Book Review: The Winter Dragon

What better way to spice up your Christmas season than with dragons and giant mountain goats?

The Winter Dragon: A Fantasy Novella by Jo-Anne Tomlinson

I was lucky enough to receive an early copy of this fantasy novella, though I did pre-order it as well.

Description

In the land of eternal winter, archer Katja and her sister prepare for the festivities of Juletine, when the people of Brunn give thanks to the Winter Dragon. Though no one has seen the dragon for centuries, tradition demands the villagers honor the gifts of healing and protection given to their ancestors. Everyone but the king, who for reasons unknown hasn’t shown his face in several years, leaving his haughty-but-handsome son to conduct the rituals.

The bothersome prince isn’t the only thing troubling Katja. The barrels of healing water grow smaller each year as the frost wall grows thinner. When the traditional hunt goes terribly wrong, endangering her family, Katja must journey beyond the safety of her home in order to save it.

Characters

I can tell the author has siblings, because Katja and her sister behave exactly like you’d expect for two girls who both love and torment each other. Katja’s stubbornness gives her the grit she needs as the protagonist, and the prince comes around by the end. This short tale packs a lot into a few pages—dragons, princes, imps, and giant mountain goats. I’d like to spend an entire novel in this world.

Plot

The plot moves steadily with the perfect balance of action and reaction. The story intertwines personal and societal stakes as Katja must journey up the mountain to save not only her family, but her people.

I wish the novella had been longer, a short novel even. A lot of the emotional turnaround happened too quickly, leaving the deeper conflicts resolved but unprocessed, shallow. A novella is too short to dig deeper into such transformations.

Writing Style

The author’s prose is descriptive enough to set the fantastical scene, but not so heavy as to slow the plot. She writes in long sentences, without too much purple prose. I’m impressed an author from a tropical island can write such a great winter story. I doubt I could write a convincing story that takes place on a beach.

As I mentioned above, Tomlinson prioritizes action over emotion, which is appropriate for this genre, I remind myself. I’ve been reading a lot of high-drama contemporary fiction lately, so while I felt the emotional conflict resolution was shallow, readers exclusive to fantasy may find the level just right.

Conclusion

What better way to spice up your Christmas season than with dragons and giant mountain goats? The short-but-powerful story grips readers with Katja’s personal stakes while raising the pressure with threats to Brunn’s way of life. Well worth reading, and I hope the author writes more. I can never get enough dragons.


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The Winter Dragon

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Book Review: Blackbird and the Dark Side of the Moon

Since I already loved the characters from Light Tripper, I knew I would enjoy this novella as well. With a twisty plot and intriguing side characters, this creepy tale is perfect for Halloween.

Blackbird and the Dark Side of the Moon

Jo-Anne Tomlinson has a real talent for creepy Halloween stories. I loved her space opera, Light Tripper, and I was fortunate enough to receive an early review copy of this novella.

Description

Sal Tripp is an intergalactic bounty hunter with simple needs, but when her father loses their credits at the gambling table, she must accept whatever work she can find. When a handsome-but-mysterious captain offers her an exorbitant rate to transport him and his new crew of delinquents to his ship, she suspects trouble. Her financial woes compel her to accept the job, and her curiosity compels her to peek inside the ship, but there she’ll discover that “trouble” was an understatement.

Characters

Sal Tripp has more grit than a resurrection plant during the Dust Bowl. As a bounty hunter, she faces down space pirates and galactic gangsters with sharp wit and her evolving electric powers, all while keeping track of her addict pilot/father, Morgan. While Morgan often complicates their lives, his charm and affection earn Sal’s forgiveness.

Plot

The plot moves at a good clip as Sal’s curiosity—not to mention her crush on the captain—drive her toward inevitable danger. Once on the ship, Sal progresses through the type of horrors you’d expect from a good scare-your-pants-off Halloween story.

Writing Style

Jo-Anne Tomlinson has a genuine talent for creepy Halloween stories. You can almost hear the ominous music building to a crescendo as you read, and the story twangs with tension.

Miscellaneous

Readers should note that this is a Halloween story, meaning it contains several creepy/gory scenes. Light Tripper itself is not that gory, so readers with sensitive stomachs will still enjoy it.

Conclusion

Jo-Anne Tomlinson’s love of Halloween shines through every word in this novella. Since I already loved the characters from Light Tripper, I knew I would enjoy this novella as well. With a twisty plot and intriguing side characters, this creepy tale is perfect for Halloween. If you enjoy this kind of story, I also recommend her fantasy short story She brings the Harvest, and her contemporary young adult murder-mystery-thriller Shadows in the Water.


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Shadows in the Water

Filled with intrigue driven by heart-pounding suspense, Shadows in the Water weaves a net of competing motives. Cynical India navigates a town full of hypocrites, determined to discover the truth—no matter who gets hurt.

Shadows in the Water by Jo-Anne Tomlinson

I don’t normally read a ton of suspense, but after beta reading more of it recently, I’m developing a taste for it. This is my favorite of the ones I’ve read.

Description

Someone tried to murder India Peters, but that’s not even the biggest news in the beachside community of Army Bay. Brandy Hamilton, desired and despised queen bee, disappeared the same night.


When India wakes up, her memories are missing along with her childhood-friend-turned-hated-nemesis. Somewhere in her foggy brain lies the answer to how India went from social pariah to member of Brandy’s elite circle: Brandy’s sister Sadie, the good twin. Rory, the track star. Ben, the hot boyfriend. Avery, the rich douche. Elton, the cocky loner.


But things in Army Bay are only getting stranger. Her parents, her frenemies, the girl she likes, even the police—they all know more than they’re willing to share. To uncover the truth, India will have to expose the town’s dark secrets no matter who gets hurt.

Characters

Biracial and bisexual India Peters is a cynical teen who learned the hard way that high school can be hell, but she wakes up to discover she’d become someone else. A popular someone who cares about things like free-range chickens. India’s investigation into the past helps her define her present—which India is she? The pariah and stoner or the popular progressive?

Her quest for the truth leads her to interact with the town’s characters. Each person has plenty of motive to harm Brandy, but not everyone is what India expected. The large cast kept me guessing throughout the story, but each character is so unique and well-rounded that I didn’t struggle to keep them straight as I have in similar books.

Plot

With every clue India uncovers come at least a dozen more questions. The more she uncovers about the towns people and their competing motives, the more dangerous her investigation becomes. Even the police are suspect. The plot twists and turns as it careens toward the finish at a pace fast enough to give the reader whiplash, but not so fast as to neglect character development and tension building.

Writing Style

With sharp wit, sarcasm, and an unapologetic use of the f-word, Tomlinson captures an edgy teen voice that fits perfectly with the tension in the story. The prose is clear with creative descriptions that set the tone, a pleasure to read.

Conclusion

Filled with intrigue driven by heart-pounding suspense, Shadows in the Water weaves a net of competing motives. Cynical India navigates a town full of hypocrites, determined to discover the truth—even when her investigation leads her way too close to home. With a large cast of shady characters and enough twists to keep the reader guessing, Shadows in the Water is an excellent addition to teen suspense. I couldn’t put it down.


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Shadows in the Water

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