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review 2017-03-14 07:59
The Dragon Engine
The Dragon Engine (The Blood Dragon Empire) - Andy Remic

The Dragon Engine was my first book by Andy Remic, so I was completely unfamiliar with the world presented in The Blood Dragon Empire. However, since it had a nice old fantasy feel to it, it didn't feel like it was a great loss, or that you should have read the previous series (as I also understood that it features other characters).

Here, we are introduced to a band of war veterans, coming together one final time to steal that one final, huge, treasure. What they don't know is that the Dwarves who said treasure belongs to are not quite as extinct as expected, and they are headed by the main villain Skalg, Cardinal of the Church of Hate.

Indeed, it has been done before, and most certainly, there were some cringe worthy, eye-rolling scenes for sure, but still I mostly enjoyed reading The Dragon Engine. The dynamics between the heroes of the stories was nice, as they felt like old friends. The story was very raw, very dark, which is why I think it will not appeal to everyone. But I for one, am looking forward to reading the sequel.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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review 2016-06-09 13:53
Review: Return of Souls by Andy Remic
Return of Souls (A Song for No Man's Land) - Andy Remic

We are now two books into Andy Remic's ongoing A Song For No Man's Land series, and I have to admit that I'll be taking a pass on the rest. I'm just simply not connecting to the material and will have to chalk it up to the old 'it's not you, Mr. Remic, it's me' excuse.


You see, I'm not much for traditional fantasy. I slogged my way through Tolkein's Lord of the Ring series and felt rather unrewarded (the movies are better, as far as I'm concerned), and forced myself to make it through Steven Erikson's Gardens of the Moon because of all the praise that Malazan series has garnered. There are exceptions of course - I'm a giddy sucker for George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, and am always on the lookout for new R. Scott Bakker books. I have a much easier time with urban fantasy series, like Chuck Wendig's Miriam Black novels.


All of this is a long-winded way of my trying to explain that I thought Andy Remic's latest novellas would be up my alley, with their heavy on World War I and light on fantasy elements approach. Alas, it's not meant to be...


Although Return of Souls, and it's predecessor, A Song For No Man's Land, are novella length stories, I've felt they were both too long and unnecessarily plodding. Each book has been divided into four parts, with the first 3/4 devoted to Jones and his time on the frontlines fighting German soldiers and beastly creatures known as walriders. The last quarter, though, is when Remic decides to take a sharp and sudden turn, introducing new characters to eat up the page count, hopping back and forth in his narrative between newbie cast and the old-hands, in order to set up the next book. This is a pet peeve of mine.


When I finished the prior entry in this series, I was curious to see where the story would go. Unfortunately, I found myself hitting a wall before the half-way mark into this latest entry and was ready to move onto some other book instead. Remic introduces a new love interest for Jones to pine after, and it mostly serves to grind an already slow narrative to a near halt. I finished it, merely because these are short books (even if they subjectively feel much longer to me), but can't muster up the enthusiasm to rate it any higher than a 3-star read - it's an OK story, and while I certainly didn't hate it, Return of Souls failed to connect with me in any way past a bit of a time killer.


Fantasy fiends may have a better time with it, or those who don't mind a war story with rather languid pacing. This book, and this series taken as a whole thus far, just isn't for me.


[Note: I received an advanced review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.]

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review 2016-06-03 21:23
Review: A Song For No Man's Land by Andy Remic
A Song for No Man's Land - Andy Remic

I've spent a while trying to gather my thoughts on this book and what to say about, but I can't help but surmise that it's a story with more pages than content. Quite a lot of it feels like a song stuck on repeat, but one that occasionally and magically teases you with bits of other important and interesting notes before returning to the same-old, same-old.


Set during World War I, we get plenty of combat scenes as our lead protagonist, Robert Jones, fights in the trenches, alongside his friend and fellow soldier, a big man with a big personality named Bainbridge. They have an easy friendship that becomes strained as the war goes on, each man seeing their share of injuries and...other things. Strange things. Monstrous thing. There's...something...lurking in the woods and haunting the battlefields, although too often this feels like a minor footnote in Remic's narrative until the big finale and a resolution that leads neatly into the larger auspices of this series.


While there are plenty of great depictions of life on the front-lines of The Great War, I couldn't help but feel like there was something missing. The focus on the battles, too, began to feel a bit stale by book's end, and I can't hep but wonder if Remic was stalling a bit to fill a word count requirement.


