Sunday, February 28, 2016

Book Review: In the Wake of War, The Ballard Chronicles Book 1

The Ballard Chronicles

The Ballard Chronicles is the sequel of The Aielund Saga books written by author and artist Stephen Nowland. 

Rather than painting his cover on canvas, the author worked with advanced graphics to paint his cover.  Love the eyes in the dagger.

Book 1, In the Wake of War

 
 
 

Description:
The town of Bracksford was caught in the middle of many conflicts during a recent war, yet the tightly-knit community always found a way to pull together and survive against great adversity. Now that peace has finally settled over the land, they struggle to rebuild while haunted by the memories of violence seen and family lost.Aislin Ballard, the innkeeper's daughter goes about her daily life helping the rebuilding effort any way she can, while struggling with deeper issues of loss and a foreboding sense that the king behind the conflict is still out there, seeking vengeance against the realm for losing both the conflict and his throne. When the spectre of war threatens to engulf the region once again, Aislin and a small group of companions find themselves the only ones able to avert disaster, if they can gather their courage and risk all not to fight a war, but to stop one before it begins.

Review

This book follows the events of the Aielund Saga.  However, it is not necessary to reed those in order to properly enjoy this one.  It calls to the actions and deeds of the Saga as backstory and fills in only what you need to know to understand events in this one.  This is safe for young adults, with mild fantasy violence

In the Wake of War is a fast read that draws you in immediately. The scenes blend into each other and it's easy to forget to stop to sleep. (My wife made me.) It has action, adventure and an excellent plot, but the key with this book is the characters.  They each have distinct personalities that make you like or hate them.  Or in Madelyn's case, flip both ways depending on her behavior. My favorite character is Jaz.  I've always had a soft spot for the tinkerer/artificer characters.

The story begins with Aislin. As with all of the author's characters, you instantly become invested in her fate. She's a 12yr, almost 13yr old girl who's seen far too much war and is pushed into a traumatizing situation again. This time, she's determined to fight for her freedom and the freedom of those she cares about. It's unusual to see a girl as the main character in fantasy and it's a refreshing change. In addition, the party that travels with her is made up of men and women. The author allows the women to be strong, but not lose their femininity, which is an issue with many writers.  The women occasionally need saving, but no more than the men.  If anything, the men need more saving than the women.

The group of characters play well off each other, with conflicts interspersed by witty banter.  Events send them off to try to save the day, or many days as the case may be.  The story draws you into the scenes with spooky caves and awesome vistas.  The danger keeps the reader on the edge of the seat and always worried about the fate of the party.

Stephen Nowland's technique has improved over the course of each story and this one is highly refined.  With most Indie Authors, you have to watch for spelling and grammar issues.  Not so with these books.  They are a professional quality and well edited.  There are no wasted words or scenes.  Everything advances the story in a way that you stop hearing the author's voice.

All in all, this was an excellent adventure to read and I can't wait for the next one to come out.

About the Author

I was one of those kids who daydreamed his way through school. All the little adventures I'd concoct in my mind were far more interesting than math or tests or sport. Somehow, I passed the important bits (art and english) and moved on, but always with a creative perspective to my life.

It was around 1992 when the magic of reading really sunk into me, for it was then I discovered fantasy novels. Feist, Salvatore & Eddings showed me worlds that fired my imagination, and from that point on I knew I wanted to write the stories that flitted around the recesses of my imagination.

Unfortunately, I spent most of the next fifteen years dealing with poor health, including resultant chronic fatigue syndrome which interfered with my life immeasurably, but gave me ample time for thought. An abortive attempt to create a story happened around 1996, but I look back on such things as stepping stones on the road to where I wanted to be.

My first complete novel was actually done back in '03, but it was a derivative work based on elements from other stories, something I didn't realise until after I'd written it. The mind can do funny things if you don't keep it on a tight leash! Still, there were some unique points to the story I kept, so I scrapped the rest and began a completely new for Neverwinter Nights, that RPG video game thing you may or may not have heard of.

The story was so successful (filled with rich, creamy character development) that I lamented that only people playing the game would ever see it. In 2009, with my health improving, I resolved to novelize the stories I'd written, in addition to developing the world in which they exist as the basis for a new fantasy series.

I consider those stories to be merely the first iteration of the saga, for my novels have evolved far beyond the original scope, in terms of detail, plot and character building. Looking back on it now, I can see my style has evolved a very long way from those humble beginnings indeed.

Oh, I also paint. You can expect to see more cover art with each title, becoming more technically sophisticated each time.

Reviews coming soon.

I've read Soul Bonds, Book 1 of The Circle of Light series by E.M. Sinclair.  I just need to write the review for it.

Soul Bonds

The next books I want to read are by Michael Mathias, starting with the Wardstone Trilogy

Disclaimer

I have decided to review books that I enjoy. I am an avid reader of fantasy, so most of them will be in that genre. I'm not taking any requests, just reading what catches my eyes. You'll find that most of these are from Indie Authors. The way I figure it, David Eddings, Anne McCaffrey, Alan Dean Foster and Piers Anthony (my favorite authors) already have enough reviews, but Indies could always use a few more.

It is important to note here that while I am a writer, I am doing these reviews as a reader. I also know a number of the authors I will be reviewing. (I am friends with Mr. Nowland, and he even mentioned me in his acknowledgements) This is not an exchange of reviews, nor have I been solicited by those authors to write the review.  If I don't like a book, I won't review it.

All my best,

John H. Carroll

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