Category Archives: Fantasy

Fantasy reviews

Christian Cameron: The Green Count (Review)

Christian Cameron

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USA flag (1962 – )aka Miles Cameron, Gordon Kent

Christian Cameron was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1962. He grew up in Rockport, Massachusetts, Iowa City, Iowa, and Rochester, New York, where he attended McQuaid Jesuit High School and later graduated from the University of Rochester with a degree in history.

After the longest undergraduate degree on record (1980-87), he joined the United States Navy, where he served as an intelligence officer and as a backseater in S-3 Vikings in the First Gulf War, in Somalia, and elsewhere. After a dozen years of service, he became a full time writer in 2000. He lives in Toronto, Canada with his wife Sarah and their daughter Beatrice.

book cover of The Green Count

After the bloody trials of Alexandria, Sir William Gold is readying for a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. He hopes, too, that the Holy City might allow his relationship with Emile, cousin of the Green Count of Savoy, to develop.

But the Roman Emperor of Constantinople has been taken hostage by an unknown enemy, and the Green Count is vital to the rescue effort. It is up to Sir William to secure his support, but he soon finds that his past, and his relationship with Emile, might have repercussions he had not foreseen….

Suddenly thrust onto the stage of international politics, Sir William finds himself tangled in a web of plots, intrigue and murder.

Review

I’d saved this book, i knew i would enjoy it, it was more about how much?

This isn’t a small book and yet i found myself having to slow my reading so i could really enjoy and savor every line of writing. The tale starts with William Gold settling down to recount his past, which as a plot device i think is excellent, it puts the reader immediately into the warm space of being told a story and that for me feels even more real and realistic, the recounting of a history by someone who was there, it brings the whole panorama of the adventure to life.

As with all of Christian Cameron’s books there is much going on, many surprises around the corner and so many political machinations that can turn the story, much like life at the time. His characters are very alive and real, imbued with a depth of personality rarely seen in any series. That mix of real personalities fleshed out from the pages of history with a complex personality blended with those imagined and brought to life from the authors deep and intimate knowledge of the time and the culture. While i always love the ain characters like William Gold and Fiore, my favorite in this book has to be John the Turk aka John the Kipchak, a character free from much of the church morailty that mires the rest of the band, he has a simple view of the world that contrasts wonderfully….Ok, there being a Captain Parmenio is also pretty awesome and always a humbling thing, i wonder if there is a record for how many series a character has appeared in? (Captain Parmenio has been in Miles Cameron’s red Traitor Son Cycle, Simon Turney’s Ottoman Cycle, Christian Cameron’s Chivalry series and Tom Swan….honestly, wonderful moments), i’ve come to love that old rogue.

I personally don’t find the Byzantine area/period the most exciting, that could just be the books I’ve read (there are odd exceptions), and to be honest in this one Christian Cameron only touches on that world briefly, but still he brings it to life in a powerful and exciting way. The massively convoluted politics of the region, the deep schism’s that surround the seat of power in Constantinople and the constant striving for that seat of ultimate power. It is a twisted web this writer weaves, but as with all the best tales, no more twisted than the truth.

As always with Christian’s stories, every blade, every piece of armour, every rivet is exactingly real, every pain in wearing the armour, every fighting move , every twisted ankle and turn of the wrist has been experienced in some way on the field by the man himself (well ok he hasn’t actually stabbed someone… but everything non bloody). Beyond the battle, to the gloves, the clothes, the shoes, the horses, the logistics, every detail is based on experience from his world of living history/ re-enactment. This experience is priceless because of the life and reality it gives the story, these tales are more than blood and battle, they are life in another time, and Chivalry as a series is a love story as much as a tale of honour. I think my favourite description is the gravel underfoot, and how uncomfortable it was, and how much pain it led to, not because of the pain (obviously im not mean) , but because i can imagine at some time the author has experienced it, it was just too personal to have been conjured from nothing, and this is what i mean by the entire book having a startling reality that others do not. Many authors describe what they think something might be like, where Christian Cameron describes what it does feel like.

A couple of years ago it seemed unlikely that we would ever see the Green Count, but now we have a stunningly real book, one of the best Historical fiction titles you will read this year, but as even better news; Chivalry will continue next year with Sword of Justice, William Gold and friends will ride again.

I cannot recommend this book and series highly enough its a must read for Fantasy (if you lived The Traitor Son Cycle you will love this) or Historical fiction readers.

(Parm)

Series
Alan Craik (as by Gordon Kent)
1. Night Trap (1998)
aka Rules of Engagement
2. Peace Maker (2000)
3. Top Hook (2002)
4. Hostile Contact (2003)
5. Force Protection (2004)
6. Damage Control (2005)
7. The Spoils of War (2006)
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Tyrant
1. Tyrant (2007)
2. Storm of Arrows (2009)
3. Funeral Games (2010)
4. King of the Bosporus (2011)
5. Destroyer of Cities (2013)
6. Force of Kings (2014)
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Long War
1. Killer of Men (2010)
2. Marathon (2011)
3. Poseidon’s Spear (2012)
4. The Great King (2014)
5. Salamis (2015)
6. Rage of Ares (2016)
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Tom Swan and the Head of St George
1. Castillon (2012)
2. Venice (2012)
3. Constantinople (2012)
4. Rome (2013)
5. Rhodes (2013)
6. Chios (2013)
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Chivalry
1. The Ill-Made Knight (2013)
2. The Long Sword (2014)
3. The Green Count (2017)
4. Sword of Justice (2018)
5. Sword of Justice (2018)
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Tom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade
1. Tom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade: Part One (2014)
2. Tom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade: Part Two (2014)
3. Tom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade: Part Three (2014)
4. Tom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade: Part Four (2015)
5. Tom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade: Part Five (2015)
6. Tom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade: Part Six (2015)
7. Tom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade: Part Seven (2015)
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Tom Swan and the Last Spartans
1. Tom Swan and the Last Spartans: Part One (2016)
2. Tom Swan and the Last Spartans: Part Two (2016)
3. Tom Swan and the Last Spartans: Part Three (2017)
4. Tom Swan and the Last Spartans: Part Four (2017)
5. Tom Swan and the Last Spartans: Part Five (2017)
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Novels
Cauldron of Violence (2000) (as by Gordon Kent)
Washington and Caesar (2001)
The Falconer’s Tale (2007) (as by Gordon Kent)
God of War (2012)
A Song of War (2016) (with Libbie Hawker, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter, Stephanie Thornton, S J A Turneyand Russell Whitfield)
The New Achilles (2019)
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Omnibus
Songs of Blood and Gold (2017) (with Ruth Downie, Stephanie Dray, Libbie Hawker, Ben Kane, E Knight, Sophie Perinot, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter, Stephanie Thornton, S J A Turney and Russell Whitfield)
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Series
Traitor Son Cycle
1. The Red Knight (2012)
2. The Fell Sword (2014)
3. The Dread Wyrm (2014)
4. A Plague of Swords (2016)
5. The Fall of Dragons (2017)
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Masters & Mages
1. The Master (2018)
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Filed under Christian Cameron, Historical Fiction, Miles Cameron

Paul Hoffman: Scorn (Review) Blog Tour

Paul Hoffman studied English at New College, Oxford before becoming a senior film censor at the British Board of Film Classification. He lives in the United Kingdom.

 

 

After an experiment at the Large Hadron Collider goes horribly wrong, depressed scientist Aaron Gall wakes up to discover his mind and body have undergone an astonishing transformation. Now bursting with the joys of life, he is inspired to undertake a radical new therapy: to talk to the priests who brutalised him and his school friends, point out the intellectual dishonesty and inhumanity of their religious beliefs – and then eat them. Aaron enjoys the process so much (as well as taunting the police and MI5) he decides to extend his murderous conversations to include the Archbishop of Westminster, recently converted Catholic Tony Blair, the Queen of England – and, finally, the Pope himself. But a Catholic Church that has given the world the Crusades, the Inquisition, and Papal Infallibility hasn’t survived for two thousand years without a reason. Aaron is in for the greatest shock in the history of mankind.

