The Six Deaths of the Saint by Alix E. Harrow

The Saint of War spares the life of a servant girl so she can fulfill her destiny as the kingdom’s greatest warrior in this short story of love and loyalty by New York Times bestselling author Alix E. Harrow.
Always mindful of the debt she owes, the girl finds her worth as a weapon in the hand of the Prince. Her victories make him a king, then an emperor. The bards sing her name and her enemies fear it. But the war never ends and the cost keeps rising—how many times will she repeat her own story? (Taken from Amazon)

I saw “Alix E. Harrow” on the cover and knew that The Six Deaths of the Saint would be good. I grabbed it without knowing anything about it. That rarely happens to me but it is the only correct reaction to seeing that author’s name on a book. Everything she writes is gold and this was no different.

This is a (very) short story yet somehow still packs an emotional gut punch. Ostensibly about a servant girl who is visited by the Saint of War and goes on to be a nigh-unstoppable warrior for a prince who then becomes king, it is in reality much more than that. It is an exploration of choices, a thought exercise about the many kinds of love- both real and false, and a lesson in perspective.

I really can’t say much of anything about the plot itself without giving away huge chunks of the story. Despite being few in number- the warrior girl, her faithful friend/servant, and the king- they were all powerfully written. The girl was hurting inside, her desire for approval and love used as a weapon against her by the very person she fought for, she bled for. Her squire cared so much, seeing past the raggedy edges, the violent weapon the girl became. That wanting, hurting, and love can become so tangled is something beautifully and heartbreakingly written.

“And you found you did not mind being a devil, so long as you were his.”

This is not a lighthearted story, but it is a gorgeous one. It is harsh, touching, and at times surprising. I loved it and ended up rereading it right after finishing it, once I knew the finished shape of the tale.

I recommend anything written by this author and The Six Deaths of the Saint is no different. Read this. It won’t take you long to finish the words, but the emotion and thought behind them will stay with you.

The Dungeons and Dragons Book Tag

Every now and then, I like to do a book tag. I’m a rather nerdy person and the few book tags I’ve created reflect that. This one is no exception. The table-top roleplaying game Dungeons and Dragons features character classes, which is sort of a classification that separates and defines different sorts of characters in D&D. I’ve used some of these classes to make a book tag.

I hope you have fun! If you decide to do your own, please credit me as the creator. Thanks!

Barbarian: In a simplified nutshell, barbarians are fighters whose anger can give them a berserker state of mind: think an overdose of adrenalin allowing someone to do the nigh impossible.

Name a character with a temper:

Belle Sorensen from In the Garden of Spite by Camilla Bruce

It didn’t take much to make Belle Sorensen angry and, to paraphrase the Hulk, you wouldn’t like her when she’s angry. The men in her life had much shorter life spans than they should have. The chilling thing is, she was a real person. Yikes!


Bard: Bards use music and song to either help or hinder. Music is massively important to them, and can give them power.

Name a book/character for which music is important:

A River Enchanted by Rebecca Ross

The main character in A River Enchanted, Jack, is a bard. Music means more to him than anything else. He is called on to use his music to summon the spirits of the water, earth, and wind to find the girls stolen from his clan. With the power his music gives him comes danger, though. It’s a fascinating book.

Cleric: “A priestly champion who wields divine magic in service of a higher power” (D&D Player’s Handbook)

Name a book/character for which religion plays a large role:

The Sapphire Altar by David Dalglish

Belief and religious fervor collide in this book that’s impossible to put down. Religion doesn’t play a background role in this series. It is often the beating heart at the center of every decision made (or so the characters tell themselves).


Druid: Druids are representative of nature. They get their power- healing, magical spells, etc.- from either the land itself or from a nature deity. 

Name a Book where nature plays an important role:

The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst

The nature in this book is brimming with life…and malevolence. The spirits that live in the water, trees, and wind want to stamp out the humans and only the queen has the power to command them. Except it suddenly stops working, leading to an epic fantasy that is unforgettable.


Fighter: A fighter relies on physical skill. They are often good with a weapon and can function as a pretty good meat shield.

