#SPFBO Review : Knightmare Arcanist (Frith Chronicles #1) by Shami Stovall

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300 books           10 Judges            1 winner

The 1st of June marked the start of the sixth Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (details here.)  My Introductory post is here.

You can find my updates for batch 1batch 2batch 3, Batch 4 and Batch 5 by clicking on the  links.  My recent update in which I announced further cuts and two semi-finalists can be found here.

This week and next I will be posting reviews for the ten books I rolled forward to read fully.  Hopefully five reviews this week followed by an update and cuts and semi finalist announcements on Saturday.  I will then repeat this format the following week. I won’t be posting a rating for the books at this point.

KnightmareKnightmare Arcanist is set in a world full of magic and mythical creatures.  It’s a very enjoyable story that gets off to a really good start and in fact it pulled me in  immediately.  We meet Volke, apprentice gravedigger who longs to be an Arcanist.  To become an arcanist one must bond with a magical creature and as the book kicks off we find Volke gate-crashing a phoenix bonding trial hoping to bond with a phoenix himself.  Failing the trial Volke is still determined to follow his ambitions and he and his sister travel to a swamp where a boat carrying magical beasts is believed to have crashed.  The two both eventually succeed in finding and bonding with a magical creature.

From here we travel to a magical school (set on the back of a gigantic turtle) and the real adventures begin.

There are so many aspects that I really enjoyed about this book and I was  gripped almost immediately.  It really does get off to a very quick start.  We’re thrown into the world and there’s no tippy-toeing around.  I also love the whole idea of these young characters bonding with a magical creature that will enable them to wield magic – and of course there’s the magic school element.  Plus, the main mystery.  Let’s not forget the mystery.

The magical creatures are very interesting and Volke’s own bonded creature particularly so.  A Knightmare is a creature of shadow, in fact it can use the shadows in different ways.  It can take the form of a knight and can actually ‘join’ with it’s bonded human to fight.  Unfortunately Volke finds the bonding and use of magic very difficult, in fact painful, much more so than his fellow students.

The world building was also intriguing.  A terrible plague is spreading across the land, magical creatures touched with the plague become dark versions of themselves, insane and unstable and this disease can also affect humans, particularly if they’re bitten by an infected creature.  Arcanists are desperate to find a cure but travelling between islands is rendered dangerous by the number of pirates sailing the seas.

The characters.  There is a good cast, primarily of young adult characters faced with the sorts of dilemmas you would expect.  There is bullying and petty rivalry but also a really good attempt to build up lasting friendships.  Volke and his sister Ilia are joined by Zaxis and Atty, the two young adults who took part in the initial trials and bonded with a phoenix each.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, I will point out before saying anything else that this was a very enjoyable book that kept me entertained.  That being said, I probably enjoyed the start of the book more than the conclusion – which is a little unusual in some respects because the conclusion is certainly action packed.  I think I had a slight feeling that the second half needed to pace itself a little more.  I also had a couple of slight irritations here or there which were predominantly as a result of feeling that some things just came too easily.  There’s also this element at the school of teachers not teaching at all – just telling students to do something without any sort of explanation and the mysterious disappearance of adults for large portions of time.  But, saying all this, I recognise that I’m not maybe the target audience here and none of these were real deal breakers.

Overall this is an action packed, dramatic adventure with critters aplenty, intriguing magic, trials, schools, pirates and a central mystery just waiting to be solved and as first books in series go it’s a very solid start indeed.

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

#SPFBO : Semi-Finalist and Cuts Announcement

Posted On 19 October 2020

Filed under Book Reviews
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Comments Dropped 5 responses

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300 books           10 Judges            1 winner

The 1st of June marked the start of the sixth Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (details here.)  My Introductory post is here.

You can find my updates for batch 1batch 2batch 3, Batch 4 and Batch 5 by clicking on the  links.

During the past week I have reviewed five of the ten books that I rolled forward.  Today I am announcing the first cuts from that batch of five together with the first semi finalists.  I would say that these cuts have been very difficult because I’ve enjoyed all of the books from both batches and so the decision comes down to really very minor issues.  My apologies to the authors from this next round of cuts and congratulations to the Semi Finalists.

The Usurper (Brutal Saga #0.50) by James Alderdice

I had a good time with the Usurper and really enjoyed the two different timelines.  Other than a couple of minor issues I think this is a series that I would really enjoy and fans of grimdark fantasy with a dash of heroic adventure might enjoy this one.  My review is here.

Conclusion : Cut

Usurper

The Hammer of the Gods: So You Want To Be A Star (The Druid Trilogy #1) by Andrew Marc Rowe

The Hammer of the Gods is a tongue in cheek adventure that pokes a little fun at many well known characters, myths and gods from the fantasy genre.  If you don’t mind a bit of creative cursing and sexual references and a crazy and mixed up tale of two unlikely characters trying to change their way in life then this is a very promising start to series even with a slightly abrupt ending. My review is here.

Conclusion : Cut

TheHammer

Incursion (The Necromancer’s Key #1) by Mitchell Hogan

A tale of epic fantasy, on the face of it a story of good vs evil, scratch the surface and everything isn’t so clear cut of course.  Two characters discover there is more to their magic and in a realm of unrest dark abilities must remain hidden.  This is an impressive piece of writing and promises very good things to come.  I only had minor issues in terms of the level of detail but nothing that spoiled the read.  My review is here.

Conclusion : Cut

Incursion

Calico Thunder Rides Again by T.A. Hernandez

Calico Thunder is a really very easy to read tale of a circus.  Set in an era of prohibition and speakeasies the bans here are on magic use not alcohol.  Calico Thunder is a dragon and part of the circus act.  Jake Strickland inherited the circus from his father.  Unfortunately he also inherited some rather huge problems at the same time and his attempts to solve said problems are the main driver of the story.  A very enjoyable read.  My review is here.

Conclusion : Semi-finalist

Calico

The Flight of the Darkstar Dragon by Benedict Patrick

I had such a good time reading Flight of the Darkstar Dragon.  The imagination and world building are absolutely fascinating.  This is a purple world where a dragon encircles the sun and rifts act as portals to other worlds.  A winning combination of super world building with the promise of many adventures yet to come.  My review is here.

Conclusion : Semi-finalist

Flightof

#SPFBO Review : The Flight of the Darkstar Dragon by Benedict Patrick

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300 books           10 Judges            1 winner

The 1st of June marked the start of the sixth Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (details here.)  My Introductory post is here.

You can find my updates for batch 1batch 2batch 3, Batch 4 and Batch 5 by clicking on the  links.

This week and next I will be posting reviews for the ten books I rolled forward to read fully.  Hopefully five reviews this week followed by an update and cuts and semi finalist announcements on Saturday.  I will then repeat this format the following week. I won’t be posting a rating for the books at this point.

FlightofThe Flight of the Darkstar Dragon has to have one of the most fascinating settings that I can recall reading for some time.  I had a really good time reading this, it’s incredibly creative and very well written.  The world building aspect almost puts me in mind of Pratchett where the number of possibilities feel infinite and there’s a certain charm about the story that creates a flavour of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland.  Plus, the unique world of the Darkstar Dimension and the number of prospects for exploration that it offers gave me Startrek vibes – simply because Min can, and will, boldly go (although, to be clear, there is no spaceship or space travel here).

As the story sets out we are thrown immediately into a bizarre situation.  The crew of the Melodious Narwhal, a skyship powered by magic, have been thrown to the deck (literally) and are all beginning to awaken from some sort of stupor and are all suffering from collective amnesia.  Min Choi, First Officer onboard, needs to pull herself together quickly and reassert command, especially as the skyship seems to have lost all power and is plummeting out of control.

Now, I’m not really going to elaborate too much on the plot.  I think it’s more important to give an outline of the world here and the characters that we spend time with.  This isn’t to say that the plot isn’t entertaining, because it is, but I think this has a first in series feel with plenty of elements being established which means certain elements feel a little more sketchy.  This isn’t a criticism I hasten to add.  I was totally immersed with this book and found myself really enjoying Min’s story.

So, to the setting  It’s difficult to pin this down and I have no doubt that my thoughts are going to be a mess.  The Darkstar Dimension is a world almost in reverse, or maybe more correctly a world that defies physics.  Everything here has a purple hue, the sun is encircled by a huge hungry dragon, fish can fly and a multitude of rifts can be seen that are constantly in motion.  The dragon I mentioned, due to its mammoth size, is continually hungry and sometimes steals magic from other realities creating rifts (and stranded people).  These rifts are perpetually in motion around the sun and the dragon which allows travel to different places as rifts become close enough to journey to.

There are a number of characters.  Min is the First Officer. She’s only recently graduated and so, although she’s been given command of the skyship she isn’t a captain – and this is a bone of contention with some of the crew who never miss an opportunity to snipe at her.  She seems to be constantly trying to win approval and yet in fairness, if not for her quick thinking, they’d all probably be long since dead.  We have a scholar on board called Abalendu, basically he’s the son of an Admiral in search of a mythical land.  His father gave the posting to Min thinking it would be good experience!  Zoya is a warrior taken on as a bodyguard to Abalendu.  She wears a magical artefact known as a Parasite Glove which gives her great strength and speed but comes at a cost (as the name implies).  Jedda is the Ship’s artificer, constantly relied upon to come up with impossible solutions.  FInally, we meet a new character called Brightest.  Brightest found himself similarly stranded in the Darkstar Dimension but seems to have made a home there.  Well, a mud tower constructed upon the back of a turtlemoth called Stickle.

There is drama, fascinating travel to some really crazy places and a general feel that there is so much more in the pipeline to look forward to.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, this is only fairly short and yet there’s a lot to fit in.  I think the setting steals the show in this instalment with the characters and plot playing second fiddle – but, I don’t think that’s a problem because the world building has me not only intrigued but hooked.

I can safely say that I would love to read more of Min’s adventures to infinity and beyond.  Sign me up.

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

Friday Face Off : “Farewell, Aragog, king of the arachnids, whose long and faithful friendship those who knew you would never forget!

FFO

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 (this doesn’t have to be a book that you’ve read), compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.   Future week’s themes are listed below – 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.  I’ve also listed events that take place during the year, that I’m aware of, so you can link up your covers – if you’re aware of any events that you think I should include then give me a shout.  This week’s theme:

Spider web – “Farewell, Aragog, king of the arachnids, whose long and faithful friendship those who knew you would never forget!

Yes, I struggled a little with this one.  I had a couple of books in mind but I know I’ve used them in the past for other themes.  This week I’ve gone with a book that I haven’t read but that fits this week’s prompt very well.  Agatha Christie’s Spider Web.  Here are the covers:

My favourite this week:

SW6

Do you have a favourite?

I’ll be updating the list in order to include forthcoming events that I’m aware of so that you can perhaps link your themes up where possible (if you know of an event you’d like to share then let me know in the comments).  As always, if you wish to submit an idea then leave me a comment – or if you’d like to host a week then simply let me know.

Next week – Ripped/torn – interpret it as you wish

Future themes: (if you’re struggling with any of these themes then use a ‘freebie’ or one of your favourite covers) (I’ve added some new themes – some of these are slightly different, in order to avoid too much repetition I’m trying to make the themes more of a suggestion that everyone can interpret how they like.  

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23th October – Ripped/torn – interpret it as you wish

30th October – Forest/jungle – ‘None of the Jungle People like being disturbed.’

6th November – Planets – “You’re on Earth. There’s no cure for that.”

13th November – Bright – ‘The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades’.

20th November – Words only – “Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.”

27th November – Modern sci fi

4th December –  Fae – or fairy??

11th December – Lake – the mysterious lake

18th December – Highly Stylised

25th December- Freebie – or day off.

Incursion (The Necromancer’s Key #1) by Mitchell Hogan

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300 books           10 Judges            1 winner

The 1st of June marked the start of the sixth Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (details here.)  My Introductory post is here.

You can find my updates for batch 1batch 2batch 3, Batch 4 and Batch 5 by clicking on the  links.

This week and next I will be posting reviews for the ten books I rolled forward to read fully.  Hopefully five reviews this week followed by an update and cuts and semi finalist announcements on Saturday.  I will then repeat this format the following week. I won’t be posting a rating for the books at this point.

IncursionIncursion makes a very good start to the Necromancer’s Key series.  The introductory chapters really set the scene.  Queen Talia’s realm is under attack by the Knights of the Order of Eternal Vigilance who believe she is a necromancer and the epitome of evil.  The Queen, on the brink of defeat, tells her Captain, Carred Selenas, to leave and to await her return.  The Queen then uses dark magic to cause a blast strong enough to kill what remains or her army and many of the invading knights, killing herself in the process.

We then jump forward a number of years and make the acquaintance of Anskar who is training to become a knight and is studying hard for the forthcoming trials.  Anskar, is an orphan, raised by the Knights of the Order since he was a baby.  He works hard and looks forward to dedicating his life to the knighthood but as the trials begin he starts to experience certain dilemmas that fill him with doubt and internal conflict.

Meanwhile, Carred Selenas, maintains the rebellion movement planning constant attacks on the Knights and their attempts to wipe out any trace of Queen Talia.  She awaits the Queen’s return but is growing desperate.  Resources and people are in short supply and she begins to despair but rumours of the Queen’s missing daughter keep her hope alive.

Saraya is a Nyandrian woman, one of many rounded up by the Knights in an attempt to capture the dead Queen’s daughter.  By rounding up all the young girls of a certain age they hope to nip rebellion in the bud.  Saraya is also a potential knight in training, however, she has her eye on Anskar and the two of them find it difficult to maintain any thoughts of chastity when they’re around each other.

The world here is pseudo Mediaeval with Knights of a Holy Order fighting against evil.  Although, as the story progresses you begin to understand that good and evil are not always quite so clear cut and there are two sides to any argument.  The magic here is well developed and again leans on dark vs light – also showing that maybe one isn’t better than the other.  Necromancy is of course real, as are other menacing creatures such as corpse eaters and wraiths.

The characters are quite well rounded.  Anskar is desperate to know more about his heritage but receives few answers.  Saraya is angry.  She has much skill and is a confident adept but is bitter about the way her people have been treated since the Knights of the Order took over.  I think Carred is probably my favourite character.  She’s tough and resilient as the same time as desperate and becoming a little short of hope.

In terms of criticisms.  I think there is a slight feeling of bloat here and there, where things feel a little drawn out.  In one respect I really like the level of detail, it adds so much depth, but, there is a point where it also slows things down a little.  There was also one particular scene where Anskar and a number of others rode out on a mission and were attacked.  Don’t get me wrong, this was very well written but at the same time it felt a little like a situation that was there purely to allow Anskar and Saraya to demonstrate their darker magical abilities.

Slight issues aside this is a well written, confident, swords and sorcery style story with a mystery at the core and although it has a slightly generic feel in terms of some elements I think that the inclusion of things such as talking heads and mysterious and hypnotic crows definitely raises the level of intrigue and the twist at the end was quite unexpected.  It will be interesting to see how the series develops.

I would like to thank the author for providing a copy for review.  The above is my own opinion.

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