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Sunday, September 27, 2020

To Dream and Die as a Taniwha Girl by Benedict Patrick review


Official Author Website
Order To Dream and Die as a Taniwha Girl over HERE(USA) or HERE(UK)
Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Harrow The Ninth by Tamsyn Muir (reviewed by Caitlin Grieve)


Official Author Website
Order the book over HERE
Read Caitlin’s review of Gideon The Ninth

OFFICIAL AUTHOR WEBSITE: TAMSYN MUIR
is the bestselling author of the Locked Tomb Trilogy, which begins with Gideon the Ninth, continues with Harrow the Ninth, and concludes with Alecto the Ninth. Her short fiction has been nominated for the Nebula Award, the Shirley Jackson Award, the World Fantasy Award and the Eugie Foster Memorial Award. A Kiwi, she has spent most of her life in Howick, New Zealand, with time living in Waiuku and central Wellington. She currently lives and works in Oxford, in the United Kingdom.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB:She answered the Emperor's call.

She arrived with her arts, her wits, and her only friend.

In victory, her world has turned to ash.

After rocking the cosmos with her deathly debut, Tamsyn Muir continues the story of the penumbral Ninth House in Harrow the Ninth, a mind-twisting puzzle box of mystery, murder, magic, and mayhem. Nothing is as it seems in the halls of the Emperor, and the fate of the galaxy rests on one woman's shoulders.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, last necromancer of the Ninth House, has been drafted by her Emperor to fight an unwinnable war. Side-by-side with a detested rival, Harrow must perfect her skills and become an angel of undeath — but her health is failing, her sword makes her nauseous, and even her mind is threatening to betray her.

Sealed in the gothic gloom of the Emperor's Mithraeum with three unfriendly teachers, hunted by the mad ghost of a murdered planet, Harrow must confront two unwelcome questions: is somebody trying to kill her? And if they succeeded, would the universe be better off? 

FORMAT/INFO: Harrow the Ninth was published August 4th, 2020 by Tor.com. It is 512 pages split over 53 chapters, a prologue and an epilogue. It is written in both 2nd person and 3rd person from Harrow's point of view. It is available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Harrow the Ninth achieved her dream of becoming one of the Emperor’s Lyctors, but the process nearly cost her her life. Imbued with even greater necromantic power than she’s had before, Harrow barely gets a moment to rest before she’s confronted with the news that the Emperor is at war with a deadly enemy, and it will be at the Lyctor sanctuary in a matter of months. She trains for the confrontation, but soon realizes not all the other Lyctor’s are her allies. In fact, they may just want her dead.

Unsurprisingly, Harrow the Ninth is an unusual book, told in alternating perspectives: Harrow’s present day recollections are told in second person, while flashbacks to previous events at Canaan House, the location where she underwent a series of trials to become a Lyctor, accompanied by her cavalier Ortus, are told in third person. But wait, I hear you say, her cavalier wasn’t Ortus, it was Gideon! What happened to Gideon? That question, my friends, is the crux of the entire book. You see, Harrow’s never heard of a Gideon in her life.

Like Gideon the Ninth, Harrow the Ninth is a book that requires patience. A LOT of patience. The reveal that puts everything in perspective comes incredibly late in the book, frequently leaving you lost and bewildered as everyone besides Harrow acts with outside knowledge. Harrow is a more consistent book than Gideon, easier to follow overall, but if you are put off by endless discussions of necromantic theory or are the kind of person who wants answers sooner than later, I’d recommend giving this one a pass.

That said, the bizarre gothic mystery vibe of the series continues, so if you enjoyed Gideon the Ninth, you’ll probably enjoy Harrow as well. The present-day sections of the book are easy enough to follow, even as the flashbacks leave you scratching your head. It WILL all make sense in the end (well, mostly) and the last hundred pages or so were the same kind of unstoppable ride that the end of Gideon the Ninth was. I even teared up in a few places as some payoffs landed. But to get there is to tread through some slow, obtuse sections, owing to the fact that you know there’s a bigger picture you don’t understand.

Harrow is not the coarse POV character that Gideon was, which will be a relief for some, a disappointment for others. That partially comes from the use of second perspective for large portions of the book, which didn’t bother me overall, even if it gave the narration a certain detached feeling. But Harrow as a character in this book feels a bit detached herself, overwhelmed by the coming battle, knowing that she’s missing something but that she doesn’t know what.

The Locked Tomb is one of those series that many will either love or hate. It’s strange and weird and baffling and enthralling all at the same time. Did I love this book? No. Did I find myself unable to put it down because I wanted SOMEONE to explain what was happening? Absolutely. The payoff at the end was thoroughly enjoyable and made up for some of the slower earlier parts, though I wish the audience wasn’t kept in the dark for so long.

CONCLUSION: Harrow the Ninth will scratch the itch for the right kind of reader. For me, it was the kind of read I appreciated, though it’s harder to recommend to the average person walking down the street. But if a book with “the vibe of Jane Eyre, except there’s necromancers and it’s on a space station and an unimaginable horror is coming and also several people are trying to kill Jane Eyre” sounds like your cup of tea, have at it!
Monday, September 21, 2020

The Boy Who Walked Too Far by Dom Watson



Pre-order Xindii: The Boy Who Walked Too Far over HERE(USA) or HERE(UK)
Read FBC's interviews with Dom here (2020) and here (2018)
Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Sweet Harmony by Claire North review


Official author website
Order Sweet Harmony over here: USA/UK
Wednesday, September 9, 2020

The Nemesis by S. J. Kincaid (reviewed by Caitlin Grieve)


Official Author Website
Order the book HERE
Read Caitlin's review of The Diabolic
Read Caitlin's review of The Empress

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFO: S.J. Kincaid originally wanted to be an astronaut, but a dearth of mathematical skills turned her interest to science fiction instead. Her debut novel, Insignia, was shortlisted for the Waterstones prize. Its sequels, Vortex and Catalyst, have received starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews and Booklist. She’s chronically restless and has lived in California, Alabama, New Hampshire, Oregon, Chicago, and Scotland with no signs of staying in one place anytime soon.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Three years ago, Tyrus Domitrian shocked the galaxy by killing the woman he swore to love forever. The woman for whom he upended the Empire. The woman with whom he wanted to build a new and brighter future.

Now, the once-idealistic heir apparent has become the cruel Emperor Tyrus, wielding his authority with an iron fist, capable of destroying planets with a single word, controlling all technology with a simple thought. He has bent the Grandiloquy to their knees, and none has the power to stand against him.

But there is a muttering among the Excess. They say that Nemesis is not truly gone. They whisper of her shadow spotted in distant star systems. They say that Nemesis lives. That she will rise, and rally the people to topple the man who was once her truest love—and is now her fiercest enemy.

FORMAT/INFO: The Nemesis was published August 25th, 2020 by Simon & Schuster. It is 416 pages spread over 48 chapters. It is written in first person from Nemesis's perspective. It is available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook formats.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Nemesis Lives. That’s the whispered rumor across the galaxy that the Emperor didn’t succeed in killing his wife. It’s the last shred of hope the Excess of the Empire have, that the one woman who came the closest to dethroning the Emperor survived her failed attempt. Nemesis does live, but she’s staying far away from talks of rebellion. Her hopes of reforming the Empire ended in tragedy, with her husband Tyrus captured and drugged by their enemies until he became the mad and cruel Emperor the galaxy fears today. But when Tyrus threatens to unleash malignant space on planets that don’t support him, Nemesis realizes she can’t let the man she once loved destroy a galaxy, even if that means killing him.

The Nemesis starts off a bit shaky, as it begins by flashing backward and forward to cover the months since we last saw Nemesis. These back and forth jumps made the opening a bit disjointed, but eventually the narrative smooths out and it becomes a sprint for the finish line. There’s a particularly good space ship stand off between Partisan forces and the Emperor’s, as they both try to manipulate a particular space anomaly for their own advantage. It’s less a frantic battle and more a series of chess moves to force the other side to capitulate. Nemesis is, as always, a force to be reckoned with on her own, and once more does not hesitate to get her hands dirty to accomplish her own goals.

Nemesis goes through some heart-breaking emotions in this final outing. She knows the man she loves is “dead,” that the drugs he was subjected to have twisted his mind. It still takes a tremendous amount of emotional fortitude to contemplate killing her husband, let alone actually going through with it. But this is also a Nemesis who is just DONE. She has always been a character of extreme emotion, especially given her genetically engineered protectiveness, but her frustrations at the people she’s lost and the different groups that have tried to manipulate her over the years (including her own allies) leave her with very little trust.

One drawback of this last book is that there were a few too many betrayals and twists, to the point where the unexpected became a bit expected. The author has made some great plot swerves in the past that have completely upended the status quo. With the end of the series in sight, however, I was ready for a more straightforward final ending.

CONCLUSION: The Diabolic series has been a great YA sci-fi adventure. It doesn’t pull punches and features an unapologetically brutal heroine who will always do what it takes to protect the ones she loves. Those who like court maneuverings with the occasional literal backstabbing would do well to check this series out!
Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Cover Reveal: Shadow Debt by William Ray


Official Author Website

Today we are super excited to be a part of the Shadow Debt Cover reveal courtesy of Storytellers on Tour & William Ray.

This is book III in the Tales Of The Verin Empire series and each book of this series can be read as a standalone.

The cover art & design is provided by Ramona Marc and you can checkout the blurb alongside the stunning cover below:


Official Book Blurb: Glynn Sorley is sheriff of Keat’s Field, a tiny settlement in an otherwise lawless frontier. With the discovery of diamonds, her town is flooded with fortune-hunters looking to strike it rich. It’s also a target for competing colonial powers, savage goblin tribes, and outlaws.

A rustler on the run from the law stumbles across his father’s mysterious legacy – a weapon of immense magical power. He uses it to ravage across the territory as the notorious outlaw Gentleman Jim.

But the weapon’s power comes at a terrible cost, and Keat’s Field may just have to pay the price…

This third Tale of the Verin Empire returns us to the world of Gedlund and The Great Restoration. It explores a frontier trapped between competing nations, where goblins reign and a lone sheriff fights to keep the peace.

Drawing inspiration from L’Amour’s Comstock Lode, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and our own late 19th century, Shadow Debt continues William Ray’s bold, critically acclaimed reinvention of classic fantasy in a world of memorable characters and unique perspectives.


Sunday, September 6, 2020

Our Favorite Self-Published Novels

September 1 kicks off Self-Published Fantasy Month, an initiative we love. 


Saturday, September 5, 2020

SPFBO: Interview with Dominic Adler (Interviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


Official Author Website
Order Timberwolf over HERE

Today we have the pleasure of Dominic Adler visiting us and chatting about his SPFBO entry Timberwolf. Timberwolf was in Adam's lot and while it unfortunately was cut, it left an indelible impression on Adam and me. It's a fantastic spy thriller set in a secondary fantasy world that's modeled on 1930s Germany with Gods playing games. Think City Of Stairs meets Fatherland and you'll have an inkling of what to expect. Dominic talks about his beginnings, his previous work and what inspired him to write this fantastic story.

Q] Welcome to Fantasy Book Critic Dominic. To begin with, could you tell us a little about yourself, your background & your interests?

DA: Hi, thanks for having me. I’m Dominic Adler and I write thrillers and speculative fiction. After college and a stint in the army reserves, I joined the Metropolitan Police here in London. I ended up serving for 25 years. More importantly, I am a proud uber-geek – I love gaming, movies, SF and Fantasy of all stripes, tanks and armoured vehicles, otters, dad jokes and beer. I’m an avid horology nut too (in case you’re wondering, today I’m wearing a vintage Seiko 6306 from 1978).

Q] What inspired you to be a writer in the first place, what experience you went through in finishing your book, and why you chose to go the self-publishing route?

DA: I’ve been writing since I was nine or ten, the sort of stuff that gets your parents called to school for a chat (true story, I did a riff on the Moses in the bulrushes story that got a bit, er, Friday the 13th). Later, I tried my hand at student journalism.

Joining the police led to a bit of an interregnum – it’s not a great place for writers, as everything has to be vetted, even stuff that’s got nothing to do with policing. Writing a book about baking cakes? You have to fill out a form and submit the script so someone can check it doesn’t upset anyone. Nonetheless, the urge to write got too strong; I found an agent, played the vetting / submitting game and managed to get three espionage thrillers published by an indie (the Cal Winter series).

After I left the police, I was able to do what I liked. When I decided to wear two hats – thriller writer and fantasy writer, I decided to self-publish the fantasy side. I wanted to work on a project where I was in charge.

Q] Please elaborate how the genesis of Timberwolf occurred. How long have you been working on it? Has it evolved from its original idea?

DA: I’ve no idea why I began writing about the roguish son of a circus knife-thrower. He was called Axel Geist, and he popped into my head from nowhere. Then other characters appeared – Roland, a former boxer, undertaker and encyclopedia salesman who finds himself imprisoned for his sexuality. Then there’s Otto Kamner, a fanatical Timberwolf officer, dark paladin of the Stassian regime. Kirsten zu Dahlenbourg, a scientist who wraps Axel around her little finger. And the star of the show – Bassarus, Old God of Deceit and Duke of Hell. Bassarus is half Frank-N-Furter, half Loki from the Avengers, a swaggering trickster, braggart and ne’er do well.

And at the back of my mind was the ‘Wolfhound Century’ trilogy by Peter Higgins, set in an alternative Soviet Union that isn’t. Axel, I decided, would be from an analogue of late-Weimar Germany. So much fantasy takes place in faux-medieval settings, which is fine, but I’m seeing more writers explore different timelines – Joe Abercrombie’s world, for example, is in the early throes of an industrial revolution as magic fades. If you look at Peter McLean’s ‘Priest of Bones’ you’ll see a near Georgian / early industrial vibe too. And Django Wexler’s been writing great Napoleonic-esque fantasy for a while.

So I thought to myself, okay, the mid-20th Century’s where I’m setting up camp. I ended up with a phantasmagoria of things I adored about thrillers and fantasy – a mashup of 1930s noir with Sven Hassell-style grimdark battle scenes and a Moorcockian servant-of-the-Gods-vibe. Timberwolf took eighteen months to write and was part labour of love, part exercise in crazy self-indulgence. Believe it or not, once I got an editor, I reigned some of it in. Thanks, Mandy, you’re a star.

(Chernobyl poster courtesy of Federico Mauro)

Q] Timberwolf seems to be the first volume of the so far unnamed series. Could you give us a progress report on the sequel, offer any hints about it and outline your plans for the series as a whole?

DA: My plan was to write a fantasy cycle inspired by mid-20th century history, encompassing a timeline that goes all the way from Dieselpunk to Cassette Futurism. I grew up in the 70s and 80s, so found myself fascinated by the fandom that grew up around the HBO series ‘Chernobyl’ (which makes me feel old). Well, buckle up, I’ve got a fantasy series that’ll take you all the way there – I’m writing the second book right now. You’ll learn more about the Dominion and the Immaculata of Pyr, plus Axel ends up in the Stassian-occupied casino city of San Remy. He’s looking fabulous in a tuxedo, sipping cocktails with his succubus sidekick, Hexberyn of the Dusk-Sworn.

Q] When did you first hear about SPFBO? What spurred you on to enter SPFBO?

DA: I’ve been following SPFBO for a while via the Grimdark Facebook group. I’ve enjoyed entries by Rob Hayes and Jonathan French, plus I totally called Orconomics as a winner. The utter brutality of SPFBO appealed to me, I suspected I never stood a chance but threw my hat in the ring anyway. SPFBO, to me, is like an extended online version of the Edinburgh Festival for indie fantasy. I think that’s pretty special, so cheers to all the bloggers who put in so much graft to make it happen, and to Mark Lawrence for putting it together. Group hug (oh, that’s not allowed right now, is it? Make it a virtual hug).

Q] It is a tad difficult to classify your book. If I had to come up with an elevator pitch for it, I would try “Fatherland meets City Of Stairs” knowing that it doesn’t capture the essence precisely. What’s your elevator pitch? Is there a specific sub-genre you would classify it as?

DA: I think a good start would be your very own Adam Weller’s description – ‘Bananas.’ My pitch would probably be, “look, let’s have a three-bottle lunch and talk this through. It’s too strange for an elevator.” To be serious, though, it’s a science-fantasy romp with an unreliable narrator, lots of action, a grimdark WW2 espionage vibe and a sprinkling of Lovecraftian weird. Oh, and it’s funny in places too.

Q] Let’s talk about your book’s genre. Technically it’s a dieselpunk spy thriller as well as a secondary fantasy that’s set in a land which is very much similar to 1930s Germany. Can you tell us more about the world, the history of the Stassian nation, its neighbours and the peculiarities of the world?

DA: Okay, the world is split in two by a belt of poisoned, impassable desert called the Scoria. People figure it’s the result of some magical accident, but they’re not sure. Most scholars suspect the Old Gods’ involvement somehow, so in most places worshipping them is frowned upon, if not illegal. Anyhow, north of the Scoria is the continent of Geskander, to the south is a sprawling federation called the Dominion. They’re 12000 miles apart, and the only way to travel between them is via ultra-fast blink trains controlled by the Dominion. The blink train network is an ancient artefact, restored by a deity known as The Redeemer.

Stassia seeks to control the whole of Geskander and keeps invading her neighbours (known as the Triptych states). Last time this happened was during the Honour War, which the Dominion joined at the last minute, humiliating Stassia. This led to the rise of a nationalistic authoritarian government in Stassia (yes, it’s modelled mainly on 1930s fascism, but with a sprinkling of Stalinist tropes too). Twenty-odd years after that war, the Stassians are ready to try again. Enter the Old Gods, a mysterious and selfish bunch, and a big part of the story.

Q] Let’s talk about the religious aspect of your world. You have these old gods who are present and no longer worshipped. But the main characters don’t really talk about what replaces the gods. Was this intentional? What can you say about this world and religious set up which you have introduced?

DA: Yes, it’s entirely intentional. The deity recognized north and south of the Scoria is the Redeemer. He was a sorcerer who, by eschewing magic, restored the blink line. Then he disappeared, asking only that people follow his teachings. So he’s a benign, non-interventionist kind of deity. Yet the question remains – who or what is the Redeemer? A god, or something else? In my world there are Baroons, liches who seek to bridge the gap between sorcery and science, god and mortal. Was the Redeemer among their number? Scriptures were destroyed, people are trying to figure out the past; I wanted it to be ambiguous and mysterious. The Old Gods hate this. They crave devotion to fuel their powers. They lurk in the shadows, trying to influence mortals to do their bidding. Sorcery, in my world, is a gift from the Old Gods.

Q] So for someone who hasn't read any of your novels, how would you describe the type of stories that you write, what would be your pitch for Timberwolf?

DA: If you enjoy military / espionage thrillers, you might like the Cal Winter series. They feature gunfights, gadgets, Parapolitics, London locations, information warfare and real-world espionage, as seen through the eyes of a near-junkie private military contractor / indentured assassin. It’s noirish and laced with dark humour. I try and capture that old ensemble vibe with lots of characters – if you like movies like ‘Where Eagles Dare’ or ‘Ronin’, you might like my stuff too. I’ve also written a post-apocalyptic detective novel set in London called ‘Dark as Angels’. That’s been described as a mashup of ‘Mad Max’ and ‘Die Hard’ with a dash of ‘Luther’. As for Timberwolf? Bond-meets-Lovecraft-meets WW2 action movie. With some Indiana Jones.


Q] Cover art is always an important factor in book sales. Your cover is stark and very much thriller-esque. Can you tell our readers about the idea behind its inception & how you worked with your designer for the finished product?

DA: I’m one of those writers who prefers to let people do what they’re good at – and I’m not a cover designer or an editor or a formatter. I sent Peter (from bespokebookcovers.com) some blurb and he sent me more or less the cover you see now. I think I asked the font to be tweaked but that’s about it. He also did the cover for ‘Dark as Angels’, he’s an easy guy to work with, a real pro.


Q] So what can readers expect from this book/series and what should they be looking forward to according to you?

DA: I hope people enjoy Axel Geist’s adventures, the cast of characters I’ve created and the world-building behind Timberwolf. There’s sorcery, romance, war, intrigue, panzers, state surveillance and a stuffed badger called Hans. Having said that, I think you can enjoy Timberwolf on a number of levels – there’s lots of details to pore over and Easter eggs be found, but if you simply want to go along for the ride that’s cool too.

Q] Thank you for taking the time to answer all the questions. In closing, do you have any parting thoughts or comments you would like to share with our readers?

DA: Thanks for the interview, it was fun. I’d like to say two things – good luck to the SPFBO semifinalists, and for those about to join me on the slush pile… I salute you! Secondly, a shout-out to my editor Mandy Crook from seemeafter.com. She’s great fun to work with and has an eye for detail I’d die for. Hopefully she’ll be part of the team for the next Axel Geist story too.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

The Memory Of Souls by Jenn Lyons (reviewed by Caitlin Grieve)


Official Author Website
Order the book HERE
Read Caitlin’s review of The Ruin Of Kings
Read Caitlin’s review of The Name Of All Things

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFO: Jenn Lyons lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, three cats and a nearly infinite number of opinions on anything from Sumerian mythology to the correct way to make a martini. Formally a video game producer, she now writes full time. A long-time devotee of storytelling, Lyons traces her geek roots back to playing first edition Dungeons & Dragons in grade school and reading her way from A to Z in the school’s library.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: THE LONGER HE LIVES, THE MORE DANGEROUS HE BECOMES

Now that Relos Var’s plans have been revealed and demons are free to rampage across the empire, the fulfillment of the ancient prophecies―and the end of the world―is closer than ever.

To buy time for humanity, Kihrin needs to convince the king of the Manol vané to perform an ancient ritual which will strip the entire race of their immortality, but it’s a ritual which certain vané will do anything to prevent. Including assassinating the messengers.

Worse, Kihrin must come to terms with the horrifying possibility that his connection to the king of demons, Vol Karoth, is growing steadily in strength.

How can he hope to save anyone when he might turn out to be the greatest threat of them all?

FORMAT/INFO: The Memory of Souls was published August 25th, 2020 by Tor Books. It is 608 pages split over 114 chapters and an epilogue. It is written in both first and third person from a variety of viewpoints, including Kihrin, Janel and Tereath. It is available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook formats.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: The magical cage that holds the evil god Vol Karoth is weakening. Tricked by Relos Var, Khirin accidentally destroyed one of the eight gems holding the prison together. Only one thing can repair the damage: the Ritual of Night. But the Ritual can only be powered by an immortal race sacrificing their immortality, and the Manol vané aren’t inclined to give up being the last immortal race on the continent. Complicating matters even further, Kihrin and Janel are beginning to remember their past lives – and the memories they recover reveal dark secrets from thousands of years ago.

I have a complicated relationship with the A Chorus of Dragons series. I always enjoy them moment to moment, but when I step back, I’m never quite sure who to recommend these books to. For instance, I’ve appreciated on occasion the liberties its taken with timelines, but this device has been very divisive in the past, particularly in the first book. In The Memory Of Souls, however, I found the beginning of the book very disjointed as it jumped across several viewpoints and points in the timeline, which I was trying to keep track of while also matching up my fuzzy memory of previous events to what was happening now. It eventually becomes much more linear of a story, but it wasn’t a great first impression. However, that could almost be forgiven by the fact that, after three books, I FINALLY understand what the heck is going on in the grand scheme of things.

A Chorus of Dragons has an incredibly complicated mythology and world-building, made more complicated by magic that allows reincarnation and soul-swapping between bodies. I’ve long since given up trying to track who is related to who, in part because at the end of the day, it feels like everyone is related to everyone. In a very Greek mythology feel, whenever you have a group of characters together, every character is either related to, has slept with, or murdered (and none of these necessarily exclusively) every other character in the room. After a great deal of repetition of facts across three books, I’m getting a handle on the dynamics, in part because connections that were obscured are coming to light.

That is, after all, the crux of the book. While the past two titles have referred to particular magical artifacts, The Memory Of Souls refers to the fact that Kihrin, Janel, and Thurvishar are finally remembering their past lives, and in doing so, are remembering events that set this whole business into motion to begin with. Every book in the series has taken a slightly larger view of the world, and now we’re delving into the origins of the gods themselves, as well as the great evil Vol Karoth. Pieces that I didn’t know where to put are finally clicking into place, now that I have a fuller view of the board, and I almost want to go back and reread the first book now that I understand the connections.

As mentioned before, I really enjoy the moment to moment beats of The Memory Of Souls. That includes a truly spectacular end set-piece, and watching court politics revolving around some very complicated laws of inheritance, given that people dying and coming back to life isn’t unheard of. But in this book in particular, I felt like plot was given precedence over character. With more viewpoints than in either of the two books, I felt like I should have gotten to know people better, but I was a little cold on newer characters, particularly Talea. While I appreciated some of the romances, others just left me baffled, despite the author taking some time to establish them.

CONCLUSION: The Memory Of Souls is an instance where a book isn’t bad, it’s just not as great as it could have been. There are so many balls in the air, so many plots upon plots, and just SO many characters, I didn’t really latch onto one person in particular. I have a soft spot for Thurvishar, though he isn’t a POV character, and Janel, who I adored in the last book, only gets a handful of POV moments. Kihrin is instead one of the main POVs, and while he’s fine, I miss Janel. If you enjoyed the first two books, you’ll find a lot to appreciate here, particularly among some of the more twisty history moments. Despite the ups and downs, I keep being drawn back to these books. I’m on this train until the end, despite it being an occasionally bumpy ride.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

From the Shadows of the Owl Queen's Court (Yarnsworld #4) review


Official Author Website
Order From the Shadows of the Owl Queen's Court over HERE(USA) or HERE(UK)

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Ash And Sand Trilogy's End Interview with Richard Nell (interviewed by Lukasz Przywoski & Mihir Wanchoo)



Official Author Website
Order Kings Of Heaven over HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Kings Of Paradise
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Kings Of  Ash
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Kings Of Heaven
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The God King's Legacy
Read Fantasy Book Critic Interview with Richard Nell
Read Fantasy Book Critic's The God King's Legacy Cover Reveal Q&A with Richard Nell

Q] Welcome back to Fantasy Book Critic Richard, many congratulations on the recent addition to your family. How’s life treating you?

RN: Thank you! Life is excellent. Also I think I’m coming right up on the historical average lifespan for a human male. So, I’m about to beat the stats.

Q] With the release of Kings Of Heaven today, this marks the end of your debut trilogy. That’s a massive achievement and as you noted also has more words than the LOTR trilogy. What are your thoughts since you began in this world from 2013?

RN: Whew. Well. Obsession can be useful. It’s a good personal lesson not to force things, but rather find something you enjoy (or love to hate) and follow it to the very end. It’s a bit like running a marathon or climbing a mountain, I suppose. You just don’t know what you’re capable of until you push yourself to some extreme. That’s what writing this trilogy has been for me.

Q] What began as a simple clash of cultures evolved into so much more? It was a treatise on the human condition, nature of politics and just how enigmatic a character Ruka is? What would you say in your opinion was the true focus of the trilogy?

RN: Everything is in the eye of the beholder, of course, and the books have many themes. I’ve certainly noticed over the years different themes will resonate with me depending more on where I am in life, rather than the story. But for me, right now, the ultimate exploration of the trilogy is this: how can anyone truly improve their world? I think I found a few answers to that in the writing, and I just hope a few others do too.


Q] Many writers are pantsers and some outline extensively. You are a mix to a degree, however during the writing process of Kings Of Heaven. What twist surprised you even though you had outlined it?

RN: Oh dear, let me try to avoid spoilers. Let’s just say a certain character dies much earlier than I anticipated, forcing me to pants like I’ve never pantsed before, until sanity returned. If any reader predicts this twist before they arrive, I salute you.

Q] We never quite get any idea as to who was Ruka’s father? Infact in the entire series, it never gets mentioned much. With the Ascomi culture being a matriarchal one, this isn’t surprising but I was wondering if Ruka ever thought about it?

RN: Poor Brand. He deserves his own story, in a way, but you’re right, he doesn’t get much thought or attention. Indeed Ruka thinks of him with something approaching contempt - as a man who didn’t have the strength to overcome his culture and circumstances. This is quite callous, and not very fair. But many sons judge their fathers harshly, particularly those who are not pleased with the hand life dealt them.

Q] Turns out Bukayag wasn’t just a figment of Ruka’s imagination as the previous two books, we weren’t really clear about it. With this ending, we still don’t quite realize what exactly Bukayag is? Would you be able to talk about Bukayag and what he is?

RN: What indeed. I think we all recognize our thoughts and actions are not entirely in our control. Whether it’s Freud’s ‘unconscious’, or (perhaps more pertinently), the Jungian ‘shadow’, there are forces working on our psyche that are not very civilized, and often not good for us. I suspect the more dangerous the man, the more dangerous the shadow. And Ruka is a very dangerous man.

Q] Arun/Eka is such an enigmatic character and we never quite get the hang of how and where he gets his powers from? Can you talk a bit about what drives him and about his origins?

RN: What drives Arun are the same human impulses that drive us all - ambition, greed, loyalty, lust, fear, meaning, etc. It’s fair to say the Batonian monks (whom Arun comes from) are a somewhat mysterious group. Ultimately, they are the creation of Ando - a being of tremendous power. How is Ando so powerful? Well, that’s one of those questions, like ‘why does the universe exist?’ Perhaps there is an answer, but it seems unanswerable by us mere mortals.

Q] My favourite character is Dala and she gets quite some exciting action in this final book especially after her smaller role in Kings Of Ash. As you had mentioned that originally she had a much miniscule role. What would you say about her character arc and her role in this trilogy?

RN: That damn Dala. At first I just wanted an important female POV in the land of ash. The matriarchy and several aspects of feminine power in such a society needed to be contended with to really tell the story properly. But in the end, in many ways, Dala was the glue that held her people together - the ‘soft’ power behind the iron fisted Runeshaman. Like the rest of us, she had her flaws, but perhaps was more comfortable with that than she should have been.


Q] Can you please explain Ruka’s Grove mechanics to us?

RN: Some things are better left to imagination…

Q] Kings Of Ash begins in the past and follows two split timelines. Some readers found it confusing, especially at the beginning of the book. Now, Ruka's intricate and integral backstory deserved it, but how difficult was it to pull it off? Would you change anything?

RN: A fine question. I’m not sure I would change anything, or maybe more accurately, I’m not sure how I’d do it. The series could have been completely done chronologically, for example, with Ruka and Farahi’s stories going first, until Kale’s began. But it would have changed how we experienced the world and especially the conflict - and in a word, it might have been a little dull.

Q] Now that the series has wrapped, can you talk about how it conformed to your earliest plans? Did anything about the ending surprise you?

RN: As it concerns endings, I am definitely a plotter. I knew vaguely how the series would end before I’d finished book 1. There were all kinds of little details and character developments and so forth, but I knew how the big battles would go. The depth of material in the epilogue definitely surprised me, and the possibilities thereafter…

Q] I’m curious about the sources—fantasy books or otherwise—that informed the series in its conception and in the writing. Can you point to anything that helped you get a handle on particular aspects of the plot/world-building/etc.?

RN: The list is legion and too vast to cover here. For world-building, history is always my primary source, and the cultures in Ash and Sand are a mix and match of real kingdoms, tribes, and empires from Scandinavia to Indonesia. In terms of literary influences, if you were to suggest you detected notes of James Clavell’s Shogun, Thomas HarrisSilence of the Lambs, and some of the epic works of David Gemmell, I’m sure I’d be pleased to agree.

Q] Between the last chapter and the epilogue, there’s quite a lot of time jump. While for the book’s purpose, it worked perfectly. Can you reveal what happened and what your plans are for the future?

RN: This came as something of a surprise to me, but it turns out the Ash and Sand universe has a lot more potential. I’ll be writing at least one book to cover that time-jump. And let’s just say, there’s more to come for fans of the series.


Q] The cover for Kings Of Heaven is my favourite of the trilogy. The colour palette is so striking and is just perfect for the plot within. Which cover is your favourite among the three & why?

RN: It’s my favorite, too. The artist (Derek Murphy) really outdid himself. I think the three covers side by side look great, I need to make posters or something.

Q] You have given us a prequel novella omnibus with The God King’s Legacy. What are your plans for the God King chronicles, when can readers expect to read the first book?

RN: There’s an entire trilogy imagined in the God King universe! Fans of the Ash and Sand series will find these books are in fact connected, though how is something they’ll have to read about when the time comes. I think it’s fair to say the first God King novel could arrive at the end of 2021.

Q] Now that you have finished this massively complex undertaking. What are you writing currently? What will be your next release?

RN: I’ll be finishing a spin-off book from the Ash and Sand series next, as yet untitled, and spoilery by its very existence so I’ll leave it at that. Along with another couple writers I’m also working on a ‘gamebook’ - sort of a collection of choose-your-own-adventure stories. It’s called ‘The Living Library’ and you can find it on the google or apple stores on your phone or tablet. Yeah, writers make apps now. Welcome to 2020.

Q] Thank you very much for your time and for answering our questions. Any parting thoughts for your fans and what they can look forward to with Kings Of Heaven?

RN: I’m very pleased with Kings Of Heaven. Ruka has been haunting my mind for six years, telling me to run more, edit faster, and mostly just to ‘get out of bed and be useful, you lazy little thing.’ He’s a little quieter now. I like to think its approval. Thank you very much for the support, dear readers, and I hope you enjoy the finale.

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