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Book Review: Assail

Assail by Ian C. Esslemont, Malazan Empire #6

Tens of thousands of years of ice is melting, and the land of Assail, long a byword for menace and inaccessibility, is at last yielding its secrets. Tales of gold discovered in the region's north circulate in every waterfront dive and sailor's tavern, and now countless adventurers and fortune-seekers have set sail in search of riches. All these adventurers have to guide them are legends and garbled tales of the dangers that lie in wait -- hostile coasts, fields of ice, impassable barriers and strange, terrifying creatures. But all accounts concur that the people of the north meet all trespassers with the sword. And beyond are rumoured to lurk Elder monsters out of history's very beginnings.

Into this turmoil ventures the mercenary company, the Crimson Guard. Not drawn by contract, but by the promise of answers: answers to mysteries that Shimmer, second in command, wonders should even be sought. Arriving also, part of an uneasy alliance of Malazan fortune-hunters and Letherii soldiery, comes the bard Fisher kel Tath. And with him is a Tiste Andii who was found washed ashore and cannot remember his past life, yet who commands far more power than he really should. Also venturing north is said to be a mighty champion, a man who once fought for the Malazans, the bearer of a sword that slays gods: Whiteblade.

And lastly, far to the south, a woman guards the shore awaiting both her allies and her enemies. Silverfox, newly incarnated Summoner of the undying army of the T'lan Imass, will do anything to stop the renewal of an ages-old crusade that could lay waste to the entire continent and beyond.

Casting light on mysteries spanning the Malazan empire, and offering a glimpse of the storied and epic history that shaped it, "Assail" is the final chapter in the epic story of the Empire of Malaz.

For many a fantasy reader the words Malazan Empire of the Fallen shouldn't come as an unknown. Steven Erikson is perhaps the best known for these books, well let me rephrase, EPIC works. But Steven Erikson wasn't the sole inventor of the universe of Malaz, together with Ian C. Esslemont this universe was created. A few years after Garden of the Moon, Ian C. Esslemont published his first book in his own series tightly linked to that of Steven Erikson, his debut Night of Knives focused on the Crimson Guard and has been followed intensively though all the other books. When I picked up Assail is found out that it would wrap up the Malazan Empire series, I actually hadn't anticipated this and wanted to put it down again, having to once again say goodbye to a series, especially a Malazan series isn't something I like to do. Luckily there is still the new prequel series of Steven Erikson and what is to be expected of any Malazan book, in the end there are always answers but many more questions are raised. I don't think this will be the last we have seen of Ian C. Esslemont. 

From the beginning of his Malazan Empire series, Ian C. Esslemont has shown the story through different perspectives than those of the other series. Yes big names made appeareance or reference in both, but he really put his own influence on the world and so far every book for me has been a terrific reading experience. I am a big fan of the Malaz universe and have found the further building on this universe by Ian C. Esslemont a true treat. There have been made many a comparison between the writing of Steven Erikson and that of Ian C. Esslemont and how they interpret the world of Malaz etc, for me they both do a great job. The books of Ian C. Esslemont read differently but well an apple isn't the same a pear now is it? 

The world of Malaz has always intrigued me with the different continents like Genabackis, Quon Tali, Lether and many more. Now for a first time ever Ian C. Esslemont takes the reader to a place that have remained obscure for a very long time. Assail, which lies in between Genabackis and Lether. This place has been rumored to be one the most inhospitable and dangerous places to venture in. But one thing has always made people abandon even the most dangerous premises and that is the promise of riches and untold fortunes. The word is spreading the gold can be found amass on the lands of Assail and this draws with it many adventures willing to go beyond everything to claim their riches. Besides the occasional pirate and mercenary that has set out for his or her riches, there are also other travels that have set their course on the lands of Assail purely for their own reasons, where most of them are to finally find some answers or just to return.

In the beginning of the story of Assail you get (re)introduced to several different characters that each have their own motivation for being on, or venturing to Assail. This should come as a surprise as I think that if you are familiar with the Malaz universe you undoubtedly must know that the character cast is huge. One of the point of views that you follow is that of the Crimson Guard, to whom most of this series is more or less dedicated. Here you will find many characters that featured early on the the series: K'azz, Shimmer, Blues and Bars and lets not forget Kyle, who actually goes by a different name and inhereted a new name after Korel, that of Whiteblade. A different point of view is offered by Silverfox, a T'lan Imass that carries with her more than one soul. Silverfox is the summoner of the undying T'lan Imass army and all she wants to do it put a final halt to an age long battle. A third perspective is added by one of my favourite characters Fisher kel That, the immortal bard and oft narrator of several important poems set in the Malaz universe. Fisher comes to the land of Assail with an Tiste Andii who suffers from loss of memory, vague references in the beginning and all throughout the story allow you to think about just who this "unknown" Tiste Andii is. These characters should need an introduction as they should be most familiar to everyone.

Next to these "old" players in the Malaz universe, Ian C. Esslemont also introduces completely new characters and writes about them with the same amount of determination and creativeness than the other more established ones. To be completely honest, perhaps even more so since they are characters of his own devising. These are the native inhabitants of the lands of Assail, tribesmen and shipmen. The most noteworthy characters here are Jute and Orman. Orman is a tribesman and now when I am writing this, his youthfully character and his quest closely reminds me of another warrior whom we got to meet in House of Chains. Karsa Orlong. Orman's inexperience and persistence drives him to do things that other would easily shy away from. Against the strong backdrop of established character Orman makes a very determined introduction and the way that Ian C. Esslemont builds his character, I am sure it wont be the last of him that we have seen. (I hope so). 

When it comes down to the recurring characters, I do have to say I am a big fan of many of them and having the chance to read again of their adventures really puts a smile on my face. Having followed their journey across many different books and even in both series, really fortifies their characters in the story, it is impossible to not feel connected with them. I really liked how Kyle evolved along the story and grew more into a resolute self. It's like a journey of rediscovery. One element in the storyline of Fisher was the unknown Tiste Andii, though you will undoubtely find out just who this person is and many people say it is to obvious, frankly I liked this part as well, giving an obscure character reference really allowed me to think about it and revisit several of the scenes that might have led up to this.

And what would a Malaz story be without some solid swordfighting and Warren usage! There is a very powerful display of both of them in Assail. The fighting is mostly shown from Kyle and Orman's. Kyle is known as The White Blade and with the sword he wields he wrecks some havoc when push comes to shove. Though Kyle had to fight his way through most encounters, the amount of tension that Ian C. Esslemont brought to the forefront really got me to edge of my seat. Top notch stuff. The Warrens of the Malaz Empire have always been something of intrigue to me, they are so, so, so cool to read about and the whole concept is striking. On Assail there is one Warren that reins supreme, for other mages and even high mages to break it and be able to access their own requires tremendous power and all but a few manage to fail, even several high mages find that is requires a strong exertion of power. This unavoidably led to much more dire and bleak future for several characters; when you have always been able to rely on your power and now all of a sudden you can't... 

Last but definitely not least is the world building of the continent of Assail. It's a first time it is being visited in a book of the Malaz universe and all I can say is WOW. The way that Ian C. Esslemont writes about this new continent really inspires a many good feeling withing me. In his writing he manages to create very lush details surrounding the places visited and you also get the complete overview of the continent in the bigger picture. Also in building this world Ian C. Esslement tells much about the history of several events and explains them in reference to Assail, he goes in on many of the earlier proposed rumors surrounding it. Thereby only further letting the world come to life, once you finish the story you will be wishing that this visit to Assail won't be a one time thing. 

Assail is a great finisher to the Malazan Empire series that started with Night of Knives. In Assail Ian C. Esslemont really pulls all the stops when it comes down to showing the ending. I think many readers, especially in the build up of the series might have come to expect a different kind of ending and for some it might come as a bit of an anti climax but with not proposing a full flashy sword and sorcery kind of display the ending does proposes some other things and might even be set for a point to pick up yet another series. Also by creating the ending Assail got it does answer many questions that were raised earlier on in the series which for me was the reason I read these books. I want answers and coinciding with answers there are always more questions... Luckily! The Malazan Empire series just as it's "Big Brother" the Malazan Empire of the Fallen, is obligatory reading material for every Epic Fantasy fan, don't let the page count be thing to shy you away, they are over in a heartbeat and offer a terrific reading experience. Give me more!  

Author interview with David Barnett

Author interview with David Barnett 

Author bio:
David Barnett is an award-winning journalist, currently multimedia content manager of the Telegraph & Argus, cultural reviewer for The Guardian and the Independent on Sunday, and he has done features for The Independent and Wired.  He is the author of Angelglass (described by The Guardian as “stunning”), Hinterland, and popCULT!

Hi David, welcome over at The Book Plank and for taking your time to answer these few questions for us.

BP: First off, could you give us a short introduction as to who David Barnett is? What are your hobbies, likes and dislikes?
DB: David Barnett is a mild-mannered journalist who spends his nights fighting crime wherever he finds it. Hang on, that’s not right. I am a journalist by day, but I generally spend my nights writing fiction – latterly this has mainly been the Gideon Smith series of steampunk/alternate-history SF/Fantasy adventures. I’m married with two children, live in West Yorkshire in the UK, but am originally from Lancashire. I once ran the bulls at Pamplona, which I say only for want of trying to sound interesting.

BP: You have been writing for a few years now, do you still know when and where you decided that you wanted to become an author?
DB: I used to write fiction all the time when I was a kid, but it never really occurred to me that a person like me could be a “proper writer” – I thought that was a job you were born to, or had to go and study hard for. It was only relatively late in life – in my late 20s, probably, that I realised all you needed was a pen, a piece of paper, your imagination and a LOT of perseverance.

BP: Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl kicked off your brand new series Gideon Smith last year, what gave you the idea behind the series?
DB: I think it was watching my son relentlessly watching the Indiana Jones movies on a loop, as kids often do when they’re young – their capacity for repetition of things they love is amazing. I remembered how much I loved the movies when they came out, and thought I’d love to be able to write something with that derring-do and pulp-ish adventure, but perhaps with some modern-ish sensibilities. So I gave it a go.

BP: From all the different fantasy genres out there you chose to write a steampunk story – what draws you the most to steampunk?
DB: I didn’t really sit down to write a novel that could be filed under “steampunk” – it was more that the alternate history aspects grew with the story, and I wanted to have some alternate technology (mainly airships to facilitate speedy changes of scene from one country to another without weeks or months on a steamship!). The Gideon Smith books are a hotchpotch of thriller, mystery, SF and fantasy... but I’m happy enough if people want to use “steampunk” as short-hand. As to what draws me to writing steampunk, I think it’s because the Victorian era is only just out of human memory, so close enough for us to recognise the society and how things work, but far enough away that we can add a fantastical layer and there are still places to discover.

BP: Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon is out later this year by Tor books. If you would have to sell the book with a single sentence how would it go?
DB: Gideon & Co head to America, which is divided up by the British, the Spaniards, the Japanese and a host of independent states... there they find ninjas, dinosaurs, gigantic robots and a steam-powered cyborg who runs the most awful Old West town you’d never want to set foot in. Fun for all the family!

BP: It is always mentioned that writing a sequel is just as hard as writing a first book, what is your vision on this?
DB: It’s the first time I’ve written a sequel. The hard part I found was giving just enough information about what went on in the first book – you don’t want to bore readers who read book one with endless recaps, but I also wanted the book to be accessible to someone picking it up who hadn’t read Mechanical Girl. Hopefully I managed it...

BP: Did you encounter any specific problems when you were writing the Gideon Smith series?
DB: The biggest problem is when you go down the rabbit hole of alternate history you don’t know where to stop. You start off by researching one bit of history you want to change, then you realise that if you change this, then you have to change that, and before you know it you’re finding it difficult to justify why the Eiffel Tower was built or why people speak Afrikaans. Sometimes you have to draw a line under it and hope people don’t get too hung up on the history.

