Monday, September 27, 2010

CSFF Blog Tour: Venom and Song Day One

Venom and Song: The Berinfell Prophecies Series - Book TwoTime for another blog tour. This month's offering is Venom and Song by Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper, the second volume in The Berinfell Prophecies series. Many readers of the first volume, Curse of the Spider King, complained about the large number of characters. There are seven protagonists and a host of other "people" from at least six different races as the authors call them. Fortunately, readers don't have to keep track of the arachnids. I read the first book a month ago in preparation for this tour so the protagonists were fresh in my mind when I picked up book two.

To briefly summarize the story, Venom and Song begins where Curse of the Spider King ended. The seven lords and their Elven protectors have crossed through the portal from Earth to Allyra. A force of Elves meets them to escort the lords to Nightwish Caverns, where the Elves have lived since the sacking of Berinfell. A detachment of Gwar attack them. The elves fight their way back to the caverns, giving the lords a chance to test their formidable but still immature gifts. The lords are feted and crowned (a bit overwhelming for some Junior High kids) then taken to Whitehall--a remote castle--for military training. The Elvish leaders want the lords to lead an attack on Vesper Crag, the Spider King's stronghold, as soon as possible. They learn much about fighting and, more importantly, teamwork. They also discover some unsavory facts about Elvish history. Events force the lords to leave Whitehall on their own. They travel the forest in search of the keystone and the rainsong mentioned in the prophecies. With the help of the Gnomes, they complete their quest and return to Nightwish to prepare for the attack on Vesper Crag. The epic battle between the forces of the Elves and the Spider King dominates the last quarter of the book. The Elves ultimately prevail, thanks in large part to the rainsong which brings help from the creator in the form of an overwhelming change in the weather. The Spider King meets his end (we think) but the victory is not with cost. One of the lords dies.

That brief synopsis does not do justice to the panoply of exotic creatures and places that Batson and Hopper present in Venom and Song. Allyra is a vast place waiting to be explored. Nor does it cover the various subplots, the most chilling of which is the Spider King's unfolding plan to invade and conquer Earth. I'm guessing that seed will be the focus of the next book in the series.

Unlike Curse of the Spider King in which the point of view jumps around between the seven protagonists, Venom and Song is primarily Tommy's story. Early in their training at Whitehall, Tommy emerges as the natural leader of the seven. He is an unlikely candidate, a misfit back on Earth with little self-confidence. Only Kat and Jimmy are more unlikely leaders. Jett, the star athlete with incredible strength and healing powers, would have been the obvious choice, but Tommy's innate sense of caution and sense that he cannot carry the team on his own shoulders makes him the perfect choice for leadership. He grows into his role as the story progresses and the others defer to him. As Tommy's role as the point-of-view character in the story expands, we come to know him more than the others. The exception is Kat, the mind talker who can read other's thoughts and push her own thoughts into other's heads. She and Tommy share a budding romance though neither has openly expressed their feelings to the other.

A Dr. Evil impersonator.
The previous book in the series tells much of the back story in Allyra through a series of excerpts from a book on the history of the Elves. I enjoyed those book-within-a-book sections and am sad to report that Venom and Song contains nothing like them. Venom and Song also lacks a map of Allyra. While a map is not essential for following the action, the story moves between various locations and without a map, it is difficult to understand the geographical relationships.

Before I end this post, I have to mention something amusing. The Spider King, who lurks backstage for Curse of the Spider King, comes on stage, front and center, for this volume. Every time he appears in a scene, an image flashes through my head. It's Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers movies. I tried to fight it at first but gave up and just equated the Spider King with Dr. Evil. It's easy to picture Dr. Evil sitting in some map room, playing with figurines, imagining that he's controlling the world. I hope that doesn't ruin the story for anyone, but it's a good excuse to post a picture of Dr. Evil.

Tomorrow I'll discuss aspects of the story that bothered me.

Photo Credit: Attributed to Edans. This image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of Venom and Song from the publisher.

To learn more about the authors, visit their blogs:

Wayne Thomas Batson  –
Christopher Hopper –

To learn what the other CSFF bloggers are saying, follow the links below:

Brandon Barr
Keanan Brand
Amy Browning
Beckie Burnham
Morgan L. Busse
Melissa Carswell
Valerie Comer
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
April Erwin
Tori Greene
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Timothy Hicks
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner

Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
Donita K. Paul
Sarah Sawyer
Chawna Schroeder
Tammy Shelnut
James Somers
Kathleen Smith
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Jason Waguespac
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler
Jill Williamson


  1. Hi, Jeff! Thanks for getting so involved, for reading both books in the series, and then taking all the time required to write an analysis. The Dr. Evil image is HILARIOUS! Kudos for finding a way to connect him in. I found your analysis of Tommy as leader to be very insightful. Christopher and I are looking forward to a great tour with you.

  2. Hi, Wayne. Thanks for stopping by. Glad you liked the Dr. Evil reference. I was worried no one would find that as amusing as I did.

  3. Jeff, I'm glad to know someone else noticed the absence of a map. There were several times I looked for one (thought I just had to have missed it). In a different world like this, it seems a map is almost a necessity.

    Good thoughts, though I didn't feel like this was Tommy's story. Even though the POV was more omniscient than multiple, I thought the story still highlighted different ones of the lords at different times.

    Looking forward to what else you'll have to say.