Review of Retribution (Dagger of Aita #1) by S. J. Wolff

Retribution (The Dagger of Aita, #1)Retribution by S.J. Wolff

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 really, but Goodreads won’t let me go halvesies. I liked it and more.

Retribution is a good, tasty fantasy in the urban/paranormal category. I recommend it as a nice, fast, fun read. Expect colorful settings, long-buried conspiracies, historic rivalries between groups of supernaturals, and a well-developed opposites-attract romantic sideline. The plot is action-filled, mystery-based, and twisty. The hero’s flaws and weaknesses are as integral to the plot as his superhuman abilities, and that’s always a positive for me.

Retribution goes international and off the beaten track with its take on the popular vampires vs werewolves trope, adding a shake of angelic forces. It’s a refreshing, thoughtful spin on the old standards. I especially enjoyed the way the historical explanations and tidbits of world-building were dropped in as stories, justified research, or during conversations without feeling forced.

There were enough homophone word errors, grammar glitches, and factual errors to grate on my perfectionist nerves, but they are few and far between. The descriptions are evocative without being overblown, and the dialogue is tightly written and full of emotional impact.

To go with my usual food analogy: Retribution is well-seasoned diner fare: a good investment in flavor and good value for the money. The plot wraps up with potential for sequels, and I’m following the author so I can pick up the next one.

Here’s a link to grab this treat for yourself: Retribution on
As of this writing, it’s FREE to Kindle Unlimited subscribers.

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Review: Daughter of Mythos by Melissa Drake

This one gets 3 stars out of 5. A nice, clean “I liked it.”

Daughter of Mythos provides  a good, tasty meat & potatoes secret-destiny/portal fiction story with a nice twist near the end. The main character is relatable and sympathetic, the supporting cast provide plenty of intrigue, support and challenges, and the fantasy elements are introduced with just enough exposition to make the history feel real and the internal logic reasonable. 

I often wait a bit before I review a book. I like to give the newness a little time to settle, to allow my impressions to solidify or change, and most of all to see if something that bugs me keeps bugging me after the specifics blur. I read this back in the autumn of 2014, but I needed to re-read it before reviewing because I didn’t recall the details well enough to discuss them knowledgeably. That is as much a strength as a weakness. I read a LOT of fantasy, so much that the irritants are usually what stay with me. I wanted to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything bad about this book, and I hadn’t. The second read was as enjoyable as the first.

Daughter of Mythos aims to be a really fun curl-up-with-a-good-read adventure story, and it hits that spot just right. It isn’t groundbreaking, it isn’t life-changing, it doesn’t use lots of new spices or herbs or throw any exotic flavors at me. (figuratively speaking) It fulfills all its promises and more. 

 It satisfied my craving for characters who face trials and make hard choices, it gave me a fun fantasy ride and an interesting world to visit.

In a word, it was tasty. 

Go have a nibble for yourself. Link to purchase: Daughter of Mythos

Melissa Drake’s Amazon page (follow to stay updated on sequels)

Review: Excelsior by George Sirois

3 stars.  

I liked it. I’ll throw 4 stars at Amazon because I hate their social engineering scheme that calls 3 of 5 a “low” rating,  but this isn’t a 4-star book for me. It’s solidly middle-of-the-pack. 

Here’s the snapshot evaluation: good, sturdy workmanlike prose, tidy plot firmly grounded in action and visuals,  tropes as old as time and conflicts as emotionally satisfying as watching Bugs outwit Elmer. I knew where this was going from about page 5 onward, but it was still a fun trip. The action is visual and visceral, and there’s plenty of it. The book is cheesy popcorn popcorn from start to finish. I ate it up and ripped open the bag to get every last little bit out of the bottom.

Make sure you read the afterword. The essay has tremendous emotional depth, vivid writing, and a beautiful  the story itself never quite managed. It’s a heart-punch of a read all on its own.

Sounds great, right? Why only three stars? Ahem. Well.

I love cheese popcorn, but it gives me indigestion. Excelsior’s plot didn’t challenge my predictive skills at any point, neither the world-building nor the mcguffins at the center of the action were unique enough to make me sit up and take notice, and the villains were as villainous as Snidely Whiplash. The writing also ticked every annoying prose quirk on my ever-growing list at least once. Saidisms. Characters were always feeling and watching and seeing rather than events just happening. All the shrugging and sitting and turning and shaking heads tired me out. I have no tolerance for “As you may not know, Ms Ratchet, this is the Widget history…” followed by long blurbs of history.

Sounds awful, right? Why give it three stars?  Answer: BECAUSE I STILL LIKED IT. Yup. All those flaws, and I still gobbled it down. I can love a new sweater and still pick at the weave. I can enjoy a beautiful sunset and still squint at the glare. I can torture a metaphor to death and still feel remorse. I love B movies even while I can poke fun at them. 

This is a glorious B-movie of a book begging for screen adaptation. The plot holes and basic prose, the shallow character development and time-worn tropes– all those disappear on screen when the pace is fast enough, and this book has pace to spare. Predictable, prosy, over-written stuff can be rollicking fun of done just right, and Excelsior is GOOD fun.

I did mention action, yeah? Excelsior packs plenty of punch, and that’s like a cloak covering a multitude of other ills. Its subject matter and style also make it completely accessible to a broad audience. Anyone with a soft spot for the “coming-of-age, tapped for greatness out of obscurity” tales should snag this right away. (Me, I started with an exasperated moment of  “Seriously? Again?” But that’s on me.) 

Excelsior does what it sets out to do, and does it well. If the blurb appeals, the story will suck you in and make you want more. I know I’ll be checking out the author’s other series and soon. 

The End. Drop curtain.

Link to purchase: Excelsior book page on Amazon
Link to George Sirois’ Amazon author page: GeorgeSirois on Amazon