All posts by Amanda J Spedding

Writer, editor, caffeine-addict, wannabe-ninja.

Review: The True Bastards by Jonathan French

FUCKING GLORIOUS!

 

True Bastards

I should say more; go into delicious detail about Fetching driving this story and the beautiful inner and outer conflict of her struggle as chieftain of a hoof. Of the revelations and hits given along the way. About the roller-coaster of emotions I rode and how I laughed and commiserated, and even how one scene had my Fitbit log my reading of it as exercise (I shit you not). I mean, it has half-orcs riding hogs, elves and halflings, centaurs and frails, thicks and thrices, wizards and magic, barbarians and gods and fighting pits… But FUCKING GLORIOUS covers it.

The True Bastards is the second book in The Lot Lands series, and if you loved The Grey Bastardsthen you’ll adore this.

Ten stars out of five (fuck you, math!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FESTIVUS BOOK PIMPING: THE GODBLIND TRILOGY BY ANNA STEPHENS

Hear ye, hear ye, FESTIVUS PIMPUS! FESTIVUS PIMPUS IS HERE!

Cutting it right to the wire here for the Pimpus of the Bookus, but I can’t let this year’s Festivus go past without shouting from the rooftops how fucking excellent The Godblind Trilogy by Anna Stephens is. Like, stop reading this post, click that link, and go buy it. I’ll wait. <flaps hand> Off you go.

<insert Muzak here>

So… we good? Brilliant.

The grimdark trilogy consists of three books (obviously): Godblind, Darksoul, and Bloodchild. I finished the last this year, and it was bittersweet. So attached had I become to the characters and the storytelling that I didn’t want it to end. But end it did, and I had serious bookhangover afterward. There’s a brutal beauty to Stephens’ storytelling; it drags you in and doesn’t let you go. The characters, though, the characters…

I could wax lyrical for hours on these books, but trust me when I say the only disappointment you feel from this trilogy is that it has come to an end.

Let’s look at some blurbs, shall we?

GODBLIND:

Godblind

The Mireces worship the bloodthirsty Red Gods. Exiled from Rilpor a thousand years ago, and left to suffer a harsh life in the cold mountains, a new Mireces king now plots an invasion of Rilpor’s thriving cities and fertile earth.

Dom Templeson is a Watcher, a civilian warrior guarding Rilpor’s border. He is also the most powerful seer in generations, plagued with visions and prophecies. His people are devoted followers of the god of light and life, but Dom harbors deep secrets, which threaten to be exposed when Rillirin, an escaped Mireces slave, stumbles broken and bleeding into his village.

Meanwhile, more and more of Rilpor’s most powerful figures are turning to the dark rituals and bloody sacrifices of the Red Gods, including the prince, who plots to wrest the throne from his dying father in the heart of the kingdom. Can Rillirin, with her inside knowledge of the Red Gods and her shocking ties to the Mireces king, help Rilpor win the coming war?

DARKSOUL:

Darksoul

In the besieged city of Rilporin, Cdr. Durdil Koridam orders the city’s people to fight to the last rather than surrender to the surrounding armies of the Mireces and their evil Red Gods.

Outside city gates, the uneasy truce between King Corvus’s Mireces and the traitorous Prince Rivil’s forces holds, but the two armies are growing desperate to force a breach of the walls before the city’s reinforcements arrive.

Meanwhile, prophet Dom Templeson reaches Rilporin. The Red Gods have tortured and broken his mind, and he ends up in Corvus’s clutches, forced to reveal all of his secrets. And what he knows could win the war for the Mireces.

Elsewhere, in Yew Cove, only a few survivors remain from a Rank of thousands of Rilporian warriors. Dom foresees the important role one of those survivors, Crys Tailorson, will take on as the events to come unfold. As Crys grows into his position as a leader, that role becomes clearer—and far darker. Will he be willing to pay the price to fulfill his destiny?

BLOODCHILD:

bloodchild-final

In this epic grimdark conclusion to the Godblind Trilogy, heroes, armies, and gods both good and evil will battle one last time, with the fate of the world itself at stake. . .

The great city of Rilpor has fallen. Its walls have crumbled under the siege by the savage Mireces; its defenders have scattered, fleeing for their lives; its new rulers plot to revive the evil Red Gods using the city’s captured, soon-to-be-sacrificed citizens.

Now, with the Fox God leading the shattered remnants of the Rilporian defence and the Mireces consolidating their claim on the rest of the country, it’s up to Crys, Tara, Mace, Dom and the rest to end the Red Gods’ scourge once and for all.

While the Rilporians plan and prepare for one final, cataclysmic battle to defeat their enemies, the Blessed One and the king of the Mireces have plans of their own: dark plans that will see gods resurrected and the annihilation of the Dancer for all time. Key to their plan is Rillirin, King Corvus’s sister, and the baby–the Bloodchild–she carries.

As both sides face their destinies and their gods, only one thing is clear: death waits for them all.

There’s a fuck-tonne to love about this series, and I can do nothing more than scream into your face: BUY THESE BOOKS! So…. BUY THESE BOOKS!

Special shout-out to the cover artist, too. I have the trilogy in hardcover, and the art is divine.

Recommended for everyone, but also those who love grimdark, dark fantasy, epic fantasy, swords and shit, gods both good and evil, characters that dig into your soul, epic battles, and killer storytelling. Oh, and this ain’t for the faint-hearted, either. You’ve been warned… or challenged, either or…

BUY THESE BOOKS!

Festivus Book Pimping. SNAFU: Last Stand (Cohesion Press)

Yes, yes, I know. I am still shit at the regularity of Festivus Book Pimping, but get ready for a deluge! It’s gonna rain books, my friends! And while that may appear painful… BOOKS!

Right then, let’s get this party started.

Today, we’re going to settle into some military horror in the form of SNAFU: Last Stand, the latest release from Cohesion Press. Fourteen stories from fourteen amazing writers from all over the world, and with a foreword written by Hollywood director, Tim Miller (Terminator: Dark Fate, Deadpool). Tim loves the SNAFU series, and stories from some of its tomes have been reimagined in Netflix’s Emmy-winning animated series, Love, Death & Robots (you really should check it out, it’s killer), in both season one and the upcoming season two.

As the editor-in-chief of Cohesion Press, I’m partial to the books, and this one especially. Working with editor, Matthew Summers, the stories cover the gamut of ‘last stand’, and with a linear timeline, we move from Neanderthals right through to future warfare. There’s cosmic horror and voodoo, Sumerian gods and biological ‘gone-wrongs’, giant maggots, killer ‘skitters’, and huge fucking bats… to name but a few.

With the theme of ‘last stand’, you get to the best and the worst in people, the heroics and sacrifice – survival is very much on the table but those pickings be slim. Last Stand shows the mettle of those thrown into untenable situations and what they’ll do to beat back that tide. Each is a law (lore?) unto itself, and it’s a hell of a ride.

Here’s the blurb:

“This is it, mofos. This is the end game. We’ve got nowhere else to go, and no bugger’s coming to save us.
We’re either doing this or we’re gonna die trying, because it all depends on you. There is no going back. So lock, load, and get ready to rumble!”
SNAFU: Last Stand is a collated anthology of short stories of a final battle, no matter where it is or who it involves.
It’s the Battle of Thermopylae, the Alamo, the Battle of Mirbat, the First Battle of Mogadishu, the Battle of Hel, and Custer’s Last Stand, all rolled up into one badass monster-fighting basket of SNAFU-style action.

SNAFU Last Stand

And here’s the ToC, with links to the authors (who have them) for anyone wanting to dive into more of their work:

Beast Trap by JG Grimmer

Skitter by Anna Stephens

Seeing the Elephant by B Michael Radburn

Midnight in the House of Bats by Josh Reynolds

Leapfrogging by Buck Bloomingdale

Firefall by Mike Barretta

Katadesmos by Amanda Dier

The Throat by Alan Baxter

Breach by JW Stinson

Canute by RPL Johnson

Of Meat and Man by Jason Fischer

Jawbreaker by Justin Coates

Final Harvest by Justin Bell

Conditioning by Patrick Freivald

 

Biased I may be, but that’s a hella bang for your buck. Currently available in e-formats, although print copies will be coming soon.

Recommended for (everyone) those who like horror, military horror, cosmic horror, fantastical themes, big fuck-off monsters, nightmares.

Festivus Book Pimping: The Winnowing Flame trilogy by Jen Williams

In this instalment of Festivus Pimpage, we’re dipping our feet back into the fantasy waters with Jen Williams’ most epic The Winnowing Flame Trilogy. This was another trilogy I picked up on the recommendation from a friend, and I couldn’t be more pleased he pushed me in books’ direction (hat tip, Tam – I owe you!).

Right off the bat, I’ve only read the first two in the trilogy: The Ninth Rain and The Bitter Twins. The final book in the series, The Poison Song, is out in audiobook but I am waiting for my print copy to arrive before digging in… for three reasons: 1) anticipation is half the fun, 2) I do so love my print books, and 3) I am so invested in this series that I do not want it to end.

That last point alone should tell you how good this series is. The characters are diverse and unique, and it’s also so damn refreshing to have one of the main characters be a smart, capable woman over forty who can damn well hold her own (oh, how I love Vintage!).

The world-building is exquisite and the characterisations of each of not only the main players but the secondary ones is masterfully done. From early on I was invested, and that had me devouring the first two books, and now I am in that dreaded no-man’s land of so wanting the third book… but not. While this is definitely a story seated in fantasy, there’s a touch of sci-fi to it when it comes to the monsters and the threat they pose, of how those of the world try to deal with that and the mythology within said world that is on the cusp of death.

the-ninth-rain-jen-williams

Blurb for The Ninth Rain:

The great city of Ebora once glittered with gold. Now its streets are stalked by wolves. Tormalin the Oathless has no taste for sitting around waiting to die while the realm of his storied ancestors falls to pieces – talk about a guilt trip. Better to be amongst the living, where there are taverns full of women and wine.

When eccentric explorer, Lady Vincenza ‘Vintage’ de Grazon, offers him employment, he sees an easy way out. Even when they are joined by a fugitive witch with a tendency to set things on fire, the prospect of facing down monsters and retrieving ancient artefacts is preferable to the abomination he left behind.

But not everyone is willing to let the Eboran empire collapse, and the adventurers are quickly drawn into a tangled conspiracy of magic and war. For the Jure’lia are coming, and the Ninth Rain must fall…

Blurb for The Bitter Twins:

the-bitter-twins-jen-williams-21-02-18

The Ninth Rain has fallen, the Jure’lia have returned, and with Ebora a shadow of its former self, the old enemy are closer to conquering Sarn than ever.

Tormalin the Oathless and the Fell-Witch Noon have their hands full dealing with the first war-beasts to be born in Ebora for nearly three hundred years. But these are not the great mythological warriors of old; hatched too early and with no link to their past lives, the war-beasts have no memory of the many battles they have fought and won, and no concept of how they can possibly do it again. The key to uniting them, according to the scholar Vintage, may lie in a part of Sarn no one really believes exists, but finding it will mean a dangerous journey at a time of war…

Meanwhile, Hestillion is trapped on board the corpse moon, forced into a strange and uneasy alliance with the Jure’lia queen. Something terrifying is growing up there, in the heart of the Behemoth, and the people of Sarn will have no defence against these new monsters.The Ninth Rain has fallen, the Jure’lia have returned, and with Ebora a shadow of its former self, the old enemy are closer to conquering Sarn than ever.

Blurb for The Poison Song: (pre-orders at that link)

The Poison Song

All is chaos. All is confusion. The Jure’lia are weak, but the war is far from over.

Ebora was once a glorious city, defended by legendary warriors and celebrated in song. Now refugees from every corner of Sarn seek shelter within its crumbling walls, and the enemy that has poisoned their land won’t lie dormant for long. The deep-rooted connection that Tormalin, Noon and the scholar Vintage share with their Eboran war-beasts has kept them alive so far. But with Tor distracted, and his sister

Hestillion hell-bent on bringing ruthless order to the next Jure’lia attack, the people of Sarn need all the help they can get.

Noon is no stranger to playing with fire and knows just where to recruit a new – and powerful – army. But even she underestimates the epic quest that is to come. It is a journey wrought with pain and sacrifice – a reckoning that will change the face of Sarn forever.

I can’t rave enough about this series, and if the first two books are anything to go by, then The Poison Song will be heat-punchingly wonderful. Seriously, you need to be reading this series.

As I mentioned, while The Night Rain and The Bitter Twins are out in print with glorious covers, The Poison Song is out on audiobook – and hell, audiobooks are also a great gift this Festivus season! As are ebook and print… any format of book is a thing of wonder and magic, and what better gift is that?

Recommended for those who love fantasy, dark fantasy, (very) low sci-fi, diverse characters and relationships, character-driven tales, and giant kick-arse creatures of mythology. I mean, what’s not to love?

 

Festivus Book Pimping – The Long War: Tales from the Pharos Saga by Justin Coates

All right, I have been Sucky McSucky-Claus (clause?) when it comes to Festivus Pimpage these last few days, but in my defence, there just aren’t enough hours in my smoke-haze-filled days. Also, smoke haze gives the shit gift of headaches.

PIMPAGE! IT’S PIMPAGE TIME!

For a change of pace, it’s story collection time! One of the authors I’ve worked with a few times in the SNAFU series is a hell of a writer and I wish more people knew just how talented he is so I’m gonna shout this from the rooftop… carefully, you know, ‘cause we have a pitched roof…

Right then, Justin Coates’ collection, The Long War: Tales from the Pharos Saga, hits all the marks for edge-of-your seat horror. Fast paced and action-filled, it covers a gamut of monsters and themes that cover an array of time periods that are all linked within this crazy cosmic world of his. This is a mix of previously published stories as well as original content that is melded perfectly together to form one hell of a reading experience.

 

The Long War

Here’s the blurb:

Demons. Aliens. Vampires. The undead. These and more prey on humanity from the shadows, and from the shadows, arise those brave or foolhardy enough to stand against them. These are their stories: a disgraced priestess on a mission to kill a god, an agent from a secretive government organization sent to investigate a series of grisly murders, a soldier on the front lines of an apocalyptic war, a slave haunted by the whispers of a dark spirit, a reluctant serial killer desperate to stop a far greater danger, and more. Featuring stories previously published in military horror anthologies, as well as exclusive content not published elsewhere, the Long War collection introduces the reader to the world of the Pharos Saga, a setting that spans from the distant past to the not-so-distant future, and invites them to stand against the night in a battle for the very soul of humanity.

 

Even knowing the skill with which Justin can craft a story, I flew through this collection and it cemented an even greater appreciation for the imagination and unadulterated visceral connection he can make between character and reader. I fucking loved it. And as this is Volume One of the Pharos Saga, I cannot wait for him to get Volume Two done and dusted.

Recommended for those who enjoy horror, military horror, cosmic horror, thrillers, dark fantasy, weird horror, sci-fi, short story collections, and just general bad-arsery (or assery for those of the US persuasion).

 

 

Festivus Book Pimping: Wayfarer’s series by Becky Chambers

On the second day of Festivus, your pimpus brought to you, a sci-fi trilogy that… something-something… something… Festivus! (Look, the idea was there, the execution just sucked. Like real bad.)

Right then. My reading for pleasure this year, while mostly fantasy and grimdark, was interrupted by some sci-fi. I’m not a huge reader of sci-fi, especially ‘hard’ sci-fi, but I picked up the first book in the Wayfarer’s series by Becky Chambers’ on the recommendation of a friend. And I was hooked. Bought the second and third pretty damn quickly.

Waxing lyrical about all of the stories would make this post super long, so I’ll keep to the blurbs for books two and three and wax lyrical about the first.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is the first in the series, and is probably my favourite of the three. It was described to me as: ‘a hug in book form’ – and they weren’t wrong. Set off-world, and taking place mostly on a ship that is somewhat sentient, this book captures all that is right with character-driven storytelling that leaves you feeling… hugged by its end. It’s a story about friendship, at its core, about what we’ll do for those we love. It’s about love and acceptance, hope and freedom and goodness. It about discovering who you are in a universe so big it makes you feel small… but in the ‘smallness’ is where you find a truth, your essential truth. Like a hug. In book form.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet

Here’s the blurb:

When Rosemary Harper joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn’t expecting much. The ship, which has seen better days, offers her everything she could possibly want: a small, quiet spot to call home for a while, adventure in far-off corners of the galaxy, and distance from her troubled past.

But Rosemary gets more than she bargained for with the Wayfarer. The crew is a mishmash of species and personalities, from Sissix, the friendly reptillian pilot, to Kizzy and Jenks, the constantly sparring engineers who keep the ship running. Life on board is chaotic, but more or less peaceful – exactly what Rosemary wants.

Until the crew are offered the job of a lifetime: the chance to build a hyperspace tunnel to a distant planet. They’ll earn enough money to live comfortably for years… if they survive the long trip through war-torn interstellar space without endangering any of the fragile alliances that keep the galaxy peaceful.

But Rosemary isn’t the only person on board with secrets to hide, and the crew will soon discover that space may be vast, but spaceships are very small indeed.

The second book, A Closed and Common Orbit, picks up not long after the end of book one, and follows the ‘ship’ as she navigates a body and world that should never have been hers, about finding your place in that world, your… fit – without limits.

a-closed-and-common-orbit-by-becky-chambers

Blurb below:

Lovelace was once merely a ship’s artificial intelligence. When she wakes up in a new body, following a total system shut-down and reboot, she has to start over in a synthetic body, in a world where her kind are illegal. She’s never felt so alone.

But she’s not alone, not really. Pepper, one of the engineers who risked life and limb to reinstall Lovelace, is determined to help her adjust to her new world. Because Pepper knows a thing or two about starting over.

Together, Pepper and Lovey will discover that, huge as the galaxy may be, it’s anything but empty.

And we round it off with Record of a Spaceborn Few, while tenuously linked to the first, book three gives us more universe-building and greater understanding of the consequences of Earth and what happened, the consequences of decisions we make, and how we always long for a home. It shows the good, the bad, the ugly, and the resilient. The characters in this, like the first, drive this story, and the ending is superb.

Record of a Spaceborn Few

Blurb incoming:

Hundreds of years ago, the last humans on Earth boarded the Exodus Fleet in search of a new home among the stars. After centuries spent wandering empty space, their descendants were eventually accepted by the well-established species that govern the Milky Way.

But that was long ago. Today, the Exodus Fleet is a living relic, the birthplace of many, yet a place few outsiders have ever visited. While the Exodans take great pride in their original community and traditions, their culture has been influenced by others beyond their bulkheads. As many Exodans leave for alien cities or terrestrial colonies, those who remain are left to ponder their own lives and futures: What is the purpose of a ship that has reached its destination? Why remain in space when there are habitable worlds available to live? What is the price of sustaining their carefully balanced way of life—and is it worth saving at all?

A young apprentice, a lifelong spacer with young children, a planet-raised traveler, an alien academic, a caretaker for the dead, and an Archivist whose mission is to ensure no one’s story is forgotten, wrestle with these profound universal questions. The answers may seem small on the galactic scale, but to these individuals, it could mean everything.

 

I could go on and on about this series, and just how good it is. I’m currently reading Becky Chambers’ latest novella, To Be Taught if Fortunate, and I’m really digging this too. It has the same heart as the trilogy, and I’ve a feeling, this will be a book that ‘hugs’ as well. So I guess this is four books you could be gifting!

To Be Taught

Recommended for those who enjoy sci-fi, space operas, character-driven stories, and books that make you smile long after you’ve finished reading. Like I said, a book hug.

Festivus Book Pimping: Blood of Heirs/Legacy of Ghosts by Alicia Wanstall-Burke

And so, as this year draws toward its end, we once again move into that most sacred of sacred times… Festivus of the Pimping of the Books! Praise be!

Ahem.

I’ll just… moving right along…

We all know that books make the best Christmas presents, so for the next twenty-four days, right up until Santa breaks into your house and eats your food, I’ll be dropping book recommendations of those I’ve read and/or worked on this year that would be most excellent gifts for loved ones and friends and colleagues and that weird relative we all seem to have. (If you are the weird relative, I tip my hat to you!)

Right, let’s get this party started with a double-shot of fantasy for the Festivus Pimping: Blood of Heirs and Legacy of Ghosts by Alicia Wanstall-Burke. Yep, there are two books now released in The Coraidic Sagas, the latter of which was released just yesterday (Nov. 30), so you get to sink your teeth into books one and two in a relatively short period.

But let’s delve a little deeper into each.

Blood of Heirs is a current finalist in the Self-Publishing Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO) competition. For those unaware of the comp, click here for info. Making the finals for SPFBO is a hell of an achievement — top ten of three hundred books submitted. And it well deserves the accolades. It’s a darker fantasy, with magic and monsters and mayhem all set to the backdrop of Australian-inspired lands and fauna. We follow two protagonists, Lidan and Ranoth, two polar opposites but both fighting battles that could change not only them, but their respective worlds.

bloodofheirs

Here’s the blurb:

Lidan Tolak is the fiercest of her father’s daughters; more than capable of one day leading her clan. But caught between her warring parents, Lidan’s world begins to unravel when another of her father’s wives falls pregnant. Before she has time to consider the threat of a brother, a bloody swathe is cut through the heart of the clan and Lidan must fight, not only to prove her worth, but simply to survive.

Ranoth Olseta wants nothing more than to be a worthy successor to his father’s throne. When his home is threatened by the aggressive Woaden Empire, Ran becomes his city’s saviour, but powers within him are revealed by the enemy and he is condemned to death. Confused and betrayed, Ran is forced to flee his homeland, vowing to reclaim what he has lost, even if it kills him.

Facing an unknown future, and battling forces both familiar and foreign, can Lidan and Ran overcome the odds threatening to drag them into inescapable darkness?

The sequel, Legacy of Ghosts, takes place four years after the end of book one, and ramps up the tension and action and magic. There’s a whole lot weighing on the decision both Lidan and Ran make, the consequences of which are brutal and unforgiving.

Legacy-of-Ghosts-cover.jpg

 

Here’s the blurb:

Four years have passed since Lidan’s world was ripped apart, and time is running out to change her father’s mind about the succession before the bargain with her mother expires. Torn between what she wants and what she knows is right, she is faced with an impossible choice; will her brother live, or will he die?

Within the walls of the Hidden Keep, Ranoth holds his secrets close as he tries to harness his wild magic. But when life in the Keep descends into chaos, he is cast once more into the outside world, forced upon a southward path toward unknown lands and untold danger.

With Ran set on seeking justice and revenge, and Lidan fighting to find her feet and follow her heart, journeys will converge, and the ghosts of a past thought long dead will rise.

I enjoyed the absolute shit out both of these books and can’t wait for the third in the series. And, full disclosure, I worked with Alicia on Legacy of Ghosts, but hand on heart (yes, I have one) you won’t be disappointed with the beauty of the prose nor the depth of the character’s she’s created.

Recommended for lovers of fantasy, dark fantasy, grimdark, horror, character-driven stories, unique worldbuilding and monsters. Hell, those monsters