Tuesday, December 29, 2015

“Da Vinci’s Demons” Ends in a True Series Finale!

I did not expect this, but the final episode of Da Vinci’s Demons, Ira Deorum, was a true series finale in every respect.

Leonardo’s pseudo history came to a fitting end, and Lucrezia’s character arc was finally complete, as was Riario’s – though his was the final twist. 

Not all questions were answered, but I’m not surprised. The writers hinted to that in the penultimate episode in dialogue between Sophia and Leo:
“I just wanted to find out why,” Leo said.
“Did you get your answers?” Sophia asked.
“A few. Perhaps we’re not meant to have them all.”
And that’s where the show left us, with a few answers, but not all. We’ll never know if the Book of Leaves was a tome made by the Nephilim, but given the power that a single page produced, I can guess at the answer. Also, the episode’s Latin title, Ira Deorum, translated as “Wrath of the Gods,” lends further proof to the book’s Enochian origin. We’ll also never learn the fate of Riario’s soul, but his story arc finished with a fitting, if not historical, end. Yet the story of Leo and Lucrezia – which is what the show was always about – ended beautifully, even if the conclusion was more sad than happy. 

I thought the final episode was a fulfilling end to the series, which I still believe is one of the finest historical fantasy shows to ever be aired. I will miss Da Vinci’s Demons.

* image courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


Merry Old Saint Nick!
I'm taking the week off for Christmas, getting ready to prepare the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a Southern Italian tradition in our home! But I'll be back before New Year. Until then, I hope you enjoy the holidays!

P.S., the above link is to an article about Lidia Bastianich and her suggestions for the Feast of the Seven Fishes. I had the pleasure to meet Lidia last Friday in New York City. She even gave me a signed copy of her cookbook: Lidia's: Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine. It's a great resource for the home chef, and I'm definitely using one of her recipes in this year's feast!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

My Thoughts before the Penultimate Episode of “Da Vinci’s Demons”

When I published my post titled 5 Questions Going Into Season 3 of “Da Vinci’s Demons,” I never thought I’d receive a tweet from Tom Riley, who plays Leonardo Da Vinci on the show. Commenting on my post, he wrote: “You will actually get decent answers to all of these.” Heading into the penultimate episode of Da Vinci’s Demons, I agree with him wholeheartedly.

One concern I raised in my earlier post is that Starz made the decision to end the series after filming wrapped. As a result, I thought it would be unlikely we would see a true series finale that resolves all the show’s story lines. That still may be the case, but so far my questions are getting answered, even while other intriguing questions emerge. Looking at my original queries, let’s see where things stand.

1. Will Pope Sixtus Fail?

When I wrote this question, I intended it to be about whether the evil Pope Sixtus would lose to his twin brother, who I believed to be the true – and benevolent – pope that would restore honor to the papacy. It turns out the show does appear to be heading toward a conflict between the two men, but in a twist I didn’t see coming, the “true” pope looks more evil than his brother! 

Rather than restoring the honor of Saint Peter’s throne, it turns out the true pope is one of the Sons of Mithras. In prior seasons, I assumed these were the good guys, yet now it appears that they’re as evil as the Labyrinth. The “true” pope, we learn, is supporting the Ottoman invasion of Italy, killing Christians by the droves, and even pondering the murder of Lucrezia, his own daughter. Amid these two evil popes, Leonardo and his friends have emerged as the only good guys in the show, so does it really matter which pope wins? 

That may depend on how we define winning. For the record, the historical Pope Sixtus lived six years after the Pazzi Conspiracy depicted in Season One, so I’m betting on evil pope #1 being the victor, but only with Leonardo’s help in defeating the Ottomans. I won’t put much money on that bet, however. Plot twists are one thing this show has excelled at, and I think we’re in for one more before the series ends.

2. Will Lucrezia End Up A Hero?

This question has already been answered in my book. While I had a fleeting concern that Lucrezia might end up an opium addict, there is no doubt that she’s a hero. After all, she saved Leonardo’s sister from the hands of a madman, obtained the mysterious page of the Book of Leaves, and helped direct Leo to both the page and his sister an episode ago. Lucrezia remains in mortal danger in the hands of the Ottomans, and hopefully she’ll be rescued before the series’ end. But I love the character arc the writers gave her on this show. It was very well done. 

3. Will Leonardo Meet His Past Self?

We may have the answer based on last week’s episode. Leo returns to that mysterious cave in Vinci, only to be ambushed by Carlo de’ Medici and hung upside down, much like the Hanged Man the boy Leo saw at the beginning of Season One. After being saved by his sister Sophia, she reveals that the cave is a place with special properties, a nexus if you will with the “River of Time.” Leo believes this might explain the vision he had as a boy. If this is the final answer to this question, I’m satisfied.

4. Is Riario Lost to the Dark Side? 

I think we have the answer to this one as well. A few episodes ago, it was revealed that the Labyrinth (aka the “Enemies of Man”) poisoned Riario and turned him insane. Leonardo, however, was able to cure Riario’s insanity, and last episode, he confessed to murdering Lorenzo’s wife, clearly seeking absolution or punishment, but either way I think he’s been saved from the dark side. For now.

5. What is the Book of Leaves?

Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll ever see the entire book before the series ends. Leo’s mother tells him that she obtained it, and warns him that it’s dangerous, but so far this season the show has only focused on that single page we saw earlier in the secret Vatican archives. That page, it turns out, has the power to drive men mad – at least those who can’t read it. Yet when Leo and Sophia finally have a look at that page, under moonlight (a necessary ingredient), and in the mystical cave in Vinci, we see the book’s true magic. Three dimensional images appear, and both Leo and his sister see different things. The images appear to be the plans to a weapon of some sort involving electricity. I’m sure we’ll learn more in the final two episodes, and I’m looking forward to it!

In the end, I’m really going to miss this show. I still believe it’s been the best historical fantasy on television, and I’ll gladly purchase the series collection when it comes out on Blu-ray. 

Thank you, Tom Riley. You were true to your word.

* images courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

How "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" Came to Be

With little time to blog today, I thought I'd pass on an interesting article in io9 titled "J.J. Abrams Told Us the Origin Story of Star Wars: The Force Awakens."

I'm as excited as anyone for the new film (Episode VII in the Star Wars chronology). And, as a writer, I was fascinated to learn the story of how the most significant new Star Wars film since The Return of the Jedi came to be, especially after the disappointing prequel trilogy.

For anyone who is worried that The Force Awakens might turn out like the prequels, I think you can take a deep breath. According to io9, Disney nixed George Lucas' outline for the story, and instead allowed J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasden, who co-wrote The Empire Strikes Back, to take the story in a new direction. Here a few excerpts from the article on io9 by Germaine Lussier:
Abrams co-wrote the script for Episode VII with Lawrence Kasdan, who co-wrote The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. This wasn’t the plan at first. Originally, Abrams was set to direct, with Kasdan consulting, and Oscar-winner Michael Arndt penning the script. So how did we end up with the script we have today? We asked Abrams to take us through the early days and explain how this new story came to be.
* * *
Abrams confirmed that Star Wars creator George Lucas provided outlines for the films before Abrams came on board, but “Disney had determined they wanted to go a different direction.” That direction was developed over the next six to eight months—basically the better part of 2013. He, Kasdan, Arndt and others came up with a structure and lots of elements everyone loved, but Abrams said “some things were still unsolved.”
At that point, they hit a bit of a bump. Arndt – who Abrams describes as a “precise gentleman” – said he needed 18 months to finish the script. He only had six.
“Despite my absolute, burning desire to direct a script that Michael Arndt had written, I realized I didn’t have that time,” Abrams said. “[Lucasfilm President] Kathy [Kennedy] didn’t have that time. Disney didn’t have that time. And so I sat with Larry and I said, ‘Look, there are things about the story that I know are right. And I believe we could actually answer the questions that we still need to be answered if we wrote this together.’”
Kasdan agreed, but because he was now coming on board with a different position, he decided he wanted to wipe the slate clean.
You can read the full article here.

Also, Germaine Lussier has been running posts on io9 that critique the prior films, and his critique of the three prequels is well worth reading. Here are the links: The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith. Those prequels were problematic on so many levels, and I really think Lussier nails it in these posts.

As always, I'm curious to hear you thoughts on the prequels or the upcoming film, so feel free to leave a comment.

Update: Germaine Lussier has posted his critiques of Episodes IV and V. Here they are: Star Wars: A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. Once again, he's spot on!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

“Fin Gall” – A Viking Adventure in Ireland

For months I’ve been meaning to post my review of Fin Gall by James L. Nelson. Guest reviewer Bill Brockman first reviewed the book here. My take follows this image of the book’s cover.

Fin Gall turned out to be a wonderful surprise. I was expecting a book focused on Vikings, but Nelson’s novel is as much about the Irish as it is the Norse and Danes. Set in the mid-ninth century, the tale unfolds from the viewpoints of multiple characters, both Viking and Irish, and I think the novel is richer because of it.

The central plot concerns the Crown of the Three Kingdoms, a magical device “forged even before the true faith came to Ireland by some long forgotten druids.” The crown has the power to bring together the warring Irish kings, who, if united, can dispel the Northmen from Ireland’s shores. As one of the main Irish characters puts it, the “future of Ireland rests with the crown.”

The book begins when a Norse longship attacks the Irish vessel that is secretly ferrying the crown to the Irish king of Tara. One of the Norsemen is Thorgrim Ulfsson (aka Thorgrim Night Wolf), the novel’s primary protagonist and a seasoned Viking warrior whose dreams warn him of the dangers of possessing the crown. So, Thorgrim buries it like pirates’ gold, setting up a treasure hunt that will dominate much of the novel.

In short time, Thorgrim and his crew of Norsemen (“fin gall” in Irish) encounter the first of several factions seeking the crown, the Danes (aka “dubh gall”) who rule the Viking settlement of Dubh-Linn. There we meet a trio of Danes who serve as antagonists in the tale: the Danish ruler Orm, his treacherous hirdman Magnus, and his craven and conniving henchman Asbjorn the Fat. But we also encounter Morrigan, a beautiful and cunning Irish spy posing as a one of Orm’s thralls.

After being captured by the Danes, Thorgrim and his crewmen soon find themselves trapped between these two fictions: the Danes who want the crown for themselves, and the Irish who want to use it to unite the Irish kingdoms. Once the Norsemen escape from Dubh-Linn, the adventure kicks into high gear. The action scenes are wonderfully written, the treachery is thick, and the plot rollicks along with turns and twists.

Amid all the adventure, there is a love story or two. Thorgrim finds himself drawn to the beautiful Morrigan, while his fifteen-year-old son, Harald, falls for Brigit, the Irish king’s daughter. Harald and Brigit’s story alone would make the book an enjoyable read. Yet instead it’s only one of many plotlines that Nelson weaves into the larger tale, making the entire story feel more epic in scope. If you’re at all interested in the Vikings in Ireland, and fun medieval adventures, Fin Gall will be well worth the read!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanksgiving, 1621 Style!

I've been away from the blog longer than usual this month because I've been working hard on the sequel to Enoch's Device. But since it's Thanksgiving eve, I'm re-posting my traditional piece on the first Thanksgiving. And I've included some menu items from this year's feast after the post!

Growing up, I never paid much attention to the origin of Thanksgiving. Other than what I may have learned in elementary school, all I ever recall knowing was that it was a big feast between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans sometime after the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock. Only in the past few years did I become interested in what really happened at the first Thanksgiving. Yet like many an adventure, it all started with a few bottles of wine ...

Thanksgiving, 1621, Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Not that the pilgrims drank wine at the first Thanksgiving (at least by any accounts I’ve read, although they did have some beer), but the several bottles my friends and family drank a few years ago, after another gut-busting Thanksgiving dinner, inspired us to do some research into the origin of Thanksgiving. (That’s also how we rediscovered the role Squanto played in all of this, but more on him in a moment.)

Apparently there are only two written accounts of the first Thanksgiving, which was celebrated in 1621 as a harvest feast by the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag. Turkey, it turns out, was not the centerpiece of the meal, although one of the two written accounts referenced a “great store of wild turkeys.” The main course appeared to be venison, but there is also reference to waterfowl and “Indian corn.”

The interesting part about the meal is what was not eaten, at least according to an article in The Smithsonian Magazine. There were no potatoes or sweet potatoes. White potatoes originated in South America and sweet potatoes came from the Caribbean, and neither had apparently made it to Massachusetts by 1621. The Pilgrims also lacked butter and wheat flour, so there was no pumpkin pie. Among things they probably did eat were fish, eels, and shellfish (like lobster, clams, and mussels), which were staples for the Wampanoag and the colonists.

