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Harbingers of Mortality
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Book of the Month Fantasy > April Fantasy BotM: Harbingers of Mortality

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message 1: by Scott, Fabled Reviewer o' Tales! (new) - rated it 4 stars

Scott (Bookblogger) | 1315 comments Mod
After a bit of a hiccup with the selection we have arrived with Harbingers of Mortality by Steve Thomas. Enjoy!


message 2: by Steve (last edited Apr 01, 2012 08:24PM) (new) - added it

Steve Thomas | 198 comments This should be fun. If anyone has any questions, I'll be watching this thread and would love to answer them. With your indulgence, I'd like to throw in a little commentary here and there, and maybe even some deleted scenes if there's any interest.


Commentary:

People who have read both my novels might notice a discrepancy in the naming conventions for Gurdur characters. In An Exercise in Futility, I gave most of them Hebrew names. I had my reasons for that, but I've come to view it as a mistake. I feel like it took away more than it added, so I stripped that convention from "Harbingers." Gurdur names are still, however, Hebrew-derived, in the name of consistency. For example, Jeshu is a shortened version of Jeshua. I like to use the 80 year gap between novels as an excuse.

And a discussion question:

How would civilization advance if people had unlimited access to unfettered magic from the very beginning? The answer I came to is a key element of this novel.


message 3: by Jeffrey, Lentarian Fire Thrower (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jeffrey Poole (Jaymikal) | 2287 comments Mod
Damn, I thought for certain I had already picked up a copy of this. I think I have too many ereader apps on my iPad. Checking iBooks, Nook, Kindle, etc...


message 4: by Jeffrey, Lentarian Fire Thrower (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jeffrey Poole (Jaymikal) | 2287 comments Mod
Ok, I found An Exercise in Futility, but not Harbingers... Phooey. Well, I'm off to pick up a copy! Will try on Smashwords first, I think. I can leave a review on SW and Amazon if I purchase from SW.


message 5: by Steve (new) - added it

Steve Thomas | 198 comments You should be able to find the ebook on Smashwords, B&N, or Amazon.


Pauline Ross (PaulineMRoss) Jeffrey wrote: "I think I have too many ereader apps on my iPad. Checking iBooks, Nook, Kindle, etc... "

You need a copy of Calibre (free software). It will organise, catalogue and backup all your ebooks, and convert from one format to another.


message 7: by Steve (new) - added it

Steve Thomas | 198 comments Has anyone had a chance to start reading it?

Another bit of commentary: There is a pattern to the structure of the chapters. If you figure out that pattern, I actually reveal something a little early.


Pauline Ross (PaulineMRoss) Steve wrote: "Has anyone had a chance to start reading it?

Started yesterday. Odd bit of serendipity - I've had it for months, and it's been gradually rising to the top of my tbr pile. Just when it gets there - the group read starts! I'm liking it so far - the writing seems so much more confident, somehow, than in 'Exercise'. And the world-building is a little more detailed, which I always enjoy.

Another bit of commentary: There is a pattern to the structure of the chapters. If you figure out that pattern, I actually reveal something a little ..."

I noticed the 'Interlude'. Beyond that...?


message 9: by Jeffrey, Lentarian Fire Thrower (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jeffrey Poole (Jaymikal) | 2287 comments Mod
I've started. Looking good so far! Haven't made it far enough to notice anything about the chapters...


message 10: by Steve (new) - added it

Steve Thomas | 198 comments Pauline wrote: "Steve wrote: "Has anyone had a chance to start reading it?

Started yesterday. Odd bit of serendipity - I've had it for months, and it's been gradually rising to the top of my tbr pile. Just when i..."



That is a fortuitous bit of timing. I did read your review of "An Exercise in Futility." You made a lot of good points, and I like to think that a lot of the issues you had with it were things I addressed in "Harbingers." I do hope you enjoy this one more.


Jeffrey wrote: "I've started. Looking good so far! Haven't made it far enough to notice anything about the chapters..."

It's probably too early for that clue to be of any use, but the interludes are called such because they don't fit the pattern. The pattern won't be obvious yet.


Pauline Ross (PaulineMRoss) I'm about 40% in, just at the start of part 2, and it seems like a good point to make some comments. May be slightly spoilerish, for those who haven't read that far.

I'm fascinated by the Thelluk idea. It's a very common strategy amongst primates, where the male is much bigger (and therefore more powerful) than any of the females, so infanticide makes evolutionary sense. I've never heard of it amongst human societies, not in any species-wide form, although there are very powerful individuals with harems, and some societies allow multiple wives. But infanticide - bit frowned upon, really. And I'm not really sure it would work for humans, whose children have such a long growing period. I liked the recognition, though, that where everyone has very powerful magic, a group of females could easily out-magic a single male, and they therefore control the situation (although why would they allow the infanticide? not sure about that). Anyway, terrific idea, very original.

The magic in this book is getting very powerful. In 'Exercise', it seemed quite controlled, a bit difficult to master, but limited in application, but here everyone seems to be able to do anything they want, and the only difference is in the source of the power.

The characters - I love, love, love the characters here, especially the gloriously motley group of Jeshu, Krinpet, Vunrata and Gandahar. Was there ever a less well-matched collection of people? Kyandra and Ghorim I'm less sure about - they're interesting, certainly, but a lot less fun. The humour in this book took me by surprise. I don't remember 'Exercise' being so funny, but this one is terrific, lots of laugh out loud moments. I have absolutely no idea whatsoever where the story is going - every twist and turn of the plot is a complete surprise to me, but that's fine.

Finally, for those who (like me) are mapaholics, I found a map of sorts on the author's website. It's a bit minimalist, but hey, all maps are good, right? It gives me some idea which way is up.

Still looking for the mysterious pattern to the chapters...


message 12: by Steve (last edited Apr 12, 2012 11:15AM) (new) - added it

Steve Thomas | 198 comments I don't know if responding to any of those points makes me a bad person, so I'll put it in spoiler tags. I think those are good points, and worth discussing.

(view spoiler)

Anyway, here's a better map. It's still not something I can put in the book, but it's an improvement. It's something I've been half-heartedly working on.

www.kalhariaonline.com/map/KalhariaT3...

This was IY105, so the Plains of Gurdur were still intact. In the time of "Harbingers," it would have been divided in two. The west half is the province of Gurdur; the east half is Spurrig. The Academy would be in southeast Spurrig.

Oh, and while I'm at it, here's something that I never had a chance to make explicit. Vunrata's name literally translates to "Eighth Child." I chose 8 as a homage to one of my favorite authors, Terry Pratchett (In his Discworld series, the number 8 is associated with magic, and 8th sons are prone to becoming wizards).

Similarly, there's a character named Chorata, which translates to "Only Child." Again, I never had a good place to spell it out, but that name carries the connotation that her mother died in childbirth.


message 13: by Scott, Fabled Reviewer o' Tales! (new) - rated it 4 stars

Scott (Bookblogger) | 1315 comments Mod
Just curious Pauline if you have looked at Steve's story Smite Me, Oh Dark One. It's pretty amusing, his upcoming book Klondaeg has a lot of humor as well.


Pauline Ross (PaulineMRoss) Steve wrote: "I don't know if responding to any of those points makes me a bad person, so I'll put it in spoiler tags. "

I think the whole point of a group read like this is to encourage a certain amount of author/reader dialogue :-) Hearing some of the background to the story is fascinating (like the names having meanings - very cool)..

On the magic: yes, I assumed there was a point to it, it was just something I noticed.

Anyway, here's a better map. Yes, that's the one I found on your website.

@Scott - I'd forgotten about 'Smite Me'! Yes, that was really funny. I love it when a book makes me laugh. So much fantasy takes itself way too seriously.


message 15: by Steve (last edited Apr 12, 2012 11:16AM) (new) - added it

Steve Thomas | 198 comments Thanks. I just want to make sure that my presence doesn't make people feel uncomfortable speaking their minds. I know indie authors have a reputation of being narcissistic and defensive. There's a difference between me saying, "That may look like a plot hole, but it gets explained later," and, "You're wrong. I'm awesome. Learn to read!" I try to stick to the former, and please stop me if I show signs of moving toward the other end of the spectrum.

As to the map...I actually forgot I posted that version. Best I've got right now. Sorry.

Another bit of trivia about the names. You may have noticed that I changed how I refer to the emperors. Kathelm II is now written Ti'Kathelm. I left their names in Kuran (by the way, Kuran is the dominant language of the empire) just for (hopefully) a little extra immersion and to strengthen the ties between emperors and month names.

But oh no! I've committed the most hated sin of fantasy names: an apostrophe!

I like to think it's justified. It would normally be written as "Ti Kathelm." In Kuran, putting a number before something indicates that it's marking order. So Ti (two) Kathelm would mean "The second Kathelm," whereas Kathelm Ti would mean "Two Kathelms." I removed the space to mash it into a single word, and popped in an apostrophe because I'm pretty sure that's how contractions work.

So in this case, the apostrophe isn't decorative. It really is indicating a contraction. Of course, the example I gave earlier, Vunrata= eighth child, is missing the apostrophe, so I guess I am being inconsistent. I just didn't know how to deal with the double capitalization in the emperor's name.

Oh, and I'm glad the tone is working out this time. Having two very sarcastic and ill-tempered main characters certainly made it easy to add humor. Most of the time, all it took was consistent characterization. I often wasn't even trying to be funny.


Pauline Ross (PaulineMRoss) Steve wrote: "But oh no! I've committed the most hated sin of fantasy names: an apostrophe! I like to think it's justified. [..] So Ti (two) Kathelm would mean "The second Kathelm," whereas Kathelm Ti would mean "Two Kathelms."

See, this is where having the author loitering is so useful. This is exactly the kind of background detail which I find fascinating. I love it when an author explains what's going on behind the scenes.

Someone once said that world-building is like an iceberg - the vast majority of it is invisible, below the water line, but it has to be there. You can tell, I think, which authors have really thought about the world they've created and which are just more focused on the action.

Oh, and I'm glad the tone is working out this time. Having two very sarcastic and ill-tempered main characters certainly made it easy to add humor. Most of the time, all it took was consistent characterization. I often wasn't even trying to be funny."

Yes, it works really well, and you're right, it all bubbles up from the characters themselves and their clashing personalities.


message 17: by Bdonu (last edited Apr 12, 2012 12:30PM) (new)

Bdonu | 4 comments Hey. I read this a while ago but wanted in on the conversation so I joined up so sorry if my memory is off.

The infanticide that potentially occurs when a Thelluk gets taken over didn't throw me at all as being un-human. I think it is because of how fantastically powerful these sorcerers are. At least for me, that pushed me off of the human analogy and more towards a Greek mythos where infanticide is far more common. Perhaps that is why I accepted it so easily... I do think it fits though. Similar to Gods, it seems like these guys have the power to fulfill all their needs so the only real threat to them is take-down by a challenger. Might as well cut that off early, just like Cronus.


Pauline Ross (PaulineMRoss) OK, I've finished it, so a few comments, which may be a bit spoilerish for anyone who hasn't read far yet.

I like the different ways essentially the same magic system is implemented in the different races (elf, Paiktur, human). That's very clever. I don't much like the way it can give them god-like powers, though (but that's just me).

I enjoyed the humour in the early part of the book, but a lot of that was lost when the Jeshu/Vunrata/Gandahar/Krinpet group split up (not entirely, but still, things got a little less entertaining).

The ending fell a little flat for me. At the final battle, I wasn't sure who I was supposed to be rooting for (and I like to be rooting for somebody, even if there's no obvious good guy/bad guy division). But the epilogue was good.

One question: (view spoiler)


message 19: by Steve (new) - added it

Steve Thomas | 198 comments Pauline wrote: "The ending fell a little flat for me. At the final battle, I wasn't sure who I was supposed to be rooting for (and I like to be rooting for somebody, even if there's no obvious good guy/bad guy division). But the epilogue was good."

Sorry to hear that about the ending. I can definitely see that, though. I'm not too into rooting for people personally, so I didn't put it in. If that's what you're after, I can understand why it would be a problem.

As to the questions:

(view spoiler)


message 20: by Bdonu (new)

Bdonu | 4 comments I'll start by saying that personally while I like rooting for characters I also like ambiguity in my plots so maybe the ending worked better for me than you, Pauline.

I'm going to spoiler-tag up just in case.

(view spoiler)


Pauline Ross (PaulineMRoss) Steve wrote: "The Red Mother..."

Keeping all the spoiler tags, just in case...

(view spoiler)


message 22: by Steve (last edited Apr 15, 2012 01:56PM) (new) - added it

Steve Thomas | 198 comments More spoiler tags.

(view spoiler)


Pauline Ross (PaulineMRoss) Still with the spoiler tags...

(view spoiler)


message 24: by Bdonu (new)

Bdonu | 4 comments When in Rome...

(view spoiler)


message 25: by Steve (new) - added it

Steve Thomas | 198 comments I think it's safe to venture outside of spoilers for this one. I'm glad to hear you found the Elves and magic systems interesting. I like to dabble in deconstruction/reconstruction, so when I made the Elves, I tried to come up with justifications for why classical Elves are the way they are.

Believe it or not, "Harbingers" was originally going to be Kyanda's story. She was on a quest to "fix" the problem of Elves not being able to regain their magic. Then the Paiktur kind of took over the story.

Here are a couple blog posts that you guys might find interesting.

The first is an article about my magic system. It doesn't say much more than Benjig did, but some of it might be new:

http://kalhariaonline.com/wordpress/?...

The other is a short story I wrote about five years ago. "Harbingers" grew out of this concept:

http://kalhariaonline.com/wordpress/?...


Pauline Ross (PaulineMRoss) Steve - those links are very interesting. I really like the idea of magic-powered spacecraft! And why not? It reminds me a little of the section in Ready Player One explaining the different zones within Oasis (the artificial reality) - some have technology and some have magic, but if your faster-than-light spaceship accidentally crosses a boundary into a magic-only zone, your warp drive stops working and you have to find a wizard to tow you back across the border :-) But a blend of magic AND technology sounds like the perfect crossover book.

Reading that you are a physicist makes me wonder - I think fantasy used to be the domain of the arts people (classicists, linguists, mythology people, like Tolkien), whereas nowadays there are more authors from the science end of the spectrum (and geeky D&D fans, of course). The former are more inclined towards arm-wavy magic works because it just does fantasy, whereas the latter want it to work within the laws of physics (even if, like your modified First Law of Thermodynamics) you have to extend or bend them slightly. But it does lead to more science-fantasy.

One of your blogposts mention the dwarves and their approach to magic, and that's something which has hardly been mentioned in your books so far. So that's another way book 3 could go.


message 27: by Steve (new) - added it

Steve Thomas | 198 comments Pauline wrote: "Reading that you are a physicist makes me wonder - I think fantasy used to be the domain of the arts people (classicists, linguists, mythology people, like Tolkien), whereas nowadays there are more authors from the science end of the spectrum (and geeky D&D fans, of course)..."

Yeah, that's an interesting point. I wonder what the demographics of fantasy authors really are. One factor could be that while the Tolkien types codified the modern fantasy genre, the primary audience ended up being nerds in the next generation, who grew up fantasy novels and role playing games games and also pursued scientific education. Then some subset of those became the next generation of authors. That could explain how magic systems evolved to become more rigorous. It would be interesting to check the backgrounds of a sampling of authors.

One of your blogposts mention the dwarves and their approach to magic, and that's something which has hardly been mentioned in your books so far. So that's another way book 3 could go.

That style of magic will show up in book 3, but I don't think Dwarves will themselves. I've been increasingly reluctant to use Elves, Dwarves, etc. because of all the lists on the internet saying that anyone who uses them should just quit writing. I also don't think I have the Dwarves fleshed out enough to distinguish my own version. Dwarves like gold, beer, and technology. It's hard to put your own spin on that without making them no longer feel like Dwarves.

I do have future plans for a Dwarf-magic answer to Vian Knights, though. That's a few books away.


message 28: by Scott, Fabled Reviewer o' Tales! (new) - rated it 4 stars

Scott (Bookblogger) | 1315 comments Mod
So I may have missed it in one of the earlier posts, but since it's the end of the month will you share the pattern that you said revealed some early info?


message 29: by Steve (new) - added it

Steve Thomas | 198 comments Yes, of course.

(view spoiler)


message 30: by Jeffrey, Lentarian Fire Thrower (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jeffrey Poole (Jaymikal) | 2287 comments Mod
Just made it back from Scottsdale and just finished the book. I liked it! I really enjoyed the magic system and how it can be depleted and then replenished. I really enjoyed the elves and how they have a set amount of magic in them and if they were to exhaust their supply of it, then they'd be dead. Very well thought out.

I, like the others, found it a little difficult in choosing who the true antagonist was, and who I should be rooting for. I enjoyed the Vian Knight, Gandahar, and I even enjoyed the assassin, Jeshu.

I think I saw this addressed somewhere else, but I would definitely move those helpful appendices from the back to the front. I found it difficult to follow the timeline. If the reader reads far enough in the chapter then the correct chronological placement be becomes clear, so it really wasn't too much of an issue. Just my own personal opinion.

Very nicely done, Steve!


message 31: by Steve (last edited Apr 28, 2012 04:01PM) (new) - added it

Steve Thomas | 198 comments Thanks. Glad you enjoyed it.

The appendices have always been a struggle for me. I can see the appeal of having them up front, and that was actually my first point. but I don't want them to fill up the sample, and people complained about them in my previous book because they're kind of dry and not the main plot. With "An Exercise In Futility," I ended up just putting a note and a link in the front of the book. Maybe I should reinstate that. They only appeal to a certain kind of fantasy reader, and I didn't want to scare anyone away.

As to the timeline, that seems to be the most common complaint. It made more sense to me to group the chapters by character, but I guess it didn't work for a lot of people. I won't be repeating that structure.


message 32: by Jeffrey, Lentarian Fire Thrower (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jeffrey Poole (Jaymikal) | 2287 comments Mod
Yeah, that's a good idea where you could put a disclaimer at the front that says the appendices are at the back of the book and is useful for figuring out... And so forth.

Or was it there and I totally missed it? :)


message 33: by Steve (new) - added it

Steve Thomas | 198 comments No, the note wasn't in this one. I had a brief overview of the calendar, but nothing directing the reader to the back.


message 34: by Jeffrey, Lentarian Fire Thrower (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jeffrey Poole (Jaymikal) | 2287 comments Mod
Definitely putting An Exercise in Futility on my TBR list. You've created a helluva world and I'm looking forward to reading more about it!


Pauline Ross (PaulineMRoss) Steve wrote: "The appendices have always been a struggle for me. I can see the appeal of having them up front, and that was actually my first point. but I don't want them to fill up the sample, [...] With "An Exercise In Futility," I ended up just putting a note and a link in the front of the book. Maybe I should reinstate that. They only appeal to a certain kind of fantasy reader, and I didn't want to scare anyone away."

I'm one of those who loves all the background information (and maps! gotta have maps...), but it's so frustrating when most of the sample is filled up with non-story. Putting them at the back, but with a link upfront, is probably the ideal solution.

Overall, this one didn't work quite as well for me as 'Exercise', but it was still very enjoyable, and I liked hearing some of the thought processes behind the story. Thank you for sharing that with us. And I agree with Jeffrey - it's a fascinating world, I'll definitely be reading the next book in the series.


message 36: by Steve (new) - added it

Steve Thomas | 198 comments I'll have to put that link back in when I get a chance.

Thanks for the compliments on the world--as both an author and a reader, world-building is my favorite part of fantasy, so it's always edifying to hear I did it right.

Sorry you didn't like this one as much as "An Exercise in Futility," Pauline. The goal is, of course, that each book is better than the last, but I read your review and understand your grievances. By the way, I do like your reviews. I've read your reviews of my own books, naturally, but a lot of your other ones as well. You obviously put a lot of thought into the books you read, so you tend to delve deeply into what works and doesn't. They're helpful.

Since the topic of the next book came up, here's a quick preview. The next one will focus on the Bellandir, who'll you recall as Gandahar's people. They hold a naval empire which is the main reason the Kalharians haven't spread off their own continent. The story will focus on a shamed prince on a quest to prove his worth and regain the loyalty of his people by means of an expedition into Ogre territory to recover an ancient family relic. Dux Noumin will also be returning as a villain. The story will segue into a larger arc that affects the whole Kalharian Empire.

I haven't made as much progress as I'd like on this one. I haven't had much time to write lately, and most of it went into Klondaeg, which was a nice breather from the Histories of Atreus novels. I like to think I'll be ready to release it sometime next year, but it's hard to predict.


Pauline Ross (PaulineMRoss) Steve wrote: "Sorry you didn't like this one as much as "An Exercise in Futility," Pauline. The goal is, of course, that each book is better than the last, but I read your review and understand your grievances.

It's not really a matter of grievances, it's more a personal thing. The more books I read and review, the more I find that my enjoyment depends on some really quirky things. Books with detailed world-building, believably flawed characters and humour all fire my enthusiasm, whereas complicated plots, mega-battles and anything-goes magic systems not so much. And anything with dragons automatically gets an extra star :-) Other readers obviously enjoy different aspects.

By the way, I do like your reviews. I've read your reviews of my own books, naturally, but a lot of your other ones as well. You obviously put a lot of thought into the books you read, so you tend to delve deeply into what works and doesn't. They're helpful.

Thanks for the kind words. I write them mainly for me (they help me focus on what I'm reading, so it doesn't just get forgotten as soon as I put the book down), but obviously I hope they help other readers too. They're not really aimed at authors, and I hope no author would take too much notice of a single review anyway, but if it's at all useful, that's a bonus. One author actually wrote a short story inspired by one line of one of my reviews, which was totally cool ;-)

Since the topic of the next book came up, here's a quick preview. The next one will focus on the Bellandir, who'll you recall as Gandahar's people. They hold a naval empire which is the main reason the Kalharians haven't spread off their own continent. "

Sounds intriguing! I'll look forward to that (whenever it appears - I'm used to George Martin's pace, so anything less than 6 years will be good).


message 38: by Jeffrey, Lentarian Fire Thrower (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jeffrey Poole (Jaymikal) | 2287 comments Mod
Ok, got my review posted everywhere I have access.

It's now available on Amazon, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, iTunes, and Shelfari.

Steve, if you send me a coupon code for Smashwords so that they think I purchased a copy there, I'll post it there, too. Great job with your book! I'm looking forward to reading the first in the series!

Big J


message 39: by Steve (new) - added it

Steve Thomas | 198 comments Jeffrey wrote: "Ok, got my review posted everywhere I have access.

It's now available on Amazon, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, iTunes, and Shelfari.

Steve, if you send me a coupon code for Smashwords..."


Thank you. I'll send you a message with the coupon code shortly.

PaulineMRoss wrote: " One author actually wrote a short story inspired by one line of one of my reviews, which was totally cool ;-)"

That does sound fun. Now I'm curious. Who was it?


Pauline Ross (PaulineMRoss) Steve wrote: "PaulineMRoss wrote: " One author actually wrote a short story inspired by one line of one of my reviews, which was totally cool ;-)"

That does sound fun. Now I'm curious. Who was it? "


It was Tom Kepler, author of The Stone Dragon. Here's a link to the blog post where he mentions it (the relevant comment is about half way down):

http://www.tomkeplerswritingblog.com/...

And the short story he wrote is terrific, which made it even better. It's in
Who Listened to Dragons, Three Stories.

As I say, I don't really write reviews for authors, but it's surprising how many of them do read reviews of their work. One author excitedly tweeted when I posted a 5* review, and Stephen Deas posted some only slightly grumpy comments on his blog when I criticised his enthusiasm for killing off characters. They're at the bottom of this post: http://www.stephendeas.com/progress-r.... It's a great series, apart from that, and the dragons are totally *awesome*.


message 41: by Steve (last edited Aug 20, 2013 01:01PM) (new) - added it

Steve Thomas | 198 comments I'll have to check both these authors out (available on nook!). KDP Select has made it very difficult for me to find satisfying indie fantasy.

PaulineMRoss wrote: "As I say, I don't really write reviews for authors, but it's surprising how many of them do read reviews of their work. "

I don't know. I feel like any writer that cares about the quality of their work should be reading reviews. They're good for evaluating your marketing strategy, too, if the reviewer talks about her expectations or preferences. You just have to have exactly the correct amount of self-esteem. Too little and you let a bad review crush your soul. Too much and you want to crush the soul of anyone who leaves a bad review.


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Books mentioned in this topic

An Exercise in Futility (other topics)
Smite Me, Oh Dark One (other topics)
The Stone Dragon (other topics)
Who Listened to Dragons, Three Stories (other topics)