Saturday, January 14, 2012

Two independent book reviews

This installment of Written Words has reviews of two very different types of books.
First is Secrets by SL Pierce: a taut, fast-paced thriller. Pierce is a professional writer. Her skill and knowledge of putting together a good read is evident in all her books. She doesn't waste words and knows how to make a reader turn a page.

The second, just to be completely different, is a middle-grade Arthurian fantasy that gently satirizes the genre while delivering an esteem boost for young readers. Dragonfriend: Leonard the Great, Book 1 is by another professional writer, Roger Eschbacher, who has a long list of writing credits and has begun publishing his fantasy novels independently. His knowledge of the field is evident in the quality of the book's production and marketing, but is really proved in his prose.

Secrets: a fast-paced, fun thriller

Secrets is a good, action-packed pot-boiler/thriller/mystery. With it, SL Pierce joins the growing ranks of independent authors who have met and exceeding the quality and professionalism of the protégés of the legacy publishing industry. Authors like Pierce, Rogers Eschbacher, James Wallace Birch, Richard Sanders, Paul Dorset, Elise Stokes, Mike Wells, Russell Blake, Alan McDermott and RS Guthrie, among many, many others, are proving that the commercial publishers, big or small, can no longer look down their noses as independent writers and scoff at their lack of quality, attention to detail or ability to craft taut stories that keep audiences reading.
Secrets has a solid plot with no holes. There is one big coincidence, which is the maximum that any novel can sustain. And the fact that the coincidence is what launches the story, it makes perfect sense.

The style is lean, active and compelling. The characters are mostly believable, and with the exception of the main character, I can identify with most of them, at least a little.
A brief synopsis: Gwen Michaels is a former US government assassin who leaves the death business for a quiet life with her husband, a lovable nebbish without a clue (aren’t we all?). The story begins with an attempt on her life that is not related to her former trade. Gwen then uses all her talents and training to solve the mystery: who’s after her, and why?

The book starts with action, and keeps up the pace to the end. It’s a fun read. The only problem is that this the lead character is too strong for my liking. She’s not infallible, but she’s hard to identify with. And she’s quite cold in some respects—I won’t write more about that aspect so as not to spoil the ending.

The ending is satisfying, in a chilling way. There are no loose ends, but there is an open door for a sequel, and from Pierce’s website, it appears there is at least one, with more to come.
If you’re looking for an action-packed read, Pierce delivers. You can get it from any retailer through Pierce's blog.

Leonard the Great, Book One: Dragonfriend, has everything a middle-grade Arthurian fantasy needs: magic, romance, action, sword-fighting, a princess, monsters, lots of dragons and, the most important item of all, a regular kid who makes good.

Leonard is a simple page, serving the worst knight in the kingdom, Sir Ronald the Mediocre. When Leonard finds a depressed dragon, he devises a brilliant plan that will make his master famous for his bravery and skill in battle. Like all brilliant plans hatched by teenage boys, it goes spectacularly awry. From that point, the pace never lets up as Leonard finds he not only has to rescue the hapless Sir Ronald, he must pass through a dangerous enchanted forest to the home of the dragons to execute another brilliant plan that will save Camelot. Or destroy it.

Dragonfriend plays with all the conventions of the Arthurian fantasy, and Eschbacher does it skillfully and with a lot of humour. I found myself smiling and laughing, when I wasn’t on the edge of my seat. The characters were vividly drawn and rang absolutely true. We’ve all met these people in our own lives.

It’s a quick, easy and enjoyable ride, and I’m looking forward to the next installment in the Leonard the Great saga. You can buy it in whatever format you like, from whatever retailer you like, through Eschbacher's website. 5*


  1. Great reviews, Scott! Looking forward to more from you!

  2. Both books sound great. I'm a sucker for a fast paced thriller and a good fantasy. I'm glad I stopped by today. :)

  3. You're the kind of reviewer I would like to have take a whack at my novel

  4. Great reviews, Scott. I've been curious about S.L. (such a nice tweeter) and Roger is a new discovery. I'll add both novels to my to-reads. Thank you for including me on the list. I'm honored.

    1. I'm honoured that you commented on the blog, Elise! Hope to see you more!

  5. Thanks, Scott! I'm very pleased you enjoyed Dragonfriend. Thanks, also, for sharing the review on your excellent blog.

  6. Nice to find another reviewer focussing on independent authors

  7. Nice work, Scott. Having read Dragonfriend myself, I agree with you completely. Excellent summation.

    Secrets is definitely going on my TBR list.

  8. Scott, your reviews are always so to the point! Dragonfriend is on my reading list now. As an indie author myself, it is refreshing to find reviews like this.