But this feast may never have occurred if it were not for a Patuxet Native American named Tisquantum, commonly known as Squanto. He served as an interpreter for the Pilgrims, taught them how to grow corn, and showed them the best places to catch fish and eel, all of which helped them survive their first winter at Plymouth. He also helped negotiate a peace treaty between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag in March of 1621. Without this, I suspect there would not have been a first Thanksgiving.

A drawing of Squanto – I imagine he dressed more warmly in the winter of 1621!

Squanto’s backstory was less than idyllic. He was captured twice by the English and forced to leave his wife and child. During his first captivity in 1605, he was taken to England along with several other native Americans. There, his captor, Capt. George Weymouth, wanted to display them for his financial backers, who were interested in seeing some natives from the New World. In England, Squanto learned English and apparently became the consort of an English woman. By 1613, he was hired as a guide for an expedition to New England and returned to the New World with the famous explorer John Smith.

This is the same John Smith who was saved by Pocahontas in 1607 and 1608.

But Squanto’s time back in Plymouth, where the Patuxet lived, did not last long. Once Smith went north on another expedition, one of his lieutenants, a Capt. Thomas Hunt, kidnapped Squanto and twenty-six other Native Americans to sell them into slavery. Hunt sailed to Spain, where he hoped to sell his captives for twenty pounds each. When local friars discovered Hunt’s plans, they rescued Squanto and his brethren, hoping to convert them to Christianity. Squanto ended up living with the friars until 1618, when he found his way back to London, and then to a ship headed to the New World.

Upon returning home, Squanto discovered that his entire Patuxet tribe had died from the plague (believed to be smallpox, a disease introduced to the New World by Europeans). Despite all this mistreatment and misfortune, he stayed and helped the Pilgrims until he died of fever in 1622. According to one account, the Massachusetts governor at the time called Squanto a “special instrument sent by God for their good beyond their expectations.”

So this Thanksgiving, my family and friends are going a bit more historical. There will be venison and some lobster, and turkey of course. (I suspect mashed potatoes will be in order too, only because my friends and family might never forgive me if I eliminate them for the sake of historical purity.) There will also be more wine and probably a few mixed drinks – including a special concoction that we intend to dedicate to Squanto.

2015 Menu Update: This year, we're going to our neighbor's house for Thanksgiving, so I'm not cooking my usual six course meal. But I'm still preparing a few dishes in honor of the first Thanksgiving, namely littleneck clams steamed in Boston lager and fried lobster tails with a horseradish crème fraiche sauce! I'm also making an oyster dressing (my wife's favorite), my signature pumpkin soup with fig quenelles and prosciutto, and turkey gravy made with a port wine reduction! 

Yes, I love cooking almost as much as I love writing! HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

The Mayflower in 1620
Another interesting fact: Through my father’s side of the family, I am a direct descendant of Francis Cooke and his son John, and Richard Warren and his daughter Sarah, who married John Cooke. Francis, John, and Richard all journeyed to the New World on the Mayflower in 1620 and were likely present at the first Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

George R.R. Martin's “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” May Be the Most Fun In Westeros Yet!

Two months ago, I deemed The Einstein Prophecy by Robert Masello my favorite book of 2015. But after reading George R.R. Martin’s A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, I must say we have a new winner. In fact, this one may rank among my favorite books of all time. Here are a few reasons why.

Unlike A Game of Thrones with its epic scope and myriad of viewpoint characters, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms follows the adventures of Ser Duncan the Tall, sometimes referred to as Dunk the Lunk, and his squire, a bald, scrawny boy of eight curiously named Egg. In fact, before they were compiled into this beautifully illustrated tome, these novellas were known as “The Tales of Dunk and Egg.” Compared to the frequent grimness of A Song of Ice and Fire, this book is a breath of fresh air. My only wish is that it was longer, for I would love to read more of their adventures.

Set a hundred years before A Game of Thrones, the story opens with Dunk burying the hedge knight he served. In Westeros, even a hedge knight has the power to bestow knighthood on another, but it’s never clear whether the old man knighted Dunk or if the lad just took the old man’s sword and horse and set off to seek fame and fortune at the nearest tourney. Along the way, he meets an odd and likeable boy named Egg who wants desperately to become Dunk’s squire. Together, they set out on a series of adventures that will shape the fate of the Seven Kingdoms. And adding a twist to the tale, one of the pair is far more than he appears.

The novel is comprised of three novellas that Martin published between 1998 and 2010. The first story, titled “The Hedge Knight,” is our introduction to Dunk and Egg and the endearing relationship the two share. Without giving too much away, Dunk ends up in trouble with a Targaryen prince while trying to save a smallfolk girl Dunk has grown fond of. Ser Duncan, you see, is a knight true to his vows, but by honoring those vows, he soon finds himself in a trial by combat to save his life. The story involves dreams and prophecies and even hints to events that will transpire in A Song of Ice and Fire, but this is a character-driven tale with a protagonist and his squire you cannot help but love. Of the three novellas, “The Hedge Knight” was my favorite. But believe me, it was a very close call.

The second story, titled “The Sworn Sword,” involves a conflict with the Red Window, a noble lady who may have murdered her last four husbands, and now she’s at odds with the lord to whom Dunk has sworn his sword. This is the first of the three tales that delves into the political history of Westeros and an event called the Blackfyre Rebellion, where a bastard son of the old Targaryen king declared his rights to the Iron Throne. Here we learn of the red dragon – the banner of the Targaryen loyalists – and the black dragon, the banner of the rebel cause. As Dunk often reminds himself, “red or black was a dangerous question, even now.” It reminded me of the War of the Roses – a red rose or a white one – but then again, English history has always been Martin’s inspiration for his tales of Westeros.

Like all three stories, “The Sworn Sword” contains a good plot twist, but it also offers the most intriguing female character of the three tales. I found myself hoping for a happy ending, but then reminded myself this was written by George R.R. Martin. He gave us the Red Wedding, after all.

