Warriors: Thunder And Shadow (A Vision Of Shadows 2) By Erin Hunter [Book Review]

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Book Review: Warriors Thunder and Shadow (A Vision of Shadows 2) by Erin Hunter | Book Blog | Fantasy | Fiction | YA | Middle Grade | Reading | RachelPoli.com

I got this as a Christmas gift.

Summary:

Nearly a moon has passed since Alderpaw returned from his journey to SkyClan’s gorge, where he found the territory taken over by rogues. Now the same vicious cats that drove out SkyClan have traced Alderpaw’s path back to the lake… and ShadowClan may be the next to fall.

My Review:

Book Cover | RachelPoli.comThe cover, as usual is very pretty. I really love the new designs and the cats look fairly realistic.

Plot | RachelPoli.comLike the title suggests, this book focuses on ThunderClan, as usual, and ShadowClan. The rogues that drove out SkyClan in the previous book have followed Alderpaw home and taken over ShadowClan as their own territory. All that’s left of ShadowClan is Rowanstar, Tawnypelt, and Tigerheart. All the other ShadowClan cats have remained in ShadowClan with the rogues for various reasons.

The stakes have truly raised in this book from the last. All the Clans are effected by these rogues, but ThunderClan and ShadowClan need to truly team up to defeat the threat – and this isn’t a typical team in this series. With that said, it was very well done.

Characters | RachelPoli.comAll the characters are confused in this one and trying to figure out who to trust and what to do. My only complaint about the characters is that Twigpaw and Violetpaw’s relationship is starting to get annoying. The two of them are confused and want to be together but are making very different choices. Yet, they each seem to think that whatever the other decides is because of them. It doesn’t make any sense and they bicker over nonsense because of it.

Writing Style | RachelPoli.com

This particular book was very well written. Up until now we’ve always seen the books through the eyes of a ThunderClan cat. This book goes back and forth between ThunderClan and ShadowClan. We’re allowed to see how ShadowClan runs, their customs, and how they’re different and the same as ThunderClan. It’s made me want a separate Warriors series based in ShadowClan as well as one based in WindClan and one in RiverClan. I would truly love to see how the other Clans run.

Overall | RachelPoli.comThis was a pretty intense book but there was a lot of arguing and misunderstandings which got old quick. I think this book was a set up for what’s to come later. I really enjoyed the way it was written though and seeing through the eyes of another Clan was eye-opening and very cool.

Warriors: Thunder and Shadow (A Vision of Shadows 2) by Erin Hunter gets…
Book Review Rating System | 4 Cups of Coffee | RachelPoli.com4 out of 5 cups

Favorite Quote:

“Shared knowledge is never wasted.” -Erin Hunter, Warriors: Thunder and Shadow (A Vision of Shadows 2)

Buy the book:

Amazon

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and if you enjoyed this post, please share it around!

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How To Build A Fantasy World In Flash Fiction [Guest Post]

I’m happy to welcome Carin Marais back to my blog for another guest post! Thanks, Carin!

Guest Post: How To Build a Fantasy World in Flash Fiction by Carin Marais | Creative Writing | Guest Blogging | Short Story | Fantasy Writing | RachelPoli.com

When writing fantasy or sci-fi stories in a flash fiction it can be difficult to get the world in which the story takes place across because of the word limit. However, there are some steps that you can take that will make your worldbuilding in flash fiction not only work but also stand out.

Choosing a world to write in (a new world/a world you already know)

First of all, you need to decide whether you’ll be writing in the primary world (i.e. our world), or a secondary world. There is a bit of overlap – or grey area, if you want – between primary and secondary worlds. For instance, in “Scorched Earth”, I wrote a “straightforward” historical flash fiction piece, but added some paranormal aspects:

Johannes’ voice sounded in my ears as I turned to climb onto the wagon.

“Want Hij zal Zijn engelen vam u bevelen, dat sij u bewaren in al uw wegen.”

I looked around and spotted him standing some way off. Still dressed in simple clothes, he no longer held a Mauser in his hands. His chest was covered in dark blood and sand crusted his face. I wanted to wipe it away, to tell him it’s alright. I wanted to beat his chest and ask him how he could have left me. How he could let me go to the camps. How he dared recite the Bible to me.

I jumped when a young soldier touched my arm and I stepped back.

Jy sien ook?” he asked, the words barely recognisable. “You see them as well?” he repeated in English, his eyes pleading.

