Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Prince of Fools: By Mark Lawrence



The Red Queen is old but the kings of the Broken Empire dread her like no other. For all her reign, she has fought the long war, contested in secret, against the powers that stand behind nations, for higher stakes than land or gold. Her greatest weapon is The Silent Sister—unseen by most and unspoken of by all.

The Red Queen’s grandson, Prince Jalan Kendeth—drinker, gambler, seducer of women—is one who can see The Silent Sister. Tenth in line for the throne and content with his role as a minor royal, he pretends that the hideous crone is not there. But war is coming. Witnesses claim an undead army is on the march, and the Red Queen has called on her family to defend the realm. Jal thinks it’s all a rumor—nothing that will affect him—but he is wrong.

After escaping a death trap set by the Silent Sister, Jal finds his fate magically intertwined with a fierce Norse warrior. As the two undertake a journey across the Empire to undo the spell, encountering grave dangers, willing women, and an upstart prince named Jorg Ancrath along the way, Jalan gradually catches a glimmer of the truth: he and the Norseman are but pieces in a game, part of a series of moves in the long war—and the Red Queen controls the board.

Mark Lawrence is one heck of a writer.

Lawrence, who rose in fame because of Grimdark fantasy books. His books were dark, full of death, wit, and violence. Yet at the same time Lawrence was able to bring a delectable amount of dark sarcasm to the protagonist, Jorg, transforming him from single-minded madman conqueror, to a likable single-minded madman conqueror, that had readers cheering for as he destroyed the normal protagonist, purely because he could.

Now, in Prince of Fools, Lawrence has taken a much lighter tone to his writing, and yet it is still utterly fantastic. Prince of Fools is hilarious, filled with action, magic, and amazing characters such as Jal and Snorri. Yet beneath it lurks dark undertones that fans of Lawrence’s previous series will adore.

Further, it is utterly shocking that Lawrence is able to take the same world from his Broken Empire series and turn it into such a difference landscape by changing the protagonist. While Jorg was plagued by his demons, single minded in his desires, and utterly vicious, Jal is the complete opposite, he is likable, he would rather loaf about and sleep around than grasp power, and he is a bit of a whiner. Yet, Lawrence has taken Jal out of his element and created an amazing story of berserkers, Vikings, gates into death, and being a pawn in a much grander plan.

All in all I absolutely loved Prince of Fools and can’t wait for the next book in the series. Between his Red Queen’s War series and his Broke Empire series, Lawrence has solidified himself a place as a must read author in my mind, earning and deserving a preorder of any and all books he writes in the future.


Publisher: Ace

Published: June 3, 2014

Price: $26.95

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Half a King: By Joe Abercrombie



Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains, and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea. And he must do it all with only one good hand.

The deceived will become the deceiver.

Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge.

The betrayed will become the betrayer.

Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could.

Will the usurped become the usurper?

But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi finds that his path may end as it began—in twists, and traps, and tragedy.

Many times when writers of adult novels attempt to enter the YA genre they merely dumb down the characters and writing, thus making a bad book.

This is not the case with Joe Abercrombie’s Half a King.

Abercrombie has done something truly remarkable. He has kept much of the backstabbing, intrigue, and complex characters, while simply slightly toning down the violence described to the reader. Now that doesn’t mean that there is no violence in this book, city populations are slaughtered, there is raping and pillaging, there is torture, and the main character is sold into slavery and often beaten. If what I just described bothers you, then this is not the book for you. If you can handle this then you’re in for one hell of a ride of a ride.

One of my favorite attributes of Abercrombie books is that none of the characters are black and white, he does an amazing job explaining backstories and motivations, all while making readers understand why many of the awful things that the characters do are done. No character is a saint and many have done horrible things for what they consider to be the greater good or at the very least for their goals, which might have originally started out noble, but can easily be viewed as anything but in a different light.

Fans of Abercrombie’s pervious books will love Half a King. I personally was riveted from the first page and didn’t put it down until I finished, where upon I went to amazon to see when the next in the series is supposed to come out. Speaking of that, this is the first of a trilogy, the next in the series is Half a World and is expected February 3, 2015, so at the least there is a quick turn around for each book in the series.

All in all, this was a great book filled with action, surprises, and fantastic characters. I highly recommend it.


Publisher: Del Rey

Published: July 15, 2014

Price: $26.00

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Broken Souls: By Stephen Blackmoore



Sister murdered, best friend dead, married to the patron saint of death, Santa Muerte. Necromancer Eric Carter's return to Los Angeles hasn't gone well, and it's about to get even worse.

His link to the Aztec death goddess is changing his powers, changing him, and he's not sure how far it will go. He's starting to question his own sanity, wonder if he's losing his mind. No mean feat for a guy who talks to the dead on a regular basis.

While searching for a way to break Santa Muerte's hold over him, Carter finds himself the target of a psychopath who can steal anyone's form, powers, and memories. Identity theft is one thing, but this guy does it by killing his victims and wearing their skins like a suit. He can be anyone. He can be anywhere.

Now Carter has to change the game -- go from hunted to hunter. All he has for help is a Skid Row bruja and a ghost who's either his dead friend Alex or the manifestation of Carter's own guilt-fueled psychotic break.

Everything is trying to kill him. Nothing is as it seems. If all his plans go perfectly, he might survive the week.

I’m actually embarrassed that I didn’t read Stephen Blackmoore until this point.

Not only does he write like an experienced Jim Butcher, introducing gritty yet likable characters and putting them into impossible situations, but he has also moved his story along at such an astonishing pace that each book in the series (there have been two thus far) read as if they are much later in an incredibly elaborate series.

I say that as a good thing, as I personally feel that some of the best urban fantasy I’ve read has come from the later part of series of excellent and experienced writers. Examples of this can be seen in Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series, Jim Butcher’s Dresdan Files, and Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series. The reason for this is that there are enough characters and cross motivations to keep the reader guessing at what is going to happen, yet at the same time the author has established the character so less time has to be devoted to that and more time to larger story arcs that can lead to much bigger action scenes, more startling events, and all around better books.

Having said all that Broken Souls is not just a great sophomore book in a series, it is legitimately a great book. It has tons of action, it is dark without being disturbing, has more magic than you could waive a wand at, and has interesting characters with mixed motivations that will keep readers guessing until the very end. On top of that Broken Souls reads like a mash up of Richard Kadrey, Kevin Hearne, and Jim Butcher all in one excellent book.

All in all a must buy for any fan of urban fantasy. 


Publisher: DAW

Published: August, 5, 2014

Price: $7.99

Link to Buy:

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Midnight Queen: By Sylvia Izzo Hunter



Gray’s deep talent for magick has won him a place at Merlin College. But when he accompanies four fellow students on a mysterious midnight errand that ends in disaster and death, he is sent away in disgrace—and without a trace of his power. He must spend the summer under the watchful eye of his domineering professor, Appius Callender, working in the gardens of Callender’s country estate and hoping to recover his abilities. And it is there, toiling away on a summer afternoon, that he meets the professor’s daughter.

Even though she has no talent of her own, Sophie Callender longs to be educated in the lore of magick. Her father has kept her isolated at the estate and forbidden her interest; everyone knows that teaching arcane magickal theory to women is the height of impropriety. But against her father’s wishes, Sophie has studied his ancient volumes on the subject. And in the tall, stammering, yet oddly charming Gray, she finally finds someone who encourages her interest and awakens new ideas and feelings.

Sophie and Gray’s meeting touches off a series of events that begins to unravel secrets about each of them. And after the king’s closest advisor pays the professor a closed-door visit, they begin to wonder if what Gray witnessed in Oxford might be even more sinister than it seemed. They are determined to find out, no matter the cost…

Part romance, part fantasy, and part historical fiction, fans of Mary Robinette Kowal and Marie Brennan will thoroughly enjoy The Midnight Queen.

While I ended up liking The Midnight Queen, it was slow going at first. Don’t get me wrong, Sophie and Gray are good characters and as the book moves along Hunter is able to develop their characters even more, but for the first part of the book it was a lot of building without a lot of reward.

Of top of that, while I liked Sophie and Gray, in my opinion they had to carry much of the story, as many of the other characters felt relatively flat.

That said, once the story gets going it really starts moving. Readers will enjoy the chess like plotting and conniving, the disguises and secrets, and the love story aspect.

All in all, while the beginning is a little slow, once you get through the initial  sluggishness the story and the characters develop quite the book. Definitely worth looking into if you’re a fan of historical fantasy.


Publisher: Ace

Published: September 2, 2014

Price: $15.00

Link to Buy:

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Hidden: By Benedict Jacka



With his talent for divining the future, Alex Verus should have foreseen his friends’ reactions to the revelations about his previous life. Anne Walker no longer trusts him—and has also cut all ties with the mage community after getting kicked out of the apprentice program. As a favor to Luna, Alex’s own apprentice and Anne’s best friend, he checks in on her only to be told to leave her alone.

Then Anne gets kidnapped. The Council Keepers of the Order of the Star believe Dark mages from her past may be involved. Working with the Keepers, Alex and Luna discover that Anne has been taken into the shadow realm of Sagash, her former Dark mage mentor, and they must find a way to rescue her.

But another shadow from the past has resurfaced—Alex’s former master may be back in London, and Alex has no idea what his agenda is…

When I read Benedict Jacka’s first book in his Alex Verus series I said that Jacka was an author to keep an eye on.

In Hidden he no longer is someone on the road to writing fantastic books, he’s there.

Hidden focuses on the effects of the events in Chosen, particularly Anne and Sonder’s mistrust in Alex and the dissolution of this group of friends who seemingly could take on anything. It is through this mistrust that readers get an insight into the inner working of Alex’s mind, and the beginning transformation from survivor to hero as Alex looks for a kidnapped Anne even though he will gain nothing from doing this (as she still hates him).

Readers will also get a chance to see Anne’s inner workings. Transforming her from a more two dimensional side character to a strong 3D lead character. Anne is a complicated character and seeing her dark side and what happened while she was kidnapped is fascinating.

Of course the biggest change in Hidden is the introduction of a huge new plot point that I’m assuming will drive the series forward in future books. I will not say what it is for fear of spoilers, but let me just say I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for the next in the series.

All in all, Hidden was awesome. Like the other books in the series Hidden is filled with tons of action, (in my opinion fight scenes with a diviner are pretty awesome), great characters, and a well paced plot. I fully recommend it, and it is perfect for fans of Ben Aaronovitch, Jim Butcher, Seanan McGuire, and Kevin Hearne.


Publisher: Ace

Published: September 2, 2014

Price: $7.99

Link to Buy: