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by Nancy K. Duplechain
Fantasy meets voodoo in New Orleans. Leigh Benoit comes from a family of paladins, people with special abilities who heal the sick and keep dark forces at bay. She is sent to New Orleans for training as a Traiteur, a healer, but she is also caught up in a quest to find a cursed antique mask as time for Mardi Grau draws near.
I found this an interesting alternative Fantasy. The paladins have individual 'gifts' in a way that reminded me of X-men, though more subtle. Leigh meets some of her own kind who are friendly and some who are not so friendly, but they have a common quest to stop dark forces. Apart from being followed by a "cute guy" (oh gee, where do you suppose THAT will go?) the story has a lot of original elements that make it a fascinating read.
Leigh is likable and no wiser than her nemesis about why she was sent for training when adequate training for what she is meant to do was available at home. There is some other purpose for why she needed to come to New Orleans, which we learn eventually.
For the most part, this book really held my attention. There were a couple of places where I thought Leigh and her companions were just a little too lucky in a battle or some really horrific imagery fizzled into nothing, but most of it moved the story along and kept me interested in Leigh's eventual fate.
This is one of those gems I sometimes find in the free slush pile, a book I've really enjoyed reading. There is a series, but the book stands alone very well. Some fascinating ideas and alternative ways of using Biblical entities as characters.
The Chaos of Change is political thriller writing at its best, and is set in America's near future, when states that see the collapse of federal power move to become more autonomous, and when a political move to dissolve the ineffective federal structure divides the country into three sovereign entities.
Thaddeus had a promising career in politics as the son of the former President of the U.S. before he saw the winds of chaos and fled to Alaska to live a solitary life away from his politically bickering family, but it's not long before government forces come looking for him, recruiting him as a negotiator between his Republican family and the liberals to the north, who are now butting heads over their new realms.
The elite team tapping Thaddeus for help is committed to avoiding a new civil war at all costs - and to bringing back a semblance of democracy in the face of chaos.
As the team and its members solidify their purposes and newfound political objectives, Thaddeus finds himself unwittingly drawn into a deadly game where lessons of the past are ignored and special interests manipulate worlds.
From a harrowing journey to the Federal North Pole to negotiations with the King of the South, J. T. Riggen provides an action-packed, politically charged set of questions that keeps readers thinking about this new America and its changed values.
Independent nations that strive for controlled havoc, CIA efforts to restore peace to a broken nation, and the potentials of a new community and technology that lure Thaddeus away from his isolation all coalesce in a riveting political adventure that will attract readers of survival fiction, political thrillers, dystopian worlds, and solid action stories.
The satisfying blend of fast-paced action and strong characterization makes for a fine story that's riveting, realistic, and hard to put down.