Posts Tagged ‘Fantasy’

The Four Realms is not your typical fantasy novel and that’s not a bad thing. Yeah, so the hero, Darwin, a very confused half-breed vampire might or might not get the girl, Cassidy, a young and naive fallen angel at end of the story. Also, a ridiculously old lady,  Maureen Summerglass, who lives with her cats and has a portal to another dimension in her cellar, might or might not find out she can do magic and play a vital role in this whole story. There also might or might not be tentacle-wielding-octopus bad guys of doom, hell-bent on finding a book about magical portals written in old elfish that no one can read.  You might decide you want to read this book and you might not.  Mr. West (the main octopus-bad-guy-insane-creature) could probably run the data and already have the answer for you before you even make a decision.

So if you are looking for a normal everyday epic fantasy novel – I’m looking at you, Lord of The Rings trilogy – The Four Realms isn’t for you. The Four Realms throws together a squad of cast-offs and undesirables. This odd batch forms a unique core cast of characters that really don’t do things perfectly, aren’t who you would normally cheer for, and quite frankly I wouldn’t place a two dollar dark horse bet on them to win a single race,  let alone star in a book about themselves.

Adrian Faulkner makes it work.  It isn’t always pretty at times and you are never sure if someone is just going to lose their marbles and kill everyone:  but Faulkner does a wonderful job framing his characters with resentment at not fitting in, self-doubt and even at the end the characters still have bits and pieces that need to be put back together.

The Four Realms is a book very akin to the same individuals its pages contain; it’s somewhat in your face, volatile, and it is definitely not perfect by any stretch of the means. I loved a lot of things in this book and some of it I just didn’t get. Like the chase scene with Maureen, Joseph the Troll, and some elves where they run through places and come into contact with not a soul. Maureen and Joseph even fall into a florist shop, but no one is inside? This didn’t ruin the story for me, but it was one of a few minor issues I had.

The Four Realms is a twisted and must-read that will probably leave you a tad shell-shocked after it’s all said and done. This book is published by Anarchy Books and I think it fits exactly within what they are trying to accomplish as a publisher. It can be a tad, chaotic, radical, and bumpy at times but by the end I think you will want a little more taste of what Adrian Faulkner and The Four Realms has to offer.

7.5 out of 10 Liams.

Thanks to Andy Remic and Anarchy Books for this review copy.

What a thorny book! Okay, I couldn’t resist! But it really is such an apt name for the book and the main character, Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence. Prickly, shredded, raw and evil, thirteen year old Prince Jorg slashes his way to revenge. Of course, after seeing your mother and brother ruthlessly hacked to death, wouldn’t you, too?
Lawrence paints Jorg consistently. Although his acts of evil and mercilessness are shocking, we do expect them. The hardest concept to swallow is Jorg’s age, which Jorg points out himself several times in the book when his men or newcomers balk at following such a young leader. By the end of the book, however, we’ve come to accept that this twisted, broken youngster is a young man, not a child. We never really like him and he doesn’t care. Jorg simply demands your allegiance and obeisance and he gets it through fear and cruelty.
I certainly liked Lawrence’s dalliances with the necromancers and the leucrota, mutated, irradiated almost orc-like beings that dwell in the mountains. Through them we are given hints of a long dead technological society, not enough though to make us salivating for more, just an off-hand comment here and there. I was hoping for a little more of this background. Also, the little smatter of sorcery is captivating, but again, it seemed so peripheral as to be an afterthought.
All along we secretly hope for a glimmering of Jorg’s redemption. Do we get it when his Nuban compadre is killed? Perhaps. Or perhaps not. Maybe we really don’t want redemption for Jorg and we really do crave the depravity and all out savagery that his avenging soul yearns for. I guess we will have to read Book Two of The Broken Empire to find out!  8 out of 10 Liams.

Ah! A boy, his robot, and flying taxis – what’s not to love? The adventures of Zak Corbin: Master of Machines, by Tony Russo, begins fast and furiously with an epic robotic battle. Russo tosses a sprinkling of mystery into the battle, just enough to get us turning the pages to know more.

