THE DINOSAUR PRINCESS

THE DINOSAUR PRINCESSThe Dinosaur Princess by Victor Milán.

Genre: Fantasy

Series: The Dinosaur Lords #3

Publisher: Tor Books (August 15, 2017)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length: 448 pages

My Rating: 2.5 stars

The Dinosaur Princess is the third installment in Victor Milán’s The Dinosaur Lords epic fantasy series, which has been described by George R.R. Martin as “a cross between Jurassic Park and Game of Thrones.”  And where the first two books delivered loads of dinosaurs at war with more than a little pulse-pounding action, this novel slows the pace down considerably, focusing on characterization, worldbuilding, and tons of political intrigue.

After the titanic struggle against the Grey Angels’ Crusade, Emperor Felipe of the Empire of Neuvaropa begins picking up the pieces, rewarding the heroes of the hour and punishing the turncoats.  Even before the celebrations can end however, new tragedy strikes at the heart of the kingdom with the kidnapping of the Princess Montse from the palace itself!

Leading the frantic rescue effort is the newly christened Prince of the Empire Jaume dels Flors.  He and his remaining knightly companions attempting to pick up the trail of the kidnappers and run them to ground before they can flee the continent aboard ship to parts unknown.  Their search soon revealing that more than political intrigue is going on but also demonic machinations, as the magic of the legendary Fae is revealed!

With her beloved once again off on a mission, the newly restored Princess Melodía must brave the political intrigues at court and calm her father’s temper as other call for war to be declared to retrieve her sister.   Melodía constantly battling her newfound disdain for the pompous royal court, her hatred for her rapist Duke Falk von Hornberg, and her fear of the subtle manipulations of Falk’s willy mother, Margrethe.  All of it seemingly overwhelming her until an ancient family member returns to court, taking Melodía under her wing; this matriarch of the Delgado family one of the most devious, most ruthless politician to ever live upon Paradise!

Meanwhile, Rob Korrigan and Karyl Bogomirskiy are busy attempting to restore peace and order in the war-torn provinces over which they have become nobles.  Their task complicated by their disdain for royalty and the leftover supports of the Grey Angels’ Crusade.  And if that wasn’t problem enough, Karyl slowly begins to discover exactly who saved him in an earlier battle and why!

All of this basically means that this third volume of the series is a bridge story or a setup book.  A chance for the author to slow down the pace, introduce new characters and new plots, as well as begin to build energy and tension for future events.  And on many levels, The Dinosaur Princess does a masterfully job of accomplishing all of these things.

First, Victor Milán spends a great deal of time adding new depth to the world of Paradise. Readers finally able to explore the true nature and objectives of the Grey Angels, as well as become introduced to their enemies, the demonic Fae.  There are even brief hints of an eternal war between the two taking place in another dimension.  And in the mortal realm, the wide world of Paradise begins to come into further focus; other nations becoming more important to the narrative, as players from outside the Empire of Neuvaropa begin to appear, taking a part in the ongoing political schemes.

Second, our main characters get tons of development.  The returning faces like Melodía, Karyl and Rob get the lion’s share of course, and since there is no war going on, that time is spent exploring their past and their present circumstances, developing them into more mature, well-formed people.  But the author also finds plenty of pages to feature the two, new faces of the power struggle brewing in the Empire: Falk’s mother Margrethe and her Delgado counterpart Rosamaria.  These two ruthless, cunning women quite the devious creatures, who are sure to fill future pages with murder, mayhem, and Game of Thrones-like manipulation.

With all that goodness though, The Dinosaur Princess fails to deliver in two other, very important areas.  Failures which actually caused this tale to not quite live up to the previous novels in my eyes.

Probably the most agonizing of the missteps was the lack of dinosaurs.  As I’ve said in every one of my previous reviews, dinosaur knights and their titanic battles is what sold me on reading this series to begin with and kept me coming back to it.  Victor Milán able to vividly portray the immensity of these animals and the epic nature of their clash in battle to the point I had to read about them.  But, unfortunately, this book just did not feature any of that.  Dinosaurs curiously missing from the majority of this narrative.

Right behind the dinosaur extinction was the slow pacing.  This has been an issue for me in all the previous novels: a tendency for nothing much to happen for chapter after chapter, but in those other books the author always livened things up a bit with a huge reveal or an epic battle.  Here nothing terribly exciting happens.  Certainly, we have the conclusion to Jaume’s rescue attempt and a frantic conclusion, but for whatever reason, neither of those excited me.  Perhaps it was just the lack of dinosaurs, I’m not sure.

In summation, The Dinosaur Princess promised a more character focused story with Game of Thrones-like scheming, backstabbing, and royal mayhem mixed in with a great deal of exciting worldbuilding.  Certainly, it delivers on these promise in many ways, evolving the characters and the world in many exciting ways, but in doing so, it failed to correct the pacing issues of previous installments and made the fatal mistake of underutilizing the dinosaurs and their knights.  No doubt, I’ll pick up the next book in the series due to the tantalizing dreams of more dinosaur battles, but I can’t say I have very much optimism about the trajectory of the series at this point.

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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WAITING ON WEDNESDAY: THE BOOK OF SWORDS

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Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Breaking the Spine to let readers share their excitement for books coming out soon, and the novel I’m eagerly awaiting is . . .

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the book of swordsThe Book of Swords edited by Gardner Dozois

Genre: SFF

Series: Anthology

Publisher: Bantam (October 10, 2017)

Length: 544 pages


In the Book of Swords, acclaimed editor and bestselling author Gardner Dozois presents an all-new anthology of original epic tales by a stellar cast of award-winning modern masters—many of them set in their authors’ best-loved worlds. Join today’s finest tellers of fantastic tales, including George R.R. Martin, K.J. Parker, Robin Hobb, Ken Liu, C.J. Cherryh, Daniel Abraham, Lavie Tidhar, Ellen Kushner, and more on action-packed journeys into the outer realms of dark enchantment and intrepid derring-do, featuring a stunning assortment of fearless swordsmen and warrior women who face down danger and death at every turn with courage, cunning, and cold steel.

