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The Game Bird

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An evil is growing. The Realm is under attack. A leviathan has risen from the depths and is destroying the fleets that feed Stormhaven.

Stuck ashore and drowning in debt, Captain James Faulkner resolves to hunt the sea monster and claim the enormous bounty on the beast.

Sophia Blake's life looks effortless. But she carries a secret, an occult curse that is capable of destroying both her and her nation. Sophia knows her time is running out.

The Tallowman is a slowly decaying melding of demon and man. This monstrous assassin is desperate to capture Sophia and will let nothing stand between it and its prey.

Since his wife died, the sober lawyer Uriah Blake has wanted nothing more than to live a quiet life and enjoy what time he has left with his daughter, Sophia. When he learns that the Tallowman is pursuing her, he is forced to cast aside his books and his ink and join a shadowy war against a terrible foe.

As these hunts build to their shattering conclusion, Faulkner, Sophia and Uriah will be thrown together and forced to confront malevolent forces beyond their imagining.

The Game Bird is a swashbuckling black powder fantasy, wrapped around a spine of darkness.

402 pages, Kindle Edition

Published April 2, 2018

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About the author

Aidan R. Walsh

1 book39 followers
Aidan R Walsh is a prize winning fantasy author. Aidan has loved fantasy and science fiction for as long as he can remember. His tastes have broadened with age, but fantasy has remained particularly deep in his blood. If a religion could convince Aidan that Middle Earth was heaven, he’d sign up immediately.

Aidan lives in Newcastle, Australia with his wife, three children, two dogs (one of which is evil) and a cat (not evil).

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Displaying 1 - 20 of 20 reviews
Profile Image for kartik narayanan.
735 reviews205 followers
March 9, 2019
Originally posted on Digital Amrit

Some authors have it in them to tell a story; others do not. The former can make even a dry topic interesting, can take cliches and make them feel fresh or weave a yarn that enthralls readers. Aidan Walsh is one who belongs to the first category and 'Game Bird' has all the ingredients needed to make it fascinating.

Game Bird is about Captain Faulkner, a naval captain and war hero, who is now deeply into debt. He hears of a monstrous fish titled 'The Leviathan' which has been attacking shipping and therefore has attracted a large bounty. He decides to go after the fish with the help of his friends. Sarah Blake is the daughter of Uriah Blake, the financier of the expedition, and is wrestling with a secret of her own. She joins the expedition as Uriah's representative. And the rest of the story is about their lives, secrets and the hunt for the fish. The setting is similar to England in the 18th century and is mostly based arounds the sea, the navy and ships with a healthy dose of fantasy and sorcery thrown in - sort of the Aubrey/Maturin series while also involving fantastic beasts and sorcery.

Right from the first word till the last, Game Bird holds the reader's attention. We end up care about what happens to each and every character- be it hero or villain. The characters are realistic and every one of the main characters has to overcome some flaw or another.

The story is exciting and it has this feeling of richness. Aidan Walsh has taken Jaws (or Moby Dick) and somehow made the story feel new again. I am not going into more details than this but like the afore mentioned 'Moby Dick' the story is ultimately a metaphor (unintended or otherwise) for characters to overcome their issues, flaws and biases. This is not to say that the action is feeble or the pace slow. Rather, the book has plenty of action and the book moves at a fast trot.

The world of Game Bird feels at the same time familiar and unknown. And it gives the impression of being huge without overwhelming the reader with details.

So, in the end, what does this mean? Game Bird is one of those perfect stories where everything comes together. Every time I was forced to put it down due to real life interfering, I was raring to get back to it. Go for it!

Originally posted on Digital Amrit
Profile Image for Lee Conley.
Author 7 books161 followers
November 2, 2018
The Game Bird
By Aidan R Walsh

I was initially drawn to this book because of its fantastic cover, it gave me thoughts of warships and sea-monsters – I was not disappointed. The Game Bird is a book that tells the story of a ship. It is a story about a hunt for a terrible sea-monster called the leviathan which preys on entire ships, pulling them down into the oblivion of the murky depths. It is also a story about family, about a daughter with a secret and a father who does everything he can to protect her.

The story focuses on the tale of Captain James Faulkner. The war is now over and in this new peacetime, the naval hero, Captain Faulkner finds himself without a ship and no longer in active service with the navy. Struggling with his debts, the only course of action seems to be the suicidal sounding bounty on the leviathan, a giant sea-monster of which the likes have never been known.
The other main characters are the wealthy business man Uriah Blake and his daughter Sofia. Sofia has a terrible secret which when exposed will likely destroy their good family name. Uriah becomes embroiled in a huge dark conspiracy as he discovers dark forces are hunting his daughter. Their stories both become entwined with Captain Faulkner as he sets out to destroy the dreaded leviathan.

The book reads very much like an 18th century naval procedural which reminded me of other naval epics such as Hornblower or Master and Commander, but set in a richly woven fantasy world. There are monsters and fantasy creatures, there is the terrible thing calling itself Mr Savage. There are loads of great characters, I particularly liked the officer, De Lacey and I thought the Tallowman was very well done, as well as the main characters themselves.

I loved the old naval style in a fantasy setting. I found this book gripping , moving and quite thrilling. It turned out Walsh has written a real page turner, it kept me hooked from start to finish. This book is a real treat for lovers of naval history and fantasy alike. It was very well researched and Walsh obviously has a great depth of knowledge and passion for seafaring in the 18th century. This book works beautifully as a standalone but I am curious to see if Walsh writes more in this world. Either way I will be excited to see what he writes next and will certainly be eagerly awaiting his next book. I would certainly recommend you read this book; it was so fresh and different from the established fantasy tropes.

Thanks for reading
Profile Image for Travis Riddle.
Author 10 books322 followers
September 1, 2020
Admittedly we're only two weeks into the new year, but The Game Bird is already one of my favorite books of 2019 and I could very well see it winding up on my year-end list come December.

I was initially worried that this book might lean more into the "historical fiction" side of things than the fantasy (aside from the leviathan everyone's after), so I was glad to find that the weird, dark, fantastical aspects were weaved throughout the entire narrative.

Which isn't to say the swashbuckling was uninteresting either! Walsh does a great job of really taking the time to develop each of the primary characters, giving us hints of their past without over-explaining or bogging down the present day narrative and also fleshing out their relationships with each other and their individual motivations for embarking on their various journeys. By around 30% of the book we still haven't hit the sea to search for the infamous leviathan, but by that point I was already engrossed in the character dynamics, I kept devouring the book as fast as I could.

I deeply enjoyed all the POV characters we get to know in the book, and Walsh did a good job of differentiating between all of them, giving their sections a distinct voice without sacrificing his own writing style. I've been sitting here for a minute trying to decide whose POV I liked the most so that I could elaborate on them, but they honestly all bring something great to the table and I can't decide. I never once felt bored by anyone and wanted to get back to someone else's story.

And speaking of interesting POV characters, the Tallowman is certainly one of the most engaging villains I've read about in a while. Without spoiling too much, a lot of aspects about its story reminded me of classic Stephen King villains, with how we get glimpses of its thoughts and plans and its eventual gathering of henchmen which reminded me a lot of how many of King's villains are just relentlessly evil and yet obtain these horrible men that are drawn to them to aid in their schemes. Plus the description of Tallowmen having malleable, melted faces is just so creepy and gross there was no way I wouldn't love to hate this character.

This is a great debut from Aidan R. Walsh and I hope he brings us back to this world sooner rather than later, whether it's with this cast or with entirely new characters!
7 reviews
April 11, 2018
So much fun, a really excellent romp through a richly imagined and created new world. Looking forward to the next book. Loved the Sophia character. (Passes the Bechdel test)
Profile Image for Erin.
8 reviews
June 17, 2018
Brilliant book, it draws you in so that you feel like you're living every second of it! I can't wait for the next one!
Profile Image for Laura May.
Author 12 books47 followers
August 23, 2019
This book is excellent, and I encourage all fans of fantasy - and particularly fantasy on the high seas - to snap it up at its current unreasonably low price.

At first I was worried the book would be too slow, because I'm someone who has very little patience for world-building, despite the pay-off. However, it allowed the author to establish some strong, diverse, and differentiated characters, in a world with interesting heritage, history, and fascinating magic system. By the end of the book, the pace was positively ripping along.

Editing is truly excellent until around the 90% mark, then it drops from an A+ to a B+, but not so distracting that you'll be taken out of the story.

There were a couple of minor disappointments - a recognisable trope towards the end of the book, and one-dimensional bad guys. However, this is more than made up for by the characterisation of de Lacey and Sophia, plus the evocative writing.

I would definitely read more by this author.

Profile Image for Lukasz.
1,310 reviews212 followers
August 2, 2018
Actual rating: 2.5/5

Naval themes are interesting. Leviathans are even more interesting. Add a good cover to the mix and I'm ready for a ride.

The book offers something new to readers tired of medieval settings. The world, based on times of regency, features a stratified society in which women have small chances for a fulfilling career. They are expected to marry well and lead sedated and boring lives. Gunpowder and firearms play an important role in battles, but swords and axes are still in use. There's also a form of magic called Taint, but it's considered a curse. Tainted lead difficult, and usually, short lives.

There are two main characters - Faulkner and Sophia. Faulkner is a young sea-captain who, in an attempt to escape his debtors, sets out to hunt a sea-monster. In order to do this, he needs the money he doesn't have. Happily, Sophia's father, Uriah, is wealthy, and he likes Faulkner. Chances are he'll invest some of his resources into this adventure. Especially that his daughter carries a curse and it may be safer to send her away from the city. Or rather would be is she wasn't hunted by a half-demon assassin that wreaks havoc everywhere around him.

I like some of the ideas behind the story - especially the concept of Taint that can give people power but also drive them insane. Sophia is cursed with very rare, but also powerful, form of Taint. Naturally, she doesn't know how special she is.

The writing is mostly neat (I marked one misspelt word) and the author deftly avoids modernisms, which is a nice touch. On the other hand, formal behaviour and formal way of speaking of characters make them feel distant. I had a problem with some of descriptions and metaphors. Here's Sophia desiring more exciting life:

A long bird flew across the cloudy sky above the circus and Sophia watched it go wistfully

Not bad in itself, but it was done, like, million times and grew old decades ago.

A mixture of anger and tiredness as heavy as a cannonball twisted and turned in his guts.

I'm not sure if I dig it, to be honest.

Also, the POV changes in surprising places at times. I would prefer chapters divided via POV, instead of having two or three POV in a chapter. Sometimes, switching between/including new POV worked well (mutiny scene), but, overall it felt jarring to me.

Characters have some distinct features, but I wasn't able to relate to any of them. Faulkner lacks charisma. Sophia has more potential, but, sadly romance arc makes of this short-tempered and well-educated beauty a blushing, self-loathing girl (she's tainted after all and as such she doesn't deserve happiness). You may approach my thoughts with a pinch of salt, as I dislike romance in books in general. I would say, though, that Sophia and Faulkner's romance is unconvincing and heavy-handed. It's sentimental, a bit insta (they used to know each other as children, after meeting again they fall in love almost instantly, after a few angry future-lovers quarrels).

He made the mistake of meeting her eyes and he drowned

Whatever. Not for me.

Bad guys are one-dimensional and boring. Tallowman should be terrifying but ended up a bit ridiculous.

The pacing felt uneven to me - there were bits and pieces that didn't do anything to move the plot forward. For example, there's a dance party that, basically, serves as a device to show that Sophia and Faulkner are in love. Shocking.

There were some twists and turns, but most of them were obvious. The final fight with Leviathan felt anticlimactic to me. Another threat appeared seconds later, but it didn't make me fear for our heroes.

As a pure distraction, this book will do, especially for naval themes enthusiasts. For me, though, it lacked charismatic protagonists and more focused storytelling. Bear in mind I dislike romance in general. If you enjoy it, you may enjoy The Game Bird much more than me.
Profile Image for Mark.
Author 2 books96 followers
May 26, 2018
In his debut novel The Game Bird, Aussie author Aidan R Walsh dispenses with the more traditional medieval type setting of most fantasy novels and sets his tale upon the bones of a Regency England stage. I was - at first - concerned this setting would overwhelm the understanding that the book is not, in fact, set on earth. It didn't. With a sure hand belying the fact that this is his first novel, Walsh allows the story and characters to tell his tale in such a way that while there is a feeling of familiarity to the world, it is very much his own creation.

Set in the city of Stormhaven, and the seas that surround it, The Game Bird tells the tale of Captain James Faulkner, a semi-retired war hero down on his luck since the last war ended and the Kingdom put many of its navy personnel on half-pay. Looking for a solution to pay off his enormous debt he decides to try his luck in taking out a monstrous leviathan that is attacking the traffic of the Kingdom’s shipping lanes, hoping to win the bounty placed on its head to ease his woes. Joining him on this adventure is Sophia Blake, a young lady of standing with a secret she and her father are desperate to keep from society, and the world at large. Unbeknownst to Sophia - or her father - the secret of her supernatural powers is already known by the Tallowman, the nefarious agent of an ancient evil, thought by many to be just a legend. His goal is to capture Sophia and her power for his master, at any cost.

The Game Bird is a swashbuckling, stand-alone tale of high adventure and romance, set in a beautifully realised world. Walsh's writing is rich in history and lore, which he uses to masterfully colour his world - never once letting the details overwhelm the story and to present us with vivid characters that leap off the page and into your heart. It is a rip-roaring romp blending the sensibilities of Georgette Heyer, Patrick O'Brian and George R R Martin in a page turning read that is sure to find a wide audience.

On a personal note I am disheartened that a book this good was unable to find a home with a traditional publisher. We are exceedingly lucky that Walsh did not give up his quest to bring his writing to the world and that the facilities of self-publishing are quiet comprehensive these days. I highly recommend this book, indeed such are his writing chops that I am sure I would recommend any book by Walsh. I cannot wait for further adventures with these characters – or any characters he cares to introduce - and stories set in this world.

You can read more on my blog, here.
13 reviews1 follower
September 3, 2018
This book has everything that I could ask for in a story. That is suspense, action, all types of relationships and an enemy that you want to kick in the teeth. Once I started I couldn't /didn't want to put it down. I'm looking forward to what what adventures await in this unique world .
Profile Image for Ying.
320 reviews5 followers
November 24, 2018
This was a frustrating book to read.

The concept sounded cool to me, an shipfaring adventure with a down on his luck captain, a woman who was hiding a power and a crew who all were setting off to kill a mythical beast. In a world where pegasi and birds coexist. So cool!

However, it was poorly executed. I think the characters were poorly conceptualised and written. I disliked both the main characters. The female character Sophia has the "taint"*, but and unlike every other female in this world she's special in that she doesn't wear skirts.. gasp. Her only distinguishing feature is that she doesn't like to do everything that the women are expected to do.. totally haven't heard this before. The main male character, Captain James Faulkner is a typical "good-guy" captain type, heroic but nice.. kind of sexist but somehow still understanding of the female character (probably because he's so in love with her).

The overall plot could be have better thought out. I think it would have been fine if the story focused on a hunting the Leviathan. It did not have to include extra story elements. I found myself skipping parts of the story at the end to finish it, and I think I lost nothing by doing so.

Also in regards to world building... The author did some attempt at world building but it was really unneeded. Why have an enemy hunt Sophia? Why introduce other elements and never expand on them? For instance I also thought there'd be some cool mixture of mythical and "normal" animals, but there wasn't.. the mythical ones are barely mentioned. They seemed like an afterthought.

There are three main stories in this book, and I did not like how it all came together in the end. Why did the

Forced myself to finish this book so I could write a proper review. How many tropes did this fulfill? All of them.


*Also this stupid wording of "the taint". Poor choice of words. All I could think of was the body part. There are so many synonyms.. just pick a different one. The concept of "the taint" (which was never referred to as "being tainted" by the way) was also poorly explained. Sophia is mentioned as having the taint (lol), but nothing is ever shown of her powers until like 40% through the book. There are also hints of people with the taint (lol) going crazy - rabies style. I think this is supposed to make us fear for Sophia's future - but the lack of detail is frustrating. There was no expansion on boundaries of these powers and how they work, probably because she doesn't even use it until halfway through the book! The revelation that she is
Profile Image for Amanda Bridgeman.
Author 22 books91 followers
May 19, 2018
I really enjoyed this read - 4.5 stars. At the time I selected this book I was in the mood to read an adventure set on a sailing ship, and this fit the bill nicely. Not only did it deliver on the sailing adventure set in a fantasy world, but it also delivered some surprises! I wasn't expecting the strong romantic thread throughout the book, and this was one of my favourite aspects that kept me turning the page. Although I was expecting the tale to be focused more on chasing the leviathan, and it is - but it's a McGuffin that doesn't actually make an appearance until late in the book, this didn't bother me at all. I was impressed with Walsh's detail on the ships, background stories of the various wars and the realistic lives of the sailors, and I enjoyed following James and Sophia as they find and prepare the ship, source a crew, then set about on their journey, making a few stops on the way - all the while Sophia's father, in a separate storyline, discovers the truth about the Tallowman and sets about on an adventure of his own.

In short, this is a very strong debut by Walsh, with great characterisation and world-building. I think he's a rising talent to watch.
Profile Image for Jason Franks.
Author 55 books29 followers
July 11, 2018
Walsh brings a fresh take on seafaring adventure, running a 19th century swashbuckler in a secondary world full of wyverns and sea monsters and demons.
Game Bird is a fast moving story driven by likable heroes and hideous villains, full of action, humour, romance, and good old fashioned storytelling.
The prose and dialogue puts you in the period without ever feeling forced. It's clear that Walsh has lavished a lot of research and world-building on this book and he delivers allows it to surface without stopping the story for exposition.
A cracking good read.
1 review
November 15, 2019
I recommend to anyone who loves fantasy and find characters, character growth particularly important.
Couldn’t put it down! I love a story that sucks you in, has you imagining yourself as part of the world, the characters and the adventure and game bird does this.
There are so many beautifully crafted lines that have you wanting more. I can not wait for the second instalment of this adventure... and I do hope it’s coming!
April 5, 2018
Well worth a read!

This was a great read! A compelling story which made me race through it, characters I fell a bit in love with, and a beautifully crafted world, even as someone who doesn't typically enjoy naval fiction.
This really got me out of a slump of being bored by other fantasy authors, and as a first novel, I'm looking forward to see what comes next!
Profile Image for Ryan Boros.
182 reviews1 follower
October 4, 2021
Never tell me the odds
Secret battles against evil
Relationship barriers

A fun adventure on the high seas. It starts off as more of a typical sea adventure, but then more and more fantasy elements get brought in as the story goes along. Some good characters and interesting world-building.
11 reviews1 follower
May 11, 2018
Really enjoyed this book. Well written and the build up of the characters was great. Cant wait for more of James and Sophia's adventures.

Profile Image for Andrey Popov.
12 reviews6 followers
September 22, 2019
What a fantastic gem of a book! Exceptionally well written. Cannot understand why this isn't more well known and spoken about.
Profile Image for Larry Ortman.
32 reviews5 followers
January 29, 2021
Kept me up at Night

I read a lot of books, most are good but few keep me reading late into the night. This was one of them.
Profile Image for Suzanne Rogerson.
Author 8 books124 followers
November 6, 2018
The story starts with immediate action and thrusts you straight into Captain Faulker's life as he attempts to escape bailiffs. Stormhaven comes alive as a place I wouldn't particularly like to live and I enjoyed the adventure right from the first page. The scenes on the ships are especially well written.

The 'swashbuckling black powder fantasy' was quite a new and unique reading experience. I got swept along with the tale and liked all the characters especially James Faulkner and Sophia. The mention of their childhood lives together and hints of a possible romance were a big plus for me. There are also creatures of legend - a leviathan and pegasus to add plenty of excitement.

I have to mention the Tallowman who is evil and gruesome, everything you want from an antagonist. I admit that I love an assassin story, but the Tallowman is genuinely terrifying.

I'm really pleased the self published fantasy blog off led me to this story, and I hope it goes far in the competition.
Profile Image for Lynn K : Grimmedian.
134 reviews21 followers
January 12, 2019
Adventures on the high seas, and monsters so terrifying that they leave men completely unhinged, if they survive at all.
I have the feeling this one will be as appealing to many as it was for me. This is an adventure fantasy with a very classic feel, a unique premise, and the newest nightmare to haunt dreams. The Tallowman. One would believe that the leviathan on the cover which is threatening trade routes and livelihoods would be the true horror here, but the thing hunting down Sophia Blake is much more frightening.
The premise may be familiar, but the setting gives it a nice twist. A young woman, terrified because she has the “taint”, a father who only wishes to protect her, and a sea captain who has hit hard times since the war that drove the coin of the crown into his pockets ended.
Although by most standards this book would be quite ordinary, there are a few things about it which really let it shine. Good writing and dialogue with a polished result and the abundance of ancient sailing vessel expertise shows in the details. A great deal of the story takes place at sea and the vessels, crews, and protagonists alike must deal with the travails that accompany sea travel powered only by wind and currents. The nautical jargon found in the book is very detailed. The author either had a deep love of ancient sailing vessels with lots of practical experience and knowledge, or they had researched it so well as to cover every detail. Upon asking the author, it turns out it was terrific research, and it shows.

The detailed refitting of the Game Bird, and the scenes at sea, are filled with practical and realistic knowledge for those who enjoy a good nautical fantasy story. On the hunt for a leviathan would be enough for most, but there is also something hunting Sophia Blake. The magic system is a good one with varying degrees of ability for those with “the taint” and hints that the general populace has no idea that the tainted are not actually institutionalized in being registered.
Captain James Faulkner has known the Blake family since his earliest days as a sailor. They always had a place at the table and a bed for him whenever his ship brought him to their port. It’s been years since he has seen them, and during his absence, and while making a name for himself in the war, Mrs. Blake has passed away, and Sophia and her father Uriah have only one another. When he discovers himself nearly bankrupt, and seeks a way to restore himself financially, Faulkner discovers a bounty on a great Leviathan that would set him up for life and make a crew rich along with him. He seeks a backer for his venture and seeks out his long time patron, Uriah Blake. Once he has the capital he needs, James finds he has to deal with the accompanying Sophia. Her father has sent her along to oversee his investment and to keep her safe from those he has heard are seeking her out. Rather than the usual story of simply buying a seaworthy vessel, they purchase a derelict merchant vessel in the mud flats and set to refitting the ship.
Uriah’s arc in the adventure, when he in turn discovers the actual danger his daughter is in, is forced to run for his life, and as he searches for Sophia his story is loaded with danger and makes a fantastic accompaniment to the cast and action. A lot is happening simultaneously in different places and the result is a page turner. The naturally progressing romance angle is very well done, and the damsel in distress is instead a force to be reckoned with. There’s an element of romance involved between the two main protagonists which doesn’t feel the least contrived. The story revolves around it’s inevitability, but it doesn’t make it feel like a trope. There’s a dark element to the story that strips it back to the cheer horror of certain dangerous creatures and their very existence in the world created here. There’s a new bogeyman for your nightmares and it’s a Tallowman. A new fantastical horror and between the leviathan and Tallowman this book has a lot to offer in the vein of monsters and demons.
Aidan Walsh has written a solid fantasy story that’s a real pleasure to read. For a debut, it is a polished piece that only needs a bit of format changes to keep the quickly changing point of view marked for the reader. The Game Bird shows imagination and mixes enough darkness to keep your excitement level high and makes it easy to recommend and easy to escape into.
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