Tag Archives: epic fantasy

August 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging… #BrainfluffAugust2020Roundup

Standard

Life is steadily settling into some kind of normal – though not the one we were used to before Lockdown. My shopping expeditions are still infrequent and stressful and though we have been out for a few meals and cups of tea, it still feels odd. The big bonus continues to be that we can see family – although we have to be mindful of those who are shielding as Himself is a key worker.

Reading
I read sixteen books in August with again, no DNF’s. It’s turning into an outstanding reading year for SFF generally, which is just as well as 2020 is going to be remembered for all the wrong reasons, otherwise. My Outstanding Book of the Month is A Memory Called Empire – Book 1 of the Teixicalaan series by Arkady Martine and my Outstanding Audiobook of the Month is Charlotte Sometimes – Book 3 of the Aviary Hall series by Penelope Farmer. My reads during August were:

The Mother Code by Carol Stiverssee my review

AUDIOBOOK Finding the Fox – Book 1 of The Shapeshifter series by Ali Sparkes. Review to follow

The Last Astronaut by David Wellington. Review to follow

Deadly Waters by Dot Hutchison – see my review

The Ghost Fields – Book 7 of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths – mini-review to follow

Chasing the Shadows – Book 2 of the Sentinels of the Galaxy series by Maria V. Snyder. Review to follow

Grave Secrets – Book 1 of the Lavington Windsor Mysteries by Alice James – see my review

NOVELLA Silver in the Wood – Book 1 of The Greenhollow Duology by Emily Tesh. Mini-review to follow

A Memory Called Empire – Book 1 of the Teixcalaan series by Arkady Martine – OUTSTANDING BOOK OF THE MONTH Review to follow

Afterland by Lauren Beukes – see my review

Snowspelled – Book 1 of The Harwood Spellbook by Stephanie Burgis. Mini-review to follow

AUDIOBOOK Starless by Jacqueline Carey. Review to follow

Every Sky a Grave – Book 1 of The Ascendance series by Jay Posey – see my review

AUDIOBOOK Charlotte Sometimes – Book 3 of the Aviary Hall series by Penelope Farmer – OUTSTANDING AUDIOBOOK OF THE MONTH. Review to follow

Fearless by Allen Stroud – see my review

Ink & Sigil – Book 1 of the Ink & Sigil series by Kevin Hearne – see my review


Writing and Editing
Mantivore Warrior was released at the end of August, as planned and overall I was pleased with the way it went. I worked on Picky Eater 2, between editing and preparing Warrior, editing my Creative Writing textbook How To Write Authentic Characters, and making a start on the series of short, instructional videos I shall be releasing alongside the book. So it won’t come as a surprise to learn that I haven’t made all that much progress on the second Picky Eaters book. And as I need to get the videos filmed during September, when the light levels are still good, I don’t foresee that much progress is going to be made in the coming month, either.

Overall, I wrote just under 38,000 words in August, with just over 20,000 on the blog, and 12,500 on my writing projects, which is fairly dire. No point in beating myself up about it, though – unless I can produce a writing clone, there are always going to be months when my productivity goes down. This brings my yearly wordcount to date to just over 321,500 words.

Blogging
I have spent more time on my blog, and I’m pleased with the new Cover Love feature and the ongoing Tuesday Treasures. It’s worth it, because during this year, I’ve found the blog a source of great comfort. Take care and stay safe.x






Sunday Post – 23rd August, 2020 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

Standard

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

This week has been a lot cooler, with lots of rain, which Himself has found a huge relief. On Thursday, I spent the day with the grandchildren, looking after them during the afternoon while my daughter went to meet a friend. I took them to the swing park and spent the time running around after Eliza like a bothered hen. She’s just at the stage where she’s mobile enough to get into serious trouble and too young to understand any danger… However, the elder two are brilliant with her – she is so lucky to have such lovely brothers! It was a treat to be able to spend so much time with them.

On Saturday, my sister and I were all set to go shopping, but the aftermath of the storm on Friday night meant we still had gale-force winds and torrential downpours. Neither of us were in the mood to hustle through the wind and rain in sodden masks, so we postponed our outing and instead had a cuppa and a sticky bun together at my place. This morning Himself and I went for a walk along the beach, which where this week’s photos were taken – we were lucky enough to dodge the rain.

