Tag Archives: fantasy

Review of PAPERBOOK Strange the Dreamer – Book 1 in the Strange the Dreamer series by Laini Taylor #Brainfluffbookreview #StrangetheDreamerbookreview

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I loved Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series – I think she’s an extraordinary writer, who pushes the boundaries, so I was really excited to see Strange the Dreamer was due out. I treated myself to the paperback with my birthday money and then promptly became engulfed in a flood of Netgalley arcs that needed reading first. So I reckon I’m one of five people on the planet who haven’t yet got around to this one…

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

That’s as much of the rather chatty blurb that I’m prepared to share. I love, love, love Lazlo – his daydreaming as a child chimes with my own intense imaginary worlds I used as a refuge from a rather complicated childhood, though I hasten to add that’s where the resemblance ends. No one beat me for my imaginary adventures – unlike poor old Lazlo. But although he is bookish, he is also clever and unexpectedly courageous. Writing such a nuanced protagonist takes a lot of skill and talent, which Taylor possesses in shedloads.

As the story progresses, accounts of Lazlo’s life are interspersed by what is going on in the Citadel floating above the city of Weep, inhabited by five young people, who are the sole survivors of a savage attack that took place some fifteen years earlier. Their skins are bright blue and each one has a godlike talent, which they mostly use to eke out a difficult existence. Though one of them is determined to be revenged on the wicked humans below who stormed their stronghold and slaughtered everyone in the night…

As ever, Taylor takes an intriguing story and pushes it adrift from any comforting tethers where mercy or love prevent the worst atrocities happening. Yet she manages to do this while still keeping the book a thing of beauty and wonder by the lyrical quality of her prose and depth of characterisation. Even the antagonists have strong, plausible reasons for their behaviour. I was lost in this story, even dreaming of it, which doesn’t happen all that often these days. And despite the fact that Muse of Nightmares is more money than I’d usually pay for an ebook – when I came to the end of Strange the Dreamer, I bought it anyway, because I need to know what happens next.
10/10

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*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc A Muddle of Magic – Book 2 of the Fledgling Magic series by Alexandra Rushe

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One of my book blogging buddies was looking forward to this one (sorry – I can’t remember who!) so I nipped across and requested it, not realising – again – that it was the second book in the series.

What’s a nice Southern girl doing in a place like this?
Whisked from humdrum Alabama to the fantastical land of Tandara by a mage who won’t take no for an answer, Raine Stewart finds herself tangled in a muddle of magic. A Dark Wizard is out for her blood, a demonic golem has orders to dispatch her . . . and she stinks at magic. Being a wizard, even a baby wizard, is harder than Raine thought.

This is an amazingly rich, detailed world – and I was a bit more adrift than was ideal, given I hadn’t read the first book. But this portal fantasy adventure was great fun with a wealth of magical beings – there are dragons, giants, a rich variety of trolls and fairies, wizards, seers, ghosts and shape-shifters. I enjoyed Raine’s character and while there were times she was a bit overwhelmed, she mostly coped with the major culture shock extremely well. Since she arrived in this fantasy world, she has managed to make a number of friends with some powerful beings – sufficiently successfully so as to draw down some very unwelcome attention from a powerful dark wizard. So with a huge price on her head, she is also having to be continually guarded – which she finds especially irksome, given that before she was yanked into this portal world, she was an invalid with a poor prognosis.

While the adventure is mostly in Raine’s viewpoint, there were moments when suddenly we would get someone else’s pov, which I found a bit jarring. That niggle aside, I really enjoyed this world. It is very much a classical fantasy adventure in the Tolkien tradition with a rich variety of different creatures and Rushe is deft at giving us plenty of description without holding up the pace too much. I loved her serpent Flame, while the puzzles surrounding a number of the other main characters kept me turning the pages and enlivened a long train journey.

There was plenty of snark and humour thrown in amongst the plots, kidnappings, brutal fights, snooty courtiers and lantern-jawed heroes. My favourite is probably Gertie, the foul-mouthed, drink-loving troll who takes Raine under her protection and is full of smart-mouthed opinions about the outraged courtiers and haughty queen who hates her. And in amongst the banter and nonsense, there are some poignant moments of loss and heartache in the form of unrequited love and a desperately unhappy marriage.

I’m impressed that Rushe has managed to pack so much vividness and detail into a book just shy of 400 pages – she achieves this by also ensuring the pace keeps moving forward as fantastical creatures, magic artefacts and scheming wizards spin through her story. And there might be a muddle of magic – but there is nothing muddled about the storytelling. While I obtained an arc of A Muddle of Magic from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 26th September, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #Can’tWaitWednesday

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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.

