Monday, 28 February 2022


A bleak glimpse of a world of savage tyrants, from award-winning author Adrian Tchaikovsky in a beautiful signed, limited-edition hardcover.

Ogres are bigger than you.
Ogres are stronger than you.
Ogres rule the world.

It’s always idyllic in the village until the landlord comes to call.

Because the landlord is an Ogre. And Ogres rule the world, with their size and strength and appetites. It’s always been that way. It’s the natural order of the world. And they only eat people sometimes.

But when the headman’s son, Torquell, dares lift his hand against the landlord’s son, he sets himself on a path to learn the terrible truth about the Ogres, and about the dark sciences that ensured their rule.

Part Pierre Boulle, part revolutionary dystopian tale, Adrian Tchaikovsky's new entry in his Terrible World's trio of short fiction tells the tale of Torquell.

Torquell is a rogueish teen who lives in a pastoral village which is governed by the tyrannical Sir Peter Grimes and his equally cruel son, Gerald.

It soon becomes apparent that things are not as they seem. We learn that the world that is ruled by the 1% (not much difference there I hear you say) except that in this world the ruling class are bone crunching, carnivorous Ogres and the underclass are vegetarian serfs whose only function is to be the play things of their masters.

Torquell's destiny is irrevocably altered when he strikes the Lord's son after he is teased and taunted by the vicious Gerald. The repercussions from his actions lead to a tragic conclusion which results in Torquell becoming a hunted fugitive, and a social oddity.

He is subsequently procured by the socially precocious Lady Isadora, who indoctrinates him into her staff retinue. Whilst there, he is guided by Lady Isadora to begin his education of the world around him and the reasons behind the social structure that has emerged, and question its legitimacy as she similarly questions as she fights the male dominated world of the Ogres.

Now whilst the reader may be expecting a cosy fantasy, especially as it has well known Tolkienesque creatures in the title, Ogres is in fact a biting social commentary. It raises questions about class and social behaviour, the use of automated weaponry in war, and also what makes a figurehead.

The narrative itself is written in the second person which brings a kind of mythic detachment to the story, whilst also engaging the reader to experience the events that Torquell has throughout the story. Some readers may find this style of writing off putting, but due to Adrian Tchaikovsky's storytelling skill, it does actually become quite beguiling. In some ways it can be quite clinical as you never actually empathise with the characters. However, determining the labyrinthine puzzles at the heart of the plot strangely moved the story along as both the reader and the main character fathom the events that have lead to the current structures of the world Torquell inhabits.

Ogres is a twisty conundrum of a book that is at once strangely immersive, yet leaves you feeling clinically detached and is Tchaikovsky at his experimental best!



Tuesday, 22 February 2022

The Justice of Kings, the first in a new epic fantasy trilogy, follows the tale of Sir Konrad Vonvalt, an Emperor’s Justice – a detective, judge and executioner all in one. As he unravels a web of secrets and lies, Vonvalt discovers a plot that might destroy his order once and for all – and bring down the entire Empire. 

As an Emperor's Justice, Sir Konrad Vonvalt always has the last word. His duty is to uphold the law of the empire using whatever tools he has at his disposal: whether it's his blade, the arcane secrets passed down from Justice to Justice, or his wealth of knowledge of the laws of the empire. But usually his reputation as one of the most revered—and hated—Justices is enough to get most any job done. 

When Vonvalt investigates the murder of a noblewoman, he finds his authority being challenged like never before. As the simple case becomes more complex and convoluted, he begins to pull at the threads that unravel a conspiracy that could see an end to all Justices, and a beginning to lawless chaos across the empire.

Richard Swan’s The Justice of Kings is the first book in his Empire of the Wolf Series. It focusses on the story of Justice Sir Konrad Vonvalt, a detective and prosecutor in the Sovan Empire’s Imperial Magesterium.

The story is told through the eyes of his now aged clerk, Helena, as she recounts events that occurred as she struggles with her role as clerk. From the outset you realise that this is an ominous tale of an Empire imploding as Helena begins the retelling of her story with

It is a strange thing to think that the end of the Empire of the Wolf, and all the death and destruction that came with it, traced its long roots back to the tiny and insignificant village of Rill”

Her account begins with the Justice dealing with a remote village who extensively practice a pagan religion instead of the edicts set down by the Sovan Empire. However, instead of dealing with the matter as one of his companions, Patria Bartholomew Claver, a zealous priest in the religious order of the Empire, believes that he should. Mainly burning the inhabitants of Rill and razing the village to the ground as an example, Vonvalt uses his experience to deem that the only recompense should be that the inhabitants of Rill should be fined if they denounce their faith and follow the statutes set down in Sovan Law.

This seemingly innocuous event has far greater consequences than is first imagined.

We then follow the Magister and his retinue, which includes Vanvalt’s right hand man, Bressinger and Helena, as they travel the land. Meting out the Emperors Justice. When they reach the town of Galen’s Vale, they are then asked the murder of a noblewoman.

Armed with his resolve and the powers of a Justice, the Emperor’s voice (which can command people to tell the truth) and the power of Necromancy (in which the Justice can talk to the newly dead), Vanvalt investigates the murder which leads the group into a tale of intrigue, both politically and criminally.

Now, I have to say that I found this book to be a grower. I cannot say that I was immediately enamoured from the first page and it took me a while for the story to sink its teeth into me.

There are a number of plots and subplots occurring throughout the book, which Richard Swan carefully introduces throughout this slow burn, and it is not until you are about a quarter of the way through the book that you realise the ramifications of the initial lines in the tale as not only do the team face a web of conspiracy in the murder, there are some really serious political complexities happening in the sidelines.

The characters themselves are well written and again I found that they grew on me rather than me becoming immediately invested.

Vonvalt himself is a character that you would think that I would immediately drawn to, as the story seemingly revolves around the stoic magister. He reminds me of a combination of Umberto Eco’s William of Baskerville in his cold analytical method of dealing with every situation. However, at times, he can display rashness of character when his emotions come to the fore and he will kill perpetrators of a crime immediatley, sometimes bloodily.

Helena herself is a character that lives in the shadow of the Magister and what she is to become. As the story is told from her point of view, sometime in the future, there are two representations of her. One as an inexperienced clerk, learning how to be a justice, dealing with her insecurities as she fits into this role and whether she actually wants to be in this role. In her other aspect, we get inklings that she may be a justice or that she may even be something else entirely.

The book is peppered with interesting side characters, such as Bressinger, who whilst being present in the book, is on the sidelines of the main relationship between Vonvalt and Helena, and will mediate between the two.

Patria Claver is another interesting character, and when we meet him initially, we see him as the toothless zealot, but as the layers of the story are peeled away, we begin to see the threat that he poses and what impact his actions have on the downfall of the Empire.

The tale itself is set in a world that is equally dark and steeped in mystery. It appears to be something resembling The Black Forest of Bavaria and incorporates many german/saxon vernaculars. I always find this kind of setting to be quite oppressive and there is this menacing feeling to the environment which permeates through the story.

The Justice of Kings is a slow burn of a story, that slowly eases its claws into you as the tale grows into something quite different from the one that you first expect, full of twists and turns that keeps you turning the pages until the end.


Monday, 21 February 2022

Sundial is a new, twisty psychological horror novel from Catriona Ward, internationally bestselling author of The Last House on Needless Street

You can't escape what's in your blood...

All Rob wanted was a normal life. She almost got it, too: a husband, two kids, a nice house in the suburbs. But Rob fears for her oldest daughter, Callie, who collects tiny bones and whispers to imaginary friends. Rob sees a darkness in Callie, one that reminds her too much of the family she left behind.

She decides to take Callie back to her childhood home, to Sundial, deep in the Mojave Desert. And there she will have to make a terrible choice.

Callie is worried about her mother. Rob has begun to look at her strangely, and speaks of past secrets. And Callie fears that only one of them will leave Sundial alive…

The mother and daughter embark on a dark, desert journey to the past in the hopes of redeeming their future.

Catriona Ward cements her position as The Queen of Unease with her new offering, Sundial. A tale of toxic motherhood and long held secrets. 

 Rob is a wife and mother who escaping her difficult childhood has set up home in suburbia with her husband Irving. But not all is as it seems! Behind the veneer of domesticity, Rob is a serial philanderer, and her eldest daughter is showing worrying tendencies that point to something being wrong! Very wrong! 

After an inexplicable incident involving pills, and her two daughters, Rob decides it is time to return to her home of Sundial to set things right and attempt to revisit the events that have led to her current situation. 

Full of intrigue and suspense, Sundial is a masterpiece of disquiet and unease, and from the very first page, the feeling of wrongness permeates from the page to give you a sense that nothing is what it seems. 

The book itself took me two days to devour and I could not put it down, could not stop thinking about it until the story had revealed its secrets and showed me how the tale would evolve into its true nightmarish form. Catriona Ward’s previous book had me similarly gripped and I spent hours trying to puzzle the labyrinthine plot, and Sundial is much the same. However, I have quickly learnt to just follow the story without obsessing about what secrets lie below and let the tale unfold at its own pace to reveal the core of the story as its layers are peeled off, one by one. 

There are so many things happening in the story. You have the story of Rob and her husband whose marriage is built on petty cruelties, each adding to something that is painful to watch, as he carefully manipulates everyone around him to join in his cruel games of misdirection and hate, and Rob responding to him. Irving is truly one of the most loathsome characters that I have met in fiction. He is never outright nasty, but you can feel it pulsing in every venomous act that he does. 

Rob on the other hand can be equally as poisonous at times, and there is an underlying feeling of cruelty about her, and whilst she loves her daughters, she has a creeping sense of mistrust to her older daughter who speaks is emojis at the end of every sentence and collects the bones of dead animals. 

The story is told from the point of view of Rob who imparts all her insecurities and scorn to the reader, but carefully hides them from her family, afraid they may be mistook for signs of weakness, particularly when Rob is playing his cruel mind games with her and currying favour with his eldest daughter to continue the miasma of vitriol that he surrounds himself in. However, there are times where we get the view of Callie, Rob’s eldest daughter, who may seem to be sweetness and light, yet holds darkly disturbing thoughts, especially to her younger sister, Annie. 

 With Sundial, Catriona Ward has carved out of the desert rock her place as a master of the disturbed as not a word is wasted. She will wrongfoot you at every juncture and just when you think you have the pieces in the right place, she will change the dimensions of the puzzle so that it doesn’t fit. Her prose is amazing, and it is not since I started reading Shirley Jackson novels many years ago that I have read anyone that has the same level of making all her characters seem to be so utterly awful yet utterly beguiling. 

The narrative itself is cloying and claustrophobic yet gives the characters time to develop and explore their unusual circumstances whilst never once missing a beat and letting up its grip. Sundial is one of this years must read books that will have you gripped to the end of the story until its secrets are revealed.

She lived where the railway tracks met the saltpan, on the Ahri side of the shadowline. In the old days, when people still talked about her, she was known as the end-of-the-line woman.

Vasethe, a man with a troubled past, comes to seek a favor from a woman who is not what she seems, and must enter the nine hundred and ninety-nine realms of Mkalis, the world of spirits, where gods and demons wage endless war.

The Border Keeper spins wonders both epic—the Byzantine bureaucracy of hundreds of demon realms, impossible oceans, hidden fortresses—and devastatingly personal—a spear flung straight, the profound terror and power of motherhood. What Vasethe discovers in Mkalis threatens to bring his own secrets into light and throw both worlds into chaos.

A 2020 Nommo Award Finalist
A Book Bub Best SFF Books of the Summer Pick

The Border Keeper is Kirsten Hall’s introduction to the Land of Ahris and the adjoining nine hundred and ninety nine realms of Mkalis.

In this introduction to the vividly imagined world, we follow the story of Vasethe as he beseeches the aid of The Border Keeper, Eris (sometimes known as Wrengrath, othertimes Midan, and sometimes Destroyer of Addis Hal Rata), the protector of the Shadowline, the border between worlds, to guide him through Mkalis to find his lost love Raisha.

From here we enter the ethereal world of Mkalis, governed by capricious Gods and demons, where the breaking of rules can lead to horrific and terrifying consequences, borders can shift suddenly and populated by a grotesque cavalcade of monsters.

The story itself seems to incorporate various myths, legends and classical literature, and initially seems to draw on the myth of Orpheus & Eurydice and the journeying tale of Dante as he travels through the nine circles of hell. In addition to that there are rules that seem to draw from Celtic mythology, such as not eating anything that is offered whilst in the lands of Mkalis. However, it transforms into something else as the tale progresses.

We soon get the picture that nothing is as it seems and the plot shifts as quickly as the borders of Mkalis and when you think you have a grasp of the plot, it quickly slides out your grasp as Kirsten Hall deftly performs a sleight of hand trick to lead you in a different direction.

The book itself is not entirely perfect and some details feel like they are not paid as much attention to, as the tale’s main focus seems to be the journey and the world building. However, the heart of the story, revolving around love, grief, loss and regret made me forgive the other aspects.

The prose is beautifully constructed, and Kirsten Hall imaginatively paints the grotesque, hallucinatory lands that our two main protagonists travel through. The bestiary of monsters, Gods and demons are at once terrifying and bizarre, such as the crab creature that has a child intertwined with its body as it leads Eris and Vasethe through one of the Kingdoms.

The world building itself is interesting, especially with the border between the worlds. Ahris itself puts me in mind of fellow South African, Richard Stanley’s post apocalyptic landscape in his film Hardware, whilst the lands of Mkalis shift like sand as Eris and Vasethe travel the different realms

The Border Keeper is a story that is brimming with good ideas, and whilst not entirely executed as perfectly, it is a beautiful introduction to the world and the beings that inhabit the lands of Mkalis. 


Sunday, 20 February 2022

The Skin


J.E. Hannaford

 'You cannot fix this world alone, selkie.'

'I know. But, when we die, all that is left are shadows of our lives preserved in the memories of those who remain. I plan on leaving an exceptionally long shadow, filled with ripples of moonlight for those I helped, and darker than the worst of nightmares for those who wronged us.'

How far would you go to save your skin?

I'm a selkie, trapped above the waves until I can recover my skin. Humans used to call us seal-wives many years ago - before they broke the planet. I thought that less humans, after the warming, would mean less danger. My kind believed our world was finally recovering.

We were wrong.

Up here, the magic is fading and Old Ones like me are being traded as trophies for rich and powerful humans to display in collections.

Without the Old Ones, the magic fades, without magic, the planet dies.

Humankind has gone too far and someone has to put a stop to it, I just wasn't expecting it to be me.

As the selkie begins her hunt, far to the south on his enormous pleasure ship, Barge, Lord Sal hunts for missing Old Ones with a grand plan to leave his own mark on the world. Icidro and Prince Ulises are searching for them too, and this is a world where money talks louder than morals.

The Skin is the debut book by J.E. Hannaford and is the first book in the Black Hind’s Wake Trilogy.

It is the tale of Selkie. A mythological being that is trapped on land. She is trapped after her and her sister have been swimming in their natural form of a seal. As they lounge on an island they are unwittingly trapped, and as a way of saving her sister, who is pregnant, she swaps her skin (which is the natural seal skin, which is taken off to give them human form) with her sister in order to save her from the wretched humans that inhabit the world.

She is then sold into servitude by her capturer who now holds her skin hostage to make sure that Selkie complies.

Whilst in the service of a thoroughly reprehensible collector, she is unexpectedly saved from her cruel life by Sal, a mysterious individual that owns a pleasure barge, and at first seems as nefarious as her owner.

From there story revolves around Selkie’s story to free herself from captivity, find her missing skin as well as finding her place in the world.

I found The Skin to be utterly mesmerising from beginning to end. I was thoroughly enthralled with how J.E. Hannaford manages to interweave folklore with dystopian fiction and fantasy.

The characters in the book are complex, as is their nature. Whilst Selkie is finding her purpose following her being cruelly ripped away from the life she had before, we follow her as she has to live with the fact that she may never get back the life she once had and also having to live with the human inhabitants of the world that they destroyed. I would be hard pressed to determine which is my favourite character in the book as they are so well realised and burn into your consciousness with their clarity.

One of the things that stood out for me was J.E. Hannaford’s world building. For me I found it distinctly indistinct it its clarity, and whilst you are given hints that this is a world that has been wracked by an unknown catastrophe, you are not entirely sure until the very end the full details. Which I have to say I loved as it adds to the puzzle of the story.

I also enjoyed the fact that J.E. Hannaford not only shows the effects of the damage that humankind has done ecologically, but that it has had an effect sociologically as well, as the human race has reverted to a kind of medieval feudalism, despite having quite modern technology.

She also raises some interesting questions on the role of zoos in biodiversity conservation, especially in the light of the fact that the human race is a destructive force towards nature and a harbinger of disaster in its treatment of nature and the ecology of the planet.

J.E. Hannaford skillfully interweaves folklore into the tale, and I must admit that it is the first time that I have seen a Selkie used as a main character, which brings some originality to the story. However, not only are there Selkies, she incorporates a whole host of creatures from both folklore and mythology, highlighting the connection between these creatures and the natural world.

I listened to this on audio and loved Emily Mounts narration of the story as she really brought the story to life.

The Skin is an excellent read and I could see anyone that likes folklore, nautical fantasy and dystopian fiction enjoying this one.


Thursday, 17 February 2022

 Aram Raythe has the power to challenge the gods. He just doesn't know it yet.

Aram thinks he’s nothing but a misfit from a small fishing village in a dark corner of the world. As far as Aram knows, he has nothing, with hardly a possession to his name other than a desire to make friends and be accepted by those around him, which is something he’s never known. But Aram is more.

Much, much more.

Unknown to him, Aram bears within him a gift so old and rare that many people would kill him for it, and there are others who would twist him to use for their own sinister purposes. These magics are so potent that Aram earns a place at an academy for warrior mages training to earn for themselves the greatest place of honor among the armies of men: dragon riders.

Aram will have to fight for respect by becoming not just a dragon rider, but a Champion, the caliber of mage that hasn’t existed in the world for hundreds of years. And the land needs a Champion. Because when a dark god out of ancient myth arises to threaten the world of magic, it is Aram the world will turn to in its hour of need.


Well, we have only just started this year and it seems the brilliant books are getting thrown at me left, right and centre.

M.L.Spencer’s Dragon Mage is a classic fantasy of the most epic kind!

This is the first book that I have read of M.L. Spencer’s, although I have had a number of her books on my TBR for ages.

Now when I originally heard of this book, it was billed as a standalone book. However, it has proven to be so popular that fans have demanded a sequel. It’s not hard to see why in all honesty as it is a fantastic book.

This book is definitely a chonker, and I think that is why I ended up inhaling this novel by audio and Ben Farrow does a brilliant job of bringing this book to life.

The story revolves around Aram Raythe. All Aram wants to do is make friends. However, he is seen as a pathetic figure and the local town bullies think that he is fair game to kick about like the town football. When we meet Aram, he is summoning the courage to give a present to the object of his affection. However, he is soon set upon and suffers a brutal assault at the hands of the local bullies. He is saved, quite unexpectedly by Markus. This leads to them forming a relationship that goes far beyond friendship, and evolves into a familial relationship.

I think it needs to be mentioned that M.L.Spencer writes some of the most wonderful characters I have read in modern fantasy. Aram is obviously autistic. There is no hiding this fact, he is almost DSM 5 classic in his difficulties. However, M.L. Spencer captures Autism in its purest form and captures the nuances of the condition and shows all the varied qualities of a person on the spectrum, and that they are far more than a diagnosis. She shows Aram to be bright, funny, incredibly strong and yearning for friendship.

However, not only is Aram a brilliantly realised character, there is also Markus. Markus is such an amazing character in his own right, and the friendship that develops between the two boys is such an endearing story line it nearly had me in tears in its beauty.

I have to say this book is amazing in the fact that nearly all the characters just walk off the page, even the most inconsequential of characters is brilliantly written.

The story itself is a familiar story, and has all the classic tropes that drew me into this genre, it has the chosen one, the found family etc etc and this is one of the books strengths. If you want a book that is going to reinvent the wheel, then Dragon Mage isn’t it, because M.L. Spencer draws you into the comfy familiarity of all those tropes you love, and does it bloody well. In fact, it is a refreshing change to read a book that celebrates these facets of fantasy and builds so well on them. That’s not to say that Dragon Mage is all nicey nicey, coz it most certainly well isn’t. At times it is damned well gory as anything and you can see M.L. Spencer’s Grimdark chops making an appearance at several points throughout the book, it’s just that she evens them out with a good dose of lightness that it counterbalances the darkness.

There were loads of reasons why I fell in love with this book.There were the characters, the world building, the dragons, the relationship between Markus and Aram. However, the prose is just absolutely beautiful and drew me in.

"There were many reasons why the people of Anai were anxious for the bard’s arrival. As always, the old women would be ready to swoop in first, pecking like seabirds at the bard, eager for crumbs of information about eligible young men and women to add to their matchmaking lists."

Extract taken from Spencer, ML. Dragon Mage: An Epic Fantasy Adventure (Rivenworld Book 1) (p. 5). Stoneguard Publications. Kindle Edition.


Honestly, as soon as I read passages like this, I was hooked. The writing throughout the book is just totally amazing, every page just imprints itself into your brain.

Now, I haven’t mentioned the world building aspect. It is so gloriously doen and revolves around two worlds, The World Above and the World Below, which was sundered aeons ago and is linked to the magic system of the book (I told you didn’t I? This book has the whole kit and kaboodle). The two worlds are split by the void which is home to void creatures. Creatures that cannot exist in either world and will feed off magic. This can include anything, people, beasts, monsters or dragons to name a few.

To say Dragon Mage is 900 pages long (which equates to over 27 and a quarter hours on audio) I did not notice the time passing by, or the world for that matter, I was happy to be engaged with either medium to be honest, and when I wasn’t listening, I was reading because I simply had to know what happened next.

Now to wrap this up, don’t be afraid of it being a chonker and give this book a try, I am sure you will love it. The book is an incredible journey of friendship against adversity.

Wednesday, 16 February 2022


When a bomb goes off at InTech HQ, everything changes for Tanta's corporation. Order becomes disorder. Safety becomes danger. Calm becomes chaos.

Tanta is tasked with getting to the bottom of the attack before violence and unrest overtake the city. But even though the evidence points towards rival corporation Thoughtfront, Tanta can't shake the feeling that she's missing something.

There's a dark secret at the heart of the case, one that will reveal more about her own corporation than Tanta would like. And the closer Tanta gets to the mystery, the more she comes to realise something terrible:

Sometimes facing the truth can be the hardest thing of all.
Title: Outcast
Series: Inscape #2
 Author: Louise Carey
Publisher: Gollancz
Publication Date:  20 Jan 2022
Page Count: 394

You all know much I loved Inscape right? 

Well, if you don’t, let me give you a little recap! 

It was one of my favourite books of last year. 

What can we say about the second one that is going to match that – I dunno! 

 Inscape came along at the beginning of 2021 and blew my socks right off! And now at the beginning of 2022 we have Outcast, the second one in the series. And guess what, that blew my socks off too. 

Now with the second one, we are all re - introduced to the characters of Tanta & Cole, we all know how they rock and roll. Right? Well not quite! You see things are a bit different now. 

Tanta is irrevocably changed from the results of the last book (I would like to tell you dear reader about the incident that I was referring to, but for your own good , no can do! Spoilers and all that! And you never know you might want to read it and what would be the point of that if old Billy big britches ‘ere had gone and spoilt it for you?) Now, both Tanta and Cole have to live with the results. 

Cole has forcibly been made to work for the company that he thought was so bad, he had wiped his own memory to forget about it – I mean that is really good for company morale isn’t it? Whilst Tanta has a new boss, who hates her, wants to get rid of her and sends her off into the procedural wilderness. And on top of that, there’s a new threat to Intech, the war is still on with Thoughtfront and now, they have launched an attack right at the heart of Intech. 

Tanta is tasked to find out how and why this has occurred (much to the chagrin of her new boss). 

 Outcast does a fantastic job of continuing the story of Tanta and Cole, and also expands the world too, showing us what it is like outside the city. In addition to that, we get the introduction of some new characters, with the most notable being Fliss, the leader of a scavenging group in the Unaffiliated Zone who gets embroiled in the fight against Intech and used as a pawn in the enemy’s games. 

As usual, Louise Carey’s writing is top notch and she immerses the reader in the world of Outcast. This time though, it’s a little bit easier to become immersed in this world as we are used to it and technology that is an integral part of the story. 

 Tanta and Cole are as brilliant as ever, however, they both have the extra burden of the changes that have happened. It is like looking behind the curtain and finding the bloke that pulls the wire to make the swan fly. Tanta struggles with this and it has in impact in places that she does not expect. And similarly with Cole. As the creator of a certain insidious programs which was designed to bring the Corporation and their Corps Wards together, he now finds that his past has come back to haunt him and will be used in an even more insidious way. 

Outcast is a brilliant second outing for the pair and I enjoyed every page of it.

Wednesday, 9 February 2022

Well, this is an exciting cover reveal, because today is a reveal for..

the children

of gods


fighting men 

by Shauna Lawless

I firstly want to say a massive thank you to both Shauna Lawless and Head of Zeus for allowing to join the other bloggers in this cover reveal for her upcoming book.

The Children of Gods & Fighting Men is due to be released on  the 1st  September 2022 internationally, and it has just been confirmed that the US release date is the same. 

(Canada release date is to be confirmed)

Now I am sure you all know how this plays out - I will tell you about the book, the author etc etc. So, without much further ado, we had better crack on, hadn't we?



The first in a gripping new historical fantasy series that intertwines Irish mythology with real-life history, The Children of Gods and Fighting Men is the thrilling debut novel by Shauna Lawless.

They think they've killed the last of us...

981 AD. The Viking King of Dublin is dead. His young widow, Gormflaith, has ambitions for her son – and herself – but Ireland is a dangerous place and kings tend not to stay kings for long. Gormflaith also has a secret. She is one of the Fomorians, an immortal race who can do fire-magic. She has kept her powers hidden at all costs, for there are other immortals in this world – like the Tuatha Dé Danann, a race of warriors who are sworn to kill Fomorians. Fódla is one of the Tuatha Dé Danann with the gift of healing. Her kind dwell hidden in a fortress, forbidden to live amongst the mortals. Fódla agrees to help her kin by going to spy on Brian Boru, a powerful man who aims to be High King of Ireland. She finds a land on the brink of war – a war she is desperate to stop. However, preventing the loss of mortal lives is not easy with Ireland in turmoil and the Fomorians now on the rise...


Ok, before I show you the cover just one more bit of information, and I guarantee that you will like this. The cover is designed and illustrated by Micaela  Alcaino, who has a list of well known book covers as long as your arm!


The cover is designed by Micaela Alcaino, who was born in Australia and grew up traveling a lot.
From an early age, she had an interest in photography and drawing.
Prior to going freelance in 2018, she worked for both Penguin Random House UK, and Harper Collins UK.
She was shortlisted as one of The Booksellers Rising Stars in 2021.
She has designed and illustrated covers for amongst others, Jay Kristoff, Joe Abercrombie, John Lewis Stemael,
 Brendan P. Bellacourt
You can find more info at @micaelaalcaino on Twitter &

 Now if that doesn't get you pumped, I don't know what will!

Right! Let's unveil the cover!


R u Sure?

Ok! Here goes!


'Highlander meets The Last Kingdom as feuding clans of magical undying vie for control of tenth-century Ireland in this assured and captivating debut. Themes of motherhood and conflicted obligation lie at the heart of Shauna Lawless's historical fantasy, explored through the eyes of two powerful women compelled to navigate a land where men hold sway, or think they do. I was hooked from page one'

-- Anthony Ryan

You can find the links to pre - order 

The Children of Gods

& Fighting Men


or go straight to order it from

Amazon UK 

Waterstones UK 

Amazon US 

Tuesday, 8 February 2022



Joy desires nothing more than her husband's happiness. She spends her days creating the perfect life for him in their idyllic suburban home. Everything is neat, predictable, and in its place.

When Joy finds a picture that hints at a past she cannot remember, the facade cracks. As secrets are revealed, Joy realizes her blissful life is crumbling and to find herself, she must first lose herself.

Perfect, after all, is only an illusion.

Whenever I sit down to read a Sarah Chorn book I have to mentally prepare myself, knowing that I am in for a an emotional rollercoaster, and her latest is no exception. And as Joy says in the book "Sometimes, things hurt ".

The story revolves around Joy and her husband, Mike.

Joy spends her time focused on happy domesticity, following her cleaning routines and focusing on making Mike happy. Her whole life intrinsically revolves around her routine and she is extremely happy in the microcosm of her life, until she makes a discovery, which is a catalyst for her life unraveling around her.

A Sorrow Named Joy is a short book and can be read in one sitting, and I think that this is the best way to let the story wash over you.

As usual, Sarah Chorn's prose is elegantly beautiful and I always marvel at her ability to convey emotion, for instance when Joy is discussing with a neighbour whose marriage is falling apart, Joy makes the observation "This was a woman coming undone and yet fiercely refusing to break. This was strength in its purest form."

The story itself is completely stripped down and revolves around Joy and Mike. Initially, we follow Joy, and Mike is really only a presence in Joy's eyes and appears as an illusory presence that is in Joy's perspective, but he becomes more of a presence later in the book. Both characters are equally fascinating and when Mike's perspective enters the story it brings a well rounded aspect to the situation.

Immediately upon starting the story, Sarah Chorn effectively transmits that there is an undercurrent of unease. You immediately get the impression that the picture that Joy paints of domestic bliss is slightly skew whiff, and not quite right. However, when the reveal comes, it took me completely by surprise. The reveal comes at about halfway through, and it changes the characters. It is at about this point that Mike becomes more of a concrete person in the story rather than the idealised construct that Joy paints him as, and then we follow Joy as she realises that she wants more than the simple life of routine and domesticity.

I have to say, I loved this one. It reminded me of one of my favourite TV series (I am not going to tell you which one, as it would spoil the book), and I could easily have imagined this as an episode of that series. Again, Sarah Chorn does it again and writes a beautiful tale of relationship and passion.


Sunday, 6 February 2022

 Escapist Book Tours - The Isle of a Thousand Worlds 

Hello Everyone

It's another tour!

This time it is for His Sauciness, Dan Fitzgerald's new book

The Isle of a Thousand Worlds

The Isle of the Thousand Worlds is the second book in The Weirdwater Confluence that began with The Living Waters. 

Before we go on and I tell you just how much that I thought that this book was a little bit special, I s'pose that it might be helpful to tell you what the book is about. 

Book Description

The alchemy of the heart distills the body’s desires.

An aging alchemist seeks the key to the Universal Tincture said to unlock the Thousand Worlds of the mind, but she never expected to solve the riddle of her hermetic heart.

A meditation acolyte travels the mystical social media known as the Caravan and finds that the Thousand Worlds lie just below the surface, if she can only learn to see the space between the stars.

This steamy romantic fantasy explores the confluence of the physical and the metaphysical through the commingling of bodies and minds.

Book Information:

The Isle of a Thousand Worlds by Dan Fitzgerald
Weirdwater Confluence Duology (Book 2)
Genre: Sword-Free Fantasy, Romantic Fantasy
Intended Age Group:
Pages: 300
January 15, 2022
Shadow Spark Publishing

Book Links:


Direct from the Publisher (Signed)


Now, let's get this party off the ground!
I liked this book and it was unlike anything that I have read before!
I think before we start the review, we need to talk about the fact that this book has a good dose of rumpy pumpy in it. And I have to admit, in general, I am not one for books with a bit of a saucy romantic edge to them. Yep, I can cope with a bit of the Luvvy Dubby stuff, but on the whole, my ethos tends to revolve around the 'quick, shut your eyes! They're doing it!' kind of philosophy. Yeah, I know, sex is a pretty necessary part of life, and it should be easy to read about, coz we are all grown ups here!

However, I have to say that I didn't mind the fact that there was sex in the book and it added to the story and felt like a natural part of the two main characters relationship.

The story centres around the two main characters of the book, Patia and Gilea.

Patia, if you recall had her laboratory destroyed in The Living Waters when the roughabout with Leo et al went to visit her, and The Living Waters did a daylight smash and grab number on her quiksilver and ran off with it.

This left her in a bit of a pickle. However, one day, she hears that one of her former colleagues/professors have found a way to make something called a  Universal tincture which lets you  enter this thing called The Caravan and talk brain to brain with other people in The Caravan. 

The caravan is a pretty cool thingymajig, and we tend to see this through the other main character of the story, Gilea (if you have read earlier reviews, or you have read the earlier book,you will recognise the name from The Living Waters).

In response to the fact that Patia's business has now pretty much sunk due to the fact that she has lost all her collateral that lets her make her meditation tinctures, she decides to set off for pastures new and investigate this Universal Tincture malarky, and get in on the act. 

In the process of searching for the truth of the Universal Tincture, she sets up shop with another alchemist, Gero, which evolves into a relationship.

Meanwhile, Gilea is getting deep into this Caravan thingymajig, setting up a deal with the Maer for their stock of Sunstone (which happens to be an energy source for the Caravan) and discovers that there is a nefarious plot abroad, whilst trying to manage her relationship with Temi.

I enjoyed The Isle of a Thousand Worlds a lot. It was a bit of a breath of fresh air in all honesty, and a welcome reprieve from the frenetic pace of my normal reads. And I think this is one of the strong points of the book, in that the pacing is quite sedate and moves along at a pretty evenly, which makes everything in it to be very organic in its development.

For instance, the relationship between Patia and Gero doesn't get straight into it, it evolves naturally into where it is going. Similarly with Gilea's storyline, and it evolves layer on layer.

Another reason that I enjoyed this book immensely was the fact that the main protagonists are not young whippersnappers chasing about the land carrying out quests, coming of age and all the rest of the stuff that happens in fantasy. Now I don't have a problem with this normally, but I have to say it wasn't until I was presented with a book that had older protagonists in it that I realised how much I enjoyed this differing view. Yes there are plenty of books with older protagonists, but quite rare that they are in their sixties and nearly seventies. And I cannot say how much I enjoyed this aspect of the story. 

Dan Fitzgerald writes wonderful characters and I was enthralled with them all. Patia, as an older woman is aware of her needs and wants, and her life experience makes her such a wonderfully rounded character. Whilst Gero is an older gentleman, there is a childlike quality to him that is quite sweet. We get to see more of Gilea and Temi's relationship, which at times can be bittersweet as they have to navigate their involvement as two very different people with different goals and aspirations.

I have to admit there were a couple of times that I did wonder how the two story lines would impact an each other and how they would intersect, as they seem to be two completely separate stories. However, I needn't have worried because Dan Fitzgerald nicely ties the two stories together. 

Now, I know that The Isle of a Thousand Worlds will not be for everyone, but me personally, I really enjoyed it. Yes it is different! Yes it has some steaminess to it and romance, but I enjoyed all these aspects, and found the book to be a breath of fresh air.

Author Bio & Social Media Links:


Dan Fitzgerald is the fantasy author of the Maer Cycle trilogy (character-driven low fantasy) and the Weirdwater Confluence duology (sword-free fantasy with unusual love stories), both from Shadow Spark Publishing.

He lives in Washington, DC with his wife, twin boys, and two cats. When not writing he might be found doing yoga, gardening, cooking, or listening to French music. 


Buy my books in any format: Dan Fitzgerald — Shadow Spark Publishing

Twitter: Dan Fitzgerald (@DanFitzWrites) / Twitter (writing and bookish stuff—this is my home)

Instagram: Dan Fitzgerald (@danfitzwrites) • Instagram photos and videos (nature photography and bookish posts—this is my playground)

Website: Dan Fitzgerald ( (Find out more about my books, plus there’s a blog.)




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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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