Review

When in 2010 Paul Hoffman burst onto the writing scene with The Left Hand of God i was beyond pleasantly surprised by the rich colourful and original world that had been created. The story was such an eclectic mix of real world names and fantastical armies and lands. With a protagonist that grew with the book, both in power and stature but also in age and experience. Sadly for me the series declined from that epic beginning (though they were still solid 3/5 books)

I wondered what had happened to this highly original and extremely engaging author, when out of the blue i was sent a review copy of Scorn. The cover alone just jumps out at you, again something new different and a bit irreverent.

As ever Paul Hoffman mixes the real with the fantastical, EG: the Queen, the Pope and Tony Blair to name some…. the latter who at one point has a long involved chat with a werewolf… yes i think that gives you an idea that this book has a level of insanity to it, but in every insanity is an element of genius, which once again exists in this book as it did in Left Hand, mix in walking the very fine line of irreverence/ blasphemy with the church which is something to be encouraged as too many authors shy away from pushing that boundary. Scorn has so much…. and yet unfortunately it fails to reach the heady heights that Left Hand of God did… close… but not quite. for me it squeaks a 4/5, which seems damning praise…. because i very very much enjoyed it… but i started and so will end comparing to that splendid book, Left hand of God, still the mans best work…. but if he keeps writing like this i think will even surpass it with this splendidly irreverent, crazy mind bending plot.

(Parm)

Series
Left Hand of God Trilogy
1. The Left Hand of God (2010)
2. The Last Four Things (2011)
3. The Beating of his Wings (2013)
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Filed under Fantasy, Paul Hoffman, Supernatural, Uncategorized

Miles Cameron: Fall of Dragons (review)

Image result for christian cameron

Christian/ Miles Cameron was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1962. He grew up in Rockport, Massachusetts, Iowa City, Iowa, and Rochester, New York, where he attended McQuaid Jesuit High School and later graduated from the University of Rochester with a degree in history.

After the longest undergraduate degree on record (1980-87), he joined the United States Navy, where he served as an intelligence officer and as a backseater in S-3 Vikings in the First Gulf War, in Somalia, and elsewhere. After a dozen years of service, he became a full time writer in 2000. He lives in Toronto (that’s Ontario, in Canada) with his wife Sarah and their daughter Beatrice, currently age seven. He attends the University of Toronto when the gods move him and may eventually have a Masters in Classics, but right now he’s a full time historical novelist, and it is the best job in the world.

Christian is a dedicated reenactor and you can follow some of his recreated projects on the Agora. He’s always recruiting, so if you’d like to try the ancient world, the medieval world, or the late 18th century, follow the link to contact us.

The Fall of Dragons  (2017)
(The fifth book in the Traitor Son Cycle series)

book cover of The Fall of Dragons

The Red Knight’s final battle lies ahead…but there’s a whole war still to fight first.

He began with a small company, fighting the dangerous semi-mythical creatures that threatened villages, nunneries and cities. But as his power – and his forces – grew, so the power of the enemy he stood against became ever clearer. Not the power of men…but that of gods, with thousands of mortal allies.

Never has strategy been more important, and this war will end where it started: at Lissen Carak. But to get there means not one battle but many – to take out the seven armies which stand against them and force Ash, the huge black dragon, to finally take to the field himself….

Review

The Traitor Son Cycle has been Miles Cameron’s fantasy debut, with so many amazing Historical fiction titles written and read by many proving the quality and power of his writing, for me this was always going to be a case of how good can this get, how can it compare to the many accomplished fantasy series out there, how will the plot cope with the freedom beyond the structure of history?

Miles Cameron has since book one given us an astounding series, one filled with a new and highly intelligent and in-depth magical system, a total world spanning societal structure based on varying real world empires and a code of chivalry that underpins the fighting force of the red Knight, one that we can truly believe, because Christian himself lives this code himself, fights in the amour and knows the history. Most of all it has given us a deeply involved plot that employs all of the research and all of the knowledge of a great writer.

