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The Crimson King

The Crimson King

Written by: Tristan Williams
Published by: Self-published 
Released: November 16, 2019
Price: $5.99 Kindle, $13.99 paperback
(Amazon Affiliate Link)

Thank you, Tristan Williams, for submitting a copy of this book to the site for review!

*Advertising disclosure* - Before this review was posted, Tristan Williams became an advertising partner. This review is not influenced by this relationship.

The Crimson King is the first book in a series titled the Butterfly Chronicles, written by Tristan Williams. This is the first book by the author from Louisiana, and was inspired in part by the tabletop games that he plays.

The majority of the novel focuses on a young man named Oslo Orlov, who has a devilish appearance and starts the novel trying to hide from his criminal past. He is soon joined by Anna, a green-skinned sylph-like creature who works as a bounty hunter and also is one of his oldest and most trusted friends. They travel together to explore his future and his role in a prophesy presented by the deity of fate, Othren, also known as the Great Butterfly. Along the way, they meet up with other people who also are trying to learn their place in the world, as run by a king driven insane by the loss of his sons.

The novel progresses at a rapid pace, and alternates between the present and flashes of Oslo's past behavior as a bandit, as well as the leader of a vicious tribe of bandits. The dialogue is solid and many of the characters well-developed. The book reads quite well, and serves as quite the page-turner, with enough action and drama to prevent the book from getting dull. The narrative focuses a lot on Oslo's depression and eventual desire to atone for his past and try to make the world better. The setting is very well-done, too, and made me want to learn more of the world these characters find themselves in.

The book is a great read, but it does have a few flaws. There are a smattering of grammatical errors, but not glaring mistakes. And while some of the characters are well-developed, others come off as a bit shallow. For example, even though the character of Anne starts out interesting enough, she quickly pales into a somewhat static, predictable sort. Speaking of predictable, some of the scenes and actions of the characters can easily be anticipated well before they occur.

From a moral perspective, the book has a few things to consider. As is typical for a fantasy novel, there is a theology that consists of a pantheon of deities. However, aside from the Great Butterfly, none of the other gods even seem to make a difference, let alone appear. There are a few instances of the word b****rd, but they are used in the proper context in the book. The biggest moral concern I found was the gratuitous, sometimes gruesome violence. Although I have certainly read worse, this aspect alone would give me pause before suggesting it to my younger kids. However, these are the only things I've seen that may be potential issues to Christian readers, so many will find this book to be quite entertaining.

When it comes to reading the works of independent authors, sometimes it can really be hit-or-miss to find a quality one – and sadly, the results tend to be a miss. It's easy to see why many of these authors don't get published by a larger house. However, Tristan Williams' book is a pleasant deviation from the usual dreck of self-published titles. The Crimson King is an entertaining read from start to finish, and promises to be a great introduction to what could be a quite memorable series. Authors tend to improve as they refine their craft, and with the way Williams starts here, he may turn into an author to watch closely.

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Inkspirations: Fruit of the Spirit

Inkspirations: Fruit of the Spirit
Written and illustrated by: Lorrie Bennett
Published by: Health Communications, Inc.
Released: August, 2016
Price: $10.99

Thank you, Health Communications, Inc. for sending us a copy of this coloring book to review!

Although the health benefits of coloring have been documented for decades – including by Carl Jung in the early 1900s – there has been a recent resurgence in this trend. Adults have used coloring to relax the body, focus the mind, and train fine motor skills. The marketplace has reflected this, and it seems that you can't go anywhere without finding coloring books for adults anymore.

 

These coloring books often stand out from those for children by having more detailed and elaborate pictures, a higher quality paper, and sometimes hidden objects to locate as well. Health Communications, Inc. has decided to add another element to the genre of adult coloring book – scripture references. The copy that we received was illustrated by artist Lorrie Bennett, and each illustration is accompanied by a verse from the Bible on the facing page.

