Hippogriff's Aerie

Apparitions of Imagination

Books Ordered and Received (2/25/18)

The following books were ordered and received and will be added to the queue…

I was unable to find The Thief Who Pulled On Trouble’s Braids in paperback, so instead I bought the omnibus which also includes the sequels, The Thief Who Spat In Luck’s Good Eye and The Thief Who Knocked On Sorrow’s Gate.

Also, The Black Shriving arrived with the front cover bent and creased thanks to loose packing in the shipping box. If it was used I wouldn’t care too much, but at new book prices, that is not acceptable, so I have a replacement coming.

 

 

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February 25, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Book Review: Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

prince of thorns

Format:  hard cover, first edition, 2011

Pages:  324

Reading Time: about 5 hours

 

I suspected when I ordered this book that it was going to contain material that I normally don’t go for. A story about revenge, a 14 year old boy as the protagonist, and a group of looting, murderous associates is not one I’d normally look forward to. However, I like to think I have enough of an open mind to give it a chance, especially when considering the high praise it has received. Also, I feel as if I owe no small amount of gratitude to Mark Lawrence…his Self Published Fantasy Blog-Offs have turned up some great titles that I had no idea existed and might not have made it into my collection otherwise. He also backed Courtney Shafer’s kickstarter to publish The Labyrinth of Flame, the final book in her trilogy, which I was able to track down in paperback before all copies had disappeared completely. Buying and reading (at least) the first book in his series feels like a way to repay Lawrence for the sum of his efforts. So on with the review, and expect a few spoilers along the way.

I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to crack open this book and discover a first person narrative…my favorite style! My mind immediately went to The Black Company and I wondered if there would be similarities. The answer is not really. Lawrence’s work stands on its own, especially his narrating protagonist, Prince Jorg Ancrath. Where the Black Company featured the camaraderie of a mercenary group that looked out for each other and had their own code of honor, Jorg’s group has a loose camaraderie that is held together only by Jorg’s whim and strength of will. In fact, it is a constant, internal battle for Jorg not to kill the men he travels with when he feels disrespected, or when he suffers a foolish statement or an argumentative response from one of them. To him they are just tools, a means to an end that allow him to achieve his goals.

Although there are only 324 pages, there is a lot of adventure (and darkness) packed within this book. From castles and dungeons, to shanty towns and bogs, to underground caves and even a combat tournament, Jorg and his crew venture to several locales, each with a believable motivation. And the darkness! Various murders and incidents of looting, Machiavellian schemes, dark impulses and genocide…as I mentioned above, not something I would normally invest my time in. But Lawrence has accomplished something brilliant here, and even after finishing the story my head is still swimming.

(SPOILER ALERT! Move along to the next paragraph if necessary!) What I’m referring to here is something that stumped me early on. How does a ghost encounter a 14 year old boy and run away frightened? How is it that this same boy, who left home determined to have revenge against a rival baron, spent 4 years pursuing other interests and then decide to head home instead of pursuing that revenge? How does he command the respect of thugs and outlaws, and make decisions that only someone twice his age would be seasoned enough to reason out? Feel no guilt over committing genocide? Recognize that caring for anyone is a weakness that enemies can exploit? I thought it all too unbelievable, and had I given up, I would not have known the truth: that Jorg did not control his own thoughts and actions. It is a brilliant concept that once revealed, explains so much, and still leaves me wondering if any of Jorg’s actions were his own? If so, which ones? It also explains the title Prince of Thorns, going beyond the simple explanation of a child trapped in a thorn bush; instead, I believe it refers to Jorg being trapped and not able to exercise his own free will, as well as symbolizing that whenever Jorg even considers that he cares about something, the pain of loss (potential or realized) causes him to bury his feelings and not expose himself to “weakness”.

I loved the concept of court wizards using/advising kings and barons as chess pieces in a game only the wizards know is being played. I also liked that the scoundrels that follow Jorg around continue to do so after he murders one of them, or doesn’t deliver loot as promised, simply because they have no other prospects and Jorg generally lets them be as nasty as they want to be. A lot of characters are killed off during the story, including my favorite character, although as the story progresses, new characters are added. There are fantasy elements such as ghosts and magic, but it’s not clear what the source of that magic is. There are also references to ancient technologies, which become part of the plot, and some cultural references suggest that this may our own world, or perhaps a parallel one. By the end of the story I was “hooked” enough by the Prince of Thorns that I felt the need to order King of Thorns, the sequel. Well played, Mr. Lawrence, well played.

