After finishing A Witch To Live, I immediately dove into the sequel book Jack Kursed and to my surprise it featured a totally different POV character...more After finishing A Witch To Live, I immediately dove into the sequel book Jack Kursed and to my surprise it featured a totally different POV character. The titular character Jack Kursaid is an immortal person with almost near invulnerability but with a major drawback, he hasn't been able to sleep for more than two hundred years now. This has lead him to be a individual with a very particular form of narcissistic neurosis. The only friend he has is Victoria the vampire and the one constant thread in this series who shares a symbiotic past with him.
The story begins as Jack is rather forced to help Tiffany an eight year old runaway and thus begins the rehabilitation of Jack. This book was fun to read as we get Jack who is like a mix of House and Sherlock Holmes plus with the nature of Superman and the tactical resolve of the Punisher. He doesn't hesitate to get what he wants and he'll suffer no fools. The story is darker than its predecessor but has it moments of warmth as Jack deals with Tiffany and her new teacher Erica.
Another common theme I'm noticing is how the author likes to protray budding romantic relationships and it was fun to see Jack and Erica form one. With a dark protagonist, and an even darker ending, this book is my favorite of the series and not to mention Victoria who gets equal footing in this book unlike the last one wherein she had a slightly minor role. Once I finished this one, I immediately downloaded the next one as it combined all the main characters of the first three books and I couldn't miss how Jack would react to Alex and Kevin with Victoria to supervise.(less)
Procession of the Dead begins with Capac Raimi arriving at a train station in the City. It seems to be a rainy afternoon and as Capac gets out in the...moreProcession of the Dead begins with Capac Raimi arriving at a train station in the City. It seems to be a rainy afternoon and as Capac gets out in the City he notices the blind monk who seem to come out in the mysterious fog. From there he proceeds to meet his uncle Theo Boratto who takes Capac under his wing and teaches him how to be a gangster.
Capac Raimi's journey from a minor level gangster into the upper echelons begins as his moves catch the eye of the Cardinal. Events will eventually transpire to bring him face to face with the Cardinal who is surprising and shocking with his thoughts and theories. He soon realizes that he has been reassigned as a "Cardinal" man and now will have to work towards the Cardinal's goals and plans.
Meetings of various of the cardinal's associates like Pacar Wami, the psychotic enigmatic assassin, Ford Tasso, the Cardinal's right hand man and central enforcer, Sonja Arne, an ex-prostitute with a head for numbers and the Cardinal's mother influence, eventually creep up into this part of the novel. He is also asked to stay in a hotel which serves as the residential quarters of all the Cardinal's men and therein he meets another soul who quickly bonds with him and appears to be just as lost as Capac but seems to know a tiny bit more then he does.
Capac Raimi goes about learning his new role and adjusting to his new found status with the help of the various cast members listed above. The strange part of the tale starts here as Capac meets certain people and certain situations occur that have him start doubting the City, its inhabitants and the Cardinal himself.
The story then takes myriad twists and turns as Capac seemingly meets people who help him around and then completely disappear with no one remembering them. Capac's search for them leads him onto another person who might have some information about the Cardinal. This ultimately leads to a showdown with the Cardinal where all is revealed to Capac. I have intentionally tried to be vague about the plot mysteries which Capac encounters as to reveal them would be spoilerific and would denounce the reading experience.
Darren Shan has created a fascinating Noir-mystery-UF combo here and it focuses upon Incan myths. The biggest draw about this tale is its setting, the unnamed City is itself a character and even though its origins and name have not been specified, hints are provided for it to be set in the North American continent.
The writing style and the first person voice draw the reader in and sustains them till the end of this tale. While the ending revelation seemed apropos and fitting for me, it might be a hit and miss for some. Keep an open mind with this book and the ending might be a pleasant surprise.
In the end I would gladly recommend this book as I went without any prior knowledge about the author and found the tale to be visceral and fascinating in its own dark way. This book was one of my top reads and I'm gladly looking forward to the next book in the City trilogy to see where the author goes from the stunning finale of the "Procession of the Dead".
Steelheart is a good amalgam of post-apocalyptic and superhero themes. In this world, there are people that have gained superpowers to various degree...more Steelheart is a good amalgam of post-apocalyptic and superhero themes. In this world, there are people that have gained superpowers to various degrees and are called "Epics". These super-powered folks however aren't superheroes, and have become power-mad despots. One such Epic who calls himself Steelheart rules over Chicago, which after he has altered completely, is now called "Newcago". Steelheart rules with a steelfist and tolerates no opposition from the general populace or from any other Epics.
Sanderson presents a compelling narrative by having a main protagonist who is out for revenge but also has no superpowers, just his determination & quest to find to the truth. Usually Sanderson has no problems with characterization and even in this one, we get more than an interesting side-cast. The story ends on a powerful note & readers will be hooked on to this new series by one of the most prolific writers of this generation.(less)
ANALYSIS: 14 is a book that had a lot of secrecy attached to it, Peter had hinted about it in various...more Review originally over at Fantasy Book Critic
ANALYSIS: 14 is a book that had a lot of secrecy attached to it, Peter had hinted about it in various interviews and blog posts. I compiled a blogpost wherein some of its mystery was mentioned So when I got a review copy of the book, I was prompt to start the book and find out what was the big mystery at the core of the book.
The best and worst part about reviewing this book is its central plot and how much a reviewer can describe of it. In this regards this book becomes a very tough cookie to talk about, leave alone review it in its entirety. The book plot begins with Nate who is in LA and is looking for a new apartment, he hears about this new place that is really cheap and fills in the application for it. Upon getting acceptance he moves in and finds that as the building and its occupants are odder than they appear. Beginning with the building manager Oskar and right down to cockroaches found in the building, that have a emerald tinge to them. His curiosity soon gets ahead of him and he soon starts discovering that the building might be much older than is apparent and also server a purpose much more meaningful than other deemed important by human minds.
The biggest mystery along with the host of the other smaller ones is for the reader to discover as the author intended. The tale is very much like an episode of the Twilight Zone with a huge helping of LOST mythology and secrets. The reader is slowly taken through the mystery of the building as does the main character Nate, drawing in on a host of influences and backgrounds, Peter Clines has written a fine story. The mysteries are several and range from the miniscule to major ones however the trick is in recognizing which is what.
The best part of the story that it shares with LOST, is its terrific characterization, beginning from the main character and to all the side character cast, the author has given all of the characters interesting personalities and it makes the story come alive. The reader gets invested in the characters wanting to know more and thereby as a result feels much more attuned with the overall direction of the story. Characterization has always been a strong point of Peter seen in his Ex-Heroes books as well as the short story collection “The Junkie Quatrain” and this trend continues colorfully in this story as well.
Another fact that I liked about the story and one that strengthens its connections to the LOST-like setting is the mythology and background present in the story, tracing its roots to a couple of famous scientists as well as literary figures. The story veers back in to SF and horror territory smoothly and then back into a character study. The humor and character bickering are also spectacularly present thereby giving the reader a fun read as well thereby alleviating the story’s darker parts. Lastly the author’s nods to pop culture, Hollywood and other literary works made this book a fun one and like LOST has some connection to the plot as well.
The only thing that I felt went against the book was it is a standalone and at the end of the book, the reader gets this intense feeling of wanting to know more about the world and possible future/fate of several characters as well as exploring more of the history and the reason for the creation of the Kavach. The last word means something in Marathi, my mother tongue and so it was quite exciting for me to see its use in this book with the proper context.
CONCLUSION: Peter Clines takes a well thought concept and creatively expands on it to give the readers an excellent mix of The Twilight Zone, LOST & H.P. Lovecraft, this is a story for all the people who want something interesting to read and get a complete story in the end. Read it and find out why Peter Clines needs to heralded as one of SFF’s rising superstars.(less)
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: I received a review request for this book from the author and was instantly hooked o...more Full Review originally at Fantasy Book Critic
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: I received a review request for this book from the author and was instantly hooked on to it by its blurb. Focusing the story in an alternate Roman empire-like world wherein the Vareno people have conquered the Cesino tribes and built a massive empire. Their occupation hasn’t been a smooth one and the outlands have always been troublesome a la Scotland for the Roman Empire. In this exciting setup the story promptly opens up with Tyren Risto, a Vareno noble who has to explain to his family as to why he has gotten his posting orders in the Cesino Outlands. His explanation aside, his family doesn’t quite understand his actions on behalf of a slave and is quite unhappy with the situation.
Tyren however is intent upon doing right by his country and his military orders. Setting out on his journey to the outlands, his family drops a Cesino slave on him and the slave’s behavior is a bit strange and gives Tyren doubts about his intentions. Tyren on reaching the outpost discovers that there’s much more to doing than just holding it. He has to contend with his difficult subjects, the indifference of his men and also the worry of doing the right thing by everyone.
Amanda McCrina’s debut shows quite some flair to her writing style, her prose while far from being economical is a bit reminiscent of K.J. Parker in its inquisitive style. The story begins slowly however there are many secrets and observations packed along the way for the reader to grasp and if they do, they will be rewarded in the latter half of the story. The pace is on the slower side in the first half of the book however it does pick up quite nicely during the second half to give the readers a good climax. The best part of the story is the characterization from Tyren to its other characters; the author gives us a well-rounded view into their thought process and viewpoints. This helps in understanding the conflict quite precisely and also gives us an insightful look into the main character.
The only drawbacks for me in this story were the spartan world-building and its pace, the world building is something which leaves a lot to be deserved as the author while focusing on the characters and the plot keeps the world building to a tad minimum, and this perhaps is the big factor going against the story. The pacing while on the slower side does pick up and only might be a niggling factor if the readers expect action from the first few pages.
His Own Good Sword is a quiet debut but it’s a significant one, Amanda McCrina is an author with a lot of potential and with her understated but smooth writing style marks herself out as a writer to look out for. Book one of the Cymeria series is a good historical fantasy and I’m eagerly waiting to see where the author takes the story next inThe Sword Unsheathed. (less)
ANALYSIS: David Dalglish’s previous trilogy was a revelation for me as it introduced me to the author a...more Full Review Originally at Fantasy Book Critic
ANALYSIS: David Dalglish’s previous trilogy was a revelation for me as it introduced me to the author as well his dynamic storytelling prowess. The series was supposed to focus on Haern’s origins and explore his need to become the person he is currently. It was a dark and unforgiving series that was tough on all of its characters, ruthless in character deaths and perhaps the author’s homage to Batman's beginnings. The final book however didn’t complete the arc as set by the first book and the author has spoken a bit about it in this guest post.
The trappings of the trilogy was that a son rebelled against his father’s wishes and that was the underpinning that powered the main character as well as galvanized the readers as they wanted to see how it would end. While the original trilogy didn’t exactly end on that note, the current trilogy plays out to that very end. It also serves as a bridge between the Half-Orc series, the Shadowdance trilogy as well as the Paladin series. The main theater of action would be set in the city of Veldaren primarily and also focusing on other regions as per the story dictates. The book also aims to bring together all the characters and infuse the story to make it an explosive one.
The story begins the king of Veldaren receiving a letter of intent from Victor Kane, lord of a nearby region who wishes to accomplish a task that no one has attempted so far. He wishes to rid the city of all its thieves, murderers and other scum. To do so, he has brought his own private army and is ready to start his mission. Alyssa Gemcroft has recovered from the events of the city of Angelport nearly two years ago and she has learnt to be more cunning while also growing in her economic strength. She however is unprepared for a new surprise that awaits her in mansion of a fellow trifect member. Zusa is resilient and has constantly been the pillar of support for Alyssa in many ways however she will have to face demons and problems from her past as well and this time it might just be enough to break her. Then there’s Thren Felhorn, the greatest and most feared guild lord who is still trying to regain his lost glory and lastly there’s the Widow who is going around on a killing spree motivated by reasons stranger than most men can fathom.
Thus begins the first volume of the Watcher’s Blade trilogy which attempts to fuse the character driven storyline of its preceding trilogy with the epic action and intrigue of the sequel Half-orc series. This powder-keg is all set to explode and explode it does, in a spectacularly brutal onslaught. The prologue opens with a riddle and a murder and then quickly the plot threads and characters are introduced with enough of a background presented for all new readers to get caught up adequately and for returning readers to whet their memories. The highlights of David’s previous books are spectacularly present, beginning with rapid pace of the story, multiple plot lines, intriguing characterization and sharp plot twists.
The best part however, is the characterization beginning with Haern and his troubled past, this series is basically about the confrontation that has been ordained between Haern and his father. The seeds for the confrontation were laced in the first two books of the Shadowdance trilogy and it’s in this book can the reader see them coming to fruition. There’s also Alyssa, Zusa, Thren, Victor Kane and a few other characters who each have their own plans and work towards their own ends. The equally awesome part is that while the series is about the Watcher, in this book the focus is shared by many characters each of whom can be confidently considered as a compelling protagonist or antagonist (depending on how you view their story).
This multifaceted character approach makes this story come alive tremendously as the reader is kept guessing on all fronts and something is happening in each POV character thread to keep the plot tension high strung. In this regards, the plot confusion and the thriller aspect of the story really shine through. The pace of the book also seems to make the book more akin to a thriller and this is another plus point in regards to the book. I can’t say that this book has no drawbacks to it but for the type of story I like to read, it had everything; tense mystery, believable characterization, epic action and lastly a strong authorial grasp on the story. All of this along with the book’s humor that is present but in minute amounts and is character specific which makes this story a fantastic read.
Lastly while this is a sequel trilogy, newer readers will have no problems jumping in and picking up the story, and for the older, returning readers this book is a crossroads of all the three previously written series thereby giving them a big crossover high. The author has commented upon this aspect in the afterword and it shows in the book as we come across a wide array of characters that confabulate and conflict to give the readers a rousing tale. The plot threads come to a reasonable conclusion at the end of this book and the reader is left with a big hint of the story direction of the next book Blood Of The Father.
CONCLUSION: David Dalglish is an anomaly of sorts, his books while seeming generic are turning out to be a unique combination of dark fantasy and exciting thriller modes, thereby giving the readers a potent story and making sure they are left wanting more. I was hooked with the previous trilogy and this one does more of the same in spades. If you truly wish to discover a fantastic new author, give this book a try or if you want, start with book I of the Shadowdance trilogy and experience the origin story as its unfolds epically.(less)
ANALYSIS: Myke Cole’s Control Point was # 5 on my top ten-debut list for last year and amid the slew of fantastic debut releases, it is credit to the author’s vision and skills that the book gained that position. The potential shown in Control Point marked him out as an author to watch for and so it was with high anticipation that I awaited to read the sequel. Also I must disclose at this point that I have a soft spot for this book as Myke graciously allowed me to be a part of its creation by allowing me to provide some help in regards to a few facets of the Hindu mythology and Indian elements integrated within the story and Shadow Ops world.
The book begins during the latter third of the events shown in Control Point as Myke Cole introduces a “Nikki-Paulo” like situation in the story but with significantly better success than the creators of LOST ever imagined. This book has a new POV character and it explores latency through a different set of eyes. This time around we get to experience the latency turn through colonel Alan Bookbinder who is a “paper-pusher and not a true soldier” in his own worlds. Thus begins the first contrasting point between Oscar Britton and Alan Bookbinder and this is just the first of many that the readers will come across as they read through the story. Alan is a simple man who faces rather extraordinary circumstances and is forced to adept to them.
The emergence of his powers means that he goes to the same Forward Operating Base wherein Oscar and the rest of the latent community are sent. He however gets an exalted status because of his previous military position and his own initiative in reporting and turning himself in. His coming out is as explosive as was that of Oscar however his life takes a different route and we get to see a different side to the characters previously introduced such as Fitzsimmons, Crucible, Taylor, Talon etc.
In this book,Bookbinder is the major POV character however we also get to know what happened to Britton and the runaways as well. This book is dedicated to J.R.R. Tolkien and Gary Gygax as the author pays homage to the heroic journey trope. Both the POV characters learn to evolve beyond what they are individually capable of. But the crucial aspect is the journey and what a journey it is. This is what I really loved about the book, namely its exploration of a different magic system and nation, the Sahir Corps of India and the Nagas. Myke Cole absolutely lets fly his imagination and we get to see a trek across the magical landscape that connects the American FOB to the Indian FOB and this plot thread is the heart of the story. The author, I have to say does good by Tolkien and Gygax with his version of the heroic odyssey. Check out the map that accompanies this book to get an idea about the start and end destinations of Bookbinder’s journey.
The action is nonstop and the cast of characters is significantly expanded. We get more of Bookbinder and a relatively smaller dose of Oscar Britton, Not to say that Oscar’s fight is any less important but compared to Bookbinder, it pales slightly in scope of the task and enormous pressure. Myke Cole has to be lauded for his approach to his debut series as he brings in a new POV character and yet manages to make the transition seem seamless. His prose skills have definitely bettered this time around as the readers are exposed to a wider character cast and yet all the plot threads are comfortably ensconced within the compact book plot. There’s also the use of vignettes before the start of every chapter, which like the first book help in making the readers aware of the world and the various different aspects about it. The world which Myke hints at is incredibly complex and I feel it will remain fresh for a long time as the author can possibly explore all its nooks and crannies and keep readers entertained for a long time to come.
There’s an overall story arc, which Myke is attempting to build up and it continues wonderfully in this second book as the problems between the US government and the Selfers are coming to a violent conclusion. I believe Breach Zone will be the book where it all comes down and Myke has promised a terrific climax in New York City. Breach Zone will feature another new POV character besides Britton and Bookbinder and I believe he gives a strong hint about who that might be in this book. The next book will also feature Scylla as a major player as has been hinted at in Control Point and Fortress Frontier. She’s a character that I love to know more about and so I can’t wait to read about her and the mega confrontation Myke has planned in Breach Zone.
Plus with Myke’s new revelation that the Shadow Ops series will be continued for a further three books however books four & five will be prequels focusing on the great reawakening. While book six will be featuring an ancillary character featured in Fortress Frontier, I feel that I might know whom this character might be however I‘ll wait till Myke announces it to confirm my presumption. This means that Breach Zone will at least bring an end to the story arc begun in Control Point and so I await it with high anticipation.
Talking about drawbacks, for me Fortress Frontier had next to none, some readers might still complain about the writing style and perhaps about the characters themselves but I feel Myke has outdone himself with this book and proves that he is indeed a wordsmith with a bright future ahead. The only complaint I can think of is that we will have to wait for a year to find out what happens next and I think that's due credit to the author for making his readers feel such anticipation.
CONCLUSION: Fortress Frontier is a sequel and a better book than its predecessor, it is a book that will have something for fantasy readers of every kind and pays homage brilliantly to Tolkien's legacy. Give it a read to know why Myke Cole is an absolute gift to urban fantasy and military fantasy sub-genres. Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier is a fantastic book and IMHO is simply a must buy for all fantasy lovers when it releases tomorrow.(less)
ANALYSIS: After being introduced to Joseph R. Lewis’s writing in the form of the Other Earth books, I was v...more Review originally at Fantasy Book Critic
ANALYSIS: After being introduced to Joseph R. Lewis’s writing in the form of the Other Earth books, I was very curious to see what else he has written. On checking his website I saw a brand new book being released called Zelda Pryce: The Razor’s Edge, two things nudged my curiosity, the reference to the classic Princess Zelda video games and the fact that this was going to steampunk-ish YA caper (of sorts) novel. I was partly right in my assumptions about those two nudges and here’s why.
The story opens up in current day wherein Zelda Pryce, our protagonist is currently testing the security of Smithsonian Museum of Arcane Science. She does manage to evade the security and procure the items as required but not without some high kinks on the way. Plus with regular phone calls from her sister Roxanne about her interests in arcane science, studies and life over all, she leads a life that can be deemed reasonable as befitting her persona. Soon after gig with the Smithsonian, she gets contacted for a new gig overseas in London. During the actual gig she realizes something is horribly off, combined with the presence of other people in the same place, she discovers that she has been mentally conned into following someone’s nefarious plan. Soon she learns from Yasmin Demir, a French DCRI agent that all is not well in the world of Arcane museums the world over. Soon Zelda will have to make a choice whether to go back to her normal life or to find out who is behind all of this.
If this book can be encapsulated in a single word, it would be FUN. Beginning from the first chapter, there’s a jovial undertone to this book that asserts itself in the dialogue as well as the inventions that abound the pages from cover to cover. The characterization ranging from Zelda, Clive & Yasmin are done competently as befitting a YA novel however we only get the story from Zelda’s point of view. The author though does his best to provide a decent background to the supporting cast however this move is hampered through the use of a singular third person POV. Going on to the second favorite part of the book, which was the presence of all these cool phenomena, gadgets and alternate arcane history, the author has created a world wherein magic is present but it is more akin to a science and is distilled by various famous historical personae, into its current highly evolved state.
Ranging from Chekov guns to Diogenes lamps to Occam razors to Nicomachean whistles to other cool but equally dangerous artifacts. The author has planned this world akin to the Harry Potter one but with a crucial difference, this is the age of science. Thereby having a cool machine-punk edge to history, the story gains a different edge more akin to the Scott Westerfeld Leviathan series but with a comical tone akin to that of the John Connolly Samuel Johnson series. Lastly there's no Link in this story and this Zelda does everything herself to save the world. The story does have a complete plot with room left for a sequel and readers who enjoyed this book will be glad to hear that Zelda will be back in the sequel tentatively titled “Zelda Pryce: The Clockwork Girl”.
What can readers look forward to in book, hilarious banter involving Zelda and her younger sibling Roxanne, action packed sequences in various international locales and overall a strong fun filled story to boot. With such plus features, it really becomes hard to point out any insufficiencies in this book but I think there might be some points to note. Primarily this book is equivalent to literary candy (as the author meant it to be); readers looking for a grimmer world setting akin to the current YA dystopian mold will not find it here. Also the author intentionally has made the series the way it is thereby choosing to disregard certain facts and history to make the story plot more accessible and if you can’t let go of your sensibilities completely then this isn’t the book for you.
CONCLUSION: Joseph Robert Lewis is a maverick writer and it shows in this YA outing, filled with colorful characters, fascinating gadgets and an action packed storyline. I strongly recommend this book simply because of its theme to be a funny book. If you haven’t read Joss Llewelyn yet then grab a copy at the earliest instant and you can thank me later ;)(less)
It's a little hard to believe that this is Joshua Corin's freshman effort. I got to know of this book thanks to the International Thriller Writers web...moreIt's a little hard to believe that this is Joshua Corin's freshman effort. I got to know of this book thanks to the International Thriller Writers website. The first three chapters of this book are available as a free pdf download. Once I read those chapters, I knew I had to read the rest of the book as well.
The story revolves around a madman who captures the twin sister of the protagonist & dares the protagonist to capture him in 7 days or he'll bring the end of the world by unleashing a nuclear Armageddon. The protagonist, Adam Weiss, is a slightly unlikeable frat boy whose aspirations are related to electronic games, fun, and sex, and not necessarily in that order. Then he gets the shock of his life when his sister is captured along with his car, on the way to a funeral by a guy who happens to be crazy as well as armed with a nuclear bomb. The madman proclaims that the bomb will be set off if Adam doesn't find him in time.
Adam meets a short old guy who also happens to be connected with mob and a Croatian female clown who only speaks Spanish. From this outlandish premise the story shoots off onto various locations as Adam along with Filbert the dwarf enforcer & Cherry Sundae the clown, tries to figure out who kidnapped Adam's sister & also try to avoid the police due to various happenings you will read about.
All the events in the book are seen through Adam as he is the novel's unwilling protagonist though I think it would have been funnier if we could have gotten POVs from Filbert or Cherry too.
"Nuclear Winter Wonderland" is a little hard to classify as it has elements of comedic fiction as well as thriller fiction. It almost seems like a Quentin Tarantino movie with quirkier characters & funnier situations. The prose is smooth though a bit amateurish in places. The story is very fast paced and starts zooming from the 4-5th chapter as things start unravelling for Adam. He loses his sister, gains 2 unlikely allies of which 1 can barely understand him and vice-versa. He then is taken to various places such as Philadelphia, Las Vegas where the origins of his comrades are explained though what is truly happening is only understood only in the 2nd half of the book. The story ends on a strong climax which is apt for this tale & lives up to its quirky buildup.
In the end I would sincerely recommend this book to readers who are looking for a fun read with an engaging storyline as well. (less)
This was an extremely fun debut and I enjoyed reading about the transformation of a complete underdog into a protagonist worth rooting for. Wesley Ch...more This was an extremely fun debut and I enjoyed reading about the transformation of a complete underdog into a protagonist worth rooting for. Wesley Chu marks himself with this comical and highly entertaining debut which MIB meets The Karate Kid and with a dollop of quirkiness. More to come in full FBC review in April...(less)
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Rogues Of The Black Fury by Travis Heermann was a book that attracted my attention fo...more Full Review originally at Fantasy Book Critic
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Rogues Of The Black Fury by Travis Heermann was a book that attracted my attention for a couple of reasons namely that it seemed to be a standalone and the blurbs promised a dark adventure ride. It seems the first reason is partly wrong and the second one is absolutely correct.
The story is set in a secondary fantasy world wherein two nations Cusca and Fartha have been warring with each other for generations and now are in an uncomfortable stalemate. The world is set in a time wherein firearms have been recently invented and yet to become the primary weapon. The main character is Javin Wollstone, son of Janus Wollstone who is the most powerful general in the land of Cusca. The plot opens with Javin and his sister Bella enjoying a play and that’s when disaster strikes as men from his own unit (the Blue Dragons) abduct Bella and leave everyone shell shocked. Janus Wollstone is forced to think of the impossible and hire the company of mercenaries known as the Black Furies to find and bring back his daughter.
Captain Rusk is the leader of this team and his competency and coarseness are both legendary along with his team's exploits in the previous battles. He has though been tasked with the task of finding Bella but with a caveat that Javin join the Black Furies in this task. The story is then set as to whether Javin is successful in joining the Black Furies as well rescue Bella. This book has some strong points in regards to an action-packed plot, strong paced plot as well as some good twists.
This book has a very robust plot that is very akin to a thriller and at several moments in the book, I almost forgot that this was a fantasy book. The book has a very low-key magic role however just when you think that its not there, a plot twist or reveal occurs to remind you about its presence. This book manages to showcases a geo-political conflict that is very reminiscent of the Crusades and shows a world wherein war has sundered the lives to both sides. The book's pace is such that the reader is constantly flipping pages. Also the characterization is done decently and shows a varied cast of characters however not all of them get a chance to shine. It also has a rousing adventure story that makes for a fascinating read and also keeps the reader’s distracted from some of the drawbacks of the story.
The main drawback of the story was that the story has two sides fighting over a theological issue, which is very reminiscent of the troubles mirroring Christianity & Islam. Also the villains in this book rather closely mirror the Islamic villain stereotypes as seen in books by Brad Thor & Vince Flynn. Perhaps the author had intended to lampoon such a stereotype showcased in most books however the villains rather are too close cut to those stereotypes for it to seem satirical. The book also doesn’t showcase much of the world’s back history and therefore is rather low on the world-building front. This perhaps was done on purpose as to help keep the book as fast paced as it is currently.
This was a fun read with a single fault for me. Perhaps for most this drawback might not be such a big point as it will depend on their individualistic perspective. I would heartily recommend Rogues Of The Black Fury to readers who want a rollicking read choc-a-bloc with pace, action and adventure. Give it a read and I think you will not be disappointed.(less)
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: This anthology was something I was looking forward to because it played with the apocalyptic themes along with horror genre, both of which fascinate me entirely. The blurb can be read here and I'll be speaking about each story as it will be in line with the previous anthology FBC reviews and simply helps in elucidating what I liked and disliked about each story (apologies in advance for its length).
Parasitic Embrace by Adam Millard - It’s a tale that begins a volcanic eruption in Spain that causes chaos on a global scale. Amanda is worried about her mother when the cloud reached the British Isles and they discover that there’s something within that is much more deadly. This was a simple short story whose premise will be very familiar to most horror readers. It is a decent story that does not surprise much and ends rather suddenly. I thought it was an okay story and in line with the theme of the book.
The Equivalence Principle by Nick Cato - This was another strange story about a guy named Steve Burke who has a strange belief about the earth’s gravitational force. This story has a dual narrative with the identity of the other being left up to the reader to decide. This story was a bit weird but kudos to the author for twisting his imagination and bringing about end of humanity in a way that’s almost never thought of.
A Withering of Sorts by Stephen McQuiggan - The story begins with a travelling family that stops at a bar looking for a hotel. The father and mother however have no idea where they are and the barkeep along with his customers are only too happy to divulge why strangers are not welcome in their town especially children. This was the first story that I really enjoyed and one, which deviates from the theme to a certain extent.
Goldilocks Zone by Gary W. Olson - Amita Prasad is enjoying the buzz of a drunken evening when she realizes that the stars have disappeared. Slowly and surely things start disappearing or re-forming (if that’s a better word). Everyone transforms into something else. This story was a very weird one and I couldn’t gel with it at all. It was perhaps too bizarre for my tastes and its reception will depend on each reader’s preferences.
They Wait Below by Tom Olbert - This story was first of the several excellent ones of the collection. It begins with Corby, an ecological inspector narrating the past events occurring at an oil-rig. The hazards he had to face and the terrors he saw have lead him to doubt what is truly happening. This story was a zinger very much in line with the book theme and has shades of John Carpenter’s The Thing, this tale ends on a nice twist and is the first standout jewel of this collection.
Blessed Be the Shadowchildren by Malon Edwards - The story carries on the excellence of its predecessor. It’s a story within a story, with the first thread about Levi, the narrator and his friend Lali trying to find something in a land wherein the sun is dying. The second thread deals with the reason for the sun’s death and the hubris of the god who caused it. A twisted story and very well written by Malon Edwards, this story was another one that took the book theme and played it out to a different tune.
The Beastly Ninthby Carl Barker - This was the first historical story in this collection and deals with the battle between the French and English. Napoleon has returned to France after escaping from his island prison and the person chosen to stop him, is the Duke of Wellington Lord Arthur Wellesley. This story was just an all out hit with me, drawing upon history and mixing it with the supernatural, the author really surprised me with the end twist as well. This is a story, which I hope the author decides to write more about and give us a longer story.
Late Night Customer by David Dalglish - David Dalglish is usually known for his dark fantasy tales and it’s no surprise that he has a hankering for horror. The story is set in a diner wherein the protagonist waitress Darcy Evans meets a hassled traveller Brad who’s running from something that catches up with him in the diner. A fast paced and dark story with an ending similar to the first Terminator film but one that is way way more pessimistic.
Rurik’s Frozen Bones by Jake Elliot - This is the second of the historical tales and this is set in Scandinavia in the early 9th century AD. The story is narrated by Rurik, who after his most recent sea experience, refuses to go back. He recalls the past to Oslo the Boarstout. This story had a good thriller feel and ends on an uncertain note. Not among my favorites but still a very good effort.
Wrath by Lee Mather - Wrath is a story that deals directly with the apocalypse. Steven is a recovering alcoholic that just wants to reunite with his son who has been with his brother’s family so far. Playing with themes of family and biblical curses, this story was another surprise and one that ended on a rather twisted note. A decent effort and a story which will be either liked on ignored depending on the reader’s tastes.
Friends of a Forgotten Man by Gord Rollo - This story for me was one of the creepiest ones I have ever read in my life. It features a man imprisoned in a subterranean basement, who is perhaps losing his sanity entirely and thinks of the leeches and insects around him as his friends. Things however are weirder than they seem as the story proves. This was another deviation from the anthology’s theme but the story was just so powerful in its horror that I didn’t mind at all. Just a word of caution for all those who aren’t overtly fond of leeches or creepy-crawlies this story is not for you.
Altus by Georgina Kamsika - Susan Mason is an oceanographer, who has been given a chance to go where no human has gone before. The Altus is a free-diving submersible that has been specially prepared to go into the Marianas Trench. What doctor Mason finds down below is the crux of the story. This story was a bit similar to the MEG series by Steve Alten. A decent effort but with a predictable ending didn’t do well for this story.
Angela’s Garden by Dorian Dawes - Angela’s Garden is a pleasant surprise of a story. It is another deviation from the book’s theme and reminded me a bit of Stephen King’s short stories and his book The Green Mile. Angela Bradshaw is a older lady abandoned by her family and she has some extra powers. She’s trying to avert a disaster that can take place. This is one of the best stories of this collection as it provides us with a remarkable character, who is an older lady and yet shows spunk. This story came close to being my favorite one among this entire collection simply based on the strength of its main character.
The Long Death of Day by Timothy Baker - This story is about John and his beloved Selena who are rather distraught at the approaching darkness and have to figure out what’s wrong with their relationship. This story was more of a downer for me as it focused more on the characters and they weren’t that interesting IMO. The story sticks to the overall theme of the anthology though.
Out of the Black by William Meikle - This was another of the very good stories of this collection. Three hundred and fifty years after the sun dimmed, life on earth has irreversibly changed. The unnamed narrator is sent out to find out the required ore and soon stumbles upon a subterranean center. To his horror what he finds, also follows him thereby echoing Nietzsche’s famous saying about an abyss. This was another story, which opened up in an exciting manner but fizzled out in the end.
Degenerates by DL Seymour - Degenerates was a surprising story. Set in 1968 in the small town of Dunwich, Diana Collins is the teacher who moves into the town, as she’s impressed with the mayor’s plan for racial integration. She however starts noticing a curious pattern of disappearance among the children that she teaches and soon add things up. The crux of this story is not hard to anticipate but its final twist will surely leave many surprised. Another good story and an excellent indicator about the pedigree of this anthology.
Dust by Wayne Ligon - Dust is a story that straddles the fine line between SF and fantasy and does it best to appease fans of both genres. It’s about an unnamed narrator and his grandmother, both of whom are on the Oregon coastline and are trying to figure out what might be truly happening. An odd story that reminded me of the mythology showcased in the Hellboy universe but distinct in its own way. Another good effort with a somber ending.
Der Teufel Sie Wissen by TSP Sweeney - The title of the story translates to “The devil you know” and is another historical story. This one is set in Nazi Germany and features a group of youths trying to gang up on their quarry, only to realize that they have no idea about what is truly going on. This was another of the fantastic short stories and one, which I believe the author should think of expanding into a longer novel. With an ending that is not only superb but also promises of further tribulations. This story left me wanting to know more of the world within and war to come…
Born of Darkness by Stacey Turner - Another contender for the favorites title, this story strongly follows the main theme of the anthology. The story focuses on the family of Jeb & Cassie and his mother Sarah. They are surviving on their own when they when a young girl comes to stay with them. What happens next is what makes this story special. I completely enjoyed this story and this almost seems like a chapter out of a book as the way it ends, the reader WILL want to know what happens next. Possibly my second favorite story because of the characterization and the mythological aspect of the story, this one is a gem!
Lottery by Gene O’Neill - Lottery is a rather shorter story, sharing its name and premise with the famous short story by Shirley Jackson. The author has inserted his own twist over here and this story deals with more of the paranormal. However it ends abruptly and no explanation is given in regards to the events. This was one of the weaker stories of the collection because of its ending and the incompleteness it fostered.
Where Coyotes Fear to Tread by Gef Fox - This story is definitely my favorite among this collection. It focuses on two people, Lester and his ex-girlfriend, Carla who are forced to unite and save their town Knoxville from something that’s out of their comprehension. Again with a terrific mythology utilized and funny characterization, this story simply shines. This also felt part of a greater story and I sincerely hope that the author considers writing the next part to this tale so I and other readers can find out what happens next. Having a very original premise and with some terrific writing, this story is truly the best of this collection.
The Theophany of Nyx by Edward M. Erdelac - The Theophany of Nyx was a highly anticipated story for me as it was written by Ed Erdelac whose previous short story (that I read) was a spectacular one featuring zombies, samurai in a Japanese prison. This danger in this story is primordial in origin and begins with the disappearance of the first lunar colony ever built. The story deals with the notion of what happens when another species tries to fight all the carbon based forms for its survival. A very academic tale (if that’s the term) but an effective one, Ed Erdelac showcases his weird imagination and gives us another intriguing story.
Double Walker by Henry P. Gravelle - Dr. Maria Dobbs’s newest patient Benedict is accused of the murder of his parents but he denies it and says his shadow did it. This story is focused on what could have happened as the protagonist tries to ferret out the truth. This story was an interesting one however the execution and ending didn’t really endear itself to me.
Light Save Us by Ryan Lawler - Ted makes sure the generator keeps running as otherwise the compound’s boundary will be over run by the creatures outside. In a recent attempt to get the machine from stopping, Ted will face homophobia, his lover Gray and much more. This story was an interesting one with shades of the Village to it but the author does his best to trip the readers by focusing the story solely from Ted’s POV. Another very good story with a very good end twist. This one should appeal to lots of readers.
Dark Tide by Mark Lawrence - Dark Tide is the story of something which has been trapped in the earth’s surface but has recently got out due to human experimentation. Focused on a family as they attempt to survive what they do not understand. Dark Tide focuses on the bonds of family and what happens when they get stretched. An excellent ending to this monster anthology and it ends on a bang as the story’s climax leaves the reader with hope that anything is possible!
CONCLUSION: As you can see with the overtly lengthy review, this anthology definitely has something for all horror, post-apocalyptic story aficionados. Tim Marquitz has skillfully garnered a veritable host of stories to outwit and outthink the most jaded readers. I thought there were some great stories in this mix namely the ones by Gef Fox, Dorian Dawes, Stacey Turner, Malon Edwards, Carl Barker, TSP Sweeney and Gord Rollo. These ones stood out for me, not that the others were bad, I'm sure different readers will like different ones. Give Fading Light a shot if you want to read something different, you can be assured that you will not regret it!
NOTE: There is a companion piece to this anthology and I'll be reviewing that next week on Bastard Books.
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: This is a debut spy thriller that I read a few months ago. It’s a fresh new take on...more Full Review originally at Fantasy Book Critic
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: This is a debut spy thriller that I read a few months ago. It’s a fresh new take on the Great Game taking place in central Asia. As with most spy thrillers, they often take the road & tropes that has been beaten to death. This book however doesn’t take that path and marks itself as a special debut.
The reason for its special nature is that it does things differently and it doesn’t have a superspy as its protagonist but one that has more in common to George Smiley than James Bond. Mark Sava is the main focus of the story and is a professor at a university in Azerbaijan. He is pulled into the main storyline when an ex-associate of his, Daria Buckingham is held as the main culprit in a murder of a US diplomat. Having a very clichéd beginning however doesn't detract from the overall ingenuity of the story. The author then slowly starts laying out his set pieces that make the story stand out.
Based in Azerbaijan and with the plot moving to various countries in the nearby area, the author keeps the story from becoming all too stereotypical. This story is based on the geo-political structure in the Middle East region as well as central Asia with the focus on Iran and other oil-rich countries. Having a very taut storyline that has a few twists plus with the author's background knowledge of the prevalent politics of the region makes this story a very rich one as well as an entertaining one. This story will also showcase a different side to the conflict that we often read about but don’t have a real clue about.
Characterization is another strong point as the author gives enough of a background for the main character but also gives many clues for the reader to know that Mark Sava is a cipher that is yet to be revealed completely. The side character cast besides Faria doesn't get much time and so isn't as three-dimensional as Mark & Faria. However there are a couple of side characters that I hope will get broader roles as the series progresses. Again with first books in a series, it’s a tight line that authors strive to balance and it will depend on the readers to believe whether he straddled it comfortably or not.
For all those bored with the same old CIA spy crap that involves over zealous soldiers, too-cool-to-be-true gadgetry and cardboard villains, this is the book for you. Dan Mayland writes a smart thriller that educates as well shines a clarifying light on the muddled nature of the geo-politics involved in oil-rich central Asia. This was another debut that stood simply because of the different path taken by the author in regards to a spy thriller story. Do yourself a favor and do not miss this one as I will be eagerly awaiting The Leveling (second book of the Mark Sava series) to see what the author has in store for us and his characters.(less)
An exciting debut that mixed several fantasy tropes but with a unique magic system and a desert landscape managed to enthrall me thoroughly. A debut...more An exciting debut that mixed several fantasy tropes but with a unique magic system and a desert landscape managed to enthrall me thoroughly. A debut that is very indicative of the author's imagination and I'll be very much excited for the sequel. (less)