SCOURGE

ScourgeScourge by Gail Z. Martin

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Darkhurst #1

Publisher: Solaris (July 11, 2017)

Author Information:Website | Twitter

Length: 400 pages

My Rating: 4 stars

Gail Z. Martin’s newest novel Scourge is a fantasy version of Supernatural.  This story combining the familial relationship of brothers with monster hunting and more than a dash of political machinations and vile blood magic to craft yet another fine fantasy from this prolific writer.  And while it does contain quite a bit of world building, it is sure to satisfy Martin’s fans and create more than a few new ones.

The linchpins of the tale are the Valmonde brothers; these three, young men having inherited the family business when their mother was horribly killed and their father died a mysterious death.  Working as guild undertakers in the city-state of Ravenwood, Corran, Rigan, and Kell use rituals, religious ceremonies and more than a little magic to set the souls of the dead free and keep them from returning to the living as ghouls.  But most of their time is spent arguing with one another, dealing with their personal issues, and desperately trying to make enough money to pay bribes to the city guard, yet still have enough left over to survive another day.

As for the brothers’ home city of Ravenwood, it isn’t exactly what it seems from outside its gilded gates.  Certainly, it is a civilized land ruled by merchant princes, mayors, and powerful guilds, where the business of trade and the making of gold rules all, but even here there is a worsening plague of creatures terrorizing the citizens.  Ghouls lurking in the shadows; other — even more foul — monsters springing up to maim and kill, while the city guard seemingly does nothing.  All of which causes the Valmonde brothers to become embroiled in the dangerous business of monster hunting and forbidden magic.

Intertwined with our three brothers tale is the doings of the Lord Mayor Machison.  This devious, power-hungry man about as despicable as one can get.  His scheming, political maneuvering and callous use of power hiding a greater secret, one which involves trade and power, wealth and magic!

As always, the strength of Gail Z. Martin’s writing is her ability to craft likable main characters; people who draw you in and demand that you follow along with them through the story.  The Valmonde brothers fitting this description perfectly.  Corran, Rigan, and Kell very realistic people who have strengths and flaws, dreams and failures, which transform them into living, breathing people, whom a reader will learn to care for and desperate hope succeed.

The other highlight of the book is the different flavor of medieval society presented.  Yes, it is still European in nature, but instead of the fairly pedestrian feudal monarchies of so many fantasy offerings, Scourge‘s world is ruled by merchant princes, revolves around trade pacts and includes powerful guilds with intricate politics involved in every facet of life.  It is difficult for the author to set this all up, especially since it isn’t juicy stuff, but once Gail Z. Martin lays a firm foundation for this society in the first half of the book it really becomes very enjoyable experiencing something a bit different.

The only issue I had with Scourge was the length of the narrative.  Many times the expositions on the world and its economic system seemed a bit too lengthy.  This was more apparent during the Lord Mayor’s sections of the book than the Valmonde brothers, but it reared its head quite often.  I completely understand why the author had to spend time explaining this unique city-state, its rulers, and the guilds, but I wish there had been a more organic, exciting way of handling it.

Undertakers. Guilds. Merchant princes. Monsters. Magic. And three brothers trying to live a normal life while caught up in the whole mess. Gail Z. Martin’s Scourge will entertain and excite readers, especially those who love stories driven by well developed main characters.

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

Purchase the book at Amazon

Posted in Fantasy, 4 Stars | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

WAITING ON WEDNESDAY

 

an alchemy of masques and mirrorsAn Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors by   Curtis Craddock

Genre: Fantasy — Steampunkesque

Series: The Risen Kingdoms #1

Publisher: Tor Books (August 29, 2017)

Author Information: FacebookTwitter

Length: 384 pages

A polymath princess and her faithful musketeer must unravel the plot of a thousand-year-old madman in order to save an a foreign kingdom from a disastrous civil war.

Caelum is an uninhabitable gas giant like Jupiter. High above it are the Risen Kingdoms, occupying flying continents called cratons. Remnants of a shattered world, these vast disks of soaring stone may be a thousand miles across. Suspended by magic, they float in the upper layers of Caelum’s clouds.

