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A blog about books and other things speculative

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Review - The Thousand Doors of January by Alix. E Harrow


A Thousand Doors of January
Author:  Alix E. Harrow
Publisher:  Redhook, September 10, 2019
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 384 pages
List Price:  US$27.00 (print); US$ 9.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780316421997(print); 9780316421980 (eBook)

Review - The Thousand Doors of January by Alix. E Harrow
In the early 1900s, a young woman embarks on a fantastical journey of self-discovery after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut.

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.

Lush and richly imagined, a tale of impossible journeys, unforgettable love, and the enduring power of stories awaits in Alix E. Harrow’s spellbinding debut–step inside and discover its magic.



Melanie's Thoughts

Living as the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, January Scaller is as much of a rare curiosity as the many rare treasures that fill his mansion. January spends much of her life alone and lonely with her father off searching for new treasures for Mr. Locke and the New England Archaeological Society. When she finds a strange book that tells a story of mysterious doors that lead to dangerous and exotic places her life starts to change with every turn of the page.

I absolutely love The Thousand Doors of January. I was really very pleasantly surprised to discover that this was a debut novel. Harrow has crafted an excellent story within a story that carefully unfolds as January reads the book - The Ten Thousand Doors. It took me a while to realise what was happening and how the story is interwoven with January's life. I don't want to say too much and ruin the surprise.

In my opinion Harrow mastered the three essential components of a good book - characterisation, setting, and plot. I found January completely believable as the lonely young girl who wanders the halls of Locke's mansion desperate for her father's attention. Despite having a companion and a pet January is very much on her own and even more so when her father fails to return from one of his missions abroad. This 'aloneness' and loneliness is a prevalent theme throughout. Harrow uses multiple settings for her story - everywhere from a luxurious mansion, to a desolate farm in the midwest to a multitude of exotic and dangerous 'other' worlds. Harrow writing is descriptive enough that you can feel the hot wind on your cheek or smell the perfumed air yet she does this without being verbose. Now about the plot. As I mentioned earlier there is a story within a story and this is the same with the plot. There are two main dimensions to the plot - one is a love story or the search for love and the other is about overcoming the odds. I know this sounds very vague but I don't want to accidentally give anything away by describing too much of what happens.

The Thousand Doors of January is a great book that had me gripped from page 1 all the way to the end. It has easily made it into my top 5 books of the year....and the year isn't over yet. I am also pretty sure that it will make it into my top 20 fave books ever! All these accolades and Harrow is new author. Imagine what is going to come next for Harrow! I can hardly wait.

Review: The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden


Winter of the Witch
Author:  Katherine Arden
Series:  Winternight Trilogy 3
Publisher:  Del Rey, October 1, 2019
Format:  Trade Paperback, 400 pages
Format:  Hardcover, Audiobook, and eBook, January 8, 2019
List Price:  US$17.00 (print); US$13.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9781101886014 (print); 9781101886007 (eBook)

Review: The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Following their adventures in The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower, Vasya and Morozko return in this stunning conclusion to the bestselling Winternight Trilogy, battling enemies mortal and magical to save both Russias, the seen and the unseen.

“A tale both intimate and epic, featuring a heroine whose harrowing and wondrous journey culminates in an emotionally resonant finale.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Vasilisa Petrovna is an unforgettable heroine determined to forge her own path. Her gifts and her courage have drawn the attention of Morozko, the winter-king, but it is too soon to know if this connection will prove a blessing or a curse.

Now Moscow has been struck by disaster. Its people are searching for answers—and for someone to blame. Vasya finds herself alone, beset on all sides. The Grand Prince is in a rage, choosing allies that will lead him on a path to war and ruin. A wicked demon returns, determined to spread chaos. Caught at the center of the conflict is Vasya, who finds the fate of two worlds resting on her shoulders. Her destiny uncertain, Vasya will uncover surprising truths about herself as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures. But she may not be able to save them all.



Melanie's Review

The Winter of the Witch, Arden's final instalment of her Winternight Trilogy, starts immediately after the dramatic events of book 2 - The Girl in the Tower. The residents of Moscow have woken up to the devastation left by a massive fire. Parts of the city are in ruins and friends and family are dead or homeless. They are looking for answers but more importantly for someone to blame. Unfortunately, Vasya is in the cross hairs as she no longer has the protection of the Grand Prince who is angry and no longer trusts her or her brother, the monk Alexander. Without his support Vasya is left vulnerable and on her own. Even more dangerous than the mobs looking for revenge is Father Konstantin. He is determined to destroy Vasya and teams up with a demon who wants revenge and to create chaos wherever he goes. With all of Russia on the brink of war and desperate to protect those she loves Vasya embarks on a journey to find the one person who can help her, the Winter King. Time is running out for Vasya to save her family and the magical world she has grown to love.

