Wednesday, 26 May 2021


Book Information

Title | The Iron Crown
Author | L. L. MacRae
Series | The Dragon Spirits #1
Published By | L. L. MacRae
Pages | 568

About the Book

A new epic fantasy series bursts into life with the DRAGON SPIRITS who reign supreme in the magic-drenched world of Tassar.

Fenn’s first and only memory is finding himself in the middle of a forest, face to face with a dragon spirit mocking him, all knowledge gone apart from his own name.

Lost and confused, his only hope for answers is Calidra—a woman living on the edge of the world with her partner. Forced to return home when her father dies, Calidra has put off facing her estranged mother for seven years, and she begrudgingly helps Fenn, forging papers for him so he can avoid the Queen’s Inquisitors.

But her mother is the least of her worries when they discover an ancient enemy is rising again. It should be impossible with the Iron Crown in power—and Fenn is terrified he might unwittingly be playing a part in the war’s resurgence.

Surrounded by vengeful spirits and powerful magic, Fenn’s desperate attempt to find his way home might well alter the fate of Tassar, and every power in it. 

 Review

Ever since reading L. L. MacRae's novella, The Citrine Key, The Iron Crown has been on my must-read list. So, when I received a message from L.L. MacRae asking if I would like to receive an advanced reading copy of this book to review, I could not move my thumbs fast enough to type the reply that I most definitely would. 

Upon starting the book, I knew I was drawn in, right from the very first page and as I got further into the story, I did not want to leave it alone for a minute, and would find myself disappearing in various parts of the house with my Kindle in hand, trying to see what would happen next, trying to fit in another page, or another chapter on the sly.

You can always tell a good book when you can't wait to pick it up or you find yourelf thinking about what is going to happen next. And that was the case with The Iron Crown. 

The book immediately throws us into the story, as we meet Fenn, struggling for his life in the middle of a bog. However, he has no recollection of how he got there and no memories of the time before the incident in the bog. As he struggles for his life, rescue comes from an unlikely source, the Dragon Spirit, Hassen, the Spirit of Salt Ash. 

At the end of the encounter, the dragon leaves him alive because he finds him 'interesting'. He subsequently meets Jisyel, who has been cursed by Hassen and Calidra. They take pity on his wretched state and take Fenn back to Jisyel's home, an inn owned by her grandmother. 
In the meantime, Calidra has received an invite to return home to attend the funeral of her estranged father. And here we have the springboard for the adventure that is to come. 

There are so many things to like about this book. If you like the found family trope in fantasy, then this is a book for you. L. L. Macrae does this so well. However, what I found interesting in L.L. MacRae's use of the found family aspect was, as more characters join the party, traveling across Bragalia to attend the funeral of Calidra's father, the relationships become more and more fractious, and there is always the underlying tension that the party will fall apart. Initially, the party is comprised of Fenn, Jisyel and Calidra, but this expands to include Delays, a priest of the Dragon Spirit Neros, and Varlot, a former general in the Posenthian Army.

The book is filled with memorable characters. Fenn is the obvious one that drives the story, The mystery of who he is, why he has lost his memories and how he can be cured is the main driver of the story, and I think that one of the appealing things about him is that due to the fact that he has lost his memory and all the aspects of himself, he is a blank slate. He is almost childlike in his innocence and sees the good in people regardless. 

Similarly, with Jisyel. She has an extremely positive personality, despite the affliction of being cursed by Hassen and this counteracts Calidra’s sometimes untrusting and negative view of the world. Varlot, is another matter. I am not quite sure what is going on there. He regularly disappears in the book. Usually visiting taverns and gambling dens, for which he seems to have an addiction to. However, he has reasons, and it is the reason for his behaviour that made him a character that I wanted to get to know more. 

When you look at the characters, they each have endearing qualities, and the more that you get to know them, the more you come to realise that they are broken through events in their life, and it is these experiences that draw each of them together. 

The book is written with multiple points of view, and in all honesty, I couldn’t pick out my favorites, from Fenn to Torsten (an inquisitor in the Iron Queen’s army, who I haven’t discussed, but is an equally intriguing character). About halfway through the book, we are reintroduced to Apollo from The Citrine Key. I really liked Apollo in that novella, and it was brilliant to see how he had progressed from the original story. It was kind of like meeting an old friend.

Now enough of the characters. What you want to know about are the dragons. The Dragons are a prominent feature of the story and go through the book deigning to give the people of Lassar their gift or their curse. I liked the dragons in this book as they seemed didn’t fall into the westernised version of Dragons as terrible flying lizards that terrorise the countryside, eating goats, horse and the odd stray child. To me they seemed to fit more of a Chinese mythological representation of dragons, in that they are more like localised spirits that are attached to either certain areas of land, sea or elements. And these facets give them their own personalities. They each have their own quirks to them. In some instances, they can be fearsome, or wise. At other times, they can be capricious and cruel.

Oh, and as a side note, besides Dragons other magical creatures populate the world. You also get a side helping of Griffins

The world building is rich, and it is cleverly written, in that the world opens up with the story. Initially, it is small and contained as the story starts on the small Isle of Salt, but as the story unfolds, so does the world, to become massive. 

Additionally, the magic system is similar. Whilst not initially overt, you get the feeling that there is more to it and by the end of the book this aspect opens out in a similar fashion to the world building. You get the impression that there is something big happening behind the scenes, but you cannot put your finger on it. However, towards the end of the book we get some tantalising glimpses of it.
Thinking about this book, I have lots of questions.

There seems to me that there is a lot of ambiguity in the story. One of these ambiguities is The Iron Queen herself. I mean, anyone that is called The Iron Queen isn’t going to Miss sweetness and light, but what is her deal? She seems to run the country with tyrannical zeal and yet everybody seems to trust her. And similarly, the Myr! Throughout the book, the people portray them as monsters. However, there are hints that other things are afoot and nothing is as it seems.

I tell you; this book quite plainly and simply has got its hooks into me and I cannot wait to see how the story progresses. 
 
 



 



Monday, 24 May 2021


 A NUMBERS GAME by R.J. DARK

Good Evening everyone. It's review day again, and this time I have gone a little off piste and presenting a crime novel. 

What? Eeeerm, you might be thinking to yourselves 'Aren't you called Fantasy Book Nerd, and doesn't it say that you review fantasy, scifi aaand horror?'

Well, yes! But occasionally I like to read something out of these genres. Now, I didn't know if I was actually going to put this on the blog, but I enjoyed it so much I think, yep totally worth it.

I got this one from Netgalley and the Publishers and thank them kindly for the opportunity to read this book. You know that the caveat is that I am supposed to provide an honest review. Well, I lied! I made it all up! So, best get on with it ey? 

WHAT'S IT ABOUT

One dead man and a missing lottery ticket.
Two family members who need that money to get away from the rundown Blades Edge estate.
Three local gangsters who want that money for themselves.

Meet Malachite Jones – the foremost (and only) psychic medium on the gritty Blades Edge estate. All he wants are two things: a name that isn’t ‘Malachite’, and a quiet life. And maybe some real psychic powers, but he’s making a living without them.

Janine Stanbeck wants to find her dead husband Larry’s winning ticket and escape Blades Edge with her son. And she thinks Mal can help her.

But Larry’s dad is the crime lord of the estate, and he wants that ticket for himself, and worse for Mal, he's not the only criminal with his eyes on it. Add in two coppers desperate to nick Mal's best, only, and admittedly quite dangerous, friend, Jackie Singh Kattar, and Blades Edge is getting pretty crowded.

Malachite Jones might not really be able to talk to the dead, but if he and his friend Jackie Singh Kattar can’t find that money and a solution that pleases everyone they’re likely to be in need of a psychic medium themselves.

The first Mal Jones and Jackie Singh Kattar adventure: a chaotic rollercoaster ride through a Yorkshire landscape full of double crossing friends, dogged police, psychotic gangster and voices from the other side.
 
 

REVIEW

 Shameless meets gritty gangland noir in RJ Dark's story of the criminal underbelly in the Wilds of a Yorkshire council estate.


'A Numbers Game' is the first book in a new Northern Noir series written by RJ Dark, the once underground musician and club promoter, who now spends his life tottering around his ancient mansion.

If you have seen interviews with RJ Dark, you will be familiar with the fact that most his personal reading revolved around crime novels that he got from local second hand shops and that this is the type of fiction that he gravitates towards, and I have to say that I enjoyed his inaugural foray into a fictional Yorkshire gangland immensely. It seems that whatever RJ Dark writes, he spins pure gold.

Now, let's get to 'A Numbers Game'. The story is based around our two main characters, Malachite Jones, or Mal as he prefers to be called, and Jackie Singh Khattar. A borderline sociopath, with a rigid ethical code and a heart of gold at his core.
On top of that, there is a whole host of characters that provide a depth to the story.
There's 'Trolley' Mick Stanbeck. The main gangster of the piece, who whilst being an absolute brutal shit of a man who rules the Blades Edge with an iron rod of fear, he also has a penchance to look after his family.

Alongside Trolley Mick,.there's 'Russian' Frank. The other antagonist of the story who Mal and Jackie come into contact with when they are tasked to find a missing lottery ticket that is worth 8 million pounds and everyone thinks they have a stake in.

As I said earlier, the story revolves around Mal and Jackie. Mal is a medium/conman who communes with the dead. Well, not really, as most of his work is pretty much a community service that he does for various people around the infamous Blades Edge Estate, a council estate in an unnamed town in Yorkshire. Whilst Jackie is a 'legitimate businessman' who works a small time protection racket in the local area.

After the death of Lawrence 'Larry' Stanbeck, Mal is visited by his widow (a job set up by Jackie) to find a missing lottery ticket that could, if you will pardon the pun, be her ticket off the Blades Edge Estate. As the search for the missing lottery ticket ensues, the danger to Mal and Jackie increases as the stakes become higher and higher.

I absolutely adored the mismatched pairing of Mal and Jackie. Mal has a past, and one that he struggles with everyday, whilst for some reason, the local school bully, now medium sized hardman, Jackie looks after him like a mother hen. Always magically turning up whenever he is in trouble.

One of RJ Dark's skills (amongst many) is that he writes utterly compelling characters that you cannot help falling in love with. And 'A Numbers Game' is packed full of them.
As well as the main ones that I talked about earlier there is a plethora of supporting characters that are both comedic and relatable. For instance, there's Mal's assistant, Beryl, who is an overbearing she bitch with mysterious talents, who yet again, looks out for Mal and has his best interests at heart, even though he drinks coffee. And then there's Mick Stanbeck's twins (named 'The Kray Twins, but don't call them that to their face) who only have one brain cell between the both of them and carry a dictionary in their back pocket so that they can 'better' themselves. Like their dad told them they should!

