Review of ~ Josiah Bancroft – The Hod King (The Books of Babel #3)

10/10

I received an advanced review copy of The Hod King in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank Josiah Bancroft and Orbit Books for the opportunity.

When I concluded my review of Arm of the Sphinx I stated that I would be counting down the days until I could rejoin Senlin and his companions adventures in The Hod King. As soon as I received this novel all other books failed to exist to me until this was completed. (more…)

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Review of ~ Anthony Ryan – Many Are The Dead

7.5/10

I received a review copy of Many are the Dead in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Anthony Ryan and my good friend Adrian Collins at Grimdark Magazine.

This tale is set approximately ten years before the action that takes place in Blood Song. The gentleman who becomes Master Sollis, the dude who trains Vaelin Al Sorna is at the forefront of this narrative. This story is only approximately 120-pages but it is pretty excepti0nal. Anyone who has read Blood Song will adore this and honestly, it probably works amazingly as a standalone.

The brothers of the Sixth order, alongside a lady who’s been looking for an age to find a cure to this worlds equivalent of the plague venture forth. We have Sollis, the mute Smentil, Oskin, and his pet Red Ears, and the healer Elara amongst others. The cast is very well fleshed out for such a short tale.

It commences with a bloody battle with the Sixth Order fighting their enemies the Lonak’s. As trained warriors they succeed but not without casualties. This Lonak warrior nation has a vendetta against our Blue-Cloaked pals.

They travel, a group of 5 including Elera and our bloodhound friend Red Ears to find the necessary weed for the curing of this plague but things don’t work out that simply. They meet creatures such as giant apes, shadow-cats and undescribable beasts. These creatures aren’t very accommodating… if anything it is the opposite.

I won’t say too much more about the story. I don’t normally rate short stories high but this is pretty exceptional. Within the 100 or so pages we get to know and care about all of the characters. There are a few deaths and twists which left me shellshocked and absolutely speechless.

Sollis is a brilliant main character. You may remember him from Blood Song as Vaelin’s brutal and experienced trainer. Sollis alongside mute Smentil control the narrative and it is great to see things from their point of view. Sollis was a bit of an arse in Blood Song so it’s nice to find out about his roots. Young and talented with a name to gain before he was a master.

The Lonak’s and the Sixth order join forces to fight against the Dark and it’s brilliant. The shaman character who can make water explode is useful when human’s bodies are made up of 55% water. That’s a nice skill in a war zone. There are an exceptional few set-pieces that are featured towards the finale. It’s brilliantly written and great to be back in this world. To be honest. I adored this and finished it in a day. Highly recommend. x

Review of ~ Andrzej Sapkowski – Sword of Destiny (The Witcher #2)

7/10

Much like The Last Wish before, Sword of Destiny is a collection of short stories following a talented witcher called Geralt of Rivia. Although you can start the series with Blood of Elves which is where the full-length novels commence, I can’t recommend enough that even though a handful of these short stories are hit-and-miss, that they will add considerable depth to the future narrative arcs.

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Review of ~ Peter McLean – Drake (The Burned Man #1)

7.5/10

I received a free copy of Drake from the author in exchange for an honest review. I would like to express my gratitude to Peter McLean and Angry Robot Books.

Don Drake is a London-based alcoholic magician hitman. This story starts as all narratives should with the first person protagonist playing this stories equivalent of poker whilst inebriated against a business owning notorious archdemon named Wormwood. They are wagering magical artifacts. Drake, who is often down on his luck believes he has unbeatable cards. Now the problem is that he doesn’t have the money to call his opponents hand. Wormwood being the archetypal (or not!) nice-guy demon says he will spot Drake the money and of course, Drake agrees and loses. He now is in a very powerful demons debt which means he must source Wormwood his murdering skills. This is to carry out certain unsavoury roles including killing business rivals and other figures until the money owed is repaid via the assassinations.

This novel is set in a gritty and despondent London. The veil between the city and the demon world is thin in certain places and sometimes abominable creatures lurk the foggy streets. Now, Drake lives in this area and has a deal with the local monstrosities that if he doesn’t bother them then they will not cross him. He is quite a powerful magician but the majority of his power comes from The Burned Man who is a chained and bound figment of a very powerful demon who he keeps at his house. During rituals, enchantments, and with special ingredients (lots of toads!) Drake can summon some of Hell’s most notorious horrors to help with his assigned killings. In trying to pay back his debt to Wormwood an unpredictable calamity happens in addition to this he later on saves a pretty lady from a dark presence in a London alleyway. This is where things then get really interesting for our hero.

First off, this was a book I needed to read. It is quick, witty, noirish, humorous and generally ticks a lot of boxes that I require when reading an urban fantasy novel. The main character, although respected and powerful is a bit of a bum. He has an on-off relationship with his teenage sweetheart (although it’s mostly off), he drinks in a bar full of the damnedest criminals, gets eaten by his pet demon occasionally and other trivialities. I enjoyed the presentation and voice of Drake. He’s a character I really got inside the mind of. A lot of the language used here is British and even cockney slang but the character often speaks to the reader. He will ask us our opinions and explain certain phrases and London lingo that we might not naturally understand.

This was exciting all the way through and a breeze to read. It is dark, has some very adult scenes (including torture) and features some of Hell and myth’s most notorious beings in a modern day environment. It also features a ‘slipped’ angel who is an excellent character and Don’s relationship with her may affect whether she falls or re-enters Heaven. Sometimes, Don will go for a bacon breakfast and then get attacked by one of the Furies of Greek stories is just an example of the interesting and complex merging of ages and cultures that McLean easily and addictively presented here. Sometimes urban fantasy books will have a weak middle or a distracting or unfulfilling ending but I can confidently say that there are no such issues here. I read this in two days and I would have read it quicker if I had more time.

This book acts as a complete standalone and the ending is ultimately intense, exciting and excellent. For anyone who likes urban fantasy (I’m looking at you, Emma) this is a book that needs to be read. This was designed to be a 5-book series and I want to make you aware that 3 books have been released and Damnation ends on a major cliffhanger. Unfortunately, McLean has advised me due to certain issues he may never get to complete the series. His excellent and recently released Priest of Bones is well worth your time too. My only real complaint is the blurb on the back cover (which wasn’t written by Peter) gives away the whole spine of the plot. One point that is mentioned on the back cover isn’t actually revealed as what would have been a surprise until only 30 pages are remaining. Although the blurb sounds good it is too spoiler-worthy for me to class as good marketing.

All my experiences with McLean’s books have been extremely positive and although I know this series is unlikely to be finished as the author would have of course wished, I will still buy Domination this evening. Recommend.

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Review of ~ Phil Tucker – Killer Dungeon (Euphoria Online #3)

8/10

I received a review copy of Phil Tucker’s – Killer Dungeon in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank the author a lot. When I’ve been sent these advanced reader copies every other book has had to take a lower priority until I find out how Chris’ life or death adventure within Eurphoria Online concludes. This is one of my favourite, easy-going, nostalgic and exciting series that I’ve had the pleasure of reading for a while. It has already been rated on Fantasy Book Review in detail by Swiff at 8.8/10 and I would have given it a similar score which is why I am just leaving a few points here in a quick casual review. (more…)

Review of ~ Tade Thompson – Rosewater

8.5/10

I received an uncorrected bound proof copy of Rosewater in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank Tade Thompson and Orbit books for the opportunity.

Set in Nigeria 2066, we follow Kaaro in the first person perspective. He is a complex yet interesting protagonist who is a psychic. He has two jobs. One is where he stops bank fraud and the other is more James Bond-esque, working for the government department of S45, which he doesn’t really enjoy. Kaaro can read minds, replay past events and understand individuals’ whole life experiences within a matter of seconds. He can also manipulate people and occasionally make certain people believe they are burning alive. Additionally, he can frequent a place known as the Xenosphere under his avatar as a Gryphon where he can fly. I will not try to explain this extrasensory-like environment to any great degree but it can be quickly summarised as being a dream-esque space between certain peoples thoughts.

If Rosewater doesn’t sound complex enough so far, throughout the narrative we follow three different timelines. The main timeline is Nigeria 2066 which is set in the city of Rosewater which was erected around an alien biodome where once a year an ‘opening’ occurs where civilians ailments and illnesses can be cured by this extraterrestrial presence. Kaaro uses his mind wizardry for the government and also for a bank. It’s mundane and boring for him generally but he has recently met a girlfriend called Aminat who has a very beautiful and mysterious housebound brother. The earliest timeline is about a youthful Kaaro where he is living life dangerously in Largos as a thief, getting disowned by his parents and learning gradually about his sight and abilities. The middle timeline is when our protagonist reluctantly works for the secret service and as an expert ‘finder’ is requested to find the mysterious bicycle girl and perhaps dig up more details about the alien entity that ends up residing in Rosewood. They are quite short chapters throughout, averaging approximately 10 pages however with the constant switch between timelines I did have to take notes to be aware of what had happened previously and pay attention to the dates at the beginning of the chapters.

I have been loving my fantasy and science fiction books recently that have been based on or inspired by certain places I am less familiar with that don’t feature typical standard tropes such as The Poppy War (China), Jade City (Japan), and Empire of Sand (India). This fits nicely in the same vein for being exciting, elegant, complex, deep and original. It ticks a lot of boxes that I look for in a fiction age which is overflowing with carbon copies of what has come previously.

This is a very smart book. The time, expertise and efforts that Thompson has put into this opener of The Wormword Trilogy organically ooze from that page. One of my favourite aspects was how Thompson discusses the history we are familiar with that is up to date, (I think I noticed a Donald Trump diss in here somewhere !) and also imagined events that have taken place between 2018 and 2066. One example is that the USA is no longer on the world’s radar. They have isolated themselves and the rest of the planet know nothing about what our Western cousins are up to.

There are some very dark scenes featured. Murders, people being burned alive, and a few brutal execution techniques included. Adult science fiction and even grimdark fans will find a lot to like here. It did take me a while to get in to initially and then¬†adapt to the presented world. The world building is very good and it mainly takes places in Lagos and the fictional Rosewater. Kaaro is a damaged individual with unbelievable powers and although he’s had a colourful existence there is still some heart and something worth following in our first-person protagonist. I for one look forward to reading the rest of the trilogy. I’ll be intrigued to see if Thompson adds any other point of view perspectives in his following books. It might be an interesting take but I’d personally like to carry on following Kaaro. Now the backstory is complete I’d like a single timeline going forwards though. That is my only slight negative that it sometimes threw me away from the action and narrative in Rosewater. Thompson is obviously a brilliant and very smart author and this is the best science fiction book I’ve read in a few years. Bravo, sir.

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Review of ~ Steven Erikson – The Second Collected Tales of Bauchelain & Korbal Broach

6/10

I received a review copy of The Second Collected Tales of Bauchelain & Korbal Broach in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Steven Erikson and Bantam Press.

I was pretty excited to read more about everybody’s favourite necromancers and their trusted manservant’s dark and often humourous adventures. In the main Malazan series the deadly duo are only seen in Memories of Ice but have featured in 6 short stories, 3 of which are collected in this volume. If you are new to the Malazan world I would not recommend starting here.¬† (more…)