The Mage’s Journal 

The debut novel by L.A. Lewins

The Mage’s Journal – the Soastan’s Magic Trilogy (Book One). L.A. Lewins, 2020

Once upon a time, there was an apprentice, a brigand and a lost journal. It seems the beginning of a joke for nerds, but it actually covers the very core of The Mage’s Journal, Lewins’s debut novel.

Seren is a 19 years old boy who has just finished magical high school and is waiting for a letter from the Megacastle Academy of Advanced Magic, like many Earth kids his age would wait for an acceptance letter from college. And just like any other Earth kid his age, he is unfortunately rejected. Sorry darling, you are not good enough for us. Try again next year. It’s a hard blow for Seren. But Mr Merryman, a local shop keeper who has known him forever, offers him a job in his bookshop. While sorting out some second-hand and returned books, Seren comes across the personal journal of James Berryton, who’s been captured after gradually losing his powers, leaving his journal behind. Inside it, there’s a magic formula for a potion that no one has ever come across, its use and effects unknown. Prompted by Berryton’s words on the journal, Seren sets out to find the missing mage.

Laurentis is Seren’s friend and school mate. Having run away from home a few years earlier, she is part of a brigand company led by Archimon, a powerful old man who’s acting as chief. Archimon tasks Laurentis with preparing a poisonous potion. As she succeeds, she is given increasingly difficult tasks, that she accomplishes the best way she can. What she doesn’t know is that her powers are coasting black magic, which use is forbidden. Archimon, who knows it perfectly well, pushes the girl to learn how to use and control them. While she struggles with this decision, she convinces herself that it might not be such a bad thing: if black magic is part of what she is, why should she reject it?

In the meantime, Seren has teamed up with Marcus, a friend of James, who is looking for the captive mage too. It takes them a while to find out where James is being held – in Archimon’s citadel – and come up with a plan to free him. The reasons why Archimon is doing all this are still a mystery, as it’s the reason why James was starting to lose his powers before vanishing. It will all become clear in the end, also thanks to Laurentis’s help, in an ending that brilliantly paves the way for Book Two.

The story itself is pleasant: good action-driven plot, nice mix of characters, good potential for future developments. However, the way it is delivered could be improved: the narration is inconsistent and slightly confusing, with some chapters abruptly ending in the middle of an action, different sets of characters suddenly appearing out of nowhere without giving the reader any cues (the conventional three asterisks in the middle of a page to signpost a change of scene would really help ). This results in quite a lot of confusion, making the story challenging to follow. On occasion, the choice of language is poor or not completely appropriate. Too often the magic rule ‘show, don’t tell’ is discarded in favour of a narration that deprives of excitement what could otherwise be a brilliant story. This is an absolute shame, and we are sure a more careful editing could make this book great and let its potential shine as bright as it deserves.

The first two books of the trilogy are available to purchase at:

About L.A. Lewins

L.A. began writing during her University Christmas holidays one year, bringing the first of her fantasy worlds to life. She has since been writing at every available opportunity and made the decision to self-publish in December 2019.

Aside from writing, L.A. Lewins is a former archaeologist with a love of ancient history, although her first love will always be dinosaurs! An avid fossil collector, she makes the three-hour drive down to Dorset to look for fossils when she has a spare day. Her bookshelf is full of Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic, and Alien and Predator novels, as well as an extensive history collection, spanning Ancient Egypt to World War II. Her other interests include drawing, gaming, tending the fern garden (had to be prehistoric plants) and walking her dog. The cat doesn’t much like walks!


Soul Strung

Book Two – the Stones of Power Series by Rachel Hobbs

“Soul Strung” – the Stones of Power Series. Rachel Hobbs, 2021

There’s a whole lot of stories out there about vampires and demons and a broad range of supernatural creatures, but so many of them end up following the same pattern and the result is a flat, “seen-it-all-before” final product that leaves the reader disappointed, if not deluded, by the waste of time and money.

Soul Strung does not belong to that category. It is instead a fresh, brilliant and, as much as it could, realistic portrait of demon-human relationships. The story begins with Ruby, the protagonist, wondering about this piece of jewellery her grandmother left her: there is something uncommon about it, but Ruby doesn’t know that the pendant is called lapis vitae, the stone of life, which makes the owner untouchable and immortal.

What also Ruby doesn’t know is that creatures from other dimensions are after this particular stone. The charming and dark figure that made her head turn in the bar where she works, Drayvex, in one of them. He is the Demon Lord and darkness incarnate, who’s on Earth to obtain the lapis vitae and use it, back in his dark world, against Saydor, a traitor demon who’s actually trying to depose Drayvex from his throne and become the new king and destroy humanity.

Unfortunately for them – but luckily for us – Saydor gets his hands on the lapis vitae, in a very difficult battle where Dayvex is forced to choose between the stone and Ruby’s life, leaving Saydor free to go.

We then need a Plan B to save the situation, or die trying, and while we rush against time – to get Saydor, to save Ruby, to save the Earth too – we have these two brilliant, witty and stubborn characters who never fail to voice their displease or underline their specific view on any matter.

Between twists and turns and difficult decisions, the plot moves forward almost effortlessly, rich of events and memorable moments. The characters are very well painted and far from being cliché: she doesn’t cling on him, he doesn’t fall for her beauty the first second he sees her and it actually takes them time to grow close. They are both stubborn and volitive and, despite the changes in their relationship, they maintain their main traits.

The narration may result confused at times, the narrating voice is omniscient but too close to each character and there are some passages where it’s not exactly clear who is talking, but that is an easily forgotten mishap, thanks to the amiability of the story, the curiosity that it naturally instils in the readers and the amazing ending that of course, I won’t be spoilering.

This far, Ruby and Dayvex have the best romantic, non-toxic, not cliché relationship I’ve ever come across in a book. An extremely pleasant surprise that leaves you hungry for more.

Soul Strung is available for purchase at:

About Rachel Hobbs

Rachel lives in South West Wales, where she hibernates with her bearded dragon and her husband. By day she is a dental nurse at a small local practice. By night, she writes.

​Her debut novel Shadow-Stained is the first in a dark fantasy series for adults, inspired by her dark and peculiar experiences with narcolepsy and parasomnia. She’s since subjugated her demons, and writes under the tenuous guise that they work for her.

​Fuelled by an unhealthy amount of coffee, she writes about hard-boiled monsters with soft centres and things that go bump in the night. ​



Writing Theory (Part 1): The Story

In a series of articles starting today, our Chief Editor Ella analyses the main principles of creative writing

Image by Mystic Art Design from Pixabay

So, you are a writer…That means that you, just like me, are part of that broad, eccentric category of people called ‘artists’. Welcome!

Let’s make two things clear from the very beginning:

  1. You have a special talent that not many have, which is staring at the void and see and hear, but not in a serial killer way; and
  2. You have no idea how you are doing what you are doing, even less if you are doing it decently or, heavens help us, well.

Being a writer means sitting in front of a blank page and not seeing the blank page at all. For you, and me, and any other just like us, it’s like a cinema screen: when the lights go out, the film start to reel and the magic begins.

How we do that, we will never know. It just happens, like it happens that a kid is able to kick a ball or solve complex math problems without blinking an eye. But talent without discipline is nothing. Just because you are able to see a story on a blank page it doesn’t mean you will actually be able to put that story on the blank page, even less that you will do so in a way comprehensible to others.

If we have to break down the act of writing to its components, we can say that writing is a bunch of basic rules, a lot of polishing and a ton of reading. To be a good writer you have to be, first and foremost, an exceptional reader. There are no two ways around it. What you read doesn’t matter: there is plenty to learn from different reads, even instruction manuals and comics.

But before we discuss point of views, grammar or the importance of being consistent with verb tenses, let’s talk about the most important thing of all: the story.

What is a story? And why does it deserve to be told?

A story is an ordered sequence of events, put together in the best possible way according to a set of rules we all agree on. It has a beginning, a development and an end. However, given essays or newspaper articles are also an ordered sequence of events with a beginning, a devolvement and an end, why are they not a story?

The key is the concept of transformation: the events in a story ordered in a sequence that underlines the transformation of one into another: we begin with a stable situation, its equilibrium is disturbed and this disruption sets into motion a series of actions that, eventually, will lead to a new stable situation.

To make a story something more than just a sequence of events, you need the plot, which is nothing more than a crafted plan of the events you want to tell.

Christopher Booker (irony!) has actually written an amazing book about it called The Seven Basic Plots. It’s a terrific read and I suggest you get a copy too and keep it on your shelf, between Syd Field’s Screenplay and the Oxford English Dictionary. The basic principle is that no matter what the story is about, there are no more than seven types of plot and every story you tell can be traced back to one of them. It’s true, and it has been true since before the first Greek authors put pen on paper to transcribe what, up to then, had only been transmitted orally. This, though, doesn’t stop the publishing of new books, as it doesn’t stop readers from reading them. 

And this leads us to answer the question: why do we write a story if there are already so many out there and we stand no chance of writing something completely unheard of?

Because even if the plots are only seven, there is nothing out there like what we are writing and this distinctiveness is given by ourselves, by the experiences we lived and by the unique way we see the world. There will always be space for a new story. So don’t be afraid of not being original, because plot-wise you won’t be. But the way you will tell others how your characters met and what they had to overcome in order to have their happily ever after doesn’t exist yet. Happy Writing!

The Seven Basic Plots: An Overview


A “good” main character and an evil villain that is threatening to destroy the main character or the place where they live. The main character will do all they can to avoid it.


The main character starts their life as a poor, desperate soul. Throughout the narration, they gain power, wealth or a mate, will end up losing it all but getting it back and growing as a person.


The protagonist, usually accompanied by a mate or a team, is set out to acquire a specific object or go to a specific place. Along the way, though, they will be tempted and diverted.


The main character usually find themselves a stranger in a strange land. After overcoming a series of threats and difficult situations, they will make it back, enriched with a new wisdom.


A light and cheerful character triumphs over adverse circumstances, conflict becomes more and more confusing, since they will get themselves into bigger problems while trying to solve the previous one, but the result is a happy ending.


The main character is a hero with a major flaw, which in the end will be their ruin and cause of great pity for their fall.


An unexpected event forces the main character to go out their usual path, or change the way they live their life, until they understand the source of their mistake, change their behaviour after learning an important lesson, and carry on living as better people.


Project Eight Ball (Books One & Two)

Flash Back and Extreme Peril by John Turiano

Project Eight Ball Series. John Turiano, 2020

What if time travel was a possibility? What if it actually was a reality and people could move back and forth in time? What alterations would it cause and what would be the consequences?

That’s what John Turiano delves into with his Project Eight Ball Series (three books in total so far).

In Book One, Turiano considers the possibility of going in the past and describes the vicissitudes of a group of scientists studying time travel. How great would it be to go back in time and prevent events with considerable impact on world history? We all probably would love that. Unfortunately, each time trip opens a new dimension, some sort of alternate reality, where the untampered reality keeps existing, while the new one develops in parallel. 

Problem is, not everyone goes back in time to prevent catastrophic events. Ultima Imperium is an example. Ultima Imperium, a radical secret society rooting back into 18th century Illuminati and considering itself the “Final Reich”, are using time travel to shape a new reality where they will be the only winners.

Book Two presents an alternate universe xenophobic Germany, no longer part of the European Union, where a black American soldier is accused of raping a civilian white girl. Ultima Imperium is behind a lot of decisions and the fear of an incurable disease pretty similar to Ebola has everyone on edge. It’s a scary, out of control situation that no one seems capable of stopping.

With events being unpredictably altered by a multitude of players and references to a too close home reality (unstoppable pandemics, the rise of far right movements), the book is a captivating, hard to put down read. Turiano depicts some very strong characters, each of them characterised in a way that is reminiscent of 1940s noir stories. However, the pace is somehow broken by the too frequent changes of narrative voice, space and time, unsettling the reader just like the characters are when they time travel. The lack of basic descriptions leaves a sense of dissatisfaction for not drawing the reader more into such a brilliant fictional world and idea, making us live, breathe and see what the protagonists are seeing.

But all in all, this is one of the best time-travel ideas I’ve come across since Back to the Future. As the author reiterates on a number of occasions, time travel presents an incredible paradox: if you went back in time and killed your grandfather, you would actually prevent your father and yourself from being born, but if you don’t exist, how can you kill your grandfather? Turiano, keeping this paradox top of mind the whole time, is able to escape it an a magistral way.

The Series is available to purchase at:

About John Turiano

John is the author of three time travel adventures, blending science fiction and history in an exciting new way. He wants to write in multiple genres and next up is a psychological thriller.

John lives in upstate New York with his wife Sue and their dog Duffy. When not writing he can be found camping, hiking and biking. His most recent trips: Puerto Rico, where he hiked the El Yunque National Rain Forest; Alaska where he visited the Denali National Park; and Mexico where he explored the ruins of Tulum and an amazing river cave.