My 3rd book: Final Stage: #SPFBO 16

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FullSizeRender-10November 1st saw the start of the second stage of the SPFBO – the Self Published Fantasy Blog off organised by Mark Lawrence.  All the details can be found here.

Today I’m highlighting the third book that I will be reading for the SPFBO.  All the books have been drawn randomly. Book No 1: Shadow Soul by Caitlyn Davis.   Review here.  Second book Paternus by Dark Ashton (review here).  My next book is The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French.  Check it out below:

greyLIVE IN THE SADDLE. DIE ON THE HOG.
Such is the creed of the half-orcs dwelling in the Lot Lands. Sworn to hardened brotherhoods known as hoofs, these former slaves patrol their unforgiving country astride massive swine bred for war. They are all that stand between the decadent heart of noble Hispartha and marauding bands of full-blood orcs.

Jackal rides with the Grey Bastards, one of eight hoofs that have survived the harsh embrace of the Lots. Young, cunning and ambitious, he schemes to unseat the increasingly tyrannical founder of the Bastards, a plague-ridden warlord called the Claymaster. Supporting Jackal’s dangerous bid for leadership are Oats, a hulking mongrel with more orc than human blood, and Fetching, the only female rider in all the hoofs.

When the troubling appearance of a foreign sorcerer comes upon the heels of a faceless betrayal, Jackal’s plans are thrown into turmoil. He finds himself saddled with a captive elf girl whose very presence begins to unravel his alliances. With the anarchic blood rite of the Betrayer Moon close at hand, Jackal must decide where his loyalties truly lie, and carve out his place in a world that rewards only the vicious.

 

 

Paternus by Dyrk Ashton #SPFBO

Posted On 30 December 2016

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paternus2Paternus is the second book I picked (at random) to read from the nine books that I will be reading for the final stage of the SPFBO.  Details of the competition and the other finalists can be found here.  Here are my reviews for Outpost and the Shadow Soul.

So, the short and pithy version of this review probably goes something along the lines of ‘what the fuck?’  Put bluntly, this is a read of epic proportions.  It’s like a fantasy library exploded and somebody gathered up all the scattered pages and wove them into a story.  Literally there is something of everything in here, I kid you not.

I’m not going to try to explain everything contained here, it’s not like I want to write a dissertation and I’m pretty sure you don’t want to read one.  So, this is a story of Gods, myths, demons, angels – call them what you will.  A story that encompasses billions of years and brings together multiple myths in a compelling and fascinating way, a story of good and evil.  This is also a story of war.  In a world of Gods and firstborn a thousand years is a mere bagatelle and here we have the story of a continuation of war that has spanned thousands of years but,  worry not, this particular story takes place over the period of one day – all that came before will eventually be revealed but for you, the reader, just sit down and enjoy the unbridled chaos that is Paternus.

The story is told in alternating chapters that take us between the different groups of protagonists, the main ones being Flowers and Figs, Order of the Bull and Mendip Hills.  There are others but those are the predominantly recurring headers.  Flowers and Figs brings to us the main characters that we follow, Fi, Zeke, her uncle and his dog, and Peter.  The other chapters I will leave you to discover.

Basically, as the story starts we are introduced to Fi.  Fi lives with her uncle.  She works at a local hospital for old folk and she has a crush on Zeke who also works/volunteers at the hospital.  Fi and Zeke actually go out on a date and to cut a long story short it doesn’t go terribly well.  The next day at the hospital, as the two of them prepare for a day of tippy toeing around each other in embarrassment things get a whole lot worse when a strange bunch of visitors come to visit Peter, the patient that Fi usually looks after.  From here on in, the phrase ‘having a bad hair day’ becomes something of an understatement.  War is about to break out and the fallout is anything but pretty.

Now, what did I enjoy about this book.  It’s an adventure packed riot of action, fast paced and definitely furious.  There is so much going on that there is never a dull moment and you find yourself really enjoying all the references to characters and myths that you have already read about or watched in films.  In fact I think that aspect of the story is really good – I think readers always find themselves enjoying a story that leads them onto a path of discovery where they can enjoy picking up references to things they already know and can relate to.  Yes, you might not know everything here, and I’m pretty certain I didn’t, but even so you can’t help but enjoy the aspects of the story you feel familiar with and also reading the twists that the author brings to those myths.  The amount of world building is really quite phenomenal and the characters are actually really likeable, so much so that I felt really concerned for them at certain points of the story (plus I have to give a little shout out to Mol the dog).  The amount of research that this must have involved is really impressive and to bring a story together with such a multitude of characters and threads is quite an achievement.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, the whole, ‘lots going on’, is something of a double edged sword – it’s really great, but, it takes a little time to get into.  I felt like I needed a good hundred pages before I really felt like I had a handle on all the characters.  Now maybe I’m just not as sharp as all the other knives in the box but with all the unusual names, strange descriptions and different places there is a lot to take on board and I was almost concerned about if I was really taking it all in and, more to the point, wondering how it all played into the story.  I think I would have preferred for the main storyline to be a bit more established first before the other chapters came on board.  To be fair though it is all relevant and surprisingly as each of the revelations occurred I had no difficulty at all remembering who, why, what, when and where everything fit.  Like I say, for a while there I wondered if I was going to really grasp the central thread but the author does manage to pull it all together.  If you take my advice, the Figs and Flowers is the main storyline, the others are chapters that will play a part but don’t let them hamper your enjoyment, their purposes will all be revealed as the story progresses.  My other criticism is just a small niggle concerning one particular fight sequence – and again this feeds into the whole action packed theme that’s going on here – this fight scene was so long that I felt like I needed a time out.  It just felt a bit much and became a little repetitive.

On the whole though, a very enjoyable, (certainly) fast paced and action packed read.  Never a dull moment with plenty of revelations that, whilst some of them you might have guessed along the way, I still think there are a few surprises tucked away here for everyone.

 

Cover Reveal: Imperial Towers (Book of Never #5) by Ashley Capes

Today I’m really pleased to be able to reveal the cover for the next Book of Never by Ashley Capes: Imperial Towers.

I recently read the first Book of Never, The Amber Isle as part of the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (details here).  The Amber Isle was in my top 6 books and I will definitely continue with the series (my review here).  Anyway, enough of my yapping, let’s see this cover:

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Eye catching? Dramatic? Intriguing?  You’d definitely be attracted to this book on the shelf eh!

So, here’s a link to Ashley’s Goodreads page so you can go and check out the other books in the series and in fact check out all his other books whilst you’re there why not!

 

Final Batch of books: My first book #SPFBO

FullSizeRender-10November 1st saw the start of the second stage of the SPFBO – the Self Published Fantasy Blog off organised by Mark Lawrence.  All the details can be found here.

There can be only one – could be the catchphrase for this competition.  We started off with 300 books and 10 bloggers.  Each blogger was assigned 30 books and chose one to take forward into the next round.  For the final stage each blogger will now read and rate the books selected by the other 9 bloggers and when the ratings are jotted up hopefully we will have an outright winner.

I am really looking forward to this stage – there are some great looking books put forward into this round and I’m excited to pick them up.  As with round one, my book order has been chosen at random (basically numbers drawn from a hat – I’m not kidding) and as for the first stage I’m going to spotlight each book before I read it followed by my review upon completion.

So, the first book out of the hat was:

The Shadow Soul (A Dance of Dragons #1) by Kaitlyn Davis – synopsis from Goodreads copied below.  This certainly sounds intriguing ‘an age of myth that is about to be reborn’ – not to mention ‘perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas, Kristin Cashore, and Tamora Pierce!’ Strong praise indeed.  The story is told in alternating male/female POVs – I’m keen to see how that works out and basically with the above comparisons – I can’t wait to dive in.

Described as ‘a solid YA fantasy’ this entry was put forward by Fantasy Literature:

shadowsoulFrom bestselling author Kaitlyn Davis comes a fantasy adventure perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas, Kristin Cashore, and Tamora Pierce! Told in alternating male and female perspectives, THE SHADOW SOUL has been hailed as “an amazing start to a new series that is going to have people of all ages wanting so much more.” (Happy Tails & Tales Reviews)

When Jinji’s home is destroyed, she is left with nowhere to run and no one to run to–until she meets Rhen, a prince chasing rumors that foreign enemies have landed on his shores. Masquerading as a boy, Jinji joins Rhen with vengeance in her heart. But traveling together doesn’t mean trusting one another, and both are keeping a deep secret–magic. Jinji can weave the elements to create master illusions and Rhen can pull burning flames into his flesh.

But while they struggle to hide the truth, a shadow lurks in the night. An ancient evil has reawakened, and unbeknownst to them, these two unlikely companions hold the key to its defeat. Because their meeting was not coincidence–it was fate. And their story has played out before, in a long forgotten time, an age of myth that is about to be reborn…

Watch this space!

 

As the Crow Flies by Robin Lythgoe #SPFBO

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AstheCrowFliesToday I’m reviewing my chosen book from the third batch of books.  For the SPFBO I split my books into 6 batches of 5 books with the aim of choosing one favourite book from each and then to pick an overall winner from those final 6 and today’s post is my review of my book from the third batch.

 

As the Crow Flies is a swords and sorcery style story, old school I would call it, plenty of description, with a rogue protagonist with a heart of gold at his centre.

The story starts off with Crow setting out on one last job.  He’s giving up the world of thieving, he’s going to settle down with the love of his life and this one last job will set him up for life.  Well, apart from the fact that this would be a very short read if Crow’s best laid plans succeeded, so, as you might imagine things pretty quickly go to hell in a handcart.  Basically Crow is caught and trapped by a wizard who requires him to steal something precious – something that is difficult, nay almost impossible to take – of course the wizard has a few incentives to motivate Crow to succeed.  Firstly, Crow has been poisoned with a slow acting concoction and needs to set out on his mission and return to retrieve the antidote before the poison kicks in and he pops his clogs.  Secondly, the wizard has abducted the woman that Crow loves.  On top of this, Crow will be accompanied by the bane of his life – Tanris – the lawman who has doggedly pursued him over the years.  Tanris is also keen to help Crow succeed as the Wizard has also snatched his wife and his holding her captive.

I thought this was a good read.  I don’t think it’s breaking any new ground or smashing tropes down but I thought it was well written, maybe a bit over descriptive in parts but still entertaining.

The two characters, Crow and Tanris, are the main focus of the story.  We accompany them  as they pursue their goal, both desperate to succeed.  I quite enjoyed the verbal sparring between these two and it was interesting to watch their animosity and prejudice develop into an almost begrudging friendship as the days and weeks rolled by. Along the way they encounter a number of situations including haunted underground passages, they also pick up another member to add to their group.  A young woman who appears unable to speak and who for the remainder of the story is known as Girl.

The world building is fairly brief to be honest, which is a bit surprising given the descriptive feel to the writing.  I wouldn’t say that I picked up a real understanding of the places as such or the culture but I wouldn’t say this was an issue for me in particular as it felt like the story was more focused on our main pair and their travels – in that respect I really must say that I couldn’t help feeling that certain parts of the story had a distinctive nod to Tolkien.

To the characters.  Well, we have Crow.  He’s a bit of an ego maniac in some ways and he’s not above a little whining but, in spite of himself, he’s not quite the hard hearted pro that he thinks.  I actually really liked Tanris – he’s a bit taciturn to say the least – well, to be honest the two of them bounce off each other in a way which makes quite good reading and I found myself having a few laugh out loud moments.  Girl, we find out very little about unfortunately so I can’t really elaborate.  What I can add in is the dragon that ends up accompanying our gang – I did love the dragon.  It changed the feel of the book for me somehow.

In terms of criticisms.  I thought that there were parts of the story that were a little meandering.  The descriptions at certain points definitely slow the pace a little although in fairness that’s probably more towards the middle of the book.  The last third definitely picks up the pace.  In that respect, if you’re more inclined to enjoy a fast paced punchy read this might not be the one for you.  I found Girl a little puzzling and it was a bit of a shame that she didn’t play more of a role.  As it is she felt a little bit like a token gesture in the story.  In fact the females of the story don’t really come across in that good a light if I’m going to be totally frank.

Overall, maybe a little bit predictable in some ways and on occasion a tad slow, but I thought the writing was good and I enjoyed returning to an old style fantasy read.

As the Crow Flies is my choice of books from my third batch of books.

My books so far:

  1. Batch 1: Rebel’s Honor by Gwynn White
  2. Batch 2: Unwilling Souls by Gregory D Little
  3. Batch 3: As the Crow Flies by Robin Lythgoe
  4. Batch 4: The Amber Isles by Ashley Capes
  5. Batch 5: Outpost by F T McKinstry – review to follow
  6. My book from batch 6 to be forthcoming soon!

My aim is to review Outpost next and then my book from batch 6 at which point I will also be in a position to choose the book I will be taking forward.

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