#SPFBO : The Way Into Chaos (The Great Way #1) by Harry Connolly

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wayintoThe Way into Chaos is my seventh book of the finalists from the #SPFBO leaving me with two final books to review to complete the competition.  WiC was a very pleasant surprise, an easy read and an epic feeling fantasy that I felt brought something new to the table.

The book gets off to a quick start with the introduction of a number of characters all making ready for a big event.  The Evening People are due to visit.  Using a portal this race of beings visit Peradain (I think annually although I’m not 100% on that) and dependent upon whether the visit goes well and the events are well received the Evening People bestow a ‘gift’.  These ‘gifts’ are then used and adapted to achieve various forms of magic.  Of course the people in Peradain are anxious to please, they sit at the heart of the kingdom and are a force to be reckoned with due to their magical prowess.  Until the latest visit, when instead of the Evening People coming through the portal a swathe of monsters breaks through and runs amok killing people, destroying the city and murdering the King and Queen.  Named ‘Grunts’ these beasts resemble bears to a certain extent but they are much quicker and stronger and their killing ferocity is impossible to resist.  A few people manage to escape the massacre and from there forward the story really begins.  A sort of cat and mouse chase really.  A group of survivors trying to reach other cities and warn others of the threat which now looms.  Monsters running amok killing in an almost, what feels to be random fashion and, unfortunately, at the same time, politics and back stabbing rearing their ugly heads when other Tyrs (Lords) of the Kingdom decide to use this as an opportunity to amass power.

The story follows two main characters.  Tyr Tejohn Treygar, became a Lord for his services to the kingdom.  He’s an older guy with a wealth of experience and a rather no nonsense manner that has earned him the nickname ‘Stoneface’.  He owns no land due to his humble beginnings and acts as bodyguard/fight master to the Prince.  Cazia Freewell is a scholar in Predain.  She’s actually a ward, a hostage to good behaviour following a failed rebellion by her father, but she’s lived at the Court, taking part in lessons with the Prince for so long, that she is completely loyal at this point.  The two escape from the City in a flying machine, accompanied by the Prince, Cazia’s brother and a number of others amongst them an Indregai Princess, betrothed to the Prince, known as Ivy.  The characters then split with both taking different routes.  Fortunately I enjoyed both of these storylines for very different reasons and felt like the supporting characters were also really good additions.  Particularly the Princess.  She’s only 12/13 but she’s such a good character to read about – I loved her background and the maturity she showed under such duress and for me she made that storyline carry more of an emotional impact that actually changed the way I felt about Cazia.

The world feels like a standard fantasy style setting but with the addition of magic (gifted) that allows things such as healing stones, and flying machines.  The magic comes with a cost and those magicians that become too ambitious can find themselves ‘hollowed’ out – which does sound rather unpleasant to say the least.  We don’t really get a lot of information about the Evening People, have they too been massacred by the Grunts or is this part of a bigger plan?  These things remain unanswered at this stage.  The Grunts themselves are one of a number of very interesting creatures.  Their own development is a twist I didn’t see coming to be honest and it felt very unique in this sort of story.  There are plenty of other fascinating beasties which I won’t delve into here so as not to spoil the surprises along the way.

In terms of criticisms.  I think the pacing was a little inconsistent. As mentioned the story bolts out of the starting gates with great fervour, it then dithers a little and almost has a feel of repetition until again, around a third of the way in the action picks up and with two different threads there is plenty to spark the interest.  Also, be aware that this is very much the start of the series.  There are no resolutions at the end of the book and so if that’s a pet niggle you might want to bear it in mind.  As it is, it makes me keen to see what comes next.

I enjoyed this, it kept my attention really well, apart from an initial pacing blip, and I found myself becoming invested in the characters.  It has an older style fantasy feel in that I wouldn’t describe it as ‘grimdark’ – there is plenty of killing and bloodshed but it feels a little more old school and a little less visceral, the language is also kept clean by the invention of some creatively clean cursing.

Overall I rated this 7.5 – not quite sure how that translates on Goodreads – 3.75 I suppose.

My thanks to the author for providing a copy.  The above is my own opinion.

 

 

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#SPFBO Finalists: My seventh book : The Way Into Chaos (The Great Way #1) by Harry Connolly

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Below is a round up of the ten finalists that have been put forward in this year’s SPFBO (Self Published Fantasy Blog Off).  A link with more information about the competition can be found here.

finalists

I’ve now randomly chosen my seventh book for the SPFBO.  The books I’ve read so far are:  The War of Undoing by Alex Perry, Chaos Trims my Beard by Brett Herman,  Pilgrimage to Skara by Jonathan S Pembroke, Sufficiently Advanced Magic by Andrew Rowe, Tiger Lily by K BIrd Lincoln and Devil’s Night Dawning (Broken Stone Chronicle #1) by Damien Black. My seventh book was put forward by Ventureadlaxre

A little bit more about the book:

wayinto.jpgThe Way Into Chaos (The Great Way #1) by Harry Connolly

The Great Way is an epic fantasy trilogy about a supernatural invasion that destroys an empire.

The city of Peradain is the heart of an empire built with steel, spears, and a monopoly on magic… until, in a single day, it falls, overthrown by a swarm of supernatural creatures of incredible power and ferocity. Neither soldier nor spell caster can stand against them.

The empire’s armies are crushed, its people scattered, its king and queen killed. Freed for the first time in generations, city-states scramble to seize neighboring territories and capture imperial spell casters. But as the creatures spread across the land, these formerly conquered peoples discover they are not prepared to face the enemy that destroyed an empire.

Can the last Peradaini prince, pursued by the beasts that killed his parents, cross battle-torn lands to retrieve a spell that might—just might—turn the battle against this new enemy?

 

Devil’s Night Dawning (Broken Stone Chronicle #1) by Damien Black #SPFBO

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devil'sDevil’s Night Dawning (DND) is the sixth book I read of the nine finalists from the #SPFBO.  Set in a mediaeval type world that evokes Arthurian legend DND has a large cast of characters and is set a world under threat with dark forces seeming to threaten all borders.  There is a lot about DND to like and many aspects that would normally appeal to me.  It has a historical feel, changing POVs, an almost Tolkienesque style of world building and a threat from dark mages practicing untoward magic and causing rifts that allow demons and spirits to pour into the world and cause havoc.  But, I had some real issues in getting through this and I have to admit that if not for the fact that I was compelled to read it I very likely would have put this book to one side.

In terms of the characters.  There are a number of storylines taking place and the majority of them eventually converge.  The key characters are a monk and his novice. Horskram and Adelko.  One a grumpy-seen-it-done-it-been-there slightly jaded character and the other a thirsting for knowledge, curious wants to see the world asks lots of questions young adept.  This is an interesting coupling and one that we spend the most time with.  There’s a seasoned knight and his squire, Sir Branas and Vaskarian.  Much is made of Vaskarian’s unsuitability to become a knight and the other squires ridicule him on a frequent basis.  You can’t fault his mettle but I must admit that anybody who throws a pan of boiling stew over a person in retaliation for an affront doesn’t really go down well in my book.  I’m going to say that put me on the back foot a little with him – he does redeem himself as the book progresses but I did have that incident at the back of my mind and it didn’t cast him in a good light particularly as two rather harmless characters died unnecessarily as a result of the altercation.  We have a noble woman and her lady in waiting. Adhelina is about to be married off to a rather boorish character in a play at politics by her father.  Not an altogether unexpected plotline and yet it didn’t read true coming from a father who has indulged his daughter her entire life and whose own marriage was one of love instead of a play for power – especially as the father also acknowledges that the ‘intended’ is unlikable in the extreme.  Would he marry his only child to a man who he disliked?  Perhaps. Noble matches in life as well as fiction are often not based on feelings but whether they’re a good match – so this wouldn’t normally be a problem.  But, put simply, it seemed out of character from what we were told of Adhelina’s father.  Anyway, Adhelina, is a learned woman who has a love for plants and herblore.  She’s determined not to be married off to a blustering buffoon of a man and takes matters into hand.  Finally, we have a knight and his entourage, Braxus, who is sent by his father on a mission across the border to seek help in a forthcoming war.  Braxus was my favourite character to be honest, he had a sort of ‘realness’ that I enjoyed.

The main thrust of the plot is that war is happening on all borders not just one and the catalyst seems to be the theft of a couple of ancient artefacts that were long ago hidden to prevent demons from ruling the land.

I have to hand it to the author, the writing is very good and the world building is thoroughly thought out.  Unfortunately though it’s something of a double edged sword and something of a sticking point for me.  There was far too much exposition and it frequently brought any sort of excitement that the storyline was creating to a complete standstill.  In fairness to the author he has come up with a massive creation here.  It’s clearly been a labour of love and I can’t fault the thoroughness and in depth creativity and attention to detail – I just don’t want to read it in the form of rather long history lessons whilst sitting round a campfire.  It felt like I was trying to take in the whole history of this world too quickly and it not only broke up the action but also ultimately became tedious.

That being said, the last third of the book definitely picked up the pace, the storylines had started to come together and there was more going on.  Plus, I really enjoyed the scene with the forest and the fae – that was really well done and probably my favourite aspect of the story.

In terms of criticisms.  There’s definitely a sense of deja vu when reading this.  It feels like a strange mash up of Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones – it definitely has the scope of both and the feeling of a quest but at the moment it’s not quite managed to endear me to the characters other than Braxus who in spite of his womanising ways made me smile and doesn’t come across quite as stiff necked as some of the other knights.  My main issue is the length – and not because this is a long book.  I don’t mind weighty tomes – I just don’t want them to feel ‘weighty’ when I’m reading them and unfortunately DND did suffer in that respect.  I think I probably would have stopped reading this after the first third.  It felt like it was taking me far too long to make any progress and the sheer amount of detail was stifling the plot.  That probably sounds harsh and I really don’t intend to be so because clearly this author can spin a yarn.  You can feel the author’s love for his creation and you really can’t fault that – but it needs to be balanced a little better.  It’s probably difficult when you’re in the thick of your own story, you want to share everything with your potential readers and it’s something of a juggling act knowing what to add in or take out but with DND it feels like the characters, the action and the tension suffer under the strain of too much description.

I’ve rated this a 5, which equates to 2.5 on Goodreads.

My thanks to the author for a copy of the book.  The above is my own opinion.

 

 

The War of Undoing (Kyland Falls #1) by Alex Perry #SPFBO

Posted On 17 February 2018

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thewarThe War of Undoing was the first finalist that I’ve read from the SPFBO.  I have to admit that I was excited to read this one and pleased that it was my first book drawn randomly from the hat.  Overall this isn’t a bad read although I didn’t love it as much as I expected. It has more of a YA adventure feel in terms of tone but at the same time is a little weighted down with a plot that wanders and slows the pace as a result.

After the prologue we’re introduced to the Rainings.  Miller, Tay and Ellstone are siblings living in Tarot – and when I say living I really mean struggling.  Given up by their parents as babies they struggle to survive.  Miller is the eldest and works identifying magical artifacts.  A job which he’s quite good at and seems to enjoy.  Tay, the middle child tries to work and support the family but her temper usually gets in the way.  Tay is basically a very angry person.  Not without cause of course.  She and her brothers have been abandoned by their parents and left to live a life of hardship, even more so when the small stipend they have previously received to help them survive, is withdrawn without warning.  Ellstone is the youngest and loves to have his nose stuck in a book.  The three children are the narrators of the piece the other point of view coming from a young woman called Kisli who is training to become a soldier.

