Review: Fantasy Short Stories, by Suzanne Rogerson

Fantasy Short Stories

A collection of stories featuring favourite characters from Visions of Zarua and ‘Silent Sea Chronicles’, plus a glimpse into the new series, ‘Starlight Prophecy’.

The Guardian

With an assassin picking off wizards one-by-one, Kalesh visits Cassima, a former student, hoping to persuade her to re-join the Royal Wizards and use their protection to keep her family safe.

Kalesh’s newest charge, Paddren, has strange visions which link to a past event known only to a select few. The knowledge hidden in Paddren’s visions is invaluable so Kalesh must guard the boy at any cost.

Can Kalesh keep his students off the assassin’s radar long enough for his order to stop the killer?

Garrick the Protector

Fifteen-year-old Garrick is helping at his uncle’s farm when his cousin’s illegal use of magic threatens the family’s safety.

Mara is in immediate danger from the Assembly who deem all magic as a threat. The only safe place for her is the Turrak Mountains where exiled mystics have found sanctuary alongside the island’s Sentinel.

Can Garrick get Mara to safety before the Assembly catch up with them?

War Wounds

Conscripted to fight off raiders, Calder finds the months of bloody battle unleash a sixth sense buried inside him.

Finally released from duty, he travels home and encounters a mysterious woman who insists his life is destined to serve a higher purpose. Calder rejects her claims, wanting only to return to a simple existence with his wife.

But can Calder pick up his old life when the powers within him have been stirred? And why does he feel such misgivings about his return?

All three stories give readers a tantalising glimpse into the fantasy worlds created by Suzanne Rogerson.

Purchase Link – http://mybook.to/fantasySS

Continue reading “Review: Fantasy Short Stories, by Suzanne Rogerson”

TBR Pile Review: Legends & Lattes, by Travis Baldree

Paperback, 305 pages
Published February 22nd 2022
ISBN13: 9798985663211

Blurb

High Fantasy with a double-shot of self-reinvention

Worn out after decades of packing steel and raising hell, Viv the orc barbarian cashes out of the warrior’s life with one final score. A forgotten legend, a fabled artifact, and an unreasonable amount of hope lead her to the streets of Thune, where she plans to open the first coffee shop the city has ever seen.

However, her dreams of a fresh start pulling shots instead of swinging swords are hardly a sure bet. Old frenemies and Thune’s shady underbelly may just upset her plans. To finally build something that will last, Viv will need some new partners and a different kind of resolve.

A hot cup of fantasy slice-of-life with a dollop of romantic froth.

My Review

This book arrived on Monday and to be honest it didn’t make it to the TBR pile. I took it upstairs to add to the pile and instead spent two hours reading. I finished it today. Didn’t have the energy yesterday after work, but I’m okay today. Not going to the Wellbeing Hub at the leisure centre on Monday might have something to do with that. I’m disappointed in myself and my body that a fairly gentle exercise routine two days a week and working one afternoon a week results is enough to knock me off my feet for two to three days. It’s ridiculous.

But ignore all that, you’re not here for updates on my dodgy health and energy levels, you’re here for the book review.

Viv is an orc adventurer, sick of all the travelling and killing. After one final mission she settles down in the town of Thune and opens a coffee shop, an utterly unheard-of venture. Making friends with a giant cat, a succubus in a sweater, a rattkin baker, a hob carpenter, Arcanist (wizard but with scientist overtones) who refuses to drink hot drinks and a musician who invents soft rock, Viv finds a home. She also has to cope with the local crime family demanding protection money and an old companion who thinks her good fortune is unfair. Their friendship sees them through trials and tribulations, and Viv finally finds love.

I enjoyed this novel. The plot is not new. Lots of cosy romances have a similar plot, but none I’ve ever heard of involve fantasy creations. I don’t read romance much, but if you add it to a fantasy setting and don’t make the romance overwhelming, I’m fine with it. I found the characters fun and realistic. The worldbuilding is really good. It’s not heavy handed, but there’s enough detail added as colour, like mentions of far off places and organisations that it comes across as a complex complete world. It was easy to read and I rooted for Viv and her friends.

I had a read of the acknowledgements. It looks like Baldree wrote this book for NaNoWriMo 2021, and somehow managed to publish it by February 2022. The press, Cryptid Press, looks like it’s the author’s own press, so I assume it’s self-published. I also looked briefly at the author’s website https://travisbaldree.com/ which seems to confirm it. It’s well edited. The benefits of having a proper editor and plenty of beta readers. Having tried something similar, without those benefits, I can only doff my overly large hat to Baldree. Nice work.

If you want to try a fantasy that is light and fun, with high fantasy elements, I recommend this novel.

Review: The Blood Trials, by N.E. Davenport

│14 APRIL 2022│
PB £8.99│EB £5.49│EA £12.99

Blending fantasy and science fiction, N.E. Davenport’s fast-paced, action-packed debut kicks off a duology on loyalty and rebellion, in which a young Black woman must survive deadly trials in a racist and misogynistic society to become an elite warrior.

It’s all about blood.

Blood spilled long ago between the Republic of Mareen and the armies of the Blood Emperor, ending all blood magic.

Now there is peace in the Republic – but there is also a strict class system, misogyny, and racism. Her world is not perfect, but Ikenna survived in it.

Until now.

With the murder of her grandfather, Ikenna spirals out of control. Though she is an initiate for the Republic’s deadly elite military force, Ikenna has a secret only her grandfather knew: she possesses the blood magic of the Republic’s enemies.

Ikenna throws herself into the gladiatorial war games at the heart of her martial world: trials that will lead her closer to his killers. Under the spotlight, she subjects herself to abuse from a society that does not value her, that cherishes lineage over talent – all while hiding gifts that, if revealed, would lead to execution or worse. Ikenna is willing to risk it all to find out who killed her grandfather…

So she can end them.

Continue reading “Review: The Blood Trials, by N.E. Davenport”

Review: Crimson Reign, by Amelie Wen Zhao

3rd March 2022 | Hardback | Ebook | Audio | £14.99

The Red Tigress, Ana Mikhailov, has returned to Cyrilia, but the country she once called home has fallen under a dark rule. Across the land, the Empress Morganya is tightening her grip on Affinites and non-Affinites alike.

Ana dealt a blow to the Empress when she and her allies turned back Morganya’s troops, but she couldn’t stop Morganya from gaining possession of a dangerous new weapon with the power to steal Affinities. Ana’s forces are scattered, and her alliance with the rebel group, the Red Cloaks, is
becoming more frayed by the day.

What’s worse, she’s lost her Affinity to blood and without it, Ana barely knows who she is anymore – or if she has the strength to defeat
Morganya.

Morganya’s reign of terror is close to crushing the nation Ana was born to rule. And now Ana will finally face the sinister empress, but will she survive? Will anyone? And will her Empire welcome her back to the throne, or turn her out to survive on her own.

The Affinites and Non-Affinites of Cyrilia will determine Ana’s future, if Morganya doesn’t kill her first.

Continue reading “Review: Crimson Reign, by Amelie Wen Zhao”

TBR Pile Review: Lies Sleeping, by Ben Aaronovitch

Paperback, 406 pages
Published May 16th 2019 by Gollancz (first published November 13th 2018)

The Faceless Man, wanted for multiple counts of murder, fraud, and crimes against humanity, has been unmasked and is on the run.Peter Grant, Detective Constable and apprentice wizard, now plays a key role in an unprecedented joint operation to bring Chorley to justice.

But even as the unwieldy might of the Metropolitan Police bears down on its foe, Peter uncovers clues that Chorley, far from being finished, is executing the final stages of a long term plan. A plan that has its roots in London’s two thousand bloody years of history, and could literally bring the city to its knees.

To save his beloved city Peter’s going to need help from his former best friend and colleague–Lesley May–who brutally betrayed him and everything he thought she believed in. And, far worse, he might even have to come to terms with the malevolent supernatural killer and agent of chaos known as Mr Punch. 

My Review

I thought I’d read this one, but after finishing the audiobook of False Value I was checking the TBR pile and found it, so clearly I hadn’t. It wasn’t in my Audible library either (it is now) so I hadn’t listened to it instead. Why am I getting Lies Sleeping and False Value read, I hear you cry? Well, the latest Peter Grant novel, Amongst Our Weapons is published this month. It arrived in my Audible library today and I’m waiting for my special edition from Goldsboro Books to be delivered. It isn’t available until 14th April, but I’ll probably have listened to the audiobook by then. It’ll be nice and pristine on my bookshelf.

So what happens in Lies Sleeping? Peter et al. are hunting the Faceless Man. Still. He, Martin Chorley, has a cunning plan to ‘make it all better’, by killing Punch, the spirit of riot we first meet in Rivers of London. There’s an ancient sword, goat sacrifices and attacks on archaeological sites. To find out what all the fuss is about, Peter has to meet old gods, some dead Romans and try not to die, too much.

And Beverley is pregnant.

I enjoyed this book. I always enjoy the Peter Grant books; there are a lot of geeky in-jokes and references to Discworld, why wouldn’t I enjoy them? There are cynical comments about policing in London and the state of the country. I like Peter and the gang, and find the plots gripping.

I’ve been struggling a bit with my mental health because of that heritage project I wrote about a few weeks back, all the horror is taking a toll on my brain, so I’ve been resting, and today, after three quite busy days all I’ve had the energy to do is curl up on the chair with this book and get lost in Peter’s adventures. I find the predictable characters (predictable because I’m familiar with the characters and worldbuilding, not because they’re badly written) soothing. Like Discworld, Peter Grant’s version of London, built by Ben Aaronovitch on the real thing but with a fantasy twist, is a safe retreat. I know there will be explosions, Peter will get into trouble, Molly will feed everyone, Beverley and her sisters will do something entertaining, some major disaster will happen, or be averted by the skin of someone’s teeth, there will be satirical comments about policing and the Government, and references that only fantasy geeks will get. It’s easy to read, get lost for 400 pages and then come back with a more relaxed frame of mind.

I like this book, but you probably should read the other 6 first, or nothing will make sense.

Review: The Land of Twydell and the Dragon Egg, by Daisy Bourne

The Land of Twydell & the Dragon Egg, is the second book in the Tales of Avalon Series.

What happened during Merlin’s trip to Twydell? Who, or what, did he meet? The Land of Twydell and the Dragon Egg, describes the wizard’s extraordinary adventures in Avalon’s neighbouring country and the people and creatures he meets there.

As he flies across the countryside on his broomstick he is puzzled to see a long line of people leaving the capital of Dalton and heading towards the outlying villages. Entire families are leaving the capital. They look ragged and downcast and appear to be taking their possessions with them. As he approaches Dalton, Merlin is shocked to see billowing smoke and that large parts of the city have been destroyed by fire.

The wizard learns that the devastation has been caused by a pair of dragons which have lived near the city for many years without any problem. King Frederrick is bewildered as to why the dragons should suddenly seek to attack the Twydellers for no apparent reason.

Merlin agrees to help the Twydellers and sets off on an unexpected adventure which brings him in contact with dragons and other strange creatures. He also renews his friendship with an old friend and is delighted to meet new ones.

If you like stories about magical beings then you will enjoy reading The Land of Twydell & The Dragon Egg.

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B078BMS6QG US – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B078BMS6QG

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Audiobook Review: The Bone Shard Emperor, by Andrea Stewart

Narrated by Natalie Naudus, Feodor Chin and Emily Woo Zeller

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Audible Audio, Unabridged,
Published November 23rd 2021 by Orbit

In ‘THE BONE SHARD EMPEROR’, book two in the action-packed magical fantasy The Drowning Empire series, a heroine at the head of a powerful empire confronts a raging battle as she’s forced to do whatever it takes to restore peace.

The Emperor is Dead. Long live the Emperor.

Lin Sukai finally sits on the throne she won at so much cost, but her struggles are only just beginning. Her people don’t trust her. Her political alliances are weak. And in the northeast of the Empire, a rebel army of constructs is gathering, its leader determined to take the throne by force.

Yet an even greater threat is on the horizon, for the Alanga – the powerful magicians of legend – have returned to the Empire. They claim they come in peace, and Lin will need their help to defeat the rebels and restore order.

But can she trust them?

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TBR Pile Review: Civilisations, by Laurent Binet, translated by Sam Taylor

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Hardcover, 352 pages
Published April 15th 2021 by Harvill Secker 
(first published August 14th 2019)
Original Title: Civilizations
ISBN: 1787302296 (ISBN13: 9781787302297)
Edition Language: English
Literary Awards: Grand prix du roman de l’Académie française (2019)

c.1000AD: Erik the Red’s daughter heads south from Greenland.
1492: Columbus does not discover America.
1531: the Incas invade Europe.

Freydis is the leader of a band of Viking warriors who get as far as Panama. Nobody knows what became of them…
Five hundred years later, Christopher Columbus is sailing for the Americas, dreaming of gold and conquest. Even when captured by Incas, his faith in his superiority and his mission is unshaken.

Thirty years after that, Atahualpa, the last Inca emperor, arrives in Europe. What does he find? The Spanish Inquisition, the Reformation, capitalism, the miracle of the printing press, endless warmongering between the ruling monarchies, and constant threat from the Turks.

But most of all, downtrodden populations ready for revolution. Fortunately, he has a recent guidebook to acquiring power – Machiavelli’s The Prince. It turns out he is very good at it. So, the stage is set for a Europe ruled by Incas and, when the Aztecs arrive on the scene, for a great war that will change history forever.

Civilisations is a wildly entertaining counterfactual story about the modern world, colonisation, empire-building and the eternal human quest for domination. It is an electrifying novel by one of Europe’s most exciting writers. 

Continue reading “TBR Pile Review: Civilisations, by Laurent Binet, translated by Sam Taylor”

Review: Fireborn, by Aisling Fowler


Publisher: Harper Collins
Length: 384 Pages
Publishing: 30th September 2021
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Fireborn-1-Aisling-Fowler/dp/0062996711/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/56554614-fireborn
 

Blurb

Lyra. Lucy. Percy. Once in a generation, a hero emerges whose story enthralls readers worldwide.

Fireborn is an epic quest, perfect for fans of the His Dark Materials and The School for Good and Evil series, that will spin readers into a magical world like no other–and introduce them to an unforgettable new heroine named Twelve.

Ember is full of monsters.

Twelve gave up her name and identity to train in the art of hunting them–so she says. The truth is much more deadly: she trains to take revenge on those who took her family from her.

But when Twelve’s new home is attacked, she’ll find herself on an unexpected journey, where her hidden past is inescapably intertwined with her destiny–and the very fate of her world.

Continue reading “Review: Fireborn, by Aisling Fowler”

Review: Kings & Daemons, by Marcus Lee

Blurb

If you like fantasy tales of conquest, dark kings, daemonic heroes, and magic, you’ll love ‘Kings and Daemons’ by Epic Fantasy author, Marcus Lee. This is a spellbinding Dark Fantasy novel which will enchant you with its plot of ambition, revenge, love, and tragedy. What the gods give with one hand, they take away with the other, for if you are gifted, you shall also be cursed.

—–

Over fifty years have passed since Daleth the seemingly immortal Witch-King, and his army conquered the Ember Kingdom.

Now, with the once fertile lands and its enslaved people dying around him, the Witch-King, driven by his insatiable thirst for eternal youth, prepares his forces to march on the prosperous neighbouring Freestates. It will be the beginnings of a conquest that could destroy nations, bringing death and destruction on an unimaginable scale.

Then, when a peasant huntress whose rare gift was concealed from birth is exposed, it sets in motion a chain of events that could alter the destiny of generations to come.

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