BP: What has been the hardest part in writing the Gideon Smith series so far?
DB: Finding time, really. I work full-time so have to write in the evenings, which generally means late at night because obviously I want some family life as well. The toughest thing is that I think my optimum writing time is mid-morning, as that’s when I get sudden drive to write, but of course I’m at my desk at my day job.

BP:  Besides the hardest of writing, which chapter or scene did you enjoy writing about the most?
DB: With Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon it’s generally the Aloysius Bent scenes. Bent is a foul-mouthed journalist who accompanies Gideon on his adventures. He started off as a bit of comic relief but he’s grown into actually, for my money, the most likeable character of the bunch. He doesn’t half smell, though, and he’s got a real potty mouth.

BP: If you would be possible to retract Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon from publishing to make one final adjustment, would you do so? If yes, which part and why?
DB: What a dreadful question! It’s all perfect! Actually, whenever you go through a manuscript you always find bits you think you could do better, or would like to tinker with, but at some point you have to draw a line under it and say enough’s enough. Certainly when the first book came out there were quite a few scenes I’d like to re-do... I think with hindsight Maria (the mechanical girl of the title) was a bit too much of a damsel in distress... in Brass Dragon she gets to punch and shoot a few people, though. So hopefully that balances that out.

BP: Two books have been featured so far in the Gideon Smith series, have you already planned out how many more books you will add to it?
DB: I’ve already written and delivered book three, which is Gideon Smith and the Mask of the Ripper, and which brings Gideon back to London and has some major revelations and consequences for many characters, especially the airship pilot Rowena Fanshawe. After that... well, I’d certainly like to do another three Gideon Smith books to complete the overall story arc I started in the first book, but that kind of depends on sales and reception (go and buy them! Now! And demand more!)

BP: Do you have any other projects besides Gideon Smith that you would like to pursue in the near future?
DB: Loads. I’ve got a USB drive full of ideas and half-started projects. It kind of depends on whether there’s more Gideon in the immediate future. I’d like to progress a couple of urban fantasy ideas I’ve been working on, stuff set in the modern era rather than the Victorian time.

BP: Everyone enjoys fantasy and science fiction in their own way, what do you like most about it?
DB: I love reading fantastical work because whether it’s set in the future, the past or the present it should, if it’s done well, say something about the world we live in today. I also like the fact that I’m reading books in which the only constraint on the writer is the breadth of their imagination.

BP: If you would have to give your top five favourite books, which would they be?
DB: Of all time? They’d be, off the top of my head, On the Road by Jack Kerouac, Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, The World According to Garp by John Irving, Fourth Mansions by RA Lafferty, pretty much anything by Neil Gaiman – let’s say American Gods, today. Ask me tomorrow, though, and that list will have changed.

BP: And just lastly can you give a short introduction to you Gideon Smith series for those who are not familiar with it and what might be in store for them?
DB: Gideon Smith is set in an alternate-history 1890 in which Britain still controls much of America, and most of the known world, and technology is slightly advanced from what it actually was, with airships, steam-technology etc. It’s fun, pulp-ish adventure with a heart.

BP: Thank you very much for your time David and good luck with your future writing!
DB: Thank you for having me!

Media Alert: Pretty Little Dead Girls

Media Alert: Pretty Little Dead Girls

Elegant Murder and Tragic Prose are in the Stars This Fall

Mercedes M. Yardley’s New Release is Nothing Short of Beautiful

Monday, September 8th—Crestview Hills, KY—“Murder and whimsy.” These things may sound incompatible, but dark fantasy author Mercedes M. Yardley’s latest novel manages to entwine the two concepts with lyrical language, beautiful imagery—and a high body count.

Ragnarok Publications is proud to announce the release of Pretty Little Dead Girls: A Novel of Murder and Whimsy, coming on September 29th. A dark but lovely fairy tale, this is Yardley at her finest: a tapestry of lush imagery, poetic prose, and beautiful violence about a woman destined to be murdered and her flight from Fate’s inevitable—yet seemingly terrible—marksmanship.

Yardley’s fans are no strangers to her lovely, tragic style. She is also the author of the acclaimed novella “Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu: A Tale of Atomic Love”, winner of the 2013 Reddit Stabby Award for Best Short Fiction, and the novel Nameless: The Darkness Comes, the first of The Bone Angel trilogy.

The creation of Pretty Little Dead Girls was something special for Yardley, however: “Pretty Little Dead Girls was created out of sheer joy,” Yardley says. “I've never experienced anything like it. This novel was written in three weeks. It bled from my pores, it was so intense. But so joyful.”

Hugo award-winning artist Galen Dara was commissioned to create a cover image that would capture the idea of lovely murder. The result, coupled with the design skills of J.M. Martin, is absolutely stunning. So stunning, in fact, that Ragnarok Publications has decided to release a special, limited hardcover edition of the book. Only one hundred of these signed hardcovers will be available, and preorders have already begun.

Also included in the package for the preordered hardcovers is a signed print from artist Orion Zangara, renowned for creating fairy tales with his lavish pen and ink drawings. Dark and evocative, this stunning image by Zangara was made with a particular scene from Pretty Little Dead Girls in mind.

Pretty Little Dead Girls: A Novel of Murder and Whimsy is not just a novel; with the poignant words of Mercedes M. Yardley, and the haunting images of both Dara and Zangara, it is, without a doubt, a work of art.


The special signed hardcover edition of Pretty Little Dead Girls: A Novel of Murder and Whimsy, along with the Orion Zangara print, is 
 NOW AVAILABLE FOR PREORDER.!apocmon-boneangel/c234g

Author interview with Edward Cox

Author interview with Edward Cox

Author Bio:
Edward Cox began writing stories at school as a way to pass time in boring lessons. It was a hobby he dabbled with until the late 80's when he discovered the works of David Gemmell, which not only cemented his love of fantasy but also encouraged a hobby to become something much more serious.

With his first short story published in 2000, Edward spent much of the next decade earning a BA 1st class with honours in creative writing, and a Master degree in the same subject. He then went on to teach creative writing at the University of Bedfordshire. During the 2000's he published a host of short stories with the smaller presses of America, where he also worked as a reviewer.

Currently living in Essex with his wife and daughter, Edward is mostly surrounded by fine greenery and spiders the size of his hand. The Relic Guild is his first completed novel, and it is the result of more than ten years of obsessive writing.

THE RELIC GUILD out from Gollancz September 2014


Hi Edward, welcome over at The Book Plank and for taking your time to answer these few questions for us!
EC: Hello! My pleasure, and thank you for inviting me! 

BP: First off, could you give us a short introduction as to who Edward Cox is? What are your hobbies, likes and dislikes?
EC: I’m a huge technology dunce and massive geek. I’ve been blundering my way through life for 43 years now, and can’t remember half of what I’ve learned along the way. I’m a devoted husband and father. I read, watch movies, and try to be as lazy as I can. I hate TV adverts almost as much as I hate bullying.

BP: You have been writing short stories for a couple years already. Do you still know when and where you decided that you wanted to become an author?
EC: It was a gradual process that started at school. I’d win poetry competitions, or have to read little short stories I’d written at those weird inter-school functions that I’m positive were designed to see how kids coped with confusion. I remember my English teacher telling me that I should take writing more seriously, but I didn’t want to listen to anyone back then. After school, I continued to dabble aimlessly with writing until it slowly dawned on me that it was the thing that best defined me.

BP: You latest book, The Relic Guild will be published later this September. What gave you the idea of the story?
EC: I think it’s an amalgamation of ideas that I collected over the years. They all came together when I hit upon the idea of telling a story about a band of magickers set in a hidden city. I was also inspired by the tales from varying mythologies.  

BP: The Relic Guild is your first completed book. Writing such debut and new book in a series can be a hard task, how did you went about and plan your writing?
EC: I write extensively in notebooks, and I mostly use them to flesh out story ideas, plot and characters, landscape – whatever needs to be done. In a way, I think I use notebooks to talk to myself and order my thoughts, which are chaotic at the best of times. Most of what I’ve written over the past 15 years has begun life as a theory in a notebook.

BP: The Relic Guild is set to be released in September 18th this year, if you would have to sell your book with a single sentence, how would it go?
EC: The Relic Guild: magic, monsters and mayhem!

BP: Even though you have written a few short stories prior to The Relic Guild did you still encounter any specific problems when you were writing The Relic Guild?
EC: It’s the same problem that I encounter with everything I’ve ever written. I’m not very good with plotting and planning, even though I keep trying. I know where I’m starting, and where I’m heading to, but to figure out the bit in the middle, I have to jump in and write it to discover what’s in there. Even the notebooks can’t help me there. 

BP: What was the hardest part in writing The Relic Guild?
EC: Balancing the split timelines, and ensuring they told a single tale.

BP: Besides the hardest part, which chapter or scene did you enjoy writing about the most?
EC: Well…there’s a character called Hamir. The first scene in the book where the story is told from his point of view was definitely one of my favourites to write. From the off, I was surprised by how well I knew Hamir, and I can’t wait for readers to meet him.

BP: If you would be able to retract The Relic Guild from publishing and make one final adjustment, would you do so? And if yes, which part and why?
EC: Interesting…not at this time. But ask me again when I’ve finished book 3!

BP: The Relic Guild is the first in a new series, have you already mapped out the big storyline and how many books will follow?
EC: There are three books to the story. They are mapped out, I know (roughly) where I’m going, and there is a BIG plan.

BP: Do you have any other projects that you wish to pursue in the near future now that The Relic Guild will be published?
EC: Editing book two and writing book 3 of The Relic Guild are my immediate projects. There might be one or two other projects looming in the future, but nothing I can tell you about yet.

BP: Everyone enjoys science fiction and fantasy in their own way, what do you like most about it?
EC: I think I’d have to say the adventure. The fun and intrigue and danger I experience in worlds that don’t exist.

BP: If you would have to give your top 5 favourite books, which would they be?
EC: Only 5? Okay, off the top of my head…
1.       Memory, Thorn and Sorrow – Tad Williams
2.       I am Legend – Richard Matheson
3.       The Magic Toyshop – Angela Carter
4.       Knights of Dark Renown – David Gemmell
5.       Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell – Susanna Clarke

BP: And just lastly, can you tell us a bit more about what will be in store for the readers of The Relic Guild and a possible sneak preview of the sequel?
EC: Well, for the first book I’ve been trying to perfect a pitch. I currently have this: At the heart of a labyrinth, in a city surrounded by walls a hundred feet high, Clara knows that an age-old menace has returned to her home. Only the last magickers of the Relic Guild can help Clara save the lives of one million humans. Together they must find a way to contact the lost worlds that lay outside the boundary walls. As for the second book, I will tell you only this…All things are known in the end…

BP: Thank you for your time Edward and good luck with your future writing projects.
EC: Thank you and my pleasure! J

Book Review: Mara

Mara by Veronica Bane, Unusuals #1

For years, Mara Tucker has used her power of manipulating flames to punish those who have done her wrong. But things are changing in the town of Jericho. Rampant disappearances have forced Mara to seek out others with special powers. In a story that confronts the violence and turmoil of adolescence, Mara and a group of other "unusuals" like her grapple with new alliances and the villains pressing in all around them.

I have been finishing some superhero books recently and when I went through them on Goodreads I was recommended to read the novella Mara. When I read the synopsis of the book I was more than eager to dig into it. It somehow reminded me a bit to Firestarter from Stephen King. The promise that the synopsis holds for Mara is more than proven true, more than once Veronica Bane managed to surprise by the power of her story, it's far from ordinary. Mara is Veronica Bane's debut novella and features as an opener in the Unusuals series. 

Veronica Bane begins Mara with an very interesting prologue that immediately helped to set the setting right for the story. After which the focus is places upon Mara Tucker a 17-year-old girl who has the power of making flames appear and control them with just her thoughts, Mara has been using this extraordinary ability to get back at the people who have heart her but always choosing to show it in a way that it didn't draw attention. Mara has a dark past, one which you get to learn along the way and which tells just how she would up in the town of Jericho. She wanted to flee her past but now she finds out that the town of Jericho isn't all that good of an escape to have chosen. Strange things seem to happen to several teenagers living in Jericho. By this Mara finds out that she isn't the only on with extraordinary powers. There are others like her that are able to control different elements like that of water or stone. Mara groups up with the others that are like her and they call themselves the Unusuals. As I said, somethings are happening in the city of Jericho which causes that the lives of Mara and her friends becomes rather precarious. And that is quite understated. The Unusuals are being haunted down by the new Government who doesn't want their kind anymore, whereas Mara and her Unusual friends just want to be given the opportunity to live a normal life. Now they are forced into a very violent game, where winning is the only option to get out alive. 

I really liked the story of Mara, I normally don't read that many novella's, I think I can count them on one hand but Veronica Bane wrote a really solid and intriguing story. What some authors aren't able to achieve in a full lenght book: making the story engaging and creating and building characters, Veronica does this to the fullest. From the beginning with Mara you are readily dragged in to the story and later by a different protagonist Miyuki. What people often think (and I actually as well) is that when superpowers make an entry in fiction that you will have only vivid battle between hero and villain. For Mara, this isn't actually the case because the backdrop focuses on many different aspects as well. Social status and acceptance, growing-up and getting by on a daily basis. These different aspects gave the story of Mara the a whole new set of layers; that much more gripping. 

The characters that Veronica Bane introduces in her story of Mara all feel well executed. Though in the beginning it was hard to connect with several. The main protagonist of the book, Mara, is a really strong lead and perhaps a bit too much in the beginning. It directly falls to note that she has a dark past, her life hasn't been easy and isn't going to change soon and these facts create a dark air surrounding her character. But later when you get more explanation around the past events and how Mara has to fend for herself and her other friends it is impossible not to connect. With all that Mara is going through you will be cheering her on. Besides Mara there is one other character of the Unusuals that makes up a big part of the story, this is Miyuki. Mara and Miyuki are literally like water and fire, contrasting when it comes down to personalities and powers. But deep down they both want the same and that is to be free. Mara is very caring for other whereas Miyuki first comes over as only for thinking about herself but she does have a sort of change of heart. I liked the influence of Miyuki's part on the story as it allowed for a much larger background in terms of history of several events. Besides Mara and Miyuki there are plenty of other characters that make a pass in the story like Alex, Terry, Chris and Mike. Though they each had their own role to play, Mara and Miyuki did have more focus on them but this didn't take away that their characters were blend, in terms of secondary cast they were very well fleshed out. 

When you look at the page count of the book, it only stands at 170ish, and already the things that I mentioned above filled up the book quite well, but Veronica Bane does add one thing more. One thing that I always really, really like. Showing the bad guys behind the story. Now this might sound a bit childish when saying "bad guy" or referring to them as evil but trust me Veronica Bane writes about the evil force in anything but a childish way. It really went for me as far as bit of a thriller given the backdrop of the struggle of the teenagers and how they were disposed off. This added another great undercurrent that readily got me more excited and clustered to the pages. 

Though I don't have that much novella experience yet, I know that I liked Mara. As I said it is a short story but packs a lot of power. Veronica Bane does a great job in showing an engaging and relatable set of characters, ones where you will start to grow attached to. Mara is far from a standard story about superpowers and Veronica Bane readily introduces many other different aspects in her world that make the story only come out for the better. If you ever have a few hours to spare I really urge you to pick up Mara. It's one of those hidden gems to be sure.