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review 2017-09-25 17:51
Breath of Stone by Blair MacGregor - My Thoughts
Breath of Stone (Desert Rising Book 2) - Blair MacGregor

This little series - 2 books so far - is one of my favourite fantasy reads EVER.  (Blair's other full-length novel, Sword and Chant, which I think is set in the same universe at a far different time is really good too!)  It's smart, non-formulaic, adult, thoughtful, fun, action-packed and dilemma-filled.  But not the kinds of dilemmas that are huge and bombastically dramatic, but more personal, character-driven and complicated in their effects.  It's darkish, but never grim.  Serious, real shit is happening, but there's always a wee bit of hope.  :)

Blair writes beautifully.  Her prose is simple, yet filled with impact.  You FEEL the desert and the heat and the cold.  And her characters!  OMG, they are so rich and well-rounded, filled with wonderful qualities and all too human flaws.  Even the bad guys of the tale have multiple dimensions.

Speaking of the characters, all my old favourites are back and we are introduced to some new ones along the way.  Also, we see changes in some characters who are coming into their own.  One of them, Layla, who I despaired of in the first book, has grown and has some substance now.  I love authors that can do that, make me enjoy a character I once disliked or had no time for.  :)   

When I think of this book and its predecessor, I tend to put them in the same corner of my mind with Guy Gavriel Kay.  Wonderfully written, diverse characters drawn with skill and depth, a way of writing setting and location that puts you RIGHT THERE and just... well, just everything that's good.  (And the covers are gorgeous!)

This is one of those books that makes me wish I could write reviews that are pithy and fabulous, but sadly, that's not my forté.  I wanted to gobble the book up as quickly as I could, but I also wanted to take a long time and savour ever little bit of the journey - I think I ended up somewhere in between.  I cannot recommend this book, this series, highly enough!  I think they're little known in fantasy reader circles and that's a shame.  Blair is one of my very favourite fantasy authors, along with GGK, GRRM and Katherine Kurtz so go READ THEM!!!  :)

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review 2017-02-21 23:34
Sand of Bone by Blair MacGregor - My Thoughts
Sand of Bone (Chronicles of the Sands Book 1) - Blair MacGregor

I loved this book.  I was surprised by just how much I loved it.  It was truly a delicious read.  :)

I think the reason I enjoyed it so much was in good part because the characters were so beautifully drawn.  The good and the bad.  The main character would by Syrina, a young woman, descended from the gods, one of the ruling family of the desert who has been exiled to the remote and near barren Salt Hold for basically refusing to fall in line with her family's wishes for her.  At first I found her kind of vapid and shallow, her refusal to toe the family line having mostly to do with her own discomfort.  But the author shows us how Syrina grows, the choices she has and the ones she makes - not all of them wise or good, to be honest.  She was real, so I didn't roll my eyes at her.

Her antagonist is her brother Raskah - a nasty piece of work.  Cruel and violent, he's truly an awful young man.  Like a good villain should be.  :)  I was expecting his story to go one way, but Blair MacG took him another way, which both disappointed and delighted me?  *LOL*  I know... I guess I just wanted to be clever.  :)

The secondary characters, Pyrius, Shella, Riner, Ehren et al... were wonderfully drawn and full people, not types, if you know what I mean.  I have my favourites and while some of them survived, other didn't.  And that's a good thing!  The author does not play around and I've come to respect that.  Kill my faves!  Go ahead, but man... make it mean something in the story.  And it does.

This is one of those books that makes me wish I could write a really good and inspiring review filled with thoughtful insights and comments, but sadly, I don't have that talent.

The thing to take away is... I LOVED THIS BOOK!  :)

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review 2016-03-05 18:12
Sword and Chant by Blair MacGregor - My Thoughts
Sword and Chant - Blair MacGregor

A stand-alone epic fantasy?  You betcha!  One of the rarest creatures in the epic fantasy genre.  And it's GOOD!   


Okay, so I went to the author's webpage and discovered that this is actually the first book in a series called The Conquerings - but seriously, it stands on it's own very, very nicely, so the fact that the second book has yet to be written doesn't concern me at all!


Sword and Chant reminded me a bit of Guy Gavriel Kay's work, in that the characters are so human and flawed and even a couple of the main characters I found downright unlikable even though I found much respect for them throughout the story.  


Ultimately, I think that Sword and Chant is a tale of sacrifice, compromise, maturing, loyalty and love.  A lot of things, but it is an epic fantasy.  An epic fantasy with setting that feels new, if you know what I mean.  And that's refreshing.  


The author writes with a richness that's especially prevalent when she's writing the scenes featuring the gods.  Yes, another book featuring gods interacting with the mortals and yes, I still am not fond of the trope, but I didn't mind it so much here.  I think it was because I was so invested in the mortal characters.


And it made me cry.  The final chapter had me weeping in my second cup of coffee this morning.  :)


This is the first book I've read by Blair MacGregor, but it won't be the last.  I'm glad I followed the recommendation for Sword and Chant from wherever I got it.  *LOL*  It was either a fantasy book blog, but more likely one of the fantasy authors I follow... Ken Liu (author of The Grace of Kings) quite possibly.  



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