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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

We Ride The Storm by Devin Madson (reviewed by Lukasz Przywoski)


Official Author Website
Order We Ride The Storm HERE
Read an excerpt HERE 

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Devin Madson is the Aurealis Award-winning author of In Shadows We Fall. Having given up on reality she is now a dual-wielding rogue with a lot of points sunk into stealth and lock picking skills. Anything but zen, Devin subsists on tea and chocolate and so much fried zucchini she ought to have turned into one by now.

If you’re after happy, fuzzy tales then you’ve come to the wrong place. Her fantasy novels come in all shades of grey and are populated with characters of questionable morals and a liking for witty banter.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: War built the Kisian Empire and war will tear it down. And as an empire falls, three warriors rise.

Caught in a foreign war, Captain Rah e’Torin and his exiled warriors will have to fight or die. Their honour code is all they have left until orders from within stress them to breaking point, and the very bonds that hold them together will be ripped apart.

Cassandra wants the voice in her head to go away. Willing to do anything for peace, the ageing whore takes an assassination contract that promises answers, only the true price may be everyone and everything she knows.

A prisoner in her own castle, Princess Miko doesn’t dream of freedom but of the power to fight for her empire. As the daughter of a traitor the path to redemption could as easily tear it, and her family, asunder.

As an empire dies they will have to ride the storm or drown in its blood.

CLASSIFICATION: The Reborn Empire is a gritty and violent action-packed, character-driven dark fantasy series.

FORMAT/INFO: We Ride the Storm is 444 pages long divided over twenty four numbered chapters. The narration is in the third person and focuses on three main POV characters: captain Rah e’Torin, whore/assassin Cassandra and Princess Miko. This is the first volume of the Reborn Empire series.

This book is available in e-book and paperback format. It was self-published by the author. Cover art is by John Antony Di Giovanni, cover design is provided by Shawn T. King.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: I've never tried to saw off the head. To my surprise, it's a complicated and bloody process***. If you've ever wondered how it's done, it's described in gory detail in the first chapter of We Ride The Storm. From here, things get even more gruesome. It's probably the most violent novel I've read this year.

It's also a surprisingly layered book, but before you fully appreciate it, you'll have to look past spilt blood, sticky viscera or brains oozing through the cracked skulls.

Sounds fun?

Then buckle your seatbelts and prepare for a hell of a ride.

The book is about war and war politics. In times of war, no one cares about people, and both religious and political leaders play a cruel, devastating game that destroys lives and  breaks kingdoms. Despite focusing on bigger conflict, it's a character-centric story. While there were parts of the book that dealt with army movements and politics, it wasn't frustrating and didn't dilute an otherwise engaging story.

We Ride The Storm revolves around numerous characters, but we learn about the world and the events through the eyes of three of them.

Captain Rah e’Torin and his exiled warriors are caught in a war they have no interest in. They're nomads with a strong sense of honour. Unfortunately, in this world honour and higher values have little value. Torin and his soldiers have become slaves; they're abused (physically, mentally and sexually) and are used to fight.

Cassandra is a whore and an assassin. She's never alone as there's another voice in her head. She wants nothing more than to make it go away. She accepts a contract that may give her answers and relief; only its true price may be everyone and everything she knows.

Princess Miko wants the power to fight for her empire. As the bastard daughter of a traitor, her possibilities are limited. And yet this resourceful gal may find a way to reshape the empire and become a legend. I like her.

Their fates and paths will soon cross in the aftermath of an epic and bloody battle.

Secondary characters were interesting but less developed. I'm especially interested in Dom Leo Villius of Chiltae, eldest son of His Holiness the Hieromonk. He's a servant of God who somehow had gotten himself mixed up in politics, and someone disliked it enough to want him dead. The storylines of the three protagonists revolve around him. Miko was supposed to marry him. Cassandra intends to behead him. And Rah tries to protect him. Leo is interesting for few reasons. All of them are spoilers. Suffice to say I want to learn more about him and see if he'll return in the sequel.

My favourite portions of the book were definitely those that involved Cassandra. That fallen, insane woman ended up playing a major part in this book, somewhat unwillingly, and I was suitably impressed by it. Not that she's so impressive as a character, but her actions and choices influenced the plot directly and indirectly. I still don’t understand what's the nature of the entity that shares her body and mind, but their dialogues and struggle for control were impressive. I'm not sure if some of the scenes, especially the ones in which Cassandra beats herself, weren't a bit over the top. But that's the thing about this book. I still don't know how I feel about it.

Because of extreme violence (including rape and sexual abuse), it's definitely a book you want to open up before buying. Read a sample from it if you're ordering from the internet. It's not for everybody. You need to have a strong stomach to follow the story without reaching for Prozac. After finishing it, I hugged my wife and my dog to remind myself the world can be a safe place and good things happen.

CONCLUSION: In the end, I'm confused, so I'll make it simple. I loved certain parts of the book. I equally disliked other parts of the book. It was bleak and brutal, and some scenes were probably over the top. I appreciated the political intrigue and the impressive depth of the characters. On the other hand, I'm not sure if their motivations are always convincing. And so on, and so on. I really don't know what to think and to say about this book.

One thing is sure, though. I'll read the sequel once it hits the shelves.

***- The bloody part is obvious, but in movies and in books people are usually beheaded gracefully in one blow.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

COVER REVEAL AND EXCERPT: Point of Fate by David L. Craddock (Book Two of the Gairden Chronicles)



Cover Art by Nele Diel
Preorder Point of Fate on Amazon or  Kobo
Visit David L. Craddock's Website Here 
Read FBC's Review of Heritage Here




Fantasy Book Critic is excited to offer you the very first look at the cover for Point of Fate, the second book in David L. Craddock's fantasy series. This is an extremely special opportunity and Fantasy Book Critic is honored to be able to host this exclusive cover reveal.

This cover is extremely special for us because David Craddock is not only a good friend of mine, but he got his start as a book critic right here at Fantasy Book Critic. For a number of years, David shared his love of fantasy books with readers. That love turned into writing his very own fantasy series.

Today, we offer you the chance to see the amazing cover of Point of Fate, read a partial excerpt from Chapter 1 and learn more about David Craddock and his impressions on the cover art! We hope you enjoy this cover reveal and sneak peek of Point of Fate



David's Comments on the Cover Art for Point of Fate 

I'm not an artist, but I know what I like. After describing a critical scene that I thought would work well as Point of Fate's cover, Margaret Curelas, my editor at Tyche Books, took charge of finding an artist while I hammered out semi-final revisions to the book. A few weeks later she sent along Nele Diel's portfolio and asked for my thoughts.
One look at Nele's work was all I needed to know she was the right artist for the job.

Nele has an incredible eye for scale and environmental detail that perfectly matched the scene I had chosen. She's a visual storyteller, drawing from my description of the setting to establish the right mood and illustrate an oncoming threat: Hundreds of undead (known as vagrants in the Gairden Chronicles universe) rising from their graves and descending, quite literally, on Aidan Gairden and Nichel of the Wolf, who stand braced in the foreground.

Braced, but not ready. Not only does Nele know how to bring a setting to life, she nailed Aidan's and Nichel's characterization. The age and statures of these childhood-friends-turned-enemies—manipulated against one another by Point of Fate's central antagonist—is critical to who they are and what they're hope and need to accomplish. Aidan is the Crown of the North, leader of a kingdom. Nichel, as war chief, has united her clans, who teeter on the brink of extinction.

Aidan and Nichel carry the weight of their people on their shoulders. They're also teenagers. They don't want this responsibility. Each is doing what they believe must be done for the good of their realms. Are their shoulders strong enough to hold such a weight? That's what I want readers to ask themselves as they read Point of Fate, and that's what Nele expertly brings across in the book's cover art. Their stature and stances remind us that, crowns or no crowns, they're still two kids forced to stand against the greatest threat they have ever known—and that threat is rushing at them, raining down on them, whether they're ready for it or not.

Nele did an incredible job, and I'm thrilled and proud to share her work with you.

Official Synopsis of Point of Fate  


Spring has come to the northern kingdom of Torel. No longer a fugitive, Aidan Gairden has claimed Heritage, the ancestral blade of his royal bloodline, and rules as Crown as the North. But even as the snows of winter thaw, darkness spreads across the continent of Crotaria, threatening its four realms with eternal night.

In the north, Torel's capital sits vulnerable as the Ward marches west to fight a misguided war, leaving Daniel Shirey scrambling to fortify the city against the undead gathering outside its walls. In the east, Edmund Calderon petitions Leaston's ruling guild to add their ships and steel to Torel's cause even as grief and inner demons overwhelm him.

In the south, Christine Lorden struggles to unite the Touched under Aidan's banner while her people, the oppressed Sallnerians, entreat her to lead an uprising against Torel. In the west, Aidan works to convince Nichel of the Wolf, now war chief of the Darinian tribes, of the plot to turn Torel and Darinia against each other. Torn between vengeance and love, Nichel wrestles with an ancient and malevolent magic that has awakened within her, stoking a bloodlust she fears will never be sated.

At the heart of every conflict, Tyrnen Symorne—one-time friend and counselor—pulls strings as the Point of Fate that will decide the fate of the realms draws near.

Learn More About David L. Craddock 



David L. Craddock lives in northeast Ohio with his wife and business partner, Amie Kline. He writes fiction, nonfiction, and author bios, usually his own. He is the author of the Gairden Chronicles series of epic fantasy novels for young adults, and the bestselling Stay Awhile and Listen trilogy that recounts the history of World of WarCraft developer Blizzard Entertainment and Diablo developer Blizzard North. Tag along with his writing adventures online @davidlcraddock on Twitter, and at www.davidlcraddock.com.

 

 Partial Excerpt from Chapter One of Point of Fate  

 

The following excerpt comes from Chapter 1 of Point of Fate: Book Two of the Gairden Chronicles by David L. Craddock. Point of Fate will be published in paperback and electronic formats by Tyche Books on August 28, 2018, and is available for pre-order on Amazon and Kobo. Heritage: Book One of the Gairden Chronicles was published in 2014.

Chapter 1: Doom of the Wild

The road to the Father’s Vanguard is paved with hot coals and sharp stones.

Romen of the Wolf had spoken those words to Nichel after a hardship. The meshia, the climb, the attempt on her life by an assassin of the Blood. Never before had the words rang truer. Hot coals and sharp stones were as nothing to the man looming over her.
  
With one hand, Guyde of the Bear removed his helm and tossed it casually over the side of Janleah Keep. It scraped and bounced against stone. The man staring back at her had a hard face carved with scars. His eyes were bright, passionate, pleading.

“Do not do this,” he said. “I will avenge your father. Aidan Gairden will pay for—”

At that name, her fear vanished. Nichel darted forward. Silk spun in her right hand as Sand jabbed at Guyde’s exposed throat. His eyes went wide, and he backpedaled, giving ground and raising the axe, his paw, before him—one hand gripping the black shaft near the base, the other choking it beneath its smooth, polished blade—to deflect Nichel’s flurry of blows.

Guyde’s shock lasted as long as rainfall. He planted his feet and swatted at her with the butt of his axe. Nichel raised Sand out of instinct. She may as well have tried to stop a mountain from stampeding over her. The wooden haft, as thick as both her legs, cracked against Sand, sending tremors up her arm. She grunted and stumbled to one side, off balance. Bellowing like his namesake, Guyde threw himself at her, reclaiming ground, cleaving the air with his axe in wide, two-handed strokes. Far below, bears roared. His clansmen were with him.

Guyde feinted left, swinging his axe back so far he twisted at the waist. Nichel read his movements. He was preparing to deliver a wide horizontal slice. The maneuver made sense. Given the length of his arms and that of his weapon, such swings covered nearly half the platform. She tensed, appearing indecisive, unsure of which way to go. When he began to swing she would duck under him and—

Without warning Guyde brought his axe up instead of around. He raised it high over his head for a split second and then brought it whistling down. Nichel’s grim determination shattered, replaced by fear. The Bear’s Paw. It was Guyde’s fabled attack, responsible for splitting countless enemies from skull to groin.

Instinctively, she threw herself back. The stone platform shuddered as Guyde’s paw crashed down atop it, kicking up sparks. His body shook with the force of the blow. His roar cut off as his teeth clicked together hard enough that Nichel heard it over the tumult of shouts and cheers below. He was slow to lift his axe. The shock of the blow must have been great enough for him to lose all feeling, if only for a moment. A moment was all Nichel needed.

She launched herself forward, not at his throat, but at his legs, where the hinges on his greaves met. Two swipes from Sand, one for each leg, was all it took. The hinges snapped. His greaves fell loosely, exposing dark flesh. In the same breath in which she had swung Sand, Nichel darted in with Silk, stabbing and cutting at hamstrings.

Guyde howled and swung his paw behind him. Nichel rolled and came up hacking and slashing, targeting more weak spots. She was dissecting him, cutting him open and exposing flesh and sinew and bone. Guyde’s roars grew more frenzied, anger mingling with pain as blood ran from wounds. He kicked wildly, first with one leg than the other, like a frightened horse.

His right leg gave out first. One moment he was standing upright, and the next he fell to one knee. Fear painted his features. Gripping the handle of his axe, he held the weapon across his chest like an oar, crawling backward.

Nichel did not just see his fear. She could smell it. It filled her nostrils, a mixture of sweat and blood and cold radiating from him in waves. She leaped at him and thrust her knives down.

In an instant, Guyde’s expression changed from sheer terror to triumph. He brought his paw up and Sand and Silk bit into wood and held firm. She was wrenching before her feet hit the ground, snarling and trying to rip them free. They were stuck, buried up to their hilts in ebony wood cut from forests in the forbidden realm.

Guyde heaved forward. The shaft smashed into her ribs and sent her flailing. Her feet left the stone and her back crashed against it. Breath left her lungs in a whoosh. Guyde rose, tottering until he achieved balance, snarling as he tried to put weight on his left leg. He ripped Sand and Silk free and hurled them at her feet hard enough that they bounced before skittering out of reach.

             She looked up in time to see Guyde pounce. Gritting her teeth, struggling to pull in air, she pushed herself up and threw herself to one side. Too slow. Guyde of the Bear slammed atop her, an avalanche of muscles and steel that stole what little breath she’d managed to regain. She squirmed futilely. His great mass pinned her to the stone. His left knee found her left arm and went still. He shifted his bulk, driving all his weight down on her arm. Something snapped. She screamed, struggled harder, gouging at his eyes with her right hand. Guyde grunted, swatting her hands away, then drove his head against her skull.


Bright colors flashed across Nichel’s vision. When they cleared, two Guydes stood over her, blurry as specters through a haze of tears and blood. Blackness threatened to close in. It took all her willpower to cling to consciousness.

Guyde of the Bear stumbled, favoring his right leg. Blood ran down it in a curtain, but Guyde paid it no mind. His mountainous form glared down at the assemblage like some ancient deity descended from the clouds, his expression twisted more by anger than pain. They cried out for him, weapons rattling and fists shaking. They cried out for blood. For sacrifice to the Father.

“This battle is over,” he called. “Nichel of the Wolf fought with honor. She...”

Guyde’s words faded to indistinct mumbling. The world receded. The aches and bruises forming over her body, the fire racing through her broken arm—everything faded. His words were as frilly as the silk of her mother’s dresses. For all his talk of honor in combat, there was no way any war chief would let a challenger live. She would be considered a threat to his reign, mercy a sign of weakness.

Guyde of the Bear’s droning reached a crescendo. The roars of his people, of her people, rose to a pitch. They sounded mad, feverish with bloodlust. Turning, she saw Guyde’s enormous hand reach down and heft his paw, dragging the steel head against the stone. With his other hand he hauled her from her back and turned her over so that she knelt, head lolling, left arm dangling, her neck exposed.

Nichel closed her eyes, but tears still squeezed through her eyelids. “It’s not fair,” she whispered through bloody lips already beginning to swell. Anger and grief bubbled up.

Guyde must have heard her. His voice grew piteous. “You fought well, Nichel of the Wolf. The Father’s Vanguard lit your path and will welcome you home.”

Nichel managed a wet snort. She was not afraid. She was ashamed and heartbroken. Her parents had been slain. It was her duty to avenge them, and she had failed in spectacular fashion. All the while, their killer walked free. Aidan Gairden. The man she had been promised to marry, their union tying unbreakable bonds between Crotaria’s northern and western realms. That union would never be. Torel and Darinia would go to war. Hundreds of thousands would die. Aidan would be one of them. She should be the one to spill his blood. To taste it.

Anger festered, becoming blind fury. Grief rotted into despair. She closed her eyes tighter, bracing for Guyde’s axe and hoping the blackness of her eyelids would soon turn to the bright expanse of the Vanguard. Her parents waited for her there.

Red eyes opened in her mind. They stared at her, through her, saw inside her. Her thoughts were sluggish, clouded by pain and anguish and wrath so hot her blood boiled.

What are you? The whispered voice was her own, distant and hazy.

The red eyes became the shade of molten fire.

Nichel was there, yet not there. Outside herself. She gazed into the eyes. They were mirrors, reflecting her pain back at her. Not physical pain. Broken bones and bloodied lips did not exist in this place. Those eyes were mirrors that magnified her wrath and hopelessness tenfold. Those eyes brightened, blinding her, burning her up, filling her, consuming her and the world and everything.

—Free me. That voice rumbled, a growl emanating up from the depths of a deep, dark hole.

Nichel opened her eyes.



 About Tyche Books 




Tyche Books is a Canadian small-press specializing in science-fiction and fantasy anthologies, novels, and non-fiction, all available as ebooks and trade paperbacks. We crave innovative stories that push the boundaries of our imaginations. Our name “Tyche” (pronounced Tie-key) comes from the Greek goddess of fortune and prosperity. Tyche is also the name of the hypothetical gas planet in the Oort cloud. We felt it was the perfect balance of mythology and science, much like our press. Based out of Alberta, Canada, we are the new home of BOLD Science Fiction, Fantasy and related Non-Fiction.




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