BOOK REVIEW | STONES OF LIGHT BY ZACK ARGYLE

Hey there sweet thannngggg!

I am back with another review because your girl here is playing some serious catch up.

It is about time I reviewed this book for Zack! He is an incredibly writer and such a nice chap. I have actually read this book twice, once via paperback and once via audio. Which is FREAKING EXCEPTIONAL.

Anywho, onto the book..

A few facts about this book:

  • Title: Stones of Light
  • Author: Zack Argyle
  • Series: Threadlight
  • Published by Zack Argyle
  • Pages: 342

Synopsis:

Add It To Your Goodreads!

The coreseal is shattered and a new darkness is rising.

Chrys swore to never again let the Apogee take control but, in a moment of desperation, he gave in. Now, he will learn what the Apogee truly wants.

In Alchea, Laurel will do anything to get her threadlight back, even if it means working for the leader of the Bloodthieves. But she has no choice…she can’t live a life without threadlight.

To the west, Alverax travels with the Zeda people to the large port city of Felia, where they seek refuge after the fires in the Fairenwild. But he shattered the coreseal, and no one quite knows what the consequences will be. They only know it won’t be good.

Together, they changed the world…now, they must save it.

Review:

Here are a few things you can expect from this book…

  • A book that keeps on getting better;
  • Brilliant character growth;
  • Faster pace;
  • More intense battles; and
  • Stunning prose!

On to the full review…

This book ticks so many boxes for me it isn’t even fair! Ahh who am I kidding? Of course it is fair because Zack can write!

Let’s start with box number one that has been ticked…THE COVER!

Oh. My. Word. Give me a moment…

This book cover has me thirsting to get into it pages like…mmm, well never mind. Imma keep this PG. Where were we? Oh yes, THE COVER! It is quite literally perfection, not so different to its contents too I might add. The style, its stunning colours and the art itself. It is a fantasy book nerds wet dream. Annnnnd the cover for book three has been revealed to which quite frankly is just as stunning…

I think one of the biggest strengths of this book is that the writing is so accessible. This story has a fairly complex plotline and has several elements that all go their own ways, but these always manage to link back and at no point is the writing or the story overbearing. You can see the work that Zack has put into this book and ensuring it all works coherently. Which is essential considering how much more we learn in Stones of Light. We see more of this incredible world. We witness more of its magic and lore. Zack gives us ALL the goods!

Zack’s writing is also beautiful, it isn’t too flowery, nor is it bland or boring. It falls perfectly on the scale of descriptive. Oh, and if you like highlighting your kindle, chances are you will find several gems in Zack’s writing. There is without doubt lessons to be learnt in this book, which brings me on to the characters because these are all lessons they are facing.

In this instalment we also see more to all of our characters. Each one has grown that much more, even some of the smaller characters have shown delightful growth. I think this goes hand in hand with the increase in pace this book. The characters are constantly moving and being tested, which in turn shows us more of their minds. How they deal with the situations and what their responses are. Their interactions with new people and threats and revisiting those we were teased of in book one!

I think it is safe to say this is another series which shows you just how a second book should be done!

In summary, I loved this book. I read it when it first came out and listened to it when the audio became available and I have to say it gets better with every read!

Now, if you read my review of Voice of War you will know I ADORE Adam Gold’s narration. This still stands, he once again created a masterpiece.


THE RANKS: 

BUY THE HARDBACK | BUY THE PAPERBACK | BUY THE EBOOK | LIBRARY RENTAL OR SALE PURCHASE

I have this and Book One in HB and they are so dang beautiful! I cant wait to get Book Three!


AGAIN Thank you for reading AND SEE YOU SOON!


The Dinosaur Four: An Edpool Review

This review is part of my judging effort for the SPSFC. For a little intro to the whole thing and an explanation of my judging style, see this practice review.


Next up on Team Space Lasagna’s plate is The Dinosaur Four, by Geoff Jones.

For some hilarious reason this book was misattributed as “time travel dinosaur erotica” among the SPSFC reviewers and as such we have all been looking forward to reading it. As it happens, we were right to be anticipating it – but not because it was a titillating carnal romp through the Cretaceous era. I mean, what would that even be like? Maybe Jones can take up his pen and get to work on that, because apparently reviewers be horny.

But no. What we got was goddamn brilliant and make no mistake, I was far happier that the leprous hadrosaurs didn’t fuck anyone.

What am I talking about and why am I still making it weird?

The Dinosaur Four opens in the Daily Edition Café where Lisa, the owner, is soliloquising about taxes and liquor licenses and the absurdity of being allowed to sell alcohol before you can drink it. The barista, Beth, flirts briefly with a delivery man named William and makes reference to his large package. Please keep in mind, at this point I still thought I was reading erotica so I had a really solid idea of where this was heading. The only question in my mind was whether William was a Chuck-Tinglian T-Rex delivery man with abs for days, or Beth was going to turn out to be a saucy Madame Vastra type. Or both, to the lyrical but total detriment of the protagonist’s ass.

Anyway, that didn’t happen.

The café, along with a fun little crowd of positively Stephen-King-worthy employees and customers, is abruptly transported to the distant past where they all get absolutely fucking bodied by dinosaurs (not in that way) for a couple of hundred pages.

It’s fucking glorious.

I was, as I said, immediately reminded of Stephen King – specifically The Mist, The Langoliers, and other neatly contained dramas. My initial thought was that maybe King would make more compelling or grimy characters more instantly identifiable and distinctive (Tim remained something of a nonentity for a while but – and this is the great bit – I’m pretty sure he was meant to), but there’s no shame in being out-grimy-charactered by Stephen King. However, as I read on, I realised that Jones had actually just gone a more slow-burn and subtle road with his protagonists. They may not have been as gross, but they were all just as distinctive and – if anything – more relatable, making everything that much more horrific.

I can’t say much more without spoiling various plot points and revelations, so I won’t – except to say that Lisa could probably have remembered and mentioned certain things a bit sooner and more readily than she did, and to wonder whether I missed a part that explained how “invisibility cloak” became “time travel” – was the former just a cover and I just missed the discarding of said cover? Anyway, read the book and you’ll see what I mean.

The characters were really great. Don’t be discouraged by the take-off – once they’re airborne, they really soar. Patricia is a giant Karen, Callie and Hank are a complete goddamn train wreck, and Al … Jesus Christ, Al. But for me, perhaps my favourite part of the story was just when you start thinking things are going to settle down for the Act III coast, and one of the characters … how to put this? They give their little group a name and it’s not the name of the book and you realise things are about to get so much worse.

Very good. Very, very good.

Sex-o-meter

For all the sweet-to-gross spectrum of human interpersonal relations taking place in this story, the horniest thing in it was the triceratops. Am I right? *goes up for high five and is left hanging, and deservedly so*. Fuck it. I guess my point is there wasn’t really any sex in this. Two desperately sad and awkward mother-shamed Al-boners from accidentally-on-purpose side-boob contact while hugging out of a possible five. I would have awarded it one desperately sad and awkward mother-shamed Al-boner from accidentally-on-purpose side-boob contact while hugging, but I just remembered that the T-Rex does in fact eat a giant bag of ticks, so there’s that. And no, that wasn’t a typo.

Gore-o-meter

Amazing. No notes. Four and a half flesh-gobbets out of five. I’m still giving us a final half-gobbet to fill out if an absolute fucking bloodbath crosses my Kindle because recalibrating the gore-o-meter isn’t cheap and I’m doing these reviews for free, but something tells me we’re not going to get much more gory than this one.

WTF-o-meter

This is a time travel adventure with a solid dose of causality and timeline-crossing and all of that. It would be weird if it didn’t register on the WTF-o-meter. One thing I was really interested in at the start of the story was how gross and diseased the dinosaurs were, and for a while I wondered if that was a plot point that was going to end up being significant. But I think in the end it just turned out to be a gritty, realistic look at how fucking disgusting giant feathery lizards would actually be, with an emphasis on the stuff we tend to sanitise out of our dinosaur lore. Jones is clearly an enthusiast and he’s done his research. I give The Dinosaur Four an Al’s mother out of a possible Toomey’s father (and that’s not as minor a reading as you might think).

My Final Verdict

Glorious. Just fantastic. I have no more words. Okay I lied; five stars.


BOOK REVIEW | THE LEGION OF FLAME BY ANTHONY RYAN

Good Evening Bookish Folk!

Fuck! It has been a while…I don’t really have an excuse other than LIFE! Lets just say I needed a break, I have had a break and now I’M BACK!

And what a return review…The Legion of Flame by Anthony Ryan. This is the second book in the Draconis Memoria series and I think it is easily one of my favourite seconds in a series. Lets be honest many can fall flat. Not all, don’t shoot me.

Anywho, onto the book..

A few facts about this book:

  • Title: The Legion of Flame
  • Author: Anthony Ryan
  • Series: The Draconis Memoria
  • Published by Orbit
  • Pages: 638

Synopsis:

Add It To Your Goodreads!

Survival is the only currency…

For centuries, the vast Ironship Trading Syndicate relied on drake blood–and the extraordinary powers it confers to those known as the Blood-blessed–to fuel and protect its empire. But when the drake blood lines began to fail, a perilous expedition was mounted to secure them.

Claydon Torcreek survived the fraught mission through uncharted lands in pursuit of a myth that might have secured his people’s future. Instead he found a nightmare. The legendary White Drake was awoken from a millennia-long slumber, with a thirst to reduce the world of men to ashes, and the power to compel an army of Spoiled slaves to do it.

Spurred on by a vision he desperately hopes he can trust, Clay and rebel naval officer Corrick Hilemore hijack a warship and head towards the icy southern seas, searching for an ancient secret that may give them and their allies a fighting chance.

They are aided on another front by Blood-blessed agent Lizanne Lethridge. The spy and assassin will use her diplomatic status to infiltrate deep into enemy territory on a quest for a device to save them all.

As the world burns around them, and the fires of revolution are ignited, these few Blood-blessed are the last hope for all of civilisation.

Review:

Here are a few things you can expect from this book…

  • Fantastic character development;
  • An example of how a middle book should be;
  • Exceptional plot advancement and world building; and
  • A THOROUGHLY immersive and enjoyable ride!

On to the full review…

As I mentioned earlier, this book is the second book in this series and it was a brilliant middle book. I don’t feel like it lulled and dipped but in fact kept pace, if not exceeded its predecessor! While I adored book one and praised its ability to mix several elements one wouldn’t think go together, I appreciated the consistency in this instalment. The book felt as though is fell more securely into where it wanted to go and what direction it was heading you in.

Each chapter gave me all the things I didn’t know I wanted or needed. This isn’t a book you can pause at to make a brew, something always has you thinking ‘just a few more pages…chapters’. This isn’t just in respect of the plot either, the world-building is another constant tease! I am not a huge worldbuilding fan, I find it one of the more boring elements but Ryan proved me wrong on this front. Every world element, piece of lore or detail as to the origins of the drakes was fun to read. I wasn’t just reading a book, I was fully immersed in this world and exploring it with the characters.

I also fell even more in love with the characters, which doesn’t take much when I enjoyed them as much as I did in book one. With characters I can love them straight away purely on their potential so it was so excited to continue the journey with these and all of them fulfil that potential!

We even get a new POV and boy oh boy is it an new, insightful and fascinating POV!

This instalment was such a beautiful blend of character development, word building and plot progression and did not fall victim to middle book syndrome!


THE RANKS: 

BUY THE HARDBACK | BUY THE PAPERBACK | BUY THE EBOOK | LIBRARY RENTAL OR SALE PURCHASE

Fuck. I wish I had this in HARDBACK!


AGAIN Thank you for reading AND SEE YOU SOON!


Primordial Threat: An Edpool Review

This review is part of my judging effort for the SPSFC. For a little intro to the whole thing and an explanation of my judging style, see this practice review.


Next one on our list for this week was Primordial Threat, by by M. A. Rothman.

Only after reading this book, I found that Rothman has some impressive connections and endorsements from well-known traditional authors, and that this book is a hundreds-of-reviews-bearing bestseller in its own right. Rothman is, but for a foolish trip-up of fate and a critical blunder of the traditional publishing machine, a traditional bestselling author slumming it with the lowly self-pubs.

But none of that really matters. He’s done everything right in this book, and he deserves the acclaim he’s gotten. Before discovering any of these things about him I had already read, and thoroughly enjoyed, his story. And so all I can do is sing its praises. I just don’t carry a tune particularly well so bear with me.

This exciting and engaging tale of global impending Armageddon (it really did have a Deep Impact on me and I’d read it 2012 times … okay sorry, but what you have to remember about those movies is, they were fucking great and this would be at least as good and Emmerich should absolutely make it after he’s finished with Moonfall) is backed up with some storybook but otherwise intriguingly solid science, or at least science-fiction, which is why we’re here after all. We are introduced to our main characters and they’re all highly distinctive and readable in their own ways.

The main protagonists of the story are a primordial black hole that’s about to destroy the solar system, a bunch of apocalyptic doomers who want it to happen (of course), and Greg. Fucking Greg, I swear to God. Look, not to spoil it but someone should have shot Greg in the face the first time he made a cunt of himself. Shot him right in the face, and replaced him with a packet of macaroni wearing a hat. Then the worst character would have been the black hole.

This book definitely feels like a product of its time. The breakdown of (admittedly stupid and ignorant) people’s trust in science, and the pandemic of the early 2020s has convinced me that this story, ultimately, would not have worked. It’s fiction, in its purest and most optimistic form (in fact, it sounds very like the book written by John Cusack’s character in 2012, which adds a layer of fun to it). Nobody would believe the scientists – or enough people wouldn’t – and the politicians would not stop being self-serving, and the operation would tank, and we would all die. And that’s good. We deserve to. Rothman had better get busy writing more books because this wasn’t enough to convince me of the general worthwhile-ness of humanity.

We are treated to some very satisfying scenes as the end-of-the-world scenario plays out. We see actual leadership and selflessness, to a degree that bordered on the political porn of Designated Survivor. None of this would actually happen but it’s so fun to pretend it would. This book is about Earth being threatened by a rogue black hole and the most unbelievable thing about it is the number of people who aren’t giant pieces of shit. That’s where we’re at right now, folks.

I did have to ask, why wasn’t the same tech being used (quite aside from the fact that it was all hidden and under wraps) to send out evacuation colonies or just exploration teams in every damn direction? Seems like, yes, we had a quite literal “all the eggs in one basket (and also the entire farm and every chicken capable of laying eggs that has ever and will ever exist)” situation going on, and only a very fixed amount of specific resources (ie. graphene), but a lot of parallel projects could have happened. That would probably have added unnecessary threads to the plot, but maybe we could have done it instead of the cop thread? I mean, the cop thread was fine but it didn’t super tie into the rest of the story. Meh. Oh well.

The series of events surrounding “Frank”, and their emergency fallback power supply, was all a little bit out-there but damn it, I liked it. It allowed a bit of high-stakes tension with the Brotherhood and still gave us the Great Big Sci-Fi we love to see. Yes, this was all really enjoyable and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. While it could be tweaked, it was really fine. I look forward to the movie.

Sex-o-meter

Some babies are born, which (I’m no scientist but) to me suggests that there might have been some people having The Sex. But seriously, there’s not really time for sex in this story. The world’s about to end, people! Fuck later. Jesus Christ. I’ll give this book a Bambi out of a possible Thumper on the ol’ sex-o-meter.

Gore-o-meter

A whole bunch of deaths, some angry mob action, a guy loses a couple of fingers and the fabric of space-time gets torn a new arsehole, but ultimately this isn’t a gory one. One flesh-gobbet out of a possible five for Primordial Threat.

WTF-o-meter

There’s classic WTF of a big golden-age sci-fi quality in this book. No wonder Niven and Benford and Anderson like this, it’s the sort of stuff they write – and it’s at least as good, in my opinion. Maybe even better. Megaengineering, and huge cosmic stakes. These aren’t so much true WTFs, but it makes for a fantastical and escapist read that was really enjoyable. There’s inspiring WTFery of the “could space really do this to us?” variety (the answer is yes, yes it could, without even looking up from its metaphorical sudoku), and exciting WTFery of the “could human science really achieve this?” variety (the answer is … ehh … no, not really, but it’s fucking neat), and horrifying WTFery of the “are people really like this?” variety (I think we all know the answer to this one). I’ll give it a Ringworld and a Rama out of a possible Bowl of Heaven.

My Final Verdict

An interesting and imaginative story with a very cathartic ending for those readers (I would like to think it’s most of us, at this point) who are frustrated with evangelical doomsday cultists and their apparent desire to just fucking kill everyone. My initial instinct was to give Primordial Threat four and a half stars. I want to elevate that to five purely because of the simple and beautiful relationship between Dave and Bella. After finding out more about the story’s background and advantages, my next instinct was to deduct again, but that’s completely unfair of me. My unbiased and open-eyed take on this story was five stars, and five stars is what it gets. Excellent job and a really good read.


Between Mountain and Sea: An Edpool Review

This review is part of my judging effort for the SPSFC. For a little intro to the whole thing and an explanation of my judging style, see this practice review.


SPSFC Round 1 week 4 gave me the opportunity to check out Between Mountain and Sea, by Louisa Locke.

Between Mountain and Sea is a genuinely moving look at a human diaspora fitted around a coming of age and sins-of-the-father (or in this case great-great grandparent, but also kinda father, really) drama. Some initial difficulty with past and present tense in the prologue was really the only writing issue I spotted here, and it was absolutely minor. From there, we move into a really nice structure of present-day personal adventure with an unfolding distant-past drama in the form of diary entries from a long-gone spacefaring ancestor.

The story takes place on New Eden, continuing our theme of planets humans move to and call “Eden” which – okay, this is only the second one so far and it’s totally fair enough. An all-too-realistic premise of ten Bezosian / Gatesesque / Musky-arse super-rich corporate families and their space-peons forming an armada to escape Earth as it drowns in their excess fuels the plot, along with a gut-wrenching eleventh ship promised to the normies that was absolutely scuttled for parts and left to die in space, or something equally horrible. But there are more stories in the Caelestis Series (and / or the Paradisi Chronicles), so there is definitely more to learn here.

Upon this ugly foundation, a literal and allegorical New World is built, complete with oppressed and victimised natives, destroyed cultures, colonisers and a dynamic between sentients, sapients and the natural world that was extremely compelling and at the same time very uncomfortable to read. I enjoyed the Welsh-leaning ddaeran language and – despite some initial hesitancy – the Chinese and Hakka cultural background of the coloniser characters.

But most important of all was the story of Mei Lin and her struggle to reconcile her past, her parents’ expectations, and her own feelings and desires. Within five minutes I wanted Mei Lin to murder her parents and become a meddalwyn herder. It was so enjoyable to read her journey, and if I can relate to this character I think it’s safe to say anyone can. There are twists and revelations aplenty, but I won’t spoil them here – except to say there’s so much satisfaction in seeing Mei Lin’s shitty parents getting hoist on their own “respect your shitty parents” petard by Mei Lin’s grandparents and great-grandmother, I can’t even tell you.

The story as a whole seemed like a none-too-thinly-veiled criticism of un-empathic people, for the empathic and people who consider themselves empathic alike to enjoy. And enjoy it I did. So much so, I will even excuse Locke for cheekily working a reference to her own series of San Francisco mysteries into the narrative.

You’d be forgiven for being confused over the naming of the series, since the worldbuilding seems to have been made in a group workshop situation and is shared between several authors and story-streams. This “open source” setting is really interesting although it also left me a little bit at a loss as to how (if at all) I should credit or criticise Locke for her creative efforts. I concluded, ultimately, that all fiction worldbuilding is dependent on the author’s read, viewed and lived experiences, and this is really nothing more than a facet of that truth. It’s all good.

Sex-o-meter

No sex in this one, unless you count references to marriages and parentage and genealogies to be sexy. And I don’t. And this is my sex-o-meter and my review. So I’m giving this book one coquettishly winking and provocatively sheared meddalwyn out of a possible Shore Up The Genetic Diversity Of The Species Post-Planetfall Ten Ship Boink-a-thon.

Gore-o-meter

No gore either, really, because this wasn’t that sort of story. Zero flesh-gobbets out of a possible five, and that’s alright.

WTF-o-meter

WTF aplenty in this story, but again it wasn’t really the point of the story, so much as a lovely sensation of added depth to what is clearly a lovingly realised and shared world. Military scientists working on Tenebra, you say? Tantalising. The rule about not using the wormhole was instantly suspicious and fascinating, but not fully explored. The other nine settler ships and their respective cultures obviously weren’t Locke’s to mess with, and that left us with a cleverly isolated and tribal feeling to the Yu-family-based cultural slice of New Eden. Absolutely great. I’ll take that coquettishly winking and provocatively sheared meddalwyn from the sex-o-meter and give Between Mountain and Sea that out of a possible same but with a hen ddynion sitting on its back, wearing a saucy hat.

My Final Verdict

This was an excellent story. Screw it, I’ll give it five stars on the Amazon / Goodreads scale. No notes. You know, aside from all the notes *gestures vaguely at the wall of text above*. Really interesting and enjoyable read, good job and thank you!


FIVE STARS IN AUDIOBOOK NARRATION…

Hello Bookish Folks!

Well, it is official…I LOVE AUDIOBOOKS!

I think I now own over 50 audiobooks and even more on my Wish List! Now that might not be many to some, and I started this post a while ago so it has definitely increased. Point being, your girl hear loves audiobooks.

I HATED audiobooks at first, I couldn’t stand them at all but I persisted mainly due to the awesome David pushing me and guiding me through how to find ones I liked and tips of introducing myself to them.

Then I found maybe three narrators that didn’t make me want to pull my hair out and stuck with them, which really limited me to what I could listen to but the thing is with audiobooks once you have listened to a few then more narrators become enjoyable to you! It is 100% a transition, or at least it was for me.

Don’t get me wrong some narrators can butcher an amazing book, in my opinion, but there are also so many supremely talented voice actors. Now, I cant guarantee you will love the same people I do but here are five narrators that tick all the boxes for me as a listener.

ADAM GOLD

Adam Gold is an American voice actor, who despite only having performed one book I have read, has earned a spot in my top five narrators. Its helps that Voice of War and Stones of Light by Zack Argyle are absolutely fan-freaking-tastic reads but still Gold truly performs in his narrations of these books. Gold has a very distinctive voice, and despite this he still managed to make all the characters different and I still feel at any point like I couldn’t tell who was in the scene.

