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Author: Dave Dobson (page 1 of 4)

Review: God King Rising, by Jeffrey Kohanek

I’m trying a new thing my May 15 newsletter, one that I’ll continue in future newsletters, and I’m also posting it here to my blog. I’ve read a fellow indie fantasy author’s book, and I’m offering a review of it here. The book is God King Rising by Jeff Kohanek. Full disclosure: I am doing a newsletter swap with Jeff this month, and because his mailing list is a lot bigger than mine, I offered to review the book he’s promoting this week in addition to just providing a link.

Jeff is a very successful indie author, at least as far as I can tell from his online presence. He’s got four separate fantasy series, including Fate of Wizardoms (6 books), Runes of Issalia (3 books), Wardens of Issalia (4 books), and Fall of Wizardoms (3 books out now, 3 more planned this year), plus some stories and companion pieces. If I’m reading the dates right, he started with all of these in 2018, which puts him at about four times my pace so far. So, prolific and successful, with all but one of the books north of four stars on GoodReads. He’s also an active presence on various indie fantasy sites.

God King Rising, the first book in Jeffrey’s latest series, was a fun read. It follows multiple storylines in a world shattered by the death of its gods, whose power used to support wizard kings (a wizardom is like a kingdom). The societies are reassessing their leadership, rearranging their power structures and governments, and some new factions and leaders are seeing opportunities to seize power following all the upheaval. As we shift from storyline to storyline, we see different perspectives on these events, from a pirate queen and her warrior companion fleeing a sinister plot, to the plotters themselves, to a thief-turned-administrator betrothed to a newly-crowned benevolent queen, to a haughty wizardess overseeing a cruel and stratified society, one threatened by those she oppresses. There is a lot going on here.

I got some sense of Jeff’s world as the characters traveled through it, although that impression left me realizing that there’s even more complexity beyond what I saw. The bulk of the action takes place in four main cities or towns, although there are other locations along the way. These towns each have a society, a culture, a government, trade goods, and industries. Even though they differ, they’re often tied up in the fading of the wizards’ power and the upheaval of the recent death of the gods. There’s a good bit of description of these cities, including clothes, architecture, military factions, and a bit of the society, but not so much it’s overwhelming. 

Much of the action in the book is cinematic. There are fights, tremendous feats of derring-do, magic spells, poisons, curses, disguises, escapes, schemes, even a carriage chase. The action is fast paced. The characters are clear about their goals and their limitations, and you can follow them as they pursue their goals (and as their circumstances change). There’s a little bit of the superhero in some of the characters, which is fine – they’re the heroes of the story, after all, and it’s fun that they’re quite capable (often seemingly the best in the world) at what they do. This quality and this pacing doesn’t always leave time for introspection or for getting to know the characters, although we do get deep into some of them, and I suspect it’s a deliberate tradeoff to elevate the action and adventure parts. Something is nearly always happening.

With those powerful characters and their skills, the story sometimes seems a little like a very solid RPG campaign, with a highlighted set of diverse heroes facing a series of challenges and quests along the way. In each section, the focus never shifts from the party – we’re always following what they’re doing and thinking and planning. Of course, with so many perspective characters, it’s more like a bunch of RPG campaigns blended into each other. 

This RPG impression I got was furthered by other RPG-style elements. The characters mostly seem to have a class they fall into – thief, sorcerer, wizard, warrior – with a related set of skills. There are multiple magic items of power that play a role in the story, with many characters relying on those items for their power, for protection, or to augment their fighting style. There are some familiar races from D&D – dark elves, regular elves, dwarfs (never dwarves, although either plural is fine, I now know). I’ve been playing D&D since 1980, so this all felt quite familiar and comfortable for me.

The separate storylines blend as the characters interact, and there are several exciting set-piece scenes along with some good climaxes. The storylines all come to resolutions, and while these resolutions are satisfying, it’s clear that many of them are not final, and the adventures will continue in the future books.

If you’d like to give the book a look, and you’re reading this in mid-May 2021, you’re in luck! It’s on sale for the next few days for $0.99 on Amazon.

This was a really interesting chance for me to get a look at a well-developed world and the start of a new series by an experienced and successful indie author, one with a fairly different style of writing and characterization from mine. I learned a lot, and the perspective will certainly help me as I continue. 

The first draft of Daros is finished!

Woohoo! The first draft of my new novel, Daros, is done. I started it back in July 2016 while I chaperoned marching band camp at Page High.

I finished tonight, at 112,322 words, 88% of them written since last August.

I wrote 5,925 of them today, which is a new daily record for me.

Now for the rewrites, and to fix everything I’ve screwed up. But this feels pretty good.

Nearly there

I’m nearly there with the first draft of my sci fi novel, Daros, begun almost five years ago during chaperoning for marching band camp, then left to sit for four years. I always liked the opening few chapters, so I came back to it again this past August. November and December were a little rough, but I am back on track to get it finished soon.

Contrary to my usual style of not knowing what the hell the characters are going to do next, I’ve got a chapter outline for each of the five remaining chapters, plus the one I wrote tonight. I needed that scaffolding to bring it home safely and to resolve a bunch of plot threads in a way that makes sense and is satisfying. I hope.

“The End” will feel good, but it won’t really be done. Not even close. More like the version of done where you get to start the massive and daunting process of rewrites and edits. But a milestone nonetheless. I’m excited about what it’s become, and I hope others will enjoy it once it’s all knitted better together and polished to a shine. Also, mixed metaphors rule.

Visualizing characters

I love messing around on Artbreeder.com, and in particular I enjoy playing with their face visualizations. I got a character picture I kind of like for one of my main characters in my Daros book. Her name’s Brecca, and she’s 16, and in pretty far over her head in a tough situation. Not sure this picture is right, and I don’t want to mess with anybody’s ability to imagine the characters for themselves, but it’s fun nonetheless.

df3bf359a72c7497.jpeg (2048×2048)

UPDATE: Nobody much likes this one but me. Here’s one that I like that seems to garner a little more support:

Visualization of Brecca Vereen, main character of Daros

Racism in a sci fi universe

I’m getting close to finished with the first draft of my sci fi novel (tentative title is Daros), and I’m starting to think about cover design. I’ll get actual artists to handle that for me, but one fun part of that is deciding whether to represent the characters on the cover or not. On the one hand, you can create an appealing cover with some kind of action or character represented. On the other, once you provide a picture of a character, you inhibit people’s ability to imagine them how they want to. That includes complex issues like race.

In a book set on Earth, physical appearance comes with a whole bunch of social baggage (and often prejudice and discrimination) that comes from our current society. In a future space-faring setting that still has humans, a few things seem likely:

  • racial categories that are present on Earth won’t mean the same things that they do now
  • the physical characteristics that people present will be more homogenized than on Earth now (we’re already seeing that in the 21st century as migration happens and as love overcomes barriers against cross-boundary partners that were stronger in the past)
  • people who’ve adapted to life on different worlds will potentially be more different from each other (both physically and culturally) than the historical racial and ethnic categories in Earth’s current population (unless there’s tremendous connectivity, uniformity of media, and easy travel)

If all of that is true, then probably bias and prejudice would still exist, and some of it may be appearance based, but it would be addressed toward people from different planets rather than people from regions or nations.

I’m not sure of any of this, and I would hope that a technologically advanced society would leave a lot of this behind, but it’s interesting to think about.

The Outcast Crown is free for a short time

Book Cover for The Outcast Crown

Until October 13, you can get a free copy of The Outcast Crown for Kindle via Amazon. Enjoy the second story in the Inquisitors’ Guild series. This novel introduces some new characters and carries on the story of some of your favorite characters from the first book.

It’s not necessary to have read the first book to enjoy the second – it’s a stand-alone story, full and complete. However, you might enjoy starting with Flames Over Frosthelm if you want to read them in chronological order.

A new story

I’ve been working on a new sci fi novel. The tentative title is Daros, which is the world where a lot of the action takes place so far. In doing so, I’m departing a from the subject matter of my Inquisitors’ Guild books, which have been fantasy adventures, while this is more of a space adventure. I’m hoping people will enjoy this too.

I’m also trying some new things in terms of writing style. I have two perspective characters in the book, both characters struggling with their own challenges but coming from very different places. I’m writing in third person instead of first, which is not hard, but it’s a little different. I’m keeping the perspective tightly fixed on what they can see, hear, and feel, and I only share their thoughts, so that part is similar. But I am jumping back and forth from one to the other, telling each story in pieces, and that is a lot of fun along with being a little harder to craft.

I haven’t figured out if or when they’ll meet. I think they might, eventually, but I need to work out how, and if that’s actually a good idea, and how they’d respond to each other. They share a little bit of personality and initiative, so that might help bridge the gap between them, but that gap is pretty wide.

As of now (October 1), I’m at about 25,000 words, and I’m anticipating this will be in the 80,000 to 100,000 range. I’m hoping to get a first draft done by the end of November, maybe as a NaNoWriMo project, depending on how long the story ends up needing to run. That would put the book out potentially in early to mid 2021. I’ll post more updates as I get farther along.

Daros
Phase:Editing
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