Review: Honor At Stake by Declan Finn

Enter the world of Marco Catalano and Amanda Colt. It’s a world where good and evil reside. A world where vampires and other creatures of the night battle for control. A world of ninjas and mobsters. A world where personal issues interfere with relationships.

I am such a sucker for a good romance and this one delivered a sweet clean romance that left me begging for the next book to come out. Maybe beg isn’t the right word.

With Honor at StakeDeclan Finn creates a story that expertly balances action, suspense and romance that is less Twilight and more Christine Feehan’s Dark series.

Marco is a monster, or at least he thinks he is. He also happens to be a genius in his first year of studies to be a physician’s assistant, but his impatience with people and a dark secret sets him apart from everyone.

Then, along comes Amanda Colt, beautiful, smart and Russian. She peaks his interest, especially when she goes toe to toe with him while fencing. She is perfect for him, but she also has a secret.

Set in New York City, the story explores parts of Brooklyn (including a vampire bar run by an ex-cop from the 1800s), Central Park, and Manhattan. The fictional university and real Mount Olivet cemetary are the backdrops for important scenes in the story.

When bodies start turning up, the two pair up to take on the vampire hordes threatening the city. They pull together an unlikely team of gang members, Vatican ninjas and an FBI agent into the strange. But, who is pulling the strings behind the sudden surge of vampire activity and what does it have to do with the UN? That is what they have to find out in order to save humanity from the evil trying to overtake New York City … and a bigger threat that is only hinted at.

The fast-paced plot is full of explosive action. Between the fencing, fight scenes, explosions, a killer ex-girlfriend and Vatican ninjas with their 50 cal Desert Eagles, there isn’t a lot of time to rest. This alone makes it difficult to put down.

The vampire lore is consistent with Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but with a few modern and theological twists added to make it more complicated. Thankfully, we’re back to vampires being killed by sunlight, wooden stakes and holy water. But, unlike Stoker’s version, all vampires are not bad in Declan’s book. Salvation is still possible for these creatures of the night. How? It’s complicated, but it makes sense that he shoehorns in redemption.

Interspersed with the action are scenes of heart touching romance. Declan sets up these two flawed characters who need to overcome their inner demons in order to have a relationship. Neither thinks that anyone would love them if they knew about their secrets. This leads to some very touching moments between the characters as well as moments when you want to scream.

Declan is a master at over the top action scenes that will even make the Pulp Revolution guys happy, but he’s also amazing at the little intimate moments that make you fall in love with the characters.

The Superversives among us should be happy enough with the depth of religious and moral depth added to the vampire mythos. Hopefully, you won’t mind natural law philosophy coming to play here. And yes, he made philosophy readable.

There is little question why Honor at Stake was nominated for best Horror Novel in the Dragon Awards in 2016. And nominated for Book of the Year by the Conservative Libertarian Fiction Alliance. And put on the #2 spot for best novel for Sad Puppies 4.

It’s not perfect. There are a few places that are a bit heavy handed on the info dumps and Marco’s relationship with his ex is a bit confusing. There are a few scenes that come off as cheesy, but, overall, it’s a great story.

Lucky for you, though, Books 2 and 3 are already out, so you can continue right along with the next book, because you will want to. Trust me on this. The ending of Honor at Stake leaves you hanging.

You can get the first four chapters of the book free here or get the complete book in Kindle or paperback on Amazon.com.

Superversive Dragon Award Suggestions

DragonConDragon Con is one of the biggest SFF conventions in the United States, if not on the face of the Earth. Held in Atlanta each year, Dragon Con hosts a minimum of 60,000 people each year — and we will probably never know how much they really host, lest they get in trouble with the fire marshal (I’m not even kidding). And, of course, Dragon Con has created its own award — the Dragon Award.

The first annual Dragon Awards.

Unlike a certain other set of awards that shall never be named, the Dragon Awards give out awards by genre. The Dragon Awards are also unique in that they do not go by calendar year, but from the start of July to the end of June.

Recently, we’ve put together a bit of a list of Superversive books from last year that fit our standards.  But how would one fit into the Dragon Awards like this?

Dragon Awards won by John C Wright, Brian Niemeier and Nick Cole 2016

Obviously, certain of the books from the list fit no genre category. One of my novels from the list, Set to Kill, is a murder mystery that takes place in Atlanta, at a place called WyvernCon, in the middle of a political war about Tearful or Hydrophobic Puppies versus Puppy Punters from traditional Big Publishing. Obviously, this book has no similarities to real events. Heh.

However, while it is on the 2016 list, there is no murder mystery genre for the Dragons. Nor are there Westerns, so Brings the Lightning is out.  And while Chasing Freedom and The Big Sheep are both fun books with dystopic elements, they both came out too early last year in order to be eligible — and Chasing Freedom was already nominated for last year’s Dragons.  It’s the same for site favorite Ben Zyycky’s novel Beyond the Mist , which came out in January 2016.

Those are the ground rules. Keep in mind, ANYONE can vote in the Dragon Awards, whether you have attended the con, or if you will never attend the con.

You can vote here, once you’re registered. Keep in mind, you can only vote for each book ONCE. If you try to vote for, say, Murphy’s Law of Vampires in more than one category, like best horror / best fantasy / best YA, your ballot will be invalid.

DISCLAIMER: I’ve had to do this manually, so I may have excluded one or two books that fall within the eligibility dates. And I’m adding one or two additional novels — some because they are sequels to books already nominated, and some because I think they really should be considered.

And now, UNLEASH THE DRAGONS

Best Science Fiction Novel

Escaping Infinity (not on the original list, but a favorite of mine.)

Discovery — Nuns …. INNNN SPPPAAACCCEEEE

Blood of Invidia: Maestru Series Book 1 (The Maestru Series) (Volume 1) — Space Vampires.

The Secret Kings (Soul Cycle) (Volume 3) — Book #2 won best horror in 2016, so I suppose this is also eligible there as well, but the description looks very Space Opera. Read it and you tell me below. When I asked Brian on my radio show, he didn’t have an opinion.

Bastion Saturn

 

Torchship Pilot

 

Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal)

Murphy’s Law of Vampires (Love at First Bite #2)  — This one could go here, or it could go in horror. There is not, as yet, an Urban Fantasy category. Book one was in the 2016 Horror category, but horror is another conversation.

Wolf Killer (The Hammer Commission Book 2)

 

Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge

The Cinder Witch: A Tale of The School of Spells & War

 

Best Young Adult/Middle Grade Novel

Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland (The Books of Unexpected Enlightenment Book 3)Book 1 reviewed here.

Van Ripplewink: You Can’t Go Home Again

 

Swan Knight’s Son: The Green Knight’s Squire Book One (Moth & Cobweb 1)  (For the record, I have inquired with Mr. Wright, who said that, yes, while Book Two and Book Three ARE eligible, he would simplify it for book 1.)  — Read our review of the novel here.

Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel

Yes, there is some overlap here between the military SFF novels and their other categories. Why? In part because the authors have come out with two books in the same series. If one is torn between two Monstery Hunter Memoirs, or two Hammer Commissions, this is the easy way to split the baby.

Monster Hunter Memoirs: Sinners

Loose Ends (The Hammer Commission Book 3)

 

Glory Boy Cartwright’s Cavaliers (The Revelations Cycle) (Volume 1)

 

“Star Realms: Rescue Run,” By Jon Del Arroz — An author on the site, Jon should at least have the benefit of the doubt. Also, if the book’s half as awesome as he is, it deserves a look.

Thrawn (Star Wars) — While it did not come out in 2016, eligibility goes until the end of June. Thrawn comes out in April. I expect this to bigfoot the nominations.

Best Alternate History Novel

People’s Republic — Though this might be best under the next category.

Best Apocalyptic Novel
People’s Republic

 

Liberty Lost: How Debt Destroyed Our Freedoms

 

Codename: UnSub (The Last Survivors)

 

Best Horror Novel

Live and Let Bite (Love at First Bite) (Volume 3) — Book 3, the sequel to Murphy’s Law of Vampires from above. Again, there is no best Urban Fantasy here. Probably because it would just be known as the Jim Butcher award. Personally, I think this one is better, but what do I know?

A Place Outside The Wild — I never know what to do with Zombie books. Is is apocalyptic? Is it horror? Take a look and flip a coin. But I needed to flesh out this sections with more ideas.

From here on out, the Superversive list, thus far, is fairly devoid of comment and ideas, but I’ll fill in from Superversive contributors when possible. I’ll be supplying many of my own ideas. Mostly, these are merely what are eligible. In some cases, I’m linking to people who have much better ideas than I do.

Best Comic Book

Qualifying is any publication that contains illustrated story in traditional comic book format (non-animated) that is at least 20 pages long with a consistent set of characters, premises and series title that appears at least four times per year and at least one volume has been first released in print or electronic format between 7/1/2016 and 6/30/2017.

Think of this as an individual issue.

Best Graphic Novel

“A publication that contains illustrated story in traditional comic book format (non-animated) that is at least 36 pages long and has been first released in print or electronic format between 7/1/2016 and 6/30/2017.”

So … any bound collection, really.

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy TV Series, TV or Internet

A Series of Unfortunate events, by Netflix.

Arrow — perhaps? I’ve enjoyed this season

Grimm — I’d want to push this one the most because it’s the last season.

 

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Movie

Doctor Strange — My personal favorite

Arrival

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them — Not a personal favorite of mine. In fact, I think it is interesting for what it added to the world, not because it was a particular engaging film.

Star Trek: Beyond

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy PC / Console Game

Final Fantasy XV

Titanfall 2

 

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Mobile Game

…. No idea. Honestly. Sorry.

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Board Game

Injustice Gamer Alfred Genesson has some thoughts on this.

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Miniatures / Collectible Card / Role-Playing Game

And once again, we’re out of my element. Sorry.

Have a Superversive suggestion for the Dragon Awards? A book I missed? A book that came out in 2017 that wasn’t on the original list but should be here? Please, put down the title, author, and your reason why it’s a Superversive book that should get a Dragon. (date of publication would be also nice).

And then, when you have an idea — click here to VOTE IN THE DRAGON AWARDS. UNLEASH THE DRAGON.

Declan Finn is a Dragon Award Nominated Author for Honor At Stake, book 1 of his Love at First Bite Series.  Finn’s own work and collections of essays can be found at his personal web page.

Puppy of the Month Book Club!

A new online book club sets out to read and discuss Puppy titles.

sadboompup

Puppy of the Month Book Club says of their criteria.

So what makes a book a viable candidate for Puppy Of the Month?  Easy:

  • Any novel nominated by the Sad Puppies for a Hugo nomination
  • Any novel nominated by the Rabid Puppies for a Hugo nomination
  • Any work listed in Appendix N of Gary Gygax’s D&D Dungeon Master’s Guide
  • Any work published by Castalia House
  • Any work selected by a Contributor that isn’t shouted down by the rest of the contributors as an inappropriate selection

The only other criteria for selection is that the work has to be reasonably readable in two weeks, including shipping.  No 1,000 page magnum opuses.  Selected works should also be readily available, preferably through Gutenberg Project, Amazon.com, or one of the remaining major book chains.  Any work nominated that required multiple trips to boutique booksellers or ‘knowing a guy what knows a guy’ – if we can’t all find it we can’t all read it, and hence we can’t all discuss it.

Nethereal

For their first month, they are reading Nethereal by Dragon Award winning author, Brian Niemeier. Since this is a book I helped edit, I could not be more delighted.

You can find out more — or join in! — here.