Fall of Dragons is the culmination of this wonderful series, and for me the linchpin of the series, if you fail to tie the knots of a series so full and complex you fail the series. At times Christian/ Miles has cast his net of plot far and wide, sometimes worryingly so, but slowly carefully and with great precision he has pulled those differing views, plots, perspectives and locations together back into the main sort arc, giving a series and book that absorbs you utterly with all its twists and turns. More complex and yet with none of the waffle when compared to series like Game of Thrones, for me this blows away GRRM’s work, because it keeps the plot on point, nothing is there just to appear smart, its there for a reason and you can feel the tension mounting as the author takes you on this majestic and massive journey.

Most of all for me, the series had an ending, one that’s hugely satisfying and really powerfully done. The author doesn’t save himself for a another book or a further series, he powers towards the promised ending and leaps into that void with the reader no character is safe. Couple that with the utterly relentless pace of this book, which is essentially 560 pages of battle , journey to battle, preparation for battle and then more battle…. yet written with true heart and passion, taking account of the lives and travails of all involved, lost and celebrated in this war to end all wars.

I cant give this any higher recommendation…. i doff my cap sir!!

(Parm)

Series
Traitor Son Cycle
1. The Red Knight (2012)
2. The Fell Sword (2014)
3. The Dread Wyrm (2014)
4. A Plague of Swords (2016)
5. The Fall of Dragons (2017)
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Masters & Mages
1. The Master (2018)
Christian Cameron
Series
Tyrant
1. Tyrant (2008)
2. Storm of Arrows (2009)
3. Funeral Games (2010)
4. King of the Bosporus (2011)
5. Destroyer of Cities (2013)
6. Force of Kings (2014)
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Long War
1. Killer of Men (2010)
2. Marathon (2011)
3. Poseidon’s Spear (2012)
4. The Great King (2014)
5. Salamis (2015)
6. Rage of Ares (2016)
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Tom Swan and the Head of St George
1. Castillon (2012)
2. Venice (2012)
3. Constantinople (2012)
4. Rome (2013)
5. Rhodes (2013)
6. Chios (2013)
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Chivalry
1. The Ill-Made Knight (2013)
2. The Long Sword (2014)
3. The Green Count (2017)
4. Sword of Justice (2018)
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Tom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade
1. Tom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade: Part One (2014)
2. Tom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade: Part Two (2014)
3. Tom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade: Part Three (2014)
4. Tom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade: Part Four (2015)
5. Tom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade: Part Five (2015)
6. Tom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade: Part Six (2015)
7. Tom Swan and the Siege of Belgrade: Part Seven(2015)
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Tom Swan and the Last Spartans
1. Tom Swan and the Last Spartans: Part One (2016)
2. Tom Swan and the Last Spartans: Part Two (2016)
3. Tom Swan and the Last Spartans: Part Three (2017)
4. Tom Swan and the Last Spartans: Part Four (2017)
5. Tom Swan and the Last Spartans: Part Five (2017)
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Novels
Washington and Caesar (2001)
God of War (2012)
A Song of War (2016) (with Libbie Hawker, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter, Stephanie Thornton, S J A Turneyand Russell Whitfield)
Tudor Knight (2018)
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Omnibus
Songs of Blood and Gold (2017) (with Ruth Downie, Stephanie Dray, Libbie Hawker, Ben Kane, E Knight, Sophie Perinot, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter, Stephanie Thornton, S J A Turney and Russell Whitfield)
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Filed under Christian Cameron, Fantasy, Miles Cameron

Angela Slatter: Corpselight (Review)

Angela Slatter's picture

Angela Slatter
Specialising in dark fantasy and horror, Angela Slatter is the author of The Girl with No Hands and Other Tales, Sourdough and Other Stories, The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings, and Black-Winged Angels, as well as Midnight and Moonshine and The Female Factory (both with Lisa L. Hannett). She has won five Aurealis Awards, one British Fantasy Award, and a World Fantasy Award, as well as being a finalist for the Norma K. Hemming Award.

Angelas short stories have appeared in Australian, UK and US Best Of anthologies such The Mammoth Book of New Horror (Stephen Jones, ed.), The Years Best Dark Fantasy and Horror (Paula Guran, ed.), The Best Horror of the Year (Ellen Datlow, ed.), The Years Best Australian Fantasy and Horror (Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene, eds.), and The Years Best YA Speculative Fiction (Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios, eds.).

She has an MA and a PhD in Creative Writing, is a graduate of Clarion South 2009 and the Tin House Summer Writers Workshop 2006, and in 2013 she was awarded one of the inaugural Queensland Writers Fellowships.

Her novellas, Of Sorrow and Such (from Tor.com), and Ripper (in the Stephen Jones anthology Horrorology, from Jo Fletcher Books) will be released in October 2015.

Angelas urban fantasy novel, Vigil (based on the short story Brisneyland byNight), will be released by Jo Fletcher Books in 2016, and the sequel, Corpselight, in 2017. She is represented by Ian Drury of the literary agency Sheil Land.

blog tour poster (2)

Corpselight  (2017)
(The second book in the Verity Fassbinder series)

book cover of Corpselight

Life in Brisbane is never simple for those who walk between the worlds.

Verity’s all about protecting her city, but right now that’s mostly running surveillance and handling the less exciting cases for the Weyrd Council – after all, it’s hard to chase the bad guys through the streets of Brisbane when you’re really, really pregnant.

An insurance investigation sounds pretty harmless, even if it is for ‘Unusual Happenstance’. That’s not usually a clause Normals use – it covers all-purpose hauntings, angry genii loci, ectoplasmic home invasion, demonic possession, that sort of thing – but Susan Beckett’s claimed three times in three months. Her house keeps getting inundated with mud, but she’s still insisting she doesn’t need or want help . . . until the dry-land drownings begin.

V’s first lead in takes her to Chinatown, where she is confronted by kitsune assassins. But when she suddenly goes into labour, it’s clear the fox spirits are not going to be helpful.

Review

Book one in this series was an utter delight and surprise, Something i hadn’t looked for or expected that fell into my lap and was an instant hit, a debut that you feel no fear in recommending to all, crossing genres as “just a great read”, with wonderful characters.

What the author needs to do after such a splendid debut is to follow it up, sounds obvious but often this is the hurdle where many fall. Slatter and Corpselight is not one of those. While the book is undoubtedly different to Vigil it is still a splendid piece of character writing with a plot that is both emotional and introspective and yet builds to a powerful, energetic, fast paced plot. Fastbender is as always no wallflower, even when heavily pregnant, add into the mix all the other characters near and dear to her and us the reader, and the Angela Slatter has so much more scope to delve into the emotional drivers and experiences of all her leading charcters, the plot and the world already exist, its just bringing it all to life that’s needed, and if you loved Vigil then you will not be disappointed at all with the highly charged action packed emotional roller-coaster. Myth and reality blended at its finest, right up there with my annual Aaronovitch treat.

recommended read

(Parm)

Series

Verity Fassbinder
1. Vigil (2016)
2. Corpselight (2017)
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Novels
Finnegan’s Field (2016)
Black-Winged Angels (2016)
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Collections
The Girl with No Hands (and Other Tales) (2010)
Sourdough and Other Stories (2010)
Willow Pattern (2012) (with Steven K Amsterdam, Christopher Currie, Rjurik Davidson, Nick Earls, Simon Groth, Krissy Kneen, Geoff Lemon and PM Newton)
A Ghostly Gathering (2012) (with Stephen Jones and Thana Niveau)
Midnight and Moonshine (2012)
The Bitterwood Bible (2014)
The Female Factory (2015)
Four Dark Tales (2015)
Four Horrifying Tales (2015)
A Feast of Shadows (2016)
A Feast of Sorrows (2016)
Winter Children and Other Chilling Tales (2016)
Some of the Best from Tor.com: 2016 (2017) (with Nina Allan, Charlie Jane Anders, Aliette de Bodard, Tara Isabella Burton, Monica Byrne, Rebecca Campbell, Cixin Liu, P Djeli Clark, Indrapramit Das, Alix E Harrow, N K Jemisin, Margaret Killjoy, Melissa Marr, David Nickle, Laurie Penny, Daniel Polansky, Lettie Prell, Delia Sherman, Caighlan Smith, Lavie Tidhar, Rajnar Vajra, Genevieve Valentine, Carrie Vaughn and Alyssa Wong)
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Novellas
The Burning Circuis (2015)
Home and Heath (2015)
Of Sorrow and Such (2015)
Ripper (2017)
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Anthologies edited
Dead Red Heart (2011) (with Russell B Farr)
A Book of Horrors (2011) (with Stephen Jones)
Canterbury 2100: pilgrimages in a new world (2013) (with Dirk Flinthart)
Fearie Tales (2013) (with Stephen Jones)
Sprawl (2014) (with Alisa Krasnostein)
Corvidae (2015) (with Rhonda Parrish)
Damnation and Dames (2015) (with Liz Grzyb and Amanda Pillar)
Focus 2014 (2015) (with Tehani Wessely)
Cthulhu’s Daughters (2016) (with Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R Stiles)
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Filed under Angela Slatter, Fantasy

Ed McDonald: Blackwing (guest post)

Ed McDonald has spent many years dancing between different professions, cities and countries, but the only thing any of them share in common is that they have allowed him enough free time to write. He currently lives with his wife in London, a city that provides him with constant inspiration, where he works as a university lecturer. When he’s not grading essays or wrangling with misbehaving plot lines he can usually be found fencing with longswords, rapiers and pollaxes.

Ed’s debut novel Blackwing is the first part of The Raven’s Mark trilogy. Blackwing will be published on July 20th 2017 by Gollancz in the UK, and October 2017 by Ace in the United States. German, Spanish, French, Hungariann and Russian translations will be available from 2018.

 

Blackwing  (2017)
(The first book in the Raven’s Mark series)

Buy signed copy

book cover of Blackwing

The republic faces annihilation, despite the vigilance of Galharrow’s Blackwings. When a raven tattoo rips itself from his arm to deliver a desperate message, Galharrow and a mysterious noblewoman must investigate a long dead sorcerer’s legacy. But there is a conspiracy within the citadel: traitors, flesh-eaters and the ghosts of the wastelands seek to destroy them, but if they cannot solve the ancient wizard’s paradox, the Deep Kings will walk the earth again, and all will be lost.

The war with the Eastern Empire ended in stalemate some 80 years ago, thanks to Nall’s Engine, a wizard-crafted weapon so powerful even the Deep Kings feared it. The strike of the Engine created the Misery – a wasteland full of ghosts and corrupted magic that now forms a no-man’s-land along the frontier. But when Galharrow investigates a frontier fortress, he discovers complacency bordering on treason: then the walls are stormed, and the Engine fails to launch.

Galharrow escapes only because of the preternatural magical power of the noblewoman he was supposed to be protecting. Together they race to the capital to unmask the traitors and restore the republic’s defences. Far across the Misery, a vast army is on the move, as the Empire prepares to call the republic’s bluff.

Guest Blog:

Relationships in Fantasy & Toxic Male Sexual Identity in Media

 

Blackwing is a book about magic, swords and power.

It’s also a story about a relationship, love, and the need for closure. Hopefully, a reader will feel that the way that the characters interact over the course of the book is believable, given the situations that they find themselves in, and the way that life has treated them before. I wanted to write a relationship narrative that more accurately mirrors the way that I feel that adults behave. The key characters aren’t 15 years old, they’re people who’ve experienced life, and I wanted them to behave like those kinds of people. I also wanted to show a man with difficult feelings not acting like a complete and utter pillock.

When I was growing up in the 1990s, I learned about relationships from watching Friends on the TV. The best bit of Friends was Ross and Rachel and their on/off status, because it got across a lot of feeling. But, it’s only with hindsight that I can look back at Friends and see how damaging it was to my own sexual identity as a young man learning about how to behave around women, what women wanted from a heterosexual relationship, and how relationships form.

Friends eventually turned into British sitcom Coupling, then How I Met Your Mother (it’s incredible how many plots got reused) and then the same issues appear in Rules of Engagement and more besides. There’s an easy set of jokes that can be made that go like so:

Woman suggests remote possibility of sex. Man loses his head and falls over trying to get to the bedroom.

The message in these shows is that men are sex-obsessed and willing to do anything to get into a woman’s knickers. This wasn’t my experience of being a teen/adult male, and never has been. But I always kind of felt that to be a real man, that’s how I ought to feel. Even after I settled into a stable relationship in my late twenties, I felt that I had to be primed and ready to go at the shortest notice. It has taken a lot of reflection and honesty to realise that I’m not an over-inflated balloon ready to explode. A real man can barely control himself, right?

There’s a lot that’s wrong with this media picture. It tells men that it’s OK to be only just in control. It tells men that women are the gatekeepers and that they control everything about the flow of sex in a man’s life. It tells them that society expects them to be ‘horn dogs’ and that to behave like that is OK. It’s all very toxic. This is so often portrayed in fantasy books as well. A very silly bit in one book by an author that I greatly respect in all other ways involves a (mild mannered, polite, kind) character throws himself into a patch of stinging nettles because he’s just so horny. The villains of most books are portrayed in the same manner, and grimdark is often especially blatant for it. We absorb the messages that we read. We emulate our heroes. Getting this stuff right is important.

The second, opposite way that these stories lie to us about relationships is that they tell us that The Changing Friendzone is a real thing. It’s the idea that if you like someone, and they don’t fancy you, that their feelings will change over time, as long as someone performs lots of small acts of kindness. All of the men I grew up with at school seemed to believe this as well. Why not? We identified with Ross. It’s the plot of every rom-com out there. When I got to university, everyone believed it there too. But then, through life, I’ve yet to see a single example of this play out. I wasted years pining over girls that I thought I loved, imagining that they’d somehow change their minds about me if I was just a good friend for long enough. Fantasy is very guilty of this. One of the biggest books in the genre is effectively a big friend-zone story. It’s a device to draw out a romance into a long and tortured ordeal, where we can root for the characters over time. Maybe we enjoy this story because secretly we’ve all loved a friend in this way. But I’d so much rather read a story where someone goes through this and then meets someone that actually likes them instead.

To me, it’s all a little disingenuous. Our expectations of reality are affected by the stories that are told to us, and as an author, I wanted to write a relationship that I felt better matched my experiences of the way that experienced adults behave. People in their thirties are both honest and dishonest. Love is selfish; it’s also about giving. It’s hard, and it hurts at times, and you’re not always sure that you want it, even when you can’t bear to let it go. It takes into account that there are other things going on in life, and that much as you might want something, there are always going to be other concerns to get in the way.

For me, the human element of a fantasy story is what makes all those swords, magic blasts and doomsday weapons matter. Hopefully I pulled it off.

Raven’s Mark
1. Blackwing (2017)
2. Ravensworn (2018)

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Filed under Ed McDonald, Fantasy

Victoria Aveyard: Kings Cage (review)

Victoria Aveyard

Victoria Aveyard's picture

Victoria Aveyard  is a screenwriter/YA author who likes books and lists.

book cover of King's Cage

In this breathless third installment of Victoria Aveyard’s best-selling Red Queen series, allegiances are tested on every side. And when the Lightning Girl’s spark is gone, who will light the way for the rebellion?

Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother’s web in an attempt to maintain control over his country – and his prisoner.

As Mare bears the weight of Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continue organizing, training, and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare’s heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back.

When blood turns on blood and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire – leaving Norta as Mare knows it to burn all the way down.

Review:

This series has surprised me since book one Red Queen, This is a dystopian style world, where society is 2 tiered and the elites are not the nicest people…. only even the elites have tiers within tiers, being a red is to be down trodden, but is being a silver better? Silvers have powers, but now so do some of the Reds and these are powers that require work  and te Red population of down trodden people are much more used to that than Silvers. All of this is a cauldron boiling toward ruin and has been all series long.

Kings Cage brings much of the animosity to its head, schisms appear sight through the silver community, civil war looms. This series and this book is forever full of surprises, action, miss direction, real depth of sub plot and characters that will dominate the book and your thoughts while reading it. Most of all as a granddad of a very strong willed young lady i love the strong female characters in this book, i love the way they drive the book and the plot and have real key pivotal roles in the book, not relegated to gender stereotypes. I will be happy to let her get her hands on this at some point.

This series blows away most of the YA dystopian series i have read in recent years, and i highly recommend it.

(Parm)

 

 

Series
Red Queen
0.1. Queen Song (2015)
0.2. Steel Scars (2016)
0.5. Cruel Crown (2016)
1. Red Queen (2014)
2. Glass Sword (2016)
3. King’s Cage (2017)
Red Queen 2-Book Collection (omnibus) (2016)
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Ben Aaronovitch The Furthest Station (5.7 Peter Grant / Rivers of London)

Ben Aaronovitch

Ben Aaronovitch’s career started with a bang writing for Doctor Who, subsided in the middle and then, as is traditional, a third act resurgence with the bestselling Rivers of London series.

Born and raised in London he says that he’ll leave his home when they prise his city out of his cold dead fingers.

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There have been ghosts on the London Underground, sad, harmless spectres whose presence does little more than give a frisson to travelling and boost tourism. But now there’s a rash of sightings on the Metropolitan Line and these ghosts are frightening, aggressive and seem to be looking for something.

Enter PC Peter Grant junior member of the Metropolitan Police’s Special Assessment unit a.k.a. The Folly a.k.a. the only police officers whose official duties include ghost hunting. Together with Jaget Kumar, his counterpart at the British Transport Police, he must brave the terrifying the crush of London’s rush hour to find the source of the ghosts.

Joined by Peter’s wannabe wizard cousin, a preschool river god and Toby the ghost hunting dog their investigation takes a darker tone as they realise that a real person’s life might just be on the line.

And time is running out to save them.

Review

Furthest Station, actually works, i wasn’t sure if a novella would be enough to tell a PC Grant tale, but actually it worked perfectly, More so in fact than the Hanging Tree did for me, which seemed to just stop.

As with many mid series novellas a large part of this book is dropping hints, tit bits and introducing people who we will see more of later, but this was a lot more than that, it had all the charismatic humour that you expect from this series, all the innate British humour, and i think even funnier, the netgalley copy i had was for the USA, it had notes to explain some English vernacular for the Americans, those made me chuckle and should always be in there.

So this book is mainly i think about us seeing more and more of Peters wannabe Wizard cousin, and why not, she is smart, very smart. Has that usual smart mouth approach and condescending view of all people older and stupider than her (and lets face it thats a lot of people, she is very smart) .. As usual the author pays all the characters very well, true laugh out loud moments, groans  and a plot and pace that means the book is over in a blink. It leave you wanting more…. and that for me is the sign of a good book. Hanging Tree left me going…. wheres the rest… that’s not the same thing!

So lots more Mr Aaronovitch and soon please…

(Parm)

 

Series
PC Peter Grant
1. Rivers of London (2011)
aka Midnight Riot
2. Moon Over Soho (2011)
3. Whispers Under Ground (2012)
4. Broken Homes (2013)
5. Foxglove Summer (2014)
6. The Hanging Tree (2016)
P C Grant Novels (omnibus) (2013)
Ben Aaronovitch The PC Grant Novels 4 Books Collection Set, (omnibus) (2015)
The Furthest Station (2017)
The PC Grant Collection (2017)
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Series contributed to
Doctor Who : Seventh Doctor
Remembrance of the Daleks (1990)
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Doctor Who : New Adventures
10. Transit (1992)
44. The Also People (1995)
56. So Vile a Sin (1997) (with Kate Orman)
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Professor Bernice Summerfield
Genius Loci (2007)
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Doctor Who (with Trevor Baxendale)
Remembrance of the Daleks / Prisoner of the Daleks(2016)
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