VALLISTA

VALLISTAVallista by Steven Brust

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Vlad Taltos #15

Publisher: Tor Books (October 17, 2017)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length: 352 pages

My Rating: 3 stars

Vallista is the fifteenth installment of Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos series, and while these books are in a downward trajectory after so many decades, Brust continues to challenge himself as a writer, turning what could have easily been just another typical Vlad adventure into an original tale filled with new themes and different flavors.

For those unfamiliar with Vlad Taltos, he is an Easterner (i.e. human) who grew up as a member of an underprivileged minority group in the empire of the long-lived Dragaerans (i.e. elves), who tend to tolerate humanity but that is all.  Thankfully, Vlad’s father bought a minor patent of nobility from the Dragaeran House of Jhereg, where Vlad became a well-known member of that house’s criminal syndicate before pissing off the wrong people and having a price put on his head.  Ever since Vlad has been on the run, in hiding, with few friends and only limited contact with his former companions among the Dragaeran highborn.

As Vallista begins, Vlad is still on the run.  Unexpectedly, the tedium of his life is interrupted by the appearance of Devera, a Dragaeran girl and daughter of one of Vlad’s powerful Dragaeran friends, who asks for Vlad’s help, leading him to a seemingly abandoned manor.  Once inside the strange house, Devera disappears, leaving Vlad to decipher where she is, how to find her, and why they hell she brought him here.

Finding himself trapped in this mystery house with strange corridors, rooms which are in different times, and mysterious riddles galore, Vlad quickly finds he must use all his wits, skills, and his daggers to decipher the riddles of his prison and find a means to save himself and Devera!

Without a doubt, this book is far different from the early adventures of Vlad Taltos, which I recall pouring over endlessly as a teenager and college student.  Those initial trips to the Dragaeran Empire were filled with mafia-like themes and always included a mystery or puzzle requiring our hero to use his detective skills to avoid disaster.  While there is still quit a lot of the later in this novel (Vallista is a locked-room mystery.), its main theme really is an introspective look back at Vlad’s past (I mean, WAY back in his past.  Like thousands of years in the past!) and as a vehicle to deliver tons of information on this world and its actors rather than on any extensive action or adventure, though there is still a bit of both in limited quantities here.

No doubt, lovers of Vlad Taltos will thoroughly enjoy this novel, finding the time travel, tidbits of new information about the title character and the world insightful, as well as giving Steven Brust much kudos for stretching himself as a writer and having the creative self-assurance to take this aging series in a different direction.  But even with that acknowledged, I feel confident that fans of the series would admit that the plot here is fairly negligible, the pacing is rather slow at times, and this is not a good entry point for readers new to the series.  I personally would only recommend this novel to dedicated followers of Vlad Taltos and advice anyone else wishing to begin this series to start with the first book and work their way forward from there, understanding that only by having knowledge of Vlad’s recorded past will this newest novel have any real meaning.

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

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WAITING ON WEDNESDAY: HATH NO FURY

waiting-on-wednesday
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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hath no furyHath No Fury by Melanie Meadors

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Anthology

Publisher: Ragnarok (December 1, 2017)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length: 550 pages

Mother. Warrior. Caregiver. Wife. Lover. Survivor. Trickster. Heroine. Leader.

In this anthology, readers will find 21 stories and six essays about super-smart, purpose-driven, ultra-confident heroines. Hath No Fury defies the stereotypes. Here, it’s not the hero who does all the action while the heroine smiles and bats her eyelashes; Hath No Fury’s women are champions, not princesses in distress. Embracing the strong warriors to the silent but powerful, or perhaps the timid who muster their courage to face down a terrible evil, the women of Hath No Fury will make indelible marks upon you and leave you breathless for more.

CONTENTS

Introduction by Margaret Weis
Philippa Ballantine “Casting On”
Bradley P. Beaulieu “I Have Unchained My Love”
Carol Berg “The Book of Rowe”
Dana Cameron “Pax Egyptica”
Delilah S. Dawson “She Keeps Crawling Back”
Erin M. Evans “The Mark of a Mountain Poppy”
Lian Hearn “Craft”
Seanan McGuire “Riding Ever Southward, In the Company of Bees”
Nisi Shawl “She Tore”
Michael R. Underwood “The Unlikely Turncoat”
Elizabeth Vaughan “The Spoils of War”
Django Wexler “Last of the Red Riders”
Anton Strout “Some Enchanted Evening”
SR Cambridge “The Scion”
Elaine Cunningham “Failure Is Not an Option”
Gail Z. Martin “Reconciling Memory”
William C. Dietz “Snakeskin”
M.L. Brennan “Heart of Clay”
Eloise J. Knapp “Rise of the Bonecrushers”
Marc Turner “A Dance with Death”

Featuring essays by:
Shanna Germain “For the Love of Etta Candy”
Carina Bissett “A Seed Planted”
Sarah Kuhn “It Ain’t Bad to Get Mad”
Diana M. Pho “Anger is a Friend to Love”
Melanie R. Meadors “Short Bios of Fierce Women”
Monica Valentinelli “Not Another ‘Why Representation Is Important’ Essay”

Purchase the book at Amazon

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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 we have a great topic to explore …

TOP TEN BOOKS I WANT MY CHILDREN TO READ

This is a topic which makes me a little sad.  I say that because I only have one child who actually enjoys reading.  Depressing to admit, but true nonetheless.

How did this happen?

Not quite sure — though I have a suspicion that I’ll lay out in a bit.  Honestly, when my children were smaller, they seemed to enjoy books.  I read to every one of them as they grew up.  I can’t count the number of nights I’d go from bedroom to bedroom spending twenty to thirty minutes reading to one child before then heading to the others to read.  We had fun.  My children asked for me to read to them (until they were too grown-up for that sort of thing).  They even read books on their own, sought out certain series.  And then it all changed . . .

What changed is a focus by their school on the students reading so many books every week.  A fun hobby became a tedious chore.  Soon, my sons revolted against every picking up a book outside of homework assignments.  And there really wasn’t anything I could do to stop the trend.

Thankfully, one son hasn’t completely lost his love of reading so far.  He prefers graphic novels to fantasy or science fiction, but at least he is reading.  But I do hope that one day I can reignite his love for books, convince him to try the ones I’ve listed below, because I believe they would open his eyes to a wider world just as they did his old man.


time machine10. The Time Machine – Jules Verne

The granddaddy of all time travel stories!  This story of a Vcitorian era scientist who invents a time machine to save someone close to him turns into a science fiction romp through the future.  Definitely, it is action adventure done right, but it also introduces amazing concepts to a new speculative fiction reader.

 


conan19. Conan – Robert E. Howard

I fondly recall picking up my first Conan book when I was a pre-teen mired in middle school angst.  Life was hard.  My problems were insurmountable.  Then I got to follow along behind a barbarian who was a self-made king, who overcame his own obstacles by the strength of his mighty sinews.  Plus, it was damn good fun!

 


animal farm8. Animal Farm/1984 – George Orwell

Switching gears a bit with these picks, going from fun to ultra serious.  These Orwell classics are thought provoking affairs, which totally shocked when I finally read them.  The messages here are even more relevant today when the powers-that-be attempt to turn the citizenry against one another while they steal us blind of our money and freedoms.  Certainly, it isn’t fun reading, but it is something I hope my children will tackle when they are ready for it.


7. Mark Twaintom sawyer

Tom Sawyer.  Huckleberry Finn.  A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s CourtThe Prince and the Pauper.  Dozens of amazing short stories.  Mark Twain was a writer who helped bring the American past alive for me in a way no other book/film ever did.  Certainly, he wasn’t limited to merely illustrating old Americana, but he did it so damn well it is what I always remember him for.


iliad6.  The Iliad/ The Odyssey – Homer

This ancient epic was difficult for me to read when I jumped into it in fifth or sixth grade, but it was such an amazing story that it left a lasting impact on my psyche.  The legendary lives of Achilles, Phoenix, Menelaus, Agamemnon, Ajax and so many others a brilliant lesson in relationships and battles between kings and heroes.


le morte d arthur5. Le Morte D’Arthur

Another epic tale of the past this time centering on the legends of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table.  As a lifelong fan of knights and everything medieval, this huge volume was difficult but immensely pleasurable to take the time to complete.  It really cemented my love of King Arthur, and I hope one of my children can experience it when they are ready for the grand journey.


three musketeers4. Alexander Dumas 

No, I haven’t read all of Dumas’s works, but The D’Artagnan Romances and The Count of Monte Cristo will always be among my favorite stories ever written.  I’ll be the first to admit Dumas’s style of wordiness can be annoying, but his tales are timeless snapshots of a time long past yet so amazing it should never be forgotten, but be revisited by each generation to keep it alive.


foundation3. Foundation — Isaac Asimov

Not everyone loves Foundation as much as I did, but as for me, I have always felt it was the perfect mesh of science and fiction, keeping you turning pages to follow a cool story. Not all science fiction of today’s day and age remember that first and foremost books are for enjoyment, not academic speculation.  And I think it is exactly the type of story that might convince my children that reading is fun.


the belgariad2. David Eddings

I think of David Eddings as the J.K. Rowling of the 1980s.  The Belgariad, The Mallorean and his Sparhawk books my generations Harry Potter or Percy Jackson.  Nope, Eddings didn’t create anything new or horribly original, but what he did is pen damn addictive YA stories that kept me reading away year and year, which is exactly what I think he could do with my children.


THE HOBBIT1.  The Hobbit/ The Lord of the Rings

Do I even need to explain why I want my offspring to read the greatest, modern epic fantasy series ever written?  Suffice it to say I believe every person’s life isn’t complete without, at least, reading this saga once.

 

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FUNDAY MONDAY, OR THE BOOKS THAT WILL HELP ME SURVIVE THE WEEK AHEAD (NOVEMBER 13, 2017)

funday-monday

Another 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 promise of a new year and the continuation of the regular grind, deep down, I’m not, so I’m going to escape dreary reality by reading some great books.

Here is what I’ll be reading, and I think it will be keeping me busy all week!

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oathbringerOathbringer by Brandon Sanderson

Genre: Epic Fantasy

Series: The Stormlight Archive #1

Publisher: Tor Books (November 14, 2017)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length: 1233 pages

In Oathbringer, the third volume of the New York Timesbestselling Stormlight Archive, humanity faces a new Desolation with the return of the Voidbringers, a foe with numbers as great as their thirst for vengeance.

Dalinar Kholin’s Alethi armies won a fleeting victory at a terrible cost: The enemy Parshendi summoned the violent Everstorm, which now sweeps the world with destruction, and in its passing awakens the once peaceful and subservient parshmen to the horror of their millennia-long enslavement by humans. While on a desperate flight to warn his family of the threat, Kaladin Stormblessed must come to grips with the fact that the newly kindled anger of the parshmen may be wholly justified.

Nestled in the mountains high above the storms, in the tower city of Urithiru, Shallan Davar investigates the wonders of the ancient stronghold of the Knights Radiant and unearths dark secrets lurking in its depths. And Dalinar realizes that his holy mission to unite his homeland of Alethkar was too narrow in scope. Unless all the nations of Roshar can put aside Dalinar’s blood-soaked past and stand together–and unless Dalinar himself can confront that past–even the restoration of the Knights Radiant will not prevent the end of civilization.

Purchase the book at Amazon

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FUNDAY MONDAY, OR THE BOOKS THAT WILL HELP ME SURVIVE THE WEEK AHEAD (NOVEMBER 6, 2017)

funday-monday

Another 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 promise of a new year and the continuation of the regular grind, deep down, I’m not, so I’m going to escape dreary reality by reading some great books.

Here is what I’ll be reading!

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VALLISTAVallista by Steven Brust

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Vlad Taltos #15

Publisher: Tor Books (October 17, 2017)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length: 352 pages

Vlad Taltos is an Easterner an underprivileged human in an Empire of tall, powerful, long-lived Dragaerans. He made a career for himself in House Jhereg, the Dragaeran clan in charge of the Empire s organized crime. But the day came when the Jhereg wanted Vlad dead, and he s been on the run ever since. He has plenty of friends among the Dragaeran highborn, including an undead wizard and a god or two. But as long as the Jhereg have a price on his head, Vlad s life is messy.

Meanwhile, for years, Vlad s path has been repeatedly crossed by Devera, a small Dragaeran girl of indeterminate powers who turns up at the oddest moments in his life.

Now Devera has appeared again to lead Vlad into a mysterious, seemingly empty manor overlooking the Great Sea. Inside this structure are corridors that double back on themselves, rooms that look out over other worlds, and just maybe answers to some of Vlad s long-asked questions about his world and his place in it. If only Devera can be persuaded to stop disappearing in the middle of his conversations with her.

Purchase the book at Amazon

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gryphon's eyeGryphon’s Eye by Kevin Weston

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Casting Shadow’s #1

Publisher: Wave Train Books (October 22, 2017)

Author Information: Website

Length: 439 pages

Traejon Frost has spent the last five years of his life roaming the mist-shrouded forests and mountains of the kingdom of Fyngree in service to the famed sorcerer-king Owyn Suntold. His mission? To guard the king’s wild familiar, a falcon that is the wellspring of Owyn’s prodigious spellcasting abilities. It’s a lonely life, but what of it? At least out there, sleeping under the moon and stars, Traejon is not so haunted by the harrowing memories of his violent past.

In the Fyngrean capital of Kylden, meanwhile, young Jessalyn Suntold leads a life of luxury and ease. But despite her status as the only heir to her father’s throne, Jess feels forsaken. For she has spent her life pining for a visitor that has never arrived. A familiar of her own, one capable of unlocking her dormant magical abilities so that she might defend herself against Fyngree’s enemies. And now she can see the fear in her father’s eyes—a dread that the centuries-long rule of the Suntold line will come crashing down when he draws his last breath.

And so it goes, warrior and princess each grappling with their own private demons. Until a night of terror in which Jess learns of a sinister plot to drag King Owyn from his throne. But when she unites with Traejon in a desperate quest to unmask the conspirators, they discover that allies can turn into enemies in the blink of an eye. And that monsters come in human as well as fantastical form. Yet still they press onward, searching for the truth in an empire teetering on the brink of collapse. Until they stumble upon the most stunning revelation of all—that everything they know about the world of magic around them is a lie.

Purchase the book at Amazon

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INDIE WEDNESDAY: STEEL, BLOOD, & FIRE

Indie-WednesdayAlong my reading journey, I’ve made a conscious decision to include self-published and small press works in my reading schedule.  But it is difficult to know where to start: So many new authors and books to examine to find the perfect fit for my tastes.  And to help others with this same problem, I’ve decided to talk about any indie/small press books which I have recently been enjoying.

Well, this past weekend I finally got around to reading Allen Batchelder’s grimdark offering Steel, Blood, & Fire; this novel a damn fine page-turner, filed with everything I enjoy about the genre!

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steel blood & fireSteel, Blood, & Fire by Allan Batchelder

Genre: Fantasy – Gridmark

Series: Immortal Treachery #1

Publisher:  Self Published (January 2, 2013)

Author Information: Facebook

Length: 548 pages

My Rating: 3.5 stars

Steel, Blood & Fire is a dark, gritty, and brutal fantasy novel in the grimdark sub-genre.  People are tortured, raped, and killed in the George R.R. Martin style.  The setting is medieval, portrayed in a realistic way with splendid touches of historical authenticity, and there is even quite a bit of magic, magical creatures, and god-like beings making appearances to spice up the ho-hum world.  What sets Steel, Blood & Fire above many dark fantasy offerings, however, is Allan Batchelder deft ability to use this grimdark setting to weave an entertaining, fast-paced narrative which keeps you desperately turning the pages to see how things turn out.

Told through multiple point-of-view characters, the story seamlessly weaves back and forth between several individuals.  The most important of these people are Tarmun Vykers aka the Reaper, Arune, and Long Pete.  All of these individuals experiencing the turmoils of their time in a different way, allowing readers to see unique views of events through very different eyes, but each caught up in the same horrible circumstances, specifically the crusade of a man known only as The-End-of-All-Things, who is determined to destroy everything on the world, wipe it clean of every form of life.  This monster leading a huge army which follows him not for riches or glory but out of abject fear of his sorcerous power and his utter ruthlessness.  The path this evil one and his horde carve through our protagonists’ world easy to discern due to the trail of corpses and total destruction that stretch behind them.

From the above plot description, it is not difficult to surmise that Steel, Blood & Fire is a brutal novel at times.  The narrative almost literally drips blood and revels in the dark side of humanity at certain points.  Horrible deeds are done over and over again to innocent people.  Thankfully, though, Allan Batchelder never allows those nihilistic tenants of grimdark to overwhelm what is, at its heart, a character driven story about an unlikely villain-turned-would-be-savior, a troubled healer, and a gigolo-turned-warrior.  Vykers, Aruna, and Long gradually developing from one-dimensional people at the the beginning of this tale into fully realized individuals by the conclusion; people who have went through hell, learned many things, and come out the other side better human beings — we hope.

