Sebastien De Castell’s Greatcoats series so far has been really fun to read and the first two books have ended up as among my favourites in the respective years that they were released in and this latest release is likely to be no exception as I was blown away once again in the latest instalment which pits Falcio, Kest and Brasti against someone who has killed one of their friends, a Saint. It turns out that the Saints are turning up dead left right and centre, meaning that the planned agreement to put Aline on the Throne may not take place if the Dukes have their way.
In order to stop the country from turning into a theocracy following the influx of religious soldiers to protect Churches, Falcio and company must find the killer who is capable of turning Saints mad through the use of an Iron Mask. Of course, finding the killer won’t be the hardest challenge, but killing him will be.
De Castell manages to up the stakes for the third Greatcoats novel that sees the characters and their relationships are as fun and enjoyable as ever and it’s great to see that the usual exchanges have returned. We even get to see characters who use to fall on the villainous side of the spectrum in a new light, and this allows for a nice change in the character dynamics as they continue to grow throughout the course of the book.
The pace of the book is solid and it continues the fine form of the series, with a smooth narrative that makes the best use of the fantastic action that keeps you on the edge of your seat. The humour pays off strongly on top of this as well with De Castell bringing everything that he can to the table to make a really enjoyable book that’s incredibly fun to read.
Saint’s Blood builds on the worldbuilding that begun in the first two novels. The focus of religion being pushed to the forefront gives us time to explore Falcio’s reaction to it as he begins to question his belief, and it’s interesting to see how De Castell tackles the subject of faith in this novel. This goes some way to helping create a fully-realised world that along with the character growth makes the final act all the more rewarding, and I really can’t wait to see where De Castell takes the audience from here. There’s too much potential to continue to explore and I can’t wait for the next novel in the Greatcoats series, and hopefully it continues the form of all the novels that we’ve had so far.
This is rapidly turning into one of my favourite fantasy series that I've read. It's not quite a full five though, more like a 4.5 - but if you haven'This is rapidly turning into one of my favourite fantasy series that I've read. It's not quite a full five though, more like a 4.5 - but if you haven't already read the Shadows of the Apt series then you really should be. ...more
Epic fantasies can be tricky reads as there’s usually a lot of things to get right. The world building has to be balanced with the development of plot, pace and characters, and if one isn't quite as effective as the other then everything starts to crumble. The Weight of a Crown however, is one that manages to keep the reader entertained and hooked for the most part, largely allowing for an interesting read even if it is not without problems of its own. It follows, like many epics, the Game of Thrones approach of tackling several wide storylines with different characters, with four in particular being the ones that we share much of our point of view with throughout the book.
We meet people like Nicolas who is an apprentice to an engraver, where he discovers that he has control of a new power. Nicolas in turn is joined by a slave named Jeina, and a Curahshar soldier named Xasho, one of the few survivors following an ambush by a rival force. There’s also Bokrham, the Lord Commander who has come through the ranks to become Regent following the disappearance of Prince Tobin. It can be difficult to juggle the narrative especially when for the most part their storylines are kept separate and will possibly only interlink in later books, but here it's pulled off effectively enough to give the reader a clear sense of development and progression, as well as laying plenty of groundwork for the future.
However at the same time that also presents a problem with The Weight of a Crown, and readers wanting an immediate resolution may be disappointed no matter how well written the book may well be, and it's certainly something that's written well. However standalone epic fantasies are a rarity in fiction nowadays so as long as you go in with that expectation in mind then the problem shouldn't be too offputting. But one thing that I did notice was the vast amount of cliffhangers featured here, not just one, so it will certainly be interesting to see how their respective differences are dealt with.
Aside from the exposition heavy scenes, that happen early on in The Weight of a Crown as well as the slow pace it tends to move at, Tavis Kaeden's novel is a decent read and the characters are well created with several layers of intrigue between them that keep them fresh and exciting. Time will tell whether the sequel will pay off all these loose ends however, and it's something that I probably will check out at some point. Regardless of that though it's easy to see why this was the chosen novel from Lynn's Books. There's a lot to like about it.
The Copper Cat Trilogy has been one of my favourites of recent years in the epic fantasy genre. It’s fun, engaging and well-written, feeling a lot like David Lynch’s Gentleman’s Bastard series and working really well as a result. The characters have been really fun to follow and it was great to see Aaron Firth Wydrin, and Sebastian Caverson return even if this is the conclusion to the Trilogy. We follow them on their latest assignment from the deadly pirate (and Wydrin’s mother) Captain Devinia the Red , and it’s great fun to read as the novel never slows down, making use of an active imagination to tell a fascinating story.
The Silver Tide sends our protagonists to an island that nobody had ever returned from, and it’s interesting to see how the setting shapes how the book plays out, making uses of a Nassau-like location. However even the bravest of pirates knows that to venture beyond the Two Birds boundaries is to not return, and it’s interesting to follow the three through this journey that splits up the three, sending Sebastian on one mission whilst Wydrin and Frith on another. This blend of narrative allows for an incredibly entertaining read, and it’s not often nowadays you see fantasy that isn’t afraid to use pretty much everything that the genre has to offer.
The pace is electrifying and manages to make use of the fantasy creatures in such a way that doesn’t feel cheap. The sheer range of things that are featured in this book is fascinating, there’s Dragons, Gods, and Time Travel, and that’s just for starters, as Williams holds nothing back in order to create an amazing finale.
The interactions are great throughout the book, with some brilliant exchanges between the characters that only makes you miss them more when you finish the novel. There are plenty of themes that are used here to great effect that really help develop the characters, making them all the more captivating and ensuring that I won’t forget them in a hurry.
I really didn’t want this book to end as these characters have been so much fun to read over the course of the Trilogy, and there was also the worry that the ending would be a letdown. However, any doubts were quickly pushed aside. Williams manages to make everything work together so well and as a result, that makes it three out of three for The Copper Cat, making the Trilogy as a whole a must-read for fantasy fans. ...more
Bradley P. Beaulieu is an author who I’ve been wanting to read for a while so that when I saw Twelve Kings on Amazon when I was in France over the summer as part of Gollancz’ pre-ordering ebooks for £1.99 deal and I snapped it up without hesitation. When it was released, I eagerly dove into it looking for a good new fantasy novel, and the book didn’t disappoint, serving up as one of the better releases of the year in the genre, making use of an imaginative world that isn’t just your standard medieval, Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings inspired fantasy. It’s different, original and unique, with a fantastic backdrop and some great characters that keep the novel fresh and engaging.
The desert city of Sharakhai has to be one of the most captivating locations that I’ve read in a fantasy book, immersed in so much detail. It’s surrounded not by water or grass but by sand, and serves as a trade centre for visitors from across the world. It’s an interesting backdrop for a story and is fully brought to life here as we get a fantastic sense of world building brought about by Beaulieu, who captures the city in all its glory. However, the city itself is not quite an ideal home, for the Twelve Kings have ruled its land for four hundred years, immortal and cruel. Most can only pray for their destruction, as to do much more would only invite destruction. The book hones in on one major protagonist over the course of the novel, the well developed Çeda who serves as a way into this world. Having gone through an interesting background, she knows the cruelty of the Kings all too well, with them being responsible for her mother’s death. Determined to take down the Kings, she may find answers in a book left from her mother, that hold mysterious, enigmatic writings, and only by answering the puzzles can she learn more about its contents.
The rich mythology present in Twelve Kings is fantastic, as Beaulieu really handles everything well. However, the writer never lets any of it overshadow the characters, and although there are others involved, the main focus is on Çeda. If you like the character, then chances are, you’ll like the book, because even though the pacing is a tad inconsistent at times, there are draws in pretty much every other area, and there are even a couple of twists that work fantastically within the novel, and the fact that Beaulieu keeps Çeda at the heart of the book really works, making the reader more likely to care about the character given the amount of time the author gets to flesh out her character.
Twelve Kings feels like it sets up a series and given what we’ve seen, it serves as a teaser into the rich and imaginative world that Beaulieu has to offer. He’s one of the few authors who actually manages to handle flashbacks, which are present, well, weaving them into the story to enhance it rather than simply provide chapter breaks. Yes, it may not quite be perfect, with the pacing issues that the book has preventing it from being a flawless book, it is still a very, very good one that has created a world I can’t wait to return to. Hopefully, the follow up, With Blood Upon The Sand will be just as good.
Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.
Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.
The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows - everyone knows - that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn't, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.
But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.
Naomi Novik is the writer of the Temeraire series and it’s something that I’ve been meaning to catch up on for a while now, ever since I really enjoyed reading the first book, His Majesty’s Dragon. So when I saw Uprooted show up on NetGalley recently I leapt at the chance and once I got stuck into it, I quickly devoured it, finishing this spellbinding young adult novel as quickly as I could. It’s just got everything you could want from a YA Fantasy, a well developed world, some strong character focus, no boring, Chosen One clichés, and enough awesomeness to keep you entertained right the way through. If you love epic fantasy, then this is certainly something that you should consider reading, because it’s certainly one of the stronger ones that we’ve had this year.
Most stories take a while to truly get into but that’s not the case with Uprooted – you’re drawn in quickly from the start and Novik refuses to let you go, weaving a compelling, entrancing storyline that focuses on the main female character, Agniezeka, giving her some fantastic depth and making her the strong focus of a character driven story. It’s refreshingly optimistic for a fantasy novel as well, and will come as a breath of fresh air in a market where grimdark fantasy rules. It’s a fairy tale for the modern era, and really impresses in its delivery, serving up an excellently paced standalone novel that leaves a lasting and memorable impression on the reader.
The characters are rich and compelling. Agniezeka, a girl who lives on the border of the corrupt woods, is someone who knows and understands that the Dragon, a cold, wise wizard, demands a terrible price to keep the woods at bay, a young girl from the village that she loves. Agniezeka, much like everyone else, expects the Dragon to take Kaisa, a brave, graceful girl who’s her best friend, and has everything that she doesn’t, serving as the most beautiful girl in the village. The Dragon would be mad to take anyone else but her, right? Wrong. The Dragon’s choosing spell lands on Agniezeka, and her life is changed forever, kickstarting the plot for Uprooted as she finds herself now in the service of the Dragon for the next ten years. However, she has to be watchful, because the threat of the woods is ever present.
Novik uses a few clichés in Uprooted, primarily in the character department, such as the elder mentor to the younger main character (Obi-Wan Kenobi, Gandalf and Dumbledore all say hello), and the love interest to the main protagonist who acts like a jerk. However, when clichés are written well it doesn’t really matter that they’re clichés at all, and that’s very much the case with this novel, with the characters feeling so real that they somehow manage to feel fresh and exciting despite the fact that we’ve seen so many of their kind before. It’s also helped that it’s not just the clichés that are written well, everything is. The magic system is well developed and the world building is fantastic, with the plot having enough depth and moving along quickly enough to keep the reader hooked.
Uprooted is an incredibly captivating read and is something that comes highly recommended for not only fans of Novik’s Temeraire novels, readers looking to try out her work for the first time, but also fans of fantasy and young adult fiction in general. There’s an excellent depth to this novel and it works incredibly well as a standalone, and this is probably another read that’s going to end up on the ‘Best Of’ list come the year’s end.
Well, I actually finished this a few days ago, but forgot about updating this on Goodreads until today. Pretty good second novel in the series, thoseWell, I actually finished this a few days ago, but forgot about updating this on Goodreads until today. Pretty good second novel in the series, those of you who enjoyed the first will like this. Review soon!...more
Wydrin of Crosshaven, Sir Sebastian and Lord Aaron Frith are experienced in the perils of stirring up the old gods. They are also familiar with defeating them, and the heroes of Baneswatch are now enjoying the perks of suddenly being very much in demand for their services.
When a job comes up in the distant city of Skaldshollow, it looks like easy coin - retrieve a stolen item, admire the views, get paid. But in a place twisted and haunted by ancient magic, with the most infamous mage of them all, Joah Demonsworn, making a reappearance, our heroes soon find themselves threatened by enemies on all sides, old and new. And in the frozen mountains, the stones are walking..."
One of the debut books of 2014 that I really enjoyed was Jen Williams’ awesome The Copper Promise, so when I heard about the sequel The Iron Ghost, there was no way that I wasn’t going to read it, having been so impressed by the first book. It was good to see that the follow up was just as good, offering a suspenseful, action packed and fun sequel that fans of the first book should really enjoy.
Following the events of the first novel, Sir Sebastian and Lord Aaron Frith now find themselves with plenty of suitors for their services, and are experiencing the perks of being in high demand, and then, they make the mistake of taking up an easy job in the distant city of Skaldshollow. Of course, this job isn’t as easy as it sounds on paper, and soon the characters are thrust back into a conflict where they’re beset from enemies on all sides, allowing for a very interesting second act, that’s well plotted an keeps up the pace of the first novel delivering another strong impression on the reader. Far too often, fantasy trilogies fail at the second hurdle, but I’m happy to say that The Iron Ghost is certainly not one of those.
The characters themselves continue to remain some of the best parts about this book. Sebastian and Aaron Frith are great fun, and it’s good to be reacquainted with them in the sequel. Joining them are the equally excellent additions of characters like the most infamous mage of them all, Joah Demonsworn, who makes a worthy antagonist for the two characters. They are given more depth here and pushed into new and exciting situations that helps keep the book feeling very entertaining indeed.
The pace of the book is excellent and there is never a dull moment. The story is well plotted with confidence and the detail to the world that we’re presented with really helps readers immerse in the story and you’ll be left wanting to read even more. The detail in some of the action sequences is fantastic to see and the focus on the characters, particularly Joah Demonsworn, allows for a very interesting read. The Iron Ghost has a bit of everything that you could want to a sequel of a book that was already a strong debut.
The Iron Ghost was easy to get through, and was something that you don’t have to put too much effort into reading as you’ll find that the pages quickly fly by. The writing is incredibly solid and the book once again keeps the feeling of old, good epic fantasy that remains very fun to read. Williams has solidified a place on my must-read list going forward with a very strong second act, and if you haven’t yet had the chance to read The Copper Promise trilogy, then you should certainly give the first novel a try, because there are a lot of things to love about them both, and I really wouldn’t be surprised to find the sequel on my best of list come the end of the year.
Tristia is a nation overcome by intrigue and corruption. The idealistic young King Paelis is dead and the Greatcoats – legendary travelling magistrates who brought justice to the Kingdom – have been branded as traitors. But just before his head was impaled on a spike, the King swore each of his hundred and forty-four Greatcoats to a different mission.
Falcio Val Mond, First Cantor, with the help of fellow Greatcoats Kest and Brasti, has completed his King’s final task: he has found his Charoites – well, one at least, and she was not quite what they expected. Now they must protect the girl from the many who would see her dead, and place her on the throne of a lawless kingdom. That would be simple enough, if it weren’t for the Daishini, an equally legendary band of assassins, getting in their way, not to forget the Dukes who are determined to hold on to their fractured Kingdoms, or the fact that the heir to the throne is only thirteen years old. Oh, and the poison that is slowly killing Falcio.
That’s not even mentioning the Greatcoat’s Lament…
Like most people, I loved the first novel in the Greatcoats series, with Sebastien De Castell’s debut novel being one of the best books of 2014. So naturally, I was incredibly excited when the second book, Knight’s Shadow, turned up in the post and I couldn’t wait to get stuck in. As it turned out, this book turned out to be just as excellent as the first one, offering another strong contender for the best book of the year when it inevitably reaches its end. There’s so much good stuff here that will appeal a lot to people who have already read the first novel, and if you enjoyed that then you’ll probably love this book as well.
Picking up where the first book left off, Knight’s Shadow again follows the story of Falcio Val Mond, the First Cantor, who has now found one of the King’s Charoites. Along with Kest and Bratsi, fellow Greatcoats, Falcio has to protect the thirteen year old girl, who’s not quite what they expected, from the many who would see her dead in order to place her on the throne of a kingdom without a king. Of course, in the life of a Greatcoat, this is never going to be easy, because they have to deal with not only the Daishini, a band of assassins that’s just as legendary as they are, but also Dukes determined to hold onto what’s left of their Kingdoms. And to make matters worse, Falcio is succumbing to a slow poison, and doesn’t have that long left to live. So it’s safe to say that the odds are stacked against them.
The story itself is a bit longer than the first novel, Traitor’s Blade, and as a result took me a bit longer to get through it but I still enjoyed every minute of what I read. De Castell has successfully proved that he’s not just capable of putting out one good book, and is able to bring the second to the table in an incredibly good way. Narrated in first person once again by Falcio, the story itself is very cleverly plotted and will be instantly familiar to those who loved the first book. The pace itself is good as well, as the increase in the pagecount does not necessarily allow for a slower read, as Castell manages to keep the stakes high throughout the novel.
The character development is handled pretty well over the course of this book with the main action being centred on Falcio Val Mond as one would expect. His character continues to get fleshed out and he continues to be incredibly well developed as Castell puts his character through the wire time and time again. It helps that the writer handles dialogue extremely well so that we get to see some fantastic interactions between the different characters in this book. And on top of that, the action is also extremely well written, with some great scenes that help make this book a must read.
Knight’s Shadow is a book that should live up to your expectations. The world-building continues to be excellent and the multiple villains featured are just as interesting as the protagonists, with the book taking a darker turn than the first. Much like the first novel, it’s very comparable to the incredible Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, and if you want some Musketeers (or Musketeers-esque stories) and the BBC’s series isn’t doing it for you (I jumped ship after the first episode), then Knight’s Shadow is certainly worth a look into. Therefore, much like the first , it’ll probably be one of the best book’s you’ll read this year, coming highly recommended.
The capital has fallen... Field Marshal Tamas returns to his beloved country to find that for the first time in history, the capital city of Adro lies in the hands of a foreign invader. His son is missing, his allies are indistinguishable from his foes, and reinforcements are several weeks away. An army divided... With the Kez still bearing down upon them and without clear leadership, the Adran army has turned against itself. Inspector Adamat is drawn into the very heart of this new mutiny with promises of finding his kidnapped son. All hope rests with one... And Taniel Two-shot, hunted by men he once thought his friends, must safeguard the only chance Adro has of getting through this war without being destroyed...
THE AUTUMN REPUBLIC is the epic conclusion that began with Promise of Blood and The Crimson Campaign
The Powder Mage Trilogy has been one of my favourites of recent years in terms of epic fantasy. Both Promise of Blood and The Crimson Campaign featured on best of the year lists and I was eager to see what Brian McClellan would do with the final act, The Autumn Republic. Would he fail to deliver a satisfactory ending or would he knock it out of the park like the previous two novels? I was kind of worried going into this book if it would deliver or not, but rest assured, The Autumn Republic quickly blew any previous expectations out of the water and delivered an excellent finale that cements this trilogy as a ‘must read’ for anyone looking to read more fantasy, and also will have readers looking forward to see what McClellan comes up with next, as he most certainly will be an author to look forward to even once this has concluded.
Field Marshall Tamas has returned to his country to find its Capital, Adro under control of an invader for the first time in known history. He doesn’t know the difference between friend and foe anymore and to top it off, his son is missing. And on top of that, any reinforcements that he might be getting are several weeks away. There’s also talk of mutiny in the Adran Army, who have the Kez bearing down on them and are cut off without any clear leadership. This mutiny is about to include Inspector Adamat, who’s drawn in with the promises of finding his kidnapped son. And then – Taniel Two-Shot, having been turned on by men that he once counted as friends, has to protect the only chance that Adro has of getting through this war.
All of these three characters get good, definitive conclusions to their story that is handled very well. Tamas, Adamat and Taniel Two-Shot have all been great, well developed characters that we’ve been following over the course of the past three books and it’s great to see that McClellan gives them plenty of pagetime in the final act. We got to see new sides of characters explored here that weren’t necessarily touched upon before, with Tamas being developed a bit more and characters like Bo, Nila and more also improving. It’s good to see that the balance between character development and action sequences is handled well here, and neither is overlooked as the book flows pretty well with there never being a dull moment. The Autumn Republic is very much a book that you’ll want to make sure that you have as much time to read it in one go as possible, because once you start, you won’t want to stop. It’s that good.
The world that the characters inhabit continues to be one of the most fascinating things about this series. The use of magic is really intriguing and it’s great to see just how well it’s handled here. You can tell McClellan’s put an effort into fleshing out his world because it really shows, and with McClellan managing to develop it this well without slowing down the pace is great to see. If anything, this is one of those rare cases where trilogies actually get better as they progress – making The Autumn Republic superior to the previous two, even if the previous two were pretty damn good already.
The exciting, tense and unpredictable finale gave The Powder Mage Trilogy a very satisfying conclusion indeed. The different perspectives of the characters are all interesting and it’s great to see that McClellan spends enough time with them. If you loved the previous two books then chances are, The Autumn Republic won’t disappoint. As a result, this book comes Highly Recommended, and I can’t wait to see what McClellan comes up with next.
"The conspiracy to destroy the ruling family of the Annurian Empire is far from over.
Having learned the identity of her father's assassin, Adare flees the Dawn Palace in search of allies to challenge the coup against her family. Few trust her, but when she is believed to be touched by Intarra, patron goddess of the empire, the people rally to help her retake the capital city. As armies prepare to clash, the threat of invasion from barbarian hordes compels the rival forces to unite against their common enemy. Unknown to Adare, her brother Valyn, renegade member of the empire's most elite fighting force, has allied with the invading nomads. The terrible choices each of them has made may make war between them inevitable.
Between Valyn and Adare is their brother Kaden, rightful heir to the Unhewn Throne, who has infiltrated the Annurian capital with the help of two strange companions. The knowledge they possess of the secret history that shapes these events could save Annur or destroy it."
I wasn’t too keen on The Emperor’s Blades, the first novel from Brian Stavely’s The Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne, and I wasn’t initially planning on reading the second book, but given the vast amount of praise that the sequel was receiving with positive reviews from pretty much everywhere, I thought I’d give it a shot and I certainly wasn’t disappointed, with this novel emerging as a strong contender to be among this year’s best come the end, even though it is only the start of February.
The book itself follows from the aftermath of the first novel, with the Conspiracy against the ruling family of the Annurian Empire far from over. Thebook continues to follow the adventures of Adare, Valyn and Kaden, all caught up in their own troubles which are rapidly escalating as each character continues to get plenty of development. Adare is on the run having escaped the Dawn Palace in the aftermath of the coup, but has nowhere to turn to with few people willing to trust her until she starts to claim that she’s being touched by Intarra, the patron goddess of the empire. But to make matters worse, and unknown to Adare, her brother Valyn has joined up with invading barbarian hordes, a threat so terrible that it is forcing the rivals to combine against a common foe. And finally, caught in between the two, is Kaden, the rightful heir to the throne, who has infiltrated the Annurian capital with two mysterious allies.
If you’re looking for an example of a sequel that beats the previous book in terms of quality, then The Providence of Fire is certainly one that I’m going to point you in the direction of. It’s a step up in every sense, of the word, bigger, wider and more expansive with greater attention to not only characters but also the world that they inhabit. What could have been a book designed to only set up a third installment instead becomes a defining novel that pushes this series into the status of “must-read” novels. It’s just that good.
The book itself gives Adare plenty of things to do after she spent much of The Emperor’s Blades doing little whilst Valyn and Kaden got up to all the action. Her part in The Providence of Fire turns out to be one of the most exciting and engaging, with Adare shaping up to be one of the more enthralling characters of the book with a great element of political intrigued added to her, and it’s good to see that the development of the character has really paid off. On top of that, her supporting cast is fleshed out as well with plenty of interesting characters that help give her section of the story a massive, welcoming improvement.
With The Providence of Fire being larger than The Emperor’s Blades in terms of page count, there’s a lot to work with. As well as Adare, we spent plenty of time with Kaden and Valyn and all of these characters get some great development as their parts become more interesting and more engaging as this book starts to have a greater feel of epicness than the first. There’s a sense of urgency, unpredictability and several moments of great tension. It’s what The Dark Knight was to Batman Begins, and those of you who know just how better the former film was to the latter then you’ll know what to expect from this book.
For such a large novel some writers can fall into the trap of making parts drag, particularly towards the middle section, when they expand their world further, but Staveley makes no mistake here and keeps the pacing spot on for the most part. There are a few transitional problems that don’t quite work as well as they should, but despite this, they’re only minor issues and won’t detract from your reading experience as a whole.
As a result,The Providence of Fire is very good indeed. It’s a far superior second novel to the first one, and if you were put off by The Emperor’s Blades (or even if you loved it), then I can strongly recommend that you give Staveley’s The Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne a second shot. Because trust me, you won’t regret it. Expect this to feature on the top 25 books of 2015 come the year’s end for sure. It’s such a shame that the next novel doesn’t come out until 2016.
Winter is keeping Prince Jalan Kendeth far from the longed-for luxuries of his southern palace. And although the North may be home to his companion, the warrior Snorri ver Snagason, he is just as eager to leave. For the Viking is ready to challenge all of Hell to bring his wife and children back into the living world. He has Loki’s key – now all he needs is to find the door.
As all wait for the ice to unlock its jaws, the Dead King plots to claim what was so nearly his – the key to the underworld -- so that his dead subjects can rise and rule.
The Red Queen’s War Trilogy is quickly shaping up to be just as strong as the previous Broken Empire novels by Mark Lawrence as The Liar’s Key is a fantastic second entry in the trilogy, which will not disappoint fans of the previous novel as Lawrence continues the adventures of Jalan Kendeth and warrior companion Snorri ver Snagason. Two books in and it’s reminding me very much of the Gotrek & Felix Warhammer Fantasy series, but in a very good way indeed because both are fantastic. We are reintroduced to our characters in the aftermath of their journey to the Black Fort, and Snorri is restless. He wants to get back into the game to search for his wife and children to bring them back to the world of the living, and he now has a means to an end, Loki’s Key. Now all he needs to do is find the door to the afterlife, which is going to be more difficult in practice than on paper.
The quest continues in The Liar’s Key with the addition of two new interesting companions who help shake up the main cast dynamic and keep it fresh. Joining Jalan and Snorri are Kara and Hennan, latecomers who are a witch and an orphan boy respectively. It makes for a nice lineup especially with the fact that the four characters all have their own reasons for being there, and the interactions between the cast is handled well as Lawrence gives them plenty to do.
I mentioned earlier the comparison to Gotrek & Felix, and both share a similar approach that makes both series feel very much like old school fantasy novels with quests as their backdrop (although obviously the motivations for each character are different, Gotrek wants to die a warrior’s death as a Slayer, whilst Snorri wants to find his family in the afterlife), and both are quite fun to read, and I couldn’t put them down while reading them. The Liar’s Key is its own unique beast though, offering an interesting, compelling approach that’s fresh and exciting. Lawrence knows how to keep the reader engaged and this book feels more confident and engrossing than the previous book, and with a fascinating backdrop, we just can’t help but read on.
The characters continue to be so rich and compelling, and easy to get behind and support. Both Jalan and Snorri are flawed and make for well-rounded characters that have some excellent interactions throughout the book and Jalan’s narration is just as good as in the previous novel. The Liar’s Key itself has a grimdark feel despite the old school focus on a quest, but those who aren’t necessarily a fan of the darker approach shouldn’t be put off by the contents within this book. There’s enough there to satisfy everyone, and fans of the previous novel should certainly welcome a second outing.
“An excellent novel that will pull you in with an imaginative world and fascinating characters. It’s one of those books that you won’t be able to stop reading, and it’s one of those books that definitely lives up to all the hype.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
You’ve got to be careful when you’re chasing a murderer through Bulikov, for the world is not as it should be in that city. When the gods were destroyed and all worship of them banned by the Polis, reality folded; now stairs lead to nowhere, alleyways have become portals to the past and criminals disappear into thin air.
The murder of Dr. Efrem Pangyui, the Polis diplomat researching the Continent’s past has begun something and now whispers of an uprising flutter out from invisible corners.
Only one woman may be willing to peruse the truth – but it is likely to cost her everything.
Robert Jackson Bennett has been one of those authors who I really should get around to reading more of especially with the praise that he has received for all of his novels. As of the time of writing this review I have only read The Company Man, which I ended up really enjoying. However, it wouldn’t be until City of Stairs when I would return to Bennett’s work, and was really glad that I was able to check it out because I was quite simply blown away with it. I know I’ve been praising a lot of books that I’ve been reviewing lately, (Peter F. Hamilton’s The Abyss Beyond Dreams and Steven Erikson’s Willful Child) but the fact is, they’ve all been good books. And City of Stairs is certainly no exception to that rule as Robert Jackson Bennett steps out and knocks it out of the park.
The city of Bulikov once boasted the powers of Gods and had the ability to conquer the world. However, the mysterious deaths of its divine protectors has meant that the city has fallen into a shadow of its former self, and now Bulikov is simply just another outpost of a new world power with strict laws on censorship among other things.
This is where we meet Shara Divani. On paper, she’s an average diplomat sent by the authorities of Bulikov’s enemies. However, in secret, Shara is an expert spy, tasked with finding out who killed an innocent historian, Dr. Efrem Pangyui, who shouldn’t really have anything to hide. But little does she know that she’s about to stumble out of her depth, and the Gods themselves might not be as dead as everyone thought they were…
First off, there’s a lot of world building on display here. It takes the reader a while to get into the novel but trust me, don’t let that put you off. It’s well developed and well created, with some great attention to detail on display here. Bennett has, as far as I am aware, has never written an all-out fantasy epic before, with Mr. Shivers, The Company Man, The Troupe and American Elsewhere all being very different reads but it’s good to see that Bennett has continued his spectacular form across to a different genre from what we’ve come to expect from this writer.
Although the pace doesn’t quite pick up until midway through, City of Stairs is still an excellent success. You’ll find yourself immersed in the world that Bennett has created here and his characters are just as strong. Sigrud, Shara’s ally, is just as awesome and one of the novel’s clear standouts. Although Shara is the main character, Bennett makes his secondary cast leave a distinctive impression on the reader and that is excellent to see.
This is one of those books where once you get into it, you won’t be able to stop. It’s engrossing, captivating and engaging and is at this rate, on course to be one of the better novels of the year. There’s just so much good things about City of Stairs that it’s hard to ignore, and you’ll be blown away by just how awesome it is. There’s a good reason why everyone’s talking about this book, and believe me, you won’t want to miss out on the hype.