WAITING ON WEDNESDAY — THE EMPTY ONES

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Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Breaking the Spine to let readers share their excitement for books coming out soon, and the novel I’m eagerly awaiting is . . .

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the empty onesThe Empty Ones by Robert Brockway 

Genre: Horror – Urban Fantasy

Series: The Vicious Circuit #2

Publisher: Tor (August 30, 2015)

Author Information: Website | Twitter 

Length: 288 pages

 

1977 was a bad year for Carey: The NYC summer was brutally hot, he barely made rent on his apartment, and most of his friends were butchered by a cult that worships the quantum angel he helped give birth to. He needs a vacation. You know where there’s supposed to be a killer punk scene? London. Oh, plus the leader of the aforementioned murderous cult is building an army there in an attempt to solve the world, once and for all. Time to mix business with pleasure. Along the way, maybe he’ll make some friends that won’t try to kill him, or even meet a nice girl who eats angels for supper and can kick a man in half. 1978 is looking better already…

2013 was a bad year for Kaitlyn, too: LA was distinctly unkind to her aspirations towards a career in stunt work, she hooked up with her childhood crush—a B-list celebrity heartthrob named Marco—and he turned out to be an immortal psychopath trying to devour her soul, and she accidentally killed the angel Marco and his bizarre cult worshipped. Now she’s on the run through the American Southwest. She heard Marco’s filming a new show in Mexico, though, so all she has to do is cross the border, navigate a sea of acidic sludge monsters, and find a way to kill an unkillable monster before he sacrifices her and her friends to his extra-dimensional god. Nobody said a career in the entertainment industry would be easy.

Following on the heels of his hilarious and horrifying novel The Unnoticeables, Robert Brockway’s The Empty Ones is like any good punk band: just when you think it can’t get any louder, they somehow turn it up a notch. It’s terrifying and hilarious, visceral and insane, chaotic and beautiful.

Purchase the book at Amazon.

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THE MALICE

the maliceThe Malice by Peter Newman

Genre: Post-Apocalyptic / Fantasy

Series: The Vagrant #2  

Publisher:  Harper Voyager (April 21, 2015)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length:  400 pages

My Rating: 3.5 stars
The Vagrant was a revelation in 2015. Peter Newman perfectly blending fantasy, sci-fi, and post-apocalyptic themes into a page turning affair. The advanced technology and sky ships, guns and sentient swords, demons and god-like beings, knights and goats thrilling lovers of this type of speculative fiction. All of it told in a lyrical style which caused The Vagrant to bring to mind the ancient myth whispered around the campfires by Homer-like epic poet long ago. And when The Malice offered me a chance to return to this awe-inspiring place with its ravaged wastelands and pristine Shining City, I knew I was in for a thrilling ride

This tale picks up several years after the book’s one conclusion. The babe, Vesper, has grown to a young woman in the protected lands near the Shining City. Her fathers (The Vagrant and his partner Harm) have settled down to a peaceful and dull existence outside the Shining City, raising food and rearing a ever growing herd of goats, spawned by The Goat herself who practically stole the spotlight in book one. But now the Malice, Gamma’s sword is stirring again. Its constant demons to be picked back up and wielded against the demonic hordes ignored by the Vagrant, who puts it away, hoping its eye will close and never open again.

But the Malice will not be denied its clash with its eternal enemies. And when the Vagrant ignores it, another is found to take his place: young Vesper, who takes the sword, beginning a journey which takes her back to the Breach itself. Her path taking her to places her father once visited, encountering people he once met, and dealing with evil he knew – and even greater evil which he did not.

That is not all that is going on here though. Much like The Vagrant, Peter Newman has a separate story taking palace alongside the main one. This time it is flashbacks to a time a thousand years in the past. Readers introduced to a world before the creation of the Empire of the Winged Eye. The main character there embarking on her own journey of discovery, much like Vesper, but one which will take her to a far different place with much different results – some good and some bad.

Any betting man would have wagered I would have fallen in love with The Malice. I mean, not only did I love book one, but all the elements I adored there were back with a vengeance for this second installment of the series. However, though I really enjoyed and had lots of fun revisiting this amazing post-apocalyptic world, I did not like it quite as well as I did The Vagrant. A few things just kept me from losing myself in its embrace.

First, we have a whole new cast of characters. The Vagrant and Harm do make brief guest appearances at the beginning and the end of the tale, but this is Vesper’s show to carry or drop, and she has big shoes to fill here, for the Vagrant is an amazing character, one which comes around only every so often; his muteness, his expressiveness, and his tortured dignity causing him to be on par with other great post-apocalyptic characters such as Stephen King’s Roland Deschain in my eyes. And as this tale starts, Vesper just cannot compete at all with him. Her teenage angst, child-like naivete, insuppressible enthusiasm, and mind-numbing decisions making it difficult to tolerate her, much less love her. Yes, she does eventually get better; the situations she encounters maturing her, helping her gain better insight so as to make hard decisions; all of it combining to transform her into an okay character, but she is not great like the Vagrant, which causes another problem.

For me, the Vagrant and his personal reactions to the world is what brought book one to life. How Mr. Newman was able to do such through only the Vagrant’s expressions, hand signals, and one way conversations with those he encountered is still a complete mystery to me, but that is what happened. And our protagonist’s interactions in the stark, monotone wastelands with its unique survivors and horrific demons was what caused them to stand out, not blend together. But here Vesper does not have the strength of character to accomplish the same thing, and so places and things which shined brightly under the Vagrant’s steady glare fade under her less compelling observations.

Unfortunately, Vesper does not even have compelling co-stars to come to her aid as things begin to unravel. Samael, Duet, and the kid (a baby Goat) are unique, have their own individual personalities and motives, but they are not comparable to the cast which surrounded the Vagrant – especially The Goat herself, whose antics were terribly missed here.

Thankfully, two things propped this story up, kept it from deflating under my weight of expectations. The first being the demonic cast of characters. We have several returning faces from book one, but they are joined by other infernals like The Yearning, Gutterface, The Backwards Child and Hangnail. Each of them, their alien thoughts, and the strange dance they do with one another as well as the Malice and Vesper is an organic and interesting progression from where things were during book one. The second (and, for me, probably the most important) was the secondary plot line interspersed throughout the narrative, skipping back into time and showing the origins of the Empire of the Winged Eye and its amazing knights. Honestly, I could have read even more about that than I did.

To sum it all up, The Malice is a fast-paced story which gives fans a return trip to Mr. Newman’s shiny post-apocalyptic world. New people are met; insidious demons arise; a singing sword awakens; and a quest is begun, even while the history of the world begins to take shape before our reading eyes. No, Vesper isn’t quite as dynamic a protagonist as the Vagrant, and only her limitations kept this book from standing out more to me, which is why I can’t rate it quite as high as its predecessor. Even with that being said, this is still a very strong installment from Peter Newman, giving fans hope that this is a series with the legs to last for quite some time.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.

Purchase the book at Amazon.

Posted in 3 Stars, Cross-Genre, Post-apocalyptic, Science Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

TOP TEN TUESDAY

TOP TEN TUESDAYS

Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday! This is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, where a new top ten list hits the web every week!

This week our topic is …

Books That Have Been On My Shelf Since Before I Started Blogging That I STILL Haven’t Read Yet

We all have them.  The books we buy (or receive as gifts) which we never read.  Maybe, we have them because they are by an author we have enjoyed before.  Perhaps, these novels are from a series we’ve been following closely.  But, for whatever reason, these books are put up on a shelf (physical or virtual) then stay there, never looked at again.  For years.  In my case, decades.  It is a sad truth of life that there is never enough time to read all the great books out there, but even I didn’t realize how horrible my progress was until I started looking at my shelves for this post.  Now, I realize I’ve got a lot of catching up to do, or cleaning out to do, because I either have to read the books in this TOP TEN TUESDAY list or trade them in for something I will read.

the eyes of god10. The Bronze Knight by John Marco

In the early 2000s, I had just finished reading John Marco’s debut series, Tyrants and Kings, which I thoroughly enjoyed, so when I saw this new trilogy, I immediately purchased the opening installment.  I didn’t read it then, because I had a new baby and work which kept me busy.  I was determined to come back to it though.  I never have.  I still really want to.  Maybe, this year will be the year.  Or next year.  Sigh

 

 

talon of the silver hawk9. Riftwar Cycle by Raymond E. Feist

When I was a teenager in the 80s and 90s, Raymond E. Feist was right up there in the short list of my favorite fantasy authors.  Sure, Tolkien and few others were ahead of him, but I loved the Riftwar Saga and the first few follow-ups series.  Then it all came crashing down with my dislike of The Riftwar Legacy.  I know many people love that series, but I hated it.  However, because I had always enjoyed this author and this series, I kept getting every new book by Feist at every gift giving holidays for years to come, and I kept them, hoping that one day I’d come back to the series and rediscover my childhood love of it.  Still haven’t read any of these, but I have almost the complete Cycle sitting on my bookshelf — except for The Chaoswar Saga, which no one ever thought to purchase me.

blood & iron8. Timeline by Harry Turtledove

Harry Turtledove is an author I’ve been reading forever.  It started out with his fantasy endeavors like The Videssos Cycle and Gerin the Fox, then I followed him into the world of alternate history and sci-fi infused classics like The Guns of the South and Tosev.  I even enjoyed the opening trilogy of his Timeline series, The Great War, which focuses on an alternate timeline where the South won the American Civil War, but then I hit a wall with this follow-up trilogy, American Empire.  I bought all the remaining novels in the series though.  My intention . . . Yeah, you’ve heard me say it several times already.  I’m really going to read it.  Just not sure when.

 

winter's heart7. Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan

During the 90s, I lived and breathed Wheel of Time.  It was, by far, my favorite fantasy series going.  Sure, I enjoyed George R.R. Martin’s new series, A Song of Ice and Fire, but I had lived WoT for a decade, and I had to know how it all ended.  Then those really long, boring (They were to me anyway) WoT books began to drop from Jordan.  I was confused, frustrated, and finally I got angry.  I determined I would not buy this water-downed excuse for an epic fantasy anymore until he stopped dragging the damn thing out already.  Well, eventually, he did get back on course, and with his death, Brandon Sanderson finished things off.  I bought all the books.  But I am now too intimidated by having to reread the series to actually open any of them.

the demon awakes6. The Demon Wars Saga by R.A. Salvatore

In 1996, I wouldn’t call myself a huge Salvatore fan.  Sure, I liked Drizzt in The Icewind Dale trilogy, but I didn’t like the follow-up The Dark Elf Trilogy very much.  What I did like was the fast-paced, swashbuckling style of Salvatore’s writing.  Nope, he wasn’t sending shockwaves through the fantasy genre with his trope subverting plots or social justice narratives; he was entertaining lots of people though; readers who were looking for a traditional, D & D infused, action-oriented story that didn’t take thirteen, eight hundred page books to tell and didn’t drag out over decades and decades like Robert Jordan and George R.R. Martin’s masterpieces. So I bought this whole series, looking forward to sitting down and binge reading it.  Hasn’t happened yet.

fortress in the eye of time5. Fortress by C.J. Cherryh

Growing up in the 80s and 90s (I was in college and graduate school most of the 90s.), Cherryh was one of my favorite fantasy authors.  I did not read everything she wrote, and I can’t say I read any of her sci-fi stuff, but the fantasy novels she penned (Those I was fortunate enough to get my hands on.) I loved.  So when I saw this book in the mid 90s, I instantly bought it, then purchased the sequels which followed: all four of them.  But I have yet to read a single one of them.  Why?  No idea, but after two decades sitting unread on my bookshelf, I think it is time to give them a try or let someone else have an opportunity to enjoy them

 

the eye of the hunter4. Mithgar by Dennis L. McKiernan

The series which began with a near copy of The Lord of the Rings in The Iron Tower trilogy slowly progressed until it was a fine fantasy which could stand on its own.  Sure, Mithgar novels can be labeled comfort food for the fantasy reader, or whatever other term you’d like, but for those who enjoy the classic, traditional, Tolkien-esque fantasy, there is nothing better to satisfy your appetite for a return to less stressful days.  And I have to admit loving ever minute of my time in this place.  The Silver Call duology was a great sequel to The Iron Tower; Dragondoom was a fine fantasy standalone which dealt with racism; and Tales of Mithgar was an enjoyable short story collection.  So every time another Mithgar novel came out, it found its way onto my bookshelf.  And, yes, I will read them eventually.

nemesis3. Indigo by Louise Cooper

In the late 80s, I devoured several of this author’s books: the Time Master series and Mirage being personal favorites.  They reminded me of Michael Moorcock in more than just their covers.  The atmosphere and vibe they gave off was pure sword and sorcery weirdness with more than a little teen angst and teen romance thrown in.  They might be labeled Young Adult now.  But after my brief fling with Cooper’s writing, I lost track of her until 1998-99 when I bought this whole series at a used bookstore, hoping to rekindle a bit of the old passion for her written word.  Don’t start shaking your head.  It still might happen.

The Scions of Shannara2. Shannara by Terry Brooks

Like almost all fantasy fans in the 80s, I read the original Shannara trilogy.  My feelings were mixed even then.  I mean, yes, I recognized the stories were fairly generic fantasy, but I enjoyed them in spite of all that.  Comfort food again, if you’d like to label it.  (Though we aren’t suppose to label people or things these days, are we?)  Anyway, when the new series The Heritage of Shannara was released throughout the 1990s, followed in the 2000s by Voyage of the Jerle Shannara, I bought them.  Hell, I even bought the next series.  The High Druid of Shannara, I think it was titled?  Haven’t bought any since, but I have a lot of Shannara on the shelf that I need to get to or get rid of.

 

1. Melaine Rawn

I’ve been buying Ms. Rawn’s books ever since she hit the fantasy scene with Dragon Prince back in 1988.  I enjoyed that novel enough to buy the next book and the next until almost three decades later I’ve “collected” almost all her fantasy offerings without ever reading any of them.

Why have I kept buying them if I never read them?  I honestly don’t know.  A habit, I guess.  A hope that eventually I’ll get around to them, and they will be wonderful.   None of my reasons ring true, even in my own ears.

What have I learned by doing this post, you ask?  Something very important actually.   It appears I am a book hoarder.  Is there a cure for that?

 

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FUNDAY MONDAY, OR THE BOOKS THAT WILL HELP ME SURVIVE THE WEEK AHEAD (AUGUST 22, 2016)

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The work week begins. I quickly slip into my business suit and head back into the office to save a few innocent people. But while I try to fool myself into being excited about the grind, deep down, I’m not, so I’m going to escape dreary reality by reading some great books.

I’ve been doing great ever since the kiddies went back to school.  Going to try to keep the streak going this week by finishing a novel I started a few months ago but lost my way with and finally read a a book I’ve been wanting to get to for a while now.

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LEVIATHAN'S BLOODLeviathan’s Blood by Ben Peek

Genre: Fantasy

Series: The Children Trilogy #2

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (May 31, 2016)

Author Information: Website | Twitter 

Length: 448 pages

At the end of The Godless, Mireea lay in ruins, the dead of the city had risen as ghosts, and the keepers Fo and Bau had been slain by Zaifyr.

The Mireeans have now fled to the city of Yeflam with the immortal Zaifyr in chains to barter for their safety. With the threat of war arriving at the Floating Cities, Zaifyr’s trial will become the center of political games. However, Zaifyr is intent on using his trial to begin a new war, a motive that many fear is an echo of the dangerous man he once was. Ayae, a young girl cursed with the gift of fire, sees a chance to learn more of her powers here in the floating city, but she is weighed down by her new responsibilities regarding the safety of the Mireean people.

Across the far ocean, exiled Baron Bueralan and cartographer Orlan have arrived in the city of Ooila with some chilling cargo: the soul of a dead man. As the two men are accepted into the city’s court, they are pulled ever deeper into the Queen’s web of lies and deceit. All the while, a rumor begins to spread of a man who has come ashore, whose seemingly innocent presence threatens them all.

PURCHASE THE BOOK AT AMAZON.

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the crimson campaignThe Crimson Campaign by Brian McClellan

Genre: Fantasy — Flintlock

Series: Powder Mage #2

Publisher:  Orbit (May 6, 2014)

Author Information: Website | Twitter 

Length:  608 pages

When invasion looms… Tamas’s invasion of Kez ends in disaster when a Kez counter-offensive leaves him cut off behind enemy lines with only a fraction of his army, no supplies, and no hope of reinforcements. Drastically outnumbered and pursued by the enemy’s best, he must lead his men on a reckless march through northern Kez to safety, and back over the mountains so that he can defend his country from an angry god, Kresimir.

But the threats are closer to home…
In Adro, Inspector Adamat wants only to rescue his wife. To do so he must track down and confront the evil Lord Vetas. He has questions for Vetas concerning his enigmatic master, but the answers will lead Adamat on a darker journey.

Who will lead the charge?
Tamas’s generals bicker among themselves, the brigades lose ground every day beneath the Kez onslaught, and Kresimir wants the head of the man who shot him in the eye. With Tamas and his powder cabal presumed dead, Taniel Two-shot finds himself as the last line of defense against Kresimir’s advancing army.

Purchase the book at Amazon.

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SWAMP THING, VOL. 1: RAISE THEM BONES

guest-post2Today, I’m happy to have my son, Connor, return to the blog for yet another of his graphic novel reviews.  Thankfully, he was able to tear himself away from his busy schedule (Middle school is a horrible time drain.) to give his thoughts on an older graphic novel that he read after spending far too much time this weekend replaying Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes with his younger brother. border


swamp thing 1
Swamp Thing, Vol. 1: Raise Them Bones
 by Scott Snyder

Genre: Superhero Comics

Series: Swamp Thing #1 (New 52)

Publisher: DC Comics (August 28, 2012)

Author Information: Twitter

Length: 168 pages

Connor’s Rating: 3 stars

 

When I play Lego Batman 2 with my little brother sometimes (Yeah, I have to play video games with him at times.  Thanks, for that, dad.), I try to play different heroes.  Weird ones.  Cool ones.  Ones I’ve never heard of.  We have collected a lot of different guys in the game, so it is pretty easy to always get someone new to try out.  The weirdest of them all is Swamp Thing.  I got to thinking I’d like to read one of his books, so I found this older ones at the library and gave it a try.

swamp thing 2

My brothers always tell me I explain things too much and make too much of things, so let me try to get the point about this story.  There is a guy named Alec Holland who died in a swamp, but the plants named “The Green” refused to let this man die.  They saved him, but with a price.  The Green making him Swamp Thing.  Now, years later, the Green takes the curse away from him, but he still hears the plants screaming at him to come back and save them.

Weird, I know.

Not knowing anything about Swamp Thing, I was glad the book started out by telling me about Alec and the Green.  Can’t say I got it all, because I didn’t, but it did help a little.

swamp thing 3

 

I would say Swamp Thing was an okay book.  The story was alright, and that is what every person who reads a book tries to find.  Like I said earlier, I didn’t really get everything going on, but I got enough of it to want to finish.

As for the art by Yanick Paquette it was also pretty good.  Different but good.  A lot of green.  But green goes with the whole “The Green” thing.

The only part of the book I didn’t like was the violence.  There was a lot of it.  My dad said this was a book written for older teens and adults who loved the old Swamp Thing written by Alan Moore, so that was why the drawing were so graphically violent.  For once, dad is right, I guess, because I wish the artist had not made things so violent like that.

Well, I hope you liked the review, and I hope you give Swamp Thing a try.  You might like it even more than I did.

batman-V-superman-logoAbout Connor (In his dad’s words):

Connor is a preteen who enjoys graphic novels (DC Comics are preferred), superhero movies (Captain America is his favorite), watching episodes of The Flash, Arrow, Smallville and American Pickers as well as the NFL, NCAA football, and the NBA on t.v., will happily accept any and all caps (because you just can’t have too many caps), and whose favorite music revolves around pop favorites of the moment such as Cake by the Ocean (Clean version because dad is still alive) as well as anything by Fall Out Boy — except for the new Ghostbusters (I’m Not Afraid) song which Connor denies they were ever involved with.  And, no, Connor did not have any input into my paragraph about him.  Being a dad does have it’s privileges.  :)

Purchase the book at Amazon.

Posted in 3 Stars, DC, Graphic Novels, The New 52, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

KINGS OR PAWNS

kings or pawnsKings or Pawns by J.J. Sherwood

Genre: Fantasy – Epic

Series: The Kings #1

Publisher: Silver Helm (July 5, 2016)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length: 383 pages

My Rating: 3.5 stars

 

J.J. Sherwood introduces us to the elven Realm  of Sevrigel with her debut novel Kings or Pawns, conveying readers to a complex, diverse land where young King Hairem attempts to tame the corrupt political machinations of the capital city while his General Jikun strives to defeat the seemingly invincible forces of Lord Saebellus and his beast.   Their individual quests forcing them to brave tense council room intrigue, dabble with outlawed and soul destroying magic,  strive to trust one another, win unwinnable battles, and somehow find a way to hold their kingdom together when it appears to be unraveling before their eyes.

The main theme weaving throughout this narrative is one of trust.  Does young, idealistic King Hairem trust those around him?  The stuffy, arrogant, (and perhaps corrupted) council?  His blunt, jaded general?  The beautiful daughter of a political rival whom he believes he loves?  Or should he trust his own intuitions and break with the deeply held traditions of his people, forging a new way for all of them?

As for General Jikun, he must deal with a different form of trust, specifically his mistrust.  He did not trust King Hairem’s father, and, now, he doesn’t trust in his new liege, specifically his ability to control the seemingly compromised members of his government.  He doesn’t trust his closest confidant, Captain Navon, from practicing the dark arts of necromancy — for all the right reasons. He doesn’t trust the upbringing ingrained in him by his family in the icy tundra of far off Darival.  Hell, he doesn’t even trust himself to love his beloved Kaivervi.  And, most worrisome, he has no trust in his ability to defeat Lord Saebellus and his beast.

The key strength to this narrative is the characters.  Instantly, a reader will gain a feeling for who and what King Hairem and General Jikun are.  Their differing personalities quickly sketched out; their differences highlighted by a meeting at the beginning of the story.  The course of their individual journeys and their growing relationship organically grown throughout.  Above of all else, their motives drive them toward a single goal they can agree upon: the survival and resurrection of the Kingdom of Sevrigel.

I have to admit loving the world Sherwood has created here.  The amount of worldbuilding is immense.  Tiny details involving history, religion, politics, magic, and social customs littered about the narrative.  All of it surprisingly rich, Tolkien-esque, if you will, with differing cultures that felt real and with characters who were different, not just said to be different.  And other than a few info dumps in the first few chapters, the worldbuilding was craftily woven into the ongoing action and intrigue, seamlessly devoured without any noticing it was happening. The entirety of it the author achievement very impressive, as I feel I learned so much about this place without ever feeling distracted from the plot itself.

The main criticism I have with the novel is the lack of antagonists in the book.  Yes, Lord Saebellus is mentioned throughout, everyone saying what a total badass he and his beast are, but — except for a few prologue pages — we don’t see him at all until the end.  Rather, he is a ghostly presence in the background.  People say he should be feared.  People act as if he could destroy everyone and everything, but no one seems terribly worried about it until the last quarter of the book.  And even the assassins and centaurs (who also share the role of antagonists) are more lightning flashes of badness before they are quickly gone.  I totally understand the approach to keep the main villain in the background, build up the suspense before revealing him in all his dark glory, but here it did not work quite as well due to the lack of fear the main characters seemed to have for him.

J.J. Sherwood has gifted epic fantasy readers with a real treat in Kings or Pawns.  It is a well-built fantasy with complex characters, serious themes, adventure, action, and a richly, detailed world.  So, if you are looking for a new epic fantasy with the grand feel of The Lord of the Rings but with the swashbuckling excitement of Salvatore’s The Legend of Drizzt, you have found it in Kings or Pawns.  I am eagerly looking forward to the next installment in the series.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.

Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway.

Purchase the book at Amazon.

Posted in 3 Stars, Fantasy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

FRIDAY FACE-OFF:

friday-face-off

Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a new weekly meme hosted by Books by Proxy. Join us every Friday as we pit cover against cover, and publisher against publisher, to find the best artwork in our literary universe.

This week’s theme is: “The blood is life… and it shall be mine!”- a cover which features ‘blood’.  And since everyone else took my intial fantasy pick, I’ve fallen back on a book which I personally have never read (Won’t ever read.  It isn’t my kind of thing.), but I clearly recall the first time I saw it at my local bookstore.  It definitely made me look twice.


COVER A

DEAD UNTIL DARK 1

COVER B 

DEAD UNTIL DARK 2

COVER C

DEAD UNTIL DARK 3

COVER D

DEAD UNTIL DARK 4

COVER E

DEAD UNTIL DARK 5

COVER F

DEAD UNTIL DARK 6

COVER G

DEAD UNTIL DARK 7

AND THE WINNER IS . . .

drumroll

 

Well, it is Cover A for me.  I mean, all of these get the creepy yet seductive  vampire feeling going, but Cover A draws your eye with the red lips, tongue, vampire fangs and blood.

DEAD UNTIL DARK 1

Which would you choose?  Why?

And, why not join in next week with your own selections.  The theme for 26th August: “I sit here looking out at all I own” – A cover featuring a throne.

Posted in Friday Face-Off, Top Ten Tuesday | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

GHOSTS OF THE TRISTAN BASIN

ghosts of the tristan basinGhosts of the Tristan Basin by Brian McClellan

Genre: Fantasy – Flintlock

Series: Powder Mage #0.7

Publisher: Self Published (February 16, 2016)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length: 90 pages

My Rating: 4 stars

 

Today, I’m reviewing my latest read from Brian McClellan’s Powder Mage world.  Yes, I realize I’ve been devouring these things fairly regularly lately, and I do sound like a major fanboy whenever I review one, but I can’t help it: I love this stuff.  So much so, in fact, that I’m going to start reading The Crimson Campaign next week.  (Just a little forewarning for those of you who tire of my gushing adoration for the series.)  But let us focus on Ghosts of the Tristan Basin.

As your brain begins to create the images described in Ghosts’ first paragraph, the swampy wildlands of Fatrastan slowly materialize before your reading eyes; Taniel Two-Shot and Ka-poel, his native companion, busy fighting guerrilla-style war against the invading Kez soldiers.  Our duo part of the Tristan Ghost Irregulars, who have spent the Fatrastan War of Independence haunting the marshy Tristan Basin, harassing and killing any enemy troops or their native allies foolish enough to be caught unawares.

By now, the Ghosts are well known among their friends and enemies alike.  They are respected and feared as is their deadly powder mage Taniel, whose impossible shooting has built him quite the reputation.  But now new orders have reached them, directing them to leave their concealment in the swamp; orders they cannot ignore as they have others before.  The leader of the revolution herself is calling ALL rebel forces to gather at the city of Planth; their mission to protect the small hamlet at all costs from a huge (by Fatrastan standards) Kez army marching upon it.  The reason for this because something vitally important and irreplaceable to the revolutionary effort is hidden there!

Now, there are lots and lots of things to like about this novella, so to keep me from missing any, I’m going to list them one at a time.

  1. Powder mages.  I know I always mention them, but I find these guys terribly interesting.  I am almost prepared to dub them as my Jedi Knights of the 21st Century.  Almost.  But not quite yet.  They are damn cool though.
  2. Taniel Two-Shot and Ka-poel.  These guys are pure reading gold for me.  Their somewhat unusual relationship and Taniel’s obvious daddy issues really interesting for me to read about.  I especially like seeing these early days of their partnership when they are still getting acquainted with one another.
  3. Fastran.  Obviously, this “new world” and its struggle for freedom mirrors in many ways the real world American Revolution, so there are many familiar themes and events transpiring around our heroes.  However, since I personally find the Revolutionary War Period in US history very interesting, I thought this fantasy take on it was amazing.  I suppose it isn’t much different than my love of the Powder Mage trilogy subverting the French Revolution.
  4. Since I’m really anxious to get my hands on Mr. McClellan’s next book (Sins of Empire, which is the first installment of Gods of Blood and Powder), and since the novel is set in Fatrastan, and since some of the characters in that story actually appear in Ghosts, I was totally excited to get a close up look at the Lady Chancellor and Colonel Ben Styke.  The hard-as-nails colonial leader and her half-crazy commander of the Mad Lancers burst off the pages; their personalities clearly shown, their future clashes foreshadowed, and a lot of excitement elicited (at least, in me) for the story of how Ben Style becomes “convicted war hero Styke” and how the leader of a war for freedom turns into a dictator who suppresses her people with a secret police force. Sounds like the next series is going to be amazing.

The only criticism I could level at this novella is the continued ineptitude of the our heroes Kez adversaries.  No, they are not as incompetent or as inaccurate as Star Wars storm troopers, but these guys damn sure trip all over themselves constantly.  Mr. McClellan definitely provides plausible explanations for their deficiencies, but the Kez here did leave me wanting more skilled, more ominous villains facing Taniel, Ka-pel, and “Mad” Ben Styke.

To put it all into perspective for the big conclusion, Ghosts of the Tristan Basin is a fun-filled, flintlock adventure with American Revolutionary War themes and awe-inspiring powder mage daring-do.  It entertains while also organically introducing readers to two of the main characters in the next series by Mr. McClellan.  Hell, it even does a great job of building excitement for that next book (Sins of Empire) without making a reader feel like that is its main purpose.  So if you like short, epic fantasy stories, love Mr. McClellan’s writing, or need another fix of powder mage awesomeness, you need to go download this one immediately.

Purchase the novella at Amazon.

Posted in 4 Stars, Epic, Fantasy, Short Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

AGE OF MYTH

age of mythAge of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan

Genre: Fantasy

Series: The First Empire #1 

Publisher:  Del Rey (June 28, 2016)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length:  432 pages

My Rating: 3 stars

 

Michael J. Sullivan is an author for whom I have the utmost respect.  Not only is he a gentleman in dealing with fans and detractors alike, but his ability to pen entertaining fantasy in the classic mold has been a real breath of fresh air for a genre lacking that traditional flavor.  Indeed, I will proudly tell anyone who asks that Hadrian Balckwater and Royce Melborn from The Riyria Revelations and The Riyria Chronicles are two of my favorite fantasy duos ever.  So, needless to say, I was highly anticipating the release of Mr. Sullivan’s newest series, The Legends of the First Empire, which promised new characters, new revelations, and a look at the ancient past of the Riyria world.

Thousands of years before Hadrian and Royce exist, Elan is a far different place.  The land itself is the same with many familiar names present, but Rhunes (humans), Fhrey (Elves), and Dhereg (Dwarfs) share it.  The Fhrey are supreme at this time, having fought a huge war and driven the Dhereg underground, while the Rhunes are far beneath either of the other races, living in primitive clans, having short lives, and lacking the affinity for the Art (magic).  These deficiencies in the Rhunes causing them to be little more than subject people of the Fhrey, whom the scattered clans view as not just overlords but as immortal, omnipotent, invulnerable gods.  The equilibrium of the world built upon the false belief of Fhrey divinity.

One day, the god myth is forever shattered by a young Rhune named Raithe and his father.  These two having an unfortunate encounter with a Fhrey on the wrong side of the river which divides Rhune country from Fhrey land.  This dispute escalating from a verbal misunderstanding into a physical struggle, one which ends with Raithe killing a god.

At the same time, in another part of the Rhune lands, Persephone is dealing with the death of her son then her husband to a seemingly crazed animal.  These untimely deaths resulting in her leaving her role as wife to the chieftain of her town, or “dahl” as the Rhune call it.  Soon, she finds herself at odds with the new chieftain and his cohorts as well as dealing with unexpected trouble and surprising mysteries when a young mystic named Suri and her wolf companion Minna show up with puzzling prophecies of coming doom.

Inevitably, the fugitive Raithe (and an escaped Fhrey slave named Malcolm) find their way to Persephone’s home of Dahl Rhen. Already, stories of a Rhune killing one of the gods has reached this out-of-the-way hamlet, and rumors of the Fhrey’s retaliation has put fear into everyone.  So, when the “God Killer” himself shows up, followed soon after by a contingent of Fhrey warriors, things take a decidedly unexpected turn.  The world of Elan never to be the same again.

Like all Michael Sullivan novels, Age of Myth is a fast paced, easy to digest affair, filled with action, fun, and some unexpected twists.  While the author doesn’t reinvent the fantasy wheel, he continues his trend of crafting intriguing narratives, where Easter eggs litter the landscape and encourage you to keep careful eyes on the pages, because you know some small tidbit of information there will surprise you later on.

One of the highlights of this story (especially for fans of Riyria) will be in visiting the ancient past of Elan.  We have all read so many tidbits of legends about this time and place in the prior books that experiencing those legends first hand is a joy.  And, overall, Michael Sullivan does an excellent job crafting a past which is comfortably familiar but also different enough from the supposed history of Elan presented as fact in Revelations and Chronicles to be uniquely compelling.  Simply put, Michael Sullivan turns the ancient history of this place on its head, presenting these legendary figures and events in a more realistic way: the heroes’ personalities, their motives, and their actions not nearly as mythical or epic as the Riyria stories suggested.  And our close-up look at the Fhrey doesn’t disappoint, as these beings are filled with magical majesty; so much so, in fact, that their unabashed arrogance nearly seems warranted, especially in comparison to the primitive, clannish Rhune.

As for the characters themselves, Age of Myth is filled with a large cast of them from Raithe, Malcolm, Persephone, and Suri to several of the Fhrey themselves.  Now, none of these guys break any classic fantasy molds, but they are relatable, likable (or unlikable) and entertaining.  Their actions true to their motives and past.  Their exchanges or interactions with one another realistically portrayed.  The personal journeys they are on mingling together quite well to form a complex, cogent narrative.  In fact, they also remind one clearly of past Sullivan characters in the Riyria novels.  A fact which makes it much easier to quickly gain a comfort level with these new guys and gain an empathy for their circumstances.

Unfortunately, all these positive traits of Age of Myth had a decidedly negative side for me personally, which I will attempt to succinct express with my sincerest apologizes to other fans of Michael J. Sullivan.  Honestly, I hate to say anything negative about the book at all, because I admire the author, so please keep that in mind as you read them.

First, I was very concerned when I picked this one up that the “new” characters would be too much like the leads in Riyria.  I mean, Hadrian, Royce, Arista and the rest were great, but I wanted something uniquely different here, not the same people with different names.  And while Mr. Sullivan attempted to give Raith, Malcolm, and Persephone their own unique personality, our new cast tended to sound, behave, and make decisions just like their Riyria predecessors.  Honestly, Raithe and Malcolm do a flawless impersonation of Hadrian and Royce in their bickering, while Persephone takes charge as well as Arista ever dreamed of.  That may or may not bother you according to your personal expectations for this novel, but it was a major issue for me personally.

Second, the main antagonist here was a huge letdown.  He is a cookie cutter villain who is so obviously the “bad guy” that you sit there wondering how everyone else doesn’t see it. When I added that to his rather lackluster scheme to take control of everything, he became very difficult for me to swallow as an intimidating bad guy.  Perhaps I’ve read too much grimdark or watched too many episodes of Game of Throne, but this individual did not scare me or mesmerize me with his wicked genuis in the least.  The exact opposite is how I felt.  Truly, everyone one of his scenes were just painful to get through.

Lastly, the pacing.  The first half of the book was slow.  I’m not one to enjoy fantasy with endless traveling anyway (Other than The Lord of the Rings that is.), but the beginning of this story was just too much traveling by everyone.  Raithe and Malcolm running away from the Fhrey.  Persephone taking trips into the forest.  Fhrey characters taking journeys to the Rhune lands.  Every time I turned the page there was more traveling; none of it tense or exciting, just fairly meh type journeys that didn’t keep me on the edge of my seat. I totally admit the last part of the book accelerated non-stop to a great ending, but even it could not make up for the glacial slow feeling of the rest of the narrative.

If you are a fan of Michael J. Sullivan’s prior work or merely a lover of classic epic fantasy, then Age of Myths is certainly a novel you should pick up and give a try. It combines timeless themes with comfortable characters to provide ideal escapism, and if you don’t expect too much besides fun, action, and adventure then you will find yourself having the time of your life.  I personally wish I enjoyed the novel more than I did, but I have enough faith in Mr. Sullivan’s writing ability to know the ultimate payoff in this series will be at the end when I’m mesmerized by how I never saw it coming.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.

PURCHASE THE BOOK AT AMAZON.

Posted in 3 Stars, Epic, Fantasy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

RED RIGHT HAND

red right handRed Right Hand by Levi Black 

Genre: Horror – Fantasy

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Tor (July 26, 2016)

Length: 304 pages

My Rating: 3 stars

 

Lovecraftian horror.  Gore-ban fantasy.  Label it whatever you will, Red Right Hand is a dark fantasy/horror hybrid, which takes its characters into shadowy, terrifying places where they confront unspeakable things the human mind was not created to deal with.  Certainly not for the squeamish,  Levi Black’s novel will keep you flipping pages even as you attempt to control your nausea at some of the things you behold.  And what, I might ask, is more fun than that?

Charlie Tristan Moore is our main point of view character in this tale.  One night she returns home, unwanted memories of a childhood trauma spinning through her mind, only to find an even worse horror awaits her: three demonic skinhounds.  These creatures attack her, coming close to killing her except for the timely intervention of a mysterious Man in Black.

But sometimes your savior is worse than your tormentor, and that is true for Charlie.  For the Man in Black turns out to be none other than Nyarlathotep, aka the Crawling Chaos.  This ancient divinity having chosen Charlie as his acolyte — whether she likes it or not.  And just to make sure she cooperates, Double C has her best friend Daniel tucked away as a hostage.

But what could Nyarlathotep want with a mere mortal like Charlie?  Well, it is simple really: he wants to kill two other elder gods and needs an acolyte to aid him.  Not that he is promising Charlie anything good for her help.  Nope, all she can count on is horrific creatures and scenes of terror, as she follows in the Crawling Chaos’ footsteps, fulfilling his will; her own horrific past continuing to bubble to the surface at every step, threatening to sever her tenuous hold on sanity.

Now, Red Right Hand is at its core a horror story.  Levi Black’s writing style perfect in conveying the frightening otherworldly creatures and gory, violent scenes.  His description narrative surprisingly deft at weaving an atmosphere of controlled terror.  Charlie an amazing victim to see dealing with these nightmares.  The slow unveiling of her sexual abuse as a child a cancer which slowly grows within her mind and a readers until it pulses like a throbbing pustule of infection needing to be lanced.

That does bring up my only quibble with the book however: Red Right Hand is a horror story.  Sure, there can be arguments made it is an urban fantasy with blood and violence turned to max, but any such rationalization is trying to explain away the obvious, which is this is a horror in the Lovecraftian style but with even more (At least, in my opinion) terrifying scenes and graphic weirdness.  Nothing wrong with that at all.  It is merely a fact all prospective readers should realize before they buy the novel.  Much like inquiring whether a new urban fantasy is more romance than fantasy.  (And we know there are a lot of those out there right now.)

Creepy.  Shocking.  Horrifying.  Never dull.  Red Right Hand succeeds in spectacular fashion in upholding the Lovecraftian horror legacy.  Sure to please every fan of dark, horror-infused fantasy, this is a thrill ride not to be missed.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.

Purchase the book at Amazon.

Posted in 3 Stars, Fantasy, horror | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment