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Mirrors & Thorns: An OWS Ink Anthology Paperback – October 24, 2017
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Young Blood was creepy and whimsical at the same time. It was short and straight to the point, and very well written.
Nova and Ember:
Nova and Ember was slightly confusing, and had a bit of a slow start, but turned in to an intriguingly creepy tale with a though provoking ending.
Inheritance was very well written and painted an elegantly creepy picture as the tale went on. It was quite suspenseful, and had an interesting twist. It had a lot of depth and was creepy enough to give me goosebumps as I read.
Twice-Made Vows is incredibly well written. It made me feel like I read an entire book. It had passion, murder, and intrigue! It was suspenseful and had an awesome, horrific ending!
The Snow Bride:
The Snow Bride was a little off for me. It was too short and a little confusing. It seems like it would have fit better in a longer story, or with a little background or explanation of the types of characters it held. The saving grace for me was the ending and the fact that it felt like it combined aspects of Mrs. Lovett from Sweeney Todd, and The Thénardiers from Les Miserables. That story twist saved it for me.
The Life & Death of Cora Svanros:
This one was really well written. It did have a few confusing aspects, but the story was deep and suspenseful. It had such an interesting twist and I felt like it could have been expanded on and made in to a book!
The Forbidden Mirror:
This is one of my favorites! It reminds me of the story of Queen Ravenna and her sister in The Huntsman: Winter's War. It had a lot of depth and development for its length, and it was creepy, intriguing, had a nice twist, and a fairy tale type lesson attached.
Wow! Selkie Cove was alluring, intriguing, and breathtaking! I really enjoyed the depth of the writing, the plot content, and the story twist!
Unfortunately, this one was not one of my favorites. The writing was done well, I just wasn't too entertained by the story. It seemed to have a fairy tale feel and story moral, I just didn't get in to it like some of the others.
I think with any anthology there will always be one or two stories that just don't strike a cord with a reader. This is one of them. I wasn't a fan of the present tense of the story and I just didn't understand it. The author did well with descriptiveness and intrigue, but it just fell short for me.
Maria Morevna and the Deathless One:
Maria Morevna and the Deathless One was an intriguing tale full of Russian folklore and mystery. It had depth and dimension, intrigue and power. It was very well written and kept me wanting more!
The Falling Angels of Fifty-Six:
This one sure did pack a punch! It was a real page turner. I loved the world building that was done and the unique plot and twists. This one could definitely be expanded on for a full book. It had real depth and a thought provoking ending!
I am honestly trying to figure out what I read with this one. I hate to say this, but it made absolutely no sense to me, and half the time I could not tell if the narrator was talking to another character or narrating the story. I didn't understand what the story was about and just felt confused the entire time...
Through the Gates of Hell:
I LOVED this one! It was deep, dark, and gritty! This plot would be awesome as a full book. The Nameless One was well developed for his type of character and his journey and struggle were horrifying and though provoking. Bravo to the author on this one! This one was my favorite!
Thank you to OWS Ink for providing me with this free e-ARC in exchange for my honest review, and as part of the blog tour!
+Strong Variety, United by a Consistent Fairy Tale Style
+Strong Narrative Voices
*Often Grim/Harsh Tone
*Frequently Familiar Plot Patterns
1. Young Blood by Kerry Black
To escape his younger sister, Jacob would pay any price.
Crisp scenes usher audiences through the essentials, while the resolution hangs overhead, waiting to pounce.
+Strong Opening & Ending
2. Nova and Ember by Sarah Nour
On the eve of winter, families gather for the fall festival. It’s a time of celebration, until an old ritual marks two young children for death. Desperate to escape their fate, the children head out in search of the mythical black sow.
Once in a while the story flirts with fear, but always within that safety which often defines childhood.
+Good, strong details. Nice word usage.
+Good sense of rhythm, back and forth between tense and mellow
+Mystery and questions pull audiences right along.
*It is a young story.
3. Inheritance by Melanie Noell Bernard
An ancient house, abandoned and forlorn. A young woman, eager to find her fortune. That night, a strange sound fills the halls, driving her from her bed. She never believed the stories. Now she’ll learn the truth.
Throughout the story, the protagonist looks back at her earlier decisions, debating past choices in a rich inner dialogue that helps to characterize her, and provide some much-needed background information. Carefully chosen details slowly raise the tension; turning what could be a very mundane scene into a suspenseful mystery.
+Strong Narrative Voice
*Slow, sometimes dense read
4. Twice-Made Vows by T.S. Dickerson
A king, robbed of love, is forced to marry again. The kingdom rejoices, welcoming their new queen, but the specter of loss is not so easily banished. Strange visions haunt the young bride, forcing her to wonder who her husband truly sees when he looks into her eyes.
Crisp dialogue paints a vivid picture of each character; tense threads that combine into a focused conflict, which itself is part of a larger web. Overall the story works, but every so often audiences will catch a glimpse of a larger story, a larger world.
-Easily could have been longer
5. Snow Bride by J.M. Ames
In a cold, backwater inn, a young man fresh from the mine hopes to barter his treasure for a little female comfort. He never considers what she might want, or what she’d be willing to do to get it.
A perfectly sized snippet of storytelling. Strong details manage to simultaneously reveal character and setting without ever slowing down the pace. There’s a reckless abandon about the story; one that made me sorry to see it end so quickly.
+Strong, well-used details
+Dense (in a good way)
+Short but very well done
+Grim and harsh, but also light-hearted
6. The Life & Death of Cora Svanros by Cassidy Taylor
Two girls, trapped in a deadly game; serving as sport for their cruel master. Time after time they try to escape, and each time they fail. Then a stranger offers them a cryptic hope. His words lead them to a place of lost memories, where the greatest danger may be the temptation to let go and forget.
A familiar pattern, and a fun one, particularly when it’s so well executed, but gradually the story grows into something more. Through her experiences, both the protagonist and the audience explore the nature of identity, memory, and life.
*Strong but familiar plot
7. Forbidden Mirror by J.K. Allen
Two sisters, born to rule. Crystal, gifted with charm, and Raven, the only one who can see through it. To claim the throne, Raven will turn to magic. Heedless of the warnings, she hurries on to the Great Thorn Palace, where her destiny awaits.
Much of the story is spent simply following instructions, and ignoring warnings, until the conflict reaches its natural conclusion. Summaries help to keep things moving, but also keep audiences at a distance.
*Reminiscent of a fairy tale
-Overuse of Summary
8. Selkie Cove by Paul Stansbury
A young woman, in search of adventure, finds herself in the middle of an otherworldly story. Does she dare to believe it? Believing, what should she do?
Colorful characters dominate the scene; each with their own unique voice. Some may see it coming, but in the end there’s only one way this story can finish. A cautionary tale, of temptation, and the price we pay.
-Poor Info Management
9. Roland by J. Lee Strickland
In the wake of loss, Roland travels to a nearby relative in search of answers, and returns with a gift. Suddenly all of his endeavors flourish, earning him quite a reputation. Soon people flock to his home, eager to share in his good fortune. Roland is hard pressed to hide the secret of his success, and ration its dwindling power.
The slow pacing is balanced by the poetic writing, which often gives the everyday setting an otherworldly feel. It’s a poignant story, with strong ideas, and the patience to let audiences learn gradually.
+Strong Writing/Colorful Language
*Slow, mellow story
10. Open Window by Lucy Palmer
Many dream of finding a perfect partner, but for one woman it has become a nightmare. Desperate to find darkness in him; she will feed her own.
This story feels too large to be conveyed with such brevity. There isn’t enough time to answer all the questions raised by the narrative. Audiences may infer the protagonist’s motives, but more is needed.
+Strong Narrative Voice
11. Maria Morevna and the Deathless One by S.L. Scott
A young woman searches for an equal, and stumbles upon a man who defies all expectations. But to bridle a sorcerer, she will need magic of her own.
Vivid descriptions paint a clear picture, while summaries gloss over most of the narrative; reducing the protagonist to beauty and pride. The story ultimately rewards her iron determination, but leaves her unchanged by the experience.
*Familiar fairy tale style
*Dominated by Summary
12. The Falling Angels of Fifty-Six by C.L. Bledsoe
For generations people have questioned the existence of angels. Now they descend to earth, their only message a hollow roar as they plummet like stones. Most fled from their wrath, but not Bernard. Now he wanders the deserted towns and homes of the Midwest, searching for food, and answers.
The everyday tone and style offsets the otherworldly premise, rooting the story in the very human struggles of its characters. The significance of the angels is not ignored, but the author is wise enough to recognize that some questions cannot be answered within the scope of this story.
+Strong Narrative Voice
*Some Unresolved Questions
13. The Roommate by Edward Ahern
An everyday afternoon, interrupted by a strange cat. Once Enid learns of it, Clara knows no peace.
Most of the story is told in a unique style; a kind of one sided dialogue that omits what other characters say and do, using indirect references to establish the rest of the story. Scenes are vivid, but sometimes the distinction between colorful allegory and concrete description can be difficult to make. Many may want to reread it a second time, once they understand what’s really going on.
+Strong Narrative Voice
-Can be confusing at times
14. Through the Gates of Hell by Stacy Overby
A mysterious figure hunts the damned, sealing their souls away so that he might save his own. Countless times he’s captured them, but never one like this. Only the gates of hell can contain such a fiend, a place that even demons fear to tread. But can he succeed where all others have failed, and even if he does, will he have the strength to return?
The opening scene is awash with details; cultivating a strong sense of foreboding without actually revealing what waits the nameless hero. The tension is masterful, with just enough information to give audiences a sense of the story, while leaving some questions unanswered.
As the story moves along, it makes a pronounced shift. Moving away from concrete details and actions; the story instead focuses on the protagonist’s inner struggles. Disorientation and blackouts help to justify the protagonist’s introspections, but are also used to gloss over how the protagonist is moved from one location to another.
The story tries to convey the protagonist’s struggle to continue, to hold on to hope, but without spending more time with the character it’s difficult to feel the connection needed to create a proper catharsis. The ending tries to fashion a proper denouement, but like the rest of the story, it feels rushed and ambiguous.
My favorite would have to be The Snow Bride. J.M. Ames writes remarkably well. The story is something I've never heard before and something I never thought I'd enjoy. He pulled me into the story and I couldn't wait to see what happened next. It was as if I was in the story. I won't say what it's about because I don't want to spoil, but I recommend buying the book.