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 – 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

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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 – Aurelia And The Enemies Of Pity

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SUMMARY

Prepare yourself for a spectacular, page-turning, and mind-blowing fantasy fiction novel that will take you on a one-of-a-kind trip filled with intense fights, amusing and swift dialogues, and vividly graphic imagery – precisely the way good fantasy fiction novels should be.

REVIEW

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Aurelia is an Akkadian which means she has powers that help her to reshape the very environment around her at will. She is thrown into a war that rages all around her and must learn to control her power without destroying everything around her. She is aided by her friend Nadia and several mentors.

While the book has potential and the plot could lead to some interesting places, the technical issues in the writing make it difficult to follow. The reader’s head spins a bit from the amount of head hopping and abrupt changes in past or present tense, sometimes right in the middle of a paragraph.

The world built here is intriguing and the mix of magic with some more modern weaponry can be exciting. However, the plot was difficult to follow and understand and it would have been nice if some more background had been given to both the characters and what was causing the war. It was not always clear who was fighting whom or why they were fighting in the first place.

While the book overall was not for me, I did think Aurelia was a memorable character and she has the potential to have an interesting series. It would be nice to see a bit more background and context in the next books and to have a little less confusion about what is happening and who we are supposed to be focusing on in each scene.

Book Review – Olwen and Eisa

Olwen and Eisa by C.S. Watts

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SUMMARY

Volume 3 in the saga of The Ravenstones, introduces the reader to our protagonists’ enemies, the big cats of Aeronbed. The courageous lioness, Olwen and the insightful panther, Eisa must chart a dangerous path through life. Olwen, has received the gift of a prophecy, but she must figure out its meaning and learn how to benefit from that knowledge. Eisa, cut loose from his kin and comrades, comes to her aid.

Eirwen, the polar bear, has accepted the charge to lead the bears of Heimborn in revolt against their oppressors. His road to victory will require every ounce of patience, cunning and ingenuity he can muster. Although he must confront a determined and vicious enemy, often it’s his own side presenting the greatest obstacle to success.

Fridis, the Eider duck, left behind in Vigmar’s capital has set herself lofty goals, ones that require a trip to the southern reaches of the empire. While the trip opens her eyes to the mysteries of the magic Ravenstones, it also brings threatening and heart-wrenching news. The reach of her enemies may be strong and ruthless, but she will not be denied.

REVIEW

The third volume in the Saga of the Ravenstones series introduces us to new characters and gives the reader a peek into what has been going on with the enemies of Eirwen and Fridis, the main characters from the first two books. We get to see how the big cats of Aeronbed see the conflict and there are some unlikely allies made.

The book does still continue the story of Eirwen and Fridis but it allows the reader to see the whole picture and it sheds light on some of the events from the first two books in the series.

The big cats of Aeronbed (lions, panthers, and the like) have been at war for about as long as anyone can remember. The panthers have been oppressing the bears of Heimborn and don’t consider them to be a true threat. What they don’t realize yet is that a certain polar bear has come along to change the situation. Some of the panthers want to take extreme measures against both the bears and those who rule in Aeronbed.

This military maneuvering and political intrigue make unlikely allies out of Olwen, a lion and Eisa, a panther. They must depend upon one another for survival and to prevent utter disaster on all fronts of the war.

Meanwhile, Fridis has been exiled and is learning more than she thought possible about the magic stones she and Eirwen discovered. She may have been kept away from Vigmar but she is not without allies.

Don’t let the fact that this series has talking animals in it fool you. This story is every bit as complex, intriguing and interesting as some of the best fantasy series around. In fact, the plot twists and turns are downright Shakespearian at times. The story will keep you guessing and continues to surprise and delight.

If you love sweeping epic fantasy series like Lord of the Rings, The Wheel of Time or The Shannara series you will get a thrill out of The Ravenstone Saga. This is not a series where you can skip around though, so make sure you read the first two in order to get the fullest picture of the series.

Conqueror’s Blood – #BookReview

Conqueror’s Blood by Zamil Akhtar

SUMMARY

The Kingdom of Alanya is home to mystic warriors and mischievous djinn, vulgar poets and vain philosophers, soaring simurghs and scheming shahs.

Little do the people know that a power struggle between an ancient sorceress and an upstart sultana threatens to bathe the sands in bile and bones. A bloody cauldron boils, and primeval gods laugh whilst they stir it.

As warhorses charge, arrows shower, and cannon shots brighten the night, all must choose a side.

REVIEW

Rating: 5 out of 5.

It’s a tall mountain to climb when you set out to write a second novel. A first novel can grab readers’ attention and generate a lot of buzz if it is good. A second novel has to meet the expectations set out in the first book and then exceed them. Some authors are better than others at achieving this.

Zamil Akhtar’s first novel, Gunmetal Gods showed us a world of armies, magic, terrifying and strange creatures, and personal stories about men whose struggles would change the fate of the world. That book focused on Kevah and Micah who would become entwined in events that shaped history and changed the two of them forever.

The follow up to that book, Conqueror’s Blood is told from the alternating perspectives of Zedra and Cyra, two women who are the center of events that will change a kingdom. Zedra and Cyra are friends and both are connected to the throne of Alanya. Zedra wields more power than one would imagine and she has the power to bend events to her will. Yet Cyra may be stronger than she knows. What the two women do will decide not only the fate of themselves, the ones they love, and the kingdom they call home but also may be the deciding factor in the fate of humanity.

While it’s not strictly necessary to have read Gunmetal Gods in order to enjoy Conqueror’s Blood the reader will have a much deeper understanding and appreciation of the events in the current volume if they have read the first volume.

The book is an immensely enjoyable read full of deep characterization, a world that feels complete and alive, creatures that are magnificent and terrifying, has tons of action and political intrigue which will keep you up reading late into the night.

If you love fantasy books like Throne of the Crescent Moon or the Game of Thrones series, Zamil Akhtar is a must-read author. It is a tall mountain to climb to write a second novel. Lucky for readers, Akhtar has laced up his climbing shoes, checked his gear twice, made a plan and carried it out all the way to the summit.

Take my advice and read both Gunmetal Gods and Conqueror’s Blood. The only drawback is there is not yet a third volume. And when there is I’ll be eagerly reading through it.

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Re-Post: Gunmetal Gods – #BookReview

Hey all, since the sequel to this book, Conqueror’s Blood (Gunmetal Gods Book 2) is coming soon and I will be reviewing an advanced copy I wanted to re-post my review of the original. If you haven’t picked up your copy of Gunmetal Gods do yourself a favor and check it out.

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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SYNOPSIS

They took his daughter, so Micah comes to take their kingdom. Fifty thousand gun-toting paladins march behind him, all baptized in angel blood, thirsty to burn unbelievers.

Only the janissaries can stand against them. Their living legend, Kevah, once beheaded a magus amid a hail of ice daggers. But ever since his wife disappeared, he spends his days in a haze of hashish and poetry.

To save the kingdom, Kevah must conquer his grief and become the legend he once was. But Micah writes his own legend in blood, and his righteous conquest will stop at nothing.

When the gods choose sides, a legend will be etched upon the stars.

REVIEW

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Kevah was once a hero who did the impossible. He killed a magus and his legend was born. Ten years later he is old and leads a life averse to warfare but his time will come again. Meanwhile, Micah the Metal has been on a conquest for his faith. He has conquered much of the world and now he comes for Kostany, the city that Kevah lives in. He will stop at nothing to achieve his victory.

When an author is bold enough to name a book Gunmetal Gods, they better deliver the goods with a huge, epic story that is an absolute page turner full of amazing battles, intense political intrigue, and surprises at every turn. That is exactly what author Zamil Akhtar has done.

The parallel stories of Kevah and Micah intertwine and intersect in surprising ways as the world moves with them and around them. As the book progresses, the reader only becomes more engaged in the story as the cast of characters grows.

Battle scenes are fascinating in this book with the combination of swordplay, magic, and technological advancements in the early development of guns. They are vividly described and utterly thrilling to read.

The book is full of well realized characters, a deep culture that is well thought out, incredible creatures and amazing beings that turn the tide of the story and everything else you would want in a fantasy tale. This book easily stands with the best of epic fantasy fiction.

If you love sweeping epics like the Game of Thrones series or Throne of the Crescent Moon, drop whatever else you are reading and pick up this book. It’s as bold as the title and it delivers on all fronts. Remember Zamil Akhtar’s name because if he keeps writing like this, he will be the next well known epic fantasy author to have a global fanbase.

Fantastically yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Heir to the Darkmage – #BookReview

Heir to the Darkmage by Lisa Cassidy

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SUMMARY

Ambition drives her. Danger thrills her. But magic always has a price.

Twenty years have passed since the Darkmage was destroyed and the war between mages ended. For Lira Astor, the single living heir to the Darkmage, escaping her name is impossible. People still fear what is long dead, and they see in her the rise of another dangerous mage with deadly ambition. Desperate to claw her way free of her grandfather’s shadow, to make her own name amongst the world of mages, Lira is willing to do whatever it takes. Even if that means joining the secretive rebel group looking to restore his vision.

Survival is a lesson Lira learned early and often, yet when she is abducted and held prisoner in a deadly game of cat and mouse, she finds herself facing a nemesis she may be no match for. Forced to band together with unlikely allies who challenge everything she believes about what it means to be a mage, she will have to rely on every bit of ruthlessness she possesses.

Because the war may only just be beginning…
…and Lira Astor intends to come out on top.

REVIEW

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Imagine being the heir to the most hated and feared mage ever known. You’d have to grow up with everyone knowing your name and what your ancestor did. Everyone hates and fears the name of Lira Astor’s grandfather and though she has never met the man, people have judged Lira based on her lineage alone. She grows up on the streets learning to survive with her wits and not much else.

When she is finally accepted to mage school life gets a bit more comfortable, although Lira still has difficulty trusting anyone considering her painful past. She’s learned to place surviving above all else. This will come in handy when she and several other students are mysteriously abducted and face life-threatening challenges. To top all of it off, she’s agreed to do a job for the organization that wants to restore her grandfather’s vision. She’s going to have to rely on all her instincts to survive and perhaps do the one thing she swore never to do again in her life–rely on others to help her.

Heir to the Darkmage takes on an interesting premise. What if a student at a magic school was a relative of the worst kind of mage there was? Lira can’t change who she is or who she is related to but that doesn’t stop most people from judging her without even knowing anything about her.

The book moves back and forth in time to the days when Lira is left alone on the streets to fend for herself and to the dangerous situation she currently finds herself in. Overall, the book works very well and is quite entertaining. It was occasionally distracting to hop back in time or go forward just at an exciting moment but it’s still engaging enough that it is very much worth reading.

Fans of fantasy books with mysteries and action at their core will love this book. There are strange creatures, powerful mages, and life on the mean streets. This was my first read of a Lisa Cassidy book but now that I have read about Lira I’m much more likely to check out some of her previous books. If you’re a fan of hers already, I think you will enjoy this one. Even if you are not, I think this is a good entry point as it doesn’t leave the reader feeling like they need to read any previous books to fully enjoy this one.

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Children of Jade – #BookReview

Children of Jade by Morgan Cole

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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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