Category Archives: Reading

Review: Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

There’s a lot to be said about book recommendations from friends, they know your reading habits, but they also know when you need a change of pace, a change of genre, and something they know you’ll enjoy because the writing and the story are just so damn good. Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch hit all those marks for me.

In keeping with my short-arse reviews, let’s get to this!

It’s part police-procedural, part murder-mystery, a whole lot of magic and mythos, and violence and horror and humour. And ghosts. And demi-gods. And whole other worlds that exist on the edges of this one. Sometimes those worlds overlap, and this is where the main character, Constable Peter Grant comes in. Drawn into this world of ghosts and gods and ghoulies, where magic is a stalwart, Grant comes at it with science, practicality, and sometimes just pure dumb luck. His partner in crime (or former partner), Lesley May, creates good balance when it comes to how the two tackle the serial murders and general brou-ha-ha they find themselves entangled in. And Grant’s mentor, Thomas Nightingale (and his secret society) is a bit of a stubborn enigma, but his teaching habits seem to work. They make for quite the trio.

The characters are great, and the friendships developed throughout set this up really well for the next books in the series. There’s a lot going on, but Aaronovitch layers this world and its characters with enough information for you to connect with its players while leaving just enough unexplored to want you coming back for more.

Rivers of London

The mythos surrounding the rivers of London, and how it all links together in control of the rivers and lakes and ponds and even the sewers was masterfully done. And the horror that woven through it was right up my alley. Add in the humour peppered throughout, and I was hooked.

Those familiar with London are surely going to love all the references within, and while I am unfamiliar with the ins and outs, I never once felt lost. This book was a whole lotta fun, and while the main plot was tied up nicely, there are threads definitely being explored in future books (there are eight so far).

Rivers of London wasn’t ever on my radar, but I’m damn chuffed it was put there. I enjoyed this immensely, and very much looking forward to the next in the series.

Review: Mythos by Stephen Fry

Right, so I’m a touch behind on my book reviews, but… well, it’s not like the Greek mythos is going anywhere… Ahem.

Sooo long time reader of Greek mythology, first time reviewer… not of the mythos as a whole, but the Mythos that is the book from Stephen Fry. As you can no doubt guess, Fry delves into all that is the Greek myths that most of us probably have more than an inkling of understanding, and as someone who adores the mythology from a wide variety of cultures (here and gone), this was right up my alley. Add in the cleverness and wit that is Stephen Fry and Mythos was a delight.

Fry takes the gods and demi-gods with all the foibles and their strengths to create a vivid retelling of some of the stories that I’ve come to know and love. There’re monsters and mortals and mayhem – just the way mythos should be. What sets this apart from other bland mythos retellings (I’m looking at you Neil Gaiman), is you can see the love and enthusiasm Fry has for the mythology. Also, I swear I read this in his voice.

mythos
All the players are here: Gaia, Cronos, Zeus, Hera, Hermes, Hades, Persephone, Demeter, the Muses… it’s quite the list! The births and deaths and the oh-so-much sex are given a contemporary flourish and humorous bent that only Fry could pull off (yes, I see it, let it go…). He makes them relatable, makes them, well, I guess you could say ‘human’, and that always been the joy of the Greek gods and goddesses — they are who they are and you just need to deal.

One of the things I most loved about the book were the footnotes. Fry’s love of language shines through here, and the footnotes show the birth of words into our common lexicon – word nerd’s delight!

Highly recommended.

Heroes is the next Fry instalment, and I plan to hit that later in the year.

Oh, and the covers are all the pretty, too.

Review: The Bone Ships by RJ Barker

I am not a boat person. Or a ship person for that matter. My gut doesn’t agree with the waves other than to paint them with some technicolour. I am irrationally rational about my fear of the beasties that live in the deep. But I would walk the fucking slate with Joron Twiner and Lucky Meas.

The worldbuilding in The Bone Ships is spectacular, and those that inhabit not just the cruel seas but Tide Child are a cut above… a cut above a jib (take that seafaring lingo!). The bone ships in The Bone Ships are literal ships made of bone – sea dragon bone. And while most are of glorious white, lit by corpselights, and the pride of The Hundred Isles, we sail with Joron and Meas on a black ship. A death ship where all onboard have been condemned, they just await the Hag’s justice, their fate as black as the bones that make up Tide Child.

I’ve decided that all my book reviews will be short this year, because time and poor and all that jazz. But I can’t go past making special mention of the gullaime, the bird-like creature who commands the winds. It was a stand-out for me, but more so the friendship it develops with Joron. The characters make this book, and they are as different as they are wonderful and awful and sad and hopeful. The battles are hard and desperate, but the characters who walk the slate of Tide Child, truly do make this book. From Farys to Solemn Maffaz, Mevans and the Courser, the gullaime and Garriya.

 

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I loved this story, and cannot wait for the next in the series. RJ Barker has created a vivid, atmospheric world and peoples that are rich in their layering and resonate in their being. There’s a little bit of us in all of them.

Special shout out for that cover, too. Swanky AF.

(Small mention re the language and created words in the book; I’ve seen some people balk at this, but I had no trouble with it at all — they were close enough in spelling, and context really is everything, ey?) 

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?