Paul L. Centeno is an award-winning fantasy and science-fiction author, born and raised in New York City. As a young adult, he studied at Herbert H. Lehman College where he earned a BA in Philosophy and Creative Writing. After graduation, he worked with Gabriel Packard, Associate Director of the Creative Writing MFA Program at Hunter College, to master his craft.
His fantasy novel, The Vagrant Chronicle, was critically acclaimed in Writer’s Digest Annual Indie Book Awards. Kirkus Reviews, in their January 15th, 2013 magazine, stated, “Centeno yearns to create something completely new, and if we immerse ourselves in his cosmos, we will be richly rewarded.” In 2014 and 2015, he won awards from Writers of the Future for his short stories, Steamwalker and Celestial Heights. Later in 2016, he started receiving auditions from voice actors for his novels. As of 2020, he signed a contract with actress Courtney Holly to create the audiobooks of his new fantasy series.
Centeno lives in New England and is currently working on his eighth novel.
“Centeno yearns to create something completely new, and if we immerse ourselves in his cosmos, we will be richly rewarded.”
– Kirkus Reviews
A military spacecraft captain tries to keep her crew safe while battling pirates, creatures, and an alien race that Holy Scriptures declared eradicated in this sci-fi adventure.
Capt. Shirakaya is ecstatic, having found a protostar that can replenish her sorcery with magical ions. Unfortunately, aliens launch a sudden assault that Shirakaya and the people aboard Celestial narrowly survive. Following the attack, the sorceress starts to feel her magic dwindling. What’s worse is that the aliens appeared to be koth’vurians, a race long ago vanquished, according to religious text. The Ruzurai, rulers of the Tal’manac Order, refuse to believe that Shirakaya witnessed the koth’vurians and send her on another mission. The captain and her crew, including oracle (and Shirakaya’s lover) Jedalia, search for a tourist cruise that’s gone offline, only to uncover a hijacking. Shirakaya’s subsequent shore leave to see her family turns out much the same: she and bodyguard Yarasuro have to rescue her brother Khal’jan from a murderous artificial intelligence. It isn’t long, though, before Shirakaya once again faces off against the koth’vurians, led by the formidable Ashkaratoth. Shirakaya’s predicament, meanwhile, turns dire as her magic continues to weaken. She’s not able to save everyone, and she fears she’s lost so many people that the Ruzurai will soon have her court-martialed. The story delves right into action and rarely lets up. The Celestial crew’s exploits are endless fun, braving monsters from the air and sea, with an emergency touchdown on planet MJ453 and a crash landing on another, unknown world. Shirakaya’s arcane abilities are familiar but chic; she casts icicles and fireballs and uses telekinesis to hurl enemies through the air. There are times when the novel feels like a series of short tales, the captain and others jumping from one misfortune to the next. Centeno (Blood Immortal, 2015, etc.) does, however, tie them together, especially with characters like Xorvaj, a pirate who threatens to kill children in one scene and returns later as a pseudo-ally. The concluding chapter takes the saga on a drastic turn, but it’s a welcome one that puts Shirakaya on the same side as seedy characters and sets the stage for Book 2.
Sci-fi and fantasy merge to form an entertaining romp in space.
Pub Date: April 4, 2019
Review Posted Online: May 9, 2019
Mercenaries embark on a series of missions and misadventures while pursuing a heinous alien species in this SF sequel.
Shirakaya was once a captain of the Order, a religious military faction on the planet Pravura. Now, she’s a freelancer for guilds, tackling such missions as investigating unexplained deaths at a nursing home and rescuing a trancepunk rock star from a cult. She slowly forms a team ultimately called Shadow Mercs, starting with the military crew of a spacecraft she once commanded. While the mercenaries complete missions that Shirakaya’s contact continues to assign, they also earn money in other ways. Two Mercs become tag-team champs in an underground arena while Shirakaya’s team tries joining a competition show to win a brand-new interstellar starship. But their most important goal is stopping Ashkaratoth, who leads koth’vurians in terrorist attacks on Pravura. Most don’t believe that these aliens, exiled eons ago, have even returned. Shirakaya further enhances the Mercs with surprising recruits; she hopes to align with a powerful wraith and embraces a soldier who’s gradually mutating from an alien bite. The team may prove a formidable adversary to Ashkaratoth, especially if Shirakaya can get back the magic she’s lost. Centeno’s second installment, like the first, is a collection of subplots. Each chapter focuses on and often resolves an intriguing story; as one character aptly puts it, “One mission at a time, please.” Still, there’s definite cohesion, particularly with the Mercs’ persistent alien enemy, who, like numerous characters, appeared in the preceding novel. The vibrant cast includes Shirakaya; cynical soldier Dojin; and pilot Narja, who pushes the hardest for the starship grand prize. Sadly, not everyone in this appealing bunch makes it to the end. Meanwhile, brisk action ignites the pages with enchanted swords, plasma guns, and tentacled creatures, though it’s apparent that Centeno is setting the stage for more books to follow.
Superlative characters fuel this swiftly paced futuristic tale.
Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2019
Page count: 321pp
Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021
An unlikely hero tries to save the children—and the world—in this complex but satisfying fantasy.
Mor’reius Krelsin is a mercenary with a heart. He lives by the code of xyres, a sort of religious code that involves a quest, completed for gain or for good, but always pursued with honor. Recently, the code tells him one thing: Someone is killing and kidnapping the children of Bra’dune, and he must stop the carnage. Bra’dune is quite literally a fallen land; floating shards of granite scratch the cracked sky, fractured by a past apocalypse that can never be forgotten. But it’s not so fallen that it produces no heroes, and Mor’reius ventures out to save the children who cannot save themselves. (As a child raised in an orphanage, he can sympathize.) However, a few early battles reveal the fact that his foe is no simple man, but a powerful spirit set on destroying not only children, but Bra’dune itself. In creating a fantasy world like Bra’dune from scratch, an author must walk a fine line between familiarity and innovation. If that world is too much like our own, it bores; if it’s too dissimilar, it confuses. Centeno risks committing the latter error, filling Bra’dune with unheard-of gods, mystifying cosmogonies, rhyming scriptures and a collection of undiscovered fauna that would make any zoologist scratch his head. Thus, we twist our way through a land infested with wycalths, quilapedes, swyvins and renjaws. (My kingdom for a horse!) But though we may yearn for a guide to help us on our journey, these novelties are symptomatic only of the author’s enthusiasm and ingenuity. Centeno yearns to create something completely new, and if we immerse ourselves in his cosmos, we will be richly rewarded.
A dark but epic tale of heroism in a very brave, very new world.
Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2012
Page count: 742pp
Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2012
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013
From the author of The Vagrant Chronicle (2012) comes a post-apocalyptic Western in which a tortured hero struggles to separate illusion from reality.
Thousands of years in the future, the Earth has been scorched by a hyperactive sun. Australia remains the only habitable continent, where a frontier-style civilization prevails. In the town of Desonas, Flint Cross lives with his wife, Amanda, and their two children. Flint’s harsh existence is made worse by Amanda’s confrontational attitude and the dreams about a woman named Hamarah that plague him. The town marshal asks Flint to hunt down a former ally named Browder, claiming that he’s murdered some aboriginal Australians. But when our hero catches up with Browder, the man warns Flint that life in Desonas is an illusion. To break the spell, he must stop eating the fruit called “bush tucker.” To cope with this startling revelation, Flint enlists the Aborigine Yeramba to guide him through the psychic realm of the dreamtime. There, Flint encounters not just Hamarah, but also a hidden aspect of himself. They offer information about the man Flint once was—a warrior named Ethan—who’s being punished by living in the elaborate lie that is Desonas. Should Flint escape his prison, leaving behind the children he loves? Experienced fantasist Centeno triumphantly celebrates the many pulpy facets of the genre. His broody narrative is ripe with nasty creatures (the lurken), pale kings (the evil Pardashan) and psychological hellscapes. An agile prose conveys it all fantastically: “The creature’s head exploded; then its body burst into a glob of slime that enveloped Flint.” Centeno’s dialogue is just as rich, and our introduction to Pardashan is exceptional; he tells our hero, “[Y]ou will remember my name until you scream and croak as a spit of meat on my dinner table!” A few slow moments occur when Flint explores his psychic trauma; he questions reality so often it starts to feel repetitive. Beyond that, Centeno offers an inventive, emotionally resonant adventure.
