Jul 222013

Malice: Book One of The Faithful and the Fallen (Faithful & the Fallen 1) A black sun is rising … Young Corban watches enviously as boys become warriors under King Brenin’s rule, learning the art of war. He yearns to wield his sword and spear to protect his king’s realm. But that day will come all too soon. Only when he loses those he loves will he learn the true price of courage. The Banished Lands has a violent past where armies of men and giants clashed shields in battle, the earth running dark with their heartsblood. Although the giant-clans were broken in ages past, their ruined fortresses still scar the land. But now giants stir anew, the very stones weep blood and there are sightings of giant wyrms. Those who can still read the signs see a threat far greater than the ancient wars. Sorrow will darken the world, as angels and demons make it their battlefield. Then there will be a war to end all wars. High King Aquilus summons his fellow kings to council, seeking an alliance in this time of need. Some are skeptical, fighting their own border skirmishes against pirates and giants. But prophesy indicates darkness and light will demand two champions, the Black Sun and the Bright Star. They would be wise to seek out both, for if the Black Sun gains ascendancy, mankind’s hopes and dreams will fall to dust.

It can sometimes be hard to get into a story that starts being so spread out and includes multiple characters; especially when each chapter is often named for a different character and from their point of view.  There are six focal characters, the main one being Corban, and this structure continues for the whole book.  However, if you can get past that, the pay-off is so worth it!

John Gwynne manages to intricately weave a story that is essentially about good vs. evil.  A favoured fantasy trope to be sure but it’s the delivery and the writing that makes it stand out. There is so much here that makes fantasy great – epic battles, heroism, magic, betrayal and love.  Not to mention characters like Corban that you love, those that you love to hate and some that just plain make you cry, it’s all here in this wonderfully engaging first book.

I don’t think I could explain the plot if I tried, there is just so much and I find myself wanting to point out specific bits and go ‘See what I mean?’  The battle scenes were very well realised, gritty and visceral and my emotional response to some of the things that happened were audible and a few were downright teary.

Gwynne’s writing is very crisp and clean, and I loved the language style he used.  Not ye olde worlde, but not totally modern either, and it just fit the story perfectly.

The pace sometimes felt a little jerky due to the way the point of view switches.  There were also some short time skips but they didn’t affect my enjoyment, instead they allowed time in the story for some things to occur naturally, rather than being forced into the narrative.

The world is extremely well realised and steeped in history, and you learn most of it from a diary entry at the start.  The delivery made it more interesting and gave you a sense of how things came to be in a very short space of time.  The map also lets you envision it even further – who doesn’t love a good fantasy map.

I feel John Gwynne pays homage to several amazing authors; David Eddings, David Gemmell, Raymond E. Feist and George R.R. Martin, spring most to mind, but I also feel he doesn’t attempt to emulate them.

Reading Malice is like watching a finely balanced chess game being played out and I can’t wait for the next book in this series!

Malice is on the long lists for all three categories in the 2013 David Gemmell Legend Awards.  The long list poll is open until the 31st July.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: John Gwynne
  • Series: The Faithful and the Fallen (1)
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

Jul 052013

The Painted Man (The Demon Cycle, Book 1) There is a rush of excitement I feel when I start reading a book by an author I’ve not read before, and that sensation is doubled when I discover that there is something very special within.  I love a story that sinks its teeth into you and doesn’t let go until the last page, leaving you hanging on every word.  That’s how the Painted Man made me feel, and it felt good!

We get to meet a lot of people but the three main characters were outstanding well written for me.  Arlen, the poor boy, but what a man it makes him.  He knew what he wanted and he went after it, possibly costing him a normal life but even though he thinks the opposite, he is totally my hero! Leesha is sweet and caring, fearless in her own way and I admired her for not wanting to go with the flow as her skills were meant for much more in my mind. Rojer endures more than any child should, and is brash, funny and stubborn as hell.  I couldn’t help wanting to look after him though.

The magic system is quite brilliant and unique.  Not spells but wards and the uses for them range from the mundane to the fantastic.  The world Brett built for his story was just as interesting as the characters and magic, and provided a solid background for the story.  The history is rich and fascinating and yet terrifying as well.  The demons were well crafted and I thought they were pretty scary, given what the different types in the story can do.  The hint of personality some of them display was really well done and made their horror seem more visceral.

Peter V. Brett is a fearless author in that no character is safe, not even ones you come to love in a short time, and that is where the skill in his writing lies.  A cleverly worded paragraph can communicate so much about a character that you feel like you’ve known them a lot longer.  There are plenty of characters you love to hate and as in life, sometimes the bad guys get away with it.

