Category Archives: Fantasy

“The Traitor God” – C. Johnston

This is a review of “The Traitor God” by Cameron Johnston.

After ten years on the run reviled magician Edrin Walker returns home to avenge the brutal murder of his friend. Lynas had uncovered a terrible secret, something that threatened to devour the entire city. He tried to warn the Arcanum, the sorcerers who rule the city, but he failed. Lynas was skinned alive and Walker felt every cut, and nothing will stop him from finding the murderer. Magi, mortals, daemons, and even the gods – Edrin Walker will burn them all if he has to. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time he has killed a god…

That the gods were ancient magi that grew powerful beyond their wildest dreams, and the way of keeping them in check was to guard a monstrous beast hidden deep under Setharis, was a master stroke. It added so much more depth to the characters, and most importantly to the entire world. Which it needed because we never got to see much of it. What we did see, though, was very solid stuff.

All the female characters introduced – from Charra and Layla, to Eva and Shadea, and even the few short meetings with the female street gang – were strong. They were tough and practically every time they were better than Edrin himself. There are definitely no weak or swooning women in this book, and it was a joy to read about them.

There is a lot of action and adventure in the book. The entire thing takes place in about a week if not less, and the pacing is quick and yet not too quick. The story doesn’t sacrifice information or character evolution for speed, and that is a rare skill. The fight scenes are excellent, especially with the way magic can be used during a fight. The Magash Mora and its creation was monstrous, but it made it painfully clear how it could have almost wiped a civilization off the face of the earth. It was easy to understand why they were so scared of what in essence amounted to a giant blob.

What was also great was that Edrin Walker was not an all-powerful mage, excellent fighter, or even in peak physical condition. He wasn’t automatically liked by everyone, he made mistakes several times – serious mistakes at that – and he was as terrified of his magic gift as everyone else around him. He struggled to not give in to it, nor to let the magic seduce him, and that made it very easy to like him as a character.

There is very little bad to say about this book.

There is quite a lot of info-dumping, but it is in short paragraphs and easy to get used to. It isn’t as much of an annoyance as it sounds. There are also a few times where the main character says he can’t use magic in a situation but still uses magic, and once att he start where he said that he had “killed a god” but then later on he doesn’t know if he did or didn’t – though this bit can easily be attributed to what was done to him. All of these are minor faults and easy to ignore. The only other thing that was a bit of a peeve was Harailt and Byzants and their roles in the story, but this is hardly worth mentioning because the rest of it was so overwhelmingly good.

There was so much left unsaid, hinted at and unexplored, and I cannot wait for the second book to be published.

I really recommend this book. It has been a long time since I found a book that I couldn’t put down until it was done!

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Posted by on March 26, 2019 in Books, Fantasy


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“Vampire Hunter D” – H. Kikuchi

This is a review of “Vampire Hunter D” which is the first book of Hideyuki Kikuchi’s series about the dhampir D.

It is the year 12,090 A.D. The world has ended, ravaged in a firestorm of man’s wars and madness. Humanity managed to survive the calamity… but they are not alone. Doris Lang knew what her fate was the second the vampire Count Magnus Lee bit her – an agonizing transformation into one of the undead, to be hunted by her fellow villagers, or cursed to become the Count’s eternal bride and thirsting for human blood. There was only one chance, one hope for her: hiring a vampire hunter named D.

The world that is created in this book, is vast. It is complicated and has a lot of history, and there is a need for a good deal of infodumping in order to actually understand what is going on. There is not a single bit of infodumping that isn’t needed or tied to what will happen next, or later on in the book.

The characters in the book can surprise you. Doris and Larmica aren’t weak at all, and Dan is tough. The sheriff and the old doctor and all the people of the little town just do their best to survive in a rather hostile environment. Greco is a force of chaotic neutral who is allowed to be as bad as he wants to be, Rei-Ginsei is someone I would have loved to return in another book. The Count is a bit of a stereotype, but the sci-fi elements of the story help to lessen that considerably.

And as for D himself, he is made to be what we consider today as a Gary Stue, but he is so quiet in action and in speech that this isn’t as painfully obvious as one would think. Even if both Larmica and Doris fall for him instantly, he doesn’t pay either of them any attention, and he is even killed by Rei-Ginsei at one point. There is enough mystery around D to keep reading.

This was a book written all the way back in 1983, and storytelling was different then. This sort of omniscient author wasn’t rare, but at least Kikuchi actually gives us breaks in the infodumping and omniscience with sharp episodes of action and fun. The action scenes are very good, and one can see them happen like in a movie.

The storytelling was, well, not perfect at all. This could be either because the author wasn’t actually all that good, or the translator wasn’t quite up to the task, or a mix of both. Japanese can be a difficult language to translate if one isn’t used to it, so some turns of phrases didn’t quite work out. The author is also an omniscient storyteller with more telling than showing, and that can get a bit annoying.

While not perfect writing, the setting and the mystery surrounding D are very good. The book is also very short, so it doesn’t take long to read. I already have the next four books on order, eagerly waiting to get my hands on them.

I do recommend this!

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Posted by on February 26, 2019 in Action Adventure, Books, Fantasy, Sci-Fi


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“Master Assassins” – R. V. S. Redick

This is a review of “Master Assassins” by Robert V. S. Redick, the first book of the Fire Sacraments.

Kandri and Mektu are the closest of brothers. Village boys drafted into the army of a madwoman-Prophet, facing war and death, they struggle to hide their crumbling faith. Mektu is at the breaking point, convinced that a murderous spirit is stalking the camp, and that he may be its next target. But a night of violence leaves the brothers with holy blood on their hands. Mistaken for professional killers, they have just one path of escape: into a sprawling desert where the landscape is as deadly as the men and monsters it contains. On their heads is an irresistible bounty. Hot on their heels are the Prophet’s death squads, and a terrible servant in the form of a demonic child. And ahead lies a reckoning with their own family’s darkest secret – a secret that tears their world apart.

The world of this book is fascinating, deep and well-built. It is especially interesting since it has a very Middle-Eastern feel when it comes to culture and traditions, with a hint of Indian thrown in for flavour. With war and magic, betrayal and desert thieves it is an incredible place to read about. And the characters that inhabit this world are varied.

Kandri is the main character of them all, and it is his point of view we follow. His struggle with losing his faith and trying to keep his brother from saying something that will get them both killed, is well described. Mektu – said crazy brother – is fascinating to read about since it is unclear exactly what is wrong with him, and Uncle Chindilan is a loving, protective man. Eschett and Talupéké are incredibly strong women who whip them all along when needed.

The Prophet is, perhaps, the most fascinating of them all. She is a strong, terrifying woman. As a character she is very well-developed. It is clear that she fought her way to the top in a world where women are supposed to be submissive, and she is delightfully mad and crazy. It makes her stand out, makes her fascinating. Her special guard force ride enormous sabre-toothed cats and wield magical gloves, and her White Child is a horror all on its own.

The most incredible part of the story was the flight across the Stolen Sea. The description of the salt-encrusted landscape was fascinating. The same with the giant vultures, and they were cleverly used in the plot. The thieves and nomads making the Stolen Sea their home were also very well imagined and adapted to their surroundings.

Unfortunately the good stuff is overwhelmed by the bad.

Kandri and Mektu aren’t very likeable as characters. Kandri especially is far too wishy-washy, going back and forth about a various amount of things. It could be because he is struggling with his changing world view, but it was far too much and boggled the story down. The first 150 pages or so were full of this, and that nearly made me stop reading. And Mektu himself is just annoying and sometimes impossible to understand. Even if one accepts the fact that he might be possessed by a demon or just struggling with a mental disability of some sort, the rest of the writing doesn’t support it so he ends up being kind of just annoying.

