), Audible (audiobook), and other online retailers


GENRE
Horror - Noir/Mystery


REVIEW
Full disclosure: Red Adept Publishing, which published Braineater Jones, is also my publisher for the Jane Colt series, and I know Steve personally. The below represent my honest opinions. Man, I hate writing disclosures.

Okay, now that I've gotten that over and done with, let's get on with this review, which I've been meaning to post since the book came out in October 2013 (sorry, Steve!).

Imagine waking up with amnesia – with no clue as to who you are, where you came from, or what the hell you're doing in some rich guy's pool. Now, imagine realizing you're actually dead… well, undead. A zombie. You'd have a hellova lot of questions.

This is what happens to the titular character in Stephen Kozeniewski's novel, Braineater Jones, which follows the investigations of a man – well, zombie man – trying to figure out what the devil happened to him. Who is he? Who killed him? And why? Not knowing even his own name, he adopts the moniker "Braineater Jones" even though in this world, "Braineater" is a derogatory term for zombies.

Let me elaborate on the world a bit, because it merits a bit of explaining. Kozeniewski's story takes place in a gritty 1930s American city, though which one is unspecified. The setting is a nod to film noir, inspired by old black-and-white Humphrey Bogart movies. Prohibition is in full effect, and fedoras are in fashion. In a paranormal twist, this city is also the home of zombies. No one knows exactly how these zombies come into being – dead people just kind of wake up and start wandering around. However, their sentience is dependent on alcohol. Without booze, the zombies become mindless monsters who attack living humans – hence "braineater." And so the zombie community congregates in an underground speakeasy, run by a mysterious master.

Braineater Jones is written in a cynical, tongue-in-cheek voice with ample use of exaggeration and sarcasm. The whole story is very pulpy, and the author himself has said that it's not meant to be taken too seriously. It's pure entertainment, full of humor, plot turns, and gory zombie horror. Because zombies are at the center of the story, the book falls into the "Horror" category. But it's not Stephen King-style suspense horror. The horror elements – bloody severed body parts and the like – are meant to shock and disgust rather than to scare.

All in all, Braineater Jones is a fun and well-crafted bit of pulp fiction. Its goal is to entertain, and in that, it certainly succeeds. The mystery of who Braineater Jones is and how he ended up dead keeps the story moving, and between that and its concise structure, it's a very quick read.

AUTHOR INFO
Stephen Kozeniewski lives with his wife and two cats in Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the modern zombie. He was born to the soothing strains of “Boogie With Stu” even though The Who are far superior to Zep, for reasons that he doesn’t even really want to get into right now.

During his time as a Field Artillery officer he served for three years in Oklahoma and one in Iraq, where, due to what he assumes was a clerical error, he was awarded the Bronze Star. The depiction of addiction in his fiction is strongly informed by the three years he spent working at a substance abuse clinic, an experience which also ensures that he employs strict moderation when enjoying the occasional highball of Old Crow. 

He is also a classically trained linguist, which sounds much more impressive than saying his bachelor’s is in German.

Click here to watch the Zigzag Timeline video interview with Stephen Kozeniewski

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

REVIEW: Power of Gods / Nancy Madore

TITLE: Power of Gods (Legacy of the Watchers Part II)
AUTHOR: Nancy Madore
PUBLISHER: Self-published
AVAILABILITY: Amazon (paperback), Amazon (Kindle), Audible (audiobook)


GENRE
Fantasy - Urban/Contemporary

Power of Gods is the sequel to The Hidden Ones, which I reviewed almost exactly one year ago.

REVIEW
In the second book of the Legacy of the Watchers series, Nadia Adeire finds herself once again entangled in forces beyond the ordinary world. Supernatural secrets from the ancient world are crossing over into the terrestrial reality, and they're not friendly ones. End-of-the-world type consequences loom as the demonic Lilith attempts to finish what was started in Biblical times.

The Power of Gods, like the first book, uses mythology from the Abrahamic religions – Christianity, Islam, and Judaism – to paint a vivid and fantastical world of what-if, tying together stories from religious tales with some elements of sci-fi. This time, Madore explores the world of Solomon and the creation of Israel. And like the first book, there are multiple narratives – one telling the story of the past, and one the story of the present.

In the present, Nadia works with her former kidnappers to investigate mysterious messages, an investigation that takes them to Alaska. This part of the story read a lot like a contemporary thriller with supernatural elements (and who doesn't like the supernatural?). The relationship between Nadia and Will is delved into, and a new character, Amanda, is introduced. Amanda wasn't my favorite character, but her role does add interest to the story.

