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Friday, July 12, 2024

The Spellshop by Sarah Beth Durst (Reviewed by Shazzie)

 Book Review: The Spellshop by Sarah Beth Durst



Official Author Website
Buy The Spellshop here - 
 U.S. | U.K.

OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: Sarah Beth Durst is the award-winning author of over twenty-five books for adults, teens, and kids, including The SpellshopThe Lake House, and Spark. She won an American Library Association Alex Award and a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award and has been a finalist for SFWA's Andre Norton Nebula Award three times. Several of her books have been optioned for film/television, including Drink Slay Love, which was made into a TV movie and was a question on Jeopardy! She is a graduate of Princeton University and lives in Stony Brook, New York, with her husband, her children, and her ill-mannered cat. Visit her at sarahbethdurst.com.

FORMAT/INFO: This title was published by Pan Macmillan in the U.K. in July 2024, and by Bramble in the U.S. in July 2024.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Kiela, a reclusive librarian, has to leave the library she never leaves after a group of revolutionaries throw the emperor out of a window and set the place on fire. She gets on a boat with no personal possessions but the clothes on her back, crates of precious books that she had the foresight to organize, and her spider plant companion. Having nowhere else to go, she heads to an outer island with her family’s old cottage, the one her parents left to go to the city to make a better life for themselves and her. There, she opens a spell shop masquerading as a jam store.

If this is anything but the first slice-of-life fantasy book you’ve read, you know the drill, and this doesn’t veer far from the standard template. It’s not groundbreaking, but to give credit where it’s due, the author does showcase her strengths. The pacing leaves little to desire, and the author is so good at describing the setting, so good in fact that I felt like I was reading the book in the island, and with the mentions of the jam that Kiela made or the baked goods she was offered, I swear I had those smells wafting into my nose. Every indoor place in this is nothing but cozy, and are of the kind that would make popular Pinterest boards (have we moved on from Pinterest yet?).

Kiela’s personality has a lot I related with. She’s kind of like me when I get into a reading spurt, everything but that becomes a bit of a chore if not an unwanted activity. She’s also anxious, constantly worrying that she will be persecuted for “theft” of the books, when all she wanted to do was keep them safe from the revolutionaries and return them as soon as things cooled down. She impulsively makes commitments and then thinks them through, and thankfully they’re not bad at all, but only add to her mounting sense of dread that a future chargesheet against her would be quite horrendous.


The romance in his romantasy is underwhelming, with it being drawn out to the point where I stopped caring. It feels a bit forced, but there’s also an added history there. It was kind of annoying how decidedly daft she was, refusing to pick up hints and even pointed statements. I like my protagonists intelligent, and she lacks in that department, taking forever to put two and two together.

There’s a lot of things that the book lightly touches on, like book banning, as well as corruption in power structures while the common man suffers, but without being very heavy handed. They do make sense in the plot, and that I appreciated. The stakes are personal and high, but the resolution at the end seemed a bit too easy. It lacked something, though I’m not sure what. As for the magic, you probably already guessed it. It’s standard spellwork.

CONCLUSION: Anyway, this book is a fun, cozy read that can help you pass the time. The vibes in parts of it are just as lovely as the cover suggests, but it does nothing new. And while not all books have to be groundbreaking or do everything original, they do have to work, and parts of it did not. Despite these shortcomings, I read it cover to cover, so you might want to give it a shot.
Thursday, July 11, 2024

SPFBO X Interview: Ciara Hartford, the Author of The House of Starling




Check The House of Starling on Goodreads or get a copy here.
Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Review: The Price of Redemption by Shawn Carpenter

 

Official Author Website
Buy The Price of Redemption

OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: Shawn Carpenter is a new author in an old skin. His colorful work history includes cowboy, airman, chicken guard, game designer, and corporate cog. Ships and the sea have enamored Shawn since his childhood in tragically landlocked Oklahoma, where, after peregrinations to all corners of the US, he now lives with his amazing wife, two sons, three dogs, and a cat. His three adult daughters keep tabs on his antics from a safe distance.

FORMAT/INFO: The Price of Redemption was published by Saga Press on July 9th, 2024. It is 368 pages long and told in third person from multiple POVs including Enid. It is available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook formats.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Fleeing a homeland gripped by revolution, sorceress Marquese Enid d'Tancreville fears all is lost when her ship is captured by another bearing the flag of a Theocratic Confessor. But a third ship under the command of the Albion navy saves her, giving Enid a surprising opportunity: she can join their crew and fight back against the revolutionary forces that have killed everyone she cares about. Enid's never sailed before, but she'll have to learn quickly if she's to use her magic to aid the ship on a dangerous mission in enemy waters.

The Price of Redemption is a fantasy book in the vein of Master and Commander that fails to do anything interesting with its fantasy elements. I'm perplexed why the author didn't simply make this a historical fantasy novel; as it is, he instead simply took the map of Europe and slapped new names on all the countries. But in doing so, the author didn't create anything new out of these countries. I can't tell you anything about their history or culture that distinguishes them from their English or French counterparts. Even the Theocratic Revolution is just the French Revolution by a different name.

By going to the effort of creating fictitious countries, the author has set the expectation that this world operates differently than our own, and that magic is integral to how it functions. Instead, were I to remove every element of magic from the book, 90% of the story would carry on as if nothing were missing. If this had been a historical fantasy set in Europe during the 1800s, my expectation for world-building would have been considerably lower, and the low magic setting would have fit right in. Instead, the author spends more time talking ABOUT magic than in actually USING the magic.

Much of this could be forgiven if the nautical side of things had held my attention. I came to this story ready to love an old-fashioned adventure; I was raised on Horatio Hornblower TV movies and have read my fair share of 18th and 19th century authors. Unfortunately, I found the overall story itself to be incredibly slow, more interested in explaining how ships work and the hierarchy of naval ranks than in actually moving the story forward. There are a few naval actions which are engaging in and of themselves, and I did like the overall atmosphere of the story. This is a rare occasion where I can say that if this novel had been trimmed down to a novella, I may have ended up liking it considerably more.

I do want to applaud the author for making this a gender equal society, where women serve on ships alongside men without any comment at all. But again, the author strangely undercuts himself with how his male characters react to the female lead character. For the first half of the book, not a single man can have an interaction with the female lead without ogling her or making a remark about her elegant neck or having internal thoughts about her scent. This constant objectification was off-putting to say the least.

CONCLUSION: Those who have a strong love for 18th and 19th century naval traditions may find themselves liking The Price of Redemption considerably more than me. While I did appreciate the atmosphere and tone it was trying to recreate, it ultimately muddied the waters by adding fantasy elements to the world that just didn't aid in the story the author was trying to tell. The result is that The Price of Redemption is an unfortunate miss for me in every way, making it a hard book to recommend.

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Graphic novel review: Curse Words by Charles Soule & Ryan Browne

 


Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Charles Soule is a New York Times-bestselling, Brooklyn-based comic book writer, musician, and attorney. He is best known for writing Daredevil, She-Hulk, Death of Wolverine (inspiration for the film Logan,) and various Star Wars comics from Marvel Comics, as well as his creator-owned series CURSE WORDS from Image Comics and the award-winning political sci-fi epic Letter 44 from Oni Press. His debut novel The Oracle Year will be published in 2018 by HarperCollins

Publisher: IMAGE Comics Length: 756 pages (Omnibus edition)

Monday, July 8, 2024

Review: The Dead Cat Tail Assassins by P Djèlí Clark

 


Official Author Website
Buy The Dead Cat Tail Assassins

OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: Phenderson Djéli Clark is the author of the novel A Master of Djinn, and the award-winning and Hugo, Nebula, and Sturgeon nominated author of the novellas Ring Shout, The Black God’s Drums and The Haunting of Tram Car 015. His short stories have appeared in online venues such as Tor.com, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and in print anthologies including, Griots and Hidden Youth. You can find him on Twitter at @pdjeliclark and his blog The Disgruntled Haradrim.

FORMAT/INFO: The Dead Cat Tail Assassins will be published by Tordotcom on August 6th, 2024. It is 224 pages and is told from the POV of Eveen. It is available in hardcover and ebook formats.
Friday, July 5, 2024

Run by Blake Crouch (reviewed by Adam Weller & Mihir Wanchoo)

 


Official Blake Crouch Website
Pre-order Run HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of Recursion
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Pines
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of Eerie
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of Run
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of Serial Killers Uncut
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Wayward
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s Interview with Blake Crouch (2011)
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Wayward Pines trilogy Interview with Blake Crouch
 
AUTHOR INFORMATION: Blake Crouch was born in Statesville, North Carolina and graduated in 2000 with degrees in English and Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina. He has written four previous novels and a host of short stories. Two of his stories have been optioned for film adaptation. Blake currently lives in Durango, Colorado with his wife.
Thursday, July 4, 2024

EXCLUSIVE COVER REVEAL: DANCE OF SHADOWS by Gourav Mohanty


 

This is a special cover reveal folks, back in 2022 when I first got to know of Gourav Mohanty and his exciting debut SONS OF DARKNESS. Fantasy Book Critic was given the chance to reveal the cover for it

 Now thanks to Gourav once again, we are thrilled to be exclusively reveal the cover for DANCE OF SHADOWS ( book 2 of The Raag of Rta series). Designed once again by the amazing  Micaela Alcaino, check it out below 
Tuesday, July 2, 2024

SPFBO X: The Second Culling & Semi-Finalist Update (by Esmay Rosalyne)



The time for our team’s second culling has already come, and I am equally nervous and excited about it! Though, for those who got really scared after our brutal first update, rest assured, I can promise you this one is (slightly) less ruthless and bloody.

Monday, July 1, 2024

Chapter One Excerpt: The Doors of Midnight by R.R. Virdi

 


Myths begin, and a storyteller’s tale deepens, in the essential sequel to R.R. Virdi’s breakout Silk Road-inspired epic fantasy debut, The First Binding.

Review: The Sky on Fire by Jenn Lyons


Official Author Website
Buy The Sky on Fire

OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: Twice-nominated Astounding Award finalist JENN LYONS lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, her cats and a nearly infinite number of opinions on anything from Sumerian mythology to the correct way to make a martini. After spending thirty years working as a graphic artist, art director, and video game producer (in that order), Lyons now spends her days writing fantasy. She traces her geek roots back to playing first edition Dungeons & Dragons in grade school—a passion she’s continued as an adult—as well as pursuing whatever craft or skill she’s obsessed with this week: pyrography, beadwork, stenography, furniture upholstery, etc. Her five book epic fantasy series, A Chorus of Dragons, begins with The Ruin of Kings.

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