February 23, 2018 Posted by | Book Review | , | 2 Comments

Book Review: The Path of Flames by Phil Tucker

path of flames

Format:  oversized paperback, 1st Edition, 2016

Pages:  495

Reading Time:  about 8 hours

 

I picked up The Path of Flames after discovering that it was runner-up in the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off in 2016 held by Mark Lawrence. It received accolades from many readers, and I don’t think it is by accident that the cover is something one might see on an Elric novel. Not that The Path of Flames has anything in common with Elric, only that it sure couldn’t hurt sales to invoke such imagery. Other reviews of The Path of Flames:

Elitist Book Reviews

Booknest.eu

Fantasy Faction #1

Fantasy Faction #2

Vanessa at Elitist Book Reviews says the magic system isn’t explained well enough, the world-building seemed unfinished, and the plot has holes, but yet the story delivers on tension and the need to know the answers to many questions. Petrik at Booknest.eu is impressed by the strength of the female protagonists, but feels there was too much action and not enough character development, that Tharok’s point of view was disjointed, and is reminded of RPGs such as Dragon Age or World of Warcraft. Geoff at Fantasy Faction stated that the magic and religion reminded him of Dragonlance, feels all the trope boxes are checked, but that the story is enjoyable and the world and magic are interesting. Geoff’s counterpart at Fantasy Faction, J.C. Kang, felt that the strength of the story was in the excellent world-building and character POVs, points to a “Hindu-like progression (or regression) of reincarnation, that establishes a race- and location-based caste system“, and feels that the narrative prose is good but not as elegant as the world-building.

These are all excellent observations – I suppose I could stop right there and say “that’s a wrap!” But I feel like I have a few more things to add, so I’ll move on to discuss said things now, and if you’ve been reading my reviews, you know the drill – I’m going to spoil the story a little bit; however, no major plot points will be revealed here.

As the story began, I found the prose a bit choppy and jarring. Having read a lot of smooth-flowing prose recently (Devon Monk and Alec Hutson for example), it was glaringly evident that Tucker had a good story to tell but was having difficulty in trying to establish a smooth and consistent narration. As the story progressed, however, Tucker seemed to find a rhythm and the prose only occasionally interfered with the story. And what a story it was. I found myself swept up in events…from the opening large scale battle to a small tournament, then to the occupation of a ruined keep, a hunt for a demon, and a climactic battle – Tucker moves the story along briskly, with events unfolding in a believable manner, and often characters are faced with situations that give them no good choices. It’s compelling to follow these characters through their struggles, and I really had no idea where the story was going most of the time, which was a good thing – it wasn’t predictable.

I find myself agreeing wholeheartedly with J.C. Kang: the world-building is top notch. Gate travel, floating worlds, frozen heroes and dragons, the Age of Wonders that predates the main religion (Ascension), the suggestion that Ascension is very likely not what it seems, ruined castles, 18 feet tall faceless demons, albinos living in caves near “hell”, seven “Virtues” (knights with magical powers)…it all creates an interesting world that I want to learn more about. Unfortunately, in this first book, some answers that are brought forth serve to only create more questions. The title itself refers to a a thin black book within the story that reveals The Path of Flames is “seeking the greatest good at the cost of the least corruption”, otherwise known as Sin Casting. However, the book is only briefly looked at, giving us nothing but hints as to why Tucker’s debut novel bears the same name. I also agree with J.C. about the Hindu elements, and I would add that the concept of karma makes an appearance as well, as doing bad things (as defined by Ascension) will get an individual reincarnated in a land closer to the Black Gate, while performing acts in the service of Ascension will move an individual closer to the White Gate and the afterlife.

