Share Button

Monday, June 24, 2013

Review - Kingdom of Heroes by Jay Phillips

Kingdom of Heroes by Jay Phillips
I love me some superheroes. I've been a comic book geek pretty much my entire life. It started with the X-Men in the 70's. During the 80's I walked to the comic store every week, usually spending over $300 a month to feed my addiction. The only reason I'm telling you this is to help you realize I'm a bit of an expert on the 'genre'.


Kingdom of Heroes is takes superheroes out of comic books and mixes in elements of film noir and old-style murder mysteries. Similar to the George R. R. Martin's Wild Card series, a virus hits the planet and gives some people superhuman powers. Phillips skips ahead several years and gives us a world very likely to exist if this did happen.

Our hero is The Detective. A He is contacted by The Seven - a group of superpowered beings now running the United States. They want him to track down a killer.



At first I was a little nervous because that's how many in the DC universe refer to Batman. However, The Detective is a fully realized character nothing at all like Batman. The start of the novel is similar to the start of Watchmen - brutal murder of a member of the supergroup followed by an investigation into his death.

However, Kingdom of Heroes is not fan fiction. There is careful worldbuilding that makes it a unique universe. You have a sense of what is happening all over the planet without Phillips spending page after page in exposition. Instead, Phillips uses newspaper clippings, recordings of video, and diaries to fill out the world.

Crisp Writing

The writing is very professional: well-edited with strong proofreading. The pacing is quick, the very definition of a "page turner". I read the entire book in 24 hours. That meant no sleep, little time eating, and no writing. But I couldn't stop.

Information is carefully given to the reader. We know what's going on before The Detective which creates extra tension.  Phillips doesn't dumb it down for us. He tells his story and expects us to keep up. I couldn't be happier.

I did notice a few wrong word choices and have sent my suggestions to the writer.

Jay Phillips author of Kingdom of Heroes


I firmly believe that character trumps plot. When you finish Kingdom of Heroes, you'll find the plot is very smart. The hero realizes the big picture a little too late which creates even more tension. But it is the characters that sell the story.

The Detective is a smarmy bastard. He's cocky and paranoid and, more importantly, a hero. I feel like I know everything there is to know about him.   Writers should look at his work as an example of how to create personality. There is nothing one-dimensional about The Detective.


Phillips does not use Chapters. There are very obvious breaks in scenes that replace the start of a chapter. I've seen a few ebooks attempt this.  Phillips manages it better than any other I've seen  However, I'm old school. I want to see chapter endings. It helps increase tension.

My other dislike is something typical of the genre. All the women are very attractive and love flirting with the hero. I've been criticized for the same type of sexism in my own work so, as I'm pointing the finger at him I'm also owning up to it myself. If you've seen any film noire, you know this is an expected element. Comic books are also guilty of this. What I'd like to see in Phillips new work is more realistic female characters.


Kingdom of Heroes is a very enjoyable read. If you love a good mystery, you will enjoy this. If you've grown up on comic books and want a story that treats you like an adult and doesn't hold any punches, you will also love this book.

Kingdom of Heroes on Goodreads
Kingdom of Heroes on
Kingdom of Heroes on
Interview with Jay Phillips
Note: I could not find blog or twitter information on Jay. If anyone has it, please leave the info below in the comment section.

I usually review about three books a months. Sometimes those reviews are part of beta reading so the review only goes to the authors. Others are for promotion. If you are interested in helping out authors while also getting lots of free books, please consider joining one of the following groups on Goodreads.
Modern Goodreads
Authors Helping Authors
Making Connections

Monday, June 17, 2013

Review - As The Crow Flies

As the Crow Flies is a solid, entertaining epic fantasy.  It hits all the right notes at exactly the right time. I can easily recommend this took to anyone who likes the fantasy mixed with comedy, tragedy, magic, dangerous heists and, yes, a dragon.

I received As the Crow Flies in exchange for a review. That means I have to read the book whether I like it or not. I read through fairly quickly mostly because I couldn't put the book down.

Brief Synopsis

Crow is a thief pulling one last heist before he retires with the lover of his live, Tarsha. Unfortunately for him, realizes after the fact that he stole from a wizard, Baron Duzayan. Tarsha is captured and Crow is poisoned. To free her and get the antidote he must do the impossible: steal a dragon's egg. Duzayan doesn't trust Crow, of course, so he sends along Tanris, a member of the city guard who has hounded Crow for years.

What I liked

Let's start with characters. As the Crow Flies is written in first person subjective. We hear the story through the mind of Crow. He is a fully rendered, complete character. He's humorous and witty as befitting a thief. However, he's also not as strong and ruthless as he likes to think he is. He's flawed but incredibly likable. I wouldn't trust him as far as I could throw him I love him. I dare you to feel differently.

The plot is handled well. Like most good fantasy stories it is a classic tale told through fresh eyes. Pacing is also handled well with no real "dragging" points. As a writer, I also appreciate the way Lythgoe follows Chekov's "Gun on the Mantlepiece" . It states that if you introduce something early in the work it MUST be important for something later on. Without giving any spoilers I can promise you every single thing that is introduced it important. She also occasionally reminds the reader of items that will become important later just so you don't forget them.  It never feels overdone or unnatural. Instead it helps build tension and remind the reader of the stakes.

The ending is also completely satisfying. Every significant question raised in the book is answered and every character has a well-defined ending. That doesn't mean everyone lives happily ever after but you definitely know what happens. It also asks a few other questions which leaves me hungry for more Crow stories in the future.

Lythgoe also expertly works in worldbuilding information. She never veers into endless paragraphs of exposition. Instead, every time she reveals worldbuilding information it is believable and in context. She reveals enough to give you the scope and flavor of the world without turning it into an almanac.

What I didn't like

Some of the writing, specifically in the first 1/4 of the book, could use another edit. Several paragraphs are not as tight or cohesive as they could be. I noticed two spelling errors and there were a few formatting issues. The formatting issues could be related to the method in which I received the book and may not occur if purchased directly through Amazon.

However, none of the issues were significant enough to bring me out of the story and diminish the experience.

In Conclusion

I strongly recommend As the Crow Flies to any fans of fantasy. I also recommend it to writers of fantasy to use as an example proper worldbuilding, pacing and execution of Chekov's Gun.

Robin Lythgoe - Author of As the Crow Flies

Author's Website:
Goodreads: Author Page on Goodreads
Amazon: or
Twitter: @RobinLythgoe
Facebook: Facebook Site Here

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Have We Become Too Nice?

Here's my ranting video on the state of reviewing indie authors and the need for more honesty.

Have reviewers become too nice? Are we suffering from Paula Abdul syndrome? You saw her on American Idol. How often did she turn to someone and say "That hurt my ears."

Let me back and say this: I'm a teacher. It's my job to look at people who suck at something and help them get better. When my students make a mistake I force them to say "Yeah!" instead of "Shoot!".  I encourage to look at their mistakes and missteps as a learning experience, a "what-not-to-do".

And then I look at the indie writing community.  I've seen several books that are very poorly written receive several 5 star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.  I've seen lots of high fives for ridiculous cover art.

So I have to ask myself: Have we become too nice? Should we be more like Simon and less like Paula?

I have also read many good indie authors. David James, Helen Boswell, Chris Strange, Travis Luedke, etc. I could go on. I always post reviews for the books I liked but I haven't been posting reviews for the ones I hated. Hence this post.


Amazon: M Joseph Murphy on Amazon: Paperback and ebook
Smashwords: M Joseph Murphy Author Page on Smashwords
Kobo: M Joseph Murphy Books on Kobo
Share Button