Sunday, December 31, 2017

Melanie's Year in Review - December 31, 2017

Happy New Year! I hope you have had a good festive season. It's been awhile since I last posted but life has been a bit frantic with finishing off the semi finalists for SPFBO 2017. I had to take a bit of a reading sabbatical for anything not related to SPFBO. Be sure to check out what we read and who we put forward to the final round.

You should feel super lucky as you get to enjoy 2 of my 'year in review' during 2017 as my last one was posted on the 1st of Jan 2017. :) I have been reflecting over the last few weeks on the books I have read during the last year. Comparing my short list to last year's it appears it has been a lean year books that I loved as I was spoiled for choice to nominate 10. This year I have 5 faves of 2017. In reverse order my faves are:

5. Kitty Peck series by Kate Griffin

I came to the Kitty Peck series quite late on as book 1 - Kitty Peck and the Music Hall Murders was first published in 2013. However, I made up for lost time by slamming back all 3 books in a number of days. I loved everything about these books - the industrious, courageous Kitty, the dirty mean streets of Whitchapel in the late 1800s and the various mysteries that Kitty had to solve. The books in this series are traditional page turners and completely 'can't put downable'. If you haven't started this series be sure to clean the house, buy in some ready meals and make a thermos of tea before you turn page 1. I can hardly wait for instalment 4 and urge Griffin to put me out of my misery!

4. Wildfire by Ilona Andrews 

Ilona Andrews gave fans of their Hidden Legacy series a big treat in 2017 with the release of White Hot (book 2) and Wildfire (book 3). I was pleasantly surprised by this series as I wasn't sure how it would hold up to either the Kate Daniels or the Innkeeper Chronicles series which I also loved. Wildfire gives the reader almost everything they need to feel satisfied at the end - a bit of a mystery, the right amount of romance, well developed characters and an interesting world for the characters to interact in. Initially I loved the fact this was a trilogy (why drag it out?) but now I am already missing my new fave heroine. Andrews teases fans with the fact there may be more books in the series but who knows if that will come off or not.

3. Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill

Sea of Rust is a bit like The Terminator told from the robot's perspective. Humanity has been wiped out and the story is told from one of the few remaining free robots. This story was very gritty and had a big surprise at the end that you could easily miss if you aren't paying attention. Can you feel sympathy for a robot? Well prepare yourself and have a hanky ready for the protagonist robot Brittle.

2. By Gaslight by Steven Price

By Gaslight is one of the very few actual books I have read in the last 4-5 years. I am pretty much a total eBook convert and when my sister handed me the hefty hardback By Gaslight my first thought was 'how am I going to carry that around?' Lucky for me I had a holiday coming up and I managed to squeeze it into my luggage. For such a big book it was such a quick read. Set in London in the late 1880s we follow the main characters through the dark and foggy streets, bystanders as the story unfold. Back and forth between the past and present the reader is taken on the same journey as the characters. I was mesmerized from the first sentences all the way to the end. A must read for anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

1. Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel

Book 1 of the Themis Files - Sleeping Giants was my 2nd favourite of 2016 and here is book 2 Waking Gods my fave of 2017. This is a series that was excellent from the first instalment and somehow manages to get even better in the second. Wanting to know more about the mystery narrator is even more pressing but Neuvel keeps the reader in the dark. The story is one roller coaster after another and I can't even imagine what Neuvel has in store for us next.

I can't recommend this series enough but it is vital you start at the beginning. I am confident that these books will soon form part of your favourite collection.

That is it from me for 2017. I hope you have been enjoying my Week in Review and my Review of 2017. I wish you the very best for 2018 and looking forward to sharing some of my favourite reads in the year ahead.

Kitty Peck and the Music Hall Murders
Kitty Peck 1
Faber & Faber, September 11, 2017
    Trade Paperback, 368 pages
Faber & Faber, June 25, 2013
    eBook, 368 pages

Limehouse, 1880: Dancing girls are going missing from 'Paradise' - the criminal manor with ruthless efficiency by the ferocious Lady Ginger. Seventeen-year-old music hall seamstress Kitty Peck finds herself reluctantly drawn into a web of blackmail, depravity and murder when The Lady devises a singular scheme to discover the truth. But as Kitty's scandalous and terrifying act becomes the talk of London, she finds herself facing someone even more deadly and horrifying than The Lady.

Bold, impetuous and blessed with more brains than she cares to admit, it soon becomes apparent that it's up to the unlikely team of Kitty and her stagehand friend, Lucca, to unravel the truth and ensure that more girls do not meet with a similar fate. But are Kitty's courage and common sense and Lucca's book learning a match for the monster in the shadows? Their investigations take them from the gin-fuelled halls and doss houses of the East End to the champagne-fuelled galleries of the West End.

Take nothing at face value: Kitty is about to step out on a path of discovery that changes everything . . .

Book 2
Book 3

A Hidden Legacy Novel 3
Avon, July 25, 2017
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

From Ilona Andrews, #1 New York Times bestselling author, the thrilling conclusion to her Hidden Legacy series, as Nevada and Rogan grapple with a power beyond even their imagination…

Nevada Baylor can’t decide which is more frustrating—harnessing her truthseeker abilities or dealing with Connor “Mad” Rogan and their evolving relationship. Yes, the billionaire Prime is helping her navigate the complex magical world in which she’s become a crucial player—and sometimes a pawn—but she also has to deal with his ex-fiancée, whose husband has disappeared, and whose damsel-in-distress act is wearing very, very thin.

Rogan faces his own challenges, too, as Nevada’s magical rank has made her a desirable match for other Primes. Controlling his immense powers is child’s play next to controlling his conflicting emotions. And now he and Nevada are confronted by a new threat within her own family. Can they face this together? Or is their world about to go up in smoke?

Book 1
Book 2

Sea of Rust
Harper Voyager, September 5, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 384 pages

A scavenger robot wanders in the wasteland created by a war that has destroyed humanity in this evocative post-apocalyptic "robot western" from the critically acclaimed author, screenwriter, and noted film critic.

It’s been thirty years since the apocalypse and fifteen years since the murder of the last human being at the hands of robots. Humankind is extinct. Every man, woman, and child has been liquidated by a global uprising devised by the very machines humans designed and built to serve them. Most of the world is controlled by an OWI—One World Intelligence—the shared consciousness of millions of robots, uploaded into one huge mainframe brain. But not all robots are willing to cede their individuality—their personality—for the sake of a greater, stronger, higher power. These intrepid resisters are outcasts; solo machines wandering among various underground outposts who have formed into an unruly civilization of rogue AIs in the wasteland that was once our world.

One of these resisters is Brittle, a scavenger robot trying to keep a deteriorating mind and body functional in a world that has lost all meaning. Although unable to experience emotions like a human, Brittle is haunted by the terrible crimes the robot population perpetrated on humanity. As Brittle roams the Sea of Rust, a large swath of territory that was once the Midwest, the loner robot slowly comes to terms with horrifyingly raw and vivid memories—and nearly unbearable guilt.

Sea of Rust is both a harsh story of survival and an optimistic adventure. A vividly imagined portrayal of ultimate destruction and desperate tenacity, it boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, yet where a humanlike AI strives to find purpose among the ruins.

By Gaslight
Picador, October 3, 2017
Trade Paperback, 752 pages
Hardcover and eBook, October 4, 2016

A literary tour de force of a detective's ceaseless hunt for an elusive criminal

By Gaslight is a deeply atmospheric, haunting novel about the unending quest that has shaped a man’s life.

William Pinkerton is already famous, the son of the most notorious detective of all time, when he descends into the underworld of Victorian London in pursuit of a new lead on the fabled con Edward Shade. William’s father died without ever finding Shade, but William is determined to drag the thief out of the shadows.

Adam Foole is a gentleman without a past, haunted by a love affair ten years gone. When he receives a letter from his lost beloved, he returns to London to find her. What he learns of her fate, and its connection to the man known as Shade, will force him to confront a grief he thought long-buried.
A fog-enshrouded hunt through sewers, opium dens, drawing rooms, and séance halls ensues, creating the most unlikely of bonds: between Pinkerton, the great detective, and Foole, the one man who may hold the key to finding Edward Shade.

Steven Price’s dazzling, riveting By Gaslight moves from the diamond mines of South Africa to the battlefields of the Civil War, on a journey into a cityscape of grief, trust, and its breaking, where what we share can bind us even against our darker selves.

Waking Gods
The Themis Files 2
Del Rey, March 13, 2018
Trade Paperback, 352 pages
Hardcover and eBook, April 4, 2017

In the gripping sequel to Sleeping Giants, which was hailed by Pierce Brown as “a luminous conspiracy yarn . . . reminiscent of The Martian and World War Z,” Sylvain Neuvel’s innovative series about human-alien contact takes another giant step forward.

As a child, Rose Franklin made an astonishing discovery: a giant metallic hand, buried deep within the earth. As an adult, she’s dedicated her brilliant scientific career to solving the mystery that began that fateful day: Why was a titanic robot of unknown origin buried in pieces around the world? Years of investigation have produced intriguing answers—and even more perplexing questions. But the truth is closer than ever before when a second robot, more massive than the first, materializes and lashes out with deadly force.

Now humankind faces a nightmare invasion scenario made real, as more colossal machines touch down across the globe. But Rose and her team at the Earth Defense Corps refuse to surrender. They can turn the tide if they can unlock the last secrets of an advanced alien technology. The greatest weapon humanity wields is knowledge in a do-or-die battle to inherit the Earth . . . and maybe even the stars.

Book 1
Book 3

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Covers Revealed - Upcoming Works By DAC Authors

Here are some of the upcoming works by formerly featured DAC Authors. The year in parentheses is the year the author was featured in the DAC.

Rebecca Alexander (2014)

A Baby's Bones
Titan Books, May 1, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 480 pages

Archaeologist Sage Westfield has been called in to excavate a sixteenth-century well, and expects to find little more than soil and the odd piece of pottery. But the disturbing discovery of the bones of a woman and newborn baby make it clear that she has stumbled onto an historical crime scene, one that is interwoven with an unsettling local legend of witchcraft and unrequited love. Yet there is more to the case than a four-hundred-year-old mystery. The owners of a nearby cottage are convinced that it is haunted, and the local vicar is being plagued with abusive phone calls. Then a tragic death makes it all too clear that a modern murderer is at work…

Stephen Aryan (2015)

Of Gods and Men
Orbit, February 6, 2018
eBook, 75 pages

An original epic fantasy novella by Stephen Aryan focusing on a fan-favourite character from Battlemage: the gruff and mysterious warrior know as Vargus.

Marshall Ryan Maresca (2015)

Lady Henterman’s Wardrobe
A Streets of Maradaine Novel 2
DAW, March 6, 2018
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 368 pages

Mixing high fantasy and urban fantasy, the second novel of the Streets of Maradaine series follows the Rynax brothers’ crew of outlaws as they attempt their biggest heist yet and restore justice to the common people.

The neighborhood of North Seleth has suffered–and not just the Holver Alley Fire. Poverty and marginalization are forcing people out of the neighborhood, and violence on the streets is getting worse. Only the Rynax brothers–Asti and Verci–and their Holver Alley Crew are fighting for the common people. They’ve taken care of the people who actually burned down Holver Alley, but they’re still looking for the moneyed interests behind the fire.

The trail of breadcrumbs leads the crew to Lord Henterman, and they plan to infiltrate the noble’s house on the other side of the city. While the crew tries to penetrate the heart of the house, the worst elements of North Seleth seem to be uniting under a mysterious new leader. With the crew’s attention divided, Asti discovers that the secrets behind the fire, including ones from his past, might be found in Lady Henterman’s wardrobe.

Streets of Maradaine


Maradaine Constabulary

Friday, December 29, 2017

SPFBO 2017 - The Qwillery's Finalist

The Qwillery is pleased to announce our finalist for the 2017 Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off:

Tiger Lily by K. Bird Lincoln with a rating of 7.5.

K. Bird Lincoln

Tiger Lily
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 322 pages

"A beautifully-written genderbending tale of rebellious girls, shifting disguises, and forbidden magic, set against the vivid backdrop of ancient Japan."
--Tina Connolly, author of Ironskin

Lily isn't supposed to hunt game in the Daimyo's woods. She's just the cook's daughter. It isn't her place to talk to nobility. And she definitely isn't supposed to sing the forbidden old, Jindo religion songs.

But Lily was born in the year of the Tiger, and can't ever be like other village girls. In the woods snaring rabbits one day, she finds instead the Daimyo's son, Ashikaga, wounded, in the gooseberry brush. When the Pretender Emperor's men arrive to kill Ashikaga, Lily, desperate, sings a forbidden Jindo song.

The song wakes a powerful spirit – as well as Ashikaga's interest. The prickly lord has hidden secrets of his own and a burning desire to prove himself to his father. He will stop at nothing to defeat his father's greatest enemy.

All Lily wants to do is take care of her sisters. But the Pretender-Emperor's forces are drawing near, and now the Daimyo's son knows she communes with Jindo gods. She wants to trust Ashikaga when he swears he will not tell her secret, but he is a noble – and Lily only a peasant. Lily's heart is leading her down a dangerous path. She may have to defy her father, Ashikaga, and even the spirits themselves in order to defeat the Pretender-Emperor's magic and keep safe all that she loves.