Contents:
– The Best Man Wins by K.J. Parker
– Her Father’s Sword by Robin Hobb
– The Hidden Girl by Ken Liu
– The Sword of Destiny by Matthew Hughes
– “I Am a Handsome Man”, Said Apollo Crow by Kate Elliott
– The Triumph of Virtue by Walter Jon Williams
– The Mocking Tower by Daniel Abraham
– Hrunting by C.J. Cherryh
– A Long, Cold Trail by Garth Nix
– When I Was a Highwayman by Ellen Kushner
– The Smoke of Gold Is Glory by Scott Lynch
– The Colgrid Conundrum by Rich Larson
– The King’s Evil by Elizabeth Bear
– Waterfalling by Lavie Tidhar
– The Sword Tyraste by Cecelia Holland
– The Sons of the Dragon by George R.R. Martin

Purchase the book at Amazon.

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THE DINOSAUR KNIGHTS

the dinosaur lordsThe Dinosaur Knights by Victor Milán.

Genre: Fantasy

Series: The Dinosaur Lords #2

Publisher: Tor Books (July 5, 2016)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length: 448 pages

My Rating: 3.5 stars

While The Dinosaur Lords had a few problems, overall, I felt Victor Milán did a very competent job of introducing readers to his creation, the world of Paradise, with its dinosaur knights, political intrigues, and shadowy origins, so I couldn’t wait to read book two. And, now that I have, I can honestly say two things. One, The Dinosaur Knights is a fitting sequel, filled with more action, more deaths, and more shocking moments. And, two, it isn’t quite as enjoyable as book one.

Continuing where the first book left off, the Empire of Neuvaropa is now in a growing state of chaos; rumors of a Grey Angel Crusade crisscross the land, unnerving peasants and nobility alike. No one able to avoid the growing turmoil.

In the township of Providence, the adherents of the pacifist teachings of The Garden of Truth and Beauty are busy putting their only martial leaders, Rob Korrigan and the famous Karyl Bogomirskiy, on trial for flimsy crimes against the faithful. This spectacle soon revealing more vile goings on in the Garden, even as the Grey Angels’ Crusade begins to erupt around them.

Meanwhile, the Princess Melodía and her maidservant Pilar having escaped imprisonment in the palace, flee the clutches of Duke Falk von Hornberg; their path eventually leading them to Providence, where their stories mix and mingle with those of Rob and Karyl.

Across the kingdom, Melodía’s lover, Count Jaume dels Flors, finds himself once again in favor with Emperor Felipe, helping the seemingly befuddled ruler plan and implement a desperate plan to stop the Grey Angels Crusade from sweeping across the Empire. The scheming Duke Falk von Hornberg constantly in the background determined to undermine and usurp Jaume’s honored status with the Emperor.

As the game pieces are moved across the board of Neuvaropa and war erupts, bringing unlooked for horrors and sweeping all into its maelstrom, our familiar characters are caught up in a mythical conflict to exterminate all of humankind. No one certain if the Grey Angels’ power can even be stopped!

Naturally, the most entertaining aspect of this novel was the dinosaurs. (Duh, right?) Victor Milán continuing to do a masterful job of integrating these majestic animals into the world, showing them in unique ways (The dangerous but adorable Shiraa the Allosaurus’ quest to find her “mother” told through her personal perspectives.) as well as highlighting them as the mightiest weapons of war on Paradise. Those sections of the narrative where huge battles occur my personal favorites, as the dinosaur knights took their place at the center of the action, showcasing their true bestial glory. The author able to capture the horror and magnificence of these conflicts with his wonderful prose.

Coming in a close second to the dinos is the worldbuilding. This narrative succeeding in deepening the mystery of Paradise, as the many tantalizing questions from book one are only partially answered and the Grey Angels take a larger role, adding a wonderful, mythical element to the growing epic; these beings hinting at, even partially revealing the truth about the world, its Creators, and their role in its continued existence. All of this making me curious to see where the author intends to go with all this in the books to come.

And what an ending! The climax of The Dinosaur Knights amazingly well done, as the penultimate clash of humankind and Grey Angels’ lived up to its hype. The last sections of the narrative filled with battle, mystery, personal bravery, and more than a few shocking moments.

But The Dinosaur Knights did have its share of problems. The most glaring of which was the characters themselves, who I continued to struggle to empathizing with. Pick any one of these people, and there were issues. Whether it be cultured Jaume or irritating Rob or overpowered Karyl, they each seemed to stagnate instead of grow throughout this tale, turning into mere caricatures of the “type” of person they were meant to represent. The worst of them all Princess Melodía, who was arguably the star of the show. This pompous, spoiled royal taking a larger role yet seeming to backslide from her bitterly won maturity from book one, reverting to making poor decisions, then not learning from them before making even more ridiculous ones. Her later transformation from emotionally torn youth to competent warrior quite unrealistic and head scratching in the extreme.

I also would be remiss if I didn’t mention the glacial pace of the middle of the narrative. Nothing much of real importance happening. Certainly, Victor Milán moved the chess pieces around the board, preparing them for the huge conclusion, but other than that transpiring, the story felt sluggish, as if it was being held in place until the author choose to unleash all that pent-up energy in a grand finale.

