Author Archives: Lisa

Chase in Shadow by Amy Lane

There is no one who can break my heart quite the way Amy Lane can.

It’s never a quick, clean break. No, it’s a slow and agonizing process that begins with the first word of the book, and that first word is like the end of the thread that holds my poor little heart in one piece. The further along I read, the more the words begin to unravel the story, the longer that thread becomes because my heart is slowly and agonizingly pulling apart at the seams until, finally, it lays, fragmented and feeble, in a puddle on the floor of my chest cavity, wondering how Ms. Lane will ever find the right words to put my Humpty Dumpty heart back together again.

And this is what she does to Chase’s psyche too, the evil genius. She pinched the end of that thread between her fingers, began to write his story, and we, the reader, got to watch him unravel, bit by torturous bit, as he evolved, or, maybe in Chase’s case, devolved into a fragmented soul with nowhere to hide and no one to hold him together. That thread was so delicate and was strung so taut to begin with, his grasp on the façade so ephemeral, that it took little more than a breath and a sigh and love to snap it and leave him shattered.

The omniscient narrator directed this movie of words masterfully; kept the camera at all the right angles for us to see; asked the right questions for us to discover; listened to those answers to inform us; kept all the players on their marks so they could help us to understand. Then, as the many personalities that Chase tried so desperately to hold together began to fracture, that imaginary camera took us into the mind of a boy who held the weight of a tortured past upon his shoulders like Tate Walker wore all those scars on his skin. But Chase’s scars aren’t the kind that can be tattooed over. Chase’s scars are imprinted upon every cell of his being, weeping and bleeding and threatening to drown his sanity in the red water that robbed him of his innocence.

But like Tate has Brian, Chase has Tommy, and Tommy, who has his very own demons to slay, is the knight in tarnished armor that rides into Chase’s life and helps him to navigate the poisonous thorns that tear at his very being. Tommy finds the sleeping prince disguised as a straight man, covered in ashes and soot and buried within the memories of a broken child, and, with the courage and the power of a touch and a kiss, awakens and lays waste to the dragons with nothing more than love as his sword and shield.

And, yes, my heart is once again whole and waiting for that next great fall.


Review – His Holy Bones (Rifter, #10) – 5 Stars

His Holy Bones (Rifter, #10)

So it began and so it ended, at well more than 1000 pages of nothing less than outstanding character exposition, world building, dialogue, narrative, humor, action, terror, violence, heartbreak, romance. This was the Chronicles of Basawar and was everything great speculative fiction should be. While each installment of the Rifter series might not have stood as strongly as others, individually, the sum of each of its parts, collectively, is simply stunning.

This is a sweeping story of sacrifice and duty, of the ultimate corruption of power and the perversion of a religion that persecutes indiscriminately and seeks to propagate its authority through the violation of its followers. On the opposite side of the coin, it is a story of devotion to the earth god and the reluctant, arduous, and fearful journey of a man who becomes a deity. It is a story of love and loss and redemption. It is the story of divination and of altering the future through acts of free will and conscience and commitment, proving that nothing is preordained where there are choices to be made.

His Holy Bones and the Rifter series itself is a complex journey that is, at its most simple, a story of the power of love and the deep spiritual connection between two men that defies the bonds of death. Ginn Hale sends her readers on an incomparable adventure through time and space, to a land threatened by unseen forces, to a place where our own world is seen as the Promised Land, to a place where sorcery is both salvation and destruction, to a point where unconditional faith delivers miracles.

The series all comes down to a pivotal moment, when the key to the future becomes the will to survive for the love and compassion of mankind, and for the love of the one who is your destiny.

Review – The Iron Temple (Rifter, #9) – 5 Stars

The Iron Temple (Rifter, #9)

And finally, we are at the beginning of the end. Or is it the end of the beginning? Perhaps when dealing with shifts in time, as Ginn Hale has done throughout this series, it is both. There is one certainty, however—John, Jahn, Jath’ibaye; the reluctant god; the manipulator of earth, air, fire, and water; the humble man in all his reincarnations is about to unleash his righteous fury upon Basawar. And it will be beautiful to behold.

The Iron Temple delivers readers to the very brink of this epic story and leaves us poised in the rift between the past and the present, hanging in the balance between death and life and a future that is yet to unfold completely. We are at the crossroads, at the point where Ravishan and Kahlil and their two separate but joined lives will meet in divine retribution against a curse blade and against the hungry bones that Laurie has created.

Jath’ibaye will bear the mortal wounds that threaten to steal the man he loves from him, not once but twice, or as many times as it takes, perhaps, to cheat death and keep Kahlil with him. There is a parallel between what has happened and what will happen, and the only question I have at the moment is whether or not the past will be altered again, and will that shift again affect the future? I have quickly learned that anything is possible when Ginn Hale is weaving the threads of an awesome story, and will accept any change in the pattern she chooses to make because I trust it will be perfect.