The paper is of a high quality, and handles crayons and colored pencils quite well, including the Mr. Cuya colored pencils we received to review a while ago. I was able to erase the colored pencil as well, and barely a smudge remained. The same can't be said with markers, though – both Sharpies and Mr. Sketch colored markers bled through easily. Fortunately, I colored outside the margin, so the picture itself wouldn't be damaged. Each page is perforated, so once the picture is completed, it can be separated easily from the book to display.

 

There are a total of 32 pictures to color in the book, not counting the facing pages which contain the scripture and a few border illustrations. The complexity and subject matter varies, from animals and teacups, to abstract designs that reminded me of a patchwork quilt. My oldest daughter (12 at the time of this writing) was fascinated with the illustrations, and looked forward to giving them a try herself.

One part of the book that I found surprising was the introduction. Printed on glossy paper are some instructions as to how to use the book. Although you may not think that a coloring book needs instructions, the tips it provided were quite useful, with recommendations of complimentary colors and blending techniques that go beyond the concept of simply filling in the area between the dark lines. The book also contains examples that other people did of some of the illustrations, to provide inspiration for those who are trying to decide what to do. 

Looking at their Web site, it appears that you can sign up on their mailing list and receive free coloring pages. For those wondering about adding these coloring books to their library – or their daily relaxation routine – it could definitely be worth a look!

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Buyus Colored Pencils

Buyus Colored Drawing Sketching Pencils
Developed by: BuyusDirect
Price: $12.95
(Amazon Affiliate Link)

Highlights:

Strong Points: Very durable pencils; sturdy container; hex-shape makes them less likely to roll
Weak Points: Faint colors unless you press hard

Thank you, BuyusDirect, for sending us a set of these pencils to review!

We were approached at Christ Centered Gamer to review a set of colored pencils from a company called BuyusDirect – not normally a product we cover, but we don't mind being experimental. It's good to branch out now and then!

The pencils came quickly from Amazon, and contain 36 pencils in a wide variety of shades. The container is a sturdy cylinder, made of yellow-covered cardboard and topped with a durable plastic cap. The writing on most of the container appears to be Chinese, and what little English that is on the container makes little sense. There is a picture of some sort of bear wearing sunglasses in the middle – presumably the "Mr. Cuya" that appears below the picture. Around the portrait of the bear is the odd phrase "CUYA STORY – They love each other and happy every day." Underneath the title of "Mr. Cuya" is another peculiar phrase, "Cool is a kind of life is also a kind of attitude." 

case

Despite the odd use of "Engrish" on the package, the pencils within are of fine quality. Each pencil is six-sided, which means they are less prone to roll off the table than your typical colored pencil. The colored lead within each is durable, and not prone to snapping or crumbling over heavy use. My daughters have enjoyed using them quite a bit, and I've even used them to try and sketch out a quiet, nature scene (which also told me that my drawing skills are sorely out of practice). The colors aren't terribly bold, though, unless you press hard. Fortunately, the lead is durable enough to withstand this kind of pressure. Unfortunately, when my wife tried to use them, it led to her having cramped fingers after just a few minutes of coloring.  

 Another thing that we found odd was the price. The Buyus pencils have a list price of $49.99, but we've seen them on sale for around $12. However, when you compare them to Faber-Castells – one of the premium names in artistic pencils – you can get a set of 48 pencils, and an eraser, for $30.79, also from Amazon. Another thing to consider – Faber-Castells often have the name of the color stamped on the side, while the Mr. Cuya pencils don't. It's a minor point, though – the hue of the paint on the outside of the pencil is going to be the hue you get when you touch it to paper. 

Buyus coloring pencils

All in all, these pencils have a very good quality, but require a bit of effort to really make the colors stand out. They can be a good deal if purchased on sale, but at their full price, you may be better off looking to one of its competitors.


(Amazon Affilate Link)

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Alvirithian Archives: The Rogue Knight

Written by: Benjamin K. Corum
Published by: Tate Publishing and Enterprises, LLC
Released: February 10, 2015
Price: $21.99

Thank you, Benjamin Corum, for sending us this book to review!

