Indie Book Spotlight: Twelve Days of Faery (Gingell)

Another Indie Book Spotlight is upon us!

Twelve Days of Faery Book Review Graphic

Who knew a king being overwhelmed with paperwork would be so endearing?

On the surface, Twelve Days of Faery is the story of a beleaguered king caught up in the dangerous realm of Faery when a peculiar enchantress arrives, claiming she can break the curse on King Markon’s son. Thanks to this said and so-called curse, a woman cannot even wink at the young prince without something terrible befalling her. And the one whose hair vanished got off easy; the outcomes are only getting worse.

This means Markon has two problems: Althea’s contract says she’ll eventually be made queen if she can stop the attacks, and Markon is steadily falling in love with her even as she grows closer to his son.

Twelve Days of Faery can be violent (but not excessively, in my opinion), and there’s no shortage of wicked, scheming characters. But thanks to off-beat enchantress Althea and procrastinating-on-royal-paperwork Markon, it’s a complete delight. A quirky one, too!

Quotable Quirk

“There’s a world of meaning in the almost-saids of the worlds.” – W.R. Gingell, Twelve Days of Faery

The wonderful characters are what makes the book, and the procedural-style structure also kept me binge-reading. Each day in the story is a day in Althea’s investigation. It doesn’t hurt that Markon is actually likeable, either. It’s hard not to root for him, and he’s just plain refreshing after the scheming royals in, well, almost everything.

As for Althea, she’s a bit like the character Luck in another book by Gingell, Spindle [find my review here], but is more self-possessed, less dotty and more aloof. While Luck (who has the same magical talents as Althea) practically makes a catchphrase out of the word “huh,” Althea’s catchphrase should be “I found something.” She’s Sherlock to Markon’s overwhelmed Watson.

Althea is also a faery-changeling who grew up and was able to escape the faery world. That is one interesting backstory.

The romance in Twelve Days of Faery is approached from a refreshingly mature angle, too. Markon is older, dignified and sensible. He approaches his growing feelings for Althea just how a person with those traits would, even though he’s sure things aren’t about to go his way.

Though the world of Faery settings (Seelie and Unseelie) were creative, the descriptions were a bit loosely sketched at times. Still, it was fun, zany and scary all at once as Markon marched into unfamiliar territory, following the magical clues toward the culprit.

This short book is well-thought out, creative and 100% enjoyable. I plan to pick up the sequel as soon as my lengthy TBR list allows, because it’s the perfect pick-me-up (wordplay alert! Don’t worry, the humor in Twelve Days of Faery is a lot more sophisticated than that—and not a small amount quirky). Funny, refreshing and great characters (plus a sizeable dash of mystery) will always equal five stars for me. If you like those things, faery, and portals into another world, you’ll love this book, too.

To learn more about titles from this author, visit W.R. Gingell’s website.

Indie Book Spotlight: Sting Magic (Wilson)

It’s time for another Indie Book Spotlight!

Note: I received a free advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Sting Magic, the first book in the new Empire of War and Wings series by prolific author Sarah K.L. Wilson, is a typo-dotted triumph. There are three reasons for that: world-building, a unique magic system, and the fact that it is never boring.

Main character Aella lives in a wild colony, the Far Stones, where residents have freedom and hardships alike. They’re poor and backwards by Imperial standards, but most of their time is spent farming in a land that likes to turn upside down and murder them—the Forbidding, a strange, viney magic that corrupts trees and bears and whatever else it can find. Aella’s family is her everything.

And then the heir to the Empire shows up.

That’s when Aella finds out that she has the same winged, creative twist on familiars-style magic as the Empire’s most celebrated warriors. It’s a dream and a nightmare for her. Except, instead of having birds like literally everyone, Aella hatches golden, magical bees. Heresy!

Aella is forced to leave her family to become property of the ruthless Le Majest, Juste Montpetit. In the course of a few hours she loses everything, with only the warm glow of her cute and happy bee familiars to comfort her. Aella has a litany of horrors to face as she travels through a perilous land alongside violent Imperials, and more than few mysteries to solve as she tries to save her family and weighs joining the rebels.

