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Book Review: Karma by Cynthia Vespia

Book Review: Karma by Cynthia Vespia

“It defied all logic. But maybe logic had too many boundaries.” (Vespia pg. 122)

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Karma by Cynthia Vespia

Karma (Silke Butters Superhero Series Book 1) by [Vespia, Cynthia]

Cover blurb (from Amazon): “A mask, a makeup brush, and amazing powers. It’s all in a days work for supermodel turned superhero, Karma. Silke Butters lived within the glitz and glamour of the modeling world, until the day that world was turned upside down. Suddenly embodied with superpowers, she finds herself thrust into a world of heroes and villains, each enhanced with powers of their own. As Silke’s powers begin to grow she finds herself caught in the middle of a tug-of-war between both a subdivision of the U.S. government known as Shadow Company, and a ruthless terrorist organization known as The Sin Squad. Both entities want the “enhanced” for their respective teams with Silke as the main prize.

To disguise her famous face, and protect those that she loves, Silke invents an alter ego. Karma is born of necessity to decide the fate of those who are ill-intentioned and empower others with hope. With the help of her former flame Joe Riggs, and her computer hacker friend Maki, Silke develops a heroes call-to-action to battle the dark force that threatens to annihilate humanity. Karma, the 1st in a 5 part series, blends the over-the-top punch of popular comic book stories, with the literary nuance of an urban fantasy novel. A genre-blending roller coaster ride, Karma will delight both superhero fans and fantasy readers alike.”

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I received a free copy of Karma in exchange for an honest review. For more information, please see my review policy page.

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What I liked:

Karma is fun and fast-paced. As the cover blurb says, it has the feel of a comic book (but it isn’t a graphic novel). X-Men is a decent comparison. The “enhancements” backstory is easy to follow and the various powers are each interesting. Action and relationship scenes are well balanced and I enjoyed the family drama aspect.

The secondary characters are a real strength in this book. The Sin Squad members each embody one of the seven deadly sins from the Bible. Maki and her family were also a high point for me. I really enjoyed the fact that women drove the story. Silke is a model, but her beauty isn’t relevant when it comes time to throw down. Maki is a computer whiz and work-at-home Mom, and both pieces of her personality are equally valued.

I’ve mentioned this countless times before, but sci-fi/fantasy isn’t always know for being inclusive. Karma breaks the mold. Vespia includes a number of diverse characters and that inclusion earns a big thumbs up. Multiple main characters are WOC and they all kick ass.

What I didn’t like:

As much as I enjoyed the supporting characters (and the villains) I wasn’t a huge fan of the love interest, Joe. His decision making was pretty questionable to me, and I found myself losing patience with him about a third of the way through the book. Silke is quick to forgive him after the truth comes out, which was also annoying to me.

Karma relies heavily on superhero tropes. I won’t go into a ton of detail, to avoid spoilers, but there were some aspects that felt stereotypical. I didn’t hate it, because I think most superhero stories share common threads. Having said that, I do think there was room for more creative detail.

Would I recommend this book?

Yeah. It’s a solid addition to the genre and includes some underrepresented characters.

**Spoiler alert/sensitive content warning** Karma includes scenes of sex, violence and torture but none of them are described in great detail. For context, I think it would be a light PG-13 rating. There is one event that some might find particularly upsetting. ***Major spoilers*** Maki is 8 months pregnant, but during the course of the book, she loses the baby. This miscarriage is brought about by violence.**

Additional thoughts:

Karma deserves credit from a racial diversity standpoint. Silke is half Indian, half Welsh and her “exotic” looks are a point of contention within the modeling world. Her ethnicity is a talking point for reporters, but “to stay grounded, Silke reminded herself that only a handful of years ago, nobody even wanted to look twice at the young Indian newcomer.” (Vespia pg 8) Off the top of my head, I can’t think of another urban fantasy novel with an Indian protagonist. Cleo, an important supporting character, is African and Cherokee. The shadowy leader of the Sin Squad is of Chinese heritage (based on his name and description).

