Category Archives: demons

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Deathless – Book 1 of The Deathless series by Peter Newman #Brainfluffbookreview #TheDeathlessbookreview

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I had seen this one on Netgalley and then was invited to review it – and accepted. I liked the premise and assumed he’d be a solidly good writer, after all, he’s married to the great Emma Newman…

The demons… In the endless forests of the Wild, humanity scratches a living by the side of the great Godroads, paths of crystal that provide safe passage and hold back the infernal tide. Creatures lurk within the trees, watching, and plucking those who stray too far from safety.
The Deathless… In crystal castles held aloft on magical currents, seven timeless royal families reign, protecting humanity from the spread of the Wild and its demons. Born and reborn into flawless bodies, the Deathless are as immortal as the precious stones from which they take their names. For generations a fragile balance has held.
And the damned… House Sapphire, one of the ancient Deathless families, is riven by suspicion and madness. Whole villages are disappearing as the hunting expeditions holding the Wild at bay begin to fail.

Newman tips us right in the middle of the action – to the extent that at one point, I flipped back to ensure I was reading the first book in the series. But that’s okay – seeing as one of my hobbies is crashing midway into series, this approach works for me. I certainly prefer it to those stories that take forever to wind up into anything approximating an adventure. The world is overrun with demonic creatures who attack humanity – even the vegetation in the wild forests exact a price to keep them from attacking those desperate enough to seek refuge within such a lethal landscape. What stops the world from being completely overrun are the immortals who live in floating castles powered by crystalline power and the godroads, also crystal-enhanced which attacks and repels all demon-touched flora and fauna.

There are seven main dynasties who maintain their borders and keep all within them safe by their regular hunting expeditions. Until one House doesn’t and a village goes under… The House Sapphire is a mess after one of its most important representatives is accused of consorting with The Wild and is disgraced, before being driven out to fend for herself. Even more devastatingly, the vessel that houses her immortal soul is broken, so that once her current life ends – that’s it – she won’t be reborn into a young, healthy body, again.

The worldbuilding is fabulous – Newman manages to evoke a real sense of tension and menace once outside the castle walls, while providing an insight into what it’s like to live within the castle. I also liked the progression of the story and the pacing, which is really well-handled. The only problem I had was that while there were multiple viewpoints – only one of those characters really appealed, and that was Lady Pari, who is brave and sufficiently wilful to break the rules so she can be with her lover.

I appreciate the characters are not all good or bad – but most of the scions of the crystal families seem to be selfish and vengeful. They certainly seem to have forgotten that their primary vocation is to keep the wild safe for the mortals not fortunate enough to live in a floating castle. But as the adventure unspools, people are pushed to their limits outside their comfort zones and we get to see what they are made of.

I became increasingly absorbed in the story as it wore on and by the end, I was thoroughly engrossed – and I’m keen to read the next slice of the adventure. Because, as things stand – I have no idea where Newman will next take it. While I obtained an arc of The Deathless from the author via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. Recommended for fans of well written, fantasy with a strong, unusual world.
8/10

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*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Breaking the Lore By Andy Redsmith – Book 1 of the Inspector Paris Mystery series #Brainfluffbookreview #BreakingtheLorebookreview

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I was delighted to be offered the opportunity to read this intriguing fantasy crime adventure – it sounded great fun…

How do you stop a demon invasion… when you don’t believe in magic? Inspector Nick Paris is a man of logic and whisky. So staring down at the crucified form of a murder victim who is fifteen centimetres tall leaves the seasoned detective at a loss… and the dead fairy is only the beginning.

Nick Paris is your average, hard-drinking inspector serving in the murder squad, with amazing deductive powers and a rather arid lovelife – until he’s called out to a murder in the posher part of Manchester, which turns out to be the crucifixion of a fairy. He finds the pathologist on his knees investigating the crime scene, equally amazed. Indeed, the only one who isn’t pole-axed is Sergeant Bonetti, who recalls hearing about talking fish – when it turns out, he’s remembering the plot of Finding Nemo. That opening scene quickly whisks Paris up into a whirlwind adventure where he’s also having to wrap his head around talking crows, dwarves and a rock troll princess seeking political asylum.

This tale is told from Paris’s viewpoint in third person point of view – so we get the full benefit of his perplexed reaction, when years of deductive experience collide full-square with a situation and characters who appear to have leapt out of one of the darker fairy tale books. He retreats into sarky humour to get him through – so there are a number of jokes and puns littering the action, some of which had me laughing aloud.

