Category Archives: Reviews

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: 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 – Devouring Dark by Alan Baxter

By Festivus Eve it’s another Pimpus! Slithering up onto the slab today is another amazing Aussie author, Alan Baxter… whose names completes that alliteration rather nicely! Devouring Dark is the latest offering from Baxter that mixes crime and horror – crime noir, if you will – while offering grey characters whose choices aren’t so much between ‘good and bad’ rather between ‘bad and holy shitballs’.

Devouring Dark follows Matt McLeod and his dance with the darkness, with death, and the choice(s) he makes in how to deal with the power he has and where that leads. Hint: not good places. These are my favourite kind of stories as they deal with that power of choice and allows the reader those ‘what if’ moments where we wonder if we’d make the same choices, the same deals if we suffered the same fate.

Death in all its form runs deep through the book and provides an almost narrative on society’s views and take on death and how we deal with it.

Here’s the blurb:

Matt McLeod is a man plagued since childhood by a malevolent darkness that threatens to consume him. Following a lifetime spent wrestling for control over this lethal onslaught, he’s learned to wield his mysterious paranormal skill to achieve an odious goal: retribution as a supernatural vigilante.

When one such hit goes bad, McLeod finds himself ensnared in a multi-tentacled criminal enterprise caught between a corrupt cop and a brutal mobster. His only promise of salvation may be a bewitching young woman who shares his dark talent but has murderous designs of her own.

I mean: ‘supernatural vigilante’. It’s got a nice ring to it! And that cover is to die for! (Yes, I punned.)

If you’re looking for a tale of the darker kind, of crime bosses and corruption, and for those souls who have a direct line to death, then this is definitely a book for you.

Recommended for those who love horror, crime stories, supernatural tales, and just straight up action-based badassery.

Festivus Book Pimping – Dragonshade by Aderyn Wood

It’s a Festivus miracle! Two Pimpus of Bookus today? Time is short, my dudes, and there are sooooo many excellent books you should be reading and gifting to others. Seriously, what better present than something that ignites the imagination?

And we’re heading back into the realms of fantasy tonight with Aussie author Aderyn Wood’s most wonderful Dragonshade. As the title no doubt suggests, here there be dragons. But there is so much more at play here than mere dragons. Wood has delved into two cultures here, borrowing heavily from both Egyptian and Norse cultures to bring a vivid tapestry of both and what happens when those worlds inevitably clash – both good and bad. There is magic, too, also of the good and bad kind.

There is a stunning cast of characters in this tome, and a tome it is – the book taps out at just over two hundred thousand words, and normally I would balk at a book this size, but Dragonshade carries the weight of the words with ease – this doesn’t at all feel like an overlong story, in fact, it leaves you wanting more (no matter how well the threads of the story are tied up).

The battle scenes are epic in scale, but always there is the undercurrent of political sabotage, of betrayal, prophecies and gods, and a duck herder who might just be the one who can set the world to right.  

And here’s the blurb:

Prince Sargan is the worst swordsman in all Zraemia. His clumsy performance draws scorn from his uncle, pity from his sister, disappointment from his father, and sniggers from everyone else.
But soon, Sargan will enter the temple and begin his long-awaited path to the seat of high priest.
His brother will one day inherit the throne.
His sister will marry.
The enemy king will leave them alone.
And all will be right with the world.
Unless… the gods change the game.
And when the gods play, the game turns to war – the Great War.
Ancient prophecies surface, dark enemies rise, new allies emerge, old ones can’t be trusted, magic scorches the earth, reluctant heroes are made, and nothing is ever the same again.

Dragonshade was also an entrant in the SPFBO contest and missed out on a semi-finalist berth by this much <holds fingers together real close>. It got great feedback from the judges – scroll to the end to read the review here.

Recommended for those who love epic fantasy reads, dragons, intensive world-building, magic, dark fantasy, political shenanigans.

Festivus Book Pimping – Griffin & Price series by James A Moore & Charles R Rutledge

It’s amazing what a good (bad?) earworm can do, and so this morning’s Festivus Book Pimping comes to you via ‘Jolene’. Seriously, I’ll be shit-singing this for days now. <shakes fist at Charles>

We’re side-stepping out of fantasy for a moment and diving face-first into supernatural horror via the Griffin & Price novels masterfully penned by two of my favourite people – James A Moore and Charles R Rutledge (yes, despite the earworm).

The series consists of three books (so far): Blind Shadows, Congregations of the Dead, and A Hell Within. Each follows the trials and tribulations of Brennert County Sheriff Carl Price and his best friend, ex-mercenary turned PI, Wade Griffin. Set in the town (and surrounds) of Wellman, Georgia, a lot of super and preternatural happenings pit Griffin and Price against a host of monsters and nasties.

I love this series, and the two main characters have a rapport beset with humour and sarcasm that’s right up my reading alley. The writing is slick, the monsters are quite literally killer, and the brewing tension between Sheriff Price and the otherworldly Blackbourne clan only ups the ante. The secondary characters add extra depth to the stories, and only build on what is an incredible cast (I’m looking at you, Jolene).

You should be reading this series.

Blind Shadowsblurb:

When private investigator Wade Griffin moved away from his hometown of Wellman, Georgia he didn’t think he would be back. Too many memories and too many bridges burned. But when an old friend is found brutally murdered and mutilated, nothing can keep Griffin from going home. Teamed with another childhood friend, Sheriff Carl Price, Griffin begins an investigation that will lead down darker paths than he could ever have imagined.
Soon Griffin and Price find that there are secrets both dark and ancient lurking in the back woods of Crawford’s Hollow. As Halloween approaches, something evil is growing near the roots of the Georgia mountains, and the keys to the mystery seem to be a woman of almost indescribable beauty and a dead man who won’t stay dead.
As the body count mounts and the horrors pile up, Griffin and Price come to realize that the menace they face extends far beyond the boundaries of Wellman and that their opponents seem to hold all the cards. But the two lawmen have a few secrets of their own, and one way or another there will be hell to pay.

Blurb for Congregations of the Dead:

It’s one of the hottest summers on record and a storm is brewing over the small town of Wellman, Georgia.
Still reeling from the horrific events of the previous October, all Sheriff Carl Price wants is to get back to a normal life. Unfortunately things aren’t working out. He’s got the Brennert County’s DA breathing down his neck for answers about what happened in Crawford’s Hollow. He’s been served with a lawsuit by the Blackbourne family. And just after he witnesses a child abduction, the one person who always puts his life into a tailspin shows up to add to the pressure.
Meanwhile, against his better judgment, Wade Griffin agrees to look for a teenage girl who’s gone missing. It’s not his kind of case, but he’s trying to establish his private investigations business and perhaps abandon his past as a mercenary. But Griffin’s luck isn’t any better than Price’s and he ends up crossing paths with the man behind most of the organized crime north of Atlanta.
Both lawmen have their plates full, but then they learn that there is something abroad in the night. Not the supernatural menace they dealt with before, but something even darker. Just what is the secret of the charismatic Reverend Lazarus Cotton and what is he hiding in his small mountain church?
Once again, Griffin and Price must call upon all their deadly skills just to stay alive and even in the middle of a pitched battle against things that shouldn’t exist they are reminded that sometimes the darkest evils reside within the human heart.

And the third in the series, A Hell Within:

Something dark is looming in Brennert County, Georgia. Sheriff Carl Price and ex-mercenary-turned P.I. Wade Griffin know well the other-worldly undercurrent that runs through the small town of Wellman, but with the Blackbournes trying to rebuild their strength, it seems they can breathe a little easier, Just a little. Griffin starts working a case when he stumbles across a massacre at a drug lab, and when Price is called to the scene of a brutal triple homicide, it has all the markings of Blackbourne retribution. Before the blood is dry, two more people are torn apart. As the body count rises, Griffin and Price find themselves in the middle of a turn war where bullets and black magic are the weapons off choice. Caught between the worlds of monsters and men, Griffin and Price enlist the help of associate Carter Decamp to put an end to the brewing battle. But the gates of Hell have been opened and the beasts won’t be denied their chance to feast.

And as a post-Festivus bonus, there’s a Griffin & Price novella to be released in the latest SNAFU: Resurrection anthology. Over 20,000 words of wicked horror in the form of Call up the Dead, due for release December 27 – pre-orders available here.

Recommended for those who love supernatural horror, horror, fantastic beasties, otherworldly monsters, crime, urban horror, and just general top-notch writing with killer characters.

Not recommended for those who have an aversion to violence, demonic shenanigans, gore.

Festivus Book Pimping – The Nevernight Chronicles by Jay Kristoff

All right folks, I’m cutting it fine with recommendations and the looming of Festivus so I’m going to try and pump these pimps out… okay, could have worded that a little better, but onward!

First Festivus Pimpus for today is the first two novels of Aussie author Jay Kristoff’s Nevernight ChroniclesNevernight and Godsgrave. I came late to the party for these novels, yet that’s not necessarily a bad thing as it meant I got to read the two in quick succession. The only drawback being the third in the series, Darkdawn isn’t due for release until late next year. But don’t let that hold you back from diving deep in the darkness that is these chronicles.

Nevernight follows the life of Mia Corvere from child to assassin for the Red Church in all things murder. Vengeance is the driving force behind Mia’s assassin schooling, having watched her father executed and her mother and little brother exiled to an island prison. It’s Mia’s travelling companion, Mister Kindly – a shadow cat that allows her to slip between the shadows and bend them to her will… of a kind. The world-building is intricate, and the characters (first and secondary) are brilliantly fleshed out. Kristoff makes you care for them, and as the self-named bastard that he is… well, I’m not going to spoil that for you.

Blurb for Nevernight:

In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.

Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic—the Red Church. If she bests her fellow students in contests of steel, poison and the subtle arts, she’ll be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the vengeance she desires. But a killer is loose within the Church’s halls, the bloody secrets of Mia’s past return to haunt her, and a plot to bring down the entire congregation is unfolding in the shadows she so loves.

Will she even survive to initiation, let alone have her revenge?

So Nevernight leaves off on a hell of cliffhanger, so I couldn’t wait to dive into Godsgrave to see how further Kristoff could fuck with my emotions – I think it’s like sport for him. And I wasn’t disappointed. Now a fully-fledged assassin, Mia is thrust into the world of the gladiatori, where she must fight on the sands for the truth and the chance for revenge upon those who destroyed her familigia. Godsgrave ramps not only the tension but the stakes. Giving you more to care about and thus more to lose. Truths are revealed and paradigm shifts are made (and all the while, I’m sure Kristoff is laughing his arse off).

Godsgave blurb:

Assassin Mia Corvere has found her place among the Blades of Our Lady of Blessed Murder, but many in the Red Church ministry think she’s far from earned it. Plying her bloody trade in a backwater of the Republic, she’s no closer to ending Consul Scaeva and Cardinal Duomo, or avenging her familia. And after a deadly confrontation with an old enemy, Mia begins to suspect the motives of the Red Church itself.

When it’s announced that Scaeva and Duomo will be making a rare public appearance at the conclusion of the grand games in Godsgrave, Mia defies the Church and sells herself to a gladiatorial collegium for a chance to finally end them. Upon the sands of the arena, Mia finds new allies, bitter rivals, and more questions about her strange affinity for the shadows. But as conspiracies unfold within the collegium walls, and the body count rises, Mia will be forced to choose between loyalty and revenge, and uncover a secret that could change the very face of her world.

These books aren’t going to be for everyone – they are dark and brutal and don’t shy from violence or sex (there is a lot of sex happening, I’m just sayin’, and the descriptions of said sex can go on for pages). There are footnotes throughout both books that provide a greater understanding of the world and what’s going on. Most of the time this works, but not so much when the tension ramps up – at time it did take away from it, especially in those moments where the info wasn’t necessary to the forward momentum of the story. But I found you could skip some of these without losing anything from the story.

Oh, and the covers are beautiful.

Recommended for lovers of dark fantasy, grimdark, horror, assassin tales, vengeance/revenge stories, subterfuge, great world-building.

Not recommended for those who struggle with in-your-face violence, graphically-depicted sex scenes (of all iterations), swearing/cursing (although, that worked a treat for me).