There are constant flashbacks to help understand the choices of the various characters, how things evolved into what they are, but it just drags the story on. Some of the flashbacks don’t seem to be important to the tale at all, and could have been omitted or just summarised into a single paragraph.

Kandri’s constant moaning and mooning over Ariqina just made her seem annoying, because he was so annoying about it. And the mystery surrounding the brother’s father wasn’t enough to keep the interest up. Especially since the mystery was waylaid by everything else, and when some revelations came along, it was far too late to salvage it all. I simply didn’t care about it.

The biggest problem is that when the story reaches a moment where things happen rapidly – for example a battle – the writing becomes choppy and the sentences short. It is probably to show the speed and the confusion of battle, but it simply ends up being too much and makes the story itself confusing.

Overall the book isn’t outright bad, but I will not be continuing with the second one.

I don’t really recommend this book.

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Posted by on December 14, 2018 in Books, Fantasy


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“The Never King” – J. Abbott

This is a review of James Abott’s book “The Never King“.

Xavir is rotting in gaol. Sentenced to life in the worst gaol in the lands the once legendary commander is all but forgotten. His elite band of warriors are dead – and the kingdom he was poised to inherit is oppressed by the tyrant who framed him. For half a decade now Xavir has ruled nothing but a prison gang. Yet vengeance comes to those who wait. When a former spymaster comes bearing news of his old enemy’s treachery, plans are forged. A few are compelled to restore peace, but peace and vengeance make poor companions. And first, Xavir must make his escape.

The the world was well-thought out, it was difficult to get to know it because there was no map at all in the book. A small one of Stravimon itself would have been enough. There were forests and hills, mountains and lakes, and villages and towns and cities. There was history and different peoples. The Dacinarians with their giant wolves deserved a book of their own, and the Akero were magnificent!

Elysia was a strong female character, a bit innocent at the start but clearly developing throughout the story. Her mother, though only appearing in a few flashbacks, was equally as strong. Lupara the Wolf Queen was a great representation of a strong warrior and someone who wasn’t afraid of their sexuality. Cedius the Wise was one of the best kings that have recently appeared in fantasy fiction, and the start of the book was extremely well done and very strong.

There are a lot of bad things about this book unfortunately.

Xavir was convinced to leave prison with only a few words, no built-up, no real explanation, no real incentive. After spending six years in gaol that was a bit too quick and easy. Not only that, but throughout the book he mentions several times that they have to be careful and not let the enemy know they are opposing them, and yet he wears his old uniform with the very recognisable insignia and swords he was so famous for. He was also the only person who didn’t have any trouble in the battles. He didn’t stumble, he didn’t slow down, he didn’t feel tired.

For being a commander and career soldier, Xavir did a lot of things that were rookie mistakes, some were even down right stupid and ended up hindering his allies rather than helping them. At one point Elysia asked Xavir if the Solar Cohort used to do assassinations back in the day, and instead of giving her an answer, he gives her an entire speech about feasts he has been on. There is no logic in the progress from one to the other whatsoever.

The worst part was that Xavir could simply walk in anywhere without trouble. Not so much as a stumble. He needs to escape an apparently inescapable gaol? He walks out. He needs to infiltrate the home of the country’s military commander? He walks in. He needs to enter Golax Hold and assassinate two people involved in the conspiracy? He walks in to the town, he walks into the castle, and he walks into a feasting all full of people. He barely kills six people in his quest to get there, he doesn’t sneak around, and no one flees when he comes. The bad guys don’t attempt to flee even, they just ask him if they couldn’t talk in an adjacent room rather than in the full hall. Then they talk and talk and talk. There was no reason to remove themselves from the full hall where the deaths could have far more impact.

While we are on the topic of impacts, the lack of it when it was revealed who was the Red Butcher and the traitor, was painful. One memory of a single scene where the character had a dark look about them – and considering the situation they were in, that look was very much expected and nothing special – is not enough as a hint for the character’s true alliance. There was no shock value, there was no emotion at all because we didn’t get to know that character at all.

Landril’s remark of ‘stranger things afoot’ that he had no information about when two chapters earlier they fought monsters that were clearly inhuman. Although probably meant to signify just how little information the spymaster has about the subject, it sounded like the author had simply forgotten what he had written. He was also annoyingly naïve and innocent at several points from the start to almost the end of the book, and then suddenly he isn’t. The change was far too abrupt.

Valderon was surprisingly (and annoyingly) bashful for an old soldier who had spent time in gaol, and the romance between him and Lupara was beyond awkward. It never led anywhere as if the author realised that it was a no-go, couldn’t be bothered going back to change a few sentences, and then just as awkwardly finished it off. Birgitta spent far too much time berating Xavir for not taking on the father role and then berating him for doing it his own way. In general there was a lot of back-and-forth from each character.

The mystery surrounding the Voldirik people had a lot of potential. It is too bad that said potential never went anywhere. They were the perfect bad guys, they did truly horrible things, but it was impossible to feel anything for them. They were mighty, but couldn’t stand up against the hodgepodge army Xavir and his allies scrunged up. The mystery of their god was revealed three pages after the concept was introduced, and just how stupid are people for not realising what was happening in their capital what with the Voldiriks running around?

A lot of the book was composed of tell rather than show. People updated their friends about something in one sentence and one expects it to be over. But it isn’t. We get the entire conversation in full three sentences later. Xavier’s group of escapees were referred to as ‘the prisoners’ for more than half the book, even long after they had escaped. Then they were suddenly ‘freemen’. A little after that bit came an entire chapter about some sort of celebration Xavir once participated in that had nothing to do with the current story at all. Add to that a lot of useless info-dumping, and a lot of repetition of the info. The author is very fond of the following: supposedly, seemed to, presumably, appeared to. They were used over and over again in situations they had no business being. The author is also in love with the word ‘whilst’.

The second half of the book was definitely the worst one, and I cannot believe that any editor would let this sort of writing pass them by. It would have made a much better story had it been a duology, because as it stands it was badly written and rushed that made it ridiculously simple for the heroes to win over the supposedly unbeatable enemy. And a passable second-to-last chapter was not enough to save it at all.

I do not recomend this book at all.

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Posted by on October 1, 2018 in Books, Fantasy


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“The Barrow” – M. Smylie

This is a review of “The Barrow” the first book in the Barrow-series by Mark Smylie.

When a small crew of scoundrels discover a map that they believe will lead them to a fabled sword, they think they’ve struck it rich. But their hopes are dashed when the map appears to be destroyed in a magical ritual, until they rediscover the map in a most unusual and unexpected place. United by accident and dark design, they set out on a quest that will either get them all in the history books…. or get them killed.

The world is very well thought out. It is big and incredibly populated, and well described. The history of the world has been carefully thought out and lovingly crafted, there is no doubt about that at all. It is clear that the Author took inspiration from real life history and cultures, but he also made it his own.

Stjepan’s Athairi past was interesting, and there should have been more of it. Erim was a strong female character generally speaking, and Arduin was a steadfast knight who never went out of character. Leigh was cooky and interesting, and Gilgwyr was a smarmy bastard that made the story fun until the end.

When it comes to the story itself, it was a solid one. Up until the very end of it, where it started to fall apart at the seams. And until then it suffered greatly and was painfully bogged down by bad stuff.

Oh, where to start on the bad stuff?

Too much time was spent on the first one-third of the book, where the characters have to get together. It left the last part of the book – the barrow itself – less than 180 pages, and that is far too little considering the buildup it was given until then.

The characters are rather useless all around. Stjepan didn’t get to do a thing except to guide them from point A to point B, and he was clearly the Author’s Darling. Also, there should have been more hint of his real employers throughout the story. Erim complained a lot about her lot in life, but nothing was done about it. The fact that she was usually hidden away during the journey and we were never really given the chance to get to know her, made the change in Annwyn too sudden. One remark from her maid is all the hint we had, and that was not enough. Leigh and Gilgwyr and Harvald being worshipers of the Nameless Cult was also too sudden. There were no hints of it, no changes in personality until the very end, nothing that the did at the start which might seem out of character for them.

The grammar is some of the worst I have ever seen. There are painfully long, run-on sentences and superfluous information and constant info-dumps about things that are quite useless and irrelevant to the story. There is no need for a two-page essay on which countries do circumcise their children, and which country doesn’t. Or the fact that the main character is carrying a spyglass in his pack, but he doesn’t need it. Nor do we need to know the names and ranks of knights that have fought in a tournament over ten years ago. It was as if the author was trying to emulate Tolkien or even Martin, but fell painfully short on both accounts.

The biggest complaint is the ridiculous focus on sex. Each main character we are introduced to, gets one or more pages of text about their sexual preferences or lack thereof, Gilgwyr’s being the worst by far. Not only that but women are, apparently, sex-obsessed and mad for it, and the only sex they can have is painful and against their will. Men, on the other hand, will always have good, pleasurable, non-rape sex (especially with other men), and if a male character actually forces a woman to do something against her will, then we as readers know that he is evil and that he will die a painful, horrible death.

This brings us to the final complaint: the treatment of women in this story. Three paragraphs into the Erim’s point of view, she has already imagined a complete orgy and just how much she would have loved to join in on it. And also how stupid she felt when she couldn’t count the numerous steps, but the men around her could. Annwyn was such a victim and quite useless until the last 80 pages, where she suddenly turned into a sex-obsessed libertine who raped a man, and then had sex with a corpse animated by magic and maggots before disappearing into the earth with the dead.

All in all, if a couple of dozen editors had the chance to go through the book, then it might actually have been good. As it stands, it is a story of porn dreamed up by an adolescent boy, with some adventure thrown in for good measure, and where the best characters are the secondary ones.

I will most definitely not be touching the second book in the series.

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Posted by on July 27, 2018 in Books, Fantasy


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“The Gaslight Dogs” – K. Lowachee

This is a review of “The Gaslight Dogs” by Karin Lowachee.

At the edge of the known world, an ancient nomadic tribe faces a new enemy – an empire fueled by technology and war. A spiritwalker of the Aniw and a Cpatain of the Ciracusan army find themselves unexpectedly thrown together, one a prisoner and the other a reluctant student of a forbidden talent. From the rippling curtains of light in an Arctic sky, to the gaslit cobbled streets of the city, war is coming to the frozen north. These two people have a choice that will decide the fate of nations – and may cast them into a darkness that threatens to bring destruction to them all.

Basing the world on the myths and traditions of the Inuit and other First Nation peoples. That is not something one finds every day, and it was a breath of fresh air. The world was populated by tribes akin to Native Americans as well, and a lot of what was happening had obvious roots in the meeting between natives and whites when Europeans reached the American continent.

The world that is made is varied, and the magic that is described and used is very different from what one usually finds in fantasy stories. It is much less refined than what has become the norm, and that sort of primal spirit-based magic was fascinating to read.

The very best thing about this book, though, were definitely the characters. Each one was well-developed and written, though the secondary characters did have a tendency to end up too stereotypical. The best character of them all was Jarrett Fowle himself, closely followed by his father, the General Fowle.

Unfortunately, the pros don’t outweight the cons in this instance.

Flowery language that is – not simply ‘could be’, but is – down right confusing sometimes, as if there are commas or full stops missing. Also it is so flowery that it forced me to start skimming right from the start. Not even the developing mystery could make me want to start reading seriously once more, and the most difficult parts to read were Sjenn’s.

There were too abrupt changes between scenes. Even with the spacing to make it clear, the segue was still too sharp. It got better towards the middle of the book when the two characters were introduced and were at the same place at the same time, but the start of the story was incredibly choppy.