In addition to Paris, we have his sidekick Sergeant Bonetti (think of the smart, slim Sergeant Hathaway in Lewis – his absolute opposite defines Bonetti) and Cassandra, the magical consultant he somehow acquires. It’s a smart move to have Bonetti and Cassandra completely accepting of the situation, while Paris is still grappling with the concept, because while we get the benefit of his bemusement, it doesn’t hold up the action. Which comes thick and fast as magical creatures pitch up with increasing frequency at the only portal on the planet, situated in a suburban garden. I loved the reaction of the homeowner, who provides a pathway through his house marked with duct-tape in return for dwarven gold…

The pages turned themselves as the story gathered pace and the plot thickened, bristling with nice touches, such as a chain-smoking crow and an excessively polite elf, who turns out to be a lethally effective killer. All in all, this is an entertaining, enjoyable beginning to what promises to be a solidly good urban fantasy series – I’m now waiting with eagerness for the next book. Recommended for fans of enjoyable urban fantasy and those who like their crime on the quirky side. The ebook arc copy of Breaking the Lore was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book
9/10

Sunday Post – 7th April, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

I have just returned from another wonderful few days away at Bexhill-on-Sea with my sister-in-law on a writing retreat. She is working on her PhD thesis and I managed to add over 11,000 words to Mantivore Prey. We were back in the flat she had previously rented with the fabulous turret room overlooking the seascape as we wrote – such an amazing experience! We were very lucky and mostly had sunny, bright weather – although Wednesday was stormy with dramatic seas, showers, strong winds and regular rainbows, which we were able to watch shimmer across the skies, before disappearing.

I was in rather desperate need of a break – and this was what I got. I had a fabulous time that not only helped recharge me emotionally, but was enormously beneficial creatively.

Last week I read:
Breaking the Lore – Book 1 of the Inspector Paris Mystery series by Andy Redsmith
Inspector Nick Paris is a man of logic and whisky. So staring down at the crucified form of a murder victim who is fifteen centimetres tall leaves the seasoned detective at a loss… and the dead fairy is only the beginning. Suddenly the inspector is offering political asylum to dwarves, consulting with witches, getting tactical advice from elves and taking orders from a chain-smoking talking crow who, technically, outranks him.
This is great fun! I thoroughly enjoyed Nick’s laconic humour and his struggle to get his head around all the magical creatures suddenly pitching up on his patch in a smart Manchester. Review to follow.

 

Oracle’s War – Book 2 of the Olympus Trilogy by David Hair and Cath Mayo
When Prince Odysseus is sent on a quest to recover his family honour, he’s led to Delos where a mysterious new prophecy has captivated the gods. Caught in a tangled web of intrigue, he discovers that this prophecy is tied to his own destiny and the fate of his patron goddess, Athena.
I loved the first book in this series, Athena’s Champion, and this one triumphantly continues with the same panache and wonderful worldbuilding – this is fast becoming one of my alltime favourite series… Review to follow.

 

My post last week:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* – Review of Murder Served Cold – Book 6 of the Langham and Dupré series

Many thanks for taking the time to comment, like and visit my blog – I will catch up with you as soon as I can, so thank you also for your patience. In the meantime, have a wonderful week!

Review of #Gwithyas: Door to the Void by Isha Crowe #Brainfluffbookreview #book review

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This is another offering from Grimbold Publishers – a quirky, YA fantasy, featuring hapless Zircon Gwithyas, who is the main protagonist.

Zircon Gwithyas just wants to be a normal teenager, preferably one with a girlfriend. If you’re a spotty nerd with glasses as thick as jam jars, that isn’t easy. It’s even harder when you live in a derelict manor on a haunted hill with a bunch of spooky eccentrics for a family, and the object of your affection is an irritable sword-wielding college student. It becomes virtually impossible when you are dragged into a dark, chaotic semi-reality where your moderately-deceased ancestors expect you to save the world from a horde of grotesque demons with a fondness for torture…

I love this one. Zircon’s exasperated view of his life puts an amusing spin on this Gothic tale of overweening ambition, pride, as the terrible consequences reverberate down the generations of this afflicted family. I really like the fact that Zircon is gawky, physically unappealing and unfailingly bad at interacting effectively with the people around him. He doesn’t even want to be a Guardian – in fact, he didn’t realise this was his fate, until circumstances give him a hefty nudge.

Crowe has played with the classic Hero’s Journey, so beloved of screenwriters and SFF authors, by including many of the necessary ingredients, such as the Call to Action as the initial emergency engulfs the family – his initial resistance to said Call is entirely according to the script. But the wise Mentor, whose counsel is supposed to help Zircon on his way, becomes otherwise engaged and Zircon’s trusty sidekick, Joanna, thoroughly despises his physical ineptitude and evident terror. In the end, of course, he tackles the monsters, or there wouldn’t be a story. But it isn’t until well into the book, the reader begins to appreciate exactly what has been going on – and realises just how cleverly Crowe has played with our expectations.

Due to circumstances beyond my control, (no internet!) I’ve been unable to post my review when I scheduled to do so, therefore it’s been a while since I read this one. But it won’t leave my head. I find myself thinking of Zircon rather a lot at times when I should be thinking of something else – it’s special when a book gets under my skin to that degree. Highly recommended for fans of fantasy – this one is a gem.
9/10

Review of NETGALLEY arc Blunt Force Magic – Book 1 of The Monsters and Men trilogy by Lawrence Davis

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I read several positive reviews of this one and took one look at the cover – and requested it…

Janzen Robinson is a man lost between two worlds. Five years removed from a life as an apprentice to a group of do-gooding heroes who championed the fight against supernatural evils, the once-promising student is now a package courier going through the daily grind, passing time at a hole-in-the-wall bar and living in a tiny, run-down apartment on the south side of Cleveland, Ohio. Then fate (or a case of bad timing) brings him face to face with a door that’s got his old life written all over it. From the ancient recesses of unyielding darkness known as the Abyss, a creature has been summoned: a Stalker, a predator whose real name is forbidden to be spoken aloud. It’s a bastardization of the natural order, a formidable blend of dark magic and primal tenacity. Its single-minded mission? Ending the life of a fiery, emerging young witch.

Though the cool cover shouts otherwise – at least to me, who thought this was going to morph into epic fantasy, this story is very much within the urban fantasy genre. That said, there are some striking differences that make this one stand out. Yes, Janzen has been selected as an apprentice due to his natural talent – however, that was a while ago. In the meantime, something terrible has happened to his mentor and he has spent the last five years just getting by. Therefore, while he does have raw talent, there is relatively little skill or finesse in his workings. I really like the idea that he is only half trained and that because of his chippy, mouthy character, he is also tricky to help, as he is often his own worst enemy.

That doesn’t stop him plunging into a desperate situation against a very dangerous opponent without too much thought about the consequences. This is partly due to his own bloody-minded nature and partly due to the survivor guilt he still feels.

While I’m always wary of assuming authors necessarily shoehorn their own lives into their writing, I was interested to read that Davis is a war veteran who served in Iraq. The young soldier who befriends Janzen is very well depicted and all the action scenes are effective and realistic.

In short, this one held me throughout. I liked the dynamic and the fact that there was no romantic relationship running throughout – a refreshing change in urban fantasy, these days. I also liked the scrabbling, somewhat desperate nature of Janzen’s opposition to the nasties ranged against him. I particularly appreciated the monsters – especially the stalkers, which are truly terrifying creatures.

All in all, this is a thoroughly enjoyable new series and I very much look forward to reading another slice of Janzen’s adventures – I hope Davies writes quickly. While I obtained an arc of Blunt Force Magic from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
10/10

Teaser Tuesday – 27th February, 2018

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

Blunt Force Magic – Book 1 of the Monsters and Men trilogy by Lawrence Davis

97% I walked out of the filthy den of forfeited hopes and dead ambitions into the blinding light of midday.
“You ducking the hard stuff again?” Kaycee asked, walking over from her store which was only a few feet down from the underground bar.
“Food.” I lifted the to-go bag up for her to see.
“From there? That’s brave.”
“Bravery is my middle name.”

BLURB: Janzen Robinson is a man lost between two worlds. Five years removed from a life as an apprentice to a group of do-gooding heroes who championed the fight against supernatural evils, the once-promising student is now a package courier going through the daily grind, passing time at a hole-in-the-wall bar and living in a tiny, run-down apartment on the south side of Cleveland, Ohio.

Then fate (or a case of bad timing) brings him face to face with a door that’s got his old life written all over it. From the ancient recesses of unyielding darkness known as the Abyss, a creature has been summoned: a Stalker, a predator whose real name is forbidden to be spoken aloud. It’s a bastardization of the natural order, a formidable blend of dark magic and primal tenacity. Its single-minded mission? Ending the life of a fiery, emerging young witch.

This is only part of the rather chatty blurb – and as you can see I’ve nearly finished this one. It’s been great fun and Janzen’s scruffy magic is a nice addition to the urban fantasy vigilantes keeping all those monsters at bay. I’ll be reviewing this one in due course.

Review of Split Feather – Book 1 of The Daughter of the Midnight Sun series by Deborah A. Wolf

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I saw this one on the library shelves, liked the look of it and notwithstanding the fact that my TBR pile has reached crazy proportions, I took it home.

Siggy J. Alexie is a troubled young woman. Taken from her family as a toddler, abandoned by her adoptive mother into the foster care system as a preteen, she is haunted by a history of abandonment, abuse, and mental health issues. She is also haunted by a demon. Siggy sees ghosts and demons, has conversations with beings she knows aren’t really there, suffers from cluster headaches, coffee addiction, and terminal bad language, and has a hot temper that just won’t quit. She lives in a crappy trailer in the woods in Bearpaw, Michigan – alone, just the way she likes it. But then she goes and does something heroic and screws up her rotten life even further.

That’s as much as the very chatty blurb I’m willing to share, but do be warned, it continues at some length and gives at least a couple of major plotpoints that you’d be better off reading within the story. The other warning – while it mentions it, if you are offended by strong language, then this isn’t the book for you. There is extensive use of the f word throughout, because as Siggy admits – she is a potty-mouth. However, I really warmed to the punchy first-person narrative which manages to portray an abused, troubled young woman without a scrap of whining or self pity. In fact, despite the bleakness of her life, she is frequently very funny, which worked well in bonding me to her and ensuring I really cared about what happens to her.

Her life doesn’t make for pretty reading – the foster-care system she ends up in is clearly broken and has left her to fend for herself with a sub-standard education and dealing with issues she shouldn’t have to. As well as having to cope with a demon who constantly plagues her.

I really like this aspect of the book. The demon can be taken at face value as one of the otherworldly creatures inhabiting this fantasy novel – or the demon can be seen as the personification of her own self-loathing. Either way works well and I enjoyed the fact that Wolf gives us an opportunity to read that layer into the story. The writing is sensually very rich – we know most of the time what Siggy is smelling and how the landscape impacts upon her as senses as well as emotionally. Not only does this give us another layer of information, it also underlines the impression of Siggy’s otherness. Of course, with such a vivid protagonist, we also need a suitably horrible antagonist – and Wolf delivers a couple, who are also both women, which I really enjoyed.

The other interesting aspect of this book is there is no romantic attachment, which – given Siggy’s messed up emotional state, was something of a relief. She isn’t in a fit state to be falling love. Yet all too often in this genre, a heroine staggers away from a series of incidents dire enough to have Superwoman buckling at the knees, only to fling herself into the arms of a handily available man, professing her love. Frankly, she’d be better off with a long, hot shower and a lie-down. Alone.

All in all, this is a really good start to what promises to be a fascinating and engrossing series. Recommended to urban fantasy fans who like gritty, vivid protagonists and a well-told story.
9/10

Review of The Medusa’s Daughter – Book 1 of The Mask of Medusa series by T.O. Munro

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I met the author during a late-night session at the bar at Bristolcon 2016 – a marvellous evening and it ended up with him giving me a review copy. I’m ashamed it’s taken me so long to get around to reading it…

Haunted by very different pasts, three travellers journey together across a continent riven by clashes of faith and race. Odestus, the war criminal flees from justice. Persapha, new to all things human, yearns for a way and a place to belong. Marcus Fenwell, schooled in diverse talents, seeks a future beyond a wine bottle. But past and future entwine to snare them all, for the Medusa has not been forgotten nor her daughter forgiven.

As it happens, that very snappy, non-spoiler blurb neatly sums up the ongoing structure of the book. We follow the fortunes of all three of these interesting characters as events unspool around them. This is complicated by the fact that one of the characters is in a very tricky position in a timeline ahead of when the rest of the action takes place.

Munro certainly knows how to wind up the tension as we witness one of the protagonists being interrogated in fairly dire circumstances – before switching to one of the other characters. The focus of the book is the title heroine, Persapha, who has had a very peculiar start in life, having been hatched from an egg and raised by reptiles. We are alongside as she starts to pick her way through a busy city filled with humans, who she finds difficult to understand. I found myself genuinely concerned on her behalf as the dangerously innocent girl uses her mother’s mask to try and discover what happened to her.

The magic system is skilfully handled and I really enjoyed the world, which works well. There are some nice twists in the political landscape that I appreciated and the characterisation is convincing with plenty of depth. However, I was more distanced from the main protagonists than I would have liked as Munro tends to drift out of viewpoint and into a semi-omniscient point of view. While I am aware that plenty of readers still enjoy this story-telling structure, it gives the book a slightly old-fashioned feel and left me a little frustrated. Given the depth and complexity of the characters, I would have appreciated a more immersive approach to fully hook me into the story, though this is very much a personal preference.

That said, it is still very well written with plenty going on and a gathering momentum towards the end. Before it all comes to a juddering halt. Not a single storyline is resolved – every single one of the main plotlines is left on a cliffhanger after reading over 600 pages. I am aware that a second book is in the works, but I would have liked some payoff for getting to the end of the first volume in this series.
8/10

Friday Faceoff – Do not go gentle…

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer and is currently hosted by Lynn’s Book Blog. This week the theme is a cover featuring night, or the dark, so I’ve chosen Knights of the Borrowed Dark – Book 1 of Knights of the Borrowed Dark trilogy by Dave Rudden.

 

This cover, produced by Puffin in April 2016, is not my favourite, but like all these covers it is a strong contender. I like the fact that Denizen looks the right age and as the light pours from his hands, the creatures lurking in the gloom are suitably menacing, thus accurately reflecting the content in this outstanding children’s fantasy series. I love the strapline, but I’m not a fan of the title font, which is rather boring.

 

This edition was produced by Puffin in January 2017 has a more grandiose backdrop, though the boy looks older which I think is a bit of a shame. That said, the excellent writing and great adventure ought to be enjoyed by anyone in their early teens, as well as younger children. The title font is still rather boring, but reasonably inoffensive and the cover still accurately reflects the content.

 

Published in August 2016 by Random House, I really like this cover. The sword wreathed in blue coruscating fire glows from the cover, as the dark roils in the background. As for the title font – that’s just what a cool title like this needs! The title now delivers depth and suitable awesomeness that promises – and delivers – a cracking adventure you won’t easily forget. This is my second favourite cover.

 

This German offering, published in April 2016 by Sauerländer ticks all the boxes as far as I’m concerned. I love the cover as it features the depth and breadth of the world, with Denizen standing in the middle. I also like the font, which is attractively displayed and again, reinforces the impression that this is a strong series with a gritted struggle between Light and Dark. This cover is my favourite. What about you – which of these is your favourite?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Prisoner of Limnos – Book 6 of the Penric and Desdemona novella series by Lois McMaster Bujold

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Himself was thrilled when he realised that another slice of Penric goodness was coming our way – quite right too as this series has not only been consistently excellent, it also is very good value, given that each novella is modestly priced. So would this next slice of the adventure measure up to the very high standard already set?

In this sequel novella to Mira’s Last Dance, Temple sorcerer Penric and the widow Nikys have reached safety in the duchy of Orbas when a secret letter from a friend brings frightening news…

And the answer is yes – this book is a joy to read and difficult to put down. However, I do feel quite strongly that although each book is designed to be read as a standalone, in order to gain the maximum enjoyment from this particular adventure, you at least need to read Mira’s Last Dance. As this narrative continues from the ending of that story, there are too many allusions to previous storylines – and besides, why not double the reading pleasure?

One of the delights of this series is charting the growth in Penric’s confidence and maturity since his first fateful encounter with the demon he has named Desdemona. Initially, he had a lot of adjusting to do, given that he wasn’t Temple-trained and his hosting of Desdemona was a complete accident. We don’t get so many tussles between them and neither does Desdemona bait him so much – instead, a strong bond is evident and interestingly, at one stage, it is Desdemona who is panicked and overcome in this adventure, with Penric providing the necessary reassurance to get them out of yet another tricky situation.

In amongst all the tension and excitement, we are also treated to Bujold’s hallmark humour, which is every bit as quirky as her characters. While the stakes are undoubtedly high, I found myself sniggering once Penric manages to successfully get into the prison complex, when someone wholly unexpected pops up… Their indignant exchange was a nice bit of light relief in amongst all the tension and danger.

I found this one almost physically painful to put down and when I finally finished it with a sigh – it was part happiness at having had such an enjoyable read, along with the inevitable pang of regret that it was all over. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure, this book – and the series – is recommended for anyone who enjoyed the Miles Vorkosigan books or loves reading well-written fantasy with appealing characters and plenty of adventure.
9/10