Even with its problems, I did enjoy The Dinosaur Knights, just not as much as The Dinosaur Lords, and without a doubt, I do intend to read book three of the series. Mainly, because I can’t resist those already mentioned dinosaur knights. But, honestly, that isn’t the only reason. There was enough action and tantalizing foreshadowing of mysterious conflicts here to make me want to see where it all goes. However, I will be expecting more from The Dinosaur Princess; a hope that Victor Milan builds on this fabulous ending, picks up the narrative pacing a bit, and makes a concerted effort to develop the main characters (especially Princess Melodía) into more than mere caricatures.  If those things happen, I will be with this series until the end.  If not . . .

Purchase the book at Amazon.

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TOP TEN TUESDAY

TOP TEN TUESDAYS

Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday! This is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, where a new top ten list hits the web every week!

This week our topic is …

TEN BOOK I STRUGGLED TO FINISH OR DNF’D

Like all readers, there are times when a book just doesn’t catch my interest. It might be the story wasn’t for me, or, perhaps, it did not match my current mood.

Well, this list is about those books.  A few of the recent novels I struggled to finish . . . or did not finish at all.  Since I’m an obsessive completitionist, I try really hard to finish everything I start, but even I fail from time to time.

By picking the books on here, does that mean I’m saying they are not worth giving a try?

Nope.  I am merely saying I had a hard time finishing or could not finish them.  That doesn’t mean others won’t love them.  Hell, I might try them another time and enjoy the hell out of them.  But right now, they are just not for me.


silent hall10. Silent Hall by N.S. Dolkart

Well, I did finish this one, but it was a long, hard road, one which I thought many times was insurmountable due to the depth of my deep boredom with the story.  I’m sure others will really dig this social commentary posing as an epic fantasy, but I am not one of those people.

Buy Silent Hall at Amazon.


9. The Palace Job by Patrick Weekesthe palace job

Comedic fantasy.  Funny fantasy.  Call it whatever you’d like, I usually don’t like it.  And this book wasn’t the exception to the rule.  The Palace Job failing to hold my attention at all, as I jettisoned it after a hundred pages or so in favor of something a bit more exciting and less funny.

Buy The Palace Job at Amazon.


A DARKNESS FORGED IN FIRE8. A Darkness Forged in Fire by Chris Evans

I’m always on the lookout for my next dark epic fantasy.  You know, one of those series where the author throws you into a complex world with loads of shit taking place, and you either have to sink or swim.  And this seemed like a good book to satisfy my appetite for that.  It wasn’t though.  I gave up after reading two hundred pages.

Buy A Darkness Forged in Fire at Amazon.


halls of law7. Halls of Law by V.M. Escalada

The description of this one peaked my interest.  (I’m a sucker for invasions and talented teenager caught up in the turmoil.)  And I tried and tried to get caught up in this story.  I can’t count how many times I set this book aside only to force myself to come back to it and try again.  Finally I had to accept it wasn’t going to work.

Buy Halls of Law  at Amazon.


the alchemists of loom6. The Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova

Cool cover.  A unique world.  And the usual blah blah blah story publishers seem to die to give to readers these days.  You know, the YA romance all grown up to strut its stuff as an epic fantasy.  At least that was all I got out of this one before it landed on the virtual scrap pile.

Buy The Alchemists of Loom  at Amazon.


a crucible of souls5. A Crucible of Souls by Mitchell Hogan

This tale of a gifted orphan training at a sorcery school who seems to enchant everyone he comes into contact with left me cold.  Plus I found the magic system to be a bit boring.  Now, I’m not saying this was a bad book, poorly written, or anything like that; rather, it just wasn’t a story I was terribly interested in.    Others might be.

Buy A Crucible of Souls at Amazon.


the forgetting moon4. The Forgetting Moon by Brian Lee Durfee

A coming of age grimdark fantasy filled with twisted prophecies, cold-blooded murders, power struggles and quite a few twists and turns.  At least, that is what I was introduced to in the first two hundred fifty pages of this weighty tome.  And it wasn’t a bad book.  But it wasn’t what I was looking for either.

Buy The Forgetting Moon at Amazon.


empire in black and gold3. Empire in Black and Gold by Adrian Tchaikovsky

This opening installment of Tchaikovsky’s Shadows of the Apt series was a book I desperately wanted to love.  It looked like it was tailor made for me with its style, subject matter, and tone.  Once I got into the story itself though, I could not get excited about it.  I’m still upset with myself for not loving it.

Buy Empire in Black and Gold at Amazon.


the darkness that comes before2. The Darkness That Comes Before by R. Scott Bakker

So many people recommended this book/series to me.  They made it sound like the thinking man’s epic fantasy.  And I picked it up on two occasions, determined to dig into this narrative and uncover what so many people loved about it.  On both occasions I failed miserably, stopping before I got halfway through the book.  At this point, I’m calling bullshit and moving on.

Buy The Darkness that Comes Before at Amazon.


trial-of-intentions1.  Trial of Intentions by Peter Orullian

After braving the waves of negativity about this series and actually enjoying the first book (The Author’s Definitive Edition, that is.), I was excited to move on to book two.  Unfortunately, I could not get into this narrative.  New characters.  New goals.  Several changes to our original characters personalities and motives.  It all confused me, causing me to put this novel to the side.  Eventually, I gave up.  I will try again though, because I did enjoy the first book.

Buy Trial of Intentions at Amazon.


Agree?  Disagree?  Tell me how you feel about my choices.

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FUNDAY MONDAY, OR THE BOOKS THAT WILL HELP ME SURVIVE THE WEEK AHEAD (SEPTEMBER 4, 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.

Another week and even more books to fit into the hectic schedule. As always, I’m finishing off one and starting another.  And here they are.  Newest first.
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revenant windsRevenant Winds by Mitchell Hogan

Genre: Fantasy

Series: The Tainted Cabal #1

Publisher: Self-Published (September 5, 2017)

Length: 440 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

In a world devastated by a series of cataclysms over millennia, where the followers of different gods vie for ascendancy, mankind carves out a precarious existence among the remnants of a desolated past. Cities and civilizations are built atop mysterious and ofttimes menacing ruins, and the unforgiving wilderness beyond is filled with inhuman creatures and races from before the dawn of history. Sorcery is seen by some as a gift of the gods, and by others as their curse. And the demon-ravaged past has all but been forgotten.

As a secret cabal schemes to awaken an evil thought defeated millennia ago, the lives of three unlikely heroes are fated to converge:

Aldric, a veteran priest and sorcerer, who seeks acceptance from the church that shuns him. On the brink of their approval, he receives a mission that brings him face to face with a long-buried evil.

Niklaus, master swordsman, and slave to his goddess, who plots to split the veil between life and death and ascend to become her equal.

Kurio, the runaway daughter of a noble family, now turned to thievery, who stumbles across a disturbing secret that binds her future to infernal designs.

Drawn toward a horrifying endgame by an unknown force, Aldric, Niklaus, and Kurio find themselves in a battle not only for their lives, but for the beliefs that have come to define them.

A wrong decision, an overreaching ambition, or the failure of an already tormented faith, is all it will take to plunge mankind into an eternal dark.

Purchase the book at Amazon.


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seventh decimateSeventh Decimate by Stephen R. Donaldson

Genre: Fantasy

Series: The Great God’s War #1

Publisher: Berkley (November 14, 2017)

Length: 320 pages

Author Information: Website

Fire. Wind. Pestilence. Earthquake. Drought. Lightning. These are the six Decimates, wielded by sorcerers for both good and evil.

But a seventh Decimate exists–the most devastating one of all…

For centuries, the realms of Belleger and Amika have been at war, with sorcerers from both sides brandishing the Decimates to rain blood and pain upon their enemy. But somehow, in some way, the Amikans have discovered and invoked a seventh Decimate, one that strips all lesser sorcery of its power. And now the Bellegerins stand defenseless.

Prince Bifalt, eldest son of the Bellegerin King, would like to see the world wiped free of sorcerers. But it is he who is charged with finding the repository of all of their knowledge, to find the book of the seventh Decimate–and reverse the fate of his land.

All hope rests with Bifalt. But the legendary library, which may or may not exist, lies beyond an unforgiving desert and treacherous mountains–and beyond the borders of his own experience. Wracked by hunger and fatigue, sacrificing loyal men along the way, Bifalt will discover that there is a game being played by those far more powerful than he could ever imagine. And that he is nothing but a pawn…

Purchase the book at Amazon

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FLASHBACK FRIDAY:A MAN OF HIS WORD

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Flashback Friday is something I do here at Bookwraiths every once in a while; a time when I can post my thoughts about books that I’ve read in the past. With the hectic schedule of day-to-day life, there never seems enough time to give these old favorites the spotlight that they deserve, but with a day all to themselves, there is no reason I can’t revisit them.

Today, I’ll be taking a look back at a classic  fantasy series by Dave Duncan!

a man of his word1A Man of His Word by Dave Duncan

Genre: Fantasy

Series: A Man of His Word #1-4 

Publisher: Open Road Media  (July 11, 2017)

Author Information: Website

Length: 1503 pages

My Rating: 3.5 stars

With A Man of His Word, Dave Duncan produces a sprawling epic, which uses the familiar tropes of classic fantasy to effortlessly ensnare readers in the familiar story of a gifted, stable boy and a willful, skilled princess. No, the author doesn’t revolutionize the genre, or even attempt to subvert it, but, rather, he takes the normal building blocks of epic fantasy and uses them to create a fresh, exciting tale all his own.

Rap and Princess Inosolan grow up on the great rock of Krasengar, far to the north in the world of Pandemia, where surviving the arctic winters and maintaining their way of life keeps the people from care too much about the goings on in the greater world. As these two children grow to maturity they become fast friends, as close as two people could be; only when they both enter the edge of adulthood does their bond begin to fray, as deeper feelings for one another grow, yet can’t be acted upon by either.

Naturally, Rap and Inosolan’s simple life becomes complicated by events which pull them into the greater world. The spunky princess getting into all sorts of deep trouble, while Rap doggedly travels the world, braves dangers, and uncovers unexpected skills to save his friend. (Not to say that Inosolan is a damsel waiting to be rescued, because she is it not, but that doesn’t mean Rap’s help isn’t of good use to her.) All of the daring adventures of the two friends leading to a final conclusion which (though expected) is still well done and quite fulfilling.

While many aren’t familiar with Dave Duncan’s works, I’ve always been a fan of his fantasy offerings. Series like The Seventh Sword and A Handful of Men (sequel to Man of His Word) especially note worthy; the author combining a more mature and realistic look at life with the hopeful, escapist tone of Tolkien-esque fantasy. Duncan always able to invoke laughs and smiles, grimaces and shock without making the story a bloody, horrific, depressing grimdark mess.

What really pulled me into this particular narrative was the worldbuilding and the main characters. This world of Pandemia populated by the tried-and-true fantasy races with a creative magic system; the commoner-princess trope put to good use, as the story of Rap and Inosolan slowly ensnares you, making you care about these two youths, then the greater story whisks them (and you the reader) away on an exciting journey of discovery across the world, where cool people pop up all along the way.

As for any real criticism, all I can say is that this is classic fantasy. Duncan doesn’t discard the normal tropes but embraces them, uses them in his own way to create an exciting adventure tale which isn’t dark, cynical, pessimistic or nihilistic but the exact opposite. And those lighter, more optimistic qualities might turn some readers off, those who prefer their fantasy to be in the mold of George R.R. Martin, Joe Abercrombie, and others. Besides this possible issue though, there really isn’t anything negative I could list about this series.

A Man of His Word is quite frankly a return to a brighter, more optimistic time in fantasy literature. An era where people wanted the “good” guys to triumph, the “bad” guys to get what they deserved, and for the weary heroes to somehow, someway have the possibility to live happily ever after. And if you are a reader weary of the grimdark of today who wishes to (re)discover the fun fantasy of yesteryear, I’d encourage you to pick up A Man of His Word; it might not reinvent the genre or subvert any tropes, but it will make you laugh, smile, and forget the screwed up world we live in for more than a few hours.

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, Fantasy | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

TOP 5 WEDNESDAY: FAVORITE BROMANCES

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Today, the guys in the Goodreads Top 5 Wednesday group have an interesting topic, one which is kind of sad from a reading perspective but does happen: Favorite Bromances!  “Bromance = platonic relationship between two characters who identify as male.”

Well, this one might be tricky.  I mean, the key is whether the characters “identify as male” which might be an issue since I don’t believe anyone ever asks them in the context of the story how they identify sexually.  With that being said, I am going to be forced to make a subjective assumption based upon their stated sex and their general behavior, specifically their sexual attraction to those of the opposite or same sex.

Since I will be making assumptions regarding characters “sexual identification” I’m turning it over to actor Chris Pratt to issue a statement in my behalf to everyone who is about to read this article.

I want to make a heartfelt apology for whatever it is I end up accidentally saying . . . I hope you understand it was never my intention to offend anyone and I am truly sorry. I swear. I’m the nicest guy in the world. And I fully regret what I (accidentally will have) said . . .

I am not in the business of making excuses. I am just dumb. Plain and simple. I try. I REALLY try! When I do (potentially) commit the offensive act for which I am now (pre) apologizing you must understand I (will likely have been) tired and exhausted when I (potentially) said that thing I (will have had) said that (will have had) crossed the line. . . Trust me. I know you can’t say that anymore. In fact in my opinion it was never right to say the thing I definitely don’t want to but probably will have said. To those I (will have) offended please understand how truly sorry I already am. I am fully aware that the subject matter of my imminent forthcoming mistake, a blunder (possibly to be) . . . is (most likely) in no way a laughing matter. To those I (will likely have had) offended rest assured I will do everything in my power to make sure this doesn’t happen (again).

Okay, with the pre-apology out of the way, here are my favorite bromances involving male characters whom I am assuming identify as males.


promise of blood5. TANIEL TWO-SHOT & BORBADOR

While these two do not appear together very often in this flintlock fantasy, when they do, the brotherly love and dedicated friendship between them is clear to see.  Sad, they didn’t have more page time to showcase the less serious side of their relationship, but then again, they each had a very specific role to play in Mr. McClellan’s epic story.


col-buchanan-farlander4. ASH/NICO & BARACHA/ALEAS 

As Roshun assassins these four individuals are family, but like many real life brothers, there is a lot of brotherly competition, jealousy, and arguing between them, which hides their strong bond with one another.  It is only when danger draws near that Ash and Baracha actually stop fighting long enough to acknowledge their friendship and allow their apprentices (Nico and Aleas) to do the same.


THE GRIM COMPANY3. BRODAR KAYNE & JEREK THE WOLF

These friends are about as different from one another as can be.  Brodar is the classic northern barbarian, who can fight, laugh, and get along with about anyone around a campfire.  Jerek hates everyone, pisses off everyone.  But they have a strong bond which keeps them together . . . until it doesn’t.  So very sad.


crowntower-2-52. HADRIAN & ROYCE

This dynamic duo is probably the best one-two pair of thieves in fantasy.  They laugh with, bicker with, and work with one another every day.  At times, they seem horribly incompatible, but somehow their differences keep them together instead of driving them apart.  And I for one always enjoy reading another story of their time together as the famous Riyria.


traitor's blade1.   FALCIO, KEST & BRASTI

These three comrades-in-arms are the Three Musketeers of fantasy.  They are hilarious to read about; they constantly ridicule and mock one another; and their camaraderie is one of the main reasons this series got better and better until the end.  Damn, it’s sad to think there will not be any more stories about Falcio, Kest and Brasti.  😦


 

Agree?  Disagree?  Have another bromance you’d like to mention?  Let us know.

 

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TOP 25 GRIMMEST GRIMDARKS

grimdark fantasy

Grimdark is a subgenre of fantasy which most readers have heard of.  But reading the term and understanding what it means and, even more importantly, which books fit into the category are two entirely different things.  So lets try to define exactly what I mean by grimdark before I start listing the “Top 25 Grimmest Grimdarks“.

Wikipedia’s definition of Grimdark is “. . . a sub genre or a way to describe the tone, style or setting of speculative fiction that is particularly dystopian, amoral or violent. The word was inspired by the tagline of the tabletop strategy game Warhammer 40,000: ‘In the grim darkness of the far future there is only war.‘ “

Others descriptions of grimdark fantasy focus on its cynical outlook, disillusioned mentality, and penchant for more fighting, more blood, more violence than classic fantasy.  Many of the critics believing grimdark is a nihilistic rebuke to the more inspirational Tolkien-type fantasy, where there was an ingrained optimism that good would triumph over evil and humans wished to be enlightened; grimdark putting forward the contrary view that there is no right, and even if there is, no person can ever actually accomplish it.

With all that being said, there can be no doubt that grimdark is a large part of fantasy these days.  From George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire to Joe Abercrombie’s The First Law to Mark Lawrence’s The Broken Empire, the shelves are covered with finely written tales of flawed characters who live and fight in world filled with ultra-realistic violence, brutality, and overwhelming cynicism and disgust for the human condition.  And I’ve read more than a few of these great grims.  So many in fact, I decided it was time to compile a list of the best of the genre.

