Saturday, December 20, 2014

Grimdark Reader Best of 2014

This was at once a great year for fantasy and a not so great year. In terms of quantity, not so great. I have 11 books to choose from that I really enjoyed of this years releases. In terms of quality, of those that make this list, they are all some of the best fantasy books I have read. This being said, it's so difficult to rank these 1-10. Even writing this, I haven't decided number 1. I have at least 5 that could easily be number 1. But since I have to choose, here goes;


This was a spectacular book! I said in my review it was some of the funnest reading I had all year. The follow up, Chains of the Heretic looks astounding. Full review here.


This book is one of the most unique fantasy books I have read. I was hooked from page one.Unwrapped Sky is a work by someone who loves to write and create. Review here.


This blew me away, Read why here.


This is historical fantasy, the best I have ever read. Here is my review to tell you more.


Book 1, Herald of the Storm was a great book. The Shattered Crown took the Steelhaven series to a new level. 


The Barrow took grimdark to a new level. This is one of the most brutal grimdark books I have read yet. It's not for the faint of heart. 


Mark Lawrence is my favorite author. This is a new series set in the same world as his Broken Empire series, my favorite series of all time. This is a great book. I can't wait for The Liars Key, book 2 our in 2015.


I had never heard of Greg James and came across Under A Colder Sun somewhere and read the synopsis and I was hooked. This book lived up to my expectations. It's not a long read, but it's money well spent. 


Some of the best writing I have ever read is in The Gospel of Loki. A delightful new take on Norse mythology.


Joe Abercrombie is my second favorite author and this book doesn't disappoint. Half a King is tuned down a bit from his other works but it still has his trademark dark humor and grittiness. 

So this was a good year but not a great one. I had a lot of disappointments, new series I thought I would love and follow ups I thought would be even better than the first in the series I enjoyed. As the year is coming to a close, I have realized I spent to much time chasing the next great book. All of the books here are great but they were diamonds in the rough. I probably started at least 100 books that I did not finish. That says something. This coming year, I will be very selective. I will stick with authors I know and follow other blogs to find new authors. I may not even review this year and if I do it will not be as often as this year. I am very proud of this blog and all the kind words I have received from so many. Copycat blogs are even popping up, which I find to be hilarious. In one year, I have gotten 40,000 page views. Some of the other blogs I see from this year have 5000 or less views. I think everyone knows by this time where to get their grimdark news from. Thanks for following and have a great Christmas!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Review of The Dark Defiles (A Land Fit For Heroes #3)-Richard Morgan

The Dark Defiles
by Richard K. Morgan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Writing 4/5
Imagination 5/5
Plot 3.5/5
Setting 4.5/5
Characters 3/5

My Overall Enjoyment (Not an average) 3/5

Summary from Goodreads

The final part of Richard Morgan's fast-moving and brutal fantasy brings Ringil to his final reckoning and sees the world tipping into another war with the dragon folk. And, most terrifying of all, the prophecy of a dark lord come to rule may be coming true very close to home ...
After completing The Steel Remains, book 1 in in Richard Morgan's fantasy series A Land Fit for Heroes, I knew I found something that would forever live in the canon of grimdark. I did not review the second book, The Cold Commands, but I rated it 4/5 stars and thought it was good but lacking the intensity of the first. So The Dark Defiles had a lot to live up to. Sadly, this book did not live up to my expectations but it was not a bad book either.

Some of the magic of books 1 and 2 was just gone for me. This book was a lot longer and I felt needlessly so. It did not seem as tight, clear, and concise as previous installments. I felt at least 150 pages could easily have been cut. I felt it was a bit meandering, without direction. At times I was completely lost. Partly because of the style of jumping back and forth between characters and past and present.

The writing was still very good but looking at my bookmarks in his other books, I did not see much in this one that could rival his most wonderful passages in those. As in the last 2 books, there is an excellent blend of science fiction and fantasy and some very complex ideas are articulated and done well. There is a good deal about this world I did not understand, but it was due to the complexity of the subject, not the writing.

This book is full of lore and history, my favorite part of reading fantasy. I love backstory. This is one of the most unique and fascinating worlds I have ever come across and all the questions I had about previous books were answered in this book. A large portion of this book concerns itself with explaining the history of the races and gods and their interactions with one another. Loose ends were tied up and I enjoyed the ending. The book really moved quickly the last 200 pages plotwise.

Overall, a satisfying ending but somewhat underwhelming overall book in one of my favorite series. I don't see any reason one would read this book without having read the first 2. If you have read and enjoyed those, I believe you will enjoy this final book, especially if you are a patient, thoughtful reader, which I am not. If you have not read The Steel Remains (Book 1 in the series), I consider it essential and you should give it a try. Richard Morgan is no doubt one of the best current authors in science fiction and fantasy and I anxiously await his next project

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What's Happening Here at Grimdark Fantasy Reader

I would like to briefly update my readers as to the goings on at Grimdark Fantasy Reader. First, I do have a review of Richard Morgan's concluding A Land Fit For Heroes book called The Dark Defiles scheduled to drop in a few days. I have read but not reviewed several recent fantasy releases, among them M.C. Plank's Sword of the Bright Lady and Angus Watson's Age of Iron. I thought they were both well written and for a novice fantasy reader they should work wonderfully. Even for someone who has been in the genre, they both have a lot to offer, including good characterization, plot, magic, imagination. With that said, and for me personally, I was a bit bored. I think I have reached something of a crossroad in my reading. There are several authors, Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence, David Gemmell, Jeff Salyards, Scott Lynch, George Martin, Michael Moorcock, and a few others, who I am willing to read anything by. There are many others, who just don't work for me. Then there are the unknowns. It's true, I have been extremely impressed with numerous self published or new authors on major publishers. But, for all the ones that I have enjoyed, there have been at least 10 that I set aside. Not that there was necessarily anything wrong with them, and many deserve more acclaim than they have, but the last year and a half of immersion in fantasy has refined my tastes to a very specific type of book. Not only that, it is essential books I read are not just well written but that they must be writen at the highest literary level. Not every author can pull that off. In fact, very few can. Also, I don't like any type of political agenda in fantasy literature. Harold Bloom says "we must not pass a law that imposes upon fiction the burden of improving society." Furthermore, he says "it cannot be overstated that Hamlet has no creed, social or religious." If the author's selling point is overtly political, such as in this recent marketing statement I received in an email just today saying "both women use their stories to probe the politics of gender and inequality" I couldn't be less interested. And this is a real problem today, I innocently select a book that looks like a good read and out of nowhere the authors agenda bites me in the ass, usually either feminist or relativist (as in the Glen Cook novel (Black Company) I just finished and nearly gave up on him for good over) or sometimes with blatant radical egalitarian or "rights themes." I read fantasy for primarily aesthetic purposes and secondarily for purposes of learning about human nature and the grey shades that make us human and unless the author is a philosopher or classical scholar I don't care what they have to say about equality or gender. I'm not intrigued or interested in politics of gender or equality. If I have questions about these things, there are others I will consult, those giants who have stood the test of time. I've learned nothing about politics through modern fantasy and anyone who wants to learn about politics will be dangerously misled by searching modern fantasy or science fiction for it. If anything other than pleasure comes from reading in the genre, it's the awakening of the moral imagination.

