Saturday, September 17, 2016

Book Review: Dark Gods of Alter Telluria by Barton Paul Levenson

Pittsburgh astrophysics professor Milo Stanford finally had it good for a change. A one-year sabbatical to teach in London and a beautiful new girlfriend. No worries to speak of—until the day he lost it all.

Caught outside in a freak thunderstorm, Milo is struck by lightning and wakes up on the parallel world of Alter Telluria. Unable to return home, Milo must adjust to life on a new planet of nation-states that are ruled by supernatural beings, a strange, pseudo-Victorian culture, and a pantheon of dark gods who delight in wreaking havoc on the lives of the local denizens.

While struggling to adapt to his new situation, Milo is offered a position in the Scholar’s Tower by the vampire ruler Sania, Mistress of Lake Gulia. Despite his abrasive personality and lack of deference, he quickly rises to become one of her most trusted advisors.

When the ruling wizard of neighboring Carthusia kidnaps Sania in an attempted coup, Milo is chosen to lead a hazardous rescue mission into the stronghold of the wizard’s indomitable magic—where the dark gods are certain to test his mettle.

Can Milo rescue Sania and restore her as ruler of Lake Gulia, or do the dark gods of Alter Telluria have other plans?

The cover is very pretty. Great lighting, imagery, and the scene takes place in the book as well! This is the type of cover that will easily stand out on a bookshelf.

The style of writing is very unique in this book. Milo comes off as a very believable character who suffers a break-up due to discussing marriage after only one month of being with his girlfriend (youch!). When he is hit by a lightning bolt, he is mysteriously transported to another world, something that has been known to happen in that world from time to time. Alter Telluria itself is very interesting place to explore, as one faction is controlled by Sania, the fourteen year old vampire queen and another faction is controlled by an elderly wizard who has an interest in her.

The relationship between Milo and Sania is a tough nut to crack. Milo tries to earn his way into her favor, while fighting off her advances at the same time. Sania comes across as a very unpredictable girl, either sobbing in his shoulders one moment or scheduling the execution of another young girl the next. While this does keep things extremely interesting, it does lead to a few minor head-scratching moments. For example, when Sania is kidnapped, another leader is elected in her place, one who does not partake in ritual human sacrifice. So if Milo rescues Sania, there is a likelihood that someone else could die, and I don't feel this dilemna is explored nearly enough. Plus, when Sania is kidnapped, she apparently sends a message to another woman Milo is pursuing, even though Sania has never met her before and comes across as the jealous type. In other words, that seems like a very 'un-Sania' thing to do at that point. Overall I think this could have been explored with a bit more internal dialogue, especially from Sania's end. She is an extremely interesting character, and I would have loved to see a few things from her point of view. But like I said it's a minor nitpick.

FINAL GRADE: 4 out of 5. Overall, this is a great read with a very interesting dynamic between Milo and Sania, one that I would love to see develop over the years. Hopefully there is a sequel.

Dark Gods of Alter Telluria can be found here.

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