SUNDAYS SEVEN | 7 BOOKS THAT DIDN’T FALL VICTIM TO MIDDLE BOOK SYNDROME…

Happy Sunday Bookish Folk!

Good evening all! How are we all doing? Great I hope. It may be the end of the weekend but worry not I have a treat for you.

I have been meaning to do this post for a little while now, so why not restart my Sundays Seven with this little gem!

Here I am going to give you seven books that I feel have been a solid second instalment in their series. As much as we love series’ sometimes the middle book is a weaker book. Don’t get me wrong they are still good books but they sometimes fall victim to middle book syndrome!

What is middle book syndrome do you ask? Well, you may know it as ‘Second Book Slump’. Either way it refers to those second books that don’t quite live up to the first book. There are tons of reasons for this and some are even worth it! Some authors opt for more character development. They have already won you over so now they take the time to build their characters. Which again is not a bad thing at all but it can mean a lag in pace and we always notice it!

I see a good amount of people calling out series’ that slump but I am not about that, because the books are still solid books, they just miss some of the marks we readers demand. We are needy folk!

Any who, away from my ramblings. Let’s get to it…

ON TO THE BOOKS…

THE CRIMSON CAMPAIGN BY BRIAN MCCLELLAN

As the fantastic reviewer Petrik said in his review of this book “It’s not an exaggeration to say that The Crimson Campaign is a marvellous sequel that’s better than the first book in every aspect“.

Petrik speaks the truth!

McClellan showed huge improvements in this instalment, not to say book one wasn’t great, it truly was but McClellan gave us so much more in book two. Characters grew, the action increased, the magic became more prevalent and so much more!

Tamas’s invasion of Kez ends in disaster when a Kez counter-offensive leaves him cut off behind enemy lines with only a fraction of his army, no supplies, and no hope of reinforcements. Drastically outnumbered and pursued by the enemy’s best, he must lead his men on a reckless march through northern Kez to safety, and back over the mountains so that he can defend his country from an angry god. In Adro, Inspector Adamat only wants to rescue his wife. To do so he must track down and confront the evil Lord Vetas. He has questions for Vetas concerning his enigmatic master, but the answers might come too quickly. With Tamas and his powder cabal presumed dead, Taniel Two-shot finds himself alongside the god-chef Mihali as the last line of defence against Kresimir’s advancing army. Tamas’s generals bicker among themselves, the brigades lose ground every day beneath the Kez onslaught, and Kresimir wants the head of the man who shot him in the eye.

ADD IT TO YOUR GOODREADS!


STONES OF LIGHT BY ZACK ARGYLE

I recently read this book and thoroughly enjoyed it! This is another fantastic series, and while I loved book one, book two showed so much improvement! There are so many ways for an author to avoid the slump and Zack definitely did these in this instalment. We see more character growth, the stakes are raised and Stones of Light not only moves the overall plot forward it has its own story arc too!

The coreseal is shattered and a new darkness is coming.

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…a life without threadlight is no life at all.

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 doomed the world…now, they must save it.

ADD IT TO YOUR GOODREADS!


PRIEST OF LIES BY PETER MCLEAN

I am a HUGE fan of this series. This is a series in which every book gets better and better as it goes on. Priest of Lies continues with Tomas’ utterly distinct and incredible narration.

This is another series in which the stakes get higher and the risk greater! We also see huge development to several characters who are all pivotal to the story. This book is incredibly written and evokes so much emotion.

Tomas Piety has been many things: soldier, priest, gangster…and spy. As Tomas’s power grows, the nobility better watch their backs, in this dark and gritty epic fantasy series.

People are weak, and the poorer and more oppressed they are, the weaker they become–until they can’t take it anymore. And when they rise up…may the gods help their oppressors.

When Tomas Piety returned from the war, he just wanted to rebuild his empire of crime with his gang of Pious Men. But his past as a spy for the Queen’s Men drew him back in and brought him more power than he ever imagined.

Now, with half of his city in ashes and the Queen’s Men at his back, the webs of political intrigue stretch out from the capital to pull Tomas in. Dannsburg is calling.

In Dannsburg the nobility fight with words, not blades, but the results are every bit as bloody. In this pit of beasts, Tomas must decide once and for all whether he is truly the people’s champion…or just a priest of lies.

ADD IT TO YOUR GOODREADS!


AN ECHO OF THINGS TO COME BY JAMES ISLINGTON

To some this might seem a slightly odd book to have on this list because it can definitely feel like a second book. Some very good friends and I decided it was a bridge book. It has some of the characteristic’s of middle book syndrome but Islington still manages to make this book shine, and I personally think that is a feat in itself. An Echo of Things to Come remains engaging throughout and despite its page count keeps you wanting to learn more about the characters and the world.

I think that is easily one of this series’ main strengths you are constantly asking ‘what is next?’.

ADD IT TO YOUR GOODREADS!


A FOOL’S HOPE BY MIKE SHACKLE

Oh my, is this a book that knows what it is doing! Mike raises the stakes, he ups the action and anything you thought you knew he obliterates.

I think this is easily one of the best second books I have read, hence why it makes the cut!

A Fool’s Hope is intense, filled with action, packed with emotion and does not hold its punches.

If you haven’t read this series then you need to start it! NOW!

War takes everything.

From Tinnstra, it took her family and thrust her into a conflict she wanted only to avoid. Now her queen’s sole protector, she must give everything she has left to keep Zorique safe.


It has taken just as much from Jia’s revolutionaries. Dren and Jax – battered, tortured, once enemies themselves – now must hold strong against their bruised invaders, the Egril.


For the enemy intends to wipe Jia from the map. They may have lost a battle, but they are coming back. And if Tinnstra and her allies hope to survive, Jia’s heroes will need to be ready when they do.


The sequel to the darkly fantastic WE ARE THE DEAD: with more unflinching action, A FOOL’S HOPE sees Jia’s revolutionaries dig in their heels as they learn that wars aren’t won in a day.

ADD IT TO YOUR GOODREADS!


THE FIRES OF VENGEANCE BY EVAN WINTER

The Fires of Vengeance is a top quality sequel, one of which I hugely enjoyed. This is a series that I feel is going to keep getting better too. Which considering what an incredible book The Rage of Dragons was is very impressive!

This is a second book you just don’t want to end, it is another author who has you constantly wondering what is going to come next. There are cliff hanger’s throughout and the risks are immense.

It is another very intense book, which is fast paced but also has time to build on all you have already been introduced to and with exquisite detail. It builds on the already incredible The Rage of Dragons and takes you to new heights.

Desperate to delay an impending attack by the indigenous people of Xidda, Tau and his queen craft a dangerous plan. If Tau succeeds, the queen will have the time she needs to assemble her forces and launch an all-out assault on her own capital city, where her sister is being propped up as the ‘true’ Queen of the Omehi.If the city can be taken, if Tsiora can reclaim her throne and reunite her people, then the Omehi might have a chance to survive the coming onslaught.

ADD IT TO YOUR GOODREADS!


VALOUR BY JOHN GWYNNE

Is it really a list from me if John Gwynne doesn’t feature in it? No. No it is, and so here be Valour by John Gwynne.

If you haven’t read this series then be prepared to be wowed with every book. John Gwynne doesn’t just do book two right, he does books three and four perfect also. As one of my all time favourite series I am so chuffed to tell you that this book is phenomenal and while Malice was near perfection, Valour brings you even more!

Gwynne reveals so much more in this book. You can expect intrigue, scheming, deception, villainous POV’s, heroics, humour and SO MUCH MORE!

The Banished Lands are torn by war as the army of High King Nathair sweeps the realm challenging all who oppose his holy crusade. Allied with the manipulative Queen Rhin of Cambren, there are few who can stand against him. But Rhin is playing her own games and has her eyes on a far greater prize . . .

Left for dead – her kin have fled and her country is overrun with enemies – Cywen fights to survive. But any chance of escape is futile once Nathair and his disquieting advisor Calidus realize who she is. They have no intention of letting such a prize slip from their grasp. For she may be their one chance at killing the biggest threat to their power.

Meanwhile, the young warrior Corban flees from his conquered homeland with his exiled companions, heading for the only place that may offer them sanctuary. But to get there they must travel through Cambren, avoiding warbands, giants and the vicious wolven of the mountains. And all the while Corban struggles to become the man that everyone believes him to be – the Bright Star and saviour of the Banished Lands.

Embroiled in struggles for power and survival, the mortal world is unaware of the greatest threat of all. In the Otherworld, dark forces scheme to bring a host of the Fallen into the world of flesh to end the war with the Faithful, once and for all.

ADD IT TO YOUR GOODREADS!

Some common threads I notice in these delightful books are:

  • Increase in the stakes;
  • Even though these are second books they still have their own plot arcs;
  • Increase in pace and intensity; and
  • Further development to not one but all of their book elements (characters, world, plot, reveals, etc).

Or at least that is what I think 🙂


There you have it, seven books from seven authors that know their craft and have produced an EXCELLENT sequel!

Thanks for reading.


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!


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!


Ghostwater by Will Wight (Book #5 Cradle Series)

To see book 4 Skysworn go here.

Ghostwater by Will Wight is #5 in the Cradle series. If you’re here I’m sure you’ve already become vested in this universe.  Sorry it took so long to get this out. Let’s get into it. So, once again I feel like each book is going to be my new favorite. The interesting thing about this one though compared to the past ones is Lindon pretty much is in a brand-new pocket world (Ghostwater) inside the world we already know. It’s quite brilliant in finding a way to create new lands, creatures, and adventure without having to find a way to whisk the characters off to new geographic locations. It’s a fun way to flex your creativity and level up the characters to do better in the situation they’re still in. I always love new lands or in this case pocket dimensions to explore. 

This book is where I am 100% in on the character of Lindon. I mean I’ve been liking him more with each book; I just feel he made broad strides in this one. He and Orthos are essentially trapped in this pocket world as the weaker of the people there. No one to bail him out. They draw the ire of Ekerinatoth, a gold dragon, on the path of the Flowing Flame. There are also some crazy swarms of giant fish too. Sounds kind of delicious. Ok, so Lindon and Orthos have to find a way to survive as they look to get out of this mess. Having sealed themselves in in some underground bunker they explore to find…pretty much someone has looted the area already. Though interestingly Lindon finds a memory construct chilling in some high-grade mental elixirs. It seems to have given the construct a consciousness. It knows everything about Ghostwater. Sweet deal. This construct ends up with the name Dross helps form a plan for our duo…or trio now I suppose…no foursome because we have little blue too! Lindon doesn’t just get out of it, but he kills her which has repercussions. Unfortunately, she lives long enough to get back to her people, so they know she was killed and by what kind of path. BLACKFLAME.

This leads to chaos for Yerin and Mercy. Oh, side note, I really enjoy those two hanging out together, fun dynamic. Anyways they try to get to Lindon by pissing off the Skysworn and some angry dragons. Lindon kicked the proverbial dragon nest..roost? Yerin has to hide a lot which makes her quite unhappy. Yerin and Mercy get beaten down pretty badly. They too have to find a way to deal with their situation. I don’t have much to say about them in this, but they are fun.

This very much felt like a Lindon adventure though. There are a lot of cool and also deadly things left behind by the Monarch who built Ghostwater. Lindon comes across many valuable elixirs, meat, books, and overall knowledge. Leveling Up, Scott Pilgrim has nothing on you. We also meet Emo warrior Ziel of the Wasteland. Seemingly bored with life he doesn’t mind lending his oversized Warhammer to help out the weaker. Ziel manages to help not only Lindon in Ghostwater, but helps save Yerin and Mercy on the outside. Cheer up bud, the world needs you. 

After Ziel is gone we of course have the arrogant Akura Harmony who comes along to steal Dross from Lindon. This was not very nice. Lindon and Orthos go after him even though Harmony is part of a Monarch faction and was the most powerful person in the pocket world in the beginning of this book. Lindon, Orthos, and Dross manage to beat him with a mix of power, quick thinking, and strategy. Lindon offers to take Harmony out of Ghostwater before it collapses. Harmony instead threatens retaliation and revenge. What can you do? Lindon leaves him behind with Orthos breaking off his chance of escape. SAVAGE. Harmony seems to be trapped when the pocket world collapses. Gone forever? Who knows? This will have repercussions in Lindon’s relationship with the mighty Akura family. Oh, Harmony was also Mercy’s ex-fiancé. AWKWARD. Lindon is great at making enemies. Excellent skill to have my man. It certainly makes things more entertaining for us readers. 

Lindon reconnects with Yerin and Mercy. Yerin and Lindon seem to be connecting more especially now that Lindon is closing in on becoming her equal. Hmmm. Will their arc lead to more than best friends? Stay tuned you Cradle lovers. Wait, that sounds weird. Cradle Fans!!!


The Wheel of Time on Amazon Prime

Hello my Wheel of Time fans and curious non-readers. Here is my Non-spoiler review of Amazon’s adaptation Season 1; episode 1-3. Go here if you want to see my last post about things to know before the show. This will be me as a die-hard fan judging the show itself. I will probably follow up after I have seen the whole season as well. What do I think so far??? The short answer is that it’s very good. I never rate books, but for a show, sure….I will at the end.

The best thing about the show so far is that it’s BIG F-Fantasy. They do not try to hide the fact magic is prominent and used in this world. I will also say the magic looks very good. I honestly cannot put into words how I pictured it would look from the books, but it works. The One Power are weaves and the spells are being weaved. The only thing that may confuse those that never read the book is how there are different flows of magic using different elements: Earth, Spirit, Water, Air, and Fire. It is hard to tell exactly how it works being that the weaves are the same color. I have seen a lot of new people think it is Light magic because Moiraine calls on the Light for help. Hopefully that gets ironed out in future episodes. 

The characters are aged up compared to the books so they are a bit more mature. Their lives have also advanced some that do make sense in this adaptation that wouldn’t be in the books at their slightly younger ages. I do not agree with how some of these are setup , but not against them either. It will depend on how it all plays out; I do have ideas of how it can work for the better depending on how it is all developed. With that in mind I can tell who all the characters are. For non-readers you would have no way of knowing. So far the characters are quite interesting. I love Moiraine, played by Rosamund Pike, she is amazing; perfect in how she displays the character. Nynaeve and Tam are great too. The rest are doing a good job and I cannot wait to see how Mat is developed this season. I am sad Barney is leaving after season1 because so far he’s owning Mat. Either way I adore the cast as they are playing them so far. My nitpick is the writers are not using “in world” curses or lingo. It seems they will modernize the language more which I will probably learn to get used to.

The Dark One’s creatures so far are great. The Trollocs or mutated beast-men look amazing. Sometimes the CGI aspects stutter a bit in terms of quality, but for a TV show they look very good overall. The practical effects are amazing. The Eyeless Ones or Fades as they have called them a lot in the show are scary. Though we haven’t seen them fight yet; that will be something to see I hope. I have to give props when there’s magic flying around with beast men, and humans fighting it has moments where I’m like oh man they are overdoing it with how much the SFX team can handle, but then it evens out and flows well. Props for managing all that. I think the only thing that looked odd was the dark figure in their dreams. I know who it is, but non-readers do not. I will say it looks a bit like they were not sure where to go with it and didn’t iron out the details. Not too important since he appears in dreams. I have heard new watchers call it the alien thing though.

The flow of the show is fine. There are things added in that take up time that wasn’t part of the books. I have to see how they play out before I judge though. Sometimes I feel like we need to spend more time with characters than we get to, but overall I think it can be okay if the pacing is managed well between all the main characters as they grow. The biggest issue I’m hearing is that non-readers are getting a bit lost in the lore and world. The main plot seems to be understood, but the whys and hows people are struggling with. I can see that easily. I will say Game of Thrones lost people for a bit too so not worried currently. Though this series has way more to teach us and for people to digest. It worries me that people may get frustrated and quit too early. Amazon does have lore mini videos people may not know about that can help too. Check those out.

The cinematography has been anywhere from good to amazing. The sound/music is perfect. The writing is good and interactions flow pretty naturally especially when Moiraine is involved. Rosamund is just brilliant with every word, movement, and action she does. In terms of my nitpicks about the show vs. books that will not be here. I will say as a fantasy show so far it’s a 8/10 for me at this point. I cannot wait for the next episodes already. Cast is great. Special effects team is being pushed hard. Costume designs are working for a fantasy setting without a solid point of reference in our world. I also have to give a nod to the showrunners who are trying to tackle this gigantic piece of source material with a TV show, ambitious. They still have much to prove especially with pacing and character development; they can win me all the way over though.

Also…I feel I need to address that the show is being review bombed by book purists who do not understand adaptation. There is also some misogyny & racism involved that we still have to deal with in today’s world too. Judge for yourself as I do not pay much attention to reviews because of issues like this as shows become less male and Caucasian dominant. However; that actually makes sense in this world. It isn’t “woke” casting or story changes. As a big fan of the books, women are the powerful mages and skin color isn’t really a part of the series except with a few people. Though no I am not saying if you do not like it then you are like these people. Not everything is for everyone. I know many who loved Shadow and Bone, but I started it months ago and still have not finished it…I will… I promise. If it doesn’t click for you; thanks for giving it a try. As for book purists, the only way a play by play of this series could ever work is a very long and expensive anime series. You could also just re-read the books which have flaws in them too that I hope get ironed out in the show actually. Regardless, go watch it and tell me what you think. I will did a spoiler review (of episodes 1-4) on my own blog and that is linked here.


Skysworn by Will Wight

I apologize for my delay in getting, well, anything up. At work I’m alone in a unit of what should be four people. It’s been exhausting to say the least. Enough of that though. Here we have another review on the Cradle series by Will Wight. This will be a continuation on my journey with book 4 Skysworn. I have to say before I get started each book is better than the last. I’m behind on writing so I have actually also got through book 5, so that still stands.

Will Wight’s magic system and character depth grows with each passing book. In book one I was pretty eh on Lindon, but the kid continues to develop into an impressive character. Yerin also goes through the mental ringer as well. Of course, the big event in this book we have been waiting on is Lindon vs. Jai Long. This does not disappoint. Interesting enough an even bigger issue that turns this story sideways is Jai Daishou, Patriarch of the Jai Clan. He seemingly is losing his mind wanting revenge against Eithan for defeating him, ok and Eithan did temporarily kill him. I mean sometimes you got to let things go Daishou!

Let’s get to the book which is called Skysworn. The military elite of the Blackflame Empire. Apparently, they do not like anyone using the actual power of Blackflame though, oops. I mean it is based on fire and destruction, what’s the problem? Sooo Lindon is imprisoned, but that doesn’t stop Eithan from breaking into every jail cell Lindon is locked in so he can keep training him. Its comically amusing to see him casually get into prisons, stay, and aggravate the Skysworn to make certain Lindon is ready to fight Jai Long. I really thought that battle was going to be the icing on the cake. The finale of the book. However, it comes faster than expected. While it is a great battle sequence and use of sacred arts by Lindon; the stakes get wilder and more dangerous at the end of their duel. In case you haven’t gotten into it this book fully the results will be left hidden here. I’m happy it went the way it did for character development reasons. That said Lindon was impressive.

As the battle ends Jai Daishou is off his rocker and tries to kill Eithan but ends up awakening a Dread God instead. Can’t be too bad right? Jai Daishou uses an artifact that could kill everyone at the site, but luckily for them Jai Chen puts an end to it. A favorite side character of mine that I’m not sure we will see ever again after this book, but way to go girl. Unfortunately, the followers of this Dread God, Redmoon Hall, are inspired to invade the Blackflame Empire. They just wholesale slaughter anyone in their path. They are pretty freaky people, definitely don’t invite to dinner parties. Their invasion is swiftly moving across the land and an Underlord of Redmoon Hall arrives to where our protagonists are working on a plan of escape. This Underlord and his army use blood madra. They can use spilled blood to create bloodspawn to fight for them. Imagine your own wounds not just being a detriment to you, but then your blood is used to attack you. That is damn horrifying. No thanks, I’m out of there.

They eventually escape battered and beaten. I mean if they didn’t the series would end. After they get safely to the flying fortress Stormrock (cool name) Eithan is sent on a mission to get help from the Akura family Monarch. The Akura are essentially the real power in the area that protects places like the Blackflame Empire from even bigger threats. The emperor is more of an overseer of the Blackflame territory because they could replace him in an instant if they so wished. That leaves Yerin and Lindon with Orthos on their own for now. What do these crazy kids and a dragon turtle do?….well the title of the book, they join the Skysworn. The Skysworn don’t trust them so unsurprisingly they are put into a special group with another character that is quite intriguing, Mercy of the Akura. She is caste out from her family to survive on her own, I guess? Honestly, she seems quite clumsy and very much the opposite of Yerin. I enjoy her character so far for very different reasons. They get sent out which causes Yerin’s Blood Shadow to gain strength. I mean she has a Blood Shadow; we have Bloodmoon Hall attacking? What could go wrong? Well, alot apparently. The Skysworn even try to toss Yerin away, pun intended! Chaos ensues, but luckily the Akura Monarch comes help one of the territories under her family’s domain. This was not guaranteed and will not be in the future. So much going on and it seems multiple Dread Gods are starting to stir on this world. That sounds a tiny bit ominous.

All in all a riveting read. Honestly because of the expected ending being in the middle, this book felt like the longest in a good way. A lot happened here that was fascinating in terms of learning more about the magic system, battling, political landscape, but also character growth all around. We get to learn more about the mysterious Eithan and his connection to Ozriel an ancestor of his. I don’t talk much about the the Abidan and what is happening there because its just so far above this one world with its own mechanizations I’m kinda just letting that story unfold, focusing more on our main group of world bound characters.

Will Wight seems to write better with more experience he gets under his belt. It is a steady thing I have noticed with each read. I’m looking forward to this steadily curving upward. Again, though Will Wight’s strength is his devotion and evolution of his magic system; it’s impressive. As Lindon levels up we learn more about the intricacies of madra, sacred arts and aura that surrounds everything. I mean honestly, living in this world sounds awesome and terrifying all at once. Besides our characters working hard to become better sacred artists, I’m never quite sure what craziness they will get into next. If I wrote this before book 5 I would never have even guessed what happens in that book. Wight’s world seems to have endless wonders and things to discover. I mean the Blackflame Empire is a second-rate territory that we are still in. Who knows what else Lindon and the gang will get up to in the future? So, stay tuned as I report my thoughts until I catch up to book 10.

See Previous Blackflame Post


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 BLACK COAST BY MIKE BROOKS

Good Afternoon Bookish Folk!

Today I will be posting my review of, as the title of this post suggests, Mike Brooks’ book ‘The Black Coast’. I would like to thank Orbit for providing me with a copy of this book this book in exchange for an honest review.

I also bought this as an audiobook too as I was struggling to find the time to read it so opted to listen when I could too.

A few facts about this book:

  • Title: The Black Coast
  • Author: Mike Brooks
  • Series: The God-King Chronicles (Book One)
  • Published by Orbit
  • Pages: 643

Synopsis:

Add It To Your Goodreads!

The Black Coast is the start of a series filled with war-dragons, armoured knights, sea-faring raiders, dangerous magic and battle scenes.

When the citizens of Black Keep see ships on the horizon, terror takes them, for they know who is coming: for generations, Black Keep has been raided by the fearsome clanspeople of Iwernia. Saddling their war dragons, the Naridans rush to defend their home only to discover that the clanspeople have not come to pillage at all. Driven from their own homeland by the rise of a daemonic despot who prophesies the end of the world, they have come in search of a new home. Meanwhile the wider continent of Narida is lurching toward war. Black Keep is about to be caught in the cross-fire of the coming war for the world – if only its new mismatched society can survive.

ORDER HERE: Audible | Amazon.co.uk

Review:

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

  • Fantastic world building;
  • A solid foundational book to start a series;
  • LGBTQ+ rep;
  • Political intrigue; and
  • Epic battles.

On to the full review…

The Black Coast first appeared on my radar when I was browsing through NetGalley, and if I am being honest, I probably would have kept on scrolling if I hadn’t loved the cover. It is amazing what a good book cover can do.

So, as you do I checked out the Goodreads page. The book sounded a little different but definitely intriguing and it had a few good reviews already attached to it so I decided to request it from NetGalley. I am happy to say that I am glad I did. While, I only rated this with three stars on Goodreads it was still a good solid read and a series I will continue.

This book was an interesting one, namely due to its focus on finding a peaceful resolution when war is the usual choice in such books. I honestly think this is what gave this read such a refreshing feel to it. Brooks still managed to create enough tension and hostility in his writing without it being outright war between these peoples.

I am not usually one to sing and dance about a books world building, I always appreciate it and will openly praise it, but as a reader I don’t need too much of it. I am the kind of reader that needs a little here and there and a good few distinctive features thrown in to the mix, then I can let my imagination run wild from there. However, saying this I was continually wowed by Brooks’ ability to build such a seamless world, and yet have so many different cultures woven into it. Brooks managed to throw these people together and create a believable environment, one in which some preferred certain elements of the others way of life and vice versa. Which as you can imagine was a great way to create tension between several character in a authentic and exciting way.

Brooks’ writing was easy to read and despite the level of detail found in its genders, cultures and languages it was still accessible and enjoyable. It is not easy to introduce such a new and detailed world and it not feel to the reader like you a trudging through mud to understand it, but this was not the case for this. It was easy to follow and you understand each cultures way of life quickly.

Brooks also deserves much praise for his dialogue in this book. I laughed, I frowned and I scowled. No word is wasted here, and all of it seems to go that few steps further to showing you who the characters are.

In terms of the characters I found myself enjoying certain ones over others and I found myself wanting to get back to their POV’s more often than not. I felt at times there was quite a disparity between several of the characters we meet, some were a lot more fleshed out than others which led to me not really connecting with some of them. I think we will definitely see more of them in the future books and learn more from them but in this instalment many fell into the background for me.

However, those that seemed to fall into the background a little were ones which seemed to be crucial to the beginnings of future plots. Those relevant to the main plot were utterly brilliant.

I enjoyed this book and the audiobook is great! While I had a few issues with the characters I am excited to see those that fell into the background grow and become more crucial to the plot. This book is definitely a foundational book and brings with it some of the flaws of focusing on preparing for the overall series but in the same breath has me so excited for the next book.

I believe that this will be a brilliant series, and once we get to know all the character to the level we have reached with some of them in this instalment, it is going to be magical.


THE RANKS: 

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

This is a book I would currently rank at BUY THE PAPERBACK, or audiobook with a credit. I was honestly going to rate this as a BUY THE EBOOK but then I remembered how much I liked listening to it via audiobook and if I am spending £7.00 on it via a credit then I would also spend that on the PB!

The Black Coast was a solid foundation to a series and one I will continue to read, I feel like this will be ranked higher when I have read more of the series because there is SO much potential here!


AGAIN Thank you for reading AND SEE YOU SOON!


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.