James Islington's Blog
May 4, 2020
The Amazon link is here, but I imagine most other major ebook sellers will be discounted to the same!
April 23, 2020
I'm Elisabeth, James's assistant, and I'll be writing reviews every now and then for books that we think you'll enjoy if you're a fan of the Licanius series. Here is the first (of hopefully many), Stephen Aryan's Mageborn.
Mageborn by Stephen Aryan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
[review by James's assistant Elisabeth]
Mageborn (2017) is the first book in Stephen Aryan’s second trilogy, The Age of Dread. Its story centres around Salem-esc magic testing performed by Seekers, and the anxieties and ‘accidents’ that are caused by them. Magic is feared to the degree that it is hated in the world of Mageborn, and those found with the ability are often exiled or killed.
While the main story is about larger social and political events, it’s told through the personal narratives of each character. I felt this close-up view made the book easy to engage with and kept the story moving. A lot of fantasy books get bogged down in long tedious descriptions or dull political dialogue, but Mageborn didn’t have this problem (at least that I noticed)—it felt like there was always something happening. And the perspectives were varied enough that being personal didn’t make it subjective. We’re given a range of perspectives providing some agency about what we choose to believe. The world is intricate but not difficult to understand, and the intertwining of characters storylines—whether they physically meet or are affected from afar by each other’s actions—was fantastic.
Having such an array of characters made the story interesting but, like any book that jumps between perspectives, felt a little choppy at points—especially towards the beginning. I found the first five chapters or so difficult to get through, we never stayed in one place long enough to get a feel for the story. Luckily this didn’t last through the whole book though, and eventually the narrative fell into a nice pace.
Mageborn is not the first of Ayran’s books set in this world. His previous trilogy, The Age of Darkness, is our first introduction. Mageborn is set over a decade later, following the storylines of some familiar characters while also introducing some new names and faces. I have to admit, I didn’t realise there was another trilogy I was meant to have read before starting Mageborn, but it didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the book. Starting with The Age of Darkness books would have provided some more depth and context to the world and characters, but I wouldn’t say it’s necessary. In fact, having no context was sometimes good. It created suspense and mystery around some characters that wouldn’t have existed if I knew their backstories, and made some of the reveals towards the end of the book even more impactful. I don’t think it matters what order you tackle the books, there are pros and cons either way. My plan is: The Age of Dread, The Age of Darkness, back to The Age of Dread, then finish things off with Of Gods and Men.
All in all, Mageborn was a good read. The language is accessible and the story moves—so it’s a quick read, but still a good one. My only other complaint is that it ended so suddenly. I felt like things were really starting to happen then, done, it was over. Luckily Aryan released the next two books ( Magefall 2018, and Magebane 2019) shortly after Mageborn, so there’s no waiting for the story to keep going!
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February 18, 2020
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
More a quick recommendation than a proper review, but this is another debut I’ve enjoyed recently! I initially gave The Kingdom of Liars a shot because the core concept (memory as a cost for using magic) sounded fascinating, and while that didn’t play out exactly as I expected—it’s a more a danger for those who overuse their magic, rather than an everyday cost—it’s still used to good effect, and the smartly plotted story was more than enough to keep me engaged. There’s great worldbuilding, characters who are flawed but interesting, and an intriguing central mystery that’s gradually (and satisfyingly) untangled. All in all, a fast-paced fantasy that has the potential to become an excellent series!
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February 3, 2020
I’ve been meaning to write a review of Blood of an Exile since I read it towards the end of last year, but… life’s been busy. Unfortunately, that means things aren’t quite as fresh in my mind as I’d like, but the fact I’m still motivated to do this a few months on speaks volumes to the quality of the book.
As usual, I’m not going to go into the details of the plot—there are already plenty of reviews that do that—but the bottom line is that if you’re into books about dragons, this one’s definitely worth checking out. It’s an action-packed story with no POVs that felt like they were dragging things down, there are central mysteries that keep you reading and are satisfyingly resolved, and the ending—while certainly setting up for sequels—ties everything off well enough to avoid the wait for the next one feeling frustrating.
The world of Blood of an Exile is very much a grim one, but its fast pace and the banter between characters largely offset that for me. The worldbuilding itself is neatly done, too: it’s thorough, feels distinct, and is always worked into the story rather than tacked on. I especially liked how the existence of dragons was handled—they’re still creatures of magic, but the main characters approach them in quite a scientific manner (analysing their biology, cataloguing different species, observing migratory patterns and so on—which is all relevant to the plot, too, rather than just there for worldbuilding purposes). It’s a different perspective on dragons than I’m used to seeing, and I enjoyed it.
Finally, for those who want to know about content that may put them off: like most grimdark settings there’s plenty of traditional swearing in the book, and it’s definitely written for an adult audience. I don’t specifically remember explicit sexual content, but it’s been a while and the story’s gritty enough that it wouldn’t be out of place, so don’t hold me to that assessment.
All in all, though, this was a pretty great debut—if the blurb sounds like it will be up your alley, Blood of an Exile is definitely worth a look!
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January 27, 2020
For ticket prices and more info check out the Melbourne or Gold Coast Supanova websites.
December 26, 2019
For anyone looking to pick up THE SHADOW OF WHAT WAS LOST in ebook format, there are a couple of promotions on at the moment!
For the US, it's a Year End Kindle Book Deal ($2.99) - lasting another couple of days.
For the UK, it's a Kindle Daily Deal (£0.99) - for today (27th December) only.
Hope everyone's had a pleasant Christmas, and I should be back to post some more info on my next series early in 2020!
December 11, 2019
The Light of All That Falls is now available worldwide! It's exciting to finally have the book out there for people to read. I hope you guys enjoy the conclusion to the Licanius Trilogy.
Hardcover and ebook are available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and the audiobook is available on Audible. Happy Reading!