SWORD OF CALEDOR

sword-of-caledorSword of Caledor by William King

Genre: Fantasy — Warhammer

Series: Tyrion & Teclis #2

Publisher: Games Workshop (November 27, 2012)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length:  320 pages

My Rating:  4 stars

 

Sword of Caledor is not only a great Warhammer story, but also a worth reading for anyone who loves sword and sorcery affairs.  Well-written, realistic, and gritty yet still possessing a mythical, legendary feel, this second installment of the Tyrion and Teclis series expands upon the excellent foundation the author, Willaim King, built in the first volume.

Taking place a century after Blood of Aenarion, the twins Tyrion and Teclis have developed into gifted and renowned High Elves.  Tyrion is now a legendary warrior, having fought numerous battles and raided the very coasts of the hated Drucchi, as well as growing into a budding politician, who eyes a future focused upon becoming the next Phoenix King.  Meanwhile, Teclis has spent the years developing his sorcerous powers, turning his innate abilities into fabulous skill; the days of his lingering on the edge of death due to continual illness a distant memory, as his health has (at least, in part) been restored through magic and alchemy.

Though their paths have taken these brothers in different directions, they are still very close.  Each keeping the other in his thoughts at all times.  Whenever they can arrange it, the two venture off on epic quests together, taking joy in the other’s company and in aiding their sibling to accomplish yet another personal goal.  And as Sword of Caledor begins, the twins are off on exactly one of these kind of adventures.

Surrounded by the lush wilderness of the jungles of mysterious Lustria, Tyrion and Teclis’ expedition continually faces sudden death.  Whether it be the native wildlife or the deadly lizardmen or the elements themselves, this unexplored wilderness is deadly.  Yet, the twins are undaunted by the danger, for they are searching for the ruins of an ancient Slan city said to be hidden from sight for millennia.  Their goal the fabled sword of Aenarion, which Caledor Dragontamer forged in the early days of the Elves and which has been lost untold ages.  This weapon something a future candidate for the throne of the Phoenix King would love to have in his possession.

Unknown to the twins, however, away in the far north of the world, Malekith the Witch King of Naggaroth stirs.  Too quiet has the accursed son of Aenarion been and for far too long.  Now, though, he has fitted into place the final piece of his grand scheme to unleash his might upon Ulthuan, crush the High Elves once and for all, and take back what has been withheld from his rightful grip.  And, no one can stand against him!

For a sword and sorcery fan, there was a lot to like in this story.  Gritty action.  Amazing world building.  Intriguing heroes.  Devious villains.  Vile plots.  But my favorite element of Sword of Caledor was the characters themselves, who really captured my attention and kept me rooted to my seat.

William King does an excellent job of continuing to mold and develop our heroes Tyrion and Teclis here.  These two have changed dramatically from where book one left them; each a mature elf now with their own distinct and very different personalities, motives, and flaws; the days of their immature, angst ridden youth left far behind.  This story gives them room to showcase that newfound growth, struggle through their own issues, and attempt to rise to the occasion, as threats surround them from beginning to end.  Real evolution in their personalities taking place from chapter to chapter.

Even with that said, I have to admit my favorite sections of the book were those focusing on Malekith and his mother Morathi.  Gaining a glimpse into their demented minds, seeing their bizarre relationship, and discovering more about their motives and desires really made them rise above cookie cutter villain status for me.  Quickly, these two grew into the epitome of grand villains; people whose behavior sickened and disgusted me, but whose reasons for it all almost made me empathize with them.  Talk about scary.

In conclusion, I have to end this review by admitting that the greatest thrill of reading Sword of Caledor was getting to return to this amazing fantasy setting.  The depth of history, unique personalities, intriguing characters, and earth-shattering magic captures my imagination every time I pick up a Warhammer story, creating in me a deep desire to learn even more about this place, meet even more of the legendary figures of this world.  Perhaps this is a feeling only I have about this fantasy setting with its elves, dwarfs, and other traditional fantasy races, but I really don’t believe that.  The brand of gritty sword and sorcery Warhammer offers is timeless in my opinion, and I believe the Tyrion & Teclis saga is a great place for any newcomers to sample its fantastical fantasy flavor.

