Book Review – Pray Lied Eve 3: Tales of the macabre and untoward

Pray Lied EVE 3 by Lydia Peever

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SUMMARY

Macabre tales of alienation, terror, and the supernatural…

Take a seat in a darkened theatre for Wormwoods Final Cut, then cast a wary glance at the scarecrow Staked in the fallow field. Gaze across strange shores, All White and Jagged, and too far away from the safety of a library holding Grave Marginalia. Listen close for the Fading Applause in Quintland before Checking Out of the abandoned hotel rotting back into the ground, then stumble through city streets to avoid the Crocodile Rot.

Horror, weird tales, quiet stories of the dread… these seven stories serve as a following to the first three dark offerings of the Pray Lied Eve series. This third installment is dense, and as with the previous collections, we delve into realms, perhaps best left undisturbed.

REVIEW

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Pray Lied Eve 3: Tales of the macabre and untoward is an anthology of seven short stories mostly falling into the horror category. This is the third entry into the series but it’s not necessary to have read the previous books in order to enjoy this one.

Like all short story collections there are some stories that work better than others but each one here is an enjoyable read. Most of them have at least some gore in them but if you are a regular horror reader it won’t be anything you are not used to reading.

One of the strongest stories comes at the beginning in Wormwoods Final Cut in which a young woman hears something strange in an old film projector. She’s not the only one to hear it and it just gets more horrifying from there. Also extremely memorable is Grave Marginalia where a quiet library is disturbed when the staff finds a collection of books that contain things that definitely don’t belong in books. Stake is a quite short tale but it pulls off the story very well in a short amount of time. Fading Applause in Quintland is probably the story that works least in this collection but it’s still an interesting entry and worth reading.

Overall, if you are a fan of short stories, especially ones with a horror or supernatural theme of any kind you’re likely to find at least one good story here.

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Book Review – Afterworld

Afterworld by James G. Robertson

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SUMMARY

Death comes, and misery follows. As a man in his early twenties, Leon never genuinely contemplated what would happen after his death. Like those before him, he never understood the truth of our universe. After his sudden demise, the terrorizing reality of a mysterious dystopian afterlife begins crushing him as it has those prior. Men have started enslaving and killing each other to sate their greed while enigmatic creatures oppress the masses. Only a select few have shown the courage that is needed to challenge their supremacy.

Through this eclipsing darkness, there is hope. But will that hope prove to be enough to save this turbulent cosmos? The revelations of advanced science, magic, human savagery, and even our gods will be showcased. Both in a new light and disturbing darkness, will the verities of Earth and Afterworld give him a greater understanding of our universe; or in turn, begin to break him as they have done to so many before?

REVIEW

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Leon has met with an unfortunate accident. He awakes falling through the air with no parachute to soften his impact. This turns out to be the least of his worries as what happens after is larger than anyone might imagine. He’s in a place called Afterworld where gods, men and women, and monsters all fight for power and supremacy.

Afterworld has an interesting premise in which all of the worlds religions have been preparing man for one thing and one thing only, to be able to fight dark gods from another universe. There is a fair amount of action and a bit of gore in the book. We see most of the action from Leon’s perspective. While a lot of the action and story is intriguing, it would have been nice to see Leon taking a bit more of an active role in the book.

The gods and creatures are fairly unique and so is the premise so that may be enough to keep readers going. Leon gets to interact with people who have incredible powers and learn from some of the most brilliant minds humanity has ever known. He is thrust into a sprawling universe that is full of danger at every turn possible. Only with help from the few people he can rely on will he be able to endure.

The ending leads nicely to the next book in the series and it will be interesting to find out where it goes from here. If you like books about alternate worlds, that tackle philosophical questions, and have a bit of blood in them, Afterworld is worth reading.

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Book Review – Death Rider: A Dark Fantasy Epic (Gunmetal Gods Saga)

Death Rider by Zamil Akhtar

SUMMARY

A disgraced warrior seeks an honorable death on the battlefield, but an eldritch god has other plans for her.

REVIEW

Rating: 5 out of 5.