Arden keeps the pressure on Vasya throughout this novel and the suspense is high from the very start through to the very end of the story. She doesn't do this by dragging her heroine through countless high action scenes like many authors like to do. Instead the story is a clever balance of action, character development and strategically placed reveals or uncovering of secrets. Arden has the unique ability to create the sense that you are reading folklore rather than new fantasy fiction. This adds another element to the enjoyment of this instalment and the series as a whole.

Vasya is a great character and throughout the series the reader has the opportunity to see her grow and evolve. It's hard to believe she is only in her late teens in the final book but give the time period that was probably middle age. She certainly acts like someone far older and more mature than a 17 year old. I love her relationship with the magical characters she was trying to save, especially the various domovoy who protect the home and hearth. Through Vasya, the readers learns how the spread of Christianity started to cause the magical creatures and pagan gods to weaken and disappear. This is one of the causes the rift between Vasya and her brother who is a monk as she has magical abilities that conflict with his Christian beliefs. This is also the reason why Father Konstantin hates her so.

Through her travels Vasya meets many of the magical creatures that make up Russian folklore. Arden uses real historic events and people as the basis of the main plot of this story which again, gives the impression you are reading something other than fantasy fiction.

I actually listened to the audio version The Winter of the Witch and if you have this opportunity available to you I highly recommend it. The story is narrated by Kathleen Gati and she does an excellent job of bringing Vasya to life. Unlike some narrators, Gati doesn't try to sound like a man when reading the dialogue of male characters which I much prefer. Keeping the narration in one tone of voice reinforces the impression that this is folklore, a story retold from one generation to the next.

I have thoroughly enjoyed this series and The Winter of the Witch is a fantastic ending to Vasya's story. There isn't anything I would change in this instalment. Great book, great series but start with book 1 - The Bear and the Nightingale.

Review: Blood Broken by Lindsay J. Pryor


Blood Broken
Author:  Lindsay J. Pryor
Series:  Blackthorn 8
Publisher:  Bookouture, May 20, 2019
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 500 pages
List Price:  US$14.99 (print); US$4.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9781786813992 (print); 9781786813985 (eBook)

Review: Blood Broken by Lindsay J. Pryor
‘Our love could save us both. Or it could destroy everything.’

Leila McKay is both blessed and cursed. Her potent serryn powers are growing stronger, but they come with a heavy price. And to prove her love for vampire leader Caleb, she needs to bring his murdered brother Jake back to life. The only way is to cast a spell no one has dared to attempt before, that could tear apart the fabric of time itself…

But Caleb fears that treachery runs deep in Leila’s veins. Although the heat between them grows hotter by the second, Caleb’s past has left him with a hard heart and a mistrustful nature, and it was at her sister’s hands that Jake was killed… but with his brother’s life in the balance, giving in to his primal instincts is more tempting than ever.

Time is running out for Caleb. In a matter of hours, Jake will be past the point of saving: and around them, all-out war rages in Blackthorn. With genetically modified lycans and vicious convicts roaming the streets, Sirius Throme at the Global Council has secret plans that threaten to devastate the whole district… and Leila is the only one powerful enough to save them all. But can Caleb really trust her?

With countless lives at stake, will Leila and Caleb’s fierce attraction be strong enough to see them through the ultimate test? Or in unleashing the darkness within, will they destroy everything they hold dear?

The explosive, action-packed conclusion to the utterly addictive Blackthorn series will leave fans of paranormal romance breathless. Blackthorn is an eight-book series with an overarching plot, so if you’re at the start of your Blackthorn journey, read BLOOD SHADOWS to discover how it all began…



Melanie's Thoughts

I can't believe the time has come when I have to say good-bye to Leila, Caleb, Kane, Caitlen and the rest of the Blackthorn crew in this final instalment of the Blackthorn series, Blood Broken. The prophecy that has threatened our heroes and heroines over the last 7 books is about to come to pass....or is it? The fourth dimension has broken through, super lycans have wreaked devastation, the cons have escaped out of their territory killing innocents all while the Global Council has a devastating plan to rid the world of the 3rd species. Blackthorn has become a battle ground and Leila has the solution to all their problems. Can she be trusted? Will she succeed and save Blackthorn? I will leave it to you to find out.

You could be led to believe that this is another story of Caleb the vampire king and the vampire killer Leila but it's much more. All of the main characters across the whole series have full chapters or part chapters dedicated to their own personal story. All our favourite goodies and baddies have something to say about the prophecy and whether the 3rd species should prevail. I especially enjoyed those chapters dedicated to the various baddies that have made our heroes and heroines lives hell over the series. I especially like Sirius Throme. Even his name sounds nasty and boy he is really really nasty. Since most of the characters are paired off with their love interests there isn't a lot of character development until near the very end of the story and be prepared for the big plot twist that comes with that.

Blood Broken is rather a challenging book to read due to the violence, specifically the violence against women. I have mentioned in previous reviews that I have found the sex scenes rather disturbing and this is even more so in this instalment. If you read one of the sex scenes out of the context of this series then you could very much believe that it was a scene of sexual assault and not of love making There was nothing that was loving, romantic or caring about the scene and I am not sure it added that much to the story as a whole.

Violence aside Pryor ensures that fans of this series are left satisfied as every thread of the plot over the entire series are tied up, every baddy gets their comeuppance and there is a bittersweet HEA for certain characters. Pryor delivers a very satisfying epilogue to end the series which I thought was a good touch.  Overall, I liked Pryor's innovative and complex plot and this would have been a 5 star series had I liked the characters a bit more and she toned down the kidnapping and abuse of the female leads. If you like your bad boys to be really bad then this is the series for you.

SPFBO Finalist Review: Orconomics by J.Zachary Pike


Orconomics
The Dark Profit Saga 1
Gnomish Press, November 22, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 389 pages

SPFBO Finalist Review: Orconomics by J.Zachary Pike
A disgraced Dwarven hero. A band of deadbeat adventurers. His last shot at redemption could get him killed.

If Gorm Ingerson really wanted to drink himself to death, he never should have helped the Goblin. When his good deed lands him in a bad contract, Gorm finds himself entangled in a quest that will pit him against business magnates, the king of the Freedlands, and a mad goddess trying to fulfill a suicidal prophecy.

But Gorm’s tarnished circumstances may be hiding a golden opportunity. If he and his half-baked party can overcome deep conspiracies and dark magics, he just might redeem himself and his career enough to be a professional hero once more.

Orconomics: A Satire is the first book in The Dark Profit Saga, a trilogy so funny it’s epic. If you like down-and-out heroes, sidesplitting misadventures, and ingenious world-building, then you’ll love J. Zachary Pike’s dark and delightful ribbing of high fantasy.

Buy Orconomics to join the campaign for a high-energy, hilarious fantasy adventure today!



Melanie's Review

Are goblins ruining your crops? Wyrm nesting in your shrubbery? You found a map to buried treasure but don't have time to find it? Look no further than the Hero's Guild to solve all your problems and to turn a tidy profit in the process. In Arth, speculating on the success of a hero's quest is big business. The success of your business and your shareholders can all depend on the heroics of a single individual. Gorm, used to be the best of the best, a dwarven hero with no rival until a job went bad and he lost his reputation, his clan and his livelihood. When he is offered the opportunity to redeem his fortunes he can't really say no....well the gun held to his head helped make that decision. The next thing he knows Gorm is joined but a motley crew of misfits, all of who have something to prove and something to gain. Orconomics is well and truly an epic adventure with heroes and villains galore, a tale of self discovery and a cracking good mystery to boot.

Orconomics has restored my faith in self-published fantasy. I absolutely loved this book. It was funny, the plot was original and the characters were well developed. When I describe this book as an epic I am not kidding, it really is. It took me ages to get through so many pages. It can be really challenging for me to stay interested in a book that is as long as Orconomics but Pike kept a solid pace that mixed action, adventure and storytelling.

Gorm Ingerson, this story's hero, has a great group of characters to interact with. Gorm is supported by a cast of characters that could only be described as supporting cast in your favourite dungeons and dragons-esque video game. The story is largely told from Gorm's POV, however, there are a few chapters where the story is told from other perspectives which all help to enrich the plot. While I am sure that many readers loved Gorm's goblin companion, Gleebek, it was actually the ogre Thane and his unrequited love that made me giggle the most. I feel that I need to warn you not to get attached to any character as Pike doesn't play it safe with his characters.

Hats off to Pike as he has written a truly original story that is drenched in sarcasm and wit. I never quite knew what would happen next which made Orconomics a real page turner. I can hardly wait to find out what happens next to Gorm and his friends. I loved this booked so much that I could easily give it a 9 out of 10. If you like fantasy, have a sense of humour and need a nice meaty read then be sure to get Orconomics on your TBR.

9 out of 10

SPFBO Finalist Review: Symphony of the Wind by Steven McKinnon


Symphony of the Wind
The Raincatcher's Ballad 1
Steven McKinnon DBA Vividarium Books, June 25, 2018
Kindle eBook and Trade Paperback, 660 pages

Longlisted for the Booknest 2018 Fantasy Awards - Best Self Published Fantasy

Current Finalist in Mark Lawrence's SPFBO 2018

A bounty hunter with a death wish. A girl with fearsome powers. A kingdom on the brink of destruction.
Serena dreams of leaving her unforgiving desert home far behind in her very own airship. But when an assassin's knife meant for Serena kills her friend instead, the rebellious orphan ventures into the corrupt heart of the kingdom to discover who put a price on her head. With each new turn, she edges closer to uncovering the awful truth… And the mystical powers brewing deep within her.

After his fiancée’s death, soldier-turned-bounty hunter Tyson Gallows is eager to sacrifice his life in the line of duty. When a foreign enemy assassinates a high-ranking official, he vows to bring them to justice. On the hunt for a killer, Gallows exposes a sinister plot that proves his fiancée’s death was no accident.

Driven by revenge, Serena and Gallows must join forces to take down the conspiracy before the kingdom falls to ruin.

Symphony of the Wind is the first book in a gritty epic fantasy trilogy. If you like hardened heroes, bloody action, and dark magic and monsters, then you’ll love Steven McKinnon’s visceral adventure.

Buy Symphony of the Wind to climb aboard a brutal, breathtaking thrill ride today!




Melanie's Thoughts

I have read a number of very positive reviews about Symphony of Wind and it has made into the finals of the SPFBO so I was really expecting to like it. Unfortunately, I just couldn't connect with either the characters or the plotline. Part of the book description on the back cover of the novel says this
If you like hardened heroes, steampunk airships, and dark magic and monsters, then you’ll love Steven McKinnon’s visceral adventure.
I like hardened heroes, steampunk airships, dark magic, and monsters so I was sure this would be a good fit for me. I have come to realise that I don't like them all together. I found the steampunk setting mixed with what read like a sword and shield fantasy quite jarring. I think that McKinnon was trying for a very complex epic fantasy but sometimes less rather than more gives you a winner. There were too many elements from other genres all mixed together into one big soup of a story - the steampunk ships, the magic, the wars, the government conspiracy, the prostitute with heart, and on and on.

Had their been fewer characters and perhaps more explanation of the society and culture at the beginning I might have liked the story a bit more. I re-read the first four chapters more than once because I couldn't figure out what was going on. This is never a good sign for me. I need a hook to grab me in, especially when the main character is a young teenager. One of the other books I read for this SPFBO had a teenager for a lead character and I made the decision that there has to be something more adult or 'special' about teenage lead characters for me to enjoy reading youth fiction. In the case of Symphony of Wind Serena was quite immature. In one scene she has just discovered that one of her friends has been murdered - it was supposed to be her that died - and then next minute she is walking down the street with hardly a care in the world. There was a very similar reaction in an earlier scene where members of her Raincatcher crew are killed in a freak accident right in front of her. It was Serena's self involvement and lack of empathy that made her rather unlikeable. While she did mature a bit over the course of the story my interest in her had already waned.

The other main character Tyson Gallows was older but not what I would say much wiser. He was quite two dimensional and spent much of the book reliving memories of the time when his fiancée was still alive. He was cast as a bounty hunter but he came across too soft-hearted for that role and not that heroic. There were a number of other characters that shared the plot with Serena and Gallows. In fact, there were quite a few POVs and you had to really pay attention to who was speaking as the interchange between the characters was quite quick.

This is McKinnon's first novel so hats off to him for being so ambitious as not only is the story complex but it is also very long (a whopping 660 pages). I think the story could have benefited if the plot focused on a few key characters and there was a tiny bit more world building at the start. Without this however, I struggled to finish this tome and due to the complexity supported by weak characters I am going to have to give Symphony of Wind a 5/10.

5 out of 10

SPFBO Finalist Review: Ruthless Magic by Megan Crewe


Ruthless Magic
Author:  Megan Crewe
Series:  Conspiracy of Magic 1
Publisher:  Another World Press, May 2018
Format:  Hardcover, Trade Paperback and eBook
List Price:  US$19.99 (Hardcover); US$12.99 (Trade Paperback),
                  US$12.99 (eBook)             

SPFBO Finalist Review: Ruthless Magic by Megan Crewe
In the contest to keep their magic, the only options may be die... or kill.

Each year, the North American Confederation of Mages assesses every sixteen-year-old novice. Some will be chosen. The rest must undergo a procedure to destroy their magical ability unless they prove themselves in the mysterious and brutal Mages' Exam.

Disadvantaged by her parents' low standing, Rocío Lopez has dedicated herself to expanding her considerable talent to earn a place in the Confederation. Their rejection leaves her reeling—and determined to fight to keep her magic.

Long ashamed of his mediocre abilities, Finn Lockwood knows the Confederation accepted him only because of his prominent family. Declaring for the Exam instead means a chance to confirm his true worth.

Thrown into the testing with little preparation, Rocío and Finn find themselves becoming unlikely allies—and possibly more. But the Exam holds secrets more horrifying than either could have imagined. What are the examiners really testing them for? And as the trials become increasingly vicious, how much are they willing to sacrifice to win?





Melanie's Review

I can't really describe the plot any more adequately as the book description itself so will leave you to read it for yourself. What I can say is that it is a pretty straightforward story of a talented girl from the wrong side of the tracks who falls for the less talented boy from a magically prominent family. The mage examinations are like no exam you ever want to have to take. It is literally a fight for survival and talent doesn't guarantee a pass.

Ruthless Magic is described as a combination of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. While I am a big fan of both of those series I am not a big fan of Ruthless Magic. I found Finn really dull and Rocío was one big stereotype. The fact they were making googly eyes at each other when they were fighting for their lives made me more than a little bit annoyed. Katniss wasn't swooning over Peta when they were in a fight for their lives and Harry Potter didn't even have a love interest. I didn't really find either character that credible and I wasn't really invested in them as characters or whether they survived the mage exam or not.

I really struggled to finish this book and at one point I didn't think I was going to be able to. Authors of YA fiction, who want their work to appeal to adult readers, have an additional challenge. Young adult characters have to be believable for readers in both age groups (Adult and Young Adult) otherwise the story can end up sounding really trite and/or the characters are really bland.  Unfortunately, this was the case for me and Ruthless Magic. I found nothing in either of the main characters that I could grab hold of and say 'yeah, that makes sense, that's how I would expect a 16 year old to act'. It was this lack of character credibility that had me struggling to finish the book and why I only give it a 3/10.

Review: Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven


Phoenix Unbound
Author:  Grace Draven
Series:  The Fallen Empire 1
Publisher:  Ace, September 25, 2018
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages
List Price:  US$15.00 (print); US$4.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780451489753 (print); 9780451489760 (eBook)

Review: Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven
A woman with power over fire and illusion and the enslaved son of a chieftain battle a corrupt empire in this powerful and deeply emotional romantic fantasy from the USA Today bestselling author of Radiance.

Every year, each village is required to send a young woman to the Empire’s capital–her fate to be burned alive for the entertainment of the masses. For the last five years, one small village’s tithe has been the same woman. Gilene’s sacrifice protects all the other young women of her village, and her secret to staying alive lies with the magic only she possesses.

But this year is different.

Azarion, the Empire’s most famous gladiator, has somehow seen through her illusion–and is set on blackmailing Gilene into using her abilities to help him escape his life of slavery. Unknown to Gilene, he also wants to reclaim the birthright of his clan.

To protect her family and village, she will abandon everything to return to the Empire–and burn once more.



Melanie's Thoughts

Had Grace Draven's name not been on the front cover I would not have guessed this is one of her novels....well at least not for the first few chapters. Gilene and Azarion are both victims who had endured rape and torture at the hands of the Empire. The Krael Empire is not a typical setting for a Draven novel and most certainly, the systematic rape and torture is not typical of what happens to her characters. Sure, her characters have endured hardship or isolation but never anything to this extreme, especially for the story's hero Azarion. Before you start to this think that this story is something completely different to Draven romance let me reassure you as Draven doesn't focus unduly on what Azarion or Gilene have experienced as captives of the Empire. Azarion and Gilene's memories of their treatment is not too graphic and Draven successfully uses these scenes for character development, possibly also as a backdrop for other books of the series.

Phoenix Unbound is set in, what best can be described, in a time period similar to the Roman Empire where the pagan gods are worshipped and the rich rule by controlling the populace through blood sport and ritual killing. Draven's Krael Empire is not too different to periods of our own history, just with a little more magic. This makes it easier to relate to her characters and could also make you believe that Gilene and Azarion were from a page in history rather than the pages of a fantasy novel.

Draven has a lyrical or poetic writing style and the latter scenes between the two lead characters are written to be read like one long love letter. One of the lines that reminded me that I was reading a Draven novel occurred when Azarion sees Gilene for the first time after nearly a year. He calls her the 'wife of my soul'. For me this is typical Draven. At its core Phoenix Unbound is romance but not as obviously romance as some of her other novels. I am very finicky about what romance I enjoy. I have to say I read quite a bit of that genre but I invariably don't enjoy it, especially when there is a lot of sex. I really enjoyed Draven's Master of Crows series and if she continues to build the Fallen Empire series on the foundation of this first novel then I think I may enjoy it more.

Draven has such beautifully illustrated novels - Masters of Crows is beautiful. The cover of Phoenix Unbound is absolutely gorgeous and I have spent quite a bit of time staring at it. She is very lucky to have someone to create such lovely illustrations.

This may not be a novel to suit every lover of romance but if you like something a little different and not a lot on the hot and steamy then this may be the book for you.

Review: Magic Triumphs by Ilona Andrews


Magic Triumphs
Author:  Ilona Andrews
Series:  Kate Daniels 10
Publisher:  Ace, August 28, 2018
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages
List Price:  US$26.00 (print);  US$12.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780425270714 (print); 9780698136823 (eBook)

Review: Magic Triumphs by Ilona Andrews
Mercenary Kate Daniels must risk all to protect everything she holds dear in this epic, can’t-miss entry in the thrilling #1 New York Times bestselling urban fantasy series.

Kate has come a long way from her origins as a loner taking care of paranormal problems in post-Shift Atlanta. She’s made friends and enemies. She’s found love and started a family with Curran Lennart, the former Beast Lord. But her magic is too strong for the power players of the world to let her be.

Kate and her father, Roland, currently have an uneasy truce, but when he starts testing her defenses again, she knows that sooner or later, a confrontation is inevitable. The Witch Oracle has begun seeing visions of blood, fire, and human bones. And when a mysterious box is delivered to Kate’s doorstep, a threat of war from the ancient enemy who nearly destroyed her family, she knows their time is up.

Kate Daniels sees no other choice but to combine forces with the unlikeliest of allies. She knows betrayal is inevitable. She knows she may not survive the coming battle. But she has to try.

For her child.

For Atlanta.

For the world.



Melanie's Thoughts

Kate thought it was too good to be true. Over the past two years she has married her hunky shapeshifter Curran and had an adorable son, Conlan, her business is thriving and there is no sign of her megalomaniac father Roland who has tried kill her loved ones.....so far. However, when an ancient power decides that humanity has lived long enough and wants to purge the world Kate knows she has to make a stand. If she has to ally with the enemy then she is prepared to do what it takes to save everything and everyone she loves. War is on her doorstep and Kate isn't sure she has the power to survive.

I can't believe that it is finally here - Magic Triumphs the - 10th and final Kate Daniels instalment. I have been a fan from the very start and Kate has been one of my favourite heroines. There has been a lot of hype about Magic Triumphs and it doesn't disappoint. This story is almost more of a continuation of Iron and Magic* than it is of Magic Binds with the return of the soldiers and beasts that Hugh D'Ambray fought in the first book of the Iron Covenant series. I thought that this was an interesting re-use of a really scary baddy. Obviously Kate has grown up now  - a wife and mother and while she loves her new life she is desperate to keep her family safe. Roland has always been a threat to her and her family but Neig is the bigger threat and she isn't sure she has the ability to defeat them both. It is this vulnerability that makes Kate even more interesting as a character than she was before.

Andrews brings back so many of the characters that I have loved over the series - Andrea, Derek, Dali, Doolittle and Saiman. Even Grendel, the mutant poodle is back! However, when one of my newest favourite characters makes a dramatic appearance I actually did a fist pump and whooped. I can't really say that there was more character development in Magic Triumphs but there is 'rounding' out of a few of the lead characters - specifically Derek, Christopher, Erra and to a small extent Adora. Andrews uses the action and fight scenes to further establish Kate's relationships with regular characters and helps to setup the new ones. There are quite a few fight scenes and these all lead to the epic battle at the end.

Overall, I really enjoyed Magic Triumphs and thought the ending of the book and of the series was really satisfying. Ten books makes for a long series but this instalment was worth waiting for. Andrews avoided making the ending too sugary and sweet, which I appreciated. The epilogue is a bit of a tease and is creating A LOT of discussion on the blog. It's good that not everything was spelled out for us even though it is a bit of a very small cliffhanger. I am looking forward to see what Andrews has in store for us besides two more Hugh books (hurray!). Magic Triumphs is a great book and even better ending to a great series.


*See my review of Iron and Magic here.

Review: Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruocchio


Empire of Silence
Author:  Christopher Ruocchio
Series:  The Sun Eater 1
Publisher:  DAW, July 3, 2018
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 624 pages
List Price:  US$26.00 (print); US$12.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  ISBN 9780756413002 (print); ISBN 9780756413026 (eBook

Review: Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruocchio
Hadrian Marlowe, a man revered as a hero and despised as a murderer, chronicles his tale in the galaxy-spanning debut of the Sun Eater series, merging the best of space opera and epic fantasy.

It was not his war.

The galaxy remembers him as a hero: the man who burned every last alien Cielcin from the sky. They remember him as a monster: the devil who destroyed a sun, casually annihilating four billion human lives—even the Emperor himself—against Imperial orders.

But Hadrian was not a hero. He was not a monster. He was not even a soldier.

On the wrong planet, at the right time, for the best reasons, Hadrian Marlowe starts down a path that can only end in fire. He flees his father and a future as a torturer only to be left stranded on a strange, backwater world.

Forced to fight as a gladiator and navigate the intrigues of a foreign planetary court, Hadrian must fight a war he did not start, for an Empire he does not love, against an enemy he will never understand.



Melanie's Thoughts:

Hadrian had his life all mapped out. He wants to become a scholiast - one of the learned academics like his beloved teacher, Gibson. However his father, the Archon of Meidua, has other plans. His father is planning to send him to the Chantry where he will become just another soulless minion of the Empire, torturing the poor and defenseless. No one, not even Hadrian, could have anticipated the chain of events that unfold when he defies his father's wishes.

Stranded on a planet far away from home and the future that he sacrificed so much for. With no money, friends or family Hadrian does the only thing he knows - fight. All the years of training have paid off as Hadrian enters the gladiatorial arena. It's not long before he makes a name for himself beating gladiators with better weapons and armor soon becoming a hero of the arena. Once again, politics of the court take him farther away from the life he started to make for himself. He is now firmly on the path to become what the galaxy will remember him as  - the Sun Eater.

Empire of Silence is truly an epic. The story is told in the first person with Hadrian recounting the events that lead up to him becoming known as the world killer. The story starts at the very beginning, with his birth and ends with Hadrian leaving the planet that became his new home. A lot happens to Hadrian in the first few decades of his life and his fortunes change dramatically between the start and the end of book 1. Events before he leaves his home world are very traumatic for him but it seems that his life on the streets of Emesh are what define him as a person.

Ruocchio has an incredible imagination and the worlds that he has built for Hadrian are rich and full of detail. Despite the story only covering the first twenty something years of Hadrian's life a lot happens to him. I liked how the story was told from the first person and and that 30+ years were lost in Hadrian's life as he traveled across the galaxy after escaping his father but we don't find out why. The society, history and social structures are also very detailed, in fact, so detailed that Ruocchio provides us with one of the longest glossaries I have ever seen. Although I didn't find it until I had finished the book which is pretty easy to do when reading an eBook.

My one criticism with Empire of Silence is the pace. There is so much detail and so much dialogue that the story can actually drag in parts but then half a chapter later something would happen so that I could barely put the book down. If I had only two words to describe this book I would say that it is 'topsy turvy' because one minute I was bored stiff with all the detail and the next I was on the edge of my seat. Having said that this was a debut and it was very ambitious. I am very curious to find out what will happen next to Hadrian. I just really hope that Ruocchio evens out the pace and and doesn't unnecessarily drag out the story.

Note: I love the cover. It is one that I spent a lot of time staring at it. And it won the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars for July!

The Snowflake Blog Tour - Excerpt From and Review of Snowflake by Heide Goody and Iain Grant


The Snowflake Blog Tour - Excerpt From and Review of Snowflake by Heide Goody and Iain Grant


      The following scene from Snowflake by Heide Goody and Iain Grant is where Lori first meets Ashbert. She doesn’t yet realise that he’s the man she has accidentally brought to life from a collage that she made as a teenager. We join Lori as she has been baking with her friend Cookie...


      Cookie took the bread out of the oven while I wafted smoke away from the smoke detector in the ceiling. The bread had overcooked a bit while we were putting out the fire, but my stomach still rumbled. The burning smell was unpleasantly sharp and acrid, but it was hard to tell if it was from the bread or the fire in the lounge.
      Cookie tapped the base of the loaf. “You can tell when bread is cooked because it will sound hollow when you do this,” she said.
      It didn’t sound hollow, it sounded dead and solid. I took it off her wordlessly and banged it on the counter to see if it made a better sound, but I was a bit worried that we might shatter the granite.
      “The road of trials is littered with obstacles,” she said with a frown.
      “And rock-hard loaves,” I said.
      “I need to think on this.”
      Cookie took herself into the lounge. I placed the loaf on a plate, found a long, serrated knife and attempted to cut a slice. Five minutes sawing produced a lot of shard-like crumbs but made virtually no impact on the bread. I tried to break the loaf with my hands, but I just wasn’t strong enough.
      Suddenly, I wasn’t hungry anymore.
      I went through to the lounge. It turned out that having a think meant passing out on the settee. A joint burned in Cookie’s right hand and a glass of raki lolled toward the cushions in her left. I tutted slightly and took them off her, keeping them well apart to avoid igniting the powerful spirits.
      I was wondering whether it was worth trying the bread again when I heard a sound. It was a light creak, coming from outside. I crept over to the window and looked out into the rear yard of the building.
      It was a naked man.
      Definitely a man and definitely naked, his body pale and golden in the streetlights from the next road over. And he was coming up the fire escape.
      I went into the kitchen to look out of the window, turning out the lights as I entered to improve my   view of what was outside. Was the naked guy returning to one of the other flats? Why was he naked? In the moments that it took me to get to the kitchen window he’d disappeared. He’d either climbed up to the next floor, gone down to the ground, or entered the building. I swallowed hard as I realised that the most likely explanation for him vanishing so quickly was that he’d entered the building somewhere.
      The lounge window was open. I had left it open. I had stupidly left the lounge window open. Was he inside the flat? This flat? My flat? I crept back to the door to the lounge and put my ear to it. I could definitely hear some sort of movement. I willed myself not to panic, took out my phone, dialled 999 but didn’t yet press the call button. Cookie was asleep in the lounge. If a crazed naked man was in there, she was in danger. It didn’t really cross my mind that it might be a sane naked man. I’m not sure there are such things.
      I risked opening the door a crack.
      Oh, God! He was there! A white and – oh, yeah – definitely naked torso moving slowly across the room.
      I hit the call button and backed away.
      “I think there’s an intruder in my flat,” I said, when I got through. “I mean, I know there’s an intruder in the flat.”
      In a voice that suggested they received naked intruder calls all day long, the operator asked me for the address.
      “Can you get out?” he asked.
      “No, not without going past where they are,” I said.
      “Try to secure yourself or hide,” said the operator.
      “But my friend is in the lounge.”
      “Secure yourself and hide. We’ll be there very shortly.”
      Secure myself and hide? Even if there was somewhere to hide in the kitchen, could I leave Cookie in the clutches of a nude lunatic? Of course not. I crept back to the door and peeked through the gap. The lounge was empty and there was Cookie’s foot poking over the edge of the sofa. I had to go and wake her. But I needed protection.
      I momentarily considered the bread knife but then the headline ‘LOCAL WOMAN SENTENCED TO LIFE FOR UNPROVOKED NUDE STABBING’ flashed through my mind and I thought better of it. A non-lethal bludgeoning weapon would be much better.
Ten seconds later, armed with a rock-hard loaf of bread, I crept into the lounge. No. No naked men lurking in corners. He must have moved on. My limbs shivering with fear, I took hold of Cookie’s knee and tried to shake her awake.
      She gave a small grunt and shifted position.
      “Wake up, damn you,” I hissed.
      There was the sound of something being dropped. The door to the largest bedroom, which opened directly onto the lounge, was open! There! This was an old building with many of the original features, including interior doors with locks and bolts. All I needed to do was to pull the door closed and lock it and the man would be trapped until the police arrived.
      “You can do this,” I told myself.
      I stole quickly across the room and tugged the door shut. The handle rattled from the other side as I turned the key in the lock.
      “You’re trapped now, mofo!” I shouted and turned away from the door.
      And, as I did, I realised I had trapped my onesie in the door. A section of leg material caught in the gap.
      The man started to pound on the door from the other side. I’m not normally one for whimpering but I let out a trembling cry.
      The pounding continued, shaking me with each blow. It was a solid door, but I could hear a splintering sound coming from somewhere. I had to get away. There was only one solution and I had no choice. Down came the zip and I wriggled free. I headed across the room. I hadn’t gone two steps when the door gave way and the man burst through like that man with the axe in that film. You know the one. I turned to him with my only weapon: the remains of the indestructible loaf I let out a primal roar of pure, bear-flattening rage and swung the loaf with all my might at the attacker’s head.
      The bread connected with his head with deadly, bone-shattering force and he dropped like a stone. My arm even ached from the impact.
      Two thoughts collided in my mind: the first was that I’d surely killed him. The second was that he looked familiar. Bizarrely familiar.
      The doorbell rang.
      His face was one I’d seen in the very recent past.
      There was a thump at the door.
      “Police! Open up!”
      In fact, his face was my own creation. Robert Pattinson’s eyes. Ashton Kutcher’s smile. Channing Tatum’s jawline. He was the man from the picture I had made as a teenager. He was teen Lori’s dream man, so very recently cast into the fire.





Snowflake
Authors:  Heide Goody and Iain Grant
Publisher:  Pigeon Park Press, July 20, 2018
Format:  Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 320 pages
List Price:  US$12.99 (print); US$4.59 (Kindle eBook)
ISBN:  9780995749764 (print);  ASIN:  B07F3X4XF2 (Kindle eBook)

The Snowflake Blog Tour - Excerpt From and Review of Snowflake by Heide Goody and Iain Grant
Lori Belkin has been dumped. By her parents.

They moved out while she was away on holiday, and now, at the tender age of twenty-five, she's been cruelly forced to stand on her own two feet.

While she's getting to grips with basic adulting, Lori magically brings to life the super-sexy man she created from celebrity photos as a teenager.

Lori learns very quickly that having your ideal man is not as satisfying as it ought to be and that being an adult is far harder than it looks.

Snowflake is a story about prehistoric pets, delinquent donkeys and becoming the person you want to be, not the person everyone else expects you to be.


Melanie's Thoughts

Lori arrives back from her holiday in Crete to discover her parents have moved away without telling her. Now she has to go it alone with only her wits and her brother's luxury flat to keep her safe. Little did she realise that a straw goat, mouldering sausage and a bottle of raki weren't the only things she brought back with her. Lori thought it was just a pretty necklace that she bought in a random store in Crete but it turned out it had the power to bring to inanimate objects to life - like the magazine cut out of her ideal man, a long extinct bug, foxes, and so much more. At the tender age of 25 Lori has some serious 'adulting' to do and there is a lot of trouble she can get into the meantime.

Snowflake by the writing duo of Heide Goody and Iain Grant is another lighthearted romp through the trials and tribulations of being a millennial with a magical necklace. Lori's name should be officially changed to Trouble Belkin because, boy, she gets into enough of it. From almost burning down her brother's flat to chasing a donkey through Ikea Lori has more exploits than the normal 20 something. In fact Lori can barely cross the street without triggering a major disaster. Goody and Grant are experts at getting their characters into ridiculous situations and giving them hilarious lines. One specific scene where Lori and her magically created perfect man Ashbert go to the theatre was very amusing, especially the Iron Man reference. There are a number of English 'in jokes' and I am not sure whether you will get all them if you aren't from the UK but it's worth a go.

This is a very good book if you want a lighthearted read or need to be cheered up. My one tiny criticism is that Lori was a bit too ignorant of almost everything and the number of outrageous situations she got herself into was relentless. I felt a bit exhausted when I got to the end of the book.  I feel this situational 'naivety' worked well with Goody and Grant's former prince of darkness Clovenhoof (funniest books ever!) but with Lori she came across too self-involved and borderline inconsiderate. Some of the jokes make up for Lori's personality quirks so if you are looking for something funny, quite kooky and with a happy ending give Snowflake a go.
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