Name a book with great fight scenes:

Kings of Wyld by Nicholas Eames

There is so much to love about this book, not least the fight scenes! They were creative, well described, and massively entertaining.


Magic Users: Dungeons and Dragons features Warlocks, Wizards, and Sorcerers. Each is different, but I’m lumping them together for the purposes of this tag. The name is self-explanatory: a user of magic.

Name a book or character with cool magic:

Empire of Exiles by Erin M. Evans

The magic in this book is spectacular. It’s unique, extremely creative, and also perfectly described what my anxiety feels like. I know that sounds weird, but if you read the book (and you should), you’ll understand what I’m saying.


Paladin: A holy warrior.

Paladin Unbound by Jeffrey Speight

This book is phenomenal. Umhra has to both come into his own as a paladin, but also come to grips with who he is as well as his past.


Ranger: Hunters, wilderness survivors, and protectors, rangers are often what stand between civilization and the monsters that live in the wild.

Name a character that is in tune with the wild.

Strider from The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

I’ll be honest: I think Aragorn is much cooler when he’s still calling himself Strider. Either way, he’s got the whole “one with nature” thing going and is a great ranger.

Rogue: Rogues use stealth and cunning to defeat their foes or prevail in a situation. 

Name a book or character with cunning:

The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn by Tyler Whitesides

What I loved about Ardor Benn was that, not only did he always have a contingency plan (even if his plans never went smoothly), he was glib. I love characters that use their words as weapons.


What do you think? What character class is your favorite? I hope you share your answers with me!

Pathfinder Core Rulebook and D&D Player’s Handbook: Thoughts

I’ve been enjoying table-top roleplaying games for years and years, mainly Dungeons and Dragons although I’ve dipped my toes into other systems here and there.

I’ve been curious about other ttrpg options (there is a lot more out there than some people might think). I’ve also been less than impressed with some of the recent decisions made by Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro, so I figured why not give Pathfinder 2e a try? A good friend was incredibly generous, giving the Pathfinder Core Rulebook to the players in our group, so the timing couldn’t be more perfect.

On the off chance that anyone is wondering, I’m sharing my thoughts on this new adventure. I’m not going to bash either Pathfinder or D&D, but I will point out things that I like and dislike in both. Whatever system you end up playing in, I hope you have great, creative fun!

First up: The Dungeons and Dragons Players Handbook (5e) and the Pathfinder Core Rulebook (2e). Let’s dive in, shall we?

The first thing I noticed is that there is a ridiculously noticeable difference between the sizes of the two books. Pathfinder’s Core Rulebook is a whopping 628 pages as opposed to the 317 pages found in D&D’s Player’s Handbook. I was floored. This Pathfinder chonker came in the mail and I was astonished when I saw how big it was. There is about a ten-dollar difference in price (although it’s pretty easy to find sales on both), but after seeing everything included in the Rulebook, I think it’s worth it.

I should probably mention that both books have separate Game Master guides (Gamemastery Guide in the case of Pathfinder, The Dungeon Master’s Guide in the case of Dungeons and Dragons). I haven’t yet seen Pathfinder’s GM Guide, but D&D’s Dungeon Master’s Guide is incredibly useful. That being said, some of what’s in the Pathfiner’s Rulebook would probably fit nicely in the D&D Dungeon Master Guide. I don’t really have an opinion on that, just thought it was interesting.

So, what’s in this doorstop of a rulebook?

Before getting into that, something I need to mention about both books is that the art is phenomenal. It immediately captures both the eye and- just as importantly- the imagination. I am a huge fan of creative fantasy art and the artists for both books are incredible.

Pathfinder Core Rulebook 2e
Dungeons and Dragons Player’s Handbook

The Pathfinder Core Rulebook has a few noticeable differences from D&D’s Player’s Handbook. There’s a section toward the back of the Rulebook that talks about the world of Pathfinder (Golarion), its different areas, and what would be found there. You won’t find that in the Player’s Handbook, although there are many separate books that explore D&D in other worlds (such as Forgotten Realms, the world of Critical Role, and others). I do think it’s kind of cool that the Rulebook includes some of that. It’s a good way to get started, having all that in one book right at your fingertips.

