September 2022

Well, it’s September.

Huh, that happened quick.

I’ve had some digestive/stomach issues lately, (also insomnia, yay) so I haven’t done quite as much with my late summer as I’d’ve hoped. Did get a lot of reading done, though.

A reasonable haul this month—4 arcs, 3 of which I’ve already finished. So September will likely be used to prepare for the fall haul (yay, rhymes), catch up on overdue summer reads, and maybe finish some series! Or… not. Maybe September will be my burnout month, who knows?

Right, pessimism aside, let’s get into it:

ARCs

One Dark Window – by Rachel Gillig (9.27)

Unnamed Series #1

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Elspeth Spindle needs more than luck to stay safe in the eerie, mist-locked kingdom of Blunder—she needs a monster. She calls him the Nightmare, an ancient, mercurial spirit trapped in her head. He protects her. He keeps her secrets.

But nothing comes for free, especially magic.

When Elspeth meets a mysterious highwayman on the forest road, her life takes a drastic turn. Thrust into a world of shadow and deception, she joins a dangerous quest to cure Blunder from the dark magic infecting it. And the highwayman? He just so happens to be the King’s nephew, Captain of the most dangerous men in Blunder…and guilty of high treason.

Together they must gather twelve Providence Cards—the keys to the cure. But as the stakes heighten and their undeniable attraction intensifies, Elspeth is forced to face her darkest secret yet: the Nightmare is slowly taking over her mind. And she might not be able to stop him.

Excited to start this one! The press release states that Orbit acquired the rights to this and its sequel, so presumably this will begin some sort of as-of-yet unnamed series.

Spells for Forgetting – by Adrienne Young (9.27)

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Emery Blackwood’s life changed forever the night her best friend was found dead and the love of her life, August Salt, was accused of murdering her. Years later, she is doing what her teenage self swore she never would: living a quiet existence on the misty, remote shores of Saoirse Island and running the family’s business, Blackwood’s Tea Shoppe Herbal Tonics & Tea Leaf Readings.

But when the island, rooted in folklore and magic, begins to show signs of strange happenings, Emery knows that something is coming. The morning she wakes to find that every single tree on Saoirse has turned color in a single night, August returns for the first time in fourteen years and unearths the past that the town has tried desperately to forget.

August knows he is not welcome on Saiorse, not after the night everything changed. As a fire raged on at the Salt family orchard, Lily Morgan was found dead in the dark woods, shaking the bedrock of their tight-knit community and branding August a murderer. When he returns to bury his mother’s ashes, he must confront the people who turned their backs on him and face the one wound from his past that has never healed—Emery.

The town has more than one reason to want August gone, and the emergence of deep betrayals and hidden promises spanning generations threaten to reveal the truth behind Lily’s mysterious death once and for all.

I had an issue with the premise of this one; it was a personal reason, nothing more—but you wouldn’t know it from my review. This was one of my favorite books thus far this year for so many reasons. Please come back to hear me gush about it! Review coming September 5th.

Friends Don’t Lie – by Nell Pattison (9.29)

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My name is Isabel Butterworth. Your name is Isabel Butterworth.

We’re around the same age. We live in the same town.

But your life is more exciting than mine, isn’t it? Richer, dramatic, more fulfilling.

Imagine if I’d never found out about you…

But I have. Because someone mistook me for you.

And now I can’t stop thinking about you because I know you’re in trouble. You need my help.

And I need a way to get to know you.

To save you.

To be you…

An all-consuming thriller with one problem—a twist that was too big! I know, right? If this has piqued your curiosity, be sure and check back for my review of Friends Don’t Lie, coming September 25th! Bonus points if your mind went to Stranger Things just like mine did:)

To Blackfyre Keep – by Anthony Ryan (9.30)

The Seven Swords #4

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GUYIME—DEMON CURSED WIELDER OF THE NAMELESS BLADE—FOLLOWS THE TRAIL OF THE FABLED SEVEN SWORDS INTO THE TROUBLED NORTHLANDS, A REALM WHERE HE WAS ONCE CALLED KING…AND RAVAGER.

Magically guided to enlist in the retinue of a lovesick knight, Guyime and his companions journey to the haunted ruin of Blackfyre Keep, a castle legend tells cannot be held. But a far deadlier threat than mere ghosts awaits. An ancient evil has been conjured and to defeat it Guyime may be forced to become the monster he used to be—the Ravager reborn.

Continuing the epic adventure of The Seven Swords, To Blackfyre Keep is an enthralling tale of creeping menace and pulse pounding action from New York Times bestselling author of the Raven’s Shadow and Draconis Memoria trilogies.

Another great entry to the series! If you enjoyed the first three up to this point, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t like this. A bit episodic, but there’s no reason that must mean “bad”. Check back for my review on September 22nd!

Additional Releases

The Godbreaker – by Mike Brooks (9.27)

The God-King Chronicles #3

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The triumphant third and final part of the God-King Chronicles. The Godbreaker is the unmissable culmination of the series, filled with war-dragons, armoured knights, sea-faring raiders, dangerous magic and battle scenes.

War comes to Narida and Nothing Will Be The Same Again. 

As the Black Keep Council prepares for war, journeying far to protect their lands and friend, The God-King and his sister try to keep Narida together in the face of betrayal while the Splinter King remains at large.

The Golden and his hordes of raiders press their advantage and sweep across the land with unholy powers.  

Sacrifices will be made, and not everyone will make it back to Black Keep alive… 

I’m only part-way through volume #2 of this (as in… 5%?), so no Godbreaking (Godbreakering?) for me yet! Had no idea this would be the end of the series, though. I could’ve sworn he said it’d be a large scale fantasy on par with GoT or Stormlight or such. Note: This is the US release. It’s been out in the UK/EU since the early summer, I believe.

Purchases

Didn’t buy many books this month, but I picked up Black Heart: Part II: In the Coils of a Horned Serpent, and will hopefully get to it soon. I quite enjoyed Part I—though the pacing was a bit inconsistent—and I’ll post a quick summary of my thoughts sometime soon. It won’t be a full review; I’ll save that til I finish all three parts.

Currently Reading

Got an early start on Station Eternity, by Mur Lafferty. Early signs indicate that I probably won’t love this quite as much as Six Wakes, but it’s definitely interesting and entertaining thus far! Instead of the hard-boiled thriller, the author seems to have gone more light-hearted this time around, and I’m curious to see where it takes her.

Upcoming Posts

In addition to the ARCs listed above, I have a few reviews that I should be posting soon. Black Heart: Part I, The Straits of Galahesh, Alone in the Wild, City of Stairs, and more. Books that I read over the summer and didn’t review, along with more series stuff that I’ve been hoping to finish up; hopefully these reviews/summaries will serve as a recap for you and me both.

I’ve also some posts I’m hoping to get through—more stuff I wanted to have out this summer but delayed when I didn’t have the time or energy to get to them. Included in these are a TBR for Autumn, some of the strange DNFs I’ve had this year, and maybe even a couple outdoor/gardening things. We’ll see.

Music

I’m usually the kind of person that learns about music only after it’s already come out. Now in the past I’ve posted some of my anticipated albums of the month, but these usually result in me doing a 1-2 hour search through various band sources while writing said post. This month, I don’t even have to bother. There are several releases I’ve been waiting all summer for out in September, and I’m excited to share them!

We start with Rumble of Thunder courtesy of The Hu, out for streaming on September 2nd (though physical copies aren’t due for another two weeks). While I haven’t pre-ordered the entire album, I’ve picked up Black Thunder Extended which I’ll share here. Early indications are good, but I found their debut, The Gereg, a bit hit-and-miss, so we’ll have to wait and see. If you haven’t heard of them before, the Hu incorporates classic Mongolian music into their metal for a truly one-of-a-kind experience.

Smash Into Pieces comes in next with their album, Disconnect, dropping on September 9th. Not a ton of info regarding this one yet, like number of tracks or included EPs, but the band has repeatedly assured that the album will come out as planned. While I like Smash Into Pieces, their albums have the issue of seeming a bit filler-y—with strong singles surrounded by weaker filler tracks. It helps that they seem to release something every year or two. Disconnect joins A New Horizon, Arcadia, and Evolver as the band marks their fourth consecutive year with an album. Smash Into Pieces is somewhere between electronic rock, hardcore, and alternative on the general scale (don’t ask me what all these things mean).

Band-Maid fills this next spot with their EP Unleash, due out on September 21. This 8-track release is set to include two recent singles and six new songs. Band-Maid albums have been pretty solid listens when compared to the other two bands on this list, as I can usually listen to an entire album on repeat for weeks before weeding out anything. Band-Maid is classed as rock, or J-Rock.

The Reckoning is the 5th album from alternative rock band Icon for Hire, legitimately one of my favorite bands. If you haven’t heard of them before, I’d definitely recommend checking them out—starting with their sophomore effort, the self-titled Icon for Hire, out since 2013. The Reckoning is set to release September 30th, and includes four previously released singles and nine brand-new tracks.

Gaming

Not much on the whole gaming front. My to-play list is still pretty long, but I just haven’t been in the mood lately. Earlier in August I finished Journey to the Savage Planet which was good fun despite it being somewhat repetitive and having an instantly forgettable story. Still, I enjoyed the idea of some random person being sent to a random planet with no training and just told: Have at it.

September (and late August) marks the release of I was a Teenage Exocolonist, a game I discovered from Caitlin at Realms of My Mind, which… I can’t play, because my computer is too old. Ah well.

Also supposedly Tunic releases on console.

Life

Not too much to say on the personal side of things. Autumn is usually my favorite time of year, but I’ve been having some health issues lately that have kept me from enjoying it quite as much. But hopefully I’ll get over this enough to do some of the things I’ve been wanting to all summer. Stay tuned, I guess.

At least the reading side of things is going well.

How was your August? What’re you excited for in September? Music/book/ game recommendations are always welcome!

Beautiful World of Books – The Middle Third of 2022

If you missed the first one of these, I laid out all the covers of the books that I read January through April. Why did I pick thirds instead of quarters you ask? Because I didn’t think of it until the beginning of May.

Anyway, not a whole lot of explanation needed for this. These are all the books I read May through August!

April 2022

Honestly I’ve been pretty good about keeping up on ARCs this year, and the last couple months have not been absolutely packed with new releases that have been on my radar, so I might actually be able to get some additional TBR in. Right now, I’m actually reading the Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri, which has been on my immediate list since it came out about a year past. In other news, the Alex Verus reread is going along well, and we’re on track to try Book #4, Chosen, this month! I restrained myself with new ARCs and requests again this month, and will hopefully use this to get a leg up on some of my summer reading. But then, if I do try to conquer both TBR and advance-advance copies, I’ll probably end up dropping the ball on both haha!

So without further stalling…

Currently Reading

I’ve a true three book rotation going at the moment. Finally picked up The Jasmine Throne (on audiobook), to read while playing Cyberpunk (which I’ll get to later). In addition, I have a pair of ARCs I got an early start on—Prison of Sleep (which I’ll get to later), and Equinox, by David Towsey (which is out in May). I’m really enjoying Jasmine Throne so far, and Equinox has an interesting feature where the same body has a different consciousness for the day- and night-cycles.

Somehow I managed another 8 books in March! Can’t imagine this will continue the entire year, but every month it does is a victory!

ARC

The Bladed Faith – by David Dalglish (4/05)

Vagrant Gods #1

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When he was twelve years old, Prince Cyrus’ kingdom fell. His fleet was burned, his city taken, his gods killed, his parents beheaded. For the next two years he was held hostage to legitimize the Empire’s rule. Following his freedom, Cyrus is recruited into the fledgling resistance as a figurehead: a skull-masked, twin-bladed assassin set to drive the invaders from his shores. But the Vagrant is a heavy mantle, and Cyrus hasn’t properly healed from the attack that took his parents. And the more he learns about his family, his right to rule, his new role as the Vagrant—the more Cyrus questions his place in the rebellion.

I’ve actually already finished this. Look for a review tomorrow or Monday, and then a short Q&A with author David Dalglish on Tuesday!

The Hunger of the Gods – by John Gwynne (4/12)

Bloodsworn Saga #2

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Lik-Rifa, the dragon god of legend, has been freed from her eternal prison. Now she plots a new age of blood and conquest.

As Orka continues the hunt for her missing son, the Bloodsworn sweep south in a desperate race to save one of their own – and Varg takes the first steps on the path of vengeance.

Elvar has sworn to fulfil her blood oath and rescue a prisoner from the clutches of Lik-Rifa and her dragonborn followers, but first she must persuade the Battle-Grim to follow her.

Yet even the might of the Bloodsworn and Battle-Grim cannot stand alone against a dragon god.

Their hope lies within the mad writings of a chained god. A book of forbidden magic with the power to raise the wolf god Ulfrir from the dead . . . and bring about a battle that will shake the foundations of the earth.

Mercury Rising – by R.W.W. Greene (4/12)

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In an alternate history where Kennedy didn’t die—the year is 1975. Thirty years prior, Oppenheimer invented the nuclear engine. Twenty, humans first set foot on the moon. Eighteen, Jet Carson and the Eagle Seven sacrificed their lives repelling the alien invaders.

So… in living, Kennedy doomed the planet eventually to aliens. Somehow.

Brooklyn just wants to keep his mother’s rent paid, earn a little scratch of his own, steer clear of the cops, and maybe get laid sometime in the near future. Simple pleasures, right? But a killer with a baseball bat and a mysterious box of 8-track tapes is about to make his life real complicated…

So… Kennedy also gave early rise to both Peter Quill AND Casey Jones? The multiverse is weird.

Prison of Sleep – by Tim Pratt (4/26)

Journals of Zaxony Delatree #2

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Once Zax was a lonely traveler, one who would wake up on a new world every time he fell asleep, but that was before he reunited with his lost love, Ana. And before everything fell apart once more.

Now Zax is back on his own, but he has a purpose this time: hunting down the cult that once more ruined his life, destroyed his happiness, and nearly killed him. Both Ana and Minna are lost to him—possibly killed—but Zax is stuck moving forward, always forward. Though the end is in sight. And once he discovers the Cult of the Worm… actually, he hasn’t thought that far ahead yet.

Something. Something epic.

Other Releases

One Foot in the Fade – by Luke Arnold (4/26)

Fetch Phillips #3

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Probably won’t get to Fetch Phillips #2 this month, so I probably won’t read #3 either. And the description of One Foot in the Fade is… vague. Like, it could describe any of the other novels in the series. So, instead of perpetuating this unhelpful bit, I’ll just post a link to my review of The Last Smile in Sunder City and say, it’s supposed to be something like more of that. Which sounds pretty good, to be honest.

Music

Just a couple of albums on my radar this month, though I’m sure we’ll get more as the month elapses. The Veer Union are a Canadian hard rock band out of Vancouver. I have… five of their albums? Manifestations is out April 8th. Shinedown, on the other hand, is a rock band from Jacksonville, Florida. This is their 7th album, and despite some of their previous stuff being… poor, early singles from this actually sound promising.

Gaming

So I’ve been playing Cyberpunk since it’s last next-gen update, and… well, it’s not terrible. Actually, it’s pretty good. I played it shortly after release and it glitched out before the Heist mission. I fell through the map and died, and each one of my saves started me underneath the pavement. Since then, I’ve kept my distance, but recently some of the gamers I follow have been talking it up, about how it’s actually decent to play now. And… well, I’ve also since upgraded to the PS5, so yeah.

I’ve put about 50 hours into it so far, and have very little trophy progress to show for it, which is pretty much the best thing I can say about Cyberpunk. I’ve mostly just been running around from one side mission to the next, doing a main story gig every now and then to keep invested. The story missions really try to hustle you along the main path, but much like the Witcher before it, when the game ends—it’s over. You can’t progress any further, can’t do anymore missions, or gigs or anything. So take your time. Which I’ve been doing. And it’s been pretty great!

There are still bugs. But they’re mostly just the funny kind where sometimes NPCs glitch into walls briefly. Especially after they’ve been knocked out. There was one where I ran into an oncoming truck on foot and it just disappeared. One where the Johnny-vision—where Silverhand’s consciousness clashes with yours—got stuck and kept going (it’s only supposed to last twenty seconds or so, but after 15 minutes it was still around. I just had to save and reload to get rid of it). There have been a few bugs that I’ve had to solve like this: save, then reload it. And they’re fine. Nothing gamebreaking yet.

Night City is vast. VAST. I will say that for the amount of doors, there aren’t a whole lot that you can open and explore. I really enjoyed this about Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, where you could pretty much break into any Prague home and explore. Per capita, not nearly as much here in Cyberpunk. The game also doesn’t reward you for exploring like Deus Ex does. Occasionally you’ll come across some unique weapons’ dealer, or weird side-quest, or bit of random lore and lootables—I stumbled across a cave in the middle of the Badlands where there’d been some massacre, and the data shards laying about detailed a prisoner who’d harnessed a mech and gained his freedom—but don’t expect to run around picking locks or searching rooftops and sewers for interesting routes. That said, there are a lot of different routes you can take on missions. But only really on missions. I just did one mission where there were about a half dozen different stealth routes leading to the objective, along with a few more guns-blazing paths and the like.

Despite the bugs that are left, Night City is pretty. It’s not the most beautiful of games—partly due to the bugs, partly to the piles of trash everywhere (yay, the future)—but for an open-world sandbox, it’s really quite good.

I’m still relatively early on, so I can’t give a thumbs up or down yet, but I will say this much—it’s so much better than it was on release. Don’t know if I’d recommend buying it yet, but if you already own a copy, I’d certainly give it a go. The next-gen update is free, too, so if you bought a PS4 version like I did and have since upgraded consoles, your update is free. It’s worth the time I’ve spent on it lately, which isn’t something I ever thought I’d say when they first released it, but CD Projekt Red has really No Man’s Sky’ed this quite well. Here’s hoping they continue to do so.

March 2022

As predicted, I did not make it through another 9 books in February. I did, however, make it through 7—which is more than I’d’ve thought! In part this is because I picked up Empire of the Vampire, and in part that I didn’t read as many audiobooks, but I really shouldn’t complain. Not that that’s what I’m doing.

But thanks to my decent record of reading thus far this year, I actually have several posts already scheduled for this month. Please check back tomorrow for the conclusion of a trilogy, then later next week for something entirely new!

March brings the threat of spring to Montana, typically with more snow and rain and snow, but also the end of winter sports and a lag in my hours. I have a few tentative plans, but nothing I’m ready to commit to yet. First I’ll be worrying about completing the programs I’ve scheduled, getting through a bevvy of March birthdays, and finishing up a few long overdue reads:)

Currently Reading

I’m currently in a deep dive of Empire of the Vampire, which I’ve been working through on and off since December. I meant to read up to Part 3 then leave it, but the story has caught hold of me again such that I’m partway through Part 5 and aiming to maybe finish it here. (Just an FYI, the story DID capture my attention before, but I shelved it so I could read a few ARCs and other subsequent releases that I’d promised to get to in January and February.) Meanwhile, I’ve picked up the Harbor, but not yet started it. This is the third novel of Katrine Engberg’s Kørner & Werner detective series, where each subsequent release has been better than the last—so far, at least. Hopefully a trend that’ll continue!

ARC

Stars and Bones – by Gareth L. Powell (3/01)

Stars and Bones #1

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Seventy-five years from today, the human race has been cast from a dying Earth to wander the stars in a vast fleet of arks—each shaped by its inhabitants into a diverse and fascinating new environment, with its own rules and eccentricities.

When her sister disappears while responding to a mysterious alien distress call, Eryn insists on being part of the crew sent to look for her. What she discovers on Candidate-623 is both terrifying and deadly. When the threat follows her back to the fleet and people start dying, she is tasked with seeking out a legendary recluse who may just hold the key to humanity’s survival.

Many thanks to Titan Books for the ARC!

Ogres – by Adrian Tchaikovsky (3/15)

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It’s always idyllic in the village until the landlord comes to call.

Because the landlord is an Ogre. And Ogres rule the world, with their size and strength and appetites. It’s always been that way. It’s the natural order of the world. And they only eat people sometimes.

But when the headman’s son, Torquell, dares lift his hand against the landlord’s son, he sets himself on a path to learn the terrible truth about the Ogres, and about the dark sciences that ensured their rule.

Many thanks to Rebellion/Solaris for the ARC! Expect a review out on the 8th!

Curfew – by Jayne Cowie (3/22)

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Imagine a near-future Britain in which women dominate workplaces, public spaces, and government. Where the gender pay gap no longer exists and motherhood opens doors instead of closing them. Where women are no longer afraid to walk home alone, to cross a dark parking lot, or to catch the last train.

Where all men are electronically tagged and not allowed out after 7 p.m.

But the curfew hasn’t made life easy for everyone. Sarah is a single mother who happily rebuilt her life after her husband, Greg, was sent to prison for breaking curfew. Now he’s about to be released, and Sarah isn’t expecting a happy reunion, given that she’s the reason he was sent there.

Her teenage daughter, Cass, hates living in a world that restricts boys like her best friend, Billy. Billy would never hurt anyone, and she’s determined to prove it. Somehow.

Helen is a teacher at the local school. Secretly desperate for a baby, she’s applied for a cohab certificate with her boyfriend, Tom, and is terrified that they won’t get it. The last thing she wants is to have a baby on her own.

These women don’t know it yet, but one of them is about to be violently murdered. Evidence will suggest that she died late at night and that she knew her attacker. It couldn’t have been a man because a CURFEW tag is a solid alibi.

Isn’t it?

Thanks to Tammy for putting this on my radar, and to Penguin and Berkley for granting me an ARC!

Seven Deaths of an Empire – by G.R. Matthews (3/29)

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The Emperor is dead. Long live the Empire.

General Bordan has a lifetime of duty and sacrifice behind him in the service of the Empire. But with rebellion brewing in the countryside, and assassins, thieves and politicians vying for power in the city, it is all Bordan can do to protect the heir to the throne.

Apprentice Magician Kyron is assigned to the late Emperor’s honour guard escorting his body on the long road back to the capital. Mistrusted and feared by his own people, even a magician’s power may fail when enemies emerge from the forests, for whoever is in control of the Emperor’s body, controls the succession.

Once again, huge thanks to Rebellion/Solaris for the ARC! Expect a review out on the 22nd!

Other Releases

I actually controlled myself pretty well this month. That, and was rejected several books, which is practically the same thing. Here are a few more releases that I didn’t get copies of, but I still may pick up at some point. I know there are at least a few I’d be a fool not to consider. Fortunately, I’ve already made it through half of my scheduled ARCs for the month, so I should be able to check out at least one (while either reading some from the backlog, and/or tackling a few in advance of April or May. Not to mention this month’s Alex Verus reread of Taken, which I’ll probably get to near the twilight of March! Maybe it’ll even be warmish by then (though more likely we’ll just get more snow).

The Broken Room – by Peter Clines (3/01)

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Hector was the best of the best. A government agent that could cripple defenses and bring foreign governments to their knees. But when his own nation betrayed him, he walked away, he to return. Until, that is, Natalie.

Natalie can’t remember much of her life before, but she does remember the cages. Being taken to the Project with so many other children to be a part of their mysterious and questionable experiments. It’s because of them that Natalie is where she is, saddled with the ghost of a dead secret agent stuck in her head.

A ghost that Hector owes a debt.

Now that Natalie is on the run from the same Project that created her, Hector is pulled right back into life as an agent, though this is one conflict he can’t walk away from.

Gallant – by V.E. Schwab (3/01)

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When Olivia Pryor is called home to Gallant, she expects some kind of recognition, or greeting, from her family—greeting that does not come. But she’s not about to leave the only place she’s ever felt at home, nor return to Merilance School for Girls, where she ostensibly grew up in her mother’s absence. So, despite the cold reception, the hostility of her kin, or the half-formed ghouls haunting the place—Olivia remains. But when she traverses a ruined wall at just the right moment, she finds herself still in Gallant—yet not. Here, the ghouls are solid, the manor is crumbling, and a mysterious power fills the air. Yet which side of the wall will Olivia choose to make her home: with the mysterious power, or against it?

Last Exit – by Max Gladstone (3/08)

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More than a decade past, Zelda and her group of adventurers would use their specialized abilities to travel through alternate realities and attempt to destroy the black rot threatening the stability of these worlds. (Yeah, I know the setup to this seems a little weird, but just try to roll with it—it really starts sounding good soon.) That was before her lover and key partner, Sal, disappeared.

Ten years later, all but Zelda have moved on. But when she discovers proof that Sal is still alive, trapped in another reality, the others flock to her aid. Only now everything is different—both in the realities, and in the hearts of the walkers that traverse them.

Memory’s Legion – by James S.A. Corey (3/15)

Novella Omnibus

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The Expanse novella omnibus arrives in the form of Memory’s Legion, complete with one brand new tale—The Sins of Our Fathers, which takes place after the events of Leviathan Falls. As someone who still hasn’t made it to Leviathan Falls (not to mention Books #7 & 8 of the series, I’m still highly anticipating this return to the universe, as it might prove a welcome return for incomplete fans not to mention those that have already finished the series!

The City of Dusk – by Tara Sim (3/22)

The Dark Gods #1

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The Four Realms—Life, Death, Light, and Darkness—all converge on the city of dusk. For each realm there is a god, and for each god there is an heir.

But each and every god has withdrawn their favor from the city, and without it at their center, each of the realms is dying in turn. Unwilling to stand by and watch their destruction, the four heirs unite to save the city, and their worlds besides. But the cost requires sacrifice, and their defiance will cost them infinitely more.

MUSIC

Just two album releases on my radar this month. The first comes from Shaman’s Harvest, a southern rock band from Jefferson City, Missouri. Their 11 piece album is out March 11 and, while I’m a bit concerned it may include more politically motivated music than any other album, maybe early singles won’t prove representative of the whole. Voices is my favorite single from the upcoming Rebelator thus far.

The second album release comes courtesy of Moonlight Haze—a symphonic, melodic, and power metal band native to Italy. I’m actually not all that familiar with Moonlight Haze, having just recently discovered them, so I can say with absolute certainty that the eleven-track Animus will be representative of their entire discography.

Gaming & Misc

Haven’t really been playing very much lately, but now that I’m set to start the Harbor, and I’ve installed and loaded up Cyberpunk 2077, it may be time to change that. I played this right when it released back a few years ago and it was a buggy and broken mess. But, since then there have been a lot of patches released, perhaps none more important than the most recent, which I have heard makes this an actual game worth playing versus a… thing that will probably make you put a controller through your TV (or mouse through your computer screen).

So, happy March! It’s the best month, after all;)

Lord of Ashes – by Richard S. Ford (Review)

Steelhaven #3

Fantasy, Dark Fantasy

Headline Publishing; May 7, 2015

341 pages (Paperback)

GoodreadsAuthor Website

3.5 / 5 ✪

Beware spoilers for Books 1 & 2 of the Steelhaven trilogy. Also language and violence.

Review of Herald of the StormReview of The Shattered Crown

One very important note on this series: it’s called the Steelhaven trilogy for a reason. Yes, the characters take center stage, but wherever they are and whatever they’re doing—the city is always around them. It is in every shot, every scene, every moment. While the story may wend back and forth between the POV of all the characters, it’s the City of Steelhaven that the series is concerned with. And this is more important than ever, for the moment we’ve been waiting the entire series to see has arrived: Amon Tugha, displaced prince and would-be King of the Riverlands has come to pluck the jewel for his crown.

As his army sets up before the city gates, despair covers Steelhaven like a blanket. There is no escape from this battle. For there will be a battle; Amon Tugha’s forces are not content to simply starve the defenders out. They mean to take the city by force—whatever the cost.

Waylian hasn’t slept in days. But with the army on the city’s doorstep, there is much to do—not that he understands any of it. But his mistress thinks it’s important, so Waylian is quick enough to try it. The worst that can happen is he’ll die painfully, and after all, there’s always been a pretty good chance of that happening.

Rag has survived, somehow. But with the city sure to fall, it can’t be for much longer. When the Guild calls on her to complete a task, what can she say? While this new job will most likely get her killed, with the city locked up tight there are even less places to hide than usual—and nowhere to run.

Nobul and Regulus stand on the city walls. Around them the defenders quake in their boots, one loss away from a complete massacre. But each man means to fight til the end—one for honor, the other for blood.

Merrick has joined the Wyvern Guard, while Kaira remains beside the Queen. Together they form the elite guard for the castle itself; essentially the last line of defense. But while the Raven’s Guard may be content to wait for the enemy in their castle, Janessa is not. She has picked up her father’s sword and means to lead the city’s defense—no matter the danger.

“I think we’re fucked.”

All in all, it was a pretty good end. But it’s important to note that the trilogy is about the city itself. Vital, even. So much so that I’ve mentioned it again. See, if you go into the final book thinking that there will be a certain amount of resolution at the end… well, you might be disappointed. Steelhaven’s fate will definitely be decided. The other characters… less so. Yes, there is some resolution—most, even—but it is not universal.

Going in I thought that this was the last nail in the trilogy, but upon reaching the end I figured that it had to be like one of the JAbercrombie efforts—where subsequent books help expand upon the story of Steelhaven, and resolve some of the characters’ destinies that don’t end here. But while Ford has a couple more trilogies in the works, neither seems to have anything to do with this world. Now I could be wrong (hope I am, in fact), but I don’t think I am.

So while the end itself is a tad disappointing, the journey there is an entertaining one. Again, the characters feed off one another; their threads overlapping and interlinking and weaving in and out while coming together to complete the tapestry itself. It really is quite something to see how it all comes together. We find a few familiar (if surprising) faces, and many of our old faithful ones. Most of the sub-plots are resolved, and nothing too great is left hanging at the end. This was a good read, an entertaining one, but by no means perfect. I know I’ll see more from Ford in the future, and hope that his quality of storytelling can only improve from now on.

A must-read for readers who’ve made it this far, or for fans of the author. For anyone still on the fence… not sure what to tell you. Do you like dark, realistic fantasy where there’s no such thing as “happily ever after”? Then you might like this. But only time will tell.

If you’re interested, Engines of Empire, the first book in Ford’s new series—the Age of Uprising—comes out next week: on January 18th! Maybe check it out.

Top 12 of 2021

Welcome to My Top Books of 2021! It’s been quite the year, and I’ve had more than enough time to read again this year, as my immune system hasn’t been the same since I had COVID—in 2020. Lots of sick time this year, and lots of strange work hours, and lots of canceled plans meant lots of reading time. Which wasn’t all bad, tbh.

While I might try to knock out a Most Anticipated list for the first half or quarter or third or whatever 2022, that’ll have to wait until we’re done sending off 2021. So without further ado…

12 – TIE

Rabbits – by Terry Miles

Standalone

GoodreadsReview

The Second Bell – by Gabriela Houston

Standalone

GoodreadsReview

Couldn’t make up my mind between these two standalones—both authorial debuts of 2021! Rabbits told an exciting if ofttimes confusing tale of a competition you didn’t know was happening unless you were in it, and maybe not even then. Indeed you could march all the way to your grave not knowing you were playing! On the other side, The Second Bell told of a child born with two hearts—one a normal human heart, the other a darker, blacker one. I also loved this story of Slavic folklore, but I must admit it didn’t leave a very lasting impression.

11

The Lights of Prague – by Nicole Jarvis

Standalone

GoodreadsReview

The Lights of Prague is a tale of love and vampires in a dark and gothic city. Another debut work, this is a great read for people just off the Empire of the Vampire, or someone after something with a dark, romantic twist that also provides plenty of action, mystery, and thrill. Though I initially rated it a bit lower than some of these others, it left a lasting impression.

10

How to Forage for Mushrooms without Dying – by Frank Hyman

Goodreads • Review

The first of two non-fiction offerings, How to Forage for Mushrooms is a beginner’s guide for how to forage for mushrooms “without dying”. I had planned to read this and then forage and then, having not died, review it. Turns out, while incredibly helpful and interesting, quite a lot of the mushrooms in here are found on either the East coast, West coast, or Heartland. And since I live firmly in the Rockies, most were already out of season by the time I read it. So the foraging will have to wait for the spring. But it’s still a good read for any wannabe mycologists out there!

9

Blood of Chosen – by Django Wexler

Burningblade & Silvereye #2

GoodreadsReview

The followup to my Book of 2020 failed to live up to its somewhat unfair standard that Ashes of the Sun set last year. But still was a thoroughly interesting, thoroughly exciting tale of a brother and sister torn apart, on either side of a war that they each are beginning to feel like little more than pawns in. Possessive of a deep, vivid and richly built science fiction world, this fantasy blends the genres into something that I can’t exactly class, but could definitely fall in love with.

8

Nowhere to Hide – by Nell Pattison

Standalone

GoodreadsReview

Seven friends, seven POVs, seven would-be killers. All horrible people. I was disgusted by each and every one before the book ended. But found that I could relate to most of them, as well. A lovely thriller that you’ll either love or hate, Nowhere to Hide slides into #8 on my list, just missing out on the Top 7 by virtue of having a rating lower than perfect at 4.8.

7

Extraterrestrial – by Avi Loeb

GoodreadsReview

My second “non-fiction” read of the year blurs the line between non- and fiction. It’s a science/astronomy entry by physicist Avi Loeb, and discusses the—in his opinion—very real, obvious existence of extraterrestrial life. Now, I do believe in aliens, but not in the old-fashioned sense of the little green men and abductions and the like. I just feel that the human (and often religious) stance that we’re alone in the universe is the height of hubris, a misplaced one at that. Regardless of my own opinions—which Loeb doesn’t particularly share—Extraterrestrial is a good read for anyone who has never tried to justify the existence of extraterrestrial life through scientific means. I will note that at times the text gets into dense scientific terms and mathematics, but Loeb often takes the time to simplify it afterwards for the casual reader.

6

Voidbreaker – by David Dalglish

The Keepers #3

GoodreadsReview

The final (?) volume of the Keepers trilogy wraps up the war between the humans and dragon-sired in a way I’d never have seen coming. There’s nothing simple about this one. No real winners. Many, many losers. Blood, death, flame, unrest, and chaos. Lots of chaos. I love a good dark, chaotic read, particularly when it keeps its head. I’ve now read double-digits of Dalglish’s books and I’ve the feeling that while these were as close to perfect as imaginable, the best are still yet to come.

5

Firesky – by Mark de Jager

Chronicles of Stratus #2

GoodreadsReview

Firesky concludes the Chronicles of Stratus with a roar—one that shakes the world to its core. I treated the Chronicles as one long volume as Infernal just up and left off in the middle of the original tale. As such, these are best read back-to-back, though there is a recap for those who chose not to do this. The fact is that Stratus is possessed of a unique and interesting voice, one that reflects just the kind of man he is. I cannot recommend this adventure enough, particularly as an audiobook! To be fair, Firesky’s ’21 release was a reissue, but as I’d never read it, I treated it as new for this year.

4

The Pariah – by Anthony Ryan

Covenant of Steel #1

GoodreadsReview

The Top 4 were impossible choices. My favorite books of the year that could’ve fitted into any of the places 1-4. I spent far too much of my time on this and still am not 100% happy with my choices. But… close enough. The Pariah leads the way at #4, as Ryan’s books often start out strong but ultimately suffer a sophomore slump (or, as much of a slump you get when going from 6/5 to 4.5/5 stars). Alwyn Scribe was quite the character to read despite his conflicted feelings, deeply human flaws, and foolish, idiotic hope in the face of what would generally be overwhelming cynicism. The world-building is top notch, the characters deep and well-thought-out, and the story amazing.

3

Power doesn’t need a purpose:
Power is its own purpose.
It is the only goal that has value in itself,
because it is the means by which all other goals are achieved.

Risen – by Benedict Jacka

Alex Verus #12

GoodreadsReview

Originally my #2, I bumped it to 3 after consulting what I took away from each book and just how perfect an ending it was considering all the factors. While I’m happy to report that the Alex Verus saga ended incredibly well considering there were a dozen books in it—it wasn’t perfect. Very few things are. But over the same amount of pages, I counted its imperfection enough to send it down a space (though I’m really just nitpicking at this point). Honestly, I’m thrilled that this series ended so well! There’s no Dresden Droop, or whatever you’d like to call it. It’s a five-star read for sure, one that’s more than worth the wait!

2

‘ When at last the fields do wither,
When the stricken fade;
The Gods shall pass beyond the veil,
And the land shall be remade. ‘

A Desert Torn Asunder – by Bradley P. Beaulieu

Song of the Shattered Sands #6

GoodreadsReview

Where Risen wasn’t the perfect conclusion to the Alex Verus series, A Desert Torn Asunder isn’t the perfect ending to the Shattered Sands either. But it was damn close. The simple fact is that the ending stuck with me in such detail that it jumped to #2. The world-building and story were so amazing that they almost could have won it the year, but ultimately had to settle for second. Thing is that I’ve adored the Shattered Sands despite the minor missteps that have plagued the series. But it’s awful hard to complain about a series repeatedly churning out 4.5 star entries. Particularly when it ends on such a high note.

1

They were moving through a land of tree-cloaked hills and shadow-dark valleys, of sun-drenched meadows and rivers winding and glistening like jewel-crusted serpents that coiled through the land. The new-risen sun blazed bright as Varg stepped out on to a hillside of rolling meadow and left the trees behind him.

The Shadow of the Gods – by John Gwynne

Bloodsworn Saga #1

GoodreadsReview

What ultimately ensconced Shadow of the Gods at #1 was that I had nothing negative to say about it. Absolutely nothing. It not only lived up to the hype: this book killed it. It wasn’t the perfect read (no read is absolutely perfect) but it was as close as money can buy. The world-building, the characters, the lore, the journey, the story, the execution—this has it all. And it’s still only the first of a series. I cannot wait to see where the story leads, but like Ashes of the Sun before it, Shadow of the Gods has set the bar so high that its sequel cannot possibly live up to the expectations. Unless it does.

Hope y’all enjoyed it! If you’re a reader, I hope you’ve enjoyed at least a few of these, but if you’ve yet to discover any, I can only pray that you end up liking them half as much as I did! If you’re a blogger, I can’t wait to see your own lists and picks for this year! If you’re either or neither or both, I’d love to hear what you thought! Or anything you’d like to see more of, or any other comments or questions you have! Rest easy, 2021—you tried, that’s enough.

Top Existing Books I Read in 2021

Part One of my best books of the year, with a few shoutouts as well. Stay tuned for my favorite new books of the year, coming soon! Been dealing with vertigo this holiday season, so we’re gonna leave it at that. Let me know how you like the list, and if you’ve read any of these, eh?

Honorable Mentions

#6

Shorefall – by Robert Jackson Bennett

2020

GoodreadsReview

The followup to Foundryside, Shorefall is the return to… wow I can’t even remember the name. See, I remember really liking it, and I remember the story and plot and characters, but all the place names are just gone. And I refuse to look them up now. Anywho~ in Shorefall we learn the best way to fight a rogue god. And that’d by resurrecting another to fight it of course. The chaos that ensues is completely normal and expected, if entertaining.

#5

Mexican Gothic – by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

2020

Goodreads • Review

It’s really hard to fault everyone who told me to read Mexican Gothic over and over and over again. Possessed of a haunting story in a mysterious setting and a plot that involves hallucinations, ghosts, and eugenics, this is quite the read. It probably would’ve done better if I was a bigger fan of horror, but as it happens really held its own through the end. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more like this, and maybe even listen to what people tell me to read from now on. Special thanks to Jade and Ola for finally getting me to read it!

#4

Outpost – by W. Michael Gear

2018

GoodreadsReview

If you pick the series that I wish I’d have dug more into this year, Donovan would be in the Top, well… One. While I only made it through Outpost, the first in the series, it featured an entirely alien world, full of flora and fauna both that want you dead, existing colonists that want you dead, and circumstances that want you dead. But a story you very much want to see through to the end. A vibrant setting, interesting characters, and vivid world-building top the list of reasons to read Outpost, but they don’t just stop there. Props to Mogsy and Tammy for finally getting me on this one!

#3

Malice – by John Gwynne

2012

Goodreads

This was the third time I’ve read Malice, and it continues to be great—though not on par with the rest of the series following it. But that’s really how you want it: for the first entry of your coming-of-age tale to be the weakest link. I mean, it’s still a good read. Quite a good read, in fact, but this time around I found myself skipping some of Corban’s less entertaining moments to read more about Camlin and Veradis. Not that that’s surprising for a me, but the books I truly love throughout I’ll sit down to reread a chapter I loved and find myself still reading on from that part an hour or so hence.

#2

Wyndham & Banerjee Mysteries – by Abir Mukherjee

2016 • 2017 • 2018

A Rising Man – GoodreadsReview

A Necessary Evil – GoodreadsReview

Smoke and Ashes – Goodreads • Review

There were a couple new series I discovered this year that have impressed me, and the better of the two comes in here at #2. While City of the Lost (Rockton #1) was on par with any of the Wyndham novels, its sequels were most certainly not. If you love a good mystery, set in historical British India no less, then I’d definitely recommend this series, which is five books long at present (though only three are out on audio—four if you’re shopping the European store). While I’ve only read three thus far, there has been no low point, and honestly they just keep getting better.

#1

Flight of the Darkstar Dragon – by Benedict Patrick

2019

GoodreadsReview

This is a bit of a surprise. When I first started putting this list together, the Darkstar Dragon maxed out at #3. Only when I typed it up did it suddenly jump to number one; after I re-examined what made it a killer read for me. And just like that I relived the adventure with Min and her crew. Last year when I optimistically threw some money at a Kickstarter I had no idea that I’d discover what has proved to be one of my new favorite authors, but here we are! And I still have a handful of Yarnsworld stories to read through before the release of Return of the Whalefleet—Darkstar #2—early next year.

My Top Novellas of 2021

Welcome to List Season! It is among my most favorite times of the year, where we bloggers wind down the year by the numbers and choose our favorite titles from another year of reading! There’s usually a bit of general overlap, but also quite a bit of gems that haven’t made it onto other’s lists—be they too obscure, too late in a series, or just because not one of us can possibly keep up with all the releases in a single year. This year I’ve decided to do several lists (assuming I follow through), including a Top New Books, Top Old Books, and Top Novellas. In addition, I’ll still be featuring a Christmas Buying Guide like I did last year (and which I thoroughly enjoyed making), but it’ll be a post-Christmas thing designed for gift cards or gifts that might’ve fallen through the cracks.

But first, the Top Novellas!

Each is from 2021, and I’ve had to read them. Otherwise… well, you’ll see! Hope you like them!

#6

Remote Control – by Nnedi Okorafor

GoodreadsReview

$11 ebook / 156 pg

The first entry of this list comes from a novella I picked up from my local library during Scifi Month, as I felt I didn’t have enough science fiction to read otherwise. While not a fan of Binti, I quite enjoyed Remote Control, which is set in a slightly futuristic Ghana, and features extraterrestrial tech, or magic, or something, all revolving around the life of a wee lass, Fatima. It was weird and it was interesting and it was unusual, and it made a for a great read! I do remember it was a wee bit expensive however, so maybe try to find it at a discount.

#5

The Alien Stars – by Tim Pratt

GoodreadsReview

$7 ebook (omnibus edition) / 238 pg

Available as part of an omnibus of three novellas from Pratt’s Axiom universe, the Alien Stars is both the title of the triptych and the third volume within, respectively. For purposes of this #5 spot, I’m referring only to the 3rd novella in the volume, though I’m happy to report the first story was also a good read (don’t get me started on #2)! Try though I might, I couldn’t find it anywhere other than in the omnibus volume, though you may be able to get it on his Patreon somewhere. Anyway, it’s a good read. ‘Nough said.

#4

The Loyalist Witch Novellas – by D.B. Jackson

The Witch’s Storm – GoodreadsReview

The Cloud Prison – GoodreadsReview

The Adams Gambit – Goodreads

$3/each ebooks / ~100 pg/each

I may’ve only gotten through two of the trilogy this year, but I’ve no doubt that as long as the third continues in the same vein that it’ll make it on this list as well. All in all, the Loyalist Witch was an amazing return to the world of Ethan Kaille, albeit to find a very different thieftaker than we’d seen in years past. Ethan has changed—and Boston has changed right along with it. If you’re returning fans of Thieftaker, these are a must-read, but welcome newcomers to the series as well. While originally released as a trilogy of novellas, the entire set is now available in a complete volume, as you can see HERE.

#3

Fugitive Telemetry – by Martha Wells

GoodreadsReview

$12 ebook / 176 pg

2021 marked a return to the world of Murderbot, albeit one before the release of the full-length novel, Network Effect. It was great getting back in the groove with our old pal Murderbot and their trust issues and social anxiety, something I’d quite like to see more of in the future. But I’d also like to see where they go from here, and how they evolve as a… well… “person”.

#2

One Day All This Will Be Yours – by Adrian Tchaikovsky

GoodreadsReview

$10 ebook / 192 pg

This is starting to feel like a yearly thing, where I choose one of Tchaikovsky’s novellas for my ‘Favorites’ list. And so I guess 2021 is no different, for it features a pair of his novellas, including one that has been met with so much critical success in Elder Race—and this little one published back in March. Elder Race did not make this list (mostly because I didn’t read it), but there was no worry in Tchaikovsky missing out altogether, as this quaint little time traveling story has not one, but THREE Jack the Rippers.

#1

City of Songs – by Anthony Ryan

GoodreadsReview

$5 ebook / 160 pg

The third issue in the Seven Swords series, and Anthony Ryan has produced his best novella yet. Exiled King Guyime and his allies come to the fabled City of Songs seeking a missing child, an additional five demon blades, and redemption. By this point in the series, the world-building has started to flesh out a bit, and has left me with the need to see and explore more of this world of wonders that the author has built. I’ve very little negative to say about the series thus far which—after reading several of Ryan’s other novellas set elsewhere—is about the highest praise I can give. So do yourself a favor and pick this one up (or, if you haven’t read the first, maybe start here with my review of it: A Pilgrimage of Swords).

Well, that’s the list, hope you enjoyed it! I must say that it was only after finishing up that I looked up the price on many of these and—daaaamn. Remember when all novellas were $1-5? Tor.com has really raised the price, haven’t they? All the more reason for me to recommend the City of Songs, as it’s one of the three with a sane price tag (for the length).

Beautiful World of Books – All the Books I Read in 2021

I’ve read [however many] books this year!

I’ve no idea exactly how many books I’ve read. I had some serious trouble working this out and kept forgetting books and taking them out and reworking them all and trying to sort it so that the covers I liked most were featured in the bigger slots. Okay, okay, I read 64 books. Hopefully I read another to counterbalance Murder by Other Means so it doesn’t look so silly on its own there (I DID, I just forgot to add it in lol). Otherwise, just enjoy the covers and take them all in! Did you read many of these? Did you read ANY of these? What’s your favorite?

Legends of the First Empire – The Beautiful World of Books

Like last week’s post about the Riyria Revelations and Chronicles, this one also centers on the world of Elan, specifically the early days of the interactions between ‘Men and Dwarves and Elves and Ghazel. Back when the world was young empires rose and fell, the races jockeyed for land, the borders of later civilizations slowly feel into place. It’s quite the picturesque land, if the covers have anything to say about it.

First we have the Legends of the First Empire, a six-book series, the former half of which were somewhat disappointing, though latter half were much more impressive and memorable.

Okay so I may’ve put them down slightly out of order, but in my defense I knew that. I really prefer the Age of Legend cover to that of the Age of Empyre—the witch’s hut versus the big, semi-friendly not-dragon. Anyway, next we have the three covers from the Rise and Fall, a trilogy which takes place some years following the events of the Legends of the First Empire. I’ve yet to start the series (I know, I know), but there’s only the one book out. These covers are equally if not more amazing than those above, despite the fact that two of them are unpublished and are only out in beta-form, low resolution images.

I honestly have to say that if the story of these is ANYTHING like what’s gracing the covers, it’s going to be a memorable adventure. More likely, Marc Simonetti (who did the covers for the last two books of the Riyria Chronicles and the six Legends of the Final Empire ones, is finally becoming intimately aware of the world he’s trying to capture, thus his attempts to recreate it are just getting better and better. Of all the Sullivans thus far (23?) these last three are my favorites. They’re just… stunning.

What were your favorites? And how did they compare to last week’s covers? Have you read/do you plan to read any of these? I’ve reviews posted for the Legends series if you’re interested! As before, HERE‘S a link to Marc Simonetti’s store, where you can browse/purchase his prints for your very own.

As always, have an excellent weekend and see you all next week for more Beautiful Books!