There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

Review: Meet the Wizarding World of Destruction by Sharon Bayliss April 26, 2014

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Sharon Bayliss is a huge fan of Harry Potter, but her wizards are definitely something different from JK Rowling’s magical world. And in the best way. As a fellow Potter fan, I’ve been looking for a new take on the wizarding world for awhile, but a fresh one. Maybe even an adult one that also happens to put me through an absolute emotional roller coaster. Sharon Bayliss’s Destruction, the first book in the December People series, definitely fits the bill.


David Vandergraff wants to be a good man. He goes to church every Sunday, keeps his lawn trim and green, and loves his wife and kids more than anything. Unfortunately, being a dark wizard isn’t a choice.

Eleven years ago, David’s secret second family went missing. When his two lost children are finally found, he learns they suffered years of unthinkable abuse. Ready to make things right, David brings the kids home even though it could mean losing the wife he can’t imagine living without. 

Keeping his life together becomes harder when the new children claim to be dark wizards. David believes they use this fantasy to cope with their trauma. Until, David’s wife admits a secret of her own—she is a dark wizard too, as is David, and all of their children. 

Now, David must parent two hurting children from a dark world he doesn’t understand and keep his family from falling apart. All while dealing with the realization that everyone he loves, including himself, may be evil.

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Imagine the problems a dysfunctional family might encounter. Now imagine those problems on magic. The result? A really great book. Here’s my review:

This book is a whirlwind of emotions right from the start, and continues to build intensity with each chapter. The story starts with a bang as David Vandergraff gets the phone call he has been waiting for and dreading for eleven years–the call that tells him what happened to his missing children.

His secret missing children that his wife knows nothing about.

His secret missing children that also happen to be wizards. 

As David’s world begins to unravel, he discovers that he wasn’t the only one in his marriage with secrets. His wife Amanda has her fair share as well. And not just that she is also a dark wizard. 

This book might have wizards and magic, but the story is in this family and the problems they have, which are very rooted in reality. Their dysfunction makes them feel so normal, but when you add magic to the mix, dysfunction doesn’t cover it. The characters are beautifully flawed, and sometimes do unforgivable things, but you still find yourself rooting for them. The Vandergraff kids aren’t just accessories to David and Amanda’s story, but are integral parts of the whole, and have their own enriching plots that will tug at your heart. The demons they are all facing are more within themselves than some evil wizard out to get them. They are their own villains, which makes the face off with the real villain so much more intense. Even if they win, will they truly win? Or will they be their own defeat? 

Right when the plot heads in one direction, Sharon Bayliss throws you for a loop. Predictable is not in her vocabulary, that’s for sure. Definitely a must read, and can’t wait for more. 

Pick up your copy now and tell me what you think! Oh, and don’t forget to take the quiz to see what kind of wizard you are, and let me know in the comments. As for me?

You can pick your badge here. I will be sure to keep you guys posted on what I am certain is going to be another amazing fantasy series as it continues.

❤ Mara Valderran


That’s how it’s done: Shadow & Bone June 13, 2013

I know there are a million reviews for this book. I’m pretty sure EVERYONE read it last year, and everyone bought the sequel last week. So reviewing it would be pretty redundant. But I thought it would be fun to go through and parse it from a writer perspective. Most of the fantasy writers I run into are writing for Young Adult these days, and this is a Young Adult Epic Fantasy Series that is TOTALLY taking YA Fantasy by storm. I want to point out just a few things that the first book in the series really hit on the head.

Opening Hook Includes Massive Worldbuilding Without Info-Dump
I read the first four chapters multiple times. They were masterful– masterful, I tell you! The Shadow Fold, the Volcra, the Unsea, all of it is introduced cleanly through action. We get a clear picture of the setting and the forces at work, as well as most of the characters that will be in play for the entire novel.

