My most recent book for the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off was Phil Tucker’s Path of Flames. To be honest, I expected to like this one before I started. The glowing review of the blogger who submitted this book to Stage 2 was so convincing that I actually went and bought book No.2 simply with the expectation that I would be in love and would want to continue on. Thankfully that very much proved to be the case. This was both compelling and fast paced. To be honest I was captivated by the characters and found myself driven to keep on reading even into the early hours of the morning making this a speedy read indeed.
The book gets off to a great start, literally bursting out of the gates with a dramatic battle sequence. From there we quickly build up a picture of the world and it’s inhabitants as the author weaves together a rich story with protagonists that I really cared for and great world building that really helps to set the scene.
I don’t want to really elaborate on the plot as I think that way lies the path of spoilers. It’s probably easier to expand on the story simply by discussing the world building and characters.
Obviously when you read quite a few fantasy novels it’s easy to start to make comparisons and this book is no exception. For me this had elements of Tolkien, Martin Feist and Sanderson thrown into the mix. Not that the story was the same just that there were elements that put me in mind of certain books – but in a way that made me smile and that brought out my inner youngster – the one who first feel in love with fantasy after reading Lord of the Rings. This is well done and has a definite 80s type feel, there is strong world building and the author sets the scene well.
The story is told through a number of POVs.
We start with Asho. Squire to Lord Kyferin he may be but it isn’t a position that brings him any joy. All his peers despise him and his Lord and master, having raised him from the life of a slave on a whim, would like nothing more than to see him fail. Asho is stubborn though and although he’s set up to fail he’s determined to succeed. Asho is from Bythian – which, in a world where the religion is based on caste, placed him at the very bottom of the ladder. His life should have been one of slavery and therefore his elevation in life is greatly begrudged by many.
Lady Iskra. *Slight spoiler ahead*. Finds out fairly early on in the story that her husband has died in battle thereby releasing her from a very unhappy marriage. To say Lord Kyferin was not overly popular with most people is something of an understatement although among his knights he seemed to be well liked. I liked Lady Iskra, or more to the point I felt terrible for her – or just terribly annoyed on her behalf. she lives in a world where women are chattels and although she is quite a steely character she finds herself being mistreated and betrayed in a way that leaves her virtually stranded, in a dangerous world, with few belongings and a scant few friends to aid her.
Kethe – daughter of Lord and Lady Kyferin. Longs to be a knight! She spends all her free time, training in secret and when the time finally comes to prove herself she enters and is given permission to take part by her mother, a tournament. I confess that I loved this section of the story. Up until this point I think Kethe came across a little spoiled – yes, she wanted to break the mould but if she didn’t have such a privileged upbringing she would hardly have had the opportunity to scarper off to the forest to practice swordsplay at every opportunity now would she – a fact that she seems blissfully unaware of. But, her participation in the tournament was so well done. She doesn’t just rush onto the field and kick everyone’s butt – which is the one thing I was scared of, in fact she finds herself unceremoniously knocked to the ground.
Audsley is the bookish character of the piece. He’s a magister and his one aim in life is to be well read. He carries along a bag of tools of his trade and is followed by his faithful and fiery firecat. He’s not the most courageous of the book, at the start anyway, but he pretty soon finds himself pulled into the adventure, probably against his own better advice, and soon becomes rather fundamental to the survival of the group.
Ser Tirón is the dark character of the piece. Well, he has good right to be so. For the last few years he has spent his time imprisoned for trying to kill Lord Kyferin’s wife and daughter. Of course he didn’t simply wake up one morning with that notion. Rather it was brought out of him as a need to avenge himself for the death of his own wife, at the hand of Kyferin – a murder that was carried out simply as a result of petty jealousy. Tiron is released from prison by Lady Iskra because she basically needs all the help she can muster. Whether she can trust him remains to be seen but he is an interesting character.
The final character who we follow is Tharok. Tharok is some kind of Orc (I think). His is an interesting story that sees him, after a long pursuit and a fight to survive, discover a sword and headband that seem to imbue him with strength and power of thought. From here we see Tharok as his plans and ambitions start to take shape. I must admit that I was puzzled about his involvement until much later in his story when he buys, and then frees a human slave – a woman with a connection to one of our other POV characters. It will be really interesting to see how the two stories come together.
I really did have fun with Path of Flames. Admittedly, it’s not particularly ground breaking but even so it is very entertaining and kept me quite riveted. Gates that are used to travel between different realms, battles, tournaments, dark magic, and all sorts of critters.
I certainly recommend Path of Flames without hesitation and I shall be moving onto book No.2 shortly.
Friday Firsts is a new meme that runs every Friday over on Tenacious Reader. The idea is to feature the first few sentences/paragraph of your current book and try and outline your first impressions as a result. This is a quick and easy way to share a snippet of information about your current read and to perhaps tempt others. Stop on by and link up with Tenacious Reader. This Friday I’m reading : Path of Flames by Phil Tucker.
The wind plucked at Lord Kyferin’s war banner, causing the black wolf emblazoned on the field of white to snap fitfully as if impatient with the delay. Asho shivered at the sight despite the quilted undercoat that he wore beneath his chainmail, and sat up straighter in Crook’s saddle. For years he had only seen the war banner hanging above his Lord’s high chair in the great hall, limp and still, but now it rippled and surged as if awakened and thirsting for blood. It was his first time riding into war with the Black Wolves. Even though he was at the back of the company with the other squires, he felt as vividly alive and terrified as if he were positioned in the vanguard.
Asho raised his chin. He’d die before he let the others see his fear.
“Asho!” Lord Kyferin’s bellow carried over the cacophony of the great army arrayed around them. “Where are you hiding? Get up here, now!”
Out of the corner of his eye he saw Alardus and Cuncz smirk, could feel the cold stares from Cune and Tyzce. A squire he might be, but the others saw only his white hair and pale skin, the tell-tale signs of a Bythian. That he was free and rode by their side was an outrage they would never forgive.
My First Impressions
I think this gets off to a very good start – and having read further on I confess that my first impression in that respect was spot on. Clearly, peace has reigned for a few years by the sound of it. What changed? And Asho, I’m very curious about him and the way he is treated.
What you reading this Friday?? What are your first impressions??
*The above excerpt was taken from an advanced reader copy and it is possible that the final version may have further changes.
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 seventh 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 is here. The fifth book was Defence of Ráth Bládhma (Fionn mac Cumhaill #1) by Brian O’Sullivan, review here. My sixth book out of the hat was The Music Box Girl by K.A. Stewart and my review for that will follow shortly. My seventh book is The Path of Flames by Phil Tucker. Check it out:
A war fueled by the dark powers of forbidden sorcery is about to engulf the Ascendant Empire. Agerastian heretics, armed with black fire and fueled by bitter hatred, seek to sever the ancient portals that unite the empire – and in so doing destroy it.
Asho–a squire with a reviled past–sees his liege, the Lady Kyferin, and her meager forces banished to an infamous ruin. Beset by tragedy and betrayal, demons and an approaching army, the fate of the Kyferins hangs by the slenderest of threads. Asho realizes that their sole hope of survival may lie hidden within the depths of his scarred soul–a secret that could reverse their fortunes and reveal the truth behind the war that wracks their empire.
Unpredictable, fast paced, and packed with unforgettable characters, The Path of Flames is the first installment in a gripping new epic fantasy series.