To accomplish the task of ranking all these great books, I first gathered together a list of all the grimdarks I could find (taking into consideration the opinion of others on what is and is not a grimdark), then gathered the overall series rating from Goodreads, as well as making note of the total number of Goodreads ratings for each book.  Once I had all this data, I ran the numbers through an equation to give fair weight to both the rating and the number of ratings on Goodreads.  This list is what I got, surprising as it is.

Without any further babbling by myself, get ready to be filled with grimness, grittiness, and dark despair because THE TOP 25 GRIMMEST GRIMDARKS are below!


Beyond Redemption Cover with blurb25. MANIFEST DELUSIONS – MICHAEL R. FLETCHER

Michael Fletcher’s exquisite madness is on full display in this grimdark beauty.  Just imagine a world where madness equals magical power to change the world around you?  Said power able to be used for both good and bad according to your sanity.  Yeah, it’s damn wicked grimdark fun.

Purchase Beyond Redemption at Amazon.


a crown for cold silver24. THE CRIMSON EMPIRE – ALEX MARSHALL

A relative newcomer to the grimdark ranks, The Crimson Empire fills its narrative with every grimdark trope out there.  Bad-ass female warrior? There are several of them.  Unprovoked slaughters?  No problem.  Grey characters?  Sure.  Sex?  Of course.  Philosophical bullshit?  Without a doubt.  I could go on and on, because this is a story written to be a grimdark, not a story which just happens to be a grimdark.

Purchase A Crown for Cold Silver (The Crimson Empire) at Amazon.


23. STEELHAVEN – RICHARD FORDSTEELHAVEN

This series has been described as dark, brutal, and without mercy.  The huge cast filled with characters who must decide if they are wolves or the sheep.  And if that doesn’t describe a grimdark I don’t know what does.

Purchase Herald of the Storm at Amazon


the heresy within22. THE TIES THAT BIND – ROB J. HAYES

Rob J. Hayes has crafted one of the grimmest of the grimdarks with this series.  Sure, he has been quoted as saying he might have tried too hard to make this one grim, but no matter, it is still one of the most unapologetic grims readers will find out there.

Purchase The Heresy Within (The Ties that Bind) (Volume 1) at Amazon.


SCOURGE OF THE BETRAYER21. BLOODSOUNDER’S ARC – JEFF SALYARDS

This series is a difficult one for me to categorize.  Sure, the world Salyard creates is pretty damn grim and ultra realistic with philosophical spouting bastards, but it feels more like a realistic fantasy than a true grimdark.  However, the majority of readers say its a grim, so on the list it goes.

Purchase Scourge of the Betrayer: Bloodsounder’s Arc Book Oneat Amazon.


tyranny of the night20. INSTRUMENTALITIES OF THE NIGHT – GLEN COOK

Personally, I don’t view this series as a true grimdarks, but most readers do. However, I will agree that this fantasy retelling of 13th century Europe with its great, competing religions, crusades, and political turmoil does give a pessimistic and realistic portrayal of human beings and their flaws.

Purchase The Tyranny of the Night at Amazon.


THE TEN THOUSAND19. THE MACHT – PAUL KEARNEY 

Paul Kearney delivers non-stop violence, death, and destruction in this thinly veiled retelling of the Greco-Persian conflicts of ancient history.  And just when you think you’ve seen the worst, something horrible inevitably happens to someone, because . . . this is grimdark, brother!

Purchase The Ten Thousand at Amazon.


A CRUEL WIND18. DREAD EMPIRE – GLEN COOK

The Godfather of Grimdark has his second series on the list.  Dread Empire a precursor of his more famous Black Company, as a huge cast of characters kill, manipulate, and betray one another in a world torn apart by war and religious fervor.  Not as good as Black Company, but still a damn fine series.

Purchase A Cruel Wind (Dread Empire) at Amazon.


low town 217. LOW TOWN – DANIEL POLANSKY  

This story about a former intelligence agent and war hero turned drug dealer and crime lord in a slum called Low Town is a genre blender, making use of many noir crime themes to give it a unique feel.  No matter though, it is also as grimdark as they come.  And a damn fine one too.

Purchase Low Town (Low Town, Book 1) at Amazon.


THE GRIM COMPANY16. GRIM COMPANY – LUKE SCULL

Detractors will cry that the series is too similar to Abercrombie’s First Law; fans will say who cares, because Scull weaves a bloodthirsty tale filled with flawed heroes and grey villains set in a decaying world devoid of magic.  Most readers should just read the books and see if you like them or not.

Purchase The Grim Company at Amazon.


BOOK OF KANE15. KANE – KARL EDWARD WAGNER

Kane is a very dark character with dark stories; he is a killer and sorcerer, suggested to be Caine from the Judeo-Christian Bible.  And he is brutal as they come, as one reviewer succinctly put it, “Kane is what would happen if Conan and Elric were able to mate successfully.”

Purchase Gods in Darkness: The Complete Novels of Kane at Amazon.


CORUM14. CORUM – MICHAEL MOORCOCK

Following the tragic tale of Prince Corum, the last of his race, this tale is a dark and gloomy affair from beginning to end.  An epic of a survivor witnessing the slow transformation of his world, as hordes of humans take over, and nothing he does can stop the death of everything he loves.

Purchase Corum – The Knight of Swords: The Eternal Champion at Amazon.


HEROES DIE13. THE ACTS OF CAINE – MATTHEW WOODRING STOVER

I’ll allow the author to describe the opening book of the series: “It’s a piece of violent entertainment that is a meditation on violent entertainment — as a concept in itself, and as a cultural obsession . . . It’s a pop-top can of Grade-A one-hundred percent pure whip-ass.”  Sounds like grimdark to me.

