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review 2019-03-29 05:02
Of Sand and Malice Made by Bradley P. Beaulieu - My Thoughts
Of Sand and Malice Made (The Song of the Shattered Sands 0.5) - Bradley P. Beaulieu

So this is a big novella that takes place before the beginning of the epic series and introduces us to a teenage Cedi. It's basically the story of Ceda and her battle with the ehrehk, Rumayesh.  Ehrehks are creatures created by the gods long ago and there's nothing good about them. 

The book reads like three serial installments of a story which, for me, was a little off-putting.  Flow-wise.  A matter of personal preference, I think.  Other than that, it was a pleasure to sink into the author's writing again.

At any rate, it was cool to see more of young Ceda and indeed just to visit Sharakhai again.  We get to see a bit of other favourite characters too.  It was a fun read.

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review 2017-02-17 18:52
Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley P. Beaulieu - My Thoughts
Twelve Kings in Sharakhai - Bradley P. Beaulieu

The Song of Shattered Sands - Book 1

I became enamoured of epic fantasy back in the 70s when the big thing to read was Lord of the Rings.  Elves and fairies and orcs and wizards and the like were de rigeur and I was totally along for the ride.  Still am, truth be told.  Today, however, things are finally changing and we're seeing more and more diverse worlds being built and mythologies and cultures being created.  It's wonderful!

Twelve Kings in Sharakhai gives us a desert world filled with nomads and tribes and kings and pit fighters and street urchins and zombies and blade-wielding elite woman warriors. It's refreshingly different from much epic fantasy that I've read.  There are hints of such a world in the Song of Ice and Fire books by George R.R. Martin and I think I might even see some inspiration from my favourite Guy Gavriel Kay, but make no mistake, Bradley P. Beaulieu has created something quite special and immersive, I think.

If I say that this is the story of a young girl coming into her own, starting her life journey, it sounds like the ubiquitous YA novel, but I think that'd be doing it a disservice.  I dislike YA and New Adult novels, they leave me - for the most part - searching for more substance.  But man, oh man, this book has some hefty substance!  It's a long read, but it's fascinating.  The characters are great, they have dimension and weight and substance and they all have flaws.  And while the long game of the plot seems to be something read before - the overthrowing of the current powerful folk - something tells me that it's not going to be so straightforward and the journey to the end game is going to be gripping.

Now, there are a lot of flashbacks in this book and that might give some pause, but while I am generally not a fan, I didn't mind them at all.  Alot of the plot has to do with the MC, Çeda's memories and the way the flashbacks play out, it's like we're remembering things along with her - things that didn't seem important but really are and the like.  I don't know how it's going to play out in subsequent books, but in this one, it works for me.

So yeah,  a highly-recommended read for lovers of epic fantasy and I'm definitely looking forward to the second book which I hope to get my hands on soon.  :)  (This book, is actually on sale at Kobo for $2.99 as I write this.)

Oh... and that cover!  It's GORGEOUS!!

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review 2016-01-31 15:11
Blackguards: Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries, and Rogues is Highly Recommended Dark Fantasy
BLACKGUARDS: Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries, and Rogues - J.M. Martin,Bradley P. Beaulieu,Carol Berg,Richard Lee Byers,David Dalglish,James Enge,John Gwynne,Lian Hearn,Paul S. Kemp,Snorri Kristjansson,Joseph R. Lallo,Mark Lawrence,Tim Marquitz,Peter Orullian,Jean Rabe,Cat Rambo,Laura Resnick,Anthony Ryan,Mark

Blackguards: Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries, and Rogues by J.M. Martin
S.E. Lindberg rating: 5 of 5 stars

Blackguards: Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries, and Rogues is Highly Recommended Dark Fantasy:: This collection is largely Dark Fantasy. As the subtitle says, this not just about Assassins--there are plenty similar lawbreakers featured: Thieves, Smugglers, and Mercenaries. As J.M. Martin clarifies in his introduction:

"Blackguard, by the way, is actually pronounced ‘blaggard,’ as in haggard. The term seemingly originated from scullions and kitchen-knaves, in particular those in courtly caravans who were in charge of the pots, pans, utensils, and the conveyance of coal … one could extrapolate that a ‘blaggard’—also ‘blagger’ in some texts—is a ‘rag-tag deceiver with grandiloquent habits.’"

Crowdfunded Gateway: Anthologies often function as a way to speed-date authors. Want to get acquainted with those who write about a theme you crave? Then find a thematic anthology and shop around! The Sword & Sorcery genre spawned from short stories; for many decades anthologies needed no classification. But in the last few decades, within the dark fantasy genre associated with S&S, there has been a move toward themes—which is great (i.e., Rogue Blade Entertainment’s Rage of the Behemoth and Heroika 1: Dragon Eaters come to mind). Blackguards: Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries, and Rogues provides a whopping 27 stories—24 of which are linked to established series. The “Roll-Credits” section in the end is designed to link readers to the authors they just liked. Classy. This book was launched via Kickstarter and Ragnarok Publications delivered a solid product. Me? I was just a Bung Nippers level supporter, but am still part of the band wagon and proud to be acknowledge in the contributor section.

Variety: A menu of 27 entries starts off with ~4 female protagonists, which was unexpected and enjoyable. The range of characters and milieu is truly broad. There is surprisingly little redundancy. As mentioned above, the Sword & Sorcery genre was influential: Michael J. Sullivan and Paul Kemp offer duos reminiscent of Fritz Leiber’s Lankhmar “Fafred and Mouser”; and Jon Sprunkseemed to write a pastiche/fan-fiction of Glen Cook’s The Black Company.
Many are tales of betrayal and grim situations; the most impactful was Peter Orullian ’s "A Length of Cherrywood" which was uber-dark, but very well written--this story is one you’ll enjoy reading once, and then never again. Not all these are grim. There are several comedic entries, the funniest for me wasRichard Lee Byers’s "Troll Trouble" which had me laughing out loud. There are several others that have the protagonist as savior/hero, or the target of blackguards; Kenny Soward’s "Jancy's Justice” was one such which also offered a bit of steampunk/gnome technology. The last several entries really cast the net: James Enge casts Odysseus as a blackguard, Lian Hearn provides some Japanese inspired darkness, Snorri Kristjansson offers Viking flare, andAnton Strout brings a psychic- sorcery into contemporary art crime.

Personal Favorites: S.R. Cambridge’s "The Betyár and the Magus" blends magic into western-European history—great characters and setting. Equally entertaining & well written was Shawn Speakman’s dose of druidic/Celtic lore; his "The White Rose Thief" made me aware of “Rosenwyn Whyte” a musician with a dark past which I am anxious to read more about. Tim Marquitz ’s "A Taste of Agony" got me intrigued about the “outlaw, eunuch assassin Gryl”, even though the story’s mission was obscure. Anthony Ryan’s "The Lord Collector" offered it all—an intriguing world of assassins, dark magic, and interesting characters.

Art: The cover art by Arman Akopian is nicely done and representative on the book’s contents (yes, there are plenty of female protagonists). Interior art for each of the stories is bonus flare, well done by artists Orion Zangara andOksana Dmitrienko

Source: www.selindberg.com
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review 2015-12-16 20:05
Twelve Kings in Sharakhai
Twelve Kings in Sharakhai - Bradley P. Beaulieu

[I received a copy of this novel through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

I'm not sure how to rate this book, so I'll go with 3 stars for now.

It's not a bad book, definitely not. It's actually pretty interesting, with a setting that for once isn't the typical "European medieval fantasy" one, and is closer to a kind of 1001 Nights world. A city in the desert, a little world of culture and trade with tribes from the outside, powerful and rife with intrigue, slum dwellers, thieves, pit fights, all under the watchful eyes of twelve immortal lords (the Kings) and their specially trained guard, the Maidens of the Blade (who are actual daughters of those kings, recruited and trained to serve their fathers, then train their sisters/cousins later). The Maidens have their own rituals, their own strifes, their special brand of loyalty to the Kings, who in turn also have *their* rituals: on the night of Beht Zha’ir, every six weeks, people close their doors and tremble in their homes, for the mysterious and dreadful asirim, servants of the Kings, walk the streets to take away those who have been "chosen". And, of course, the chosen are never to be seen again.

In the middle of this setting, Çedamihn and her friend/heart brother, Emre, wade a world of intrigue: both as runners for Osman, and Çeda as fighter in the pits under the mask of the "White Wolf". When Emre is attacked carrying the second half of a mysterious package, Çeda starts investigating, and soon discovers that she may have to dive at last in yet another world, of magic and legends, of gods and immortal beings: the one where her mother was killed by the Kings, the one where she is meant to avenge her, the one where she lets the adichara petals melt under her tongue to sharpen her sense, and sneaks in the desert at night to witness strange happenings in the sacred gardens full of blooms only the Kings and Maidens are allowed to harvest.

The author also plays on other points of view than Çeda's, and also uses "flashback chapters" to bring in parts of her and Emre's history. I know such techniques aren't always well-liked, but as far as I was concerned, I thought them welcome. The flashbacks are inserted precisely where they matter, highlighting the main plot, and the secondary POVs were useful to grasp other sides of the world, when it wouldn't have made sense for Çeda to live such moments.

In other words: intrigue and enchantment for me.

And yet, I don't really know why, I spent quite some time poising between "want to keep reading" and "let's read something else". Maybe because this wasn't a good period for me to read long fantasy books—in which case, by all means, don't let this prevent you from giving a try at this first volume of the series. (For what it's worth, at the moment, I really don't feel like reading ASoIaF either.) Or maybe because, in some parts, the story moved a bit too slowly, with the plot being fairly obvious for the reader? (Çeda's secret was too easy to guess for me, so by the time she discovered it herself, I had already moved on.)

Basically, the first and last chapters felt exciting. Same with others towards the middle. And then there were lulls.

However, by the end of the book, the setting is, well, ready for more, and different threads are woven. The Moonless Host. Çeda's and Emre's diverging paths, that may yet still bring them together in more than one way. The Kings and the Maidens, and Çeda's involvment in their plots. The strange Meryam and her blood magic, as well as the lord travelling with her—their paths, too, aren't as straightforward as they first appear...

This could definitely lead to something interesting, so I'm likely to keep an eye on this series to see how those plots unfurl.

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review 2015-08-28 11:39
Review: Twelve Kings
Twelve Kings in Sharakhai - Bradley P. Beaulieu

I received a copy from Netgalley.


Unfortunately this is a DNF for me. Made it 43% but I'm finding myself skimming and not really wanting to pick it up anymore. Which is a shame because there were plenty of things about this book I loved.


I loved the main character, I loved the mythology and the world building. The writing is beautiful and vivid, so easy to picture the scene. Started off with a punch of fantastic action, leading to a female main character with everything I look for in a fantasy heroine.


My problem with this book is the pacing and the plot got very very slow. Every time I pick it up to read more it feels like I've been reading for a long time, only to find I've only cleared another 10% or sometimes not even that. While there were parts of it I really like, when I'm starting to skim is time to DNF.


I will buying a finished copy to read at a later date because I still want to know how the plot finishes, but at the moment, I'm DNFing.


Thank you to Netgalley and Orion Publishers for approving my request to view the title.

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