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A blog about books and other things speculative

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Melanie's Month in Review - June 2019


Melanie's Month in Review  - June 2019


Happy Canada Day to me and my fellow Canadians and Happy 4th of July to my American readers and pals!!!

So I didn't quite hit my pledge to do a full review or two but I do have some excellent books to tell you about. I decided to delve into one of the SPFBO 4 books that Qwill recommended and then I got on a roll and decided to read a couple of sequels to these books. So anticipation over...this is what I read


Melanie's Month in Review  - June 2019
I started by reading Aching God by Mike Shel. This book was the Qwillery's finalist and one of Qwill's fave books of 2018.  High praise indeed! I am not going to give you an exhaustive review as that has already been done but I will tell you what I thought. I really, really enjoyed Aching God. Shel has created great characters, an interesting world for them to live in and a 'can't put down' action adventure. My only very, very petite criticism was that 90% of the book is setting up the big dramatic ending, 5% the big dramatic ending and then 5% of epilogue. It kind of feels that you spend quite a long time getting to the end and then it is over in just a few pages. This is really very minor however. It's a great story.

Melanie's Month in Review  - June 2019
Hot on the heels of Aching God I practically ran to Amazon (figuratively, of course) to buy Sin Eater which is book 2 of the Iconoclasts trilogy. Set a year after the events of book 1 Auric Manteo finds himself back on another adventure with the Syraeic League and back in the Djao ruins.  He has been summoned by the Queen to try to avert an unknown threat to the Kingdom by travelling to lands far away with his Syraeic brothers. Armed with the sentient sword that he received by a mad duke in book 1 Auric is the only man for the job. The group have everything to lose but the Kingdom has far more to lose if they don't succeed.

I absolutely LOVED this book and it will definitely be at the top of the list for 2019 for me. The characterisation is exceptional, the plot is completely gripping, and the pace is near perfect. The relationship between Auric and Agnes is genuine and poignant, as are the relationships between the other characters we meet along the way. The story is as much a story of personal journey and human frailty as it is about the journey to the Djao ruins. The ending had me immediately searching for book 3.  I can't believe I have to wait until 2020 to find out what happens next.


Melanie's Month in Review  - June 2019
You will know that I read Orconomics by J. Zachary Pike for SPFBO 4 and really enjoyed it. As I was on a SPFBO sequel reading quest I decided to buy Son of  Liche which continues The Dark Profits series. In this instalment Gorm and friends are on the run after being blamed for the deaths of a settlement of Orcs and of two of their friends. When a liche, leading an army of undead, threaten the kingdom Gorm and his band of fallen heroes decide to take action and bring down the liche and restore their honour. Needless to say this does not go smoothly. While the undead threaten to take over there is still money to be made and loot to seize!

I have to say I didn't enjoy Son of Liche nearly as much as its predecessor. I didn't find the story half as witty as book 1 and in parts it was a bit of a drudge to read. When it was funny....it was very, funny.  Pike sets up book 3 and I really hope there is a happy ending for Gorm and his raggle taggle band of misfits.


Melanie's Month in Review  - June 2019
The final book I am going to tell you about is In Dreaming Bound by J. Kathleen Cheney. I loved book 1, Dreaming Death, which was one of my fave books of 2016. I was really looking forward to find out what happened next to Mikael and Shironne. I did start to read a few of the chapters that Cheney posted on her Patreon site but it was a bit hard to follow so I stopped. The story has quite a dramatic start when Shironne has been kidnapped and cut off from her connection with Mikael. Desperate to find her Mikael risks everything to get her back. After she is rescued she is placed in the Fortress with the Family and forced into a more regimented life away from her mother and sisters. Her only connection with her previous life is through her bond with Mikael which gets stronger and stronger every day.  As Shironne tries to adjust, Mikael is determined to find out who wanted to try to sell Shironne and, more importantly, who wanted to buy her.

I did enjoy In Dreaming Bound but perhaps wasn't quite as enthralled as I was with book 1. I am not quite convinced by the piety of the Families and their tightly governed society. As you may know I have read the 'families' books and thought they were just OK. I don't think this setting really supported the plot point established in book 1 that Shironne is very sensitive to touch and could barely eat or wear clothes that had weren't specially laundered for her. She couldn't do this while living in a barracks! Overall, it was enjoyable but I was a bit underwhelmed.


Well that is it for me and for June. I hope you found some great books to read. I am going to be busy reading books for SPFBO 5 but I will try to find time to read some books to tell you about. Until next time Happy Reading.





Aching God
Iconoclasts 1
April 9, 2018
   eBook, 604 pages
March 27, 2019
   Trade Paperback 602 pages

Melanie's Month in Review  - June 2019
“Closer, mortal. You are here, finally, to feed the Aching God…”

The days of adventure are passed for Auric Manteo. Retired to the countryside and isolated with his scars and riches, he no longer delves into forbidden ruins seeking dark wisdom and treasure. But just as old nightmares begin plaguing his sleep, he receives an urgent summons back to that old life.

To save his only daughter, he must return to the place of his greatest trauma: the haunted Barrowlands. Along with a group of inexperienced companions and an old soldier, he must confront the dangers of the ancient and wicked Djao civilization. He has survived fell beasts, insidious traps, and deadly hazards before. But how can he contend with the malice of a bloodthirsty living god?

First volume in the planned epic fantasy trilogy Iconoclasts, Aching God is the debut novel by RPG adventure designer Mike Shel.

Also included is an advanced preview of Iconoclasts - Book II: Sin Eater.



Sin Eater
Iconoclasts 2
May 20,  2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 574 pages

Melanie's Month in Review  - June 2019

"I SHALL BAPTIZE YOU, SIR, AND MY BAPTISM WILL BURN YOUR FOLLY AND FLESH AWAY."

A year has passed since Auric Manteo descended into the haunted depths of a Djao ruin to return a lethal artifact, only to face down a bloodthirsty, imprisoned god. Now his daughter Agnes comes to bring him back to the capital with promises of hidden secrets finally revealed.

But the city decays, poisonous disorder is rife, and whispered prophecy foretells of cataclysm and doom. Summoned by their no-longer human queen, Auric and Agnes are commanded to carry out an impossible task, one that can be accomplished only with the mysterious blade Szaa’da’shaela, gifted to Auric on a lunatic's whim.

Can Auric and his daughter survive a journey fraught with blood, menace, and madness? And can they pay the price demanded by a being every bit as evil as the Aching God?

Sin Eater is the sequel to 2018’s widely praised Aching God and book 2 of the Iconoclasts Trilogy. Get your copy today!





Son of a Liche
Dark Profit Saga 2
Gnomish Press LLC, May 22, 2018
   eBook, 618 pages
Gnomish Press LLC, April 27, 2018
   Trade Paperback, 616 pages

Melanie's Month in Review  - June 2019
A doubly disgraced dwarven hero. A band of accident-prone adventurers. Giving redemption a second shot may have been a grave mistake…

Still bruised and heartbroken from their last calamitous quest, Gorm Ingerson and his band of washed-up heroes try to make amends for the Orcs they accidentally betrayed. But justice is put on hold when an old foe marches to the city gates. Gorm is horrified to discover a liche pitching the frightened city-dwellers on the merits of the undead lifestyle… at the head of a corpse army.

To save the city from high-pressure sales tactics and an inevitable siege, the Dwarf warrior and his misfit band hatch a harebrained scheme that lands them at the top of the king’s kill list. With death and dark magic on his heels, Gorm must craft his own pitch to round up the troops and put the undead snake-oil salesman and his army of pushers permanently out of business.

Son of a Liche is the second book in The Dark Profit Saga, a trilogy of humorous epic fantasy novels. If you like rib-tickling shenanigans, second-rate heroes, and imaginative new takes on tired tropes, then you’ll love J. Zachary Pike’s hilarious blend of finance and high fantasy.

Buy Son of a Liche to get the most bang for your bucks with a rollicking fantasy misadventure today!





In Dreaming Bound
The Palace of Dark Dreams Novels 2
EQP Books, April 30, 2019
   eBook, 340 pages
Trade Paperback, May 8, 2019

Melanie's Month in Review  - June 2019
What does it mean to be bound? Mikael and Shironne have known for a month now that they are bound, but neither truly knows what their future holds.

When Shironne is kidnapped, Mikael uses the nascent tie between them to get her back, and to keep her safe, Shironne is placed among the Family in their underground Fortress. As long as she’s within those walls, outsiders can’t get to her. That leaves Mikael working to discover who would steal her away in the first place. Her ability to creep into others’ thoughts, memories, and dreams is unprecedented, but who would be able to use that?

And Shironne must deal with a new and frustrating way of life, where contact with adults—including Mikael—is strictly curtailed and her time is constantly monitored. She also has to live among a yeargroup, and the Sixteens are not the calm, unemotional Family she’s accustomed to seeing from a distance. They have their own problems and petty jealousies, not too different from her own sisters. Finding her place among them is going to be a challenge.

Fortunately, Shironne can access Mikael’s thoughts to guide her in her new life… while for some reason, he can’t access hers, leaving him without guidance at times when he could definitely use it.

Qwill's Top 3 of 2018


There are 3 top novels for me from 2018. These are books that I have thought about long after I finished reading them. I'm listing them in order by author name not order of favorite because trying to put one first would be like trying to choose a favorite child. Each novel features a well crafted magic system. These novels stand out for their exceptional worldbuilding but, more important, for their wonderful characters and riveting stories.



I love Robert Jackson Bennett's writing. From The Company Man to Foundryside, his work is just fantastic. Vigilance (from Tor.com) is out later this month. I'll be letting you know what I think. Check out The Divine Cities Trilogy if you're looking for great fantasy read. Don't miss reading The Troupe either. Just read everything he's written. You can thank me later. My review of Foundryside is here.


Foundryside
The Founders Trilogy 1
Crown, August 21, 2018
Hardcover and eBook, 512 pages
   Trade Paperback, May 21, 2019

Qwill's Top 3 of 2018
“The exciting beginning of a promising new epic fantasy series. Prepare for ancient mysteries, innovative magic, and heart-pounding heists.”—Brandon Sanderson

“Complex characters, magic that is tech and vice versa, a world bound by warring trade dynasties: Bennett will leave you in awe once you remember to breathe!”–Tamora Pierce

In a city that runs on industrialized magic, a secret war will be fought to overwrite reality itself–the first in a dazzling new series from City of Stairs author Robert Jackson Bennett.

Sancia Grado is a thief, and a damn good one. And her latest target, a heavily guarded warehouse on Tevanne’s docks, is nothing her unique abilities can’t handle.

But unbeknownst to her, Sancia’s been sent to steal an artifact of unimaginable power, an object that could revolutionize the magical technology known as scriving. The Merchant Houses who control this magic–the art of using coded commands to imbue everyday objects with sentience–have already used it to transform Tevanne into a vast, remorseless capitalist machine. But if they can unlock the artifact’s secrets, they will rewrite the world itself to suit their aims.

Now someone in those Houses wants Sancia dead, and the artifact for themselves. And in the city of Tevanne, there’s nobody with the power to stop them.

To have a chance at surviving—and at stopping the deadly transformation that’s under way—Sancia will have to marshal unlikely allies, learn to harness the artifact’s power for herself, and undergo her own transformation, one that will turn her into something she could never have imagined.





David Mack's The Midnight Front, the 1st novel in his Dark Arts series, is set during World War II. The titular Midnight Front fights the war on the magical level. The Nazis have magic wielders and so do the Allies. Mack's magical system is finely developed and like all well-written magical systems there is a price to pay for the magic users. While some passages in The Midnight Front will be perhaps just a disturbing historical footnote for some, to others (including me) there is a visceral gut-wrenching reaction. Mack pulls no punches in The Midnight Front. He doesn't sugar coat what happened during WWII as part of the Final Solution. He brought tears to my eyes more than once.

With or without magic Mack writes about some difficult events to which his characters bear witness. Yet the novel is not all doom and gloom. This novel is in equipoise - the horrific and evil balanced expertly by humor and good. Not everything is black and white though. The Midnight Front is as close to a perfect novel that I've had the pleasure to read in a long time. Mack leaves no cliffhangers and beautifully sets up the next novel in the series. I can't recommend The Midnight Front enough.

And I've just finished book 2 - The Iron Codex - which was published yesterday, and is set several years after the end of the first novel. It features some of the wonderful characters and not so wonderful characters from The Midnight Front. I can unequivocally recommend both novels.


The Midnight Front
A Dark Arts Novel 1
Tor Book, January 30, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 480 pages
   Also available in Hardcover

Qwill's Top 3 of 2018
From New York Times bestselling author David Mack comes a visionary World War II-era adventure. The Midnight Front is the epic first novel in the Dark Arts series.

On the eve of World War Two, Nazi sorcerers come gunning for Cade but kill his family instead. His one path of vengeance is to become an apprentice of The Midnight Front—the Allies’ top-secret magickal warfare program—and become a sorcerer himself.

Unsure who will kill him first—his allies, his enemies, or the demons he has to use to wield magick—Cade fights his way through occupied Europe and enemy lines. But he learns too late the true price of revenge will be more terrible than just the loss of his soul—and there’s no task harder than doing good with a power born of ultimate evil.





Aching God by Mike Shel is the first novel in his Iconoclasts series and The Qwillery's Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO) Finalist. It's going up against 10 other books to be the last book standing. Read more about SPFBO here at Mark Lawrence's site.

After going through a slush pile of 30 books, Shel's Aching God stood out. It's a terrifically fun read. I loved this novel from the moment I started reading it. The worldbuilding, history, and characters are outstanding. Read more of my thoughts here.


Aching God
Iconoclasts 1
Trade Paperback, eBook, Audible

Qwill's Top 3 of 2018
“Closer, mortal. You are here, finally, to feed the Aching God…”

The days of adventure are passed for Auric Manteo. Retired to the countryside and isolated with his scars and riches, he no longer delves into forbidden ruins seeking dark wisdom and treasure. But just as old nightmares begin plaguing his sleep, he receives an urgent summons back to that old life.

To save his only daughter, he must return to the place of his greatest trauma: the haunted Barrowlands. Along with a group of inexperienced companions and an old soldier, he must confront the dangers of the ancient and wicked Djao civilization. He has survived fell beasts, insidious traps, and deadly hazards before. But how can he contend with the malice of a bloodthirsty living god?

First volume in the planned epic fantasy trilogy Iconoclasts, Aching God is the debut novel by RPG adventure designer Mike Shel.

Also included is an advanced preview of Iconoclasts - Book II: Sin Eater.

Melanie's Month in Review  - June 2019Qwill's Top 3 of 2018

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