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The Outworlders #2

The New Magic

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"Tell me who you ride beside, and I'll tell you who you are."
- Falconsrealm proverb

Jarrod Torrealday is Lord Protector of Falconsrealm and a knight in the secretive Order of the Stallion, "the king's eyes and ears." He awakens one glorious fall morning to discover his castle under siege and his alliances shattered as a new threat rises in the west: a revolution driven by a sorceress trained to kill and led by an unstoppable swordsman from the world he left behind. Worse yet, the weapons Jarrod brought with him from Earth are rocking the country on its heels and threatening everything he came to save.

At a candlelit crossroads of dark sorcery and espionage, Jarrod must choose between embracing profane wizardry for the good of the realm . . . or gambling the future of the kingdom in a showdown between ancient magic and modern steel.

Vivid swordplay meets intrigue and espionage in the adrenaline-fueled sequel to Joseph Malik's critically acclaimed fantasy bestseller DRAGON'S TRAIL. Historical accuracy, magical realism, and irreverent humor create a world so immersive and authentic that it has left readers asking how to get there.

The New Magic is the second installment in the Outworlders series, but can be read as a stand-alone with Book I, Dragon's Trail, serving as the origin story of Jarrod Torrealday.

374 pages, Kindle Edition

Published September 18, 2018

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About the author

Joseph Malik

2 books67 followers
In addition to fiction, Joseph Malik writes and lectures on advanced intelligence theory and asymmetric warfare for the U.S. military. He has worked as a stuntman, a high-rise window washer, a computational linguist, a touring rock musician, and a soldier in the United States Special Operations Command.

He has been a longtime panelist and demonstrator at fantasy conventions, speaking as an expert in swordsmanship, hand to hand combat, and military tactics and strategy. He has also lectured on fantasy writing and independent publishing at schools and colleges across the Northwest.

His first novel, Dragon’s Trail, became a Kindle Top 100 Bestseller in four countries in 2017, reaching #1 in Epic Fantasy in the U.S., Australia, and Canada and #1 in Sword and Sorcery in the UK.

A veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, Joseph Malik lives in the Pacific Northwest along with his wife and their two dogs. He serves in the U.S. Army Reserve and is a member of SFWA.

Subscribe to his mailing list for updates about new releases, upcoming events, and exclusive offers here.

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Displaying 1 - 26 of 26 reviews
July 15, 2018
Warning: This book contains violence, gore, and consensual sexual content. This is the second book in The Outworlders series; the review is plot-spoiler free, beyond anything you can read in the blurb, but even that may inadvertently spoil things for the first book.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of The New Magic from Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America to review on Goodreads and my blog. I was in no way paid or incentivized to leave any kind of favorable review and only I edited and proofed what you'll read below.

Jarrod Torrealday has brought weapons and armor from our world into a realm that's millennium behind us technologically. Now he's going to have to deal with the consequences of his actions and face someone who might just outmatch him and all his allies. The New Magic is epic portal fantasy at its finest; brutal, hilarious, and with a cutting wit that's practically unmatched in recent fantasy showings, this novel is one you're going to want to pick up when it releases in September.

I can not even begin to explain how pleasantly surprised by this book I was. Rarely do I feel so glad that I'd read a particular novel as I do right now after reading this one. Let's get into this review, because I'm excited to share my thoughts.

Jarrod Torrelday, an Olympic-level sabreur, has saved the princess of Falconsrealm and become the Lord Protector of her domain. He's managed to fall in love with a breathtakingly endearing fae woman. Jarrod even has a best friend in a former Patriots defensive end turned fellow noble of the realm.

The plot to The New Magic is very believable. The story unfolds well. All the actions of the characters--satisfyingly--have very real consequences.

There are moments where the plot just reaches up from the pages in front of your face and delivers a solid pawing jab and right cross combo to your emotions, hopes, and dreams.

There's not a thing to complain about when it comes to the plot. Nothing about it breaks suspension of disbelief and it's cleverly executed. This solid foundation of story building allows the characters to give a stupendous amount of life to the work.

A glorious--and good-hearted--swordsman with a quick tongue as the main character, a burly and lovable strongman to stand by his side, and a cruelly calculating villain who acts as a great foil for the leads.

The thing about The New Magic's characters isn't that they're totally unique in fiction in who they are and what they represent, it's that the author pulls off their dialogue and internal monologue so well. Characters that are supposed to be otherworldly are otherworldly, soldiers talk and act like soldiers, and the banter alone would make me want to read this book.

The sheer skill and personality that has been poured into the protagonists gives them a heartwarming--and, at times, heartbreaking--believability. Never have I laughed or uttered more vulgar monosyllables than I did while reading The New Magic.

Clean, polished, punchy, and dryly humorous. Those are the qualities of Malik's voice as he guides us through Dragon's Trail's sequel.

You get just enough fat, with more than enough meat to keep the story from burning itself up too fast, in this book's prose. If brevity is the soul of wit, then Joseph Malik has captured the most elusive literary skill of infusing that lauded quality into his fiction.

Perhaps the thing that sticks out in Malik's words the strongest is just how much he knows about swordplay and medieval conventions. His knowledge shines in every scene and adds a grounded dimension to the story--and a welcome specificity to the combat--that is often lacking in even the most highly enjoyable and imaginative fantasy.

If you're looking to laugh, curse, and bite your teeth with a relatively quick read then The New Magic is for you. Don't let this one slip by. It's certainly worth a place on your shelf if you like portal fantasy.

I usually research the authors of the books I'm reviewing. On his twitter, Joseph Malik expressed the following:

"I would wish to impress upon anyone who hopes for a wildly successful first novel just how pants-shittingly scary it will make the release of the second."

I'd say he shouldn't worry. The New Magic is another home run.

Final verdict: 4/5 stars.

That's one of the very few high-starred reviews that I've ever given out. I'm glad I could use that rating again.

The New Magic will be available in September of 2018.
Profile Image for Arabella.
1 review
December 3, 2018
A grimdark “guy fantasy” minus the misogyny.

The New Magic is a gritty fantasy about a modern man thrust into a Game of Thrones-type world, only told with a contemporary voice employing evocative wordplay and flashes of narrative brilliance. The result is a “guy’s book” that nearly fetishizes swords and war while reading like highly-polished literary fiction. Hilarious in some places, terrifying in others, there's a death scene that tore my heart out and a sex scene so hot it left me needing my inhaler.

Make no mistake, this is testosterone-fueled male fantasy fare, and it makes no pretenses about this. For that reason, the most surprising thing about this book is what ISN’T in it - NO MISOGYNY. No women are assaulted, or even made to feel vulnerable, or even so much as belittled. It’s a dark and violent world, but it’s also one that hints at a tacit gender equality. I kept waiting for the compulsory scene where one of the women knights or generals (and there are several) has to prove herself to the men, and there isn’t one. It’s taken for granted that in the kingdom of Falcon’s Realm women are knights and leaders. This is striking in a book packed with violence, profanity and hyper-masculine heroes.

Joseph Malik wrote a cast of tough women (sadly, a supporting cast) and showed us they’re tough because they kick ass, take names and get things done. The story doesn't rely on the fantasy clichés of institutionalized abuse, rape/threatened rape or sexism to demonstrate how “tough” they are. It speaks to the state of fantasy that I found this single off-screen implication in a male-dominated story so refreshing.

The New Magic is an independent release, and every bit as strong an offering as any commercial fantasy I read in 2018. In one very important respect, as I mentioned above, it’s stronger. I give The New Magic four stars but it gets my Hugo vote because this is not my kind of book but definitely my kind of writer. I’m anxiously awaiting the movie. #WHEREISTHEMOVIE

(Some harmless online stalking of Joseph Malik reveals he runs his publishing company out of his garage, and sold an astounding 10,000 copies of the first book in this series. If I were a New York publisher, I'd be watching him closely.)
Profile Image for Lisa Lenox.
880 reviews14 followers
June 23, 2018
Like Dragon's Trail before it, New Magic takes a serious look at swordplay. And swords. It really makes me want to learn to fence, at the very least. Unfortunately, the only fencing lessons available locally are for children, and I don't want to haul my overweight ass into a fencing class filled with youngun's ready to kick my ass. So I guess I'll appreciate from afar.

New Magic continues the story of Jarrod the Merciful in the alternate world of Falconsrealm, and his battle to keep everyone safe and intact. Unfortunately, a new player from his homeworld is introduced to the game. Renaldo Salazar doesn't believe in playing by the rules, instead employing every despicable tactic used by Hitler and a few other brutal dictators to subjugate the people of Falconsrealm. Concentration camps, torture, and outright cheating at battle are the least of his atrocities. Will Jarrod and friends be able to stop the march of Renaldo's army? There's only one way to find out...
Profile Image for Jacob Rundle.
Author 5 books169 followers
January 10, 2019
I was given a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. I give this novel 4.8/5.0. This novel continues after The Dragon's Trail with Jarrod in Falconsrealm. A new character shows up, Renaldo, and he doesn't like to follow the rules. The character development is amazing, and his world-building is impressive. Joseph's descriptions on weaponry and battles are amazing. This is a must-read.
2 reviews
March 13, 2019
Broken and Brilliant

I loved Dragon’s Trail. Full disclosure. I'm a fan.

TLDR: The New Magic will disappoint many of those looking for another LitRPG-type easy read like Dragon's Trail. This is not a bad thing.

There's a lot to unpack, here.

The New Magic feels disjointed from its predecessor. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that it feels this way because the writing has matured, and strikingly.

It’s hard to believe it’s been two years between books, but it’s harder to believe that anyone can get so much better in such a relatively short amount of time. Joseph Malik has developed into a master stylist and comes at us here at the top of his game.

I can’t begin to tell you how much I love this. This is literary and editorial audacity, with innovative usage structures, old-school omni narration, and the occasional word invented out of whole cloth. Dragon’s Trail, even with its deep thematic elements and some very dark moments, feels like a lighthearted LitRPG or YA romp by comparison.

Nothing in Dragon’s Trail jumps out at the reader the way the opening paragraphs of The New Magic do. Overall, it’s highly intelligent if occasionally abstruse. It's also screamingly funny, with turns of phrase that rival Salvatore or Jemisin. Some of the one-liners should be on T-shirts. It could easily be an off-brand work by a literary heavyweight branching out into the genre under a nom de plume, and I think that’s the problem, here.

I think Joseph Malik grew impatient while writing this, and (one reader’s modest opinion, take it or leave it) he should have waited before taking so large of a stylistic departure from the mass-market appeal of his wildly successful first effort. In fact, he might have been better served by saving this shift in writing style for a new series. Flipping through Dragon’s Trail now, it’s apparent that the author was pulling at his leash the entire time.

The story picks up where Dragon’s Trail leaves off, and things quickly go to hell. (It’s Act II, so this is expected.) It turns out that Sir Jarrod, now a lord with a castle of his own, isn’t much good for anything other than kicking asses and chasing skirts. He’s great with a sword, as we know (tactical knowledge) but he flat-out stinks at court intrigue and security (operational & strategic knowledge). His ignorance allows an army to surround his castle, and also allows the people whose cornflakes he pissed in all through Dragon’s Trail to begin stealing his lands while his troops are penned up.

As a result, The New Magic has a completely different feel from Dragon’s Trail, with our formerly indomitable, borderline Gary Stu hero scrambling nonstop trying to merely understand what’s going on, never mind having any hopes of fixing it.

This lack of understanding manifests itself in a series of seeming plot holes (also, the magic, as it's used, appears to make zero sense, being more in the ASOIAF style of magic-does-whatever), but if we step back from the book and see it as a book, it falls into place. The New Magic is written in omni, told by a narrator who, we know now, heard the story from Jarrod. Malik writes the narrator deftly, weaving him into the same suspension of disbelief as the rest of the worldbuilding. Jarrod himself doesn’t understand why things are happening in this book, so the narrator doesn’t, either. We’re left with questions because the narrator doesn’t have answers.

This is a very old and unconventional approach. (I'm reminded of Gogol's Dead Souls, a mid-19th Century Russian meditation on the futility of character, which should give some sense of where The New Magic lies on the spectrum of feel-good fantasy.) It's also solid literary gold. The problem is that it's going to frustrate casual readers who have come to expect an omni fantasy narrator to be godlike in his knowledge and spoon-feed them answers.

Not understanding the forces driving the events around him, Jarrod is placed into a reactive mode, which is not where we like to see hard-charging, wisecracking fantasy heroes. It’s awkward and not a good look. It's painful to watch. Ultimately, he lays his life on the line, not out of selflessness or heroism, but because he realizes that the world is better off without him. It's an ugly and unwieldy truth, and it's a testament to Malik's mastery of the craft that we're almost relieved. (One has to wonder just how many French and Russian novels Malik absorbed on deployment while writing this.)

The story closes on a tearjerker, the whole adventure feeling pointless and unnecessarily mean. We’re left every bit as heartsick and confused as our hero, and we wonder right along with him why and how it happened. This makes The New Magic a profound statement from a soldier who wrote it while at war, but it doesn’t make for a blockbuster, lighthearted fantasy.

Despite all of this, it’s outrageously funny throughout, and a wonderful read. That may sound incongruous, but it appears to be written so as to be intentionally incongruous. I expect to see fistfights between fans over The New Magic as this series gets bigger. And it will.

I expect that The New Magic will polarize readers, because it's a dark and demanding read that follows a wonderfully accessible and very fun book. Besides having a very different feel, and casting a beloved character in an unflattering light, the writing is so far above the pale of normal fantasy fare that it almost reads like a different series. The wordplay gives the sense that the narrator has grown much older than the short break in the story would allow, and this may be what's ultimately at the heart of the disconnect. In short, Joseph Malik could have pulled this off perfectly if he hadn’t gotten so damned good.

To summarize: I’m torn.

My recommendation as a fantasy fan:

- If you’re looking for an easy read, and especially a hack and slash, LitRPG-paced, "YA but a little more grown up" fantasy like Dragon’s Trail, you should skip The New Magic.
I hate to tell anyone to skip it, because I enjoyed this book far more than the last one, but if you’re looking for something easy and fun, you may find this difficult to read and some of the writing abstract and flowery.

My recommendation as an MFA and an aspiring fantasy author:

I could write until the day I die and never throw a shadow upon this level of craft. A brilliant novel on every level, major award worthy if not commercially palatable. The kind of book I love and recommend. I hope (selfishly) that the rest of the series follows in this vein.

My advice to Joseph Malik is to keep this heading and drive on, even if he loses a few readers along the way at first. When you’re breaking trail, there will always be those telling you you’re going the wrong way. Believe me: keep going. You’re going to find a lost city of gold in this direction.
4 reviews
June 20, 2018
The book we’ve been waiting for.

I received an uncorrected galley of The New Magic with no commitment to review. However, there’s no way I couldn’t review it after reading it, which I did in one sitting.

The New Magic blows its predecessor away with a genre shift into sprawling epic fantasy, which Malik delivers with both fists. Wizards, gryphons, huge battles, duels to the death, kingdoms at stake. Most surprisingly, there’s an intense and slightly kinky love story showing remarkable emotional growth of main character Jarrod, who has become my favorite fantasy protag in recent memory, being equal parts Jon Snow and Deadpool.

The plot is straightforward. The family that Jarrod pissed off in the last book hired a wizard who went back to Earth and returned with someone who can kill Jarrod. That’s it. That’s the whole story. Although, if you’re a fan of Dragon’s Trail, I dare you to put this down after the new villain introduces himself.

The characters around Jarrod drive the story and make the book work. Jarrod spent a good part of Dragon’s Trail basically drawing penises on the fantasy world’s face while it was asleep. It’s now awake, and it’s not amused. The scope of the damage Jarrod has done is reflected across an ensemble of likeable and relateable characters. It gets very dark. In a couple of places it gets scary as hell.

The writing is even tougher and edgier, full of clever turns of phrase and one-line spit takes. The humor makes the darkness much darker and the horror makes the humor much funnier. The story is tight and professionally edited, and reads like a slick action thriller. Malik has a Mozart-like gift for detail and description, and this time he applies it to the characters and spends less time on the tech. This is the book we’ve been waiting for.

We now have a good sense of who Joseph Malik is as an author and what kind of books we’re going to see from him, and we should be overjoyed.
Profile Image for Assaph Mehr.
Author 5 books385 followers
October 14, 2019
The New Magic is a direct continuation of Dragon's Trail. Considering how much I liked Malik's first novel, I was looking forward to this one!

What to Expect

An epic fantasy (technically portal fantasy, as the protagonist started on Earth in the first novel), with all the trappings - warring houses, enemies within and without, fantastical creatures, magic, and - of course - swords galore.

The novel takes place six months after Dragon's Trail end. The protagonist are fully enmeshed in local life of their new world (no trips back to earth), and the novel start right off the bat with new complications.

The "feel" of the novel is somewhat different than the first one, but that isn't a bad thing. It's less about the hyper-competent hero (though there is plenty of sword-fighting), and a bit more about him adjusting to the societies and political culture of the world.

What I liked

I love Malik's action sequences. His knowledge and attention to detail about ancient and modern warfare are amazing, and he does an awesome job of giving a realistic depiction of how technology affected arms and armour manufacture, and how in turn those would affect the battlefield.

Don't mistake this for a pulpy swords & sorcery novel, though. Malik's prose is crisp and clear, succinctly evocative. He has a deft touch in expanding descriptions exactly where they're needed, drawing on emotions to make the reader feel as the characters feel and see what they see, and staying out of the way when the pace matters more. Malik's style has definitely matured, and considering his already-high starting point this just makes this novel an absolute pleasure.

It was also great to see Jarrod's growth as a character. He was a bit of a jerk in the first novel, but he's growing up and maturing which makes for an excellent gritty protagonist. It's also nice to see a strong, egalitarian society, that while it has its unique idiosyncracies doesn't degenerate into misogyny.

What to be aware of

In case you haven't picked up on it yet, the is a LOT of discussion about swords, armour, and HEMA-style fighting. This is very much a "guy" novel, plot-driven with intense action. While Malik render excellent descriptions of emotions, these aren't romantic (but do expect to cry at some points).


Even though they are somewhat different, if you loved Dragon's Trail be sure to pick this one up: it's even better. (Though if you haven't, but enjopy epic fantasy - you should probably start there).
Assaph Mehr, author of Murder In Absentia: A story of Togas, Daggers, and Magic - for lovers of Ancient Rome, Murder Mysteries, and Urban Fantasy.
Profile Image for Hayden.
11 reviews
August 11, 2018
Fasten your seatbelts.

Never has a book so heartbreaking made me laugh so hard along the way.

Ruthless and yet relentlessly hopeful, The New Magic is side-splittingly funny and a brilliant sequel to a work of fantastical realism. Like its predecessor, it's told in a manner that feels like the author has been there himself. That realism, however, is what makes The New Magic pack such a punch and be such a compelling read.

The story picks up seamlessly not long after the end of Dragon’s Trail, and it delves into some dark territory. This is Malik’s Empire Strikes Back, or perhaps even his Rogue One, as our heroes’ fortunes careen off a cliff. There is soul-searching, questioning of friendships, betrayal, and death. However, there is also adventure, love, laughter, and promise.

The level of detail, and the vast number of facets that these two books get right between them (that other fantasy gets so laughably-wrong time and again) are stunning. Granted, this is not a treatise in medieval history, but rather a thought experiment in the ways that characteristic apparata (technical, social, economic, or even magical) could logically work. Magnificent wordsmithing and flowing descriptive passages wrap it together beautifully. The result is a unique fantasy that feels much more like it’s being experienced than read. This is not a story that's read so much as a world walked into.

Mild spoiler: I had to put this book down for a day because of a death scene, which is written spectacularly, but becomes a hundred times more powerful when you keep in mind the author’s background as a soldier. It’s not that the scene is torture-heavy, or gory, or even hard to endure (it’s not.) It does, however, read uncannily like it was penned by someone who has held a friend while he died. Have handkerchiefs and a stiff drink at the ready. Then, keep reading. You’ll be laughing again before you know it.

Bravissimo, again, sir. Standing ovation.

The author sent me an “Advance Reading Copy / Uncorrected Proof” of The New Magic. I did not agree to review it in exchange.
Profile Image for Grendel.
5 reviews
June 26, 2018
Joseph Malik is turning the most innovative fantasy novel of the past five years into an incredible series. Vivid fight scenes and grab-you-by-the-throat writing drive a broad palette of characters. It's a barn-burner and a fast read. The supporting cast leaps off the page, fully human (or in one case, fully elf) and real.

The New Magic introduces the idea that not everyone in this fantasy world knows the things that we know nor believes what we believe, and it affects how they perceive right and wrong. It puts the characters from Earth at odds with their friends and allies, as everyone tries to do what's "right." Jarrod becomes a study in slippery slopes as he's forced to reach deeper and deeper into his bag of dirty tricks, sometimes with hilarious results, to try and stop a swordsman with a sorceress up his...um...sleeve.

There is no one writing fantasy today at this level of authenticity. Make no mistake: this is an author who will leave otherwise rational adults lying awake at night wondering if they’ve just read a book by a man with a magical portal in his den.

Five solid stars. A perfect in-flight read. I'll be reading it again on the flight home and looking forward to the next one. I received an Advance Reading Copy under no obligation for review.
1 review1 follower
March 11, 2019
Joseph Malik's followup to the Dragon's Trail is a major letdown. Despite some issues with the writing, I enjoyed the Dragon's Trail and was super psyched for the sequel. Malik's debut was a fun twist on fantasy, with some great action and written for a more mature audience. Perfect for me, and I expected that with one novel under his belt, Malik's followup would be even better.

Unfortunately, I made it less than halfway through the New Magic before giving up.

The quality of writing just isn't good enough, and to be honest the New Magic is a great example of why I typically avoid self-published authors.

I like minimalist writing, but Malik's prose too frequently reads like a screenplay - too much basic stage direction without fully fleshing out the settings. I never really felt grounded in the world. Too often I couldn't picture the settings, characters, etc.

It's also quite confusing at times. Part of this is Malik's odd use of omniscient POV mixed with limited third. Another part of this is that the New Magic jumps around a lot, and it's quite easy to lose track of where you're at in the world, who the characters are, what's going on, etc. Another issue is sometimes Malik's actual stage direction doesn't make sense.

Malik's prose is also sprinkled with the melodramatic, and many of his metaphors and similes fall flat, if they make sense at all. There's an early sex scene in which the room and bed are described that made me forget that I was reading something written by an adult. Another issue with the prose is that Malik uses modern military language which is just weird when writing of medieval-type knights and warriors. He's got flying fantasy animals that he refers to as "air assets" and I'm just like wha?

The story itself is okay, though I struggled to get into it like I did with The Dragon's Trail. I like that it moves at a good pace, but at the same time I never really felt like I understand "the why" behind it all. There's a war brewing (not sure why) and two dudes from earth have stayed behind after the first book (not sure why) and are helping one side in the coming war (again, not really sure why). It's not nearly as engaging of a story as the first book.

Also, I read a review on Amazon (it's a better review than mine; go read it) mention something that really bugged me too: the role of magic. Malik's series is about modern combat knowledge being applied to a fantasy medieval world. That's fine. The problem is this fantasy world has powerful magic, and yet magic is hardly a part of the story. So we're meant to believe that the key to victory in this story is modern steel and armor... yet why the wizards didn't just take things in their own hands is never explained. The wizards are powerful enough to open a portal to a different world, but oh my god a man with modern steel and armor is the key to everything! Huh?

For me, this is why I so often avoid self-published books. With a higher quality editor (or two), Malik's writing would be greatly improved (don't even get me started on his use of semi-colons). Or maybe he's worked with an editor and just didn't listen. Who knows.

Ultimately, the New Magic was a major letdown. It's rare that I can't get through a book, but Malik's writing is so amateurish that I just couldn't persevere.
Profile Image for Russell Gray.
425 reviews56 followers
September 23, 2018
You honestly couldn't have asked for a better sequel. I didn't want to put the book down and the only reason it took two days to read was because they were work days and I only had so much free time.

If you enjoyed the first book in The Outworlders, don't hesitate to pick this up. I was also excited to hear that the third book is already being written. I can't wait!

If you haven't read the first book, Dragon's Trail, and you enjoy fantasy then do yourself a favor and get in on this action.
Profile Image for Annie.
3,497 reviews63 followers
June 15, 2019
Originally published on my blog: Nonstop Reader.

The New Magic is the second book in the Outworlders crossrealm fantasy series by Joseph Malik. Released 30th Sept 2018 by the SFWA,it's 377 pages and available in hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audio formats.

This is a juggernaut of a series. I honestly turned around immediately after reading the first book and re-read it. I almost never do that. Preparatory to reading The New Magic, I read the first book a third time. I have been so impressed by the author's technical expertise and the flawless, effortless command of both swordplay/armor jargon and more general writing. The characters live and breathe. The writing is spare, never grandiose. The dialogue is flawless. I was not yanked out of my suspension of disbelief one single time in either book, that's over 750 pages.

This is beefy campaign fantasy, and all the requisite features are there. Military campaign, strategic planning, bad guys with evil intentions, magic, swordplay (my word, the swordplay) and honestly everything that goes along with it. What I have been surprised is missing (and I have -looked-) is that this author, maybe uniquely, writes huge sprawling fantasy without misogyny . I've been a fan/nerd/whatever you want to call it since the 60s (seriously). I grew up in a family of nerds, I was the third generation of my family to read and love comics, and as a girl, I spent decades wondering -why- there were so few good role models for me. The few times there were really relatable female characters (not kneeling at the feet of their Gorean masters yes, John Norman, I'm side eying you!) they invariably died horribly being taught a lesson for their badassery. I'm exaggerating, but not a lot. Anyhow, this book. It's very refreshing that the whole he-man chest thumping isn't a thing. Competent people are competent and it's not a big deal whether they're male or female. THANK YOU!

I won't write a precis of the plotline, they're posted all over. The writing is much much better than good. The plotting and pacing are good if a trifle slow in the beginning. The denouement is absolutely gut-wrenching. It took me a lot time to review this book because it made such a deep impression.

In 20 years, this author will have a shelf full of SF/Fantasy awards; I'm calling it here in print. I've read several other reviewers making comparisons between Mr. Malik and GRR Martin and Joe Abercrombie. That comparison isn't really fair. Malik's better than both.

Five stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.
Profile Image for Nils Ödlund.
Author 13 books43 followers
July 5, 2020
This is the most confident book I've ever read.

There's something seeping out through the spaces between the words that I can't remember encountering anywhere else. This book knows it's awesome, and it's not wrong.
For a summary of what the book's about, read the description. I'm just going to share some of my thoughts and feelings on reading it.

To begin with, this is the second part in a series. I read the first part at some point last year, and while I believe I enjoyed this book more because of that, I also don't think it's required reading. You can enjoy this book without having read the first.

The only thing you really need to keep in mind is that Jarrod, the main character, is originally from present day earth. It's made clear throughout the story on multiple occasions, but if you do forget it, it can be a bit jarring.

Another thing about the book that's worth mentioning is that it puts a lot of effort into the details of swords and armor. Much of that is way above my head, and I don't know nearly enough to say whether it's accurate or not. There's no reason to doubt it, though, and since it's presented with the same rock-solid confidence as everything else in the book, it becomes an integral part of the story rather than just a list of random facts.

Stuff that could have been done better:
There are a lot of names in the book, both of people and of places, and I had a hard time keeping track of all of them. There's a map at the start and end of the book, and there's a list of important character, and if I'd used that, it probably wouldn't have been an issue, but that would also require me to disconnect from the story to look it up, and I much prefer to just keep reading.
The important names crystallized soon enough, so it wasn't much of an issue.

Stuff that I enjoyed:
The adventure and the attention to detail may be the big reasons to read this book, but they're not the only ones.

One thing that stuck out to me is the impact that the Outworlders (people from present day earth) have on the fantasy world they've ended up in. They bring in their ideas from our world and try to apply it to their new home, and it doesn't necessarily work out the way they expect it to. It's fascinating, and it got my mind racing with new ideas and thoughts.

The confidence. I already mentioned that, but it's worth bringing up again, because it's so central to the whole experience. That, combined with how the book is very well written, meant that this was my fastest read in quite a while.

Finally, despite all the seriousness and grim violence, there's that spark of irreverent, mischievous joy that you get from a good, over-the-top, action adventure. There's a good amount of plain ol' fun mixed up with all the serious.
Profile Image for Angel Leya.
Author 79 books79 followers
August 10, 2018
Jarrod's back, but life has taken a turn for the worst. His castle is under seige, and the enemy has brought in an old Earth rival to take him down. What's worse is they're using magic in a way the world has never seen before. Taking the hard road in order to do the most good will stretch him further than he ever thought possible.

Another excellent book by the author, but this one about left me shattered. This book was darker and grittier than the last, as we see the landscape of this medieval/parallel world change. I love the additional world-building, the close-up look at some of the fantasy elements that make this series so intriguing.

I will say, the ending left me feeling bittersweet. I won't go any further than that, just know that you might need a little something for the book hangover you're going to get. :)
190 reviews3 followers
July 27, 2018
With this being the second book I was not expecting it to be this good. I found myself glued to it. Mainly because the characters are so believable. The world comes to life around you, this gets a little graphic in some spots. I enjoy the humor and the tongue in cheek way of the men's dialogues. I find it refreshing that this is such a really smooth continuation. These would be a great way to get more men to read fantasy. My nephew loved the first one. Also, he knows I'm a reviewer. He asked me to tell him if I read it what's going on. I'm not letting him know that I was lucky enough to get an advance copy from NetGalley. But I will buy it for him when it comes out. That should explain my 5-star review.
198 reviews1 follower
August 7, 2018
I really enjoy fantasy books so I was eager to read this book. I received an ARC of this book, courtesy of Netgalley, in return for my honest opinion. I read it even though I have not read the first book in the series. I liked the premise of the book which is of a man from the United States who is transported into another world where he becomes a hero , of sorts. Jarrod is a knight who serves the Queen. There are 3 other men who have also transported and this story involves a lot of intrigue and action. I am looking forward to the next book in the series but will go back and read the first book in the series.
1 review
June 29, 2018
This is an excellent follow-up to Joseph Malik's first book, Dragon's Trail. I'm a fan of hard science fiction. Malik is the first author who has really captured what I would consider hard fantasy. His clever, funny, engaging characters led me through the most enjoyable 4-5 hours of reading that I've had in a long time. If you are a cigar smoker, plan on numerous relights if you plan on reading while enjoying a cigar. You just might find yourself so engrossed that your cigar goes out. Mine did. Can't wait for his next book!
Profile Image for Annarella.
11k reviews105 followers
July 6, 2018
The first book in this series was huge and this one has the same quality level.
It's well written, fast paced, and full of action. At times it's a bit too violent for my taste but I really liked it.
It's one of those book that makes you forget the passing of time.
A very good new fantasy author that confirmed the good impression of his first book.
Highly recommended!
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC
Profile Image for Matthew.
Author 2 books15 followers
April 21, 2021
There is something to be said for a book that keeps me interested enough to read it in two sittings. This book preserved the magic of its predecessor while expanding the story. If you like portal fantasy, technically sharp prose, and a gripping story, check out this series!

Looking forward to book 3!

I was provided a free copy of this book by the author and this review is my honest opinion.
Profile Image for Clarissa Gosling.
Author 18 books91 followers
July 21, 2020
An incredibly detailed and deep world where two people from earth are on opposite sides of a medieval war. Starting with the second in a series was a bit confusing, but the story telling was very rich and pulls you along. Lots of blood and gore and full of realistic sword fighting details. 
Profile Image for Bob.
83 reviews
September 6, 2018
Great rollicking stuff in terms of plot, but could do with more plot elements other than fight, fight, fight. Generically, we're dealing with a mediaeval fantasy take on John Carter of Mars or the Gor books (but without the latter's sexual obsessions).
A good book for a rainy afternoon - it makes few intellectual demands on the reader and is a reasonably entertaining read. The detail of armour and arms is interesting enough to prompt me to look up sword-making sites, so you do learn something!
On balance, I'd probably give any sequels a read, but I don't share other reviewers' over the top responses.
Profile Image for Adam Dirkes.
7 reviews
December 5, 2018
I enjoyed this enough to recommend it certainly if you enjoyed the first book, but it lacked layers. This book seemed to assume you had already grasped the depths of the characters involved and the nature of the world and made no attempt to reintroduce them. I found it sometimes jarring how straightforward the plot was laid out as a result. The first book I found had a nice balance to encourage you to be drawn into the struggle. Only if you already identify with Jarrod here would that occur. Hopefully we'll see some growth rather than back sliding in book three.
Profile Image for Beth.
619 reviews1 follower
Want to read
August 13, 2018
This is the second book in the Outworlders series. I didn't read the first book but I believe this works as a stand alone. It is the tale of Jarrod the Merciful and Lord Protector in an alternate world where there are Faeries or Elves, ogres and all sorts of fantastical beings including winged horses. Jarrod is actually from earth but is thriving in this world of Falconsrealm until another earthling, Renaldo Salazar, begins to attack and conquer everything he has. There is enough military strategy, sword fighting and tactical maneuvering to excite anyone who is fond of battles. I like reading fantasy but this book focused mostly on war so I was not that interested in it. Also, the verbose writing style was difficult for me to read. Don't get me wrong, the descriptions are beautiful and the author paints a beautiful picture of this fantasy world but it was a little too much for me and felt superfluous at times. I think the author is a great writer but this book was not for me. I was given an ARC from NetGalley for a fair and honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
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