The Great $0.99 BasedCon Book Sale

The Great $0.99 BasedCon Book Sale 2021

Many of the books for sale have been reviewed here on Periapsis Press!

The Great $0.99 BasedCon Book Sale, hosted by Hans G. Schantz in honor of the first BasedCon, contains lots of great books for sale for $0.99 (and some for free)!

Below are a few that we have reviewed here on Periapsis Press.

A delightful magic school tale of fast friendships, secrets, and parallel worlds! Read more
A dynamic sword and planet romp of faith and daring! Read more
A story of youthful ingenuity set in a flavorful science fiction, alternate history world! Read more
An action packed novel that is one part exorcism horror, one part urban fantasy, featuring physical battles with the demon-possessed, God-given superpowers, and chillingly palpable Read more
A gritty action novel that blends mecha anime and military science fiction to deliver high-energy combat alongside thrilling intrigue! Read more
A detailed military space fleet novel featuring diverse alien species and exciting battles both in space and on the ground. Read more

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Review: Light Unto Another World

Publisher Description:

Soldiers are trained to improvise, to prepare for the unexpected.

However, there are some things you just cannot prepare yourself for.

Such as getting pulled through a portal and into another world.

Uriel Makkis, a young soldier in the Israel Defense Forces, was on his way to base for just another week in his tank when something very unexpected happened.

A portal opened, pulling him into an unfamiliar world, with no one to be found.

Never one to succumb to panic, Uriel does the only thing he can do: push forward to figure out just what has happened to him.

Almost before he knows it, he finds himself entangled in an entirely new conflict, one that runs far deeper than he realizes.

With no way home, all Uriel can do is trust in God to point him on the right path, and fight to secure not just his own survival, but that of those he has quickly come to rely on and care about.

With the help of his new friends, he sets out to make his place in the new world, where, finally, he can make a difference.

The new world will never be the same.

And in this exciting, new isekai light novel series, you can’t simply leave the old world behind.

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Review: Light Unto Another World: Volume 1 by Yakov Merkin

Here at the Periapsis Press blog, we only post reviews of works we recommend, so you already know I enjoyed Light Unto Another World: Volume 1. I encourage you to check it out!

Disclaimer: We received a copy of this book from the author for the purpose of review. This in no way influences our opinions. (You can request a review here.)

This review contains minor spoilers.

Light Unto Another World: Volume 1 is a fresh take on the popular isekai genre light novel, featuring a compelling lead with a detailed background, a true fantasy setting, and plenty of action. Wonderfully illustrated by Philip San Gaspar. This first volume of the Light Unto Another World series takes you to a place you won’t want to leave!

“Ordinary Person”

An isekai story features an ordinary lead, usually male, who is transported from the modern world to a fantasy world (influenced by RPGs) where he often becomes a heroic figure, although there are many variations.

Unfortunately, the genre is flooded with flat, stale main characters who have no individuality and are vastly overpowered. The interpretation of “ordinary” seems to be “generically pleasant and competent while romantically oblivious (but attractive) and lacking all passions beyond friendship.”

Light Unto Another World does something different.

Sympathetic, Not a Surrogate

Uriel Makkis is not a reader surrogate. Blank-slate main characters are designed to appeal as a reader stand-in for as many people as possible, to allow a large audience the thrill of wish-fulfillment–fully immersing themselves in the world, much like a video game.

Uriel is not the smartest, most popular, most talented, most attractive person in existence, though. Neither is his backstory one that is shared by most people. Afterall, “soldier in the Israel Defense Forces” is highly specific and comes with its own unique mindset.

However, Uriel is easily relatable and a sympathetic character. He exhibits genuine humility and care for others, and his serious outlook presents an appealing contrast to the more typical laissez faire attitude. A principled person who carries his convictions with him makes for a much more appealing character.

Furthermore, the interest generated by Uriel’s unique background adds to reader engagement. It is far more thought-provoking to pose the question, “What would this specific person (a soldier and a religious Jew) do in this situation?” verses a generic wish-fulfillment via a bland nobody.

Heroism Reintroduced

The character’s resulting impact on the plot is to make it more meaningful. The usual slow growth and practice of skills, particularly magic are more intriguing with Uriel’s confidence that there is a greater purpose behind his presence in that world and the type of magic he wields.

The stakes in battle are higher when the hero has responsibilities at stake and is willing to fight for what he believes is right, rather than fighting out of some “nice guy” syndrome.

The action itself is exciting and strikes a good balance between detail and momentum, per Merkin’s usual skill.

Lighthearted Fantasy

Light Unto Another World takes place in a stereotypical fantasy setting characteristic of isekai fiction, but it sets a particularly pleasing contrast to current trends in western fantasy stories. The world possesses all of the potential for danger and adventure one could wish for, without being bogged down by dark and gritty realism.

The towns, for example, are clean and aesthetically superior to modern equivalents that Uriel is familiar with. Even though they lack running water, Merkin does not force his readers to live the experience of using an outhouse. This enables the setting to maintain an allure, a desire to visit such a place and an affection for its people.

It also develops the town as something worth protecting, something that could be threatened later in the series, perhaps.

Responsibility

One of the unique themes this isekai presents relates to responsibility. Instead of seeing his transportation as an opportunity for license, Uriel instead ponders the question, “What are my responsibilities, even when removed from my usual obligations?”

The answer for Uriel includes the importance of proclaiming God, fulfilling commitments, and doing the right thing. The last means keeping religious obligations, fighting to protect others, and abstaining from indulging in the romantic interests cast his way.

The question itself was thought-provoking, prompting self-reflection. The genre usually focuses entirely on the new world, to the point that reincarnation has become more common than transition. Having a well-developed main character with deep roots at home is more easily relatable, and easily turns the thematic question onto the reader.

If I was removed from my environment and community completely, what responsibilities would I still have? Am I disciplined enough that I could perform them?

Check It Out!

Light Unto Another World: Volume 1 puts a more complex spin on the isekai expectations in both character and theme, while delivering the action and setting enjoyed by lovers of the genre. This series is certainly a must-read!

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Review: Redcaps Rising

Publisher Description:

“Murder most foul,
And evil in the air.
Seek the Red Dwarf,
Only brave may dare.”

When Walter Bailey arrived in Mississippi, he discovered the murder of his estranged grandmother was not the random and senseless crime it was reported to be.

Accompanied by an unlikely group of heroes, guided by the words of a mad little hermit, opposed by evil beyond his wildest imagination, Walter embarks on an epic quest through an unfamiliar and often hilarious world of magic. As the stakes go up, the price of failure becomes the future of magic on Earth itself.

Are Walter and his intrepid companions up to the challenge in a world where anything goes and the truth isn’t always what it seems?

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Review: Redcaps Rising by P.A. Piatt

Here at the Periapsis Press blog, we only post reviews of works we recommend, so you already know I enjoyed Redcaps Rising. I encourage you to check it out!

This review contains minor spoilers.

Redcaps Rising is a comedic fairytale featuring a road trip across America with a backseat full of irreverent elves, kooky mishaps, and a genre-defying adult main character. This first installment of The Walter Bailey Misadventures delivers all kinds of madcap fun.

Genuine Fairytale

Too many fairytales written for adult audiences are focused on subverting tropes to the detriment of the genre’s integrity. The “magic” isn’t magical; the setting lacks interest. Cynicism replaces wonder; shock value and schadenfreude replace comedy.

While P. A. Piatt does not hold back either the swear words or the fart jokes, the overall effect is lighthearted. The bad guys are bad, and the good guys do the right thing.

Even though the settings tend to be rather ordinary, grungy places (more on that in a minute), they are not poisoned by negative realism. Instead, there is a sense that Walter is encountering a new world because he can meet anyone / anything or something crazy can happen at any moment.

Mundane to Bizarre

The setting for this misadventure spans a large swath of the United States, hitting up some fantastic locations including the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas. However, the settings where events take place are by-and-large mundane: bars, clubs, subdivisions, drive-throughs, truck stops, and boring landmarks such as the Devil’s Crossroads.

These scenes serve as a great backdrop to all the off-the wall things that happen in them, and make the arrival in actual fairyland more outlandish by comparison. After the ignoble stops of a generic road trip, the Magic Kingdom took it over the top with colors so intense you can taste them.

In this way, the setting is typical of the story as a whole. Each event begins simply (if not completely ordinarily) but quickly gets out of hand with the quirky elements dialed up for comedic effect!

Characters

The characters were all wonderful. Walter Bailey follows a classic “luckily unlucky” (or is it “unluckily lucky”?) trope. He can’t avoid the frying pan for the fire (and the firefighters), but he always comes out ahead in the end, usually in the most outrageous way possible. I’ve always enjoyed this archetype, since the character is easy to sympathize with quickly and the personality creates its own momentum by fostering the reader’s curiosity: How will he make it out of this one!?

The elves are delightfully crude, of course, and supply plenty of verbal banter for the journey. However, my favorite characters tended to be the human ones. While there are plenty of fantastic creatures each with their own idiosyncrasies, even the ordinary people are not, shall we say, “realistic.”

The police officer who empties his gun at what he thinks is a racoon wielding a tire iron, the fire chief with the brilliant facial hair and a tendency to raise more havoc than the emergency called for, the girl at the drive thru involved in an inter-state conflict over spinach—all of these minor characters are involved in adventures of their own, and it made the world seem richer and more exciting! The potential for humor and conflict was not limited to the merely fantastical elements that Walter encounters.

Thematically Subtle

Redcaps Rising is carefully focused on providing entertainment. As a result, the story lacks a hammer to pound on a well-intentioned theme or message. The climax may be hampered by the episodic nature of the events leading up to it and the lack of a cohesive and easy-to-follow pattern of growth in Walter. However, the light touch makes it easy to enjoy the diversion provided by the author, without the distracting recognition of an agenda.

Of course, themes exist within stories by virtue of their nature. I would be interested to hear what others found in this story, but I thought perhaps it could be about facing dramatic change—life events of the generally unpleasant sort that force a person to re-evaluate.

Walter’s story begins with the murder of his grandmother, which makes him acknowledge a different world and seek justice. The road trip is continually interrupted by various forces, and Walter is forced to change course in order to continue. Finally, the goal he had in mind did not match up with his intended destination, either in Las Vegas or the Magic Kingdom. His quest for justice ultimately did not end in a decisive blow.

However, the story’s conclusion—a happily-ever-after on the homestead—treats these changes as part of the journey and not dead-ends. Walter is successful because he perseveres, even in the face of all his misadventures.

Check It Out!

Redcaps Rising: A Walter Bailey Misadventure delivers a fun experience with a sincere fairytale romp across the USA. I am excited to read more Walter Bailey Misadventures!

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Excerpt: Nightland Racer

Synopsis

Reynard “The Fox” Douglas is an outlaw racecar driver who despises the government that jailed him, drafted him, and seized his money.

He’s also the only man who can pilot an experimental nuclear-powered supercar into the Zone, a realm of mists and monsters where nobody gets out alive.

The Zone is expanding…and eventually it will engulf the entire world. At the heart of the Zone is a singularity, a portal into other times and other places.

Transported into the distant future of Earth, Douglas has to fight his way across a landscape of alien cultures and bizarre life forms, in search of an ancient superweapon that can stop a sentient black hole from devouring the Earth.

Inspired by William Hope Hodgson’s classic THE NIGHT LAND (1912), NIGHTLAND RACER is an exciting and inventive tale, using Fenton Wood’s trademark combination of mythology and hard SF.

Ages 12 and up. Contains mild profanity and post-human monsters.

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Excerpt: Nightland Racer

By Fenton Wood

This excerpt is shared with the permission of the author. Hope you enjoy!

42.

“I came to the Nightland by means which I still do not understand,” said Tao.

“My people were mighty sailors. We sailed the seas of the world-ocean in our sturdy ships that could run before any storm.

“One day, I became sick of the world and nothing was pleasing to me. I resolved to made a waka tiwai, a dugout canoe, with my own hands from the trunk of a totara tree, and to sail south as far as I could go, as one does when one is sick of the world. I would bring nothing but my harpoon, my paddle, a filter for making fresh water out of seawater, and a few odds and ends. I would travel from the Last Island, where the Loneliest Tree grows, to the shore of the Southern Waste, a distance of eight hundred miles. There I would hunt penguins until I was no longer sick of the world, and then I would return.

“On the twentieth day of my journey south, I awoke to find the world shrouded in mist from horizon to horizon. The mist seemed to glow with its own light, and the Sun was nowhere to be found. Not even my sunstone, which operates by the polarization of light, could tell me the direction of the Sun. I paddled for many days, hoping that I was keeping to a straight line, but the mist did not lift or change in any way.

“On the thirtieth day, I came to a barren shore. The shape of the land was hidden by the mist, and there was no sound in any direction. Even the waters were still, undisturbed by any tides. I thought that I must have entered the House of Death, the cave where Whiro dwells and devours the bodies of the dead until he becomes strong enough to break free from the underworld.

“With nothing else to do, I pulled my canoe onto the shore and left it behind. I walked into the mist, into the cold and silent land whose shape I could not see. There was no longer any night or day in this place. I slept whenever I grew weary, setting up my tent and using my body heat to melt snow from the ground so I could drink it. We do not carry great stores of food when we travel, relying on our skill to provide us with wild game. My food ran out after a few days, and there was nothing to hunt. I occasionally found driftwood, and I tried to light a fire to warm myself, but my flint and steel would no longer make a spark, as if its magic had departed.

“After walking for many days in this featureless place, I began to hallucinate. Driven mad by cold, hunger, and the monotony of the silent and featureless mist, my mind began to conjure shapes out of the mist, monsters and beasts and formless things. I slayed many of them with my harpoon, but I still do not know if they were real or only phantoms.

“At last, when I was near death, I emerged from the mist and beheld what lay on the other side. The air was thin and cold, the stars blazed down like merciless shards of ice, and there was no sun in the sky. There was only the Moon, grown terrifyingly close and carved into the image of a cruel and sinister face.

“My lungs labored, drawing in great draughts of air that was too thin and had too little oxygen. I fainted many times, but I always awoke and kept going.

“I was captured by the Machine People. If there is anyone crueler, I do not know of them. They experimented on me and made me as I am now. They intended to program me, to make me like them. But my will was stronger than theirs. I resisted and I escaped.”

“What was the world like, in your time?” said Douglas. “You said something about the oceans rising.”

“The oceans covered ninety percent of the Earth’s surface,” said Tao. “The continent you call North America was divided by a great inland sea. Large portions of the other continents were underwater as well.”

“What happened? Was there a nuclear war? I thought it was supposed to cause a nuclear winter, but some people said it would cause a runaway greenhouse effect instead.”

“No, it was a natural process. It started around half a million years before my time.”

“What happened to Europe? To the United States?”

“Those nations are unknown in my time. What was left of North America was inhabited by wild men.”

“Were they white men, like me?”

“There were brown, red, yellow, black, and bronze men in my time, but there were no men who looked like you.”

“What happened to them?”

“I do not know. There are no records of white men, either wild or civilized.”

“But our cities, our technology. Something must have survived.”

“My time was roughly half a million years after yours. No artifact could survive that long. I don’t know what happened to your people, any more than I know what happened to mine. Your land sunk beneath the waves a hundred thousand years before my time. But my ocean has been gone for longer than that.”

“Maybe they left for another planet,” Douglas said, not listening. “That’s exactly the kind of thing they would do. When one place got too crowded, they set off for new lands where they could live in freedom. Maybe they’re still out there somewhere, on a planet of their own.”

Tao shook his head. “Men cannot live in space. The men of the Fourth Spacefaring Age learned this when they sent manned spacecraft past the edge of the Solar System. All of space is pervaded with death-energy, which they named the Great Pain of Space. Only the emanations of the Yellow Sun, and other stars like it, keep it at bay. Even if a suitable planet were found, how would men reach it? In order to cross interstellar space, they would have to enter a state of living death, or suspended animation. When they emerged from it, they would no longer be human.”

“Death-energy,” Douglas repeated. “But the Sun is gone. What keeps the death-energy from descending upon the Earth and killing everything on it?”

“Only the stored energy of the Sun, soaked up over millions of years by living things, and weakly emanated by the layers of decayed organic material that cover the land and the beds of the oceans,” said Tao. “But even dead hydrocarbons cannot maintain their structure forever. When the last of the Sun’s energy has faded, the cold of space shall descend upon this world, and the things that live in the outer dark shall feast upon the remains.”

“I was sent on a mission. I was supposed to find the singularity and destroy it. But you said it’s impossible.”

“There may yet be a way to fulfil your mission. There may be a way to destroy the Black Sun itself. The Nightland holds many secrets, the ruins of a thousand ancient civilizations. I have everything in here.” He tapped his skull. “In the cybernetic implant the Machine People gave me.”

“They just told you all their secrets?”

“No. I broke into their mainframe room and stole the information. But it’s far from complete. A great deal was left behind in the evacuation of the Lesser Redoubt, which had a library of its own. It is there that we must go.”

Read the whole story!
Check out our review of Fenton Wood's Pirates of the Electromagnetic Waves!

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The Marvelous Memorial Day $0.99 (or Free!) Book Sale

The 2021 Marvelous Memorial Day $0.99 (or Free!) Book Sale

Many of the books for sale this Memorial Day weekend (2021) have been reviewed here on Periapsis Press!

The Marvelous Memorial Day $0.99 Book Sale, hosted by Hans G. Schantz, contains lots of great books for sale for $0.99 (and some for free)!

Below are a few that we have reviewed here on Periapsis Press.

A delightful magic school tale of fast friendships, secrets, and parallel worlds! Read more
A dynamic sword and planet romp of faith and daring! Read more
A story of youthful ingenuity set in a flavorful science fiction, alternate history world! Read more
An energetic young adult superhero novel, featuring superpowers, aliens, an extraterrestrial sex trafficking ring, and the imminent invasion of earth! Read more
An action packed novel that is one part exorcism horror, one part urban fantasy, featuring physical battles with the demon-possessed, God-given superpowers, and chillingly palpable Read more
A streamlined tale of steampunk-flavored adventure Read more
A gritty action novel that blends mecha anime and military science fiction to deliver high-energy combat alongside thrilling intrigue! Read more
A detailed military space fleet novel featuring diverse alien species and exciting battles both in space and on the ground. Read more

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Review: Abort

Publisher Description:

It’s easy to tell when someone is dead, but what makes them alive? Is it the memories they keep, or the pain they feel, or the love they share? For Cecilio, the first colony of Proxima B, the answer could bring prosperity or crack the very foundations of society.

After a five-year leave of absence, Commander Mason Wyatt is sent to an antique starship with the chance to earn back his rank and bury his past. All he must do is uphold the answer: life is what Cecilio says it is. But as the starship nears Proxima B, Mason’s past boils to the surface and Cecilio’s answer begins to unravel.

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Review: Abort by C D Hulen

Here at the Periapsis Press blog, we only post reviews of works we recommend, so you already know I enjoyed Abort. I encourage you to check it out!

This review contains minor spoilers.

Abort is a Christian science-fiction short story filled with tension and thematic imagery. This review will be a little more condensed so as not to give too much away.

Tension

The plot is relatively simple and revolves around a single big decision that the main character needs to make. C. D. Hulen does an excellent job maintaining the tension through the careful metering of information, keeping an element of mystery through the first act, and then continually raising the stakes through the second.

Sympathetic Characters

The main character Mason Wyatt is readily sympathetic, even though he initially represents the immoral position on the topic at hand – what is life and what is his responsibility regarding it. He does have a clunky conversion scene in the third act, making this “Christian Fiction” in the traditional definition of the genre.

Not Abortion Argument

The title and imagery in this work appear at first glance to be a neon sign labeling it as allegory. However, the situation presented would more readily suggest a discussion regarding immigration, as the individuals involved are adults approaching a planet where they are unwanted.

However, Abort is not really an argument against abortion. It is Christian Fiction, after all, and intended for Christian readers. The only argument made in the story regarding the question of morality is that killing these people is wrong because God says so. That should be more than enough for any Christ-follower.

They Are Blind

Abort is nominally allegorical, but it is not a situational argument. The premise is not, “You wouldn’t kill these people in this situation which is similar to abortion, so abortion is clearly wrong.”

Instead, the state of affairs is, “No, they WOULD kill these people and unborn children.”

Two characters express frustration in trying to reason with Mason Wyatt: “Why can’t you see?” The answer is that he is blind until he is saved and his eyes are opened. That is the true issue at the heart of this story and the abortion issue in our society. Without God there is no moral authority. People need God to change their hearts in order to repent of their sin, regardless of what social issue it falls under.

Abortion is wrong because God says so, and while it is important to do what we can to prevent such evil from occurring in our communities, Christians need to be mindful that our arguments are not necessarily going to reach our opponents. Hulen skillfully reminds the reader that the immortal souls of those men and women are also at stake. By the grace of God, our diligent witness and prayers may reach where arguments do not.

Check It Out!

Abort is an engaging little read with a compelling plot and thematic exploration. I am excited to try more from C. D. Hulen!

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Review: Penance

Publisher Description:

Penance Copper is tired of being a tool for evil.

She’s been working for Acid ever since she was small. She had no other choice, he owned her. Even with her superpowers, she’s never been able to escape. But at least he only has her steal. Never anything worse than that.

Until he orders her to use her powers to kill the superhero Justice for investigating trafficked girls.

Penance doesn’t want to be a murderer. She uses the opportunity to run away from Acid and make a new life. One where she can make up for everything she did on Acid’s orders.

But events larger than Penance are spinning into action, and soon she is embroiled in an intergalactic encounter with an alien boy named Kail, who is perhaps as lonely and broken as she is. Even if he is infuriatingly arrogant.

The first young adult series in the shared Heroes Unleashed universe launches with the Teen Heroes Unleashed series. Readers will love hardworking, sassy Penance as she tries to learn to use her superpowers to save the world instead of to steal.

Can Penance and Kail find the missing girls and save the Earth from an alien invasion? Or will Acid find her again and punish her for running away?

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Review: Penance by Paula Richey and Thomas Plutarch

Here at the Periapsis Press blog, we only post reviews of works we recommend, so you already know I enjoyed Penance. I encourage you to check it out!

This review contains minor spoilers.

Penance is an energizing young adult superhero novel, featuring superpowers, aliens, an extraterrestrial sex trafficking ring, and the imminent invasion of earth! This first installment of the Teen Heroes Unleashed series is wholesome and entertaining.

Sympathetic Youths

One of the typical attributes of YA fiction is the age of the main character. It is highly unfortunate that most YA fiction seems determined to reflect the worst of that age group, resulting in unappealing view point characters. Penance is not one of these.

Authors Paula Richey and Thomas Plutarch did not make Penance overly emotional or stupid in order to appear young. Instead, her inexperience is communicated through her eagerness to learn and her tendency to make herself involved in creating solutions to problems as she sees them. This proactive attitude is much more sympathetic than moody or sullen, and much more believable than unexplainably charismatic and rebellious.

Penance does rebel, of course. But once again, her rebellion is mature. It is not the acting out of a child wishing to be acknowledged as an adult as much as it is a young woman becoming an adult by taking responsibility for her own beliefs and behaviors. As a result, she rebels against the evil she had been part of and seeks to do the right thing.

Kail, the male lead, is also sympathetic. His respectful, goal-oriented outlook is easy to understand and like. It is a refreshing change from snarky and rash. He, too, sets an example of working proactively, even when situations are out of his control.

Strong Adults

The non-antagonistic adults in this YA novel are reasonable people. They are not negligent or stupid, rather their understanding of the situation is actively sabotaged. This makes them effective and trustworthy cavalry in the later acts of the story.

They also display a desirable trait: everyone is able to offer help, admit when they need help, and accept help from others. These heroes do not need to take on impossible odds alone in order to be heroic, and this results in more believable conflicts which in turn deliver better emotional pay-offs.

Furthermore, it almost completely avoids the always frustrating and ultimately pointless discussion wherein adults deny teenagers agency by insisting that they cannot help and should remain “safe.” Penance and Kail are sent to a safehouse at one point, allowing for some welcome down-time interaction between the leads, but it was clear that they would eventually return to action.

Punchy Action

The pacing of the story is lively. Even when Penance is bored, the audience is not. There is enough tension and expectation to drive the story forward, and the occasional point-of-view switch to a minor character is tolerable as the emphasis remains on the action.

This is animated and striking, effective without dragging in long sequences. No one character is overpowered, so the stakes remain high for each conflict. Penance has great powers, but she is also inexperienced and doesn’t always fully understand them. Her greatest success is actually not won through physical confrontation at all, but an application of head knowledge and relationship growth.

The action is enthusiastic, and it complements the rest of the story elements, rather than overshadowing them.

Young Adult

On the surface, most books are labeled “Young Adult” fiction due to the age of the main character, but there are two fairly consistent elements that appear in most YA novels.

The first is, of course, romantic tension, particularly of the trials and elations of first love. Penance is charged with the atmosphere of unspoken romantic attraction, which serves to layer additional tension within the story. Its unresolved nature will certainly contribute to readthrough as the series continues.

However, what makes Penance a distinctly YA story is the theme of self-discovery. Both Penance and Kail struggle with self-worth, identity, and belonging throughout the story. These are common for young people moving into adulthood, and thus they have an important place in YA literature.

That being said, Richey and Plutarch use the standard theme to point the reader eloquently towards Christ.

Christianity

Penance converts to Christianity early in the story, but it takes place “off stage,” so to speak. The reader sees her exposure and initial interest, but the actual moment when she takes the leap occurs while the story is in Kail’s point of view, away from his experience.

This makes Penance’s conversion far more tolerable than typical “Christian fiction,” which is generally defined as having a conversion of a main character as a major plot point. Changing hearts is a miracle of the Holy Spirit, and thus difficult to portray convincingly in fiction, especially when the author is preachy and determined to resolve a character’s every doubt.

As for Penance, the reader sees her searching and then trusting. It is enough that she reached a decision in that moment and is determined to see it through. She still has doubts and lots of things she doesn’t know or understand about God, but that is an unadorned, realistic depiction of Christianity, which leaves room for character growth.

The placement of the conversion early in the story emphasizes this. Penance’s faith becomes the answer to her questions of self-worth, identity, and belonging, while Kail’s trust in the false god of his culture is betrayed, leaving him unsure of his place in the world.

Check It Out!

Penance is a fantastic superhero novel for readers looking for congenial young characters to admire and aspire to, who engage in clearly praiseworthy efforts to protect others with their powers. I look forward to seeing more from the Teen Heroes Unleashed subseries of Heroes Unleashed!

This book is also available on Amazon.

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Review: Gideon Ira in Castle Bloodghast

Publisher Description:

You can feel Castle Bloodghast seething around you.

This ancient castle is the grave of many a hero. When a fearful angel appears to him in a vision, Gideon is charged to enter the cursed fortress in search of his childhood friend. But demons are the least of the denizens lurking in the heart of the castle. Gideon must battle the fruits of the most depraved genius as he struggles to reach his old comrade.

Abominations lurk in every shadow, and the worst atrocities are those committed by bloody human hands. Will Gideon put the corrupted experiments to the torch as they rampage out of control? Will he find a way to escape the curse and free his friend? Or will he break under the unrelenting horror at the heart of the fortress?

Enter Castle Bloodghast, where even angels fear to tread.

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Review: Gideon Ira in Castle Bloodghast by Adam Lane Smith

Here at the Periapsis Press blog, we only post reviews of works we recommend, so you already know I enjoyed Gideon Ira in Castle Bloodghast. I encourage you to check it out!

This review contains minor spoilers.

Gideon Ira in Castle Bloodghast is a heavy metal Christian campaign to bring a lost lamb out of a stronghold of evil and back to the fold. This fourth installment of the Deus Vult Wastelanders series continues to deliver hard-hitting action.

Chilling Setting

This time, Gideon Ira spends less time traversing the apocalypse-ravaged countryside and dives straight into a shiver-inducing dungeon crawl.

Castle Bloodghast provides a more structured feel to the pace of this story, alternating detailed battles with monsters and suspenseful exploration of dark laboratories. The juxtaposition of mad science and the deeper malevolent character of the castle itself gives the story a layered tension. This made it difficult to predict the sorts of evil the characters would have to face as they proceeded towards their goal.

Straight-forward Action

One of the unique attributes of the Deus Vult Wastelanders series is the stark nature of the story. No matter where you open the story to, something exciting will be happening, and there are no great complexities of character, plot, or theme, that detract from the entertainment value of the simple action.

Gideon Ira, for example, although confronted by demons with guilt and temptation, is in no great danger of submitting to them. He is a model knight of strong character. His companions are stalwart and true.

Furthermore, he was charged with his task by God, making it impossible that he should fail, as long as he remains faithful, which is under no doubt. In fact, the greatest uncertainty is how the characters will be able to prevail as they continue to rack up the injuries.

But we didn’t come to read about Gideon struggling to do the right thing. We get enough of that in our own spiritual life. We came to experience the righteous battle and undeniable victory of the Lord in glorious, bloody action!

Theme

The theme is, therefore, impossible to miss. Christianity is not tucked neatly under the surface to take the reader by surprise or present itself only when looked for. There are numerous confessions of faith and two conversions, both of which emphasize that anyone is redeemable by God.

The one that is central to the plot, Gideon’s childhood friend, is actively participating in the evil plaguing the region and is even possessed by a demon. He does not desire God, but God uses Gideon to confront him and change his heart.

Catholicism

It should be noted, that this book is very Catholic. Obviously, Catholics will not take issue with this, but what about a Baptist girl like me?

Adam Lane Smith is diplomatic, but as with all elements of the story, the religion is worn on the sleeve. However, the prayers and confessions, most of the theology in fact, are universal Christian beliefs. Nothing to violate the conscience of a firm Protestant.

Check It Out!

Gideon Ira in Castle Bloodghast is a great addition to the Deus Vult Wastelanders series. Although it is technically the fourth, each story stands well on its own, making it easy to jump in at any point!

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Call for Adventure Stories for Young Readers

Submissions open March 15 for this anthology from Misha Burnett and Sanderley Studios

Misha Burnette is partnering with Sanderley Studios to assemble an anthology for teen readers that features stories of adventure and virtue.

Burnette described his hopes for submissions on the Sanderley Studios website, saying

“I am looking for a particular kind of story, uplifting, hopeful in tone, and above all, fun. Adventure in the classic sense of the word, in which danger is balanced by the thrill of discovery and virtue is rewarded. I believe that children today need a sense of excitement and promise more than ever before.”

Submissions will be open from March 15 to May 15, 2021.

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Brian Niemeier's Fifth XSeed Campaign Is Funded in Four Hours

On Monday, Combat Frame XSeed: SS set a new record for Brian Niemeier’s series, all of which have been crowdfunded. This latest installment has already surpassed its first stretch goal, guaranteeing all backers a free Combat Frame XSeed short story in addition to SS, with purportedly many more rewards to unlock.

 On the campaign page, Niemeier says,

“XSeed: S was just the warmup.  Now the hit mech saga goes thermonuclear with Combat Frame XSeed: SS!”

You can read more about Combat Frame XSeed: SS and this campaign on Niemeier’s website: https://www.brianniemeier.com/2021/03/combat-frame-xseed-ss.html

This campaign ends March 31, 2021.

Check out our positive, long-form review of the very first Combat Frame XSeed novel!

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