Find out the latest indie author news. For FREE.

Formats
Hardcover Details
  • 05/2022
  • 978-1958315033
  • 374 pages
  • $21.99
Ebook Details
  • 05/2021
  • B08Y72NNR5
  • 376 pages
  • $2.99
Paperback Book Details
  • 05/2021
  • 9781736823507
  • 374 pages
  • $15.99
Stormy McDonald
Author
Phantoms of Ruthaer: Chronicles of Damage, Inc.

Adult; Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror; (Market)

With their immortal souls threatened, a small town's only hope lies in trusting bounty hunterss with a reputation almost as dark as the evil stalking the night.

In the countries east of the White River, some call Damage, Inc. heroes. Others call the bounty hunters criminals. The truth lies somewhere in between. Hector de los Santos, the team's leader, has only two rules about bounties: finish every job, no matter what it takes, and no charity cases.

Aislinn Yves, the team's half-elven tracker, thought she'd never see the tiny village of Ruthaer again. That is, until a plea for help from her father's old friend, Tallinn, arrives. The job sounds simple: track down a few missing people, perhaps a killer. The trick is convincing Hector to put their current job on hold. Unfortunately, things are worse than Tallinn implied.

Unnatural weather, restless dead, and gruesome murders are just the beginning, for the town harbors a terrible secret that could spell the end of Damage, Inc. and drag Ruthaer straight to Hell.

Reviews
The McDonalds’ engagingly pulpy debut, a party-based fantasy novel as eager to get to the adventure as your latest tabletop RPG session, finds a squad of bounty hunters facing a seemingly simple mission that, like all the hooks that kick off such a story, soon proves more complex and dangerous—and, in this case, so personal that it might tear the party apart. The heroes are Damage, Inc., a motley band of toughs in it for their own benefit. In a world of vampires and demons, dragons and trolls, gruff leader Hector, a scimitar wielding warrior, refuses to take any non-paying jobs, but Aislinn, the team’s healer and tracker, insists on sailing to her hometown, Ruthaer, after an old lighthouse keeper sends her a message about disappearances and some sorcerously odd weather.

Reluctantly, Damage, Inc., set out to investigate, encountering graverobbing, fog-choked boneyards, ancient relics, ghosts raging against the light, and other surprises all dramatized by the McDonalds with clear relish—moments like an apparent act of kindness from a murderous dærganfae challenge the expectations of characters and readers. The world of the Confederation of Nations is engaging, boasting traditional fantasy elements and a welcome diversity, and the action is fresh and vigorous, honoring the not-quite-heroes’ array of abilities and approaches. The stakes are high, despite the prevailing spirit of fun.

A surfeit of modifiers at times slows the line-to-line storytelling, but this first volume of the Chronicles of Damage, Inc. series is otherwise an engaging treat for fans of party-based fantasy adventure. Setting it apart is the McDonalds’ crack characterization, the way Damage, Inc., works and bickers as a group, cracking jokes without ever going too meta. ("‘Is it bad luck to kill a monk?’ Dave asked, breaking the silence.”) Hector, Aislinn, the archer/swordsman Dave Blood, the empath Hummingbird—heroes or not, readers will cheer them on.

Takeaway: This vigorously entertaining fantasy debut pits lovable bounty hunters against the undead.

Great for fans of: Nicholas Eames, Lee Gaiteri’s Below..

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B+
Marketing copy: A

Jimbo's Awesome Science Fiction and Fantasy Reviews

Did you love Scooby Doo as a kid? I loved Scooby Doo as a kid. I loved the gang coming into town, finding something they didn’t expect and figuring out what it was. I loved the running, the hiding, the constant threat of danger.  I loved the risks. I loved the danger. But then I grew up a bit and realized that, while the concept of the Scoobster was, and always will be, awesome, the danger needed to be a bit more real and simply removing a mask wasn’t always enough to solve a problem. I wanted MORE danger. I wanted some fighting. I wanted…

Something I thought I was never going to get.

Enter Stormy and Jason McDonald and their new book Phantoms of Ruthaer. Ok, so PoR isn’t quite as goofy as Scooby was. That’s okay. I’m not as goofy as I was as a nine year old either. I think. Well, probably. Maybe? I mean…

Uhhh…

Look, I’m just the reviewer. This isn’t about me, okay? STOP LAUGHING!!!

Or sumfin’...

All goofiness aside, Phantoms is an intense ride. There is a lot of action here and the one time it really lets up I found myself swept into laughing hysterically, and I mean that literally. Have you ever had that moment when everything around you was terrifying and then something that’s really only a little bit funny happens and you’re laughing so hard that you almost give yourself a concussion? Yeah, that was me. I didn’t know a book could do that to you. I got a similar feeling while watching Saving Private Ryan at the theater. That was sights and sounds and a book is just words and imagination. Well, maybe not JUST but you get what I’m saying…

Yeah, I’m going with “totally immersive experience” because I read that in an interview with a game developer once and, not only is it an accurate description, it sounds cool too. So now you can officially say you read something cool on my blog. Hold on…

You are reading this… Right? Anyway…

There was something in the acknowledgements (I think) about how Phantoms started out as a ghost story set in a fantasy setting. I think I screwed that quote up, but that was the jist of it. The point is that it’s easy to see in retrospect. The fog, the mysterious disappearances, it just makes sense that it started out as a ghost story. The thing is it’s so much more than that. 

Phantoms is a story that just keeps on giving. There is a lot going on. The backstories of the characters are well thought out and actually apply to what is going on in the story. Seriously, one of my pet peeves is when an author goes into a character’s backstory and it has nothing to do with what I’m witnessing happening in the book. That’s not the case here. Everything has relevance to the story we’re reading and helps to move it forward.

The thing that makes Phantoms better than Scooby Doo is that the action sequences are far more intense and the consequences of them are real. This is a story that you can feel in your gut. When the blood starts to fly and things start to do, you’ll say my my,

Or sumfin’.

I’ve reviewed books by McDonald and McDonald before, and they've always given me epic battle scenes. They always hit the mark between too technical (seriously, read The Chronicles of Amber if you’ve never fenced and tell me how easy it is to follow the sword fights) and some of the no-detail stuff I have read in other places. They give you enough details to be able to follow along and make it easy enough to be exciting. That’s what makes it fun to read.

I was watching The Curse of Oak Island: Digging Deeper recently and they interviewed Kevin Burns, the creator of the show and he said something that was both profound and totally unsurprising: Any story is about the people in it, the FAMILY in it. That’s really the feeling you get from the Damage, Inc. crew. There are no blood ties between them, but they’re closer than a lot of blood families are. These are people who have been through the ringer together, and they’re ready to go again. They want to go again. It’s the feeling you get at a gaming table with your buddies. Everyone wants to do their part. Everyone expects everyone else to do their parts. But it’s not just that. It’s that you knew everyone else WILL do their part.

And that’s what makes a story like Phantoms work. This is a family and they’re here to take things apart if that’s what they need to do to accomplish their mission. Damage, Inc. is a good name for them. It’s not like they MEAN to damage things, it’s just that sometimes a character’s gotta do what a character’s gotta do. 

Of course it wouldn’t be a good Scooby Doo story if there wasn’t a hidden villain. It’s not really a spoiler to say that there is one here because it’s obvious from the beginning that the team isn’t sure who or what they’re fighting. All they know is that something is killing people and there is fog. Lots and lots of fog that only comes at night. It’s spooky and scary and part of that immersive experience that I wrote about earlier. There’s actually a bit of overlap here, as I wouldn’t be surprised to see Phantoms reviewed on a horror blog.

Being the nice guy that I am, I’m not going to mention the fact that my boy Jasper wasn’t in this book. That would be a low blow, especially as this is an awesome book without him. I’m not in the least bitter or pouty at all. Really, I’m not. I’m totally over it.

Bottom Line 4.95 out of 5 Fog Banks It would be five, but they left Jasper out.

Formats
Hardcover Details
  • 05/2022
  • 978-1958315033
  • 374 pages
  • $21.99
Ebook Details
  • 05/2021
  • B08Y72NNR5
  • 376 pages
  • $2.99
Paperback Book Details
  • 05/2021
  • 9781736823507
  • 374 pages
  • $15.99

Loading...