Thank you to Orbit Books and Angela Man for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. The Hunger of the Gods is available now.
This is a sequel, so there might be some spoilers for book one, The Shadow of the Gods, although I’ll try to avoid them. You can find my review for The Shadow of the Godshere.
Before I get into the nitty gritty of the book, I want to thank the author and Orbit profusely for adding a “story so far” section! So much happened in The Shadow of the Gods that this addition was perfect and very appreciated.
John Gwyne is the sort of author who seems to delight in writing books that pack an emotional punch. I was on the edge of my seat for a good chunk of The Shadow of the Gods, and while it had a slower start, The Hunger of the Gods ramped up and by the last page, I was once again enthralled.
The second book starts right up where the first one ends, with each character having their own goals, motivations, and really big problems. The three main points of view from The Shadow of the Gods are joined by new characters, however Orka stole the show.
Orka is one of the most complex and uncompromising characters I’ve read. She can come across as harsh and fierce and she is- fiercely loving, fiercely loyal, and fiercely protective. She’s hardcore and intimidating, which I loved. Her strength is the sort that is fascinating to read. She was fantastic in The Shadow of the Gods, and she’s now on my list of excellent female characters.
The Norse-inspired world is vast and continues to grow and evolve and the action scenes are visceral and ruthless. Johny Gwyne goes for the jugular in every way, from the fight scenes to the storyline and character development.
This is not the sort of series that can be jumped into midway. Make sure to start with The Shadow of the Gods. If you haven’t started the series yet, I can’t recommend it enough. Book one is fantastic, and it continues magnificently. The Hunger of the Gods is violent and brilliant, a worthy sequel to The Shadow of the Gods.
Thank you to the authors for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Wrath of the Fury Blade is available for purchase now.
Wrath of the Fury Blade is a fabulous mash-up of fantasy and police procedural. It’s a surprising combination, but it works extremely well, due in large part to the skillful writing of authors Geoff Habiger and Coy Kissee.
This book follows Inspector Reva Lunaria. Poor Reva just wants to have a day off. Unfortunately, that is not to be as she is given a new case- that of solving the murder of the First Magistrate, an important figure. Not only that, Reva is given a new partner: Seeker Ansee Carya. More murders of important figures quickly follow, and the book become a race against time.
While the procedural part is engaging, the fantasy lover in me was thrilled by the world-building found within these pages. The detail that is put into everything, from the history of the world to its realistic portrayal of racism and classism, is astounding. It was easy to slip into the storyline of a world so rich in detail and so well thought out.
The characters were interesting, and seeing their relationship develop and grow was a ton of fun. They played off each other well, each enabling the character development in the other. I enjoyed Reva in particular, even though (maybe because?) she came across as prickly sometimes.
Wrath of the Fury Blade is a great example of how broad the fantasy genre can be, with the procedural aspect of it taking the book in new and unique directions. It’s a fast and entertaining read and I highly recommend it.
If you ever danced with the Goblin King, if you cried when Artax died, if you were a little bit scared of skesis when you were young – then The Shadow Glass will have you pumping your fist and grinning like an idiot. This book was a love story to the wonderful, imaginative things I grew up with, and I enjoyed every moment of it.
Jack is the son of Bob Corman, an eccentric who made a cult classic fantasy movie called The Shadow Glass. As an adult Jack has been estranged from his father, who wasn’t the most present of parents. He hates Bob’s movie, as in his mind it represents everything that is wrong in his relationship with his dad. When Bob dies, Jack decides to sell the memorabilia from the cult classic film but plans abruptly come crashing down as he learns that the fantasy puppets are no longer only puppets. Somehow, they’ve become flesh and blood heroes and villains in a war that has spilled from fantasy into reality.
Jack is a very real, relatable character. The justified anger and bitterness he feels toward his dad is juxtaposed by a sense of responsibility and a fondness for his dad’s movie that he has pushed down over the years. He both loves and resents his dad’s creation, much as he both loves and resents his dad. The characters he interacts with showcase different aspects of his character and allow for development and change. The no-longer-puppets Zavanna and Brol bring so much to the book (I loved Brol in particular), and the superfans are a blast.