I definitely feel that Gold’s experience as an actor brings even more talent to his narrations. He embodies every character, it doesn’t come across a just a change of accent but an in depth understanding of every character, and for me that was reflected in this audiobook!

He has also narrated book two of the Threadlight series so definitely watch out for that release!

DAVID MORLEY HALE

Maybe I am biased here as a fellow Lancastrian, but Hale is a freaking phenomenal narrator. His voice has such a depth and is perfect for fantasy narration in my opinion.

His narration in Priest of Bones is pretty damned perfect, it is gravely and real and while I adore the books and own them I will likely never read them because he is who I need to read those books to me!

Hale possesses such a sense of emotion in his narrations, the rhythm and cadence of his voice made me appreciate every world the talented Peter McLean had written.

PRENTICE ONAYEMI

Prentice Onayemi was introduced to me when Twitter went crazy over Evan Winter’s epic debut, The Rage of Dragons, and I picked up the audiobook. Onayemi’s performance is outstanding, put simply, and it is no surprise considering the number of books he has under his belt.

There are several books I want to listen to that aren’t even in the Fantasy genre, he has so many books to his name. All of which I hope to listen to at some point.

JOE JAMESON

I must confess, I didn’t actually like Joe Jameson at first. Worry not though, I found the error in my ways and found a fantastic narrator with SO MANY amazing fantasy book under his belt! And I am talking about a LOT of books.

I had tried Jameson previously and found his narration not to my liking at first, it wasn’t until his narration of The Kingdom of Liars that I truly fell in love. I don’t know what it was but I couldn’t stop listening, then having had a full book of his voice I looked into his other performances and I was shocked at the sheer number of books he has narration. I then went on to listen to Snakewood and fell even deeper into his voice.

His voice is so distinctive, and again despite the number of books I have now listened to of his I don’t get mixed up or feel like it reminds me of another book. His voice is one which captures the characters, and I found he truly captures the essence of the character in his performances, be them arrogant, ignorant or young he delivers on all fronts.

COLIN MACE

Last but not least, Mr Colin Mace.

With a background in theatre, film and TV Mace brings a whole lot of skill to the table.

After listening to only the sample to Blackwing I was sold by Mace’s performance. I wanted more immediately. I then went in a search to fid more of Mace and again found another narrator with so many audiobooks to his name, and even better so many of those were on my TBR.

Performing the darker and grimmer books can sometimes trip up narrators, in my opinion, however this is not an issue for Mace. He manages to reflect the sombre nature of the world and life of the character but not to a point it is tiring listening to them. He has a voice that makes you feel like you are sat around a fire listening to him tell you a story of his life.


THE LAST KING OF OSTEN ARD | THE WITCHWOOD CROWN & EMPIRE OF GRASS (Spoiler Free)

New York Times-bestselling Tad Williams’ ground-breaking epic fantasy saga of Osten Ard begins an exciting new cycle! • Volume One of The Last King of Osten Ard

The Dragonbone Chair, the first volume of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, was published in hardcover in October, 1988, launching the series that was to become one of the seminal works of modern epic fantasy. Many of today’s top-selling fantasy authors, from Patrick Rothfuss to George R. R. Martin to Christopher Paolini credit Tad with being the inspiration for their own series.

Now, twenty-four years after the conclusion of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, Tad returns to his beloved universe and characters with The Witchwood Crown, the first novel in the long-awaited sequel trilogy, The Last King of Osten Ard.

Thirty years have passed since the events of the earlier novels, and the world has reached a critical turning point once again. The realm is threatened by divisive forces, even as old allies are lost, and others are lured down darker paths. Perhaps most terrifying of all, the Norns—the long-vanquished elvish foe—are stirring once again, preparing to reclaim the mortal-ruled lands that once were theirs….

Review

Many of you will have read MST some time ago so this is really more of ‘why you should read’ post, more than it is a straight review. I felt that i would cover some of the questions that think you may have and try and inspire you to pick up this series after such a lengthy break.

Should you return to this Osten Ard after all this time ?

Absolutely yes !!! Many of you may be apprehensive about the follow up to such a hugely successful series such as this, but this instalment delivers and will likely exceed you’re expectations !! I can tell you that i was totally overwhelmed when i began these books and i was so drunk on being back in this world and re-joining the cast of beloved characters, that i just couldn’t put these books down. As you would expect from Tad Williams, the prose was as sharp and as flawless as MST, the world building was even more immersive and the characterization was just phenomenal. Every aspect of this book felt polished and sharper and I can definitely say that this Duology does not suffer with middle book syndrome at all. What i really like about reading the middle books essentially is that the world is obviously very much established and means that you can just absorb the parts of this world that were formerly unseen and just makes you appreciate the scope of the world that Williams has created. I was hugely captivated by new cast of characters and I was totally engaged from the moment that i picked it up The Witchwood Crown. Williams is so consistent in every aspect of his story telling and the pacing for a Duology of this size is amazing.

The Cast new and old…..

Williams characterization always has a huge impact on me as its always to the point of being as close to perfect as you’re gonna get! I love the meticulous attention to detail with the development of the characters and the way he describes them, they’re always so stylized and totally vivid in there description that they really burst into life within your imagination. The character development of the original cast is portrayed incredibly well and the progression of their characters felt natural and provoked a feeling nostalgia in that it was almost just like seeing old friends again. But as they didn’t over shadow the new characters it really put the focus on the new cast and it was really balanced. The multiple character POVs served as well as they did in MST and provided intimate insights into these complex characters and by the end of the duology, the new characters were as engaging as the original cast. The new cast members that we’re introduced to are Morgan, Nezaru, Jarnulf, Tanahaya, Tzoja, Viyeki and Unver and we spend most of our time with these characters. I felt that each of their POVs had hugely emotive themes which really helped me to connect with them and the tone changed when we shifted from one to the other. This was something that i felt really kept me engaged and something that i feel is so important with books of this size. At no point did feel that the pace drag at all and as always the intrigue surrounding these characters was hugely captivating. I’d say my favourite characters were Unver and Nezaru. The majority of the characters development was a slow burn, each having a cliff hanger towards the EOG. But I liked the above characters more as I felt that there PoVs definitely had the most impact, especially Unver, with one of his scenes being amongst my favourite scenes of any novel that I’ve ever read. I definitely gravitate towards the darker more tortured characters.Some people might find some very common character tropes in these novels, but I found all the characters to be quite nuanced in so many ways.

How does the History/Lore of this world progress in this Duology?

The Lore and the history of this world is as spellbinding as its always been and over the course of these books it unfolds perfectly. I’m more engaged in this series now more than ever and this is mainly because we find out so much more about the garden born and their origin story. After reading MST i was so eager for the expansion on the history and the lore of this world and these books delivered and it was so worth the wait. But in general terms all of the different races of Osten Ard bloom in this part of the story, especially the Norns, the Thrithings men and the Nabbanai. This duology clearly defines the cultural identities of all the of the races within Osten Ard with much more depth. This is very much the build up to the concluding part of the series and the wealth of history and Lore that comes with it. The deeper dive into the Nabbanai culture really brought a new level of political intrigue which really made the the Italian, Roman catholic, almost Machiavellian influences on the politics abundantly clear. In MST we did nt spend that much time with the Thrithings clans, but in this Trilogy we see a much broader picture of their Nomadic culture and with it and there place within this worlds history and their major role in the story going forward. So as you can imagine by far the biggest focus is with the Norns and by the end of this duology you’re fully immersed in there complex culture, which really ushers in a much darker atmosphere to these books. Their culture is the polar opposite to the Sithi culture and so we see a very brutal, dark and unforgiving nature to their world, that is completely structured in a way that serves there queen Uttuk’ku. They really represent a large portion of the magic users of this world and really turn these books into a high magic fantasy compared to its MST. It does have that traditional feel to the magic system as it did before and the mystery surrounding it really suits the series so well. Towards the end of the book we’re guided towards the history of the Tinukeda’ya which grows in importance the further we go into the series. You will have known them from MST as the Niskies and the Dwarrows. In this duology you understand that they too have a huge part in what’s to come in the final conclusion of this story. So despite finishing everything that has been released thus far, there is still so much more to know about this world. I can’t wait to find out more in The Navigators Children, which will be realeased in 2022.

Its a huge Duology. Is there a big pay off ?

Heading towards the ending I didn’t expect that it was going to be as impactful as it was given that these are the middle books of a huge series and it’s not something I expected. I can tell you that the intrigue leading up to the dramatic conclusion was earth shattering. The pacing and the general execution a series of this size really has meant that in no way was it a slog to read. The way that Williams has sets up the final leg of this series is perfect. It leaves you with the impression that what’s to come is going to be magnificent! I just think that after all this time and given that Tad Williams is better than he’s ever been, I cannot even imagine how amazing The Navigators Children will be !! I’m more than confident that we will get an equally satisfying ending as we did with Green Angel Tower, perhaps better… Much better, which totally melts my mind.

My final thoughts….

This was quoted as being one of the seminal works of modern Epic Fantasy and in my opinion this installment is another glowing example of why Tad Williams is one of the most respected Epic fantasy writers working today. I was so excited to return to Osten Ard after becoming obsessed with Memory, Sorrow and Thorn and i cannot emphasize how satisfied i was with The Last King of Osten Ard. I think fans that have read MST will not regret returning Osten Ard and will be as excited as I am for what’s to come. Everything that has come before has convinced me that this series when completed will be revered as one of the definitive works of epic fantasy ever to hit the shelves. It is totally captivating and I consider it to be a stand out series that towers over most epic fantasy from that era . Tad Williams is without doubt amongst my favourite authors within the fantasy genre and has managed to improve on something that I all ready considered to be near perfect.


BOOK REVIEW | THE KINGDOM OF LIARS BY NICK MARTELL

Hello!

I actually started writing my review to book two of this series and the when I tried to link the review to this I realised I hadn’t even written it yet! So, here it is now…

A few facts about this book:

  • Title: The Kingdom of Liars
  • Author: Nick Martell
  • Series: The Legacy of the Mercenary King (Book One)
  • Published by Gollancz
  • Pages: 544

Synopsis:

Add It To Your Goodreads!

In this brilliant debut fantasy, a story of secrets, rebellion, and murder are shattering the Hollows, where magic costs memory to use, and only the son of the kingdom’s despised traitor holds the truth. 

Michael is branded a traitor as a child because of the murder of the king’s nine-year-old son, by his father David Kingman. Ten years later on Michael lives a hardscrabble life, with his sister Gwen, performing crimes with his friends against minor royals in a weak attempt at striking back at the world that rejects him and his family.

In a world where memory is the coin that pays for magic, Michael knows something is there in the hot white emptiness of his mind. So when the opportunity arrives to get folded back into court, via the most politically dangerous member of the kingdom’s royal council, Michael takes it, desperate to find a way back to his past. He discovers a royal family that is spiraling into a self-serving dictatorship as gun-wielding rebels clash against magically trained militia.

What the truth holds is a set of shocking revelations that will completely change the Hollows, if Michael and his friends and family can survive long enough to see it. 

ORDER HERE: Audible | Amazon.co.uk

Review:

Here are a few things you can expect from this book…

  • A brilliant debut;
  • Politics, family, brotherhood and many more great themes;
  • A distinctive and fun world;
  • A freaking fantastic audiobook; and
  • A mystery feel to the plot.

On to the full review…

The Kingdom of Liars was for me a huge surprise and one I am glad I got to experience. I didn’t really know much about this book and admittedly requested it on NetGalley without much thought on the matter. I know, bad me. However, I started reading it and as per usual work stole half of my time so I switched it up and started listening to it instead and all I can say was that I was so thoroughly hooked!

The Kingdom of Liars ticked so many boxes for me! We had mystery, adventure, magic, politics and so much intrigue. It was such an enjoyable read, that is not to say it is perfect but when I have this much fun reading a book I really don’t mind if it falters in a few areas. I enjoyed the characters, the world and the story.

Something I really liked about this book was the magic. It was refreshing to read and I always appreciate it when there are heavy costs to the use of said magic, which in this case was the magic users memories. Mix that in with a story in which the characters are constantly seeking out the truth, the risk of potentially finding something out only to loose it as a result of your magic use is quite frankly genius. It is such a simple concept and yet so damned effective, there is literally always the fear that you will find out the information you are so desperately trying to find only to lose it in a heartbeat because of a decision to save yourself or another. I mean if that doesn’t have you salivating as a reader I don’t know what will!

I also loved our main character, Michael. Yes he was a very VERY flawed character and he can be such a pity party to himself but lord knows I loved the kid! I saw his irritating traits and even rolled my eyes a few times at how he insisted on acting without all the information but I am not going to lie, I absolutely loved reading him. Michael was such a fresh take on the main character and as a result I found his internal thoughts and his interactions with other characters throughly engaging and enjoyable.

There were a few technical issues present in this debut and a few pacing issues but as I said earlier I loved the characters, the world and the plot so they didn’t bother me all that much. Yes, I noticed them but when you read as many books as I do it is hard not to spot them at times. The question is did they impact or decrease my enjoyment of this book? Absolutely not.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I also thoroughly enjoyed book two! Thus, I cant wait to read book three!


THE RANKS: 

BUY THE HARDBACK | BUY THE PAPERBACK | BUY THE EBOOK | LIBRARY RENTAL OR SALE PURCHASE

I actually already have this book in Hardback and I stand by that purchase. So, this is a really easy rating for my…BUY THE HARDBACK


AGAIN Thank you for reading AND SEE YOU SOON!


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:

Add It To Your Goodreads!

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:

Add It To Your Goodreads!

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.