Madore's greatest strengths are in the power of her imagination and the flow of her writing. While certain parts did feel a bit long, each sentence was well crafted enough to keep the narrative moving forward. And the world she depicts, though inspired by existing mythologies, demonstrates a remarkable ability to create universes. It's not original, but certainly fun to read about. In fact, it really is the best part of the book – the tales of the supernatural and the dangers they present to the "real" world Nadia inhabits.

If you liked the first book in the series, then you'll enjoy it's sequel as well. It continues in the same spirit as the first book, in its combination of ancient back stories and modern dangers, with rich descriptions and engaging dialogue.


AUTHOR INFO
[from the author’s Amazon page]
Nancy Madore achieved enormous critical acclaim with her ENCHANTED series, which includes ENCHANTED, ENCHANTED AGAIN and ENCHANTED DREAMS (these are coming out in audio in December...just in time for Christmas!)
Now, following her life-long interest in history and mythology, Nancy Madore is launching a new series in the historical and science fiction genres, called LEGACY OF THE WATCHERS. Volume 1 of the LEGACY OF THE WATCHERS series, entitled THE HIDDEN ONES, is coming out November 2012 through Amazon's Kindle Select Program, followed by paperback and audio by the end of the year.
You can read more about Nancy Madore's LEGACY OF THE WATCHERS series by going to THE HIDDEN ONES' title page here on Amazon or visiting Nancy Madore's website atwww.nmadore.com.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Report from Central PA Comic Con

Authors Stephen Kozeniewski and Elizabeth Corrigan
When I first heard about Central PA Comic Con back in February, I was pretty skeptical. It's a pretty new convention, so I wasn't sure if enough people had heard of it to make it worthwhile. But it was right by one of the members of our con team, horror author Stephen Kozeniewski, so we decided to give it a shot. We did our usual Red Adept set-up in the dealer's room, where Steve and I, along with fantasy author Elizabeth Corrigan, peddled book put on our best salesman faces. More accurately, Steve's the salesman. Elizabeth's the organizer – she manages to keep things straight in a way I never could. And as for me, well, I guess you could say I'm the designer, since whenever we need some bit of collateral, I whip it up.



This time, we were trying something new. The three of us got a panel: "Battle of the Genres", where each of us argued why our respective genres was the best (I was representing Team Sci-Fi, Elizabeth was Team Fantasy, and Steve was Team Horror). To promote the panel and add a little more fun to it, we got buttons made for each team and handed them out at our table. Most people were torn because they liked all three, but in the Battle of the Genres, everyone has to choose a side. At least for the panel, which was supposed to be a fun debate (with our affiliations exaggerated for entertainment purposes, of course – as you may know, I also write fantasy).

All in all, the con was awesome. There were a LOT more people than I expected. The dealer's room was hopping for most of Saturday, with curious attendees browsing for fun merchandise. And our buttons were a hit. Our panel was late at night – 10pm, to be precise – so a lot of people couldn't make it, but it was still cool to see everyone walking around with them. Even the cosplayers pinned them proudly!

I sold a decent number of books, enough to put me in "can't complain" territory, but the star of the con, this time, was Elizabeth's book, Oracle of Philadelphia. Which seems fair since Steve and I have each had "our" cons in the past few months (Steve's Braineater Jones was the talk of Illogicon down in Raleigh, which I didn't attend, and myArtificial Absolutes was our bestselling title at Farpoint, which isn't surprising because, well, it's FARPOINT). And I, always the magpie for more stuff, also traded my books with other dealers. Got an awesome steampunk flask from a leather dealer and traded books with two other authors. This whole barter/retail-for-retail thing kind of works for me…



Anyway, back to the panel. We were kind of terrified that no one would show up because it was at 10pm. The panel was conceived to be an audience participation debate – a lively, just-for-fun argument so people could talk about which genre was their favorite and why (and discuss the traits of each, and how they crossover into each other). What would we do if it was just the three of us and two silent attendees?



Button, button, who's got the button?
To drum up interest, we stood in the hallway and flagged down anyone passing by with a button. It worked pretty well – in trying to convince each person why they should take one particular genre's button, we actually gave a pretty accurate preview of fun times to come. We talked about 25 people into coming, which was far better than we expected, considering it was 10pm and most people had gone home to sleep.

When the panel began, Steve, ever the salesman, got up and made an impassioned speech about the merits of horror. FEAR was his biggest driver. And of course, since zinging the opponent's side is necessary for any debate to be entertaining, he maintained that sci-fi and fantasy just didn't stand up to a genre that was an emotion by itself.

And that's when I started panicking. Steve was making all these awesome arguments, Elizabeth, ever the organized one, had research notes prepared, and I… I'd been planning on going with my gut. I had a few ideas, but they all fled once I realized that I was actually going to have to TALK IN FRONT OF PEOPLE. I was terribly sleep deprived from the week before, so my brain wasn't fully functioning to begin with, and on top of that, the anxiety was making my heart hammer in my ears. Which wouldn't have been a huge deal, except my blood seemed to be rushing out of my head at the same time. I actually started seeing black spots and was terrified that I'd pass out. For real.

At our panel
Thankfully, the Force was with me, and I managed to get up there and give my pitch without crumpling into a heap. My angle? Sci-Fi takes the issues of today and looks forward. Sometimes it goes very, very far forward, but it always holds on to some thread connecting it to the present.

The audience was totally into it. Our pitches sparked a lively debate, which got kind of heated in some places – but what good debate doesn't? Surprisingly, in the end, Team Sci-Fi won by a landslide, which I didn't expect given how much the audience went back-and-forth with their arguments. I wish I could claim credit, but I'm pretty sure I was just lucky enough to have a lot of sci-fi fans in the room.

So that was Central PA Comic Con! Loads of fun, of course, and I think I actually learned a few things from talking to fellow conventioneers. On a somewhat frivolous note, can we call it CPACC - pronounced "See Pack"? 'Twould make for a shorter hashtag…

Saturday, March 29, 2014

I asked a high-schooler: Do teens use e-readers? (and other observations)

Young Adult is a huge genre right now. Hundreds and hundreds of authors are whipping up books written about teens for teens, hoping to create the next Twilight or Hunger Games. Publishers and agents are placing their bets, and readers are delighting in the cornucopia of new stories. It's raining YA!

But how many of these readers are actual teens, and how many are grown-ups in age but youngsters at heart? I, for one, find myself reading far more books for kids than books for adults (though despite the office job and car payments, whether I count as an adult is debatable). It's hard to know. And while e-books are a force to be reckoned with, do kids actually read them? Or are all those Kindle downloads of Divergent coming from older readers?


I could speculate all I want, but I'd have no way of knowing whether my interpolations and extrapolations and prognostications meant anything. So instead, I asked my high school insider (my teenaged sister) for a report from the ground. Here's what she observed about teens and books:


  • Teens prefer physical books. Reading as a hobby is almost retro at this point, and teens are all about appearances. So if a teen is going to read, she wants to be seen with her tome. Also, these teens value the experience of curling up with a cup of coffee and turning paper pages. Again, because it's a kind of retro oasis from the blinking and beeping of the modern world.
  • E-readers are only owned by the most hardcore of teen bookworms. This is the rare sub-species who devour story after story for their own sake, not to keep up with what everyone else is talking about. These hardcore readers may prefer paper books for the feel and such, but e-readers are more practical because of limited space and budgets. Also, e-readers are expensive, and most teens can't afford to buy one, so only the most hardcore of readers beg their parents for a birthday or Christmas Kindle.
  • Teens don't read on their phones. Very rarely, they'll read on an iPad. But there are too many distractions on such things.
  • Not many teens read books in the first place. Sad, but true. They read plenty of words on their smartphones, but, excluding communications and social media, these are usually in the form of Buzzfeed lists, trashy guilty-pleasure fan fic, and short articles
  • Teens are busy. Between schoolwork and the million overachiever extracurriculars they throw themselves into, they just don't have time to devote hours to reading books. Even if they wanted to, they're so spent that when they do have spare time, they want something brainless - like TV. 
  • Teens are poor. Most don't have credit cards, and they consider themselves too old to still drag their parents to shops to buy them things (other than necessities). So they spend what little cash they have (from allowance or small-time jobs) on clothes, snacks, movie tickets, and video games rather than books.
  • Teens see reading as work. This is because schools assign so many textbook chapters and hefty classics to analyze that books are associated with drudgery. So when they take a break from homework, the last thing they want is more work in the form of a book.
  • Most teens want to read books they've heard of. And they want to read what everyone else is reading. Teens will often read a book just to see what all the hype is about - and so they can talk about it with their friends. Since teens read so few books in the first place, most won't read a book they haven't heard of.
  • Hardcore readers want to read books they haven't heard of. This subset of teens have a hipster mentality: they want to read things before they're cool and look down on mainstream stuff.

This is probably the most unscientific study of all time, since it's the observations of one teen at one high school, but I thought it was interesting. What do you think?

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Top Five Elements of the Sci-Fi Thriller

by

I have recently released my first thriller, Acts of Violence, which is also sci-fi and semi-noir. This led to me being asked what the top five elements of a sci-fi thriller are. One book doesn’t make me an expert on the matter, but I had a think about it:

When you consider it, the sci-fi thriller is a little more common than you might initially think. Inception, Blade Runner, Outland. These were the first three to pop into my head (yes, I know they’re films, not books, but the most important aspects apply to both mediums). The latter two even have strong noir elements.

Is there a big difference between what makes a good thriller and what makes a good sci-fi thriller? Not really. Or at all, in fact.

As I said, I’m certainly not an expert, but to me the most important elements of sci-fi thriller are:

- Action and Excitement
- Suspense
- Plot Twists
- Strong Antagonist
- Setting

Action and Excitement

The adrenaline pumping aspect of a thriller is arguably the most important. The biggest challenger for the top of the list is suspense. The two could also be combined, but I decided to separate them here.

In the written word, action is less effective than in film, but if written right, it still has impact. The hero, or someone they (and so by proxy, you) care about is trapped by gunmen! They’re out of bullets and their aggressors are closing in. They have a matter of seconds to think of a way out or it’s all over. You can feel your heart rate increase; your eyes suck in the words quicker;  you’re suddenly sitting on the edge of your seat (turns out that’s a real occurrence); who cares that the dinner’s burning?!

If it’s the hero, then we all know that he/she will find that way out, or the writer/director will seize that opportunity to bring in an unexpected ally. But that doesn’t lessen the excitement. It doesn’t lessen the adrenaline pumping through you. You should do some exercise to burn that off, it’s unhealthy.

Suspense

As I said, this could easily be tied in with the action and excitement. But in a thriller, it’s such an important element that it would be a disservice not to mention it as an element all to itself. So yes, in the above example, suspense should be strong as the gunmen close in and you don’t know what’s gong to happen, but that’s just one side to the suspense in a thriller.

The story itself, not just some scenes, should be suspenseful. Perhaps the hero’s daughter has been abducted to be sold off at auction, and he only has so much time to track her down before she disappears forever. Perhaps the villain has released a particularly nasty virus and, again, there’s only so much time to find said villain and obtain the...whatever it is you need for viruses. The cure. Vaccination. Whatever. Or perhaps the hero is accused of something he/she didn’t do and has to try to prove their innocence (or just run like hell).

A thriller has to be – and don’t be too shocked – thrilling. The action and excitement is one aspect to that, and suspense is the other. It keeps you guessing. Who’s the real villain? Will the hero make it in time? What the hell is going on (hopefully this is due to good writing, not bad – it becomes a little different then)?

Plot Twists

This one can be overdone. It’s also hard to write a good plot twist these days. Most twists can be seen coming a mile away. Perhaps the best thing a writer can do now is acknowledge that the reader/viewer will know the twist is coming, and play on that.

The best example of this that pops into my head is actually the end of an episode of Sherlock. You know what’s coming, you know what he’s done, but the show lets you think you’re wrong. Then it lets you think that, actually you were right. Then that you were wrong. Then, finally, at the very last second, it shows you that you were right. But you don’t care that you knew it, because the show made you doubt yourself and your theory, and the twist did its job.

Sticking to the twist endings, I personally like happily-ever-after endings. But, these are much better when right up to the last second, you think it’s not going to happen. I can’t for the life of me remember what it was, but I watched a film not long ago that had, to me, the perfect ending. It was a tragic ending, and it let you wallow in the sadness and whatnot for a while, right up until the last second, when you realise that actually, all is well. Done right, this allows you to feel all kinds of emotions, but leave the book/film feeling good. Not everyone likes a happy ending, of course (don’t be rude), but as long as it’s not contrived, this method can work very well.

Strong Antagonist

A strong(ly written) hero is a given, but writers often give less thought and character building to the antagonist, because they have less screen/page time, usually. A strong villain is important to a thriller, though, because much of the excitement and suspense revolves around them, directly or indirectly.

Of course, some thrillers pit the hero against something inhuman, but whether disaster movies really count as thrillers is perhaps debatable so we’ll ignore that!

