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Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Book review: The Truth of the Aleke by Moses Ose Utomi

The Truth of the Aleke by Moses Ose Utomi


Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Moses Ose Utomi is a Nigerian-American fantasy writer and nomad currently based out of Honolulu, Hawaii. He has an MFA in fiction from Sarah Lawrence College and short fiction publications in Fireside Fiction, Fantasy Magazine, and more. He is the author of the novella The Lies of the Ajungo and the YA fantasy novel Daughters of Oduma. When he’s not writing, he’s traveling, training martial arts, or doing karaoke—with or without a backing track.

Publisher: Tordotcom (05/03/2024) Length: 112 pages Formats: ebook, paperback

Truth is a cruel teacher. It does not appease.It does not reconsider. Its lessons vary in delivery - sometimes tickling in over decades, sometimes crashing down all at once - but consistently disregard the desires of the student.
The Truth of the Aleke is an excellent sequel to The Lies of the Ayungo. It's self-contained and technically works as a standalone, but I highly encourage you to read the series in the publication order. It'll make the impact of the ending much stronger.

Five hundred years have passed since the events of The Lies of The Ajungo, and history has replaced truth. The City of Truth and its leaders have been at war with the Cult of Tutu and its cruel leader, Aleke, for three centuries. Both sides of the conflict have different versions of history, with neither fully interested in the truth.

Young Osi believes his city stands as the final bastion in the fight against the ruthless hordes of Aleke, who bring nothing but suffering and destruction. Aleke's actions seem to confirm his belief: their attacks leave the city wrecked and its citizens massacred. Osi survives (not gonna tell you how) and embarks on a quest to defeat Aleke and retrieve the ancient magical artifacts stolen from the City during the bloodbath.

His journey into the desert reveals the depth of the lies. And Osi's fate is brutal and gut-wrenching.  Osi is a flawed and naive hero, desperate for truth, and easily manipulated by others. His desire for glory blinds him and results in rather poor choices. The clash of his youthful idealism with the harsh realities of the world and political cunning is painful to watch.

I loved how Utomi approached themes of truth, power, and history, showing their ambiguity and complexity. The way he packed excellent world-building in just 112 pages impressed me, too. And I can't forget about awesome action sequences and awesome magical powers that enhance the readability of the story.

The Forever Desert is shaping to be a brilliant trilogy of novellas somewhere on the intersection of dark fantasy and fable. I can’t wait to read the last one in the series.

Monday, March 4, 2024

Interview: Gareth Brown, author of The Book of Doors

 Interview: Gareth Brown, author of The Book of Doors

Buy The Book of Doors here

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: New York bookseller Cassie Andrews is not sure what she’s doing with her life. She lives quietly, sharing an apartment with her best friend, Izzy. Then a favourite customer gives her an old book. Full of strange writing and mysterious drawings, at the very front there is a handwritten message:
This is the Book of Doors. Hold it in your hand, and any door is every door.

Cassie is about to discover that the Book of Doors is a special book – a magic book. A book that bestows extraordinary abilities on whoever possesses it. And she is about to learn that there are other magic books out there that can also do wondrous – or dreadful and terrifying – things.

Because where there is magic there is power and there are those who will stop at nothing to possess it.

Suddenly Cassie and Izzy are confronted by violence and danger, and the only person who can help them is Drummond Fox who has a secret library of magical books hidden in the shadows for safekeeping, a man fleeing his own demons. Because there is a nameless evil out there that is hunting them all . . .

Because this book is worth killing for.


Welcome to Fantasy Book Critic! Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us, could you please tell us a little bit about yourself?

Of course! I am Gareth Brown, author of The Book of Doors. I live near Edinburgh in Scotland with my wife May and our two Skye terriers, Dougal and Flora. To be honest Dougal and Flora rule the place, and we are just the human staff. I have been writing since I was a teenager, but The Book of Doors is my first published novel. I also work full- time in the NHS in Scotland.

How would you describe your book, THE BOOK OF DOORS, to our readers in just three adjectives, and then in just three sentences?

Wow… great question. Three adjectives: Thrilling. Adventurous. Terrifying.

Three sentences: This is a book about magical books that can do amazing and dreadful things. This is a book about stumbling into a secret world full of danger and darkness. And this is a book about friends and family.

Booksellers are always romanticised because most readers feel like being one would simply be heaven. On behalf of Cassie, your protagonist, I ask you, what would she tell us about being one that would shock us? What does she love about it, and what is she indifferent to?

‘Hi, Cassie here. You want to know what it’s like being a bookseller? Okay. Um. I love all the books. Maybe that’s obvious. But even just being around lots of books all the time, it’s like being smothered in your favourite warm blanket. I am pretty indifferent to most of the customers. They are fine, I guess, and some of them are very nice, don’t get me wrong.

But I would quite happily spend my day doing stock control and tidying the shelves. I don’t need to be working the cash register to have a good time. Oh, and what would shock you? Rents in this part of town. And how many books the store has to sell just to stay in business. We probably make more money from our coffee shop than from the books we sell.’

Your book also features a secret library. What is that, in your opinion, that makes readers love libraries in books, and particularly those in unsuspected existence?

If you are a reader, you probably love libraries, right? Many of us discovered our love of books through libraries. And there is something special about them… they are temples to books. Quiet, cosy, a place of community and good intentions. Who wouldn’t want a library of their own, that nobody else knows about?

What other elements do you have soft spots for, why? And what of them can we expect to see in this book?

I love travel, and The Book of Doors has a lot of travel in it. The novel came about during the Covid pandemic when I hadn’t travelled for a few years, and I really wanted to go places. So that features heavily in the book. (That is what The Book of Doors is, in reality, a way to go wherever you want without having to deal with airports and long-haul flights!)

I also like cakes and pastries. There are probably too many cakes and pastries in the novel.

It’s easy to wish for the central concept of the book, a book that can take you anywhere, to be true. If you had it, when and where (locations real or fantastical) would you love to visit? What were the initial locations you dabbled with, for options as to where Cassie would be transported, that did not make it into the book?

I have thought about this a lot. I would love to be able to open the door of my study and just go somewhere warm, maybe Malaysia where my wife is from. We could go get some laksa for lunch at the place on the beach in my wife’s home town. I’d also love to be able to visit Tokyo or Hong Kong for an evening walk, just as the day is getting dark and the lights of the city are sparkling. That is the best time in any big city.

There were a few other locations in the book that ended up not working. At one point I had Cassie and Drummond visiting Rio de Janeiro. One abandoned sub-plot also had them visiting a war-torn country in Eastern Europe, but that subplot didn’t work. I also had Cassie and Drummond going to Singapore for lunch at one point, but that was just wish fulfilment on my part, because I wanted to go to Singapore for lunch, and it didn’t serve the story at all.

There's a really cinematic and fun, but at the same time, mad time travel element in the book. This can be quite tricky to work into the plot. When and how did you come up with the idea, and how did it change from draft to final copy?

I think the time travel element was always there, right from when I first thought of the idea of the book. That is because I really wanted my main character to be able to do something lots of us would love to do - to be able to go back and visit a dear relative who we have lost. That to me was always the heart of the novel and the time travel element was necessary to allow that. As it happens the time travel became more important to the second half of the book as I wrote it, and I found myself having a bit of fun by letting our heroes use time travel as a tool to defeat the main antagonist. That was not something I had worked out at the start, but it came quite naturally as the plot unfolded, and I did like the idea of revisiting scenes from earlier in the book and seeing them from a new perspective. I love it when that sort of thing happens in fiction, when you learn something new about something you've already seen and thought you understood. It's like the reveal at the end of a magic trick, the surprising and delightful think that makes you stop and think, 'Wow!' I hope the Book of Doors does that for people.

Given all the work that needs to be put into writing fiction, has it changed how you react to other books as a reader, and how?

I think I have always been very understanding of how hard it is to even write a book, never mind get it published. I have always been loath to criticise any book, even ones I don’t like. It’s such a subjective thing; just because I didn’t enjoy a book doesn’t mean it has no value. I don’t think that has changed at all. Probably what has changed is an understanding of how the finished book is something that multiple people have had a hand in – the author does most of the work, but editors and agents have such important roles in making books better.

Before we wrap this up, I want to talk about you as a reader. What are you currently reading, and which of your recent reads made a positive impression on you? Are there any that you are looking forward to, or anything that’s already published that you hope to squeeze into your reading, and how do you discover these books?

I have just finished reading The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean, which was superb. I had heard good things about it but it exceeded my expectations. I can’t wait to see what Sunyi does next. I also recently read an advance reader copy of The Day Tripper, by James Goodhand, which was right up my street. Definitely one to pick up when it comes out later this year if you like time jumps and mind-bending plots. I haven’t yet read the second book in Richard Swan’s Empire of the Wolf series, and I know the third has just been published. The Justice of Kings was superb, and I hear the second and third books lean more into horror, which I am absolutely here for. Looking forward to reading both of those this year. In terms of discovering books, the best thing that has come out of the last eighteen months is meeting other authors and getting more connected into the book world on social media. I have learned about so many great books I wouldn’t otherwise have known about. In the past I would usually just browse in bookshops and pick up things I
liked the look of, but I don’t get to bookshops much these days, so getting recommendations from people who know much more than me has been great.

In closing, do you have any parting thoughts or comments you’d like to share with our readers?

Buy my book! Please? I need to pay for my serious biscuit and cake addiction. Actually, even if you don’t buy my book, just buy any book, preferably from independent booksellers. Booksellers are the best so please help them stay in business.

The Book of Doors by Gareth Brown (Reviewed by Shazzie)

Book Review: The Book of Doors by Gareth Brown

the book of doors by gareth brown

Buy The Book of Doors here

FORMAT/INFO: The Book of Doors was published on February 15th, 2024 by Bantam Books in the U.K. and on February 13th 2024 by William Morrow in the U.S. It is available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook formats. 
Thursday, February 29, 2024

The Rest To The Gods by Joshua Walker (reviewed by Matthew Higgins)


Official Author Website
Get the Novella for free by signing up to Joshua’s mailing list!
OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFO: Joshua Walker is the author of The Song of the Sleepers series. He was born in Sydney, Australia and was an avid reader from the age of five, when he first read The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien ‘all by himself’. Josh currently lives in Melbourne, Australia with his wife and BFD (Big Fluffy Dog). In between spending time with his family and friends, he sticks to a regimented writing routine, and is also a primary teacher. He also makes his own beer, and likes to think it’s pretty good.
Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Review: Lore of the Wilds by Analeigh Sbrana


OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: Analeigh Sbrana is a writer and visual artist. She lives in Delaware with her husband, daughter, and chonky kitty named Rey. You can often find her either writing books, reading books, or taking elaborate photos of books.
Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Review: That Time I Got Drunk and Saved a Demon


Official Author Website
Buy That Time I Got Drunk and Saved A Demon

OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: Kimberly Lemming is on an eternal quest to avoid her calling as a main character. She can be found giving the slip to that new werewolf that just blew into town and refusing to make eye contact with a prince of a far-off land. Dodging aliens looking for Earth booty can really take up a girl's time.

But when she’s not running from fate, she can be found writing diverse fantasy romance. Or just shoveling chocolate in her maw until she passes out on the couch.
Monday, February 26, 2024

Interview: Robert Jackson Bennett, author of The Tainted Cup

Interview: Robert Jackson Bennett, author of The Tainted Cup

robert jackson bennett author photo

Read Caitlin's review of The Tainted Cup here
Read Mihir and Shazzie's review of The Tainted Cup here

Buy The Tainted Cup here - U.K. | U.S.
Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Review: Fathomfolk by Eliza Chan


OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: Eliza Chan is a Scottish-born Chinese-diaspora author who writes about East Asian mythology, British folklore and madwomen in the attic, but preferably all three at once. Eliza’s work has been published in The Dark, Podcastle, Fantasy Magazine and The Best of British Fantasy 2019. Fathomfolk is her first novel..
Tuesday, February 20, 2024

SPFBO 9 Finalist review: The Fall is All There Is by C.M. Caplan


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: C.M. Caplan is the author of the SPFBO7 semifinalist The Sword in the Street, SPFBO9 FINALIST The Fall Is All There Is. He's a quadruplet (yes, really), autistic, and has a degree in creative writing. He was awarded his university's highest honor in the arts for his work.

Find Connor online: Facebook

The Fall is All There Is links: AmazonGoodreads

SPFBO Finalist Interview: C.M. Caplan, The Author of The Fall Is All There is

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: C.M. Caplan is the author of the SPFBO7 semifinalist The Sword in the Street, SPFBO9 FINALIST The Fall Is All There Is. He's a quadruplet (yes, really), autistic, and has a degree in creative writing. He was awarded his university's highest honor in the arts for his work.

Find Connor online: Facebook

The Fall is All There Is links: Amazon, Goodreads


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