Saturday, 31 October 2020

Happy Halloween folks. Today I am posting a short review of the audiobook 'Blood on Satan's Claw' which is available on Audible.    
First, some information about the book

By: Mark Morris - adapter, Piers Haggard, Robert Wynne-Simmons
Narrated by: Mark Gatiss, Reece Shearsmith, Thomas Turgoose, Alice Lowe, Ralph Ineson, Rebecca Ryan
Length: 2 hrs and 24 mins 

 This Audiobook has won numerous awards including -

New York Festivals Radio Award 2018 for Best Drama Special


Seventeenth-century England, and a plough uncovers a grisly skull in the furrows of a farmer's field. The skull disappears, but its malevolent influence begins to have a strange influence upon the nearby village of Hexbridge. First, strange ocurrences with the animals in the village, fruit goes rotten and the children of the village begin to act in strange, unsettling ways.

Meanwhile, strange things are lurking in the woods, evil starts to rise and take form on earth, corrupting the children. As hysteria spreads can Squire Middleton (superbly played by Mark Gatiss) and the Reverend Falloowfield stop the Devil taking human form and spreading his evil, here on earth.

This digital audio exclusive stars Mark Gatiss and Reece Shearsmith, alongside the original film's Angel Blake, Linda Hayden. 



As a child, I grew up on a diet of Doctor Who, fantasy and horror films. I know! I was a bit of a strange kid! Amongst many of the of the Hammer films I watched, I would devour anything, and this 1971 film from Tigon Pictures was one of those that stuck with me and still remains one of my favorites of British horror films from the 1970's.

If you have ever seen The League of Gentlemen, it is hard not to notice that blended with the dark comedy, there is a distinct element of horror, and both Mark Gatiss and Reece Shearssmith cite this film as one of their favorite films. So it is not surprising that this audiodrama is one that is presented with a love of the source material, and it shines through.

The best thing that this can be compared to in recent times is The VVitch. For those that like that film, you will surely get along with this, as it has that same unsettingly hypnotic tone.

As you can imagine, with a solid British cast, the drama is excellent. It immediately puts you in the action and you can get a good sense of the brooding evil that is encroaching on the characters. Mark Gatiss is excellent as Squire Middleton, who refuses to belive that anything supernatural is taking place until he realises through a series of events, that dark forces may be at work. Reece Shearsmith plays quite a subdued part as the unassuming Reverend Fallowfield. Additionally, Rebecca Ryan (Shameless, Casualty) is excellent as the manipulative Angel Blake. Add to that a supporting cast like Alice Lowe (Sightseers, Prevenge), Ralph Ineson (The Witch) and Thomas Turgoose (This is England), you have the makings of a solid and utterly unsettling piece of horror.

One of the things that immerses you in the drama is the sound production by Edwin Sykes, who creates oodles of atmosphere manageing to convey the creeping and oppressive atmosphere of the story.

The pacing is second to none. At the begining, it's steady as seemingly unassuming events occur in the village. However, it intensifies steadily as the story unfolds until it reaches its climatic end. 

I have got to say, that I enjoyed this audio drama immensley, and I think it is defintely one of my favorites of Audible's original dramas. It's also good to see that they used some of the original cast from the film. The book is quite short, under two and a half hours, so that means that you can easily listen to it in a short space of time

Monday, 26 October 2020




WINNER of the Ditmar Awards for Best Novel and Best New Talent, the Norma K Hemming Award, and the Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Novel!

Poison. Treachery. Ancient spirits. Sieges. The Poison Wars begin now, with City of Lies, a fabulous epic fantasy debut by Sam Hawke






Original Title:    City of Lies
Series:                Poison Wars #1
Date of Pub:       July 2018 by TOR books

Sam Hawke’s debut, City of Lies was originally released in 2018. It tells the story of it’s three main characters, Jovan, Kalina and the soon to be Chancellor, Tain. The main backdrop of the story takes place in the city of Silasta. A city that lives in hubris and ignorance, and as the book unfolds you get a clear picture of how this affects the population.

As an opening line, Hawke starts with one of the most memorable first lines that I have read, ‘I was seven years old the first time my uncle poisoned me’, and from that we are introduced to the world of Jovan. One, in a long line of proofers, who maintains the safety of the leader of Silasta, the Chancellor, by having an ability to recognise the multitude of poisons that may kill a person.

What we learn from there is that this is the family business and Jovan is trained extensively by his Uncle Etan to recognise the different poisons, form an immunity and develop his ability to fashion antidotes for these deadly substances.

The drama begins innocuously enough with a series of seemingly unrelated events. However, as the plot unfolds, Jovan, Kalina and Tain are thrust into a world of intrigue, murder and secrets as both Jovan and Kalina’s Uncle Etan and Tain’s Uncle, the Chancellor, are poisoned.

Tain is thrust into the role of Chancellor, and whilst the city turns out to mourn the loss of the leading ruler of Silasta, an unknown army of invaders besieges the city. Without an army to protect them, the inhabitants of the city must band together to defend their city against an enemy that will not listen to reason or to their pleas of negotiation.

In City of Lies, Hawke presents us with an interesting take on the city under siege tale, instead of focussing on huge epic battles (there are some in there for all you battle mad readers!), she instead focuses on the small scale wars. The hunt to find the poisoner and the perpetrators of the plot against the city, who are sure to strike again. She also focuses on the reason for the siege and how and why this happened. What Jovan, Kalina and Tain learn, is that the demands of the city and its treatment of its people are the direct cause of this situation.

The story is a first person narrative, told from the POV of Joran and Kalina and we watch the events unfold through these two characters eyes and whilst they describe the events that take place, we also watch as they develop in their roles and as characters.

Interestingly, whilst Hawke bases her story in fantasy, she brings real world problems into the story. Both of her characters are affected by illness in some way. Jovan describes symptoms of OCD and anxiety, whilst Kalina is affected by an unknown condition that causes her fatigue. Hawke raises some pertinent issues in these two characters. With Jovan, his OCD is part of him and even though he has a mental health problem, he is able to function in society and perform a valuable role in addition to dealing with his difficulties, not despite his mental health issues. However, she presents us with a differing view of Kalina in that her problems are more physical, and Hawke explores how other people view disability and how they see that a person with disability should fit into that role.

Additionally, she brings in wider issues, such as climate change, the effect of disregarding tradition and also the treatment of other cultures.

Hawke’s whodunnit approach is a good read and as the plot reveals its layers, the story twists and turns leading you in one direction and then the other. She weaves character development and world building in an accomplished manner, carefully constructing the world around her characters. At no point does she give any inkling of how the story ends, but when it reaches its conclusion, you are left satisfied with how it turns out.

Thursday, 22 October 2020

The Rage of Dragons

(The Burning #1)

by Evan Winter

Publisher: Orbit

Pages: 624

Most of the fantasy world is abuzz at the moment with The Rage of Dragons, as the second instalment is just around the corner.

Evan Winter’s book is highly acclaimed and has recently gained a place on ‘the most influential’ lists. A high accolade indeed! Does it deserve it? Damn right it does! This is a fantastic book that has everything from Dragons, demons to incredible fight scenes and exhilarating action.

The Rage of Dragons begins with a battle against two races of people. One who has just arrived from some unknown lands and the inhabitants of the lands that they have landed on. We are immediately thrown into the action from Page One, where a brutal and bloody battle that is raging. The prologue sets the tone for the book, describing the brutality of the battle, introducing the magic system of the book that is purely centred around bolstering military might, and introduces us to the Omehi people or ‘The Chosen’ as they believe themselves to be.

We then move onto the main story of the book and quickly introduced to the book’s main character, Tau.

From the beginning of the book, Winters build his world, describing the political system, the caste system that governs the Omehi people and the militaristic way that the inhabitants live their life. The world that Tau lives in is a harsh world that is governed solely by caste and tradition and everyone knows their place.

At the beginning of the book, Tau is happy with his standing, wanting nothing more than to attend The Testing, a ritual competition to test fighting prowess and skill, and join the Ihashe, a division of the army. However, when he attends his friend Jabari’s testing as his second, events occur that will change Tau and his life forever. At the testing, Tau is assigned to an incompetent noble’s son to spar with, but unfortunately for Tau, the noble is as proud as he incompetent and attacks Tau. Tau responds by disarming the noble and thus brings about the attention of Councillor Odili and Tau’s fate is sealed, setting him on a path of pain, obsession and revenge.

For the rest of the story, Tau vows to become the ultimate killing machine. He vows that he will gain a place in the Ihashe and become the greatest fighter that the Omehi people have ever seen. So, that he can gain his ultimate revenge on those who destroyed his life. And he will do this at whatever cost to himself or those around him.

As we move through the story we learn that the years of tradition have created an unjust and unfair society where the lowest of the governed people are seen as nothing more than bodies for the everlasting, unwinnable war that rages with the Hedeni, whilst the privileged members of society do not recognise the worth of those that they see beneath them and are corrupt and cruel. And this cruelty is displayed time and time again throughout the tale of Tau and his sword brothers.

In the meantime, Tau’s story is developed, and he becomes the very thing that he set out to be. However, his character is flawed by the trauma he has endured. He scorns friendship and comradeship focusing totally on his ultimate goal. However, others are not willing to give up on him and eventually his comrades break through his barriers and he eventually forms long lasting bonds with those around him.

Winters masterfully interlaces a tale of comradeship, winning against the odds and determination in his story of Tau. However, be prepared! This is not a happy tale, and whilst there are light moments of friendship in the book, Winters does not shy away from the brutality of war and the cruelty that is rife amongst the socio-political structure that his characters inhabit. However, it is a dazzling story that will have you gripped, as I was from the very start.

Monday, 19 October 2020



 Legacy Of Ash


Matthew Ward 

Publisher: Orbit

          Publish Date: 5th November 2019

          Page Length: 801 pages

Matthew Ward’s debut novel is a grand sweeping affair that whilst being expansive, is a tightly knit story that weaves war, rebellion, magic, political intrigue and legacy into a compelling drama that is unputdownable.

The Tressian Republic stands at the centre of the world, yet it’s might is being tested. Rebellion threatens in the Southshires and Josiri Trelan, the son of the rebel Katya Trelan and now imprisoned in his own home, is gathering his forces so that he can lead the rebellion started by his mother 15 years ago and free his people from Tressia’s harsh rule.

Meanwhile, the Hadari Empire is rising, ready to overwhelm the empire and become the leading power in the world bringing war and death

However, underneath the waves of military upheaval, a dark power is stirring. Gods walk the world, choosing their champions and setting in motion their own plans.

Ward’s tale is magnificent in its scale. The scope is an entire world, and yet, he can seamlessly change his focus to the smallest aspects of his tale and concentrate on the minutest aspects of the drama, like Revekaah and Kurka’s tale in the woods during the titanic battle against the Hadari, or Calenne’s story under the battlefield as she discovers terrible secrets.

The cast of characters is impressive, although at times this can become confusing, and sometimes if I took my brain off the plot for a second, I was left wondering what was happening and had to go back a page or two to reconnect. However, the book demands your attention and concentration, and if you feed the story well with these two things, you will be richly rewarded.

The characters themselves are excellently written, with the Lady Ebigail being a standout of scheming and general maleficence. However, she never once falls into parody as she joyfully plots and weaves webs of intrigue, murdering, blackmailing and manipulating anyone who gets in her way.

The other players in this book are Viktor Akadra, the champion of the Tressian council. A knight who gains this title after he kills Josiri and Calenne’s mother, Katya. Viktor is an interesting character, portrayed as a stoical villain initially, yet as the story progresses, his character is explored more, and we learn that his character is more faceted than we originally thought, and Ward plays with these facets to great effect. An especially touching aspect, is his relationship with Calenne, who originally believing him to be the monster who killed her mother and haunts her nightmares, forms an unlikely friendship and even allies with him to save the Southshires after she learns the truth of her mother’s death. In fact, far from being the monster and killing machine that he is believed to be, Viktor is a thoughtful, socially anxious man that is afraid of his own shadow (that part will become clear!)

Calenne, is the other prominent figure of the story. At first, she is portrayed spoilt brat of a child that generally mopes around her prison, dreaming of a way out, even if it is by dying. She is afraid of the legacy that her mother, the hero of Southshires has left her, and yet when the need arises, she wears this persona to motivate others around her. Again, Calenne is a rounded individual that has flaws, and at times shows that she can be as manipulative as Lady Ebigail, in order to get what she wants.