The villain has to be scary, unpredictable, or perhaps scary in his predictability, because we know exactly what he’s going to do and how bad it’s going to be. However strong and capable the hero is, the villain has to at least match that, if not exceed it. Sticking with the Sherlock train of thought, that’s why Moriarty is such a good villain for Sherlock Holmes – no one else can match him.

Setting

This one is kind of obvious. You’ll notice that I haven’t, so far, mentioned science fiction. That’s because, as I said at the start, what makes a good sci-fi thriller is, to me at least, the same things that make any good thriller.

But the setting is often more important in a sci-fi thriller than a normal thriller. For example, Outland is set on a space station, and the cramped, overpopulated corridors help with the atmosphere (pun semi-intended). Equally, the occasional space-walk adds a silent eeriness, and the unending space around the character/s reminds the viewer how trapped the innocents are.

The theme can probably be shoved in here too. Is it the future gone bad? Some kind of invasion, an outbreak, dystopia? Usually, the focus of a sc-fi thriller is not the science. The sci-fi just floats in the background. That’s why setting is last on the list.


Many more elements are poured into this mix to make a good thriller, but these are the most important ones to me. Or at least...the ones I could actually think of.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Steven Vincent

Author Steven Vincent, author of Dawn of the Knight, talks about his latest writing venture.

 


Hi! Welcome back to Zigzag Timeline. What’s new since the last time you stopped by? 

Thanks for having me back, Mary. Everything is new; I've gone from fantasy to science fiction, and here I am writing tales of pirates on the high seas!

So, why pirates this time around? 

To be honest, I was just randomly struck by inspiration to write this book for the fun of it, and by the time I put the ending on I realized it was one of my best books so far!

How was writing Jollier Roger different from writing Dawn of the Knight? 

It was a lot more fun. Dawn of the Knight has such a serious and gripping story, whereas Jollier Roger is really a bunch of craziness that somehow forms a thrilling adventure.

What was the first idea you had for Jollier Roger, and how did the story grow from there? 

I had just finished watching At World's End, and as far as Pirates of the Caribbean goes the story was terrible. I started to plan out all sorts of scenes if I had produced the movie; sword fights, sea battles, ghosts, and just about everything rushed into my head in one morning! Then, I decided to make a book out of it.

Among your characters, who's your favorite? Could you please describe him/her? 

I think Captain James Roberts is my favorite. There is no way to put a finger on him; you might say he's a handsome young sociopath with a few screws loose, and yet as the story progresses you see he's right more than he's wrong. He's brash, but I think he means well.

What's your favorite scene from your novel? Could you please describe it? 

I think my personal favorite scene is when James Roberts is confronted by his former ladylove, who is out for revenge. The fight winds up on the rooftops of Port Royal, there's a fire spreading, and just when you think the flamboyant sword fighting can't get any more intense, his enemy receives some unexpected help from one of his own allies.

Did you ever surprise yourself when you were writing your book? Characters who took on lives of their own? Plot elements that took unexpected turns? 

The entire book surprised me, and I call it a gift from above that it turned out the way it did. Why? Because I started off knowing nothing about pirates, other than that I wanted to write about pirates! As I researched, things just fit right into place and I found myself just as surprised as my test audience. On top of that, the characters wound up so unique (and strange) that I never know what to expect.

Thanks for stopping by! 

Links:


Author Bio:

Steven M. Vincent is a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and sea adventures, born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Since 2008 he has been on a self-proclaimed mission to create unique and exciting stories that bring smiles and make memories, while also passing along what he's learned since then. He considers every day a gift from God.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

REVIEW: Dawnflight (The Dragon's Dove Chronicles Book 1) / Kim Headlee

TITLE: Dawnflight (The Dragon's Dove Chronicles Book 1)
AUTHOR: Kim Headlee
PUBLISHER: Self-published
AVAILABILITY: Amazon (e-book), Amazon (paperback), Audible (audiobook)



GENRE
Romance - Historical

REVIEW
Dawnflight is a vivid re-imagining of the tale of King Arthur and Guinevere. In this version of the tale, which makes more historical sense given that King Arthur supposedly lived in the Dark Ages (and not the Renaissance, as most tellings depict), Guinevere is Gyanhumara (called "Gyan"), a Caledonian chieftainess, and Arthur is a Roman general who has recently become the Pendragon, supreme commander of all armies in the British territories.

