Welcome to the Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme created by Books by Proxy. Join us every Friday as we pit cover against cover, and publisher against publisher, to find the best artwork in the literary universe.  If you want to join us next week, check out next week’s predetermined them, choose a book, compare two or more different covers available for that book, then name your favorite. A list of future weeks’ themes are available at Lynn’s Book Blog

This week’s theme is:

“Live in the saddle.  Die on the hog – a cover featuring riders!


YES!  A topic which is tailor made for fantasy fans everywhere.  I mean, there are tons of book covers with riders on them, but I already have the perfect cover in mind, so I’m going to coast this week.

Let us take a look at my pick!

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Sure, I’m cheating a bit this week, but I’m okay with that, because all these covers are damn amazing.

First off, I have to admit I love all these covers.  They are all eye-catching.  The Dinosaur Princess is just a little more striking to me though.  The dinosaur charging with razor sharp teeth opened to engorge its enemy is so visceral and menacing that I had to pick it.

So, do you agree with my pick?  Disagree?  Love them all?  Hate them all?  Let us know!

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Waiting on Wednesday is a meme I’ve participated in for years which lets readers share their excitement for books coming out soon, and this week the story I’m eagerly awaiting is . . .

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war cryWar Cry by Brian McClellan

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: (August 28, 2018)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length: 112 pages

On the high plains, war is life.

Teado has been a part of the war effort for as long as he can remember. His childhood was spent in the aircraft and ammunition factories until his power manifested. Now he is on the front lines, fighting the great war as one of the monstrous shapeshifting wizards that are all but extinct after decades of battle.

Behind enemy lines, Teado’s special operations platoon plays a deadly game of cat and mouse, sabotaging and demoralizing the enemy. But food is scarce. The enemy has pushed their main forces back further and their requests for resupply have gone unanswered. They will make one last dangerous bid for survival and, maybe, change the course of the war forever.

Purchase the book at Amazon

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Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday! This is a weekly feature hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, where a new top ten list hits the web every week!

The topic this time out is: Books That Make Me Want to Travel!

First off, I’m not much of a world traveler anymore.  Too old and comfortable, I guess.  But when I was younger there were stories which got my imagination running wild, making me want to jump in a car/train/plane and head off to discover something amazing.  And the following list includes the novels/series I recall being the catalysts for some of my desires to travel far and wide.

10. Bazil Broketail 

Sure, this world is fairly generic fantasy, but every novel skips around to new environments, introducing interesting concepts, making this place come to life.

9. A Man of His Word

Dave Duncan does an excellent job of following the familiar pattern of traveling across a huge world introducing readers to exotic places and exciting faces.

8. Dragonlance Legends

Back in the day, Dragonlance was a personal favorite probably because I loved the medieval setting.  This series explored so much more it even skipping through time.

7. The Belgariad

A whole series centered on traveling from country to country discovering a brand new culture and meeting different people.  As a teen, I wanted to be Garion.

6. Riftwar Saga

While Feist might not reinvent the traditional fantasy world in The Riftwar Saga, the way he sends his characters off into that world, introduces all these new places and different worlds, was comforting and always made me want to know more.

5. The Elric Saga

One thing you could always count on with a Moorcock book was exotic locals and weirdness galore.  Elric was always the best for this in my limited experience.

4. Darwath

I’ve always been a sucker for “portal” fantasy, so Barbara Hambly’s tale of normal people from earth being transported to a fantasy world gripped in an apocalyptic event was a wonderful trip into a place.

3. Wheel of Time 

One of the main reasons I loved this series when it first came out (and for many years thereafter) was the traditional quest journey across the world.  Sure, it was pretty standard stuff, but I enjoyed the journey.

2. Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever

Other than Tolkien I’ve always felt Donaldson did the very best job of crafting a quest narrative which allowed him to travel across a huge world and use the reveal of that world as one of the main plot elements.  Even Covenant couldn’t ruin the Land.

1. The Hobbit/The Lord of the Rings

Epic quests.  Wondrous lands.  Magical creatures.  This timeless fantasy series opened my eyes to the wide world which could be lurking out there somewhere, and it still makes em feel that even today.

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fall of angelsFall of Angels by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

Genre: Fantasy

Series: The Saga of Recluce #6

Publisher: Tor (July 15, 1997)

Author Information: Website

Length: 592 pages

My Rating: 4 stars

The Saga of Recluce is a series which has captivated readers for decades, spawning 19 books so far, and soon to include installment twenty, Outcasts of Order, which hits shelves on June 19, 2018. One of the main factors contributing to the longevity of the saga the novels’ variety, as L.E. Modesitt, Jr. has effortlessly shifted his stories from one time period to another in Recluce’s long history, focusing in on legendary characters and explaining historical facts. Fall of Angels arguably one of the best examples of this, as it explores the founding of the mythical, female ruled land in Candar.

The story begins in exciting science fiction fashion upon a starship of the Angels (Humans from the various “cold” planets of “Heaven”). The commanders of the predominately female crew (Only three men!) tapped into a ship wide neuronet (a mental command program which controls every aspect of the ships and its systems), frantically preparing for battle. Of primary importance are two people among this group: Captain Ryba, a no nonsense commander, and Engineer Nylan, who is a competent techie but definitely not a leader. These two are sexual partners but not really romantically involved, as it is very clear the Captain has no emotional attachment to Nylan and views him as a tool to satisfy her professional and personal needs.

Very quickly after our brief introduction, the Angels are part of a space battle with the forces of the Rationalists, or “Demons” (Humans from the “warmer” worlds of “Hell”). The conflict resulting in their ship being thrown into another dimension, where they take quick action to safely land in the icy mountains of an alien world.

There is only one problem with the new planet they arrive on: it is already inhabited by the remnants of a Rationalist colony. These people very patriarchal and feudal in nature, viewing the new arrivals as instant enemies who must be attacked and destroyed.

Quickly, the Angels discover they are stranded on this world; their technology slowly ceasing to operate. Ryba and Nylan taking up important roles in the titanic task of building up their refuge’s infrastructure and defenses before their technology completely dies. Added to their monumental tasks an even more difficult problem of how to control the “changes” some Angels have undergone by their arrival in this new dimension.

From this setup develops a story of the birth of a fledgling civilization. Mr. Modesitt writing what some reviewers have dubbed “crafting porn.” A huge amount of the narrative spent focusing on Captain Ryba, Engineer Nylan and their fellow Angels creating a colony from scratch, building the trappings of a low technology civilization, and setting up the social trappings of the new community. Simple things like having enough charcoal for the forge or finding enough food to eat or building a tower before winter adding real drama in the context of the plot.

Mixed into all that civilization creation is the main plot of the book: the clash between the patriarchal and matriarchal systems. It is actually quite brutal and harsh, yet also very enlightening. Modesitt taking the traditional gender roles of Western Civilization, twisting them inside out, and allowing the rival societal narratives to compete against one another. Ryba becoming the physical embodiment of the matriarchy, Nylan the physical embodiment of modern gender equality, and the rulers of the world the physical embodiment of the ancient patriarchy. The different representatives very believable avatars of their differing philosophies; their clashes quite dramatic, as a rousing philosophical debate lurks just beneath the surface of this fantasy tale.

As for any negative with the novel, the main one I had was the huge amount of page time spent on the establishment of the Angels’ colony. I certainly understood why all these actions needed to be taken to ensure the survival of the ship, but it was too much of a good thing for me personally. I can’t read about farming and furniture making but so long before my mind tends to wander to other things.

A lesser complaint but still one nonetheless is the characterization of Captain Ryba and Engineer Nylan. As the story progresses, the former’s single minded implement of a matriarchy grew tiresome. Her explanations for her discriminatory behavior half-hearted. Her rationalizations regarding her gender being held back in Angelic society ringing somewhat false. And Nylan really did not act as a counterpoint to Ryba. The fact he spent most of his time engrossed in his self-doubt and self-loathing, making no attempt to confront Ryba’s behavior, left the struggle between the two gender avatars without any true conflict.

All in all though, Fall of Angels was a fine Recluce adventure filled with detailed world building and a compelling look at the clash between the patriarchy and the matriarchy. If you are already a longtime reader of Modesitt’s saga or just someone interested in taking a peak at this fantastical place, then this legendary tale in the history of Recluce will certainly be an entertaining one which you shouldn’t pass on.

Lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that as part of the Recluce celebration Tor will be re-released the first three Saga of Recluce books October 2018 with stunning new artwork by artist Marc Simonetti. Check all the news about the saga at or take a look at the awesomeness below!


Purchase the book at Amazon

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the traitor godThe Traitor God by Cameron Johnston

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Angry Robot (June 5, 2018)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length: 400 pages

My Rating: 3 stars

The Traitor God by Cameron Johnston is best described as an action-packed video game come to life; a thrill ride of adrenaline, action, blood, and intrigue wrapped up in a story centered on one man’s pursuit of justice. Not every second of the book will dazzle you, but overall you will find yourself having a fun time and wanting more, more, MORE!

Edrin Walker is a liar, a scoundrel, and a damn dangerous magician. His past misdeeds and a deal with the rulers of his home city of Setharis having sent him into ten years of exile; these years spent wandering around the wilds, hiding from daemons who constantly pursue him and attempting to find some form of excitement to pass the time. His dangerous and dull existence only made tolerable by the knowledge that his absence from Setharis keeps his friends Lynas and Charra and their daughter Layla safe.

Then tragedy strikes!

Edrin and Lynas have always shared a magical connection, able to feel each other, sense the other’s joys and pains, even catch fleeting visions from each other’s eyes. And this is generally a good thing until the night Lynas is killed!

Without warning, Edrin is jarred by a vision of his best friends frantic flight from a daemon; the creature stalking Lynas down the alleys of Setharis, finally cornering and taking him down. A mysterious man then appearing to torture and skin Lynas alive. The final thoughts of the dying man that he must get a message to Edrin, warn him of what is going on in the city.

Brutal shock. Bottomless grief. Towering rage. And a touch of deep fear and confusion fills Edrin. His first thoughts that Setharis’s masters have broken their part of the old bargain, allowed harm to befall his friend, even though he has stayed away. The next is an overpowering sense that Charra and Layla will be in danger and that he must go to them, protect them. And, finally, Edrin wonders what exactly was his friend doing to attract the attention of such a heartless killer and whether his past deeds were the real cause of Lynas’s death.

Naturally, the rest of the book chronicles Edrin’s return to Setharis, his search for Lynas’s family, his investigation into the murder of his friend, and a descent into mysterious matters which will reveal the past to Edrin and cause him to question many things he thought he knew.

As I alluded to in the opening, The Traitor God is an action-packed thrill ride where the author drops you down into the middle of the maelstrom, doesn’t waste time explaining every facet of the story, and expects you to ride the wave of controlled chaos as it ebbs and flows from the beginning to the end. Or to put it another way, there is never a dull moment in this story. And it mostly works, providing an exciting tale filled with mystery, twists, magic, and loads of fantastical mayhem.

The main triumph of the novel would have to be the main character, Edrin Walker, whom I can’t say I really liked very much at the beginning of the story. Sure, he had some charm and a mysterious feel to him, but his egotistical nature was a bit too much for me. However, Cameron Johnson actually takes this guy on a real character arc, starting at the aforementioned egotistical loner start line before steadily molding him into a much deeper, more complex, and interesting character by the end.

The only real complaint I’d make toward the story would be the tendency of the author to tell not show, especially in the beginning of the book. I realize it is difficult to resist the urge to cast out proverbial life preservers in the form of paragraphs of explanation to readers after you’ve thrown them into the middle of a story maelstrom, but if you’ve determined to start in the middle of the action, you really have to let your audience survive on their own. Trying to split the difference between fans of slow, methodical plots and sink or swim lovers only serves to frustrate both types; neither of whom feel you’ve totally committed to their preferred narrative pace.

Overall, The Traitor God is a damn fine read. Sure, it is more oriented toward action lovers, having a tendency to skim over intricate plot or subtle character development in favor of more bloody fights or magical explosions, but if you are craving a fast paced, magical fantasy with plenty of action and more than a few twists, then this novel will not disappoint you.

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

Purchase the book at Amazon

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Welcome to the Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme created by Books by Proxy. Join us every Friday as we pit cover against cover, and publisher against publisher, to find the best artwork in the literary universe.  If you want to join us next week, check out next week’s predetermined them, choose a book, compare two or more different covers available for that book, then name your favorite. A list of future weeks’ themes are available at Lynn’s Book Blog

This week’s theme is:

“Raining Cats and Dogs – a cover featuring a stormy sky!

God, what is it with these difficult topics?

Really, stormy sky.  How many speculative fiction books have that as a cover?

Readers of fantasy like cool warriors posing in intimidating fashion with big swords or axes.  Scifi fans like covers with amazing alien visages or awe-inspiring planets with starships.  Stormy skies?  Not so much really.  At least, I can’t recall any right this second.

There are a lot of spec fiction novels with stormy skies, you say.  Huh, guess I need to take a look.  Let’s see if you are right.

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when the heavens fall 3

First off, I actually like the angry face in the stormy sky.  It is unusual.  But the main reason I picked this cover and the book is because I really like this series by Marc Turner and always try to find a way to encourage others to give it a try!

So, do you agree with my pick?  Disagree?  Love them all?  Hate them all?  Let us know!

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Waiting on Wednesday is a meme I’ve participated in for years which lets readers share their excitement for books coming out soon, and this week the novel I’m eagerly awaiting is . . .

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Foundryside RD4 clean flatFoundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett.

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Founders #1

Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books (August 23, 2018)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length: 400 pages

In a city that runs on industrialized magic, a secret war will be fought to overwrite reality itself–the first in a dazzling new fantasy series from City of Stairs author Robert Jackson Bennett.

Sancia Grado is a thief, and a damn good one. And her latest target, a heavily guarded warehouse on Tevanne’s docks, is nothing her unique abilities can’t handle.

But unbeknownst to her, Sancia’s been sent to steal an artifact of unimaginable power, an object that could revolutionize the magical technology known as scriving. The Merchant Houses who control this magic–the art of using coded commands to imbue everyday objects with sentience–have already used it to transform Tevanne into a vast, remorseless capitalist machine. But if they can unlock the artifact’s secrets, they will rewrite the world itself to suit their aims.

Now someone in those Houses wants Sancia dead, and the artifact for themselves. And in the city of Tevanne, there’s nobody with the power to stop them.

To have a chance at surviving—and at stopping the deadly transformation that’s under way—Sancia will have to marshal unlikely allies, learn to harness the artifact’s power for herself, and undergo her own transformation, one that will turn her into something she could never have imagined.

Purchase the book at Amazon

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Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday! This is a weekly feature hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, where a new top ten list hits the web every week!

The topic this week is one I struggle with all the time: Books I think I DNF’D too soon!

Many of you know I’m an obsessive completionist about my reading; I try really, really hard to always finish any book I have taken the time to dive into.  Hell, I even have a shelf on my Goodreads account named “Try Again Later” because when I do stop reading a book I feel so bad I promise myself I’ll come back to it later and finish it!  All that means I don’t have a lot of DNF’d novels.  The ones I do have I already feel like I gave up on them too soon.  So this is a tough list for me to put together, but I’m going to try to focus on the books I’ve DNF’d in last few years, explaining why I did so, and whether I felt bad about DNF-ing them or not.

the darkness that comes before10. The Darkness That Comes Before

For those who do not know this already, I tried to read this book every year for three years in a row.  Every time I’d get through a few chapters I’d wonder to myself why everyone loved this story so much and put it to the side.  Finally I gave up.  Bakker just isn’t for me, I suppose.  Not sorry I DNF-ed it!

Purchase The Darkness that Comes Before at Amazon

golden age9. Golden Age and Other Stories

I heard so much about Naomi Novik’s acclaimed Temeraire series that I wanted to give it a try, and this book of short stories seemed like a perfect way to do so.  Wrong!  Maybe, the fact I had no emotional investment in this world or any of the characters was the problem, but I really didn’t feel bad DNF-ing this one.

Purchase Golden Age and Other Stories at Amazon

the path of flames8. The Path of Flames

Kick ass cover (though it is very reminiscent of Michael Moorcock’s Elric) and an intriguing premise plus a vocal fan base made me want to give this indie series a go.  I did, reading a large majority of the story on my family vacation last summer.  It just wasn’t for me.  Too generic, I’d say.  And I don’t feel bad I DNF-ed it.

Purchase The Path of Flames at Amazon

the alchemists of loom7. The Alchemists of Loom

I probably can’t sum up my reason for DNF-ing this novel any better than I did on Goodreads many months ago, so please forgive me when I quote myself, “It read like a YA masquerading as an epic fantasy to me. I’m sure others will adore it, but it just wasn’t what I was looking for.”  No, I don’t feel bad for DNF-ing it.

Purchase The Alchemists of Loom at Amazon

the palace job6. The Palace Job

A caper fantasy?  A humorous, heist tale?  Yeah, I think I can call it either of those.  And, honestly, I was real excited to pick this up a few years ago.  It really seemed like the light, fun fantasy I’d been craving.  Alas, it wasn’t to be, and the slapstick laugh-fest didn’t find a place in my heart, but did ensure itself a place on this list. Again, I don’t feel bad DNF_ing this book.

Purchase The Palace Job at Amazon

the forgetting moon5. The Forgetting Moon

Gritty and brutal.  Huge casts of characters.  Epic in scope.  A complex plot.  All of those things convincing me to give this weighty tome a go.  Can’t say exactly why, but after reading around one hundred pages of Durfee’s tale nothing captured my attention, so I DNF-ed it.  I do wonder if I abandoned it too soon though.

Purchase The Forgetting Moon at Amazon

a throne of bones4. A Throne of Bones

This was an epic fantasy with a touch of magic, a good bit of Christian faith, centered upon a Romanesque Empire and a prominent family dealing with internal struggles and warring goblins. It wasn’t a bad story by any means, but it was rather slow developing.  I was about 58% in when I called it quits, and I do wonder if I DNF-ed it too soon.

Purchase A Throne of Bones at Amazon

Doom of dragonback3. The Doom of Dragonback 

This is a side tale of the legendary war of the elves and dwarfs in the Warhammer Time of Legends.  It seemed like a can’t miss after I enjoyed the War of Vengeance trilogy, but this one did not resonant with me, being very insular and narrow in scope.  I definitely will be returning to it another time, so I do feel like I might have abandoned it too soon.

Purchase The Doom of Dragonback at Amazon

trial-of-intentions2. Trial of Intentions

Having enjoyed the Author’s Definitive Edition of The Unremembered, I couldn’t wait to jump into this follow-up.  What immediately struck me was a change in the tone of the story, a focus on new characters, and a shift into more introspective storytelling.  Didn’t work for me, so I set this one to the side.  I do wonder if maybe I should have given this one more time to develop.

Purchase Trial of Intentions at Amazon

empire in black and gold1. Empire in Black and Gold 

Whatever the reason, this book and I never hit it off. I thought the prologue was great: combat, intrigue, deaths, and a hopeless fight against a powerful enemy, then the actual story began. Two hundred pages of world building and four new main characters whom I never cared about. Perhaps if I kept reading I could have gotten to the exciting parts, but I gave up.  Feel bad about DNF-ing it now, because Bookstooge always tells me how great the series becomes.

Purchase Empire in Black and Gold at Amazon

End of list.  And please feel free to tell me why I should give these books another try!

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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. While I try to fool myself into being excited about the promise of a new week and the continuation of the regular grind, deep down, I’m not, so I’m going to escape dreary reality by finally reading a book I’ve been waiting for!

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wrath of empireWrath of Empire by Brian McClellan

Genre: Fantasy – Flintlock

Series: Gods of Blood and Powder #2

Publisher: Orbit (March 6, 2018)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length:  624 pages

The country is in turmoil. With the capital city occupied, half a million refugees are on the march, looking for safety on the frontier, accompanied by Lady Flint’s soldiers. But escaping war is never easy, and soon the battle may find them, whether they are prepared or not.

Back in the capital, Michel Bravis smuggles even more refugees out of the city. But internal forces are working against him. With enemies on all sides, Michael may be forced to find help with the very occupiers he’s trying to undermine.

Meanwhile, Ben Styke is building his own army. He and his mad lancers are gathering every able body they can find and searching for an ancient artifact that may have the power to turn the tides of war in their favor. But what they find may not be what they’re looking for.

Purchase at Amazon.

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Welcome to the Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme created by Books by Proxy. Join us every Friday as we pit cover against cover, and publisher against publisher, to find the best artwork in the literary universe.  If you want to join us next week, check out next week’s predetermined them, choose a book, compare two or more different covers available for that book, then name your favorite. A list of future weeks’ themes are available at Lynn’s Book Blog

This week’s theme is:

“clinging and invasive – a cover featuring creeping vines!

Creeping vines.  Huh?  Nothing comes to mind, but I’m sure there are some book covers out there in speculative fiction which has some of these.  But let’s see what I came up with after doing a little research.

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So, do you agree with my picks?  Disagree?  Love them all?  Hate them all?  Let us know!

Posted in Friday Face-Off | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments