Spirit Sight
Wood Dragon Books / 6 January 2021

Spirit Sight: Last of the Gifted, Book Oneby Marie PowellPublished by Wood Dragon BooksReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$18.99   ISBN 9-781989-078280 I’m grateful that Regina writer Marie Powell provided a map (Wales, 1282), glossary, and character list with her galloping new young adult fantasy, Spirit Sight: Last of the Gifted, Book One, because as one who doesn’t naturally gravitate toward the oft complex fantasy genre, these guideposts were helpful. Powell’s a veteran writer – see her complete library of books at mariepowell.ca – with more than forty books published, and she’s clearly not lacking one iota in inspiration. She explains that this particular novel series – the characters return in Last of the Gifted: Water Sight, Book Two – was inspired by her “adventures in castle-hopping across North Wales to explore her family roots” in 2006. The amount of research required to write a book of this complexity is impressive, and the writing’s made even more interesting as Powell fused fact and fiction: she based the story on the real-life Welsh prince, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd (d. 1282), his French wife Elinor – who was held captive by England’s King Edward for three years – and the fictional characters of supernaturally-gifted…

Companion of Eagles
Serimuse Books / 17 April 2020

Companion of Eaglesby Regine HaenselPublished by Serimuse BooksReview by Michelle Shaw$14.95       ISBN 9780993903229 Companion of Eagles is the third book in The Leather Book Tales, a fantasy set in western North America.  The book opens in Aquila, City of Eagles, where 14-year-old Samel lives with his father. One day, his mother’s cousin Thea arrives. She is headed to the mountains, to her childhood home in the city of Schönspitze. Samel is desperate to accompany Thea on her journey and experience a world outside his everyday life.  Thea is headed home because her grandfather, who had disappeared years before, has suddenly reappeared. When they meet him, he tells them a peculiar story. He was sucked down by the currents of a nearby lake into a deep enchanted cave where he lay for a long time. There he had mysterious visions and dreams until one day he suddenly found himself outside the cave. He tells them to call him Grandfather Frog. Grandfather Frog is consumed by the idea of finding his way back to the mysterious cave to try to understand what has happened. Samel and Grandfather Frog set off on their journey but are nearly killed in a…

Door Into Faerie
Coteau Books / 20 April 2018

Door into Faerie by Edward Willett Published by Coteau Books Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $14.95 ISBN 978-1-55050-654-9 Door into Faerie is the fifth and final title in Regina writer Edward Willett’s “The Shards of Excalibur” series, and I read it without reading its predecessors, and also, admittedly, with a bit of a bias against the fantasy genre. Magic shmagic. I’ve oft said that what I really value in literature is contemporary realism: stories I can connect with via details from the here and now, geography and language I can relate to because I recognize it, I speak it. The old “holding a mirror to the world” thing. Well surprise, surprise: I loved this YA fantasy. Willett wields his well-honed writing chops from page one, and my interest was maintained until the final word. In the opening we learn that teens Wally Knight (heir to King Arthur) and his girlfriend Ariane (“the fricking Lady of the Lake”), have been on a global quest to “reunite the scattered shards of the great sword Excalibur,” and they’re currently at a Bed and Breakfast in Cypress Hills. Cypress Hills! This ingenious juxtaposition of old and contemporary (ie: “fricking”), of information delivered in earlier…

Queen of Fire
Serimuse Books / 26 April 2016

Queen of Fire: Book One of the Leather Book Tales by Regine Haensel Published by Serimuse Books Review by Allison Kydd $14.95 ISBN 978-1495909511 The first part of a trilogy, Queen of Fire is a fantasy novel suited to a young adult or even juvenile audience. Not that the tale is simple and straightforward. There are actually dozens of people to sort out and an assortment of special, even magical, powers. I am reminded of my sons playing Dungeons and Dragons. They spent so much time designing their characters and their characters’ special gifts, but little on the game itself. Or perhaps that was the game, to imagine the possibilities. In this instance, special gifts may return in later novels. The main action of this novel begins with fifteen-year-old Rowan, who lives with her mother, a healer and herbalist, in an isolated cabin on the edge of a forest. Rowan is a typical teenager, longing to test boundaries and resenting the one she loves the most, as her mother represents rules and limitations. All too soon, the girl really is on her own and must discover wits, powers and endurance and find guidance among strangers. She also discovers something her…

Shade and Sorceress
Coteau Books / 24 December 2014

Shade and Sorceress by Catherine Egan Published by Coteau Books Review by Regine Haensel $12.95 ISBN 978-1-55050-514-6 The Mancers, ancient scholars, magicians and mystical protectors, have come looking for Eliza Tok. Long ago, the Mancers separated the One World, Tian Di, into two, for the protection of humans. Eliza’s world is Di Shang, and the other world is Tian Xia. The Mancers want to bring Eliza to their Citadel to begin teaching her to become a sorceress like her dead mother, and help guard the Crossings between the worlds. But Eliza shows no signs of magical abilities and all she wants is to go home to her father and her friend Nell. There are others looking for Eliza, spies of the Xia Sorceress. She is the most terrible, ruthless and evil being in the worlds. The Mancers, with the help of Eliza`s mother, imprisoned the Xia Sorceress years ago in the Arctic of Di Shang. Finally, after what seems to be a fruitless time of study, the Mancers put Eliza to a test. They give her Shang Sorceress clothing and a staff, and send her to battle a hound of the Crossing. And “something deep inside her, deeper than a…

Back to Batoche
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 24 December 2014

Back to Batoche by Cheryl Chad Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Alison Slowski $12.95 ISBN 978-1-927756-20-1 Back to Batoche is a funny, light-hearted story about three kids who travel back in time to Batoche on the eve of the Battle for Batoche, the famous battle between the Riel Resistance and the North West Field Force. This novel sees the great battle from the point of view of the three Dory children who are the main characters of this story, so while the subject matter is serious in nature, it would not fail to keep the young reader in question engaged and amused by the children’s travels and adventures. “A century is only a spoke in the wheel of everlasting time.” – Louis Riel The novel begins by introducing the Dory siblings, Max, Liam, and Kaeleigh, who go on a trip with their grandmother to see Batoche Historic National Park. Upon arrival at the majestic National Park, the three siblings go on a tour of the landmark church and other sites around Batoche, and meet a strange and mysterious Metis fiddler boy by the name of Isidore Pilon . While exploring the old church, the children find an…

Twist of the Blade
Coteau Books / 11 December 2014

Twist of the Blade Published by Coteau Books Review by Courtney Bates-Hardy $14.95 ISBN 978-1-55050-599-3 Twist of the Blade is the second book in Edward Willett’s Shards of Excalibur series, a clever and modern adaptation of the legends of King Arthur. Ariane Forsythe has inherited the magical power of the Lady of the Lake, along with a quest: she must find the five broken pieces of the sword of Excalibur before the evil reincarnation of Merlin, Rex Major, gets his hands on it. If Rex Major gains control of Excalibur, he’ll have the power to wage war on Earth and the world of Faerie. With the help of her friend, Wally, Ariane has retrieved one piece of the sword, but now she must find the second piece quickly. She thinks it’s somewhere in France but she’ll have to find a way to get herself and Wally across the ocean first. Things get complicated as Wally begins to suspect that Ariane’s power is changing her. Ariane isn’t sure if she needs Wally anymore and begins pushing him away. Rex Major has a plan to get to the second shard and his power over technology is only helping him act upon it….

Song of the Sword
Coteau Books / 11 December 2014

Song of the Sword by Edward Willett Published by Coteau Books Review by Alison Slowski $14.95 ISBN 9781550505801 Song of the Sword: Shards of Excalibur Book One opens a door for readers to a new teen fantasy. Fifteen-year-old Ariane Forsythe is tired of being shunted back and forth through foster care after being abandoned by her mother two years previously. She is frustrated by being bounced from school to school because of her recent history of getting in fights with bullies. Things start to look up for her, however, when she comes under the protective wing of her Aunt Phyllis, who had been battling cancer in the hospital during Ariane’s stays in various foster homes. But things get complicated, when, in between worrying about being bullied and harassed by girls at her new school, Ariane inherits a brand new power. A power that was first bequeathed to her mother, but her mother rejected and was declared mentally insane. This is the power of the Lady of the Lake from Arthurian legend. Ariane learns to control her new power as she embraces her inheritance of being the Lady of the Lake. Only Wally, her new friend, can mitigate the potential disasters…

The Piper of Shadonia
Coteau Books / 17 October 2012

The Piper of Shadonia by Linda Smith Published by Coteau Books Review by Tavish Bell $14.95 ISBN 9781550505160 The Piper of Shadonia by Linda Smith is an excellent book for teenage readers who like adventure and fiction. When I first got this book, I was dubious. “I’m supposed to read a book about songs and music?” I wasn’t sure if I’d like it, since I prefer books laden with adventure. I was wrong. The Piper of Shadonia is about a boy who gets a pipe with magical powers. It starts out amazing and ends with tons of fun. Linda Smith’s story is good all the way through and hooks you on the very first page. You will never get bored of this book. In fact, you won’t want to put it down. Ever. The Piper of Shadonia has a wonderful storyline and Linda Smith has a great, engaging writing style. The characters are very interesting; each one is unique. The book presents an interesting way of looking at things. I found that when I read it for the first time, the message seemed to be “you don’t have to be a big, buff, tough, warrior to be powerful.” That message…

Red Smoke Rising
Basket Case Publishing / 12 January 2011

Red Smoke Rising by Rick Anthony Published by Basket Case Publishing Review by Rudolf Sandmeier $10.99 ISBN: 978-0-9866661-0-0 When I first heard of Rick Anthony’s Red Smoke Rising it was described to me as “a good rip of a read” and it did not disappoint. Each chapter is a rapid sequence of action-packed episodes and builds to a climax that takes the reader on a roller-coaster ride, zipping through its course. There is always the risk in books that move at this pace that the reader could be simply overwhelmed by the plot. However, Anthony handles this element admirably and is able to keep everything rolling together quite smoothly. Somewhat conversely, another reason why the novel is successful is the economy of language Anthony employs – while he has a lot going on he doesn’t use an excess of words to describe the action. These two characteristics combine to benefit the novel as a whole – Red Smoke Rising clocks in at over 300 pages but it simply doesn’t feel that long when reading it. In the end, Anthony’s efforts have produced a well-balanced and efficient work. We’re plunked down in the middle of the action as the novel begins…