Familiar magic: Readers will love to hate Sting Magic‘s ruthless villain and adore Aella’s bees.

Sting Magic is a shorter novel that moves at a brisk pace. The cozy but disgruntled domestic scenes at the beginning are the closest it ever gets to slow, plus the “let me barge in and spend a long time asserting my authority even though I clearly have other houses to get to” encounter with the cruel prince that immediately follows it. The latter scene could have been more concise and still left the reader wanting to punch Juste Montpetit if given the chance. He’s pure villain, but it works.

An early exchange with Ospey also feels a touch long, and there’s a bit of bouncing around the timeline here and there that can be confusing. But the high stakes for the main character, combined with the mysteries of her magical and dangerous homeland, keep things moving.

That being said, Sting Magic wasn’t fully my cup of tea. One of its biggest weaknesses is its main character, not a weak female MC at all but a broadly sketched one. Aella is more reactive than anything, and replies angrily to her captors when I would’ve expected a brooding, calculating silence, given her goals. She’s a contradiction that way, flying off the handle despite repeatedly being told she could endanger her family, the absolute last thing she wants. She doesn’t read like a person with a hot temper, either.

I was relieved when Aella finally did something proactive toward her goal, and it filled in some of her missing personality. Still, I left the book with only a weak sense of who she is. (I hope Aella will be fleshed out more in the rest of the series.)

One of the reasons Aella’s weak personality stands out so much is because the other characters are so well-rendered: the irredeemably villainous prince, Juste Montpetit; the snooty society gal who just might be a friend, Zayana; the mentor with the huge personality, Ivo; and Osprey, the toothpick-gnawing would-be ally she can’t fully trust. They are never described extensively (Osprey gets a little extra detail so you’ll know he’s handsome), but the things these characters say and do gave me a clear picture of them and their personalities.

The magic system and world-building of Sting Magic are, of course, superb. I wished the writing was a bit more polished (those typos and repetitive phrases!), but the interesting world Wilson created kept me turning pages.

This is a quick read I recommend picking up, in which you can despise the villain, root for the heroine to accomplish her goals (“Be relentless.”), and lose yourself if an intriguing and dangerous world of fabulous magic.

New comics and reviews on the way!


I just served up a brand new episode of Princess Disasterface, titled Bunny Slippers and Truth. (Not to be confused with the bunny slippers OF truth. Sounds like my kind of superhero accouterments.) I’ve been a bit stuck on what will happen next lately…and the answer turned out to be a plot twist! Episode 2.6 also turned out longer than most (funny how that works). I hope you all enjoy it.

Growin' Pup #5, made with Comic Draw

In other news, I’m learning to use a new comic-specific app, Comic Draw (not affiliated). It’s not as intuitive as Tayasui Sketches (still not affiliated)…except when it comes to coloring in my drawings. So I’m using Comic Draw to make a special in-color edition of Princess Disasterface, but it is taking time. I currently have no timetable for release, and my current thinking is to make it available to mailing list subscribers. It’s a lot more work this way, and there will be some exclusives in the special edition (like actually seeing the king! And not just his bunny slippers) to sweeten the deal.

You can see the polished look Comic Draw offers in my latest edition of Growin’ Pup (pictured), and in a forthcoming Social Isolation. (That’s right…I’m still working on that one, in life and in comics.)

In book review news, I just got an advanced copy of Sarah K. L. Wilson’s Sting Magic. It’s available for just a few more days for those on her mailing list. If I like it, it’ll be this month’s Indie Book Spotlight. I have her Bridge of Legends compilation on my Kindle, just waiting to be read, but for now that will wait.

And now for some book recommendations!

I’ve been fortunate to read three exceptionally well-written books in a row. The first was Anna Velfman’s Snowblind, then The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson. And right after that, a book I’ve had my eye on since it was in hardcover came up on my library waiting list: Gods of Jade and Shadow, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. I loved all three, but the last two made me wish there was a bit more to the post-climax wrap up. I won’t hesitate to pick up subsequent books by any of these three authors, though (Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic is already on my Holds list).