Purchase Heroes Die (Acts of Caine Book 1) at Amazon.


the steel remains12. A LAND FIT FOR HEROES – RICHARD K. MORGAN

This series is ultra dark, ultra violent, profanity laced with explicit descriptions of torture, mutilations, and sex (mostly homosexual) with both humans and non-humans.  It has been called a grimdark series for the hardcore grimdark readers who are not squeamish.

Purchase The Steel Remains (A Land Fit for Heroes) at Amazon.


prince of fools11. THE RED QUEEN’S WAR – MARK LAWRENCE

Taking place within the same world and during the same time period as Lawrence’s The Broken Empire, this is another amazing grimdark series which pulls no punches, as it mixes brutal death, zombies, devious characters, and  unlooked-for outcomes with a cowardly main character.

Purchase Prince of Fools (The Red Queen’s War) at Amazon.


half a king10. SHATTERED SEA – JOE ABERCROMBIE

A grimdark epic from Lord Grimdark himself; this one focused on the quest for revenge by young Yarvi, whose path takes him to far off lands and into the remains of a violent past.  Yes, the books are a bit on the young adult side, but they’re still classic Abercrombie grimdark.

Purchase Half a King (Shattered Sea) at Amazon.


the darkness that comes before9. THE SECOND APOCALYPSE – R. SCOTT BAKKER

Complex world, complex characters, schemes within schemes, epic battles, political intrigue, and mature themes set in an exotic feeling local.  Some people call it a “thinking man’s grimdark.”  And you will either love it or despise it.  Not really any in-between with this series.

Purchase The Darkness that Comes Before at Amazon.


elric of melnibon8. THE ELRIC SAGA – MICHAEL MOORCOCK 

Sad.  Brooding.  Cynical.  Brutal.  Grim.  All words used to describe this most famous of Moorcock’s works.  Is it grimdark or sword and sorcery?  My reply: Why can’t it be both?  I personally believe it can be and should be, because Elric’s tale is about as damn grim and dark as you can get.

Purchase Elric of Melnibone and Other Stories at Amazon.


blood song7. RAVEN’S SHADOW – ANTHONY RYAN

With a cyncial tone about life, honor, right and wrong, and filled with gratuitous violence, Raven’s Shadow is always among the tops of most grimdark reader’s list.  Certainly, it has many epic fantasy elements, but the true nature of the book is grimdark — whether one likes it or not.

Purchase Blood Song (A Raven’s Shadow Novel) at Amazon.


Chronicles of the Black Company6. THE BLACK COMPANY – GLEN COOK 

This series helped inspire many grimdark writers of today.  As Steven Erikson has written: “. . . Glen Cook single-handedly changed the face of fantasy . . . He brought the story down to a human level . . . Reading his stuff was like reading Vietnam War fiction on peyote.”  Peyote = Grimdark.

Purchase The Black Company at Amazon.


prince of thorns5. THE BROKEN EMPIRE – MARK LAWRENCE

With a main character in Jorg Ancrath who is arrogant, manipulative, and an unrepentant murderer and rapist, Lawrence’s series is among the most widely read and loved grimdark fantasy series out there.  It also is one of the most hated.  Guess you can’t please everyone.

Purchase Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire) at Amazon.


the blade itself4. THE FIRST LAW – JOE ABERCROMBIE

This series by Lord Grimdark himself might not have created the genre, but it certainly heralded a new era of dark, violent fantasy with its subversion of most fantasy tropes and its focus on despicable, realistic characters and their unsanitized actions.  A classic in the genre without a doubt.

Purchase The Blade Itself (The First Law) at Amazon


gardens of the moon3. MALAZAN – STEVEN ERIKSON & IAN C. ESSLEMONT

The most epic of fantasy books is a grimdark?  I know.  I was a bit taken back by the idea as well, but quite a lot of readers place it in the genre, viewing the atmosphere, tone, and violence as more similar to the grims than to the other epic fantasy series out there.

Purchase Gardens of the Moon at Amazon.


assassin's apprentice 12. ROYAL ASSASSIN – ROBIN HOBB

Another epic fantasy series which certainly feels out of place on this list.  However, if you view the narrative through a critical eye, the grimness of FitzChivalry’s life and trials certainly pop out at you.  You also notice that the world he lives in isn’t exactly Hobbiton, and those around him aren’t exactly the chivalrous heroes of the Lord of the Rings.  Nope, this one can’t be called grimdark per se, but most of its narrative qualities fit the grimdark criteria near perfectly.

Purchase Assassin’s Apprentice at Amazon


1. A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE – GEORGE R.R. MARTIN

A GAME OF THRONES

Okay, I can hear the groans from some of you; the mumbles of complaints that Martin’s epic is exactly that: epic fantasy; and I agree with you in part.  But we all can agree these books are pure grimdark in many respects, right?  They are dark, pessimistic, nihilistic, filled with brutal murder, torture, rape, and even less savory things.  Honestly, Martin’s writing makes some grimdark books look tame in comparison to what he puts his characters through, which is why so many readers view it as the consummate grimdark fantasy.

Purchase A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1) at Amazon


Well, there is the top twenty-five grimdarks.

Pretty surprising isn’t it?

At least, it was to me.  Honestly, several of my favorite grims didn’t even make the cut!  Which sucks since I put the list together.   So while I know some of you are pissed your favorite series was left off or ranked lower than you feel it should have been, believe me when I say I’m as upset as you are.  But never fear, there is a way to let your voice be heard: Vote on the poll below!

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FUNDAY MONDAY, OR THE BOOKS THAT WILL HELP ME SURVIVE THE WEEK AHEAD (AUGUST 28, 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.

Still behind and playing catch-up, so I’m finishing up a book from last week and trying to get to a new one.

