Those Brave, Foolish Souls from the City of Swords – by Benedict Patrick (Review)

Again, I adore the cover, courtesy of Jenny Zemanek.

Yarnsworld #3

Dark Fantasy, Horror, Fantasy

Createspace Publishing; October 17, 2017

286 pages (ebook)

4.2 / 5 ✪

GoodreadsAuthor Website

When Arturo was a small child, his mother used to tell him stories of the Mistress of the Wilds, of the Black Shepherdess, but especially of the Bravadori of Espadapan. The Bravadori were painted as the Queen’s heroes, protectors of the weak and innocent, saviors of the helpless, monster slayers extraordinaire. As he grew, Arturo always dreamt of becoming one of their number. Occasionally, Bravadori traveled to his father’s estates in search of coin and renown. Upon seeing them, Arturo knew his path was set. He trained hard and dreamed big, until one day he developed his very own Knack in sword-fighting. One day he was finally ready. Packing his blade and mask, Arturo set out for the City of Swords—and destiny.

Yet upon finally reaching Espadapan, Arturo learns that his heroes are nothing like the heroes his mother painted them as. Selfish and ignoble, the masked vigilantes are nothing more than thugs, running unchecked through the city. Unwilling to give up his dream so easily, still Arturo attempts to join their ranks. He is repeatedly mugged, mocked, and beaten. But when he hears tell of bandits terrorizing a nearby village, hope swells in Arturo. For while these swordsmen were nothing like he’d imagined, surely they would line up to defend those oppressed, like he’d seen them do as a boy. And Arturo would finally join their number, defeat the bandits and forge his own legend. Together with a disgraced Bravador and an honorless swordsman, Arturo sets out once more—for destiny.

Benedict Patrick’s Yarnsworld mixes dark fantasy with faerie tales, adding a splash of horror for taste, and adventure for the heck of it. While his debut—They Mostly Come Out At Night—divided me on its effectiveness at combining all four, I assumed that with experience and practice he could hammer out most of those imperfections.

Which he has.

Sadly, it’s not yet perfect, but still a marked improvement upon his earlier work. The POV characters of City of Swords—split three ways between Arturo, Yizel and Reuben—each could solo the story, as all three are strong, fleshed out leads, with depth, backstories, and even development. Unlike Come Out At Night, these characters delivered. Thoughtful, entertaining, and ambitious, I was never sure who was on whom’s side, as each showed mixed loyalties and complex emotions. They felt human in a way that no one did in Yarnsworld #1.

As before, the faerie tales play as interludes between each chapter, something that both entertained and annoyed me in equal parts. Sometimes it was an extra bit of vital lore, but other times it was a distraction from the plot at hand. While most of the time I appreciated the extra bits of world-building, I really could’ve done without them between EVERY chapter.

While the format annoyed me, the aspect of was most torn on was that of the world-building. The initial setup—the land and its backstory—was just lazy. It’s a carbon-copy of the New World exploration by Spain (or, well, most European powers), complete with Spanish-sounding names and places. That being said, the New World is just a backdrop for the tale. While the faerie tales bring the world to life. Admittedly, I’m not too well versed in faerie tales. I’m familiar with some of the most popular ones, and have a working knowledge of folklore from all over the place. Anyway, these tales seem pretty unique to me. And they really help bring the story to life.

I was caught up picturing the masked Bravadori when Arturo first arrived in the City of Swords, and felt his disappointment as if it were my own. I actually shook upon reading through the Black Shepherdess tale, and she haunted my dreams that night. I could hear her wails, her cries; feel the ash as it fell from the sky; the world itself seemed to grow darker when she blacked out the sky. These faerie tales aren’t just good reproductions, they’re incredibly raw and vivid, dark and haunting and… well, REAL. They feel real. Really real.

TL;DR

Those Brave, Foolish Souls from the City of Swords may be a mouthful, but the where the title draws on, the story itself manages to be gripping, dark, and packed with detail. The number one strength of Yarnsworld continues to be its faerie tales, which alternately had me awed or shaking depending on which terrible or heroic figure was being portrayed. Where They Mostly Come Out At Night fell flat, City of Swords delivered with its characters, its language, and its realism. Though the format of including a faerie tale between every chapter ofttimes annoyed me, I also usually appreciated the dark, interesting snippets of lore they provided. It’s a good, dark read just in time for Halloween. More importantly, City of Swords tells a completely different tale from any of the others found in Yarnsworld, so there’s no reason you can’t just skip right to it. I’d definitely recommend this one, and look forward to continuing my trip through the Yarnsworld saga!

The Shattered Crown – by Richard (R.S.) Ford (Review)

Steelhaven #2

Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Epic

Headline; April 22, 2014

391 pages (Paperback)

4.0 / 5 ✪

GoodreadsAuthor Website

The second book of the Steelhaven trilogy, the Shattered Crown carries all the weight of the previous installment, but does a much better job of handling it. All POVs return—save one: River’s tale has taken him outside the city and gets little exposure because of it—and even adds an additional character to the mix. While I felt that all the POVs weighed down Herald of the Storm, affecting both its pace and flow, the Shattered Crown rolls along much more smoothly, telling an action-packed story of love, hope, and betrayal.

Janessa now wears the Steel Crown. With few real allies and no real confidants, she is untried and untested. Yet with the Horde looming on the horizon, she must mature quickly. But will the girl become a Queen, or will she burn along with her city, becoming little more than a footnote to history?

Though the shadow of war looms large, life in Steelhaven carries on. The citizens have a choice to make, however. Will they stand in defense for the city, or pin all their hope on mercy from Amon Tugha? It seems that Kaira, Nobul, Waylian and Regulus have all made their choice—but for Merrick, choice is an illusion. While he carries duty and responsibility now, he mind rebels at the very thought of it.

Rag simply wants to be protected. Amon Tugha, the Guild, even the Greencoats (the city guard)—she’s not picky. But due to her choices in Herald of the Storm, life seems more real and death more inevitable lately. And yet, even her choices will help shape the fate of the city. For the Horde is coming, and no city is greater than the sum of its parts.

Herald of the Storm stumbled straight out of the gate. Each of the first seven chapters introduce a new character. That means a whole lot of new faces and backstories to take in, and not a whole lot of opportunity to establish any kind of a rhythm. Now, while the Shattered Crown follows exactly the same equation—the first seven chapters, each with a different POV, though only one of them is truly new—it seems to go much more smoothly than before. I think it’s because we’ve become used to these characters. With a book under his belt, the author doesn’t need to introduce a whole new motivation and backstory for each one. Instead, it’s more—here’re your returning POVs, here’s what they’ve been up to since you saw them last. While it still makes for a slow start, it doesn’t seem nearly as clumsy as it did before.

As usual, this story revolves around its characters. Each (except Regulus) have had a book to flesh out. While I didn’t find each and every one as deep and intricate as the last, there were a few that surprised me with their depth and impressed me with their ability to keep the story moving. I found some, like Kaira and Regulus, to be little more than cut-outs to progress the story. Others, like Rag, Merrick and Janessa, impressed me. Still more, Waylian and Nobul, haven’t made up their minds yet. I’m quite curious to see what will happen in the series conclusion—will every character experience some kind of development? Nobul and Kaira have been pretty stagnant up to this point, with Janessa, Merrick and Rag carrying most of the developmental weight. Will everyone finally progress? Or will some regress? Or will they all just die when Amon Tugha finally gets to the city?

Oh yeah, some spoilers. Amon Tugha doesn’t actually GET to the city yet. I mean, everyone knows he’s coming, but the dude is taking his sweet time. So far we’ve spent two books building up to the epic battle, and I’m more than ready for it to begin. Truth is, I was ready for (and anticipating) it sometime in the Shattered Crown, only for that moment to never arrive. I’d say that’s the largest disappointment in store for would-be readers. But otherwise, nothing’s too bad.

TL;DR

The Shattered Crown picks up where Herald of the Storm left off, but succeeds where the previous entry often disappointed. The story is interesting and entertaining. It takes a darker turn than I was expecting, as if to remind you that Steelhaven isn’t a place of sunshine and posies. There’s action, suspense, intrigue. Love, drama, hope, betrayal. The character development needs some work, and the world-building might as well not exist outside of Steelhaven. But there’s very little outside to pay any mind to—little that relates directly to the story, at least. And the characters of the Shattered Crown are better than they were in Herald of the Storm, which gives me hope for Book #3. All in all, a good read, and a better follow-up to a lackluster debut.

The series concludes with Lord of Ashes.

Magebane – by Stephen Aryan (Review)

Age of Dread #3

Fantasy, Epic

Orbit Books; August 6, 2019

491 pages (PB)

4.3 / 5 ✪

GoodreadsAuthor Website

Contains spoilers for both Mageborn and Magefall. Also may contain possible spoilers for the Age of Darkness trilogy!

For a guy who hated one of my favorite books, Stephen Aryan can tell a pretty good story. His second trilogy set in this particular world, the Age of Dread continues what the Age of Darkness started, with magic, law, and the gods themselves coming to the forefront for this conclusion.

The Age of Darkness ended in an epic battle for the good of the world, but the Age of Dread features an epic struggle as well—this one for both gods and men. Having carved out a niche for themselves in the corner of Shael, Wren and the others now search for acceptance from a world that continues to hate and fear their kind. When a mysterious illness appears on the streets of Perizzi, it’s up to Tammy to make sure the virus spreads no further. But she fails as the city is soon quarantined, and are left with a choice—will they survive together, or die alone? As Munroe hunts the being that stole her family from her, nothing will stand in her way. Less justice, more vengeance; nothing will save Akosh when the mage catches up to her. For justice is all well and good, but some debts can only be paid in blood. Akosh has fallen far from the goddess she truly is. Hunted on all fronts, she is forced into an alliance with a being even more powerful and ancient than herself. And when even her once ally threatens to turn on her, Akosh must make the ultimate sacrifice to survive. Revealed as something more than mortal, Danoph know travels with Vargus, the one-time Weaver showing him the ropes. But what is Danoph’s task, exactly? And will he be able to fulfill it when the truth is revealed?

I know this was a fairly brief prompt compared to my usual ramble, but at the end of a six book series (that’s two trilogies), I’m not sure who’s where and how much I should be revealing. Hopefully I did a decent enough job of keeping it informative, yet also vague enough that anyone can jump right in.

I’ve really enjoyed these two trilogies—both the Age of Darkness and the Age of Dread—though I know they weren’t exactly giant successes. It seems most of the people I’ve talked to about them read one or two of the first trilogy, but thought they were decent at best, and then dropped off. Well, everyone’s allowed their own opinion, but it doesn’t really matter as I thought they were brilliant!

With five books preceding Magebane, there are so many paths diverging and converging that the story could almost end up anywhere. It was a brief disappointment when instead we arrived at two shared threads, but the conclusion was entertaining enough that I soon got over it. Though not as epic (in my opinion) as the finale of Chaosmage, the ending here was still impressive. An ultimate evil on one side, while a much different evil awaits on the other. It wasn’t exactly what I’d expected given the series’ history, but in some ways impressed me more given that it broke out of the mold it’d kept to up to this point.

The characters and world-building have been strong throughout the series, reaching an impressive zenith as all their threads collide. While we didn’t get as much exposure to either Sorcerer as I would’ve liked in this final book, enough of the other characters starred that I got over the slight—especially when I figured out what the author was up to. While the trilogies both feature so much of the affairs of gods and sorcerers; the world is not built upon them. It’s built on the backs of mortals. Or, I guess, ‘it is in men that we must place our hope.’ Many stories ended here, some are only getting started. I can’t wait to see where Aryan takes the story from here!

TL;DR

The Age of Darkness ended with a bang. The Age of Dread ends in much the same manner. Another epic conclusion concludes another epic series. Part of me was truly disappointed to see it end, but every story must come to an end. As they’ve struggled to adapt and overcome over the course of six books, the characters that emerge from Magebane have seen some things. They’ve been fleshed out, humanized, developed, grown, regressed, both most of all survived. Everything has led to this point—the end of an age. If you’ve not yet begun either series—I’d definitely recommend it. If you’re somewhere in the middle but on the fence about continuing—I’d still recommend it. If not, I understand; there’s always more to read 🙂

They Mostly Come Out at Night – by Benedict Patrick (Review)

I quite like the cover, done by Jenny Zemanek

Yarnsworld #1

Dark Fantasy

One More Page; June 16, 2016

216 pages (ebook)

3.5 / 5 ✪

GoodreadsAuthor Website

Lonan is an outcast, accused of leading monsters to his village and letting them in to the homes of his fellow villagers. That night Lonan’s father died, while Branwen—the love of his life—was horribly scarred. Neither his love nor his mother has looked at him the same again. All the while, the real culprit escapes notice, the man and his strange Knack keeping suspicion from him. Now, years later, the village still cowers in their cellars in the dead of night, fearing the monsters that roam above.

The Magpie King keeps us safe…

An old adage in the village of Smithdown, referring to the forest’s king and mysterious protector. But the Magpie King is more myth than monarch—none of the villagers having seen him in their lives. So when Lonan starts having dreams of the young Magpie King, he’s certain his mind is starting to dessert him. Certain, but for one thing.

Adahy is the son of the Magpie King. His father, equal parts ruler and protector of the forest, stalks the night, keeping the villages safe from the monsters that would otherwise prey on them. The King wields mysterious and supernatural power and speed, granted his bloodline by the Magpies. But when a new monstrosity appears in the forest, it challenges everything the King has worked so hard to build. It falls to Adahy and his closest friend, Maedoc, to deal with this foe. Yet the dark history of the forest has more in store for this pair than just what looms before them. What follows is a tale of hope, deceit, and darkness all rolled into one.

Dreaming the course of Adahy’s life, Lonan is clued into this new threat. And those that would follow it. But can he get someone—anyone—to believe him, or will the darkness overwhelm the village of Smithdown, once and for all?

I remember liking They Mostly when I first read it, but it made little impression on me at the time. Back then, I was just getting into dark fantasy, and the story—while dark, while entertaining, while foreboding—also bears the marks of a debut work.

While I found the story of Lonan a bit difficult to care about at first, I immediately took to Adahy and his tale, becoming more enamored with Lonan along the way. The young prince is, well… young. Inexperienced. The story serves much as a coming of age tale for him. At least for a time. Lonan, however, has already come of age. In a village that loathes him, but a few folk are willing to be seen with him. So few of these characters seem real, however, with a majority feeling like cardboard cutouts, introduced to fill space but do little else. Even the love of his life, Branwen, feels like a husk. I would’ve liked to see a bit more on her, on why Lonan likes her, on their lives before the incident. Sure—there’s some development here, just not much. But while I thoroughly enjoyed Lonan’s own adventure, development and growth, I cared little about that of anyone else’s. Though to be fair, there’s only one other character that’s fleshed out to any significant degree.

The character of Adahy seems like little more than an extension of Lonan at first, but grows from a dream into something more real. It was his story that I connected to initially, and this never faded over time. Unlike the village boy, Adahy doesn’t have much anyone in his life apart from his best friend, Maedoc—the whipping boy, punished in the prince’s place when he screws up (yes, this was a thing). While Maedoc too seems under-developed, the two form a special dynamic that both entertained and moved the story along, even as Lonan got a handle on his part in it.

Where the characters of Yarnsworld fell flat, it was the setting that really sold the story for me. A dark land of mystery and monsters, the Forest was equal parts fantasy kingdom, faerie tale, and horror story rolled into one. Though the writing wasn’t perfect—the author occasionally misusing words or mixing them up (e.g. I remember him using ‘gleam’ when he really meant ‘glean’, which may’ve been a typo except that his kept misusing it)—it certainly conveyed the darkness and horrors lurking just off stage, the nightmares wandering the darkness of the land. This cast a presage of foreboding over the Forest, making it seem dark and mysterious, especially at night. During the day, I really liked how it reverted to the typical enchanted forest; still dark, but no more or less than usual. Considering Lonan spent his days here, foraging, it created an interesting dynamic here, something that I actually would’ve liked to’ve seen more of.

The ending of They Mostly was a unique take, that I obviously can’t talk much about. It did feel a little abrupt, just a bit of a disappointment, but didn’t leave any threads unwoven, any stones unturned. All in all, the story was pretty great—an excellent adventure though with a bit of an uninspired conclusion.

The book contains a number of short faerie tales or myths about the Magpie King, Artemis, or the world itself. These work as interludes between chapters. Except for one or two, I found these interesting snippets of lore about the world. It’s possible they might annoy you, but if so, just skip ‘em. While they can add detail, they’re not absolutely essential to the plot.

TL;DR

With a dark, twisted setting and a mysterious, intriguing story, They Mostly Come Out at Night proved to be an interesting debut, before falling victim to some typical debut failings. Hollow supporting characters, failure to capitalize on good ideas, a fairly short and unrefined, if compelling story feature prominently among these. Oddly, the author also occasionally misused words—not misspelling them, but using one when he should’ve another—almost like there was no real editor. Which is possible, but for the otherwise lack of any glaring grammatical or spelling issues. Nothing was enough to distract me from the story, however, as Yarnsworld quickly drank me in. I read They Mostly in two days, and thoroughly enjoyed my time with it. While there definitely were issues, I’d say they’re outweighed by the gains, making They Mostly Come Out at Night if not a must-read dark fantasy, then one to consider reading if curiosity strikes your interest.

The series presently contains three other books, each set in the same world, but unrelated to the first. All also have long names—Where the Waters Turn Black; Those Brave, Foolish Souls from the City of Swords; From the Shadows of the Owl Queen’s Court. A short, free tale—And They Were Never Heard From Again—provides a good intro to the series, which you can check out if you’re interested.

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.

Herald of the Storm – by Richard Ford (Review)

Steelhaven #1

Fantasy, Epic, Dark Fantasy

Headline; August, 2013

392 pages (PB)

3.5 / 5 ✪

Welcome to Steelhaven, the new fantasy epic by Richard Ford (or R.S. Ford), the author of the War of the Archons trilogy. Once a beacon of strength and hope amidst the Free States, the great city of Steelhaven is now under threat. King Cael leads their combined armies against the threat, but while the King is away, the city has begun to fester—black magic and criminals tearing the city apart from within. And when the enemy’s Herald comes, the city of Steelhaven is in for the fight of its existence.

Massoum Abbasi has arrived in Steelhaven. Herald of Amon Tugha, he has come to the city on a mission. Here, he comes upon a few dark allies. An assassin and his two sons—Forest and River. River lives to serve his father and the dark lord, but one single act of rebellion may yet ruin it all.

Janessa is the princess of Steelhaven, and as such, her entire life has been mapped. She will court and marry, birth sons, grow old and die far from home, alone and friendless, while her husband flirts with scullery maids and her children war and die. But there is a problem with this grand plan. Janessa, only daughter to King Cael, is already in love, with a man no father would approve. But will she follow her heart, or her father’s plan? She has a difficult choice, even as the world around her falls to ruin.

Waylian is a journeyman magistra, but without magic, he might as well not be. Apprenticed to notorious Red Witch, his life isn’t looking up. Outcast and laughingstock, he must forge ahead, for despite his lack of magic, the fate of Steelhaven may very well fall to him.

Rag has never had anything. A cutpurse and thief, she and her band of friends rove the streets in search of coin, food, and survival. She has lost friends before—such is the life of an orphan. But when Rag loses a unlikely friend, her world overturns. And suddenly survival isn’t enough anymore.

With the fate of Steelhaven at its center, all these character arcs come together to tell its story—whether the city survives the day, or falls to ruin. Welcome, then, to Steelhaven.

First thing I want to point out is that this is just under 400 pages. And all those characters above? That’s not it. In addition to them, there are a trio more: Keira, a temple Shieldmaiden; Nobul, a blacksmith turned soldier; and Merrick, a gambler. And a bad one at that. The first seven chapters (spanning 61 pages) introduce a new character. Chapter 9 introduces another. Not that these characters aren’t interesting or anything, it’s just that the book’s beginning is a bit…. hectic. A bit unfocused. Eight POVs—as Massoum really only has one here and there—is fine, but for such a short book, it’s inadvisable. Indeed, Herald of the Storm is interesting, but it really only gets exciting once you get into it a bit. There’s really no hook in the beginning to keep you reading. I had to fight to get past the first quarter or so, before everything familiarized. Every POV IS interesting, but there are so many of them! It’s a bit overwhelming.

The second thing I want to talk about in HotS is the story. It’s a good one, but. 8 POVs creates a nice contrast, a lovingly crafted tale that once I settled into was quite easy to read. But since the book is so short, everything has to tie up quickly in the end. Like, abruptly. So much so that it really doesn’t. Not that there’s a cliffhanger, exactly, but more that the ending feels… open. Unfulfilling. Like it’s really just a build-up for Book 2. Which would be fine, except that when you have to wait a year between publications, it’s easy to lose interest. I have the second book, but I’ve never gotten to it. Steelhaven was interesting, but it was so easy to lose track of the story when there’s so little settled.

Now I want to talk about the characters. As I mentioned before, there really are too many for the length. The author really should’ve axed some of them. But I understand why he didn’t. For most stories, I have my most and least favorite POVs. Some I look forward to, others I might dread. HotS… I liked Waylian, River and Rag the most. I wasn’t a huge fan of Kaira, though I didn’t dread her chapters. I pretty much liked everyone else. And their arcs all tie-in very nicely. Now, not all them resolve in Book #1, but that’s different. I trust that the author had a plan for them spanning the trilogy, and assume their individual stories are important for the outcome of the overall story. The character building and development are pretty top-notch. There were even a few instances of growth throughout the book, which I would’ve expected to feel unnatural or forced in such a small space. But they don’t. They’re really very well written and designed.

The world is also fairly well built. Though it reminds me a bit of Landfall from The Boy with the Porcelain Blade. What is shown of the world is lively, vivid. In this case, that’s Steelhaven. What isn’t shown, really isn’t mentioned. Landfall is covered in a thick fog. It’s mentioned, but not much. The world outside Steelhaven might as well not even exist. So, the world-building of Herald of the Storm is pretty amazing, but incomplete. Very incomplete. I don’t know if the story ventures outside Steelhaven in the second installment, though I’m interested to see how the world-building changes in the next story. Or, if it does at all.

TL;DR

Overall I was pleased with Herald of the Storm, once I got into it. But it certainly wasn’t ideal. The world-building and character development was top-notch. There was even character growth, despite the shortness of the book. This establishes the characters as the novel’s greatest strength. But they are also it’s greatest weakness. Eight distinct POVs take a lot of time to introduce. When done one after the other, this can often lead to a disconnected, tepid introduction. This is certainly the case with Herald of the Storm, where the first 15% is a slog, and the next nearly as painful, waiting while the story settles in to a good rhythm. But once it gets going, the story is another strength. The end is a bit of a let down, though hopefully that’s solved in the sequel. I guess I don’t really have an answer whether the read’s worth it. Not yet. I’ll have to see how I like the 2nd one yet. It’s on my Top TBR for the year. Hopefully, after I read it, it’ll be enough to recommend Herald of the Storm, but we’ll see.

Steelhaven continues with The Shattered Crown. If you’d rather try something else by Ford, I’ve heard good things about the War of the Archons. Book #1, A Demon in Silver, was published in 2018 by Titan.

Top Ten of 2019

This is actually my 4th or 5th attempt at a Year’s Best list. A few were too long (one had 25 books) others were too short (5 books), some too restrictive and others too broad. I was going to do a 2019 Only list, but I ended up scrapping that last. While most of my favorites for the year were released THIS year, this year I probably read more newly released books than ever before. And while only 3 of my Top 10 come from before this year, they include 2 of my Top 3. So I cut it to 10. I could probably throw in a few honorable mentions, but then I’d invariably get carried and we’d be here all day. So it’s 10. Just 10. There’ll be links to both the Goodreads page and my reviews for each book, in case you’d like to check out either. Otherwise, I hope you’ll enjoy the list and maybe comment. While I liked most of 2019, the end was just painful. Horribly, terribly painful. I hope that whomever and wherever you are, your year was much better, and ended more gracefully. Can’t wait for 2020! But first, here’s to 2019:

10. Beneath the Twisted Trees – by Bradley P. Beaulieu (2019)

GoodreadsReview

To begin the list, Beneath the Twisted Trees is Book #4 of the Song of the Shattered Sands. Out in 2019, it was a fantastic ride filled will vivid storytelling and epic world-building. Continuing the story of Çeda on her journey to destroy the Kings of Sharakai, I cannot recommend this series enough. Bradley Beaulieu’s attention to detail has always been on-point, but The Shattered Sands impressive still.

9. The Imaginary Corpse – by Tyler Hayes (2019)

GoodreadsReview

Again thanks to Angry Robot for this ARC! I’d never even heard of Tyler Hayes at all until I got this book—but the Imaginary Corpse absolutely blew me away. An imaginative and fun world filled with adorable and cuddly characters, including one of my favorites of all time: Tippy. Combining the dark noir of the classic gumshoe with the cuteness and fun of something out of the Great Mouse Detective, I’d recommend this story for pretty much everyone, easily one of my favs for the year!

8. Age of Legend – by Michael J. Sullivan (2019)

GoodreadsReview

I hated the ending to Age of War soooo much, I threw the damned book at the wall. I loved the Age of Legend so much, I had to keep myself from starting the Age of Death right upon finishing it. A darker beginning gives way to an epic adventure—a Michael J. Sullivan specialty. My main issue with this book comes with its own warning: there’s a cliffhanger (another Sullivan specialty), so you’ll likely want to read the next one right away. Which, if you didn’t back the Kickstarter, might be an issue. So maybe wait until February to read them. Or prepare to suffer the consequences.

7. Blackwing – by Ed McDonald (2017)

GoodreadsReview

Blackwing was originally published in 2017, but served as my intro to the Ed McDonald, and the Raven’s Mark trilogy, which concluded in 2019. It actually took me three tries to get past page 30, but once I did, I was captivated. A thrilling adventure in a new world—Blackwing definitely puts the… ‘A’ in adventure? Something like that. Whatever. If you haven’t read it, it’s really cool.

6. Soulkeeper – by David Dalglish (2019)

GoodreadsReview

I loved Dalglish’s Shadowdance series—and while Skyborn underwhelmed me—Soulkeeper won me back. If I’d needed winning back, I guess. A new fantasy adventure, with a classic fantasy appeal, this book nailed the characters, the world-building and the nostalgia for me. The only thing I took issue with was the dialogue, but it wasn’t a detail that ruined the story. Didn’t even leave a bad aftertaste. Can’t wait for Ravencaller in 2020!

5. Walking to Aldebaran – by Adrian Tchaikovsky (2019)

GoodreadsReview

I’m usually hit-or-miss on novellas and short-stories. Anything that half-asses a proper length adventure. For Adrian Tchaikovsky, however—I’ll make an exception. A light but surprisingly deep read, Aldebaran follows smartass astronaut Gary Rendell as he explores an alien artefact at the edge of our solar system. I loved the adventure and wit, the exploration of the unknown, the tone Tchaikovsky uses to describe the world, even didn’t mind the shortness of the tale—really my only issue was the price.

4. Fallen – by Benedict Jacka (2019)

GoodreadsReview

The tenth Alex Verus book is my favorite thus far. We’ve hit a pretty good stride with that, as so were Books 7, 8 and 9 upon their releases. Fallen is the best of the bunch, though. As Alex’s adventure nears its completion, the story is getting deliciously dark (though not Grimdark), enough to convince Verus that a dozen books is enough. I assume, at least. Ten books down, and Alex must become something else, something MORE, in order to move forward. I love the direction this series has gone and can’t wait to see where it goes next!

3. The Fall of Dragons – by Miles Cameron (2017)

Goodreads • Review

The final book in the Traitor Son Cycle leads off my Top 3. The Red Knight has gone through trials and travails; found and lost and found love once more; crossed untold lands, worlds, filled with mysterious and terrifying beasts; fought battles, wars and emerged bloodied, but unbeaten. And yet the enemy remains. Fall of Dragons is the epic—and immensely satisfying—conclusion. If you haven’t read it—or any of the other Traitor Son books… well, they’re just amazing. It’s an epic, incredible, awe inspiring adventure. Sometimes the detail and language can be a bit dense, but by Book 5 I was more than used to it. I’m not a fan of endings; I know that all good stories must end, but sometimes I wish the adventure would just continue forever and ever. Fall of Dragons ends well. It isn’t necessarily happy—but it’s such an ending! A must read.

Note: I apparently haven’t review this yet, since I read it before this whole blog thing took hold. Hopefully I’ll get to that soon.

2. Crowfall – by Ed McDonald (2019)

GoodreadsReview

Where Blackwing (#7, pay attention) began the Raven’s Mark trilogy, Crowfall ends it. Though I didn’t love Ravencry, both Books 1 & 3 effectively blew my mind—more than enough for them to make this list. But where Blackwing suffered from the uncertainty that begins a new series, Crowfall shows that McDonald knew where he was going with it. Or maybe he got, really, really lucky. All the pieces of Galharrow’s adventure came together in this book, and the resulting story was amazing. There’s little more that I can say except: Read this. I loved it, and I hope you will too.

1. The Ember Blade – by Chris Wooding (2018)

GoodreadsReview

In a year where most of my favorite reads were new releases, my top choice harkens from the year prior. The Ember Blade is an epic tale, 800+ pages of classic fantasy adventure. A new world to explore, new characters to know and love, new details, new subplots, new love, new loss. Book 1 of the Darkwater Legacy was a coming-of-age epic that had it all—fantastic creatures, villains, heroes, love, purpose and adventure, so much adventure! While I wasn’t completely sold from the start, about a quarter way through my time with this tome, I was way past stopping. While it may seem like a classic coming-of-age tale, The Ember Blade mixes new with old, light fantasy with dark, to come up with something amazing and special—something that I hope you’ll love just as much as I did.

The Land You Never Leave – by Angus Watson (Review)

West of West #2

Dark Fantasy, Epic

Orbit; February 22, 2018

476 pages (PB)

4.3 / 5 ✪

SPOILERS – Contains spoilers for You Die When You Die

The Land You Never Leave is the second book in Watson’s West of West series, the continuation of a journey of stranded Vikings across a fictionalized New World in order to defeat an ancient evil threatening to destroy the world. Following the events of You Die When You Die; the Hardworkers have fled their destroyed town, pursued west across the continent by the Calnian Owsla—a squad of Amazon-like super soldiers, intent on eliminating them. In a twist ending, the two tribes unite, whereupon they must journey west of the Shining Mountains, past the Desert That You Don’t Walk Out Of, to the Meadows to save the world.

So begins TLYNL, or as I like to call it “Sex, Lies, and Wootah”.

TLYNL picks up right where YDWYD leaves off, with the Wootah and the Owsla on the edge of the Ocean of Grass, traveling west. Though some of the Owsla have been making eyes at the Mushroom Men, and the Wootah—though, mostly Finnbogi—have been entertaining lurid sexual fantasies involving the Owsla, the two tribes are far from trusting each other. Or even tolerating one another.

Soon enough, however, any chemistry is the least of their problems. For even before the two reach the Water Father, our heroes encounter the denizens of the Badlands—the Badlanders—a horrifying collection of monsters and killers, complete with their own Owsla. Far from bonding over a picnic, the two are soon at one another’s throats, with the Badlanders victorious, and the Wootah and Calnians taken prisoner and carted off to the Badlands to be brutally killed.

Before the book is out, Watson treats us to some terrifying threats both new and ancient, a few high-profile deaths, and a truly epic, entertaining adventure. Assuming you’ve read YDWYD, TLYNL provides more of the same, with intense violence, near-constant sexual innuendo, dark comedy, and generally good-natured fun. While I wouldn’t call any of what it does “family friendly”, well… you’d probably have noticed that from #1 anyway. TLYNL is an excellent continuation of the series—combining adventure, excitement, comedy with a number of unexpected twists, including one at the very end.

Finnbogi realized he might admire the psychopath who’d tried to have him killed by giant snakes more than the woman who’d taken him in and raised him like her own child. Life was odd.
- The Land You Never Leave, Finnbogi the Boggy

Though the Badlands plot dominates most of the book, there exist a number of minor and sub-plots throughout that add further elements to an otherwise jam-packed story. While a few of these are too brief or absurd to be enjoyable, most provide a brief respite, ensuring that the overarching plot doesn’t grow tedious or the pacing lax.

I was all-around impressed with The Land You Never Leave, but my favorite aspect of it is what I love to see in every post-first-book entry: character development.

Over the course of epic adventures, characters change. This is a big component especially of Coming-of-Age stories, so I was pleased to see it in TLYNL, for what were the Hardworkers in YDWYD exactly but big children? From being provided with everything they’ve ever needed, to being forced to survive on their own while being hounded and hunted across the continent. Well, come TLYNL they’re evolving into something more—or being left behind. Without a doubt, my personal favorite of these was Finnbogi’s development, for coming into TLYNL, well, he hadn’t done much. And as any such hero, the sequel provides him with more than enough hardship and strife to mold him into something new, something… Boggy-ish. Or, MORE Boggyish, I suppose. Without spoiling anything, I can’t say much, only that his personal journey was particularly impressive, though not without its own blunders.

While the individual character development stole the show, the group element needs to be mentioned. Coming into the second book, the Calnian Owsla and Wootah were tenuous allies. Throughout the course of the story this evolves into something more—while at the same time, also something less. That is, bonds are tested and stretched, or just broken and reformed. While some characters change, others stay resolute, forcing their dynamic to adapt, or be broken. Not all the change in TLYNL is positive. There is a combination of the two, some of which remains unresolved even at the end.

Sadly, while I loved TLYNL, it is not perfect. Toward the end, after the main plot has been completed, there is a bit of a stutter. Plot-holes, gaps, and questionable reasoning solved, and a setup for the finale only made possible by the timely intervention of a clairvoyant (and short-lived) warlock. Solved in but a chapter, no less. After an adventure that was entirely epic, this was a bit of a let-down.

TL;DR

The Land You Never Leave is a suitable successor to You Die When You Die, providing an epic adventure with more of the same fun, comedy, sex and violence prevalent in its predecessor. I particularly enjoyed the character development, specifically that of its individuals, though that of the group’s dynamic as well. However, a misstep toward the end when a fairly large number of potential problems are solved by a magical intervention, tends to spoil an otherwise epic conclusion. A number of revelations and interesting sub-plots did well to keep me reading through the end without issue—the last pages providing a particularly intriguing twist, one that hopefully will pay dividends in the final book.

Secrets and lies may yet bring an end to this noble mission, or the truth may remain forever buried. An epic adventure requires a fitting conclusion, one that I fervently hope Watson can provide. I don’t know about you, but I eagerly await the conclusion to this trilogy. And personally I’m hoping for a Bard’s Tale-esque ending. No, not that one. The second one. Or the third one, where they just go drinking. You know, either or.

Where Gods Fear to Go, the third and final installment of West of West, is set to release late this year—on December 3rd in the US and December 5th in the UK.

Book Review: A Little Hatred – by Joe Abercrombie

Age of Madness #1

Grimdark, Fantasy, Epic

Gollancz; September 17, 2019

480 pages (ebook)

4 / 5 ✪

I was kindly furnished me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to Orion Publish, Gollancz and NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

A Little Hatred is the 10th full-length novel by Joe Abercrombie set in the First Law world. Where Red Country saw the rise of expansionism, so does Hatred see the rise of Industrialization. Although, where this age of industry and innovation see the rise of many great miracles, they are built on the backs of the working class, and on flesh, sweat and blood. So, so much blood.

If you were thinking that the dawn of a new age possibly meant the dawn of a new Abercrombie—you really weren’t thinking clearly. I actually had a similar thought upon reading through, at a point where the plot-lines had tied up fairly well and each character had a nice (and if not “happy”, then) aesthetically pleasing end. Then I realized I was only at the 80% mark, and remembered who I was dealing with.

Industrialization has come to Adua. In the capital, Savine dan Glokta stands out as the most feared woman in the nation—even more so than Terez, Queen of the Union. Not only is she the only daughter of “Old Sticks” Arch Lector Sand dan Glokta, but a cutthroat businesswoman, with her finger in every pot. Prince Orso, meanwhile, the Crown Prince and only son of Jezal dan Luthar and Queen Terez—is a worthless disappointment. Known as a wastrel, playboy, drunk, whoremonger, the Young Lamb is possibly less loved than Savine, though definitely more hated. The Union may be a hotbed of industry, though the underclass is restless. Bull Broad thought he was done with war after Styria, but with a war brewing in the north, the eyes of the elite are soon to be distracted. And a war of another kind is stoking closer to home.

The North has come to Angland. Black Calder has tired of waiting for the Dogman to die and pushed Scale to invade. And when the Northmen, led by Calder’s son, Stour Nightfall, come knocking, the Union moves to engage. Rikke, daughter of the Dogman, is blessed with the Long Eye. Errmm… or, cursed with the Long Eye. Or… HAS the Long Eye? One o’ those. But the future isn’t exactly helpful if you don’t have a clue to what it means. Luckily, she has allies. Unluckily, they’re like the Young Lion, Leo dan Brock. An inspired leader, if a selfish, arrogant one, he’s as pretty to look at as he is to bed. Clover is an uninspired warrior. A Named Man, he gained his name in the Circle. And then lost it, only to gain another. But when he’s pressed into war, he may gain yet another name, and this one might be the worst of all.

Darkness, intrigue and war ravage the world. Where there is war, there is blood. And where there is blood, there are heroes. And those other ones.

The character arcs and progression are evident in ALHatred, though I’d almost really separate them into pro- and regression arcs. Meanwhile, the plot and story both remain strong, sometimes powerful enough as to convince me I had lived it. After a decade plus of this, this Brit really knows what he’s doing.

Now, up to this point Abercrombie hasn’t exactly been all sunshine and daisies. But A Little Hatred is more than just a little depressing. There’re terrible people, and just mostly terrible people, and some only kinda terrible people—but they’re all just people. Oh, and they’re all selfish bastards.

I think this is my biggest issue with the book. Self-interest—more than anything else—ruins pretty much everything. I mean, a little self-preservation isn’t a bad thing. And some people are always going to be self-obsessed. In previous efforts, many of Abercrombie’s characters have been. But not in ALHatred. Because they all are. Every single character is a selfish bastard at one time or another, and most for pretty much the entire book. For the most part, it’s a book full of terrible, depressing people. Now, you may argue that this’s just Grimdark at its finest. Which, yeah… I guess. But it’s just not realistic. Not everyone is going to be a self-obsessed bastard. Except that in this case, they are.

As always, Abercrombie presents a dark rendering of the world. But while I found the industrial world of the First Law to be vibrant and interesting, realistic to a scary degree, immersive to almost the same amount—its characters fall well short. I had absolutely no issue picturing the world. So much of the book is rendered in gory detail, the scenes the text creating in my mind’s eye brought me chills. There’s one I remember best of all: a beggar set amidst the runoff from a textile mill, dye and filth mixing freely in the water, while behind her the city burns. It’s such a haunting image of progress, innovation, revolution. The world leaps forward, but once more leaves the common man behind.

TL;DR

A Little Hatred presents a level of realism unheard of in fantasy on all fronts—save one. The level of detail was truly astounding, as I was swept from a scene of majestic beauty, to one of tortured triumph, to the aftermath of a gruesome battle, and beyond. The overarching plot and each character’s story are almost as amazing, trailing through the murk as the world industrializes. A dark book, Abercrombie has not changed in the slightest. Though he may have lost some in transit. The characters, his bread and butter, seemed hollow, self-obsessed husks of humanity. Puppets rather than ‘men inhabiting this otherwise real world. While not his strongest work, A Little Hatred is definitely worth a read, whether you get it new or used. Even more so as it begins a new trilogy: the Age of Madness.

A Little Hatred is due out September 17, 2019 in both the US and UK. The next entry, The Trouble with Peace, is expected next year.

Book Review: The Ember Blade – by Chris Wooding

Darkwater Legacy #1

High Fantasy, Epic, Dark Fantasy

Gollancz; September 20, 2018

832 pages (HC) / 30hr 40m (AU)

5 / 5 ✪

The Ember Blade combines the typical coming-of-age fantasy with a bit of something dark, in order to create an epic debut that fails to fall under either category—yet somehow succeeds in both. Early on (for the first 10 hours or so), I was convinced that this was your general light vs. dark tale, complete with ancient evils, a chosen one, and third-party horrors awaiting to devour them all. And yet towards the latter half of the tale, it morphed into something more. Something different.

It begins with Ossia, a once great nation laid low by the Krodan, subject to Krodan rule for so long that freedom is little more than an idea. Enter Aren, a merchant’s son, obsessed with everything Krodan. Their language, their history, their law. Even the young love of his life is Krodan. They have no chance of being together, however, as Aren, as hard as he tries, is not Krodan. Enter Cade, son of a carpenter, obsessed with stories. Tales of illusion and grandeur, greatness and adventure, fame and fortune. And especially Ossia. A free, independent Ossia. Two unlikely friends against the world.

And yet when the Krodan law comes down upon them, their friendship is tested. Aren’s father is arrested for being a traitor and slain, Aren and Cade sent to a work-camp in his stead. Not only is Cade’s friendship with Aren in jeopardy, but Aren’s fascination with all things Krodan is as well. And yet with the help of some unlikely allies, they escape the camp. But… to what end? For there is something bigger than just their story between them now, and Aren and Cade—caught up in it—find themselves playing a much grander game. One that may just end with their finger in a Krodan eye, and the first piece to a free, independent Ossia. For the young prince of Krodia is due to be wed, and at his banquet shall fall the Ember Blade: a symbol of Ossian nationalism. But can Aren and Cade and their newfound allies begin the dream of a free, unified Ossia, or will they be crushed under the heel of the Krodans once again?

First and foremost, this is a coming-of-age fantasy. The main characters, Aren and Cade, definitely grow and change over the course of the text. It’s their character growth that makes the Ember Blade a success, above all else. The dynamic of their friendship is tested time and again—sometimes it bends, maybe even breaks. And yet persists throughout the entire book. Even when they’re not speaking it’s that dynamic that drives their story, whether Wooding means it to or not. I mean, there are other factors in play, too. Of course there are.

I mentioned earlier that I struggle to classify this as anything more than a coming-of-age story. I mean, it is SO MUCH more—I’m just not sure where to start. It begins with the classic CoA fantasy vibe. Light against dark, battling ancient evil with their team of misfits and mentors. An oppressed people trying to overthrow a tyrannical power. A true underdog story.

But then, something changes.

I’m not exactly sure when it happens. It begins with a crack here. A crack there. The great and noble dream of Ossia may not be that noble at all. Krodia may not be the horrid power we once thought. And slowly the realm of heroes and villains is slowly replaced. By that of people—humans—just trying to do what they think is best. The lines blur from black and white, and occasionally the story gets downright dark.

I, uh, really enjoyed it.

Chris Wooding tries something new, here. Blends it with something tried and true. And it… works. I mean, the Ember Blade may not be for everyone, but I think it will appeal to more just through its split nature. It’s not a classic good and evil battle. It’s not a grimdark piece, where everyone’s inherently selfish and the world just sucks. It’s not a clean split, a dark fantasy, or much in-between. It’s… hard to pin down. But I’d say it’s a blend of High and Epic, with just a splash of Dark. And it works. Very well, in fact.

If you needed a further reason to read it, it’s the characters. There are several POV chapters throughout, each with their own strong narrators that have their own history, morals, strengths, weaknesses and depth. In addition to Aren and Cade, there’s the freedom fighter Garric. The Druidess Vika. The prisoner Grub. The survivor Ren. A bard, an exile, a lieutenant and more. Can’t say I was thrilled to read each’s POV, but I was actually fairly well invested in everyone’s. Didn’t hate any of them, even. Each with depth of character, arcs and change and growth and regression.

A detailed world, it gave me just enough for my imagination to fill in the rest. A powerful story, though lacking in subtlety. A pretty good chunk of text—800ish pages. Or, if you’d prefer an audiobook like I did—30-odd hours. And I didn’t have any problem getting through it. No lags, as it were. Not much disinterest. For such a long book, it really kept me entertained throughout.

TL;DR

The Ember Blade is an immensely entertaining coming-of-age fantasy, set in an interesting, well thought out realm. It defies traditional light vs. dark, good vs. evil plots, instead choosing the middle ground; while committing to neither high nor dark fantasy in its telling. The text is jam-packed with POVs, each as deep and intricate AND entertaining as the last. I can’t say there was one that I was dreading, one that I had on auto-skip as I usually do in these long epic debuts. While I can’t promise that you’ll enjoy all your time reading this monster, I will predict you’ll find something you like within—something that will likely see you through to its conclusion.