You may be wondering why the summary for this book is so short. Just to put this in context, this is a free novella that is a sort of prequel for the Gunmetal Gods series and having a much longer summary would likely give away spoilers of not only Death Rider but also other books in the series. Like the rest of Gunmetal Gods, this is fantasy combined with cosmic horror. If you like that style of story, the whole series is a must read. It’s inventive and interesting and full of epic battles, heartbreaking emotion, and unimaginably horrible gods.

Zamil Akhtar proves with this novella that he can make an impact with a shorter form of story just as well as he can with full length novels. I’ll not go too much into the plot here because I do not want to spoil the story for any new readers. This novella is a good place to start if you have not read any of the Gunmetal Gods series and for those of us who are already fans of the books, this is a wonderful supplement to the main story.

Darya is what is known as a Death Rider. She has made a mistake and is at death’s door because of her actions. She has one last chance to survive. One last hope at living, for even one more day. With the horrors she will encounter, she may well wish she had chosen death instead.

The novella has a relatable main character, an enjoyable amount of action, and one hell of an ending that needs to be read to be believed. If you are a fan at all of cosmic horror or epic fantasy and you have not read Gunmetal Gods, I can’t recommend it enough. You can purchase Death Rider in paperback at the link above, or you can get a free digital copy by joining Zamil Akhtar’s mailing list at ZamilAkhtar.com. He’s also working on a new progression fantasy series and I’m excited to see where that leads.

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Book Review – The Huntsman of Corvinus

The Huntsman of Corvinus

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SUMMARY

An ancient evil descends on the Central European capital city of Budapest. A supernatural killer stalks its timeworn alleyways, provoking terror amongst its distraught population and leaving untraceable and shocking murders in its wake.

An estranged American family finds itself at the center of the unnatural violence. Confronting a vicious predator, they find they must band together if they are to survive its ageless and malevolent curse. But as they come to grips with their horrid adversary, their time and options for escape dwindle, and they can only hope that overcoming their wicked foe will not cost them everything.

REVIEW

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Erica and Laszlo Varga are going through a difficult period. They have divorced and their daughter Monica splits her time between Erica and Laszlo. Laszlo has not been the best of fathers or husbands and this is cause for plenty of tension in the little family. To make matters worse, they are living in Budapest which is a huge adjustment for Erica. As difficult as these troubles may be, they are fairly normal. But when strange killings start to happen around the Varga family their lives are turned upside down. The killer is brutal and vicious and it seems he is getting closer at every turn. The police have to figure out who he is and how to stop him while Erica, Laszlo and Monica all just want to go about their lives.

The Huntsman of Corvinus is tightly paced and the action keeps the reader interested. There is good character development and it feels like there is no wasted space in the book. The end of the book does have an interesting twist that makes it worth reading all the way through and will likely keep readers guessing.

It does take a long time to reveal the mystery of the Huntsman so in some ways the ending feels a bit rushed but it still has a good pay off. The setting of Budapest was a nice touch for the story and the descriptions of the setting fit well with the tone of the story.

At its heart this is a horror story and while it does have gruesome moments, they are not so over the top as to be shocking or off putting to the reader.

If you like books about gritty murders set in interesting locations or just a good, quick story, with a few scares in it and an intriguing family dynamic this book is worth a read.

Book Review – HELL: The Necromancer

Hell: The Necromancer by Tom Lewis

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SUMMARY

A wave of occult-themed killings sweeps across Los Angeles, leaving a grisly trail of corpses in its wake. The only lead is a mysterious young girl caught at one of the crime scenes. A girl who scares the hell out of the police and the guards at the prison where she’s being kept. A girl with a terrifying secret. The power to raise the dead.

REVIEW

Rating: 4 out of 5.

At its heart The Necromancer is a story about a pair of sisters. Hannah had a rough entry into this world but she’s a fighter. Natalie, her twin sister, has not had an easy life either. Both of the girls have supportive families but these girls are anything but normal. They see things that are not there. Sometimes glass breaks when either one of them gets overly emotional. And they can see things that are frightening and may mean the world harm. The only true protection these girls may have is one another.

In Los Angeles, a wave of grisly murders occurs. Hannah and Natalie are the key to unraveling the mystery of what happened. But finding out what these girls know is not easy and it could be downright dangerous. There is a force at work bigger than anyone can imagine and it’s ready to get out into the world.

While there are plenty of good scares in this book and the tone is decidedly dark, it is surprisingly emotional as well. Author Tom Lewis does a phenomenal job of keeping a tight cast of characters and giving the reader enough room to care about them. There are multiple sections which may make a reader tear up even in a story full of strange and supernatural events. The characters of Hannah and Natalie are especially well developed but even the minor characters feel like they have a depth to them. This is refreshing to see in a dark story like this. This is what kept me turning pages.

The plot develops nicely and comes to an impressive conclusion making this a consistently good read.

If you like stories like Carrie, The Shining, or The Hollow Man combined with a bit of grisly murder mystery this is definitely a book worth checking out.

Book Review – Hellsleigh

Hellsleigh by D.C. Brockwell

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SUMMARY

They say if you listen carefully at night , you can still hear the screaming…

Seven bodies are recovered from Hellsleigh , the most infamous asylum in the country, which has been left derelict for the last 30 years.

24 Hours Earlier:

On the eve of its planned demolition, famed parapsychologist and author, Brandon Fiske and his team of paranormal investigators break into the abandoned hospital determined to find proof of its supernatural powers.

Local villager, Jason Hough whose past is connected to Hellingly returns for one last visit, along with a group of university students in search of a place to party.

Little do the two groups know, they are there on a very special anniversary for the hospital, an occasion the building remembers only too well…One thing they’ll all find out the hard way is: once you enter Hellsleigh, it wont let you leave…

REVIEW

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Hellsleigh has a haunted past. It was once an asylum for those with mental illness but twisted and cruel events occurred there. For the past thirty years the place has been left disused and is about to be demolished. Brandon Fiske, who has made a career out of writing about haunted places, has brought a team with him to investigate the hospital on the eve of its destruction. One way or the other he wants to find out if spirits are real. Meanwhile, Jason Hough and a group of his friends are looking for a place to party. And what better place for a part is there than an old, abandoned hospital where no brothers, parents or police will be? Once everyone has arrived, things start down a dark and deadly path. It remains to be seen if any of them will survive.

DC Brockwell does a fine job of managing a large list of characters and balances the time focused on each well. There are significantly bloody and frightening scenes so anyone who enjoys a good bit of body horror will enjoy this book. The death scenarios are fairly inventive as well and are guaranteed to stick in the readers mind. The end comes to a satisfying conclusion and ties up the loose ends nicely.

While a lot of the book is inventive and intriguing, the setting of an abandoned mental hospital does read like something horror fans have seen before. In addition there is a bit of time jumping that some readers may not enjoy but it is necessary for the end of the book to work as intended.

All in all Brockwell has put out a solid horror story that has enough for most horror fans to keep them awake at night. It would be great to see a fresher, more surprising setting in the next book from this author. Either way I’m sure it will involve a good scare worth reading.

If you are a fan of American Horror StoryThe Shining or movies that involve a good amount of blood and gore like the Saw series this is a book worth reading.

Book Review – A Sea of Cinders

A Sea of Cinders by Adam R. Bishop

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SUMMARY

In Cellagor—a land segregated between humans and Elves—fear, manipulation and war are inevitable. Nearly one hundred years have passed since the War of the Fallen, a cataclysmic battle between human and Elf which left both races teetering on the brink of extinction. Now, the Age of Tranquility is finally nearing its end, and the northern King of Havelmir is hungry for power and revenge.

The Elven peace of mind remains unchanged—that is, until the Kingdom of Rhan is threatened by unknown forces. Soon it becomes clear that the tranquil Elven existence is once again at risk of crumbling. However, even with the element of surprise, the road to victory is not as smooth as it may seem. Ulterior motives are afoot, ancient magic is resurfacing, and an unlikely friendship between two young men may just pose the biggest threat of them all.

REVIEW

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Will is a sailor who has been imprisoned in the dungeons of a king who is on the brink of starting a war. He has a chance at freedom if he and his newfound friend Baldric can outsmart a hostile army and survive long enough to bring vital news to the remaining Elf kingdoms.

King Dadro will stop at nothing to obtain an item that can give him ultimate power in the world but to do it he must ally himself with warring factions of humans and lean on the power of a pyromancer whose intentions are not always clear.

Meanwhile the elves must decide who is responsible for an attack on their brethren while making sure to take action before all is lost.

A Sea of Cinders is an epic fantasy tale that gives us several perspectives on events going on in the story. There is a large but not unwieldy cast of characters for the reader to follow. The scenes of action and battle are well structured and engaging and it feels like there is a true threat to the realm of men and elves.

At times it seems as if the author may be a bit too protective of some of the protagonists as there were sections where the danger does not quite come across to the reader.

On the whole there story is well thought out and a solid fantasy tale. It would have been nice if the end felt a little more conclusive but as this is the first in a series of books having some plot points unresolved still works.

Will and Baldric are particularly enjoyable characters and the dynamic between them stands out as a highlight of the book.

The world feels very lived in and like it has a long history that comes through in the reading. The politics between humans and elves seem complex and intriguing as well.

If you like big, sweeping epic fantasy tales with the beauty of Elven culture and the brutality of humanity featured heavily A Sea of Cinders is worth reading.

Book Review – The Ravenstones: Gains and Losses

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SUMMARY

The alliances in Aeronbed and Vigmar have shifted, the battle lines redrawn. Old enemies become friends of convenience, former confederates hunted down. Can bears and lions become true allies? Can old prejudices be overcome? Is true reconciliation possible?

Eirwen and Fridis have been reunited, but their lives are filled with conflict and challenge. Eirwen must lead the Heimborn bears against their panther overlords. Fridis embarks on her quest to unearth the truth about the Ravenstones, starting with her former bodyguard Raicho, the peregrine falcon, and then to uncover the mysteries of Manaris.

Ammarich begins to doubt Adarix, who has abandoned the wolf pack’s ambitions and committed his life to supporting the polar bear. The lioness Olwen seeks to rejoin her kin in their northern sanctuary. Her panther friend and confidant, Eisa, chooses to stay with Eirwen and Heimborn’s bears, but he must prove himself to the suspicious clan chiefs — or die. And Vigmar’s security chief, Vulpé, the fox, is on the hunt once more, but now it’s the magic gemstones he’s after.

In Volume 4 our heroes face new trials. The stakes are higher, the challenges bolder, the treachery more outrageous and the threats to survival even graver.

REVIEW

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Eirwen and Fridis have come a long way since the events of the first book in this series. Fridis continues to discover secrets about the magic gems she and Eirwen discovered. Eirwen continues to grow and understand his role as a leader. All the while the world is at war and plots, complications and battles are changing the political landscape at every turn.

As always in these books there are alliances, betrayals, surprises and plenty of action to keep the reader interested. At times it can be difficult to keep track of all the characters as there are so many in the story. There is a handy dramatis animalium to help the reader keep everyone in mind at the beginning of the book.

The work here by C.S. Watts is extremely ambitious and impressive on a large scale. The different factions vying for rule or supremacy or in some cases simply to survive are reminiscent of the politics in the Game of Thrones series. The Ravenstones books are certainly more suitable for children but that does not make this story any less complex.

It’s been a great ride so far to see how the characters grow and change, constantly needing to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances. And while Eirwen and Fridis are the stars of the series there are plenty of other characters Watts is able to make the reader care about. In particular Olwen and Eisa who were featured in the last book are enjoyable and interesting to read about.

There are still more books in this series to come and they are all great reads. If you want a story with a focus on not just fighting but politics behind fighting and plenty of character growth and development, do yourself a favor and pick up the Ravenstones books.

If you are an epic fantasy fan and have read The Lord of the Rings, The Wheel of Time or if you love Watership Down these books are for you.

