Categories
Fantasy

The Sword of Mercy and Wrath by N.C. Koussis

It’s nearly the end of GrimDarkTober and I want to talk about the last book I finished this month!  The Sword of Mercy and Wrath is a dark fantasy book with werewolves, their hunters, a twisted trope of adopted sibling rivalry, set in a world of territory conflict and war.


Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Sword of Mercy and Wrath
  • Series: The Swords of Dominion, #1
  • Author: N.C. Koussis
  • Publisher & Release: Self, September 2022
  • Length: 267 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐✨ for fans of  dark fantasy and action

***See note on the synopsis at the end


This is an exceptionally addictive read.  For such a short novel, N.C. Koussis packs nonstop action and character development from start to finish to create a fast paced read that is hard to put down.

The two main points of view are Tristain, off to war as a knight’s squire in hopes of making a name for himself and getting his adopted sister and mother away from their abusive father back home.  The other is Selene, the sister, attacked by a werewolf and in turn sets off with a dashing inquisitor to become a hunter of those monsters.

I think the Selene character stole the spotlight from Tristain and ran with it.  I enjoyed both viewpoints but her character arc was the best part of the book for me.  An interesting look at how grief and revenge can cause a loss of identity as Selene shucks off her last to become a remorseless werewolf hunter for the religious order.  The training was brutal and dark and everything I’d expect from an order that targets those with hurt in their heart and no where else to turn.  Then the question becomes – can Selene find herself again?

Tristain took a bit of a different arc and showed us the life of the army, the depths of betrayal in the novel, and that monsters can take many shapes and forms.

I liked how both characters, and most of the side characters, were in the moral grayzone.  They had faults, they were ravaged from war and hardship and grieving, making mistakes and learning from them.  The book was pretty dark though the middle to end but managed to keep up a thread of hope that I don’t see in a lot of Grimdark anymore. The end was… Uh… Well, I’d like a sequel, let’s put it that way.  (My heart didn’t need a hug at all before the epilogue).

While I did truly enjoy the book, the action, the battles, the military strategy, the violence that all makes up a solid dark fantasy, one can guess by the length that there might not have been a ton of world building.  I am a world building fanatic and (while I 100% recommend the book for fans of fast paced action packed reads), I really wanted some more background and development for the world, the characters, the political conflicts, maybe some more history, just those little things that flesh out fantasy worlds.  I know that’s not necessity what the author set out to do but I think it would have helped without slowing things down too much.

That said though, the action and moral conflicts and characters more than carried this book! I am now patiently waiting for the next installment👻

I didn’t include a synopsis because I think it reflects an earlier version of the text that isn’t quite accurate.

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy

The Weeping Sigil by Jordan Loyal Short (Book Thoughts)

Wrapping up GrimDarkTober here with … More dark fantasy! Back in August, I was lucky enough to participate in a book tour for The Skald’s Black Verseand knew that I needed to read The Weeping Sigil sooner rather than later. As always, I’ll keep this one 99% spoiler free.

I eventually bought the audiobook and despite that and despite enjoying the narration quite a bit, I ended up reading the second half pretty quickly.  Fully recommend checking out this series if you like dark fantasy, folklore, and fast paced action with some scifi elements.


Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Weeping Sigil
  • Series: The Dreadbound Ode, #2
  • Author: Jordan Loyal Short
  • Publisher & Release: Self, 2020
  • Length: 337 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Here’s the synopsis:

Adrift in the void, Henrik’s rescue is only a prelude to slavery.

But his new life on Tyria is not at all what he expected. When the illustrious House of Quoll purchases him, Henrik finds himself living in the home of his old enemy, Prefect Brasca Quoll. Desperate to hide the truth of his last days on Heimir, Henrik dives into the murderous game of Tyrianite politics. Devastated by the catastrophe on the Norn homeworld, the Federation teeters on the brink of civil war.

While the Shining Ones maneuver their champions for the final confrontation, Henrik’s fevered visions unveil the scope of Moriigo’s nightmarish rebellion.

Aboard a stolen voidcraft, Brohr and Lyssa hurtle into the depths of the starry abyss, on a desperate exodus in search of safe haven. But the outer reaches of the system are full of strange worlds, haunted ruins, and bizarre cults.

As anarchy grips the streets of Tyria, Henrik vows to reveal the true peril facing the Federation: Moriigo’s return! While rival electors, assassins, and federal inquisitors plot the downfall of House Quoll, Henrik must bind himself to the future of his onetime enemies, lest the horrors of his prophetic visions come to pass


So this one picks up right where The Skald’s Black Verse left off.  The Skoljan refugees are heading towards Brohr’s blue planet but have no idea why, and Henrik is adrift in space awaiting rescue.

I think this one excelled most by introducing a lot of new places and people to the world.  Descriptions of the Clockwork and other marvels of the new worlds kept me interested.  Seeing the grand Roman-esque world of Tyria and it’s politics and intrigue.   Terrifying void creatures that actually just wanted to cuddle each other? Ok. I’m down.

Probably the best thing about the book is that I just like Short’s writing.  For a self published book these are exceptionally well edited, and the audio (narrated by Aaron Smith) sounded amazing too.

I think I mentioned the little chapter preludes in book one’s review.  They’re occasionally just anecdotes or parts of texts but often add a lot to the world.  We finally learn what the Dreadbound are because of these little excerpts so I definitely recommend paying attention to them.  Anything quoted from text or prophecy (or heresy)? ends up being if not important, at least interesting.

Henrik and Brohr are still the two main points of view, but now we also get to meet a raider captain named Petra and of all people, Brostar Quoll (Brasca’s father).  I actually liked the Henrik storyline the best in this one as we see him become a pawn of prophecy, blinded, and wreaking all sorts of amazing havoc in Tyria.  I didn’t even dislike Brostar, he seemed like a much better person than his son.  The little kid was cute too and I’m more than a little afraid for his future.  All the political intrigue, plotting, betrayal, and prophecy tied into this storyline was amazing.

Not that Brohr’s storyline was dull, but I can only take so much screeching and bloodshed.  I liked the segment regarding the “shit luck” of the people, because it’s a real dark fantasy trope for characters to just keep making the best out of whatever is left to them. It’s certainly sad to see every ounce of the Norn refugee’s hope stamped out but I just feel like Brohr is heading towards his part in this inevitable war of the gods, and it’s not as interesting yet.  I never liked Lyssa nor cared about her either so… my bad, more Henrik please!

No one had asked him if he wanted to be haunted, to be cursed, a butcher, a horror. He did not walk a path of freedom, but one of fate. She would understand. The sagas needed monsters (p. 253)

So yeah, there wasn’t much hope here at all.  It kept getting darker, and darker, and darker, right until the end.  There’s more magic, more prophecy, more of everything, and I’m probably to jump right into book three and have absolutely no regrets about it.

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy

A GrimDarkTober Guest Post: Dr. John Mauro reviews Norylska Groans!

A quick note from OneReadingNurse: Welcome to the first guest post for GrimDarkTober month! I’m honored to host this review written by Dr. John Mauro of the indie grimdark fantasy Norylska Groans! You can find him on twitter at @DrJohnmauro and locate more of his reviews on both GoodReads and the Grimdark Magazine website. Without further ado, let’s introduce the book and see the review!


Here’s a bit about the book:

  • Title: Norylska Groans
  • Series: N/A
  • Authors: Michael R. Fletcher & Clayton W. Snyder
  • Publisher & Release: Independent, 2021
  • Length: 378 pages
  • Guest Rating: 💀💀💀💀💀

The synopsis via GoodReads:

Norylska Groans

with the weight of her crimes. In a city where winter reigns amid the fires of industry and war, soot and snow conspire to conceal centuries of death and deception.

Norylska Groans
and the weight of a leaden sky threatens to crush her people. Katyusha Leonova, desperate to restore her family name, takes a job with Norylska’s brutal police force. To support his family, Genndy Antonov finds bloody work with a local crime syndicate.

Norylska Groans

with the weight of her dead. As bodies fall, the two discover a foul truth hidden beneath layers of deception and violence: Come the thaw, what was buried will be revealed.


Finally, here is the review by Dr Mauro!

Norylska Groans is a tour de force from Michael R. Fletcher and Clayton W. Snyder, two of the top authors in grimdark fantasy. The story is set in the Russia-inspired industrial city of Norylska, bathed in filth and constantly groaning from its brutal cold and wind—the perfect setting for an urban grimdark novel.

As an avid fan of both classic Russian literature and grimdark fantasy, I loved every aspect of this book. With an assortment of pseudo-Russian slang and an ultraviolent cast of characters, there is also a clear inspiration from A Clockwork Orange.

Much of the book revolves around memory stones, which store memories and even personality traits from the individuals who wear them. Dostoevsky would be impressed with the depth of psychological analysis in this book, as the traits from the memory stones fight against the personality (and often sanity) of those who wear them.

The concept of this book is so creative, combining some of my favorite literary elements from across multiple genres. It’s the type of book that makes me think: “I wish I had thought of this idea.”

But is it grimdark enough? Ummmm…yes.

Fletcher and Snyder cranked the grimdark knob up to eleven, and then kept turning it up until the knob broke off and sank into a pool of blood. This book is manna from hell for grimdark lovers.

If you love grimdark, you need to read this book.

5/5


There you have it!  Stay tuned this month for more awesome grimdark and generally spooky content from a few of my good friends!

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: featuring A.C. Cross!

Hellloooo everyone, Happy Easter! The Sunday Brunch Series is finally back after it’s ridiculously long hiatus.

Episode 20 features author A.C. Cross as part of the Escapist Book Tours (tour) for his newish book! Where Blood Runs Gold is a “weird western” – part Wild West, part Walking Dead, a very entertaining and quick read overall.

This was an especially impressive interview because I sent these questions to AC at approximately 0020 one night, and by 0045 I had this entire thing back in my email, zero edits required, good to go! He is a smart writer and I fully recommend reading tbe book

There is a giveaway happening during the book tour, so check that out in the links after the interview!!


🥞Welcome to the Sunday Brunch Series! Can you tell everyone an interesting fact about yourself that isn’t in your author bio?

🎤I fell off a building and slashed my leg open in college while trying to impress a girl. It sort of worked, but the scar and the story are the best things to come out of that.

🥞 We are all adults here, pitch us your book in #AITA format!

🎤’I (50sM, sheriff) rescued a girl (13F) from an abusive living situation, but my job is violent and I’m not emotionally available to take care of her. AITA?’

🥞What is your favorite Brunch food?

🎤 Can I say mimosas? Because if so, definitely mimosas. If not those, I am a sucker for both steak and eggs – steak medium rare, eggs over easy, white toast, and a beer – and Eggs Benedict, but that’s usually only if I expect that it’s going to be a heavy day. 

🥞 Seeing as this is an Easter Sunday interview, do you have any Easter plans?

🎤 This year is going to be a little different than years past. We would usually cook a turkey and full meal, go to church in the morning, hunt for Easter Eggs, and just relax. However, with my dad passing recently, it’s probably going to be a more subdued affair. That’s okay, though! New times need new traditions. Maybe I can find some rabbit to roast. The irony there would be funny, at least to me. 

🥞 Want to talk about your use of religion / fanaticism / cult appeal in the novel?

🎤 Sure! One of the things I’m kind of a sucker for in media – books, movies, games, etc. – is a cult or fanatics as villains. There’s just something so fascinating about how someone can twist and warp people and utilize them for his or her own purposes. The idea of charisma being so overwhelming that it drives sense from a person just digs into my brain like a splinter, in a way. What’s so fun about writing those kinds of groups is the amount of freedom you have in creating them! There’s no set form for how to write them. You can create entire universes in service of fleshing out those organizations. I mean, if you’re ever stuck in a story and don’t quite know where to go, throw in a cult side plot and watch things go off the rails in the best way possible.

🥞 What’s your favorite slang phrase that you used in WBRG?

🎤 I believe that ‘shit-kicking horsefuck’ , used by Merle in the first chapter, is my favorite. It’s so gloriously obscene. 

🥞 One of my favorite archetypes is the morally gray character, so I loved ErrolWhat do you think makes a good morally gray character (and what makes Thorpe a good one)?

🎤 I think that the best morally gray characters are ones that operate from a place of wanting to do good for the world. They truly want to make things better or help people. It’s just that, for whatever reasons, they have found or decided that the ends justify the means and that the end goal is more important than how it’s accomplished. Hanging a man from a beam in order to stop him from butchering families? Justified. Beating a child predator near to death? Justified. For the best morally gray characters, they see the world from a broader perspective than a typical hero. It doesn’t matter how they get the job done. If it’s done, it’s a success. Errol definitely has that mentality, at least in my mind. 

🥞 Care to explain your Twitter handle?

🎤 This one takes some explaining. When I was back in undergrad (2009 or thereabouts…I’m old, shut up), my group of friends had a guy named Dan in it. He’s an incredibly nice, sweet, giving guy and was great fun to tease lovingly because he would get flustered. One day, a few of us went out to lunch at a local Mexican place and the conversation somehow got around to how Dan needed to stick up for himself because he would, basically, do anything to be liked. He was there and protested, to which one of us (I think me) mentioned that we could probably get him to even eat cat food. This sparked an intense, hilarious discussion over the next fifteen minutes. We were winding down when Dan spoke up and said, and I quote “Okay…when I do this…” and nothing else he said mattered because he made a fatal mistake. See, he didn’t say ‘if’ he were to eat cat food, implying that there was a negotiation. He said ‘when‘, which basically flat out said he would be doing so.

From there, it was a long-running gag that, eventually, I turned into my first website. For a few years, I would write comedy articles and things like that on the site before life got in the way. I’ve locked the website down now because a lot of the content is more juvenile and mean-spirited than I would like now, but Dan Eats Cat Food became the Twitter handle and, at this point, I feel so attached to it that changing anything about it seems wrong. 

🥞 I believe we were promised an exclusive meme, related to your brand!

exclusivecrabmeme

You asked for this

{{Yes, yes I did 😂}}

🥞 What part of the WBRG idea came first? As in Western, horror, exploding corpses … What was the book’s backbone?

🎤 It’s kind of tough to say, to be honest! After playing through Red Dead Redemption 2, I was enamoured with the character of Arthur Morgan. He danced over the ‘gray hero’ line and back so many times. That gruff, violent man with a good heart? It spoke to me and I wanted to make someone like that. Once I had that, I wanted to do something different. Darker. I really love cosmic horror and unexplained stuff like that, so what if there was a world where things like that existed and it was just normal? Flesh-eating Dust, golden blood, monstrous things lurking in the wild? I love all of it. And the best part about that? There is a LOT more to the state of San Dios than is covered in WBRG. Part of why I love the Dishonored games is just how invested they are in building a world that exists outside the context of the story. The little snippets of information that you can learn that inform you about a world far bigger than you are experiencing in the game…delicious. I kinda love world-building, if you couldn’t tell!

🥞 What’s next for you?

🎤 That’s another good question. Technically speaking, I have over 50 ideas and counting waiting in my WIP pile. Realistically speaking, I have three. The first is a sequel to WBRG with a different character and it’s a reinterpretation of the Twelve Labors of Hercules. I am really excited about it. The second is a dark, bleak noir-style book that is violent and twisted and I love it. The third, and the one I’ve done the least with, starts as kind of an epistolary exploration of grief and loss before descending into, as always, an apocalyptic cult organization harvesting grief to feed a mountain god. 

I don’t write normal things, do I?

{{Normal is boring}}

🥞 What is the most valuable (or entertaining) feedback you’ve gotten so far for WBRG?

🎤 My favorite feedback was from my editor, Sarah, at a certain part in the book. She simply put in the comments: “You asshole.” I take that as a win.

🥞 Here is the rapid-fire round of bookish questions:  Favorite author? A book or series that you always recommend? Favorite literary character?

🎤 I don’t know that I have one! I have so many books and know so many authors that it’s a tough question to even start with.

It’s not as well known as his Lot Lands series, but Jonathan French’s Autumn’s Fall series is absolutely fantastic. There’s also another series by a friend of mine named Ashley Wrigley called Mesopotamia//Tiamat that I just devour about once a year

This will sound strange, but Dwight from Sin City. He’s complicated, heroic, smart and dumb at the same time, and chivalrous. He just speaks to me.

🥞 Thank you for joining Sunday Brunch! If there’s anything else you want to add or say about anything at all, please do so here!

🎤 I’m so glad to be able to have this conversation! I love answering questions and letting people know more about me. Anyone and everyone is free to add me @daneatscatfood on Twitter or check out my website www.aaronccross.com for news and a few free short stories to peruse!

{{Once again, I shit you all not, he typed that in about 25 minutes with no prep}}


I hope you are all convinced by now to enter the giveaway!

Prize:  A Signed Paperback Copy of Where Blood Runs Gold!
Starts: April 14th, 2022 at 12:00am EST
Ends: April 20th, 2022 at 11:59pm EST

Enter here


Meet the Author!

A.C. Cross is a doctor, but not the kind that you want treating you for kidney stones or pneumonia or anything. That’d likely make your situation much worse.

He (currently) lives in the Great White North of the United States as a bearded, single man.

He’s a lover of words, many of which you have just read in this very book.

He’s an admitted scotch whisky and beer snob and his liver would not argue with him.

He has written four books now, including this one, but the other three (in the Roboverse) are funny and not nearly as sweary or violent.

You can find more about him as well as some neat little free stories at www.aaronccross.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/daneatscatfood
Author Site: http://www.aaronccross.com/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/22062732.A_C_Cross

Categories
Adventure Fantasy Paranormal

Where Blood Runs Gold by A.C. Cross (Book Review)

I was telling Red, my chestnut mare, about this book and specifically how A.C. Cross called a Chestnut horse a sweetheart, and the other horse a Cee-U-Next-Tuesday! We had a good laugh over this as we all know how Chestnut mares are the true evils of the horse world

Joking aside, mostly, Where Blood Runs Gold is (to me) a unique book that I am pegging as the Wild West meets The Walking Dead. I’m a bit at a loss of how to describe or categorize the book because I’ve never read a fantasy/western before!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Where Blood Runs Gold
  • Series: N/A (room for a sequel)
  • Author: A.C. Cross
  • Publisher & Release: Indie, January 2022
  • Length: 494 pages (fast read)
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ I would if it sounds up your alley, for 18+ readers

Here’s the synopsis from Am*zon!

Sheriff Errol Thorpe’s life is chaotic, brutal, and above all, solitary. After an unimaginable loss years ago, all he feels is the compulsion to seek vengeance. But when a vulnerable family arrives in town, facing an ugly future, he is pulled headfirst into a web of violence, secrets, and things he never imagined. In search of truth and answers, Thorpe finds himself battling deadly flesh-eating Dust, acidic golden blood, and the political designs of powerful people – all the while learning how to be a person again. When Dust rises in San Dios, people hide indoors. When Sheriff Thorpe arrives, people run.

The author spins the legend of Sherriff Errol Thorpe, aka The Judge, as he fights gangs, robbers, sin, corruption, his own demons, and a greater evil too.  There are stories offered in flashback format that I love, as they help build the man’s life and legend.

Gettin’ damn near tired out of bein’ told when I can or can’t die. I’ll die when I’m damn well ready {Sheriff}

The sheriff is a good example of a morally gray character. He 100% does what he thinks is right and sometimes gets carried away while bringing the pain. Watching him wrestle with his strict code and trying not to be soft made him memorable too. He has had a tough life and I liked him a lot by the end.  The young girl he rescues and a lady that sort of becomes his partner seem realistic and create some good banter, although my favorite side character was an easily exasperated captain of the army named Josie

Language wise, the slang and dialect are consistent, smart, and to quote the author – “gloriously profane” at times.

It’s dark as a crow’s dick out here

Or my personal favorite –

Great green fucks on a hill, son

I say smart because Cross consistently writes language and dialect that is realistic to the old West, without breaking character at all, and I found that consistency impressive. One note on the editing too – I read this as a Kindle Unlimited and was very happily surprised to find only one typo in the entire novel. This is an extremely well presented indie work

Where westerns don’t tend to world build a lot, he makes up for that in atmosphere, setting and tone

Here’s where I docked the star: I wanted a little more from the “big picture” side of things. How did the entire world fit together? It seemed to be civil war era (brief mentions of Union and Confederate) but that never really played into the plot. There also wasn’t a history of the big bad evil given, it just kind of appeared and then the book ended without explaining what it was (or how it got into that cave)?

The horror elements aren’t too bad but I am solidly recommending this book for 18+ readers.

If you like Westerns, adventure, weird, legends and stories, check this one out! The book is out now!

DON’T MISS THE SUNDAY BRUNCH REBOOT ON 4/17, FEATURING A.C. CROSS!!

Categories
Fantasy

Storm of Chaos and Shadows by C.L. Briar – book tour and music playlist 💜

Welcome to my stop on the Storm of Chaos and Shadows tour! I couldn’t nearly fit all of this into an Instagram post, and I am happy to introduce a few of my favorite indie (and more popular) artists to my bookstagram friends!

First let’s take a really quick look at the book –

  • Title: Storm of Chaos and Shadow
  • Series: Storm of Chaos and Shadow #1
  • Author: C.L. Briar
  • Publisher & Release: self published 3/8/22
  • Length: 431 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ yes for adult fantasy fans!

Here is the synopsis via Amazon:

Only the strong survive among the fae. Only the cruel.

Elara’s instincts have kept her alive despite the growing viciousness of the fae realm. Since the enchanted storm decimated her family seven years ago and forced her to care for her younger siblings, Elara craves an escape from the ghosts of her past.

When the charming general of the last human stronghold offers her the chance to act as a spy, Elara discovers a trail of embers and ash, along with her own awakening darkness. As the mystery of their enemy unravels, her yearning for revenge ignites. Elara must control her inner shadows and uncover the foe destroying their world or watch as the remaining cinders of humanity are extinguished forever.

I want to share a few quick thoughts on the book but mostly focus on the playlist! This one starts out reading like ACOTAR but I actually liked it.  Elara just never gave up. She and her sisters have a great relationship and I loved Will, the little brother.  Alarik is completely insufferable but I ended up liking him and pretty much all of the characters.  A fae war, ongoing attacks, romance, plenty of danger, prophecy, and a snarky horse are just a few of the things I enjoyed about the book.  Definitely recommend for fans of **adult** fantasy!

** spice level: hello chapters 40 and 57, just skip those if you don’t have a glass of water and a fan handy 😂**

Alright, onto the music!

First up, a song for Elara as she decides to take control of her life

Birds and Daisies by Raccoon Raccoon

Take your own fate by the hand
It’s time to conquer your own land

The characters, while they always embraced the ones they lost during the Storm and the ongoing conflict, at one point made a decision to move forward.  This is a song for Alarik

Don’t Look Back by AIHVHIA

Cries for help aren’t worth my time

I could have saved so many lives

If anyone is familiar with Rozier, I think this is one of his most haunting songs about accepting death and Alanna is just amazing. One of his songs is quintessential for any playlist regarding fae

In A Week by Rozier

And they’d find us in a week
When the buzzards get loud
After the insects have made their claim
After the foxes have known our taste
After the raven has had it’s say

I’d home with you”

Next up: whether the characters are going to war with each other or the fae, it took them a while to learn who it’s worth fighting with

Go to War by Nothing More

This is the Alarik and Emma song, and for all of those with scars 

Under Your Scars by Godsmack

Wrapping up, I wanted a song for Evander and I think he would appreciate this song by The Satellite Station when he finds himswlf thinking about Gem 💜

Need You Right Now by The Satellite Station

I was feeling lost at the edge of the world
Saw your lips were moving, but I didn’t hear a word
And everything froze in time, no, the clock was just broken
Couldn’t fall asleep so I just laid on the floor

That’s all I’ve got for you guys, I hope you enjoyed the playlist!

Thank you again as always to Feather and Dove for having me on their tours and trusting me with a fun type of post 💜

Categories
Fantasy

Dark Oak (Book Tour) by Jacob Sannox

Thank you so much to Storytellers On Tour and the author for having me on the Book tour for Dark Oak! This is a dark ish fantasy that takes place after the end of a great war, where the evil has been vanquished and a time of peace is beginning.

Or… Well it should be, anyway.  Unfortunately once the prime evil is gone and unity is no longer necessary, humans tend to create new enemies and now war is brewing in the territories again as the lands and Lords revert back to their pre-war dispositions.  This right here was probably my favorite theme from the book.

Despite my 3 star rating and various struggles: I want to say up front that the ending of this book is EVERYTHING.  Once you learn what “Dark Oak” refers to and things start getting dark, it’s just… Really something else.

Screenshot_20211124-164300

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Dark Oak
  • Series: The Dark Oak Chronicles, #1
  • Author: Jacob Sannox
  • Publisher & Release: self, April 2017
  • Length: 313
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐for dark fantasy fans, maybe military fantasy 

Here is the synopsis:

Humanity has finally defeated the Dark Lord, but Morrick fought on the wrong side.

Though he was a slave, he is branded a traitor and must earn the trust of new lords in order to return to his family – if they are still alive.

Now that their common enemy is dead, the nobles begin to forget old loyalties, and Queen Cathryn’s realm looks set to plunge into war once more. But there are older and more terrible powers dwelling within the forest, and when they are awakened, Morrick will decide who lives or dies.

The starting point of this book was an interesting choice, as it started at the end of a war.  It was hard for me to wrap my head around who and what was relevant at first, even though right at the start of the book it disclaims that it is NOT the story of the dark lord!

Dark Oak has a LOT going on, and a few different points of view to be aware of.  Morrick is the main character, and probably the most interesting one as we watch his moral struggles.  There is a lot of humanity in the book as various tragedies are met and death with, including post war trauma and death of family, seen mostly through the eyes of Morrick.  Cathryn, the queen, and the various lords also have points of view.

I thought his wife, Rowan, was important too but she was mostly entirely brushed over. For example, she went through all this trouble to consider starting a rebellion with some people who showed up, then we hear nothing except that it was over and went badly.  That was probably the hardest part of the book for me – to decide what was relevant. I also struggled with  what parts the author chose to brush over vs. expand on.

I thought jt was pretty real that most of the Lords, including the queen, really just wanted to kick up their feet and essentially retire after the war but there’s always that *one* problem child.

As far as the magic- the Dryads were definitely the best part of the whole book for me.  The supernatural things were dumped into the book kind of suddenly, but once I learned that a main focus going forward was angry Dryads having their home and trees destroyed, things made a lot more sense.  I really loved the descriptions of the tree and water folk, and how their magic worked.

The worldbuilding was high in setting, scenery, and geography, decent in history, but kind of mish mash on the micro level.  I had a good idea of the history and politics of the realm and the forest, but not so much the cities and moods, weather and foods, etc.  There were some interesting cultural pockets like the “whores” in the Whoreswood.  I originally felt like the world lacked any kind of cohesion, but that plays a role since although the humans united under the name “The Combined People”, they didn’t necessarily have anything in common except the enemy.

Here is a preview of the map, which helped SO much to visualize the book

Screenshot_20211125-201848

I think the magic is definitely the strongest aspect.  I liked the political maneuvering by the Lords and watching the kingdom dissolve into mayhem.  The book definitely had both strong and weak points, and it *lived* for the final quarter.  I do plan on ordering book 2 so i can see what happens, and how he grew as a writer going forward.

Definitely check out the tour page and see what others had to say about the book!!

Book Tour: Dark Oak by Jacob Sannox


Meet the author

Jacob Sannox is a 37 year old writer from the sunny climes of Bedfordshire, England. In his spare time he is generally writing, thinking about writing or berating himself for not writing.

He loves to play the acoustic guitar, but wishes he was better at it, and he has recently taken up Dungeons & Dragons. This is dangerous, as he has a propensity for disappearing into fantasy worlds. Nobody saw Jacob Sannox between 2000 and 2010, during which time he was LARPing.

Do not judge him.

Author & Book Links

Website:http://www.jacobsannox.com/

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jacobsannox

Facebook: http://www.twitter.com/jacobsannox

Instagram:http://www.instagram.com/jacobsannoxwriter

Goodreads:https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55810045-dark-oak

Purchase Link: https://books2read.com/u/mVQZ65 

Categories
Fantasy

Song of Echoes (book review) by R.E. Palmer

I am reading a ton of self published fantasy this fall, thanks to some amazing indie authors that have reached out about their books. One such author was R.E. Palmer!

Song of Echoes reads like a classic fantasy. I’ve been in a huge slump recently toward all the character driven drivel and romance in new fantasy books. This book presented it’s world and told a story, one with inherent magic and two very different character points of view that don’t interact. It’s kind of what I love about self published work

Overall it was not perfect, but interesting and refreshing

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Song of Echoes
  • Series: Song of Echoes, #1
  • Author: R.E. Palmer
  • Publisher & Release: FrontRunner Publications, 07/05/21
  • Length: 434 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 for classic, adult fantasy fans

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

All that has gone before is woven into the Song; joy, sorrow; kind acts and cruel acts; creation and destruction. Past, present, and what has yet to come, make themselves known — if you know how to listen.

For three hundred years, the people of the Five Realms have lived in relative peace, protected by their great leader, the Archon. Yet, far to the north, in the frozen lands beyond the Draegalen Trench, the Ruuk stir, driven by a rising evil, long believed banished from the world. But rumors questioning the Archon’s ability to defend the realms once more, persist.

Elodi, the Lady Harlyn, uneasy in her new role following the death of her father, and Toryn, a farmworker and outsider in his village, must discover a way to fight an enemy that all but defeated their ancestors.

The story starts with a legend, and then throws a lot of places and names and lore at the reader.  It didn’t take long to figure out what areas were important to remember though, and once the story got started with Toryn and Elodi it was hard to put down.  Who would know that maybe those old legends are true?

The world has inherent magic, but it isn’t really elaborated on or discussed at all until towards the end.  There is also workable magic, presented as a handful of feared sorcerers with inherent abilities.  The source is hinted at but will be further explored in later books.

The world seems like a geographically diverse continent, with forests and mountains and everything in between.  I did like how the setting of each area shaped the characters and their personalities, as they should. 

Elodi is the newish leader of her realm, gathered at the Archon’s keep with the other Lords to inspect the realms defenses.  Toryn is a farmer, dying to see beyond the gates of his home region but unable to due to restrictions placed by the Archon on travel.

As we learn more about the politics, dangers, and impending war of the realm, everything starts to make sense and fall into place.  There are multiple dangers to each border but the Archon is obsessed with only one enemy, totally ready to leave the rest of the realm to fend for itself on extremely limited men and resources.

I really ended up liking Elodi, she was brave as hell at the end and a credit to her title, leading her knights.  Toryn had less of an impressive story arc but set himself up to be a bigger player in the next book.  I actually liked that the storylines didn’t intersect, it’s a nice change from every author just shoving romance down my throat for the sake of it.

There are a lot of really good side characters too and Palmer doesn’t hold back from inserting some tragedy into the pages. There are some tough siege and battle scenes.

I think the physical descriptions and setting were my favorite aspect.  The mountains and bridges form some amazing natural defenses, and everything sounds so majestic.  Without being repetitive, Palmer brings each area and vista to life.

Theme wise … Honor, veteran pride, loyalty, found family, and the value in stories, are some of my favorites.

I think the down side was that the book got off to a slow start.  It does take a bit to figure out who is who, who is important, and what regions we need to remember, but I think it’s worth it.  I would have liked more from the inherent magic.  I will definitely be keeping an eye out for book 2!


Shout out to the cover artist as well –  Kentaro Kanamoto does some amazing fantasy artwork! http://www.kentarokanamoto.com/

Find the book online!

GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58145883-song-of-echoes

Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B095XQ9VQ
Website: www.frontrunnerbooks.com

 

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Earth On Fire, Ocean of Blood (book thoughts) by A4

I was so excited when the fourth Far Forest Scrolls book released! I read it this October and figured that since I’ve been diligently reading from the start, I would post my spoiler free book thoughts.

There may be series spoilers – I think and hope not but it’s hard after four books to remember 😂

Series recap and reviews:

Na Cearcaill – 🗡🗡🗡🗡

Hourglass of Destruction – 🗡🗡🗡🗡

Rise Above the Storm – 🗡🗡🗡🗡🗡

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Earth on Fire, Ocean of Blood
  • Series: Far Forest Scrolls, #4
  • Author: A4 – Alpha Four
  • Publisher & Release: Self, 09/07/21
  • Length: 481 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟✨ I’m in for the series at this point, I do think it’s good for advanced young readers 

Here is the book blurb:

Pushed into civil war, the nations of Verngaurd descend into a series of devastating and fatal battles that leave the ground bloodied and in flames. Will Friar Pallium’s years of planning be enough to overcome the considerably larger army of nations arrayed against them? With an elaborate series of feints and ambushes planned, the only assured outcome is substantial death on both sides. With the Allies and the Confederacy focused on fighting each other, the Dark Warriors are all too happy to move in and conquer territory.

When the trials of their odyssey are finally revealed the League quickly discovers it will be longer, more strenuous, and infinitely more dangerous than they could have imaged. Bellae will have to face eccentric guardians of uncertain motives while struggling with the devastating loss of one of her companions—and her part to play in his tragic death.  

I like the concept, storyline, presentation, and artwork of these books so much.  What I’m struggling with is who to recommend them to, and also the pacing of the series as a whole.

The best line of this fourth installment was Bellae and the League of Truth – they finally started their quest and got so far as to find two sets of crystals.  The issue: it took four books to get here.  I get that it’s a slow burning series and epic quest, but I’m struggling with how long it took to get them here.

The guardians and the quest itself is awesome though.  Bellae is starting to crack a bit under the tragedy and pressure.  It’s truly unfortunate that she had to do this at her age since the quest was never intended for a child.  The other squires are such a good team and I like the other league members too.

Oh Crann, why though 😭

The other storyline was the beginning of the civil war – it was brilliantly thought out, including maps, but I honestly just tuned out at the length of the battle scenes.  The traps and prestidigitation were amazing and incredibly well thought out – but again, half of the entire book only covered the start of the war, and only a few encounters.  The cliffhanger though 😭

J think Luchar stole the whole book at the end with his diatribe prior to the final battle.  I think he secretly became my favorite knight and I’m just blown away by the depth he has hidden the whole time.  Half crushed or not, he’s joining that final battle.

Speaking of depth: I think this fourth book had the broadest emotional spectrum yet.  Oh I have both cracked up laughing and been absolutely bawling at points throughout the other books, but this one went straight to the dark pit of the Eaglian’s souls with black humor about Tallcon, death, and religious fanaticism, to the point that I found some of the exchanges truly terrifying.

So what do I think overall? These books are more about the journey than the speed. About the pearls of wisdom and range of emotions, and the author taking his time to get the story where he wants it to be.  It’s truly an indie project and I bet a labor of love, including the continuation of all the wonderful artwork in the book. 

This one still stays clear of language and romance, but continues with gore gore and gore in the war scenes.  It’s almost cartoonist at times but I still would strictly say 14+ with these and probably try them for boys trying to find fantasy books.

Lastly: I am just going to throw some of my favorite quotes here at the end!

Dreams, which can seem so hardy, even sturdy, within the fortified confines of our skull, acutely become fragile and vulnerable when exposed to the outside world. Each time we fight to achieve a dream, we uncover part of our heart. It takes courage to reveal a dream and diligent fortitude to achieve it

– Veneficus

 

At the end of the day, even those of us who have never fought in a war have battle scars, visible and invisible, repressed and haunting, external and internal, public and confidential. Regrets can cling to our souls like invasive dew

– a scroll

 

“When you’re fighting the wrong war, there can be no victory, no matter the outcome.”

-Friar

 

“In life, and on this quest, do not lose sight of the importance of the journey itself. Concentrate on your heart and dedicated effort. Those are the things you can control. Isn’t your best all that you, and the world, can ask?”

– Patuljak

 

“Just because I don’t worship your god does not mean that I have a lesser conviction, or right, to victory”

– Friar

And … Lastly:

“Even as the clouds of confusion rumble and turn black, I stand. I stand in front of uncertainty and scream, ‘I will know you.’ I will fight to know you. As long as I have breath, I will never let doubt or fear win. As long as I can move even one part of my body, I will fight, tear, and claw for Knight victory. When I heave my last breath, I leave no regrets.”

– someone I really hope survives 


Categories
Fantasy Horror

Dreams of the Dying (book review) by Nicolas Lietzau

Happy September! I am feeling the fall vibes, pumpkin spice, wearing of long sleeves, and books that contain corpses and nightmares …. Hey!

Today I am endlessly grateful to self published author Nicolas Lietzau (pronounced Lee-tsow) for the stunning hardcover of his novel Dreams of the Dying.  The naked cover mirrors the dust jacket and makes the book an excellent Halloween/shelf decoration as well as a memorable read, so definitely put this on your radar to read while he’s working on book two!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Dreams of the Dying
  • Series: Enderal #1
  • Author: Nicolas Lietzau
  • Publisher & Release: Self, December 2020
  • Length: 826 pages (hardcover)
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes to those with any interest in fantasy, horror elements, mental health rep

Here is the book blurb from GoodReads:

If your mind is the enemy, where do you run?

Years after a harrowing war experience, ex-mercenary Jespar Dal’Varek has taken to drifting. It’s a lonely existence, but, barring the occasional bout of melancholia, he has found the closest thing to peace a man like him deserves. Life is “all right.”

Or so he believes. Hoping to turn the page, Jespar accepts a mysterious invitation into the beautiful but dangerous archipelago of Kilay-and everything changes.

Plagued by explosive social tensions and terrorism, the tropical empire is edging ever closer to civil war. Kilay’s merchant king is the only person able to prevent this catastrophe, but he has fallen into a preternatural coma-and it’s Jespar’s task to figure out what or who caused it. As the investigation takes him across the archipelago and into the king’s nightmares, unexpected events not only tie Jespar’s own life to the mystery but also unearth inner demons he believed to be long exorcised.

Battling old trauma while fighting for his life, his sanity, and the fate of Kilay, the line between dream and reality blurs until only one question remains: If your mind is the enemy, where do you run?

Described as “Inception in a Polynesian fantasy setting,” Dreams of the Dying is a slow-burning, haunting blend of fantasy, mystery, and psychological horror, that explores mental illness, morality, and the dark corners of our minds.

This is a pretty difficult book to unpack! I know a lot of my followers have played Skyrim – if you played the Enderal mod you may be familiar with the author of this book, or at least his writing! (I admit that I entirely stopped gaming around 2016, it wasn’t compatible with travel nursing, but knowledge of the Enderal story is not required to enjoy the book!)

 The Worldbuilding: I thought the best part about the hardcover was all of the extras in the appendix.  This is a clearly lovingly crafted world that had an insane amount of planning involved, both on a macro and micro level.  There is plenty of world building in the book including local foods, customs and culture, architecture, a religious synopsis, weather, and the feel of the populace…

Then the book is over and the appendix is there! The micro world-building is just ..  it’s just something that only an indie author can do and it’s perfect.  Pages on and drawings of animals, even their named skeletons, local fashions, drawings, more about the Gods and Goddesses, and just an incredible breakdown of the language that was created for the Makehu people.

Take this example of how the language and lingual barriers feed overall immersion – it integrates into the story and creates comic relief at times!

‘kaia ‘ō kā teteie e māu kū.’ Do you know it?”

“‘Look out for … the emotional fish?’”

Kawu snorted. “Not quite.

I just love how much local culture and lore was included without being burdensome to the story.  I was going to share another quote about the tension/feel of the city but it contains a typo … The sentiment is there though. (Mostly the editing is extremely well done).

  • The only issue I had with the world is – the heck is up with the seasons? The 6th moon of dry season only has 5 days … but the rainy season month has 33 days? 
  • Also as far as immersion ..  Lietzau probably wrote one of the most creative languages I’ve ever seen in a low fantasy, including such slang gems as “by the excretions of the sacred donkey.” Yet with nothing else modern about the world, he throws in modern slang.  I got used to it … (yes yes even though it’s a Bavarian cultural thing) … but it threw off an otherwise near perfect immersion.  I’m sure the Makehu swear too 😂

The Characters: ah gosh this book was so perfectly tailored to people who are struggling through their 30s.  Jespar has PTSD, anxiety, and guilt, and the representation is just so real that reading his journey through it was a bit jarring at times.   Lysia is a physician that runs a slum clinic even though her debts are piling up, and Kawu is an innocent, selfless little thing that had way too much trauma thrown at him at once.  Neither of them were particularly good people but they seemed real and I think anyone with struggling mental health will be able to relate to someone in the novel.

The point of view is mostly Jespar’s, but there is another that is referred to as “The Man”.  This POV brings out a whole spectrum of one’s own personal hell, confronting past demons, and learning a thing or two about what exactly it means to be a monster.

Between the monster, the swamp, and the court of corpses, the analogies are spot on.

Screenshot_20210810-051015

The Content: this seems like a good time to mention that September is suicide awareness month: I don’t need to give you guys the lecture but PLEASE reach out to a professional if you ever feel like you’ re losing the will to keep going. https://www.nami.org/get-involved/awareness-events/suicide-prevention-awareness-month

Alright the book is heavy content wise: briefly there is anxiety, crippling guilt, parental death, fairly graphic suicide description involving a knife, a drowning attempt, a not too scary corpse, other corpses, kind of descriptive (maybe R rated) m/f and m/m intercourse, smoking and alcohol use, and some really cute fluffy animals.

Tae ite nū’iwilo, tae hūnā ‘o. ‘You won’t find out if you give up.’ Because that is what it comes down to with melancholia and despair: just as other people lie when they tell you things always get better, your mind lies when it tells you that it doesn’t. The only way to know is to stay and find out … as hard as it might be.”

That quote hit me HARD, and it felt like something extremely personal that the author left in the text. When he recapped it in the afterword and talked about his own mental health struggles; I am just glad to see people speaking openly of this.  My mental health is total trash as a critical care nurse right now and I’ll openly admit that I had to clam up on this review for a bit.

The Magic: alright let’s perk this back up.  The magic system ranges from dream-walking to necromancy, healing, mind control, and seems to work as a mental and physical drain.  There are quite a few abilities and it’s pretty interesting overall.  Y’all know me, throw in necromancy and I’m there. There’s a lot of cause and effect related to the magic, and a professorial lecture in the appendix if you are still curious!

Closing thoughts : it’s a long book but nothing is extra, and the plot keeps moving forward without much drag at all.  This is a more intellectual breed of fantasy that I would push towards fans of Gene Wolfe or NK Jemisin rather than those expecting pure escapism.

To break the book down into a one sentence synopsis:

A comatose magnate, insurgent terrorists, furious commoners.

With a side theme of mental health, and….

If you fight injustice with injustice, no matter how deserved it may feel, you’ll always end up as just another turn of the wheel.”

I do strongly encourage everyone with an even casual interest in fantasy to check this one out.  It won’t be for everyone with some of the strong themes but I definitely think it’s worth consideration!

Again thank you so much to the author for my review copy, all opinions are my own 🖤


Find Nicolas and Dreams of the Dying online:

instagram.com/niseam_stories goodreads.com/nicolaslietzau facebook.com/nicolaslietzau patreon.com/niseam discord.com/invite/zdJyuHV (“The Enderal Novels” Section) niseamstories.tumblr.com reddit.com/r/enderal

 


Now that no one is still reading, a quick bookish note and SBAIS update:  I am endlessly grateful to ALL of the Indie authors that have been reaching out to me with their novels this year!  There are thousands of reviewers out there and it’s an honor! Everyone stay tuned this Sunday because I’ve got Heartmender series author V Romas Burton on and I can’t wait to share that with you all!