There are subtle nods to 80s pop culture throughout The Shadow Glass, which is just awesome. Far from distracting from the story, these little details brought that amazing sense of nostalgia to the fore, putting a smile on my face. The sense of excitement I got from seeing the name “Toby” is hard to explain (if you know, you know). I would love to chat with the author, to see if I caught all the references.
From the characters to the storyline, every word was perfectly placed. The Shadow Glass was a delightful smorgasbord of nostalgia and fun, while at the same time exploring themes of loss, love, grief, and self-discovery. I know- I didn’t think it was possible to cram all of that into one book, but author Josh Winning did it beautifully. The balance between fantasy action and extremely well-written character development is perfect. The battles and madcap adventures are a brilliant backdrop for a profound look at how broken relationships can affect every part of a person. Parts of the book had me on the edge of my seat and I actually teared up at one point.
There are spoilers for For a Muse of Fire (first in the series) below. You can find my review for that book here.
**Here Be Spoilers**
Oh man, I loved this book! From the plot-line to the characters, everything was done well. It was a worthy sequel to For a Muse of Fire.
Jetta is a great character. She’s tough without being cold and emotionless. In fact, her emotions are a big part of what makes her so tough. She has an illness that is most definitely bipolar (as confirmed by the author). I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but books that feature mental illness with consideration and respect automatically get extra points from me. This one in particular means a lot, since I also have bipolar. It is a mental illness that is rarely represented in YA, and even more rarely mentioned in the fantasy genre. Heidi Heilig’s choice to not only feature it in a fantasy, but to show both the positive and negative aspects of it is pretty stinking cool. But I digress.
In this book, Jetta has been offered a medication that will help with her illness, in exchange for the use of her blood by the crown. Whoever uses the blood can bind souls to inanimate objects, essentially animating-and controlling-them. The crown wants to use her power as a weapon against the rebels, who Jetta sympathizes with.
The rebels also want to use Jetta. Meanwhile, she’s afraid to use her power at all, worrying that it will make her like her biological father. He’s a monstrous necromancer, and everyone is afraid of what would happen if he- or another like him- came to power.
Of course, there’s also ye random romantic entanglement with Leo, another rebel. I’m not a huge fan of their relationship because it often came across as an unnecessary distraction from the rest of the plot, but I admittedly don’t like most dramatic bookish relationships.
I liked that Heilig didn’t pull punches. I was justifiably concerned about what would happen to some of the characters in the book. I like when an author gives things a sense of urgency, and she does that very well. I raced through this book, enjoying every moment of it.
I feel like this series is very underrated and deserves way more hype. It’s well-written and fast-paced, with memorable characters and an interesting plot. The mental illness representation just pushes it even higher in my esteem. I highly recommend this book.
During March we are enjoying March of the Sequels, a monthlong challenge issued by Sue’s Musings. Basically, the challenge is to read (and review, if you’re a reviewer) more sequels.
The Reluctant Queen is available now. It is the sequel to The Queen of Blood, so there will be some slight spoilers for book one which I’ll try to keep as minimal as possible. You can find my review for Queen of Blood here.
The Reluctant Queen is an engrossing addition to the Queens of Renthia trilogy. The story continues in a way that I did not expect, but which makes perfect sense. Daleina has some disturbing news: she’s dying. As queen, she alone has the power to command the spirits that inhabit the land, to keep them from destroying everyone in Renthia. Without a queen, the lives of each human are forfeit. Daleina sends her champions (think King Arthur’s knights) to hopefully find and train an heir-because time is running out.
Here’s where things get complicated: Ven, the champion that trained Daleina, does find a candidate- one who is more powerful than anyone he’s ever seen. Naelin, who hides this power, is a mother focused on raising two healthy, happy children. She has no interest in traipsing off to be trained to use her power, and she definitely doesn’t want to become a queen. However, she might not have a choice: other candidates are mysteriously dying and things aren’t necessarily what they seem.
