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Monday, October 29, 2018

GUEST POST: Dangerous Truths By Gail Z. Martin

The truth can set you free...but it can also get you killed.

What can you do when you know about a dangerous conspiracy, and powerful people want to make sure you don’t tell? That’s the key question in two of our new book series that are light years apart, but in other ways, strikingly similar.

My husband and often co-author Larry N. Martin has his first solo book out, Salvage Rat. It’s a space adventure—more space opera than hard sci-fi—and the non-stop action never ends. I describe it as “Bonnie and Clyde meet V for Vendetta in a Firefly-esque universe.”

Here’s the blurb: Star Force pilot and hero Wyatt McCoy left his medals and career behind after the Rim Wars, disillusioned and bitter when he learns the truths behind the conflict. He takes his converted gunship, the Nellie B, and heads to the Near Fringe, salvaging derelict ships and abandoned stations and mining colonies. Dr. Beth Parker is a space archeologist, documenting the history of planetary expansion and colonization for Kalok Enterprises and the Interplanetary Mining Group. 

A piece of alien technology embeds itself in Beth’s arm, giving her the ability to see the energy impressions of long ago people and events. When Beth uncovers proof of genocide that could bring down the big mining companies, she’s the target of assassins. Wyatt makes a split-second decision to intervene, launching them both into a high-stakes cat-and-mouse game with some of the most powerful organizations in the system. They can prove Kalok and Interplan killed millions—but can they live long enough to tell their story.

Salvage Rat plays with our distrust of big corporations and the sordid all-too-true history of resource exploitation and colonization. But at the heart of the story are two people whose lives are upended because they stumble onto a dangerous truth, and while they never meant to be heroes, all bets are off when the bad guys come after them to shut them up.

My newest epic fantasy, Assassin’s Honor (the first in the new Assassins of Landria series), takes a medieval spin on the idea of knowing something you aren’t supposed to know. This is epic fantasy without the epic length, just under 300 pages long, with a buddy flick vibe I tell people is ‘Butch and Sundance as medieval assassins.”

Here’s the blurb: Joel Breckenridge and Garrett Kennard are King's Shadows, elite assassins serving the crown of Landria. When a shadowy itinerant holy man starts captivates the nobility with treasonous whispers, Ridge and Rett go rogue to stop the threat, save the kingdom and protect the king--while landing on the 'Most Wanted' list themselves.

In Assassin’s Honor, Ridge and Rett are sure that the wandering mystic is a threat to the crown, but the king doesn’t think it’s important. So the two assassins risk everything to prove the danger and save the crown. The underlying question of how do you know which threats to take seriously is certainly still relevant in the modern world.

Whether you like your adventures in space or on horseback, check out the new books we’ve got for your Fall reading!

My Days of the Dead blog tour runs through October 31 with brand new excerpts from upcoming books and recent short stories, interviews, guest blog posts, giveaways and more! Plus, I’ll be including extra excerpt links for my stories. You’ve got to visit the participating sites to get the goodies, just like Trick or Treat!

Get all the details about my Days of the Dead blog tour at my website. Book swag is the new Trick-or-Treat! All of my guest blog posts have links to free excerpts—follow the tour and grab them all! Enjoy this excerpt for Salvage Rat over here and this one for Assassin’s Honor over here.

Enter my Rafflecopter giveaway to win a Kindle Prize Package with a free copy EACH of — Tangled Web, Assassin’s Honor, Salvage Rat, The Dark Road and Sons of Darkness!

Let me give a shout-out for #HoldOnToTheLight 2018, back for more with new authors and fantastic new posts! 150+ genre authors blogging about their personal struggles with depression, PTSD, anxiety, suicide and self-harm, candid posts by some of your favorite authors on how mental health issues have impacted their lives and books. Read the stories, share the stories, change a life. Find out more at

About the Authors:

Gail Z. Martin writes urban fantasy, epic fantasy and steampunk for Solaris Books, Orbit Books, Falstaff Books, SOL Publishing and Darkwind Press. Urban fantasy series include Deadly Curiosities and the Night Vigil (Sons of Darkness). Epic fantasy series include Darkhurst, the Chronicles Of The Necromancer, the Fallen Kings Cycle, the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, and the Assassins of Landria. Newest titles include Tangled Web, Vengeance, The Dark Road, and Assassin’s Honor. As Morgan Brice, she writes urban fantasy MM paranormal romance. Books include Witchbane, Burn, Dark Rivers, Badlands and the upcoming Lucky Town.

Larry N. Martin is the author of the new sci-fi adventure novel Salvage Rat. He is the co-author (with Gail Z. Martin) of the Spells, Salt, and Steel/New Templars series; the Steampunk series Iron & Blood; and a collection of short stories and novellas: The Storm & Fury Adventures set in the Iron & Blood universe. He is also the co-author of the upcoming Wasteland Marshals series and the Cauldron/Secret Council series.

Find them at their website, on Twitter @GailZMartin and @LNMartinAuthor, on Facebook, at their blog, on Pinterest and on Goodreads. She is also the organizer of the #HoldOnToTheLight campaign  Never miss out on the news and new releases—sign up over here.
Sunday, October 28, 2018

GIVEAWAY: Win a The Witchlands Series by Susan Dennard Prize Pack

 Visit the Official Website for the Witchlands Series Here
Visit the Official Website for Susan Dennard Here
Follow Susan Dennard on Instagram and Twitter
Follow Tor Teen on  Instagram and Twitter

Fantasy Book Critic has an amazing giveaway to offer thanks to partnering with Tor Teen! Enter this giveaway and you could win a “catch up” prize pack of the Witchlands Series. The prize pack will include everything you need to catch up on the series so you are ready for the release of book 3 in February 2019!

We have 1 prize pack to give away to one very lucky reader. The prize pack will include Truthwitch, Windwitch, and Sightwitch all by Susan Dennard. 

Learn more about this series by reading  below and find out how you can enter for a chance to win this prize pack!


About the Series
A favorite of booksellers, reviewers, and readers alike, Susan Dennard has become widely known for her young adult epic fantasy saga set in the imaginative world of her New York Times bestselling series published by Tor Teen, The Witchlands, told through Truthwitch, Windwitch, the special illustrated novella Sightwitch, and the forthcoming Bloodwitch (February 2019). The Witchlands is set on a distant continent, in which some are born with a "witchery," a magical skill that sets them apart from others. The series follows best friends Safi (a Truthwitch) and Iseult (a Threadwitch), as well as the cunning ship captain Prince Merik (a Windwitch), and the mysterious and powerful Aeduan (a Bloodwitch) as they must navigate warring empires, political machinations, and mercenaries who seek to use their magic for selfish gain. 

Any fan of a gripping and fast-paced fantasy saga will be captivated by the wonderful world of The Witchlands, where Dennard focuses on the true power of magic, bravery, and most importantly, friendship.

About Truthwitch
On a continent ruled by three empires, some are born with a “witchery”, a magical skill that sets them apart from others.

In the Witchlands, there are almost as many types of magic as there are ways to get in trouble—as two desperate young women know all too well.

Safiya is a Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lie. It’s a powerful magic that many would kill to have on their side, especially amongst the nobility to which Safi was born. So Safi must keep her gift hidden, lest she be used as a pawn in the struggle between empires.

Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see the invisible ties that bind and entangle the lives around her—but she cannot see the bonds that touch her own heart. Her unlikely friendship with Safi has taken her from life as an outcast into one of reckless adventure, where she is a cool, wary balance to Safi’s hotheaded impulsiveness.

Safi and Iseult just want to be free to live their own lives, but war is coming to the Witchlands. With the help of the cunning Prince Merik (a Windwitch and ship’s captain) and the hindrance of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, the friends must fight emperors, princes, and mercenaries alike, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

About Windwitch
The second novel in the New York Times bestselling The Witchlands series, now available in trade paperback, an epic fantasy adventure hailed by Alexandra Bracken as “a world you will want to inhabit forever.”

Sometimes our enemies are also our only allies…

After an explosion destroys his ship, the world believes Prince Merik, Windwitch, is dead. Scarred yet alive, Merik is determined to prove his sister’s treachery. Upon reaching the royal capital, crowded with refugees, he haunts the streets, fighting for the weak—which leads to whispers of a disfigured demigod, the Fury, who brings justice to the oppressed.

When the Bloodwitch Aeduan discovers a bounty on Iseult, he makes sure to be the first to find her—yet in a surprise twist, Iseult offers him a deal. She will return money stolen from him, if he locates Safi. Now they must work together to cross the Witchlands, while constantly wondering, who will betray whom first?

After a surprise attack and shipwreck, Safi and the Empress of Marstok barely escape with their lives. Alone in a land of pirates, every moment balances on a knife’s edge—especially when the pirates’ next move could unleash war upon the Witchlands.

About Sightwitch

Set a year before TruthwitchSightwitch follows Ryber Fortiza, the last Sightwitch Sister as she treks deep underground to rescue her missing best friend. While there, she encounters a young Nubrevnan named Kullen Ikray, who has no memory of who he is or how he wound up inside the mountain. As the two journey every deeper in search of answers, and as they brave one close call after another, a tentative friendship forms between them—one that might one day grow into something more.

Sightwitch is told through Ryber’s journal entries and her sketches, as well as through supplementary materials (such as other journals, pieces of songs, clippings from history books, flashbacks, etc.). Though meant as a companion novella, this story serves as a set up to Bloodwitch as well as an expansion of the world.

About the Author

SUSAN DENNARD is the author of the New York Times bestselling The Witchlands series as well as the Something Strange and Deadly series. She has come a long way from small-town Georgia. Working in marine biology, she got to travel the world—six out of seven continents (she’ll get to Asia one of these days!)—before she settled down as a full-time novelist and writing instructor. When not writing, she can be found hiking with her dogs, slaying darkspawn on her Xbox, or earning bruises at the dojo.


1. This contest is open to US Addresses ONLY. 

2. Only one entry per person. 

3. This contest starts October 28, 2018 and will run until November 5, 2018. 

4. To enter send an email with the subject WITCHLANDS SERIES to Please include your name, physical address and email address. 

5. All entries will be deleted after a winner has been picked and verified. 

Good Luck! 
Saturday, October 27, 2018

Spotlight On Three Upcoming SFF Titles (by Mihir Wanchoo)

As we get to the end of the year, we are getting to see some coveted releases showcase their spectacular covers. In the month of November, we’ll have three releases that I was eagerly awaiting. Of these three books I’ve read two and they have managed to overcome my high expectations and I can’t wait to read the third.

Pre-order Minimum Wage Magic over HERE

First up is the striking cover for Rachel Aaron's Minimum Wage Magic by Tia Rambaran. Focusing on the main protagonist, Opal, this book is the first sequel series that Rachel has ever written. It gets us back to the world of Heartstrikers and is set in the DFZ twenty years after the climatic events of Last Dragon Standing.

Official Book Blurb: Making a living is hard. In a lawless city where gods are real, dragons are traffic hazards, and buildings move around on their own, it can feel downright impossible.

Good thing freelance mage Opal Yong-ae has never let little things like impossibility stop her. She’s found a way to put her overpriced magical art history degree to use as a Cleaner: a contract municipal employee who empties out abandoned apartments and resells the unusual treasures she finds inside for a profit. It’s not a pretty job, or a safe one--there’s a reason she wears bite-proof gloves--but when you’re neck-deep in debt to a very magical, very nasty individual, you can’t be picky about where the money comes from.

But even Opal’s low standards are put to the test when the only thing of value in her latest apartment is the body of the previous tenant. Dealing with the dead isn’t technically part of her job, but this mage died hiding a secret that could be worth a lot of money, and Opal’s the only one who knows. With debts she can’t pay due at the end of the week, this could be the big break she’s been waiting for, but in a city of runaway magic where getting in over your head generally means losing it, the cost of chasing this opportunity might be more than Opal can survive.


Pre-order The Prince Of Cats over HERE

The next book is The Prince Of Cats by D. E. Olesen. I got intrigued because of the book’s Arabian settings and the book’s humour along with the characterization is what set this one apart for me. The cover is by Shen Fei and it gives of a Prince of Persia vibe while ironically not being about Persia. The Fantasy Inn did the cover reveal and check it out below

Official Book Blurb: To stay alive, Jawad must succeed where all others have failed: he must catch the Prince of Cats. More legend than man, the Prince is draped in rumours. He can steal the silver teeth from your mouth in the blink of a smile. He is a ghost to walls and vaults, he laughs at locks, and Jawad must capture him before powerful people lose their patience and send the young rogue to the scaffold.

Ever the opportunist, Jawad begins his hunt while carrying out his own schemes. He pits the factions of the city against each other, lining his own pockets in the process and using the Prince as a scapegoat. This is made easy as nobody knows when or where the Prince will strike, or even why.

As plots collide, Jawad finds himself pressured from all sides. Aristocrats, cutthroats, and the Prince himself is breathing down his neck. Unless Jawad wants a knife in his back or an appointment with the executioner, he must answer three questions: Who is the Prince of Cats, what is his true purpose, and how can he be stopped?


Next up is Bring The Fire by Craig Schaefer, the trilogy is a highly anticipated one and promises a lot of reveals regrind a whole lot of Craig’s books. James T. Egan knocked this one out of the park as has been the case with all of his previous work and yet this one takes the cake.

Craig revealed the cover a few days ago however the blurb is yet to be released. We can surmise though that the this book will bring to an end to Nessa and Marie’s sojourn for their curse. All will be revealed about the nature of the Schaefer-verse, the absence of heaven, and the nature of the Kings. Plus a lot more details here and there, this book promises to be one hell of a climax.

Craig Schaefer hasn't disappointed with his past eighteen books so you can see why my expectations are so sky high. Bring The Fire promises to bring Prometheus' gift in spades, I can't wait to see who all survive it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

SPFBO: Interview with David MacPherson (Interviewed by D.C. Stewart)

Official Author Website
Order Here Be Dragons over HERE (USA) & HERE (UK)
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Here Be Dragons

David MacPherson is the author of one of Fantasy Book Critic’s SPFBO semi-finalists, Here Be Dragons, and is a full-time writer out of Edinburgh, Scotland. David loves dragons, donkeys, and defying genre and the publishing industry. David was kind enough to sit down with FBC contributor D. C. Stewart to speak about his SPFBO entry, his great loves, and the meaning of life.

FBC] Hi David. Thanks so much for hanging out and answering some questions. Your book has made quite an impression on the SFBPO. What can you tell us about yourself? Is writing your full time gig?  From where do you hail?

DM] No problem. It’s been brilliant to see people enjoying Here Be Dragons and SPFBO has been a great experience right from the start. I grew up in the Highlands of Scotland, sometimes I say in the middle of nowhere, but that’s not really true. The Highlands is definitely Somewhere and a special Somewhere at that, particularly for a fantasy fan. Crumbling castles, towering mountains, haunted glens, spooky stone circles and murky forests, it was all on my doorstep so maybe it’s not such a surprise I have a taste for the fantastical. It’s also a place with great heart and a knowing, bone dry wit, which I like to think have both influenced my writing.

I live in Edinburgh now, another fantasy capital, and just a few months ago moved to writing full time (at least until my savings hold out). Over the last few years I felt I’d really progressed and I hit some big milestones so this summer I decided it was time to go all in. And so far it’s going surprisingly well (that should set the hubris hippo stirring).

FBC] It’s interesting that you say that because so many of us, particularly in these “new” United States, have the same desire for those fantasy castles but a real lack of them. How long have you been writing?

DM] It’s a funny thing calling yourself a writer. I have been working my way towards that title for about eight or nine years and it’s only recently that I feel comfortable saying it out loud. I spent a long time waiting for permission and then I eventually realised the only person that could give me that permission, was me.

FBC] Do you have any formal training? Do you see writing as your “real job?”

DM] I have done the odd writing class or writing retreat here and there, but most of my learning has been through self-directed reading and lots and lots of practise (much of it probably pretty awful). And lots of feedback from trusted friends.

FBC] How does it feel to be compared to Terry Pratchett?

DM] Humbling. And happy because I wouldn’t be who I am without him. And sad because I miss him.

FBC] You’re not alone there. Where did the inspiration for Here Be Dragons come from (and my sincere apologies for bringing up Shrek in my review, even if I think it might have given you a laugh)? Why tell yet another story about dragons (I am in no way reprimanding you for this as I would like to see dragons in everything, even textbooks)?

DM] Now there’s a question. I must admit, I started the book so long ago I’m not actually sure where the exact inspiration came from. There are lots of different things that fed into the finished novel – people I know, societal themes like the rise of the reality TV star, and fantasy tropes that I just wanted to play around with – but I guess the main inspiration was to write a book where the heroes were ordinary people. People without any superhuman skills or magical powers, but who become heroic through the force of their intellect, their heart and their compassion for others. Because those are the kind of people who have been the heroes in my life, and in the glut of superheroes at the cinema and on TV, I think sometimes we forget that.

And no worries about the Shrek comparison. It’s a great movie, although I reckon Thunder is more of an Eeyore.

FBC] A fair point. I certainly never heard Eddie Murphy in those italics. Aside from Pratchett, who inspires you? Who are your favorite authors?

DM] I like to read widely, across genre and non-fiction too. So while I love the fantasy big-hitters like Robin Hobb, Steven Erikson and Neil Gaiman, I also like to read Becky Chambers, Margaret Atwood, Michael Faber, Iain M. Banks, Emily St John Mandel, Roald Dahl (the children’s ones and the adult stories) and Patrick deWitt. I’ve just finished Robert Harris’ trilogy on the life of Cicero and loved it. It’s like a House of Cards for the Roman Republic and his writing is so good you can’t help but race through it. And inspiration comes from more than other books: the TV show Blackadder is a huge influence on my work, particularly the final series set in World War One. Richard Curtis and Ben Elton did an amazing job of letting you think you’re watching something fun and light, and then at the end just crushing you with the reality of the characters’ situation. I think that was an important lesson for me, that comedy lets you ease into really dark subjects but if you go down that route eventually you’ve got to let reality hit.

FBC] Do you have any plans for continuing with the characters or world in Here Be Dragons? It reads as a stand alone, but you have built a world that people want to see more of. Are you a fantasy author, through and through, or do you branch out?

DM] I am planning a follow up. It’ll be in the same world but not necessarily the same characters. I don’t want to say too much yet as I’m still working it out myself, but I know it’s going to involve the arrival in Drift of a certain class of people known for wearing capes, masks and underwear outside their trousers.

FBC] Oh boy. That might be a new genre. What made you decide to enter into the SFBPO? Have you ever submitted before? Have you tried traditional publshing?

DM] I was the lucky victim of good timing on that front. I first tried to get Here Be Dragons published traditionally about three years ago. After a lot of trying and failing I essentially gave up and left it to gather dust on my computer. Then at the end of last year I met a couple of friends who had tried self-publishing and had nothing but good things to say about it, so I thought, why not give it ago. I’ve very glad I did. I started getting the manuscript reading for publishing in Spring and searched through lots of self-publishing blogs and guides to find out the best route. Once I published in April I kept looking at those blogs and Facebook groups and that’s where I first saw SPFBO mentioned. Last year’s final round was still going on, so I started to follow it and read some of the finalists.

I’d been told by an agent in one of my many rejection letters that "there is no comedy fantasy market, there is only a Terry Pratchett market" but reading the SPFBO entrants and following the community I quickly realised that statement is a load of donkey droppings. Here was a whole community of people hungry for all kinds of fantasy, with far more variety than even the well-stocked book shops of Edinburgh were offering. That’s the great lesson of self-publishing for me, if you’re interested and passionate enough to write about something, chances are there are lots of people out there interested and passionate enough about the same things to read about it. My job is just to make sure it’s the best I can do and make sure they can find it.

FBC] That’s inspiring as hell (sincerely). If judging this contest has taught me as a reader anything, it’s that traditional publishing is missing some gems. Where does your cover art come from, and why is it such a perfect fit for this book?

DM] My cover was designed by Rachel Lawston. I found her through a site called Reedsy which is kind of like AirBnB for publishing freelancers. I found my proof-reader there too. I submitted a design brief to five designers and when Rachel came back to me and I discovered she’d actually worked on some of Sir Terry’s covers (the recent Johnny Maxwell reissues) it really had to be her.

We went through a lot of drafts of the cover because I knew I needed the design to make the tone of the book immediately clear. There’s little worse than picking a book thinking it’s one kind of story based on the cover and then finding out it’s something very different. Even if it’s still a good story, it throws you and it can be hard to get back into it.

FBC] What are you working on now?

DM] I am trying my hand at TV screenwriting at the moment and working on a pilot script for a series based on an oil rig. It’s about a rig off the coast of Scotland that gets mysteriously cut-off from all communications and the crew are forced into survival mode. There was a shipyard that built oil rigs near where I grew up and my dad works on them, so I’ve always been fascinated by what life is like out there.

FBC] What will you do if you win the SPFBO?

DM] Woah hubris hippo, woah girl… I’m not really sure. I’d certainly want to give something back to this great community, so I’d be doing a giveaway day for sure. And do some major celebrating of course (board games party anyone!). Then it’d be back to writing. The contest has already given me a massive jolt of energy and I’ve got lots more stories I want to tell so I need to get cracking.

NOTE: Sir Terry Pratchett picture courtesy of Boris Spermo & Toronto Star.
Saturday, October 13, 2018

SPFBO: The Third Diminution & Semifinalist Update (by Mihir Wanchoo)

Read Fantasy Book Critic's First Semifinalist Update
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Second Semifinalist Update

This year’s SPFBO has been a trip and a good one at that. With Lukasz and David joining Cindy and me, it has been a very rewarding experience as it’s great to hear different views. Plus in all the last three editions, with me being the solo person, it has been a tremendous boost to not be the slowest judge. Within our lot, we had decided to split the books between the four of us and here are my thoughts on my lot of seven titles (I'll also be uploading them to GR & Amazon):

Truth Or Darkness by Craig Aird

Truth Or Darkness had one of the best covers in the competition and was our number 1 cover amidst our lot (special kudos to Felix Ortiz & Shawn King for it). The premise of the book is pretty cool too. The souls of the departed aren’t reaching heaven and the bridge to heaven has two demons who are blocking the path. We have a typical storyline wherein our protagonist Leoh is pushed into the story and soon learns more about the extra-corporeal happenings. There’s a reincarnated warrior who wants to set things right and couple of assassins (Daelin and Juliette) who get pulled into the happenings for their personal reasons. From there, the action and reveals happen continuously as the story veers towards its “out of this world” climax which was sheer fun to read.

Overall this story had a very interesting angle to its plot but the characterization didn’t match up to the worldbuilding. The book ends on a solid note and this book definitely can be read as standalone but there’s a thread left open for further sequels. Craig Aird has written a solid dark fantasy and I would like to read more of his work to see how he develops his craft.

The Bladesman of Darcliff by Jason A. Holt

I’ve read a previous book of the Edgewhen series in The Burglar Of Sliceharbor, it was a bit comical and featured a mix of human and humanoid races. The Bladesman of Darcliff is set in a different part of the same world and focuses Vinnagon and his wife Gwenshi. Forced by circumstances to become an outlaw, Vinnagon and Gwenshi will have to do the utmost to stay alive and finally prove Vinnagon’s reasons to be true. This story was a quick read and of a shorter length. The story is sprinkled with humor in likely and unlikely places and honestly for me, Gwenshi was the more intriguing character than Vinnagon. Overall this was a much better read than my previous Edgewhen experience and I would recommend readers to give this one a try so that can a fun read.

Jason A. Holt is trying a lot with his Edgewhen books and I have to applaud his efforts for giving readers a different read (genrewise, new characters, etc.) with each book and making them as standalone as possible as well.

The Firebird by Nerine Dorman

The Firebird is a novella and deals with a brother sister duo who are on opposite sides of a  mytho-religious struggle. Lada is burdened with legacy of familial betrayal that haunts her mind, but with the capture of her brother Ailas, old wounds are brought to the fore. It’s a novella but it packs a lot into it and Nerine Dorman is a writer who really shines in her efforts. The story settings are starkly different from the usual fare that we have seen. We are given a tropical island setting and the characters are fully realized within such a smaller setting. Even though we only get the story from Lada’s POV. It’s one that goes into a lot of things especially self-angst and family troubles. This is a story that will haunt you as it does Lada and Nerine Dorman absolutely aces the atmosphere which in turns is partly claustrophobic and yet does not stunt the read in any way.

Nerine Dorman packs so much into this novella and it easily is the one of the best stories among all the SPFBO books I’ve read so far in the last four editions. It almost seems like a tragedy that this is a novella only. A wonderfully unique story for its stark portrayal of a family in crisis and a people at war with themselves.

Fangs & Fins by Amy McNulty 

Fangs and Fins is a book that perhaps I’m mismatched for as a reader. It’s a paranormal story that focusses on two step sisters and the troubles that enter their lives as two separate races of Vampires and Merfolk bring their conflicts into them. I’m not a big PNR fan but I love urban fantasy quite a lot. This story has a lot going for it, characters who are their own personas, familial secrets that come out and action (though not as much as I would have preferred). Fangs & Fins is a quirky story focusing on Ember and Ivy who must figure out their own pathways whilst figuring out the newer complications in their lives.

Overall this was a decent book with some interesting plot angles. I especially enjoyed the supernatural conflict between vampires and Merfolk as I haven’t quite come across that in the urban fantasy books which I’ve read.

Missing by William C. Markham

I thought Missing by William C. Markham would turn out to be a typical urban fantasy story. I was wrong to a large degree about that. Missing does a lot of things differently than most urban fantasy stories, primarily this book takes a solidly noir tone to the story and infact in the first half, the supernatural elements are kept to a bare minimum. The story focusing tightly on Mason Grey, our gumshoe protagonist who is a clichĂ© in every sense and knows it. The story slowly but methodiously unwinds leaving Mason and the readers knowing exactly what he’s up against. I enjoyed the noir aspect of the story as well as the touch of horror within the story.

Overall though this is a decent debut, it doesn’t offer anything new for urban fantasy lovers like me.

Chronicles of Nartesis Shazarack: Father Of Necromancy by J.D Hart

This is another novella that was an interesting read. It focuses on Nartesis Shazarack, a necromancer of repute and ambition no less. We had received this book and it does mention in the blurb that this is a companion story that would be better appreciated after reading the first two volumes of the Dragonbonded books. I feel after reading this novella that I would certainly have enjoyed it more that way. Not to say that this novella is full of fluff or hard to follow, in fact I would say that this was a certainly a dark and fun read. Nartesis is obviously an antagonist of the main books and here we are given a look into his past. This isn’t some quick trip but rather a solidly focused sojourn into what makes Nartesis tick and certainly makes him a fascinating antagonist to know more of.

I thought that this was a good companion piece and an excellent way to get newer readers interested about the series. The novella is good way to find out more about JD Hart’s writing style and whether you want to jump into his books.

The Blood Tartan by Raymond St. Elmo

The Blood Tartan is an odd book, I’m confident the author will not mind me saying that. I would go so far as to say he must have planned it so, otherwise how you explain the character of Rayne Gray who’s described as “three steps from madness, two steps from arrest, one step from death!”. If that description along with the blurb doesn’t make you reach for the book, then I’m not sure whether you are the target audience for Raymond’s work. Surprisingly when I first read this book, it didn’t grab me at all and I was not quite feeling it. However my teammates Lukasz and David had certainly enjoyed it and that spurred me on.

I restarted it and I must say, it took me a while but I could slowly enjoy the manic nature of the story as well as of the main character. Slowly but surely this book won me over and I’ll eventually go on to the sequels to see what happens next with Rayne Grey.


Amidst my seven titles, there was quite a mix of genres, writing styles and story lengths. It was tricky to choose a single semifinalist as they were good ones in the mix. So far we have had four semifinalists, thanks to Lukasz’s & David’s diligence. So I decided to follow their example and select two more semifinalists who will be getting detailed reviews.

So amidst these seven titles, the two that will be joining the ranks of Hell Comes To Hogtown, By Raven’s Call, Here Be Dragons, & The Boy Who Walked Too Far are


The Firebird & The Blood Tartan , both these stories were so refreshing and presented something vastly different than I've found in fantasy usually. With Firebird, Nerine Dorman has given us a very nuanced story within a unique setting. It’s a pity that this is only a novella, whereas with The Blood Tartan, Raymond St. Elmo unleashes his particular brand of crazy humour and wild action to make up a thrilling tale.

Both these books will get full reviews and of course will be one step closer to being chosen as the FBC finalist for the SPFBO finals. Many congratulations to Nerine and Raymond and best of luck ahead!

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Priest Of Bones by Peter McLean (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website
Order Priest Of Bones over HERE (USA) & HERE (UK)
Read "Grimdark or Grimheart" by Peter McLean (guest post)

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Peter McLean was born near London in 1972, the son of a bank manager and an English teacher. He went to school in the shadow of Norwich Cathedral where he spent most of his time making up stories.

By the time he left school this was probably the thing he was best at, alongside the Taoist kung fu he had been studying since the age of 13. He grew up in the Norwich alternative scene, alternating dingy nightclubs with martial arts and practical magic.

He has since grown up a bit, if not a lot, and spent 25 years working in corporate IT. He is married to Diane and is still making up stories.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: The war is over, and army priest Tomas Piety heads home with Sergeant Bloody Anne at his side. But things have changed while he was away: his crime empire has been stolen and the people of Ellinburg--his people--have run out of food and hope and places to hide. Tomas sets out to reclaim what was his with help from Anne, his brother, Jochan, and his new gang: the Pious Men. But when he finds himself dragged into a web of political intrigue once again, everything gets more complicated.

As the Pious Men fight shadowy foreign infiltrators in the back-street taverns, brothels, and gambling dens of Tomas's old life, it becomes clear:

The war is only just beginning.

FORMAT/INFO: Priest Of Bones is 352 pages long and is divided into fifty titled chapters spread over two sections. There’s also a map, dramatis personae section as well as an acknowledgements section. Narration is in first person solely via Tomas Piety. This is the first book in the War Of The Rose Throne series.

October 2 2018 marked the American e-book and trade paperback publication of Priest Of Bones and it was published by Ace Roc Books. The book is also released in hardback and e-book format in the UK on October 4 2018 by Jo Fletcher books.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Priest Of Bones is Peter McLean’s fantasy debut and one that will certainly mark his name in the annals of grimdark fantasy. Priest Of Bones is a book that focuses on Tomas Piety and his soldiers who wish to return to their home town of Ellingburg from a war that even though their nation has won, it was a pyrrhic victory through and through. The story begins with Tomas and his men who find themselves homesick and home bound as Tomas' younger brother Jochan Piety and his band of men happen upon them as well. Tomas has a lot of special folks in his unit like his sergeant Bloody Anne, Sir Eland, Cookpot, Billy the boy etc. His crew is one of soldiers whose mettle has been tested and they have proven themselves multiple times over.

Before the war, Tomas had multiple business holdings which he plans to takeover and enjoy the good life. Things however turn out a bit differently as he finds a big surprise for him in his hometown. He will have to return to his days of being a wise guy gangster before he learnt to be a soldier and a priest. Things then take a darker turn as we find out about the true workings of the city of Ellingburg as well as the past of the Piety family.

Peter McLean has previously written a horror urban fantasy and it was starkly different than what was then being published in the urban fantasy genre. He does something different with this opening salvo as well. Priest Of Bones is the first volume of the War Of The Rose Throne and it is a bloody, dark, vicious, slim volume of a book. There are many things to like about it, for me the prime highlight was the characterization as even though the story is  solely presented from the first person perspective of Tomas Piety. All the characters presented are vividly described and will stand out in the reader's mind starkly. Be it Bloody Anne or Tomas’ aunt Enaid or dangerous bĂȘte noire Ma Aditi or even bit characters like Billy the boy who I believe deserves a bigger role in the upcoming sequel as do the aforementioned characters.

Peter absolutely nails each and every character down as they struggle with their morals as well as visceral needs. In a world wherein survival is often dependent on wits, wiles and weapons. Truth, decency and morality often are shorn in favor of survival instinct. It’s  a stark representation of Darwin’s law in a secondary fantasy world and the author showcases it brilliantly. Characters will die as newer ones are introduced and none are more fascinating than Tomas Piety, ruthless gang boss, brilliant commander and a consecrated priest of the Lady Of Eternal Sorrows. Tomas truly shines as he slowly unfolds himself from his militaristic roles and slips back into his previous occupation as the leader of the Pious Men. There’s much more to Tomas as the reader learns and they learn quite a bit as to why he’s so different than his younger hotheaded, fierce warrior of a brother Jochan. Why Billy the boy listens to his orders and yet also serves as his confessional priest (the only one tending to Tomas). Why Bloody Anne being the ruthless warrior she is, still looks on to  his commands and why Ma Aditi, most dreaded gangster and feared by the constabulary, royals as well as the common populace counts him and him only as her foe.

Tomas is a leader and an alpha for sure but he’s not brilliant yet foolhardy like Locke Lamora, neither is he a deadly but cursed warrior like Logen “The Bloody Nine”. He’s the fantasy equivalent of Michael Corleone, a ruthless and brilliant man who can shed his morals upon the circumstantial dictates and do the unthinkable to make sure of his victory. This book heavily reminds one of the Cosa Nostra methods and measures espoused within The Godfather series of books and I believe it might not be an accident. Some reviewers have compared it to the TV show Peaky Blinders but since I haven’t watched it at all, I can’t comment on it.

The world showcased within is a shaky one wherein gangs are often double-crossing each other and the nobility likes to play within these shadows as well. I enjoyed this aspect of the book and for those who like a bit of political machinations within their stories, will certainly enjoy this story. Amidst all of this savagery, the author veritably showcases the humanity of the people within. This is a hard task but it’s done adroitly by Peter McLean as he shows us how scary monsters like Jochan came to be. Plus in that moment, you feel the savage brutality of the world as well as the keen sense of sympathy for folks whom you would have never guessed. It’s not just with one character but many others and I enjoyed this aspect whilst having to steel my mind against the very horrendous crimes committed (trigger warning for paedophilia).

This book while high on crime and intrigue doesn’t disappoint with the action sequences. There’s enough action both of a personal and large scale nature to keep fantasy readers engrossed as well a very vivid climatic homage to The Godfather. I loved reading it and would be overjoyed to see it translated on the big screen. Lastly there’s some crucial hints dropped about the nature of the conflict as well as the upheavals in the city of Ellingburg. I enjoyed how the author makes this book a strong mix of low fantasy as well as a crime thriller but yet at the same time, there are bigger machinations on the horizon (both magical and illicit). This is just the opening salvo and yet it left me desperately wanting more.

There were just a few minor niggles for me, primarily the character of Billy the boy is given a small role but his actions are vastly important and so I had hoped for more of an explanation about him and his past. While none is found in this volume, I hope the author changes it in the sequels. Secondly the worldbuilding is on the leaner side and I really was hoping to know more about the nation, the previous war, the history, etc. Lastly the plot ends on a small cliffhanger and for those who don’t like them, be on the watchout as you will experience one which might leave you thoroughly teased for the sequel "Priest Of Lies".

CONCLUSION: Priest Of Bones is a magnificent crime thriller that’s set in a secondary fantasy world. Most crime readers would be forgiven if they momentarily forgot that this isn’t set on Earth but some other world. Peter McLean proves himself to a very adapt writer and joins the pantheon of brilliant British minds such as J. Abercrombie, M. Billingham, M. Lawrence, D. Mina, etc. Priest Of Bones is that rare title that straddles two different genres and showcases the brilliance of both.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

COVER REVEAL: The Crimson Queen & The Silver Sorceress + Alec Hutson Q&A (by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Crimson Queen
Read Fantasy Book Critic's interview with Alec Hutson

The Crimson Queen by Alec Hutson was FBC’s SPFBO finalist in last year’s competition and one of the best debuts that I’ve ever read amidst all the self-published books I’ve read in the last decade. The cover though was a bit staid as I had noted in my review.

Recently though Alec Hutson decided to engage the dream team of John Anthony Di Giovanni & Shawn King to update the cover for his debut The Crimson Queen as well as have them create a brand spanking one for the just released sequel The Silver Sorceress.

Alec was super kind enough to answer a few questions about the covers and his decision to go with the dream team. So enjoy his answers and checkout both the amazing covers:

Order The Crimson Queen HERE

Official TCQ Blurb - Long ago the world fell into twilight, when the great empires of old consumed each other in sorcerous cataclysms. In the south the Star Towers fell, swallowed by the sea, while the black glaciers descended upon the northern holdfasts, entombing the cities of Min-Ceruth in ice and sorcery. Then from the ancient empire of Menekar the paladins of Ama came, putting every surviving sorcerer to the sword and cleansing their taint from the land for the radiant glory of their lord.

The pulse of magic slowed, fading like the heartbeat of a dying man.

But after a thousand years it has begun to quicken again.

In a small fishing village a boy with strange powers comes of age...

A young queen rises in the west, fanning the long-smoldering embers of magic into a blaze once more...

Something of great importance is stolen - or freed - from the mysterious Empire of Swords and Flowers...

And the immortals who survived the ancient cataclysms bestir themselves, casting about for why the world is suddenly changing...

Order The Silver Sorceress HERE

Official TSS Blurb - Following the deadly assault on the Scholia by the kith’ketan, Keilan and Nel pursue the paladin Senacus south, hoping to catch him before he can vanish into the Gilded Cities. Nel desires vengeance for the death of her lover, while Keilan hopes to find answers about the immortal sorcerers who sought to challenge the Crimson Queen . . .

In the Empire of Swords and Flowers a young woman is called upon to avenge her father’s death and return honor to her family . . .

And after a millennia-long imprisonment, the monstrous Chosen are again free to work their dark will upon the world of man . . .

Q] Welcome back to Fantasy Book Critic, and congratulations on the new spectacular cover for The Crimson Queen. What lead you to get newer cover art for your debut title?

AH: Well, The Crimson Queen was my first foray into publishing, and I have to admit that despite my best efforts I didn't really know what I was doing, or know very much about the book creation process. I did luck out because I actually really love the art of the first cover of Queen, and I think it certainly contributed to my first book's positive reception. But though I loved the art I thought the typography could be improved - IMO, what really separates a good cover from a great cover is often the quality of the text on the cover. So as I was planning for The Silver Sorceress I thought it would be cool to redo Queen and engage two of the very best professionals who work with indie publishers. I wanted a strong series branding so that all the books in the series would look great together on a book case.

Q] How did you end up selecting John Anthony Di Giovanni as the artist for the new covers? What drew you to his style?

AH: John's art blows me away. I love it. I had seen it before, actually, and marveled at how awesome it was, though I didn't know he was the artist - that would be Michael R. Fletcher's Ghosts of Tomorrow. But it was when my friend Dyrk Ashton had his excellent Paternus reskinned that I put a name to the art I'd previously seen and liked. John has an incredible talent, not just for drawing, but also for infusing the scenes with tension and a real sense of wonder and the fantastic. I feel very lucky he agreed to work with me.

Q] What were your main pointers for your cover artist & Shawn King (cover design) as you all went through the process of finalizing it? What were the main things that you wished to focus on in it?

AH: My directions are always really vague, and thank goodness these guys are so incredibly talented. I wanted a strong series branding, and otherwise just let him loose. I love what he came up with.

Q] The sequel The Silver Sorceress is releasing soon/has been released. What readers expect from the story?

AH: They should expect a continuation of the storylines introduced in The Crimson Queen - Keilan will continue to develop his powers and personality, Jan will wrestle with the horrors of the past and what he was a part of, and Alyanna will scheme to reclaim what she has lost. I'm also introducing a new character - Cho Lin, the daughter of the Shan demon hunter from The Crimson Queen. Some of the book takes place in Shan, and I took as a model and inspiration the Chinese Wuxia TV shows and movies that I have seen while living over here in China. So it's not supposed to be historically accurate, but a romanticized version of ancient China - just like most fantasy fiction is a romanticized version of medieval Europe.

It was also important to me that I have some payoffs in this story - there were plenty of mysteries introduced in Queen, and I wanted the readers to feel like some of them were explored in this book. I don't like it when writers cram all the reveals into the final third of the last book - or drop some of the mysteries that they've introduced all together. That said, it is a middle book in a trilogy. I'm quite happy with it, but I am worried that readers will reach the end and feel like it doesn't have the arc resolution that The Crimson Queen had, which was a bit more self contained. By the last chapter the pieces are all set up for the final book - and I'm excited about what I have planned - but perhaps it's not quite as satisfying a resolution as the first. We'll see.

Q] How's your writing going for book III and how many more books will be required to reach your ideal conclusion to the Raveling series?

AH: The plotting / planning is going well. I'm excited to start. I've actually been writing a sword and sorcery book this summer, something short and exciting, about 75k words. It's due at my editor in mid-October. Then I'll spend a few weeks finalizing my thoughts for book three and dive in when November rolls around. I'm hoping to write at least 20k words a month (I know - so slow. I'm the slowest writer ever) and if I can keep up that pace I'd expect to finish May / June of next year. so realistically expecting a publication date of this time next year.

Q] Thank you again for your time, any parting thoughts you’d like to share with our readers?

AH: Well, just that I really appreciate the support that readers of The Crimson Queen have showed me. I hope they enjoy The Silver Sorceress.


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