Blog Archive

View My Stats
Friday, February 21, 2020

Paris Adrift by EJ Swift



Official Author Website
Order Paris Adrift over here (USA) or here (UK)

AUTHOR INFORMATION: E. J. Swift is the author of The Osiris Project trilogy, a speculative fiction series set in a world radically altered by climate change, comprising OSIRIS, CATAVEIRO and TAMARUQ. Her short fiction has appeared in anthologies from Salt Publishing, NewCon Press and Jurassic London, including The Best British Fantasy (Salt Publishing, 2013 and 2014).

Swift was shortlisted for a 2013 BSFA Award in the Short Fiction category for her story "Saga's Children" (The Lowest Heaven, Jurassic) and was longlisted for the 2015 Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award for "The Spiders of Stockholm" (Irregularity, Jurassic).

FORMAT: Paris Adrift was published by Solaris in 2018 and reissued in 2020. It's available in all formats from most retailers. Cover art by Joey Hi-Fi. The book counts 250 pages. 



OVERVIEW: The concept of time-travel is seducing. I love exploring it in fiction. Contrary to books describing the time-travel mechanism, Paris Adrift focuses on characters, not on science. The time portal, found in the keg room of a bar, allows the book’s protagonist, Hallie, to move through time. Hallie moved to Paris to escape her dull life, and find the meaning of it all (life, her emotions, family stuff). When a woman known as The Chronometrist approaches her, she discovers there’s more than one layer to reality. 


The strength of the novel lies mainly in exploring Hallie’s bar life and her relationships with her newfound family. They all approach adulthood. They lack an agenda or a deeper understanding of life. They drink, dance, flirt, and try to make it through the shift, sober. Emotions and relationships keep them busy and allow not to think of what to do with the rest of their lives. 

Even though I found Hallie’s behavior irritating, I related to her on some level. She wants more from her life than getting a degree, work, and family. She’s looking for a deeper meaning of it all, a quest I haven’t finished myself :) Like Hallie, her friends advance into adulthood. In their free time, they discuss Brexit, climate change, inequality, refugee crises, and more. They try to change reality, but not too hard and in rather shallow ways. 

A new political party, the Moulin Vert, led by charismatic Aide Lefort, gets their vote. Paris Adrift takes a stance on political issues, but it lacks any deeper insight into them or an idea of how to act on a bigger scale. Hallie’s friend, Gabriela, plans to become vegetarian because the meat industry hurts the planet. Don’t misunderstand me. I’ve been vegetarian for twenty years, more than half of my life. I just expect something more than that from a politically and environmentally engaged novel. A meaningful action plan instead of repeating catchphrases, maybe? 

The time travel mechanism remains unexplained. A handful of people, known as incumbents, can travel through time thanks to “anomalies” tied to individual travelers. Each travel takes a toll and with time leads to addiction. Hallie is such an incumbent. At first, she can’t believe she actually travels through time. After a few trips, though, she can’t resist it and her health suffers. During her travels, she affects the building of the Sacré Coeur or helps A Jewish musician to escape occupied city. 

In theory, her travels serve a higher goal - stopping the world from becoming a nuclear wasteland. Only Hallie doesn’t know this. Her travels and their goals are, supposedly, planned and designed by members of the mysterious Order of Janus who remain somewhere in the background for most of the novel. As a result, the plot meanders and lacks direction.

Paris Adrift contains many subplots (including a romance) and resolves most of them well. Even though I enjoyed reading it, I feel it lacks substance. It has memorable (if directionless) characters and an important (but shallowly presented) political message. Well worth a read, but something’s lacking.
Monday, February 17, 2020

SPFBO Finalist: Spark City by Robert J. Power (reviewed by Lukasz Przywoski, David Stewart, Justine Bergman and Mihir Wanchoo)


Official Author Website
Order Spark City over HERE(USA) or HERE(UK)


Friday, February 14, 2020

Tenth Anniversary Guest Post & Giveaway by M. R. Mathias

Hey FBC fans, it’s me, M.R. Mathias. It’s been a while, but I am honored to be able to pop in, make an announcement or two, and give away some Fantastica audiobook bundles.

First to the announcement, this July will mark the 10th Anniversary of the, The Sword and the Dragon - The Wardstone Trilogy Book One. (Which is also nearing the 10th anniversary of its FBC review) To celebrate, and since over the decade the trilogy sold over a million individual Kindle copies, we reformatted the interiors of all three titles and slapped on these amazing new covers by Jason McIntyre.

(https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07F7H3D97)

If you are one of the many thousands of readers who enjoyed The Wardstone Trilogy in eBook, grab a set for your bookshelf. Or if you read The Sword and the Dragon, but not the rest of the trilogy, you should look at the reviews for books two and three. I wrote the whole thing back to back to back, knowing it was going to be a trilogy, and remain so. But I tried very hard to give each volume a fulfilling ending. Either way, now you can get the whole trilogy in these eye-catching paperbacks, or if you prefer eBook, The Complete Wardstone Trilogy (digital box set,) is now available via Kindle and Kindle Unlimited.

(https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00FW72EDC)

Now to the giveaway.


(https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B078L9JVYZ/ )

Fantastica, is a recently completed four book series. Right before Christmas, the audiobook narration to the four-book collection dropped, and we were left with a whole bunch of free audible audio codes to the individual titles. The narrator, Will Hahn, was kind enough to put together 15 (10 US, 5 UK) four code bundles, so each winner will be able to get all four titles in the series, from their respective Audible store.

(https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0753G9WBM)

I will leave it up to the fine folks at FBC to figure out who gets the prizes. Good Luck, and if you win, please take a moment to write an Audible or Amazon review.

*Note: In the unlikely event you don’t win, there is a huge free preview of book one, Taerak’s Void in Fantastica: The Complete Four Book Collection.

My newest project is a trilogy called Dragon Racers. It is a little different than my usual thing. More Steampunk or Gaslamp than traditional epic, but still with magic and dragons. (*grins and shrugs) Some of the story and characters are based on Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese Mythology, and all in all it’s hopefully worthy of the good reviews it has so far received.

(https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07NC939TR/)

On a personal note. I told you guys last year; my eyes are screen-fried, and I almost lost a foot to an infection brought on by diabetes. On top of that, I might have early onset Alzheimer’s, so you won’t see much more “new” material from me. I figure six completed series, five of which happen in the same world, is enough for one brain. I have self-published over three million words. I already have several hundred well defined characters living in my head. It isn’t easy keeping them quiet. Besides all of that, my wife was diagnosed with Breast Cancer right before Thanksgiving, and by the time this post is published, we will be well into her twenty weeks of Chemo.

Wish us luck in battle friends, and please keep reading (and listening) and sharing what you enjoy.

To enter to win, please send in your entries with the subject line "FANTASTICA" to FBCgiveaway@gmail.com and please also mention your country (USA/UK) in the body of the email. Contest will end on 29th February 12:01 PM.


OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: M. R. Mathias lives on 5 wooded acres. Like the wizards of old, he tends to the animals who share that space and inspire the creatures in his works. He likes to deep sea fish, to attend sporting events, and genre/cosplay conventions. He has sold well over a million eBooks. His work is critically acclaimed, and he has won multiple literary awards, including a coveted Locus Poll nomination. You can follow him @DahgMahn on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram
Tuesday, February 11, 2020

The Scaled Tartan by Raymond St. Elmo mini-review




Official Author Website
Buy the books HERE(USA) or HERE(UK)
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Quest of the Five Clans series

Monday, February 10, 2020

Cover Reveal Q&A: Of Honey And Wildfires by Sarah Chorn (by Mihir Wanchoo)


Official Author Website
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Seraphina's Lament
Read Stalin, Communism & Fantasy by Sarah Chorn (guest post)

Today we have the immense pleasure of hosting the cover reveal for Sarah Chorn’s upcoming standalone fantasy volume. Sarah’s debut Seraphina’s Lament was a particularly unique one with its magic system as well as its historical inspiration. Of Honey And Wildfires is an exciting new standalone story and Sarah was super kind to answer a few questions to talk about the world, the story and how Pen Astridge blew her cover expectations right out the gate…..

Q] Thank you for joining us, Sarah, and welcome to Fantasy Book Critic! It’s truly a pleasure for allowing us this opportunity to host this cover reveal. How have you been? 

SC: Oh, you know… kicking ass and taking names.

Q] Can you give us an idea of how Of Honey And Wildfires came to fruition? What was your inspiration for this story?

SC: I don’t ever really know how these things happen. I think it’s a mixture of me being weird and the books I read. I tend to only read historical nonfiction books when I’m editing. I kind of flit from subject to subject, whatever interests me at the time. At this specific time, I decided to read a bit on the Wild West. I started reading a book about the gold rush, and then moved on to the early oil industry and settlers and all this and it just kind of… came together from there, I guess. A secondary wild west-esque world started to develop in my mind, complete with corporate interest and battles over resource ownership and etc. Oil and coal became the jumping off point for my magic system. I read a book about Kit Carson, which inspired the development of Christopher Hobson in the book, and his daughter Cassandra was inspired by Kit’s eldest daughter named Adelaide… and here we are.

Q] I would love to hear more details on that gorgeous cover. Who's the artist/designer, and can you give us a little insight into the process for coming up with that incredible piece?

SC: Pen Astridge is the cover artist and the genius is really all hers. I’m pretty much the worst possible person to think of cover art ideas. I think I’m too close to the book, so I just can’t figure out what should go on the cover. For this one, when she asked for ideas or inspiration, I basically had nothing. “Uh… so it’s set in a sort of Wild West. The west has mountains and stuff… uh…” and then I let her run with it. I don’t know what kind of magic she uses to come up with this stuff, but that’s basically all I gave her and she bequeathed me with this beautiful cover. The woman is a wizard. I will never be able to praise her highly enough. I’m really glad she tolerates me.


Q] I believe Of Honey And Wildfires is set in a completely different world than your debut. What drove you to write a standalone story that’s not set in the same world as your debut?

SC: This one is a bit… awkward on my part, but I’ll be honest. Seraphina’s Lament was just so dark, I think I needed a mental break from that world and those characters before I could return to it. I needed a bit of a palate cleanser, if you will. This is a totally different world, and it’s sad and still has its own kind of darkness, but the writing of Seraphina’s Lament just about hollowed me out. I tried to start An Elegy For Hope (The Bloodlands, book 2) and I just… felt too bruised, I guess, so I figured maybe I needed to have this side project going on. A place where I can still tell stories, and explore themes and ideas, but ones that aren’t quite as “here, take my soul and flay it” as Seraphina’s Lament was for me to write.

Basically, I did this for my mental health. I can’t not tell stories. That being said, I needed a bit of a change of pace after Seraphina’s Lament and while this book literally made me sob while writing the last third of it, and I’ve read it and revised it a million times and have yet to make it through without ugly crying, it’s a very different kind of sadness, and there’s more hope here and I think that’s just really what I needed or I would have burned out.

Q] Was the writing process different with Of Honey and Wildfires and did you face any challenges with this genre shift?

SC: Yeah, so this one was a bit of a challenge. First, I’ve never written in first person POV before, and I’ve got two of them in this book, as well as a third person POV, and that was a bit of a challenge for me to wrap my head around. There were lots of, “Oh crap, this character is third person, not first person… REWRITE” moments.

Secondly, the book is set in this place called “Shine Territory” which is literally closed off from the rest of the world by this thing called the Boundary, and owned by an outside company. The development of a world in a closed system like this was something I thought would be easy, but ended up being a lot more challenging than I expected. Basically, there’s a whole bunch of people trapped in this one place, completely incapable to leave, at the mercy of outside interests and somehow, I had to figure out how life went on without the outside world touching this place and for whatever reason, it really tied me in knots at times. The outside world and this territory really had to touch JUST ENOUGH, and managing that balance was an experience.

Last, the magic system is… well, I tried to keep it a bit nebulous, for reasons which will become obvious in two of the POVs almost instantly, and that was hard as well. I wanted to lay out all the rules and say, “This is what “shine” is, and this is what it does, and here is why…” and I know people like their magic systems to be clearly defined, but I couldn’t do that because of (SPOILERS) so trying to toe that line between this magic system needing definition and rules and boundaries, and then trying to keep it sort of nebulous and undefined in some respects, was really a balancing act. I’m still not sure if I got it right.

(Wildfire picture credit: Patrick Orton, Getty Images)

Q] How did you come up with the title Of Honey and Wildfires? How does it tie with the plot of the book?

SC: This book is a lot of things (I think I’ve learned I tend to work in layers), but thematically, I think this book is an exploration of many different kinds of love. Sometimes love is sweet, sometimes it burns. We tend to think love means romance, but I think we forget, a lot of times, how much of a driving force love between siblings, friends, parents, etc. can be. Sometimes love feels a lot more like a knife. Sometimes the softest touch is the most painful. Sometimes it’s love that breaks you. I told a friend just today, “I kind of take the idea of love and say, ‘Look at how pretty this knife is. I wonder how well it cuts.’”

Anyway, there’s a quote I put on the first page of the book, which is where I actually got the title from. I think it kind of shows strength in ways that we don’t typically think of it (it’s also just a gorgeous quote) and I really think it fit the tone of the themes I was running with for the book. It is:

Just because you are soft does not mean you are not a force. Both honey and wildfire are the color gold.

- Victoria Erikson, Edge of Wonder: Notes on the Wildness of Being

Q] Your book has a real interesting magic system as you had mentioned your research on twitter. What can you reveal about the magic system that you have created? What are some of its unique features?

SC: I have a whole long blog post about this on my website. Basically, the magic system is inspired by oil and coal. Specifically, the mid-1800’s oil and coal industry. In the book, a bunch of settlers traveled west to try their luck out beyond the borders of the Union. One guy dug a well on his property, looking for water, and ended up striking shine.

Shine comes in oil or rock form (rock is more expensive, and lasts longer, but is harder to get and relies on child labor). Shine can be used for just about anything. If it’s rubbed on thread, the cloth that uses that thread will never tear. If it’s dabbed in a wound, the wound will heal faster. Put some in water, and it will cool or warm as you will it. Use shine rocks to light a fire, or shine oil in a lamp, and the flame will never flicker or go out. Three shine rocks can be used to power trains for years and years. Guns shoot shine, not bullets. Since this is a closed system, food has to cross the Boundary and is often rotten by the time it gets in, so shine rubbed on rotten food will bring it back to health and prolong its shelf life. On the flip side, there’s “shine addiction.” People who drink this stuff get addicted to it, totally strung out, and end up dying an early death. Think heroin.

A lot of this stuff is based in history. Oil actually WAS used as medicine. Coal was a fantastic find because it packed so much energy in those rocks. I just made my shine rocks, more powerful and last a whole lot longer. The oil and coal industry really drove technology forward in leaps and bounds, and I tried to take the essence of that, and the fight over control of the resources (corporate interest and the like), but sort of twisted it to be a bit more… mystical.

Q] What do you hope your readers take away from this book?

SC: I mean, I guess my minimum would be, “Wow, reading this book wasn’t a terrible experience.”

Q] Thank you again for taking the time to chat with us, Sarah. When can readers be able to read Of Honey And Wildfires? Anything else you have going on right now that you'd like the world to know about?

SC: I’m aiming for a March 31st release date right now. On the side, I’m starting to write An Elegy For Hope, which is the book after Seraphina’s Lament. I’m also writing Glass Rhapsody, which is the next (standalone) book set in this world.

*---------------*---------------*---------------*



Pre-order Of Honey And Wildfires over HERE

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: From the moment the first settler dug a well and struck a lode of shine, the world changed. Now, everything revolves around that magical oil.

What began as a simple scouting expedition becomes a life-changing ordeal for Arlen Esco. The son of a powerful mogul, Arlen is kidnapped and forced to confront uncomfortable truths his father has kept hidden. In his hands lies a decision that will determine the fate of everyone he loves—and impact the lives of every person in Shine Territory.

The daughter of an infamous saboteur and outlaw, Cassandra has her own dangerous secrets to protect. When the lives of those she loves are threatened, she realizes that she is uniquely placed to change the balance of power in Shine Territory once and for all.

Secrets breed more secrets. Somehow, Arlen and Cassandra must find their own truths in the middle of a garden of lies.

Friday, February 7, 2020

A Prince of Song & Shade by Lisa Cassidy Review



Official Author Website

Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of A Tale of Stars and Shadow
Read our interview with Lisa CassidyOrder A Prince of Song & Shade over HERE(USA) or HERE(UK)

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

A Conjuring of Assassins by Cate Glass mini-review (reviewed by Łukasz Przywóski)



Official Author Website
Order A Conjuring of Assassins over HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Illusion of Thieves

Monday, February 3, 2020

SPFBO Finalist: A Tale of Stars and Shadow by Lisa Cassidy (reviewed by David Stewart, Justine Bergman, Lukasz Przywoski and Mihir Wanchoo)




Official Author Website
Order A Tale of Stars & Shadow over HERE(USA) or HERE(UK)


Saturday, February 1, 2020

SPFBO Interview Lisa Cassidy (interviewed by Łukasz Przywóski)



Friday, January 31, 2020

EXCLUSIVE COVER REVEAL & GUEST POST: Legacy of Bones (A Tale of Bone and Steel #1) by Kirk Dougal


When it comes to fantasy or science fiction, a believable world is just as important to a story as character development and plot. But while the action and characters are front and center for the reader to enjoy, the world is the stage on which they play. If the footing isn't solid, the story often stumbles and sputters, many times leaving the reader not understanding what is wrong, only that something is not right. At its worst, bad or inconsistent worldbuilding rips the story apart and leaves it unreadable.

We are all affected by what surrounds us. Our lives are shaped by the society where we live, the culture, the land, the economy, the political atmosphere, and a thousand other items. The characters and plots in stories should be the same.

With my epic fantasy series, A Tale of Bone and Steel, I began my worldbuilding with a rough sketch of a map with the different countries. With nine separate entities west of a mountain range that effectively cut the main land mass in two, why did seven of them feel very blended, including languages and customs? Why were the other two so drastically different in culture, religion, and political leadership?


The answer for me was a massive war that devastated huge parts of the population in the seven kingdoms, driving them together as refugees. The survivors spread out after the conflict was over, repopulating the deserted lands with many identical ideas and customs after living as one people for so long. The two that remained different had survived the war largely intact, one keeping a religion alive with no comparable worship customs. The other kingdom maintained a leadership hierarchy unlike any of the countries, including a banner showing a monk with a sword. Those decisions led to even more questions. Why did the monk have a sword? How does that banner reflect a more democratic society surrounded by lands led by kings and queens?

What about their economies? One of the kingdoms, from the royal palace to the lowest commoner, treated money as the most important issue in their lives. This was because their economy was the most devastated by the war and following generations remembered that time of rebuilding. Another kingdom vowed war would never affect them again and became isolationist while growing to be the largest supplier of weapons, making them friends on all sides. Two more countries, side by side on the map, struggled with each other in a big brother/little brother relationship, mired with jealousy and desire leading to a contentious state of affairs between them.

All these questions and answers added layers, and to a certain extent reality, to the story. It was not just enough for me to know the protagonist would have problems crossing the border between two certain countries. I needed the depth from knowing the decades of political, economic, or religious interactions that would make the travel difficult.


The same level of attention needed to be given to the magic system within the world as well. I remember reading C.S. Friedman's Coldfire Trilogy nearly thirty years ago. In it, she devised an explanation for where the power of her magic system was derived. I did the same thing in the Tale of Bone and Steel series. There is an explanation for why some people can wield magic and others cannot. I also placed natural limits on its use.

Early in the first book, I use an analogy to explain this to one of the characters. The way I saw the magic limitations was much the same as if someone today participated in weightlifting. A person who is not very strong in magic could improve their power through practice and pushing themselves with increasingly harder exercises, in essence, building their muscles. Some people may be naturally strong without the practice, but may improve even more dramatically with teaching. This is the same in the real world. To a few, the exercise comes easy, and their muscles react quickly. For others, all the time in the world spent on the bench press will never increase their strength.

At the same time in my story, if someone attempts to over train, they can pull their magic muscles or even tear them apart. If they go to the ultimate extreme and overexert themselves too much, their body may never fully recovery. I included these types of repercussions in the story, too.

Staying with the weightlifting example, I also took into account performance enhancing drugs like steroids. In the story world, there are ways to cheat, to get around the hard work involved with natural improvement. These were some of the most fun twists that I made as a part of the magic system.

So by the time I was done with all of this worldbuilding, I felt I had created many layers, a solid foundation to build upon for the story. But as an avid reader myself, nothing can be as off putting as a thousand words of explanation or page upon page of backstory in a never-ending info dump. Just because I had a page of notes stating why the monk was holding a sword does not mean the reason needed to be put verbatim into the story. Because I understand why Spirache and Lebesh will go to war over shipping lanes, the reader does not need to know until it is pertinent to a character or the plot. I attempted to show the world in necessary drips, allowing the reader to make discoveries along with the characters. It also allows for foreshadowing of events in later books.

In the end, that may be the most important thing to remember about sharing the world with readers. Yes, the world needs to be the firm stage on which to perform, but it is still the actors and the play that must take top billing.

(Cover design & typography by Shawn T. King)

Pre-order Legacy Of Bones over here

Kirk Dougal's first book in the A Tale of Bone and Steel series, “Legacy of Bones,” goes on sale on February 25, with “Black Shadow Rising” and “Wings of the Storm” following in three-week intervals. The series covers and interior layouts were created by Shawn King of STK Kreations.

Official Book Blurb: An ancient evil is waiting to be reborn...

One thousand years ago, Emperor Abaddon and his generals swept into the Western Kingdoms and unleashed death and destruction on the people. But ruling the world could not be accomplished until they destroyed the dragonlord and his followers, leaving themselves as the most powerful sagias alive.

The dragons and the eastern countries had other plans. Legendary beasts and men banded together in a suicide mission to stop the war, meeting them in a final battle where the emperor and the dragonlord were killed. The five surviving soldiers who fought beside the dragons became the Draig D'Alikar, a group of fighters with the legacy to protect the kingdoms by carrying the bones of the dragonlord as weapons against their enemies.

But now, a young woman has been found who could be a powerful enough sagia to help the emperor be reborn. Only her two brothers, one a recently liberated apprentice who has his own secret power, and the other a drunk still trying to forget their father's death, stand in the way of the generals bringing Emperor Abaddon back to life.

If only the emperor would remain dead, so all the other sagias could live.

Legacy of Bones is the first book in the A Tale of Bone and Steel series, an epic adventure filled with unforgettable characters, gritty action, and the future of the world hanging in the balance. If you like your epic fantasy mixed with a side order of grimdark, then this series is for you.

Follow by Email

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

Click Here To Order “Right To The Kill ” by Craig Schaefer!!!
Order HERE

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

Click Here To Order “Spit And Song” by Travis M. Riddle!!!
Order HERE

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

Click Here To Order “The Arkhel Conundrum” by Sarah Ash!!!
Order HERE

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

Click Here To Order “The Company Of Birds” by Nerine Dorman!!!
Order HERE

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

Click Here To Order “The True Bastards” by Jonathan French!!!
Order HERE

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

Click Here To Order “Rumble In Woodhollow” by Jonathan Pembroke!!!
Order HERE