“Birth of Blackheart” by Shant Karadijan

It took me quite a while to finish Birth of Blackheart by Shant Karadijan and then some time to finally set down my thoughts in a review. Originally, the synopsis on the Amazon page sounded intriguing enough: Shushana Godwill (Godwill – get it?) is chosen by higher powers to bring about destruction of the selfish and all-consuming mortal world. We all like anti-heroes in fantasy now don’t we? It sounds like a good read.

Birth of Blackheart

Unfortunately though, the story is all over the place. If there’s a fantasy trope you can think of then it’s probably included in here. Shushana is nothing but a simple country girl with feelings for the farmer boy who live down the road but her romantic feelings are frowned upon by her parents. I mean really frowned upon too – both her parents seem to hold some irrational hatred for her, particularly her father. No need to worry about it too much though, impending tragedy soon strikes and no-one is left alive from the live she once knew but her.

Then our young heroine ends up enslaved, working as handmaid to one of her evil captors, is possessed, gains magical powers, uncovers conspiracies, picks up companions who then disappear never to be heard of again, rules a pirate ship and finally battles her nemesis. Shushana even has a rapport her own wholly unique pet, a white zane—something akin to a komodo dragon—and the only one colored like that she’s ever seen. Why do all these fantasy protagonists have these snow white pets and familiars? Is there ever going to be someone who just has a mangy tabby cat missing half its tail with a pussy, weeping eye?

What does this animal say about our protagonist?

What does this animal say about our protagonist?

There is a lot going on here, an awful lot. That isn’t always a bad thing. Just look at epics like The Wheel of Time and The Belgariad to see how brilliant and engaging a long and eventful journey can be. The problem is that Birth of Blackheart is all over the place. New locales and storylines are introduced only to be discarded a couple of chapters later with no further reference made. The same with the ever-revolving cast of characters; it’s hard to gauge who is actually of any importance out of them all (Spoiler: hardly any of them).

Shushana as a character is also incredibly confusing and contradictory. Shy and bashful one moment and an extrovert the next. The host of male characters she meets throughout the story she is invariably hostile towards to begin with, only to quickly turn into feelings of sexual desire in the space of a couple of pages. Near the start of the novel she is enslaved, bemoaning her fate in the world and trading barbs with a fellow male prisoner, and later that night is soon making passes at him, getting drunk and completely forgetting any woes she may have. That male prisoner is never mentioned again once Shushana is freed. She suffers these mild wood swings near constantly, lurching between scorn and affection, and you never get a real insight or understanding of Shushana’s mind-set.

A totally inconsistent and volatile woman prone to unpredictable mood shifts? Poor characterization or the perfect description of a woman?

A totally inconsistent and volatile woman prone to unpredictable mood shifts? Poor characterization, or the perfect description of a woman?

Much of the dialogue, especially in the first half of the novel, is particularly stilted and unnatural too. My first impression on hearing Shushana and Oliev, her childhood sweetheart, speak as events began was that their conversation was nigh on Shakespearean. Bizarrely enough though, the clunky Austen-esque discourse is offset by fairly frequent outbursts of cursing which just seem odd and out-of-place in comparison.

To start drawing this review to a close, Birth of Blackheart is a story in an identity crisis. I’m not sure that Karadijan quite knew what exactly he wanted with his debut novel and thus was created a schizophrenic amalgamation of a host of different ideas and concepts. There’s a lack of focus throughout and it made me hard to focus on the story itself.

Each of the books that I’ve reviewed so far for Creepy Or Cool? I’ve begun reading with a fully open mind—that goes without saying when you’re reading self-published science fiction and fantasy books—but Birth of Blackheart was one that I didn’t enjoy. That said, this is just the opinion of one reviewer, and whilst I would like to think that my reviews to date have been informative, if you do think the novel sounds interesting then read a sample yourself.

Many people daydream about writing the book which has been knocking around their head for years, but few actually have the willpower or dedication to put pen to paper—or fingers to keyboard—and actually do it. I commend Shant Karadijan for doing so but really can’t recommend this book to anyone.

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“Paradise” by Jason K Lewis

It was finally time for Creepy Or Cool? to make its first foray into the realm of science fiction, but the question is whether it was paradise reading Jason K. Lewis’s debut short story or not?

It starts off with family man, John, and his darling daughter, Jemina, queuing; that’s right, queuing. It’s for a pretty good reason though: they’re about to be whisked away from the depleted and dying planet Earth to man’s idyllic new colony across the stars.

We will master interstellar transportation in the future, but will still be plagued by interminably long lines.

We will master interstellar transportation in the future, but will still be plagued by interminably long lines.

Earth’s resources have been drained and overpopulation (24 billion worldwide) has led to a single-child cap being put into effect in “The Country.” A pretty depressing outlook for the future, eh? If only we could keep it in our pants.

Be safe, prevent future dystopian societies.

Be safe, prevent future dystopian societies.

There is a spark of hope, a lottery where the winners earn a one-way ticket to Paradise (it wasn’t mentioned but I do hope this song was playing overheard while everyone waited in line). A lush and resplendent new world, untapped, it offers a chance of salvation to the lucky few. John and his family are some of those making the trip and hoping to start a new life free from the mistakes of Earth’s past. John sees only the potential this new world has to offer and his daughter Jemina is bewitched by the images which have filtered back from Paradise of tropical creatures and gorgeous vistas. Of course though, someone has to have some reservations and John’s wife Sarah is that person, “Why aren’t there any predators, John?” Good question… What exactly is this place they’re travelling to?

If only!

Now this is a short story, only 34 pages–which explains the $0.99 price tag–so I won’t delve too much further into the plot, other to say that some other characters are introduced into affairs aside from John and his family. Similar to Stephen King’s short story, “The Jaunt,” you can sense the trepidation slowly starting to build as the family draws closer to their scheduled departure. Surely this pioneering solution to the overpopulation on Earth can’t be so simple? This is science fiction;  it rarely is.

A short tale and so a short review from Creepy Or Cool? this time. It’s a well-written, albeit brief, story and for a self-published novella the quality of the editing and proofreading has been the best of all that I have reviewed to date. The conclusion leaves things open for a follow-up but I don’t feel that a sequel is entirely necessary; having said that though, I would probably be intrigued enough to read it.

A promising debut from a young author whose first full-length novel, Hope, is scheduled to be released later this year, and which I now have high hopes for.

Creepy or Cool? - Paradise