Blog Archive

View My Stats
Saturday, May 31, 2014

THE INDIE DAY GIVEAWAY IV: Win ONE of THREE KINDLES featuring M.R. Mathias and his Favorite Independent Authors!!!


Order “Rise of the Dragon KingHERE
Read FBC’s Review of “The Sword & the Dragon

Hey guys, it is me again, M. R. Mathias to announce the 2014 Indie Kindy Giveaway!

This year we are featuring indie omnibuses, and giving away  ONE  Kindle Fire HDX 8.9” 16GB, ONE Kindle Fire HD 7” 8GB , and ONE Kindle 6” E Ink Display. All of them will be loaded with the indie book collections you see featured below. That is THREE KINDLES up for grabs in the name of Independence, and as always we are giving them away on Independence Day.

So lets just get to it. The first omnibus featured is The Nameless Dwarf (The Complete Chronicles) by D. P. Prior.

Derek is one of my favorite authors and Nameless is my second favorite dwarf of all time. The Nameless Dwarf is an epic tale of remorse and redemption that pits a whiskerless thief, a guilt-driven assassin, a consumptive wizard, and an amnesiac dwarf against the worst imaginings of a craven mind.

But the companions bring troubles of their own, not least of which is an ancient grimoire that leads them inexorably towards a forest of tar and an evil that threatens the existence of an entire race.

The last hope of the dwarves comes from the unlikeliest of sources: a mythical city beneath the waves, an axe from the age of heroes, and the Nameless Dwarf, in whose veins flows the blood of legends.

Derek’s other collection, Against The Unweaving: Shader: First Trilogy is also available HERE.

The next omnibus is another trilogy. This one is The Dawning of Power Trilogy Omnibus Edition by Brian Rathbone.

Echoes of the ancients’ power are distant memories, tattered and faded by the passage of eons, but that is about to change. A new dawn has arrived. Latent abilities, harbored in mankind’s deepest fibers, wait to be unleashed. Ancient evils awaken, and old fears ignite the fires of war.

In times such as these, ordinary people have the power to save the world . . . or destroy it.

I am going to load two of my collections on the Indie Kindy prize kindles as well. The first is Confliction Compendium, which includes the Dragoneer Saga’s first trilogy as well as The First Dragoneer novella.

The second Dragoneer trilogy is well under way, which includes last summer’s The Emerald Rider, and the June 15th 2014 release of Dragoneer Saga Book Five – Rise of the Dragon King.

I’m not going to say much about the next trilogy, other than I wrote it in a prison cell in Texas with crappy ink pens on over three thousand pieces of college ruled notebook paper. The Complete Wardstone Trilogy is huge, and considering that when I wrote it, I didn’t even know how to type, I think it came out pretty good.

Last we have Magic, Myth & Majesty (7 Fantasy Novels) by various authors (David Dalglish, Daniel Arenson, Robert J. Crane, D. P. Prior, Michael Wallace, Nathan Lowell, Edward W. Robertson)and even if you don’t win a Kindle this one is just  .99 cents. I am featuring it because David, Daniel, Robert, and D.P. all have some pretty good stuff going . I have not read the other authors yet, but they are in good company.

That is all I got. The giveaway entry information is below. There may be more books on the Prize Kindles, and here are a few fantasy authors to look out for over the summer: Brian D. Anderson, Scott Baughman, Tom Bielawski, John Forrester, Craig Halloran, Martin Hengst,  D.W. Jackson, Edward M. Knight, Michael G. Manning, Toby Neighbors, Morgan Rice and Morgen Rich. If you are broke and need something to read drop by ReadFantasy.Org.  Have a great Independence Day everyone and Good Luck!!!

M. R. Mathias

To recap, M.R. Mathias is giving away ONE Kindle Fire HDX 8.9” 16GB, ONE Kindle Fire HD 7” 8GB, and ONE Kindle 6” E Ink Display!!! Each Kindle will be loaded with the following titles:

Confliction Compendium by M. R. Mathias

To enter, please use ONE of the following methods:

  1. Visit Fantasy Book Critic’s Facebook page and follow the instructions listed there.
  2. Send an email to fbcgiveaway@gmail.com with your Name, Mailing Address (Street Addresses Only), and the subject: INDIE KINDY.

Giveaway has ENDED. Thank you for entering and Good Luck!

GIVEAWAY RULES:

1) Open To Anyone Worldwide
2) Only One Entry Per Household (Multiple Entries Will Be Disqualified)
3) Must Enter Valid Email Address, Mailing Address + Name
4) No Purchase Necessary
5) Giveaway Has ENDED
6) Winners Will Be Randomly Selected and Notified By Email
7) Personal Information Will Only Be Used In Mailing Out the Prizes to the Winners
Wednesday, May 28, 2014

“The Immortal Crown” by Richelle Mead (Reviewed by Casey Blair)

Order “The Immortal CrownHERE
Read An Excerpt HERE
Read FBC’s Review of “Gameboard of the Gods

The Immortal Crown is the second volume in Richelle Mead's Age of X series, which is a post-apocalyptic (not dystopian) blend of science fiction and fantasy. If you're new to the series, you can actually pick this book up first and not be lost: Mead does perhaps the best job I've ever seen of getting you caught up in the first chapters without boring returning readers. You'll get more out of The Immortal Crown if you read Gameboard of the Gods first, and I highly recommend it, but the author gives you the critical information that you need to make sense of the story.

In short, I think the sequel is even stronger than the first book. The story is told from the perspectives of the same three protagonists: Mae Koskinen, a powerful upper caste warrior whose abilities are desired by everyone with power, be they man or god; Dr. Justin March, a Sherlock Holmes-esque investigator who has been saddled with Odin's ravens; and Tessa, a student from Panama studying abroad in the Republic of United America.

All of these characters grow in ways I didn't expect them to. My favorite part is that each protagonist is working first and foremost toward their own plot. There isn't a final showdown that everyone contributes to: although all of their plots intersect, and one character might help another, they are each the protagonists of their own equally-weighted plot arcs. I also love how active all of these characters are, how complicated their choices are, and how invested they are in the freedom to make choices for themselves.

In this book we get more glimpses of what the gods are about, what that means for the characters and the world. We explore the politics and technology of the RUNA more deeply with Tessa's media project, while Mae and Justin have to work in what's become of the former southern states of the USA, a place that went a very different direction after the apocalypse.

On a purely prose level, this book is very tight. And Mead doesn't shy away from serious issues raised in her world design, be it abuses of technology, systemic racism, or the dangers of misogyny.

In the end, The Age of X series is coming along beautifully, and once again Richelle Mead has ended the book with some very troubling circumstances to lead us into the third installment.
Thursday, May 22, 2014

"Doon: Doon #1" by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)




Visit the Official Website of the Doon Series Here

OVERVIEW: DOON…

Veronica doesn't think she's going crazy. But why can't anyone else see the mysterious blond boy who keeps popping up wherever she goes? When her best friend, Mackenna, invites her to spend the summer in Scotland, Veronica jumps at the opportunity to leave her complicated life behind for a few months.

But the Scottish countryside holds other plans.

Not only has the imaginary kilted boy followed her to Alloway, she and Mackenna uncover a strange set of rings and a very unnerving letter from Mackenna's great aunt—and when the girls test the instructions Aunt Gracie left behind, they find themselves transported to a land that defies explanation. Doon seems like a real-life fairy tale, complete with one prince who has eyes for Mackenna and another who looks suspiciously like the boy from Veronica's daydreams. But Doon has a dark underbelly as well. The two girls could have everything they've longed for...or they could end up breaking an enchantment and find themselves trapped in a world that has become a nightmare.

DOON is loosely based on the premise of the musical Brigadoon, with permission from the ALan Jay Lerner Estate and the Frederick Loewe Foundation.

FORMAT: Doon is the first book in a proposed series. It is a YA romance novel with a few fantasy elements in it, but it is mostly a romance novel. It stands at 368 pages and was published by Blink on August 20, 2013 and the paperback will be released July 29, 2014.

ANALYSIS: On paper – or the flap of a book cover – Doon sounds like an amazing and slightly unique book that was just perfect for me. It promised to be 'loosely based' off of musical Brigadoon and it takes place in Scotland. Unfortunately, what was promised didn't really meet up to what was delivered.

The entire idea behind the story was fairly original and had so much potential, but extremely predictable, almost boring main characters, a slow moving plot, and irritating conversations and 'cutesy catch phrases' really just ruined the whole book.

I'll start with the main characters. The novel switches between the POV of Veronica and Mackenna. These characters were extremely irritating to the point it ruined the whole book.

Veronica is this 'gorgeous' beauty who doesn't know how beautiful she is, but that isn't the worst. She spends the entire novel swooning over this mysterious guy and whining/crying about how broken she is as a person all because her daddy left her and her boyfriend dumped her. While I understand the need for this back story, we – as readers – are reminded of Veronica's daddy issues and boyfriend woes every 5 seconds.

Mackenna is the opposite of Veronica, except she too doesn't realize she's beautiful. She is supposed to be fun-loving, but comes across as snarky, mean, and extremely jaded. Now, here is the kicker. She loves Broadway and musicals. So, every few moments she is comparing life to some favorite musical or saying these really cheesy phrases like 'Holy Hammerstein!' and ' Sweet Baby Sondheim'.

Maybe things have changed since I was a teen, but I can almost guarantee that teenage girls would not repeatedly make these phrases an everyday occurrence, multiple times throughout the day. It just seemed unrealistic and very tiring.

If the bad characterization of the two main characters wasn't bad enough, we are given the secondary character of James MacCrae and Duncan MacCrae. These are extremely handsome guys who come equipped with eight-pack abs, because six-pack abs just aren't sexy/hot enough. Unfortunately, these characters lack personality and are only developed from afar because we are given a look into life from Veronica/Mackenna.

Another huge issue with the book was the writing. The team of authors seemed set out to make a point that Veronica/Mackenna are BFFs. To make their point, they tell the readers that these two 'share a brain' at least a dozen times. I get that it is a cute phrase and all, but it really was overused.

In addition to the issue of the overuse of cute phrases, the use of a rather frustrating Scottish dialect made this novel a difficult read. Every individual who is from Scotland speaks with an abundance of dinnas, kennas, tas, fers, and other random words. Every single time someone opened their mouth they had this come out of their mouths.

Overall, the entire book – which should have been great – was executed in an extremely juvenile way. This would have been great had two 13 year olds written this, but it wasn't. I understand it is a YA novel, but I really don't see this appealing to its main audience. And it certainly is not appealing to anyone outside of the main audience.

Sadly, what could have been a wonderful novel with a few slightly typical YA quirks turned into something completely different. I kept reading hoping it would get better, but it didn't. I would not advice people to not read this book, I would just say to approach it with caution and a very, very open mind.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Skin Game by Jim Butcher (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


Order Skin Game HERE 
Read the first two chapters HERE & HERE 
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of Ghost Story 
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of Welcome To The Jungle  

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Jim Butcher is the bestselling author of The Dresden Files, which has been adapted into a SyFy television show and a series of comic book adaptations produced by Dynamite Entertainment. He is also the author of The Codex Alera epic fantasy saga. In addition to writing,  Jim Butcher is a martial arts enthusiast and live-action gamer. He currently lives in Independence, Missouri with his family.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, is about to have a very bad day….

Because as Winter Knight to the Queen of Air and Darkness, Harry never knows what the scheming Mab might want him to do. Usually, it’s something awful. He doesn’t know the half of it….

Mab has just traded Harry’s skills to pay off one of her debts. And now he must help a group of supernatural villains—led by one of Harry’s most dreaded and despised enemies, Nicodemus Archleone—to break into the highest-security vault in town so that they can then access the highest-security vault in the Nevernever.

It’s a smash-and-grab job to recover the literal Holy Grail from the vaults of the greatest treasure hoard in the supernatural world—which belongs to the one and only Hades, Lord of the freaking Underworld and generally unpleasant character. Worse, Dresden suspects that there is another game afoot that no one is talking about. And he’s dead certain that Nicodemus has no intention of allowing any of his crew to survive the experience. Especially Harry.

Dresden’s always been tricky, but he’s going to have to up his backstabbing game to survive this mess—assuming his own allies don’t end up killing him before his enemies get the chance….

CLASSIFICATION: The Dresden Files is an urban fantasy series that boasts of a fun mix of fast-paced supernatural action, humor and a dash of mystery/thrills. 

FORMAT/INFO: Skin Game is 454 pages long divided over fifty-one chapters. As usual, narration is in the first-person, exclusively via the private investigator/wizard Harry Dresden. Skin Game is the fifteenth volume in The Dresden Files and it’s highly recommended that new readers start at the beginning of the series since this book has a lot of revelations and builds up on the characters and plot arcs introduced in the preceding books.

May 27, 2014 marks the North American Hardcover publication of Skin Game via Roc. The UK edition (see below) will also be published on May 27, 2014 via Orbit Books. The cover art is done by Chris McGrath.


ANALYSIS: Writing this review is bit hard, as on the first read, Skin Game is pretty much awesome and after my not-so-fun rewarding experience of Cold Days, this was a fun read. After a second detailed re-read, the book still held out and was as much fun the first time around.

Here's what this book is about: Since Harry was forced to take the mantle of Winter Knight; he's been subjugated by Mab's wishes and intentions. Of course he's not going to bend to her whim as was demonstrated in Cold Days. Now Mab has him in a bigger quagmire when she loans out his services to Nicodemus and his Denarian followers. Harry is now at odds since he has to follow Mab's order and his conscience is revolting against the very thought of being in the same room as Shiro's murderer. Nicodemus has plans to raid Hades' vault and grab the most famous chalice in recorded history. Harry is back but has never had to take part in a heist and one in which his conspirators might just be more tempted to bag him rather than Christ's cup. Harry's in a bind and almost without any allies...

Now if you are reading this book, you know what to expect in a Harry Dresden story, Jim Butcher piles up the comedy (Parkour), terrific action sequences, crafty plot twists and some neat character reappearances. Firstly why I think this book rocks so much is because of Nicodemus and the Denarians. As far as the villains of this series go, Nicodemus and bunch are pretty much at the top of the sociopathic heap. What makes Nicodemus IMHO so intriguing is that he's a willing partner with Anduriel and so far has been the one guy who rivals Harry in his determination! Johnny Marcone is another fascinating rival for Harry but he's the subject for another book review.

Nicodemus and the Denarians are possibly one of the best creations that sprung from Jim Butcher's imagination. These folks kill, murder, and torture but ultimately they are all heading towards an unseen goal that Harry hasn't been able to decipher. Whenever they have appeared in the series, those books (Death Masks, Small Favor) have been fantastic. Lots of carnage, horrific deaths and rather cruel twists to our heroes but as with every hero (he/she) needs a formidable antagonist to make the story a memorable one. Nicodemus does that in spades for Harry, so far his despicable actions have made him a universally hated figure and with this book, he will go a few steps further.

In the last book, there were revelations about the Outsiders, the Winter court and what is happening on the outer fringes of our dimension/plane of existence. These were some huge revelations that shook up the story told so far. This book doesn't have that many revelations; to be fair it has almost next to none when compared with those of Cold Days. Then why would I say that this book was better than Cold Days?

Simply put this book has all that magic (literal and figurative) that the earlier books (White Night, Changes, Dead Beat, Small Favor, etc.) epic battles, shocking twists, snarky humor, and horrific events that make them all such gripping reads. This book does all that and marks a return to form by the granddaddy of urban fantasy. There have been various events that we have been waiting for:
- Will we get to see a new knight of the cross?
- What happens to Molly after Cold Days?
- Will Karrin and Harry ever get it on?
- Whatever happened to Lasciel and her coin?
- Will Harry survive the Winter knight mantle?
- And many more…

Some of those questions get glorious (and I mean Glorious) answers. There are a few new characters introduced in this one that I hope make a reappearance in the future (such as antagonist badass Goodman Grey) and plus with all the previous Denarian stories, there is the re-appearance of the characters whose lives were affected previously. This might be easy to figure out but you might get one character right and another one wrong. RAFO what I'm talking about when the book gets released. With the last couple of books the comedic aspect of the books was toned down as the plots didn't quite gel with it. This book however marks a fine return in that aspect & fans will definitely be glad for it (Parkour). Plus with the book's climax, fans will definitely be salivating for Peace Talks (the 16th entry in the Dresden Files) & the author has said that "it probably will be one of the more supernaturally violent books to date!"

With some of the past few books, amid the appearance of angels and questions related to Faith & Divine will. The books have taken a strong jump into Christian theology with regards to its mythos. With this book, that trend continues and it can get confusing as to whether the author is implying that this theological tract is the only correct one in this universe. In his most recent AMA, he did talk about getting the church stuff right & mentioned that he has had "a childhood with a much, much higher than median exposure to theological thought". Now whether he's going down the C. S. Lewis route, remains to be seen but I genuinely hope that the series maintains its previous ambiguity as in the case within the real world. 

Skin Game has a heist plot that runs along the line of most heist stories but what strongly differentiates this one is Jim Butcher. Jim’s characteristic writing skills have made The Dresden Files such a publishing phenomenon. Skin Game continues in that rich vein and if you are a Dresden fan then you will love it. If you aren’t a fan then this book won’t do much to change your mind. This volume didn’t have any deficiencies in my mind but then again I didn’t enjoy Cold Days and many others liked it.

CONCLUSION: Epic, simply epic is the adjective I would use to describe Skin Game, the fifteenth volume was a bit delayed but fans can rejoice as the book more than makes up for the wait. Jim Butcher is back, boys and girls and Skin Game will have you rejoicing and gallivanting like none other. Also if you were wondering why the word "Parkour" was mentioned in my review, that's another thing you'll have to wait until the 27th to find out.
Sunday, May 18, 2014

GUEST REVIEW: Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling (Reviewed by Achala Upendran)


Official Author Website
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Harry Potter and The Chamber Of Secrets
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Harry Potter and The Prisoner Of Azkaban
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Harry Potter and The Goblet Of Fire
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Harry Potter and The Order Of The Phoenix
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: The close of an epic fantasy series brings with it a great deal of heartache, some amount of despair and a certain portion of good old denial. We’ve stuck by the characters through thick and thin for so many books, after all, whether through the thirteen volumes of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, seven Narnia books or even the less-weighty but no less emotionally hard hitting (arguably, more hard-hitting) The Lord of the Rings. The seventh and final book in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, brought in its wake all three of the aforementioned emotions. In fact, the ‘denial’ factor took visual form, with the movie being split into two parts. Just to draw out the heartache a little longer, you know?

With the fall of Albus Dumbledore, the bastion of the ‘good’ side seems to have come crashing down, and no one is able to stop Voldemort and his minions from sweeping into power. Harry, Ron and Hermione have opted out of attending Hogwarts and are on the run, hunting for the remaining Horcruxes. With only two accounted for and five still out there, it looks like a tall order and one they have little hope of fulfilling, especially given that the forces of the government and Voldemort’s Death Eaters are out to get them.

The thing to remember about the Harry Potter books is where their enduring power lies. It is not, entirely, in the plot. It is not even in the intricacies of the world Rowling built. It lies, instead, in her characters. Even with this, the final book in the series and one where (most readers will assume) she is unlikely to surprise us, Rowling pulls out her stops and serves a delicious buffet of human emotion. This is it, the wizarding war we have been awaiting for six books, the moment Harry is expected to step out and shine at the forefront of battle. Rowling, however, opts not to walk down that tried and tested road. Instead, she sends her three young heroes on a lonely quest, out of the ‘main action’ and thus tests them in ways they never imagined.

I won’t lie; leaving Hogwarts out for a great duration of the seventh book was a big gamble for Rowling to take, and there are many of us (me included) who would have ideally liked to have seen more of the school that’s become, for us as well as Harry, a second home. But I do respect her artistic decision to push her hero’s limits rather than send him back to the predictable grind. Besides, given how events pan out, it’s probably a really good thing he didn’t go back after all.

Another thing that might get to you (as it did to me) was the lack of screen-time for many of our most beloved characters. This is the product of not-being-in-Hogwarts, but after six years of knowing them, it’s still rather sad that we didn’t get to spend many chapters with the Weasleys, the various professors or even, admit it, our favourite bully, Draco Malfoy. Instead, the book focuses almost solely on the trio and their adventures as they ricochet around the country, searching desperately for the means to destroy Voldemort. We also get to see Harry at his broody best, something we’d missed ever since Order of the Phoenix. That’s right, did you think Harry was going to be completely noble and silently suffer his heroic torments? He is a seventeen year old boy.


The tagline of Deathly Hallows: Part 1 reads: ‘Trust no one’. That’s a maxim readers should sear into their brains. You can’t trust anyone in this book to behave as they have before. Characters reveal shades that you’ve never suspected them of harbouring, once-trusted allies turn out to have hidden streaks of selfishness, perhaps some long-loathed villains will show unwitting decency. Even Dumbledore is not safe from Rowling’s intense scrutiny, and many of the former Headmaster’s secrets are nastily revealed to the wizarding world. Again, like most events in the series, these revelations serve as a profound test for Harry Potter. Again, readers have to wait and see how he deals with it and whether they leave him with the strength to continue his appointed mission.

Rowling’s stretching of her characters’ limits is, I think, a brilliant, brilliant stroke. Considering how on edge the wizarding world has been for the duration of Half-Blood Prince, considering the terrible blow that shook it at that novel’s close, it seems only natural that now with ‘evil’ so ascendant that the fighters seem to collectively fray at the edges. These are people who are undergoing severe stress, who don’t know who or what they can trust, and like normal, everyday people everywhere, they can snap and bend in ways you never thought possible.

I keep trying to imagine what it must have been like to be J. K. Rowling on the eve of Deathly Hallows’ release, to know that children and adults around the world are waiting at bookstore doors, dressed up in homage to characters you created, terrified to know who would live and who would die at your command. Imagine what a sense of power that must have given her, but at the same time, what kind of helpless fear weighed at her. To know that you had created a universe filled with people so complex, so loved and hated that they seem real to millions around the world; to know that millions still read and watch and live in the world you created.

The lure of Harry Potter is impossible to describe, define or contain. Even now, seven years after its close, I can’t put my finger on what exactly it is about this world that keep me and millions like me hooked, returning to them time and again whether through the books, movies, fanfiction, role playing games, whatever. Through these reviews I’ve tried, scraped the surface perhaps in an attempt to lay out what it is that is so compelling about each one. In each volume, Rowling works on a little detail of her world, fleshes it out just a tiny bit more. And yet, through all the magical ups and downs and in-betweens, she retains her focus on what really, in my opinion, makes her books magical: Harry Potter and his fellows.

That’s it for me, really. It’s not the spells or the monsters or even the classic good versus evil fight. There are plenty of fantasy authors who have done those, and done them better. But find me a writer whose characters have inspired the kind of lifelong devotion and sense of immediacy that Rowling’s have. Even now, a decade later, you’ll find people sitting around and debating the merits of Dumbledore’s decisions, whether or not Sirius’s ‘prank’ could ever be excused, if Ron and Hermione really made a better couple than Harry and Hermione.

CONCLUSION: For the truly crazed readers (and there are many of us) these are almost real people, not just characters who close the covers on at the close. Harry and his peers are a part of the everyday for most Potterheads in a way that few other characters from any book can claim to be. And it’s for that reason that Harry Potter, no matter what befalls him, will always be the Boy Who Lived.

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



GUEST REVIEWER INFO: Achala Upendran is a freelance editor and writer based in India. She blogs about fantasy literature, with a special focus on the Harry Potter series, at Where the Dog Star rages. You can also follow her on Twitter at @AchalaUpendran

NOTE: This ends Achala's massive undertaking of reviewing the entire Harry Potter books, we at Fantasy Book Critic would like to extend our thanks for her detailed analysis & fascinating insight into books that will stand the test of time.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Three Upcoming Titles (Ilona Andrews, Anthony Ryan & Rob J. Bennett) To Watch Out For (by Mihir Wanchoo)

Since I'll be reviewing all three of them closer to their release dates. I thought it would be a good idea to post my Goodread thoughts on Tower Lord by Anthony Ryan, Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews and City Of Stairs by Robert J. Bennett. These are my informal thoughts and the main reason for posting them is that I believe that these three have been the standout SFF reads for me so far in 2014...


First up is Tower Lord and I've been anticipating this book since 2012. So here's what I thought:

I would love to rate this one six stars if GR would allow me! In my review for Blood Song, at the end I had written "give this book a read if you want to read a story that’s closest to those written by David Gemmell." With Tower Lord, he not only proves that in spades by giving the readers a siege situation similar to that in Legend and also many more memorable events and characters. This book easily is the best heroic fantasy of 2014 (bettering the high of City Of Stairs by a hairsbreadth) and now all others have to overcome it.

Let's begin with the story, in Tower Lord, we get 3 new POV characters besides Vaelin who was the sole narrator in Blood Song. Another funny aspect of the story is that this book also follows the same narrative format as Blood Song wherein the events begin in the near past and interspersed between five accounts of the royal Alpiran chronicler Verniers Alishe Someren. As to why the story is set in such a format and what is Verniers doing will be up to the fans to RAFO, safe to say it's quite shocking to meet Verniers.

We find Vaelin Al Sorna back to the Unified realm and seeks to find his relatives who might be surviving. The 2nd POV character is Reva a young woman with tremendous martial skills who seeks revenge on Vaelin for a past crime. She's not Asraelian and seeks his death single-handedly, who she is and why she hates Vaelin is spoiler material and so I won't comment on it. Safe to say for people wanting to know her identity can take guesses and I might just give you tell if you are correct or not in the comments...

The other two POV characters, I won't name until closer to the book release, safe to say there are characters from the first book and I, as a fan was expecting them to be POV characters. This book also enlarges the world situation by showcasing the continent east of the Alpiran & Unified realms, namely the Volarian empire. The story begins by detailing an attack on the unified realms from many fronts. Vaelin is faced with a new responsibility when he's made Tower Lord of the Northern Reaches by King Malcius.

Another highlight of this book is that nearly every character who made a major & minor impression in its predecessor is back in this one (except the dead ones). We get to see all of them & see different shades to them, this was an extremely pleasurable thing to read, a couple of mysteries from Blood Song, namely who attacked Vaelin in the Test Of the Wild as well as who was behind it get clarified. Many other bigger revelations also abound but that's a topic for the full review.

Secondly going on to the characterization, Anthony Ryan shines brighter in his sophomore effort by giving us many brilliant characters. Lastly the pace and action sequences are amplified across all the four POV sections, we get to see our favorite characters face odds that they have never thought of and the fun is seeing how it all ends.

Coming back to my original statement of this book being similar to Legend, David Gemmell's epic debut. We get a siege wherein legends are forged and this was a highlight to read. Lastly the climatic chapter ends on a such a note that you might not want to wait a whole year for Queen Of Fire, Rest assured I'll be diligent to ask Anthony about Queen Of Fire and many other questions in his forthcoming FBC interview.

 ************************************************************************


Next up is Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews. Now this book was originally going to be climax of the series, but that's no longer the case (and thankfully so). The authors had previously announced that this book will be the end of the first arc of Kate's journey and would also introduce Roland. Safe to say this book didn't disappoint but also managed to overcome my sky-high expectations and Roland got an epic introduction:

For all Ilona Andrews fans, this has been the book that we have been waiting for. Magic Breaks is the first time when Roland makes an appearance and is about the introduction/confrontation of him & Kate. However this is not the FINAL book in the series, we are assured of three more (atleast)...

Magic Breaks is set after the tumultuous events seen in Magic Rises and after the cross-Atlantic journey, Kate is not sure what to expect next. Things have settled comfortably with the Atlanta pack as Curran goes to work with Panacea and is able to fortify his territory. Things are going well as much as they can but when Curran is suspiciously called away for a hunt, Kate is forced to attend a conclave meeting with the People. The plot thickens when a high ranking master of the dead is found murdered. With all signs pointing towards a shape-shifter, things get tense as Kate's most hated adversary returns to give her 24 hours to hand over the murderer or Roland's war comes to Atlanta. From then on it's a race against time as Kate and the pack have to figure what really happened and how to clear this mess.

What can I say, Magic Breaks has been a very fast-paced & superbly satisfying read. Infact I'll go ahead to say this book will be in my top 3 of my year end lists. If you love the previous books then prepare to have your mind blown. This book has all the positive attributes of the series that we all love. Awesome action sequences, terrific characterization and a great cast of characters, lastly the humor never truly fails to stop the story from becoming abysmally dark. Kate and all of our favorite characters are back in this one and so many others from the previous works make some memorable appearances. Their presence however is entirely justified and unlike the last Sookie Stackhouse book, wherein everyone just showed up to bid adieu. The authors make sure that the tension is never completely resolved and the readers will be flipping pages to see what all is encompassed within this tale.

For me, I loved how the authors melded a murder mystery, their version of "the mines of Moria sequence" which just simply will blow most reader minds and lastly a confrontation between a father and daughter. If you think that you can predict what will happen, I'll gladly inform you that you will be wrong. The action sequences are amped up and there's some new additions to the rich were mythology that the authors have built up so far. Then there are further revelations about Kate's past, Roland, her magic and some subjects that are highly spoilerfic to eve mention. Safe to say that this book does everything but bring you to the edge of a mental orgasm before tipping you over savagely of course.

This is truly Epic Urban Fantasy & Ilona Andrews are just the best (watch out Jim Butcher) when it comes to writing in this under-appreciated genre. Plus as a freebie, the authors have also included MAGIC TESTS, a short story about Julie which I have previously reviewed HERE.

 ************************************************************************


Lastly there is City Of Stairs which just came out of nowhere and was the first standout out book of 2014 for me: 

This is one of those books that I was intrigued about when the author spoke about how history affects perception and the lives of those living in a city that previously affected the whole world, oh and also the bodies of dead gods being used as WMDs!

I'm usually a sucker for stories that sound weird and have cool blurbs such as the one above. To back it up, the author also spoke a bit more about the story's conception over HERE & HERE. Plus I had read the author's previous work which was excellent (American Elsewhere) & not-so-good (Mr. Shivers). This was the author's first stab at something other than what he had written so far.

The story is set in Bulikov, the aforementioned City Of Stairs and erstwhile de-facto capital of the world (or atleast that's what the citizens would have you believe). Bulikov is situated in the continent with several other divine cities, it however is conquered by Saypur, a crumbling outpost which nearly 80 years ago did something so outrageous that it shook the foundations of history and literally changed the world.

A man titled Kaj, slew a god via his machinations and thereby sailed onto the continent wherein he further slew the remaining gods besides the ones mixing from a long time ago. Thereby destroying the continent's rule on the world and establishing Saypur's ascendancy as the supreme power.

The story begins in 1719 wherein in Bulikov, the murder of Efrem Pangyui has caused upheaval and led to the coming of Shara Thivani, a middling diplomat who comes to the City of Stairs to find out the real reason behind the murder. She however is not one without any mystery of her own and should her real identity be revealed, then the continent will truly erupt.

The author has taken pains to create a world that is magical, technologically oriented and sincerely refreshing in more ways than one. Six gods there were Olvos, Kolkan, Jukov, Ahanas, Voortya, and Taalhavras, their wonders elevated the continent but now their age has gone and it left to diplomats and spies to manage the world. The world-building and the current state of the world is the remarkable part of the story possibly even better than the terrific characterization. Kudos to the author for eschewing pseudo-European templates and creating a world that's complex as our own and incredibly diverse.

Rob J. Bennett brings us down to the action as Shara and her secretary (this is a complete misnomer for him) Sigrud try to figure out what is happening behind the scenes. By the way Sigrud truly is a memorable secondary character, his actions and past truly make the scenes come alive whenever he's featured and I sincerely hope in the future books that the author dwells into his past and future. Shara is a remarkable protagonist as it's through her eyes we come to experience the disheveled state of diplomacy and the many sacrifices it demands. I honestly feel that this book has so many dimensions to it and the more you re-read, the more you find.

This book is the overwhelming favorite for 2014 (or was until I read the aforementioned titles) and all other will have a hard time to eclipse it in my list. I'm glad Robert J. Bennett is also writing a sequel to this, because I truly can't wait to read more about this strange world and the three-dimensional characters that inhabit it.

 ************************************************************************

So you can look forward to all three of them and be assured that Liviu, Casey and me will do our best to further elaborate why we loved them so much in the full FBC reviews.

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

Click Here To Order “The Combat Codes” by Alexander Darwin!!!


Order HERE

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

Click Here To Order “Grievar's Blood” by Alexander Darwin


Order HERE

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

Click Here To Order “TSairĊ’s Claw” by Virginia McClain!!!
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