Tag Archives: fantasy

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 16th November, 2022 #Brainfluffbookblog #CWC #WOW

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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 – City of Last Chances by Adrian Tchaikovsky – release date – 8th December 2022

#fantasy #political intrigue

BLURB: There has always been a darkness to Ilmar, but never more so than now. The city chafes under the heavy hand of the Palleseen occupation, the choke-hold of its criminal underworld, the boot of its factory owners, the weight of its wretched poor and the burden of its ancient curse.

What will be the spark that lights the conflagration? Despite the city’s refugees, wanderers, murderers, madmen, fanatics and thieves, the catalyst, as always, will be the Anchorwood – that dark grove of trees, that primeval remnant, that portal, when the moon is full, to strange and distant shores. Ilmar, some say, is the worst place in the world and the gateway to a thousand worse places.

Ilmar,
City of Long Shadows.
City of Bad Decisions.
City of Last Chances.
Tchaikovsky is always worth reading. A prolific author with an impressively varied range in his writing – his best work includes Children of Time, The Expert System’s Brother, Ironclads, Dogs of War, The Doors of Eden, Firewalkers, Bear Head, Spiderlight and Ogres. Even if I don’t always completely fall in love with his work, I often still find myself thinking about it long after I’ve finished it. So I’m really looking forward to tucking into this one.

Review of NETGALLEY arc What Song the Sirens Sang – Book 3 of the Gideon Sable series by Simon R. Green #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #WhatSongtheSirensSangbookreview

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I’m a fan of Green’s writing. See my reviews of his Ishmael Jones series, featuring an alien dark ops agent and his alluring sidekick, Penny, in Buried Memories, The Dark Side of the Road, Very Important Corpses, Death Shall Come, Into the Thinnest of Air, Murder in the Dark, Till Sudden Death Do Us Part, Night Train to Murder, The House on Widow’s Hill and his paranormal James Bond hero in The Man With the Golden Torc. I also thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in this fantasy heist series, The Best Thing You Can Steal and A Matter of Death and Life– so I was delighted when this offering appeared on the Netgalley dashboard.

BLURB: You can find everything you’ve ever dreamed of in the strange, old magical shop known as Old Harry’s Place. The problem is, not all dreams are kind. Gideon Sable – legendary master thief, conman and well-dressed rogue – and his partner in crime Annie Anybody don’t want to be shopkeepers, but when the enigmatic Harry decides to retire, he blackmails the pair into taking the store on.

Before the grand reopening can happen, however, a menacing stranger arrives – with a rare and deadly item for them to appraise. A small piece of rock, with an unnerving aura, which ‘Smith’ claims contains the last echoes of the legendary sirens’ song. Before they can find out more, however, Smith vanishes . . . leaving only the stone. Some valuables are more trouble than they’re worth. But before Gideon and Annie can work out if they’ve been set up, the stone is stolen from its impregnable hiding place. How? And why? Gideon only knows one thing for certain: no one steals from him and gets away with it . . .

REVIEW: This paranormal heist adventure can be read as a standalone, as Green ensures his readers aren’t left floundering – but in order to be fully invested in the characters, I’d advise that you read the two previous before diving into this one. I’m a solid fan of this author, because despite writing a rather dark world full of bloodshed and violence, there is always a humorous quirkiness to the tone that ensures that said darkness never becomes overwhelming or too bleak. And given that a great deal of SFF is on the darker side, I’ve found Green’s lighter touch immensely attractive over the years.

His tendency to humour doesn’t prevent Green from delivering yet another twisty, action-packed adventure where our plucky protagonists are flung (literally, courtesy of a magical mirror) into a highly dangerous situation. I am very fond of Gideon and Annie Anybody, so once more found the pages turning more or less by themselves as they find themselves confronted by a satisfyingly obnoxious antagonist, who has the capability to do them real harm. The denouement brings the adventure to a pleasing close – although I’m not sure that ‘happily ever after’ is on the cards for everyone in Gideon’s team. There is a new addition to the gang who I think is going to wreak havoc to their rather fragile dynamic – and I’m waiting for the next book in this entertaining series to see if I’m right! Highly recommended for fans of paranormal heist adventures that don’t take themselves so seriously that you give up the will to live halfway through. While I obtained an arc of What Song the Sirens Sang from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

Review of NETGALLEY arc A Taste of Gold and Iron by Alexandra Rowland #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #ATasteofGoldandIronbookreview

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It was the comparison with The Goblin Emperor that snagged my attention to this particular offering. It’s one of my favourite fantasy political intrigue reads of all time, so I was very happy to dive into anything else that might strum that vibe. Would I be disappointed?

BLURB: Kadou, the shy prince of Arasht, finds himself at odds with one of the most powerful ambassadors at court—the body-father of the queen’s new child—in an altercation which results in his humiliation.

To prove his loyalty to the queen, his sister, Kadou takes responsibility for the investigation of a break-in at one of their guilds, with the help of his newly appointed bodyguard, the coldly handsome Evemer, who seems to tolerate him at best. In Arasht, where princes can touch-taste precious metals with their fingers and myth runs side by side with history, counterfeiting is heresy, and the conspiracy they discover could cripple the kingdom’s financial standing and bring about its ruin.

REVIEW: This one immediately jumps into the story, to the extent that I wondered if there was a previous book in the series that I’d missed. There wasn’t, so I settled in and before long I was utterly hooked. Kadou is an interesting male protagonist. Highly strung and prone to fits of nervous prostration that leave him with devastating self-loathing, he is all too aware that he doesn’t deal effectively with the cadre of elite bodyguards trained to tend to his every need. In fact, he doesn’t feel that he does anything all that effectively. And that’s a real problem right now, because there has been a worrying break-in that unaccountably isn’t being properly dealt with. It doesn’t help that his sister, the ruling matriarch of their land, has recently given birth to a daughter, so she passes the task for looking into this problem to Kadou. During a hunting trip, there is a disastrous event that leads to the death of two of his guards and the disgrace of his captain. So there is a vacancy for the newly qualified and utterly dedicated over-achiever, Evermer.

I’ll be honest – the growing relationship between Evermer and Kadou wasn’t the main reason for picking this one up and I was far more interested in the conspiracy and Kadou’s interestingly conflicted personality. That said, the romance is skilfully handled. While there is the inevitable misunderstanding that characterises their early relationship, the growing attraction between them is portrayed with tenderness and humour that won me over to the extent that by the end of the book I was thoroughly rooting for the couple to overcome the hurdles ranged against them.

I enjoyed the magic, where some adepts are able to trace the purity of metals they touch while some are gifted, or cursed, with the ability to know if someone is lying. However, I did feel the intricacies of the magic system was a bit under-developed and I would have liked to know more about how many of the population had magic, for instance. And whether Kadou’s synesthetic experience regarding his magical talent is the norm. The book also ended rather abruptly – I strongly feel there should be a second book in the offing to complete the narrative arc, though there isn’t any sign that this is a series on Goodreads or Amazon. And for both these reasons, I have knocked a point off what would have been a ten for me, with a compelling, complicated character and a lushly written backdrop that doesn’t hold up the action. This author is One to Watch and comes highly recommended. While I obtained an arc of A Taste of Gold and Iron from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 5th October, 2022 #Brainfluffbookblog #CWC #WOW

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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 – Tread of Angels by Rebecca Roanhorse – release date – 17th November, 2022

#fantasy #thriller #feisty heroine

BLURB: High in the remote mountains, the town of Goetia is booming as prospectors from near and far come to mine the powerful new element Divinity. Divinity is the remains of the body of the rebel Abaddon, who fell to earth during Heaven’s War, and it powers the world’s most inventive and innovative technologies, ushering in a new age of progress. However, only the descendants of those that rebelled, called Fallen, possess the ability to see the rich lodes of the precious element. That makes them a necessary evil among the good and righteous people called the Elect, and Goetia a town segregated by ancestry and class.

Celeste and Mariel are two Fallen sisters, bound by blood but raised in separate worlds. Celeste grew up with her father, passing in privileged Elect society, while Mariel stayed with their mother in the Fallen slums of Goetia. Upon her father’s death, Celeste returns to Goetia and reunites with Mariel. Mariel is a great beauty with an angelic voice, and Celeste, wracked by guilt for leaving her sister behind, becomes her fiercest protector.

When Mariel is accused of murdering a Virtue, the powerful Order of the Archangels that rule Goetia, Celeste must take on the role of Advocatus Diaboli (Devil’s Advocate) and defend her sister in the secretive courts of the Virtue. Celeste, aided by her ex-lover, Abraxas, who was once one of the rebels great generals, sets out to prove Mariel innocent. But powerful forces among the Virtues and the Elect mining barons don’t want Celeste prying into their business, and Mariel has secrets of her own. As Celeste is drawn deeper into the dark side of Goetia, she unravel a layer of lies and manipulation that may doom Mariel and puts her own immortal soul at risk, in this dark fantasy noir from the bestselling mastermind Rebecca Roanhorse.
I enjoy Roanhorse’s writing – see my reviews of Trail of Lightning and Black Sun. So when this one popped up on Netgalley, I immediately requested a copy and was delighted to get one. I’m hoping it isn’t too dark – but I do know that it will probably be packed with action and vivid characters, unless the author has completely changed her writing style.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY AUDIOBOOK The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna #BrainfluffNETGALLEYAUDIOBOOKreview #TheVerySecretSocietyofIrregularWitchesbookreview

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I have read quite a few fantasy book featuring witches recently in my quest for enjoyable, escapist reads. So I was delighted to see this offering featured and even more chuffed when I was approved for an audio arc.

BLURB: As one of the few witches in Britain, Mika Moon knows she has to hide her magic, keep her head down, and stay away from other witches so their powers don’t mingle and draw attention. And as an orphan who lost her parents at a young age and was raised by strangers, she’s used to being alone and she follows the rules…with one exception: an online account, where she posts videos pretending to be a witch. She thinks no one will take it seriously.

But someone does. An unexpected message arrives, begging her to travel to the remote and mysterious Nowhere House to teach three young witches how to control their magic. It breaks all of the rules, but Mika goes anyway, and is immediately tangled up in the lives and secrets of not only her three charges, but also an absent archaeologist, a retired actor, two long-suffering caretakers, and…Jamie. The handsome and prickly librarian of Nowhere House would do anything to protect the children, and as far as he’s concerned, a stranger like Mika is a threat. An irritatingly appealing threat. As Mika begins to find her place at Nowhere House, the thought of belonging somewhere begins to feel like a real possibility. But magic isn’t the only danger in the world, and when a threat comes knocking at their door, Mika will need to decide whether to risk everything to protect a found family she didn’t know she was looking for…

REVIEW: It always helps if the narrator is good – and Samara MacLaren’s voice and reading style has become a solid favourite. So it was a bonus to discover her dulcet tones when I first tucked into this enjoyable offering.

Mika is a delightful protagonist. She’s had a tough time as a child. Due to a spell that went wrong several hundred years ago, all witches are orphaned early in their lives so are brought up by guardians instead of their parents. After the horrendous witch burnings of the 16th century, the community of witches scattered and now they only meet up very occasionally. For magic tends to gather around witches, making it easier for them to be discovered. So it’s deemed safer by formidable leaders like Primrose for witches to stay away from each other, making life lonely for adult witches who wish to continue to practise their magic. It would have been all too easy for Mika to have been portrayed as a classically tragic heroine – so I was very pleased to find her resolutely sunny-natured in all but the toughest situations.

Her three charges are funny without being too cute, unrealistically awful or revoltingly good – which is harder to achieve than Mandanna makes it look. There is also a rather sweet love story that unfolds in the middle of all the magical shenanigans, which I also enjoyed. However – there is a warning. The F-word is liberally sprinkled throughout, which didn’t really fit with the overall feel of the story. I certainly didn’t appreciate its use in front of the children, for instance. Apart from that one niggle, this is an enjoyable, often humorous and ultimately uplifting fantasy adventure with a dollop of romance with one steamy scene I fast-forwarded through. While I obtained an arc of The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 7th September, 2022 #Brainfluffbookblog #CWC #WOW

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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 – What Song the Sirens Sang– Book 3 of the Gideon Sable series by Simon R. Green – release date – 4th October, 2022

#heist fantasy adventure #troubled hero #feisty heroine #humour

BLURB: Gideon Sable – legendary master thief, conman and well-dressed rogue – and his partner in crime Annie Anybody don’t want to be shopkeepers, but when the enigmatic Harry decides to retire, he blackmails the pair into taking the store on.

Before the grand reopening can happen, however, a menacing stranger arrives – with a rare and deadly item for them to appraise. A small piece of rock, with an unnerving aura, which ‘Smith’ claims contains the last echoes of the legendary sirens’ song. Before they can find out more, however, Smith vanishes . . . leaving only the stone.

Some valuables are more trouble than they’re worth. But before Gideon and Annie can work out if they’ve been set up, the stone is stolen from its impregnable hiding place. How? And why? Gideon only knows one thing for certain: no one steals from him and gets away with it . . .
I am a fan of this series – see my reviews of The Best Thing You Can Steal and A Matter of Death and Life – so I’m intrigued to see where Green takes Gideon and Annie next. However you can always crash midway into his series and still get plenty of enjoyment and fun out of the adventure. Green’s stories have lashings of tension and drama – but also tongue-in-cheek humour. And right now, I’m all about humorous escapism!

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Monsters We Defy by Leslye Penelope #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #TheMonstersWeDefybookreview

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It was the cover of this offering that caught my eye – it’s just so very attractive. But then I read the blurb and knew I wanted to read it. I’m a sucker for the 1920s era – and I loved the spiritualist element of this fantasy heist adventure.

BLURB: Washington D. C., 1925

Clara Johnson talks to spirits, a gift that saved her during her darkest moments in a Washington D. C. jail. Now a curse that’s left her indebted to the cunning spirit world. So, when the Empress, the powerful spirit who holds her debt, offers her an opportunity to gain her freedom, a desperate Clara seizes the chance. The task: steal a magical ring from the wealthiest woman in the District.

Clara can’t pull off this daring heist alone. She’ll need help from an unlikely team, from a jazz musician capable of hypnotizing with a melody to an aging vaudeville actor who can change his face, to pull off the impossible. But as they encounter increasingly difficult obstacles, a dangerous spirit interferes at every turn. Conflict in the spirit world is leaking into the human one and along D.C’.s legendary Black Broadway, a mystery unfolds—one that not only has repercussions for Clara but all of the city’s residents.

REVIEW: This is a cracking read. I thoroughly enjoyed Clara’s spiky character. She is short-fused and in the habit of pushing away people, though that doesn’t stop her from helping those who seek her out. Given her gift, she could so easily have been portrayed as a noble, self-sacrificing heroine, brimful of the desire to help her fellows. While that is what she does – because she is so crotchety about it, I found her far more appealing. Especially when those around her make it their business to break through the façade she has erected – and we are shown just how vulnerable she actually is.

As well as Clara being a thoroughly sympathetic protagonist, the pacing was pretty much perfect. In any historical adventure, there is always a balance between giving the reader sufficient period details to make the background believable and ensuring the narrative moves along at a reasonable clip. Penelope nailed it, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve read several books recently featuring a POC protagonist and this was right up there with the best in portraying the casual and unthinking racism that was rife at that time. Indeed, it is part of the ongoing difficulty stacking up against Clara and her associates that a black person finds it hazardous to try and travel to certain parts of the city. Not only does this aid the narrative in upping the stakes – it is a visceral reminder of the extra burden the black community were coping with in their daily lives just because of the colour of their skin. I’d love to think such attitudes were consigned to history – but sadly, daily racist crime shows this isn’t the case, so reading entertaining, well-written fiction that highlights the issue can only help.

The spirit world was also well portrayed. There is a real sense of menace around those who want agency within the mortal world in order to steal human destinies. I liked the way Penelope gradually revealed the enormity of the threat, making this one of those reads that was very difficult to put down. All in all, this was a thoroughly engrossing tale that had me reading far later than I should. Highly recommended for those who like their fantasy within a compelling historical setting. While I obtained an arc of The Monsters We Defy from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
10/10

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 31st August, 2022 #Brainfluffbookblog #CWC #WOW

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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 – Unraveller by Frances Hardinge – release date – 1st September, 2022 – (tomorrow, in fact…)

#YA #fantasy

BLURB: In a world where anyone can cast a life-destroying curse, only one person has the power to unravel them.
Kellen does not fully understand his unique gift, but helps those who are cursed, like his friend Nettle who was trapped in the body of a bird for years. She is now Kellen’s constant companion and his closest ally.
But the Unraveller carries a curse himself and, unless he and Nettle can remove it, Kellen is a danger to everything—and everyone—around him….
Just look at this fabulous cover! Hardinge’s covers are always fabulous – and after reading the wonderful Deeplight, which for some reason was aimed at children, I am really looking forward to getting to this one. Right now, I’m a tad behind with my Netgalley reads – but if you’re keen to get hold of a quality fantasy adventure featuring interesting young protagonists, then this offering is available tomorrow.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Knave of Secrets By Alex Livingston #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #TheKnaveofSecretsbookreview

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I was intrigued by the premise. After suffering withdrawal symptoms after the completion of Sebastian de Castell’s wonderful Spellslinger series – see my reviews of Spellslinger, Shadowblack , Charmcaster, Soulbinder, Queenslayer and Crownbreaker – I thought another fantasy adventure involving card games and magic would be fun.

BLURB: Never stake more than you can afford to lose.

When failed magician turned cardsharp Valen Quinol is given the chance to play in the Forbearance Game—the invitation-only tournament where players gamble with secrets—he can’t resist. Or refuse, for that matter, according to the petty gangster sponsoring his seat at the table. Valen beats the man he was sent to play, and wins the most valuable secret ever staked in the history of the tournament.

Now Valen and his motley crew are being hunted by thieves, gangsters, spies and wizards, all with their own reasons for wanting what’s in that envelope. It’s a game of nations where Valen doesn’t know all the rules or who all the players are, and can’t see all the moves. But he does know if the secret falls into the wrong hands, it could plunge the whole world into war…

REVIEW: I’ll be honest – I wanted to love this one more than I actually did. There is a huge amount of explanation regarding the world, which is full of complicated names, a tangled and even more complicated political situation and characters who all have complicated backstories. Livingston’s insistence of giving a lot of the information in big lumps throughout, rather than letting the reader absorb it alongside the unfolding action meant that I always felt distanced from the characters.

The writing style favours telling over showing, which isn’t my personal preference. And while the characters are all layered and nicely ambiguous, I didn’t ever feel particularly close to them as Livingston tends to keep them at one remove from the reader. The same applies to the action scenes – while they were vividly depicted, some of the urgency and snap was diluted by yet more explanation that should really have gone elsewhere. The overall plot, which was suitably twisty and surprising, worked well and came to a solidly good conclusion – although I did feel the ending was a tad abrupt.

That said, for those who are fans of detailed worlds with huge amounts of background detail, including maps, historical events and long explanations of a variety of fantasy card games – this is a solid treat. I was particularly impressed at the sheer intricacy of the games Livingston constructed and the appendices make fascinating reading. While I obtained an arc of The Knave of Secrets from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
7/10

Review of NETGALLEY AUDIOBOOK Wolfbane – Book 9 of the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series by Michelle Paver #BrainfluffNEGALLEYAUDIObookreview #Wolfbanebookreview

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I have read a couple of books in this well-known and captivating series – see my review of Spirit Walker. While it’s labelled as a YA/children’s read, it has captured the hearts of many adults over the years, including me. So I was delighted when the audiobook for the latest book in the series popped up.

BLURB: It is early spring, a turbulent, perilous time of sudden storms, frozen river fractures and drifting ice. Fleeing from a demon intent on devouring his souls, Wolf is swept out to Sea far from the Forest and his pack. The ocean too teems with danger: sea wolves, sharks and hunters of the deep, and the demon is gaining ground. Torak and Renn must race to save their pack-brother, battling the harsh, icy waves and merciless torrents. If they can’t find Wolf in time, the bond between them will be severed for ever…

REVIEW: This is a compelling adventure set in prehistory, when our hunter-gatherer ancestors had to be clever, brave and highly skilled at a multitude of tasks just to get through an average day. They lived in close contact with the natural world surrounding them, from which they derived their food, clothes and shelter. Small wonder they also formed a strong spiritual attachment to the animals and plants that impacted their lives. I love how Paver has characterised that attachment, as I listened to this gripping adventure facing Torak and Renn.

Wolf now has a mate and so when he is yanked away by the machinations of a major demon, Torak and Renn are determined to save him. But it’s a perilous journey that takes them far away from their beloved forest, where they encounter other tribes whose customs are different from their own. This is a delight to listen to – partly because the writing style is clean and powerful, but also because Sir Ian McKellan happens to be the narrator. His rendition is masterful – I’d listen spellbound if he recited the football scores, and I hate football…

Paver’s scene setting is vivid – I could easily envisage the landscapes she describes in a world not yet reeling from the environmental damage we’ve inflicted. The story holds real tension – and there is also a very moving scene where a much-loved character is laid to rest. The death rites are fascinating as well as poignant. All in all, this is a treat and highly recommended for fans of prehistorical adventure – though don’t start with this one. Instead track down the first book in this series, Wolf Brother. And a bonus is Paver’s Afterword, where she describes her research into aspects of her characters’ lives – it brought this highly enjoyable book to a fitting end. While I obtained a copy of audiobook Wolfbane from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10