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Gateways to Alissia #1

The Rogue Retrieval

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Sleight of hand ... in another land

Stage magician Quinn Bradley has one dream: to headline his own show on the Vegas Strip. And with talent scouts in the audience wowed by his latest performance, he knows he's about to make the big time.

What he doesn't expect is an offer to go on a quest to a place where magic is all too real.

That's how he finds himself in Alissia, a world connected to ours by a secret portal owned by a powerful corporation. He's after an employee who has gone rogue, and that's the least of his problems. Alissia has true magicians ... and the penalty for impersonating one is death. In a world where even a twelve-year-old could beat Quinn in a sword fight, it's only a matter of time until the tricks up his sleeves run out.

416 pages, ebook

First published April 21, 2020

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About the author

Dan Koboldt

28 books357 followers
Dan Koboldt is a genetics researcher who has co-authored more than 90 publications in Nature, Science, the New England Journal of Medicine, and other journals. Every fall, he disappears into the woods to pursue whitetail deer with bow and arrow. He lives with his wife and three children in Ohio, where the deer take their revenge by eating all of the plants in his backyard.

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5 stars
79 (29%)
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123 (45%)
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52 (19%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 90 reviews
Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
2,030 reviews2,604 followers
January 26, 2016
3.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum http://bibliosanctum.com/2016/01/19/b...

This year, I’m resolving to do a much better job at controlling my TBR and a big part of that will involve being a lot more prudent with the books I choose to accept for review, but when I was contacted about The Rogue Retrieval, I knew there was no way I could resist giving it a try. The book’s main character is a Las Vegas stage magician who one day hopes to make it big and headline at a Strip casino! Call me cheesy, but I have a real fascination for illusionists and magic shows. Fantasy is fantasy, but watching a skilled magician at their art is always fun because if nothing else, you can suspend your disbelief and imagine—even if it’s just for a moment—that you’re experiencing something beyond the realm of possibility.

In fact, that explanation might also be analogous to why I love urban fantasy. I love imagining our real world with magic in it. The idea of the contemporary mixed with the paranormal appeals to me, and I also enjoy asking the question, “What if?”

Perhaps that is why I had so much fun with The Rogue Retrieval, because at its core, that’s what this book is—one big “What if?” story. What if a whole other world was discovered, connected to ours via a secret portal? What if everything we think of when we think “fantasy world”—like magic, sorcerers, sword-wielding warriors, etc.—is all a reality in this secret realm? And what if someone, just an average guy from our own world, was tasked to go over there to on a real-life quest?

Though, calling our protagonist “just an average guy” wouldn’t be entirely accurate, because Quinn Bradley is actually an extremely talented and ambitious illusionist. But on his big night, instead of being scouted by one of the big Vegas hotels, representatives from CASE Global, a powerful corporation, make him an offer he can’t refuse. The company has discovered a portal to another world called Alissia, a place where magic is real, and they need Quinn to be as good as the real thing so he and a team can travel there and capture a rogue scientist whose actions threaten to put all of them at risk. However, what CASE has neglected to tell Quinn is that impersonating a magician in Alissia is serious crime with fatal consequences.

What makes The Rogue Retrieval special is that it doesn’t read like your typical urban fantasy. In truth, most of the book actually takes place in Alissia, a world closer to what readers would regard as a “high fantasy” setting. But while Quinn and his companions go through the portal in disguise pretending to be native Alissians, they also carry with them advanced technology and other high-tech gadgetry to help them in their quest. So in essence, you get an interesting mix of traditional fantasy, urban fantasy, and even some science fiction thrown in.

This makes The Rogue Retrieval a very different sort of read, one that might appeal to fans of UF who are looking for something that breathes new life into the genre. At the same time though, it retains a lot of the characteristics that makes UF fun—namely the fast pacing, lots of laugh-out-loud humor, and plenty of thrilling action scenes. For better or worse, it also doesn’t take itself too seriously, forgoing much world-building so that Alissia feels like your very generic fantasy world. The book has a feeling of satire at times, reminiscent of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, where a present-day person is transported to another world where he is able to fool its inhabitants into thinking he is a bona fide magician with his knowledge of modern technology. Nothing too deep here, but the story is admittedly tons of fun.

That said, there were a few puzzling issues with the plot. I was never entirely convinced why CASE specifically needed a stage magician for the mission, though a big deal was made about an aspect of Quinn’s background and the reasons for that might be revealed in the next book. But on the whole, I was hoping Quinn’s talents would’ve had more relevance to the story. There’s also the prospect of a romance that I’m not sure was really required. By the end of the book, nothing really gets resolved either, and there were a lot more loose ends than I would have liked.

Still, it’s clear we’ve only scratched the surface here, and hopefully the next installment will develop things further and give more answers. A few minor issues notwithstanding, I’m definitely interested in reading the sequel. Dan Koboldt’s new book is an entertaining urban fantasy with a fascinating angle, great if you’re in the mood for something light, fluffy and fun. I’m looking forward to see where the story will go.
Profile Image for Michelle Hauck.
Author 7 books247 followers
January 20, 2016
When reading the description of The Rogue Retrieval I saw portal fantasy and expected, well, fantasy. Magic and more magic and sword fighting. I think this is more of a Star Gate brand of portal fantasy than Narnia. There's a whole lot more technology than magic wands, which makes for a great mix. I've been missing Star Gate and here is a story that reminds me of it.

I found it fascinating to bring together a user of magic from Vegas who relies on tricks and illusion with the genuine fantasy magic user. Throw in some fantastic gizmos and the fake looks perfectly real.

Also I can't resist a book that imagines a whole world. It's new and fresh and full of possibilities. A fun read!

Profile Image for J.C..
Author 8 books184 followers
December 20, 2015
I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this to read, and devoured it.

The Rogue Retrieval centers (mostly) around Quinn Bradley, a Vegas stage magician hoping to hit the big time. From the very start, Quinn comes off as sharp, on top of his game, and perhaps ready for his big break...right up until his big break gets taken, in exchange for an even bigger job.

Quinn will be part of a team sent to perform the titular Rouge Retrieval, but you can bet that even well prepared, well armed teams with the best money can buy are in for trouble once they hit the ground in a medieval world where magic is real.

Hands down, it's Quinn's stage magician voice and insights that make the story work - without him,it would be any other fantasy novel, but the least capable member of the team has all the right skills his other team members lack.

And he's going to need them.

The thing that stands out to me is that after I read that last paragraph, it left me with a smile. This is clearly the start of a series, with several characters and threads that won't be resolved in one sitting, but that's ok, since this is a world you won't mind visiting again...even if you know how the magic works.

Don't come looking for dark, life changing soul searing fiction here - this is an adventure novel, and you're going to get adventure, whether you like it or not. Quinn is the sort of character who you want to see win--or at least survive to run away another day. Like Rincewind, his legs are as good a solution as his "magic," and I always wondered what sly trick he had up his sleeve.

The world they land in reminds me of a more jaded version of Ankh-Morpork, in that adventure may be everywhere, so long as you spell adventure "death." Everything and anything in this world can and does try to kill, making this rogue retrieval less lark and more "keep moving and hope it eats someone else."

Looking forward to book two.
Profile Image for David Pomerico.
153 reviews12 followers
March 17, 2016
I'll note I was the editor for this book, so take that as you will. But obviously I liked the book, or else I wouldn't have been the editor in the first place.

And I really liked Dan's book.

I just felt like the idea of a stage magician being put in a world where magic is real is a great concept. Too, I really hadn't read a portal fantasy in a long time, and yet one of my favorite novels is Terry Brooks' Magic Kingdom For Sale: Sold!, and this reminded me of that in a really good way.

Ultimately, though, it's a fun quest novel, with really good action, plenty of intrigue, and enough "how the hell are they going to get out of this one?" moments to keep you on the edge of your seat (usually chuckling).
Profile Image for T. Frohock.
Author 18 books314 followers
December 8, 2016
If you're a bit overwhelmed by the world right now, and the grimdark seems a bit too dark, I want to recommend The Rogue Retrieval, because Koboldt's story is the perfect "take me away from the real world" novel.

Quinn Bradley is trying to win his spot on the Vegas strip when he is offered a job he can't refuse. Corporate espionage, a true fantasy setting, and a likeable cast of characters make this a fast and enjoyable read. Although the story is light, in no way does it become trite. Koboldt keeps a firm grip on the characters, their relationships, and the story with a tight, rollicking adventure filled with humor, magic, and fun.
Profile Image for Gina Denny.
40 reviews194 followers
January 19, 2016
A Las Vegas magician gets recruited to go on a covert mission into a medieval world and pretend to be a wizard in order to regain control after an operative goes rogue.

I mean, if that doesn't make you want to read this book immediately, then I can't help you.
Profile Image for David.
376 reviews25 followers
July 7, 2017
Sometimes I read to experience something I have never read before and sometimes I read to enjoy the comfort of the familiar. This book takes me back to the nostalgic enjoyment of the fantasy genre that made me fall in love with reading when I was young. The inclusion of a Vegas magician, with a dash of humor as the protagonist, also gave it a little spice to meet my appetite for something a little different. This was just a nice relaxing read with a fun premise. I definitely plan on reading the next one and could see this making a nice movie one day. Although there is a little bad language, there are definitely some of my students who would enjoy this book.
Profile Image for Beth Cato.
Author 109 books536 followers
September 1, 2016
Ah, what a fun, light fantasy read! Rogue Retrieval offers a delightful twist on the classic portal fantasy: a stage magician from modern day Earth is recruited to assist a corporation on their forays through a hole into a real-life fantasy world with magic. One of the heads of the operation has gone rogue, escaping into the other world, and he needs to be retrieved before he introduces dangerous technology and ideas. Mayhem ensues, of course. It's a fast read--a frolic--and feels like a wonderful set up for a series. My one gripe is that it felt like some vital information was held back for the sake of plot... but the book also manages to work in some brilliant Journey and He-Man jokes, so I won't complain too loudly.
Profile Image for Sean Randall.
1,896 reviews42 followers
April 5, 2016
This was sublime. Flowing with all the ease and marvel of a work written decades before, it totally kept me hooked nonstop. I've always enjoyed stories of other worlds but when they're written so well and keep the pulse pounding too, why that's even better. A debut author with more potential than many I've seen in some time, I'm already waiting for the next book!
Profile Image for Marlene.
2,882 reviews196 followers
January 22, 2016
Originally published at Reading Reality

The Rogue Retrieval is a terrific example of what is called “portal fantasy”, where a magical portal opens between our world of the mundane and another world where magic is operational.

Admittedly, the magic of the portal itself may be of the Arthur C. Clarke variety, where “any technology sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from magic” as it may be in this case. Or it can literally be a magic portal, like the famous wardrobe in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series.

So there is a viewpoint where The Rogue Retrieval can be considered Narnia for adults. Without Aslan.

In the case of The Rogue Retrieval, the portal is a literal portal between our world and the world of Alissia, where not only does magic work but where the human population is not as technologically advanced as in our world. It feels like late Renaissance or very early Industrial Age, maybe the technological equivalent of our late 1700s and early 1800s, but that is totally opinion. It might be our 1600s, but it isn’t any later than the 1800s as the industrial pollution produced in copious amounts in our Industrial era is not present.

And of course the pristine nature of Alissia, along with the seeming lack of sophistication of its inhabitants, is part of its “charm” to two rival corporations; CASE Global and Raptor Tech.

CASE Global controls the portal, and they have a problem. One of their anthropologists has gone missing, along with a backpack full of advanced tech that is not supposed to be taken to Alissia. In other words, they have a rogue agent who has violated the equivalent of the Prime Directive.

And that’s kind of where our hero and point of view character Quinn Bradley comes in. Quinn is a stage magician, and a pretty good one. He’s just about to get his big break when CASE Global intervenes, and threatens him with economic ruin and bodily harm if he doesn’t come to work for them.

These are not nice people. They threaten Quinn’s life and future, and that of pretty much every person he is in contact with; his friends, his business associates, his remaining family, the population of his hometown. The iron hand in the velvet glove is so literal that its adamantium claws stick out of the glove.

Of course Quinn goes along. He has no choice. But he is also looking forward to the adventure, even if the information he is provided with is woefully scanty in its details. He’s not so much in it for the quest as for the experience. For the stage magician, Alissia represents a whole new audience.

With one big catch. On Alissia, magic is real. And magic practitioners are even more jealous of their rights than Quinn’s Vegas competition. Pretending to be a mage is a death sentence on Alissia, and those “nice” folks at CASE Global know that they are potentially throwing Quinn under the bus (or carriage) if he’s caught.

Unless the stage wizard turns out to be a real magician after all.

Escape Rating B+: I really liked this story, but the antecedents were just a bit too obvious to make it an A. It is, however, a wild and very fun ride from beginning to end.

The story in The Rogue Retrieval reminded me of three different books, all of which I loved very much, but which combine here into a whole that so far works well. It will be interesting to see how the issues get resolved in the future stories that I really hope are coming. Quinn Bradley’s story definitely isn’t over.

When I first read the premise for this story, it looked like a mirror image of Dark Magic by James Swain (reviewed here). In that story, the protagonist is a stage magician on our world who uses his identity as a master illusionist to conceal his very real identity as a practicing wizard.

But as I got into the story the one that it reminded me of most strongly is S.M. Stirling’s Conquistador. Also a bit of Charles Stross’ Merchant Princes series, but mostly Conquistador. In Conquistador, a portal is discovered between our world and an alternate version of our world that is several centuries removed in the past. In the world of Conquistador, the contemporary discovers find themselves in America before the colonial empires, and set themselves up literally as conquistadors, conquering the world with advanced technology, enslaving the natives, and exploiting the natural resources.

While that hasn’t happened YET in The Rogue Retrieval, there are all kinds of glaring and blaring signs that it is the direction that the rival corporations are headed, and possibly that the reason their agent went rogue was to get himself in a position to prevent the rape of Alissia, or at least provide it with ways to fight back.

The third part of the story reminded me of L.E. Modesitt’s first Imagerbook. In that story, a grownup discovers that he is a mage, and has to learn how to master both his powers and the drastic change in his life. At the same time, he is attending classes with children, and having to unlearn the life he knew. But he brings his adult experience and expectations to the table. In both cases, the protagonist is still young and flexible enough to learn, but too mature to indoctrinate. (There’s a reason that the Armed Forces like to recruit 18-year-olds!)

Throw those elements into a classic portal-fantasy quest, and you have The Rogue Retrieval. A relatively young man discovers he is a real mage, long after anyone believes that could be possible. A new and pristine world is ripe for the plucking, and forces are arrayed to begin to pluck, with all of the attendant evils of colonialism lined up to march over the place.

