Review | Willem of the Tafel




Willem of the Tafel by Hans M. Hirschi

Willem of the Tafel by

Hans M. Hirschi

Published by

Beaten Track Publishing

Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, LGBT, Post-Dystopian, Young Adult

194 pages

Release Date: May 28, 2015


The world we know is gone, destroyed by greed and ignorance. On a post-apocalyptic Earth, centuries into the future, few have survived the Great War. Some have taken refuge deep inside a mountain. One of them, Willem, is exiled to the surface… Alone and struggling to survive, Willem embarks on an epic journey, making a discovery that could once again alter the future of humanity. Willem of the Tafel is an epic tale of survival, second chances, hope and undying love.


Check out the trailer for Willem of the Tafel



Willem of the Tafel by Hans Hirschi is a post-apocalyptic novel set some four centuries after a mixture of global-warming induced flooding and nuclear war eradicated the majority of the population. Willem is a young man who has spent his entire life among the Tafel, a society who lives within a bomb shelter beneath the Table Mountain in South Africa. Initially a part of a distrusted and mistreated minority, he becomes a pivotal figure in the future of humanity.

The good:

This is a unique take on the post-apocalyptic story, which often find themselves set in nameless deserts with faceless hordes of rampaging lunatics bent on killing (or doing other things) to anything that moves. The world vision presented in this book presents a hopeful vision of an Earth essentially sent back in time by virtue of the loss of almost all technology. Bleakness, so often a theme in the post-apocalyptic setting gives way to an overriding sense of hope.

Willem is likeable character who the reader comes to empathize with over the course of the story. While the omniscient narration felt as though it kept me at arms’ length, I did get a good sense of his isolation, fear, and wonder at the world outside, distrust of surface dwellers, love, longing, and eventual joy. Some of his dialogue felt strange given his upbringing, such as using phrases and colloquialisms that didn’t seem likely. Overall Willem was a well-rounded character with enough innocence, strength, and intelligence to make the reader want to root for him.

His relationship with Hery (barring the suddenness of it) was well portrayed, believable and emotionally touching, especially the sacrifices each had to make.

While I enjoyed this new take on a post-nuclear Earth, some things felt a little strange. It’s unclear if the mention of poisoned parts of the planet where no one can go are the result of superstition or fact, as some aspects of a post-nuclear society as described (chiefly the length of time radiation hazards remain) felt more Hollywood than factual.

The not so good:

The prologue is unnecessary, as all of the information contained within is repeated when Willem has a conversation with Stephane.

Omniscient POV – With a title like Willem of the Tafel, I expected this novel to delve deep into the story of the protagonist for whom it is named. Alas, the author took on an omniscient narration with frequent focus shifts to characters (some rather ancillary) other than Willem. While this did provide a thorough sense of everything going on around Willem, I think overall it detracted from much of the story’s chances at emotional scenes.

The romance between Willem and Hary seemed to come out of nowhere, a ‘love at first sight’ situation. Much of Willem’s evolution from lonely, isolated cave dweller to a person capable of loving and being loved is glossed over in the distance of omniscient narration. We’re not really with Willem during this process, so the reader misses out on a lot of the experience of watching him grow. I felt it was a wasted opportunity to immerse the reader in Willem’s story.

At several points, new chapters leap to relatively minor characters, showing the motivations and schemes of those around him… things that Willem could not know. Allowing the reader to see the actions of the antagonist is often done to create tension for the reader (the reader knows what’s coming but the character does not). The problem here is that the schemes in question don’t imperil the main character much at all for most of the story. When they do, a confrontation occurs, but it feels rushed and―due to the omniscient narration―occurs “at a distance” from the reader. The final conflict between Willem and his greatest antagonist (an antagonist that Willem largely doesn’t even recognize as an antagonist) felt forced and brief. It ended before the reader can comprehend what happened… and the reader never does understand exactly who did what.

Also, during these focus switches to side characters, ideas that had already been presented to the reader were repeated unnecessarily (to the reader) from the head of another character. I thought the character of Willem was compelling, and this would have been a more engaging story if we could have spent more time with him, rather than watching from afar vis a vis omniscient narration.