“See what?” I shrugged and climbed onto the wagon, sitting down next to Maria.

The young soldier folded his arms around him, eyes darting from ghost to ghost.” (“Scorched Earth” by Carin Marais, 2018)

Then there are those who are set in a world that is either completely alien to our own (Daily SF has published many stories that uses this wonderfully), or which are a complete secondary world, hinting at a larger world beyond the story:

They had always said that my blood wasn’t pure enough to work here, that the gods would take vengeance for having their holy objects exhibited for all to see. I rolled my eyes at them – but only behind their backs.

The priests added their voices to the surging crowds once money changed hands and their earlier blessing of the travelling exhibition was recanted. All objects were to be returned to the half-forgotten temples.” (“Red” by Carin Marais, 2018)

This also brings me to the first part of worldbuilding when you’re writing flash fiction – build only the part of the world that is necessary for the story.

Building only what is necessary

When you only have a thousand words to work with (give or take), you hardly have time to go into the intricacies of the economic system of the city where your story takes place.

However, if you need to show a disparity in income, for instance, you can mention hijacked buildings turned to slums or the beggars in the streets. Perhaps your character passes a soup kitchen line, or perhaps they drive past informal settlements that line the main roads out of the city. You don’t (necessarily) have to give up too many words for this kind of description if you use your words economically.

You also shouldn’t underestimate the intelligence your readers – you don’t have to spell everything out to them, but just leave enough breadcrumbs for the reader from which to gather the whole picture. You can always make a few notes about the world if you want to return to that world later, but just watch out for ending up with worldbuilder’s disease before you’ve even written the flash piece! This includes writing languages and cultures.

Other languages and cultures

(Fantasy) culture is a lot easier to portray in flash fiction, in my opinion, than other languages. However, using words in another language – or even languages – can be a powerful way to ground the story in a specific milieu.

For instance, I used three languages in “Scorched Earth”; English (the language the story is written in), Dutch (the language of the Bible quotations), and Afrikaans. The story is set during the Anglo Boer War (1899-1902) and, at that time, the Dutch Bible was still used by Afrikaans Christians. Each time, however, I noted that it was verses from the Bible that was being quoted and, in the context of the story, it wouldn’t be a huge problem if the reader didn’t understand the exact verse that was being quoted.

Johannes’ voice sounded in my ears as I turned to climb onto the wagon.

“Want Hij zal Zijn engelen vam u bevelen, dat sij u bewaren in al uw wegen.”

How he dared recite the Bible to me.” (“Scorched Earth by Carin Marais, 2018)

When it comes to using fantasy culture(s) in your fiction, there are some simple steps you can take to make it work.

If you’re just working from a vague idea in your mind, try some free writing to get a better grasp of what the culture is about and where it may have parallels to cultures in the primary world. If it does, and you need to do some research, now is the time. Talk to people of that culture, read up (for example articles by people of that culture) if the culture is on the other side of the world as you, etc. NaNoWriMo forums are especially good for this type of research.

Of course, if it’s a fantasy culture that you’re not actually basing on any real culture (much easier to do in a short piece than an actual novel!), you can basically do what you want and show that element that you want to highlight. For instance, this can be a part of their mythology and ritual as I did in “They Burn Your Birth-Tree” (2017) that I wrote for Paragraph Planet:

They burn your birth-tree with you when you die. Your ash would mix before being scattered by the ever-swirling-whispering-wailing wind. I always thought winter – that dark season – was the perfect time to die. My son was born with the first blossoms. I held the newborn at the newly planted birth-tree next to his mother’s stump. A bitter wind blew ashes from the pyre into the sunlit sky. You shouldn’t die in spring, I thought. “They Burn Your Birth-tree” by Carin Marais (2017)

While the fantasy culture may be foreign or strange to the reader, ways to make it understandable and relatable includes smart naming of the objects or rituals in the culture. So, for instance, I chose the English name “birth-tree” to denote an otherwise strange and alien idea instead of making up a word in another language. The reader immediately has some inkling of what I am referring to even though they have probably never heard of the word before.

You also don’t have to give more information about the use of the tree-burning than that which is in the final story, as the story only hinges on the reader understanding the implications of the mother’s tree having been cut down. The whole history of the tree-burning is therefore unnecessary clutter in the story even though you may have made worldbuilding notes about this. (More about it in the ‘editing’ part of this post.)

The magic system/technology

When writing a magic system or technology in flash fiction, it’s best to keep the magic “magical” and the technology “something that works” as you are really pressed for space.

Remember that it’s always important to focus on the story and what the story and characters need rather than focusing on that which goes on behind the scenes. Your readers are much more likely to enjoy one where the magic just works than one where the magic is being discussed for no apparent reason. Of course, if your whole story is about that, then go right ahead, but don’t feel the need to do it in every story.

The same goes for technology. In a tome of over 100K words, you’ll have more than enough space for explaining how certain technologies work. In 1 000 words, however, it’s unnecessary. All you have to really know that it works (or doesn’t work) and what the actual story is about. For instance:

I pick up the old delivery box and open it. Inside is my stinging, half-beating heart, its cogs and wheels and pipes all scattered. No wonder my chest ached so. I take a small screwdriver and go to work…” (“A Cup of Tea” by Carin Marais, 2018)

Don’t info-dump

All of the above basically boils down to one thing: don’t info-dump in the story. If your story ends up being 2 000 words, it’s more than likely that things can be edited down by half by either re-writing and deleting unnecessary details.

Here is an example of my first draft of the beginning of “They Burn Your Birth-tree” and what ended up in the published story:

“They burn you when you die in the winter, or so the old people always said. When the ground is frozen and the birth-trees bare, they would cut down your birth-tree and burn it with you.” (Draft 1)

Versus

“They burn your birth-tree with you when you die.” (Published story)

This took about 4 edits and I ended being a lot happier with the concise sentence of the final piece than the info-dump of the first draft when I was still finding my feet in the story.

  • Editing your flash piece

When you start to edit your story, first look at the number of words you need to cut – 100? 1 000? Once you know that, you know the minimum you need to trim from the story to turn it into a flash piece.

Start by deleting all unnecessary words. You’d be surprised how many you can use in such a limited space!

Next, go through all your descriptions. How can you tighten them or even rewrite them to make them punchier?

Usually by this time I find that I’d cut quite a large number of words already and may have already hit my target number of words! If not, I look at the story itself. Are there details that I can delete? Or perhaps whole characters that I can leave out without breaking down the story? Remember to spellcheck before posting or sending!

About Carin Marais

Carin Marais is a South African fantasy author and copywriter whose fiction and articles have appeared in Every Day Fiction, Jozi Flash (2016, 2017), Speculative Grammarian, Inkspraak and, most recently, Vrouekeur (June 2018). Her flash fiction collection Dim Mirrors (2016) was followed by Shards of Mirrors in 2018, shortly after the short story Forgotten (2018) was published on Kindle and Kobo. She is also a regular contributor to The Mighty.

Website & Blog | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Shards of Mirrors By Carin MaraisShards of Mirrors is a free collection of 16 flash fiction pieces by Carin Marais. The stories are thematically linked, with the writer exploring loss, grief, forgetting, and remembering throughout the collection. Though not light-hearted, many of the stories are bittersweet and even hopeful. The genres range from steampunk (“Calling the Rain”), and horror (“The Call from Below”, “Red”), to sci-fi (“Shared Memories in High Definition”, “Petrichor”) and fantasy (“A Cup of Tea”, “A Fair Trade”).

DOWNLOAD SHARDS OF MIRRORS HERE.

Be sure to let Carin know what you thought of her post in the comments! Check out her links and show her some love. If you liked the post, please share it around.

If you’d like to write a guest post for my blog, then read the Guest Post Guidelines.

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Thomas Wildus And The Book Of Sorrows By J. M. Bergen [Book Review]

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Book Review: Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows by J.M. Bergen | eARC | Middle Grade | Fantasy | Book Blogging | RachelPoli.com

I received an eARC from the author and his publicist.

Summary:

Magic is real, Thomas. No matter what happens, always remember that magic is real.

Seven years have passed, and Thomas hasn’t forgotten. He hasn’t forgotten the blue of his dad’s eyes either, or the tickle of beard on his cheek as they hugged goodbye. Last moments with a parent are memorable, even if you don’t know that’s what you’re having at the time.

Now, with his 13th birthday rapidly approaching, Thomas’s search for magic is about to take a radical and unexpected turn. At an out-of-the-way shop filled with dusty leather books, a strange little man with gold-flecked eyes offers him an ancient text called The Book of Sorrows. The price is high and the rules are strict, but there’s no way Thomas can resist the chance to look inside.

With the mysterious book guiding the way, a strange new world is revealed – a world in which Thomas has a name and destiny far more extraordinary than he ever imagined. But time is short. Even as Thomas uncovers his secret family history, enemies emerge, threatening to end his rise to power and destroy everything he holds dear.

My Review:

Book Cover | RachelPoli.comI think the cover is gorgeous. I enjoy the swirl of dark colors and it really emphasizes the magic portion of the book.

First Thoughts | RachelPoli.comI was approached by the author’s publicist. I enjoy middle grade novels and with it being about magic, I was more than happy to give it a try.

Plot | RachelPoli.comThomas Wildus is living his normal pre-teen life – going to school and hanging with his friends. He lives with his mother and his father has been dead for quite some time. Thomas then comes across a strange bookstore and is given the Book of Sorrows. Then the story begins.

This was the classic beginning of a fantasy world where the protagonist finds their powers on their 13th birthday. Except, he didn’t really find his powers accidentally.

Overall, it was pretty well done. The way Thomas finds out about everything seems a bit cliche to me, but it was done well enough for the story that sets it aside from other books that got about that trope the same way.

Characters | RachelPoli.comI enjoyed all the characters in this one. Thomas made a great protagonist and his friend Enrique was highly amusing. The two of them definitely acted like middle-grade kids, which was fun to read.

All the supporting characters – Huxley, Adelia, Professor Reiley, Thomas’s mom, etc. – were all great too. Each character had their own unique voice and each one had a purpose and seemed to have enough equal light in the spotlight.

Writing Style | RachelPoli.com

This book is about 350 pages long. It can be a quick read, but for me, I had trouble getting through the beginning. I felt the pacing was slow to start and the story didn’t really start until 100-150 pages into the book. There was a lot of build up, which wasn’t necessarily not needed, but I felt it could have been done in a different way.

Then, when the action did start, I felt it went along pretty fast because, at that point, there was only half of the book left. Thomas and Enrique were training for about two weeks before they confronted Arius and, while they trained, Arius seemed to be finding and collecting crystals left and right. It was too fast for the stakes to get high and tension to build.

Other than pacing, the book was easy to read and well written overall. The story was interesting once the magic really began.

Overall | RachelPoli.comThomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows is a pretty good read. I enjoyed the characters and the plot is definitely intriguing enough. The pacing was the biggest issue for me and because of that, I wasn’t able to get into the story as much as I would have liked. However, I’m still interested enough to read book two when that comes out.

Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows by J.M. Bergen gets…
Book Review Rating System | 3 Cups of Coffee | RachelPoli.com3 out of 5 cups

Favorite Quote:

“I’m just trying to keep you from embarrassing yourself. It’s not easy, you know.” -J.M. Bergen, Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows

Buy the book:

Amazon

About J.M. Bergen

J.M. Bergen | Author | Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows | Middle Grade, Fantasy | RachelPoli.comA long time ago, in a galaxy far far away…

J.M. Bergen graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in creative writing and a minor in business. Over the years his writing has appeared in a variety of publications under a variety of pen names, and though his favorite stories are about magic and adventure, his best-known work to date has been non-fiction.

J.M.’s debut series originally started as a bedtime story for his oldest son. The story turned into a saga, and one book turned into five. The first book in the series, Thomas Wildus and The Book of Sorrows, is scheduled for release in February 2019. The second, Thomas Wildus and The Wizard of Sumeria, will be published in late 2019, with the remainder of the series released before the end of 2021.

When J.M. isn’t working on the Thomas Wildus books, you can find him playing with his kids, splashing in the ocean, or dreaming up new adventures. If you ever meet him and can’t think of anything to talk about, you might ask about Herman the Shark, the Kai and Eli stories, or why Riddle-Master by Patricia McKillip is his all-time favorite book. Or maybe, just maybe, you’ll have questions and stories of your own (if you do, he’ll think that’s far more interesting).

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Is a book you think you’d like? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and if you enjoyed this post, please share it around!

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Warriors: The Last Hope (Omen Of The Stars 6) By Erin Hunter [Book Review]

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks so much for your support!

Book Review | Warriors: The Last Hope (Omen of the Stars 6) by Erin Hunter | Middle Grade | Fantasy | Fiction | Book Blogging | RachelPoli.com

I got the book as a gift for my birthday.

Summary:

The end of the stars draws near. Three must become four to battle the darkness that lasts forever…

After countless moons of treachery, Tigerstar’s Dark Forest apprentices are ready to lay siege upon the warrior Clans. As the Clan cats seek out their allies and enemies, Jayfeather, Lionblaze & Dovewing search desperately for the fourth cat who is prophesied to lead the Clans to victory – and who may be their only hope for survival.

My Review:

Book Cover | RachelPoli.comAs soon as I picked up this book, I knew exactly who the cat on the front cover was. And I cried. I had spoiled something for myself a while ago and, with the content of the Omen of the Stars books, I knew something was coming. The title alone says it all.

Plot | RachelPoli.comThis is the final book in the Omen of the Stars series. This particular series of Warriors has been my favorite so far because it had so many Harry Potter vibes. I’ve been with these characters since I was 11-years-old and this plot wrapped everything up so nicely and punched me right in the gut.

This would have been the perfect ending to the series as a whole. Of course, there are three series (at the time of writing this review) after this one. So, this book serves as an ending and new beginning.

Writing Style | RachelPoli.com

This book, as I said earlier, punched me right in the gut. I don’t even know how to write this review because of spoilers… though, based on my blog audience, I’m not sure how many of you will actually go read these books. Still, I took out the character section due to spoilers because I don’t know what to say.

I cried throughout the majority of this book – that’s how good the writing is. I’m still crying even while writing this review.

Overall | RachelPoli.comThis was a wonderful ending to a new beginning. I’m glad the series is still going, but I would have been satisfied if this was the final book in the Warriors series. I’m looking forward to reading a brand new generation of Warriors.

Warriors: The Last Hope (Omen of the Stars 6) by Erin Hunter gets…
Book Review Rating System | 5 Cups of Coffee | RachelPoli.com5 out of 5 cups

Favorite Quote:

“I would have taken your place if you had let me.” -Erin Hunter, Warriors: The Last Hope (Omen of the Stars 6)

Buy the book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Abe Books

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and if you enjoyed this post, please share it around!

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Warriors: The Forgotten Warrior (Omen Of The Stars 5) By Erin Hunter [Book Review]

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Book Revew: Warriors: The Forgotten Warrior | Omen of the Stars | Erin Hunter | Book Blogger | Blogging | Reading Books | RachelPoli.com

I got it as a gift for a birthday.

Summary:

With a divided StarClan driving a treacherous rift between the four warrior Clans, the spirits of the Dark Forest are gaining strength. Ivypool’s role as a spy becomes more dangerous with each passing day, and Dovewing is haunted by nightmares about the mountains.
Then an outsider appears in ThunderClan’s midst, spreading discord and pushing the Clans farther apart. As tensions mount and Clanmates turn against one another, the warrior cats will be forced to choose whose word they can trust–before it’s too late.

My Review:

Book Cover | RachelPoli.comThe book cover matches the rest of the series. It highlights a cat who’s important to the current book and series as a whole. I had guessed who the cat was on the front cover, even though that cat is no longer listed as one of the characters.

First Thoughts | RachelPoli.comSince I knew who the “forgotten warrior” was, I was eager to get going on this fifth book. This cat hasn’t been seen for a while and I’ve missed her.

Plot | RachelPoli.comA lot of the plot in this book is highlighting what’s already happened before and how the cats are dealing with it. Then an outsider shows up to help and that throws some characters for a loop. Overall, this plot was a lot of build up for the next book, the final in the Omen of the Stars installment.

Characters | RachelPoli.comA lot of this book focused on the forgotten warrior. Again, it was great to see her again after so long, even though it was easy to guess she’d be coming back. Overall, all the characters are great – Dovewing, Lionblaze, and Jayfeather – and it’s weird to know their story is coming to an end.

Writing Style | RachelPoli.com

As always, this is an easy read. The book flows well and while this wasn’t as tense as the previous books in the series, it was still a page-turner.

Overall | RachelPoli.comI enjoyed this book as much as I have the others and I’m looking forward to seeing the ending of Omen of the Stars in the next book.

Warriors: The Forgotten Warrior (Omen of the Stars 5) by Erin Hunter gets…
Book Review Rating System | 4 Cups of Coffee | RachelPoli.com4 out of 5 cups

Favorite Quote:

“Why do relationships have to be so complicated?” -Erin Hunter, Warriors: The Forgotten Warrior (Omen of the Stars 5)

Buy the book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Abe Books

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and if you enjoyed this post, please share it around!

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