And that rogue agent who started it all is still out there, positioned much, much more strategically than anyone expected.

The next book in this series (oh please let there be a next book!) is set up to be marvelous.
Profile Image for Anna Tan.
Author 27 books162 followers
January 9, 2016
Quinn Bradley, stage magician on an off-strip theatre in Vegas, is about to get his big break. Except it never comes. Instead, he's offered a lot of money to help a huge corporation infiltrate Alissia, a world connected to ours by a secret portal. What they want is his talent in illusions to help them retrieve the head of the research team, who has gone rogue. But when the real magicians of Alissia come after the impersonator, Quinn has only his wits and his stage props to keep him alive.

The Rogue Retrieval was a great read but I'm wavering between an "I liked it" and "I really liked it". I mean I liked it more than a generic 3-star, but it didn't really capture me all that much to put it as a definite 4-star. I would say it's hovering somewhere at maybe 3.75?

"But why?" you ask.

Expectations. Haha. You see, the blurb mentioned the magic word "Terry Pratchett" but the novel didn't quite deliver on that. I was expecting ridiculousness, downright funny scenes, scathing commentary on the real world via ludicrous events in the other world, but The Rogue Retrieval was quite a bit more serious than that. Terry Brooks was a good mention/comparison though - normal human discovers (or in this case is sent) through a portal to a new world. One that has magic. Sounds like a good read already.

Which leads to the next problem. There wasn't enough magic. Or science.
Quinn does a lot of tricks and manages to dazzle many people with his illusions, usually to get the team out of a tight spot. The real magicians only show up somewhere about 39% of the way through the book, which would already have lost some hardcore fantasy readers. Even then, the magic is subtle, often understated - which isn't a bad thing, except that it somehow ends up leaving you a little underwhelmed.
As a scientist, Koboldt can't leave the science alone and that's seen in how he bookends the magic in Alissia with the high tech in CASE Global's base as well as the gadgets that Quinn uses to create his illusions. It's kind of like you start off in a science fiction, meander into a fantasy, things get stirred up together in a glorious cross-genre (is that what you call it?) and then you end back in the science fiction with the hope of more fantasy in the sequel.
(I mean, yeah, scifi & fantasy are always placed together but the readers are so very different, don't you know? This story is a mash up of both and you'll either get people who love both and love the book or you'll have disappointed readers from the extreme end of both spectrums.)

But going back to magic, in a key scene (which I probably shouldn't talk much about, because spoilers?), I felt a little cheated by how it turned out. Well, not quite cheated but at least disappointed.Then again, that scene alone probably tells you what Dan Koboldt is good at. He keeps you rooting for Quinn, the weakest member of the team, letting you feel his vulnerabilities but also showing you his unexpected strengths; even if those strengths don't seem quite right for the mission. You feel disappointed when he fails, and you get angry when he makes excuses. Because you want him to finally get his breakthrough.

The Rogue Retrieval is really a knight's quest in disguise; except our knight is a magician and his true quest is to harness his power.

Note: I received an ARC for review via Edelweiss
Profile Image for Michael Mammay.
Author 6 books377 followers
January 9, 2016
I was lucky enough to get to read an advanced copy of this book.

The Rogue Retrieval is a fun read that breaks out from the typical fantasy story and explores what happens when a regular guy comes into a fantastic scenario. Quinn Bradley isn't a hero, and to me, that's the best part of the book. He's a Vegas stage magician with quick hands and a quick mind, and that's really all he has to rely on as he faces a new, magical world beyond a portal.

We've all read portal fantasies, but to me, Rogue takes that to the next level. The author injects a great note of capitalist realism. What if the portal to a magical (and unexploited) land fell into the hands of a (marginally ethical) global technology company? What if not everyone in that company served the same agenda? And of course throw in rival companies, high tech weaponry, and corporate espionage, just to make things more interesting. Enter Quinn, who doesn't fit the corporate mold, and isn't sure where all the agendas lie. The mix works well and ties together in a way where you really don't know what to expect (in a good way.)

In the end, that's my favorite part of the book. This is not good versus evil. It's agenda vs agenda, man vs world, and it's filled with flawed characters who you sometimes like and sometimes wonder about. Just like real life. Who's the bad guy? I suppose that depends on who's writing the history book.

On the negative side, I grew a bit concerned with the pace around the 25% to 30% mark of the book. The beginning is a great, but then it bogs down a bit as we first explore the magic world and set up the story. But push through that and you reach a second half that rips along at high speed and leads to an ending that is both satisfying and sets up an obvious sequel.

Another thing I loved about the book was the mix of modern technology in a world with magic. You want a magic sword? How about one made out of a super-strong light-weigh alloy developed by the best scientific minds of the 21st century? Who wins a fight between a wizard and an MP-5?

All in all The Rogue Retrieval is worth a read. It's fun, and more than that it's unique in a space where sometimes books tend to run together.
Profile Image for Mike.
387 reviews94 followers
May 24, 2017
This was a book with a kick ass premise, and was a lot of fun, but also with plenty of flaws.

First, the premise: a wormhole of some sort has been discovered to another world, a world with real magic, and acquired and kept very secret by Omni Consumer Products Czerka Corporation Abstergo Industries Shinra Electric Power Company CASE Global. They've been scouting this new world, with Prime Directive-esque restrictions on their personnel. The story begins when they recruit a Vegas stage magician to help their operations by pretending to be a real magician when needed.

So the idea of an illusionist trying to bluff his way through a world with real magic is actually a totally awesome premise for a book. And the book pulls that off well; it's always a bit cheesy (like a good stage magic show), and I cracked up when the MC raised a sword high, lightning crackling from it, and shouted "I HAVE THE POWER!" It's a lot of fun to read. The story itself is, in general, a lot of fun and I read through it quickly.

So the flaws. CASE Global comes across, as I implied earlier, as an entirely generic Evil Incorporated. There's conflicts with other companies back on Earth, and while Koboldt is clearly setting up series-long plots here, he doesn't really do enough to do so. We get "there's going to be things happening" but no real hints of what they are. Makes for a somewhat weak sequel hook.

My other main issue is with the main character, who comes across a bit Mary Sue-ish. Him managing to bluff people with his illusions works well because he knows his limits and doesn't push too hard, and it still doesn't always work. I get him being able to read people very well; stage magic is all about tricking people, and it makes sense to me that a really good one would be excellent and reading and working a crowd. As I right this, I realize what really bugs me is that pretty much every woman he meets is eager to flirt with him. A good cocktail-to-the-face would have solved my problem here.

To sum up: worth my time, glad I read it, book 2 is going somewhere towards the middle of the to-be-read pile.
Profile Image for Laura Maisano.
Author 8 books43 followers
February 8, 2016
The Rogue Retrieval is a portal fantasy (part real world, part fantasy world...think Narnia,) which is a genre near and dear to my heart. There's not much other than the opening and the end which takes place in "our" world, but there's plenty of conflict between them. This book has a lot of action going for it and just enough mystery (mostly missing motives) to keep you reading.

Now, for the best bits. I LOVE Quinn, the main character. He's a Vegas magician pretending to be a real magician, because this world has those. His wit and sense of humor are engaging and make me concerned for his welfare. I liked Logan, the other main point of view, but I didn't have the same love for him as I do for Quinn.

The Rogue Retrieval is a good story with a beginning, middle, and end. There's no cliffhanger, but it's obvious that it's setting up a sequel. The conflicts presented or hinted at for a sequel are AMAZING. While this story was entertaining, I'm more interested to see where it goes from here. Koboldt, you better have a sequel for me. That's all I'm saying. :-)
Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 48 books124 followers
April 4, 2016

**More intelligent review to follow.**

UPDATE: Okay. Now that I've had time to process this book, here's my review. This book was, indeed, everything that is awesome. Initially I picked it up because it appeared to be a cross between Now You See Me (one of my favorite movies ever) and the Middle Ages, which is absolutely my jam, and the first part of the story delivers in this aspect. But as the plot deepens and the reader gets to see more of this amazing world, the book really does become its own. I love this book, and would recommend it to anyone who likes magic, adventure, and sword fights. I hope there's more to come, because I really won't be able to deal if this is the only book in this world!
Profile Image for MaryB.
841 reviews80 followers
February 8, 2016
At first, I was a little tentative about this story. While I love magic, I don't like magicians, the Vegas kind. (I don't know. I'm weird.) But this story pulled me in and didn't let me go until the end. Stage magician Quinn is swept up into another world, a world with magic, as he travels through a portal to retrieve a rogue scientist before he completely messes up this new world they've discovered. He's a strong character, one who's just trying to enjoy his time in this wild and weird world while doing the job he's assigned. And the world is pretty cool (personally, if I were Quinn, I might actually try to stay there, rather than returning to Vegas). Love when a book like appears on my radar, and I certainly hope that there are more books in this series.

(source: publisher)
Profile Image for Mandy.
46 reviews
March 18, 2016
This isn't the type of book I usually read, but I liked it! It pulls you in & the action keeps things moving so it was a quick read for me. I especially liked the details that surrounded the Jillaine character. I look forward to the next one!
Profile Image for Dannie Morin.
79 reviews8 followers
February 4, 2016
Let it be known that I am not generous with 5-star reviews. An awesome blend of scifi and fantasy with kickass world-building. What's not to love?
Profile Image for Adrian G Hilder.
Author 5 books77 followers
October 3, 2016
Throw a traditional pseudo-medieval fantasy into a pot along with Stargate and season with a dash of Avatar, and you have some idea of what is in store in The Rogue Retrieval.

Attracted by the dramatic concept of a Las Vegas performing illusionist come magician entering a fantasy world where he would need to be convincing alongside those who do magic for real, The Rogue Retrieval was an impulse buy for me. I was also charmed by the book’s opening where Quinn, the aforementioned magician, on the cusp of hitting the big time in Vegas, is hauled off on this crazy mission to another world through a portal on a remote Pacific island.
Richard Holt, a research scientist who knows more about the fantasy world of Alisia than anyone, has gone AWOL in this world and Case Global, the corporation who sent him there want him back.
If you are a regular fantasy reader the world of Alisia doesn’t bring anything new as a fantasy world that stands out, the twist is the people of Earth reconstructing medieval weapons with modern technology and otherwise hiding modern technology as they enter this world.
The highlights of the story are always when the protagonist, Quinn, has to use his stage magic to get himself or the team out of whatever scrape they have gotten into in Alissia. There is also scope for humor when you have a skilled sleight of hand expert around.
There is a major plot twist about halfway through the story that I did see coming from about quarter of a book away, but it was fitting and the right thing to do with this story and world. Said plot twist does take the wind out of the sails of the plot a bit, as the goal for the heroes becomes get home again. Quinn does take an extended excursion somewhere special where he gets to explore his magic in ways he would never be able to do back on Earth.
It was fun visiting Alissia, in particular through Quinn’s eyes and my hope for future books in this series would be stronger and more drama filled plots with clearer and more meaningful plot points, twists and turns. As a regular fantasy reader, I also have a taste for writing that immerses me in the setting and plot. By this I mean – show, don’t tell. The writing style is heavy on telling what is going on rather than showing me. As Anton Chekhov put it “Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” Sometimes little details about the culture and behavior of Alissian’s is told in the text that the characters around would not know as we have not seen them see it, and are not essential to the plot anyway. For example; why tells us an Alissian’s snuff box is as private as a wallet or purse? By all means show it as a way of adding flavor and realism to the setting. Otherwise, we don’t need to know. The telling not showing issue also, for me, robs battle scenes of some of their impact, and there are some good ones in there.
Quinn’s antics, the hint of conspiracy not yet fully visible and the position Quinn finds himself in by the end of the book do make me curious to read future installments, but I it doesn’t quite make 5th star on this occasion.
Well done to Dan Koblot for bringing something just a bit different to the fantasy genre, although it is certainly more accurate to call it fantasy sci-fi.
2 reviews
March 31, 2016
I really wanted to love this. The premise is fantastic (a stage magician is transported to a world where he meets real magicians. Sadly, it didn't meet my expectations. I'm not sure these are faults of the book per se, but perhaps it just doesn't fit my preferences.

Here's why:

1. My biggest problem with the book is that I don't know what to root for. This is NOT a character-driven novel, where we fall in love with a protagonist and with them yearn for something. What does the main character want? To be a hot-shot magician. How does his quest relate to what he wants? It doesn't. That's the problem. He's assigned to work for some big corporation to retrieve some guy (why they actually need him, we never know). Half-way through the book, he fails, which wasn't disheartening because, as hired help for the company, you don't really care. It wasn't HIS goal, it was the goal of the company. So what we have is a book where the entire plot is driven by companies with unknown intents. All that happens to the characters is because of the corporate world's decision and all the characters we follow are simply pawns of said companies. That made it REALLY hard for me to get into the book. They didn't care about accomplishing their goal so I didn't care.

2. There were SOOOO many unresolved subplots. I expect the author plans to have another book to follow this up, but NONE of the original plot threads were resolved in this book. We start out trying to capture this guy and they fail. So then they go home. Hmmm....That's kind of unsatisfying. Then he opens a thread about a missing ship and that never gets resolved. Then there's this idea that maybe the main character is a real magician and that doesn't really get resolved. So, we have lots of threads that begin but end without making anything resembling a tapestry. In other words, this novel does not follow the format of other novels (inciting incident that propels the protagonist to work toward a goal, said goal is complicated, said goal is achieved or not achieved in the end). It feels more like a travelogue of an interesting bloke that does a bunch of magic tricks.

3. Character development is weak. There's some attempts to make people unique (Logan is the tough guy, the main character is the jokster kinda, one girl is the all-business team captain, etc.), but you never really get inside the characters' heads enough to see what drives them, what makes them tick, and what makes them unique. It reminded me of meeting somebody on the airplane--you're able to get some broad brush strokes of their history but don't at all understand them as a human, like you might with a BFF. Likewise with this novel. I WANTED to go deeper with these people, but sadly it was weak. And I am left not terribly interested in their quest.

What I did like was the main character's clever means of escaping tough situations. That alone made it a fun read--watching the way he cleverly unsnares himself from compromising situations. I'm just hoping in the next iteration, there will be more of a cohesive goal that propels the plot onward.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
296 reviews79 followers
January 24, 2016
Disclosure: I've met the author as part of my role as the Municipal Liaison for the St. Louis NaNoWriMo region. I received the book as a free digital ARC via Edelweiss and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

THE ROGUE RETRIEVAL brings the magic of the stage together with magic of the world. Quinn is a stage magician about to get his big break in Vegas when he's approached with a very strange job offer. The world of Alissia lies just on the other side of a portal, and a megacorporation has been studying it for over a decade. They need his help to recover one of their people who has gone rogue, because Quinn would be an unknown to the man gone missing. Oh, and magic exists in Alissia, so they need their own magician. But it's not going to be easy, especially since impersonating a true magician carries a death sentence.

It's fun to see the juxtaposition of illusions or sufficiently advanced science against true magic. Alissia is a well-developed world, and has many secrets, quite a few of which aren't revealed, so there's plenty left for other books in the series. I'm a sucker for magic, stage or actual, and I always want to know how it works--it doesn't ruin the effect for me, so I would have liked to have known how Quinn does some of his more spectacular tricks that the R&D guys at the megacorp didn't have a hand in developing (and I want to know how long they worked on that laser sword). Quinn finds something about himself in Alissia, which I would definitely like to know more about!

There's good gender representation in this novel, which made me happy. The commander of the mission to retrieve the rogue is a woman, and the science officer is a female POC (huzzah!). It just goes to show you that diversity is possible in fantasy! It's an unfortunate fact that most people's default character design is a white male, so why not give readers a chance to change that setting?

I felt like the ending was a little rushed, with a great big aerial battle that I had a little trouble picturing in my mind. But the story wraps up nicely while leaving plenty of room for a sequel. Also, I would like some Valteroni Gold now.

This book started life as a NaNoWriMo novel, so it just goes to show you that actual published books DO come from this writing program. I better get writing on mine!
Profile Image for Victor Gentile.
2,035 reviews52 followers
January 28, 2016
Dan Koboldt in his new book, “The Rogue Retrieval” published by Harper Voyager Impulse introduces us to Quinn Bradley.

From the back cover: Sleight of hand…in another land.

Stage magician Quinn Bradley has one dream: to headline his own show on the Vegas Strip. And with talent scouts in the audience wowed by his latest performance, he knows he’s about to make the big-time. What he doesn’t expect is an offer to go on a quest to a place where magic is all too real.

That’s how he finds himself in Alissia, a world connected to ours by a secret portal owned by a powerful corporation. He’s after an employee who has gone rogue, and that’s the least of his problems. Alissia has true magicians…and the penalty for impersonating one is death. In a world where even a twelve-year-old could beat Quinn in a swordfight, it’s only a matter of time until the tricks up his sleeves run out.

Scientist and blogger Dan Koboldt weaves wonder, humor, and heart into his debut novel, The Rogue Retrieval. Fans of Terry Brooks and Terry Pratchett will find this a thrilling read.

The Rogue Retrieval is a very clever storyline. Quinn has been recruited to crossover to Alissia to retrieve a rogue scientist (hence the title) whose actions threaten to put all of them at risk. Quinn is one of the best at being a Vegas stage magician. The situation is on Alissia they use real magic and it is going to take all Quinn’s skills to not get caught before they catch the scientist. This is perfect for a movie of the week. Quinn is a terrific character that captures your attention and bring you into his world. I am glad I found this talented author and am looking forward to the next book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Pump Up Your Book. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Profile Image for Angel Leya.
Author 79 books79 followers
May 17, 2016
I have to say, I had mixed emotions about starting this one. I don't know where my head was at when I read the description, but I wasn't expecting what I got - and I loved it!

Quinn Bradley is a Vegas magician with dreams of headlining on the strip. His personality and charm, sleight of hand, and innovative illusions have finally attracted some head hunters, but they've also caught the attention of a large and powerful corporation who want to use it for their own. All his best options blocked, Quinn agrees to sign the non-disclosure agreement (against the advice of a mysterious stranger) and finds himself thrown into a whole new world.

Alissia exists through a portal on an island controlled by CASE Global. It's like a medieval, pristine earth over there - except that there's magic, and a whole host of flora and fauna the likes of which earth has never seen. The mission for the crew Quinn is on is to retrieve Dr. Holt, an research employee that's gone rogue, but Holt isn't making things easy. Pursued by beasts and thugs, the team's military training and field research help keep them safe. Quinn's razzle-dazzle can also give them an edge -- as long as he doesn't get caught by the enclave of Magicians who would kill him for impersonating a true Alissian Magician.

This novel is full of adventure, an incredibly believable alternate world, and magic. I laughed so much (quoting Journey lyrics to convince guards he's a monk? :D ), and followed the story eagerly to see what's next. I'm so pleased there are sequels scheduled, because this story left on a kind of major cliffhanger. Quinn's time with Alissia is not done, and I'm eager to see where it all goes.

I'm so glad I took the dive into this story, and I would whole-heartedly recommend it.
Profile Image for Diana Urban.
Author 5 books1,188 followers
January 18, 2016
I had a lot of fun reading The Rogue Retrieval! I got this as an eARC from Edelweiss, and read it in just a couple sittings. It's an action-packed ride with a witty protagonist, and I'm a fan of magic — both in fantasy books and magic acts performed in the "real world" — so this was up my alley.

Quinn is a stage magician in Vegas looking for his big break on the strip. After a stellar performance, he thinks he's finally going to be offered his dream job. Instead, reps from CASE Global make him an offer he can't refuse, with the catch that it's a secret mission. They bring him to an island they own harboring a secret portal to another world called Alissia, reminiscent of medieval Europe. Their head researcher, Holt, has disappeared into this world, endangering CASE's goals and Alissian society. Quinn's job is to help retrieve Holt using his illusions along the way, which will be particularly helpful because in this world, real magic exists.

This is very much an adventure story, and I really enjoyed learning about Alissia and the details of its society and culture, as well as what CASE intended on doing with it. I liked the combination of science, technology, and illusion as magic, and how it juxtaposes with the subtlety of the real magic in Alissia. This read was also unique in that things didn't always turn out as you'd expect them to, even though sometimes information is withheld that prevents the reader from figuring things out on their own. Also, characters were able to talk themselves out of sticky situations a little too easily. But overall, it was a fast read with fun characters and action-packed scenes, and I'm looking forward to the next book(s) in the series!
Profile Image for Vinay Badri.
684 reviews38 followers
May 26, 2016
This turned out to be quite a fun book subtly drawing inspirations from a lot of sources but retaining enough charm to differentiate it from the others. Charming, I think, thats the word for this book. The characters are not very complex but are extremely charming and good humored. There is a vein of darkness but that's mostly hidden away to an extent.

The classic fish-out-of-water scenario heres involves a Vegas magician being hired by a large faceless corporation to hunt a rogue scientist who has gone missing in another world, a world fuedal in set up but containing magic. Which gives our unlikely lead a chance to get involved in things beyond his control, in a world where impersonating magicians could sentence you to death. Quick with his feet and words, Bradley Quinn tries to charm, wheedle and negotiate his way out of the situations that he manages to land and make worse. The supporting cast is also adequately covered and has great chemistry.

There is a nice easy pace to the book and a great comfort level from the way it is written, the moment you pick it up. There is hardly a dull moment in the book. The ending however seemed a bit too pat and rushed. At a point in the book, around 80%, I was resigned to a sequel given how things were going but surprisingly enough, the threads all converge together, if too conveniently to let you off with a decent resolution even if there are enough ancillary threads to make you want to visit the world if there are any sequels planned (Please let there be)
Profile Image for Carrie Mansfield .
392 reviews16 followers
January 15, 2016
You know, I think might be the favorite book that I've read from the Harper Voyager Impulse line. When I was trying to think of negatives about this book, about the worst thing I could thing of was "it doesn't exactly break any new ground," but that isn't necessarily even a bad thing, if done well.

And honestly, it was.

The book knew exactly what it was: a story of contemporary, tech-forward humans traveling to a world that's medieval in its technology to try and retrieve one of their own that went to this world and decided to not come back. And what's impressive is that while you can figure out where the story is going in terms of their assignment, the story as a whole doesn't go where you'd expect it to at all. It was a pleasant surprise. When you combine it with the likable characters, it makes for a fun, if basic read with an intriguing set-up for a possible sequel. All told, if you like the set up, pick this up. At $2.99, you can't go wrong giving it a chance.
Profile Image for Rati Mehrotra.
Author 33 books410 followers
March 27, 2016
Ever seen a really good magic show? You suspend disbelief for a while to enjoy it. You know intellectually that skill and technology are behind the 'magic' you're seeing...but what if a place existed where magic was real and 'impersonating' magicians was a crime? And what if you plucked a Las Vegas magician and stuck him there? This is the premise of "The Rogue Retrieval", a quick-paced and entertaining adventure that blends fantasy with state-of-the-art technology and a greedy corporate empire with designs on the magical world. There are (real) magicians, a rogue scientist, intelligent mules (my favorite!) and, of course, the magical portal that acts as a gateway into the world. Quinn Bradley, our Las Vegas hero, is endearing, funny and likable. There are moments of deadpan humor in the book which made me laugh out loud. Recommended read! I'll be looking forward to the sequel.
Profile Image for James.
64 reviews1 follower
February 28, 2016
I thougth it started a little slow but then it picked up. I was not to sure if i wanted to read the book after the first few pages but glad I did. It got better and more exciting as I went along. liked that he used a magician. Nice twist to the story. Hope the writer will return to his world for more adventures.
Profile Image for Kate Swed.
Author 42 books54 followers
May 5, 2016
The Rogue Retrieval is a portal fantasy that brings sci-fi tech into a high fantasy world, and the result is pure fun. Fans of Jim C. Hines would enjoy Dan Koboldt's witty dialogue--rich in banter--and his great sense of humor. And I really enjoyed following Vegas-magician Quinn through his adventures in Alissia. Is it too soon to hope for a sequel?
17 reviews
March 11, 2016
Good Start

This book was one of the better attempts to integrate science and magic. It also laid the groundwork for further adventures. It has some ideas that I would like to see developed into greater detail. Worth the price.
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