Children of Vale: An Edpool Review

This review is part of my judging effort for the SPSFC. For a little intro to the whole thing and an explanation of my judging style, see this practice review.

The next book on my #SPSFC list was Children of Vale, by D. A. Anderson.

Reading this book was like having sex right down in the back corner of a Sean Connery video library. Yes, it’s fucking close to Zardoz. But that’s a good thing! No wait, hear me out. Come baaack…

Look, it really was just nailed into my head the moment our protagonist, Tyana, is born in a Matrixian artificial womb field and then spat out of a giant Goddess-head into a compellingly agendered future world where advanced and enlightened people (living in a city with another big giant carved head motif) are struggling with their own stagnation and the incursions of “barbarians” outside. It just immediately struck me as a kind of homage, and that’s actually part of why I liked it all so much.

The story itself is fascinating, as we follow Tyana’s point of view literally from before birth and learn – as she does – about the strange world she lives in.

Tyana’s culture is divided into castes, from the lowly worker-class Artificers to the holy order of the Vestals. Each person is assigned a caste on a genetic level, and it is expressed in the colour of her hair. Tyana is a rare dual-class  anomaly – and unlike various other combinations that have popped out in the past, she is a blend of two castes that has never before occurred.

What follows is an exploration of the concepts of acceptance, respect, tradition, tribalism and one’s place in a world that abhors the not-readily-categorisable. And really a very interesting one. Each caste among the androgynous, female-pronoun-adopting higher race is given strengths and weaknesses – blessings and burdens, gifts and sins – but it swiftly becomes clear that not all burdens are equal. And not all sins are necessarily evil. And that some practices have been set in place entirely as a means of controlling a potentially dangerous population.

This was a philosophy that … definitely resonated with me.

“Our burden is to work. If we don’t, our muse – our madness, as she puts it – will take over. The work is meant to stave that off, to keep us busy and distracted.”

As Tyana learns more about her world and the shaky foundations on which it is built, her surroundings and her dreams become steadily more disturbing. There’s enough metaphor and symbolism in it to make the most coked-up, mushroom-addled Zardoz analyst throw away his red mankini, put some pants on and take a good long look at himself in the mirror. Presumably for the first time since he put on the mankini. But I digress. And I don’t know why. Stop me next time, I have regrets.

Tyana’s dream of a bleached and homogenised humanity, drained and safe, is unsettling to read. The action and events taking place in the narrative ultimately fail to live up to the imagery occurring on the higher plane of Vale’s and Thea’s ideological battleground … but isn’t that so often the way, with dreams?

This story combines fascinating sci-fi visuals and worlds with a delightful surreal aesthetic, and a compelling series of moral and sociological questions that really stayed with me after reading. It drew me in, and it kept me turning the pages as Anderson revealed the world a little bit at a time, in all its complex and often disturbing glory. Its solid sci-fi world and plot will appeal to some, while its out-there premise and artistry will appeal to others. It was all rather seamless and well-structured as far as I’m concerned, only a couple of little things really jumping off the page and yanking my moustache.

I loved the way the Artificers were introduced and discussed, the almost literal morlocks in this weird hypnopunk future, and the way they studied and synthesised the hallowed goddess-goo to the ultimate conclusion (which I won’t spoil, but it was very cool). Creativity and industry live on, even among a perfect theocratic utopia someone needs to keep the plumbing operational, and woe betide the theocrats when those poor grubby fucks finally look up from their labour and go “hang on.”

There was a throw-away reference to a “warp-capable” ship right at the very end, when the rest of the discussion of space travel had been either kept interestingly vague, or else seemed to use different terminology altogether. This abrupt bounce to (forgivable in its ubiquity) Star Trek lingo was jarring, but since it was basically the end of the story by that point it was easy enough to let it slide. Still, odd. But honestly, that was it.


We’re confronted with a swift and furtive bit of androgynous self-touchy – oh, the wicked burdens of those pallid, slender Vestal hands! – but this is a pretty cerebral and asexual affair. And that’s fine. The sex-o-meter is detecting trace elements of whatever was going on in Zardoz, but not enough for me to give Children of Vale more than one-tenth of a whatever was going on in Zardoz out of a possible whatever was going on in Zardoz.


There’s plenty of Warrior-caste violence and fight scenes, some pitched battles, the strange gryphons and the brutality with which the Artificers are treated, but all in all it’s fairly bloodless. Unless you count the ichor and the assorted black and white fluids of the Vale and Thea dreamscapes. And I don’t. And neither does the gore-o-meter. So there. One flesh-gobbet out of a possible five.


Downright psychedelic, this one. Really cool, almost pure high-grade WTF from cover to cover. Children of Vale gets a great big bowl of slimy black ichor dribbling out of the face-holes of a tormented Vestal godpuppet out of a possible … I don’t even know what this thing is trying to show me. The same thing only a slightly larger bowl? Yeah. Yeah, that’s what it is.

My Final Verdict

I thoroughly enjoyed this story, a really artistic piece of work that left me feeling thoughtful and slightly detached for some time afterwards. Four stars for Children of Vale.

The Dinosaur Four: An Edpool Review

This review is part of my judging effort for the SPSFC. For a little intro to the whole thing and an explanation of my judging style, see this practice review.

Next up on Team Space Lasagna’s plate is The Dinosaur Four, by Geoff Jones.

For some hilarious reason this book was misattributed as “time travel dinosaur erotica” among the SPSFC reviewers and as such we have all been looking forward to reading it. As it happens, we were right to be anticipating it – but not because it was a titillating carnal romp through the Cretaceous era. I mean, what would that even be like? Maybe Jones can take up his pen and get to work on that, because apparently reviewers be horny.

But no. What we got was goddamn brilliant and make no mistake, I was far happier that the leprous hadrosaurs didn’t fuck anyone.

What am I talking about and why am I still making it weird?

The Dinosaur Four opens in the Daily Edition Café where Lisa, the owner, is soliloquising about taxes and liquor licenses and the absurdity of being allowed to sell alcohol before you can drink it. The barista, Beth, flirts briefly with a delivery man named William and makes reference to his large package. Please keep in mind, at this point I still thought I was reading erotica so I had a really solid idea of where this was heading. The only question in my mind was whether William was a Chuck-Tinglian T-Rex delivery man with abs for days, or Beth was going to turn out to be a saucy Madame Vastra type. Or both, to the lyrical but total detriment of the protagonist’s ass.

Anyway, that didn’t happen.

The café, along with a fun little crowd of positively Stephen-King-worthy employees and customers, is abruptly transported to the distant past where they all get absolutely fucking bodied by dinosaurs (not in that way) for a couple of hundred pages.

It’s fucking glorious.

I was, as I said, immediately reminded of Stephen King – specifically The Mist, The Langoliers, and other neatly contained dramas. My initial thought was that maybe King would make more compelling or grimy characters more instantly identifiable and distinctive (Tim remained something of a nonentity for a while but – and this is the great bit – I’m pretty sure he was meant to), but there’s no shame in being out-grimy-charactered by Stephen King. However, as I read on, I realised that Jones had actually just gone a more slow-burn and subtle road with his protagonists. They may not have been as gross, but they were all just as distinctive and – if anything – more relatable, making everything that much more horrific.

I can’t say much more without spoiling various plot points and revelations, so I won’t – except to say that Lisa could probably have remembered and mentioned certain things a bit sooner and more readily than she did, and to wonder whether I missed a part that explained how “invisibility cloak” became “time travel” – was the former just a cover and I just missed the discarding of said cover? Anyway, read the book and you’ll see what I mean.

The characters were really great. Don’t be discouraged by the take-off – once they’re airborne, they really soar. Patricia is a giant Karen, Callie and Hank are a complete goddamn train wreck, and Al … Jesus Christ, Al. But for me, perhaps my favourite part of the story was just when you start thinking things are going to settle down for the Act III coast, and one of the characters … how to put this? They give their little group a name and it’s not the name of the book and you realise things are about to get so much worse.

Very good. Very, very good.


For all the sweet-to-gross spectrum of human interpersonal relations taking place in this story, the horniest thing in it was the triceratops. Am I right? *goes up for high five and is left hanging, and deservedly so*. Fuck it. I guess my point is there wasn’t really any sex in this. Two desperately sad and awkward mother-shamed Al-boners from accidentally-on-purpose side-boob contact while hugging out of a possible five. I would have awarded it one desperately sad and awkward mother-shamed Al-boner from accidentally-on-purpose side-boob contact while hugging, but I just remembered that the T-Rex does in fact eat a giant bag of ticks, so there’s that. And no, that wasn’t a typo.


Amazing. No notes. Four and a half flesh-gobbets out of five. I’m still giving us a final half-gobbet to fill out if an absolute fucking bloodbath crosses my Kindle because recalibrating the gore-o-meter isn’t cheap and I’m doing these reviews for free, but something tells me we’re not going to get much more gory than this one.