Book Review – Disciple of Vengeance

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SUMMARY

Betrayed and left for dead, the only thing keeping Janis alive is rage. Rage at the enemies who slaughtered his family, at the wizard who sold them out, but most of all at himself for letting it happen.

Now it’s too late.

His body spasms. His memories leak away. In his final moments, a presence approaches him. It’s alien but powerful, driven by a hunger he’s never known. “Give me life within you,” the nameless one offers, “and I will give you your vengeance.”

Janis will go from prince assassin to fugitive sorcerer as he hunts the people who killed his family. He’ll battle mercenaries, cultists, gods and wizards in a magic devastated world to unravel a conspiracy that goes far beyond the treachery of one wizard.

He fuels his success with a diabolic power that will force him to ask what he sold his soul to, and to wonder what it really wants.

All he knows for sure is that there’s no going back.

Vengeance is only the beginning.

REVIEW

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Janis is dead. But this doesn’t have to be the end of him. An alien presence approaches him and promises to give him the power for vengeance. The pact seems worthwhile but all things come at a cost. Upon awaking, Janis has no memory of who he is and a new kind of hunger is inside of him. Janis knows he wants revenge but he’s not sure at first on whom or why.

The story unfolds in a series of actions sequences and flashes of memories reminding Janis of who he is and what he has lost. He has a few friends and can tap into an incredible power but reaching his ultimate goal may be harder than he imagined.

The book comes in on the shorter side at around 40,000 words which leaves the reader wanting a bit more from the story. However, in the short time of the book a lot is accomplished. An interesting and complex magic system is established well and the world feels rather robust and lived in.

Because Janis starts the story with no memory of himself it was at times difficult to get full context of who he is and what the purpose of his actions were. Still, the story is ultimately satisfying and enjoyable. It’s well worth a read, it would just have been nice to have a little more background and a little more story altogether.

If you like series such as Elric of Melnibone by Micheal Moorcock and Bloodstone by Karl Edward Wagner you’ll enjoy Disciple of Vengeance.

Book Review – A Death Most Quiet

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SUMMARY

A Death Most Quiet details the riveting criminal investigations of Captain Edward McCuen as he leads the NYPD’s Crime Scene Unit on a relentless pursuit of three elusive serial killers.

With the help of his team, McCuen follows a trail of mysterious murders alongside an eccentric mathematician named Anselm Winterbottom, who McCuen has secretly leveraged as an investigatory consultant. The two men have a turbulent friendship, and it soon becomes clear that Winterbottom’s ultimate aim is far from altruistic. While their alliance is tested, a crime reporter seeks to uncover the true identity of the man who is helping McCuen.

As the hunters become the hunted, this three-part crime thriller delves into the dark corners of human nature, murder, and madness, staged amidst the landmarks of New York City, and the cultural treasures of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

REVIEW

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Ed McCuen is a New York Detective who is willing to do whatever it takes to stop criminals from killing in his city, no matter the cost. He has solved his share of cases and seen his share of action but on occasion there are cases that pop up that even he can’t solve. In those situations he teams up with Anselm Winterbottom, an eccentric mathematician who has seen his own share of tragedy. Winterbottom’s mind works like no one else’s and he can find clues others miss. When McCuen asks for Winterbottom’s help on three unusual cases, secrets are revealed, lives are lost and saved and both McCuen and Winterbottom have to ask themselves what doing the right thing really means.

While this book is a murder mystery it would be more accurate to say it is three murder mysteries in one book. The mysteries are all inventive and leave the reader guessing as to who the perpetrator is and whether or not they will be caught.

At the same time, the book does a nice job taking the reader into the emotional journey of both McCuen and Winterbottom as the two of them come into inevitable conflict. While it would not be fair to give major plot points away in a review, I can say the answers in all three mysteries surprised me and had me guessing all the way until the end.

It could be argued that the character of the crime reporter was a bit underdeveloped but this is only a minor complaint. It was difficult to find plot holes in the mystery and the pages keep turning to find out the conclusion.

If you like Sherlock Holmes but with a modern spin or books by authors like Harlan Coben consider giving A Death Most Quiet a try. I don’t think you will be disappointed.