Review: Light & Shadow Trilogy by Moira Katson

Series: Light and Shadow trilogy
Moira Katson
Genre(s): Young Adult Fantasy
How To Purchase: Kindle | Paperback | Kobo

It has been only two generations since Arthur Warden seized the throne of Heddred from the Conradines, and now the crown rests on the head of Garad, sickly and weak. Shadows gather: legacies of the centuries-long rivalries for power, old betrayals, the endless plots of the courtiers, and the murmur of rebellion in the southern provinces …

Catwin, plucked from her life at the edge of the Kingdom, is thrust abruptly into the world of the Court when she is chosen by the Duke of Voltur to be a Shadow-spy, shield, and blade-to his niece, the Lady Miriel DeVere. The Duke’s ruthlessness is legendary, and he will stop at nothing to become the power behind the throne, using Miriel as a pawn to catch Garad’s heart.

But the Duke’s carefully-laid plans are only a piece of the intrigue of the court, and greater forces than Catwin can imagine are massed against her, determined to eliminate Miriel and impose a new order of their own. If Catwin and Miriel are to survive, they must learn quickly who to trust, and when to turn their skills against the very people who have trained them …

Shadowborn by Moira Katson

Book #1: Shadowborn
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Shadowforged by Moira Katson

Book #2: Shadowforged
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Shadow's End by Moira Katson

Book #3: Shadow’s End
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I was impressed by this series, the Light and Shadow trilogy, which was another one of my fabulous Bookbub bargains. (Er, by the way, since I talk about them so much, one might wonder if I’m affiliated, but I’m not. Though I’ve acquired enough $0.99 and free books from them, I should probably take out stock.)

This is both a fascinating character-driven and an interesting plot-driven story, wrapped in an engrossing fantasy world. Catwin, the main character, comes from a poor family, and until she’s noticed by the Duke of Voltur, she’s destined to amount to nothing but kitchen help. Instead, he sees potential in her and sets to training her to be his niece Miriel’s bodyguard and assassin–whether she wants to or not.

Her struggles with the atrocities she’s forced to commit are potent and heart-rending. The uneasy friendship that grows from initial hatred between the two girls is well-crafted. They dance around one another, neither sure if the other can be trusted, but having no choice but to rely on one another.

I’m not going to spoiler anything from the second and third books, but I loved how the story developed. The stakes continue to raise, as Miriel must do her uncle’s bidding and, well, Catwin must, also.

I rated the third book as four stars because I wasn’t impressed with the culmination of Catwin’s prophecy: As a baby, her mother refused to raise her because she foretold that her daughter would be betrayed. A lot of that back story made no sense, and when the betrayal comes, I can’t really understand why. It’s almost … or completely … a self-fulfilling prophecy, and I don’t really understand why the characters involved choose their actions.

Overall, I loved this series and I heartily recommend it. If you enjoy fantasy, either young adult or adult, you’ll enjoy the Light and Shadow trilogy. Ms. Katson is now on my list of “Authors I Must Read More of If Ever My TBR Pile Diminishes.”

Have you added my forthcoming release, Guarding Angel, to your Goodreads to-be-read list? You can also find me on Twitter and Pinterest.

Stories from beyond and Guarding Angel Cover Reveal

I’m very excited today to be able to share the cover of my book, Guarding Angel, coming April 28, 2014. Many book bloggers are sharing in my excitement today, so check some of them out (at the bottom of the post). But first, to commemorate this occasion, I wanted to invite my readers to share in some stories with brushes from beyond this life.

What do I mean precisely?

Have you ever had contact with a loved one who has died? Or have you ever been seeking something out and felt an answer from your guardian angel or spirit guide? Maybe God Him- or Herself? Have you ever seen a ghost? I will share a couple of stories, and I invite you to share yours in the comments below.

My Grandmother Says Goodbye

My first story happened directly to me. Although I’m absolutely certain that I had contact with my grandmother soon after she died, but you might not quite believe it–I’ll leave it up to you.

When I was 15 years old, my paternal grandmother had a stroke and went into a coma. We lived three states away, so unfortunately, it had been awhile since we’d seen her. My parents, brother, and I packed up the car a few days before Christmas and headed to Ohio. I was able to visit her in her room, but she was on life support and it didn’t feel like she was really there.

The other aunts and uncle came from out of town to say goodbye. On Christmas Eve, in the early morning, her children all gathered in her room to carry out her living will. They took her off the ventilator, and in a few short moments, she passed away.

This wasn’t something they wanted the kids experiencing, so I was at home, still asleep, since it was so early morning and I was, after, all, a teenager. Right before I awoke, I had a dream that Grandma came to me: We talked about her life and my life, everything that had happened and lots of things that were going to happen. I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of peace about the rest of my life, but I can’t remember any of the specifics. At one point, I recall her saying she had to go, that she couldn’t stay. I begged her not to leave, but she disappeared, and I ran through a strange dreamscape looking for her. But she was gone–I couldn’t “feel” her there any more.

My mom was shaking me awake as I searched for Grandma. I opened my eyes. “Grandma’s gone, isn’t she?” Mom looked surprised and nodded. I said, “She visited me before she left.”

I don’t know for sure that she did or didn’t. Maybe it was my overactive imagination making this up, since I knew what was happening that morning. But I really felt her there, and I honestly believe that she did, indeed, stop by before she went into the afterlife. If only I could remember all the secrets she’d divulged about my upcoming life before she left …

My Uncle Comforts My Dad

My second story happened to my dad last year. He has four sisters but only one brother, and they were fairly close despite not living near one another. Unfortunately, Uncle Lanny had a clot that moved into his brain at the beginning of April, and he died within seconds.

Right before the visitation, Dad was getting out of his car when his pocket starting making noise. At first he thought his phone was ringing, but when he pulled it out, he saw that iTunes had started. “El Paso” by Marty Robbins–one of his and Uncle Lanny’s favorite songs–was playing. The last time he’d played that particular song was when they’d visited months before.

Was it Uncle Lanny, comforting Dad, who was quite distraught over his brother’s death at a relatively young age and only the beginning of his retirement? Or did the phone somehow happen to pocket dial a song that hadn’t been played for months and months? I, and my dad, like to think that it was Uncle Lanny’s way of saying goodbye.

What about you? Do you have any stories of contact with the “other side?” I want to hear about them in the comments.

Guarding Angel Cover Reveal

Now … The moment I, at least, I don’t know about the rest of you!, have been waiting for. I wrote Guarding Angel because I believe in something beyond this life. It started with a question: What if angels, just like humans, have personalities and struggles? What if they’re more than just silent watchers but have friends and lovers and decisions to make? Thus Enael, my main character, was born.

This cover was created by the fabulous Regina Wamba of MaeIDesign. As soon as I saw her work, I knew I had to have her. She did an amazing job, so if you just like gazing at beautiful fantasy/paranormal romance book covers like I do, take a gander through her portfolio on her website and Pinterest.

Here it is, Enael and her struggles, all summed up in one beautiful piece of cover art:

FallenRedemption-ebooksmgoodreads-badge-add-plusAbout Guarding Angel (Fallen Redemption #1):

Guardian angel Enael can’t seem to keep her human Wards in check. They’re the ones who choose their paths before reincarnating—she’s just there to help make sure they stay on track. But it’s not as easy as it might look.

When she meets and falls in love with charismatic Kaspen, a fellow Guardian, Enael’s feelings about Heaven, Hell, demons, and the life she’s known are turned upside down. Worse, angel-turned-demon Yasva, Kaspen’s former love, still holds him in her clutches. Even as Yasva works toward obtaining complete control of Earth, she taunts and haunts Kaspen’s and Enael’s lives.

Now Enael is forced to face her past (which is centuries long and bursting with secrets), her present (which is terribly unfulfilling and full of questions), and her future (which becomes more uncertain as time passes). Armed with a newfound love and fear of losing it all, she must figure out how to save the world—-and the angel she loves. Which side will win? Who will Kaspen choose? Will Heaven and Earth continue to exist, or will everything go to Hell?

Thank you to all the bloggers who helped me share the news of my cover:

Leave me comments to let me know what you think! Then find me on Twitter and Pinterest. If you’re a book reviewer and would like a review copy of Guarding Angel, send an email to or leave a comment with contact info. eBook ARC Copies will be available at the beginning of March, and Guarding Angel will go on sale April 28, 2014 at several online retailers.

Coming Soon: Guarding Angel Cover Reveal

Guarding Angel Promo

I’m very excited to announce that the cover design for my upcoming book, Guarding Angel (Fallen Redemption #1), is finished! The talented and wonderful Regina Wamba of Mae I Design created it for me. She did a fabulous job, and if I don’t stop talking about it, I might just convince myself I can’t wait until the cover reveal date to share it.

If you’re a blogger, on Pinterest, on Facebook, on Twitter, or any other social media and are interested in taking part in the cover reveal day of Tues., Feb. 18th, leave a comment with your contact info or email me at and let me know how you’d like to participate.

I have something special (and interactive!) planned for the blog on the day of cover reveal, since of course, I can’t just have a cover reveal. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone back here!

Guarding Angel (Fallen Redemption #1):

Guardian angel Enael can’t seem to keep her human Wards in check. They’re the ones who choose their paths before reincarnating—-she’s just there to help make sure they stay on track. But it’s not as easy as it might look.

When she meets and falls in love with charismatic Kaspen, a fellow Guardian, Enael’s feelings about Heaven, Hell, demons, and the life she’s known are turned upside down. Worse still, angel-turned-demon Yasva, Kaspen’s former love, still holds him in her clutches. Even as Yasva works toward obtaining complete control of Earth, she taunts and haunts Kaspen’s and Enael’s lives.

Now Enael is forced to face her past (which is centuries long and bursting with secrets), her present (which is terribly unfulfilling and full of questions), and her future (which becomes more uncertain as time passes). Armed with a newfound love and fear of losing it all, she must figure out how to save the world—-and the angel she loves. Which side will win? Who will Kaspen choose? Will Heaven and Earth continue to exist, or will everything go to Hell?

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Review: Transcendent Tales, Volume I, by Adam Train

transcendant talesTitle: Transcendent Tales: Volume I
Author: Adam Train
How To Purchase: Kindle | iTunes | Kobo | Google Play

My Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The complete first release collection from Transcendent Tales. All ten short stories and multi-part novellas come complete with vibrant covers and cinematic illustrations in a single purchase and download.

Transcendent Tales: Volume I by Adam Train is a deviation from a typical book of short stories in a couple ways. First, it’s illustrated, which I enjoyed: Illustrations are uncommon right now in books, and these enhanced the stories beautifully, catching the mood of the scene into which they were inserted. The second deviation I did not enjoy, which was that some of the longer stories had been chopped into parts, and not all the parts were included in this volume.

The storytelling itself is old school. The language and sentence construction is reminiscent of fantasies from years ago. One story, “The Voyage to Windward Atoll,” even reminded me of Edgar Allen Poe at the beginning and H.P. Lovecraft toward the end. Since I’m a sucker for both those authors, that story was one of my favorites.

Although not particularly heavy, the stories are nonetheless engaging. Whether fantasy, alternate history, or science fiction, they draw the reader into the world. I could feel the resolution of the Japanese samurai when faced with the Mongolian horde in “Saisho No Kamikaze.” I was drawn into the world of bureaucracy tainting the contact humanity made with a new species in “The Third Realm.”

Some of the extraneous words and grammar could be tightened up. I’m a stickler for dangling participles, one of the most frequent offenders in this collection. Possibly no one but professional editors and I would have noticed the problems.

My biggest frustration with this story collection is that at least one story, possibly two, were not wholly contained within. I was really into “The Treaty of Nine,” only to be told that the story continues in Part III, which is not included in the book. The last story, “The Third Realm,” was split into two parts, and I thought the end of the second part didn’t wrap the story up sufficiently. Is there more or not? I guess when Volume II comes out, we’ll find out.

Overall, the stories were engaging and enjoyable, but I’m disappointed in cliffhangers. If this were a regular periodical that came out perhaps quarterly, I would be less unhappy. I would have suspected and been prepared for missing story parts.

I gave this a 3.5 of 5 stars because of the somewhat meandering language and grammar, which could easily be fixed by an editor with a keen eye for detail. I also think this book should come with a disclaimer that the reader will be expected to pick up the next anthology to finish some of the stories. If like you science fiction, fantasy, and thorough world-building, you’ll enjoy this collection.

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Review: A Flight of Marewings by Kristen S. Walker

A Flight of MarewingsTitle: A Flight of Marewings (Wyld Magic, #1)
Author: Kristen S. Walker
Genre(s): Adult Fantasy
How to purchase: Amazon | Kobo | iBooks | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble

My Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Note: I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Korinna’s life gets turned upside when the ghost of her father suddenly appears. Her father was duke of Kyratia City and he wanted Korinna to marry his warlord, the foreign mercenary Galenos, and inherit his title–but the city’s Council has other plans. When the Council denies Korinna’s right to rule, she decides to join Galenos’s mercenary company and tame a wild marewing in order to take the city by force. But people whisper that the late duke’s untimely death was murder, an induced madness that forced him to dance himself to death–and now that madness is spreading. Can Korinna become a marewing rider and conquer Kyratia in time to save everyone?

A Flight of Marewings is a solid fantasy with interesting ideas and a fleshed-out world. Its namesake, the marewing, is a flying demon horse, created by a mysterious magical force called “the Wyld.”

The book follows several people’s points of view, but the story centers on Korinna, the illegitimate daughter of the newly deceased duke of Kyratia. In this world, mercenaries are used instead of a city’s own military force because being a soldier carries a stigma to these religious people. Korinna has been targeted for marriage by the leader of one of these mercenary forces, Galenos, who was never able to convince her father to solidify a marriage contract before he died.

I was a little bit nervous upon seeing the table of contents and how many points of view are actually used, but it worked well. Ms. Walker introduces the characters logically, and we got to know them and their quirks gradually.

Because the story is told from both Korinna’s and Galenos’ points of view, I was sympathetic toward them both. First toward Korinna, the poor peasant woman who is simply trying to hold together the farm for the small village she oversees; next toward Galenos, who simply wants to wrest control of Kyratia from an evil, scheming Council so that it may thrive.

The romance between Korinna and Galenos seemed a bit forced. Of course they’re going to end up together, but I would have liked to see some sparks fly.

I loved the magic in the book: A parasitic bug that burrows into humans to cause them to dance to death, a killer vine that strangles anyone who struggles against it too much, and the magestone underlying the city that should protect the citizen from Wyld magic… until one of the evil Councilors brings the Wyld into the city on purpose.

A few typos exist, but because it’s an ARC, those will likely be gone in the final copy. Even if they’re not, there weren’t a lot: The grammar itself was clean and any “oopsies” were definitely typos.

While I liked the marewings, their relationship with the rider-that-tamed-them reminded me of Anne McCaffrey’s dragon/rider relationship. The dragonlings introduced briefly follow all of her rules and are described identically. Whirling eyes, starving when they’re born, imprinting on the first person who throws meat down their gullets. However, enough new and interesting concepts exist that it only perturbed grumpy old me slightly.

If you enjoy fantasy and are looking for a new world to sink your teeth into, I would recommend A Flight of Marewings. Ms. Walker also has several other books out, so if you find her storytelling engaging, you can dig into more. This book is the first in a series, and I eagerly anticipate more of the Wyld magic that winds through her world.

If you’d like to enter to win one of five eBook copies or a signed paperback of A Flight of Marewings, click here to enter the Rafflecopter drawing. Also, if you missed Friday’s guest post by author Kristen S. Walker, go check it out.

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Guest Review: Kristen S. Walker on The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley

A Flight of Marewings Tour Banner

I’m excited to participate in Kristen S. Walker’s book tour celebrating the release of A Flight of Marewings (Wyld Magic #1). Hello, Kristen!

kristen-walker-photoToday Kristen shares with us thoughts on one of her favorite books:

The Hero and the CrownTitle: The Hero and the Crown
Author: Robin McKinley
Genre(s): YA Fantasy
How to Purchase: Amazon

Kristen’s Rating: 5 of 5 Stars

Although she is the daughter of Damar’s king, Aerin has never been accepted as full royalty. Both in and out of the royal court, people whisper the story of her mother, the witchwoman, who was said to have enspelled the king into marrying her to get an heir to rule Damar–then died of despair when she found she had borne a daughter instead of a son. But none of them, not even Aerin herself, can predict her future–for she is to be the true hero who will wield the power of the Blue Sword…

My Thoughts on the Story

Aerin of Damar has been my inspiration since I was about twelve years old. She starts as an outcast from her own people, but through her stubborn efforts, she manages to become a dragon slayer and even rescues her kingdom from their most dangerous enemy. And through it all, she keeps her head up with surprising humor and insight.

There are almost too many reasons for me to list about why I love this book. I love the other characters like Tor, Aerin’s cousin, who has a close friendship with her that reminds me of me and my closest cousin when we grew up together; Luthe, the mysterious and reclusive mage, who does what he can to prepare Aerin for her quest; and Talat, her beloved and mischievous horse. I love the other animals that show up in the story, the wild cats and dogs that help Aerin, and Aerin’s relationships with her nursemaid Teka and her father, King Arlbeth. I even like her rivalry with her cousins, which adds more humor to the story. And even Aerin’s magical sword, Gonturan, has her own personality.

I love how Aerin is very scientific about her experiments with creating kenet, the ointment that’s proof against dragon fire. She works from an old recipe found in the back of a history book, which is vague at best, so she has to figure out what some of the more obscure herbs are and what ratios the ointment requires. For her experiments, she sets up in a wood shed and meticulously makes very small batches at a time, noting down her formulae for each one, and tests its fire-protecting properties. The effort takes her years—showing that Aerin has a lot of dedication and she has book smarts as well as fighting skills.

And in this and other stories by Robin McKinley, I love Damarian culture. Although there are castles and soldiers who fight on horseback, it’s far from the generic pseudo-medieval European culture found in many fantasy stories. There are unique customs, like archers who can sing to their arrows and tell them where to go in an ancient folk magic, and the numerous strange deities in their religion, like the God Who Isn’t There and the God Who Climbs. McKinley also describes how their culture changes over time to adapt to new circumstances when the plains of the kingdom become a desert. In later history, Aerin becomes a legend. In The Blue Sword, the main character Harry sees Aerin in visions like a goddess, partly because she now wields the blue sword Gonturan that Aerin once carried.

My Favorite Meal of the Book

I love reading about food and trying to imagine what it tastes like. (I put a good amount of food into my own stories!) So I often remember stories by what kind of food the characters ate. In The Hero and the Crown, I wanted to try the hot drink called malak and the treats called mik bars. Malak sounds like a cross between a hot broth and a spiced tea (Aerin comments on how she has to cool it down with milk after her injuries, and then the drink loses its bite), and mik bars sound like they could be some kind of cookie or biscuit. Both sound like tasty comfort food, but sadly, I can only imagine what they might taste like.

Funniest Moment of the Book

There’s a lot of funny moments in the story, particularly because Aerin seems to get into trouble a lot. One of my favorite scenes is when Aerin is facing off against her cousin, Galanna, who is jealous of Aerin for being the “baby” of the family. They have a long-standing rivalry against each other, played out over their childhood as a series of insults and escalating pranks.

The part that always makes me laugh out loud is when teen Aerin drugged Galanna’s wine at dinner, and then snuck into her bedroom while she was asleep and cut off her prized long eyelashes. Galanna is extremely vain, so she takes the “disfigurement” very harshly, and dramatically insists on wearing a veil until her eyelashes grow back. When she accuses Aerin of the prank, Aerin doesn’t deny her guilt—instead she retorts that she could have shaved Galanna’s whole head because she was so heavily asleep. Galanna slaps Aerin, which gives her the excuse to jump her and rip most of the lace off of her fancy dress. The images of the two teen cousins rolling around on the floor cracks me up every time—especially when Aerin notices that the castle servants, who are mistreated by Galanna, are a little slow to break up the fight. Their fights sound more like sisters since Aerin is an only child and they grow up in the same castle together.

My Recommendation

This is one of my favorite books, and I re-read it every couple of years. There are some passages that I know almost word-for-word because I love them so much. I would heartily recommend this book to anyone who likes heroic fantasy with a female lead and enjoys a little smart humor with their magic. Also, if you like classic dragons that are more terrifying than friendly, Maur belongs in a category with legends like Smaug. I hope that I can one day write a story as moving and funny as The Hero and the Crown.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us today, Kristen!

Kristen’s book A Flight of Marewings is available now. Click to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway and win a free hard or eBook copy, and come back on Monday to see my review.

About the Author:

Fantasy author Kristen S. Walker dreams of being a princess with a flying horse, but she settles for writing stories for teens and adults. Her new epic fantasy novel, A Flight of Marewings, tells the adventure of a duke’s illegitimate daughter who must stop her father’s murderers–by taming a dangerous monster. A Flight of Marewings is now available in print from Amazon and digitally from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and other ebook retailers. To read a sample chapter or check out Kristen’s world-building references, please visit You can talk Sherlock, horses, and crochet with Kristen any time on Twitter (@KristenSWalker) or Facebook.

Review: A Warrior’s Path by Davis Ashura

Title: A Warrior’s Path
Author: Davis Ashura
Genre(s): Adult Fantasy
How To Purchase: Releasing 12/25/13

My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Note: I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Two millennia ago, a demon thundered into the skies of Arisa, casting down the First World. She was Suwraith, the Bringer of Sorrows. And on the same night as Her arrival, there rose about the world’s great cities the Oases, a mysterious means by which Humanity lies protected and huddled against the might of the Sorrow Bringer. It is a temporary respite. Throughout the rest of Arisa, Suwraith’s Chimeras boil across the Wildness, the wide swaths of land beyond the boundaries of the few, far-flung cities, killing any unfortunates in their path and ruling all in Her name. But always She seeks more: Humanity’s utter extinction.

Into this world is born Rukh Shektan, a peerless young warrior from a Caste of warriors. He is well-versed in the keen language of swords and the sacred law of the seven Castes: for each Caste is a role and a Talent given, and none may seek that to which they were not born. It is the iron-clad decree by which all cities maintain their fragile existence and to defy this law means exile and death. And Rukh has ever been faithful to the teachings of his elders.

But all his knowledge and devotion may not save him because soon he must join the Trials, the holy burden by which by which the cities of Humanity maintain their slender connection with one another, and the only means by which a warrior can prove his worth. There in the Wildness, Rukh will struggle to survive as he engages in the never-ending war with the Chimeras, but he will also discover a challenge to all he has held to be true and risk losing all he holds dear. And it will come in the guise of one of Humanity’s greatest enemies – perhaps its greatest allies.

Worse, he will learn of Suwraith’s plans. The Sorrow Bringer has dread intentions for his home. The city of Ashoka is to be razed and her people slaughtered.

A Warrior’s Path contains an interesting perspective on a different social structure than is present in other fantasy I’ve read. Although I had trouble getting into the book, the hierarchy and interplay of beliefs gave me something to think about.

This book’s society is a strict caste-based culture, where every rank can only inter-marry within itself and all its members are prescribed certain careers and magical abilities. The story follows several people who discover that they have abilities–and desires–outside their own caste, as they fight a goddess bent on destroying humanity. The moral implications are intriguing: In a time and place when humanity should band together against its impending doom, people are squabbling over the color of skin and talents they believe shouldn’t overlap between castes.

The different characters’ perspectives on the caste system were varied. Some were traditional and believed that anyone operating outside of the rules was “tainted.” Some are in between, not sure which way their loyalties lay. And some were open to accept people as people, despite their background or magical abilities. The morality was a bit heavy-handed, but the caste system unique enough that it kept me interested.

One of the best parts were the villains on the side of the mad goddess. However, a lot was left unresolved and open for a follow-up book, which left me disappointed that we didn’t learn more about the plans and happenings of that sect.

I struggled to get into the book because of the excessive world-building and back story. Especially at the beginning, I felt I was reading an essay the author had written on how the society functions and who the characters are. Rather than revealing how the caste system worked bit by bit, it was dumped at the beginning and I found myself skimming, unable to follow everything and everyone. There were a lot of characters, and even at the end, I was only clear on a few of the main ones.

If you’re interested in exploring implications of different societal structures, you’ll be interested in A Warrior’s Path. Note that the story doesn’t wrap up at the end but is part of an on-going series.

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