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Thursday, August 31, 2023

Sons Of Darkness by Gourav Mohanty (reviewed by Matthew Higgins)

Order Sons Of Darkness over HERE
Disclaimer: I did receive an ARC from Head of Zeus however this has in no way influenced my review

Ruins of Smoke by João F. Silva (Reviewed by Lena)

 Book Review: Ruins of Smoke by João F. Silva

Ruins of Smoke by João F. Silva

Buy the paperback of Ruins of Smoke here

This ebook is freely available on signing up to the author's newsletter

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: João F. Silva was born in a small town in Portugal but now lives in London, with his three feline co-workers/bosses. He writes Epic Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror and has been on the jury for the 2020 and 2022 editions of the Best Newcomer Award at the British Fantasy Awards. His short fiction was published in Grimdark Magazine and Haven Speculative.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: The Usharian Empire rules the Known World with an iron fist. Imperials protect their world from the tainted hand of the Deceiver, but he is back with an avatar capable of breaking the Empire and grounding humanity into ash.

JEHA is a sentinel of the Empire, willing to fight and die for kinship and duty.

AGOR is an imperial general. Disgruntled by the darkness he sees seeping into everything he loves, he makes his move.

MATALA is a young smokesmith who sees his courage tested as Ushar burns.

ALAMAKAR is the world’s most powerful man, but even strong blood ties can hold him down and tear him apart.

As the Deceiver threatens the Usharian Empire’s heart, fiends walk the streets of the capital. Men and monsters clash in a battle fit for gods. And the smoke follows them.

FORMAT/INFO: Ruins of Smoke is the prequel novella to Seeds of War (Smokesmiths Book 1), debut novel written and published by João F. Silva. The publication date is August 27, 2023. It has four points of view characters and 130 pages in the paperback version.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Ruins of Smoke is the wonderful prequel novella to Seeds of War (Smokesmiths Book 1), debut novel by João F. Silva.

I absolutely love this novella. It has everything I love in themes, plot, world building, magic and pace.

There are four points of view characters. Battle sister and sentinel Jeha, Smoke Rider Matala, Agor (Red Sun King's brother) and Alamakar (Red Sun King). I absolutely loved each one of them. Jeha is an amazing character, her love for her sisters and their world, and her decisiveness in the face of terrible odds made her the perfect first point of view. 

I think everyone could relate to Matala inner conflict, specially being an apprentice and having to face the destruction and beasts he does. Agor is one hell of a point of view. I found him very relatable as his conflicting emotions defied his own reasoning and his actions contradict themselves. Alamakar is a very interesting character, his relationship with the Essence and with the world around him is wonderful to see through his eyes.

I can't shake off the feeling of how small the scale of what we see in this short novella is. How these two brothers (this family) were pawns in a much larger power play that has existed for who knows how long, and how everything and everyone around them becomes collateral damage in the face of either of them crushing the other.

CONCLUSION: This is an absolutely brilliant novella that gives you a taste of what this author has in store. Through a fantastic fast paced plot, brilliant magic system, great characterization and amazing world building, Silva leaves a great impression in so very few pages. I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

The Phoenix King by Aparna Verma (Reviewed by Shazzie)

Book Review: The Phoenix King by Aparna Verma

The Phoenix King by Aparna Verma

Buy The Phoenix King here - U.S. | U.K.

Read an interview with the author along with the cover reveal here

OFFICIAL BOOK INFORMATION: In a kingdom where flames hold magic and the desert hides secrets, an ancient prophecy comes for an assassin, a princess, and a king. But none are ready to face destiny-and the choices they make could burn the world.
"If we carry the burdens of our fathers, we'll never know what it means to be free."

For Elena Aadya Ravence, fire is yearning. She longs to feel worthy of her Phoenix god, of her ancestors who transformed the barren dunes of Sayon into a thriving kingdom. But though she knows the ways and wiles of the desert better than she knows her own skin, the secrets of the Eternal Flame elude her. And without them, she'll never be accepted as queen.

For Leo Malhari Ravence, fire is control. He is not ready to give up his crown-there's still too much work to be done to ensure his legacy remains untarnished, his family protected. But power comes with a price, and he'll wage war with the heavens themselves to keep from paying it.

For Yassen Knight, fire is redemption. He dreams of shedding his past as one of Sayon's most deadly assassins, of laying to rest the ghosts of those he has lost. If joining the court of flame and serving the royal Ravence family-the very people he once swore to eliminate-will earn him that, he'll do it no matter what they ask of him.

But the Phoenix watches over all and the fire has a will of its own. It will come for all three, will come for Sayon itself....and they must either find a way to withstand the blaze or burn to ash.

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: Aparna Verma was born in India and immigrated to the United States when she was two-years-old. She graduated from Stanford University with Honors in the Arts and a B.A. in English. The Phoenix King is her first novel.

When she is not writing, Aparna likes to ride horses, dance to Bollywood music, and find old cafes to read myths about forgotten worlds. You can connect with Aparna on Twitter and Instagram at @spirited_gal.

FORMAT/INFO: The Phoenix King is the first book in The Ravence Trilogy, and is published by Orbit books (29th August 2023 in the U.S. and 31st August 2023 in the U.K.) in paperback, ebook, and audio formats. It was previously self-published as THE BOY WITH FIRE.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: The Phoenix King by Aparna Verma is the first entry in an Indian-inspired adult epic fantasy series set in a desert kingdom. There's a tyrant king, an assassin, and an heir about to be coronated, all at odds with each other in some way, but forced to work together.

Have I already told you all that I'm not an epic fantasy person? And that I was not one for books longer than 450 pages? Maybe a few million times. But none of that really mattered when I read this book because the pages flew by so quickly. I missed a squat workout so I could read this, you guys. If that doesn't tell you how engrossed I was, I doubt the rest of this review will. But from here goes what I liked, and what I want to see done in the next books in the trilogy.

This has to be one of the most original and creative books I've read. It's bloody, full of conflicted characters, and moves fast. The narration is in third person, and the story is told from the perspectives of Leo Malhari Ravence, the king of the Ravani kingdom whose reign is coming to an end, his daughter and heir Elena Aadya Ravence, and Yassen Knight, an infamous assassin willing to do anything to secure his freedom. It is primarily set in Ravani, the desert kingdom ruled by the Ravence dynasty, and the story of how the kingdom is founded is slowly revealed to the reader over the course of the book.

Leo was my favourite character to follow. He's seen as a tyrant, Elena and he don't necessarily see eye-to-eye when matters of governance is concerned, and he's a complicated man with a tragic backstory. Elena and Leo carry some shared trauma, and it was fascinating to see them deal with it, because they don't talk about it, and it was only exacerbated in the days leading to her coronation. It is a difficult parent-child relationship, they have some unspoken understandings and some degree of trust in each other, but there's a believable amount of friction, specially with Leo's misguided attempts to keep information from her because he believed it was in her best interests. There's a lot of room for Elena to grow/change, and I eagerly wait to see what she does in the sequel. She has her own misgivings about her abilities, but her determination to do what's best for her kingdom makes her very easy character to root for. She can be brash, violent, but also kind and considerate.

Yassen's character, however, fell a bit flat for me. He's gentle, silent, and compliant, but with a backstory that's also quite compelling. But, a lot of what he's involved in was off-page, and even at the risk of increasing the word count, I wish it was explored, along with the reasoning for some of his actions. There's also a subtle enemies-to-lovers arc that I wished was built better, but I liked that the author unapologetically indulged in portraying a large part of it using iconic Bollywood moments. If you like a tense sword fight that's just the right bit of playful and sensual, or her accessories caught in his garments, it's all right here. I loved it.

The setting is a smooth blend of science fiction and fantasy, in a world where an group of people are trying to challenge and change the world order by toppling kingdoms ruled by dynasties and establishing a different form of governance, but the Ravani kingdom has an entire lineage of kings and queens that work with the eternal fire, whose authority is based on the myth and legend that surrounds it. Most of the locations featured seem quite cosmopolitan in nature, and the author relies on excerpts from various sources to dispense some information to the reader, and the rest is delivered through the narration, without any expositions. Now that I think about it, I wish the author was slightly more indulgent in her descriptions of the setting. The way certain scenes were set made it easy for me to feel immersed in the world, and for the desi (Indian subcontinental) reader like me, the bonus would be that it feels like a setting close to home, with all the South Asian elements woven in. How often will we see a powerful, well-trained protagonist ready to get into a fight when wearing a nath and a lehenga, or a God reminiscent of the often misunderstood Kali from our own myths, who can ravage and create, and risk destroying what she loves when she goes on a rampage?

CONCLUSION: The Phoenix King is a snappy sci-fantasy debut with themes of love, loss, resilience, sacrifice, and the importance of balance in power. There's political scheming, morally grey characters, and a kingdom just ready to fall to shambles. A highly recommended read.
Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Graphic novel review: The Massive by Brian Wood & Kristian Donaldson

Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: After graduating from the prestigious Parsons School of Design, Brian Wood spent several years in video game design with Rockstar Games, most notably for the Grand Theft Auto franchise before moving full time into writing. Brian’s comic book work has been published by DC Entertainment, Marvel Comics, Image Comics, Dark Horse, Boom! Studios, and others.

Publisher: OniPress
Monday, August 28, 2023

Review: Ethera Grave by Essa Hansen


Read a review of Book 1, NOPHEK GLOSS
Buy Ethera Grave HERE
Saturday, August 26, 2023

SPFBO 9: The Fourth Diminution & Semifinalist Update (by Adam W.)


Thursday, August 24, 2023

Book review: All Against All by Alex Paknadel & Caspar Wijngaard

Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alex Paknadel is a writer and academic from London, England. His first comics work, the dark sci-fi thriller ARCADIA from Boom! Studios, met with critical acclaim and led to additional projects with a range of publishers including VAULT COMICS (GIGA), Marvel Entertainment, Valiant Entertainment, Lion Forge, and Titan Comics. He is also a founding member of White Noise Studio alongside fellow writers Dan Watters, Ram V, and Ryan O'Sullivan.

Publisher: Image Comics (July 11, 2023Page count: 144 p

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Starter Villain by John Scalzi (Reviewed by Shazzie)

 Book Review: Starter Villain by John Scalzi

starter villain by john scalzi

Buy Starter Villain here - U.S. | U.K.

Official Author Website

OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: JOHN SCALZI is one of the most popular SF authors of his generation. His debut Old Man's War won him the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. His New York Times bestsellers include The Last Colony, Fuzzy Nation,and Redshirts (which won the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novel), and 2020's The Last Emperox. Material from his blog, Whatever, has also earned him two other Hugo Awards. He lives in Ohio with his wife and daughter.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Inheriting his late uncle’s business proves complicated. It’s also way more dangerous than Charlie could ever have imagined. Because his uncle had kept his supervillain status a secret – until now.

Divorced and emotionally dependent on his cat, Charlie wasn’t loving life. Although they weren’t close, news of his Uncle Jack’s death didn’t help. And that was before Jake’s rivals (seriously vengeful ones) ambushed his funeral. Now Charlie must decide if he should stay stuck in his rut, or step up to take on the business, the enemies, the minions, the hidden volcano lair . . .

Even harder to get used to are the sentient, language-using, computer-savvy cats – and the fact that in the organization’s hierarchy, they’re management. If Charlie does say yes, this lifeline could become a death wish. Because there’s much more to being an Evil Mastermind than he suspected. Yet could this also, finally, be his chance to shine?

FORMAT/INFO: Starter Villain will be published by Tor Books and Pan Macmillan in hardback, ebook and audio formats on 19th September 2023.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Starter Villain by John Scalzi is a clever and fun contemporary science fiction book that's an easy sell.  

The protagonist Charlie, is an ex-journalist down on his luck, now an absentee teacher. He's at odds with the siblings who co-own his parental home, which, explodes. Suspiciously, at the same time, finds himself inheriting his absentee businessman uncle's legacy, which he is told was "parking lots". Only, Uncle Jake wasn't just into parking lots, he diversified his investments and endeavours, which is how Charlie finds himself the brand new owner of a super-villain empire.

The premise might sound over the top and ridiculous, but Scalzi has it all well thought out, and makes his points well throughout the book. Whatever you think a supervillain does, you're likely wrong. By the time Charlie comes around to accept his new situation, he realises it's more corporate than he would think, and apparently the money can't just be liquefied because he has it. His induction to the empire was fraught with over-the-top revelations, as well as unionising dolphins, and boring presentations, something I thoroughly enjoyed. Through all of this, his reactions and responses were priceless, but the author keeps the story moving at a brisk pace with his tongue-in-cheek writing style.

This is literary popcorn at its finest, and takes every opportunity to take shots at our capitalist world. There are talking dolphins, C-suite cats, and assistants with compelling backstories and relationships. There are multiple explosive events that just cement the unpredictability of this lifestyle, and while the protagonist is a fish out of water, he finds that some of his skills as an ex-journalist serve him in his new role, especially when forging alliances are concerned. As for me, I did not know which way to turn, but the book ends in a way that makes sense for his inclinations.

CONCLUSION: Starter Villain is a short book with a ton of fun packed into it. There are thugs, genetically engineered animals that negotiate for contract amendments, clever banter, as well as a plot that is one hell of a ride. It's a book you'll want to read in one sitting, and while I write this review, I already want to crack it open a second time. Highly recommended to all readers alike.
Thursday, August 17, 2023

SPFBO 9: Third Batch & Semi-finalist Update (reviewed by Chels)


Here's a video post on Chels' mini-batch of six books and a semi-finalist update. Enjoy!

Chels books were:

Crucible of Lies by Mitchell Hogan
Curse of the Fallen by H.C. Newell
Red Mage by H.D. Woolf
Volcano City by Grace Bridges

Book review: Barnaby The Wanderer by Raymond St. Elmo


Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Raymond St. Elmo is a programmer of artificial intelligence and virtual realities, who has no time for literary fabrications of fictitious characters and world-building. And yes, that was meant to be ironic. 

A degree in Spanish Literature gave him a love of Magic Realism. Programming gave him a job. The job introduced him to artificial intelligence and virtual realities; as close to magic as reality is likely to get outside the covers of a book. And yes, that was meant to be cynical.

The author of several first-person comic accounts of strange quests for mysterious manuscripts, mysterious girls in cloaks whose face appears SUDDENLY IN THE FLASH OF LIGHTNING. And yes, that was meant to be dramatic.

Publisher: St. Elmo Literary Labs (July 15, 2023) Page count: 801 pages Formats: ebook, paperback

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Book review: The Shattered Sphere (Sol's Harvest #4) by M.D. Presley


Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

Series (Sol's Harvest) links: 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Never passing up the opportunity to speak about himself in the third person, M.D. Presley is not nearly as clever as he thinks he is. Born and raised in Texas, he spent several years on the East Coast and now waits for the West Coast to shake him loose. His favorite words include defenestrate, callipygian, and Algonquin. The fact that monosyllabic is such a long word keeps him up at night.

Publisher: M.D. Presley (August 15, 2023) Length: 455 Formats: ebook

Friday, August 11, 2023

Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski (Reviewed by Daniel P. Haeusser)

Book Review: Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski

Order Blood of Elves as part of the new paperback edition Witcher Boxed Set HERE

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: Andrzej Sapkowski was born in 1948 in Poland. He studied economy and business, but the success of his fantasy cycle about the Witcher Geralt of Rivia turned him into a bestselling writer. His work has received Poland’s Janusz A. Zajdel prize five times, as well as Great Britain’s David Gemmell Award for Fantasy, in 2009. In 2016, he received the World Fantasy Award—Life Achievement. The Witcher has been adapted to a successful video-game franchise, and is now a series on Netflix.
Thursday, August 10, 2023

Book Review: The Glass Dagger by M.D. Presley (Sol's Harvest #3)

Book links: AmazonGoodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Never passing up the opportunity to speak about himself in the third person, M.D. Presley is not nearly as clever as he thinks he is. Born and raised in Texas, he spent several years on the East Coast and now waits for the West Coast to shake him loose. His favorite words include defenestrate, callipygian, and Algonquin. The fact that monosyllabic is such a long word keeps him up at night.

Publisher: M.D. Presley (July 13, 2022) Page count: 435 Formats: ebook, paperback

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Interview with David T. List (interviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


Review: Sword Catcher by Cassandra Clare


Official Author Website
Buy Sword Catcher HERE

OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: Cassandra Clare was born to American parents in Teheran, Iran and spent much of her childhood travelling the world with her family, including one trek through the Himalayas as a toddler where she spent a month living in her father’s backpack. She lived in France, England and Switzerland before she was ten years old.

Since her family moved around so much she found familiarity in books and went everywhere with a book under her arm. She spent her high school years in Los Angeles where she used to write stories to amuse her classmates, including an epic novel called “The Beautiful Cassandra” based on a Jane Austen short story of the same name (and  which later inspired her current pen name).

After college, Cassie lived in Los Angeles and New York where she worked at various entertainment magazines and even some rather suspect tabloids where she reported on Brad and Angelina’s world travels and Britney Spears’ wardrobe malfunctions. She started working on her YA novel, City of Bones, in 2004, inspired by the urban landscape of Manhattan, her favourite city. She turned to writing fantasy fiction full time in 2006 and hopes never to have to write about Paris Hilton again.

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Book review: Shigidi and the Brass Head of Obalufon ny Wole Talabi

Shigidi and the Brass Head of Obalufon ny Wole Talabi review

Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

Friday, August 4, 2023

The Iron Crown by L.L. McRae (reviewed by Matthew Higgins)


Order The Iron Crown over HERE

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFO: My name is Lauren, and I'm a fantasy author of character-driven stories and epic adventure. My books usually contain dragons, bucket-loads of magic, and are typically fun and hopeful.
 I live in a tiny village in the English countryside, have a degree in Psychology, and was a professional copywriter before going full-time as an author—swapping corporate copy for magic and dragons!
Thursday, August 3, 2023

The Apples of Idunn: (Gods of the Ragnarok Era #1) by Matt Larkin (reviewed by Matthew Higgins)


Order The Apples Of Idunn over HERE
OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFO: As a child, Matt read The Lord of the Rings with his parents. This sparked a lifelong obsession with fantasy and started him on a path of discovering the roots of fantasy through mythology. In exploration of these ideas, the Eschaton Cycle was born—a universe of dark fantasy where all myths and legends play out.

Matt writes retellings of mythology as dark, gritty fantasy. His passions of myths, philosophy, and history inform his series. He strives to combine gut-wrenching action with thought-provoking ideas and culturally resonant stories.

Along with his wife and daughter, Matt lives as a digital nomad, traveling the world while researching for his novels. He read approximately a bazillion books a year, loves video games, and relaxes by binge watching Netflix with his wife.
Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Bookshops & Bonedust by Travis Baldree (Reviewed by Shazzie)

 Book Review: Bookshops and Bonedust by Travis Baldree 

Buy Bookshops & Bonedust here - U.S.U.K.

Official Author Website

Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Legends & Lattes here

OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: I love stories, and I love telling them.

I’m the author of Legends & Lattes, a low-stakes cozy fantasy novel.

I’m a narrator too, and I’ve loved the art since I first heard Frank Muller’s legendary work. I’ve lent my voice to hundreds of books (including my own).

I live with my wife, two kids, and dog in Washington State, and I get up every morning excited and grateful to do this job.

I’m also an erstwhile veteran game developer, and it’s possible you’ve played something I’ve made. Torchlight, Fate & Rebel Galaxy have sold millions of copies on desktops and consoles. I remain the co-owner and CEO of Double Damage Games.

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Book Review: The Imbued Lockblade by M.D. Presley (Sol's Harvest #2)


Book links: AmazonGoodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Never passing up the opportunity to speak about himself in the third person, M.D. Presley is not nearly as clever as he thinks he is. Born and raised in Texas, he spent several years on the East Coast and now waits for the West Coast to shake him loose. His favorite words include defenestrate, callipygian, and Algonquin. The fact that monosyllabic is such a long word keeps him up at night.

Publisher: M.D. Presley (July 13, 2022) Page count: 435 Formats: ebook, paperback


 Click Here To Order “Barnaby The Wanderer” by Raymond St. Elmo
Order HERE


 Click Here To Order “Barnaby The Wanderer” by Raymond St. Elmo
Order HERE


 Click Here To Order “Barnaby The Wanderer” by Raymond St. Elmo
Order HERE


 Click Here To Order “Barnaby The Wanderer” by Raymond St. Elmo
Order HERE


 Click Here To Order “Barnaby The Wanderer” by Raymond St. Elmo
Order HERE


 Click Here To Order “Barnaby The Wanderer” by Raymond St. Elmo
Order HERE