Category Archives: epic medieval Fantasy

Friday Faceoff – I know why the caged bird sings…

Standard

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. This week the theme is bird covers, so I’ve chosen The Lies of Locke Lamora – Book 1 of the Gentleman Bastard Sequence by Scott Lynch.

 

This is the offering produced by Bantam Spectra in July 2006 is an evocation of a setting like St Mark’s Square in Venice, complete with the pigeons. The clean two-tone design and spare use of colour really works well. I also really like the flourishes on the title font and author name, although I could do without George R.R. Martin’s recommendation crawling across the artwork – I prefer such chatter on the back cover.

 

This cover, also produced by Bantam Spectra in June 2007 is far more lush with a gorgeous use of colour and giving us a representation of our young thief and his imagining how he will scale the high tower as he sits surveying the skyline. This design has even managed to tidy up Martin’s blurb, while keeping the attractive title font.

 

This cover design produced in February 2007 by Gollancz is once more in a Venetian-type setting, though there are clear differences. The buildings are piled far higher and there is a more chaotic atmosphere. The dark green water gives a sense of danger and I think the title font works really well against the darker background. This is my favourite.

 

This effort was produced by Del Rey in June 2013 once more gives a sense of a crowded city where the buildings are all piled upon each other. The detailing in the artwork is far more masked by the title, author name and other blurb crashing through the image, which is a shame, as it is yet another beautiful and effective depiction of the book.

 

This is the audio CD edition produced by Tantor Media Inc in May 2009. While the building featured is rather crude and simplistic in comparison to some of the other covers, I do like the face superimposed in the sky and the placing of the title font and author name has been well thought out. Another effective, attractive effort.

Once again, I don’t think there is a wrong ‘un in amongst this selection, though the most successful is the third offering in my opinion. Which one is your favourite?

Advertisements

2016 Discovery Challenge and Tackling my TBR – December Roundup

Standard

I’m not quite sure how it happened, but despite December being a really busy month I managed to continue reading more than two books a week. As for my Discovery Challenge, which I undertook after reading this post by Jo Hall to read and review at least two books a month by women authors previously unknown to me – I managed to read and review five books during December, though one of those reviews hasn’t yet been published.

Split the Sun – Book 2 of the Inherit the World series by Tessa Elwood
splitthesunThe Ruling Lord of the House of Galton is dead, and the nation is in shock—or celebrating, depending on the district. Kit Franks would be more than happy to join him. Kit’s mother bombed the digital core of the House, killing several and upending the nation’s information structure. No one wants the daughter of a terrorist. Kit’s having dreams she can’t explain, remembering conversations that no longer seem innocent, understanding too much coded subtext in Mom’s universal feed messages. Everyone has a vision of Kit’s fate—locked, sealed, and ready to roll. The question is, does Kit have a vision for herself?
I really enjoyed this one. Foot-to-the-floor, action-packed dystopian sci fi adventure with an appealing spiky heroine, I was scooped up into the middle of this world and didn’t want to pull away until the last page. Great fun – see my review here.

Rebel of the Sands – Book 1 of The Rebel of the Sands trilogy by Alwyn Hamilton
rebelofthesandsShe’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands. Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there’s nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can’t wait to escape from, as she’s destined to wind up “wed or dead”.
There has been a real buzz about this YA desert fantasy offering, and I can see why. Hamilton tips us right into the middle of the action from the first page as Amani’s spiky first person narrative pulled me into the story and didn’t let go. It is a foot to the floor, non-stop adventure where she careens through the vividly depicted landscape that borrows much from eastern influences. It’s a delight and I’m now hoping to be able to hunt down the sequel. See my review here.

Ever the Hunted – Book 1 of Clash of Kingdoms series by Erin Summerill
Seventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her everthehunteddays tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is, until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer. However, it’s not so simple. The alleged killer is none other than Cohen McKay, her father’s former apprentice. The only friend she’s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart.
It was pure chance that I read two YA fantasy adventures back to back. They both featured teenage female protagonists on the run, both had secrets and issues they knew nothing about at the start of the adventure. Both had a romantic sub-plot. Both are cracking reads. However, Britta isn’t so carelessly, gloriously reckless as Amani – she is wary and untrusting of everyone. The pace in this one isn’t quite so full-on, either, but I thoroughly enjoyed this tale set in a more traditional medieval fantasy setting. There were some pleasing plot twists in this adventure I didn’t see coming – and I certainly didn’t guess who had murdered Britta’s father. See my review here.

