Tag Archives: swords and sorcery

Friday Faceoff – Beware the jabberwock, my son… #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 subject this week featuring on any of our covers is FANTASY BEASTS, so I’ve selected The Red Knight – Book 1 of The Traitor Son Cycle by Miles Cameron – see my review here.

 

This edition was produced by Gollancz in October 2012 and is my favourite. It didn’t hurt that this is the cover of the edition that I read. I love the simplicity of the fully armoured knight fighting the wyvern – and how his foot is on the top of the title font, which is stylish and feels part of the overall design. The artwork is beautiful and detailed and it’s no surprise that this cover is the one that appears on most editions.

 

Published in January 2013 by Orbit, while this cover is clearly dramatic with the flames licking the sword – I find it rather generic. This could be any knight clutching any sword, though why anyone would want to roast their precious weapon is a puzzle. I do like the font, however, which works well within the design.

 

This German edition, published by Heyne in June 2013, is another strong offering. I really like the weathered parchment effect, with the slight blurring of the author and title fonts, as if this precious document has become wet at some stage. The engraving of the sword gives a sense of the medieval era, albeit an alternate timeline where wyverns and dark magic menaces the land.

 

Produced by Bragelonne in January 2017, this French edition once again features a hand holding the sword, but I think it is far more successful than Orbit’s effort. For starters, the detailing on the sleeve and the blood-spattered gauntlet feels more connected to the book than some random character holding a sword in a fire. I also love the background, which also had been given some serious consideration. The ornate lettering capitalising the title font manages to give it a period feel without compromising the clarity. This classy effort is a close contender, but for the fact that I’m a sucker for that wyvern.

 

This Russian edition, published by Фантастика Книжный Клуб in December 2016 uses the original cover as its inspiration, going back to the battle between the red knight and the wyvern. I’d expected this to be my second favourite, but I find the figures – particularly the fabulous beast – lacking in the fluid lines that add to the drama of the original. This stilted version simply isn’t as well executed, however I do like the addition of that red border which works really well against the grey background. Which is your favourite?

 

Sunday Post – 28th April, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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

It’s been another busy week. On Tuesday I returned to Northbrook to start the last course I’ll be teaching there – even as I type the words, it doesn’t quite seem real… I was delighted to be able to run all three classes again and meet up with my lovely students.

My friend, Mhairi also drove down from Lincolnshire and came to stay, so after arriving when I returned from college at around 9.30 pm, we stayed up until about 3 am in the wee small hours of Wednesday to catch up. Much later on Wednesday morning, we went out for breakfast to Morrisons and she joined in our Pilates session in the afternoon. After hobbling away, we both agreed we needed to go more often! On Thursday, I resumed teaching Tim, though last week I accompanied him and his mother when we went to the music college that has offered him a place on their songwriting course – the same course attended by Tom Odell… There are still a few issues to address, but whether he actually goes or not – it’s a massive achievement to have been offered the place.

Yesterday I went shopping with my sister in Worthing. Her 60th birthday is looming and we’re off to an all-expenses paid spa break together so some serious shopping needed doing… We were shattered by the time we finished and decided that it’s something we need to do more often! I was doing the driving so once I took her home, I stayed and we had a takeaway Chinese – yum – before I returned home.

Last week I read:

The Unbound Empire – Book 3 of the Swords and Fire series by Melissa Caruso
While winter snows keep the Witch Lord Ruven’s invading armies at bay, Lady Amalia Cornaro and the fire warlock Zaira attempt to change the fate of mages in the Raverran Empire forever, earning the enmity of those in power who will do anything to keep all magic under tight imperial control. But in the season of the Serene City’s great masquerade, Ruven executes a devastating surprise strike at the heart of the Empire – and at everything Amalia holds most dear.
It’s always something of a risk, plunging into the final book of a much-loved series and I won’t deny that I was a bit apprehensive. But I needn’t have been – Caruso brought this outstanding series to a magnificent conclusion. This is one of my favourite series of the last few years…

Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Audio Collection – Collected Short Stories
Ever since he made his first appearance in A Study In Scarlet, Sherlock Holmes has enthralled and delighted millions of fans throughout the world. Now Audible is proud to present Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection, read by Stephen Fry. A lifelong fan of Doyle’s detective fiction, Fry has narrated the complete works of Sherlock Holmes – four novels and five collections of short stories. And, exclusively for Audible, Stephen has written and narrated nine insightful, intimate and deeply personal introductions to each title.
If I don’t listen to anything else – ever, this gem has made my foray into the world of audiobooks worth it and represents fantastic value as it cost me all of one credit for 72 hours of fabulous listening. While I wouldn’t want to read through this – listening to it while cleaning the bathroom transforms a miserable chore into a wonderful pleasure. It has been split into six sections and I am prolonging the joy by listening to something else in between.

My posts last week:

Review of The Defiant Heir – Book 2 of the Swords and Fire series by Melissa Caruso

Teaser Tuesday featuring Children of Ruin – Book 2 of the Children of Time series by Adrian Tchaikovsky

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Emily Eternal by M.G. Wheaton

Friday Faceoff featuring A Hat Full of Sky – Book 2 of the Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Unbound Empire – Book 3 of the Swords and Fire series by Melissa Caruso

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

I don’t believe in diabetes https://writerunboxed.com/2019/04/26/i-dont-believe-in-diabetes/ This thoughtful, passionate article on writers’ block is something I also feel strongly about, having taught a number of students whose writing mojo suddenly deserted them.

Monday Musing: Fangirling https://randombookmuses.com/2019/04/22/monday-musing-fangirling/ This moving article highlights just how important books and the imaginative worlds they create can become to readers…

The International Extinction Rebellion https://acstark.net/2019/04/19/the-international-extinction-rebellion/ I am increasingly dismayed at the tardy, inadequate response to the gathering catastrophic climatic changes around the world and ongoing struggles of our wildlife by all the leading governments – particularly ours which is currently paralysed.

Rainy Day Reads: Top Ten Tuesday https://aquapages.wordpress.com/2019/04/16/rainy-day-reads-top-ten-tuesday/ It’s always useful to have some solid recommendations and this selection particularly caught my eye…

How to Plan Your Protagonist’s Journey https://lorraineambers.com/2019/04/18/how-to-plan-your-protagonists-journey/ I really like the way Lorraine has approached this subject. Whether you are a planner or a pantzer, this can still be an invaluable aid to sorting out your thoughts before plunging into your w.i.p.

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

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Unbound Empire – Book 2 of the Swords and Fire series by Melissa Caruso #Brainfluffbookreview #TheUnboundEmpirebookreview

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I really enjoyed the first book in this series, The Tethered Mage, – see my review here – I thought the premise was a really smart one. The idea that lethal magic-users need to have their power curtailed from the time their talent becomes evident makes complete sense – as do the inevitable consequences following from that necessity… I recently read and reviewed the second book, The Defiant Heir, and liked it even more, so was delighted to be approved to read and review The Unbound Empire

While winter snows keep the Witch Lord Ruven’s invading armies at bay, Lady Amalia Cornaro and the fire warlock Zaira attempt to change the fate of mages in the Raverran Empire forever, earning the enmity of those in power who will do anything to keep all magic under tight imperial control. But in the season of the Serene City’s great masquerade, Ruven executes a devastating surprise strike at the heart of the Empire – and at everything Amalia holds most dear.

As with the second book, the political and personal stakes in this book continue to ramp up. Amalia continues to grow from the shy academic, whose real passion was studying magical practices, to a political player in her own right, determined to push through a piece of legislation that will impact every magic-user in the Empire. I love her character progression – along with the changes that every other major character undergoes. Caruso makes that aspect of writing a series look a lot easier than it is.

All the characters work well, but two in particular stand out – Ruven is a particularly satisfying villain, who I loved to hate. His arrogant dismissal of anyone non-magical and his tendency to inflict horrible tortures just because he can – as well as his targeting of our protagonist – makes him creepy and revolting. The cleverness in the writing is that Caruso manages also make the reader aware of what is powering his nastiness, so that he doesn’t come across as a pantomime villain. The other character I became a little in love with is one of those enigmatic, dangerous Witch Lords, Kathe. His entourage of crows, his courage, his love of games and his gradually emerging more vulnerable side made him very endearing. His odd courtship of Amalia made the romantic thread running through this series thoroughly entertaining.
Caruso’s other superpower is the pacing – I found The Unbound Empire almost impossible to put down because the narrative arc works so well. I quickly became caught up in her political fight – which then turned into something else far more challenging. Caruso’s ability to ramp up the stakes compelled me to keep reading far longer than I should. The final denouement in a series needs to be able to wrap everything up and give each of the major characters an ongoing path, so the reader gets a sense of their probable future, given the life-changing events they have undergone. Caruso manages to achieve this, making this trilogy one of my favourite, most memorable fantasy series I’ve read in recent years.

Please read these books in the correct order, though – it would a real shame to mess up such a well-crafted progression by crashing midway into this outstanding series. The ebook arc copy of The Unbound Empire was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
10/10

Review of Library book The Defiant Heir – Book 2 of the Swords and Fire series by Melissa Caruso #Brainfluffbookreview #TheDefiantHeirbookreview #LibraryLoveChallenge

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This is the sequel to The Tethered Mage – see my review – which so very nearly made my Outstanding Reads list for last year – I loved the idea that mages with their magical power needed to be contained. While it isn’t a new idea, this version where each mage has a minder who can release their power or shut it down works very well.

Across the border, the Witch Lords of Vaskandar are preparing for war. But before an invasion can begin, they must call a rare gathering of all seventeen lords to decide a course of action. Lady Amalia Cornaro knows that this Conclave might be her only chance to stifle the growing flames of war, and she is ready to make any sacrifice if it means saving Raverra from destruction. Amalia and Zaira must go behind enemy lines, using every ounce of wit and cunning they have, to sway Vaskandar from war. Or else it will all come down to swords and fire.

Thoughout the book, we stay in the viewpoint of Lady Amalia, whose mother, La Contessa, rules Raverra with a canny intelligence. Right from the beginning, Amalia knew she was destined for a life in politics, despite her interest in studying forms of magic as an academic subject. And then she inadvertently ends up in a situation where that academic interest suddenly becomes far more practical when she crosses paths with a mage with a rare but lethal talent. I think it’s a clever move to make Amalia bookish and rather shy at the start of the series – her character progression is noticeable from The Tethered Mage through to this book.

However the political crisis, where Raverra is threatened by the terrifying Witch Lords who rule Vaskandar, now needs her to represent her mother on a diplomatic mission where thousands of lives are at stake. The gathering sense of danger and sense of fear at what the Witch Lords are capable of doing, with the hideous beasts they are able to enchant, is palpable. From the first page, I was snagged by this one and found it difficult to put down. While I thoroughly enjoyed The Tethered Mage, I think The Defiant Heir is even better. The supporting cast are all well written and nicely three-dimensional – particularly Zaire and the unpredictable Kathe, who controls the crows…

The pacing is beautifully judged throughout, so that by the end I stayed up waaay later than I should to discover what happens at the end and found the conclusion completely satisfying – though leaving me with a real hankering for more from this world. Thank goodness I shan’t have to wait too long for the next book, The Unbound Empire. Highly recommended for fans of well written swords and sorcery with a splash of romance.
10/10

Sunday Post – 17th March, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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

This last week has feel more like normality – I am now, finally, feeling more like my old self which is such a relief as I’d begun to feel that I’d never regain my former energy. The Creative Writing sessions all went well and were, as ever, highly enjoyable, though attendance was hit by folks not wanting to battle through Storm Graham on Tuesday afternoon to get to college. Quite right, too.

On Wednesday, my writing buddy Mhairi spent the day with me – we are treasuring our time together, given that she is on the brink of moving to Lincolnshire, instead of just 20 minutes down the road… As ever, lots of talk and mutual advice about writing – I’m delighted that her sales have taken off and as ever, I find her help invaluable. My lesson with Tim on Thursday was a break from preparing for his exam and instead, we worked on the lyrics to his latest song composition, which is amazing.

This weekend, we’ve had the grandchildren to stay, which means that the weather on Saturday was atrocious. Throughout this winter, whenever they’ve come to stay – that’s when the wind and rain has struck. So Oscar and I tucked into a fabulous 3-D sticker book together, while Frances was working on a painting project for homework. I played the Frozen in Time audiobook while we were working. In the mornings, Oscar started the day by reading extracts from the seventh book in Lemony Snickett’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, which he is loving – it’s a real treat listening to him read so fluently. Last night, we went to our favourite Chinese restaurant with my sister to celebrate the start of her new job next year.

Last week I read:
Castaway Planet – Book 4 of the Boundary series by Eric Flint and Ryk E. Spoor
Lost in the dark, half a year into their journey to the colony world of Tantalus, Sakura Kimei, her family, and her best friend, the alien “Bemmie” nicknamed Whips, are torn from the safety of their colony ship. In a crippled lifeboat, they had one chance to find a habitable world. But even then, they would find that their apparent salvation was a world of a thousand secrets.
I thoroughly enjoyed this futuristic take on Swiss Family Robinson – a real page-turning adventure that gripped me throughout and the added pleasure is the knowledge that I’ve now discovered another cracking sci fi space opera series.

 

The Midnight Queen – Book 1 of the Noctis Magicae series by Sylvia Hunter
In the hallowed halls of Oxford’s Merlin College, the most talented – and highest born – sons of the kingdom are taught the intricacies of magickal theory. But what dazzles can also destroy, as Gray Marshall is about to discover . . .
Gray’s Britain is a fragmented kingdom of many tongues, many gods and many magicks. But all that concerns Gray right now is returning as soon as possible to his studies and setting right the nightmare that has seen him disgraced and banished to his tutor’s home – without a trace of his powers. And it is there, toiling away on a summer afternoon, that he meets the professor’s daughter.
It’s been a wonderful reading week – two cracking reads from authors I hadn’t previously known. I absolutely loved this one – the strong characterisation, tense situation and I was also invested in the romance that bubbled away in the background. I also liked the alternate history where Christianity hadn’t taken hold. Review in due course.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 10th March 2019

Review of Kingdom of Copper – Book 2 of the Daevabad Trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty

Review of Survivor in Death – Book 20 of the In Death series by R.D. Robb

Friday Face-Off featuring World’s End – Book 1 of the Age of Misrule series by Mark Chadbourn

Review of Dreamer’s Pool – Book 1 of Blackthorn and Grim series by Juliet Marillier

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

12 Things You Have To Give Up to Be a Successful Writer https://writerunboxed.com/2019/03/16/12-things-you-have-to-give-up-to-be-a-successful-writer/ I love the series of articles written by Bill Ferris – funny and all too near the knuckle…

#writer, your body does not define your #writing voice: a response to the #YA #cancelculture among #readers and #authors https://jeanleesworld.com/2019/03/14/writer-your-body-does-not-define-your-writing-voice-a-response-to-the-ya-cancelculture-among-readers-and-authors/ Jean Lee raises the issues around this current controversary that is causing major concern, given where it is going.

NINTH STEP STATION – Episode 10: The Foreign Mischief by Malka Older & Series Wrap-up http://booksbonesbuffy.com/2019/03/13/ninth-step-station-episode-10-the-foreign-mischief-by-malka-older-and-series-wrapup/ I generally don’t include reviews in this round-up – so why this one? Because this excellent article is the last in a series following this different way of accessing fiction.

Café del Pintor~ https://cindyknoke.com/2019/03/13/cafe-de-pintor/ Just check out this amazing artwork…

Finding Time for Important Things http://melfka.com/archives/3521 This lovely, well-written article happened to come along at a crucial time for me. I found its message enormously comforting. Thank you Joanna😊

Many thanks for taking the time to comment, like and visit my blog – I still trying to catch up – thank you for your patience. In the meantime, have a wonderful week!

Review of The Kingdom of Copper – Book 2 of the Daevabad Trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty #Brainfluffbookreview #TheKingdomofCopperbookreview

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I was delighted when I was approved to read this one – I have a real weakness for sand and sorcery adventures…

Nahri’s life changed forever the moment she accidentally summoned Dara, a formidable, mysterious djinn, during one of her schemes. Whisked from her home in Cairo, she was thrust into the dazzling royal court of Daevabadand quickly discovered she would need all her grifter instincts to survive there. Now, with Daevabad entrenched in the dark aftermath of the battle that saw Dara slain at Prince Ali’s hand, Nahri must forge a new path for herself, without the protection of the guardian who stole her heart or the counsel of the prince she considered a friend. But even as she embraces her heritage and the power it holds, she knows she’s been trapped in a gilded cage, watched by a king who rules from the throne that once belonged to her familyand one misstep will doom her tribe.

I hadn’t read the first book and I’m sorry about that – not because I was floundering at any stage – but because this one was such a thumping good read, I wish that I had started the adventure in the right place in order to get the maximum enjoyment from it. As it was, crashing into the series in the wrong place wasn’t a problem. Chakraborty not only ensured that any previous details necessary to make sense of the story were already included, there is also a very helpful glossary and cast of characters at the back, giving helpful details of the world and the complicated rivalries that run it.

I really liked Nahri, which was important. But what particularly impressed me in this sweeping story were the inclusion of the history of bloodshed and atrocities on both sides that powered everyone’s current mindset. It was a grimly realistic take on the politics and gave an explanation for the violence perpetrated, if not the justification.

I’m aware that I have given the impression that this is a gritty book full of anger and angst. While there is plenty of tension and plotting going on, there are also lovely descriptions of the world, and plenty of light and colour in amongst the excellent action scenes. I can now see what all the fuss was about regarding the first book, The City of Brass, which I will definitely be getting hold of and I look forward to also reading the final book, The Empire of Gold, in this excellent trilogy. Highly recommended for fans of sword and sorcery stories.

While I obtained an arc of The Kingdom of Copper from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

Sunday Post – 27th January, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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

The weather has been quite a bit colder this week, with several frosts and then it suddenly warmed up again to nearly 50°F. No wonder several students have been off sick and my writing buddy had to cut short our Friday together. On Wednesday evening, I attended our fortnightly writing group and touched base with everyone, though I didn’t take any writing. On Thursday, I had a planning meeting in the morning for the rest of the teaching year with Tim and then taught him for three hours in the afternoon. It was lovely catching up with him, as I hadn’t seen him since the beginning of December.

On Saturday morning, Himself and I went shopping and I also took a stack of books to the local library, who gratefully received them. It was lovely to catch up with the wonderful lady who reads stories to small children in the library on Saturday mornings – she always asks after Frankie and Oscar, who she regularly used to read to. She was amazed when I told her that Frankie is now taller than I am…

I spent the rest of the day working on Mantivore Prey. The first 1,000 words was like drawing teeth and took a looong time. However, I then got into the swing of the narrative – I’m now in the middle of an unexpected subplot which is going very well, though time will tell if it’s going to work out. Fingers crossed…

Last week I read:
The Warrior – Book 3 of The Immortal Dealers series by Sarah Fine
Ernestine “Ernie” Terwilliger never intended to live among the Immortal Dealers, much less to be party to an ongoing battle where the fate of humanity is in the draw of a card. And the stakes have gotten only higher now that a shady new Forger has been crowned.
Despite crashing into this series by picking up the final book, I enjoyed this world and the magic system, as well as being able to empathise with the sympathetic protagonist. Review to follow.

 

The Defiant Heir – Book 2 of the Swords and Fire series by Melissa Caruso
Across the border, the Witch Lords of Vaskandar are preparing for war. But before an invasion can begin, they must call a rare gathering of all seventeen lords to decide a course of action. Lady Amalia Cornaro knows that this Conclave might be her only chance to stifle the growing flames of war, and she is ready to make any sacrifice if it means saving Raverra from destruction.
I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series, but I really loved this one. The political situation is gripping and the supporting cast are fabulous. Review to follow.

 

Spacer’s Cinderella by Adria Rose
A broken shoe. A forbidden ball. A sexy cyborg with a secret. Born on an abandoned colony barely held together by sealant tape and hope, Aurora Sato is at the very bottom of the social pecking order. Hard work and brains got her into a coveted spot in the quadrant’s top university… But her new supervisor is a woman who’s not about to let an upstart like Aurora get anything close to a break.
This romance sci fi story has a gripping plotline that drew me in and held me, despite not generally reading this sub-genre.

 

Traveler in the Dark – Book 1 of the Ex Situ series by Deirdre Gould
Sixteen hundred years ago, they fled Earth. Now their long journey may finally be at an end. None of them have ever walked on soil, felt rain, or breathed unrecycled air. Their resources nearly spent, they sent a last exploratory mission to a new planet. It’s ideal… but they are not alone. In the struggle for survival, they must make a choice. Sacrifice another species or accept their own extinction. And time is running out.
This colony exploration tale took an unexpectedly dark turn, which also explored the moral issues of colonisation.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 20th January 2019

Review of Novella The Expert System’s Brother by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Friday Face-Off featuring The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

Box Set – The Sunblinded Trilogy – Running Out of Space, Dying for Space, Breathing Space

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:
The Super Blood Wolf Moon Eclipse of 2019 http://www.fundinmental.com/the-super-blood-wolf-moon-eclipse-of-2019-bloodwolfmoon-eclipse/#.XE2QhM3grb1 I tend to avoid the news these days with the Brexit nonsense going on – but then I miss events like this. Thank goodness I can comfort myself with these superb pics…

Thursday Doors https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2019/01/24/thursday-doors-121/ This quirky blog is rarely just about doors – and this week not only do we have pics of the cutest dog in the world, but a grim slice of history, too.

The U.L.S. The Underground Library Society Guest Post by Amanda Cade! https://charlesfrenchonwordsreadingandwriting.wordpress.com/2019/01/22/the-u-l-s-the-underground-library-society-guest-post-by-amanda-cade/ Academic and indie writer Charles French runs this meme on his excellent blog – and this week I was blown away by Amanda’s contribution.

Let’s get real about the hot mess of spell-check, grammar and editing tools https://redpenofdoom.com/lets-get-real-about-the-hot-mess-of-spell-check-grammar-and-editing-tools/ Given that effective editing is a large chunk of successful writing – I share Guy’s pain in this heartfelt article.

Twisted Conservation Education and Awareness http://chechewinnie.com/twisted-conservation-education-and-awareness/ I enjoy Cheche’s blog, and her insightful observations about conservation in Africa – this disturbing article highlights some of the challenges faced by those trying to make a difference…

In the meantime, many thanks for taking the time to comment, like and visit my blog – have a wonderful week!

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Salvation’s Fire: After the War – Book 2 of the After the War series by Justina Robson #Brainfluffbookreview #SalvationsFirebookreview

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This has got to be one of my most eagerly anticipated reads of the year so far, given how much I enjoyed Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Redemption’s Blade. I was particularly intrigued that Justina Robson wrote this sequel, using Tachaikovsky’s world.

The Tzarkomen necromancers sacrificed a thousand women to create a Bride for the Kinslayer so he would spare them in the war. But the Kinslayer is dead and now the creation intended to ensure his eternal rule lies abandoned by its makers in the last place in the world that anyone would look for it. Which doesn’t prevent someone finding her by accident. Will the Bride return the gods to the world or will she bring the end of days? It all depends on the one who found her, Kula, a broken-hearted little girl with nothing left to lose.

So does this one work? Oh yes – this is an amazing premise. The Bride returning to the world long after the tyrant she was designed to partner, has been vanquished. What is her purpose now? And perhaps even more importantly – what will she decide to do, now her bridegroom is dead? The opening sequences surrounding the circumstances where we see the Bride return are really gripping, though I have a hunch if you haven’t read Redemption’s Blade, you might not appreciate the importance of the place and significance of what is happening. This is one sequel that should not be read as a stand-alone, in my opinion – apart from anything else it would be a crying shame to miss out on the joy that is Redemption’s Blade.

Part of the fun of reading a series is to chart the development of the main characters. If I have a niggle with this particular story, it is that Celestine, whose energy and concerns pinged off the pages in the first book, is a pale shadow in this adventure. While she is constantly around, I did find it frustrating not to have her opinions as vibrantly represented as in Tchaikovsky’s tale.

The other issue, which is more of an observation rather than a criticism, is that Robson’s style is denser than Tchaikovsky’s and I had to slow down and pay more attention to the text than when reading the first book. That said, I am a fan of Justina Robson’s writing – see my review of Down to the Bone – and am familiar with her style. I was fascinated to see how each author presented this interesting, complex world. I very much enjoyed the strong relationship between the newly resurrected Bride and the orphaned child, Kula – it isn’t often we see any form of parental relationships explored in science fiction and fantasy and I was delighted to watch how this partnership developed throughout the story.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this one and would be happy to see Angry Robot approach another author to take this story on further. Or maybe have both Tchaikovsky and Robson follow up their efforts with another book each. However it’s done, I really, really hope this series continues – there is so much more I would like to know about these characters and this world. Recommended for fans of epic fantasy with a difference. While I obtained an arc of Salvation’s Fire: After the War from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

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

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc #Furyborn – Book 1 of the Empirium series by #Claire Legrand #Brainfluffbookreview #bookreview

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It was the cover that grabbed my attention – and when I read enough of the blurb to realise it was an epic fantasy allll about two powerful women, I wanted to read on…

When assassins ambush her best friend, the crown prince, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing her ability to perform all seven kinds of elemental magic. The only people who should possess this extraordinary power are a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light and salvation and a queen of blood and destruction. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven trials to test her magic. If she fails, she will be executed…unless the trials kill her first.

A thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a mere fairy tale to bounty hunter Eliana Ferracora. When the Undying Empire conquered her kingdom, she embraced violence to keep her family alive. Now, she believes herself untouchable–until her mother vanishes without a trace, along with countless other women in their city. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain on a dangerous mission and discovers that the evil at the heart of the empire is more terrible than she ever imagined.

The blurb above gives a quick overview of the two main protagonists in this fast-paced epic fantasy, full of drama and emotion. Told in third person viewpoint with Rielle and Eliana featuring in alternate chapters, we build up a strong picture of how events lead to the shocking and bloody scene at the start of the story. I am still in two minds as to whether that works. Himself read a couple of chapters and once he realised who exactly Rielle was, he broke off announcing that it wasn’t worth slogging through a whole book when he already knew what had happened to one of the main characters. While I take his point, I am glad that I got swept up into this violent, difficult journey. I found the contrast between both of main characters intriguing. Eliana is definitely the more damaged of the two at the beginning of the book having been trained as an assassin and committed a series of bloody murders to keep her family safe. She is angry and cynical – and at times very funny.

This book would have been a lot less readable without the shafts of humour peppered throughout. At the beginning, Rielle is clearly the softer character, although she has had a tragic start in life by losing her mother in terrible circumstances, when only five years old. But circumstances and destiny push these two young women such, that by the end of the book, it is Rielle, who is the desperate, violent character driven by circumstances beyond her control and Eliana, whose cynical veneer is being stripped away in a desperate hunt to save those she loves.

Legrand can certainly write with the brakes off – an accomplishment that is harder than she makes it look. It would be all too easy to keep writing at full throttle, so that the light and shade is lost in amongst all that heightened emotion. She avoids that by peopling the world with strong supporting characters, so that we see these frightening women at their most vulnerable, as well as in ferocious attack mode. I also appreciated the world, which she effectively filters through the perceptions and knowledge of our main characters without resorting to boring info dumps.

All in all, this is an accomplished, full-on epic fantasy dealing with the themes of power and its corrupting influence, and what makes us human. It is a strong start to what promises to be a gripping series. Highly recommended for all fans of this genre. While I obtained an arc of Furyborn from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10