FUNDAY MONDAY, OR THE BOOKS THAT WILL HELP ME SURVIVE THE WEEK AHEAD (JUNE 26, 2017)

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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.

Damn I’m behind.  Whenever I try to catch up my reviews, my reading falls off.  Or vice versa.  Thankfully, though, this week is the family summer vacation, which means a beach week!

I’m going to try my best to catch up on the reading while I’m sitting around the pool or at the beach.  Wish me luck!

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stands a shadowStands a Shadow by Col Buchanan

Genre: Fantasy — Grimdark

Series: Heart of the World #2

Publisher:  Tor Books (July 1, 2011)

Author Information: Website 

Length: 416 pages

Still grieving the death of her son, the Holy Matriarch of Mann has ordered her troops to embark on a mission to the Mercian Free Ports. Riding at the head of her army she plans to finally conquer the city of Bar-Khos, whose walls have kept them at bay for ten long years.

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honored enemiesHonored Enemy by Raymond E. Feist               and William R. Forstchen

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Legends of the Riftwar #1

Publisher:  Harper Voyager (June 27, 2006)

Authors Information: Website | Twitter | Twitter

Length: 416 pages

As the Riftwar tears Midkemia apart, enemies trapped in the frozen Northlands must trust each other to stay alive. . . .

In the sprawling, embattled land of Midkemia, fate can form strange alliances. Nine years into the bloody and ongoing Riftwar, Dennis Hartraft’s Marauders are cold, hungry, and exhausted. Having only just survived a disastrous encounter with their sworn enemy, the Tsurani, the soldiers are headed for a frontier garrison, where they will be able to rest and recover. But Hartraft’s company arrives at the same time as a Tsurani patrol, and both sides discover the stronghold overrun by a migrating horde of dark elves called moredhel, a foe so deadly and vicious the bitter enemies must band together and fight as one.

But can their hatred for their mutual enemy overcome their distrust of each other? As the two groups, bound to each other by their common foe, make their way across the unknown Northlands to freedom, they have to struggle with not only the elements and the enemy, but also their consciences. For, with both sides carrying painful scars from past wars, each man must ask himself what is more important: one’s life or one’s honor?

Read either of these?  What were your feelings?  Let us know!

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TRINITY: BETTER TOGETHER

trinity vol 1Trinity, Vol. 1: Better Together by Francis Manapul

Genre: Superhero Comics

Series: Trinity #1 (Rebirth)

Publisher: DC Comics (June 13, 2017)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length: 144 pages

My Rating: 3.5 stars

Superman. Batman. Wonder Woman. The Big Three icons of DC. Separate, they are fan favorites. Together, they should be the stuff of fanboy dreams. And while Trinity: Better Together isn’t a revolutionary book; it is actually an engaging read, not overwhelmingly action-packed, but still entertaining, especially if you enjoy more of a character driven plot.

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It all starts off with Batman and Wonder Woman heading on over to the Kent’s farm to have a get-to-know-you-better dinner with the new Superman. This interaction some of the best parts of the story; Diana and Bruce naturally having to deal with the death of the NEW 52 Supes and trying to accept this other Earth interloper.

But every story has to feature a villain, and quickly, our trio is caught up in a plot by not one but two B List baddies. (I won’t mention them by name, because I always like to be surprised.) The plot soon immersing our heroes in their past, retelling to some extent the most important parts of their origin stories. What they learn about one another helping Supes, Bats, and Wonder Woman not only overcome this adversary but begin to empathize with each other.  Which is really what this whole story is about: understanding and friendship.

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Overall, Trinity: Better Together is a nice book to lose yourself in for a bit. The story itself has some cool moments (especially our heroes initial awkward attempts to bond); and the focus on the characters themselves, their history, their differences, and what binds such different people together is handled really well. I have to admit being a bit letdown by the villains and their grand scheme, but I commend writer/artist Francis Manapul for doing something different, not settling for the tried-and-true huge fight scene after huge fight scene readers have seen far too many times.

As for the art, it is the real selling point of this collection. Manapul is an amazing artist. His distinct pencils, vibrant colors, and unique atmosphere raising this book up among the best of the Rebirth titles.

To sum up, I liked Trinity, especially the art. Sure, the story wasn’t everything I dreamed it to be, but it still had its highlights. And, yes, I would recommend people give it a read.

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, Batman, DC, Graphic Novels, Rebirth, Superman, Wonder Woman | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Excerpt & Giveaway: Scourge by Gail Z. Martin

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***Don’t forget to enter the SCOURGE giveaway at the end of this post!***

Gail Z. Martin is a prolific writer, having authored such fan favorites as The Chronicles of the Necromancer, The Fallen Kings Cycle, Ascendant Kingdoms, The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures, Deadly Curiosities, and (together with Larry N. Martin) The Jake Desmet Adventures.  And on July 11, 2017, her newest book, Scourge, will be released; the first installment in a new series entitled Darkhurst, where three brothers toll as gravediggers in the city-state of Ravenwood, fighting to survive corrupt politicians and vicious monsters.  Enjoy the following excerpt featuring the first chapter, then enter the giveaway for a chance to win either a paperback copy or kindle ebook copy.

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ScourgeIn a city beset by monsters, three brothers must find out who is controlling the abominations.

The city-state of Ravenwood is wealthy, powerful, and corrupt. Merchant Princes and Guild Masters wager fortunes to outmaneuver League rivals for the king’s favor and advantageous trading terms. Lord Mayor Ellor Machison wields assassins, blood witches, and forbidden magic to assure that his powerful patrons get what they want, no matter the cost.

Corran, Rigan, and Kell Valmonde are Guild Undertakers, left to run their family’s business when guards murdered their father and monsters killed their mother. Their grave magic enables them to help souls pass to the After and banish vengeful spirits. Rigan’s magic is unusually strong and enables him to hear the confessions of the dead, the secrets that would otherwise be taken to the grave.

When the toll exacted by monsters and brutal guards hits close to home and ghosts expose the hidden sins of powerful men, Corran, Rigan and Kell become targets in a deadly game and face a choice: obey the Guild, or fight back and risk everything.

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Excerpted from Scourge. ©2017 Gail Z. Martin. All rights reserved. May not be copied or shared in any format except with the written permission of the author.  

Chapter One

A HEAVY IRON candleholder slammed against the wall, just missing Corran Valmonde’s head.

“Son of a bitch!”

“Try not to make her mad, Corran.”

Rigan Valmonde knelt on the worn floor, drawing a sigil in charcoal, moving as quickly as he dared. Not quickly enough; a piece of firewood spun from the hearth and flew across the room, slamming him in the shoulder hard enough to make him grunt in pain.

