EMPIRE PALADIN: Descent into Hell

The powerful, gripping conclusion to the EMPIRE PALADIN series!

A tale of dark, brutal, and gritty historical fantasy.

The year is 1241.

The righteous (some might claim self-righteous) paladin knight, Camila Chastaine, is being hunted for her attempted murder upon a high-ranking official of the Holy Church. 

Camila’s former allies, the paladin, Talitha, and the sorceress, Fausta, join in the task of bringing Camila to justice.

A summons is sent to a western realm requesting the aid of a devout, zealous holy warrior, a Knight Templar, to assist in tracking down the rogue paladin.  The Templar’s reputation is well known throughout the Templar Order as an utterly merciless and ruthless soldier of the Holy Church.

As Camila seeks to evade capture and absolve herself of the accused crimes, that ancient evil, the Prince of Hell, who has so tormented her now delights in the opportunity to finally claim her soul!

Copyright © 2020 by M. S. Valdez.

EMPIRE PALADIN: Blood of the Unholy

The pulse-pounding followup to Empire Paladin: Realm of the Dead.

A tale of dark, brutal, and gritty historical fantasy.

The year is 1241.

The devout, righteous, paladin knight, Camila Chastaine, sets out on a journey to discover the truth of her past; a past of tragic demonic possession only hinted at through whispers from Satan, Prince of Hell.

Camila’s companions, her fellow paladins Talitha and Atrael, along with the sorceress, Fausta, are sent on a mission to determine the cause of several mysterious deaths in a distant mountain outpost.

An ancient terror of the night awakens from its long slumber; and blood begins to flow, the blood of the unholy.

Will the truth that Camila seeks destroy the few remaining threads of her sanity, or will the awakening of primal evil be her ultimate demise and that of her friends?

Copyright © 2019 by M. S. Valdez.

EMPIRE PALADIN: Realm of the Dead

A tale of dark, brutal, and gritty historical fantasy.

The year is 1241. The Holy Roman Empire is being torn apart both by civil war and invading forces from foreign lands. The Pope has recently died leaving the Holy Church in turmoil while an ambitious Emperor seeks to consolidate his power and his holdings in the resulting power vacuum.

Camila Chastaine, a devout and righteous, paladin knight in service of the Holy Church, struggles in her duties to protect a realm of the Empire. As Camila fights to maintain order, she receives an urgent summons from Rome regarding a new threat to the Empire: a traitorous fellow paladin who has corrupted his divine powers to raise an army of undead soldiers bent on the destruction of all life. As Camila joins with her comrades to confront this peril, little does she realize that she will soon face an even greater evil in a battle for her mind and soul.

Copyright © 2015 by M. S. Valdez.

Novel Map

I realize that the map in my novel came out somewhat small in the Kindle version.  I’ve added a larger version on this website.  You can click on it to see more detail.

Holy Roman Empire 13th Century

**REVIEW** – The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell.

Why, why, why did I not read this novel sooner?! As a obsessed fan over anything Arthurian legend, this is the novel (nay, the trilogy) that (trust me) you will want to listen to satisfy any craving for a take on the famous tale.

Bernard Cornwell’s rich take on the legend of King Arthur is so steeped in history and realism that you will completely believe it could have actually occurred.

The familiar characters, Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, Merlin, etc., etc. are so well fleshed out that you will feel as if you are right there in the story with them. Are there a few twists and unexpected surprises to this rendition of the tale? Yes, and they make it all the more interesting!

A must read for any fan of the Arthurian Legend.

*Review* – A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

For most of this book, I wasn’t quite sure of how the story was going to go, or what was going to become of the main characters. It certainly keeps you guessing throughout.

The novel follows the life of a family: husband, wife, two daughters; who are going through normal everyday struggles. Except, of course, when the eldest daughter, Marjorie, seems to become “possessed”. This leads to a lot of family conflicts, some truly horrific. The youngest daughter, Mary (8), is trying to make sense of the turmoil around her. Mary is also very troubled about what is happening to her older sister given how much she looks up to her.

A reality TV show producer decides to document the family’s struggle with this possession. This is a boon and curse to the family as it means much needed income, but an invasion of their privacy and their lives as protesters descend on their house en masse.

While I figured the book would end in some cliche tidy bow, it certainly did not. It floored me! High recommended!

**REVIEW** The Fold by Peter Clines

(review of the audiobook)

This sci-fi tale chronicles the journey of Mike, a high-school teacher, who has a very rare and unique ability to remember EVERYTHING that he sees and hear with exact recall. And he can flip through his memories at will. He’s sort of a human super-computer. Mike is approached by a friend, who works in special projects with the DoD, to assist the government on a new technology that is being developed: the ability to fold space and make near-instantaneous travel between any two points in space. Think StarGate or Star Trek’s teleportation machine.

I had a hard time believing that Mike, with his extraordinary ability, would have ever decided to remain a high school teacher, but I was willing to make the leap of logic. Of course, the special DoD project goes awry and it’s up to Mike and his amazing ability to try and save the world (or worlds).

A few things bugged me (pun intended) about how the author describes Mike’s ability. He uses a metaphor of ants marching through Mike’s brain showing him images of whatever memory Mike needs to recall at that moment. It’s fine to use the metaphor a few times, but using it incessantly gets annoying. Also, describing how Mike has a habit of pausing a few seconds before making a response just got silly and pointless (unless there was some deeper hidden meaning that I missed, oh well).

The novel has typical Peter Clines cliche characters: the ultra-smart protagonist, the sexy-hot-smart chick who falls in love with the protagonist and just wants to have sex with the protagonist, the disposable side characters, etc.

The ending got really kooky and far too-much-over-the-top for me to take it seriously. Which was disappointing because, up to that point, the novel was very captivating.

The narrator has done Peter Clines’ books before and again does a very good job.

An entertaining, if somewhat ridiculous, sci-fi story.

**REVIEW** Daemon by Daniel Suarez

(this is a review of the audiobook)

Considering that this book was originally published (self-published) back in 2006, it feels very futuristic as if events described in the novel may occur within our real world in the next few years.

The main plot involves a billionaire computer guru, Matthew Sobol, who dies from a terminable disease and unleashes a malevolent artificial intelligence (the daemon) that begins to infiltrate various corporations, government agencies, and military organizations. It takes over these entities via its own programming, coercion, or utilizing personnel within those organizations.

As the plot moves along, it switches to different perspectives such as those who are trying to stop the daemon and those who are assisting the daemon. Detective Peter Sebeck and a military operative, Merritt, are among those attempting to shut the daemon down, while a young programming guru, Gragg, and and a convict, Mosley, are those that work for the daemon for various promised rewards or prestige. There are other side characters, but those I’ve mentioned are the most prominent and the most interesting; the ones that truly drive the story.

The author is obviously very knowledgeable of the tech industry as his descriptions of programming and IT related details are greatly detailed and provide a high plausibility to the story; but not overwhelmingly so.

The few quibbles I have with the overall plot is the cliche billionaire tech genius who goes mad and decides that he needs to force his own ideals upon the world (in the form of Sobol). It’s too easy to have the billionaire character drive the entire reason for a story’s plot (think Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark in the Marvel Universe) and too contrived. Additionally, one of the main targets of Sobol seems to be rather silly.

The finale of this book (it’s book 1 of 2) was quite action packed and exciting; but with a few overly dramatic moments.

The narrator is quite talented being able to voice a wide variety of characters and accents.

Overall, if you like high tech and the threat of artificial intelligence overtaking the world, this would be a great listen.
Definitely recommended!

**REVIEW** The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

(this is a review of the audio book)

“Vivid and Visceral!”

Aside from a few nitpicks, I have to say I really enjoyed this book.

The story is set in the MidWest, particularly the areas of Phoenix, AZ and Las Vegas, NV. It’s an undetermined period in the near future where water has become extremely scarce due to a superdrought in the Western part of USA. The author alludes to climate change being the culprit for this terrible drought that has caused millions to try to make their way out of Texas and Mexico in search of a better environment in Nevada, Cali, Oregon, etc.

The story alternates between three main characters: Angel, the “water-knife” of the title, who is more of an enforcer of who gets to keep their water flowing and who gets it turned off; Lucy, a “journo” who is a freelance reporter trying to figure out a way to help her city of Phoenix stay alive, and Maria, a young girl who dreams of making it to a better place than Phoenix, which Maria is convinced is all but dead.

Angel seemed to be, in my opinion, very similar to a cartel-type or mafia-type “lieutenant” who has a job to do and regardless of how messy or terrible that job might become, he’s still going to get it done. He’s the most intriguing character of the story and very well written.

The writing and superb use of dialogue between the characters is quite good at painting a vivid picture of this desperate world and the desperate people within it. The narrator also does an adequate job with the various characters.

**spoiler**
The few knocks I have against the book overall is that the main character, Angel, seems somewhat cheapened in the story’s conclusion by decisions that he makes. I would have expected someone who is more hard-bitten and hard-boiled to be much more ruthless than he turned out to be. This seems to be more of the author wanting to make Angel into a hero than a realistic character in the environment of this world.

Also, the plot conveniences that allow certain characters to escape from near impossible, life-threatening situations gets to be a bit much.

Bottom line, this book was very entertaining, thought-provoking, and certainly recommended!