Antagonist – The story’s antagonist felt like a stereotypical megalomaniac, with little character development other than being an opposing force to Willem. His desires were purely rooted in his craving for power, and there was little to nothing redeeming about him. A good antagonist doesn’t see himself as the antagonist, and there is usually some grain of ‘hey, maybe he’s got a point’ to the bad guy’s ideas―not so in this case. Mavuto was, without a doubt, the bad guy. Add to that, his presence in the book is brief: a little in the beginning, and a little closer to the end where his opposition is out of character (a scheming politician type flings violent) and largely ineffective.

Repetition – Many story elements, themes, and facts are repeated unnecessarily. Examples of this include multiple mentions of there having been 50 years since the doors opened, that banishment above ground meant death, an almost heavy-handed battering of the evils of racism, that the Tafelians were vegan and didn’t eat meat, and continuous reminders of how devastating global warming was, among others.

Racial tension – Within the Tafel, the issue of racial animosity is brought again and again to the forefront. The prologue mentions that no one could remember who started the nuclear war, but the tattered group of survivors still managed to remember to hate each other because of skin color? It comes out later in the narrative that a library existed, which presumably allowed the leaders to mold opinion to their desires, but I couldn’t see any purpose for this. The leaders of the Tafel society had nothing to gain by fostering racial animosity among their own people, as it would only serve to weaken them as a whole. With so few humans left in their group, that seems reckless at best and foolish at worst.

Cliché – The dystopian tropish treatment of Tafel women (those of breeding age being kept sequestered from the general population like prisoners) seemed contrary to their goal of increasing the population. Initially, I was confused how there remained such distinct populations of Shadows and Ghosts (Black and White people), especially given the frequent statements that they were running out of DNA combinations and women were required to ‘have as many babies as possible with as many different fathers as possible.’

It’s never clear until much later that there had been some manner of prohibition on interracial procreation, which again struck me as counterintuitive to the survival of the group (worse given that these were all supposed to be scientists and engineers.) It often felt like the black/white issue in the beginning parts of the story was an artifice forced over the backdrop of a desperate survival situation for the sake of telling a moralistic tale of eventual racial acceptance, even though the situation (300 or so people left alive and spending four centuries underground) makes such animosity unlikely. Over four centuries, I think it would have either boiled over to outright murder or faded to acceptance.

Weak editing – While the story is good despite a few oddities, the book needs the attention of an editor. The major issue was repetition of concepts. Actual typos were rare, but I found frequent word echoes, some awkward sentences, misplaced (or missing) commas, bad dialogue tags, and a few instances where dialogue lacked needed attribution to make it clear who was speaking.

Overall, if you’re looking for a post-apocalyptic “mad max” style story with stuff blowing up every few pages, this isn’t the book for you. This is an emotional, cerebral tale of how one seemingly unimportant boy can make a difference. While the “we are killing the Earth” and “can’t we all just get along” morality undertones are far from subtle, this is a captivating story of a boy’s journey from a nonentity to a man who changes the course of human history.




Follow the Willem of the Tafel Virtual book tour here


Hans M Hirschi (b. 1967) has been writing stories ever since he was a child. Adulthood and the demands of corporate life efficiently put an end to his fiction writing for over twenty years.
A global executive in training and channel development, Hans has traveled the world and had previously published non-fictional titles.

The birth of his son and the subsequent parental leave provided him with the opportunity to unleash his creative writing once again. With little influence over his brain’s creative workings, he indulges it, going with the flow.

A deeply rooted passion for faith in a better world, in love, tolerance and diversity are a red thread throughout both his creative and non-fictional work. His novels might best be described as “literary romance, engaging characters and relevant stories that won’t leave you untouched, but hopeful.”

Hans is a proud member of the Swedish Writers’ Union and the Writers’ Center in Sweden.



The giveaway for Willem of the Tafel has 11 randomly chosen winners; 10 will receive $15 Gift codes to the author’s shop, but the grand prize winner will receive a free ticket to GayRomLit retreat 2015, in San Diego, CA, happening October 15-18th, 2015. Ticket value is $175, but if you win the grand prize, you’re responsible for travel and accommodations. Please notify the author in advance should you win and be unable to attend, so we can choose another recipient to enjoy the prize!

Good luck and happy reading and winning!

Willem of the Tafel Tour brought to you by…


Happy Geek Media

New Release | The Summer The World Ended


Hi all 🙂

This coming Monday, 6/29, my second foray into the world of young adult writing is coming out. The Summer the World Ended is an emotional rollercoaster ride. Fourteen year old Riley McCullough has been looking forward to the “most epic summer ever” between eighth grade and high school. An introvert by nature, she was eager to spend countless hours online with her best (and only) friend Amber Nelson, playing video games into the wee hours.

Amber’s parents surprise her with a surprise Mexico vacation as a graduation present, throwing a wet blanket of suck over Riley’s first two weeks of freedom. From there, things only get worse, and soon she’s on the other side of the country with a father she hadn’t seen since she was eight.

Of course, trying to fit in to a new town, adjust to the new routine of living with dad, and being thousands of miles away from anything familiar all seems trivial when the world plunges into nuclear war.

Please join me on Facebook Monday for a release party –

Prizes include:

2 signed paperbacks of The Summer the World Ended
3 ebooks (winner’s choice) from my released titles.
2 $10 Amazon gift cards
1 The Summer the World Ended 24×36 poster (signed if desired)
(As yet undetermined cool trinkets made by Justplummy Swagit)

Other ebook prizes:

The Curse Merchant – by JP Sloan
The Curse Servant – by JP Sloan
Fairy Keeper – by Amy Rhoades Bearce
Catch Me When I Fall – by Vicki Leigh
Night of Pan – by Gail Strickland
How to Date Dead Guys – by Ann Noser
Exacting Essence – by James Wymore
The Undead – by Elsie Elmore
The Black Oracle – by Michael Cristiano

Add the book on Goodreads here:


Caller 107 | Chapter One

Note: The below excerpt contains strong language. If you can’t handle it, don’t read 🙂


big_Broken glass crunched underfoot; every third step, her foot slipped to one side or the other almost sending her to the ground. Natalie stumbled through the alley behind the others, struggling to keep the pace demanded by the hand around her wrist. The clamor of boots on the wet pavement made her feel as if the eyes of the entire city fell on her. Something bad was in the air tonight, something worse than ripping off the corner store or pinching a Beemer for a joyride. Wet brick and fire escapes, highlighted in moonlight, passed overhead; she ran through the shadows to a part of the city she had never been.

In time, the pack slowed to a quiet walk and came to a halt just shy of where the glow of streetlamps invaded the alley. Natalie covered her mouth with her left hand, both to shield herself from some awful smell in the air and to quiet the sound of her breathing. The others leaned against the wall of an old brownstone. Each time a car went past, she froze as if the driver might hear her over the sound of his engine.

What the hell am I doing here? Mom is gonna lose her damn mind if I get caught.

Jason, despite his size, had a boyish face that made him seem less like a criminal than the rest. If there was any of this lot of misfits she trusted, it would be him. Most nights, he had a harmless, urgent look to him that felt at odds with everything the others were doing. Tonight was no different. This was, however, the first time he had squeezed the feeling out of her hand. She tugged at her arm, wanting to sink into the cover of darkness against the building.

He thinks I’ll run.

Kevin, white-painted face aglow in the streetlights, shot a hard look at those assembled. Natalie cringed inside, trying to evade his glare. The last time he had that glint in his eye, he almost stabbed some kid from Long Island. He peeked out of the alley, looked around, and came back pacing.

“Yo, where’s Etan?” Cory emerged from a sunken stairwell on the sidewalk, as calm as if he owned the basement apartment. He paused at the top, a red glowing dot brightened in front of his face for an instant before he entered the alley through a cloud of cigarette smoke. “He was supposed to be here.”

Everyone tensed at his sudden appearance; a few knives got put away when they realized who it was. Natalie shivered. Cory had a deep voice that sounded ten years older than he looked, the kind of voice they use to sell stuff on TV. He took another drag, laughing the smoke into a cloud. The collar of his long, dark coat flapped up against the back of his neck in the breeze; his eyes stood out against his dark face. He was either going for Wall Street or Blade.

“He’s in fuckin’ Jersey, trying to score some rocks. We need a cash infusion.” Kevin tapped his fingers on his arm as if prepping a vein.

Natalie flattened against the wall, heart pounding. She looked at Kevin, at his shitty impersonation of The Crow with spiked hair. Jason had the face paint too, but he skipped the overdone bit around the eyes. Cory frightened her more; he never liked her, too young, too white, too Jewish.

Jason pressed her into the cold brick, kissing. The smell of his makeup teased her anxiety into full-blown nausea. Neck, cheek, lips. Hand on her shoulder, down her side. She stood stiff as a mannequin, palms flat against cold stone.

“What’s wrong with you, Nat? You need some E? Relax, girl. It’s not like Rosario’s gonna call the police coz we hit his stash.”

Everyone laughed.

“No… If my mo―” A loud wooden bang from the street made her jump. She buried her face in Jason’s chest, trembling.

“Jay, man. You don’t got the green, man. That scrawny little JAP can smell your poverty.”

Natalie gave Cory the finger. “Fuck you, Blade.”

Her trembling lofted audible in her voice. Again, the group laughed.

“No thanks,” said Cory. “If I’m gonna bite on jailbait, it’s gonna have a shape. Ain’t suckin’ on four-to-ten for some flat-ass white bitch that thinks she’s street.” He whirled on Kevin, pointing two fingers. “No tits, no ass… shit, she wouldn’t know what to do with this monster.” He gestured at his crotch.

For an instant, she thought he went for a gun and gasped. Then she wanted to die of embarrassment.

Cory made a dismissive ‘pff’ sound, sidestepping. “Shit, man. Why the fuck you even bring her here? Bitch is gonna be nothin’ but trouble. She ain’t even real.”

Kevin leaned at him with a scowl. “You were a scared little punk ‘fore you stole that Brooks Brothers coat.” Cory glared. “Etan wants her to get her hands dirty. Gave her a choice of bendin’ over or pull a job, and she’s stiff as a rod. She ain’t wanna put out, she’s gotta do something serious.”

“You think I had to steal this?” Cory pulled at the lapels of his coat as he stepped up on Kevin. “None of you motherfuckers knows a damn thing about distribution.”

Natalie folded her arms and shivered into the wall, ignoring the continuing argument. I’m no whore, I’m not gonna be another Traci. I’m not like Mother. I can do this. Just stealing drugs from a drug dealer, not like anyone’s gonna get hurt. Maybe they’ll respect me if I―

Jason ran a thumb over her bottom lip, no doubt removing a smudge of his black lipstick. “Relax, kid. No one’s home. We’ll be long gone before the cops even know what happened.”

Natalie met his gaze, calmed by the image of a gothic prince staring down at her. The look her mother would give her if she showed up with face paint and black lipstick would make just about anything worth it. All she had to do was find the nerve to actually do it. “Cops got me twice at the mall already, if this goes―”

“It won’t.” Jason winked. “Traci babysits for them, knows they’re out of town this week and right where they keep the shit. Dude’s got two pounds. Word is he’s the source for his whole damn brokerage.”

Jason laughed. “And they got the money to get the good shit.”

Kevin stepped over and wadded her shirt into a fist, then lifted her on tiptoe. “Look, kid. This is big-girl time. You wanna go home to your mother, do it now before we get started.”

She punched him in the gut.

His lip curled into a grin. “Cute.”

Her boot scraped on glass as she shifted her weight.

“Any part of your leg comes within six inches of my junk, your face and that wall are gonna be good friends. We copacetic?”

Natalie glared. “Yeah… asshole.”

He let go; she stepped back and adjusted her shirt.

“Dude, what’s your problem?” Jason got between them.

Kevin shifted his eyes. “Just a bad feeling. She won’t put out, won’t touch any shit, got trashed on two drinks, and almost coughed herself puking when she tried weed.”

“What the hell is wrong with you? She’s no cop.” Jason laughed. “She’s a kid.”

Natalie stepped up on Kevin. “Why do you think criminals always get caught? Coz they get fuckin’ high and then do stupid shit.”

“Cut her a break, she’s thirteen.” Jason pulled her back.

“Traci knew her way around a dick pretty good at that age,” said Ernesto, the grin of a fond memory on his face.

Corey made a dismissive wave. “Yeah, but that bitch from Jersey, not uptown like this J―”

“Something’s fucked.” The tip of Kevin’s finger hovered at her nose. “She’s just usin’ us to piss off mommy and daddy. She don’t wanna be here, just wants to be seen here.”

A boy leaning on the other wall stepped into the light. “Etan said it was time to―”

“Alright, everyone just shut up.” Kevin spun with enough force to flare his leather trenchcoat. He pointed at her again, then the street. “Since you’re still a child, you get the easy job.”

Natalie bristled. Indignation did little to trap the butterflies in her gut.

“Your skinny ass is goin’ through the window and lettin’ us in.”

“It’s clear,” said Lucas, from the street.

The others moved around front, leaving her and Jason alone in the dark. I’m gonna throw up. She shivered, huddled against the wall as he attacked a street-level window. The taste of freezer-burned meatballs and cheese came back. Natalie cringed each time his boot hit the glass, every crunch felt like it hit her in the stomach. Jason scraped his foot across the bottom to chase away the last of the shards and covered the lower edge with sheets of cardboard from the dumpster.

“You’re up, kid.”

Natalie wiped a line of bile from the corner of her mouth, and approached the window where she sank into a squat by the small opening. The butterflies got bigger as she peered into a half-basement full of dusty things covered in cloth. With one shaking hand on the cardboard, she slid her head through the gap and looked around. The floor waited about six feet down. It was dark, scary, and the opening was a tight squeeze, even for her.

“You sure you wanna do this?” Jason held her hand.

She peered into his eyes, closed hers halfway, and kissed him. No. “Y… Yeah.”


Find Caller 107 on Amazon:


Update and randomness

coffee shock

Happy Thursday all. I’m sure some of you are wondering what happened to the expected installment for Daughter of Mars, which I’ve spent the better part of the past almost two years posting once a week on Thursdays. I have good and bad news on that front. The good news is that Curiosity Quills has signed that series for publication. The bad news… for obvious reasons, I can no longer post it online as part of the publishing contract.

Of course this leaves me without a weekly thing to post about, so I’ll have to start coming up with some other random stuff rather than a serial fiction which, perhaps was entirely missing the point of this whole blogging thing. I am up to my eyeballs in edits at the moment, so today’s post is going to be brief… but eventually I’ll find something to rattle on about 🙂

Updates: I’m getting excited about the release of my second young adult book, The Summer the World Ended, which is due out on 6/29. Eleven days left. There’s an online release party on Facebook on the 29th, with some games and prizes to be won. Please feel free to drop in:  A few people have commented that the main character of my first YA book, Caller 107, was a little hard to like at first (which was on purpose – it is, after all, a story of karma and second chances) – so far the feedback I’m getting about Riley says people are rooting for her.

Back to the Daughter of Mars series. The first book, Hand of Raziel, is scheduled for release in August of 2016. Araphel, book 2, is finished, but still in the process of editing.

ARCHON’S QUEEN – book two of the Awakened series is due for release in August 2015. I will hopefully have some cover art to share pretty soon. Looks like GREY RONIN, book 3 of the series, is on target for May 2016. DAUGHTER OF ASH, book 4 is scheduled for March 2017, ZERO ROGUE for January 2017, and ANGEL DESCENDED (the end of the series) for August 2018.

In October of this year, my first foray into middle grade fantasy, EMMA & THE BANDERWIGH is coming out on the 12th.


If anyone is interested in advanced reader copies for The Summer the World ended in exchange for an honest review on or around release day, send me an email –

Anyway… off to the editing mines.

Tour | The Summer the World Ended



With the release date for The Summer the World Ended fast approaching (6/29/15), I wanted to invite book bloggers to sign up for a promotional tour being managed by Xpresso Book Tours in support of my second YA title. (At the moment they have it categorized as Sci Fi, but i’m not sure that fits. If anything, i’d consider it post-apocalyptic.)


As far as Riley McCullough is concerned, her best friend getting ‘dragged’ off to Puerto Vallarta for the first two weeks of summer vacation was the end of the world―at least until the bombs fell.

Life in suburban New Jersey with her mother has been comfortable, not to mention boring, to an introverted fourteen year old. As if her friend’s surprise trip wasn’t bad enough, her expectations for the ‘best summer ever’ disintegrate when she gets sent across the country to stay with a father she hasn’t seen in six years. Adjusting to a tiny, desert town where everyone stares at them like they don’t belong proves difficult, and leaves her feeling more isolated than ever. To make matters worse, her secretive father won’t tell the truth about why he left―or what he’s hiding.

Her luck takes an unexpected turn for the better when she meets a boy who shares her interest in video games and contempt for small town boredom. In him, she finds a kindred spirit who might just make the middle of nowhere tolerable.

Happiness is short lived; fleeing nuclear Armageddon, she takes shelter with her dad in an underground bunker he’d spent years preparing. After fourteen days without sun, Riley must overcome the sorrow of losing everything to save the one person she cares about most.


Also, all are welcome to join me on Facebook on 6/29 from 4pm EST to 8pm EST to hang out, chat,  play games, contests, and win prizes in support of the book’s release.