Review: Sands by Kevin L. Nielsen

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Kevin Nielsen is a friend of mine from LTUE and the Utah writing community. He recently put out a novel, the first in a YA series through a local small press based in Provo called Future House Publishing, and I’ve been eager to pick it up. I loved this book, and I’m very excited to talk about it on the blog today.

In Sands, a young girl named Lhaurel has a stubborn, independent nature that often gets her into trouble when her free spirit clashes with her clan’s strict gender-role traditions. They live in a harsh, sandy desert landscape ruled by chauvinism and volatile inter-clan conflicts. When she commits a desperate act of rebellion–taking up a sword, as a woman, to save her friend’s life–her clan leaves her behind as food fodder for giant sand serpents called “genesauri” (which may or may not have been bioengineered to thwart an enemy of war in the not-so-distant past). An egalitarian clan of mystics has been watching her for many years and rescues her from this terrible fate to train in swordsmanship and break into her own powers. As things progress, it becomes clear that something, or someone, has triggered an early migration of genesauri and may be drawing them toward a barrier of magnetic rock surrounding an oasis that normally repulses them–toward the clans gathering there for refuge. And Lhaurel’s abilities make her something far more powerful and dangerous than what any of the other mystics first anticipated.

Nielsen has created an intriguing magical post-apocalyptic universe through the eyes of a strong female character, beautiful descriptions, well-placed action, and wholesome storytelling. Sands is a delightful adventure. The audiobook narrator, Tanya Eby, was a perfect fit for voicing the characters in this book and wonderful to listen to. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the audio narration, and I highly recommend it!

You can check out Sands here at Audible: http://www.audible.com/pd/Teens/Sands-Audiobook/B01B8JLXRK

Or here on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B012CB4S66

Or here at Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sands-kevin-l-nielsen/1122630603.

His second book, Storms, is also available here: http://www.amazon.com/Storms-Sharani-Book-Kevin-Nielsen-ebook/dp/B019X32RZU.

Review: Valcoria: Children of the Crystal Star

I first read “Crown of Darkness,” a short story prequel to Valcoria published on the Curiosity Quills website (it appears to have vanished or I would totally post the link to it here). It was a wonderful short story, beautifully written, with heart-wrenching characters and an intriguing world where magic and technology are cleverly entwined. I requested an ARC in advance of the April re-release of Valcoria in exchange for an honest review. I lament that it has taken me so many months to finish the book and write this review, because it really is a wonderful read!

This story has an epic feel, with a lot of characters and a rich, complex plot. In Jason’s universe, Medieval magic and advanced fantasy technology drive a classic battle between the forces of good and evil. The fates of the various Valcorian kingdoms of mankind are at stake.

My favorite character was Yuiv. He started at the lowest point in almost every way, and grew the most in every way over the course of the story. It was wonderful to watch him learn and grow stronger morally, and in particular to journey with him as he discovered supernatural powers for good that he never knew he had. Great character.

Interesting plot. The magic-technology combination was extremely creative. There was action, romance, suspense. Great storytelling. I highly recommend this book to fantasy readers.

To get your Kindle or hardcover copy of Valcoria: Children of the Crystal Star, visit Amazon here.
For the paperback, get it here at Barnes and Noble.