Under the devious guidance of his imprisoned uncle, the feared Dr. Elias Corbin, fifteen (and three-fourths) years old Zak Corbin and two good friends build a Corbin robot. When Zak’s robot, Pogo, mistakenly follows an errant command to set Dr. Corbin free, unstoppable gears are set in motion that will steamroll the world of Zak, his friends and New Futura itself. Along the way, the trio learns about friendship, confidence, and responsibility.

Zak struggles with everything that the typical teenager goes through – frustration with his parents, self-doubt, young love. We feel his nervousness as he and friends bring their robot to school for the first time. We applaud when the robot does well and shrink in our skin right along with Zak as the robot fails. Russo manages to plush out a young teen (perhaps based on his son, “the original Zak”) that seems real and human. Albeit, Zak does appear a bit over-achieving and a bit of the over-the-top young genius to be able to construct such advanced robots, even with the help of his illustrious uncle. However, I guess we could all aspire to possess such intelligence!

The robots are oversized, elite, and scrumptious. I want one! As each robot stomps and battles through New Futura, we feel the ground shake and hear the artillery whistle and explode.

Zak Corbin: Master of the Machines is an exciting, fast-paced action/adventure tale that is perfect for a quick read. Young adults would especially love it and identify with our hero, Zak, and his friends. 8 out of 10 stars.

 

 

 

 

 

Cora and her husband Ben hunt monsters. They’ve been doing it for over ten years but in the small mining town of Leadville, Colorado they might have finally met their match.

I’m not a fan of anything western, I don’t like country music, and much to my chagrin Daniel Craig’s Cowboys and Aliens was a sub-par movie at best. So why then, I keep asking myself, did I enjoy The Dead of Winter so much?

My conclusion is that The Dead of Winter reads more like an action-adventure novel when compared with anything else. Sure, Cora is an alcoholic, mad woman who enjoys gambling and blasting away at the innumerable horrors that lurk in the shadows, but in truth there is more to this stubborn broad’s story than a simple western tale.

I also enjoyed the contrast between Cora and the English vampire hunter chap. I think they could pair up and make an interesting duo together as their chemistry seems spot on.

I’m going to brag a little here but midway through this book, I had filed away a huge conflicting bit of information that just kept nagging at me the farther I rode into the story. I actually intended on ripping this flaw to shreds until I finished the book and realized that the reason for this was actually the subtle maneuvering by Lee Collins and the plot twist he sneakily throws out there. I just couldn’t put my finger on it but something seemed a tad fishy and luckily in the end it pans out spectacularly. (Good luck reading this story and trying to figure it out, before it smacks into your face like buckshot.)

The book reads ridiculously fast and multiple times I had to physically slow my pace down lest I skipped over any crucial details. I still finished it in about four or five hours of read time over two days.

The story line for The Dead of Winter is compact and solid.  It also severs off most of the loose ends quite nicely at its conclusion. The fact that The Dead of Winter was originally a Nanowrimo piece is also freaking awesome! I’d give this novel 8.5 out of 10 Liams and I’ll definitely be looking into the sequel, She Returns From War.

Thanks again to Angry Robot Publishing and Darren Turpin for the review copy.

So I entered some silly, fun, Twitter contest put on by Marcus Gipps and won an intriguingly titled book called Throne of the Crescent Moon, written by Saladin Ahmed whose name I’m scared to speak out loud for fear of insulting him and his ancestors with my butchered mispronunciation. Needless to say this silly little contest provided me with a book that turned out to be a world beater that is so masterfully written that right now it is my favorite book of the year so far.

So my recommendation? If I can only get you to read one book this entire year, Throne of the Crescent Moon is it. Saladin Ahmed has filled this book full of characters brimming with vitality and potential. For example, Doctor Adoulla Makhslood is a ghul hunter, one of the few remaining in Dhamsawaat and this fat man is possibly the city’s only hope for surviving the coming apocalypse.

Doctor Adoulla Makhslood is accompanied by his faithful assistant, Raseed bas Raseed, a holy warrior whose only fear is dishonoring his god and Zamia Badawi a young tribeswoman blessed with the ability to shape-shift into a lion. Saladin switches viewpoints periodically throughout the chapters and the connection he creates between the reader and all of his characters is mind boggling. I think I’ve finally found a book where I actually feel something for the majority of characters and for me that is a rarity.

I think what first grabbed my attention from the very beginning in this book was the simple opening scene of Adoulla sitting down and inhaling the aroma of his morning tea while relishing in the teeming city life of his beloved Dhamsawaat. It’s such a basic, every-day-act but Saladin wrote it so perfectly I can’t get the image of the fat doctor and his bleached white robes out of my head. The same goes for the rest of the book.

The Falcon Prince leading an uprising and a newly anointed Khalif only interested in his own majesty are the least of Adoulla and his friends’ problems, until they all come to a junction of nuclear proportions.

I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough in this one and once I finished, I was kicking myself for not lingering longer in the fantastic story. Throne of the Crescent Moon is by far the best written story I’ve read this year, even outstripping Seven Wonders by Adam Christopher which was excellent in its own way. 9 out of 10 Liams to this book and I can only end this by saying it’s in a league all its own. The writing is just phenomenal.

Thanks again to Marcus Gipps for allowing me the opportunity to win this book.

Sword of Justice stars the hero of the Empire, Ludwig Schwarzhelm, in a tale riddled with deception, political intrigue, and chaos. I’ve been on a Warhammer Fantasy kick lately and this book by Chris Wraight has been sitting on my back burner for far too long.

The majority of the setting lies in and around Averland, a place Ludwig is intimately familiar with since childhood. Averland is currently in a state of what I would consider relaxed turmoil. While there is no clear Elector count to rule over the people and wield its runefang, the merchants and the two other opponents vying for power aren’t exactly crying about it as they continue to profit from the current lack of direction.

This brings us to the main point of conflict from which a multitude of problems arise and when I say a multitude, I mean a crapload. Ludwig is tasked by the Emperor Karl Franz to preside over the hearing between the two parties and select the next and rightful Elector ( in as lawful a manner as possible). In the meantime reports of Orcs massing around the outskirts is drawing a lot of attention. Ludwig decides to divides his loyal servants and each is anointed with a vital task. My personal favorite of Ludwig’s tools is the Spy/Counselor Verstohlen and his discovery of the “Joy Root”, along with the fact that he is the most interesting character in the entire book from my perspective.

The initial start to the book felt a tad heavy-handed until around page one-hundred or so and then things really started to heat up. Keep in mind that this is a two part book so Mr. Wraight does have a lot of wiggle room.

Lately I’ve been having a bit of a connection problem with some of the characters in the stories I’ve read, whether it is the side characters I found unmemorable or in this case the big man himself. With Sword of Justice, I absolutely loved Grunwald, Bloch, and Verstohlen. I would actually pay to read more about Verstohlen in a series of collected shorts or something of that nature. Ludwig to me is represented as the perfect, gruff, common man’s soldier, except he is a giant impassible object that can’t be defeated in combat by anyone or anything (as of yet). I think I prefer Verstohlenso much more because he compliments Ludwig perfectly in his ability to maneuver politically without stepping on toes and the his character’s back story flashes have me wanting to read deeper into his origin. I expected Ludwig to have more of a crafty old general side to him and less hot-headedness. As I said before, however, there is book two and plenty of space for character growth.

Near the end of this tale things are getting really, really messed up – especially if you keep waiting on a certain “someone” and their certain powers of chaos to rise up and just wreck havoc across the lands and slaughter everything. Bit of a spoiler – The ending has three major questions left unanswered and I’m dying to get the answers.

Overall I’d give Sword of Justice 7 out of 10 Liams. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a great book and I’m completely hooked and rearing to start the next one. But I think I kept trying to compare Mr. Wraight’s book to the Ambassador Chronicles by Graham McNeill and it is an unfair comparison since I haven’t read those in such a long time. The epic conclusion lies with the next book, Sword of Vengeance, and I’ll be getting there shortly.

You can find Chris Wraight Here.

Wulfrik is a Warhammer Fantasy novel by the master of this genre, C.L. Werner. It has been awhile since I have visited Warhammer Fantasy and Wulfrik definitely surprised the hell out of me. Yetis, Fire Dwarves, Hobgoblins, the lammasu, and the Treetroll, I had no idea the editors at Black Library were letting their authors branch out so far away from their usually safe medium. Few noteworthy tidbits worth mentioning least I forget: Wulfrik’s Gift of Tongues; while originally I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy this it turned out to be pretty sweet.

So let’s row on into the plot shall we? Wulfrik is cursed by the Dark Chaos Gods, damned to wander for what may be eternity until he kills everything sent to him through the visions the gods provide him. This turns into somewhat of a quagmire for Wulfrik because the love of his life is stuck back in his home town, Ormskaro and his love Hjordis’s father, King Viglundr is trying to marry her off to a rival prince. In the meantime a Kurgan shaman comes along with hefty promises to end Wulfrik’s curse once and for all. Whether the shaman can make good on these claims or whether Wulfrik and his men can survive the trials and tribulations ahead of them is as good as anyone’s guess.

As you can probably tell from the title, Wulfrik is the main character and really while some of the side characters are intriguing themselves (Jokull, the scout with a tentacle “…lash-like appendage growing from his shoulder…” and another reaver, Arngeirr, welding a kraken blade) I didn’t really pay as much attention to any others and didn’t feel a ton of connection. This is excluding some of the more major characters within this saga, Hjordis, The King Viglundr, the Aesling prince Sveinbjorn, and the mysterious Kurgan shaman, Zarnath.

The linear change in Wulfrik and a few others isn’t so extreme that it jars the reader but nearing the end you might find it a bit shocking, until it settles in upon you that even though this is classified as a Warhammer Hero novel, Wulfrik is anything but a saint and will go to any lengths of the world to get his way.

I’ve heard a lot of people complain about the use of some magic ruining fantasy novels but the bits used by a varying assortment of unscrupulous creatures and fiends was crafted admirably. I loved the portrayal of the raven within this book and how it correlates with everything; you probably won’t understand my meaning with this until you read the book.

The setting changed vastly due to the “Wandering” nature of Wulfrik and his enchanted ship “Seafang” and for me that was fantastic. One day you could be resting up and getting drunk in a mead hall at Ormskaro and the very next instant you might be battling the fire dwarves in the “Dronangkul” or “Fortress of Iron”, or perhaps even elves from as far away as Ulthuan.

This was definitely an exciting read for me as Warhammer Fantasy is what originally hooked me on the fantastic worlds of Warhammer.  I think Mr. Werner has been doing an excellent job in lighting the torch per say to hopefully grab some more attention to this greatly under-appreciated universe. I’m now even more excited to start on my next book, Sword of Justice, by Chris Wraight and hopefully have a successful hunt in finding Werner’s Dead Winter.

Wulfrik gets 8 out of 10 Liams and if you are looking to make a break back into the land of fantasy like myself then you need to start with this one.  Wulfrik was engaging start to finish, has a unique fresh feel to it, and is what I like to consider a complete well-crafted novel – whether it stands alone or more is added to the epic Saga of Wulfrik the Wanderer.

You can find Mr. Werner Here.

 

Liam on the first page!

          Seven Wonders is brilliant. Yes, brilliant. Each new scene brings about something that made me want to stand up and shout BRILLIANT! – like that idiotic Guinness commercial. Mishaps with new found powers like X-ray vision and dribbles of information about a super villain known as “Red Tape”, who wrecks bureaucratic havoc, left me smiling from ear to ear. The small plot blurb on Angry Robot’s  web page doesn’t do this book justice. There is so much more to Seven Wonders than a simple turf war between the superheroes and the new kid on the block, so much I didn’t think was even possible to fit inside the pages of one book. This was one of two books I was highly anticipating reading and so I set the bar pretty high. All I can say is that Seven Wonders went way beyond my wildest expectations.

The ease in which Adam Christopher switches from the mind of one character to another is uncanny. I’m not sure what it is exactly about Seven Wonders that captivated me so completely, whether it was the realism or the young child in me that wishes superheroes do exist. But it’s been a long time since I enjoyed taking my sweet time and digging into the story as much as I did with this.  The novel reads like a cinematic masterpiece flashing before your unblinking eyes, lest you miss a single moment of this superhero charged saga. The only way to describe Seven Wonders is by imagining the best superhero movie you can possibly fathom, times that by twenty and then let the story play out in high definition 3D inside your dazzled mind.

Peeking around at other review sites, The Founding Fields and Book Snobbery, I echo the sentiment with how spectacular this book truly is. I hate jumping on band wagons but it’s simply impossible not to be onboard this roller coaster that only goes skyward without stopping from start to finish.

I’m ashamed to admit that I haven’t read any of Adam’s previous work and I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes peeled for a copy of Empire State. This is going to be one those books you proudly display on the top of your bookshelf and show off to all your friends or inform them of how stupid they are for not reading it already. If you miss out on ordering the limited edition signed hardcover you’ll be kicking yourself square in the face later. I feel like I’m tripping over my own feet but I can’t find enough wonderful things to say about this book, no, not a book, but a piece of superhero history in the making. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see a rising trend in superhero novels after this one hits the market. 9 out of 10 Liams for the best cover to cover book I’ve read this year. I expect it to be up for some awards shortly.

You can find Adam’s blog HERE.

Many Thanks to Angry Robot Publishing for providing me with this eARC.

I’ll be anxiously waiting for a contender to try and knock this one out of my top spot for novel of the year.

 

           When boasted as being “…one of the most unique novels you will have ever read…,” it piques one’s interest to challenge such a statement.   However, Lee Battersby’s  novel The Corpse-Rat King certainly fits the bill.

The style and flow of The Corpse-Rat King has a very author-specific and definitive edge to it, in which Battersby utilizes his distinctive voice to craft out such an atypical fantasy story. The storyline is pure brilliance and the world, characters, and imagination superb. But I found myself questioning the main character, Marius Helles, several times. As I never give out spoilers I won’t divulge too deeply in to this and it was my only qualm within the novel. In short, I found Marius to be a much too conflicted and diverse individual, his former roles and life experiences a tad too expansive for my liking.

That being stated, nothing beats a fresh and exciting fantasy novel, The Corpse-Rat King included. The rest of the cast play their parts admirably, especially the grateful or not-so-grateful dead. Dead villagers, dead mad kings, dead regal kings, lots of dead things in general and most of them seem somewhat confused of their deadness, including Marius and his somewhat of a companion, Gerd.

The majority of the conflict within this book lies with Marius trying to save his own skin and run away as far as possible from the task he has been anointed for by the unguided dead. They need a king to lead them and Marius is tasked with finding them one. Whether or not he finally wakes up from his self-serving ways and completes this task, you will only be able to find out when you pick up Battersybee’s  Novel and read it yourself.

Other elements within the novel worth noting are the underground backwater ways, pagan witchcraft on a guano-infested isle, gambling in a secret underground venue, the guttersnipe language of the streets,  and the simplistic ways and beliefs of the working class peons.  Each have their own passionate vibrancy brought to life as Marius journeys from one uncertain venture to the next.

I try not to focus on a story’s ending as much as the entire piece as a whole. Naturally, though, one tends to gravitate more towards the coup de grace – as it’s so vivid in your memories. That said – the last three-fourths of this book are beyond spectacular.  Lee Battersby definitely saved the best for last in this unforgettable tale of death, dead things, and more awesome dead stuff. I knocked a few Liams off due to the over-the-top complexity and diversity of lead character Marius, but The Corpse-Rat King still merited 7 out of 10 Liams.

(Liam is trying to cover up his deadness like Marius don Hellespont with a bathrobe.)

Guardian of Dawn is a free short story ebook by prolific Black Library author, William King. King is best known for his Space Wolves and Gotrek and Felix novel series set in the Warhammer 40k and Warhammer Fantasy settings respectively.

While only a short story, you can’t complain with the excellent writing quality and price in this little teaser of a tale that leaves you crying out for more.

Kormak is a knight within the order of the Guardian of the Dawn, a sect that is sworn to uphold an ancient treaty protecting the Children of the Sun from the Shadow or those known as the Moon’s Children.

Kormak first appears to us grievously wounded and banging on the door of a farmer’s cottage. Through a round of banter and persuasion Kormak is given entrance. In hindsight this might not have been the most fortuitous of situations for either party.

The farmer’s daughter is being threatened by the Children of the Moon. The farmer and his family beg Kormak to protect them and honor his order’s oath. Being the man that he is, Kormak is obligated to fulfill their request. While confronting his adversary the Shadow, an uneasy truce is formed; however,  even with that pact a morose conclusion is brimming on the horizon.

An astounding short story, made even more enjoyable by its free price tag. I can easily envision a wide series of short stories about this knight’s order and their quests compiled into a dazzling anthology.

As far as free short stories go, this deserves every bit of its 5 out of 5 Liams rating.