This is a time travel adventure with a solid dose of causality and timeline-crossing and all of that. It would be weird if it didn’t register on the WTF-o-meter. One thing I was really interested in at the start of the story was how gross and diseased the dinosaurs were, and for a while I wondered if that was a plot point that was going to end up being significant. But I think in the end it just turned out to be a gritty, realistic look at how fucking disgusting giant feathery lizards would actually be, with an emphasis on the stuff we tend to sanitise out of our dinosaur lore. Jones is clearly an enthusiast and he’s done his research. I give The Dinosaur Four an Al’s mother out of a possible Toomey’s father (and that’s not as minor a reading as you might think).

My Final Verdict

Glorious. Just fantastic. I have no more words. Okay I lied; five stars.


Good Evening Bookish Folk!

Fuck! It has been a while…I don’t really have an excuse other than LIFE! Lets just say I needed a break, I have had a break and now I’M BACK!

And what a return review…The Legion of Flame by Anthony Ryan. This is the second book in the Draconis Memoria series and I think it is easily one of my favourite seconds in a series. Lets be honest many can fall flat. Not all, don’t shoot me.

Anywho, onto the book..

A few facts about this book:

  • Title: The Legion of Flame
  • Author: Anthony Ryan
  • Series: The Draconis Memoria
  • Published by Orbit
  • Pages: 638


Add It To Your Goodreads!

Survival is the only currency…

For centuries, the vast Ironship Trading Syndicate relied on drake blood–and the extraordinary powers it confers to those known as the Blood-blessed–to fuel and protect its empire. But when the drake blood lines began to fail, a perilous expedition was mounted to secure them.

Claydon Torcreek survived the fraught mission through uncharted lands in pursuit of a myth that might have secured his people’s future. Instead he found a nightmare. The legendary White Drake was awoken from a millennia-long slumber, with a thirst to reduce the world of men to ashes, and the power to compel an army of Spoiled slaves to do it.

Spurred on by a vision he desperately hopes he can trust, Clay and rebel naval officer Corrick Hilemore hijack a warship and head towards the icy southern seas, searching for an ancient secret that may give them and their allies a fighting chance.

They are aided on another front by Blood-blessed agent Lizanne Lethridge. The spy and assassin will use her diplomatic status to infiltrate deep into enemy territory on a quest for a device to save them all.

As the world burns around them, and the fires of revolution are ignited, these few Blood-blessed are the last hope for all of civilisation.


Here are a few things you can expect from this book…

  • Fantastic character development;
  • An example of how a middle book should be;
  • Exceptional plot advancement and world building; and
  • A THOROUGHLY immersive and enjoyable ride!

On to the full review…

As I mentioned earlier, this book is the second book in this series and it was a brilliant middle book. I don’t feel like it lulled and dipped but in fact kept pace, if not exceeded its predecessor! While I adored book one and praised its ability to mix several elements one wouldn’t think go together, I appreciated the consistency in this instalment. The book felt as though is fell more securely into where it wanted to go and what direction it was heading you in.

Each chapter gave me all the things I didn’t know I wanted or needed. This isn’t a book you can pause at to make a brew, something always has you thinking ‘just a few more pages…chapters’. This isn’t just in respect of the plot either, the world-building is another constant tease! I am not a huge worldbuilding fan, I find it one of the more boring elements but Ryan proved me wrong on this front. Every world element, piece of lore or detail as to the origins of the drakes was fun to read. I wasn’t just reading a book, I was fully immersed in this world and exploring it with the characters.

I also fell even more in love with the characters, which doesn’t take much when I enjoyed them as much as I did in book one. With characters I can love them straight away purely on their potential so it was so excited to continue the journey with these and all of them fulfil that potential!

We even get a new POV and boy oh boy is it an new, insightful and fascinating POV!

This instalment was such a beautiful blend of character development, word building and plot progression and did not fall victim to middle book syndrome!



Fuck. I wish I had this in HARDBACK!

AGAIN Thank you for reading AND SEE YOU SOON!

The Elcy Protocol: An Edpool Review

This review is part of my judging effort for the SPSFC. For a little intro to the whole thing and an explanation of my judging style, see this practice review.

This week for SPSFC I also reviewed The Elcy Protocol, by Bave Grozdanov.