That said, the final chapter provides a nice bit of illumination and meat to the mythological structure underpinning the nature of the war in Remic's hands, and sets the stage for the next book. A Song For No Man's Land, in its resolution, feels more like an appetizer for Return of Souls, which I'll be diving into shortly. I suspect there's a promising series to be had here, but at the moment I'm enjoying the ideas (dark but intermittent bits of fantasy set against the front-lines of WWI) more than the execution.

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review 2015-09-04 22:01
A Grimdark Series That Slaps You Right in the Face!!!
The Dragon Engine (The Blood Dragon Empire) - Andy Remic

If J.R.R. Tolkien and George R.R. Martin had gotten together to write a grimdark interpretation of The Hobbit, The Dragon Engine would have been what they came up with. Centered upon a quest to dwarven halls filled with mounds of gold and once inhabited by mighty dragons, it is a tale filled with pulse pounding combat, explicit sex, cringe worthy torture, and plenty of vulgar language. Literally, it is a story that gets your attention the simple, old-fashioned way.



For lovers of Andy Remic’s The Iron Wolves and The White Towers, this is a continuation of that series in that The Dragon Engine takes place in the same world several years after those stories. The mad King Yoon is still in control, swimming in absolute depravity and allowing the whole Kingdom of Vagandrak to go to hell. Meanwhile, a group of war heroes from the time of Orlana the Changer have grow bored of their fame and riches and determine to set out on one last, grand adventure together. Their destination the frigid, nearly inaccessible Karamakkos, where legends hold that the ancient Dwarven Lords ruled the Five Havens under the mountains, hoarding untold wealth as well as the three Dragon Heads — jewels claimed to grant everlasting life and great power to those who wield them!


Immediately upon starting this one, a long time reader will see that the main characters here are a bit different than those from the Rage of Kings series. Where Kiki and her friends were some of the most despicable pieces of human filth to ever grace the pages of a grimdark, Remic’s latest group isn’t quite so repugnant. Sure, they are still disgruntled war veterans, even though they are wealthy heroes, and they each have their own issues, but not one of them rivals the drug addicted, serial killer excesses of their predecessors. Rather Beetrax the Axe-Man and his friends struggle with more ordinary issues like growing old, loved one dying, relationships ending, and losing the zest for life.


Since this is begins as a classic quest tale, each of the Beetrax’s group seems designed to fill typical dungeon crawler roles. Beetrax is the damage dealer; Lillith is the healer; Talon is an archer; Dake and Jonti experts with the blade . . . You get the point. But it really isn’t the roles they play that makes Beetrax’s gang so fun to read about. Nope, unlike the Iron Wolves, these guys actually seem like old friends. There is plenty of playful banter. Occasionally their conversations will sparkle with feelings, revealing their past history together and the fragile sides of their nature. Old sorrows from romantic splits or new problems from being together will arise and be explored. Each interaction slowly revealing how close, how devoted these old friends are to one another, no matter the danger to themselves.


Every hero needs a villain however. And in today’s literature, it isn’t satisfactory to have nameless enemies or the shadowy of a dragon lying over the horizon. Nope, readers want to get to know their heroes’ nemesis, experience their evilness, and decide for themselves whether they love or hate this person. And so Andy Remic quickly splits the narrative into Beetrax and his friends quest and the life of one Cardinal Skalg of the Church of Hate, religious leader of the Harborym dwarves.


As you’d expect, the dwarves here are fairly standard fantasy versions: strong, stoic, and prejudiced against outsiders. (Beetrax’s group also believes they are long-extinct, which is why they are on their way to collect their long used and forgotten treasures.) Skalg, however, is an especially vile avatar of his race. Maybe, his maiming, torturing, and killing doesn’t reach Orlana the Changer levels, but he is still a fairly disgusting dwarf, no way around it, willing to rape innocent girls or do anything else to get what he wants. And his bad qualities only grow as the political struggle between himself and King Irlax of the dwarves grow. For, you see, in this kingdom under the mountains, king and cardinal are equal; each tasked with different things, but fated to eternally clash about everything. Skalg and Irlax’s constant bickering and machinations quickly growing into a societal revolution that will see either the crown or the church consumed in its flames.


Once our heroes arrive under the mountains and encounter Skalg’s dwarves is where the grimdark really shows up in our grimdark story, for the initial encounters are graphic, brutal affairs. Cruel, painful, cringe worthy even. In fact, many readers might believe Remic has gone too far in some cases, that these episodes are merely for shock value alone. I can understand why some would feel that way (even if I saw the horrible events fitting into the narrative), and I felt I should, at least, warn prospective readers about this section.


Thereafter follows a deluge of death, destruction, and betrayal as Remic concludes this opening chapter of The Blood Dragon Empire in classic grimdark style. Climatic clashes occur. Combat rages. Characters and civilizations end. And the real meaning of the dragon engine comes into focus, ending this first installment with a cliffhanger that will make grimdark lovers begin clamoring for the next book.


Since beginning to read Andy Remic, I’ve come to appreciate two things about his writing. One, he has a raw, visceral style that slaps you right in the face. No sugar coating the vulgar nature of humanity and the horrors of combat and war. No, they are vividly portrayed upon the pages, daring you to look away. Curse words abound. Buckets of blood and gore are tossed around indiscriminately. And, two, he creates vivid characters that never bore. I don’t always like these guys. Many times I actually despise them and want to personally decapitate them, but they definitely evoke a deep emotional cord with me, which means it is never a chore to flip to the next page.


I’d love to be able to sum The Dragon Engine up into a nice paragraph, but I really can’t. (Hey, I did try at the beginning, right?) This book dug its claws into me on so many levels it is hard to isolate what exactly made it a 4 star novel. Perhaps it was the complex but flawed heroes. Maybe the familiar Hobbit-esque quest morphing into a grimdark nightmare did it. The wonderfully paced story and realistic action definitely entertained. No matter the ingredients though, Remic casted a spell with this one, and if you haven’t experienced his take on grimdark, you really should give this one a try.


Angry Robot and Netgalley provided this book to me for free in return for an honest review. The review above was not paid for or influenced in any way by any person, entity or organization, but is my own personal opinions.

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review 2015-08-25 20:18
Fantasy Review: The Dragon Engine by Andy Remic
The Dragon Engine (The Blood Dragon Empire) - Andy Remic

Although it shares the same world as The Iron Wolves and The White Towers, Andy Remic's first book in The Blood Dragon Empire is an entirely different. While those books were very much high-stakes epic fantasies, complete with massive battles and bloodshed, The Dragon Engine is more of a traditional quest tale - albeit one that subverts the usual tropes.

For starters, our heroes seem to be the typical gang of adventurers - complete with barbarian, archer, cleric, assassin, and more - but they're actually retired war veterans whose quest days are comfortably behind them. As it turns out, one of them is dying of cancer, one is drinking his sorrows away, and several are nursing broken hearts. While all but one would have turned down an adventure based solely on greed, they find a common purpose in seeking out a magical cure for their dying companion.

While you don't need any prior knowledge of the two Rage of Kings novels to enjoy this, fans will be pleased to discover that King Yoon is still in control, and as debauched as ever. He has serious competition for the most over-the-top, scene-chewing villain however, in the form of First Cardinal Skalg, High Priest of the Church of Hate. While the Dwarves here are hearty and stoic, as you'd expect, they're also sadistically prejudiced against the surface, exceptionally cruel, and on the brink of civil war. They're also presumed long-extinct, which poses a challenge for our heroes, who intend to help themselves to their forgotten treasures.

Where the story takes a sharp left turn in terms of both plot and tone is in the second half of the novel, following the heroes arrival beneath the mountain. What began a fun adventures becomes very dark, very quickly, as our heroes are taken captive. Without saying too much, the torture they endure at the hands of the Dwarves is not for the squeamish - it's cruel, it's painful, and it crosses lines that will make some readers very uncomfortable. What's important is that it's not done merely for shock value. Remic has established his heroes, exposed their faults and their flaws, and also pointed out their all-too-human weaknesses. It's important that they be tested, if not broken, if they're to shake off the complacency of retirement and become the heroes that the world needs once again.

The final chapters are some of the most powerful Remic has ever written, with the core conflicts coming together in a climactic clash. It is here that the true significance of the The Dragon Engine comes clear, leaving us with a cliffhanger that poses a dire threat for the world above. It is a very different story arc than the Rage of Kings, but readers who appreciate a more mature, more adult, no-hold-barred kind of fantasy that rivals any big screen R-rated action flick will once again find a lot to enjoy here.

Bring on Twilight of the Dragons!

ebook, 267 pages
Expected publication: September 1st 2015 by Angry Robot

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration.This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my honest review.


Source: beauty-in-ruins.blogspot.ca/2015/08/fantasy-review-dragon-engine-by-andy.html
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