Reviews

Reviews of “The Axes of Evil”

“Here Michael A. Ventrella takes up the mantle of Christopher Stasheff. Terin’s exploits are as entertaining as those of Rod Gallowglass, and fans of The Warlock in Spite of Himself will hugely enjoy The Axes of Evil.” - Gregory Frost, author of Shadowbridge and Lord Tophet

“The Axes of Evil is a taut nail-biter of a thriller. Edgy, funny and dark.” –  Jonathan Maberry, multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Dragon Factory and Rot & Ruin

“Humor, danger and a twisted tangle of unlikely prophecies make for a page-turning adventure.” - Gail Z. Martin, author of The Chronicles of the Necromancer series

“A witty and original fantasy. Grips you from the start and never lets go.” - Patrick Von Raven, author of The Bride of Annwn

“The Axes of Evil continues the story that began in Arch Enemies. In this one, Michael Ventrella weaves another of his perplexing tales where it seems his protagonist, the squire but would-be bard Terin Ostler, cannot succeed in solving one problem without betraying another.

Terin is now a squire of Duke Aramis of Ashbury – albeit a very new and unskillful one. His companion squires are Darlissa, the biata, from a race of magic skilled but enigmatic people created by gryphons, and Rendal, a skillful and brave normal human. Terin would much prefer a peaceful life but as in the other story, events seem to swirl around him. He wonders why he keeps being featured in prophesies which all lead to troubles that appear satisfied only by his death. The prophecy in the earlier tale was cryptic in that he was required to fulfill it without ever being able to see its contents – a conundrum deliciously solved in the finale. In this tale he is Bishortu, of whom three conflicting but secret prophecies are told and which he and his companions have to face many dangers to learn.

We meet the three tribes of the Vansir who live in a sparse and rocky land they call the Vansir Reclaim. Each of the chieftains has one of the three magic axes which have kept the tribes separated and at war with one another for many generations. The goblins also live in this inhospitable land – also perpetually at war with the Vansir. As Bishortu, Terin is expected to solve all the problems before the armies of Ashbury arrive to destroy them all.

As the perpetual pacifist, Terin often succeeds through his very reluctance to fight. He believes himself a coward, but is one of those who acts despite his fear. He stoically faces the dangers that keep him and his companions from their goal in a non-stop sequence of action and setback. He collects new friends and supporters by his purity – as well as a new admirer who joins the little band. In the very Taoist manner of succeeding by avoiding to contend, he leads the adventurers to conquer by failing, and to solve the problems by allowing the prophecies to prove themselves.”  - Christopher Hoare, author of Arrival and The Wildcat’s Victory

“Once again, Terin is a part of a prophecy – well three prophecies to be exact – and and this time the prophecies are not as clear. One says he will unite the Vansir tribes, one says he will destroy the people, and the final, well; no one will speak of it. Suffice it to say, it is revealed, but I will let you find out what it is, which is actually pretty funny and well worth finding out.

This was a very enjoyable read and moved much better than Arch Enemies did. The differences were the lack of need for character introductions and more direction for the characters to take. I found myself more engaged with this book and wanting to continue to see what happened next.

The characters are more fleshed out with this one. Even the side characters were a joy to read.

Even though this book is much shorter, I still felt as if I read a much longer book because of everything he was able to pack into it. Mr. Ventrella’s writing has really seemed to tighten up and become much better.

There were some mysteries and surprises with this one that kept me engaged to the end. I haven’t heard anything about the next book, but I will be the first in line, or so I hope, to get it and devour it as I had this one.” - Robert Hicks, Goodreads

“One of the hardest things about writing is the ability to actually pull me in and make me feel like I’m actually there with the main character. Mike Ventrella accomplished this very well. It’s an adventure, and not just me sitting there reading a book.” - Colleen Capuano

“Axes of Evil is a solid followup to the first book with clever writing and dialogue. It expands on a small part of the first book’s story and ends in a very clever fashion. Looking forward to more! I’ll be curious to see the next two books which are actually anthologies; what will short stories with Terin be like? And what will the other shorts be about?” – Derek Beebe

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Reviews of “Arch Enemies”

“Clever, funny and suspenseful. Normally, I would rather eat bees than read fantasy novels, but this one is great.” –  Mark Waid, author of Kingdom Come and Birthright

“Arch Enemies is a non-standard quest story with an atypical thrust-into-the-role hero that nevertheless keeps you turning the pages at the end of every chapter, eager to find out what happens next. Full of engaging characters in a well-crafted world, read it for the twists you’ll see coming, and the ones you won’t.” – Elektra Hammond, editor and reviewer at buzzymag.com

“The young bard, Terin Ostler, is astounded when two squires arrive to take him into the Duke’s presence – even more astounded when he learns that he is the one foretold in a prophecy to ensure the Arch remains sealed to imprison the evil Thessi within. The atmosphere of the quest that follows is heightened by intrigues and by Terin’s doubts about who tells the true account of the prophecy, since he is not allowed to read it. The action is lively when the two squires, Rendal and Darlissa, face repeated attacks to protect the timid bard – while he gradually grows in maturity, courage, and character.

Terin’s sardonic observations bring the quest to life, and the suitably convoluted events of the final crisis close the prophecy and the story in fine style. The world of these humans, gryphons, elves, dwarves, and many other magic creatures is a constantly fascinating place for the lover of fantasy to discover within these pages.

This is no raw transcription of random events but a tightly written and plotted work that will keep the reader enthralled until the last word is read.” - Christopher Hoare, Muse Book Reviews

“What does work is Ventrella’s conception of an entirely new race. Yes the old fantasy stereotypes are all still here (goblins, elves, dwarves, etc.) but with the addition of the biata, a feathered people who refreshingly aren’t just a recycling of the aforementioned genre archetypes. This is good because in many ways the biata need to work, since the plot is based so heavily on their history.

Despite the rather patchwork beginning of events in Arch Enemies, a late twist lends the entire novel a surprisingly tight narrative.” - Pat Ferrara, Mania.com

“A really good read!

The book arrived at 5:30pm on a Friday night and I didn’t put it down until I was finished with it at 1am in the morning. Once the heroes were off on their adventure, the book quickly picked up pace and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to find out where they’d wind up next.

One of the most refreshing things in this book is that the main character is not a battle ready individual, nor even a peasant who suddenly thrust into this fate becomes accustomed to it, learning how to wield weapons, killing his enemies as necessary and so on. He is a man (more of a boy) that rather runs away than fight, knows that he cannot defeat a trained warrior one on one and even blanches at the death of his foes. He is one of the more realistic and believable characters I have read in a book.

If you enjoy reading a book that is a straight forward adventure, with the occasional offshot plotline, humor and a rather entertaining characters, this is a book for you.” - Mark Mensch

“Reading ‘Arch Enemies’ was a joy and a treat.

Bravo for bringing forward the biata race into the story and downplaying the other fantasy favorites that have had their share in the limelight. The situations Terin has to overcome in the story are things we can all relate to. He is pressured into doing a task that he would not normally do and quickly realizes he’s in way over his head. He is not the all-powerful champion and is constantly making errors in judgment. Yet, through simple acts of telling the truth and by conducting himself in small deeds of valor, he triumphs by showing us that bravery is not necessarily found in grand, epic measures.

Readers beware, you will not be able to tear yourself away from the last hundred pages of this story!” - Eric Hamilton

“Michael Ventrella lends his rich imagination to taking the fantasy creatures we all know and love (or occasionally fight)–as well as some critters unique to his world–and delivers a convincing intrigue and complexity to each species or race. The character development of Terin Ostler is plausible, as the young bard faces his fears, values, and morals–discovering himself as he finds himself swept along a reluctant hero’s journey (with a tasteful amount of humor). There are surprises around every corner to keep the reader engaged and guessing. I can easily see why Ventrella’s world of Fortannis is so popular, and I look forward to reading the next book!” – Beth Waggoner Patterson

“Took a while to get me to the point that I couldn’t put it down, but once I got there, what a ride. It is a young adult fantasy book about a boy and a prophecy, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it is just another typical prophecy type book. The twist towards the end makes this one much different. 4 out of 5 stars.” - Robert Hicks

“Michael A. Ventrella’s first effort proves to be a strong one. Full of wit and whimsy, this novel entertains with its rich fantasy world and characters. The misadventures of a young bard fit well into a setting of knights, dwarves, elves, goblins and other fantasy races. The reluctant hero can easily become a labored cliche, but Ventrella manages to make his reluctant hero interesting, funny and even heroic.” - Scott Kondrk

“Wild gryphons couldn’t make me stop reading once I finally got started.

Wonderful written, with well developed and well liked characters, both main and supportive characters (Darlissa is brilliant, I think I am envious of her). The plot was great and unexpected with that ever-so-clever twist at the end. A must read for any fantasy lover. It was extremely visual and descriptive. And funny (well, I laughed). I am looking forward to reading the sequel.” - Samantha Nurse

“The narrative rolls along smoothly, working well in the first person, and the language is simple, concise, and refreshingly bereft of the flowery prose which, in my opinion, is too often evident in fantasy fiction.

The main characters are well developed and credible. One of my acid tests for any character in a work of fiction is whether they evoke an emotional response in me; and the main characters in this book definitely did.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable and easy read. If, like me, you occasionally hanker after a simple piece of fantasy escapism, and can’t be bothered wading through the giant tomes put out by many modern day fantasy authors, this book is for you.

Another acid test I use to judge a book is whether it leaves me wanting more, and again, in this case, it definitely did…” - William Bailey

“I purchased this book for my twelve-year-old granddaughter and she is the reader, not me. She received the book on a Saturday and didn’t seem to put it down until she had finished it by the end of the weekend. This is much the same behavior that I observed when she read the ‘Hunger Games’ series and the ‘Potter’ books. Not every book that she reads receives this kind of commitment.

She reported that she liked the characters and felt that the story was compelling. However, she wished that the main character had made some different choices — that she would have done some things differently, – which during the conversation I interpreted as her close association with the character and, by extension, the author.

Her most telling comment was the request for the next book in the series. That is a two thumbs up response from her.” – Brian Victory

“A conventional, but highly entertaining, sword & sorcery fantasy. Arch Enemies is a briskly-paced, liberally humorous and twisting quest for an improbable hero to fulfill a puzzling prophecy.” - Scott Gillespie

“A light, pleasant read with good timing, well thought out twists, and convincing characters and events. Often writers depend on premature episode cuts in order to structure chapters and build suspense, and they introduce unforeseeable actions in order to move a story along. Thankfully, Arch Enemies rarely resorts to such tactics. Instead, we get a little magic, a simple coming of age story with a consistent sequence of events, and a manageable plot. As a non-reader of fantasy books, I still found this story very entertaining.” - Galia Halpern

“Terin is a likable character and you find yourself rooting for him to fulfill the prophecy. Terin’s self-effacing humor fits in with his character and makes him believable. Some of the reviews mention the presence of humor. Don’t be put off by this. The humor is occasional and not overwhelming.

I enjoyed the unexpected twists in the plot. Reading a story written in the first person only works if the character is likable and someone you want to know quickly. If not, it becomes annoying. Mike Ventrella is able to use Terin’s skill as a bard in telling the story so that it flows naturally.” –  Margaret Muth

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Reviews of “Tales of Fortannis: A Bard in the Hand”

“Magic. Knights. Werewolves. Doppelgangers. Elves. There’s no telling what will pop up in Michael A. Ventrella’s Fortannis fantasy series when he invites other writers to play in his sandbox. No need to wait for any ‘extended editions.’ These stories are good to go now.” – Daniel M. Kimmel, author of the Hugo-nominated Jar Jar Binks Must Die and Shh! It’s a Secret.

“A very fun anthology of tales in a world both expected and very different indeed! In A Bard in the Hand, Michael Ventrella and others revisit the world of Fortannis and emerge with tales to astound, amuse, and bemuse; here is sword-and-sorcery to stand well next to that of Leiber and Moorcock, and ordinary people swept up into events far larger than they which can still be addressed with some common sense and cleverness. A young woman makes a choice, and faces the consequences of choice and the price of learning, while another duels in darkness for the soul of a child, and an old man recounts an adventure of his youth that kindles a spark in those who listen. A fun book, well worth reading!” – Ryk Spoor, author of Phoenix Rising and Grand Central Arena.

“Curl up in your favorite chair with your favorite beverage and get ready for adventure, action and derring-do—it’s all here!” – Gail Z Martin, author of Ice Forged

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Reviews of “Tales of Fortannis: A Bard’s Eye View”

“A Bard’s Eye View is a varied collection of adventures, whimsies, variously grim, grand and comedic; this book will appeal to fans of gaming and fantasy alike.” - Jay Lake, Campbell Award-winning author of Green and Mainspring

“A Bard’s Eye View is a wild and weird collection of fantasy stories that present some of the freshest writing around. Derring-do with a great sense of fun. Highly recommended.” - Jonathan Maberry, multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The King of Plagues and Dust & Decay

“Rollicking good fun perfect for a beach read, subway read, airplane read—heck, just buy it and read it! Mirth, mayhem and magic in an intriguing world.” - Gail Z. Martin, author of The Chronicles of the Necromancer series

“You don’t need to know the background material to enjoy the range of stories from the talespinners assembled here. It has plenty of adventures that end with a twist that leave you shaking your head in pleased surprise. I’ll be happy to look for many of these writers in days to come.” - Jody Lynn Nye, author of View From the Imperium and Dragon’s Deal.

 

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