On Tap 02/28

Currently Reading

• The Bone Ships – by R.J. Barker

People of the Hundred Isles have long built their ships from dragon bones. But longer ago, dragons disappeared from the land. But now a lone dragon appears in far off waters, and the bounty is out on its head. For whomever claims it shall win not only glory, but more. An ARC I didn’t get to last year returns this year as an audiobook.

• A Man of Shadows – by Jeff Noon

A truly weird mystery set in a city split by light and darkness. John Nyquist pursues a girl through brilliance and shadow, while in her wake an invisible murderer strikes, terrifying those that inhabit the city of the sun. But the girl may hold the key to stopping the murderer, if Nyquist can only reach her first. Jeff Noon’s apparently known for weird, but after 100 pages I can honestly tell you that not even my strangest dreams could’ve rivaled this world. And in this case that’s a really good thing.

• Brightstorm – by Vashti Hardy

A kids’ book about a brother-sister adventure team. When their father is lost while trying to reach South Polaris, it costs the Brightstorm twins more than a dad. They lose their home, livelihood and welfare, all based on the suspicion that their father sabotaged a fellow adventurer. Now Arthur and Maudie look to reclaim their family honor—by reaching South Polaris and finding the truth. What can I say—it’s not too deep or anything, but it’s a kids’ book. It’s an exciting, fun adventure!

Up Next

• Blood of Empire – by Brian McClellan

As the final battle between Fatrasta and the Dynize looms large, a spy, a mercenary and a faded war hero must band together to defend the continent—and keep the invaders from using the Godstones to create new gods. While one rides at the head of a new army, another must infiltrate the Dynize all on their own, while the third invades Dynize at the head of a scattered fleet of lancers. It took waaay too long for me to get to this and I’m ready to read it damnit!

Still have some more ARCs to get through before mid-March, so my next digital book will be one of them. I’ve two science fiction adventures and a rare non-fiction book to get into yet!

Gaming

Mutant Year Zero

A combination of stealth, tactics and mutants, Mutant Year Zero has been quite the addiction lately. I’m not a huge fan of turn-based combat, but I do love the stealth required by this game. That said—it’s hard. If you try it, prepare to die a lot. I mean, A LOT. Sure, you can play on Normal, where your squad heals after combat, but what fun is that? As long as you prepare before each encounter and whittle the enemy down by picking off the outliers using stealth, you can keep the deaths to a minimum. The story isn’t the most immersive consistently, but cut-scenes fill in enough of it that you don’t get too detached from what’s going on. Hopefully it picks up later on though.

TBR – February 2020

Currently Reading

• The Bone Ships – by R.J. Barker

People of the Hundred Isles have long built their ships from dragon bones. But longer ago, dragons disappeared from the land. But now a lone dragon appears in far off waters, and the bounty is out on its head. For whomever claims it shall win not only glory, but more. An ARC I didn’t get to last year returns this year as an audiobook. So far, recommended, but that could very well change as I’m still in the first handful of chapters.

Top TBR for February-March

Blood of Empire and Witchsign return from last month, as their desire to be read becomes almost palpable. Joining them this month is Vengeful, by V.E. Schwab—in which Eli Ever and Victor Vale come at odds once again. Are they heroes or villains? I mean, there’s the series name and all, but I’ll let you make your own decisions. And Hell Divers: Wolves—which finds X on a quest for a home amidst the ruined world. After my last post-apocalyptic book ended in disappointment, I found I needed something I little bit… better. Hopefully I’ll get to this soon!

Have you read any of these? Are any worth/not up to the hype? Let me know!

DNF

• Hitchhiking Through Fire – by Brent McKnight

While I made it 1/3 of the way through this post-apocalyptic thriller, I couldn’t finish it. Possessive of a cut-and-paste, generic post-apocalyptic world, the only thing that wowed me less than Hitchhiking’s setting was its plot. Even at the 1/3 mark, I had yet to find any thrills. Disappointing.

TBR Read Since January

Queenslayer – by Sebastien de Castell (Spellslinger #5)

Age of Death – by Michael J. Sullivan (Legends of the First Empire #5)

Two book five’s down, and the first two off the TBR list for 2020! Still don’t think I’ll come anywhere near finishing them all, but I’m off to a good start, so hopefully I’ll be able to knock double digits off the list.