It is also telling, perhaps, that the book is merely the first in a series and though this book was published in 2010 none of the following books have been published . I doubt if they have even been written.

The book had great potential, the characters were excellent, but the execution and particularly the language, left a lot to be desired. I would have to read the following books in order to know if I would or wouldn’t recommend them, but as they aren’t published that kind of falls to the wayside.

So, try this book if you want. The second half of it seems to make the first half worth it.

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Posted by on June 26, 2018 in Books, Fantasy


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“A Game of Thrones” – G. R. R. Martin

This is a review of “A Game of Thrones” the first book of the series “A Song of Ice and Fire” by George R. R. Martin.

In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the North of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of plenty, here is a story of the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.

Short chapters makes it easy to read about characters that aren’t as likeable. It also makes it easier to read in general, and to find good places for a break. Information is given in short bursts, and there is a whole lot of information. The world building is deep and thorough. The scenery is varied and expertly described, populated by peasants and royals, and it feels real even if most of the focus is, obviously, on the royals and the people immediately around them.

It is impossible to mention every character we were introduced to in this book. Suffice to say that everyone is a hero in their own mind, and a villain in someone else’s. The ever changing duality of human nature, and the way humans are fallible and so very liable to ignore things that make us uncomfortable. Some people are too trusting, others too proud, too impatient, too patient, too honest, too honorable. The brashness of youth, the naivete, the painful journey intro adulthood, the loss of family, and the way a life can change in a single day, with a single act.

Unlike some other books, every action has a reaction and it is simply a picture of humanity in all its horrible, terrible, wonderful, beautiful violent glory.

Despite the sheer amount of characters that we follow through the story – both main and secondary – the story never feels bogged down. One never feels like it stops up, like we are re-reading the same day over and over again. The story always pushes forwards at a good pace, and something that happened in one chapter is never showed in another chapter from someone else’s point of view. They might mention it, talk about it, but we as readers never have to re-read it. That is part of what makes the story move on, along with short and concise sentences. There is no flowery language to suffer through here, and the creeping realisation and the discovery of the Others/White Walkers is perfectly sprinkled throughout the story.

Concerning bad things about this book, there are none. There is absolutely nothing that I hated about this book. There are, however, things that I found mildly irritating.

There are a lot of people to keep track of, both main characters and especially the people around them. Yes, it adds realism to the world, it makes it seem populated and grand, but it can be overwhelming and confusing. The charts in the back of the book barely give a hint of what family swears fealty to what house, not who is who, nor do they show any marriages or children. It made it for an overwhelming amount of guess-work as to why such and such should follow the Lannisters or the Starks when their family is actually affiliated with the enemy house according to the appendices.

Younger girls react to boys/men in two ways: either they are scared or they fall for them so hard they almost worship at their feet. Arya Stark is the only exception to this, but she’s written more or less as a boy herself so it almost doesn’t count. Where are the girls who don’t give a fig or aren’t impressed by a fine face? I do miss them in this book. This is a bit annoying, but not overwhelmingly so, but what did bother me a bit more was Daenerys’s quick change of mind concerning Drogo and her relationship. She goes from being terrified and from sex hurting, to liking it and taking charge. In one single chapter. It was a bit too quick, and it would have been far better served to have another chapter covering that progress better. Otherwise it tastes a bit too much of the Stockholm Syndrome.

There was a scene with Tyrion Lannister revealing what seems like a bit too much about his past at a bit too awkward point in the story, but that is also quite a minor thing.

Amazingly enough there wasn’t a single character that I truly hated or even disliked. Sansa was irritating through most of the book, and Jon was a bit annoying with his angst, but it was hardly worth mentioning. The story itself was so strong and powerful that I hardly noticed it, and I didn’t even mind the politicking going around – and usually politics-heavy books aren’t my cup of tea at all. I am definitely going to continue reading this series even if I feel like I need a break between the books so that my cup doesn’t runneth over.

I definitely recommend this series!

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Posted by on April 17, 2018 in Books, Fantasy


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