Saturday, July 8, 2017

A New Voice in Dark Fantasy: Sean M. Hogan

A week ago, my good friend Sean M. Hogan published his first novel on Amazon, The Crow Behind the Mirror. Now, you'd think that accomplishment would be enough, but he also decided to publish two other works at the same time: a novella called The Marauder and a book of short stories titled The Devil, the Grim Reaper, and a Ghost.

I first met Sean when he walked into the Brea Library Writer's Club, and from the beginning, his work just blew me away. I thought, Why doesn't this guy already have his book in Barnes and Noble? Later, when he joined my writing group, The Pendragons, he was a machine, constantly bringing in new chapters. Sean's forte is dark fantasy, and he can write humor, drama, and horror--and sometimes all three at once--but he never lets go of the character's humanity. He's got one of the strongest eyes for description I've ever seen.

I've reviewed his work in this blog and on Amazon. Obviously, I know him and want him to succeed, but more than that, I think his work is amazing and I hope people will discover him and fall in love with the complex world he's created.

Currently, The Devil, the Grim Reaper, and a Ghost and The Marauder are both 99 cents on Amazon, and The Crow Behind the Mirror is $2.99, but all three will be FREE on Monday, July 10th and Tuesday, July 11th. If you're uncertain or broke, you can pick them up then. But if you can afford it, buy it now, since they really are a bargain buy. And remember to review.

Book Review: The Crow Behind the Mirror

Author: Sean Hogan
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Epic Fantasy

Note: Sean M. Hogan is a friend from my writing group The Pendragons.


Ages ago, Eric, a warrior and a man of faith, saves a boy on the eve of war--and sets himself on a path of sin, power, and destruction.

In our world, a social misfit named Sharon Ashcroft has never forgiven her father for abandoning her. After a wretched first day in a new high school, she follows a strange crow to an old house where a mysterious mirror lurks in the basement. But this mirror is more than it appears--a portal to another realm.

In the pink-skyed world of Tuat, pig-runs war with humans under the rule of a lizard god, a boy with clown make-up and red eyes conspires with a cloaked man, and endless winter consumes the land--except at the pyramid of life. Thrust into the center of the discord, Sharon finds she's become a valuable pawn that everyone is desperate to get their hands on. Who can she trust? How will she find her way home?

To survive, this lost girl must find the strength to know what she believes in.


Sean M. Hogan has created an epic fantasy with dark overtones that spans different worlds, eras, and cultures. The world building on display is fantastic. Myths and magic tease at the start of the story, but it is when Sharon finally enters Tuat that the book picks up the pace. In addition to vivid imagery and beautiful prose, the book is anchored by a thread of philosophy that runs deep through the book, as characters discuss faith and doubt, reality and illusion, and the nature of the soul.

My biggest issue with dark fantasy is that it can easily become too bleak, but I didn't have that problem here, mainly because Sean M. Hogan infuses his book with characters I can root for. My stand out favorite was Michelle Lionmane (who also stars in Sean M. Hogan's novella The Marauder), who is easily one of the most heroic characters in the book. But I also found myself sympathizing with the pig-runs, goblin pig hybrids, and their lizard god, Khaba. Although they appeared to play role of the nameless barbarian hoards, they actually have their own reasons for fighting in the war, which I found refreshing and compelling.

The weakest point for me was the Eric chapters. Although he and Sharon are definitely connected, their stories never really align. Unlike Sharon, whose chapters move in chronological order, Eric jumps back and forth in time, making it difficult for me to follow his character arc. Many questions are raised, but there are few definitive answers.

The ending of The Crow Behind the Mirror absolutely blew me away. In the last chapter, events from throughout the book are re-interpreted, themes fall into place, and Sharon is forced to make a decision about who she is and who she wants to be. It was amazing.

The Crow Behind the Mirror is a must for anyone who loves dark fantasy and epic worlds.

Book Review: The Marauder

Author: Sean M. Hogan
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Novella

Note: Sean M. Hogan is a friend from my writing group the Pendragons.


Gray-eyed, blond-haired Michelle Lionmane is on a quest to avenge her mentor, the previous Marauder known as Atlas. But when she arrives in post-apocalyptic New York City, she finds ghouls, wraiths, and demon dogs standing in her way. Fortunately, Michelle has just the weapons to handle them--a broadsword that can channel elemental magic and a demon-eating vortex attached to her left hand. (She calls him Lefty.) A Marauder struggles onward, no matter the cost. But when a new threat rears its head, will it be too much for Michelle to take?


This story is like the pilot episode of a really awesome anime. There are visceral images, snarky banter, cool fights, and an anything-goes world that contains a surprising amount of philosophy. The only problem is that, like an anime episode, it was short and had a minor cliff-hanger ending that ultimately left me salivating for more.

Considering how short it is, The Marauder contains a surprising amount of world-building. This may be because Sean M. Hogan draws upon his own mythology from his epic novel, The Crow Behind the Mirror. The Marauder isn't merely a spin-off of Crow, but instead appears to be set in an alternate universe. Places and characters are name-dropped, but they are presented very differently. For example, Michelle Lionmane appears in The Crow Behind the Mirror, but her backstory is noticeably changed. There's currently no explanation for this alternate world, although later episodes may fill in the blanks.

Michelle, the main character, is awesome. She is tough but vulnerable and very witty. Of her two companions, my favorite was Lefty, the sentient "hand goblin" with a voracious appetite. His interactions with Michelle are sometimes disgusting, often hilarious, and always fun. I didn't personally care for Michelle's other companion, a gun-totting cowboy named Jon, but his backstory surprised me with its heart.

Should you get it? Definitely. It's a fun, action-packed read with lovely prose and strong characters. But don't be surprised if you're left wanting more.

Book Review: The Devil, the Grim Reaper, and a Ghost

Title: The Devil, the Grim Reaper, and a Ghost
Author: Sean M. Hogan
Genre: Short Stories, Dark Fantasy

Note: Sean M. Hogan is a friend of mine from The Pendragons, my writing group.


Four dark short stories with fantastical elements provide chills, thrills, and laughs.

"Motel Black"

A newbie hitman is given the devilish opportunity to double his money--but more is at stake than he realizes.

"The Grim Adventures of Meryl and Doug"

When fluoride poisoning kills Meryl, she strikes a deal with the Grim Reaper. A single good deed can restore her life.  Shouldn't be too hard, right?

"The Voice of the Beyond"

After 10-year-old Justin is threatened by a man in a clown suit, his only chance for survival is to listen to a supernatural voice.

"The Monster with No Eyes"

A monster learns the true meaning of happiness--stealing everything he doesn't have.


Two of the short stories, "Motel Black" and "The Voice of the Beyond," have previously been published individually under the name Sean Michael Hogan. They've been repackaged here along with two new stories and sample chapters from Sean M. Hogan's novel, The Crow Behind the Mirror.

Sean M. Hogan is great at dark fantasy, and here he shows off both his dramatic ("Motel Black," "The Voice of the Beyond") and comedic ("The Grim Adventures of Meryl and Doug," "The Monster with No Eyes") chops. The stories are well-written, with a surprising amount of character development, vivid imagery, and a rather wicked use of irony. My personal favorite was "Motel Black," probably because I can't resist a good "deal with the devil" story, but those with a taste for irreverent humor and pop culture references should enjoy "The Grim Adventures of Meryl and Doug."

These stories are not for little kids. "Motel Black" and "The Grim Adventures of Meryl and Doug" both contain profanity and violence, and the subject matter of "The Voice of the Beyond" may be disturbing to some. I would recommend it for older teens and up. The stories are dark, with some elements verging on horror, and if that doesn't appeal to you, you may want to hold off. However, those who want short twisty tales with a dash of dark fantasy are sure to be delighted.

Why I've Been Gone


I know I've been absent for a while now. The truth is, I've been undergoing a bit of a career change and with that comes less time and less willpower. I've been working on getting my teaching credential for English. Wish me luck on it.

As a result, I'll be less consistent with my blogging. Sorry.