As for the writing itself, it was equal to anything being put out by traditionally published grimdark writers.  In fact, Allan Batchelder surpasses many a dark fantasy writer, especially in his ability to tell an entertaining story with a fluid plot and non-stop character development.  Certainly, I could complain about Vykers transformation from villain to hero being a bit too easy, Arune’s plot “telling” instead of showing too often, or the villain’s evilness being a bit too one dimensional, but the simple fact is none of those flaws in the book distracted me overmuch from what was an engaging, grimdark romp.

Steel, Blood, & Fire is an impressive work of dark fantasy which is both epic and horribly realistic, one I do not hesitate to recommend to other fans of the grimdark genre.  Allan Batchelder now a writer I will be following and will be purchasing his continued writings in this series.  And, so, for whatever it is worth, I’d strongly recommend others give this novel as try as well.

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

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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 we have a great topic to explore …

TOP TEN SPOOKY-CREEPY-SCARY SFF BOOKS

I couldn’t think of a better topic to dive into for Halloween!  Plus, it was a difficult topic, since fantasy and science fiction aren’t known for including many spooky, creepy, or scary elements.  Most of the time, anyway.  But this list includes those speculative fiction stories I felt best fit the description of this topic.


REND THE DARK10. Rend the Dark by Gelineau & King 

This short story series was set in a fantasy world with magic, monsters, and a medieval-type society.  The heroes of the tales are Ferran and his fellow witch hunter Mireia, who travel around the realms uncovering and destroying infestations of demons; these filthy monsters constantly tormenting the living.  And what drew me to these shorts was the wonderful fusion of fantasy and horror elements, as well as the compelling characters.


the-last-sacrifice9. The Last Sacrifice by James A. Moore

This one comes as no surprise to those who already know James A. Moore is a prolific horror writer, so, naturally, his fantasy offerings are greatly infused with horrific elements.  The Last Sacrifice is no exception with its strange creatures, god-like entities, and a plethora of supernatural creatures.  Plus, the book is about the end of the world with all hell breaking loose everywhere.


the ghoul king8. Dreaming Cities by Guy Haley

A post-apocalyptic genre blender which fused fantasy, horror, and a bit of scifi into a creepy page turner.  The protagonist here is a “knight” who is caught up in a mysterious quest against the “Angels” who created him and might or might not be the saviors of humanity they are viewed as.  Thrown in zombies, ancient technology, dragons, ghouls, and creepy robots and you have a damn fine speculative fiction offering.


7. Beyond Redemption by Michael R. Fletcher  Beyond Redemption

Technically, this is a tale of grimdark fantasy with a really creative magic system built upon the concept that magic is directly tied to the insanity of the wielder.  It is much more complex however.  But what is noteworthy is that many of the magic users in this place are creepy as hell. Cotardist.  Doppelgangist.  And even worse mentally ill magic wielders bestride this place.  Great, creepy, grimdark fun!


nagash-the-sorcerer6. Nagash the Sorcerer by Mike Lee 

Warhammer isn’t for everyone, I understand that, but this tale of a royal priests descending into the depths of depraved necromancy is a real creep-fest at times.  Honestly, the title character is about as bad as they come, willing to do anything to anyone to obtain more power; his vileness really driving this book from first page to last.  Nope, I’m not a huge horror aficionado, but I thought this one was damn creepy.


wizard and glass5. Wizard and Glass by Stephen King

I am not a huge fan of The Dark Tower series because I felt it had a pretty pathetic conclusion, but even I can admit there were some amazing bright spots along the epic journey Mr. King took his readers on.  Wizard and Glass was the peak of the highs for me, delivering the perfect mixture of western, post-apocalyptic, fantasy, and horror which I found myself drawn to the most.  And, yeah, it was damn spooky more than a few times.


the road4. The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Spooky, creepy, scary, and damn horribly depressing.  You can use these or many more adjectives to describe this post-apocalyptic story about a father and son desperately attempting to survive in a wasteland where the preferred meat of choice is human meat.  I’d also like to add that this book is not recommended to those with a tender heart, small children, or any amount of empathy for families.  Brutal story.


i am legend3. I Am Legend by Robert Matheson

Robert Neville is the last living man on earth, surrounded by a population of vampires.  His time is split between killing sleeping vampires and attempting to survive the terrible nights.  His story alternating between spooky, creepy, scary and depressing, as Robert’s horrible life seem to revolve around isolation, desperation, and perseverance.