The pacing of the story was very good and the switching between the characters never felt laboured or meandering.  The action scenes were fast, brutal and realistically written.  Brett’s blending of that with the magic created some intriguing fights.

There was one question I had that seemed to go unanswered until quite late in the book – who was the Painted Man from the title?  Maybe it should have been obvious to me but when I realised, I actually went ‘ohhh’ out loud.  Thankfully my husband is used to this and I didn’t have to explain!

I can’t say enough how much I enjoyed this book and can’t wait to read the next book in the series, The Desert Spear.  The first one didn’t end quite where I thought it would and an additional piece at the end had me reaching for the sequel immediately.  I had to force myself to stop and write this review so it would be fresh and not influenced by the next one.  If I didn’t have it to read… Oh my goodness I would have been antsy!

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Book Information
  • Author: Peter V. Brett
  • Series: The Demon Cycle (1)
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

May 222013

The Dragon's Path: Book 1 of The Dagger and the Coin The Dragon’s Path is the first instalment in The Dagger and the Coin epic fantasy series. It’s immensely rich in its own history, with a multitude of races and flawed but wonderful characters.  Just my cup of tea!

I was intrigued from the start, with an introduction to an apostate escaping from an ancient temple with a scary truth.  We don’t know who he is, but as the book progressed I started to have suspicions, but each time I thought I knew the truth I was cleverly deflected by Daniel Abraham.  In most fantasy settings, you often find one or two other races that are ‘typical’ but for this series, Abraham has created twelve and an extremely clever reason behind them (I mentioned the rich history already!)

It’s also a multi-faceted tale about people trying to do the best thing in the worst of circumstances and that means not always doing the right thing.  The major cast were brilliant. Marcus, Yardem, Cithrin and Master Kit were all characters that I really warmed to, even if I didn’t always agree with their choices. Geder, I felt for but wanted to shake and Basrahip… well, I don’t think there is a boot big enough to stomp on him!  Along with them are quite a few other characters, some you love and some you hate but they all felt extremely well fleshed out and very real.  I have to note the friendship and interplay between Marcus and Yardem, the first time they appear, made me laugh out loud and I knew I was hooked.  Daniel Abraham has quite the talent for creating his characters.

The plot can be quite complicated but not too hard to follow.  Explaining it however is another matter and I’m not even going to try.  I shall say instead that it is completely engaging and if you like a good epic fantasy that isn’t going to run to twelve books (I believe there is five in this series) then this will be right up your street.

The pace was good and I never felt it dragged, even when the characters themselves were being put through long journeys.  The action scenes were brutal and a couple of times I was open mouthed in shock but at the end of the day, that is not what the book is about.  The characters are what make it shine.

A great start to an epic fantasy series and I am eager to dive into the second book – The King’s Blood.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Apr 172013

Promise of Blood: Book 1 in the Powder Mage trilogy I will hold my hand up and say I was less than enthusiastic about this book based purely on a brief read of the cover blurb.  However, since I was still enjoying being on a fantasy kick and wanting something new to sink my teeth into I picked it up.

It was actually the strapline on the cover that rescued the book for me – “The Age of Kings is dead… and I have killed it.” I loved it, both powerful and intriguing and that alone was enough to turn the first page.

I’ve never been happier to have been proved wrong.  I was pleasantly surprised by the plot – while it might have seemed like a common fantasy trope at first glance, Brian McClellan managed to turn it on its head and shake it around.  The result is an amazing debut that entertained and engaged me, while giving me that tingle of discovering something good and very special.

The writing was descriptive without being too wordy.  I could clearly envisage the scenes in my head, even without extra padding and that made for easy reading that flowed right to the end.

The characters were superbly envisioned and no one was clearly cut out as good or evil, just varying shades of grey.  Believing you are doing the right thing is a powerful force even in the face of evidence to the contrary.  As the plot unfolded, my allegiances changed, time and time again and while I have to confess my favourites were Taniel and Adamat, both were very different characters but there was something special about them that really touched me.

The magic system McClellan conjured was just as intriguing as the story.  Magic is very common but in the majority of the Knacked population it’s very minor and often no more than a help to do their job.  The more powerful Marked are pretty dangerous and the top ranking Privileged are utterly lethal.  Then there are powder mages, those who can use gunpowder to augment their abilities, often making them unbeatable in a fight.  Of course that’s a very simplistic description of something integral to the story so I can only suggest you read and find out the intricacies for yourself!

The ending of Promise of Blood was nicely done even and sets things up solidly for the next book. As an aside, I really liked the fact that while I really want to read the next one, I’m not left feeling desperate due to a cliffhanger.  It was no less powerful an ending because of that either.

Definitely an author to watch and highly recommended for any fantasy fan.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Book Information
  • Author: Brian McClellan
  • Series: Powder Mage Trilogy (1)
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

Feb 132013

Ice Forged: Book 1 of the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga Blaine McFadden killed the man who raped his sister.  Rather than being sentenced to death, the King exiles him to the far northern penal colony of Edgeland, a frozen, barren wasteland that just happens to have important resources the King needs.  Making what life he can throughout the years, under the watchful and oppressive eyes of the governor and his mages, Blaine and the friends he has bonded with survive in the harshest of conditions.  When the essential supply ships stop coming from Donderath, the colony wonders how they will survive.  Then magic starts to fail and in one night of a terrible storm, it vanishes altogether.  No word from Donderath, no magic to help them survive, Blaine decides that he has to take matters into his own hands to find out what has happened and return to the Kingdom that exiled him.

Something I have come to expect from Gail Z. Martin is her clarity of writing. Her prose is easy to read and understand, yet she can lay out a scene detailed enough for you to imagine being there or watching it on a screen.  Ice Forged is no exception, from the first page that clarity was there and I was drawn right into the story.

As with the Chronicles of the Necromancer and Fallen Kings Cycle, we have an ensemble cast which is something I love, but it was also nice to get a look at the core of Blaine and what happened to him before he met the others.  And I do love the others a lot!  They are all very individual characters, each distinct, and I’m glad to say I didn’t feel any echo of characters from the other series.  Not that it would have been a bad thing, as I loved them too but here we have a fresh crew to entertain us.  There is perhaps one similarity which I won’t spell out for fear of spoiling, but again, it felt different enough that I wasn’t constantly reminded.

The plot is really well done with a few horrific twists.  I have to say one huge event was a brave thing to do, and in this book there are also hints of what might be coming, but I can’t honestly say for sure that I know what will happen.  I couldn’t put it down and loved it to the end.  I say this a lot but I can’t wait for the next book, I NEED to know!

I felt the pace was really well judged, there was no time to get bored, and even when there wasn’t much action happening, there was always something to keep my attention; then when the action eventually hits, it really explodes.

Ice Forged is hugely entertaining and has a classic fantasy feel to it which delighted me. The characters gave me much the same feeling as I get from reading Eddings, Gemmell and Brooks.

More please!

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Book Information
  • Author: Gail Z. Martin
  • Series: Ascendant Kingdoms Saga (1)
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

Jul 252012

Green Rider Karigan G’ladheon is at a crossroads in her young life.  Suspended unjustly from the university where she was studying, she rashly decides to return home rather than await judgement.  It’s on the way home she finds her destiny waiting for her, in the form of one of the King’s Green Riders, dying on the side of the road, having been shot by two sinister black arrows.  F’ryan Coblebay begs her to take up his burden and carry his message to the King in Sacor City for it was a matter of life and death.  What message could be so important that it means one of the legendary messenger’s trusting a stranger on the road and begging for her help, even as he lies dying?

I first read Green Rider in about 2002 and have read it a couple of times since.  Having the third book unread on my shelf prompted me to pick it up again recently, remembering what a wonderful fantasy story it was.

Kristen Britain creates a vivid and well realised world for her characters to live in and then populates it with people you not only love, but get exasperated with, want to smack and who also make you laugh. The evil and the selfish characters are also well written, sometimes hidden amongst the good and at times you are kept guessing as to their true natures.  The battles and violent scenes can be stark, brutal and at times incredibly sad, but I thought they were entirely appropriate for the setting.

One of the things I enjoyed most about it was that it led me back to my love of epic fantasy.  I love all the genres I read, but with the amount of urban fantasy and paranormal romance I’ve read recently, the romantic scenes in Green Rider seemed gentle.  It reminded me of Guy Gavriel Kay, David Eddings, Gail Z. Martin where some acts were alluded to rather than laid out in descriptive glory (and don’t get me wrong, I love that too but this approach also has a special place in my heart).

The story is gripping and the history built around it is superb.  The actions of a madman and the solution used to stop his reign of terror now dwell in the depths of history, a thousand years ago.  Memories of that time have now fallen to legend and result in complacency, which I found all too realistic.  Now those safeguards are failing and it takes the ingenuity and heroism of a few remarkable individuals to bring that danger to light. Karigan is landed in the middle of it all and the snarkiness and spark that Britain gives her, makes her a heroine to love (and get fondly exasperated with).

I highly recommend this to anyone who loves a good epic fantasy that breaks out of the usual mould.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Kristen Britain
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)