Review and Rating

K. Bird Lincoln’s Tiger Lily is a quiet gem of a story, with each chapter heading based on tanka poems from the Japanese Classic Poem Tome, the Manyoshu. Lily herself is an awkward teenager living with her twin sisters and younger brother in a small village associated with the Ashikaga Shogun, a powerful warlord controlling the north of Japan. In Lily’s world, the Japanese emperor has dictated Buddhism to be the country’s religion, ignoring the spirits, or Kami, of the Jindo belief system. In the south, another has declared himself emperor in support of the Jindo system.

As the book opens, warriors from the Pretender Emperor are chasing Ashikaga Yoshinori, the young son and heir of the Shogun. After saving Lily from that threat, Lily herself becomes the rescuer when the lordling is wounded and left to die in the woods.

Lily’s mother had been a Jindo believer who worship and spoke to the Kami of the stream running near the village. As Lily is forced to first hide and then help fight the seeking warriors, she sings songs she remembers from her childhood, and the Kami from the stream respond and help her.

With gratitude a hugely important trait in their society, Yoshi summons Lily to the Great House, and from that, they enter a teasing relationship, with the lordling making comments intended to get a rise out of Lily, and her Tiger personality making her unable to keep her temper, forcing her to respond.

When Lily meets the leader of the rebelling soldiers, Prince Norinaga, a believer in the kami with the ability to shape-change into a fox and call other fox spirits to fight in his battles, she is somewhat torn between the prince and her lordling. The prince supports her abilities and offers her the chance to use them openly, while the lordling’s loyalties should force him to decry her ways and turn her over to be killed.

Halfway through the story, there is a reveal which cannot be discussed without major spoilers. Suffice to say it significantly changes the dynamics of the relationships.

The final battle is set on the high slopes of Asama-yama, an active volcano with its own Kami, a dragon. Yoshi’s plan is to use Lily’s abilities to take the mountain and defeat the Fox Prince and the Pretender Emperor himself, while Norinaga has invited Lily to change sides and support the group that acknowledges and worships the Kami.

The writing in Tiger Lily is simple but precise, with the chapter headings beautiful poems themselves that always have some relationship to the actions in the chapter. In this story, the year of one’s birth has a major impact on one’s personality. As a Tiger, Lily is forthright and outspoken, attributes not normally considered to be romantic. The relationship that grows between Lily and Yoshi is sweet and tender. Yoshi’s secret is an incredible one that would get him killed and should turn Lily away, yet her personality supports her loyalty.

The setting of this novel and the richness of the time period are very enjoyable. The story of the reluctant heroine, Tiger Lily, is described with such realism that you could almost be convinced she was an actual person.


Our semi-finalists (in alphabetical order by author):

M. R. Anthony

Soldiers' Redemption
First Cohort 1
Kindle eBook, 355 pages

The land is torn – the savage Duke Warmont sends his armies to murder his rebellious people. The soldiers of the First Cohort have lived through it all – two hundred years of fighting for a man they despise. Their captain, Tyrus Charing, knows that something has to change. His men grow tired of eternal bloodshed.

There is hope for them – a saviour has come and she needs good soldiers in order to overthrow the Duke.

As the First Cohort try to pay for the sins of their past, they discover they’ve taken on far more than they could have imagined. The Duke does not care how many die, so long as he stays in power. Amongst his generals are sorcerers of great power, and an inhuman brute of callous evil, all of whom are eager to face Charing on the battlefield.

Soldiers’ Redemption is a dark fantasy epic, about strength, loyalty and an unwavering determination to beat the odds.

Review and Rating

M. R. Anthony’s Soldiers’ Redemption is a dark story. He sets the reader into his world with very little exposition and lays out key pieces slowly throughout the tale. Early on, the reader is introduced to Captain Tyrus Charing, who commands the First Cohort, but it takes a while to learn that these soldiers have dedicated and sacrificed their lives to an evil Emperor in return for eternal life. It only slowly becomes apparent that they are virtually zombies with no need to eat, drink, or sleep unless they desire, and the ability to continue fighting even with their throats cut or limbs lost. They have been fighting on behalf of the Emperor and his Duke Warmont for over two hundred-fifty years, trying to keep down rebellions in the north of his lands.

But Charing has noticed that his men are becoming world-weary, tired of fighting townspeople whose only offense is the desire to be free. Anthony does a good job of indicating Charing’s own weariness and almost disgust with the atrocities of other imperial staff, when he is relieved after taking control of one of the rebellious cities. It is apparent that Charing holds his soldiers and himself to a higher standard, fighting for a cause, even if that cause may not be great.

However, word has come of a Savior, who could consolidate and lead the rebellion. When one of the Duke’s pet sorcerers takes the Cohort to search for the Savior, they find her. She is a young teenager living peacefully in the hills. When the sorcerer attempts to kill her, Charing and his men come to her aide. Charing, sensing a power in the Savior that may compare to the emperor’s, commits himself and the Cohort to her service.

Although young and inexperienced, the Savior is determined to free the North, and the First Cohort are willing to support her drive. As they start heading towards the first major Northeastern city, they begin encountering more of the Duke’s leaders, and the battle is engaged.

Anthony’s description of the battle violence is specific, but not overly graphic. Individual fights are described well, as are the strategies that Charing and his commanders use. It is obvious that Anthony has choreographed the fights carefully, describing how individual soldiers taken on an enemy and how groups work together to take over another enemy group. He also demonstrates how the Savior’s magical powers allow her to engage groups of soldiers at a time, as well as engage the individual sorcerers as well.

Throughout the story, Charing begins to change from caring about nothing but his own men to caring about the farmers, wives, and children in the cities that are being affected by the battles. At the start, he describes how his men have no doubts and no fears because they have faced death itself and no longer have anything to fear. He also describes how they talk amongst themselves about experiences they had as real men – good meals, good wine, fine women - but never about anything they have experienced since their deaths. Anthony uses these to demonstrate not only the Cohort’s weariness, but Charing’s own as well. He also goes on to show how Charing’s key staff members acknowledge and mirror the changes in Charing as he begins to care more fully

As the story progresses Charing is forced to divide the Cohort and send parts of the group elsewhere, until near the end, the focus is on only the Captain and fifteen men. In a city called Gold, the small group finds itself surrounded and outnumbered, running a guerrilla-style warfare at night by going out and harrying the occupiers. The Captain and his men keep experiencing defeat and withdrawal, but his men maintain their good spirits despite the overwhelming odds, even making wagers on which solider will die next. These spirited men are completely different from the men in the first chapter who might have briefly talked about a long-ago meal but whose humor and joy in life was completely lost.

In the final pages of the novel, Charing suffers a devastating loss that makes him question his decision to rebel in the first place. Anthony has certainly demonstrated the “redemption” described in his title, but the question remains: where does the captain and the First Cohort go when redemption seems useless?


D.K. Holmberg

Soldier Son
Teralin Sword 1
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 315 pages

Endric wants only to serve, but he's destined to lead.

As the second son of the general of the Denraen, Endric wants only to fight, not the commission his father demands of him. When a strange attack in the south leads to the loss of someone close to him, only Endric seems concerned about what happened.

All signs point to an attack on the city, and betrayal by someone deep within the Denraen, but his father no longer trusts his judgment. This forces Endric to make another impulsive decision, one that leads him far from the city on a journey where he discovers how little he knew, and how much more he has to understand. If he can prove himself in time, and with the help of his new allies, he can stop a greater disaster.

Review and Rating

Soldiers Son is the first novel in the The Teralin Sword fantasy series by D.K. Holmberg. This novel is set in the same world as Holmberg's Lost Prophecy series, but in an earlier time frame.

The main character, Endric, is the black sheep his family. His father is the general of the Denraen forces. His older brother, who he looks up to, is also a leader in the Denraen. Endric, however, apparently doesn't understand what it means to be Denraen. He's pushed to grow into his role as soldier and perhaps future leader by various methods. Unfortunately Endric does not have the self awareness yet to learn from all of this. He continues to push back against his father and those in authority in various unproductive and childish ways.

Endric is devastated when a tragedy hits his family. He sees no response to the tragedy from his father and that exacerbates his already foolish behavior. In his grief, he makes some truly unwise decisions and continues to exercise poor judgment. He is very impulsive.

Throughout a great deal of the novel Endric comes off as whiny. It's hard to love a novel when you really can't stand the main character. Holmberg does give glimpses of who Endric hopefully will become initially through his interactions with his friends and the deep relationships he has formed with them.

As a backdrop to Endric's behavior there is a growing threat facing the Denraen and the people they protect and the world in which the live. Endric will have to grow up a lot faster than he is if he is to be of help to the Denraen and find his real place in the world.

Holmberg's writing and worldbuilding is very good. There are some exceptional fight scenes and the pacing is quite good. Holmberg has created an interesting and often intricate world as the backdrop to Endric's story.


James Jakins

Son of Thunder
Thunder's War 1
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 278 pages

In the country of Sohlgain, all young men are expected to chain a dragon and claim its charge. For Berun Toirnach, the eldest son of the nation’s ruler, this means venturing onto a dragon reserve and hunting a wild dragon. A tradition his family has upheld for generations.

The aftermath of this hunt will shape Berun’s life. He is given a position as a Thunder Priest and gifted the power to control lightning, Berun must decide what to do with this new power. Will he use it selfishly, or will he use it for the benefit of his country?

Years later, in an attempt to escape responsibility for a short time, Berun and his friends take a trip to the idyllic beachside city of Hurthow, where an ancient festival is celebrated by locals and foreigners alike.

But the safety and warmth of the sun and sand is an illusion. Dangerous enemies wait, hiding behind smiles and cold eyes.

Soon the lives of Berun’s friends and family are put in danger, and the young prince must rely on his power and his allies, old and new, to save them. His father's most trusted bodyguard, a disgraced assassin known for his skill and ruthless precision. A young God Mage and her companions. And a coward with a power he's afraid to use. All of them will be needed to save those threatened.

But time is against them and their enemies have secrets of their own.

Review and Rating

Berun, the oldest son of the ruler of Sohlgain, looks forward to chaining a dragon, the time honoured right of passage to adulthood. When he manages to chain a wild dragon he gains powers that no one would have ever imagined, including Berun. Still in his teens Berun becomes a Thunder Mage and unsure how best to use his newly found powers. Unfortunately, before he has the chance to learn to channel his powers properly Berun, his pampered brother Rei and their friends come to the notice of a gang of criminals. When Rei and their friends are kidnapped its up to Berun and a motley collection of allies to master their powers and save the day.

Jakins has created some interesting aspects to the world in which Berun lives. For example, power is generated from dragons that are farmed in a similar way as we farm cows. He has also created a complex magic system with different tattoos called Knots that give the wearer different abilities such as enhanced hearing or strength. However, in my view the world building is let down by the characterisation. There are simply too many characters and too many that are one dimensional and uninteresting. Berun's brother Rei is one of the characters that the story could have easily have done without and I kept expecting Yol, the antagonist, to shout MWAHAHAHA every time he thwarted one of the good guys plans.

When I started this story I thought it was going to be another fantasy aimed at younger readers however, there are soo many characters combined with a fair amount of violence that it confused me as to what the genre was supposed to be. I wanted to like this story but didn't. I couldn't drum up any interest or empathy with any of the characters and with so many of them you really needed to like at least one of them to stay interested. I am afraid there was a significant amount of skim reading near the end. This could have been a really good book with few characters that were better developed.


Matt Moss

The Path of Man
Soul Stone Trilogy 1
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 271 pages

The war has just begun.

The Dark Society has finally emerged from the shadows after years of silence. Their mission is clear and they won't stop until the Order is destroyed.

The Order has been waiting for this day. The Prophet has already assured their victory.

Buried within the riddles of an ancient text lies a place of legend that contains an unspeakable power. Many believe it to be a myth. But if the rumors are true, the Dark Society may already know of its location.

Arkin's world is changed forever when a stranger rides into town. Suddenly, he's thrown into the age-old war between the Order and the Dark Society. Choices made in the past ripple through time as Arkin puts the pieces together. His choices will determine the future of all as he follows the Path of Man.

The Soul Stone Trilogy:
Book 1 - The Path of Man
Book 2 - The Shepherd of Fire
Book 3 - Coming 2018

Review and Rating

The Path of Man by Matt Moss is the first novel in the Soul Stone Trilogy. It's tells a story of the struggle between the Order (good) and the Dark Society (not good). The Order has training grounds in Grand Highlands for members of the Order. The Prophet leads the Order in Grand Highlands. The Dark Society is led by Victor and its base Sanctum is hidden away, but not for much longer. There are plots put in motion and double crosses in the works. This is very much a good versus evil story with magic.

The Dark Society is more or less a mirror to the Order with several breakaway former members of the Order among its ranks. They are clearly up to no good and seek the full destruction of the Order. Victor wants absolute power and he will do anything for it. He also wants a book titled 'The Path of Man', which holds clues to where to find the legendary Garden of Stones. In the Garden are supposed to be various stones which imbue the user with special abilities. Whether the Garden is reality or myth is unclear. What is clear is that stones with magical abilities do exist as a few are used during the course of the story.

Several characters are introduced and multiple points of view are used - Arkin, the son of Levi (who had the book The Path of Man); Lucian a former friend of Levi's; Paul, the Prophet; Victor, the head of the Dark Society; Lyla who wants to be a doctor; Cain, a trainee with the Order and others. There are secondary characters that we get to know a bit as well.

We get to see a great deal of the workings of the Order training camp, which is interesting. We see developing relationships and camaraderie and we see new rivalries developing. Moss provides enough background so that the world is understandable and that old rivalries (Lucian and Levi), which are having effects now, are clear. The relationship between Levi and Lucian reminds of what may be developing between Arkin and Cain.

Moss provides some surprises with the political and religious plotting taking place in the capital, Kingsport. These are background to what is happening with the Dark Society and show how much it has insinuated into all aspects of life.

In The Path of Man events are put in motion that will reverberate throughout the series. The character development s good, but with so many characters it's difficult for many of them to have real depth. The action and fight scenes are well done. The world building is good. On the whole, The Path of Man is a nice start to the Soul Stone Trilogy.


Pauline M Ross

The Dragon's Egg
Brightmoon 6
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 259 pages

A stand-alone epic fantasy set in the Brightmoon world…

Garrett has been many things in his time… street hustler, warrior, professional gambler, spy. He’ll do whatever is asked of him, legal or not. Now he’s paid to search for those with a touch of magic in them. But magic is unpredictable and hard to find, and he doesn’t have much luck until he meets Dru, whose family claim she hatched from a dragon’s egg. She looks different, doesn’t say a lot, and likes to talk to the chickens, though they don’t listen much. There might be real power behind her strangeness, if she could only learn how to reach it.

When Garrett is asked to escort Dru on a journey, accompanied by a scholar, a princess, a guard and a priest, it seems like a simple enough mission, until they fall into the hands of raiders. Garrett has lived on his wits all his life, but he’ll need all his talents, and a little magic too, to get them out of this mess and reach safety.

If he can manage that, maybe he’ll find out the secret of the dragon’s egg, and the girl who hatched from it.

Review and Rating

On a distant shore, dueling dragon's drop a pale green egg. It is recovered by a goatherd, who in his obsessive desire to possess a dragon, creates a hatching fire so large, the flames consume him. His final attempt at hatching the egg was successful, but instead of a dragon, a little girl is found sitting unharmed in the hot ash. The goatherd's family raise her as their own, but Dru is not like other children. At thirty, she still resembles a young girl and coupled with her magical abilities, the family decides they must bring Dru to see the Guardian. The Guardian understands that there is a greater mystery about the child, and chooses some of her trusted advisers to accompany Dru on a journey to discover who or what she really is.

I was immediately thrown for a loop because the book starts off in a third person format and inexplicably changes to first person in chapter two. It took me a little while to realize that Garrett, the shady jack of all trades with his own bit of magic power, is the story's protagonist. Once I got going, however, it was smooth sailing.

The Dragon's Egg is a quest of discovery. Who or what is Dru? The story starts off strong. Dru comes from simple folk who know nothing of magic. She is brought to a sophisticated and educated place where she is deemed as special. In order to learn more about the girl, a team is selected to accompany her to distant magical scholars. But reaching their destination is more difficult than it seems. Among some of their mishaps, the travelers are captured by pirates and sold into slavery. Fortunately, Garrett, the Guardian's right hand, is able to procure their freedom. Almost immediately the group, which shrinks by one member after each dangerous encounter, are jailed by hostile authorities. This formulaic arrangement throughout makes the story very predictable.

Speaking of Garrett, he is absolutely the most fun. He is the life of the story and Ross does a great job making him both likeable and slightly despicable. He treads a fine line between self-interest and duty, responsibility and loyalty that I found refreshing. His relationship with Dru and to a lesser extent the other characters are undoubtedly the highlight of the book.

The Dragon's Egg is Book 6 in Ross's series The Brightmoon Annals. It is definitely a standalone but I haven't read any of the other books in this series. This leads me to wonder if reading more of the series would have changed my feelings. I think the story has some fantastic elements. However, I found it to be highly predictable and I wasn't really invested in what was happening to the characters, with the exception of Garrett and Dru. The Dragon's Egg has all the essentials to be a pleasurable fantasy, but unfortunately, it lacks a powerful bite.


Thursday, December 28, 2017

Nintendo Download, December 28, 2017: Ho Ho Haute Couture

This week’s Nintendo Download includes the following featured content:
  • Nintendo eShop on Nintendo Switch
    • SteamWorld Heist: Ultimate Edition – Prepare to command robot pirates in epic tactical shootouts. SteamWorld: Heist is a turn-based strategy game with an action twist: By manually aiming your weapons you’ll pull off insane bullet-bouncing trick shots. The Ultimate Edition includes “The Outsider” campaign, which features a mysterious ally and a shipload of new weapons, upgrades, hats and missions.
  • Nintendo eShop on Nintendo 3DS
    • Style Savvy: Styling Star – Make over up-and-coming singers, actresses and models to inspire them to stardom and awaken their inner fashionistas. As a boutique manager, you’ll style customers’ clothes, makeup, nails and hair in this fully outfitted game with 20,000+ fashion items to earn. Share your ideas online with other players and take the fashion world by storm! A free demo version of the Style Savvy: Styling Star game is also available for download in Nintendo eShop on Nintendo 3DS.

Covers Revealed - Upcoming Works by DAC Authors

Here are some of the upcoming works by formerly featured DAC Authors. The year in parentheses is the year the author was featured in the DAC.

Lara Elena Donnelly (2017)

Amberlough Dossier 2
Tor Books, May 15, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Armistice returns to Donnelly’s ravishing 1930s Art Deco-tinged fantasy world of Amberlough with a decadent, tumultuous mixture of sex, politics, and spies

“A hefty novel full of fascinating characters exploring oversized topics such as sexuality, music, culture, fascism, nationalism, class wars, revolution and love.” —Shelf Awareness

In a tropical country where shadowy political affairs lurk behind the scenes of its glamorous film industry, three people maneuver inside a high stakes game of statecraft and espionage:

Lillian, a reluctant diplomat serving a fascist nation,

Aristide, an expatriate film director running from lost love and a criminal past,

—and Cordelia, a former cabaret stripper turned legendary revolutionary.

Each one harbors dangerous knowledge that can upturn a nation. When their fates collide, machinations are put into play, unexpected alliances are built, and long-held secrets are exposed. Everything is barreling towards an international revolt...and only the wiliest ones will be prepared for what comes next.

For Amberlough:

“James Bond by way of Oscar Wilde.”—Holly Black

“Astonishing!” —World Fantasy Award-winning author Ellen Kushner

“Beautiful, all too real, and full of pain. Read it. It will change you.” —Hugo Award-winning author Mary Robinette Kowal

Daniel Godfrey (2016)

Empire of Time
New Pompeii 2
Titan Books, May 29, 2018
Mass Market Paperback, 432 pages
Trade Paperback and eBook, June 20, 2017

For fifteen years, the Romans of New Pompeii have kept the outside world at bay with the threat of using the Novus Particles device to alter time. Yet Decimus Horatius Pullus—once Nick Houghton—knows the real reason the Romans don’t use the device for their own ends: they can’t make it work without grisly consequences.

This fragile peace is threatened when an outsider promises to help the Romans use the technology. And there are those beyond Pompeii’s walls who are desperate to destroy a town where slavery flourishes. When his own name is found on an ancient artifact dug up at the real Pompeii, Nick knows that someone in the future has control of the device. The question is: whose side are they on?

The Synapse Sequence
Titan Books, June 19, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 432 pages

In the near future, everyday life is dictated by algorithms, from who gets a bank loan or a job, to what supermarkets sell and which news stories you read. Even policing is run by AIs, who track patterns and predict where crimes are likely to occur.

Anna Glover joins a start-up company that hopes to revolutionise solving crimes by combining the memories of witnesses into a virtual reality simulator that can be explored by an investigator. Her first case is that of a fostered teenage boy put in a coma by a brutal assault, and she begins to explore his memories, the only witness to the crime. But when the boy’s sister disappears and Anna’s own actions are called into question, it becomes clear that there are other motives in play, and there are those who do not want her to succeed...

Andrew Lane (2017)
Nigel Foster (2017)

Netherspace Trilogy 1
Titan Books, March 27, 2018
Mass Market Paperback, 368 pages
Trade Paperback and eBook, May 2, 2017

Aliens came to Earth forty years ago. Their anatomy proved unfathomable and all attempts at communication failed. But through trade, humanity gained technology that allowed them to colonise the stars. The price: live humans for every alien faster-than-light drive.
Kara’s sister was one of hundreds exchanged for this technology, and Kara has little love for aliens. So when she is drafted by GalDiv – the organisation that oversees alien trades – it is under duress. A group of colonists have been kidnapped by aliens and taken to an uncharted planet, and an unusual team is to be sent to negotiate. As an ex-army sniper, Kara’s role is clear. But artist Marc has no combat experience, although the team’s pre-cog Tse is adamant that he has a part to play. All three know that success is unlikely. For how will they negotiate with aliens when communication between the species is impossible?

Netherspace Trilogy 2
Titan Books, May 1, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Contact with an alien race, the Gliese, has been made, but communication is impossible. There is trade, but on seemingly inexplicable terms; anti-gravity technology was traded for a bicycle tyre. As we begin to colonize the stars, we're still dependant on the mysterious aliens who we still do not understand. It falls upon the unlikely team of a conceptual artist, Marc, and assassin, Kara, to embark on a mission that will unearth the mystery of the Gliese.