Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb

Fool's Assassin
Fitz and the Fool Book One
By Robin Hobb

Tom Badgerlock has been living peaceably in the manor house at Withywoods with his beloved wife Molly these many years, the estate a reward to his family for loyal service to the crown.

But behind the facade of respectable middle-age lies a turbulent and violent past. For Tom Badgerlock is actually FitzChivalry Farseer, bastard scion of the Farseer line, convicted user of Beast-magic, and assassin. A man who has risked much for his king and lost more...

On a shelf in his den sits a triptych carved in memory stone of a man, a wolf and a fool. Once, these three were inseparable friends: Fitz, Nighteyes and the Fool. But one is long dead, and one long-missing.

Then one Winterfest night a messenger arrives to seek out Fitz, but mysteriously disappears, leaving nothing but a blood-trail.

What was the message? Who was the sender? And what has happened to the messenger?

Suddenly Fitz's violent old life erupts into the peace of his new world, and nothing and no one is safe.

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A decade or so has passed in the Kingdom of the Six Duchies and FitzChivalry Farseer, bastard son of the royal line and former king's assassin, has taken on a new identity away from court intrigue with his wife Molly.

As Tom Badgerlock, he has little need of his Skill magic or, with the passing of his wolf companion, that of his Wit. That is until a mysterious messenger arrives, only to disappear before she can deliver her message, leaving a trail of blood.

Given how long it's been since the last Fitz and the Fool book, Hobb's leisurely introduction back into this world is welcome. Not only does the telling of the story remain true to the pacing of previous nine volumes (that are collectively referred to as the books of The Realm of the Elderlings), it works as a smoldering fire that slowly has new fuel added to it until it is suddenly a roaring blaze again.

The story is deceptively simple yet complex. Hobb's connection to the character of Fitz is evident, it feels like the last ten years between the books have never happened, that it was only yesterday we last saw the world through Fitz's eyes and while things have changed as they are wont to do, they are still comfortingly familiar.

This book is filled with heartache and joy, tension and foreboding, and anyone who fell in love with FitzChivalry Farseer in the Assassin's Apprentice will fall in love with him all over again. The highs and the lows are achingly crafted and so very real it is hard to imagine that Withywoods, the Six Duchies and indeed Fitz himself, do not actually exist somewhere.

This book is one of the best of the year. It is Hobb at her best and I came to the end all too soon. The books of Fitz and the Fool - all of them - are pieces of a masterpiece and one of the most important works in modern speculative fiction.

Thankfully Hobb is not a writer to take years to complete a book so hopefully we will have the next volume sooner rather than later.

Order it now!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Master of Whitestorm - a review

A bit of a flashback review here. I've recently 're-read' this book on audio and was inspired. Janny Wurts is one of my top 5 favorite authors ever.

Master of Whitestorm
By Janny Wurts

Korendir’s name was the stuff of legend ...

Man of mystery ... deadly mercenary ... obsessed adventurer ...

From a life of misery, chained as a galley slave under the whips of the marauding Mhurgai, Korendir contrived an escape against impossible odds, only to gamble his hard-won freedom against ever more deadly stakes—in a world endangered by elementals, shape-changers, demons and perilous wizardry. Even Haldeth, fellow captive at the oar and his only accepted friend, can not understand what drives Korendir to repeated risk. But the hazardous tasks serve a madman’s hope, to build an unbreachable citadel.

Yet, can any fortress wall be enough to disarm the inner nightmares that ride the Master of Whitestorm with the cruelty of a death-wish?
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In the words of Stephen R. Donaldson Janny Wurts is 'a gifted creator of wonder'. Not one to follow a well-trodden path of tropes, Wurts blazes new trails with her stories and always, always links them irrevocably with human resilience and spirit. The Master of Whitestorm is a standalone novel of towering brilliance, each chapter revealing layers and startling depth and a clear and natural unfurling of story that is as thrilling for its surprises as it is for how all the pieces fit together.

Janny Wurts is one of the most lyrical writers I know and her brilliance with word choice and naming is close to unmatched. Words are chosen and sentences constructed precisely and with the care of a painter (which she is also) choosing colours to create a visual masterpiece. While Wurts’ storytelling demands an investment of time and concentration, the payoff is always worth it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Falcon Throne by Karen Miller

The Falcon Throne
The Tarnished Crown Book One
By Karen Miller

Nobody is innocent. Every crown is tarnished.

A royal child, believed dead, sets his eyes on regaining his father s stolen throne. A bastard lord, uprising against his tyrant cousin, sheds more blood than he bargained for. A duke s widow, defending her daughter, defies the ambitious lord who d control them both. And two brothers, divided by ambition, will learn the true meaning of treachery.

All of this will come to pass, and the only certainty is that nothing will remain as it once was.

As royal houses rise and fall, empires are reborn and friends become enemies, it becomes clear that much will be demanded of those who follow the path to power.

A major new epic fantasy begins.




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Steeped with history and a vibrant sense of setting The Falcon Throne straddles the duchies of Harcia and Clemen. Once a unified Kingdom it is now a shadow of its former glory as warring dukes have ridden the land to the brink of ruin. In the midst of an uneasy peace we begin tale of Roric who overthrows his cousin to take the throne of Clemen for the good the people; and Balfre, heir to Harcia who will go to any lengths to assume absolute power and resurrect a kingdom centuries dead.

Amidst the tension that leads to war The Falcon Throne also tells the tale of the orphaned son of the murdered duke, the rightful heir to Clemen, who is nurtured on tales of the bastard cousin who killed his father and stole his crown. A crown it is his destiny to reclaim.

Miller has stretched her wings with this book and soared high to bring us a tale worthy of any fan of Martin's A Game of Thrones, Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind or Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora.

Filled with passion and vigor The Falcon Throne is an epic historical fantasy of kingdoms and dynasties, princes and pawns, and a shadowy power who pulls strings behind the scenes to topple one empire and raise another. I highly recommend it!

The Falcon Throne is due for release on August 26th - preorder it now!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Bound by Alan Baxter: A Review

Bound
Alex Caine Book 1
By Alan Baxter

Alex Caine, a fighter by trade, is drawn into a world he never knew existed - a world he wishes he'd never found.

Alex Caine is a martial artist fighting in illegal cage matches. His powerful secret weapon is an unnatural vision that allows him to see his opponents' moves before they know their intentions themselves. An enigmatic Englishman, Patrick Welby, approaches Alex after a fight and reveals, 'I know your secret.' Welby shows Alex how to unleash a breathtaking realm of magic and power, drawing him into a mind-bending adventure beyond his control. And control is something Alex values above all else.

A cursed grimoire binds Alex to Uthentia, a chaotic Fey godling, who leads him towards chaos and murder, an urge Alex finds harder and harder to resist. Befriended by Silhouette, a monstrous Kin beauty, Alex sets out to recover the only things that will free him - the shards of the Darak.

But that powerful stone also has the potential to unleash a catastrophe which could mean the end of the world as we know it.
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An entertaining and driven urban fantasy thriller from Aussie Alan Baxter, Bound is full of martial arts, magic and monsters.

This is the first book in a series of indeterminate length (although I believe he's been contracted for 3 books so far).

Baxter takes the reader on a roller-coaster ride as the world Alex Caine, our hero, knows changes before his eyes and he is introduced to the world of magic that hides in the shadows all around us. Becoming bound to an ancient and malevolent power the learning curve that Alex has to get a grip on is a steep one, and the pages fly as the reader is dragged tightly behind him as he crosses the globe trying to rid himself of the curse and find his centre in a suddenly unknown world.

This is a page turning dark fantasy that doesn't shy away from sex and violence and the the underbelly of society. Filled with guts, passion, determination and the will to survive Baxter has delivered a great romp of a novel and I'm looking forward to see where he takes Alex Caine next.

Bound is due for release on 01/07/14

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Pillars of Sand: A Review

The Pillars of Sand
Echoes of Empire
By Mark T. Barnes
BUY IT

Prophecy declared that corrupt politician Corajidin would rule the ShrÄ«anese Federation, even become its new Emperor—and sinister magic has helped him defy death in order to do it. But his victory is not assured, thanks to clashing rival factions that hinder any attempts to unify the nation. Though he has taken increasingly brutal measures to eliminate all obstacles in his path, the dark forces supporting him grow dangerously impatient. And the harder they press, the more drastic Corajidin’s actions become.

Soon, only his most powerful adversaries will stand in his way: Indris, the peerless swordsman and sorcerer who has long fought to end the Federation’s bloody turmoil; and the warrior-poet Mari, Corajidin’s own daughter and the woman Indris loves. Fate has torn them apart, forcing them into terrifying personal trials. But if Indris can bring to bear the devastating knowledge of the Pillars of Sand, and Mari can rise up as a rebel leader, Corajidin’s enemies will rally—and the decisive battle for the soul and future of the ShrÄ«anese will begin.

This epic tale of intrigue, love, and betrayal, painted in the blood of allies and enemies by Mark T. Barnes, concludes the Echo of Empire trilogy that began with The Garden of Stones and The Obsidian Heart.
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When I get to the last book of a series I am passionate about, I always have mixed feelings. I am jubilant to get my hands on the new volume, and sad because it's the last.

We have come now to the end of the Echoes of Empire, the debut trilogy from wunderkind Aussie Mark T. Barnes.

You have no idea how much I want more. Ia, the world in which Barnes' epic saga plays out, is immense. While many genre authors are talented world builders, Barnes, who may well stand on the shoulders of giants has become, to my mind, a giant himself. The world of Ia lives and breathes. It is rendered in vivid technicolor and wonders and horrors lurk at every turn. I am so enraptured that I just want to pry Barnes brain apart and scoop out everything he's ever thought about it... or maybe just steal his notes (hello, coffee table encyclopedia with full colour illustrations please!). For me it is a joy to read and to spend time in such a wonderfully and lovingly crafted creation. You can tell Barnes takes this seriously, that he isn't happy to settle with a ripped off medieval Europe on which to stage his tales. And when/if he does borrow from our past it is reinterpreted with stunning vision and imagination. The sheer number of details that are thrown 'haphazardly' (they really aren't haphazard) are mind-boggling.

Yeah, yeah I know. I am gushing.

You want me to tell you about the story? Pfft. Go and buy it!

In The Pillars of Sand the various threads of books one and two come to head, revelations abound and battles ensue. There are many kickass fight scenes - Mari is amazing - and Indris... well he finally has to embrace the power that is his birthright and finds out exactly what that birthright is. Squeeeeeeeeeeeeee! It is so worth the wait.

The worst part however is that the book ends.

And knowing that Barnes has another 6 books plotted to continue the next arc in Indris' journey is torture. But that's not all he has planned so... it's now a waiting game.

Don't read these books expecting Barnes to hold your hand through the telling. We hit the ground running in The Garden of Stones and it's up you the reader to pay attention to the details that are presented to get your bearings. Anyone who has read Erikson will have no problem, and those who loves epic fantasy - of the truly epic, complex and stunningly crafted kind - then you will love this and, I think, anything else Barnes cares to write.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Prince of Fools: A Review

Prince of Fools
Red War Book 1
By Mark Lawrence
BUY IT

The Red Queen is old but the kings of the Broken Empire fear her as they fear no other. Her grandson Jalan Kendeth is a coward, a cheat and a womaniser; and tenth in line to the throne. While his grandmother shapes the destiny of millions, Prince Jalan pursues his debauched pleasures.

Until he gets entangled with Snorri ver Snagason, a huge Norse axe man, and dragged against his will to the icy north. In a journey across half the Broken Empire, Jalan flees minions of the Dead King, agrees to duel an upstart prince named Jorg Ancrath, and meets the ice witch, Skilfar, all the time seeking a way to part company with Snorri before the Norseman’s quest leads them to face his enemies in the black fort on the edge of the Bitter Ice.

Experience does not lend Jalan wisdom; but here and there he unearths a corner of the truth. He discovers that they are all pieces on a board, pieces that may be being played in the long, secret war the Red Queen has waged throughout her reign, against the powers that stand behind thrones and nations, and for higher stakes than land or gold.
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You've probably heard me wax lyrical (or try to ) about Mark Lawrence before. You could even go so far as to say I am crushing on his authorial brilliance. And that would be very true. Lawrence has a vivid style of writing. It is smooth and compelling, he says much while actually writing (compared to the mammoth tomes I usually read) little.

This is the first book in a new series set within the same world as his Broken Empire trilogy. Yet for all that, while the stage is the same the story - and character of Jalan Kendeth - is different to that of the Prince of Thorns (aka Jorg Ancrath). And that's a good thing. Who wants to read the same thing all the time? However, beware, for all that you can tell you are read a Mark Lawrence book it is very different...Until it twists and turns on the pages right before your eyes and... but I don't want to give to much away. You're going to have to read it.

In three books Mark Lawrence has taken himself from being a 'rising star' amongst the new writers of the genre to firmly positioning his place in the firmament. I urge you to get on board and start reading him now.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Shards of Time: A Review

Shards of Time
Nightrunner Book 7
By Lynn Flewelling

The governor of the sacred island of Korous and his mistress have been killed inside a locked and guarded room.

The sole witnesses to the crime-guards who broke down the doors, hearing the screams from within-have gone mad with terror, babbling about ghosts . . . and things worse than ghosts.

Dispatched to Korous by the queen, master spies Alec and Seregil find all the excitement and danger they could want-and more. For an ancient evil has been awakened there, a great power that will not rest until it has escaped its otherworldly prison and taken revenge on all that lives. And only those like Alec-who have died and returned to life-can step between the worlds and confront the killer . . . even if it means a second and all too permanent death.


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Lynn Flewelling has been publishing novels since 1996 to great acclaim. I wish I could say I have been following her work all that time but I only had the pleasure of discovering her brilliant novels a few years ago. Luckily for me that meant I have a solid body of her work to make my way through. She is the author of the Tamir Trilogy and critically acclaimed Nightrunner series, of which The Shards of Time is book seven.

Unfortunately it is also - for now - the end of an era, as she wraps up the story of fan-favorite spies Alec and Seregil in a novel that contains all the action, intrigue, political skullduggery and magic that have made the books such an enduring part of the genre.

These are great books and I highly recommend them. Flewelling is a brilliant world builder and these books are perfect to lose yourself in.

I am very keen to see what she brings us next.

Shards of Time
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