A savory treat for sci-fi/fantasy readers.
Pub Date: June 18, 2014
Page count: 284pp
Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2014
Centeno’s debut sci-fi novel follows a group of human soldiers on an intergalactic adventure in the 27th century.
Under the command of surly Adm. Bisel, the soldiers capture a notorious alien fugitive and travel outside the borders of the Milky Way into uncharted territories controlled by hostile aliens. Vowing revenge, the alien prisoner escapes and the crew become trapped in a distant, dangerous galaxy. From here, the book kicks off on an epic adventure filled with dueling spaceships, fast-paced chase scenes and all manner of alien vs. human combat. This title doesn’t break any new ground in the sci-fi genre; readers will recognize familiar images and ideas from iconic works. However, Centeno does an admirable job of creating a dense and believable futuristic world. Fleshed out with careful detail, the 27th century becomes evocative and real under Centeno’s stewardship. The novel is expertly paced with enough dramatic twists, cliff-hangers and sudden reversals of fortune to keep readers’ pulse elevated. The novel is less successful, however, when attempting philosophical explorations. Curiously, the author states his thematic intentions on the very first page after dedicating the novel to philosophy. “I also want to dedicate this novel to those of you who seek truth,” he sternly declares. Throughout, characters make clunky reflections about the significance of their circumstances; these underwhelming passages tend to detract from the breakneck pace of the novel’s action. Despite its flaws, the book succeeds as an entertaining adventure.
A familiar but exciting sci-fi epic for readers of all ages.
Pub Date: March 14, 2012
Page count: 408pp
Review Posted Online: April 18, 2012
In Centeno’s (Dark Sanity, 2014, etc.) latest novel, a “humyn” prince hopes a marriage of necessity to a high elf will end a terrible war. Demons plan otherwise.
Prince Aarian of Vlydyn casts aside hishumyn love, Belisa, in favor of wedding a high elf princess of Lar’a’dos, but an evil plan threatens to destroy the prince’s humbling sacrifice. The dark elves’ ruler, Saldovin, makes a pact with demons, who call down their chaos upon Prince Aarian’s land to prevent the wedding. Yet the dark elf’s bargain proves only too effective: rather than merely shatter the peace of humyns and high elves, the demon hordes destroy the humyn kingdom and continue on to threaten the entire world (known as Yunedar). With only a handful of humyns remaining in all the realm, Prince Aarian is forced to look for help among horrifying allies: gargoyles, vampires, werewolves, dark elves, orcs, trolls, ogres and their overlord, a powerful dragon known as Earmathras. Taming his own doubts and the loss of Belisa—and taking up the role of the monsters’ chosen one, as foretold by prophecy—Aarian takes the fight to the demon legions in a final battle to save the ruins of Vlydyn and all of Yunedar. Unfortunately, characters are thin and familiar: the protagonist is impressively heroic, dragons are crafty and old, counselors are hidebound and stuffy, and so forth. There are no real surprises in the cast, beyond the mildly novel inclusion of creatures such as orcs and werewolves in speaking roles, while language is standard to most medieval-esque fantasies (think “accursed” and “slay”). Tonally, the book has much more in common with Dragonlance novels than with A Song of Ice and Fire: sex is kept offstage, violence is restrained and cinematic, and swearing is nonexistent. It’s an adventure for any age group.
Serviceable, undistinguished fantasy fare.
Pub Date: May 28, 2015
Review Posted Online: Aug. 24, 2015
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