The third story, titled “The Mystery Knight,” concerns the second Blackfyre Rebellion, another tourney at the lists, and a dragon egg as a prize. There is even a prophecy of a dragon to be born from this conflict, and a hint of the coming of Daenerys’ dragons from A Game of Thrones. Like the first tale, Dunk and Egg find themselves embroiled in another adventure that will shape the fate of the Seven Kingdoms. There are a few more twists in this one than the other two, and it serves as a fitting ending to the book, though it left me wanting more. Fortunately, Martin plans on continuing the adventures of Dunk and Egg. If only he could finish The Winds of Winter and get on with it!

What makes this novel so wonderful is its namesake, Ser Duncan – the Knight of the Seven Kingdoms – and his relationship with the young boy, Egg. It’s different than anything Martin has given us in the world of A Song of Ice and Fire, and as much as I enjoy his epic series, these three little tales were probably the most fun I’ve had in Westeros since I discovered Martin’s works. He’s promised us more of Dunk and Egg and I’m eagerly awaiting their next adventure.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Historical Fantasy: “The Skin Map”

With a title like The Skin Map and a hellish-red cover with shadowy images of pyramids and glowing arcane symbols, I expected this novel by Stephen R. Lawhead to be dark, and even biblically apocalyptic in tone. Boy was I wrong!

The Skin Map turned out to be one of the most whimsical novels by Lawhead I’ve ever read. You see, it’s all about ley lines, those mystical places where the fabric between dimensions runs thin (think Outlander and those ancient standing stones). And by way of these ley lines, there’s a lot about alternate realities and alternative histories, from ancient Egypt to seventeenth century London. And it’s a bit about a man named Arthur Flinders-Petrie, whose tattoos contain the secrets to navigating the ley lines and even understanding the mysteries of the Universe. So, you see, the map is on skin, but fortunately for Flinders-Petrie, that skin is still on his chest. 

While Flinders-Petrie is vital to the story, the book follows a number of other characters, several of whom are more important from a protagonist point of view. It all starts out when a modern-day Londoner named Kit, who “has all the social prospects of a garden gnome,” encounters Cosimo, his long-lost great-grandfather who doesn’t look nearly as old as he should. Cosimo has come to rescue Kit from “a life of quiet desperation and regret” by showing him the secrets of ley travel. Things, however, go awry after Cosimo’s initial journey with Kit causes him to miss a date with his morose girlfriend Mina. She doesn’t believe a word Kit says about “laying” lines and his long-lost relative, so Kit endeavors to prove it to her by showing her the ley line he and Cosimo used. But in the jump between dimensions, Kit and Mina become separated, and now Cosimo and Kit have to rescue her.

Thwarting them at every turn are the Burley men, henchmen of Lord Archelaeus Burleigh, a master ley traveler who seeks the skin map and believes Cosimo has a piece of it. Burleigh is a devilish villain who spices up the novel in every diverse storyline the book follows. These include an entire plotline about Arthur Flinders-Petrie and his tattoos, and one about Mina of course, whose life changes completely after she finds herself stuck in seventeenth century Prague.

All of the storylines coalesce by the novel’s end – but then the end is really not an ending. Rather, it’s a bit of a cliffhanger that doesn’t resolve the story. Lawhead has used cliffhangers before, and while I find them a tad frustrating, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in the next book. The Skin Map is part of his five-book Bright Empires series, so there is plenty more to this adventure. 

All in all, I found The Skin Map to be a delightful story that showed a lot of promise for the series. It’s also further proof that Stephen R. Lawhead is among the great writers of historical fantasy right now. If you are looking for a fun and lighthearted adventure, I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Devil's Bridge

Last October, while participating in “Fright Fest” at Heroines of Fantasy, I published a work of flash fiction titled The Devil’s Bridge. It’s based on a Welsh legend about an old woman and her deal with the devil – on the eve of Samhain (Halloween). So, in honor of Saturday’s holiday, I’m republishing the story here. Hope you enjoy it!

Brynn dreaded the hike to the devil’s bridge, though she dreaded the full moon even more.

Its light bathed the path through the bracken-covered hillside that led to the ravine. Every few yards, Meg jabbed her walking stick into Brynn’s back, goading the ten-year-old forward, while Meg’s old wolfhound, Mister Grimm, followed alongside. Mister Grimm was as mean as sin, and Meg had threatened to feed Brynn to the dog more times than the girl could recall. Although tonight, Brynn feared the moon and the bridge more than the wolfhound. Yet she wondered if he could smell the hunk of day-old bacon hidden in her fist.

“Keep moving,” Meg hissed. “Of all the orphans the village has brought me, you be the slowest.”

The old woman’s eyes simmered in their sockets, amid a face creased like an autumn leaf. Some said Meg was once the most beautiful woman in the village, but now she was so old that Brynn’s Nana was just a child when Meg was in her prime. Nana believed witchery preserved Meg’s beauty, but even witchery could not defeat the haul of time. 

Ahead loomed the bridge, a crude arch of stone that spanned the ravine where the river plunged three hundred feet in a rushing fall. On the far side, moonlight kissed the headstone of the ancient dolmen encrusted with moss. Nana once told Brynn that dolmens were the tombs of giants, but some believed they were gateways to the Otherworld, where dark faeries lured their prey.

A chill washed through Brynn’s gut. “Why do we have to come here tonight?”

“Because it’s Samhain,” Meg replied. “The curtain between the living and the dead is like mist, and the mandrake growing near the dolmen is at its peak. ‘Tis powerful magic in them roots tonight, so time to harvest.”

“But Nana warned about that bridge.”

“’Tis just a bridge.”

“Nana said that when you were young, you tricked the devil into building it.”

Meg’s eyes narrowed. “Your Nana told you that?”

“She said he built it for you for the price of the first soul to cross it. But instead of going first, you pushed your servant across, a sickly girl, blind in one eye. Cheated, the devil howled and screamed. Now, Nana said, at every full moon he takes the life of the first to cross the bridge.”

“Your Nana died a fool!” Meg snapped. “There’s no truth in them myths. Now come on child, there’s harvesting to do.”

From a pouch on her waist, Meg drew a rusty gardening spade and handed it to Brynn. “Now go and get me some mandrake root.”

Brynn’s stomach hardened. “Alone?”

Meg held up her fingers, bent like a spider’s legs and tipped with jagged nails. “My hands are old, too feeble to grip a spade. Now do as you’re told.”

“But Nana said—”

Meg grabbed Brynn by the hair and jerked her head back. “I don’t care what your Nana said,” Meg said through clenched teeth. “Go dig up some mandrake root, lest I turn you into a toad and feed you to Mister Grimm!”

Brynn froze, scared to even breath. When Meg let go, Brynn backed toward the bridge, nearly stumbling due to the weakness in her knees. Her whole body shook as she turned at the bridge’s threshold. The spray of the falls kissed her face. Hundreds of feet below the bridge, the rushing waters seethed into a cauldron-like gorge.

Brynn’s heart felt as if it would beat through her chest. She stopped and looked back.

“Go!” Meg shrieked. 

Brynn shook her head, a thought pounding in her mind. She cheated the devil . . .

“Get on, or I’ll beat you bloody with this stick!”

Brynn sucked in a breath and shook her head again, mouthing her reply. “No.” 

Meg grimaced. “Grimm, make her go.” 

The wolfhound stood as tall as Brynn, with a massive head and teeth as long as her thumbs. His eyes gleaming in the moonlight, he padded toward her like a hound closing on a wounded hare. 

Brynn struggled to hold back a cry. Summoning all the courage she could muster, she opened her palm, revealing the hunk of old bacon in her hand. Mister Grimm stopped and cocked his head, smelling the cured meat. The wolfhound opened his jaws, just as Brynn whipped her arm and hurled the meat toward the dolmen.

“No!” Meg screamed as the wolfhound tore across the bridge.

Mister Grimm lunged for his prize. Then Brynn gasped. 

A torrent of water blasted from the falls. Arms stretched from the spray amid a ghost-like shape with burning red eyes. As it fell on the wolfhound, the ghostly demon roared like the wind, drowning out the dog’s cries. Water pummeled the stone bridge, and when the torrent ceased, the demon and the wolfhound were gone. 

Brynn exhaled—right before Meg eclipsed her view. The old woman’s eyes fumed with rage. With a fierce cry, she cracked her stick upside Brynn’s head. And the girl’s whole world began to spin.

* * *

On the dirt floor of Meg’s hovel, Brynn woke in darkness to a sound at the old wooden door. The scent of stewed mandrake clung to the air as Brynn rubbed the side of her head, swollen like a gourd. She heard the sound again. Something scratched at the door. A chill rushed up Brynn’s limbs as she got up and walked to the doorway. Hesitating for a moment, she opened the door. At its threshold stood Mister Grimm. The hound’s eyes burned like hot coals.

Brynn staggered back. Those eyes, like the demon’s from the falls! 

She feared she might faint, but the beast brushed past her and padded toward Meg, asleep in her bed. As it lunged and Meg screamed, a faint smile crept across Brynn’s lips. For there was one more thing Nana used to say. 

“Remember child, always give the devil his due.” 

Friday, October 23, 2015

5 Questions For Season 3 of “Da Vinci’s Demons”

After a very long wait, the premier of Season 3 of Da Vinci’s Demons airs tomorrow. To me, it will be bittersweet because Starz has ended the series, making Season 3 the final season of one of my favorite shows. Even worse, the studio made the decision after filming wrapped, so it’s unlikely we’ll see a true series finale that resolves all the show’s storylines. But let’s hope for the best. Here are 5 questions I would like answered before the series ends.

1. Will Pope Sixtus Fail?

The evil Pope Sixtus has remained a major antagonist of Lorenzo and Leonardo since the series began. As one character noted, “a devil sits on the papal throne.” This becomes all the more true once we learn that he is not even the real pope! The real pope is his twin brother, whom he imprisoned in Castel Sant’Angelo. In Season 2 it is revealed that the true pope has a plan to take his rightful place at the appropriate time. But will his plan succeed before the series ends? I’d like to see what happens to the evil Pope Sixtus then.

2. Will Lucrezia End Up A Hero?

In Season 1 we learn that the beautiful Lucrezia Donati, the mistress of Lorenzo the Magnificent, is actually a spy for the evil pope, under the command of Count Riario. Her actions in the first season turn out to be seemingly villainous, although it’s suggested that Riario may be manipulating her into doing his bidding. We eventually learn, however, that everything Lucrezia has been doing is to help her father, who is the true pope (his brother, the false pope, even killed Lucrezia’s sister before her very eyes). This revelation changed everything I had thought about Lucrezia in the beginning, and I’m looking forward to seeing if she emerges as a hero by the series’ end.

3. Will Leonardo Meet His Past Self?

There has always been a time travel element to Da Vinci’s Demons. In the very first episode, the Turk, al-Rahim, tells Leonardo about a mysterious order called the Sons of Mithras. When Leonardo denies being a member of this order, al-Rahim says, “Are you sure?” This suggests that al-Rahim knows about Leonardo’s future. Later, it’s revealed in a flashback that what Leonardo witnessed in a cave as a young boy was actually his adult self dangling in the shape of The Hanged Man (you know, the card in the Tarot deck). And somehow, this is all connected to Leonardo’s mother, who disappeared when he was an infant and had some connection to the Sons of Mithras. Now, it turns out she is with the Ottoman fleet sailing upon Naples. This plot line has been built up from the beginning, so I really hope we see it come together in Season 3.

4. Is Riario Lost to the Dark Side? 

When we were first introduced to Count Riario in Season 1 he was the henchman of the evil Pope Sixtus. But by Season 2, after he and Leonardo are captured by the natives of Machu Picchu, Riario and Leonardo become allies, and, surprisingly, Riario becomes a somewhat likeable character (not Jamie Lannister likable, but much more likable than the snake that he was). We can also have pity for Riario after it’s revealed that the evil Pope Sixtus made Riario into the monster that he is. 

After Riario returns to Rome, he seeks absolution from the real pope in the dungeons of Castel Sant’Angelo. But the imprisoned pope would have none of it, deeming Riario beyond absolution. Condemned and broken, Riario has now been forcefully indoctrinated into the Enemies of Man, a group opposed to the Sons of Mithras. The Enemies of Man also seeks the Book of Leaves, the show’s central mystery. And, as al-Rahim warned Leonardo, “In the hands of the Enemies of Man, it will be greater than any army.” In the end, I expect a major conflict between the Sons of Mithras and the Enemies of Man. Although I wonder, when the dust settles, whether Riario will be saved or whether his soul will belong forever to the dark side.

