Thursday, 30 September 2021

 

 

 

Recently, I entered a giveaway for H. L. Tinsley's We Men of Ash & Shadow on audio and very fortuitously won a copy (I already have the ebook, but unfortunately hadn't had the chance to read it yet. As it is read by one of my favourite narrators in the business, I was dead chuffed. 

This book has been garnering much attention of late and you can catch various podcasts & youtube appearences of both Holly Tinsley & RJ Bayley on a number of things. Holly Tinsley has recently appeared on Stephen Aryan's Late Night Talks on youtube and RJ  Bayley has been featured recently on Fantasy Files latest episode.

Amidst the gas lamp shadows former soldier-turned-mercenary John Vanguard hunts criminals at the behest of his corrupt employer, Captain Felix Sanquain. Shamed by his deserter past and seeking to make amends for his many misdeeds, a chance encounter with Tarryn Leersac – a skilled young would-be-assassin fallen from the graces of high society – leads Vanguard to become an unlikely mentor.

Charged with hunting down the killer of two guards left washed up on the banks of the canal, the further Vanguard delves into the underbelly of the city the more he finds himself entangled in a web of secrets and lies. A prominent aristocrat is missing. Crime lords, con men and harlots run amok and the city teeters on the brink of another revolution.

With his already precarious reputation hanging by a thread, Vanguard must piece together how and why the last war came to pass, find a way to earn redemption for his mistakes and come to terms with the past in a city where few survive, and even fewer can be trusted.

A Grimdark novel with elements of adventure and gaslight fantasy, ‘We Men of Ash and Shadow’ explores themes of redemption, loyalty, and betrayal against the backdrop of a world where survival often means compromising your values.

‘We Men of Ash and Shadow’ is an adult fantasy novel and as such, contains adult themes and language.
 

We Men of Ash and Shadow is a grimdark Gaslamp novel by H.L. Tinsley set in the shadowy underworld of D’orsee. 

John Vanguard, the main character, is a grizzled veteran who hires his services out to the powers that be to remove anyone that they see as being ‘undesirable’, which mainly involves the scum of society. However, John Vanguard is not like your average assassin, he has the power to be undetectable, and this gives him an advantage in his chosen profession. 
 
In addition to Vanguard, the other main protagonist is Tarryn, an emotionless psychopath who lives on the edge of ‘society’ with his ailing mother. Once a prosperous family who owned a shipping conglomerate, he now lives on the cusp of poverty in a decaying house with his mother, who is slowly losing her wits and does not even recognise her own son anymore.
 
We men of Ash and Shadow is an interesting book. It’s a gritty noirish tale of two broken people who live in a world of broken people. John Vanguard is a man that is steeped in guilt and is effectively a husk of a man who has few pleasures. He lives in a brothel (mainly sleeping in the bath tub as he has spent a number of years confined in ‘The Hole’ for crimes against the state). When we meet Tarryn we learn of his past, but we also learn throughout the book that he is also on the edge of psychopathy, and is similarly an emotionless husk of a man who only comes alive when he is killing
.
We Men of Ash and Shadow is a deliciously dark introduction into John Vanguard’s world and one of the things that jumped out at me immediately is the character of John Vanguard. It makes a nice change to encounter a character that is middle aged in years and not just on the verge of adulthood. Yes, whilst he is a cold-hearted killer, for some reason it is easy to connect with him as a character. He does have an ethical code in which he operates and there is a sense of honour to him. Throughout the book, it is clear that whilst he lives in an environment that is morally grey, he will look after those that he cares about, such as the girls who live in the brothel, or the madame who governs it. He will not see injustice done and tends to only kill those that deserve it.
 
Tarrryn on the other hand is also a good secondary character, and we see his development through the story as at first, he is merely a lost soul, but the writer shows us how he got to where he is now through recollection and develops him and his ever-tenuous psyche.
 
The world that Holly Tinsley has built is bleak, hard and unforgiving. There is grime and filth aplenty and the citizens of D’Orsee eke out an existence in this grim environment. It seems to be quite a dystopian world that the citizens of D’Orsee live in, resembling the industrialised environment of Victorian England, and you get hints of the changes from the vestiges of a pastoral world to the grime and degradation of an industrialised world, and Holly Tinsley captures this very well. 
 
The book itself is filled with a multitude of characters that you can’t help but like. There’s Ruth (who is renamed Carmen to make her more exotic to the customers of the brothel) who has an interesting arc in the book, moving from wide eyed innocent to revolutionary. I particularly enjoyed her interactions with Vanguard, and again this one of the things that Holly Tinsley does well. Whilst the world that the characters inhabit is harsh, cold and bitter, there is the juxtaposition of warm and intimate friendships and relationships in this hostile climate. Vanguard’s relationship with the brothel Madam, Henrietta for instance, is such a good one that highlights this propensity for hope throughout the book. Similarly, Tarryn’s adherence to his duty to looking after his mother. He endures a multitude of punishments from her when she is in a frenzied state of unreality. However, despite his ability for violence against others, he takes the beatings that she gives him and calmly deals with them, recognising that they are not her fault. 
 
I have to say that I enjoyed Holly Tinsley’s book, that is filled with characters that have an emotional complexity which helps brings the characters alive and kept me immersed in the narrative.
The plot of the book itself keeps you gripped and takes you to places that you don’t particularly expect and leads you expectantly into the next book. The plot initially has noirish murder plot to it as Vanguard is tasked to investigate the deaths of a number of the ‘Red Guard’, the militia of the town of D’orsee and also the disappearance of a prominent figure in society. However, as the plot develops, we soon see that there is more going on that meets the eye. 
 
In terms of magic, it is fairly muted, except for the strange powers of Vanguard and Tarryn’s abilities to meld into the shadows. However, I liked this aspect and the fact that there are not inexplicable magical events peppered throughout the book as I felt that it added to the overall substance of the book, that gritty realism of the story, shall we say.
 
Added to that there is the familiar comfort of RJ Bayley’s excellent narration of the story, which increased my enjoyment of the book. This in itself was a draw to me. 
 
Since I listen to a plethora of audiobooks, I will look for narrators who I am familiar with. I first became aware of R. J. Bayley in another favourite audiobook of mine ‘Ritual of Flesh’, so when I noticed that he was the narrator of ‘We Men of Ash and Shadow’ I was immediately interested in this book as I knew it would be excellent.
 
We Men of Ash and Shadow is an excellent debut by Holly Tinsley and is a must for any grimdark fan, and the dimly lit world of light and shadow is sure to please those that delight in the darker aspects of fantasy.
 
If you liked the sound of the book and want to check it out on GoodreadsAudible, or Amazon, just click the links.
 
You can catch R. J. Bayley on Spotify where he does a show called Metal Empire Interviews with various metal bands, and also on Bayley's Bookshelf where he has just put out a reading of War of the Worlds on SpotifyApple Podbean
 

 





Tuesday, 28 September 2021

 Campaigns 

Companions


Good Afternoon
A little bit of an impromptu review of a little book that I received in a box a few weeks ago. 
Opening the door to our local postie, I was greeted by a strange box from Rebellion Publishing and found a whole load of goodies inside


Upon opening said mysterious package, I was greeted by this little lot, telling me about their latest release Campaigns & Companions. A humourous little time about D&D and what it would look like if our pets played the game.

So, what's it about then?

What if your pets could play D&D? And what if they were… kind of jerks about it?

If there are two things all geeks love, it’s roleplaying games, and their pets. So why not fuse the two? It’s time to grab your dice, dust off that character sheet, and let your cat or dog (or guinea pig, or iguana, or budgie) accompany you on an epic adventure! It’ll be great!

…unless your pets are jerks.

Review

This little number is a stroke of genius and has me in stitches every time I look at it. Rebellion have got together a bunch of talented people like Andi Ewington, Rhianna Pratchett, Calum Alexander Watt and Alex de Campi to write and illustrate Campaigns & Companions, and as soon as I opened the first page I knew it was going to be a case of 'All aboard to Sniggersville' as I found myself doing just that! 

Campaigns and Companions is a wonderfully illustrated book full of sly humour to complete daftness. The artwork is gorgeous, just take a look




And like I said, it had me sniggering in places to outright guffaws in others (which I must say prompted questioning looks from the Mrs!). 

This is one of those books that will make a perfect prezzie for that pet obsessed D&D'er in your life. And as there is a certain seasonal event heading towards us very soon, it would make a chucklesome little sticking filler (please be aware to remove legs from said stockings prior to shoving books in socks, as any book related scratchiness is definitely not a thing to do with me!)









Monday, 27 September 2021

 

Hello, today I am going to be reviewing the third book in Susana Imaginário’s Timelessness series, Nephilim’s Hex.

Susana recently let me listen to the latest release in her series on Audiobook read by the fabulous Sarah Kempton, and I enjoyed it immensely. This is a great series full of Gods & Goddesses from Greek, Egyptian, Christian, Hindu and Norse Mythology in the underworld of Niflheim.

 

 

 


The gods are outmatched, their talents useless against the Nephilim's technology. Desperate, they turn on each other.

New alliances form and fall apart, for there can be no peace when survival is at stake.
Psyche, torn between a goddess's duty and a mortal's hate, sets off on her own to learn the truth behind her fate, unaware of the danger following her.

 
Meanwhile, Chronos' own agenda involves a power so dangerous and unpredictable it's been long forsaken by both the gods and the Nephilim.
Will it be worth the risk?



The Timelessness series has firmly ensconced itself in my favourite series list and with the third book, Nephilim's Hex, Susana Imaginàrio has upped the ante no end.

I recall when I wrote my review for The Dharkan, Susana Imaginàrio kindly responded to the review that I wrote explaining that if I thought The Dharkan was good (if you recall dear reader, I gave it 5💫 on Goodreads) then Nephilim's Hex was going to blow my mind Well, she was not wrong! Nephilim's Hex is a belter of a book and gosh was I surprised at this. 

One of the things that I like about this series of books is that it kind of puts me in mind of a television series and works both on the macro and the micro level, in that each book is quite contained on the one hand but there is an over arcing story that is moving towards its ultimate conclusion.

In this, the third installment of the series, we finally get to meet The Nephilim. And they are a cold race that rely on the technology that they have installed in Niflheim. There's some interesting stuff going on with the Nephilim in that their tribute is a number of human women, which fits into the mythology of the Nephilim and how they are portrayed within Christian mythology as fallen angels who were cast from heaven for having relationships with human women. 

This is one of the standouts that I love about Susana Imaginàrio's books and how she interweaves her love of mythology whilst at the same time subverting the myths to fit the story. 

Now, I am purposefully avoiding the plot as I feel that any indication of plot points in the story would unravel the silken thread of this intricately woven web and it is best that you discover these for yourself. However, what I will reveal is that there are Revelations aplenty in this book which move the story on towards its ending.

In terms of characters, we spend more time with the other players that are part of the story and only spend a small proportion with the Goddess of Snarkiness, Psyche, although she does remain prominent but in other ways. In Nephilim's Hex we spend more time with the Titan of Time, Chronos, and his new protégé, Ideth, and a new character that is introduced to us, Hecate. However, old favourites like Loki are still knocking about creating havoc (as is Loki's nature) and there is also Seshat.

Again, I was lucky enough to receive an audio book from the author (although, I have it in book format too, and I make no excuses for my obsession with this story, so there!). And again, Sarah Kempton' s wonderful narration brings the writing to life. She gives each character their own distinctive personality with their own vocalisations and mannerisms, to such a point that you can imagine the book is being played out before your eyes. 

If you haven't you haven't read the Timelessness series, why not? This is an absolute gem of a series that keeps going from strength to strength.
 
If you would like to add Nephilim's Hex to your Goodreads list, or check it out on Audible or Amazon click the links and they will take you there.





Saturday, 25 September 2021

 


Good morning People's

And how are you? 

Everything OK in the reading world?

Enjoying that cracking book and the whole world smells of roses because the chapters are just flying by?


 

But wait, what's that coming down the tracks? There's no moving, it's coming head on. You can't avoid it,

Oh No! It's the slump! That sludgy monster that is the bane of every readers nightmare!


If there is one thing that I see quite a lot is readers, particularly bloggers, decrying, is that they need help. They have slumped, they just can't get their mojo in gear and everything that they read feels like visual torture. It's at this point that everyone chips in to make helpful suggestions to hopefully help that fellow reader out. I have even done it myself, giving little nuggets of advice, like; read your favourite book; read a graphic novel etc. All helpful suggestions, but ultimately useless, because truth be told, if you ain't feeling it, you ain't feeling it!


You could do what I have done in the past, scoured the internet in the past, looking for advice, helpful tips to get you started back on your reading journey and have you devouring the normal amount of books that you were reading not so long back. However, I don't know if it is the same with you, but it just doesn't work.

Now life as a blogger and reviewer can be pretty intense at times. You get authors requesting that you review their books, you may have a blog where you have to put content out or a you tube channel or those advanced reading copies that you got from certain sites, all of these things add pressure and thus increase the stress that the reader feels when in a slump, but what we need to look at is what caused the slump in the first place, and it usually goes back to the same thing, You are Tired!

If we boil it down to it's barest component, the main reason that we enter a slump is simply that we are knackered. Let's face it, most of us that read, blog, do youtube thingies etc,  actually have a life outside the four walls of the content. And guess what, life has a funny habit of throwing stones at your window and forcing you to take notice, And it is in those times, the first thing to go is concentration, hence reading, because for me, I want to stare at something that is not too taxing and just switch my brain off for a bit.

"Noooo", you decry, "I use reading to relax, to escape!"

Well, yeah of course you do, but let's face it, it does require a certain amount of brain power that quite honestly, sometimes I haven't got.

And this also raises another point in things that can make the reading slump worse, especially for people that have taken on books for review purposes. 

Me, I tend to feel an obligation to those authors that have kindly got in touch asking me to review their books, and let me tell you, the pressure to read the books does not come from the authors, because let's face it, an author's main reason for sending you the book in the first place is that they want you to enjoy what they have written, to experience the joy that they got from writing it. No, it comes entirely from within and I just can't help it. 

How to beat the Reading Slump!

I bet you are thinking that I am going to give you several pearls of wisdom here don't you? A how to guide to beat the reading slump. 

Sooorry, I haven't got them, because we are all different and what works for me, may not work for you.

But I do have one thing that I have found works for me when I am trying to beat the reading slump.

Don't bother trying to beat it, because usually I find I can't! Instead, I accept it! Embrace it! Do something else, don't beat myself up.

Guess what, there is nothing wrong with having a rest. In fact, for me, rest and relaxation (self care as they are calling it now) what ever you want to call it, these are the main things you need and this is the main things that works.

And when you are ready, get back to basics, read for fun, not for reviewing. It doesn't matter how many books you read, it matters that you enjoy the books you read!

We all see those reading challenges and think, I am not reading as many as that person. Don't beat yourself up about it, the old saying quality not quantity is the thing that  comes into play here!  Let that go and enjoy what you are doing. reading a book a year and enjoying the hell out of that book is far more important than reading a hundred books and not being able to remember a thing about them.

This is my view and people may disagree, but for me, this is what I find works. I just do the slump, play video games and watch some TV.

Thank you for reading!


Friday, 24 September 2021

Today, I had a bit of an inspiration. I was out walking the dog and thinking about a new feature that I could introduce to the blog, you know something with a catchy title that could cover just about anything. You see I have lots of interests that I don’t cover on the blog that I would like to talk about, be it video games, films, other books that aren’t fantasy or other bloggers that I follow. There are loads of things that I could go into.

So welcome to this my first post of Five on a Friday! 

But the problem is, what do I actually talk about on this the first Five on a Friday. I think it may be time to crank up the random subject generator. 

Just give it a minute, it’s only had one cup of tea  and it needs at least two!
 
Okay, folks there we have it Five Book Tubers I follow! 

It’s funny, but when I started the blog, I had no idea about book tube, but when I heard about it I immediately went searching and came across a whole plethora of people that talked about books on youtube. The first one that I stumbled on was Mike’s Book Reviews, which in all honesty led to me creating Fantasy Book Nerd. This then led me onto book Twitter, where I met other like minded people talking about books and also introduced me to other people that were doing Book tube channels. 

So, one thing I want to point out that this is not a ranking thing. There is no numero uno or bottom of the pile, it is just simply 5 random things. 

First one that I am going to mention is Max Reads.

One of the reasons that I like is Max Reads is that he will review different genres of books like fantasy, sci fi, horror, modern adsurdism, what ever really, and this really appeals to me as I will read outside of the fantasy genre, and obviously, the first thing that I do when I finish watching is to go investigating where I can get them books.

Another thing that I like is that his videos are variable in length. There are short videos for that quick watch, and longer ones for when I have a bit more time.

Next up is a new kid on the vlog, Literature and Lofi, presented by Ben. 

Ben has recently been running Indie August, which you can guess by the name is supporting independent authors (and by this I am including self-published authors). Ben is a great presenter with loads of books that fall outside the sphere of the regular fantasy series that I hear about on book tube, although he is going through the massive Wheel of Time series, which I am sure might crop up at some point. Like I said, Ben’s channel is relatively new so it is quite exciting to see where it will go. 

Trin’s Portable Magic channel is another one that I enjoy catching up with regularly. 

Let’s get this out of the way, Trin loves Anthony Ryan, no two ways about it, and one of her standout videos for me was Reading like: My favourite Author, Anthony Ryan. 

Her latest vid, ‘Spooky season TBR’ was up yesterday (definitely need to catch up!). Trin has been a twitter long pal and has led me to some really good books, one of them being my favourites of the yea, so if you are looking for a good channel, give her a view.

Now a book tube channel that you cannot leave out is FanFiAddict, run by David (of FanFiAddict.com & organiser of the great TBRcon) 

This is another great channel full of author interviews, and boy does he have soe great interviews on there with such folk as Cold from the North Author, D. W. Ross, P. Djeli Clark, John Gwynne, L.L. Macrae & Gareth Hanrahan, to name but a few. Honestly, David gets the all on his channel. And like I said, he also runs the great TBRcon, so keep an eye out for that. 

So, finally, we are up to number five. The final one!

And for this one I am not sure what it falls into as I have heard the term Author Tube, but he talks about books and has authors on his Late Night Talks, and that is Stephen Aryan’s channel.

Now you might have heard of Stephen Aryan, coz I think he has got a couple of books out, and has one out at the moment called The Coward?

Stephen Aryan’s channel is a great channel and has a wealth of information on it and he will cover all sorts, like fantasy world building, publishing and tips. And in addition to this has author interviews on his channel with such people as (one of my favourites) Mike Shackle, Justin Lee Anderson, Nicholas Eames and many more. 

So there we have it folks, my first 5 on a Friday.
I think that this will be a topic that I return to again in the future as there are loads that I haven’t mentioned that all deserve a looksee.
I hope to see you again next week, when me and the Random subject generator will pick out another five things that I want to prattle on about.

Thursday, 23 September 2021

Hello everyone, today I have a review of Mirror in Time by D.Ellis Overttun, a time travelling yarn that I read earlier this week. I would like to thank D. Ellis Overttun for sending me a copy of his latest book to review.

 


As the sun sets, eerie contrails appear on the dome of the firmament, ghostly streaks that have replaced the stars that should fill the night sky. These “ribbons in the sky” appeared 70 years ago. Since that time, planet Arkos has experienced increasing climatic and seismic activity. 

Jo’el is the director of the Jomo Langma Mountain Observatory, a high altitude astronomical facility situated atop its namesake. Tasked with finding a solution to this problem, he has concluded something outside the universe is tearing apart the very fabric of space time. He has also discovered a gateway to another universe. Sadly, any pathway to this portal has now become compromised.

The solution?

Go back in time and engineer a planetary exodus to the safe haven before it becomes inaccessible. It is a seemingly impossible task, but desperation is the mother of invention and the stuff of storytelling. Jo’el is not alone in this quest, with him are two lifelong friends, Chief Physician Kyros and Chief Psychology Officer Auberon. While only aware of Jo’el’s need for their support, they have a camaraderie born of trust that enables them to jump into the unknown knowing they will land safely.

Space time mechanics are outside the realm of Jo’el’s expertise. So, he has enlisted the aid of Prefect Godvina, head of the Cosmological Data Collection and Compilation Center. His plan is to meet with her, confirm his findings and proceed on with his friends. However, their meeting arouses the interest of Prefect Tarsus, Head of Intelligence. The unwanted scrutiny disrupts Jo’el’s plans. Now, the Director must improvise, and he reluctantly includes Godvina in the fold.

Are they successful in their 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.


Mirror of Time is set on the Planet Ziem, populated by two races of people, the Gendu and the Celesti, revolving around a set of intrepid time travellers who resolve to save their world which has some form of atmospheric catastrophe looming over it. Signalled by contrails in the sky, commonly called Ribbons in the Sky.

The book opens immediately with an action sequence, introducing you to one of the main characters, even though we don't really know her name, but we know that she is a dignitary who is being transported when their vehicle comes under attack from unknown assailants. 

As the matter is investigated, it becomes clear that there is something deeper afoot and we learn of the frail political system of the Planet Ziem. 

Meanwhile a clandestine group of scientists are meeting in order to determine a plan in which they save the Planet from impending disaster.

We learn that the group have secretly manufactured a ship, built without the knowledge of the ruling council, and that they plan to go back to a time where they can change the present.

This is my first introduction to D. Ellis Overton’s complex world of Ziem and even though this is the fourth novel in this world, I found it easy to get into and navigate the story, although I cannot comment on the impact of other books set in this world.

Story wise, it revolves around a time travel premise and the groups interactions in a period where they are out of time and at odds with the culture.

I think the main here to mention about the book is it's actual format. It's a dialogue led book that proportionally has very little descriptive exposition. Now this is a tricky format to pull off as it relies primarily on the characters intervention with the environment to relay what is happening and the world around them. In addition to this it requires strong characters to be able to do this and also carry the narrative, which D. Ellis Overttun does very well.

Another thing that jumped out at me in relation to the structure of the book is that it reminded me stylistically of classic 1970' s British Sci Fi like Doctor Who or Blake's 7, and seemed to have a serialised structure to the book. Throughout, I had the BBC Radiophonic Workshop playing in my head at key parts in the book and I could easily imagine this transposing to say something like Big Finish Audio.

At times, I did have some difficulty with the dialogue, particularly when the party travel back in time to their pre - history, and the dialogue style of the early celestians, mainly their propensity for repeating certain words at the beginning of a sentence and then it be repeated later in the sentence. Now, I realise that this was to illustrate the differences in linguistic style and how the Celesti language had evolved over time, and I experienced similar difficulties to Dr Kyros in the book in relating to archaic way of conversing.

In Mirror in Time, D. Ellis Overttun provides us with and ensemble cast, that each gets their chance to shine in the spotlight. I like how it feels that each member is a crew of the ship and whilst they have their own egos, none really overshadows the other, and when it does become the most interesting is at the point they are thrown into the past.

On the whole, I enjoyed this first foray into D. Ellis Overttun's writing and will be investigating further at some point in the future.





Tuesday, 21 September 2021

 

 

Hello Everybody, nice to see you again. 

Well, on September 28th RJ Barker releases the end of the Tide Child Trilogy with his new book The Bone Ship's Wake and I was lucky enough to get to read this early (thank you netgalley and orbit!) and just to give some spoilers, what an ending. 

The sea dragons are returning, and Joron Twiner's dreams of freedom lie shattered. His Shipwife is gone and all he has left is revenge.

Leading the black fleet from the deck of Tide Child Joron takes every opportunity to strike at his enemies, but he knows his time is limited. His fleet is shrinking and the Keyshan's Rot is running through his body. He runs from a prophecy that says he and the avian sorcerer, the Windseer, will end the entire world.

But the sea dragons have begun to return, and if you can have one miracle, who is to say that there cannot be another?

 Publisher: Orbit

 Expected Pub Date: 28th September 2021

 


The Bone Ships Wake triumphantly closes the Tide Child Trilogy in this the final volume, and I must say that RJ Barker has done it again and written one of my favourite books of the year. 

There is a strange juxtaposition with the endings of trilogies in that whilst you want to see how the story finishes, you never want it to end. And it very much stands with this trilogy. From the moment I read the first page of The Bone ships and the strange maritime world that RJ Barker described, I was utterly entranced by this highly original and brutal world filled with strange water dragons, the Gullaime and the harsh, unforgiving peoples of The Hundred Isles and their forever war with the Gaunt Islanders.
 
Throughout the books, RJ Barker has captained the good ship Tide Child and the characters that inhabit this evocative world though a tumultuous storm and led us finally, to this culmination of his epic series. 
 
With ‘The Bone Ships Wake’, we join with Joron Twiner a year after the events of The Call of The Bone Ships, and goodness me, how his character and stature have grown. Instead of being the frightened boy that we met in the first book, he is now the scourge of The Hundred Islands, The Black Pirate. A figure to be feared as he swathes his way through the Hundred Isles fleet, cutting down those that stand in his way in his search for his beloved Shipwife, Lucky Meas.
 
It is not long into the book that we realise that things have moved on. Not only have the crew become something new, but so has Joron Twiner. He is merciless in his search and he takes no prisoners. Whilst at times he questions the decisions that he makes, he is far from the quaking deck keeper that he once was but has become the Ship wife of the Tide Child in all but name. 
 
However, there is some familiarity about the story, particularly with the characters. The Gulllaime is as present as ever, although much more subdued throughout the first part of the book. Cwell remains as Joron’s shadow and we see that a relationship of sorts has developed between the two. Mevan’s has become a trusted member of the crew, as has Farys and Solemn Muffaz.
 
For me, I think that RJ Barker has written a truly magnificent book with ‘The Bone Ships Wake’ and he closes the series perfectly. Everything that you want in the book is there, form heart warming characters and relationships to blood pumping battles.
 
Stylistically, the book is set into three distinctive acts that at times felt like three separate novellas that were interconnected into a wider story. In the first act, we have the desperation that Joron feels as he searches for signs of Lucky Meas. Throughout this first part of the book, there is a taut game of cat and mouse as Twiner is pursued by the Hundred Isles fleet in their bid to capture The Black Pirate and his crew. The second part deals directly with the scars and pain of the events of The Call of the Bone Ships, with Lucky Meas coming to terms with the ‘new’ Tide Child and her own part to play in the changes that she has wrought, and with the third act, RJ Barker delivers the actual culmination of the story.
However, be prepared though. There are some highly emotive scenes in The Bone Ships Wake, and I would advise having a box of tissues, or a more eco-friendly handkerchief that you can regularly wring out as you make your way through the book. 
 
Normally, I would mention world building, characters etc, but if you have got this far in the series you know how brilliant these are, and nothing has changed. So, get yourselves aboard the good ship Tide Child and enjoy the end.
 
“Ey, D’Keeper!”
 

 


Thursday, 16 September 2021


Good morning, afternoon and.evening, fantasy book nerds. This book immediately got my attention quite a few months ago when I saw this


 How can you not be intrigued. It just grabs your attention and I must say that I enjoyed this immensely. However, before we get to the review here is a little bit about the book.

In Red Valley, California, you follow the rules if you want to stay alive. But even that isn’t enough to protect Sadie now that she’s unexpectedly become the Liar: the keeper and maker of Red Valley’s many secrets.

In a town like this, friendships are hard-won and bad blood lasts generations, and when not everyone in town is exactly human, it isn’t a safe place to make enemies.

And though the Liar has power—power to remake the world, with just a little blood—what Sadie really needs is answers: Why is the town’s sheriff after her? What does the King want from her? And what is the real purpose of the Liar of Red Valley?

Life in Red Valley is simple if you follow the rules:

Do not trust the Liar
Do Not go in the River 
Do not cross The King

In the Liar of Red Valley, Walter Goodwater mixes equal doses of urban fantasy with other worldly horror and a blisteringly paced plot to write a thoroughly entertaining book. 

The book starts off with the death of The Liar, and her daughter, Sadie, coming to terms with the death of her mother. However, The Liar keeps all the town’s secrets and makes the lies that they tell come to be reality. This may be a little lie, like I am not going bald, to even bigger lies, and Sadie needs to know how to be the Liar, quick!

With the death of her mother, Sadie inherits the power of the Liar, and all that that means. She discovers that the position of The Liar was given to her family by The King, an all powerful being who walked the cosmos eons before the coming of the human race, generations ago in order to keep the lies of The King and the people safe.
In the course of the book, she discovers the power of Lies and what it can do. However, everyone wants that power, and she discovers that people will do anything to get the power of the lies for themselves as she is chased, threatened, arrested and reviled for her powers. It seems that everyone wants to know what lies Sadie’s family have been keeping and they will stop at nothing to discover the truth. 

Sadie finds herself chased by the Laughing Boys, a gang of addicts who let demons reside in their head instead of using drugs. Harassed by the local Undersheriff who says that he wants to depose the King’s reign and let Red Valley govern itself. However, one thing that they all have in common is that they will use whatever means necessary to obtain the power that is stored in her family’s ledgers. 

I have to say that I enjoyed this book immensely. It is filled with monsters, a time traveling house, Cthuluesque leviathans and all sorts of madness in between. Sadie is a good character, who develops as the book moves on. Initially beginning the book as a dormouse and transforming into a snarky lion that is able to navigate her own destiny. On the whole the plot moves at a frenetic pace as Sadie. is forced to come to terms with the death of her mother, and then know how to use her powers whilst at the same time traversing the strange and murky waters that is Red Valley. You watch her grow and she is aided by a supporting cast that at times, are a little one dimensional, but they adequately buoy the story along to get Sadie to where she needs to be. 

Added to that a plot that introduces twists and turns that is both unpredictable and blisteringly fast paced. I also found the setting of Red Valley and its plethora of strange residents that add a rich vein of strangeness, immersive and vividly written as the book runs towards its climactic ending. 

Whilst this is a standalone novel, I would love to see some more of this world that Walter Goodwater has crafted and hope for more stories set in Red Valley in the future as I think that this could be cracking ongoing series. 

I hope you  enjoyed this review. The Liar of Red Valley is released on 28th September 2021 by Rebellion Publishing. I was very kindly granted an advance copy by the publishers and Netgalley on exchange for an honest review. The enjoyment is all my own.


Wednesday, 15 September 2021


Spotlight Tour
Better Confess
By
Alan Gorevan


This year, the Book Bloggers' Novel of the Year Award (BBNYA) is celebrating the 65 books that made it into Round Two with a mini spotlight blitz tour for each title. BBNYA is a yearly competition where book bloggers from all over the world read and score books written by indie authors, ending with 10 finalists and one overall winner. 
If you want some more information about BBNYA, check out the BBNYA Website https://www.bbnya.com/ or take a peek over on Twitter @BBNYA_Official. BBNYA is brought to you in association with the @Foliosociety (if you love beautiful books, you NEED to check out their website!) and the book blogger support group @The_WriteReads.




Better Confess: an online forum where you can anonymously reveal your darkest thoughts and actions. But be careful what you write. When Florence Lynch finds out her boyfriend is cheating on her, she feels like her whole world has collapsed. In a drunken rage, she confesses that she wishes he was dead. And someone offers to help…

Publisher: Independently Published
Length: 181 Pages
Date Published: 5th September 2020
Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Better-Confess-Alan-Gorevan-ebook/dp/B08FZSWCR1
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54969013-better-confess


Author Bio

Alan Gorevan is an award-winning thriller writer and intellectual property attorney. He lives in Dublin.


Website: https://www.alangorevan.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/alangorevan
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/alangorevan/
Facebook: fb.me/alan.gorevan.books
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/20057559.Alan_Gorevan



Tuesday, 14 September 2021


 Hello everyone!

Up on the blog today is a review of Paladin Unbound by Jeff Speight. This is one that has been garnering quite a bit of attention in Fantasyland and I was so glad that Jeff Speight got in touch asking me if I wanted to read his new book. Now I do have to mention the cover by Ömer Burak Önal, which is utterly stunning, and you can find more of his works on his Artstation page.

So, let's get to it shall we?

Cover by Ömer Burak Önal

The last of a dying breed, a holy warrior must rise up against a growing darkness in Evelium.
The most unlikely of heroes, a lowly itinerant mercenary, Umhra the Peacebreaker is shunned by society for his mongrel half-Orc blood. Desperate to find work for himself and his band of fighters, Umhra agrees to help solve a rash of mysterious disappearances, but uncovers a larger, more insidious plot to overthrow the natural order of Evelium in the process.
As Umhra journeys into the depths of Telsidor’s Keep to search for the missing, he confronts an ancient evil and, after suffering a great loss, turns to the god he disavowed for help.
Compelled to save the kingdom he loves, can he defeat the enemy while protecting his true identity, or must he risk everything?


Paladin Unbound is just one of the books that you cannot help but like. I was whooshed into the world of Elevium from the first page with the description of a fateful meeting between the gods as they finally end a war between themselves.

Immediately as we start the book, Jeff Speight introduces us to the world that Paladin Unbound is set in, giving us a bit of lore that underpins the story. He gives us Gods, and more precisely, a war between Gods. And to boot, what we get is the actual event that makes the big bad, the big bad!

From there, our main protagonist makes his entrance, the dashing young hero and his band of merry men. It has that kind of feel to it! Whoa, whoa , whoa – hang on a minute! There’s something gone awry here. What do you mean there is no dashing hero and his band of merry men? Are you telling me that the main guy of the book is an Orc? And not even a full Orc? What about the rest of the merry men? They are half Orcs as well? You are having a laugh aren’t you?

Yep, there we have it folks, the main character is a half orc and he isn’t even bad, he has a sense of morals and he’s a Paladin. What’s going on? Okay, Okay, let’s start at the beginning.

Umrha and his band of merry half Orcs are out to prove that they ain’t just some kind of dull witted orcish types, and they are out to win a contract – even though they know they won’t get the contract coz, well, we might as well say it, they are half Orcs. And nobody likes a half orc. The humas don’t like half orcs, coz they are half Orcs (obvious innit!). 

Dejected and shunned, they are just on their way out of the town of Anaris, when by a twist of fate, things take a little bit of a turn in the right direction. For some inexplicable reason they manage to engage in a meeting with the ruler of Anaris, Lord Morrow, who surprisingly gets a recommendation to let this band of half orcs discover the reason the townsfolk are disappearing in mysterious circumstances. As is the way of things, events are not going to go in the direction that you expect and the band of merry half orcs find themselves dealing with something that no one could have predicted.

Like I said, I couldn’t help liking this book. It just has a sheer exuberance to it and you can tell that Jeff Speight is enjoying himself in this book. It is filled with good characters, that I have to say, I did get a little attached to. Umhra is a good character. He has a strong sense of justice and keeps within the rights and wrongs of society, However, he doesn’t find his feet as such until he lets his true nature emerge, and it is at this point that the story flies in earnest, because not only does he become a fully fledged Paladin, but he also joins an adventuring party, has a few side quests and sets out on his mission.

Now one of the things that I stood out for me about this book is that it is full of contradictions. For instance, the alteration of the dashing young hero that is to meet his destiny, to what is normally seen as the bad guy, and is usually portrayed as such within fantasy fiction to tipping it on its head and making him the good guy. In addition to this there’s the writing style itself, and what I mean by this, is that Jeff Speight’s writing is quite light in places. However, he is not afraid to smatter and pepper the story with bookets (I know I have spelled buckets wrong, but I like it, so there!) of blood and gore. In fact, to be honest with you, I think seas of blood is more apt. 

Throughout the story, the plot moves in a linear way, with some side quests thrown in, but never detracting from where the book has got to get to! However, he when introduces us to new characters part way through the story, they all mesh perfectly. As I said initially, Umhra’s party are a band of half orcs that roam the country, being a kind of mercenary band for hire. However, about a quarter of the way through the book, events occur, and something happens to Umhra and his band that require the introduction of a new set of characters. This is done rather well, and the inclusion of a whole new set of characters part way through the book and I never really noticed the transition as it felt like an organic development of the plot.

The characters are all good and they equally get their time in the spotlight to give us a clue to their identity and backstory. Umhra in particular shines as the main character but he does not overshadow the others.

The worldbuilding and lore is something that I particularly liked, as Jeff Speight carefully builds the lore of the world with extracts from various history books associated with the lands that the characters inhabit. Whilst initially seeming to be random bits of information, it soon becomes clear that the extracts do have some bearing on the story, and I have to say that I found this particularly satisfying.

Paladin Unbound is an exciting debut from Jeff Speight and with this first introduction to the world of Elevium, I am intrigued to see where it goes next.

Well there goes, and I hope you enjoyed the review.

As always





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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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