Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Audiobook Review | Tolagon by Gregory Benson

He was raised in secret, guardian of a mysterious blue orb that is his father's legacy. Can he learn to harness its power in time to defeat the oppressive robotic fleet that controls their system or will he die trying?

Crix, last of the Tolagons, possesses an immense power that he can never wield. That is until he is forced to activate the blue orb to rescue the beautiful and enigmatic Kerriah from her downed spacecraft. With the orb's unique energy signature revealed, the Marcks - Zearic's robotic army - relentlessly hunt him down for control of the artifact.

Kerriah, gifted with special and unique abilities, becomes his ally. As they escape the clutches of the Marcks, they are joined by the muscular war veteran Krath. But can Crix fully trust them, especially Kerriah whom he has fallen for?

As the trio evades their pursuers, forging alliances in the most unusual places, time is running out. Crix must discover the truth in the shadows of his dark past and rise up against Zearic and his cybernetic army. For him, there is no easy path.

Tolagon is a thrilling, dystopian sci-fi novel perfect for readers who enjoy a heart-pounding story full of adventure, action, and magic.


Okay, just to get this out of the way, I received a free copy of the audio book by Gregory Benson. He said "Do you want to listen to this audiobook and write something about it?". So, I said "Okay!"

I must say I enjoyed this audiobook, It has that kind of popcorn feel about it. That is not to say it is a bad book ar anything like that, but it is one of those light books where you breathe, sit back and jsut go with the flow of the story. 

The story centres around our hero, Crix.

Crix feels different from those around him, mainly because he is. He is a lone human in an alien environment. He has been raised by his guardian Hafllinger amongst the equine race of Andors, a species of equine inhabitants of the planet Troika. 

Not only that, he is a Tolagon, and has an orb inside him that gives him extraordinary powers. 

However, evil forces are afoot, and one day as he is out walking he sees an unidentified craft crash land. Now Crix is a bit of a curious lad and decides that he needs to investigate and makes his way over the dangerous terrain to the crash site to investigate and discovers that the pilot, a Mendac girl called Kerriah is alive and well, and that she might need a little bit of help getting out of her crashed spaceship.

He is subsequently thrown headlong into an adventure that will take him further than he has ever been before, running from the might of the evil empire of the Marcks, stumbling on ancient gods, and becoming embroiled in a prison break on a prison planet.

This book was an enjoyable read, especially as we are thrown straight into the adventure, and it keeps the pace at full tilt until the end.

I found that one the things that helped was that I didn't have to think too hard about this book and that I just went from one dangerously life threatening situation to the next without much in between. It has a fun filled action packed plot that drags you along with its flow.

If I thought about it a little bit, there were some small fissures in the gloss of the story, but I thought what the heck. let the story wash over you and just go with it. And with that, all restraints thrown off, I enjoyed this audiobook

The book is narrated by Gabriel Micheals who does a pretty good job of bringing the characters to life and injecting some verve into the story. He has such a good vocal range that gives definition and personality to each character.  I was able to follow th narrative of the story and didn't get lost in the action. So, on the whole, got to say that I quite liked this and will definitely be seeking out the sequel.

Monday, 28 June 2021


Some Details about the Book

Book | of Honey & Wildfires

Author | Sarah Chorn

Pub Date | 28 April 2020

Print Length | 247 pages

What is the book about?

From the moment the first settler dug a well and struck a lode of shine, the world changed. Now, everything revolves around that magical oil.

What began as a simple scouting expedition becomes a life-changing ordeal for Arlen Esco. The son of a powerful mogul, Arlen is kidnapped and forced to confront uncomfortable truths his father has kept hidden. In his hands lies a decision that will determine the fate of everyone he loves—and impact the lives of every person in Shine Territory.

The daughter of an infamous saboteur and outlaw, Cassandra has her own dangerous secrets to protect. When the lives of those she loves are threatened, she realizes that she is uniquely placed to change the balance of power in Shine Territory once and for all.

Secrets breed more secrets. Somehow, Arlen and Cassandra must find their own truths in the middle of a garden of lies.


Sarah Chorn is one of those writers that I have had on my radar for quite some time. In fact, she was one of the first books that I bought when I started this site, but unfortunately, I have had some difficulty finding the time to actually read her books.

Big Mistake, or maybe not! Because sometimes, you need to have that right set of circumstances which mean that you enjoy the book to its full potential, and I think that this was the right time for this book.

As an editor, Sarah Chorn has been involved with some of my favorite books, and now, as an author she has written one of my favorite books.

I have literally only just finished reading this book, so as I am writing this review, you are getting my thoughts unadulterated, without the time to think of one liners or superlatives to try and describe the book.

When you see a review, how many times do you see the line ‘I wanted to like this book but….’ Well I am going to use that line. I wanted to like this book but…… for the life of me I did not expect to like this book as much as I did! It is utterly gorgeous, and I was taken aback by how beautiful the writing is in the book. In fact, just how good everything is in this book. I most certainly did not expect that!

I suspect that if you are reading this, you may have done some investigation of what the book is about. It is a kind of weird west setting, and by that it uses a fantasy version of the wild west to tell its story. However, the wild west that Sarah Chorn writes about is full of colour. She does not give you a name for the people that live in this world. They are humanoid, but their skin, hair and eye tones are made up of the colour of the rainbow. There are green people, orange, violet etc etc..

The book primarily deals with a number of subjects that all have relevance in the real world, life, loss, love, and family, which I am sure you will have seen in previous reviews. But in addition to that, for me, I also recognised division. Not just between class, but between each other, which seemed to be personified by the boundary, an invisible construct that separates the rich inhabitants of the world that Sarah Chorn has built, from the poor. However, it also signifies the division between those that we hold dear and the boundaries that we impose or that are imposed upon us.

One of the things that I found intriguing in the book, is the use of certain fantasy stalwarts, like the magic. Sarah Chorn cleverly does not use a magic system per se. Rather, she uses a magical substance called Shine, which is used for a myriad of purposes and is intrinsic in everything that the world relies upon, from healing to flavouring food. It also has mundane uses like powering lamps, or heating the house. However, it also has a darker side, in that people can become addicted to it, or that it is used for weapons. She also uses other aspects of the fantasy genre, like the unseen dark overlord that rules the land, in the form of Matthew Esco, who whilst being out of sight for most of the book, is a constant presence throughout, and when he does finally enter the story, he is the epitome of the dark overlord.

The structure of the book is interesting too. The story is told by multiple characters in different time periods. For instance, Arlen’s story is told in the relative present, whilst Cassandra’s is told from the past. However, it constantly hurtles towards the present like a train navigating to it's ultimate destination and bringing us into the present, And then there is Ianthe’s story, which is told in the immediate present. All these stories intersect in some way to finally meet.

In addition to this, the characters are so well written, you can virtually hear them breathing.

As I said earlier, Sarah Chorn's prose is something of beauty. She can make even the mundane sound beguiling. She will effortlessly slip from emotive language that pulls at the heart to describing chopping a tree into logs in the blink of an eye, and I almost cried at that! She is able to convey a sense of tension and foreboding whilst richly describing a walk through a moonlit meadow. It's just.... stunning. 

I must say, I was swept along by this book. By the shine of Sarah Chorn’s beautiful writing style, the depth of her story, and I think that this is one of those books that will stay lodged in my head for quite some time.




Monday, 21 June 2021

Book Review

Seven Deaths of an Empire


G. R. Mathews

Good Whatever it is, wherever you are. Today on the blog I will be reviewing SEVEN DEATHS OF AN EMPIRE by G. R. Mathews, which is released later this month by Rebellion Publishing.

I would like to thank Rebellion & Netgalley for the chance to read this book. This is my first introduction to the writing of G. R. Mathews.

So for those of you that don't know what the book is about, here is the book blurb that will give just that teensy hint about the story.

The Emperor is dead. Long live the Empire.

Seven lives and seven deaths to seal the fate of an Empire...

General Bordan has a lifetime of duty and sacrifice behind him in the service of the Empire. But with rebellion brewing in the countryside, and assassins, thieves and politicians vying for power in the city, it is all Bordan can do to protect the heir to the throne.

Apprentice Magician Kyron is assigned to the late Emperor’s honour guard escorting his body on the long road back to the capital. Mistrusted and feared by his own people, even a magician’s power may fail when enemies emerge from the forests, for whoever is in control of the Emperor’s body, controls the succession.

Seven lives and seven deaths to seal the fate of the Empire.


Seven Deaths of an Empire by G. R. Mathews is a self-contained fantasy novel set in the Six Kingdoms, although there may be other books coming (well I know there is coz I looked at his website!)
The story is set in a world that has several different settings. Firstly, there is the Empire, which strongly resembles a Roman styled governing system. And then there is another part of the world building that is based on the Germanic/Gaulish Tribal systems. In essence, it closely resembles Europe during the expansion of the Roman Empire. 
It's quite interesting to see this kind of world building and one that I found to be quite refreshing. I liked how it closely resembled similar governing systems from a recognisable part of history. However, there is the addition of magic in the story and this adds an extra dimension to the story, subsequently increasing the tension.
And let me tell you there is a lot of tension in this book, whether it be military, political, religious, or social tensions. 
The main essence of the book starts with the death of the Emperor, which obviously upsets the equilibrium of the Empire. What follows is a period of political turmoil and jockeying for position. Caught up in the middle of this and having to navigate his way through political turmoil, is the first of our main protagonists, General Borden. Grand Marshall of the Armies of the Empire. 
On the death of the Emperor, General Borden is given the inexorable task of guarding and guiding the next heir to the Empire, Alhard. However, Alhard is an ignominious, spoilt young man whose idea of ruling an Empire is to systematically crush all that he sees as a threat, and making General Borden’s job quite difficult. Especially, when Alhard prefers to be guided by his sister, Aelia.
Running alongside General Borden’s story, is the tale of a young magician, Kyron. Kyron and his master, Padarn, are tasked to preserve the body of the Emperor so that he can be transported back to observe the proper death rights and also to pass on the Symbol of the Emperor and the Empire. To do this they must join an honour guard of soldiers whose job it is to protect the body and deliver it to the Capital. In addition, to Kyron & Padarn, Emlyn, a barbarian from the tribes who has been forced to guide the company. 
Unfortunately, the stories of both protagonists do not go according to plan. 
In General Borden’s story, by some misfortune, Alhard is deposed of his claim to the throne and the right to govern falls to his sister, Aelia. 
Whilst Kyron’s story is filled with danger as they attacked by the tribes. Amid this, Kyron will have his beliefs and prejudices tested as he learns more about the Empire, the tribes and himself. 
The story revolves around the points of view of the two main characters, and I have to say that I found that this was an unexpected pleasure in today’s climate of several points of view. It successfully maintained the focus of the narrative and thus benefitted the rising tension of the book, which I think if it had had more, would have detracted from the story.
For the most part, the book was enjoyable. At times, the pacing slowed, particularly in a small portion of the last third of the book. However, it soon rectified this, picked up its socks and then sprinted headlong to the finish.
For me, one of the strongest points of the story was Kyron’s journey. Throughout his tale, his character grew as he was forced to face his own prejudices about everything. I liked the growing relationship with the guide Emlyn, especially as later in the book he is forced to become closer to her, and I like how the characters interacted with each other. Subtly complementing each other’s strengths and weaknesses as they become closer.
When it came to General Borden, I have to say. Gods, that man is a saint. I don’t think I would have managed to have remained as level-headed as he does throughout the book. There is no two ways about it, I would have allied myself to the nearest radical faction to depose the rulers of the Empire, as both of them are pretty loathsome characters. Alhard is a cowardly dullard that should never be allowed a hairs breath near a throne, and Aelia is a screaming harpy whose voice went through me every time she spoke,
For me, I felt that at its heart, the book was a murder mystery, ensconced in classic fantasy. Now don’t laugh, but when you read it you will see what I mean. However, if I went into finer details, I would give important aspects of plot away, which in turn would spoil it for you, and I don’t want to do that. 
At times, G. R. Mathew’s writing reminded me of David Gemmell, in that he has the ability to write a good tale and tell it well. The world building is tight in that it only deals with necessary environments. Which I thought worked well, and the fact that G. R Mathew’s hasn’t put out an immediately expansive world, revealing only what is necessary, maintains the readers focus. 
When it comes to the ending, I found it satisfyingly unexpected. I am sure that most people will say that they saw how events would play out. Well, I didn’t! There were some aspects of it that I thought might occur, mainly because the writing does transmit some of the events throughout the latter end of the book. However, most of it took me by surprise.
Seven Deaths of an Empire is a book that is full of tension, intrigue, and action and it will be interesting to see what direction GR Mathew will take next.



Thursday, 17 June 2021

Book Information

Crown of the Sundered Empire by JC Kang
Series: Heirs to the Sundered Empire (#1)
Published: October 9, 2019
Genre: Epic Fantasy, Military Fantasy
Pages: 596

Book Blurb

Only the demon in Tomas’ glass eye can save his village.

It might cost him his soul.

In a broken land where conquerors dream of empires, Tomas dreams of a day when the townsfolk won’t taunt him. After all, he’s the fishing village kid with a misshapen face.

Only the Rune vendor’s daughter treats him well. To win her heart, he relies on a quick wit and local superstitions to convince her he has Diviner’s Sight.

But if he did, he would’ve foreseen magic-fearing invaders plucking out his mismatched eye.

Or the demon trapped in the glass replacement. It reveals a world beyond human vision, while whispering temptations in his mind.

Now, with his village caught between the advancing armies of the Sun God’s mortal descendants and His Chosen People, Tomas must use a combination of calculation, cunning, and demonic insight to maneuver the forces of his world against each other—prince against prince, princess against princess, army against army—or see his home crushed forever beneath the wheels of war.

But to do so carries a dire risk.

Because using a demon could condemn your soul.

— — —

Book Links

Universal Purchase Link:

Author Info


JC Kang’s unhealthy obsession with Fantasy and Sci-Fi began at an early age when his brother introduced him to The Chronicles of Narnia, Star Trek, and Star Wars. As an adult, he combines his geek roots with his professional experiences as a Chinese Medicine doctor, martial arts instructor, and technical writer to pen epic fantasy stories.



Good morning, good afternoon and good evening everyone. It’s tour time again, and here I am on another of Storytellers on Tour’s magical mystery blog tours again. This time it’s for Crown of a Sundered Empire by J. C. Kang, and let me tell you a secret, I am writing this just as I have literally just finished reading the book. So, these are my thoughts straight from my head, so I haven't had much time to ferment the thoughts in my head.

Now. I must admit that I have only recently been introduced to J. C. Kang’s writing when I joined a readalong for Songs of Insurrection, which J.C. Kang was running earlier in the year. 

So, when I saw that there was a tour for Crown of a Sundered Empire, I jumped at the chance. 

I like J.C. Kang’s writing immensely! He has a knack of drawing you into the story immediately. As soon as I read the prologue and he mentions Avarax the dragon, I was hooked. 

I always like the fact that at the beginning of the book, J. C. Kang gives us a cast of characters. I always find this useful. However, you never really need it as the characters are all distinctive and well imagined. 

During the promotion for Crown of a Sundered Empire, I recently read in an interview with J. C. Kang that Crown of a Sundered Empire is his most accomplished work, and whilst I have very little to compare it to, it is very easy to tell that the story is a well crafted piece of work. It is so slick in it’s writing, and it simply oozes charm.

Initially, the story revolves around an invasion of the village of Lorium by the Bovyans of the Teleri Empire, whose main motivations for invading the countries that they invade is due to their horrific ideals in relation to obtaining the next generation of soldiers. This is pretty awful, however, whilst sexual violence is referred to several times, it never occurs. However, that does not diminish the horror of the invasion.

In the midst of this, is Tomas, a young streetwise fisher boy who attempts to rescue the girl that he is smitten by. However, he is punished by the  Bovyans who remove his eye as recompense. 

However,  Crown of a Sundered Empire revolves around five points of view, which includes the half elf super spy, Jie. 

I love Jie, the half elven spy. I met her first in Songs of Insurrection, and she stole the show in that book, and similarly, in Crown of a Sundered Empire, she steals the limelight each time the story centres on her. 

When Jie enters the story, you know that there is going to be heaps of intrigue, and guess what Crown of the Sundered Empire is filled with the stuff. Even the subplots have subplots. But J.C. Kang is such a skilled writer that he keeps a tight leash on them all and then carefully draws them together at the end.

As I mentioned earlier, I had previously read Songs of Insurrection, so this aided me at times with Crown of a Sundered Empire as several times throughout the book, J. C. Kang puts in little easter eggs to other books, which I recognised. I don’t think it impacts on the story if you haven’t read any of the other books, but I did like these little references to the other the other books

There are a number of other storylines in the book, that include arranged marriages, the theft of priceless artifacts and infiltrating spies. 

If you cannot guess, I enjoyed this book and there are  many good things about J.C. Kang’s writings. One of these is his ability to write strong female characters. In fact, when it comes to characters, the female characters stand out more than the male characters and for me they appear to be the main driving force in his stories. 

Additionally, I like the fact that he does not coddle the reader in his stories. He simply throws the reader in at the deep end and he expects that whilst the reader may find the introduction to the world and the environment a little confusing, he trusts that the reader will catch up and stick with it. If you do, you are richly rewarded with a satisfying tale of daring dos that and an intriguing plot. 

If you like your books to be full of political intrigue, then Crown of a Sundered Empire is definitely a book for you.

Wednesday, 16 June 2021


Book Review

Keeper Of The Fallen

by Alyssa Lauseng

About the Book

"The spirits have placed a very important task in your hands."A massacre. An escape. Sonika could have been a warrior and a leader if she hadn't been ripped from her homeland as a child. As the last of the Okami, she will never stop fighting for her right to live.Stalking the shadows is the only world Kulako knows. Heart filled with hatred, death by his blade is inevitable, but who he is beneath that darkness longs for something else.When a twist of fate forces their lives to collide, their choices may be enough to hold back the merciless coils of the Giahatio.But not even the will of the Gods can stop the will of the Emperor. 

About the Author

Alyssa Lauseng is a fantasy writer who lives in Michigan's beautiful Upper Peninsula with her husband, two warrior princesses, and moose-dog. When not writing or momm-ing, she practices Kuk Sool Won, listens to metal, and tries to draw. Her upcoming novel, keeper of the fallen, is a light adult fantasy which includes romantic themes, fighting for what is right, and having the courage to do so. She can be found on Twitter @5FeetofRedFury and will nerd out about just about anything with you.

Keeper of the Fallen is published by Shadow Spark Publishing and is out now!


Hello fantasy book nerds! Today I have a review of Keeper of the Fallen by Alyssa Lauseng. 

Alyssa recently got in touch asking me if I would review her new book, which is the first instalment of the Keeper Trilogy.

The book is an Asian inspired fantasy with loads of martial arts, assassins and mystical spirits. 

Initially the book introduces us to our main character, Sonika, a young Okami girl who are a race of people that are highly in tune with the environment and nature, on the island of Othaka. A people that are in tune with everything around them, and commune with the wolf spirits (who feature quite prominently throughout the book as a kind of portent to events). Almost immediately we are plunged into the story as those around Sonika are cruelly slaughtered after they are betrayed by the Giahatians, a cruel, warlike community who rule over their empire with fear and terror, and she is left for dead.

As this is quite a short book, Alyssa Lauseng wastes no time in introducing us to protagonist no.2, Kulako. Who is currently held in a harsh military assassin training school on Perena, where even the slightest infringement of the rules will earn you a beating of the harshest kind. And in addition to that, it isn’t guaranteed that you will see the day out. Kulako comes from the slave island of Okara, being indentured to the brutal assassin regime when he was six years old, when he was sold to the Giahatians by his father.

I think you can see a theme running through here. These Giahatians are not the peace, love and live in harmony with others type, are they? 

Anyway, back to Sonika, who has been left for dead! (This is not a spoiler, because it says it on the back of the book) Sonika survives! However, she then escapes the island, pops over to another one, gets taken in by a kindly old couple, and happy days! Except, it doesn’t quite work like that. Our poor Sonika is harried from island to island as the Giahatians mercilessly hunt for her in their bid to wipe out her race completely. Whilst there are moments of peace and quiet for Sonika, she does have a pretty horrid time of it initially, and in her hour of desperation she ends up in the care of Okubo, who is at best described as a waste of good skin, and subsequently takes advantage of the situation that Sonika finds herself in.

Now I may have painted a slightly jovial picture of the book, but the story is far from that, and at times deals with some pretty hard stuff including domestic and sexual violence. In addition to that there is violence against children, particularly in Kulako’s case who is basically being indoctrinated and honed into a compassionless killer by quite brutal means. 

Alyssa Lauseng deals with these issues sensitively and with compassion. Especially with Sonika’s story. She successfully navigates her story, highlighting that even though Sonika is a strong woman, there are situations that go beyond her control, and even when Sonika recognises the danger, she does not have the means to escape her predicament and is subsequently trapped. 

However,it is not all doom and gloom, as Alyssa Lauseng skilfully blends the tones of the book by adding lightness and hope to the story as well. Nicely adding balance to the story.

Throughout the book, Alyssa Lauseng brings the characters of Sonika and Kulako to life, bringng different perspectives and expanding the environments of the world by  following these two points of view. In Kulako’s story, there are some elements that are instantly recognisable in any coming of age story, or even assassin’s school story. We have the obligatory bullies, harsh teachers and brutal regime that serves to remove any kind of compassion, even to those that they call friends. It is a harsh and horrible situation, that is made equally distasteful by those who (and I say this in the loosest way possible) care for them.

It is not long that you learn that the empire of the Giahatians is built on hate, fear, racial purity and subjugation. 

I think before we go any further, I am going to have to mention the world building in this book. The world in this book really captured my imagination, and similar to Andrea Stewart’s The Bone Shard Daughter, is set in a world, with a number of different islands, ruled by a centralised government, the tyrannical Giahatians. I have to admit that I do like this type of environment, as it gives the ability to introduce vastly different cultures, environments and motivations within the world. 

There is a lot of island hopping in this book, as characters move from one island to the other. So, it can be refreshing because if you were stuck primarily in Perena, it is going to become pretty grinding. 

Whilst Keeper of the Fallen is pretty low on  magic, in the sense that it does not have loads of people chucking spells about every two minutes, it is quite high with the mysticism. And this is the main driving force, at times giving an almost epic feel to the book. Especially later on in the story.

One of the things that stood out for me was Alyssa Lauseng’s writing. She impressed me with a number of things throughout the book. Her writing is engaging, and never once did I lose my concentration with the story. She shows a particular adeptness for engaging the reader, and showing them the world that the characters live in, entrenching it in the plot rather than as big chunks of information, giving the reader the immersion in the world that she has created rather than them being general observers. 

For me, whilst on the one hand I found the brevity of the book mostly worked in its favour, I did find myself wanting some more expansion of the story at times, and with some of the characters. I did feel that I wanted to know more of their motivations, or how this world had evolved. I wanted to know more about the shift of the balance of power that led to the development of the social structure of the environment. Whether that is to come further in the story, I don’t know. I also wanted to see more of the Emperor as well. He felt a little like a cursory character in this story. In addition to that, there were certain scenes that seemed to be over in a flash and I had to go back and read them again to see if they really happened, such as Kulako’s second encounter with Roku. However, on the flip side of this, the books brevity was also its strength in that Alyssa Lauseng didn’t waste any words. She got to the heart of the story without any superfluous exposition.

Keeper of the Fallen is an introduction that is bursting with promise, and I found myself engrossed in this mystical story of family, assassins, gods and tyrannical empires.


Monday, 14 June 2021


About the Book

A Cursed Existence. An Insidious Spirit. A Hidden Land.

There has never been an Anmerilian born without ability. Never, until River Kennry.

River has no place in a world where worth is measured by the power of one’s ability. He is an anomaly and an outcast, afflicted by an ailment no one can see or explain. Caught in the unrelenting hold of his government, he falls further into the pit of hopelessness as he wrestles with the mysteries of his past.

After a fated meeting with a cryptic stranger, River realizes the only way to uncover his past is to return to the Institute—the very place that scarred and violated him. And if he goes back, it could mean forfeiting his life.

But could everyone be wrong about him? Though he remains untouched by power, there is something inside him. Something alive and entangled with secrets that could upset the balance of everything his generation has ever known to be true.

Welcome to a world where the secrets are as big as continents, the monsters hide in plain sight, and there is always something sinister at play.

Vile & Blessed, the first book in The Vile & Blessed trilogy, is perfect for readers who love their dark fantasy with a touch of horror, plenty of mystery, and realistically imperfect characters they can grow with.


Today’s review is of a book called Vile & Blessed by A. H. Serrano. This was by an author that I was not familiar with but was contacted by Joseph at Emergent Realms as to whether I would like to review the book. 
Obviously with a book, author, and genre that I am not familiar with, I hesitantly said yes. Now you may be wondering why I say it is a genre that I am not familiar with when it is a fantasy book. This has the label of Young Adult attached to it, and I have to confess, I have not read many books in this particular area. However, it promised to be a dark fantasy, I thought to myself “Okay, why not?” There is that saying that strangers are friends that you have not met yet, and I think that this applies to books to! So, I delved into this debut novel by A. H. Serrano. 
And I have to say that after having read the book, I think I came out with a little gem.
So, on with the review!
Vile & Blessed is set around the main protagonist River Kennry, a late teen who has secrets. When we start the story, we find him stood at a river, shrouded in mists. This initial scene skilfully creates a sense of unease and uncertainty, as A. H. Serrano describes that River sees strange shapes in the mists beckoning him into the river. In addition to this, we learn that he is plagued by voices, which he has named Sussurus 
As you can guess, River is not your run of the mill teenager!
Throughout the book, we learn that River lives with his foster family. And in all honesty, I can;t say that their parenting skills would put them into a 'Parents of the year' award. His mother treats him with contempt (which seems to be her default position) and whilst his father seems to be ok with him, he is at best, condescending. However, he has a warm relationship with his foster sister, Shiloh, who happens to be one of the main side characters. 
As we get more info about River, we generally learn that apart from the voices in his head, he also has disfiguring prosthetic skin that has been grafted to his body, and discover that whist he has difficulties, he is in fact a pretty average kind of teenager (well, he does seem surprisingly well adjusted with all that going on!). He has best friends, Darthan and a kind of love interest in Lhii, the daughter of a high ranking military general. 
So, there we go! That's the introduction to the whole gang! 
Now you might think, 'why has he just told me all that?' Trust me, it is slightly important. 
From the first page, I was intrigued by this book, becoming immediately hooked and wanting to know what on earth was going on. Ahe start of the book, we learn that River is on some kind of probation from an unknown hospital. However, it is much later that you get to know what this hospital is and its significance. On top of that, he is also quite extraordinary in the fact that he does not have powers. You see, in Anmerilian, nearly everyone has powers which have been granted by the spirits. Except River! 
Now, when it comes to plot, I don’t really want to go into it too much, as this is the main driver of the book. I found that there is so much happening beneath the surface of the story of our characters that I turned each page hungrily hoping for more information about the world and the secrets that are encapsulated within it. A. H. Serrano carefully drip feeds infromation and keeps a tight grip on the plot throughout the whole book, gently releasing it to give some pretty pleasant interactions between the characters or develop the plot, and then pulling it back tightly to increase the tension.
I generally liked world building of the book, although at times I did have some problems visualising it, but my brain settled on a quasi rennaisance Italian type vibe. I'm not sure if this is the author, but I am sticking to it! It's where my mind went to!
The book seems to be set in a seemingly utopian world, where everyone has powers and there are no wars etc, etc. However, just scratch a little below the surface, and there is a totalitarian government that has some shady goings on (not a spoiler!). There are areas of depravity and exploitation, and it is these mysteries of the environment and the world in which the story is set, that just sucked me in. I loved the duality and duplicity of the world, and the complexity of it adds to the general feeling of disquiet that is always there throughout the book.
The characters are all well represented and believable. I have to admit, I did find them a little irksome at times. However, I suppose this adds to the realism, as I have a house full of teenagers and I find them irksome at times too, so I can definitely relate!
Besides River, Darthan’s character arc drew my attention. Particularly in the second act of the book. Darthan goes down a pretty dark paths, especially when his character gets fleshed out some more. We learn more about him and his motivations, in that he is primarily a person that has gained musical ability. However, this does not fit his world view of himself, and as a result he descends down a rabbit hole that he is never going to get out of due to his own insecurities. 
The book is primarily divided into a three-act structure. Initially, it’s all about an introduction, character development and world building. Whilst the second act progresses the story further, by taking River out of his main setting and placing him in a whole new environment. And in the third act, the story deals with the consequences and neatly sets up the second instalment. 
I have got to say, this works extremely well, adding depth to both the plot and to the characters. Particularly the second act! A. H. Serrano pulls this part of the book together, as it introduces a whole new set of characters, whilst leaving the former ones to develop individually of the main protagonist. Additionally, it gives a good breathing space for us to watch River’s development as he unearths the secrets about himself, the past and the world around him.
I am also going to give an extra special plus point for adding a glossary. Whilst I don't find them necessary, I always appreciate their inclusion a book. 
As you can guess, I pretty enjoyed the book.
I found that with Vile & Blessed, A.H. Serrano does an excellent job of shrouding a complex mystery plot in a rich fantasy world, leaving you with more questions than answers. And I for one cannot wait to unearth the secrets as the series progresses.


If you like the sound of this book, well good news. In association with Emergent Realms we have three copies of the Ebook to give away!

Keep your eyes peeled on Twitter for news of this exciting giveaway.

Yep, I got a copy of the Ebook from Emergent Press, and they asked would you like to review it in exchange for an honest review.

Vile & Blessed is Published By Emergent Realms & is available to buy on Amazon, Kidle Unlimited and also as a signed paperback from Emergent Realms


Thursday, 10 June 2021


 Blog Tour

Shards of Earth

By Adrian Tchaikovsky

Today my dear Fantasy book nerds I am delighted to be taking part in the #UltimateBlogTour for SHARDS OF EARTH by Adrian Tchaikovsky, organised and presented by the fabulous The Write Reads, along with Tor Books UK & Black Crow

This is the final day of the tour, and there have been a multitude of fantastic blogs involved in this tour, I hope that you managed to see some of these.

As this is the final day of the tour, you may be familiar with the premise of the book, but if you haven't managed to catch any of the previous reviews or are new to Adrian Tchaikosvky's work, let me tell you what the book is about and give you some information about the book.

Book Blurb 

The Arthur C. Clarke award-winning author of Children of Time brings us an extraordinary space opera about humanity on the brink of extinction, and how one man's discovery will save or destroy us all.

The war is over. Its heroes forgotten. Until one chance discovery . . .
Idris has neither aged nor slept since they remade him in the war. And one of humanity's heroes now scrapes by on a freelance salvage vessel, to avoid the attention of greater powers.

After earth was destroyed, mankind created a fighting elite to save their species, enhanced humans such as Idris. In the silence of space they could communicate, mind-to-mind, with the enemy. Then their alien aggressors, the Architects, simply disappeared—and Idris and his kind became obsolete.

Now, fifty years later, Idris and his crew have discovered something strange abandoned in space. It's clearly the work of the Architects—but are they returning? And if so, why? Hunted by gangsters, cults and governments, Idris and his crew race across the galaxy hunting for answers. For they now possess something of incalculable value, that many would kill to obtain

Well, here are my thoughts on the book!

If you have seen the rest of the reviews by the other fabulous bloggers on this tour, you will have probbly seen that the general consensus is that everyone thisks that this is a damn fine book. And do you know what? I ain't veering one little bit from that opinion.

It's a chuffin marvellous book.

You will also seen that for a large number of people, this is their introduction to Adrian Tchaikovsky's work. Well, guess what? Me too!

I have no idea, why it has taken me this long to get Adrian Tchaikovsky's works. Weeeell, I might be telling a little bit of a fib there. I know exactly what the reason is. Everytime, I look at the amount of books that Adrian Tchaikovsky has written, I get a bit of the collywobbles knowing where to start, so when I was kindly invited to join this tour by Dave at The Write Reads to join in this ultimate tour, I thought, this is as good a place as any. Boy, am I glad I did! I love this book. Why did nobody tell me that Adrain Tchaikovsky's writing is so bloody good. In all honesty, I did not know what to expect, but I don't think it was this.

Shards of Earth had me reading at a rate of knots, falling for the engaging characters and laughing out loud at points.

The story takes place after a massive war with a terrilbe enemy called The Architects, a kind of intersteller, planetary redecorators, who visit plantes changing everything in their path, whether the inhabitants of the planet want these molecular and terrestrial improvemts or not.

Obvioulsy, nobody wants this flash mob of malignant home decorators visiting their planet as they don't really have any regard for the inhabitants, governments, armies, or anyone really. They just change everything, from the smallest atom to whole planet refurbishment as they see fit.

This is what happened to Earth, and as a result, the people of earth are now scattered amongst the cosmos.

However, someone, at some point said nope, we are not having it anymore. No one wants their planet redecorating and this pretty indestructable force that goes about vandalising our planets can get the heck out of this universe and go back to where they came from. We might not know where that is, but they can sod right off, back to goodness knows where. And with that, The Architects War started. And whilst no one knew if they could beat them, they had a secret weapon, The Intermediaries. A psychic go between that could tell the Architects "Oy, you! You indescribable horror that goes about vandalsing planets, we have had enough of your hooliganistic ways & we aren't scared of you neither, now please go back from whence you came" (please note: No one says that at any point in the book and I made that bit up! You might say that's a bit of artistic lisence. But, I 'm not an artist, and I haven't got a lisence, so there!). Anyway, back to the book! Eventually, The Architects realise that they are not going to get a nice cup of tea from any of this lot and decide to make like Brave Sir Robin, and run away to whence they came!

So, jumping forward a couple of fifty or so years. Idris, one of The Intermediaries in the Architects War, is a pilot on a salvage ship called The Vulture God, with a load of other people, and crab like things, doing odd salvage jobs around the universe. After, a particularly hard day at work, they get granted a little bit of rest & relaxation by their boss, Rollo. Well, this doesn't go well, as Idris being an intermediary, gets impounded by this pretty high up dignitary, because everyone thinks that Intermediaries are no better than property and can be indentured into any type of service that they see fit, whether they like it or not because intermediaries are leashed (erm, slaves!) and they haven't got a choice in this. Except Idris has coz he's a war hero. He subsequently gets sprung from prison by his mate Kris, and an old mate from his war days, Solace, a genetically modified warrior who belongs to a contingent of female warriors known as Partheni.

The crew of the Vulture God are then hired to tow back another ship from Unspace, which sets off a shed load of events that carry us all the way through the book.

Did I mention, I really liked this book? Yeah? Well, I don't care and I am going to say it again, so there! The book gallops along from planet to planet, adventure to adventure. The characters are endearing and relateable. I know everyone likes Idris and Solace, but my particular favorite was Rollo, the Faginesque captain of the Vulture God. For some reason, he reminded me of a Dickensian character, especially when he refers to everyone as his family etc. I mean I liked all the other characters, but he was the one that I looked forward to seeing when he came into the story.

I also liked the idea of the Unspace and the Architects. At times, it almost felt Lovecraftian when Adrain Tchaikovsy describes them (and the unnameable terrors that lurk in the Unspace). Especially with the concept of the unseen cosmic terror that they (and it) evoke.

As I have said, there is a lot of things going on. There's political, religious and criminal wranglings (all with our crew in the middle, gettig themselves from one puddle of steaming brown stuff to another). In addition to this, Adrian Tchaikovsky populates his universe with diverse lifeforms that are strange and alien. And in addition to this there a crackingly addictive plot. 

The other thing that I found to be of note, is that Adrian Tchaikovsky trusts his readers to become immersed in the universe that he has built, giving large pieces of information. However, I found this set up fascinating.

Right. I am going to shut up now, and hope that you enjoyed the review and you want to read the book.

Before I go, here is a little bit about Adrian Tchaikovsky

Adrian Tchaikovsky is the author of the acclaimed Shadows of the Apt fantasy series, from the first volume, Empire In Black and Gold in 2008 to the final book, Seal of the Worm, in 2014, with a new series and a standalone science fiction novel scheduled for 2015. He has been nominated for the David Gemmell Legend Award and a British Fantasy Society Award. In civilian life he is a lawyer, gamer and amateur entomologist.
Adrian Tchaikovsky is the author of the acclaimed Shadows of the Apt fantasy series, from the first volume, Empire In Black and Gold in 2008 to the final book, Seal of the Worm, in 2014, with a new series and a standalone science fiction novel scheduled for 2015. He has been nominated for the David Gemmell Legend Award and a British Fantasy Society Award. In civilian life he is a lawyer, gamer and amateur entomologist.

Adrian Tchaikovsky was born in Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire before heading off to Reading to study psychology and zoology. For reasons unclear even to himself he subsequently ended up in law and has worked as a legal executive in both Reading and Leeds, where he now lives. Married, he is a keen live role-player and occasional amateur actor, has trained in stage-fighting, and keeps no exotic or dangerous pets of any kind, possibly excepting his son.

Adrian Tchaikovsky is the author of the acclaimed Shadows of the Apt fantasy series, from the first volume, Empire In Black and Gold in 2008 to the final book, Seal of the Worm, in 2014, with a new series and a standalone science fiction novel scheduled for 2015. He has been nominated for the David Gemmell Legend Award and a British Fantasy Society Award. In civilian life he is a lawyer, gamer and amateur entomologist.

He hangs around Twitter under the name @aptshadow, and is also on facebook and goodreads. He also has a website too!

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

 Book Review

The Secret of the Sword by Sean R. Bell

Good Morning everyone. On today's review we have a review of a book by new author, Sean R. Bell. Sean approached me a while ago asking me to read his first book called The Sercret of the Sword, the first insalment of his new series called The Grandfather Chronicles.

Let's have a look at the book!


"Long ago when battles were fought with magic and lands were conquered with armies, King Pendragon of Britain led a furious campaign to establish a vast empire over the magical lands now known as Western Europe".

But that was just a legend, a story that was lost as years became decades.

Now, decades later, a Grandfathers past becomes his Grandsons future. The mysterious Pendragon bloodline that was thought to be a myth comes to life in the Grandson Ian Dekker, as he must now navigate the tricky waters of family history and save the world from falling into darkness from his greatest ancestor, Morgana Pendragon.

What would you do if you learned that one of the most evil sorceresses of all time was an ancestor of yours? Family defines the very nature in how we live our lives. We all have memories with our families that have helped shape who we are. The question is, how far would you go for your family if you learned that it was connected to an ancient evil? Canadian Author Sean R. Bell uses his creative imagination and memories with his Grandfather to create a world of fantasy and intrigue in his new fantasy/science fiction book, The Secret of the Sword.

Sean R. Bell’s The Secret of the Sword tells the epic tale of a grandson, Ian Dekker, who discovers through a letter from his deceased Grandfather that he is a descendant of the magical Pendragon bloodline: the family who, in the Middle Ages, established a vast empire in Western Europe, giving rising to legendary figures such as the High King Uther, whose mentor was none other than the great Wizard Merlin. However, as Ian learns, King Uther had a jealous sibling named Morgana, who, after living in her brother’s shadow, turned to darkness in order to gain power and exact her revenge. Merlin and Uther managed to trap Morgana inside the sword Excalibur—but now, centuries later, she is on the brink of escaping her magical prison with the help of loyal followers.

Book Review

“Keep the sword hidden. The power it possesses is not only too great to wield, but it contains an evil unlike any evil the world has ever seen. The sword will forever be cursed, with the darkness of Morgana bonded to it forever.”

The Secret of the Sword is Sean Bell's first novel, revolving around the myths and legends of King Arthur.

The story revolves around our main protagonist, Ian Dekker, a twenty something living in Canada. Ian is a successful filmmaker, and everything in his life is hunky Dory. Until he gets a summons from his grandfather’s legal representative. This is the day that his life changes, and he becomes involved with secret orders, Morginian Monks & evil sorceresses.

Throughout the book, Ian comes face to face with the secrets that his grandfather has been keeping and the fact that he is a direct descendent of the Pendragons, which I am sure you will be aware included one or two pretty famous kings.

The Secret of the Sword is an old fashioned mystery/adventure full of intrigue and imagination.

The main characters are likeable. Ian Dekker is the archetypal good guy, who is decent to everyone around him, treats everyone with respect, loves his mother and likes Hockey, and he fits into this role really well. The other main character is Kate, Ian’s first romantic crush, and throughout the story it becomes evident  that he still has feelings for her. This is the romantic aspect of the story and Sean Bell writes their relationships well.

However, there is one main character in the book that is ever present throughout the story and that is Ian’s grandfather, who Ian idolised as he spent a large amount of his childhood with him. It is obvious from the story that this relationship is built on Sean Bell’s own relationship with his grandfather

However, it seems that his grandfather kept secrets and also liked puzzles, which come into play throughout the story as Ian has to solve the puzzles that his grandfather left for him, subsequently aiding him in his fight against the main antagonists, the Morginians.

This leads to a frantic race against time, aided by the mysterious Isabella and his childhood friend, Kate, in order to stop the evil Sorceress Morgana regaining her full power and unleashing her evil upon the world. The task of stopping Morgana escaping from her prison will endanger Ian and those around him. Not only that, he will not know who to trust or who is on his side.

The story largely takes place in Montreal, and although I am unfamiliar with the environment that Sean Bell describes, his descriptions of the places where the story takes place, aided me to imagine where the story’s setting takes place. It does a good job of evoking a sense of the environment.

The plot is fast paced and Sean Bell uses aspects of Arthurian legend to good effect, incorporating different parts of the mythology and drawing in different characters from the legends to effectively put his own spin on them.

In addition to this, the book is accentuated with some nice artwork by Nastassia Mkrtychan

Sean Bell is a first time writer and is still learning his craft, and at times this is evident in his writing. One of the impressions that I got throughout the book, is that Ian is not left to discover the plot for himself and the device of providing information through his grandfather's journal and  large passages of exposition hampered the narrative. Subsequently,  this gave the distinct impression that there is too much telling and guiding of important plot points rather than showing and letting the story evolve organically. In addition to this, the story is sometimes let down by the prose and dialogue. However, the story did show some positive aspects, particilarly with the use of the Arthurian mythology and I think as Sean R. Bell becomes more adept with his writing, this will improve.

The Secret of the Sword is an imaginative adventure story with a modern amalgamation of urban fantasy and Arthurian Legend. The Secret of the Sword is written for all ages and it struck me that this would be a good introduction for younger readers, or those a little older, who want a more light hearted introduction to the fantasy genre.

Please note: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.  

Monday, 7 June 2021


Good Day Everyone, today we have a cover reveal for 'Not Cool' by Jules Brown. So before we come to the reveal, let me tell you a little bit about the book. The book has previously been released with a different cover. However, this is a relaunch for the book with a new snazzy cover.

Book Description

A laugh-out-loud train journey across Europe with a travel writer who should know better.
Inspired by the budget InterRail trips of his youth, veteran travel writer Jules Brown thought he’d try and visit 9 cities in 9 countries in 9 days. Sadly, that wasn’t his only mistake.
It soon turned into a hot and steamy adventure (no, steady on, not that kind) by rail across Europe, taking in Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Bratislava, Ljubljana, Zagreb, Liechtenstein, Z├╝rich and Milan.
A tale of relaxing train rides to famous tourist destinations and guidebook sights? Not so much. All aboard for an offbeat travel adventure with a very funny writer seriously in danger of losing his cool.
Before we get to the cover itself, I think that you should know something about the author


About the Author

I took my first solo trip around Europe when I was seventeen, and I’ve been travelling and writing professionally since I published my first travel guide – to Scandinavia – in 1988. Since then I’ve eaten a puffin in Iceland, got stuck up a mountain in the Lake District, crash-landed in Iran, fallen off a husky sled in Canada, and got stranded on a Mediterranean island. Not all of those things were my fault. You can read about my travelling life in my memoir, Don’t Eat The Puffin.
I wrote Rough Guide travel books for over thirty years, but now that I no longer have to copy down bus timetables for a living I don’t really know what to do with myself. So I come up with ridiculous ideas for trips and then write about them, which is where my 9-city, 9-day, 9-country trip came from – that’s covered in Not Cool: Europe by Train in a Heatwave.
I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up.

And now........... the cover itself!

 And as a final note, Some Author Links 

You can find out more about me and my books at my publishing website,

I also blog at, sharing travel stories, travel-writing tips, videos and inspiring destinations – see you there, and happy travels.

Author Links



Twitter: @julesbrown4




Wednesday, 2 June 2021

Screens by Christopher Laine

Book Blurb

Sometime in 2016, dark web posts began appearing about a document known only as “the Manuscript.” Originally created with a manual typewriter and impossible to digitise, the Manuscript can only be read by those who can procure one of its precious few copies. It is said that the Manuscript contains horrific knowledge, and those who have read it have immediately disconnected from the internet, vanished off the digital grid, never to return.

In short order, all online posts regarding the Manuscript were gone without a trace. Everyone with any knowledge or connection to them has disappeared or been gruesomely murdered.

Something horrible is happening. Something unspeakable is coming.

And yet you can't seem to stop from staring at that television, that computer, that mobile phone. THEY have you, and for all your justifications and bravado, you never can turn away.

Why are you still looking?
THEY are watching you…


Just to get this out of the way, I was contacted by the author, Christopher Laine, to review this book. He was very nice and gave me a copy of his book and then said write what you want about it, but it would be nice to have a review! So here goes!
Screens is the fourth book in Christopher Laine's The Seven Coins Drowning series, and are intrinsically linked by the theme of the seven deadly sins. There are several stories in the series, but it is not essential to have read the others to enjoy Screens, and I have to say that it did not spoil my enjoyment of the book.

Screens is one of those books where there is so much going on, you don’t know where to start. It took me to places that I didn’t expect, to different realities, dimensions and times. Honestly, I did not know what to expect at all when I started reading this book. 

The book tells the story of James, our 404: narrator not found. He is a nobody. A bicycle courier in San Francisco. A casualty of his own ego. A recovering substance user. He is many things, but mainly, he is the teller of our story. 

In all honesty, as a narrator, I found him to annoying, gruff and he grated on my nerves at times. He has a propensity to call you, the reader,  Chumley. He is incredibly egotistical, and at times I wanted to punch him! However, what he is not, is uninteresting. Yes, at times he preaches at you, and you throw your hands up in exasperation at him, but ultimately you want to hear his story and how it plays out. 

The story of Screens itself, revolves around Frank Belknapp Long’s ‘The Hounds of Tindalos’. For those of you who aren’t aware of F. Belknap Long, he was a contributor to the Cthulhu Mythos and his mate was H. P. Lovecraft. So from that, you know that this book is going to be in the vein of cosmic horror/weird fiction.

When I say that the story revolves around The Hounds of Tindalos (THOT), I mean Christopher Laine basically uses it as a coat stand to hang the coat of his story on. We watch as James the nobody becomes more and more involved with the events of the death surrounding Halpin Chambers (one of the main characters in THOT) and the secrets that he has uncovered. 

I have to say that initially, I found this book a little difficult to get into, not because of the structure of the book, but the fact that as a narrator, James makes it particularly hard. It does take a while for the story to hit its full speed.There is a large investigative aspect to the first part of the book.  However, when it did hit its critical speed, Christopher Laine opens the throttle and the book just hurtles along at a phenomenal pace. 

Like I said earlier, when it comes to the plot there are a number of things going on. Initially, Christopher Laine cleverly taps into the worldwide paranoia of increased screen time and the effects that it is having on our brains, both biologically and socially and how this impacts on society as a whole, such as increasing the negative ideologies of hatred and making them more commonplace. This is the springboard for the main antagonists of the story to attack the human race.

I found that when I was reading this aspect of the book, it reminded me of the film They Live, in that there is an alien invasion happening under our noses, but yet we, the human race, are not aware of it. And when James dons his proverbial glasses, he cannot unsee the threat that is invisible to everyone else. However, the plot goes into a completely different direction to what you would expect, and it is at this stage the book goes (just to nick a phrase from the book) batshit crazy. However, this is not in a bad way, but in a way that elevates the story that one notch further.

In terms of characters in the book, they are seen through our narrators eyes, and in all honesty, he is quite disingenuous to most of them and you see them through his warped eyes, which makes it difficult to connect with them, except for the one at the end (which I cannot tell you anything about as it would totally ruin the last part of the book. However, on the whole, I felt that the different characters of the book are introduced to move the narrative along rather than as tangible characters that you can latch onto and identify with. 

The main character of the book is James. He is the one constant of the story, and you know how I feel about him. 

Structurally, Screens is an interesting book. It uses a kind of mixed media approach to tell the story and how it plays out. Sometimes there will be police reports of incidents, or there may be something resembling a confidential dossier of events, or a newspaper report of an incident that has an impact on the story as a whole, whilst having a structured narrative in between these differing forms of media. People may find this a little choppy initially, but you get used to it, and as the story progresses, these other pieces become quite important. 

I have to say that by the last third of the book, I was wondering how Christopher Laine would tie up numerous loose ends that he had introduced, but he manages to fit the whole thing together well. Giving the end of the story a satisfying conclusion.

Once I got into Screens, I found it to be a story that grabbed me, dragging me into the horrifying and space warping tale and never letting me go till I had reached the ultimate dimension called the end.  

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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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