Tuesday, July 19, 2011

REVIEW: In Her Name: EMPIRE


I am a reader as well as a writer, so today I'm launching what I hope will be the first in a series of book reviews. This will be, unfortunately, a sporadic feature because I tend to read in spurts.

Today, I'm tackling IN HER NAME: EMPIRE, the first in an epic sci-fi/fantasy saga by Michael R. Hicks.

The book follows the rise of Reza Gard, a young boy kidnapped and forced to live among a mysterious warrior culture known as the Kreelan. The aliens are, of course, at war with humanity...and Reza is one of the unfortunate youths taken from a child labor world for orphans.

Yeah...Reza's had a real great life. His parents were killed when the Kreelan invaded his home planet. He blames their deaths on the aliens and vows revenge, surviving an encounter with a spiritual leader that leaves them both scarred.

A few years later, Reza is a boy on the cusp of manhood when the Kreelan strike again, invading the hated planet where Reza and other adolescents toil as little more than slave labor. Reza is kidnapped and forced to live among the aliens, first as an animal, and then...well...pretty much as an animal.

As he grows and changes, Reza begins to understand the enemy and adopts their warrior ways. Against all odds, he emerges as a top fighter and improbably becomes the potential savior of the Kreelan race. He takes a mate--forbidden for eons because of a "curse" upon the predominantly female species--and learns to value their ways, eventually confronting a heartbreaking decision concerning his true loyalties.

This is a coming-of-age tale at its finest, a book that takes little time to get started before turning into a rip-roaring read.

LOVED:

-Reza has every right to be ticked off at the universe, but his indomitable will keeps him going
-Mixes a little sci-fi with a fantasy vibe
-Sweet, improbable romance involving Kreelan warrior
-Fight scenes are well done and visceral
-Goliath is the reliable steed every hero deserves
-Colonel Wiley & Kreelan armor shaper were especially memorable characters
-Bloodsong idea

DIDN'T LOVE:

-The character of Muldoon and his perverse ways could repulse some readers from the get-go...I really struggled to get through these parts
-Kreelan mythology required a few read-throughs before I "got it"
-on rare occasions, the book did get a little too "talky" with some overly-explanatory dialogue
-"Suddenly" used a bit too much (personal pet peeve that probably won't bother you)
-Some scenes could use a little tightening

THE VERDICT:

IN HER NAME: EMPIRE hits level four on the Ray Liotta Quality Meter (what is that? Find out here). A fun, escapist read perfect for the summertime!


This is a self-published book of very high quality. Hicks has two direct sequels and a second trilogy of prequel books detailing the "first contact" between humanity and the Kreelan Empire.

The best thing about this book? It's FREE. Author Michael R. Hicks offers IN HER NAME: EMPIRE on his website as a free ebook download IF you sign up for his email newsletter (get it here).

Disclaimer: I signed up for the author's newsletter to obtain a free copy for review and have no personal connection to Michael R. Hicks. I read the Smashwords version on my Kindle.


QUESTION: EMPIRE is a coming-of-age tale that evokes sci-fi/fantasy classics. What other works do you count as inspirations?

MICHAEL R. HICKS: To be honest, I was rather surprised that IN HER NAME had such an element of fantasy, because I've read very, very few fantasy books. I only managed to get through the Lord of the Rings after seeing the movies, and off the top of my head I can't remember a single other fantasy book I've read.

The sci-fi side of the house is a different story, if you'll pardon the pun. I grew up with Heinlein and Asimov, among others, and count Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle as huge influences (my most favorite ever book is THE MOTE IN GOD'S EYE). But David Drake, David Weber, Scott G. Gier...there are really too many to list.

QUESTION: What can you tell readers about how you developed the Kreelan & their culture? Were there any real-life influences?

MICHAEL R. HICKS: This is always a hard question to answer, because I don't really have an answer. I first get ideas for stories as a snapshot in my mind, like a visual epiphany. I don't know the details, only the kernel of the story. For IN HER NAME, that actually began late in high school and early in college, when I got an idea for a story that later morphed into a novel. But I didn't intentionally base it on anything from the real world, although I'm sure I embedded elements of things I know subconsciously. From there the story just started playing out like a movie in my mind at night while I fell asleep, and the next day I'd furiously write down what I could remember, replaying the movie in my head.

And that's how I write today, although I have more of a conscious influence over the movie: I can now largely hit the mental play button at will. I just don't know what's going to appear on the big screen until it happens!

QUESTION: What frustrates you about the book/publishing process? Is there anything about your books you'd like to change?

MICHAEL R. HICKS: I think I've largely left my frustrations with the process behind, because I now understand where the rough spots are and can either avoid them or minimize the bumps. And for any author who's frustrated or annoyed with how things are, I'll say this: be joyous and happy that the technology is now available to self-publish, particularly for ebook platforms, because it's made all the difference. And, with few exceptions, it's free for authors/publishers to use. Yes, there are annoyances. Yes, it's not perfect. But if you spend some time to learn what to do and do it, it's not that huge a deal.

As for changing anything about my books, in a perfect world I'd probably go back and rewrite or revise some things, both to correct some lingering bloopers and maybe to make the existing books better. But the readers seem to be happy with them as they are, and keep asking for new books, so I'm simply working on putting out more books, as fast as I can.

QUESTION: What's this Summer RV Tour you've been blogging about?

MICHAEL R. HICKS: My wife and I love RVing, and this summer we decided to take a big trip through New England and eastern Canada. We had intended to do book signings along the way, and while we did a couple, that didn't pan out quite as we'd hoped, mainly because we had put together such an aggressive schedule. But I did come up with a number of story ideas and got some good research material, and we also saw a ton of cool things and met some great people (including some long-time fans in Pennsylvania). We plan on traveling a lot more once I'm out of my day job, and if we're ever in the area of interested readers, feel free to let me know so we can hook up!

QUESTION: What's next for the IN HER NAME series? What other projects are you working on?

MICHAEL R. HICKS: Oh, jeez! I'm currently working on the next book of the IN HER NAME series, DEAD SOUL, and hope to have it out by the end of September. This will finish off the "start of war" trilogy that began with FIRST CONTACT and continued with LEGEND OF THE SWORD. Next up, I think, will be a sort of historical romance novel with a sci-fi twist set in the Second World War. Then I'll probably put out the first sequel to SEASON OF THE HARVEST, then get to work on the third IN HER NAME trilogy that will close the story arc between where DEAD SOUL ends and EMPIRE begins. I'm also planning to do a fourth trilogy telling of the foundation of the Kreelan Empire, and I've got a list of projects beyond that. There's lots of stuff to write!

The IN HER NAME series is available at most major e-retailers, including Amazon.com, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Kobo Store, and the Sony Reader Store

Follow Michael R. Hicks on Twitter @KreelanWarrior!

You'll find his official website HERE

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