The world building is a little on the skimpy side although I liked that there were no info dumps.  We actually found out quite a lot of the history of the place through Ellstone’s love of reading which I really enjoyed.  Many years ago a war was fought between humans and Vumas (magic wielding beings who are quite similar to humans in many respects).  The humans (barely) won the war and since then have tried to prevent the use of magic.  Most Vumas live remote from humans but their constant persecution has led to a rebel uprising and a war is once again brewing.

In terms of the plot.  The children receive a rather cryptic and bloody message and as a result Tay and Ellstone find themselves on route to Eldermoon whilst their brother Miller remains behind.  From here the children are not only physically divided but also have conflicting ideas of what they hope to achieve.  Tay in particular is bent on revenge against her parents and feels that the Vumas will be the perfect way to exact such revenge.  What I actually really liked about the plot is that far from rushing into the cliche of the children becoming ‘the chosen ones’ who save the world the author takes a different route.  The children really play a small role in fact the ensuing war seems to take place around them, it isn’t the focus of the story and remains on the periphery.  The Vumas believe that the children will be their secret weapon and the humans also believe that they have a secret that will help them to once again defeat their enemy.

 

What I really enjoyed about this was that the author doesn’t go down the route of cliches, even though it felt like the story was screaming out to go down that path.  I thought there was some great emotion too.  Tay in particular, as I mentioned above, is very angry.  So angry in fact that really she’s the main catalyst in splitting the siblings apart and in fact her anger blinds her to almost all other considerations.  I also liked the way the story explores persecution and the idea that history is written by the winners and so might not always be a true representation.  These are really intriguing and thought provoking ideas that I thought were well integrated into the plot.  There’s also a childlike love of exploration going on here and an innocence or naivety displayed by all the POV characters that leads them to make mistakes – which in turn makes them feel much more credible.

In terms of criticisms.  This comes across as quite a young read and whilst I don’t mind that in some respects I readily admit I’m not the target audience.  A number of the characters just felt a little flat and in some places almost comic.  I really didn’t understand the parents or their motivations and was disappointed with the chapter where Tay finally meets her mother.  I could say more but I don’t want to let spoilers creep in.  The first 40/50% of the book is really quite slow and at first I had difficulty in separating any of the children’s voices as they all sounded somewhat similar.  This does resolve itself eventually and the pacing also picks up but there’s a lot to get through before these issues work themselves out.

Overall this was a good read and whilst it might not be one for me I certainly wouldn’t want to discourage others from reading.  I think it would work well aimed at a younger audience, particularly if it’s trimmed down a little to help the pacing issue.

My thanks to the author for a copy of The War of Undoing.

 

 

The #SPFBO 2017

Posted On 20 May 2017

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It’s difficult to believe but the #SPFBO 2016 is all wrapped up with a wonderful winning entry and lots of incredibly enjoyable books to read.  There are lots of blog posts out there to read about but I’ll point you in the general direction of Mark Lawrence’s blog to get a general feel for what went on.  The winner – which you should definitely read – was the Grey Bastards by Jonathan French – and believe me when I say you should read quite a few -or a lot – of the other entrants because there were some awesome reads.

Now, I did intend to write a much fuller piece of my experience taking part and in fact I probably will do so because I thought it had such a good feel – but, for now, this is just a quick post to let you know that the SPFBO ’17 is about to commence.  Yes, that’s right, we’re going for our third year and hopefully it will be as awesome as last year.

As I said, a fuller post will follow, this is just a quick heads up.  The details are here.

That is all for me today.  More to follow.  In the meantime thank you to everyone who took part in the #SPFBO ’16.  A huge thanks especially to all the authors who put their work forward for review – there wouldn’t be any SPFBO without you after all 😀  And, good luck to everyone this year.

Watch this space for my list of books for 2017.

Remember people – there can be only one.

 

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