Born with a deformed hand and utter lack of the family’s blood magic, Isabelle is despised by her cruel father. She is happy to be neglected so she can secretly pursue her illicit passion for math and science. Then, a surprising offer of an arranged royal marriage blows her life wide open and launches her and Jeane-Claude on an adventure that will take them from the Isle des Zephyrs in l’Empire Céleste to the very different Kingdom of Aragoth, where magic deals not with blood, but with mirrors.

Purchase the book at Amazon

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BEST FANTASY COVERS VOL. 3

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It’s that time again! Time to highlight some of my favorite fantasy covers!

Actually, it has been a long time since I did one of these posts.  They were one of my favorite things to do when I first started the blog way back when, and I am always surprised by how many page views those old Best (and Worst) Fantasy Cover posts still get all these years later.  I guess it just goes to show people really do judge books by their covers!

Anyway, I give you ten covers which have captured my attention lately.

10. Princess of Blood by Tom Lloyd

princess of blood

 9. Soldiers’ Redemption by M.R. Anthony

soldiers' redemption

8. The Empire of the Dead by Phil Tucker

the empire of the dead

7. An Arrow Against the Wind by P.H. Solomon

an arrow against the wind

6. For Steam and Country by Jon Del Arroz

for steam and country

5. A Throne of Bones by Vox Day & Theodore Beale

a throne of bones

4. Paternus by Dyrk Ashton

Paternus-cover-2

3. Revenant Winds by Mitchell Hogan

revenant winds

2. Seventh Decimate by Stephen R. Donaldson

seventh decimate

1. An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors by Curtis Craddock

an alchemy of masques and mirrors

 

So what do you think?  Like them?  Hate them?  Indifferent?  Have some you’d like to add.  Please tell us, because we know fantasy covers bring out the pundit in all of us.  🙂

 

Posted in Best Covers, Cover Lover, Fantasy, Fantasy, Lists | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

TWELVE DAYS

twelve daysTwelve Days by Steven Barnes

Genre: Paranormal Thriller

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Tor Books (June 27, 2017)

Author Information: Website 

Length: 368 pages

My Rating: 3 stars

Never having read any story penned by Steven Barnes, I didn’t know exactly what to expect from Twelve Days, especially since it was a paranormal thriller (which isn’t my usual reading genre).  After finishing this fast-paced, taunt narrative, I now have to say I’m sold on this author and am anxious to pick up more from him.

The world is in crisis! The globe held hostage by a terrorist group which threatens (then begins) an apocalypse. Each day a set number of people on a “Dead List” to meet their end. The victims powerful world figures. The rising death toll and lack of understanding on how it is occurring and how to to stop it causing tensions to mount across the globe.

Attempting to live a normal life is journalist Olympia Dorsey. Her whole world until now centered on raising her teenage daughter Nicki and her autistic son Hannibal. Olympia’s deepest desire to discover a cure for her son’s condition or, at least, a way to improve his life.  The mysterious Madame Gupta, head instructor of a school of martial arts, holding out the promise of making Hannibal’s life better.  But is this invitation one of hope or horror?

Lending aid to Olympia is her neighbor (and former lover), Terry Nichols; this ex-Special Forces soldier a father figure for young Hannibal. And while Terry is far from a perfect guy, his strong bond with Hannibal has him reevaluating his choices, contemplating his future (even as he joins his old military friends on a heist) and willing to protect Olympia’s family from the danger which pursues them.

Like all thrillers, Twelve Days is a lightning quick ride through a mine field; the characters rushing headlong from one exciting sequences to another. There is mystery, suspense, full out action, intrigue, and nail-biting sequences mixed with more than expected character development. Steven Barnes’ admixture of a weird supernatural element adding an otherworldly element to an international thriller, but the story of Olympia, Nicki, Hannibal, and Terry grounding this tale in the real world. And for the type of story it was, this book was a fun-filled, emotional ride.

The only criticism I have with the narrative is the global crisis. It was ominous, mysterious, and, unfortunately, undeveloped for my tastes. Perhaps the supernatural element of the crisis is what left me indifferent, since it seemed a bit out of place in a modern thriller, but whatever the specific cause, I never felt the danger of global genocide was very real. Rather, the whole affair seemed more a grand hoax or supernatural conspiracy theory. Perhaps others will find it more compelling, but it just did not work for me.

Twelve Days is a roller coaster thrill ride. The fact that it was built around a family and their love made it even more filling. And if you are a fan of modern thrillers with paranormal twists, then this novel by Steven Barnes is one that you should not miss.

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

Purchase the book at Amazon

Posted in 3 Stars, thriller | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

PUTIN’S GAMBIT

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Since I am always looking for ways to bring books to my readers, I jumped at the chance to participate in a book spotlight for Lou Dobbs and James O. Born’s international thriller Putin’s Gambit.  Thanks to the good people over at Forge Books we are not only spotlighting the novel but giving away one copy of the book to a winner in the US or Canada.  More about that a little later.  First, let us take a closer look at Putin’s Gambit and its authors.

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PUTIN'S GAMBITPutin’s Gambit by Lou Dobbs & James O. Born

Genre: Thriller

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Forge Books (June 20, 2017)

Authors Information: Lou Dobbs’ Twitter | Facebook
James O. Born’s Website

Length: 320 pages

While Europe comes apart, the bellicose dictator makes his move . . .

Adjusting to civilian life has not been easy for former Marine Derek Walsh. As he navigates a brutal job on Wall Street and a challenging romance, he wonders if he could be doing more with his life. When an inexplicable $200 million dollar money transfer is made on his computer, he is thrust into the world of international terror, and the global economy is knocked off its hinges.

On the other side of the Atlantic, a dangerous alliance has formed. Radical Islamists and Russian extremists have set the wheels in motion for Russia to assert its power in Europe.  The US President has proven to be weak on foreign policy, the military is stretched too thin, and Vladimir Putin judges this to be the time for Russia to regain its Soviet Empire.  Troops mass on the Estonian border, waiting for the order to move.

The FBI believes Walsh was involved in the money transfer and a group of Russians are intent on killing him. As New Yorkers become outraged upon learning of the illegal money transfer and the world economy crashes after a series of terrorist attacks, Walsh and his Marine buddies are the only ones who can keep the world from spinning off its axis.

Combing Dobbs’ years of experience covering the news on Lou Dobbs Tonight and other programs, with James O. Born’s skill for creating books filled with action and intrigue, PUTIN’S GAMBIT presents an all-too-believable what-if scenario of the reaches of Russia’s power, and the dangers that could be lurking in the future.

“PUTIN’S GAMBIT is a fun ride that also paints a plausible and timely scenario that I just hope remains a work of fiction, and does not instead show up as fact in tomorrow’s news!”

—Mark Greaney, New York Times bestselling author

“Riveting, powerful, thoroughly enjoyable.”

—Col. David Hunt, New York Times bestselling co-author of Without Mercy and Fox News Military Commentator

“Delving deep past today’s headlines, Lou Dobbs and James O. Born craft a captivating tale that’s at once thrilling and chilling.”

—W.E.B. Griffin & William E. Butterworth IV, New York Times bestselling authors of the Clandestine Operations series

“An engaging, knowing thriller of the first rank…this is a novel worth moving to the top of your reading list. A stand-out!”

—Ralph Peters, New York Times bestselling author of The Damned of Petersburg

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                                                         AUTHORS INFORMATION

LOU DOBBS, the host of Fox Business News’ Lou Dobbs Tonight, is a legendary broadcaster, bestselling author, and one of the most respected and insightful voices on politics, economics, society, and business.

JAMES O. BORN is an award-winning author who has published articles on history and Florida. He is a former U.S. Drug Enforcement Agent and is currently a Special Agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. He is the author of several novels, including Scent of Murder and Border War, the latter of which he also co-authored with Lou Dobbs.

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                                                         GIVEAWAY DETAILS

With thanks to Forge Books, this giveaway will be for one copy of Putin’s Gambit. This giveaway is open to residents of the US and CANADA. To enter, check out the Rafflecopter giveaway.  The winner will be randomly selected, then be notified by email of the great victory!

Posted in Giveaway | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

MORMAMA

mormamaMormama by Kit Reed

Genre: Gothic Horror

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Tor Books (May 30, 2017)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length: 288 pages

My Rating: 3 stars

A man with no memories. A creepy house. Family secrets. Haunting spirits. All of it set in a crumbling section of the southern city of Jacksonville, Florida. And if this sounds like Southern Gothic to you, then you are absolutely right, because Kit Reed has perfectly set up just that type of haunting story, one which will make you huddle down deeper under the covers and desperately try not to jump at every shadow in your own bedroom.

It all starts with Dell. This drifter having no memory of who he is, where he comes from, or even his own name. Dell merely a moniker he picked for himself. But when he gets his clothes from the hospital, he finds an index card with an unfamiliar address upon it, as well as a flash drive.

Certain the address will somehow spark his memories Dell shows up at a crumbling mansion in a section of Jacksonville which was once an affluent area, but is now well on its way to oblivion. Sneaking in, Dell is quickly discovered by one of the residents: teenager Theo. This young man making friends with our lost drifter and helping him set up camp in the home.

As he quickly gets acclimated to his new home, Dell finds out that a trio of evil Aunts run this household. Ivy, Iris, and Rosemary the matriarchs of the family with Theo and his mother Lane mere temporary visitors, who have taken refuge here after being abandoned by Theo’s father. But no matter the length of their residence, all of these people are caught up in the evil which has befallen generations of their family. The signs pointing to the house (or some evil within it) being the cause!

Told through multiple points of view (Dell, Theo, Ivy, and Lane to name the main ones), Mormama is a short book which actually takes a while to fully develop. The narrative spending a great deal of time creating the mood, developing the environment, and introducing characters. This allows Kit Reed to fully flesh out everyone (Each person endowed with their own unique personality, quirks, and desires.), but it certainly slows down the pacing of the narrative and did result in a bit of information repetition. However, for me personally, I felt the negatives of the multiple POVs was more than made up for with the well developed characters, because, as I always say, characters are what make or break a book, and with Mormama I found several to keep me turning the pages.

Even with characters I could empathize with and care about, this novel did misstep a bit with the plot itself. The premise of this creepy tale was wonderful, captured my imagination, and made me want to see where it all led, but along the way from beginning to end, the true horrific potential of Mormama never really materialized. Sure, it had its moments, but I was left wishing it had been better. Better resolution of plots. Better ultimate explanations. Better conclusion. None of these things were bad. Rather I just wished they had lived up to their full potential.

All in all, Mormama was an entertaining read that did an amazing job capturing the true atmosphere of Southern Gothic, gifted readers with fully developed and compelling characters, and kept the haunting chills coming until the end. No, it didn’t fully realize my lofty expectations, but then again, few books ever do. So I’d encourage others to take a long look this novel by Kit Reed, because it might be exactly the story you need to read.

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

Purchase the book at Amazon

Posted in 3 Stars, horror | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

FRIDAY FACE OFF JULY 7, 2017

friday-face-off

Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a new weekly meme hosted 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.

This week’s theme is:  “ All that is gold does not glitter.  A cover which features gold!”

I thought long and hard about this topic.  I wanted to reveal an unexpected cover, but I kept coming back to the first book which came to mind.  And, finally, I decided to stop fighting the feeling and just go with it already.

THE HOBBIT by J.R.R. TOLKIEN


COVER A

THE HOBBIT


COVER B

HOBBIT1


COVER C

hobbit2


COVER D

hobbit3


COVER E

HOBBIT4

 


AND THE WINNER IS . . .


drumroll

This really wasn’t a hard decision for me, because I have always loved Cover A.  It is a personal favorite of mine; a classic fantasy covers which I feel perfectly captures the essence of  Tolkien’s story.

 

THE HOBBIT

Which would you choose?  Why?

And, why not join in next week with your own selections.

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INDIE WEDNESDAY: C.T. PHIPPS

Indie-WednesdayAlong my reading journey, I’ve made a conscious decision to include self-published and small press works in my reading schedule.  But it is difficult to know where to start: So many new authors and books to examine to find the perfect fit for my tastes.  And to help others with this same problem, I’ve decided to turn my Indie Wednesday feature into a day where writers can introduce themselves and their work to everyone.

With this in mind, I’m turning over the blog to C. T. Phipps, author of Lucifer’s Star, who has been nice enough to submit a guest post for everyone’s reading enjoyment.

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GRIMDARK AND INDIE SCI FI/ FANTASY

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A friend of mine recently read my latest work, Lucifer’s Star, and complimented me on my world-building as well as characterization. He talked to me about how much he loved the setting and was fascinated by a lot of the in-fighting between factions plus the main character’s angst over how he’d done terrible things in the galactic war before realizing none of it was justified. Then he told he didn’t want to read any more of the series.

lucifer's star

This, understandably, surprised me so I asked him why. His response? “Well, I just don’t get why you’ve jumped on the grimdark bandwagon. Let some light into your stories.” That amused me more than I expected since I wrote it, very deliberately, to be a grimdark space opera novel. Something my friend, until he read my book, would have said was an oxymoron since he associated space opera with light breezy Flash Gordon tales (and apparently forgot Dune existed).

What is grimdark? This is a topic of some controversy but it’s term which has entered internet parlance for “dark and gritty science fiction or fantasy with morally ambiguous protagonists.” A genre popularized by George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, Joe Abercrombie’s The First Law trilogy, Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire, and Andrjez Sapkowski’s Witcher series. The term, itself, comes from Warhammer 40K‘s opening narration: “In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war.”

But why write in grimdark? What is it about the genre which has attracted so many indie writers like Tim Marquitz, Seth Skorkowsky, Kenny Soward, Rob J. Hayes, M.L. Spencer, Anna Smith, and myself? I think it’s a combination of factors. However, one of the most important ones is the fact grimdark is an excellent opportunity to distinguish yourself in a field which has traditionally been oversaturated with softer fantasy and sci-fi tales.

Fantasy has, due to the nature of the market, historically been confined to exist within certain parameters that have limited it. What made George R.R. Martin’s work so excellent was that it broke down barriers which had long since been considered inviolate. Good triumphing over evil, nobility being inherently better than commoners, and the antagonists being inherently worse than the protagonists. By removing those restrictions, more variety in stories can be told without having to fall into pre-existing patterns.

Distinguishing your writing by being willing to “color outside the lines” of genre is something that is especially needed because the nature of the market has changed dramatically in the past decade. The existence of Amazon.com, print on demand, ebooks, and online marketing in general means that books no longer have the same limited shelf-life they used to. No longer do we need to worry about only the most famous books like The Lord of the Rings or Dune remaining in print forever.

Indeed, the benefit of systems like Kindle and Audible mean that older books have a new lease on life. Brian Lumley’s Titus Crow series was published in the Eighties but recently received a re-release in audiobook form by Crossroad Press. As long as it remains up for sale, which will be as long as the internet exists, new fans will be able to enjoy the benefits of the system.

What does this have to do with grimdark? It means that now is a great time to be an independent author since there’s more chance for exposure and making a living as a writer than ever. Unfortunately, it also means that there’s more competition than ever for the online market. You need to distinguish yourself and bring something new to the table. Very often, that means taking existing genres and subjecting them under a microscope to see the problems inherent in the genre’s assumptions. Grimdark having been born out of a deconstruction of traditional fantasy tropes.

Lucifer’s Star was a space opera set in humanity’s distant future with a lot of Westeros influence (feuding houses, duels, deconstructions of heroism, and noble heroes) but taking cues from the war-torn depressing future found in Warhammer 40K. My friend, notably, gave me a perfect tagline for it when he called it, “Like if you made an R-rated Star Wars.”

