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review 2018-07-15 23:01
Audio/Book Review of The Assassins of Altis by Jack Campbell
The Assassins of Altis - Jack Campbell

Trapped within the dead city of Marandur, Master Mechanic Mari and Mage Alain must escape both merciless barbarians and the pitiless Imperial Legion. Beyond those dangers lie the mightiest and most unforgiving powers in the world of Dematr: the Great Guilds that rule the world with iron fists.

 

Mari's Mechanics Guild and Alain's Mage Guild have always been enemies, but they are united in wanting to kill their rogue members before Mari can fulfill the ancient prophecy of being the one who will finally overthrow their power. Mari and Alain must risk those dangers because halfway across their world lies a place where truth has long been hidden. A place that could explain why their world's history begins abruptly, with no hints of what came before. A place where they might learn how the Mechanics Guild came to control all technology and how the Mages manage to alter reality temporarily. A place that might tell them how to achieve a task that appears to be impossible.

 

Never before have a Mage and a Mechanic worked together, and their combined talents offer their only hope. But she and Alain must first survive the deadly and implacable Assassins of Altis.

 

Review 5*

 

This story is the third book in a fantastic epic fantasy series called The Pillars of Reality. I absolutely loved it!

 

Mari is a fantastic character, and I liked her from the moment she was introduced. I love her determination to do the right thing, even at the cost of her own life. She is now a nineteen-year-old Master Mechanic, though her guild is determined to take her life as she poses a threat to their hold on the world of Dematr. Mari has been foreseen by Mages to be 'The Daughter of Jules' and fated to free the world of Dematr from the tyranny of both the Guilds - Mechanics and Mages - and to unite the Mechanics, Mages and Commons against said Guilds. As she tries to accept her role, she finds herself on another dangerous mission while trying to avoid death at the hands of assassins.

 

Mage Alain is also a fantastic character. I liked him a lot from the start. He was one of the youngest Acolytes to achieve Mage status at the age of seventeen. He has been taught from a young age not to show or feel any emotions and that the world he lives in is an illusion, where nothing is real. I love how this character has grown as the series has progressed. He tries to show more emotion, even though his Guild had virtually beaten it out of him. He hides a dry wit under that emotionless mask.

 

I listened to this story in audio format, rather than read it. The story is once again narrated by MacLeod Andrews. He does a fantastic job of bringing the story to life. Even Alain, who's voice is meant to be flat and emotionless comes across with subtle hints. You would think that Alain's voice would be monotonous, but it's not so. I love the way he brings all the characters to life with different accents, inflexions and tones. He even makes the women's voices sound perfect for each character. As for his narration, he read the story clearly and concisely, and his pacing was perfect. I would definitely listen to more books read by this narrator.

 

This book continues a few weeks after the end of the second story and sees Mari and Alain travelling to the island of Altis, where a long-hidden secret has been kept. With both the Guilds chasing them and now the Imperial Legions for their incursion into Marandur, Mari and Alain face many dangers, including a deadly snow storm. However, what they find on Altis will change everything.

 

This story introduces a couple of new characters into the series. One is Mechanic Caylou (not sure of spelling as I listened to the story so have no reference and have spelt it phonetically - it could be Kayloo or another variation). He is one of Mari's friends from the Mechanics Guild, along with his girlfriend, Ally (who is mentioned in book two but not introduced). Another character introduced is, Mage Asha; this is a character who is hard to explain without giving spoilers. Suffice it to say, she was a friend of Alain's from their early acolyte days, before all the emotion was beaten out of them.

 

I love the world building in this series. It is familiar though strange at the same time. The reason for this becomes apparent as this story unfolds. The story is full of action, adventure, and danger and I found myself an emotional wreck at times. Have you ever read or listened to a story and felt completely emersed in it? This happened to me as I listened to this book. These characters have come to life for me and have become my friends. This book ends with a slight cliffhanger, and the audio version has a preview of the next book in the series, which I am now looking forward to reading/listening to. I will be listening to The Pirates of Pacta Servanda as soon as I can.

 

Jack Campbell has written a fantastic science fiction series. I have added him to my favourite author's list, as he's found a fan in me. I love his writing style, which is fast-paced and descriptive, and the flow of the story is good too.

 

Although there is now some mention of scenes of a sexual nature, it’s not shown. I do not, however, recommend this book to younger readers under the age of 15 due to some violence. I do, however, highly recommend this book if you love dark or epic fantasy, steampunk or action/adventure and supernatural/paranormal romance genres. - Lynn Worton

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review 2018-07-04 19:55
Unsheathed: An Epic Fantasy Collection is high quality Sword & Sorcery by nine contemporary authors
Unsheathed: an epic fantasy collection - Stuart Thaman,Austin Worley,Chad Vincent,Charles Gramlich,Scott Simerlein,G. Dean Manuel ,Jay Erickson,Liam Hogan


Unsheathed: An Epic Fantasy Collection is high quality Sword & Sorcery by nine contemporary authors. The anthology is varied in tone and style, and will delight new fans (who may like lit-RPG fare) as well as aged veterans looking for weird pulp. I picked this up as part of a S&S Groupread on Goodreads which had the theme of "New vs 'N'" (N being the infamous Appendix N list from Gary Gygax.

All were fun, but two of these resonated with me. The first was by Charles Allen Gramlich, whose writing lured me to this collection (having read his Harvest of War and Bitter Steel: Tales and Poems of Epic Fantasy and others). The second was by Jay Erickson whose Lydia/Gwendolyn Locke stood out in design & delivery.

Contents
1. Hanging at Crosbhothar Austin Worley: “Corpses hung from the ancient maple like leaves” is a great opener. The story follows the female Arlise, Watcher of the Order, who trails the corrupted Eoghan and his sorceress lover Katrin. A few abrupt saved-by-the-last-minute incidents and rpg-rapid-healing keeps this decent tale from a 5-star.

2. Retribution by Night Chad Vincent: This 4-star tale introduces Captain Brennan who is caught in an outpost drama between the oppressed, local named Aodhan ( a nature lover, and demon lover too?) who is hounded by surly knights, like Sergeant Armstrong. Not sure who to root for in this gray tale, though Brennan is ostensibly on the knights side. Nice undead battles here. Would have enjoyed experiencing Aodhan's past to appreciate his motivations. 

3. Where All the Souls are Hollow by Charles Allen Gramlich: a 5 star Sword-n-Planet with the technology being more implicit than explicit. We join Krieg (German for "War") as his adventures mid-mission. Krieg’s purpose is slowly revealed as he battles automatons, sinister alien forces, and evil "children." A beautiful blend of horror and adventure; pacing is spot on.

4. Switch Blade by Scott Simerlein: I am not into humorous stories, but this hilarious farce was well placed in the collection. It was slightly confusing, but was meant to be. 4 star. 

5. King’s Road by G. Dean Manuel: This melodrama unfolds faster than the characters can deliver their lines; it felt like a fan fiction tribute of LOTR's Rohan Gondor play between a prince-son usurping his worn-king-father’s rule. 3 star 

6. The Artefact by Ross Baxter: lit-RPG readers would like this one. Three heroes with desires to collect as many types of loot (books/knowledge, a weapon, and something mechanical/crafty like a timepiece) adventure in ruins. It feels like part of larger universe, but for a short story the story arc was not contained enough to be a clear stand alone adventure. The character Jud stood out. 3+ star.

7. Under Locke and Key by Jay Erickson: a 5 star tale with female leads and blood magic. Gwendolyne is an enslaved adolescent girl, whose parents died by the Red Tears plague. The same sickness affects the countryside and criminals wishing to profit off of orphaned girls and a possible cure. The flow of the tale was very smooth and engaging. 

8. Ransom for a Prince by Liam Hogan: this is saturated with fighting, and was more real/historical than fantasy. Expect lots of medieval duels with a female lead. The premise is a reason for the author to show off the art of sword play, which is described well. 4+.

9. Only an Elf by Stuart Thaman : There is a lot going on here in this 4-star tale of slavery. Overall the plot is very engaging, but the bloody climax seemed inconsistent with the lead up. Certain scenes between the female elf slave Enessana and her master, the blacksmith dwarf Kimiko, worked separately, but did not flow with other events. Perhaps too much was packed within a short span of pages, throwing the pacing off. This would expand into a great novel. 

Source: www.selindberg.com/2018/07/unsheathed-review-by-se.html
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review 2018-06-20 03:17
Song by Jesse Teller Book Review

Read this review on Wordpress-The Bookworm Daydreamer-Song Book Review

 

Title: Song
Series: The Manhunters (Book #1)
Author: Jesse Teller
Rating: 4/5 stars

SYNOPSIS

Some of the darkest minds in Perilisc attacked Mending Keep, releasing all its prisoners. Despite his strained relationship with the crown, Rayph Ivoryfist calls old friends to his aid in a subversive attempt to protect King Nardoc and thwart terrorist plots to ruin the Festival of Blossoms. But someone else is targeting Rayph, and even his fellow Manhunters might not be enough to save him

REVIEW

I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to Rebekah and Jesse Teller!

 

Song is a grimdark epic fantasy whose short length doesn't make it any less epic. It follows Rayph Ivoryfist, a thousands of years old wizard who was once the warden of Mending Keep and court wizard of Lorinth, and Konnon, a bounty hunter. The story is told in dual perspectives, with their paths starting to cross more towards the end until their connection to each other is revealed.

 

There is a lot going on in this book. So much that I didn't really feel like it was short. It was packed to the brim with action, lore, and worldbuilding- so much of which that it made my head spin at times and reread some passages to make sure I understood everything. Was it enjoyable? Yes! Do you need to pay attention? Also yes. As I said there is a lot of worldbuilding here. There are ancient wizards, gods, spirits, monsters, other races, and more. Overall, the worldbuilding is quite good and I liked it.

 

The characters were distinctive and if not exactly likable, then interesting to read about. Rayph Ivoryfist, for example, has lived for at least ten thousand years at the beginning of the book. The novel deftly incorporates parts of his past throughout the narrative which I appreciate. He himself is also interesting with regards to how he became a pariah and wanted man in the king's court. Despite all that, he remains loyal to the crown and wanted to see the boy prince grow up and be crowned, despite his blustering, weak, and cowardly father. The other character is Konnon. He is a bounty hunter whose name is quite well-known and seems to be regarded as a "monster" by some. Still, he is shown to us in a deeply human way- as a father desperately searching for a way for his sick daughter to survive. As with Rayph, the novel also gives us a lot regarding Konnon's background.

 

The tone is decidedly grimdark. The worldbuilding, the lore, the writing, and the pacing are all mixed together to create a dark, oppressive feel that hung through the book. All the gloom were still balanced by the hope that we see towards the end. The opening chapters involving Rayph feel a bit like vignettes, introducing us to the people who would come to form The Manhunters, with the action ramping up halfway through. That is not to say the entirety of the book is not filled with action. It is. There are a lot of fight scenes which I thought were well executed.

 

Overall, Song is a good grimdark epic fantasy. I can recommend it for fans of the subgenre and people who want to try out the subgenre.

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review 2018-06-13 04:06
Drums of Autumn (Outlander #4) (Audiobook)
Drums of Autumn - Geraldine James,Diana Gabaldon

As I mentioned in my review for Outlander, I started this series with the fourth book by accident. I was just out of high school, my mom was having health issues and I was the one who was driving her around to her various appointments and spending a lot of time in waiting rooms. So when I saw this book sitting on the new releases shelf in the bookstore, the only thing I cared about what that it looked interesting and it was thick. It would give me hours and hours and hours of reading time. So I got it, started reading, and got to around a quarter of the way through when I realized this was part of an ongoing series. I kept reading though and enjoyed it. It provided exactly what I needed at the time and even got me to go back and read the first three books.

 

Now, twenty plus years later ... this got annoying. It starts off really slow and rambling. All the books in this series ramble, but it gets worse the longer the series goes on. The first three books at least have obvious plots right off the bat. This one takes over 500 pages to get around to it's main conflict, and up till then it's basically just the four main characters doing stuff. I still really enjoy Claire and Jamie's relationship, but I couldn't give two figs about Briana and Roger's courtship, especially when Roger gets all caveman about it. 

 

I was never a fan of Briana, but wow. For someone so smart, she can be really stupid. Roger's kind of a jerk but he's tolerable. Neither one is prepared for 18th century living, despite both of them being history majors. They not only lie to each other about crucial things, but they make one reckless decision after another. How in the world they survived is beyond me. 

 

Actually, the main conflict isn't exactly what I would call contrived. Considering what Bree's been through and that she just barely met her father, her decisions make sense, even if they're illogical. Given what Lizzy thinks she knows, and what she tells Ian and Jamie, their actions also make sense. What doesn't make sense is

Claire not telling Jamie what Briana told her. She could've done that and kept Bonnet's name out of it.

Also, if you're looking for someone, a physical description usually helps.

Also, both Claire and Briana went by different last names when they went through the stones, so it makes zero sense they wouldn't consider Roger doing the same.

Also, Jamie would've killed Roger based on the info Lizzy told him. But of course he couldn't because the reader - and Bree - wouldn't be able to forgive him if he had.

(spoiler show)

The Big Misunderstanding required these characters who are usually extremely good with communication to be really bad at it.  

 

And it's just a little ridiculous that these characters are all encountering the same villain no matter where they are in the world. 

 

But once I got through all that nonsense and the characters all started to act like their intelligent, rational selves again, it got way better. The last third of the book is definitely the strongest.

 

Not enough Lord John though. 

I hate that he sleeps with one of the slaves. It's not on page, but it's implied. I guess I can have a smidgeon of consolation that John wouldn't have forced himself on anyone unwilling, and he's a pretty perceptive fellow, so he could probably tell if someone was just pretending to be willing. But still. Don't sleep with slaves, John.

(spoiler show)

 

Edit: Oh, and I forgot to mention the narration. Davina Porter does her usual stellar job, but she doesn't even attempt an American accent for Briana. I guess she's the UK's answer to Kevin Costner. ;) But since I'd rather listen to a pleasant British accent than a terrible American (much less Bostonian) one, I wasn't bothered by it too much.

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review 2018-06-13 00:49
The Flames by Kyle Prue
The Flames: Book II of the Epic Feud Trilogy (Volume 2) - Kyle Prue

Note: It’s best to experience Book 1 before diving into this book.

I really enjoyed Book 1 and Book 2 doesn’t disappoint. In fact, I may have enjoyed this book a bit more. The teens from Book 1 are in the wind for the most part. Some are in hiding, some are still dealing with evil characters, and some question whether they should join the rebellion. This tale reminded me a little of The Hunger Games (teens rebellion against the ruling government), Game of Thrones (scions of the ruling houses duking it out), and X-Men (these kids got skills but desperately needed a trainer). All around, an excellent mix.

Each of the kids that survived Book 1 undergo a bit of a journey in this book. In Book 1 they were all basically a result of their powerful houses, the values impressed upon them (or smacked into them) as kids. In this story, they are away from those influences and have to work stuff out on their own. Bianca and Anastasia were two of my favorites. While there is a tie between them, they each grew up very differently and have different battles. Initially, I really wanted to hate Anastasia but by the end of the story, I found her to be a very sympathetic character and a minor hero.

Rhys! Oh, my poor lad! Rhys will need therapy after this book. He’s our scholar with all his book learning, so of course it was easy to engage with his character. In some ways, he’s the glue that binds our little band of up and coming heroes. Everyone likes or respects him and doesn’t want to see him harmed.

There’s an addition of these sea-faring folk (Tridente, if I recall correctly) in the later half of the story and I really enjoyed the time spent with them. I can see potential for them in future tales. The brother & sister brought some much needed levity to the story as well as their own unique powers.

The villains are quite villainous, and for the most part, are archetypes. Sometimes, since the true villains were so very obvious, I just wanted to kill them and move on with the more interesting parts of the story. Yet they do play their part in the plot. The Hyena was the most unpredictable because you never knew if he would leave someone alive or not, and his reasons for doing so. The Doctor was a broken, driven, mad scientist that I looked forward to seeing put down.

While there were a few times where someone or something conveniently  swooped in to save the plot, I still really enjoyed this novel. Even with my minor quibbles, I give this tale 5/5 stars for sheer entertainment value.

The Narration: Jon Eric Preston did a great job with this story. All his character voices are distinct and his female characters sound like ladies. He also did a great job with the range of emotions the characters go through in this novel. His voice for the Hyena was absolutely creepy (as it should be) and I also liked how he did the mechanical lisp for The Doctor. Preston also took the time for the little touches, like making an echo-y voice sound that way, or when 2 people speak at the same time, it really sounds like that. An excellent performance and recording all around. 5/5 stars.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Kyle Prue. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

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