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8/10
Review: The Waking Land by Callie Bates
Reviews / July 17, 2017

The Waking Land is a gorgeous new fantasy novel from debut author Callie Bates, and it was on my wishlist long before I had the opportunity to read it. There are just certain types of stories, while not entirely groundbreaking or new to the genre, that are just irresistible to me, and this is one of them. The book encompasses a lot of the elements I love, including a courageous heroine, an evocative magic system tied to the living earth, and a complex world built upon the political alliances and animosities between various kingdoms. Things get off to a rather intense start, with the prologue opening on the scene of an interrupted dinner party. Our protagonist Elanna Valtai, five years old at this point, watches as her nurse is murdered in front of her eyes. Meanwhile, King Antoine and the rest of his royal guards are storming the house downstairs, putting an end to her father’s rebellion. To ensure no more attempted uprisings, Elanna’s parents are banished back to their ancestral home of Caeris, while Elanna herself is seized as a hostage, to be raised in the king’s household in Eren. Fourteen years pass. For all that she is an…

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9/10
Borne by Jeff VanderMeer
Reviews / July 10, 2017

Before even starting to review Borne just let me ask you to take a look at the cover I’ve chosen.  It’s strangely hypnotic isn’t it, you want to look at it, to make sense of it, just turn it around slightly or turn it upside down even. I suppose there’s something in us all that makes us want to find the sense of something, figure out the puzzle and give it a name we understand.  Frankly, I couldn’t make sense of the image on the cover and having read the book I’m still not entirely sure what is being depicted, but, in spite of that, I love the cover, it drew me in and held my attention and more than that is a great representation for this book because I don’t think there is any one fixed image – for me, the point is the image could be anything that your mind comes up with whilst reading this. I was compelled by this read.  I was partly scared to pick it up because I always make the assumption that I’m not going to fully grasp what’s actually going on, but, as I was reading I began to appreciate that it…

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10/10
Review: Tyrant’s Throne by Sebastien de Castell
Reviews / June 12, 2017

It is no exaggeration when I say that a series like the Greatcoats only comes once in a lifetime, and now that it has come to an end, I am filled with a mixture of complicated emotions. On the one hand, I am extremely pleased with the conclusion, with our heroes and heroines getting the satisfying sendoff they deserved. On the other, I no longer know what to do with myself. Like many goodbyes, this one was bittersweet, and if it hadn’t been for the final words of the author’s postscript, I would be having a much harder time right now. Picking up not long after the events of the previous book, Tyrant’s Throne sees Falcio val Mond and his allies continuing their efforts to put King Paelis’ daughter Aline on the throne of Tristia. To do so, he would need the support of the dukes, but unfortunately most of them would forsake their kingdom than to be ruled by a young girl. To make matters even more dire, talk of war is also brewing in the mountains. More and more, the penniless and starving common folk in the northern duchies are fleeing into neighboring Avares for their salvation, and…

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8/10
Review: The End of the Day by Claire North
Reviews / May 31, 2017

Claire North writes high concept fantastical thrillers and her latest The End of the Day is no different. This is a story about death. And Death. And the Harbinger of Death. For it is he, the latter, we follow on this adventure. Charlie is the latest Harbinger and this is his understanding of life and death and the world. In North’s universe, the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse are very real, as are their Harbingers. People know and accept this. When Charlie introduces himself to the characters he meets, they ask him what the job’s like, in a very matter of fact way in some cases. People know but not all understand. We pick the story up not long after Charlie has been trained by the previous Harbinger. The whole operation is run out of an office in Milton Keynes – a functional town perfect for this kind of administration. Charlie, as he tells people throughout the novel, is sent before Death, sometimes as a warning, sometimes a courtesy. He visits an old woman who is the last to speak her language. He has a gift for her. He is then sent to find a professor on the Greenland ice…

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8/10
Review: The Empire’s Ghost by Isabelle Steiger
Reviews / May 30, 2017

The Empire’s Ghost is epic on many levels. The massive empire of Elesthene is now history, fractured into separate lands. Magic has become fable, thought to be rooted in superstition rather than historical fact. The story gives viewpoints from several rulers, all with their own agendas and ruling styles. You also get the view point of many citizens and soldiers as well. It gives a sweeping view of what life is like across the board, giving the reader insights into the life and happenings for commoners as well as intrigue from within the palace. Though the perspectives are all unique, they become intricately intertwined as the story progresses. Through perspectives on the struggles between adjacent lands that used to be part of the Empire, we meet the rulers of all three and three and see the contrasting styles of rule. We see hints of magic, enough for speculation. The story can be dark at times, but this is not a brutal and gritty story. It is epic with ups and downs, and definitely death and blood. It’s not a happy feel good story that glosses over battles, but it is not terribly graphic either (at least not by my standards). Now, one…

Book cover: Rotherweird - Andrew Caldecott (an old-fashioned illustrated map of a town in the bend of the River Rother)
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7/10
Review: Rotherweird by Andrew Caldecott
Reviews / May 25, 2017

When inexperienced Jonah Oblong is hired to teach history at Rotherweird School, the rules are clearly laid down: nothing before 1800 and nothing local. Rotherweird doesn’t welcome outsiders and is perfectly happy in its ignorance: history is something that happened to other people. Yet the Regulations stipulate the School must not go without a history teacher for more than a term – and there can hardly be a home-grown one, all things considered – so the gangly newcomer settles in to fight for acceptance. But when Jonah is told that his predecessor disappeared after inciting Form IV to dig up the past, he is tempted to investigate in spite of the Regulations. And Jonah isn’t alone: Sir Veronal Slickstone, new owner of Rotherweird Manor – and another outsider, a local scandal in its own right, however much money he has to throw around – intends to turn all the town’s Regulations upside down. And God help those who get in his way. Rotherweird lives up to its name: a quirky portal fantasy peppered with singular names (‘Vixen’ Valourhand; Sidney Snorkel; Hayman Salt), meaningful geography (Aether Way; Lost Acre, Escutcheon Place) and a plethora of specific, often hilarious local ordinances. It has the feel of a tongue-in-cheek English rural satire, all mannerisms and idiosyncrasies. It’s…

Spellslinger - Sebastien de Castell
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9/10
Review: Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell
Reviews / May 11, 2017

Kellen is 15, the astonishingly untalented son of the Jan’Tep’s greatest mage. Struggling to cast even the simplest spells, he’s the butt of jokes and school yard bullying. Worse, if he can’t pass his mage trials before he turns 16, he’ll be relegated to the Sha’Tep servant class – reliant on his obnoxious little sister’s charity if he’s lucky, sent down the mines if he’s not. Kellen is bright and resourceful, never one to back away from a fight he can’t win if he believes he can think his way through it. When a nice bit of trickery – or cheating, depending on your point of view – sees him through his first trial, the stage is set for Trouble. It’s not a good time for an unpopular outsider to befriend a confrontational foreigner with some unusual tricks of her own. But common sense is almost as alien as magic to headstrong young Kellen… I was a bit sceptical about how much I would enjoy a book with a teen boy protagonist. I needn’t have worried – Spellslinger is a riot from start to finish. The narrative has considerably more confidence and control than its protagonist; de Castell never misses…

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9/10
Review: The Valiant by Lesley Livingston
Reviews / May 9, 2017

The Valiant is a book that I thought sounded intriguing but I let it slip off my radar due to other review commitments. But then after I saw a couple of glowing reviews for it, I realized I had to find time to read it. Turns out I absolutely LOVED this book, yes, it is worth of the all-caps. Fallon is the daughter of a Celtic King, and has been training her entire life to be a fighter worthy of joining the war band. We quickly learn that part of what motivated Fallon is that she idolized her sister, who was lost in war, and is determined to become the fierce warrior her sister was. In her tribe, men and women fight side by side. She is head strong and independent, so wants to prove herself as a warrior before thinking of such things as getting married. So pretty much, she is exactly the type of female protagonist that I absolutely love reading about. The day before her seventeenth birthday starts as amazing. She is with Mal, her best friend since childhood, but she is starting to see how their close friendship could evolve into something more. And there is the…

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8/10
Review: Within the Sanctuary of Wings by Marie Brennan
Reviews / May 5, 2017

It is with a heavy heart that I bid adieu to another one of my favorite series, but I am also glad that at long last I got to see all the ideas come to fruition in this fifth and final novel of Marie Brennan’s wholly unique Memoirs of Lady Trent. After all, Within the Sanctuary of Wings is everything a fan could want in a finale—a book that ends on a high note of hope and happiness while also deftly tying all the overall series themes and plot threads together. Furthermore, I’m sure those who have been along for the ride since A Natural History of Dragons will be glad to know that the details behind Isabella’s most infamous scientific discovery—an event that has been teased for the first four books—will finally be revealed. Without a doubt, the answers were worth waiting for. I guarantee that the revelations in this book will change everything you think you know about this series. The adventure, however, begins rather quietly. While attending a lecture on Draconean linguistics delivered by her husband, Isabella’s attention is unexpectedly pulled away by a Yelangnese stranger with an urgent matter to discuss with her. The man, whose…

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10/10
Review: Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb
Reviews / May 2, 2017

Assassin’s Fate is an emotional roller-coaster of a book that is heartbreaking, bittersweet and absolutely perfect. This book is not just a perfect ending to The Fitz and Fool trilogy, but also to The Realm of the Elderlings series so far. So much so, that my only negative reaction is fear that there may not be another series in this world that Hobb has made me love so much. Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely huge potential for more stories to be told there, but for this conclusion, Hobb expertly weaves together threads from all the prior series in to one epic conclusion. For any readers that have previously wondered how disconnected the non-Fitz series are from the Fitz ones, I can say they do all come together in this final book. If you have not read Liveship Traders or Rain Wild Chronicles, I strongly advise you to go read those first as there are characters and references from every series that really just add an extra layer of enjoyment. All of The Realm of the Elderling books are worth reading and I believe you will get more out of this conclusion if you have experienced all of the…