Book Review: When Dark Falls, by Pippa Jay

whendarkfalls_1650x2550Kadie is a young woman trapped in the city of Nephopolis, where “morning comes in flame and darkness.” Although she has tantalizing clues, she has no memory of her life before. Now, she slaves for meager rations under the tyranny of the man known as Dark, whose cloudburners toil daily to blot out the sun. Only the occasional distant kindness of her manager, Jev, leavens her endless labor, and Kadie is drawn to him. But it’s too dangerous to act on her feelings, as the slightest infraction could mean a death sentence; or worse, the slow and painful metamorphosis into the monstrous nightcrawlers who enforce Dark’s will. Kadie remembers Dark didn’t always rule. The superheroes of her time had died trying to oppose him, even Blaze, the greatest among them. But Dark’s costly victory had left him permanently scarred.

Nocturnelle is a rogue superhero, her past a mystery even to herself. Her considerable powers earn her a wary acceptance among the few low-talent survivors of the Alliance of Super Heroes and Heroines. Nelle’s cybernetically enhanced sidekick, Shadow, is the only minor hero who is willing to trust her. But he draws the line at exploring their mutual attraction, insisting a deeper relationship would violate league rules, making them both outcasts. Neither are willing to risk their partnership with ASHH when there’s important work to be done. Together, they slip into the night to gather intelligence and battle the tyrant’s thugs and his eerie nightcrawlers. Nelle has one goal: to defeat Dark or die trying.

Nelle doesn’t realize that Dark is moving swiftly to fulfill her death wish, and that Kadie holds the key to her mortal weakness.

‘Punk of any kind is usually not my genre, because authors too often get so caught up in the gadgetry that they shortchange the characters.

Pippa Jay is not one of those authors. The technology of her world is deftly–even beautifully–described, vividly calling up the scene without the eye-crossing detail that causes me to flip ahead, looking for the story. Instead, the decopunk blends seamlessly into, and supports, the story. And the characters and fast-paced action caught me up and drew me into a toxic world where love is a risky endeavor for good people and heroes alike.

Pippa’s characters have depth. Alone, afraid, barely subsisting, Kadie could easily have been a wilting flower. But her courage in facing her fear and the daily grind comes through. Nocturnelle could have been simply a kick-ass superhero. But we get to see the doubts and insecurities behind her driven determination.

In shorter books, something has to give. But here, not so much. In addition to sympathetic characters and strong world-building, Pippa delivered a plot with plenty of action, with only one minor challenge to my willing suspension of disbelief. The force of the story rolled right over it.

This is a book I would’ve swallowed in one sitting. But I made the mistake of starting When Dark Falls right before I had to leave for a friend’s party. I spent a lot of time wondering how the story would turn out. I would suggest you make sure you’ve got a sufficient chunk of time, then get yourself a cup of tea, or pour a glass of wine, and settle in for a good read. Then, why four stars, you ask? My star ratings are on a logarithmic scale. Check out my ratings on goodreads, and you’ll see even my long-time favorite authors don’t always achieve five stars. For me, three stars means, the book was good. Four stars means, the book was excellent, and I’ll look for this author. I think you will, too.

40k; 2/5 heat level. I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

Welcome Guest Author…Pippa Jay!

I’m pleased to welcome Pippa Jay to the Scotian Realm. Pippa is an award-winning author, writing in multiple genres, including science fiction, paranormal, and decopunk…often with a dash of romance. She also writes about superheroes, and I sometimes think she is one herself as a multi-tasker par excellence. She’s here to talk about her newest release, When Dark Falls. (Come back on Wednesday, December 10th for my review of a great read!)

First, let’s meet Pippa…

What three words would your friends use to describe you?
Annoying, weird, and enthusiastic. Although I mostly get the first two from my children.

Do you have a personal credo or motto that helps to guide your decisions?
From the film Galaxy Quest: “Never give up, never surrender!”

What’s on your bucket list? 
There’s several places I’d like to travel to, mostly because I either have old friends there, or new friends I’ve met since I joined Facebook. But I’m still amazed I’m a published author, which I never dreamed of ever being, so even if I never did anything else exciting in my life I have that.

Do real people, places &/or events show up in your writing?|
They have, but perhaps not in ways people might recognize. I think authors as a whole take in lots of details and information in their everyday life, and it’s inevitable that some of it will end up in their work, even subconsciously. I’ve used days at the nearby beach as inspiration for a tropical planet, a feature in my home town as part of a space station, personal experiences for things that happen to my characters, etc.

Does someone critique your writing for you? How do they affect your writing?
I now have a wide group of fellow authors or enthusiastic readers who will critique my work. Different stories go to different people depending on who has the time and what the story is, and most have their own particular way of giving feedback. It helps me spot plot holes or inconsistencies, where I’ve gone overboard on detail or repetition, or where I need to do more. As I’ve grown more confident, I’m less likely to take some of the advice if it’s just come from one person or I feel I have a valid argument for leaving something as it is, but I’ve also gotten better at taking criticism and using it constructively. I’d like to think it makes my writing better.

In your opinion, what qualities make for a great author?
Determination, passion, enthusiasm, the ability to pick things up quickly, and a willingness to research, learn, experiment, and take criticism.

And now for the book! When Dark Falls is an alternative 1920s decopunk superhero romance released by Breathless Press on the 21st November. I’ll have a review on Wednesday, December 10th. But here’s a teaser….


In a city where Dark Technologies Inc. now runs the show, Kadie Williams has more immediate concerns than the fall of Blaze, their guardian superhero. Almost every morning for the last few months she’s woken up with cuts and bruises on her body, and no idea how she got them. There are no nightmares. No evidence that she sleepwalks, or any sign of a break in. And nothing to tell her who’s been cleaning up after her. As just one of thousands of civilians conscripted to slave away in the labs of Professor Dark, she knew there’d be trouble ahead. But she never expected it to be so bad, or so personal.

Desperate for answers, Kadie looks to the new defender of the night, the only person who can hinder the total domination of Professor Dark—Nocturnelle. The mysterious vigilante superhero came from nowhere with her cybernetic sidekick Shadow, set on putting an end to the brutality of Dark’s regime. But as his laboratories work on a new secret super-weapon, Nocturnelle and Shadow may not be enough to save Nephopolis…or to save Kadie either.

Describe the hero in three words: Loyal. Caring. Sad
And the heroine? Fiery. Unstable. Driven.
What two words best sum up their relationship? Rollercoaster ride!

Please give us an excerpt!

Nocturnelle perched on the carved griffin statue decorating the tower’s cornerstone, with hundreds of feet of empty space between her and the ground below. Her second skin felt tight. It was a familiar sensation and yet always the first thing she noticed on waking, as if her body needed to remind her of the fact. She stretched and her outer skin crackled like leather. She flexed her fingers, the delicate oh-so-white digits a stark contrast to her black arms. Silver lines marked her left forearm, and she frowned at them. She was meant to be impervious to blades and bullets, and yet somehow, not too long ago, she must have injured herself.

As she rose, her skin creaked. She stretched again, and then tugged her hands through her hair, pulling the thick swathe of black silk from her face and knotting it at the back. Darkest Night forbid it should get in her way. The second skin pressed tight against her forehead, running around her eyes and mouth, cradling her chin. She ran her fingers around the edges, tracing the outline. Perfect. Her body tingled as though electricity danced in her veins, and she smiled. Breathed in the evening air. This was her time.
Viscous and reeking, the night sky hung over the city of Art Deco towers and buildings like an oil-slick. Behind her, the metallic chinking of the cloudburner cooling after a day spent scorching the sky ticked away the seconds like a clock.


The deep male voice sent a shiver down her back, and she turned. “Ah, my faithful Shadow. Ready for another night-time jaunt?”

A figure stepped out of the shadows to join her. He matched her for height; his whipcord frame clad in a charcoal-colored armor vest, black combats, and a hip-length military jacket. When the rooftop lights hit his face, the chiseled jawline showed; his skin a dark tan. He wore a mask over his eyes, but his teeth gleamed white when he smiled. And when he smiled, something inside Nelle set her heart racing.

“Ready and set, Nelle.”

Thank you! Where can my readers find you?

Website –

Add When Dark Falls to your goodreads shelf. Sign up for Pippa’s no-spam newsletter to stay up to date with releases, cover reveals, sales and giveaways for all her titles and more.

Where can my readers find your books?

Amazon page
Omnilit/All Romance eBooks
Barnes and Noble

And now…the contest!

Contest open internationally until the 19th December

WP_20141125_007By day, Pippa Jay is a dedicated (and “mild-mannered”?) member of the Science Fiction Romance Brigade, blogging at Spacefreighters Lounge, Adventures in Scifi, and Romancing the Genres. Her works include YA and adult stories crossing a multitude of subgenres from scifi to the paranormal, often with romance, and she’s one of eight authors included in a science fiction romance anthology—Tales from the SFR Brigade. She’s also a double SFR Galaxy Award winner, been a finalist in the Heart of Denver RWA Aspen Gold Contest (3rd place), and the GCC RWA Silken Sands Star Awards (2nd place). But who is she behind the mask…? Pippa wants your help:

“I’ve donned my superhero guise for the length of the tour, and you get to name me and decide my talent(s)! If I like it, I may include it in the sequel to When Dark Falls and credit you in the acknowledgements.

“To enter, please put the name, talent, and your contact details in the comments. Please note – by entering this contest you are giving me full permission for me to use the superhero name without any recompense to you, financially or otherwise, other than the acknowledgement, and you are waiving any rights to the name. You’ll also get a digital format of your choice for When Dark Falls.”

Book Review: Darkship Thieves by Sarah A. Hoyt

I just finished reading Darkship Thieves, and my first thought was: Excellent! It’s the first of a series!

The only thing better than reading a good book is discovering there are others like it lined up in a nice, neat row.

Hoyt’s feisty main character gets to be tougher than nails…but also displays the doubts and insecurities of a nineteen-year-old torn from everything she has ever known.

Three centuries ago, human society was blown apart by bio-engineering gone horribly wrong. The failed experiment casts a long shadow, catching up in its net two vastly different people from vastly different worlds.

Patrician Athena Hera Sinistra is a human from Earth–and a survivor. Wakened from sound sleep by the survival instinct that served her well in reformatories and insane asylums, Thena outfights, outwits, and outruns her father’s goons, bent on mutiny while returning to Earth.

Problem is, she gets stuck in a drifting lifepod with nowhere to run to…except for the ship of bio-engineered Christopher Klaavik, engaged in the illegal harvesting of pods from the semi-organic powertrees that provide Earth with a renewable source of energy. Problem is, Kit works on behalf of Eden, the mythic haven of the renegade refugees from Earth’s long-ago genetic cleansing.

Reared from infancy to hate and fear each other on sight, Athena and Kit discover a growing mutual respect and attraction displacing ingrained prejudices.

But they can’t outrun their pasts, or the plots in which they are only pawns.

I like character-driven stories, and Hoyt delivered there. But I also enjoyed her world-building, where societal norms are driven by tyranny, libertarianism, self-interest…and in the end, the human heart.

Darkship Thieves is the kind of book I like to enjoy with a pot of tea and home-made biscotti for a thoroughly enjoyable evening escape.


Book Review: “Pixie Noir” by Cedar Sanderson

The free sample of Pixie Noir by Cedar Sanderson grabbed me. The “buy with one-click” button was my ticket to adventure with Lom and Belladonna.

Lom is a rarity among pixies. He often walks the human world, hunting monsters. This time, his mission requires him to escort Belladonna Traycroft to the High Court of the Folke, regardless of her feelings in the matter. Belladonna seldom thinks about her fairy heritage, and would rather continue life among her closeknit extended human family on the Alaskan frontier. Winning her agreement to the journey is the first of Lom’s problems…but not his last. With the fate of the Folke riding on his success, and a past that haunts him, he really shouldn’t be falling in love with Bella. As they wade through monsters on the way to Court, it’s a good thing Lom is used to winning battles. But he’s dismayed to realize he’s lost the war with his heart.

Sanderson deftly combines humor, world-building, and fast-paced action with the deeper emotions of characters you can root for. I was happy to see Pixie Noir is the first of a series. I’ll be back!

Book Review: Far Orbit Anthology, Bascomb James, editor

Well, that was fun!

Late this afternoon, I bought Far Orbit, an anthology of “Speculative Space Adventures,” edited by Bascomb James, to keep me company over the three-day Labor Day Weekend. Short stories, after all. Easy to put down and pick up again. Now what? Because I just finished it, swallowing it in almost one sitting (there was that pesky interruption of dinner).

Thirteen short stories, and not a clinker in the bunch. The book begins with an open letter from Elizabeth Bear to SF, reminding the genre that it’s okay to have a sense of humor, to “…have a little pleasure again.” And then the rest of the book goes on to prove just how good that can be.

The collection encompasses hard science to space opera, and it’s hard for me to choose a favorite. They all have memorable–some are downright sticky–characters. “Open for Business” by Sam S. Kepfield–a lawyer’s eye-view of the risks and rewards of private space ventures–is a strong opener. Along the way we encounter an assassin-cellist; a lost-in-time Space Command Commander who learns the fine art of Southern Barbecue; and dumb bunnies who get an unexpected evolutionary assist. Julie C. Frost contributed “Bear Essentials,” continuing the saga of Captain Fisk, his grown daughter, their small crew, and their marginally profitable freighter…and an intelligent bear destined for godhood and sacrifice. (It was Frost’s “Illegal Beagles” that prompted me to buy the anthology.)

Editor Bascomb James provides insightful and articulate introductions to the stories, celebrating their place in the best traditions of SF. And when I put the book down, I was struck by how all of them captured the one thing that seems in such short supply today: Hope. 

The only problem I had with Far Orbit is that they were all short stories. In general, I agree with CS Lewis’s sentiments: “You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.” But I’ll make an exception for a short story collection of this caliber.

Review: “Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance” by Lois McMaster Bujold

Captain Vorpatril's AllianceCaptain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The e-ARC had the usual skips and errors, so of course I’ll be reading the official release, too.

The Vorkosigan saga is unique in its memorable characters, and the kind of tales it takes to tell their stories. In some ways, “Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance” consolidates most of the major events of the Vorkorverse, seen from a very different point of view.

The long-standing supporting character, Ivan Vorpatril, finally gets his turn in the spotlight. Ivan lives the life of a smarter moth. Standing too close to the Barrayaran throne for his own comfort, no way does he want to fly close enough to the fire to go up in flames. But he often gets dragged into scrapes–interstellar scrapes–as the unwilling foil to his cousin Miles’ manic schemes. This time, Miles doesn’t drag him into trouble; neither is he around to pull Ivan out of the fire. And it was kind of weird reading a Vorkosigan tale without Miles in it except as a domesticated husband and father…weird, but an enjoyable grace note to the story.

No, this time it’s By Vorrutyer’s scheme that disrupts Ivan’s peaceful life as the promotion-avoiding aide de camp of the Barrayaran military’s ops chief. But for the sake of the girl and Barrayar, Ivan rises to the occasion, as he’s done in the past despite his inclination to fly under the radar. In doing so, we get an interesting peek at Ivan’s lingering demons, the truth behind his suave facade. Hey, despite his usual nonchalant attitude, he’s gotta have a few, growing up on Barrayar in interesting times with Miles as a cousin.

I’m not quite sure why Bujold chose to place this book before “Cryoburn,” and I don’t know why that bothers me so much. Perhaps because I want the Vorkoverse to keep moving forward. Although I’ll admit the tone of the book is happier than might have been possible in Cryoburn’s aftermath. Happier, but also retrospective. The characters have all grown up, done wonders and marvels, made mistakes, and learned from it. Even Ivan. I can’t help but wonder (or is that hope?) that having given us a glimpse of life going reasonably well for the main characters, Bujold is cooking up another major challenge for her incredible cast of characters in the near future. Using Bujold’s maxim of the “worst possible thing,” possibilities are boiling in the back of my mind, but mentioning them would involve spoilers, so…hmmm.

Why four stars? More than a bit unfairly, I’m rating a Bujold book against Bujold’s body of work. There’s a reason Bujold is my favorite author. Her best stories are…spectacular. As much as I enjoyed reading this, CVA isn’t “Shards of Honor,” “Memory,” or “A Civil Campaign.” So call the CVA rating a “Four Stars with Palm” for filling in the spaces in a really remarkable ‘verse.

Now…when’s the next one???

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