For me, one of the standout aspects of this book is that it is filled with utter warmth towards the characters and to the world that Mal & Jackie live in. Whilst, Dark pokes fun at the council estate mentality and it's inhabitants, there is never any spite towards them. Yes, at times he can make some cutting observations about life on a council estate, yet you always get the impression that he is willing to forgive the characters their faults.

As well as this, the book is full of RJ Dark's unnerring silliness, which at times sails very close to being pythonesque parody, and had me laughing out loud on a number of occasions, but he pulls it back enough to maintain the reality of the situation, and the jeopardy of lead characters situation.

However, don't think that the book is all comedy and innocent tomfoolery, because it's not. It goes to some pretty dark places at times and there is plenty of violence in there. And, the inclusion of this violence serves to increase the sense of danger that face our heroes and gives a palpable feeling of menace to the various gangsters that are present in this book.

As this is a crime thriller, we have to mention the plot. Yep it's twisty and turny and keeps you guessing right to the very end. That's what you expect right! You don't want a plot that goes from A to B in a straight line. You expect that it will take a detour to b,c & d and back again, and in this Dark does not disappoint, but the main point is that the end is believable.and that it ends in a way that does not bring in inexplicable plot revelations.

If you haven't got it yet, I enjoyed this Northern Noir crime caper with its inimatbale sense of fun and warmth, I think it is up there as my favourite RJ Dark (but don't tell that Barker bloke) novel and I cannot wait to see what Mal & Jackie get embroiled in next?

Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for the chance to review 'A Number's Game'. The enjoyment was all my own! Welcome to the Dark side!

Monday, 17 May 2021

 

Little White Hands by Mark Cushen

Almost five hundred years have passed since the Seasons were at war.

Half a millennium since Winter defied Spring, and lost.

Generations have come and gone, not knowing the bitter freeze and howling snows of Winter ever existed.

But now, after centuries of silence, the participants in this ancient struggle have resurfaced and reignited their feud on the doorstep of an unassuming little kitchen boy.

Garlan’s dreams of being just like the knights he idolizes may not be as impossible as he has always been led to believe, when he is chased from his home and thrust headlong into the kind of adventure he had only ever read about in books.

Setting out on a journey that spans the entire kingdom of Faeland, Garlan will traverse impossible mountains and stormy seas and battle terrible monsters, all to keep the world he knows safe from an enemy who will stop at nothing to bring about a never-ending winter.

With a cast of fantastical characters to aid him in his quest, can Garlan overcome his self-doubt and find the courage he needs to rise above his humble station and become the hero he always dreamed of being?

The fate of the world rests in his hands.

 

 Review


This is the tale of Garlan. The kitchen boy who wants to be a knight.

Mark Cushen weaves an enthralling and enchanting tale of dreaming big. Of working for your dreams and never letting go of your ambitions.

The story revolves around Garlan who is told that an ancient evil is returning to the land, and that the king must know of its return. However, when he speaks to his mentor, he decides that he will undertake a quest to avert disaster, and with his friend, a sentient floating piece of wood called Oldface, they tackle the ancient evil together, taking the news to The four Seasons who live in Dryad Wood. A place out of time and out of the world.

This is a classic tale of the underdog finding ways to make his dreams a reality. However, the tale also describes an individual who has spirit and will try his hardest for those around him.

Filled with a wondrous cast of characters that include faeries, wizards, the four seasons, murderous snowmen, and yetis.

Mark Cushen’s writing is reminiscent of classic faerie tales and it captures your imagination. Never once did the story lull in its adventure. There was always something in the plot that keeps your attention. Always a new situation to keep you entertained. And this is an entertaining book from start to finish.

Sometimes, children’s books can fall into the trap of trying to talk down to children, and never once did this feel like it was talking down to children, trying to impart them with the knowledge that they may need in their future lives. It treats them as individuals who will understand the story and its message. There are some sweet moments in this book. Particularly when Garlan helps a scarecrow deal with the death of his master, telling him about his own losses and how he dealt with the situation

In fact, there are some pretty grown up scenes in this book and one of them wouldn’t be too out of place in a Joe Abercrombie novel in all honesty as it was pretty bloodthirsty.

In addition to this, there are a wonderful cast of characters. Garlan is pure innocence,, he approaches each problem that he faces with pragmatism and determination. In addition, he has a number of advisors that lead him on the right path or are quick to give him the advice that he needs.

Never once does Garlan not listen to advice. He listens to the counsel that others give him and uses it to his advantage, and generally comes out on top.

This book was a delight from start to finish. It was one of those books that lightened my day each time I read it. The prose is full of whimsy and warmth and this book begs to be read in the middle of winter with a cosy glass of something warm.


Friday, 14 May 2021

Blog Tour | Oathbreaker by AJ Rettger

 
Weeeell, hello everyone. It's Friday, well at least I hope it is or I am going to look a little silly 😁. This is the second to last stop on the tour for Oathbreaker by A. J. Rettger, I would suspect by now, if you have been following this blog tour, you have become a little familiar with the author. But just in case you haven't here is a little bit about the author of the book.




Author Info

A.J. Rettger lives on a farm near the small town of Aberdeen Saskatchewan with his dog, Zeke. He has a bachelor’s of education degree, as well as a certificate from a private vocational college. His hobbies include playing Dungeons and Dragons, listening to heavy metal, and reading and writing fantasy books. Oathbreaker is his first book.

Website: https://www.ajrettger.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/arettger22
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ajrettger/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/20975285.A_J_Rettger

Book Information

Oathbreaker by A.J. Rettger
Published: November 7, 2020
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Pages: 300

Book Blurb

For thousands of years, elves and non-humans alike had lived freely until humans colonized their land and forced them into hiding and subjugation. After years of living as slaves or second-class citizens, the elves rebelled, but their uprising failed, and humans remained victorious.

Mario Deschamps, a new graduate of the Knight’s College, sets off to complete his first deed, an accomplishment that will grant him knighthood and into the ordo equestris. But he has huge boots to fill. His late father, a famous knight and considered the Scourge of Bandits, single-handedly ended the Elven Uprising. Mario’s youthful confidence, vanity, and naivety don’t get him far in the real world, and he quickly finds himself trapped in a political climate where tensions are on the rise and war is inevitable.

In a world filled with monsters, outlaws, bounty hunters, demons, and murderous bandits, Mario is forced to make tough moral decisions. In a world fuelled by violence, hate, and bigotry, things are not as clear cut as he once thought. Lines have been drawn, but to complete his task, he must cross them all. With every choice, the consequences weigh greatly on him, leaving him full of guilt and doubting his path . . . and all the while, in the darkness, someone-or something-is waiting for him to break . . ..

CW: Violence, gore, sexual assault, rape, coarse language, torture

Review

Misery loves company! Especially in R. J. Rettger's debut novel, Oathbreaker, as it chronicles the tale of newly knighted Mario Deschamps.

When we initially begin the story of Mario, the book does not give any indications of where this book descends and by the end of Mario's story, nothing prepares you for it's culmination.

At the start of the story, Mario is a bright eyed, bushy tailed newly anointed knight. However, as he embarks upon his first quest, events will lead him to become a very different person from the one he envisages and fantasizes about.

In his head, he is going to follow in the footsteps of his esteemed father, Pablo Deschamps. A renowned knight who single handedly quelled the uprising of the elves that populate the world.

However, Mario will be challenged and stripped bare of all the things he believes!

At the start, he firmly believes that the world around him follows a set of rules that fit into his steadfast worldview. However, all this ideals and fantasies of being a courageous knight are brutally stripped from him. There are many trappings of classic fantasy here, such as the Knight on his destrier, non-human races, such as elves, dwarves and halfling. In addition to this, there are monsters, and bandits.

But you will find that most things are turned on their head, particularly with the non - human races. Yes, the elves seem to be typically aloof and haughty. However, the elves are hated and subjugated. They are dehumanised, beaten and treated as something less than human. Additionally, this attitude permeates to the other non human races, and you feel that the hatred towards other races is pernicious and deeply ingrained. 
 
We follow Mario as he embasrks on his first quest. This quest will strip away everything that he holds dear. It will be the hardest thing he has ever done. It will take him on a journey that will change his life forever.

I found the book to be a bleak story, and as Mario and those around him experience tragedy after tragedy, the trauma just piles up. If I could pick a soundtrack for this book, it would be Walk with Me in Hell by Lamb of God, primarily because it is like walking through hell as Mario is stripped and disabused of his innocence one layer at a time, one trauma at a time. If I think back on this, I cannot recall one moment of peace or happiness. Oh, no sorry I lied, one does spring to mind. However, when it does happen there is a foreboding that this is going to not go well.

Now, I hope that I haven’t put you off this book, but there is no shying away from it, this is a dark book. There are no rays of sunshine or knights on white chargers coming to save you.

On the whole, Oathbringer is well written debut. As I said previously, A.J. Retinger has a head full of ideas. Mostly, these ideas work but there were times when some of them didn’t click with me. I found that the intrusion of Mario’s inner thought processes took me way from the narrative, and I felt that these interrupted the flow of the story. That is just my personal opinion, and most people had no problems with this aspect

If you like your fiction dark, then I think you will enjoy this. After the ending of this book, I really want to know what happens next and will be looking forward to the next instalment.

Book Links

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/56298867-oathbreaker
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Oathbreaker-J-Rettger-ebook/dp/B08Q3QB85C
Friesen Press: https://books.friesenpress.com/store/title/119734000158672788





**GIVEAWAY**

We’re hosting a tour-wide giveaway, and invite you to take part! Below you’ll find the prize info, a Rafflecopter widget embed code, and a direct link. We’ve also added the giveaway in the tour schedule post on our website.

Prize: Oathbreaker by A. J. Rettger – INTERNATIONAL!
GRAND PRIZE: A Signed paperback
RUNNERS-UP: Ebook
Starts: May 9th, 2021 at 12:00am EST
Ends: May 16th, 2021 at 11:59pm EST

Direct link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/e832e98881/?




a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, 12 May 2021


 A Ritual of Flesh

By 

Lee Conley




Hello, and welcome to another review. This time it’s a review for Lee Conley’s ‘Ritual of Flesh’. This is the follow up to the first in ‘The Dead Sagas’ The Ritual of Bone, which was one of those surprise books that I enjoyed.

With the schedule the way it is, I thought to myself, the only way that I am going to get to this book this side of the year was to listen to it on audio. And I must say that I enjoyed the audio of the book immensely.

Now, with this book I am going to do things a little differently, and whilst I will be reviewing the book, it’s story, characters etc, I am also going to give a little bit of a spotlight to the narrator as well.

So let’s start with the book!


A Ritual of Flesh

Volume II of The Dead Sagas

Publisher || Wolves of Valour Publications

Pub. Date || 10 Oct. 2020

Pages || 487


Description

As evil ravages the north and the dead walk, all eyes fall to Arn… The apprentice journeys south, home to the College, unaware of the dark events that transpired in the High Passes after his departure. His leg in ruins, and haunted by watching shadows, the College council in Arn awaits him, but he does not travel south alone.


Arnulf and his warriors must travel to Arn also, with tidings for the king of the risen dead and the terrible curse which has destroyed all that he knew. Arnulf seeks vengeance upon the College, but must choose wisely if he is to save his son.


Meanwhile in the west, Bjorn and his strange Wildman companion report back to High Lord Archeon at Oldstones with grim news of cannibal Stonemen encroaching from the Barrens, but is embroiled in news of war and invasion as Archeon requests his service once more.


In the capital sickness awaits them all, Nym has fled to the city and must now continue her struggle for survival on the plague ridden streets of Arn, keeping all who she cares for safe from the halls of Old Night.

The many threads of this Saga converge on the city of Arn, but amid plague, invasion and terror, a greater darkness is looming. Dark forces are seeking to unleash evil upon Arnar, honour and renown is all, and sword, axe and shield is all that stands between the living and the grasping hands of the dead.


Review

I have to say that Ritual of Flesh is a more accomplished book than the original. It’s not that I did not like A Ritual of Bone, but from the outset it felt that Lee Conley had found his beat and he is about to produce a 19 minute prog opus that steadily reaches its crescendo.


When I finished the first book, I had questions. Lots of the questions, but the main one revolved around the Apprentice. Who was he? What is he up to? Does he have a plan? What is that Dark force that is hanging around in the background orchestrating events like Palpatine at a political rally?

Well, let me tell you dear reader, these questions get answered. Well, kind of! Look, Lee Conley is an author. He likes to maintain an air of mystery, likes to keep you interested. I mean he needs to get you come back doesn’t he.

Sorry, I went off on a tangent there, didn’t I? Anyway, let’s get back to the point. Yes, Lee Conley does give these answers. However, I am not going to tell you what these answers are. Job done, review over!

No just kidding!

The book starts immediately after the first book. Initially, bringing in the quiets tones, that have a slight twang of ominous tension. In the first instance, Lee Conley expertly weaves a number of different events that are happening in the world of Arnur. Much like the first book, we have a multiple point of view, with the Apprentice making his way to the college in order to report the findings of his master’s experiments. Whilst in another part of the land Bjorn is collecting his bounty and also imparting the findings that he found about the cannibals. Meanwhile Lord Arnulf is making his way to the capital, Arn to warn of the impending doom and also back up these claims by taking his son, Ewolf to show him. You remember the one that got bit and turned into a feral killing machine.

Oh, and then there is Nym’s story, which I found to be one of the most engaging character arcs. It shows her daily struggles that she has to contend with. How she is managing on a daily basis, her attempts to keep her wayward brother in check. However, there is a wider picture at work here, in that it highlights the social decline following the pandemic that has struck the land and how brutal this degradation is.

It is also interesting that he gives Ewolf a part in the story. Not only when he is being transported, but as he turns into one of the feral beats that eat human flesh. He manages to convey a sense of intelligence and purpose in the creatures, rather than mindless killing machines.

Throughout the story, there are lots of events happening. However, never once did I feel lost with the sheer amount of story that Lee Conley crams into this book.

I think the most interesting storyline was the one of the Apprentice. Lee Conley details his change from an unassuming student, whose only aim is to gain his position as master, to the place where he gets to by the end of the book, full of confidence and willing to make his own destiny, whatever the cost.

All the way through the first part of the book there is some pretty nifty ominous foreshadowing of events. You get a palpable feeling that something is going to happen

It is in this first part that Lee Conley firmly orchestrates all his instruments into play. Each one adding to the texture of the story, whilst showcasing each individual player in their own right.

All of the characters get time to grow and to play their part in the story. And on top of that he also manages to broaden the world that the characters live in. Besides the Apprentice, there is a full cast of characters, and each one is realised and individual. Even down to the most insignificant guard.

However, all this is a power play to get to the events that you know are coming, and when they do come the pounding beat brings in the pulse banging events. Everything increases tenfold when events take off. It’s like he turns the action up to 11 and there is no stopping till the end. It was at this point that my headphones were permanently glued to my ears until I got to the breath taking end, and my goodness what an end it is.

There is tragedy, loss and horror as the wall of undead make their appearance. And a relative tsunami of horror envelops the city of Arn as each of the characters fight for their lives and sanity in the raging torrent of the cursed.

As it reached it's conclusion, I let out a breath that I knew I was holding and relaxed. However, I must say…… I still have questions!

At its core, Ritual of Flesh has all the tones of a twisted epic fantasy, with regular tropes being played upon. In some respects, you will find the found family element, particularly when events start to take hold, and each of the individual characters are thrust into finding each other.. You will also recognise the unassuming boy finding his destiny in The Apprentice's story. In addition, there are dark forces at play looking to destroy the equilibrium. However, when you add the icing on the cake of 'The Cursed', it takes it into a whole new level.

Postscript

Now as I told you, I listened to the audiobook of Ritual of Flesh, and I have to say this is one of my favorite audiobooks that I own. RJ Bayley does a fantastic job of bringing the characters to life, giving each one a distinctive voice and character. He magnificently manages to convey the change that the Apprentice undergoes, and he successfully manages to initially show the uncertainty of his character and the weakness that he feels and his transformation by the end of the book

In addition to that, he manages to convey the emotions and nuances of each individual character.

You never get lost in the story and all of the words are audible. I sometimes find that the sound design can get muddled in some audiobooks I have listened to, and on occasion have lost aspects of dialogue. However, with Ritual of Flesh, the production is clear and accessible.

The story is told distinctively in a North of England accent, and I have to say that hats off to RJ Bayley and Lee Conley for the correct pronunciation of water. Now you might question what that means, and I will explain. Normally, water is pronounced with a soft ‘a’, and sounds like ‘warter’. However, in parts of Northern England it is pronounced with a hard ‘a’, like in ‘apple’ and that is how I grew up hearing it pronounced.

As promised, here is a bit of a spotlight on the narrator RJ Bayley

R.J. Bayley is an audiobook narrator and voice over actor. In addition to this he is an experienced sound designer. He has a number of credits to his skills including audiobook narrator, Commercial voice overs, such as working with some well known brands (if you want to know, have a look on his website). He has worked in audio dramas and also as a sound designer on audio dramas.

As well as voice over credits, he is also a radio broadcaster on The RJ Bayley Rock Show on Castle FM and has also worked on Metal Nation

So, there you have it folks. Thank you for reading this review, and I hope you like it.




 

Saturday, 8 May 2021


 Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

 

About the Book

From one of the most exciting new storytellers in epic fantasy, Son of the Storm is a sweeping tale of violent conquest and forgotten magic set in a world inspired by the pre-colonial empires of West Africa.

In the ancient city of Bassa, Danso is a clever scholar on the cusp of achieving greatness—only he doesn’t want it. Instead, he prefers to chase forbidden stories about what lies outside the city walls. The Bassai elite claim there is nothing of interest. The city’s immigrants are sworn to secrecy.

But when Danso stumbles across a warrior wielding magic that shouldn’t exist, he’s put on a collision course with Bassa’s darkest secrets. Drawn into the city’s hidden history, he sets out on a journey beyond its borders. And the chaos left in the wake of his discovery threatens to destroy the empire.

Review

Son of the Storm is the first in a new series by Suyi Davies Okungbowa set in a rich West African based society.

When reviewers read books and subsequently post reviews, we attempt to convey our own interactions with the books. What captured our imagination, our level of engagement with the book and the emotive impact that it had to make us feel the way that we do.

Sometimes a book hits right to the very heart of all these things, and sometimes it misses. I suppose what I am trying to say is that whatever we write, positive or negative, the review is about the reviewer's own opinion, and whilst is not necessarily correct, it is how they feel.

Unfortunately, Son of the Storm did not hit the mark for me. I know a lot of reviewers will say “I really wanted to like this book” and I think that you can guess, that is pretty obvious because that is why I clamoured to review this book, and I am indebted to Netgalley and the publishers Orbit for a chance to review this book

There are a lot of positives in Son of the Storm, such as Suyi Davies Okungbowa’s vibrant voice that is prominent throughout this book. He writes with a distinctive voice that you can immediately grasp the vocal tones that the characters are speaking with.

In addition to that, he has created a world that is full of colour and it was one of the things that struck me with its vivacity.

He also describes a rich socio - political system that is complex and at times quite oppressive in its insular vision.

However, as I have said, I failed to make a connection with this book. It does have a lot of positive points, but I just could not get emotionally invested in the story. I have learnt in my time that sometimes this happens. Sometimes, a book fails to click and attach itself at the basest level. This led me to have difficulty with the book and rather than a growing investiture in the plot, I found myself becoming more and more detached from the book.

There is a multi point of view in relation to characters. Again, this was one of the areas I had problems. I could not relate to the main character of Danso and found myself not caring about what happened to the character in the story.

The breakout character for me was Esheme and her constant striving to increase her status. As a result of this she will do anything. She is a dichotomy of characteristics. On the one hand she is highly passionate about her standing, and on the other she is cold and dispassionate, and in her ambition she finds herself being led down a dark path.

As the story progresses, the character of Lilong is introduced, and similarly as with Danso, I found it hard to connect.

On the whole, I found a Son of Storms a mixed bag. Whilst there were positives, such as the vibrant world, the complex socio - political system and Suyi Davies Okunbowa’s distinctive voice but the book unfortunately did not grab me and narratively whisk me away

As I said at the beginning of this review, as a blogger the main thing that I try to convey is my opinion. There are times that I hope that you will agree with what I write. However, on this occasion, whilst I hope you understand that this is my perspective, I hope that you disagree with everything I say.


Wednesday, 5 May 2021

 Cover Reveal | D. E. Overttun - Mirror in Time

Hello and Welcome to you all. Today is a bit of a special occasion! Fantasy Book Nerd.com is pleased to welcome David Overttun to talk about his new book 'Mirror in Time'. So without further ado, I will hand you over to the man himself to talk about his new book.

 


This is my first-ever guest post on Fantasy Book Nerd. It’s a cover reveal of my fourth book, a standalone time-travel story, Mirror in Time.

On SM, I have found (anecdotally) the word “nerd” is code for “aficionado”. That was confirmed when I had a look at the site and some of the reviews. Now, I always get a little nervous when approaching someone new for a guest post. When FBN said yes, the rubber really met the road. Then, I thought, “Well, it’s not really me. It’s Natasha. All I do for the cover is the title and the name at the bottom.” Natasha always tells me I can never win. Say no, and I feel rejected. Say yes, and I worry about the post. What do you want? I’m a dystopian author. I see everything through Kobayashi Maru glasses.

* * * * *

Our story so far…

ARC “Prologue” posted on Witty and Sacrastic Bookclub
ARC eChapter 1 – “Debriefing and Consultation” posted on FromBelgiumWithBookLove
ARC eChapter 2 – “History” posted on On The Shelf Reviews
ARC eChapter 3 – “Newbie” posted on Like Herding Cats Blog
ARC eChapter 4 – “Static” posted on The Swordsmith
Mirror in Time Themes posted on FanFiAddict

As night falls, a lone atmospheric vehicle has come under attack on its final approach to a high-altitude research facility known as the “Jomo Langma Mountain Observatory”. Stars that should fill the sky have been obscured by a random patchwork of contrails that have come to be known as “ribbons in the sky”.

 

Ribbons in the Sky | Natasha Overttun

However, Prefect Godvina, AV Sundog’s lone passenger, is now recovering in the Observatory’s medical facilities, a result of stress caused by the evasive maneuvers of the episode. Director Jo’el, head of the Observatory, has been keeping vigil at her bedside. His concern for her is personal. Was this the reason for her visit?

We learn the attack was the anticipated result of a plan to draw out dissident elements. Prefect Tarsus, architect of the plan, is pleased on two fronts. About the mission was to be expected. However, as to Godvina’s condition has come as somewhat of a surprise to Agent Thalia, Sundog’s pilot, and Agents Mica’el and Gabri’el, two of her escorts. It spoke to rumors of a prior relationship between the head of Security and the head of the Cosmological Data Collection and Compilation Center. These rumors are seemingly confirmed when an angry Godvina bursts into a secure room to confront Tarsus, and Thalia is later tasked with covert surveillance of the fiery Prefect to determine the exact nature of her visit to the Observatory.

Jo’el’s tenure as Director of the Observatory had been a direct result of the ribbons in the sky and their seeming adverse causal affect on seismic activity and climate of the planet. His research had led him to conclude the ribbons were an extinction event. He has found a solution, a portal to another universe. However, there was no way to access it. If only there was more time…

His plan: Go back in time before access to the portal becomes compromised.

He will not be going alone. His two lifelong friends, Chief Psychology Officer Auberon and Chief Physician Kyros, will accompany him on this one-way journey. However, temporal mechanics was not his main area of study. That is why he has asked Godvina to come to Jomo. He needed a sounding board, someone to check his logic and his calculations. There was no one better than the prefect of CD3C.

He had originally intended a purely academic discussion.

However, Thalia’s scrutiny has thrown a spanner in the works. She had been unable to

eavesdrop on their meeting, a result of one of Auberon’s very unique abilities. It would only be a matter of time until it would draw unwanted attention to Jo’el’s plan. Now, he had no choice but to flee Jomo with his two friends and a recently recruited CD3C Prefect. Their objective: Exit a facility under military jurisdiction, make their way through some of the most inhospitable terrain on the planet and head to the very people who attacked AV Sundog.

Do they get off the mountain and travel back through time? Of course! Without it, there is no story, but how do they get there, what do they find, and do they make good on Jo’el’s plan?

Mirror in Time will take you on a journey beyond the galaxy then to the ancient world of Ziem as a band of intrepid time travelers struggle to save existence.

* * * * *
Now, about the cover…

My wife, Natasha (@neoverttun), does all my covers and visuals for my guest posts. I am so lucky to have her support. At this point, I would also like to clarify she sources all the artwork she uses from Pixabay and similar sites. She then combines and manipulates them in Photoscape, GIMP and word. Is the result original? I think so because it’s all about proportion and balance. Take sulfur, carbon and potassium nitrate. They are distinctive and unique in and of themselves. But mix them in the proper proportions, and you get gunpowder. So, to quote one of my favorite chef’s, “BAM!” Let’s take it to the next level.

The gif below highlights the main characteristic of a mirror —it reflects. As you can see, Natasha has done so much with this concept. The fade-in from black reveals a canvas full of partial images like visual echoes on shards of glass. As the gif progresses, they disappear until only one remains. Like possibilities in the quantum world, all are available until one is chosen. It gives a hint of what will happen in the story. Time travel involves destinations. Which one should be chosen? Where will it lead?


Shades of gray dominate the cover. That palette combined with a hooded woman gives it a gloomy, gothic feel. It could imply our MCs are going back to a period in time like that. On the other hand, it might be a reference to time itself. The past is shrouded in mystery. Tomorrow is dark. Tomorrow unknown.

The woman stares back at us, a cryptic Mona Lisa smile on her lips. I have seen that look before. She knows something, something we don’t know. What could it be? One interpretation is the story itself. She knows what’s in the pages that follow, and the reader doesn’t. So, this is an invitation to journey past the cover and delve into the story.

Her smile could also be a bright spot in an otherwise dreary color scheme. Again, it is a hint of what is to follow. Our MCs will be faced with impossible odds, but there is always hope.

On another level, it could be like looking in a mirror, and this is our own reflection. This asks the reader a question: What are you thinking?

The bottom half of the cover is also a reflection. Natasha blurred it slightly to make a distinction to the top half. For me, the fact it’s upside down makes it clear enough, but I think it’s a nice touch. We have two more. One is the inverted “r” in the title and the title itself. Natasha wanted to do something similar to my name, but I said, “Enough with the reflections already. I think they get the point.” We had a little “discussion” after that. To summarize, she “said”, “This is an artist’s prerogative.” I “said”, “Less is more.” She finally agreed. I include the episode here, not to gloat but as a record I am right on occasion.

The accent color is green. It appears in the globe of light and around the lettering. No interpretation is required to know the tendrils represent plasma. Because it’s there, it has to have something to do with the story. It does. Although, in the story, it’s a mist. Natasha could have feathered and blurred it to make it consistent, but she felt it would lose it’s immediate and unmistakable connection to power. (This is an artist’s prerogative.) It’s in front of the woman, implying you have to go through it to get to the end of the story, which you do.


 

 

 

Other books by D. Ellis Overttun


Terra Nova Book 1 - Universe:  Awakening  

Background to Universe: Awakening posted on Zooloo’s Book Diary


Terra Nova Book 2 - Genesis:  Vision of the New World

 

Themes in Genesis: Vision of the New World posted on The Book Hole


Terra Nova Book 3 - Prophecy: Eve of Darkness

 

Themes in Prophecy: Eve of Darkness posted on The Bookwormery







Tuesday, 4 May 2021


 Book Review | The Thunder Heist by Jed Herne

Good Evening fantasy book nerds.

Today I have a review of Jed Herne's 'The Thunder Heist'. This is my forst introduction to Jed Herne's writing and I have to say that when I read the word PIRATES in the descritption, I immediately thought that I would have a go with this. 

So, read on and find out what it is all about.

Oh, all the Graphics were provided by Jed Herne!

(Obviously thanks go to Netgalley & Jed Herne for letting me get my hands on the book)

Description

A relentless thief. A magical device. And a heist to change everything.

Kef Cutmark is the greatest pirate in the Twisted Seas. Just ask her – she’s more than happy to talk about her exploits. She’s a woman of sharp wit and an even sharper sword. She’s killed sea monsters, toppled kings, stolen priceless artifacts, and made a hefty sum of gold along the way.

But her charming, roguish exterior hides a dark past. As a child, she was a slave in Zorith – a tangled jungle of a thousand boats, all lashed together to make a floating city-ship. After a life spent running from her past, she’s had enough. Now, it’s time for revenge.

Zorith is powered by a magical device that draws energy from lightning. Mysterious, unique, and locked in an unbreachable tower, it’s the envy of Zorith’s rivals.

And Kef? She’s here to steal it.

To do that, she’ll need a water-breathing mutant, a grumpy architect, and a deaf alchemist. If Kef can take the device, it will cripple Zorith, and serve out justice for what the city did to her. But with all the odds stacked against Kef, failure looks more likely. And if she fails, she’ll never find peace again.

The Thunder Heist is a fast-paced fantasy tale of deception, thievery, and revenge. If you enjoyed The Lies of Locke Lamora, The Gutter Prayer, or Mistborn: The Final Empire, you'll love The Thunder Heist.

Review

What do you get if you mix one part Waterworld, with a touch of Mad Max, a sprinkling of steampunk, a dash of Oceans 11 and a soupcon of Jack Sparrow? You get Jed Herne’s ‘The Thunder Heist’. 

The story revolves around pirate with a past, Kef Cutmark, the greatest pirate in the Twisted Seas. Not only is she a Pirate with a past, she’s a pirate with a plan. A very dangerous plan that could topple the city ship of Zorith. The city that held her enslaved as a child, and now she is all grown up, she has put together an elaborate plan that will see the ship and the government sink to the bottom of the twisted seas. Sorry (not sorry) but I make no excuses for my love of pirates. It’s going to get me every time. And add to this a bit of a heist theme set in a world that has mutants and big assed ships and I am in. 

There is no doubt about it, Jed Herne’s ‘The Thunder Heist’ is a fun little read. And clocking in at under two hundred pages, the story is a no frills thrill ride right through to the end. 

It starts with our titular hero imprisoned on a prison hulk called Blackrake prison, waiting to be executed for her many crimes. However, everything is not as it seems. For one, she put herself there. For two, she fast tracked her own execution, and for three, this is Kef Cutmark. From the explosive first chapter, the pace hurtles along like a person careering down a zip wire and it doesn’t let up. Jed Herne doesn’t bother with any meanderings. He goes from A to B with the minimum of fuss. 

However, don’t think that it is a one horse caper novel. There is a whole lot of stuff going on in the book. The Thunder Heist is set in a world with some interesting little quirks. The setting is based around city ships. Great hulking ships that have other ships, pontoons, and other seaworthy vessels all around them. Not only that, this is a land that is populated by mutants. Like Gillers, who are able to swim beneath the polluted sea, Wingers who are able to fly and Crystalcoats, who resemble the stone men in the Gutter Prayer. 

The book has fantastic energy and playfulness. However, it is not all fun and frolics. There are some dark edges to the story, that add to the texture of the book. 

As it is a short book, and it is a heist book, some of the characters are there for one purpose and don’t really get expanded on, like Gabine for instance, who is the architect of the story. However, like I said, this is a heist story and that normally happens. The main star of the book is Kef Cutmark, and let me tell you she owns the story. She swaggers her way through the plot, and I liked her a lot as a character. Additionally, Jed Herne gives her a little bit of a steely edge that adds to her character and just enough self-doubt to make her seem realistic rather than a nihilistic parody. 

So, if you are in the market for a sparky fun read that delivers its punches, you can’t go far wrong with The Thunder Heist.








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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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