Queenslayer – by Sebastien de Castell (Review)

Spellslinger #5

Fantasy, YA

Hot Key Books; May 2, 2019

451 pages (PB)

4 / 5 ✪

Author WebsiteGoodreads

Contains spoilers for the previous Spellslinger books!

The penultimate book in the Spellslinger series finds Kellen in Daroman doing what he does best—pissing people off. As a matter of course, he and Reichis realistically needed to find their way into the Empire at some point. Having been in jail, hunted, or hunted while in jail virtually everywhere else on the continent ultimately would’ve led them to feel disappointed by not having experienced the Daroman justice system first hand.

Kellen being Kellen, he manages to get arrested by Daroman authorities after legally killing someone. Following a duel over a hand of cards, Kellen dispatches his opponent with flair, afterwards wiping some of his blood onto a cloth in the overseeing marshals’ saddlebags. A cloth that just happened to be the Daroman flag. See, Daroman justice is a fiddly bit, and wiping blood (or likely other bodily fluids) on their flag is tantamount to treason. And so Kellen is trussed up, thrown on a horse and paraded to the capital where the Queen is to oversee his trial and subsequent execution. Reichis—meanwhile—rides in style, being hand-fed butter biscuits and pampered by the marshals.

But upon visiting the court, a curious thing happens.

The Queen—the ruling monarch for 2000 years reincarnated in the body of an 11-year old—chooses to spare Kellen, instead appointing him her Tutor of Cards, essentially making him untouchable by the legal system. His reward for this? To help the Queen survive into her teenage years, while also teaching her cards.

And yet, not all is as it seems. While many of the courtiers hate Kellen—being a foreign mage, especially one cursed with Shadowblack, is not good for public opinion—just as many fear him in equal measure. Reichis is generally just viewed with adoration or distaste, both of which seem to infuriate the squirrel-cat. As such, both Kellen and his business partner are quickly confronted with assassination plots, which they manage to thwart. But surviving these is just the first step.

Over the course of Queenslayer, Kellen is thrown into the pit of courtly politics. Involved is a beautiful countess, and the major attempting to force said countess into marriage. There’s a reclusive count willing to help Kellen out, seemingly for free. There’re several marshals seeking his death (actually, there’s quite a lot of people trying to kill him, but). There’s a millennia-old reincarnate, a powerful queen, and a scared little girl—all in one. The Jan’Tep have their fingers in the mix, with Sha’maat appearing to make another brazen request. There’s the queen’s social secretary; a mysterious man everyone loves and hates in equal measure.And there’s Kellen and Reichis in the middle, with no Ferius or Nephenia in sight.

“And what is your occupation?”

“Mostly people try to kill me. When they fail, I take their money.”

As Kellen has proved in past books, he doesn’t need anyone’s help screwing himself over. But as he proved in Soulbinder, neither does he need anyone’s help getting out of it. Just give him a sec to think it over, a half-assed plan involving Reichis that’s sure to fail, and clap him in irons and let him get to work. The results are usually surprising—but always entertaining.

It’s quite something to see Kellen’s progress over these five books. He’s built from a pessimistic smart-ass into something more, while still maintaining his core values. Some of them, at least. The character progression over this book—over the entire series—is an impressive bit of writing. The world-building as well continues to impress. While not as exhaustive as some other contemporaries, Spellslinger has spanned a continent and described, in rare detail, all the major players involved. While some further detail is left wanting, de Castell does a lovely job of giving enough, while not making it seem like too much. Though I’ve a feeling book six lies in the realm of the Jan’Tep—it could very well be anywhere seen over the course of the series.

The plot of Queenslayer involves an intricate—and at times confusing—journey through courtly intrigue, sex, death and politics. What emerges at the end is a a pale comparison to what started out, which I found both pleasing and disappointing at once, somehow. While I was mad at myself for losing a handle on everything that was going on, I loved the end result, an intricate plot with twists and turns and surprises aplenty. And yet, I was disappointed in the times Kellen simply refuses to act. More than once, he refuses to get involved, while the story attempts to pass him by and we the reader have to catch up with it when at last Kellen rejoins the fray.

As the final book looms large: so many questions remain. EDIT: most of which I can’t relay here because of possible spoilers. I guess you’ll just have to read to find out!

TL;DR

If you’ve made it to Book #4 or #5 in the series, congratulations! Similarly, you probably don’t need much urging from me to finish it off. In all likelihood you’ve stopped reading by now and moved on to the next book. If you haven’t (either gotten this far or stopped reading), then know that even through five books Spellslinger continues to impress. I think most fans of the series will be excited for Crownbreaker, but more than a little disappointed as well. I’ll miss Kellen and Reichis, their adventures and mishaps. But I want to know what happens in the end and how they fit into it. And how Nephenia fits into it. And Sha’maat. And the Jan’Tep. And the continent. And the Shadowblack. What more can I do but recommend this? It’s recommended. There. Done. Join me later for the series denouement—Crownbreaker—published just last fall!

The Last Smile in Sunder City – by Luke Arnold (Review)

Fetch Phillips Archives #1

Dark Fantasy, Mystery

Orbit Books; February 25, 2020

368 pages (ebook)

4.0 / 5 ✪

GoodreadsAuthor Website

I was kindly furnished with a copy in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to Orbit and NetGalley for the ARC!

Fetch Phillips has been called many things in his life, though few worse than those he calls himself. He was born nowhere, a settlement that was soon reduced to even less. The sole survivor of the massacre, Fetch was taken in by Weatherly—a human city that wanted nothing more than forget the magic outside its walls. And for much of his young life, Fetch tried. Tried, and failed, to forget the magic. To forget what he’d seen, what he’d heard, what fate had claimed his family. In Weatherly he had a new family, new kin, and a place that he’d never wanted. But in the end, he couldn’t escape the call of the magic—and left Weatherly behind, en route to Sunder City.

Much has happened since then. Too much, for Fetch’s reckoning. He still calls Sunder City home, eking out his living amidst the magical creatures and humans alike as a Private Eye—one available to the magic community only. Or should we say the FORMERLY magical community. For, several years after Fetch’s escape from Weatherly, the magic in Sunder—in the whole of creation—died. But the monsters remain.

Edmund Rye is a teacher at the first school for all the descendants of the formerly magical. Ogre, gnome, elven children rub elbows and play tag with goblins, kobolds, sirens, and dwarves. The professor is a delight, fully committed to his work, the future, and the students themselves. That is, until recently when Rye disappeared.

Enter Fetch Phillips, Man for Hire, contracted to find the professor and if possible return him to his duties. But the deck is stacked against him. For the professor is a member of the Blood Race—a vampire. Of course, when the magic died, the vampires lost their thirst for blood. Except that maybe, somehow, Rye’s has returned. Or maybe he’s just dead, rotting in a ditch somewhere. Phillips doesn’t care—he gets paid the same either way.

But when a young siren girl—and Rye’s prodigy—turns up missing as well, Fetch’s life complicates further. For as little as he cares about Rye, the girl has untapped potential. Something Fetch himself is fresh out of. Maybe something he never even had. And as he begins to give a damn about the case, several inopportune things happen. The ghosts from Fetch’s past begin to turn up in the present. And things that should’ve remained buried come to life. And though the magic is well and truly dead, hope is not quite gone, and neither is Fetch Phillips.

‘ Maybe nobody gets better. Maybe bad people just get worse. It’s not the bad things that make people bad, though. From what I’ve seen, we all work together in the face of adversity. Join up like brothers and work to overcome whatever big old evil wants to hold us down. The thing that kills us is the hope. Give a good man something to protect and you’ll turn him into a killer. ‘

A life without hope is no life at all, but a desperate hope is little better. For a person who has lost all hope is nothing but predictable, but a desperate person is completely unpredictable. And unpredictability begets chaos.

The Last Smile in Sunder City is the fantasy debut from Black Sails actor Luke Arnold. And it is—as you may’ve guessed—a story of hope. Set in a dark but beautiful world, Sunder City is an amazing, if depressing setting. Arnold fills the pages with history and lore, both before and after the death of all magic—filling the story with a sense of desperation, and of hope.

Now where the world-building is pretty solid, the story is somewhat blah. It’s not bad exactly, just straightforward. The mystery itself wasn’t too deep or inventive, and I sometimes lost track of things when Arnold attempted to set the scene. These glimpses into the history of the world were interesting, but ultimately distracted from the plot itself. Where an open world full of side-quests may work well for an RPG, it doesn’t really work for a book. Additionally, sometimes Fetch takes unbelievable leaps in his logic, relating two or more clues that don’t appear to add up.

A deliciously dark setting, combined with a story of hope and hopelessness, make Last Smile a must-read for any fans of dark fantasy. Indeed, I found a world recently relieved of its magic to be an unique and immersive setting, particularly as the main character has his own history surrounding the event. Not only did the Coda cost the world its magic, but it cost Fetch Phillips more than a little bit of himself. The effects that the loss has on the world’s formerly magical inhabitants proved as fascinating as they were horrible, from death and disfiguration to hopelessness and despair. The effect upon mankind were much less severe, with only those few wizards and witches affected by the loss, but now humans are universally loathed for their part in the Coda. A part that you can read about in the book (I’m not giving it away).

While I’d definitely recommend the Last Smile for its world and setting, if nothing else, I must admit I had one notable issue with it. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what era this world was set in. Likely because Arnold has just made up something all on his own; a world that had little need for innovation or technology before the magic left. And yet, there’re things like phones and hospitals and automobiles and police, but no guns or radios or the like.

TL;DR

Set in a dark and dreary world newly devoid of magic, The Last Smile in Sunder City is a solid four star debut from actor Luke Arnold. While the main mystery leaves something to be desired, the journey of Fetch Phillips more than makes up for it. At times seemingly random and disoriented, this amalgamation of history, mystery and lore bespoke of heart, redemption, and—more than anything—hope. And in a world of darkness, even the smallest spark can give light to an even greater hope, no matter how unlikely it seems.

The Fetch Phillips Archives continues with Dead Man in a Ditch, due out October 6, 2020.

Randomize – by Andy Weir (Review)

Forward Collection #6

Short Story, Scifi

Amazon Original; September 17, 2019

28 pages (ebook); 48 min (audio)

2 / 5 ✪

Niki Hawkes just did this too over on her site, and her review’s about the same—if a little less positive. She influenced me to read this, though you really wouldn’t expect it from what she said about it.

A short heist thriller, from The Martian author Andy Weir, aims to deliver both suspense and drama for an morning commute or afternoon tea. Sadly, this story falls well short of anything thrilling—instead managing only to fill that afternoon with mild disappointment. And tea.

Nick Chen has an problem. IT Manager for the Babylon Casino in Vegas, his job is safe as long as his boss’s money is. So far, the random number generator running the casino’s keno system has done what it does best: randomly generate numbers. But with the release of quantum computers, that’s no longer the case. Now the numbers can be tracked and predicted, so long as the someone has the money, equipment and expertise to do so. It may seem like long odds, but Nick prefers no odds to long ones. Fortunately, Nick has a solution. And all it’ll take is approval from his boss, Edwin Rutledge. That, and a ton of money.

Sumi Singh has a problem. A genius of epic proportions, she married down—but fell in love. Despite her faith in her husband Prashant’s business, they’re a bit empty on funds, a bit lacking in space, and a bit out of time. They need money—and they need it now. Luckily, Sumi has a plan. And all it’ll take is a quantum computer, a prescribed set of numbers, and a certain casino. And she can already smell the success.

So, a short story, built upon a heist like Ocean’s 11. Too bad it’s so short.

Randomize tells a complete story in a small package. Only 28 pages, or 48 minutes in audio form. It wasn’t terrible, it just wasn’t very interesting. After an incredibly quick setup, Weir skips right to the suspense. Except there really isn’t any. It’s a thriller that didn’t thrill. It’s fairly tepid, really. With the quick build, there wasn’t a sense of conflict, nor a chance to bond with or care about any of the characters. Now the characters seemed legitimately interesting. But then everything’s wrapped up and the story ends. I find it difficult to care about anything that takes half the time trying to explain the technology that makes the story coherent only to later wrap everything up in half a damn page.

TL;DR

Imagine a 10 minute version of Ocean’s 11. How would one inject such a thing with all the action, all the suspense, all the drama into a piece so short? Well, as it turns out, one wouldn’t. Randomize is a thriller that doesn’t thrill. A way to spend your commute or your afternoon if you don’t care about substance, excitement or plot. It’s not the worst thing that you could read, but even if you think it might be—then it’s over. If you got it free (like I did), and you’ve some time to kill: knock yourself out. Otherwise, skip it.

So, just a quick one today. Tomorrow there’ll be a longer, better review of an upcoming ARC, due out Tuesday. Maybe come back and check it out! Also, has anyone read any of the other Forward Collection? Are they worth reading? I’ve done a pair now, and my opinion of them is pretty split. If you missed the review of Summer Frost—find it here!

Blood of Elves – by Andrzej Sapkowski (Review)

The Witcher #2

Epic, Fantasy, Sword & Sorcery

Hachette Book Group; May 1, 2009 (original English translation)

Orion Publishing; February 13, 2020 (rerelease)

398 pages (PB)

3.5 / 5 ✪

I was generously supplied a copy in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Orion Publishing for the eARC! #NetGalley #BloodofElves

Blood of Elves officially begins the Witcher saga, a series by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. It follows witcher Geralt of Rivia, of some renown and fame, as well as infamy. Though Geralt was initially introduced in The Last Wish, Blood of Elves is the first full length novel set in this world of elves, dwarves, gnomes, men, and witchers. In addition to the Last Wish, you maaaay be familiar with the Witcher games (which are all amazing). While I enjoyed all the games, as well as the Last Wish, I was torn on Blood of Elves.

Witchers—as introduced in The Last Wish—are a secretive order of monster slayers, hated and feared the world over, but needed as well. Taken as boys, they are put through rigorous and dangerous trials then are pumped full of alchemic and mutagenic compounds to turn them into the perfect monster-fighters. The survivors of these are few, but these few become Witchers. Witchers traditionally stay out of the limelight; not getting involved with the politics of kings, nor humans versus non-humankind.

But when Geralt hears of a certain prophecy, he breaks this unwritten rule. Ciri is the lost Princess of Cintra, a child of the Elder Blood—prophesied to bring great change to the world. She is also an orphan, one with magic in her blood. And so Geralt returns with Ciri to Kaer Morhern—the home of the Witchers—and begins to train her as one of their own. But as a child of Elder Blood, Ciri also begins training in magic, slowly becoming one of a kind. Something unique.

The story, such as it is, follows Ciri. Her Witcher training under Geralt. Her magic training under Triss Merigold. Her… less than reputable training, under the bard, Dandelion. Further on, it follows world events surrounding the Princess of Cintra, a prophesied child of Elder Blood. The politics of lords and kings. War. And more.

There’s a lot going on in Blood of Elves. Sapkowski focuses heavily on world-building, switching between vastly different perspectives with little apparent emphasis on the actual plot. The plot which is… incomplete. While the story follows Ciri as she grows up, and Geralt as her mentor, we spend a lot of time with an extended cast. In addition to Geralt, Ciri, Triss and Dandelion, there’s Yennifer, Vesemir, other Sorceresses, other Witchers, kings and viziers, elves, humans, dwarves, gnomes, rebels, warriors, and more. There are random flashbacks—often short and unhelpful, only hinting at past events. It’s both a thrilling, and incredibly annoying tactic. There’s a lot going on; it’s easy to get lost.

First time I read this, it frustrated me on so many levels. Second time was better, but I still didn’t love it. The plot was still muddied, the pacing… odd. I never knew whether I should be feeling action and thrill or thoughtful and contemplative, and then it changed without apparent reason.

And… well. The plot doesn’t resolve at the end of Blood of Elves. It rather ends in a cliffhanger, in fact. Like the kind Michael J. Sullivan is so obsessed with. But where his novels are usually gripping and thrilling… well, BoE is both of these, too. But it’s also a bit dense. And with very little resolution, I found myself turned off it.

TL;DR

While Blood of Elves demonstrates world-building and lore on an elite scale, its plot is a quagmire of random characters, events and flashbacks, all cobbled together in a seemingly random order. Well the story told is a good one—better than good, even—it’s easy to get lost in all the twists and turns. Having played the Witcher games, having read the Last Wish—I could just barely keep up with it all, but still lost focus in the end, when the book ended, but nothing was resolved. I haven’t yet read Time of Contempt (the next Witcher novel), where the story presumably continues. The desire to both is and isn’t there. If it’s another mire of random characters and flashbacks, I’m not sure I want to. If it’s a series of action and adventure sequences following my favorite characters, I definitely do. So, I’m torn. And I’m not sure which way to lean.

Age of Myth – by Michael J. Sullivan (Review)

Legends of the First Empire #1

Epic, Fantasy

Del Rey; June 28, 2016

387 pages (HC)

4.0 / 5 ✪

Since the dawn of time, humans have worshipped the Fhrey as gods, never before crossing the Bern or North Branch Rivers into the green lands beyond, which their gods inhabit. In fact, none have dared cross these bounds, instead staying on the barren stretch of land north of the Broken Lands which constitutes Rhulyn. Not, at least, until recently.

Raithe currently wishes he’d not broken this particular tradition. After just crossing to a small islet at the junction of the two rivers, a god appeared, killed his father, and prepared to kill Raithe himself. Except that he killed it first. A god. Dead. By his hand. It was quite perplexing, to be honest.

From here, Raithe and Malcolm—a human servant, formerly of the Fhrey—turn south, fleeing the old gods wrath. Meanwhile, Persephone, wife to the Chief of Dal Rhen for the last 20 years, has just been widowed. And with her husband following their son into the afterlife, she awaits the passing of the mantle that will fade her into obscurity. And yet, it’s hard to just let it happen. So when the mystic girl Suri comes bringing portents of their impending doom, Persephone takes it upon herself to keep them safe. The Fhrey are on the warpath, and no Rhune is safe from them. But just when the light is fading and all hope is lost—enter Raithe: the God-Killer.

Confronted by a impending storm that threatens to wipe out their people, Raithe, Malcolm, Suri and Persephone must band together to somehow salvage humanity. They are joined in this endeavor by several unlikely characters, allies, and not-exactly-enemies. Can they keep humanity alive? Or will the birth of legends be the end of the Age of Myth?

It’s a generally good series debut. Michael J. Sullivan, author of Riyria fame, weaves an expansive story set early in his world of Elan; the humble roots of what will become a legend. Of course, the world-building is amazing. This tantalizing tale begins the Legends of the First Empire, a six book epic that will lay the foundation of the world we’ve all come to love from the Riyria Revelations and Chronicles. After his planned six books, I can only imagine how thorough the lore will be. In fact, having now read five of them, I can tell you that the Age of Myth is just the tip of the iceberg, lore-wise. And the story that Sullivan tells in it is just the first in an epic legend. While I wasn’t thrilled with the first half of the six book series, I did find it helpful to read all five leading up to the release of the sixth. And where I found the first three lacking (mostly the first two, though), the last two were both incredible!

The POVs in AoM were pretty solid. Raithe, Persephone, Suri all take turns with the narrative, of course, and are joined by Brin, lorekeeper of Dal Rhen; and two Fhrey Mawyndulë, prince to the fane, and Arion, the Miralyith—wizardess—assigned as his tutor. A few more join these, all of which are generally likable, at least as POVs go.

While the story starts off strong and carries along nicely for the first half or so, uneven pacing bogs it down somewhat in the later stages. Additionally, though I certainly enjoyed my time with it, Age of Myth just didn’t bring the depth that I’m accustomed to in a Sullivan novel. It was like Crown Conspiracy all over again—well, not that bad, actually. Just a bit less thrilling, a bit less relatable, and a bit less realistic than usual. The whole thing was a solid release, though not perfect. And leading into Age of Swords… well, it could’ve gone better. The character development specifically—which, yes, I realize is difficult in the first book of any series—was weak, practically nonexistent but for Raithe and Arion, who adapted a bit over its course.

