Fantasy Subgenres: A Plethora of Choices UPDATED

Every now and again, I’ll hear someone say “I don’t like fantasy,” even though they’ve never read any. Of course, everyone has their own preferences in literature, which is totally fine, but I sometimes think that what people mean is that they don’t like a certain type of fantasy. There’s much more than just swords and magic when it comes to fantasy (although I happen to love books that have swords and magic).

Here are a few sub-genres, with explanations, as well as examples of books that fit into each category. Of course, I’m in no way an expert, and some of these books can fit quite comfortably in multiple sub-genres. Talk to me! Tell me what I got right, what I messed up, and what I missed completely. Here goes nothing!

Since my original post, I have learned about and read a few new subgenres, which I am now adding to the list. Let me know what you think!

High Fantasy: High fantasy is probably what comes to mind first when people hear “fantasy.” There are some characteristics that separate high fantasy from other kinds of fantasy. First of all, it’s very character-focused. The choices made by a single character, or a few, are most important. High fantasy is set in its own world with its own defined rules of magic. A common theme is good vs. evil.

Examples: The Swans’ War trilogy by Sean Russell; The Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman; The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks

Epic Fantasy: Epic fantasy is, well…epic. It usually consists of a threat to the entire world and has a large cast of characters, as opposed to the few that characterize high fantasy. While The Hobbit, for example, is high fantasy, The Lord of the Rings is what I would classify as epic fantasy. There’s a larger cast of characters, and a danger to the entire world.
Examples: Game of Thrones; Wheel of Time; Lord of the Rings

Low Fantasy: Low fantasy is characterized by magical events that intrude on daily life in a normal world.

Examples: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett; American Gods by Neil Gaiman; Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Sword and Sorcery: Well, aside from the obvious (swords and magic), think romance, and adventure. Sword and Sorcery is a bit on the pulpy side (nothing wrong with that). I always picture 80’s era Sylvester Stallone as the movie equivalent of a Sword and Sorcery hero.
Examples: Conan the Barbarian; Legend by David Gemmell. Honestly, I’m on the fence about including Legend here, as it doesn’t seem as pulpy as other Sword and Sorcery books, but I’m drawing a blank on other examples. What would you add to this category?

Military Fantasy: This is pretty much what it sounds like. It’s basically military life in a fantasy setting, often following one solider, or a small company.
Examples: The Codex Alera by Jim Butcher; The Black Company by Glen Cook

Grimdark Fantasy: Don’t expect happily ever after’s or the archetypal heroes. Grimdark is marked with violence, morally gray as well as completely amoral characters. It also doesn’t shy away from violence.
Examples: Nevernight by Jay Kristoff; The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

Dark Fantasy/ Gothic Fantasy: This sub-genre incorporates themes of death, fear, and romance. It has a darker tone, and elements of horror. Think Edgar Allen Poe- goes fantasy, and you’ve got the general idea.
Examples: Black Sun Rising by C.S. Friedman; Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

Urban Fantasy: This is interesting in that there are a few different routes urban fantasy is known to take: either a separate fantasy world with rules that are similar to ours or, conversely, our world with fantasy elements mixed in. Go figure.
Examples: Jackaby by William Ritter; City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Arthurian Fantasy: This is fantasy based directly on the myths and legends of King Arthur.
Examples: The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart; The Once and Future King by T.H. White

Superhero Fantasy: This is fantasy based on the character of a superhero. Easily defined.
Examples: Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson; Vicious by V.E. Schwab

RPG Lit: Combining fantasy with role playing games, the main character is generally aware that they are in a game-type world. Stats. are very much a part of the book, and the characters interact and progress through the book as they would an rpg.
Examples: The Other Normals by Ned Vizzini; Path to Villainy: An NPC Kobold’s Tale by S.L. Rowland

Fairy Tales: Starting as children’s stories, lately there have been many re-imaginings of these books that are marked by fantastical elements and magic.
Examples of fairy tale retellings: Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer; Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik; House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig; A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow

Portal Fantasy: I argue that this is a sub-genre in its own right! This would be books in which the characters leave their own world through a portal/door/etc, and travel to a world with different rules than their own. Often, fantasy elements such as magic are present.
Examples: The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.

Fantasy of Manners: I’m a little newer to this subgenre ( Thank you to Way Too Fantasy for telling me about this one). You won’t see many dragons or violent battles. This subgenre is defined by its wit and its use of words as weapons. There is often a sort of hierarchy and the battles tend to be more involved with social maneuvering. I tend to picture Jane Austen-meets-fantasy.
Examples: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke; Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton

Sword-free Fantasy: Sans fantasy violence, sword-free fantasy uses wondrous, reality-free worlds to explore very real emotions and relationships. Look for themes of family, love, self-acceptance, or self-discovery.
Examples: The Living Waters by Dan Fitzgerald; The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune; Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons by Quenby Olson

Viking-Inspired Fantasy: This subgenre could go a few different directions. It could borrow from heavily from Norse mythology or it can be set in a world that borrows elements from the Norse mythology or Viking way of life while still having its own mythologies or pantheons.
Examples: The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwyne; The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson

Fantasy Comedy: Irreverent and witty, fantasy comedy often takes a humorous look at the fantasy genre, either creating new and entertaining fantasy worlds that focus on humor, parodying common fantasy tropes, or even poking lighthearted fun at specific works of fantasy.
Examples: The Part About the Dragon Was (Mostly) True by Sean Gibson; Harpyness is Only Skin Deep by D.H. Willison; Iliad: The Reboot by Keith Tokash

Time for you to weigh in! What did I get right? What did I mess up? What am I still missing? Let’s talk!

Self-published Authors Appreciation Week: Shadowless by Randall Mcnally

Banner Credit: Anca Antoci

For Self-published Authors Appreciation Week, it is only fitting that I repost a review of one of the most uniquely-written fantasy books I’ve had the pleasure to read. My review was originally published in Grimdark Magazine. You can find it here.

Grim and fascinating, Shadowless is a masterpiece told in shades of gray. It is a fantasy of the epic variety, one with incredible world building.

Every now and then, in the Northern Realms, a child will be born without a shadow. These children are half-human/half-gods, a concept that is very reminiscent of Greek mythology. They each have a bit of their godly father’s power. Where the book goes from here, though, is completely unique. See, a god’s offspring can be used as a vessel to gather more power, which the gods harvest in the most brutal of ways. These Shadowless are hunted. Their killers are soldiers, priests, even the gods themselves. How do you survive when even the gods want you dead?

Shadowless unfolds in a very unusual way: each chapter follows a different character and is almost a short story. Eventually these individual threads form a tapestry, rich in detail and creativity. The Shadowless are gathered together by a mysterious figure, with a common goal: ensure their safety by any means necessary.

Each character is fully formed and developed, adding their own one-of-a-kind perspective. In fact, every character’s story could easily be made into a separate novel, complete and incredibly interesting. Rarely is there that much detail in a book with multiple points of view. It was impressive, to say the least.

Another point in the book’s favor is that the reader doesn’t have to wait long to understand what being Shadowless means: an explanation is given in the very first part. It helped to know a little bit more early on, as there were so many characters that trying to figure things out without much detail would have detracted from the story.

I loved each character (oh-and did I mention that here there be dragons?). However, where author Randall McNally truly shines is in his ability to paint vivid pictures of a grim world, one filled with darkness, but not quite hopeless. That tiny shred of hope–call it a refusal to lay down and give up–lends extra layers to a book that is already extremely nuanced.

This is a longer book, but I flew through it, sucked into both the story and the world. Shadowless is a perfect book for fans of large, sweeping fantasies. Any book that contains complex histories, secrets to be discovered, and meddling gods is one that I’ll happily disappear into.

From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Blood, Fire, and Death

Today, I’m moving on to the darker side of magic in fantasy. You know, the sort that gives you shivers and speaks of power and things that cannot be contained. I’m fortunate to be joined by author Maria Blackrane as she discusses magic in her upcoming debut, Blood, Fire, and Death.

Maria Blackrane:

Hello! I’m Maria, and I’m currently editing my debut novel, Blood, Fire, & Death. It’s a “girl power” dark fantasy that takes place in a militant matriarchal culture in a country called Helvendias. It’s about a main ruling family, the Darkthornes, and their group of close friends who wade through drama, politics, and war to stay on top of their world in some rather morally black ways. The main female lead, Pensilea Belith Darkthorne, is to inherit the crown but her grandmother refuses to pass it to her, which causes conflict between them. It follows her the challenges of her kind of life, her mental and emotional struggles with the world around her, how she navigates through political drama and handles men seeking her for the prize, to father the next queen.  

As for the magic system, its very title, Blood, Fire, & Death represents their three main deities. Keldoreth, the god of war and blood, his sister Azaliel, goddess of death who walks through the battlefield and places a flower on the slain warriors before her brother Keldoreth takes them to his Hall. Their mother Mala, is the goddess of the underworld and fire. Much of the story centers around their worship and loyalty to their gods, the practices dedicated to them. Three is a sacred number, symbolic of their three deities. Their use of trident spears as weapons reflects that. It’s also their country’s emblem. Three points are for each deity. They refer to Mala as “the mother of them all,” for they believe her to be the true founder of their country, Helvendias. 

There are three priest circles dedicated to the deities. There is a sacred fire, like a portal that leads to her underworld, maintained by a circle of priestesses trained in fire magic. Similar to the Vestal virgins and Zoroastrian fire temples, which I loosely based on them. The purpose of their fire magic is to control the fires and for purification rituals. Also, people can seek Mala’s wisdom by being guided by a priestess through the portal. I based her on Hekate, so she carries a torch and is something of an “enlightener” figure. The main character’s grandmother Thora has fire capabilities because she’s descended from fire witches, only she’s used it for destructive purposes. Her grandchildren, twins Pensilea and Leorin, inherited it from her. She has prophetic dreams of them causing great destruction with it and pissing off the Mother Goddess, so she forbids them to be able to access any kind of magic.

Next are priests who serve Azaliel, the death goddess. They oversee the death rites and guide spirits into the Afterlife or to Keldoreth’s hall for slain warriors. Their practices are more Shamanic, where they act like mediums between the living and the spirit worlds. They assist in ritualistic human sacrifices. 

The priests of Keldoreth train in combat magic. They create stealth on the battlefield and the warriors go into a battle meditation while the priests infuse them with blessings of strength. Keldoreth’s aspect is blood, so they perform human sacrifice rituals with captured enemy warriors as blood gifts to him. 

The religion worships life and sex and as much as they do blood and death. Sex is a powerful energy. They engage in ritualistic sex for certain celebrations, such as the Festival of the Wolf Goddess, which is a fertility festival. They also believe sexual energy strengthens magic and blessings so they engage in it during some rituals, especially after the blood offerings. 

Helvendias refer to the ocean, the Cathian Sea, as the “goddess of life” since it’s their livelihood. Their food source comes from the sea, they extract their medicines and healing oils from seaweed, so they rely heavily on the sea to sustain them. There is a scene in Chapter 1 where my main character, Pensilea, is watching a circle of priests on the beach bless the fishing ships before they take off. It’s a ritual that involves prayers and burning sage around them. They pray to the goddess of life for an abundant catch. But just as they pray for life, they also worship blood and death. I point this dichotomy out in different ways throughout the book. Pensilea watches her priest lover among the circle pray to the goddess of life, while he has also performs human sacrifices. She often ponders the life and death aspects of the religion of her people.

“Pensilea chuckled to herself at the irony of life and death. How those who sanctified battle also praised life. The very priests who sacrificed lives also uttered the sacredness of it. Hands that kill can also give life.” 

“How many have died under his blade, bleeding out on a cold stone slab? Yet, there he was, praying to the goddess of life. Oh, death and life.”

How one becomes a priest is that it’s actually a blood type. I refer to people with this blood type to as the Bloodkind, with the ability to access higher senses and powers. One can only inherit it from both parents. At age twelve, they enter an academy and after a few years, they’re evaluated on where their skills and powers lean toward to see which deity they’ll serve. Not all Bloodkind choose to become priests. Why would someone choose not to? Believe it or not, it’s more grueling than fighting school, there’s a lot more commitment involved. Using their powers can take a mental and physical toll on them. They spend a few days in rest and meditation to recover. Those with the blood type who do not become priests are allowed to perform certain rituals, spells, and to access some minor powers. Pensilea can communicate telepathically with crows, for example. They also are stronger and faster with higher senses, which are useful in combat.

Look for Blood, Fire, and Death on October 27th.

About the author:

Maria Blackrane was born in upstate NY under the sign of Gemini some decades ago. She discovered a passion for writing when she was six years old. She started writing stories about the adventures of people and their pets before she moved on to more twisted subjects later on in life. She studied history and anthropology and took creative writing classes as electives. Her favorite genres to read and write are horror, darkfantasy, and grimdark. In her spare time, she’s a horse rider, wine witch, and collects dead things.

All the Murmuring Bones by A.G. Slatter

Long ago Miren O’Malley’s family prospered due to a deal struck with the mer: safety for their ships in return for a child of each generation. But for many years the family have been unable to keep their side of the bargain and have fallen into decline. Miren’s grandmother is determined to restore their glory, even at the price of Miren’s freedom.

A spellbinding tale of dark family secrets, magic and witches, and creatures of myth and the sea; of strong women and the men who seek to control them. (taken from Amazon)

What happens when you renege on a deal with a monster? Miren O’Malley is the last daughter of true O’Malley lineage. The family used to be mighty and successful, but that luck (is it just luck?) has dwindled as surely as their bloodline has. There have always been rumors about how the O’Malleys managed to be so rich and successful for so long, but the truth has been kept strictly secret. This is where All the Murmuring Bones starts.

Miren’s grandmother is the matriarch of the O’Malleys and is desperate to regain some of their lost glory. She plans to marry Miren off to a rich, abusive jerk. Needless to say, this doesn’t sit well with Miren. She flees, but is followed-not just by her intended, but by the mer.

These aren’t your Disney merfolk. The mer are dangerous and mysterious. I loved everything about them. In fact, they are not the only wild and savage creatures of legend that make an appearance. Rusalka, kelpies, and more give All the Murmuring Bones a dark mythical feel that drew me in.

Miren is smart, capable, and no stranger to bloodshed. There is no boundary she is unwilling to cross to keep her life and her freedom. Her flight to safety turns into a quest for answers and the switch is fascinating and brilliant. I’m used to gothic novels sticking to a single setting. However, Miren’s travels allow the world and plot to open up magnificently.

I did feel there was a misstep here and there. For example, the ending wraps everything up in a neat little bow that feels a little out of place considering the path the rest of the book takes. I would have liked seeing parts of the story left, if not unexplained, at least a little enigmatic. Also, the climactic event was over sooner than I was hoping. It felt a teensy bit rushed. However, these are small complaints in the grand scheme of things and the rest of the book is really stinking good.

All the Murmuring Bones is a gothic novel that hits all the right points. I highly recommend it.


This review was originally published in Grimdark Magazine. You can find the link here.

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

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 from Amazon)

Wow. Okay, I’m done. That could be my entire review. In fact, I am pretty sure that nothing I write will do justice to the sheer brilliance of The Shadow of the Gods. So, let me apologize in advance for any random blathering that ensues. I promise, I’m doing my best.

First of all, let’s talk about the feel of this book. It takes place in a Norse-inspired world, stark and harsh. Our heroes are all about one bad decision away from becoming villains. It’s survival of the fittest, or of the most desperate. It’s also the perfect setting for a story that is almost mind-bogglingly epic.

Vigrio is split into a few cities, each run by a Jarl who gives his people protection in exchange for loyalty (or, you know, taxes). The Jarls do this through their Tainted Warriors, people with unbelievable powers inherited from the blood of gods. Their powers vary, although I personally was a fan of the berserkers. These Tainted Warriors are controlled by a sort of collar that reins in their power. They are hunted and sold to different Jarls. Basically, if you’re a Tainted Warrior you’re not in the best of situations. Enter Varg, one of my favorite characters.

Varg is wanted for murder, and we first see him on the run. His driving goal is to find out about what happened to his dead sister. In order to get these answers, he needs the help of a Tainted Warrior. This simple beginning leads to a fantastic storyline, one that kept me fascinated. From his very first battle (which started to go belly-up when his groin punch hurt him instead of the intended target), I was drawn in. Through him, the reader is treated to a side of the world that might not otherwise be seen and appreciated.

There’s Elvar, a soldier in a war-band, those who look for tainted to sell to Jarls. She’s got a past that she’s trying to outrace. Her story arc was interesting, but did not grab me quite as much as the others. Of course, it was still incredibly well written.

Finally, there’s Orka. She was my absolute favorite part of the book, although it’s hard to pick a favorite. She was an extremely complicated character. In fact, I wasn’t even sure I liked her at first. She came across as hard and cold. Then I realized: that’s how she copes and survives. She’s a warrior. She’s a mother. She’s a wife. She is smart, and strong, and a bit ruthless. She’s pretty stinking amazing and I loved getting to the chapters about her. I keep hearing people talking abut how cruel Gwyne is to his characters and now I’m scared.

The Shadow of the Gods is brutal and genius, a perfect balance between breath-taking battle scenes and intricate characters. I high recommend picking this one up.

Tales From the Hinterland by Melissa Albert

Before The Hazel Wood, there was Althea Proserpine’s Tales from the Hinterland…

Journey into the Hinterland, a brutal and beautiful world where a young woman spends a night with Death, brides are wed to a mysterious house in the trees, and an enchantress is killed twice―and still lives. (taken from Amazon)

The funny thing about The Hazel Wood (and its sequel) by Melissa Albert is that, for me, the best parts weren’t the main storyline. Nope. The best parts were the undeniably eerie fairy tales come-to-life that bled through into the pages of the books. I told my husband that if a collection of Hinterland tales was every published, I’d be super excited to read it. So, of course I had to snag a copy of Tales from the Hinterland!

These completely original fairy tales were about characters that crossed over from the fictional world into the real one in The Hazel Wood books. And they were as creepy as it gets without descending into full-on horror. Let’s just say that the majority of them did not end well for the “hero”. In fact, most of them didn’t have a hero per se. What they did have was a ton of creativity and a darker tone that sent shivers down the spine.

One thing that stood out to me was that the main characters were all female. There were naïve females, clever ones, even evil ones. But males were always in a supporting role. It was an interesting choice. It didn’t change my enjoyment of the book, either positively or negatively; it was just something I noticed.

Another thing that I really liked was that not a single tale seemed even remotely like an existing fairy tale. There were no Beauty and the Beast retellings, and Little Red Riding Hood didn’t make an appearance. The stories were 100% original. It was refreshing to see entirely new ideas (not that I mind a good fairy tale reimagining).

There wasn’t a single story that felt lesser than or out of place. My main complaint, in fact, is that the tone was similar in several tales. I am not even sure if that should be a complaint: that the stories fit well together. Hmm…something to think about.

There were three stories that stood out to me. One was The Door that Wasn’t There, which was equal parts creepy and sad. It’s about two sisters who were locked in a room to starve and what one of them does to survive (no, there’s no cannibalism. Ew!). The feeling that Melissa Albert created in this story was a little bit gothic and a whole lot of unearthly.

The second story that kept me enthralled was The Mother and the Dagger. This felt like your usual tale told to scare kids into coming home before dark- but with a twist that was uncanny and creeptastic. The way this one was written, like someone is talking to you, stood out from the other stories and drew me in. I loved the ending, which had an abrupt finality to it.

Finally, was Twice-Killed Katherine. That character was one of the bits of fairy tales that showed up in The Hazel Wood, and the one that I found the most intriguing. While the story didn’t go the way I expected, it was nonetheless fascinating and really cool to see the backstory the author had for her. That one also felt different in that what was left unsaid could have been stretched and expanded on to create an entirely separate novel in its own right.

Tales from the Hinterland was by far my favorite book that takes place in the Hazel Wood universe (so to speak), even though it’s not a straight-through narrative. It was eerie and intelligent, and definitely not a book to read alone at night. I wouldn’t necessarily call it horror- maybe horror-adjacent. Either way, it was really stinking good.

We Lie With Death (The Reborn Empire book 2) by Devin Madson

There is no calm after the storm.
 
In Kisia’s conquered north, former empress Miko Ts’ai is more determined than ever to save her empire. Yet, as her hunt for allies grows increasingly desperate, she may learn too late that power lies not in names but in people.
 
Dishiva e’Jaroven is fiercely loyal to the new Levanti emperor. Only he can lead them, but his next choice will challenge everything she wants to believe about her people’s future.
 
Abandoned by his Second Swords, Rah e’Torin must learn to survive without a herd. But honor dictates he bring his warriors home-a path that could be his salvation or lead to his destruction.
 
And sold to the Witchdoctor, Cassandra Marius’ desperate search for a cure ties her fate inextricably to Empress Hana and her true nature could condemn them both. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Orbit Books for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Both We Lie With Death, and We Ride the Storm (book one) are available now. You can find my review of We Ride the Storm here.

After reading and loving We Ride the Storm, I had ridiculously high expectations for We Lie With Death. I thought, “How can the follow up be as good as the first book?”. Devin Madson is a phenomenal writer, that’s how. This book is freaking incredible.

We Lie With Death picks up right after We Ride the Storm and doesn’t pause for a minute. While the pacing is different, there is never a dull moment. There are revelations, new points of view, and plenty of the intrigue that I so love to read. While having multiple points of view in books can sometimes be problematic, Madson handled each one skillfully and kept the characters’ personalities from meshing into each other.

The world building was incredible, of course, with even more being shown and developed. But where I thought We Lie With Death shines is in the relationships between the characters. There were dynamics being shown and explored that had me completely sucked in. It changed how I viewed the characters and showed off just how nuanced they all are.

Rah was my favorite in We Ride the Storm, but he slipped a little in this book. His stubbornness kind of annoyed me. Instead, it was Cassandra that kept me riveted throughout. Her relationship with Hanna was interesting to say the least. They are opposite in many ways and it just…worked.

I’m not going to say too much about the plot, for fear of giving something away. Suffice to say, it was layered and fascinating. The reader was given some answers (and a few more questions). As with book one, I will say that this is on the harsher side of fantasy.

There really isn’t a thing that I would change about the book. We Lie With Death is a fantastic book and a worthy follow-up to one of my favorite reads from last year.

Shadow of a Dead God by Patrick Samphire

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 say that I’ve ever read a book where magic comes from the cadavers of gods. It was bizarre and brilliant. I would like to see that explored more in subsequent books simply because it was so unique.

In fact, where Shadow of a Dead God shines is in its ability to take common fantasy elements and make them wholly original. Nik is one of many mediocre mages in fantasy-but his lack of self-confidence, and complete unwillingness to be decisive adds a new twist. His relationship with Benny, the instigator of the trouble, is so much fun to watch. Nik is fully aware that his friendship with Benny is problematic, but there is that familial obligation mixed in with love and it makes for a fascinating dynamic.

Added to the mix is Benny’s daughter, Sereh. Now, I have kids and they can be scary, but the amount of terror she inspires in adults is next-level. I would love to see more of her story. There are so many aspects of this book that I want to see more of! I became so invested in the story that I wasn’t ready for it to end.

Shadow of a Dead God has a slower build, which I liked. It gave me time to appreciate the writing. And what writing! Samphire’s descriptions were fantastic. There is never a simple, “he looked grizzled.” No, the reader is treated to descriptions such as, “I had seen corpses dragged out of buried temples that had aged better.” It is a joy to read such a great narrative voice.

Pick this book up. You’ll thank me.

This article was originally published in Grimdark Magazine, which you can find here.

Vultures by Luke Tarzian- The Write Reads Blog Tour

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)

Thank you to The Write Reads and the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available now.

Vultures is a dark fantasy, told in shades of gray. Dark and brooding, it is definitely not a happy story, but it is engrossing. To me, it felt like most of what happened was really a device used to explore or explain inner torment, as opposed to the inner torment being just a byproduct of the situation, if that makes sense. Luke Tarzian himself described Vultures as being “very much a story about love, loss, grief, and mental illness through the eyes of reluctant heroes.”* There’s no way I could possibly describe the atmosphere of the book better than that. I very much love seeing real issues like mental illness or grief explored in fantasy settings, and I was impressed with the rawness of the book.

The story was told through several points of view, and it was interesting to see how/if the characters’ storylines crossed or what the connections were. My favorite character was Theailys An. He would have blackouts and he would remember nothing of what happened during them (although, violence was generally involved). It made for fascinating character development.

The world itself was incredibly well-developed. There is a ton to this world, and this is a book that very much needs the reader’s full attention. The writing was evocative and made my imagination work overtime. At times, it felt like I was reading someone’s nightmare. It was an uncomfortable but engrossing feeling.

If you like harsher fantasy- I mean really harsh- give this book a read. Luke Tarzian is a writer with vision and a great deal of skill.

*If you want to read my interview with Luke Tarzian, it can be found here.

Five Dark Fates by Kendare Blake (Spoiler Free)

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It’s incredibly difficult for me to do a quality review of a final book in a series without spoilers, but I’ll do my absolute best. Here we go!

It was amazing. I could honestly stop writing after that sentence, but I don’t have a mic to drop and I’m a bit wordy anyway. For those of you who haven’t read any of Kendare Blake’s books, I suggest you remedy that horrible problem immediately. Quit your job, stop paying bills, don’t bother making dinner. Just immerse yourself in Kendare Blake’s fantastic writing and let everything else take a back seat. Okay, maybe don’t go that far, but seriously put her on the list of authors that need to be read.

I was originally introduced to Kendare Blake’s writing by a book called Anna Dressed in Blood. How cool is that title? It was creeptastic, and drew me to check out the Three Dark Crowns books. I’ve already written about the others in the series ( you can find that post here), so I won’t go into the plot of the books again in this post. Suffice it to say, I was not disappointed in the culmination of all that came before.

The book did not end the way I originally wanted it to, but it ended the way it should, which is even better. I love how different each character is. There are no superfluous red shirts, written in simply to kick the bucket. Each death (and there is definitely death and violence in this book) meant something. Each political move, each twist in the story, was obviously thought out long before it was written.

Raves can be so difficult for me to write, because it’s less than helpful to just write “happy screams” on a blog post. I loved every moment of this series. I can’t wait to see what Kendare Blake comes up with next. She has secured her spot as one of my favorite authors.

Have you read this series? What did you think?