The City of Ice – Book 2 of The Gates of the World series by K.M. McKinley
thecityoficeDeep in the polar south stands a city like no other, a city built aeons ago by a civilisation mighty and wise. The City of Ice promises the secrets of the ancients to whomever can reach it first. It may prove too little knowledge too late, for the closest approach of the Twin in 4000 years draws near, an event that has heralded terrible destruction in past ages. As the Kressind siblings pursue their fortunes, the world stands upon the dawn of a new era, but it may yet be consumed by a darkness from the past.
It took me a while to get into this genre mashup, where epic fantasy meets a steampunk-type world using magic to power machinery. However there are unforeseen consequences to harnessing such power in that particular way… I love the intricate, layered world with a number of interesting creatures including the tyn, powerful godlike rulers who nevertheless are somewhat down on their luck – and a number of ambitious humans trying to get what they can. Altogether, this becomes an engrossing world with a number of fascinating stories – I’m definitely going to be looking out for the sequel. See my review here.

It was also a good month for my other reading challenge of the year – Tackling my TBR as I read and reviewed five books from my teetering To Be Read pile, which were:-

Thornyhold by Mary Stewart
The story is about a lonely child who is made to see the world through her cousin’s unusual eyes. When thornyholdthe child becomes a young woman, she moves to Thornyhold where she is thought by the local community to be a witch. However, as she finds out, this is no normal community, and worries quickly present themselves. And not everyone who initially greets her is as friendly as they seem…
An enjoyable, initially slightly eerie read that becomes a more conventional romance – as ever Stewart’s writing is a joy. See my review here.

 

 

A Natural History of Dragons – Book 1 of The Memoirs of Lady Trent by Marie Brennan
Everyone knows Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist. Here, at last, in her own words, is the story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, prospects, and her life to satisfy scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the mountains of Vystrana, where she made discoveries that would change the world.
This was recommended to me by the wonderful Kitvaria Sarene during an intense evening at Bristolcon talking books, so I made it a top priority on my TBR list and decided to treat myself this week. And I’m delighted I did – it’s a gem and you can find review here.

Judged – Book 3 of the Blackhart Legacy by Liz de Jagar
judgedKit’s job description includes solving crimes – the supernatural kind . . . Glow, a fae-created drug, is rapidly going viral and the suppliers have to be shut down. Teaming up with Aiden and Dante, Kit follows leads across London, tracking down dealers. They stir up trouble, making themselves a target for the gang they’re trying to stop. In the Otherwhere, Thorn stumbles across a secret that could destroy both the human and Fae worlds. The Veil that separates our human world from the fae realms is weakening and the goddess is dying. And if she dies and the Veil fails, madness and chaos will wreak unstoppable havoc upon both lands.
I really enjoyed the previous two books in this series, Vowed and Banished so was pleased to be able to wrap up Kit’s adventure before the end of the year. Though whatever you do – don’t start with this book, go back to the start and experience this charming series in the right order. See my review here.

Just One Damned Thing After Another – Book 1 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s by Jodi Taylor

“History is just one damned thing after another.” Behind the seemingly innocuous façade of St Mary’s, a jsutonedamnedthingdifferent kind of historical research is taking place. They don’t do ‘time-travel’ – they ‘investigate major historical events in contemporary time’. Maintaining the appearance of harmless eccentrics is not always within their power – especially given their propensity for causing loud explosions when things get too quiet. Meet the disaster-magnets of St Mary’s Institute of Historical Research as they ricochet around History. Their aim is to observe and document – to try and find the answers to many of History’s unanswered questions…and not to die in the process. But one wrong move and History will fight back – to the death. And, as they soon discover – it’s not just History they’re fighting.
This is time-travelling adventure is a joy. Funny, anarchic with a reckless sense of derring-do, this tale is told in first person viewpoint by Max as we follow her initial introduction to St Mary’s, training and early adventures. That said, the attrition rate is high and a number of folks die in this – some of whom I was really sorry to see go… I think this would make a marvellous TV series, however – not yet. There are a raft of these books out there and I want to read them all, first.