Silke’s friend and makeup artist, Damien, is openly gay but it isn’t a huge part of the story. Silke is Buddhist but again, it isn’t discussed in any great detail.

Vespia brings some much needed diversity to the superhero genre. Karma is book one of five, so I’ll be curious to see what happens to Silke and the gang in the next installments.

For more diversity in fantasy, here’s a quick list of resources. Or, check out some previous reviews, like Shadowshaper, Shadow Blade or Blood Flow.

 

Mini Book Review: A Passport to a Nation of Talking Slugs by Andrew Kozma

Mini Book Review: A Passport to a Nation of Talking Slugs by Andrew Kozma

“Childhood is a world of fantasy and nightmare for everyone, but maturity means fantasy for only those who can afford it, and nightmares for everyone else.” (Kozma pg. 9)

The links below will take you to Amazon.com. Disclosure: LiteratureLynx is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This adds no additional cost to you.

A Passport to a Nation of Talking Slugs by Andrew Kozma

A Passport to a Nation of Talking Slugs and Other Stories by [Kozma, Andrew]

Cover blurb (from Amazon): “A Passport to a Nation of Talking Slugs is a collection of weird, speculative fiction containing four stories of people exploring strange places and situations, from a newly-discovered civilization of six-foot-tall talking slugs to being haunted by a man in a dark chocolate suit. Whether waking up in a prison camp or navigating a city full of copies of themselves, the characters in these stories are bent on understanding their world, even if that understanding also means the end of the world they thought they knew.”

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I received a free copy of A Passport to a Nation of Talking Slugs in exchange for an honest review. For more information, please see my review policy page.

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I really wasn’t sure what to expect from this one. The cover blurb gave me a Douglas Adams vibe. After reading though, I think The Twilight Zone is a better comparison.

Like The Twilight Zone, each of these stories leaves you feeling disconcerted and unsettled. They aren’t scary or disturbing, but they leave you feeling slightly off-kilter. The conclusions all made me say “wait, what happens next?!” Each tale leaves you on a cliff-hanger, and nothing is totally explained.

If you like neat endings, you will not like this collection. If you like open-ended ideas that leave plenty of room for discussion, you should pick up this book. Like the last collection of short stories I reviewed, I’m desperate to talk to someone else who has read it. What do you think it means? What would you do in this situation? This is a collection that I could read over and over again, and I feel like I’d get something different from it every time.

A Passport to a Nation of Talking Slugs is an extremely quick read. It’s only about 20 pages, and the writing is easy to understand. Somehow, though, Kozma’s worlds are fascinating and detailed. There isn’t a lot for me to say as far as diversity goes. The stories are more idea-driven, than character-driven.

**Spoiler alert/sensitive content warning** Murder, suicide and sex appear in this collection, but nothing is overtly graphic**

Book Review: Fatemarked by David Estes

Book Review: Fatemarked by David Estes

“It’s not what you start with, it’s what you do with what you’ve been given…” (Estes pg. 1387)

The links below will take you to Amazon.com. Disclosure: LiteratureLynx is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This adds no additional cost to you.

Fatemarked by David Estes

Fatemarked (The Fatemarked Epic Book 1) by [Estes, David]

Cover blurb (from Amazon):No one knows why the fatemarked are born with godlike powers. Until kings start dying… An ancient prophecy foretold their coming, the chosen few who will bring peace to a land embroiled in a century of mistrust and war. They are the fatemarked. Misunderstood. Worshipped. Hated. Imprisoned. Their time to step into the light has come.

Roan Loren… He has hidden his mark of power his entire life, fearing the damage it might cause to those around him. When a series of ill-fated events send him on the adventure of a lifetime, Roan must face the truth of who he really is and what role he must play in the future of the Four Kingdoms.

Annise Garic… Reluctant princess. Fierce brawler. When her family members start mysteriously dying around her, Annise is forced to decide whether to abandon the kingdom she’s despised her whole life, or stand and fight for what is rightfully hers.

Grey Arris… Thief. Orphan. Womanizer. Everything goes wrong the night Grey abandons the western princess during their midnight rendezvous in the cryptlands. Hunted by the law and a murderer of myth and legend, he must find a way to protect his sister and become the man he was always meant to be.

Rhea Loren… Beautiful. Spoiled princess. Seeker of vengeance. Rhea’s world of luxury and fame is turned upside down when she’s accused of fornication, a crime carrying a brutal punishment: the scarring of one’s face. As Rhea seeks to come to terms with her new life, she must choose whether to rise above or spiral down into darkness.”

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I received a free copy of Fatemarked in exchange for an honest review. For more information, please see my review policy page.

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What I liked:

For some reason, I always tell myself that high fantasy isn’t really my genre. I am full of crap.

Fatemarked is everything you want an epic saga to be. It’s the story of royal family lines, fate and sweeping journeys. The world building is well-done, and the magical system is pretty simple. Estes describes some beautiful visuals (like a living relationship between nature and metals) that were totally unique. As a reader, you can tell that Estes has put a ton of time and thought into his world and his societies. Each of the four kingdoms has a distinct feel and culture.

I especially enjoyed the characters in this book. The main characters are interesting, but all of the supporting characters hold their own. Each of the story lines is engaging and I genuinely cared about what happened to each hero. Roan, Annise, Grey and Rhea are all totally different but they’re all interesting. I wouldn’t say you necessarily root for them in the same way, but you want to know how their stories will play out.

What I didn’t like:

There is a lot to keep track of in this book. That’s not necessarily a complaint, but it did get to be a little bit overwhelming. I started keeping notes of family trees, territory culture and secondary characters. I was reading this electronically, so it wasn’t super easy to flip back and forth to the map.

Fatemarked jumps back and forth between all the characters but the action is mostly chronological. To get a feel for the big picture, you have to see all of the smaller stories. That makes sense, but it can also make for very detailed reading. You get reacquainted with each plot right before it switches again. On a personal note, I think a physical copy would have made this easier.

Would I recommend this book?

Yes! If high fantasy is your thing, Fatemarked is an excellent choice. If you’re new to the genre, though, I might suggest something less complex (like this book).

**Spoiler alert/sensitive content warning** There’s a lot of blood in this book. Like, a lot. More importantly, though, there are a lot of disturbing visuals that defy categorization. At one point, Roan is forced to climb a pile of diseased bodies (some of whom are still alive). There are definitely grisly and dark passages. There is some mention of sex, but it’s pretty minor.**

I can’t speak for everyone, but I would feel comfortable letting a young teenager read this book.

Additional thoughts:

Fatemarked has some totally awesome, badass ladies. They’re each different, but powerful and compelling. Annise is described as “pear shaped” and strong, and she’s quick to make jokes at her own expense. Rhea is traditionally beautiful but vengeful. Supporting characters are also dynamic, and in charge of their own fates. There are warrior women (like the religious Furies), political strategists and rulers. The women get just as much attention and credit as their male counterparts.

As far as I can tell, most of the characters in this installment are white. The bulk of this book takes place in the northern half of this fictional continent, where the population seems to be caucasian. Estes makes it clear, though, that the people of the South have much darker skin. After reading the synopsis for book 2, it sounds like the characters from the South will play a much larger role in the next book.

**Spoiler alert** Roan is an LGBTQ+ character. He explains that “it was different in the south, where beauty and attraction were not limited to one gender.” (Estes, pg. 734) Roan acts on his attraction, with some interesting results. Additionally, Grey becomes an amputee during the course of the book. We don’t see too much of him after that point, so there aren’t a lot of additional details.**

This book is complex, but well worth the read. I’ve added the sequels to my TBR list, but I’ll stick to the physical books for those.