November 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 sixth 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 Dyrk Ashton (review here). My third book was the The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French. The fourth book was Larcourt K A Krantz ( Fire Born, Blood Blessed #1) My review to follow shortly. The fifth book was Defence of Ráth Bládhma (Fionn mac Cumhaill #1) by Brian O’Sullivan, again, review to follow shortly. My sixth book out of the hat is The Music Box Girl by K.A. Stewart.
FOR THE LOVE OF MUSIC, FOR THE MUSIC OF LOVE
Steam and steel are king, nowhere more so than Detroit, the gleaming gem of the world’s industrial crown. A beacon of innovation and culture, it is the birthplace of the mechanical automatons, and the home of the famed Detroit Opera House. It is where people come with their dreams, their plans, and their secrets.
A young man with the voice of an angel and dreams of stardom.
A globe-trotting heiress with a passion for adventure and memories of a lost childhood love.
A mysterious woman with a soul made of pure music and a secret worth killing for.
Beneath the glitter and sparkle, something sinister lurks at the opera, and three lives will collide with tragic consequences.
The Grey Bastards was the third out of nine books that I’m reading in the final stage of the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off and before I go any further I have to say that I loved it. I want more of this world and these characters. If I’m going to be honest I expected going into this a bunch of characters who were all tough nuts, I expected coarse jokes, maybe a touch of false bravado and perhaps even a few pissing contests – and, yeah, there is all of that going on in here. This is without doubt a brutal world and the writing here doesn’t pull any punches in that respect. But, what really took me by surprise was the amount of affection I felt for the characters. Particularly the Jackal. I tell you I was right there with him living through the wtf moments. I really did share his pain and his sense of betrayal as certain aspects of the story unfolded and equally I shared in his moments of exhilaration and there’s nothing quite like the feeling of reading a book and being totally besotted with the characters. It really is the best feeling even if it does result in a terrible book hangover when it all comes to an end and you just want more. Anyway, enough of that. To the review woman and don’t spare the hogs!
The Grey Bastards are a brotherhood made up of half orcs that patrol the Lot Lands keeping it’s borders safe from marauding orcs and other menaces such as centaurs. Each of these brotherhoods are known as Hoofs and the Lot Lands are divided up into eight segments each with it’s own Hoof.
There’s a long history here involving wars that raged many years ago between the nobles of Hispartha and full blooded orcs. Prior to that half orcs were kept as slaves until there actions in the war led to their freedom and the gift of the land that they now patrol. Of course there’s a lot more to this than meets the eye with plenty of deceptions that will be slowly revealed as the story progresses. Put bluntly none of the inhabitants of this world seem to get along well, there are elves, orcs, humans, centaurs and half orcs and they all seem to spend a good deal of time just barely keeping threats from each other at bay.
As the story starts we’re introduced to Jackal and his merry band made up of Oats – a giant sized, more than half Orc (a thrice) and Fetch – the only female amongst the Hoofs. A position that wasn’t easily won and even now causes some emotions to run high. These three have been constant companions since childhood and enjoy that easy going banter that you would hope for and expect.
The GB’s warlord is a plague-ridden Orc called the Claymaster. You fairly quickly come to the conclusion that he’s not enamoured of our young and ambitious Jackal, nor is he a fan of his two companions and so the fact that the three of them have just returned from a mission that seems to have gone spectacularly pear shaped has soured the mood somewhat and the three of them are in the hog house! Now on top of this, and as a result of the aforementioned spoiled mission certain things begin to come to light. Certain betrayals that need to be examined and of course as the Jackal is the main culprit he gets sent to do the dirty work. At the same time another slightly suspicious character (or is he, maybe his arrival is just coincidental) arrives on the scene. A half orc with magical ability. A sorcerer no less and something that the Claymaster has had a long hankering for – for what reasons nobody knows. And finally, throw a she elf into the mix and not only do we have a very compelling mystery but also the unravelling of the Jackal’s world.
I’ve probably made it all sound terribly convoluted but I promise you it isn’t. In fact it’s a very easy book to get on with and the author has managed to find the perfect balance (for me anyways) between world building, characterisation and plot. The pace is well planned, it’s not too breakneck that you don’t have time to regroup and at the same time it doesn’t suffer from any lulls that make you want to put the book down and not pick it back up again too quickly.
So, to my favourite aspects of the book. The characters. I’m always banging on about loving a book where the author makes me feel for the characters and this book achieved that and then some. I felt like I knew our little band of three so well. The plot – which really wasn’t at all what I thought it was going to be! It’s not that I necessarily want a book to be unpredictable, I’m quite happy with some predictability providing it’s a good book, but the levels of untruths, deception betrayal and other hidden elements going on here were really good. I loved that everything was turned on it’s head and the life that Jackal was living was not quite what he thought. Anyway, that way lies the way of spoilers and I really don’t want to go down that route.
Suffice to say that this was a thoroughly entertaining, down right excellent, read. I loved it and definitely want more. The ending does conclude on a note of possibility in that respect – although it also kind of wraps things up so all I can do now is raise one eyebrow expectantly in the author’s direction and try and outstare him until he caves in and comes up with more from The Lots!
In case I didn’t make it clear I recommend the Grey Bastards without reservation.
November 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 fourth 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 third book was the The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French and my review will follow very soon. The next book on my list is: Larcourt by K A Krantz ( Fire Born, Blood Blessed #1). Check it out:
Blood-beings can be chattel or char.
Fire seethes through the veins of every Morsam, demanding domination and destruction. Combat is a hobby. Slaughtering the inferior blood-beings is entertainment. Life is a repetitious cycle in the prison fashioned by the gods. But mix-race abomination Vadrigyn os Harlo suspects the key to freedom lies with safeguarding the blood-beings; until her blood-born mother uses foreign magic to turn the Morsam against Vadrigyn. Betrayed, bound, and broken, Vadrigyn struggles against the dying of her essential fire. Yet the ebbing flames unleash the dormant magic of her mixed heritage…
The magic to destroy free will.
Seized by the gods and dumped in the desert nation of Larcout to stop history from repeating, Vadrigyn discovers her mother’s legacy of treason and slaughter still festers. To survive the intrigues of the royal court, the roiling undercurrents of civil war, and the gods themselves, Vadrigyn must unravel the conspiracy behind her mother’s banishment. But manipulating free will unleashes a torrent of consequences.
If she fails the gods, she will return to the Morsam prison, stripped of all magic and all hope.
If she succeeds, she can rule a nation.
Kasthu. Roborgu. Inarchma.
Live. Learn. Burn.
The Shadow Soul is the first of my books for the final stage of the SPFBO. I confess that I’ve been prevaricating over this review, I finished the book over a week ago but my thoughts were a bit of a jumble. On the one hand I think this is a good story as far as action and adventure goes, albeit not one that I loved, and also, in fairness to the author, probably aimed at a much younger audience, but then I found myself with a number of niggles along the way. Anyway, a little about the book first.
We start off by making the acquaintance of Jinji on what is one of the most important days for a young female of the Arpapajo tribe. Jinji is about to go through a rite of passage during which she will pass from a child into womanhood and be partnered with a young warrior named Maniuk. No longer will her hair flow freely but instead remain permanently plaited as befits her new status. I must admit that I thought the opening scenes were really quite engaging. I enjoyed learning a little of the tribe and their rituals and Jinji is an honest and intriguing narrator. It was endearing to read her thoughts and concerns over whether she was really ready for such a big step. Unfortunately, on the same day, before Jinji (or the reader for that matter) has any more time for reflection, disaster strikes, a shadow falls over her home and her entire tribe and home is destroyed.
We also make the acquaintance of Rhen. Rhen is a young prince. As we meet up with him he seems to be running from his kingdom and making his way into the woods and further afield. Stories of unmarked ships seen off the coast and other rumours of unrest have spurred the Prince into action. He comes across the burnt village of the Arpapajo tribe and finds one survivor, barely alive, Jinji.
Now, what we gather as the story progresses to this stage is that both of the above named have magical abilities. Jinji’s magic basically enables her to create images that appear to be real. Rhen’s magic gives him an affinity with fire that draws him to naked flames and allows him to manipulate them. The next concept I really liked. It put me in mind of the story of the Prince and the pauper – well, not quite, but, similar(ish). Rhen has switched his attire so he no longer looks like a Prince and Jinji has created an image that portrays her as a young boy (in fact the brother who was so cruelly stolen from her family a few years ago). So, firstly, the two of them are in disguise, secondly they’re both hiding their magic from the other and finally, although they agree to team up they’re actually pursuing different aims. Jinji searches for the shadow that she has seen in her dreams and that she believes killed her family, Rhen searches for proof that his kingdom is under threat of war to prove himself to his family.
The setting is the Kingdom of Whylkin. The land was conquered many moons ago by Whyl the Conqueror, he united all the kings of the country under his banner spreading his rule far and wide and even going so far as to enforce all the inhabitants of the kingdom to speak using one common tongue. Across the ocean lies the Kingdom of Ourthuro. It seems that unrest is stirring abroad, people are looking with covetous eyes and potential plots are being hatched.
So, why did I have mixed feelings for this book.
In terms of what I liked. The author has a very easy to read style of writing. I think it’s quite well executed. I enjoyed the switch in POV and there are some very interesting concepts. I thought the start was very good and pulled me into the story well and I particularly enjoyed Jinji and her tribe – in fact I must admit that I was disappointed that the entire tribe were wiped out quite so efficiently.
However, it just felt for me that something was lacking in terms of both the world and the character building. I didn’t really have a good feel for the place and it felt a little like there were gaps that I couldn’t reconcile. There are a number of adventures as the story progresses but none of the threats involved ever felt real and in fact any sort of dangerous situation was fairly quickly resolved. On top of that I wasn’t really enamoured with Rhen. In fact, I didn’t like him (I won’t elaborate but a number of his actions gave me pause for thought). He seems to have some sort of romantic notion about heroics and adventure that give him the rather foolish notion that he’s a spy. He rushes around the countryside and even across the oceans seeking out proofs of his own ability and actually putting lots of other people at risk in the process.
Jinji’s character is much more likable I must confess. I liked her chapters much more although at the point when she started to find herself becoming attracted to Rhen – well, I’m sorry but I really do have to question her judgement over that one in fact I find it a little bit unbelievable that she would do so. That aside, yes, I liked Jinji and probably would have enjoyed this more if it was told in just her perspective as it might have allowed me to see a different side to Rhen and maybe understand why she started to like him.
In fairness to the book and the author, as I said above, I didn’t dislike this and also I think it is aimed at a much younger audience so I really hope this doesn’t come across as overly critical. It just didn’t work for me as I had too many unanswered queries that pulled me out of the plot and stopped me enjoying the characters as I would have liked.
Today I’m really pleased to be able to reveal the cover for the second book in Michael R Miller’s Dragon’s Blade series:
The Dragon’s Blade: Veiled Intentions
Firstly, before I tell you anything more about the book lets get to the cover – then we can talk:
And, here are the first and second in series so you can compare the two:
They really are beautiful covers, wonderfully detailed and happily sharing a design that is both consistent and easily recognisable. (For those of you who like to know all the things the designer is Rachel Lawston and this is her website : http://www.lawstondesign.com/book-design.html.
If you occasionally stop by here you might recall that The Dragon’s Blade The Reborn King was one of the entrants for this year’s SPFBO (details here). The book was read and reviewed by The Bibliosanctum and the cover was actually the winner of the cover contest that took place as the competition began. There were some excellent covers this year and a selection of them can be found here.
The Dragon’s Blade Veiled Intentions is due for release on the 10th February 2017 and to whet your appetite here is the description:
Rectar has always had his sights set on conquering the human lands. His demonic invasion of the west is gaining momentum – an unrelenting horde unhindered by food or sleep. Now, only the undermanned Splintering Isles lie between the demons and the human kingdom of Brevia. If the islands fall, the rest of Tenalp will soon follow.
The Three Races must work together if they are to survive, but they have another problem – Castallan. The traitorous wizard has raised a deadly rebellion and declared himself King of Humans. He believes himself safe in the bowels of his impenetrable Bastion fortress, but Darnuir, now King of Dragons, intends to break those walls at all cost.
To face these threats, all dragons, humans and fairies must truly unite; yet old prejudices may undermine Darnuir’s efforts once again. And as the true intentions of all are revealed, so too is a secret that may change the entire world.
Finally, if you’re intending to start this series you might be interested to learn that copies of book No.1 can be purchased for £1 by those readers who sign up to the author’s mailing list. Author details below: