#SPFBO Review : The Usurper (Brutal Saga #0.50) by James Alderdice

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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.

The Usurper - Ebook - David J. WestThe Usurper tells the story of Gathelaus, a mercenary who becomes the commander for a troop of renowned sellswords and eventually carves a bloody path to forcefully take the crown.

I had a good time with this book.  On the one hand we have the current storyline – which, after a short prologue takes us back some twenty days earlier to bloody warfare and the forming of a rebellious plan.  This has a grimdark feel to it and follows a linear plot as Gathelaus makes his way across country, demonstrating his strength and battle smarts. The alternate storyline, takes us back to a much younger Gathelaus and tells a series of short, pulp fiction style heroic fantasy adventures of swords and sorcery until, eventually, the two timelines meet.

I think the split timelines worked really well.  On the one hand, we have this series of individual, short stories that help provide a picture of Gathelaus and how his experiences over the years have helped to shape him.  He’s a character that is easy to like in many respects.  I wouldn’t say he’s particularly soft and fluffy, he’s certainly not above a bit of dirty fighting so long as it helps him win the day, but at the same time he does have a strong moral compass that dictates the way he behaves.

In the earlier stories we meet a young Gathelaus as he accompanies his father and brother on a mission to claim land in the frozen North and is brimming with bravado and heroic thoughts.  We then move to 18 years earlier and 12 years earlier, etc, along the way witnessing him deal with troublesome Picts and sorcerers and Gods and other monsters, all delivering a little slice of what made him the man he is today.

Alternately, we jump to the current storyline where the days are slowly counting down revealing the path Gathelaus cut to the throne and the battles and twists along that route.  This storyline has a much grimmer feel to the pulp style hero tales, battles being very bloody after all, and I think the switches in style helped to bring something lighter in between the bouts of battle.  Gathelaus finds himself drawn into a rebellion, the young prince, backed by various nobles (all with their own, usually greed-led, motivations) intend to overthrow the current King – who is something of a tyrant and quite unfit to rule.  Of course, rebellions are usually fought by the underdogs and this is definitely the case here and Gathelaus needs to rely on his cunning ability as much as his sword skills.

In terms of the world building the earlier storyline takes us to many different places.  Gathelaus’ adventures take him through jungles and across deserts and there are many different influences that can be felt along the way before he finds himself immersed in war, surrounded by armies and either thrashing out war strategies in the command tents or plowing into the fray.

The characters.  This is primarily about Gathelaus and to an extent there are no other standout characters although there are certain people along the way who are easy to adopt or enjoy.  Fortunately I liked Gathelaus and so I had no issues with the surrounding characters remaining a bit greyed out although it would have been interesting to have maybe one of two extra characters of note.

Did I have any criticisms.  Well, on the whole, I had a very easy time reading this.  I think the writing is confident and the dialogue was good – although I felt the prologue was perhaps a little weaker than the rest of the story.  I think my only real issue is that the ending felt a little abrupt.  I understand that this is a prequel to a series and so this is understandable in some respects, but, after reading about the MC’s exploits over the years and following his struggles on the battlefield I think I was expecting something more, whereas the epilogue felt a little bit like a slightly clunky introduction to the next book.  But, overall, that wasn’t a deal breaker.

I think that readers who enjoy a good blast of adventure stories mixed in with epic battles and rebellion led by a larger than life Viking-style MC who is easy to like, should check this out.

I received a copy courtesy of the author, for which my thanks.  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 Third Batch of Books : Update

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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 first batch of books here and my update here, and my second batch of books and update here and here.

As with previous years I’m hoping to read a batch of books each month.  I will read at least 30% and hopefully will choose one or two books from each batch to roll forward and read fully and review before choosing semi finalists and a finalist.  My book list is chosen randomly and the six books I will be reading this month are outlined below:

 

Spitting Image by Patrick LeClerc

Spitting

Okay, I will start this on an unusual note.  Patrick Le Clerc had a finalist in last year’s competition with Out of Nowhere – a book about a paramedic known as Sean Danet who appears to be immortal.  So, I was slightly puzzled to see another entry with the same character because that seems to be like a second book in series – although it doesn’t appear that way on GRs so I wanted to give it the benefit of the doubt.  To be fair, I think this could easily be read as a standalone without reading Out of Nowhere.

Sean is immortal.  He’s lived for many, many years.  He’s been a soldier and now a paramedic – a job that allows him to make a difference using his healing abilities without anyone noticing his existence.  As the story begins we are given an introduction to Sean, whilst he’s out on a night shift.  Returning home Sean is paid a surprise visit from his girlfriend Sarah, and this happens again the following day and whilst these surprise visits are very welcome something feels slightly wrong. Initially, Sean is worried that Sarah is losing interest, a thought that chills him as he finally feels like he’s met someone that he’d like to stick around for and get to know better, but, as it happens, more sinister powers are at play and both Sean and Sarah are in danger.

I read my allocated 30% of this one.  It’s a very easy read and this is an author that can be engaging without doubt.  He gets off to a good start, although maybe a little slower than I would expect given the length of the book.  I think that his main character relies heavily on sarcasm and self deprecation and this maybe sometimes doesn’t come across as clearly as it might.

All in all, this was entertaining enough up to my cut off point but it didn’t quite grab my attention as much as I would have liked.

Conclusion : Cut

 

The Usurper (Brutal Saga #0.50) by James Alderdice

Usurper

I’m not reviewing The Usurper at this point because I enjoyed what I read so far and would like to carry it forward and continue reading. I will make a decision at a later date as to whether or not this will be a semi-finalist.

Conclusion : rolled forward

 

Night Warrior by Jordan J. Scavone

Night

Night Warrior is a really good concept, portal fantasy in reverse if you will.  Instead of the central character being sucked into a fantasy world the exact opposite happens and characters from that fantasy world are pulled into our modern one.  What makes this additionally strange is that all the characters appear to have been created by Viranda’s imagination when writing a new book.

I must say that this got off to an intriguing start.  We meet Viranda whilst she’s in a spot of bother – she’s badly injured and still carries those injuries and trauma as the story really kicks off.  Viranda wants to be an author and since her ‘accident’ she’s been having unusual and vivid dreams.  She starts to write these down becoming totally immersed in the world she is creating.   Then lightning strikes and the characters from out of Viranda’s book start appearing in her world – which can’t be good given that some of the characters are less than savoury.

As I mentioned, this one had a really good start. I was intrigued by Viranda’s situation as the book began.  Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy the next section quite as much although it’s still entertaining.  I think the main issues that really struck me were that Viranda is incredibly accepting of a bunch of sword wielding characters turning up in her life – very calm and collected in fact.  The other thing that occurred to me is that in spite of all these fantasy people running around in our modern world there seems to be very little impact other than the events that are circling intently around Viranda.  I realise of course that other things could be happening off page but I would have liked to have a sense of how things were being affected, and I would definitely have liked a little more emotion particularly from Viranda, not to mention some surprise from the fantasy characters at the strange modern world they found themselves in.

On the whole though, this was easy to get on with, I did have niggles but at the end of the day I don’t think I’m the intended audience for this (I think YA?) and my automatic questions and issues got in the way a little.

Conclusion : Cut

 

Jacob’s War by Mark Hood

Jacob's

This is another entry with an intriguing premise and written in a format that I really enjoy that alternates between diary entries made by Jacob Willlams as he fought in the first World War and later update chapters that take place after the war has ended.

It appears that there is a thin divide between our world and that of the supernatural and some of the points of protection are either weak or failing.

Strange creatures are slipping into our world and only the Fae Defence Society stand between them and certain disaster.

I thought the diary chapters were very good where I read up to and liked the tone and style of the writing – there was an innocence to Jacob at the start of the journal that started to wear thin as things progressed and the rose tinted glasses were removed.  In the alternating chapters we jump forward and watch Jacob and his comrades as they prepare for a forthcoming onslaught of unknown beasts.  Unfortunately, I didn’t quite enjoy these chapters as much as the journal entries and I think that’s because the divide was too great for me.  One moment we’re reading about Jacob as he heads out to war, the next we’re watching him wield magic and fight hairy beasts.  In fairness, as you read forward these two points will eventually come together but I think I would have liked a smoother transition somehow.

Conclusion : Cut

 

The Hammer Of The Gods: So You Want To Be A Star (The Druid Trilogy #1) by Andrew Marc Rowe

TheHammer

Well, The Hammer of the Gods was quite a surprise.  I enjoyed where I read up to and will carry this one forward for further reading.  No review at this point and I will make a decision at a later stage as to whether this will be a semi finalist.

Conclusion : rolled forward

 

The Story of Evil – A Hero’s Downfall (#1) by Tony Johnson

Storyof

The Story of Evil certainly got off to a furious start.  We begin with a jousting tournament that goes horribly wrong when evil creatures attack the city.

We then make a fairly quick introduction to three characters as they go from one danger to the next.

Stephen Brightflame is a young man with dreams of becoming a knight.  He’s actually jousting when all the trouble begins.

Ty is Stephen’s brother in arms, he rides a flying beast and so when the attack begins he is immediately drawn into the action.

Kari is a young woman watching the tournament who tries to make it back to the safety of her home but becomes embroiled in a fight with one of the beasts.

I have mixed feelings with this one.  It shows promise but I think it is too ambitious at the start.  I read my allocated 30% and by that time we probably only progressed half a day at most – by which time most of the inhabitants of the city were dead and considerable damage had been caused.

Now, all this action and death is without doubt a good ploy to pull the reader immediately into the story, but, without knowing the characters I felt a strange ambivalence towards their fate.  In fact, the way in which everything was being systematically destroyed I began to wonder if there would be any survivors.

I also had a number of issues that just kept pulling me out of the moment.  There is a definite feeling of over explanation here for some of the really small minutiae, on top of this we have flashbacks by way of background – but they felt a little long winded and out of place when the whole city was under attack and being bombarded with monsters and  flying masonry.   One example is Ty, reflecting on his lack of a solid relationship when he’s plunging through the sky – it just felt out of place.

I don’t mean to sound overly critical,  This does show promise but it didn’t really work for me.

Conclusion : Cut

 

 

#SPFBO : My Third Batch of Books

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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.  You can find my first batch of books here and my update here, and my second batch of books and update here and here.

As with previous years I’m hoping to read a batch of books each month.  I will read at least 30% and hopefully will choose one or two books from each batch to roll forward and read fully and review before choosing semi finalists and a finalist.  My book list is chosen randomly and the six books I will be reading this month are outlined below:

 

Spitting Image by Patrick LeClerc

SpittingImmortal Sean Danet can heal others with a touch. Over centuries he’s learned it’s safer to hide in plain sight, moving and changing his identity often, but finally, after too long as a rootless vagabond, he’s found a place he belongs. Friends he can trust and the love of an intelligent, beautiful woman. The life he dreamed of and never expected to attain.

When a sinister new adversary targets him for his abilities this tranquil existence is overturned––he finds himself unable to trust those closest to him, unable to trust what he sees. Can he untangle the mystery and outwit his latest foes? Or is his only hope of safety to return to a bleak and lonely fugitive existence?

Spitting Image is a tense, twisting, face-paced adventure which finds Sean confronting both deadly enemies and the consequences of his decisions as he chooses once and for all what is worth defending.

Author InfoTwitter

Website:

 

The Usurper (Brutal Saga #0.50) by James Alderdice

UsurperWhen a tyrant wears the crown, a hero must become an Usurper…
The Fates weave a tapestry of life and death for young Gathelaus the Sellsword. Now an unexpected opportunity presents itself for the famed mercenary, he has but to claim the blood red crown…

But once you wear the crown, how long can you hold it until that power is turned against you? Follow Gathelaus on a journey through a life of magic, action and intrigue; battling gods and monsters across a mystic realm …

The Usurper is an action-packed heroic adventure in the vein of classic pulp fiction and heroic fantasy. If you like Conan the Barbarian, The Witcher and Logen Ninefingers along with vengeful sorcery, savage duels, larger-than-life characters, and witty humor, then you’ll love James Alderdice’s barbaric tale.

Author Info:

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Night Warrior by Jordan J. Scavone

NightWhen a bolt of lightning strikes seventeen-year-old Viranda’s home during a severe thunderstorm, she awakens, dazed, to find a strange blood-covered man sitting calmly on her bed. This man claims to be Cillian Balor, The Night Warrior, the same character Viranda herself had created in her novel. Cillian believes Viranda to be the Goddess of Fate from his homeworld of Lingard. However, Viranda claims there is no Goddess of Fate in Lingard; she should know, she did create it after all. When other characters from her book begin to appear in her world, Viranda fears what would happen if the likes of Finn Razorclaw, a deadly werewolf and the arch-rival of Cillian, or the feared witches of The Black Cat Clan arrived as well. With the help of her best friend Bee, and a protection gnome named Mo, Viranda and Cillian must discover the secret to Cillian’s existence and prevent catastrophic damage by powerful supernatural beings.

Author Info:

 

Jacob’s War by Mark Hood

Jacob'sMeet Jacob Williams.

A survivor of the First World War, forever changed by his experience.  Now he’s facing down the terrors that conflict unleashed upon an unsuspecting world.

Weak spots have always existed between our world and that of the Fae; stone circles help to keep the most dangerous sealed shut. But now Stonehenge is failing…

It falls to the members of the Fae Defence Society to repair the ancient monument, protect humanity from the terrors it holds back and prevent another disastrous war.

Jacob and his wartime comrade Harry are on the front lines in a supernatural battle which threatens everything.

Author Info: Twitter

Website: https://www.thefairieswantmedead.com/

 

The Hammer Of The Gods: So You Want To Be A Star (The Druid Trilogy #1) by Andrew Marc Rowe

TheHammerPitted against a perverse pantheon of warring deities, Gudleik Sigbjornsson and Rosmerta O’Ceallaigh are two dreamers living worlds apart, hoping to create a better life for themselves by following their dreams. It won’t be easy: Gudleik’s soul is the battleground between two gods of Asgard. And Rosmerta is supposed to do as her parents have done: offer her life to the service of an ancient Celtic fertility god. But the gods are only half of it… the biggest foes the two will face are to be found within their own minds.

Can Gudleik overcome the ugly blessing of a trickster god and prevent Ragnarok? Will Rosmerta find the courage to forge a new path? Will there be a whole load of dirty jokes and comments on the human condition?

Yes, yes, there will be… to that one, the third question.

Also, check dis out: there is a bunch about Merlyn and King Arthur of Camelot, a Goblin King, an ancient fell jellyfish god, encroaching Christian zealots, characters whose proclivities are too crude to mention here, because, well, gotta make the advertising copy pop, you know?

An epic fantasy comedy as blue as the cover art, get your copy of The Hammer Of The Gods today!

Author InfoTwitter

Website:http://www.andrewmarcrowe.com/

 

The Story of Evil – A Hero’s Downfall (#1) by Tony Johnson

StoryofDuring an entertaining jousting tournament, a mysterious villain attacks the capital with his army. Because of this disastrous event, Stephen Brightflame, a nineteen-year-old who aspires to become a knight, embarks on a quest to save the kingdom from further destruction. He joins up with a convicted felon, an arrogant warrior, and a Halfling woman, but quickly learns their pasts are just as dark and disturbing as his own. Experience the first book in an epic fantasy trilogy that’s been called, “fascinating and captivating” featuring “well-rounded, enjoyable characters, intense action scenes, and riveting twists”

Author Info:

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Once again, good luck to everyone.  If you’d like to visit my blog for a guest post, excerpt, etc, then leave me a note in the comments.