Category Archives: Fantasy

Author Gladiatorial Challenge: The Second Challenge!

Round one of the author gladiatorial challenge went to Brian, as he turned a battle with a barbed devil into an existential discussion of shoes. But Declan turned in a fantastic entry as well, so both contestants move along to stage two!


Gelatinous_CubeThe crowd erupts as our hero stands over the fallen corpse of the barbed devil. Weary and wary, she pauses to catch her breath. The Gamelord oozes dark mirth as he joins in with lazy applause of his own. Clearly he has more planned for her. Suddenly the torches go out. A moment later, the stars themselves go dark. As the applause fades to silence, so does our hero’s vision.

She awakens some time later. She isn’t sure how long it’s been, but she’s feeling strangely refreshed. Her small cell features no windows and no obvious light fixtures. There is but a single, simple door, but it closes tight with no cracks. Even so, the room is strangely well lit. She rises from the hard bed and gathers her belongings. Testing at the door, she finds that it opens easily.

She steps out of the room into a sewer of sorts. At least, that’s what it smells like. The same strange, pale ambient light fills the corridors. Water and muck line the floors. Still, it beats staying in a cage. The first obligation of a prisoner is to escape. She steps out into the catacombs.

She hears the dark laughter of the Gamelord, but she can’t place the source. Then, across the hallway, she sees it. The gelatinous cube approaches. Ten feet to a side, green in tint, it moves toward her, slowly and silently. Bones and remains are visible through the translucent gel, as well as strange objects: a tennis racket; a pair of running shoes; a stop sign. The creature closes in, blocking our hero’s only escape.


Our second challenge is a Gelatinous Cube.

One of the dungeon’s most unusual and specialized predators, gelatinous cubes spend their existence mindlessly roaming dungeon halls and dark caverns, swallowing up organic material such as plants, refuse, carrion, and even living creatures. Materials the cube cannot digest, such as metal and stone, can eventually fill up the creature’s mass with such detritus, and at times the creature may excrete some of this material out of its body. Often the treasure and possessions of past victims remain inside the gelatinous cube, leaving a ghostly impression of their material remains.

As before, both champions face the same challenge, one at a time. The fights will be posted in the order in which they are received. Authors are encouraged to be creative, over-the-top, and above all awesome. The Gamemaster reserves the right to require edits to combat under the standard Gamemaster “no, it really happened this way” clause. The more entertaining, exciting, and awesome the feat is, the more likely it is to be approved. Stats of the creature are available at the link in standard D20ish format, but there is absolutely no requirement for the combat to stick to D20 rules. Descriptions of D20 rules are discouraged; they make for great gaming but boring reading.

Go!


If you enjoy these characters, please remember to stop by and patronize the authors by buying their books. Brian Niemeier’s Souldancer and Declan Finn’s Honor at Stake are both well worth the purchase.

Authorial Gladiatorial Challenge: Round 1 Judging

The round one entries are up (Declan’s, Brian’s), and they are both fantastic! Both authors lived up to the primary task of the challenge: making it awesome.

Mr. Finn gets points for lots of guns and explosions, as well as having a heroine who leaps around more than Yoda on crack. He gets bonus points for having a vampire use holy water as a weapon. Very creative. And the throwaway line about dating Gary Gygax was priceless.

Mr. Niemeier scores for the battle of the telepathic minds, as well as liquid fire. You can’t go wrong with liquid fire. Plus, bonus points for a character who has River Tam level grasps on sanity.

The winner of round 1? This one was hard to judge. Both entries literally made me laugh out loud from the awesome. It’s going to have to go to Brian for transforming a gladiatorial cage match into an existentialist discussion of shoes.


Souldancer by Brian Niemeier
Souldancer by Brian Niemeier

Tomorrow we announce the challenge for round two!

Project Lyonesse – Making Short Fiction Great Again

Logo-01A while back I posted about open submissions for Silver Empire‘s next major project, Lyonesse. Now that I’ve finished up a few other projects (including publishing Silver Empire’s first novel and merging two dojos together), we’re ramping up Lyonesse to full production.

If you sent us a submission for Lyonesse, we probably got it. I will be sending out responses over the next two weeks. If we accepted your submission, you will be getting an NDA agreement. Sign it and we’ll be letting you in on what we’re actually up to. If we didn’t accept your submission, I will let you know. If you haven’t heard back from me by Monday, September 12, then I probably didn’t get your submission and you should try sending it again.

We are still looking for submissions! We’ve had some great ones, but we need more. This is a pretty large project, and it will also be ongoing. So if you have them, send them over. You can find the official submission guidelines here.

What is Lyonesse?

We’re still not quite ready to lay it all out. But here are a few things I can tell you. Lyonesse is not a magazine, and bears only the thinnest resemblance to that model. Neither is it a retread of the magazine concept, shoehorned onto the web. Lyonesse is conceived with the digital age in mind, and is built for the internet era. Lyonesse will be very price competitive – you’ll be getting a lot out of your entertainment dollars. Yet even so, Lyonesse is very author friendly. We’re here to support your favorite authors, not exploit them. There will be no print edition of Lyonesse itself. Dead trees are so twentieth century. There will, however, be semi-annual roundups into traditional anthologies that will be available on Amazon, and may be available in print.

Look for more information throughout the month of September. And if we stay on track, look for our Kickstarter project to launch in early October. Stay tuned – this is about to get exciting!

Author Gladiatorial Challenge: Round 1, Brian Niemeier

Souldancer by Brian Niemeier
Souldancer by Brian Niemeier

Brian Niemeier is the Campbell Award nominated author of the Soul Cycle series, including the Dragon Award nominated Souldancer. He graciously agreed to enter this Author Gladiatorial Challenge to earn your vote for the Dragon Awards (hurry! tonight’s the last night to get your ballot). Below is his entry for round one. I hope you find it as entertaining as I did. Declan’s entry ran earlier this evening, with judging to come tomorrow.


The Barbed Devil charges with a mighty Infernal oath to bring this chaotic aberration to heel.

In the cool of the night, the devil’s heat shines as bright as day to Astlin’s fiery eyes. She’s not sure what to make of the onrushing foe until the image of a man’s face painted on a broken shield lying half-buried in the sand speaks to her with the voice of a derelict whose mind she consumed years ago.

“He doesn’t believe in your shoes.”

Hearing that the devil doubts her shoes’ existence deeply perturbs Astlin. It’s not as if they aren’t right there on her feet for everyone to see.

Wait. Are they?

She looks down at the toes of her black, sturdy boots. Yes. This guy must be crazy.

The Barbed Devil’s charge has carried him halfway across the arena. Sand sprays and bones crunch under his spiny feet.

He’s not wearing any shoes. Is that why he doesn’t believe in hers? Because he’s never worn them?

Astlin decides that the best way to prove her shoes’ existence is for the devil to try them on. She bends down to undo the complex series of buckles and fasteners that connect her boots to her armor.

No sooner are Astlin’s boots detached from her leggings than the Barbed Devil knocks her right out of them. The force of the impact surprises her, and she topples onto the sand under her shoe-doubting foe.

The devil furiously rakes Astlin with his razor-sharp claws. Most of the attacks fail to pierce her strong leather armor and stronger brass skin, but some of the barbs scratch her still human face, drawing molten brass blood.

Being infused with positive energy, the Worked liquid metal irritates the devil, making him rear back. Astlin uses the distraction to roll out from under him. In her hurry to stand, she slips and falls prone on the soft arena floor. She sees her boots lying nearby and crawls toward them.

The fingers of Astlin’s outstretched hand are about to brush against her boots when a glowing cage of pure energy surrounds her. The devil’s deep, mocking laughter cuts her as no blade can.

Anger stokes the Fire in Astlin’s soul. She lunges forward, and her transessed body’s resistance to Workings shatters the glowing cage. She seizes the boots, and the diabolical laughter stops.

The devil is on her back in an instant, pressing her face into the sand with inhuman strength. Enraged beyond words, its telepathic curses flood her mind.

This guy’s a telepath, too? Wow! This whole time Astlin thought she was the only one. Eager to show off her skill with the power they share, Astlin projects all of her thoughts and memories into the devil’s mind. He tries to resist for some reason, but it turns out that he’s not nearly as good at this as she is.

The devil doesn’t seem to like Astlin sharing her mind with him as much as she thought he would. He screams, throws himself off her, and keeps screaming while rolling around in the sand.

Astlin gleans from their telepathic bond that this guy comes from hell. She’s surprised and a little disappointed to learn that nothing he’s seen there is as bad as what happened to her.

Oh well. Serves him right for interrupting her.

What was she doing again?

Oh yeah. Shoes.

Astlin sits down on the devil’s back. He struggles but can’t do much more than writhe under the weight of what’s basically a living brass statue. She takes her boots in one hand.

You’re supposed to start with the dominant foot. Is this guy right-handed? Probably a safe bet. She grabs his right ankle. Sharp spines cover that, too, but her gloves are up to the job.

Her first attempt to put the shoe on the devil’s foot reveals a problem. Astlin’s feet are way smaller than this guy’s. She snaps off spines, and the devil howls. Still won’t fit. This is gonna take something more drastic.

Having his foot crushed down to half size drives all reason from the devil’s mind. His spear-like tail stabs out and impales Astlin through her right eye.

Astlin’s scream joins the devil’s in a nightmarish chorus. In a spasm of pain, she accidentally rips his foot from his ankle. Positively charged molten brass eats through the tip of his tail, leaving a cauterized stump behind.

In her agonized fury, Astlin jumps up. All of her weight comes crashing down on the devil’s head, squashing it like a melon. Black blood sizzles on her brass feet as she squishes grey matter between her toes. The stench of a burned corpse rises on the night air.

The devil’s barbs rattle like dry, bare brush in the wind; then go still.

Molten metal drips from Astlin’s eye socket onto the sand, where it cools into shiny amber drops. She steps off the devil’s dead body and lets its blood and brains burn off her feet before donning her boots again.

A single question haunts the souldancer: do her shoes really exist? Now she may never know.

Author Gladiatorial Challenge: Round 1, Declan Finn

HonorAtStakeDeclan Finn is the author of the Pius Man Trilogy as well as the Dragon Award nominated Honor at Stake. He graciously agreed to enter this Author Gladiatorial Challenge to earn your vote for the Dragon Awards (hurry! tonight’s the last night to get your ballot). Below is his entry for round one. I hope you find it as entertaining as I did. Brian’s entry will run later this evening, with judging to come tomorrow.


Amanda Colt walked into the arena, and all she could think was What the hell am I doing here?

Her eyes narrowed as she looked over the battlefield, and cataloged what she could – piece of sword, piece of armor, piece of lance, piece of … person.

When I am done here, I need to eat someone. Preferably whoever’s in charge. Can’t kill the author. He has to finish writing the book. Stupid Dragon Award…

On the other side of the arena came the hell beast, and did a quick inventory: four knives, holy water, enough phials to make things interesting, two calf holsters, and a sword. She knew her opening move, since the creature had only four areas of attack. She could see three, and adjust. But there were two obvious opening moves for the creature in front of her.

“Begin!”

The creature broke lose. At the speed of an eye blink, Amanda drew her sword, thrusting it behind her, into thin air. When the barbed devil teleported behind her, it materialized around the sword.

The displaced air made a sound like bampf, and Amanda threw herself forward, pulling the sword out as she leaped.

“Ha!” she cried as she spun to face the seven foot demon. “I dated Gary Gygax … in … the … oh darn.”

The devil looked like a gamma-irradiated porcupine; and while she concluded correctly that its teleportation ability would bring it behind her (or above, that was an option), she probably just pissed it off.

The devil threw itself after Amanda with full blitzkrieg speed, as she backpedaled just as fast. Her sword flicked out, trying to discourage it from engaging with her, but she knew that if she got close enough to hurt it, her day was going to really suck.

She reached behind her, grabbing the first of the phials, and grimaced. This thing was fast enough to dodge most of what she threw at it. This was going to hurt.

Amanda thrust forward with the sword, and the devil knocked it aside with one claw, and grabbed Amanda’s sword arm with the other. The demonic barbs ribbed into muscle and bone, and she cried out. She went limp as the demon hoisted her by the arm, and grinned down at her.

She decided she was high enough as the devil poised its claws to eviscerate her. Then she smashed the 100 ml phial of holy water into its maw.

The glass shattered, splashing the devil. At the speed she threw it, shattered glass made little cuts in the skin, which didn’t react well to the holy water on the open wounds. There was a sizzling, crackling sound, and she expected to smell something like sulfur, but she didn’t get a chance. The devil roared in pain, but didn’t let go of Amanda’s arm, throwing her around like a rag doll. It slammed her against the ground once or twice, and she expected it to say “Puny vampire.”

Amanda started to turn to mist, starting with the captured arm. The sleeve tore, and she lost her sword, but she was free.

She was hurled a hundred feet across the arena, but she was free.

She groaned as she pushed herself to her feet. She had bounced over several broken weapons, including several spears that had left splinters in her back.  But she had bigger problems. It was starting to shake off the last attack like it was just annoyed.

Amanda reached and slit the sides of her jeans with her fingernails. She needed quick access to her calf holsters. Given how far away it was, it had two options. She dropped to one knee, feeling the ground while keeping an eye on the devil. She found a piece of old armor, and the hilt of a sword.

It turned and glared at her, and she was certain it wasn’t going to transport again.

She leaped to one side and hurled both the ancient weapon and armor, just a split second before the scorching ray lashed out and laid waste to the area she’d been. The armor piece hit like a discus and the broken blade jabbed it in the arm, but that just made it blink. Less a matter of pain, and more like “Where did this come from?”

She hurled any discarded detritus on the ground – partial spear, a ribcage. The devil just lashed out again. She dove out of the way, but it still caught her on the side. It blasted her across the field, and she deliberately rolled to put out the blaze before she made an ash out of herself.

Amanda grabbed the H&K-PDW in her left calf holster, yanking it out, and spraying it right at the devil. It flinched, like multiple bees were stabbing into it.

She didn’t empty the magazine before she reloaded. She reached down, grabbed the next PDW. Knowing it had to close with her, she leaped straight up into the air, 20 feet off the ground, before it bampfed.

The beast bampfed right underneath her, only six feet off the ground, attempting to attack her above her previous position. She pointed her left gun straight down, blasting down into devil’s skull. She landed on it, feet first, plowing it into the ground.

It bounced back. It’s right hand burst into flame. She dropped her empty left gun and grabbed its wrist.  The tail lashed out and wrapped around her waist, slowly crushing and cutting into her. The left hand slashed down, overhanded. Amanda blocked it with her right forearm.

The devil looked at her, and tried to burrow into her mind.

She glared. “I … am … vampire!”

She rotated her arm, making the attack slide down her right side. She jammed the PDW into the devil’s mouth, and held down the trigger. Thirty rounds of armor piercing bullets punched through the back of the devil’s mouth, and out its head.

The devil’s fire went out, and the muscles relaxed as it fell over. Amanda dropped to her knees, exhausted. “I need more blood if I do this again.”

WorldCon SJWs Continue to Defend Child Rape

hugoLast Saturday the members of the World Science Fiction Convetion voted on the annual Hugo Awards. As I noted some time ago, there is a certain clique within science fiction that has a real problem. The perverted SJWs who make up the majority of the convention are covering for sexual predators, molestation, and child rape. There are some who still seem to think there is something redeemable about this collection of perverts.

Not one but two child rape exposes received Hugo Award nominations this year. “Safe Space as Rape Room” by Jeffro and “The Story of Moira Greyland” by Moira Greyland. Lest you feel this somehow excuses them, please note that these two exposes only made the ballots due to extraordinary efforts of outside forces. This is conclusively demonstrated by the sad news out of WorldCon this weekend. Not only did neither of these tales win the award – that would be OK, if disappointing. More to the point, both of them were voted well underneath “No Award.” For those unfamiliar with Hugo Award voting, that means that the majority (in this case the vast majority) of the perverts who attend WorldCon believed that exposing this very serious issue not only wasn’t the best “related work” this year, but that these articles weren’t even worthy of the nomination in the first place.

In other words, these sickos believe that exposing actual, documented child rape is an unworthy cause.

Why? There is only one plausible explanation. This kind of sick perversion continues to this day and these people are covering for it.

Dragon Awards Gladiatorial Face Off – Setting the Stage

A while back I noted that my friends Declan Finn and Brian Niemeier both got nominated for the upcoming first annual Dragon Award in the same category. Being a good and loyal friend, this forced me into a conundrum: who to vote for? There is only one way to settle this – gladiatorial combat! The authors have now submitted their champions.

Declan Finn

HonorAtStakeAmanda Colt. Vampire.

100 years old, give or take. Russian. Her CV is extensive. She’s served as a spy and a soldier on multiple continents and wars. She’s also Catholic, religious, and has alternate blood supplies. She has mastered more combat systems than even she remembers, if only because of professional interest, and she has the time on her hands. She’s smarter than the average bear, and has several bachelor’s degrees, and a smattering of Masters degrees here and there. She hasn’t bothered with any PhDs that I know of, but characters sometimes don’t tell you everything.

Her powers are standard vampire: seriously strong, seriously fast, and has teeth. At this point, she can turn to mist, but probably can’t take her clothes with her. She can become a rat or a bat, or a wolf. She is eye-blink fast when she wants to be (as in: she’s in front of you, you blink, she’s behind you breaking your neck). She is allergic to sunlight, wood, and silver. If she’s set on fire, she can put it out, but she has to do it fast, or she goes up like flash paper. Her exposure to low-level sunlight won’t kill her, but direct sunlight will burn her, and she has seconds to get to cover. Religious objects will not hurt her, because of her moral / ethical / alignment. And of course, cutting her into little pieces or cutting her head off will kill her.

Brian Niemeier

Souldancer by Brian Niemeier
Souldancer by Brian Niemeier

Astlin Tremore, Souldancer of Fire.

The Souldancer of Fire resembles a slight teenage girl with shoulder-length, deep red hair and incandescent blue eyes. Clad in asymmetrical leather armor haphazardly fashioned from the tanned hides of otherworldly beasts and strewn with metal fasteners, rings, and buckles.

In truth, a souldancer’s outward appearance is merely a shell Worked to contain the merged interdimensional rift/soul of its true being.

Special Abilities:

  • Healed by elemental/magical fire at a 2:1 fire damage to HP recovered ratio.
  • Cannot be healed by healing spells/ordinary medical treatment.
  • Immune to all poisons and disease.
  • Immune to natural cold.
  • Doesn’t need to eat or drink, but still requires sleep.
  • Acid and Electricity Resistance 21
  • Magic and Power Resistance 26
  • Takes double damage from magical cold and water attacks.
  • Flame Cascade x1/day: fire burst centered on the Souldancer in a 10′ radius rising 30′ high. 11D6 fire damage. Targets can save for half.
  • Fire Portal: If a Fire Souldancer dies, everyone nearby has a very short period of time (1D6 rounds) to flee from the area as the souldancer’s body begins to come apart. Once the body has completely broken apart, a screaming gate to the Plane of Fire opens, releasing a level of heat that can only be found in the heart of a volcano.
    Everything in 30 feet of the portal takes 20D6 fire damage, this damage is reduced by 1D6 for every five feet beyond the 30 foot point. This opening is not merely a portal, but the soul of the souldancer, continually torn and twisted in pure metaphysical agony. The souldancer cannot be brought back to life by anything short of a Wish, and this agony will continue until some way is found to close the portal. Even after the portal is closed, the souldancer still cannot be brought back to ‘life’ by anything short of a Wish.
  • Insanity: Astlin suffers from severe post-traumatic stress, as well as a grab bag of psychoses and emotional disorders.

The First Challenge!

barbed_devil_tinyThe arena goes dark, lit only by tiny torches ringing its vast combat field and the twinkling of the stars above. The audience quiets in anticipation. Bones of fallen gladiators litter the field, punctuated occasionally by the random piece of arms and armor. Our champion steps onto the field, ready for combat, and they erupt in raucous cheers

A dark, robed figure stands above all on a floating dais: the Gamelord. He makes a gesture with his hand and the audience goes silent. The ground rumbles. Across the arena from our champion smoke billows out from below. A creature appears. From the tip of its lashing tail to the serrated features of its fang-filled visage, this fiery-eyed sentinel bristles with barbs. Hell itself has come alive. It drools and snaps its jaws. It sees our champion and lashes out, straining to reach her. An invisible force holds it at bay.

The Gamemaster raises his arm and the audience goes wild. His face remains hidden under a thick hood, yet our champion can feel his malicious grin through the cloth.

“Begin!” he calls out. The monster moves, as if invisible bonds have broken.


The first challenge is a Barbed Devil inside a darkened, star-and-torchlit arena at night.

Sentinels of the vaults of Hell, jailers of the darkest souls, and living weapons of the infernal forges, barbed devils—known as hamatulas to diabolists—enforce the strictures of the damned and safeguard the nefarious works of greater devils. A hamatula enjoys the feel of warm blood on its spines, and prefers to leap into melee when presented with an opportunity for battle.

Hamatulas are collectors and organizers, and are favorite allies of greedy summoners as they often bring with them tempting treasures from Hell’s vaults or know the paths to deadly riches. Left to their own devices, the lairs of these devils often bear the pierced trophies of their past victims, hung like perverse bug collections on bloodied walls. Most barbed devils stand upward of 7 feet tall and weigh 300 pounds, though their leanly muscled bodies appear much larger due to the constantly growing and adjusting spines that protrude from their razor-sharp bodies.

Both champions face the same challenge, one at a time. The fights will be posted in the order in which they are received. Authors are encouraged to be creative, over-the-top, and above all awesome. The Gamemaster reserves the right to require edits to combat under the standard Gamemaster “no, it really happened this way” clause. The more entertaining, exciting, and awesome the feat is, the more likely it is to be approved. Stats of the creature are available at the link in standard D20ish format, but there is absolutely no requirement for the combat to stick to D20 rules. Descriptions of D20 rules are discouraged; they make for great gaming but boring reading.

Go!


If you enjoy these characters, please remember to stop by and patronize the authors by buying their books. And please consider both of them as worthy contenders in the upcoming Dragon Awards!

Special Note: Brian Niemeier’s Souldancer is currently free and will remain so until the end of the week. You can’t beat that!

First Annual Dragon Award Nominees Announced!

DragonConLogoThe nominees have been announced for the first annual Dragon Awards! You can hop over to the page and see the full list for yourself, but I’d like to call out my friends John C. Wright, Declan Finn, and Brian Niemeier on their nominations!

However, this does lead me to a serious conundrum. My friends Declan and Brian received nominations in the same category! Whom to vote for?

There is only one solution – an author gladiator contest!

Here’s how it works:

Each author picks a character of his choice from his nominated work. That character enters the arena, prepared to do battle with whatever creature I (as the GM) throw at them. Each character will face the same creatures. The author must write out his character’s response in 1000 words or less. The submission must show the final exchange of blows – but it must also leave off the results of that exchange. That is for the GM to decide. There is no time limit, except that if the authors wish to encourage fans to vote for them for the Dragon Awards… well, they only have until voting closes for that.

I will announce the creature here for each round. Each author will then e-mail me their submission (at their own pace), and it will face the judgment of the GM. I will judge entries based on creativity, over-the-topness (a plus, not a negative!), plausibility (only a minor part of the total score), and sheer awesomeness. We shall go best two out of three – so if there is a clear winner after round two, we won’t have a third. But I, for one, will be awfully disappointed if we have a clear winner after two rounds.

The authors shall own all rights to the submitted works except for granting me the right to post them here on this blog.

Let the games begin!

Live Tweeting POST TRAUMATIC STRESS

Morgon and the kids are heading out of town this weekend o visit family. For the first time in a very long while, I’m going to have a good chunk of time at home on my own. I intend to spend it writing. I’m currently about 62,000 words into my first novel, Post Traumatic Stress. I’m targeting 110k for the first draft, with the intention of trimming it down to about 80-90,000 words for the final draft. The draft as written is currently on track for that.

The novel comes in bursts. I’ve gone long periods without much time to write. On the other hand, I’ve had some very good days. I’ve seen friends online talk about 2,000 words being a good day. That’s not me. When I get in the zone, I get in the zone. My best day so far has been over 4,000 words – and that was a day where I’d already been at work all day. When I get in the zone I can pretty easily turn out 500 to 1,000 words in an hour.

This weekend I’ll have little in the way of distractions. I’ll also, for once, have rather a lot of time. I plan to get myself in the zone and move, and I’m targeting 20,000 words as my goal from Friday morning through Monday evening. I think I can make that happen.

More fun, I plan to “live tweet” as I write. Don’t expect something every five minutes, but expect regular progress updates and maybe the occasional hint of something that’s just made it into the book. You can follow the fun on my Twitter feed. Writing will begin in earnest after I get home from work on Friday evening. This will either go very well or very poorly, but either way it ought to be entertaining.

Post Traumatic Stress

Everybody faces demons in war. After surviving a helicopter crash in Afghanistan, Sergeant Michael Alexander came face to face with actual demons. When the Army sent him home on a medical discharge, the demons followed. Now they’re going after his friends and terrorizing his home town. Now Michael must face up to the past, with the help of his not-quite-father-in-law, a young friend, a hapless and overly bureaucratic secret military group that gets in the way more than it helps, and an ancient order of knights chartered by the Vatican.

The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin – BOOK REVIEW

"The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin" by L. Jagi Lamplighter
“The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin” by L. Jagi Lamplighter

I’ve put up a lot of book reviews this week. In Wednesday’s review of Gorilla Mindset I mentioned that it’s not so much that I’ve read a lot recently as that I’ve finished a lot all at once. The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin is the exception.

I started the book earlier this week and finished it very quickly. It was a very fast read for two reasons. First, it’s a young adult book. The language is simple, the story is not overly complex, and it’s an easy read. Second, the book is thoroughly engaging. Once I started it, I didn’t want to put it down.

I’m not a particular fan of young adult books. I have, of course, read my fair share of them – probably hundreds of them. I also graduated past them pretty quickly: I read Tolkien in the fourth grade and Asimov, Herbert, Clancy, and Crichton only a year or two later. Of course, I still devoured a ton of YA books at that age. But even then it wasn’t because I preferred the genre. I simply read whatever I could get my hands on out of sheer boredom.

My young adult reading since high school mostly consists of the Harry Potter series. So you can imagine that I didn’t particularly seek out this series. Furthermore, while I have been interested in reading Ms. Lamplighter’s works for some time, I’ve also eyed them with some trepidation. You see, I know her better as Mrs. John C. Wright, and her husband may well be my favorite still-living-and-writing author. To be fair, I would never expect any author to live up to that. How could they? Yet it still puts an unfair burden on Ms. Lamplighter.

Thankfully, I can report that this work is excellent. The setting and the world borrow very liberally from Harry Potter. If you’re a fan of J.K. Rowling’s, you will enjoy this book. And as you might expect from knowing that and seeing the cover, the book can be somewhat fairly described as “Harry Potter with a girl as the main character.” Some people will be interested in the book purely for that, and that’s fine. If that sounds great to you, skip the rest of my review and just go read the book. It won’t disappoint you.

But the great thing is that the book very quickly establishes itself as far more than that. Not that I’m implying that it’s better than Harry Potter – it isn’t, if I may risk offending Ms. Lamplighter, although it is definitely worthy of Harry Potter. But it’s definitely not just a Harry Potter ripoff that happens to be about a girl. The story involves something akin to our modern world, with a hidden world of magic thriving within it. The witches and wizards of this world send their children to magical boarding schools. Evil wizards attack one of these schools. Sound familiar?

The similarities pretty much end there, however. The story is radically different from any of Ms. Rowling’s. The characters are very different. A danger of writing about thirteen year old girls is that so many of them are just annoying. Rachel, on the other hand, is quite endearing. She’s earnest without being a brown noser, bright without becoming a know-it-all, and feisty without becoming obnoxious. Her friends are just as interesting. I particularly enjoyed Sigfried, the orphan who wants nothing more than to be a valiant knight, and Gaius, the man apart from the group. Yet all of the characters are fun and enjoyable.

I give the book four stars out of five for adults, but I’d give it five out of five if recommending it to a younger reader (which is, in fact, it’s target audience). My oldest son is not yet reading well enough for a book this complex, but in a few years he will be. When he reaches that point, this book will be on his reading list right next to the Narnia and Harry Potter books. If you loved either, but especially if you love the latter, you should take a look at this book.