#SPFBO An Empire of Tears (Tales of a Prodigy #1) by Tim Marquitz

EmpireOfTearsAn Empire of Tears is one of the nine books that I chose to roll forward and read completely as part of the first stage of the SPFBO competition.

This is without doubt a story for readers of grimdark that can be quite brutal in parts involving an unusual character, a man bred to kill who finds a chance of redemption when he least expected.

Gryl was a slave of Avantr.  Magic lies beneath his skin and his memories are all unkind usually involving insights into the pain inflicted upon him in order to increase his endurance.  He’s a man of war, shaped to feel no remorse and to fight to the bitter end.  As the story sets out Gryl, and the rest of the prodigies created for war, are sailing across the sea to make war on the Shytan Empire.  Unfortunately the invasion fails and Gryl finds himself a survivor in enemy territory.  Under the circumstances he turns to the only way of life likely to ensure his survival.  He becomes a sellsword, taking work where he can, although it’s not always easy with a price on his head and bounty hunters keen to collect.

This is a story that, for me, improved as the chapters went by.  The start was undoubtedly bloody and in fact I was almost reaching a threshold in terms of the fighting and violence – I will also mention at this point that there are potential triggers contained within in terms of the brutality and scenes of rape/molestation – to be honest, I didn’t feel that these were dwelled on but be aware this can be a most unpleasant world.

What I enjoyed about this is that each chapter is told almost like a small story in itself which makes Gryl’s tale move forward at a fairly fast clip, without all the filler in-between. The writing is definitely a strong point, there’s enough detail to give you an idea of the place and I think Marquitz does a good job in turning Gryl’s character around.  He’s definitely got a dark past and as the story begins his lack of emotion can be grating, particularly when he makes a number of mistakes that lead to deaths that could have been avoided, but he finds a cause and it helps to bring out some redeeming qualities that gave his character a chance to grow.

There were a number of other characters involved along the way, most notably the Priest who sees something more to Gryl than simply a killer, and the young children in the priest’s care who became a cause for Gryl to fight for.  Gryl undoubtedly plays the main role though.

In terms of criticisms.  I think the first thing I would mention falls more into the realms of personal taste.  This is dark fantasy, it’s bloody and the world created is a nasty place to say the least.  It won’t be for everyone to be frank and I did have a moment where I was starting to feel like it was too much, as it happened the author changed tack and I found myself pulled in – although, to be clear, this is still dark reading, it morphs into something different than simply a bloodfest but it’s still a long shot from a Disney extravaganza.  I found Gryl’s attitude a little annoying at the beginning, he made a number of mistakes that felt like they occured due to his over-confidence and, well, he had very little remorse when such things happened – that being said, he’s been tortured and manipulated to leave him an almost emotion-free zone so I guess that’s to be expected.  The only other thing I would mention is that I think an injection of some humour might have lessened the dark feel – I realise that humour probably isn’t appropriate for a lot of the content here but I just feel like the inclusion of something to relieve the tension every now and again would have been welcome, snarkdark if you will – perhaps that’s one of the drawbacks of the episodic chapter style – we were moving forward with such haste that there was very little time for moments of light relief.

Overall, I thought this was a good read.  It definitely had a decent pace and I read it relatively quickly.  The writing was self-assured and the ending left me wanting to read more.

I would rate this 3.4/3.5 on Goodreads.

I received a copy courtesy of the author, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.





Friday Face Off : A heart – for Valentine’s day past


Here we are again with the Friday Face Off meme created by Books by Proxy .  This is a great opportunity to feature some of your favourite book covers.  The rules are fairly simple each week, following a predetermined theme (list below) choose a book, compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.   Future week’s themes are listed below – the list has been updated to help out those of you who like to plan ahead – if you have a cover in mind that you’re really wanting to share then feel free to leave a comment about a future suggested theme. This week’s theme:

A heart – for Valentine’s day past

I hope you all had an easy time finding covers.  I did have another book in mind this week but decided to go with: Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough – because I do love this author – in a totally non-bunny-boiler-not-a-stalker-way I hasten to add!

The covers:

My favourite this week is:


I just love the colours for this and it has a certain simplicity.

Like last week I’ve added a Mr Linky here so that you can leave a link if you wish or please leave me a link in the comments so I can visit and check out your covers.  Thanks

I’ll be updating the list soon to take it through a few more months – if you have any suggestions you’d like to see adding then drop a note in the comments.  Thanks

Next week –  A cover with abandoned building/s

Future themes: (if you’re struggling with any of these themes then use a ‘freebie’ of one of your favourite covers)


22nd February – “Woe, destruction, ruin, and decay; the worst is death and death will have his day.” – A cover with abandoned building/s

1st March – ‘who will buy this wonderful morning’ – A cover featuring a shop or market

8th March – ‘Two little fishes and a momma fishy too’ – A cover featuring a fish/fishes or other sea creatures

15th March – ‘Beware the moon, lads.’ – A cover with a shapeshifter

22nd March – ‘A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse’ – A cover featuring a king

29th March – “I thought unicorns were more . . . Fluffy.”  – A cover featuring a unicorn

5th April – ‘nomad is an island’ – A cover featuring a desert landscape

12th April – ‘Odin, Odin, send the wind to turn the tide – A cover featuring a longboat

19th April – ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times – A cover featuring a school

Thornbound (The Harwood Spellbook #2) by Stephanie Burgis

ThornboundI will start this review by saying outright that I loved Thornbound.  This is the second in the Harwood Spellbook series and brings to us the exploits of Cassandra Harwood.  I have to say that posting this on Valentine’s Day feels particularly appropriate because there is an element of romance to this book – although not enough to put me off reading, just enough to pique my interest and not overrun the story.

Be aware that as a review for the second book in series this may contain spoilers so you might want to stop reading now if you haven’t yet read the first book (although I will of course endeavour to avoid spoilers).

Cassandra is something of a rebel.  She was the first woman to study magic and when her magic failed (as we found out in Snowspelled) she found another peg to hang her hat on with the notion of opening up a school for women with magical ability.  Of course, the country, and more to the point the Boudiccate, a group made up of stalwart matriachs who run the politics of Angland with a firm hand, were up in arms.  It’s just unheard of, teaching women magic – magic is the realm of men for goodness sake. Whatever next – men will be wanting to govern the country and all will swiftly go to hell in a handcart if that ever happens.

The story picks up shortly after the conclusion of Spellbound.  Cassandra is almost ready to open her new school.  Set within Thornfell, the family’s ancestral home, all has been made ready for the arrival of the new students.  The future seems rosy, although we soon learn that everything isn’t quite as picture perfect as it may seem.  Amy, Cassandra’s sister-in-law has all but given up any hopes of her political career – the Boudiccate are outraged by the support she has given to Cassandra in developing her plans.  Hiring staff to work in the school has been all but impossible and it seems Cassandra will be running all the lessons herself – bar the weather lessons, for which she has an unexpected appointment, and on top of this the Boudiccate have dropped a surprise audit on Casandra to coincide with the opening.

I won’t elaborate further on the plot other than to say this is very entertaining and also a little darker than the first  Thornfell backs directly onto a dense forest and the family have always recognised the agreements in place between humans and the fae.  Of course, these things can go wrong and when an altar that indicates a pact with the fae appears on school property things swiftly start to spiral out of control.  We’re talking disappearances and creepy encroaching vines.

Okay, so this instalment has a darker feel than the previous book as mentioned above and this is pleasantly unexpected.  Plus, I think Burgis pulls an absolute blinder by keeping Cassandra’s husband out of the pages for the majority of the story – wait!  I will explain.  I think if Wrexham had been present it would have resulted in a lot of agency being taken from Cassandra because she would naturally rely on him and he would also want to step in – also this keeps the chemistry between the two very much alive, and, on top of that it enables a remarkable bond to develop between the females in the story – which is just great.

I’m loving this series, it got off to a good start with Snowspelled but Thornbound is even better.  I’m getting a good feeling for this parallel world and the gender reversals.  There’s a great diverse cast of characters, the magic is gently explored and it’s all set in a regency style Angland.  What’s not to enjoy really.

On top of that the writing is excellent.  I already know, of course, having read a couple of other books by this author, that her writing was really good and this series is no exception.

This series has so much potential that it actually makes me really quite excited.  Seriously, I hope that there are plenty more instalments planned because I will definitely be there to pick them up.  If you fancy your bonnets and petticoats with a bit of sass and an alternate universe where females have some real say in what goes on, if you want a dash of romance that is more a lovely side dish than the whole hog, plus, come on – fae – then here you go, and, you’re welcome.

I really enjoyed Thornbound and can’t wait for more.

I received a copy courtesy of the author, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.


Throwback Thursday : The Girl with Ghost Eyes (The Daoshi Chronicles #1) by M.H. Boroson

Throwback Thursday, is a new feature created by Tenacious Reader with the aim of  highlighting books from the past. This can be virtually anything, a book from your past that you loved, a book that you want to highlight again, maybe it’s a book in a series and the next book is due out shortly so you want to focus some attention on the series.   Anything goes – so long as your book isn’t a current release as there are already plenty of ways to highlight the latest books.  

This is my first week taking part and the book I’d like to highlight is :

The Girl with Ghost Eyes (The Daoshi Chronicles #1) by M.H. Boroson

I really loved this book and I never get tired of giving it a shout out.  The cover and synopsis are taken directly from Goodreads and my review is here.  The second book in the series (The Girl with No Face (The Daoshi Chronicles #2) by M.H. Boroson) is due out this October and I’m giddy with excitement!

The GirlIt’s the end of the nineteenth century in San Francisco’s Chinatown, and ghost hunters from the Maoshan traditions of Daoism keep malevolent spiritual forces at bay. Li-lin, the daughter of a renowned Daoshi exorcist, is a young widow burdened with yin eyes—the unique ability to see the spirit world. Her spiritual visions and the death of her husband bring shame to Li-lin and her father—and shame is not something this immigrant family can afford.

When a sorcerer cripples her father, terrible plans are set in motion, and only Li-lin can stop them. To aid her are her martial arts and a peachwood sword, her burning paper talismans, and a wisecracking spirit in the form of a human eyeball tucked away in her pocket. Navigating the dangerous alleys and backrooms of a male-dominated Chinatown, Li-lin must confront evil spirits, gangsters, and soulstealers before the sorcerer’s ritual summons an ancient evil that could burn Chinatown to the ground.

With a rich and inventive historical setting, nonstop martial arts action, authentic Chinese magic, and bizarre monsters from Asian folklore, The Girl with Ghost Eyes is also the poignant story of a young immigrant searching to find her place beside the long shadow of a demanding father and the stigma of widowhood. In a Chinatown caught between tradition and modernity, one woman may be the key to holding everything together.

Can’t Wait Wednesday : Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia.  Because I really do love this author and just check out the synopsis:

Gods ofJade.jpgThe Mayan God of Death sends a young woman on a harrowing, life-changing journey in this dark fairy tale inspired by Mexican folklore, for readers of The Song of Achilles and Uprooted.

The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own.

Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.

In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey, from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City—and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.

Due for publication : August 2019

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