“A stunning conclusion to the Broken Empire Trilogy. Easily one of the best books of 2013 – and a book that’s well worth the wait.” ~The Founding Fields
If I had to make a most anticipated list of Novels coming out this year, Emperor of Thorns would be in the Top 5, there’s no question about it. Mark Lawrence really impressed me with the first two books in the trilogy, both of which I own in hardback – so that I knew that Emperor of Thorns was always going to be a release day-buy for me. This will explain why I was so happy when I was able to get an Advanced Review Copy, so I’d like to start this review with a massive thank you to the kind folks over at Harper Voyager, and the author himself, so we could work something out. And does the book live up to my expectations? Oh, hell yes. It’s easily one of the best novels of the year, and with a year of some excellent books and we’re just over halfway through, that’s certainly saying something.
"To reach the throne requires that a man journey. Even a path paved with good intentions can lead to hell, and my intentions were never good.
The Hundred converge for Congression to politic upon the corpse of Empire, and while they talk the Dead King makes his move, and I make mine. The world is cracked, time has run through, leaving us clutching at the end days, the future so bright that those who see it are the first to burn. These are the days that have waited for us all our lives. These are my days. I will stand before the Hundred and they will listen. I will take the throne whoever seeks to thwart me, living or dead, and if I must be the last emperor then I will make of it such an ending.
This is where the wise man turns away. This is where the holy kneel and call on God. These are the last miles, my brothers. Don’t look to me to save you. Don’t think I will not spend you. Run if you have the wit. Pray if you have the soul. Stand your ground if courage is yours. But don’t follow me.
Follow me, and I will break your heart."
This is it, then. The last adventures of Jorg. Whilst I’m somewhat sad that there won’t be any more Broken Empire novels, as noted by the author himself, prequels or otherwise, it’s probably best that it ends at Book 3 rather than becoming an over-bloated series that readers quickly start to lose interest in the longer it goes. However, there is also the danger of a fantasy trilogy ending ‘too soon’ if you get what I mean. But thankfully, Lawrence brings it all to the table with a satisfying conclusion (don’t worry, I won’t spoil it), that really brings an end to this epic tale that will most surely be among the best fantasy works that I’ll read. I loved this trilogy, and I think with each instalment, it just gets better and better.
Emperor of ThornsJorg’s character growth is incredible. He’s a rather unique main character for a story, often coming across as more of a downright villain than an anti-hero, and indeed – written by almost any other author, he would be. But the character himself is still as awesome as ever, and if you’ve enjoyed the last two books – then that’s what you should come to expect. It’s a strong, epic conclusion to the trilogy that really pulls out all the punches, where nobody is safe – and as we’re now all used to the major game players involved, Lawrence can waste no time with setting up future events (of course, no time was wasted setting up future events in the previous books as well), and instead create a compelling story that will draw the reader in, and not let up with the breakneck pace that this book moves along at.
The author’s characters are well created, complex and far from the standard one-dimensional ones that litter poor novels. You’re not going to forget any of them in a hurry, and neither are you to forget The Broken Empire Trilogy anytime soon. It’s immense. Unpredictable. Captivating. A fitting conclusion. However you want to put it, the last adventure of Jorg of Ancrath is his best outing yet. Over the course of the trilogy, Lawrence has made himself a name to watch in fantasy, up there with the likes of Peter V. Brett, Brandon Sanderson, Joe Abercrombie & George RR Martin. I can’t wait to see what he throws at the reader next, but it’s one that I’ll certainly be on board for.
THE BROKEN EMPIRE TRILOGY: Prince of Thorns, King of Thorns, Emperor of Thorns (less)
“Mark Lawrence follows up to Prince of Thorns with a cracking, compelling, unpredictable sequel that succeeds in almost every way. My new favourite Fa...more“Mark Lawrence follows up to Prince of Thorns with a cracking, compelling, unpredictable sequel that succeeds in almost every way. My new favourite Fantasy novel of 2012.” ~The Founding Fields
You know in my review of The Blinding Knife, I mentioned that I’d found a favourite fantasy of novel of 2012? Well, as it happens, the very next fantasy novel that I read beats a Brent Weeks novel. Something that I’d never thought possible unless the name of that author was George RR Martin, Peter V. Brett or Brandon Sanderson, (I would put Abercrombie in there as well, but I’ve only read the first First Law novel). Lawrence produced an awesome trilogy opener with Prince of Thorns, which I didn’t get around to reviewing (But I loved it nonetheless), and has now followed that up with a dramatic, enthralling and captivating sequel that you will be unable to put down. Mark Lawrence has made it two out of two, and he’s jumped to the top of my favourite fantasy authors list (along with the aforementioned Martin, Sanderson, etc).
"The land burns with the fires of a hundred battles as lords and petty kings fight for the Broken Empire. The long road to avenge the slaughter of his mother and brother has shown Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath the hidden hands behind this endless war. He saw the game and vowed to sweep the board. First though he must gather his own pieces, learn the rules of play, and discover how to break them.
A six nation army, twenty thousand strong, marches toward Jorg’s gates, led by a champion beloved of the people. Every decent man prays this shining hero will unite the empire and heal its wounds. Every omen says he will. Every good king knows to bend the knee in the face of overwhelming odds, if only to save their people and their lands. But King Jorg is not a good king.
Faced by an enemy many times his strength Jorg knows that he cannot win a fair fight. But playing fair was never part of Jorg’s game plan."
In any other book, Jorg would be the bad guy. Some of the acts that he commits in Prince of Thorns were enough to put some readers off, as he’s far from the normal “Knight in Shining Armour” that you see in your average fantasy novel. Jorg is flawed, but despite the issues with his character, Lawrence has somehow managed to weave a compelling narrative that will actually leave you wanting Jorg to emerge victorious. You want to follow him, no matter what he’s done. He’s developed as a character over the course of the two books so far, and it will be interesting to see how he changes in the third book.
King of Thorns takes place four years after the ending of Prince. It’s clear that Jorg is older now, but nonetheless still in his teens. He’s not perfect. He will make mistakes. This allows the novel to be more believable, and Lawrence writes a gritty, dark world that readers of George RR Martin will be familiar with. Nobody is safe, and anybody can die. There are no cliches here folks, and King of Thorns provides a very unpredictable read.
“A well-researched, well-developed book – The Thousand Names manages to impress a lot. Count me in for Book 2.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
“Captain Marcus d’Ivoire, commander of one of the Vordanai empire’s colonial garrisons, was resigned to serving out his days in a sleepy, remote outpost. But that was before a rebellion upended his life. And once the powder smoke settled, he was left in charge of a demoralized force clinging tenuously to a small fortress at the edge of the desert.
To flee from her past, Winter Ihernglass masqueraded as a man and enlisted as a ranker in the Vordanai Colonials, hoping only to avoid notice. But when chance sees her promoted to command, she must win the hearts of her men and lead them into battle against impossible odds.
The fates of both these soldiers and all the men they lead depend on the newly arrived Colonel Janus bet Vhalnich, who has been sent by the ailing king to restore order. His military genius seems to know no bounds, and under his command, Marcus and Winter can feel the tide turning. But their allegiance will be tested as they begin to suspect that the enigmatic Janus’s ambitions extend beyond the battlefield and into the realm of the supernatural—a realm with the power to ignite a meteoric rise, reshape the known world, and change the lives of everyone in its path.”
I don’t get to read and review enough military fantasy outside of the Warhammer Fantasy Universe and The Thousand Names came as a welcome treat for me, especially as it’s a subgenre that I really enjoy. The book has been receiving high praise for quite some time now, and the book seemed like right up my street, as the start of a series by newcomer Django Wexler. When this book came up on NetGalley I leapt at the chance to request it, and got stuck right in. Here’s what I thought:
To kick things off, let’s look at the main characters who (apart from Janus) share the third person narrative. At first, they might seem like traditional fantasy stereotypes – the honour-bound tough guy Captain Marcus d’Ivoire, the woman-disguising-as-a-man cliché in Winter Ihernglass, and the ambitious and enigmatic Colonel Janus bet Vhalnich. With the description I’ve just given you, take away the names and they could be anyone that you’ve seen before in any other fantasy book. However, what Django Wexler does well is that he really fleshes out the characters, making them memorable, flawed, likeable and very interesting to read about. The book has to deal with character development, world building, plot movement and pacing at the same time and it manages to get the characters spot on, handling the clichés so well that they would become clichés if they were written by someone else less talented. And it’s not just the characters that are handled well, either.
The world building on view here is fascinating, but I did have a minor issue with how Wexler handled it, but let’s get the positives out of the way first. The world of Khander is a desert-setting and something that readers don’t often see in fantasy novels nowadays, and could easily be comparable to a Middle-Eastern country a four or five centuries ago if you were looking for an example. The military theme of the book is really enhanced by strong, in-depth research allowing for an interesting background where you’re not thrown off by elements that feel out of place for the setting. And another thing, the setting actually plays a part in the book. I’ve read some books where the setting never seems to slow the characters down, and they never really take into account any of its hazards or how it affects them. This book doesn’t fall into that category, you’ll be pleased to hear – the setting plays an active role in the book as the characters have to deal with the desert terrain which becomes a problem quite often. The culture is explored in some depth here too, but (here comes a problem that I had with the book) we never really get to see the ‘other side’ if you will – aside from a few minor POV sequences that could have been fleshed out a lot better to the point where we could have even had a major character POV. However, All major POVs (think Marcus and Winter) are from the characters on one side of the war, and we never really learn a lot of the other side. Sure, this would have probably hampered the pace and meant more pages, but I’m hoping that Wexler can explore this in future novels.
The book itself moves along at a fairly solid pace, even if it does take a while to get going. I know I talked in the above paragraph about adding stuff into the book, but Wexler probably should have taken a few things out in order to trim it down a bit. If we’d have got straight into the good rather than the build-up, this book could have saved quite a number of pages. And of course, with the decision to use clichés, there are a few predictable outcomes that prevent this novel reaching amazing status. However, that doesn’t stop it from being very, very good – and despite its flaws, I enjoyed The Thousand Names a lot, and I can’t wait to see where Wexler takes the reader with future books. The Shadow Campaigns series is certainly something to watch and I’m looking forward to seeing where Wexler can take us with book two, which I will certainly be on board for.
“An awesome debut, if you’ve enjoyed the likes of Brent Weeks, Brandon Sanderson and Joe Abercrombie - Promise of Blood is a book that you’ll want to get on board for. Unputdownable.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
"The Age of Kings is dead . . . and I have killed it.
It’s a bloody business overthrowing a king… Field Marshal Tamas’ coup against his king sent corrupt aristocrats to the guillotine and brought bread to the starving. But it also provoked war with the Nine Nations, internal attacks by royalist fanatics, and the greedy to scramble for money and power by Tamas’s supposed allies: the Church, workers unions, and mercenary forces.
It’s up to a few… Stretched to his limit, Tamas is relying heavily on his few remaining powder mages, including the embittered Taniel, a brilliant marksman who also happens to be his estranged son, and Adamat, a retired police inspector whose loyalty is being tested by blackmail.
But when gods are involved… Now, as attacks batter them from within and without, the credulous are whispering about omens of death and destruction. Just old peasant legends about the gods waking to walk the earth. No modern educated man believes that sort of thing. But they should…"
I think if I were to do an award for debut novel of the year, then there’s no question about it – The first book in the Powder Mage Trilogy from Brian McClellan will almost certainly be up in the Top 5. It’s stunning, well crafted, compelling and engaging, with some well written scenes throughout the whole novel with a powerfully built world allowing to enhance the story and create a greater impact on the reader.
Whilst some may dismiss the opening of yet another fantasy trilogy, especially with all the previous trilogies that have come before The Powder Mage, - The First Law Trilogy (Initial three books) by Joe Abercrombie, The Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks, and thousands of more fantasy trilogies out there right the way through The Lord of the Rings and beyond – there comes a point where the reader starts to wonder if fantasy has anything new, fresh and exciting to throw at the reader. And I will respond to that question with a firm yes. There’s always going to be new fantasy titles on the market, and Promise of Blood is among the best of the new debuts that I’ve read since my introduction to the fantasy genre, not just in 2013.
The book itself is fairly dark, certainly darker than Brandon Sanderson’s, but it never quite reaches either Abercrombie or Martin levels of grittiness. This is an excellent debut that manages to draw several different things across from a variety of genres – for example, there’s guns and technology here as well as magic. In that category, it very much falls in with the same sort of style of novels as Brent Week’s second series, The Lightbringer, and even to a certain extent the Warhammer Fantasy tie-in novels published by Black Library. Regardless of that however, – you will find yourself hooked in right from the start, and find yourself unable to put the book down as you are dragged on a fantastic adventure that will leave you begging for the next installment in the series, particularly when it comes to the awesome conclusion.
Promise of Blood is an epic read, and it’s one that starts of strong and gets better as the story progresses. The more you find yourself engaged in the narrative, the less you find yourself able to put it down. The world, the magic and everything is very firmly established and there is little room for anything that feels like it could be a “deus ex machina” moment. The characters are strong as well, adding another strength to an already impressive load of them, for the book’s characters are varied, diverse, creative and are, like all the best fantasy novels, flawed. They each have struggles that they must overcome, and the world itself is also quite different to the standard fantasy fare – having the feeling of perhaps a revolutionary France, especially when the King gets booted off the throne in the very beginning of the story, providing a great momentum for things to come.
It’s a complex and compelling debut, and although may not be as good as Abercrombie or Weeks, it’s very, very close. I think the only major flaw here is that the characters aren’t as memorable and engaging as the fantasy favourites – Kylar Stern, Logen Ninefingers etc, but Tamas, Taniel and Adamat are among the better crafted fantasy characters that a reader can be entertained by, and as a result – the book itself still manages to be a very strong read. There’s just one minor flaw that I’ve found that barely detracted anything from the reading experience.
“An excellent book. Unputdownable, engrossing, spectacular – you won’t want to miss this.” ~The Founding Fields
There’s a lot of grimdark fantasy out there at the moment. George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, The First Law Series by Joe Abercrombie, and Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire Trilogy are three of the more notable books from the subgenre. However, when I approached Herald of the Storm, I approached it not with the sense that this would feel like a rehash of books that we’ve seen before, but with a sense of anticipation. Ford’s Kultus was well received by my fellow Founding Fields reviewers Commissar Ploss and Djinn24, and it was mostly well received elsewhere from what I’ve seen. And Herald of the Storm has already been receiving some pretty good praise so far from what I’ve seen. So I went in with anticipation, and the end result? Well, the end result was good. I actually really enjoyed this book.
"Welcome to Steelhaven… Under the reign of King Cael the Uniter, this vast cityport on the southern coast has for years been a symbol of strength, maintaining an uneasy peace throughout the Free States. But now a long shadow hangs over the city, in the form of the dread Elharim warlord, Amon Tugha. When his herald infiltrates the city, looking to exploit its dangerous criminal underworld, and a terrible dark magick that has long been buried once again begins to rise, it could be the beginning of the end."
There are several things to love about Herald of the Storm. If gritty fantasy is your thing, then you’ll enjoy it. Sure, whilst it may be in the standard fantasy format, debut novel in a trilogy to boot, the book’s setting is somewhat different than most. Rather than follow a variety of characters across the entire world, Richard Ford chooses to hone in on one city, or to be more accurate – a cityport. Steelhaven, and populates it with a vast amount of inhabitants, fleshing each of them out and developing them into more than just your average one dimensional, stock fantasy heroes.
Although the narrative is divided between multiple characters, The principal character is Janessa, daughter of King Cael, and focuses on Janessa’s role when Cael is, at the start of the story – off fighting a war. And therefore, even though the larger responsibilities of government are left to councillors of her father, Janessa still has to deal with the smaller scale bureaucratic duties. Many of the other seven characters however, could easily fit stereotypical roles, which by saying this would almost make me hypocritical by going back on my earlier statement about them being one dimensional and your standard heroes. But they’re not. Ford has taken a similar approach to what Whedon took with Firefly, and deliberately work within these predefined roles. However, it’s the strong level of storytelling that Ford brings to the table here – with some great character interaction, and some fantastic character development over the course of the book, and at the end – leaving the reader eagerly awaiting more, and what’s more – you’ll care about these characters. You won’t treat them like they’re just talking plot points designed to advance a story, you’ll treat them like genuine people. They’re that well developed.
Of course, in a grimdark fantasy, you’ll expect action – and that’s exactly what Ford gives us. It’s unrelenting, gritty, and moves along, taking no prisoners. Creating attention to characters as well as the action and handling both in a way that still leaves plenty of time for worldbuilding, Ford has managed to create the perfect balance. Whilst there may not be one ongoing, main plot thread that tangles all the little extras together, the book is very good at exploring different, subplots across the city. What we don’t get is a sense that there’s an overall story, but that’s pretty much one of the few issues that I had with Herald of the Storm, the only thing preventing it from getting top marks. However, with two books left, there is plenty of time to develop a main plot thread, but with the way that Ford handles everything else, you almost won’t care.
Therefore, despite its one small issue then - Herald of the Storm is a strong opener, and I’ll be eagerly awaiting Ford’s next book set in the city of Steelhaven.
I think Joe Abercrombie might be one of my Top 5 favourite authors, along with George RR Martin, Iain M. Banks,Brandon Sanderson and JRR Tolkien. This...moreI think Joe Abercrombie might be one of my Top 5 favourite authors, along with George RR Martin, Iain M. Banks,Brandon Sanderson and JRR Tolkien. This was awesome,probably either my first or second favourite read of 2012. Utterly unputdownable.
“An epic, awesome standalone fantasy novel that I really enjoyed. One of gritty fantasy’s best Authors, Abercrombie is right up there with George RR Martin.” ~The Founding Fields
Red Country was the first book that I brought on my Kindle Fire that I got for Christmas, and I really enjoyed reading it. It’s my third Abercrombie novel that I’ve read, after The Blade Itself and The Heroes. And I really enjoyed it. I couldn’t put this novel down, and I was glad that I was reading this on a long journey allowing me to read this in pretty much two sittings – It’s just one of those books that I couldn’t put down. And whilst it may not be my favourite Abercrombie book (The Heroes holds that title), It’s still a very good one and better than most of the stuff that I read that was released in 2012 (all of it apart from Mark Lawrence’s King of Thorns, as it turns out).
Shy South comes home to her farm to find a blackened shell, her brother and sister stolen, and knows she’ll have to go back to bad old ways if she’s ever to see them again. She sets off in pursuit with only her cowardly old step-father Lamb for company. But it turns out he’s hiding a bloody past of his own. None bloodier.
Their journey will take them across the lawless plains, to a frontier town gripped by gold fever, through feuds, duels, and massacres, high into unmapped mountains to a reckoning with ancient enemies, and force them into alliance with Nicomo Cosca, infamous soldier of fortune, a man no one should ever have to trust . . .
There were a few things that prevented Red Country from being as awesome as The Heroes, which I’m going to talk about before I start saying how good this book was. There were a couple of pacing issues that I had with the book, for certain sections I felt dragged out for me. Other than that though, the novel was epic – and even though I don’t read/watch a lot of westerns (despite one of my favourite films being The Magnificent Seven and one of my favourite debut novels of 2012 being Lee Collins’ Western/vampire book from Angry Robot), Red Country was still really epic, as Abercrombie manages to include enough fantasy in this book to make it feel like a fantasy novel rather than a western. Sure, there’s the traditional western cliches thrown in there – bar fights, wide open spaces, wagon trains etc, but Abercrombie’s writing manages to save this book from being very poor indeed, after all – it was billed right from the get go as a Fantasy Western. And I’ll admit that the only reason that I picked this up was because it was Abercrombie.
“This is how prequels should be done. Smart, clever – engaging, The Crown Tower is a stellar return to the world of Riyria, accessible for newcomers and veterans of the series alike – one of the strongest novels of the year so far.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
When the news regarding The Riyria Chronicles prequels broke, I was somewhat torn on the decision. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the Riyria Revelations novels, the original six-book series by Michael J. Sullivan collected as three impressive omnibuses, delivering us some fantastic lead characters of Royce and Hadrian – but a part of me was somewhat cautious about this before I jumped in reading. Would we be looking at another Phantom Menace, or would we start to get tired of the characters? Or a little bit of both? As it turned out though, I shouldn’t have worried. Michael J. Sullivan’s The Crown Tower opens The Riyria Chronicles in an amazing way – full of confidence, and sets up the opening act of this duology wonderfully well, making this novel as good as the original series, if not more.
"TWO MEN WHO HATE EACH OTHER. ONE IMPOSSIBLE MISSION. A LEGEND IN THE MAKING.
A warrior with nothing to fight for is paired with a thieving assassin with nothing to lose. Together they must steal a treasure that no one can reach. The Crown Tower is the impregnable remains of the grandest fortress ever built and home to the realm’s most valuable possessions. But it isn’t gold or jewels the old wizard is after, and this prize can only be obtained by the combined talents of two remarkable men. Now if Arcadias can just keep Hadrian and Royce from killing each other, they just might succeed.
The Riyria Revelations and The Riyria Chronicles are two separate, but related series, and you can start reading with either Theft of Swords(publication order) or The Crown Tower (chronological order)."
The Crown Tower, for all of those who are unaware, tells the first meeting of Hadrian and Royce. They weren’t always Riyria after all, and this novel explores how the two characters met and what circumstances drew them together in a smart, entertaining way, with plenty of interesting things uncovered throughout this novel – made even more interesting when you consider that this isn’t just Hadrian and Royce’s origin too – we get appearances from the rest of the main cast in the Riyria Revelations, such as Gwen – to name just one, allowing for an interesting look into these characters, particularly when those who have read the future books will know exactly how they’re going to develop as the book goes on.
crowntower-2-5And that’s, to an extent – the major problem that I had with The Crown Tower, readers of the book who have read Ryria Revelations before will know which of the characters are going to make it through. We know that they’re going to survive and we know in some cases who’s not going to make it through, which robs some the predictability of the novel. It’s like watching any other prequel series that you’ve seen before, The Phantom Menace and its sequels, X-Men: First Class or Origins: Wolverine, or even The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. You know what’s coming next, you just can’t help it. Which is why, to Sullivan’s credit, he manages to make the elements of the book that we aren’t quite in full knowledge about yet unpredictable, engaging and enthralling. Heck, even the stuff that we do know is coming next is awesome, and told with the experience that Sullivan has gained over the course of his previous series, he’s put out some of his strongest work yet with this book, and it’s really enjoyable to read, as the author manages to make it feel fresh and entertaining.
The book itself fills in a lot of gaps that readers might not necessarily be aware about in the original Riyria Revelations, and it helps us explain how these characters got to this point in the beginning of the first novel, and readers themselves won’t find themselves bothered by the fact that the book may lack unpredictability. It’s great at exploring characters as well, and there’s a clear difference between Royce and Hadrian that we meet here and in the original works – they’re younger, and more inexperienced. Take the opening chapter for instance – as soon as Hadrian gets off a ship, he gets robbed – and comes across as a character who’s really got plenty to learn in future books, almost surprisingly for someone who from what we know has been in a lot of armies, and would most likely have a considerable amount of experience. Royce is almost an exact opposite of Hadrian at the start of the novel, and it’s really interesting watching them develop over the course of The Crown Tower.
Readers of Riyria Revelations will be aware of Sullivan’s skill at creating a page-turning read, and The Crown Tower is no different – I breezed through this novel very quickly and was ready to move onto the second as soon as I finished (although I ended up taking a small break inbetween to freshen things up), and the novel’s size when you compare it with the likes of George RR Martin and Brandon Sanderson will be a welcome relief to those of you who are tired of massive, 1,000 page-length reads.
Therefore, in conclusion – there are plenty of things to love about The Crown Tower. I haven’t seen a negative reviewer for it or its sequel yet, and it’s well worth your time, be you a reader who has experienced the wonderful Riyria Revelations or not, as Sullivan manages to make it appeal to both. This is one of the strongest reads of the year so far, a really solid instalment.
“Wow. The Heroes is unputdownable, action-packed and very enjoyable. Joe Abercrombie’s novel is probably the best Fantasy Book of 2011, in the year th...more“Wow. The Heroes is unputdownable, action-packed and very enjoyable. Joe Abercrombie’s novel is probably the best Fantasy Book of 2011, in the year that gave us A Dance with Dragons, Prince of Thorns and more.” ~The Founding Fields
Alright, I know that I’m about a year late to the party, but I figured I’d get around to reading this before I delved into Red Country, Abercrombie’s 2012 novel. I’m also going to start this review by saying that I haven’t read all of Abercrombie’s The First Law Trilogy, only the first novel - The Blade Itself - which is is something that I need to remedy and I think one of my reading targets for 2013 will be to catch up on what I’ve missed.
But in the meantime though, The Heroes was absolutely superb, and if I manage to read Red Country before the end of 2012, then there is certainly a possibility that it may even outclass Mark Lawrence’s brilliant King of Thorns, especially if The Heroes is anything to go by. It was that good – and this is only my second Abercrombie novel.
"They say Black Dow’s killed more men than winter, and clawed his way to the throne of the North up a hill of skulls. The King of the Union, ever a jealous neighbor, is not about to stand smiling by while he claws his way any higher. The orders have been given and the armies are toiling through the northern mud. Thousands of men are converging on a forgotten ring of stones, on a worthless hill, in an unimportant valley, and they’ve brought a lot of sharpened metal with them.
For glory, for victory, for staying alive."
Abercrombie’s 2011 novel hits all the marks for me. The pacing is fast, the novel is action-packed, and this is firmly gritty fantasy, sharing more similarities to George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire than JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. It’s a standalone epic that doesn’t have to be read after the First Law Trilogy, which was why I picked it it up after the initial series. The novel manages to bring something exciting, enjoyable and entertaining to fantasy and keep you hooked right the way through.
“Paul S. Kemp provides an entertaining and enjoyable ride through the lives of Egil & Nix. Another strong contender for the most fun book of the year, people who loved their first outing won’t be able to put this one down.” ~The Founding Fields
I’ve had A Discourse in Steel sitting on my Kindle Fire for a while now after receiving an eARC, and for some reason, I never really got around to reading it until recently, despite the fact that I enjoyed the first book a lot. However, rest assured - A Discourse in Steel is as equally as enjoyable as The Hammer and the Blade, providing a fun romp that’s written with the confidence of a veteran author, and indeed – Paul S. Kemp is no stranger to fiction – his previous works include a Star Wars novel (Decieved, which I really enjoyed), a Black Library short story in Time of Legends, and has even been interviewed on The Founding Fields. So, if fun, action-packed page-turning adventures in a fantasy setting is your thing, then you should really enjoy this sequel.
"Egil and Nix have retired, as they always said they would. No, really – they have! No more sword and hammer-play for them!
But when two recent acquaintances come calling for help, our hapless heroes find themselves up against the might of the entire Thieves Guild.
And when kidnapping the leader of the most powerful guild in the land seems like the best course of action, you know you’re in over your head…"
The plot of A Discourse in Steel isn’t complicated, and it’s pretty easy to follow, allowing Kemp to avoid being bogged down by attention to detail, and info-dumping, thus creating a fun sequel that doesn’t fall into the trap of spending more time exploring the world than actually bothering with a plot. It’s some of the best written fast-paced fantasy that I’ve seen, and if you’re looking to be drawn in and finding yourself unable to put the book down, then A Discourse in Steel and its predecessor will be the perfect books for you. Once I started reading this book, I couldn’t stop – and for the first time in a while, I was actually looking forward to bus journeys (where I read most of my eBooks) to finish this, and as a result, came very close to missing my stop more than once.
A Discourse in SteelEgil and Nix are as charming and as likeable as ever, and they’re really rootable protagonists. Nix himself has dropped out of a mage school, and Egil is a high priest, allowing for a fun duo that exchange a lot of witty banter over the course of the novel. This is easily one of the more entertaining books that I’ve read recently, and proves that you don’t have to write grimdark fantasy in order to tell an entertaining novel. Whilst this may be the second book in the series, if the author gets to tell more – it’s clearly not going to be the last, and I’ll be eagerly looking forward to more tales of Egil and Nix, and the world-building that is thrown at us in future books (whilst I mentioned earlier that it doesn’t overshadow the story, Kemp does manage to craft a very interesting world for the characters to inhabit).
The dialogue between the characters is clever and fun, and one of the highlights of the book. Kemp knows how to write humour and writes it well, and the style that fans loved in Hammer and the Blade will find that it hasn’t changed at all here, with a compelling plot that allows for a great variety of action sequences, escapades and adventures from Egil and Nix. Every situation they find themselves in they always seem to be capable of finding a way out – and as a result, A Discourse in Steel allows for a really entertaining read.
If you want a return to the lighter side of fantasy and are tired of all the grimdark novels that are hitting shelves recently (sure, some of them are good – but it’s nice to have a break once in a while), Paul S. Kemp’s Egil and Nix series will be perfect for you. Fun, witty, clever and enthralling – this is one series that you’ll love once you give it a chance. Kemp is easily the writer to look out for on the sword and sorcery scene at the moment.
EGIL & NIX SERIES: The Hammer and the Blade, A Discourse in Steel (less)
“A wonderful third novel shows that Peter V. Brett can live up to expectations and provide a thrilling read that makes it a strong contender for best novel of the year already.” ~The Founding Fields
I’m a huge fan of Peter V. Brett’s The Demon Cycle, having been hooked on reading it a couple of years ago when I discovered the first two novels on a buy-one-get-one half price deal in Waterstones. The cover art looked awesome and they really stood out amongst the crowd, so I quickly snapped them up and devoured them – really enjoying the books. And then, the waiting began. So naturally, when this book was eventually published recently, it wouldn’t be too long before I managed to get a copy. The day that I got the book request from NetGalley approved didn’t just make my day, it made my week. I almost instantly started reading The Daylight War, and well, loved it. As I’ve mentioned in the quote, I’d even go so far as to call it one of the best novels of 2013 already, it’s certainly up there.
On the night of a new moon all shadows deepen.
Humanity has thirty days to prepare for the next demon attack, but one month is scarcely enough time to train a village to defend themselves, let alone an entire continent caught in the throes of civil war.
Arlen Bales understands the coreling threat better than anyone. Born ordinary, the demon plague has shaped him into a weapon so powerful he has been given the unwanted title of saviour, and attracted the attention of deadly enemies both above and below ground.
Unlike Arlen, Ahmann Jardir embraces the title of Deliverer. His strength resides not only in the legendary relics he carries, but also in the magic wielded by his first wife, Inevera, a cunning and powerful priestess whose allegiance even Jardir cannot be certain of.
Once Arlen and Jardir were like brothers. Now they are the bitterest of rivals. As humanity’s enemies prepare, the only two men capable of defeating them are divided against each other by the most deadly demons of all: those that lurk in the human heart.
The book opens with a flashback, like The Desert Spear before it, only this time, rather than focus on Jardir, we’re focusing on Inevera, nearly thirty three years before the current events of the series, and we get to see her life as a child. However, we don’t spend as long with Inevera as we did with Jardir and soon we’re back with the promised couple, Arlen and Renna. It’s interesting to see that Renna is starting to follow Arlen on his path, despite the fact that she is meant to be the only person keeping Arlen in the world of men rather than having him thrust into the world of demons. Leesha gets a pretty heavy chunk of the book as well as her character is expanded upon much like the rest of the dramatis personae that we have seen grown over the course of the series so far. Renna Tanner gets a bigger role to play in this book than in the previous novels, and her character really develops here as she struggles to make herself able to keep up with Arlen, who is now more focused and in control of everything than he’s ever been, and it’s really interesting to read just how much he’s changed as a character since The Painted Man (or The Warded Man in the USA), as well as other characters who have undergone various developments.
As from what one might suggest by the title, the action sequences and the pace are increased in this book from the previous novels. Peter V. Brett has managed to capture the ability to hook the reader in and keep them turning the pages, and I was not be able to put this down although I did have to keep an eye on the charge of my Kindle Fire at times. The great thing about reading this novel on the Kindle Fire was that I could take it anywhere without carrying a massive hardback book around, therefore I was able to quickly load it up and start reading whenever I had a spare moment. A few may have complained about pacing issues in previous novels, but I think Brett has nailed it here. The Daylight War’s action scenes are nicely handled, as well as the book’s plot. And it ends on a cliffhanger as well. A very, very awesome cliffhanger that had to force me to put the book down for a few moments and think, “Did that just happen?” It’s a serious gamechanger in the series and proves that nobody, not even the main cast is safe.
And you won’t see it coming, which is especially good as many stories with Chosen One cliches are predictable and quite dull in places. This one isn’t though, as Brett weaves a powerful tale with a strong narrative, and whilst I may have initially believed this series to be a trilogy, I’m glad to see that there are more than three volumes. There isn’t any real drawbacks with this novel as a whole that I found, although I know that others have different opinions to me and have indeed read at least one negative review of this book. But for me, The Daylight War will most likely be the book to beat for 2013, and it truly is a terrific read.
THE DEMON CYCLE: The Painted Man, The Desert Spear, The Daylight War. (less)
I’ve been anticipating this début ever since I saw the awesome cover art on Orbit’s website sometime last year. However, if I’m being honest, I nearly didn’t pick up Seven Princes, after reading several negative reviews about it. But, in the end, the cover-art and the blurb won out, so I decided to give John R. Fultz a try, eager to see what a new author would bring to the epic fantasy. After all, novels such as the Riyria Revelations series by Michael J. Sullivan, The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie, and Wolfsangel by MD Lachlan have both proved that Epic Fantasy has still got some fight left in it, so I was wondering what new things would await me in Seven Princes.
And as it turned out, not much. Sure, there’s a variety of species that I’ve not seen much about explored in this novel, with everything from Giants to Sea-Serpents, but there’s nothing new to bring to epic fantasy, nothing that we haven’t seen before. As it turns out, Seven Princes shared several more things in common with my favourite Western movie, The Magnificent Seven, and perhaps, although I’ve not seen it, the sci-fi movie Battle Beyond the Stars as well. How does that work then? Well, let me show you:
In front of the disbelieving eyes of Prince D’zan, an ancient necromancer appears and slaughters his father and his court, driving the Prince from his kingdom with one goal in his mind, the desire to reclaim his throne. That’s very similar to The Magnificent Seven, except if you replace D’zan with farmers, and kingdom with village, and soon – I was beginning to wonder if I would stick with the novel at all. However, I was glad that I did, because what a novel Seven Princes turned out to be, and although it’s part of the Books of the Shaper series, Fultz could have probably taken out quite a few elements of this book and left the novel as a standalone.
Fultz here has created a novel with a fantastic prose that is well-written, and although the characters didn’t make you feel sorry for their plights, and although you didn’t really favour one more than the other, they were well created despite this flaw, as the author helps us see the world through their eyes, and through their means, even if they do seem somewhat simple.
Another thing that seemed to bug me about Seven Princes, although oddly not that much, was the fact that it’s pretty predictable. You know what’s going to happen at the end, and you know which side’s going to come out on top. However, the same can be said of the (mostly) fantastic, multi-author Horus Heresy series published by Black Library – those that are familiar with the worlds that it’s set in will know what happens, and it will be predictable all the way through, but that doesn’t stop readers enjoying the novel, and that is the what I found to be the case here, with Seven Princes. Predictable, but enjoyable.
The novel contained some epic battle scenes within its pages, ignoring the fact that they might have been a tad bit predictable – and I think there are some epic set-pieces that kept me reading, and got me really into the novel as a whole.
I mentioned earlier about the fact that the novel is predictable, but it’s not that predictable, if you get what I mean, for Fultz isn’t afraid to raze cities, knock off major characters, and destroy mighty vessels in order to do his best to keep the reader reading, and that is one of the things that I liked about this novel.
The pacing of Seven Princes is pretty uneven, and there are some parts where the action speeds through at a remarkable pace, whilst in others you will find yourself struggling to push through without skipping to the next scene, which I admit – is one of the disadvantages of reading a 500+ page novel, especially one by a début author – and one that’s epic fantasy.
However, all that said, I still think that this book kept me entertained enough to pick up the sequel upon its release. I’m going to say that you should give it a try, but don’t go in with high expectations.
“An excellent second act in the Riyria Chronicles. Michael J. Sullivan’s The Rose and the Thorn manages to be even better than The Crown Tower, making this book, and the duology – one of my favourite reads of 2013.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
As soon as I finished The Crown Tower I knew I had to get into the second instalment sooner or later, and thanks to NetGalley, I didn’t have to wait, even if I did end up taking a break in the middle to read a different novel, after all – I didn’t want this series to be over too soon. Fans of the first book, or readers of The Riyria Revelations waiting to see if both novels are strong before delving in will be pleased to know that The Rose and the Thorn is just as excellent as The Crown Tower, and I don’t think Michael J. Sullivan has written a bad book yet with this spectacular second outing (story-wise, not publication wise – this is now their seventh novel) for Royce and Hadrian, allowing for a stunning conclusion that not only wraps things up very well, but leaves readers eagerly wanting to read The Riyria Revelations, whether they have or haven’t already read it. Even though I’ve read all of them, that ending really wanted me to embark on a re-read, especially as it wraps things up nicely, really setting the stage for Theft of Swords.
"TWO THIEVES WANT ANSWERS. RIYRIA IS BORN.
For more than a year Royce Melborn has tried to forget Gwen DeLancy, the woman who saved him and his partner Hadrian Blackwater from certain death. Unable to get her out of his mind, the two thieves return to Medford but receive a very different reception — Gwen refuses to see them. The victim of abuse by a powerful noble, she suspects that Royce will ignore any danger in his desire for revenge. By turning the thieves away, Gwen hopes to once more protect them. What she doesn’t realize is what the two are capable of — but she’s about to find out.
The Riyria Revelations and The Riyria Chronicles are two separate, but related series, and you can start reading with either Theft of Swords(publication order) or The Crown Tower (chronological order)."
The characters have always been one of the high-points of this series for me and the main focus of Royce, Hadrian and to a certain extent Gwen DeLancy works wonders for the book, with some great character development that takes the characters from their early days in The Crown Tower to Theft of Swords, and actually proves that this is one of the rare cases where prequels written after the main series actually work. Whilst the first book may have focused on the origin of Royce and Hadrian’s partnership, this fleshes it out a bit more, really developing the key figures that continue to grow as characters over the course of the main Riyria Revelations series.
The Rose and the ThornThe Rose and the Thorn deals with a lot of characters introduced in this sequel that weren’t given as much page time in the first that might prove a bit daunting to readers who have not read the main series, but Sullivan allows for an interesting split on the focus between all of them, to the point where you never feel like there’s too much or too little of one character. The fleshing out of the characters and seeing their origins before the main series really is pulled of superbly, and I think that all people who want to write prequels for their main series could learn something from The Riyria Chronicles, as both novels in this duology are executed with very minimal flaws and easily provide the reader with some of the best fantasy works to hit shelves this year. The Rose and the Thorn will be in the upper half of my Top 25 novels of 2013 for certain, as not only is it a great tale on its own, but it also manages to beat The Crown Tower.
I was slightly surprised at just how different The Rose and the Thorn was from The Crown Tower. More world-building is on display here, but the book still manages to move along at a very fast pace after an initial slow start, where we find ourselves introduced to a completely new character, Reuben Hilfred – whose story seemingly follows a separate thread from the main events until later on in the book when you start to see things coming together, and his tale is an interesting break from the main event of Royce and Hadrian. The plot is strong and consistent throughout, and despite the fact that this may be a prequel, there are several twists and turns that you won’t be able to see coming even if you’re familiar with the Riyria Revelations.
The richness of the setting is great, as is the content of the overall storyline and The Rose and the Thorn proves to be a stunningly executed sequel that as I’ve already stated, resides among the best work that I’ve read all year so far. People who have read book one but not the Riyria Revelations should enjoy it as equally as those who are reading this in chronological order. Let me know if you’re reading this novel without knowledge of what happens in the main series – I’d love to hear if you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have – as so far, I’ve only heard perspectives from readers who have read the Ryria Revelations and your reaction to this as a newcomer would be pretty interesting.
THE RIYRIA CHRONICLES: The Crown Tower, The Rose and the Thorn (less)
“Whilst not living up to its full potential, Heartwood is nonetheless a solid book. However its biggest strength is also its greatest weakness, as the first novel in the Elemental Wars is all about worldbuilding and as a result everything else suffers.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
"Chonrad, Lord of Barle, comes to the fortified temple of Heartwood for the Congressus peace talks, which Heartwood’s holy knights have called in an attempt to stave off war in Anguis. But the Arbor, Heartwood’s holy tree, is failing, and because the land and its people are one, it is imperative the nations try to make peace.
After the Veriditas, or annual Greening Ceremony, the Congressus takes place. The talks do not go well and tempers are rising when an army of warriors emerges from the river. After a fierce battle, the Heartwood knights discover that the water warriors have stolen the Arbor’s heart. For the first time in history, its leaves begin to fall…
The knights divide into seven groups and begin an epic quest to retrieve the Arbor, and save the land."
I’ve read lots of Angry Robot novels now and it’s rare that you’ll get to see a miss from them. I think I’ve enjoyed pretty much every novel from the publisher that I’ve read aside from maybe one or two that haven’t stayed long enough in my memory. Where does Heartwood come into this though? Does it fall into the hit category or the miss category? It certainly sounds like an interesting read, after all – who doesn’t love a bit of knights in shining armour fantasy every now and again? As it turns out though, Heartwood is difficult to place in either category. I’m going to say that in parts, Freya Robertson’s first Angry Robots book novel is amazing, but in other parts – it doesn’t quite hit the mark. I’ll discuss the positive parts of the book first, however.
The biggest strength of Heartwood is its vivid attention to world building. The world that the characters inhabit is fully fleshed out and fully detailed over the course of the novel, and the reader gets to learn about several things, certainly more so than your average fantasy novel. The first seventy pages or so are pretty much devoted to fleshing out the world before the plot actually kicks into gear, but it’s at this point you have to stop and ask yourself – when is there too much worldbuilding? Is it possible to have too much of a good thing? The answer in Heartwood’s case of course is a resounding yes, because although I liked the fleshing out of the world, the rest of the novel fails to meet the standards that Robertson has set herself with her strong world building and detail. This as a result has made more than one reader that I know not get through the book, but I was able to keep going anyway. It’s almost possible that Heartwood was just not the right sort of book for me despite the appealing aspect that fantasy brings to the table – and I’m sure that there are people who will and have enjoyed this novel more than I will.
To give you a detail of the extensive attention that Robertson has paid to the world building, let’s look at the countries that the world is divided into. Each have their own unique culture and features that are in some ways, less subtle than others. For example there’s one country, the inhabitants of Wulfengar are essentially evil. They’re all generalised under one banner – all women must serve the more dominant men etc and whilst stereotyping sometimes does help the reader get a better picture of what’s going on not all of it is done, and for the most part the world building may be good, and as mentioned before, it’s one of the novel’s saving graces – it’s just places like this where it doesn’t always hit the mark. Positive angles of the world development include elemental magic, with the purpose of knights being designed to protect a holy tree that holds the world together. There are several parts where the action scenes throughout the novel are quite good as a result, but there’s never really anything that really elevates this novel from a decent read to a spectacular one.
Of course, with magic – you always have to be wary of deus ex machina, and that is something that in parts, Heartwood suffers from. It’s used as way of speeding up resolutions and doesn’t always work, robbing the story of perhaps would it could have been if magic hadn’t played a good role. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a good magic system in the veins of Brandon Sanderson, who always pays careful and deep concentration to them – but it doesn’t really work when the magic is used to wrap up elements of the plot as smoothly as it does here. And then there’s another problem that the book suffers from – the characters. They weren’t really engaging and captivating and I never felt compelled to root for any of them with the same support that I’ve rooted for other, more realised characters in the past. I finished the book recently and none of the characters created any lasting impression on me as a reader, which is a real shame considering some characters who are so well rounded that I never once forget their names.
There is still an audience for this book, however – despite its many flaws. I think another achievement of Heartwood that despite the fact that there’s more flaws than positive elements that I’ve listed above, it still remains a fairly strong read despite this. Whilst it’s nothing too special or even good, it’d be undeserving to label Heartwood as a bad book. I’ve read bad books before (Dan Brown’s Inferno and Suzanne Collins’ Catching Fire) and Heartwood certainly doesn’t fall anywhere near those standards. It’s probably just not my cup of tea – even if I did enjoy parts of the world building and some elements of the storyline. And I’ll admit that I am interested in picking up the second book when I can as well – hopefully now that the worldbuilding is out of the way Robertson can improve on this book’s failings and create a better second act. Therefore it comes with a very cautious recommendation.
“An awesome, epic book. Unputdownable, engrossing and enthralling. A top notch Fantasy debut.” ~The Founding Fields
If you’re a fantasy fan, chances are you’ll have probably heard of David Gemmell and more than likely read at least one book by him. I can say that I actually own three of his Druss the Legend novels, but have only ever found the time to read Legend, which I really enjoyed. I don’t know why I got around to reading the next two books, but I still couldn’t help but marvel at his work. Naturally though, fans of David Gemmell will be wondering if Stella Gemmell can match the high calibre work of one of fantasy’s finest authors. And does she succeed? Yes. The City is mind blowingly awesome, managing to be one of the better books that I’ve read so far in 2013. It’s one of those novels that I couldn’t put down, and I came away wanting to see what book Gemmell could put out next.
"Built up over the millennia, layer upon layer, the City is ancient and vast. Over the centuries, it has sprawled beyond its walls, the cause of constant war with neighbouring peoples and kingdoms, laying waste to what was once green and fertile.
And at the heart of the City resides the emperor. Few have ever seen him. Those who have remember a man in his prime and yet he should be very old. Some speculate that he is no longer human, others wonder if indeed he ever truly was. And a small number have come to a desperate conclusion: that the only way to stop the ceaseless slaughter is to end the emperor’s unnaturally long life.
From the rotting, flood-ruined catacombs beneath the City where the poor struggle to stay alive to the blood-soaked fields of battle where so few heroes survive, these rebels pin their hopes on one man. A man who was once the emperor’s foremost general. A man, a revered soldier, who could lead an uprising and unite the City. But a man who was betrayed, imprisoned, tortured and is now believed to be dead…"
There is of course going to be comparisons made to David Gemmell, but it’s important to note that The City manages to be very superb indeed. Whilst Stella Gemmell has co-authored the Fall of Kings with David Gemmell, she’s never quite written a book on her own before, and The City ensures us that she can produce a top quality work on her own, rich with originality, strong characters and a captivating plot. Of course, this book is epic fantasy, but Gemmell manages to create a wonderful world in which it takes place. She captures everything from soldiers to Emperors and more, with a wonderful understanding of how characters work and what makes them tick.
All good epic fantasy books are immersive and The City is no different. The world-building is literally superb, with a believable creation enhanced with an inspiration from various eras of History, with most notably, a Roman-edged organisation of such things like military, and social standings, with a great tale that tells a tale that’s a lot more complex than David Gemmell’s Legend in plotting, with deeply flawed yet likeable characters and places them in a world that is as believable as the one that we live in.
The characters are, like the worldbuilding, a joy to read, but not quite as stand-out with times when they don’t feel as distinctive or as memorable as they should have been, probably due to the fact that we have a ton of POVs on display here. However. the amount of characters on display here also adds to the storyline, we get a wide range of perspectives to which we see the events unfold from, as the book deals with themes such as loyalty, revenge, honour and more – allowing for a complex and well crafted tale that mounts a strong challenge for one of the best fantasy novels of 2013.
The book also has the benifit of being a standalone, and the reader is not left hanging on waiting for a sequel as is common with most fantasy novels from debut authors. It’s refreshing to see an epic fantasy book that can be told as a single volume, and with such a sheer quality that is displayed here. If you’re a fan of the genre, then you should certainly consider picking this book up, for it is top notch.
I’ve wanted to pick this book up ever since I first saw the cover-art. I don’t know why, but I tend to like cover arts that fall into the ‘hooded man’...moreI’ve wanted to pick this book up ever since I first saw the cover-art. I don’t know why, but I tend to like cover arts that fall into the ‘hooded man’ category. The Painted (Warded in the USA) Man by Peter V. Brett, The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks, The Innocent Mage by Karen Miller, Low Town: The Straight Razor Cure by Daniel Polansky and Assassin’s Creed 2 are examples of that, and it seems, for however long we’re around, there’ll always be at least one hooded man cover on a novel in the bookshop, or on your bookshelf. Did I mention, there’s another thing that everything in the category has in common – they’re all really enjoyable, and fun to read/play. So, would this be the case with The Emperor’s Knife?
I’m pleased to say that yes, yes it was. The Emperor’s Knife, despite its flaws, I found to be a really enthralling read, and I can safely say that I will be eagerly looking forward to Book Two of the trilogy.
There. I’ve said it. But, in order to make this a ‘proper’ review, I have to write more than just that. So, you’re probably wondering what the heck The Emperor’s Knife is about. Well, let me tell you. Or rather, let Goodreads tell you, because I’m lazy:
There is a cancer at the heart of the mighty Cerani Empire: a plague that attacks young and old, rich and poor alike, marking each victim with a fragment of a greater pattern. Anyone showing the marks is put to death. That is Emperor Beyon’s law . . .
But now the pattern is reaching closer to the palace than ever before. In a hidden room, a forgotten prince has grown from child to man, and as the empire sickens, Sarmin, the emperor’s only surviving brother, is remembered. He awaits the bride his mother has chosen: a chieftain’s daughter from the northern plains.
Mesema travels from her homeland, an offering for the empire’s favour. She is a Windreader, used to riding free across the grasslands, not posing and primping in rare silks. She finds the Imperial Court’s protocols stifling, but she doesn’t take long to realise the politicking and intrigues are not a game, but deadly earnest.
Eyul is burdened both by years and by the horrors he has carried out in service to the throne. At his emperor’s command he bears the emperor’s Knife to the desert in search of a cure for the pattern-markings.
As long-planned conspiracies boil over into open violence and rebellion, the enemy moves toward victory. Now only three people stand in his way: a lost prince, a world-weary killer, and a young girl from the steppes who once saw a path through a pattern, among the waving grasses.
Certainly ambitious for an author’s first novel, huh? I’d like to say that I was slightly cautious about reading The Emperor’s Knife before I actually did read it, but alas, that was not the case, I dived into the book with little more than the blurb to see my way through. And, after the first few pages, I wasn’t confused. I wasn’t wondering who these characters were and I wasn’t wondering what the hell was going on. Neither does Williams overload you with info-dumping, the bane of many fantasy authors.
The characters are certainly well developed, and intriguing enough to keep you reading along with the captivating plot, that although is unoriginal when you look at previous fantasy novels, is certainly enjoyable, and combined with a well-designed world that has obviously had a lot of thought put into it.
Unfortunately, not every novel is perfect, and you will often find the pacing a bit uneven, with parts (especially towards the end), where you are turning the pages desperately to find out what happens next, and other times where you aren’t turning the pages as fast as you should be, which is a letdown, but one that I’m not too fussed about.
The novel itself draws upon several Middle Eastern influences, which is something that I’ve not encountered in fantasy before, so Williams gets +1 on the originality front (if there are more fantasy novels that draw from Middle Eastern influences that I haven’t read yet, drop me a line – I’d love to read them). You can tell that the world has been carefully constructed with a lot of research put into it, especially when you look at the magic system.
If there’s something else that let the novel down, again a minor issue, is that the ‘big reveal’ wasn’t as good as it could have been, and people who’ve read this novel will probably share my thoughts on this thing. Also, there’s romance, lots and lots of romance in this novel, although don’t let that put you off from reading The Emperor’s Knife. Romance or not, you won’t want to be missing this. It contains several elements of a dark fantasy novel, yet at the same time it still feels like you’re reading an epic fantasy, a novel that could be fit into the same sort of genre as George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire.
I’d also like to point out that although The Emperor’s Knife is technically part of a trilogy, aside from a few parts where Williams sets the scene for the rest of the novel, it could effectively be read as a standalone. However, my advice is, don’t read it as a standalone and buy the next book as soon as it comes out! For one, I can’t wait to read it, and if Williams sorts out the pacing in the next novel, it will be truly superb. I strongly recommend this novel to any fans of fantasy that are looking to try something new.
More Tower and Knife: The Emperor’s Knife, Knifesworn (Coming Soon)
“An enthralling, captivating novel, with wonderful world building and an action-packed plot, Elantris is a novel that fantasy fans should love, despite the flaws.” ~The Founding Fields
Having read two novels by Brandon Sanderson, I thought I’d take a step outside of the Mistborn world when the chance came to read Elantris. Even if it was only because the WHSmith that I was in at the time didn’t have a copy of Hero of Ages (despite having every other non-Wheel of Time Sanderson novel), but I was glad that I picked it up. Although it may not match the quality of his Mistborn series, Elantris is nonetheless an awesome read.
ELANTRIS WAS A PLACE OF GLORY
The capital of Arelon, the home to people transformed into magic-using demigods by the Shaod.
But then the magic failed, Elantris started to rot, and its inhabitants turned into powerless wrecks.
And in the new capital, Kae, close enough to Elantris for everyone to be reminded of what they have lost, a princess arrives. Sarene is to be married to unite Teod and Arelon against the religious imperialists of Fjordell. But she is told that Raoden, her husband to be, is dead.
Determined to carry on the fight for Teod and Arelon’s freedom, Sarene clashes with the high priest Hrathen. If Hrathen can persuade the populace to convert, Fjordell will reign supreme.
But there are secrets in Elantris, the dead and the ruined may yet have a role to play in this new world. Magic lives.
What first struck me about Elantris was the originality of the blurb. I haven’t read a lot like Elantris before, and I found the novel fresh and engaging, despite its initial release in 2005. (The edition that I picked up was released in August last year). The setting is one of Sanderson’s strong point – he planned it ahead rather than writing it as he went along, and the end result shows. There isn’t any continuity mistakes that I spotted, and although it can occasionally feel like info-dumping at times, the pace is mostly fast and enjoyable. Elantris is a impressive debut novel, and I think, if I had read it before The Final Empire and The Well of Ascension, I would have liked it better as I wouldn’t have had my expectations raised by those two books.
The characters are interesting, particularly the female lead, Sarene, who develops over the course of the novel. Sarene’s male counterpart (I can’t really say who he if I want to leave it spoiler-free), is also engaging, three-dimensional and could have supported the novel by himself without Sarene. However, these two combined together allows Sanderson to switch back and forth between inside Elantris and outside the decaying former capital, and as a result, allows us to get a perspective as to what different factions view Elantris as, and what the surviving Elantrians view themselves as.
The world that the reader finds themselves in is richly developed and believable. There aren’t the stock Elves, Dwarves and Orcs that are typically found in high-fantasy tales here, as Sanderson manages to diverse from this cliche in order to keep the reader hooked and enthralled. Although the ending seems rushed, three-quarters of the novel is superb, and it’s a huge read as well, meaning that you’ll get a lot out of it. Although the tension isn’t very high as the main characters lives don’t feel as if they’re dangling on threads, the pace is nonetheless engaging and the novel is entertaining enough to keep you reading.
Having read Elantris the other side of the Mistborn series, I can tell that in some places it feels as if this was some sort of proto-Mistborn novel, with similar characters, such as the strong female lead surrounded by men, (as Vin was in the Mistborn novels). However, Elantris is still a strong read at is core, with the intense political maneuvers that can sometimes feel like a game of Chess is being played with the characters.
Fans of George RR Martin should enjoy Sanderson’s novel. The huge-length of Elantris allows the author to tell an entertaining standalone tale, where many newcomers to the genre throw themselves in at the deep end with long-winded series or trilogies. The cover-art is also amazing as well, I prefer it greatly to the US version and am glad that they released this in a similar manner to Sanderson’s other books in the UK. I loved Elantris despite its flaws, although it doesn’t get the four-star mark for me (even though I put it at four star on Goodreads, that’s only because they don’t do halves and I felt that it didn’t deserve a three), Elantris will have a high 3.5 stars out of 5 from me.
“An epic conclusion that reinforces the fact that Brandon Sanderson is one of my favourite fantasy authors out there. Jaw-dropping stuff.” ~The Foundi...more“An epic conclusion that reinforces the fact that Brandon Sanderson is one of my favourite fantasy authors out there. Jaw-dropping stuff.” ~The Founding Fields
Do not read this review unless you have read the first two novels in the Trilogy, The Final Empire and The Well of Ascension, as there are spoilers for the previous books in this series.
And so it ends. Three books, a lot of reading and a lot of catching up later, Brandon Sanderson’s finale to the first three Mistborn novels and the conclusion of Vin and Elend’s story arc - The Hero of Ages ends with a bang rather than a whimper, and proves why he’s one of the best living fantasy authors alongside George RR Martin and Joe Abercrombie. It’s not often that you read a book with more than 500 pages that you find yourself struggling to put down.
"Who is the Hero of Ages?
To end the Final Empire and restore freedom, Vin killed the Lord Ruler. But as a result, the Deepness—the lethal form of the ubiquitous mists—is back, along with increasingly heavy ashfalls and ever more powerful earthquakes. Humanity appears to be doomed.
Having escaped death at the climax of The Well of Ascension only by becoming a Mistborn himself, Emperor Elend Venture hopes to find clues left behind by the Lord Ruler that will allow him to save the world. Vin is consumed with guilt at having been tricked into releasing the mystic force known as Ruin from the Well. Ruin wants to end the world, and its near omniscience and ability to warp reality make stopping it seem impossible. She can’t even discuss it with Elend lest Ruin learn their plans!"
I couldn’t put this novel down. I’ve read a lot of epic fantasy novels this year including the entirety of the Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson and I can safely say that The Hero of Ages is easily among my top 5, due to several reasons. The level of world building and depth that Sanderson puts into this series is a very enjoyable one, and you can tell that he hasn’t made this ending up on the spot. This was planned, and I am really glad to see that Sanderson’s conclusion has met the promise set by the last two books, and given us a series that I’m not likely to forget in a while. And it’s not even over yet. Well, the adventures of Vin and Elend are. We won’t be seeing anymore of them especially after the titanic conclusion that will leave the reader breathless, but a new story by Sanderson set in the future of the Mistborn world, The Alloy of Law, is a novel that I set an aim to myself to read before the end of this year, but now – I don’t really want to.
”A fantastic, original and character-focused follow up that will satisfy readers of The Emperor’s Knife.” ~The Founding Fields
Warning! There are spoi...more ”A fantastic, original and character-focused follow up that will satisfy readers of The Emperor’s Knife.” ~The Founding Fields
Warning! There are spoilers for the first novel in the trilogy, The Emperor’s Knife, which I strongly recommend that you read before reading this one.
The Emperor’s Knife, Mazarkis Williams’ debut, was an awesome read, so when I found out that Knife Sworn, the sequel – was available on NetGalley with some decent cover art, I jumped at the opportunity, and thankfully, I had my request accepted. Now, several pages later, I found myself at the end of another great, if slow-moving, instalment of The Tower and Knife Trilogy, and I can’t wait to see what Williams provides us with in the final outing.
After spending most of his life in captivity, Sarmin now sits upon the Throne of Cerana. But his reign is an uneasy one. And the emperor’s own heart is torn between two very different women: Mesema, a Windreader princess, and Grada, a lowborn untouchable with whom Sarmin shares a unique bond. In times past, a royal assassin known as the Emperor’s Knife served to defend the throne from menace, but the last Knife has perished and his successor has yet to be named. Sarmin must choose his own loyal death-dealer . . . but upon whom can be he bestow the burden of the Knife-Sworn?
The originality of the concept and the setting was one thing that drew me into The Emperor’s Knife. Everything that was good about that book carried on over to its sequel, making it arguably the better of the two. Whilst it may not have been a page turner, Knife Sworn was nonetheless a great read, character-focused and enjoyable.
Sarmin is the main storyteller as half of our dramatis personae from Book 1 don’t make it to the sequel. Grada is another character who gets a lot of page time, and they are both developed further in this book. Characters are a strong point of Williams, and Knife Sworn shows that he can write them well. We get a varied and strong cast, with no perfect or archetypical characters here, even if Grada’s story is perhaps the most uninteresting, as we don’t gain anything from having her POV in here, which is a real shame and one of my two main issues with this book.
“A fun, weird graphic novel that will leave you wanting more. Great artwork and a great work of fiction by Cornell, Demon Knights is another strong of...more“A fun, weird graphic novel that will leave you wanting more. Great artwork and a great work of fiction by Cornell, Demon Knights is another strong offering in the New 52.” ~The Founding Fields
Writer: Paul Cornell | Art: Diogenes Neves, Oclair Albert, Mike Choi, Robson Rocha | Cover: Tony S. Daniel | Published: DC Comics | Collects: Demon Knights #1-7
I’m going to be honest with you here. I picked up the trade paperback of Demon Knights on a bit of a whim. I didn’t mind the first issue but when read alone, it was pretty confusing and I didn’t really have a clue what was going on. However, when read as a Collected Volume, I dove right into Seven Against the Dark and really enjoyed it, reading it in one sitting which is the norm for most graphic novels that I read unless they’re Watchmen or Knightfall size, in which case I have to read them in multiple sittings.
Another reason why I picked up Demon Knights Vol. 1: Seven Against the Dark on a bit of a whim was because of the fact I’d never encountered this age of DC Comics before. Not once, and the portrayal of Merlin in the first chapter was something that I wasn’t really used to at all. But did the graphic novel work? Hell yes. In fact, it did more than work. You can count me on board for this series and I can tell you know that my risk in picking up this title paid off.
Set in the Dark Ages of the DC Universe, a barbarian horde is massing to crush civilization. It’s fallen to Madame Xanadu and Jason Blood, the man with a monster inside him, to stand in their way–though the demon Etrigan has no interest in protecting anyone or anything other than himself! It’ll take more than their own power to stop an army fueled by bloodlust and dark sorcery, and some very surprising heroes–and villains–will have no choice but to join the fray!
Etrigan was the only character that I’d heard of before in this collection and I’ve got no idea as to how the other of the Seven fit into the Demon Knights. You can tell that most comics readers are going to be taking a risk in buying Seven Against the Dark mainly because of what I’ve just mentioned. Etrigan isn’t well known, and the Seven that he fights with in this collection are even less so. But I’m glad that Paul Cornell has not only managed to pull off a wonderfully told, Dungeons and Dragons style fantasy epic – the awesomeness that is only made more brilliant by the stunning artwork provided by Neves, and to a certain extent Tony S. Daniel with the cover, which was one of the main reasons why I picked up the book in the first place – I mean, how hard is it to resist a book with a cover like that?
“If you want proof that second novels are better than first outings, look no further than Seven Kings - Fultz has improved a lot from Seven Kings and although it may not be entirely perfect, Seven Kings shouldn’t be overlooked.” ~The Founding Fields
I read Seven Princes expecting something brilliant from John R. Fultz, but I came away dissapointed and it was only on a whim that I requested Seven Kings, the sequel – to review. And as it turns out, I was pleasantly surprised by what Fultz had to offer - Seven Kings manages to be everything that book one in the Books of the Shaper series should have been and more, keeping the reader enthralled and sticking around for volume three. I certainly enjoyed reading this book, but like I mentioned in the quote – it does have a few flaws which I’ll highlight on later in the review.
In the jungles of Khyrei, an escaped slave seeks vengeance and finds the key to a savage revolution.
In the drought-stricken Stormlands, the Twin Kings argue the destiny of their kingdom: one walks the path of knowledge, the other treads the road to war.
Beyond the haunted mountains King Vireon confronts a plague of demons bent on destroying his family.
With intrigue, sorcery, and war, Seven Kings continues the towering fantasy epic that began with Seven Princes.
Firstly, like Zachary Jernigan’s No Return that I reviewed earlier this week, Seven Kings (I still keep calling this book Seven Princes for some reason) is firmly in adult territory. It’s not for the squeamish, either – this book certainly delivers on the horror element of fantasy by managing to create, like the first book – a tale where nobody is safe and anyone can meet an unexpected end. It’s dark, action packed and very gory, with some twists and turns that are far from predictable. If you liked Princes then you should enjoy Kings even more than I did, because everything about this book is better than its predecessor.
Seven Princes is a book that could easily be read as a standalone and a reader would not have to worry about picking up the rest of the series, and Fultz has made sure with this volume to give people a greater incentive to read Book Three, Seven Sorcerers, by leaving the end of the novel as a way to set up the next act in this series. The characters are expanded upon, and we get to have multiple POVs from a variety of characters, the runaway slave Tong, King Vireon and his shape-shifting-sorceress wife Alua, Vireon’s troubled sister and her husband King D’zan are just a few of the large dramatis personae mentioned here, and at some point it can feel like you loose track of the characters and their adventures. The thing is with stories with such a cast, some stories can have problems getting the balance right between giving characters enough time to make them stick in the reader’s minds for long. The mains strength of A Song of Ice and Fire was that the characters are all so damn memorable, and I could list many characters from that series as opposed to Seven Kings where I can at most name five. That’s because they aren’t well developed enough to stand out and make the reader want to root for them, which is a real shame for the first book had this problem as well.
The action is well written however and the storyline is enthralling, as Fultz manages to expand on the world that he has created and although not in much depth of the recently read No Return by Zachary Jernigan, it is still an strong exploration of the world and the standard fantasy map that we see at the beginning only enhances the tale. Fultz has a strong prose and it’s clear that he has experience with it, and his use of language is good as well. Our Princes that we saw in the first book have also changed from the first outing of Fultz, and the author has made it so that nobody is perfect, and other characters don’t really know who to trust.
So with that said, will I be reading the next book in the series, Seven Sorcerers? Did Seven Kings manage to convince me to Fultz’s side completely? I still think that this book could have done with a few more tweaks in places, such as character development, the amount of characters included and a few more moments of originality added to the book. But aside from that, Seven Kings is stronger than its predecessor, and as a result, I will be seeing if Fultz can take the series one step further with Seven Sorcerers and build on where he went wrong.
“A great debut, a new voice to high fantasy has arrived.” ~The Founding Fields
The Red Knight has been on my to-read list ever since I first saw it on...more“A great debut, a new voice to high fantasy has arrived.” ~The Founding Fields
The Red Knight has been on my to-read list ever since I first saw it on Orbit’s Coming Soon page. Sure, I know – it’s epic fantasy, a genre that can either be really good or really bad depending on what books you read, and with a debut it’s often riskier than others. However, it wasn’t long before I found engrossed in the world of The Red Knight, and as a result, will be eagerly looking forward to anything else that Miles Cameron writes.
Twenty eight florins a month is a huge price to pay, for a man to stand between you and the Wild.
Twenty eight florins a month is nowhere near enough when a wyvern’s jaws snap shut on your helmet in the hot stink of battle, and the beast starts to rip the head from your shoulders. But if standing and fighting is hard, leading a company of men – or worse, a company of mercenaries – against the smart, deadly creatures of the Wild is even harder.
It takes all the advantages of birth, training, and the luck of the devil to do it.
The Red Knight has all three, he has youth on his side, and he’s determined to turn a profit. So when he hires his company out to protect an Abbess and her nunnery, it’s just another job. The abby is rich, the nuns are pretty and the monster preying on them is nothing he can’t deal with.
Only it’s not just a job. It’s going to be a war…
Even though The Red Knight may be epic fantasy, it can at times feel similar to historical fiction – of course, there are enough elements to make it feel like epic fantasy – but it comes dangerously close to crossing the line into historical fiction at times. However, fantasy readers who love military fantasy should enjoy The Red Knight, as this is a tale about war – with several action packed encounters that are written really well.
“The best Fantasy novel of 2012 that I’ve read so far this year. Unmissable.” ~The Founding Fields
Note: The blurb of this novel contains a huge spoile...more“The best Fantasy novel of 2012 that I’ve read so far this year. Unmissable.” ~The Founding Fields
Note: The blurb of this novel contains a huge spoiler for the outcome of The Black Prism, so do not read this review unless you have read The Black Prism first.
So, with the sentence that I’ve just posted above (not the spoiler warning, of course), you don’t really need to read the rest of the review, do you? Sure, whilst The Blinding Knife may not be as good as A Storm of Swords or any other George RR Martin novel that I’ve read this year (aside from maybe A Feast for Crows), The Blinding Knife is possibly my favourite fantasy novel that was released in 2012, – but we’ll have to wait and see as I may be reading some potential rivals in the next few months . However, I can always rely on Weeks to produce an awesome book, as The Night Angel Trilogy is indeed, one of my favourite fantasy series that I’ve read, ever, even if it does come behind A Song of Ice and Fire, The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien, and depending on whether The Hero of Ages is a satisfying conclusion, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn Trilogy. Whilst I’m not sure if The Lightbringer Series emerges on top of Night Angel just yet, it’s still a firm and enjoyable series so far, even if it was intended initially to be just a trilogy.
Note, the blurb is in spoiler tags on Goodreads. Click it only if you've read The Black Prism, as mentioned above.
He’d thought he had five years left—now he has less than one. With fifty thousand refugees, a bastard son, and an ex-fiancée who may have learned his darkest secret, Gavin has problems on every side. All magic in the world is running wild and threatens to destroy the Seven Satrapies.
Worst of all, the old gods are being reborn, and their army of color wights is unstoppable. The only salvation may be the brother whose freedom and life Gavin stole sixteen years ago. (hide spoiler)]
The Lightbringer series is certainly original, and it does what few fantasy tales that I’ve read have managed to do in the past – create a believable system were guns are used in the same setting as magic. Even if they have a minor appearance and don’t play a huge role in the series, they are still there. But those who dislike guns in fantasy settings don’t have to worry – Weeks has pulled it off perfectly. The Blinding Knife takes a slightly different angle from its predecessor, with Kip getting more page-time than Gavin. It’s interesting to see how both of Weeks’ characters develop over the course of the novel, and with the shocking twist at the end (which I didn’t see coming), it’ll be very interesting to see how this plays out in the future, with this series being changed from a trilogy to four books.
“A Wonderful read. Three Books in, Daniel Abraham’s Epic Fantasy series is just as compelling as his and Ty Frank’s The Expanse. Easily one of the highlights of 2013.” ~The Founding Fields
Another year, another Daniel Abraham fantasy novel, another James SA Corey Novel. In the past three years, all books have managed to make it onto my Best of… lists, and it looks like this year is going to be no different. The Tyrant’s Law is compelling, epic, and a really strong third installment to the series that ranks as one of my favourite. There are several standout moments in this novel – and one of the best things about it is that the characters have really been fleshed out by this point, really memorable and have undergone large chunks of character development. Nobody that you saw in The Dragon’s Path is the same that you see in The Tyrant’s Law, and I really look forward to seeing what Daniel Abraham can throw at his characters in future instalments.
"The great war cannot be stopped.
The tyrant Geder Palliako had led his nation to war, but every victory has called forth another conflict. Now the greater war spreads out before him, and he is bent on bringing peace. No matter how many people he has to kill to do it.
Cithrin bel Sarcour, rogue banker of the Medean Bank, has returned to the fold. Her apprenticeship has placed her in the path of war, but the greater dangers are the ones in her past and in her soul.
Widowed and disgraced at the heart of the Empire, Clara Kalliam has become a loyal traitor, defending her nation against itself. And in the shadows of the world, Captain Marcus Wester tracks an ancient secret that will change the war in ways not even he can forsee.
Return to the critically acclaimed epic by master storyteller Daniel Abraham, The Dagger and the Coin."
Like the previous two books, The Tyrant’s Law is told in a style that George RR Martin fans will be familiar with. Each Chapter is focused on the Third Person POV of a Character, but by this point – especially if you’ve been reading The Expanse as well, you’ll be used to Daniel Abraham’s style – and you certainly won’t be flicking through various chapters to get to characters that you find more interesting than the other, for example – Geder’s story is as equally interesting as Cithrin’s, and Marcus’s tale is as awesome as Clara’s. He really draws you in and tells a compelling story, and at the end only manages to leave the reader wanting more.
The novel itself really focuses on the scale and diversity of the story that Abraham is telling – it runs across many genres. Love, action, epic, gritty,cultural analysis – These are some things that could take up a whole novel, yet Abraham manages to wind them all into one, with an unrelenting pace that readers of The Dragon’s Path and The King’s Blood will be used to. This is far from your average fantasy tale of heroes and Chosen Ones, and it certainly steps above the average gritty fantasy novel that looks like somebody was just simply trying to copy A Song of Ice and Fire. Its characters are unique and original, and the setting is wonderfully created. And we don’t have to wait five years for the next book.
The beauty of Daniel Abraham’s novels is that as well as being the third book in an ongoing series, The Tyrant’s Law could be read as a standalone without the reader having to go back and catch up on the first two books, but it’s probably best to start at the beginning, as you can tell that the books are clearly building on one another to create a vast plotline, and the story takes its time with the characters so that whilst you’ll find yourself turning the pages more and more, The Tyrant’s Law won’t be have the lightning-fast pace of other epic fantasies. Abraham spends some time analysing the characters and we continue to get a better connection of the characters in question. There is no ‘evil overlord’ cliché to be found here, and each of the main cast are far from perfect characters, the supposed heroes will not always make the right decisions etc, and this leads to an unpredictable atmosphere that not many fantasy novels have been able to capture.
Whilst the hype surrounding this series’ release may have perhaps died down since the first book, the series doesn’t get worse – in fact, in my opinion, it gets better. I really can’t wait to see where the series goes with future installments, and if the previous three books have been anything to go by, then book four in The Dagger and the Coin will most certainly be on my Best of 2014 list if Abraham keeps to the pattern of releasing a book a year for this series.
THE DAGGER AND THE COIN: The Dragon’s Path, The King’s Blood, The Tyrant’s Law. (less)
If you’re somebody who doesn’t mind reading the odd self-published book like myself, you could do a lot worse than D.E.M Emrys’ epic fantasy tale, It Began with Ashes. It’s strong, confident and creates an enthralling tale with likeable characters with their own personalities. The book itself tells the story of coming to accept yourself as who you really are, as well as exploring other details such as character development whilst jostling with world building and some awesome action sequences.
Peace in Wroge came at a price.
Wroge was divided by the Saive War. The Arneuton kingdom enslaved the Keltir clans into their invasion, and swept across the territory, converting and conscripting the weak, culling the strong. Five Years of war, the blood of four races, millions of deaths. The Arneut conquered. The Keltir were released from their imprisonment, but the Vikir and Narz were forever banished from Wroge’s borders.
Draven fought for peace. He fought another man’s war and paid for his freedom in blood. But even peace comes with its price. Taxes to another man’s king. Draven’s fight might have ended with the Saive War, but the struggle to afford safety for his family is far from over.
When the Vikir threaten Wroge’s northern border they come with a debt of their own. And it’s not taxes they’re after. They come because of the Keltir’s betrayal in the Saive War. They come from blood.
But Wroge’s fate won’t be decided by ageing warriors and old grudges. The lives of four young men, divided by peace, united by conflict, will shape the future of the war torn land.
‘It Began With Ashes’ is the story of how life’s greatest struggle is to accept who you are – a tale of broken promises, bitter grudges, and brotherhoods bound in blood.
If you have any version of a Kindle, or a way of adapting a Kindle-formatted book to suit your appropiate e-reader format, then you can get a taste of what Emrys’ works are like for nothing, in the form of the short story, From Man to Man. The pricing of It Began With Ashes is pretty strong as well, and although it may be short, it’s a great teaser for what’s to come in this novel, as it picks up from where it left off, exploring Draven, his family and a large dramatis personae that find themselves caught in the midst of an attack from the Vikir, an exiled warrior race. The book itself is great at handling the cast of characters, so that the Point of View switches never seem jarring and they seem to flow naturally.
Kale, Draven’s son, is one of the main characters in It Began with Ashes and is a very interesting character to read the POV of, whose experience is harrowed following the death of a young boy his age having been killed by a friend. His character is affected greatly by the death, and you – the reader will be as well, as the book itself establishes a dark tone that will continue throughout.
If you’re tired of pages of pages of exposition in your fantasy novels, then Emrys ignores that, getting right to the heat of the action and character development, and you’ll quickly find out that a large portion of the book is action dominated, at least half. Don’t let that put you off though, because I’ve already mentioned that there’s plenty of character development.
The world building is also something not to be looked down on, with most being compared through conversations with characters as opposed to the narration, with a strong pacing to boot that doesn’t feel like it’s either too fast or too slow.
There are some people who don’t pick up first novels in a series when future issues haven’t been released yet, and that is understandable, but with a low price for It Began with Ashes, it’s really something that you can’t afford to pass by, because despite the fact that there is clearly intended to be future books, the novel can probably be read as a standalone as the book itself doesn’t end on a cliffhanger.
So with all of that mentioned, if you’re looking for some self-published work for a low price and have an e-reader, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t pass this opportunity by.
“A wonderful, richly crafted read that sees Sanderson keep up there with the likes of GRRM and Tolkien. Jaw-dropping, enjoyable and amazing. A must buy.” ~The Founding Fields
Note, this is the second book in the Mistborn series, and there are huge, unavoidable spoilers for the outcome of the first novel, The Final Empire, so I suggest you read that book first if you haven’t already. If you have already read The Final Empire or don’t care about spoilers, then feel free to continue.
For those of you who have been reading my writing blog, you’re probably going to be aware that I’m setting myself a challenge of reading a certain amount of novels this year, and novels from certain series. For example, I’ve set myself a task of reading all of the currently released novels in A Song of Ice and Fire (I will be starting A Feast for Crows soon),and re-reading all of the currently released Horus Heresy novels, of which I have finished The Flight of the Eisenstien by James Swallow. One of these challenges was reading all of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn novels. As I’ve already read and reviewed The Final Empire, it seemed only logical to continue onto the next novel in the thrilling Mistborn series, The Well of Ascension.
The impossible has been accomplished. The Lord Ruler – the man who claimed to be god incarnate and brutally ruled the world for a thousand years – has been vanquished. The awesome task of building a new world has been left to Kelsier’s young protégé, Vin, the former street urchin who is now the most powerful Mistborn in the land, and to the idealistic young nobleman she loves.
As Kelsier’s protégé and slayer of the Lord Ruler she is now venerated by a budding new religion, a distinction that makes her intensely uncomfortable. Even more worrying, the mists have begun behaving strangely since the Lord Ruler died, and seem to harbor a strange vaporous entity that haunts her.
Stopping assassins may keep Vin’s Mistborn skills sharp, but it’s the least of her problems. Luthadel, the largest city of the former empire, doesn’t run itself, and Vin and the other members of Kelsier’s crew, who lead the revolution, must learn a whole new set of practical and political skills to help. It certainly won’t get easier with three armies – one of them composed of ferocious giants – now vying to conquer the city, and no sign of the Lord Ruler’s hidden cache of atium, the rarest and most powerful allomantic metal.
As the siege of Luthadel tightens, an ancient legend seems to offer a glimmer of hope. But even if it really exists, no one knows where to find the Well of Ascension or what manner of power it bestows.
Picking up from where the last book left off, The Well of Ascension shows that just because you managed to end what some authors take a trilogy (or more) to accomplish on one novel, doesn’t mean that you can’t go further. This is Elend Venture, the main male protagonist’s, trial by fire as King/Emperor, and let me say this, there are some awesome moments and I never thought that I would love politics as much as I did. The Well of Ascension is captivating, more unpredictable than the last book, and with compelling characters and fascinating storylines, it was almost as good as The Final Empire. But why wasn’t The Well of Ascension as good? Sure, it was epic, really enjoyable and a delight to read, but I don’t think it matched the brilliance of The Final Empire, which is a shame, even if the only reason why it didn’t was because I felt that it took a while to get going.
It’s a change of pace from The Final Empire, and is more dark and gritty than the heroic fantasy that I found the first novel in the series to be. It concentrates more on the realities of politics and what goes on behind the battlelines than the actual battles themselves. However that said though, when there is a battle, there is a battle! The Well of Ascension delivers an epic, well-written, well-thought out battle that leaves the reader only wanting more, and shows that even Vin, the protagonist of Sanderson’s first three novels, is not invincible.
One of Sanderson’s many strengths is his characters. He manages to develop the characters so that each of them have changed in many ways since we were first introduced to them in The Well of Ascension. He even manages to make us, the reader, feel sympathy for Zane, one of the antagonists in this novel, which is a good accomplishment as I’ve read too many fantasy novels, where the villains are all one-dimensional and you feel little or no sympathy for them at all. They’re just evil to the core, but if you want a change from that, look to The Well of Ascension. Although some may not like the follow up to The Final Empire, I adored it. Sure, it may have been a bit long and there were some unnecessary subplots, but apart from that – it was fantastic. I couldn’t put it down once it got going, even if it actually took a while to get going in the first place.
Sanderson continues his fantastic world building that he started with in The Final Empire, and when coupled with the introduction-bit of text that’s written at the beginning of each text, we continue to learn more about the days before the coming of the Lord Ruler, and although it is still info-dumping, Sanderson has managed to do it in such a way that after a particularly interesting introduction-bit (anybody who’s read The Final Empire will know what I mean when I mention this), and if the Chapter was a bit dull, I sometimes found myself wanting to skip forward a couple of pages just to read more.
Vin continues to be one of the strongest female characters in any fantasy novel that I’ve read. She’s got flaws, like all of Sanderson’s characters, but shows that she can become a strong, butt-kicking character without feeling Mary-Sueish. Other characters such as Elend and Sazed are back, as well as most of the original cast (barring Kelsier, for reasons that you should know of if you’ve read The Final Empire), and they’re each as compelling as they were in the first novel, and you will root for them in their struggles over the enemy.
More Mistborn: The Final Empire, The Well of Ascension, Hero of Ages, The Alloy of Law.
More Sanderson: Elantris, Warbreaker, The Way of Kings. (less)
“A strong opener to a series that I will certainly be reading more of despite its flaws.” ~The Founding Fields
A few days before The Heir of Night won the David Gemell Morningstar award, a copy of the novel turned up on my doorstep alongside Michael J. Sullivan’s The Heir of Novron (which will be reviewed later), and as I’d heard good things about this book, I couldn’t wait to get stuck in. When I found out that Lowe’s first ‘adult fantasy’ won the Morningstar award, I was motivated to read this even sooner. And, was I disappointed? Well, no. I enjoyed this novel and will be picking up the sequel, but unfortunately, The Heir of Night did have some issues.
If Night falls, all fall . . .
In the far north of the world of Haarth lies the bitter mountain range known as the Wall of Night. Garrisoned by the Nine Houses of the Derai, the Wall is the final bastion between the peoples of Haarth and the Swarm of Dark–which the Derai have been fighting across worlds and time.
Malian, Heir to the House of Night, knows the history of her people: the unending war with the Darkswarm; the legendary heroes, blazing with long-lost power; the internal strife that has fractured the Derai’s former strength. But now the Darkswarm is rising again, and Malian’s destiny as Heir of Night is bound inextricably to both ancient legend and any future the Derai–or Haarth–may have.
The author’s main strength is clearly her female characters, and if you’ll read The Heir of Night, you’ll find out why. Malian is a strong, central protagonist, and although not as memorable as Vin from the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson, she is certainly a better character to have as your lead than say, Bella Swan from Twilight. But Malian’s far from the only female character that populate the pages of the first novel in the Wall of Night series, and Lowe has created a female cast that takes a step outside the role that we see females commonly taking in epic fantasy stories, and in The House of the Night, several members are female, from the Honour Guard Captain to his own heir, which is makes an interesting change from the male dominated worlds like Lord of the Rings.
The world-building in The Heir of Night has a lot of depth in it, with a lot of effort put in to describing the world of the Derai, and you can tell that the author has not made stuff up as she went along. In case you get lost as to what some of the terms mean in the novel, there’s even an ever helpful glossary at the end of the book, which I found myself checking every now and again. If you’re wondering whether the in depth world building detracts from the pace, then don’t worry, as with Lowe, you’re in safe hands and it never feels like you’re being given too much information.
However, I mentioned earlier that The Heir of Night suffered from some flaws, and unfortunately, there are a fair bit of them. It uses the old ‘Chosen One’ cliché, so you get a fair bit of deus ex machina early on in the book, which I wasn’t a big fan of. However, despite that, Lowe still managed to keep me hooked with her in-depth world building, some superb battle scenes and a strong narrative told from mostly the third person POV of Malian. And another good thing is that apart from the aforementioned cliché, Lowe doesn’t stick to any of the well established clichéd stereotypes, which is a good thing if you’re bored to death of them.
At some points, The Heir of Night does feel like a young adult novel, and it quite easily could have been marketing as one with no changes to the plot whatsoever, particularly with the young age of the main characters, Kalan and Malian. This didn’t put me off though, as the book was well written enough to take my mind from that fact.
Although our two main protagonists are not going to be killed off any time soon, with The Heir of Night being the first in a four book series, Lowe seemingly isn’t attached to any of the other characters and there are several that meet their end, suffering particularly short lifespans in this novel, so you don’t really know if most of the cast will make it midway through the novel, or indeed – to the next installment, which adds to the suspense created in this novel. The pace is even throughout the novel and there are no boring scenes which you will find yourself skipping, as Lowe manages to keep you reading despite the novel’s flaws.
All said though, whilst The Heir of Night may not be a perfect novel, it’s still an enjoyable and entertaining read that should not be overlooked.
“An engaging, dark character driven novel that whilst doesn’t really bring anything new to the table in terms of originality - delivers a damn fine read nonetheless. David Daglish is certainly an author to watch out for, as he delivers a promising debut.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
"Thren Felhorn is the greatest assassin of his time. Marshalling the thieves’ guilds under his control, he declares war against the Trifect, an allegiance of wealthy and powerful nobles.
Aaron Felhorn has been groomed since birth to be Thren’s heir. Sent to kill the daughter of a priest, Aaron instead risks his own life to protect her from the wrath of his guild. In doing so, he glimpses a world beyond poison, daggers, and the iron control of his father.
Guilds twist and turn, trading allegiances for survival. The Trifect weakens, its reputation broken, its money dwindling. The players take sides as the war nears its end, and Thren puts in motion a plan to execute hundreds.
Only Aaron can stop the massacre and protect those he loves…
Assassin or protector; every choice has its consequences."
I first read around about half of A Dance of Cloaks around about September last year, when I was on holiday in France. I enjoyed it when I read it then – enough to return to it a year later, but I never got around to finishing the book the first time around because I had to reset my iPod that I was reading it on to factory settings thus wiping the book from the device. I never got around to getting back into it, and I was glad when it eventually found its way to a publisher, in this case Orbit – who are very self-published friendly – take Michael J. Sullivan’s Riryia Revelations, for example – which was also initially self-published, and thus I finally got the chance to read the first novel in the Shadowdance series from David Daglish in full, and I was pleased to discover that the novel is executed pretty well indeed. It’s a solid, confident and engaging novel with some very interesting characters, but I think that its major problem here is that we get a sense of deja vu. We’ve seen pretty much everything that happens in A Dance of Cloaks before – and what unfolds in the pages of this novel is nothing new. George RR Martin, Peter V. Brett, Mark Lawrence, Brent Weeks, Joe Abercrombie and their ilk have done grimdark fantasy – something that this novel certainly is, multiple times before, and in most cases, have pulled it off a heck of a lot better.
However, if you’re not tired of the grimdark scene just yet, then the Shadowdance novels, starting with A Dance of Cloaks - will be right up your alley. Assassins, thieves, multiple point of views, this novel has it all. Whilst I’m not a fan of the somewhat contemporary names such as Aaron being used for major characters in a fantasy world this is merely a minor niggle – the book still manages to be a very solid read that gives us some nuanced and interesting three-dimensional characters, each with their own stories to tell. I never got tired of reading Daglish’s various characters that were on display here – they keep the storyline going when otherwise it would have fallen into the trap of being boring and repetitive. The characters keep the reader reading, and the action scenes – of which there are many – are not to be overlooked. Daglish has a solid grasp on creating a page-turning read as well, for A Dance of Cloaks kept me hooked from the beginning onwards.
The book itself is set in a pretty well developed world, named Dezrel. Originally billed as a standalone, I learned after reading this novel that A Dance of Cloaks is set in the same world as Daglish’s Half-Orc series, but I was able to jump in and enjoy this novel without having to have read the author’s previous works. Aaron Felhom is the novel’s main protagonist, but he’s far from the only one on display here. Like A Game of Thrones or anything else that’s grimdark – Daglish doesn’t shy away from creating an atmosphere where anything can happen – rendering the novel unpredictable and engaging.
There are a few more downsides however – common fantasy staples are thrust into the spotlight once again and in certain places, I felt that I was so overloaded with characters – particularly near the end, that I was struggle to keep track of them despite how well most of them were written. The book itself therefore is flawed and imperfect – but if you’re not tired of the grimdark fantasy scene yet, then A Dance of Cloaks may well be right up your street.
“Among my favourite fantasy novels of 2012, The King’s Blood continues the Dagger and the Coin epic that proves why Daniel Abraham is one of fantasy’s...more“Among my favourite fantasy novels of 2012, The King’s Blood continues the Dagger and the Coin epic that proves why Daniel Abraham is one of fantasy’s best authors out there.” ~The Founding Fields
Yeah. The King’s Blood is very good. Whilst it’s not King of Thorns-level good, it’s certainly up there among the high end of 2012′s fantasy novels, and probably among everything that I’ve read that was released this year so far. Abraham shows that he can excel in a variety of genres, no matter whether he be writing under James SA Corey (with Ty Frank, his space opera The Expanse series), or MLN Hanover, (his urban fantasy series The Black Sun’s Daughter), or under his real name. The King’s Blood is a superb follow up to The Dragon’s Path that does not disappoint fans of Abraham’s works.
War casts its shadow over the lands that the dragons once ruled. Only the courage of a young woman with the mind of a gambler and loyalty to no one stands between hope and universal darkness.
The high and powerful will fall, the despised and broken shall rise up, and everything will be remade. And quietly, almost beneath the notice of anyone, an old, broken-hearted warrior and an apostate priest will begin a terrible journey with an impossible goal: destroy a Goddess before she eats the world.
The Dagger and the Coin series is shaping up to be another great fantasy work. Whilst perhaps there are is a heavier focus politics than one would like and the gap between novels sometimes can cause the reader to forget certain subplots and other similar things, which made the novel a rough start (I suppose I should have re-read The Dragon’s Path first), but once I found myself fully immersed in the book, the pages were flying by at a rip-roaring pace from which I could not put it down.
“Gritty fantasy has a new and enthralling addition to its ranks. If you’re a fan of Joe Abercrombie or George RR Martin, then this is one you’ll want to have under your radar.” ~The Founding Fields
I first came across this book after hearing about it on Civilian Reader, and upon finding out that it was pretty cheap on the Kindle Fire (only £1-ish), I decided to snap it up and give it a try. After all, I love gritty fantasy, but with so many already established names in the genre, what new things could Scull bring to the table that we haven’t already seen before? I was interested to find out, and I ended up tearing my way through this debut tale. However, it’s not without its flaws though, and I’ll explain what they are towards the end of the review.
"This is a world dying.
A world where wild magic leaks from the corpses of rotting gods, desperate tyrants battle over fading resources, impassive shapeshifters marshal beasts of enormous size and startling intelligence, and ravenous demons infest the northern mountains. A world where the only difference between a hero and a killer lies in the ability to justify dark deeds.
But even in this world, pockets of resistance remain. When two aging warriors save the life of a young rebel, it proves the foundation for an unlikely fellowship. A fellowship united against tyranny, yet composed of self-righteous outlaws, crippled turncoats and amoral mercenaries. A grim company, indeed…"
As expected, The Grim Company is the opening volume in a new Fantasy trilogy, which bears the same name as its title. If you’ve any doubts about it being a weak addition to the already established ranks of dark fantasy then you should put them aside, for Luke Scull has crafted a debut tale that will keep you hooked right the way through, with a strong story, interesting characters, a harsh outlook on the world and a very interesting plot. Whilst this may not be the most original debut ever, The Grim Company’s biggest achievement is easily making you feel like you’re not reading an Abercrombie-knock off. The book is firmly its own novel.
Character wise, Scull delivers some tried and true archetypes such as Davarus Cole, a man who believes that it’s his destiny to be the leader, the most awesome character of them all and lead the people against the evil that oppresses them. However, Cole is actually not all that likable, and comes across as a bit of an arrogant prick at times, with a warped view of how things should work and often ignores what is happening right in front of him. We also get the likes of Eremul the Halfmage, a sorcerer spared by the evil ruler Salazar that followed a purge which left other magic users in disarray, Brodar Kayne, a man who was once Champion of the Shaman and is now in hiding from his former master, among others, who are an interesting cohort that, along with the plot of overthrowing the lord ruler can sometimes echo Brandon Sanderson’s The Final Empire, but obviously with a gritter tone.
If you were put off by Abercrombie’s novels or are one of the few people who don’t like A Song of Ice and Fire, then The Grim Company will probably not be your cup of tea. Even though the book comes across as too cliche from the description that I’ve just given you and the blurb, especially with the evil leader being named Salazar, you’ll find that Scull is in familiar territory, he knows what waters he’s treading in as do you. The book also benefits from being action packed, engaging and truly a page-turning read, and once you’ve started, you won’t stop. There are however, as mentioned earlier – a few shortcomings that prevent The Grim Company from matching the likes of Abercrombie and company.
The author tries to get across a very grim setting in his book, but sometimes, the dialogue comes across as awkward in places. It also doesn’t really bring anything new to the table, for we’ve seen everything in The Grim Company before. There’s nothing that screams new and original, however – if you want a fun read from one of the hottest debut authors of 2013, The Grim Company will probably be your best bet. I was considering giving The Grim Company a slightly lower rating at the start of the review, but I’ve decided that I’m actually struggling to find that many flaws in the book as I attempt to pick it apart in this review.
“An awesome fantasy novel shows that Kemp can work his magic in almost any setting, be it in a galaxy far far away, the Warhammer World or in his own creation. A rollercoaster ride that is not to be missed.” ~The Founding Fields
I was first introduced to Paul S. Kemp ever since I read and enjoyed The Old Republic: Deceived, and when the chance came to read his first novel in an original fantasy setting (he’s previously written in Star Wars, Warhammer Fantasy, and the Wizards of the Coast settings, the latter of which I haven’t read but have ordered, and I think that’s all, correct me if I’m wrong). However, upon reading The Hammer and the Blade, not only did it exceed my expectations, but I had a whole lot of fun reading it. In fact, it’s one of the best fantasy novels that I’ve so far this year, and I’m eagerly awaiting to see what Kemp can bring to the table next (he’s got two new Star Wars novels in progress as well, which is very good), so without further ado, let’s get stuck into this review, after a quick summary of the plot, taken from Angry Robot.
Kill the demon.
Steal the treasure.
Retire to a life of luxury.
Sounds easy when you put it like that.
Unfortunately for Egil and Nix, when the demon they kill has friends in high places, retirement is not an option.
File Under: Fantasy [ Derring Don't | Hammer Time | Family Affair | Hell Spawn ]
First, let’s talk about the characters, Egil and Nix. They’re a memorable duo that take centre stage, and the book is told from mostly their third person POV. Their charisma is great, and they work well as a team with constant banter to keep you entertained throughout the fantasy novel which, despite its short blurb, is a wonderful journey throughout the original fantasy world created by Kemp, which is in fact the first novel in which he’s done so. The characters themselves come across as believable and they’re easy to root for, and they’re on of my favourite fantasy duos right now, alongside Royce and Hadrian of Michael J. Sullivan’s Riryia Revelations, which was also a fantastic read.
Kemp has created a novel that will have you hooked right from the get go, with a thrilling opening that sets the stage for where the novel will take us, and will drag you in right from the start. You won’t be able to put this book down, and when it’s done, you’ll be left wanting for more. Kemp makes you want to know more about the world in which The Hammer and the Blade is set in, and has done a fantastic display of worldbuilding here, and doesn’t manage to slow down the ferocious pace in which this novel tears along at. There’s never a dull moment.
Although the cover art could, and probably should have been better, The Hammer and the Blade is another one of those books that reinforces the fact that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. The novel itself is a whole lot of fun, and there are several amusing parts throughout and it is certainly a refreshing read for any fantasy fan if they’ve just come out of reading A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin. Although Kemp’s novel doesn’t have the same amount of depth as Martin’s creation, it doesn’t need to – the novel is a fantastic ride, with there always being something to watch out for as you keep reading, with plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing as to where the plot’s going to go.
Kemp has created a well thought out novel here that has a wonderful prose, and the battle scenes are entertaining, action-packed and will have you turning pages even quicker in order to find out the result. There aren’t any unbelievable characters in the novel, which makes it a fun and entertaining read, with the characters developing well throughout, complete with an well-planned magic system that is quite original. Fans of Michael J. Sullivan’s The Riryia Revelations novels will love The Hammer and the Blade, even if it is a bit darker and different. If you’ve read Kemp’s previous Star Wars novels and The Forgotten Realms books, check out this link where the author delivers a sales pitch to convince you. That is, if you’re not convinced already by this review, (and Shadowhawk’s, here.)
More by Paul S. Kemp: The Old Republic: Deceived, Crosscurrent, Riptide, Twilight Falling, Dawn of Night, Midnight’s Mask, Shadow’s Witness, Shadowbred, Shadowstorm, Shadowrealm, Godborn. (less)