the walking dead2. The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman 

Zombies.  Survivors.  (Survivors, I might add, who survived by being the most heartless assholes on the planet basically.)  The complete collapse of society.  People getting killed by survivors, eaten by zombies, or put down by survivors when they get infected and are going to turn into zombies.  This series really is horror writing at its creepiest and best.


the_stand_uncut-2The Stand by Stephen King

You can’t go wrong with a Stephen King horror novel on this sort of list, I guess, but the reason this one finds itself at the top is due to it being the first pandemic, post-apocalyptic story I ever read which felt like it could actually become a reality.  Sure, the supernatural elements were a bit over-the-top at times, but the flu epidemic and its aftermaths was spooky, creepy, and scary in equal measure.


Well, that is my list.  Agree?  Disagree?  Tell me why.  And feel free to add some other characters to the list.

 

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FUNDAY MONDAY, OR THE BOOKS THAT WILL HELP ME SURVIVE THE WEEK AHEAD (OCTOBER 30, 2017)

funday-monday

Another 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 promise of a new year and the continuation of the regular grind, deep down, I’m not, so I’m going to escape dreary reality by reading some great books.

Here is what I’ll be reading!

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blade of empireBlade of Empire by Mercedes Lackey & James Mallory

Genre: Fantasy

Series: The Dragon Prophecy

Publisher: Tor Books (October 24, 2017)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length: 608 pages

Set in a masterful fantasy world filled with elves and demons, unicorns and goblins, and mages and warriors, BLADE OF EMPIRE continues the legend of Vieliessar Farcarinon, the first High King.

As Vieliessar confronts the first waves of the forces of Darkness, her destined Bondmate, Runacar, leads a rag-tag group to war. For centuries, the Elves have hunted the Otherfolk minotaurs, gryphons, dryads, and more considering them beasts. But they have a complex society, Runacar discovers, and though he is an Elf, takes it as his mission to help them reclaim their lands from his former friends and allies.

The Dragon Prophecy is a tale of loyalty and betrayal, of love and loss, of sacrifice and salvation. And of the never-ending battle between Light and Dark.

Purchase the book at Amazon.

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the nineThe Nine by Tracy Townsend

Genre: Fantasy-Mystery-Crime-Steampunk

Series: Thieves of Fate #1

Publisher: Pyr (November 14, 2017)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length: 400 pages

In the dark streets of Corma exists a book that writes itself, a book that some would kill for…

Black market courier Rowena Downshire is just trying to pay her mother’s freedom from debtor’s prison when an urgent and unexpected delivery leads her face to face with a creature out of nightmares. Rowena escapes with her life, but the strange book she was ordered to deliver is stolen.

The Alchemist knows things few men have lived to tell about, and when Rowena shows up on his doorstep, frightened and empty-handed, he knows better than to turn her away. What he discovers leads him to ask for help from the last man he wants to see—the former mercenary, Anselm Meteron.

Across town, Reverend Phillip Chalmers awakes in a cell, bloodied and bruised, facing a creature twice his size. Translating the stolen book may be his only hope for survival; however, he soon realizes the book may be a fabled text written by the Creator Himself, tracking the nine human subjects of His Grand Experiment. In the wrong hands, it could mean the end of humanity.

Rowena and her companions become the target of conspirators who seek to use the book for their own ends. But how can this unlikely team be sure who the enemy is when they can barely trust each other? And what will happen when the book reveals a secret no human was meant to know?

Purchase the book at Amazon.

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FLASHBACK FRIDAY: MORGAINE SAGA

flashbackfriday

Flashback Friday is something I do here at Bookwraiths every once in a while; a time when I can post my thoughts about books that I’ve read in the past. With the hectic schedule of day-to-day life, there never seems enough time to give these old favorites the spotlight that they deserve, but with a day all to themselves, there is no reason I can’t revisit them.

Today, I’ll be taking a look back at a genre blender series from the past: Morgaine Cycle!

complete morgaineThe Morgaine Cycle by C.J. Cherryh 

Genre: SciFi / Fantasy

Series: The Morgaine Cycle #1-4

Publisher: DAW (September 1, 2015)

Length: 817 pages

Author Info: Website

My Rating: 3 stars

This four volume series from C.J. Cherryh is an epic, dark fantasy/science fiction hybrid of the highest order.  Begun in the 1970s (The first three volumes were published in 1976, 1978, and 1979.) and completed in 1988, the series certainly sees an evolution in the skill level of the author and a shift away from a lyrical fantasy voice to a more modern tone, but one thing which does not change from beginning to end is the beauty, intelligence, and excitement of this under appreciated genre blender.

The tale itself is about Morgaine: a mysterious, driven woman committed to a quest which takes her from world to world, as she seals ancient star gates. These gates believed to be relics of a lost era when the Qual Empire used the portals to travel across Space and Time. The Science Buereau of Morgaine’s home world coming to believe that at some point in the past an unknown person used the gates to warp the fabric of the universe, and thus these monuments to the past are too dangerous to continue to exist, which is why Morgaine must destroy them all!

Throughout the four books, Morgaine remains a fairly mysterious enigma.  All information concerning her past, her motives, and her persona gained through her interactions with and the observations of her steadfast traveling companion Vayne.  This honor bound warrior never leaving Morgaine’s side, even when a normal person would have grown weary of the rather thankless yet dangerous mission they are on.  The only thing holding these two platonic companions together Vayne’s strict adherence to a code of honor.

Like all of Cherryh’s books, The Morgaine Cycle is filled with intriguing characters, an interesting plot, and dangerous excitement.  The fact that Morgaine is a strong, female  protagonist whose companion and helper is a man probably made these stories somewhat progressive and novel for the time period, but that really isn’t the focus of the tales told her, just an added flavor for those who care about such things.

The books aren’t perfect though, and I’d probably center my criticism around the rather formulaic installments of each book and the lack of resolution to any of the plot threads.  Quite honestly, every world our two companions travel to seems very similar to the last in technology level, societal structure, and general attitude, resulting in a plot which is nearly the same as the last.  How it is possible for so many worlds to resemble one another and for each of them to react to Morgaine’s quest in almost the exact same manner isn’t ever answered very well by Cherryh.  And as for an ending to Morgaine’s quest, the author does not even touch upon it, deciding intend for a conclusion to book four which suggests only an eternal journey from portal to portal for our pair.

Whatever the issues I had with the novels overall, I did find all of them to be exciting, page-turning affairs which left me craving more.  And I truly believe other readers would feel the same if they’d only give them a try.

Purchase the book at Amazon.

Posted in 3 Stars, Flashback Friday | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

DEATH AND DIGNITY

SKELETON WARRIORDeath and Dignity by Michael R. Fletcher

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Stand Alone Short Story

Publisher: Heroic Fantasy Quarterly (October 2, 2012)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length: 12+ pages

My Rating: 4 stars

Continuing the story of Khraen the Corpse begun in Death at the Pass, Death and Dignity is an even more thoughtful yet devilishly funny Michael Fletcher short.  My favorite grimdark author delivering yet another damn fun read.

In life, Khraen was Fist of Sorhd-Rach, First General of the Invincible Hand, powerful demonologist, and loyal servant to the Emperor of eternal Palaq Taq, who wielded the demon-infused sword Kantlament against his enemies.  In undeath, he is a dead man trapped in the prison of his own rotting flesh hunted by sorcerers.  Talk a horrible turn of events.

The story which flows out from this set up is not really about Khraen being hunted as much as it is the emotional turmoil our undead corpse is dealing with and his feelings of helplessness, as well as a brief character study of those hunting him.  The best moments of the narrative where the author’s dark, gallows humor springs to life unexpectedly.  The fact that the ending is rather surprising and open-ended merely an added plus.

Just as with the first installment of this series, Khraen, our animated dead guy, is the star of the show, the reason to keep turning the e-book pages. His struggle to accept his new undead life, reconcile his current state with his past life, and find some reason to keep existing damn interesting and a bit emotional at times.  I mean, Khraen finds a way to laugh at his circumstances and trade a few jokes here and there even though he wishes he was still dead, and this refusal to give up made me really learn to like this dead guy, made me eager to read more about him and his journey.

But will you personally like this tale of Khraen the Corpse?

Well, it’s fast-paced, emotional, has some humor, can be read for free here, and shouldn’t take too long for you to finish.  How could you not like that deal?

Posted in 4 Stars, Fantasy, Short Stories, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments