The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub

Everything has a spirit: the willow tree with leaves that kiss the pond, the stream that feeds the river, the wind that exhales fresh snow…

But the spirits that reside within this land want to rid it of all humans. One woman stands between these malevolent spirits and the end of humankind: the queen. She alone has the magical power to prevent the spirits from destroying every man, woman, and child. But queens are still only human, and no matter how strong or good they are, the threat of danger always looms.

Because the queen’s position is so precarious, young women are specially chosen to train as her heirs. Daleina, a seemingly quiet academy student, simply wants to right the wrongs that have befallen the land. Meanwhile, the disgraced champion Ven has spent his exile secretly fighting against the growing number of spirit attacks. When Daleina and Ven join forces…

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Mental Health Representation in Fantasy Novels

Mental health and fantasy: I know that seems like an odd combination of words. One of the many wonderful things about fantasy, though, is the way it can be used as a place to be incredibly truthful while at the same time completely fantastical. Unfortunately, as with other genres, fantasy seems to be fighting against that same stigma against mental illness. It isn’t often that mental illness is really represented respectfully in fantasy, so when I come across a book that either has a character with a mental illness or explores themes involving mental illness, I notice.

I remember the very first fantasy book I read that had a mental illness represented. It wasn’t the main plotline of the story; in fact, it was just a part of who one of the characters was. It was something they had, but it didn’t define them. I love that so very much. What I don’t love in fantasy, as with any other genre, is mental illness being the throwaway reason for atrocious acts. I am so excited to say that I am seeing less and less of that in fantasy over the years (thrillers and mysteries seem to still have a way to go in that regard).

Here are a few books that either have a character with a mental illness (done respectfully) or have themes of mental illness, such as depression. Because who says you can’t discuss mental health and dragons in the same book?

For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig

A young woman with a dangerous power she barely understands. A smuggler with secrets of his own. A country torn between a merciless colonial army, a terrifying tyrant, and a feared rebel leader. The first book in acclaimed author Heidi Heilig’s Shadow Players trilogy blends traditional storytelling with ephemera for a lush, page-turning tale of escape and rebellion. For a Muse of Fire will captivate fans of Sabaa Tahir, Leigh Bardugo, and Renée Ahdieh.
Jetta’s family is famed as the most talented troupe of shadow players in the land. With Jetta behind the scrim, their puppets seem to move without string or stick—a trade secret, they say. In truth, Jetta can see the souls of the recently departed and bind them to the puppets with her blood. But ever since the colonizing army conquered their country, the old ways are forbidden. Jetta must never show, never tell. Her skill and fame are her family’s way to earn a spot aboard the royal ship to Aquitan, where shadow plays are the latest rage, and where rumor has it the Mad King has a spring that cures his ills. Because seeing spirits is not the only thing that plagues Jetta. But as rebellion seethes and as Jetta meets a young smuggler, she will face truths and decisions that she never imagined—and safety will never seem so far away. (taken from Amazon)

I remember being astounded when I picked up For a Muse of Fire. The main character, Jetta, had an illness that I understood. There were symptoms of extreme depression, and what seemed like mania. Surely, it couldn’t possibly be bipolar disorder, right? I mean, the number of times I’d read a character with bipolar disorder in fantasy books was a big, glaring zero. I read and loved the book, then checked the author’s note at the back. Not only does the character have bipolar disorder, but lithium (one of the main medications for bipolar disorder) also plays a role in the book. The author handled the topic wonderfully, probably because she has bipolar disorder herself. I was gobsmacked. It was so cool to see a character that I could relate to in that way.

Review

Vultures by Luke Tarzian

An enemy slain is not a conflict won…


After decades of war the demon Te Mirkvahíl is dead. But its progeny endure, spilling from the Heart of Mirkúr, sowing death across the land of Ariath. If the people are to finally know peace, the Heart must be destroyed. Theailys An believes he can do just that with The Keepers’ Wrath, an infamous power focus wrought in Ariath’s yesteryears–but the weapon first must be reforged.


War spares no one…


Serece never intended to get involved in Ariath’s war. But history and demons have a way of pulling strings. When she learns Theailys An, a man whom she abhors, bears striking similarity to the first creator of The Keepers’ Wrath, Serece departs her mountain world for Ariath to ascertain the truth.


From patience, hope…


For millennia Behtréal has walked the world alone. Rewriting history to resurrect his people is easier said than done. But Ariath holds the key–soon The Keepers’ Wrath will be remade.


Truth from madness…


As paths converge and a shadow falls across Ariath, one thing becomes increasingly and horrifyingly clear–these events have played out many times before. (Taken from Amazon)

Vultures is a very dark, incredibly brilliant book that explores themes of mental illness, grief, and loss. Author Luke Tarzian describes Vultures as being “very much a story about love, loss, grief, and mental illness through the eyes of reluctant heroes.” (interview here) This is not a comfortable book; rather it is dark and brings the reader face to face with villains both physical and emotional. If you don’t mind harsher storylines, Vultures is excellent.

Review

The Cursed Titans by Ricardo Victoria

The triennial Chivalry Games have returned! After helping to destroy the Withered King, Alex and the rest of the group find out that saving the world has consequences. While he is secretly battling with depression and with the Alliance on the verge of collapse, a diplomatic summit and the Chivalry Games—to be held in the far off Kuni Empire—may give everyone the opportunity to turn things around. Alex builds a team to represent the Foundation in the Games, facing off against the best fighters in the world. When an ancient being tries to raise legendary nightmares known as Titans using the peace talks as a trap, Alex has to find a way to save everyone before it is too late. Alex must learn that he is not truly alone to save the world from the chaos of the Titans. In a world where magic and science intermingle, anything is possible. (taken from Amazon)

Author Ricardo Victoria drew on his own experiences with depression when writing The Cursed Titans. The rawness of that story arc blends in beautifully with what is, at its core, a story of hope. One thing that I loved about how mental illness is portrayed in this series so far is that it accurately shows (in my opinion) how depression can affect people, but not in a way that was ever detrimental to my own mental health. It also shows that a person is much much more than any illness they have, whether it is visible or not.

Review

Dragons of Autumn Twilight and Dragons of Winter Night by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

Once merely creatures of legend, the dragons have returned to Krynn. But with their arrival comes the departure of the old gods—and all healing magic. As war threatens to engulf the land, lifelong friends reunite for an adventure that will change their lives and shape their world forever . . . 
 
When Tanis, Sturm, Caramon, Raistlin, Flint, and Tasslehoff see a woman use a blue crystal staff to heal a villager, they wonder if it’s a sign the gods have not abandoned them after all. Fueled by this glimmer of hope, the Companions band together to uncover the truth behind the gods’ absence—though they aren’t the only ones with an interest in the staff. The Seekers, a new religious order, wants the artifact for their own ends, believing it will help them replace the gods and overtake the continent of Ansalon. Now, the Companions must assume the unlikely roles of heroes if they hope to prevent the staff from falling into the hands of darkness. (taken from Amazon)

The Dragonlance Chronicles has the very first character with a mental illness that I ever read in a fantasy novel. Sturm is a knight, and his honor is everything to him. He also struggles with depression. While he has never been my favorite character in the series, it meant so much to see my depression reflected in a fantasy novel for the first time. Another thing that I love about how his depression is depicted is that it is made abundantly clear that it is something he has, not who he is. He is compassionate, brave, and loyal. His friends understand that he has “dark moods” and they become concerned about him, but they never give up on him or judge him. It’s a breath of fresh air.

Character Profile

The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth

Six years ago, sisters Evelyn and Philippa Hapwell were swept away to a strange and beautiful kingdom called the Woodlands, where they lived for years. But ever since they returned to their lives in post-WWII England, they have struggled to adjust.
Ev desperately wants to return to the Woodlands, and Philippa just wants to move on. When Ev goes missing, Philippa must confront the depth of her sister’s despair and the painful truths they’ve been running from. As the weeks unfold, Philippa wonders if Ev truly did find a way home, or if the weight of their worlds pulled her under.
Walking the line between where fantasy and reality meet, this lyrical and magical novel is, above all else, an exploration of loss and healing, and what it means to find where you belong. (taken from Amazon)

This book is beautiful, but oh my goodness, it is sad! The Light Between Worlds shows the struggles of depression and grief, and how self-harm can become an addiction. I would highly suggest taking care when picking up this book: while I feel that it has an accurate and respectful representation of mental illness, I think it might be a difficult read for some people.

Review

The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them

As the Shadow of Mordor grows across the land, the Companions of the Ring have become involved in separate adventures. Aragorn, revealed as the hidden heir of the ancient Kings of the West, has joined with the Riders of Rohan against the forces of Isengard, and takes part in the desperate victory of the Hornburg. Merry and Pippin, captured by Orcs, escape into Fangorn Forest and there encounter the Ents. Gandalf has miraculously returned and defeated the evil wizard, Saruman. Sam has left his master for dead after a battle with the giant spider, Shelob; but Frodo is still alive—now in the foul hands of the Orcs. And all the while the armies of the Dark Lord are massing as the One Ring draws ever nearer to the Cracks of Doom. (taken from Amazon)

I cannot say with certainty how accurately The Return of the King portrays PTSD, but I think that Frodo is a good representation of the struggles that PTSD causes in someone. I wonder if perhaps Tolkien used some of his own experience as a soldier to better show what Frodo was going through. I think some things become a “before” vs “after” experience: before the experience that caused PTSD vs. how life is after.

I was chatting with BeforeWeGoBlog about respectful and accurate mental health representation in fantasy, and she suggested both the Wayward Children series by Seanan McGuire and Nophek Gloss by Essa Hansen. I haven’t read either of these, aside from one Wayward Children book (not the first in the series, either), but I think I’ll need to get to them sooner rather than later.

What do you think? What other fantasy books portray mental illness well? Have you read any of these?

Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko (translated by Andrew Bromfield)

Set in modern day Moscow, Night Watch is a world as elaborate and imaginative as Tolkien or the best Asimov. Living among us are the “Others,” an ancient race of humans with supernatural powers who swear allegiance to either the Dark or the Light. A thousand-year treaty has maintained the balance of power, and the two sides coexist in an uneasy truce. But an ancient prophecy decrees that one supreme “Other” will rise up and tip the balance, plunging the world into a catastrophic war between the Dark and the Light. When a young boy with extraordinary powers emerges, fulfilling the first half of the prophecy, will the forces of the Light be able to keep the Dark from corrupting the boy and destroying the world?
An extraordinary translation from the Russian by noted translator Andrew Bromfield, this first English language edition of Night Watch is a chilling, engrossing read certain to reward those waiting in anticipation of its arrival. (taken from Amazon)

The thing about Night Watch is it’s cool, but it’s also a bit problematic. I am still sorting out whether I think the cool factor is enough that I can forget some of the parts that I had issue with. Basically, this review is going to be a rambling mess. So, let me roll up my sleeves and get right to it!

The premise of the book starts with a familiar concept – that of the otherworldly surrounding the everyday- and takes it in a new and creative direction. Anton is a low-level Light magician (meaning he’s one of the “good guys”), talented but not amazingly so. He is also a member of the Night Watch, a group of Others -such as magicians and shape changers- who keeps an eye on the other side (the “bad guys”-cue the menacing music). The other side, the Day Watch keeps an eye on the “good guys” as well. Both sides do this to make sure that everyone is adhering to the uneasy truce that has existed between those of the Light and those of the Dark for ages. Sounds pretty similar to many other books so far, right? From there it goes in an entirely different direction.

In the world of Night Watch, there are humans without a trace of the otherworldly, there are those on the side of light, those on the side of the dark, and potentials. Potentials are “Others” that have not chosen a side. Usually they are newly discovering their powers, but there are also rogues, etc. and sometimes they require the intervention of the Day Watch or the Night Watch. There’s an assumption that the two watches grudgingly work together, but that is only true on the surface. Their quiet war has become one of subterfuge and manipulation, and Anton finds himself squarely in the middle of it.

The pacing is very different than what I expect from a book of this nature, but it works. There is a lot of introspection and musing on the nature of “good” and “evil” and the sometimes blurry way they can be viewed. When does doing something good cause more evil? When is it acceptable to do nothing? Does the long game justify sacrifices along the way? These are questions that plague Anton, making for an interesting main character. While the world is engaging and the tricks and twists along the way are truly fascinating, it is this part of Anton’s character that makes Night Watch truly unique.

So, what did I find problematic? Some of the things the author said when referring to women, people of other nationalities, and lesbians were a bit on the offensive side. It was never quite enough to make me want to stop reading the book, but it did rankle at me. On the one hand, Night Watch was written several years ago, which could very well contribute to certain viewpoints, so it is something I tried not to focus on too much. However, it did bother me.

The creativity in the storytelling and the pondering of choices elevated this book above some of the others of this type that I’ve read. This is a reread for me, although it’s been at least fifteen years since my first time reading it. I think I enjoyed it more then than I do now, but Night Watch is still an enjoyable book, and one worth reading.

Mental Health in Literature: a Conversation with Author Ricardo Victoria

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub

Me: Thank you so much for joining the conversation! Please tell the reader a little bit about your book.

Well more than talk about a particular book , I would like to talk in general about the series. Tempest Blades is a series of stories where the characters have to learn to deal and work through their personal struggles on par of them going into adventures that put them in the position of saving the world –a world where magic and science coexist-. The three main characters: Fionn, Gaby and Alex, are blessed or cursed –depending on whom you ask- with the Gift, this special source of power that enables them to do superhuman feats, but which process of obtaining it is more than traumatic (as in dying). Supported by a cast of friends, and able to wield the titular Tempest Blades –sentient weapons of great power- they are able…

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Mental Illness Awareness Week: Bookish Opinions

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub

**This post discusses mental illness and might include something upsetting. Please continue at your own discretion.**

Here’s the thing: I live with mental illness. Along with many, many others, I don’t often talk about it. Why? Stigma. It’s hard to talk about something that is often belittled or disbelieved. Over the years, I’ve gotten some seriously odd (and at times, harmful) comments regarding my bipolar. But I’ve realized something: there is absolutely no reason for me to feel ashamed or embarrassed by my mental illness. Yes, sometimes I am fighting a battle with myself. But I’m fighting, which I think I should be proud of.

Being me, I have several books that I’ve read over the years that portray mental illness in a way that helps me. Here are a few of them. And please know this: if you struggle with mental illness, you are not alone. You are not…

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Mirror in Time by D. Ellis Overttun: Cover Reveal and Excerpt

Witty and Sacrastic Bookclub has been a constant supporter of my work. More recently, that expanded to include my wife, Natasha, in a Q&A we did, featuring the evolution of her expression as a graphic artist.

This post features Natasha once again in a cover reveal of my fourth book, a standalone time travel story, Mirror in Time. So, to quote a line she sang in that Q&A, “I’m so excited, and I just can’t hide it.”
As always, many thanks, Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub, for allowing us to share our thoughts!

Our story so far…

ARC “Prologue” posted on Witty and Sacrastic Bookclub     

ARC eChapter 1 – “Debriefing and Consultation” posted on FromBelgiumWithBookLove   

ARC eChapter 2 – “History” posted on On The Shelf Reviews   

ARC eChapter 3 – “Newbie” posted on Like Herding Cats Blog  

ARC eChapter 4 – “Static” posted on The Swordsmith  Mirror in Time Themes posted on FanFiAddict

As night falls, a lone atmospheric vehicle has come under attack on its final approach to a high-altitude research facility known as the “Jomo Langma Mountain Observatory”. Stars that should fill the sky have been obscured by a random patchwork of contrails that have come to be known as “ribbons in the sky”.

Ribbons in the Sky | Natasha Evelyn Overttun

However, Prefect Godvina, AV Sundog’s lone passenger, is now recovering in the Observatory’s medical facilities, a result of stress caused by the evasive maneuvers of the episode. Director Jo’el, head of the Observatory, has been keeping vigil at her bedside. His concern for her is personal. Was this the reason for her visit?

We learn the attack was the anticipated result of a plan to draw out dissident elements. Prefect Tarsus, architect of the plan, is pleased on two fronts. About the mission was to be expected. However, as to Godvina’s condition has come as somewhat of a surprise to Agent Thalia, Sundog’s pilot, and Agents Mica’el and Gabri’el, two of her escorts. It spoke to rumors of a prior relationship between the head of Security and the head of the Cosmological Data Collection and Compilation Center. These rumors are seemingly confirmed when an angry Godvina bursts into a secure room to confront Tarsus, and Thalia is later tasked with covert surveillance of the fiery Prefect to determine the exact nature of her visit to the Observatory.

Jo’el’s tenure as Director of the Observatory had been a direct result of the ribbons in the sky and their seeming adverse causal affect on seismic activity and climate of the planet. His research had led him to conclude the ribbons were an extinction event. He has found a solution, a portal to another universe. However, there was no way to access it. If only there was more time…

His plan: Go back in time before access to the portal becomes compromised.

He will not be going alone. His two lifelong friends, Chief Psychology Officer Auberon and Chief Physician Kyros, will accompany him on this one-way journey. However, temporal mechanics was not his main area of study. That is why he has asked Godvina to come to Jomo. He needed a sounding board, someone to check his logic and his calculations. There was no one better than the prefect of CD3C.

He had originally intended a purely academic discussion.

However, Thalia’s scrutiny has thrown a spanner in the works. She had been unable to

eavesdrop on their meeting, a result of one of Auberon’s very unique abilities. It would only be a matter of time until it would draw unwanted attention to Jo’el’s plan. Now, he had no choice but to flee Jomo with his two friends and a recently recruited CD3C Prefect. Their objective: Exit a facility under military jurisdiction, make their way through some of the most inhospitable terrain on the planet and head to the very people who attacked AV Sundog.

Do they get off the mountain and travel back through time? Of course! Without it, there is no story, but how do they get there, what do they find, and do they make good on Jo’el’s plan?

Mirror in Time will take you on a journey beyond the galaxy then to the ancient world of Ziem as a band of intrepid time travelers struggle to save existence.

* * * * *

Now, about the cover…
My wife, Natasha (@neoverttun), does all my covers and visuals for my guest posts. I am so lucky to have her support. At this point, I would also like to clarify she sources all the artwork she uses from Pixabay and similar sites. She then combines and manipulates them in Photoscape, GIMP and word. Is the result original? I think so because it’s all about proportion and balance. Take sulfur, carbon and potassium nitrate. They are distinctive and unique in and of themselves. But mix them in the proper proportions, and you get gunpowder. So, to quote one of my favorite chef’s, “BAM!” Let’s take it to the next level.

Shades of gray dominate the cover. That palette combined with a hooded woman gives it a gloomy, gothic feel. It could imply our MCs are going back to a period in time like that. On the other hand, it might be a reference to time itself. The past is shrouded in mystery. Tomorrow is dark. Tomorrow unknown.

The woman stares back at us, a cryptic Mona Lisa smile on her lips. I have seen that look before. She knows something, something we don’t know. What could it be? One interpretation is the story itself. She knows what’s in the pages that follow, and the reader doesn’t. So, this is an invitation to journey past the cover and delve into the story. 

Her smile could also be a bright spot in an otherwise dreary color scheme. Again, it is a hint of what is to follow. Our MCs will be faced with impossible odds, but there is always hope.

On another level, it could be like looking in a mirror, and this is our own reflection. This asks the reader a question: What are you thinking?

The bottom half of the cover is also a reflection. Natasha blurred it slightly to make a distinction to the top half. For me, the fact it’s upside down makes it clear enough, but I think it’s a nice touch. We have two more. One is the inverted “r” in the title and the title itself. Natasha wanted to do something similar to my name, but I said, “Enough with the reflections already. I think they get the point.” We had a little “discussion” after that. To summarize, she “said”, “This is an artist’s prerogative.” I “said”, “Less is more.” She finally agreed. I include the episode here, not to gloat but as a record I am right on occasion.

The accent color is green. It appears in the globe of light and around the lettering. No interpretation is required to know the tendrils represent plasma. Because it’s there, it has to have something to do with the story. It does. Although, in the story, it’s a mist. Natasha could have feathered and blurred it to make it consistent, but she felt it would lose it’s immediate and unmistakable connection to power. (This is an artist’s prerogative.) It’s in front of the woman, implying you have to go through it to get to the end of the story, which you do.

* * * * *

Other books by D. Ellis Overttun:

Terra Nova Book 1 – Universe:  Awakening  

Background to Universe: Awakening posted on Zooloo’s Book Diary

Terra Nova Book 2 – Genesis:  Vision of the New World

Themes in Genesis: Vision of the New World posted on The Book Hole

Terra Nova Book 3 – Prophecy: Eve of Darkness

Themes in Prophecy: Eve of Darkness posted on The Bookwormery

The Shadow of the Gods (The Bloodsworn trilogy #1)

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub

This is the age of storm and murder.

After the old gods warred and drove themselves to extinction, the cataclysm of their fall shattered the land of Vigrio.

Now, power-hungry jarls carve out petty kingdoms, and monsters stalk the shadow-haunted woods and mountains. A world where the bones of the dead gods still hold great power, promising fame and fortune for those brave – or desperate – enough to seek them out.

As whispers of war echo over the plains and across the fjords, fate follows the footsteps of three people: a huntress searching for her missing son, a jarl’s daughter who has rejected privilege in pursuit of battle fame, and a thrall who has cast off his chains and now fights alongside the famed mercenaries known as the Bloodsworn.

All three will shape the fate of the world, as it once more teeters on the edge of chaos. (taken…

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The Ascension Machine by Rob Edwards

Welcome to the Justice Academy – the galaxy’s best superhero college! Teen grifter Grey arrives at the school carrying a lie: he isn’t really tech heir Mirabor Gravane. At the first opportunity Grey plans to leave the Academy. That is until he makes the mistake of starting to like his fellow students. The Justice Academy promises to “equip you with the skills to be the hero the galaxy needs” and Grey is beginning to believe the hype. But as he takes more risks to protect his secret, events spiral out of his control. When the real Gravane is kidnapped, Grey and his new friends must come together to mount a rescue and defend a city from an attack by hostile super-powered aliens. If he is to succeed, or even survive, Grey must decide who he is, and does he want to be a superhero? (taken from Amazon)

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

Found family? Check. A unique world? Check. A main character who is incredibly likable? Double check. The Ascension Machine is a fun, creative adventure with surprises galore.

Grey (what is his real name?) is a con-man. Well, a con-teen, anyway. He flits from planet to planet, making it on what he can steal or cheat from others. He’s directionless and lonely, although he won’t admit it. He’s also short on funds. So when he’s approached with a high paying offer- impersonate a wealthy teen named Mirabor Gravane- he doesn’t hesitate. Imagine Grey’s surprise when his mistaken identity lands him in a school for superheroes.

One thing that I really appreciated about Grey was that, deep down, he was a genuinely good kid. Sure, he conned an entire school full of people (and aliens) into believing he’s someone he’s not, but he never intended to hurt anyone and he took advantage of every opportunity he had to be helpful, even at risk to his life expectancy. I loved his story arc. It was never stagnant, and he was never demoted to plot device. Instead, he grew and changed in a way that made perfect sense for his personality and the story.

A book like this needs a great supporting cast, and we’ve got one. While there are several side characters, each very important to the plot, I have two favorites. Gadget Dude had the interesting superpower of being great at creating all kinds of gadgetry-but he sometimes seemed a bit unclear as to what he was creating, or how it actually worked. For me, though, Seventhirtyfour stole the show. His size (and four arms) were only eclipsed by his giant heart and his loyalty. He was always enthusiastic and threw himself wholeheartedly into whatever he was doing, whether it be schoolwork, or taking on a mob racket. I absolutely loved him.

The hijinks the characters got up to were a lot of fun. While the final confrontation was fantastic, I loved the inventive problem-solving involved in earlier escapades. Grey’s talents weren’t necessarily what most people think of when they hear “superhero”, which made him that much more interesting. Plus, they came in very handy on multiple occasions.

There was a bit of a mystery as part of the plotline, which was a lot of fun. I know my oldest will have a great time solving the puzzle alongside the characters. There was also action and adventure aplenty. The action was well-described, and the stakes were high without the book being too gory for its intended audience. The Ascension Machine is intended for the middle-grade/teen age range, I believe, but it’s a ton of fun for any age group. I fully enjoyed reading it and am hopeful that a sequel will be coming.

Shadow of a Dead God by Patrick Samphire

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub

Entertaining, and full of snark, Shadow of a Dead God perfectly combines fantasy and mystery to create a book that’s nearly impossible to put down. It has all the ingredients for a great fantasy: a self-deprecating main character, a well-developed magic system, and a “small” job that rapidly gets out of control.

The book follows Nik, a less-than-brilliant mage who gets roped into helping his only friend, Benny.It’s always best not to owe anyone anything: Benny takes major advantage of an “I owe you” and drags Nik into a tangled mess. What starts as a theft goes badly wrong, of course, and things snowball from there, turning into a murder-mystery and becoming far less straightforward than I expected things to be.

The world was fully realized. The dreaded info dump was missing, with things being explained organically as the story continues. The magic system was pretty stinking amazing. I can’t…

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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub

Confession: I didn’t love the Grisha trilogy, written prior to Six of Crows. I didn’t hate it, but it didn’t connect with me. So, I picked up Six of Crows in spite of, not because of, the original series.

I am so glad that I did! While Six of Crows does take place in the same world as the Grisha series, it’s also separate, and has a completely different feel. It’s dark and gritty, which I love.

Think Oceans 11 gone fantasy, and you’ve got the jumping off point for this book. Kaz “Dirtyhands” Brekker (one of the most interesting fantasy characters I’ve read in a long time) is a thief looking to get together a crew in order to pull off a heist that will net him a huge sum. He’s supposed to break into the Ice Court in order to recover a scientist who has managed to create…

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