FUNDAY MONDAY, OR THE BOOKS THAT WILL HELP ME SURVIVE THE WEEK AHEAD (APRIL 24, 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.

This week I’ll be finishing off my books from last week. (Behind again.  *sigh*) Then I get to start the third installment of a series I’ve been waiting to read.

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city of miraclesCity of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett

Genre: Fantasy

Series: The Divine Cities #3

Publisher: Broadway Books (May 2, 2017)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length: 464 pages

Revenge. It’s something Sigrud je Harkvaldsson is very, very good at. Maybe the only thing.

So when he learns that his oldest friend and ally, former Prime Minister Shara Komayd, has been assassinated, he knows exactly what to do and that no mortal force can stop him from meting out the suffering Shara’s killers deserve.

Yet as Sigrud pursues his quarry with his customary terrifying efficiency, he begins to fear that this battle is an unwinnable one. Because discovering the truth behind Shara’s death will require him to take up arms in a secret, decades-long war, face down an angry young god, and unravel the last mysteries of Bulikov, the city of miracles itself. And perhaps most daunting of all finally face the truth about his own cursed existence.

Purchase the book at Amazon.

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THE FLASH, VOL. 7: ZOOM

guest-post2Today, I’m happy to have my son, Connor, return to the blog for yet another of his graphic novel reviews.  Thankfully, this is becoming something of a regular occasion, and I personally will be enjoying it for as long as it lasts.

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flash zoomThe Flash: Zoom by Robert Venditti

Genre: Superhero Comics

Series: The Flash #8 

Publisher: DC Comics (August 9, 2016)

Author Information:  Website | Twitter

Length: 224 pages

Connor’s Rating:   connor-capconnor-capconnor-capconnor-capconnor-cap

When I read Flash graphic novels, I expect a good story, cool characters, and awesome illustrations.  Zoom delivered all of that and more!

This story is about Barry Allen finding a clue about his mother’s death.  A big clue.  Huge one.  But Barry’s father, Henry Allen, wants Barry to let his mother’s death go, stop looking into it, accept it.  Barry can’t do that though, because this clue is bigger than the Scarlet Speedster himself.  The clue is ZOOM!

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All I can say about this book is that it was amazing!  Whenever I get to see the Flash fight Zoom it is always good.  Barry having to go at it with a psychotic crazy like Thawne just brings the best out in him.  He gets to show just how powerful he is.

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But the villain wasn’t the only good thing about this graphic novel.  The author brought everything to the plate that I want in a story.  We finally got rid of one of Barry’s love interests.  (Hated her.)  Wally gets some page time.  And Barry shows that you can be a truly nice guy and not come in last all the time.

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Probably don’t need to even say how good the art was here, but I will: It was really cool stuff!

Well, I hope you liked this review, and if you are on Goodreads, friend me any time to talk about my reviews or comic books.

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

Connor is a teenager (We had a birthday!) who enjoys graphic novels (DC Comics are preferred.), superhero movies (X-Men:Days of Future Past is his current favorite.), watching episodes of The Flash, Arrow, and The Walking Dead, as well as the NFL, NCAA football, and the NBA on t.v., will happily accept any and all caps (because you just can’t have too many caps), and whose favorite music right now revolves around by Bruno Mars.  And, no, Connor did not have any input into my paragraph about him.  Being a dad does have it’s privileges.

Purchase the book at Amazon.

Posted in 5 Stars, DC, Flash, Graphic Novels, The New 52 | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

SINS OF EMPIRE

sins-of-empireSins of Empire by Brian McClellan

Genre: Fantasy – Flintlock

Series: Gods of Blood and Powder #1

Publisher: Orbit (March 7, 2017)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length:  624 pages

My Rating: 5 stars

Flintlock fans! Powder pundits–
And all lovers of spellbinding stories of magic and mayhem:
Today, today, you are redeemed from boredom,
Set free from the doldrums of reading despair.
For that most adroit of authors, Brian of McClellan,
Has fired off the opening salvo of another fantasy series.
Challenged all comers to brave his newest creation.

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From the beginning, Sins of Empire is a dazzling delight,
Spun from the same enchanted stuff as The Powder Mage Trilogy,
Set in a new local, overflowing with compelling characters,
And filled with excitement, and action aplenty.
Every page a challenge, every plot a delectable morsel.

Yet for all its untouched virgin splendor,
Sins of Empire does not forget its powder mage progenitor.
Old characters reappearing from the beginning,
Entangled in new webs of manipulation and mystery 
But just as beloved and enthralling as ever.

But this time the way forward is fraught with more peril, more uncertainty,
For there is no bold Tamas to lead the way.
Our heroes older, tasked with control, and forced to rise to the occasion.
Their wits tested by the web of deceit they must untangle,
The formidable forces they must face down.

And so, without any further grandiose pretensions by myself,
I give to you the Opening Book of Excellence,
The Bequeather of Beloved Characters,
The Proverbial Powder Mage Progeny
The One –
The Only –
Sins of Empire!

Beginning approximately ten years after the events in The Autumn Republic, Sins of Empire is set upon a new continent and built upon the back of the Fatrastan Revolution (as so wonderfully portrayed in the novella Ghosts of the Tristan Basin). The young nation having quickly become an economic power, guided toward the future by the authority regime of Chancellor Lindet and her secret police, aptly dubbed the Blackhats.

But things are not quite as rosy as they seem. A growing rift between the native Palo tribesmen and the Fatrastan colonists brewing into near rebellion. A mysterious leader, known only as Mama Palo, controlling the simmering insurrection, who, supposedly, is hiding in the dangerous confines of the Palo slums of the capital city of Landfall; a place where even the feared Blackhats are not welcomed. Enter the Riflejack mercenaries.

Commanded by Vlora a.k.a. Lady Flint (a name familiar to fans of the original Powder Mage Trilogy), these crack troops find themselves in the employ of Chancellor Lindet, battling Palo rebels in the hinterlands of the continent until they are recalled to the capital. All hell about to break loose there; Lady Flint’s tasked with hunting down Mama Palo. A mission that the one time revolutionary Vlora finds unpalatable.

Unwillingly wrapped up in this same situation is a high level Blackhat named Michel Bravis; his assignment to be the Riflejack handler as cover for his real job of rooting out a revolutionary cell which is distributing anti-government pamphlets. This task made more compelling by his superior’s brutal reputation of rewarding failure with death or lose of status, the latter nearly worse than the former to a Blackhat.

Then there is Mad Ben Styke, commander of the Mad Lancers, hero of the Fatrastan Revolution, proudly named one of the founders of the country . . . now a convicted war criminal. This giant of a man having spent the last ten years of his life in a harsh labor camp after surviving execution by firing squad. But, when it seems he has no hope left, a mysterious lawyer appears, promising freedom in exchange for the completion of a simple task.

And looming mysteriously over them all is the legendary Godstone. An unwitting professor having unearthed it in the lands around Landfall. Its power without doubt; its importance overwhelming; it’s part of the story revealed only gradually.

Shifting back and forth between Vlora, Michel Bravis, and Ben Styke, Brian McClellan slowly builds this narrative, very carefully by creatively re-introducing the powder mage world, its magic, and its returning characters; the steady pace giving new readers time to acclimate themselves while still quickly immersing them in an intriguing set of plots.  All of it driven forward by the unique, compelling, and jaded characters.  The returning veterans of the series initially shining the brightest before being eclipsed (at least, in my eyes) by one of the newcomers.

The person I am referring to is Mad Ben Styke. This hulking killer of a man already garnering my immediate attention because of his portrayal in Ghosts of the Tristan Basin (which fans of the Powder Mage series need to read). Here he is a much more well-rounded character, showing serious complexity for his nature, unexpected tenderness and compassion, as well as unbridled viciousness when necessary. Can’t wait to see where Brian McClellan takes him from this beginning.

Coming in a close second to Mad Ben is Vlora a.k.a. Lady Flint, whom I admit was never a favorite of mine in the original trilogy. (No, she did not have a fair chance to shine back then, since she was forever labeled due to her actions toward her fiance, but be that as it may, she wasn’t very interesting either.) Now, however, she is a much more well-rounded character; her drive, her stubbornness, and her abilities better understood and explored.

And last but not least is Michel Bravis, who I found quite odd at first (He was constantly having conversations and arguments with himself out loud.), but whose development and interesting plot turned him into far more than merely a carbon copy of Inspector Adamant.

I will also add there is a surprise character in the mix whom I really enjoyed, but will not talk about further. This individual gradually assuming a central role in the story, and I dearly hope this person does not disappear in the sequels.

That brings up the other triumph of Sins of Empire: the suspense and revelations. No one and nothing is what it appears here. Brian McClellan pulling the rug out from under his readers time after time. Each seeming revelations suspect, as yet another piece of the puzzle falls into place. Certainly, there were a few surprises which I guessed, but, overall, the author kept me glued to the pages, as he stunned me with momentous revelations after momentous revelation. Each building toward the epic conclusion at the end.

And what a conclusion it is.  No powder mage novel would be complete without some rousing battle scenes, because Brian McClellan is so gifted at choreographing them, writing them in a coherent way, that they have become trademarks of his books. And the last few chapters of Sins of Empire are dominated by familiar, flintlock fighting and more than a little powder mage magic. It is cool, satisfying, and fun beyond measure.

As for criticisms . . . Are you really asking me that? I mean, how often do I give a book 5 stars? You know it isn’t very often. And this book got 5 stars, so that means the criticisms I have are so minuscule as to be non-existent.

With a fast paced narrative, compelling characters, a cool magic system, a diverse world and an epic conclusion, Sins of Empire is a flintlock fantasy completed to perfection. This novel showcasing the silky smooth talent of Brian McClellan in crafting an epic fantasy which long time fans and new comers can both enjoy and love. Without a doubt, it is my frontrunner for Best Fantasy of 2017, start of a new series which will certainly surpass the original if this opening installment is any harbinger of things to come. Highly recommended!

Purchase the book at Amazon

Posted in 5 Stars, Fantasy, Flintlock | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

AVENGERS OF THE MOON

avengers of the moonAvengers of the Moon by Allen Steele

Genre: Science Fiction — Pulp

Series: Stand Alone (Possible Series #1)

Publisher: Tor Books (April 11, 2017)

Author Information: Website

Length: 304 pages

My Rating: 3 stars

Modern pulp. Retro scifi. Label Avengers of the Moon whatever you want, but Allen Steele has accomplished something amazing with this novel: resurrect Captain Future and set him up for a return to greatness!

Who is Captain Future, you ask?

Well, the original pulp series was created by Mort Weisinger and mainly written by Edmond Hamilton, lasting from 1940 to 1951. The hero, Curt Newton, a brilliant scientist who – along with his faithful side-kicks – righted wrongs, defeated vile villains, and kept the inhabited planets in our Solar System safe from evil. But these days Captain Future is probably best known as the guy whose poster is on the wall in the Big Bang Theory apartment.

big bang theory

Naturally, Allen Steele’s revamp of this classic character begins with a new origin story. Here Curt Newton is a child whose mother and father are murdered. A robot, an android, and the disembodied brain of Professor Simon Wright, a good friend of his parents, rearing him thereafter and keeping him safe in an underground bunker on the moon.

Fast forward a couple of decades. Curt discovers that his parents’ killer is corrupt businessman and Lunar Senator Victor Corvo. To obtain justice, Curt creates the Captain Future persona and along with his guardians (the already mentioned robot, android, and disembodied brain), as well as competent but beautiful Inspector Joan Randall of the Interplanetary Police Force, sets out to bring this corrupt politician down. But nothing is as simple as it seems, and soon Captain Future uncovers a far larger conspiracy, one which puts his desire for personal justice (or revenge) on the back burner.

Combining all the fun and excitement of Golden Age sci-fi pulp with today’s science facts and modern sensibilities is a tough task for any author to take on. Thankfully, Allen Steele was up to the challenge.  His new Captain Future centered in a more realistic solar system with a more socially acceptable persona, surrounded by updated side-kicks, villains, and female characters, yet able to retain the naive excitement, amazing gadgets and roller coaster action of the original. Avengers perfectly managing the precarious balancing act of satisfying both old school and new age readers, providing all of them a rip roaring ride into the future of science fiction pulp!

For the type of retro sci-fi pulp that it was, I felt Avengers had no real deficits. Obviously, the writing had an intentional pulp feel to it and a few story elements were a bit silly or more young adult oriented than I personally would have liked, but, overall, Allen Steele created an entertaining story in the mold of the original Captain Future. However, if I’m being perfectly fair, I can see where some readers will be bothered by the portrayal of the female characters here. While updated from the original material, none of them are in positions of power, and they are all noted as being attractive more than a few times. I didn’t find any of this to be intentional or sexist in any way, but I felt it only fair I mention this fact.

Whatever criticisms can be leveled at Avengers of the Moon, everyone should be able to agree Allen Steele has done a wonderful job rebooting Captain Future. From outdated pulp hero of old to a modern sci-fi pulp star, this scientist and his sidekicks will delight any admirers of Golden Age science fiction or lovers of fast-paced, pulp inspired stories. Nope, Avengers isn’t a serious, deep science fiction saga, but it isn’t meant to be. Rather, it is exactly what Allen Steele dreamed it would be: FUN!

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

Posted in 3 Stars, Science Fiction | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

INDIE WEDNESDAY: MICHELLE LOWE

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 turn over the blog to Michelle Lowe, author of the Legacy series.

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Writing Legacy was truly a fun experience. It was my very first attempt at steampunk, which I have developed more of an understanding for as I continued writing the series. My influence for writing Legacy was strictly for the love of adventure/ fantasy stories. I will simply go over the legacymoon for any story that takes me away to another place and introduces me to new and interesting characters. I just wanted to be part of that sort of storytelling and create that kind of magic for someone else.

The first book from the Legacy series has had its ups and downs. The first publisher that had it went under due to poor management, but then the book was immediately picked up by an up and coming publishing house, Nordland Publishing, and after months of revising, Legacy has been re-released! For over a year and half, I wrote nonstop until I had all six manuscripts written. Now that they are, and the first novel is out, I’m working on improving the others. I’ve even recently completed a standalone manuscript for Legacy, titled Boom Time. If the Legacy series does well enough, I’ll begin writing the next series, The Age of the Machine.  

And, today, I wanted to share with everyone a short story based off Legacy, as well as an excerpt from the first book in the series.  Hope you enjoy!

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That Day at Sea

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This seize and rescue wasn’t meant to be any different than the countless others. But it was.

Chief Sea Wind, commander of the ship, The Ekta, and leader of the crew of Apache Sea Warriors, observed the ship in the distance through his spyglass. He recognized its lines, though it wasn’t a cargo ship used for slave transports.

The Sea Warriors were from America and Mexico. They had been trained by the French as a colonial defense against the British during the Seven Years’ War, many serving in the French navy. After wartime, many tribes took to the sea, attacking European settlers sailing to the New World. On their own, though, they were no match for the strongest naval fleet in the world, and the number of Sea Warriors had dwindled over the course of the last hundred years. Now only a handful remained with a new battle to fight—seizing slave ships and freeing people who’d been taken from their homeland. Instead of fighting against the English, they helped uphold the loosely followed Slave Trade Act that had been put into law in 1788.