Gyan is a spirited young woman trained as a warrior, though she has yet to see real battle. Her mother was the chieftainess before her, and she is looked up to by her people as a strong and capable leader. For the sake of peace, Gyan agrees to marry Urien, son of the leader of her clan's deadliest rival. However, though Urien is plenty strong and handsome, he proves to be a controlling brute who, unaccustomed to Gyan's more egalitarian culture, is appalled by her boldness and determined to put her "in her place."

Not long after the betrothal, Gyan meets Arthur, whose good looks, aura of authority, and intelligence steal her heart right away. What's more, he actually respects her strength, and he falls for her just as fast. But his own treaty with the British clans states that Gyan must marry a British nobleman, and he doesn't qualify. What's more, breaking the betrothal with Urien would mean civil war.

Lushly written and vividly described, Dawnflight brings Gyan and her world to life that had me believing every word. The language is beautiful, and each scene was visible in my head as I listened to the audiobook. Dorothy Dickson's narration is mesmerizing and perfectly captures the gorgeous descriptions and the internal monologues of each character.

The strengths of this book really lie in the setting and the characters. Each one is believable, and it's clear that Headlee did a lot of research to put this tale to paper. It reminded me of a combination between Marion Zimmer Bradley's Mists of Avalon and the 2004 King Arthur movie starring Clive Owen and Keira Knightley. Gyan is an intelligent and independent woman who is easy to sympathize with. My one issue with her is the sheer amount of time she spends agonizing over her Urien-or-Arthur dilemma. 

Dawnflight is a romance at its core, with the bulk of the story focusing on the Gyan-Arthur-Urien love triangle. That there are political implications to Gyan's choice raises the stakes somewhat, although the fact that she has the right to marry whoever she wants and that Arthur, being the supreme commander, can rework any treaty he puts down, lowers the danger element. Still, Headlee is very good at describing emotion, and while I personally ran out of patience with Gyan a few times (being more of an action/adventure reader), lovers of romance will eat it up.

Arthur is portrayed as an upstanding yet open-minded leader. Charismatic and good-hearted, he is the ideal romantic lead for this story. His slight arrogance and unwillingness to express his true feelings make him human enough to be believable in this context. And his concern for the people he leads make him an admirable character.

Other notable characters are Gyan's fun-hearted half-brother Perador (or however you spell his name - audiobooks have that as a disadvantage), the young warrior Angus, who follows Gyan like a loyal puppy, Arthur's scheming sister Morge (again, apologies for misspelling), and the wise Merlin, who is a bishop in this story. Angus was my personal favorite - I found his genuine loyalty and desire to be the good guy absolutely adorable and was more distressed when he was in danger than when the bad guys attacked Gyan.

As for the plot - this is one of those slower-paced books that takes the time to really show each setting to its fullest. Toward the end, there is an attack by Scottish raiders on the island Gyan is staying at, which gives both her and Arthur the opportunity to show off their combat skills, but the bulk of the book is very calm when it comes to physical action (although plenty tumultuous in terms of emotional turmoil). The ending wraps things up nicely enough that this book could be read as a standalone, but definitely leaves room for more.

The historical setting of this book is what makes it stand apart from a lot of the other retellings of the King Arthur tale that exist. The book tells a "what if it really happened" kind of story, taking out all the fantastical and supernatural elements in favor of plausible "real world" explanations (such as Merlin being a bishop rather than a wizard). 

All in all, Dawnflight was an enjoyable read, especially with Dorothy Dickson's narration bringing it to life (I credit her with saving me from road rage, as I was listening to this audiobook while stuck in rush hour traffic on the NJ Turnpike). This book will appeal to lovers of Arthurian retellings, fans of Marion Zimmer Bradley, and those hungry for romance.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kim Headlee lives on a farm in southwestern Virginia with her family, cats, goats, and assorted wildlife. People & creatures come and go, but the cave and the 250-year-old house ruins -- the latter having been occupied as recently as the mid-20th century -- seem to be sticking around for a while yet.

Kim is a Seattle native (when she used to live in the Metro DC area, she loved telling people she was from "the other Washington") and a direct descendent of 20th century Russian nobility. Her grandmother was a childhood friend of the doomed Grand Duchess Anastasia, and the romantic yet tragic story of how Lydia escaped Communist Russia with the aid of her American husband will most certainly one day fuel one of Kim's novels. Another novel in the queue will involve her husband's ancestor, the 7th-century proto-Viking king of the Swedish colony in Russia.

For the time being, however, Kim has plenty of work to do in creating her projected 8-book Arthurian series, The Dragon's Dove Chronicles. She also writes other romantic historical fiction under the pseudonym "Kimberly Iverson."