That leads me to whats next for me and Grimdark Fantasy Reader. I anticipate at this point to continue the site, with perhaps 1-2 reviews a month, relying heavily on others reviews such as Bloody Cake NewsDrunken Dragon ReviewsBlackgateFantasy Faction, and a few others as a way of selecting what to read. Already, Bloody Cake News led me to what looks to be an excellent, book called Whispers of War by Sean Rodden. As for what I will be doing, during the next 5-10 years I plan to study what has been referred to as "The Western Canon" or "The Great Tradition." My formal education as well as my own studies in the last 10 years has familiarized me with the works of Plato, Homer, Aristotle, St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Nietzsche, and many more but I intend a systematic study of what they said, not what others said they said. To do that I will have to do my best to clear my mind of all the literary criticism I have read, both that which fit what I believe and that which doesn't. I deplore historicism, relativism, positivism, and all the other modern ism's used for interpreting literature and because of that I also must unlearn some of what I learned in college, mainly that "a forest is never just a forest" and "Little Red Riding Hood's cape was red to symbolize her first menstrual period." It's immensely sad to me how many people out there in these times of the "mass man" have never read these works and if they did they interpreted them by way of the above mentioned methods which is to lose the truth contained in the author's own words. Many people are trained nowadays, but few are truly educated. I want to be educated. And although I have a cursory understanding and familiarity with these works, I have a long way to go as a truth seeker. I'm currently in the research phase and have assembled all the texts I own and am writing lists and reading up on what I should study. The Canon is too large at this point to even consider a thorough study of every work so I have to be somewhat selective. I am in the process of narrowing my focus as well. Should it just be secular philosophy, or that alongside Christian philosophy? "How far back should I go" "Do I include novels" "Should I focus strictly on political philosophy or include moral philosophy?" These and a hundred other questions are what I am working on at this time.

A small part of my library

Lastly, I have read at least 10 five star books this year. It will be hard determining book of the year. There are still about 8-10 highly anticipated books coming out this year including The Whispering Swarm by Michael Moorcock, The City Stained Red by Sam Sykes, and The Thorn of Emberlain by Scott Lynch. Next year, there are sequels by Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence, Brian Stavely, Jon Sprunk, and Jeff Salyards. I still have to finish Robin Hobb's Farseer trilogy and James Barclay's Raven books. So there is still much to see at the site. As for my other studies, I may make a second blog since I won't put much on this site as it relates to Grimdark and fantasy. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Review of City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

City of StairsCity of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Writing 4.5/5
Imagination 5/5
Plot 5/5
Setting 5/5
Characters 4.5/5
My Overall Enjoyment (Not an average) 5/5

Goodreads description-

Years ago, the city of Bulikov wielded the powers of the Gods to conquer the world. But after its divine protectors were mysteriously killed, the conqueror has become the conquered; the city's proud history has been erased and censored, progress has left it behind, and it is just another colonial outpost of the world's new geopolitical power. Into this musty, backward city steps Shara Divani. Officially, the quiet mousy woman is just another lowly diplomat sent by Bulikov's oppressors. Unofficially, Shara is one of her country's most accomplished spymasters-dispatched to investigate the brutal murder of a seemingly harmless historian. As Shara pursues the mystery through the ever-shifting physical and political geography of the city, she begins to suspect that the beings who once protected Bulikov may not be as dead as they seem-and that her own abilities might be touched by the divine as well.

Only a few times a year does a book come along that just blows me away on every level. This is one of them. The other one this year was Unwrapped Sky by Rjurik Davidson, the only other book I have read this year that is comparable in terms of imagination and its urban setting. Yet, they are in other ways very different.

This is a lore and relic lovers dream. I'm a huge fan of both, Nearly all of my favorite series include deep lore and history as well as some sort of relic, a quest or some interesting uses of them. City of Stairs has some of the most unusual and interesting relics I have ever come across and there are pages and pages of them being talked about or more importantly used. I am dying to mention a few of my favorites but don't want to ruin the surprises. As for the lore, this book is basically one huge search for the truth about the world we find ourselves in. Through the eyes of our main character, a young genius, we learn how the things in the world came to be and it's extremely fascinating and as with the relics, wonderfully imagined and unique.  I tire of the whole Game of Thrones numerous alternating point of view characters so to read a story in a more traditional limited third person point of view is very refreshing and fun.

Something else I really enjoyed were the vignettes that began each chapter, each one from a history or diary which brought more depth to the world. Each one of them held my attention and increased my desire to further explore the world. They all seemed to connect with events going on in the subsequent chapter so I thought it was a very fun way for a reader to be part of the mystery.

A final aspect I enjoyed was the urban setting which was drawn vividly and realistically. It also had extremely fantastical elements, all which fit in beautifully to make this darkly atmospherical story one you could see in your mind and feel in your bones. It's not a pleasant world. It's a dark and dreary world where the humans live a meager existence, cut off from their history and past with little hope for the future. The ending was great, wrapping everything up and leaving room for a second book.

This took me a bit to get into to be honest. Probably a hundred pages. It was by no means bad or boring, I think it just took time to get sucked into a new, intricate world. The rest of the book was a slow read for me. I can read a 450 page book in a day, easy. This took me over a week. But I savored each day with this book. I read a few chapters a day and felt that was sufficient. I let it digest, thought about it, and anxiously waited to pick it back up. That's rare for me. Books I am not in to, I don't feel like picking back up. Books I love, I usually can't put down. With this book, I think I liked it so much that I knew if I didn't put it down, it would be over too soon. If Robert Jackson Bennett can deliver a second book as wonderful and fantastic as this, I'll be a lifelong fan. Highly recommended for everyone!

View all my reviews

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Under A Colder Sun (Khale the Wanderer #1)-by Greg James

Under A Colder Sun (Khale the Wanderer #1)-by Greg James

5 of 5 Stars

Writing 4.5/5
Imagination 5/5
Plot 4.5/5 Setting 4.5/5
Characters 4.5/5
My Overall Enjoyment (Not an average) 5/5

Blurb from Manderghast Press

Khale the Wanderer: dark warrior of legend, a reaver with a demon’s soul. King Alosse: ruler of Colm, willing to risk everything to save his city and its people. Princess Milanda: an innocent, kept pure since birth, unknowing of her fate. Neprokhodymh: the cursed city of sorcerers where Khale must make a sacrifice that will scar him for life, or fall into darkness forever.  

Right out of the gate, I have to say I loved this book. I thought it was tremendous. It had everything I love in a fantasy story. It's self published, which has the potential to cause some hesitance but I assure you this is a wonderfully written dark fantasy novel. This is not the author's first book, he has over a dozen others and I am anxious to start them.

The inspiration for this book comes from Robert E. Howard's Conan and Karl Edward Wagner's Kane. Not only did Greg James nail the tone and atmosphere of their style, I also saw some of Moorcock's Corum and Elric characters as well as Gemmell's Druss. I rank this with any of those stories as a favorite. 

Briefly mentioned already, the first thing that impressed me was how atmospheric this book was. I walked where Khale walked, felt what he felt, saw what he saw. This is a short book but it is packed with vivid descriptions and encompasses a huge world and although we get a nice glimpse of it here, you can see that there is much more going on here. We are fed deep and dark mysteries about the past as well as Khale's history, which is still a mystery to me, especially after reading the two very short stories included at the end. Khale is similar to Conan and Kane in that he is a badass but make no mistake, he is his own character, possibly more brutal than either. The world is harsh and cruel as are the characters and magics. There are horrific elements in the story which fit in so well in the setting he has created.

The plot never stopped advancing, there were no lulls in the action or unnecessary conversations for "character development." I never wanted the book to pick up the pace, or get to another scene or character. I was genuinely shocked multiple times by plot events and character deaths as well as their decisions. Being thrown way off from what I suspect is a highly pleasurable reading experience for me because it is so rare.

If Greg James continues to write such well-written and engaging stories, he should gain a large following. Based on this book, I can confidently say I will be picking up his next Khale the Wanderer book and hope he writes many. I think that will be easy to do as his style of writing leads to short but fulfilling and action packed sword and sorcery tales. It was a huge hit for this long time fan of the genre. Great introduction to a great series.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Review of A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin

A Dance with Dragons
by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Writing 5/5
Imagination 5/5
Plot 5/5
Setting 5/5
Characters 5/5

My Overall Enjoyment (Not an average) 5/5

I came late to the ASoIaF party, having read A Game of Thrones for the first time in 2013, but better late than never so they say. I have not previously reviewed any of these books and being the quintessential grimdark blog, it is time to remedy that. In my notes about A Game of Thrones I said it was "epic, multilayered, with great dialog, characters, plot, action scenes, suspense, and the writing is beautiful with moments of brilliance." About the second book, A Clash of Kings, I said "it's very dark, gritty, violent, unpredictable, bloody." Next up was A Storm of Swords, about which I noted  "almost everything about this book is amazing! Its really the largest scope and scale of fantasy I ever remember reading." I was hesitant to start A Feast for Crows because I heard a lot of negative things about it. But I was still excited and based on the first read first 3 books, George R.R. Martin could do no wrong in my eyes. At 350 pages I gave up. I read chapter summaries to prepare for book 5. About A Feast for Crows I said "compared the the first 3 books this was a huge disappointment. While it may be necessary for the overall story I just felt this was too long and there were way to many non-essential characters and places to keep track of and remember. Some of the main story pov's were just not interesting. There was too much dialog and beating around the bush. Not terrible but just not what I expected after the first 3 amazing books." I really felt the magic was lost. I was very nervous to start A Dance with Dragons. I am happy to say, I was not disappointed this time!

Everything to me about this book was solid. The pacing, history, magic, plot, writing, dialogue, and especially the increased character development. What stands out to me is that I was intrigued and captivated by almost every POV character in this story. Whenever I read multiple POV books, there are usually more characters I don't care about than that I do. So reading this, I was so blown away by the depth which I cared about the fates of so many characters.

There was also a humorous element I began noticing in this book. I don't recall much in the other books but perhaps I just didn't notice. It was really surprising and refreshing here mixed in with the horror and bleak atmosphere so pervasive throughout this book.

As mentioned above, I believe this is the most epic, ambitious fantasy story ever written, certainly that I have ever read. There are so many layers and so much depth to each layer that it is nearly overwhelming, but in a satisfying way. This is not a book you can read once and put it on the shelf. To grasp it as intended,  it needs multiple reads. At a bit over 1000 pages, it read more like 2000 to me. I had to read slowly and cautiously, paging back at times and consulting Wikis. But it never seemed like a chore and I never wanted it to be over.

There is nothing about this book I didn't like. I am dying for The Winds of Winter, book 6. There is so much going on plot-wise that I don't see any possible way book 6 won't be amazing, maybe the best of the series. If you haven't read this series, you need to begin it next.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Review of Half a King (Shattered Sea #1)-by Joe Abercrombie

4.5 of 5 stars

Writing 5/5
Imagination 4/5
Plot 4.5/5
Setting 5/5
Characters 4/5

My Overall Enjoyment (Not an average) 4.5/5

About the book from Goodreads

“I swore an oath to avenge the death of my father. I may be half a man, but I swore a whole oath.”

Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains, and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea. And he must do it all with only one good hand.
The deceived will become the deceiver.
Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge.
The betrayed will become the betrayer.
Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could.
Will the usurped become the usurper?
But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi finds his path may end as it began—in twists, and traps, and tragedy.
This is an excellent book! I compulsively read it and finished in two days. Not uncommon for me when I enjoy a book. Joe Abercrombie successfully enters the YA market but in no way does that diminish this as a book for all ages. It has a somewhat lighter feel than his other books and the main character is a young prince which is part of the appeal to a younger audience but it's still violent and and edgy, with a dark foreboding feeling throughout. The normal foul language is scaled way back as well.

One of the reasons I love reading an Abercrombie book is because of the witty and clever writing and Half a King does not disappoint. Beginning to end the writing is wonderful. The dialogue, descriptions, and narration are all laced through with his trademark dark humor and clever turns of phrase.

This is a fantasy world and it's done amazingly. I was especially interested in some of the world back-story, always something that fascinates me because I love new creation myths that authors build and this has a great one. There are some other very cool references to certain races and places in this book that left me wondering more about this world's origins but I won't spoil it for the reader. Magic was also completely or nearly non-existent and I do enjoy magic so that was a bit of a disappointment.  I do believe there will be some great mysteries unveiled in future books and hopefully magic is introduced.

As for plot, it was action packed and fast moving, and I expected nothing less. A few of the sequences were a bit boring and kind of standard to me, meaning I have read similar scenes many times, although not usually so well written. The ending was great and it sparked my interest for the next in the series. I thought it was wrapped up nicely, without any annoying cliffhangers.

I originally wanted to give this 4/5 stars but bumped it up to 4.5/5 while writing this because I really did like it. I just didn't love it. When I read The Blade Itself, I immediate put it on my "favorite of all time" bookshelf. But this one won't go there. Perhaps it is because the last two years I have developed a very specific taste in reading and I have read so many fantasy books that it really takes a certain style of book to get me to love it. Part of the reason is that it just wasn't brutal and dark enough for my taste although it has those elements. Also, I didn't really love any of the characters, even Nothing, who was the mysterious one here and probably my favorite. I still think about some of Abercrombie's First Law series characters, like my favorite Logen Ninefingers, also Rudd Threetrees, Glokta, Bayaz First of the Magi, and Shivers. For the person who reads 10-20 books in a year, I would recommend they make this one of them. It's a beautiful book. For the YA, who enjoys fantasy or even is hesitant to pick up a book, I heartily recommend this book to them as a must. For the fantasy lover who has been reading for many years, I also highly recommend this book. There's something for everyone in this book and objectively, it is one of the best books out this year.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A few words about Enemy of God (The Warlord Chronicles #2) by Bernard Cornwell

5 of 5 Stars

I love this book!  Therefore, I must say a few words about it. Growing up, I heard about the Knights of the Round Table, Camelot, The Sword in the Stone, Merlin, Guinevere, Arthur, Lancelot, and Tristan and Iseult but was not really too familiar with them or anything else about that time. Possibly because I am American, I have never really been into the whole Arthur mythos. It sounded like something I would like but just couldn't get into it. As a young adult, I made an attempt to read The Once and Future King but after a few chapters lost interest. I tried again a few years ago, same thing. I tried numerous other modern retellings but did not complete any of them. I continued to not really care about any of it. Then someone responded to one of my blog posts and mentioned that Bernard Cornwell wrote "a magnificent trilogy" about Arthur and it was recommended to him as a fan of A Song of Ice and Fire. Well, I was familiar with Cornwell and so I thought if his Arthur books was favorably compared to ASoIaF I should give it another try. I began researching, as I always do when I am interested in a book, and decided it might work for me.

I am a quick and impatient reader. I tell publishers and authors that I often choose to not finish a book because I no longer force myself to read books which don't interest me or connect for me whatever the reason. There is too much to read and I have to much to do to read something I don't enjoy. So that is why I thoroughly research a book before I purchase it, request it, or check it out from the library. One thing which I will put a book down for is lack of care about the characters. If I am reading a story, no matter how much action it has or how well written, if I don't care about the characters, for good or bad, I stop reading it. I normally know by 100 pages or so but I don't have a "rule". Once I realize I could care less what happens to a character or characters, I give the book a last chance, maybe 15-20 pages, to connect or I am done. And I probably stop a third of the books I meticulously pick out. I mention all this because this is one of the best character driven books I have ever come across. Someone said that this is the book they had been searching for their whole life, it was that good. I couldn't agree more!

In all my years of reading, I can't recall a book with so many great and memorable characters, except perhaps in classic literature. The characters were all very flawed, just as humans are. The apparent contradictions in their behaviors and what they said and then did reminded me of myself and every other person I have met. As did how they gave lip service to oaths and justice but then acted on their emotions. This is a dark, brutal, and tragic tale full of heroism, love, and romance with many more themes of revenge, justice, war, human nature, peace, and many more. There are many other layers in this story such as the battle between Druidism and Christianity and between the Britons and Saxons as well as all the political intrigue and treachery among the Britons. The history and lore is deep and dark, going back to the time of the Romans conquering the land. The magic was of a sort I can't really do justice to. It seemed so real yet foreign to what we generally think of as magic. There was a large cast of characters and an epic plot but because of the writing and wonderful development, I was never lost, never confused, and never bored all three of which generally happen to me from time to time in books with many characters and epic plots. I like books that are clever and the plot here was one clever idea after another, twisting and turning and doing what I never expected. Bernard Cornwells writing is top of the line. I generally don't care for descriptive writing but he brought this time period to life for me and I soaked in each city, town, castle, and temple he described as well as the character descriptions. The story was an emotional roller coaster as well, bringing you high with victories and justice and low with sorrow for the terrible tragedies that befall these characters.

The author mentions how he made this story his own, taking bits and pieces of the amazingly complex and convoluted Arthur legends. I have no idea how it holds up to the history of either the real or mythological Arthur. I don't care either. This is an amazing book, one of the best I have ever read. The Winter King, book 1, was an awesome book but this one was even better. This is historical fiction at its best. Even if you don't care for the Arthur legends, you should still read this as an awesome story.

I do love my country but what beautiful history does Britain have! I have to admit I am jealous. The United States has a history of a couple hundred years compared to Britain which has a couple thousand years of history. And this book brings to life that time about 1600 years ago.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Review of The White Towers (Rage of Kings #2) by Andy Remic

The White Towers (The Rage of Kings #2)The White Towers by Andy Remic
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Writing 4/5
Imagination 5/5
Plot 4/5
Setting 4/5
Characters 4/5
My Overall Enjoyment (Not an average) 4/5

About the book from Goodreads

Vagandrak is broken, and a new threat has arisen that threatens to defeat even the mighty Iron Wolves. 
The twisted, deviant Elf Rats have gathered in the toxic realm beyond the White Lion Mountains… swiftly they invade the troubled land of Vagandrak, killing for profit and pleasure. 
The now-disgraced Iron Wolves are the realm’s only hope, but there’s a problem: they’ve been sentenced to death by the insane King Yoon for the dark sorcery in their blood. 
In the mountains of Zalazar lie the White Towers, pillars of legend said to contain the Heart of the Elves. The Iron Wolves must journey north to steal the Heart, and purify the evil in the land, but the land belongs to the Elves – and they won’t give it up without a fight!

Andy Remic wows again with his second book in the Rage of kings series. This story takes place on a different front than the first book so here we see the Iron Wolves fighting the powers and forces of the Elf Rats. Action packed and as always with Remic the same brutal, violent, and dark style remains. Let it be known right away; if you are squeamish, don't like violence, cussing, or sex scenes don't pick this up. It is not for you. You will just write a negative review because you will not be able to see past that and experience what Remic has done with this book. If you can handle those things, and like brutal, dark fantasy, this is really an essential entry in the grimdark catalogue.

It is my estimation Andy Remic is writing some of the most imaginative fantasy today. Every other page I felt shocked, disgusted, or delighted with what he came up with next. I never tired of the story or characters. This was a fun book to read. It's not a huge investment in time or intellectual power either. And that's not to say it's not a well written or clever book. It is also a bit over 450 pages so it's not short by any means. It's to the point, in the style of old pulp fiction like Robert E. Howard's Conan books or Fritz Liebers Farhad and the Grey Mouser. Those authors have legions of fans and Andy Remic is just as good. I have not read a bad book by him. I am an impatient reader. If a book has needless dialogue that doesn't move the story along or cause me to care about a character, I quickly give up. I never experienced that in this book. Everything that happens or is talked about moves the story along or is important to know about the character.

The Iron Wolves are not nice. They typify the anti-hero. They have very troubled pasts. We learn about this little by little and it's really fun for me to see how they have become what they are. They have petty quarrels, jealousy's, and hatreds against each other and the world. They come across as very real. I have met people like each of these men and women who can't get past the events that shaped them. I really believe Andy Remic has an excellent understanding of psychology, and he uses it for character development.

If you enjoyed book 1, The iron Wolves, I think you will love this book. It can also be read as a standalone but since it picks up directly after the events of book 1, I advise you start with book 1. As mentioned, this is dark, brutal, violent fantasy with a pulp fantasy/sword and sorcery feel and it immediately reminded me of those wonderful books mentioned above and also Moorcock's Elric and Wagners's Kane. I highly recommend this book. 

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Review of Prince of Fools (The Red Queen's War #1) by Mark Lawrence

5/5 Stars

Writing 5/5
Imagination 4/5
Plot 4/5
Setting 4/5
Characters 5/5
Grimdark 3.5/5

My Overall Enjoyment 5/5

Humor 5/5

Goodreads book summary

The Red Queen is old but the kings of the Broken Empire dread her like no other. For all her reign, she has fought the long war, contested in secret, against the powers that stand behind nations, for higher stakes than land or gold. Her greatest weapon is The Silent Sister—unseen by most and unspoken of by all. 
The Red Queen’s grandson, Prince Jalan Kendeth—drinker, gambler, seducer of women—is one who can see The Silent Sister. Tenth in line for the throne and content with his role as a minor royal, he pretends that the hideous crone is not there. But war is coming. Witnesses claim an undead army is on the march, and the Red Queen has called on her family to defend the realm. Jal thinks it’s all a rumor—nothing that will affect him—but he is wrong. 
After escaping a death trap set by the Silent Sister, Jal finds his fate magically intertwined with a fierce Norse warrior. As the two undertake a journey across the Empire to undo the spell, encountering grave dangers, willing women, and an upstart prince named Jorg Ancrath along the way, Jalan gradually catches a glimmer of the truth: he and the Norseman are but pieces in a game, part of a series of moves in the long war—and the Red Queen controls the board.

After two months of looking at Prince of Fools (Mark Lawrence’s follow up to Emperor of Thorns and the final book in my favorite series of all time) in my ereader queue, it is finally gone. PoF was my number one anticipated novel of the year so I did not want to read it to soon and I like to savor my favorite authors books. Expectations are high; Mark Lawrence has many fanatical fans, myself included. Before PoF came out, I already thought him to be the best current writer in fantasy, or in any genre, and an amazing and provocative storyteller. Does PoF live up to his reputation and fans expectations? An emphatic and resounding YES! By all accounts PoF is an amazing, wonderful book. And there is a dog in the beginning named Pluto, my dogs name, and a great name for a dog!

First, who does not love vikings? I have been on a major viking reading theme and have probably read 30 or more books about them this year as well as following the excellent show, Vikings. In PoF, Jalen, also known as the Red Prince, ends up with a traveling companion who is a monster of a Viking named Snorri. Snorri is a total badass out for revenge for reasons revealed in the story. Jalan is of royalty and far down in the line of succession, and is very different than any main character I have come across, mainly he is a coward and a liar. The main characters, as well as the other minor characters, are brought brilliantly to life. Jalan could not be more different than Jorg (the "hero" of The Broken Empire series). As in the best books, the characters are believable and you want to see what happens to them. Often, I get halfway through a book and realize I just don’t care what happens to the characters or how the story ends up. This is definitely not a problem here. After each event or conversation, I anxiously want to see what happens next, not only in the story but to the characters. Neither Snorri or Jalan are particularly pleasant persons, yet there is a strong affinity with them. Having been so emotionally invested in the Broken Empire series, when Jalan and Snorri cross paths with some of the Brothers, as well as a certain young prince, I was astounded at what occurred.  I set the book down for several hours after that because it was so epic!

The Broken Empire was dark; very dark (some disagree). This is dark as well, but it is insanely humorous and definitely has a lighter feel. Jalan and Snorri’s witticisms and banter are hysterical. It had me laughing out loud multiple times and smiling untold times. Instead of the brutality featured in the Broken Empire, this book has humor. There is action, killing, and violence, done expertly and cleverly, but the humor is what jumps out for me.

The writing is expert. No other writer is as clever as Mark Lawrence. The dialogue and narration are both concise and succinct. There are aphorisms galore. I bookmarked more pages than I can count to go back and read (my free ereader doesn't allow highlighting so this is one book I need to get up a physical copy). I had the idea to insert them in this review but much of the pleasure of reading Mark Lawrence is coming across them in context so I will leave them for the reader to discover.

The plot is thoughtful and suspenseful and at times full of horror. There is magic of a mysterious type and it is very important to this story but not overpowering. We learn a lot about numerous new cities and towns as well as some lore and history of this post-apocalyptic world as Jalan and Snorri travel.  We also meet very interesting people throughout the journey and it is always fun to see what Mark dreams up next and what obstacles the characters will face.

With this book, Mark Lawrence shows he is one of the premier fantasy writers of this generation and of all time. I love the Broken Empire world and do not believe I would ever tire of it. No matter what Mark writes, I will be the first in line. But I do hope he continues in the Broken Empire with another series after this one. For now, I can not wait for book two. I recommend this without hesitation or qualification to everyone.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Review of Veil of the Deserters (Bloodsounders Arc #2) by Jeff Salyards

Veil of the Deserters
by Jeff Salyards
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Writing 4.5/5
Imagination 4/5
Plot 5/5
Setting 4.5/5
Characters 5/5

My Overall Enjoyment 5/5

Goodreads book summary
History, Family and Memory… these are the seeds of destruction.
 Bloodsounder's Arc continues as Captain Braylar Killcoin and his retinue continue to sow chaos amongst the political elite of Alespell. Braylar is still poisoned by the memories of those slain by his unholy flail Bloodsounder, and attempts to counter this sickness have proven ineffectual.
The Syldoonian Emperor Cynead has solidified his power base in unprecedented ways, and demands loyalty from all operatives. Braylar and company are recalled to the capital to swear fealty. Braylar must decide if he can trust his sister, Soffjian, with the secret that is killing him. She has powerful memory magics that might be able to save him from Bloodsounder’s effects, but she has political allegiances that are not his own. Arki and others in the company try to get Soffjian and Braylar to trust one another, but politics in the capital prove to be far more complicated and dangerous than even Killcoin could predict. 
Deposed emperor Thumarr plots to remove the repressive Cynead, and Braylar and his sister Soffjian lie at the heart of his plans. The distance between "favored shadow agent of the emperor" and "exiled traitor" is an unsurprisingly short road. But it is a road filled with blind twists and unexpected turns. Before the journey is over, Arki will chronicle the true intentions of Emperor Cynead and Soffjian. And old enemies in Alespell may prove to be surprising allies in a conflict no one could have foreseen.

This was an absolutely addicting journey, and some of the most fun reading I have had this year. This book surpasses the first Bloodsounder's Arc book, which was excellent and I gave 4.5 stars to, in terms of writing, depth, plot, and character and world building. Everything Jeff Salyard's did great in Scourge of the Betrayer, he does even better here.

I love Jeff Salyard's writing. It exudes atmosphere; I am able to enter into the world he has created and exist. The dialogue is among the best in fantasy. Each character has a unique voice and it was such a pleasure reading the different characters go back and forth. I usually prefer narration to dialogue when reading but this novel has really opened up a new world to me. I often skim dialogue and find it boring but the writer here really brought this group of soldiers to life. It was clever, funny, crass, and often over-the-top and there was always something interesting being said which kept me turning pages at stop lights, dinner, check-out lines, walking to my car, taking out the trash, etc.

These Syldoon soldiers are as tough and grim as any in fiction. The narrator, Arki, who is a scribe by trade, was less grim but had strong character development as well. I enjoyed every character in this book. There was never a time I wished a scene would end as is often the case for me and I will skim a particular character I don't really care about. Even in excellent books such as the ASoFaI series, there are numerous people I really don't care about. There is a decent amount of characters, perhaps 7 or 8, which play large parts. This strongly appeals to me as I do not like books with 30 or 50 or more minor characters as well as the 10 or 20 main characters and the book goes on for 1000 pages. Recently, I gave up on 2 very famous books because there were just hundreds of characters and I felt I needed to keep notes or constantly consult a Wiki. I do not like that and my patience wears thin with that. In no way am I implying this book does not have depth because it does. It is just very, very focused. In 450 or so pages, Jeff Salyards is able to create a world and characters as rich as any secondary fantasy world.

The first book, Scourge of the Betrayer, had some solid world building and I mentioned in my review the author dropped hints of a much larger world to explore. And I was right in a major way! This book is loaded with relevant history and journeys to numerous locations around the region. We learn some of the major characters backstories, giving an added layer of depth to already great character development. We learn more about the religion in this world through numerous plot devices (I say "plot devices" because I don't want to give spoilers). We learn some history of the Godveil, which we almost knew nothing about after the first book. We get more information about Bloodsounder, Captain Braylar's flail. Magic enters much stronger in this book, a unique system involving memory magic, which is I loved learning about.

As for the plot, it was full of mystery and had me anticipating and guessing what would happen next and most of the time I was very surprised. The action scenes were written expertly and there were many types of warfare including sieges, ambushes, and shieldwalls. It felt like the writer was a veteran soldier of numerous campaigns. The pace was perfect, heavy on action and advanced quickly, with brief pauses in which to learn some needed history of the world or characters. There were no pointless parts in this book which seemed like a waste of time or just something to take up pages.

I can't recommend this book enough. Even if you did not read the first book in this series, this book can stand on its own. And if you did read the first book, you should be able to get right back into this world. Within 20 pages, it felt like no time passed between this book and the last one even though I have probably read 50 books since then. And if you do start with this book, you will surely want to read the first one because you will crave more of Braylar's adventures. I sometimes find it lazy to compare a book to another book in a review but it is inevitable here. It had a very similar feel to Joe Abercrombie's First Law books well as Glen Cook's Black Company series. If you are looking for something in that style, this is a must read series!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Review of Sworn in Steel (Tales of the Kin #2) by Douglas Hulick

Sworn in Steel by Douglas Hulick
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Writing 4/5
Imagination 4.5/5
Plot 3.5/5
Setting 4.5/5
Characters 4/5

My Overall Enjoyment 3.5/5

About the book from Goodreads

It’s been three months since Drothe killed a legend, burned down a portion of the imperial capital, and unexpectedly elevated himself into the ranks of the criminal elite. Now, as the newest Gray Prince in the underworld, he’s learning just how good he used to have it.
With barely the beginnings of an organization to his name, Drothe is already being called out by other Gray Princes. And to make matters worse, when one dies, all signs point to Drothe as wielding the knife. As members of the Kin begin choosing sides – mostly against him – for what looks to be another impending war, Drothe is approached by a man who not only has the solution to Drothe’s most pressing problem, but an offer of redemption. The only problem is the offer isn’t for him.
Now Drothe finds himself on the way to the Despotate of Djan, the empire’s long-standing enemy, with an offer to make and a price on his head. And the grains of sand in the hour glass are running out, fast...
A strong second book in the series Tales of the Kin, Sworn in Steel takes place shortly after the first book, Among Thieves. This book is on a lot of fantasy readers most anticipated 2014 lists as the first book was highly acclaimed by many, this writer included, and the ending of Among Thieves set up excellently for this book. We find our main character Drothe in a new area in this unique secondary world the author has created, and with that we meet many interesting underworld characters there while exploring this vast new area. I felt I got to know Drothe even more here, as well as Bronze Degan. We learn a great deal more about the Degans and their history, which was complex and compelling. This is really more of a story about that mysterious order than anything else although there were several layers to the plot. The nuances of the politics in this world are very detailed and put together with great precision. The narration is from the main characters POV and I learned I strongly prefer this style to the now very popular A Song of Ice and Fire's multiple POV's. I have read so many books in the past few years (and a LOT recently) with the multiple POV style that this was an excellent change of pace for me. The narration and dialogue are very well written, clever and funny.

This is a book with gritty characters who are bad guys. Thieves, assassins, crime bosses, murderers all abound. As in the first book, the details about the underworld and all its intricacies are expertly imagined. Reading this, you get the feeling that this is how the underworld actually works and it is easy to find yourself lost in all its violence and intrigue. Characters act in unexpected ways and the plot twisted and turned which kept me guessing what would happen next.

As far as books about thieves and underworlds go, this is clearly top of the line. There are a lot of books about thieves. The first series I recommend to people interested thieves is Tales of the Kin. I would recommend to readers considering this book, to read the first in the series, Among Thieves. I think the first book did a lot of setting up for this book and without having read that one, you will not get as much from this one. However if you read the first book, you will certainly enjoy this one. And the good news is that based on the ending, there will be another Tales of the Kin book and I can't wait!

It may be noticed I rated this book a bit lower than the first one. While objectively this is an excellent book, I can say I liked this book but I loved the first one. This one seemed a bit long and a bit drawn out for me. I remember one conversation that went on for many pages, like 20+. While I learned a lot from it, it seemed overly long and a bit complicated. This book is about 100 pages longer than the first and that may appeal to many readers but less is more for me. While there was some great action in this book, I also felt there were a few long stretches where not a lot happened and I was hoping the pace would pick up. Having said that, I can be an impatient reader so I maintain that this is an excellent book which should definitely be picked up by fantasy readers who like a little bit edgier and darker styled fantasy in the style of Scott Lynch, whose books this series is reminiscent of.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Review of Son of the Morning by Mark Alder

Son of the Morning by Mark Alder
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Writing 5/5
Imagination 5/5
Plot 5/5
Setting 5/5
Characters 4/5

My Overall Enjoyment 5/5

From Goodreads description

Edward the Third stands in the burnt ruin of an English church. He is beset on all sides. He needs a victory against the French to rescue his Kingship. Or he will die trying.
Philip of Valois can put 50,000 men in the field. He has sent his priests to summon the very Angels themselves to fight for France. Edward could call on God for aid but he is an usurper. What if God truly is on the side of the French?

But for a price, Edward could open the gates of Hell and take an unholy war to France . . .
Mark Alder has brought the epic fantasy of George R.R. Martin to the vivid historical adventure of Bernard Cornwell and has a created a fantasy that will sweep you to a new vision of the Hundred Years War.
Expertly written, highly detailed, and vividly imagined, this is an outstanding work of historical fiction/alternate history which pulled me in with its prose and story from page 1. Even at 700 pages, I did not feel it was too long, rather I was sad for it to end because I wanted more. For those that follow my reviews, you know I prefer books on the short side but this was so fun and so epic that I don't think it would have been the same shorter.

I did not plan on reviewing this however it was so good I want to say a few words about it. Being only very vaguely familiar with the time period in which the story takes place (The Hundred Years war from 1337-1453 between England and France), I wasn't overly interested in reading this. It was on my radar but until I saw Mark Lawrence mention how beautiful the prose was I still wasn't sold. Mark, my favorite author, has never let me down on a recommendation so I decided to move on this book sooner rather than later even though my TBR pile is insane right now. This is one of the best books this year, and probably in my top 10 of all time.

It takes the story of Christianity, of which I am a believer, and turns it on its head. I don't get the impression the author is malicious in his take on the history of Christianity but certainly there are some who would not be able to handle a work that so twists what they believe. For me, the story the author tells is incredibly thought provoking, causing me to think about religion, history, warfare, and philosophy in new ways.

Son of the Morning is overflowing with sorcerers and magicians, devils, demons, angels, fallen angels, imps as "familiars", saints, Watchers(Nephilim),and includes Satan, Lucifer, and God all interacting with a huge cast of priests, kings, queens, princes, mercenaries, generals and other characters from both France and England. Knights Templars and Hospitallers also make appearances and are very important to the story. Wildly imagined and often horrifying demons and devils are released from Hell as its doors are opened and closed using magic circles and relics from saints and angels. There are relics galore, all being fought over and searched for across the continents, and as I am a huge fan of relics this alone is a huge attraction to me. There is tons of political intrigue and warfare which includes a naval battle as well as sieges and ground warfare. The plot is complex and multi-layered and at times overwhelming to follow but well worth the effort.

I read this as more of a plot based book rather than a book focusing on getting to know the characters. The character building was very good and I enjoyed many of them. However, because of the constant action and introduction to new characters it just seemed like the plot and action was what fueled my obsession with this book (as well as the wonderful writing and imagination).

This is a dark book, set during a dark time. There are really no "good guys" and for me I did not know who to root for, which is a crazy feeling while reading. This is a time period of epic civil unrest and church dogma and its very fascinating to see how these elements play out on a large and small scale. Disease and violence are parts of everyday life and the writing brings us to that time. It was very atmospheric; I felt like I was there.

I have about 50 pages left in the book. I will be very sad when I finish and I don't know how another book will live up to the standard set here. But I felt that way before and I have some great looking books coming up. No matter how this ends, I can't wait to go back to this series and I pray that the next is released soon. This book comes with the highest possible recommendation. I just don't see how someone could not like this book. It's so unique and I have never read anything like it. If you are looking for a book to get lost in and unlike anything you have ever read, try this.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Review of The Shattered Crown (Steelhaven #2) by Richard Ford

The Shattered Crown
by Richard Ford
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Writing 4/5
Imagination 4/5
Plot 5/5
Setting 4/5
Characters 5/5

My Overall Enjoyment 5/5

From the Goodreads description

 The King is dead. His daughter, untested and alone, now wears the Steel Crown. And a vast horde is steadily carving a bloody road south, hell-bent on razing Steelhaven to the ground...or the city will fall.

Before the city faces the terror that approaches, it must crush the danger already lurking within its walls. But will the cost of victory be as devastating as that of defeat?

"Many more deaths." is how this second book in the Steelhaven series ends, and how appropriate for a book that makes you crave to find out more about it's excellent cast of characters. This is one of the best books I have read this year, and one of the best in the grimdark genre. The author accomplishes more in 400 pages than many do in twice as many. Richard Ford has become one of my favorite authors with this book. It is cleanly written, no unnecessary details, everything moves the stories or ads something to the character which helps the reader to know them better.

This book starts off great as opposed to the first one, Herald of the Storm, which took about 100 pages to take off and really hook me. From the get go in this book I was hooked, flying through, neglecting other much better known books, and when I was reading those, I thought about this book and the characters I loved, which were most of them. Before I knew it, there were 75 pages left and I realized everything has been building up for a magnificent and glorious ending in book 3. And for that, I'm glad. This book built and built, plots were hatched, major people were killed, revenge was enacted, people were reunited and betrayed. Good guys were bad, bad guys were good, much was pleasantly surprising and equally upsetting. 

This is a dark and violent world, with a lot of anti-heros, and it most reminds me of A Song of Ice and Fire  (A Game of Thrones) and even though grimdark fans will love it, it also has major crossover appeal to readers who enjoy that book. It's not senselessly brutal or violent, it's expertly written, with a bit more than a touch of magic but not overpowering as in traditional epic fantasy, there is a decent size cast of characters but not needlessly huge with tons of minor characters which is distracting to me, and even if a reader doesn't enjoy all the characters POVs as I do, they are all unique and include an elderly magus, a teenage girl in an underworld guild called Rag, several mercenaries, a queen, her elite bodyguards, a middle age ex-warrior named Nobul Jacks, the 7 foot tall Regulus Gor,whose tribe of warriors fight with teeth and claws as well as swords, the Father of Killers and his sons River and Forest, and several others. The fact I can remember all of these characters without any notes is testament to the power of this story. There are only a few other books I have read that I connected so well with and remembered so much about the story and characters. If real estate and fishing are about "location location location" then fantasy is "characters characters characters" and The Shattered Crown does a stellar job. 

I can't recommend this book highly enough. If I have to recommend a fantasy series from the past two years, this is in the top 10. This series is objectively as good, if not better than ASoIaF and I actually prefer it. More action, less confusing, quicker pace, less minor characters, and less politicking. Basically, everything I like in that series minus the things I didn't.  I could see the sword and sorcery influences as well as David Gemmell , one of my favorite authors. If you are looking for something new, try this series. Start with book 1, Herald of the Storm because this book builds on that story. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Review of White Wolf (Drenai #10) by David Gemmell

White Wolf (Drenai Saga, #10)
by David Gemmell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Writing 4/5
Imagination 3.5/5
Plot 4/5
Setting 3.5/5
Characters 4/5
Grimdark 5/5

My Overall Enjoyment 5/5

Once again, I would like to sing the praises of David Gemmell. This book, the tenth in his Drenai series, is possibly my favorite or at least tied with 2 others in the series,Waylander and Legend. The main character, Skilgannon, is a young priest and former general on the run from the Witch Queen. He is responsible for horrible atrocities in the past in the name of the Witch Queen, who was also his former lover. Druss, the main character in several other Drenai books also returns here. Skilgannon is searching for the Temple of the Resurrectionists and Druss is seeking his friend Orastes and they journey together along with some other minor characters and meet more on the way. It is an action packed thrill ride interspersed with lots of moral philosophy. There is some sorcery, powerful but with a light touch.

Skilgannon is one of my favorite characters in fantasy and Gemmell builds him expertly, mixing his current thoughts and feelings about his situation with flashbacks to his past which helps us connect better with him. While I will never be a master swordsman or a deadly warrior and I have never committed atrocities on a large scale, I still empathize with him as a person who has many regrets and failings but is searching for a way to overcome them and become a better person. Druss of course is similar but has his own distinct nuances and characteristics.

The world the Drenai books are set in are brutal and dark but not hopeless. There are a lot of races along with different beasts and many locations which have been explored in the past ten books. I really love exploring this world and while it is not the best world building in all of fantasy, it is very good. Gemmell writes succinctly yet he makes this world come alive to me.

My favorite parts in Gemmell's writing are the little phrases or paragraphs which are woven in throughout and speak about different concepts like heroes, good and evil, the condition of man, love, revenge, hate, etc. Following are just a few of my favorites from White Wolf but all of his books include these little phrases.

'How simple love would be, Younger Brother, if we only had to bestow it on those who deserved it. Yet what would it be worth? If you gave a poor man a silver coin then that would be a gift. If you expected him to pay you back, then that would make it a loan. We do not loan our love, Lantern. We give it freely.'
'Scholars tend to overcomplicate matters,’ said Skilgannon. ‘If a man runs at you with a sword it would be foolish to spend time wondering what led him to such action. Was his childhood scarred by a cruel father? Did his wife leave him for another man? Was he perhaps misinformed about your intentions, and therefore has attacked you in error?’ He laughed. ‘Warriors need black and white, Elder Brother. Shades of grey would kill them.'
'There’s nothing to be frightened of, laddie. We live. We die. A wise man once told me that one day even the sun will fade, and all will be darkness. Everything dies. Death isn’t important. What counts is how you live.'
'And I’m not wise, Rabalyn. Had I been wise I would have stayed home with the woman I loved. I’d have farmed and planted trees. I’d have raised cattle, and sold them at market. Instead I found wars and battles to fight. Old and wise? I’ve met wise men who were young, and stupid men who were old. I’ve met good men who did evil things, and evil men who tried to do good. It’s all beyond my understanding.'
'No. I regret that. Though I have to say that I get tense around the very young. The screaming and the squalling grates on me. I’m not a great lover of noise. Or people, come to that. They irritate me.'
'You remind me of Sieben. He loved these debates, and would twist words and ideas round and round until everything I believed in sounded like the grandest nonsense. He should have been a politician. I would say that evil should always be countered. He would say: "Ah, but what is evil for one man may be good for another." I remember once we watched the execution of a murderer. He maintained that in killing the man we were committing an evil as great as his. He said that perhaps the killer might have one day sired a child, who would be great and good, and change the world for the better. In killing him we might have robbed the world of a saviour.’ ‘Perhaps he was right,’ said Diagoras. ‘Perhaps he was. But if we followed that philosophy completely we would never punish anyone, for any crime. You could argue that to lock the killer away, rather than hanging him, might prevent him meeting the woman who would have given birth to that child. So what do we do? Free him? No. A man who wilfully takes the life of another forfeits his own life. Anything less makes a mockery of justice. I always enjoyed listening to Sieben ranting and railing against the ways of the world. He could make you think black was white, night was day, sweet was sour. It was good entertainment. But that is all it was. Would I deceive an enemy? Yes. Would I deceive a friend? No. How do I justify this? I don’t.'
When he spoke it was as if he was reciting a prayer. The words hung in the air. ‘Never violate a woman, nor harm a child. Do not lie, cheat or steal. These things are for lesser men. Protect the weak against the evil strong. And never allow thoughts of gain to lead you into the pursuit of evil.’

I quote these to give a sample of the themes which run through Gemmell's books. These ideas, as well as others, are all explored throughout the story. This type of philosophy is highly relatable to every reader as these are all things which people ask or wonder. There are many more good ones but it would be impossible to put them all here and that's a big part of why I love to read these books never knowing what he will touch on next.

If you are looking for something great, check out this book and any other Gemmell books. If you like to think and enjoy realistic darker themed fantasy, this is a must read book.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

My Month in Reading and Upcoming Reviews

I have been much less active on my blog the past month due to a job change. Prior to my new job, I was working part time so I was pounding out reviews and reading several books each week. Not surprisingly, working full time has cut my output down drastically and it has been 1 month since my last post, when I reviewed the excellent book The Barrow, by Mark Smylie. So here's what I have been reading the past month as well as what I have coming up.

I gave 3 stars to Traitor's Blade by Sebastien de Castell and The Boy with the Porcelain Blade by Den Patrick, both highly anticipated releases. Neither were bad books; rather, I think they would work for a lot of people and were well written and well imagined. Also tried again was John Gwynn's acclaimed debut and David Gemmell Morningstar award winner Malice. I read about half of it and there were parts I loved but there were too many characters for me and it just seemed slow. As with Traitor's Blade and The Boy with the Porcelain Blade, Malice should appeal to fantasy readers and it has a ton to offer in an immersive and fascinating world. I think I have reached or nearly reached my personal limit for new fantasy. Any of these three books I would most likely have loved if I read them a few years ago. But currently I am in the middle of at least 60 (a conservative estimate) series and I think that until I catch up, I should pass on most completely new worlds unless they are grimdark.

I received a review copy of  Brandon Sanderson's second book in The Stormlight Archive, Words of Radiance, and after about 300 pages I stopped. The first book, The Way of Kings, is one of my all time favorites and I am unclear as to why Words of Radiance didn't work for me. I had a bit of trouble reconnecting with the characters and I was just kind of lost, not particularly caring about any of the characters. It is a monster of a book and the scope is about the largest I have come across. Maybe after so much reading the past year I am a different reader and my tastes are refined to a specific genre.  I will either reread book 1 and then try book 2 again or I will just retry book 2 when I'm more caught up.

I read some excellent historical fiction, Blood Eye by Giles Kristian and The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell. Both were brutal, violent, action packed sagas and I can't wait to read the follow-ups already released. Also read was another Viking book, which I consider historical fantasy, which was Wolfsangel by M.D. Lachlan and it was a good book but I felt it was unsteady and a bit confusing. I plan to try the next one. A lot of people have enjoyed that series. I also read two books by Glenn Thater, The Gateway and The Fallen Angle, both in the Harbinger of Doom series, which are more fantasy but also with Vikings, and while they are not well known, they are very grimdark and I had a blast reading them! I highly recommend them if you enjoy Vikings fantasy. Book three, Knight Eternal, is supposed to be the best in the series I will pick it up soon.

I read two more excellent David Gemmell books, one was in the Drenai series book 9 called Hero in the Shadows and the other was Jon Shannow book 2, The Last Guardian, and I loved them both. If you haven't read Gemmell, start now! He is one of the best.

Veil of the Deserters (Bloodsounder's Arc, #2)
Jeff Salyards Bloodsounder's Arc book 2 comes out June 3, called Veil of the Deserters. I read it. I loved it! If you haven't read his first book, Scourge of the Betrayer, read it now. Review is set for release day. I also read The White Towers, by Andy Remic, book 2 in The Rage of Kings series. he never disappoints and he doesn't here. Review set for June17 when it comes out.

I have ARC's of the following; Half a King, a new series by Joe Abercrombie; Prince of Fools, book 1 in a new series by my favorite author Mark Lawrence; The Incorruptibles, by John Horner Jacobs, a book reviewed by Mark Lawrence and it looks like the kind of book I will love featuring a band of mercenaries; and Sworn in Steel, book 2 in the Tales of the Kin series by Douglas Hulick which comes out May 6. The others come out in June so watch for those reviews.

In between these books I will continue reading Gemmell books, reread Mark Lawrence's Broken Empire series, read Red Country and The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie, try Armageddon Bound by Tim Marquitz and No Return by Zachary Jernigan, and get back to The Dark Tower series by Stephen King.