al k. line

Review of ‘Wild Spark’

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Faz Pound, the Dark Magic Enforcer, has decided to settle down. He’s married his live-in vampire girlfriend, Kate, and their off to Paris for a peaceful honeymoon. Of course, for Faz, peaceful is always relative. In Paris, he and Kate receive a ‘command’ invitation to the 600th birthday party of the powerful and quite evil witch, Morag, where he’s offered a job. Since he and Kate want to have children, Morag is willing to help achieve that, provided Faz does her one little favor: retrieve her soul from a powerful wizard, and, oh by the way, take away all his magic at the same time.

Wild Spark by Al K. Line is the eighth in the Dark Magic Enforcer series, and it does not disappoint. Faz has to face off against trolls, vampires, and wizards, and in the process, come to terms with his new-found magical powers. This is quintessential Black Spark, with a lot of humorous asides and pulse-pounding magical encounters of the ‘blast ‘em to bits’ kind.

I received an advance review copy of this book, and I highly recommend it.

I give it five stars.

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Review of ‘Faery Dust’

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Arthur ‘The Hat’ Salzman, the gangster wizard, is back and as bad as ever. When the elf, Elion, breaks the wards to his house and offers him a job; steal the Raeth Naeg, Beowulf’s legendary belt, for which he’s willing to pay the princely sum of a million dollars, Arthur’s reluctant, but you don’t say no to an elf, who also happens to be one of the Fallen, an elf who has been exiled to the land of the humans.

In Faery Dust by Al K. Line, the second book in the Wildcat Wizard series, Arthur has to deal with an enigmatic, but extremely powerful, elf, said elf’s jealous siblings, a teenage daughter who is a witch in training, and Vicki, his new, untrained sidekick. Like the first book in this series, the reader is treated to a  hero who is often anything but heroic—he kills a thug who abused his daughter and feels no real guilt about it, does some pretty gruesome things to other beings who get in the way of the completion of his mission, and worries when his favorite hat is vandalized.

If you like your paranormal story to be bloody and bloody funny, you’ll love this book. For readers who like their hero to be flawed, but still principled, it’s all there in Faery Dust.

I received an advanced reader copy of this book.

Another five-star offering.

Review of ‘Blood Moon’

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Arthur ‘The Hat’ Salzman is a gangster and a wizard. He’s asked by his ‘broker’ Nigel to do a simple job; retrieve an item, and deliver it unopened. Unfortunately, every gangster, human and nonhuman, also wants the item, and they’re willing to kill Arthur to get it. He’s been killed many times before, and even though the experience is unpleasant, he’s come back each time. This time, though, in their quest to obtain the ‘item,’ they threaten those he loves. They even subvert his sidekick, who betrays him, and then gets himself killed in the process.

A friend of Arthur’s, a single mom with children to care for, wants badly to be his sidekick, and now that the job is open, she presses her case. Not the best of times for a human untrained in magic or larceny to apply for the job, but what’s a wizard to do? Arthur is at sixes and sevens, with a shadowy organization, Cerebrus, and a group of vampires all on his case, he needs all the help he can get. So, he takes on a new sidekick, and with the help of his faery godmother (who happens to be the one who bestowed upon him the ability to come back to life) Arthur decides to use his wizardly powers to kick some serious butt.

Blood Moon by Al K. Line is book one in the Wildcat Wizard series, and if you’ve read Line’s Dark Magic Enforcer series, you have some idea of how this story unfolds. Unlike Faz Pound, a wizard who is the Dark Magic Enforcer, Arthur works on the other side of the law, but like Faz, he’s a man of principle, and one of his cardinal principles is, ‘don’t mess with my friends.’

Wizards, plain old human goons, monsters, and vampires all come together in a bloody romp across the English countryside in a story that will keep you flipping pages until the gory conclusion, and despite all the bloodshed, it’s also something of a rib tickler, as most of this author’s books are.

I can’t wait to see what Arthur gets up to next. I received a free copy of this book.

This was an easy five star read!

Review of ‘Full Metal Magic’

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Full Metal Magic by J.A. Cipriano, et al is a collection of urban fantasy short stories that are chock full of magic and mayhem. Nine authors demonstrate their chops at creating heroes (actually, anti-heroes) and situations that will bemuse and befuddle you. Plots that read like they were created in a vodka-infused reverie, from the U.S. Midwest to Cardiff in the UK, they take us on romps through magic and the paranormal. These stories are not for the squeamish or overly sensitive reader; they can only be described as gutsy and gritty, and hate ‘em or love ‘em, they give you a cast of characters you’re unlikely to forget.

I received an advanced reader copy of this book. I give if five stars.

Review of ‘Dead Spark’

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During an epic battle with the Dragon, Faz Pound, ace Dark Magic Enforcer, and Dancer, Head of the UK Council, were bitten by zombies. Infected now and on the verge of becoming two more of the undead, Faz and Dancer are making a mad dash to find a mysterious woman that Dancer knows who can cure them. Unfortunately, they’re also pursued by Wyrmlings bent on exacting revenge against Dancer for something he did ages ago.

Dead Spark, the seventh book in Al K. Line’s Dark Magic Enforcer series, is a heart-throbbing adventure as the two heroes race against time to cure themselves before they become dangerous to the ones they love. But, it is the ones they love who must help them in their quest. This is one of the more adventurous of the series, with tons of action on every page, and just enough obstacles in the way to make the reader unsure that they will succeed. An interesting twist is added when the mysterious woman turns out to be Amber, claiming to be Faz’s daughter from his long-dead wife, and I won’t spoil it for readers by explaining how that turns out.

If this is your first Dark Magic Enforcer book, I strongly encourage you to go back to book one and catch up. Not, mind you, that you need to do that in order to enjoy this one. It pretty much stands on its on as a fantastic fantasy. Magic and mayhem aplenty will keep you thrilled from page one to the last.

I received an advanced reader copy of this book.

Once I started reading, I skipped lunch to finish it. I give this one five stars!

Review of ‘Shift: Strangetown Magic Book 2’

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Swift is tired. Having just evicted many Strange back through the great Rift to where they belong and forestalled an invasion of bad elves, she really wants to take a break. But, Strangetown is changing, and not in a good way. The town is being overtaken by jungle growth, and is threatened by an invasion of Normal military and other officials. Worse, her mother, the Queen of the Witches, wants her to put things right, and Levick, the chief Justice and her boss, wants her to find the evil witch, Blue, who has been randomly killing both Strange and Normal.

Shift: Strangetown Magic Book 2 by Al K. Line is another exciting adventure as Swift, her sister and her weird friends face off against a world of plants gone mad, Normals who think they can tackle an ogre, and a mad witch who has someone pulling her strings. Dialogue is pithy, and the situations Swift finds herself in are just as wild as they were in Book 1. Magic and mayhem abound in this romp through a land that only the fevered mind of this author could create.

Hard to put down, and as satisfying as a Long Island Ice Tea on a sweltering day, you’ll enjoy this book. If you don’t, Mack the ogre might just pay you a visit.

I received an advanced reader copy of this book. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Hidden Spark’

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After his trip to Japan, where he finally avenged the deaths of his parents, Faz Pound had had it with magic. He returned to Cardiff and tried to live a ‘normal’ life, refusing to use magic. Instead, he retreated to his farmhouse with his vampire girlfriend, Kate. But, after five years, he’s bored out of his skull, and realizes that without magic, he is nothing. He aches to return to work. His friend, Dancer, now head of the UK Council of the Hidden, calls and offers him a job. He wanted to get back in the saddle, but going after a dragon that is keeping the dwarves from their hoard of gold wasn’t really his idea of the first job he wanted after a five-year hiatus. But, he takes it.

Now, Faz, the Black Spark, a Dark Magic Enforcer, is no friend of dwarves—heck, dwarves aren’t particularly fond of each other, and Faz knows that he’s really no match for a real dragon, but a job’s a job, so off he goes to the underground lair of the Queen of the Dwarves. There he finds not ‘a’ dragon, but The Dragon, the legendary mage who brought magic to the world. The Dragon wants his help, he wants Faz to help him escape the dwarves’ lair with his skin intact. Faz shrugs and complies, only to learn that The Dragon has a whole other agenda, one that could be fatal to Faz and all his friends. Faz discovers that it’s not real dragons he must fear—it’s all the other snakes skulking around in the grass, the woodwork, and just about everywhere he turns.

Hidden Spark by Al K. Line is the sixth book in the Dark Magic Enforcer series, and while it’s not the best of the lot, it’s still one heck of a fine read. The author knows how to pull the reader into the mind of his characters, to make you smell the brimstone, or is it Sulphur, and involuntarily duck when Faz’s tattoos start to pulse. Take my word for it, you’ll enjoy this book.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I give this one four stars.

Review of ‘Neon Spark’

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Faz Pound, aka Black Spark, a Dark Magic Enforcer, travels to Japan in pursuit of Kimiko, the vampire who killed his parents, and who has established herself as the head of Japan’s gangster empire. His mission, to kill her. But, even with the help of his necromancer friend, Dancer, this proves to be a challenge that threatens to overwhelm him as he faces beings from the Hidden unlike any he’s ever seen.

Neon Spark by Al K. Line is the fifth book in the Dark Magic Enforcer series, and it continues the amazing adventures of a human with magic powers who devotes his life to enforcing the arcane laws that keep the worlds of the Hidden and the Normals in balance. If you’ve read the first four books of the series, you’ll enjoy this one as it shows Faz’s character development as he learns more about his own history, as well as the histories of those around him. The action, as always, is nonstop, with wry observations from the main character, of himself and others.

A good read. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.

I give this one four stars.

Review of ‘New Spark’

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Faz Pound, aka Black Spark, is a dark magic enforcer. He and his girlfriend, Kate, a vampire who wants to be more or less normal, have moved to a peaceful house in the countryside. Things are idyllic, except for a few unruly chickens, until his boss, Mage Rikka, assigns him a new job. Trolls are exhibiting intelligence—and belligerence—zombies have left their protected enclave, and there are hints that the blood-thirsty vampires are up to something.

There is no rest for the weary when such doings are afoot, and Faz is off again, protecting the Hidden from itself.

New Spark by Al K. Line is book number three in the Dark Magic Enforcer series, and like all the books in this series, it is a madcap romp through the world of the imagination. Only an author with Line’s warped sense of reality could create a cast of non-human characters with such humanity. You’ll laugh, cry, and shiver as Faz wreaks havoc with those who would disturb his tranquility and threaten his world.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I loved it, and I give it an unbiased five stars!

Review of ‘Swift’

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What did the witch say to the vampire before they crossed the road? “Run!” So we ran. These opening lines are to Swift, book one in the Strangetown Magic series by Al K. Line. It’s an old joke, but in this author’s hands it’s a joke that will scare the bejeezus out of you at the same time it cracks you up.

Swift is a Justice witch, charged with keeping order among the Stranges of Strangetown, which is what their old hometown has been known as since the Rift brought more ‘strange’ Stranges to the Normal world, and that world hasn’t been the same since. After watching a vampire she just met get stomped to jelly by a troll controlled by an elf, Swift gets a job assignment from Fester, the Queen Witch’s right-hand man. She is to find and ‘deal with’ a Monster, Pumi, who is accused of killing a child. When she finally meets him, though, she determines that he is less a monster than she thought—and, that he’s innocent.

A neat end to a simple job, right? You couldn’t be more wrong. All it does is pull Swift deeper into the mystery of the Rift and what it means for her world. Nothing and no one, or thing, is what it seems in this hilariously scary fantasy romp. I strongly urge you to read this book, but I’ll bet you that once you start, you won’t be able to stop. In fact, I dare you to try.

If you’ve read books by this author before, know going in that this is more of his penchant wit and warped sense of reality. If this is your first one, you’ll be pleasantly amazed.

I received an advanced review copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I can’t really say my review is totally unbiased, though. I’m a fan of fantasy and humor, and when an author can combine both the way this one does, he or she is on my favorite list.

I give this opening salvo five stars.

Review of ‘Guilty Spark’

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Faz Pound, aka Black Spark, has spent a year incarcerated—accused of killing a fae—before being brought before the Council of Hidden and condemned to die. Under Council protocols, he’s allowed his freedom during the three days leading up to his execution. Faz is determined during that brief spell of freedom to prove his innocence, but a powerful force, one able to control the minds and actions of others, is just as determined to see him die.

Guilty Spark by Al K. Line is book four in the Dark Magic Enforcer series, and it continues in the same vein as those that came before it. Blood-curdling action and biting humor (considering the number of vampires in these stories, that pun is intended) fly at you from page one like gnats in a barn. Despite his other-worldly origins, you can’t help but sympathize with Faz as he deals with one seemingly insurmountable problem after another: his vampire girlfriend, Kate, in his absence has gone to the dark side, and he has an invincible giant coming to kill him. Just another day in the life of an enforcer; except this could be his last day—ever.

Seldom do books about the supernatural manage to scare the crap out of you at the same time they have you laughing hard enough to wet your pants, but the author has  managed to do it quite capably. He’s managed to make the non-human and inhuman characters that populate this story all too human. After reading this one, you’ll check your closets every night before you go to bed, just to be sure.

I received an advanced review copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I have yet to read, New Spark, book 3 in the series, but the nice thing about this series is that each one can be read as a stand-alone story. I have that one teed up for the coming weekend, and I’m almost hoping for a thunderstorm to provide the sound effects as I read it.

Another five star offering from a master of the craft.

Review of ‘Evil Spark’

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One thing you don’t want to do is cross Faz Pound, aka Black Spark. He’s recuperating after his encounter with the Armenian succubus, but when he learns that his grandma is missing he goes into fight mode. There is, though, much more at stake. The abduction of his grandma, a powerful witch, threatens war between the humans and the vampires, a war that no one will win.

Evil Spark by Al K. Line continues the adventures of the Enforcer known at Black Spark, as he turns over rocks trying to save his missing grandmother. Riveting dialogue and nonstop action, paranormal and just plain abnormal, marks this second book in the series. I don’t know if anyone else has noticed the similarity of the author’s name to a certain baseball player, but I have to say, he hit a home run with this one. You’ll be glued to your chair as Faz pounds his adversaries into the woodwork (sorry, but I can’t help the puns), leaving no stone unturned trying to protect the only family he has left.

I received an advance review copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Black Spark’

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His name is Faz Pound, and he lives in Cardiff, Wales. He’s also known as Black Spark, or just Spark to his friends, and he’s an enforcer. But, not just any kind of enforcer, he’s a Dark Magic Enforcer, charged with sucking the magic out of normal people who use it wrongly, and sending it to a dark place. When he finds himself stumbling through a park, joining a chess game, and then using magic to kill his opponent when that worthy reacts badly to being bested, he has a problem—a really, really big problem. At first, he doesn’t even know who he is, but as his memory returns, so does the knowledge that he must put things right, or else.

Spark’s given just 24 hours to rebalance things and somehow remove the knowledge from normals that magic exists, or bad things will happen to him, possibly fatal things. As if that’s not big enough problem, he’s also told that he must deal with the Armenian, an ageless succubus who has decided to establish her base in Wales, and who is playing fast and loose with a high ranking member of the Magic Council.

Black Spark by Al K. Line is the first book in the Dark Magic Enforcer series, and, like some of the other works by this author, displays doses of dark humor and twisted plotting; warped characters—including a main character who has as many bad traits as good, but who still comes across as somewhat loveable, and profound observations of society. Starting off on an ominous, but occasionally funny, note, the book lifts off vertically and doesn’t stop rising until it’s at nosebleed attitude, then it does a roller coaster dip that leaves  your stomach behind, gliding to a most satisfying conclusion.

If you like your fiction with a touch of the bizarre, you’ll love this book. I received a free copy in exchange for my unbiased review.

I give it five stars!

Review of ‘Arcene: The Island’

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After she and her canine companion, Leel, spend time alone, Arcene is picked up in a hot air balloon by her old friend, Fasolt. Caught in a storm, Arcene and Leel fall out of the balloon and end up on a strange island, with even stranger inhabitants, where she is drugged, judged, and then sentenced to The Hunt.

Arcene, however, has never been one to play by the rules of others. Angry at treatment she feels unfair, she uses all her abilities to turn the hunters into the hunted, and finds herself in a situation that has no clear outcome in sight. Will she prevail and save the islanders from themselves, or will she be consigned to never see her home or son again? Arcene: The Island by Al K. Line is the continuing adventure of Arcene, a 22-year-old woman forever trapped in a 15-year-old body.

The author skillfully switches back and forth between Arcene’s point of view and that of the enigmatic inhabitants of the island in an adventure that will keep you turning pages until the stunning climax. A fantastic pastiche of science fiction, dystopian thrills, and edge-of-the-seat adventure, that will get you hooked on a different kind of heroine.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review, and I give it an unbiased four stars.

Review of ‘Hexad: The Chamber’

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After totally mucking up their world, and uncounted alternate worlds, Dale and Amanda wake up in bed with each other back on the day the whole thing got started. Only, Dale’s convinced that the Amanda lying next to him is not his Amanda, a fact that she corroborates. So, they’re off again to try to put all the universe’s right. For that, though, they must go back to the future, find the originator of the time travel device, and stop him. Unfortunately, a police detective named Cray has gotten his hands on one of the hexads (that’s what they call the thing for reasons that are never explained), and it’s given him power he has no intention of relinquishing.

In Hexad: The Chamber by Al K. Line, Dale has to contend with Cray, with The Caretaker, who doesn’t seem to really be taking care of anything, and an almost infinite number of Amandas who were created through his fumblings the first time he tried fixing things.

The author has maintained to keep the manic pace and totally improbable events going at full pace in this second book, dangling it in front of the reader like a carrot in front of a horse, leading inevitably to a desire to read number three, which if he doesn’t publish soon, I’m going forward to the past, or back to the future and strangling him.

Okay, he get’s another four stars for this one – ha!

Review of ‘Hexad: The Factory’

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After a weird nighttime, alcohol benumbed conversation with his girlfriend, Amanda, Dale Ando woke up and began digging in his yard for evidence of time travel. He thought it was all a joke, but was curious, so he was amazed when he found a note from himself that made it seem that time travel was a reality. And, what a reality it was. Dale and Amanda soon found themselves chasing themselves across different timelines and alternate universes, all the while being pursued by strange men, some of whom seem bent on doing them harm.

If you’re a ‘Doctor Who’ fan, you’ll love Hexad: The Factory by Al K. Line, a time-travel thriller that is short on science, long on fiction, and chocked full of fun, fumbles, and has more twists than a big fill of twizzlers. If you’re a scientist—or a science nerd—who understands the theory of time travel, you’ll probably not like this book. Then again, you just might. It’s a bit like Doug Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. You know such things are impossible, but the characters are so endearing and the escapades they get up to so funny, you chuck disbelief in the dustbin and soldier on.

Warning: don’t read this book unless you’re prepared to keep going for the next book(s) in the series. A lot of the problems Dale and Amanda encounter are solved, only to create even bigger problems lying just out of reach beyond the final page.

I’ll take a flyer and give him four stars for this one.

Review of ‘Arcene: The Blue Castle

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Arcene is a 22-year old girl in a 15-year old body. She likes nothing better than roaming the wilds with her sword and her dog, Leel. During one of her forays, she discovers a blue castle. The logical part of her mind tells her to avoid it, but Arcene is never one to shy away from adventure.

Arcene: The Blue Castle by Al K. Line is a hilarious romp through a world 300 years in the future, after humanity has been decimated by The Lethargy. Line delights the reader with his deft use of language, sometimes funny, with the occasional snippet of bloodletting as Arcene uses her sword to put bad men in their place—dead. Her interactions with Leel are actually the best parts of the book, but the things she learns about herself as she ventures into the strange blue castle run a close second.

Given the language and semi-graphic discussion of human physical relationships, I’m not sure this book is appropriate for grades 7 – 12 as the author claims, but then again, maybe I’m just old fashioned. I enjoyed it though.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my review. I give it four stars.