The big change I’ve noticed, though, is the character customization offered in the Rulebook. Both books have the classes, feats, etc. Where the Rulebook pulls ahead in this area (at least in my opinion) is that it then goes on to offer OPTIONS. Lots and lots of them. For example, a Player’s Handbook Druid Class section comes with feats, skills, etc. There, you’ve got a druid. Then, later on in the book, you can find some information about multiclassing (basically, how to shift the druid to make it uniquely yours). In the Rulebook, you have the stats, feats, etc, to make a druid. Then, you have the stats, feats, etc, to make a Storm Druid. And a Leaf Druid. See the difference?

I feel like it’s a little tougher to do that in D&D. I once tried to make a shadow dancer. It required all kinds of weird multiclassing ideas, multiple books, and an understanding GM who helped make it happen. Not exactly simple. Now, I am not well-versed in Pathfinder yet so I could very well be misreading things, but it seems that it would be a little bit simpler to shift a Pathfinder class into something different with all the options offered in that one Rulebook. Dungeons and Dragons often needs other supplemental books for that.

Now, before all the Pathfinder-only people say, “Ha ha, we’re better” or the D&D-only people say, “You’re just not doing it right, D&D is far superior”, let me just say: on the flip side of the extra customization options in the Rulebook comes that fact that the sheer amount of choices might seem daunting for someone first picking up a ttrpg book. As someone who has played for a long time and likes to make strange and unusual characters (but hates flipping between three or four books to do so), I love the idea of having so many customization options in the Rulebook. It’s awesome. But a newer player could see that very thing as confusing and unnecessary. So take my opinion for what it is: thoughts of a well-seasoned ttrpg player who wants ALL the choices.

Either way, I think both the D&D Player’s Handbook and the Pathfinder Core Rulebook are incredibly useful for playing in these two systems. At least for me, playing without them won’t go as well at first.

Coming soon:

My thoughts on playing Pathfinder 2e for the first time.

A Class Above: D&D Classes in Books- Hub

Here is where to find all the posts from A Class Above: D&D Classes in Books. Enjoy!

A Class Above: D&D Classes in Books- Fighters and Barbarians

A Class Above: D&D Classes in Books- Paladins, Clerics, and Druids

A Class Above: D&D Classes in Books-Rogues and Rangers

A Class Above: D&D Classes in Books – Bards and Magic Users

A Class Above: Books for Fans of D&D

The Adversary’s Hand by Dorian Hart

Horn’s Company has saved the world—again.

The bad news? Dranko, Morningstar, Kibi, and the rest of the company are stranded centuries in the past. The magical gemstones that could return them to their proper time have broken.

The worse news? That’s only the start of their troubles.

With the world of Spira in dire peril once more, the heroes must make an impossible journey beneath the Iron Barrier, pursuing agents of the Black Circle who seek to unleash the greatest evil power ever to plague the cosmos.

In this final volume of the Heroes of Spira, Horn’s Company will face monstrous creatures, explore ancient temples and mysterious ruins, confront gods both living and dead, and show valiant resolve in the darkest depths.

Should they fail, the world will fall beneath the might of the Adversary’s Hand. (Taken from Amazon)

Thank you to the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. The Adversary’s Hand is available now.

The Adversary’s Hand is the fifth and final book of The Heroes of Spira series. I will do my level best to avoid spoilers, but you have been warned. You can find my reviews for books 1-4 here: The Ventifact Colossus, The Crosser’s Maze, The Greatwood Portal, and The Infinite Tower.

The Adversary’s Hand was one of my most anticipated books of 2023 and it didn’t disappoint. The cast of characters known as Horn’s Company is back and facing danger far above their skill level. This evil takes them across worlds and through time, calling on every shred of bravery (or stick-to-it-ness) they possess. As with every book in this excellent series, The Adversary’s Hand immediately swept me away, taking me on the adventure right along with the characters.

The stakes continued to grow, as did the world. I have no idea how author Dorian Hart was able to have so much detail in this book without it ever becoming too much or slowing down the plot. However, The Adversary’s Hand moved at the perfect pace, neither too fast nor too slow. Once again there was a combination of the sort of threat that requires a sharp pointy object and the sort that needs to be solved by intelligence or cunning. Every member of the party was useful and things wouldn’t have worked out as they did without the contribution of every character. I loved that, despite there being several characters focused on, not a single one is ever superfluous.

I had no idea how things would work out, although I truly hoped they would. The Heroes of Spira has an undercurrent of hope running throughout that is so refreshing. Yes, things are dire at times and not everyone makes it out unscathed, but to balance out the bad were truly good characters. I was so invested in the outcome because of them. They had strengths, flaws, worries, and hopes that were relatable. Even their exhaustion at having to save the world again was easy to understand and believe. I loved the sense of frustrated resignation that a few of the characters experienced upon learning that still more was being asked of them.

It’s these wonderfully developed characters that have made me fall in love with this series. Kibi’s story arc was flat-out awesome and I loved Eddings (and his appreciation of a good pair of slippers). Ernie has been a favorite of mine throughout the series, as has Dranko. The way they have evolved throughout the series is nothing short of astounding. It was natural and believable. Basically, these fantasy characters felt very real, magical powers and goblin blood aside. I wanted them to succeed.

The Adversary’s Hand brought the imagination, excellent storytelling, and sense of wonder that made me fall in love with fantasy in the first place. I was sad to see the series end, although the ending was the sort that I like best. It was more of a beginning, really. Answers were given and things were wrapped up but there was also the idea that, years down the road, you could visit the world again and find new stories or characters to follow.

I can’t recommend The Heroes of Spira enough.

Wraith Knight by CT Phipps

“Will he save the world, or rule it?”

Jacob Riverson was once the greatest hero of an age. Cut down during what should have been the final battle against the King Below, he was condemned to centuries of torment as a Wraith Knight in the service of said monster.

With the destruction of his master, Jacob finds his free will returning and discovers he is in a world torn by civil war between the King Below’s former slaves and the heroes who “saved” them. Joining forces with the overly-idealistic but brilliant warrior Regina Whitetremor, Jacob must determine whether he has any place in the new world and whether his destiny is as a hero or monster. (Taken from Amazon)

Thank you to the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Wraith Knight is available now.

The idea behind Wraith Knight is an intriguing one. Jacob Riverson was a hero in life, one of those do-gooders who inspire folk songs and have specialty drinks named after them. Then things went a little sideways. The book finds him reeling knowing that, following his death, he spent centuries enslaved as a Wraith Knight, serving the very evil that he fought against. His free will is finally restored to him, his Master being dead(ish). Jacob gets to see firsthand what a world devoid of the evil he died trying to defeat looks like, and it isn’t what he expected. Now he has to decide: is he a hero or the next big villain?

There was a lot to like about this book. First of all, is how the author used Jacob as a conduit to the world and history while still avoiding the dreaded info dump. While Jacob was getting caught up on what had happened in the time he missed, the reader also got the important information. I loved that, as in all history books, what actually happened and how it’s being told aren’t precisely the same thing. Jacob gets to hear how people think things occurred and who they think he was. I got a laugh out of his thoughts on how his friends were described.

Jacob was the very definition of a morally gray character. From early on, he makes less than glowing choices, and his immediate justification of his decisions showcased a character with a sliding moral scale. I love morally conflicted characters, and Jacob was written very well. His personality allowed the author to explore questions of morality, such as whether the end really ever justifies the means and what makes up the invisible line between good and evil. The fact that the author also included dragons and fantasy battles makes this a win-win for readers.

Wraith Knight features a smaller cast of characters. These include Sarah, a witch who had a flair for Shadow magic, and a rather naive but well-meaning warrior named Regina (who was introduced on dragonback, immediately upping her cool factor). Regina, in particular, was a character that I went back and forth on. At times, I really enjoyed reading about her. After a while, she became a tad annoying, though. It was an interesting back and forth, and I’m really not sure what caused my changes in opinion on her.

The book was fast-paced with battles aplenty. The pacing was consistent, never dragging or jumping. The world itself featured slight twists on the general fantasy setting, being different enough to be intriguing yet similar enough that I didn’t have to think about it all that much. The book is character driven, so the world itself becomes secondary. It’s the choices made and the character development that are the focus in Wraith Knight.

There was a romantic entanglement of sorts which I wasn’t a big fan of. As those of you who have followed my blog know, I’m ridiculously picky when it comes to romance in books, so take my opinion on this with that in mind.

At the end of the day, there was a lot to like about Wraith Knight. While it’s a darker book, it never became fully grimdark. However, this book will be best enjoyed by those who like to read on the grittier side of fantasy. Pick up Wraith Knight for morally complicated characters and a surprisingly introspective look at right vs. wrong and the ideals that often stray a little into both categories.

Escapist Book Tour Cover Reveal: Stargun Messenger by Darby Harn

Today I’m delighted to be joining Escapist Book Co in sharing the cover for Stargun Messenger by Darby Harn! This space opera looks like a great read! So, what’s it about?

Book Blurb:

To save the stars, Astra Idari must outrun her own shadow.

Astra Idari is a mess.

She drinks too much, remembers too little, and barely pays for it all as a Stargun Messenger. She hunts down thieves who steal filamentium, the fuel that allows for faster-than-light travel. When Idari meets Gen Emera, she meets the girl of her dreams and the last living star. There’s just one problem.

Filamentium is only found in the blood of living stars.

Everyone wields knives and justifications for butchering the living stars to get around, but once Idari knows the truth, she faces a stark choice. Either she turns Emera over to her employers who control the filamentium monopoly, or risks everything to help Emera fulfill her quest to save her people.

The choice should be simple, but it’s not losing her life that terrifies Idari. It’s finally living. Idari knows she’s human despite outwardly appearing to be an android with a failing memory stitched together by her ship’s irascible AI, CR-UX. She’s been just getting by for longer than she remembers, assured in her humanity, but not enough to risk it.

Idari has lived her entire life in darkness. The dark comforts and shields. The dark preserves in its cold, and Idari may not be able to keep her star out of her shadow.

“If James Joyce had grown up reading X-Men comics and obsessively playing Destiny, he would have written this. A breathtakingly imaginative, star-spanning romp that is equal parts swashbuckling galactic adventure and lyrical introspection about love and identity.” 

– Wayne Santos, author of The Chimera Code

Are you ready to see the cover? Here it is!


Book Links:



Cover Artist Info:

Artist: Al Hess




About the author:

Author Bio & Information:

Darby Harn is the author of the SPSFC quarterfinalist Ever The Hero, which Publisher’s Weekly called “an entertaining debut that uses superpowers as a metaphor to delve into class politics in an alternate America.” His short fiction appears in Strange Horizons, Interzone, and other venues. Visit for more.






The Big, Long List of Awesome Indie Books

I like lists. I know, that’s a weird thing to have strong feelings about, but I do. I often have trouble sleeping and, while making lists doesn’t help with that, it’s a fun way to pass the time when I’m laying in bed overthinking something I said in the seventh grade. But I digress.

I’ve been working on a list of great indie books I’ve read for quite a while now. This is far from complete and I’m sure I have several favorites that I’ve forgotten to add. However, since yet another odd take on indie books is circulating online, I’m sharing this list today. I’ll keep adding to it as the list of indie books I enjoy grows.

Tell me what some of your favorite indie books are! Let’s show indie authors some appreciation!

*If I have mistakenly added a non-indie book to this list, please let me know.

  • Adjacent Monsters by Luke Tarzian
  • The Archives of Evelium by Jeffrey Speight
  • Around the Dark Dial by JD Sanderson
  • Blade’s Edge by Virginia McClain
  • Burn Red Skies by Kerstin Espinosa Rosero
  • Constable Inspector Lunaria Adventures by Geoff Tangent and Coy Kissee
  • The Dragon’s Banker by Scott Warren
  • Dragon Mage by ML Spencer
  • Duckett and Dyer: Dicks for Hire by GM Nair
  • Fairy Godmurderer by Sarah J. Sover
  • The Flaws of Gravity by Stepanie Caye
  • The Forever King by Ben Galley
  • Frith Chronicles by Shami Stovall
  • The Gifted and the Cursed by Marcus Lee
  • A Good Running Away by Kevin Pettway
  • The Hand of Fire by Rolan J. O’Leary
  • Henry by Christopher Hooks
  • The Hero Interviews by Andi Ewington
  • The Heroes of Spira by Dorian Hart
  • The Hummingbird’s Tear by CM Kerley
  • Justice Academy by Rob Edwards
  • The Legend of Black Jack by A.R. Witham
  • Legends of Cyrradon by Jason and Rose Bishop
  • Lexcalibur by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik
  • Little White Hands by Mark Cushen
  • The Maer Cycle by Dan Fitzgerald
  • Mennik Thorn series by Patrick Samphire
  • Messengers of the Macabre by LindaAnn LoSchiavo and David Davies
  • Mirror in Time by D. Ellis Overttun
  • Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons by Quenby Olson
  • Oil and Dust by Jami Farleigh
  • The Part About the Dragon Was (Mostly) True by Sean Gibson
  • Path to Villainy by SL Roland
  • The Return of King Lillian by Suzie Plakson
  • The Royal Champion by GM White
  • Sacaran Nights by Rachel Emma Shaw
  • Shadowless by Randall McNally
  • Sherlock Holmes and the Remaining Improbable by Susanne M. Dutton
  • Small Places by Matthew Samuels
  • Voice of War by Zach Argyle
  • The Tempest Blades by Ricardo Victoria
  • We Break Immortals by Thomas Howard Riley
  • Why Odin Drinks by Bjørn Larssen 
  • The Windshine Chronicles by Todd Sullivan
  • Wraith Knight by CT Phipps

    Books I am about to read/ am excited to read:
  • Arvia: Heart of the Sky by DH Willison
  • Heart of Fire by Raina Nightingale
  • How NOT to Murder a Boyband by Jason Roche
  • Lucky Jack by Sue Bavey
  • Vevin Song by Jonathan Neves Mayers

Everybody Wins: Four Decades of the Greatest Board Games Ever Made by James Wallis

The revolution in tabletop gaming revealed and reviewed, in this entertaining and informative look at over 40 years of award-winning games.

The annual Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year) Awards are like the Oscars of the tabletop. Acclaimed British author and games expert James Wallis investigates the winners and losers of each year’s contest to track the incredible explosion in amazing new board games. From modern classics like CATAN, Ticket to Ride, and Dixit to once-lauded games that have now been forgotten (not to mention several popular hits that somehow missed a nomination), this is a comprehensive yet hugely readable study of the best board games ever made, penned by one of the most knowledgeable commentators on the hobby. (Taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Aconyte Books for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Everybody Wins: Four Decades of the Greatest Board Games Ever Made is available now.

I love games of all kinds, from video games to board games. I grew up with the usual suspects: Clue, Monopoly, Risk (my nemesis!). As an adult, I’ve discovered some fantastic new games, ones that are unique and loads of fun. I’m lucky that my family loves to play board games too. We’re also often joined by some friends who have introduced us to some excellent indie games that we might not have seen before.

I expected Everybody Wins: Four Decades of the Greatest Board Game Ever Played to be a bit of a guidebook with popular games listed alphabetically with suggestions as to who would enjoy them. Sure, there are games listed with suggested ages, but this book is much more comprehensive and fascinating. It starts with an explanation of the Spiel des Jahres “Game of the Year” award: its inception and its criteria. I was surprised by how interesting even the background was. I’ve played and loved many games, but I have to admit that I had never really given much thought to what makes one game worthy of an award over many others. This lens was a new way through which to view some of my favorite games.

Everybody Wins then goes through the years, detailing the winners, both the gist of the game itself and the background of its creation. I was delighted to see so many of my favorites, such as Azul and Dixit, listed and even more excited to see my list of new games to try grow by leaps and bounds. I see many great game nights in my future.

The language of the book is far from dry. It’s engaging and accessible. Despite the vast amount of information available, I read through it fairly quickly. That being said, I will be using Everybody Wins to find the perfect games when I go Christmas shopping this year. I’d love to read a book with a similar setup all about table-top roleplaying games as well (the reason the Spiel des Jashres isn’t focused on ttrpgs is also explained).

Everybody Wins: Four Decades of the Greatest Board Games Ever Played is a highly engaging book that made me smile. Pick this book up, then grab some friends and family members and play a board game!

Mystic Reborn by Jeffrey Speight

Some paths are meant to be walked alone.

Mystic Reborn is the continuation of Paladin Unbound, the award-winning start of the Archives of Evelium.

After embracing his destiny as the last of the Paladins, Umhra the Peacebreaker is granted ancient powers by the gods. When he returns to the ruins of Antiikin to fulfill a promise, he embarks on a journey that will push the limits of his abilities.

As the Grey Queen’s arrival heralds the fulfillment of a prophecy that could mean the end of humanity, the kingdom of Evelium desperately needs a hero. Can Umhra once more rise to the challenge and save mankind from annihilation? (Taken from Amazon)

Thank you to the author for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Mystic Reborn will be available on April 1st.

Mystic Reborn is a sequel to Paladin Unbound so there might be some light spoilers. You really should read Paladin Unbound if you haven’t yet, but I’ll do my best to keep any spoilers to a minimum.

I loved Paladin Unbound and the world Jeffrey Speight had created, so I went into the sequel with ridiculously high expectations. I was not disappointed. Mystic Reborn continues a series that is a masterpiece of epic fantasy. As with Paladin Unbound, I found myself completely drawn in by the story and characters.

The group has been split (I know all TTRPG players are yelling “Never split the party!” at this point), and this decision allowed for both interesting character development and an expansion on both the lore and world itself, without ever becoming an info dump. Seeing the seemingly disparate threads of narrative eventually weave into one was a pleasure.

In this book, Umhra goes where the others can’t follow, in search of the last mystic and knowledge regarding his new powers. As is often the case with heroes, he gets far more than he bargained for. A truth-seeking journey becomes a desperate attempt to save Evelium. I was wondering how on earth he would manage it and if it was even possible, which is always a good place to be in a fantasy novel. The way his character grows and the decisions he makes are both smart and believable. The fact that he’s also encountering some of the most unique (and in some cases, skin-shivering) creatures I’ve come across just makes his parts of the book even more compelling.

While the others deal with far different challenges, they were no less dangerous or engrossing. In fact, they were in just as much danger both physically and morally. One of the characters (I won’t say who for fear of spoiling anything) discovered that someone they trusted had taken deplorable actions. I really felt for this character as he tried to come to terms with his newfound knowledge. Seeing his choices despite (or maybe because) of this letdown was a fascinating experience.

Different characters took center stage throughout the book. Shadow was a favorite in Paladin Unbound, but in Mystic Reborn it was Talus who stole the show for me. The things he dealt with and the way his character developed because of them were astounding. He found himself in several sticky situations (to say the least), but they drove the narrative. In fact, in some ways Umhra’s story arc opened up the world more, while the others served to further the events of this sequel. I guess you could say that Umhra’s storyline is playing the long game.

When the separate storylines became a whole, the book ramped up even more, racing with breathtaking speed into a climax that I couldn’t see coming. There were revelations that shook me and the stakes became ever higher. I have no idea what’s coming in the next book but I know it’s going to be even more epic.

I’ve read a lot of fantasy over the year. I mean a lot. The Archives of Evelium continues to stand above many others. Mystic Reborn floored me with a storyline vast in scope and a world fraught with peril. The characters’ narratives are extremely personal despite the roles they play in a prophecy much bigger than themselves. Every choice has the fate of the world hanging in the balance, yet it’s the small things about these characters- their relationships, faith, and even worries- that brings this series to a higher level. They are the beating heart in a book of monsters and gods.

These books deserve to be mentioned among the greats of the genre. I can’t recommend Mystic Reborn enough.