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Monday, March 20, 2023

Interview: A.C. Cobble, author of the Wahrheit series

Book Links: Find links to buy the books here

AUTHOR INFO: AC Cobble is the author of Wahrheit, The King's Ranger, Benjamin Ashwood, and Cartographer series.


Thank you for taking the time to talk to us! Welcome back to the Fantasy Book Critic, and I hope you’re having a good start to your year. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself, and your ongoing series, WAHREIT?

Hello and thank you for having me! I’m AC Cobble, author of the Benjamin Ashwood, Cartographer, King’s Ranger, and Wahrheit series! They’re all what I think of as pretty classic epic fantasy. Think small parties going on big adventures, traveling expansive worlds, and facing impossible odds. I draw a lot of inspiration from 80’s and 90’s era epic fantasy that I grew up reading, as well as from personal experiences. If you pay close attention, you can see where some of my worldbuilding is taken from real places. My favorite hobby is travel, so my characters are always on the move! I also find ideas in history, modern politics, science, and other fields. As they say, truth is stranger than fiction, so why not use it!

In Wahrheit, the loose genesis of the story was the German 30 Years’ War. It began in 1618, and in parts of Germany, 60% of the population died off because of the conflict. It was mostly a civil war, though foreign powers were drawn in generally to their regret. Religious, political, and economic differences were all drivers. Basically, it was a horrible mess! But… what if there had been magic and dragons? That’s where I started, but Wahrheit has grown into something quite different. This series is certainly not a historical fiction or alternate version, but the roots of the story should give you an idea of where I’m going.

And while there are big battles, political intrigue, themes relevant to the modern age, and world-spanning conflicts, the books are focused on a small handful of characters and their personal journeys. From peasant to spy to dragon knight to queen, how do people deal with what is happening around them? If you like big stakes, political intrigue, adventure, and witty banter, this series is for you! Conspiracy, Book 1 in the series is out, and Revenge Book 2 is coming March 21st!

If you had to summarize the premise of your upcoming book REVENGE in five words or less, what would you say?

Conspiracy successful, cost was high.

Five words?? I write epic fantasy!! Grr. Let me try again.

Title is spoiler, people die.

 In the same vein, what three adjectives would you choose to describe the WAHREIT series?

Epic, intriguing, adventure.

This is not your debut series. How would you say the way you approach your writing has changed over all this time, and what themes and ideas will always be a part of your books?

Yes, so this is my fourth series, and Revenge will be my seventeenth book. I like to think they keep getting better! I’ve got some really dedicated fans to my older books, but the reviews are actually better on this series, so hopefully I’m doing something right. When I think about what’s improved, or if not improved at least changed, it’s that I’ve acquired a lot more confidence in what I’m doing. On some levels, it’s basic grammar. I spent a lot of time on the first books learning how to effectively communicate, knowing the grammar rules so my writing was clear, and figuring out when to break them so it was interesting. On a deeper level, I’m also more confident with my storytelling. I’ve wrapped up several series, so I know I can do it again, and that encourages me to take bigger risks.

The nuts and bolts come easier, I trust my gut on structure of the overall story, and I’m comfortable creating threads, knowing I have the ability to tie them off. That lets me focus a lot more on building in themes that are relevant to the story, and to our modern lives. Truth, for example, is a key theme in Wahrheit. Which matters more, truth or belief? And how can political leaders use the power of “truth” to their own advantage? It’s a topical theme, but outside our modern context still an interesting exploration in a fantasy setting. My confidence also gives me a chance to gamble a little on story choices which push the reader in unexpected directions. I think that’s what people are responding to in recent reviews. The stories are most importantly fun, but they resonate on other levels and take you to unexpected places.

Big, epic, adventure books have been a part of the fantasy shelves for decades, and while they occupy a large section any SFF shelves, there are other kinds that are now also as popular. What keeps you attracted to writing these, and could you tell us something about your early influences, as well as the books you loved growing up?

For sure, I’m attracted to this because it is what I grew up with. I was either going to write epic fantasy or thrillers! But what’s kept me writing epic fantasy is two things. First, really supportive fans and a robust community that’s always hungry for more. People ask for more stories, and I’m here to deliver! Honestly, if it wasn’t for the fans, I wouldn’t be writing. I shouldn’t say this, but I’m not one of those authors who would write no matter what. The first book was fun as a hobby, but it’s too much work to churn out seventeen of them in my lifetime without a lot of encouragement from people! Two, with epic fantasy, you’re only restricted by the bounds of your imagination. I mention thrillers, and think it’d be a blast to write one someday, but I’m having too much fun dreaming up worlds and magic systems and all of those extra layers that go into fantasy. Those elements keep writing an enjoyable exercise, rather than work. I don’t always use the ideas, but I’m always thinking of crazy things I could put into a book.

Speaking about your reading, what do you think are your most quirky reading habits?

In the last five years or so, I’ve only been reading the first book in a series. That means I almost never get closure on a story, but there are So Many Good Books! I have dozens of author friends, and of course as an author active in the community, I see hundreds of other books coming out each year. I want to read them all. I’m intrigued by premises and writing styles and new ideas, so to absorb as much of that as I can, my compromise is never seeing the end. I realize this is weird, and I don’t recommend it to others, but I just cannot pass up some of the stories other authors are putting out there.

On the writing side, what do you think they’ll be shocked to find out is a part of your process? How do you envision a book or series, and what do you find to be the hardest part of publishing a book?

At the start of a series, I do a lot of brainstorming on characters and worlds. Around six months before I write the first sentence, I’ve got an idea of who is in this story, and what sort of world they’re going to be up against. I flesh out all of that long before I think about a plot. And to a lesser extent, I do the same with each book in a series. To me, the plot is just the natural course of each character’s actions based on whatever situation I put them into. It’s rare I’m structuring plot first, and modifying the characters to go along with it. That means I know the beginning of a story really well, but I don’t know the end!

As far as the most difficult part, it’s the physical writing & editing of an entire whole ass book. Ideas, worldbuilding, dreaming of your characters, all of that is easy! Putting it onto paper takes months for me—a thousand hours or so—and no matter how excited I am about a story, there are parts of it that are a slog. Maybe because it’s a necessary element which isn’t as fun to write, or maybe because I’m just tired that week, or that I’ve already read the thing three times but I’m still finding typos, but each book involves a little bit of struggle. The way to think about it, this is my job. It’s the best job I’ve ever had, and I never want to stop this job, but the actual writing & editing is still a job.

If you have would give younger you, or aspiring authors any advice, what would make the top three on that list?

First, be honest with yourself what your goals are. You have to know where you’re going before figuring out how to get there. Do you want this to be your career? Do you want fame & awards? Do you just want to tell your stories? See your book on shelves? Be part of the community? Have people recognize you as an author? Go to cons? Buy an airplane? None of those have wrong answers, but they steer what decisions you need to make. Second, have realistic expectations. Writing a book is hard. Selling that book is even harder. The odds are against you, even if all you want is a few strangers to pick up and enjoy your story. Know the scale of the challenge going in. It’s easy to get discouraged as an author because you put so much into it, but it’s more manageable when you’re expecting the speedbumps. And third, find your people. I have a good group of author friends, and I rely on them for so many things. Whether it be grammar questions, marketing, emotional support, sharing a laugh, spitballing about the future and AI, or sharing recipes and reading recommendations, I chat with some of them every day. I can’t fathom trying to tackle this long term without a support group.

Do you have any authorial goals that you’d like to tell us about?

This is probably a boring answer, but I want to continue to improve my craft. I know I’m a better writer than I was when I started. I hope in five years, I can stay I’ve improved again. I hope I never find a plateau where I think, “ah, that’s good enough.” The challenge is making each book better than the last, and if that goes away I’ll probably stop writing.

Thank you for answering all these questions! If there is one thing you’d like our readers to take away from this interview, what would it be?

Every once in a while an author has to be shameless. So… I hope fans new or old check out my Wahrheit series. It has my best reviews—by a lot. And every fan I’ve spoken to agrees it’s my best work! Conspiracy: Wahrheit Book 1 is out right now in all formats, and on March 21st, Revenge: Wahrheit 2 drops on ebook and audio (narrated by the legendary Travis Baldree!). If you’re a fan of my previous series, or a fan of big epic fantasy series, then I honestly believe you will like these books. So go on, check it out! And if you’re still reading, thank you so much for taking time to read my silly answers  Happy reading!

Friday, March 17, 2023

EXCLUSIVE COVER REVEAL + Q&A: Truth Of Crowns by Carl D. Albert


Official Author Website
Pre-order Truth Of Crowns over HERE
OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFO: Carl D. Albert graduated from the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts with a B.F.A. in Writing for Screen and Television. When he is not writing, you may find him gallivanting around Hollywood, whinging about back pain, or calling his dogs obscene things for barking at the ghosts in the walls. Carl currently lives in Los Angeles, California.
Q] Welcome to Fantasy Book Critic Carl. To start with, could you tell us what inspired you to be a writer in the first place?

CDA: Thanks for having me! I’m a big fan of y’all’s blog. You really give so much to the fantasy community.

To be honest, I’ve been pursuing a career as a writer since I was a pimply twelve-year-old writing anime fanfiction. First and foremost, it’s an emotional outlet for me. I’ve told stories my whole life, from comic book masterworks drawn in crayon to imaginary “seasons” played with my childhood friends to the fanfic where I honed my craft to film school and now to this, my first full-length novel. My goal – the Mt. Everest I’m trying to surmount – is to become a full-time writer.

Q] Why did you choose to go the self-published route with Truth Of Crowns?

CDA: The truth (no pun intended) is I queried a couple dozen agents in 2021 and most never read more than my query letter and the first five/ten pages of my manuscript. While I think the draft I was working with at the time was in much rougher shape than the one I have now, it was immensely frustrating to be locked in “prologue jail.” I don’t blame the agents really. They’re incredibly busy. But that doesn’t change the fact that I felt the book hadn’t been given a fair shot. 

After writing consistently for well over a decade, receiving a formal education in screenwriting, and independently studying the craft (shoutout to Brando Sando’s lecture series), I felt I had finally written something worth putting out there, so I decided to take matters into my own hands. I knew I had to take the process as seriously as I would if I was trad pubbed, so I sought out a fantastic (pun intended) editor in A.P. Canavan of Malazan and Booktube fame, and I got a cover that looks worthy of your bookshelf.

Q] The artwork for Truth Of Crowns is very striking. What were your main pointers for your cover artist/designer as you both went through the process of finalizing it? What were the main things that you wished to focus on in it?
CDA: It’s worth mentioning that I used the website 99designs where you can run a contest for artists to try out for your cover. Now admittedly a lot of the submissions were AI-generated, which I wanted to avoid, but the site also connected me with the kind, timely, and talented artist •ckmr• who created the winning design. The prompt I gave basically asked for a stylized dark fantasy cover that was decidedly adult and had a limited color palette. I provided some ideas for imagery and let the artists go wild. I wanted something that was commercial, but also distinct. The notes I gave for the winning design were honestly minor tweaks. Ivan (last name unknown) sent a first draft that was 90% there.

Q] Let’s talk about how Truth of Crowns came to fruition? What was your inspiration for this fantasy story?
CDA: I’m embarrassed to admit that the original idea was just “what if Game of Thrones, but Renaissance?” It’s evolved a lot since then, but that was the first seed of the story. This series as a whole is my love letter to epic fantasy, deconstructing, reconstructing, and playing with all the tropes I love…and some I consider, ahem, dumb. The inspirations are many and varied, but the most obvious ones are probably A Song of Ice and Fire, Dune, Realm of the Elderlings, and – I feel pretentious admitting this – Shakespeare. There are also semiautobiographical elements. Not a self-insert per se, but personal events and traumas adapted to this secondary world fantasy setting. To be frank, I ripped my heart out and put it on the page. Kali Ma!
Q] With Truth of Crowns being the first book of a series, what can you reveal about your plans for the series (number of books)? Is there a series title?
CDA: The series is titled The Ash Eternal. It’s currently planned to be anywhere from 5-7 books, depending on how certain arcs play out. I’m largely a gardener, try as I might to outline, so the plans can change on a whim. It might be split into two distinct trilogies or arcs a la The Stormlight Archive. Regardless, I know how it all ends and I have several core events planned for the middle books.

Q] Can you tell us more about the world that The Ash Eternal series is set in? What are the curiosities (geographical, mystical, etc.) of this world?
CDA: The world of Terkir is in a pseudo-early Renaissance period (think late 14th/early 15th-centuries), although none of the nations map perfectly onto real world countries. They’re all ethnically diverse and a confluence of different cultures, like the nations in Malazan or the Wheel of Time. For centuries, magick has seeped out of Terkir, and now certain events will lead to its rebirth (aha, Renaissance, get it? …I’ll walk myself out). Most magick is viewed as heretical by the Faith of Trinitos. Monsters have been hunted to extinction, supposedly. POTENTIAL SPOILERS: there are subtly mystical trees, rune-enchanted blades, curses, immortals, faeries, fomorians, dormant kaiju, and at least one giant fuck-off dragon.
Q] Can you share something about Truth of Crowns that is not mentioned in the blurb and why should readers should be excited for this new story?
CDA: There are several POVs, not just our main hero, Eogan. This first novel is structured as a classical five-act tragedy. I’ll let you intuit what that means, though it’s made explicit early on in the book. It’s character-driven, but it has its fair share of twists and turns and mysteries to keep your interest. It also features several queer and disabled characters. (This was important to me as I am both queer and disabled.) Expect politics, friendship, humor, wholesome sibling bonds, less-than-wholesome sibling bonds, and lots of fucked up shit.

Q] For someone who has not read any of your novels, how would you describe the type of stories that you write?
CDA: Everything I write is rather dark and philosophical, but it’s also important to me that it has heart and a (sometimes juvenile) sense of humor. Even Billy Shakespeare wrote dick jokes! I hesitate to call my work “grimdark,” because I aim for bittersweet more than bleak. The night is always darkest before the dawn, yada yada yada. You can expect some horror elements, as well.
Q] Who are your literary idols? Which books are your favorites amongst the genres that you read in?
CDA: OK, again, I’m a pretentious hooligan, so I have to mention the Bard. Robin Hobb is my number-one-I-wish-I-could-write-like-her author. The list also includes: George RR Martin, Tamsyn Muir, Joe Abercrombie, Steven Erikson, Neil Gaiman, Frank Herbert, Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis, Damon Lindelof, Jesse Armstrong, Mike Flanagan, Hiromu Arakawa, and Eiichiro Oda. Ooh, and Stephen King! Love that guy. The list goes on…
As for books, A Storm of Swords, Fool’s Fate, and Toll the Hounds are my go-to fantasy faves. I gotta give a tip of my hat to Fullmetal Alchemist, too.
Q] What do you do when you are not writing, what hobbies and proclivities engage you? 
CDA: I play D&D almost every week with a number of my best friends. My current career is in film, so needless to say I’m a cinephile. Surprise surprise, I also read a lot. I game a little, mostly RPGs. I like to party, dance, play board games, cuddle with my dogs – pretty standard stuff. One of these days I’ll get a sexy hobby, like wood-cutting.
Q] In closing, do you have any parting thoughts or comments you would like to share with our readers?
CDA: Truth of Crowns comes out on May 26th! I hope you read and enjoy it. I’ve been working on this book off-and-on for almost six years now. It’s the definition of a passion project. And thanks for indulging my silly little thoughts by reading this interview! *blows kiss*.


Official Author Website
Pre-order Truth Of Crowns over HERE
OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Secrets, secrets are so fun. Secrets, secrets – cut my tongue.”

Eogan Grey has a secret that will see him killed. He is the heir to the Horned Crown of Dagdar, and he secretly married a woman forbidden to him – the crown princess of the Holy Queendom of Corice. When duty called, they went their separate ways. Years passed. Now, whispers of revolution haunt their respective realms, threatening to end a decade’s peace. As the tides of politics shift, Eogan receives news that the princess is betrothed to another man. Can he abide that?

Caught in a conspiracy of cursed children, machiavellian monarchs, riotous rebels, and iconoclastic immortals, Eogan must contend with the cost of secrets – his enemies’, his allies’, and his own.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

World Running Down by Al Hess (Reviewed by Shazzie)


Official Author Website

Buy World Running Down here

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

SPFBO 8 Finalist Review: Mysterious Ways by Abbie Evans


Book links: AmazonGoodreads

AUTHOR INFO: Abbie Evans grew up in Wellington, New Zealand, and spent many years travelling the world before settling back down in a small New Zealand seaside town. She writes queer-centred fantasy stories that have been described as adventurous, fun, chaotic, and “too gay to function.”

SPFBO Finalist interview: Abbie Evans

Book links: AmazonGoodreads
Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Book review: The Fisherman by John Langan

The Fishermab by John Langan Review

Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

AUTHOR INFO: John Langan is the author of two novels, The Fisherman (Word Horde 2016) and House of Windows (Night Shade 2009), and two collections of stories, The Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies (Hippocampus 2013) and Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters (Prime 2008). With Paul Tremblay, he co-edited Creatures: Thirty Years of Monsters (Prime 2011). He's one of the founders of the Shirley Jackson Awards, for which he served as a juror during its first three years. Currently, he reviews horror and dark fantasy for Locus magazine.
Monday, March 13, 2023

The Justice of Kings by Richard Swan (Reviewed by Matthew Higgins)

Official Author Website

Buy The Justice of Kings here - U.K. | U.S.

Read Caitlin's review of The Justice of Kings here
Read Caitlin's review of The Tyranny of Faith here

OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: Richard Swan is a Sunday Times bestselling author of fantasy and science fiction. He was born in North Yorkshire, and, thanks to a childhood spent on RAF bases in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, now has an unhealthy interest in fighter jets. 
In 2010 he moved to London, where he spent the better part of ten years litigating multi-million pound commercial disputes. He now lives in Sydney with his wonderful wife, Sophie, their two very loud sons, and a very large container of sunscreen.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: The Justice of Kings, the first in a new epic fantasy trilogy, follows the tale of Sir Konrad Vonvalt, an Emperor’s Justice – a detective, judge and executioner all in one. As he unravels a web of secrets and lies, Vonvalt discovers a plot that might destroy his order once and for all – and bring down the entire Empire.
As an Emperor's Justice, Sir Konrad Vonvalt always has the last word. His duty is to uphold the law of the empire using whatever tools he has at his disposal: whether it's his blade, the arcane secrets passed down from Justice to Justice, or his wealth of knowledge of the laws of the empire. But usually his reputation as one of the most revered—and hated—Justices is enough to get most any job done.
When Vonvalt investigates the murder of a noblewoman, he finds his authority being challenged like never before. As the simple case becomes more complex and convoluted, he begins to pull at the threads that unravel a conspiracy that could see an end to all Justices, and a beginning to lawless chaos across the empire.

FORMAT/INFO: The Justice of Kings is the first book in the Empire of the Wolf series. It was published in August 2022 by Orbit in the U.S. and the U.K, and is available in hardcover, kindle, paperback and audio formats.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Richard Swan’s The Justice of Kings is a finely tuned fantasy read that will delight readers of SFF in all the best ways. It slowly builds its palpable sense of ethereal tension until, with the climax, all hell breaks loose. The growing level of intrigue throughout the book does not distract from the character centred approach and holding these two in tension was very effective for most of the book.

Although we focus mainly on the character of Helena, through whose eyes we view the world and its events, all the characters bring something to the table here. Whilst I was slightly disappointed with the central murder mystery being rather linear which made it difficult to feel involved in the investigation at times, this is a minor criticism in what is sure to be one of my favourite books of the year.

Justice of Kings shocked me in all the best ways, being a rare read that not only met the richly deserved hype, but vastly surpassed it. For the full review, stick around below.

‘It is a strange thing to think that the end of the Empire of the Wolf, and all the death and devastation that came with it, traced its long roots back to the tiny and insignificant village of Rill’

Thus opens the esteemed Empire of the Wolf trilogy with a fantastic first line full of intrigue and foreboding. We are thrust into a Germanic inspired world, which although not unique in the realm of fantasy, is given enough flair by Swan to set itself apart, especially with the central focus on justice, the law and jurisprudence.

The prose I found to be an effective mix of style, without holding back the story and the key information needed for the reader to be enveloped within the tale. One such description that struck me was a reference to ship masts as a ‘forest’ which I found an incredibly inventive way of describing such a scene.

The voice of Helena is so distinctive throughout, and just compels you to keep reading. I would argue its quite a bold choice to use Helena as the entry point into this world rather than Vonvalt, which might’ve been the case in a different, more traditional narrative.

But who are these enigmatic characters you ask? Well, the book is really about the exploits of Sir Konrad Vonavalt, Justice to the King, and his apprentice Helena, along with his assistant Bressinger, and the town sheriff Sir Radomir who joins their crew in the investigation.

Whilst out exploring the Empire and responding to the needs of justice within it, Vonvalt, Helena and the gang find themselves drawn into wider conspiracies which threaten the continuation of the Empire. What begins as a small-town murder mystery soon becomes a symbol of something greater; an revolution which won’t just engulf the Empire itself, but also into many realms beyond. 

To say anymore would be a very big spoiler, and I certainly wouldn’t wish to spoil anyone’s experience of reading this book. In fact, I think my experience was enhanced by having a lack of knowledge of the book going in, so when things took a surprising turn (trying so hard to be careful with my word choices here!) it completely shook me. Not to say any of the twists were mind blowing, nor were they blasé. It was just such an unexpected tonal shift that it has really stuck with me ever since, hauntingly so.

There’s almost a wild west feel to the book. At its heart it’s a murder mystery but more than that, it’s a character mystery. Vonvalt is fairly enigmatic, rarely revealing his true self to even Helena, which makes the point at which the cracks do start to show all the more terrifying. He is also pragmatic, as a justice he only says the necessary. His singular focus is on the law and meting it out in proper fashion, and his discussions of jurisprudence with Helena were really interesting to read, as well as rather telling.

Helena herself is an unreliable narrator, also giving us future insights as she narrates the tale through reflections on what is now her past. She is a troubled young woman, torn between her duty to Vonvalt, and discovering what her heart truly desires. This is all she has known since Vonvalt took her under his wing, but as the investigation continues she starts to question what she truly desires. Her narration is fascinatingly revealing and really allows us to dive deep into her fears, creating a vastly compelling character arc. Seeing Vonvalt through her eyes is also a really intriguing way of showing us character; we see through the lens that she does and that in itself is rather revealing. My only critique would be that the forewarning of Helena works at some points, whilst at others it feels a little too on the nose with fairly consistent reminders of the Empire’s fate.

The pacing itself is very consistent, with a nice blend between the overarching storyline of fears for the Empire, and the ongoing investigation complementing each other well for the most part. At times it did start to feel a little like one plotline would be paused in favour of the other, however over time they do begin to converge which helps set things back on track.

The central murder mystery did work as well, with the minor addition that it was incredibly linear, learning the information as our characters did. That’s all well and good, and actually prevents the issue of an easily solvable mystery. However, it did go a little far the other way, as I don’t think anyone could have possibly put it all together until the same time or just before the characters. I do find that a bit of a shame because as a fan of crime books, I do love to involve myself in the investigation as I read, and that couldn’t happen here as much because we were so reliant on the story being doled out to us.

The last 40% of this novel truly was what made it hold a special memory for me, with an absolutely insane turn that I never saw coming. I fear to say too much about this in case I spoil anyone’s journey with this book, but let’s just say I found it to be an incredibly well-balanced genre mashup, which felt very at home in the world Richard had built. Having started book two and seeing this tone influence more of the narrative, it really leaves me with chills and continues to be a constant highlight of this trilogy.

Perhaps the best thing I could say in this review is that this book made me care. I cried and that’s not easy for an author to do with me. The relationship between Vonvalt and Helena is professional but beautiful. Vonvalt puts law above all, but he knows when to be personal.

He's not cold. He just pretends to be. Bressinger and Radomir have much deeper characters than by first appearances. Throughout, Richard weaves these characters inner turmoils into the book and it truly made me grow to care about what happened to them.

The climax of this book leaves us in a suitably exciting position with which to open book two which has just released, whilst still closing all the necessary plotlines in a sufficient manner. There are no major cliffhangers here, but be in no doubt that you will still be compelled to read on!

CONCLUSION: Overall, I can already tell this will be one of my favourite reads of the year after having absolutely bombed through this book. The combination of character and plot driven tension was really exquisite and helped make this book what it was, a rare gem in which the hype was easily surpassed. With book two now in my hands, I’m sure it won’t be long before I return to tell you why this is one of my favourite ongoing series within the fantasy genre right now.
Thursday, March 9, 2023

Orphan Planet by Rex Burke (Reviewed by Shazzie)

Pre-order Orphan Planet HERE

OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: Rex Burke is a SciFi writer based in North Yorkshire, UK.

When he was young, he read every one of those yellow-jacketed Victor Gollancz hardbacks in his local library. He’s sure there are still thrilling SciFi adventures to be told – even if he has to write them himself.

When he’s not writing, he travels – one way or another, he’ll get to the stars, even if it’s just as stardust when his own story is done.

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Book review: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn


Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

AUTHOR INFO: Gillian Flynn was the chief TV critic for ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY and now writes full-time. Her first novel SHARP OBJECTS was the winner of two CWA DAGGERS and was shortlisted for the GOLD DAGGER. Her latest novel, GONE GIRL, is a massive No.1 bestseller. The film adaptation of GONE GIRL, directed by David Fincher and starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, won the Hollywood Film Award 2014.

Publisher: Crown (May 10, 2010) Page count: 349 pages Formats: ebook, audiobook, paperback, hardback

Don’t read Dark Places if you believe people are good. It pulls no punches and explores the dark side of the human experience. I absolutely loved it. It’s been a while since a book captured my attention so completely.

Dark Places tells the tragic story of the Day family. In January 1985, someone slaughtered Libby Day’s mother and two sisters. Libby’s testimony sent her brother, Ben, to prison for life.

Years later, Libby’s financial situation becomes dire; not surprising since she has no work and lives off donations and insurance cashed years ago. Desperate for money, she gets involved with the Kill Club, true crime enthusiasts interested in famous murder cases. They believe Ben was innocent and share wild theories with Libby who, subsequently, questions what exactly she saw the night of the tragedy. They're also ready to pay for family memorabilia and further investigation of the case.

The story moves fluidly between the present-day first-person narration of cynical and selfish Libby and the hours leading up to the murders seen through the eyes of Patty Day (Libby’s killed mother) and Ben (Libby’s brother sentenced for murders). The narrative is addictive as it slowly and methodically reveals the chronology of what happened on that tragic day. Flynn provides pieces of the puzzle along the way, but I assure you that whatever you suspect is wrong (unless you have a really twisted mind!) I won’t spoil it, but wow, just wow.*

Every character here is nuanced and feels real. I wouldn’t call any of them likable, but their distinct voices kept me glued to the pages. They’re all survivors ready to make selfish decisions to remain on the surface. Especially when the money is short.

Take Libby, who literally fed off the murder of her family all her life, living on donations made by compassionate donors moved by the history of a lone survivor of a family massacre. Libby, whose testimony sent her brother to jail for life and who’s not really sure what she saw (or didn’t see) on a feral night. If she hadn't run into financial difficulties, she might never revisit her tragic past. Still, it was refreshing to get a heroine as complex and psychologically scarred as this.

Ben? Well, I don’t find angry and brooding teenagers who get mixed up in devil worship relatable. But that doesn’t mean his voice didn’t engage me. Quite the opposite.

I loved this book. It’s genuinely disturbing, suspenseful, and full of surprises.

* It's genuinely surprising. Probably in both a good and a bad way. Some readers may be disappointed. Some will appreciate it. I definitely appreciate it.
Tuesday, March 7, 2023

A Witch's Guide to Fake Dating a Demon by Sarah Hawley (Reviewed by Shazzie)


Order A Witch's Guide to Fake Dating a Demon here - U.S | U.K

Monday, March 6, 2023

Review: THE FAITHLESS by C.L. Clark


Official Author Website
Buy The Faithless HERE
Read our review of Book 1, The Unbroken
Friday, March 3, 2023

The Housekeepers by Alex Hay (Reviewed by Shazzie)


Order The Housekeepers HERE

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Review: Emperor of Ruin by Django Wexler


Official Author Website
Order Emperor of Ruin HERE
Read Caitlin's review of Book 1, Ashes of the Sun

Cover Reveal: Orphan Planet by Rex Burke

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

SPFBO 8 Finalist review: A Song for The Void by Andrew C. Piazza


SPFBO Finalist interview: Andrew C. Piazza, the Author of A Song For The Void

Monday, February 27, 2023

Review: Rubicon by J.S. Dewes


Official Author Website
Order Rubicon HERE
Friday, February 24, 2023

Book review: Vampire Weekend by Mike Chen

Vampire Weekend by Mike Chen review

Book links: Amazon, Goodreads
Thursday, February 23, 2023

My Roommate is a Vampire by Jenna Levine (Reviewed by Shazzie)


Buy My Roommate is a Vampire here

Official Author Website

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Independence: A Novel by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (Reviewed by Shazzie)


Tuesday, February 21, 2023

The Battle That Was Lost by Micheal S. Jackson (Reviewed by Matthew Higgins)


OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: A bastard gets paid. That's the point of being a bastard, after all. Yet in war, payment in blood is more likely than payment in coin.
Staegrim knows coins better than he knows people, and he isn't giving his life away for free. Not to the rebels, not for the lords, and not for all of the bloody coins in Rengas.
But then... Everyone has a price.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Review: The Foxglove King by Hannah Whitten


Buy The Foxglove King HERE
Thursday, February 16, 2023

Book review: Paradox Bound by Peter Clines

Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

AUTHOR INFO: PETER CLINES has published several pieces of short fiction and countless articles on the film and television industries. He is the author of The Fold and the acclaimed Ex-Heroes series. He lives in Southern California.
Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Spice Road by Maiya Ibrahim (Reviewed by Shazzie)


Official author website

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

SPFBO 8 Finalist Review: A Touch of Light by Thiago Abdalla


Book links: AmazonGoodreads

SPFBO Interview: Thiago Abdalla, the author of A Touch of Light

Book links: Amazon, Goodreads
Monday, February 13, 2023

THE EIDOLON by K.D. Edwards - Review

Read Caitlin's review of The Hourglass Throne
Buy The Eidolon HERE

OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: K.D. lives and writes in North Carolina, but has spent time in Massachusetts, Maine, Colorado, New Hampshire, Montana, and Washington. (Common theme until NC: Snow. So, so much snow.)

Mercifully short careers in food service, interactive television, corporate banking, retail management, and bariatric furniture has led to a much less short career in Higher Education.

FORMAT/INFO: The Eidolon will be self-published on February 28th, 2023. It is 217 pages split over 12 chapters, a prologue and an epilogue. It is told in third person from Max, Quinn, and Anna's POVs. It is available in ebook and audiobook formats.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Quinn and Max may have been taken prisoner by Lady Jade, but it's all part of Quinn's plan. Quinn's gift of prophecy has told him this is the only way to get Rune the information he needs to defeat Lady Jade. But prophecy can't see everything, and this task is still full of dangers as Quinn, Max, and Anna work to stay alive in the weird and creepy underground domain of the Eidolon. 

The Eidolon is a fun little adventure for those already well-versed in the Tarot Sequence universe. That's an important distinction to make as this book is being marked as the first book in a new series, Magnus Academy. While the primary books of the Tarot Sequence focus on Rune and his journey, Magnus Academy focuses on the younger members of his cohort: Quinn, Max, and Anna. This is not however, a good on-boarding point to the Tarot Sequence, as this novella presupposes you're already familiar with the universe. This is very much a companion novel to the main books, not an adventure that stands on its own, especially given that this plotline in particular was originally intended for book 3, The Hourglass Throne, but was cut due to page count limits. All of that is to say, if you aren't already reading the Tarot Sequence, don't start here. 

If you ARE a Tarot Sequence fan, then you're in for a bite-sized treat, full of mystery, explosive magics, and weird creatures. There are POV chapters from each of our three heroes that offer some crucial insights to these characters we've only seen from the outside before. I particularly enjoyed the chapters written from Quinn's point of view, as it was fascinating experiencing what it's like to constantly be experiencing different timelines and knowing that leaving an umbrella at a bus stop could change the course of someone's life. Max is constantly comparing himself to Rune, while Anna, freshly coming into a level of power that dwarfs many adult's, has a bit of an Elle Wood "What, like it's hard?" flare when it comes to difficult magic workings. 

CONCLUSION: The Eidolon is a great companion read to The Hourglass Throne. That said, it's a bit of a weird read that essentially has to be read as a companion piece, as it is one piece of a bigger puzzle, and its weight can't really be appreciated on its own. Do I wish the publisher of The Hourglass Throne had let this be part of the original book? Yes. But at least we get to still experience this particular storyline, and even get one or two surprise revelations along the way. (One of which had me shouting "I KNEW IT."). I am certainly looking forward to more adventures from Max, Quinn, and Anna, and seeing how this novella bridges the main series with the other novels set in this universe.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Cover Reveal: Chasm by Stacey McEwan


Seal your eyes and sleep,

Still your lips, cease your breath,

Lie where sorrow dares not be,

Free from the hands of death.

Before we take a look at more details, let's take a look at the cover:



Dawsyn’s miraculous escape from the Ledge was just the beginning. In the queens’ dungeon, Dawsyn awaits her execution while reliving the death of her lover, Ryon. There is no hope for mercy.

But hope finds her in the form of rescue by her village friends. On the run and struggling to tame her newly-gained and greatly unstable powers, Dawsyn's journey continues. As she ascends the perilous mountain slopes once again to the Glacian kingdom in a desperate attempt to save those remaining on the Ledge, she discovers a new evil awaiting her. With a contingent of hundreds, she must lead her people way, but she has no way of knowing what will lie ahead, or what might follow behind…

Fighting with her ax and newfound power is arduous enough, but finds she must also battle her feelings of betrayal and hope when those she thought lost forever, may not be gone after all…


Stacey McEwan is a school teacher by day and fantasy writer by night. A book influencer on multiple platforms, she began writing the bestselling Ledge after book lovers of the internet begged her to share her story ideas. Stacey lives on the Gold Coast, Australia with her husband, two children and one questionable dog. When Stacey isn’t writing, teaching, or making ridiculous tiktoks, you’ll find her playing with her children, reading, annoying her husband, or possibly all three at once. Find Stacey on TikTok and Instagram: @stacebookspace.

MORE INFO: Chasm is the second book in The Glacian Trilogy. It is due to be published on 12th September 2023 in hardcover, ebook, and audio formats by Angry Robot books. 

You can pre-order a copy of CHASM here.

View Stacey McEwans' guest post at Fantasy Book Critic, The Lure of the Badass Heroine here.  
Wednesday, February 8, 2023

The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi by Shannon Chakraborty (Reviewed by Shazzie)

Official Author Website
Pre-order the books using links here
Pre-order this book on here
Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Graphic novel: My Life Among Humans by Jed McGowan

Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jed M. McGowan writes and draws in Los Angeles, California. His previous comics include Gonzalo (nominated for an Ignatz Award), Uninhabitable (included in Best American Comics 2019), and Lone Pine (published with a grant from the Xeric Foundation). He’s also designed backgrounds for animation and created illustrations for the New York Times, Vice, and other publications.

Publisher: Oni Press (February 7, 2023) Length: 96 pages

Monday, February 6, 2023

The Tyranny of Faith by Richard Swan - Review


Official Author Website
Read a review of Book One, The Justice of Kings
Order the book HERE

OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: Richard was born in North Yorkshire and spent most of his early life on Royal Air Force bases in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. He studied law at the University of Manchester, and spent the following ten years as a litigator.

Between 2015 and 2018, Richard self-published "The Art of War Trilogy", a sequence of epic space opera novels, as well as a prequel ("Hadan's Reach") and two spinoff mil-sci-fi novellas ("VIPER One", and "VIPER One: Countervalue", the latter co-authored with George Lockett).

Richard's debut fantasy "Empire of the Wolf" trilogy recently sold to Orbit Books, with the first instalment coming out in February 2022.

Richard currently lives and writes in Sydney, Australia.

Sunday, February 5, 2023

GIVEAWAY: The Severing Son by Vaughn Roycroft

(Image Credit: Vaughn Roycroft)

We are pleased to bring you a giveaway of a signed trade paperback The Severing Son, book one in the Sundered Nation series, in collaboration with author Vaughn Roycroft

Author Website

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Tales of the Bringer of Urrinan had been told for generations, but never had the prophecy felt so near to so many. Elan wasn’t sure if she even believed one man could cause the sort of upheaval that would change the world. And yet, just as the prophecy foretold, dark forces were on the rise—including the many Spali warbands raiding across the borderlands.
It was in pursuit of one such warband when Elan’s host discovered the hidden compound of the Outcast. She’d heard how the former chieftain of the mighty Amalus Clan had been unjustly accused of murdering his rival. How the conflict had begun over a woman. How the Outcast’s son—born of that same woman—perfectly matched the prophecy’s foretelling of the Bringer.
Prophecy aside, it seemed that fate had led Elan into the midst of a legend. Because of a choice made in the heat of battle, Elan found herself bound to an outlaw hunted by friend and foe alike. Whether she believed in the prophecy or not, she found herself entangled with a lone figure who vowed to seek the sort of upheaval that might just change the world.
Could Vahldan, son of the Outcast, truly be the Bringer of Urrinan?

Let's also take a look at what author has to say about what readers can expect from this book, as well as his vision for the series:

I consider The Severing Son to be a character-driven epic tale. For readers who entrust me to guide them, I hope to provide immersion that sweeps them to a legendary time and place. Yes, I aspire to provide an escape, to a world where concepts like honor and duty are more than quaint. But I also aspire to provide the distance to reflect—on what it means to be human, and on humanity. My fondest wish is to leave readers thinking and feeling, even after they’ve finished the final page.

The giveaway is open from 5th February 2023 and will end on 12th February 2023.

Here are the terms and conditions associated with it:
  1. Participants must have a U.S. mailing address.
  2. The winner will be chosen at random after the giveaway ends, and notified via the Twitter/Instagram.
  3. Participants must be above 18 years of age, and willing to share their mailing information with the author if they win. This will include a name and a mailing address, and may include a phone number, depending on the shipping method. 
  4. This giveaway is not affiliated with Twitter, Instagram or Blogger in any way.

In order to participate, you may do one or both of the following, each of which constitues a single entry:

  1. Follow both @FantasyBookCrit and @VaughnRoycroft on Twitter, and retweet the giveaway announcement, so watch the @FantasyBookCritic space!
  2. Follow both @fantasybookcritic and @vaughnroycroft on Instagram, like and share the giveaway post in your stories. Remember to tag @fantasybookcritic in it.
Thank you all for participating in this, and good luck!


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