The Ways of Wizardry

A review of “The Ways of Wizardry” by Stephen Brooke, from Arachis Press, 2018

Print ISBN: 978-1-937745-48-6 Ebook ISBN: 978-1-937745-49-3


‘Romp’ is an over-used word in reviews, but I might be inclined to trot it out here. But first, an admission: I have ties to the author in his capacity as a publisher and editor. If that colors my review, so be it.

“The Ways of Wizardry” is a fantasy novel. ‘Fantasy Adventure’ is the listed genre; it does not do the book justice, although it is accurate enough. I might call it light fantasy—but not lightweight. There are serious ideas coming along for the ride.

The writing uses the device of a narrator, a story-teller, who largely disappears after the first couple chapters. Here and there, he (or she?) pops up again to make an aside about the action. It works well but some might be put off by the intentional ‘high’ style of the opening. Were the whole novel that way, it would be another matter, but one quickly recognizes (I would hope) it was meant somewhat tongue in cheek.

The story itself is fast paced and light hearted, for the most part. A bit episodic, perhaps, held together by a not-particularly-urgent quest for a place our protagonist can ‘belong.’ Protagonists, perhaps I should say—the sorceress Na, though secondary to the young wizard Im, has an important part and is certainly not glossed over, characterization-wise. Indeed, she may be the more interesting character (perhaps that will be explored more in the promised sequel).

The other secondary characters, the Trickster God Xido and the demon Qu’orthseth are also integral. In many ways, the amoral and not-too-bright demon is the glue that holds this narrative together, as he seeks to avoid being returned to jail in his home world. The world itself is well realized and believable. This is essentially the same world Brooke has used in his other fantasy novels, though at a different point in its history, so I would assume it has been worked out pretty well.

Im grows; yes, it is something of a coming of age novel. So do the other characters, to various degrees. If epic fantasy is your thing, or ‘grimdark,’ you might want to pass “Ways” by and wait for the next Martin doorstop. There is action, to be sure, and there is evil to be face, and conflict, and all we might expect from the genre. You will not be disappointed there!

Nor will you be disappointed if you simply want a fun, well-written, and thoughtful ‘fantasy adventure.’

“The Ways of Wizardry” is officially out on January 6.

Stephen Brooke is both a Florida author and a writer of fantasy (and other genres as well). This joining of two of my interests makes his works particularly suited to this blog. There may be an upcoming interview with him. Stay tuned for that.

Design Notes: The book looks good. Nothing flashy, simple design, ‘safe’ fonts (the text appears to be set in Galliard). The cover seems a bit ‘blah’ to me but I am happy not to see the excess of the typical movie poster-like cover in this genre.


From the Icy Fingers of the Deep

A Review of FROM THE ICY FINGERS OF THE DEEP by Chris Kastle

Published 2014 by Robert G. Makin

Print ISBN: 9780988755338


We’re looking back a little here to a book published a few years ago, ‘From the Icy Fingers of the Deep.’ This is a short collection of sea-related stories by folk musician and educator Chris Kastle. Ms. Kastle is now a Florida resident and may be seen at various folk venues around the state.

These are the timeless, familiar sort of tales we might once have heard told around the campfire. They are not intended to push literary boundaries, nor even to be ‘original.’ The object is for a master storyteller to practice her craft, and she does it well. The writing is poetic, as well as entertaining.

It is a small book. A work of its sort should be, I would think. Too many of these tales all together might prove tedious — certainly if one were reading through them all at once. Enjoy these one or two at a time. You will be rewarded.

This review is one of what will be a continuing series of review of books about Florida and/or by Florida authors.

Design Notes: ‘Icy Fingers’ is not a well-designed book. The cover is decidedly amateurish, and hard to read. Font choices are questionable at best. The interior text is set in a decent typeface but quite large, too large really for the pages (was it intended to be a ‘large type’ book?). The eye does not follow the lines well at all. This sort of thing hurts any book, no matter how well written.


Review of ‘Hell is Naked’

Review of the novel HELL IS NAKED, by Jean James and Mary James

Woodrock House 2017 — Print ISBN 978-0-984605-6-2


“Hell is Naked” (the title comes from the Book of Job) is a fairly straightforward crime novel set in the capital city of crime novels, the Los Angeles area, and filled with quick-moving action with a pinch of humor. The book is quite authentic in its settings and portrayals of both the movie industry and police work. You might learn far more of the life of a working extra than you had ever expected. Both authors have lived that life and know their stuff — very much a case of ‘write what you know.’

Not so for the main protagonist, former SWAT team police officer Warren Roberts, but it has been researched well. The authors had a knowledgeable advisor there (acknowledged in the front matter). Roberts is at times a likable klutz but he is also a deadly antagonist when in his element.

The criticisms: the dialog tends to be a bit long-winded (I have admittedly seen worse). I can’t see people talking that way, especially in what is meant to be a realistic story. And, on the opposite side of that coin, description of settings is less than minimal sometimes; I certainly dislike (and complain of) long pointless descriptions but a tad more detail here and there might have fleshed things out just a bit.

But the plot is good and holds together, and does pretty much stick to its main theme — subplots are minimal. One thing inevitably leads to another, forcing our protagonist to blunder forward in his quest to protect his new friends and solve the mystery. The authors are thinking things through even when he isn’t! The result is a quite readable and entertaining trip through LA, from the Pacific to the desert hills, pursuing and being pursued, and reaching a satisfying conclusion.

Now if they can just get Vin Diesel to play the role of Warren in the movie…

“Hell is Naked” is officially out on December 12

Woodrock House

13097 Highway 45 N.

Finger, TN 38334


Some notes on the book’s design:

The typeface used for chapter headings and for the title in the header seems a bit frivolous for this sort of book. It also is set too small in the header and does not balance with the author names on facing pages (I might have used the same font for both).

I am not fond of the deep paragraph indents. They distract from the flow of the page and pull the eye away from where it should be following the text.

The text typeface is perfectly acceptable. I am guessing it is Adobe Garamond, always a pretty safe choice.

Headers and footers probably should not show up on blank pages.



One thing I intend to do on this blog is book  reviews. Well, perhaps reviews of all sorts. Though I’ve a predilection for speculative fiction, I’ll read pretty much anything. Old or new is not important so I do plan to review some classics here.

Also, I want to write about books set in Florida, whether from the big publishers or the little indies (or even self-pub). I shall be getting to those, so stay tuned.