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.

#SPFBO – My Next Steps

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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.

So, this is slightly new territory for me in that this year I’ve left all my possible books to the final month to read and review and I’ve decided to leave things fairly loose.  To be honest I’d like to read all 10 books before choosing semi-finalists but I’m also conscious that time is moving on and I need to keep on top of things and not leave everything to the last few days.  With that in mind I’m going to provide an update after I’ve completed the first five books, 

And, the following (not listed in any particular order) are the books that I will be reading (slight spoiler alert, in case you’re thinking this seems like a lot to get through I can say I’ve already completed three of these so hopefully my first update will come on swift wings

  1. Tuyo by Rachel Neumeier
  2. Voice of War by Zack Argyle
  3. The Flight of the Darkstar Dragon by Benedict Patrick
  4. The Child of Silence (The Burning Orbit Book 1) by Joseph O. Doran
  5. Trial of Thorns (Wicked Fae #1) by Stacey Trombley
  6. Calico Thunder Rides Again by T.A. Hernandez
  7. The Usurper (Brutal Saga #0.50) by James Alderdice
  8. The Hammer Of The Gods: So You Want To Be A Star (The Druid Trilogy #1) by Andrew Marc Rowe
  9. Knightmare Arcanist (Frith Chronicles #1) by Shami Stovall
  10. Incursion by Mitchell Hogan

On a final note – if any of my authors have audio versions available and would like me to check those out then just leave me a comment.

Good luck to everyone.

#SPFBO : My First Batch of Books – Update

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

The aim of these updates is to provide feedback on each batch of books.  I aim to read at least 30% of all my books and then make a decision whether to roll any books forward from that batch.  Any books that I decide to roll forward I will continue reading and provide a review and a decision about whether that book will be a semi finalist.  I will provide mini reviews for the books that are being cut.  I will not rate these books as I think it will be difficult to do so having only read the first third of the book.

Below are my books from the first batch and my decision about which will be cut or rolled forward.  I realise this is really difficult for all the authors and so I want to state plainly that I don’t find these cuts easy to make or enjoyable.  However, I do have to make cuts.  I can have only one finalist by the conclusion of the first half of the competition and so 29 books will eventually be removed.

The Curse of the Jenri by Stephanie Barr

CurseCurse of the Jenri is a high fantasy novel with a pseudo mediaeval feel.  As the story begins we witness a man (Tander) being rescued from prison and torture by his partner (Layla)  Layla is a member of a feared tribe of women known as the Jenri.  The Jenri wield both magic and swords, and have a fearsome reputation.  Unfortunately, it appears that something or someone is stealing the Jenri women using powerful magic and with Layla missing Tander must take control and lead the search.

This is a book that I would say is aimed at a young adult audience, although I’m basing that on the point at which I broke off  (31%) so could be wrong.  My first impressions are that there is no cursing here, the main characters are portrayed as ‘sexy’ but I wasn’t aware of any scenes of a sexual nature and the fights and bloodshed are definitely not graphic.  **Amendment to the above: on the author’s advice I understand this book is not aimed at a YA audience as the content becomes much darker as the story progresses so please be advised accordingly.

The Jenri women are magic users, their magic seems to be assisted by the jewels they wear and some of the women have ‘familiars.  On top of this the history of the tribe can be recounted through an archivist who has the magical ability to cast a scene in a vivid and real way.

In term of my impressions at this point: I would say that the author is going for a good, clean, fun read. It felt a little young for my taste with certain elements feeling almost overly sweet – which is something that gives me pause about the audience this is aimed at. By way of example, unicorns are the Jenri’s steed of choice and a whole litter of kittens seem to have adopted Tander as their human of choice – indicating that he will himself have magical ability that will no doubt manifest as the story progresses. The other issues that I had with this is it feels very light.  We’re told that the Jenri are fearsome but I’m not really picking that up from the read at this point. I  didn’t have any strong issues reading my alloted 30% but it isn’t a book that I will be rolling forward.  **This may appeal to a younger audience who are new to fantasy and want something light, fun and maybe a little romantic with a ‘chosen one’ feel.  I have only read the first third of the book though so I can’t speak for the remainder of the story or whether or not things take a darker turn. – **Again, see the above amendment.  I wouldn’t want to encourage the wrong audience to pick this up and understand that the content turns much darker.  These comments are based on the first 30% of the book only.

Conclusion: Cut

Chains Carried on Wings by Marina Ermakova

ChainsChains Carried on Wings made a promising start and was intriguing and well written to the point at which I broke off.  The story is told through four pov characters.  Ande, is a Kingsman who seems to have been sent out on a quest to investigate the smaller towns looking for signs of sedition.  We have a young woman called Saig who longs to be allowed to do things outside the norm.  Her cousin Auris is all set to be the next headwoman and dislikes Saig’s headstrong behaviour and finally a young man called Trei – who seems desperate to prove himself.

As the story gets underway it becomes apparent that everyone is on edge following the mysterious disappearance of a number of people. As if this isn’t enough the city suffers a couple of random goblin attacks and then an outright attack that forces people to flee into the forest or further afield.

I read quite a bit further than originally intended with this one reading over 40%.  It is an engaging read in many respects. I liked the writing and was intrigued by the people of Running Water and their everyday lives.

Obviously something larger is at play here although at this point I’m not entirely sure what that is.

In terms of magic, this seems to be related mainly to the goblins at this point who can manifest without warning.

In terms of issues that I have so far – I’m not particularly attached to any of the main characters, which isn’t to say I haven’t enjoyed what I’ve read.  I think Ande is my favourite character at this point and Saig also shows promise.

I think this would definitely appeal to a YA audience – although, tbh, I’m not an expert at determining these things.  The characters seem quite young (although that’s not always a guarantee) but the cursing, violence and sexual content seems more aimed at that audience (at this point).  It’s difficult to say how the story will develop but I imagine there will be more danger, some sort of elaborate plan and hopefully these characters will eventually pull together in times of adversary.

Conclusion : Cut

Incursion by Mitchell Hogan

Incursion

I have decided to roll incursion forward and read further so no mini review for the moment.  If I read the entire book I will post a full review and at such time will decide whether or not this is a semi-finalist.

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The Five Furies of Heaven by Ashley Capes

The Five

This isn’t the first book I’ve read from this author so I definitely had expectations going into the read and to the point I read up to I would say this was an enjoyable and well written story.  Five friends on a mission encounter a God who changes them and bestows upon them special gifts.  Of course there is an underlying reason, this isn’t just an over generous deity after all.  Trouble is brewing.  War and insects and the very nature of life is going to change – and not for the better.

Unfortunately, none of the friends know exactly what to expect and one of them appears to have undergone no change whatsoever whilst his four friends have all become adult and to say this is something of a bugbear is an understatement.  However, nobody has time for reflection because it appears that an army is marching forth and taking villagers to fight in the war (whether they want to fight or not!).

This is a fast paced story, it has a coming of age type feel with these five friends going on a journey and in fact already encountering a number of dangers to the point I read up to.  There is magic and apparently dragons (although they didn’t make an appearance at the point I broke off (which was approx 33%).

I think this book has a lot of promise although I’m not at this stage proposing to roll it forward.  If I have a chance I would like to pick it up and complete it though.

Conclusion : Cut

 

Beyond the Spire of Navarene by M Warren Askins

Beyond theAs Beyond the Spire begins there is a prologue that takes the form of an account being sent of a battle – well, a slaughter at a village where only the children were left alive.

We then start to make the acquaintance of some of the characters.  Margot and Galahalt.  Sister and brother.  They seem to be in strife money wise and it appears that Margot has been promised as wife to a rather odious man if the debt cannot be paid.

Pietr is born into a family of warriors but unfortunately does not follow in the traditional roles, instead becoming an artist (or architect). It seems that Pietr does have a role, he can reimagine things and draw up plans so that they are improved, he can make sketches from descriptions and generally he seems to have turned the family opinion of him round to something very favourable.

We also meet a few novices – training to be knights.  They’re on the final hurdle and are given one task to complete before knighthood is bestowed, a task that involves them delving into the forest of Fenrirfang with all its dangers.

Finally we meet a ranger who teams up with Galahalt on his quest into Fenrirfang where he hopes to capture a prized beast that will pay off the family debt.

There is certainly no shortage of people and events to the point I read up to in fact this was maybe a little too ‘busy’.  I do think that there were a lot of new characters and jumps back and forth for the portions I read but I expect the narrative will settle down now that Galahalt is on his quest.  At the point I read up to I don’t feel fully enough invested in the characters to roll this forward though.

Conclusion : Cut

 

Heartscale by Lola Ford

Heartscale

 

Finally, Heartscale – I must first make mention of the wonderful cover for this book which is a wrap around and has fantastic detail.

This cover promises dragons and dragons there are.

Basically, this is a story of two characters, from opposite sides of the world who both seem to be chosen by a particular dragon – and the choosing will change their lives.

Graith is a farmer.  He encounters a dragon when it crashes, injured, into his barn after being attacked. He helps the dragon (Azelia) and the two form a friendship (or bond of sorts).  Graith undertakes to help Azelia return to her home and save her eggs.

Meanwhile, a young woman named Nerie has her life set on it’s head when she attends a hatchling and is chosen by one of the dragons (Kiriga)  Rulers are chosen by dragons and so this is rather a shock until it is discovered that Nerie is the illegitimate daughter of the King.

So, at the point I concluded the two dragons and characters have not met – I’m assuming they may do so if the cover is anything to go by??  Also, at this point I’m not entirely sure what direction the story is going to take.  There doesn’t appear to be any imminent threat on the horizon when I reached my cut off point.

The narration has a light touch, it almost feels like an expanded fairytale in the way the dialogue and description is approached and whilst this felt a little young for my own taste it could appeal to a MG or just slightly older reader – particularly as this looks like the first book in series.

Conclusion : Cut

 

I will be highlighting my next 6 books very soon so watch this space.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Finally, good luck to all my authors.  Also, a quick mention that if any of you would like to post excerpts over here by way of teasers for other readers then just let me know (if you’ve already left me a comment to that effect I’ll be in touch shortly :D)