Purchase the book at Amazon

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Posted in 4 Stars, Fantasy, Sword and Sorcery, Warhammer | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

DEAD MAN’S STEEL

dead-mans-steelDead Man’s Steel by Luke Scull

Genre: Fantasy – Grimdark

Series: The Grim Company #3

Publisher: Roc (January 3, 2017)

Author Information:Website | Twitter

Length: 448 pages

My Rating: 3 stars

 

Dead Man’s Steel was a novel I was eagerly looking forward to reading. The Grim Company and The Sword of the North list among my favorite grimdark novels from the recent past, so, naturally, I assumed the final volume would be the best yet. Unfortunately, after finishing this installment of the series, all I feel is disappointment and a longing for what might have been.

Picking up where The Sword of the North ended, the new masters of Dorminia are the legendary race called the Fehd, or Fade. These people descending upon the much fought over carcass of Magelord Salazar’s city, ruthlessly and efficiently destroying all opposition before preparing the opening phases of “The Reckoning” they intend to bring to the world. Eremul the Halfmage an eye witness to these goings on.

A continent away in the far north, Brodar Kayne fights a desperate battle to save his son and his people. Krazka the Butcher King having taken control of the land and having thrown in his lot with an ancient evil, which threatens to drown the whole world in blood – unless the Sword of the North can somehow fight off the weakness of age and aid his fellow Northmen in destroying the cancer before it grows too strong.

Meanwhile, Sasha and Davarus Cole find themselves in the City of the White Lady, slowly but surely pulled into the fight to hold back the rising tide of the Fehd. Surrounded by people whose trust is uncertain, dealing with their own festering curses, and burdened with their past problems, these two quickly find themselves drowning in responsibility and unsure whether they can meet the challenges they are confronted with.

All that sounds like the makings of a great grimdark story, and for the first half of the book, Dead Man’s Steel was on the same upward trajectory as its two predecessors. Then things took a downward turn and never recovered.

Why? Simply put the lack of a compelling villain or heroes.

In my opinion, a story has to have both great villains and heroes to succeed. At times, I truly believe the villain is the more important of the two. And in The Grim Company and The Sword of the North there was an outstanding cast of repulsive enemies for our jaded heroes to struggle against. Magelord Salazar. The White Lady of Thelassa. The Shaman of High Fangs. Krazka. And many more. Each one of these despicable examples of humanity fun to read about, driving the narrative forward either by a reader’s desire to see them killed or to learn what caused them to be the way they are.

In Dead Man’s Steel, we have the Fehd. These guys are supposedly an ancient race, who once inhabited the land back during “the time before”. They are seemingly ageless, possessing of high level technology (cannons, handguns, indestructible crystal swords, city destroying bombs, huge ocean going ships, and airplanes) as well as being gifted with superhuman strength, speed, and agility. One could come to the conclusion they are overpowered without much effort. And this (plus their fairly boring and predictable personalities) causes the narrative to grind to a halt. They just aren’t terribly interesting. Nor are they despicable enough to make you hate them. Rather they have the feel of white coated research scientists who are busy clinically administering death to lab rats. Yes, you want them to stop. Sure, you dislike them. But you don’t care how they meet their end as long as you don’t have to look at them anymore. And that is how I felt about the Fehd. “Just get them away from me already!

The end result of the Fehd floundering is that our cast of grimdark characters must pick up the slack, which might have worked if Brodar Kayne or Eremul or someone other than Sasha and Davarus Cole were the leads.  Unfortunately, these two friends become the focal point of the second half of the narrative.

I admit, in the other books, I enjoyed Cole’s ridiculous antics and Sasha’s drug addict tale. They were wonderful supporting characters. People we followed along behind for a chapter, shook our head at when they did something stupid, and felt sorry for when life threw them a curve ball, but not the people leading the fight against the Fehd. I mean, really? These two are the heroes? (And I do use the word “heroes” lightly.) They and their personal struggles just did not have the strength to hold up the book unassisted by a great villain, and, sadly, the story feel apart once they had to carry it. (At least, in my opinion.)

Which brings me to the only positive from this book: Luke Scull’s writing. Even weighted down with an underachieving pairing of villains and heroes, he somehow makes the story worth reading. His simple yet descriptive prose effortlessly guides the story forward, setting scenes, conveying emotions, and describing conflicts in an uncluttered way. His writing ability always reminding me of one of my favorite fantasy authors, Glen Cook.

Like most people, I always want the concluding volume of a series to be the best ever. Sometimes, though, it just doesn’t work out that way. The Grim Company trilogy was a fun ride, which made me love the kind of gallows humor and fierce action which Luke Scull can serve up, but Dead Man’s Steel was unable to live up to the very high standards its two predecessors set. While I am disappointed, I can truthfully say I’m still glad I read this novel, because it did bring closure to this story, and I will be eagerly awaiting the next story penned by its gifted author.

I received an advanced reading copy of 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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THE LAST HARVEST

the-last-harvestThe Last Harvest by Kim Liggett

Genre: Horror — Young Adult

Series: Standalone

Publisher: Tor Teen (January 10, 2017)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length:  352 pages

My Rating:  3.5 stars

Teenagers.  Wheat fields.  Gruesome deaths.  Devil Worship.  All those ingredients mix into one terrifying brew under the masterful guidance of Kim Liggett.  The Last Harvest truly a horror story from Tor Teen which will creep out even the most mature reader.

Everything changed for Clay Tate a year ago.  The day when his father died a mysterious and brutal death at their neighbor’s cattle ranch.  The grizzly remains of slaughter all around, a crucifix clutched to his chest, and the only words he would speak before life left him the ominous “I plead the blood.”

Before that moment, Clay had it all: star quarterback of the high school football team, friends, and a place among the prestigious “Preservation Society.”  But once stories of his father’s death reached the other members of Clay’s small, rural Oklahoma community everything changed.

Now, Clay is a social pariah.  Gone are the football games and the meetings of the Preservation Society.  His friends have distanced themselves from him.  The girl he has feelings for ignores him.  And home life is no better.  Clay’s mom unable to run the family farm alone, causing her son to take on his father’s responsibilities and help care for the rest of the family.  All of this combining to weigh down Clay with a heavy burden, one he does his best to accept and deal with, hoping against hope that time will erase what his father’s death has brought him.

Eventually, things begin to . . . get even worse.

Strange things start to happen after the one year anniversary of his father’s death.  Clay begins to hear voices.  Sibilant whispering which keep repeating “I plead the blood” over and over again.  Dead livestock appear in the fields — then vanish.  Members of the Preservation Society start dying.  A trusted school counselor even hints to Clay that the devil is coming to their small town.  And our brave teenager begins to wonder if he is slowly slipping into madness like his father before him!

What can Clay do?

With evil lose in town and Clay’s fear that it threatens all he loves, the young man does the only thing he knows to do: Solve the mystery of his father’s death!

Told in first person from Clay Tate’s point-of-view, this narrative does an amazing job of keeping a reader guessing from beginning to end.  Liggett effortlessly dropping clues (true and false ones) all around.  One minute, she will be leading a reader straight down the path before BAM! . . . the proverbial rug is pulled out from under you, taking things in a completely unexpected direction.  Helpful characters quickly become creepy.  Horrifying scenes graphically appear only to be explained away as possible psychotropic delusions.  All the confusion filling the narrative with never ending suspense and cover-to-cover creepiness.  Exactly what every horror story hopes to accomplish, but which The Last Harvest delivers.

Like other reviewers, the only negative I have with the novel is the ending.  There isn’t anything wrong with it, since it has been thoroughly set up throughout the narrative (If you have been paying close attention to the clues, that is.), yet it is certainly unexpected, startling, a little unsatisfying, and left me with the feeling that nothing was really resolved.  Certainly, not everyone will feel this way about the conclusion, but I did, which is why I mention it.

The Last Harvest is a young adult horror which won’t disappoint fans of the genre, delivering enough mystery, creepiness, and gore to make most readers take a bit longer to fall asleep after they turn the light out at bedtime.

I received an advanced reading copy of 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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BOOK TRAVELING THURSDAY: BOOK I’D LIKE TO SEE MADE INTO A MOVIE

booktravelingthursdays5Book Traveling Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Catia and Danielle.  Each week everyone picks a book related to that week’s theme, then you write a blog post explaining explain why you choose that book and spotlight all the different covers from different countries. To find out more check out about BTT go to the Goodreads group!

This week’s theme is: A Book I’d Like to See Made Into a Movie!

Wow!  There are so many to pick.  This question is like asking me to decide which one of my sons is my favorite.  It is nearly impossible.  But, I guess, if I had to pick only one I’d cheat a little bit and chose a book whose numerous stories could be made into a whole trilogy of cinematic films: The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Honestly, who wouldn’t love to see the stories of the war of the Noldor against Morgoth on the screen.  There is betrayal, love, hope, despair, and, ultimately, salvation.  Plus, the battles would be epic beyond scope!  I’m getting all adrenalized just thinking about it.

Wait, we are here to look at covers though.  Let me get on with that before I slip into another daydream.

ORIGINAL COVER 

the-silmarillion-1

I actually have this book, though it wasn’t my first copy of The Silmarillion.  That honor went to a paperback which I read as a teenager until it was falling apart.  Thankfully, I found this hardcover edition in a local used bookstore.  I still have it today.

FAVORITE COVERS

Each one of these covers captures the spirit of The Silmarillion for me personally.  The top left highlights the cause of the war: the Silmarils, forged by Fëanor, son of Finwë.  The second cover from the left shows the endless war between the Noldor and their enemy, Morgoth.  The trio of ship covers reminds me of the beautiful ships of the Noldor and how their final salvation is derived.  And the gold cover, bottom left, reveals the fate of the lands the Noldor called home in Middle-Earth.  Plus, I really love how these covers look.  (Yes, I am shallow at times.)

LEAST FAVORITE COVERS

 

I can point out the usual reasons for not liking any of these covers.  Some are too plain.  Others are too generic.  A few are not grounded in the spirit of the story.  Whatever the reason though, these covers did not peak my interest.

So what do you think?  Agree or disagree?

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TOP 5 WEDNESDAY: BOOKS TO GET YOU OUT OF A SLUMP

top5

Today, the guys in the Goodreads Top 5 Wednesday group have an interesting topic: BOOKS TO GET YOU OUT OF A READING SLUMP!  Winter is a hard season for a lot of people and many of us are falling into reading slumps. Let’s talk about some books that are great for getting you out of a slump!

Hard topic.  Well, maybe, not hard, but certainly difficult.  I mean, everyone has such different tastes it is almost impossible to know if a novel that I find easy to enjoy will be the same for you.  But I will give this one a try, hoping something I pick will be to a person’s reading tastes.

THE HOBBITCLASSIC FANTASY LOVERS — THE HOBBIT

Filled with action, adventure, enough world building to keep you interested, and loads of fun, this tale of Bilbo Baggins and his dwarf companions is a fun-filled tale which never fails to bring a smile to my face.

 

 

Dune-COVERSPACE OPERA SCIENCE FICTION — DUNE

The cover says it all, right?  “Greatest Science Fiction Book of All Time.”  Can’t get much better than that.  Okay, I know other scifi writers might have great arguments to make regarding the throne for scifi best of all time, but Herbert’s masterpiece is definitely among those handful.  And I personally consider it one of my favorites of all time.  Amazing stuff, so it should come as no surprise I’d recommend it to anyone bored with the current crop of science fiction.

Chronicles of the Black CompanyGRIMDARK FANTASY — THE BLACK COMPANY 

Certainly, there are newer, flashier grimdarks out there.  (Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence is a personally favorite of mine.)  But for sheer grittiness and fantasy flavor, I can’t recommend this easily digested, immediately enthralling story by Glen Cook.  I’ve reread it more times than I can count, and it is always amazing every single time.

 

foundationHARD SCIENCE FICTION — FOUNDATION

Asimov writes a book which brings science down to a level where even I could grasp some of the concepts and also told a fascinating story filled with politics, intrigue, and real people.  Plus these novels are almost effortless to get into, something which isn’t always true with other novels in the genre.

 

 

THE BUILDERSFANTASY NOVELLA — THE BUILDERS 

Daniel Polansky had a herculean task of turning this tale of vengeance by anthromorphic animals into a compelling fantasy novella.  Not only did he accomplish this, he also turned The Builders into one of the most engrossing, exciting tales I have read in years.  (Yeah, I loved it.)  Plus it was short and fast-paced.  So I would encourage everyone who hasn’t already to give this one a try.

 

So what do you think?  Agree?  Disagree?  Have some other books to list?  Please tell us all about it.

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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 our topic is …

TEN BOOKS I LOVED LESS THAN I THOUGHT I WOULD

 

everfair10. EVERFAIR

As an alternative history reader and lover of genre blending stories, this book seemed like a perfect fit for me.  It was billed as a “Neo-Victorian alternate history novel” where steam power came to the Congo early; this scenario helping to create an Africa very different from our own.  Unfortunately, it did not completely fulfill my high expectations.  Read my review if you wish to know exactly why I say that.

storm front9. URBAN FANTASY

I’m not picking on Harry Dresden here, by any means.  Actually, I enjoyed the first book in the series, Storm Front.  But since he is the poster boy for the genre, I felt he would be the perfect representative for all the urban fantasy novels I have tried the last four years.  And I have tried numerous different flavors.  The Iron Druid Chronicles.  Justis Fearsson.  Black City Saint.  Deadly Curiosities.  Several others.  Some I’ve enjoyed immensely.  Others not so much.  But the simple fact is urban fantasy just has not sunk its claws into my soul and made me want to read it.

v-for-vendetta8. V FOR VENDETTA

As a fan of many of Alan Moore’s works, I really looked forward to reading this graphic novel.  It was a classic after all.  But once I got into it I found myself floundering around attempting to find someone, anyone to care about.  It seemed both sides of this conflict were as bad as the other; at least, in my eyes, they were.  I did enjoy the movie adaptation a little bit better, but it still isn’t a favorite of mine.  Not sure why Watchmen with a similar pessimistic view of humanity hit all the right chords with me, but V didn’t.  My Review.

the mirror empire7. THE MIRROR EMPIRE 

Having heard wonderful things about Kameron Hurley books and having thoroughly enjoyed her 2013 essay “We Have Always Fought’: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative”, my anticipation was very high for this book/series.  Alas, it was not meant to be.  Why?  Read my review if you really are interested in the answer to that question.

 

LEVIATHAN WAKES6. LEVIATHAN WAKES

How I wanted to love this series.  With so many fans and numerous volumes to read, I desperately desired to be sucked into this science fiction space opera and swept away to untold wonders.  This initial volume left me with a Meh feeling however.  Nope, I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t really enjoy it either.  So, naturally, I haven’t ever returned to it.  My review for anyone interested.

 

The Desert Spear5. THE DESERT SPEAR

The Warded Man was a great read.  Peter Brett’s world of demons and humanity quite spectacular.  Arlen an outstanding protagonist to be my guide through it.  And, I was very excited to begin book two.  Then I found it was mainly about Jardir.  Can’t say I understood why, but I tried to go with it.  It worked . . . sort of.  I didn’t like it as much as I did book one though, which might or might not set me apart from other fans of the series.  My review.

 

THE LAST COLONY4. THE LAST COLONY

I became a fan of this series after loving Old Man’s War, and I was eager to return to The Last Colony, since I was going to get to see more of John Perry.  And Scalzi didn’t let me down initially; the narrative filled with witty sarcasm and exciting adventure.  Then the ending left me cold.  I mean, John Perry was a great guy, but Scalzi turning him into an ordinary guy who can outwit a whole galaxy was a bit too much for my tastes. I know others loved this one.  Wish I had as well.  My review

age of myth3. AGE OF MYTH

Along with all fans of Hadrian and Royce from the Riyria books, I couldn’t wait for this series to begin.  I mean, a chance to see how this world came to be sounded like a can’t miss.  And I did enjoy it.  Just not as much as I hoped I would.  A fact which really disappoints me.  My review

 

 

2. READY PLAYER ONEREADY PLAYER ONE

I read so many glowing reviews of this novel.  So many of my friends personally loved it.  So I read it.   I wanted to love it.  I mean, who doesn’t like to hop aboard the newest bandwagon of fandom, but — I didn’t like this book at all.  Many reasons why.  I don’t want to recall them all now, so if anyone wishes to know the issues I had with this popular book you can take a look at my review.

 

the blade itself1. JOE ABERCROMBIE BOOKS

Lord Grimdark was probably the author I was most excited to read once I returned to the fantasy genre after a decade of absence.  I started my journey out with Half a King and did not find grimwhine to my liking.  But everyone told me not to be discouraged just try The Blade Itself.  Well, I did.  It was a fine read, but not the mind-blowing story I was expecting.  So, now, I find myself watching as yet another fan bandwagon rides by without me upon it.

 

Do you feel the same way about any of these books?  What books have left you cold when you desperately wanted to love them?

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FUNDAY MONDAY, OR THE BOOKS THAT WILL HELP ME SURVIVE THE WEEK AHEAD (FEBRUARY 20, 2017)

funday-monday

It might be 2016 instead of 2017, but the same old routine continues.  And so 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.

This year I’ve challenged myself to finish the series I’ve started in the past but never completed.  (Well, at least, the ones I’ve enjoyed.)  And since things are going so well on this journey, I’m going to continue on with another series I can’t wait to finish.

the-crimson-campaignThe Crimson Campaign by Brian McClellan

Genre: Fantasy – Flintlock

Series: Powder Mage #2

Publisher: Orbit (May 16, 2014)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length:  608 pages

 

GUNPOWDER AND BULLETS WILL DETERMINE THE VICTOR.

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.

THE CRIMSON CAMPAIGN continues the most acclaimed and action-packed new epic fantasy series in years, following on from Promise of Blood– an adrenaline-fueled debut of flintlock mages, civil war, and cold-blooded murder in a world where gods walk the earth.

Purchase the book at Amazon

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THE SHATTERED STATES

Return to the Shattered States
for a tale of love between a woman & her jeep!

Cover Art by Jon Hunsinger

Cover Art by Jon Hunsinger

Lloyd and Cassidy’s last adventure was to honor a life. This time they are out to end one.

It was a normal, violent mission to Texas that should have had nothing more than beer-induced hiccups. That is until an old enemy makes off with Cassidy’s jeep and most of their gear. Needless to say, she’s pissed off and challenging Lloyd for the psychopath of the month award. With the mouthy serial killer by her side, she is going on the warpath from Dallas to Miami even if it means declaring war on the drug cartels.

So strap in for another wild ride through the Shattered States and learn why you never mess with Cassidy’s jeep.

Available on Amazon for 99 cents!

Want a taste?

“So your boss thought she could send assassins to kill the Riflemen,” the black-haired leader says, earning a cheer from his men. A firm smack to the prisoner’s head silences her gurgling attempt to deny the charge. “Nothing you say can prevent the inevitable. Don’t go thinking that pet serial killer will save you either. The idiot brought a paintball gun to Texas and thought he’d win a gunfight? I’m surprised he lasted as long as he did. All we need to do is find the body and we can collect the bounty on him too. Guess you’re lucky that he’s wanted dead and you’re wanted alive by that warden up north.”

“I’d be careful, boss,” a sword-wielding gang member warns. She leans away from the angry glare, but rolls up her sleeve to reveal a sloppily stitched wound. “While this one isn’t as tough as her reputation says, she can still hit hard. Lost two men before we restrained her and three more are nursing broken balls. Maybe we should use some of our tranquilizer stash and keep her sedated.”

“No reason for th-” Top Hog begins as he runs his hand across the prisoner’s forehead. He rubs his fingers at the sensation of something sticky between his fingers and looks closer to figure out what he has touched. “This scar is fake. Made from glue or something. Are you sure this is Cassidy?”

“She was with Lloyd Tenay at the bar,” a one-eyed man replies in a shaky voice. He shifts from one foot to the other when everyone else takes a step away from him. “You told us to look for him and a blonde woman. She had the denim jacket, the forehead scar, cursed a lot, carried two pistols, and even has the correct tramp stamp. Everyone was calling her Cassidy after she drove up in the blue jeep too. We made sure that everything checked out, boss. Even bribed the bartender and two waitresses.”

Sweat beading on his face, Top Hog draws his large gun and presses it to the prisoner’s temple. He leans around her, his eyes repeatedly darting toward her hands to make sure they are still bound. Lifting her white shirt, he sees the unique tattoo that the widespread stories mention Cassidy getting a little less than a year ago. The design is two pistols back to back with vines of bone curling around and binding them together. A strange discoloration catches the gang leader’s attention and he rubs his thumb along the woman’s side, pushing his weapon harder against her head to prevent wiggling. He swears that he feels a seam, so he gets a dirty fingernail beneath what turns out to be a flesh-colored sticker. Top Hog yanks it off and shows it to his men, the prisoner biting her lower lip to avoid screaming. He can already see that the tattoo is smeared from where he has touched it with his meaty fingers.

Enraged and embarrassed, the gang leader is about to kill the fake Cassidy when he hears distant rock music. Within seconds, he realizes that the source is getting closer and is soon joined by maniacal laughter coming over a crackling megaphone. With a snap of his fingers, Top Hog orders one of his men to take the prisoner to his office while the others run for the exit. Nobody gets very far before a blue jeep, which has been outfitted with a wide battering ram, smashes through the front of the warehouse. The vehicle leaves a gaping hole in the wall, which is made worse by hooked chains on the rear bumper that catch and tear more of the obstacle down. The jeep continues at full speed through crates, shelving units, and the slower gang members whose deaths are celebrated by honks of the horn. Tires screech as the driver hits the brakes and gets the car to spin, the move appearing to have no purpose beyond making those inside dizzy. With an embarrassing thud, the vehicle hits the back wall and hisses to a stop.

The gang have already drawn their weapons and are cautiously approaching the jeep when the sunroof opens. Bullets fly at the blonde figure that leaps out, the projectiles creating so many holes that the top half of their target falls off. The legs of the cardboard cutout are casually tossed to the floor before the shriek of a megaphone makes everyone cringe and cover their ears. With the tattered remains laying face up, the frustrated criminals realize that they have destroyed another Cassidy decoy. They are about to inch closer when the jeep briefly roars to life and a man inside begins making engine noises. The sounds change to the exaggerated screams and detailed begging of those whose parts are still stuck to the scuffed battering ram.

