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Friday, February 17, 2017

GIVEAWAY: Win a Prize Pack for Frostblood by Elly Blake

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Fantasy Book Critic is excited to partner with Little, Brown to provide our readers with the chance to win the newly released YA novel, Frostblood by Elly Blake. This exciting YA novel brings readers to a world where fire and ice are mortal enemies.

We have 1 prize pack that will go to one randomly selected individual. The prize pack includes a copy of Frostblood and a branded nail polish duo in shade of fire and frost (so you can pick a side or show your alliance with both sides). 

Read about Frostblood below and learn how to enter the giveaway to win your own copy!

Synopsis of Frostblood:

The Frost King will burn.

Seventeen-year-old Ruby is a Fireblood who has concealed her powers of heat and flame from the cruel Frostblood ruling class her entire life. But when her mother is killed trying to protect her, and rebel Frostbloods demand her help to overthrow their bloodthirsty king, she agrees to come out of hiding, desperate to have her revenge.

Despite her unpredictable abilities, Ruby trains with the rebels and the infuriating—yet irresistible—Arcus, who seems to think of her as nothing more than a weapon. But before they can take action, Ruby is captured and forced to compete in the king’s tournaments that pit Fireblood prisoners against Frostblood champions. Now she has only one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who has taken everything from her—and from the icy young man she has come to love.

Vivid and compelling, Frostblood is the first in an exhilarating series about a world where flame and ice are mortal enemies . . . but together create a power that could change everything.

About the Author
Elly Blake loves fairy tales, old houses, and owls. After earning a degree in English literature, she held a series of seemingly random jobs, including project manager, customs clerk, graphic designer, and reporter for a local business magazine before finally landing on her current job as a library assistant. She lives in Southwestern Ontario with her husband, kids, and a Siberian Husky mix that definitely shows frostblood tendencies.


1. This contest is open to the US.
2. Contest starts February 17, 2017 and ends February 27, 2017 at 12:01 a.m. EST. Entries after this time period will not be considered. 
3. Only one entry per person. 
4. To enter please send an email with the subject "FROSTBLOOD" to Please include your name, email, and physical address you want the book sent to. 
5. One entry will be picked at random to win a copy. 
6. All entries will be deleted once a winner is picked and contacted.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Killing Floor Blues by Craig Schaefer (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website 
Order The Killing Floor Blues HERE 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Long Way Down 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The White Gold Score 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Redemption Song 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Living End 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of A Plain-Dealing Villain
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Winter's Reach 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Instruments Of Control 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Interview with Craig Schaefer

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Craig Schaefer was born in Chicago and wanted to be a writer since a very young age. His writing was inspired by Elmore Leonard, Richard Stark, Clive Barker & H. P. Lovecraft. After reaching his 40th birthday he decided to give in to his passion and since then has released twelve novels in the last three years. He currently lives in Joliet, Illinois and loves visiting museums and libraries for inspiration.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Nobody has ever escaped from the Iceberg. It's a privately-owned prison deep in the Mojave Desert, staffed by brutal guards and surrounded by desolate wasteland. Inside the walls, gangs and predators are constant threats; outside the walls, there's nothing but a sniper's bullet or a slow death in the desert heat.

Framed for murder and snared in a deadly curse, Daniel Faust lands behind bars with a target on his back. Worse, with Faust out of the picture, the Chicago mob is making its bid for control of Las Vegas. If he can't engineer his escape in time to stop them, none of his friends are safe. Then there's the matter of the warden's dark secret, the one that's filling up the prison morgue with body bags.

Faust has been caged, buried, cut off from his allies and his magic. His enemies think they've won. They're about to learn, the hard way, that this is one sorcerer who always has a trick up his sleeve. Nobody has ever escaped from the Iceberg. But the Iceberg has never had a prisoner like Daniel Faust.

FORMAT/INFO: The Killing Floor Blues is 326 pages long divided over forty-eight chapters with a prologue, an epilogue and an afterword. Narration is in the first-person, via Daniel Faust solely and similar third-person narratives for the prologue and epilogue. This is the fifth volume of The Daniel Faust series.

July 30, 2015 marked the North American paperback and e-book publication of The Killing Floor Blues and it was self-published by the author. Cover art and design is by James T. Egan of Bookfly Design.

CLASSIFICATION: Featuring a cast of anti-heroes and with a magician con-man as the protagonist, the Daniel Faust series is Richard Stark's Parker crossed with The Dresden Files and set in Las Vegas.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: The Killing Floor Blues was my favorite book of 2016 and possibly the best book in the Daniel Faust series (of the six I've read so far). This book while being such an awesome read, cannot be read as a standalone unfortunately. There will be mild spoilers as I cannot discus much of its blurb without mentioning certain events from A Plain Dealing Villain. On a side note, I believe the events of The Killing Floor Blues are set a little before the events showcased in Harmony Black (book 1 of the Harmony Black series).

The prologue affords us another look at the Smile and his lackey Ms. Fleiss, most readers will recognize Fleiss from the events of the previous book wherein she hired Daniel Faust to steal an artifact in Chicago. The Smile & Fleiss talk about their efforts and this is the first inkling we get of the grand plan that the author has only hinted at so far. In our world, Daniel wakes up disoriented and finds himself on way to the Eisenberg correctional facility (also called Iceberg) in the Mojave desert. Confused as to why he's on way to prison without having a trial, Daniel finds out that he's already been tried and found guilty. Thoroughly befuddled by this rapid turn, Faust soon learns that a grand sinister plan is underway and he's been targeted for reasons unknown.

While in prison, he has to figure out the way of life in prison and also keep himself from being a target of a drug gang that has a branch in Las Vegas (as retribution for his alleged murder of one of their own). There's also bikers from a club to whom he owes money and lastly he will have to contend the inhumane conditions & odious guards in the private prison. Faust learns soon that things are truly f***ed for him as he finds out more about the strange on-goings in prison, the way of life inside as well as he tries to figure out how he landed in prison. The author then gives us a breakneck storyline that's full of action, plot twists and some superb revelations that had me fall in love with this book.

Going on to the positives, this book is one hell of an amalgamation of urban fantasy and a crime thriller. Think Prison Break mixed with a tad bit of Spartacus as well as Taken and you will get an inkling of what a crazy mix of a story this is. The story opens on a somber note but then quickly explodes as we get a fascinating look at private prisons and especially what a scenario might entail when a magician like Daniel Faust is thrown into the mix. The author isn't writing a polemic here so folks who want a detailed look at prisons and all the socio-economic factors that go into the prison populace won't find it here. What the readers will find is a story that will keep you excited, make you cringe and of course try to outguess the author. This is a perfect thriller if you ask me and one of the main reasons why this book was my top choice last year.

Going to the characterization, with the story having a sole narrative voice, it all depends on the character and Daniel Faust doesn't disappoint. With this being the fifth book in the series, the author has had plenty of time to perfect the character and his voice. Faust is a fascinating rascal of a character who doesn't shy away from the occasional violence but uses his brains, skills and talent to get what he wants. This story has him utilizing all three to survive in an environment which reminds him when he was helpless as a child. He swore never to have to experience those feelings but due to the actions of certain people, he finds himself a liar. The narrative never gets too bogged down with the character feeling dismayed as Faust is a fighter and he's already thinking on an escape plan.

The beauty of the plot twists is that while it might seem that this book is about a prison break, it's not that entirely. The story takes a lot of turns and in hands of another author might have been a simple story focussing on a singular plot thread. Craig Schaefer refuses to take the simple route as has been evidenced by his writing career so far. He combines at least three different plots into this storyline and makes them all coherent and flow smoothly. I loved how this book while sticking to the prison escape tropes, yet managed to make the story interesting by adding in newer twists. The author also explores the idea of magic existing but doesn't give the character a simple-get-out-of-jail trick/card. While there is one scene that simply exists to set up something about the character and for future story set-up, I doubt readers will find fault with it and like me, most will enjoy its creepy, oozy factor (I'm using oozy for a very particular reason and you will understand when you read it).

The story just zooms with all of its twists and then ends on a fascinating climax and then we find that there's more to the book. There's a coda plot twist that might upset a few readers but I enjoyed it as it was another way to upend reader expectations. Overall this story was one where I enjoyed it from cover to cover. Going on to the drawbacks, this was one book where I honestly found none. After finishing my primary read I've re-read a few more times and the excitement held up each time. For me that's a sign of an excellent read.

CONCLUSION: The Killing Floor Blues is a book that mixes various genre plots and leaves the readers bemused. For me this book was one of the best fictional reads that I've ever read in a long time. I would recommend most readers on this series just so they can enjoy this volume as much as I did. Do not miss this book and this series, as by the time it will be finished this will be considered a classic one.
Monday, February 6, 2017

A Plain-Dealing Villain by Craig Schaefer (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website
Order A Plain-Dealing Villain HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Long Way Down
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The White Gold Score
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Redemption Song
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Living End
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Winter's Reach
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Instruments Of Control
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Interview with Craig Schaefer

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Craig Schaefer was born in Chicago and wanted to be a writer since a very young age. His writing was inspired by Elmore Leonard, Richard Stark, Clive Barker & H. P. Lovecraft. After reaching his 40th birthday he decided to give in to his passion and since then has released twelve novels in the last three years. He currently lives in Joliet, Illinois and loves visiting museums and libraries for inspiration.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: It's hard to make a dishonest buck in Sin City, especially when a rogue FBI agent is gunning for your head. Flat broke and one step ahead of the law, Daniel Faust flees Vegas and lands in Chicago, where a risky heist promises to fill his pockets with cash.

There are the risks you can account for, and then there are the risks you never see coming, the ones that leave you blindsided and fighting to survive. Daniel is a stranger in a strange land, out of his element and surrounded by corrupt sorcerers, demons, and worse. Still, with a friend's soul hanging in the balance -- not to mention a pile of stolen cash -- giving up isn't an option.

Before he's done, Daniel will descend into the depths of Chicago's occult netherworld, competing in an underground poker tournament where the winner takes all...and with the infernal Court of Night-Blooming Flowers running the show, "winner takes all" has an entirely new meaning. The Flowers haven't forgotten Daniel's past insults, and if they get their way, he'll never leave the Windy City alive.

FORMAT/INFO: A Plain-Dealing Villain is 316 pages long divided over forty-four chapters with a prologue, an epilogue and an afterword. Narration is in the first-person, via Daniel Faust solely and different third-person narratives for the prologue and epilogue. This is the fourth volume of The Daniel Faust series and is the start of a new arc in the series.

January 20, 2015 marked the North American paperback and e-book publication of A Plain-Dealing Villain and it was self-published by the author. Cover art and design is by James T. Egan of Bookfly Design.

CLASSIFICATION: Featuring a cast of anti-heroes and with a magician con-man as the protagonist, the Daniel Faust series is Richard Stark's Parker crossed with The Dresden Files and set in Las Vegas.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: This book is the start of a new arc in the Daniel Faust series as evidenced in the prologue of this book. I believe an informal title could be the "Cheshire Smile trilogy" but I have a feeling that this arc might last more than three books. The story begins with the after events of the downfall of Lauren Carmichael and her psychopath sorceress Meadow Brand. Harmony Black however has had enough of Daniel Faust and his illegal meddling. She makes it her business to obstruct every move of his, making it very hard for Daniel to conduct any of his cons. Forced to survive and pay off a big debt, Faust has to take on a new job away from his regular terrain and takes up an assignment to retrieve (read steal) an artifact in Chicago.

That's the start of this story, however once Daniel arrives in Chicago, he assembles a crew for this job but the process is turning out to be much more Herculean than he thought. The main event is to steal a ceremonial knife however its current owner is someone who's not to be trifled with as Faust finds out to his dismay. He also has to contend with the paranormal crowd in Chicago and we get introduced to another motley bunch as well as to the Chicagoan counterpart to the Tiger's Garden titled The Bast Club. This was an interesting place and after reading its introduction, I was intrigued to know more about it (hint the author explores the club and its owner a little bit deeper in Red Knight Falling which is book 2 in the Harmony Black series).

The plot while starting out as a heist story quickly become much more complex as things go south spectacularly and Daniel has his back to the wall (this seems to be a recurring trend...). I'm being purposefully vague here because of potential plot spoilers and the author really digs into Chicago and gives us a detailed look into it as he has done with Las Vegas so far. We get to see another court of Hell in action and are given an intriguing look into Caitlin-Daniel's relationship. Plus the best part about this book is the poker tournament that is focused upon in the latter half of the book.

I really enjoyed this book and one of the main reasons for my enjoyment was the characterization beginning with Daniel Faust himself. With most urban fantasy series being first-person narratives, it's very crucial for authors to find a distinct voice and keep them fresh. Some good examples which come to my mind are Harry Dresden, Kate Daniels, Frank Trigg, etc. Daniel Faust veritably joins this list and it's all due the author's talent. Faust is a bastard and I don't mean that literally. He's a conman who uses his skills to do things that most of us wouldn't do. He cheats, steals and basically even kills people when he thinks that it will save his life or if that someone deserved it. It would be very easy for such a character to become a villain but it's to the author's credit that he showcases the strengths besides Faust's flaws and makes him hard to pin down. He also has his moral limits and he will not cross them, even his relationship with Caitlin is seriously questionable and I liked how the author introduced some pertinent questions in this volume about it. Which puts his actions at the end of Redemption Song in a whole new light.

The author doesn't just stop with Faust, the character cast in the series has been increased with each volume and all characters that we meet have three-dimensional personas which are very intriguing to read about. Most readers will have their favorites and I'm no exception to it. I would love to know more about Faust's mentors and their backstory, Baron Naavarasi's origin, Harmony Black & a few more. This is another solid plus-point about these books that the characters featured within all have their own agendas and can potentially have their own series (Harmony already has gotten her own). Kudos to the author for developing such a strong character cast as well a world wherein nothing is truly what it seems. And to do it in a urban fantasy series, Craig Schaefer is truly writing an epic which I haven't seen anybody attempt to do in this sub-genre.

The action is this book, is a little bit understated than the previous volumes of the series however the author tips his world-building skills with some fascinating bits of Egyptian mythology. The main villain is also someone who shows a rare depth to him and I hope we get to see more of him. The humor in this book is very much in line with the first two books and I loved the reappearance of two certain lackeys from Redemption Song and their interactions with Faust are hilarious to say the least. The author also gives us a lot more revelations with regards to Faust's past, his family, Caitlin's gastronomical inclinations, and the workings of the infernal courts.

We also get to meet some fascinating Chicagoan characters who I believe add to the depth of the world and whom I would love to see more of (especially Dr. Halima Khoury, & Freddie) . This book does end on a solid climax and that beckons the reader into the next book perfectly. I wouldn't call the ending a cliffhanger but some might feel it's one. Lastly the book also introduces some major aspects of the main series arc that the author is hinting at and from what I can ascertain the author has some truly grand plans in motion. The being introduced in the prologue is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to these plans. This book also is a first of sorts as the main action is set outside of Las Vegas for almost 90% of the book. While The White Gold Score was also set outside of Las Vegas but it was a novella and was written after this book while chronologically being set much before this volume.

Lastly the epilogue has a major revelation that will be further explored in the fifth book The Killing Floor Blues and I can't wait to see how the author plays up these events. This book also had a fascinating poker plot twist and the author does use it judiciously to play up the climax and then lays out his final plot twist. I loved how the ending seem to come from the left field and the epilogue then further pushes the readers into land of the lost. There were a couple of negatives though, I felt that while the Chicago part of the storyline was very exciting but the other parts didn't quite match its tempo. Lastly the whole behind-the-scenes things that are going on can be confusing to many a reader and I wish that the author could have explained a bit more.

CONCLUSION: A Plain-Dealing Villain is a new salvo in a series that has already won me over and this fourth volume just upped ante with its reveal of the grand series plan in the making. The author just keeps making this series more irresistible with each book and this fourth volume is no exception, give it a read and find out why the Daniel Faust series is the best thing being self-published right now.
Thursday, February 2, 2017

GUEST BLOG: Shades of Grey - Developing Unique Characters That are a Blend of Evil and Good by Fonda Lee (Author of EXO)

Fantasy Book Critic is honored to take part in the blog tour (arranged by Rockstar Book Tours) for the recently released YA novel EXO by Fonda Lee. EXO was published by Scholastic and it was released January 31, 2017. It is available as hardcover, paperback, and ebook at these fine retailers AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksGoodreads.

Today as part of the blog tour, we have the honor of having Fonda Lee join us for a guest blog post. We asked her to talk about creating what we call 'shades of grey' characters. Shades of grey characters are those that aren't 100% good or 100% evil.

Join us in welcoming Fonda Lee and learning more about her book EXO! There is even a giveaway for the book blog tour available to enter – entry can be done by filling in the form at the bottom of the post. 

If you wish to see other guest blog posts, reviews, and more about EXO visit some of the other blog tour stops!

Week One:
1/23/2017- Tales of the Ravenous Reader- Interview
1/24/2017- Bibliobibuli YAReview
1/25/2017- Two Chicks on BooksExcerpt
1/26/2017- The Forest of Words and PagesReview
1/27/2017- Novel NoviceExcerpt

Week Two:
1/30/2017- Omg Books and More BooksReview
1/31/2017- Rich in ColorInterview
2/1/2017- NerdophilesReview
2/2/2017-Fantasy Book CriticGuest Post
2/3/2017- Such a Novel IdeaReview

  Shades of Grey - Developing Unique Characters That are a Blend of Evil and Good 

One of the early trade reviews that I received for my new young adult science fiction novel, Exo, made mention of the fact that the characters don’t always behave in ways that are admirable or easy to read, but they are reacting logically within the setting and the rules of the world.

I consider this to be a major compliment. I’ve never been inclined to write wholly good heroes or wholly evil villains. There’s no shortage of stories about good guys vs. bad guys, especially in YA fiction, which is packed full of courageous rebels and foul tyrants. Personally, I’m far more interested in writing stories that reflect truths about our own world…and those truths are rarely so simple.  

I was a nerd in high school. In fact, I was the captain of the debate team. I would spend months preparing for a tournament on some topic such as, “Be it resolved that marijuana be legalized.” I’d sit for hours in the library with my equally nerdy debate team members, researching until our eyes ached, and then writing index card after index card of arguments both for and against contentious topics. The truth is, I loved that process. I loved digging into a complex issue and understanding all the sides of it until I could argue equally convincingly for or against it. By the end, I often didn’t know what the “right” answer was… and more importantly, I understood that there was rarely a “right” answer.

So I write books for those teens: the ones that question the world, the ones that suspect that so much of what adults tell you is a matter of perspective, that sometimes the more you know, the less certain you become, and that the uncertainty is a good thing, a way to be certain that your mind is still open.

In Exo, I wanted to get past the usual tropes of invasion and war and explore Earth long after the extraterrestrials have settled alongside us, when alien presence and influence are the norm and human society has been reshaped along new lines of class and privilege. It would be easy to write the expected story: the one about a brave teenage freedom fighter who fights against the alien overlords. Or the one about someone on the “wrong side” who meets the rebels and then switches over and turns “good.”

This is not that story. There are no “good guys” and “bad guys” to be found here—only people, all of them doing what they believe is the right thing, based on their worldview and the circumstances of their lives and experiences. And that means they hold certain opinions, they say and do things that some readers will not agree with, they make decisions that are well intentioned but still questionable.

In short, they’re like real people. And no matter how fantastical or futuristic the world, no matter the presence of magic or starships, people being people is what makes a story ring true.

About Fonda:
Fonda Lee writes science fiction and fantasy for teens and adults. Her debut novel, Zeroboxer was an Andre Norton Award finalist, Jr. Library Guild Selection, ALA Top 10 Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, Oregon Book Award finalist, and Oregon Spirit Book Award winner. Her second novel, Exo, releases from Scholastic in February 2017.

Fonda wrote her first novel, about a dragon on a quest for a magic pendant, in fifth grade during the long bus ride to and from school each day. Many years later, she cast her high school classmates as characters in her second novel, a pulpy superhero saga co-written with a friend by passing a graphing calculator back and forth during biology class. Fortunately, both of these experiments are lost to the world forever.
Fonda is a former corporate strategist who has worked for or advised a number of Fortune 500 companies. She holds black belts in karate and kung fu, goes mad for smart action movies (think The Matrix, Inception, and Minority Report) and is an Eggs Benedict enthusiast. Born and raised in Calgary, Canada, she currently resides in Portland, Oregon.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr | Facebook | Goodreads

 About EXO 

It’s been a century of peace since Earth became a colony of an alien race with far reaches into the galaxy. Some die-hard extremists still oppose alien rule on Earth, but Donovan Reyes isn’t one of them. His dad holds the prestigious position of Prime Liaison in the collaborationist government, and Donovan’s high social standing along with his exocel (a remarkable alien technology fused to his body) guarantee him a bright future in the security forces. That is, until a routine patrol goes awry and Donovan’s abducted by the human revolutionary group Sapience, determined to end alien control.

When Sapience realizes whose son Donovan is, they think they’ve found the ultimate bargaining chip. But the Prime Liaison doesn’t negotiate with terrorists, not even for his own son. Left in the hands of terrorists who have more uses for him dead than alive, the fate of Earth rests on Donovan’s survival. Because if Sapience kills him, it could spark another intergalactic war. And Earth didn’t win the last one . . .

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