Review: The Temple by Heather Marie Adkins

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Heather Marie Adkins is a born story teller.  There’s no debating that with regards to this book.  A good balance of description, consistent action and likable characters all carry the story along agreeably.  That is, for most of the book.  What disappointments me most about reading a story is when it starts off so strongly and I’m loving every bit of it — but then something goes awry.  It gets weird.  For me, that’s what happened with The Temple.

First, I want to point out the strong points about this book.  The rising conflict is perfectly set up.  Vale Avari is a small town U.S.A. turned small town U.K. female protagonist who recently moved overseas for an unusual job — to help guard a temple dedicated to the goddess Cerridwen (worshipped by Wiccans today).  Vale has superhuman powers along with the other temple protectors, one of which she becomes romantically involved with.  The temple is protected at night from the ghost-filled gang of men and wild horses (picture the Headless Horseman).  The legend has haunted the town for centuries, and the residents blame it for the lost lives of several of its inhabitants.  While residents believe in this myth, our protagonist thinks a serial killer is in fact committing the murders and using this ‘Wild Hunt’ as a coverup.

I liked this premise.  I was into it.  Though it isn’t evident from the synopsis, the book was starting to feel like its own fun genre — a paranormal romance crime thriller.  But as the story moved on, I don’t think this premise was executed that well.  About 60% way through the book, to be specific.  At this point the two genres that were coelesced so well earlier on — crime thriller and paranormal romance — become separated.  The two concepts even get their own climaxes and resolutions.

I enjoyed the part I thought was the resolution, when I thought the ‘bad guy’ was caught.  And sometimes this works really well in literature and film — when you think the bad guy is gone, but then you realize they didn’t catch the right person because bad things are still happening.  The Temple did not succeed at the second-ending concept.  Mainly because the second climax/resolution is so bizarre, so suddenly very supernatural with a scene in the temple involving a living breathing goddess coming to life unexpectedly and solving the world’s problems.

Aside from the incongruous plot, my only other critique of this book is the neat, too-tidy of an ending.  I honestly believe the book would’ve been better without the bow-tie last chapter.  Nothing was learned about the characters at this point, and it didn’t move the plot along any further.  I don’t need to know how happy the characters are and how well they’re doing months after the conflict resolution.  The final chapter could have been left out entirely.

Don’t get me wrong — these things don’t ruin the book entirely.  There’s enough suspense with the consistent killings, the sketchy Temple employees, and the question of whether the ‘Wild Hunt’ is a hoax or not to keep you turning the pages.  My issues were with a) the last chapter and b) how the paranormal aspects of the story were not always weaved together well with the normal.  I like it to be apparent what genre book I’m reading.  I don’t think this book knows what genre it is.  If I had to categorize it, I’d have to say “crime thriller turned weird fantasy.”  If that sounds appealing to you, you may truly enjoy this book.  The seamless writing and suspense will certainly keep you entertained until the end.

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Review: Prophecy of the Flame by Lynn Hardy

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The difficulty with deciding to purchase a self-published book is that you’re taking a gamble both with your money and your time (if the book was free.)  Life is short–you don’t want to spend hours reading a poorly written, dull story.  And if you, like me, have strict yet at times irritating reading principles ingrained in you then you also will hate not finishing a book.  Thankfully, my reading principles weren’t compromised with Prophecy of the Flame.

First and foremost the cover of this book caught my attention.  It’s not overly detailed, a trait I come across perusing Amazon books which shamefully will cause me to dismiss a potentially good read.  The image of a solitary, red-headed female clad in a blue-silver cloak had an air about her that screamed bad-ass warrior.  I normally am more partial to male protagonists when it comes to fantasy and sci-fi.  But from the first chapter I knew Archmage Reba, the lead in this work, was a heroine of a different flavor.
I don’t believe in giving away plot details in a book review.  All you need to know is that the plot premise is simple yet imaginative.  Five characters including Reba (Rebecca while still on earth) are initially still on earth in a hotel at a Live Action Role Playing convention.  In a flash of light, they are summoned to a parallel universe–a kingdom called Cuthburan that is in grave need of the services from these newly transformed warriors.
While Reba is the only woman among the company, she isn’t 100% warrior like her male peers.  She has a definite feminine side the author brings out, describing Reba’s inner conflict of remaining faithful to her husband who is back on earth while being immersed in a new culture where nobody gives a second thought to infidelity or promiscuity.  I believe women who enjoy fantasy/paranormal romance novels would identify with this character and her struggles that are similar to that of many women in today’s world.  Reba struggles to remain in check while being constantly pursued by a crown prince she finds physically irresistible if not personably.  All the while the crown prince’s brother provides a relief to the reader as a more likable character and match for Reba, even if she isn’t taking the bait.  At the end of Book 1 we still don’t know how this game of cat and mouse ends up, but luckily the next two books are already available on Amazon.

While I am not a religious person and usually shy away from novels with any mention of religion, the Christian undertones in this book were subtle and did not mess with the plot.  There is enough romance in this book that is enjoyable without the graphic sex scenes that can be irritating and feel out of place and sometimes take over the plot entirely.  To conclude, this book was a quick read and I found myself wanting to find out what happens next which is the ideal reading experience, I think most readers can agree.  I highly recommend this novel for fantasy readers, especially females who love a good, strong ass-kicking heroine like Archmage Reba.