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.

Planetary Fiction

What is Planetary Fiction?

Planetary Fiction is an anthology on or about the the planets, and the them associated with them. Thus:

Mercury: journeys and messengers

Venus: love and romance

Mars: conflict and war

Jupiter: power, authority and leadership

Saturn: time, age and endings

Such stories could be science fiction, fantasy, horror or weird fiction. Tales could feature science fiction as diamond hard as the unfiltered light of the stars in space, to flights of fancy. Star-ships that rigidly obey the limits of known physics, to fantastic gravity drives to chariots pulled though the starry ether by swans. It has room for the airless deserts of Mars and the crushing pressures of Venus; and for Warlords of Mars and Princesses of Venus.

If the story fits a planetary concept, and evokes awe and wonder, it could be a good fit for ″Planetary Fiction″…

The first in the series will be ″Mercury″; edited by David Hallquist

Why Mercury? Why tales of a small, barren rock circling the Sun, almost invisible in its glare?

The question might be: why not Mercury?

This oddball world races about in a highly eccentric ellipse, instead of the more proper, nearly circular orbits of other planets. It is tidally locked in a 3:2 resonance with the Sun, with one Mercury day for every two Mercury years. This cratered little world is far more dense than it would seem, and is believed to have a larger iron core than in proportion to other worlds. Then there is the odd phenomenon of a powerful magnetic field on a world that is barely rotating at all. Truly, a strange little world.

Mythic Mercury, or Hermes was the swift messenger of the gods, and famous for his brilliance and trickery. The wand of Hermes, the Caduceus, is still the symbol for medical learning around the world. Speed, brilliance and knowledge are all associated with the messenger.

Mercury the metal, is known as ″quicksilver″ and has been associated with transmutation and arcane processes since the time of the earliest alchemists. Chinese Emperors believes that an amalgam of mercury would bestow immortality. Useful in early photography, industry and scientific studies, the deadly poisonous nature of the metal quickly limited the usefulness of quicksilver.

For all of that, Mercury has been a bit overlooked in Science Fiction. There are notable great stories though the tiny world is often overlooked for the glories of Mars, the majesty of Jupiter or the splendor of Saturn.

These then, are the tales of Mercury: messages about the Messenger.

Superversive SF is now soliciting submissions for ″Planetary Fiction: Mercury″. Submissions should be sent to: [email protected]. Please place the name of the planet and the story title in the subject line. Try to avoid excessive formatting, and do include a author’s contact information and word count, as well as which planet it is connected to at the first paragraph. If you agree to have us publish your story, Superversive SF may elect to publish though Superversive Fiction or other publishers and formats, as deemed appropriate by Superversive SF.

″Venus″ is next in the series, edited by Jagi L. Wright and A.M. Freeman, and is now receiving submissions.

Nethereal

Nethereal mixes science-fiction, fantasy and horror in unexpected ways. Space running ether ships battle with magically worked devices, the mystical Guild controls the space lanes with otherworldly wheels and compasses, and necromancers meddle in the boundaries of life and death in horrid ways.

The tale focuses on a pirate crew fighting to free the worlds from the oppressive grip of the Guild. The captain is half-breed last of his kind, wiped out by the Guild, and commands the last of his people’s ships. Their navigator is a beautiful rogue Guilds-woman, who seems to have an inhuman heritage, and is followed by a hell-hound that hovers in the darkness. Their fighting-man is a scarred mercenary of endless campaigns with iron determination. Together they are pursued by an obsessive Guild-warden who will stop at no atrocity to kill them, and finally wipe out the last of the race the Guild warred with.

All of that is just in the beginning. Later they will tangle with necromancers, forbidden magics and technologies, cross the boundary into Hell itself, and face legendary beings of sanity-stretching scale.

http://www.amazon.com/Nethereal-Soul-Cycle-Book-1-ebook/dp/B00ZBDOHKU/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1454015010&sr=1-1&keywords=nethereal

Ash vs Evil Dead.

Horror’s always kind of a mixed bag for me. I lean more towards films that scare with atmosphere and dread– such as The Ring and A Tale of Two Sisters than I do films that scare with gore and grossness. I’m not opposed to a gory film, per se, as long as the gore serves a purpose. (Think how much more desperate the battles in The Wrath of Khan are compared to typical Star Trek fare. They’re battles where people bleed and suffer and die rather than battles where a bridge console explodes and throws a red shirt at the captain.)

One thing I do enjoy, though, is a good horror comedy. (Even the depressing ones. I’m looking at you, Cabin in the Woods.) It should come as no surprise, then, that I’m a fan of the films that pretty much invented horror comedy: Evil Dead 2 (a goofy, slapstick remake of Sam Raimi’s original Evil Dead) and it’s sequel, Army of Darkness. The recent remake of Evil Dead held no interest for me, as it seems to have abandoned much of what I love about these films– they even renamed the bloody Necronomicon!— and so I’m absolutely thrilled to see this trailer for Starz forthcoming series, Ash vs Evil Dead.