Tuesday, 17 October 2017

TV TIE IN SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Electric Dreams - Philip K Dick

Release Date: 14/09/17
Publisher: Gollancz

SYNOPSIS:

Based on the stories contained in this volume, the ten-part anthology series, Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams is written and executive produced by Emmy-nominated Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica, Outlander) and Michael Dinner (Justified, Masters of Sex), with Oscar nominated Bryan Cranston (Trumbo, Breaking Bad) both executive producing and appearing in the series.

Each episode will be a sharp, thrilling standalone drama adapted and contemporised for global audiences by a creative team of British and American writers. The series will both illustrate Philip K. Dick's prophetic vision and celebrate the enduring appeal of the prized Sci-Fi novelist's work. Other guest stars include Janelle Morae, Anna paquin, Timothy Spall and Benedict Wong.

The ten stories included are:

THE HANGING STANGER, THE COMMUTER, THE FATHER-THING, EXHIBIT PIECE, IMPOSSIBLE PLANET, SALES PITCH, FOSTER YOU'RE DEAD, THE HOOD MAKER, HOLY QUARREL, IF THERE WERE NO BENNY CEMOLI, AUTOFAC and HUMAN IS


REVIEW:

A compendium of Philip's tales that helped inspire the new Channel Four TV series. As you'd expect they're full of observations, accompanied by witty interpretations and for a new reader, is a great way in the mind as well as worlds of the author.

Back this up with solid prose, a good understanding of the human condition and a tale that asks more questions of the reader than it answers, all round goes to show why this author is held in such high esteem by many readers. Cracking.

TV TIE IN POETRY BOOK REVIEW: Doctor Who: Now we are Six Hundred - James Goss

Release Date: 14/09/17
Publisher: Harper Design

SYNOPSIS:

With illustrations by Russell T Davies, original showrunner of the new-era Doctor Who, the first ever Doctor Who poetry collection--a charming, funny and whimsical illustrated collection of verse that celebrates the joys and pitfalls of getting older . . . Time-Lord older.

Like many of us, the older they get, the more Time Lords realize how little they understand the universe around them. This delightful collection of poems--the first volume of Doctor Who verse published--offers moments of insight, wit, and reassurance for the maturing inhabitants of Gallifrey (and everywhere else), including such delights as:

THE END

When I was One

I was not much fun

When I was Two

I was barely through

When I was Three

I liked strong tea

When I was Four

I hated a bore

When I was Five

I was really alive

When I was Six

I somehow could never quite fit in to what was expected of me, well, not exactly but that was because things weren't neat and there are no easy rhymes in the universe and scansion, my dear Peri, is a thing that's really overrated and you only have to look at a sunset to realise that creation itself is a poem and oh no wait, got it, of course, Fix! The line needed to end with Fix!

(Or tricks. That's works too.)

When I was Seven

I sent the gods to Heaven

When I was Eight

Kissing was great

When I was Nine

I had forgotten time

When I was Ten

I began again

When I was Eleven

I totally got even

When I was Twelve, I became as clever as clever

And now I think I'll be Twelve for ever and ever*

(*Unless, of course, there is a terrible catastrophe involving explosions, radiation, or heights. And then I guess we'll find out what comes next. But the eyebrows won't be as good.)


REVIEW:

A poetry book based on Dr Who and one that is a bit of a weird book for me as I don't often sit down and read this type of thing. Its a book that for me is designed purely for the fans as an addition to thier collections and whilst its OK, its nothing that really stands out and to a certain degree feels like a cash in. Don't get me wrong, for the fan there are some good pieces in there, but overall, I don't thing it's a book that'll be read over and over again.

Monday, 16 October 2017

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Sweet Dreams - Tricia Sullivan

Release Date: 21/09/17
Publisher: Gollancz

SYNOPSIS:

Charlie is a dreamhacker, able to enter your dreams and mould their direction. Forget that recurring nightmare about being naked at an exam - Charlie will step in to your dream, bring you a dressing gown and give you the answers. As far as she knows, she's the only person who can do this. Unfortunately, her power comes with one drawback - Charlie also has narcolepsy, and may fall asleep at the most inopportune moment.

But in London 2022, her skill is in demand. And when she is hired by a minor celebrity - who also happens to be the new girlfriend of Charlie's lamented ex - who dreams of a masked Creeper then sleepwalks off a tall building, Charlie begins to realise that someone else might be able to invade dreams...


REVIEW:

A story that I've been looking forward to for some time as I remember reading the synopsis in the Orion catalogue and thought wow, so much so, that I made a note on my calendar to keep an eye out for it. What was delivered wa a kick ass story that I loved. It was novel, it had a character I loved to spend time with and whilst she had a great many of her own problems, the overall arc really delivered with a good understanding of pace alongside plot.

For me, a great story and one that I hope will generate other future outings for our heroine. Magical.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

THRILLER REVIEW: The One that Got Away - Annabel Kantaria

Release Date: 24/09/17
Publisher: HQ

SYNOPSIS:

Everyone has one. An ex you still think about. The one who makes you ask ‘what if’?

Fifteen years have passed since Stella and George last saw each other. But something makes Stella click ‘yes’ to the invite to her school reunion.

There’s still a spark between them, and although their relationship ended badly, they begin an affair.

But once someone gets you back, sometimes they’re never going to let you go again…


REVIEW:

A book has to have a good few elements to make it work, firstly it has to have a solid story mixed with a good understanding of pace, it has to have full described characters to you fall in love with and care about and for me, it has to be delivered in such a way that whilst certain elements within may be fantastical, it has to be believable.

A book can to a certain degree get away with two out of the three, but for me, the cardinal sin and one that really makes a book a struggle for me, is when I can't stand the characters. After all, if I can't form a bond with them, why should I care about thier fates or what their own actions have wrought within the tale?

This is the problem with this book for me. Yes it has a good story arc, the pace is delightful and of course the twists and turns make it a car crash read as you wait to see what moves and counter-moves each of the principle players to do get their own way, however because they're so detestable, it was more a case of "Meh, why should I care about these two, they deserve each other."

All round, it is on a technical scale a solid offering, but for me, its more of a middle of the road title that won't stay with me for too long as a lot of what occurs within has been done before. A shame really as I really wanted so much more.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: The Guild Hunter 10: Archangel's Viper - Nalini Singh

Release Date: 28/09/17
Publisher: Gollancz

SYNOPSIS:

Enter New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh's breathtakingly passionate Guild Hunter world with the story of a woman who isn't a vampire or an angel . . . or human . . .

Once a broken girl known as Sorrow, Holly Chang now prowls the shadowy grey underground of the city for the angels. But it's not her winged allies who make her a wanted woman - it's the unknown power coursing through her veins. Brutalised by an insane archangel, she was left with the bloodlust of a vampire, the ability to mesmerise her prey, and a poisonous bite.

Now, someone has put a bounty on her head . . .