Sometimes the Sea Warriors took people back to their homeland, risking being taken themselves; but most often they were taken to a country where they could remain free.

Yet, this chase—this ship—was not the same as the others. Something was amiss.

Chief Sea Wind lowered the spyglass and turned to the young women standing with him at the helm. “Sees Beyond, are you for certain that this ship is one we should be after?”

“I am, Chief,” she said firmly. “My spirits said as much to me last night. They had told me we must seize the ship voyaging through the Middle Passage that will be passing the Western Sahara as the sun touches the center sky.”

Chief Sea Wind glanced up at the sun where it hung directly overhead. Never had he ever disputed Sees Beyond’s guidance. She had joined his crew after they had returned home to Sonora, Mexico, days after a deadly hurricane in the Atlantic had claimed her husband, Cochise. Like her mother and grandmother, Sees Beyond had a connection to the ancestors. She was a psychic, and had helped the crew of The Ekta avoid storms, steered them to the next slave ship as well as away from enemy vessels.

Her tone allayed his doubts to continue with the pursuit.

“They are a great distance away,” he said, folding in the spyglass. He stepped over to the brass speaking tube that made his voice audible throughout the entire ship. “Fire up the fans!”

In moments, the crew emerged from below, carrying bundles of firewood. They brought the wood over to an old locomotion steam engine, located behind the mainmast, and threw logs inside the firebox. Once the firebox was stocked full, the wood was set ablaze. Water from the sea would then be sucked in through the centrifugal pumps, located on both sides of The Ekta, and brought up to the steam engine to boil. The steam would then travel up smaller pipes latched to each mast, and power the incredibly large fans stationed behind the sails.

The ocean winds were calm, which would grant them the advantage to quickly catch up to their quarry.

“Drop canvas!” he ordered loudly to the crew on deck. “Prepare to attack!”

Some of the crew broke away from the pack of busy seamen and clambered up the shrouds to release the sails from the riggings.

“Wind in the Sails,” Chief Sea Wind said to his first mate at the wheel.

“Yes, Chief?”

“I’ll have Waban take your place. I want you with me as we intercept.”

“Of course, Chief.”

His first mate was a good leader and one of his most honorable warriors. His keen eye and quick thinking in the heat of battle made him Sea Wind’s most valuable fighter.

“I will fight as well, husband,” announced his wife, Waves of Strength, coming up the stairs toward the helm.

His mood dropped. He hated when she wanted to join the skirmishes. Unlike Wind in the Sails, Waves of Strength fought with too much passion. The woman simply had no fear in her. When she attacked, her red vision kept her from spying other threats around, which made for a number of close calls.

“Not this time,” he told her, already anticipating an argument. “That is a prison hulk ship, and by the size of it, there will be dozens of guards, perhaps even military. There will be chaos when we take them.”

“All the more reason you will need me, Sea Wind,” she pressed. “I believe you shall need all your warriors.”

She left him with little choice.

“I cannot put you in danger like that. Not like last time.” He causally rubbed his arm where he had been shot in order to save her life. He slightly bowed his head and added, “What if I’m unable to protect you?”

He waited a beat before switching his eyes up to meet hers. She was a lovely thing, as he always thought when looking at her. The sun had granted her darker skin without withering it, her high cheekbones meet up to eyes of sandstone. Never could he image his life without her.

Waves of Strength stood before him, a look of disarm and guilt on her face.

In a sorrowful tone that barely broke past a whisper, he pleaded, “Stay on board, wife. Just this one time.”

And the time after that, and the time after that.
The fire in her eyes still blazed, but she yielded with a nod nonetheless.

The water inside the steam engine boiler began to produce steam, and pump power into the fans. The giant steel blades slowly began turning, eventually speeding up to where the blades became one circle. The rumbling roar could deafen anyone too close to them. White steam billowed out from the exhaust pipes on either side of each fan. The Ekta jerked forward as her pace increased, cutting through the water at a rate that could outmatch any steamer.

“Load all guns,” Chief Sea Wind ordered through the speaking tube.

The gunners below would now be at work, preparing the cannons for when the time came. However, those weren’t the ship’s main weaponry. At both the stern and bow there were three-barreled rotary cannons, one to fire upon oncoming vessels, and the other to shoot at any enemy ships in pursuit.

As they drew closer, just out of firing range, the chief said to Sees Beyond, “You should go below now. We will be attacking soon.”

Sees Beyond was no cowered, in fact, she’d fight to the death if need be, however, she was no warrior. She was also a great asset to The Ekta and to their cause.

To his surprise, though, she said, “With your permission, Chief, I prefer to remain at the helm for this one.”

Never had she requested such a thing, and for her to do so there was reason for it. He had no time to ask when a voice of one his gunners from the bow came in through the speaking tube.

“We are prepared to fire on your orders, Chief.”

The prison hulk was coming up fast. The vessel was a monster, 60 meters long. A retired warship, its massive size dwarfed their Spanish galleon. However if she wasn’t armed as she had been in her heyday, taking her wouldn’t be too difficult.

Chief Sea Wind judged the distance, waiting for the precise moment. When it came, a surge of excitement ran just under his skin, raising every hair on his dark-skinned body.

Fire!”

A blast that he felt in his chest, exploded from one of the long guns. The windows of the captain’s quarters, shattered in a mixture of glass shards and splinters of wood. A gunner by the rotary cannons turned the crank, revolving the guns around to fire again.

“Fire!” the chief ordered into the speaking tube.

The second blast hit their target the hardest. The cannonball broke through the mizzenmast, weakening it enough to topple it right over with loud bone breaking cracks. Like a tree, the mast pitched forward, and vanished as it collapsed over the helm.

“Kill the fans! We must broadside them!”

The Ekta came alongside the prison ship as they slowed. The Sea Warriors grabbed grappling hook rifles and took aim. Since the prison hulk was higher than their own vessel, they would need to ride up to the deck. They fired the grappling hooks, letting their crooked teeth steampunk ships fightingcatch in the shrouds. Once the lines were secure, the Sea Warriors flicked the retractable latch on the rifles and hung on tight to the handles as they launched into the air. Chief Sea Wind had done the same. The wind flew past him as he soared through the air, heading up toward deck as his line wound itself back inside the bulky rifle. Just as he reached the deck, he caught sight of the helm where the mast had fallen, the rigging suspended over the main deck. The captain had survived, and was shouting orders to open fire on The Ekta. With the amount of firepower that the chief had sadly observed as they came alongside the vessel, the damage to his ship and crew would be great. He needed to stop the captain.

He let loose the rifle and dropped down onto the deck, ready to fight when a surprising scene nailed him in place. Men were attacking each other, but none involved were Sea Warriors. Was the crew fighting each other? He soon eyed a young man with shoulder length hair, heading up to the helm, armed with a rifle. He appeared as though he was trying to keep from being noticed by the captain. When he reached the helm, he shot the man down, grabbed the wheel, and turned it. Sea Wind nearly lost his balance as the vessel quickly shifted direction, a rumbling beneath his feet vibrated when the guns below exploded. Most of the cannons shot away from The Ekta, missing her completely. Only a few managed to actually strike her.

“Wind in the Sails!” he called to his first mate nearby.

“Yes, Chief!”

“Follow me.”

He and Wind in the Sails hurried up to the helm where they found the youth rummaging through the dead captain’s pockets. He brought out a set of keys.

“Shite!” he shouted in English when he spotted them.

No doubt the chief and his first mate looked intimidating to the boy. Chief Sea Wind stood very tall, his body well-built from years of fighting and from a lifetime living out at sea. He looked to the chains on the Englishman’s ankles.

In Apache, he said to Wind in the Sails, “I do not believe this is a slave ship.”

His first mate nodded. “I agree.”

The chief looked to the Englishman. He only hoped he could communicate with him. Like nearly the entire crew of The Ekta, expect for Sees Beyond, the chief understood English, but refused to learn it. Instead, they spoke Apache, or French when around the whites.

Parlez-vous français?” the chief asked optimistically.

Oui,” the boy replied.

In French, the chief asked with relief, “What sort of ship is this?”

“It’s a transporting ship. It ferries convicted criminals to penal colonies in Australia and New Zealand.”

“Of course,” Wind in the Sails said in Apache to his chief. “The prisoners of this ship were attacking the guards. They must have seized the moment when we advanced upon them.”

“I should have known,” the chief retorted vexingly. “Sees Beyond was wrong. Go back to the deck. Help clean up this mess. I will handle the boy.”

“Yes, Chief,” he said, taking his leave.

“I saw what you did,” Chief Sea Wind said to the Englishmen. “What is your name?”

The boy was quiet a moment, clearly afraid.

With a deep nervous breath, he answered, “Pierce Landcross.”

“Pierce Landcross, I thank you. I am Chief Sea Wind, leader of the Apache Sea Warriors. The man with me was my first mate, Wind in the Sails. You saved our ship and therefore I will give you the chance to take up arms and fight alongside us.”

The young man looked more than willing to do so. He unlocked himself from his restraints with the keys he found, took the dead captain’s rifle, and went back into the fray. The chief stayed at the helm to steady the ship so that Waban could bring The Ekta back beside them again. The scene below was hectic, just as he predicted. Two crewmen tried killing him and reclaiming the helm. Chief Sea Wind killed them both, one he shot, and the other he wrestled and broke his neck. During the scuffle, the battle had turned in the Sea Warrior’s favor, but not without some casualties.

“Chief!” one of his crew shouted, rushing up the stairs.

Winded from his life and death struggle, he said, “What is it?”

“It’s Wave of Strength, Chief. She’s been shot!”

“Shot?” he said, his mouth suddenly drying. “How? She was on The Ekta!”

The informant shook her head. “No, Chief, she came aboard. You must come.”

When he reached his wife, she was lying on the deck floor upon her belly, holding her hip. She was bleeding and cursing very loudly.

“My wife,” he said, dropping to his knees beside her.

Blood soaked her buckskin dress. He couldn’t even tell where she had been wounded.

Oh Great Spirit, please tell me she hadn’t been shot in the back. Would she ever be able to walk again?

“I want him dead!” she seethed at him.

He knitted his eyebrows together. “Who?”

She pointed to someone behind him. “That one!”

The chief craned his neck around, his sights snagging on the young man, Pierce Landcross. He stood amongst the throng of Sea Warriors, looking petrified.

Chief Sea Wind rose to his full height, which only made Landcross’s eyes grow wider. He held no weapon, which made no difference to the enraged Apache who would walk through a volley of gunfire to reach him.

“You shot my wife after I spared your life!”

He approached Landcross with the intent to kill, when Wind in the Sails jumped in his path.

“It was an accident, Chief. He was trying to shoot at another prisoner held on this ship before he could harm one of ours, and Waves of Strength ran into the path of his bullet. He wasn’t aiming for her.”

His quick explanation cooled the chief’s bloodlust just enough to halt him a moment. To the panicked youth, he said, “If you’ve killed or severely hurt her, I’ll sail you out in the middle of ocean and throw you overboard myself.”

Landcross swallowed thickly. “She . . . she’ll be fine, I promise.”

“He shot her in ass, Chief,” Wind in the Sail explained, with a hint of amusement in his tone.

The chief’s violent intent drained from him. He looked back at his wife. Someone else nearby pointed to the gunshot wound, nodding. She’d been hit right in the front left cheek. Although he shouldn’t have, he wanted to laugh, and bit hard on his lower lip to keep himself from doing so.

Chewing on his thumbnail to stifle his need to surrender to the hilarity of the situation, he returned his attention on Landcross. “You actually shot her in the rear?”

“Kill him, husband!” his wife demanded hotly. “Cut his throat!”

At this, Landcross clutched his neck. A scar already stretched across his throat. The traumatic look on his face suggested that there was something personal that came with that scar.

“Chief Sea Wind,” came the voice of Sees Beyond.

She stood on the inner edge of the enclosed circle surrounding Waves of Strength. With her was The Ekta’s physician, Heals with Nature, who went to Waves of Strength’s aid.

“Sees Beyond,” he said to her in Apache, “your spirits told us wrong. We should have never invaded this vessel.”

“No,” she disagreed. “We have succeeded in what we were sent to retrieve.”

She approached him, her eyes on his. He did not understand, and then her dark, insightful eyes shifted over to Landcross. She stopped and stood before the young man, seemingly to study him. Landcross looked confused by her actions, and yet a certain spark glimmered in his green eye. He was taken in by her. Chief Sea Wind understood that. Sees Beyond matched Landcross in years and even a married man like the chief could not ignore her perfect beauty. The woman was wise well beyond her years, like her mother and grandmother, but her outer appearance was a blessing from the Great Spirit. Landcross simply could not help but be captured by such a lovely flower.

“Are you telling me that we were meant to attack this vessel for him?” he asked her.

Without diverting her gaze from Landcross, she answered, “Yes. They told me, find the one with eyes of spring, look into his soul, and you will know.”

“Why?” the chief demanded.

She looked away from Landcross, almost grudgingly, to face him. “There is something exceptional about him. It’s in his bloodline. We must bring him with us.”

“No!” Waves of Strength bellowed hatefully. “He is not welcome on our ship.”

To this, the chief stiffened. He went over to her and crouched down so to speak to her privately.

“I had asked for you to stay onboard The Ekta.”

She shook her head slightly at him. “I wanted to help.”

“But you defied my order, and in turn you almost got yourself killed again. You did. Your blame ought to be placed somewhere else, my wife.”

With that, he stood and turned back to Landcross. Whatever reason the spirits had told Sees Beyond that they needed to come for this young Englishman, it must be something important therefore he would respect and honor it.

“Landcross,” he said in the deepest tone he could muster.

He wanted to put a little more fear into the boy, just for fun. It worked. Landcross approached, trembling, looking as though he was getting ready to meet his end.

“Aye, Chief?” he said in English.

Chief Sea Wind took in a breath before saying, “I grant you permission to join us.

Landcross’s relief could not be hidden in his wide, thrilled expression.

“Aye? You mean it, Chief?”

He liked that the boy referred to him as chief rather than captain like most Europeans did. It just felt more natural.

Oui. But only if you behave yourself, be useful around the ship, and don’t shoot any more of my crew.”

And like that, Pierce Landcross came into Chief Sea Wind’s life, and never did he ever regret it.

THE END

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

EXCERPT

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Pierce knew that if he struggled, it would only earn him a beating. Clearly, they wanted him alive, yet he doubted they needed to deliver him in tip-top shape. He could do without any broken bones. So he allowed himself to be taken aboard without incident, saying and doing nothing as he was unshackled and re-shackled to the ship’s only mast.

As Pierce was forced to sit on the main deck, hands cuffed behind him, the captain approached Archie Norwich. The young man had changed into something more befitting his station, and looked the part of a gentleman now, with a blue frock coat and stylish vest.

“Are you certain you wish to sail at this hour, sir?” the captain asked Archie. “I feel a storm brewing and it’ll be dark by the time we reach shore.”

“I need to get this man to Southampton as soon as possible. On my father’s orders.”

“Aye, sir,” the captain said, then left for the pilothouse.

“Who’s your father?” Pierce asked.

The young man turned as if he was going to answer him. Instead, he shifted his eyes to the tall man with muttonchops. “Keep an eye on him at all times, Sergeant Derby. Make sure he doesn’t try anything.”

“Yes, sir.”

Pierce drew the sea air into his lungs, held it for a moment, then released out it slowly. The gig was up. Soon he’d be back in London, facing trial. The Queen herself might just bless him with her presence at his hanging. But something that son of a German bitch had said to the captain prompted him to reconsider. Why is he taking me to his father in Southampton instead of sailing straight to the Port of London?

The steamboat was large enough to hold fifty passengers, yet no one other than the few crewmen, Archie, his sister, and the guards with him were aboard. Black smoke plumed out of the single stack and the stern wheel began turning. The ferryboat made way from the dock, heading for the Channel. The first touch of sea spray reminded Pierce that death waited for him in Southampton. He would wallow deeper in despair if not for the girl.

“Hello, Mr. Landcross,” she said sweetly, as if they were on good terms.

With a frustrating sigh that described his mood, he hissed, “Hello, miss?”

She grinned. “Clover,” she said. “My name is Clover Alice Norwich and I’m ten years old.”

“Hello, Miss Clover Alice Norwich and I’m ten years old.”

She approached and sat cross-legged next to him, resting her chin on her palm, she shook her head. “It’s rather a shame that we have to take you to our father. You’re awfully cute to meet the likes of him.”

“Cheers, I reckon. Who is this father of yours?”

A certain tragedy flashed within her dark eyes. He saw it despite her grin. He felt the same heartbreak in himself from the night when he’d received his scar.

“He’s a lord,” she said at length. “And a distant cousin to Queen Victoria.”

Pierce remembered now where he’d heard the name. Clover’s father was none other than Tarquin Norwich, founder of the British Guardians. They were nothing more than a band of thieves and murderers, turned thief-takers. Norwich had cherry-picked them from prisons in order to hunt fugitives down and dispose of them. They were easily identified by the pins they wore on their vests and coats: a double headed axe.
Any crime received the same ruthless punishment. Without the luxury of a trial, prisoners were usually tortured before death, or sometimes to death, their bodies steampunk shipdisplayed as ornaments, hanging by the neck from trees     on the sides of highly trafficked thoroughfares. There were cases of charred corpses, some still smoking from the fire they’d died in, hanging at intersections.  When King William received complaints about the bodies from family members protesting the unjust way their loved ones had died, Norwich had reluctantly disbanded the British Guardians. He’d even had some of them hanged as a show of solidarity, and threw in a promise to end their cruelty.

“He’s a nasty man,” Clover said. “He doesn’t really care for Archie and me much. He never even cried when my mother died.”

“I see. Is your father the one taking me to London?”

“You’re not going to London. My father wants you to tell him where a book is.”

“A book?”

“Yes. It’s a journal that Mr. Peachtree has.”

“Peachtree?” he repeated in disbelief. “Indigo Peachtree?”

Clover giggled. “Funny name, isn’t it?”

Pierce quickly put the pieces together. He understood why Norwich would want it. Yet he wondered how in the world he had even found out about the journal, much less that Pierce knew where it was. Had Indigo told him that he’d taken it? Did Norwich have Indigo?

“I knew it was you the moment I saw you in the tavern,” Clover said.

“Why? Because of my likeness in the newspapers?”

“No, because you were eating soup.”

“Soup? I beg your pardon?”

“Yep. My father said to look for a man eating soup and wearing a coin as a necklace.”

Pierce looked down at the silver stater lying against his chest. Never had it been mentioned in any of his descriptions before. In fact, he’d only had the damn thing in his possession for a couple of years, and he hadn’t been arrested during that time. Aside from the coin being a protective talisman against someone he’d crossed in the past, he’d started to consider it his little good luck charm. That apparently had changed. How the hell had Tarquin Norwich known such a detail?

He opened his mouth to ask that when Archie returned. “Clover, don’t sit so close to the prisoner. He’s a dangerous fugitive.”

“He’s not dangerous,” she protested. “He’s merely a thief.”

“Yeah, Arch, I’m just a thief,” Pierce said with a dash of resentment. “We were just havin’ a little chat about a certain book.”

Archie crouched down next to him. “Is that so? What’s in the journal?”

Pierce tilted his head and arched an eyebrow at the lad. “You have no idea what’s in the bloody book, yet your father sent you off to catch me for him to . . . I can only assume, torture me until I tell him where it is?”

He did know where the book was and he feared for the person who now had possession of it.

“I couldn’t care less,” Archie said with a dismissive wave of his hand.

“Then why did you ask, you whore pipe?” he asked tersely.

Archie shrugged. He really didn’t seem to care. It appeared that he had other things on his mind aside from his father’s interests.

“What about Indigo?” Pierce asked. “Does your father have him?”

Archie seemed to notice the concern in his tone, making Pierce cringe. As a fugitive, it was best not to show vulnerability of any sort, for it could very well come back to haunt him later.

“No,” Clover chimed in. “Mr. Peachtree was at our house a while ago, but he absconded during the night. Father is searching for him right now.”

Shite!

If it hadn’t been for Indigo, Pierce and his brother might not have survived the winter of 1826; a harsh, bitter bastard of a winter that had proven too much for a pair of orphaned kids. Indigo had not only taken them into his home, but he’d cared for them.

The Toymaker was a peace-loving man who wanted to spend his life making remarkable toys for all children, no matter their background. If he’d run away from Tarquin Norwich, it was because Norwich must have wanted him to do something Indigo didn’t want to do. And since Norwich was searching for the journal as well, Pierce could only imagine what he needed from the kindly old man.

“Sorry, chum, but I don’t recall where the journal went.”

“I don’t care,” Archie said, rising to his full height. “Tell it to my father when you meet him.” He held out his hand to his sister. “Come, Clover, you need to get inside.”

“Aw,” she whined. “I want to stay here.”

“We need to get you out of this cold,” he said almost pleadingly. “Please, Clover.”

The girl huffed petulantly. “Oh, all right,” she said, slipping her hand into his and allowing him to pull her to her feet.

Archie led her to the passenger lodge and she went inside. When she was gone, he turned back to Pierce as if he had something else to say, but then went to the railing instead. Sergeant Derby suddenly loomed over Pierce, his arms crossed over his chest.

“How’s the face?” Pierce asked with a grin.

“I’m going to request of Lord Norwich that I be the one to hurt you if you fail to cooperate,” the man said, his voice as deep as the English Channel. He seemed rather excited at the thought.

Pierce looked away. So, this was it. The end. For the sake of the journal’s keeper, he hoped that whoever tortured him would botch it, killing him before he cracked.

Half hour into the voyage, and everything was quiet, expect for the rhythmic thump of the stream engine. The sun slid slowly across the sky towards the horizon. Rain clouds from England casually rolled their way. A chilly breeze caressed Pierce’s neck. He shuddered, staring forlornly down at the deck.

The breeze grew stronger, stirring up the waves, causing the steamboat to buck. Pierce looked to the stern. Were those sails? He had good eyesight, one of his blessings. Seeing another ship on the Channel did nothing to raise any eyebrows, yet this particular one appeared to be chasing after them. Soon he heard the deep rumble of blades chopping air.

It can’t be, he thought.

Sergeant Derby heard the noise too. “Looks like they’re in more of a hurry then we are,” he remarked. “What the devil is that sound though?”

The ship was catching up at a rate that belied the advantage its extra masts gave it. White smoke billowed from the smokestacks.

“Lord Norwich,” Sergeant Derby hollered.

Archie craned his neck around. “What is that ship doing?”

A wicked grin stretched clear across Pierce’s face. Perhaps his coin was lucky after all.

The rumbling sound, which had become nearly deafening at this point, slowed until it finally ceased completely when the ship came close enough that the Apache symbol on the sails could be seen.

A battle cry screeched out, letting everyone on the ferry know that Death had come for them.

The other three guards rushed over to the stern. “Best get ready, lad,” Pierce warned Archie.

Archie tore his gaze away from the ship and saw the grin on his face. All the color drained from his own.

Archie shouted to the guards, “Get away from the railing!”

They stood gawking. The guards were military trained but they weren’t true soldiers. They served only as escorts and protectors to a home that even Pierce dared not intercept. None of them had ever been in a life-or-death situation before—until now.

A group of Sea Warriors rose from behind the Ekta’s railing with rifles and opened fire on the men. Two went down; another wounded in the arm. Sergeant Derby grabbed the wounded man and pulled him away as the Sea Warriors reloaded.

“Take cover!” Archie ordered, pulling his pistol from its holster and running across the bow.

Pierce tripped him as he passed. Archie hit the deck, firing a shot into the air.

“Let me go, boy,” Pierce demanded hotly. “They’re here for me.”

Archie aimed his gun on him. It shook in his face. “No! I must take you to my father!”

A handful of Sea Warriors aimed large, bulky rifles at the sky and opened fire. Iron grappling hooks launched into the air, their ropes falling in a spiraling arch towards the deck. The men on the other ship hauled the lines back, scraping the jagged flukes of the grapplers across the deck until they caught the railing in their hooked teeth.

The Sea Warriors slid down the lines, landing lightly on deck.

Archie had no time to take a precise aim before the tribe scattered over the deck. Everything happened so fast. Clover came outside and Archie rushed to her. The two Norwich siblings vanished into the passenger lodge. Behind the pilothouse there were shouts, then gunfire, and then quiet.

The storm clouds steadily rolled over them and dark spots dotted the deck as rain began to fall.

“If it was my decision,” a woman said in French as she rounded the corner of the passenger lodge, “I’d let them take you away.”

Pierce grimaced. “Waves of Strength,” he said with contempt. She was the last person he wanted to see while he was in this position. She approached with a smug look on her face, relishing the moment.

She knelt beside him, holding the keys that Sergeant Derby had carried, as well as a blood-soaked knife in her other hand. For a moment, Pierce wondered if Waves of Strength was considering which to use.

“Mind unlocking me?” he said.

She narrowed her eyes. If I did not love my husband as much as I do, I’d jab this knife into your chest and claim you were a casualty.”

The key finally slid into the lock and Pierce was freed. He stood up, rubbing his sore wrists. “Cheers,” he said icily.

With a snarl, she walked away. He could practically feel her hate like a physical presence.

“Landcross,” came a strong voice.

Pierce turned. “Chief!” he exclaimed.

Sea Wind approached him with arms wide open. They embraced, patting each other’s backs. Chief Sea Wind had ten years on him, yet his brawny embrace reminded Pierce of the man’s strength.

In French, Chief Sea Wind said, “I see that you’ve gotten yourself into trouble again.”

“Just the usual,” he replied in kind. “How did you find me?”

“I saw you being led away,” came another familiar voice.

Pierce caught sight of The Ekta’s first mate, Wind in the Sails.

“Fuckin’ hell,” he exclaimed, hugging the first mate as well. “Merci, mon ami. Merci!”

Relief overwhelmed him. By sheer luck, Wind in the Sails had spotted him being shipped off to face a horrible and painful end. He turned back to the chief and said gleefully, “Merci, Chef.”

“You saved our lives. We owe you much,” Chief Sea Wind said.

Pierce didn’t wallow in the reunion for too long. There was something he needed to discuss with Archie Norwich. “Can I borrow your rifle, Chief?”

Chief Sea Wind handed him his weapon and Pierce went inside the passenger lodge. The chief, Wind in the Sails, and two other Sea Warriors followed him. By then, the rain was pounding over the ocean and the skies had darkened almost to night.

“Archie! Oh, Arch,” Pierce called with the rifle’s barrel resting on his shoulder. He grinned, enjoying this turn of events. The lodge was just a small room with a wraparound bench and windows lining the walls. Archie and Clover were sitting in the corner. The lad still held his pistol and it was aimed at him.

Archie had no clue just how fortunate he was. If Clover hadn’t come out, Archie would most likely have done something stupid, like fight back, getting himself killed in the process. But in that moment, Archie’s only objective was to keep his sister safe.

“Stay right there,” Archie commanded. “I will shoot you.”

Pierce stopped and shook his head. “No, you won’t, lad. You kill me and you kill yourself. Do you want your sister to see her brother get cut down?”

Archie remained still, eyes locked on the muzzle of his gun. Clover was sitting right behind him, pressed into the seat corner. She peered over her brother’s shoulder at Pierce but she didn’t appear frightened. Pierce gave her a wink.

“It’ll be all right, love,” he said soothingly to her.

“What do you want, Landcross?” Archie demanded. Pierce returned his attention to him. He took a chance and stepped forward. “We need to have ourselves a little chat, boyo. A kind of tête-à-tête, per se.” He propped his foot on the bench with the rifle resting across his leg. Hawk and crow feathers hung from the long barrel.

“About what?” Archie asked. “Indigo Peachtree and his journal.”

“I’m listening.”

Pierce did his best to ignore the gun aimed at his face.

“I think your father is being a tad greedy.”

“What do you mean?”

“He wants the book and Indigo, eh?”

“What are you suggesting?”

Pierce straightened up. “I’ll help you get the book, but you have to help me get Indigo if your father already has him.”

Archie’s frown deepened. His eyes studied him in wonderment. “You would go after Peachtree rather than escaping?”

Pierce didn’t give him an answer. He understood the risk he was about to take. He had a chance to leave with the Sea Warriors to wherever they were bound.

“Peachtree is a friend of yours, isn’t he?” Archie guessed with some confidence.

“Don’t get any ideas, chum,” Pierce said darkly. “My freedom is also part of this agreement. Once we find Indigo, he and I are leaving without you on our tails, got it?”

Archie finally lowered the revolver and stood up. “I don’t care what happens to you, Landcross. If you can get me the book, I’ll help you save Peachtree.”

“Marvelous!” Pierce held out his hand. “Then we have an agreement?”

Archie studied Pierce’s extended hand for a moment before he took it and shook.

“Well then,” Pierce said. “Let’s get to it, eh?”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

AUTHOR INFO:

michelle loweA Georgia born native, Michelle Lowe spent most of her life near Atlanta before pulling up stakes and moving clear across country with her husband, Ben. History piques her interests, especially European. Other interests include oil painting, arts & crafts, and collecting knickknacks.

She has written seven published novels, including The Warning, Cherished Thief, Poe’s Haunted House Tour, and The Hex Hunt. One in which, Atlantic Pyramid, earned a spot on the Best Books of 2014 list. Her latest escapade is a six book steampunk / fantasy series, titled Legacy, published by Nordland Publishing.

AUTHOR LINKS:

Website: www.michellelowe.net

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2nJZae7

Author’s Facebook: http://bit.ly/2fWq6BV

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2bNh8WQ

Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/2h6sPrt

Nordland: http://bit.ly/2gM9RX7

Twitter: @michellelowe_7

Twitter: @LegacySeries_6

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

legacy

A thief, a lover, and a toymaker; drawn together by fate; unlikely champions against a powerful and remorseless enemy. When not fighting each other, they must defeat the powerful Lord Norwich, and end his plan to unleash global violence and crown himself emperor of the world. No problem.

But behind the scenes, the Trickster god is manipulating men like puppets, changing history to his own ends and for his own amusement. As an ancient plan is set into motion, the trio are face with events they do not understand and may not survive.

Legacy is the first of an epic new series that combines Fantasy and Steampunk in an unforgettable novel set in Victorian England.

Purchase the book at Amazon

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SEVEN SURRENDERS

seven surrendersSeven Surrenders by Ada Palmer

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: Terra Ignota #2 

Publisher: Tor Books (March 7, 2017)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length: 400 pages

My Rating: 3.5 stars

Too Like The Lightning was an ambitious, complex, thought-provoking work of science fiction, one which challenged a reader to brave its intricate futuristic world and rewarded those who did. Ada Palmer’s writing a return to the beautiful, ornate styles of the past; her measured words and nuance meanings contributing mightily to the powerful nature of the book. And Seven Surrenders is on par with its predecessor in every way, continuing the masterful breath of fresh air which this author has injected into the science fiction genre.

Continuing on with a large cast of characters led by Mycroft Canner, there is a plethora of interconnecting events transpiring everywhere in this 25th Century world. Revelations are made. Conspiracies are uncovered. Motives explained. The structures of power shaken to their foundations. The seemingly utopia society presented in Too Like The Lightning beginning to crumble and disintegrate under careful inspection. War looming eerily and horribly in the background of this peaceful place. All the plots within plots within plots too complicated, too heady for a simple description to capture. Suffice it to say Ada Palmer juggles numerous plots here without allowing any of them to fall to the ground, delivering a narrative a reader will become fully immersed in for hours, days and weeks.

What continues to set the Terra Ignota series above other current science fiction is the stimulating exploration of religion, politics, gender, and the continued evolution of humanity. All of it played out against the backdrop of a culture strange yet familiar, modern yet so very human. This future humanity still bound to the earth alone; people still divided by politics; resources still needed to drive the engines of consumption; religion still playing a significant role in people’s private life; and gender issues still a thorny one worthy of change. The author’s exploration fascinating, provocative, and frustrating in measured doses.

Prospective readers be warned though that this is a demanding series; the layered plot and slow reveals requiring dedication and determination. The philosophical discussions of its cast enlightening yet requiring outside thought to fully grasp, as Ada Palmer demands that her readers engage themselves in the discussions, open their minds to new, unfamiliar concepts, and meditate on the meanings. Many elements of the story not fully understood until later when your mind finally unwraps all the folded layers and rejoices in that stunning beauty of pure epiphany.

Seven Surrenders is everything I expected from Ada Palmer when I opened this novel: stunning prose, vivid setting, prophetic philosophy, political pensées, and fascinating characters. Where Too Like the Lightning was an unlooked-for revelation; Seven Surrenders was a much anticipated return, one which met my expectations and heightened my desire for the next book in the series. Certainly, it isn’t for everyone, but for those searching for a serious work of science fiction, Terra Ignota is the series to try.

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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FUNDAY MONDAY, OR THE BOOKS THAT WILL HELP ME SURVIVE THE WEEK AHEAD (APRIL 17, 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.

This week I’ll be reading a few books that I can’t wait to start!

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corvusCorvus by Paul Kearney

Genre: Fantasy — Grimdark

Series: The Macht #2

Publisher:  Solaris (November 1, 2010)

Length: 459 pages

Rictus wants nothing more than to lay down his spear and become the farmer that his father was. But fate has other ideas. A young warleader has risen to challenge the order of things in the very heartlands of the Macht. His name is Corvus. He means to make himself absolute ruler of all the Macht. And he wants Rictus to help him.

Purchase the book at Amazon

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ghosts of tomorrowGhosts of Tomorrow by Michael R. Fletcher

Genre: Cyberpunk — Scifi

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Self Published (March 1, 2017)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length: 394 pages

The children are the future.

And someone is turning them into highly trained killing machines.

Straight out of school, Griffin, a junior Investigations agent for the North American Trade Union, is put on the case: Find and close the illegal crèches. No one expects him to succeed, Griffin least of all. Installed in a combat chassis Abdul, a depressed seventeen year old killed during the Secession Wars in Old Montreal, is assigned as Griffin’s Heavy Weapons support. Nadia, a state-sanctioned investigative reporter working the stolen children story, pushes Griffin ever deeper into the nightmare of the black market brain trade.

Deep in the La Carpio slums of Costa Rica, the scanned mind of an autistic girl runs the South American Mafia’s business interests. But she wants more. She wants freedom. And she has come to see humanity as a threat. She has an answer: Archaeidae. At fourteen, he is the deadliest assassin alive. Two children against the world.

The world is going to need some help.

Purchase the book at Amazon

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NAGASH THE SORCERER

nagash the sorcererNagash the Sorcerer by Mike Lee

Genre: Fantasy – Warhammer

Series: Time of Legends

Publisher: Games Workshop (August 26, 2008)

Length: 528 pages

My Rating: 3.5 stars

A calculating priest, a cunning sorcerer, a ruthless king, and a mass murdering necromancer. Nagash has been each and every one of them. This legendary figure in the Warhammer Universe as black-hearted as any being in a world populated by a pantheon of badass characters.

But Nagash is a bit different from other villains like Malekith and Archaon. From the Egyptian-inspired culture he sprang from to the complete disdain he has for all living things, this guy distinguishes himself from the others. Well, that and the fact that in this book, Nagash is still a man, a demented and diabolical one, but still a man who willing chooses to destroy everything a normal mortal holds dead – without one ounce of remorse.

Covering several centuries, Mike Lee’s Nagash the Sorcerer has a lot of ground to cover, and so his narrative resorts to time skips forwards and backwards. The past showing Nagash’s royal lineage, his jealousy and contempt for his brother, and his initial steps into necromancy, as well as highlighting the glory of the Nehekhara culture and its divinely created nature. The current scenes showing the struggle between Nagash and a group of fellow kings who risk all to desperately attempt to stop the undead hordes and seemingly unstoppable ambition of the first necromancer.

Like all Warhammer books, Nagash the Sorcerer is a fast-paced affair, heavy on bloody battles and their minute details. Numerous armies clash in titanic struggles throughout; horrible and vile deeds are done; and the slow death of a civilization is shown in detail. Definitely, things do get confusing at times, keeping all the players and their roles straight a chore, but overall, Mike Lee does a great job making the war and the different clashes noteworthy and memorable in one way or another.

As for the characters themselves, they are a mixed bag. Nagash himself is a powerful presence whenever he appears. His unquenchable lust for power at any cost, his complete lack of empathy for other human beings, and his unbridled desire to rule or ruin perfectly portrayed. There is no struggle between good and evil, right and wrong in this man. Nagash is beyond such petty human concerns and more memorable for it. Unfortunately, none of the other characters around him every develop into anything other than adequate co-stars. Sure, you feel bad for them when their brutal ends come, but you never knew them well enough to need to grieve at their demise.

What Mike Lee excels at in this novel is creating the Nehekhara culture. Reminding one immediately of ancient Egypt with some elements taken from other cultures such as the Aztecs, Nehekhara is a richly developed society built upon mystical gods, powerful magic, and a unique societal traits. This vibrant land very compelling, well worthy of grief when Nagash’s undead hordes begin to trample it into the desert sands.

Whether Nagash the Sorcerer offers enough to keep a reader interested is up to them. Like most sword-and-sorcery, this novel is not for everyone, nor is it trying to be. This is a Warhammer book filled with magic and combat, death and necromancy, brutality and deception, war and more war. You might like or you might not based upon your expectations and your reading preferences. Try it and see for yourself if it suits your tastes or not.

Purchase the book at Amazon

Posted in 3 Stars, Fantasy, Sword and Sorcery, Uncategorized, Warhammer | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

THE AUTUMN REPUBLIC

the-autumn-republicThe Autumn Republic by Brian McClellan

Genre: Fantasy – Flintlock

Series: Powder Mage #3

Publisher: Orbit (February 10, 2015)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length:  580 pages

My Rating: 4.5 stars

Brian McClellan fans! Powder mage lovers–
And everyone else here who is searching for the next great fantasy series to read:
Today, today, you must fall to your knees in thanksgiving.
Bow your head in joyful celebration.
For I have the pride, the privilege, nay, the pleasure
Of announcing before all my fellow bibliophiles that The Autumn Republic is splendid.
Nay, far more than that: spectacular.
A finale which amazes, excites, and, more importantly, leaves nary a dangling plot thread!

chaucer

When my trembling hands picked up The Autumn Republic,
My desires were that of a simple reader.
I wished to see if Field Marshall Tamas could win his war,
Find a way to defeat not only the Kez but an enraged god.

Next, I craved to read more about my favorite powder mage: Taniel Two-Shot;
Learn more about the mysterious and intense Ka-Poel.
These partners waxing large in my thoughts
As their part in the saga grew by leaps and bounds.

And all those other character, the non-powder mages,
I was concerned for them as well.
Desperate to know would they survive this struggle,
Find peace and, perhaps, a small glimmer of happiness.

These were the hopes, nay, the dreams of my simple mind.
Desires shared by everyone of you fellow Powder Mage lovers.
And this novel fulfilled them all.
Left me spent after a dash for destiny.
And, so, without any more ado,
I give to you the Fiery Finale,
The Begetter of Brilliance,
The Deliverer of Divine Decree,
The One –
The Only –
The Autumn Republic!

Continuing immediately after the events of The Crimson Campaign, Field Marshall Tamas has fought through to his beloved Adro only to find the entire country in turmoil. In the south, the war against the Kez goes poorly; the Adro army divided and close to all out civil war.  And, in the capital, the city has fallen to a foreign invader posing as its savior.

To make matters even worse, Tamas’ allies are few: his friends indistinguishable from his enemies. With his son Taniel Two-Shot missing and presumed dead, his only reinforcements weeks away, Tamas must desperately find a way to keep his revolution from absolute destruction!

From this beginning, Brian McClellan uses his now familiar pattern of shifting back and forth between multiple point-of-view characters to tell a fast-paced, excited, and well-rounded story here, one that focuses on all the returning characters, filling in more details about all our favorites and bringing closure to their tales – at least for the moment. Even an old dog like Tamas learns some new tricks in this narrative, seeming to gain insight into life and his relationships with those around him. And McClellan develops these characters without bogging down the narrative in endless details or collapsing it under constant descriptions of insignificant items. Rather, he spends his time exploring and transforming Tamas, Taniel, Adamant, Bo, Nila, and all the rest by subtle introspection, careful conversations, while still delivering blistering battle sequences, action-packed combat, mesmerizing reveals, and concluding it all in final scenes that are painful yet satisfying, harsh yet so very true to the spirit of this tale.

Did I mention those battle scenes? They are among the best I’ve ever read. Brian McClellan able to put a reader down in the line with the Adran soldiers, allow them to experience a running fight with an enraged Privileged, and share the limb freezing terror of facing down an enraged god. They are intense affairs; realistic but not graphic, bloody but not gory. McClellan doing an outstanding job with this aspect of the story.

My only complaint (because, we all know I always have one) is the way McClellan wraps up the Adro Revolution tale. Perhaps it is because I’m a history lover, or maybe it is because of the obvious comparisons between the French Revolution and the Adro Revolution, but I felt this earth shattering event was put to bed too quickly. In reality, the French Revolution caused decades of turmoil and war in Europe; the nobility of the surrounding countries not terribly accepting of this new upstart whose ideas could cause revolutionary zeal to take hold everywhere and destroy even more monarchies. And so I found it a little difficult to accept the way this book ended in that regard. Nope, it didn’t ruin the fun for me, but I had to slap my cynical self a few times to keep him from disrupting my immersion in the story.

The Autumn Republic was a fitting and stunning conclusion to what has become one of my favorite fantasy series, as well as cementing Brian McClellan a place among my favorite fantasy authors. Without a doubt, the whole Powder Mage Trilogy is amazingly original, improved in one way or another every installment, and has turned me into a dedicated fan of flintlock fantasy. The many short stories and novellas the author has published just adding to my expectations for where he will go with this world in the future. And so it should come as no surprise that I recommend . . . nay, I DEMAND (very politely, of course) that you go out and purchase Promise of Blood so you can join in the fun, because if you are a fantasy lover this trilogy is one you cannot miss.

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Posted in 4 Stars, Fantasy, Flintlock | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

KINGS OF THE WYLD

kings-of-the-wyldKings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames

Genre: Fantasy

Series: The Band #1

Publisher: Orbit (February 21, 2017)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length: 544 pages

My Rating: 4 stars

Kings of the Wyld is a fantasy story which doesn’t take itself too seriously. Sure, it has heroes and villains, combat and death, monsters and magic, but Nicholas Eames adds so much humor and tongue-in-cheek moments that the lighter side of life is what you remember most about this tale of a band getting back together.

KISS

No, not that kind of band (though many of the newer bands in this world probably look exactly like KISS). Rather, Kings is about a band of mercenaries coming back together. All of it beginning when Clay Cooper returns home to find his band’s ex-leader Gabriel waiting for him; this once proud and fearless warrior a pathetic caricature of himself. Gabriel quickly telling Clay what has happened, sketching out a ridiculous plan to save someone dear to Gabriel. And even though he knows it is a hopeless endeavor, Clay can’t turn his best friend and former band mate down when he pathetically says “it’s time to get the band back together.” Which is when all the real fun starts.

Without a doubt, this was a fun book. Kings appeal firmly based on its humor. And it is a funny story. From snarky comments to hilarious moments, Nicholas Eames has the perfect comedic touch, keeping the laughs coming even when our heroes are bumbling from one near catastrophe to another.

But Kings is about more than just fun; it is about family, camaraderie, and real friendship. The kind of friendship which makes a grown man leave his beloved wife and daughter to follow along behind his best friend on a hopeless quest because . . . well, because he would do the same for him. And that true friendship is what shines through the jokes in this tale. This group of former badass mercs past their prime, burdened down by responsibility, and worn away by their many mistakes in life, but the one thing they have not forgotten nor are willing to discard the bonds of friendship they have with one another. This tie so strong they can tease one another unmercifully one moment, admit their stupidity the next, then laugh with one another when all hell is breaking loose around them. These guys are a band of brothers, and I, for one, will admit to enjoying all this bromance.

But every good fantasy story needs a good setting, and Kings provides a familiar yet intriguing one. From ancient empires to hair metal merc bands, from monster filled forests to politically charged palaces, from crowd filled arenas to high flying airships, Nicholas Eames takes normal fantasy norms, slaps his own brand on them and remolds them into something perfectly complimentary to this brutal yet humorous bromance.

As for any criticism, my only complaint would be the villain of the story. This bad dude with the rabbit ears just did nothing for me. Initially, I thought he was going to develop into something special, but it didn’t really happen. He wasn’t ominous or scary, nor was he especially silly or humorous. Rather, he just seemed to be there because a fantasy always needs a bad guy to be looming in the shadows ready to slap down the heroes. So while he didn’t ruin the fun, he did not add much either.

So are you looking for some fun in your fantasy? Dig the idea of old bands getting back together for reunion tours? Find yourself in need of some hardcore bromance? If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you need to read Kings of the Wyld quickly, because it will leave you with a smile on your face.

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.

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Posted in 4 Stars, Fantasy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments