Book Review: Corona by M.J. Heiser

Long past the Age of Wonder, several thirty-somethings form an unlikely band of adventurers in the fair landof Jaenrye. Can they keep at bay the seemingly unstoppable power of a creature determined to destroy the magic they can’t bring themselves to believe in?

Tom Strausser is a lonely failed musician with a day job he hates. Rose Smith thinks she could be a best-selling novelist, but can’t be bothered to spend time writing. Father Rey Lopez was a rising star in the Catholic Church until depravity got the best of him.

All three of these everyday nobodies are pulled from the world they know and are forced to find out what they’re really made of, confronting their own cowardice, malice, and complacency. Will they rise to the challenge, despite themselves? 

When I read the blurb, I was prepared to read a Chronicles of Narnia clone. I thought it was going to be a sappy story with no bite or reason behind the tale, a smooth fantasy that would entertain me, but not hold me or make me think about anything.

However, “Corona” is anything but a Narnia clone. From the start, you are made incredibly aware that this is an adult fantasy story.

All of the characters are beautifully rounded. Rose is introduced as a dreamy child whose mother thinks she’s not practical enough and when we rejoin her as an adult, we find that she’s had constant put downs and disappointments, causing her to need therapy.

Father Rey is a curiously charming, yet scarily evil catholic priest (I won’t tell you why he’s scary – go read the book!) and Tom Strausser is a drunken, stifled bassist…

All of the Outworld characters are drawn into a world that they end up becoming part of and in the process, discovering more about themselves than they ever dreamed.

The Jaenrye characters are a seamless blend of pure fantasy and modern world. My favourite is Jimbo St. James, a teetotal Barkeep in Ellerdag. He’s so friendly and very much like various bar people I have known over the years. The other characters lend their voices in such a realistic fashion that you begin to wonder if you are reading the book or listening to it!

MJ Heiser’s style is easy to read and the language is perfectly used; even the swear words are in context and in character for the people speaking them.

The story itself is pretty much your normal “Hero rides in to save the Heroine who can save the world” plot. However, the characters and the world building have freshened the plot up and created an original story that is a joy to read and leaves you wishing that you could extend your stay in Jaenrye.

I can thoroughly recommend this book to all adult fantasy readers. I will be reading and reviewing the second book in the series, “Canticle”, next month. I suggest that you pick up a copy of “Corona” and catch up with the story, as this is one series you are going to want to collect.

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Adventure awaits you… in Choose or Die!

Once upon a time (don’t all good stories start that way?), young adult readers of the mid-to-late 80s had far more power than they have now.  They had the power to determine the fates of the characters in the books they read. 

I was one of those young readers. I revelled in the “Choose your own Adventure” books and read them over, and over again.

So, when a friend, MJ Heiser announced her intention of collaborating with the wonderful Steven Novak  in a website version that paid homage to those wonderful books, I jumped into reading the stories immediately. Written by adults, for adults, the Choose or Die website takes the basic premise of the children’s books and spices it up a little more.

And I was in heaven.

The role-player in me has always said, “But what if they did this?” to every book, especially ones where I am re-reading for the umpteenth time. It’s one of the reasons that I became a writer. Then Steven and I became friends through various different conversations and he invited me to join the Choose or Die team.

I moved directly up the ladder to cloud nine at that point!

I’ve taken part in two stories since then and I’ve had a lot of fun with the chapters, but even more fun with the kill scenes! No, I’m not a psychopath, I just enjoy a challenge.

Anyway, back to the point of this post…

Choose or Die is a great website and I’m thrilled to be a member of the Team. We started a brand new story just recently and I thought you might like to take a look –

This one promises to be just as crazy and fun as the last two. I’ve already written one kill scene and as we have only got to Chapter Three, it would be a good time to catch up!

Follow the link below to get to Chapter One –

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoy writing it!