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

GoodreadsStoryGraph

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

GoodreadsStoryGraph

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)

Standalone

GoodreadsStoryGraph

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

GoodreadsStoryGraph

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

GoodreadsStoryGraph

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.

Beautiful World of Books – The Faithful and The Fallen

If you haven’t yet read the Faithful and the Fallen by John Gwynne… well, you really should. I can’t recommend it enough. Though in all fairness, it’s a bit lacking on good female leads, especially in the first book. That’s my only complaint. I know other people have more, but for me it’s one of the perfect coming-of-age series. My favorite character, however, happens to be a middle-age to later outlaw battling through a mid-life crisis. Hardly coming of age.

Anyhow, the more I read of this series, the more I want to add the physical versions to my bookshelf. As it stands, I have the paperback copy of Wrath (Book 4), but none of the prior three. Thus, I’ve been shopping around a bit and recently stumbled across this version, courtesy of Broken Binding.

Hardcover. Numbered 1 to 500. Ribboned. Edging. A complete set of finely printed masterpieces.

The covers haven’t changed any from the preexisting form, but all in all the Faithful and the Fallen tetralogy has never looked better. I mean, it looks pretty sweet, and would be the crown jewel addition to my bookshelf.

Thing is… I’m not really a “crown jewel” type of person. I’m more a “the crown is nice but sell the jewels and buy more regular books” type.

Still, I’m tempted.

Less so by the 140 quid pricetag. Even more by the £62 shipping charge. $300 for a set of three is… well, it’s not happening. Pretty sure I can get the first three used for $25-30 total—let’s go with that.

Still, let’s admire those covers again.

The Shadow of the Gods – by John Gwynne (Review)

Bloodsworn Saga #1

Fantasy, Epic

Orbit; May 4, 2021 (US)
Orbit; May 6, 2021 (UK)

505 pages (ebook)

GoodreadsAuthor Website

5 / 5 ✪

I was kindly furnished an advance copy in return for a fair and honest review. Many thanks to Orbit and NetGalley for the eARC! Any quotes are for demonstrative purposes only, included to help showcase the level of detail and writing style that the author employs, and may not be included in the final, published version. All opinions are my own.

The gods are dead. The world is broken.

Three hundred years have passed since the old gods fell, breaking and reshaping the world in their passing. Monsters roam the land—a remnant of the world before. Petty kings and queens have seized control and now vie for whatever power has been left behind. Myths and legends, bones of the fallen gods, and children born of their tainted blood—the Jarls compete for whatever will distinguish them from the rest, all with the same aim: to write their story to be told alongside the old gods before them.

Orka has had her fill of power. Having long since escaped the world of blood and kings, she and her husband now live in the wilds with their young bairn. But she can’t escape the past, nor the machinations of those seeking more power.

Varg has worn a collar his entire life, since both he and his sister were sold to a wealthy landowner as thralls. Ever since Varg has been satisfied to survive—until his sister was killed. His quest to avenge Frøya’s murder will take him to places he never imagined, and find family he never knew existed.

Elvar is a mercenary, seeking to write her own saga in the blood of her enemies. Hired to find an escaped thrall, her band comes into possession of the man’s wife and child, who eventually lead them on a quest to unearth a myth—and the power and glory that it holds.

It seems that the better a book is, the harder it becomes for me to talk about it. And this one is absolutely amazing. Surely by now you’ve seen some hype for it, some 5 star reviews and—if you’ve yet to experience it yourself—are wondering if it’s really all that good. Well, it is. It really, really is.

Shadow of the Gods is truly a masterclass in execution. The world-building is on par with that of the Banished Lands, as the Bloodsworn Saga introduces us to a lush land of Vikings, monsters and gods—all seeking power and glory. While I wouldn’t call SotG a dark fantasy, the descriptions do lend quite a bit of darkness to the story, so much so that in my imagination, the world always carried a bit of a dusky cast. Shadowy forests, deep fjords, seedy taverns and slums, brochs, longhouses and earthworks all added to the dark, Viking feel so much that the entire thing rendered in my head like some ambient Wardruna video.

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 Arg stepped out on to a hillside of rolling meadow and left the trees behind him.

Above her rainclouds shredded and blew across the sky like tattered banners.

The description really is amazing. Each setting is rendered in such detail that I felt as if I’d been there and was just reliving the memory.

As with most of his books, SotG emphasizes the dishonor of the bow, so all combat is restricted to a close-quarters brawl. This, combined with the description and style of writing, made everything feel so much more immersive, almost as if I was experiencing something from memory rather than reading about it. Through the setting and world-building and detail, this one really came alive, and I can’t find the right words to convey just how amazing this was!

TL;DR

While I’m not sure yet if I loved it quite as much as Ruin, Shadow of the Gods is certainly one of the best books of the year and on the shortlist of my all-time favorites. I mean, I’m sure I could rave about this for another page or two and it wouldn’t convey anything more than “you should read it, it’s really that good”—so I’m going to leave it at that. But, yeah, you should read it. It’s really THAT good.

If you don’t believe me and need some more convincing, here’re some other reviews that you might want to look at:

Powder & PageSwords & SpectresSpace & SorceryRealms of My Mind

A Time of Blood – by John Gwynne (Review)

Of Blood and Bone #2

Epic, Fantasy

Orbit Books; April 16, 2019

463 pages (PB)

3.9 / 5 ✪

Contains spoilers for A Time of Dread and possible spoilers for the Faithful and the Fallen series!

The second Of Blood and Bone, A Time of Blood shares much the the successes of its predecessors. Both A Time of Dread and the Faithful and the Fallen quartet instilled in us a sense of wonder, of noble deeds and nobler warriors, of truth, courage, and loyalty. All classic fantasy components. And yet where tFatF soared high, OB&B seems a little too nostalgic, and a little too straightforward.

Again, the story leans heavily on its 4 POVs: Bleda, Riv, Drem & Fritha. These POVs tell two separate stories—one of revenge and blood feud, and the other of… revenge and blood-feud. In fact, A Time of Blood reads pretty much like a “How to” for blood-feud. I mean, there’s still a good story underneath, but it all boils down to the same message.

A Time of Feud

In the north, Drem and his companions flee Fritha and the Kadoshim. Following the loss of Sig, they are shaken and desperate to get away from their pursuit. But the Bone Fells are wintry and wild, the Desolation barren and vast, and even with Drem cutting their path, the group is only just managing to outpace their pursuers. Meanwhile, Fritha and her revenants are frantic to catch them, not ready for the secret of the Kadoshim to come out. But as Drem and the others start to pull away, Fritha and her ilk happen upon a few unexpected prizes that might just make up for their failure.

In Forn Forest, Riv and Bleda lead the Ben Elim on a merry chase of their own. But outmatched, outnumbered, they are caught and returned to Drassil. Here Riv is held and awaits her death. But Kol, an upstart Ben Elim, has other plans. Instead of killing her, he plans on using Riv to further his own agenda, make his play for High Captain, and establish permanent Ben-Elim-human relationships. Bleda, meanwhile, is torn. Reunited with his intended—Jin—he can only think about Riv. Her face, her spirit, her lips. And torn as he is, it’s just a matter of time before he does something reckless.

The fate of the Banished Lands is once again in question. And the final battle for them looms large.

‘ This world is one blood feud or another, an endless cycle. ‘

– A Time of Blood, pg. 449

Where the original series was a beautiful coming of age story, a redemption song, and a harrowing battle between good and evil all rolled into one—Of Blood and Bone is starting to feel a lot like one entire blood-feud. While I liked the first book, A Time of Dread, but felt it lacked somewhat compared to the story the original series put out. I enjoyed this second book, but it sure left a sour taste in my mouth after finishing it. It told of much the same battle between good and evil, but with a twist. Each of the two sets of POVs—Drem and Fritha, Riv and Bleda—all have reason to hate each other. After the events of A Time of Blood, they hate one another even more.

As always, John Gwynne weaves an intricate and compelling story—despite all the blood-feud. His world-building is top-notch and his Banished Lands continue to improve in their detail. I only regret that we haven’t fully explored them yet. Nor have we reached Ardain in this trilogy. The short of it is that his world is always well-built, always breathtaking, always lovely in its detail—and A Time of Blood is no different.

AToB is by no means bad, though I have a lot of trouble not comparing it to the Faithful and the Fallen series before it. And it compares badly. It lacks the same charm, the same appeal. The same plot intricacies. A Time of Blood is a well-written, entertaining, straightforward tale of good vs. evil. An enjoyable ride of battles, courage and betrayal. A bitter path of blood-feud and the means taken to achieve it. But little more. It’s certainly entertaining and interesting—but seriously, it can’t compare to what comes before it.

TL;DR

The Faithful and the Fallen is one of my favorite series of all time. Of Blood and Bone is a pale comparison. A Time of Blood is an entertaining read set in a well-built, well-written world. The plot began as a straightforward struggle between good and evil—a sequel to the war between Kadoshim and Ben Elim spelled out in Gwynne’s previous quartet. But this continuation quickly devolves into feud. While the story is still an interesting back and forth revenge tale, it’s nothing that the books before it were. I’m… on the fence about recommending it. If you’ve read tFatF—I’d say, yeah, probably. If you haven’t, I’d definitely start with that series first.

The series concludes with A Time of Courage, due out April 2, 2020.