The Ravenstones: The Winter of Discontent

The Winter of Discontent by C.S. Watts

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SUMMARY

Winter has descended upon Heimborn. The armies are at a standstill, waiting for the spring fighting season to begin. But waiting does not preclude plotting and scheming, or new adventures and miscues. It does not discourage the ongoing search for the final Ravenstone or for the answers to outstanding mysteries. It does not hold back efforts to find new allies in the battle for supremacy between the forces of good and evil.

A rival to Queen Olwen has emerged. Vulpé wrestles with his conscience. Fridis, undeterred by hazard or impediment, returns to an old haunt. Temorwig and Rithild put aside their differences. The mythic black wolves reappear. Don Grimezel shows signs of life but faces a new threat. Meanwhile, Eirwen and Parthanyx, like two great chess-masters, execute moves and countermoves.

REVIEW

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Winter has fallen. Eirwen and Parthnyx, both strategic military leaders have tried to best position their forces to gain advantage. But even as the snows fall, plotting, scheming, diplomacy, and coincidences favoring one side or another continue to play out. Eirwen and Fridis, the polar bear and eider duck who started off the series have come a long way. Fridis continues to learn more about the magical gems which have come into and out of possession throughout the series. She also learns some new and vital information regarding a missing stone.

While backstabbing, cover ups and military positioning continues, the weather is threat to both sides. Will the outcome of a long waged war be decided by calculated moves or through the waiting game of seeing who can survive a harsh winter?

The Ravenstones series continues to impress and fans of the previous books will find plenty here to continue to love. The most interesting aspect of The Winter of Discontent is not simply epic battles and grand bravado, but how diplomats and spies make the world of this series go around.

While most of this book is as good as the rest, the constant capture and then release of Fridis does seem a bit overdone in this volume. However, that’s not to say those scenes were not worthwhile. It just starts to feel to the reader that this will happen in nearly every book in the series. The interactions do lead somewhere but it starts to feel a bit repetitive at times.

The setting and expansive world created by C. S. Watts feels immersive and expansive and vibrant even when the snows come and the environment becomes desolate and events turn desperate.

With so many volumes in this series being so full of twists, turns and intrigues, if you are an epic fantasy fan and are not reading The Ravenstones books, you are doing yourself a disservice. Catch up while you can because the next volume is sure not to disappoint.

The Ravenstones: Death and Life

The Ravenstones: Death and Life by C.S. Watts

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

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SUMMARY

Volume 4 of The Ravenstones saga (Gains and Losses) ended in setback: the enemy triumphant, our heroes on their heels, needing to regroup. Eirwen the polar bear and his Heimborn cousins had made great strides in their fight for freedom, gaining control of Aeronbed’s capital, Manaris, and the Kingdom’s heartland, winning support of formidable allies: old friends, the gray wolves and new ones, the lions. But these gains came with reversals: two of the Ravenstones lost and a bloody encounter with the panther general, Parthanyx, leaves the allies demoralized.

In Death and Life, Empress Dona Morana wields new weapons. Her agent, the fox Vulpé, insinuates himself into the allied camp, and the long-forgotten wolves of Blakvul rise from their slumber. Parthanyx goes on the offensive, with new allies to command.

Eirwen aims to keep his friend Fridis out of harm’s way. His misguided strategy brings both menace and reward. Uncovering the truth about the gemstones takes Fridis to distant and hidden locations, where she meets a creature who never was, threats she couldn’t have imagined and unexpected answers.

While Eirwen leads the defense of Manaris and of Heimborn, questions emerge in the lions’ camp over the alliance with the bears.

REVIEW

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Ravenstones: Death and Life is the fifth entry in the Ravenstones saga. Eirwen, a noble polar bear who has fashioned himself into a legend, and Fridis an eider duck who is intent on discovering the secret of the magic gems she once possessed continue their adventures in this volume. Eirwen must fend off an attack from an enemy army with much greater power than his own while keeping his friend Fridis safe. Olwen, a lion queen who is still learning how to wield her own power has allied with the bear and must show strength to her people while still following direction from Eirwen. Meanwhile a crafty and persuasive fox named Vulpe has his own agenda and is willing to apply as much diplomacy, conniving and subterfuge as possible to come through for his empress.

Up to this volume, all of the books in the Ravenstone series have been intriguing, complex, and full of twists, turns, wins, losses and surprises. It’s an epic quest filled with battles, palace intrigue, shifting alliances, and magic. This volume is no exception. The story overall continues to hook the reader as much as any fantasy fiction can. C. S. Watts has delivered, once again, a book which leaves the reader wanting more while still neatly resolving many of the open questions of the series.

If you are not a fan of books that have complex plots, plenty of action, a decent dose of magic, surprises at every turn, and fine writing as well, then this is not the series for you. While it is definitely not recommended to start this series at the fifth volume in the series, Watts does do a fine job of reminding the reader of events and characters we have seen in past books and why they are important. Even more impressive, he does this while never taking away from the narrative of the current story. And he manages to introduce a large amount of new characters who I am sure will prove essential to the series.

While a book with talking animals may be off-putting to some, this book delivers for any fantasy lover open minded enough to read it. It’s got the feel of Watership Down while still delivering an original story. If you really are not into books where a lot of political intrigue is essential to the plot, this may also not be the series for you, but even with those scenes included, there is still plenty of action and magic here to come back to.

As a reviewer of many fantasy books, I must admit this series is one I think about a lot and I wait for the next volume in eager anticipation to see what will happen in the Ravenstones saga. If you have not picked up this series, you’re in for a treat, especially if you love epic fantasy. This series and this volume in the series is a must read.

Book Review – The Scepter of Amon

The Scepter of Amon

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SUMMARY

Kill the treasure-hoarding monster, find the ancient artifact, and deliver it to the wizard. Every adventurer knows the drill. But what if that adventurer is a troll?

The wizard has run out of heroes to send after the Scepter of Amon, so he picks Kevrin, a troll who desires to be human. He is powerful, resilient, and just a little bit scared of fire. A simple magical disguise allows Kevrin to interact with other humans, but can Kevrin fit in? He can’t read. He doesn’t understand sarcasm. And he has no idea what a scepter even looks like. But since the wizard promised to turn him into a human if he is successful, he has all the motivation in the world.

Can Kevrin trust his new friends if they find out what he really is? Can he trust the wizard? Will he find what he is really looking for? Or will he eat his horse the next time he gets too hungry?

The Scepter of Amon is told in a classic fantasy setting and is the first book in the Hero’s Path trilogy.

REVIEW

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Most adventuring stories, and most adventurers have something in common. They go on a quest to kill a monster, get some treasure and come back for a reward. Kevrin has set out to do these things as well. But he’s no common adventurer. He may look human but he’s actually a troll, more comfortable eating raw meat from a fresh kill than dining on cooked steak, stronger than most men, and unsure of what a scepter looks like even though he knows he is supposed to bring one back. Kevrin never fit in with the other trolls and he wants more than anything to be human. If he can complete his quest he may just get his wish.

The Scepter of Amon is a fantasy adventure with pretty intriguing twist. What if the adventurer was a monster? The story puts a lot of the standard fantasy tropes on their heads and makes for a fun read. The adventure has a fair amount of action, a smattering of romance, and a bit of a murder mystery in it as well. Kevrin is most certainly a memorable character who lives in the readers heart long after the story has been read.

While the story itself is well written and full of adventure it would have been nice to see more female characters in the story. The woman who is in the story is well developed and doesn’t just belong in the background, it just would have been better if there were more female characters at all here.

This is the first book in a trilogy and it comes to a nice conclusion while still leaving the reader eager for the next installment.

If you play Dungeons & Dragons you will especially relate to this book. Even if you don’t but like fantasy adventure books like Lord of the Rings, The Crystal Shard or even the Discworld series you’re going to find something here you like. It’s definitely worth reading.

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Book Review – Reflection

Reflection by Brandon Hargraves

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

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SUMMARY

After witnessing the tragic death of her closest friends and family, Dawn travels across the country with a weathered vagabond in search of her aunt. On the way, she discovers that the world is a much scarier place than she had initially imagined, and that she might have some darkness lingering within herself as well.

REVIEW

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Dawn lives a quiet, happy life in a small village. She has a family who loves her and close friends to keep her company. She hasn’t traveled outside of her village but she hasn’t minded because she’s happy. Everything changes when her little village and family are attacked and left for dead. Dawn is now on her own and will need to make friends and allies in order to navigate her way through a world she has yet to truly experience.

She meets up with Cain and Ragnar who are what is known as Reavers. These are people who uphold justice and protect the land. Dawn sets off on an adventure with the two of them as she tries to connect with her only remaining relative, her aunt who lives in a far away city. On the way she will have to face danger, enemies, and most of all, herself.

Reflection is a high fantasy adventure full of magic, interesting creatures, and compelling action. What is most interesting is that the characters in the story don’t automatically resort to violence to solve their troubles and there are some characters who really think about what it means to take a life. That’s refreshing to see in a fantasy book as oftentimes there is action without consequences in these kinds of stories.

There was room for a bit more character growth for some of the characters and there were times when the world didn’t feel as fully built as it could have been. But the story is satisfying to the reader and there is a lot of potential for this as a series. The characters are enjoyable to read about and there is a sense of fun in this world.

If you like fantasy books with lots of magic in it like Lord of the Rings or The Wheel of Time series, you’ll find this an enjoyable book worth reading.

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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 – A Sea of Cinders

A Sea of Cinders by Adam R. Bishop

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

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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

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

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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

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

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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.

Children of Jade – #BookReview

Children of Jade by Morgan Cole

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

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SUMMARY

Driven by the fear of losing the woman he loves, Annuweth Sandaros has betrayed his family and united himself to a conspiracy that has plunged the Empire of Navessea into civil war…a war that has cost the lives of some of his sister’s loved ones.

Determined to bring her brother to justice, Marilia Sandara pursues Annuweth and his allies with the same relentless tenacity that has made her a legend on the battlefield. But as the bodies begin to mount and Navessea begins to crumble, she will be forced to reckon with the price of her vengeance.

A story of love, loss and redemption, Children of Jade is the highpoint of The Chrysathamere Trilogy…and also a Last of Us style revenge saga that stands on its own.

REVIEW

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Marilia Sandara is a respected strategist, military leader, and legend in her own time. She never expected the betrayal of her own brother and now she wants to bring him to justice. She’s lost friends, family, and good people who have fought for her cause. At every turn, she is surrounded by enemies and the odds are never in her favor. Even so, she is on a quest for vengeance and may go too far. Is she truly seeking justice or just looking for revenge?

Annuweth Sandaros has committed an act of betrayal of his own sister. But even Annuweth isn’t sure who to trust and what consequences his own actions have. He’s at risk of losing the woman he loves and choosing the wrong side in his fight. It seems like he is on the edge of either gaining everything he wants or losing everything that matters.

Children of Jade is the third book in the Chrysathamere Trilogy. Like the books before it in the series, this book has everything you would want from an epic fantasy book. There is a ton of action, a complex network of characters, a rich and developed world, and deep emotions. Although there are characters who do bad things, they all have their reasons making the world feel rich and complex, and vivid.

While this is the third book in the series, the author Morgan Cole, puts a nice summary of the previous books at the beginning. This is helpful to the reader who is new to the series and is helpful to someone who has already read the books because quite a lot of story has already happened and it can be difficult to remember all of it.

The twists and turns are surprising and unforgettable. The series overall is phenomenal and this book is no exception.

If you like sweeping epic fantasy where choices can be morally gray, there is a large cast of characters, and don’t mind extremely vivid descriptions of bloodshed, especially in battle, this book is one hundred percent for you. Fans of Game of Thrones or Throne of the Crescent Moon are sure to find something to love here. This is one I have to say is a must read.

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September 2020 TBR

Hey Everyone, Slick Dungeon here. I just wanted to share with you my September 2020 TBR list as it currently stands. Note that some of this could change as I do tend to be a slower reader and some books may get pushed back a little. There may also be books added if I see one that peaks my interest in ReedsyDiscovery. For personal reasons I am trying to keep this list a little short but I do end up picking up more books than I expect each month so more could be added. This month I will be continuing a couple of series I started earlier this year and catch up with what I missed last month. I will also be adding some new titles. If you have a TBR list, let me know what’s on it in the comments.

  1. Roa Seeks by Electra Nanou

This is a little bit like putting Write a To Do List on your To Do list. I read this book and posted my review yesterday but since that was the first day of September, it counts! This was a charming little fantasy book that I quite enjoyed. Read my review of it here.

2. The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan

I had hoped to finish this book last month but let’s be honest, fantasy books are long. That’s one of the things I love about them but if you are not the fastest reader, it’s a struggle. If I don’t finish any other books this month, this will be the one I do finish. I have already read more than one hundred pages so far and let’s just say, this is so freaking good! I can’t wait to finish it and share my thoughts with all of you.

3. The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin

This is the second book in the Broken Earth trilogy. I know that this series has a lot of fans. I read the first book last month and I honestly struggled with it a bit but I was interested enough to want to know what happens next. I really did not enjoy the second person point of view in the first book but I don’t know if the second book is written in the same style. Even if it is, there could be something great in this series that just didn’t click with me so I am going to give it a fair shake (see what I did there? If you read the book you get it) and continue the series. This is on the condition that I can get a hold of a library copy so this could move to October. If you want to read my review of the first book in the series you can read it here.

4. When Colour Became Grey by A. C. Lorenzen

This is an Urban Fantasy book that I am looking forward to digging in. It’s about a woman who has an untimely death and is sentenced to hunt down demons over and over. I like the idea and am very interested to see where this will go.

5. Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

If you have seen my raving reviews of the HBO show of the same name, you will know that I very much want to read Loveraft Country as soon as possible. This is another one where I am dependent on the library having an available copy, so we will see considering how popular this is at the moment. If you want to read my spoiler free review of the first episode of the show you can read that here.

6. The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America by David Hadju

If any of these books on this list get pushed back, this will probably be the first one that gets pushed. I really do want to read this book and I am fascinated with the history of comic books but then again this is an older book and I haven’t gotten to it yet so one more month won’t hurt it. If I don’t get to this in September this will get moved higher on October’s list.

Let me know what you think of my list and if you have a TBR I should check out, let me know in the comments!

Bookishly yours,

Slick Dungeon

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