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Sunday, September 6, 2020

My Review of. . .

Diablo – Scales of the Serpent
In the “Scales of the Serpent”, the second of the Sin War trilogy, we find our protagonist, Uldyssian – reluctant hero of the people – hell-bent on destroying the cult of the Triune, a religious movement that has been skillfully subverted to the demoness, Lilith’s, cause.
And with good reason.
The world in which our story is set, Sanctuary, is the conjugation of rebel demons and angels alike. And Lilith was one of those who championed its creation. She, along with her lover and co-conspirator, the angel Inarius, have fought for millennium to keep the existence of Sanctuary a secret from the Burning Hell and the High Heavens, who would destroy it in an instant if they realized the power some of the mortals like Uldyssian – known as naphalem – possess.
The thing is, Lilith is out to upset the balance, and not only seeks to preserve Sanctuary’s integrity, but is determined to establish herself as the Supreme Being of a new order.
But at what cost?
Hundreds of the naphalem have fallen. Mendeln, Uldyssian’s brother, becomes ever more entwined by the necromantic powers that have been offered him by the first of the naphalem, Rathma. And Achilos is dead, though bound to act as champion and defender to Serenthia and Uldyssian against his wishes. How will anything ever be the same again?
Here’s a clue . . . it won’t!
As before, Uldyssian’s habit of self-doubt – despite the miracles he’s responsible for – and disbelieving the obvious become rather irksome as the story progresses. However, that doesn’t detract from the action – and there’s plenty of it – when the Triune, and Lilith, realize what he’s up to.
Overall, “Scales of the Serpent” is a pleasing journey through the world of Sanctuary, and has me hooked enough to want to know how the story ends.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

A Review of. . .

Diablo – Birthright
I’ve never played the games on which the Sin War trilogy is based, but I do enjoy a good story. And where Richard A. Knaak is concerned, THAT’s what you know you’re gonna get.
Uldyssian Ul-Diomed is just a normal guy. A farmer, living with his brother in the village of Seram. Life is hard, but he’s quite content with his lot and is good at what he does. Those who know Uldyssian view him as a no-nonsense individual who can be trusted to deal fairly with those he encounters. Because of this, he’s well respected by his peers . . . until the fateful day religious zealots come to town.
Uldyssian can’t stand the hypocrisy that seems to surround anyone who pushes their beliefs in his face. So, when members of the two main faiths wind up dead, suspicion turns his way. He flees his homeland, determined to prove his innocence, one way or the other. The only problem with that is he seems to be developing strange new powers. Powers that no normal man should possess.
These events combine, slowly peeling away the fa├žade that has been put in place to keep the populace fooled. Yes, there’s much more to the land in which they live than people realize. And finding out about it can prove deadly . . . as Uldyssian finds out to his cost.
This was my introduction to the world of Sanctuary, and I have to say, I was thoroughly absorbed from the outset. Diablo – Birthright, is an engaging, fast-paced tale that will appeal to a wide audience, and draw you in to Uldyssian’s plight as if he was your best friend gone awry. (Despite his penchant for procrastinating). Nonetheless, it’s a great start. I look forward to more.

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Friday, August 7, 2020

My latest Review Of. . .


The Star Seeds of Earth

Alibi Jones is something of a maverick.

Son of the infamous Vatican Assassin, Bernard Campion, and a mother from whom he is estranged, Alibi likes to keep to himself, running an isolated outpost in a remote part of space away from the regimented regulations imposed by the Solar Alliance, and the draconian orderliness of the Greater Tah.

Unfortunately, Alibi gets restless. A lot. And that restlessness leads him into all sorts of trouble.

Take this latest escapade, for example. Alibi is tasked to find a Star Seed on behalf of an “interested party.” The trouble is, Star Seeds aren’t just harmless curios that happen to demand a high price. Oh no. They’re primeval artifacts containing the scientific and biological repository of the Ancient Enemy; a civilization that once used their superior technology and mental powers to dominate all other life in the cosmos until one day, millions of years ago, those races rose up to defy their masters and wipe them out.

Foreseeing such an outcome, the Ancient Enemy scattered their potential throughout the universe. And in the countless millennia since then, the most advanced of those liberated alien cultures used their arts and fortitude to hunt down and eradicate every Star Seed they could find; for once opened, they would be capable of altering the biota of an entire planet to resurrect the Ancients once more.

And Alibi’s been asked to use his skills to find one. The thing is, why? Who on Earth would dare such a thing? What would be the implications of such a device being activated, even if it ended up in the hands of scientists with altruistic intent, let alone those with ulterior motives?

Well, we certainly find out in a complex and intricately interwoven tale of high adventure, personal discovery and betrayal, political intrigue, and narcissistic ambition that will keep you engaged and entertained from beginning to end. And what I particularly enjoyed about the Star Seeds of Earth was that fact that, not only was it easy to read, but it was downright fun! What more could you ask for?

Friday, July 24, 2020

A Review Of. . .

The Dragon Republic
Fang – Rin – Runin has unleashed the beast within and can’t put it back, for the Phoenix god is an uncontrollable force of nature that can never be subdued by force of will alone. Because of this, Rin becomes an opium addict, haunted by the terrible atrocities committed in her god’s name. Unfortunately, that also means she’s a renegade too, on the run from her own people, the authorities, and those who would experiment on her to find out the secrets of her power.
She wants revenge. Revenge on those who would use her to their own ends; those who would see her dead; and especially on the Empress who sold out her homeland.
Fortune seems to shine on her, for the powerful dragon warlord seeks to overthrow the empire and replace it with a republic. He seeks Rin’s aid, promising her power and influence if they are successful, and most of all, freedom for her kind.
But things are not what they seem, and Rin is betrayed at every turn, forcing her to realize that perhaps the Phoenix god has been right all along?
The Dragon Republic is another powerful story from R.F. Kuang. And while I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as The Poppy Wars, it nevertheless managed to encapsulate the futility of war, and her frustrations at being so easily duped. She also learns a most valuable lesson: that no matter how powerful we become, we’re still pawns in someone else’s game.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

This Week's reView from the Top of . . .

The White Towers
In “The White Towers” – book 2 of The Rage of kings Series – we find the Iron Wolves in desperate need of someone to throw them a bone!
It transpires King Yoon isn’t the drooling lunatic everyone thought he was. Well, he is, BUT, there’s an insidious lucidity to his insanity that borders on delirium. His past actions have all been part of a master plan, one that fell to ruin when the Iron Wolves destroyed Orlana the Changer.
But, there’s no denying the fact that Orlana’s rabid host was on the verge of decimating Vagandrak’s armies. So, who would dare deny the Iron Wolves acted in the nation’s best interests? Well, King Yoon would. And he rewards their valorous acts by sentencing them to death, forcing the gang to go on the run.
Bad timing, really, seeing as how the elf rats – twisted deviants living in the poisoned realm beyond the White Lion mountains – capitalize on Vagandrak’s vulnerability by invading! And the elf rats are out for payback. Their land was cursed by Yoon’s forefathers, thousands of years ago, and they’ve been forced to eke out a living, just this side of extinction, ever since. But they’ve had thousands of years to prepare. And that preparation shows, in a devastating series of strikes that brings Vagandrak to its knees.
They need the Iron Wolves. But will they be enough?
Again, I would invite you to discover the answer for yourselves in a wonderfully crafted tale of violent delights and visceral vengeance that is as unforgiving as it is relentless. The pace is fast, furious, and frantic; the characters as humanly flawed as they are eloquently filthy; the action, as addictive as it is barking, brutally mad; and the land in which it is set, as starkly beautiful as it is savagely toxic. In a nutshell? Heaven!
If you can’t get away on holiday this year for fear of clampdowns, then get yourself a one-way ticket to Vagandrak. You won’t EVER want to come back.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

This Week's Rumpus of a Review

The Iron Wolves
General Dalgoran desperately needs help. Orlana the Changer – a primal wielder of Equiem magick – has escaped the Chaos Halls, and seeks to satisfy her lusts by inflicting carnage of the world of men. To advance her schemes, she builds an army of hideously warped, superhuman creatures, and supplements them by summoning thousands of mud-orcs from ancient breeding pits to her side.
Only one thing stands in the way of total annihilation. The Iron Wolves. Heroes of old who once turned back an overwhelming tide of evil at The Pass of Splintered Bone when they slew the dark sorcerer, Morkagoth.
But twenty years have passed since the Iron Wolves last stood together with General Dalgoran, and the world is not the same.
For one thing, King Yoon has fallen to madness, and is more intent on indulging in acts of depravity and debauchery than protecting his kingdom. People have become complacent, and refuse to acknowledge any possibility that mud-orcs could ever return.
And the Iron Wolves?
The passage of time hasn’t treated them kindly, and they have become just as scarred by life as the battles they’ve fought. Some have lost themselves. Others, have given in to despair. A few have resorted to committing crimes of a heinous nature, just to get by. They’re mavericks, each with their own agenda. How could individuals so dysfunctional be anyone’s last line of defense?
Ah, I’d invite you to find out, in a helter-skelter ride of a story that is, quite simply, a breathtaking ensemble of riotous fun, bone-crunching combat, and a finger-on-the-pulse tribute, reminding us how Murphy’s Law will stab you in the back when you least expect it.
I connected to the mood from the outset. The Iron Wolves (Book 1 of The Rage of Kings) is down and dirty, dark and gritty, and brays its barrack room humor without mercy. It will appeal to those who have endured the heat of battle and come away scarred, as it makes you feel as if you’re back among comrades again.
And the ending?
Life isn’t always happy, and I found the conclusion of this story rather satisfying. And isn’t that how it’s meant to be?
Try it; it’s a tale that calls to the berserker in all of us.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

This Week's Double Bill. . .

This latest outing into the Caine Riordan universe – written by Kevin Ikenberry – focuses on the experiences of Captain Hubert –Bo– Moorefield and his taskforce, who have set up shop at Camp Stark, a Forward Operating Base on the border of the Haman desert region of R’bak, in anticipation of the arrival of Lieutenant Harold Tapper and his Sarmatchani strike force. Tapper and his team had previously liberated a considerable vehicle cache and other operational supplies from their J’strull enemies, and are being pursued. It’s Moorefield’s job to make sure the strike force and their contraband are taken in to safe custody.
There you have the premise of a gritty little tale that’s bound to please, especially as Murphy’s Law runs rampant, and things don’t go to plan.
I won’t say anything further about the story ark, as – for me at any rate – that’s not what this visit to R’bak is really about. No, what I particularly liked about Ikenberry’s approach was its emphasis on the psychological cost facing those soldiers who serve their country and/or end up having to go to war.
Yes, there’s action aplenty. (This is a story within the Caine Riordan universe after all.) And its well written. But as a veteran who has seen action in a number of different theaters around the world, I really appreciated the subtle reminder we get of the other, often hidden war that goes on inside the minds of those who give their all to keep us safe. That war can make you bleed. It hurts. It inflicts injuries just as real, just as debilitating as the ‘real thing.’ And the emotional impact on those you’ve left behind?
In Bo Moorefield’s case, he was abducted from earth and put into cryogenic sleep in 1992, on the very day he received a ‘Dear John’ letter from his wife, Sharon. We explore his feelings about that. After all, he wakes up one hundred and thirty years later on a very different world, countless millions of miles away, and is completely helpless to do anything about it. He can’t call. He can’t write. He can’t offer to sit down and talk things through to see if there’s any chance of a reconciliation. No, it’s a past event; long-gone history by the time he realizes what’s happened, and he has to carry that burden into battle.
But how does it affect him? His outlook? His capacity to relate to others effectively? His ability to take command and make effective, objective decisions? Is he still capable of inspiring those he leads? Because don’t forget, he’s not the only one dealing with ghosts of the past, and the J’strull aren’t going to give up their assets without one hell of a fight!
Yes, there’s a witch’s brew of trouble fomenting, and its up to Bo Moorefield to prioritize his obligations and find a solution before it’s too late.
A thoughtful and evocative tale about what soldiers on the frontline have to contend with.


When it comes to the Lost Soldiers of the Caine Riordan universe, you’re guaranteed to meet a wide variety of individuals. Technical and combat specialists. Heroes. Professionals in their fields. People who were no doubt greatly missed when tragedy struck, snatching them away from their loved ones and through time and space, only for them to end up fighting someone else’s war. And this latest adventure – Man-Eater, by Griffin Barber – is no different. . .
Except that it IS.
Warrant Officer Chalmers is something of a maverick, a former criminal investigation specialist gone bad. He crossed one too many lines and was being shipped back home to face the consequences of his crimes. But he never does, at least, not on Earth, for he wakes up 130 years later where everything has changed. His world. His situation. His prospects.
And THAT forms the crux of our story.
Have the sins of Chalmers’ past followed him into the future? Can he be trusted? Does he deserve a second chance? A chance to do better? To become a different person?
We find out, for Chalmers has been tasked to investigate a suspected crime ring operating among the local J’strull satraps of R’bak. Their activities not only threaten the Lost Soldiers’ overall objectives on the planet, but the lives of their allies too. In particular, Chalmers is expected to identify the leaders, root out their strongholds among the local communities, and locate contraband tech they might tip the balance of power throughout the region.
How does this shamed soldier fare?
You’ll find Man-Eater a rather cautionary tale, as Chalmers ends up fighting as much against his ingrained behavioral patterns as he does the alien expectations, language and customs he’s been thrown in amongst. It makes for inciteful, painful reading, because even when a person wants to change; indeed, is genuinely determined to change, old habit die hard. And as the story arc so poignantly expresses, Chalmers is his own worst enemy.
A thoroughly absorbing story that adds a greater depth to an ever-growing universe.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

My Review of . . .

The Tower of the Swallow
Were back to the main story arc in this installment of the Witcher series, and although this one is a little difficult to follow – Sapkowski has a tendency to skip backward and forward through time, changing POV as he does so – it’s worth sticking with it, as essential plot points come to the fore.

War grips the land. Everyone is searching for Ciri, the foretold child of prophecy, who is forced into hiding after suffering a terrible disfigurement. Geralt can’t protect her, for he lies gravely wounded in Brokilon Forest and hankers to leave before he’s recovered from his injuries. Yennefer has disappeared, and according to gossip, lies dead at the hands of enemies.

Full-on action. Plots and intrigue. A wonderful blend of fairytale and folk law. And at last, we begin to see the depth of treachery that has plagued Ciri since her birth, and who it is fomenting it. It’s great fun, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the story progresses from here.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

My Hot Off The Press Review Of. . .

Baptism of Fire
War ravages the land. The world is changing. Lines have been drawn, and nothing will ever be the same again. Even the wizard’s guild couldn’t endure the calamity intact, and now lies shattered, its reputation in ruins and its sorcerers in hiding.
With nothing but their own wits and skills to protect them Geralt and Ciri battle their own demons – and more – trying to survive in the aftermath. But how on earth will they manage to find each other when they’re being hunted? Geralt as a fugitive, Ciri as the prize that everyone wants.
Baptism of Fire is a superb example of why the Witcher series is so compelling. It’s dark. Brooding. Brutal and complex. Just the ticket, for sheer escapism.
Indulge yourself, and become part of a runaway magical journey through a land where anything can happen.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

My Thoughts On. . .

The Hanged Man
Rune St John is the sole survivor and last scion of his dead father’s court, the Sun Throne. A role that has left him destitute and something of a maverick among New Atlantean society.
But he gets by, and together with his Companion, Brand, they make ends meet by serving as super-efficient/superpowered private eyes. And they’re good at what they do.
Just as well, really.
Remember, this is New Atlantis, a place where the old gods and new world reside in an uneasy alliance. So, when a new threat emerges – one that could possibly destroy the fragile balance between the two societies – Rune and Brand have to pull out all the stops to ensure chaos doesn’t ensue.
And as is so often the case, it starts so innocuously.
The Hanged Man has set his sights on Rune’s ward, Max, and attempts to assert a marriage claim on the young man initiated at a time when Max’s family – the Heart Throne – were still a power to be reckoned with. But the Heart Throne is no more. Max has no house, no wealth, no sigils of power, and no real assets. So why is the Hanged Man so fixated on him? Fixated enough to try and kidnap him in broad daylight? It doesn’t add up.
Rune sets out to investigate, because the Hanged Man is known to be something of a sadist, a member of the Arcanum who surrounds himself with necromancy and mutilation magic. And just as ominously, those who refuse him always go missing, be they child or adult.
As you can imagine, things get down and dirty very, very quickly.
And that’s what I enjoyed about The Hanged Man, the second book in the Tarot Sequence by K.D. Edwards. Not only is it a wonderful combination of noir chic, living legends come to life, and urban fantasy, but it leaps out to grab your attention from the off, and doesn’t let go until the very end. And no wonder. Relatable characters, well-crafted dialogue, superb imagery, and one of the most believably engaging magic systems you will ever see, create an overall helter-skelter ride that you won’t want to end.
Try this series out. You won’t regret it.

Friday, May 22, 2020

My Review of. . .

Time of Contempt
Ciri, the foretold child or prophecy, the one reputed to have the power to change the world for good or evil, is finally on the way to the magical college on Thanedd Island. Yennefer, her guardian for this stage of her training, has decided it best that Ciri learn how to master the powers to which she is so instinctively and naturally adept.
A wise move, and one it seems, that is bound to succeed. For who could offer harm in a place full of sorcerers?
Alas, there are other powers at play who seek to intervene. They have also heard of the child of prophecy and seek to control her destiny to their own ends. And as we go on to see, Thanedd Island is nothing but a powder keg. The perfect environment in which to light a fuse that will remove sooo many obstacles at once. But to whose benefit?
Yes, it seems even the highest echelons of the mighty sorcerer’s guild aren’t above a spot of political intrigue. The trouble is, when the magically mighty start throwing tantrums, people get hurt. War. Betrayal. The settling of old scores and the birth of new ones. You just know its going to end badly.
How badly? You’ll find out in yet another thoroughly enjoyable and well written adventure that engages you from the moment its starts, and doesn’t let up until the end. Even better, Andrezej Sapkowski skillfully grants us a deeper understanding of Ciri, Geralt and Yennefer. Their affiliations. Their self-imposed ethics. Their individual love of the land they serve. How their complicated, threefold relationship works. And as the story unfolds and they become separated, how each of them holds up when tragedy and loss strikes. Excellent stuff.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

My Thoughts On. . .

Blood of Elves
Destiny converges, twisting ever tighter, ever faster, toward a building crescendo of probability. And at the center of it all, Geralt, Ciri and Yennefer struggle to stay ahead of the game.
Keeping his word, Geralt adheres to the Law of Surprise, and drops off the face of the earth. Nobody knows where he is. Which is just as well. Everyone, from one end of the land to the other, is searching for him and his child surprise, Ciri. So where else would he take her, but somewhere safe. A place where she can begin her training to become a witcher: Kaer Morhen.
The thing is, Ciri isn’t like any other apprentice they’ve had. Realizing this, Geralt and Yennefer find it necessary to provide a much broader and deeper curriculum, so that Ciri has a better understanding of the power to which she is so naturally adept. And it is only by coming to terms with what she is that Ciri stands a chance of surviving, for war foments all around them. Races that have lived together in relative peace for hundreds of years are now driven by violence toward one another. And the ever-present threat from Nilfgaard can’t be ignored.
Coincidence? Or rather, fulfilment of ancient prophecy?
Find out for yourselves, in this engaging, immersive and rather enjoyable romp through the world of the witcher. Quite a bit of background history is revealed in this novel, allowing you a better understanding of Geralt, Ciri, and Yennefer’s circumstances, and how this binds them together into an indomitable force for good.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

My Review of. . .

The Last Wish
Geralt is a Witcher, a man trained from childhood to protect mankind against the things that go bump in the night – and then some!
Having never played the games for which the Witcher is renown, I developed an interest in the books following the TV adaptation, as I wanted to delve more into the history and background of the world Geralt inhabits. And I have to say, The Last Wish does just that, providing a succession of windows, giving us glimpses of Geralt’s nomadic existence and the prejudices he has to endure as he struggles to live by the tenets he holds dear.
It’s cleverly done too. Despite his reputation as a butcher, Geralt is a thoughtful man who will extend mercy and justice just as often as he exterminates the nightmare creatures he is sent to kill. Dry humor, a gritty appreciation of the human condition, and great action scenes help blend folklore and fairytale together in a magical mix that elevates fantasy to a different level.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

My Thoughts On. . .

Shakes, by Mike Massa, is a rather enjoyable introduction to several of the ‘Lost Soldiers’ from the Caine Riordan Universe – courtesy of Charles E. Gannon & Bain Books.
In a nutshell:
The Lost Soldiers are combat specialists from various countries around the world, who are abducted from Earth at the moment of their deaths. Spirited away by their saviors, they are preserved in an advanced form of suspended animation, and awake over a hundred years later to find everyone they knew and loved is gone – and that their skills are needed to help fight someone else’s war. (A subject very dear to my heart).
In this outing, we are introduced to Major Rodger Murphy, Lieutenant Harry Tapper, and Sgt Marco Rodriguez on their mission to help the indigenous tribes of R’Bak free themselves from the oppressive rule of their cruel overlords.
An easy-going pace; engaging characters; great action; and an environment that combat veterans will relate to only too easily, make for an entertaining story that will keep you turning the page from beginning to end.
As I mentioned at the beginning. I enjoyed Shakes very much, and am sure fans of Caine Riordan – and new readers alike – will find it a worthy addition to an already established universe.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

My Review of. . .

Twilight of Dragons
Our heroes are in trouble.
Having lost one of their number during the escape from the dwarven slave mines, they long for the simple pleasures of the sun on their faces and wind in their hair. But such pleasures are hard to find when you’re heading in the opposite direction, and trekking ever further underground.
But why on earth would they do such a thing when there’s nothing to stand in their way?
Because they’re heroes, that’s why. And the dragons are free, spreading death and fiery destruction upon the descendants of those who locked them away, so long ago. And nothing can stop them celebrating their liberty in an orgy of violence. . .
. . . Or so it seems.
Longtime enemies face off. Unlikely alliances are made. Old scores are settled, while new ones are kindled. Ancient magicks are unleashed. Unearthly powers come into play.
And all the while, a dark peril lies forgotten. Yes, a thousand dragon eggs are nearing maturation, awaiting the catalyst that will give rise to a new reign of terror.
How do you prevent an apocalypse when the world is coming down around your ears?
Find out, in this spectacular, action-packed saga filled with heroic deeds, traitorous scum, and sinew rending battle scenes. It won’t give you a moment’s rest. The pace really is that exhilarating, setting off at a sprint and maintaining its momentum until the breathtaking finale.
What I particularly liked about Twilight of Dragons is the fact that it takes a series of unexpected, sometimes heartrending/sometimes welcome turns as it nears the end. I’m usually a jammy so and so at working out the plot and guessing how things will turn out. So, when I’m taken by surprise – which doesn’t happen very often – I love it.
So, accept the challenge. Turn the first page and enter the quest. Death and glory await you, toasted in your enemy’s blood.
Awesome fun!

Monday, April 13, 2020

Absolute Genius. . .

The Genius Plague

In this time of outbreak and self-isolation, what better way could there be to spend your day than by reading a story highlighting just how bad things could be if the virus creating havoc around the planet right now was driven by an inhuman intelligence, hellbent on survival at our expense.
The Genius plague, by David Walton, does just that. In this case, using an insidious fungus as the catalyst for mayhem.
Neil Johns is a down-to-earth kinda guy who has just landed his dream job by following in his father’s footsteps as a codebreaker for the NSA. Meanwhile, his brother, Paul, a research fellow and mycologist, nearly dies in an unprovoked terrorist attack while of a field trip to the Amazon jungle. When Paul eventually makes it home, it becomes apparent he’s a changed man. Different in ways that can’t be explained rationally.
The thing is, Paul’s not alone. Other people throughout South America are changing too. Not only does their cognitive functioning become off-the-charts strong, but no matter who they are or where they’re from, they all begin working toward a common goal. One that becomes increasingly aggressive and dangerous as time goes by.
Of course, these events come to the attention of the NSA, who has to devise an appropriate response.
What that response is, you’ll find out in a skillfully crafted, fast-paced and engaging story that will insinuate itself into your mind until you can’t fight the urge to read ‘just one more chapter’. It’s intelligent, subtle, and compelling. Timely too, revealing just how ignorant we are of the potential surrounding us as we go about our self-centered lives.
And the thing I especially liked about the Genius Plague? It has the appeal to make you think . . . 
What if?

Saturday, April 4, 2020

A Story Epitomizing
the Union of Joffrey Baratheon and Harley Quinn 

Last Argument of Kings
In this, the third installment of “The First Law” series, Joe Abercrombie brings his trilogy to an end. And I have to say, I thought it was cleverly done.
Logan has business – bloody business – to attend to in the north. Bethod has had his rampaging way for far too long, and it looks as if it’s up to the Bloody-Nine to sort things out!
Sand dan Glokta faces an equally tricky – and just as gory – situation in the capital, where political intrigue, treasonous jockeying, and assassination attempts by friend, foe, and demon alike come thick and fast, forcing him to take extreme measures in order to survive.
The Gurkish Empire, not content with annexing Dagoska, the Union’s southernmost province, continue their assault and bring the war to the heart of the Union.
And Jezal dan Luthar, having made it safely back from the edge of the known world, wants nothing more than a quiet life. To settle down with the woman he loves to raise a family. But the king is dying. Added to all the turmoil festering in one place after another, it’s no wonder the common folk are terrified and start revolting. And guess who the powers-that-be task to deal with it?
A veritable cauldron of strife and torment, if ever there was one. To help heat things toward boiling point, we have all the usual accelerants: Narcissistic wizards; incompetent rulers; revolting peasants – and lords too, come to that – restless, warriors itching for a fight; and devious, flesh-eating ghouls, all crowing for the world’s end.
And the thing is, though Joe Abercrombie builds the series to a climactic conclusion, he doesn’t just end it after an epic battle. Oh no. He adds a cunning touch of realism to the mix that helps us appreciate that, at the end of every epic – when the fabled deeds are done and our heroes and heroines come to rest from their labors – picking up the pieces is never easy. Life goes on. But for the survivors, that life might be so drastically changed, that they’ll never be the same.
Kudos to Joe Abercrombie. He leaves us with a bittersweet taste of a world where the lovechild of Joffrey Baratheon and Harley Quinn is allowed to take the reins of a shattered kingdom, only to steer it in a Pulp Fiction direction.
Ultima Ratio Regum.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Grim, Dark and Glorious

Before They Are Hanged
This is the second Joe Abercrombie novel I’ve had the pleasure of delving into – the second of “The First Law” series, come to that – and I have to say, it’s one of the best continuation books I’ve read. THIS is the way to write heroic fantasy. And how could he possibly fail when all the ingredients are there: ancient secrets waiting to be unearthed; barbarian hordes creating havoc; ghoulish demons raising hell; traitorous scoundrels and incompetent, over-privileged fops making things worse –compellingly complex characters you can’t help but love or hate, contending as much against impossible odds as their own shortcomings. . .
Like I say, all the ingredients for an adrenaline-laced, epic high adventure are there, just waiting to unfold. And unfold they will, with all the panache of a berserker on amphetamine-laced steroids taking a fight-club vacation in the boldest, brashest, bloodiest landscape imaginable.
It's grim, dark and glorious. And by the end, you’ll be inclined to forgive your enemies . . . But not before they are hanged!
What’s not to like?

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Have You Ever Wondered 
What a Mix between "Conan the Barbarian” & “Game of Thrones” Might Look Like In a Gloriously Epic Production Directed by Quentin Tarantino?

Look No Further!

The Blade Itself
It’s not often I pick up a book and start reading, only to catch myself on repeated occasions grinning – in a deliciously evil way – from ear to ear. That’s exactly what happened when I delved into my first ever Joe Abercrombie novel: The Blade Itself.
And why?
Because it has perfect balance. THAT’s why. Think “Conan the Barbarian” meets “Game of Thrones” in a gloriously epic production directed by Quentin Tarantino, and you’ll get an idea of what’s in store. It’s bloody; it’s brutal; it’s breathtaking and brilliant. Cutting-edge stuff, quite literally, with thoroughly engaging characters, (I just loved Inquisitor Glokta. He’s the favorite uncle I never had), vivid imagery, and an action-packed plot, you’ll be “incited to deeds of violence” and swept away in a world of adventure you won’t want to end.
I took to this story of an empire – swollen by its own grandeur; overconfident in its own invincibility; and ignorant of its imminent collapse – as naturally as a Tasmanian Devil does to throwing tantrums. It still calls to me in my sleep!
Dare I say, the second book in this series won't be far behind?

See my Amazon Review - Here

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

My Thoughts On. . .

The Last Sun
Rune St John is the sole surviving heir to a former great house of New Atlantis. But he’s also a man hiding a secret shame that can never become public knowledge. Because of this, he’s also something of a maverick. A loner, who – along with his bodyguard and companion, Brand – now makes ends meet by working as a freelance private eye in a city full of scions and unimaginably powerful deities.
When Rune is hired to search for Lady Judgment’s missing son, Addam, he assumes he’s been given just another ordinary assignment. But as he begins to question Addam’s relatives and business associates, any semblance of normalcy soon disappears. Even worse, it seems Rune is too good at his job, because his investigation attracts the unwanted attention of creatures that shouldn’t exist. Creatures who would see him dead, and aren’t in the least bit fussy as to how they go about trying to achieve that end.
The problem is, he can’t give up! Some of the clues he unearths hearken back to the fall of the Sun Court, and the skeletons in the closet from his own past that he is only too willing to kill to keep.
It’s inevitable that things quickly go from bad – to weird, to macabre – to worse, leading Rune to question what the hell is really going on, because there’s no way this is a simple abduction.
I’ve got to say, K. D. Edwards has done a marvelous job. Employing an innovate – and I must stress, rather cool magical system – The Last Sun is set in an alternative world where the legend of the lost city now lives on in modern-day New Atlantis. Clever. It’s familiar enough that you immediately connect to the environment, yet so unusual, you can’t help but be spellbound by the mystical elements. Just the ingredients you’d expect in a quality fantasy romp. An engaging narrative; down-to-earth – and often cynical – humor; and a pleasing interplay of characters, help the story fly past. And it does!
You don’t need a full deck of Arcana to know what the future holds. Trust my Judgment. I thoroughly enjoyed The Last Sun, and I’m sure you will too. So, the Devil with Temperance! Jump in your Chariot or shuffle down to your nearest bookstore or online retailer and deal yourself a Sun, Moon and Star of a treat.
You’d be a Fool to miss it!

Saturday, February 22, 2020

2019 Nebula Award Finalists Announced

Serendipity Strikes!

As followers of my blog will have noticed, I only completed my review of Marque of Caine by Charles E. Gannon last week. And guess what? Marque of Caine has been nominated for the Nebulas!

. . . (A little bit of a trend where this series is concerned, as Charles Gannon’s books are extremely popular and always end up doing rather well). And this year’s awards are no exception.

Well done to Charles Gannon, especially, along with all the other nominees.

And tooting my own horn for a moment . . .
You will see from the list that I’ve read quite a few of those who have been nominated, highlighting what fine taste I have when it comes to my own personal library.

In a nutshell, that should prompt YOU to keep tuning in, as you’ll always find my latest reviews of the finest speculative fiction right here . . .

Thursday, February 20, 2020

My Thoughts On. . .

(Nebula Finalist)

Marque of Caine
Set two years after Caine Riordan was relieved of his command – for doing the right thing – our longsuffering protagonist finally receives the message he’s been waiting for: a summons to visit the Dornaani on their home world.
It seems Caine’s hopes of discovering the current location and welfare of his long-lost love, Elena Corcoran, (mother to his seventeen year old son, Connor), has taken a positive step forward at last.
However, there’s no silver lining to the clouds waiting on the horizon. As Caine discovers, time may have passed, but his principles and loyalty ensure he remains a political radioactive hot potato. Bureaucratically instigated obstacles ensure he remains stymied by a frustrating conveyor belt of one step forward, and two steps back red tape. It’s not until Caine takes matters into his own hands that he makes progress . . . if being impeded at every turn and led down countless dead ends can be construed as progress.
And why might this be the case?
The Dornaani culture is crumbling. They may come from a super-sophisticated civilization where technology is so advanced that it makes what human’s possess seem like a primitive sticks & stones society, but they’ve lost the will to create anything new. A malady that has grown steadily more insidious with each passing century. Instead of reaching out to explore and extend their understanding of the universe, the Dornaani are now more content to evade the pressures of real life and immerse themselves within VR sims where their every whim is catered to. Yes, their existence is slowly festering from within.
The thing is, both the planting of the seeds and subsequent cultivation of this spreading rot appears deliberate. Does that mean stagnation is a prelude to something more sinister? And how does that tie in to Caine and Elena?
We find out, in an epically complex tale, where plots within plots weave a textured web of prejudice, racial avarice and duplicity. Little wonder, then, that Caine ends up despairing. Will he ever actually make it home?

Saturday, February 1, 2020

My Rave Review Of. . .

Gideon the Ninth
Born into servitude in the dreariest, most dismal of the great necromantic houses; raised by a coven of wizened old nuns possessing all the warmth of a frozen graves; surrounded by decrepit, unfeeling retainers; harangued by countless skeletons (Don’t forget the skeletons!); and shunned by just about everyone she knows, Gideon Nav hates her life.
The only thing going in her favor is the fact that she’s an accomplished swordswoman. Not that anybody cares. So, she risks everything by launching the latest in a string of daring escape attempts with the aim of running away and joining the military.
Of course, things don’t go as planned, and she is foiled at the last second by her greatest rival, Harrowhark Nonagesimus, the Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House, and bone witch extraordinaire, who demands Gideon stay and do the Ninth House one last service – a service that will guarantee Gideon the freedom to pursue her dreams.
The catch? (Because you know, there’s just gotta be one)
A call has been issued by none other than the Emperor – Necrolord Prime and King of the Nine Renewals – for new postulants willing to submit themselves for the position of Lyctor, (all-powerful immortal servants of the everlasting resurrection), to help him fight against the empire’s greatest foes.
Okay . . . but what’s the actual catch?
Well, no necromancer can ascend to lyctorhood without their cavalier – a sword-wielding champion – by their side. For the trials require them to act as one, brain and brawn together, to stand a chance of succeeding. And the Ninth’s cavalier is not only unwilling to accept the challenge, he’s next to useless anyway. Thus Harrowhark’s ultimatum. If Gideon is willing to serve as her sword-hand throughout the trials, she’ll be released from servitude forevermore, with full honors.
You KNOW there’s still a catch, don’t you?
And it’s rather delicious . . . (Don’t worry – NO SPOILERS).
Gideon and Harrowhark end up on a decaying world in a mazelike facility run by ancient wardens. Once there, they are required to complete a baffling series of complex, mind-bending, life-threatening tests, while fending off the murderous shenanigans of the representatives of the other houses. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Gideon also has to contend with her hate/hate relationship with Harrowhark, one based on manipulation and betrayal which has come to blows in the past.
Oh the joy of skeletons in the closet making things more complicated.
And they do – because those skeletons I mentioned are everywhere, and neither woman can hope to survive unless they trust one another enough to cooperate fully.
Do they?
You’ll find out, it what I can honestly say is one of the most subtly appealing stories I’ve read in a long time. That it’s moody, macabre and gothic goes without saying. You only have to get a look at the cover to receive a hint of what’s coming. But it’s what’s inside those dark uncomfortable pages that will haunt you. For it whispers in your ear, enticing you; it spellbinds you to accept the unbalanced and the bizarre as normal; it keeps you on a knife-edge and at a distance, so that when the hooks do eventually sink in, you’ll willingly let yourself be drawn to the other side and immersed in a miscreation of woe.
It’s a grim world the author, Tamsyn Muir has painted. As psychologically draining as it is harsh; as unforgiving as it is hostile. But gritty humor and incisor-sharp dialogue help the narrative along at a bone-jarring pace. And therein lies its balance and appeal.
And the weird thing is, it’s not until the end – during the emotionally charged, action packed, blood & guts climax – that the full power of this story truly hits you.
Wow! I loved it. A movie in the making if ever there was one.