I found all the characters were interesting and have a major part to play. Six POVs is a little bit much, and often takes the reader away from a POV that they find more interesting…Tucker could have stuck with four and that would have been sufficient. Although many reviewers felt that the story of Tharok feels like a separate novel, in his final chapter there is a reveal that puts him squarely in line with the other POVs. Did I see the reveal coming? Well yes, but that didn’t make it any less important – the events that got Tharok to the exact place and time that he needed to be, so that he will interact with the other POV characters later, I’m certain will be important in the next book. My favorite character was one that did not have a POV and possessed no magical abilities nor wielded a magic sword: that would be Wyland, knight and last of the order of the Black Wolves. Wyland is noble, level-headed, and full of positive energy despite the struggles he becomes embroiled in. Readers could be forgiven for thinking that this virtuous knight doesn’t quite fit in a story where darkness is everywhere and even the highest members of the Ascension have questionable motivations, but in a tale so full of religious zealotry, cynicism, and racism, Wyland is a breath of fresh air. There is a scene near the end between Wyland and Asho that is fantastic and hit home for me…sometimes all you need is for one person to believe in you in order to become something greater. I loved it.

There are a few problem areas in the story. Characters often experience sudden changes in emotions that aren’t believable – sometimes within subsequent sentences…it happens far too frequently to be able to ignore. The magic system does not seem to be well-defined yet, but I suspect it will be fleshed out in later books. A couple of the protagonists seem to have almost limitless powers from out of nowhere, and some powerful magic items are introduced, relegating the ending to one deus ex machina effect after another. In the later part of the story, as some of the characters are hunting a demon, the character with the POV at the time, Kethe, gets separated from the others, and the narrative follows her actions. When Kethe meets up with her mother later, the characters she was separated from just “pop” back into the story unexpectedly, with no explanation as to what happened to them after the separation…it almost felt like there was a chapter missing, and with only 10 pages per chapter, it wouldn’t have hurt Tucker to insert one here to tidy up things a bit. Finally, there are a few typos and some punctuation issues, but nothing too glaring that disrupted the story…actually, for a self-published novel, there were fewer than I expected.

In summary, from my perspective, the strong world-building and characterization win out over the deus ex machina devices, occasional stumbles with prose and the other issues I mentioned above. I can see the Dragon Age/World of Warcraft comparisons, but there are enough unique ideas here that have me intrigued, and with a plot that careens from one difficult situation to another without being predictable, I was thoroughly entertained and want more answers, especially about what Ascension really is. I have ordered the next book in the series, The Black Shriving, and will be tackling it, I hope, later this year…

February 19, 2018 Posted by | Book Review | , | Leave a comment

Blogspotter: Saturday, February 17th

Shannon Thompson explores the relationship between in-depth discussions and spoiler-free reviews over at her site. My take appears in her comments section, but I’ll re-post it here:

A good review has spoilers. At a base level, a reviewer could supply a “I liked it” or I didn’t like it” and if you generally agree with that reviewer’s likes and dislikes, that would be all you need. But let’s face it, we want a wordy, explanatory review rather than a thumbs up or thumbs down because we *love* to read, and that reading includes reviews, especially lengthy ones that the reviewer puts a lot of thought and effort into. A review that doesn’t include at least a few spoilers is a waste of time, because expressing vague generalities buys you no credibility as a reviewer.

As an example, I recently read reviews for a book on Amazon, trying to determine if I should spend my hard-earned money on it. A couple of spoiler-free reviews almost had me convinced I should buy it, but two reviews that contained spoilers gave me information that I knew would make me regret my purchase. The reviews don’t have to be negative – they just need to provide you with a little more information. And to be honest, with the growing pile of books I have to read, by the time I get around to the book in question and get absorbed in the story, those spoilers have been relegated to the far recesses of my mind and are no threat to ruin a story.

With that said, I do try to give a warning if I feel I’m about to reveal a major plot point that would remove surprise and/or tension from the story.

A great topic to consider from Shannon that helped me to explain why my reviews are not spoiler-free…

February 17, 2018 Posted by | Blogspotter | Leave a comment

Interview with Cameron Johnston

In my last post I indicated that I was going to be doing an interview with Cameron Johnston, author of the forthcoming novel The Traitor God. Little did I know that Cameron was already hard at work on my questions and banged out his answers in one day! It’s his first ever author interview, and it’s my first interview as well, so there’s bound to be some rookie questions on my part…fortunately Cameron was up for the challenge. I tried to keep my questions that were in reference to The Traitor God spoiler-free, but there’s a couple of tiny tidbits in the interview due to the inherent sneakiness of my subconscious…

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BACKGROUND

Cameron Johnston is a Scottish writer of speculative fiction (usually a mix of fantasy and horror) and a member of the Glasgow Science Fiction Writers’ Circle since 2010.

He is also a swordsman, gamer, enthusiast of archaeology and history, a fine ale drinker, builder of LEGO, a cat-slave, and owns far too many books to fit on his shelves.

His short stories have appeared in publications such as Niteblade Magazine, The Lovecraft eZine, and Swords and Sorcery Magazine to name a few, and his debut novel The Traitor God is forthcoming. A full list of Cameron’s writings can be found on his website: www.cameronjohnston.net.

With the background out of the way, let’s jump into the interview. My questions are in bold and are represented by “HA” (Hippogriff’s Aerie) while Cameron’s answers appear as “CJ”…

 

INTERVIEW

HA: Over at Fantasy Faction you mention 10 overlooked novels that “made you”. You also mention some of the big names like Lord of the Rings, Dune, Dragonlance, Elric, that are obvious influences as well. Which 2-3 authors would you say are your biggest influences?

CJ: All-time biggest influence is a tricky beast to define but we’ll start fairly early on as that influenced my future taste as a reader. If I have to only pick three I will go for H.P. Lovecraft for the sense of cosmic horror and ancient mystery, Michael Moorcock for the epic swords and sorcery multiverse and chaos vs order of the eternal champion books, and the duo of Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman for Dragonlance, which got me into fantasy in a BIG way.

 

HA: You signed with an agent for The Traitor God. On your website you describe receiving the acceptance letter. Did you receive any rejection letters? Do you think you would have considered self-publishing had no offers been forthcoming?

CJ: You would struggle to find any trade published author that hasn’t been on the receiving end of rejections and ploughed on through it. Before I began The Traitor God I was working on short stories to help improve my writing skills before I began to write another novel (my third!), and when you have a few short pieces out and about at various markets and get three rejections all on the same day, well, that is not fun! With agents and novels the game has been upped and the stakes higher so rejections hurt more and acceptances are ecstatic – I received some nibbles of interest and some form rejections from agents before I was lucky enough to join forces with Amanda Rutter of Red Sofa Literary, which worked out very well indeed for me. I would definitely have considered self-publishing if The Traitor God had not been snapped up by a publisher. I believed in it too much to just trunk it in an abandoned folder somewhere, but thankfully with the help of my agent and Angry Robot’s fine editors it is being published stronger than sleeker than ever before.

 

HA: Did you write a synopsis and attach it to your manuscript? If so, how hard was it to crunch your book down to a paragraph or two?

CJ: Synopses are awkward and brutal and every writer I know hates condensing their novel to a brief and flavourless outline of plot points. I took the approach of ‘If they like the start then they just want to get a brief overview of where the rest is going to make sure it’s not going entirely crazy’ so I tried not to sweat the small stuff and give them that overview. Of course, as soon as you send it you start fretting over it all again.

 

HA: On your website you talk about some of the ancient places that you’ve visited, like Arran’s Giant’s Graves and the Machrie Moor stone circles. Do you find these mystical places making their way into your stories or influencing your writing? Besides Scottish/Celtic history, are there other areas and times in Earth’s history that you are particularly drawn to?

Giant 2

CJ: The sense of age and mystery that cloaks such ancient places has always called to me and absolutely influences my writing. I’ve even written a short story published in The Lovecraft eZine around standing stones and ancient churches and why they were set in a particular location. I only wish I could visit the distant past to find out how ancient sites were really used! Other areas of history that I am especially interested in are: anything prehistoric from the Stone Age right through to the Iron Age, ancient Egypt and Roman times. I am also interested in UK history of the Dark Ages through medieval – all those lovely castles, swords and armour!

 

HA: You are a self-admitted huge fan of archaeology and history. In the world that appears in The Traitor God, did you come up with a history first, or did it develop as you wrote the story? Are the monsters in the story familiar (based on Earth mythology/Dungeons & Dragons), or did you create your own unique creatures?

CJ: I’m of the school of worldbuilding where character and story develop first, and the world coalesces around that story. I had a core idea of the world but the details filled themselves in as I went along through the first few drafts. The monsters in The Traitor God are largely nothing like you would see in D&D-esque fantasy, with most being something far more disturbing that have more in common with the creations of H.P. Lovecraft than with elves and orcs.

 

HA: The Fantasy Hive calls your novel a “grimdark epic”. Is grimdark a rebellion against stories about farm boys with magic swords coming of age, a reflection of our current society, or something more? What is the appeal of grimdark to you?

CJ: Grimdark is a response to the old days of epic fantasy, of goody-goody farm boys with magic swords but it’s also more than that, and just one part of an ongoing trend of real-world cynicism. It’s partly a desire for more realism and authenticity in the same way that modern war films don’t shy away from depicting the brutality and atrocity of war or the moral implications of darker deeds by all involved. Many of the video nasty’s of the 1980’s seem tame and cheesy compared to modern horror films, and the Internet is everywhere now – the knowledge must flow, which over time has meant the restraints of censorship have been relaxed for much of the media. We’ve all seen and heard too much about the real world and its scandals to go back to those more innocent days of pure-hearted heroics – at least not all the time. It’s always good to escape all the grimness of reality and read unashamedly fun fiction too, one of the reasons why I think a book like Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames has done so well (despite it being generally awesome anyway).

 

HA: The cover of The Traitor God was done by Jan Weßbecher and is absolutely gorgeous. How did that come about?

Traitor God

CJ: Angry Robot asked me what sort of cover I fancied, and agreed with me that it should be artwork as opposed to one of those photo-realistic hooded man style covers. Then I was asked for a range of images that inspired me, and to write a brief of what the main character looks like, his gear, descriptions of the city of Setharis and that kind of thing. Jan wove that into a series of rough sketches that Angry Robot and I looked at and chose the parts we liked best: the bridge detail, the angle of view, character pose, and the style of the titanic *coughcough* ‘statue’ in the background. Then Jan fleshed out all the amazing detail work. I was thrilled to be so involved in the process.

 

HA: One of my favorite posts that your wrote on your site is called “A Writer’s Thick Skin”. It nicely sums up the anxieties of being a writer, as well as the need for constructive criticism to make you a better writer. Did you have any family and/or friends read and critique The Traitor God? If so where there things you thought you nailed that they didn’t like? Pleasant surprises? How long have you been working on this story?

CJ: I am a member of an amazing and long-running (30+ years!) writer’s group here in Scotland, that has enjoyed having some wonderful trade published writers such as Hal Duncan, Neil Williamson, Gary Gibson, William King, and Michael Cobley through its doors. Plenty of professional advice has been on hand, and critiques are completely but constructively honest and focused on building a writer up to be better instead of tearing them down. Which is exactly what you need if you really want to improve. One thing I have learned is that writers are really not the best judges of their own stories and some things I thought were fairly bad turned out to be well received. The first draft of The Traitor God began as a short story called ‘Head Games’ in late 2012 and the first rough draft of the novel took a year. Multiple drafts and rewrites later, it went out to agents in late 2015, then following edits, to publishers mid-2017. Quite a journey!

 

HA: On my site you state “if only The Traitor God does well enough to get a book 2 & 3, then the magic and monsters will be turned up to 12″. Do you already have an arc/plot for the next two books? Does that mean there will be unanswered questions in The Traitor God that will leave the reader anxiously awaiting resolution in a sequel?

CJ: I originally wrote The Traitor God with the intention of it being part one of a trilogy, as we fantasy writers tend to want to write. However, one thing that I feel passionate about is that any book should also have a satisfying ending, to stand alone to a great extent. And so The Traitor God does! I really hate it when a good book just…stops, and an entirely unresolved story is left dangling – that is just not fun for readers. The Traitor God has a satisfying ending to the events of this book but also leaves open the possibility for more mayhem. If enough wonderful readers buy it, like it, and want to explore more of the character, the world and its dark history, and its macabre magic then I hope to have the opportunity to write it for them.

 

HA: You mention an interest in swords/fencing on your site. Can you expand on this?

CJ: Well-crafted swords are things of intrinsic beauty to my eyes, the careful work of master smiths. Take a look at the exquisite work of the Raven Armoury, Castle Keep, or Albion Swords and I defy anybody to say I’m wrong. On that note: I’ll drop in a cheeky ‘buy my book’ to readers here – I’d love to be able to afford one of those works of art some day! A guy can dream. I also dabble in Historical European Martial Arts, which tries to reconstruct martial weapon arts from surviving original texts, historical records, and practical reconstruction. Also, what’s fantasy without those magic swords we love so very much? (shush, don’t mention question 6!)

