You get two reviews for the price of one today as we look at two of Dreamspinner Press 2015 Daily Dose collection. First up is Lord Heliodor’s Retirement, then Lodestone.
Following a brutal encounter with a magical curse called the Screaming, Lord Adem Heliodor has retired to his country estate of Worldham. Despite the quiet beauty of the place, he finds himself constantly on edge, his nerves frayed beyond endurance. And then, puttering around in Worldham’s library he finds Corun, the love of his youth, long thought dead. As the two reconnect, Adem’s terror begins to recede and he starts to heal. But the curse’s master has a debt to settle with Adem and the kingdom he loves. Adem and Corun race to save the Queen and her city, but may end up sacrificing everything.
Lord Heliodor’s Retirement is a fast-paced read with its fair share of angst and a truly horrifying magical curse. The author does a good job of giving background to the story with a decent sense of place. Worldham isn’t given any extraordinary characteristics, but as a reader I felt I understood it and the hold it had over Heliodor. The author’s writing style has an easy flow that suits the pacing and overall structure.
Adem and Corun are a sweet couple and, while we don’t know a great deal about their pasts, we are given enough to flesh out their individuality and, to a lesser extent, the bond they share. I loved that Adem was a man who understood his limitations but had no interest in succumbing to them. He and Corun have a genuine love of country and an inherent bravery that make them wonderful, if somewhat unexpected heroes. Their affection for one another reads as a little hurried, but overall it felt like a realistic extension of what they had all those years before. This was a real strong point and no easy task given the confines of a novella, so I give the author major props for making their relationship feel natural. The only weakness was the resolution, which felt rushed and a bit anticlimactic. It just didn’t seem to have the same easy flow as the rest of the novella, but it is such a small part of the story that it doesn’t detract too much. So, aside from a few issues, I definitely enjoyed Lord Heliodor’s Retirement and recommend it highly.
Alchemy Jones is stuck on a space station with no money and a ship that is beyond saving. Nick Royce is in the same situation and, while both men are desperate to leave the station, their motivations are very different. Alchemy is a prospector with the ability to mentally mine precious metals and the only way to reach a payday is to be planet side. Nick has powers of his own, but seeks a new planet for his people, the outcast and distrusted Paras. Nick and Alchemy come together out of necessity, but end up finding something unexpected and wonderful together.
Lodestone had all the potential in the world but it tended to fumble when it came to execution. Alchemy (you have to love the name) and Nick are quite interesting, as they are complete opposites in many ways and yet the same in others. One is jaded, the other filled with desperate hope. They are used to being alone, both as a product of their genetics and because of their chosen professions and neither of them will walk away from their respective tasks. They were forced together due to circumstance and this part of the story works quite well, but the author then chose to throw in a forced “soul binding,” which, while not described well, is generally what it sounds like. This was unnecessary and just cluttered up the plot. The author did do an excellent job of building the anticipation during Nick and Al’s space station tenure, but then gives no real resolution to the story. I don’t know if additional stories will be forthcoming, but the entire novella seems unfinished and ends with an almost jarring abruptness. There was too much happening, both with regards to the characters, and with the overall plot, to be fully resolved or described well within the confines of these few pages. While I really enjoyed the characters and definitely think that Lodestone has a lot of good points, it just didn’t feel like a finished work and that left me disappointed overall.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.