Book Review: The Witch’s Gift: A Tale of the School of Spells & War, Book 4 by Morgon Newquist

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Yes, I review books by other people who don’t have the last name “Newquist.” It just so happens that I’m a pretty fast reader and I like to pass along the word about good stuff I think readers of this blog might enjoy. Which brings me to the fourth book in Morgon Newquist’s The School of Spells & War series, The Witch’s Gift.

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Morgon Newquist

The Witch’s Gift is another of those interstitial character pieces like book two that seem to fall between the more weighty adventuresThe Witch’s Gift picks up after the wizard Alis and the warrior Cahan return from successfully ridding the remote village of Ashfern from the spirit of a malovelent witch. Alis is testing her new powers out on the titular school’s ground when–BOOM!–she causes a gigantic explosion.

It turns out that the witch from Ashfern imbued Alis with her power, and the results are hard to control. Not only that, they’ve caught the attention of the school’s headmaster . . . Continue reading “Book Review: The Witch’s Gift: A Tale of the School of Spells & War, Book 4 by Morgon Newquist”

Book Review: The Cinder Witch: A Tale of the School of Spells & War, Book 3 by Morgon Newquist

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A haunted town, an enchanted mirror, ghosts, hidden dimensions . . . book three of Morgon Newquist‘s episodic School of Spells & War series, The Cinder Witch, has a little bit of everything.

The adventuring duo of Alis the wizard and Cahan the warrior is tasked by their school to help the residents of the remote town of Ashfern, located in the perpetually cold and snowy Winterwood, with a little ghost problem. It seems like a spirit is haunting the mayor’s children, particularly his youngest daughter, and he’s hoping that Alis and Cahan can do something about it. While the threat of the Formless, first encountered in Down the Dragon Hole, remains a problem constantly on their minds, the duo knows that they cannot ignore their duties.

Magic is more Alis’ strongsuit, and she soon finds herself struggling with a malevolent spirit that has far more magic power than her . . . but also a past that is just as tragic.

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Morgon Newquist

And the mighty Cahan gets his butt kicked several times. Continue reading “Book Review: The Cinder Witch: A Tale of the School of Spells & War, Book 3 by Morgon Newquist”

Book Review: Vigil by Russell Newquist

If pious, globe-trotting, gun-wielding demon-hunters aren’t your thing, this review won’t mean anything to you. But if the are, I think you’re going to enjoy Vigil.

Vigil by Russell Newquist continues the tale he began in War Demonsalthough is more of a side story than a direct sequel. Michael Alexander, the hero of the previous book, is nowhere to be found. Instead Vigil features Peter Bishop, the bearer of the sword of St. Michael, and his demon-hunting friends in pursuit of the dragon that terrorized Athens, Georgia in War Demons. This dragon absconded with Peter’s girlfriend Faith. Or at least the girl Peter wouldn’t mind being his girlfriend.

Tracking the dragon to a small village France, Peter and his friends discover that the church in town covers dark, ancient secrets. And I don’t mean the kind of dirty laundry that tends to pile up in small towns. I mean actual, literal dark and ancient secrets that threaten more than just the down. While Faith tries to keep her head in the dragon’s layer, Peter and his comrades fight a desperate battle while under siege in the church during the traditional Catholic Easter vigil. Unfortunately, the church’s old priest is not quite as Godly as one would hope, and threatens to sabotage the whole operation . . .

Author Russell Newquist
Russell Newquist

Yes, as in War Demons, Christianity plays a central part in Vigil‘s story. And like in that book, as well as the other Tales of Peter Bishop short stories, Russell is able to pull this off because the religious elements are a part of the story, and the book is not preachy.

And you know what? I see what Russell is trying to do here, or at least I think I do. And I approve: Continue reading “Book Review: Vigil by Russell Newquist”

Book Review: A Midsummer’s Party: A Tale of the School of Spells & War, Book 2 by Morgon Newquist

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Not too long ago, I reviewed a book called Down the Dragon Hole by author Morgon Newquist. In that review, I discussed the way Mrs. Newquist both embraces and plays with traditional swords and sorcery conventions:

It sounds basic, but the set-up works for such a short story. And while there are plenty of genre tropes to satisfy your fantasy itch–mystical creatures, magical spells, swordfights, and magic battles–it’s the non-genre elements that give Down the Dragon Hole it’s heft. There are bigger themes at play than dragon-hunting, themes like expanding one’s moral and intellectual horizons, fighting off extinction, and what is lawful versus what is right.

Ms. Newquist also twists some genre conventions in the forms of Alis and Cahan themselves. They embody the stereotypes of their roles while at the same time breaking free of them, making both Alis and Cahan fun characters I’d like to read more about.

Well here we are, and I’m finally getting around to exploring the world of Alis and Cahan more.

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Morgon Newquist

A Midsummer’s Party is the second book in Mrs. Newquist’s School of Spells & War series, and while this is a short work focused on one night at the titular university, it serves as an interstitial character piece leading into the next volume, The Cinder Witch. The set-up is as simple as it gets: The warrior Cahan and the wizerd Alis have been adventuring partners since their adventure in the first book. During Midsummer break, when most students are partying outside, Alis is in the library studying. It isn’t until two of Cahan’s warrior friends, Saer and Elyas, and her own wizard friend Brien interrupt her that she learns it’s Cahan’s birthday. And she hasn’t gotten him a gift. Continue reading “Book Review: A Midsummer’s Party: A Tale of the School of Spells & War, Book 2 by Morgon Newquist”

Book Review: Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584 to 2069 by William Strauss and Neil Howe

Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069, by William Strauss and Neil Howe

Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584 to 2069 by William Strauss and Neil Howe is one of the most interesting books I have ever read. I don’t think I fully buy their theory just yet . . . but get back to me when I’m in my nineties and I might have a different opinion.

Strauss and Howe posit that, throughout America’s history things occur in cycles, including people. The big breakthrough in this book was Strauss and Howe’s description of recurring generational archetypes that shape, and are in turn shaped by, events. They are not the first social scientists to put forth a generational theory, but they are the first, as far as I can tell, to have a four-stroke generational cycle, as well as clearly defining the generational types.

The authors of Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069, William Strauss and Neil Howe

Each generational cycle, as observed by Strauss and Howe, consists of the following generational types:

  • Idealist (dominant)
  • Reactive (recessive)
  • Civic (dominant)
  • Adaptive (recessive)

I’ll explain dominant and recessive generations later, but suffice it to say that each generational archetype has its own personality and tendencies.

Still alive today, we see the following generational breakdown:

  • G.I. (“The Greatest Generation”) (Civic) (born 1901-1924)
  • Silent (Adaptive) (born 1925-1942) (end of the prior “Great Power Cycle”)
  • Boomers (Idealist) (born 1943-1960) (beginning of the current “Millennial Cycle”)
  • 13er (“Gen X”) (Reactive) (born 1961-1981)
  • Millennial (Civic) (born 1982-2003)

The book was published in 1991, so this is where the analysis ends, but it’s easy to see that what is sometimes called “Generation Z” (those born in or around 2004) would be considered an Adaptive generation by Strauss and Howe, more similar to the Silent generation than to their parents and grandparents.

Each generation lasts approximately 22 years, and is split into two waves. While there may be some differences between, say, first-wave Adaptives and their second-wave counterparts, these are nothing close to the differences between those second-wavers born on the cusp of the next generation–in Strauss and Howe’s analysis, these tend to have far more in common with their first-wave generational cohort than the succeeding generation. As one born in 1981–the last birth year for 13ers–I find this particularly fascinating.

But there’s even more groundwork needed to understand this hypothesis. It sounds complicated, but the pieces fit together quite nicely. Continue reading “Book Review: Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584 to 2069 by William Strauss and Neil Howe”

Jane Austen: The Conclusion

So now that I’ve read every single Jane Austen novel, ever, it’s time to make sense of it all, isn’t it? Isn’t that what blogs are for, to try to create a context–a larger story–even when there isn’t one?

Especially when there isn’t one?

Or maybe, just maybe, I really enjoy writing about reading. And writing.

In any event, I can safely say the following two things:

  1. Jane Austen’s novels are fantastic,
  2. Jane Austen may very well have written the best dialogue the English language has ever seen

What? That’s high praise from a dude reading chick lit, man! But like I said in my very first Jane Austen post many moons ago:

 In reading Sense and Sensibility, I’m struck by how nice it is to enjoy a story where men are manly and women are womanly, each sex exhibiting strengths, weaknesses, and in general complimenting each other the way those in healthy relationships should. Throw away all of the social stuff regarding the limited opportunities for women at that time and enjoy the story for what it is.

No, this isn’t some evil member of the white male patriarchy lamenting his lost power (first of all, I never had any power to begin with). It’s just . . . unique to read a story from a world where people seemed to have confidence in their identities. For starters, there wasn’t any self-loathing or existential angst in these stories. That would invade literature later.

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Anyway, I’ll divide this post into The General section and The Specific section (names subject to change). In the former, I’ll go over what I admire about Jane Austen’s writing, her strengths, and any criticisms I may have. And in the latter part, I’ll give a brief rundown of each book, my takeaway, and an overall rating/ranking that I’m sure will upset most people who study Jane Austen’s works more than I do, but what the hell, it’s my blog. So here goes! Continue reading “Jane Austen: The Conclusion”

Book Reviews: Who’s Afraid of the Dark? and Knight of the Changeling by Russell Newquist

I’ve got a two-fer of tales for you today from Mr. Russell Newquist, he of Silver Empire publishing, and an author in his own right. If you recall, I recently reviewed his fun, action-packed debut novel War Demons.

War Demons featured a supporting character named Peter Bishop, friend of that novel’s main character Michael Alexander. Well, it turns out that Peter is heir to the sword of St. Michael and a pretty important player in the struggle to protect Earth from the demonic forces of evil.

Who’s Afraid of the Dark?and Knight of the Changelingare two short stories in Russell’s saga, and take place after the Prodigal Son series, of which War Demons is the first book. Yet these two stories were published first.

Don’t worry, it works. Continue reading “Book Reviews: Who’s Afraid of the Dark? and Knight of the Changeling by Russell Newquist”