This week’s Can’t-Wait offering – Soulbinder – Book 4 of the Spellslinger series by Sebastien de Castell

#fantasy #magic #feisty pet/travelling companion #humour

The fourth book in the page-turning SPELLSLINGER fantasy series.

Perfect for fans of The Dark Tower, Firefly, Guardians of the Galaxy, Terry Pratchett, Ben Aaronovitch and Jim Butcher.

That’s as much as the blurb says, which is a pleasant change from all those blurting efforts that give away far too much of the story. And I think it says it all… I have only read the first two books, but have promised myself a treat – and it’s going to be the these two books to continue this entertaining series that I’ve loved to date.

Review of KINDLE Ebook The Watchmaker’s Daughter – Book 1 of the Glass and Steele series by C.J. Archer #Brainfluffbookreview #TheWatchmaker’sDaughterbookreview

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This is one of those books that popped up my Kindle a while ago, thanks to Himself’s Amazon shopping spree.

India Steele is desperate. Her father is dead, her fiancé took her inheritance, and no one will employ her, despite years working for her watchmaker father. Alone, poor, and at the end of her tether, India takes employment with the only person who’ll accept her – an enigmatic and mysterious man from America. A man who possesses a strange watch…

This is as much of the rather chatty blurb I’m prepared to share, as the rest intrudes far too much into the storyline. But this book possesses a marvellous opening – one of the best I’ve read in a long while, which immediately hooked me, making me care for the protagonist at her most angry and desperate.

I really liked India. I found her spiky intelligence and refusal to buckle to the social conventions of the time very endearing. I was rather disappointed to learn later in the book that rather being the very plain, and unattractive person she believes herself to be, she is actually the classically beautiful damsel in distress. At the heart of this book is a life-threatening puzzle that India has to unravel in order to secure her future and save the life of another main character. Running right alongside this puzzle, is a romance.

It is a moot point whether it is the puzzle or the romance that powers the narrative, but because the romance heavily features in this fantasy adventure, the book inevitably falls into certain rhythms and plotpoints. That said, this is a well written, romantic adventure, peopled throughout by strong, well depicted characters into a detailed vivid world. I liked the fact that India is no simpering victim who falls back on her looks in order to establish a future for herself. The story behind the watches is an intriguing one and pulled me along, despite the fact I figured out who had done what to whom fairly early on. In the event, I was completely wrong. Highly recommended for fans of historical romantic fantasy.
8/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook Nolander – Book 1 of the Emanations series by Becca Mills #Brainfluffbookreview #Nolanderbookreview

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Beth Ryder knows she’s different. In a tiny rural town, being an orphaned and perpetually single amateur photographer crippled by panic disorder is pretty much guaranteed to make you stick out like a sore thumb. But Beth doesn’t understand just how different she really is.

One day, strange things start cropping up in her photos. Things that don’t look human. Impossible things. Monstrosities. Beth thinks her hateful sister-in-law, Justine, has tampered with her pictures to play a cruel joke, but rather than admitting or denying it, Justine up and vanishes, leaving the family in disarray. Beth’s search for Justine plunges her into a world she never knew existed, one filled with ancient and terrifying creatures…

And that’s the intriguing premise for this quirky and unusual urban fantasy set in a small town in America, where almost everyone knows who you are and your business. That can be a comfort and support – or a something else a lot less helpful if you happen to fall outside normal expectations. If you are afflicted with disabling panic attacks, for instance… I was particularly interested in this one, because for a while in my twenties, I was prone to panic attacks – they always happened in busy, crowded places – on a bus or a plane, for instance… They took away my prospects for promotion to any kind of responsible job – until I pinpointed the cause. But I know only too well the wretched feeling as one would start building and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it – Mills manages to very effectively portray that feeling of helplessness.

The story spiralled off into a portal world for an extended part of the book – both unexpected and yet absolutely engrossing. I like the fact that Mills has a habit of taking the plot in unexpected directions, so that I ended up reading something quite different from what I thought I was getting. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the journey and am really looking forward to discovering where this unusual story goes next.

Recommended for fantasy fans who enjoy quirky writing.
8/10

#Sunday Post – 12th August, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog

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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 been busy rewriting the second book in The Arcadian Chronicles series, Mantivore Preys, as I’d like to be able to self-publish the first three books about a telepathic alien in close succession. Other than that, my blogging buddy Mhairi spent Monday with me, as we loaded up the corrected proofs for the paperback version of Running Out of Space. And on Wednesday the print proof copy arrived! I leapt around the house, whooping with excitement and as luck would have it – I was able to show it off to my sister, when we met up for lunch, as well as some of my writing friends. Brenda prepared us the most delicious meal on Wednesday evening with lots of lovely veggie dishes. On Thursday evening, I went to Chichester Theatre to see a performance of the world premiere of The Meeting – a really interesting play about a Friends’ Meeting House and how they react when a fleeing soldier pitches up in their midst…

On Friday, some of my students had planned to have a picnic at Marine Gardens in Worthing and invited me along. In the event, we were a select group – and we certainly weren’t picnicking as gale-force winds and torrential rain battered the coastline. We ended up in the café, chatting about writing, the world and everything over a yummy bowl of homemade soup. And on Saturday, Himself, my sister and I went for a walk along the River Arun in Arundel – I love the sound of the wind in the reeds…

I got a nasty shock this week. During our cosy catch-up on Wednesday, my sister demonstrated her new blood pressure machine on me. Then blinked and did it again, as it turns out my bp is way too high. I eat sensibly, don’t drink or smoke so I’m guessing the culprit is my very sedentary lifestyle and the fact the weight has crept back on. Before I go to the docs, I’m going to give myself a month where I try to get it down with a regime of exercise and losing those extra pounds that have rolled back onto my hips and tummy when I wasn’t looking. Watch this space!

This week I have read:

Pirate Nemesis – Book 1 of the Telepathic Space Pirates series by Carysa Locke
Mercy Kincaid is a fugitive from her own family. Her dangerous telepathic gifts make her a target. So is anyone she gets close to. When her best friend is captured and tortured, Mercy’s only hope is to reunite with the family that tried to murder her as a child. She trusts few among her blood relatives, but finds herself intrigued by an enigmatic and dangerous killer.

Reaper has spent a lifetime watching his people die. He’s vowed to kill anyone who jeopardizes their survival. Mercy’s gifts are the biggest threat they’ve faced in eleven years, since a biological weapon nearly annihilated the pirate colonies. But Reaper realizes her talents can either destroy them, or save them.
Entertaining space opera adventure with a really nicely creepy antagonist.

 

Hero at the Fall – Book 3 of The Rebel of the Sands series by Alwyn Hamilton
When gunslinging Amani Al’Hiza escaped her dead-end town, she never imagined she’d join a revolution, let alone lead one. But after the bloodthirsty Sultan of Miraji imprisoned the Rebel Prince Ahmed in the mythical city of Eremot, she doesn’t have a choice. Armed with only her revolver, her wits, and her untameable Demdji powers, Amani must rally her skeleton crew of rebels for a rescue mission through the unforgiving desert to a place that, according to maps, doesn’t exist. As she watches those she loves most lay their lives on the line against ghouls and enemy soldiers, Amani questions whether she can be the leader they need or if she is leading them all to their deaths.
I loved the first two books in this entertaining sand and sorcery series – see my review of The Rebel of the Sands – and wanted to find out how it all finishes, given how very high the stakes have become. Review to follow.

 

Garrison Girl – Book 1 of the Attack on Titan! series by Rachel Aaron
An original novel, with all-new characters and a new story set in the world of Attack on Titan! Fans of the series and readers alike will enjoy this immersive and engaging experience of the pop culture phenomenon and manga mega-hit.

With the last vestige of the human race threatened by unstoppable carnivorous giants, a brave young woman decides to defy her wealthy family and join the military to fight against humanity’s enemies. But Rosalie Dumarque soon finds out that bloody sword fights with monsters aren’t the only dangers faced by the Wall Rose Garrison. Can she earn the trust of her fellow soldiers, stand up to a corrupt authority, navigate a forbidden romance…and cut her way out of a titan’s throat?
Action-packed and engrossing debut to this interesting series. I will be reviewing this one tomorrow.

 

Anachronism – novella by Jennifer Lee Rossman
It’s the same old story: Time traveler meets girl, time traveler tells girl she’s the future president, time traveler and girl go on a road trip to prevent a war…

Petra Vincent is at the end of her rope – or rather, the edge of a bridge. Her world is falling apart around her and she sees no way out of the meaningless existence the future has in store. But when stranded time traveler Moses Morgan tells her that she will one day lead the country out of the rubble of a nuclear civil war as President of the United States, she’s intrigued – and when another time traveler starts trying to preemptively assassinate her, she realizes Moses might be telling the truth…
I loved this foot-to-the-floor adventure and rather lost my heart to Petra, the despairing young woman who discovers she has a shining destiny – if only she can survive to fulfil it. And there’s that twist… marvellous stuff!

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 5th August 2018

Review of The Backworlds – Book 1 of The Backworlds series by M. Pax

Teaser Tuesday featuring Garrison Girl – Book 1 of the Attack on Titan series by Rachel Aaron

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Salvation’s Fire: After the War – Book 2 of the After the War series by Justina Robson

Review of The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

Friday Face-off – Behind every mask… featuring The Masked City – Book 2 of the Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman

Review of novella Anachronism by Jennifer Lee Rossman

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

50 Ways to Reward Yourself http://www.bryndonovan.com/2018/07/30/50-ways-to-reward-yourself/ Okay – put your hand up if you have recently given yourself a proper treat – no… I’m not talking about scoffing a sticky bun that you shouldn’t be eating, anyway. I’m talking about a proper reward to acknowledge an achievement. Hm. Thought so… you need to read this, then.

The Wordwitch: A Writer’s Life in Pictures – July http://melfka.com/archives/2864 I love these clever drawings – they don’t just sum up Joanna’s writing life. Many of us have the same issues…

Mash ups – it could work! https://lynns-books.com/2018/08/07/mash-ups-it-could-work/ I loved the idea of some of these – the idea of The Shining mashed with The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe had me cackling with laughter…

Face Lift https://thestoryreadingapeblog.com/2018/08/06/face-lift/ Apparently we are hard-wired to recognise faces – but this is taking that ability too far, I feel…

A Short Introduction to the Haiku https://interestingliterature.com/2018/08/08/a-short-introduction-to-the-haiku/ We all know about this verse form, given we write these at school – right? Wrong, apparently – it’s not that straightforward, for starters…

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site and have a great week.

Friday Faceoff – Behind every mask there is a face, and behind that a story… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoff

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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. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the theme this week the theme to feature on any of our covers is masks. I’ve selected The Masked City – Book 2 of The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman. I loved this one – see my review here.

 

This edition was produced by Tor in December 2015. It is the default cover and is the one on the book I read. The maroon, leather effect is striking, especially with the details standing out so clearly in a white silhouette. Overall, this cover has a classy, period feel which nicely echoes the book. If I have a slight issue, it’s that it might be mistaken for a straight historical adventure, though perhaps the detailing of the dragons in the corner should dispel that impression.

 

This German edition, produced by Bastei Lübbe in August 2016, has chosen to depict the cover as an old map. The detail is lovely and the rather scuffed, battered effect to replicate ageing is a nice touch. However there are two issues with this version – it simply looks a drab mess in thumbnail size and once again, there is very little to guide the reader that this is actually a fantasy book.

 

Published in November 2017 by Omega, this Czech edition is also beautiful. The gold against the navy blue gives this cover a glorious, luxurious feel, harking back to the days when books were so exclusive and expensive, only the rich could afford to own them. I love the title font, which echoes this splendid opulence. However, the caveat I raised with some of the other offerings still stands – more so, as there isn’t a discrete dragon outline in a corner to give a prospective reader a clue that this is a fantasy adventure.

 

This Italian edition, published by Fanucci Editore in April 2018 is my favourite. I love that beautiful, eye-catching mask which sings out of the cover, giving this one extra focus and impact that I think is slightly missing from the more restrained efforts. If I have a niggle, it’s that the title font could be less boring.

 

This cover, published in February 2017 by Wheeler Publishing Large Print, is back to the sumptuous, old fashioned feel of most of the others. Though this time around, there are more clues for readers. While I generally dislike lots of chatter on covers, there isn’t any artwork to be obscured and the recommendation by N.K. Jemisin should provide a hint that we are dealing with a SFF book. Once again, the effect is elegant and eye-catching. Which is your favourite?

Review of KINDLE Ebook The Tethered Mage – Book 1 of the Swords and Fire series by Melissa Caruso #Brainfluffbookreview #TheTetheredMagebookreview

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I had some tokens and after reading a number of really enthusiastic reviews about this one, I decided to get hold of it. The marvellous cover influenced me, too…

Zaira has lived her life on the streets to avoid this fate, hiding her mage-mark and thieving to survive. But hers is a rare and dangerous magic, one that threatens the entire empire. Lady Amalia Cornaro was never meant to be a Falconer. Heiress and scholar, she was born into a treacherous world of political machinations. But fate has bound the heir and the mage.

Amalia Cornaro lives in the shadow of her powerful, politically effective parent – and for a change, said parent is La Contessa. We don’t hear very much about Amalie’s father – it’s all about her trying to live up to her mother’s expectations. As the only child, those expectations weigh heavily. Especially as Amalia is more comfortable studying the art of magic and how to manufacture spells, even though she isn’t mage-touched. Because if she were, she wouldn’t be living in her mother’s palace – she would be residing in the fortified Mews with other magically-gifted individuals, wearing a small bracelet which would allow an ungifted companion to control her magical ability – her Falconer.

The story is about one such gifted individual, Zaira, whose magical gift is the ability to create balefire – a blue-flamed conflagration which feeds on the flesh of its victims and very quickly turns into a firestorm. Most balefire mages don’t make it past childhood without killing themselves. But Zaira has managed to eke out a living in the Tallows, the slums of Raverra – until an attempted kidnap draws her to the attention of the authorities running the Mews and she finds herself braceleted and carted off to live in luxury. The only catch being, she’s not free…

This approach to the whole issue of magic-users is a really intriguing one. I love the idea that they either run amok, becoming the entitled, despotic overlords – or the tools of the state, working for the greater good, while being magically tethered by their bracelets, or jesse. It’s a clever term, with its overtones of falconry, where the birds of prey are shackled by leather straps called a jesse.

I haven’t mentioned the story, or the plotting or even said much about the characters. And I should – because it’s a cracking tale, full of incident and adventure, narrated by Amalia, who is an engaging protagonist. While I enjoyed her character, my attention was inevitably drawn to Zaira – I thought it was a bold touch to have the main protagonist the less charismatic, gifted character, and it works very well. I also liked the fact that this world has a number of powerful women, alongside the men, who have agency.

I’m delighted I bought this one and look forward to reading the next book in the series, The Defiant Heir. Highly recommended for fantasy fans.
9/10

Friday Faceoff – Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoff

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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. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the theme this week the theme to feature on any of our covers is steampunk. I’ve selected The Affinity Bridge – Book 1 of the Newbury and Hobbes series by George Mann, a cracking whodunit set in an alternate Victorian London…

 

This edition was produced by Snow Books in 2008 and is my favourite. I love all the detail and the bright colours. It’s beautiful, full of lovely little touches, like the London cityscape, the little steampunk flourishes and that fabulous airship, which is the template for nearly all the other versions of this book’s covers. While I’ll accept that it probably doesn’t stand out when in thumbnail, I’ll forgive that – who wouldn’t want to expand this cover into glorious full size to capture the full effect?

 

Published in April 2010 by Tor Books, this is another attractive, well-designed offering. The airship is now grungier and less shiny, though every bit as eye-catching. I love the border and the attention to detail, again. I just wish there was less chatter across the cover.

 

This edition, published by Titan Books in July 2015, is certainly bright. The airship is still there and this cover provides lots of detail, but in silhouette. I think the overall effect is successful and eye-catching and I’d probably love it more if I hadn’t already given my heart to the Snow Books effort.

 

This edition, produced by Piper in 2011, takes the original design and makes it their own. It is far more stripped back and I think it is extremely effective – I love the background colour and clever use of the clouds to provide a suitably dramatic backdrop for that magnificent airship. The border is also nicely handled and in thumbnail, this one really pops. This is my second favourite, mostly because I just love that colour…

 

This French cover, published in June 2011, takes a completely different approach. This is the foggy London where Jack the Ripper lurks along with other desperate villains and only the likes of Newbury and Hobbes can get justice done… We see the two protagonists featured on the cover. I do like this effort, though not as much as the others. What about you – which is your favourite?

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 25th July, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #Can’tWaitWednesday

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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.

This week’s Can’t-Wait offering – Immortal Creators by Jill Bowers

#science fiction #fantasy

Sixteen-year-old author Scott Beck never wanted to be an Immortal Writer—not after his father was killed on a mission attempting to dispatch his own villain. Scott blames Shakespeare and the Writers for his father’s untimely demise, but no amount of hatred will prevent the oncoming alien attack, which has come over to reality straight from Scott’s book.

Scott is forced to collect his characters—an Air Force colonel, two of the best pilots on Earth, and an alien enthusiast from the year 2134—and defeat the alien king before Earth is obliterated by his ships. But an odd sickness Scott calls his Writing Fever might just kill him before the aliens have the chance.

I can’t deny it – initially it was all about the cover. But when I read the blurb I was sold – I really like the idea of Shakespeare getting the blame for the demise of an Immortal Writer…