My website www.sjhigbee.com has had a makeover! Ian has done a wonderful job of making it a lot spiffier and easy to load – and tidied it up so that my growing number of books aren’t making it look too cluttered. I’ve started working on the video clips I’m producing in conjunction with my book How to Write Compelling Characters. It’s going to take a lot of work, but I think it will be worth it. But I must get back to writing, as I’m definitely getting a bit antsy and short-tempered…

Last week I read:
A Memory Called Empire – Book 1 of the Teixcalaan series by Arkady Martine
Ambassador Mahit Dzmare arrives in the center of the multi-system Teixcalaanli Empire only to discover that her predecessor, the previous ambassador from their small but fiercely independent mining Station, has died. But no one will admit that his death wasn’t an accident—or that Mahit might be next to die, during a time of political instability in the highest echelons of the imperial court…
This tense, political thriller is a joy – I’m so glad I finally got around to reading it and now I’m very much looking forward to getting hold of the next book. The tight focus on the main character reminds me of C.J. Cherryh’s writing… Review to follow.

Afterland by Lauren Beukes
They’ll call her a bad mother.
Cole can live with that. Because when she breaks her son Miles out of the Male Protection Facility – designed to prevent him joining the 99% of men wiped off the face of the Earth – she’s not just taking him back.
She’s setting him free.
Leaving Miles in America would leave him as a lab experiment; a pawn in the hands of people who now see him as a treasure to be guarded, traded, and used. What kind of mother would stand by and watch her child suffer? But as their journey to freedom takes them across a hostile and changed country, freedom seems ever more impossible.
It’s time for Cole to prove just how far she’ll go to protect her son.
I struggled with this one a bit – partly because of the subject matter. But mostly because I didn’t like Cole, or anyone else all that much – other than poor, manipulated Miles. Review to follow.

NOVELLA Snowspelled – Book 1 of The Harwood Spellbook by Stephanie Burgis
In nineteenth-century Angland, magic is reserved for gentlemen while ladies attend to the more practical business of politics. But Cassandra Harwood has never followed the rules… Four months ago, Cassandra Harwood was the first woman magician in Angland, and she was betrothed to the brilliant, intense love of her life. Now Cassandra is trapped in a snowbound house party deep in the elven dales, surrounded by bickering gentleman magicians, manipulative lady politicians, her own interfering family members, and, worst of all, her infuriatingly stubborn ex-fiancé, who refuses to understand that she’s given him up for his own good.
This was the perfect read after the intensity of Afterland, and thoroughly enjoyable, the only drawback being that the end came far too quickly. Mini-review to follow.

AUDIOBOOK Starless by Jacqueline Carey
Let your mind be like the eye of the hawk…Destined from birth to serve as protector of the princess Zariya, Khai is trained in the arts of killing and stealth by a warrior sect in the deep desert; yet there is one profound truth that has been withheld from him. In the court of the Sun-Blessed, Khai must learn to navigate deadly intrigue and his own conflicted identity…but in the far reaches of the western seas, the dark god Miasmus is rising, intent on nothing less than wholesale destruction.
Another stormingly good read – I absolutely loved Khai and Zariya, who both tried their hardest to be the best they could be, without coming across as unduly good or sickeningly perfect. Review to follow.

My posts last week:

Castellan the Black and His Wise Draconic Musings

Review of No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished – Book 3 of the Heartstriker series by Rachel Aaron

A Déjà vu Review of A Natural History of Dragons – Book 1 of The Memoirs of Lady Trent by Marie Brennan

Friday Face-off featuring The Potion Diaries – Book 1 of The Potion Diaries series by Amy Alward

Review of AUDIOBOOK The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring Fearless by Allen Stroud

Tuesday Treasures – 9

Cover Love #1 featuring the covers of Marie Brennan’s books

Review of Guns of the Dawn by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Sunday Post – 16th August 2020

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

When will nineteenth-century Frenchman learn that hot air balloon duels are a BAD IDEA
https://twitter.com/DigiVictorian/status/1297202584520986624https://sjhigbee.wordpress.com/2020/08/16/sunday-post-16th-august-2020-brainfluffbookblog-sundaypost/ For sheer whackiness, this takes some beating – especially if you read the article…

In a world where you can be anything, be kind… https://twitter.com/DaviesWriter/status/1296217576436051969 I would add, looking at this clip, you also need to be knowledgeable about how to restrain such a powerful bird – and brave.