 

HA: Bonus Question: I know you’re a Harryhausen fan like I am. Favorite Harryhausen movie and favorite Harryhausen creature? For me it’s Clash of the Titans for sheer epic-ness, and the six armed, sword-wielding statue of Kali in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (full disclosure: I have the vinyl figure from X-Plus sitting on my bookshelf because it’s so awesome!)

CJ: I’ll have to go with Jason and the Argonauts I think. As for creatures, Kali is an amazing foe that I’d put on par with Medusa from Clash of the Titans, but for me the skeletons from Jason and the Argonauts win out. The slow advance and then that mad charge and the fight, all perfect.

giphy

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Many thanks to Cameron Johnston for graciously accepting my interview request and taking the time to answer my questions in an entertaining manner. Look for The Traitor God to be released on June 5th in the U.S. and Canada (June 7th in the UK), or better yet, pre-order it now from his publisher, Angry Robot Books; it’s also available for pre-order from Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

February 14, 2018 Posted by | interview | | Leave a comment

Cameron Johnston Interview Request

Traitor GodI mentioned in my previous post that The Traitor God is one of my most anticipated reads for 2018. I have contacted Cameron Johnston for an interview and it sounds like he is up for it, so I will be publishing the interview transcript here once it is complete.

You can check out Cameron’s website here. He has a post about the importance of pre-orders, and since I was planning on acquiring The Traitor God anyway, I did Cameron a solid and signed up for a pre-order.

Stay tuned for my interview with Cameron soon…

February 13, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Most Anticipated Titles for 2018

Although I have a huge stack of books in the queue – I’ve only listed about a third of them here on the site – there are some releases coming out this year that I’d like to get my hands on, and I’ve always wanted to do one of these lists. So here is a list of the books I’m looking forward to acquiring the most this year, in no particular order:

2018 NEW RELEASES

grey

The Grey Bastards (hard cover on June 19th)

From Orbit Books: “You might have heard of The Grey Bastards because it won Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 2016 – meaning that a panel of ten top fantasy bloggers picked it as the winner out of hundreds of entries. And this win was thoroughly deserved . . . This fantasy debut is brimming with raucous energy.

It’s the story of Jackal – who is proud to be a Grey Bastard, a member of a sworn brotherhood of half-orcs. Unloved and unwanted in civilized society, the Bastards eke out a hard life in the desolate no-man’s-land called the Lots, protecting frail and noble human civilization from invading bands of vicious full-blooded orcs . . .

Jonathan’s voice stood out to us as one of the freshest we’ve read in years. The story overflows with crisp dialogue, blood-soaked action, an entertaining sardonic voice and a wonderfully compelling cast of characters. It’s an irresistible action tale that will thrill readers of fantasy such as Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence, Stan Nicholl’s Orcs series and Markus Heitz’s Dwarves series.

This sounds really cool and I’m stoked it is being released as in hard back format…

 

 

 

 

SenlinAscends

Senlin Ascends (released in paperback on January 16th) and Arm of the Sphinx (paperback on March 13th)

Senlin Ascends (from Amazon): “The Tower of Babel is the greatest marvel in the world. Immense as a mountain, the ancient Tower holds unnumbered ringdoms, warring and peaceful, stacked one on the other like the layers of a cake. It is a world of geniuses and tyrants, of luxury and menace, of unusual animals and mysterious machines.

Soon after arriving for his honeymoon at the Tower, the mild-mannered headmaster of a small village school, Thomas Senlin, gets separated from his wife, Marya, in the overwhelming swarm of tourists, residents, and miscreants.

Senlin is determined to find Marya, but to do so he’ll have to navigate madhouses, ballrooms, and burlesque theaters. He must survive betrayal, assassins, and the illusions of the Tower. But if he hopes to find his wife, he will have to do more than just endure.

This quiet man of letters must become a man of action.

 

 

 

 

 

ArmoftheSphinx

Arm of the Sphinx (from Amazon) (SPOILER ALERT): “The Tower of Babel is proving to be as difficult to reenter as it was to break out of. Forced into a life of piracy, Senlin and his eclectic crew are struggling to survive aboard their stolen airship as the hunt to rescue Senlin’s lost wife continues.

Hopeless and desolate, they turn to a legend of the Tower, the mysterious Sphinx. But help from the Sphinx never comes cheaply, and as Senlin knows, debts aren’t always what they seem in the Tower of Babel.

Time is running out, and now Senlin must choose between his friends, his freedom, and his wife.

Does anyone truly escape the Tower?

These sound incredibly innovate and unique to me. Some reviewers reference steampunk elements, while all say that the sequel is nearly as good or better than the first (Kindle reviews). Although these will be paperback acquisitions and not hard cover, I’m going to gamble on at least the first and spring for the sequel if all goes well…

 

 

 

 

Traitor God

The Traitor God (paperback on June 5th)

From Amazon: “A city threatened by unimaginable horrors must trust their most hated outcast, or lose everything, in this crushing epic fantasy debut.

After ten years on the run, dodging daemons and debt, reviled magus Edrin Walker returns home to avenge the brutal murder of his friend. Lynas had uncovered a terrible secret, something that threatened to devour the entire city. He tried to warn the Arcanum, the mageocracy who rule the city. He failed.

Lynas was skinned alive and Walker felt every cut. Now nothing will stop him from finding the murderer. Magi, mortals, daemons, and even the gods – Walker will burn them all if he has to.

After all, it wouldn’t be the first time he’s killed a god…

The cover art is gorgeous, but it’s the premise – unimaginable horrors? Outcast? A mageocracy? A guy skinned alive? Killed a god…wait, what? This sounds so epic and right up my alley. Thanks to The Fantasy Hive for turning me on to this one. I hope Cameron Johnston is already considering a sequel…

 

 

 

 

crimson queenThe Shadow King (paperback, 2018, no release date yet)

I really enjoyed Alec Hutson’s The Crimson Queen and although there aren’t a lot of details yet, I will definitely be grabbing the sequel when it is released some time later this year…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PREVIOUS YEAR RELEASES

fools quest

assassins fate

Fool’s Quest and Assassin’s Fate

 

Oh, you KNOW I’m going to get these regardless of how I feel about Fool’s Assassin! It’s just a matter of time…

 

 

 

 

paternus

Paternus

I find urban fantasy to be a bit hit and miss, but I love mythology and there are so many great reviews that I will take a chance on it…

 

 

 

 

 

what remains of heroes

What Remains of Heroes

I’m not sure how I feel about this one, but I will probably take a chance on it as well…

 

 

 

 

 

thief troubles braids

The Thief Who Pulled On Trouble’s Braids

I’m not typically a fan of thief stories, but like Paternus there are so many great reviews I feel like I need to give this one a fighting chance too…

February 6, 2018 Posted by | Most Anticipated Releases | 1 Comment

Book Review: Cold Copper by Devon Monk

cold copperFormat:  oversized paperback, first edition, 2013

Pages:  383

Reading Time:  about  6 hours

 

I had mixed feelings about reading and reviewing this book. On one hand, I really enjoyed the first two books in the Age of Steam series. On the other hand, it’s looking like the series is done, since it is now 2018 and it’s going on 5 years since a fourth book could have been written but hasn’t. That’s unfortunate, because Monk had planned the series to run for about 7 books, so the end of this book right now is literally The End, and does not resolve the rest of the story that would have continued in the last 4 books. So with a heavy heart, I’ll proceed with this review. Minor spoilers lie ahead.

Monk’s prose continues to be wonderful, and the dialog is snappy and often witty. I chuckled a few times, although there were no laugh-out-loud moments. The characters remain fairly consistent in their mannerisms and actions. The whole cast is back from the previous book: Cedar, Wil, Mae, Rose, Hink, and the Madder brothers, and some new characters are introduced: the mysterious Mr. Wicks, how has a tendency to keep popping up; Father Kyne, a native American preacher who has a hold over the Madders; and Mayor Vosbrough, who seems to be up to no good. The story is told from Cedar’s and Rose’s perspectives as each chapter alternates between the two. Cedar is with Mae and the Madders as they search for the holder; Rose is still in the coven as repairs are being made to the airship from the last book, Tin Swift. Towards the end there are a few chapters from Hink’s perspective. Wil gets more time in human form, and although I like his character in wolf form, it is still a welcome change.

Unfortunately, there are several problems with the story. Nothing really happens until about 150 pages in. The story is not necessarily bad…it just moves at a glacial pace as characters move around and try to solve mysteries. Part of the problem, which is true for any story that uses alternating viewpoints, is that if you find one viewpoint more interesting than the other, you must struggle through one you like like to get to the one you like more. For me, I wanted to follow Cedar’s viewpoint, which I found far more interesting. Trying to track down the holder, Father Kyne’s hold over the Madders, the Madders’ history in Des Moines and with Vosbrough, Cedar’s curse…these are all very compelling plot points. Rose’s story, on the other hand, deals with jealousy and her relationship with Hink, a train ride, and the introduction of Wicks. It is thoroughly, totally uninteresting. Wicks himself is the most ho-hum character Monk has created. At first he is in the story as jealous tension, then he pops up at various places without any explanation as to how or why he is there. He’s mostly useless and annoying, and totally unnecessary to the plot.

Spoiler alert – skip to the next paragraph if necessary. Another problem is that with the glacial pace through most of the book, the last 40 pages seemed rushed and a bit scattered, almost as if Monk wasn’t sure about which way to take the story. The finale with Vosbrough is very anti-climactic and underwhelming. Cedar should be dead but inexplicably soldiers on, impossible to kill, robbing the story of tension (the same complaint I had with Tin Swift). Some plot points are never explained fully: how were the children taken? Why did their tracks end at the river, but they weren’t found at the river? Why did the Strange bite Cedar on the shoulder in his dream, and why did it keep bothering him when he wasn’t dreaming? Why did the Strange guide him to Vosbrough’s generator instead of to the place where its brethren were being held? If the Strange can enter dead bodies anytime, why don’t they do this to free their trapped brethren? What was the power plant used for? Why did Cedar have memories of Vosbrough that were vague and incoherent? Why was Cedar slow to heal even before his transference with Father Kyne? What is the significance of a cold copper triangle Cedar found and put in his pocket? Why did the Strange attack him after it lead him to the children? There are far too many unanswered questions and plot points that don’t make sense that left me feeling confused and unsatisfied.

I’m disappointed to say I didn’t enjoy this story as much as I did the previous two books. It had too many non-compelling pages, an ending that feels rushed, too much time devoted to the useless Mr. Wicks, and some glaring plot holes that remain unanswered. I do appreciate the amount of time Monk has to put into research, and I would have liked to see the automaton featured in the story more, but maybe that was a setup for the next book. Perhaps in the future the author will write a fourth Age of Steam book, and if so I’ll give it a read in the hope that it redeems the series. And if another book is not forthcoming, it’s a shame that this is the way it all ends, fading away instead of going out with a bang, because Age of Steam was becoming one of my favorite series.

February 5, 2018 Posted by | Book Review | , | Leave a comment

New Books On The Way

It’s been slow going with my current read, Devon Monk’s Cold Copper, due to a lack of time. In the meantime, I thought I’d share some of my recent purchases…

 

fool's assassin

The Fitz and The Fool trilogy was one of the reasons I wanted to get back into reading fantasy. Robin Hobb is one of my favorite authors, and I never imagined she would write another Fitz series. Since the last book, Assassin’s Fate, came out last year I won’t have to wait for sequels when diving in. I’ve heard this first book isn’t great, but the second and third are. Can’t wait to add this to the queue!

 

revisionaryI already possessed the third book in the Magic Ex Libris series, Unbound by James C. Hines, and had placed it in the queue. When I found out there was a 4th book in the series, it was an easy decision to add it to the growing pile of books to be read based on how much I liked the first two books. Hopefully I’ll get around to reading Unbound this summer and Revisionary towards the end of this year.

 

shadow of what was lostThe Shadow of What Was Lost by James Islington intrigues me, from the beautiful eye-catching cover to the epic fantasy categorization. Comparisons to the Wheel of Time series are inevitable, and some tired tropes play out here – why are there so many “coming of age” and “attending a school” stories? But the world-building sounds excellent and the sequel seems even better. The third book is scheduled to be released in 2019 so I have plenty of time to get through this one.

 

February 1, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment