Wednesday, 18 May 2022

 


Equinox 

by 

David Towsey

Published by Head of Zeus (Ad Astra)
12th May 2022

Description

In this world, two souls inhabit a single body, one by day, one by night. But though they live alongside one another, their ends do not always align. For Special Inspector Morden, whose hunt for a dangerous witch takes him far from home, this will be a problem...

Christophor Morden lives by night. His day-brother, Alexsander, knows only the sun. They are two souls in a single body, in a world where identities change with the rising and setting of the sun. Night-brother or day-sister, one never sees the light, the other knows nothing of the night.

Early one evening, Christophor is roused by a call to the city prison. A prisoner has torn his eyes out and cannot say why. Yet worse: in the sockets that once held his eyes, teeth are growing. The police suspect the supernatural, so Christophor, a member of the king's special inspectorate, is charged with finding the witch responsible.

Night-by-night, Christophor's investigation leads him ever further from home, toward a backwards village on the far edge of the kingdom. But the closer he gets to the truth, the more his day-brother's actions frustrate him. Who is Alexsander protecting? What does he not want Christophor to discover?

And all the while, an ancient and apocalyptic ritual creeps closer to completion...


One of the things about the fantasy genre is that it is extremely malleable and can take in a plethora of different styles and different templates for what can be termed ‘fantasy’. As an author, you can bring in multiples of differing influences, put them in the mangle, and subsequently come out with something new on the other side that still looks like fantasy, and with Equinox by David Tovey, we certainly get an alternative take on the fantasy genre.

The story itself is set in a world where people have two individual personalities encapsulated within in single body. A diurnal personality that may have differing dreams, goals, and even lives from their nocturnal personalities. 

In amongst this we have a tale of folk horror and detective tale. The story is set off by a strange set of events in which a young man who is held in a prison in the capital, far from his home of Drekenford, is afflicted by a strange phenomenon in which his eyes are filled with teeth (cast your mind back to the Corinthian in the Sandman and that pretty much sums it up). As a result, dour King’s special investigator Christophor Morden is called upon to reluctantly investigate the cause of this and believing that this is a case of witchcraft is sent to the rural village of Drekenford. However, this assignment ultimately disrupts the life of his opposite, his musician day brother, Aleksander. This ultimately rends Aleksander from his life of frivolity, carousing and social climbing to lead him to an environment that is what he sees as backwards and is, let’s say, not particularly keen.

Equinox is set in an interesting world, that in some ways parallels our own. It appears to be set in a quasi – 17th Century world with all its ideals and missteps and is built upon the Christian faith. Whilst the narrative never explicitly does any intricate world building, Towsey shows us a world of dark, sinister forests coupled with technological advancements that are reminiscent of the period. In addition, there is no explanation for the reasons why the human race have become the way they are. There is no lore that you normally see in fantasy books mapping the trajectory of development that may enlighten the reader as to why things have developed the way they have. As a result of the lack of this background information, the reader simply has to accept this world and adjust to this seemingly familiar world with no more information than the fact that in order to ease the transition from diurnal to nocturnal personality, the people employ the aid of a plant called Ettiene.

I have to say that it is an interesting premise and when I was adjusted to the fact that characters that see sawed between differing aspects of personality, I was quite on board with.

I very much enjoyed the story, that reminded me of an amalgamation of Angel Heart, The Wicker Man and the Name of the Rose, especially as Christopher with his analytical piety reminded of William of Baskerville in Name of the Rose. 
Much like the people of this world, the book is a tale of two differing halves, with the first portion of the book given over to the investigative aspects of Chrisophor and his search to find the witch responsible for the apocalyptic events that he feels have been set in motion. Throughout the story he is attacked supernaturally and experiences nightmarish visions purporting to the end of the world as we know it. In this half of the book, the pace is contemplative and methodical as Christopher carries out his investigation. However, the second half of the book, which sees the world from Aelksander’s point of view, is much more fast paced, as the story shows the emotive side of the two personalities, as the book races towards its climactic end.

I must say that I found this splitting of the story into two differing personalities initially quite jarring, but when I have absorbed it a little more and am now writing these thoughts on the book, I actually found it to be an interesting technique that I found to be quite an absorbing method that works well. Especially, as I think that it split the pace of the book. 

For me, one of the drawbacks to the book was that I had some difficulty in connecting with some of the characters in the book. I found it fine that Christphor is quite difficult to engage with, as the writing reflects his personality and kind of highlights his investigative aloofness to the world around him, but it was the supporting cast that I had some difficulties with. I didn’t find that amongst the many inhabitants (and if you consider it, there are double the amount of characters in this world) that I actually connected with any of them, they felt more of a device for the plot to reach its ultimate goal.
However, David Towsey’s prose was superb. He was able to bring the two differing characters together well and showed some really interesting imaginative action sequences that I could never have predicted happening. Added to this, he does instil as sense of creeping foreboding in the narrative as the story slowly peels off its intricate layers. Added to that, there is some entertaining dark humour that made me chuckle. I am sure he managed to get a Peter Kay joke in there, and if it wasn’t deliberate, it certainly made my mind jump to Peter Kay in one of his routines saying ‘It’s that fine rain that wets you through’.

With Equinox, David Tovey successfully blends folk horror, fantasy and murder mystery to bring a melting pot of a book that strays well off the beaten path of traditional fantasy.




Tuesday, 17 May 2022



 

BOOK NERDS

Today I am joining those fabulous folks over at Escapist Book Tours to bring you a spotlight of Allegra Pescatore's book Where Shadows Lie. This is the final day of the tour and I hop;e you have visited the other bloggers on this tour to see reviews and spotlights about this book. 

Now let me tell you a little bit about the book!

 

The Chosen One is Dead.

Disabled since childhood, his little sister never expected the weight of a crown. Now, she might lose it before ever sitting on the throne. Beset by rebels, scheming politicians, and cutthroat bankers, Elenor must choose between accepting her father’s despotic rule or risking everything for her late brother’s lofty ideals.

Meanwhile, from the rainy streets of Lirin to the scorching dunes of the Mondaer Desert, the ripples of her actions have inadvertently broken a chain of events five centuries in the making. Ancient forces move in the shadows, calling in debts and striking deals. A monster with a thousand faces fingers his knife, ready to kill, and a pair of fugitives run for their lives, unaware of the danger they carry with them.

Where Shadows Lie is a non-stop epic fantasy ride, featuring an lgbtq+ and disabled protagonist and filled
  with court intrigue, sizzling romance, and adorable baby dragons. Dive in and get swept away!
 

Here's an excerpt of the book 


Prologue

Patricide

Wilam

     Wilam Lirion dressed in red on the day he planned to kill his father. The hue was not remarkable—crimson and gold were the colors of the royal household—but today, he wore it with hope and pride instead of his usual revulsion. As he waited for the afternoon audiences to begin, Wil studied his parents. His mother kept her vacant eyes cast down at the embroidery frame in her lap. She sat with a straight back on her throne, her silver-blond hair pulled up under a thin veil upon which rested the crown of the ruling Lirion monarch. His father’s own circlet was smaller and less ornate, the gold stark against his graying black hair. The King was whispering to one of his advisors when he caught Wil staring. He met his son’s gaze with a tight-lipped frown.

 “Where is your sister, Wilam? I’m tired of her being late. She is learning bad habits from you.”

 “How should I know? Elenor and I don’t spend enough time together for her to learn anything from me,” Wil replied. Their father made sure of that, but why? Had he realized Wil sought to overthrow him? Did he want to avoid having his youngest become as stubborn and independent as his heir? Whatever the reason, Wil hoped she didn’t show up. Elenor did not need to see this.

“Well, go find her. I wish to start on time toda—”

“I’m here, father!”

    Wil turned, his dark curls bouncing, and saw his sister waltz into the Throne Room with her doena on her heels.

“You’re late,” the King chided, but, as ever, his tone was gentler with her. “Sorry. I lost track of time.”

    Their mother sighed, and Wilam suppressed a snort. That wasn’t bloody likely. Elenor might not always pay attention to her schedule, but Paul, her doena, was as obsessive and punctual as they got. If his sister was late, she had been up to something, no doubt with some of her troublemaking friends. Indeed, Wil noticed there was a small grass stain on Elenor’s white dress, not quite hidden despite her efforts to bunch the fabric just so.

“Don’t berate her, dearest,” their mother said in her usual almost-whisper. “She’s here, and it’s not yet noon. Children, in your seats, please so we can begin.”

    Wil sighed and closed his eyes as Elenor pressed a kiss to his forehead in greeting on her way to the other side of the dais. Paul followed but did not take his customary place behind his ward. The doena wore a cross expression as he bent to whisper in Elenor’s ear. She winced, but Wil was sure Paul would smooth whatever feathers she had ruffled. That was the oath of a doena, after all: to protect their charge, even from themselves. It was never an easy job, and Paul’s was more challenging than most. Elenor had a preternatural ability to get into trouble.

     When everyone had taken their seats, the Herald of the Court called for silence. The attention of the gathered nobles shifted to the first group of petitioners entering the chamber. The hall expanded outwards from the double doors, the walls forming two sides of a perfect equilateral triangle. Along those walls, walkways and balconies allowed the milling nobility to gather, make deals, and share in the gossip which was the lifeblood of the Lirinian Court. The floor was a remnant of the Empire and over five hundred years old. A kaleidoscope of marble and onyx stonework, interlocking triangles tightened to draw the eye to the third wall of the room, where a beam of sunlight fell upon the four thrones on the dais. They were visible from every point in the chamber to grand effect. Unfortunately, it didn’t make for a comfortable experience for the ruling family. The bright sunshine was already making his eyes ache, and sweat soaked his undershirt.

    The first few delegations and cases passed without note. Wil, as usual, was attentive but bored. His mother never took her eyes off her embroidery except to greet each new petitioner and bid them farewell, and the King just sat tapping his foot each time a case dragged on.

    Elenor’s gaze kept moving toward a gaggle of her friends then up to the clock on the far wall, her foot tapping until their mother reached over to brush her knee. Elenor shot the Queen an apologetic look before relaxing back into her seat with a long-suffering sigh. Wil couldn’t blame her. He remembered how torturous it had been to sit through these audiences before he had gotten his Water Writ. Wilam now had the right to have his opinions heard. Elenor did not.

    His musings halted as the door once again opened, and a flurry of colorful robes announced the delegation he had been waiting for. The disguises on the five assassins were masterful. Wil had known and worked with these rebels for years, but even he hardly recognized them. Fay had her hair up in a bright green wrap with flowers sticking out of it. She wore an elegant but flamboyant yellow and blue robe that billowed around her feet as she walked. The round, thick lenses and heavily painted frames of her spectacles hid her eyes, and there were colorful rings on her fingers wrapped around an ornate wooden box. Her companions wore equally vivid outfits. On her right, her second in command, Gabriel, shuffled with a hunched posture that fit with his oil-slicked hair, thin glasses, and a giant pile of dossiers. It made him look every inch an ordinary pencil-pushing lackey except for the beetle-green color of his coat and trousers. Another rebel, mirroring Gabriel’s position on Fay’s left, had on a jacket so pink it caused Wil’s eyes to water. Two trailed behind, one—Ian, if Wil’s memory served him—wore orange robes, and his eyes were covered by a bandage. The last was dressed in a more sedate dark blue aides uniform and was pretending to guide Ian. No one would look at this group and see criminals sneaking into the palace to kill their monarch. Assassins, after all, rarely attempted to be an eyesore.

     Fay stopped before the dais and raised her eyes to the King. Wil took in a deep breath, his hand shifting to the hilt of his rapier in a casual gesture.

“Your Majesty, thank you for receiving us after our long journey.” She bowed low with a flourish of robes, the accent perfect for the Garendaren ambassador she pretended to be.

“Welcome to Hardor, Lady Ondai. What business do you bring before the Court today?” She straightened. “We have several matters to discuss, but first, may I present a gift to Your Majesty?” She held out the carved box and flipped the latch.

“A moment, please,” the King ordered, holding his palm toward her. Wil’s heart thundered. “I am sure it is harmless, but as the rebel threat grows, we have had a retainer open all gifts, just in case.” With an imperious gesture, he called forward his chief advisor. “Eurieha, if you would.”

Fuck.

    His father knew. There was no other explanation. None of the other offerings today had been scrutinized in this manner. Wil’s jaw tightened against the acid climbing up his throat as the retainer stepped towards Fay. His nails dug deep into his palms as he clenched his fists, but the pain didn’t even register. He fought to keep his breathing steady, the urgency of containing his reaction hammered home by every pounding heartbeat.

    Fay’s face remained polite and sedate, but the fingers clutching the box were pale. Wil glanced towards the King. His dread turned to outright terror as he saw his father’s lips twitch upwards.

    Gabriel inched closer to Fay, the other three shifted uncomfortably, but their expressions didn’t falter. Any question as to how entirely and unquestionably screwed they were was answered when a pair of guards at the end of the room slammed the massive double-doors shut. Do it now, Fay! NOW!

   Fay must have arrived at the same conclusion. As Eurieha reached for the box containing the poisoned dart meant to plunge into the King’s chest when he opened it, Fay let it fall from her fingers. Steel flashed, and a dagger appeared in her hand before the box even clattered to the ground. Her wrist arched back, then snapped forward.

    The knife flew straight at his father’s head as the guards began to move.

Fay’s aim was true.

    For a single second, Wil believed it would hit. For one heartbeat, Wilam Lirion thought he would be the next ruler of Lirin. That he could save his mother and sister.

Then the second ended.

    The knife thudded into the wooden back of the throne as the King threw himself to the side. Wil sprang to his feet and caught sight of Elenor doing likewise. While his sister launched herself behind the thrones and out of harm’s way, Wil drew his rapier.

    He wasn’t the only one. Around the room, guards and nobles alike were catching up, raised steel shining in the filtered sunlight. Wil lunged at his father, swinging and missing as the King pushed his stunned wife out of the way before shoving the carved wooden chair towards Wil. The bulky piece of furniture tumbled down the stairs, giving his father enough time to draw his own sword and point it straight at the prince.

“I knew it! I knew you were working against me. Did you think you fooled us? Eurieha has been onto you for months.”

    Wilam did not bother to answer. He vaulted over the throne and brought his blade down hard. Steel crashed on steel as his father’s sword lurched to block the blow. The ringing in his ears made it impossible to pay attention to anything but the fight at hand. Twenty-three years of anger, of frustration, of fear and hatred boiled up, giving his swings a power he had never felt before. His father’s eyes widened as the barrage of blows forced him to take one step back, then another.

“Secure the Queen,” the King shouted as he parried again. Wil’s heart was hammering as he struck once more. This is finally it. Better this way. I want the world to see him fall at my hand. I want them to know I stood up to him at last, and it wasn’t just a rebel attack. It will anger the nobility, but I don’t care.

    A lucky strike drew blood along his father’s upper arm, but the older man reacted too fast for Wil to capitalize on it. A growl of frustration passed Wil’s clenched teeth as his opponent retreated. Why was the bastard not standing his ground? Wasn’t he the one who had always taught Wil that only cowards ran from a fight?

 Too late, he realized this was no retreat. It was a lure.

     The King’s bodyguard charged Wil from the side, and he went from pressing the advantage against his father to getting outflanked by a professional whose skill he could not hope to match. Rivulets of sweat coursed down his cheek as his feet scrambled for purchase on the stairs of the dais. Block, parry, dodge and—

     With a savage grunt, the bodyguard drove the wooden heel of his heavy boot into Wil’s knee. Sparks of pain exploded in his vision as he toppled down the steps, his back striking them hard enough to drive a grunt from his lungs. Wil squeezed his eyes shut, not ready for the pain or to see the killing blow.

   Steel rang above his head. Wilam chanced a peek and saw a flurry of orange robes. Eyes no longer bandaged and glinting their peculiar red, Ian’s scimitar locked with the King’s. Wil tried to rise, to help his ally, but the guard’s sword came to rest on his exposed throat.

“Keep him down. I can deal with this one myself,” his father ordered, fury deepening his voice to a growl.

    Wil bared his teeth in defiance, but when he tried to move, the press of the steel edge against his windpipe intensified. Beyond the man holding him down, he saw Ian dodge and lunge, nearly impaling the King on his blade. The blow caught on his father’s coat and ripped it, but a lucky step to the side kept it from being a killing blow. A flurry of swings followed, and Wil held his breath.

    Yells bounced off the walls of the Throne Room as the rebel feinted to the left, then dropped into a crouch and kicked outward. The prince watched in amazement as his father fell, and Ian straightened. Guards were running in their direction, but none would get there in time, not before Ian could end it.

“This is for Lily,” Ian yelled as he raised his scimitar.

This is it.

    Ian stumbled, a strangled cry escaping his lips. His descending swing paused, arms suddenly limp. The sword fell from his hands as they clutched at a growing red spot on his chest and the tiny point of a dagger poking through his robes. The old rebel turned, and an unsteady half-step to the side exposed the person who had doomed them all.

    Wil’s little sister stood there, eyes wide, staring at the blood coating her hands. She instinctively caught Ian as his knees gave way, both dropping to the marble floor.

“Elenor, no …” Wil whispered.

     She mouthed something, perhaps a prayer or apology, but Wilam couldn’t make it out. Ian’s hand rose to her cheek, the blood staining her pale skin and loose golden hair a deep crimson as his eyes closed.

    Wil’s father yanked the man away from her and, as Ian tumbled to the floor, the King finished the deed.

    Elenor remained kneeling, her shoulders shaking and head bowed. Their father pulled his bloody sword from the limp body and walked over to Wil, Ian’s blood dribbling onto the white marble with every step.

“You always were a disappointment, Wilam,” he murmured.

      Wil knew what was coming. Not wanting his last sight to be of the man he hated, his gaze found his sister. Her eyes locked with Wil’s, and time stood still.

 I’m sorry, Elenor.

   Wil had just enough time to see Gabriel appear behind his sister and yank her to her feet, before his father’s blade pressed against his neck.

 “Stop! Kill him, and she dies too,” his friend shouted, a knife flashing in the light from the windows as Gabriel lifted it to Elenor’s throat, but it was too late to avoid what was coming.

“Murdering me won’t stop—” But Wil never finished. There was a flash of pain, a moment of pure agony, and for the first time in Wilam’s life, his father did something merciful. When the darkness came, it w1as swift and sure. His last thought before his heart stuttered to a halt was, It’s up to you now, El

 

Author Bio & Information:

Allegra grew up in a small village in northern Tuscany as the daughter of two artists. She was raised on the works of J.R.R Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Phillip Pullman, Frank Herbert, and many others, all read aloud to her while she drew and played make-believe. She began to write at the age of eight and hasn't stopped since.

After many moves and dozens of countries visited, she now lives in a cozy cottage in Western PA. She is accompanied in her current adventures by husband Job, co-conspirator and long-time writing partner Tobias, and a small army of furry and scaly pets. When not writing or daydreaming, Allegra rules her kitchen with an iron first and feeds everyone who walks through her door. She also gardens, dabbles in various art forms, and spins stories for her tabletop gaming group.

As a disabled woman and staunch LGBTQ ally, Allegra hopes to write engaging, diverse, and representative Fantasy and Science Fiction, where people who do not often see themselves center stage get the chance to shine.

Her debut book, Where Shadows Lie, was an SPFBO Semi-Finalist and is a CIBA award finalist. It is the first book of The Last Gift series, and the first title of Project Ao, by Ao Collective Publishing. Other titles in Project Ao include NACL: Eye of the Storm (2021 SPFBO Semi-Finalist) and A Bond of Thread.

Giveaway Information:

Prize: An eBook, Audiobook, or Signed Paperback Copy of Where Shadows Lie!
Starts: May 12, 2022 at 12:00am EST
Ends: May 18, 2022 at 11:59pm EST
 
 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

DIRECT LINK 


Sunday, 15 May 2022


Afternoon Everyone! 

I am really excited for this cover reveal today! As you all know, one of my favourite fantasy series is Steve Gowlands The Soul's Abyss which concluded earlier this year with the fabulous Darkness Falls. 

Well, tomorrow a new chapter in The Soul's Abyss is released with the addition of Imagine the Fire.

This is a tale set before the events of The Soul's Abyss, many years before the Walkers  even existed.

BEFORE THE TIME OF THE WALKERS - DARKNESS THREATENED THE LAND, THE POWER OF MAGIC CHANGED FOREVER AND THE FUTURE OF THE KINGDOM HUNG IN THE BALANCE.

In the kingdom of Essealar, a rival power threatens the King’s plans to build his empire. As his sanity crumbles, a secret power must be found to help him achieve his aims. He will stop at nothing to accomplish his goal, but everywhere he looks is fire and he cannot see the realm beyond his madness.

Daria Ravesh has spent a lifetime in loyal service to the King and is distraught at his decline. When she meets Edris Fane, she knows his unparalleled powers are all her King needs – but will he become her greatest ally or ultimate rival?

When Edris Fane’s family is threatened, and his people attacked, he must join the King to fight for the freedom and peace he craves, but by unleashing his anger reveals to him the true power of the darker side of magic – the Guldur – which could destroy him and all he holds dear.

Heroes will rise, enemies will fall, but chaos will reign.

 Well, we might as well get on with the reveal and show you what the cover looks like in full!

Let me tell you it is a belter and was designed by those fabulous people at getcovers.

Told you it was cracking didn't I?

IMAGINE THE FIRE 

IS 

OUT 16TH MAY 2022

and is available from 

Amazon UK

Amazon US 

Amazon CA




Saturday, 14 May 2022


 Hello folks!

Today, I am presenting a cover reveal for Raina Nightingale's upcoming book Kindred of the Sea. Keep an eye out for other bloggers invovled in this cover reveal which has been organised by Sue Bavey at Sue's Musing's

Back Cover Blurb:

When Corostomir and his partner march into battle and find themselves dreaming the dreams of trees, they know that all is not what it seems. . .

The Valor Alliance has declared war on Elethri, naming it haunt of demons and forest of the nightmare. But when the Valor Soldiers are driven back with enchantments of sleep and not with arrows, his partner, Aderan, and their friend soon convince Corostomir that a nation that will not shed the blood of its enemies, let alone that of its own people, cannot be in the thrall of the nightmare. Corostomir and Aderan must now make a difficult decision, one that is forced when the Valor Alliance sends the Army back to attack Elethri, this time by sea instead of land.

Kindred of the Sea is an enchanting tale about the love and intimacy possible in an asexual relationship and a trope-defying Portal Fantasy.



About the Author


Raina Nightingale has been writing high fantasy since she could read enough words to write stories with the words she could read. She loves dragons and magic and beautiful worlds, complete with mountains, storms, stars, forests, and volcanoes! She also loves compelling and realistic characters. DragonBirth is her first novel in her High Fantasy setting of Areaer.

 

...and now for the cover

Raina's new book will be realeased on June 24th



 


Monday, 9 May 2022

Hello folks!

Welcome from Fantasy Book Nerd Central! Today, I join those fabulous peoples over at Escapist book tours to bring you this special cover reveal from Alex Robbins for the fourth book in his series The War of the Twelve. 

The Obsidian Eyes of Klief is the fourth and final book in this series that started with The Broken Heart of Arelium. I hope you will join me and this troupe of book bloggers (what do you call a collection of book bloggers? A review - sorry not sorry!)


 
 Anyway, on with the show, and let's give you (put on your best Liam Gallagher whine for this next bit) information about the book and the author, Alex Robbins (here be dragons!)

Every Truth Has Its Cost.

War ravages the troubled lands of the nine Baronies. The once-great cities of Arelium, Kessrin, and Talth are forever scarred by the passage of the greyling tide, their graveyards filled with the corpses of those who fought and died on their blood-stained walls.

Surrounded and exhausted, the fragile alliance of men must wager all on a final, daring plan: to find and destroy the creatures’ leader, an enigmatic entity known as the weaver. One of the Twelve, Makara, may hold the key to the weaver’s location, but he too is missing, lost somewhere in the remote Barony of Klief

The tattered remains of the human armies have no choice but to follow Makara’s trail north, pursued by a relentless horde of greylings. At their head rides Zygos, his god-like intellect transferred into the body of the traitor Praxis.

The town of Klief beckons, as friend and foe alike are drawn to its dim light. It is here, before its golden gates, that the War of the Twelve will be decided.

It is here that an ancient evil will rise …

And heroes will fall.

.

Book Links:

Universal link : http://getbook.at/klief

Amazon : https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09RKF36ZQ

Goodreads : https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/60291595-the-obsidian-eyes-of-klief



About the person that wrote the book!

(The long &Short of it)


Short Bio:
Alex Robins hails from the sunny Loire Valley in western France, surrounded by imposing castles and sprawling vineyards

Long Bio:
Alex Robins was born in Norwich, England back when it was still trendy to wear lycra tracksuits and bright pink headbands. Norwich School Library was where he first discovered his love of reading, an old converted undercroft packed to the rafters with books. The first fantasy series he read was The Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis & Tracey Hickman, quickly followed by The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and David Eddings' The Belgariad.

At the age of twelve Alex moved across the channel to Nantes in France. Speaking very little French, the first few years were difficult and sometimes lonely as he scrambled to get a grip on the intricate grammar and vocabulary of the French language. His taste in books branched out from epic fantasy to science-fiction, mysteries, thrillers, and historical fiction, but he always came back to his favourite fantasy authors when looking to escape the outside world.

After degrees in agronomy, project management, and computer sciences, Alex founded his own company dedicated to online voting. He met his wife during a game of badminton and they spent several years getting trounced in various regional tournaments before getting married. Alex now lives in the sunny Loire Valley in western France, surrounded by imposing castles, sprawling vineyards, and two children. After reading fantasy books for the last thirty years he decided to write one. The Broken Heart of Arelium is his first novel, and the first in the War of the Twelve series.

Social Media Links:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/stumbleine44

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/warofthetwelve

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Alex-Robins/e/B08ZC3TMSD


So, I suppose that you want to see the cover now?


You sure?


And here is a special bonus feature - The cover nude! with no text


Well, That's it from me folks! Hope you likey like that cover reeeeeeveal





Friday, 6 May 2022


 Hello Book Nerds 

Today I am coming to you from Fantasy Book Nerd Central to take a look at The Knave of Secrets by Alex Livingston. This is part of the tour run by the fabulous The Write Read and is published by Rebellion on June 7th, so this is way ahead of time.

Right, let's get down to it.



A twisty tale of magicians, con artists and card games, where secrets are traded and gambled like coin, for fans of The Lies of Locke Lamora and The Mask of Mirrors.


Never stake more than you can afford to lose.


When failed magician turned cardsharp Valen Quinol is given the chance to play in the Forbearance Game—the invitation-only tournament where players gamble with secrets—he can’t resist. Or refuse, for that matter, according to the petty gangster sponsoring his seat at the table. Valen beats the man he was sent to play, and wins the most valuable secret ever staked in the history of the tournament.


Now Valen and his motley crew are being hunted by thieves, gangsters, spies and wizards, all with their own reasons for wanting what’s in that envelope. It’s a game of nations where Valen doesn’t know all the rules or who all the players are, and can’t see all the moves. But he does know if the secret falls into the wrong hands, it could plunge the whole world into war…


Whenever a con and a heist are mentioned there is that immediate harking reference to Loch Lamora. Whilst there are echoes of this, The Knave of Secrets did not particularly put me in mind of Lynch’s seminal fantasy book, but (and this is only my opinion and not in anyway fact!) it put me in mind of The Sting, crossed with the politicalness of The Councillor.

Now you might be asking yourself why compare it to anything? Is it not its own book? Well of course it is, but sometimes our brain works in mysterious ways, and it will inevitably recall certain things that seem relevant and try to organise experiences in the indices of our memory, and if a certain thing has a particular emotive quality that reminds it of experience blah blah blah, it will inevitably evoke these comparisons. And like I said, these were the things that The Knave of Secrets stoked in me.

So, onto the book itself. The story revolves around a group of card sharps (which having grown up on a diet of American films, always thought it was card shark, so the book gets a plus point in educating me), who spend their time and resources eking a living at the local gambling dens.

We are immediately thrown into the book with a set piece in which Valen is out to con some local lordling or other out of his pot of cash, resulting in some quite negative effects. As we leave the initial set up, we are then introduced to the world of Valen & the gang.

Now if you have read the blurb for the book, that is pretty much the plot of the book, and I don’t think I need to reiterate that here.

In terms of structure, the story revolves around five different points of view, all with different impacts on the story. Some of these give a bit more clarity into the wider political machinations of the story as a whole, and I think that this is one of the things that the book does well in that we have both the more intimate story of Valen and the gang and how they are going to complete the task set out for them, but then there is the widening of the lens to show the much larger picture of what is going on in terms of the political machinations of other parties (I don’t want to give too much away!)

The plot moves along at a steady pace. After we start with the initial opening scenes the story moves along building its momentum, and generally having high points at certain key stages, such as when the team are at The Forebearance Game. Foe me, there were times that the flow of the narrative became sluggish, particularly when imparting information to the reader about the massive amount of card games that were played. And let me tell you there is a lot! It is like a Bicycle Compendium of Card games at times.

I felt at times that character depth was sometimes missing in favour of plot and world building, although, I generally liked the characters, I wasn’t highly invested in some of the ensemble cast that is in the book. There were certain characters that I liked, such as Jac for instance, and others that I was didn’t really feel much of anything for.

However, one of the things that did stand out for me was the partnership between Valen and Marguerite. There are too few happily married couples in fantasy, and I always find it refreshing to see this component in a book.

I equally admired how Alex Livingston has attempted to bring something different to the fantasy genre that does not rely on swords and massive battle scenes. It is not to say that there aren’t battle scenes, it is just that they are more understated and take place at the card table rather than muddy fields lined with opposing armies.

Another thing of note is that the setting of the book is quite interesting. The quasi 17th Century French world that the book is set in adds a different flavour to the story and works quite well.

Final Thoughts

On the whole, the book is an enjoyable read that brings something a little bit different to the fantasy table, and whilst (for me!) there were some bits that didn’t quite work, I would like to see this world expanded and would definitely like to revisit it. 


 


 


Thursday, 5 May 2022


 Hello Book Nerds

Here were are again at Fantasy Book Nerd Central again, and this time I am talking about The Woven Ring by M.D. Presley. I have to say that this was my first foray into flintlock fantasy and I have to say that I was impressed by this branch of fantasy.

A fantasy reimagining of the American Civil War, The Woven Ring pits muskets against magic, massive war machines against mind readers, and glass sabers against soldiers in psychic exoskeletons.

In exile since the civil war that tore the nation of Newfield apart, former spy and turncoat Marta Childress wants nothing more than to quietly live out her remaining days in the West. But then her manipulative brother arrives with one final mission: Transport the daughter of a hated inventor deep into the East. Forced to decide between safely delivering the girl and assassinating the inventor, Marta is torn between ensuring the fragile peace and sparking a second civil war.

Aided by an untrustworthy Dobra and his mysterious mute companion, Marta soon discovers that dark forces, human and perhaps the devil herself, seek to end her quest into the East.


The Woven Ring by MD Presley is a revamp of his original debut with a stunning new cover, and it is a fantastic introduction to his wild west, post civil war fantasy world, Soltera.

The book itself is based around Marta, spy, outcast and veteran. With the story centring around Marta’s plight to deliver the daughter of a tech genius, Orthoel Hendrix, who is currently residing in a local Sanitarium, to him on the orders of her father.

Throughout the story we follow Marta, both as she is now, and in a separate storyline, of how she got to be where she is now, starting as a six year old girl.

I have to say that I was mightily impressed with this first book in MD Presley’s trilogy Sol’s Harvest. On some levels, it had a familiar feel to it, however, underlying this there is something that I have not read before. For one, I have not read a story that is set in a post civil war era before and I found that this setting worked well for the story. Not only that, MD Presley builds a world that is based on the wild west and all the best westerns that I have loved in the past. However, it is not a stylised version of the West, it is more like Sam Peckinpah’ s grittily realistic, violent world, where the dismal living conditions and general hardship of the environment worms its way through.

There are so many levels that this book works on for me. For one, MD Presley creates a fabulously nuanced western environment that is mixed with a steampunk world edge. It is gloriously elegant in its construction, with steam trains running on Ley lines in the air. Airships that are used to bomb the opposing side into submission.

With The Woven Ring, MD Presley has created a wonderfully rich world where not one thing is out of place. There is religion, different cultures, money. Everything is nuanced and defined to give it that tangible sense of believability. In some ways, it resembles our own history which gives you that ability to picture it in your head, and on the other hand give it a sense of uniqueness that is utterly captivating.

Similarly with the magic system, which is based on a system called Breath. Again, MD Presley initially creates something that seems rather simplistic but then intricately builds upon its foundation to create something that is unique.