As an aspiring writer, I've spent quite a bit of time looking into the publishing industry and what it takes to get a novel published. One of the things I have learned from well-established authors is that publishers will pay you for your works. If you write it and write it well, then a publisher would publish it. Or it's possible that you can submit it to an agent, and they will find a publisher for you.

Although rewarding, this can be a difficult and challenging road to take. Publishers – especially those that take submissions from authors themselves, without an agent – receive thousands of submissions a year. Some submissions never even get read. 

In these days of the Internet, though, it is possible to publish a novel without a publisher. Companies like Amazon's CreateSpace or Lulu give an author the power to present their books to the digital marketplace for anyone to purchase. However, not all of these books will be of quality. Without the filter of agents or publishers, anything could be listed, and if there's any truth to Sturgeon's Law, 90% of it will barely be worth your time. 

But then there are some publishers that are a bit dodgy in their practices. They offer authors a chance to get their works edited, published and even advertised... for a price. Sometimes a very steep price. They aren't looking to actually sell books or help authors – merely trying to get as much as they can out of people desperate to have their names on a published book. These scammers provide about as much quality control as the self-publishing route, but unfortunately fleece the aspiring author in the process. 

While I'm not saying Tate Publishing falls into the latter category, it's one of the few reasons I can find as to why an established publisher would release a book of such poor quality as “The Rogue Knight.”

The novel details the adventures of a young princess named Sara. Her abusive fiancee seems to be controlling her father, the king. With the help of a mysterious rogue assassin named Johnathan Black, she travels to several other kingdoms to try and build an army to battle her father's forces. She meets other allies and trainers, learns how to use her mysterious magical powers, and takes lots of baths. The overused plot of the guarded princess falling in love with her bodyguard is here as well. The only unpredictable aspect would be determining if they will live happily ever after, or if Johnathan will die at the end, trying feebly to make it a tragic romance. I'll leave the ending a surprise for anyone who wants to try to suffer through the novel.

The book is filled with grammatical errors, typos, plot holes and more tired cliches than you can shake a stick at. (Yes, that was intentional.) The writing style is amateurish at best. This feels more like a second or third draft of a novel, rather than a finished work. If the author or the publisher paid for an editor, they may want to get their money back. If it wasn't for my desire to make the review as comprehensive as possible, I would have stopped reading after the second or third chapter. 

There is some merit to the novel, though. It's clear that the author loves the setting he created, and it is an imaginative approach combining ancient technological beings known as “synthetics” with a standard fantasy setting of forest-dwelling elves, underground-dwelling dwarves, and expansive humans. The theological system that Corum uses is a monotheistic one, with obvious influence from Christianity. Although some of it does feel shoehorned in – such as the communion-style opening to the elven feast – it's a nice attempt to create a fantasy setting that doesn't focus on polytheism. For the most part, the book is actually pretty good in terms of moral considerations. There is some graphic violence as many characters get killed in a variety of gruesome – but quick – ways. But there are no language issues, and no “adult situations.” This is a valiant attempt to make a “clean” fantasy novel that wouldn't meet very many objections in terms of amoral content.

Overall, though, the attempt fails due to the clumsy writing style. While some of the errors in the book do make the novel humorous (for example, when two of the characters battle at the end of the book, one decides to time his strike during his opponent's “most venerable time” (p. 286)), the humor is clearly unintentional, and doesn't make up for the sheer amount of other flaws. 

Many outside the Christian faith tend to look down on Christian media, viewing it as subpar with secular works. “Alvirithian Archives: The Rogue Knight” actually helps to reinforce this sentiment, because this work definitely qualifies as “shoddy.” It's a valiant attempt on the author's part, but the book is in serious need of an editor, and never should have gotten to the point where it was published. In short, if you're looking for an entertaining fantasy novel to read, your time would be better spent looking elsewhere.

One final word of advice for the author – if you intend to continue this series, invest the money into a solid editor instead, and listen to his or her advice. Then use CreateSpace or Lulu to upload the book and sell it. You'll find that to be a much better use of your funds, and it may help you become a better author. Because if you intend this to be your chosen career, you'll really need more help.


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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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