Being a mom myself, I loved Naelin. She knew where her priorities were and she made no bones about it. I felt horrible for her when she realized that the only way to protect her kids was to learn to protect everyone. Naelin’s kids were her whole world, and it was gut-wrenching when they were in danger as a direct result of her power.
This book moved a little more slowly during the first half, but it was never boring. The character development was fantastic. I loved getting to know more about Champion Ven, who grew in leaps and bounds between book one and the end of book two. There was an entirely new facet of his character revealed that added an extra layer of humanity to the plotline.
Sometimes in fantasy books, child characters are either incredibly annoying, or incredibly one dimensional. Neither of those things happened here. The children were fully developed characters, and they definitely contributed to the story.
The second half of the book ramped up until it became a breath-taking confrontation. I honestly didn’t know how things would end up and I loved every nail-biting moment. Once again, author Sarah Beth Durst showed incredible creativity in both her spirits and how they interacted and fought. Add in political intrigue, an epic battle, and some major backstabbing, and it’s safe to say that The Reluctant Queen has become one of my new favorite fantasies. This is a fantastic series for both fantasy veterans, and those who are just dipping their toes into this wonderful genre. I highly recommend it.
Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Oil and Dust is available for purchase now.
With Oil and Dust, words fail me. It is at times both familiar, yet utterly unique. It is a hopeful book, yet it still contains sorrow and longing, and a person with (in my opinion) a hole in his heart. One can’t have hope without darkness or loss, after all.
The world has changed. Both futuristic and reminiscent of the past, things are simpler. Bartering and sharing are the norm, with people working together and sharing what they need. Gone are greed, and the search for power. It is in this world that we find our main character, Matthew. Matthew is an artist of a different sort, and highly sought after. However, something is missing for him and this leads him to go on a journey, in search of his long-lost family.
The writing is wonderful, sometimes slow but never plodding. Instead, the author takes her time building a world rich in detail. As Matthew travels this world, it grows, becoming larger as his viewpoints shift. He also changes as he sees new places and experiences new perspectives. Matthew is the sort of character that I love to read about: he is supremely human, with human strengths and flaws, and his emotions are painted so clearly that I couldn’t help but feel exactly what he was feeling. I hoped for him, was sad for him, and wanted him to succeed. His character development is astounding.
The characters he encounters along his journey are equally well-developed and, while I loved them (Akiko in particular!) , it was their interactions with Matthew that really made them interesting to me. Despite the fascinating setting and the great side characters, at the end of the day it was Matthew himself that made this book the experience that it is.
Oil and Dust is a triumphant debut novel, memorable and touching. I highly recommend this gem of a book.
Thank you to Orbit books and Angela Man for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. The Bone Ship’s Wake is available for purchase now.
Every now and again a series comes along that completely wrecks me, in the very best way. TheBone Ship’s Wake perfectly ended a series that surprised, touched, thrilled, and saddened me (the author is not nice to his characters). It was an emotional roller coaster, one that was so well written that I was constantly astonished.
It is difficult to review the final book in a series without accidentally giving spoilers. I’ll be as vague as possible, but warning: There be spoilers ahead!
The Bone Ship’s Wake wraps up the story started in Call of the Bones Ships (book one) magnificently. Joron is doing everything he can, and then some, to rescue Meas. He is now the leader of the entire black fleet. He is called the Black Pirate and has gained quite the reputation for being a bloodthirsty murderer. Joron is desperate. He is violent. He is fantastic. I loved his character development. He is scared, angry, and lonely. He is incredibly human. He feels the weight of everything that has happened and everything he fears will happen and- despite this- he somehow keeps going.
As always, each character was well written and a great addition to the story. I love found families, and that’s exactly what we have here. A ragtag group, to be sure, but that made the relationships and the characters’ interactions even better.
I would love to say that Barker’s writing is “even better in this book”, but how can you improve upon magnificence? There is not a single misstep and Barker happily took my feelings and stomped all over them. How dare you, sir (and thank you for devastating me with your storyline)!
The pacing was fantastic, each word placed with care. There’s violence galore, but there are also introspective moments that I found to be even more riveting. The story moved at a great pace, not too slow, but not so quickly that details or important plot points were discarded.
If you’re looking for a books with happily ever afters for each character, keep looking. This series will not be for you. However, The Bone Ship’s Wake brilliantly ended a series that was both brutal and beautiful. Yes, that seems like a bit of a contradiction, but I promise it makes sense. Go into the final book expecting to cry.
Brooding and dark, Nothing but Blackened Teeth drew me in and kept me off-balance. Always on the precipice of scary, it never quite tipped over. Instead, it stayed an eerie book, one that has crawled its way into my head. I’ll be thinking about it for a long while, reliving bits and pieces of the creepy story.
Nothing but Blackened Teeth follows a group of friends who decide to rent a Heian-age mansion for an odd sort of wedding celebration. The thing is, they’ve heard it’s haunted. That’s the draw for them: they’re hoping to experience the otherworldly and the disturbing. Well, wish granted.
The story goes that originally a woman’s fiancé died on his way to marry her at the mansion. She decided to be buried alive so that she could wait for her husband like one does, I suppose. Women continued to be sacrificed, one per year, so that the buried bride wouldn’t be lonely. In all honestly, the origin story for the haunting is the part that I found to be the weakest. It just didn’t inspire that anticipatory shiver that I was hoping for.
None of the characters are particularly likable and at first, I found myself viewing them through the slasher-film lens. You know: this one will die first because they sleep around, this one next because they don’t believe in the danger, etc. However, such was not the case. The tropes became jumping-off points for complex, multi-faceted characters, each with their own flaws and fears. Half of the fun of Nothing but Blackened Teeth was watching the complicated relationships fray and slowly dissolve as the characters’ pasts caught up to them.
The story begins with Cat, a woman who is still coming to grips with an unspecified mental illness. It has affected her past and she is still in the midst of learning to cope with it. There’s Phillip, the charismatic and super rich sponsor of the mansion rental. There’s Faiz and Talia, the engaged couple. Cat and Talia have beef, and their issues with each other add to an already tense situation. Last, there’s Lin, who is a master pot-stirrer. It’s these tangled relationships and hidden emotions that really elevate Nothing but BlackenedTeeth to the fascinating tale that it is.
Author Cassandra Khaw played with motifs of relationships and mental health in ways that felt a little reminiscent of Shirley Jackson (if Jackson had a penchant for gore). There were times when I wondered what was happening and what- if anything was being imagined by one character or another. Nothing but Blackened Teeth is a riveting book, perfect for fans of creepy tales with a little extra bite.
This review was originally published in Grimdark Magazine. You can find that here.
Thank you to Inkling Press for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Tales FromAlternate Earths Volume 3 will be available on September third.
This collection takes “What if?” in new and exciting directions. What if the historical events we all (should) know unfolded differently? What ripples would they cause? How would our world be different? The creativity behind these musings and the skill of the writers blew me away.
Short story collections can go either way for me. Sometimes I just can’t connect with the shorter lengths. However, Alternate Earths 3 used the shorter formats to excellent advantage, shining a laser focus on unique ideas. While the entire book is strong, there are a few stories that stood out to me.
The collection started out strong with “Gunpowder Treason” by Alan Smale. It takes a look at how things would have been had Guy Fawkes and company succeeded in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. It’s told through an interesting perspective- that of a streetwalker. It made the story feel much more personal than if it had been told through multiple points of view.
“Ops and Ostentation” by Rob Edwards followed the indomitable Mrs. Constance Briggs as she encounters a certain man whose military mind has been spoken of often (I’m doing my very best to be vague, and hopefully I’ve succeeded). Her role in the events that unfolded was fascinating. That ending too! It was infinitely satisfying.
I was unsure about “Dust of the Earth” at first, but I ended up really enjoying how author Brent A. Harris wrote it. It’s told in a series of flashbacks which isn’t something I encounter too often. While it was disconcerting at first, I loved that the story ultimately focused on mental health, which is a subject that I am very passionate about.
“To Catch a Ripper” by Minoti Vaishnav gives a new angle on Jack the Ripper, and it’s the most interesting take on the Ripper that I’ve ever read. There were many things about this story that made me oh-so-happy, from the determined main character, to the intrigue and action. If ever this becomes a full-length novel, I’ll be in line to buy it.
I was delighted to see that Ricardo Victoria, an author whose writings I always enjoy, has a story in Alternate Earths 3. His story, “Steel Serpents”, was thought-provoking and incredibly smart. I’ll be thinking about this one for quite a while.
The collection ends just as well as it started, with a story that follows a couple of former KGB operatives. Author D.J. Butler had me hooked right away.
These are just a few of the stories that stood out to me; the entirety of Alternate Earths 3 was clever and entertaining. This collection is perfect for readers who want to be challenged, who like to muse on all the paths history could have taken. I highly recommend picking this one up.
The Resurrectionist of Caligo is a rollicking fantasy filled with a little bit of blood and a whole lot of adventure and intrigue. The book (which has Victorian mystery vibes) follows, Roger, a wanna-be surgeon who earns a little extra on the side by virtue of his willingness to liberate a cadaver or two from the local cemetery- all for the sake of science, of course. Unfortunately for Roger (but fortunately for the reader), he picks the wrong cadaver and finds himself accused of murdering, not just one, but several women. Things are looking grim for Roger, but he is saved from the noose by his childhood sweetheart, who binds him to her in a magical ritual, proof that “things can always get worse”.
Sibylla, Roger’s childhood crush, also happens to be royalty. In The Resurrectionist of Caligo, royal blood is proven by the magic that all royalty possesses. I love the magic in this book! It is so very different. I am used to magic that can blast open doors or make someone float. Sibylla’s magic is slightly less…flashy. She has ink that flows from under her fingertips, useful when one needs to write a letter, but an author needs to be creative for magic such as that to work. The authors managed it beautifully. Sibylla does the only thing she can to save her childhood friend from hanging for a crime (she is pretty sure) he didn’t commit. Together, Sibylla and Roger need to figure out who the killer is- before they strike again.
The Resurrectionist of Caligo has a smaller cast of characters, and each person is important. Sibylla is clever, but also a bit naive. To be fair, she hasn’t had a lot of life experience. Her storyline provides the fine details that flesh out the broader plotline, giving little hints to a larger mystery. I found the intrigue and the family sniping interesting, but it was Roger who stole the show in my opinion.
Roger is a down-on-his-luck guy just doing the best he can with what he has. He is a good guy whose morality is a little fluid. His kindness shows in his small ways, such as his relationship with Ghostofmary (who I adore, by the way). His sole hope is to become a licensed doctor, but that requires an education that he can’t afford. He swipes corpses to pay his bills and finagle his way into lectures from surgeons. The knowledge he has provides the broad strokes to the story. His medical expertise, as it were, adds an extra level of fun to an already ghoulishly entertaining tale.
Sibylla and Roger actually share very few pages. Instead, most of their interactions come through misunderstood letters and convoluted messages from third parties. It was truly delightful to see the characters’ frustrations and anger over things that were completely misinterpreted. Add in angry magic-ink bees, and it becomes a singularly entertaining way to develop character relationships.
The Resurrectionist of Caligo is a brilliant must-read for fans of books the include grimy, smog-filled streets, shady doings, and ridiculously fun characters.
Jodie is the creator of the Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub blog. She either lives in Florida with her husband and sons, or in a fantasy book-she’ll never tell which. When she’s not reading, Jodie balances her time between homeschooling her hooligans, playing Dungeons and Dragons, and lamenting her inability to pronounce “lozenge”. Find her online at http://www.wittyandsarcasticbookclub.home.blog or https://www.twitter.com/WS_BOOKCLUB.