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Thursday, July 30, 2015

"Book Scavenger" by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

Visit Jennifer Chambliss Bertman's Website Here

OVERVIEW: A hidden book. A found cipher. A game begins . . . .

Twelve-year-old Emily is on the move again. Her family is relocating to San Francisco, home of her literary idol: Garrison Griswold, creator of the online sensation Book Scavenger, a game where books are hidden all over the country and clues to find them are revealed through puzzles. But Emily soon learns that Griswold has been attacked and is in a coma, and no one knows anything about the epic new game he had been poised to launch. Then Emily and her new friend James discover an odd book, which they come to believe is from Griswold and leads to a valuable prize. But there are others on the hunt for this book, and Emily and James must race to solve the puzzles Griswold left behind before Griswold's attackers make them their next target.

FORMAT: Book Scavenger is a children's novel. It has mystery, adventure, friendship, and a scavenger hunt with clues and codes to break. It is very similar to Westing Game and Egypt Game, but a modern literary version of it. 

Book Scavenger is part of a proposed series of books, but it can be read on its own. 

Book Scavenger was published on June 2, 2015 by Henry Holt and Company.

ANALYSIS: What if there was a worldwide scavenger hunt that involved all your favorite novels? Think of it. You take a favorite book of yours, read it, review it, and then go out into the world and hide it. Once hidden, other book lovers will hunt for your book (and thousands of other books hidden in the wild) using clues and codes you left on the website. It is like allowing your favorite books to go 'into the wild' where other readers can find them, read them, and enjoy them.

The above scene is exactly what happens in Jennifer Chambliss Bertman's newest novel Book Scavenger. Emily, a 12 year old book lover and avid player of the book hunt game Book Scavenger who has moved around from state to state, finds herself in the middle of a mysterious, yet epic book-themed scavenger hunt. She truly believes that Garrison Griswold, a Willy Wonka version for the literary world, has created this epic version in an effort to help someone win the ultimate prize.

Unfortunately, Griswold was attacked and lies in a coma in the hospital. Could his attack have something to do with this new game or is it unrelated? Emily embarks on a quest, along with her new friend James, to unravel the clues that are found in this epic game. But time is running out, as it appears other, stronger and dangerous individuals are after the same clues and want to get to the big prize before Emily does.

Book Scavenger is one of the best books I've read in 2015. It is the perfect blend of The Westing Game and The Egypt Game, but for book lovers and those that love to crack codes and mysteries. I view Book Scavenger as a modern version of these books, but with its own twists and turns.

I loved that while the actual game of Book Scavenger was played online, the majority of the book relied on good old fashioned thinking/team work. Many modern books try to shove the technological aspect in your face and go overboard. But Book Scavenger has the perfect blend of modern technology and adventure/clue scavenging. It is this ability to not rely on technology (and some of the other aspects, such as timeless plot and great characters) that gives this book the potential to be a timeless classic.

Book Scavenger has everything that a reader could love. There is humor, a solid friendship between children, family bonds, mystery, and codes to crack. Readers will love playing along with Emily as she searches throughout the city to find the ultimate prize. The writing is tight and well thought out, the characters enjoyable, and there are just enough literary references to satisfy readers of all ages. Even though it is a children's novel, it really appeals to everyone's inner child.

Book Scavenger is one of my 2015 reads. I could read it over and over again. The only problem I have is I really wish Book Scavenger was a real thing and people all over would take part. Maybe someday!
Wednesday, July 29, 2015

One Good Dragon Deserves Another by Rachel Aaron (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website  
Pre-order “One Good Dragon Deserves AnotherHERE
Read the first three chapters HERE 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Nice Dragons Finish Last"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "The Spirit Thief
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of “The Spirit Rebellion” 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of “The Spirit Eater” & “Spirit’s Oath” 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of “The Spirit War” 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Spirit's End"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Fortune's Pawn"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Honor's Knight"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Heaven's Queen"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Interview with Rachel Aaron
Read Eli Monpress series completion interview with Rachel Aaron
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Interview with Rachel Bach

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Rachel Aaron lives in Athens, Georgia with her family. She has graduated from University of Georgia with a B.A. in English Literature. She has been an avid reader since her childhood and now has an ever-growing collection to show for it. She loves gaming, Manga comics & reality TV police shows. She also posts regularly on her blog about publishing, books and several other intriguing things.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: After barely escaping the machinations of his terrifying mother, two all knowing seers, and countless bloodthirsty siblings, the last thing Julius wants to see is another dragon. Unfortunately for him, the only thing more dangerous than being a useless Heartstriker is being a useful one, and now that he’s got an in with the Three Sisters, Julius has become a key pawn in Bethesda the Heartstriker’s gamble to put her clan on top.

Refusal to play along with his mother’s plans means death, but there’s more going on than even Bethesda knows, and with Estella back in the game with a vengeance, Heartstriker futures disappearing, and Algonquin’s dragon hunter closing in, the stakes are higher than even a seer can calculate. But when his most powerful family members start dropping like flies, it falls to Julius to defend the clan that never respected him and prove that, sometimes, the world’s worst dragon is the best one to have on your side.

CLASSIFICATION: The Heartstriker series is an action-packed urban fantasy series with a strong dose of comedy, post-apocalyptic SF themes and dragons.

FORMAT/INFO: One Good Dragon Deserves Another is 463 pages long divided over twenty-one numbered chapters with a prologue and an epilogue. Narration is in the third person via Julius Heartstriker, Chelsie Heartstriker, Marci Novalli, Justin Heartstriker, Estella the Northern Star, and Bob “Brohomir” Heartstriker. This is the second volume of the Heartstriker series.

August 1, 2015 will mark the e-book publication of One Good Dragon Deserves Another and it will be self-published by the author. Cover art and design is by Anna Steinbauer.

ANALYSIS: Ever since I got my hands on The Spirit Thief, the debut book by Rachel Aaron, I’ve been enchanted by the worlds she imagines and the characters that inhabit them. When she announced this new series, I was very much looking forward to it with a lot of curiosity. After reading Nice Dragons Finish Last, I was thrilled to bits with the new series.

One Good Dragon Deserves Another or OGDDA as the abbreviation goes is the brilliant follow up to Nice Dragons Finish Last (NDFL). It's a cracker of a sequel that basically starts within a month of the climax of NDFL and basically widens up the world, and story in every way possible. I’ll be discussing some plot points of the story which will be spoiler-ish so please be forewarned of it.

The plot opens up with Julius and Marci happily forming a partnership and being able to do their job as curse-removal specialists. The problem arises when Bethesda returns to the DFZ and grabs Julius to go with her to a special meeting. Which turns out to be the upcoming nuptials (of sorts) of Ivan Heartstriker and Svena White Witch of the Three sisters. While this happy event is a very perfunctory one, it turns out Bob being a seer has invited a special dragon to this ceremony. That dragon being Amelia, who is the only surviving member of the A clutch and a mighty dragon in herself. While Julius is unaware of who she is, he does get to know her and is bemused by her interest in him.

Things however take a horrible turn when Estella, the oldest daughter of the Three sisters returns and hatches a plan to defeat Bob at his seer game. It will be up to Julius, Marci, Bob and the rest to help the Hearstriker clan survive the coming onslaught while also trying to survive Algonquin’s hunter who has a special interest in killing dragons.

This book in a word was magnificent and here's why:
a) It gives us the whole backstory about the dragons and why there seems to be so much infighting among dragon clans
b) Why Algonquin the lady of the lakes and other spirits hate the dragons so much
c) How does mankind fit into the magic equation

All of the above and much more is laid bare for the reader and the author truly gives us two protagonists to root for. This time Julius shares the spotlight with Marci who is frankly fantastic as a protagonist. The previous book focused on Julius and while it was a fun read. With OGDDA, Marci takes center stage and we get a stronger, multi-faceted story. The book’s cover kind of highlights this new shift and Marci also learns so much more from her association with Ghost. How and when this happens, is possibly the most surprising twist and only the second most shocking part of the story.

The story also focuses on Bob, Justin, Chelsie, Ghost and couple of other major characters. The character cast is suitably widened and I loved this aspect of the story-line. Bob, I believe is a character that is such a hit and in this volume, we get to know more about him and his powers. This just made me love Bob more even when he’s at his most infuriating. There’s also a strong light shined on Chelsie who has so far remained in the shadows and we kind of get an inkling why that is. Lastly the plot reveals the magical history of the world as well as the backstory of the Dragons. This revelation makes so much sense from a world-building point of view and has me intrigued for further exploration.

The story takes a suitable dark turn within a few pages of its start and Rachel Aaron does keep the tension evenly strung throughout the story. This book very much reads like a Jeffrey Deaver thriller wherein the entire plot unfolds over two to three days and the twists come left, right & center. This book possibly is the most twisted story-line that Rachel has written so far (among the 10 fiction books she has written so far). I couldn’t quite keep with all the happenings as there’s a seer battle going on as one of them reiterates “you can never be too sure with a seer”. The story unfolds at a wicked pace and the readers will be racing along to find what truly is happening.

Lastly while the book ends on a very surprising note, it’s the epilogue that’s the real stunner and I mean it. After all the twists and revelations that the main plot has in it, the last few paragraphs of the epilogue reveal so much more and further deepen the world and magic system so to speak. After finishing the book, I can only imagine the amount of email that Rachel will be getting about the epilogue.

As for any drawbacks, this story is definitely not a standalone; one cannot just jump into it. It needs to be read after Nice Dragons Finish Last, so that’s the only point I can think which detracts from this sumptuous thriller. On all other fronts, it aces its characterization, plot twists, plot pace, etc.

CONCLUSION: One Good Dragon Deserves Another is a first rate sequel that completely outshines its predecessor in every department. It reads like a thriller, is a urban fantasy, Sci-fi mashup in its plot and is a fantastic read overall. When it comes to books from author that we love, I don’t think we can ask more than that. Be sure to read One Good Dragon Deserves Another as it absolutely cements Rachel Aaron's reputation as a gifted storyteller.
Tuesday, July 28, 2015

GUEST POST: Robert Brockway: Author of The Unnoticeables

Visit Robert Brockway's Website Here
Watch the Book Trailer for The Unnoticeables Here

Fantasy Book Critic is pleased to welcome Robert Brockway. Robert is a Senior Editor and columnist for and is the author of the latest urban fantasy/horror novel, The Unnoticeables. The Unnoticeables was released by Tor on July 7, 2015.

Robert Brockway has stopped by to talk about his love of sci-fi/fantasy and his latest book. 


My favorite part of sci-fi/fantasy is the world-building. I love coming up with premises and extrapolating out the rules of that world, its environments and creatures. It’s great fun.

If you’re lucky, you might even figure out a good story to tell in that world.

If you’re unlucky, somebody will then come along and ask you to explain it.

I wrote a book called The Unnoticeables — a weird genre mash-up somewhere between horror, sci-fi, and urban fantasy - and for some reason people keep asking me what it’s about. Did you know they do that, when you write a book?

If I had known, I would’ve written a book about divorce, or battleships, or something else that could be explained away in a word or two.

Instead I wrote this strange trilogy about angels, monsters, faceless kids, punk rockers, and stuntwomen that spans decades and jumps back and forth in time. I really screwed myself here.

Honestly, it all went awry from the central premise, which started like this: There’s a theory that everything can be described with sufficiently complex numbers. Given enough space and time, you could map every particle in the universe — assign it a space on a grid, describe its functions, behaviors, composition, etc. — and if you can do that, well, then everything is basically just numbers, right?

Oof, already you see the problem.

Let’s try again: There’s a thought experiment which says that everything that could possibly exist is described within pi. Pi is, as far as we know it, a non-repeating infinite number. Since it goes on forever without reliably repeating itself, somewhere in that string of numbers there’s eventually going to be a bit that describes something real. Let’s say it describes a small rock. In a non-repeating infinite number there will be a string of digits that describes the shape of the rock, the weight, how old it is, etc. Eventually, because we’re talking about infinity here, there will be a string of numbers that describes that rock and the beach it sits on — how many grains of sand, their relative positions to one another, the strength of the waves. And so forth. Carry that thought far enough, and you’ll come across a string of numbers that describes that rock, that beach, and you, stubbing your toe on it - the number of cells in your body, the series in which your neurons fire to form your thoughts, the wrinkles at the corners of your eyes, the intensity and volume at which you screamed when you kicked this stupid pebble.

Somewhere in pi, our entire universe is mapped out. Not only that, but every possible universe is described as well — infinity is infinite, after all.

Yeah, I know. My next book is going to be about ‘a down on his luck airline pilot trying to find love’ or something.

Working from the premise that the universe and everything in it can be described mathematically, I came to the conclusion that, for most things, there’s probably a simpler way to express those numbers. There are probably bits that cancel each other out, more efficient algorithms that could model the same behaviors, redundancies in the code. In short, everything is a math problem.

What if something could solve it?

That’s how I got my villains: things my characters call angels — bright balls of light that sound like screaming static and exist solely to maintain the purity of the universe. They’re problem solvers. And the problems they’re solving are human beings.

Hopefully you followed my thought process down the rabbit hole far enough to see how I came up with this world. But then there was the whole mess of coming up with characters. For that, I had to think about who would hate this premise the most: Who is least amenable to a universe where we’re all just numbers, waiting to be neatly solved and filed away? I came up with two wildly different types of people united by a shared concept: Punk rockers, and aspiring actresses. Punks despise the idea of conformity, of doing what you’re told just because you’re told to it. Aspiring actresses, by their very nature, have to believe  that they’re so inherently talented and special that they can make it in a field where literally millions are trying and failing every day. Despite how awkward they would both find each other’s company, those two types of people share one defining character trait: They love and treasure individuality.

That all follows logically, right? The premise, the world, the monsters, the characters, the conflict — it all just sort of fits together. I was confident of that, in writing the book. Perhaps too confident. Because it all came crashing down the moment somebody asked me the big, impossible question:

“In one sentence, describe your book.”

If you figure out how to do that, email me. I’ll buy you a coke. 

 More about The Unnoticeables 

There are angels, and they are not beneficent or loving. But they do watch over us. They watch our lives unfold, analyzing us for repeating patterns and redundancies. When they find them, the angels simplify those patterns, they remove the redundancies, and the problem that is you gets solved.

Carey doesn’t much like that idea. As a punk living in New York City, 1977, Carey is sick and tired of watching the strange kids with the unnoticeable faces abduct his friends. He doesn’t care about the rumors of tarmonsters in the sewers, or unkillable psychopaths invading the punk scene—all he wants is drink cheap beer and dispense asskickings.

Kaitlyn isn’t sure what she’s doing with her life. She came to Hollywood in 2013 to be a stunt woman, but last night a former teen heartthrob tried to eat her, her best friend has just gone missing, and there’s an angel outside her apartment.

Whatever she plans on doing with her life, it should probably happen in the few remaining minutes she has left of it.

There are angels. There are demons. They are the same thing. It’s up to Carey and Kaitlyn to stop them. The survival of the human race is in their hands.

We are, all of us, well and truly screwed.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

"Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances" by Neil Gaiman (Reviewed by Will Byrnes)

Official Author Website
Order Trigger Warning HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Graveyard Book
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Ocean At The End Of Lane
Read The New Yorker Profile on Neil Gaiman

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: "The monsters in our cupboards and our minds are always there in the darkness, like mold beneath the floorboards and behind the wallpaper, and there is so much darkness, an inexhaustible supply of darkness. The universe is amply supplied with night."

There is a diversity of material in Neil Gaiman’s third and latest collection of short fiction, Trigger Warning. It is a potpourri of twenty four pieces, if we take as a single piece the entry called A Calendar of Tales, which, itself, holds a dozen. They are not all, despite the collection title, dark or frightening. He brings in some familiar names, David Bowie, Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Who, Maleficent, Snow White, a traveler from other Gaiman writings, Shadow Moon, twists endings into satisfactory curls for the most part, wanders far afield in setting and content, well, within the UK anyway, tosses in a few poems for good measure, and even offers up a few chuckles. He is fond not only of science fiction as a source, but of Scottish and Irish legends as well. If you are not smitten with the story you are reading at a given moment, not to worry, there is another close behind that is certain to satisfy.

Gaiman is overt in noting the absence of connective tissue among the tales. But there are some themes that pop up a time or three. Living things interred in walls, whether after they had expired or not. A bit of time travelling. Fairy tales are fractured. Favorite writers are admired

In the introduction, Gaiman tells us a bit about the origins of each of the 24, a nifty item to check back on after one has read them all. Some of the material has been developed for other media. Checkout the link to a more-than-text offering re the Calendar of Tales, for one. Overall I found Trigger Warning is a pretty good survey of Gaiman’s impressive range. He seems able to realize the dreams of the alchemists by transforming what seems every experience he has and every notion that crosses his interior crawl into gold. And some of the stories here are glittery indeed.

I quite enjoyed the collection. The uplift of the best more than made up for the downdraft of the lesser. If you enjoy fantasy, with a good dollop of horror, you could definitely give it a shot.

======================================= THE STORIES:

1) Making a Chair – A poem about the writing process.

2) A Lunar Labyrinth – A tribute to Gene Wolfe – a traveler who enjoys roadside oddities is brought to a maze that is brought into a form of darkness by the full moon. Here is a link to a site that will clue you in on the roadside oddities in the USA. There is a book on such things for the other side of the pond, but I did not find a comparable link

3) The Thing about Cassandra – An imaginary connection becomes real, with a delicious twist

4) Down to a Sunless Sea – An abominable feast, but with some just desserts

5) The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountain – A not wholly human dwarf engages a local man to lead him to a cave reputed to be filled with tainted gold – I could not get the image of Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister out of my tiny mind while immersed in this one. Sometimes the truth hurts.

6) My Last Landlady – The rent is definitely too damn high

7) Adventure Story – A bit of fun guaranteed to make you smile

8) Orange – A teen who thinks she’s all that may indeed be – another smile-worthy item

9) A Calendar of Tales – I won’t go into each – the collection was written from ideas received on-line. I found it a mixed bag, with March (Mom has a big secret), August ( a tale of fire and foolishness), September (a magic ring with the quality of a bad penny), October (a sweet tale, involving a Jinni), and December (a hopeful time-travel piece) my favorites

10) The Case of Death and Honey – A fantastical tale in which a certain Baker Street resident takes on the mystery of death itself

11) The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury – a tribute to Gaiman’s mentor

12) Jerusalem – On one of the dangers of visiting the city

13) Click-clack the Rattlebag – Stories can be scary, regardless of the age of the teller

14) An Invocation of Incuriousity – A time-travel piece – don’t touch the settings

15) And Weep, Like Alexander – One possible reason why we do not have some of the futuristic inventions we expected long ago – cute, not scary

16) Nothing O’Clock – A Doctor Who tale with a timely solution

17 ) Diamonds and Pearls: A Fairy Tale – A fable with a moral

18) The Return of the Thin White Duke – The completion of a story begun and abandoned while back for a magazine project on David Bowie

19) Feminine Endings – Beware of street statue-performers

20) Observing the Formalities – Maleficent as narrator of a poem about proper forms

21) The Sleeper and the Spindle – A fairy tale with a nice twist

22) Witch Work – A poem on the limits of witchy magic

23) In Relig Odhrain – A poem on a saint who suffered an awful demise

24) Black Dog – Shadow Moon stops in an ancient pub and is drawn into some serious darkness, scary fun.


NOTE: This review was originally posted on Will's blog. Neil Gaiman author picture by Kimberly Butler.
Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Instruments Of Control by Craig Schafer (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website
Order The Instruments Of Control HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Winter's Reach

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 six novels in about fourteen months. He currently lives in Joliet, Illinois and loves visiting museums and libraries for inspiration.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Livia Serafini must die.

To the Church she is a heretic, tried in absentia and sentenced to burn. To her brother Carlo, she stands as a threat to his corrupt rule and a symbol of resistance. To her new "allies" in the east, she is a pawn to be played and sacrificed as they see fit. They don't hear the whispers that follow her in the streets: whispers of hope, and the name of a long-dead saint.

When Livia rises up to fight, she will not rise alone.

Across the ocean, Felix struggles for control of his family's fate against the crime lord Basilio Grimaldi. Basilio is wealthy, ruthless, and the master of a hundred killers. All Felix has are his wits and his courage. It won't be enough. To break free, and to save the lives of everyone he loves, he'll have to face the darkness that followed him home from Winter's Reach.

And as the Owl's horrific vengeance unfolds, her coven teeters on the brink of civil war. All the dominoes are in place now, lined up from the frozen north to the swamps and ruins of a dead empire, and set to tumble at one man's command. When they do, a world will fall with them.

FORMAT/INFO: The Instruments Of Control is 315 pages long divided over fifty-six chapters. Narration is in the third-person, via Felix Rossini, Werner Holst, Lodovico Marchetti, Amadeo Lagorio, Simon Koertig, Livia Benignus, Basilio Grimaldi, Mari Renault, Hedy, Renata, Bear, Dante Uccello and a couple of other minor characters. This is the second volume of The Revanche Cycle.

April 19, 2015 marked the North American paperback and e-book publication of The Instruments Of Control and it was self-published by the author. Cover art and design is by James T. Egan of Bookfly Design.

CLASSIFICATION: Featuring a vast character cast, and focusing on political, religious and magical intrigue. The Revanche Cycle is very reminiscent of the works of Jennifer Fallon, Tad Williams and Daniel Abraham.

ANALYSIS: The Instruments Of Control is the sequel to Winter's Reach and a cracking read in itself. We are back with all our POV characters who survived the last book. Livia has had to flee to a neighboring country which has its own designs about the seat of Papal power a la the France-Rome situation with multiple popes and Anti-popes. Felix is stuck with his bargain to save his family and now has to deal with Basilio Grimaldi and his Faustian pact. Faced with a marriage proposal, he can't avoid, he learns that all might not be lost as his Grimaldi bride-to-be; Aita has ambitions of her own.

There's also Mari and Werner who are now returning to Mari's land of birth in the search for a certain sect of Knights. What they don't know is the people hunting them are getting ever so close. Simon Koertig is still upset about his supposed failure and is incensed now that Lodovico has made Felix off limits to him. Simon being Simon will not let that be and endeavors to bring his morbid plans to fruition. Think of him as Coyote to Felix’s Roadrunner with the only difference being that this isn’t a cartoon. Lodovico's revenge is slowly becoming sharper in clarity and that doesn't bode well for the merchant lords of the city of Mirenze. Lodovico's plans are revealed and it all boils down to a Bruce Wayne concept but with a major Lex Luthor outlook.

Renata is the new POV character introduced in this sequel and she's on the run for her life. Forced to do so due to her closeness with Felix, she encounters a strange person on the road who might be her salvation but also doom her all the same. Amadeo Lagorio is forced to witness a schism in the church that he loves however he believes he's on the right side of things even though he doesn't quite agree with Livia's methods. Lastly there's Owl the witch who is hunting Mari & Werner for the death of her pupil and things slowly become a bit clearer on the magic that's secretly prevalent in the world.

Overall the second volume builds upon the tension strewn across the various threads and the readers get to see further twists and newer sides to all the characters, which we have seen so far. Once again the characterization is the story’s forte. From Simon, Livia, Mari, Werner, Dante, Felix and the rest, each and every POV character gets their chance to shine and shine they do. This volume is more about the personal hardships that individuals have to face & the bleak choices they have to make. There’s a horrible death in the book that the author doesn’t show but you can feel its effects immediately afterward and throughout the story. There are a couple of characters whose lives take a dark turn. One by choice and the other by someone’s manipulation, both paths are very sad to read but riveting nonetheless. Full marks to the author for writing about female characters in a way that doesn’t stick to tropes and even trying their hardest to go their own in a hard, patriarchal society.

Craig Schafer know how to pace his story and even with a big cast of characters as these, he still manages to keep the narrative ted down tightly. The pace never slackens and the reader will be consistently surprised with all the plot twists of this second volume. There are quite a few and none more than the shocker of a twist in the last third, which then continues on to a very shocking climax. I liked how the author inverts various tropes (about characters) and keeps the reader guessing about the track that will be taken by the POV characters. This book is truly dark because of all the brutality that is showcased within the story. Not all of it is physical, much of it is also psychological and the rest is just people making the best of bad decisions that they face.

As for drawbacks, I didn’t find any besides the lack of a map, which would certainly helped in understanding the story from a geopolitical standpoint. Sure some folks might find the darkness of the story a bit too much for their liking but it’s entirely subjective. There’ s also the increased focus on political machinations and slow increase of magical intrigue. Overall this is a nuanced story set in a dark, medieval world that is very reminiscent of our own. In this regard, it’s very similar to ASOIAF in its political situations and the influence of clergy/royalty in affecting the lives of commoners.

CONCLUSION:  The Instruments Of Control is a dark sequel that further lays bare the author’s intentions. The Revanche Cycle is a grand mix of human ambition, political ambition, greed and many more elements that are the basis of most famous historical sagas. Be sure to grab this series as it’s turning out to be something special. As for me, I can’t wait to get my hands on the 3rd volume Terms Of Surrender.

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