Beyond Hallowed Walls – Andres Cyanni Halden

Synopsis:  Sometimes, holy warriors are called to do more than defend their churches or their homes.  Now, the Paladins of the Hopegiver have been called to save the country of Vasani.  High General Takashi Ironskin, an ex-knight of the country and brilliant darkmage, has invaded, threatening the lives of millions of innocent people.  With his powerful magic and undead army, no normal weapon can slay him, so the paladins have traveled in different directions to reassemble the Light of Creation, an ancient weapon originally crafted to kill a god.  It is up to Acton, Mier, Vorel and Rasvim to track down the three pieces of the weapon and bring them to Vasani in hopes that they can stop the darkmage before it is too late.  Torr, the snowcat paladin, must remain in Eldere as the acting Head Paladin of the Hopegiver, helping the poor and watching as General Ironskin’s armies advance.

Acton, a mouse, must go to the Dark Isles, his original homeland that he escaped so long ago.  Mier, a Wolfen and Acton’s lover, takes a journey back to the Wolfen Valley, even if his own people will not welcome him.  For the final piece, Vorel and Rasvim – a married wolf and fox – head East in hopes of finding safe travel to the otter nation of Shin-se.

Can their relationships survive distance, interference, and the fear of death?

In this sequel to Within Hallowed Walls, which I’ve reviewed before, Halden takes is on three different journeys in this book, in order for the paladins of the Hopegiver to retrieve the items needed to create a most powerful weapon in order to stop Takashi Ironskin from taking over their kingdom.

As I stated in earlier reviews, I’m quite a fan of “treasure hunt” stories. Which is why I was excited about this book before reading it. Halden takes us to new countries, each with their own culture and customs, which is something I consider a plus about this book. The world in which the paladins live became a little bigger.

We also meet very interesting new characters, such as Kit the a dragon darkmage, Trent the Chosen, Saso the fire mage, and Gyr with the Voice of Creation. All wonderful characters that really add something to the story, and who aid our characters in their quest.

However, personally, I didn’t exactly get the feeling that it was much of a quest. Everything seemed to go smoothly for everyone, especially for Mier. His part was a breeze. Acton had the most trouble in the entire book, and his part actually felt like a quest. Vorel and Rasvim were aided by magic so many times that it felt like they were playing the game on easy mode. The two lovers travelled through the most interesting countries, but almost nothing is done with these. The book feels as if it was hastily written, due to the superficial way Halden chose to deal with all of these different cultures and difficulties. Two out of three parts of the Light of Creation were ridiculously easy to get. Only Acton encountered situations that actually posed a challenge.

There are some things that don’t make sense in this story. In Acton’s part, they go to the Dark Isles, the home of the Nezumi. It’s a godforsaken place, literally, as the gods have no power there, and every race that was created by the gods has trouble being there. Races that were created by mages, such as the Domesticas Canis and the Felis, have no trouble being there. The same goes for the Nezumi, naturally. However, Sven, our beloved Felis darkmage, has the same problems other god-created races have, for no apparent reason. Him being a darkmage actually has nothing to do with it, as the gods cannot interfere with darkmages in any way.

Another thing that doesn’t make sense is similar to the giant eagles in Lord of the Rings. The gods cannot interfere with High General Takashi Ironskin directly, because of him being a darkmage. However, they can aid those who are trying to stop him. Both Acton’s party and Vorel and Rasvim’s party were sent back to their home temple by gods. What kept the gods from sending the paladins to their destinations directly? The only place they couldn’t be sent to was the Dark Isles, but they could’ve at least have been dropped off just off the shore, which Yataa actually did AFTER they had already travelled a long way. It definitely would’ve saved the paladins a whole lot of trouble and time, which they needed so desperately.

Another thing that really bothered me, is the sheer amount of spelling and grammar mistakes in this book. The same thing occurred in the first novel. I really feel that the person who was in charge of the editing of this story did a poor job. It’s not strange for a well-edited story to still have one or two mistakes somewhere, but this book had multiple mistakes in one page at times, which really turned me off.

The end shocked me though. I was not expecting this particular thing to happen, especially after what the Green Lady, another god, explained to Vorel and Rasvim. It got me excited for the final part of this trilogy, so I guess it served its purpose. Well done.

All in all, I think this book had a lot of potential, but that I, as a reader, was let down. The treasure hunt was way too easy, and the story too superficially written. I feel it could’ve been much better, if the author would’ve taken the time to throw more obstacles in their paths and to work with the different cultures a bit more. I got the feeling that reconstructing an all-powerful weapon that can even slay gods is something that should prove no real difficulties, as long as you have a decent party with you. I feel a quest such as this should’ve been a lot more difficult to complete.

I’d say this is a decent book. It’s definitely not bad, but it’s also definitely not as good as it could’ve been. I feel it was saved because of the nice characters and the new cultures you learn about, because, as a treasure hunt story, it was a letdown.

I can only hope Halden redeems himself by giving this trilogy the finale it deserves.

– Faolan

 

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Beyond Hallowed Walls – Andres Cyanni Halden

Windfall – Tempe O’kun

Synopsis: What do you do when the world gets bigger?

Minor celebrities Max and Kylie have always fit together perfectly, both on the screen and behind the cameras. But it’s not until their show is cancelled and they go their separate ways that they begin to wonder if they might have been more than just friends.

Now, Kylie struggles to adjust to life in Windfall, the little New England town whose weird local legends inspired the show. When Max comes to visit for the summer, she strives to let him know how she feels about him—without exposing him to the chilling secrets she’s begun to uncover in her new home.

Written by Tempe O’Kun, Illustrated by Slate

If you’re a lover of paranormal mystery stories AND steamy romantic ones, then Windfall is the book for you. Tempe O’kun (also known as Tempo), author of Sixes Wild, which I have reviewed earlier, takes it into a new setting with Windfall. A setting which I greatly enjoyed.

I’m a sucker for occult stories and treasure hunts, and these are beautifully combined in this novel. When Max and Kylie decide to uncover the reason behind the otter’s dark family history, the mystery only gets more complicated. At the same time, the emotions the two main characters deal with build up to reach a beautiful crescendo. Luckily, the two peaks don’t hit at the same time or right after another, giving the reader a break between peaks.

O’kun greatly weaves passion and mystery together in this novel, and his writing has definitely evolved over the years. The characters feel real and this makes them believable. Max and Kylie are just so incredibly cute and sexy at the same time, that it’s incredibly difficult not to love them.

Some authors choose not to spend much time on their side characters, but Tempo created some really awesome ones, which made it quite enjoyable whenever they showed up in the story. My favourite was definitely Karl, the adorable over-obsessed Strangeville fan. The rhino is just simply too adorable. He has a personality that is definitely not stereotypical for a guy of his species, which makes it even better.

The romantic scenes were so beautifully and believably written, that it certainly stirred a…fire…inside of me, which made reading those scenes a little awkward when sitting in the train or bus. The very cute, yet sexy illustrations by Slate definitely helped as well. I hated having to cover them up whenever someone decided to sit down next to me.

Tempo is quickly becoming one of my favourite authors within the furry fandom, and I can’t wait to see what he’ll come up with next. There’s no guessing what’ll come next, as Tempo is wonderfully unpredictable.

All in all, Windfall has a great story, awesome characters, a nice setting, and a good plot

– Faolan

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Windfall – Tempe O’kun