“Keep her off me!” he snapped, repairing the smudge in the soot line. Sloppy symbols meant sloppy magic, and that could get someone killed.

“I would if I could see her.” Corran stepped away from the wall, raising his iron sword, putting himself between the fireplace and his brother. His breath misted in the unnaturally cold room and moisture condensed on the wavy glass of the only window.

“Watch where you step.” Rigan worked on the second sigil, widdershins from the soot marking, this one daubed in ochre. “I don’t want to have to do this again.”

A small ceramic bowl careened from the mantle, and, for an instant, Rigan glimpsed a young woman in a blood-soaked dress, one hand clutching her heavily pregnant belly. The other hand slipped right through the bowl, even as the dish hurtled at Rigan’s head. Rigan dove to one side and the bowl smashed against the opposite wall. At the same time, Corran’s sword slashed down through the specter. A howl of rage filled the air as the ghost dissipated.

You have no right to be in my home. The dead woman’s voice echoed in Rigan’s mind.

Get out of my head.

You are a confessor. Hear me!

Not while you’re trying to kill my brother.

“You’d better hurry.” Corran slowly turned, watching for the ghost.

“I can’t rush the ritual.” Rigan tried to shut out the ghost’s voice, focusing on the complex chalk sigil. He reached into a pouch and drew a thin curved line of salt, aconite, and powdered amanita, connecting the first sigil to the second, and the second to the third and fourth, working his way to drawing a complete warded circle.

The ghost materialized without warning on the other side of the line, thrusting a thin arm toward Rigan, her long fingers crabbed into claws, old blood beneath her torn nails. She opened a gash on Rigan’s cheek as he stumbled backward, grabbed a handful of the salt mixture and threw it. The apparition vanished with a wail.

“Corran!” Rigan’s warning came a breath too late as the ghost appeared right behind his brother, and took a swipe with her sharp, filthy nails, clawing Corran’s left shoulder.

He wronged me. He let me die, let my baby die— The voice shrieked in Rigan’s mind.

“Draw the damn signs!” Corran yelled. “I’ll handle her.” He wheeled, and before the bloodsmeared ghost could strike again, the tip of his iron blade caught her in the chest. Her image dissipated like smoke, with a shriek that echoed from the walls.

Avenge me.

 Sorry, lady, Rigan thought as he reached for a pot of pigment. I’m stuck listening to dead people’s dirty little secrets and last regrets, but I just bury people. Take your complaints up with the gods.

“Last one.” Rigan marked the rune in blue woad. The condensation on the window turned to frost, and he shivered. The ghost flickered, insubstantial but still identifiable as the young woman who had died bringing her stillborn child into the world. Her blood still stained the floor in the center of the warded circle and held her to this world as surely as her grief.

Wind whipped through the room, and would have scattered the salt and aconite line if Rigan had not daubed the mixture onto the floor in paste. Fragments of the broken bowl scythed through the air. The iron candle holder sailed across the room; Corran dodged it again, and a shard caught the side of his brother’s head, opening a cut on Rigan’s scalp, sending a warm rush of blood down the side of his face.

The ghost raged on, her anger and grief whipping the air into a whirlwind. I will not leave without justice for myself and my son.

You don’t really have a choice about it, Rigan replied silently and stepped across the warding, careful not to smudge the lines, pulling an iron knife from his belt. He nodded to Corran and together their voices rose as they chanted the burial rite, harmonizing out of long practice, the words of the Old Language as familiar as their own names.

The ghostly woman’s image flickered again, solid enough now that Rigan could see the streaks of blood on her pale arms and make out the pattern of her dress. She appeared right next to him, close enough that his shoulder bumped against her chest, and her mouth brushed his ear.

 ’Twas not nature that killed me. My faithless husband let us bleed because he thought the child was not his own.

The ghost vanished, compelled to reappear in the center of the circle, standing on the bloodstained floor. Rigan extended his trembling right hand and called to the magic, drawing on the old, familiar currents of power. The circle and runes flared with light. The sigils burned in red, white, blue, and black, with the salt-aconite lines a golden glow between them.

Corran and Rigan’s voices rose as the glow grew steadily brighter, and the ghost raged all the harder against the power that held her, thinning the line between this world and the next, opening a door and forcing her through it.

One heartbeat she was present; in the next she was gone, though her screams continued to echo.

Rigan and Corran kept on chanting, finishing the rite as the circle’s glow faded and the sigils dulled to mere pigment once more. Rigan lowered his palm and dispelled the magic, then blew out a deep breath.

“That was not supposed to happen.” Corran’s scowl deepened as he looked around the room, taking in the shattered bowl and the dented candle holder. He flinched, noticing Rigan’s wounds now that the immediate danger had passed.

“You’re hurt.”

Rigan shrugged. “Not as bad as you are.” He wiped blood from his face with his sleeve, then bent to gather the ritual materials.

“She confessed to you?” Corran bent to help his brother, wincing at the movement.

“Yeah. And she had her reasons,” Rigan replied. He looked at Corran, frowning at the blood that soaked his shirt. “We’ll need to wash and bind your wounds when we get back to the shop.” “Let’s get out of here.”

They packed up their gear, but Corran did not sheath his iron sword until they were ready to step outside. A small crowd had gathered, no doubt drawn by the shrieks and thuds and the flares of light through the cracked, dirty window.

“Nothing to see here, folks,” Corran said, exhaustion clear in his voice. “We’re just the undertakers.”

Once they were convinced the excitement was over, the onlookers dispersed, leaving one man standing to the side. He looked up anxiously as Rigan and Corran approached him.

“Is it done? Is she gone?” For an instant, eagerness shone too clearly in his eyes. Then his posture shifted, shoulders hunching, gaze dropping, and mask slipped back into place. “I mean, is she at rest? After all she’s been through?”

Before Corran could answer, Rigan grabbed the man by the collar, pulled him around the corner into an alley and threw him up against the wall. “You can stop the grieving widower act,” he growled. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Corran standing guard at the mouth of the alley, gripping his sword.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” The denial did not reach the man’s eyes.

“You let her bleed out, you let the baby die, because you didn’t think the child was yours.” Rigan’s voice was rough as gravel, pitched low so that only the trembling man could hear him.

“She betrayed me—”

“No.” The word brought the man up short. “No, if she had been lying, her spirit wouldn’t have been trapped here.” Rigan slammed the widower against the wall again to get his attention.

“Rigan—” Corran cautioned.

“Lying spirits don’t get trapped.” Rigan had a tight grip on the man’s shirt, enough that he could feel his body trembling. “Your wife. Your baby. Your fault.” He stepped back and let the man down, then threw him aside to land on the cobblestones.

“The dead are at peace. You’ve got the rest of your life to live with what you did.”     With that, he turned on his heel and walked away, as the man choked back a sob.

Corran sheathed his sword. “I really wish you’d stop beating up paying customers,” he grumbled as they turned to walk back to the shop.

“Wish I could. Don’t know how to stop being confessor to the dead, not sure what else to do once I know the dirt,” Rigan replied, an edge of pain and bitterness in his voice.

“So the husband brought us in to clean up his mess?” Corran winced as he walked; the gashes on his arm and back had to be throbbing.

“Yeah.”

“I like it better when the ghosts confess something like where they buried their money,” Corran replied.

“So do I.”

The sign over the front of the shop read Valmonde Undertakers. Around back, in the alley, the sign over the door just said Bodies. Corran led the way, dropping the small rucksack containing their gear just inside the entrance, and cursed under his breath as the strap raked across raw shoulders.

“Sit down,” Rigan said, nodding at an unoccupied mortuary table. He tied his brown hair into a queue before washing his hands in a bucket of fresh water drawn from the pump. “Let me have a look at those wounds.”

Footsteps descended the stairs from the small apartment above.

“You’re back? How bad was it?” Kell, the youngest of the Valmonde brothers, stopped halfway down the stairs. He had Corran’s coloring, taking after their father, with dark blond hair that curled when it grew long. Rigan’s brown hair favored their mother. All three brothers’ blue eyes were the same shade, making the resemblance impossible to overlook.

“Shit.” Kell jumped the last several steps as he saw his brothers’ injuries. He grabbed a bucket of water and scanned a row of powders and elixirs, grabbing bottles and measuring out with a practiced eye and long experience. “I thought you said it was just a banishing.”

“It was supposed to be ‘just’ a banishing,” Rigan said as Corran stripped off his bloody shirt. “But it didn’t go entirely to plan.” He soaked a clean cloth in the bucket Kell held and wrung it out.

“A murder, not a natural death,” Corran said, and his breath hitched as Rigan daubed his wounds. “Another ghost with more power than it should have had.”

Rigan saw Kell appraising Corran’s wounds, glancing at the gashes on Rigan’s face and hairline.

“Mine aren’t as bad,” Rigan said.

“When you’re done with Corran, I’ll take care of them,” Kell said. “So I’m guessing Mama’s magic kicked in again, if you knew about the murder?”

“Yeah,” Rigan replied in a flat voice.

Undertaking, like all the trades in Ravenwood, was a hereditary profession. That it came with its own magic held no surprise; all the trades did. The power and the profession were passed down from one generation to the next. Undertakers could ease a spirit’s transition to the realm beyond, nudge a lost soul onward, or release one held back by unfinished business. Sigils, grave markings, corpse paints, and ritual chants were all part of the job. But none of the other undertakers that Rigan knew had a mama who was part Wanderer. Of the three Valmonde brothers, only Rigan had inherited her ability to hear the confessions of the dead, something not even the temple priests could do. His mother had called it a gift. Most of the time, Rigan regarded it as a burden, sometimes a curse. Usually, it just made things more complicated than they needed to be.

“Hold still,” Rigan chided as Corran winced. “Ghost wounds draw taint.” He wiped away the blood, cleaned the cuts, and then applied ointment from the jar Kell handed him. All three of them knew the routine; they had done this kind of thing far too many times.

“There,” he said, binding up Corran’s arm and shoulder with strips of gauze torn from a clean linen shroud. “That should do it.”

Corran slid off the table to make room for Rigan. While Kell dealt with his brother’s wounds, Corran went to pour them each a whiskey.

“That’s the second time this month we’ve had a spirit go from angry to dangerous,” Corran said, returning with their drinks. He pushed a glass into Rigan’s hand, and set one aside for Kell, who was busy wiping the blood from his brother’s face.

“I’d love to know why.” Rigan tried not to wince as Kell probed his wounds. The deep gash where the pottery shard had sliced his hairline bled more freely than the cut on his cheek. Kell swore under his breath as he tried to staunch the bleeding.

“It’s happening all over Ravenwood, and no one in the Guild seems to know a damn thing about why or what to do about it,” Corran said, knocking his drink back in one shot. “Old Daniels said he’d heard his father talk about the same sort of thing, but that was fifty years ago. So why did the ghosts stop being dangerous then, and what made them start being dangerous now?”

Rigan started to shake his head, but stopped at a glare from Kell, who said, “Hold still.”

He let out a long breath and complied, but his mind raced. Until the last few months, banishings were routine. Violence and tragedy sometimes produced ghosts, but in all the years since Rigan and Corran had been undertakers—first helping their father and uncles and then running the business since the older men had passed away—banishings were usually uneventful.

Make the marks, sing the chant, the ghost goes on and we go home. So what’s changed?

“I’m sick of being handed my ass by things that aren’t even solid,” Rigan grumbled. “If this keeps up, we’ll need to charge more.”

Corran snorted. “Good luck convincing Guild Master Orlo to raise the rates.”

Rigan’s eyes narrowed. “Guild Master Orlo can dodge flying candlesticks and broken pottery. See how he likes it.”

“Once you’ve finished grumbling we’ve got four new bodies to attend to,” Kell said. “One’s a Guild burial and the others are worth a few silvers a piece.” Rigan did not doubt that Kell had negotiated the best fees possible, he always did.

“Nice,” Rigan replied, and for the first time noticed that there were corpses on the other tables in the workshop, covered with sheets. “We can probably have these ready to take to the cemetery in the morning.”

“One of them was killed by a guard,” Kell said, turning his back and keeping his voice carefully neutral.

“Do you know why?” Corran tensed.

“His wife said he protested when the guard doubled the ‘protection’ fee. Guess the guard felt he needed to be taught a lesson.” Bribes were part of everyday life in Ravenwood, and residents generally went along with the hated extortion. Guilds promised to shield their members from the guards’ worst abuses, but in reality, the Guild Masters only intervened in the most extreme cases, fearful of drawing the Lord Mayor’s ire. At least, that had been the excuse when Corran sought justice from the Undertakers’ Guild for their father’s murder, a fatal beating on flimsy charges. Rigan suspected the guards had killed their father because the neighborhood looked up to him, and if he’d decided to speak out in opposition, others might have followed. Even with the passing years, the grief remained sharp, the injustice bitter.

Kell went to wash his hands in a bucket by the door. “Trent came by while you and Corran were out. There’s been another attack, three dead. He wants you to go have a look and take care of the bodies.”

Rigan and Corran exchanged a glance. “What kind of attack?”

Kell sighed. “What kind do you think? Creatures.” He hesitated. “I got the feeling from Trent this was worse than usual.”

“Did Trent say what kind of creatures?” Corran asked, and Rigan picked up on an edge to his brother’s voice.

Kell nodded. “Ghouls.”

Corran swore under his breath and looked away, pushing back old memories. “All right,” he said, not quite managing to hide a shudder. “Let’s go get the bodies before it gets any later.  We’re going to have our hands full tonight.”

“Kell and I can go, if you want to start on the ones here,” Rigan offered.

Corran shook his head. “No. I’m not much use as an undertaker if I can’t go get the corpses no matter how they came to an end,” Corran said.

Rigan heard the undercurrent in his tone. Kell glanced at Rigan, who gave a barely perceptible nod, warning Kell to say nothing. Corran’s dealing with the memories the best way he knows how, Rigan thought. I just wish there weren’t so many reminders.

“I’ll prepare the wash and the pigments, and get the shrouds ready,” Kell said. “I’ll have these folks ready for your part of the ritual by the time you get back.” He gestured to the bodies already laid out. “Might have to park the new ones in the cart for a bit and switch out—tables are scarce.”

Corran grimaced. “That’ll help.” He turned to Rigan. “Come on. Let’s get this over with.”

Kell gave them the directions Trent had provided. Corran took up the long poles of the undertaker’s cart, which clattered behind him as they walked. Rigan knew better than to talk to his brother when he was in this kind of mood. At best he could be present, keep Corran from having to deal with the ghouls’ victims alone, and sit up with him afterward.

 It’s only been three months since he buried Jora, since we almost had to bury him. The memory’s raw, although he won’t mention it. But Kell and I both hear what he shouts in his sleep. He’s still fighting them in his dreams, and still losing.

Rigan’s memories of that night were bad enough—Trent stumbling to the back door of the shop, carrying Corran, bloody and unconscious; Corran’s too-still body on one of the mortuary tables; Kell praying to Doharmu and any god who would listen to stave off death; Trent, covered in Corran’s blood, telling them how he had found their brother and Jora out in the tavern barn, the ghoul that attacked them already feasting on Jora’s fresh corpse.

Rigan never did understand why Trent had gone to the barn that night, or how he managed to fight off the ghoul. Corran and Jora, no doubt, had slipped away for a tryst, expecting the barn to be safe and private. Corran said little of the attack, and Rigan hoped his brother truly did not remember all the details.

“We’re here.” Corran’s rough voice and expressionless face revealed more than any words.

Ross, the farrier, met them at the door. “I’m sorry to have to call you out,” he said.

“It’s our job,” Corran replied. “I’m just sorry the godsdamned ghouls are back.”

“Not for long,” Ross said under his breath. A glance passed between Corran and Ross. Rigan filed it away to ask Corran about later.

The stench hit Rigan as soon as they entered the barn. Two horses lay gutted in their stalls and partially dismembered. Blood spattered the wooden walls and soaked the sawdust. Flies swarmed on what the ghouls had left behind.

“They’re over here,” Ross said. The bodies of two men and a woman had been tossed aside like discarded bones at a feast. Rigan swallowed down bile. Corran paled, his jaw working as he ground his teeth.

Rigan and Corran knew better than most what remained of a corpse once a ghoul had finished with it. Belly torn open to get to the soft organs; ribs split wide to access the heart. How much of the flesh remained depended on the ghoul’s hunger and whether or not it feasted undisturbed. Given the state these bodies were in—their faces were the only parts left untouched—the ghouls had taken their time. Rigan closed his eyes and took a deep breath, willing himself not to retch.

“What about the creatures?” Corran asked.

“Must have fled when they heard us coming,” Ross said. “We were making plenty of noise.” Ross handed them each a shovel, and took one up himself. “There’s not much left, and what’s there is… loose.”

“Who were they?” Rigan asked, not sure Corran felt up to asking questions.

Ross swallowed hard. “One of the men was my cousin, Tad. The other two were customers. They brought in the two horses late in the day, and my cousin said he’d handle it.”

Rigan heard the guilt in Ross’s tone.

“Guild honors?” Corran asked, finding his voice, and Ross nodded.

Rigan brought the cart into the barn, stopping as close as possible to the mangled corpses.  The bodies were likely to fall to pieces as soon as they began shoveling.

“Yeah,” Ross replied, getting past the lump in his throat. “Send them off right.” He shook his head. “They say the monsters are all part of the Balance, like life and death cancel each other out somehow. That’s bullshit, if you ask me.”

The three men bent to their work, trying not to think of the slippery bones and bloody bits as bodies. Carcasses. Like what’s left when the butcher’s done with a hog, or the vultures are finished with a cow, Rigan thought. The barn smelled of blood and entrails, copper and shit. Rigan looked at what they loaded into the cart. Only the skulls made it possible to tell that the remains had once been human.

“I’m sorry about this, but I need to do it—to keep them from rising as ghouls or restless spirits,” Rigan said. He pulled a glass bottle from the bag at the front of the wagon, and carefully removed the stopper, sprinkling the bodies with green vitriol to burn the flesh and prevent the corpses from rising. The acid sizzled, sending up noxious tendrils of smoke. Rigan stoppered the bottle and pulled out a bag of the salt-aconite-amanita mixture, dusting it over the bodies, assuring that the spirits would remain at rest.

Ross nodded. “Better than having them return as one of those things,” he said, shuddering.

“We’ll have them buried tomorrow,” Corran said as Rigan secured their grisly load.

“That’s more than fair,” Ross agreed. “Corran—you know if I’d had a choice about calling you—”

“It’s our job.” Corran cut off the apology. Ross knew about Jora’s death. That didn’t change the fact that they were the only Guild undertakers in this area of Ravenwood, and Ross was a friend.

“I’ll be by tomorrow afternoon with the money,” Ross said, accompanying them to the door.

“We’ll be done by then,” Corran replied. Rigan went to pick up the cart’s poles, but Corran shook his head and lifted them himself.

Rigan did not argue. Easier for him to haul the wagon; that way he doesn’t have to look at the bodies and remember when Jora’s brother brought her for burial.

Rigan felt for the reassuring bulk of his knife beneath his cloak—a steel blade rather than the iron weapon they used in the banishing rite. No one knew the true nature of the monsters, or why so many more had started appearing in Ravenwood of late. Ghouls weren’t like angry ghosts or restless spirits that could be banished with salt, aconite, and iron. Whatever darkness spawned them and the rest of their monstrous brethren, they were creatures of skin and bone; only beheading would stop them.

Rigan kept his blade sharpened.

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GIVEAWAY

Scourge

With thanks to the author, this giveaway will be for one copy of Scourge (either a paperback copy or Kindle ebook copy.) The giveaway is open to residents of the US, Canada and the UK. To enter, check out the Rafflecopter Giveaway.  The winner will be randomly selected and notified by email of their great victory.  Good luck!

