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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.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS:
"A civilization of organic selves and another made entirely of machines, each seeing each other as a threat to its existence and now tearing each other apart in a ruinous conflict that was spilling across thousands of realities."
I already suck at summarizing the premise of books I read, so I'll just leave you with the author's words, picked right from this book. Organic life is at risk of extermination because of a war with civilization of machine constructs. The first book did a great job introducing us to a few different earths and civilizations in different stages of advancement and/or decline, but it did leave me wondering how such a story could be satisfactorily wrapped up in just one more book, like was promised. I don't know why I worried about that, given that I've loved so many of his books in the past. Anyway, this book just proves how good he is, and the kind of careful attention to detail that goes into his books.

While the first book was more science heavy in terms of the setup, I think this just takes the heart pounding relevation at the end of that one and just runs with them. There’s more exciting moments to the story, but they’re spread of fairly well enough to give the reader time with the characters, and appreciate how big these moments can be for their arcs. Lots of less discussions around sentience and the ethics that surround a lot of the choices made in this war, and it’s worth knowing this before you get into the book. Retrospectively, I appreciate book one a lot more, but I do wish that I had some kind of summary readily available, and I encourage you to read them close together.

Things pick right up from where we left off in book one, and they set off at a steady pace. There are surprisingly gentle moments for a book with such stakes, and I quite enjoyed the kindness and consideration they displayed in some interactions. There's thorough work on the world introduced in previous entry in the series, but also solid character moments that don't waste even a small thread opened in book one, and this is exactly what makes the author a stalwart. The ending is very well done, just showing us how precarious existence can be for civilizations.

I want to recommend this to everyone who wants to read science fiction, but there's one thing you need to know to expect before you pick this up. It's a great ride, but not an easy one. Picking this up at a time you can afford to commit to a high amount of mental bandwidth can be very rewarding, since it's the kind that demands and rewards attention. Rest assured, it has brilliant payoff.


CONCLUSION:
This is a near perfect finale for the mammoth attempt the author opened the series with. Echo of Worlds is, if not the most, one of the most spectacular books I’ve read this year. It’s quite unimaginable, the feat M. R. Carey has achieved with this fantastic duology. I find myself in full agreement with the blurb on the cover of this book, it is a genuine treat and cements him as one of the sci-fi greats. What’s more, it’s one of the countable, finite few that has turned me that have me declare that there’s no better rewarding read than well written sci-fi.

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.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: When you live in a land where vampires stalk the highways, looking for easy prey, making weapons that kill vampires is a skill in high demand. At least, that’s what Kazan hopes as she travels to show off the prized sword she has just crafted, hoping to win a contract from the Wardens who guard against the evil creatures. But Kazan’s plans are dashed when her caravan is attacked and she finds herself a prisoner of those same vampires. Now she’s a puppet queen at a secret vampire festival, a festival that will end with her death in three days. Kazan will have to use all of her cunning and skills if she’s to escape her fate - and that means making any alliance necessary.

The Hunter's Gambit is a great little escape of a book. It’s a tight quick read, as Kazan tries to escape her fate over the course of three days. I loved the plotting, which has plenty of turns and escalations that had me tearing through the pages. Although it takes a little bit for Kazan to get over the shock of her circumstances, she’s not the kind of woman to go meekly to her fate. If you’re here for a woman tearing a bloody swath through a manor full of vampires, this is the book for you.

While Kazan excels as an action heroine, I would have liked to have seen a little more time developed to her other trait: consummate liar. The author makes a point of establishing how much Kazan is known by her friends for her lies, but they are largely employed as tall tales. Kazan is caught in a web of vampire factions, and it would have been fun to see her use her lies more offensively to sow chaos. She does so to a small extent with her two potential allies, but not nearly at the scale I would have hoped for someone so renowned for their lying.

Although the bulk of the story takes place inside one manor, I could have used a little more clarification with the world-building at the front of the story. We know, for instance, that vampires and humans are at odds, that there's a whole order of warriors dedicated to defending against them. But when Kazan meets a vampire in her home town, she is oddly fine with being face to face with humanity's deadliest predator. While some of that has to do with her character, it just left me a bit confused about the state of relations between the two races.

CONCLUSION: The Hunter's Gambit is excellent power fantasy. Although the characters themselves didn't make too great an impression, the overall adventure was a fun time. By the end of the book, Kazan is bringing a real "I'm not locked in here with you, you're locked in here with me" energy to the table that was a delight to watch. If you want a popcorn fun time, this is worth checking out.

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:

Standalone titles




































Series


Tales Of The Ketty Jay by Chris Wooding:

Retribution Falls

The Black Lung Captain

The Iron Jackal

The Ace of Skulls


The Acts Of Caine by Matthew Stover:

- Heroes Die

- Blade of Tyshalle

- Caine Black Knife

- Caine’s Law



 
The Borden Dispatches by Cherie Priest:

- Maplecroft

- Chapelwood

 

The Burningblade & Silvereye trilogy by Django Wexler:

- Ashes Of The Sun

- Blood Of The Chosen

- Emperor Of Ruin

 


The Chasing Graves trilogy by Ben Galley:

- Chasing Graves

- Grim Solace

- Breaking Chaos

 


The Codex Alera series by Jim Butcher:

- Furies Of Calderon

- Academ's Fury

- Cursor's Fury

- Captain's Fury

- Princeps' Fury

- First Lord's Fury

 

The Dagger and the Coin series by Daniel Abraham:

-        The Dragon's Path

-        The King's Blood

-        The Tyrant's Law

-        The Widow's House

-        The Spider’s War


The Dark Profit Saga by J. Zachary Pike:

- Orconomics

- Son Of A Liche

- Dragonfired


 

The Detective Inspector Chen series by Liz Williams:

- Snake Agent

- The Demon And The City

- Precious Dragon

- The Shadow Pavilion

- The Iron Khan

- Morningstar

 


The Eternal Sky trilogy by Elizabeth Bear:

- Range of Ghosts

- Shattered Pillars

- Steles Of The Sky


The Ex-Heroes series by Peter Clines:

- Ex-Heroes

- Ex-Patriots

- Ex-Communication

- Ex-Purgatory

- Ex-Isle

 


The Godsblood trilogy by Phil Tucker:

- The Empire Of The Dead

- Trial Of Kings

- The Valley Of The Gods


 

The Great Hearts series by David J. Oliver:

- The Great Hearts

- A Game Of Gods

- Shadowstrike

- Apotheosis

- Imperator


The Hollow Gods trilogy by Rebecca Levene:

- Smiler’s Fair

- The Hunter’s Kind

- The Sun’s Devices

 


The Ithelas Series by Liane Merciel:

- River King’s Road

- Heaven’s Needle


 


The Lotus Kingdoms trilogy by Elizabeth Bear:

- The Stone In The Skull

- The Red-Stained Wings

- The Origin Of Storms

 


The Macht trilogy by Paul Kearney:

- The Ten Thousand

- Corvus

- Kings Of Mourning

 

The Odyssey Earth series by Rex Burke:

- Orphan Planet

- Twin Landing

-  Star Bound

 


The Otherland saga by Tad Williams:

 - City of Golden Shadow

- River of Blue Fire

- Mountain of Black Glass

- Sea Of Silver Light

 


The Poison Wars duology by Sam Hawke:

- City of Lies

- Hollow Empire

 


The Risen Kingdoms series by Curtis Craddock:

- An Alchemy Of Masques And Mirrors

- A Labyrinth Of Scion And Sorcery

- The Last Uncharted Sky

 


The Shattered Sigil trilogy by Courtney Schafer:

- The Whitefire Crossing

- The Tainted City

- The Labyrinth Of Flame

 


The Sol's Harvest series by M.D. Presley:

- The Woven Ring

- The Imbued Lockblade

- The Glass Dagger

- The Shattered Sphere


 

The Tears Of Artamon trilogy by Sarah Ash:

- Lord Of Snow And Shadows

- Prisoner Of The Iron Tower

- Children Of The Serpent Gate

 

The Texas Pentagram series by Raymond St. Elmo:

- As I Was On My Way To Strawberry Fair

- The Stations Of The Angels

- Letters From The Well In The Season Of The Ghosts

- To Awaken In Elysium

- In Theory, It Works

 

The Thieves Of Fate series by Tracy Townsend:

- The Nine

- The Fall

 


The Tide Lords series by Jennifer Fallon:

- The Immortal Prince

- The Gods Of Amyrantha

- The Palace Of Impossible Dreams

- The Chaos Crystal

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.

FBC's Must Reads

FBC's Critically Underrated Reads

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

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

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

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

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

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

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

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

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

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

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

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