Author Interview – Angus Watson

A recent interview I completed with Age of Iron author Angus Watson.

http://www.fantasybookreview.co.uk/interview/2015/angus-watson/

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Book Review – The Skull Throne by Peter V. Brett

My review of The Skull Throne by Peter V. Brett 7/10

http://www.fantasybookreview.co.uk/Peter-V-Brett/The-Skull-Throne.html

To start with I want everyone to bear in mind that The Warded Man and The Desert Spear were and are great books. They have a texture, colour and vitality that entranced me in a new world so completely, I rushed through both installments in a matter of days after purchasing them. However, The Daylight War was a dilemma for me, it was a lackluster edition to the series that centered too much on certain characters that I could neither like or dislike, but only offer an irritated ambivalence towards. The Daylight War felt more like a pale recurrence in theme from the previous two books, the result of which I found it hard to commit to the story. I struggled through three quarters of the book before I really could find the joy in its reading, something that I had found in the previous two installments easily.

So it was with apprehension and anticipation I awaited The Skull Throne release, hoping and longing for a return to the feel of the first two novels. Unfortunately, while I could not fault Peter in his writing skills, composition and imaginative flare The Skull Throne has fallen into the same routine The Daylight War succumbed to, a sidestepping of the focal point from the characters we (or just me) wish to read about, too spotlighting supporting plots and narratives at the detriment of the main ones. Do not get me wrong Leesha, Inevera, Renna, Roger and others are integral and solid elements of the story, with strong and vibrant personalities, written by an author with mastery of the craft, but they do not need their own novels.

What we wanted was Arlen and subsequently Jardir, what we received was a book outlining a dramatic and complex story involving people surviving without their savior and struggling to come to terms with their apparent deaths, which is all and good, –Spolier — but Arlen and Jardir aren’t dead, so why leave them out of the novel for the most part, when it’s these too dynamic characters people want to read about.

This leaves us with an issue, there is only one book left in the series and this approach really only works if one, the series continues on after the fifth and final instalment and two, you actually kill Arlen and Jardir, which will be needed I feel to close off the series and justify the point of the secondary characters getting their own novels in the first place.

The focus on side stories and secondary characters across a series is a great addition to any plot, it highlights and elevates, and there are great examples of these, Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time or Raymond E Feist’s Riftware Cycle. These authors took us away from the main protagonist time and time again, detailing the exploits of others, but the one thing they always remembered to do was to return to the main character/s, the one true constant in the story and the reason we read a novel in the first place. Ultimately, I feel this is where the story falls down. The Daylight War and The Skull Throne blend together into a one moderately paced story, not really reaching its full potential, a potential I feel was simmering just under the surface.

If I had a wish, I think these last two books would have been better suited to a single volume. There are key elements from each of these stories which are excellent. The strength of the people of the Hollow, the dispute for the Skull Throne and the guile and intelligence of Abban. Roger while getting a good showing needed more page time, but maybe that’s because I like the character. Inevera, well, I could have done without her as a main or secondary character. I would be happier reading a four book series rather than a five if we could have just had more Arlen and Jardir.

The Skull Throne is a beautifully written story set in a world with complex and varied themes and people, but the contour of the story is not true to the first books in the series with the consequence being a lesser story is presented to its reader.

For the mastery of his writing style I give this novel 5/5, for the story offered I can only give 2/5.

For even more reviews, author interviews and biographies, check out the site Fantasy Book Review.

Book Review – The Vagrant by Peter Newman

My review of The Vagrant by Peter Newman 8/10

http://www.fantasybookreview.co.uk/Peter-Newman/The-Vagrant.html

The Vagrant is his name. He has no other. Years have passed since humanity’s destruction emerged from the Breach. Friendless and alone he walks across a desolate, war-torn landscape. As each day passes the world tumbles further into depravity, bent and twisted by the new order, corrupted by the Usurper, the enemy, and his infernal horde. His purpose is to reach the Shining City, last bastion of the human race, and deliver the only weapon that may make a difference in the ongoing war. What little hope remains is dying. Abandoned by its leader, The Seven, and its heroes, The Seraph Knights, the last defences of a once great civilisation are crumbling into dust. But the Shining City is far away and the world is a very dangerous place.

To my good fortune, I was lucky enough to be given an ARC of The Vagrant by the good people of Pulp Fiction Books, Brisbane (thanks to Ron, Iain and Beau). I had first seen the book when I was checking out the 2015 releases, placing it on my to-read list for the year. Thankfully I did not have to wait too long.

The story follows the travels and experiences of a character called the Vagrant, who is unable or unwilling to speak, which does set an interesting viewpoint for the reader. This is the first time I have read a novel in which the hero is mute and while this was mostly enjoyable, I would have liked a little more expression and movement while he was interacting with his world

*** Spoiler ***

This inability to speak is a relatively new event to the Vagrant, and I believe the character would have benefited from more unspoken (yes a pun!) frustration, as he tries to express himself fully to others. There were moments of irritation and aggravation but they were never fully expanded out and so didn’t last long enough for my tastes.

*** Spoiler End ***

The Vagrant has a well-established sense of purpose, moral code and an unerring conviction which singles him out as a sad flickering light in a sea of hopelessness and darkness that has tainted the Southern lands and its people. Hope and a belief in protecting his ward are the major factors that shape his choices, both good as well as bad, and these are what endear the character to the reader.

One of my favourite flights of fancy in the Vagrant was the diversity of the Demon forms after their emergence, corruption and mutation of the human hosts both alive and dead. Newman has written the Demons with colour and flare, conjuring images of the twisted monstrosities and creatures from your worst – and best – dreams. The description of the first Demons we are introduced to is strong, vivid and still remains imbedded in my imagination. A man shaped creature topped with the head twisted into the form of a giant clam. A fly buzzes along a dirty corridor, in a broken palace. The Clam face splits and the fly lands in its open maw, tasting its blood the Clam man has received its hidden message.

The one weakness I did have was the Demons did not come across as frightening or fearsome as they had more of a freakish and deformed feel but maybe that was the point.

*** Spoiler ***

Demons do not have a true form but are required to highjack bodies to survive.

*** Spoiler End ***

This body-jacking was an element of the story that I found very interesting and a step-away from the traditional depictions of demons. In one aspect this idea is straightforward in its use but I also think this may lead to something more.

I get a feeling that the Demons are running from something because it doesn’t feel like they are running towards anything. They feel more like refugees than invading army but I could be completely off here. The flow on effect of this thought was at times (to me anyway) there was a humanisation of the Demons, their desire for individuality and autonomy was very prevalent and in a somewhat abstract thought – could this then be seen as a universal desire or just something leached from the human host?

There is a truism in the reading of the Vagrant, that people are the same regardless of whether they are Demon tainted or not, that they will survive by any means and resist even when the idea of hope is just that – a dream long forgotten, secreted away within their heart. Why are these concepts true? Because we are human and Newman has captured this attitude and portrayed it well. The struggle to survive and the will of humankind to keep going anyway it can is a strong theme in the story.

One negative I did have was that I found the story to be a little swift in its timing and progression. The Vagrant has a desire to help people, which correspondingly spark a hidden flame for people to help him, but as he moves forward with friends, villains and Demons these experiences come across as rushed. I believe I understand Newman’s premise to keep moving forward in the story but I wish there could have been time to savour the moment, to feel the pains and losses.

*** Spoiler ***

One specific instance of this was the befriending of Harm, a minor tainted human who decides to follow and speak for the Vagrant. The explanation given for Harm’s (who at best can be called a natural survivor) faith in the Vagrant reads without depth and conviction, coming across as unbelievable. However, by placing myself in the mind frame of a person trying to survive in a world polluted and perverted, and then finding an individual who still holds true to a certain code and honour, I can see the edges of this devotion for the character.

*** Spoiler End ***

The Vagrant not just provides a progressive march forward, we are also provided a view of the past as every few chapters we are given a window into the events leading up to the Demon invasion, its results and the personal history of the Vagrant. Normally, I would say flashbacks can detract from the story but Newman has provided them sparingly and with content which is relevant. I would estimate a fifth of the book concerns these flashbacks, giving a just the right amount of information to keep us interested but could easily contain more without feeling too overloaded.

For even more reviews, author interviews and biographies, check out the site Fantasy Book Review.

Read Today/Review – Shadow Stalker Part 1 – (Episodes 1 – 6) by Renee Scattergood

Happy Release Day

Synopsis

Auren learns that she is destined to enslave the people of her world, and Drevin, emperor of the Galvadi Empire is determined to end her life before it happens. Her foster father, Kado, has sworn to protect her and trains her as a shadow stalker. But her training is cut short, when their people are overrun by the Galvadi Empire. Now she has to find a way to help her people without succumbing to the prophecy.

The Shadow Stalker episodes to date has been a very enjoyable series to read.  The story concept is sound and covers all the bases for a good fantasy novel.  There is the unknown and unsure hero Auren, the teacher Kado and the the great enemy the Galvadi Empire.

The characters are well written and with good personality, with an easy flow to the events in the story which draws the reader in.  Renee has provided a strong layer of emotions and conflict between Kado and Auren as the true is initially revealed, which grows into a determined resolve and a deepening of ties between the pair.

As the story progresses many trues, both pleasant and raw cause Auren to question the meaning of her existence, but she remains true to her feelings. It’s always good to read a character that is self discovering, learning but knows what the right path is.

Some lessons can only be learned the hard way, some paths must walk in the shadow.

If your a fan of good fantasy, that is well written with a good story, pick up a copy of  Shadow Stalker Part 1.

You can purchase Paperback and eBook.

Paperback

Createspace

Ebook

Amazon Kindle
Smashwords

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Game – Fantasy Book Title Anagrams – The Questions

Anagram Over the last week or so I have been tweeting out some Fantasy Book Title Anagrams for fun. I plan to collate these together in this post. If you feel like it have a try, answer in the next post.

  1.  Anagram: ‘Make Sing’
    • Clue: ‘Surface Sport’
  2.  Anagram: ‘Graven That’
    • Clue: ‘Homeless’
  3.  Anagram: ‘Morale Of Mighty’
    • Clue: ‘Recall the Sun’
  4. Anagram: ‘Tweet Worth So’
    • Clue: ‘Tall Twins’
  5. Anagram: ‘Enter Hulk Sloth’
    • Clue: ‘Bone Chair’
  6. Anagram: ‘Handing Tea North’
    • Clue: ‘What comes after the first thing’
  7. Anagram: “Gamin Monkey’
    • Clue: ‘Hand Over Monkey Fist’

Go to answers.

Daredevil TV Series Episode 1 – Quick Review

Daredevil-Netflix-LogoWhile I review fantasy books I do not usually review or comment on TV series or Movies, but after watching the first episode of the Daredevil TV adaptation I must say I was greatly impressed.

I went in with some misgivings, specifically after Affleck’s attempt, as well as the general idea that an enhanced super hearing allows DD to be a contender to fight crime and survive past the first punch or bullet.  Putting aside the issue I had with the character,  this show is the redemption that DD desired and needed.  It was dark, gritty and violent.   It is what Arrow was aiming for in its first season (and mostly achieved) but lost when super humans tuned up in later seasons.

The casting for DD is well placed, the actor is not some hulking ripped God, but more a mild manner Spiderman riddled with inner demons.  A lot of the focus is on the Karen Page character and DD with only supporting roles for the rest of the bad guys and Foggy.  I liked this focus, it was a good choice of the opening of the series.

If you have been skeptical to date I completely understand your rationale, but if nothing else give the first episode a watch and I think you will be converted.

9/10

Book Review – The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

My review of The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman 9/10

http://www.fantasybookreview.co.uk/Genevieve-Cogman/The-Invisible-Library.html

The Library strides diverse and myriad universes and realities, its sole purpose, to collect and preserve books, unique to that realm and world for future prosperity.

Irene, seasoned collector, spy and renaissance women for the Library, is given the order to safeguard an uncommon book from a pseudo-London, inhabited by Vampire, Werewolves and Fae.

Along for the journey is Kai, a librarian in training and a man with his own secrets. Death, danger and chaos soon ensue as things don’t go as planned.

The Invisible Library is what I like to call a joyful little Sunday read, one of those books that I can pick up with my morning coffee and read in a single day as the Sun shines (or if you’re in the UK, the rain falls) and its ok to sit in your pyjamas all day.

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Book Review – Hidden by Benedict Jacka

My review of Hidden by Benedict Jacka 6/10

http://www.fantasybookreview.co.uk/Benedict-Jacka/Hidden.html

Do you stop caring for the people in your life when they don’t want anything to do with you? Angry and declaring Alex a monster, Sonder and Anne cannot see past the difficult choices Alex had to make in his past when there were no good ones left. The world is not as simple as black and white, but layers of grey, complex and twisting.

When Anne goes missing, and whether she still thinks they are friends or not, Alex will do whatever it takes to find and rescue her, but enemies old, new and some long buried resurface along the way, terrifying Alex to his core.

It’s a great view from up here on my pedestal, as they say. My glibness comes from the view that I really cannot appreciate the reasoning for this particular addition to the Alex Verus universe.

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