2013 – A bookish year

 So another year is behind us and in spite of the personal life stuff going on resulting in the dearth of reviews, reading was still going on behind the scenes.

So what books made us sit up and beg?

Grete

The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett – The fantastic third book in the Demon Cycle.

Fortress Frontier by Myke Cole – Military sci-fi with superheroes.  This second book was an excellent addition to the Shadow Ops series.

Abaddon’s Gate by James S.A. Corey – This series needs to be on either the big or small screen – any screen!  Until then it’s an amazing sci-fi story and this third book was a brilliant addition to the Expanse.

Parasite by Mira Grant – An amazingly creepy but riveting novel. If you liked her Newsflesh trilogy, you are going to love this!

Kevin HearneThe Iron Druid Chronicles was a series that entranced me so much, I ended up romping through and didn’t take time to review.  It’s a fantastic series and one I will be re-reading, slower this time, so I can actually do reviews!

Bound by Night by Larissa Ione – The first in a new series by Larissa and just as exciting as her Demonica/Lords of Deliverance.  Speaking of which, the next book in that series, Reaver, is on this list too as it was utterly fantastic and had my jaw dropping several times as things were revealed.

Fifth Grave Past the Light by Darynda Jones – This is another series I love so much that I keep racing through them and end up not reviewing.  It’s a habit I really have to stop as my memory is just not up to it these days!  Charley Davidson is one of my favourite paranormal heroines and I just can’t get enough of her!

Styxx by Sherrilyn Kenyon – I loved, loved, loved this book.  I cried, I laughed, I may have shouted a few times.  A worthy companion to Acheron and a brilliant addition to the Dark-Hunter’s series.  It does take you through the wringer though!

The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty – I absolutely loved this light hearted approach to the paranormal and look forward to the next one, out this year!

Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan – A gritty and powerful epic fantasy debut.  I loved the magic system he devised and I hold high hopes for the second book.

Ice Forged by Gail Z. Martin – First in a new series by Gail and it’s off to a promising start.  I loved her two previous series a lot so it had a lot to live up to!  Looking forward to book two!

J.D. Robb – Thanks to Tracey, I discovered the In Death series and devoured the whole lot one after the other.  It amazed me how good they are and how, even 35+ books in, they are still extremely enjoyable and great reads.

Watch Your Back by Karen Rose – So many of Karen’s books have characters that appear or are related to people in other novels and this one felt like it had been a long time coming.  It was utterly amazing and prompted me to go back and read ALL the previous books!

Blood Song by Anthony Ryan – This book honestly surprised me and I’m annoyed at myself that I didn’t do a review after I read it, as it so very much deserved it.  It’s an amazingly gritty fantasy, written with a single focus and I urge anyone who loved David Gemmell’s work to pick this up.  I will be re-reading this (and reviewing this time, dammit)!

Unseen by Karin Slaughter – Every time I think Karin has outdone herself, she releases the next book and raises the bar even higher.  I can’t get enough of Will Trent and Sara Linton!

Lover at Last by J.R. Ward – The latest book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series was hotly anticipated and I was not left disappointed!

Tracey

While my list has some similar ones to Grete, I also have some totally different genres to her.  Being much more of a romantic sap, it will come as no surprise that I have a number of romances on my list.

The books I share Grete’s love for are :

Styxx of course – the most anticipated book of the year for me and one that did not disappoint. Probably my book of the year!

Reaver by Larissa Ione – another eagerly awaited novel that ticked all the boxes for me.

The In Death series by J.D. Robb – I read all 35 books in 4 weeks and absolutely loved them.

For me though the year was all about romance! There were books from my favourite romance authors: Stephanie Laurens, Eloisa James, Julia Quinn, Sarah MacLean and Sarah Morgan.

I really cannot express all the books that I loved this year, I read well over 100 of them! Since I tend to read books I know I will enjoy, it is so hard to only pick a few.

If I was to recommend a few books to other readers I would go with the following:

Sleigh Bells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan – I have been a fan of Ms. Morgan for many years, reading all her Mills and Boon books and it was great to have a longer book to enjoy. This is romance at its best and a great start to a new series.

Nora Roberts has featured heavily in my reading this year but a trilogy I particularly enjoyed was the Key Trilogy – Key of Light, Key of Knowledge and Key of Valour. This has a paranormal slant with Ms. Roberts’ usual excellent romance story.

Sarah MacLean’s Rules of Scoundrels series is recommended reading, particularity if you enjoy historical romance. I have loved all the books in this series and look forward to the next one hopefully coming in 2014!

Will definitely be doing more reviews this year, even if only a few lines, there are so many great books I want to share my love of.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ice Forged

 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)
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

The Dread

I often approach the final book in a series with some trepidation.  Will it live up to the rest of the series, will the author be able to create enough impact for a finale but also finish it in a way that leaves you satisfied? I’d really enjoyed the five previous books that were set in the Winter Kingdoms, so I had both high hopes and mild anxiety when I picked up this final book.

I was in tears by page five so that put my fears to a sad rest!

Martin has managed to create a book utterly in keeping with the rest of the series, with the same engaging writing style.  The characters I love so much are present and pressed at every turn.  With the characters so scattered in different countries, it could have easily become confusing as what was happening and where but the author managed to keep it very clear and progression between segments felt very natural and smooth.

A very mild complaint I had from The Sworn was that Kiara was kept out of most of the story due to pregnancy and this time it was Carina’s turn.  I felt the loss of her input but in the end it felt more real, that a heavily pregnant woman couldn’t take part in a brutal war.  I’m glad that little snippets of her were included as it would just not have been the same without her.

The story doesn’t let up in intensity or pace, with Martin driving my emotions as a reader as hard as she does her characters.  It’s full of the things that are guaranteed to tug at my heart strings; fighting against the odds, heroic sacrifice, honour, duty, love and grief.  Many authors use them, only a few get it so right I end up holding my breath at crucial points, crying with joy or heartbreak.  It’s a gift and one that Gail Z. Martin has in abundance.

While The Dread marks the end of the two amazing series and these characters for now, I’m glad to say we aren’t yet done with the Winter Kingdoms!

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Book Information
  • Author: Gail Z. Martin
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

 

The Sworn

While plague sweeps across the Winter Kingdoms, some nations barely survived because of famine and loss from the war.  A dark power rises across the northern sea, looking to use their weakened state to wage his own battle.  That dark power that seeks to free an ancient enemy and only The Sworn can see what is coming.

It was good to see the major characters from the last series again, even if not much time had passed in the world from the end of Dark Lady’s Chosen.  They are just as consistently written and as likeable as before and it was a bit like greeting old friends.

The book started quite slowly as the scene for this new series was set.  Meeting and getting to know the new characters took a little time but was worth it.  As with the others, Martin writes her new heroes in such a way that you can’t help but like them. The pace did pick up eventually and was well matched with the story as events unfolded.

The plot was a little confusing at first with the new characters, and the focus jumped around a bit between them all.  I did feel  though, as if it was almost a reflection of what the characters were going through and their own confusion.  In my imagination it’s like a huge circle with everyone far apart on the edges but as you read on, the circle gets smaller and smaller until people meet up, join forces and as knowledge and experiences get shared, they start working out what was really going on.

And I have to say… what seems to be going on is huge!  By the end of the book I was desperate to know what happens next!

There are some very sad and poignant moments in The Sworn, and in a subtle way you get prepared for them, but it doesn’t lessen the overall impact.

I still love the way magic works in these books, the variety of forms, plus the religious aspects still intrigue me and Tris’ unique power is always fascinating as he continues to learn who and what he is.

I was disappointed that Kiara and Carina didn’t really play a huge part, other than supporters, due to pregnancy.   While it is a natural and expected thing, it almost felt like it was a deliberate ploy to keep more characters out of the mix.  Having said that, I get the feeling Tris and Kiara’s firstborn is going to play an important role in the rest of the series, and the reasoning for Kiara getting pregnant again so quickly was sound.  Kiara is going to have to play a part in the next book, pregnant or not, so maybe in the end it’s a question of setting the stage.

Can’t wait for the next book in this exciting fantasy series!

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Gail Z. Martin
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Dark Lady’s Chosen

It seems nothing comes easy to King Martris and Queen Kiara of Margolan.  Reclaiming the throne seems to have only brought more problems, along with the poverty and famine the country is experiencing after Jared’s abuses.  Tris has to go to war against the man who would put Jared’s bastard on the throne, leaving Kiara pregnant and vulnerable at Shekerishet.  Jonmarc and Carina are facing their own problems in Principality and as Lord of Dark Haven, Jonmarc has to deal with the Blood Council of the Vayash Mor, not all of who want a mortal as the Lord of a sanctuary for non humans.  With the Legacy Arantola left with the shredding of the Flow, it seems everything is against them.  Yet they must succeed or everything is lost.

Dark Lady’s Chosen is the final book in the Chronicles of the Necromancer, and is a wonderful  conclusion to this series.  All the plot threads that had been woven throughout the three previous books, come together with enough flair and drama to make a
great end to the story.

By this stage I loved all the ‘good’ characters, both major and minor and cared a great deal about what happened to them.  The progression that Tris, Kiara, Jonmarc and Carina went through made it feel like I’d grown along with them.  Even though they were all in different places, with several major events happening to them, it didn’t feel disjointed or awkward.  Each part flowed naturally from one to the next while the tension increased each time.. The pace was well calculated and I didn’t feel it dragged at all, even during the quieter moments.  The action scenes were both imaginative and visceral, and I liked that the characters were not spared from injury.  Almost the opposite in fact, which made it believeable, and at times had me wincing.

I think it’s a testament to Martin’s writing that I couldn’t predict how it would turn out, I just hoped.  The ending though was excellent and I put the book down with a good and satisfied feeling of having enjoyed a good story.

I’m extremely happy that Gail Z. Martin is not yet done with this world and that I will meet up with some of the beloved characters again, in the first book of the next series – The Sworn.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Gail Z. Martin
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Dark Haven

The war might have been won but the fighting is far from over.  King Martris Drayke, having secured the throne of Margolan, now welcomes Kiara to Shekerishet to be his Queen.  What should be a happy time for them is shadowed by plot, threat and intrigue and it seems some of Jared’s former supporters would see Tris’ rule end before it truly began.  Jonmarc Vahanian takes his place as Lord of Dark Haven, and as a place of both refuge and home to humans, Vayash Moru and Vyrkin, life is seldom going to be boring. Overjoyed that Carina is going to join him, but with matters within the blood council tense and fragile, he fears he won’t be able to keep her safe. A faction of ‘those who walk the night’ would see Dark Haven with an immortal lord and would go to great lengths to see that realised.

Dark Haven is the third book of the Chronicles of the Necromancer and follows directly on from The Blood King.  I did wonder how Martin would write this novel, having everyone splitting off from the central group they started as, but I have to say it was well done.  It didn’t feel at all disjointed when the story changed to another character’s and each time the progression felt natural.

It was good to see each of the characters I’ve grown to love, rather than the story focussing on one pair of them; the title of this book did make me wonder if that would be the case.  Happily it was not, and Tris and Kiara play as much a part in this book as Carina and Vahanian.  Carroway, Soterius, Harrtuck, Gabriel and Mikhail are of course along for the ride too.

The plot was exciting with so much intrigue coming at them from all corners I wonder how much more they can take and still be true to themselves.  The problems with the flow of magic is an interesting facet and is another ticking bomb along with the rest of the plotlines, and I thought it was good that the characters who are sensitive to it, know there is a problem and the danger it inherently presents but are too hard pressed by mortal threat to be able to figure out what to do about it.  As I read through the book it felt like everything the characters endured, was slowly pressing them together in a vice and somewhere along the line there is going to be one hell of an explosion.

The writing was again smooth and easy to read, the story gripping and with enough tension to keep me turning the pages, needing to know what happens next.  I have to say the end of the book had me gasping and as I have the final book in the series waiting on my desk, I’ve had to force myself to not pick it up until this review was done!

Excellent and enjoyable epic fantasy from Gail Z. Martin.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Gail Z. Martin
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

The Blood King

Time is fast running out for Prince Martris Drayke, with the Hawthorn Moon scant months away and still so much to learn about his power.  If he and his friends are to save Margolan and the Winter Kingdoms, and prevent his brother Jared and the Evil Sorcerer Arantola from raising of the Obsidian King they have to push themselves to their absolute limits.  Maybe even at the cost of their own lives.

The Blood King is the second book in the Chronicles of the Necromancer and is a worthy successor to The Summoner.  This book felt as if it was set at a slightly slower pace which I found interesting since there was actually a lot more urgency to the story.  Perhaps with the group of characters splitting off to do their own tasks for the coming battle, this was inevitable but the transitions moving from one group to another were very smooth and didn’t detract at all from the story.

The plot was as interesting as the first novel, in particular the lengths Tris and the others have to go to and through, to set things in motion in the time they have left.  Their fear, vulnerability, love and compassion are really well written and at no time did I feel they were over powered and guaranteed success without effort.  I still love Tris and Kiara but Carina and Vahanian have become a close second.  The darker parts of the book were quite harrowing, in particular when spirits come to Tris looking for peace and you find the true extent of Jared’s insanity and depravity.

The only negative thing I have to say is Martin has a tendency to over use a few key phrases but they do play their own small part in the story, so it is a minor complaint.

I was a bit surprised by the conclusion to this book but am looking forwards to finding out what happens in the third book in this series.

Quality fantasy once again from Gail Z. Martin.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Gail Z. Martin
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

 

The Summoner

As second son to the King of Margolan, Prince Martris Drayke never expected, nor wanted to be, in line for the Throne.  After witnessing his cruel and vicious older brother take over the Kingdom in a night of bloody violence, he is forced to flee or be killed along with everyone that had been loyal to his father.   With few options, Tris and his closest friends set out on a journey to find allies, avenge their dead and come to terms that their world has now changed forever.  Their best chance is Tris himself, able to see and speak to ghosts, he is the untrained heir of his Grandmother, a Summoner of great power who could work with the living and the dead.  He must find a way to unlock his potential and become the one thing King Jared and Arontala, his twisted sorceror, fear most.  The Summoner.

I’d been looking for a good, epic fantasy to sink my teeth into again lately, and happened to notice The Sworn by Gail Z. Martin in a prominent place in the bookstore.  I liked the premise, but realised it was the start of a second series.  Since I like to start from the beginning, I went looking and found book one of the Chronicles of the Necromancer – The Summoner.

I had no expectations, I’d never read Gail Z. Martin’s work before, but I have to say I found it compelling right from the very first page.  The characters are really well rounded and expertly written, and I grew to like and then love them very quickly.  Of course when the author is not afraid to write about the darker side of life, this can create a slight pang to the heart!

The story was excellent and I must admit, I do love quests and being on the journey with the characters, joining them to do whatever they must, to see their world safe.  There is of course a danger of many tropes and cliches with this type of fantasy and some of them are unavoidable.  Where Martin excels, is when she takes some of them and uses them to further the story, turning them into a positive thing instead of letting it become ‘yet another epic quest fantasy’.  Instead she created an engaging and intriguing tale that kept me gripped right to the last page.

The pace of the story is good, the writing very smooth, easy to read and I couldn’t put it down.  By the end I was so absorbed and wanting more, I immediately ordered the rest of the series.

An astonishingly good read that does much to revitalise the genre.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Gail Z. Martin
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)