Review: The Cipher by Diana Pharaoh Francis


The Cipher by Diana Pharaoh Francis has been re-released!

If you’ve read the previous version, this one has been revised from that edition.  My review is for the new edition.

From Diana Pharaoh Francis’ website:

Lucy Trenton’s ability to sense majick is one of her most dangerous secrets. But only one.

A blackmailer knows the other.

Suddenly, Lucy is caught in a treasonous plot to destroy the crown, and she’s trapped in the tentacles of a desperate, destructive majick. Her only hope is ship captain Marten Thorpe, who–by every account–cannot be trusted. With time running out, Lucy must find a way to win a dangerous game or lose everything she holds dear.

The Enchanted Alley’s Review

Let’s start with the cover.  The new cover echoes the same elements as the previous cover (viewable here) but the new cover is much more enticing!  They say to never judge a book by its cover, but the cover is the first thing that drew me to this book.  I probably would have passed the book over if it still had the original cover.   The original cover was not a bad cover, but this one is just so much better.  The contrast of the red cloak with the dark, mysterious shipwreck in the back combined with the movement of the wind make this cover really come to life.

Now, onto the book itself.  I found myself thinking about this novel when I was going about my day-to-day activities.  I kept pulling out my iPhone and opening my Kindle app just to read a few more pages.  The description was detailed, the pacing was steady, and the author gave just enough away that I wanted to keep reading to find out more but wasn’t frustrated at not knowing what was going on.

Reviews of the earlier editions mentioned that the characters were flat, but I did not find that problem with the new edition.  The characters were believable and engaging, especially Lucy.  She has her flaws, just like everyone, and that makes her more realistic and gives her motivation for her actions.  She also has her secrets.

There was only one small problem that I found with this book: the word majicar.  Even though it refers to a person who uses majick, every time I read it, I first thought it was a magical transport vehicle of some sort.  And that initial image stuck with me throughout the whole novel.  But that could just be the country gal in me.

In all, I definitely recommend The Cipher.  

It is a spectacular ride through a dark and dangerous world filled with surprises.

Essential Info:

Title:  The Cipher

Author: Diana Pharaoh Francis

Publisher: Bell Bridge Books

Length: 399 pages

Price: $5.79 Kindle, $14.58 Paperback

Release Date: June 6, 2014

Amazon Link: Buy it HERE

Disclaimer:  I received this book for free in an exchange for an honest review from the publisher via NetGalley. 


Giveaway: Discovery of Witches



As a thank you to the 102 people who have liked The Enchanted Alley’s Facebook page, I am giving away 1 hard-cover copy of A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness.

Click on the link below to enter for a chance to win!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

US entries only, please.

Title Reveal: Skinwalker Series #9


So far there are seven books in the Skinwalker series by Faith Hunter.

Book 8, Broken Soul, releases October 7, 2014, but I am pleased to be able to reveal to you the title of Book 9, which will be released in 2015!

Here are the first eight titles:

  1. Skinwalker
  2. Blood Cross
  3. Mercy Blade
  4. Raven Cursed
  5. Death’s Rival
  6. Blood Trade 
  7. Black Arts
  8. Broken Soul


Drumroll Please!


The title for Book 9 of the Skinwalker series is … DARK HEIR!



Review: Deadly Curiosities by Gail Z. Martin

deadly_curiosities_250x384What would happen if you combined Warehouse 13 and Psych but added in demons and vampires?  You’d end up with something a lot like Deadly Curiosities by Gail Z. Martin.

On the last day of ConCarolinas, I was talking to John Hartness about books (what else) when he suddenly reached into his bag and pulled out Deadly Curiosities.  “When she comes back, go buy this book,” he said pointing a few tables down from his own.  He totally sold me on it, and I am so glad.

I went up to the table and said that John had sent me to buy her book.  Then I learned that the book wasn’t even out yet!  Squee!  Sweet!

Then I started reading and squeed even harder.  The book was great!  The Nancy Drew-esque Cassidy, the adorable Teag, and the mysterious Sorren all made for an exciting visit to Trifles & Folly, the place where items are sold that may have a bit of a secret.  Similar in concept to Warehouse 13, Cassidy and Teag collect items that they classify depending on how much psychic or magical oomph they have.  Some they sell; others are left for Sorren to sort out.  But, once strange things start to happen, they’re taken on the adventure of a lifetime.

The Solaris Books website gives this description of the novel:

Welcome to Trifles & Folly, and antique and curio shop with a dark secret. Proprietor Cassidy Kincaide continues a family tradition begun in 1670 – acquiring and neutralizing dangerous supernatural items. It’s the perfect job for Cassidy, whose psychic gift lets her touch an object and know its history.

Together with her business partner Soren, a 500-year-old vampire and former jewel thief, Cassidy makes it her business to get infernal objects off the market. When mundane antiques suddenly become magically malicious, it’s time for Cassidy and Soren to get rid of these Deadly Curiosities before the bodies start piling up.

I highly recommend this one.  It was quaint, fun, and exciting.  

I am looking forward to more! 

Essential Info:

Title:  Deadly Curiosities 

Author: Gail Z. Martin

Publisher: Solaris

Length: 464 pages (paperback)

Price: $7.99

Release Date: June 24, 2014

Amazon Link: Buy it Here

ConCarolinas 2014: Editors and Agents

This is the last post from ConCarolinas 2014.

This panel was about Editors and Agents, and the panel was mostly question/answer style.  They talked about agents first, then editors.  It could have gone on for two hours instead of just one.  People had lots of questions.

The panelists were: Edmund Schubert, Sharon Stogner, Faith Hunter, Emily Leverett, and Greg Rinehart.

Some keys points:

  • In an anthology, the first and last stories are the prime spots.
  • Everyone needs an editor; the biggest complaint is editing.

Topic 1: What is the best way to get representation?  Do you really need it?

In traditional publishing, you need an agent to keep your head on straight.  In small press, 99% don’t need an agent.  Self-published authors do not need an agent.

You should have a good relationship with your agent.  Become friends.  Faith said that she would not have progressed in her career without an agent.

You don’t need an agent for short stories.  Agents make 15% of what you make, so they don’t want to work for pennies.

The agent is the representative between you and New York.  They help you read and understand contracts.

Agents are often former editors, so they have connections.

An auction is the best case scenario, and agents have the ability to get that going.

Know the preference of the house you are selling to.  Baen, for example, if you sell it, they want to talk only to you, not an agent you get later.  If the agent sells it, then they’ll talk to you both.  Baen is an important place to look.  They treat their writers like family, and they can build your career.

Some small presses can be bad.  They don’t know what they’re doing, but every large press started out as a small press…

Remember, money flows to the writer.  (Unless you are hiring someone to do a task like edit.)

The Big Five (traditional publishing houses) – you have to have an agent or know people.  How do you get to know people?  Cons!

If you get a letter that says to query again, do it!  They don’t send those often.

Research.  Look at the internet.  You’ll learn stuff.  Do your homework.

Only about 1% makes it through the slush pile.  Be sure to follow the guidelines.  Even when you know someone, follow the guidelines.

In many cases, slush readers need to reject 40 manuscripts per hour!

Topic 2: Should I edit it before sending?


Look for beta readers, or hire a freelance editor.

The most important things are story arcs, character arcs, loose ends, voice change, boring parts (lagging arc), etc.

Later work on wording, grammar, consistency with eye color, etc.

A good editor will see, identify, and explain how to fix it.  They won’t fix it for you.

Cover matters just as much as editing.

Even if you do this, you will still get rejected.

If you can’t wallpaper a room with rejection letters, you’re not a writer.

Form rejection letter: time saver.

Personalized feedback: compliment.


Thanks for reading!  I will have more information to share after I attend ConGregate in July!  I hope you all enjoyed the posts from ConCarolinas as much as I enjoyed attending the panels.

Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

divergentFirst of all, how awesome is that cover?

Divergent is very similar in feel and structure to The Hunger Games.  Our normal world has been divided up into sectors based on certain values like intelligence, selflessness, honesty, and bravery.  These sectors eventually start to disagree and chaos follows.  I picked up the series on the recommendation of several friends whose opinions on books I really trust.

This is a really good series.  I finished this book and immediately bought the second in the series. (The third one has not been released yet!)  The characters are well-developed, the story line flows logically and smoothly, and the world is imaginative, gritty, and raw.  I enjoyed exploring the world along with Tris and Four.

The biggest thing that I liked about this book is that (SPOILER!) there is not a love triangle.  There is a romance element, but there isn’t a love triangle struggle that seems to dominate many books in this genre.  I hope that continues in the rest of the books.

There are some particularly well written scenes in this book. I really enjoyed the scene between Tris and Four during the game of capture the flag.  It was beautifully written and just gripping.  I think that might have been my favorite moment in the book.  Another section of the book that I really enjoyed was the initiate training.  It reminded me of the tribute training that Katniss and Peeta went through in The Hunger Games.  

Unfortunately, I can’t give this book five stars.  There were two things that really bothered me.  The first thing is a little picky, but I know other reviewers have mentioned it as well, so I don’t feel so bad mentioning it.  The book opens with Beatrice’s mother cutting her hair.  There is quite a bit of information about haircut day being the only time they are allowed to look in the mirror.  I just don’t understand why she would need to look in the mirror at all if her mother was the one cutting her hair.  It doesn’t make sense.  She doesn’t really need to see what’s going on.  I could understand if it played a role later in the book, but it doesn’t.  It seemed detached from the rest of the story.

Another fault I found with the book was that it was somewhat predictable.  That’s probably more my problem than the book’s problem though.  Once I got about 1/4 of the way through, I had guessed most of the secrets and pretty much knew everything about Four that would be revealed later.  It was sort of fun knowing I guessed it – like it does when you’re watching a scary movie and you guess the bad guy – but it was sort of disappointing because there wasn’t a big GASP moment either.


This post originally appeared at in 2013