An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Rob Edwards

I am so excited about this blog series discussing book creatures as entries in an author’s Monster Manual! Each new creature is unique and so, so cool! Rob Edwards’ addition is no exception. His series, the Justice Academy, is excellent!

Art by Edward Bentley

Hey Jodie, thanks for having me back. I’m excited to talk monsters, even if you’ve had to stretch the rules a little bit to include me! 

I’m not a Rules Lawyer, but…

So, at first blush, it’s possible that my book, The Ascension Machine, was not a great fit for this blog series. Rules as written, “An Author’s Monster Manual” leans into a Dungeons and Dragons feel, and my books are sci-fi, not fantasy. Moreover, my books don’t really have monsters in them. Plenty of villains, several of whom are quite monstrous, but no actual bona fide monsters.

Fortunately, we can deal with both of these issues. As to the first, D&D recently released a 5e version of their Spelljammer setting, which lets you take the adventures to space (kind of, go with me here). So, for the monster I had in mind, I switched out their ray guns for hand crossbows, and we have problem one solved.

As for the monster part, I mean, when it comes down to it, what actually is a monster?

Well, according to the introduction of the 5e Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual, in the section “What Is a Monster?”, “A monster is defined as any creature that can be interacted with and potentially fought and killed.” And if that doesn’t convince, it goes on to say, “The term also applies to humans, elves, dwarves, and other civilised folk who might be friends or rivals to the player characters.”

I think that pretty clearly includes the Brontom Clone Warriors, so we’re in the game!

Begin these clone warriors did 

I hadn’t originally intended to have the Brontom play a major part in my books. Originally, they were a throwaway gag in the opening scene. Our hero, Grey, tells a tall story about pretending to be a Brontom to fool an ATM. An unlikely story because Grey is not 7’ tall, green, and only has two arms instead of the Brontom’s normal four. But Brontom are all identical clones and the only way for an ATM to tell them apart is by scent, so you can fool them using perfume. Or so Grey claims.

It was a fun gag. 

But the idea of this clone race started to tickle my imagination. There was no choice, but I’d have to introduce a Brontom in the main plot. And so, we meet Brontom Clone Warrior 4,923,016,734. Seventhirtyfour to his friends.

Yes, we are all different

The idea of a clone warrior race is hardly unique, I grant you. Star Wars has its clone troopers, Doctor Who has its Sontarans, but it remains a fascinating idea. What are the differences between the clones? 

There’s a question of nurture versus nature here. Every Brontom is physically identical, receives the same training, goes through the same exercises, but even then, what happens to the clone who is always on the losing side of training exercises? The one who has an unlucky accident early on in their training, or a lucky one for that matter. How does that affect their personality, their outlook?

While they are all unique individuals, it’s conformity that is the Brontom’s greatest strength on the battlefield. They have been literally trained together since birth. They know what their squad mates will do, and how to take advantage of it.

Rating, challenged

And then there’s Seventhirtyfour, who is a mutant Brontom. He’s two inches too tall. For a human that may not mean anything, but for a Brontom every uniform, piece of equipment, every doorway is designed for someone exactly two inches shorter than you. You stand out. You probably hit your head a lot.

For some this could make you resentful and bitter. Not Seventhirtyfour. He rises to the challenge of leaving the barracks for the first time with a positivity that practically shines out of him. He makes friends quickly, and will defend them to the best of his considerable abilities, always.

The stat block in this article is not Seventhirtyfour, though, his abilities would be too spoilery to include. No, this is a standard Brontom Clone Warrior, right out of basic training and ready to crew a… Spelljammer ship. Sure, why not?

Multiattack

Each round, this post can make one link to the book, and one to a website for more information about Brontom and other facets of their universe.

About the author:

Rob Edwards is a British born writer and content creator, living in Finland. He writes about coffee, despite not drinking it, spaceships, despite being down-to-earth, and superheroes, despite everything.

His debut novel, The Ascension Machine was published in 2020. His short stories can be found in anthologies from Inklings Press and Rivenstone Press. A life-long gamer and self-professed geek, he is proud of his entry on Wookieepedia, the result of writing several Star Wars RPG scenarios in his youth.

