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Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Spotlight: Intriguing Titles in SPFBO Part I


We thought it would be fun to highlight a few titles among the 300 books that caught our eyes. The books we showcase within this post (and tomorrow's one) have caught our eye due to their blurbs, their covers, as well as potential subject matter. A few we have read, reviewed, and hence are on this list.

We would like to state that this list is in no way an indicator of our choices going forward in the contest. But simply details titles that we WOULD like to read. 

So without further ado, here's a list of the noteworthy titles (in random order):




Official Blurb: Clarence St. Claire is a programmer who cherishes an orderly life. His motto: ‘work is important; people, not so much’. His determination to be The Most Serious Person on the Planet is threatened when he becomes haunted by a mysterious manuscript from his past: 300 pages of possibly random bird tracks. Risking his career and self-possession, St. Claire dares to pursue the manuscript against the opposition of hackers, the NSA, the ghosts of famous writers and doubts of his own sanity. 






Think being a superhero is hard? Try being the first one.

Will’s life is a proper muddle—and all because he was “accidentally” inflicted with the ability to run faster and leap higher than any human ever. One minute he’s a blacksmith’s apprentice trying to save his master from debtor’s prison. The next he’s accused of murder and hunted as a black-hearted highwayman.

A vengeful politician with dark secrets and powers even more magical than Will’s has duped all of London into blaming Will for the chilling imprisonments of the city’s poor. The harder Will tries to use his abilities to fight crime, the deeper he is entangled in a dark underworld belonging to some of Georgian England’s most colorful characters.

Only Will stands a chance of stopping this powerful madman bent on “reforming” London by any means necessary. Unfortunately, Will is beginning to realize becoming a legend might mean sacrificing everything that matters.


A Tale of Infidels - Erik A. Otto




A WORLD RIFE WITH RELIGIOUS PREJUDICE

Where cryptic prophesies of gravity-defying events and stories of mythical beasts are regular undercurrents to daily life.

POLITICAL TENSIONS ARE MOUNTING
The omens are clear, troops are mobilizing, and war has sprung.

AND NOW, INFIDELS ARE EMERGING
Sinners and traitors are being cast out. These are despicable liars. They are twisted, half-wit heathens. They are deceitful scum...

...and they're the only ones that could save millions of lives.


Black Stone Heart - Michael R. Fletcher


A broken man, Khraen awakens alone and lost. His stone heart has been shattered, littered across the world. With each piece, he regains some small shard of the man he once was.

He follows the trail, fragment by fragment, remembering his terrible past.

There was a woman.

There was a sword.

There was an end to sorrow.

Khraen walks the obsidian path.

The Nothing Within - Andy Gielser



Root is...different.


Though raised in a fearful society that reveres tradition and conformity, she's irreverent, outspoken, and deeply curious. Her congenital blindness sets her even further apart.

Centuries after the Reckoning, a global biotech disaster, savage chimeras still threaten human survival. After Root hears a voice that no one else can hear, she flees into the wilderness. Outcast and hunted, she must confront a dire threat to her people--and unravel the mystery of who she really is.

Blackbirds Sing - Aiki Flinthart



Four-and-twenty extraordinary women; one chance to save a kingdom.



What would you sacrifice to save your family, your loved ones, yourself?


In September 1486, the reign of King Henry VII of England is again threatened by York loyalists. The only thing standing in the way is a four-hundred-year-old sidhe who just wants to be left alone, and a group of London women with a lot to lose if England is plunged back into war.

But, in 1486, women have no power. Only the ability to make difficult choices and sometimes-heartbreaking sacrifices.

Become immersed in the fascinating, perilous lives of these women, as told through the medium of 25 interwoven short stories. A prostitute selling her daughter’s virginity to pay her debts; a nun returning to the world after 30 years; laundress whose son is murdered; a lady’s maid hiding her Jewish culture; a blind musician running from a forced marriage; and more.

Each story is a piece in the puzzle. Each woman faces her own trials as she plays her small part in the desperate attempt to protect King Henry and his wife, Elizabeth of York.

Because if they fail, England will once again be thrust into civil war between the Yorks and Lancasters. And these four-and-twenty women have already sacrificed too much.

The Jealousy of Jalice - Jesse Nolan Bailey



The Realms have split apart, the Stones of Elation have been hidden, and warnings of dokojin drift among the tribes.



The land and its people are corrupted. The Sachem, chief of the Unified Tribes, is to blame.


It is this conviction that drives Annilasia and Delilee to risk their lives. Afraid of the aether magic he wields, they enact a subtler scheme: kidnap his wife. In her place, Delilee will pretend to be the chieftess and spy on the Sachem.

Unaware of this plot against her husband, Jalice is whisked away by Annilasia. Pleading with her captor proves futile, and she rejects Annilasia’s delusional accusations against the chief. After all, the Sachem has brought peace to the land.

Yet a dangerous truth hides in Jalice’s past. As she and Annilasia flee through a forest of insidious threats, they must confront the evil plaguing the tribes and the events that unleashed it.



HOW CAN HE STOP THE ULTIMATE ASSASSIN?



In the sixteenth year of its founding, the city-state of Wyverna teems with vitality, rife with crime, secrets, and sorcery. Like its namesake, the wyverns that hunt from the mountains above, Wyverna is a city of predators. Its pirates sail out to plunder the wealth of nations, while at home the capital seethes, an uneasy amalgam of the old ways of its anarchic peoples and the newly imposed rule of law.


The young noble Gorgo navigates these complexities with ease, until one night he learns of a plot to assassinate Wyverna’s legendary founder, the Warlord. The rebels have obtained a mighty relic: an ancient copper golem created to be the ultimate assassin. Invulnerable and relentless, the golem destroyed the civilization that birthed it. If it kills the Warlord, Gorgo realizes his city too will fall, ripped apart by civil war.

Armed with nothing but his wits and his courage, Gorgo sets out to find a way to save Wyverna. His mission will take him from the elegant casinos of downtown to the chaotic docks where smugglers prowl, from the hot sands of the arena to the cold midnight of magic-shadowed streets. But even he cannot foresee where his path will ultimately lead, and to what consequences.




Amid the music, lights and energy of 1928’s Paris, something sinister pulses through the æther. The Radio of the Gods manipulates minds across the continent and its creator, the arrogant god Marduk, will sacrifice everything to keep his kind from perverting his masterpiece. Attempted treason and bitter betrayal force Marduk to escape into a new, unknown body. Worse still, the previous owner, an opium-addicted jazz guitarist, is still inside. Desperate, drug-addled and fighting for control, Marduk is forced to rely on the few friends he has left – and one terrifying enemy — to see his mission to fruition. If Marduk and company fail, the gods’ vain machinations will destroy everything they’ve built, including civilization itself, all made possible by his RADIO.

Godless Lands - Sean Crow


In a plague-ravaged world, humanity struggles to recognize itself. The Blight, a vicious disease that decimated mankind, beasts, and even plant life has left its crippling mark on the world. Isolated havens, once prosperous cities, selfishly hoard what little food remains. Yet, hope lives on where least expected. Wandering the Godless Lands between the havens, Ferris, an aged and Blight scarred soldier turned vagabond finds himself thrust into the role of guardian for a desperate noblewoman and her daughter. Thinking he does only a small kindness, Ferris soon finds himself on the run from Ser Arlo, the infamous Death Knight. With no other options, Ferris leads his wards to a hidden community amidst the desolation and hazards of the Godless Lands. What Ferris doesn’t know is that others stalk the death poxed land; a danger that the world is just becoming aware of. The Butcher of Riven is on the prowl, and he hunts for the Hungry God...

Ranger’s Oath - Blake Arthur Peel


The barrier between worlds is broken. Only he knows the truth...

Magic has protected Tarsynium for a thousand years, shielding its people from being ravaged by bloodthirsty demons. When a young ranger's apprentice named Owyn Lund discovers that the Arc of Radiance has been breached, he tries to warn anybody who will listen.

But legends aren't supposed to be real.

When a village is mysteriously destroyed, rangers, mages, and rebels all point the finger, blaming each other for the demons' brutality. However, Zara Dennel, a mage's ward, has heard Owyn's tale—and she's inclined to believe him.

Together, they must prove that friendship is greater than intolerance, unity is more important than division, and that even the most powerful magic can sometimes not be enough.

Failure means the end of all things. A second—and lasting—Doom.

Experience the beginning of a thrilling Epic Fantasy series suitable for all ages. It's perfect for fans of Sabaa Tahir, Sarah J. Maas, and Brandon Sanderson.

Knightmare Arcanist - Shami Stovall


Magic. Sailing. A murderer among heroes.

Gravedigger Volke Savan wants nothing more than to be like his hero, the legendary magical swashbuckler, Gregory Ruma. First he needs to become an arcanist, someone capable of wielding magic, which requires bonding with a mythical creature. And he’ll take anything—a pegasus, a griffin, a ravenous hydra—maybe even a leviathan, like Ruma.

So when Volke stumbles across a knightmare, a creature made of shadow and terror, he has no reservations. But the knightmare knows a terrible secret: Ruma is a murderer out to spread corrupted magic throughout their island nation. He’s already killed a population of phoenixes and he intends to kill even more.

In order to protect his home, his adopted sister, and the girl he admires from afar, Volke will need to confront his hero, the Master Arcanist Gregory Ruma.

Inkarna - Nerine Dorman


The first time Lizzie dies is a learning experience. Then again, anyone new to an ancient Egyptian reincarnation cult would have no idea what to expect once they’ve made it past the Hall of Judgment.

Now that she’s been sent back to find out why her husband from her past life is missing, the last thing Lizzie expects is to wake up in the wrong body, stuck with the mess its previous tenant left behind. In fact, she’s in agreement that whoever ran Ashton Kennedy over with a big shiny SUV did the world a massive favour.

Some secrets, she soon discovers, are better left buried, especially in a world where enemies are eternal, and death does not offer a final solution.

Queens Of The Wyrd - Timandra Whitecastle




Raise your shield. Defend your sisters. Prepare for battle






Half-giant Lovis and her Shieldmaiden warband were once among the fiercest warriors in Midgard. But those days are long past and now Lovis just wants to provide a safe home for herself and her daughter - that is, until her former shield-sister Solveig shows up on her doorstep with shattering news.

Solveig's warrior daughter is trapped on the Plains of Vigrid in a siege gone ugly. Desperate to rescue her, Sol is trying to get the old warband back together again. But their glory days are a distant memory. The Shieldmaidens are Shieldmothers now, entangled in domestic obligations and ancient rivalries.

But family is everything, and Lovis was never more at home than at her shield-sisters' side. Their road won't be easy: old debts must be paid, wrongs must be righted, and the Nornir are always pulling on loose threads, leaving the Shieldmaidens facing the end of all Nine Realms. Ragnarok is coming, and if the Shieldmaidens can't stop it, Lovis will lose everyone she loves...

Fate is inexorable. Wyrd bith ful araed.

Queens of the Wyrd is the brand-new epic Norse fantasy adventure by Timandra Whitecastle.

If you love mothers as heroes, epic dragon battles as well as stand-out characters you can root for, BUY QUEENS OF THE WYRD TODAY!

Auring’s Wrath - Justin DePaoli


The lands of Covecus bleed magic and power, but its storied civilizations have been long forgotten, buried under the inexorable march of a deadly blight. Now, the scourge looms before the last peoples of Covecus, whose hope depends on the rise of a hero. And there's never been one of those.



Until now.



From the north, a young warrior seeks revenge for his imprisoned parents. He would take up arms against the blight itself to free them.

From the south, a huntress desires more than the raw power of sorcery she possesses. She knows the scourge has a weakness, that it's alive. That it can be killed.

As secrets are unearthed and godless beasts descend upon the last living civilization, two unlikely heroes will rise. Or a world will fall.

Night Latch - Anela Deen


Sam Alvarez doesn’t just open locks. He’s the key.

Living in Bellemer, Iowa, Sam leads a typical small-town life. When he’s not looking after his Nana or dealing with his mother’s expectations, he runs a one-man locksmith company. Unlike regular locksmiths, he can open anything with a touch and a wish, but Sam keeps that secret to himself. No reason to alarm the neighbors, after all. And if he sometimes feels an indefinable pull to do more with his life, well, that's probably just indigestion.

Then one day, an unsettlingly beautiful out-of-towner asks for Sam’s help to open a door. Only one problem: The job’s in a graveyard. And the client? Turns out she’s Death.

Maybe that’s two problems.

When Sam unlocks more than he intended and demons come out to play, he discovers he’s far more than a locksmith with a hidden quirk. Now, he needs to figure out who he is and what he’s been called to do before darker forces close the door on him for good

The Demonic Compendium - David Viergutz


The slaughter of the royal family has awakened an unspeakable evil. 



Prince Shaw returns from death with the help of The Demonic Compendium, a sentient tome of demonic knowledge with its own agenda.



Caught between his soul-bound tasks and his personal mission, Shaw must find a way to honor his agreement with the book, avenge his family, and retake the throne.

Little does he know; forces of darkness are plotting against him.

A demonic army has been raised, with the malicious intent to annihilate the world.

With enemies closing in from all sides, Shaw discovers his only hope to survive lies in the hands of an ancient entity with a death wish all its own.

Sound the drums of war and prepare for battle! Can Shaw take his place as the rightful king? Or will the nation he loves crumble before his eyes?


A vengeful dragon. A forgotten terror. And the one man who is least qualified to stop them.



Nothing is more dear to Griffin than his magic school, but for a man with no magic, life there has its challenges. They laugh at him. They exclude him. And that's just his fellow teachers.



So when a dragon no one else has seen delivers a chilling warning for Griffin's ears alone, it's no surprise that his colleagues don't take him seriously. Unfortunately, convincing them that the magistery stands at the brink of destruction is only the beginning of his troubles.

As an ancient struggle between dragons and men reignites, Griffin's only hope lies in deciphering the secrets of a long-dead madman. But the deeper he goes, the less he knows who to trust, on legs or wings. Dodging both suspicion and betrayal, Griffin is caught in a desperate race for the one weapon that can save his home—or reduce it to ashes in an instant.

The Lost War - Justin Lee Anderson



The war is over, but something is rotten in the state of Eidyn.



With a ragged peace in place, demons burn farmlands, violent Reivers roam the wilds and plague has spread beyond the Black Meadows. The country is on its knees.


In a society that fears and shuns him, Aranok is the first magically-skilled draoidh to be named King's Envoy.

Now, charged with restoring an exiled foreign queen to her throne, he leads a group of strangers across the ravaged country. But at every step, a new mystery complicates their mission.

As bodies drop around them, new threats emerge and lies are revealed, can Aranok bring his companions together and uncover the conspiracy that threatens the kingdom?

Strap in for this twisted fantasy road trip from award-winning author Justin Lee Anderson.

Praise for The Lost War:








Emperors and kings thought it had been buried long ago: the Order of the Candlestone was defeated, the grim deeds of its assassins forgotten and its dangerous alchemy shunned. But Arasemis, an eccentric warrior-scholar, is determined to revive the Order and return the continent to its primitive origins, if he can control his apprentices.


Arthan Valient is a young nobleman from a respected family who wrestles with providing honorable service to a weak king. Thrust into a powerful position before he is ready, Arthan must navigate the political intrigue of a court in slow collapse, while avoiding Arasemis's new assassins.

Arasemis, Arthan, and their companions learn that help can be found in the most unlikely of places, even as the shadow of war looms across the continent. But trust is always elusive.

Dames & Demons - G. Campbell


Twenty years ago, a pandemic ripped through the world and forever changed society. Where Man once stood, now stand the Women and the Demons. They rule the city through magic and money. Men like Tom and Chris Redfield have nothing. The brothers live under the heel of society and fight over the scraps dropped by the upper classes. Or at least they used to.



Things change with the discovery of a Demonic book. The brothers might have a shot at a better life, but they’re not ready for the chaos the book unleashes. Suddenly, the Redfields are thrown into the tangled machinations of the spiteful Sororities and the fastidious lords of Hell. Forced to become players in an intricate game, the brothers will have to use their wits and all the magic they can afford if they hope to survive.



Cock your pistols, sharpen your swords, and fill your magic reserve… Not everyone’s going to make it out alive.
The Demon In The Metal - Blake Michael Nelson


Fifty years ago, the brilliant chemist Guilder Owen unlocked the secrets of the metal aurichalcum...and changed the world forever. The Chemical Revolution led to the invention of rifles, cannons, copperlights, and brassfire bombs; armies were shattered, borders were redrawn, and the king of Eleutrinia, the most powerful nation in the world, was overthrown.



In the aftermath of this civil war, Eleutrinia's gloomy capital, Dais Eleutrené, has become a breeding ground for plots and conspiracies. World-weary inspector Drom Overholt, investigating the murder of a wealthy old man, soon finds himself caught up in an especially dangerous one; meanwhile, Guilder's granddaughter Aemilia, eager to become a chemist herself, has just unlocked a secret of her own — one that may have put her life in immediate danger.



And far away, at the very edge of the known world, treasure-hunter Luc d'Fensi, hired to guide a group of scholars to a distant, crumbling ruin, begins making his way into the primordial wilderness of the far west. He has no idea what awaits him there: an ancient evil, older than mankind, waiting for an opportunity to arise...and intent on extinguishing the light of the Chemical Revolution forever.

Shadow of A Dead God - Patrick Semphire


A dead god. A brutal murder. A second-rate mage.



It was only supposed to be one little job – a simple curse-breaking for Mennik Thorn to pay back a favour to his oldest friend. But then it all blew up in his face. Now he’s been framed for a murder he didn’t commit.



So how is a second-rate mage, broke, traumatized, and with a habit of annoying the wrong people, supposed to prove his innocence when everyone believes he’s guilty?

Mennik has no choice if he wants to get out of this: he is going to have to throw himself into the corrupt world of the city’s high mages, a world he fled years ago. Faced by supernatural beasts, the mage-killing Ash Guard, and a ruthless, unknown adversary, it’s going to take every trick Mennik can summon just to keep him and his friend alive.

But a new, dark power is rising in Agatos, and all that stands in its way is one damaged mage…


Across The Broken Stars - Jed Herne







Leon was once an angel – a winged warrior, sworn to protect a realm where people live on discs floating in space. He failed.


Twenty years since fleeing the war that killed his fellow angels, Leon’s a broken man, desperate to forget the past. He thinks he’s the last angel. But then a young fugitive stumbles onto his doorstep. She’s an angel, too. And she has a riddle leading to a mythical land, where legends say angels still live.

Desperate for redemption, Leon begins a perilous quest, guided by myth and folklore. Hunted by an Inquisitor determined to eradicate the last surviving angels, will Leon and the fugitive reach their legendary destination? Or will Leon lose his final chance for salvation?

Read now to experience a flawed antihero’s search for forgiveness, set against the backdrop of an incredible fantasy world. Perfect for fans of Brandon Sanderson’s vivid worldbuilding and Joe Abercrombie’s complex characters.

The Headlock Of Destiny - Samuel Gately


Some say titans are descended from giants. Others say they are risen from men. But there's never any debate about where to find them. They will be in the center of a roaring crowd, beating the hell out of each other. From contenders like the Savage and Scott Flawless to pretenders like Richard the Living Portrait and Troll-Blooded Thom, a titan's lot in life is the same: To wrestle for dominion and glory in the squared circle.



Van, a quiet titan from the brewery town of Headwaters, wants no part in this. He'd prefer to be left alone with a beer. But destiny has him in a headlock, and it is prepared to drag him into battles that will shake the land and change his world forever.



Step into the ring with this one-of-a-kind novel, brewed special for fans of epic fantasy, fans of professional wrestling from the Golden Era and beyond, or simply fans of a good tale.
The Race to the Blackened Nevers - Douglas Bain



The race is on! The gods careen toward the Blackened Nevers. Pray you don't get in their way!

An army of criminals runs to reclaim its honor. An old knight wakes to find a child pointing to the finish line. A prison guard is cursed to return to the start. And the last two members of the Rowlach tribe run to ask their god why the race was more important than his creations. Meanwhile, deep inside their mountain, a brother and sister run to prevent the awakening of a leviathan. Will it rise to destroy creation, or is it just their god's cynical attempt to increase his odds of winning?

‘The Woeful Wager’ is the first book in the new, dark fantasy series ‘The Race to the Blackened Nevers’. It won the Gold Medal in the 2019 SPR Book Awards, and was a finalist in the Fantasy (Adult Fiction) category of the 22nd Annual Foreward INDIES Book of the Year Awards, and the 2020 Feathered Quill Book Awards (Science Fiction/Fantasy).

Come join the race of the gods!





With no magic, no brawn, and no pirate crew, Zala seeks to steal back the one treasure that matters to her most: her husband.



To succeed she needs a ship—and not just any ship, but the latest, secret invention by the Vaaji Empire. An airship.

Zala will have to use her wits to overcome scoundrels and nobles alike on her journey through the clouds.

But if she's smart enough, she may just have what it takes to save her husband—and go down in history as the first sky pirate.
Delve into a pirate fantasy inspired by the West Indies, The Swahili Coast, and Arabia, where Zala will encounter ruthless raiders, arrogant aristocrats, and imperial secrets.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Mini-review: Consider The Dust by Casey Blair (reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


Official Author Website
Pre-order the novella HERE

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Consider The Dust by Casey Blair is a fascinating novella about two women and their magical swords. Casey previously has been a reviewer for Fantasy Book Critic and I would like to make it clear that I know her. For the purpose of this review, I’ve done my best to remain objective about the novella and its author.

The story begins with two warriors Mai and Kiran who have magical crystal blades and differing opinions on each other’s worth, martial prowess and eventual goal. The opening of the story presents us with the premise and the reason for their antagonism. Kiran has a plan to face the crystal goddess Tara and question her about her reticence and for allowing the world to suffer. Mai on the other hand is completely flabbergasted at the illogical nature of Kiran’s quest and knowing how ill-suited Kiran is to this battle. They both however don’t give in and so we are treated to a story wherein two frenemies have to decide what it is that they ultimately want and whether they can help or harm each other.

The novella is a fast paced one wherein we are treated to a story within a story and it’s a fun one. The world and background are explained without being too infodump-ish (though this can be very heard in a novella). The story has a lot of action in it and it seems very much inspired by anime as the author notes in her afterword. I enjoyed how the action was interspersed within the dialogue and it had a cinematic scope to it.

The story is mainly held within its main characters Kiran and Mai who are enigmatic and also unpredictable. The story is of their journey as much as dethroning the goddess of the universe and it’s to the author’s credit that she makes it a seamless one. I was very intrigued by their inner monologues about each other whilst they are trying to figure what the other person is deciding to do.

One aspect wherein the story falters a bit is about the world history and magic system. The crystals which power the story, and the metaphysical structure of the world are told be the main thing but I wish there were more revelations about where and what they are (beyond what is told to us). I thought it would have helped more to understand about the story and its ending.

CONCLUSION: Consider The Dust is an action-packed story about two brilliant warriors who while being frenemies are also trying to decide what to do with each other. Filled with action, magic, and banter, this novella gives a wonderful insight into the type of writer Casey Blair is. I would love for her to explore her skills in a lengthier format.

SPFBO 2020 Introduction Post


FBC will have a pleasure to participate in the SPFBO for the sixth time. This time we'll have four judges involved in choosing our SPFBO champion. We'll happy to have an excellent guest blogger - Adam Weller - joining us this year. Here’s a bit of information on all of us:


Saturday, May 30, 2020

The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by KS Villoso (Reviewed by David Stewart)



To say that I liked Tali, Queen Talyien, the Bitch Queen of Oren-Yaro, is like saying that I like coffee. I could take a few cups of Tali every day, six or seven on those days where I need the extra kick. She is a character, but also a character. Villoso has a knack for writing strong leads, with Luc in Blackwood Marauders being the best part of that book and now Tali in The Wolf of Oren-Yaro taking up the strong lead mantle. Told in the first person in a diary-like way, Wolf is Talyien's book from the first page to the last, and seeing the world through her eyes is never dull. She makes sitting down to tea readable. The story of Wolf has readers venture with Tali into a foreign land, and while I was expecting something political, I was not expecting the fish-out-of-water story that Villoso gifts us with, all the while asking readers a complex question - what does a queen do when she is stripped of everything that makes her royal?

Strengths

Well, I've already spoiled what I think is the strongest part of The Wolf of Oren-Yaro. Tali really steals the show, and she is reason enough to read this book. That she happens to be my "type" of character probably biases me towards liking Wolf, but even the best character needs a good plot and setting in which to work. Thankfully, Villoso has provided us with both. The story sees Tali venturing into the unknown, constantly beat up, and barely surviving to the very end of the book. The Wolf of Oren-Yaro is a political tangle, with Talyien hardly understanding her own nation at times, much less the complications of others. Villoso does politics and royal machinations very well, while at the same time not requiring an encyclopedia to keep track of a bunch of houses and one-off characters. The advantage of telling a book in first person that's also full of politics is that the reader only ever needs to know what Talyien knows.

The other great strength of the book is that question I posed in the start of this review. Talyien quickly loses all the shields that make a queen so invulnerable. She becomes a lamb amidst the wolves, and queens I've read about in other books would crumple in similar situations. Tali starts strong as a character, but her development over the course of her journey is key to The Wolf of Oren-Yaro succeeding. Villoso places her queen in situation after situation that tests her resolve and grit, and Talyien walks away a little different every time.

The other great strength of this book, perhaps its defining jewel, is Villoso's descriptions of food. This works both ways as some of the street food she describes is fairly nauseating, but her ability to either repulse or salivate her readers is truly beautiful. Not much more needs to be said about this.

Weaknesses

There were aspects of the setting in The Wolf of Oren-Yaro that I felt were underdeveloped. Part of this stems from the nature of the work. Talyien's journey takes her to very specific spots. We don't get the jumped perspective of someone across the nation to break up what we're seeing. That said, I would have liked a deeper exploration of Villoso's world. I am intrigued by some of the hints given, particularly those involving dragons, but I never felt fully immersed in the world as much as I did in Tali's story.

The biggest problem in The Wolf of Oren-Yaro, for me, was the big reveals, and most pointedly, the villain of the book. It is difficult for an author to build tension for a grand reveal near the climax of the story without giving away that very reveal by dropping overt hints or too many clues. I think Villoso errs in her choice of villain for The Wolf of Oren-Yaro, and while I think the character is fine by villainous standards, I found them largely fangless and simply an obstacle to be overcome - like a dark alley or locked room. Puppeteer villains like this one can work, but there needs to be, for the reader, some chance at guessing who is pulling the strings, or some kind of foreshadowing. Without that, it feels like the writer is forcing a reveal that is not entirely earned. This did not ruin the novel for me because there are strengths enough to appreciate, but given the sheer involvement of the villain in The Wolf of Oren-Yaro, I would have preferred to care more about them.

If You Liked


I place The Wolf of Oren-Yaro in august company in this section. It is fairly unique in that it didn't overtly remind me of much, but when I started thinking about it I found some similarities to some of my favorite books. Queen Talyien has much in common with Misaki, the lead character of the recent SPFBO winning Sword of Kaigen. These are women with power, but hindered by their cold-shoulder male counterparts. They are both middle-aged mothers, something not common enough in fantasy, and they both display a strength of character and physicality that is hard not to admire. I also thought of Senlin Ascends as I was reading Wolf. Though not much can top the sheer wonder of the Tower of Babel, Talyien has a similar helplessness when left to her own devices that echoed that of Thomas Senlin, and like Senlin, she manages to overcome her trials through character and wit.

Parting Thoughts


I didn't read The Wolf of Oren-Yaro when it was self-published, but I did read Villoso's other self-published book, The Blackwood Marauders. My biggest complaint with Marauders had been a subtle lack of polish, which I mostly attributed to the author's admitted ESL situation. When Orbit picked up The Wolf of Oren-Yaro for publication, I knew it would be worth reading because Orbit has one of the best editing teams in the business, and Villoso's storytelling and world-building talent would shine in their hands. I was not wrong, and The Wolf of Oren-Yaro's polish gleams in the sea of fantasy books we find ourselves with these days. It's a great start with one of the most refreshingly blunt and multi-faceted characters I've had the pleasure of reading this year. The story wraps up in an incredibly satisfying way that also leaves the reader wanting to see where Talyien goes in the next chronicle. Villoso has crafted a world and a cast that have possibility, and I'd honestly like to read the next book right now.


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Click Here To Order “Right To The Kill ” by Craig Schaefer!!!
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Click Here To Order “Spit And Song” by Travis M. Riddle!!!
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Click Here To Order “The Arkhel Conundrum” by Sarah Ash!!!
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Click Here To Order “The Company Of Birds” by Nerine Dorman!!!
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Click Here To Order “The True Bastards” by Jonathan French!!!
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Click Here To Order “Rumble In Woodhollow” by Jonathan Pembroke!!!
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