Phoenix by Daccari Buchelli – 4/5 Stars

Phoenix by Daccari Buchelli

‘True, privacy was rare in her world, her duties closing in on her youth and what little freedom she had left.’

‘It always felt as though the light would burn her. Some days she wished it would or that her powers would simply envelop her in flame. She revelled in the idea of being allowed to simply melt away, therefore escaping this miserable life.’

Princess Violetta of the Flame Realm has come of age, and men of status have begun to notice her. There’s Xyhoni, the family friend, and there’s the charming Prince Ryore of the Winter Realm, son of Emperor Jugan. When tragedy strikes and Violetta’s brother and mother are killed, she remains close to her father King Eagan, and is suspicious of the Winter Realm. What makes matters more difficult is that even though she can’t quite forget about Xyhoni, she is growing more attracted to Prince Ryore. And Prince Ryore believes he has found his one true love at last…

Author Daccari Buchelli writes with a mastery of language embellishment that is befitting of the authentic fantasy setting and experience. Sentences are elegant, unobtrusive, and constructed with a fine touch. The author has a grasp for the characters’ feelings that make them passionate and interesting. These feelings give rise to wants and motives, and combine with mystical objects to create a fantasy goal. I became immersed in learning about the thoughts of Ryore and Violetta. Chapter after chapter they became more interesting and realistic, and the fantasy world blossomed about them with colour, duty, and romance.

Criticism: honestly, the first three chapters didn’t pull me into the story. The reason was that I was disoriented and this feeling repeated often; the sense of location and stability in the rapidly changing setting made it difficult to get my bearings. The way the setting was introduced was not even or at the right pace. Even my own writing has been criticised for this reason. A few more sentences to bring forward the atmosphere of the setting when it changed, or a few more scene breaks might have helped to indicate the change of setting.

One of the main characters behaved out of character in Chapter Sixteen, in a way that suspended my belief, which marked a different direction for the narrative. Some paragraphs were double the length I would personally have preferred. A few misspelled words: ‘baited’ and ‘bated’, ‘facet’ and ‘faucet’, and one I wasn’t sure about – ‘intendent’ and ‘attendant’.

Overall, I read the entirety of Phoenix with wild anticipation. The writing was written elegantly and the setting felt like a fantasy world I had actually stepped into. While I was reading about the engrossing characters I didn’t care where the plot was going. I’m not a reader of romance, but the exaggerated displays of affection between two of the main characters impressed me. It was quite easy and enjoyable to digest multiple chapters of Phoenix at a time. I’d strongly recommend Phoenix to all fantasy readers, especially those who like high fantasy, classical fantasy, adventure, and romance.

Author Daccari Buchelli’s website

Catalyst Moon: Incursion by Lauren L Garcia – 1/5 Stars

catalyst-moon-incursion-by-lauren-l-garciaIn a world where supposedly dangerous mages are held prisoner in bastions by trained sentinels, Kali a crippled mage has to be escorted to a healer in Whitewater City. Unfortunately, on the way the sentinels guarding the mage carriage Kali was being transported in are viciously attacked by a wild group of Canderi who fight like no Canderi they have ever seen, and no Canderi the reader has ever seen either…

I’ll start with the positive. Despite my criticism below, the dynamics between Kali and Stonewall, sentinel who is left alive after the attack, are introduced well in chapter three, sketching Kali as curious and contrasting it with Stonewall’s resolve and sense of duty. These characteristics were certainly not original, but were interesting to read. There were several clean well-written passages that proved the author could write well when she wanted (Page 73 and 74 come to mind). The progression of some story arcs and how the character’s relationships changed, as with Milo and Flint, meant Catalyst Moon wasn’t completely nonsensical.

Let’s tackle the first chapter. It didn’t pull me into the story at all. How the reader was introduced to who was who was an issue: ‘Male Sentinel’ is ‘Stonewall’, and ‘Kali’ is ‘Mage Halcyon’ from another character’s perspective. It might make sense after you’ve read the first chapter. ‘Mage Halcyon’ sounded like a reverential name, and throughout the remainder it’s clear sentinels do not revere mages whatsoever – they fear them and look down upon them like dirt. The main scene of monstrous bandits attacking the mage carriage that should have really grabbed my attention and shown what the author could really deliver utterly fell on its arse. In other words, it did not deliver with the import it needed to be, and set a rather disappointing tone for the remainder, which did fail to pick up in meaning and pace. I mean, how did the characters feel when they were being attacked by the bandits? How were they going to get out of the struggle? If it wasn’t an important part of the plot, and it is according to the book description, then why include it in the first chapter?

  • Problem two is the sheer number of character or place names, which only confused the writing and made it nonsensical.
  • Chapter one – chapter five characters: Gray, Kali, Stonewall, Ganister, Pinion, Milo, Beacon, Flint, Rook, Gideon Echina, Sadira, Hornfel, Cobalt, Eris Echina.
  • Place names: Whitewater City, Starwatch, Ea’s realm, Aredia, Silverwood Province.
  • There was apparently a magic power that could send two people and a horse leagues and leagues across the countryside, three days’ journey (really?).
  • Cliches: ‘A chill crept across his skin, one that had little to do with the cold and damp’, and ‘the one has entrusted you with great power, so you must always use it wisely’.
  • Inconsistent vertical spacing between the text was painfully apparent in the interior of the paperback.
  • The spine was the wrong way round so the title and author name was upside down, though this could have been a printing error.
  • Difficult to find and remember the dialogue as it was embedded in the narrative text, as to make it invisible. To make matters worse, sometimes the answer to a question would be several paragraphs down, which stole away the dialogue’s impact.
  • Subplots crowded themselves in between scenes, and insignificant characters cropped up and distracted from the tale.
  • Inconsequential character would spend a chapter discussing scenes that had already occurred or that more important characters had experienced. Which do you think is more important?

Half way through reading it, I was struggling to relate to the circumstances the characters found themselves in. Events repeated those that had already occurred: Kali healing somebody or a Canderi attack on characters I couldn’t empathise with. There were rumours repeated about the Canderi, all the time, which didn’t show me anything new. Kali kept asking Stonewall to take off her cuffs on their journey, but why would she have expected him to agree and free her when she was a prisoner mage?

Conclusion? Meshed between irrelevant writing and subplots, there is a story of a romance between a sentinel and a mage in Catalyst Moon: Incursion and examples of writing that can engage. Unfortunately, it’s not in a structure and format that makes it pleasurable for readers, at this time of writing. It was impenetrable for the discerning reader, and I believe all writing should be there for a reason. I know the author has had both many positive and negative reviews, and I don’t mean to be patronising in the following comments but I feel I should offer my advice anyway for the sake of my own reading experience. Lauren L Garcia needs to either further develop Stonewall and Kali’s plotline or create one or two dynamic characters that can hold the reader’s interest and whose experiences better complement Stonewall and Kali’s plotline. The author shouldn’t be too hard on herself. Her writing isn’t the problem, it’s her story! I understand this may be her first published book, so you can expect some weaknesses, but I hope this critical review can help her identify and improve on them. Catalyst Moon: Incursion was the worst reading experience I’ve had in living memory, in terms of the structure, plot, and delivery.

Lauren L Garcia’s website