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Friday, December 9, 2022

The Crew by Sadir S. Samir (reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

 


OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: SADIR S. SAMIR spent his first years in the Middle East before moving to Sweden. A passion for storytelling manifested early in childhood, and he always knew that would be his guiding light in life growing up. That passion eventually led him to the video game industry where he’s been working as a game writer and a producer for over a decade. Now he lives in the medieval city of Uppsala, where he writes tales of the fantastical and bizarre.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Kings of the Wyld meets Deadpool in this action-packed fantasy adventure set in an Arab-inspired landscape.

Varcade fled to the deserts of Harrah to escape his past as an Educator, a member of an order of zealot warrior-monks that aims to shape the world according to their sacred Teachings by force. Varcade makes his living as a reckless sword-for-hire, caring only about himself, until his self-centered lifestyle is turned on its head when he is contracted to recruit a misfit team of unruly assassins and take out the mighty Bone Lord of Akrab.

But the Bone Lord is aware of the plot and sends her band of Dusters to stop them; individuals who have gained bizarre and lethal magical powers by snorting the pulverised bones of dead gods. Hunted by Educators and Dusters in a city-state where an escalating conflict between the human and demon population threatens to boil over in a civil war, will Varcade and his ragtag crew save Akrab from the cruel Bone Lord, or will they make things even worse?

FORMAT/INFO: The Crew is 388 pages long divided over thirty-three chapters, and an epilogue. Narration is in the third-person, via Varcade, Edghar and a few other characters. This is the first volume of The God Dust series.

November 29, 2022 marked the hardcover, paperback and e-book publication of The Crew and it is self-published by the author.  Cover art is by Love Gunnarson.
 
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: The Crew by Sadir Samir came with the tagline of Kings Of The Wyld meets Deadpool and came with some solid recommendations from Dyrk Ashton and others. I was given an ARC of this book and I jumped in with anticipation. Plus that superb cover, had left me wanting to desperately read the story & find out which characters were featured in it. 

The story begins with our protagonist Varcade who is a deadly mercenary, a bit homicidal and very much an unreliable narrator. He’s hanging out in the desert region called Harrah which is mostly a vast desert and has seven city states which are each ruled by a singular person titled Bone Lord. Varcade is part of a mercenary guild in the city-state called Razula. His guild is approached by a person to eliminate the Bone Lord of the neighbouring city of Akrab.  Forced to assemble a team of eclectic and potentially half-insane personalities, Varcade and his mysterious patron have their hands full. But the Bone Lord has more tricks up her sleeves and places a big bounty on their heads. Now the stage is set for a massive confrontation but there are secrets afloat and more mysteries abound.

The first thing the reader will be find upon reading this story is the zany, irreverent tone of humour that’s injected into almost every aspect of the story. While it is amusing, it also distracts the reader skillfully from this sword & sorcery story that unlike most S&S stories has an in-depth world that is very much like most rich epic fantasy worlds:
- From giant dead Gods
- To the powder that’s harvested from their bodies and ingested to gain incredible power,
- To demons escaping from a different dimensional reality,
- To large bugs/insects and a desert landscape that is alien-esque as much as it is familiar.
 
Sadir Samir brings a big swing to things from his Deadpool-esque main character to the world setting to the humour to the religio-political war occurring in the background.

I was thoroughly impressed by how much scope this debut book encapsulates. You have to hand it to the author’s audacity for really doing things his own way. Readers are either going to really enjoy the story or they might just bounce off it. Either way you will not forget Sadir Samir. While I’m sure many a reviews have highlighted the humour quotient of the story. I wish to highlight another equally strong feature, namely the worldbuilding. Seriously it’s one of the best that I’ve found in recent times and the author utilizes his own middle eastern ancestry to eschew stereotypes in characters, landscape and the people that reside within. He draws on a variety of sources from his own favoured books, TV shows, video games & pop culture to populate a world that has a lot of tongue-in-cheek references as well a lot of hidden ones. One of the coolest things which the author mentioned to me was how Varcade’s red overcoat was a reference to the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’s inside out jacket. From such cool things to more well-known references such a silence of three parts. This book has a lot of cool things interspersed within the fast-paced plot.

Lastly the pace and crazy action sequences alongside the comedy made this book virtually unputdownable for me. Amidst the chuckling, I was constantly trying to figure out where the plot was going. Plus there’s a couple of characters out of the left field who I believe will be further explored in the sequels & I can’t wait to know more.

For the drawbacks, I can only say one thing. This book really isn’t for everyone as the irreverent humour & dialogue might annoy readers who wish for a more traditional structure but for those readers who are willing to take a chance, they will find some inherent richness here.

CONCLUSION: The Crew is an incredibly zany and funny Sword & Sorcery debut that combines Deadpool-esque irreverence in a desert city setting. Sadir S. Samir has written a story that will either have you laughing in splits or shaking your head in its audacity. The Crew is unlike any other fantasy debut you will have read this year. Miss out at your own peril.

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Lost In The Moment And Found by Seanan McGuire (Reviewed by Shazzie)

 


Official Author Website
Order Lost in the Moment and Found here
 
OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: SEANAN McGUIRE is the author of the Hugo, Nebula, Alex and Locus Award-winning Wayward Children series, theOctober Daye series, the InCryptid series, and other works. She also writes darker fiction as Mira Grant. Seanan lives in Seattle with her cats, avast collection of creepy dolls, horror movies, and sufficient books to qualify her as a fire hazard. She won the 2010 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and in 2013 became the first person to appear five times on the same Hugo ballot. In 2022 she managed the same feat, again!
 
 
OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Welcome to the Shop Where the Lost Things Go.
If you ever lost a sock, you’ll find it here.

If you ever wondered about favorite toy from childhood... it’s probably sitting on a shelf in the back.

And the headphones that you swore this time you’d keep safe? You guessed it….

Antoinette has lost her father. Metaphorically. He’s not in the shop, and she’ll never see him again. But when Antsy finds herself lost (literally, thistime), she discovers that however many doors open for her, leaving the Shop for good might not be as simple as it sounds.

And stepping through those doors exacts a price.

Lost in the Moment and Found tells us that childhood and innocence, once lost, can never be found.
 
FORMAT/INFO: Lost in the Moment and Found is the eighth novella in the Wayward Children series. It is written in third person point of view and contains thirteen chapters split over four parts, and has a page count of 160. It will be published by TorDotComPub on January 10, 2023 in hardcover, audio and ebook formats.
 
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: I am really lucky to have discovered the first book in the Wayward Children series on Goodreads because of a very well-written review. Since my read of book one, I have eagerly waited for each novella in the series, and ensure that I have the time to read it as soon as it reaches mykindle upon release. Now imagine, if you will, my excitement at the receipt of a review copy ahead of release.
 
"People should be themselves, not just part of a classification."

For the uninitiated, the Wayward Children is a series of urban portal fantasies of eight novellas this far, each that focus on a different character, or a set of characters, with common themes of identity and acceptance. They are strange, beautiful, one sitting reads that are thought provoking, yet read easy. Thisbook focuses on Antsy, who runs away from home to escape her stepfather, and comes across a door that takes her to a shop in a world of talking birds and more, one in which she is taken care of and feels safe.

Like each of the previous instalments, this book can be read independently of the others. Personally, I think one Seanan's greatest achievements is that someone who has read all the previous instalments will be able to enjoy this book with the same level of comfort as someone who hasn't read the ones before it, and at the same time, not find it repetitive. The other thing the author does really well is give each protagonist across the series a distinct voice, without losing any narrative quality.

"She didn't like the idea of being alone with him even more than she didn't like the way he looked at her sometimes."

In a touching show of consideration, the author has added a note at the beginning of the book that discloses that it does contain themes of grooming and adult gaslighting in the early chapters, with the reassurance that Antsy, the protagonist, runs away before anything can actually happen. After Antsy's father dies of a heart attack, her mother starts seeing and then marries a man who makes her uncomfortable for no evident reason, one she can't even put a finger on. She runs away as things get to a stage where she feels that he could turn her mother against her, and eventually get his way with everything. 

The beginning chapters showcase her grief at parental loss and her grudging resignation that her stepfather is likely to be around her and her mother forever. The later chapters show her find her way around the shop where the lost things go, and her discovery of the truth behind the establishment of the shop. This book has a particular focus on the idea of loss in multiple forms, and talks of those things that can't be found, once gone. All of this is done in the typical Seanan way that is engaging and blunt, in a way that kept me thinking of the topics the book raises a lot longer than it took me to read it thoroughly.
 
CONCLUSION: This 
is a highly recommended read for those who want to read something compelling and bittersweet. Readers who are familiar with the series are going to be delighted at yet another entry of high quality, and the others will likely find here a read that might just urge them to pick up the rest. As is characteristic of every novella before this one, it shows us that we have much to learn.
Tuesday, December 6, 2022

The Monsters We Feed by Thomas Howard Riley (reviewed by Lena)

Order The Monsters We Feed here
 
Sunday, December 4, 2022

THE VERY SECRET SOCIETY OF IRREGULAR WITCHES by Sangu Mandanna - Reciew

OFFICIAL AUTHOR WEBSITE
Order The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches HERE
Read Shazzie's Review HERE

OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: Sangu Mandanna  was four years old when an elephant chased her down a forest road and she decided to write her first story about it. Seventeen years and many, many manuscripts later, she signed her first book deal. Sangu now lives in Norwich, a city in the east of England, with her husband and kids.

FORMAT/INFO: The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches was released on August 23rd, 2021. It is 336 pages split over 30 chapters. It is told in third person from multiple POVs, including Mika. It is available in ebook, audiobook, and paperback formats.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: As a witch, Mika Moon is always ready for unusual things. What she isn’t ready for is a request from a stranger to help tutor three young witches in their powers. Witches don’t live together as a rule, as the more there are together, the more magic fluctuates in unpredictable ways. It’s why Mika herself has never put down roots, moving a few times a year and rarely seeing any of her fellow witches. But upon meeting the girls, each orphaned and adopted by the owner of Nowhere House, it becomes clear that breaking apart this make-shift family would be cruel. As Mika settles into life at Nowhere House and gets to know the other inhabitants – including the grumpy and protective librarian Jamie – Mika finds herself questioning for the first time if maybe she deserves to be a little selfish and finally build a lasting home for herself.

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches is a charming fantasy romance that is as much about finding your people as it is about finding your true love. Mika Moon has lived an isolated life. Because of needs of secrecy and because magic tends to misbehave when multiple witches gather together, Mika has extremely few people she can have a normal conversation with. She doesn’t communicate with her fellow witches, and mortals who learn her secret usually have their mind quickly erased by the lead witch in the area. As a result, Mika is all-to-ready for her social life to fall apart at a moment’s notice, and rarely sees herself as part of any group. Her journey of accepting friendship and a place in a self-made family is just as important as her three pupils learning how to control their magic in view of mortals.

I said earlier that magic likes to misbehave, and I did mean that in the literal sense. One of the aspects I really enjoyed about the story is that magic is treated like a whimsical creature, sometimes moody, almost always mischievous. Learning to use magic is about a balance of asking magic politely for its assistance while also putting it on a leash so it doesn’t cause any harm. Treating magic like a sentient spirit added a delightful aspect to the tale that I enjoyed.

And yes, I found the romance delightful. It’s a slow burn over the course of the book, as Mika and Jamie each begin to let their guard down and learn to leave their emotional doors open in case anybody wants friendship – or more. I appreciate relationships that start with friendship first and grow from there, so this was a perfect fit for me.

CONCLUSION: The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches is a cozy little romance, perfect for curling up over a weekend with. And with it taking place shortly before Christmas, it’s also secretly a holiday read! If you enjoy a book all about finding your people, this is definitely a read for you.

Friday, December 2, 2022

Book review: Secret Identity by Alex Segura

 


Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

AUTHOR INFO: Alex Segura is the SVP - Sales and Marketing at Oni Press and the author of Star Wars Poe Dameron: Free Fall and the acclaimed Pete Fernandez Mystery series. He has also written a number of comic books, most notably the superhero noir The Black Ghost, the YA music series The Archies, and the “Archie Meets” collection of crossovers. A Miami native, he lives in New York City with his wife and children.

Publisher: Flatiron Books (March 15, 2022) Length: 336 p Formats: ebook, paperback, audiobook

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

COVER REVEAL: The Phoenix King by Aparna Verma

 


Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Book review: Through Dreams So Dark (Rai Ascendant #1) by Angela Boord

 


Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

AUTHOR INFO: Angela Boord writes giant fantasy books that like to blend genres--from romance and historical to espionage and epic and beyond—and explore character in all its messy glory. Her debut book FORTUNE'S FOOL, a twisty, Renaissance-inspired historical fantasy, placed second in Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blogoff (SPFBO5) and was nominated for a Stabby in 2019. Angela lives in northern Mississippi with her husband and children, where she writes most of her books at the kitchen table surrounded by Nerf guns and Legos.

Publisher: Impossible Books (October 27, 2022) Page Count (Kindle edition): 1323 pages Cover: Brad Bergman Formats: ebook (Amazon exclusive)

Sunday, November 27, 2022

The Book Of Zog & The Umbral Storm Video Interview with Alec Hutson (interviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

 

Official Author Website
Order The Book Of Zog over HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Crimson Queen
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of The Umbral Storm
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review  of The Book Of Zog
Read Fantasy Book Critic's interview with Alec Hutson
Read TUS Cover Reveal Q&A with Alec Hutson
Watch ATFB Interview with Alec Hutson
 
I hope you enjoy our interview with Alec Hutson. This interview was recorded in the early part of October and Alec was happy to chat about his most recent release The Book Of Zog.  We talked about:
- How the story developed in his mind,
- How he defines space fantasy & how TBOZ & TSOD fit into this sub-genre,

In the second half of the interview, we talked about The Umbral Storm (his SPFBO entry), what his main enthusiasm for crafting the world, his main plans for the POV characters and what might happen next in the Sharded Few Series.



Friday, November 25, 2022

Book Review - Fall of Babel by Josiah Bancroft (reviewed by David C. Stewart)

Book links: Amazon
Order The Fall Of Babel over HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Senlin Ascends
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of Arm Of The Sphinx
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of The Hod King 
Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Book review: The Thicket by Joe R. Lansdale

 





AUTHOR INFO: Joe R. Lansdale is the author of over thirty novels and numerous short stories. His work has appeared in national anthologies, magazines, and collections, as well as numerous foreign publications. He has written for comics, television, film, newspapers, and Internet sites. His work has been collected in eighteen short-story collections, and he has edited or co-edited over a dozen anthologies.

Lansdale has received the Edgar Award, eight Bram Stoker Awards, the Horror Writers Association Lifetime Achievement Award, the British Fantasy Award, the Grinzani Cavour Prize for Literature, the Herodotus Historical Fiction Award, the Inkpot Award for Contributions to Science Fiction and Fantasy, and many others.

Publisher: Mulholland Books (September 10, 2013) Print length: 353 Formats: ebook, paperback, hardback, audiobook

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