In terms of characters, Marta is a fantastic character. As there are two timelines in the book we get to see two iterations of her. Firstly, as an idealistic child that believes in the cruelty of the world that she inhabits, and then as a jaded, broken veteran who has problems connecting with anybody. Whilst Marta in the future is not particularly likeable, it is easy to see why, as we follow her trajectory in the second POV, and realise that besides being utterly broken by the horrors that she has endured, she is a product of her family upbringing, which shapes her into a cold, unfeeling individual that thinks of nothing but herself.

On top of that we have a supporting cast of characters, Marta’s odiously sociopathic brother, Carmichael, Caddie Hendrix, who spends most of the book in a catatonic stupor who has withdrawn into herself as a result of some unknown trauma. Then there is Luca and Isabelle, who have been hired by Carmicheal to maintain his sisters safety.

On the whole, I enjoyed MD Presley’s ‘The Woven Ring’ with its rich world building and intricate magic system. I personally think that with the second and third books, this will become a favourite of mine and I am intrigued to see where the story goes. 


 





Tuesday, 3 May 2022


Hello Book Nerds

Let me welcome you to this special post from Steve McHugh.

With the release of his new book No Gods, Only Monsters on May 1st, Steve McHugh reached something of a milestone.Believe it or not this is tenth year writing! A full decade! He has released 13 books and 3 Novellas!

Today, on the second day of this blog tour, organised by Greame Williams Marketing in celebration of Steve McHugh's new book, No Gods, Only Monsters, Steve talks about his ten years of writing in the Hellion Universe, which started with his first novel Crimes Against Magic.

 
So, after Steve talks about his time writing, there will be some information about Steve McHugh, and his new book, No Gods, Only Monsters and a link to the first chapter of the book to whet your appetite.

Well, it's time for the main event, and I will hand over to Steve McHugh in this piece called…..

It’s hard to believe that it’s been ten years since my first book, Crimes Against Magic, was published.

Ten years, 13 novels, 3 novellas, and over a million sales later and there was a bittersweet ending to it all. But I still had more stories to tell, still wanted to give time to those characters I felt deserved it, hence No Gods, Only Monsters.

There are things about The Hellequin Chronicles, and its sequels Avalon Chronicles and Rebellion Chronicles, that I’m very proud of. I got 13 books published for a start, books that people have taken into their hearts, that they message me about. Characters that people quote, that they love. That means more than I can ever really say, and it was completely unexpected.

I write because I can’t not write. I always wanted to be published, but I also knew the odds of getting there, and after a long journey, I self published Crimes Against Magic. I didn’t expect it to do well, I just knew I needed to tell the story.

It exceeded every expectation I had and within a year I had a contract with a traditional publisher. Publishing is a slow moving industry, until it isn’t, something I still find strange even after all this time.

Looking back, there are things I would change about those earlier books. I think—or hope—I’m a better writer now, and would tighten up Crimes Against Magic, removing bits that never really went anywhere. But it’s my first novel, and as my own worst critic, sometimes I have to remind myself that what’s done is done and you can only move forward.

I learned a lot about writing a series, mostly on the fly. About keeping spreadsheets for characters, for places, for history and geography, about world building. Most of my details were in notes in journals, which in hindsight was a terrible idea. Spreadsheets for the win on this one.

I learned more about long-term plotting, about changing things on the fly when they don’t work, about keeping characters who people love even if they weren’t meant to be in long-term (Remy for the win here).

But mostly, over ten years and millions of words, I learned how to be a better writer. At least I hope so. Those lessons I learned, I’ll take forward with me into new projects whether it’s in the Hellequin Universe or in new endeavours. The thing about being a writer is you never stop learning, it’s part of the beauty in it (and part of the frustration too).

Ten years, 13 novels, 3 novellas to tell one large story. The thing I’ll take away from it the most is just how much I loved every single second. Even when I was having late nights, and no weekends off. Even when I was re-writing stuff that didn’t work, or trying to figure out how I was meant to make a plot point make sense. I loved it all. And here’s to a lot more. 

  

Diana, the Roman Goddess of the hunt, lives alone on the far edge of the Roman Empire. When an old friend arrives looking for help, Diana finds herself thrust back into her old life, and old problems.

With innocent lives caught in the crossfire, Diana realizes that the only way to ensure the safety of her friends and loved ones is to do what she does best: hunt her enemies down.

 

About Steve McHugh

Steve is a bestselling author of Urban Fantasy. His book, Scorched Shadows, was shortlisted for a Gemmell Award for best novel.

He was born in a small village called Mexborough, South Yorkshire, but now lives with his wife and three young daughters in Southampton.

 

If you want to know more about Steve McHugh's work and read the first chapter of No Gods, Only Monsters go to Steve McHugh's website

No Gods, Only Monsters is OUT NOW!

*I would like to take this opportunity to thank Graeme Williams Marketing for inviting me on this tour 


 



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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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