The Crossover Paradox by Rob Edwards

For March of the Sequels (a fantastic event created by Sue’s Musings), I’m excited to be reviewing The Crossover Paradox by Rob Edwards, book two in the Justic Academy series.

Return to the Justice Academy, the galaxy’s premier college for superheroes!

Back for his second year, Grey wants nothing more than to spend time with his friends and maybe take a class or two. A normal student life. Instead, Grey’s friends are all distracted by their own problems and somebody is trying to break his nemesis out of jail.

When tragedy strikes the Academy, Grey finds himself stuck between the roles of investigator and prime suspect. Chased across the galaxy and back, Grey must face a dark secret from the Academy’s past. Grey cannot hope to defeat it alone, but cut off from his friends, can he trust an unexpected crossover?

That paradox alone could kill him. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. The Crossover Paradox will be available for purchase on March 8th. I will do my best to avoid giving spoilers, but it is a sequel, so there is a slight possibility that something will sneak through. You’ve been fairly warned.

I loved The Ascension Machine, book one in the Justic Academy series. You can find my review for book one here. Book two continued on excellently, with new obstacles to overcome and even bigger danger. The Crossover Paradox raised the stakes and never let up on the gas.

The main character, Grey, is a roguish character who is trying to make a clean try after lying to everyone for the majority of the previous year. He is back at the Justic Academy, under his own name (well-not really, but that’s a mystery yet to be solved), ready to put the last year behind him. Unfortunately, someone has other plans. When someone is murdered, it is up to Grey and his group of friends to find the real killer- before Grey takes the fall for a crime he didn’t commit.

The story went in unexpected ways, keeping me invested and highly entertained. I loved seeing how smart Grey was, and the way his unconventional past aids him in the situations he finds himself in. He’s such a great character! For a mostly reformed conman, he has a strong sense of right and wrong which I loved. I’m all about the morally complicated characters, but I really do love a character who is more good than not. He’s an easy character to root for.

The Crossover Paradox introduces a few new characters, but some of the original group see less time. While I missed one of the characters (no names given), there was major setup for a future storyline involving him that I’m both excited and scared for. The rest of the supporting cast, so to speak, continued to elevate the book and take it in new directions. I loved that they were all important throughout the book and each character could offer something unique.

This book is meant for middle grade readers and did a great job of remembering that. While there is some violence and a bit of romance, it avoided going over the top with either. Instead, author Rob Edwards balanced each element of the book and tied it all together wonderfully. At the same time, there was a real sense of danger and no character was “safe”, which added to the enjoyment of the book. The Crossover Paradox is a fantastic continuation of the Justice Academy series, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas: 2021 Middle Grade Edition

Today I’ve got some middle-grade books that would make great books! Some of them are books I’ve enjoyed this year, but the majority of them are books that my middle-grade reader loved, which means they’ve passed the “target audience” test. You can find list of middle-grade gift ideas from last year here: It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas: 2020 Middle-Grade Edition.

The Ascension Machine by Rob Edwards

Welcome to the Justice Academy – the galaxy’s best superhero college! Teen grifter Grey arrives at the school carrying a lie: he isn’t really tech heir Mirabor Gravane. At the first opportunity Grey plans to leave the Academy. That is until he makes the mistake of starting to like his fellow students. The Justice Academy promises to “equip you with the skills to be the hero the galaxy needs” and Grey is beginning to believe the hype. But as he takes more risks to protect his secret, events spiral out of his control. When the real Gravane is kidnapped, Grey and his new friends must come together to mount a rescue and defend a city from an attack by hostile super-powered aliens. If he is to succeed, or even survive, Grey must decide who he is, and does he want to be a superhero? (taken from Amazon)

This book was so much fun! There was action, adventure, a little bit of a mystery, and a great cast of characters. Plus, there’s the whole superhero college thing. You can read my review here. I think this would be a winner for most kids.

The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan

My oldest really enjoys Riordan’s writing. Although Riordan’s Egyptian-inspired series is his favorite, my oldest has loved reading the Heroes of Olympus books this year.

Little White Hands by Mark Cushen

Almost five hundred years have passed since the Seasons were at war. Half a millennium since Winter defied Spring, and lost. Generations have come and gone, not knowing the bitter freeze and howling snows of Winter ever existed.But now, after centuries of silence, the participants in this ancient struggle have resurfaced and reignited their feud on the doorstep of an unassuming little kitchen boy.Garlan’s dreams of being just like the knights he idolizes may not be as impossible as he has always been led to believe, when he is chased from his home and thrust headlong into the kind of adventure he had only ever read about in books.Setting out on a journey that spans the entire kingdom of Faeland, Garlan will traverse impossible mountains and stormy seas and battle terrible monsters, all to keep the world he knows safe from an enemy who will stop at nothing to bring about a never-ending winter.With a cast of fantastical characters to aid him in his quest, can Garlan overcome his self-doubt and find the courage he needs to rise above his humble station and become the hero he always dreamed of being?The fate of the world rests in his hands. (taken from Amazon)

This is the sort of book I loved when I was young. It has the magical feeling that readers get seeing Narnia for the first time, the sense of bravery and adventure found in Arthurian tales, and such wonderful characters. You can read my review here.

Wings of Fire series by Tui T. Sutherland

The beginning of a thrilling new dragon saga– now in paperback!
Clay and his friends have grown up under a mountain, secretly raised by the Talons of Peace to fulfill a mysterious prophecy. The five young dragons are destined to end the war that’s been raging between the tribes of Pyrrhia — but how they’ll do this, none of them knows.But not every dragonet wants a destiny. When one of their own is threatened, Clay and his friends decide to escape. Maybe they can break free and end the war at the same time — or maybe they’ll risk everything … (taken from Amazon)

My oldest fell in love with this series. It became a much-discussed topic in our house, and he even had a dragon-themed birthday cake based solely on his love of these books. Based on that, I feel pretty confident in recommending them despite not having read them myself.

Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston

Amari Peters has never stopped believing her missing brother, Quinton, is alive. Not even when the police told her otherwise, or when she got in trouble for standing up to bullies who said he was gone for good.
So when she finds a ticking briefcase in his closet, containing a nomination for a summer tryout at the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, she’s certain the secretive organization holds the key to locating Quinton—if only she can wrap her head around the idea of magicians, fairies, aliens, and other supernatural creatures all being real.
Now she must compete for a spot against kids who’ve known about magic their whole lives. No matter how hard she tries, Amari can’t seem to escape their intense doubt and scrutiny—especially once her supernaturally enhanced talent is deemed “illegal.” With an evil magician threatening the supernatural world, and her own classmates thinking she’s an enemy, Amari has never felt more alone. But if she doesn’t stick it out and pass the tryouts, she may never find out what happened to Quinton.(taken from Amazon)

My oldest and I both really enjoyed this one. It is so creative! The world building is great and the main character is a delight. The sequel comes out in April and my oldest and I will be racing to see who gets to read it first. You can find my review here.

What are some middle grade books you’d recommend? Have you read any of these?

Frozen Secrets by Myles Christensen

Image result for frozen secrets book

He has trouble following the rules on Earth. But this trip to Jupiter’s moon could kill his curiosity for good…

Thirteen-year-old Max Parker is a grounded Earthling with the soul of a space explorer. So when he learns his family is relocating to Jupiter’s moon, Europa, he readily agrees to stay out of mischief. But his promise is soon forgotten, and his snooping lands him on a shuttle doomed for a fiery disintegration.

Convinced someone sabotaged the craft to cover up the theft he witnessed, he digs into the incident. Why was this robbery worth attempted murder? Dodging a series of deadly accidents, he follows the clues to an abandoned outpost and discovers a secret that could blow the lid off a moon-wide conspiracy…

Can Max solve the mystery before his interplanetary escapade gets him killed? (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to the author for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book will be available in January.

Funny story: I couldn’t find this book one afternoon. I looked in all the usual places that I “lose” things, but I still couldn’t find it. Guess where it was? In the hands of my sixth grader, who was very interested in reading it. That’s a pretty high recommendation for the book just right there. I have a feeling he’ll be curled up with it soon.

This book follows Max and his best friend Jonathan. They’ve just moved with their families to Europa, as part of a colonization. The two best buds manage to get themselves into trouble on a pretty regular basis, but their usual hijinks give way to the possibility of real trouble when they notice that things seem a little off. What did they stumble on? More importantly: will they survive?

Max was a fun character to read about. Trouble follows him, but he’s not a bad kid. He was actually really sweet. Both he and Jonathan were very believable and- I’m sure- easy for middle-graders to relate to. Their relationship was a joy to read.

This book is full of action, very rarely pausing to explain things. This is perfect for someone like my son, who is able to glean any background information that is included among other things that are happening, and prefers his stories to be action-packed. There’s never a dull moment.

Frozen Secrets is the beginning of what I think will be a highly enjoyable series. If you’ve got a middle-grade/YA reader who likes sci-fi, this is not one to miss. Keep this book in mind if you’re looking for something fun to give as a gift.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas 2019- Middle-Grade Books


The other day I listed some picture books that would make fantastic gifts (you can find that post here.) In this post, I’m moving on to upper elementary and middle-grade books. After all, it’s good to continue to cultivate a love of reading.

The Origami Yoda Files by Tom Angleberger

My oldest has read this series multiple times. He loves these books! They’re fun stories, and have directions to make cute and simple origami Star Wars characters.
Cool side note: my son has written two fan letters to Tom Angleberger- and received two handwritten notes back! I’m more than happy to support authors who not only write quality books, but take the time to answer their fan mail. My oldest was over the moon.

Image result for origami yoda series

Not so long ago, in a middle school not so far away, a sixth grader named Dwight folded an origami finger puppet of Yoda. For class oddball Dwight, this wasn’t weird. It was typical Dwight behavior. But what is weird is that Origami Yoda is uncannily wise and prescient. He can predict the date of a pop quiz, guess who stole the classroom Shakespeare bust, and save a classmate from popularity-crushing embarrassment with some well-timed advice. Dwight’s classmate Tommy wonders how Yoda can be so smart when Dwight himself is so clueless. With contributions from his puzzled classmates, Tommy assembles this first case file in the blockbuster bestselling Origami Yoda series, hailed bySchool Library Journal as “honest, funny, and immensely entertaining.” (taken from Amazon)

Oddmire #1: Changeling by William Ritter

I’m hoping to grab this one for my oldest this Christmas. It’s the perfect blend of adventure and excellent character development. The story follows two brothers- one of which is a changeling- as they brave the Wild Wood to become magical heroes. What sets this story apart from many other fantasies is the subtle themes of friendship, loyalty, and learning to be proud of who you are. I loved it and I know my oldest will too (find my review here.)
Incidentally, William Ritter is also the author of the fabulous adult Jackaby series.


Magic is fading from the Wild Wood. To renew it, goblins must perform an ancient ritual involving the rarest of their kind—a newborn changeling. But when the night arrives to trade a human baby for a goblin one, something goes terribly wrong. After laying the changeling in a human infant’s crib, the goblin Kull is briefly distracted. By the time he turns back, the changeling has already perfectly mimicked the human child. Too perfectly: Kull cannot tell them apart, so he leaves both babies behind.

Tinn and Cole are raised as human twins, neither knowing what secrets may be buried deep inside one of them. When they are thirteen years old, a mysterious message arrives, calling the brothers to be heroes and protectors of magic. The boys must leave their sleepy town and risk their lives in the Wild Wood, journeying through the Deep Dark to reach the goblin horde and uncover who they truly are. (taken from Amazon)

The Return of King Lillian by Suzie Plakson

This absolutely wonderful book tells the hero’s journey from the perspective of a female. It’s charming, and has life-lessons subtly woven in. I recommend this to anyone who likes a good adventure. Find my review here.


When Lillian, the one and only heir to the throne, is cast out of her kingdom by malevolent forces, she accidentally wanders into the Forest of Forgetfullness, where she is rescued by wolves and raised by an eccentric old wise woman. When she comes of age, she is called by Destiny to return home. The trouble is, when Lillian steps out of the Forest, she has no memory of who she is or from whence she hails. Undaunted, the spirited, self-reliant young woman sets off into the unknown, determined to rediscover her long lost self and to reclaim her stolen birthright. Most of the tale is told by Lillian herself as she chronicles her extraordinary adventures. (taken from Amazon)

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry

Full of a delightful cast of characters, this madcap mystery/cover-up is great for any age. It’s perfect for upper elementary students as the macabre level is extremely low (nothing like a tasteful corpse, ha ha!), and this book is as far from creepy as a book can get. In fact, it’s pretty stinking funny. Find my review here.

Image result for the scandalous sisterhood of prickwillow place
There’s a murderer on the loose – but that doesn’t stop the girls of St. Etheldreda’s from attempting to hide the death of their headmistress in this rollicking farce.

The students of St. Etheldreda’s School for Girls face a bothersome dilemma. Their irascible headmistress, Mrs. Plackett, and her surly brother, Mr. Godding, have been most inconveniently poisoned at Sunday dinner. Now the school will almost certainly be closed and the girls sent home – unless these seven very proper young ladies can hide the murders and convince their neighbors that nothing is wrong. (taken from Amazon)

Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire by Delilah S. Dawson

My son loves this book! He devoured it and highly recommends it to anyone who likes Star Wars.
Interesting side-note: this author also wrote Kill the Farm Boy, an adult book that I really enjoy.


After devastating losses at the hands of the First Order, General Leia Organa has dispatched her agents across the galaxy in search of allies, sanctuary, and firepower – and her top spy, Vi Moradi, may have just found all three, on a secluded world at the galaxy’s edge.

A planet of lush forests, precarious mountains, and towering, petrified trees, Batuu is on the furthest possible frontier of the galactic map, the last settled world before the mysterious expanse of Wild Space. The rogues, smugglers, and adventurers who eke out a living on the largest settlement on the planet, Black Spire Outpost, are here to avoid prying eyes and unnecessary complications. Vi, a Resistance spy on the run from the First Order, is hardly a welcome guest. And when a shuttle full of stormtroopers lands in her wake, determined to root her out, she has no idea where to find help.

To survive, Vi will have to seek out the good-hearted heroes hiding in a world that redefines scum and villainy. With the help of a traitorous trooper and her acerbic droid, she begins to gather a colorful band of outcasts and misfits, and embarks on a mission to spark the fire of resistance on Batuu – before the First Order snuffs it out entirely. (taken from Amazon)

Are you planning on buying any books for your middle-grade reader in the next month? What are some middle-grade books that you’d suggest?

Middle-Grade Gems: Interview with a Sixth Grader

About six months ago, I interviewed my oldest about books he was loving at the time. He devours books (not literally; that would be cause for concern) and I love hearing his opinions. I figure the time is ripe for round two. So, here are his current favorites:

The Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan

Why he liked it: “It’s a very good adventure and fantasy book with good characters. There’s a ton of books in the series so it doesn’t end super fast. There’s a lot of awesome action and it’s just a really good series.”

The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan

Why he liked it: “It’s awesome that it’s Egyptian: it’s got a good mythology behind it. It’s got some good comedy, but a lot of good action too.”

Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron by Alexander Freed

Why he liked it: “This book is full of great action, great characters, and a great story! My favorite character was Wyl Lark, a determined pilot with a knack for flying.”

Star Wars: Blackspire Outpost by Dlilah S. Dawson

Why he liked it: “This book is full of action, importance, and great, engaging characters that really drew me in. Ten out of ten.”

Loki’s Wolves by K.L. Armstong and M.A. Marr

Why he liked it: The book is about Matt, who is a descendant of Thor; Fen, a descendant of Loki; and Laurie, another descendant of Loki. Together, they must stop Ragnarok! My favorite character is probably Fen. He’s not like the other characters. He’s a bit more wild than the others, but he’s also a good brother, and I like that.”

Fuzzy by Tom Angleberger

Why he liked it: “One of my favorite things about this book was how believable the characters are. I haven’t read any other books like this. It’s really nice to see such a unique book. I really liked it.”