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I have been an avid reader from as early as I can remember. Since becoming a Christian in my early 20s, my passion for reading led to specifically Christian fiction and this has developed into reviewing them on this blog. I love reading new author's novels or author's who have not had many reviews or exposure and giving them much needed encouragement where appropriate.   
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Friday, 24 March 2017

Armor of the Fallen: Wielder of the Gauntlets, Book 1 by Jason A. Dimmick



Armor of the Fallen: Wielder of the Gauntlets Book 1

Answer the call. Wield the Gauntlets. Fight the Fallen. Protect all mankind.

The life Tim is living is not the life God has intended for him. Now he is faced with a choice that will determine the fate of all mankind. After spending the last twelve years of his life in an orphanage, Tim must now move away from everything and everyone he knows to live with an uncle he never knew he had. What happens while with his uncle will not only drastically change Tims’ life forever, but will place the fate of mankind in his hands and answer all the questions Tim has about his past. The Gauntlets have chosen their Wielder. Will Tim answer the call and fight against the Fallen?

The Guru's Review: 


I am so glad the author found my blog and requested a review of his debut novel. I was captivated by the synopsis and readily agreed to review. I am also glad to have offered him a guest post on my blog to help promote this novel. 

I thoroughly loved this story. I was engaged from the start and could not put it down. Dimmick has constructed this novel as one fast paced, action packed adventure full of mystery and intrigue. It would definitely make a good movie! 

All the characters endear themselves to you, especially Tim. But then again, he is the main character. There is enough characterisation to achieve this despite this novel being more plot than character driven. I can see that this novel will become popular with young adults as it written and constructed to do so. Yet, some young adult novels do not lend themselves to the older age groups but this one does. Dimmick should take this as a compliment and a strength as a writer especially this being his debut. 

I have stated in previous reviews where the plot involves fight scenes that authors will either develop these well or they will not. Dimmick has achieved the former. If this comes naturally, then he has an asset in this aspect of his writing talent. If he has achieved this through practice and mentoring then he shows excellent application. Seeing that a large part of the plot involved fight scenes and other action sequences, having this developed well has only added to the overall enjoyment of the novel and its plot structure. One other aspect of achieving this level of competency is that it adds to the charactersation, especially of Tim, seeing that being a Wielder means he has to embrace fighting and using the Gauntlets to do so. In one sense, he and these Gauntlets become one when he is fighting, all part of being a Wielder. 

Overall, Dimmick has a good command of the English language, however, there were a few lapses. Minor, but it did stick out to me. Maybe I am too picky seeing I like grammar to be used correctly. An example is, 
.........the main hall of the Bradley Home for Youths. 
Grammarist.com implies that this should read, Bradley Home for Youth. (italics mine)

Another is, 
Ju-Long gives Gwan a nod as Gwan goes and takes a seat on the raised platform.
Should it not be, 
Ju-Long gives Gwan a nod as Gwan takes a seat on the raised platform?
What follows next is not a criticism but just a subjective observation. This novel is written in the present tense. I have not read in this tense for many a decade. I found it a bit hard to adjust but once you are immersed in the action and fast pace of the story, it is no longer noticeable. I am not sure why Dimmick chose this style; maybe this is what he is comfortable with. Does not really matter, it was effective in delivering a very memorable and enjoyable story. 

Dimmick has Tim stating that fallen angels are demons. Not sure if this author has used poetic licence in describing them as such or if there is another reason. In "Devils and Demons and the Return of the Nephilim" by Klein and Spears, fallen angels are defined as devils and demons as the disembodied souls of dead nephilim [nephilim being the offspring from the mating of fallen angels and human women, see Genesis 6: 4. (The above authors state that these fallen angels who committed this sin are the teraphim, the lowest form of the three types of angels-cherubim and seraphim-being a higher rank above them, where 200 of the teraphim made a pact to take on human form, seduce human women and produce their nephilim offspring)]. 

It is this fallen angel background, the supernaturally empowered gauntlets to fight these "demons" and those God has appointed as Wielders of these weapons that creates a solid backbone to this story and the rest of the trilogy. There are many elements here that make this story one very enthralling and captivating read. Dimmick has plenty to play around with in the next two novels from what he has established in this novel. That is wise groundwork as with some first novels, there is not much established and the rest of the trilogy has to support and build on this deficit. Again, this shows more of this new author's talent. 

I do like the spiritual aspects of this novel. Dimmick has portrayed the Archangel Michael as a Messenger and Warrior which is the Biblical description. The biblical message/theme of redemption and forgiveness expressed by Kau adds valuable biblical truth and adds much credibility and depth to the plot. Even the enemy Rhi-Nu has his spiritual "eyes" opened and realises the honour that he sought was through deceptive demonic means. He realises that this is no what he wanted. Without these biblical message/themes, mentioned above, a novel like this remains as one of the bad guys versus the good guys. There are plenty of non-Christian novels like this. Christian fiction needs to ascend past this basic plot line especially when the Bible contains so much hope for the reader. Christian fiction is a great medium for this. 

Any Christian novel that has a plot involving fallen angels, and/or demons versus the angelic host, and Christians caught either innocently in the middle or part of this warfare needs to have the biblical reason for this conflict spelt out as the basis for this plot line.

I am hoping that Dimmick expands more of this biblical background in the remaining instalments of this series. He is off to a good start in this regard with this debut. 

I was a little concerned at Dimmick having Tim "share" Ju-Long's body in order to learn how to use the Gauntlets to their full potential and how to fight. It has strong parallels to how demon possession works but there is a difference. In demon possession, the demon spirit takes total control of the human body and gives it all the spiritual attributes of the demon entity. The human spirit is suppressed and dominated by this demon until cast out. This is not the case with Tim and Ju-Long. It is a mutual and symbiotic relationship where one does not have control over the other. I am not sure if the use of this method is misplaced. Has Dimmick used a demonic practice in a Christian novel? Not sure, but I don't feel it would have been intentional. It serves his aim to show Tim how to use the Gauntlets. 

I loved this section where Tim is training under the tutelage of Ju-Long. There is an obvious back history between Ju-Long, Kau and Gwan as brothers, that suggests this needs to be told. I listened to the author's podcast recently and he confirmed that this will be the next instalment, albeit a novella. If this is so, I do hope he also includes in this, some of the loose ends that left me hanging at the end of this novel. 

I look forward to this series. I also want to see how Dimmick develops the plot and the spiritual issues in the remaining volumes. This is an author with talent and one to follow. 

Strongly Recommended. 4/5 

To read a preview or buy this novel, click on the BUY or PREVIEW icons below.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Author/Novel Spotlight: Jeremy Bullard

Today, I am highlighting Jeremy Bullard, Christian novelist of 2 science-fiction and fantasy novels. I have watched Jeremy describe his writing journey and these two novels in a Facebook group we both belong to and I am impressed with the depth of imagination and creativity he has. I am sure you will detect some of this as you read his post.

So sit back and see what Jeremy has to say about himself and his Facets of Reality novels, Gemworld and Fractures. 

But first, a little about Jeremy: 


Jeremy Bullard is an author, an amateur singer/songwriter, a hobby knifemaker, a TV buff, and a recovering MMORPGamer. He has been involved in various creative pursuits for as far back as he can remember, counting his relationship with Jesus Christ and his devotion to his family as the greatest of these endeavors.

His creative nature and fascination with extreme possibility led him quite naturally to science fiction and fantasy fandom. This attraction has colored the full spectrum of his writing, spurring him to pieces ranging from Stephen King and Quantum Leap fan fiction to Twilight Zone-esque monologues to finally releasing a project based in a world completely of his own making.

Jeremy lives in Southeast Alabama (also known as "God's Country") with his beautiful wife, three incredible kids, and two smarter-than-the-average dogs -- one of which knows how to open a screen door from the outside. Still don't know how she figured that one out... 

Now let's have a look at the first two books in the Facets of Reality series:

Gemworld (Facets of Reality Book 1)


For a US Navy SEAL, life can be many things -- challenging, thrilling, rewarding, hazardous, unexpectedly short. Lieutenant James Salvatori knew all this going in, but nothing could have prepared him for his mission to Laos. What started as an anti-terror operation turned into an experience that was quite literally out of this world!

New lands, mythical creatures, powerful magics, immortal tyrants. What's a guy like Sal to do, except lock and load?



A battle won.
A commander lost.
A lot of war left to fight.

James "Sal" Salvatori is struggling to find his place in the world -- and doing a heckuva job. He's gone from Navy SEAL to shol'tuk apprentice (read "uber ninja"), from a lonely prisoner to a leader in a far-reaching rebellion, and from an alien in a world of magic to the Prism, a mage of prophecy. But the victories he's won have been costly, and they're only going to get harder.

Enemies lurk in darkened corners. Secrets beckon from ancient archives. The forces of the Highest march to quell the rebellion. The pages of prophecy are unfolding.

There is no rest for the once-SEAL -- it's time to lock and load.

I asked Jeremy why he wrote the Facets of Reality series and whether there are any Biblical themes:

Gemworld started life as a way to alleviate my boredom, really. I was working night shift at a local jail, and had taken to reading a wide range of material – Stephen King, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, John Grisham, Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, and so on – but found myself between books and nothing immediately at hand to draw me.

Now, I'd always been creative (or crazy, depending on who you ask), and this particular night, I found myself asking, “If I were to create a world like these guys (I had just finished the Weis/Hickman series, The Deathgate Cycle), what would it look like?” Well, that question turned into a rough outline of different magical influences, which in turn led to fictional histories. Before my shift had ended, I actually had created the world I was wondering about. Over the course of the next few days, I refined the world, “explored” it you might say, and started actually working on Gemworld in earnest.

I never really had a plan to write Gemworld and its sequel Fractures as Christian novels, but as novels by a Christian writer. All I was after – then as now – was a quality story that would engage the reader. I wanted to write a book that I'd love to read myself. That's not to say that God had nothing to do with it, of course. As another blogger had put it in his review of Gemworld, “Reality [of God, Jesus, and the Spirit] is largely subliminal, but it’s definitely there.” He'd mentioned that it was “not a Full Gospel book and barely Evangelical,” and I'll be honest, I didn't know how to take this at first. But upon reflection, I realized that this was exactly what I was aiming for. In my mind, the Christ within me necessarily finds His way into everything I do, if in fact it's not me who lives but Christ who lives in me. That being the case, it made perfect sense that Christ would find a way to be included in something that wasn't written explicitly to draw people to Him, but was nevertheless written by someone devoted to Him.

As to Christian themes, I'd say it largely comes from the “alternate reality” aspect of the book, in that God is not merely the God of What Is, but also of everything that Could Be. God is present in this book and subsequent books as the Crafter, complete with a Savior-figure in messac'el (the Heart of the Crafter), at least one champion in a secondary character – Reit Windon du'Nograh, known as el'Yatza (the Crafter's Hand) – and at least two denominations in the Priesthood of the Way, and a more “common” sect that follows the Crafter according to their holy text, Unending Seasons.

If what you have now read has whetted your appetite for more, here is an excerpt and Jeremy's reason for choosing it: 

In selecting an excerpt, I had a hard time deciding on how to best exemplify how complex the series is. It's gritty, funny, sometimes even gory (though I try to keep that to a minimum). But first and foremost, I try to make my world and its characters real enough that my reader can easily become invested in them. No character is disposable, even if they have only one line in one scene, because in the real world, no life is disposable. Every life is unique. Every life has its own story, its own hero and villain. Every life is believable, even if the most unbelievable things happen to them. If I can achieve that, then everything else falls into place.

So with that mindset, I decided on this fight scene from Fractures featuring my main character, a former Navy SEAL who has become apprenticed to the assassin Retzu since finding himself in this alternate reality. It demonstrates the kind of action – and inter-action – that a reader might expect. Things to note are the hilts (signifying rank in the shol'tuk) and the mantras associated with the hilts, which hopefully speak to the level of detail I strive for in my worldbuilding. There are other scenes that I felt were better suited for what Peter was asking for, but most of them had spoilers for Gemworld, so hopefully this will suffice.

~~~~~~~~~~~~Start of Excerpt~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sal's bowels liquefied at the thought of Marissa being in danger. He edged her into an alley to the right of the street, and hissed, "Run!"

They sprinted north, the passageway barely wide enough for the two of them to run abreast. Sal urged Marissa onward while he trotted sideways, looked back over his shoulder for his pursuers.

The man with the sword appeared before them, as if from nowhere. He backhanded Marissa as she came in range, the crack of his hand against her jaw echoing down the alley. She fell in a dazed heap.

"No!" Sal shouted, drawing his doeskin-hilted katana. In a flash, the other man's sword was in his hand, neatly blocking Sal's chop. Sal saw with sickening clarity that the man's hilt bore a copper winding.

He was shol'tuk.

Sal didn't have time to ponder this before the man countered his attack, showering Sal with cuts and chops and slices of his own. It was all that Sal could do to keep from being butchered.

The doeskin-hilted adherent blocked everything out -- the ringing of the katanas, the two men yet to join the party, the groggy redhead still kneeling to one side of the alley. The world shrank in focus, until the alley was all that was left. The alley, and the copper-hilt that controlled it.

Death is raw, like the hide of the newly skinned bull.

Death is soft, like the doe in her winter coat.

The alley was narrow, limiting the full range of attacks that the copper might employ. Sal used this to his advantage. He pressed the attack, using fist and foot as much as he did his sword. He reached out to Marissa through Emerald and wielded. He could spare no concentration to build a proper spell for Marissa -- not as Aten'rih had taught him -- so he simply willed that the magic heal her however she required, all the while desperately lashing out at his attacker.

The fury of his assault set the other man on his heels. He tilted off balance, scrabbling with his feet for purchase. Seeing an opening in the copper's defense, Sal jabbed, then spun and cut diagonally, slicing the shol'tuk's chest open and knocking his katana away. The assassin fell heavily, his breath leaving him in a gurgling whoosh.

Sal spun to meet the other two men... only to find them already dealt with. Retzu stood over one at the far end of the alley, and Marissa was just finishing the other one up.

Marissa?!?

For all that she looked dainty, there was nothing fragile about her at that moment. Blood streamed from her nose and from the corner of her mouth, but the look in her eye wasn't hurt. It was rage. She grit her teeth as she lashed out, her doubled fists catching her attacker squarely under the jaw. Before he had time to fall backward, she grabbed his shoulders and yanked him down into her knee, driving it deep into his face. Blood squirted to both sides as his nose shattered. She released him, and he dropped in a near-lifeless pile at her feet, eyes glazed and struggling for breath. Sal stood there looking at her, agape.

"What?" she said, self-consciously. "I have brothers."

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~End of Excerpt~~~~~~~~~~~~

Gemworld has a good ranking on Amazon: 


To see all 35 Reviews, go here



on March 5, 2016

Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase

This book had some strong pros and some definite cons, but in the end the positives outweigh the negatives and deserve a net 4 stars.


As always with my reviews, I like to start with the good news.

Pros:


Incredibly original magic system – In the world of fantasy, rehashed tropes and variations on a theme are just part of the landscape. This is pretty much an accepted fact among fans of the genre, so when someone comes up with something truly different, it is like a breath of fresh air. Bullard’s magical system in Gemworld absolutely qualifies as fascinating and original. I can’t recall anything like it before, and I am fairly well read in the genre. There might be something out there, I just haven’t seen it. I would like to have seen a bit more “cost” of free wielding the power in the books, to make it less of a candidate for a deus ex machina problem solution, but at least as far as the first book goes, Bullard restrains himself from pulling the magical silver bullet out of the hat.


Deep, three-dimensional worldbuilding – I thoroughly enjoy puttering around in a well-built world. If it is tangible enough to feel real, and there are no logical contradictions that draw me out of my “willing suspension of disbelief” that is a huge pro. So many would-be novelists draw out these paper-thin worlds with all the depth of a cardboard cutout. I appreciate that Bullard has obviously put considerable time and effort into developing the world.


A truly likeable protagonist – That may seem like a given, but I continue to be amazed at the number of MC’s that are annoying, whiny, co-dependent, or complete bung-holes. Sometimes it is intentional, ala Thomas Covenant, but sometimes a writer simply doesn’t know how to make the MC likeable. Bullard does not suffer from that. Sal is an average Joe, well as average a Joe as a Navy SEAL can be. His “out of this world” mannerisms and speech just make this character sparkle against the backdrop of the world. I must admit, I was a little put off by how easily and in-stride he seemed to take being transported into a completely different world, but as I read through the novel, “unflappable” seemed to be a consistent characteristic of Sal’s. This was SO consistently written, that looking back his ease of adjustment to a completely new reality fits perfectly with his character. This was very well done.


Foreshadowing – Now this one is going to strike you as odd, because this same element appears in the Cons list as well. Why? Because sometimes it is wonderfully subtle and masterfully done, and other times…not so much. But this is the Pros section, so I will say there are elements which are telegraphed with amazing subtlety and a masterful hand. Had he been able to do this with all his foreshadowing, it might have garnered at least another half star.


Cons:


Plot – Honestly this is the most glaring issue I think with the book. Sal gets dropped into this completely new world without purpose, explanation or quest. He then just goes about for at least half the book trying to figure out his new reality without any real direction or purpose. A solid plot-hook is what keeps readers reading, especially in a book of this size (see wordiness below). Without it, readers soon wonder why they keep reading. What is the goal? What is the purpose? What is the burning question readers need to have answered? “Why am I still reading” or “Where is this going” are not the questions you want readers asking.


Wordy – Honestly an editor with a good pair of editing scissors could have cut 20% of the words in this book and not damaged the story a bit. There are places where things are rehashed, restated, and belabored that a solid content editor could have helped clean up. Copy editing is another issue, and the number of errors was enough to make it noticeable. Some typos are to be expected in a work this size, but they were frequent enough to note they were there, which when readers are churning away wondering why they are still reading, it is not a good thing to have continually popping up.


Foreshadowing – Again, as brilliantly as some instances of this are handled, others are so clumsy and heavy-handed as to ruin parts of the read. Some things are telegraphed to the point readers already know how this particular scene or sequence is going to turn out, so one starts skimming to get to the next significant action part. I was sad that a few opportunities to build real suspense and reader interest were neutered by telling the end before the beginning.


Overall, if asked if I would recommend this book, I say yes. For readers capable of churning through huge volumes of words quickly, the strengths of the pros are strong enough to make it an enjoyable read. For those who have to budget their time carefully as to what they read, there might be better “bang for your buck” options out there. That said, I know authors learn and grow with each book, and there are enough strengths in Gemworld to where I am looking forward to reading and seeing where Bullard takes the second book. If the author can address some of the challenges with this first book, I will be a fan of the series.

on August 17, 2015

Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase







Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase



on October 1, 2014

Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase


on January 2, 2015

Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase

on September 22, 2014

Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase

This type of fiction is my absolute favorite. And Mr. Bullard delivers the perfect combo of American culture, Medieval stuff, magic-that-makes-sense-and-could-actually-work, and swoon worthy guys running around with swords. The characters are solid, diverse, and loveable and the superpowers are really cool. The ending is rather suspenseful, so you have to be prepared to not be happy where you're left, but the ride is definitely worth the wait for Book 2.

on December 24, 2014

Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase


on October 13, 2016

Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase


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Fractures has two positive reviews so far: 




on March 5, 2017

Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase





on March 11, 2017

Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase


You can find out more about Jeremy and his novels at the following social media platforms:

Amazon Author's Page (with book links within) –

Facebook Author's Pagehttps://www.facebook.com/facetsofreality/

Personal Bloghttps://nashdude.wordpress.com/

To read more excerpts of buy these first two books in the Facets of Reality series, click on the BUY or PREVIEW icons:


                   

Readers and reviews are an author's best asset, so I encourage any reader of Christian science fiction and fantasy, Christian inspirational, to consider reading the Facets of Reality series and submit a review on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest (or any other social media you subscribe to).