This here book is a real chonker. I was thrown by the fact that I was working with a Kindle e-book, and it seemed to be taking forever to get anywhere. But that was just because the book had so many pages. Which was fine, because they were quality pages and I admire a thick juicy slab of bookmeat even if in this case it was conceptual meat on account of it being electronic. Plus, I was drawn in by the charming premise and fun characters, so I didn’t notice the (semi-illusory) drag until I was hooked. Great opening.

Yes, this story has an excellent premise and a really interesting protagonist, namely the erstwhile Elcy – formerly the rugged, almost literally loose cannon battleship Light Seeker, an old AI monster that retired from the seemingly perpetual war of Grozdanov’s narrative and was downloaded into an artificial biomech human body so she could look after the son of her former Captain. Some decades later, said child is now a grumpy old man and Elcy returns to active service – as a permanently skinny young adult human female this time – by way of cadet boot camp.

See what I mean about the opening and premise?

I was far more interested in seeing Elcy interact with her “fellow” humans than I was in reading about her previous incarnation as a battleship, and as the narrative skipped back and forth a little jarringly between past and present storylines, it got a bit annoying. Especially since the jumps back and forth felt designed to tantalise and frustrate (and look, for all I know they were, and that was well done). The date-stamp on each part was useful but difficult to keep track of in detail, and with the addition of straight-up segments of redacted memory, it became even more fragmented and strange.

However, all of this gradually (over an extended exploration-sequence; like I said, this was a hefty boi of a book) begins to fall into place and the secrets and restricted memories are unwrapped in a really interesting way. The ultimate point of the whole thing was almost an afterthought, though – almost a McGuffin but not even that big a deal – and I wonder if it’s going to be explored in further stories because it didn’t quite make an effective conclusion to this one.

Now, I’m one of those weird readers who don’t really care about that sort of thing, as long as the setting is good. And I’m not saying the plot arcs and endings weren’t there, or weren’t up to snuff. Another reader might be able to pick them out and appreciate them more. They just didn’t resonate with me in such a way as to justify the length of the journey. But the journey, for me, was really the point. I was interested enough in Elcy as a character, and in her interactions with humans, and in the backdrop of this weird Starship Troopers[1] forever-war version of humanity’s future, to such an extent that I didn’t really care about the narrative’s climax being arguably not-quite-explosive.

At one point Elcy reflects on humanity making contact with a third alien species (they already know two), and how the immediate result would be a third war front getting set into place. That was fascinating for what it said about that human civilisation, as well as the fact that – well, yeah, this is a battleship talking. Of course that would be her first move. And yet, Elcy herself doesn’t seem aggressive, despite her admittedly aggressive responses in a lot of situations.

The interstellar empire of humanity, even at the time when Elcy was a battleship, numbered “two quintillion people” and was at war with two separate alien civilisations. I was resigned, by halfway through the book, to never finding out what the Cassandrians or the Scuu actually were. Maybe that was the point. We may have been looking at the entire story through a keyhole, but it seemed like nobody made any effort, ever, to do anything but go to war with these alien races.

I was charmed by Elcy’s personality and behaviour. It read, to my completely inexperienced and non-clinical mind, like an examination of a neurodivergent personality forced to deal with normies. Her relationship with Sev was interesting but never really explored in a way I would have enjoyed seeing, as I was expecting Grozdanov to make some point about what a disastrous (or beneficial) guardian for a human child a battleship would be, and what it had done to Sev developmentally.

Overall the length of the book made it seem to drag when it didn’t (necessarily), but the only really noticeable part I felt was too long was the antagonist’s monologue at the end. Too many moving parts, built up over an admittedly impressive narrative, requiring too much explanation.

Fuck it, let’s go to the meters.


No sex. Elcy is distilled down into the bio-synthetic body of a roughly teenage girl so as to provide a big sister figure to Sev, and then she just stays that way. The Elcy Protocol gets a C-3PO Human Cyborg Relations out of a possible Bender Bending Rodriguez. If you have a thing for barefoot girls in sci-fi, you might coax a C-3PO Human Cyborg Relations with a red forearm for no reason out of the sex-o-meter, but I don’t know why you’d bother abusing a delicate piece of scientific equipment for this.


Not much gore either. There are space battles and a plentiful body-count, but not much in the way of up-close and personal. One flesh-gobbet out of a possible five.


The Elcy Protocol scores well here, on account of the sheer Banksian fun of the AI spaceships and their different levels of interaction, as well as the funky surreal nature of the “third contact”, the cobalt symbols and the fractal what-have-yous. It was all very visually nice to read, and combined with the flashback structure and the concept of memory as military industrial complex property, it made for a decidedly strange story. The WTF-o-meter gives this book a pair of sandals lying on a table out of a possible Memory Restriction Imposed.

My Final Verdict

The nature of memory and reality, privacy and free will are all called into question in this story. The main plot, of exploration and revelation of an alien intelligence, is truly secondary to whatever was going on with Elcy and her place in society. Bittersweet ending, but for the twists and turns in this story there doesn’t seem any resolution, nothing that really presents itself as a climax or revelation. Three stars!


[1] The book, not the movie.

Ghostwater by Will Wight (Book #5 Cradle Series)

To see book 4 Skysworn go here.

Ghostwater by Will Wight is #5 in the Cradle series. If you’re here I’m sure you’ve already become vested in this universe.  Sorry it took so long to get this out. Let’s get into it. So, once again I feel like each book is going to be my new favorite. The interesting thing about this one though compared to the past ones is Lindon pretty much is in a brand-new pocket world (Ghostwater) inside the world we already know. It’s quite brilliant in finding a way to create new lands, creatures, and adventure without having to find a way to whisk the characters off to new geographic locations. It’s a fun way to flex your creativity and level up the characters to do better in the situation they’re still in. I always love new lands or in this case pocket dimensions to explore. 

This book is where I am 100% in on the character of Lindon. I mean I’ve been liking him more with each book; I just feel he made broad strides in this one. He and Orthos are essentially trapped in this pocket world as the weaker of the people there. No one to bail him out. They draw the ire of Ekerinatoth, a gold dragon, on the path of the Flowing Flame. There are also some crazy swarms of giant fish too. Sounds kind of delicious. Ok, so Lindon and Orthos have to find a way to survive as they look to get out of this mess. Having sealed themselves in in some underground bunker they explore to find…pretty much someone has looted the area already. Though interestingly Lindon finds a memory construct chilling in some high-grade mental elixirs. It seems to have given the construct a consciousness. It knows everything about Ghostwater. Sweet deal. This construct ends up with the name Dross helps form a plan for our duo…or trio now I suppose…no foursome because we have little blue too! Lindon doesn’t just get out of it, but he kills her which has repercussions. Unfortunately, she lives long enough to get back to her people, so they know she was killed and by what kind of path. BLACKFLAME.

This leads to chaos for Yerin and Mercy. Oh, side note, I really enjoy those two hanging out together, fun dynamic. Anyways they try to get to Lindon by pissing off the Skysworn and some angry dragons. Lindon kicked the proverbial dragon nest..roost? Yerin has to hide a lot which makes her quite unhappy. Yerin and Mercy get beaten down pretty badly. They too have to find a way to deal with their situation. I don’t have much to say about them in this, but they are fun.

This very much felt like a Lindon adventure though. There are a lot of cool and also deadly things left behind by the Monarch who built Ghostwater. Lindon comes across many valuable elixirs, meat, books, and overall knowledge. Leveling Up, Scott Pilgrim has nothing on you. We also meet Emo warrior Ziel of the Wasteland. Seemingly bored with life he doesn’t mind lending his oversized Warhammer to help out the weaker. Ziel manages to help not only Lindon in Ghostwater, but helps save Yerin and Mercy on the outside. Cheer up bud, the world needs you. 

After Ziel is gone we of course have the arrogant Akura Harmony who comes along to steal Dross from Lindon. This was not very nice. Lindon and Orthos go after him even though Harmony is part of a Monarch faction and was the most powerful person in the pocket world in the beginning of this book. Lindon, Orthos, and Dross manage to beat him with a mix of power, quick thinking, and strategy. Lindon offers to take Harmony out of Ghostwater before it collapses. Harmony instead threatens retaliation and revenge. What can you do? Lindon leaves him behind with Orthos breaking off his chance of escape. SAVAGE. Harmony seems to be trapped when the pocket world collapses. Gone forever? Who knows? This will have repercussions in Lindon’s relationship with the mighty Akura family. Oh, Harmony was also Mercy’s ex-fiancé. AWKWARD. Lindon is great at making enemies. Excellent skill to have my man. It certainly makes things more entertaining for us readers. 

Lindon reconnects with Yerin and Mercy. Yerin and Lindon seem to be connecting more especially now that Lindon is closing in on becoming her equal. Hmmm. Will their arc lead to more than best friends? Stay tuned you Cradle lovers. Wait, that sounds weird. Cradle Fans!!!

The View From Infinity Beach: An Edpool Review

This review is part of my judging effort for the SPSFC. For a little intro to the whole thing and an explanation of my judging style, see this practice review.

Our next SPSFC review is The View From Infinity Beach, by R. P. L. Johnson.

This story had a nicely gripping start, although I have to say the main reason I continued to angry-read the first few chapters was because of how obnoxious the young adults of Excalibur Station were. I just plain didn’t want Kade to be friends with any of them, but I’m coming to recognise this as a symptom of my own encroaching cantankerous-old-cuntness, rather than any flaw in the writing. On the contrary, the characters were well written and plotted.

Left to right: Nikki the popstar, John the resourceful nerd, Kade the only person who was brought up right, Lizzie the severely judgement impaired athlete-type, and Lawrence the rich braggart with a heart of gold (somewhere, occasionally; may be subject to backslides).
Look, I watched it with my kids, okay? And it’s not a 1:1 analogy, but … if you know, you know.

So, this interesting but annoying start was enough to get us to the main point of the story, which was that the asteroid belt mining company community were working on a hollow-asteroid habitat concept on an awe-inspiring scale, and the parasitic Earthbound “ruling class” were out to take it for themselves.

While the worldbuilding and sociopolitical setup (not to mention the strange asteroid at the focus of it all) is a little reminiscent of The Expanse, Johnson avoids too much of the unfortunately hard-to-avoid “Earther vs. Belter” similarities that come with the territory these days. I’d say that while it is very much its own thing, The View From Infinity Beach is also a sufficiently entertaining entry in the asteroid belt mining future sub-subgenre to appeal to people who enjoyed That Other Series That’s Everywhere.

Myself, I was already interested in this one because of the cover, and the nostalgia for Rendezvous With Rama that it kindled.

The action was nicely done, with some real menace and an excellent sense of what was at stake. Even if the main villain was somewhat overblown, one might also argue that it’s impossible to really overblow something like this. And it was very satisfying to read.

The interpersonal drama with the young characters was set up a little clumsily. Really, Lawrence shat me to tears (by the time he improved it was too late, I had already decided I was never going to like him) and the most annoying thing about him was that Lizzie seemed completely oblivious to it, and that kind of reflected poorly on the overall work. Not only did it come hazardously close to the “women always like jerks” involuntary-celibate mantra and cheap jock-at-school tropeyness (a tropeycal copypasta with incelery, if you will), but ultimately it didn’t have much bearing on the story or the characters so there was neither justification nor payoff. It was just antagonism for the sake of antagonism, when there was plenty of that coming from the actual antagonists. Not to mention the far more compelling relationship dynamic between John and the other kids.

But anyway, that was a minor thing.

I really enjoyed the built-in alteration to the laws of physics that came with the coriolis effect inside the space stations, and how it was written into the story’s action scenes. I don’t know enough about the actual laws of physics to say this is or is not how things would actually go in a spin-gravity habitat, but since I don’t know, I’m going to say it was fine and I liked it.

Aside from some occasional editorial issues (at one point a character was barraged with “a bullet of bullets”, which was actually quite amusing) and a bit of odd pacing and scene-changing (the first encounter at Kera and the ending of that sequence and the kids’ escape and return to Excalibur seemed to happen off-page, unless my Kindle flicked past it for some reason), the whole narrative was really nicely constructed and had an excellent, nicely relentless pace.


We didn’t really get any sex in the story, and that’s fine – it was essentially a young adult adventure so aside from a bit of teen hormone drama and male gazery, there wasn’t anything full-on. And that made sense. Let’s award this one gym sock that could be crusty for entirely innocent (but still kind of gross) reasons out of a possible entire American Pie movie franchise with extra Stiflers.


There’s a few firefights, an honest-to-goodness Ripley fight in an industrial mover suit, a bit of mob violence and collateral murderings, but all in all this isn’t really a gory one. Two flesh-gobbets out of a possible five for The View From Infinity Beach.


Not much WTF in this story either, like I say it was a nice take on the asteroid belt mining future concept and not one with a built-in WTF thread like some giants of the sub-subgenre. And it didn’t need one, since the solid science and human endeavour of it was the point, and more than made up for any lack. I’ll give this story a half-filled ammo clip of bullets out of a possible bullet of bullets on the WTF-o-meter.