Venom is one of the Seven, Archangel Raphael's private guard, and he's as infuriating as he is seductive. A centuries-old vampire, his fangs dispense a poison deadlier than Holly's. But even if Venom can protect Holly from those hunting her, he might not be able to save himself - because the strange, violent power inside Holly is awakening . . .

No one is safe.


REVIEW:

Nalini has a huge following for her Guild Hunters series and when she returns to characters that readers have come to love throughout the books and seems to be giving them exactly what they want, it should have been a title that would not only have made them very happy but something that should have been a firm fan favourite for years to come.

However, whilst she did deliver a story, the book never really took off and left me feeling, as a long term reader, that I was cheated and that certain events were forced almost as if the characters just didn;t want to play. OK, so the overall arc is OK, but when you're not giving whats expected until a very late stage and even then its almost an heavy handed after thought then all round it leaves it feeling very jarring. Sadly for me, its not going into my favourite list of the author and for many others, its going to be more of a meh when asked about it. A great shame.

Friday, 13 October 2017

SCIENCE FICTION MURDER MYSTERY REVIEW: The Man in the Tree - Sage Walker

Release Date: 13/10/17
Publisher: Tor Books US

SYNOPSIS:

Humanity's last hope of survival lies in space...but will we even get there?

Helt Borresen is an Incident Analyst. What that means is that aboard the seed ship Kybele, he is the closest thing that the organization has to a security officer. But he doesn't think that it'll be a big part of his job, as all the candidates have been carefully screened.

Why the need for a seed ship? Because our planet is toast and the colonists that leave our world are the best shot that we have for our species to continue.

Everything is set...and then someone is found hanging dead just weeks before the launch. Fear and paranoia spread as the death begins to look more and more like a murder. The authorities want the case settled quickly and quietly so as not to cause panic.

And Helt is the one to prevent a murderer from sabotaging the entire mission.


REVIEW:

If you love murder mystery in a sci-fi setting then this is a book for you, with top notch prose, good twists and of course a lead protagonist that steps off the page whilst delving deep into personal matters that make him question things as personal conflict intervenes with his investigation into the murder aboard his ship.

Its well thought out, brings some interesting characters to the fore and all round delivered a title that I very much enjoyed. All round a great book for me and one that has now added Sage to my TBR list.


Thursday, 12 October 2017

FANTASY REVIEW: Iskari 1: The Last Namsara - Kristen Ciccarelli

Release Date: 12/10/17
Publisher: 

SYNOPSIS:

Destroyer. Death bringer. Dragon-slayer. I am more weapon than girl.

Asha is a dragon-slayer. Reviled by the very people she's sworn to protect, she kills to atone for the wicked deed she committed as a child - one that almost destroyed her city, and left her with a terrible scar.

But protecting her father's kingdom is a lonely destiny: no matter how many dragons she kills, her people still think she's wicked.

Even worse, to unite the fractured kingdom she must marry Jarek, the cruel commandant. As the wedding day approaches, Asha longs for freedom.

Just when it seems her fate is sealed, the king offers her a way out: her freedom in exchange for the head of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard.

And the only person standing in her way is a defiant slave boy . . .

THE LAST NAMSARA is an extraordinary story about courage, loyalty and star-crossed love, set in a kingdom that trembles on the edge of war.


REVIEW:

I'm the type of reader who is often found in fantastical kingdoms and worlds where mystical creatures live and magic is in abundance so when I get the chance to try a Young Adult title that will help get the love out there for the younger reader I jump at the chance in order to help pass on my love of reading to my nephews and niece. (So that when I'm old, they'll know the right sort of books to buy me. LOL)

So I had high hopes for this although to a certain degree the blurb sounded pretty generic and I thought was something that I'd read before in titles such as McCaffrey's Pern series. I finally picked up the book and settled down awaiting to see what would occur. The story pretty much went the way I expected and whilst there were quite a few elements that worked well, the whole thing was centred more around two characters placing them in a fantastical setting and following a certain linear path. That's not to say it wasn't well done, it was, but for me, there was no surprise and when you also throw in supporting cast that felt pretty flat I was left a little disappointed with the overall book.

All round it was OK, and the parts that I liked were well done, however for me there were other avenues that needed to be explored so I'm hoping that in future outings the writing will have not only improved but that the character development continues with fuller fleshed out cast members.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: The Furthest Station - Ben Aaronovitch

Release Date: 28/09/17
Publisher: Gollancz

SYNOPSIS:

A brand new novella in the PC Grant series!

There's something going bump on the Metropolitan line and Sergeant Jaget Kumar knows exactly who to call.

It's PC Peter Grant's speciality . . .

Only it's more than going 'bump'. Traumatised travellers have been reporting strange encounters on their morning commute, with strangely dressed people trying to deliver an urgent message. Stranger still, despite calling the police themselves, within a few minutes the commuters have already forgotten the encounter - making the follow up interviews rather difficult.

So with a little help from Abigail and Toby the ghost hunting dog, Peter and Jaget are heading out on a ghost hunting expedition.

Because finding the ghost and deciphering their urgent message might just be a matter of life and death.


REVIEW:

I've been a huge fan of PC Grant since the first novel Rivers of London back in 2011, and whilst its always a hard wait between novels, I love it when you get little extra treats like novella's that whilst perhaps not a full length story, give the reader a hit of what they've been hankering for.

Within this novella, PC Grant faces a tough challenge, solving a case where a short time after the encounter people have forgotten all about it. Its definitely going to be a challenging case for our detective and one that more tha piqued my interest upon reading the synopsis.

As usual the writing is crisp, the prose wonderfully addictive and when you throw into this good pacing all round gives me a story that I was sad to finish. It was everything I hoped for with some great moments within taking the reader through a range of emotions and all round is making is a title I'll be rereading again soon to see what I missed on my original read. Cracking.

Monday, 9 October 2017

FANTASY REVIEW: Age of Dread 1: Mageborn - Stephen Aryan

Release Date: 05/10/17
Publisher:  Orbit

SYNOPSIS:

Thousands died when mages sundered the earth and split the sky.
It was a war that devastated entire kingdoms.
Now one man believes eradicating magic is the only way to ensure a lasting peace. He and his followers will do anything to achieve his goal - even if it means murdering every child born with the ability.


REVIEW:

Returning to Stephen's world set ten years after his original Age of Darkness Trilogy, we are thrown into a chaotic world where those born with the "ability" to weild magic are murdered in hopes of keeping the fragile peace established after the events in the original series.

As with the first set, its well written, the characters are fun to be around and when thrown in with solid twists, some great story plotting alongside characters I want to spend time around and I have to say that I was more than pleased with this title. Add to this solid prose and of course dialogue that works wonderfully well all round gives me a great beginning to the new trilogy. Magic.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

CRIME THRILLER SHORT STORY COMPENDIUM: Deadlier - Edited by Sophie Hannah

Release Date: 05/08/17
Publisher:  Head of Zeus

SYNOPSIS:

100 of the best crime stories written by women, selected and introduced by Sophie Hannah.

From Agatha Christie and Daphne du Maurier, to Val McDermid and Margaret Atwood, women writers have long been drawn to criminal acts. Here, award-winning author Sophie Hannah brings together 100 of her favourite examples.

Deadlier includes prize-winners, bestsellers and rising stars, so whether you take your crime cosy or hard-boiled, this big, beautiful anthology will keep you reading long into the night.


REVIEW:

A cracking set of crime short stories from female authors across time as picked by crime author Sophie Hannah and to be honest I love to read stories from various time periods to not only see how the craft has developed but also given the opportunity to read some cracking outings without having to spend a pretty penny on older titles.

Its full of genre famous names from those of yesteryear alongside modern ladies seeking to hack as well as slash thier way to the top bringing top talent to the reader. The book was wonderfully rich, was wonderful to dive into and savour each revelation in short story format during lunch breaks or even long journeys. All round a top notch title and one that whilst its great to have in Hardback as you'll be delving in time and again, with the thickness and weight may be better suited to a digital read. (Unless of course you want a bludgeoning weapon on hand for anyone interupting your reading time. LOL) Magic.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Warhammer 40K: Mephiston: Blood of Sanguinus - Darius Hinks

Release Date: 21/09/17
Publisher: Black Library

SYNOPSIS:

The shrine world of Divinatus Prime has become lost to the light of the Astronomican and no ship can piece its veil. Only the Lord of Death himself, Blood Angels Chief Librarian Mephiston, has any hope of discerning the fate of this once pious world. After enacting a powerful blood ritual, Mephiston and an honour guard of his fellow Blood Angels reach the stricken shrine world to find it seized by a religious civil war. Each faction fights for dominance of a potent artefact, the Blade Petrific, said to be wrought by the Emperor Himself. Yet there is more at work here than a mere ideological schism, for Mephiston believes Divinatus Prime could offer answers to how he became the Lord of Death by resisting the Black Rage, and possibly even a way to end the curse of ‘the Flaw’ in all Blood Angels.


REVIEW:

I've loved Darius' writing for a number of years and for me, he's an author who really helps the reader get into the mindset of the characters within his stories. Here in thei 40K offering, the reader spends time with Blood Angels Chief Librarian Mephiston. As befitting the world into which its set, the story is dark, has some cracking twists and when added to choices made by the principle character reflect events and change, its a tale that really helps demonstrate that all choices have consequences.

All round a top notch story which when backed with top notch pose and dialogue that just skips off the page, all round makes this a title to really get behind. Cracking.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Oversight 3: The Remnant - Charlie Fletcher

Release Date: 14/09/17
Publisher: Orbit

SYNOPSIS:

'The Oversight is most dangerous when most reduced. There are many dead and gone who did not remember that.'

The Oversight of London has been sworn for millennia to prevent the natural and the supernatural worlds from preying on each other.

Now at its lowest ebb, with its headquarters destroyed and its last members scattered far and wide, this secret society will battle for survival and face the harshest foe it has ever met: itself.

'Exciting, exhilarating, scary and moving in equal measure, The Oversight is a teeming world of dark deeds and dark magics, brilliantly realised' - M. R. Carey on The Oversight


REVIEW:

Having read the previous two titles in the series I have to say that this final outing in the Oversight Trilogy left me feeling pretty damn flat. the characters didn't reach full potential, various plot points felt ignored and threads from the other two titles left the book feeling fairly flat, almost as if the author had either forgotten about them or that they just weren't required and thus dropped to help Charlie hit his deadline.

All round, whilst the writing is still as addictive as usual and the plot points that were addressed satisfying having lost so much made me feel that there is more to come rather than this was the end. Sad to say I was disappointed and hope that Charlie will return at some point to give me (and other readers) some conclusions to these open air threads.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Space Marine Battles: The Eye of Ezekiel - C Z Dunn


Release Date: 07/09/17
Publisher: Black Library

SYNOPSIS:

In the grim future of the 41st millennium, the Imperium is beset by alien races that wish nothing more than to defeat, enslave or devour humankind. Most numerous among these foes are the orks, inhuman brutes that cannot be underestimated. When the Adeptus Mechanicus invokes an ancient pact with the Dark Angels, Ezekiel, Grand Master of the Librarians, must lead the 5th Company to liberate the planet of Honoria from a vast ork army. Even reinforced by the regiments of the Astra Militarum, the Dark Angels face a tremendous challenge, and the Adeptus Mechanicus appear to have their own reasons for becoming involved in this conflict…


REVIEW:

I love a story where two seperate enforcers of humankind fight together on a world against a common foe as well as each other as hidden agenda's rear thier ugly heads. This tale from the Black Library brings it all to the reader with cracking characters, top notch action sequences and maneuvers not only on the battlefield that seek to turn the tide but also politically as our human defenders seek to out do each other.

Its well written and I loved the way that Mr Dunn brought the double dealing to the fore despite the devastation that warring amongst themselves could bring should they divide and fall to the greenskin menace. Finally throw into the mix a good variety of twists and all round I was a more than happy reader.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Warhammer 40K: Vaults of Terra: The Carrion Throne - Chris Wraight

Release Date: 18/05/17
Publisher: Black Library

SYNOPSIS:

In the hellish sprawl of Imperial Terra, Ordo Hereticus Inquisitor Erasmus serves as a stalwart and vigilant protector, for even the Throneworld is not immune to the predations of its enemies. In the course of his Emperor-sworn duty, Erasmus becomes embroiled in a dark conspiracy, one that leads all the way to the halls of the Imperial Palace. As he plunges deeper in the shadowy underbelly of the many palace districts, his investigation attracts the attention of hidden forces, and soon Erasmus and his acolyte Spinoza are being hunted – by heretics, xenos, servants of the Dark Powers, or perhaps even rival elements of the Inquisition itself. They eventually discover a terrible truth, one that if allowed to get out could undermine the very fabric of the Imperium itself.


REVIEW:

A cracking novel set on throne world from Chris Wraight which goes to show that whilst the rest of the Imperium think that its a shining beacon of the Emperors might, that the reality for those who live there is that its a dog eats dog world where death is cheap and human life even cheaper.

Its well written, has great prose and as we get to follow the principle characters get to see how thier life experiences not only changes thier points of view and actions but helps give strength where the other is weaker. Back this up with a seriously kick ass plot, top notch dialogue alongside being characters that the reader can associate with all round makes this a book that is a pure joy to read. Can't wait for more of this duo's adventures.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Warhammer 40K: Space Marine Legends: Shrike - George Mann

Release Date: 23/03/17
Publisher:  Black Library

SYNOPSIS:

Vaunted warrior of the Raven Guard, Shrike has ascended the ranks of this most mysterious and deadly brotherhood all the way to Chapter Master. He is a legend amongst his battle-brothers, one that began humbly enough in the wilds of Kiavahr. Shrike has fought and bested many foes, but one in particular, the Ork Warlord Gorkrusha, dogged him throughout many campaigns. From veteran to Shadow Captain, Shrike clashed with his old nemesis time and again, determined to bring about a final reckoning and bloody vengeance to the greenskin.


REVIEW:

Another Space Marine Legends novel that takes the reader through the vaulted ranks of the Raven Guard from Novice through to Chapter Master and whilst it had potential to give the reader something pretty epic to enjoy, I felt more than a little let down as I really couldn't get to grips with the principle character.

Yes the story had some cracking elements, the battles against mankinds foes enticing but for me, when I can't get to grips with a character I tend to feel that I don't really care for thier fate.

All round a bit of a loss for me and a book I won't be returning to at any time soon especailly with other better Legends books out there.

Monday, 4 September 2017

SCIENCE FICTION AUDIO BOOK REVIEWS: Warhammer 40K: Champions of the Eternal War - David Guymer, Ian St Martin, Josh Reynolds and Scions of Elysia - Chris Dows

Release Date:   2017
Publisher:  Black Library

SYNOPSIS:

A Warhammer 40,000 audio drama collection Enjoy three full-cast audio tales of heroes and villains from the Dark Millennium: the doughty Iron Hands warleader Kardan Stronos, the sinister blademaster Lucius the Eternal, and the mischevious Space Wolf Lukas the Trickster. This is the first time on CD for these three tales of adventure, mayhem and (with Lukas) mischief from some of Black Library's finest authors - and all are full-cast dramas, with music and sound effects for a truly immersive experience. Heed now three tales of the Champions of the Eternal War... The Calculus of Battle by David Guymer As the defenders of Varasine battle a tyranid invasion, Warleader Kardan Stronos and the Iron Hands come to their aid, measuring the Chapter's cold logic and strategy against the cost in human lives. The Embrace of Pain by Ian St Martin When blademaster Lucius the Eternal is challenged by a champion of the Death Guard, he accepts without hesitation... but could a daemonhost of Nurgle, or the voices inside his own head, be the undoing of his Slaaneshi curse? The Art of Provocation by Josh Reynolds When orks amass on Polix Tertius, Lukas the Trickster decides to play a dangerous game. Risking the ire of the Wolf Lords, he turns his attentions to the planetary vox, and begins to broadcast... Running time approx. 60 minutes. Performed by John Banks, Antonia Beamish, Robin Bowerman, Cliff Chapman, Steve Conlin, Jonathan Keeble, Toby Longworth and Luis Soto.


REVIEW:

If you have a journey to do, whether its for work or for pleasure, there are times when you either can't take a book to read with you or you tend to feel ill whilst looking at the page. Well for me, this is where I love to have my MP3 player loaded with not only music but audio books and for me I love the way that Black Library brings these titles to life in such a way that they transport you to that time and place.

As with the other tales from the publisher, this one blends top notch story telling alongside magical voice acting and when added to the library of what has gone before really makes it something unique to sit back and savour. All round another cracking addition and one that will get quite a lot of use from as I'm being sneaky and introducing my nephews to these titles with a lot of positive results.




Release Date: 2017
Publisher:  Black Library

SYNOPSIS:

An Astra Militarum audio drama The 158th Elysian regiment of the Imperial Guard make one of their infamous drop assaults - in their home system. But when disaster strikes, it falls to Sergeant Zachariah to save the campaign from failure. The Elysian Drop Troops are a unique force within the Astra Militarum, and Chris Dows captures the dizzying, vertiginous nature of the way they fight so well, it'll make your head spin. The Elysian Drop Troops are famed throughout the Astra Militarum for their rapid deployment tactics, utter fearlessness and expertise at grav-chute assaults. The 158th Elysian are once such regiment, ordered to pacify piratical warbands at large in their native system. But as the campaign commences, disaster strikes, the regiment's inexperienced and arrogant captain the cause. Only through the ingenuity of Sergeant Zachariah is a victory salvaged, but at a terrible cost. Running time 57minutes Written by Chris Dows Narrated by John Banks


REVIEW:

Another cracking MP3 story from the Black Library that transports you into the bleak 40th Millenium as mankind struggles to survive against its many foes. Beautifully written with cracking vocal talent alongside an arc that just keeps giving all round makes this a wonderful piece of narrative audio that will more than entertain.

Finally throw into the mix a cast that you want to spend time around and for me, its a title that will more than entertain on other future journeys. Cracking.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Warhammer 40K: Horus Heresy: Sons of the Forge - Nick Kyme

Release Date: 18/11/16
Publisher:  Black Library

SYNOPSIS:

Charged with a solemn duty by the primarch himself, Forgefather T’kell of the Salamanders prepares for what may well be his final journey. Along with a chosen few of the Legion’s elite Firedrakes, he must bear the last seven of Vulkan’s greatest weapons away to the secret vault known as the Wrought, putting them forever beyond the reach of treacherous enemy and well-intentioned ally alike. But word has already spread of these legendary artefacts, and there are many who would see T’kell’s endeavour fail for their own gain – the Salamanders must remain true, no matter what horrors they might face...


REVIEW:

Getting to see an origin story is one of the things I love about diving back into the Horus Heresy and to be honest its one of the reasons you have to read Nick Kyme's Sons of the Forge as the reader accompanies Forgefather T'Kell on his journey to hide the artifacts of the Salamander Chapter that future generations will attempt to reunite.

Its a cracking story, high octane action, top notch prose and of course the reader gets to the see the effects of this mission play out amongst his unit. Add to this a story arc that works wonderfully well for the misfortunes of 40K and all round I was a more than happy reader. Another cracker and a must for Salamander fans.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Warhammer 40K: Dante - Guy Haley

Release Date: 23/03/17
Publisher: Black Library

SYNOPSIS:

Dante is Chapter Master of one of the noblest but most troubled Chapters of Space Marines in the Imperium: the Blood Angels. From the time of his birth in the rad-scarred wastes of Baal Secundus, he was destined for glory and strife. From his apotheosis to Scout, to the hive cities of Armageddon and the alien menace of the Cryptas system, Dante has waged war against all the enemies of the Imperium. He has witnessed the divine, and struggled against the darkness within all sons of Sanguinius. Longer lived than any other Chapter Master, this is his chronicle, his great and storied legend.


REVIEW:

As a fan of the Warhammer 40K universe I love spending time with the primarchs and learning of how they elevated to thier positions and whilst I've just enjoyed Azrael, I found this one by Guy to be richer for me. I loved the way that we danced through the heroes history, as battles took their toll alongside the curse of the Blood Angel line.

Its wonderfully rich, brings a great sense of history to the fore and when added to top notch battle sequences alongside cracking lulls to allow you to gather your breath all round makes this a book that will remain a firm favourite of mine for quite some time to come.

A magical outing and one that I hope is followed up upon as I really can't wait to see what happens for not only Dante but the Blood Angels chapter.

Friday, 1 September 2017

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Warhammer 40K: Space Marine Legends: Azrael - Gav Thorpe

Release Date: 18/05/17
Publisher:  Black Library

SYNOPSIS:

The Dark Angels Chapter sprang from the First Legion of Space Marines to fight and die at the Emperor's side. But over ten thousand years, even the most staunchly loyal warriors of the Imperium can fall from grace, and the Dark Angels guard their own murky secrets most carefully - only Supreme Grand Master Azrael knows them all. A legend among Space Marines, he has fought for centuries and ever at the forefront of battle. Now, with the enigmatically alien eldar as his uneasy and unlikely allies, he must tread the fine line once more between the pursuit of victory, and keeping the Chapter's past safely buried...


REVIEW:

I love a story that takes readers on a journey with the legendary heroes of the Space Marines, however for me, this short tale could have been extended wonderfully by enriching the heroes past with exploits that helped make him a stand out candidate for the post of Supreme Grand Master.

Yes we had some solid flashbacks to him as a normal human but for me, its the choices made and heroism demonstrated as a space marine that should have been the key for this book. Thats ot to say its a bad book, far from it, the writing is crisp, the prose sharp and the battle sequences work wonderfully well. However for me, I really wanted a bigger build up to his elevation and hope that subsequent titles will do that.

All round cracking fun.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

CRIME THRILLER REVIEW: Kill the Father - Sandrone Dazieri

Release Date: 10/08/17
Publisher:  Simon and Schuster

SYNOPSIS:

The twisty and darkly compelling thriller and RICHARD & JUDY BOOKCLUB PICK that will keep you up all night.

'The rock cast a sharp, dark shadow over a shape huddled on the ground. Please don’t let it be the boy, Colomba thought. Her silent prayer didn’t go unanswered. The corpse belonged to the mother.'

THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN STOP HIM IS THE ONE WHO GOT AWAY...

Dante Torre spent eleven young years in captivity - held by a man known only as The Father - before outwitting his abductor. Now working for the police force, Torre's methods are unorthodox but his brilliance is clear. When a young child goes missing in similar circumstances in Rome, Torre must confront the demons of his past to attempt to solve the case.

Paired with Deputy Captain Colomba Caselli, a fierce, warrior-like detective still reeling from having survived a bloody catastrophe, all evidence suggests The Father is active after being dormant for decades, and that he’s looking forward to a reunion with Dante ...


REVIEW:

When it comes to crime novels these days, a lot of people tend to point to the Scandinavian influx that demonstrates how it can be done well blending landscape as well as culture to create something wonderfully haunting, but I have to say that one nation to keep a careful eye on are the Italians as this wonderfully translated title from Sandrone will prove as he brings his blend of crime to the english speaking world.

Its haunting, it has top notch twists and perhaps best of all characters who are so flawed that you'd swear he'd swiped them from real life. They have foibles, they have their weaknesses but its this human part that makes them so believable. Back this with a good amount of investigative detail and all round I was a happy reader. Yes it lost it a little towards the end and could have been tied up a bit neater but all round, for a debut novel I have to say I was more than impressed. I'll be keeping a careful eye on future outings for our duo Torres and Caselli and of course expect in time for them to have thier own TV show. Magic.




Thursday, 24 August 2017

FANTASY REVIEW: The Worldmaker Trilogy 2: Heartland - Lucy Hounsom

Release Date: 24/08/17
Publisher: Tor

SYNOPSIS:

Kyndra has saved and damned the people of Mariar. Her star-born powers healed a land in turmoil, but destroyed an ancient magic – which once concealed them from invaders. Now Kyndra must head into enemy territory to secure peace.

She finds the Sartyan Empire, unstable but as warlike as ever. It’s plagued by dissident factions, yet its emperor still has the strength to crush her homeland. The Khronostians, assassins who dance through time, could help Kyndra; or they might be her undoing. And deep within the desert, Char Lesko struggles to control his own emerging powers. He’s been raised by a mercenary whose secrets could change everything – including the future and the past.

But when Kyndra and Char meet, will their goals align? Kyndra must harness the full glory of the stars and Char has to channel his rage, or two continents will be lost.


REVIEW:

THE Second book in the Worldmaker Trilogy and whilst its been a while, I was looking forward to getting back into Lucy's world to see what would happen next for not only characters that we've come to love but also new additions to the world.

What happens is a book that to be honest took me quite a while to get into. It felt convoluted to start with almost as if it didn't have a clear direction into which to head, which when added to a fairly slow middle did leave me feeling that I was having to struggle through to get to the good stuff. Thats not to say that its a bad book as a lot of the elements within are handled wonderfully but when I get these lulls that seem to take the wind out of the readers sails, it makes it harder to keep going despite knowing that the author knows how to deliver (as is evident within the first outing.)

It is a solid enough book in the end but I do feel and was left wondering if this was more of a filler expansion to lead up to something huge for the final book, almost as if some of these elements were added to help fulfill the contract.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: Gais Valerius Verrens 8: Glory of Rome - Douglas Jackson

Release Date: 05/08/17
Publisher:  Bantam Press

SYNOPSIS:

77AD. Gaius Valerius Verrens is an honoured member of Emperor Vespasian’s inner circle, but the enmity between him and Vespasian’s son Domitian means that, even in Rome, danger is never far away. Meanwhile, in the outer reaches of the Empire, in Britannia, trouble is brewing.
The governor, Gnaeus Julius Agricola is preparing to march his legions north and Valerius is Agricola’s chief legal adviser and deputy governor. It's the opportunity he seeks to move his wife and son out of reach of Domitian’s wrath. But Britannia is where Valerius cut his military teeth and whetted his sword - and he will soon discover that the ghosts of his past are never far away and are more dangerous perhaps than Domitian.
The massacre of a Roman garrison and suspicious death of the legate of the Ninth Legion throw Agricola’s preparations into confusion. Now his eyes turn west to Mona, the Druids Isle, where the Celtic priesthood still harbours hopes of ridding Britannia of Roman rule. But to deal with the druids and their savage Ordovice protectors Agricola needs a soldier he can trust at the head of the ‘unlucky’ Ninth. Only one man in the province has the experience and the ability . . .
So a reluctant Valerius must put aside his scrolls and pick up his sword once more and march beside the eagle of the Ninth. It’s only as he stands on the shoreline opposite Mona that he understands any glory his new legion wins is likely to be fleeting and tainted - and that he has placed his family in deadly peril.


REVIEW:

I love spending time with historical figures and for me, whilst I can often be found throughout the pages of history, I tend to most often be found during the roman period with authors like Simon Scarrow, Conn Iggulden, Anthony Riches and of course Douglas Jackson

So it'll come as no surprise that with this latest outing (Gaius's Eighth) that I am once again back in the glorious days of Rome. His books all have solid plot, top notch dialogue and a good amount of twists but for me, its his characters that have me returning time and again. I love the way that even supporting cast have a history and our main character continues to change and develop as the events he is subject to mold and shape him. A truly cracking read and if you haven't started this series yet please go back and start from the first as otherwise you'll be missing a real treat.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

FANTASY REVIEW: Age of Assassins - RJ Barker

Release Date: 03/08/17
Publisher:  Orbit

SYNOPSIS:

Girton Club-Foot, apprentice to the land's best assassin, still has much to learn about the art of taking lives. But their latest mission tasks him and his master with a far more difficult challenge: to save a life. Someone, or many someones, is trying to kill the heir to the throne, and it is up to Girton and his master to uncover the traitor and prevent the prince's murder.
In a kingdom on the brink of civil war and a castle thick with lies Girton finds friends he never expected, responsibilities he never wanted, and a conspiracy that could destroy an entire land.


REVIEW:

As many know I'm the type of reader that enjoys taking a punt on a new author as you know that what arrives is going to be something new, unexpected and at times utter thrilling as you're never sure which way things are going to go.

Here in this title, author RJ Barker brings a lot to the table. Solid world building, intriguing principle characters and of course a kickass plot that should the magical elements been dropped would have fitted well into any historical setting.

Its definitely quirky, has a lot going for it and was a very hard title to put down. Back this all up with good dialogue and solid plotting alongside murder, mystery as well as mayhem and it'll more than satisfy any fantasy reader. Cracking.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

FANTASY REVIEW: Ravens Mark 1: Blackwing - Ed McDonald

Release Date: 27/07/17
Publisher:  Gollancz

SYNOPSIS:

The republic faces annihilation, despite the vigilance of Galharrow's Blackwings. When a raven tattoo rips itself from his arm to deliver a desperate message, Galharrow and a mysterious noblewoman must investigate a long dead sorcerer's legacy. But there is a conspiracy within the citadel: traitors, flesh-eaters and the ghosts of the wastelands seek to destroy them, but if they cannot solve the ancient wizard's paradox, the Deep Kings will walk the earth again, and all will be lost.

The war with the Eastern Empire ended in stalemate some eighty years ago, thanks to Nall's 'Engine', a wizard-crafted weapon so powerful even the Deep Kings feared it. The strike of the Engine created the Misery - a wasteland full of ghosts and corrupted magic that now forms a No Mans Land along the frontier. But when Galharrow investigates a frontier fortress, he discovers complacency bordering on treason: then the walls are stormed, and the Engine fails to launch. Galharrow only escapes because of the preternatural magical power of the noblewoman he was supposed to be protecting. Together, they race to the capital to unmask the traitors and restore the republic's defences. Far across the Misery a vast army is on the move, as the Empire prepares to call the republic's bluff.

Blackwing is a gritty epic fantasy for fans of Mark Lawrence, Scott Lynch and Daniel Polansky.


REVIEW:

As an avid fantasy reader, I can't wait to grab a new authors work and see where it takes me whether its a world of extraordinary other humanoids, top notch magic hurling or just plain heroism and there are times when all of them blend together to make something truly spectacular.

Here in this book by Ed, the reader is treated to a principle character who is brusk, cynical against life and of course also drawn by duty to help defend the last bastion of his people. Its well written, has some cracking prose and all round delivered a story that also brought into it elements of danger, political double dealing alongside a desperate stand against those who would see them defeated.

Its real edge of the seat stuff and when added to the possibility of future outings the reader is surely in for one hell of a ride. A cracking debut.



Thursday, 13 July 2017

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: Oswald De Lacy 3: City of Masks - SD Sykes

Release Date: 13/06/17
Publisher:  Hodder

SYNOPSIS:

1358. Oswald de Lacy, Lord Somershill, is in Venice, awaiting a pilgrim galley to the Holy Land. While the city is under siege from the Hungarians, Oswald lodges with an English merchant, and soon comes under the dangerous spell of the decadent and dazzling island state that sits on the hinge of Europe, where East meets West.

Oswald is trying to flee the chilling shadow of something in his past, but when he finds a dead man on the night of the carnival, he is dragged into a murder investigation that takes him deep into the intrigues of this mysterious, paranoid city.

Coming up against the feared Signori di Notte, the secret police, Oswald learns that he is not the only one with something to hide. Everybody is watching somebody else, and nobody in Venice is what he or she seems. The masks are not just for the carnival.


REVIEW:

The new Oswald de Lacy novel takes the reader to the city of masks, Venice, as out hero takes a break from England on a journey to the Holy Land, only to find himself embroiled in a murder in the fabulous floating city.

As with the other books, the story unwinds at a pace that is a pure joy to behold, its organic and doesn't feel rushed in any way. Our hero is well scripted and whilst plagued with his "mother" for the journey, we get to see a more mature character who has undergone a series of trials due to his history.

As with the other books in the series the prose is solid, the dialogue more than satisfactory but for me its the characters and the way that they change as well as develop that really has me glued. All round another solid release and one that was definteily a lot of fun to read through.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

EPIC FANTASY REVIEW: Gods of Blood and Powder 1: Sins of Empire - Brian McClellan

Release Date: 09/03/17
Publisher: Orbit

SYNOPSIS:

Enter a war-torn world where gunpowder and magic collide

The nation of Fatrasta is a haven for criminals, rebels, adventurers and sorcerers seeking relics of the past. As insurrection grows, only the iron will of the Lady Chancellor holds the capital city of Landfall together.

Yet an ancient power as old as time is rising, and the fate of this young nation now rests in the hands of a spy, a disgraced war hero and a mercenary general with a past as turbulent as Landfall's present.

Sins of Empire is the bold new epic fantasy from Gemmell Award-winning author Brian McClellan.


REVIEW:

A brand new series for Brian as we return to his inventive world with this epic opener. As expected from the author, the writing is high octane blood and fire, accompanied with top notch prose as well as characters that seek to not only survive but help shape the future by their actions.

Its got a cracking premise, has a wonderful overall arc and when added to a writing style that really just burst out of left field is showing why this author is becoming a firm fan favourite due to his playing for keeps attitude. All round a top notch title and one that has left me demanding more. Magic.

Friday, 7 July 2017

YOUNG ADULT REVIEW: Vega Jane 3: The Width of the World - David Baldacci

Release Date: 09/03/17
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Childrens

SYNOPSIS:

David Baldacci is back with The Width of the World, the third book in the Vega Jane series which began with his instant #1 global bestseller and award-winning YA fantasy debut The Finisher.

This is it. Vega Jane's time. Lied to her whole life, she has broken away from Wormwood, the only home she's ever known, and headed off into the Quag in search of the truth. She battles horrors to fight her way through it, with her best friend, Delph, and her mysterious canine, Harry Two, alongside her. Against all odds, they survive - but arrive into a place that's even worse. Not because deadly beasts roam the streets, but because the people there are enslaved and don't even know it. It's up to Vega, Delph, Harry Two and their new comrade, Petra, to take up the fight against savage and cunning new foe - and their triumph or failure will determine the fate of the whole world.


REVIEW:

This is the third book in the series and whilst its aimed at the younger reader market, I have to say for me, that this series is like Harry Potter, good storytelling for readers of all ages. It's got a great lead, top notch prose and brings all of David's strengths to the fore as he lets his imaginationn loose.

Add to this great prose and good pacing which when blended with a lead heroine that you can't wait to spend time with all round brings elements that make a title hard to put down. Really give this series a go and be the one to share it with your young reader, you'll be pleased you did.


Thursday, 6 July 2017

EPIC FANTASY REVIEW: The Sunsurge Quartet Book 1: Empress of the Fall - David Hair

Release Date: 09/03/17
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books

SYNOPSIS:

The Emperor is dead - long live the Empress!

Emperor Constant is dead and his rivals are scrabbling for power - but any misstep could plunge the land, already devastated by the shocking outcome of the Third Crusade, into a calamitous civil war.

The Imperial throne is not the only one in jeopardy. Two brothers, imprisoned veterans of the Crusades, finally return home to find their father's kingdom being plundered - but the price of regaining their birthright will have far-reaching implications for the entire empire.

In the East, Sultan Salim, peacemaker and visionary ruler, faces his greatest challenge as his people demand an invasion of the West in retribution for the Rondian Crusades

And lurking in the darkness, orchestrating both the power struggles and the inevitable conflicts, is a shadowy group threatening to destroy civilisation itself.

Once more, Urte stands on the brink of cataclysm.


REVIEW:

Having read David's Moontide Quartet I was pretty excited to return to hs world for the beginning of a new series. As you expect it is filled with a lot of the same things that made his previous series so enjoyable, great characters, solid prose and of course a huge plot leaving you wondering if its going to be possible to fit it all in.

Add to this huge epic combat sequences alongside a lot of political double-dealing maneuvering and all round its a book that really does give. All round its a cracking start and whilst a number of people may think that the book takes its time to get going, please remember that when you're dealing with epic fantasy a lot of the first title is set up to get all the details out of the way so subsequent offerings deal purely with the situation that the cast find themselves in. Always read the second part prior to deciding if the series is not for you and if you wait long enough you could well get it at bargain prices. Magic.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

FANTASY REVIEW: Pathfinder Tales: Gears of Faith - Garbielle Harbowy

Release Date: 04/07/17
Publisher:  Tor US

SYNOPSIS:

Keren is a sworn knight of lomedae, proper and disciplined in every way. Her girlfriend, Zae, is the opposite - a curious gnome cleric of the clockwork god, who loves nothing more than the chaos of her makeshift hospitals. When a powerful evil artifact is stolen from a crusader stronghold, both knight and gnome are secretly sent to the great city of Absalom to track down the stolen bloodstone. Sure, they may not be the most powerful or experienced members of their organizations, but that's the whole point - with legendary champions and undead graveknights battling at every turn in their race to recover the stone, who'll notice one young knight and her gnome? All they have to do is stay alive long enough to outsmart a thief capable of evading both gods and heroes.


REVIEW:

I love books that take me on a journey so I was more than happy to delve back into the Pathfinder series with this the latest offering. Here in this book the reader is presented with two principle characters who clearly love and have an establshed relationship with each other. They're well thought out, work well and each adds their own individual spiritual as well as personality strengths into the story. They're likeable, well worth spending time with and all round helped give the reader people to care about.

However that said, there are other problems with the story. Firstly I though the pacing was a little bit off, its lulls didn't really do much and as to the higher octane action sequences they never really got out of second gear. Add to this some poor choices with prose and when added to a tale that spends more time setting things up for quite short sequences all round left me feeling flat. A great shame.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

MYSTICISM REVIEW: Calling Us Home - Chris Luttichau

Release Date: 09/03/17
Publisher: Head of Zeus

SYNOPSIS:

From one of our most respected shamanic teachers, a blueprint for happiness which interweaves practical teachings, history, anecdote and ancestral wisdom. Alongside consciousness, meditation and mindfulness, shamanism, with its vision of the interconnectedness of all life, is undergoing an unprecedented revival in the western world. With personal stories from the author's 35-year study of shamanism and the earth-wisdom teachings, and clear, practical tools, this book offers a path leading to the transformation of ourselves, of our reality and consequently the course of our lives. It is a life-changing message from the heart of shamanism.

Chris Luttichau shares his teachings on shamanism and earth-based spirituality in workshops and ongoing training groups through the Northern Drum Shamanic Training Centre. He also leads wilderness expeditions.


REVIEW:

In a world where we seek to believe in what we can see and feel, there are times when it feels that you want to connect back to older days, when we connected more to the earth through mysticism.

This book by one of the leading names in the field helps bring it to the modern reader so that the information is not only there but accessible in a way that makes sense. It allows you to delve more into yourself and discover your inner peace as well as aiding you relax through escapism of the modern world.

All round its well written, easy to follow and if you're open it gives you that chance to find a way to "speak" to those who have gone before. Definitely an interesting read.

Friday, 30 June 2017

FANTASY REVIEW: The Lady of the Lake - Andrzej Sapkowski

Release Date: 16/03/17
Publisher: Gollancz

SYNOPSIS:

After walking through a portal in the Tower of the Swallow, thus narrowly escaping death, the Witcher girl, Ciri, finds herself in a completely different world... a world of the Elves. She is trapped with no way out. Time does not seem to exist and there are no obvious borders or portals to cross back into her home world.

But this is Ciri, the child of prophecy, and she will not be defeated. She knows she must escape to finally rejoin the Witcher, Geralt, and his companions - and also to try to conquer her worst nightmare. Leo Bonhart, the man who chased, wounded and tortured Ciri, is still on her trail. And the world is still at war.


REVIEW:

OK I mainly discovered Andrzej after he won the inaugral David Gemmell Legend Award for Fantasy and whilst I've been a fan of the Witcher games, I have been delving into his work. Whilst it may come across as a little clunky at times, I do believe that its down more to translation problems rather than the authors ability to write a story.

In addition to this, I do not quite feel that this is the end of the series (despite what the book says) as there's so many other threads that can be delved into within the world. Anyway, the writing is solid enough, the action sequences reasonable and when you throw into the mix the way that the author likes to add some twists alongside established mythology all round delivers a book that will satisfy fans. If you haven't read any others in the series then don't start with this, go back to the beginning when the world building sets it all up for you. That way you'll get the full flavour and get to see what has made this author so popular.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

GUEST BLOG: Scott Oden


Robert E. Howard once wrote: “There is no literary work, to me, half as zestful as rewriting history in the guise of fiction.” For my own part, I would agree – but with a single caveat. To me, there is no literary work half as zestful as rewriting history in the guise of fantasy. It is well known that some writers spend decades creating elaborate worlds wherein to set their stories, worlds with deep histories, complex politics, eerie religions, and civilization-shattering wars. They reveal these layers chapter by chapter, story by story, until the whole is laid bare. This, some say, is where the artistry of the genre resides – in the painting of a masterpiece on the blank canvas of imagination.

Other writers invest the same amount of time researching our collective historical past for their stories, learning the deep histories, complex politics, eerie religions, and civilization-shattering wars of the real world. And into the chapters and stories they winnow from history, they introduce magic. Gods made manifest; monsters given life. Thus, if traditional fantasy represents the Dutch masters, historical fantasy would be the equivalent of art restoration mixed with forgery. The historical fantasist does not start with a blank canvas; she works with an expanse that already has color, texture, patina – along with some scrapes and tears and lacunae. In those empty quarters is where the fantasy takes root and grows.

The world of our ancestors is perhaps the richest, most vibrant fantasy milieu ever. It is replete with blood and thunder, with pageantry and pestilence, with good and evil, and with a deep, almost pervasive belief in the mythic, in the supernatural. The Hyborian Age, Middle-earth, the Young Kingdoms, Westeros . . . these are but echoes of this frightening and magnificent world of the past. Of course, not every author agrees. “Fantasy is escapism,” some say. “All that cannot be. All the sweetest unfulfillable dreams and the sweaty sheet nightmares.” The historical past is not these things. It is grim. It is bloody. It is a tapestry of woe against which the life of you or I matters as much as a single grain of sand.

“Yes,” I reply. “But it doesn't have to be.”

As far back as 1931, Robert E. Howard – whose work serves as a pillar of fantasy – saw the potential in the literary mining of history: “I’ve been thinking of writing a tale about him for a long time. And Babur the Tiger who established the Mogul rule in India - and the imperial phase in the life of Baibars the Panther, the subject of my last story - and the rise of the Ottomans - and the conquest of Constantinople by the Fifth Crusade - the subjugation of the Turks by the Arabs in the days of Abu Bekr - and the gradual supplanting of the Arab masters by their Turkish slaves which culminated in the conquest of Asia Minor and Palestine by the Seljuks - and the rise of Saladin - and the final destruction of Christian Outremer by Al Kalawun - and the First Crusade - Godfrey of Boullion, Baldwin of Boulogne, Bohemund - Sigurd the Jorsala-farer - Barbarossa - Cour de Lion. Ye gods, I could write a century and still have only tapped the reservoir of dramatic possibilities.” (Robert E. Howard to Tevis Clyde Smith, August 1931). Draw a thread of magic and the supernatural through this list and you begin to apprehend the awesome promise of historical escapist fantasy.

A Gathering of Ravens, which debuts Tuesday, June 20th, is pure historical fantasy. The world it inhabits is built from our own: the color, texture, and patina of its foundation is indistinguishable from 10th/11th century Western Europe. Its brush strokes, however, have been altered; threads have been drawn from its canvas and replaced by forgeries wrought of sorcery and myth. It is not just our world, but our world where the magic of the Old Ways – and the creatures that sprang from it – are fading, vanishing before the inexorable tide of Christianity. Where silence reigns in the once-mystical places, and where decay has begun its slow and destructive creep. Where ancient trees that once housed spirits are empty, now, rotted husks awaiting the woodsman’s axe.

I could have created this world whole cloth; digested and distilled history mixed with fancy into a secondary world where Denmark, England, and Ireland existed but under assumed names. That would have been easier, actually. But it also would have severed my connection to thousands of years of shared history. There is an innate sorcery to words burnished by time: the Danemark, Britain, Ériu . . . they resound with a weight of antiquity not commonly shared by words of recent make. From an artistic standpoint, this connection to a shared undercurrent of emotion allows the writer conjure more from a scene with less effort. Here, for example, I introduce the city of Badon (modern Bath):

Badon was an ancient city and its stones reeked of blood. Étaín could smell it: a metallic stench like wet copper mixed with the miasma of damp rot and sulphur – a distillate of the decay and violence which diverse hands had worked into the foundations of the city. A thousand years before Alfred the Great forged the West Saxons into a race of conquerors, the legions of Caesar had come into this land and driven out the native tribes, the Britons and the enigmatic Cruithne. Roman axes laid low the tree-garth of Sulis, fierce goddess of the waters, and Roman priests extinguished the eternal flame that had burned since time out of mind in her sanctuary. Cunning in the ways of stone, these Romans had raised walls of ashlar around the sacred spaces; they had carved a forest of marble dedicated to the healing goddess Minerva, and tamed the hot springs by diverting its mineral-rich flow into artificial lakes and fountains.

But as the wagon trundled through the muddy streets, a sulphurous yellow mist pooling in the low places, what Étaín could see of the Romans’ stone-cunning was not particularly impressive. The city’s walls were as ragged as a crone’s smile. Timber baulks shored up crumbling defensive towers, with palisades of rough planking and crude brickwork plugging fissures torn in the walls from the infrequent convulsions of the earth that shook the region. Huts squatted amid the ruins of Roman villas like scavengers, their broken columns supporting roofs of wood and thatch. Underfoot, a slurry of dung, mud, and chaff covered intricate mosaics; their fanciful and half-glimpsed designs bore the heavy tread of Time, defaced by hoof and by wheel and by hob-nailed boot, the spaces left by shattered cubes of glass and stone filled in with the filth of countless years. Herds of cattle meandered through the once-opulent arcades of the Temple of Minerva to graze in the overgrown ruin of some nobleman’s pleasure garden. And on a hillock overlooking the city, Étaín spied a massive fortification, a walled cathedral still partially sheathed in scaffolding. She apprehended this to be their destination, the haunt of the feared Hrothmund, lord of Badon.

Though it describes a real place – Bath in the heart of Somerset, England – the passage is actually pure fiction. It is inspired by the ruins of Roman-era Bath, but no such place existed as it appears in the example, above. This is the sorcery of historical fantasy: to take a jumble of ancient stones knitted together by the power of a name and restore them to life – but not just mundane life. No, the trick is to weave the enchantment of what never was into the fabric of reality, and to do it with all the elegance and prowess of a master forger.


I leave you with one final thought: even if you reject the argument that the historical past is the finest fantasy world in existence, it is the undisputed source of countless worlds. From the splintered kingdom of Arnor to the pitiless mountains of Cimmeria; from formidable Dros Delnoch to simmering Darujhistan; from Winterfell to Luthadel . . . every fantasy world is descended from the one our ancestors helped create: ancient Earth. A world of gods and monsters, whose deep histories, complex politics, eerie religions, and civilization-shattering wars provide, to paraphrase REH, enough action and drama enough to fill countless volumes of fantasy.