The Important Characters Are Dealt
There are often so many characters in fantasy, we want to introduce them all at once. In SHADOW AND BONE, all of the main characters are put in play right at the beginning, but Bardugo also made it obvious which people we really need to pay attention to, and whom can fall by the wayside. There aren’t a bunch of confusing extras. We meet the main character, Alina, the love interest, Mal, and the villain (in fine, dark form), The Darkling. All the other characters that are introduced later are great, but the reader understands that they aren’t front and center, at least not in the first book. (This requires more effort when you have multiple POVs, but it’s not impossible.)

Action That Pulls Us In, Mystery That Keeps Us Reading
By the end of these first 75 pages, our main character has just escaped grave danger, is torn from the boy she just might love, and set out on a mission that may lead to destruction. We learn that Mal and Alina have deep devotion to one another and want to keep each other safe, but other than that, we’re left to guess at where their relationship may be headed. We also have no idea what the Darkling may be up to, and whether he is good or bad at the core.

As The Quest Changes, So Does The Main Character
As the story progresses and Alina discovers more about Ravka’s history and what is expected of her, her goals change multiple times. She grows with each new revelation, learns how to adapt and how to succeed. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if your main character is likeable or learns from their mistakes, but there must be growth while remaining consistent. Bardugo did this perfectly.

Happy Ending, With Danger Lurking
So many times I get to the end of a book and find it tied up with a pretty little bow. In a series, you just can’t do that. There must be a perfect balance of satisfactory close with enough bad stuff about to hit the fan that we are afraid for the characters and MUST keep reading. Not going to spoil the end, just in case some of you haven’t read it, but seriously. Go read it. Then you can see what I mean about all the things this book did right. And of course, then you can buy SEIGE AND STORM!

— Rachel O’Laughlin

Putting in a picture of the second book in the Grisha Trilogy, just because.


Fantasy Book Review: Magic’s Pawn March 9, 2013

Hello Readers!

Today, I wanted to give you a review of one of my all time favorite fantasy books, Magic’s Pawn by Mercedes Lackey.


Summary: The story follow the main character Vanyel as he is transposed from his unhappy life on a country holding to the wild world of the capitol in Lackey’s rich world of Valdemar. While Vanyel dreams of becoming a world famous Bard, he discovers he lacks the necessary Gift to make it. As he spirals into a deep depression, new feelings grow for his roommate Tylendal, a romance that is strictly forbidden by his father. After Tylendal’s twin is murdered, Vanyel helps his lover do whatever he has to for revenge against those who murder his brother.

While I will be the first to admit that there are some issues with the story, mostly the fact the main character might be hard to like due to the fact he is angst-ridden, I still loved it. Typically, I am not one for romance, but I really liked the bond between Tylendal and Vanyel in this story. While the bond between them causes Vanyel to commit some fairly stupid things in the name of love, it is believable he would do anything to support his lover. However, I will note if you are not comfortable with gay romances, this is probably not the book for you as a lot of the themes in the novel have to do with acceptance of homosexual couples.

The novel does commit the crime of head-hopping. There are several points of view in the book and the narration often hops from one perspective to another. This can become sort of confusing at times since there are not many clues as to who’s head we are actually in. This is a trait I’ve noticed a lot in fantasy from the 80’s and 90’s, but I think that this novel as well as others set in the world of Valdemar definitely do it the worse.

Overall, the novel may appear to have more bad things about it than good things, so why is it one of my favorite fantasy books? The first fantasy novel I ever read was set in the world of Valdemar, hundreds of years in the future from Vanyel’s story, and often referenced to Vanyel as a hero. The really neat thing Mercedes Lackey has done with her books is connected all the major points in the world of Valdemar together and created a believable and intriguing history. Having the opportunity to explore the past so many people reference in the future is a unique and exciting thing for me. Also, I loved the main character Vanyel. Many reviews claim he is overdramatic and too angsty. This is probably true. However, the first time I read this I was Vanyel’s age and I thought his reactions were completely understandable and justified. It will always be one of my favorite fantasy stories and definitely one of the stories I read that made me want to write fantasy, no matter the criticism.

Goodreads Rating of Magic’s Pawn: 4 stars

Personal Rating of Magic’s Pawn: 4.5 stars

So now I am curious, is there a story you absolutely love that no one else seems to?