#IndieApril Reads: The Fantastics

Welcome back to my #IndieApril blog series! For those of you who haven’t yet had a chance to read the first post, I’m using this month to support my fellow indie authors and mention a few of their books every week. Last time I addressed some novels with heavy romance themes and talked about how even though I’m not necessarily a romance fan, these books have been helping to change my mind. This time, I’m going out of this world with some fantasy and sci-fi entries. Let’s dive right in!

Dawn Christine Jonckowski: The Weight of Stars and Suns

This is the indie book I finished most recently, but it’s been one that I’ve been waiting for a while as I’ve seen it grow and develop on Twitter, and it didn’t disappoint. Part Star Trek, part Titanic, part John Carter, and part InterstellarThe Weight of Stars and Suns is an otherworldly adventure with a fascinating world and another large helping of romance: this time of the interspecies variety. The story takes place on the planet Tav, a world with some 30-odd suns surrounding it and a native population of purple-skinned humanoids. A hundred years before, an exploratory ship from Earth crashed on the planet and to survive, the humans agreed to become servants to the Tavarians. In the book’s present, humans are slaves and second-class citizens on Tav, but crisis is brewing with both rebel revolts and the inexplicable dimming of Tav’s many suns, threatening all life on the planet. What’s more, Princess Dameia, heir to the throne of Tav, has fallen in love with Hyam, leader of the rebels. Their doomed romance forms the backbone of the story, which also deals with palace intrigue, social justice, and a new mission from Earth to find out what happened to the people left behind on Tav.

While I of course love any story that takes place on an alien world and features space travel and space opera-like tropes, this book was especially fun to read because of the strong relationship and interplay between Hyam and Dameia. Both are rebels in some form or other, not doing what their societies expect of them, and the Romeo and Juliet-type secret love affair always keeps you on the edge of your seat. That’s not even mentioning the political undercurrents of the story, which brilliantly put humans on the bottom of the social ladder and positions them as the victims in a reverse District 9-type setup. It’s a very unique spin on the sci-fi genre and makes us contemplate difficult issues of prejudice and hatred that are disappointingly present in the real world today.

This was a really fun read, and all the characters are extremely likeable and easy to identify with (except the bad guys, of course). I’d highly recommend it to anyone who wants a little forbidden romance on a forbidden planet.

K.C. Hamby: The Wrath of the Chosen (The Chosen Series, Book 1)

I’ll admit two things before diving into this one: one, I’m not usually a huge fan of the vampire/werewolf/insert fantasy creature here YA craze that everyone seems to be all about these days. Two, I’m a sucker for a good anti-heroic main character. While The Wrath of the Chosen may be very much (spoiler alert, not really) the former, it is also very much the latter, and it’s really the strength of the characters that makes this one such a standout, although the plot is pretty great, too!

The main character of this story, Falen, is a member of a secret society of werewolves who live among humans as assassins doing bad for the greater good. She’s a rough, abrasive young woman with a mean streak and a definite chip on her shoulder who thinks deep down nobody is capable of caring about her. That is, until she meets Nina, a normal human girl, and through a heartrending back and forth relationship, ends up falling in love. However, their relationship is quickly put to the test by the intervention of not only Fal’s werewolf brethren (who aren’t so keen on a relationship between a human and a wolf), but also a dangerous tribe of werewolf slayers who’ve been stalking Fal for a long time. Now that she has someone she cares about in her life, Fal finds herself and Nina are walking targets and vulnerable for the first time in her life. How will their romance survive?

I should also add this book, while it has some of the tropes typical of YA, is very much NOT for young teen readers. I’d classify this more in the 20-something new adult genre due to the precipitous use of language, blood and gore, and discussion of themes like sexual assault. That’s not a bad thing, though: I think books like this that speak to a slightly more mature young adult audience are sorely needed, especially one that portrays a relationship between two characters of the same sex. It’s so well-written, I won’t lie that it made me tear up a number of times. Also, if you like watching werewolf assassins kick some serious ass, this is probably the book for you. Even if you’re not usually a fantasy lover, I’d advice checking this one out!

Katelyn Uhrich: A Choice for Essence (The Essence Chronicles, Book 1)

Finally, we have a YA-type novel that definitely falls into the high fantasy genre: A Choice for Essence. This story takes place in the Land Above, a mythical realm inhabited by the gods who preside over all kinds of elements, from nature and weather to fire and water. The main character is Essence, or Essie for short, daughter of the gods of nature and fire, as she grows up and takes on a bigger role in the politics of her celestial home. But the more she learns, the less she likes it, especially when she learns about the plight of the spirits (souls that go back and forth from the mortal realm, living human lives and returning to the Land Above after death) and how they’re abused and mistreated by the gods, including her parents. As she begins to sympathize with the spirits more and more, Essie’s search for answers leads her down a darker path that shows her the ugly truths behind the things she loves, suffers betrayals and heartbreaks, and eventually commits her own act of rebellion by creating a new world of her very own. But how long can it, and she, survive against the wrath of the other gods?

Not only is the fantastical setting of this novel intriguing, including the many different and creative combinations of gods, goddesses, and their offspring (who usually end up being combinations of opposing forces and thus fascinating characters on their own), but it too features a big-picture moral dilemma and characters whose interplay and dramatic tension really make the story pop. Of course there’s a bit of romance in here too (no spoilers though, I mean it!) but this is a classic coming-of-age story set in a godlike paradise where nothing is as beautiful or perfect as it seems. It’s a great setup for a future series and something I’d highly recommend for those who like the YA fantasy genre as probably the most kid-friendly entry of this blog post. I could definitely see this being the next Harry Potter or Percy Jackson, and that’s saying something!

As always, help support our indie authors by going out there and buying some of their books! We all thank you for your support of this community.

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