“So that was your plan, Cassidy?” Top Hog asks with a chuckle. He turns to see their prisoner is trying to roll away and fires his gun into the air to stop her. “Two decoys, so that you could get the drop on us. Guess you thought more of us would get run over. You still have thirteen of my crew standing and you’re cornered in that jeep. Now, the only question is if I send a piece of you back to the Duchess as a message that she should stay out of my business. Damn northerner needs to stay out of Texas’s business.”

“Actually, that young woman was the bait and I was the distraction,” Lloyd announces from inside. With a gleeful laugh, he opens one of the doors and yanks it back when the gang shoots at him. “Well shit. That was my favorite power window button. Anyway, people make that mistake all the time. You see, bait draws you in and, at least here, allows the real predators to follow you back to the previously hidden hideout. Not even a sign to help us out, which is very rude and unaccommodating. Now, the distraction’s job is to keep you looking in one direction while a mischievous maiden of mayhem prepares her new toy somewhere else. Don’t bother running, boys, because she’ll take that as an insult.”

Top Hog and his men turn toward the hole in the wall, which has exposed them to the large parking lot. The sun forces them to squint at the lone figure standing behind a loaded mini-gun, the weapon glinting in the midday light. Clouds move across the sky, which makes it easier for the gang to identify the denim jacket and blonde hair of their enemy. They take a few shots at the distant woman, but their bullets either miss completely or bounce off several riot shields that are strapped to the weapon. A slamming car door causes them to jump, but they turn in the wrong direction and are unable to stop Lloyd from racing toward the prisoner. Wearing orange pants from his time as a prisoner and a red shirt with a lightning bolt, the black-haired serial killer seems like an obvious target as he scoops up the young woman and dives behind a box of grenades. Suddenly afraid for their lives, Top Hog and his men attempt to scatter and hunt for cover.

“I hate moving targets,” Cassidy growls.

And don’t forget how it all started in
CROSSING BEDLAM!
Also on sale for 99 cents!

charles

About the Author:

Charles Yallowitz was born and raised on Long Island, NY, but he has spent most of his life wandering his own imagination in a blissful haze. Occasionally, he would return from this world for the necessities such as food, showers, and Saturday morning cartoons. One day he returned from his imagination and decided he would share his stories with the world. After his wife decided that she was tired of hearing the same stories repeatedly, she convinced him that it would make more sense to follow his dream of being a fantasy author. So, locked within the house under orders to shut up and get to work, Charles brings you Legends of Windemere. He looks forward to sharing all of his stories with you, and his wife is happy he finally has someone else to play with.

Blog: www.legendsofwindemere.com
Twitter: @cyallowitz
Facebook: Charles Yallowitz
Website: www.charleseyallowitz.com

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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 our topic is …

TOP TEN FAVORITE FANTASY COUPLES

 

10. BELGARION and CE’NEDRA (Belgariad/Mallorean by David Eddings)

GARION CE'NEDRAThese guys were probably my favorite couple when I was a pre-teen/teen reading David Eddings latest book.  Ce’Nedra and Garion starting out as the classic teenage infatuation story before gradually turning into a more mature relationship as things move along.  Nope, they were never realistic, but I wasn’t looking for realism back then — I was looking for something fantastically fun.

9) TAROD and CYLLAN (The Time Master by Louise Cooper)

time masterAnother teen favorite of mine were Tarod (the brooding and confused young man) and Cyllan (the strong woman who loves him and inspires him).  These two societal outcasts relationship all about us against the world — which pretty much described ever teen relationship I recall having during those years of my life.  Hey, that might be why I always liked these two.  Only took my a couple decades to realize that.

8) KELLIN and GINEVRA (Cheysuli Chronicles by Jennifer Roberson)

A TAPESTRY OF LIONSAnother teen favorite of mine where two star-crossed lovers find one another.  Only this time they do so in an usual way.  Can’t mention how it happens, since it would ruin the surprise, but I thought it was fitting.  Of course, the fact that they are sworn enemies to one another makes things much more interesting.  But, hey, these two were foretold to get together and have a baby by an ancient prophecy, so you kind of saw it all coming in a way.  But their ability to transcend their own personal antagonism for the other’s race was simply yet elegantly done by Jennifer Roberson.

 

7) CATT-BRIE AND DRIZZT DO’URDEN (The Legend of Drizzt)

catti_brie_and_drizzt_by_svanha-d35yl8wTwo people from very different worlds finding each other, then making it all work.  Simple but powerful love story.  R.A. Salvatore leaves most of the romantic antics of the pair to a reader’s imagination, but their deep devotion and smoldering passion is always there right under the surface. Many times I’ve said these two are about as close to soul mates as fantasy offers, and I still feel that way.

 

6) ROYCE and GWEN  (The Riyria Revelations by Michael J. Sullivan)

 

gwen

roycePerhaps their romance isn’t the most realistic (Gwen migrates across the continent to find the man she learns later is Royce after seeing him in a vision), but the unmistakable love and caring they have for one another shines through in the story.  You see how they make each other better, or to borrow a bit from an old movie, “They complete each other.”  Plus, they actually treat each other with respect and caring, which I don’t see in fantasy stories enough these days.

 

5) ROLAND and SUSAN (The Dark Tower by Stephen King)

ROLAND SUSAN What happens when a young, lonely gunslinger rides into a small town with his friends?

Yeah, you guessed it. He will probably find a nice, young girl to keep him company.

And this is exactly what occurs when Roland Deschain meets Susan Delgado on the road one night in Wizard and Glass. The two youths find themselves overwhelmed by passion for one another, begin to meet clandestinely wherever they can as they care on a torrid affair which might or might not have developed into true love. But like all things in The Dark Tower, we will never know fate intervenes in a most unforgettable way!

4) MARI and INDRIS (Echoes of Empire by Mark T. Barnes)
MARIINDRIS

Mari is a warrior who aspires to the highest pinnacle of honor and servitude to her kingdom, her family, and her order.

Dragon-Eyed Indris is a broken man, who has lost all that mattered to him: his wife, his chosen life, his trust in his order, and his faith in humanity as a whole.

When these two find one another in a night of passion, they also discover that they are soon set to be enemies — Mari’s father the antithesis of all that Indris holds dear. So what are these lovers to do when everything they found might be ripped out from under them, you ask? Why hold on even tighter to one another.

3) Ingold Inglorion and Gil Patterson (Darwath by Barbara Hambly)

ingold_gilThis is an understated love story.  I mean, unless you are carefully looking for it, you will never see it coming.  But, eventually, these two get together and become a shining example of a mature couple, where each person respects the other, sees the other’s faults and weaknesses but doesn’t hate them for it, and strives to hold on to their relationship when the world and time is busy destroying it little by little.  Nope, it might not be exciting, but sometimes love isn’t exciting it is just right.   Ingold and Gil are a great example of that.

 

2) CROAKER and LADY (The Black Company by Glen Cook)

croaker_ladyThe cynical middle-aged guy who has seen it and seen it done more times than he can recall.  All that bitterness and “I Don’t Give a Damn” attitude covering up a romantic heart.  His Lady the sorceress supreme who forged a continent spanning empire twice.  Could anyone dream these two would fall in love and actually develop into a mature, caring couple who choose to remain together, no matter what life throws at them.  I never did, but it was fun to see it happen.

 

1) ARAGORN AND ARWEN (Lord of the Rings  by J.R.R. Tolkien)
aragorn_arwen_kiss_by_rsiplon-d49st6t

Arwen Undómiel, often called Arwen Evenstar, daughter of Elrond and Celebrían, and Aragorn, Ranger of the North called Strider, Heir of Isildur, and rightful King of Gondor, are the ultimate fantasy couple to me.  At least in the movies, they are star-crossed lovers who hold onto each other when everything and everyone is trying to pull them apart.  I personally just have to put them on top of my favorite fantasy couples list due to all that.

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

funday-monday

It might be 2016 instead of 2017, but the same old routine continues.  And so 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.

This week I’m trying to finish the Riyria Revelations.  (It has only taken me a couple years to do so.)  Rise of Empire was an okay book to me.  Nothing more.  But I’m hoping this novel wows me like it has so many of my friends.

s-typeopts13Heir of Novron by Michael J. Sullivan

Genre: Fantasy

Series: The Riyria Revelations #5-6

Publisher:  Orbit (January 31, 2012)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length:  932 pages

A FORCED WEDDING. A DOUBLE EXECUTION. TWO THIEVES HAVE OTHER PLANS.

The New Empire intends to celebrate its victory over the Nationalists with a day that will never be forgotten. On the high holiday of Wintertide, they plan to execute two traitors (Degan Gaunt and the Witch of Melengar) as well as force the Empress into a marriage of their own design. But they didn’t account for Royce and Hadrian finally locating the Heir of Novron—or the pair’s desire to wreak havoc on the New Empire’s carefully crafted scheme.

Purchase the book at Amazon

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