BOOK REVIEW | THE WINTER ROAD BY ADRIAN SELBY

Good Morning, Good Afternoon, Good Evening

Hi, I’m Dan contributor to the thebookinhand.com and today I will be sharing my review of ‘The Winter Road’ by Adrian Selby.

BOOK SYNOPSIS:

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A gritty and epic adventure to appeal to fans of Mark Lawrence, Andrzej Sapkowski and Joe Abercrombie – The Winter Road is a fantasy novel which remembers that battles leave all kinds of scars.

The greatest empire of them all began with a road.

The Circle – a thousand miles of perilous forests and warring clans. No one has ever tamed such treacherous territory before, but ex-soldier Teyr Amondsen, veteran of a hundred battles, is determined to try.

With a merchant caravan protected by a crew of skilled mercenaries, Amondsen embarks on a dangerous mission to forge a road across the untamed wilderness that was once her home. But a warlord rises in the wilds of the Circle, uniting its clans and terrorising its people. Teyr’s battles may not be over yet . . .

All roads lead back to war.

DAN’S REVIEW:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I will begin by saying this has become one of my favourite standalone fantasy novels and that this novel is the very definition of a grim dark novel!! It’s one few books that have made it onto my list of a select few, that really achieve the grim dark style successfully.

This is exactly the kind of fantasy that I’ve been seeking out since the beginning of my journey into the fantasy genre. It’s darker, more violent and does push the boundaries more than most mainstream fantasy writers. I love the totally uncompromising approach Selby has to his writing and I think he’ll have a real cult following going forward. What he’s achieved in a short novel is truly astounding. I enjoyed the format of the novel, going from past to present for the first half of the book and then taking a more linear approach towards the final conclusion, which was very different approach and it was skilfully delivered. It really did feel like a a really well rounded, fully fleshed out novel. Selby is one author that has mastered the art of saying more with less.

The plot in a nutshell…..We follow our main protagonist Teyr Amondsen is a vetran soldier and and wealthy merchant. Teyr’s intentions are to unite the clans, to build the infrastructure and rebuild old relationships amongst the warring the clans. But but the path to prosperity is most definitely paved in blood. Her plans are thwarted by a ruthless warlord with his band of psychotic white boys who have similar intentions for the circle and there methods are beyond ruthless. What she encounters is a horror that she thought existed only in her nightmares but has now become her reality. She’s now faced with the brutal reality of life within circle and she’s being lead back down the road to war.

The world that Selby has created is one of the most beautiful, but brutal worlds that that I’ve encountered in a some time. The corruption and the sense of hopelessness is rife within this world and it’s hard to distinguish between the hero’s and the villains within the power structures of this world. So yes the majority of the cast is just filled with very morally grey characters as you would expect. What I found really interesting is the focus on the biggest commodity in this world which is Botanical trade. The various mysterious plants are used for medicinal purposes and other practical uses, but by far the most interesting was it’s uses in warfare. So this is what gave this novel a very unique angle and was the first time I’ve encountered something like that in a fantasy novel. It was also presented as a magic system almost, which i found quite innovative, but I’ll talk about that later in the review. There are magic users present within this story are the Oskoro who live deep within the Amulet forest and they have mysterious history surrounding them. They’re part of Teyr’s story and are the only significant thing that introduces those fantasy elements into this novel and served there purpose really well. That aspect of the book was very much shrouded in mystery which made it feel like it had a heavier presence in the novel. I would definitely love to read another novel and puts a focus on them, because they are fascinating.

The characterisation is as amazing as the world that Selby has created. We follow Teyr Amondsen who is one of the strongest female leads that I’ve encountered for some time. Her character totally pushes the boundaries of the female hero character trope. As we get to know her, it was clear that she had the noblest of intentions with her mission and her tenacity to succeed was overwhelming. Her journey really does push her to the very limits of the human experience. What her character goes through is truly horrific and more than any human should be able to withstand. It was hugely emotive seeing that suffering through her eyes, but made the experience feel so real and and I was overwhelmed with compassion for her character. She’s not without her flaws and her ambition sometimes blinds her from making the right decision and has truly devastating consequences for herself and those she loves. Selby does really paint the picture of a very majestic view of her family life, which deepens your appreciation of her complex character and it adds another dimension to her. The character development is incredibly skillful in its delivery and it’s an emotional roller coaster from start to finish and you really need to prepare for heartbreak. But you really understand her motivations and everything that has lead her to that point, making her a fully fleshed out character. But it is her maternal nature, that makes her a balanced character and really humanised her. It creates a real contrast between who she’s was, to who she has the desire to become. In crafting Teyr’s character he’s managed to create a totally unforgettable leading lady. It’s without doubt some of the best character work I’ve ever read.

The entire cast was phenomenal and they felt totally authentic and believable in the roles that they served. Our villain Khiese was a wonderfully crafted character and Selby delivered as much character development that was necessary and still managed to conjure a very menacing presence in this world in the early stages of this tale. We’re privy to a lot of very interesting war torn heroes in the latter part of the novel, that had there place in Teyr’s past, which really added more depth to Teyr’s back story. So as I mentioned earlier Selbys achieved so much with his character work in this short novel.

The world building isn’t hugely extensive but this is very much a character driven novel. But as I mentioned earlier it does still feel like a fully fleshed out world, mainly with the format Selby used. It does put a lot of focus on our characters which is its main focus. We do spend most of our time in a harsh snow covered forests and in amongst small settlements and homesteads as we follow the path through the circle. Selby really does capture the harsh reality and the unforgiving nature of life within the circle and it feels so real. But the minimal world building, is a less is more scenario and is still very easy to get lost and feel totally immersed in this world. Everything in this world is deeply captivating and flows effortlessly and feels authentic.

So as I mentioned earlier, I really like the innovative approach to using botanicals as a functioning magic system of sorts. I just thought it was simple, but very innovative and had a big presence in this novel. The fight brews meant that the individual that’s consumed them is able to exceed their normal human limitations and exhibit sharpened senses and manifested a level of aggression that made them into fiercest warriors imaginable. So yes the fight scenes are totally brutal . Its effects almost seemed comparable to a narcotic and had a detrimental effect if brewed in the wrong hands. Which gives birth to the nature of the white boys.But the reason why I compare it to a magic system is that it functions like one and was presented like one. The rules applied to most modern magic systems were the same in terms of knowing it’s limitations and what it was capable of and also its flaws. I really like this innovation I thought it worked really well and added a unique dimension to this novel. It did really create an almost supernatural quality to the White boys which was truly haunting, the strategies they used were comparable to a wolf pack and the psychological effect on there victims was almost sadistic. It did heighten the impact of the White boys and you genuinely feel the anxiety within the characters and totally made the experience so much more engaging.

I really loved Selbys writing style, he incorporated stylised grammar and language that added to the charm of this world and still managed to show off his pretty flawless prose. In general terms I loved this book because I thought the character work was phenomenal and as huge grim dark fan I felt that it was everything it should have been. This is fantasy that is truly dark and more violent than most mainstream fantasy novels and is not for the faint of heart. So I can see why this book may not be for everyone. But It is in many regards totally uncompromising and I have to say that I have huge respect for Selby for taking that position. This without question one of my favourite grim dark novels!!! But it was balanced, it wasn’t totally hopeless and there are certain elements to Teyr’s journey that shined a little brighter and presented a sense of hope that left me feeling content especially in the latter part of the book.

I’m so excited to get into Snakewood and the Brother Red and going forward I will be reading everything that he releases. I am 110% sold on his work. Also if you’re a fan of Selby I think you will love The legacy of the Brightwash by Krystle Matar. Another unusual Grim dark novel.


BOOK REVIEW | THE SHADOW OF THE GODS BY JOHN GWYNNE

Good Morning, Good Afternoon, Good Evening

Hi Im Dan, contributor to The Book in Hand Blog and today I will be sharing my review of The Shadow of the Gods by John Gywnne!!

BOOK SYNOPSIS:

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Set in a brand-new, Norse-inspired world, and packed with myth, magic and bloody vengeance, The Shadow of the Gods begins an epic new fantasy saga from bestselling author John Gwynne.After the gods warred and drove themselves to extinction, the cataclysm of their fall shattered the land of Vigrið.Now a new world is rising, where power-hungry jarls feud and monsters stalk the woods and mountains. A world where the bones of the dead gods still hold great power for those brave – or desperate – enough to seek them out.Now, as whispers of war echo across the mountains and fjords, fate follows in the footsteps of three people: a huntress on a dangerous quest, a noblewoman who has rejected privilege in pursuit of battle fame, and a thrall who seeks vengeance among the famed mercenaries known as the Bloodsworn.All three will shape the fate of the world as it once more falls under the shadow of the gods . . .

DAN’S REVIEW:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

John Gwynne’s 2021 release of his Norse inspired novel The Shadow of the Gods is one of my most anticipated releases this year. Like so many people I became a huge fan of the faithful and the fallen series and his follow up series Of Blood and Bone.Given the combination of Gywnnes success with epic fantasy and his passion for Nordic history I was so excited for this new series. It’s writers like Gywnne that have pioneered darker, more violent, fantasy that feels more authentic and successfully brought it to a mainstream audience. But what Gwynne also brings to the table is the fact that he is embracing newer trends in the technical execution of his novels.

There really is very little that this book doesn’t offer from solid characterisation, to innovative world building, to spell binding Lore and magic and authentic Norse warfare. All the elements of this book were all weaved so tightly together so they could unravel at a fast pace that was intended. The reforging of the Norse myths really did feel authentic and what Gwynne did with it was truly mesmerising and it manifested in every facet of the plot. Gwynne’s battle scenes have become hugely popular within the fantasy genre and they’re amongst my favourite. I’ll be honest unless battle scenes are well structured it can be the best, or my least favourite part of a fantasy novel. But we had high impact blood soaked battles that were exhilarating from start to finish. Every battle scene was meticulously put together and never felt clunky at any point.

Gwynne’s writing style in this novel is the strongest it’s ever been and I think his prose is quite poetic when it needs to be and flowed effortlessly everywhere in between. This really meant the pace never slowed but still had impact to those key scenes, especially in the battle scenes. He really paints totally vivid and captivating scene’s of snow covered forests, to small settlements, to elaborate structures built within the bones of dead Gods and crafts those scenes so precisely that I felt deeply immersed in every scene. Everything within this world, especially the characters, felt so stylised and the huge attention to detail made them totally unforgettable. Equally the tone of this world was captured so perfectly, as its brutal unforgiving nature was totally atmospheric. Never have I read a Norse Saga that’s had this much impact and I consider this first installment to be truly flawless.

The world building unraveled perfectly with this fast moving plot and was shaped so precisely with Gywnnes wealth of knowledge on this era and his genuine passion really shines through in abundance and really made everything feel so authentic. The world building was a departure from the more classic extensive world building that we saw in Malice into something much faster moving in pace for the setting up of his new series. So from what I’ve taken away, is that in order to achieve that, it means really cutting the fat from the world building and being very skillfull in terms of how you deliver it in conjunction with the character development. The world building rolled out on a broader scale as two of three PoVs were part of our fabled warbands and it meant that we could see different parts of the world without the pace slowing. Along the way the politics, the lore and all the elements of this story are weaved skilfully into the POVs that we follow and it flowed effortlessly. There was zero filler and everything was totally relevant and intentional. This book show cases some great examples of these new modern innovations and how they should be delivered.

It’s general consensus that Gywnne’s characterization is one of the finest elements of his work and one of the major reasons why we all fell in love with the faithful and the fallen. Using only three PoVs, as well as the changes to the format of the world building, it really puts so much focus on our characters, which is what John does best.

I really appreciated the skill used in how the POVs were used to change the pace and the mood throughout, which meant it never slowed and kept me engaged throughout.We follow three POVs, Orka, Elvar and Varg, who all have three very different stories that all eventually converge within in this fast paced story. I really like the character development, as it really engaged me in different ways over the course of the book. Orka’s PoV really set the tone for the novel and I was engaged quickly with her story being highly emotive. No punches are pulled with the level of violence in her story and you really felt her rage bursting through the pages. I really enjoyed Elvars character and her ideals of forging her own destiny and disregarding her privilege to claim her battle fame and her prowess on the battlefield made her such a unique and strong female character. Despite her story taking longer to bloom it did give us more insight into the privilege and the corruption within the nobility and without huge info dumps we were able to move forward quickly. So her exploits as well as Varg also gave us more insight into the brutal nature of this world on a broader scale. Varg’s PoV, despite being slowest burning, had the most intrigue and was very much shrouded in mystery for the large part but ended up having huge impact on the books conclusion. But as his character was fairly one dimensional early on, I thought it gave us a chance to absorb more information and focus on the bloodsworn. The Bloodsworn were all perfectly crafted battle hardened warriors, their characters were fully fleshed out where needed and I was quite taken by all of them. In general terms I really enjoyed our richly imagined cast and I’m so excited to see them develop as things play out.

As i mentioned earlier i was so drawn to a Ragnarok style story but then to construct the magic system as well as the lore of this world based on the same idea was totally intoxicating. How the nature and the traits of the Gods manifest in this world truly takes so many aspects of this world to another level. The effect that will have on the warfare really excites me for the future installments of this trilogy. The pagan witchcraft, the creatures of this world and everything about the lore of this world unravels with so much intrigue and again arrives in full force as part of the dramatic ending. There were really were some very original creatures that Gwynne has created for this book and he really describes them perfect detail and are very much central to our plot.The more well known creatures like Trolls were magnificent and those scenes were incredible, they were so vivid and I genuinely felt the fear amongst the characters. But the creatures of this world really did add another dimension to this book introducing high fantasy elements that you would expect from a book inspired by Nordic mythology. For me I think I that this was one of the most enjoyable parts of the book. So being fed the information slowly really kept me intrigued, but always with knowledge that what’s to come is going to be epic in scale.

All things considered I felt that this was a 5⭐ book. There are few novels out there that deliver the kind of Norse experience as this novel does and this will be a landmark trilogy. This is really what modern Norse fantasy is going to look like and Gwynne has set the bar very high. As I mentioned earlier I’m totally behind the departure from traditional methods into following more modern trends and Gwynne has crafted one of the best setup novels that I’ve read so far. I think in general terms that Gwynne has reached new heights and technical execution of his work and has elevated him into one of the best fantasy writers working today. I am so excited to see where this trilogy goes next and this stands to be his finest work so far in my opinion.



BOOK REVIEW | THE COUNCILLOR BY E. J. BEATON

Good morning, good afternoon, good evening

Hi I’m Dan and I’m going to share with you my review of E. J. Beaton’s The Council.

BOOK SYNOPSIS:

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This Machiavellian fantasy follows a scholar’s quest to choose the next ruler of her kingdom amidst lies, conspiracy, and assassination.

When the death of Iron Queen Sarelin Brey fractures the realm of Elira, Lysande Prior, the palace scholar and the queen’s closest friend, is appointed Councillor. Publically, Lysande must choose the next monarch from amongst the city-rulers vying for the throne. Privately, she seeks to discover which ruler murdered the queen, suspecting the use of magic.

Resourceful, analytical, and quiet, Lysande appears to embody the motto she was raised with: everything in its place. Yet while she hides her drug addiction from her new associates, she cannot hide her growing interest in power. She becomes locked in a game of strategy with the city-rulers – especially the erudite prince Luca Fontaine, who seems to shift between ally and rival.

Further from home, an old enemy is stirring: the magic-wielding White Queen is on the move again, and her alliance with a traitor among the royal milieu poses a danger not just to the peace of the realm, but to the survival of everything that Lysande cares about.

In a world where the low-born keep their heads down, Lysande must learn to fight an enemy who wears many guises… even as she wages her own battle between ambition and restraint. 

ORDER HEREKindleHardback | Audiobook

Page count: 448

Publisher: DAW

DAN’S REVIEW:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is E J Beaton’s debut novel and is described as a Machiavellian fantasy. Given the inspiration for the novel, the politics of this world are shaped by Beatons passion for that era. The plot involves everything that you would expect, from political intrigue, to sharp insights into privilege and power with fantasy elements intricately woven into this very intelligent, sophisticated and beautifully written novel. I think Beaton has weaved so much intrigue into every aspect of this world, as well as introducing her stunning world building, phenomenal characterisation and brilliant Innovation in the crafting of the history and the lore of this world. This installment has really setup this series so well. I think fans will be so engaged for what’s to come.

Never have I read a novel with so much intrigue as this, every facet of this book presented so many questions, from Lysande humble beginnings at the orphanage and the details surrounding her discovery in a war torn district, to the assassination of Seralin and everything that followed after her appointment as Councillor. It really is fascinating journey following her through the murky world of politics, through a fractured realm, not knowing who to call friend or foe. But the biggest mystery, was the information surrounding the ominous threat of the White Queen and her elemental army, as the details have formerly been hidden within the history books. Everything within this world is a tale of discovery for our main protagonist Lysande Prior, she’s the person that must unlock those secrets to save the realm. With so much to know, those pages keep turning and the eagerness to know more never ceases. For me this level of intrigue is what most readers will really love about this novel.

In all honesty when I started this novel I had misconception that their would be an overwhelming cast, with huge amounts of information to take in, with many complex political machinations, but what I quickly realised is that the execution of the plot is done in such a way that it allows you take in what’s happening at a steady pace and I felt that everything unraveled perfectly. I think multiple PoVs would have made the book feel so much more drawn out and a little tedious. As the execution of the plot was so skillful, it didn’t take the focus off the characterisation and made that aspect of the book shine a little brighter. As a more character driven reader I totally appreciated this approach. I feel some plot heavier books sometimes neglect adding that depth to the characterisation.

I had only basic knowledge of Machiavellian politics when I started the book. I wouldn’t say its essential but I think it would’ve deepened my appreciation. Its definitely inspired me to learn a little more about the history, also potentially do a reread before the second book arrives. You do really recognise the influences mainly in the way the Iron queen rules the realm of Elira. It’s very much about the fact that it’s better to be feared than adored and by extension the treatment of the Elementals is an obvious example of where that comes into play, as most of them find their ways to the gallows. During Lysandes constant reflection on her memories of their relationship, it really puts a focus on the politics and not just there relationship and gives a deep dive into Sarelins character at the same time. You see continuing influences in the strategies Lysande employs and the ruthless nature of the politics in the way that she engages the other rulers . So It’ll be interesting to see the journey that Lysande will take, from where she is in this novel to maybe arriving at the point of seeing the necessity of the Iron Queens philosophy. I found the historical political influences really interesting and very accessible and there are many great insights.

This novel features an incredibly rich well imagined cast of very morally grey characters, lead by the enigmatic Lysande the Councillor to the crown. The characterisation was phenomenal, the whole cast was incredibly well fleshed out , described with a level of intricate detail that totally draws you in and you become totally immersed in these characters stories. Our main protagonist Lysande is such a masterfully crafted character, I have to say that I loved her intellect and lust for knowledge, overwhelmed by her ambition and I envied her tenacity to succeed. Although she is a flawed character, I think her drug addiction really did humanise her and made her a very balanced character. She’s without question a hugely compelling character and is a formidable leading lady. Her constant periods of introspection gave her much greater depth, which fleshed her character out as much as possible. Our villain the ominous White Queen, Mea Tacitus character was so brilliantly executed that you genuinely shudder at the mention of her name! She really has the presence of malevolent god who strikes fear into all those within the realm. On a personal note she is literally one of the most finely crafted villains that ive come across and one of my personal favourites. For a character that only exists in the minds of our characters in this book, her impact was huge! That dynamic was really interesting and worked so well. So considering these two epic characters the battle for the realm seems like it will be an incredible journey. But I have an inkling it may not play out as we think it will…

The world building can only be described as beautifully vibrant, vivid and totally captivating. The attention to detail is astounding really making this novel burst into life.There are several brilliantly crafted kingdoms within this realm, rich with their own histories and cultural identities. Every nation did have its own religious and spiritual identity which helped define each nation with a little more depth. Beaton guides you through the grandeur of the capital, through the gothic cities of Rhime to the desert cities of the south with intricate detail painting some of the most ornate settings that are totally memorising. I really enjoyed seeing Lysande unearthing secrets from the history books as it was such a great opportunity to introduce so more depth to the world building and the magic and the Lore of this world. The strong world building in this first installment has really laid the foundations successfully for this series going forward.

This is a low magic fantasy, it is however central to this books plot, it does have a more of a traditional feel and isn’t overly complex in comparison to most modern magic systems. I really do prefer some mystery surrounding the magic system and I enjoy learning about the history and lore of a world and this is amongst the most memorable. The lore and the alchemy of this world is totally fascinating and very innovative and is totally intoxicating.I loved the fact that Chimaera is central to the elementals lore, really making it quite unique and was a phenomenal choice, as opposed to the over used mythical creature we all know to well. There is definitely more depth to the magic users of this world and you’ll be hooked on their history as much as everything else, I was left with so many questions.

For me the flawless lyrical prose was the best aspect of this novel and is what you’d expect given EJ Beatons background, but it does really heighten the experience of this intricate, nuanced, wonderfully elegant and engaging novel. Beatons prose could be easily compared to Robin Hobbs and I’d imagine going forward that Beaton will be standing shoulder to shoulder with some of the greatest authors within the genre.

It’s without doubt a totally fierce debut, it really was totally stunning, this book sets up this world for what promises to be a phenomenal series. This is one author we all need to keep and eye on, as its mind bending to think what heights this series could reach as we go further into this world. It is also an incredible introduction to Lysande Prior and I can see her becoming a totally iconic character amongst fantasy community!! As far as debut novels go, the bar has been officially raised!!!



BOOK REVIEW | LEGACY OF THE BRIGHTWASH, TAINTED DOMINION (BOOK 1) BY KRYSTLE MATAR

Good Morning, good afternoon, good evening!!

I’m Dan, and I am going to share with you my review of Legacy of the Brightwash as a part of the Storytellers on Tour Book Tour!

Synopsis:

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Follow the law and you’ll stay safe. But what if the law is wrong?

Tashué’s faith in the law is beginning to crack. 

Three years ago, he stood by when the Authority condemned Jason to the brutality of the Rift for non-compliance. When Tashué’s son refused to register as tainted, the laws had to be upheld. He’d never doubted his job as a Regulation Officer before, but three years of watching your son wither away can break down even the strongest convictions. 

Then a dead girl washed up on the bank of the Brightwash, tattooed and mutilated. Where had she come from? Who would tattoo a child? Was it the same person who killed her? 

Why was he the only one who cared? 

Will Tashué be able to stand against everything he thought he believed in to get the answers he’s looking for? 

ORDER HERE: Kindle (Free on Kindle Unlimited) | Paperback

Page Count: 655

Published by Imberleigh Book Company

Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The legacy of the Brightwash is described as a gas lamp, grim dark novel. The setting for this novel was inspired by the era of the 1890s in a time of huge economic depression, and within that time period, there were many social issues that inspired some of the darker subject matter within this novel. Krystle does not pull any punches when exploring these social issues and really gets down to core of it. So the inspiration for this work of fiction is taken from a very dark time in human history, really setting the tone for this novel. This is a hugely original fantasy novel, with some very new and innovative themes and concepts. This novel can be described as a very character driven novel and my personal favourite, a grim dark novel. I was totally sold!!!

This grim world unravels with each passing chapter, as you follow the masterfully crafted characters through the brutal and unforgiving reality that is life within the Dominion. I think what makes this a very unique world, is that, it’s a move away from conventional fantasy settings. Matar does an incredible job of painting a picture of a world from this era, from the humble working class neighbourhoods, to the glamour of high society, to the sinister Authority institutions, down to the gritty gangster underworld, its truly vivid and captivating. There’s also massive attention to detail, even down to the fashion of that era, so this world really does burst into life. So, you see it features excellent world building with a progressive approach and is achieved skilfully to really put the focus on our characters.

The plot is centered around our main protagonist Tashue. We watch as he’s drawn into the corrupt world of high society and the Authority. As he climbs the ranks, he becomes embroiled in their corruption, but at the same time the cracks in his world start to show and everything begins to collapse. Meanwhile his ongoing investigation of the mutilated girl found washed up on the Brightwash, leaves him few clues, she does bare a mysterious tattoo, but beyond that his investigation is fruitless. He’s forced to turn to the criminal underworld to find the truth. Using his connections he’s able to seek answers using unconventional methods which invites it’s own set of problem’s.The biggest weight he has to bare is his son Jason, who is tainted, who refuses to register and who is now imprisoned.The Authority is really at the core of all these characters struggles, it’s grasp on this world is truly sinister, and as you’ll find out, it harbours such dark secrets. The tainted are invaluable to the Authority, they acknowledge the dangerous nature of the tainted and claim to be the Dominions protector. But have enslaved the tainted to utilize their abilities for practical purposes, allegedly is to promote peace and harmony within the Dominion…. In amongst the chaos, the shining light in Tashue’s dark world is his love interest Stella, but as with all things in this world, nothing is simple.

As the first few chapters introduce you to the investigation, and his relationship with his son, it hooks you into the story very quickly and for readers like myself is essential. The dialogue between father and son is very emotionally charged and parents reading this novel, be prepared for those heart strings to be pulled. There are so many aspects of this book that’ll provoke powerful emotions, it’s usually down to the oppressive presence of the authority. The exploration of some of the social issues in this book, from that era, are genuinely engaging and you’re compassion for these characters will be overwhelming! But despite this being a very character driven novel, I think even for those more plot driven readers, you’ll be able to see those indicators of this series becoming more plot heavy as the series plays out. There is so much potential scope for this world. But its drawn out slowly so there’s a great deal of intrigue that warrants so many questions.This is a dark novel, but hope does bloom ….

The best aspect of this book without question is the characterisation. As a huge fan of very character driven novels I felt totally immersed in their stories and I was totally captivated by the complexities of these characters. I felt the five POVs we follow gave a very three dimensional view of the characters and the well placed inner monologues gave further insights into core of what motivates them. So you really felt like you know them intimately. The characterisation for Tashue our main protagonist was phenomenal, his existential crisis was captured so perfectly!! Not to take away any attention from Stella our leading lady because she has some of the best virtues any woman could have, but she harbors her own dark secrets, her vulnerability was so skillfully portrayed. When she meets Tashue you can fully understand their connection because of the depth of understanding you have about these characters. There really is a diverse cast who are brilliantly fleshed out, even the Villains in high society to our silver tongued mob boss. But it was the consistency with the character work that was most notable, I usually talk about maybe one, or two favourites, never have I been totally enamoured with an entire cast before, not to this extent.

The vast majority of characters that I’ve read previously play into those well known character tropes and don’t always present something new. This is one of those books that really shows the big paradigm shift in how characters are portrayed in modern Fantasy. It seems , that the term grim dark is a term that’s used to often! But this novel is the very definition of a grim dark!! I feel Matar has succeeded beyond my expectations in creating some of the most original, authentic, morally grey, unforgettable characters and totally achieved that sense of gritty realism.

The social issues effecting these characters within this novel are hugely emotive, there are examples of racism, social segregation, huge inequality and addiction. All of the subject matter concerning these issues is handled incredibly well and are completely relevant.

The majority of these social issues are born from the authority itself and the presence of the Authority seems to manifest in every aspect of these characters lives. As a result the majority of the characters within this novel have their own internal struggles and are forced to act under the weight of their oppressors, often acting in a way that’s necessary for their survival, which really carves out a very lonely and isolated world.

“Better to be lonely and feel the sharp edges of it, she thought, than to be empty and filled with nothing”

The romance was so stripped down, it wasn’t pretentious, it was very authentic and central to this books plot. It’s not often that I feel emotionally invested in this aspect of a book but the romance blossoming in such a dark world really did make it shine a little brighter. I think when a relationship is very much the path to salvation for two characters, to me, it really has substance, rather than something that’s very superficial. I also feel that Matar has done incredibly well to be very inclusive, a broad range of readers will be able to identify with many of the relationships within this book, giving it a very modern dimension, which is totally necessary…

So let’s talk more about the magic system, which is central to this books plot. Within this world there are individuals with magical abilities that are referred to as having the talent, and by some are referred to as the tainted, dependent on who you ask … The tainted have immense value to the authority, but inspite of this, they’re still classed as second class citizens, segregated, dehumanised and stripped of their humanity, not even afforded basic the liberties of normal citizens of the Dominion. But the narrative from the Authority is that they themselves are the last defense between the tainted and there unpredictable, dangerous nature. I really liked the way the magic system was portrayed, you know in basic terms what its capable of, what it’s limits are but all the while leaving some questions unanswered, so there’s definitely still some mystery, which I really liked. However it is taking the magic system into the realms of a technology, which is moving away from traditional magic systems,which totally worked in this instance. The element of mystery surrounding the magic system, keeps you intrigued and unlike a lot of modern fantasy books, is not there to over shadow the weaker elements of the book.

I found Matars writing style to be highly evocative and very engaging. The pacing and the technical execution of the this novel was pretty flawless. I think it was the consistency of the quality of the writing that was notable, in each chapter you can totally see the amount of work that went into this book. This is a glowing example of the fact that flowery prose is not a necessity for good writing. The skill in the writing was abundantly clear. I can definitely see influences from David Gemmel and Anthony Ryan in the writing.

I was really left feeling that I’ve just been privy to the beginning of a series that’s going to be very special. I think that once you’re taken by Matars characters, the emotional investment is so overwhelming that you’ll be following these characters for as long as Krystle is happy to write about them. I really feel that Matar has burst out the gate with this stunning debut and it’s my feeling that she will very quickly establish herself within the fantasy genre. Krystle has clearly worked incredibly hard to forge something that is really original, something that shows huge innovation and creativity.The passion behind this book is abundantly clear and shines through as every aspect of this novel.

There are elements of this book that Abercrombie, Pierce Brown fans will absolutely love!! It’s my belief that Mr Abercrombie should be concerned because there is a new girl in town!!

I’m hugely invested in this series and will eagerly awaiting the next installment!!



WHY THE LIVESHIP TRADERS BY ROBIN HOBB IS A MASTERPIECE & WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT…

Good Evening Book Friends!


So, following on from last weeks post; Why The Dragonbone Chair By Tad Williams Is A Masterpiece & Why you Should Read It, I wanted to continue with that theme . I’m going to talk about another classic Trilogy to come out of the 90s, albeit, the very late nineties!

Liveship Traders is, in my opinion, the best instalment for the Realm of the Elderlings by the phenomenal Robin Hobb. So, I’m going to give you a brief overview and then hopefully I would like to think I can inspire some readers to continue the series and just maybe help some to overcome some of the obstacles you face when dealing with a series of this magnitude. I don’t want you to miss out on this outstanding nautical masterpiece!

I think the one thing that makes this is a stand out trilogy from that era, is that you won’t find those usual tropes that would be typical from series from this era…no chosen one, no orphaned farm boy, no battle against a malevolent force, this is a very different tale and I think this is where its brilliance lies!! This a hugely character driven story.

“Hobb literally delivers flawless prose, astounding character work and technical brilliance that surpasses the likes of Sanderson!!”

An Overview

I think if you were pitching this book to someone there is every chance that they would look at you a bit mystified, there are ships made of sentient wizard wood that contains the souls of dragons that can communicate with the ships masters….You might be a bit bewildered by that statement but i’ll give you more context below that should peak your curiosity.

With this story you follow a family called the Vestrits, an old and noble family, who amongst others in Bingtown are a trading family and are privileged to own one of the limited number of ships made out of wizard wood named Vivacia, which gives them access to Rain Wilders and there elusive goods.

After the death of the head of the family, you meet Althea, who has dreamed of taking the helm of the Vivacia since she was girl. But as fate would have it, her dreams were crushed, her legacy unjustly ripped from her grasps, the Vestrit family become fragmented, betrayal, envy and greed seek to tear this once happy family apart. After senior members of the Vestrit family play their roles as pragmatic decision makers, other members of the family suffer, the young nephew and one of our main protagonists Wintrow is ripped from his studies and made to join his father Kyle Haven on a voyage to regain the Vestrits former glory and save them from oblivion. Wintrow once dreamed of a life of a scholar and a holy man, to be thrust into servitude of his ruthless father, to lead a life of suffering that no boy could even imagine possible.

Other members of the family adjust to life under harder less privileged circumstances, while the senior members of the family scrabble around trying to secure the future of their family’s interests.  What seems like a usual tale of hardships, family strife, has one major threat, which comes in the form of a pirate named Kennit whose ambition for power and unimaginable wealth leads him to have designs on the family ships Vivacia and so the story begins!!

Yes, there are dragons, sea monsters and the magical people of the Rain wilds, their history intertwines with the magic of this world, it’s at the core of the fantasy elements to this tale, there are many secrets hidden in the murky depths. You’ll get some of the most well staged battles the seven seas have ever witnessed and to be frank you’ll be like pirates of the who……

The connection between bing town and the Rain wilds is as you would expect,is the trading of exotic goods and they’re bound by and ancient covenant. The liveships are the only ships capable of traveling the to the rain wild rivers to procure those elusive goods. But you will get small doses of local politics as the old ways being forgotten….

As this is a very character driven novel I won’t do a deep dive into the characters, so not to drop spoilers.

As with most epic fantasy I’ve barely scratched the surface on the sheer scope of this story.

Add It To Your Goodreads!

Let’s talk about the character work

To begin with this is an incredibly character driven novel with some of the best character development that I have ever read within the fantasy genre. Hobb in this trilogy really writes the most captivating, relatable characters, that you form a connection with very quickly, in such depth, you’ll find yourself unable to put this book down. The majority of the characters don’t really conform to the usual stereotypes, and it can be said that there are many morally grey character’s within this series down to the plain out evil, especially our main protagonists. Other themes include morality, seeking refuge, family, class, race, gender roles and expectations, tradition and obligation. But Hobb doesn’t smash you over the head with any of these, they’re all relevant when crafting this type of character work. As the characters are so complex, you’ll find yourself second guessing their reactions as you would with a complex plot, which keeps those pages turning. The relationships within this book go from everyday to very toxic, to dark human relationships, but they are skillfully handled in a way that doesn’t tarnish your view of the series, but what they will do is provoke a strong reaction, so sensitive readers brace yourself as Hobb doesn’t dodge those more extreme scenes. So for character driven readers this will surpass your expectations like no other!!!

As I mention later on, I won’t do a deep dive with all the characters.

However I must do a special mention on the pirate King Kennit. With this character Hobb has crafted one of the most complex Villains you will ever find within the fantasy genre! You’ll be taken in by his devilish charm, inspired by his courageous efforts to liberate suffering, you’ll come to love him and loathe him, understand him and hate him for the villain he is….. You will not forget this character for as long as you live…this character work is a selling point in itself !! Could you do a character study on this one character, absolutely yes….

Why do people struggle to get to this series?

After reading people’s reactions from this series as a whole, what I have noticed is that there are some mixed reactions, which of course is what you’d expect. It does present obstacles for some to get onto the Liveship Traders.So when people approach this series, the most common qualm people have is with the final book of the Farseer Trilogy Assassins Quest and is usually why they don’t get onto Liveships! I can agree that the ending of the final book really did let the series down, in terms of how the conclusion of this book was executed. So it’s a shame for some there journey ends with the first trilogy.

Do not fret those of you that may of struggled with Farseer!! As previously mentioned Hobb literally delivers flawless prose, astounding character work and technical brilliance that surpasses the likes of Sanderson!! So step aboard and experience the masterpiece that is Live ship Traders!

It would literally be criminal to miss out on this series, because every aspect of this novel is improved upon in this series from its predecessor.

Personal note

From my perspective, regardless of those flaws, Farseer has has huge following. I personally would give it 4 ⭐ I loved it. But what I think you can take away from the Farseer Trilogy is the huge potential of Robin Hobbs character work and without question her incredible writing style. For me, like so many, I could see that potential and pushed forward and discovered a masterpiece that is The Liveship Traders.

Can I read The Liveship Traders without reading Farseer?

The answer is yes in my opinion, it may be beneficial to watch some spoiler free reviews for farseer, to get a basic understanding of the farseer world, but there aren’t strong enough connections to this series for it to be problematic. The reason for making this point, may be fairly obvious, in that, if you want to jump into this Trilogy, go ahead. Do not miss this unforgettable series!!

It is a big Trilogy, yes indeed, but once you get into this novel you won’t want to stop!!

Thanks for taking the time to read this post, I hope I’ve inspired some of you to read it. If you have any questions, topics you’d like to discuss, you’ll find me lurking in the depths of Twitter somewhere😂

Happy Reading !!


WHY THE DRAGONBONE CHAIR BY TAD WILLIAMS IS A MASTERPIECE & WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT…

Hello Book Friends!

Today I am going to attempt to motivate you into reading Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorry and Thorn books. There will be a few points and an overview that hopefully will inspire you to read this phenomenal series!!!

A brief overview

After the death of the high King John Presbyter and the rise of the Mad king Elias, who with the influence of the Dark Priest Pyrates, have damned the world , together they have made an ungodly pact with the dark prince, known as the Storm king. Seoman our main protagonist has no choice but to flee his home and join the rebellion lead by the Mad kings brother Josua Lackhand in city of Nagilmund. Under the dark Priests magic all of the nations within this world are plunged into the depths of chaos!! You will follow the characters experience of losing the world that they once knew….. With only the prophecy of Memory, Sorrow and Thorn as their only path to salvation.

You can also check it out on Goodreads HERE! Maybe add it to your TBR.

WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT…

This book has been quoted as one of the seminal works within epic fantasy genre, from the same era as Robert Jordan, Robin Hobb, Raymond E Fiest, amongst other gifted authors. After reading most of the big names from the era I have to say that Tad Williams is without question a Titan of the fantasy genre. As I was reading through the first novel I understood the reasons why Tad Williams work was so influential and recognising those small nuances and themes that have transcended into what we love and appreciate today!!

This series from my perspective inspired the likes of John Gwynne, Anthony Ryan, Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss George R R Martin and more recent authors such as Brian Lee Durfee.

Every aspect of this novel  is deeply captivating , down to the flawless prose, the deeply immersive world building which unravels with each chapter that passes, the complex character progression and the constant feeling of intrigue throughout is overwhelming!! It is without question a very character driven novel and you will become very attached to the totally unforgettable cast. You can get lost travelling through beautifully imagined dark forests scenes , stunning cities all the while going deeper into rich lore and history , which is totally enchanting and central to this series!

Tad Williams is a writer that has without question mastered his craft, everything in this series has been forged at the hands of a master story teller which you’ll see in the flawless execution.

For me this is a stand out series from that era and I will be reading the follow up series’ set 30 years after the events of this series, which is the Last King of Osten Ard and all the series that follow in this world. I am currently reading the last installment (MST), a chonky 1400 page monster, which has already convinced me that this series will in doubt be in my top 5 of all time.

Has this book aged well?

Absolutely yes! It is timeless and should be treasured as a significant mile stone in the Fantasy’s history. It really lays the foundations for where epic fantasy was heading and how it was evolving. So what I’m saying is this series should by future generations be regarded in the same way as Tolkien is, in my opinion. We should appreciate it in terms of how it’s impacted the fantasy genre!!!

Here are some of the other wonderful works By the master of epic fantasy Tad Williams…

THE SHADOWMARCH SERIES | ADD IT TO YOUR GOODREADS!

The Last King of Osten Ard Series | ADD IT TO YOUR GOODREADS!


OK, SO IT’S HUGE TRILOGY…Is it worth it? How does it compare to other series from that era?

I would say that if you’re daunted by the size of other series from this era like Robert Jordans Wheel of Time, I think you will have a comparable experience with this series. I would argue that despite this only being a trilogy, I feel that Tad Williams has achieved as much as Jordan/Sanderson did in a 15 book series. I am not saying that it’s better, as I think everyone should read Jordan,but this series stands shoulder to shoulder in terms of its brilliance, if not surpassing Jordan in some aspects. The pacing in MST is as sharp as Williams prose and as I mentioned earlier, its utterly flawless and totally poetic at times and he paints some scenes with total precision. In my opinion Tad Williams is the better writer and will not spend two paragraphs describing the pattern on a member of the Aes sedai dress lol. But the technical execution of this series in comparison to Jordan, is superior in my opinion. Williams world building and the general pacing and overall the consistency in quality is as close to perfect as you’re going to get. I feel this is why Williams Memory, Sorrow and Thorn wins the day. But it’s important to say that I have huge praise for Jordan in so many respects.

This is the perfect introduction to epic Fantasy from this era! That said even if you’re an experienced fantasy reader this will make you remember why you fell in love with this genre!!

If you have it already on the shelf, then I recommend turning to chapter 33, that chapter alone will sell this book to you if nothing else will !!

LET US TALK ABOUT THE TONE…

There is an over bearing sense of hopelessness, with an atmospheric feeling of an encroaching darkness just adds such depth to this epic tale!! With King Elias falling deeper into madness, with Pyrates working as the architect for this worlds destruction, his use of dark magic dominates, the fate of Osten Ard is seemingly doomed and you’re witness to the horror that is to follow. With this first instalment you’re very aware that you’re on the doorstop of something very special and so the journey begins….. Hope of the rebellion is founded in the prophecy surrounding the three swords, Sorrow memory and Thorn which will be there only chances against the forces of evil.

ON TO THE CHARACTERS…

So our main protagonist Seoman is your typical orphaned scullion working under the watchful eye of his merciless overlord Rachel the Dragon, you follow his misadventures in Hayholt castle in a typical coming of age style beginning. What Williams does to engage you as reader with this character is he provokes those childhood memories of a time of innocence in your life as a kid, which really engages you on an intimate level and helps you to connect with Simon very quickly. As much as Seoman is idle, he is head strong and like all young boys has grandiose dreams of a heroic future!

Resident wizard/ doctor Morgenes is eccentric, wise and hilarious , but his true purpose within Hayholt is shrouded in mystery…. So as you may of guessed already, he takes the wayward Seoman as his apprentice….

So on to the High King Elias who you’ll come to know, and as I call him the Mad king, who is in the grasps of the dark priest Pyrates and has been lead into a world of corruption, his lust for power threatens to destroy the lives of many.

His brother Josua, the brooding intellectual sibling, the brother that is to lead the rebellion and have the courage an honour to fight against his foes, against all odds and save the world from damnation! He is pitched as one of the potential heros and savior if this tale!

Finally Pyrates quite possibly one of the finely crafted villains that I’ve encountered in the fantasy genre. His history in this series, his becoming,is probably the slowest in terms of progression, that I feel is very much intentional, but his dark grasp on the Mad king is clear. His very presence within Hayholt is an omen for the horror that is to follow!

So those are you main characters, but there is a huge unforgettable cast that you will come to know and love, hate and fear as go through this novel! There are major characters who take center stage as you go deeper into this story and Williams solid characterisation will never cease to draw you into this phenomenal journey !!

ITS INFLUENCES…

You will find heavy influences of polythiestic and monotheistic religions that strongly influence the various human races within this world on a societal level and down to the characters own lived experience adding more depth to what motivates them.

The politics are generally very typical of a medieval world and isn’t hard to understand the hierarchy of each society. There are very clear Nordic (Rimmersmen), Huns/ Asian Nomadic( Thrithings) and western European Anglo Saxon (Erkynlanders). As for the Nabanese there are clear Roman/Italian with heavy Catholic influences. As far as the mortal races are concerned, it’s been said that they take influences from Japanese culture. The Lore and history of this world does take some influence from Norse mythology, especially where the immortal races are concerned.

You will be introduced to immortal races more as you get into the series, but just to note the following, are central to plot the most important being the immortal Sithi, The Norns, The Niskies, Quanuc and the Dwarrows (Tinukeda’ya) The sheer scope of the lore within this series is so huge and drawn out slowly and we are just scratching the surface in MST.


Thanks for taking the time to read this post hopefully you know more on why you should be reading The Dragonbone Chair if you haven’t already!

Have you read The Dragonbone Chair? If so let me know in the comments what you thought of it or head on over to Twitter. Looking forward to hearing from you!!

Happy reading!


BLOG UPDATE | WELCOMING A NEW REVIEWER…

Good Evening Book Friends!

My name is Dan, and I have recently been given the opportunity to be a contributor for the wonderful Sam at The Book in Hand Blog. So just wanting to introduce myself a bit.

I basically began reading fantasy full time after reading the Wheel of Time series which opened up a new world for me and has dominated my reading life since then. So like most people I started using Book Twitter to connect with people who had a passion for books as I did and have benefited greatly by making so many friends and more importantly getting those honest reviews. In my experience, I feel that the fantasy genre is home to some greatest writers working today, some of the world building and the character work is truly amazing, the sheer scope of these books just amazes me!! I’m huge fan of classic epic fantasy, high fantasy and grim dark, I’ve been reading my way through the majority of popular sub genres and loving every minute of it. So after watching hours of book tubers, reading countless blogs, I’m happy I have the opportunity to have a small part in something I’m genuinely really passionate about! I’ve been totally obsessed with fantasy genre for a long time and I can’t see that changing anytime soon.

Some of my favourite writers include Robert Jordan, Robin Hobb, Patrick Rothfuss, Tad Williams, Anthony Ryan, John Gwynne, R Scott Bakker and many more!!

So I’ll be dropping honest reviews, generally adding content to Sam’s already very popular blog. I hope you find it useful! Looking forward to having conversations and banter with you guys !!!

So I’m obviously really interested in reading as much as I can continue to build my knowledge, so all recommendations welcomed and to give honest reviews in return!!

You can also find me on…