Category Archives: Tom Doolan

2013: An Assessment – Individual Authors and Titles

This is the second part of my assessment of 2013.  The first looked at publishers.  Here I’ll feature some authors and/or individual titles that I thought were standouts.  Links for books will be to my reviews (the reviews will have links to buy if you’re interested.)  Since I’ve been doing a weekly post at Amazing Stories, with only one week missed, I’ll be including some of the titles I reviewed there in this list.

As with the publishers, these are in alphabetical order.  I’m probably overlooking someone or a particular book.  I apologize in advance.  This list consists of titles and authors I read in 2013 and isn’t intended to be inclusive.  Feel free to share your suggestions in the comments.  Again, I’m including mystery, crime, and science fiction as well as fantasy. Continue reading

A New Series by Tom Doolan

“Blood from Sand”
Tom Doolan
Short Attention Span E-Publishing
$1.25 mobi epub PDF

A beautiful assassin on the run from an evil sorcerer.  A lone warrior from a desert tribe who aids a woman in danger.  Their lives will never be the same.

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you know that I’ve enjoyed the short fiction of Tom Doolan (reviewed here, here, here, and here).  Most of his work to date has involved orcs, but with “Blood from Sand” he goes in a different direction, adding to the current trend of Arabian Night style fantasy.

The story opens with Mazlochan and his djinn companion on patrol.  When he sees a beautiful woman being pursued by four thugs across the desert, he intervenes.

The woman is Lily, an assassin.  She’s on the run from her former employer, the sorcerer El Ahmar.  By aiding her, Mazlochan runs the risk of bringing El Ahmar’s wrath down upon his village.

And if you want to know any more, then buy the story and read the rest.  This is a short story, after all, and I don’t want the review to be longer than the story itself.

And if you enjoy sword and sorcery, you should read it.  This is the beginning of a new series, and I’m looking forward to reading more installments.  Doolan seems to be mainly setting things up for future adventures.  This story was fairly short, but I can see the potential for longer works.

The action is well done, and the combat scenes move quickly.  Doolan’s prose is smoother than I remember it being in his earlier stories, and I had no complaints about the prose there.  What I’m saying is that he’s getting better, which is what any writer worth his/her salt would want to have happen.

“Blood from Sand” is only available in electronic format.  Since Doolan has published all his previous work in electronic format, he knows what he’s doing.  I bought the epub version.  There were no formatting problems or typos that I noticed.  The layout was good.  The cover art has a professional appearance.  This was a good buy from the formatting perspective.  I wish some of the major publishers could achieve the same.

Short Attention Span E-Publishing is Tom Doolan’s new venture, and “Blood from Sand” is his premier offering through SASE.  I had no trouble with ordering.  I placed my order one evening, and the next morning, Tom emailed me a zip file containing the story in all formats.  Here’s wishing him much success with it.

More Orcs From Tom Doolan

“The Orc Way”
Tom Doolan
Kindle ebook $0.99

Tom Doolan returns with another short story about Orcs.  (His previous work is reviewed here, here, and here.)  This story is a sequel to “Pekra”.  It’s a worthy addition to the series.

The setup is basically simple, although the resolution turns out not to be.  Gortek, Pekra’s mate, is part of a group of Orcs dispatched to kidnap a Dwarf.  The problem is that Kagan is in charge rather than Gortek, and Kagan is just stupid enough to be dangerous.  And that can get them killed. 

Things don’t go according to plan.  This is both bad and good and sets up a number of potential storylines for future installments in the series.  This is a short story, so I don’t want to give too many details away.

One of the things I liked best about this tale is that Doolan didn’t confine himself to a single viewpoint.  Instead we see things from multiple viewpoints, including some of the Dwarves.  This added a layer of depth to the story because it gave us a glimpse of Dwarven society.  There are some intriguing thins going on there.

As I’ve come to expect from one of Doolan’s stories, there is plenty of well choreographed action, the pacing is good, and the characters are more than cardboard cutouts.  With this installment, Doolan appears to be laying the groundwork for a strong and interesting series.  Check it out.

Long Looks at Short Fiction: "Amarante" by Scott Oden

Scott Oden
ebook $0.99 Kindle Nook

Scott Oden is an outstanding writer of historical adventure fiction and fantasy.  I’ll be looking at his novels over the coming months. For now, though, I want to take a look at this short piece, a tale of orcs.  I’ve reviewed several stories about orcs in the last few months, one by Charles Gramlich and three different stories by Tom Doolan

This latest is probably the darkest of the lot, which is by no means a bad thing.  It concerns a punitive raid on a temple.  The leader of the orcs is Kraibag, Captain of the 10th Zhrokari Brigade.  They’ve finished destroying the temple for spreading sedition.  Kraibag is about to kill the surviving priestess when he’s stopped by Muzgaash, a Witch Hound.  Witch Hounds can sense magic, and he warns Kraibag of sorcery. 

He’s right.  It’s only minutes later that everything erupts as the priestess uses herself as a blood sacrifice.  What ensues is an attempt by the surviving orcs (Kraibag and Muzgaash) to track down the priestess responsible for setting up the spell enabling the first priestess to sacrifice herself and to prevent a prophesied child messiah from arising to destroy them.

There’s plenty of action and excitement in this one, and the sorcery is good and creepy.  Oden writes conflict well, and the pacing carried me along.  This is more than just a story of good guys versus bad guys. It’s more like bad guys versus bad guys.  It’s hard to say who is more vile here, the orcs or the priestess Amarante.  One of the things that impressed me about this story was how Oden took traditional villains, the orcs, and without changing them or making them nice in any way, made them sympathetic.  Initially my sympathies were with the humans, but as I saw the lengths they were willing to which they were willing to go to defeat the orcs, that changed.  The end does not always justify the means.

Another thing I liked was that this story didn’t take place in a vacuum.  There’s a history that informs all the events.  Oden refrains from infodumping it all on you.  Instead, he lets you have enough information when you need it to understand the contexts of the things the characters say and do.  I especially liked Kraibag’s reaction to the ghosts when he passes through an old battleground.  This approach made me want to read more stories set in this world.

Scott Oden has had a tough year.  I’ll not go into any details because it’s not my place to do so.  If this sounds like a story you’d enjoy, show him your support by buying and reading “Aramante” and then telling a friend about it.  I’m hoping he’ll post something else soon.  Like maybe that historical piece featuring Richelieu he was working on last year.

Long Looks at Short Fiction: Severence by Tom Doolan

Tom Doolan
Kindle, 0.99

Tom Doolan is a busy man.  In addition to working full time, taking classes, maintaining a family life, and playing a weekly game of D&D, he also finds time to write.  I get tired just thinking about it.  Maybe he’s younger than I am, I dunno.

What I do know is that I like his work.  This is the third story he’s published himself (reviews of the other two here and here). Each of them is well-written, exciting, and a lot of fun.

“Severence” is about a young girl named Severence, who has trained herself to become an assassin after her father was murdered.  While it’s not clear if she actually did the deed herself, his second wife, Severence’s step-mother is responsible.

Severence is getting into position to kill the woman as the story opens.  Someone has decided the woman needs to die and has chosen Severence to fulfill the contract.  Fine with Severence.

There’s just one slight problem.  The target has a bodyguard who is nigh unto indestructible.

Severence thinks she has a solution to this problem.  There’s only one way to find out…

This one was fairly short, so I’m not going to give any further details.  The pace was relentless; you won’t get bored.  Severence’s plan was a complicated one, and it would have been nice to see it run into more problems than it did.  However, given the ending, one I should have foreseen and didn’t, I’m more than willing to let that point slide.

I have no idea if this is a stand-alone or the initial entry in a series.  I’m hoping it’s the latter.  Either way, check this one out.  Once again Tom Doolan has produced a short ebook with a good cover, good formatting, and most importantly, a good story.

Long Looks at Short Fiction: Pekra by Tom Doolan

Tom Doolan
Kindle format, 0.99

If I didn’t already know that he was, I would guess by reading this that Tom Doolan is the father of a teenage girl.  He seems to capture the viewpoint quite well.  At least I think he does, never having been a teenage girl myself.

“Pekra” is Tom’s latest piece of short fiction.  Like the previous”Blackskull’s Captive“, reviewed here, this is an orc story, only this time it’s not set in space.  It’s also significantly shorter, making it the perfect thing to read while taking a quick lunch break.

This is also a little different than most orc stories.  It’s a love story of sorts.  Pekra is a young orc whose parents are on her case because her sister has found a mate and is with child.  Why can’t she do the same?  So she does, or at least tries to.  In orc society the females choose the mates.  If two females fight over a male, the male is stuck with the winner, like it or not.  As you might expect, Pekra is challenged when she tries to choose her mate (chosen in part because her choice will annoy her parents).  The result is a cat fight, orc style. 

This was a short tale, but thoroughly enjoyable.  Both Pekra and her choice of mate are well characterized, and the fight scene is a blast.  (Not literally, the two orcs don’t have any explosives.)  As Tom said in his announcement on his blog, this one would have been hard to market.  I’m glad he published it himself.  It focused on an aspect of orc society that isn’t usually shown, the mating ritual.  I wouldn’t mind seeing more of these characters in a longer tale.  Check it out. 

Long Looks at Short Fiction: Blackskull’s Captive by Tom Doolan

Blackskull’s Captive
Tom Doolan
Kindle ebook format, 0.99

If this short story, the first publication by Tom Doolan, is any indication of what we can expect from him, then he’s someone you will want to add to your list of must-read authors.

“Blackskull’s Captive” is a delightful and thoroughly entertaining blend of fantasy, space opera, and old fashioned pirate adventure.  Written in part as an homage to Treasure Island, it’s the story of Jack Munro, an orphan who is captured by Orcs and forced into being the cabin boy of the dreaded Captain Blackskull. 

Now Orcs in space (or Orccss innn Spaaacce! – sorry, I couldn’t resist) may sound at first glance like it won’t work, but I assure you it does.  Part of the reason is the voice.  The story has the tone of a novel or journal from the 1700s or 1800s.  The only difference is that this one is readable, quite readable.  I’m sure being a history major helped as far as the style is concerned, but Doolan has crafted a character who is both courageous and resourceful, yet not without flaws, which makes him all the more engaging.  Young Jack Munro learns from his mistakes and grows, turning from frightened victim to hero.  Doolan manages to stuff more character development into a few pages than some epic fantasies do in five times the number of pages.

The thing I found intriguing, and my geek is showing here, is that the universe is a blend of the 17th century and the 21st.  The costuming, for lack of a better word, is out of Treasure Island, while the science (with the exception of one mention of the aether) is out of Stephen Hawking.  Artificial gravity and plasma guns alongside cutlasses and sailing ships in outer space.  I want to know more about how this universe works.  Aether and super science?  Definitely cool.

Fortunately I’ll get the chance.  Doolan said on his blog when he announced the story that he’s completed one sequel and is working on a second.  I had a blast reading this story.  Doolan’s prose pulled me into the story, and the unique setting and well realized characters made me want to stay.

As is my custom when reviewing indie published works, a few words on the production values.  The cover art is a perfect fit for the story.  There were no typos or formatting problems.  This was what an ebook should be like.  Why can’t New York figure that out?

This little ebook is a great buy.  Check it out.