TL;DR

All in all, I expected more from Age of Myth than it delivered. I mean, it’s still a solid four-star read. Has interesting characters, an entertaining plot, and builds upon the expansive lore only hinted at in the Riyria books. But I’ve a high opinion of Michael J. Sullivan’s authorial skills. The book lags a bit in places. And while every POV is generally good, none wowed me. While Age of Myth was quite the read—it wasn’t perfect. But I’d certainly recommend it. Both the book and the following series. The first of a planned six books, Age of Myth begins the Legends of the First Empire, a series which becomes more and more amazing as it goes on. And so reading the first one—which shouldn’t prove much of a challenge—is key.

Legends of the First Empire continues with the Age of Swords—Book 2—and follows on with Age of War, Age of Legend and Age of Death. Age of Empyre—out later this year—concludes the series, so you’ve got a little to catch up, but shouldn’t waste anymore time. Get on it!

On Tap 2/11

Currently Reading

The Last Smile in Sunder City – by Luke Arnold

The Last Smile in Sunder City is the debut novel by actor Luke Arnold (he played Long John Silvers on Black Sails). It’s the tale of misplaced hope in a dark world where all hope—along with all the magic—is gone, and formerly magical creatures while away their remaining years alive before time takes them like the dust they’ve become. It’s very uplifting.

Actually just finished this one. Not much to say about it but that it’s a solid 4-star book and you’ll have to check back to hear my thoughts. Pretty good!

The Hazel Wood – by Melissa Alberts

Another darker take on fairy tales, but instead of reworking a classic, Albert’s gone and made up her own. It’s pretty good so far, in an awkward teen kinda way. I just grabbed this from my library recently, but it’s not too hard to get into. Plus the reader’s alright, though not amazing.

Up Next

I’m looking to get a jump on next month’s ARCs—as there’re 5 alone coming out the week of the 15th (Ravencaller, Liquid Crystal Nightingale, Brightstorm, etc) (I also have a copy of By Force Alone, which supposedly comes out in the UK in March, though isn’t released in the US until the summer, so I’ll probably wait on that), but I haven’t decided on any specifics. I also have a few overdue ones to burn through still, so hopefully whatever I read will help one of those aims. And be good. If it’s not good, I probably won’t stay with it.

Gaming

I don’t get into gaming as much as I thought I might when I first started out. A big thing in gaming is to stream your games, or at least have clips where you talk about them—at least those’re things my friends are usually on about—but well, I personally hate the sound of my voice recorded, so. Yes, yes, I know everyone hates how they sound on film. But I just sound bored and kinda stoned. So it’s not happening.

Anyway, lately I’ve been working through The Surge. It’s… frustrating. I’m not a huge From Software/Dark Souls kinda guy, and I don’t hate my life enough to waste it on difficult, annoying, repetitive fighting and dying. So I doubt I’m going to finish it. Next up is probably Mutant Year Zero, if you’re into that. If not—or you’re not into gaming at all—please ignore this. There’re some book things above and many more book things in the future.

So, what’re you reading now? Or playing? Have you been through any of what I’ve mentioned here, and if so, how’d you like them? Let me know!

Pile of Bones – by Michael J. Sullivan (Brief)

Legends of the First Empire Novella, Prequel

Novella, Fantasy, Epic

Audible Exclusive; January 7, 2020

67 min (audio)

3 / 5 ✪

Pile of Bones is an interesting interlude in the Legends of the First Empire series, actually set before the events of Age of Myth, back when Suri and Minna were just two sisters roving the forest under the semi-watchful eye of Tura. The short involves a chamber filled with bones, a raow, and the story behind Suri’s distaste for enclosed spaces. While the lore for the raow was interesting, and the glimpses of Minna and Suri together again was kinda heartwarming—the real reason to read this prequel is certainly to learn more about Suri’s dislike of tight spaces. Over the course of the roughly 45 minutes spent in the forests of Elan, I learned, I laughed, I loved—but there was nothing earth-shattering here—and I gained a deeper appreciation of Suri’s aversion to claustrophobia. As I read this between the events of Age of Legend and Age of Death, this gave me insight into her actions over the course of both books.

Time Gerard Reynolds is a pretty good narrator. If you’ve not heard him before, he does all the Riyria stuff. So, if you liked him—good news, you can listen to the entire series now! If you didn’t like him—yeaaah, maybe don’t listen to any of Sullivan’s books.

TL;DR

Honestly, if you didn’t read that, I don’t know what to tell you. While Pile of Bones won’t add much to your understanding of Elan or the overarching story of the Legends of the First Empire, it is a decent bit of backstory. It’s about an hour read—free, too. I’d recommend it for anyone interested in the series or new to it. Also, anyone who’s just finished Books 4 or 5. Or even anyone who is new to audio and is questioning whether or not they want to delve deeper into it as a way to read more.

Book Loot – February Edition

So lemme start off by saying that I really love the Stacking the Shelves and loot recaps and other whassits that people do on their blogs. Memes, that’s it. I love seeing all the covers and their blurbs and seeing at least some of what people have on their plates and comparing it to mine! But I’ve never liked the name. Just because. Dunno why. I also hate the word “memes”. So, I could list any different number of inspirations for this, but we’ll start with the Stacking that I first saw, and the Loot one that I adapted the name for. So, anyway, let’s kick this off.

ARCs for February & March

Highfire – by Eoin Colfer (1/28)

I’m a wee bit behind this year, but need to read this humorous story about a fifteen-year-old troublemaker called Squib, a crooked sheriff, and a vodka-drinking dragon living off a back-alley bayou. Thanks to HarperCollins for the read—I promise I’ll get to it!

The Last Smile in Sunder City – by Luke Arnold (2/25)

Welcome to a world that has lost its magic. PI Fetch Phillips braves the darkness of Sunder City, searching for a missing vampire who might be much more. So far I’m thoroughly enjoying this book from actor Luke Arnold, though I also keep picturing Fetch as Long John Silver. Thanks to Orbit for supplying me with an eARC!

Ravencaller – by David Dalglish (3/17)

Ancient magic has returned to retake the land in this sequel to Soulkeeper. I’m a huge fan of Dalglish and can’t wait to read this! Many more thanks to Orbit for the eARC!

Liquid Crystal Nightingale – by Eeleen Lee (3/17)

Framed for murder and desperate to escape the rock she’s stuck on, Pleo Tanza begins a desperate gamble that sets off a series of improbable events that… I don’t actually know yet. But I’m excited to get into this new scifi novel courtesy of Abaddon!

Brightstorm – by Vashti Hardy (3/17)

Brightstorm was critically acclaimed upon its initial release in the UK. And Norton was nice enough to provide me with an ebook for its release to the US! When their father is accused of sabotage before dying far from home, Arthur and Maddie Brightstorm know something is afoot. Soon enough they’re bound for South Polaris to clear his name and discover the truth behind the lies.

The Last Human – by Zack Jordan (3/24)

Sarya is the most terrifying creature in the galaxy—last of a species extinct a millennia past. When she comes into possession of a stolen starship and a ragtag team of accomplices, the world becomes her oyster—and everything she lost, might just be attainable again. Many thanks to Del Rey for the eARC!

PURCHASES

Permafrost – by Alastair Reynolds

Involving both time-travel and climate change, I’m sure this will confuse me at some point, just from terminology. But if a tiny alteration made in the past can save the future, who am I to judge?

Salvation – by Peter F. Hamilton

Salvation begins one of several series I’ve been meaning to read from Commonwealth author Peter F. Hamilton. A scifi I’m sure will thrill, read by the amazing John Lee, begins in 2204 with a crashed alien spaceship, a curious cargo, and a horrifying mystery.

The Sol Majestic – by Ferrett Steinmetz

I quite enjoyed Flex, my intro to Steinmetz, and am really looking forward to his new cyberpunk thriller coming out this summer—but a scifi novel revolving around a free meal from a restaurant? Yeah, sure.

Heard of any of these? Read ’em? Like ’em? Anything else I need to request or consider? Leave a comment and let me know, please!