Book Review: Penny White and the Temptations of Dragons

temptation-of-dragonsNote: We were given a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review, which reads as follows.

Details:

Title: Penny White and the Temptations of Dragons

Author: Chrys Cymri

Publisher: CreateSpace

Release Date: March 31st, 2016

Genre: Fantasy, Christian

Pages: 230

Synopsis:

Bishop Nigel smiled at me. ‘Holy water doesn’t harm vampires. Which is just as well, as it would make it impossible to baptise them.’

When I was asked by a dragon to give him the last rites, I never dreamed it would lead to negotiating with his cannibalistic family or running from snail sharks. Life as the priest of a small English village is quite tame in comparison. At least I have Morey, a gryphon with sarcasm management issues, to help me. And if all else fails, there’s always red wine and single malt whisky.

As if my life weren’t complicated enough, a darkly beautiful dragon named Raven keeps appearing where I least expect him, I’ve met a handsome police inspector who loves science fiction as much as I do, and my younger brother is getting into trouble for trying to pick up vampires.

That’s what happens when you’re dealing with an incredible and dangerous parallel world full of mythical creatures. And I have to learn to navigate it all without losing myself, or my brother…

 

My First Thoughts:

My last journey into Christian fiction was such a disappointment, so I wasn’t expecting much from this book. The author, Chrys Cymri, is a priest in England with a very Welsh name (from my limited experience), so I was intrigued about how mythology and Christianity were going to combine. The synopsis was… confusing, but all the reviews for it were good. I figured I would at least get a laugh from it, even if I didn’t enjoy it.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

In my review for Soft on the Devil, I stated that there are two ways Christian fiction can go: either Christianity and religion are used to genuinely add to the characterization and story, or the reader ends up getting beaten in the face with a bible. I’m so excited to say that Father Cymri has done a wonderful job incorporating Christianity into his book in a way that feels genuine! I’ve never actually read a book that managed to do that.

The main character, Penny White, is the vicar (a type of priest for those who may not be informed) for a tiny English village. It makes sense for her to have religion be a strong influence in her life, but unlike so many Christian novels that I have read, it’s not the only influence in her life. Penny is a woman who has interests in books, movies, and television that I’ve seen quite a few “Christian” websites completely denounce as “works of the devil” (Doctor Who, Buffy, Charmed, etc.). She supports gay marriage, women’s rights, drinking in a little excess, and evolution, as do most of her fellows in the cloth. She is also imperfect, which I love. She’s been orphaned and then recently widowed; she has doubts about faith and her relationship with God. Those feelings are real and so important. She seeks guidance from those in place to guide her, who tell her it is okay to feel like that and help her to work through it. I feel like too much Christian fiction either has perfect people who never experience doubt and people who don’t believe that have some sort of experience and begin quoting bible verses in a second.

I also love her associate, Morey. This little griffon who wise cracks, follows the verses of the bible to the letter, is a creationist, and is fiercely loyal is a great counter to our vicar as she discovers the new world she has been selected to join. Morey is another character who grapples with his relationship with God, the Church, and his fellows as the story progresses. For a fantasy character, he feels real and I find myself caring so much about him. He and Penny grow so much over the course of the story. Honestly, all the characters feel so deep and real, and I look forward to learning more about them as the story progresses.

Of course, this book isn’t perfect (honestly, would a perfect book be interesting at all?) and there are some minor complaints I have. While I feel like I know all the characters personally, I have trouble picturing the human ones in my head. Every fantasy character gets an in-depth description, but then all the humans are just there. They are deep and I know a lot about them, I just can’t picture what they look like. There are quite a few instances where characters speak Welsh, which is so cool, but because Welsh is such a ridiculous language I would appreciate some sort of pronunciation guide/translation insert at the end of the book, just so I could go back and not just have my inner monologue sound like a keyboard smash (although, knowing Welsh, it still might!). Also, and I’m sure that this is because it is the first book in a series, there are a lot of things that I feel are unanswered. I guess I’ll just have to read the next book to find out!

Final Thoughts:

Overall, I genuinely enjoyed this book. It was a lot of fun to read and a different take on fantasy and Christian fiction. I felt the characterization and inclusion of Christian elements was natural and in depth, and I found the story captivating.

Rating(s):

4/5

This book was so much fun. I would recommend it to anyone looking for something different. I think it is a wonderful example of what Christian fiction should be, and such a different take on what fantasy normally is. This would be great for a quick read over a long weekend!

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COMING SOON!!!

Book Review: Escape From Witchwood Hollow

Details:escape from witchwood hollow

TitleEscape from Witchwood Hollow

Author: Jordan Elizabeth Mierek

Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press

Release Date: October 24th, 2014

Format: eBook

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Myster

Pages: 270

Synopsis:

Everyone in Arnn – a small farming town with more legends than residents – knows the story of Witchwood Hollow: if you venture into the whispering forest, the witch will trap your soul among the shadowed trees.

After losing her parents in a horrific terrorist attack on the Twin Towers, fifteen-year-old Honoria and her older brother escape New York City to Arnn. In the lure of that perpetual darkness, Honoria finds hope, when she should be afraid.

Perhaps the witch can reunite her with her lost parents. Awakening the witch, however, brings more than salvation from mourning, for Honoria discovers a past of missing children and broken promises.

To save the citizens of Arnn from becoming the witch’s next victims, she must find the truth behind the woman’s madness.

How deep into Witchwood Hollow does Honoria dare venture?

My First Thoughts:

Shortly before Thanksgiving this year I received a request to give this story an honest review for a free eBook copy. This was actually my first request (also my first eBook), which got me super excited to read the book. The synopsis is interesting enough and the cover appears interesting enough to catch the eye.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

Honestly, with this book I’m not quite sure where to begin. I finished this book days ago, yet I waited until the last minute to write the review because I didn’t really know how to write it.

The synopsis is a bit misleading for a few reasons. From the summary, it appears that the story only follows Honoria (which is a very old name that originated from ancient Latin). Instead, the story follows three main characters from three different time periods (1600s, 1800s, and 2000s), two heroines and a misguided female antagonist. I didn’t really mind this; it was just a bit jarring when the story switched from Honoria’s point of view to Lady Clifford and then Albertine without much warning. I’m usually a stickler when it comes to book summaries because they’re there to sell the book, so if the summary doesn’t fit the book, then it makes me feel like I didn’t get the product that I paid for. Honoria didn’t find any lost children, and anything she did discover she did it with the help of her male companion Leon. The citizens aren’t actually in trouble, at least Honoria doesn’t know if they’re in danger, and she doesn’t go on a saving mission, more out of curiosity and solving a mystery. Even solving the mysteries, at least revealing them to the readers, was done mostly by Albertine, who plays a major role in the story yet isn’t mentioned in the summary.

Speaking of the main characters, Honoria, Albertine, and Lady Clifford weren’t terrible. There were times in which Honoria got on my nerves, mostly by her inner thoughts, especially when it came to talking about the ‘country’ people of Arnn. Otherwise, Honoria wasn’t a character that I connected with. As a character, she was fine, but she didn’t appeal enough to me for me to make a connection with her. Instead, I connected more with Albertine and some with Lady Clifford. Albertine, coming from the 1800s, should have been the major main character of the story and mentioned in the synopsis because she does the most in the story. Without her, the story would not have progressed as it did. In fact, the story would have been a lot stronger if it focused around Albertine more; Escape from Witchwood Hollow fits more with Albertine’s side of the story than Honoria’s. As for Lady Clifford, there isn’t much to say other than she was an interesting character and her story, while short, was definitely engaging.

The other characters were alright, they didn’t really have a lot of depth, and some were really stereotypical. Except for Leon, not much else can be said for the minor cast. Leon, while not the most well defined male romantic interest, was actually one of my more favorite of all the characters after Albertine.  He’s the first male character that I have read in a while that loves history, which instantly attracted me to him because I also love history. And for a minor character he also does a lot to progress the story, in fact, I would argue that he did more than Honoria to progress the story.

The last thing that I’ll mention here is the ending, which is what really made me procrastinate writing this review. The ending is not what I was expecting. After the major climax of the story, the last few chapters really hurt the book in my opinion. I was curious as to how the story would end after the climax, but I was not prepared for the ending I read. When I finished the book, I was so shocked that I literally sat in silence and stared at the wall for five minutes, trying to wrap my head around what happened. It’s not a complicated ending, however, if made me think about what was the point of reading the book. In my opinion, the ending not only tarnished the climax but totally destroyed one of the main characters by obliterating their overall potential to grow.

Final Thoughts:

I enjoyed the story well enough, but I’m not sure that I read the same story as everyone else. Most of the reviews for this book gave it fantastic ratings, but I believe it to be average, nothing more. Looking back, the cover does not really represent the story very well. The pink hair is what really ruins the cover. While I understand that the color is to draw the person’s eye, especially since the rest of the cover is extremely dark, they could have had the same effect using blonde or even red hair.

The story before the ending is well enough. Sure it was a little bumpy in the beginning, but by the climax the story smoothed out enough to be really enjoyable. It would have been smoother if the author wrote the complete story of one of the three main female characters. I would have enjoyed it more if the story was centered around Albertine, and it would have made the title make more sense. Instead, it was weakened by the hopping around and some of the smaller chapters that briefly followed some flat minor characters. The romance in the story also felt a bit forced by the author, as if it wasn’t present in the original proposal but added in last minute to keep the reader interested. In fact, the romance was flat and totally unnecessary just like the ending of the story. Not every story needs a romance and there are too many that have a romance that only serves to draw in more readers, even if the romance weakens the story as a whole and the characters involved.

Lord, that ending. I will say this again, it is the weakest point of the story. It was a quick, shortcut way to end the novel, one that I believe the author took because she didn’t know of a better ending. That may be harsh, but that ending was a copout and took away any chance of a character to learn, further diminishing the quality of a main character. If I didn’t care much for Honoria in the main part of the story, I cared less about her after it ended.

Rating(s):

Without the ending: 3/5

With the ending: 2.5/5

Why did I give this book two ratings? Well, I didn’t want the ending to lower the overall rating of the book; however, the ending frustrated me so much that I couldn’t just ignore it. So I was persuaded by my boyfriend to give this book two ratings and I’ll explain them both.

The first rating is for the story up until the ending. The story was about average, nothing spectacular but entertaining enough to keep me interested until the end of the climax. The second rating includes the ending, which I’m sure I have ranted enough about by now for you to get the picture. It was like ending a baseball game with a hit that appeared to be a homerun; unit an outfielder makes an insane leap to catch the ball before it hits the ground.

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COMING SOON!