Tuesday, 31 December 2013

FANTASY REVIEW: The Rage of Kings 1: The Iron Wolves - Andy Remic

Release Date:  31/12/13
Publisher:  Angry Robot


Thirty years ago, the Iron Wolves held back mud-orc hordes at the Pass of Splintered Bones, and led a brutal charge that saw the sorcerer Morkagoth slain.

Now, a new terror stalks the realm. Orlana the Changer has escaped from the Chaos Halls and is building an army, twisting horses, lions and bears into terrible, bloody hunters, summoning mud-orcs from the slime and heading north to battle the mighty region of Vagandrak where, it said, the King has gone insane.

General Dalgoran searches to reunite the heroes of old for what he believes will be their final battle. But Dalgoran discovers the Iron Wolves are no longer the heroes of legend, and they might just be more dangerous than the invading hordes.


OK, you want something to really round off the years end or to kick start your 2014 reading resolutions so what are you looking for? Well if you want top notch fantasy with realistic characters, hard hitting battle sequences, bloody gore soaked ground where life and death is measured in skill then you really have to get Andy Remic's new title, The Iron Wolves, the start of his cracking new series.

As you come to expect with Andy, he's an author who likes to keep it not only hardcore with the action but with the language and fans of David Gemmell will see many a homage within. Add to this cracking prose with spartan descriptive's which when added to a unique style will more than satisfy the fan within. All round a great offering and with the emotional context built in, goes to show that Andy's writing is not only flourishing but adding new strings to his bow all the time. Great stuff.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Confederation 1 and 2: Valour's Choice and The Better Part of Valour - Tanya Huff

Release Date: 06/12/13
Publisher:  Titan


In the distant future, humans and several alien races have been granted membership in the Confederation—at a price. They must serve and protect the far more civilized species who have long since turned away from war. When her transport ship is shot down, a routine diplomatic mission across the galaxy becomes anything but, and Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr must fight to keep her platoon alive.


Changing from one subgenre to another can at times work heavily against an author yet the skip from Urban Fantasy to Science Fiction is not that big of a jump and one that works wonderfully in Tanya’s favour in this brand new series. It has a real kickass lead heroine who like others of Tanya’s female leads has a great sense of honour, a can do attitude and whilst hiding from her enemies also faces off against some of the toughest that the galaxy has to offer.

It has some great twists and when added to Tanya’s ability to bring the lead across in a future that you can easily believe all round gives you something to occupy your mind during this busy season. It asks a lot of questions and whilst some may not be too happy with this title spending more time on developing relationships, all round works better for me. I can’t wait for the second offering.

Release Date: 06/12/13
Publisher:   Titan


When Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr makes the mistake of speaking her mind to a superior officer, she finds herself tagged for a special mission for the interplanetary Confederation to act as protector to a scientific exploratory team assigned to investigate an enormous derelict spaceship. Along with her crew and her charges, Kerr soon finds herself in the midst of danger and faced with a mystery that takes all her courage and ingenuity to solve. This sequel to Valor's Choice, featuring a gutsy, fast-thinking female space-marine protagonist, establishes veteran fantasy author Huff as an accomplished spinner of high-tech military-sf adventure.


The second book in Tanya’s Confederation series and one that I was so pleased that I didn’t have to wait for. After all with the original having built up the personal interactions between the principle player and the supporting cast, left this one to get down to the nitty gritty.

As with the first, we get to spend time with the wonderful Torin Kerr who is definitely her own woman who despite having to fight for her survival in the bleak future also has to deal with the complications of personal relationships that Tanya Huff writes so well. Its engaging, has some wonderful dialogue which when blended with Tanya’s own unique storytelling generates another book that I had a hard time putting down. Great stuff.

URBAN FANTASY TV TIE IN: Grimm 1: The Icy Touch - John Shirley

Release Date: 22/11/13
Publisher:  Titan


Back in the 19th century a Wesen and a Grimm fight to the death. The Grimm wins, but the Wesen's son escapes and vows revenge. In the present day, Captain Renard sends Nick and Hank to investigate a crime cartel named Le Touche Givre (The Icy Touch), who are involved in forced prostitution and drug pushing. Nick gradually realises that their dangerous leader is intent on tracking him down -


OK, so I’m a huge fan of the TV series having loved the concept from the very first episode, however there are times when such a thing only really works in one format and sadly that’s the case with this. Its not that it doesn’t bring it to life, it does but without a lot of the background the reader is left feeling fairly flat as the author obviously is relying on people having seen what has gone before to get the full depth of character, the complex relationships and of course to be up with all the terms that is commonly used within.

Not that it’s a bad thing catering to just that one market, but to be honest with you, its something that I feel is lacking due to not bringing the whole thing to a new audience. It is OK as a book, but for me, I missed the more personal interactions between Nick and Monroe with the whole thing feeling a little flat. OK, so it’s the first book and future titles may improve on this but for me, if you can’t get it fully right with the first title, then you’ve automatically cut off a huge part of your audience for subsequent titles.

Monday, 23 December 2013

VIDEO GAME TIE IN: The Art of Battlefield 4 - Martin Robinson

Release Date: 01/11/13
Publisher:  Titan


One of the most popular first-person-shooter franchises of all time, the critically and commercially acclaimed Battlefield series has sold over 27 million copies worldwide and been the recipient of numerous awards and accolades. The Art of Battlefield 4 will give readers an in-depth look at EA's new game, featuring exclusive concept art and detailed creator commentary throughout.


Another VG Artbook tie in and whilst it may come across as a strange thing to have two so close together, the various differences between the two titles really do go to show how important the preplanning as well as concept pieces are to the inspiration of the programmers and designers.

Within this book is a lot of the predesign as well as some of the in game pieces that have gone on to help make this franchise one of the best known battlefield games out there. Its easy to reference, has some wonderful commentary alongside showing pieces that the reader will sit back and see how the influences have played out. A great addition to any fans shelf and with luck something that will get the recognition it deserves.

THRILLER REVIEW: Atlantis: Revelation - Marcus Blake

Release Date: 24/10/13
Publisher:  Penguin UK


Following in the tradition of Clive Cussler and Dan Brown comes Atlantis: Revelation, a rip-roaring adventure thriller by Marcus Blake, which takes us on a hunt for the legendary lost city. For millennia, mankind has searched for Atlantis - the ancient lost city, sunk without a trace - and found nothing more than myth. A young man drifts, unconscious, into a quiet Haitian harbour. He wakes to find he can only remember one thing - his name, Achilles. Helped by Marta, a beautiful smuggler, he begins a desperate search for his identity. But soon they are running for their lives, pursued by a covert government agency who will stop at nothing to track them down. The agency knows something Achilles doesn't: he is no ordinary young man. Soon, Achilles will find himself at the centre of a deadly game between two civilizations; the world above, and the world below. What if a place of myth, legend and fables...was real? This is Atlantis: Revelation. A stunning action adventure thriller revealing the secrets of Atlantis - this is The Bourne Identity meets The Da Vinci Code. Marcus Blake is the pen name of a critically acclaimed best-selling novelist. He lives in the UK.


If you love a thriller that’s a little different then you really should try this tale by Marcus Blake who brings the above world conspiracy to the world of myth and legend for the reader. Its wonderfully constructed, has just the right level of pace and when added to the fact that the principle player is suffering from memory loss all round allows the reader access to information as the character themselves gains it.

It translates ideally for the written page and when added to some top notch action, some solid twists alongside great interpersonal relations all round generates something that I had a hard time putting down. Great stuff.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Deadtown 5: Hellhound - Nancy Holzner

Release Date: 29/10/13
Publisher:  Ace


They call it Deadtown: the city's quarantined section for its inhuman and undead residents. Most humans stay far from its border - but Victory Vaughn, Boston's only professional demon slayer, isn't exactly human. Boston's zombies have suddenly become inexplicably violent - horror movie-style - resulting in a catastrophic all-out battle against humans. More troubling to Vicky is that she's had dreams and visions of herself fighting alongside the demons. At least, she hopes they're just visions. If not, she's on the front lines of the wrong side of the war.


Ah Deadtown, I love spending time in this cracking world created by Nancy Holzner. As usual the writing is top notch, has some great twists and when you throw into this the principle players emotional problems played our for all to see all round gives you not only a fabulous tale to follow but one that will pull at the heart strings as the tale unfurls.

Back this up with a top notch support cast, an arc that is moving to a superb conclusion which when added to the folklore lovingly interwoven within, makes this a book that was hard to put down. Great stuff.

VIDEO GAME TIE IN: The ARt of Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag - Paul Davies

Release Date: 29/10/13
Publisher:  Titan


The recently announced Assassin's Creed[registered] IV Black Flag[trademark] sees a sea change for the game franchise with a harsh new setting in the Golden Age of pirates. With intricately detailed environments and finely honed and evocative historical re-imaginings, The Art of Assassin's Creed[registered] IV Black Flag[trademark] includes the game's vast nautical gameplay, and its amazing range of locations, characters and action.


Yep it goes without saying that with perhaps one of the most eagerly anticipated games of the year out, additional items are going to appear for your hard earned money. So what makes this so different.

Firstly, whilst gamers love what they get, a lot of the content is written off in a few words, for example the scenery was beautiful and that’s about it. Many don’t appreciate all the months of work that have gone into creating such a thing let alone all the pre-game art that has inspired the programmers and helped to drive the tale forward.

That’s where this cracking book comes in. Not only does it give the artists the chance to shine but with the written commentary within, it will help the reader/gamer get the most from their experience. As can be expected the pieces are breath taking and when you add a breakdown of the various locations into this, it really does give the title a new dimension.

All in a wonderful addition and definitely a title that I’ve spent a lot of time pouring over and will reference again when I go through a replay to see what other gems I missed.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

GRAPHIC NOVEL REVIEW: Asterix and the Picts - R Goscinny, A Uderzo, Jean-Yves Ferri, Didier Conrad

Release Date: 24/10/13
Publisher:  Orion Children


When Asterix and Obelix rescue a mysterious Pict named MacAroon, they must journey to Caledonia, now Scotland, to return him to his lady love, Camomilla, the adopted daughter of the old king. However, the treacherous chieftain, MacCabeus, plans to marry her and claim the throne - with the help of the Romans! What with caber-tossing, bagpipes, malted water and an enormous otter in the loch, can the Gauls reunite MacAroon and Camomilla and enjoy some Roman-bashing along the way?


Whilst this is a brand new book in an epic series, it is one that really brings the humour, the culture and of course the characters to life in its own incarnation, in such a way that it feels part of the original series.

As with the others, it’s a huge hunk of fun as you spend time with them on their latest adventure. The story is fast paced, has some great twist and with artwork that just leaps off the page all round gives you a whole host of fun to sit back with. Great from a nostalgic point of view or for young readers. Great stuff.

YOUNG ADULT REVIEW: A Foot in the Grave and Other Ghost Stories - Joan Aiken and Jan Pienkowski

Release Date: 03/10/13
Publisher:  Jonathan Cape


When Jan Pienkowski began a haunting series of paintings and asked Joan Aiken to compose accompanying ghostly stories, the result was bound to be an exceptional book. Here are tales of ghostly revenge, tales to scare and amuse, peopled with malevolent spirits and mysterious heroes. Haunting happenings and peculiar twists shape these stories; the unexplained and unearthly goings-on add up to an extraordinary and eerie experience.


I love ghost stories and whilst you tend to find a fair few in the adult category, it’s a wonderful change to get some Young Adult tales. Why? Well they have to rely on pure storytelling without any swearing and as such they really do grip you with not only the descriptive but the wonderful way in which the prose just trips off the page.

Here within this title is a whole set of short stories and what makes them wonderful is the fact that they’re short enough to split into an evening’s reading, especially as the dark nights close in to give yourself a wonderful chill to fight against the warmth from the duvet. All round a cracking book and one that I was pleased I took the time to read.

Friday, 20 December 2013

SCIENCE FICTION AUDIO REVIEW: Warhammer 40K: The Horus Heresy: Censure - Nick Kyme

Release Date: 24/10/13
Publisher:  Black Library


In the depths of Calth's arcology network, the Underworld War has raged for years. Aeonid Thiel, previously an honoured sergeant of the Ultramarines, once again finds himself in trouble - pitted against the daemonic forces of the Word Bearers, he has no choice but to venture back to the ravaged surface and brave the deadly solar flares that have scoured all life from this world. With a lowly Imperial Army trooper as his only companion, it falls to him to drive the maniacal Dark Apostle Kurtha Sedd and his warband from the overrun XIII Legion stronghold.


A cracking new audio book from the Black Library that will not only come across to the listener wonderfully with top notch audio effects and a storyteller that knows how to weave for his audience. With a cracking lead character and an outing that will keep the listener not only glued but entertained all round makes this a top notch offering.

Back this up with solid narration, some cracking twists and all round I was a more than happy viewer.

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: The Ill-Made Knight - Christian Cameron

Release Date: 01/08/13
Publisher:  Orion


William Gold comes into the world as his family slides down the social ladder. His head filled with tales of chivalry, instead he is branded a thief, and must make do with being squire to his childhood friend Sir Robert, a knight determined to make a name for himself as a man at arms in France. While William himself slowly acquires the skills of knightly combat, he remains an outsider - until the Battle of Poitiers when Sir Robert is cut down by the greatest knight of the age, Sir Geoffrey de Charny, and William, his lowly squire, revenges him. But with his own knight dead, no honour accrues to William for this feat of arms, and he is forced to become a mercenary. Scavenging a mismatched set of armour from the knightly corpses, he joins one of the mercenary companies now set to pillage a defenceless France, and so begins a bloody career that sees William joining forces with the infamous Sir John Hawkwood and immersing himself in a treacherous clandestine war among the Italian city states. But paradoxically it is there, among the spies, assassins and hired killers serving their ruthless masters, that William finally discovers the true meaning of chivalry - and his destiny as a knight.


Christian Cameron is one of those authors that I just love to spend time around. He brings historical fiction vividly to life and to be honest with you, the practical side of things within (such as the armour) demonstrates an author who has not only done their research well, but one whose clear love of re-enactment shone through on a practical archaeological point of view.

As with Christian’s other books, the prose is not only razor sharp but something that helps you acclimatise yourself to the timeline wonderfully quickly. Add to this great dialogue as well as characters you want to spend time around. Yet for all this, for me, it’s the author’s wonderful action sequences that stand out. Throughout the book, any action is wonderfully imaginative with easy guides for the reader to visualise which when added to matter of fact nitty gritty manoeuvres all round make this something that you can’t wait to get behind. Another stunning book from Christian and one that I had a great time reading. Thank you.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: Macro and Cato: The Blood Crows - Simon Scarrow

Release Date: 24/10/13
Publisher:  Headline


From the bestselling author of CENTURION, THE GLADIATOR and PRAETORIAN, a new military adventure for battle-hardened centurions Macro and Cato, fighting for the Empire in Britannia. For nearly ten years, the Roman Empire has fought ceaselessly to strengthen its hold over Britannia. But opposition from native tribes led by the ruthless warrior Caratacus threatens to destroy everything. Prefect Cato and Centurion Macro are summoned by Governor Ostorius to Londinium. Tasked with leading a newly formed cavalry cohort into the heartland of Wales, they must destroy the growing resistance. But with Caratacus hatching increasingly ambitious plans and disorder threatening from within Macro and Cato's own ranks, this final test will push the soldiers to their limits. And if they do not emerge as victors, the Emperor Claudius's rule may be at stake, and the very foundations of the Roman Empire could be shattered irrevocably.


I’ve loved this series for a fair number of years now and to be honest its something of a guilty pleasure, however I do start to wonder just how many more scrapes that two of them can get into before one of them makes a fatal error that will leave either one or both of them face down in the dirty.

Don’t get me wrong, it is a cracking story, Macro and Cato do keep the action flowing alongside weaving a credible story arc but with all their travels alongside all the foes they’ve left breathing, you’d think that something would have come up that would have led them into that one fatal step. All round a great piece of fun and if you want something that will entertain during the long cold nights then you really have to try the series, you’ll soon be addicted like a great many others.

CRIME REVIEW: Temperance Brennan 16: Bones of the Lost - Kathy Reichs

Release Date: 15/08/13
Publisher:  William Heinemann


This is the gripping new Temperance Brennan novel from the world-class forensic anthropologist and Number 1 bestselling author Kathy Reichs. The body of a teenage girl is discovered along a desolate highway on the outskirts of Charlotte. Inside her purse is the ID card of a local businessman who died in a fire months earlier. Who was the girl? And was she murdered? Dr Temperance Brennan, Forensic Anthropologist, must find the answers. She soon learns that a Gulf War veteran stands accused of smuggling artefacts into the country. Could there be a connection between the two cases? Convinced that the girl's death was no accident, Tempe soon finds herself at the centre of a conspiracy that extends from South America to Afghanistan. But to find justice for the dead, she must be more courageous - and take more extreme action - than ever before.


OK, I’m a huge Kathy fan and I’ve loved her writing for years. The science is real, the forensic side of things comes across so that a layman can understand and it makes perfect sense when the pieces are put together by the reader. The writing as usual has some great twists, there’s great prose and of course a principle character and cast that help the whole thing work on so many levels.

That said, the main disappointment for this book was the incredulity of having the three seemingly unrelated cases come together within an overall conspiracy thread. It seemed silly and to be honest pushed my belief a little too far. Yes I love it when things get global, yes I love the fact that the author can really weave a tale that hooks, but please, having so huge a leap between really does leave the reader wondering if it might perhaps have been better splitting them without the conspiracy to have a book of short stories for readers to dip into when travelling.

Don’t get me wrong I did have fun with it. I did keep the pages turning late into the night but when you push things a little too far, that’s when the reader may well question how many more novels the author can weave for the character to appear in.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

YOUNG ADULT REVIEW: The Amazing Adventures of Skinny Finny and Super Spy Wobblebottom: The Crazy Christmas Caper - Andrew Guile and Curt Walstead

Release Date: 24/10/13
Publisher:  Skinny Publishing


Christmas was always a special time in the Finny family home despite them living deep under the ocean. This year, Christmas is about to go very wrong indeed. Skinny Finny and his twin brother, Tubby wake on Christmas morning to find their parents missing. They set out to find them and to ruin Christmas in the process. Heaven help anyone who gets in their way ... Will the world famous MI5 agent, Super Spy Wobblebottom be able to stop Skinny Finny from ruining Christmas for children all around the world? Or will Skinny Finny and his ingenious inventions triumph? The Crazy Christmas Caper is perfect for young readers of 7-12 years old who enjoy a tale that delivers suspense and laughs in equal measure. Complete with delightful illustrations, it's also perfect for adults to read to children of younger ages. A chapter each night will send parent and child to bed with a sense of wonder and, perhaps, a grin on their face!


To be honest this is a book that I sat back to read for a light reading break from a large number of the heavy going titles that I’ve gone through recently. So whilst it seemed a little unusual, I decided to go with something that sounded like a lot of fun not only for me, but to be read to nephews who enjoyed story time before bed.

What Andrew does well with this book is give the reader some characters that they’ll not only have fun hearing (or reading about) but also facing a situation that will require brains as well as some luck to solve. Its got some great twists, quite a bit of humour and when added to the artwork works well on so many levels.

Back this up with some wonderful dialogue and all round it was a great bit of fun. That said, in some places it did seem to lose itself slightly but for a first time author its something that will be easily corrected with future projects and with the chance for further adventures, will all round give the reader a steady set of friends to return to in time. Thanks Andrew.

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: A Stir of Echoes - Richard Matheson

Release Date: 29/08/13
Publisher:  Tor


Madness is only a step away ...Tom Wallace is happy with his suburban lot. Until an evening of casual entertainment turns reality into nightmare. Tom sees himself as a pragmatist, and when his brother-in-law challenges him to undergo hypnotism, he obliges to prove a point. So no one is more surprised that Tom when it works. But this cheap parlour trick unlocked something that now threatens his sanity, way of life and marriage. Suddenly he can sense his neighbours' darkest desires, and some are dark indeed. When shadows from the past and glimpses of the future are revealed to him, Tom tries to deny what's happening. But as his existence becomes increasingly unbearable, the biggest revelation of all awaits -- a message from beyond the grave.


Having heard about Richard’s passing earlier in the year, I found myself wanting some nostalgic reading. After all I loved the tales he wove within the Twilight Zone, and I’ve also enjoyed other books that the author had written, but for me, having really enjoyed the Kevin Bacon film “ A Stir of Echoes”, I’d never taken the time to sit back and read the tale that inspired it.

So without as a tribute to the author, I finally decided to bite the bullet and get round to it. Its wonderfully written, has some great prose and whilst showing its age, it does entertain the reader as they weave their way throughout this cracking story. Back this up with some wonderful turns of phrase, great dialogue and a wonderful arc all round makes this something special to savour.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

VIDEO GAME REVIEW: Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag: Freedom Cry DLC - Ubisoft

Release Date:16/12/13
Publisher:  Ubisoft


Born a slave, Adéwalé found freedom as a pirate aboard the Jackdaw as Captain Edward Kenway's second-in-command. Fifteen years later, Adéwalé has become a trained assassin and finds himself shipwrecked in Saint-Domingue with no weapon nor crew, starting a new adventure of his own.


Welcome back to the Caribee gamers and let’s get straight into action with everyone favourite ACIV First Mate Adéwalé as he strikes out on his own set of missions against tyranny as well as furthering the Assassin’s Cause. Its full of adventure has some great twists and of course gives the gamer the chance to strike out on their own with something pretty unique that gives you something new to aim for.

Back this up with some great voice characterisation, a solid script as well as a whole host of accomplishments to achieve and all round it’s a cracking extra for the AC forld. Great stuff.


Release Date: 28/10/13
Publisher:  NewCon Press


With the impending crises of climate change, scarcity of water, dwindling energy reserves and spiraling global populations, the effective management of our land and the food it produces has never been more relevant. Established in 1938 by a small group of far-seeing and enthusiastic engineers and agriculturalists, the Institution of Agricultural Engineers provides a professional nexus for the scientists, technologists, engineers, and managers working in the many and varied forms of land-based industry. In 2013, to mark their 75th anniversary, the IAgrE have commissioned a book that looks forward at what the future might hold. To help them achieve this, they approached NewCon Press. Looking Landwards attracted submissions from within the UK, from the USA, Australia, mainland Europe, Africa, and Asia; from professional writers and would-be writers, from scientists and engineers who are actively involved in dealing with the book's themes to people who have simply been inspired by them. Looking Landwards features the very best of these stories. Twenty-three works of science fiction and speculation that dare to look to the future and examine what lies ahead for farming, for agricultural engineering and for all of us.


I love short stories and in a world where people have a hard time making ends meet, it’s a great way when you get the chance for a compendium to try new authors that you may not have had the readies to spare for previously. Here within this wonderfully creative book by Ian, is a whole set of tales from a whole range of talent within the industry.

Its got some cracking stories within from top notch authors like Jetse De Vries, Adrian Tchaikovsky and also Kim Lakin-Smith but also allowed me to try authors that are new to me such as Storm Constantine, Den Patrick (who whilst I’ve read his Fighting Manuals I haven’t read his fiction) as well as new author Jonnie Bryant who all presented stories that were great to not only dip into during journey time but left the reader asking questions. All round a cracking book and one that I had a lot of fun reading. Great stuff.

FANTASY REVIEW: Discworld 40: Raising Steam - Terry Pratchett

Release Date: 07/11/13
Publisher:  Doubleday


To the consternation of the patrician, Lord Vetinari, a new invention has arrived in Ankh-Morpork - a great clanging monster of a machine that harnesses the power of all of the elements: earth, air, fire and water. This being Ankh-Morpork, it's soon drawing astonished crowds, some of whom caught the zeitgeist early and arrive armed with notepads and very sensible rainwear.

Moist von Lipwig is not a man who enjoys hard work - as master of the Post Office, the Mint and the Royal Bank his input is, of course, vital . . . but largely dependent on words, which are fortunately not very heavy and don't always need greasing. However, he does enjoy being alive, which makes a new job offer from Vetinari hard to refuse . . .

Steam is rising over Discworld, driven by Mister Simnel, the man wi' t'flat cap and sliding rule who has an interesting arrangement with the sine and cosine. Moist will have to grapple with gallons of grease, goblins, a fat controller with a history of throwing employees down the stairs and some very angry dwarfs if he's going to stop it all going off the rails . . .


I’ve been a fan of Terry’s writing for years, grabbing each successive Discworld title as it came out purely for the fact that I could return to a world of humour, one that entertained and also gave me a cracking fantasy story that would make me laugh as ell as cheer me up after a bad day. Yet sadly for me this book left me feeling flat.


Well to be honest this doesn’t feel like a Pratchett title, the humour felt forced, the characterisations weren’t as vivid as they have been and to be honest overall it didn’t have the usual zeal or spark that other titles have had for me. All round I was greatly disappointed and whilst I’m pleased that I took the time to read it, I’d perhaps suggest others pick it up either as a PB or borrow from the library.

Monday, 16 December 2013

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Lego: The Hobbit Trailer Announced - Warner Brothers Interactive

Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Well its that time of the year when the you're starting to look forward to next year and to help keep you warm on those cold nights, our friends at Lego and Warner Brothers Interactive have let us know (as well as having smuggled us) a trailer for the forthcoming Lego Game: The Hobbit.

We have to say that it looks like they're bringing all the fun of Lego again to Middle Earth and we can't wait to ambark with Bilbo, Gandalf and the Stunties.

So without further ado here you go:

Have a great Christmas,

Gareth and Lady Eleanor.

FANTASY REVIEW: The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant 4: The Last Dark - Stephen Donaldson

Release Date: 17/10/13
Publisher:  Gollancz


The bestselling fantasy series from one of the biggest names in the genre comes to an unforgettable conclusion. This is the final volume of the epic Chronicles of Thomas Covenant - one of the keynote works of modern fantasy. Compelled step by step to actions whose consequences they could neither see nor prevent, Thomas Covenant and Linden Avery have fought for what they love in the magical reality known only as 'The Land'. Now they face their final crisis. Reunited after their separate struggles, they discover in each other their true power - and yet they cannot imagine how to stop the Worm of the World's End from unmaking Time. Nevertheless they must resist the ruin of all things, giving their last strength in the service of the world's continuance.


The final tale in the epic Thomas Covenant series and one that has taken quite a few years (three decades worth) to finally reach the end. So what do you get?

What unfurls within is a story that really reaches the pinnacle of what has gone before, weaving the previous titles into one continuous thread which when taken into context and woven with wonderful prose and dialogue all round generates something pretty special. Its been a long road and whilst many may have doubted why so many were needed, it’s something that really has shown how Stephen has grown not only as a writer but a plotter for the epic world.

Back this up with some magical writing, some cracking twists and all round I was more than a happy reader. Alas Thomas, sad to see you go but what a way to leave.

FANTASY REVIEW: The Silvered - Tanya Huff

Release Date:  08/11/13
Publisher: Titan


The Empire has declared war on the small, were-ruled kingdom of Aydori, capturing five women of the Mage-Pack, including the wife of the were Pack-leader. With the Pack off defending the border, it falls to Mirian Maylin and Tomas Hagen - she a low-level mage, he younger brother to the Pack-leader - to save them.


I'm a reader who loves a good fantasy story, they take you on a journey that not only delivers a solid kickass story but also gives the reader a tale that whilst appearing relatively straight forward has some wonderfully solid twists that go to show that what is originally perceived as a straight line, is often a long and complex road.

Here in this book by renowned UF author Tanya Huff is a story that brings out the spirit of man with the fantastical elements, whilst present, secondary to the characters development. Its well written, the prose sharp and when added to characters that you really want to spend time with gives the reader a magical outing. Add to this some great dialogue and all round I was a more than happy reader.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

VIDEO GAME REVIEW: LEGO Marvel Super Heroes - Warner Brothers Interactive

Release Date: 15/11/13
Publisher:  Warner Brothers Interactive


The story of the game sees spy Nick Fury call on Marvel Heroes including Thor, Spider-Man, the Hulk, Captain America, Iron Man, Hawkeye, Deadpool, Wolverine and the Black Widow to save Earth from Loki and Galactus. Expect the LEGO series' trademark family-friendly platform/brawler/puzzle gameplay. There are over 100 characters to unlock

You get to explore a LEGO New York and travel beyond Earth.


I’ve been a huge fan of the Lego franchise for years, having played my way through the Star Wars Titles, then Indiana Jones, Harry Potter and of course the two DC Batman ones. So when I heard that Marvel was getting the Lego treatment I just couldn’t wait to get my hand on it. I mean, Spidy, fantastic four and the avengers all to have fun with, but wait, not just that, they vamped it up with the huge Marvel guys, yep, that’s right, Hulk, Abomination, The Thing, there’s no way I could pass that up.

So what do you get?

Well lets be honest here, you get a huge amount of characters to play with, you have a great plotline, hugely destructible objects, side missions as well as hidden items to find alongside puzzles to figure out. It has also got great replay options with things to discover with free-play and of course it has to get props just for putting Lego Rapters in it. Yeah, that’s right, Lego dino’s.

All round, I’ve had a huge amount of fun with this game,, played through the various missions multiple times and spent a lot of time looking at the beautiful backgrounds and loving the script that has made the Lego games iconic. Great fun all round and something that my nephews as well as my twin are going to have a blast with this Christmas.

URBAN FANTASY YOUNG ADULT REVIEW: Finishing School 2: Curtsies and Conspiracies - Gail Carriger

Release Date: 05/11/13
Publisher:  Atom


Does one need four fully-grown foxgloves for decorating a dinner table for six guests? Or is it six foxgloves to kill four fully-grown guests? Sophronia's first year at school has certainly been rousing. First, her finishing school is training her to be a spy (Won't Mumsy be surprised!). Secondly, she gets mixed up in an intrigue over a stolen device and has a cheese pie thrown at her. Now, as Sophronia sneaks around the dirigible school, eavesdropping on the teachers' quarters and making clandestine climbs to the ship's boiler room, she learns that there may be more to a school trip to London than at first appears ...Vampires, werewolves and humans are all after the prototype Sophronia recovered in Etiquette & Espionage, which has the potential to alter human and supernatural travel. Sophronia must try to uncover who is behind a dangerous plot to control the prototype ...as well as survive the London season with a full dance card.


Ah, Gail Carrigers wonderful Steampunk Victoriana Young Adult series returns with the second outing that will leave readers in no doubt that this series is here to stay. Its quirky, has great characters and when you add the growth of them within the piece based from their original adventures alongside how the events have helped shape them all round makes this something not only a delight to devour but a piece that I thoroughly enjoyed without noticing what the time was.

As with Gail’s other work, its instantly identifiable as hers, the prose skips off the page, the prose helping you just dance along the writing whilst at the same time learning to appreciate what the characters go through as each situation merits. Back this up with some great twists, some cracking one liners and all round I was a more than happy reader.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

HUMOUR REVIEW: Tommy Cooper: All in One Joke Book - Compiled by John Fisher

Release Date: 03/10/13
Publisher:  Preface Publishing


My wife is a magician, yesterday she turned our car into a tree. A big white horse walks into a pub. The barman says, 'we have a drink named after you.' The horse says, 'what? Eric?' I said, 'waiter, what's that in my soup?' he said, 'I'd better call the boss, I can't tell one insect from another.' I'm reading a book called 'Sex Before 20'. Personally I don't like audiences. I said, 'it's serious, doctor, I've broken my arm in 20 places'. He said, 'well stop going to those places.' I call my car flattery. It gets me know where.


Ah classic comedy from the unique magician/slapstick comedian Tommy Cooper who is sadly missed. Within this title is a whole host of classic Cooper humour and liners that will have many a fan chuckling along as they remember the unique voice weaving the story. It’s great fun and whilst it might not be for some younger readers, those of an age to remember him will love it. All round a great compendium and obviously something lovingly researched by John Fisher. Great stuff.

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: The Wolf Gift Chronicles 2: The Wolves of Midwinter - Anne Rice

Release Date: 07/11/13
Publisher:  Vintage


It is the beginning of December and it is cold and grey outside. In the stately flickering hearths of the grand mansion of Nideck Point, oak fires are burning. The Morphenkinder are busy getting ready for the ancient pagan feast of midwinter. Everyone is invited, including some of their own who do not wish them well...

Reuben Golding, the newest of the Morphenkinder, is struggling with his new existence as a Man Wolf, struggling to learn to control his desires and bloodthirsty urges. His pure, luminous girlfriend Laura seems all set to join him in this new way of life, but Reuben is not at all certain he will love her if she becomes as he is. Beyond the mansion, the forest echoes with howling winds, which carry with them tales of a strange nether world, and of spirits - centuries old - who possess their own fantastical ancient histories and taunt with their dark, magical powers.

As preparations for the feast gather pace, destiny continues to hound Reuben, not least in the form of a strange, tormented ghost who appears at the window, unable to speak. But he is not alone: before the festivities are over, choices must be made - choices which will decide the fate of the Morphenkinder for ever.


OK I was looking forward to this novel as it’s the second part in a new series, so I was more than a little unhappy with the way things seemed to be cranked out based on what I had come to expect.

Firstly with the original novel in the series, The Wolf Gift, the writing was easily accessable for all readers, completely different from the way that her Vampires came across in their novels. That was a great thing, yet here, she seemed to have gone back to that style that not only felt like it stunted the storytelling but also seemed a huge departure from the whole meme of the Werewolves.

Add to this some character modifications that were not only annoying but didn’t work that well within, alongside a pace that seemed to drag, all round left me feeling not only flat but cheated as well as leaving me wondering what the author had planned as there wasn’t any growth for the world/characters leaving this more of a filler extended novella rather than a real full blown novel. A great disappointment and as such I’d advise if you want to read this borrow from your library.

Friday, 13 December 2013

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: The Pagan Lord - Bernard Cornwell

Release Date: 26/09/13
Publisher:  Harper Collins


The new novel in Bernard Cornwell's number one bestselling series The Warrior Chronicles, on the making of England and the fate of his great hero, Uhtred of Bebbanburg. Alfred the Great is dead and Edward his son reigns as king. Wessex survives but peace cannot hold. The Danes in the north, led by Viking Cnut Longsword, stand ready to invade and will never rest until the emerald crown is theirs. Uhtred, once Alfred's great warrior but now out of favour with the new king, must lead a band of outcasts north to recapture his old family home, that great Northumbrian fortress, Bebbanburg. Loyalties will be divided and men will fall, as every Saxon kingdom is drawn into the bloodiest battle yet with the Danes; a war which will decide the fate of every king, and the entire English nation.


I love spending time on the ancient roads with Bernard Cornwell’s characters and one of the more recent, Uhtred of Bebbanburg has been one that I’ve loved to hang around, especially during the chaotic time surround Alfred the Great. What his stories do is bring a chaotic time to the reader and allow them to immerse themselves in the bloody fields of war whilst also giving them a cracking story throughout.

Whilst this book has felt an age off coming, one of the things that has kept striking me throughout the whole series is when are we going to get to the characters own personal goals rather than his manipulation by those surrounding them. Its taken a long time to come round and to be honest I’m not sure how many more books the character has in him.

All round I have thoroughly enjoyed the story but the key thing with any of these books is that we know that the key character is never in any real danger (as he tells his tale from the future as an old man.) That detracts from the danger for me, and as such I do feel a little cheated as you known that no matter what the odds are he’ll walk away alive. That really does irk me. That said, it is a cracking addition to the series and one that many readers will not wait to get their hands on, especially as the dark nights close in, with the home fires banked. What more could you wish for?

ALTERNATE SCIENCE FICTION: The Never War 1: The Suicide Exhibition - Justin Richards

Release Date: 07/11/13
Publisher:  Del Rey


Wewelsburg castle, 1940. The German war machine has woken an ancient threat - the alien Vril and their Ubermensch have returned. Ultimate Victory in the war for Europe is now within the Nazis' grasp. England, 1941. Foreign Office trouble shooter Guy Pentecross has stumbled into a conspiracy beyond his imagining - a secret war being waged in the shadows against a terrible enemy. The battle for Europe has just become the war for humanity. This is The Thirty-Nine Steps crossed with Indiana Jones and Quatermass. Justin Richards has an extremely credible grasp of the period's history and has transformed it into a groundbreaking alternate reality thriller


The first book in a stunning series and one that will take Sci-Fi Alternate World readers to a new level with a cracking conspiracy title that brings a whole host of twists together. Its well written, the characters within easily allow the reader to adjust to the setting and when added to some great storytelling alongside solid prose all round makes this a book that was a joy to read.

Back this up with a solid supporting cast alongside a top notch principle player and all round I was a more than happy reader. I really can’t wait to see what Justin is planning on doing with this world but at the moment the only thing I can guarantee is that if it carries on as well as this initial set up, he’s going to be an author talked about for quite some time. Great stuff.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: Lionheart - Stewart Binns

Release Date: 07/11/13
Publisher:  Penguin UK


Lionheart is the latest thrilling historical novel in Stewart Binns' epic Making of England series. 1176 - England King Henry II reigns over a vast empire that stretches the length of Britain and reaches the foothills of the Pyrenees. But he is aging, and his powerful and ambitious sons are restless. Henry's third son, Richard of Aquitaine, is developing a fearsome reputation for being a ruthless warrior. Arrogant and conceited he earns the name Richard Lionheart for his bravery and brutality on the battlefield. After the death of his brothers, Richard's impatience to take the throne, and gain the immense power that being King over a vast empire would bring him, leads him to form an alliance with France. And so, Richard begins his bloody quest to return the Holy Land to Christian rule. Stewart Binns' Making of England series features Conquest, Crusade, Anarchy and his latest historical page-turner, Lionheart. Praise for Stewart Binns: "A fascinating mix of fact, legend and fiction ...this is storytelling at its best". (Daily Mail). "Stewart Binns has produced a real page-turner, a truly stunning adventure story". (Alastair Campbell). Stewart Binns began his professional life as an academic. He then pursued several adventures, including a stint at the BBC, before settling into a career as a schoolteacher, specializing in history. Later in life, a lucky break took him back to the BBC, which was the beginning of a successful career in television. He has won a BAFTA, a Grierson, an RTS and a Peabody for his documentaries. Stewart's passion is English history, especially its origins and folklore. His previous novels Conquest, Crusade and Anarchy published to great acclaim.


The culmination of a pretty epic series that has entertained me since the release of the original title Conquest back in 2011. As with the other books, they take the very best of historical fiction, blend it with some great combat sequences and give the reader the chance to walk the roads with the heroes who helped shaped our nation.

Its wonderfully addictive, has some great twists and whilst there is some factual discrepancies within the title its not done in a malicious way but to purely give the reader a better story. Add to this great prose, cracking dialogue and a hero you really can’t wait to spend time with and all round it’s a cracking gift for this time of year to help that special person in your life a break from the humdrum of the holiday period.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

VIDEO GAME NEWS: The Edlder Scrolls Online: Release Date Announced - Bethesda

Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Our friends at Bethesda have let us know that the forthcoming Elder Scrolls Online will be released on the 4th April 2014.  

We're huge fans here at Falcata Times with Lady Eleanor planning on playing with her usual Orcish Brutality believing that if you smack it enough times its either dead or wasn't animated in the first place.  I however will be using my favoured Khajits and hopefully that very sweet single hand crossbow (as seen in the trailer below.)

So prepare to get your new console of choice (Xbox One or PS4) and prepare for war.  Hopefully one or both of us will see you on the battlefield,

Gareth and Lady Eleanor

URBAN FANTASY TV TIE IN: Grimm: Aunt Marie's Book of Lore

Release Date: 15/11/13
Publisher:  Titan


As his Aunt Marie is dying, homicide Detective Nick Burkhardt discovers he is descended from an elite line of criminal profilers known as "Grimms", who keep the balance between humanity and mythological creatures. As well as inheriting the "gift" from his aunt of being able to see the creatures' true forms, he also inherits useful artefacts, including the Book of Lore.


Ah, as a fan of Grimm, I really wanted to get my hands on a copy of Aunt Maries book. I loved the way that it helped ease the principle character not only into his role but helped explain a lot of the things that go bump in the night. The artwork within is wonderful, fully descriptive and a great tie in with a cracking series. Add to this some great descriptions all accompanied with the various informations all round made this a great piece.

My only real gripe is that it should have been bound like the book in the series. Other than that though a great thing for any UF reader to enjoy.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

LADY ELEANOR VIDEO GAME REVIEW: Batman: Arkham Origins - Warner Brothers Interactive

Release Date: 25/10/13
Publisher:  Warner Brothers Interactive


Batman: Arkham Origins features an expanded Gotham City and introduces an original prequel storyline set several years before the events of Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City, the first two critically acclaimed games of the franchise.

Taking place before the rise of Gotham City’s most dangerous criminals, the game showcases a young and unrefined Batman as he faces a defining moment in his early career as a crime fighter that sets his path to becoming the Dark Knight. As the story unfolds, players will meet many important characters for the first time and forge key relationships.


OK, so those following me on FB know that I was bad and was throwing cardboard batarangs around the house a few weeks back to get ready for Batman: Arkham Origins, and to be honest I had a hell of a lot of fun doing that. So when the new title landed I couldn’t wait to get started. Grabbing my utility belt (OK so its an army belt with a canteen on it as well as pouches for snackages) I was ready to start the latest (or from Batmans Perspective First, outing.)

It definitely was something that really catches the gamers attention from the wonderfully huge landscape to sound that just bursts forth with each thing that you do. The story is rich, has some great twists all following what many would think of as a simple premise of Batman Vs Assassins. It’s definitely something that I had a lot of fun relearning the skills for, loved the wicked little twists with also a tip of the proverbial hat to the origin of Joker.

It was rich, full of DC magic and to be honest its huge (so huge I’m still playing with over 60 hours logged.) Add to this cracking voice acting, a revamp of the Bat Cave as well as the chance to fly around the city with your grapnel, all round made this a lot of fun to sit back with. Add to the mix a good solid learning curve, some puzzles that will take lateral thinking to solve as well as the chance to savour it on the build-up to your own celebrations and it’s a title that I really do recommend to others. Can’t wait to see what Gotham has in store for me next. Great stuff.

Lady Eleanor is Falcata Times Mistress of Mayhem, be it in the Horror Genre or on the console, she gives it her all and loves to blow the hell out of anyone who gets in her way.  You can often find her perusing the game sites to get the latest gossip on what’s arriving next or checking out the latest movie/book releases to see what grabs her attention.

In addition to this Lady Eleanor is a lifelong fan of pin up and in particular the Fetish Queen of the 50’s Bettie Page and whilst the name is an alias, its due more to her love of a song by the same title by the group Lindisfarne rather than her dominating presence when she lays down the law.

(Artwork by Isis Sousa for Falcata Times)

YOUNG ADULT REVIEW: The Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Anderson - Hans Christian Andersen, Jean Hersholt, Noel Daniel

Release Date: 22/10/13
Publisher:  Taschen


This is a cornerstone of modern fantasy...An exciting new compilation of Hans Christian Andersen's world-famous fairy tales. The Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen presents the most famous Andersen stories, including classics such as The Little Mermaid, The Ugly Duckling, The Princess and the Pea, The Little Match Girl, and The Snow Queen, in a highly esteemed 1942 translation by Jean Hersholt with illustrations by outstanding artists of their eras. The book contains a sparkling and unexpected selection of beautiful artwork from the 1900s to the 1980s by legends of fantasy - the deeply influential Kay Nielsen and beloved Arthur Rackham, the distinctive talents of Swedish light Einar Nerman and Ukranian avant-gardist Georgy Narbut, the revered Czech visionary Josef Palecek, the eccentric Tom Seidmann-Freud (niece of Sigmund Freud), and the groundbreaking film animator Lotte Reiniger, as well as exciting discoveries. It also features historic and contemporary silhouettes throughout the book, which enrich the presentation of Andersen's tales in a one-of-a-kind format and make this a fresh addition to children's libraries as well as adult art book collections. In addition to the tales and illustrations, the book also contains an introduction to Andersen's legacy, brief historical introductions to each fairy tale, and extended artists' biographies in the appendix. For adults and children alike, this lovingly researched and designed edition shares the eternal magic of Andersen's tales, celebrating these tender, heartfelt stories that have entered both our collective imagination and literary cannon. It brings together the most famous Hans Christian Andersen tales in a one-of-a-kind design. It features illustrations by famous artists from Austria, Britain, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, the Ukraine, and the United States in a unique format pairing one tale with one artist. It includes a highly-esteemed translation by Jean Hersholt accessible to readers of all ages. It contains dozens of all-new silhouettes specially commissioned for the book and well as vintage gems by fine artists. Following 22 fairy tales are featured in the book: The Princess and the Pea, The Nightingale, The Swineherd, The Old Man is Always Right, The Little Mermaid, The Emperor's New Clothes, The Darning Needle, Twelve by Mail, The Brave Tin Soldier, The Snow Queen, The Flea and the Professor, Thumbelina, The Sweethearts, Ole Lukoie, Five Peas in a Pod, The Ugly Duckling, Little Ida's Flowers, The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep, The Flying Trunk, The Little Match Girl, The Tinderbox, and The Pen and Inkstand.


Having loved the Brother Grimm Fairy Tales that had been lovingly retranslated and illustrated last year, I really couldn’t wait to get my hands on one for Hans Christian Anderson, after all, with classic tales like The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Little Mermaid and my own favourite, the Ugly Duckling, I really wanted to have something that was not only beautiful to flick through but would enchant my nephews and niece when I sat down to read to them.

What Taschen has done with this is bring artwork from around the world, is bring a wonderful translation to the fore and give it not only a modern voice but also, by choosing a translation by a Hollywood/Radio Star, allowed the stories to be played out in full in a modern voice in, what I feel, is a manner for tales around the fireplace or to help wrap a child up in bed.

It’s beautiful, has a huge amount of stories within and knowing how much pleasure the Grimm title brought, this will certainly prove itself more than worth the money for such a book that will be lovingly passed down. Thank you Taschen.

Monday, 9 December 2013

GUEST BLOG: The Worries of an Author ... - Steve McHugh

There’s an idea that it’s the second book which is the most difficult. Much like the difficult second album, the second book is meant to be the one that solidifies you as someone to watch. Someone who is going to grow and get better throughout their career. You’re meant to be nervous about its publication.

I wasn’t nervous, or concerned or anything other than wanting to get the book out. You see I self-published Crimes Against Magic back in April 2012 and it did okay. It didn’t set the world alight, but then I never assumed it would. As a first time, self-pubbed author, I was unknown and unproven and thus incredibly happy with the results.

Book 2, Born of Hatred, came out in Dec 2012. Once again I wasn’t really nervous or concerned that it wouldn’t be liked, I wrote the story I wanted to tell and people would like it or they wouldn’t. Then something weird happened. It did really, really well. So well, in fact, that I got an offer for a 3 book deal from 47North in Feb 2013.

47North re-launched books 1 and 2 in September and they both did very well once again. I hit the number 1 spot in 4 genres in several countries and managed to get in the top 100 best selling books in Canada and USA. I was, and still am, a happy man.
By the time the books had been re-released I’d finished book 3 and was quite content with it. But as the launch date of next Feb edges ever closer something dawned on me: what if people don’t like it?

It was a feeling I had when publishing both books 1 and 2, but for book 1 there were no expectations and book 2 was written so quickly after book 1 that there wasn’t time to really consider the idea that people might be waiting for it with their own expectations. Now I’ve had time to think about it, time to stew the idea that people have gained a measure of enjoyment from the previous books and expect the same, if not more, from book 3. People have told me that they’re looking forward to reading it, that they are, in some cases, exceptionally excited about the possibility of reading the insane ramblings in my head.

This was all new territory for me. People have e-mailed me in the past and said they liked my work, but the books were already out by then and book 3’s launch felt such a long way off. Now it doesn’t. Now it’s looming.

Fortunately, after talking to a few writer friends of mine, I came to the conclusion that all you can do is write what makes you happy. If you’re happy with the book, the chances are others will be too.

I’m still nervous about book 3. For one thing it’s the first book where I have a publisher to impress, as well as readers. But instead of worrying about how it will be received, I’ve decided to get on with book 4. Because if there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to keep you busy, it’s writing another book. That way when book 3 finally arrives, I have a whole new story to worry myself about.

For more on Steve follow the links:
Website: http://stevejmchugh.wordpress.com/