Kept From Cages by Phil Williams

Kept From CagesMy Five Word TL:DR Review : Fast Paced, Action Packed Adventure

Kept from Cages is an addictive read that is difficult to put down and at just under 300 pages I almost devoured this ‘monster-style’ : aka in one huge chunk swallowed whole.

Phil Williams is the author of urban fantasy series, Under Ordshaw, in which he creates a world full of strangeness and a City with a dark underbelly containing a warren of underground tunnels fairly teeming with supernatural creatures.  Kept From Cages is set in the same world but expands the boundaries and concepts and gives us something less urban  and more akin to wilderness fantasy (that should definitely be a ‘thing’).

For information Kept from Cages is the first in a duology and can be read without having read the Under Ordshaw series so if you haven’t read that series and feel hopelessly behind you can start here.

As the story begins we make the acquaintance of Reece and his companions.  They’ve clearly taken part in some sort of heist-gone-wrong and are approaching a farmhouse looking for aid.  Unfortunately, this strangely silent farmhouse is the last place likely to provide help or sustenance and in fact is the catalyst for events that see the gang racing across the country, wanted criminals, accused of atrocities they didn’t commit with a small girl in tow.

At the same time we follow a different storyline involving Agent Sean Tasker (who works for a secret agency, think along the lines of Men in Black supernatural style).  Tasker has been sent to a remote village in the Northern hemisphere where everyone has been mysteriously massacred.  The only clue to the killings comes from the lips of a dying man whose final words see Tasker racing across the world to the Congo in search of answers.

So, what did I love about this book. In no particular order.

The pacing – it really is fast and furious.  Strangely enough the author manages to create this crazy atmosphere of chaos with ever spiralling, life threatening events and yet at the same time use some sort of super power to miraculously slow things down at certain points to not only give the reader a breather but also to inject some ‘normality’ and time for character building.  It’s actually very effectively and impressively done.

The world building.  Again, the author doesn’t spend time giving flowery descriptions and yet he manages to capture an excellent sense of place using the minimum words possible.  We travel around quite a bit here, in fact the two alternate storylines take us to different corners of the world before coming together in a really satisfactory way.  I have to say I loved the time we spent in the Deep South – and the whole village on stilts idea was brilliant.

The plot.  It’s a little crazy.  As the story begins I almost felt a little lost.  The two completely different stories, the different agencies, spies and underlying corporate machinations and yet, I found myself gripped by the mystery of the massacred village and in fact the larger mystery at play here and without realising I’d jumped onboard and was held captive – but not against my will.  I became hooked.

The writing is really good.  It’s impressive to take something, that on the face of it feels almost a little ambitious, and yet to achieve a gripping story well told in such a deceptively easy way and in such a relatively short time frame.  There’s no wasted words, which is why this has such a snappy feel and I have to say there’s a good balance between storytelling and dialogue.

The characters.  The author manages to give us a variety of characters. We have the Cutjaw gang.  Reece and his musician companions and Zip – the young girl, with the strange powers, that they ‘rescued’ from the farmhouse.  We also have agent Tasker who teams up with a female assassin and her imaginary friend/conscience.  I can’t deny that the assassin stole the show a little for me.  I love kickass females and Williams excels at creating them (Lettie anyone?).  Anyway, you might expect that in such a short and punchy novel the characters would be a little lacklustre but this isn’t the case.  As I mentioned above the author does manage to capture a few moments where the pace slows down and we get to look a little more closely at the who/what/why of things.  I can’t deny that I would like a little more in terms of the characterisation but, at the same time I know that I’m hooked because by the conclusion I was worried about certain characters – and when you’re worried for the characters because you think they might die – then you know you’ve bought in.

In conclusion, this is a fast paced adventure with a twist in the tale that really surprised me and an ending that leaves me eager for the next instalment.

My rating 4 out of 5

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

Self Published Spotlight

Today’s post is all about spreading the love for self published fantasy books. I have some fantastic books just waiting to be read and so I thought I’d share them with you. Take a look at these beauties:

Firstly, two books from author Phil Williams. I read Under Ordshaw as part of the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off competition. Under Ordshaw is such a fresh take on urban fantasy. Here is a city that looks, on the face of it, like any other and yet below the streets is a warren of tunnels just crawling with supernatural creatures. The world building is just great but, without doubt, the characters steal the show.

Now, I confess that I’ve been a little tardy keeping up with the series but I can say that this is not a reflection of my enjoyment, more a simple fact that time is sometimes in short supply and I can be a little over enthusiastic (aka as book greedy) when it comes to the number of books that I think I can read during the course of any given month. But, in the next few weeks I’m hoping to continue with the second book in the Under Ordshaw series – Blue Angel and I’m also really excited to have an advanced copy of Phil’s latest book Kept From Cages.

Kept From Cages is the first part in a new story arc in the Ordshaw world (with all new characters), and is more of a fast-paced supernatural action-thriller. It follows a gang of criminal jazz musicians who stumble upon a red-eyed child tied to a chair. While they’re thrown into a madcap chase across the Deep South, an international agent investigating the massacre of an Arctic fishing village follows a trail into the heart of the Congo, with an erratic female assassin in tow. The parallel stories converge amid corporate conspiracy, mutant animals and a cult of sword-wielding murderers. Seriously – doesn’t this sound pretty amazing? I think so.

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Secondly a book that I promised myself I’d read much sooner (*headdesk*) but – well, you know what ‘they’ say about the best laid plans (a phrase that might have been coined with me in mind). Legends of the Exiles (Perilisc) by Jesse Teller. Legends of the Exiles is a book with four intertwining novellas – here’s a taster of the description over on Goodreads:

The isolated barbarians of Neather have deep ancestry and strict traditions. Four resilient women defy tribal customs as they fight to overcome their own tragedies. Abuse. Addiction. Assault. Grief. What struggles can they endure to defend their hopes and their hearts?

And here is the gorgeous cover:

Legends

Yes, I’m hoping to pick this one up soon.

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My third choice is the second in a series known as the Woern Saga. A Wizard’s Sacrifice by A.M. Justice. I would point out that although this is the second in a series it can also be read without having read A Wizard’s Forge.

‘A gripping tale of wizardry, warfare, and moral dilemmas unspools in a breathtaking blend of fantasy and science fiction.

And, another stunning cover:

AWizards

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So my next book is literally staring me in the face in the most guilt inducing fashion possible. This is an author that I really like. And I actually went out of my way to request a copy of this book – and yet I still haven’t read it. Sometimes I just can’t believe myself. *hangs head dejectedly*. I can only try and do better. Enough about my guilt. This book sounds like something I will just love. I’m expecting it to be dark and a bit brutal.

No one escapes the Pit.

At just fifteen Eskara Helsene fought in the greatest war mankind has ever known. Fought and lost. There is only one place her enemies would send a Sourcerer as powerful as her, the Pit, a prison sunk so deep into the earth the sun is a distant memory. Now she finds herself stripped of her magic; a young girl surrounded by thieves, murderers, and worse. In order to survive she will need to find new allies, play the inmates against each other, and find a way out. Her enemies will soon find Eskara is not so easily broken.’

Also, just check out this absolutely drop dead gorgeous cover – no, I’m not fickle. Seriously I think Rob J Hayes has been blessed by the God of Great Covers.


Alongthe

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The final book I’m highlighting today is one that I’m very excited about. Again, yes, I’m late to pick this one up – but a very good author once said to me that author’s want book reviews all year round, not just on publication day – and I confess that that little eye opener does allow me to feel slightly less guilty than I might otherwise feel. This book is the final instalment in the Paternus Trilogy by Dyrk Ashton – War of Gods. And oh my giddy aunt but this book is receiving some of the most glowing reviews ever. If I don’t manage to carve out some time for this very soon I may literally explode, and nobody wants that. Check out the description and believe me when I say if you love fantasy, then you need this series in your life.

From Africa to Asgard, to an invisible island in the Pacific and the Bone Road of a forgotten world, Fi and Zeke must come to grips with not only their newfound abilities but also who they are – and accept what they are becoming: wielders of ancient and dangerous powers, warriors, and maybe even heroes. But the end of worlds is coming, and time is short.

Titans will clash. Gods will battle. Monsters will swarm.

Can Peter and the Deva possibly defeat their age-old enemy in the face of overwhelming odds against them? There’s only one way to find out.

And, dare I say it – another incredibly winning and dramatic cover:

WarofGods

That’s all for me for the moment. Hopefully, I’ll be reviewing some of these in the very near future.