Black Heart: Words on Wind, Adrift on Dreams of Splendor – by Mark Smylie

Black Heart #1 / Artesia #2

High Fantasy, Dark Fantasy

Self-published; February 21, 2022

235 pages (ebook)

GoodreadsAuthor Patreon

Please beware minor spoilers for the Barrow.

Give them a chance to be cruel, and they will love you for it.

You know, for a book I never thought I’d read, Black Heart: Part 1 was pretty damn good. Fresh off a reread of the Barrow, it was good to drop back into that same niche, the groove, and explore more of the highly detailed, immersive world of Artesia. While Part 1 is mostly used for building the coming story, there are a few things I’d like to note.

Other than sex, the same formula as the Barrow
There was no graphic sex or mention of cocks until nearly the two hundred page mark! It was weird. Luckily Smylie squeezed one scene in before the close of Part 1, so if you were only reading this one for the lurid fantasies—take hope!
If instead you were reading it for story- and world-building, yeah, there’s a lot of that. Black Heart uses the same formula that the Barrow did before it. Namely, a bleak starting location, heavy on the action, then a break to build the world and splay the threads wide.

Not a whole lot of repeated POVs.
As a buildup for the rest of the book to follow, Part 1 skips around a lot after leaving Stjepan and Erim outside Devil’s Tower. The story begins right after the events depicted in the Barrow, as the adventurers continue on, searching for Gause Three Penny as they hinted they might at the end of the last book. We spend a bit there, but following their departure, the overall plot zooms out a bit. POVs include the Nameless, the Guilds, the Council, the Lords and Ladies of the city, and another special guest.

Despite the time it took, it’s still the same Artesia
I confess to being a little worried the world would’ve changed after such a long absence. But as I read the Barrow right before this I can tell you for certain that it was just like stepping out of one story and into the next. The world around doesn’t change, nor does the immersion—so it’s back into the breach right away, just like no time has passed.
I’ve never read the graphic novels, but this was the same world I remember from Book #1, no problem.

It’s a good start to Book #2
When it comes right down to it, this is what matters. Whether the story is good or not. And, well, it is. The pacing is a bit slow at times, as we have to read through several new characters while the author builds up the world, but otherwise I had no complaints. Can’t recommend the entire thing yet as I haven’t read it all. But from what I’ve seen thus far, there was no reason to worry!

Coming next, Black Heart: Part II: In the Coils of a Horned Serpent!

The Hidden Life of Ice – by Marco Tedesco (Brief)

Science, Memoir, Non-Fiction

The Experiment; August 18, 2020

160 pages (Hardcover)

2 / 5 ✪


I was kindly provided an advance-copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to The Experiment and NetGalley for the ARC! All opinions are my own.

I requested Hidden Life of Ice because I was expecting a scientific explanation of Greenland and ice floe and the climate change that’s resulting in its disappearance. What I got was not nearly as interesting.

Hidden Life of Ice reads like a field notebook crossed with a memoir, at least if that field notebook was full of random fun-facts that you could use to impress with at trivia. Despite it being centered in Greenland, there’s very little—almost nothing really—about ice. Prior to Chapter 9, ice is only described in any length once. And for that only about in one or two paragraphs. There’s a decent amount of history—the discovery of Greenland, and its settlement; the Northwest Passage, and extinction; the birth of the universe. There’s a bit of astronomy, physics, global warming, and geology. There’s a decent amount about the author and his team, their lives before, their time in Greenland. Just very little about ice.

There was a little about the Thule, the Inuit, the Vikings—the history of the human habitation of Greenland, that was of passing interest. Though mostly it was about the Vikings and their colonization of the land. And about its naming. Then later about its use and importance to scientists. Nothing too in-depth and nothing too interesting, sadly.

My favorite part was the brief (and I mean brief) time that the author talked about englacial flow. This is a bit like an aquifer, an underground river, just through a glacier as opposed to permeable rock. It sounds so cool! Even the author seemed impressed and amazed when he described it—only to lose focus to some other non-ice topic a few sentences later.

If you were to read this hoping for something in depth on Greenland and ice, prepare to be disappointed. If you were after a decent memoir filled with random facts about random Greenland-related topics, I guess this is the book for you. I found it boring and dry. I thought the story meandered aimlessly when I could find a story at all. But then I was expecting more about glaciology, ice science, maybe hydrology and physics. So long as you don’t go in with expectations like mine—hopefully it’ll provide a decent read.