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review 2016-08-16 06:43
Book Review: Kings or Pawns (Steps of Power #1) by J.J Sherwood
Kings or Pawns (Steps of Power, #1; The Kings, #1) - J. Sherwood Weber

8,994 P.E.—The elven city of Elvorium has become corrupted to the core by politics. With his father dead and the Royal Schism at his back, Prince Hairem ascends the throne as king of the elven world on Sevrigel. Young and bold, Hairem is determined to undo the council’s power, but the brutal murders by an assassin loosed within the city threaten to undermine the king’s ambitions.

As corruption and death threaten to tear Elvorium apart from within, the warlord Saebellus threatens the city from without, laying siege to Sevrigel’s eastern capital. With the elven world crumbling around him, Hairem finds himself in a dangerous political balance between peace and all out war.

 

 

Jikun Taemrin by Kristy M (Book Frivolity) -

 In his free time, Jikun amused himself with hunting, women, and a very unsuccessful slew of poetry.

 

Grab yourself a copy of Kings or Pawns at Amazon

 

 

Everyone knows my policy by now: my highest praises come with a character rendering (cause it proves my love yadda yadda)... So, if you haven't worked out by the image, let me say it - I really enjoyed Kings or Pawns.

 

It has all the High Epic Fantasy bits and bobs that I love, but it's been given an edge with the really smart and meticulous way that Sherwood has presented the points of view and the plot line. Intrigue, treason, romance and politics, are perfectly amalgamated; a hard thing to accomplish, and can be the downfall of many an ambitious epic fantasy. This pulls it off without a hitch, and I must say, I was really pleasantly surprised (although I'm a fan of self-pubbed books, a really good epic fantasy is sometimes hard to come by!).  

 

The world building is spot on, it's very engaging with just a touch of science fiction creeping in to give it a slight point of difference over the usual Elvish world narrative. I particularly loved that this was focused on the Elven point of view. So many epics give the Elf the highly snooty, yet lovable sidekick role; yet here Sherwood has given them their own voice, and done it with skill. 

 

There is a great combination of sly humor (I was laughing before the first chapter had finished. Jikun up there is crackling with humor, even when he's not trying!), and serious matter that keeps the reader engaged throughout. It's just an incredibly enjoyable read, and I can't wait to delve into the rest of The Steps of Power series.. when the audiobook of Heroes Or Thieves is available.. please make it available soon..

 

Because that cliffhanger is just mean Sherwood. Bloody Mean. :)

 

I received the audio book version, and the narration by Matthew Lloyd Davies was fantastic. He picked up on the nuances of each character gorgeously. However the audio quality was just a little lower than I am accustomed to, and I occasionally found it hard to hear. You might need to listen to this one through a really good set of earphones, or a proper audio/speaker setup if you are hard of hearing.  

 

 

***

 

 

If you want to check out the Steps Of Power yourself, you can actually win some stuff right now, so enter, check it out... 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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review 2016-08-03 18:33
Kings or Pawns (The Kings Book 1) by J.J. Sherwood
Kings or Pawns (Steps of Power, #1; The Kings, #1) - J. Sherwood Weber

Welcome to the elven world of Sevrigel. A world that is as beautiful as it is corrupt. The elven city of Elvorium has become so corrupted by the politicians who rule it, that it seems to most that there is no coming back. Until, that is, Prince Hairem ascends the throne. While J.J. Sherwood's Kings or Pawns is definitely Epic Fantasy, it's also filled with all manner of political intrigue and moral discussions. If you're looking for a book that is as deep as it is descriptive, look no further. This is your next read.

 
Now I feel it only fair to warn potential readers that this is definitely first and foremost a political thriller. The inner workings of the elven council play a huge role in this story, going so far as to discuss the actual battle plans that are being arranged. Everything is described in perfect detail. Which means, happily, that this book works equally well for readers of both genres. Trust me when I say that Sherwood doesn't skimp on the world building at all. Kings or Pawns is vividly written, with settings that pop off of the page. So Epic Fantasy readers will be content, and those who love political intrigue will also be content. It's truly a win/win situation.
 
The characters will probably steal your heart either way. While there are multiple POVs present in this story, Jikun and Hairem get the lion's share of the spotlight. Not that I'm complaining, as both of them were wonderful characters. Jikun is extremely brave, loyal to a fault, and full of the kind of opinions that make him blasphemous to some and level headed to others. I loved his character. His bantering with Nevon was giggle worthy, but then in the next chapter he'd be placed in a situation that made his valiant nature shine through. The fact that he was so three dimensional, faults and all, made him easy to follow along with. Hairem is much the same. Being of noble blood, and tasked to lead his people, his character was even more faceted. Hairem is intelligent and kind, but not afraid to stand up for what he believes in. The fact that Sherwood didn't let up on him, but instead had many other character agendas coming at him from all sides. It made him a much more vivid character, and I was proud to follow him through this adventure.
 
As for plot, well that would take ages and many more paragraphs than I have the energy to write to fully gush over. The fact that there is so much of a political spin to this book is perfection, because the fantasy portion of it slides right beneath it, skimming right under the surface. Before you know it there are dragons, mythical beasts to slay, and even magic. Yet because of the beautifully articulated world of Sevrigel, and how structured the lives of the elves are, it feels like it has one foot in reality. I've read plenty of books with massive maps, and large character rosters. It takes a really good writer to make that palatable on such a huge scale, and J.J. Sherwood manages just that.
 
There were a few things I would have loved to see more of, mainly our female characters who are amazing but don't get too much face time. Ilsafel especially is a character that I'd love to see more of. Any female character who is as versed in politics, and as intelligent, as her male counterpart makes me smile. I also felt like the ending fell a tiny bit shy of the epic conclusion I was hoping for. That's a mild complaint though, because all this build up is pushing towards the second book and I can't wait. 

 

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text 2016-08-02 00:08
August 2016 TBR
Kings or Pawns (Steps of Power, #1; The Kings, #1) - J. Sherwood Weber
Forever We Play - David Belisle
And Darkness Waits: When Fear Descends into Madness - C.K. Post
Wake the Hollow - Gaby Triana
The Hating Game: A Novel - Sally E. Thorne
GENESIS - Matt K. Turner
VIP: Battle of the Bands - Jen Calonita
New Megiddo Rising: An 'Apostates' Novella - Lars Teeney
Under a Million Stars - Rita Branches
Natchez Burning - Greg Iles

So, last month was pretty slow on the reading front. I powered through a few books, but didn't really get a chance to savor them. It was more reading to review, and I kind of hate that to be honest. I'm pretty excited now that Luna is on a schedule, because I know I'll be able to fit in more reading time. Which is a good thing, because I once again have a pretty busy month scheduled. Ah, best laid plans. Little did I know I'd have a puppy to watch over.

 

I'm pretty excited about a lot of these books though! Natchez Burning is HUGE, and I agreed to read all three books that are in/soon to be in this series. So... there's that. Let's hope they're good.

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text 2016-07-21 21:01
Author's coming to Fandomfest (Louisville, KY)
The Banished Craft (Shkode, #1) - E.D.E. Bell
The Thunderbolt Affair - Geoffrey Mandragora
Heroes or Thieves (Steps of Power: The Kings) (Book 2) - J J Sherwood
The Exodus Gate - Stephen Zimmer
Gemini's War (Gemini Rising) - Amy McCorkle
Cosmos the Stellar Stalker - Ronald R. Van Stockum Jr,Steven Eilers
Kings or Pawns (Steps of Power, #1; The Kings, #1) - J. Sherwood Weber

Well, in addition to celebrity ones like Stan Lee these authors are coming to Fandomfest (Louisville, KY) this weekend so sampling. See http://fandomfest.com/authors/  for details.

 

E.D.E. Bell's page on booklikes is http://booklikes.com/e-d-e-bell/author,4074224 .  "… a genre-bending fantasy saga that follows the adventures of Cor, a woman caught in a dying world that does not accept her, and Atesh, a dragon scientist who's been asked to violate his own ethics or put the lives of his family at risk. Follow their trials as they deal with a shattered world, mired in political upheaval, while they try to rediscover a lost magic. The Banished Craft begins the Shkode trilogy: a quirky and modern take on dragons and wizards, exploring themes of identity, prejudice, violence, compassion, and the ways we are all connected. "

 

Geoffrey Mandagora at http://booklikes.com/geoffrey-mandragora/author,3139523.  ""What you will be working on is underhanded, unfair, and damned un-English." 1887 The British Empire is in danger of collapse and teeters on the brink of war with the Kaiser Reich. Spies and saboteurs play at deadly games in the British shipyards as each side seeks naval superiority. Ian Rollins is collateral damage in their shadow war. The "accident" and his grievous injuries are about to bring his naval career to an ignominious end. But with the aid of a former Pinkerton detective, a clandestine agent for the Admiralty, a brace of Serbian savants, and one, mostly sober valet, he might survive. If he can master the skills necessary to command the world's first fully operational combat submarine, the HMS Holland Ram, and protect the secrets of the Thunderbolt. Historical Note. The Fenian Ram, fictionalized for this novel, does exist and is currently on display at the Paterson Museum in Paterson, NJ. "

 

J. Sherwood Weber at http://booklikes.com/j-sherwood-weber/author,635445.  "...a political intrigue that spirals into an action and adventure series as the final events unfold.  8,994 P.E. — The elven city of Elvorium has become corrupted to the core by politics. With his father dead and the Royal Schism at his back, Prince Hairem ascends the throne as king of the elven world on Sevrigel. Young and bold, Hairem is determined to undo the council’s power, but the brutal murders by an assassin loosed within the city threaten to undermine the king’s ambitions.  As corruption and death threaten to tear Elvorium apart from within, the warlord Saebellus threatens the city from without, laying siege to Sevrigel’s eastern capital. With the elven world crumbling around him, Hairem finds himself in a dangerous political balance between peace and all out war."

 

Stephen Zimmer at http://booklikes.com/stephen-zimmer/author,662886.  "The Exodus Gate, by Stephen Zimmer, is a modern fantasy novel that is the first release in the Rising Dawn Saga. The story unfolds around Benedict Darwin, host of a popular late night radio show that deals with the paranormal. Benedict comes into possession of a virtual reality simulator that turns out to be something far greater and more powerful than he ever expected. Meanwhile, supernatural powers from the depths of the Abyss and their human allies are working tirelessly to bring about a One World Government. They are also laboring to bridge the boundaries between time and space to bring back the Nephilim, the monstrous offspring of Fallen Avatars and humans that were destroyed in a Great Flood that occurred long ages ago. An epic tale of courage, hope, and adventure, with fantastical realms and exotic creatures."

 

Amy McCorkle at http://booklikes.com/amy-mccorkle/author,2382993 .  "Gemini Michaels doesn't believe in fairytales. Not the Disney kind anyway. More like Grimm's fairytales. Her father Jacob Michaels is a powerful man whose reach goes as high in government as his ambition allows. He got there by peddling in darkest of vices. Sexual slavery and prostitution…"

 

Ronald R. Van Stockum, Jr. at http://booklikes.com/ronald-r-van-stockum-jr/author,4993260 .  "…Set in Louisville, Kentucky in 1976, the writer recounts what-ifs with spectacular scenes in a rail yard, through hidden tunnels, and in old abandoned buildings. From the beginning when a visitor from another world pops up in a downtown Louisville ad agency, until the spectacular finale, Van Stockum gives us another unique and interesting journey in to the world of "What if?" …"

Source: Author is coming to Fandomfest (Louisville, KY) this weekend so sampling. See fandomfest.com/authors
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review 2016-02-22 20:53
Kings or Pawns by J. J. Sherwood
Kings or Pawns (Steps of Power, #1; The Kings, #1) - J. Sherwood Weber

Set in a Tolkienesque fantasy world of elves, humans, and centaurs, some strive to do what is right while others seek to take what they can with might. Young King Hairem, whose father was recently slain and much of the Old Blood fled from the city of Elvorium, starts off ruling with a gentle hand, trying his abilities to subtly manipulate the long corrupted politics back into some semblance of decency. Meanwhile, the warlord Saebellus threatens to take over Elvorium, the Council pushes for war with the Centaurs, and an assassin creeps through the city taking out politicians. Hairem definitely has his hands full.

I listened to the audiobook so please excuse any misspellings of names and places.

This book starts off rather slow, setting the political stage and letting the reader get to know the world and characters. At first, the book jumped pretty quickly from one character to another and this made it hard for me to get attached to the characters. But then things settled down with King Hairem and General Jikun as the main characters. They are opposites in most ways. One is young and untried and still idealistic; the other is a more worldly person, a bit jaded, and definitely not pious. I very much enjoyed how these two have to build mutual respect and trust.

The cast is littered with mostly male characters, being human, elven, and helven. Navon is Jikun’s right hand man, but he has a nasty little habit that is scorned by all and punishable by death even though it can save a life or two in the heat of battle. Sellemar comes into the story late but his presence really livens things up. Quite frankly, the story was pretty slow moving until Sellemar offered his assistance and knowledge of certain secrets. He’s a rather cranky bad ass. I like that I am still not sure of his motivations; he’s complicated.

Sadly, there are very few female characters in this book and mostly, they are underutilized. Ilsafel is the daughter of a powerful Elvorium politician and the love interest. Alvena is a mute lass that works in the castle and has a secret crush. Kivervy is a huntress from Jikun’s home town who we spend very little time with and who has to be saved while on a hunt. There’s probably a mother or sister tossed in here or there. All the plot decisions are made by male characters. While this holds true to traditional epic fantasy, it is the 21st century and I have come to adore a more gender balanced approach in fantasy literature.

The first half of the book was pretty slow going. The big baddies of the book were almost like ghostly boogiemen – talked about, feared, but rarely seen on stage. Eventually, we get to meet a few centaurs, but it’s brief. The feared mighty warlord Saebellus doesn’t make a presence until the last quarter of the book. I think this slim and trim approach to the adversaries made it hard for me to fear them and hence to fear for the safety of the characters.

On the plus side, the last sixth of the book has the ladies taking on larger roles, they have more lines, and take a few more actions. Sellemar has his role and that adds action and deeper questions. By the end, it’s clear there is much more to the plot and there have been deep-laid plans. Not everyone makes it out alive! If the first half of the book had been even half as good as the second half of the book, I would give this story a full five stars.

I received a copy of this audiobook at no cost via the book tour company iRead Books in exchange for an honest review.

Narration: Matthew Lloyd Davies did a good job. He had a variety of accents that helped keep the myriad of characters distinct.  I really liked the young teen girl voice he picked for the internal monologues of the mute Alvena. He did great as Jikun, especially when Jikun was rightly angry at something.

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