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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Fighters Unleashed: YA books by Bryan Cohen, Teddy Jacobs, R.H. Russell


A Novella
By Bryan Cohen
Self-published, June 2011
Poe thinks this is YA paranormal action/romance

First sentence: "I'm tired of you being so damned passive."

High school sophomore Ted is a standard-issue wuss, at least to begin with. His soon-to-be ex is more complex. She "went from butch to semi-hot in high school" and "could still probably punch a guy's face off." And Ted's hopelessly passive existence is due for a change, because the break-up (in a crowded restaurant) leaves him feeling some peculiar bursts of energy, like electrical pulses. As blue sparks flash through Ted, a trio of muggers enter the scene. Are we in for an Incredible Hulk story? The cleverly timed sample leaves us wanting to find out.

Cohen, an improv comic, writing coach, and script writer, originally conceived Ted's adventures as a TV series. This bright, sure-footed novella (about 17,000 words) is based on the pilot, and Cohen plans to offer the sequel soon and to continue the saga "indefinitely."

Poe suggests he find a sterner editor for future numbers. There are a couple of usage wobbles, and Cohen's verb tenses can be inconsistent and confusing. (For example, he'll mix simple past and past perfect while recounting a single event.) Cohen's entertaining characters, hook, and humor deserve to be presented with the highest polish.

Rated Q for Queued to read soon.

By Teddy Jacobs
Self-published, 2012
Poe thinks this is YA action/fantasy

First sentences: You swing a staff until you're ready to swing a sword. Then you go on all kinds of adventures—fighting monsters, casting spells and saving damsels in distress. At least that's how it's supposed to work, but I didn't believe a word of it.

Last month, Poe sampled the author's Wicked Hungry. In the Dragons series, Jacobs pens another adventure of self discovery, but this time the magic happens in a fantasy/alternate world. 16-year-old Anders used to live in a glass castle but now spends most of his time locked up in one room by his parents. Why? What magic was instilled in his body at birth? Will this magic enable him to become more than his father (a paper-pusher; "a poor excuse for a sword fighter, and an even sorrier excuse for a wizard")? And (of equal urgency as the story opens) will Anders ever be able to clear up his pimples?

At the proper moment (immediately after the set-up), Anders meets The Girl, member of a race of teleporters. When she first sees him, he's wearing a bright green clay acne-fighting mask. . . .

If you're looking for interesting fantasy with a male MC, then sample this two-book series.

(The Venture Books, 2)
By R. H. Russell
Self-published in 2012
Poe thinks this is YA combat/adventure fantasy

First sentence: Venture jumped out of the carriage after the other boys from Beamer's Center, onto a square paved in dark stone, which stretched from the road to the main building.

What's appealing about the MC in the Venture series (first sampled last October) is what he's not. Not the Destined Hero. Not even half immortal. Not magically gifted. All he's got is grit, discipline, his two fists, and the determination to overcome his bonded-servant status by becoming the greatest fighter in his world. Fueling his quest is the pursuit of an unattainable girl. The setting is a fight-training school in an imaginary antiquity. Political and personal conflicts are hinted at, but a series of brutal fights, described in detail, is the focus of these early chapters.

Russell has also added two related short stories, Bonded and Boundless, to his Venture series.

If you like blow-by-blow action in the fights ring, then try this series.

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