SPACE OPERAI focused on the fact space opera often made the conflicts struggles to the end between evil empires and plucky rebels without ever stopping to think about the dark side (no pun intended) of both. Real life wars usually end in peace treaties rather than the complete destruction of the enemy so I wanted to write from the perspective of what the soldiers on the “wrong side of history” thought. I also wanted to take some of the polish off the guys who merrily slaughtered their way through the enemies to see how their black and white worldview had flaws. Also, isn’t ownership of androids slavery? In the end, I was as much Aliens and Blade Runner as Star Wars. I just kept the laser swords and thrilling starfighter battles.

Grimdark, for me, was a chance to be part of a developing genre. There’s plenty of dark and gritty books out there as well as dark and gritty fantasy. However, grimdark is a relatively recent phenomenon which is building on the works of the past to create a genre where the darkness and ambiguity is the point.

The rules of grimdark are still in flux because it’s something that’s still being nailed down. People draw from inspirations ranging from other grimdark authors to other genres like horror or historical fiction. Eventually, things will become a bit more concrete on what is grimdark or not but the ambiguity is part of the appeal now. Grimdark authors can get in at the ground floor of a new movement in fiction which is getting ever more popular.

It’s not alone either.

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lucifer's starCassius Mass was the greatest star pilot of the Crius Archduchy. He fought fiercely for his cause, only to watch his nation fall to the Interstellar Commonwealth. It was only after that he realized the side he’d been fighting for was the wrong one. Now a semi-functional navigator on an interstellar freight hauler, he tries to hide who he was and escape his past. Unfortunately, some things refuse to stay buried and he ends up conscripted by the very people who destroyed his homeland.

LUCIFER’S STAR is the first novel of the Lucifer’s Star series, a dark science fiction space opera set in a world of aliens, war, politics, and slavery.

Buy Links: Amazon

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ct phippsAUTHOR INFO: C.T Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. 

He’s written Agent G, Cthulhu Armageddon, Lucifer’s Star, and The Supervillainy Saga.

Author Links:

Website
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads

Posted in Author Spotlights, Guest Post, Indie Wednesday | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

BEST READS OF 2017 (SO FAR!)

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This year has went by quickly for me.  That is good in many ways but also very sad, as my kids are getting older by the minute.  But, thankfully, I have discovered several amazing books along the way.  So in an effort to look back on those reading experiences (and give my favorites a little hype), I decided to post this list of my top ten reads of the year — so far. So, sit back and get ready to discover some great books!

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10.  the eternal kingdomThe Eternal Kingdom by Ben Peek

Genre: Fantasy — Epic

Series: The Children Trilogy #3

Publisher: Pan Mcmillan (October 1, 2017)

Author Information: Website | Twitter 

Length: 436 pages

Complex, diverse, and intense.  Ben Peek has concluded his amazing trilogy with a powerful finale, one which is emotionally gripping and hard to adequately describe.  It is so hard to put into words how realistic and multi-layered this saga is that I’ve yet to finish my review of it.  I’m still searching for the perfect words.

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9. eagle and empireEagle and Empire by Alan Smale

Genre: Alternate History

Series: Hesperian Trilogy #3

Publisher: Del Rey (May 16, 2016)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length: 656 pages

This stunning alternate history saga by Alan Smale comes to an explosive conclusion with Romans, Mongols, and Native Americans locked in a struggle for dominance over North America.  The other two books in the trilogy were merely the elaborate setup for this rousing tale.

border8. ScourgeScourge by Gail Z. Martin

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Darkhurst

Publisher: Solaris (July 11, 2017)

Author Information:Website | Twitter

Length: 400 pages

Undertakers.  Guilds.  Merchant princes.  Monsters.  Blood magic.  And three brothers caught up in the whole mess.  Gail Z. Martin has produced yet another wonderful fantasy where your love of the characters themselves are what makes you keep turning the pages.

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7.  THE COLLAPSING EMPIREThe Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: The Collapsing Empire #1

Publisher: Tor (March 21, 2016)

Author Information: Website | Twitter 

Length:  336 pages

John Scalzi returns to stellar form here.  This science fiction story filled with epic space action, cool ideas, political machinations, jaded characters, and the ever present Scalzi’s dry wit and sarcasm.  It might not turn every reader on, but I personally believe every reader should give it a try.

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6. lucifer's starLucifer’s Star by C.T. Phipps & Michael Suttkus

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: Lucifer’s Star #1

Publisher: Mystique Press (April 27, 2017)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length: 300 pages

“Lucifer’s Star is damn fine space opera!”  I wrote that a couple months ago after reading C.T. Phipps and Michael Suttkus’ science fiction extravaganza, and I feel the exact same way now.  This is a novel every fan of Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, or other sci-fi series should not miss out on.  Go buy it today!

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5. 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

This humorous, tongue-in-cheek look at over-the-hill mercenaries took me completely by surprise this year.  And it was a good surprise!  Kings of the Wyld the feel good hit of 2017.  Honestly, you will never have so much fun reading about a band getting back together as you do this group.

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4. evil is a matterEvil Is A Matter of Perspective
edited by Adrian Collins

Genre: Fantasy — Grimdark

Series: Anthology

Publisher: Grimdark Magazine (June 16, 2017)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length: 522 pages

The ultimate anthology of grimdark!  That is how I think of this book, and I believe every lover of despicable, rotten, violent characters must, MUST read this anthology.  It really is that good from top to bottom.

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3. 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

Michael Fletcher is among my favorite writers. I loved the fantasy madness of his Beyond Redemption series, and I loved this cyberpunk adventure. It really seems that the guy can’t write a bad story.  At least, I haven’t found one yet.  So if you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and pick this one up.

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2. 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

Flintlock fantasy at its best!  Brian McClellan returns to his Powder Mage world, shifting across the globe to the New World, where a magical relic from the ancient past is nearly overshadowed by the clash between native populations and the colonists from the Old World.  It is a fun ride and the promise of amazing things to come in this new series.

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1. TYRANT'S THRONETyrant’s Throne by Sebastien de Castell

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Greatcoats #4

Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books (June 6, 2017)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length: 400 pages

As always, Sebastien de Castell’s latest Greatcoats book lies at the top of my list.  No doubt, this is because I am a lover of everything Greatcoats.  This series one of my favorites.  And while this was an explosive and rousing tale, I have to admit feeling a few tears in my eyes knowing I might have read the last tale about these amazing characters.

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GUEST POST: GAIL Z. MARTIN, AUTHOR OF SCOURGE

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Today, I’m excited to welcome Gail Z. Martin, author of such fan favorites as The Chronicles of the Necromancer, The Fallen Kings Cycle, Ascendant Kingdoms, The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures, Deadly Curiosities, and (together with Larry N. Martin) The Jake Desmet Adventures.    And while I could written pages and pages about my love of her amazing stories, I believe everyone would rather I just turn the blog over to Gail Z. Martin.  Which is exactly what I am now doing.

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THE MAGIC OF SCOURGE

by

GAIL Z. MARTIN

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It’s always a challenge, when I start writing a new series, to set things up differently from the way I’ve handled things before. That keeps it fresh for me and provides surprises for the readers.

That means starting from the ground up for world building–politics, religion, geography, climate, economics and magic.

In the new Darkhurst series (with the first book, Scourge, launching July 15), I picked a different inspiration for the medieval society from what I’d done in the past, looking at the Hanseatic League and the heyday of the Italian city-states of Venice and the Medici era. It’s not the initially stable and prosperous kingdom like we had in Margolan in the beginning of the Chronicles of the Necromancer series, nor the post-apocalyptic ruins of Donderath that we survived in the Ascendant Kingdoms.

Instead, the kingdom of Darkhurst and its ten constituent city-states are a squabbling economic ‘family’ ripe with ambitions, jealousy, old grudges, backstabbing, seduction and betrayal. Prosperity and power come at a bloody cost for those at the very top of society. Our heroes, Corran, Rigan and Kell Valmonde, are undertakers, far removed from the halls of the ruling class. Even so, magic and monsters turn their lives upside-down and plunge them into intrigue and danger.

Scourge features several different types of magic. The economy is set up on a Guild system that oversees all the trades. The trades are hereditary, and magic specifically helpful to that trade runs in Guild families. Corran, Rigan and Kell are undertakers, so they have grave magic which helps them banish restless spirits and send souls on to the After.

I liked playing with the idea of job-specific magic, and thinking about how it might develop and refine itself over generations. We’ve gotten away from the idea of hereditary professions, but it was the norm for quite a long time, handing down tools and knowledge from parent to child. What if magic became part of that heritage, so intertwined with ‘talent’ as to be interchangeable? That would legitimize the emphasis on marrying within one’s trade, and go a long way towards assuring that ability bred true.

Blood magic is practiced by a powerful few, and it draws on the energy of death and blood to enhance the practitioner’s power. It comes at a high cost to the witch, and is almost never used for positive purposes.

As with most dark arts, blood magic is a way to cheat, to grab more than one is entitled to have, to cut corners and benefit the few at the peril of the many. Blood magic practitioners care nothing for long-term consequences, or for the interplay of Chaos and Order. They are solely focused on achieving their own ends, regardless of what it takes or who stands in their way.

Rogue magic falls outside of sanctioned Guild trade-specific magic and the blood magic practiced by a witch with a powerful patron. The Wanderers, a mysterious nomadic clan of peddlers and tinkers, have their own old magic and guard their secrets. A minority of other people are born with magic outside of their trade. They either go into hiding, are hunted by the Lord Mayor’s guards and forced into his service, or killed.

Rogue magic occurs when someone through accident of birth has power outside the permitted areas of magic. Much of this accidental magic is trivial, hedge witch-level kind of spells. Still, the powerful in Darkhurst fear magic that is not properly channeled. They have secrets to keep which might be revealed to those who wield magic, and so they desperately want to make sure they keep all witches under their control–or kill them.

I’m enjoying expanding on the magic of Darkhurst as I work on the sequel to Scourge! Stay tuned–there are a lot more surprises ahead!

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About Scourge

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

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

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

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

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About the Author

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Gail Martin, Dreamspinner Communications

The Hawthorn Moon is the annual summer blog tour for Gail Z. Martin, and features guest blog posts, giveaways, surprises, excerpts and more on sixteen blogs worldwide. Find the master list of posts and goodies at her website.

Gail Z. Martin is the author of Scourge: A Darkhurst novel, the first in a brand new epic fantasy series from Solaris Books. Also new are: The Shadowed Path, part of the Chronicles of the Necromancer universe (Solaris Books); Vendetta: A Deadly Curiosities Novel in her urban fantasy series set in Charleston, SC (Solaris Books); Shadow and Flame the fourth and final book in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga (Orbit Books); and Iron and Blood a new Steampunk series (Solaris Books) co-authored with Larry N. Martin.

She is also author of Ice Forged, Reign of Ash and War of Shadows in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven, Dark Lady’s Chosen); The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn, The Dread) and the urban fantasy novels Deadly Curiosities. Gail writes three ebook series: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures, The Deadly Curiosities Adventures and The Blaine McFadden Adventures. The Storm and Fury Adventures, steampunk stories set in the Iron & Blood world, are co-authored with Larry N. Martin.

Gail is also the organizer for #HoldOnToTheLight, authors blogging about depression, anxiety, PTSD, suicide, self-harm and other mental health topics to encourage inclusiveness in fandom and stand in solidarity with fans. Learn more at Hold On To The Light.

Find her at her website, on Twitter, on Facebook, at Disquieting Visions blog and Ghost In The Machine Podcast, on Goodreads and free excerpts on Wattpad.

Purchase Scourge at Amazon

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