Book Review: A Time of Dread (Of Blood and Bone #1) by John Gwynne

A Time of Dread by John Gwynne

Rating:  ★★★1/2

Blurb (from GoodReads):  A race of warrior angels, the Ben-Elim, once vanquished a mighty demon horde. Now they rule the Banished lands, but their peace is brutally enforced.

In the south, hotheaded Riv is desperate to join the Ben-Elim’s peacekeeping force, until she unearths a deadly secret.

In the west, the giantess Sig investigates demon sightings and discovers signs of an uprising and black magic.

And in the snowbound north, Drem, a trapper, finds mutilated corpses in the forests. The work of a predator, or something far darker?

It’s a time of shifting loyalties and world-changing dangers. Difficult choices need to be made. Because in the shadows, demons are gathering, waiting for their time to rise…

I picked this up because I’ve been meaning to read Gwynne for awhile.  I meant to start with the first book set in this world: Malice, but I was trying to decide whether I wanted to request the third book in this series for review.  One of my GoodReads buddies told me I really should have started with Malice in order to fully appreciate this book.

But I’m not really sure it would have helped any.  When I first started reading, I was very happy.  We started with a battle and lots of action, the characters felt unique and fun, the pacing and chapter length were perfect for me.

However, the novelty wore off relatively quickly.  The action slows down after those initial few chapters, and Gwynne’s writing style isn’t one that necessarily agrees with me. For starters, I should mention the reason I’ve dragged my feet on this one for so long:  angels and demons have never really been my thing.  I find the black and white line of “good” and “evil” between them superficial and incredibly boring. I like my villains with a soft side and my heroes with shades of gray.

To be fair to Gwynne, his angels, or Ben-Elim, aren’t necessarily pure of heart.  They don’t preach endless forgiveness and do react with extreme cruelty to “lore-breakers”.  But then, evangelism really sort of irritates me too.  And the demons are exactly as one note as you would expect.

I did enjoy some of the characters, namely Drem and Sig.  Riv and Bleda’s storylines felt extremely YA to me- the warrior training, the lore learning, petty rivalries, and of course, the stupid love triangle.  I feel like there might be a fifth perspective I’m missing, and that sure does say a lot doesn’t it?  Considering I only finished a week ago.

Gwynne’s writing isn’t bad, and my issue with it comes strictly from a personal preference.  The characters all have inner monologues, which we are told, and which are italicized.  I know it’s not the first time I’ve seen inner monologues written down, however, here, for some reason they felt highly unnecessary and broke the flow of the writing.  Worse still, they seemed to become more frequent as the book went on.  I just didn’t like it.

What I did like about this book, aside from the angels and demons, was that the world-building is a lot of fun.  There are different tribes and regions, giants riding bears, magical swords, rich histories… And Gwynne more or less delivers it without it feeling info dump-y.  Newcomers to Gwynne can easily pick up this book and read it as if it was first book set in this world, even if returning fans might appreciate it a little more.

There are some gut wrenching emotional moments, so he succeeded in making me care at least.  I am still undecided as to whether I will continue the series.  I borrowed book two alongside book one, and with my local libraries closed, I’m able to keep it much longer than expected, so I might.  I don’t think I’ll be requesting the ARC because I want to be free to leave these books behind if book two doesn’t agree with me.

I know this series is well loved by many, and it’s entirely possible that I wasn’t in the right mood to read this, so take my review with a grain of salt.  A Time of Dread can be found on GoodReads if you’d like to check it out for yourself.

Have you read A Time of Dread?  What did you think?

 

 

Book Review: A Little Hatred (Age of Madness #1) by Joe Abercrombie

A Little Hatred Age Of Madness Joe Abercrombie

Rating:  ★★★1/2

Here’s a review I never expected to write.  This is my first Abercrombie, and if there were any of the fantasy greats I thought I might get along best with, but haven’t read yet, it’s Abercrombie.  His name gets tossed in with that of Mark Lawrence a lot, his books are described as grimdark.  I always had the sense they were exciting and action packed and filled with morally grey warrior-types.  Which is why A Little Hatred, sort of baffled me.  I went in with the wrong expectations, which is not really fair to the book, but that’s what I do.

I don’t even know how to tell you what this is about- mostly because it would take me too long, but also because there isn’t any strictly defined plot here.  We follow the lives of seven characters spread across Adua from different walks of life.  And while the characters grew on me in the end- at first I struggled with how very much I did not like almost all of them:

Rikke – One of the few I did like, almost immediately.  She has fits and what is referred to as “the Long Eye.”  The ability to see into the past and future.  Walks to the beat of her own drum.  Tough.

Savine dan Glokta – My reaction to Savine was immediate, visceral rejection.  I disliked everything about her.  I daresay I even hated her a little.  Something about her viciousness came off as fake, or trying too hard for me.

Leo dan Brock – Warrior.  But not the best warrior.  Young and Proud.  A momma’s boy.  Also a fool.  A whiny fool.

Prince Orso – Another whiny, spineless, gluttonous fool. Heir to the throne of Adua.

Vick – Another POV I disliked and continued to dislike, but can’t say much about here for sake of spoilers.

Clover – Another POV I liked at first.  An old warrior, dry sarcastic humor, cleverer than his betters- I got the sense he was a part of past books.

Broad – Another warrior and survivor of the Styrian war.  Liked him immediately, but failed to see what his contribution to the story would be.

I mean- when you initially hate 4 of 7 view points… It doesn’t bode well.  It’s grimdark… but it wasn’t fun for me.  I didn’t expect them to be shining examples of humanity, I just expected them to be smarter, cleverer, more interesting than they came off as initially.

I did grow to like them, eventually, but in some cases it took awhile and in some cases I never did get around to enjoying them.  Plus, the number of POVs crammed into a 470 page book was kind of overwhelming.  Can you pick this up and read it without having read The First Law trilogy?  Yeah.  Do I recommend it?  Not particularly.  I felt like if I’d read The First Law I would have enjoyed or appreciated this much more.

The second thing that threw me off was the inclusion of industry and manufacturing.  This I had been warned about from various reviews… But it still felt like an odd mix for me.  Sword fights and industry.  By the time industry comes into the history pages of the real world, guns have been around a long time, and multiple wars have been fought using them.  The battles felt medievalish while the cities felt more like the late 1800s.  It just didn’t work for me.

Now towards the middle of the book, where we work up to what very much feels like the climax, I was invested.  The characters had grown on me a little, I’d had a lot of the world building figured out, the action was picking up and it was written well. But again, I had a really bad feeling following all that action because it seemed to come to a complete stop so we could watch all the romances in the book disintegrate. *eye roll*

The pacing in this book was all over the place.  Boring, Exciting, More Boredom, Brilliant Ending.  And what’s more, I didn’t feel like any of those 100+ pages between Exciting and Brilliant Ending were really necessary.  I skim read a lot of it.  I still didn’t care enough about the characters to want to read that much of their inner monologues or see how they interacted at diplomacy parties.

I’m sorry okay?!  I know most reviews I’ve seen have been glowing, and those readers aren’t wrong.  Abercrombie’s writing is perfect.  Truly some his lines had me grinning ear-to-ear.  But his structure and pacing and character building often didn’t work for me particularly.

I will probably go back and read The Blade Itself and see if that book agrees with me more.  I mean, who doesn’t want to read about about a guy called the Bloody Nine?  He *sounds* like much more of what I expected in this book, which I hope will make me appreciate The Age of Madness just a little more.

A Little Hatred can be found on GoodReads and Amazon.  Thank you to all the buddies who read this with me and tolerated my moaning and groaning.  I’m sorry.

 

Can’t Wait Wednesday: Fate of the Fallen by Kel Kade

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Title: Fate of the FallenFate of the Fallen by Kel Kade

Author: Kel Kade

Publisher: Tor Books

Genre: Fantasy

Length: 344 pages

Release Date: November 5, 2019

Blurb (from GoodReads): Everyone loves Mathias. So naturally, when he discovers it’s his destiny to save the world, he dives in head first, pulling his best friend Aaslo along for the ride.

Mathias is thrilled for the adventure! There’s nothing better than a road beneath his feet and adventure in the air. Aaslo, on the other hand, has never cared for the world beyond the borders of his sleepy village and would be much happier alone and in the woods. But, someone has to keep the Chosen One’s head on his shoulders and his feet on the ground.

It turns out saving the world isn’t as easy, or exciting, as it sounds in the stories. Mathias is more than willing to place his life on the line, but Aaslo would love nothing more than to forget about all the talk of arcane bloodlines and magical fae creatures. When the going gets rough, folks start to believe their only chance for survival is to surrender to the forces of evil, which isn’t how the stories go. At all. To make matters worse Aaslo is beginning to fear that he may have lost his mind…

Why I’m Excited For It:  I’m not even going to lie to you guys, I wasn’t that excited for this prior to yesterday. I mean- sure, it was on the TBR, it promised to be dark and bloody, it was from Tor, but there wasn’t much in that blurb that really spoke to me.

Anyway- I won a Goodreads giveaway for it, and it arrived in the mail yesterday.  I cracked it open, as I do with all the new books I receive, and I read the letter from the editor talking about how he knew right from the beginning it would become a new favorite.  And I thought to myself, Okay, Mr. Editor.  That’s pretty cool and now I’m excited for it but still, your job is to sell books, so there’s that.

But then I flipped to the back cover and I read this (and I haven’t read it yet, so I can’t tell you if this is spoiler content or not, just know that if you have strict definitions of spoilers- don’t read this…).

What if Frodo got assassinated by Sauron and Sam had to finish the quest?

And I thought to myself, Expletive Deleted Because There Is A Child In My House. Hell. Yeah.  Nobody likes Frodo anyway.  He’s like the least interesting character/entity/thing in the entirety of Lord of the Rings.  Honestly they should just replace the blurb entirely with that one line.  Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?!

So.  Kel Kade is turning the Chosen One trope on it’s head, which is maybe my least favorite trope, and I absolutely can’t wait.

Which new releases are you looking forward to?

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite books of the past decade

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Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

First- a belated Happy Memorial Day weekend to all my American friends!  I hope you enjoyed it!  I’m sorry to kick this week off with a T10T when I haven’t posted a single review in weeks, but it was a hectic weekend for my family, filled with grilling, guacamole, sunshine and sprinklers.  My huge library book haul seems to be doing the trick as I will have a couple reviews for you all later this week.

Anyway, I’m looking at this topic and relieved because it seems easier than some of the last topics we’ve had this month, but I’m also wondering if I have a favorite for each year of the past ten.  I guess we’ll find out!

The Wolf in the Whale by Jordanna Max Brodsky

2019: The Wolf in the Whale by Jordanna Max Brodsky.  I’ve read significantly less 2019 releases than probably most other book bloggers- but I don’t foresee this changing.  I read this all in mostly one sitting. Not bad for a 500+ page novel! Honorable mentions to: The Test by Sylvain Neuvel, and Luna: Moon Rising by Ian McDonald.

The Mere Wife Maria Dahvana Headley

2018: The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley.  I also haven’t read that many 2018 releases apparently.  In my review, I only gave this 4.5 stars because the ending disappointed me, but months later I find myself craving more fierce, unapologetic fiction like this book, and wishing for ANYTHING with a similar voice. It really does deserve five stars. Honorable mentions: The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal, and The Black God’s Drums by P. Djeli Clark.

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2017: The Moon and the Other by John Kessel.  I think this is another that I gave 4.5 stars to instead of 5.  My reason for including this and The Mere Wife (above), is that in the end, I’ve held these novels to a higher standard.  If we’re going by literary accomplishment, I have more respect for them than I do for some of my 5 star reads for 2017.  The Moon and the Other is beautifully written, metaphoric, entertaining, and manages to give lots of food for thought. Honorable mentions: The Will to Battle and Seven Surrenders by Ada Palmer, and Tyrant’s Throne by Sebastien de Castell.

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2016: Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer.  This is a weird one for me.  I absolutely will not recommend it to anyone to read, but it remains as a favorite.  I think if you can read it with buddies who can help you understand the intricacies of the plot and the world building, you’ll get more out of it.  If you are patient, this is one of the most rewarding books I’ve ever read. Honorable Mentions: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo and The Flame Bearer by Bernard Cornwell.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

2015: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo.  I suspect I’m not the only person to slot this for their 2015 favorite.  SoC is the reason I will still occasionally pick up a YA novel despite being disappointed with most other YA offerings (it’s not them, it’s me).  It’s dark and gritty with just the right touch of romance. Honorable mentions: The Just City by Jo Walton and Warriors of the Storm by Bernard Cornwell.

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2014: Traitor’s Blade by Sebastien de Castell. These books are fast paced and the characters and their banter are fabulous.  There’s not a lot of magic- but a little, and I’m more than okay with that.  Fun fact: the author is an actual fencer, and his dueling scenes are better for it. Honorable mentions: Revival and Mr. Mercedes both by Stephen King.

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

2013: NOS4A2 by Joe Hill.  This is about a vampire from Christmasland.  I know that’s odd.  Don’t question it.  Just go with it.  Honorable mention: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie and The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker.

Gone Girl Gillian Flynn

2012: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  I know Amy Dunne is a sociopath, but she’s a disciplined and brilliant sociopath.  For some reason- along the with The Mere Wife, I’ve been thinking a lot about Gone Girl and wishing there were more stories like this available.  Honorable Mention: Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson and The Rook by Daniel O’Malley.

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2011: Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence. Much like Amy Dunne, I find Jorg to be a very compelling as a character.  Also- this is just a delightfully wicked book. Honorable mention: Shadowfever by Karen Marie Moning and Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor.

Sh*t my dad says by Justin Halpern

2010: Sh*t my Dad Says by Justin Halpern.  So this is a weird place to end up.  Anyway- apparently I didn’t read much and definitely wasn’t tracking my reading in 2010.  Don’t let that stop you from checking out this hilarious book. Justin’s dad is definitely a guy I wouldn’t mind drinking a beer with.  Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the book:

“On [Justin’s] Response to Having [His] Tires Slashed ‘Oh, don’t go to the goddamned cops. They’re busy with real shit. I don’t want my tax dollars going to figuring out who thinks you’re an asshole.'”

And that’s it!  What about you?  What are your favorite books of the past ten years?

 

 

Book Discussion: Authors that have been on my TBR for way too long

I don’t know about you- but I have quite a few authors with multiple books on my TBR that have been there forever.  I’ve been thinking a lot about why I’m so hesitant to jump in and wondering if it’s just that I don’t know where to start.  I’m enlisting your help to get me started on some of these books!  Let me know if there’s one that’s better than the others or books that make for good introductions to these authors and their worlds.

Robert Jackson Bennett – Everything he writes sounds exactly like something I need in my life.  I even own his Divine Cities omnibus.  Still haven’t read him.

Chuck Wendig – I think I actually have read a short story by Wendig, and that was what put him on my radar initially, but I never ended up committing to any of his novels.  Now Wanderers is coming in July, and I’m positively giddy with excitement because it sounds epic.

Neal Stephenson – I see Stephenson’s books everywhere.  But I feel like people are pretty mixed on whether they like them or not.  To top it off, from what I understand, his books are all like 800+ pages long.  Where is the best place to start?!

Claire North – The book she’s probably most recognized for is The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, but for some reason that book doesn’t appeal to me so much.  These others  do.

Nancy Kress – Let’s be clear.  I want to read all the Nancy Kress books.  I don’t know if it’s her beautiful covers, or the descriptions or the possibilities for discussion, but every time one of her books pops up in my GoodReads feed. I add it.  Please, someone tell me where to start!

Joe Abercrombie – This is perhaps the most embarrassing one to admit to, because I love dark fiction and everyone recommends him as one of the top grimdark authors.  I think his blurbs are not doing his books justice.  Every time I look at one of them it turns into a TL;DR.  But now he has a new one coming out and I really just need to get on the bandwagon.

Other authors I need recommendations for: Brandon Sanderson (I know, I know), John Scalzi, and Richard Morgan.  Have you read any of these authors?  Can you tell me a good place to start?  Do you have any authors that have been on your TBR for way too long?

Book Review: The Gutter Prayer by Gareth Hanrahan (The Black Iron Legacy #1)

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Rating:  ★★

Blurb from GoodReads: A group of three young thieves are pulled into a centuries old magical war between ancient beings, mages, and humanity in this wildly original debut epic fantasy. (The rest of the blurb can be read here.)

I think this will be one of the books that ended up disappointing me the most this year.  I was so ready for a grimdark Six of Crows, grittier, bloodier, more desperate.  As you can see my expectation of the book didn’t really line up with the blurb.  I add stuff to my TBR and pick it up weeks later without ever reading the blurb, which is why it wasn’t what I was expecting.

This was mildly disappointing, but I could have adjusted easily enough if I had been told a good story.  At the end of the day, that’s all I really care about, that I’m being entertained.

Are you not entertained gif

Well no, Maximus.  As a matter of fact, I wasn’t entertained.

I have so many issues I don’t even really know where to begin. I’m baffled this went to print this way. It feels unfinished- like a second draft with most of the proofreading errors taken out. I found multiple typos, inconsistencies in the way words were spelled, characters popping into scenes where they shouldn’t be. One time I think Rat was called Spar and then went right back to being Rat, and another one Miren popped up when he should have been Haden (even better Miren was all the way across town, and the scene he wasn’t supposed to be in was sandwiched between two other Miren scenes.  Imagine my confusion at him being in two places at once). This is not confusing because it’s complex, it’s confusing because it’s poorly edited. I actually had to stop at one point and double check that it wasn’t self published. I’ve read self-published books with fewer errors. Not sure what Orbit was thinking.

The plot was a cool concept poorly executed. For centuries across this steampunkish land, the gods have been battling each other- dragging Mortals down into their fights. Not sure why gods need mortals to fight for them, or even why they are fighting, but Guerdon’s gods are kept in check. Now someone wants to free them.

My issue with the execution is two fold. The first issue I have is that no one’s motivations make any sense. **SPOILERS** The alchemists want to melt down the Black Iron Gods (imprisoned in bells) and use them to make “god bombs” to stop the war and prevent them from coming back. Everyone agrees the Black Iron Gods are bad, yet everyone is also fighting the alchemists… why? I understand it will also kill the kept gods but as far as I can tell they aren’t doing a whole lot for anyone, and the kept gods end up dying anyway… wouldn’t it have been easier just to let the alchemists do it? Or to help them? **END SPOILERS**

The second part of my upset with the execution comes from the fact that this is largely a metaphysical tale. I say Godswar and you’re thinking a war of titanic proportions right? Buildings crumbling, swords flying, heroes and villains.

Wrong. Mostly it’s someone having an out of body experience and observing everything from a distance. It was incredibly boring. This is largely personal preference but I like the up close and personal battle scenes. There were none to be had. Aleena comes close with her more physical abilities and her sainthood and flaming sword, but a lot of the action scenes fade to black in some misguided attempt to build suspense into the plot. There isn’t any.

The book is so hung up in its own world building, in its pages upon pages of raptequine horses and Tallowmen and alchemical weapons that it forgot to describe the action. Don’t get me wrong- the world building was very cool. It had lots of fun elements that felt unique. But it wasn’t enough to keep me engaged and wanting more.

There are some really odd sex scenes thrown in that one of the MCs constantly thinks about afterwards, that destroyed her character in its entirety. They were bizarre and so out of left field any mention of them immediately withdrew me from the story. They detracted from the MCs character and took her from feeling whole to feeling flimsy. Especially when the partner is described as inexperienced and clumsy in the very first line of their hookup.  It was very painfully obvious at that point, that she had been written by a man.  If the two characters had been in love, it might have been acceptable.  If there had even been a few lines introducing their attraction for each other, it might have been acceptable.  The way it’s told here, I suspect will ring incredibly false to most women.

Rat’s character and Jere’s character largely feel useless. Characters were killed that pop backup in the epilogue, apparently alive and well. In the beginning there are references to ongoing riots that are never witnessed.

I thought it was supposed to be grimdark but it felt more like New Adult to me. Cari carries around a “knife” she barely uses.  When she does use it, it feels pretty lame.  Cari slashed at the grotesque monster tentacles with her knife.  What exactly were you expecting to come of that Cari?  You don’t kill god-monsters with a knife.  I just wanted it to be more.  If you’re going to write a sex scene- really write a sex scene.  If you’re going to make it bloody, make it gory.  I know I probably have unreasonable expectations when it comes to this, Constant Reader that I am, but when you sell me something as grimdark those are the expectations that come with it.

I feel bad writing this because I wanted to love it. If it had been edited properly and dropped 200 pages of world building and description and a couple POVs I might have… but for now I just don’t have many nice things to say about it and I can’t recommend it. Maybe an update from Orbit can fix the kindle version, but unfortunately for the hardback I guess it’s too late.

The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French

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Rating:  ★★★1/2

This book was the 2016 winner of Mark Lawrence’s Self Published Fantasy Blog Off.  Supposedly- it has the highest score of any self published fantasy to enter the contest (and the book eventually scored a major publishing deal). The easiest way to sum it up is to imagine if Sons of Anarchy was a fantasy told by half-orcs who rode literal hogs.  The language is filthy.  (Lawrence said: “[This is] the filthiest fantasy book [he’s] read.”  That’s pretty high praise coming from him I’d imagine but he’s not wrong.)  There is cussing, dick jokes, fart jokes, sex talk galore.  So if this is not your thing, turn away now.

It is a lot of fun. I can’t fault any of the book for not being fun. The characters, the banter, the action, the language, all of it was fun. I absolutely adored the Jackal and Oats bromance that was going on. Loved old War-boar and Kal’huun. Truly I found something to like about all of them, and that’s pretty rare.

However, I had a lot of issues with this book. First- it is outrageously wordy. I can’t believe that when this was picked up by Penguin/Random House they let it go to print with this many words. It’s over written to the point of being confusing. I had to re-read stuff. In a book like this- which I took lightly and to be pure, mindless entertainment, confusion and re-reading should just not be a thing. I skimmed 90% of a fight scene because it went on for, I kid you not, eight pages. A single fight scene. Between just two half-orcs. You want to write a battle scene that goes on for eight pages?  Knock yourself out.  A single fight scene?  Yeah, no.  I skipped right to the end.  To show what I mean about the wordiness (and I am just opening to a random page here, this is the second sentence):

“Beneath the sunrise, the crumbling buildings composed a carcass, a decrepit pilgrim dead of thirst within reach of water.” (I’m still not sure what this means or why it was necessary.)

ONE SENTENCE LATER:
“The bridge was an ancient construction, yet stood sound while the surrounding buildings of Hisparthan architects slowly fell to rubble, shaming the genius of their Imperial forebears.”  (This is not confusing, there are just too many words.  I could have done without everything that came after rubble.)

Have you ever seen that episode of Friends, where Ross teaches Joey how to use a thesaurus? And the sentence: “They are warm, nice people with big hearts” becomes: “They are humid, prepossessing homo sapiens with oversized aortic pumps.” This entire book reminds me of that scene. With EXTRA FUCKING WORDS.

I just can’t.

So the writing was a huge issue for me. Aside from that- the info dumps. Lord have mercy the fucking info dumps. Chapters and chapters of them.

Listen- I love when an author thinks that much about their world. Really I do. Because it is important. I just don’t want them to tell me about it. I want them to write it all down somewhere, store it in their heads, and then write the book. That way it all comes out naturally, in small unfolding details.

Can I tell you about the orc incursion? Well can I tell you about it again? Oh wait, I told you the wrong version. Let me tell you a third time.   (There was lots of eye-rolling happening on my end whenever the orc incursion came up.)

My third issue came from the plot. I honestly had no idea what it was until the book was mostly done. First I thought it was one thing- then that particular climax came halfway through. It took about 75% for me to have some idea of where the book was headed and to finally be able to cheer the characters on. Everything up until that point felt like a bunch of unrelated events all strung together that our main character was investigating for no reason at all.

Now I know I’ve been pretty harsh. So I’m going to end by saying again that in the end I did have fun.  I’m not sure I liked the ending- but I might check out book two. I’m hoping the presence of a professional editor from the beginning will fix a lot of the issues I had with The Grey Bastards.

Throwback Thursday: Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

I’m sorry  I’m giving you one of my old reviews when I haven’t given you a new one yet this week.  I do have some new ones coming though (and I’m super excited to share them with you!) I just have to finish reading the books first.

Last Throwback Thursday I reviewed Sebastien de Castell’s Traitor’s Blade, and while nothing would please me more than to share the reviews of the other three books I think they start to get spoilery and include information from the first book.  If you’d like to read them, you can check out my GoodReads reviews here: (Knight’s Shadow, Saint’s Blood, and Tyrant’s Throne).

This week, I’ve been in a grimdark sort of mood, so it seemed only fitting that I share my review of Mark Lawrence’s Prince of Thorns.  I am planning on reading King of Thorns sometime this year so it makes sense.

PoT_ML

Rating:  ★★★★★

So on to the review. I’m giving it 4.5 stars rounded up to 5. This is not going to be a book for everyone. It just isn’t. The protagonist, is a murderous, traitorous, self serving, evil genius. Nothing is sacred to Jorg but vengeance and victory. Vengeance and victory can come at any cost, and Jorg is willing to pay that price. Loyalty and brotherhood are meaningless to him.

I am okay with this. As to what that says for my own mental state, well, let’s not look at that too closely. The thing is, a character like Jorg is just so damn rare. You’ll cringe every time he throws someone off a cliff. Or knifes a brother for looking at him the wrong way. He’s smug. He’s arrogant. He’s a bastard. If you’re like me, you’ll be rooting for him in the end.

Because his father, the real villain of the story, is somehow worse. I think. Minor spoiler: I don’t know if Jorg would ever stab his own son. Maybe he would. Maybe they are equally evil. For now, the father is worse.

The writing was excellent. This is a story about murder and the destruction of kingdoms and a rise to power and Lawrence makes it poetic somehow. Jorg’s inner monologue is fascinating. He’s evil and he knows it, but he still questions it on occasion. Sometimes he questions if he’s evil enough. Sometimes he mourns the loss of his childhood. Sometimes he seems perfectly happy to be rid of his innocence.

The plot is very action driven, with plenty of blood, gore and battle to go around. The action is also extremely well written, never a dull moment. Jorg always has an ace up his sleeve or a pawn to sacrifice.

There are some plot holes that I’m not sure how to fill. I’m hoping they are explained in later series. Namely, why this marauding band of brothers follows around a fourteen year old boy. It has nothing to do with his Princedom (excepting Makin- maybe). Of what I’ve seen of Jorg in this book I just didn’t get it. I understood a little why the one called the Nuban followed Jorg. And maybe it’s as simple as the brothers were sheep who needed a wolf to lead them. I don’t know. Little Rikey’s situation certainly isn’t explainable.

All in all it was great. I am SO excited to read the next in the series and check out some of Lawrence’s other series as well. I’d recommend this to anyone who likes dark fantasy and doesn’t mind a less than respectable protagonist.

Throwback Thursday: Traitor’s Blade by Sebastien de Castell

It’s official. I’ve run out of Terra Ignota books to throw at you.  So I’m going with another cherished and favorite series- The Greatcoats!  Have you read them yet?  My hope in starting Throwback Thursday was to bring some love to some under-appreciated series.  Admittedly- The Greatcoats has about twice as many ratings, but still I feel like it’s not enough.

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Rating:  ★★★★

What a great book. I absolutely loved the three main characters, Brasti, Kest and Falcio (though I think Kest was my favorite) and the banter between them. It reminded me a lot of the game Dragon Age and I could just picture the “party” wondering around on their mission to find the King’s Charoites sniping at each other and kicking ass.

I loved the way the story unfolded. Falcio val Mond, the leader of the group and the Greatcoats (the King’s magistrates), has been trying his best to fulfill the mission his King, Paelis, gave him five years ago. The twist? Nobody knows what exactly the King’s Charoites are. The mission was given to him right before Falcio stood aside and allowed the treacherous dukes to murder the king who he loved. Now the land is ruled by the nobility, there is no king, and the Greatcoats have been disbanded and labeled traitors.

This story is told in both a present timeline, and flashbacks to the past. We learn how Falcio and his group came together, how the Greatcoats were reassembled by King Paelis, and how they were disbanded again. The flashbacks felt really natural and were inserted at appropriate times in the story. This kept them interesting and they never once felt like long boring bouts of complicated backstory. I enjoyed reading those parts as much as I enjoyed reading about what was happening in the present.

I did feel like the middle of the story was a bit slower than the rest. The action was ridiculously non stop, to the point where Falcio hasn’t slept in like 48 hours straight, at least. It was almost comedic how many fights he left only to stumble into another one. The action is told well and is in no way boring, and Falcio has enough tricks up his sleeve to keep it interesting, I just felt that the magic of the book was truly in the world building and the banter between characters. So when Falcio is on his own protecting Aline from the horrors of blood week, I was just kind of reading along hoping for him to get back on the road.

The ending was fantastic and I did not see the twist coming. Looking back there was some subtle foreshadowing but other than Feltock I loved how everyone’s story ended. Even though this book is part of a series it has a definite conclusion (with no massive cliffhangers).

I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys snarky characters and gritty fantasy!

Top Ten Tuesday: Last ten books added to my TBR

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Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Okay – so this post is going up super late tonight.  I didn’t have time to write it in advance this weekend, but I really wanted the chance to talk about something new because I feel like I do such a good job of beating everyone over the head with my favorite books.  These aren’t in order of favorites or anything- just the order they were added to my TBR.

The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick – Alison comes across an old painting in an antique shop.  She’s told it’s of Anne Boleyn, but Alison knows it’s Mary Seymour.  The daughter of Katherine Parr and Henry VIII who went missing in 1557…it holds the key to her future, unlocking the mystery surrounding Mary’s disappearance, and the enigma of Alison’s son.  As soon as I read the description I was pretty much sold. It seems like it’s a little bit fantasy, a little bit mystery, a little historical fiction.  I love genre benders like this, and I love anything tied to Henry VIII’s reign.  The dude was bat shit crazy and 450 years later- crazy kings bring me crazy joy.

God’s Hammer (Hakon’s Saga #1) by Eric Schumacher – This is a viking saga set during the making of England.  The fact that it’s vikings was enough to sell me- throw in a 4.17 rating on GoodReads and the current 99 cent price point, and I guess I’m pretty well sold.

Native Tongue by Suzette Haden Elgin – This is one I’m actually less sure about then the others.  I added it because I saw a rave review somewhere and because it sounds pretty fascinating in terms of what it does with language, but the truth is it’s a 30+ year old book and that makes me hesitate.  The gist of it is: women are property again (a la Atwood) and when they are past child bearing age without children they must retire to the barren house.  Linguists are necessary to keep the interstellar economy afloat and Nazareth is the most talented linguist of all, but all she wants to do is retire to the barren house.  When she gets there, she discovers a revolution is brewing using an entirely new language the barren women have created.

Alien Virus Love Disaster by Abbey Mei Otis – This is one a collection of short fiction nominated for the Phillip K. Dick award this year.  I’ve been enjoying shorter fiction ever since this terrible reading slump hit and with a title like Alien Virus Love Disaster how could I say no?

Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson – As embarrassing as this is to admit, I’ve never read a single book by Sanderson, and I know he’s one of giants of modern fantasy fiction. I picked this one mostly because I liked the cover and because it was YA so I figured it would be a little easier to digest.

The Invited by Jennifer McMahon – My first love is and always will be, horror.  Ghost stories, monster stories, supernatural anything- I love it.  This is a book about a couple who buys a house, and discovers it has a violent and tragic past.  As the wife sources materials for her new home, she becomes obsessed with the lives of the Breckenridge women who occupied the home before.  It’s due to release April 30th, 2019.

The Gutter Prayer by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan – This is a grim dark fantasy that I’ve seen getting rave reviews by book bloggers left and right.  From GoodReads: “When three thieves – an orphan, a ghoul, and a cursed man – are betrayed by the master of the thieves guild, their quest for revenge uncovers dark truths about their city and exposes a dangerous conspiracy…”  A thieves guild and three thieves that are an orphan a ghoul and a cursed man?  I don’t even need to read the rest of the blurb.

Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor – This is another book I’m not too sure about.  I added it on a whim after it was nominated for SciFi Fantasy’s Book Club monthly read.  “Historians” (read: time travelers) investigate major historical events in contemporary time from the Cretaceous period to World War I.  I’m not sure what the actual plot is but the hook seems interesting. (Please let there be dinosaurs.)

Shadow on the Crown by Patricia Bracewell – I really enjoyed last year’s The Silence of the Girls and Circe.  And while I didn’t love The Lost Queen, I do love the idea of giving women a voice in time periods and stories that are usually otherwise voiced by men.  Shadow on the Crown is centered on Emma of Normandy, wife of King Athelred of England in 1002.  Courtly drama, romance, viking invasions, and (hopefully) historically accurate (as possible) events could make for a truly fantastic story.

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The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids by Michael McClung – This book was the winner of Mark Lawrence’s first self published fantasy blog off in 2015.  I’ve only read one of his books- but I’m crazy in love with Mark Lawrence as an author, (for many reasons besides his wicked writing skills) so I added it for just that reason.  I’m told it contains plenty of gruesome violence, but between the spunky title and the purple watercolor cover, I’m getting more of a YA vibe.  Either way- I’m excited to read this and check out some of the other winners of Mark’s blog off.

What about you?  What have you recently added?  Link to your TTT below so I can check it out- I’m always looking to add more!