And then there’s Josiri, an ineffectual leader who dreams of freeing his family from the past. At times, Josiri can be the strong leader that is needed. However, other times he can be impulsive and not recognise the consequences of his behaviour. But, as with Viktor, Ward brings him to life showing us that his character has more sides than a twenty - sided dice.

Additionally, the main characters are bolstered by equally memorable side characters, like Anastacia, either an angel or a demon, depending on which characters point of view. And, the gods themselves, with some memorable cameo roles by the God of Death, known as the Raven, who reminds me in some parts of Baron Samedi crossed with old Father Time, a Herne the Hunter type figure who makes an infrequent appearance in the story and the capricious, Ashana

Don’t be put off by the fact that this is a weighty book and the fact that the plot simmers for the first part of the book. When the gears are turned up, the story explodes and gallops along at full speed.

As with every other aspect of this book, Ward skilfully manoeuvres his cast of characters around the chessboard of his plot, carefully placing them where they need to be so that we reach the finale of the story. He carefully weaves plot, pace and characters, all the while building a richly complex world, magic system and mythology that will surely delight fans of epic fantasy.

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Ashes of the Sun (Burning Blade & Silvereye #1)

by Django Wexler

Head of Zeus - an Adastra book
Publication Date 1 Oct 2020

Django Wexler’s genre-fluid tale of sibling rivalry, Empire and Rebellion is a fast paced, action adventure from start to finish.

Wexler has carefully crafted a tale that successfully entwines SciFi Fantasy, Space Opera and coming of age tale to begin his new series, Burningblade & Silvereye

The story centres around two siblings, Maya & Gyre.

At the age of five, Maya is torn from her family to enter The Twilight Order, so that they can save her life and teach her the ways of Deiat (the magic used by the Order). As Maya grows, she becomes an apprentice to the famed knight, Jaedia.

Meanwhile, Gyre is left to suffer the consequences of his sister’s cruel removal from the family by a system that does not care about the havoc it wreaks. Gyre grows up to become disaffected and impoverished, eventually leading him to a life of crime to survive and become an enemy of the state. The rebel, Halfmask.

The book is generally action and character driven, telling the divergent stories of Maya and Gyre from each sibling’s perspective. Maya is the most compassionate of the two characters with a strong sense of morality, idealism and justice whilst being in the confines of a bureaucratic order that stiffly maintains tradition in order to maintain control. Wexler weaves a coming of age tale with a coming out tale, as not only does Maya have to traverse the many trappings of the Twilight Order, but she must navigate her own feelings toward fellow apprentice Beq.

On the other hand, Gyre is a cold and distant individual, who, whilst bearing the physical scars left to him by the Knight who removed his sister from their bucolic lifestyle, also bears the emotional scars of this trauma, and as a result has become obsessed with finding The Tomb. A fabled city of a civilisation that was destroyed centuries ago in a bloody war. This war shaped the current civilisation forming it into the unjust and tyrannical establishment that has no regard for the welfare of the people that it states it protects.

Gyre believes that when he finds the fabled city, he will find the ultimate power to destroy The Twilight Order and the establishment that leaves its people in poverty and hunger, scrabbling for ancient pieces of technology in the dangerous tunnels so that they can make a living. However, whilst Gyre may have ideals, his actions clearly indicate that he will use anyone in the pursuit of his obsession. He has become individualistic and self-motivated in his quest to obtain the power that he strives to wield, so that he can smash the Empire that he hates. That’s not to say that Gyre is a bad character, but he is morally grey in his actions and he is made greyer at the introduction of the character Kitsrea Doomseeker, a sociopathic individual who has the morals of an alley cat, and promises to lead him to the Tomb and towards his goals.

Wexler populates his colourful world with all sorts of creatures that include mutants, evil magic wielders and mythological races, that all in all, bolster the plot that Wexler has turned up to eleventy – stupid, engaging the reader from beginning to end, never letting the reader have a minute by introducing a plot that involves heists, quests, treachery, romance and much more.

It’s not to say that the plot is faultless, there are some questions that are left unanswered in the book, such as the relationship between Church and State, the history of the Republic and how the effects of the war affected the people.  But, as I said, this is an introduction to this world, and there is a lot more scope for these questions to be answered as the series progresses.

