A Castle Awakened – Castle in the Wilde – Novel 1 – #BookReview

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.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

SUMMARY

A foreign usurper. A lady who longs for freedom. Vicious beasts who want to rip them all to shreds. Who wins?

Never one to shy from a challenge, Lord Tristan Petram took possession of a forsaken castle. Only hints remain of the treachery that forced its abandonment. But if he and his followers can forge a life here—and hold out against ravenous vixicats—the castle and this land will be theirs. As for the nearest kingdom, they never venture beyond their border or the mysterious forest of tower trees. Except…

Beth dons a disguise and takes a forbidden ride in Tower Woods. Her fun adventure turns into a nightmare of kidnap and rescue—of sorts. Now she’s trapped in a nameless castle held by a foreign usurper. What will he do with her if he finds out who she really is?

Thus, Lord Petram finds himself the unwilling guardian of an injured lady who won’t give her full name. A crime he didn’t commit may bring retribution from an unknown kingdom. Do they have a claim to this castle that he now calls home? If he survives the vixicats, will an army slaughter him and his followers?

REVIEW

4/5 STARS

Lord Tristan Petram has found the unthinkable. A castle that has been forsaken, in the middle of nowhere that is unguarded. He establishes himself in the castle with a few of his men, not knowing the full extent of the dangers that surround him. They must hole the castle until he can get word back home that the place is safe for the rest of his men and their families to join him.

While out patrolling the nearby woods, Lord Petram’s men come across a woman in need of rescue from some scoundrels. They do the job and bring the injured woman back to the castle where Lord Petram resides. She will not answer his questions and she seems more than eager to leave, despite clearly not being familiar with the dangers of the woods and areas around her. She will only tell Tristan that her name is Beth. Tristan suspects that there is much more to her story than she lets on.

The book is a faced paced read and manages to provide twists and turns without falling into tropes. The setting is well-realized as are the politics surrounding the situation. Tristan and Beth are able to get close to one another without it seeming forced or unrealistic. Beth has good reason for keeping her identity from Tristan just as Tristan is justified in most of the actions he takes making for well-developed characters that are easy to empathize with.

In some ways this book is reminiscent of Outlander although, without time travel components and a little more grounded in reality. If you are a fan of fantasy fiction with a little bit of romance, fights with deadly beasts, and intriguing kingdom politics this book is for you. I look forward to seeing where the series takes us next.

A Single Round – #BookReview

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.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

SUMMARY

A SINGLE ROUND, is a collection of short stories from a HARD PLACE. Stories of moonshine and shotguns, obsession and transcendence, love and darkness, and the blindness of human desire. Each tale follows a painful path to one ultimate realization: the devil’s deal always ends badly, often with a single round.

The head that was found on the blacktop tells a tale in Johnny Fucking Carson.
Tommy watches his dream love become a nightmare in Together Forever.
Fame has a dark side, Becoming Famous echoes the age old warning, ‘Be Careful what you wish for’.
A story of realization, loss, and transformation takes flight in Redwing.
Never judge a book by its cover, even one with fangs, as a surprise awaits in Doc’s Choice.
The Grounded, sometimes the dream of escape should remain a dream.
A tale of a man who fell in love with a woman who forgot him in The Dog Walker.
The Ride will make you second guess what you thought you were sure of.

REVIEW 4/5 STARS

A Single Round is a series of short stories that are tied together with the theme of making a deal with the devil. Every deal is different and they all turn out in interesting ways. Never do they turn out as the characters expect.

At a crossroads, if you go there at midnight, you will meet a man who drives a big black car and calls himself the Judge. You’d be wise to stay away from him except… he can offer you your heart’s desire. He can give you the one thing you want most in the world and all it will cost is your soul. For some people, maybe even a lot of people, that’s a price they are willing to pay.

All of the stories in A Single Round play out with this setup. Some deliver better than others but for the most part the stories are interesting and engaging. While this could get overly repetitive, the book avoids this by making the stories somewhat interrelated and some characters tend to show up more often than others. There is some depth in most, but not all of the stories. On the surface of it, some of the things people sell their souls for might be considered trivial but later in the story the reader is shown that there is more to the story.

R A Jacobson does a fine job of setting the mood and making the reader quickly get to know the characters and feel for their plight. Although, some characters are much easier to sympathize with than others due to some of the choices they make.

Reminiscent of Needful Things by Stephen King or short stories where the buyer should beware such as The Monkey’s Paw by W.W Jacobs, this is a great collection of bite sized terror and tragedy to read through right before bed at night.

Damage Report – #BookReview

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.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

SUMMARY

This is a book about mistakes and possibilities- some that change the lives of a few, and some that change the lives of many. In The Old Man, Bob is two hundred fifty years old, a survivor of the global warming that nearly destroyed humanity. Things have gotten boring lately and his best friend is thinking about ending it all. Their extended lifespans also have a small liability that makes them both wonder if it’s worth it to stick around. In Long Shot, most of the Northern Hemisphere has been destroyed in a global nuclear war. A team of American aviators is assigned to assassinate the Russian marshal who gave the order for a nuclear attack. Only the U.S. Navy has resources remaining that can reach across the globe to complete the mission. In the title story Damage Report, a colony ship of a starfaring people goes into orbit around a planet bearing the remains of an extinct civilization. The ruins are only a thousand years old and are the best chance of the star people to understand why only their species has survived out of hundreds of predecessors within hundreds of light years of their home world.

REVIEW 3/5 STARS

Damage Report is a collection of short stories that involve life and death in some way. The first story, The Old Man, deals with a man who appears old in a civilization that has defeated disease and aging. There are a few others like him but when almost everyone alive is young and beautiful and you have lived far beyond what your expected life span, is there still any purpose to life itself? The second story Long Shot deals with the immediate aftermath of a nuclear war on earth. The Navy has found the man responsible for starting the war and they decide to do something about it even with the limited resources they have. The third and final story, Damage Report is about a colony of space travelers who come upon a planet that has recently destroyed itself through nuclear war. The colony must decide if they should live on the planet but their findings also leave them questioning why their species seems to be the only one who has thrived long enough to conquer other worlds.

While all three stories have their strong points, the best of them is The Old Man. Bob is faced with a quiet existential dilemma. He has few friends left and barring an unexpected violent accident he might live nearly forever. Should he continue on or do as some of his friends have and choose to end his own life. The story confronts the reader with the question of how much life is necessary.

Long Shot is interesting due to the use of drone warfare and the realistic aspect of what would be likely military actions post nuclear war. At times it may give a bit too much information about the weapons and hardware used but if the reader loves to know about those things there is plenty here to stay satisfied.

Damage Report does a fine job of telling what it would be like to be a civilization that has not only survived but thrived because instead of repeating mistakes they learn from them.

All three stories make the reader think about the possibilities for this world and what might or might not bring about the end for us all. It’s a solid meditation on life under the threat of global disasters.

If you enjoy short fiction and like hard science fiction, realistic military fiction and stories that make you think about life, Damage Report is certainly worth a read.

Gunmetal Gods – #BookReview

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.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

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 5/5 STARS

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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When Colour Became Grey – #BookReview

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.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

SYNOPSIS

After her unexpected death, Ameerah is sentenced to several decades as a ghost in a parallel world. At the end of it she will be granted a second chance at her human life, returning to the moment she died and surviving her accident. Her duty is to hunt and kill demons, but this dangerous new world demands more than just years of service. Soon she realises the demons are not the only ones threatening her survival. Her new friends are scarce and as they struggle to make it, she can’t help but wonder if the promise of a second chance was not a ruse all along.

REVIEW

3/5 STARS

Ameerah had barely begun her life when it ended. An average woman suddenly finds herself in a parallel world, required to hunt demons and vampires for years before she will be allowed a chance to return to our own world. In Idolon, there are dangers everywhere and Ameerah will need to rely on her trainer, her master, and her wits in order to survive. Will she be able to make enough friends and allies to survive the world she is in or will she be doomed to give in to her own demons?

The book has a nice mix of different creatures of the night and there are plenty of good action scenes where Ameerah is fighting for her life. There are also elements of romance here and they play out nicely throughout the story. The world of Idolon is quite interesting although the reader is left with questions as to why Ameerah was chosen to end up there. It’s likely that some of that will be answered in coming volumes so it’s not too distracting to the reader to not have all the answers by the end.

The end of the book is able to surprise the reader while still concluding the story for the most part. The worldbuilding is done well and most of the rules of the supernatural creatures seem to stay consistent within the book. It would have been nice to see a little more background of Ameerah’s life before she dies but that is a minor complaint given the rest of the story. It will be interesting to see the continuing adventures of Ameerah in the next volume and I am looking forward to reading it.

If you like paranormal stories. stories that take place on different worlds similar to our own or shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer this is definitely worth a read.

Fantastically yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support

Lovecraft Country – #BookReview

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here. I’m back to review another book from my September to be read list. This time I am reviewing the inspiration for the hit HBO show of the same name, Lovecraft Country.

SUMMARY

The critically acclaimed cult novelist makes visceral the terrors of life in Jim Crow America and its lingering effects in this brilliant and wondrous work of the imagination that melds historical fiction, pulp noir, and Lovecraftian horror and fantasy.

Chicago, 1954. When his father Montrose goes missing, 22-year-old Army veteran Atticus Turner embarks on a road trip to New England to find him, accompanied by his Uncle George—publisher of The Safe Negro Travel Guide—and his childhood friend Letitia. On their journey to the manor of Mr. Braithwhite—heir to the estate that owned one of Atticus’s ancestors—they encounter both mundane terrors of white America and malevolent spirits that seem straight out of the weird tales George devours.

At the manor, Atticus discovers his father in chains, held prisoner by a secret cabal named the Order of the Ancient Dawn—led by Samuel Braithwhite and his son Caleb—which has gathered to orchestrate a ritual that shockingly centers on Atticus. And his one hope of salvation may be the seed of his—and the whole Turner clan’s—destruction.

A chimerical blend of magic, power, hope, and freedom that stretches across time, touching diverse members of two black families, Lovecraft Country is a devastating kaleidoscopic portrait of racism—the terrifying specter that continues to haunt us today.

REVIEW

5/5 STARS

In Chicago in 1954, Atticus Turner receives a letter from his father. The letter will take him to a place full of horrors, terrors, and the real nightmare of segregationist America. He has to travel deep into Lovecraft country where monsters roam and the cosmic terror of the world seems to be alive. It will take everything Atticus and his whole family have to brave the terrors that confront them and remain sane.

Usually when there is a book and a movie or television show and I have read and seen them both, I am able to tell you if one is better than the other. Most of the time I come down on the side of the book being better but occasionally there is a movie or series that outperforms its source material. I can’t make the distinction either way here. The book and the show are both amazing in their own unique way.

The book, unlike the show, feels a little smaller in scope even though it deals with the strange cosmic entities that populate Lovecraftian horror. The drama is still personal and much like the show, there can be true horror facing the characters in the guise of monsters who only seem insignificant in the face of the terrors of racial prejudice and violence. The true terror comes from reality in both the book and the show and I think that is what makes the story feel so visceral and real.

Matt Ruff has created an intriguing cast of characters here and the situations he places them in are imaginative and brilliant. And while certain details differ from the show, this book is just as engaging. It’s a satisfying conclusion but I hope that there will be sequels to the book.

If you love historical fiction, pulp fiction, science fiction or cosmic horror even a little bit, this book is well worth a read.

Cosmically yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

Roa Seeks – #BookReview

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.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

SYNOPSIS

The chronicles begin with a tale of exiles, disillusionment, and stubborn hope, reminiscent of Pratchett and Tolkien. Will a strange band of misfits be enough to protect a world from a monstrous threat?

Demons stir in Itania, and Meecha Roa, the black sheep of his family, travels from his home world to this legendary planet to investigate. But all he knows about Itania is what other secret agents of the angels have recounted. A place of magic, dragons, elves, humans, and simmering strife.

The mission seems simple enough: explore the activity of the demons and their servants. At the same time, track down and recruit a rogue elf demon-hunter called Azare. Except nothing is simple in Itania, especially with so much brewing in the shadows. Through hardship and precious friendships, his intricate discoveries will shake his heart and loyalty to the core as the demons turn out to be hunting for an infamous key to hell, secreted away by a master thief and lockbox-maker.

Meecha realises that what he seeks on his epic adventure are not answers and solutions just for the Aerieti, but also himself… The part he plays in this critical chess match between angels and demons.

REVIEW

4/5 STARS

Meecha Roa is a misfit to his family. He never quite fits in. What they don’t know is that Meecha is a hero. He travels through dimensions to other worlds where he takes on evils of all kinds. In his latest mission, he is tasked to understand the situation in a world called Itania. While there he will also need to find an elf demon hunter named Azare. The mission sounds simple enough but Meecha doesn’t know the depth of danger he has gotten into. He will need to make unlikely friends and allies to survive this mission.

Roa Seeks is full of adventure. There are creatures of all kinds on Itania and they keep the reader engaged. One of the best creatures introduced was a large cat and its cub, but will it befriend Meecha or eat him instead? And of course, there are demons that could pop up at any turn, making the danger more imminent.

The world-traveling is interesting and the way that Meecha is able to travel between those worlds was quite intriguing. At times it did feel as if some of the characters that Meecha interacted with could have had more of a back story to them but perhaps we will see that explored in future volumes.

There are also several great illustrations in the book. The cover art may give you an indication but the illustrations are quite accurate to the book descriptions and very well made.

Meecha is a particularly charming character and is extremely likable. He does his best even though the world around him is much larger than he is. That’s something a lot of us can relate to. The book has plenty of potential for a long-running, series and it will be interesting to see where Meecha goes from here.

If you love books full of magical worlds, strange and beautiful landscapes and creatures, and epic battles between good and evil, Roa Seeks is a great addition to have on your bookshelf.

Fantastically yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support

Echo Volume 1: Approaching Shatter – #BookReview

Hey all, Slick Dungeon here, back to review another book for you. This time I am reviewing Echo Volume 1: Approaching Shatter by Kent Wayne.

SYNOPSIS

In the late 21st century, humanity left Earth due to multiple resource shortcomings aggravated by an acceleration in climate change. They settled Echo, a planet that was nearly a carbon copy of Earth except for being devoid of all but the most basic life forms. Fast forward 1200 years later. Echo has endured over a thousand years of dark age. Corporations and government merged early on, becoming the oppressive authority known as the Regime. Military and police merged into the Department of Enforcement, their only mission to crush the huge network of rebels known as the Dissidents. Over half the planet is covered by decaying cityscapes and the elite live high above, removed and remote from the greater populace on the moon-city of Ascension. Hope lies in one man, a former Enforcer named Atriya. But before he can break the cycle of darkness and ignorance on Echo, he has to do it within himself.

REVIEW

4/5 STARS

Atriya is a Crusader. This means that he is part of an elite military force where only the best of the best are recruited. He constantly pushes himself to go beyond the limits of human endurance and is trying to reach the next level of performance and understanding.

Lately, Atriya is getting the feeling that something is wrong. Wrong with the Regime that controls Echo, wrong with the way his fellow Enforcers operate, and maybe, something wrong with him. He starts searching for answers from his mentor and starts to rethink everything he knows.

Echo is fast-paced and full of action. There are plenty of great scenes for those who love the mash-up of science fiction and the military. Atriya is an engaging character and the reader will easily root for him to stand out above the rest. The world that Wayne portrays is fully developed and highly interesting. It’s also clear that Wayne knows his military hardware so if you are a fan of that, there is plenty to love in this book.

Personally, I felt like there were a few too many info dumps about the military weaponry but I know some people really love that kind of thing. It would also have been nice if the book was a little longer, but even if you only purchase the first volume, you do get the next three chapters of the second volume so it’s well worth the price.

If you love futuristic military action, this is the book for you. And if you read the book and like it, you should follow the author at https://dirtyscifibuddha.com/

He has a ton of free stuff there and it’s a great blog that I follow myself.

Crusadingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

A Song for the Void – #BookReview

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.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

SYNOPSIS

A Mind Imprisoned Is The Greatest Of Hells.

1853. South China Sea. While on patrol between the Opium Wars, the crew of the steam frigate HMS Charger pursues a fleet of pirates that have been terrorizing the waters surrounding Hong Kong.

But now the hunters have become the hunted. Something else has come to the South China Sea, something ancient and powerful and malevolent. Now, the crew of the Charger must face their worst nightmares in order to survive the terrible creature they come to know as the Darkstar.

A Song For The Void is a haunting, terrifying historical horror novel that will keep you turning the pages and jumping at the shadows.

Fans of HP Lovecraft, Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, or other authors of surreal fantasy and horror will enjoy “A Song For The Void”.

REVIEW 5/5 STARS

In 1853 on the high seas, during the height of the Opium Wars, a strange comet, lacking a tail, is seen. The celestial body will have an incredible influence over the crew of the HMS Charger, a modern ship pursuing a group of pirates. A doctor with a tragic past, who is struggling with personal demons, will face horrors never before imagined and must use his own experience to pierce into the truth of the strange happenings that surround him.

A Song for the Void is cosmic horror at its finest. The narrative is pulse-pounding and the characters are well developed, three-dimensional people, that the reader cannot help but be interested in. Horrors abound and stakes are high and deadly. At the same time, the historical aspect of the novel is well played and the perfect setting for this type of tale. Horror on the high seas in the vein of the Cthulhu mythos works extremely well here due to the deft handling of the subject matter by author Andrew Piazza.

The pacing is brilliant as the tale starts with exciting chase and battle scenes and it ever increases, making the stakes higher and the outcome more dangerous for the heroes at every turn. The evil faced in the book is well crafted and ominous. There are scenes in the book that will give the reader nightmares. When it comes to horror a reviewer can give no higher compliment than that. This book will scare you. If you love horror, that, after all, is the point.

This is a masterful page-turner that delights and surprises as well as horrifies. It ends with a wholly satisfying conclusion that is pitch-perfect for the story.

If you are a lover of cosmic horror or strange tales by the likes of H. P. Lovecraft and Clive Barker, you won’t find a better book out there than A Song for the Void. It’s cinematic in scope and personal in the narrative. This is a must-read for any horror fan looking for a story that knows how to scare.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support

Lies, Inc. – #BookReview

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here. I’m back to review another book from my July to be read list. I know it’s August but I was close. And boy have I got a weird one for you today.

SUMMARY

When catastrophic overpopulation threatens Earth, one company offers to teleport citizens to Whale’s Mouth, an allegedly pristine new home for happy and industrious émigrés. But there is one problem: the teleportation machine only works in one direction. When Rachmael ben Applebaum discovers that some of the footage of happy settlers may have been faked, he sets out on an eighteen-year journey to see if anyone wants to come back.

REVIEW

2/5 STARS

It is the far future and Earth has become overcrowded. To make matters worse, the planets in the solar system that might have been habitable could not for one reason or another be colonized. But one company has a solution. A satellite found a planet that did have a habitable environment. For years now, people have been stepping through a teleportation gate that will take them to this planet. It seems like a perfect solution and a perfect paradise with plenty of room. At least, that’s what the videos that come back seem to indicate. Not everyone in the world is convinced. One man, Rachmael ben Applebaum is convinced that the videos from this planet are fake. He happens to own a ship and wants to go to the planet and see if anyone there is dissatisfied and if possible bring them home. The problem? It’s an eighteen-year trip to get there.

While this sounds like a great setup and could have made for a classic Phillip K. Dick novel full of interesting ideas about the future and the meaning of life and governmental control. Instead, we got a novel full of bizarre images with a plot that just barely holds together and never quite works.

The opening lines are brilliant. “The Sub-Info computers owned by Lies, Incorporated had been caught in an unnatural act by a service mechanic. Sub-Info computer Five had transmitted information which was not a lie.”

This is the type of opening that makes the reader think we are in for an incredible ride. However, by the next page, our main character is hallucinating about rats because of this. It just gets stranger from there. There is a plot that can be followed relating to the planet and the companies that are competing for dominance on it but at least a good third of the book is a bizarre collection of hallucinations including a book that tells the present and the future and strange alien creatures that eat their own eye-stalks for food.

This was a missed opportunity for what could have been a brilliant deconstruction of government, authoritarianism, capitalism, and espionage. Those elements are there but they are not explored nearly as much as the odd hallucinatory monsters that our main character is infected with, creating a dizzying narrative that simply does not make enough sense.

If you like Phillip K. Dick’s books and want to read all of his work, of course, this should be on your reading list. But, if you are a casual science fiction fan and want an introduction to Dick’s incredible work, go with Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Also known as Blade Runner: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) It’s a much more engaging read.

Hallucinatingly yours,

Slick Dungeon