Monday, January 6, 2014

REVIEW: "Destiny Sets" - by Karen Fainges (Virtual Book Tour Cafe)

"Destiny Sets is the first novel in the Shaytonian Chronicles.   Lightning sears a scene against the eye. Trapped between reality and death, every scrap of life is fighting for existence. To stop fighting is to die. Some precious moments of peace can be stolen from small pockets of calm. Life can take a breath and wonder at the harsh beauty. But only for a moment, then struggle resumes. And others watch.   The Shayton Chronicles begins in Destiny Sets, the story of one man. He is that drop of chaos that can spell success or failure.   Born from a vampiric race of slaves, genetically moulded to provide comfort for their masters, he alone decides to be truly free. Irreverent humour and a fierce need to know 'why', war within him and entire worlds are changed.   "The Stainless Steel Rat with fangs."

Book Genre: Scifi/Fantasy Vampire
Publisher: Writers Exchange

Karen Fainges works as a trainer in business and computing. A wife and mother, she started thinking up sci-fi stories at the age of 10. Editor of the K-tips business and computing ezine, she longed to present her fiction to the world. So she took those long ago stories, a love of the absurd and wrote about beings that were not humans. Sometimes you see a lot more about humanity and yourself when you are looking at someone else.


Vampires have overtaken common lore.  Well, vampires and zombies (not sure which I would be more freaked by during a chance encounter....each in their own way...).  Just take a look at the recent popularity of shows and books dedicated to each.  But what if the vampires have more of a story than we realize....and what if they are from another dimension?

Overall, I give this book a 3 out of 5, and here is why.......

Given that vampire stuff has been done, and done and done and done, it can be hard to find anything truly original in the area of vampire lore.  Fainges, however, has here fashioned something truly original. 

Here we have a vampire who bleeds purple (kind of made me think of Vulcans and their green blood), loves passionately, defends vehemently, and Survives stubbornly.  Born under a shroud of conspiracy and secrecy, this vampire is determined to wrest his will out of life and not be used as a pawn.  If only he knew the true manipulation happening behind the scenes....

Fainges has here tended the character development of a very interesting vampire caught in very interesting circumstances.  We learn that he is from a planet that literally wrests itself to pieces and rebuilds constantly, uses the 'old power' (read: magic), is kind of related to a woman who was bred as a weapon against the "Enemy", and fights to control the vampire beast within who threatens to gain control and turn him into a "fear eater" (one who feeds on prey's fear...and loses control).  Doesn't that sound intriguing?

It is.  :)

I enjoyed the story here.  Vampires from alternate dimensions?  People used as pawns?  Science fiction presented in a way that is new and intriguing?  I definitely was hooked on the story and characters and found myself constantly reading away far past the time I intended to lay the book down. 

Characters are interesting, unique, distinct, have fairly clear motivations (well, most of them) and EACH HAVE THEIR OWN CLEAR VOICE!!  YAY!!  (okay, I'm over excited, but this is one of my sticking points as a reader, so there).  Settings are just as interesting.  Not only does Fainges have the vampires on Earth, but also in their own well as on a few others.  The plot is engaging, writing style is accessible, all in all a fairly nice read. 

Oh, and did I forget to mention that there are some really interesting philosophical/ethical questions raised in much the same kind of way as they appear in Star Trek: The Next Generation?  ("Nora, your geek is showing...") 

The Bugly (bad/ugly)
Now, I'm gonna be super nitpicky here.  Keep in mind that I do enjoy this story and this book.  Just...
  • While the plot is intensely original and interesting, it jumps around a bit and almost feels as fragmented in places as the constantly shifting soil of planet on which the vampires originate.  Transitions from various settings and time periods are rather unclear, and at times it was hard for me to figure out where/when the vampires were located.  Things did not flow real well.  
  • There were enough grammatical errors to distract me while reading.  Seriously, my editing fingers were itching.  :P
  • More more more....I wanted more!  While we are given lots about the characters and their motivations, it often felt as there was a back story that we needed in order to truly understand just what in the heck was going on.  Why was this vampire bred specifically?  Just who is the Enemy?  Huh what why?  Now, keep in mind that I've always been the pesky one constantly asking "why" about everything (I've driven a few employers and friends to distraction by doing so), but this made me ask "why" constantly.  Argh.  Rather than feeling like the first book in the series that this work is, it felt like a second book that was depending on the first book to fill in some gaps.
  • On that kind of note, how things work in this universe did not make sense to me in some places....just how could certain beings watch other beings?  How did things work?

"The hardest part of character development for me has always been remembering what I said before. You need to keep all the details about your character somewhere where you can refer to it easily and make sure you get the basics right. You might think that you really don’t need this for your main character. Maybe not, though it is amazing how often I have to go back and check a fact. More likely you will need the reference sheets for supporting characters, those that wander on and off the page at intervals long enough that you forgot what you called them, or what colour their hair was.

One example of a sheet for keeping character details on is available There are also less detailed sheets for minor characters.

Now you probably will not use even half of this in your story and definitely not for a minor character. ‘So why gather it’ I hear you asking. Good question.

You gather the information because the better you know the characters, the better your writing will be. First of all, the internal logic will be there. You won’t have consistency problems across the book or series.

You will never have to stop and think what a character would do in a given situation. You can also use small details to give reasons for your character’s actions. For example, I would rarely see the need to simply state that my character’s favourite colour is blue. If he met someone wearing the exact shade of blue that was the colour of his favourite jewel that his mother wore, that could influence his decisions and reactions.

The other area of character development that can be difficult is creating mannerisms that round out the character without being annoying (unless that is what you are going for). Here’s an example. In the Harry Potter books and movies, Harry would push his glasses up his nose if he was confused or embarrassed. Rowling didn’t have him do it in every scene, but it was often enough to see the habit of a young boy whose glasses never quite fit.

In contrast, Barty Crouch had that annoying thing he did with his mouth. It instantly told you that he was none too stable and more than a little bit creepy. The more he did it, the more I didn’t like him and I am sure that was intended.

So write down details so you stay consistent, give colour and depth to your characters and show their reasoning. Even if they don’t know why something is pushing their buttons, with the help of your sheet, you will."


Painting the mythic vampire

The deep royal blue sky of the Italian Riviera provided the perfect backdrop to the posed woman. She was an otherworldly figure set amongst the ancient columns. Her softly accented voice broke the stillness. "Are you sure about this?"
She watched as he added a daub more paint, "I am sure. You said it yourself, the best way to deny something it is to say it is true."
"And what if the Council finds out?"
Alfredo dabbed on a different colour. Going by the look on his face, he still did not have the skin colour the exactly right colour of purple. It had been frustrating him all evening. There was a timeline that neither one of them had mentioned, but it loomed in their thoughts. He was getting older, and no one lived forever. His words dragged her out of the wave of sadness that swept through her. "This mythical Council of yours, what if they do notice the paintings? They are just paintings."
"The Council is no myth. They rule our world."
"I thought the King ruled your homeworld?"
Lisa started to shrug but remembered in time not to move from the pose. "His rule is absolute, so long as he leaves all the day to day decisions, like whether to exile his daughter to Earth, to the Council."
"And you, as this poor exiled waif are concerned that one of those 'day to day' decisions may be objecting to this painting?"
Lisa snorted at the sarcasm in his voice, knowing it was meant more to chide her out of the doldrums than anything else. "They defend of the safety of Shayton. They hold dear her anonymity. It keeps her from being destroyed by those that fear the different, which, my dear, you must agree describes most humans remarkably well."
Alfredo nodded, "And trust me, the picture of a masked dancer with obviously fake wings..." Lisa snorted again at this description of her body, "will ensure that any little slip ups like the one in Venice, will be seen as a publicity stunt and nothing else. Your Council will thank us."


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