I Saw 5 How Many Faces Do You See? https://twitter.com/PopMathobela/status/1296824378618007559 For those among you who like puzzles. I saw 6 by the way…

Midsummer 2020 https://twitter.com/PopMathobela/status/1296824378618007559 I am so thrilled that Inese is back with her fabulous photos – even if I am a tad late with that realisation!

This is a good technique if you’re a complete psycho… https://twitter.com/AlisonMossCI/status/1295338698381418496 Poorly titled, I think. Because this is a LIFESAVER if you’re drowning in faaar too many plastic bags you daren’t throw away on account of not wanting to destroy the planet…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you and yours have a peaceful, healthy week. Take care.

Review of AUDIOBOOK of The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon #Brainfluffbookreview #ReviewofAUDIOBOOKThePrioryoftheOrangeTree

Standard

This one kept coming up on other book blogging sites – that it was a beast of a book… that it was a single-book epic fantasy adventure featuring dragons and pirates… that it was beautifully written… So I scooped it up to lighten those boring household chores I hate doing. I can’t deny the pull of that cover, either.

BLURB: A world divided. A queendom without an heir. An ancient enemy awakens.
The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction – but assassins are getting closer to her door. Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.

Across the dark sea, Tané has trained to be a dragonrider since she was a child, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel. Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.

REVIEW: This is a hugely ambitious book and hats off to Shannon for even attempting it. In many ways, it follows many of the classic tropes within epic fantasy – political fragility at a time of increasing threat… historical accretion that messes with the people and objects destined to help deal with said threat… a handful of chosen heroes whose lives have been given over to step up and deal with this threat, when it finally emerges… So good, so familiar. But Shannon nicely shakes it up – I particularly enjoyed the storyline around Queen Sabran, which was the most successful narrative throughout the book, both in terms of coherence and pacing. I also liked how Shannon plays with reader expectations, and then upends them. The romance was particularly well developed, with a convincing depth of emotion – yet there were still edges as two powerful women specifically raised to fulfil entirely different roles grappled to try and come to terms with their responsibilities without also sacrificing their personal happiness. But I was also very relieved to see that Shannon didn’t push the facile trope that true lurve solves everything – the storyline of one of the main characters is a vivid demonstration of what happens when someone loves too hard and cannot let go.

The characterisation was the main strength of this wide-ranging story and certainly held me, when the pacing – the weakest aspect – either flagged, suddenly dropping away, or speeded up and rushed through a scene which had been given a big build-up. My other irritation is that Shannon clearly felt, or was told, some of her major supporting cast, should die. She also clearly hated doing it. This manifested itself in these deaths either occurring off-stage, or being glossed over. And while their nearest and dearest did mourn their going, there wasn’t really a sufficient sense of loss, which given how effective Shannon’s writing is in depicting her main characters’ emotions, I found rather frustrating.

However, neither of these niggles are dealbreakers. Nor is the fact that while Liyah Summers’ narration very ably depicted the wide cast of characters with an impressive range of different voices – she also misprounced the word bow throughout, along with one or two odd examples that momentarily yanked me out of the story. Overall, I loved the world and the complex, nuanced story Shannon laid out for me and would recommend it to any fan of epic fantasy, who appreciates reading the whole story in one large volume, rather than having it broken up into instalments spanning years.
9/10

July 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging… #BrainfluffJuly2020Roundup

Standard

Lockdown is slowly easing and right at the end of the month, we actually went to a café together and had a cup of tea and cake. It’s been lovely to meet up with my daughter and the grandchildren and have them over to stay, again. But most of the time, I’m still at home reading and writing, while Himself has continued to go out to work.

Reading
I read fifteen books in July, which used to be an outstanding number for me, but isn’t anymore. No DNF’s and once again, it’s been a great reading month – particularly for space opera and space adventures in general. My Outstanding Book of the Month was The Relentless Moon – Book 3 of The Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal and my Outstanding Audiobook of the Month was Deep Roots – Book 2 of the Innsmouth Legacy by Ruthanna Emrys. My reads during June were:

Embers of War by Gareth L. Powell – Book 1 of the Embers of War series. Review to follow

The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson. Review to follow

Scarlet Odyssey – Book 1 of the Scarlet Odyssey series by C.T. Rwizi. See my review

Skin Game – Book 15 of the Harry Dresden files by Jim Butcher – reread

AUDIOBOOK The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon. Review to follow

Velocity Weapon – Book 1 of The Protectorate by Megan E. O’Keefe. See my review

End Game – Book 8 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsay Buroker. Review to follow

Peace Talks – Book 16 of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. See my review

Chaos Vector – Book 2 of The Protectorate by Megan E. O’Keefe. See my review

AUDIOBOOK Deep Roots – Book 2 of The Innsmouth Legacy by Ruthanna Emrys. Review to follow – OUTSTANDING AUDIOBOOK OF THE MONTH

Seven Devils – Book 1 of the Seven Devils series by Laura Lam and Elizabeth May. See my review

Last Dragon Standing – Book 5 of the Heartstrikers series by Rachel Aaron. Review to follow

The Relentless Moon – Book 3 of the Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal. Review to follow – OUTSTANDING BOOK OF THE MONTH

The Outcast Dead – Book 6 of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths. Mini-review to follow

AUDIOBOOK The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents – Book 28 of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. Review to follow


Writing and Editing
I had intended for Picky Eaters 2 to be a novella, but though I’ve written a reasonably comprehensive outline, the writing has fallen into the rhythm and pacing of a longer piece of work. Oh well. So rather than polishing off the first draft during the first fortnight of July, I found it has been something I’ve been picking up and putting down between the final two editing passes of Mantivore Warrior. Mhairi has now produced the cover, which I’m very happy with – and I’m on track to publish it at the end of August, as planned. Again, due to all the editing I’ve been doing, my writing wordcount is way down in comparison to the beginning of the year.

Overall, I wrote just over 35,500 words in July, with just over 20,500 on the blog, and just over 15,000 on my writing projects. This brings my yearly wordcount to date to just over 288,500 words – which completely justifies my decision to step away from my regular Creative Writing stints at Northbrook, because that is over 92,000 more words than this time last year.

Blogging
I am more or less back on track with commenting, though I still struggle to get around and visit as much as I’d like – sorry to those of you who I’ve neglected! But again, I’m finding it such a lifeline to be able to chat about books to other folks – it certainly cuts down the sense of isolation. Take care and stay safe.x






Sunday Post – 12th July, 2020 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

Standard


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

And here we are in high summer – when did that happen? On Monday we travelled to Ringwood to visit Himself’s parents, catching up with them both. By the afternoon, the weather had brightened up sufficiently that we were able to pop in to see my mother and father and sit in their garden for a chat before coming home, again. It was lovely to see both sets of parents – and hear the news that my stepfather has decided to fully retire after 59 years working. Himself returned to work on Wednesday, after our very quiet, uneventful staycation, which was just what he needed after working throughout the craziness of the full lockdown.

On Friday, I drove to Brighton to have lunch with my daughter and the family. We took the children to the swing park and I was amazed at how adventurous Eliza is at two – and was reminded all over again at Frankie’s tendency to climb, as he disappeared up an oak tree… I brought Oscar back with me and we’re having a lovely time with him. I’ve discovered he is amazingly helpful when shopping, as he has nailed the process of disinfecting of the trolleys.

The pics this week are from the garden. By now most of the native plants have flowered, although my little patio rose is still delivering the goods. The echiums are over their best, but I do love the fluffy look they get after most of the flowers have gone. The oregano shouldn’t really be in flower, but it’s so very pretty and as you can see, the bees love it. My bronze fennel is just coming into bloom, too. And those fuchsias will go on producing flowers until the first frosts – I love them!

Last week I read:

Scarlet Odyssey – Book 1 of the Scarlet Odyssey series by C.T. Rwizi

Magic is women’s work; war is men’s. But in the coming battle, none of that will matter.
Men do not become mystics. They become warriors. But eighteen-year-old Salo has never been good at conforming to his tribe’s expectations. For as long as he can remember, he has loved books and magic in a culture where such things are considered unmanly. Despite it being sacrilege, Salo has worked on a magical device in secret that will awaken his latent magical powers. And when his village is attacked by a cruel enchantress, Salo knows that it is time to take action.
This African-based epic fantasy drew me in and held me. I loved Salo and how his story steadily unspools throughout the book, while the richness of the worldbuilding and interesting, savage magic system worked really well. I am definitely going to want to read the second book in this accomplished series.


Skin Game – Book 15 of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, is about to have a very bad day…
Because as Winter Knight to the Queen of Air and Darkness, Harry never knows what the scheming Mab might want him to do. Usually, it’s something awful.
He doesn’t know the half of it…
Mab has just traded Harry’s skills to pay off one of her debts. And now he must help a group of supernatural villains—led by one of Harry’s most dreaded and despised enemies, Nicodemus Archleone—to break into the highest-security vault in town, so that they can then access the highest-security vault in the Nevernever…
As the first half of the rather chatty blurb makes clear, this book is all about a heist poor old Harry is forced to take part in. It was a reread for me, as with Peace Talks coming out next week, I wanted to ensure I got the best out of the book before tucking into it. So glad I took the time to reacquaint myself with Harry Dresden’s doings – it reminded me all over again why we still love this series.


AUDIOBOOK The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

A world divided. A queendom without an heir. An ancient enemy awakens.
The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction – but assassins are getting closer to her door.

Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.

Across the dark sea, Tané has trained to be a dragonrider since she was a child, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.

Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.
This has taken me quite a while to get through, given that it is 800+ pages and I set my audiobooks on 1.5x slower. But overall, I thoroughly enjoyed it. A pity that the narrator – who handled the range of characters extremely well with a pleasing variety of voices – then mispronounced bow throughout, along with a sprinkling of other odd words. Mini-review to follow…

My posts last week:

The Mid-Year Freak Out Book Tag

Castellan the Black and his Wise Draconic Musings

Friday Face-off featuring Tunnel in the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Scarlet Odyssey – Book 1 of the Scarlet Odyssey series by C.T. Rwizi

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring Chaos Vector – Book 2 of Th Protectorate series by Megan E. O’Keefe

Tuesday Treasures – 3

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Entangled Secrets – Book 3 of the Northern Circle Coven series by Pat Esden

Sunday Post – 5th July 2020


Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

Author Spotlight: S.J. Higbee https://thisismytruthnow.com/2020/07/11/author-spotlight-s-j-higbee-w-excerpt/ Jay, whose cosy crime series is a delight, has posted a review of Mantivore Dreams, an excerpt of the book and an interview with me…

The Cabinet of Calm: Words for Worrying Times https://interestingliterature.com/2020/07/paul-anthony-jones-cabinet-of-calm-review/ I really love the sound of this one – so I’ll probably get a copy

Goodbye to an Old Friend https://powerfulwomenreaders.wordpress.com/2020/07/08/goodbye-to-an-old-friend/ There always comes a time, doesn’t there? Unless, like me – you’re a coward who cannot face such partings…

Small Restbites of Relief – or thank god, I don’t have to think for a minute https://weewritinglassie.home.blog/2020/07/08/small-restbites-of-relief-or-thank-god-i-dont-have-to-think-for-a-minute/ I love her view of the world – and if you get a chance to see Six at any stage, I second her recommendation…

The Libraries Re-Opened! https://comfortreadsbookblog.wordpress.com/2020/07/08/the-libraries-re-opened/ Another step towards civilisation – which personally matters more to me than the pubs opening up again…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you and yours have a peaceful, healthy week. Take care.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Empire of Gold – Book 3 of the Daevabad trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #TheEmpireofGoldbookreview

Standard



I take a bit of persuading to get immersed into a High Fantasy epic series, these days – but when it comes to a tale of sand and sorcery, I’m allll over it. The typically lush prose, desert landscapes and vicious magic centred around huge crocodiles, flying creatures and djinn are irresistible. I’ve loved the first two books in this series – The City of Brass and The Kingdom of Copper. So would this final book in the trilogy safely bring this wide-ranging, ambitious tale of lethal magic and betrayed peoples to a satisfactory conclusion?

BLURB: Daevabad has fallen. After a brutal conquest stripped the city of its magic, Nahid leader Banu Manizheh and her resurrected commander, Dara, must try to repair their fraying alliance and stabilize a fractious, warring people. But the bloodletting and loss of his beloved Nahri have unleashed the worst demons of Dara’s dark past. To vanquish them, he must face some ugly truths about his history and put himself at the mercy of those he once considered enemies.

REVIEW: Chakraborty does a cracking job in progressing this tale, producing yet another breathtaking round of adventures and plot twists, before winding it up in a way that left a lump in my throat. A word of warning – if you happen upon either The Kingdom of Copper or The Empire of Gold without having first had the pleasure of tucking into The City of Brass, then restrain yourself and go looking for that first book. This is, in effect, a single narrative arc that has been broken into three parts and when I attempted to crash midway into the series, I had to backtrack to The City of Brass, then reread The Kingdom of Copper to really appreciate what was going on. I regularly make a hobby of crashing into series – and mostly get away with it. Not so, this time.

I’m really glad I made the effort to reread the second book, before plunging into this doorstop of a book, which is something over 700 pages long. Though it really didn’t feel like it. This series, with its cast of vivid, often violent and vengeful characters swept me up and held me throughout. It was Nahri’s story that I cared most about, but the amazing being, Dara, the fabled warrior brought back to life with such a bloody past, also held my heart. The characterisation was superb. Nahri could have so easily turned into a bit of a Mary Sue, but her sharp edges and inability to trust anyone kept her from being too cosy, or too much of a victim. And as for Dara – where to begin? A single terrible episode, when he trusted too easily, defined the rest of his very long life and for which he paid a terrible price. And goes on paying it throughout most of this book, too…

George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series was a game-changer in ensuring all factions were guilty of some bloody deed – and Chakraborty has continued that dynamic throughout this trilogy. The city of Daevabad was founded by an act of invasion, and throughout it has been riven by injustice and simmering hatred for one group against the other. I was both curious and concerned as to how Chakraborty would manage to find a realistic solution. The worldbuilding throughout has been exceptional. I’ve loved the descriptions of the various landscapes, particularly of the magical city – and found the transformations it undergoes once the magic has left, very moving.

CONCLUSION: I’m not going into any kind of detail as to how she manages it, but I was completely satisfied with the denouement and felt it worked both within the world and as a suitable conclusion.All in all, Chakraborty has magnificently pulled off a true epic fantasy that hits all the tropes within the sand and sorcery sub-genre, providing a wonderful addition to the canon and a magnificent read that took me away from everyday life for hours at a stretch. I couldn’t ask for more. The ebook arc copy of The Empire of Gold was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
10/10


May 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging… #BrainfluffMay2020Roundup

Standard

I recall I said something to the effect that there had never been a month like April in the whole of my life – except that May was exactly the same. Eerily so. Staying at home and seeing no one else, other than Himself. Though we did drive across to my daughter’s house and deliver her bike, so she could also cycle with the children. It was bittersweet seeing them after such a long time and I’m hoping this month, with the easing of the lockdown, I might once more be able to be a regular visitor, again. The weather continues to behave as if we are in July or August, further skewing the sense of abnormality. But thank goodness for books and writing projects!

Reading
I read fifteen books in May, but as I also broke off to read a couple of my own books on editing runs, that did impact on my general reading time. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my selection, so there were no DNFs. They were:

Oranges and Lemons – Book 17 of the Bryant and May: Peculiar Crimes Unit series by Christopher Fowler
The Pursuit of William Abbey by Claire North – see my review
Hammered – Book 1 of the Jenny Casey series by Elizabeth Bear
The Physicians of Vilnoc – Book 8 of the Penric and Desdemona series by Lois McMaster Bujold – see my review
Relatively Strange – Book 1 of the Strange series by Marilyn Messik – this is my outstanding read of the month
AUDIOBOOK Starsight – Book 2 of the Skyward series by Brandon Sanderson
The Valhalla Call – Book 4 of the Hayden War Cycle by Evan Currie
Even Stranger – Book 2 of the Strange series by Marilyn Messik
Stranger Still – Book 3 of the Strange series by Marilyn Messik
The City of Brass – Book 1 of the Daevabad trilogy by S.A. Chakrobarty
The Kingdom of Copper – Book 2 of the Daevabad trilogy by S.A. Chakrobarty
AUDIOBOOK The Fire Court – Book 2 of the Marwood and Lovett series by Andrew Taylor – this is my outstanding audiobook read of the month
Night’s Tooth – Tales of the River Vine novella by Jean Lee
Gravity is Heartless – Book 1 of the Heartless series by Sarah Lahey
The Obsidian Tower – Book 1 of the Rooks and Ruin series by Melissa Caruso

Writing
I finished the first draft of my Wordmanship Handbook – How to Write Convincing Characters, which went really well. While I had intended this to be part of a series, I decided that if I found it too much of a trudge, then it would be a standalone, but it ended up being quite a lot of fun to write. So during the year I am hoping to write at least another book in the Wordmanship series. The handbook aspect of it – with a quick checklist so an author can tick off possible issues as they go, either during the writing phase, or during an editing run – ended up being about the right length, too.

I then turned back to Mantivore Warrior to do the first editing pass. This is always slightly nerve-wracking. Once I’ve gained a bit of distance, I can work out whether it’s a hot mess, or if it hangs together. And as it is the first book that I thoroughly plotted before I started, I was keen to see how it held up. And I’m delighted – those fixes I put in last month strengthened the overall narrative, so there was only one major addition and then it was a question of smoothing the prose and looking for mistakes.

So once again, it’s been a wonderful writing month. Overall, I wrote just under 43,000 words in May, with just over 15,500 on the blog, and just under 26,000 on my writing projects.

Blogging
The big event during May was Wyrd and Wonder 2020, which I discovered thanks to Tammy from Books, Bones and Buffy. It was about alll things fantastical and I really enjoyed taking part. Huge thanks go to Imyril of There’s Always Room for One More, Lisa from Dear Geek Place and Jorie Loves a Story for all their hard work and effort throughout May to make this such a success.

I hope everyone is managing to keep well and healthy, both physically and mentally – the situation has been a strain on everyone, not helped by some dodgy decisions by those in charge. Take care and stay safe.x






Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 6th May, 2020 #Brainfluffbookblog #CWC #WOW

Standard

40276268 – vintage old pocket watch and book

 

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine. I’m linking this week’s offering to Wyrd and Wonder 2020, which is celebrating all forms of fantasy for the month of May.

This week’s Can’t-Wait offering – The Empire of Gold – Book 3 of the Daevabad trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty – release date, 11th June, 2020

#epic fantasy #sand and sorcery

BLURB:
Daevabad has fallen.

After a brutal conquest stripped the city of its magic, Nahid leader Banu Manizheh and her resurrected commander, Dara, must try to repair their fraying alliance and stabilize a fractious, warring people. But the bloodletting and loss of his beloved Nahri have unleashed the worst demons of Dara’s dark past. To vanquish them, he must face some ugly truths about his history and put himself at the mercy of those he once considered enemies. Having narrowly escaped their murderous families and Daevabad’s deadly politics, Nahri and Ali, now safe in Cairo, face difficult choices of their own.

While Nahri finds peace in the old rhythms and familiar comforts of her human home, she is haunted by the knowledge that the loved ones she left behind and the people who considered her a savior are at the mercy of a new tyrant.

Ali, too, cannot help but look back, and is determined to return to rescue his city and the family that remains. Seeking support in his mother’s homeland, he discovers that his connection to the marid goes far deeper than expected and threatens not only his relationship with Nahri, but his very faith.

I read and thoroughly enjoyed Kingdom of Copper – see my review here – so I was delighted to be approved for The Empire of Gold and I’m looking forward to once again, getting swept up in Nahri’s adventures. Highly recommended for fans of sand and sorcery.





Friday Faceoff – Confidence is an armour you cannot buy… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffarmourcovers

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 meme is being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring covers with ARMOUR. I’ve selected The Fell Sword – Book 2 of the Traitor Son Cycle by Miles Cameron, see my review.


This offering was produced by Gollancz in June 2014. It’s stripped right back in a really interesting way – no castle or mountain in the background to distract, just that beautifully etched design. Which means all our attention is on the armoured knight fighting for his life against a terrifying monster with too much beak and claws. Look at the fabulous feathers that pick up the colour in the title font… There are some lovely details in this one, including that slightly uneven border, which shows  the thought that has gone into this one. As a result, it is really eye-catching. I also like the font, which manages to evoke the genre and historical period, without becoming impossible to read. Altogether, it’s a classy effort and my favourite.

 

Published in March 2014 by Orbi, this cover is almost the complete opposite of the previous one in approach. Instead of zooming out to show us the whole battle, we get a real close-up – to the extent that we can see the dents in the armour. We’ve no idea what this knight is fighting – indeed, we don’t even get to see the whole figure. That is left to our imagination. I really like it, too. And I especially approve of the treatment given to the title and author fonts, limned in electric blue lightning, as if struck by magic. It’s nicely done and brightens up what could have been a rather dark cover.


This French edition, published in August 2014 by Bragelonne, is another classy design. It has taken the same approach as the Orbit designers, going for the close-up – this time we get a shot of the knight’s helm carried in his arm – note the blood spatter… The same electric blue lighting is used, this time as a backdrop to the main figure, rather than to highlight the title and author fonts. While I like the treatment, particularly of the title, my one niggle is that it is too small for the scale of the cover.

 

This German edition, published in September 2014 by Heyne has grown on me. Initially, I thought it rather underwhelming in comparison with the previous offerings – but the more I see of it, the more I like it. The blue colouring, more intense towards the edges and fading to a brighter shade in the middle is both attractive and effective at drawing our eyes to the centre of the cover, where the etched outline of a heraldic device is traced, with a dragon helm right in the middle of it. And the slight smudging of the author name and title is really effective.

 

This Russian edition, published by Фантастика Книжный Клуб in October 2019, is in effect, the Gollancz cover flipped around, so we see more of the back of the creature as he faces down the knight. For some reason best known to himself, this chap sees fit to fight without his helm on, and wearing a cloak. He clearly hasn’t read the memo about how lethal cloaks can be in combat – and what happens if a claw gets pass your defence and rakes your face. While I do like it, I’m not quite as keen on it as I am the first cover, due to the daft decisions by the knight. Which is your favourite?


Friday Faceoff – Sea in a storm, night with no moon and the anger of a gentle man… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffatmosphericcovers

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 meme is being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring ATMOSPHERIC covers. I’ve selected The Wise Man’s Fear – Book 2 of the Kingkiller series by Patrick Rothfuss, which I absolutely loved – see my review.


This edition of The Wise Man’s Fear was produced by DAW Books March 2011. Full of shadows and intrigue and mainly featuring wet stone, some of it rough-hewn, some of it paved, not much seems to be happening. But I love this cover and it became – quite rightly – the default cover for this outstanding epic fantasy. It’s the play of moonlight on the rain-slicked cityscape… that archway… and the figure standing in a pool of moonlight. It doesn’t hurt that this is a relatively uncluttered cover and while the fonts are very plain, they work well with the design. This is my favourite…


Published in March 2011 by Gollancz, this another classy effort. The cover is beautiful with those fire-red leaves surrounding the figure dominating the middle of the cover with his flourished sword and lightning limning the stormy skies. But that’s part of the problem. Though it is pleasing on the eye, it seems far too generic to properly represent this remarkable, accomplished novel. It only lacks a rearing horse to tick all the epic fantasy tropes that generally end up on a cover.


This Portuguese edition, published in November 2011 by Arqueiro, has broken away from the darker, moodier covers that defined this book and produced something brighter. It is also beautiful – I love that shade of turquoise, which is eye-catching and unusual in this genre. The sense of the forest whited out behind the intense light is well done and this one could have been a real contender if the figure in the foreground didn’t look quite so much like a refugee from a Disney cartoon. I would have preferred a more travel-scuffed depiction of Kvothe.


This Finnish edition, published in June 2015 by Kirjava, is a great cover. I love that burst of colour on the skyline with the birds flying away from the gathering stormclouds. Young Kvothe crouched on the roof is well depicted – and I really like the fact that he isn’t looking at us. My problem with this one is that the execution is relatively crude. The definition is poor and the colours blocky, with the artwork lacking detail and shading. It’s a shame, as the design is great, but it looks as though the cover designer still hadn’t got to grips with Adobe Photoshop.

 

This Czech edition, published by Argo in October 2012, is another strong offering. I really like the stone ornamentation apparently staring down at young Kvothe, who is glaring out at us, while dealing with a flock of birds. There is a sense of movement and urgency about this cover that isn’t present in any of the others. I like the gradated shading on the author and title fonts, which nests them within the overall cover design, rather than making them look as if they were just plonked over the top as an afterthought. This is the one I so nearly went for… But which is your favourite?