S.E. Zbasnik



My Book Story: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

S.E. Zbasnik


My favorite book should be something out of the science fiction or fantasy oeuvre. Perhaps from the grandfather of fantasy, Tolkien, or something by Verne, or those rare funny sci-fi fantasy writers, Pratchett and Adams? While I do love them (except for Verne – I can’t stand British literature from the romantic period. Deal with it, Dickens!) my favorite book has nothing to do with speculative fiction.

I first learned about its existence from a talking dog. Specifically, a Wishbonetalking dog with a massive renn-faire wardrobe and a show on PBS. Wishbone introduced me to a lot of the classics that our test-focused education system skipped over, but nothing held my attention and love the way The Count of Monte Cristo does.

TCOMCWritten by Alexandre Dumas, it’s about Edmond Dantés, a man who’s about to have everything. He was just promoted to captain and is about to marry a woman he adores. The only problem in his life is that he puts too much trust in people. They all conspire to take away Edmond’s promotion, his fiancé, and money by tossing him into Château d’If. In prison, Edmond befriends an old man who teaches him how to write and read as well as pointing out the conspiracy against him. On his death bed, he tells Edmond about an island with more coin than god.

Breaking out of prison by sewing himself into his friend’s death sack, Edmond discovers the island and with it vows to take revenge. What follows is another 600 pages of the most intricate vengeance I’ve ever read. Sure, there’s absolutely no way his plans were plausible. And, in order to afford half the shit the Count of Monte Cristo does, somewhere a small country went bankrupt. And how did spending a decade in a prison keep Edmond looking so youthful? Can we convince the 1%ers that a couple decades in prison will reverse aging?

But none of that matters, because what I love, what keeps pulling me back, are the complex threads Edmond’s woven for years for that final day when he needs to only give a light tug for all his enemies to come crashing down. The best part is that he doesn’t have to hurt them himself. Instead, he relies upon their own greed and hubris, ferreting out their secrets and quietly bringing them to light. A few road blocks are thrown up — he winds up having to save a girl from her own stepmother’s poisoning because the son of the only man left to care for Edmond loves her. And his ex-fiance who married one of the men that wounded Edmond recognizes the Count and begs for her son’s life. She doesn’t care if he hurts Ferdinand when the truth is revealed and Edmond relents.

The Count of Monte Cristo is karma itself, a mysterious figure who floats into Parisian society to reward the virtuous and punish the wicked. It’s a tale of vengeance that despite there no longer being court society, fears of Napoleon, or everyone passing out in corsets resonates with the human need for justice. Deep in our conscience we know how fragile and illusive justice truly is. To keep going we need to believe there is some balance in the universe. That at the end, there’s a ledger tallied up. Rather than wait for a god to step in, Edmond does it himself.

Dumas, while not of the same literary talent of Hugo also doesn’t randomly dump his research into a few chapters and insist it’s theStoker most fascinating thing you’ve ever read. It’s a strange comparison, but I’d say Hugo is to Mary Shelly as Dumas is to Stoker. Everyone knows, or thinks they know the story of Frankenstein, the same can be said of Les Miserables or The Hunchback of Notre Dame. They’re novels wound up in a ball of romantic literary rhetoric. But Stoker’s Dracula is a much lighter read by comparison. The action is at the forefront, introspection occurs in small spurts and not massive passages, as does the Count.

I love The Count of Monte Cristo so much, in my search for an unabridged version, I’ve purchased five copies. It took getting the gilded one from Barnes & Noble to finally accomplish my life long task (Which leaves me with a lot of free time). I’ve read some okay abridged ones – they drop the neighbor’s storyline, and some god awful ones – abandoning Danglar’s fate despite that being Edmond’s final redemption from the avatar of vengeance. It’s a tale I adore so much I don’t want to miss a single word.

DIS coverS.E. Zbasnik is the author of the Dwarves in Space series – think Tolkien and Hitchhiker’s merged in a horrific transporter accident – as well as a bunch of other fantasy novels. You can find her on Twitter as well as Facebook, and hopefully not standing right behind you.






Check out our reviews of S.E. Zbasnik’s books:

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Win A Book Cover or Book Trailer from Sabrina Zbasnik!

Win A Book Cover or Book Trailer from Sabrina Zbasnik. Sabrina is an artist in every sense of the word. You can find her artwork on Etsy and her book covers on SelfPubBookCovers. Now she wants to work with you. She is giving away one book cover or book trailer. Her covers usually go for around $70.00 so this is a HUGE giveaway! Visit Sabrina’s site Introverted Wife for the full details and good luck!

P. S. She is the queen of clever crafting. If you’ve ever wanted your very own dragon egg, she’ll show you how to make one.

We snagged the example book covers to show you that you should ENTER NOW!



Dwarves In Space by Sabrina Zbasnik

Dwarves In Space by Sabrina Zbasnik


DIS coverBook DescriptionThousands of years after the jewelry’s destroyed, the sword reforged, the dragon ridden, and the indecipherable prophecy translated into a recipe for sugared biscuits, the dwarves turned to that final frontier: space. And along came the elves, orcs, gnomes, trolls, ogres, and those vermin-like upstarts, humans.

Dwarves in Space is Tolkien merged with Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in a horrific transporter accident.

The Elation-Cru is not the flashiest ship, nor the newest, or even has all of its bolts attached; but she can fly. Well, sort of wade through space, and that’s when all the parts are working. She supports a sugar addicted dwarven pilot, an elven engineer, an orcish doctor, a silent djinn, and the lone human trying to hold the entire thing together with duct tape. Variel, the captain, has been hiding from a secret for the past five years and time’s finally run out.

When she goes against her common sense and fights to save her onboard assassin/renter from a job gone sour, she finds herself before an ex-colleague that knew her in her previous life as the Knight of the realm. The entire ship is sent on a mad dash across the universe — from a decaying space station, home to the wackiest species the galaxy has to offer, down to the Orc homeworld, which wouldn’t be so bad if Variel hadn’t spent most of her previous life fighting in the war against them. Chances of survival are nil and slipping fast.

*A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.*

My Review: I love this book and I fully intend to read it again. It’s smart, funny, and so sharp that you could use it to open a spaceship like a tin can. Okay I’ll leave the humor to Sabrina Zbasnik.

This book has everything that I loved about The Kings Blood and more. (Like space. At some point I became a space opera junkie.) Memorable characters and the best one liners anywhere are what I have come to expect from Sabrina Zbasnik. She delivers on an intergalactic scale. ( I swear that was the last bad space joke. Promise.)

If you read the book description above then you saw this book described as “Tolkien merged with Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in a horrific transporter accident.” I completely agree with that. I would also say that there is some Firefly and Red Dwarf thrown in too for good measure. These are just a few of my favorite things.

I have to admit that I’m not really one for humor. There aren’t many things that I find funny but I find Sabrina Zbasnik’s humor completely accessible. She snatches the funny from thin air and shows us what was hiding there. It’s very clever and everyone knows how much I appreciate clever. I LOVED this book. Fun, funny, and entertaining this book has it all. It will be on my list of best books of 2015.

My only problem with Sabrina Zbasnik’s books is that they contain such epic stories that I can’t do them justice. I never know where to start and I can’t adequately describe how I feel about them because so much happens. She manages to make all the story lines important and none of them suffer as a result. It is my humble opinion that it takes a unique talent to pull that off. She honestly does write Tolkien- like stories.

Dwarves in Space will be released April 8th.

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Try our other reviews from this author:








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More Best Of

We promised more best of 2014 and here it is. These are the very first Modest Verge Awards. Enjoy and Happy New Year!


Best Female: (tie) Layla from The Harvesting by Melanie Karsak

Ciara from The Kings Blood by Sabrina Zbasnik

Irene Adler from Locked by Eva Morgan

Best Male: Romulus Buckle from The Chronicles of the Pneumatic Zeppelin by Richard Ellis Preston JR.

Best Villain: The Queen from A White So Red by K.D. Jones

Best Demon: Proserpine from The Jack Nightingale series by Stephen Leather

Best Use Of Zombies: Greywalker by Rayne Hall

Best Ghost: Misty Joe from Fallen On Good Times by Rewan Tremethick

Best Monster: Tanglers from Romulus Buckle and The City Of The Founders by Richard Ellis Preston Jr.

Best Use Of An Airship: Romulus Buckle and The Engines Of War by Richard Ellis Preston Jr. 

Best Fairytale Retelling: Red Of The Woods by Lana Axe

Best Fairytale Reimagined: Alice In Wonderland by Elle Lothlorien

Best Pet: Basil from A Hairy Tale by Jamie Campbell

Book That Made Me Cry: Ignoring Gravity by Sandra Danby

Quirky Character: Connor from Spirited Away by Angela Campbell

Best Wise Cracking Character: Isis from Lovely Vicious by Sara Wolf

Best Bad Boy: Brody from Fate by Sydney Lane

Dreamest Guy: Declan from Hope by Sydney Lane

Best Love Triangle: Lia, Kaden and Rafe from Kiss Of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

Best Kiss: Bryn and Roman from The Girl Inbetween by Laeken Zea Kemp

Best Comedy Duo: Frank and Seth from The Fruitcake by Caren Rich

Best Cover: Red Of The Woods by Lana Axe

Best Graphic Novel: The Hockey Saint by Howard Shapiro

Best Novella: Claimed by Lindsay Buroker



Do you agree with our picks? Do you have some of your own? Let us know.


Original Background Image: Theater, Curtain by Wounds_and_Cracks from Pixaby.com

Best Of 2014


Another year is gone. That fact would be really sad if the best of list wasn’t my favorite of the year. This year we read some amazing books. My year appears to be made up of books featuring unique female characters. Even if they were not the main characters they were still amazing. Looking back on this year I also find that I love airships. There are more airships to come next year. I know this for a fact because I just bought a slue of them. Jessica’s year was made up of love triangles and sleeping beauties. Fun stuff.

I like knowing where I’ve been so that I know where I’m going. My resolution for next year is to read more steampunk and possibly more graphic novels. So let’s end 2014 with a love fest of the best books we read this year and then we’ll tell you about our awards for New Year’s day. Be sure not to miss our Friday post about the books we bought this month and will be reading next year.

Our requirements for this list were:

1) We had to have read the book in 2014

2) It had to be a full length novel

Without further ado here is our list of the best books that we read in 2014. These are in no special order.








The Girl In Between by Laeken Zea Kemp

 Fate by Sydney Lane

 The Harvesting by Melanie Karsak

 Spirited Away by Angela Campbell

 Queen Of Hearts: The Crown by Colleen Oakes

 Kiss Of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

 Cop Town by Karin Slaughter

 Hope by Sydney Lane

 Dark Bites by Sherilyn Kenyon

 Kiss A Girl In The Rain by Nancy Warren







Romulus Buckle and the Engines Of War by Richard Ellis Preston Jr.

Locked by Eva Morgan

Fallen On Good Times by  Rewan Tremethick

Take Me Tomorrow by Shannon A. Thompson

The Kings Blood by Sabrina Zbasnik

Awakening Foster Kelly by Cara R. Olsen

Sea Of Secrets by Amanda  Dewees

Lovely Vicious by Sara Wolf

Deadly Curiosities by Gail Z. Martin

Skin Game by Jim Butcher


There you have it. These were the best books that we read in 2014. Come back tomorrow and we will tell you what books we awarded special consideration to like best demon and best use of zombies. We had an amazing 2014 and we hope you did too. Happy New Year!

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Author Interview with Sabrina Zbasnik

Today’s author interview is with the truly great Sabrina Zbasnik author of The King’s Blood.  We asked her some silly questions and some rather serious ones.  She gave us fun, informative answers in true Sabrina Zbasnik fashion which means that they are sharp smart answers that you’re going to enjoy reading.  So without further ado please enjoy our interview with Sabrina Zbasnik.
1. Do you prefer crushed or cubed ice? Crushed, that way it’s much harder for the ice golem to reconstitute itself.
2. Do you kill bugs or set them free? I set most of them free. The only bugs I will hunt down mercilessly are mosquitoes and hornets/wasps. Then I go full Raid Rambo.AHFS_cover
3. What is your favorite color? Blue, because Octeen hasn’t been discovered yet.
4.  If you could be a character in any fantasy novel ever written who would it be?  I’ll go with Granny Weatherwax in the Discworld novels because no one messes with Granny. She’s the female version of Gandalf.
5.  If you were in your very own fairy tale would you rather be the fire breathing dragon or the sword wielding heroine? You always go dragon.
1.  Have you always been a fan of epic fantasy? Oh boy, right off the bat I’m gonna get myself into big trouble. Honest truth, I picked up the first Narnia book and hated it. It wasn’t grounded enough in reality for my tastes. Because of that I avoided the classic/epic fantasy for a long time. I read Goosebumps like all kids my age and played around in horror type fantasy and was a huge sci-fi fan. Animorphs was my jam in middle school. But it wasn’t until high school that I attempted Tolkien and fell hopelessly for the historically focused fantasy. Later, I found the magic of Discworld and loved the combination of science, humor, and fantasy. It was perfect for me.  What I do like about fantasy, and genre in general, is that you can easily twist it to be allegorical. With classic historical fiction you’re confined within human stereotypes, what people think happened in that time. With fantasy you can flip the script on something to highlight a strange or disturbing foible of human nature.
dictionary2.  As a reader I can’t imagine how you keep such a gigantic story straight as you write it.  How do you go about it and are there post-its everywhere? The King’s Blood took about four months to write the first draft. I always have the basic plot in my head before the first word is put down, focusing on the beats, what major obstacles will have to happen; but it’s the little stuff that creeps up along the way that throws me. Like Isa’s walking stick. It began more as a side joke, the witch with her wand that she can hit people with. But then I kept forgetting about it. There were drafts when she’d lose the damn thing for months, then suddenly it’d pop up again. That’s what editing’s for.
The worst is probably random names. I’d toss out the name of a place, a god, an old friend and then 40 pages later I make a reference back only I can’t remember what it was.  Then I lose a half hour combing through the manuscript to find the name before I can continue. Now, when I put down something like that, I jot it on the side in the research notes. With fantasy and genre one tends to use weird names in general, and my trick to spelling it properly from the get go is to add it to my word processor’s dictionary. It’s the spell check’s problem now.
3.  Your characters are complex.  What is most important to you when you’re creating your fascinating characters?  I suppose I want them to be believable. It makes me sound wacky, but I feel less like I’m god creating stories and more I’m the dungeon master. I gave these pieces their setting, now to sit back and see what they do and maybe throw a random encounter or two in. Characters often do something unexpected. Like Isa and Ciara not getting on due to religious differences. I hadn’t set out to have it happen, but it came up and I ran with it because it made sense to me. I’ll also have characters that refuse to do what I tell them. Taban was the worst. He had some vital backstory he needed to share but he would not talk about himself no matter how many times I threatened to get him stabbed. It reached the point I was afraid I’d never get it out of him and have to find some other way to stick it in there.
4.  You recently wrote a blog post about female characters.  The tagline “Strong Female Character” has become a catch phrase full of everything that a strong female character really isn’t.  What do you think it will take to shift popular thinking and what can female readers do to help shape the landscape so that authors and screenwriters choose to create actual strong female characters? I fear that a large part of the problem is this assumption that boys won’t read books with female main characters, boys won’t see movies with female heroes. It’s all about boys, boys, boys. You’d think Hollywood execs were teenage girls the way they go on about boys. We’ve become obsessed with gender dimorphism. Girls are only pink, boys are only blue, to the point we have color coded servingware for Processed by: Helicon Filter;kids and god help you if you eat off the wrong one. And since separate is never equal, it enforces the coded message of everything boy = good, everything girl = bad. Which is when you get that in order for girls to be interesting, to be worthy of listening to she has to act masculine, almost hyper masculine. She has to punch things through walls, she has to belch and fart, she has to never ever talk to another girl and declare herself “one of the guys.”
It is the nature of the beast, but because the female voice is equivalent to 1/10th of a male, those boys are the ones who can still enact real change. Getting boys to watch movies like Brave, to see other girls not as some unknowable species but a person like them is a huge and necessary step. It’s coming slowly. Things like My Little Ponies crossing the gender demilitarized zone helps greatly. Rising up and demanding it, making voices heard is all that gets through. Like the recent Assassin’s Creed fight about including female assassins. We’re sick of being treated like some abnormality. We’re over 50% of the population, not some tiny subset you have to cater to. I fear it is a fight that will never end.
5.  What inspired you to include zombies in The Kings Blood? I needed something to show the power the unstable magic had, a reason why everyone is working for this end goal. Walking dead seemed a pretty great deterrent. Also, it gave me an excuse to have a nameless horde for the heroes to fight off. I’m not a fan of black and white, good vs evil, but I couldn’t logically send a couple of untrained teenagers onto a real battlefield and expect them to survive. So, the magic zombies came into being.
big_italian_cheese_edit6.  What would you go on an epic adventure for?  What would be your goal? Cheese, I would go on an epic adventure for cheese. Preferably to eat it. Destroying it would be hard, because then I would lose the power to control all the cheese in the world.
7.  You have a lot of clever one liners in this book.  Do they just come to you when you write and do you have a favorite? Some come up when I’m in the middle of writing. Some I think of when I’m outlining the scene, usually while walking or doing other mindless tasks. For a few I put in a placeholder joke, something so terrible I groan every time I read it, to force myself to come back later and add a better one. Though there are plenty of times while editing I’ll read a joke and think “I have no idea what in the hell I meant here. Delete!”
One of my favorites is probably the exchange between Ciara and Aldrin:
“Did your father have a lot of enemies?”
“He was king. If he didn’t have enemies, he wasn’t doing it right.” It’s a nice little microcosm of all the drawbacks of this royalty thing and why wanting to be king is kinda overrated.
8.  What is your next project and where can we find you? I’m currently working on Dwarves in Space. As you can guess from the title it’s about Dwarves and they’re in Space. I call it Tolkien merged with Hitchhikers in a horrific transporter accident, though there are obvious touches of Firefly in there. It’s hard to do band of travelers skirting outside the law without paying an homage to Firefly. DiS also gives me a chance to skewer not only fantasy tropes but science fiction as well in one convenient series.
You can find some of my book info on my blog that’s still in the construction stages http://sezbasnik.blogspot.com/ Or follow me on twitter @introvertedwife I’ll post about any and everything on therekings blood from Halloween props, to video games, to other one liners I think of during the day.
(Her Halloween props are fantastic.  Her Doctor Who gallery is not to be missed.)
9.  Is there anything you would like to share with our readers?  I hope you like my book, as does every author in the history of the written word (except maybe for Jonathan Swift) and it helps continue the question of why can’t there be more diversity in fantasy.
But you cannot have the cheese. It’s mine, my own, my precious!

SZ_profile Sabrina Zbasnik is the author of The King’s Blood as well as TerraFae and Tin Hero – a rollicking tale of slime molds and their love of fine cigars.

Or a fantasy satire that lovingly pokes fun at those classic cliches.

Sabrina spends nearly of all her time in Nebraska but that’s because it is impossible to leave without finding the lamppost. She lives in a house that has at least four walls and there are some other souls wandering forlornly calling to their lost lives within.

Thank you for your time and wonderful answers Sabrina.  We are looking forward to Dwarves In Space.  We wish you luck and cheese.
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The King’s Blood by Sabrina Zbasnik

The King’s Blood by Sabrina Zbasnik


kings_blood_coverBook Description:  Save the Prince, save the world. Maybe stop for coffee.

Magic is coming back. Or so say the old prophesies cobbled together from wandering soothsayers, women huffing broken gas lines, and the back of comic tomes. The Evil Empire™ of Avar and its perfectly sane, in no way crazy Emperor risks others’ life and limb to stop it from coming to pass.

The only obstinate chunk of gravel in their shoes is a small kingdom warring against the over confident reach of the growing Empire. The fight was going well for them, all things considered, right until their King went and let his head slip right off his shoulders.

Now Ciara, a black servant into her sixteenth year, finds herself on a mad quest across the countryside trying to get the second son and possibly only hope of the severed Ostero line back onto his throne. Along the way, she and Aldrin — the rather simple and OH GODS KEEP HIM AWAY FROM ANYTHING SHARP prince — find themselves at the mercy of assassins, witches, traveling historians, a sect of killer doctors, and the unblinkers.

Can two teens survive an entire Empire crashing down upon them while a shambling army of corpses waits patiently in the shadows? Will the religious fight for and against magic rip apart the world they all became rather fond of? And just how can a fifteen year old take over a throne dangling precariously over the edge of war?


My Review:  I will be the first to admit that I haven’t read a lot of epic fantasy.  I had The Hobbit read to me in library class when I was a child.  I have also read the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind.  I guess I characterize epic fantasy by how many pages it has or I would count Ice Forged and The Palace Job too.  I realize that doesn’t make me a card carrying member of the epic fantasy fan club but it does equip me to know what epic fantasy is.  So I can tell you without a doubt The King’s Blood is definitely epic fantasy.  It’s also really good epic fantasy.

This story is fun, funny and well told.  It’s everything in the book description and more.  My favorite character was Ciara.  It’s hard not to pick her.  She goes from serving girl to heroine.  There is also the small of matter of her nearly dying.  I won’t say more than that because you really need to read this book.  You won’t be disappointed.   You have to root for the girl who almost dies.

This book contains some of the best lines I’ve ever read.  Here are a couple of my favorites.

-Lord Albrant, who was perched percariously upon his chair, ready to leap to Edric’s assistance should the King’s makeshift throne finally commit suicide.

-Kynton, raised on a heavy diet of taking the world with a grain of salt, peered into the hazy void.


There is more where that came from.  This book is filled with stressful moments lightened by funny dialog.  You don’t want to miss Ciara’s journey.  Alright, there is a rag tag group that travels with Ciara.  I guess you don’t want to miss them either.  They are almost as interesting as she is.  Ohhhh, you will also want to see the prince become his own man.  I guess that was interesting too.

This book is on the long side.  If you, like me, are not a card carrying member of the epic fantasy club you should not be put off by the number of pages.  Once you get going you will become so wrapped up in the story you will be traveling with this rag tag group and you will lose all sense of time and place.  This book really is that great.

Don’t miss our interview with author Sabrina Zbasnik tomorrow.

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PicsArt_1375992730999PG-13  Violence