My Final Verdict

This was a fun read, all its issues were relatively minor and were definitely forgivable in light of the excellent concepts and engaging action. There was a classic wartime feel to the Molly Moore “mascot” that I  really dug, and the ending of the story and its overall message was honestly uplifting. Pure human gold. I’m giving it a solid three stars on the Amazon / Goodreads scale.

Scion of the Oracle – Book Review

Good afternoon bookworms! Nocrackedspines here with another spoiler free book review!

Scion of the Oracle was an eARC I received from the author E.A. Robins back in September. I’m really happy and excited that I was given the opportunity to read this story. Scion of the Oracle is a YA Fantasy novel. This story is also an Of Metal and Magic core series. Multiple authors write in the same fantasy world and currently there are 3 books in this series – Call of the Guardian, Pariah’s Lament and Scion of the Oracle. E.A. Robin’s story was a standalone story from the other novels and I didn’t need to read them to understand her story at all. Let’s get into the review!


I normally don’t read a lot of YA Fantasy but I found myself enjoying main and side characters. Most of characters felt relatable and distinct. In this fantasy story, we follow a teenage florist Dali and her mentor Kip. I fell in love with the passion and drive Dali had even though at times it drove her towards danger instead of running away from it… but what fantasy story is fun if you are running away from trouble! I also liked Kip because it felt like he balanced her out and kept her grounded. I appreciated the humble beginnings of two people that are working a business together but Dali has other plans with her life and wants to be apart of a secret society.

We had several recurring side characters that helped bring the world to life. Of the side characters, I enjoyed the plot surrounding Eren. I thought way he flowed in and out of the story was great and provided a lot of depth as well. There are a lot of side characters for readers to fall in love with. It didn’t feel confusing like a Wheel of Time book where you are presented 10 new characters in every chapter where you feel like you might have missed someone who might be important. E.A. Robins manages to give us impactful moments when we meet characters for the first time.


The story is broken up into 10 episodes. Each episode moves you through the story and locations well. We get a lot of action and story telling in each episode. I enjoyed the casual drops of information and world building throughout. I felt the world was well lived in and had a rich story for reader to get lost in. Scion of the Oracle had a lot of twists and turns readers will love and keep them interested from start to finish. I don’t want to talk specifics of the story but readers will find friendship and betrayal, secrets and magic and an epic adventure.


The magic system feels very mysterious at first and I personally like that. I felt I was discovering it at the same time as the characters. Magic plays a huge role in where the story goes. I didn’t have all of the answers on how the magic work but I think that was awesome because it gave me something to look forward to in the sequel.


I enjoyed Robins prose. It was clear and well written. I felt like I understood the action scenes which resonated well with me. I don’t particular like it when I am confused about what is happening during action sequences but this was written well and Robins nailed it for me. There is a quality here that felt was accessible to both teens to adults.

Final Thoughts

I enjoyed Scion of the Oracle a lot! It was fast-pace and kept me on the edge of my seat! The characters were fun to follow and I can’t wait to read what happens next. I would definitely pick up the sequel. Scion of the Oracle also makes me interested in the other stories that share the same world. Overall, I would definitely recommend picking up this novel. I enjoyed every minute of it!

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon is how you do a standalone fantasy novel! Well, I may have just spoiled this review. It’s going to be a good one to say the least. This was just a beautiful story all around. If you want a fantasy novel to break from trilogies (or longer) than I highly recommend this book. Let’s get into why though. 

It’s hard to put into words how Samantha Shannon snuck up on me in this story. In the beginning, I would say the first 10 chapters, I was kind of curious as to why people love this book. We are thrown into an interesting world and unknown characters. I was like yah okay Dragons are cool there’s west and east of the world who have the same enemy, but different beliefs on the wider world in some kind of cold war. Reel me in Shannon what ya go….oh…oh that is what you got…oh yah….that’s the spot….so what happened you ask?

I got to know the characters more. I got to learn more about the lore of this world’s beliefs. That’s right, give me fascinating characters and lore! Oh, wait did I mention we have representation here? Like people are bi-sexual, gay, lesbian, and we have us straights here though let’s be honest, we are a bit more boring at times. Did I also mention there’s this weird thing that skin color can vary because of that big star in the sky? It’s crazy how humans can be different, but come together for a compelling story, right?

Though what drives humans apart in this world are beliefs of 1000 years ago around Dragons, a Knight or Liar, and a Mother or Damsel depending on who you ask. You have the West Ruled by Virtuedom believer in a Knight who became their Saint and his Queen the Damsel. They despise all dragonkind. Ever since then they have been a Queendom and every Queen only has daughters, yes ONLY GIRLS ALLOWED. As long as the bloodline continues, they believe the Nameless One will stay locked away.

Then you have the East. Who worship water dragons They ride them into battle & consult with them on politics. They despise only fire dragons and the nameless one. They do fear the west as the home of the ilk of fire dragons that can pass on a plague to humans. They have a strict code around dragons and are at war with pirates who like to kill and harvest dragon parts. 

Think that was all? No then you have the Mages of the Priory of the Orange Tree in the South. They believe the Saint of Virtuedom is a liar and fake. His Damsel he claims married him actually spurned him. Instead, she became the Mother of the Priory after she sealed the Nameless one away. The Saint claims he defeated the Nameless one. The Priory teaches he actually ran from the Nameless One and the Mother picked up his magical sword to defeat him instead. So then who did he marry to have a child with? Who is Sabran’s female ancestor? Where is this magical sword? What really happened 1000 years ago?

The mystery of why all these beliefs differ especially in the West and South is one of the main draws of this book. It gives a great look into how history, religion, and beliefs can be altered by lies of the powerful and stories handed down. There is manipulation, shame, ego, etc. Is the truth worth destroying stability? People will believe what gives them hope and purpose. The belief is not the only part, but how it is used. Onto characters!

First up is my favorite PoV Ead Duryan as her public name, but Eadaz uq-Nāra is her real name. She is a mage from the Priory of the Orange Tree sent to Virtuedom in order to join the court of its current ruler Queen Sabran IX.  Eadaz mission is to protect her juuust in case her line really does keep the Nameless one at bay. Eadaz may be a mage, but these mages are also extremely skilled warriors and dragon slayers. Eadaz is quite an amazing figure throughout this story. She goes through a wild transformation and discovery about who she is and what she wants. Oh yah mages are feared in Virtuedom too, I’m sure this will not be an issue. 

Next we have Tané who is training in the east to hopefully be a Dragon Rider or if deemed unfit for that role will become a Scholar. Early on she breaks the rules and it causes a huge domino effect not just in her life, but another interesting PoV Niclays Roos who was banished from the west and in a controlled settlement in the east. These two interact with a character I found super annoying in the beginning chapters. I was so grateful he was not a PoV character. I think he was one of the reasons the book started slow. Luckily, he wasn’t as dominating a figure as I thought he’d be. Tané is a skilled warrior. No, I mean do not mess with her at all, you will die. The sad part though is she is way too hard on herself. My heart aches for her at times because I believe she is doing her best and when things go wrong, she deeply feels she deserves it. Her arc is tough to go through, but pays off. 

Niclays Roos I feel pity for at times and other times he angers me. This makes him a great character. His motives always make sense and can go from aggravating to interesting. I’m never 100% sure on what his decisions will be. Then our last main PoV we have Arteloth ‘Loth’ Beck. Now this man that gets around to different parts of the world. While he comes from Virtuedom and is Queen Sabran’s best friend, the man gives us some fascinating adventures and constantly has to deal with his beliefs and assumptions being shattered. 

The relationships and character dynamics in this story are so well done. They flow so realistically. I believe it can all happen this way in real life and is not just written that way because the story needs it. Then we have the magic system, which is so unique, at least to me. I don’t want to give much away because if I say too much then you wont get to explore it and interpret it yourself. It is simplistic, but not at the same time. There so much we learn about its place in this world as the story unfolds. 

This is of course a standalone novel so there will be jumps in time a bit. It leaves some imagination to fill in how things transpired as they go. It’s not a huge time jump, but you will not be with them traveling long from point A to B. There will be moments between characters that keep moving along off page, but it’s all set up to make each time make sense.It is not complicated at all to follow.

I think the weakest part of this is not getting a feel for the size of the world. The land masses or overall scenery. This is a book I wish I had a map on hand to figure out exactly how everything looked and where places are. It’s not a big thing. You know the important places for lore and story sake. I just always like a bit more of an idea of what the landmasses and kingdoms look like on a grander scale. 

Overall I love this story and I hope Samantha Shannon writes more stories in this world at a future time. The ending is pretty final, but I’m sure an intelligent author can have more going on in this world. I mean humans and dragons still exist so it’s not like there will not be conflict in the future. I know many people have this on their list. Well get to it already! It has dragons, magic, romance, fight scenes, warriors, intrigue, mystery, and Lore. This story has heart. What are you waiting for Slackers!