One of the admirable aspects of the book is the way that it does not openly tout good or evil. Maya intrinsically, is a good character who has lots of worthy qualities. However, she is a shining star in an establishment that seems to be overtly oppressive and corrupt. Gyre, on the other hand, seems to have  an admirable ideal in attempting to overthrow the establishment that is oppressive and corrupt, but his character is morally redundant, and in all honesty has few commendable qualities.
On the whole, Wexler has crafted a story that introduces new facets to the fantasy world whilst drawing on established SciFi fantasy tropes and has let loose a cracking book that will leave you hoping the second instalment is just around the corner.

Review Copy provided by Netgalley & publishers, Head of Zeus for an honest review. The enjoyment is all my own

The Original 

Brandon Sanderson & Mary Robinette Kowal.

Narrated by Julia Whelan

Audiobook, 3 hours and 24 minutes, 183 pages
Published September 14th 2020 by Recorded Books

Hugo Award-winning authors Brandon Sanderson and Mary Robinette Kowal team up in this exclusive audio-first production of The Original, a sci-fi thriller set in a world where one woman fights to know her true identity and survive the forces that threaten her very existence.

In the near future, humans choose life - for a price.

When Holly wakes up in the hospital she is confused and disorientated. Her memory is compromised and she does not know the events surrounding her admission into the medical facility that she now finds herself. She awakes to find medical staff and agents of the government at her bedside. She soon finds that she has talents that she did not possess before she woke up in the hospital including the ability to kill......

As she becomes less confused and disorientated, she discovers the horrifying truth that she is in fact a copy of an original person. But it does not end there, not only is she a copy, but she has four days to track down the murderer of the man she loved, her original.

As she searches for the answers to the murder, Holly will uncover secrets and lies. She will also find that the world she once lived in has become dangerous as she battles terrorists that want to bring down the government and kill her. But in the end, she will find the truth, about herself and the death of her husband.

The Original is a noir - ish thriller set in a future where the world is individualised to a person's ideal theme. The story moves at a break - necked speed and is action packed from beginning to end. 

Sanderson has already proven that he can genre hop at an instant and write stories that are as engaging and gripping as his fantasy novels. However, what took me by surprise is Kowal's writing. Goodness me, if this is the kind of stuff that she produces, then I am in and looking to get a hold of as much stuff as I can.

However, not only should praise go to Sanderson & Kowal, but Julia Whelan's performance throughout this audiobook. She delivers each line masterfully evoking each character that is introduced and aiding the listener to visualise every scene. Additionally, the sound design of Daniel Eaton and Paul Fonarev (not sure I am spelling this right) is skillfully done, sending the listener into the same confusion and disorientation that Holly feels at beginning and then the strangeness of the world in which Holly inhabits, making the production a completely rounded drama rather than it being just a being book that is been read to you and completely drawing the listener into an alien world.

Now to say this is a novella, the world is fully rounded, and Sanderson & Whelan build history and describe the environment with such clarity that the listener is never lost.

What is also interesting is the variety of influences that make up the story, obviously there the nods to the noir cinema of the 1940's such as DOA, science fiction classics such as Bladerunner (but in this story, it is a reversal of roles with the replica chasing the human) and E.M. Forsters The Machine Stops, with each individual living in its own little bubble, but they also manage to squeeze in the action genre as well. The writers shape these components like artificers into something new and exciting

In terms of pacing, as I said earlier, the story moves along at a break neck pace, never once stopping or losing its way. There are action sequences galore that are well written and fit perfectly into the plot.   

Each Character is believable and so real that they were there with me as I listened to the story unfurl. Each one fitting perfectly into their place and enhancing the experience.

The one thing that I can never work out though is the writing partnership and how it works. Whose writing is whose. If this were a musical collaboration, it would be easy to tell who was riffing off who, but in this partnership, these two are playing in partnership, complementing each other to give the perfect harmony.

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

 The Crowns of Croswald

by D.E. Night

Publisher: Stories Untold LLC
Pages 317


In Croswald, the only thing more powerful than dark magic is one secret...

For sixteen years Ivy Lovely has been hidden behind an enchanted boundary that separates the mundane from the magical. When Ivy crosses the border, her powers awaken. Curiosity leads her crashing through a series of adventures at the Halls of Ivy, a school where students learn to master their magical blood and the power of Croswald's mysterious gems. When Ivy's magic and her life is threatened by the Dark Queen, she scrambles to unearth her history and save Croswald before the truth is swept away forever.

Warning: This review may contain clichés and superlatives in my description of this book.

(Please note: no clichés or superlatives were harmed in the writing of this review)

When I started reading this book I had a hatful of superlatives that I intended to use, you know, things like Magical, Enthralling, Enchanting, Captivating etc.

However, I decided to throw them out of the window and tell you what I really think.

I loved this book! It made me remember why I fell in love with fantasy books. Why, as a kid I would want to read books that took me out of this world and plonk me into another world with strange beasts, magic and a hero that would defeat the evil King, Queen, Sorcerer (delete as appropriate).

If I could time travel back to my childhood, I would take this book back with me, and say ‘Here kid, read this!’

Now, I suppose you want me to tell you about pacing, character development and all that kind of stuff! Well, I don't know if I want to!

Well, I might just do that, but in a bit. What I wanted to tell you is that when I started this book, I started it with a reviewer's hat on, but after the Prologue, I decided to throw away all pretence of trying to review this book and decided to let myself get caught up in the story's joyful style and just read it, and enjoy it.

As the description tells you, the book is the story of Ivy. A maid in the Plum household, a household devoid of magic and is quite simply the most boring place in the world.

Ivy is a Scaldrony maid, in the kitchens of the Plum Acreage. Her job is to look after the Scaldrons,a type of dragon that doubles up as an oven. The kitchen is run by the tyrannical Helga Hoff and after a series of mishaps involving the aforementioned Helga Hoff, Ivy, finds herself, quite unexpectedly, out on her ear into the wider world.

However, things are not as they seem when her friend, Rimbrick, the bright spot in her previous life of drudgery, leaves her a small fortune, some books and a mysterious letter, telling her of a debt that he owes to her family.

She is shortly collected by the mysterious Lionel Lugg, longtime scrivenist and freelancer. The scrivenist informs her that she is to attend The Halls of Ivy, where Royals and Scriveners alike receive an education in the arts of magic.

What follows is a classic fish out of water story of a girl who is thrust into a world she does not understand. We follow Ivy as she tries to fit into this unfamiliar world, sharing with her the isolation that she feels and the sense of excitement and wonderment that she experiences when she is plunged into this new world that she does not quite understand.

As Ivy becomes more proficient in her learning, her powers start to blossom and soon Ivy finds that her world is full of secrets, adventures and mysterious strangers.

Now, full disclosure. I am not the intended demographic for this story, exceeding that age by at least three or four times. But does that matter? No, not one bit. I was able to enjoy and relish the story as much as I would have done when I was a much younger reader and admire the quality of the prose (although younger me would have no idea what that word meant).

Night's world is rich, filled with characters that will delight (Ha ha, I told you to expect that didn't I?) and keep the reader enthralled (there's another one!). Ivy’s character develops as she learns more about magic and the Halls of Ivy. Throughout the world, there is a vast array of beasts that will keep any young fantasy fan happy. She also has an interesting magic system that works well. However, this magic system is not too impenetrable for younger readers and is pretty easy to follow. As for the world, she is constantly introducing new aspects that enrich both the environment around our main protagonist and also the story.

The other thing that we have here is a strong female lead and a collection of equally strong female characters. The main positions of power centre around women and the fact that they have got there by being exceedingly brilliant in every way. And whilst the story centres around female characters, Night successfully brings in a nice element of scrunginess to the female characters that makes them seem like real girls, instead of the popularised image of little girls wanting to be princesses and queens (although there are plenty of princesses and queens in the story).

For me, the story centres around the magic of books and words. The scrivenists embrace the use of words in order to create their magic, but ultimately, the power is held by books and stories.

In all, Night brings in the right amount of danger, comedy and world building to keep the story moving along at a pretty good pace. The sense of threat is there to keep the reader involved and wanting to know more before they put it down for the night.

So, if you have a budding little fantasy book nerd at home, and you want to keep them happy, give them a copy of this book and hopefully, all will be well.

Right, I was asked by the publisher, Stories Untold & Netgalley to have a look at this book and review it. I did & all the enjoyment is my own. So there!

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Welcome to my website. Hopefully, you are all like minded individuals here and are interested in the fantasy genre. Mostly, I will be reviewing books that I like. It might not always be fantasy, there might be some horror or science fiction.



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