Posted in Author Spotlights, Fantasy, Giveaway | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

A DRINK BEFORE WE DIE

A DRINK BEFORE WE DIEA Drink Before We Die by  Daniel Polansky

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Low Town #0.5

Publisher: Self Published (December 22, 2014)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length: 28 pages

My Rating: 4 stars

After enjoying The Builders, I was eager to read something else from Daniel Polansky, and his Low Town series kept being recommended to me.  But I held off giving it a try.  Mainly, because I wasn’t sure if it was for me.  Fantasy underworld meets hard-boiled detective tale was intriguing, but I’d burned out on Steven Brust’s fairyland meets mobster story Vlad Taltos series many years ago.

Well, eventually, I broke down and gave this Low Town short story a go.  (I mean, a .99 cent read is hard to turn down.)  Loved ever minute of it.  Wish I had tried it ages ago.  Polansky really pulled me in with his sarcastic, cunning, and badass Warden and the ghetto part of town he basically runs through reputation and clever use of persuasion and force.

To set thigns up, this short story is a straightforward mob war concoction, where a rival gang is attempting to move in on the Warden’s part of town, take over his cut of the drug trade, and eventually put him in the ground.  Naturally, this “consortium” tries to do it on the lowdown, but the thing is the Warden knows exactly what is going on and very methodically begins to put a scheme into effect which will ride him of his enemies without him having to do a whole hell of a lot.

Besides being one sweet fantasy crime piece, what really sold me on this story was Polansky’s sparse yet crisp writing; his very intimate first person narration taking me right into the head of his tough-as-nails lead.  I mean, who can resist a guy who introduces himself like this:

People call me the Warden.  People call me a lot of things, but the Warden is the only one you could say inside a church.

And the Warden’s description of Low Town, what it is all about, and his role in it was equally as compelling.

To get to Low Town you shuffle out of the gates of the palace and head south, over the Andel, down through Brennock and it’s iron foundries and stink, stopping just before you reach the docks. If you come, though, you might want to make sure you aren’t dressed too well, or wearing any jewelry, or have much money on you. And you might want to carry a knife, or a sword, or walk along in the company of a handful of men so equipped, or maybe more than a handful. Because the locals are unfriendly, unfriendly by the standards of an unfriendly city in an unfriendly world, and the local guard know better than to waste their time trying to police the place, like a doctor knows better than to bandage a corpse.

One more thing about Low Town—the most important thing, really, though you’d be shocked at how many of these argent-a-head thugs forget—it’s mine. The broken cobblestones and the graffitied walls and the shit-swollen canals, the silk-shirted pimps and the half-hard razor boys and the wyrm dealers and the crooked guards and even those few poor souls mad or foolish enough to try and eke out an honest living.

I can’t express why the Warden and Low Town clicked for me, but it did.  The criminal underworld.  The intrigue.  The violence.  The smartass remarks.  It all just worked for me.  And it caused me to finally pick up the novel Low Town and read it.  Unsurprisingly, I loved the book even more than this short story.  So I’d highly recommend A Drink Before We Die to all Polansky fans, Low Town lovers, or people who wonder if they might fit into either of those categories.

Purchase the story at Amazon

Posted in 4 Stars, Fantasy, Grimdark, Short Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

THE LOST SENTINEL BLOG TOUR

Today, I’m happy to participate in The Lost Sentinel Blog Tour. This is the second novel from Suzanne Rogerson, following her successful debut Visions of Zarua, and from all the glowing reviews it is garnering across the blogosphere, there is little doubt that Suzanne has delivered yet another outstanding fantasy, filled with magic, memorable characters, and a compelling world!  So open your mind and prepare to be tempted into adding yet another great fantasy read to your ever growing t-b-r list, my friends!

THE LOST SENTINEL COVER (1)

The magical island of Kalaya is dying, along with its Sentinel. With the Kalayan people turning their back on magic, can Tei help the exiles find their new Sentinel before it’s too late?

Kalaya is controlled by the Assembly – set up to govern but now under the control of Rathnor, who is intent on persecuting those who have magic, many of whom have taken refuge in the Turrak Mountains.

Tei has been raised to hide her magic, until her father, Migil, is visited by an old friend who warns them that they must seek refuge in the mountains.

On the journey, an enemy attack leaves her father mortally wounded. He sees her into the care of two exiles, Rike and Garrick, and on his deathbed makes a shocking confession that changes Tei’s life.

Tei must put her trust in these strangers, especially when mysterious Masked Riders seem determined to stop her reaching Turrak.

Struggling with self-doubt, Tei joins the exiles in their search for their lost Sentinel. But the Masked Riders want the Sentinel too, and time, as well as hope, is running out.
Can Tei help the exiles save the island magic and reunite the Kalayan people before their ignorance destroys them all?

Don’t forget to add it to your Goodreads ‘To Read’ List!

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Want to learn more?  Check out the blog tour!

The Lost Sentinel Blog Tour Pic
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suzanne rogersonAbout the Author:

Suzanne lives in Middlesex with her hugely encouraging husband and two children.

She wrote her first novel at the age of twelve. She discovered the fantasy genre in her late teens and has never looked back. Giving up work to raise a family gave her the impetus to take her attempts at novel writing beyond the first draft, and she is lucky enough to have a husband who supports her dream – even if he does occasionally hint that she might think about getting a proper job one day.

Suzanne loves gardening and has a Hebe (shrub) fetish. She enjoys cooking with ingredients from the garden, and regularly feeds unsuspecting guests vegetable-based cakes.

She collects books, loves going for walks and picnics with the children and sharing with them her love of nature and photography.

Suzanne is interested in history and enjoys wandering around castles. But most of she likes to escape with a great film, or soak in a hot bubble bath with an ice cream and a book.

Connect with Suzanne: Website | Twitter | FB | Goodreads | Amazon | Insta

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Book & Buy Links

TitleThe Lost Sentinel
Series: Silent Sea Chronicles #1
Author: Suzanne Rogerson
Genre: Fantasy | Epic Fantasy | Magic
Publisher: Self Published
Publication Date: 16 June 2017
Available Formats: eBook | Paperback
Pages: 473
Buy: Amazon UK | Amazon US

Posted in Author Spotlights, Self-Published | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

TYRANT’S THRONE

TYRANT'S THRONETyrant’s Throne by Sebastien de Castell

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Greatcoats #4

Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books (June 6, 2017)

Length: 400 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

My Rating: 5 stars

Few series transcend their genre, bring readers of differing tastes together to brave dangers along behind its heroes.  But when one does, this saga finds itself held up as an all-time great; descriptive terms such as the matchless, the peerless, the unparalleled pinnacle of the genre, and other even more flowery terms thrown around.  At the end of the day though, what brands a series as a timeless classic is how it is remembered going forward, especially how many of its fans continue to recommend it to new reader for years and decades to come.  Sebastien de Castell’s Greatcoats series now among that small, heralded group of fantasy sagas for me personally.  Tyrant’s Throne delivering the finishing touches to propel it into the best swashbuckling fantasy ever written; Falcio val Mond and comrades able to proudly parade among the elites of the genre.  And I for one will be trumpeting its praises for as long as I draw breath.

As the concluding chapter in the Greatcoats series, Tyrant’s Throne immediately takes off with the daring do, wisecracking laughs and twisted, political machinations it has become known for.  The wedding of two Tristian royals lending itself to yet another rousing dose of Castell action with our leading man pronouncing proudly the most memorable lines since Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride:

My name, your lordship, is Falcio val Mond. . . I am the First Cantor of the Greatcoats, also called the King’s Heart.  You might not know it yet . . . but you are having a very bad day.

As our viewpoint character, Falcio Val Mond has guided readers from the grim depths of Traitor’s Blade through the frantic trials of Knight’s Shadow to the gloomy despair of Saint’s Blood.  His constant soul searching, self-induced delusions, unflinching devotion, and unfailing determination the constant pole around which the seething pool of vile politics, horrid sacrifices, and grim deeds revolve in the quest to place King Paelis’ daughter Aline on the throne of Tristia.  Yet, now, when he is so close to completing his last mission for his beloved king, circumstances grow even worse for Falcio.

First, there is a war brewing with the Avareans.  Second, there is a final showdown with the horrible Trin, who has done nothing but torment our hero at every turn.  And, third, Falcio finds any unexpected enemy — his own self.  His demons come to torment him; his most cherished memories turned into horrid illusions of the truth; the very foundation of his life as a Greatcoat rocked by the revelations he must confront.  The terrible spiraling of events and choices threatening to send our hero into an abyss of despair from which even he cannot ascend.

But as always, Falcio is not cowed by any threat.  His single-minded faith in his beloved ideals causing him to move ever forward, even when he makes terrible mistakes.  Our hero able to stand proudly before his innumerable, more powerful foes at the worst of moments and flippantly declare, “Everyone hush now . . . I’m about to be impressive.

FALCIO VAL MOND

And he is.  No matter the trial, the grief, the torment, or the disillusion, Falcio val Mond is a man of ideal, a warrior of principle, who will not give in to the forces dragging him down.  He is the King’s Heart, and such a man can never be defeated!

I have to say I really didn’t believe there was anything left for Sebastien de Castell to throw at Falcio after three books.  He has been tortured (mentally and emotionally), seen his dreams shattered more than a few times, and faced the death of all he loved seemingly at every turn.  But I was wrong yet again, for Tyrant’s Throne plunges our hero into even greater fires of adversity, forcing him to take a long look at himself and his beliefs before raising the more refined version of my favorite Greatcoat like a blazing phoenix.  It is harsh, painful to read at times, but it is such a perfect ending to our hero’s journey that I cannot now imagine Falcio and the Greatcoats’ story ending any other way.

Mixed into the exquisite flagellation, Sebastien de Castell still dazzles with his ability to deliver swashbuckling action, amazing camaraderie, funny moments, and classic heroics.  His narrative finding the perfect balance between every emotion, tugging your heart strings one way and another; each twist in the plot spanning the spectrum from crushing despair to soaring excitement.  Tyrant’s Throne giving its frequent readers everything they could have ever hoped for in a finale, leaving one awed yet heartbroken that it had to finally come to an end.

Since my return to the fantasy genre about four years ago, Sebastien de Castell is among my favorites authors; his Greatcoats series listed among my most beloved fantasy series ever, resting proudly next to those of Tolkien, Donaldson, and many more.  And while Tyrant’s Throne is a fitting ending to this adventure, I dearly hope it will not be our last visit to the colorful world of Falcio and friends.  This place having too many fascinating stories yet to tell.  But until then, I will cherish my memories of my adventures riding and fighting alongside Falcio and the Greatcoats, proclaiming to all the villains of the world that “THE GREATCOATS ARE 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.

Read my reviews of the first three novels!

Purchase the book at Amazon

Posted in 5 Stars, Fantasy, Swashbuckling | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

ELSEWHERE

elsewhereElsewhere by Barbara Hambly

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Darwath Short Story

Publisher: Self Published (April 20, 2017)

Author Information: Website

Length: 45 pages

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Elsewhere is the latest Keep of Dare novelette from Barbara Hambly.  These continued adventures of Gil Patterson and Rudy Solis from late 20th Century America and their companions in the medieval, post-apocalyptic world of Darwath (including wizard Ingold Inglorion) wonderful additions to to the Darwath series.

Here Rudy Solis finds himself frantically attempting to investigate the disappearance of a number of people in the “transporter room” of the keep.  (This magical room a little understood remnant of the ancient civilization which built the keep with both magic and technology over a thousand years in the past.)   Among the vanished Ingold and Gil.  And if attempting to decipher the mysterious workings of the room to save his friends from an unknown fate is not enough, Rudy must also deal with a plague of deadly “ghosts” which have suddenly begun to appear in the keep, killing people with their icy weapons!

From the first sentence, Hambly’s characteristic writing style masterfully creates the tense, claustrophobic atmosphere of the Keep of Dare. The ever shrinking band of survivors huddled within desperately holding onto life in a world slowly deteriorating; the climate outside turning colder and colder. food becoming more and more scarce, and the remains of civilization teetering on the edge of collapse. The claustrophobic, cavern-like hallways within the mysterious citadel as much a tomb as a refuge; their innumerable secrets, which once promised life, still undecipherable by even the wisest. The otherworldly “ghosts” which begin to haunt the living more at home in the bleak “underworld” of Dare’s Keep than the living whom they torment.

Even more compelling than the creepy atmosphere is the continued development of the returning characters, especially our main four of Ingold, Gil, Rudy, and Minalde. These people having grown and developed so much over the years; their personalities and interactions with one another so very realistic, as time and harsh living slowly take their tole on them in so many ways. Yet, for all their differences, they are still the same people who came together to face the rising of the Dark, fearlessly facing death at one another’s side.

Overall, this was yet another great Darwath story. Ms. Hambly continuing her tried-and-true recipe of creepiness, mystery, characterization, and world building to turn Elsewhere into a story that long-time fans of Darwath, as well as newcomers, can read and enjoy. Highly recommended!

Purchase the novelette at Amazon.

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INDIE WEDNESDAY: LAUREN MCNEIL

Indie-WednesdayAlong my reading journey, I’ve made a conscious decision to include self-published, indie, 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 turn my Indie Wednesday feature into a day where writers can introduce themselves and their work to everyone.

With this in mind, I’m turning over the blog to Lauren McNeil , author of Moroda, who has been nice enough to submit a guest post for everyone’s reading enjoyment.

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Moroda, Garage Fiction, & Self-Promoting for the Introvert 

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I’m a self-published fantasy author from the UK. I’m a professional Copywriter and I’ve worked in Marketing for several years now. My debut novel, Moroda, was published as an eBook on 1 April and in paperback on 1 May 2017 – so I am hot out the gates and still learning SO much about everything!

I love all things fantasy – from dragons to magic to airships and everything in between (so I’ve put all those things in my book, of course!) and love connecting with other kindred spirits.

I had the original idea for it back when I was sixteen, but never really did anything with it. Every year I participate in NaNo (National Novel Writing Month – for those who don’t know, every November, you’re challenged to write 50,000 words of a novel in those 30 days. It’s not always easy; especially if you work full time, commute, have some sort of social life, etc.! But in November 2014, I decided to use the idea I’d had for so long. I wrote my 50,000 words, but the story wasn’t finished, so I continued writing it until April 2015, when I finished the first draft.

From April 2015 until the book’s release in April 2017, I’d edited and re-written the manuscript, had three editors run through it, and generally panicked that it was finally happening!

The book is part of a six part series (always seems to be the way with fantasy!), so I’m already working on book two!

I’m part of quite a few writing groups on Facebook, but the writing group I’m most involved with is one called Garage Fiction. It’s a small collection of writers who commit to writing 1,000 words of fiction every week. We share our posts, critique each other’s work and offer feedback, and then we talk about it on a podcast!

The writers are from all around the world – Canada, the US, the UK – so there is an A and B podcast group to allow for the time differences. The group has been going for a few years and I joined in early 2017 so still feel very new, but it’s fantastic because of the range of expertise and the incredible support the members give. It’s always great to have a good mix of people, and Garage Fiction definitely has that!

If you’re interested in finding out more about Garage Fiction, or listening to some of our podcasts, you can jump over to their website here, find them on Facebook here or on Twitter here!

Like a lot of writers (dare I say, most?), I’m immensely introverted. I think I scored 91% on introversion v extroversion on 16 personalities! So getting out there and promoting my stuff, doing interviews, podcasts, even “takeovers” like this (!) is typically outside my comfort zone.

I studied Psychology at University and have a mild obsession with MBTI (I’m an INFJ!), so although Writing is a pretty awesome fit for me job-wise (I’m a copywriter as well as a published author), the sales and promotion side of things isn’t always natural, or easy, for me!

A lot of the time, I think, it’s just about putting an “author” hat on and pushing through it. But it’s also pushing through self-doubt and believing in yourself and the book! Receiving positive reviews always adds credibility, and they’re incredibly validating, too.

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morodaLinaria is a world where dragons are revered as gods, where airships rule the skies, and where war is stirring.

For Moroda, a former Goldstone, her life of luxury ends following her father’s sudden death. When her city is destroyed by a dragon, she and her sister ally with a sky pirate and narrowly escape the carnage—only to find a vigilante from an exiled race has left a trail of destruction everywhere his growing army has travelled. With compulsion at his fingertips, he strengthens his hold over Linaria’s people by stealing the power of dragons. It’s only a matter of time before Moroda, too, is forced to submit.

With war nipping at her heels and danger lurking in her companions and adversaries, Moroda must quickly learn about herself, her world, and the dragons so intent on reducing it all to ash.

Moroda is the first novel in an epic six-book saga, following a group of characters as war rages across their world. With pirates and soldiers, smiths and princes, Linaria is a vibrant land with a deeply unsettled past and an equally ominous future.

Buy Links:
Amazon (ebook only)
Author’s Website (paperback)

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Lauren McNeilAUTHOR INFO:  Lauren McNeil has two writing careers – as a copywriter and another as a self-published fantasy author. She also runs her own copywriting services, The Art of Telling Stories .  She is a self-described petrol head and thalassophile, loves castles, sunshine, and dragons! She has always found solace in losing herself in the fantasy worlds she read and created, and it has been one of her most incredible achievements to finally publish her own novel, adventure fantasy, “Moroda,” which was released in spring 2017, the first book in a series of six. The sequel, “Palom,” is due for publication in autumn 2017. She currently lives in the UK and can’t wait for the day she can finally own a little cottage by the seaside!

Author Links:
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
Email: lauren@llmcneil.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 …

TEN SFF SERIES I KEEP MEANING TO START BUT HAVEN’T

This list is a little different from those I’ve done in the past about series I intend to read or want to read or whatever.  At least, I’m going to treat it differently by only picking series I have seen reviewed and thought sounded interesting, BUT I’ve never added these series to my t-b-r list, purchased them or anything else.  They have remained a tempting series which I have not taken the plunge with.

Yeah, yeah, I know that is me splitting hairs, but I wanted a way to list some cool series I’ve heard about lately.  Several are ones I’m sure many of you have already read, but I haven’t.  A few are fairly new and might surprise you guys.  Hope you enjoy!

soldiers' redemption10. The First Cohort by M.R. Anthony

Captain Tyrus Charing and the men of the First Cohort have fought on the wrong side for as long as they can remember. They have travelled from one battle to the next at the bidding of the cruel Duke Warmont, fighting endlessly for a man they despise.

Now they want something different. They want to fight for the right people and for a deserving cause. There is hope for Captain Charing and his men – a saviour has come and she needs good, loyal soldiers in order to overthrow the Duke.

As the First Cohort try to pay for the sins of their past, they discover they’ve taken on far more than they could have imagined. They are unbeaten in battle, but the Duke does not care how many die, so long as he stays in power. Amongst his generals are sorcerers of great power, and an inhuman brute of callous evil, all of whom are eager to face Charing’s men.

valley of embers9. The Landkist Saga by Steven Kelliher

For hundreds of years, the flame-wielding Embers have been the last line of defense against the nightmare creatures from the World Apart, but the attacks are getting worse. Kole Reyna guards Last Lake from the terrors of the night, but he fears for his people’s future.

When Kole is wounded by a demon unlike any they have seen before, the Emberfolk believe it is a sign of an ancient enemy returned, a powerful Sage known as the Eastern Dark.

Kole has never trusted in prophecy, but with his people hanging on the precipice, he reluctantly agrees to lead the Valley’s greatest warriors in a last desperate bid for survival. Together, they will risk everything in search of a former ally long-thought dead, and whether Kole trusts him or not, he may be the only one capable of saving them.

cthulhu armageddon8. Cthulhu Armageddon by C.T. Phipps

CTHULHU ARMAGEDDON is the story of a world 100 years past the rise of the Old Ones which has been reduced to a giant monster-filled desert and pockets of human survivors (along with Deep Ones, ghouls, and other “talking” monsters).

John Henry Booth is a ranger of one of the largest remaining city-states when he’s exiled for his group’s massacre and suspicion he’s “tainted.” Escaping with a doctor who killed her husband, John travels across the Earth’s blasted alien ruins to seek the life of the man who killed his friends.

It’s the one thing he has left.

the king's bastard7. King Rolen’s Kin by Rowena Cory Daniells

Byren never wanted the throne. It was destined for Lence, his twin brother, older by seven minutes and the rightful heir to Rolencia. But the royal heir resents Byren’s growing popularity, and in the court of King Rolen, the shadows are thick with enemies plotting revolution.

Darkness stirs across Rolencia and untamed magic of the gods wells up from the earth’s heart, twisting the minds of men with terrible visions. The touched must learn to control their gift – or die. Disharmony stirs within Rolen’s household, and as magic, madness and political machinations threaten to tear Rolencia apart, King Rolen’s children must do all they can to restore their father’s kingdom…

shadow prowler6. Chronicles of Siala by Alexey Pehov

 

After centuries of calm, the Nameless One is stirring. An army is gathering: giants, ogres and other creatures joining forces from across the Desolate Lands, united for the first time in history under one black banner. By the spring, or perhaps sooner, the Nameless One and his forces will be at the walls of the great city of Avendoom.

5. Newsflesh by Mira Grantfeed

The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beaten the common cold. But in doing so we created something new, something terrible that no one could stop.

The infection spread, virus blocks taking over bodies and minds with one, unstoppable command: FEED. Now, twenty years after the Rising, bloggers Georgia and Shaun Mason are on the trail of the biggest story of their lives—the dark conspiracy behind the infected.

The truth will get out, even if it kills them.

hawkwood's voyage4. The Monarchies of God by Paul Kearney

THE WESTERN WORLD IS BURNING…

Even as cities and cathedrals are tumbling, their defenders crucified by the invading Merduks, the Faithful war among themselves, purging heretics and magical folk and adding to the flames.

For Richard Hawkwood and his crew, a desperate venture to carry refugees to the uncharted land across the Great Western Ocean offers the only chance of escape from the Inceptines’ pyres. The King’s cousin, Lord Murad, has an ancient log book telling of a free, unspoiled land…

nights of viljamar3. Legends of the Red Sun by Mark Charan Newton

 

An ice age strikes a chain of islands, and thousands come to seek sanctuary at the gates of Villjamur: a city of ancient spires and bridges, a place where banshees wail the deceased, cultists use forgotten technology for their own gain and where, further out, the dead have been seen walking across the tundra.

2. The Godless World by Brian Ruckleywinterbirth

An uneasy truce exists between the thanes of the True Bloods.

Now, as another winter approaches, the armies of the Black Road march south, from their exile beyond the Vale of Stones. For some, war will bring a swift and violent death. Others will not hear the clash of swords or see the corpses strewn over the fields. They instead will see an opportunity to advance their own ambitions. But all, soon, will fall under the shadow that is descending.

For, while the storm of battle rages, one man is following a path that will awaken a terrible power in him — and his legacy will be written in blood.

the emperor's knife1. Tower and Knife Trilogy by Mazarkis Williams

There is a cancer at the heart of the mighty Cerani Empire: a plague that attacks young and old, rich and poor alike. Geometric patterns spread across the skin, until you die in agony, or become a Carrier, doing the bidding of an evil intelligence, the Pattern Master. Anyone showing the tell-tale marks is put to death; that is Emperor Beyon’s law…but now the pattern is running over the Emperor’s own arms. His body servants have been executed, he ignores his wives, but he is doomed, for soon the pattern will reach his face. While Beyon’s agents scour the land for a cure, Sarmin, the Emperor’s only surviving brother, awaits his bride, Mesema, a windreader from the northern plains. Unused to the Imperial Court’s stifling protocols and deadly intrigues, Mesema has no one to turn to but an aging imperial assassin, the Emperor’s Knife.

As long-planned conspiracies boil over into open violence, the invincible Pattern Master appears from the deep desert. Only three people stand in his way: a lost prince, a world-weary killer, and a young girl from the steppes who once saw a path in a pattern — a path that might save them all.

Have you read any of these?  What did you think of them?  What other series should I add?  Let me know!  🙂

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FUNDAY MONDAY, OR THE BOOKS THAT WILL HELP ME SURVIVE THE WEEK AHEAD (JUNE 19, 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.

Summer (My kids summer vacation) is passing so quickly.  And I’m enjoying it all — including all the great books I’ve been fortunate enough to read the last few weeks.  Hopefully, this week will be no exception to that trend, adding to my winning streak!

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the kings of morningThe Kings of the Morning by Paul Kearney

Genre: Fantasy — Grimdark

Series: The Macht #3

Publisher:  Solaris (February 28, 2012)

Length: 439 pages

For the first time in recorded history, the ferocious city-states of the Macht now acknowledge a single man as their overlord. Corvus, the strange and brilliant boy-general, is now High King, having united his people in a fearsome, bloody series of battles and sieges. He is not yet thirty years old.

A generation ago, ten thousand of the Macht marched into the heart of the ancient Asurian Empire, and then fought their way back out again, passing into legend. It has been the enduring myth of Corvus’ life, for his father was one of those who undertook that march, and his most trusted general, Rictus, was leader of those ten thousand. But he intends to do more. The preparations will take years, but when they are complete, Corvus will lead an invasion the like of which the world of Kuf has never seen. Under him, the Macht will undertake nothing less than the overthrow of the entire Asurian Empire.

Purchase the book at Amazon

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mormamaMormama by Kit Reed

Genre: Horror

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher:  Tor Books (May 30, 2017)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length: 288 pages

MORMAMA is a riveting supernatural, southern gothic tale from Kit Reed. Readers of Joyce Carol Oates and James M. Cain will enjoy this unnerving tale.

Dell Duval has been living on the street since his accident. He can’t remember who he was or where he came from. All he has is a tattered note in his pocket with an address for the Ellis house, a sprawling, ancient residence in Jacksonville. He takes up residence under the house in the basement unknown to the residents upstairs. He just needs time to figure out why he’s been sent here.

In the house, Lane and her son Theo have returned to the family home—their last resort after Lane’s husband cleans out her bank account and leaves. The old house is ruled by an equally ancient trio of tyrannical aunts, who want to preserve everything. Nothing should leave the house, including Lane.

Something about the house isn’t right. Things happen to the men and boys living there. There are forces at work one of which visits Theo each night—Mormama, one mama too many.

Purchase the book at Amazon

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