A chasm that cannot be breached has formed amongst Parfir’s worshipers. It is now time for those who lead with conscience and those who manipulate through fear and greed to take their respective sides and fight for that in which they believe. What one side covets, the other reveres; one side will face certain annihilation, the other will take its place at the right hand of the Rifter to carve out a new world from the destruction of the old.

Ginn Hale has skillfully delivered us to the summit of this monumental journey, where the reader can now see what was and perhaps speculate on what is yet to come. One thing is certain; it will be both a wonder and a disappointment to come to The End.

Review – The Silent City (Rifter, #8) – 4 Stars

The Silent City (Rifter, #8)

On the path to becoming the Rifter, John joins the Fai’daum resistance, swearing his allegiance to their cause and training with the witch Ji Shir’korud in an effort to learn to harness the immense power he possesses.

The Silent City is the continuation of John’s journey to becoming Jath’ibaye, the name in which he will find refuge from the knowledge that his life as John is now complete, that Basawar is where he will remain, and that home is now nothing more than a distant memory. Home is now Ravishan and the land he is connected to, the land he is connected to which he controls with his thoughts and emotions, the land that is divided between the haves, the have nots, and the religious regime that wields its influence and might like a weapon to control and induce fear. This is the land that dies a little more each time the Gate to Nayeshi is opened.

This is the place where John and Ravishan might have one day found peace and a modicum of acceptance, a place where they could have lived and loved but for the way fate and circumstance are intent on keeping them apart. And now that we know what is to come, now that we know how their love story ends and then begins again as two wholly different people, it makes the anticipation of what is to come all the more frightening and wonderful.

This is the beginning of the race against time to make the impossible possible, as they must rescue Laurie from a fate far worse than death, and as John must prepare for the consequences of her loss, her anger, and her retribution.

The Silent City is another prologue in the midst of this series that underscores the events of the past and the present. It is another line that connects the dots on the way to completing the entire picture, and again, while it might not stand as strongly on its own, tied into the entirety of the saga it is essential and excellent.

Review – Enemies and Shadows (Rifter, #7) – 4 Stars

Enemies and Shadows (Rifter, #7)

Reading Enemies and Shadows was a little bit like standing in Hades and watching Sisyphus push his boulder uphill, seeing it strive toward its ultimate destination, holding your breath and hoping…only to have it roll back down to the bottom of the hill again. And this is a good thing? Yeah, it is.

Enemies are disposed of in this installment of the Rifter series, quite handily, I thought, all things considered. So handily, in fact, it caught me a little off guard, wondering, did Ginn Hale just take the easy way out of avoiding an all out Armageddon here? But I should’ve known better. It goes entirely against series canon to believe that anything will ever come easily to these characters in this harsh and unforgiving world. So, I mistakenly allowed myself to be lured into a false sense of security, then, like the master of my emotional wellbeing that she is, Ms. Hale threw me to the hungry bones and left me languishing there as she transported me to the past again to show me that something, something is going to juxtapose these two storylines between John and Ravishan, and Jath’ibaye and Kahlil. And it all seems to hinge on the golden key, a single word, “Don’t!” and the opportunity to save the savior, atoning for past mistakes.

And now, the true battle will begin, as the most dangerous enemy Jath’ibaye may have ever faced comes to the fore, an enemy who was once an ally, a good and trusted friend who will divide Jath’ibaye between his honor and conscience, and his sense of duty and love for his land, his people, and above all, his love for Kahlil.

If I were to make only one judgment against this installment, because honestly, there is only one in this otherwise brilliant series, it would be that Enemies and Shadows might have worked better tacked on to the end of book #6 or the beginning of book #8. This is the only episode so far that didn’t work as well as a standalone for me. Added to the whole, however, it is purely sublime.

Review – Broken Fortress (Rifter, #6) – 4 Stars

Broken Fortress (Rifter, #6)

Broken Fortress – The Interlude – This is the perfect place to catch your breath and digest everything that has happened up until now. Pluck what you know of the past and apply it to the present, because the future is sure to be a dangerous, dangerous place, and it might help you to navigate your way to the cusp of the war that looms.

This segment in the ongoing saga picks up on Jath’ibaye’s ship, where we left him and Kahlil to travel back to Rathal’pesha earlier on. Everything that has happened up until now is necessary information to understand the evolution Kahlil experiences after his resurrection, as he came through the Gates decades beyond where John had landed some thirty years before. Understanding how Ravishan and Kahlil’s lives both parallel and intertwine, how Ravishan sacrificed everything he was to become in order to save the man he loved, as well as how John’s presence in the past affected certain outcomes in the future, will not only bring clarity to the bond between Kahlil and Jath’ibaye, but it will also cement the significance of that connection, which in turn makes the relationship between the two men incredibly poignant and entirely significant.

Broken Fortress is definitely more informative than action packed, to be sure, but the material is delivered through compelling and intelligent dialogue, giving each of the characters weight and importance and dimension, regardless if how minor their role may be as the series continues. This book is the road map, in a way, that gives direction to everything there is yet to come. It is the means of tracing the line from where everyone has been, to where they will proceed in this long, winding, and wondrous journey.

There is a wicked political agenda broiling, a heinous plot underway to rid the world of the Rifter, a dark supernatural spell evolving, as a onetime friend attempts to alter events of the past, and a battle poised on the horizon that could very well destroy every living thing in its path. The strategy is unfolding, luring a dangerous enemy into the midst, and separating Jath’ibaye and Kahlil. Will this be a scenario where history repeats itself, or will Kahlil incorporate what he has learned from the past and use it to influence a better future?

That remains to be seen.

Review – The Holy Road (Rifter, #5) – 5+ Stars

The Holy Road (Rifter, #5)

I am, by turns, frightened and fascinated at this point in the saga, which sums things up pretty concisely and accurately.

The Holy Road is darkness defined. This is the point in the journey where John discovers everything there is to be discovered about who he is and the purpose he will serve in the future of Basawar, and how it connects to Ravishan, who is, indeed, a man John knows as another, not the least of which is lover and savior.

It’s impossible to have made your way to the end of this book without drawing some parallels and contrasts between this great story and the greatest story ever told. John has died the figurative death. He is no longer the man he believed himself to be. Now the Rifter must suffer and die for his sins, but those who will execute his punishment know not what they do or whom they have condemned. John was his own Judas, betrayed by his own confession of a murder that, for all intents and purposes, could be justified as self-preservation, as well as defending the man he loves. John will sacrifice himself, willingly, for the greater good. But in his confession, John also implicates another, which will solidify Fikiri’in ‘Bousim’s hatred and need for vengeance, turning a once terrified boy into a sworn enemy.

The intimacy that has evolved between Ravishan and John has eclipsed the demand for secrecy. Their bond is one that was prophesied and goes well beyond the physical realms of attraction, to something that is spiritual and, I presume, wholly necessary in order to see this adventure through to the end. Ravishan becomes John’s savior on the Holy Road, as he is set to burn for his transgressions, a very unholy method of punishment by those who consider themselves the moral authority.

There is a greater loss in this installment in the series which affects Bill and Laurie, who I’m fairly certain will gain a new identity moving forward and may very well occur as John becomes Jath’ibaye. There’s so much more story left to tell, though, that it’s impossible to predict what events will happen when, or even what will happen next. Ginn Hale continues to surprise and to transcend all my expectations, with every new chapter.

Knowing what has been revealed to this point about the future and the reunion between Jath’ibaye and Kahlil, it seems there will be a rift in their relationship yet to come. That remains to be seen and I’ll be devouring every word to get to the answers.

And the Key. Yes, the Key. It was sent with a note that said a single word, “Don’t.” Who sent it? I have an idea but I’m not sharing. You’ll have to read and find out for yourself.

Review – Witches’ Blood (Rifter #4) – 4 Stars

Witches’ Blood (Rifter, #4)

So, if you’ve made it this far in the Rifter series, you know that John, Laurie, and Bill have inadvertently traveled to Basawar, to the year 185, when John intercepted a key meant for Kyle, his scarred, tattooed, and mysterious roommate. The three friends discovered the strange lock in which the key fits, then suddenly found themselves traveling through the shattered gates, to an unknown land. It is a land where suspected witches and revolutionaries are publicly burned, where magic goes hand in hand with danger and lurks in the shadows, where John fights for his and his friends’ survival, where he enters into a bargain that will bring him closer to the key to returning home, but will also bring him face to face with the enemy, revealing the immense power that he wields and bringing him closer to Ravishan, a young man who has become a valuable ally, a source of temptation, and who, I think, has another identity in the future. But I would never presume to believe I have things figured out. Ginn Hale’s imagination is far too sophisticated for me to be that confident.

When Kyle, the Kahlil, attempts to follow John, Laurie, and Bill through the gates to his home world, his journey takes him to a point in time years beyond where John and friends have landed, and where it is slowly becoming evident that their presence in the past has affected a change in the time/space continuum. The trip itself leaves Kyle’s body and memories in tatters, but he is rescued and eventually recovers enough to enter into service in the Bousim household, where he becomes an assassin for Alidas, a man whose life John had saved decades before and who had become the catalyst for John’s service at Rathal’pesha.

Alidas sends Kahlil on one final mission, one he may not survive, one in which he comes face to face with John, now Jath’ibaye, a storyline that is still hanging in the balance, as we spend time in the past in Witches’ Blood, witnessing John’s gradual evolution into the man he will become, with the power to do things he shouldn’t be able to do, things that enflame an enemy and that could very well brand him as a witch.

The more that’s revealed in this series, the more there is to question; the latest and greatest question being who will travel back to Nayeshi, the contemporary world, and who will be left behind? There are bargains struck to hide a potentially deadly secret that cannot be fulfilled if the key is found. There have been some hints as to who remains, but do the others make it out of Basawar alive? That remains to be seen, as a battle looms on the horizon, one that will upset the status quo.

There is as much information as action in this installment in the series, as Ginn Hale continues to artfully weave the past and the future together to create a picture of what is yet to come. This is as much a revelation of what will be as it is an exploration of how it will evolve. Every player seems to be developing into a significant cog in the war machine that is building toward an outstanding climax.

My only regret is that I can’t read fast enough to satisfy my obsession with finding out what’s coming next.

A Symphony of Echoes by Cecilia Ryan – 4 Stars

History professor Eric Spears knows the subject he teaches is one that students don’t pursue because they want to; most of them endure it because they have to in order to fulfill credits to earn a degree. It’s that fact, among others, which makes Eric see Arthur, a young man who clearly doesn’t belong in his classroom, in a very different light.

Professor Spears also understands there’s an invisible line between students and teachers that he’s toeing very precariously where Arthur is concerned, but Arthur isn’t technically a student, you see, so maybe those unspoken rules don’t really apply. Arthur sits in Eric’s class, absorbing every word, every lecture, like a sponge because, thus far, Eric is the only professor who hasn’t kicked Arthur out for trespassing where he doesn’t belong.

As a teacher, Arthur’s enthusiasm for learning speaks to Eric on a visceral level. But it’s Arthur’s appearance—the threadbare clothing, the obvious hunger, the persistent cough—that calls to Eric’s compassion. And it’s that compassion that Eric must guard carefully, not allow it to slip over into pity, because Arthur is like a feral animal in some ways, who won’t accept anything handed to him lest it feel like charity. Eric must tread very carefully if he wants to keep Arthur coming back to his classroom.

At forty-seven years old, Eric has a world of experience that should put him leagues ahead of nineteen year old Arthur, but what Arthur lacks in years, he makes up for in his wisdom. Their divergent backgrounds—the privileged son of a lord, and the son of a prostitute whose education has been earned in the school of hard knocks, but who is still incredibly innocent—shouldn’t have much in common, but sometimes all it takes is a willingness to give and the need to earn what’s offered to draw two very different people together.

An attempt at blackmail from one of Eric’s students provides for a bit of angst to the plot, but overall, A Symphony of Echoes is a story that should be enjoyed for its quiet and gentle moments. This is Arthur’s coming-of-age story and Eric’s discovery that happiness and fulfillment doesn’t come with an age requirement. There’s a restrained dignity to this story that reminded me good fiction doesn’t always have to be about turmoil and upheaval. Sometimes it can simply be about affection and admiration and acceptance, which is what this book does well.

Cecelia Ryan has written a May/December romance that should appeal to readers who love a love story, pure and simple. It’s restrained and charming and peopled with characters that define unconditional love and friendship.


Review – Black Blades (Rifter, #3) – 5 Stars

Black Blades (Rifter, #3)

And the plot thickens.

Prophesies broken, awesome powers revealed, an assassination thwarted, and former allies who apparently have become enemies, these are some of the enticements Ginn Hale offers up in episode three of the Rifter saga.

Told in a non-linear fashion, this installment does a time shift from present to past again, revealing just enough about John, who will become Jath’ibaye, and the one who is called Ji, that the reader is granted an enticing glimpse into a future of power and witchcraft which is only now beginning to take shape, as John and Kyle are reunited and the rules of the game change.

An assassination attempt on Jath’ibaye goes wrong when Kahlil intervenes, and Jath’ibaye offers to bear Kahlil’s wounds to save his life. What will become of the two men, now that they have been reunited? The answer to that question must wait, as the reader is taken back in time to Rathal’pesha, just when the getting was good, to witness John’s evolution to warrior, led by the Payshmura, whose prayers and tenets are based on a particularly interesting foundation.

Who survives? Who doesn’t? Who knows? That remains to be seen, as Ginn Hale continues to entice, seduce, provoke, and weave her wonderful spell.

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