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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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seventh decimateSeventh Decimate by Stephen R. Donaldson

Genre: Fantasy

Series: The Great God’s War #1

Publisher: Berkley (November 14, 2017)

Length: 320 pages

Author Information: Website

Fire. Wind. Pestilence. Earthquake. Drought. Lightning. These are the six Decimates, wielded by sorcerers for both good and evil.

But a seventh Decimate exists–the most devastating one of all…

For centuries, the realms of Belleger and Amika have been at war, with sorcerers from both sides brandishing the Decimates to rain blood and pain upon their enemy. But somehow, in some way, the Amikans have discovered and invoked a seventh Decimate, one that strips all lesser sorcery of its power. And now the Bellegerins stand defenseless.

Prince Bifalt, eldest son of the Bellegerin King, would like to see the world wiped free of sorcerers. But it is he who is charged with finding the repository of all of their knowledge, to find the book of the seventh Decimate–and reverse the fate of his land.

All hope rests with Bifalt. But the legendary library, which may or may not exist, lies beyond an unforgiving desert and treacherous mountains–and beyond the borders of his own experience. Wracked by hunger and fatigue, sacrificing loyal men along the way, Bifalt will discover that there is a game being played by those far more powerful than he could ever imagine. And that he is nothing but a pawn…

Purchase the book at Amazon

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FARLANDER

col-buchanan-farlanderFarlander by Col Buchanan

Genre: Fantasy — Grimdark

Series: Heart of the World #1

Publisher:  Tor Books (January 18, 2011)

Author Information: Website 

Length: 388 pages

My Rating: 4 stars

Farlanderis the beginning of series which is seriously underappreciated. This initial installment a pleasant surprise, one which thrilled me with a war-torn world, secretive assassins, power-mad religious zealots, and a conclusion which took me completely by surprise.

The Heart of the World is a land torn apart by war. The nihilistic empire and religion of the Holy Empire of Mann determined to conquer the known world and force their dark faith upon everyone. Only the Free Ports holding back the seemingly unstoppable tide of the Holy Matriarch Saseen’s fanatical armies and diabolic agents, sarcastically dubbed the Diplomats.

The most precarious of the Free Ports is the island of Khos, where the city of Bar-Khos has been under attack for years. The causeway which links the island to the southern continent now an enemy camp filled with Mannian armies determined to break through the might walls of Bar-Khos and put everyone to death; the sky around filled with constant skirmishes between Khosian and Mannian airships; and the sea a war of attrition, as the Khosians fight to keep a Mannian blockade from strangling them into submission.

Trapped in the besieged city is a young, desperate, and hungry teenager named Nico. His quest for money to survive one more day in the street leading him to a chance encounter with a foreigner named Ash, whose unexpected kindness carries our unsuspecting youth into a life as one of the feared Roshun: Zen-like monk assassins, feared the world over for their vendetta killings.

Quickly, our newest Roshun must undergo his training, deal with rival apprentices, and seek to win over Ash, who is a silent and, at times, stern master.  But soon a Roshun vendetta interrupts Nico’s acclimatization; his master and the son of the Holy Matriarch Saseen on a collision course, as a Roshun vendetta takes Nico and Ash to the holy city of Mann itself. Death, destruction, and unexpected betrayal soon splattering the pages of Farlander with blood!

Without a doubt, the biggest strength of Farlander is the amazing world Col Buchanan has dreamed up. Gunpowder. Airships. Exotic drugs. Darwinian fanatics. Mysterious monk assassins. The setting of this novel tantalizingly unique, amazingly expansive, yet familiar enough to fantasy fans that it will feel comfortable, draw you in, take hold of your imagination, and demand that you keep reading to uncover all the answers to the numerous questions which exist about this place.  It really is a genre blender done right.

As for the characters, I have to admit they are a mixed bag really. Nico is your familiar young apprentice who has stumbled into a situation far above his head; his training (thankfully brief) exhibiting the same patterns readers will have experienced many times over. And the “bad guys” from the Empire of Mann are so damn evil to be near comical in their adherence to a Darwinian mantra taken to the absolute extremes. Thankfully, though, Ash, Nico’s Roshun master, quickly grows out of the familiar fantasy caricature of an over-the-hill-master-training-the-next-generation and evolves into a complex character whom readers will want to know more about. And the minor character Che comes out of nowhere to become instantly fascinating; his story unexpected, entertaining, and demanding of more page time (which it does get in book two). So, sure there are some familiar character tropes here, but Col Buchanan doesn’t limit himself to staying in the normal patterns and mixes in several unique persons who are quite fascinating as they begin to evolve.

The story itself is told through multiple point-of-view characters; the author shifting from one story line to another. These shifts always appropriate, never jarring or distracting. And for the most part, Col Buchanan does a good job making each plot relevant to this books story arc while foreshadowing things to come in future books, which actually makes certain sections much more interesting as you know they will be important later on.

The only issue I have with the novel is the pacing. Col Buchanan having difficulty finding the right narrative speed and maintaining it. Too many times the story gets tangled up in seemingly unnecessary descriptions and internal monologue, and while I’m perfectly okay with intricate details when necessary, there were moments I felt as if the author was merely filling time before the next bit of excitement. On the other hand, there were also sections of the book where important events transpire in a few short paragraphs, which just felt wrong; I mean, I’m all for getting to the point in a narrative, but it really seemed like some important and some really cool moments were lost in an attempt to hurry up and get to the conclusion.  All of which means this failure to settle on a pace and maintain it was bothersome at times.

Even with this one issue, Farlander was a great read and a fascinating beginning to the Heart of the World series. The tantalizing world, interesting characters, and generally fast paced narrative made this novel one of my favorite reads of the year, so good in fact that it led me to the next book and the next until I’m currently about to begin book four of this ever evolving and always entertaining series. It really is an underappreciated series which I would encourage everyone to give a try!

Purchase the book at Amazon

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