Stay tuned for many more reviews! And in the meantime, please stay well and take excellent care of yourselves.


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Indie Book Spotlight: Snowblind (Velfman)

At long last! A fantasy about a character with chronic illness, whose affliction isn’t treated like something to be overcome and isn’t there to inspire anyone.

Lanna is a Southerner, born in a cold, harsh land full of rules. She also suffers from seizures. In a place where survival is anything but a guarantee, she’ll never be considered a full adult. It’s one of many reasons we first meet Lanna and her equally tough-as-nails family on the road to the more plentiful Empire.

Look at an Amazon preview (I’m not affiliated), and you’ll instantly know that Snowblind is exquisitely written. The details and descriptions are never rushed but don’t hinder the story flow, either. Those careful descriptions create an immersive world I felt I could walk around in.

In fact, Velfman does twice the world-building by creating two very different settings. The outer village Lanna first resides in, falls in love in (also perfectly rendered; she makes him work for it), and the Imperial capital (the hall that houses the concubines is its own world, with its own flower language) are like characters themselves. And all the characters in Snowblind are well-developed.

Lanna is a sort of goldilocks female MC. She has a heart, and it is available to her suitor, if he can earn it. But she also can give an ox a run for its money with her work ethic and strength. She is practical, savvy, and never silly, even in the thrall of a romantic storyline with Pride and Prejudice qualities (though, thanks to Lanna’s culture, it’s not as restrictive or chaste).

Unfortunately, Snowblind did need more copy-editing. There are more typos than in W.R. Gingell’s Spindle (also loved and reviewed here), but it does surpass those issues and continue to be an amazing, well-written story. There is also a chapter or two that made me squeamish, in which a slave sings the praises of the Empire’s supposedly benevolent form of slavery to Lanna, who is horrified. I would have preferred it be called something else, since it isn’t slavery at all. She is told slaves can leave whenever they like.

All that is a part of a this is the Empire and what you learned in the South is totally backwards theme, but it was too close to real-life revisionist history for me. It’s thankfully brief. Lanna also curses a gay character who drugs her by calling him a pervert and corrupter of men, though before and (eventually) after this they are friends. These are very small episodes in the book, but as I am recommending Snowblind I wanted to share this for full disclosure.

Another remarkable thing about this book is how well the tension and intrigue was layered (the complex characters play no small part in this). Lanna is ripped from everything and everyone she knows and loves, and has no choice in the matter. We always know what’s in her heart. The people who surround her are sometimes kind, sometimes not, and there are always hints at a deeper agenda.

A lovely, Pride and Prejudice-esque romance, Machiavellian characters, great world-building, court intrigue and a fine representation of the chronically ill: a lot of good things are packed into this debut fantasy.

An antagonist in the capital is the only character with overt goals, and she tries to thwart, disgrace and generally ruin Lanna without qualm. But the others aren’t so easily pinned. In Snowblind, the real “villains” are more ambiguous, and a heck of a lot better at concealing it. These are no mustache-twirling bad guys tying maidens to a railroad track. They might manipulate the maiden, though, or toss her aside if she gets in the way of their true aim. They’re a lot more Machiavelli than, say, Voldemort.

Amidst all this is the repeated interruption of Lanna’s seizures, the thing that has always kept her from the life she wants. The powerlessness of chronic illness is captured so well and so sensitively that I could’ve cried. “All her life there had been a wall,” the book says of Lanna. “Her sickness had been a barrier to so much. Angry at her own mind for being defective she clutched her head, and something in her snapped…Then the tears came: hot, regretful and bitter.”

As people who (possibly) mean well make her illness worse, as it changes and complicates her life and keeps her from her simplest, most essential needs (love, family, productivity and the ability to choose where she will go), this book spoke to me. This is the kind of representation I’ve been waiting for. I hoped it would be what it looked like in Snowblind’s description, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Flaws and all, this is a wonderfully written book, and I very much look forward to snatching up the rest of Lanna’s story.

Want to know when the next review will be out?