Foreword Reviews

Myths in the Making

Best Indie Fantasy Books of Spring 2016


Forget lions and tigers and bears—for years now, it’s been vampires and werewolves and witches, oh my! Indeed, from bookshelves to the big screen, the allure of the supernatural has never been stronger as elements of myth and magic continue to saturate the senses and inundate popular culture, where the lines between fact and fantasy, fiction and reality are blurred.

With so many options to choose from, there is no time like the present to explore the best that fantasy has to offer. This compilation offers a variety of fantasy titles, in all various shades and incarnations. Contemporary, historical, and completely fabricated eras of enchantment await the open-minded, from the blustery shores of Scotland to the balmy waters of the Caribbean. So sink into the charming, chilling worlds of fantasy.

Black City Saint

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Richard A Knaak
Softcover $18.00 (390pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Set in Chicago during the Prohibition era, Black City Saint offers a wickedly unprecedented twist on the legend of Saint George and the Dragon, mixing history and mythology with mobsters, flappers, and Feirie. Supernatural gumshoe Nick Medea and his ragtag gang of shapeshifters, changelings, priests, and a reincarnated lover find themselves caught up in the middle of an age-old battle when a deadly war between the reigning queen and exiled king of Feirie threatens to destroy the city.

Brimming with authentic vernacular and a glimpse into the world of Al Capone and his cronies, Black City Saint is historical fantasy at its best. From bootleggers and shadow goons to ancient enchanted swords and tommy guns, the unique combination is exhilarating. This is a fast moving tale of power, love, loss, and redemption. Reluctant hero Nick Medea interacts with mysterious shoe-shine men and royalty while vanquishing kelpies and kobolds, proving that he is, indeed, the cat’s pajamas.


The Immortal Crown

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Kieth Merrill
Shadow Mountain
Hardcover $26.99 (560pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

A legend, a prophecy, and the coming of age of the champions of light and darkness begin the epic Saga of Kings, a new series from Kieth Merrill. Book one, The Immortal Crown, is an addicting fall into the precarious times of the age of Kandelaar, where immortality is within reach if thirteen fabled stones of light can be reunited.

The story revolves around three potential champions, each more unlikely than the last. Drakkor, a sympathetic villain, Ereon Qhuin, a noble slave, and Asher, an untried postulant all have unbreakable ties to the stones. They are also all determined to fulfill their destinies. They stand on the brink of greatness and infamy as they join the quest for the immortal crown. High fantasy complete with enough magic, romance, weaponry, battles, plot twists, and complexity to appease even the most discerning LOTR fans, but singular in its depth of character and emotion, The Immortal Crown is a classic in the making.



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JJ Amaworo Wilson
PM Press
Softcover $15.95 (272pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Drawing inspiration from the true story of a skyscraper turned safe haven, JJ Amaworo Wilson’s Damnificados is a timeless reminder of the strength and character found in those struggling to eke out an existence at the bottom rungs of society. Here, they are known as the “damnificados,” the “nonpeople,” or even those that simply “don’t exist.” Seeking refuge in the Torres Building, built and abandoned on a foundation of trash, Nacho Morales finds himself the reluctant leader of an ever fluctuating melting pot of exiles.

When floods and plagues of biblical proportion threaten the sanctity of their home, the damnificados look to Nacho for deliverance. So begins a David and Goliath battle rife with fantastical creatures. Brujas, two headed wolves, and übermosquitos are all mixed into what becomes a veritable chronicle of the “trash wars,” fought over generations by a colorful mix of characters including German twins Hans and Dieter, a Japanese warrior known as the Chinaman, a fiery former beauty queen, and Nacho himself. Thoughtful and intense, but with a core of humility and self-awareness, Damnificados is an extraordinary, magical, inspiring tale of community and conscience.


The Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum

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Kirsten Weiss
Midnight Ink
Softcover $14.99 (288pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

A quirky murder mystery with plenty of small town charm and an occasional haunting, The Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum follows Maddi Kosloski to her childhood stomping grounds in the wine country of San Benedetto. There, she warily assumes the role of owner/curator of the “tackiest museum in San Benedetto.” When the museum becomes the scene of a murder and numerous break-ins, Maddie decides to do a little sleuthing of her own, attracting attention from a variety of colorful residents including an eager taxidermist, shady carpenter, hot neighbor, and a justice-seeking spectre.

With attractions like “the creepy doll room” and a resident ghost hunting cat, The Paranormal Museum is a delightful mix of macabre curiosities and understated humor, much like its erstwhile proprietress herself. Struggling with the loss of her fast-paced international career, dismal job prospects, and inevitable comparisons to her wildly successful brother and best friends, Maddi’s self-deprecating commentary, philosophy, and simultaneously hopeful and despairing outlook anchor the fanciful while maintaining a lighthearted quality, even while tracking down a killer.


The Port-Wine Stain

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Norman Lock
Bellevue Literary Press
Softcover $16.95 (224pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Third in the American Novels series, The Port-Wine Stain delves into the dark and evocative world of Edgar Allan Poe’s life and work, capturing the essence of his stories and poetry while exploring possible inspirations and ensuring that the likes of “William Wilson” and “The Premature Burial” will never be experienced in the same light again.

A chilling psychological thriller set in Philadelphia during the dark winter of 1844. Medical assistant Edward Fenzil is charged with caring for a well known doctor’s disturbing collection of body parts and pieces. His life is forever altered when Edgar Poe enters it. Poe’s charisma and fixation on death and the grotesque pull Fenzil kicking and screaming into the occult and, eventually, into the mind of a killer graced with Fenzil’s own visage. All the while, Poe looks on, scribbling and observing the “strange beauty in suffering.”

As lyrical and alluring as Poe’s own original work, The Port-Wine Stain captures the magic, mystery, and madness of the great American author while weaving an eerie and original tale in homage to him.


The Ghost Tree

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Sara Bain
Urbane Publications
Softcover $14.95 (432pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Spirited defense lawyer Liberty Butler finds herself in the middle of another drama, which she handles with trademark snark and flair. The Ghost Tree is the contemporary tale of a paranormal legend that traces back to a haunted plantation in 17th century Scotland. MacAoidh Armstrong, “Kie” to his friends, purchases The Ring Steading in Auchencairn as a solitary retreat, but violent and inexplicable events force him to hire a private investigator and lawyer, none other than former Detective Chief Inspector Andrew Prendergast and Libby herself.

A marriage of the supernatural and rational, Kie and Libby face off against angry poltergeists and the ghosts of their pasts as a team of parapsychologists, suspicious neighbors, trespassing journalists, and one overbearing mother converge around the old ghost tree. An intricate tale that is emotional and chilling yet spelled with humor and romance.



The Golden Yarn

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Cornelia Funke
Breathing Books
Hardcover $17.99 (448pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Jacob Reckless, treasure hunter and risk taker extraordinaire, is back with his pensive brother, Will, in The Golden Yarn, third in Cornelia Funke’s mesmerizing MirrorWorld series. Translated from its original German by Oliver Latsch and inspired by the infamous brothers Grimm, the Reckless boys find themselves separated and worlds apart travelling through mirrors, across empires, and by magic carpet on their greatest and most emotional adventure yet.

Picking up right where Fearless (book two) ends but this time showcasing Russian and Ukrainian folklore along with some classics, The Golden Yarn features Baba Yaga, Rumplestiltskin, and a dash of Snow White, fairytales and magic front and center along with a more grown up but no less troubled Jacob and Will. Joined by Fox, Jacob’s shapeshifting sidekick, now a decidedly alluring young woman, and a band of treasure hunters, spies, thieves, and one reluctant prisoner, Jacob chases Will and his stone faced Goyl escort as they seek the Dark Fairy while evading the mysterious mirror siblings, Sixteen and Seventeen. Fans of MirrorWorld will love the continuity and growth of their favorites as well as the several new additions and role revisals, but enjoying the series in order is recommended.

Haunting black and white sketches from Cornelia Funke herself grace the pages, depicting faces and scenes in shadow or partially revealed, adding a mysterious element to what is, at heart, a tale of love lost, love gained, and love reinvented as the golden thread of “true love, selfless and deep as the oceans in their most fathomless depths,” becomes a tangible tether, coveted by some and cursed by others.

The Golden Yarn combines “once upon a time” excitement with endless possibilities and breathless hopes for a few “happily ever afters.”



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Laura Davis Hays
Terra Nova Books
Softcover $26.95 (388pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

For Kelsey Dupuis, a refined scientist from New Mexico with a fear of water, past and present are about to collide. Incarnation is a metaphysical thriller in which Kelsey’s dreams turn into nightmares. She experiences life through the eyes of Iriel, a daughter of Atlantis with an affinity for dolphins and sea creatures, all while attempting to thwart an international environmental disaster, escape an enraged lover, and decipher a message from 10,000 years in the past.

Thought provoking and visceral, Kelsey’s journey from the dry BioVenture labs of Santa Fe to the troubled waters of Belize is fraught with visions and answers just out of reach as Iriel’s own trials and choices are mirrored from beyond. Karma and reincarnation are explored alongside science and logic in a magical, mystical fusion as two enigmatic women, born worlds apart, face startlingly similar ordeals and temptations both professional and romantic. Cerebral and introspective but spiced with action, danger, and passion, Kelsey and Iriel are sure to captivate preternatural believers and skeptics alike.


Pallas Gates McCorquodale, child and youth services librarian and former Miami beachcomber, is currently exploring the mountains of Utah while enjoying the latest in indie books fireside.

Pallas Gates McCorquodale

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