5. What is the Book of Leaves?

This mysterious book has been a focal point for two seasons, ever since al-Rahim told Leonardo to seek it, and we learned that Pope Sixtus wants it too. The tome was supposed to lie hidden in a place called the Vault of Heaven, but when Leonardo and Riario enter the Vault, the book was missing. What they found instead, was a brazen head that played a recorded message left by Leonardo’s mother. This is the first time we learn that she may be alive – and that she might have the book. 

The evil Pope Sixtus believed the Book of Leaves was written by the Nephilim, the offspring of humans and angels spoken of in the book of Genesis. And indeed, when we saw a page of the book kept in the papal archives, the letters changed magically from every type of language, to astrological symbols, and even to strange hexagonal patterns. Count Riario, meanwhile, believed the book had Atlantean origins. But even he seemed to come around to the Enochian theory after witnessing a cave drawing inside the Vault of Heaven. The drawing depicted human-like beings with elongated heads (or helmets of some type) and strange haloes or circles behind them. When Riario sees them, he begins to quote from the book of Genesis: 
“There were giants on the earth in those days. Perhaps these were the Nephilim, the offspring of the Sons of God and the daughters of men, and they created this Vault.”
Leonardo has to find the Book of Leaves. After all, that’s been his quest since the first episode, and it would be a shame to end to the series if the book is never found.

Closing thoughts: The answers to all these questions will come sooner than expected since Starz is releasing the entire final season On Demand starting Saturday. I, however, will probably watch the episodes as they air. But for those who want to binge watch or skip ahead, the season finale to Da Vinci’s Demons is just a day away. My only hope is that we get a satisfying end to Leonardo’s tale and his quest for the Book of Leaves.

* Photos courtesy of Starz

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms!

Many of you may already know that this is out, but while we wait patiently for The Winds of Winter, George R.R. Martin has released a book comprised of three novellas he wrote some time ago about a hedge knight in Westeros and his diminutive squire.

I picked up a copy last week and can't wait to dig in! Here is a description from the novel's dust jacket:

Taking place nearly a century before the events of A Game of Thrones, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms compiles the first three official prequel novellas to George R. R. Martin’s ongoing masterwork, A Song of Ice and Fire. These never-before-collected adventures recount an age when the Targaryen line still holds the Iron Throne, and the memory of the last dragon has not yet passed from living consciousness.
 Before Tyrion Lannister and Podrick Payne, there was Dunk and Egg. A young, naïve but ultimately courageous hedge knight, Ser Duncan the Tall towers above his rivals—in stature if not experience. Tagging along is his diminutive squire, a boy called Egg—whose true name is hidden from all he and Dunk encounter. Though more improbable heroes may not be found in all of Westeros, great destinies lay ahead for these two . . . as do powerful foes, royal intrigue, and outrageous exploits.

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms is also beautifully illustrated and only about half the size of the average novel in his A Song of Ice and Fire series. What's not to love about this?

Friday, October 9, 2015

"The Last Kingdom" Premiers This Saturday!

This one snuck up on me, but thanks to friend of the blog Bill Brockman I've learned that the television adaptation of Bernard Cornwell's The Last Kingdom will premier this Saturday on BBC America!

Young Uhtred
For those that follow this blog, you know that Bernard Cornwell is my all time favorite author of medieval historical fiction. The Last Kingdom is the first book in his Saxon Chronicles about Alfred the Great who prevented the Vikings form nearly conquering all of England. Here is an excerpt from The Wall Street Journal about tomorrow's episode:
BBC America’s powerful new historical drama “The Last Kingdom” tells the story that made England possible, and with it the flourishing of Anglo-Saxon culture and law that underpin America as well. The series is set mostly during the ninth-century reign of Alfred the Great, the Saxon king whose realm of Wessex—roughly covering the lands south and southwest of London—was the last holdout against the Danish Vikings who had conquered the other English kingdoms. After several years of “Vikings” on the History Channel, it’s nice to root for the home team instead.
I truly can't wait for this one. At a time when we're still waiting for the debut of Season 3 of Da Vinci's Demons and the return of Vikings (not to mention Outlander, Black Sails, and Game of Thrones), we get this to entertain us through the fall. Good times indeed!

** Photo courtesy of BBC America

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Plot Hole That Swallowed “The Maze Runner”

Recently, my daughter and I caught The Maze Runner on HBO and liked the movie enough to see The Scorch Trials this weekend. What we found was a plot hole so big it literally swallowed the first film. And it left me wondering: what in the world went wrong with this franchise? Note, some *SPOILERS* to follow.

The Maze Runner was a fun film set in a dystopian future where a group of teenage boys and ultimately one girl find themselves trapped in a place called the Glade that is surrounded by a titanic wall that leads to a mysterious and dangerous maze. The maze runners are members of the “Gladers” brave enough to explore the maze and search for a way out, all the while dodging these cyborg-like giant scorpions that are trying to kill them. The big mystery, of course, is what is the maze? And why are these kids trapped in it?

The Maze Runner ends with a cliffhanger, but at least the kids have escaped from the maze, thinking they’ve been rescued by commando-like rebels in a world where the sun has scorched the earth, killing most of mankind. Its sequel, The Scorch Trials, takes place immediately after the first film. The Gladers are now in a militarized safe house, but something doesn’t seem right. They learn there were many mazes and many kids, all of whom live in this militarized barracks. And each night, a group is taken away never to be seen again. This set up is certainly suspenseful through the first 15 minutes, but in the next scene, the whole thing flies off the rails.

The hero of both films, Thomas, discovers that the groups of kids taken away each night are being put in a coma-like state while their captors “harvest” their blood, using it to find a cure to a virus that helped wipe of most of humanity. It turns out that the kids brought into the maze are immune to the virus, and their reward for surviving the maze trial is this medically induced coma. That’s where the movie kicks its predecessor down the plot hole.

The problem is in the movie’s premise: an organization called W.C.K.D., or “Wicked,” has gathered up all of these kids whose blood makes them immune to the plague and might help Wicked find a cure. But rather than just putting them into a coma right away and getting on with the harvesting, Wicked first decides to put these immune-types into a deadly man-made maze where many of them will be killed by robot scorpions. There’s no suggestion that dead kids are good for harvesting, so it makes no sense that Wicked would waste their precious blood in what amounts to a pointless game – albeit one that was the subject of the entire first film! We spent an entire movie wondering what the maze was, only to learn in the sequel that there was no point to it whatsoever.

What happens next in the film is that Thomas and his friends escape, like any sane people would who didn’t want to end up like pod people. The rest of the movie is a suspenseful and scary chase through a ruined world in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. But there is no more game or maze to be solved, only a mad dash to outrun the zombies and the forces of Wicked. Sort of like Zombieland, but without the humor.

I left the movie scratching my head. The films are based on a series by bestselling novelist James Dashner, and no good novelist could live with a plot hole that big. It turns out this problem doesn’t exist in the books. Rather, it’s the movie that jumps the track and deviates massively from its source material. While I haven’t read it, I’ve learned that The Scorch Trials novel involves another game like the maze. The kids learn that there are two groups of maze runners whom Wicked has been studying to find a cure for the virus called the Flare. Now, in what is called “Phase 2” of their tests, Wicked has infected both groups with the virus and is sending these competing teams on a race through a post-apocalyptic desert called the Scorch to a safe house where they supposedly will find a cure.

Significantly, it appears the blood harvesting plotline is nowhere to be found. As a result, both the maze trial and this new trial make some sense. There is something about the survival of the fittest nature of these game-like tests that is relevant to the experiment. And it’s far more complicated than just putting these kids in a coma and harvesting their blood. More importantly, it has to be. Otherwise Wicked would just skip these silly games and get straight down to harvesting.

I cannot imagine why the filmmakers chose to make such an enormous break from the books. I hate when that happens, and it usually never ends well. Once the “Scorch Trials” are no longer a trial or a game, any logical tie between the two movies is broken. All we’re left with is a plot hole so big it swallows The Maze Runner. And that’s a shame. Standing alone, the second film is both scary and suspenseful, and the post-apocalyptic scenery, at times, is spectacular. But it was supposed to be a movie about maze runners, and it turns out there was never any logical purpose in the movies for that mysterious maze.

But these are just my thoughts, and maybe I’m missing something. So if you have a theory on how the maze still matters in the movies, as opposed to the books, I’m dying to know.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Puzzle-like Plots: “Angels & Demons”

Before my summer trip to Rome I re-read Angels & Demons by Dan Brown and it reminded me how well Brown crafts puzzle-like plots. I’ve always liked his thrillers because they involve history and religion. But the key for me is the puzzle at the heart of each story. Here’s what I mean. (Minor *SPOILERS* to follow.)

The Set Up

Angles & Demons begins with a murder at CERN, a massive physics laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland. The murdered scientist, who was also a Catholic priest, has been branded with the lost symbol of the Illuminati, a secret society dating back to the 1500s. The Illuminati opposed the Church because of its persecutions of outspoken scientists like Galileo and Copernicus. But over time, the Illuminati grew violent and sought to bring about the obliteration of the Catholic Church.

Enter Brown’s hero, Harvard professor of religious iconology and symbology Robert Langdon, who CERN brings in to identify the Illuminati symbol. He’s soon paired with the victim’s beautiful daughter Vittoria Vetra. She and her father had been working on an experiment to prove the creation event in the book of Genesis was possible – creating matter from nothing. The experiment worked, but just as God created light and dark, their experiment created matter and antimatter. This plot point plays into the book’s primary theme, the conflict between science and religion, which makes the Illuminati the novel’s ideal antagonists.

Vittoria and Langdon quickly learn that a canister of antimatter has been stolen by the murderer. Even worse, it’s now hidden somewhere in the Vatican. When the canister’s battery runs out in 24 hours, the antimatter will explode with the force of a five kiloton bomb. The race against time is on!

St. Peter's Basilica
As soon as the setting moves to Vatican City, the puzzle-like plot kicks into full gear. The papal conclave has begun to replace the late pope, so the College of Cardinals has gathered in the Sistine Chapel. The situation gets worse when a servant of the Illuminati reveals the group has kidnapped the four top candidates to succeed the pope and plans on killing them one by one, each in a church no less. The problem is there are more than 400 churches and chapels in Rome.

The Puzzle

After ruminating on the killer’s cryptic words, Langdon realizes there is something in the Vatican Archives that may help – a book written by Galileo, one of the original Illuminati. The Illuminati created a map to direct their members to their sanctuary in Rome. Called the “Path to Illumination,” the map consisted of a series of concealed markers in locations throughout the city. But, of course, the markers form a puzzle that must be solved! In fact, Vittoria even calls it a “treasure hunt” – and who doesn’t love a good treasure hunt? (I promise you, I do!)

Could this be one of the Altars of Science?
The markers are disguised as religious statues, though each one is a subtle tribute to the four elements of Seventeenth Century science: earth, air, fire, and water. The churches that housed these statues were called the “Altars of Science”—a term used by the killer to note the place where each cardinal would meet his end. 

The puzzle itself is a riddle written in Galileo’s book by fellow suspected Illuminati, John Milton:
From Santi’s earthly tomb with demon’s hole,
‘Cross Rome the mystic elements unfold.
The path of light is laid, the sacred test,
Let angels guide you on your lofty quest.
Nearly every word in the riddle has meaning and each is a clue to solving the puzzle. Even better, some of the words have multiple meanings, giving rise to red herrings. This makes solving the riddle even more challenging, and Brown plays this well. Langdon never guesses right the first time, but rather must deduce the answer by learning from his misassumptions and the evidence he finds along the way. All the while, the killer is carrying out his plot to kill the four cardinals, and trying to stop Langdon and Vittoria in the process.

Most importantly, when the riddle is finally solved, the answer seems credible. While Brown plays lots of word games and engages in plenty of misdirection, the riddle’s ultimate meaning fits the facts. It never seems contrived, so the reader never feels cheated. That, I believe, is the most important element of a great puzzle-like plot. 

The Pantheon - a clue or a red herring?

Science and Religion

In addition to the puzzle-like plot, Angels & Demons has, in my view, the best theme of any of his Robert Langdon novels. Langdon is an academic unable to make the “leap of faith” required by religion. Meanwhile, Vittoria believes in a harmony between religion and science, recalling one of her father’s favorite sayings:
To round out the debate, Brown gives us a Vatican priest who believes science will be the death of religion. The debate plays out well, albeit with a heavier hand in favor of what the reader may assume are Brown’s own view. Vittoria sums up this view best:
“Religion is like language or dress. We gravitate toward the practices with which we were raised. In the end, though, we are all proclaiming the same thing. That life has meaning. That we are grateful for the power that created us.”
Regardless of how you feel about this debate, it adds an extra element to the story that elevates it beyond just a great puzzle-like plot. That is something I always appreciate, and frankly it’s something Dan Brown tends to do very well.

But those are just my thoughts, and I’m always curious about yours: Do you enjoy puzzle-like plots, and how did you feel about Angles & Demons?

PS – a special thanks to everyone who helped make the BookSends promotion for Enoch’s Device a success, especially if you recommended it to a friend! I hope these new readers enjoy the book and its own puzzle-like plot.

* Photos courtesy of my iPhone.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Inspiration & "The Name of the Rose"

I'm pulling from the archives once again due to a hectic week. This one is about the book that helped inspire my own novel, Enoch's Device.

On a lazy weekend back in the early ‘90s, I stumbled across a movie on TV that helped me discover one of the finest books I have ever read – and the story that became the inspiration for my first novel.

Baskerville, William of Baskerville ...
I was drawn to the movie by its medieval setting, and became immediately intrigued once I realized it starred Sean Connery, one of my favorite actors (I grew up a huge James Bond fan, so I came by this honestly). Christian Slater was in it as well, and the two played monks who were skulking about a maze-like monastery, trying to solve a series of murders. There was also a peasant girl that had a thing for Christian Slater, as well as a bunch of other creepy monks and F. Murray Abraham as a merciless inquisitor. When the credits rolled, I realized the film was based on a book called The Name of the Rose, and the next day I set out to find it.

One of my all-time favorite novels!
I drove to the nearest bookstore (which, sadly, has now closed like almost every other bookstore near where I live) and mentioned the book’s title to the lady at the counter. She recognized it immediately and soon handed me my first copy of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose (I now own three copies, including a beautiful hardcover edition).

For those who haven’t read it, The Name of the Rose is a medieval take on a classic murder mystery in the vein of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. In fact, one of the main characters, who plays the role of Holmes in the novel, is named William of Baskerville, an allusion to one of Doyle’s tales, the Hounds of Baskervilles. William, a Franciscan friar, and his young Benedictine apprentice, Adso of Melk (Eco’s version of Dr. Watson), arrive at a monastery in Northern Italy where one of the brethren has died under mysterious circumstances. At the behest of the abbot, William sets out to determine whether the monk committed suicide – or was murdered. When a number of other deaths occur under circumstances that hint to passages from the book of Revelation, many in the monastery begin to fear that the Antichrist must walk among them.

The monastery turns out to be a den of secrets, making it the perfect setting for a medieval mystery. The biggest secret concerns the monastery’s labyrinthine library, which the abbot forbids anyone from entering. Then there are the clues – including apocalyptic symbolism, coded manuscripts, and secret symbols – that William must decipher using his logic and deductive reasoning, all in the hope of unraveling the mystery before the murderer kills again. By the time a notorious inquisitor arrives, ready to employ his own brutal methods to solve the crimes, the book had me so hooked I couldn’t put it down. And the story has stayed with me for nearly twenty years.

A decade ago I started writing novels, all in the fantasy genre, and most involving warrior-type characters. None of them were about monks, and none were good enough to publish – or in most instances to even finish. But all the while, in the back of my mind, there lingered The Name of the Rose, along with a few intriguing questions: What if the apocalyptic clues that William and Adso encountered were signs of the actual apocalypse instead of just evidence left by some mortal killer? And what if, by solving the mystery, the monks could prevent the End of Days? Over time, those questions evolved into the premise of my new novel, Enoch’s Device.

Ultimately, Enoch’s Device ended up a very different story than The Name of the Rose. My novel is not a murder mystery, but rather a medieval adventure – and a journey tale of sorts – that takes my protagonist from Ireland to Moorish Spain as he, and his mentor, strive to unravel the mystery behind Enoch’s device, an angelic weapon with the power to prevent the apocalypse. The novel is steeped in mythology and history, and contains a good bit of magic as well. The two monks at the heart of the story, Brother Ciarán and Brother Dónall, bear only a faint resemblance to Adso and William. But those two characters, and the story Umberto Eco crafted so brilliantly around them, became my inspiration. And for that, I am grateful.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

A BookSends Sale for "Enoch's Device"!

Tomorrow, the Kindle edition of Enoch’s Device will be featured as a daily deal on BookSends. But I decided to start the sale a day early on Amazon and run it for the rest of the week. (It's on Amazon UK too.) If you've already read and liked the book, now is a great time to tell a friend. Here’s a link to the book’s Amazon page, followed by an image of the cover and a brief summary.

Nearly a thousand years after the birth of Christ, when all Europe fears that the world will soon end, a young Irish monk, Brother Ciarán, discovers an ominous warning hidden in the illuminations of a religious tome. The cryptic prophecy speaks of Enoch’s device, an angelic weapon with the power to prevent the coming apocalypse. But a heretic-hunting bishop has arrived at the monastery, willing to kill to ensure the weapon is never found. 
Pursued by the bishop’s men and supernatural forces, Ciarán and his freethinking mentor journey to the heart of France in search of the device. There, they rescue the Lady Alais, a young widow accused of witchcraft because she holds a key to the prophecy. Together, the trio must race across Europe to locate the device, which has left clues of its passage through history. But time is running out, and if they don’t find it soon, all that they love could perish at the End of Days.  
Enoch’s Device is a fast-paced medieval adventure steeped in history, mythology, and mysteries from a dark and magical past.
Author Cate Peace of Indie Books R Us called Enoch's Device “a refreshing twist on the religious thriller, and one that will have you turning pages from cover to cover as fast as you can.” You can read her full review here.

In other reviews, Stephen Reynolds of SPR called Enoch's Device “a wonderfully imagined, vividly described, alternately lyrical and violent romp of a novel that should give lovers of historical fantasy just the kind of fix they're looking for.”

And Marty Shaw of Blog Critics wrote: “If you enjoy tales of magic and adventure that are perfectly blended with reality and history, ‘Enoch’s Device’ by Joseph Finley will be an exciting read for you.”

I gave an interview to Ms. Peace, where I revealed a bit more about the upcoming sequel – you can read it here.  

Also, you can read more about Enochthe Fae, and the Paladins of Charlemagne in my interview that appeared in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer here