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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Review: The Ashes and the Star-Cursed King by

 


Official Author Website
Buy The Ashes and the Star-Cursed King

OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: Carissa Broadbent has been concerning teachers and parents with mercilessly grim tales since she was roughly nine years old. Since then, her stories have gotten (slightly) less depressing and (hopefully a lot?) more readable. Today, she writes novels that blend epic fantasy plots with a heaping dose of romance. She lives with her husband, her son, and one perpetually skeptical cat in Rhode Island.

FORMAT/INFO: The Ashes and the Star-Cursed King was traditionally published on June 4th, 2024; it was originally self-published April 14th, 2023. It is 591 pages long and told from Oraya and Raihn's POV. It is available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook formats.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS:  The Kejari is over and the outcome isn’t what anyone expected. The entire kingdom has been thrown into turmoil due to the shocking upheaval that saw a new ruler rise to power. As the various Houses shift their alliances to take advantage of the chaos, Oraya finds herself with no friends or allies, a prisoner in her own home. Only one path may lead her to freedom: a mysterious relic hidden somewhere in the kingdom by her father. But to reach it, she’ll have to trust the man who utterly betrayed her.

The Ashes and the Star-Cursed King is an overly-long conclusion to this fantasy romance duology. While it is roughly the same length as the first book, I found myself dragging myself through this sequel, rather than tearing through the pages. That may have a bit to do with the simple difference in plot. The Serpent and the Wings of Night centered around a competition, which is a trope I love and was ready to devour. I really enjoyed watching the contestants figuring out the tricks to the games and the alliances that were made and broken, all while Oraya and Raihn fell in love.

Here, the plot just felt extremely slow. I can’t pinpoint why exactly that is, because it's full of things I should love: court politics, betrayals, mysteries in a castle. There are some definite highlights: the middle of the book in particular interjected some much needed action that temporarily had me hooked into the book once more. And I was genuinely empathetic about Oraya’s struggle to balance processing her grief with the pressing need to defend her kingdom.

But at the end of the day, I think the slowness may come down to the great sin for a romance novel: I wasn’t particularly interested in the romance this time around. The spark that had been there in the first book seemed to be missing. Even allowing for the fact that, as a romance novel, I know where the romance plot is going, I wasn't grabbed by the journey the characters took to get there.

For me, the reason why I wasn't grabbed can be traced to the lack of difference between the two POVs in this book. Unlike book one, which was all Oraya's POV, this second book alternates between Oraya and Raihn. Even though the chapters are clearly labeled, I would find myself assuming the chapter belonged to one person, then get confused when they made a plot statement that didn't make sense for their character, then realize I was actually in the other POV. They didn't have unique voices, which made it a bit bland and muddled and therefore difficult to get into the emotions that drive the romance plot forward.

CONCLUSION: At the end of the day, The Ashes and the Star-Cursed King is perfectly fine, if lackluster duology conclusion. The story does have some genuinely good, heart-pounding moments, but in a 600 page book, they were small bursts of momentum in a story that tended to drag. Your mileage may vary depending on how invested you are in the romance in this second outing, but for me, this wasn't the smashing conclusion I was hoping for.

 
Monday, July 22, 2024

Book review: Murder on Hunter’s Eve (The Lamplight Murder Mysteries #3) by Morgan Stang


Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Morgan Stang lives in the humid part of Texas. He graduated from the University of Houston with a BBA. By day he works in accounting and by night he sleeps, and sometime in between he writes in a wide variety of fantasy genres, ranging from dark fantasy (The Bartram's Maw series) to gaslamp murder mystery (The Lamplight Murder Mysteries) to cozy fantasy (The Bookshop and the Barbarian). He is a fan of all things nerdy, and lives with an immortal ball python.

Publisher: Morgan Stang Length: 398 pages Formats: ebook, paperback

Thursday, July 18, 2024

Echo of Worlds by M. R. Carey (Reviewed by Shazzie)

 Echo of Worlds by M. R. Carey



Buy Echo of Worlds here -  U.S. | U.K.

OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: M. R. Carey has been making up stories for most of his life. His novel The Girl With All the Gifts has sold over a million copies and became a major motion picture, based on his own BAFTA Award-nominated screenplay. Under the name Mike Carey he has written for both DC and Marvel, including critically acclaimed runs on Lucifer, Hellblazer and X-Men. His creator-owned books regularly appear in the New York Times bestseller list. He also has several previous novels including the Felix Castor series (written as Mike Carey), two radio plays and a number of TV and movie screenplays to his credit.

FORMAT/INFO: This title was published by Orbit Books in June 2024, in hardback, ebook, and audio formats. This is the concluding book in the Pandominium Duology.
Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Review: The Hunter's Gambit by Ciel Pierlot

 


Official Author Website
Buy The Hunter's Gambit 


OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: Ciel Pierlot is a disaster bisexual from the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s also a giant nerd and no, you cannot stop her from bragging about her lightsaber collection. When she’s not writing SFF novels, she’s busy being a digital artist and a hardcore gaymer.

FORMAT/INFO: The Hunter's Gambit was published on June 25th, 2024 by Angry Robot. It is 400 pages long and told in third person from Kazan's point of view. It is available in paperback and ebook formats.
Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Book review: Between Dragons and Their Wrath by Devin Madson (reviewed by Adam Weller)


Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Devin Madson is an Aurealis Award-winning fantasy author from Australia. After some sucky teenage years, she gave up reality and is now a dual-wielding rogue who works through every tiny side-quest and always ends up too over-powered for the final boss. Anything but zen, Devin subsists on tea and chocolate and so much fried zucchini she ought to have turned into one by now. Her fantasy novels come in all shades of grey and are populated with characters of questionable morals and a liking for witty banter.

Publisher: Orbit (August 27, 2024) Length: 479 pages Formats: audiobook, ebook

Monday, July 15, 2024

FBC's Critically Underrated Reads

 


Here at Fantasy Book Critic, we are always striving to shine a spotlight on titles & series that have wowed us but for some reason haven't become as popular as they should be. Keeping this fundamental in mind, the FBC team (Lukasz, Caitlin, Shazzie, Matthew & Mihir) have compiled this list consisting of standalone titles as well series. 

We have linked them to the FBC reviews as well as reviews from other lovely blogs. So do checkout each and everyone of the titles mentioned below:
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.
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)

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