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Monday, August 31, 2020

Kings Of Heaven by Richard Nell (reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


Official Author Website
Pre-order Kings Of Heaven over HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Kings Of Paradise
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Kings Of  Ash
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The God King's Legacy
Read Fantasy Book Critic Interview with Richard Nell
Read Fantasy Book Critic's The God King's Legacy Cover Reveal Q&A with Richard Nell

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: Richard Nell concerned family and friends by quitting his real job in 2014 to 'write full-time'. He is a Canadian author of fantasy, living in one of the flattest, coldest places on earth with his begrudging wife, who makes sure he eats. His books mix his love of history and ideas with the epic glory of fantasy, because reality could use some sprucing up.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: In the final book of the Ash and Sand trilogy, Ruka, son of Beyla, faces the emperor of the world, yet even victory may not save his people…

With the death of his ally, Farahi Alaku, Ruka ‘Godtongue’ is alone. Or not exactly… The island prince Kale Alaku now haunts his mind, rattling within his once peaceful ‘Grove’, promising revenge and growing every moment in power. Meanwhile, the Pyu isles are in chaos; the coastal kingdom of the Tong is still Ruka’s enemy, and every day that passes brings the empire closer to destroying his dream of a new world for his people.

Once again, the son of Beyla will need the strength of his dark twin, Bukayag. Perhaps together they can unite three peoples, gather an army of ash, and defend or destroy their way to peace. But in the end, there can be only one king of heaven…

FORMAT/INFO: Kings Of Heaven is 411 pages long divided over forty-three chapters with a prologue & an epilogue. Narration is in the third person omniscient view via Ruka, Kale, Osco, Dala & a few other characters. This is the last volume of the Ash and Sand trilogy.

The book will be self-published by the author on September 1, 2020 and it's available as an e-book and paperback. Cover art and design is provided by Derek Murphy.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Kings Of Heaven is the long awaited ending to the Ash And Sand trilogy. It’s a book which I was itching to read from when I finished Kings Of Ash in 2019. The trilogy ending was very unusual for a couple of reasons as the series’ genre had changed from low to epic fantasy in the last volume and also the proverbial Kane vs Abel storyline had come to its conclusion in the climax of Kings Of Ash. I was curious to see what the hell the author would do with this volume considering the monumental changes he had enacted in the preceding title.

For one, this book is mightily different than its predecessors by the fact that there are no dual timelines within it. It entirely takes place in a singular timepoint which is the aftermath of the climax of Kings Of Ash. Things are upended in the lands of the Ascom as well as the Pyu islands and there’s an imminent threat of an invasion from the northern continent. Ruka finds himself in a big bind as his plans with Farahi are now in tatters due to Kale’s actions. However the wheels of change are already set and there’s no going back. He’s got to try to prepare for the northern continent invasion as well as the inhabitant in his mental grove who’s causing him headaches. Overall this story gets as epic as possible.

Let’s talk about why this story is so spectacular. The plot is completely streamlined to where we as the readers are taken for a thrilling ride beginning from chapter one leading all the way until the fantastic epilogue. This book similarly to Kings Of Ash is all about Ruka however in this book we get a brand new POV character as well as a return of another POV character from book 1. My favourite character Dala also returns and gets a bigger role than the previous book and she gets another chance to show her pragmatic intelligence. We get a look into the horse tribes’ culture in the lands of the Ascom and that was an interesting interlude. The characterization is top notch as ever and beginning with Ruka, who has been working his body and mind to utter exhaustion with his plan to help his people escape the land of Ash for a warmer climate and more habitable lands up north. There’s also Kale who’s present in Ruka’s mental grove and has now slowly started talking back. This leads to some fun conversations between a killer and his victim and some very interesting thoughts about the nature of the Grove, its place in reality and how it interacts with the actual world. Kale is a more subdued persona but he still has his magic and his rage is ever present.

We get a brilliant new POV from Osco the mesanite who is back in his home city and is now shanghaied into helping the Naranian emperor lead his conquest towards Tong and the rest of the island nations. We are reacquainted with Egil who as we know has become a family man but yet hasn’t lost his thirst for adventure. While there are others who don’t get a POV but are thrilling to read, this list begins with Kikay who’s dangerous more than ever as now she’s lost Farahi’s calming guidance. There’s also Tane who finds himself atop the Alaku throne and has to rely on his supposed enemies to save him. There’s princess Lani who has the most to lose as she’s already lost her love and now finds her homeland in dire danger. There’s also Arun, deadly and ever in the mix of events. All of these folks and several others find themselves in the midst of a titanic struggle. The characterization singlehandedly elevates this (and the previous) volumes from its simple premise into something brilliant.


The book has a quiet buildup to a siege storyline and I love sieges. Richard Nell really does his best to build up an effective first climax with this plot line and we get to see the conflict from both sides due to the dual POVs utilized. I loved this aspect and believe me the siege gets very, very brutal but at the same time, it moves along quickly and there’s a fabulous end to it. I must highlight that here the author does something even cooler with Ruka’s powers and while it hasn’t been done before, the event will send a chill up anyone’s spine. Also that moment needs a soundtrack like this one.

This trilogy has had an interesting genre shift in terms of magic usage. Kings Of Paradise was a low fantasy story and it was in Kings Of Ash that the magic system really got a boost and the trilogy genre kicked into the “epic” gear with both Ruka and Kale. In this book, there’s some wild (and I mean WILD) moments that will have you saying WTF in the best way possible as well as some truly chilling ones. The author really does build Ruka up to be a superman of sorts but then we get a look into things from his perspective and then those same events don’t seem so superhuman.

The pace of the book is very streamlined and beginning with a quiet sort, the plot’s threads slowly start twisting into an explosive tapestry that come together brilliantly towards the end. This book is also the smallest of the entire trilogy and while that’s definitely going against the epic fantasy norms. I believe it helps with its streamlined pace as the book’s plot is kept on a linear track with everything building up towards its dual climaxes.

What I love ultimately about this trilogy is that while the nature of the world is definitely dark (maybe grimdark to some). The resolution is always about hope. Ruka’s hope towards solving all the life’s mysteries, saving his people and finally realizing that his birth isn’t a mistake. Dala’s hope for making sure that her people aren’t doomed to forever keep fighting and killing each other over small slights. Kale’s hope for keeping his remaining family safe and maybe even proving that he was a good person after all. Osco’s hope about saving his city state and his family from Naranian ambition. Kikay’s hope for saving the Alakus and finally becoming the savior she was meant to be. Egil’s hope for finally having a sound ending to his life and making sure his family are saved. These and many more of such hopes are tied along. Ultimately I think the author wanted to showcase that even when things are dark, it doesn’t mean that people should stop striving to improve their lot. Ultimately it’s about saving the Ascomi people from environmental doom and the Pyu islanders from imperial conquest. That has been the biggest drive for Ruka and Farahi and this book really pays off on those angles.

The series has never been much for humour except the gallows kind and in this book we get some gems here and there. One particular instance is about what Osco does to neutralize a possible future threat from Ruka and that bit was just hilarious to read. Lastly I do want to highlight the epilogue which is from a new character and I have to highlight uttermost Gemmellian in its scope. What I mean by that is the author does his best to tickle our heart strings as he shows what happens when the final killer arrives and does what’s bound to happen. Lastly the jerk of an author had the temerity to come up with an epitaph that rivals David Gemmell’s most heart-rending scene (cough*Jaime Graymuch*cough) from Ravenheart. After reading over 570K worth of words, he manages to put in a final blow to our hearts and open up our tear ducts effortlessly. He does this by humanizing Ruka/Bukayag, a complex monster-cum-savant who does horrible things and grand magic for the eventual goal of saving a people.

The only thing that didn’t quite pan out to my expectations was a proper explanation about the magic system namely the Nishad and the others. What was Ruka’s grove and who/what exactly was Bukayag? These questions don’t get answered neatly but such is life. This is a minor thing and very subjective.

CONCLUSION: Kings Of Heaven is a near perfect epic fantasy conclusion to one of the best self-published fantasy trilogies. Would I go so far to say it’s a classic in the making, yes, I would indeed. I hope Richard Nell keeps enthralling us more with his stories because if this debut trilogy is any indication, this guy is going to end up as one of the genre’s giants by the time he crosses 60.

NOTE: This review bring an end to the Kings Of Heaven blog tour and you can checkout the fabulous reviews at all the previous stops below. My thanks to Charles, Lynn, Petrik & Adam for their time, enthusiasm and commitment:

KOH blog tour day 1 = Adam at Fantasy Book Review
KOH blog tour day 2 = Petrik at Novel Notions
KOH blog tour day 3 = Lynn at Grimmedian
KOH blog tour day 4 = Charles at Booknest
KOH blog tour day 5 = FBC review

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Chapter Excerpt: I, EXILE by David M. Samuels


Official Author Website
Order I, EXILE over HERE

The night began with us squelching up a covered aqueduct and didn’t improve from there. “I’ll bet my lucky compass that you’re wrong,” I whispered back to my partner. “We’ll nab this scroll without a hitch. The city clerics won’t know what hit them.”

“Sorry to break it to you, Em, but you owe me that compass,” said Niellan. Compared to the eunuch’s high-pitched voice, mine sounded more fitting on a boy than a woman in her thirties.

His steps splashed softly under the weight of his lean frame as he grumbled, “You know what they say about wizards and their contracts.”

Damn right I did. Excellent pay, but always a catch. On one hand, Osmathos offered enough coin to rebuild my family’s manor from the ashes. The other hand, well, there had to be a reason why the storied spellbinder couldn’t get this scroll himself. Part of me hoped he’d used his wizardly whatchamacallit to foresee the Gilded Hands as his answer. Common sense said we were his last resort. It didn’t help that Niel raised objections every step of the way.

“Admit it, Emelith.”

He knew better than to use my full name. Gray water swirled around my boots as I dealt a smirk behind my headwrap. “Just because a fireball singed off your eyebrows on the last job doesn’t mean all magi have it out for you.”

Whereas my Fenlish friend was short enough to stand straight in this hellhole, my thighs burned from bending double for so long. The mound of crushed hauntroot on his palm bloomed bright green upon his round and dusky features. He used it to mark our progress for a quick getaway. Very soon, the city clerics would trigger a pair of floodgates as part of their daily ritual. I shuddered to imagine getting trapped in this maze of pipes when the Daybreak Gong went off. Given the choice, I’d take a nice backstreet stabbing over drowning to death hands down.

Farther along the aqueduct, the upper halfpipe fell back and exposed us to the city.

The thing about Faral-Muzafti is that it’s nestled in the crater of a dormant volcano. The districts rise from the central hotspring like terraced benches to an arena. Their shops, shrines, and dwellings are built with the same rose-and-butter sandstone that girdle the caldera in stratified layers. And on the highest ridge ahead of us sat Muzafti’s crown jewel. The city temple conquered the skyline in case anyone forgot about the priesthood in charge. Or should I say the ringleaders...no? Oh, alright.

Crouching low, we hurried into the cistern at the end of the aqueduct. It stood dry about thirty feet below the triangular floodgates. Higher up loomed the temple sanctum, its brass dome gleaming bright as a third moon. Columned wings hugged both sides of the ridge as if to embrace the city. That, and to swat at busy bees.

I buzzed over to Niel’s side and gestured in the padspeech of our guild. It’s all in the fingertips, padspeech. Subtract the clickers from castanets and there you have it. “The scroll is on the right wing.”

I’d learned as much thanks to yesterday’s stakeout. From dawn ‘till dusk, theologians in yellow robes bustled past the seashell-engraved doors at the end of that wing.

“Got it,” he padspoke before whipping out his crossbow. His fingers skimmed the bandolier strapped over his jerkin. Twin rows of piercing bodkins and blunted broadheads shone silver by the sickle moons. The lowest bolt to the left ended in a grapnel hook with enough rope to wrangle a tyrannosaur.

Cover those bolts,” I padspoke in his face so he had to stop cranking the crossbow. “Starshine.”

After buttoning his overcoat, twinkletoes pulled his hood over his frown. He hated when I bossed him around like that, but after eight years of teamwork you’d think he’d learn.

What Niel lacked in mindfulness he redeemed himself in marksmanship. Within heartbeats he loaded the hookbolt into its channel, locked onto his target, and squeezed off the shot.

A tail of rope sketched the hook’s flight skyward. The prongs latched onto a low banister along the stone parapet.

In deference to one of his copious superstitions, Niel tugged the rope five times rapidly. Fenlander folklore must’ve been on our side, since he nodded in approval before pulling out a vial of yellow powder from his breast pocket. He sprinkled the contents onto his gloves and then tossed it to me underhand.

The stink of putrid eggs constricted my throat as soon as I caught the glass. Whatever Niel used for traction these days wasn’t worth my pair of doeskins. They went into my knapsack before I powdered my fingers and led the ascent.

The desert breeze blew fiercer with every upward inch. My eyes brimmed with tears but I dared not wipe them, keeping hands steady and feet on the walls at all times.

Once topside, I unbuttoned my headwrap to drag in lungfuls of crisp night air. Then I lowered a chalky hand to Niel and hoisted him next to me.

We reclined against the banister while he coiled the rope and I fished a wool blanket from my knapsack. I’d planned to use the fabric to bundle our mark, but Niel’s shivering body needed it more than the scroll would.

Take this,” I padspoke, resisting the urge to reprimand him again.

He hesitated a moment before accepting the blanket and draping its brown folds across his shoulders. Hopefully next time he’d remember that deserts turn hot and cold in equal measure. Especially out here in the Dryscapes, where scars of the apocalypse remain everywhere.

Remember,” I padspoke, “if you see trouble, drop the birdcall before you shoot.”

Not that I didn’t enjoy brawling sometimes. But when filching scripture from a city full of zealots, I’d sooner hold off my bet than let the knucklebones fly.

The shuffle of steps from the level below sped up my heartbeat. I pressed myself flat on the edge of the roof, one cheek against the night-chilled stone. From my belt I unclipped that lucky compass of mine and—not without cupping the rim from moonlight—tilted it down to reflect the hall of open-air columns.

Patrolling the colonnade was a shirtless monk in the leather kilt of his order. The hydra-headed mace at his hip shone crimson by the torch he clutched for warmth. One wrong move with him and I risked gaining a few extra piercings.

Only after he marched around the bend did I return to Niel. Together we rolled our sleeves back to the matching brands on our forearms. EI: 2148 & EI: 2120. Mementos from our stints in the clink. We pressed them together in our customary handclasp before the tough part of a job.

Leaving Niel to keep watch, I swung from the roof and somersaulted into the colonnade. From there I prowled by rolling my soles heel to toe, heel to toe, more gliding than walking down the hall. At the archive’s double doors I pulled a set of picks from behind my ear and sprang the lock in less time than a round of Jester’s Spades.

I blinked through the gloom to see blocky corners of shelves in most of the chamber. And crammed on these shelves was a shitload of scrolls.

All that wizened parchment smelled like my family’s library from before the fire. I’d spent some of my happiest days of girlhood reading tales of good versus evil. The following years taught me that the line between the two isn’t so distinct. Otherwise how could I live with myself?

Here and there I found a few of those covered things, books they’re called, from the High North. All bound in dyed leather, they’d fly off the stalls at the Jade Emporium. Except only an amateur would consider stealing them. I was a first-rate professional—a Gilded Hand, damnit—and I’d never let a bauble sway me from my contract.

One by one, I angled the wooden tags of the top row up to the moonlight. Mostly religious tracts and Antediluvian schematics, but no sign of the scroll itself. A sigh passed my lips as I glanced at the countless other rows. I could kill a week browsing these shelves without any luck.

Osmathos had claimed in his letter that the priesthood attached a scriptural significance to the scroll in question. If I was a cleric (Foregods forbid) where would I stash it away?

Somewhere safe. Accessible, but safe.

I skulked down the aisles into another, smaller chamber. A row of reading alcoves scalloped the far wall, each with a wicker chair and polished sandstone desk.

The furthest chair must’ve belonged to superiors because of the pillows. Well, they resembled pillows until they rustled around.

The snick of flint on steel preceded a blinding burst of lamplight. I squinted to see a portly graybeard shifting in his seat. Probably a theologian from those saffron-yellow robes. He closed the square lantern’s cage with one hand and used the other to rub the sleep from his eyes.

Soundlessly, I slid Vixen's Tusk from my belt and crept around the edge of light. The old goat didn’t know what hit him until I pressed the dagger to his neck, free hand over his mouth. My voice sliced through the stillness like steel across gauze.

“You speak Merchant’s Cant?”

He nodded vigorously, whiskers bristling against my palm.

“Then listen up. I’m gonna remove my hand. Make a peep and I’ll splatter these scrolls with your blood.”

Only bluffing. In my experience, promising harm succeeds almost as well as actually inflicting it.

The theologian kept quiet as I wiped the saliva off on the mantle of his robes. Vixen's Tusk still kissed his neck so he’d be a fool to turn around.

“Tell me where to find the scripture,” I hissed.

“Sirella passed it in the room behind us.” Traces of his accent harshened most of the consonants.

I shook his shoulder fiercely enough to rattle out a whimper. “Anyone ever tell you that you’d make a lousy gambler? There’s another chamber.” Or had damn well better be. “One hidden from sirellas like yours truly.”

Sweat dripped off his jowls to smudge the letters of an unfurled scroll. “How to say...mosock. Mosock of the waterfall in the archives. Press the golden tile.”

“Much obliged. Now get up. And don’t forget the lantern.”

“I answered sirella’s questions. What more could she want?”

“Well, y’know how the Khazals include poison testers at banquets? Think of yourself as a trap tester.” I yanked his shoulder again. “Upsy-daisy.”

He relented with a weak moan. I steered him to said mosock on the other end of the archive. Chips of blue lapis on the walls represented a waterfall. The gemstones between them made the rapids sparkle as if from the sun. I gestured at the golden tessera that was part of an outcrop near the bottom.

“Go on.” I frowned at him like this was his idea.

He pressed the tessera with trembling hands. The mosaic rolled back to reveal a flight of shallow steps that spiraled into darkness.

“Now we’re talking,” I said over a sigh of relief. “How do you close it?”

“The same tile, sirella.”

Which meant he could lock me inside if I let him slip away. After prying the lantern from his fingers, I snapped a tube off my belt and uncorked it with my thumb. Anger management, brewed and labeled by Niel.

“By the way, does this smell like shuteye to you?”

The fumes worked like a charm and knocked him out cold. I dragged his body behind the mosaic and brought the lantern downstairs.

The steps led to a hallway of bricks intended to protect scrolls from moisture. At the far end stood a cabinet carved from the type of dark-grained timber found in the rainforests south of the Khazalate. Material of that quality must’ve cost the clerics plenty.

To be safe, I removed a throwing blade from my belt and sent it skittering across the floor. No traps yet.

I recovered the blade midway down the hall, tiptoeing along the grooves in case of pressure-plated bricks. Once across, I inched open the cabinet doors, careful not to snap any cords that might set off an alarm.

The upper shelf held more High Northern books with their spines aswirl in silver and gold. A dozen scrolls were slotted in lattice cradles underneath those, some with knobs of ivory and others inside metal canisters. I unrolled a few until finding my mark.

A cartouche framed its title in Latter Diluvian. Though I couldn’t read a word of the blocky letters, the image of hands clasped in prayer matched Osmathos’s description down to the faint red pigment.

The Exegesis of Marthelios.

Shortly before the flood that had wiped out most of humanity, Marthelios the Starsworn had encoded his arcane secrets to read as a religious text to the untrained eye. Perhaps that was how the Exegesis had found its way into a city governed by priests. If only they knew they’d been interpreting it wrong.

No time to dwell on that. I tucked the scroll into my knapsack and turned around…

...to find I had company. Further down the hall, at the foot of the stairs, the monk from earlier came charging in. A toss of my throwing knife nicked his bicep, but it might as well have been a sucklebug by how he kept barreling closer.

The damn torchlight threw off my aim for the next two throws. I was about to fling the last one when the mace whooshed in for my head. The blow whipped air in my face as I leapt backward. Another dodge caused the iron spikes to hit the wall instead, drifting dust down from the ceiling.

I dashed through the haze and up the stairs, emptying a pouch of marbles behind me. On the last riser I stumbled like a fool over the theologian’s body and twisted my toe out of place. I gritted my teeth against the dull throbs of pain as I collapsed onto all fours.

The scroll flew out of my knapsack and rolled across the archive floor, coming to rest at the boots of—Niellan! In his hands was the crossbow, cranked and ready to fire.

“Quick, there’s a monk downstairs.” My words rushed out in a breathless undertone. “Get rid of him.”

But Niel had other ideas. He swept up the scroll and I swear a grin crossed his face moments before the two-timing weasel ran for the balcony.

“Traitor!” I would’ve gone after him if not for the tromp of feet from behind. Still disarmed, the monk lunged up the last steps at a speed I couldn’t outrun. Nor did I have time to press the gold tile. Well, at least he’d give me a face to punch.

I hobbled to my feet and backed into the archives. Then I dropped into a Thricepaw stance taught by the Gilded Hands: right side forward, shoulders squared, Vixen's Tusk flipped in a pommeling position.

Strike after strike we clashed across the archives, my big toe throbbing hot as my hatred toward Niellan. Some say nothing good ever results from anger, and that may be true for them. Me? I thrived on the stuff. It got me up in the morning, drove me to reclaim my family’s wealth, and kept me alive that night in Faral-Muzafti.

Our feet scuffled out of the archives and into the colonnade overlooking the city. Only then did the earthshaking clash of the Daybreak Gong boom throughout the halls.

“No!” My voice was drowned out by the rumble of water underfoot. I could only hope the cascade would flush out Niellan like the vermin he was.

Mist from the floodgates curled everywhere, taking me back to the foggy slums of Port Nithalune. All of my force went into the same trick that gained me an edge over sleazeballs back in those days: I punched the monk smack in the balls.

The sorry bastard went down hard, and I endured a cold curl of pity for lashing out on him instead of Niellan. It didn’t last long—never does—before I dragged myself onto the rails and wound up disappointed by the distinct lack of dead Fenlanders in the shallow cistern. It wasn’t like I could follow him either. From this height, a drop in the cistern could snap my spine on impact. And yet I wasn’t exactly spoilt for choices.

Shouts of alarm yanked my focus down the colonnade, where three more monks swerved around the bend.

“Well,” I muttered, “here goes nothing.”

I dove off the ledge.

The water rushed up in a white-frothed whirl.

And the world went blank.

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

NOTE: My thanks to Justine, Timy & the Storytellers On Tours for giving us an opportunity to take part in this tour.


Those Brave, Foolish Souls from the City of Swords (Yarnsworld # 3) review


Official Author Website
Order After Sundown over HERE(USA) or HERE(UK)

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart (reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


Official Author Website
Pre-order the book HERE (USA)HERE (UK)

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Andrea Stewart is the daughter of immigrants, and was raised in a number of places across the United States. Her parents always emphasized science and education, so she spent her childhood immersed in Star Trek and odd-smelling library books. When her (admittedly ambitious) dreams of becoming a dragon slayer didn't pan out, she instead turned to writing books. She now lives in sunny California, and in addition to writing, can be found herding cats, looking at birds, and falling down research rabbit holes.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: In an empire controlled by bone shard magic, Lin, the former heir to the emperor will fight to reclaim her magic and her place on the throne. The Bone Shard Daughter marks the debut of a major new voice in epic fantasy.

The emperor's reign has lasted for decades, his mastery of bone shard magic powering the animal-like constructs that maintain law and order. But now his rule is failing, and revolution is sweeping across the Empire's many islands.

Lin is the emperor's daughter and spends her days trapped in a palace of locked doors and dark secrets. When her father refuses to recognise her as heir to the throne, she vows to prove her worth by mastering the forbidden art of bone shard magic.

Yet such power carries a great cost, and when the revolution reaches the gates of the palace, Lin must decide how far she is willing to go to claim her birthright - and save her people.

FORMAT/INFO: The Bone Shard Daughter is 448 pages long spread out over forty-nine POV titled chapters. September 8th 2020 will mark the e-book, hardcover and audiobook publication of The Bone Shard Daughter and it is published by Orbit Books on both sides of the Atlantic. This is the first volume of the Drowning Empire Trilogy.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: The Bone Shard Daughter is an interesting debut that caught my eye based on Andrea Stewart and its blurb. The book was definitely one of the most original stories I’ve read in the past decade.

The story is set on a series of Islands & archipelagos which consist of the main empire in question. It’s ruled by an emperor who is the main enforcer for the empire by virtue of his bone shard magic. The emperor controls the people and maintains justice, law and order for its inhabitants via these awesome constructs which are made from bones. The process of how these bone shards are collected is a bit chilling and has its roots in how the empire was saved from the Alanga. The emperor has ruled with an iron fist for quite many years however something seems to be changing. Is it age, is it the loss of magic or something else.

The story has five main POV characters and each one is brilliantly distinct from the other. There’s Lin who is the Emperor’s daughter and a person struggling to control her power. There’s Jovis a brilliant smuggler whose life consists entirely focused on a search for a loved one. There’s Phalue, the Sapphic daughter of the governor and Ranami, her girlfriend and a main rebel as well. Lastly there’s Sand a person who’s lost her memory and is also on an island with others suffering from the same affliction. Plus the author really differentiates the POV characters by having them in first and third person narratives so that was an interesting twist. Plus each of the characters is distinctly different and presents a perspective that showcases a different aspect of the world.

The world setting is very different and absolutely the highlight of the story. Because of the island settings, right off the bat we get treated to a non-medieval setting that’ unique and much more fun to explore. I l also loved the magic system utilized which is unique but also very, very creepy. The empire is controlled and protected by Bone constructs and these constructs are literally fueled by its inhabitants. Each family is forced or rather told to honourably contribute a bone shard (from the head no less) for the successful promulgation of the empire and its security. The catch being that many children and adults have died from this process called the tithing ceremony and yet it’s goes on without any complaints (or none that the emperor will care to listen).

In this regard, the security of the empire is very much in the hands of the Emperor and contributed by the people. These Bone constructs take on major and minor forms and can communicate as well. This just adds to the creepy factor and the author really does a fine job in fleshing out this whole premise. Lastly the ending of this book is a veritable stunner and will leave you gasping for the next book immediately. That’s a near-perfect way to finish a debut story if you ask me.

The only part of the book that prevented it from being a five star read for me was that the pace is very uneven throughout the story. Firstly the author introduces five different POV characters in the first six chapters of the story and during the middle third of the book (especially within a couple of POVs, the pace is dragged down horribly). It picks up decently as the plot converges towards the climax but it never quite evens out. Honestly this was subjective and the only part that dampened a near fantastic read for me.

CONCLUSION: Featuring a very unique magic system and a writing style that’s very easy  to follow as well as sophisticated. Andrea Stewart presents a debut that’s captivating and creepy in just the right amounts. The Bone shard Daughter is one of my favourite debuts of 2020 and easily marks Andrea as an author to follow. I can’t wait to read the remaining Drowning Empire sequels to see what she does and how she develops further as a writer.


NOTE: My thanks to Kate Heceta, Andrea Stewart and Orbit Books for allowing me to be a part of the Bone Shard Daughter Blog Tour. You can check out the remaining stops below.


The Combat Codes by Alexander Darwin review


Official author website
Order The Combat Codes over here: USA/UK
Read Fantasy Book Critic's interview with Alexander Darwin

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFO: Alexander Darwin is a science fiction author with an unabashed reverence for combat sports. He spends his days getting humbled on the mats, staring at the unwritten pages of his next novel, and questioning the dumb luck that landed him such a beautiful wife and daughter.


FORMAT/INFO: Self-published by the author in 2015, The Combat Code counts 408 pages and is available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook formats. Cover design by Damonza.

“We fight, so the rest shall not have to.”

The Combat Codes is set in a dystopian society where one-on-one, MMA style combat replaced war. It blends fantasy, sci-fi, cyberpunk, martial arts, and more.


Murray Pearson, a former Grievar champion, works as a scout. While looking for potential recruits in the slave circles, he spots an adolescent boy, Cego, with remarkable martial skills and honorable attitude. He introduces him to the Lyceum where promising teenagers learn martial techniques and compete with each other.


There’s much more to the story, but revealing it would spoil things for you. The book plays with the tropes (magic school, chosen one, master/apprentice) and while it doesn’t spin them around, it avoids obvious twists. It contains plenty of well-written and well-choreographed hand to hand battles. Some of them are brutal and graphic, but never gratuitously.


The fights take place in circles made of “alloys” that influence fighters in unique ways (for example, auralite makes you want to please the crows and rubellium rises anger). A great and well-executed concept. The government uses neurotech to enhance their fighters, but their machinations may run even deeper. I would say Darwin succeeded at connecting Cego’s journey of self-discovery with a much more complex plot of interplanetary politics and balance of power.


Despite young age, Cego acts like a wise adult with plenty of life-experience. He’s competent, honorable, and acceptably special. His teammates/enemies play well-known roles present in most magic/fight school setting (a bully, a mannered nobleman, good-natured bag of muscles, etc.). Most of them are memorable and well-rounded (it’s impossible to dislike Dozer or Abel); only Shiar, the bully, suffers from a profound lack of depth. He’s, basically, a caricature of a mean and arrogant douchebag.


I applaud Darwin’s approach to structuring scenes - Cego’s plans often end in a disaster, and it keeps things exciting. He faces all possible adversities (physical and emotional injuries, terrifying discoveries, a threat to him and those close to him), and reacts accordingly to get out of a jam. It also means the story ends in a cliffhanger, but not of the type that would make you furious. Quite the opposite.


“We fight neither to inflict pain nor prolong suffering. We fight neither to mollify anger nor to satisfy vendetta. We fight neither to accumulate wealth nor to promote social standing. We fight so that the rest shall not have to.”


The Combat Codes draws abundantly from martial arts movies and it embraces both awesome and cheesy staples of the genre. I had great fun reading it and found it exciting throughout. A must for fans of well-paced and mindful martial arts stories.


Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Chaos Vector by Megan O'Keefe (reviewed by Caitlin Grieve)


Official Author Website
Order Chaos Vector over HERE
Read Caitlin’s review of Velocity Weapon

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFO: Megan E. O'Keefe was raised amongst journalists, and as soon as she was able joined them by crafting a newsletter which chronicled the daily adventures of the local cat population. She lives in the Bay Area of California, and spends her free time tinkering with anything she can get her hands on.

Her fantasy debut, Steal the Sky, won the Gemmell Morningstar Award and her space opera debut, Velocity Weapon is nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Sanda and Tomas are fleeing for their lives after letting the most dangerous smartship in the universe run free. Now, unsure of who to trust, Sanda knows only one thing for certain -- to be able to save herself from becoming a pawn of greater powers, she needs to discover the secret of the coordinates hidden in her skull.

But getting to those coordinates is a problem she can't solve alone. They exist beyond a dead gate -- a Casimir gate that opened up into a dead-end system without resources worth colonizing, and was sealed off. To get through the dead gate, she needs the help of the enemy Nazca. But some Nazca are only interested in the chip in her head -- and they'll crack her open to get to it.

FORMAT/INFO: Chaos Vector was published July 28th, 2020 by Orbit Books. It is 546 pages split over 81 chapters. It is written in third person from multiple characters, including Sanda, Biran, Jules, and Tomas. It is available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Sanda Greeve didn't ask to be the sole owner of a set of coordinates leading to a mysterious point beyond a sealed dead gate, but it's what she was left with after events left her stranded on a ship with an AI named Bero. With Bero fleeing to the far fringes of space to prevent himself from being weaponized, Sanda will have to rely on herself and her very few allies to find a way to the coordinates. Because whatever is waiting there is something multiple people want to either hide or obtain, and they're all willing to kill for it.

That was a rather brief and vague summary for the second book in The Protectorate trilogy, but like its predecessor Velocity Weapons, Chaos Vector is a book of steady reveals. While not quite as gasp-inducing as book one (and really, how would you have topped THAT reveal), Chaos Vector nevertheless manages to zip along at a good clip, unpacking mysteries while introducing new ones. Chaos Vector is much more of an intergalactic trek this time out, as Sanda tries to collect the people, resources, and political clout she needs to activate a gate, something only the Keepers (protectors of gate technology and all its related secrets) can authorize. Those of you who like escapes from exploding space stations, firefights, and traveling to backwater planets will have the perfect book to snuggle up with.

Sanda continues to be the stand out character of the series, the epitome of a reluctant hero who takes the weight of the galaxy on her shoulders because she quite literally can't trust anyone else to do it. With the planets on the brink of war and multiple shadow factions trying to shape events to their liking, Sanda has to forge a path forward, sometimes getting it right and sometimes getting it wrong. It's a burden that definitely takes an emotional toll as the story goes on and fatigue sets in, but Sanda will keep trudging forward, one step at a time.

Sanda has a good supporting cast in the background as she adds new people to her crew, and her lover Tomas even gets a few POV chapters to flesh out other sides of the story, adding a new angle I appreciated. Jules continues to be a bit of an enigma, but is absolutely never to be discounted as a key influencer of events. Once again, though, Biran failed to be a character I really connected to. As a Keeper trying to manage peace negotiations with the rebellious planet Icarion, he adds key context to the galactic level stakes, but I just didn't care on an emotional level about what he was going through. His chapters are relatively few, however, so it didn't stall me on the book overall.

CONCLUSION: True to form, Chaos Vector ends with some reveals that quite dramatically shift the direction of events. There are still plenty of unanswered questions and dangling threads, but thankfully this series is a trilogy, so readers can expect for everything to come together in the next installment. If you like your space adventure with a healthy dose of intergalactic conspiracy, the time is now to catch-up with The Protectorate trilogy!

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

SPFBO Semifinalist Interview with Todd Herzman (Interviewed by Adam Weller)



Author official website
Order A Dark Inheritance over here: UK / USA


Monday, August 17, 2020

Ash and Bones by Michael R. Fletcher


Official Author Website
Order Ash and Bones over HERE (USA) & HERE (UK)

Thursday, August 13, 2020

SPFBO Semifinalist Interview with Deborah Makarios (Interviewed by Adam Weller)


Order The Wound of Words over here
Wednesday, August 12, 2020

SPFBO Semifinalist Interview with Geetha Krishnan (interviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)



Official Author Website
Order Pradyutita over HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's thoughts on Pradyutita

Q] Welcome to Fantasy Book Critic. To begin with, could you tell us a little about yourself, your background & your interests?

GK: Thank you for having me. I’m Geetha, and I’m from India, more specifically Kerala, the southernmost state of the country. I love to cook, read and write, mostly with music in the background. I love old Malayalam, Hindi and Tamil songs. Writing and reading fan fiction is how I relax most of the time.

Though I used to read almost everything at one time, nowadays, I find it hard to read anything other than fantasy which is the genre I prefer to write in as well.

Q] What inspired you to be a writer in the first place, what experience you went through in finishing your book, & why you chose to go the self-publishing route?

GK: Well, I can’t say what led me down this path, but I remember writing poems as early as when I was 7 or 8. I used to scribble short stories in notebooks while in school. I was and still am quite the introvert, so I never showed my writings to anyone, except my sister and a few cousins. When I was younger, I was the storyteller in our group. I used to narrate everything I’d read to my sister and cousins and we also used to make up stories with our favourite sportspersons and actors as characters and I was the one who again wrote those things down. I think this path was set from those days, it was not like I decided one day that I wanted to be a writer, because I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t writing or making up stories.

Choosing self publishing now was a bit more complicated. Basically, I had no patience to wait and query and even when I tried, I got disheartened very easily. I also love the freedom that self publishing brings, and that I have full rights over my content at all times.

Q] Many writers have a muse, who directs their writing, and others do not seem to be affected the same way. Which group do you fall into? What is your main motivation and source of inspiration?

GK: I wouldn’t say I have a muse as such unless you call my characters that. I’m a pantster, so my main motivation is to know what’s going to happen in the end. Also, I’ve had some major life experiences that weren’t easy, and writing is how I cope with my depression. It keeps me grounded and helps distract me from my own thoughts. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that reading and writing have literally saved my life.

Q] Why did you decide to enter SPFBO?

GK: I entered this competition last year because a friend told me she got some good feedback on one of her books the previous year. At the time, I had no idea how big this was or how much exposure it brings one. I just wanted some feedback, lol. My book made it into the semifinals last year, and so, it seemed just natural to enter again this year.

(Karna vs Ghatotkacha artwork by Mukesh Singh)

Q] Please elaborate how the genesis of the Jaya trilogy occurred. How long have you been working on it? Why did you decide to write it as a trilogy?

GK: The Mahabharata has always been a passion with me, especially the character of Karna. Most of my Mahabharata based works are centered on him. I had this idea of writing a book with him as the central character for long. I’m part of a group of people who are passionate about Mahabharata and we used to have long long discussions on the epic and I learned to question everything as a result. It was hard, let me tell you! But once I opened my mind to the possibility that everything I had so far considered inviolate may indeed be false, it all started making sense.

Around this time, I read an interview where Bibek Debroy who had translated the Critical Edition of the Mahabharata said that he once had a theory that in the original epic, there were only Yudhistira and Bheema and that the other three were later additions. That sparked something in me, and I was trying to figure out how the epic would have played out in such a scenario, and finally I decided to write it, but with Karna as the central character.

I’d never planned on a trilogy, but when I started writing, I knew this was bigger than one book, or even two books. My brain sort of starts to panic when a book goes beyond a certain length, and so, I knew that this will have to be done as more than one book. All my books are short because that’s all my brain can handle while writing. Even now, I’m not sure if this will be three books or more, but I’m hoping three. (knock on wood)

Q] Pradyutita is the first volume in the Jaya trilogy. Could you tell us about your work on the second book, offer any blurb details about it and maybe tell us what awaits in the trilogy ending?

GK: I wrote a few pages of the second book, before abandoning it, but now it’s very much a work I’m planning to revisit. No blurb at the moment, lol. All I can say is that it will start where Pradyutita leaves off and I’m hoping to end it with the Rajasuya at least, but let me see what this weird pantster brain of mine has to say, lol. In spite of the many changes, I won’t be changing the basic storyline with regards to Karna, so it will end as it ends in the epic, except it is planned out differently.

Q] Your book is a retelling of the Mahabharata. What’s your elevator pitch for non-desi folks who might not know of the world’s biggest epic?

GK: Okay, that’s a tough one. I mean how do you condense all that complexity into a few sentences? Hmm…

The existence of a child, who was supposed to be dead, is a threat to the established order. A cog in a machine he doesn’t even know exists, how long can Vasushena protect his secret when his very blood impels him into a path of collision with forces beyond his comprehension?

That’s basically my whole series, lol. That’s the angle it will take, that in the end what happens to him is a result of a concerted, deliberate action. He was always a threat to Yudhistira, and even in the epic, he was the one Yudhistira wanted dead more than anyone from the day of the Rangbhoomi.

Q] Let’s talk about your book’s genre. Technically its low fantasy as there’s almost no magic. Would you call it secondary fantasy or mytho-epic fantasy?

GK: I would just call it low fantasy, lol.


Q] Can you tell us more about the world that the story is set in, the nations and the peculiarities of the world?

GK: The world is basically ancient India. The main nations in my series will be Kuru, Panchala, Madra, Gandhara, Matsya and Anga.

Many of the customs in ancient India will be there:

Swayamvara where a princess gets to choose her husband from an assembly of kings and princes, which is how Kunti marries Pandu in Pradyutita and how Draupadi will choose her husband later in the series.

Niyoga, the practice where a childless widow is impregnated by her husband’s brother. It is the practice Pandu forces on Kunti in Pradyutita, the practice by which he himself was born.

Sati, the practice where a widow is burnt in her husband’s pyre, is not common in those times. In the original epic too, Madri is the only one who commits it, which seemed odd to me and which has led to my own interpretation of it.

The Gurukula system, the boarding schools of ancient India will also come later in the series.

Q] Writing your own version of such an important epic much have been daunting. Could you tell us about the research which you undertook before attempting to write this story? What were the things which you focused upon and any fascinating things that you found amidst your research?

GK: Daunting is right. It still is. My research included reading the original epic in full, not an easy task, god it is so long and many parts are just boring! Still, it had to be done. Can’t depend solely on my memory. I have a six book Malayalam translation with me and the KMG version that’s in the public domain. In addition, I read every scholarly article and the relevant parts of Debroy’s translation of CE as well as his preface to it where he again reiterates he believes Arjuna to have been a later interpolation.

Q] You have also taken massive liberties with character motivations and situations. I thought it was brilliant as it completely twisted the story while sticking to the major landing points. Can you explain your thinking process for going this route?

GK: As I said, it all started when I began questioning everything I had once accepted blindly. A few things stood out to me.

Vidura and the way he always seemed to be extremely prejudiced in the Pandavas’ favour. He wanted Suyodhana killed as soon as he was born. Why? Because some donkeys brayed. How does that even make sense?

Krishna, and about how he was determined to bring about Karna’s death. I mean, why should he have been so adamant?

The DyutSabha and everything that happened there. Draupadi herself later tells Krishna that Karna’s laughter pained her, and that she was upset that she was made a slave. Nothing about the disrobing, or about Karna calling her a whore. Shouldn’t that have stood out more if it happened? But if it didn’t happen, then her words make perfect sense.

The war, which was the core of Vyasa’s original epic Jaya. In the war, it is the Pandavas who cheat, who break rules. Yet, we are expected to believe they are the good guys? Also, the Pandavas’ label of Good hinges only on the fact that Krishna was on their side. But if you strip Krishna of his divinity and look at him as a man, the whole thing collapses.

Okay, so I didn’t mean to go into a monologue, lol, but basically these are the things that sort of prompted all of the characterizations.


Q] Will Krishna be introduced in the sequels considering his importance and actions in the original epic?

GK: Oh yes!! I can’t wait to write him as the manipulative politician that he was!! He’s going to be completely different from the loving God of Dharmasamsthapanarthaya!

Q] You have also scaled back on the characters and more importantly there’s no Arjun in your story. How do you plan to showcase the great archer battle that’s the cornerstone of the Great War?

GK: If there was no Arjuna as Debroy theorised, then it seems obvious to me that Yudhistira must have been the archer. That would explain why Krishna is so devoted to his interests, and why Arjuna was needed to be invented. All the good parts they made into another character. No wonder Yudhistira is such a weakling in the epic!

Q] Please tell us about the books and authors who have captured your imagination and inspired you to become a wordsmith in your own right. Similarly, are there any current authors you would like to give a shout out to?

GK: The authors who have made an impression on me are not actually fantasy authors. I grew up reading classics, and my heart is forever captured by Dostoevsky, Steinbeck and Tagore. My greatest ambition is to write at least one line worthy of Tagore. Just one line. I’d be happy with that.

Among current authors, there’s J.E. Mueller who writes such engaging and fun books. I love Naomi Novik, especially her characterization. I also love the world building and prose of Katherine Arden’s books.

There are also a couple of authors whose works I’ve beta read, and who I’m so certain will become famous as soon as they’re published. Nico and Danni, I’m talking about you two!!

Q] Thank you for taking the time to answer all the questions. In closing, do you have any parting thoughts or comments you would like to share with our readers?

GK: Thank you for giving me this opportunity. Thank you all for all the support and love. Keep supporting indie authors. We need all the love we can get.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Bystander 27 by Rik Hoskin review



Official Author Website
Pre-order Bystander 27 over HERE(USA) or HERE (UK)

Monday, August 10, 2020

EXCLUSIVE COVER REVEAL: Kings Of Heaven by Richard Nell


Official Author Website
Pre-order Kings Of Heaven over HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Kings Of Paradise
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Kings Of  Ash
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The God King's Legacy
Read Fantasy Book Critic Interview with Richard Nell

And so it ends. What began with a simple idea of 'two cultures coming together', transformed into a genius cannibal (my favorite description remains 'Conan the barbarian mixed with Hannibal Lecter') and a powerful prince sorcerer. Ash and Sand now spans three books with more words than Lord of the Rings, and more themes, heroes, and villains than I care to shake a stick at.

But as one story ends, another begins. Fans of the series should take a moment of bittersweet satisfaction (I surely have), but I can tell you here: you will see more from this world. I'll be writing another book in the Ash and Sand 'universe', and showing the long arm of history in other (ehm hem) very related tales of knights and demons, muskets and cannonfire. It is perhaps fair to say, The Ash and Sand legacy has just begun...

Thank you to all my readers, past and present, who made this series possible. And I hope very much you enjoy the book.

Also dear readers check out the fabulous cover courtesy of Derek Murphy below.



OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: In the final book of the Ash and Sand trilogy, Ruka, son of Beyla, faces the emperor of the world, yet even victory may not save his people…

With the death of his ally, Farahi Alaku, Ruka ‘Godtongue’ is alone. Or not exactly… The island prince Kale Alaku now haunts his mind, rattling within his once peaceful ‘Grove’, promising revenge and growing every moment in power. Meanwhile, the Pyu isles are in chaos; the coastal kingdom of the Tong is still Ruka’s enemy, and every day that passes brings the empire closer to destroying his dream of a new world for his people.

Once again, the son of Beyla will need the strength of his dark twin, Bukayag. Perhaps together they can unite three peoples, gather an army of ash, and defend or destroy their way to peace. But in the end, there can be only one king of heaven…

The Last Uncharted Sky by Curtis Craddock


Official Author Website
Order The Last Uncharted Sky over HERE(USA) or HERE(UK)


Read Fantasy Book Critic's interview with Curtis Craddock
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of A Labyrinth of Scions and Sorcery

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Curtis Craddock was born in the wrong century and quite possibly on the wrong planet. He should have been born in a world where gallant heroes regularly vanquish dire and despicable foes, where friendship, romance, wit, and courage are the foundations of culture and civilization, and where adventure beckons from every shadow.

Instead, he was born on Earth and lives in a world bounded by bureaucracy, hemmed in by cynicism, and governed by the dull necessity of earning a wage. An exile in this world, he is a biographer of friends he's never met, a chronicler of events that never happened, and a cartographer of places that never were.

FORMAT: The Last Uncharted Sky is the final book in The Risen Kingdom trilogy. Published on August 11, 2020 by Tor, it's available in all formats from all retailers. Cover art by Thom Thenery. Length - 455 pages.


Thursday, August 6, 2020

Interview with John Bierce, author of The Wrack




Thank you for agreeing to this interview. Before we start, tell us a little about yourself.



Monday, August 3, 2020

Letters from a Shipwreck in the Sea of Suns and Moons by Raymond St. Elmo


Official Author Website
Buy Letters from a Shipwreck in the Sea of Suns and Moons HERE(USA) or HERE(UK)
Read FBC's review of As I Was on My Way to Strawberry Fair 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Quest of the Five Clans series and The Scaled Tartan
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Origin of Birds in The Footprints of Writing
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Stations of Angels

Author information: Raymond St. Elmo is a computer programmer living in Texas. A degree in Spanish Literature gave him a love of magic realism. A fascination with artificial intelligence gave him a job. His books tend to be first-person fantastical accounts with frequent references to William Blake, Borges and PKD.

Format: Letters from a Shipwreck in the Sea of Suns and Moons was self-published by the author on July 30, 2016, and is available through Kindle Unlimited and in ebook and paperback formats. It counts 414 pages.

Review: Raymond St. Elmo’s writing is often magical and creative, which is a delicate way to say it’s totally wackadoo:) It makes me laugh while, simultaneously, it laughs at conventions and doesn’t pay any attention to what sells at the moment. As the title suggests, Letters from a Shipwreck in the Sea of Suns and Moons is a weird book and its narrative requires certain patience from the reader. 

The writing is excellent and shows the author stretching his abilities. Told primarily as an interview between the protagonist and mysterious interviewers, it’s a time travel book, but not in the usual sense. The adventure starts at the board of Unicorn (a ship) as it sails upon the Sea of Suns and Moons. An ancient poet-turned-sailor, Clarence St. Elmo, shares vignettes of the voyage that ended in a shipwreck caused by unnatural storm. St. Elmo survived but found himself washed up at the shores of Theodosia, the island of dead gods inhabited by mythological terrors.

It’s an adventure story. And a love story told through letters. A story of lovers torn apart, but also a love letter to stories and storytelling. It’s often confusing, but also funny. It’s weird, but also immersive. It throws a lot to the mix - adventure, satire, humor, romance, fantasy, mythology and makes it work. There’s also a cargo of dead gods who are perhaps not as dead as everyone believes. And a haunted cemetery. 

So far I have performed a dark ritual in a cemetery, escaped a theological asylum, been locked in a dungeon for arguing at lunch, and run from unnatural dogs through a labyrinth. Checking my schedule, I see that tomorrow morning I am to fight a duel to the death. And yet, for all the theatre of my current residence, my attention keeps slipping. Gods, dogs and duels: they must clear their throats to recall my attention. Else my mind turns towards home, and a poem there I left unfinished.

I love St. Elmo’s dry, insightful humor. It makes me giggle. As for the story and plot - they ask for attention; the narrative requires it. The interviewing committee repeats some questions and answers differ or add to what Clarence has already said. But it also tells a story within a story. The interviewer claims the narrator is the blind old man, but it’s not as simple as that. It never is.

Letters from a Shipwreck in the Sea of Suns and Moons is a weird and unique book with a convoluted plot and unusual narration. It won’t appeal to readers looking for a well-pronounced plotline and quick pacing. Probably even fans of literary fiction will find it infuriating at times. And yet it’s the book worth trying as once you start to get into it you probably won’t want to leave.

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