The King’s Peace – Book 1 of the Tir Tanagiri series by Jo Walton
thekingspeaceSulien ap Gwien was seventeen when the Jarnish raiders came. Had she been armed when they found her, she could have taken them all. As it was, it took six of them to subdue her. She will never forgive them. Thus begins her story—a story that takes her back to her family, with its ancient ties to the Vincan empire that once ruled in Tir Tanagiri, and forward to Caer Tanaga, where the greatest man of his time, King Urdo, struggles to bind together the squabbling nobles and petty princes into a unified force that will drive out the barbarian invader and restore the King’s Peace. King Urdo will change Sulien’s life. She will see him for what he is: the greatest hope the country has. And he will see her for what she is: the greatest warrior of her day. Together they will fight and suffer for an age of the world, for the things that the world always needs and which never last.
I loved this version of the King Arthur story. As ever, Walton took me somewhere different and engrossed me in the life of someone with other values and ideas. Another great addition to a wonderful reading year…

What about you – how did your December reading targets go?

Friday Faceoff – Looking Out on All I Own…

Standard

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. This week we are looking at covers featuring thrones. I have chosen The Poison Throne – Book 1 of The Moorhawke Trilogy by Celine Kiernan.

 

thepoisonthrone

This offering was published by Allen and Unwin in 2009. I think it effectively captures the gothic overtones with the pared back etched look and I like it very much. Unfortunately, the lettering in the title is rather poor, I think.

 

thepoisonthrone1

This version was produced by Orbit in 2010 and is the cover on the book that I own. I have to say it is my least favourite. Yet another cloaked, grumpy looking female scowling at me…

 

thepoisonthrone2

This edition was published in 2010 by Orbit, presumably it’s the hard cover version, though I’m not completely sure about that one. It has the same beautiful artwork, attractive font and stylish colour palette – and I think the throne works really well. So this is my favourite cover this week. Do you agree?

Eve of War is unleashed…

Standard

I’ve copied this announcement from Fox Spirit Books. For obvious reasons I’m not reviewing this particular anthology – but I would just add that I’ve had the opportunity to read through all the stories. And my mate Mhairi has done it again:).

You may remember BFS shortlister Tales of Eve where Mhairi Simpson collected fantastic tales of women seeking their perfect partner in life and the consequences of the search. Well now we see Eve’s daughters, fierce and defiant stepping out to battle.

Edited by Mhairi Simpson, who once again pulled in a great group of authors and Darren Pulsford who curated them into the anthology, we bring you Eve of War.

eve-of-war-final

Cover art and layout by Vincent Holland-Keen

Sharp of mind and instinct; with poise and grace and power – Eve’s Daughters are a match for any opponent. Whether seeking out a worthy test or assailed by brave (but foolish) foes, she is determined and cunning, and will not fail.

Here are fifteen tales from across the ages; full of prowess both martial and magical, from an array of unique voices.

Contents:

Miranda’s Tempest by S.J. Higbee
The Devil’s Spoke by K.T. Davies
Himura the God Killer by Andrew Reid
The Bind that Tie by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Et Mortuum Esse Audivit by Alasdair Stuart
Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick by Juliet McKenna
A Veil of Blades by R.J. Davnall
In Amber by Rob Haines
Skating Away by Francis Knight
Ballad of Sighne by Rahne Sinclair
The Crossing by Paul Weimer
Lucille by Alec McQuay
Born by G Clark Hellery
Repo by Ren Warom
One Sssingular Sssenssation by Chloe Yates

Friday Faceoff – Renewed Shall Be the Blade That Was Broken…

Standard

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. This week’s topic is comparing covers featuring sharp, pointy things. It was a no-brainer for me. I think The Traitor Son series is a marvellous read – see my review of The Red Knight. For the purposes of the Friday Face-off cover challenge, however, I’ve selected the second book – The Fell Sword.

fell swordThis first cover was published by Gollancz in January 2014 as the hardcover edition. I really love it – the angle of the cover emphasises just how small the armoured man is. It also reflects some of the experiences described so vividly in the book.

 

thefellsword1This second cover is the paperback edition brought out by Orbit in March 2014. I also love this one. The sense of intensity, with the vivid colouring and the fact the knight is in mid-swing gives a power to this particular cover. I’m really torn this week. I think I’ll have to go with this Orbit cover – but it is only by gnat’s eyelash. Do you agree?

Friday Faceoff – Just Then Flew Down a Monstrous Crow…

Standard

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. This week’s topic is comparing covers featuring birds. It took me a while to track this one down – I recalled the cover, but had forgotten the book, so was delighted when I realised it was by one of my all-time favourite authors – Fool’s Quest – Book 2 of Fitz and Fool series by Robin Hobb.

fool'squest1

This first cover is for the 2015 edition released by Del Rey. While I love a lot of their covers, I’m not sure this one really does justice to the book. The man dominating the cover is presumably Fitz, but I have such a clear idea of how he looks that I find it jarring.

 

foolsquest

For me there simply is no contest this week. This cover, produced by Harper Voyager, was the one I’d envisaged as soon as I saw this week’s Friday Face-off. I love its simplicity and the sense of movement with the wings half on and half off the page.  I also think the title font works well. As evidenced by my trawling back to find it – this is also a memorable cover. What do you think? Do you agree?

Weekly Wrap-Up – 27th March 2016

Standard

Given I am now reading and reviewing more frequently, I thought I’d follow Hayley’s suggestion over at RatherTooFondofBooks – check it out, it’s a really good book blog – and write a short summary of my week to share with other bloggers, inspired by the Sunday Post meme from the Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

This week I completed and wrote reviews for three books:-

Luna: New Moon – Book 1 of the Luna series by Ian McDonaldluna
This was a vivid, entertaining read about runaway development in a viciously capitalist structure that has the Five Dragon ruling family battling for ascendancy. I’ve already posted the review here.

The Many Selves of Katherine North by Emma Geen
manyselvesofkatherineThis Netgalley arc is a remarkable read about a young girl who jumps into premade animal bodies – Ressies – in order to better understand the habits and lives of the wildlife around us against a backdrop of climactic change. As a YA dystopian science fiction adventure, this book has far more science content than the average YA read, and the character is complex and nuanced. I featured this book in this week’s Teaser Tuesday. My review will not be appearing until June, however, when the book is due to be released.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik
This is another storming read – I LOVED this fantasy offering. The magic system is great, the uprootedprotagonist punchy and spirited, but what for me sets this book apart is the nature of the Wood, whose implacable opposition to humanity blights the lives of all who have to live near it. I shall be posting the review in due course.

I posted a blog every day, with one reblog from the marvellous Lizzie Baldwin’s entertaining book blog. My most popular post was this week’s Teaser Tuesday, as Emma Geen’s book attracted a lot of attention, with the next most visited post this week being my article Favourite Space Operas – Part 1.

I’m grateful to everyone who popped in and an especial thanks goes to those of you who took the trouble to comment – I still get a thrill at being able to share my reading passion with like-minded souls. Happy Easter to you all!

Favourite Fantasy Worlds – Part 2

Standard

I posted my first five Favourite Fantasy Worlds a few weeks ago, so here are the next group. All of these worlds are well developed, nicely complex and provide satisfying backdrops for the stories. It’s no accident they are all series. One of the reasons I really enjoy multi-book story arcs is the extra layers of detail that can be built into the worldbuilding.

The Glass Thorns series by Melanie Rawn
This original, remarkable series is set in the equivalent age of the Tudors, with horse-drawn conveyances Touchstoneand charts the fortunes of a magical travelling theatre company. In the first book, Touchstone, they form their group and the next three books in the series records their highs and lows as they steadily get more prosperous and successful. Though that brings its own pressures. The glass thorns of the series title, are the drugs the actors dose themselves with, in order to heighten their emotions – or help them relax after the excitement of performance. I eagerly await each book and so far, have not been disappointed at the unfolding drama of these enormously talented, difficult people battling to produce their best work in less than ideal circumstances.

The Worlds of Chrestomanci by Diana Wynne Jones
This series of books covers the adventures of the state-appointed enchanter Chrestomanci, who is taskedCharmedLife with keeping law and order amongst the magical community. I have read most of these books to my granddaughter, after having devoured them myself several decades ago – my favourite is Charmed Life. And rereading them aloud has not only proved they can stand the test of time, but increased my respect at the quality of the writing, the crafting of the story arcs and the sheer quirky genius of Jones’ imagination. Yes – I know they are supposed to be for children, but give them a go if you appreciate magical mayhem. They are a joy for any age group.

The Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong
nohumansinvolvedThis world is extensively portrayed in the thirteen-book series, with a number of accompanying novellas and short stories. It all kicks off with Bitten, where werewolf Clay accidentally bites his girlfriend – and her life is never the same again. But don’t go away with the idea that the series is all about werewolves – it also encompasses witches, necromancers and vampires. In short, anyone who dabbles with the paranormal or magic. Read my review of No Humans Involved. The world is enjoyable – I love the way Armstrong manages to slide from everyday normality into something else.

Einarinn by Juliet E. McKenna
Again, this extensive, detailed world has been produced over a long period of time through several series dangerous watersof books – there are five books within The Tales of Einarinn; four books in The Aldabreshin Compass; three books and a novella in The Chronicles of the Lescari Revolution and her latest trilogy, still set within the same world – The Hadrumal Crisis. Juliet provides an excellent explanation of her world on her blog. They are all great reads – but my personal favourites are The Aldabreshin Compass series and The Hadrumal Crisis – see my review of Dangerous Waters.

The Inheritance trilogy by N.K. Jemisin
thehundredthousandkingdomsThis is an extraordinary series – particularly the first book, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms which is set in the city Sky where gods and mortal co-exist. See my review here. The book is pervaded by the sense of threat and a feeling that a set of rules apply here that our protagonist needs to know, but doesn’t fully understand. The second book, The Broken Kingdoms had me in tears at the end – and that doesn’t happen all that often, these days. If you like remarkable fantasy on an epic scale focusing on gods, then give it a go.

And there you have it… a few of my favourite fantasy worlds to date. What are your favourite fantastic worlds?

Review of The Dread Wyrm – Book 3 of The Traitor Son series by Miles Cameron

Standard

The first book in this series, The Red Knight was something special – see my review here – and I also, eventually, much enjoyed The Fell Sword – see my review here – but now we are on the third book, has Cameron managed to sustain the pace, excitement and drama?

thedreadwyrmThe Red Knight has stood against soldiers, against armies and against the might on an empire. He’s fought on real and magical battlefields alike, and now he’s facing his greatest challenge yet. A tournament. The flower of the nobility will ride against each other for royal favour and acclaim. It’s a contest the Red Knight has the skill to win. But the stakes are higher than he thinks: the court has been infiltrated by a dangerous faction, led by the greatest knight in the world – Jean de Vrailly.

This medieval swords and sorcery adventure revolves around the Red Knight’s mercenary outfit, who are now a whole lot more prosperous and secure than they were a couple of books ago. So you’d think their problems would be solved – but you’d be wrong. Things are badly awry in the kingdom of Alba, where a group have more or less taken over the court… the Wild are gathering all across the continent and massing under the leadership of Ash, the powerful mage, who has his own agenda.

I love this world. The main protagonist, Gabriel Muriens – our Red Knight – is clever, driven, a skilful fighter, brimful of magical talent and short fused. He pings off the page with charisma and a burning desire to prove himself to his family – his scheming mother and scornful father aren’t the kindest parents. There is also a whole cast of intriguing, three-dimensional characters who are all nuanced and complex so that no one is whiter than white and we get to see the motivations of even the darkest characters. Politicking and scheming abound in this book – but the outstanding aspect of this book and the series are the battle scenes. Cameron has taken part in tournaments while wearing armour and it shows. The battles are written with a sense of realism, intensity and danger that are in a class of their own – and it isn’t only slavering creatures from the Wild that die. A fair sprinkling of likeable, interesting characters are also cut down in skirmishes or full-scale battles.

The magic is also beautifully handled. Magicians need to be able to control and pinpoint their talents and are given precise visualisation methodology in order to control their ability. Mags, the Company’s seamstress, has managed to devise her own particular spell casting using her needleworking, while those classically trained have their mental palaces.

All in all, this series just goes on getting better and better, with several surprising twists that really have me wanting more. But if you haven’t yet had the pleasure – don’t start with The Dread Wyrm, go back to The Red Knight and read them in order. I haven’t read an epic fantasy swords and sorcery that is better crafted.
10/10

Teaser Tuesday (24th November)

Standard

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm.
TeaserTuesday-ADailyRhythm3TeaserTuesdays-ADailyRhythm3-300x203
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!

My teaser:

‘Swooping from the safety of their altitude, they dropped on the Queen’s party as they rode, fully exposed, along the low path in the gorge’s edge. They leaped like wolves upon sheep.’ P.442thedreadwyrm

Extract from The Dread Wyrm by Miles Cameron, Book 3 of The Traitor’s Son Cycle.

A medieval Fantasy series that features some cracking battle scenes and plenty of character-driven action.

Part of the blurb… The Red Knight has stood against soldiers, against armies and against the might of an empire. He’s fought on real and magical battlefields alike, and now he’s facing his greatest challenge yet. A tournament.

Here is my review of the first book in the series, The Red Knight.