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Book Review: Twisted Citadel by Sara Douglass

Twisted Citadel by Sara Douglass

Title: Twisted Citadel

Author: Sara Douglass

Series: Darkglass Mountain #2

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Overview: In a time of magic and danger, three new heroes have stepped forward—Ishbel Brunelle, priestess of the Serpent Coil; Isaiah, the Tyrant of Isembaard; and Maximilian, the Lord of Elcho Falling. Yet despite their best efforts, the Dark God Kanubai has risen. And worse yet, war approaches—backed by the evil, insidious DarkGlass Mountain, hordes of insatiable Skraelings ravage the land. While the trio struggles to keep its armies and alliances alive, the SunSoars have their own challenges, including the chance to rejoin the magical Star Dance at long last, and the appearance of the Lealfast, long-lost kin to the Icarii. The Lealfast and the Icarii may be friends . . . or deadly enemies. And as tensions rise between the two races, Axis SunSoar revives his elite Strike Force in a desperate bid to stop the darkness. -Goodreads

The Review:

Reading Twisted Citadel provoked a lot of nostalgia for how much I enjoyed Sara Douglass’ Wayfarer Redemption series. As it turns out, The Darkglass Mountain trilogy is an indirect continuation, something I wish I’d known – I’d have devoured it ages ago! I quite enjoyed The Serpent Bride – the first book in this trilogy, but Twisted Citadel dragged a little bit for me. There was a lot of talk and interpersonal drama, but the overall conflict only moved forward a few paces. I’m always weirdly engaged in these books even though the pacing is often sluggish – but there always seems to be enough moving parts and dynamics to keep me interested, which is why I ended up giving Twisted Citadel a 3 star (I liked it) rating. What kept me engaged in this one was the amount of character growth Ishbel, the main character, experienced (it might have been a little too 180 to be totally realistic, but I still enjoyed it). I also like where I think the story is headed, which bodes well for the final book, The Infinity Gate.

I’m no military strategist, by any means, but I’d like to think I’ve read enough fantasy books with militaristic components to recognize when it’s done well. Unfortunately, I thought the strategy in Twisted Citadel was very poorly executed. A lot of the decisions made by the leaders didn’t make any sense. Many times the explanation to an odd move was: “well, it’s not a typical tactic, and I’ve no presentation to make to tell you why it’s a good idea, but let’s try it anyway and gamble with the last remnants of humanity and see how it goes, shall we?” It was definitely written more to get the characters from point A to point B than to provide any kind of interesting tactics. While there are a lot of things I’d recommend this series for, masterfully coordinated battles are not one of them. I think the author was more focused on the interpersonal drama than anything else, which she definitely does with flair.

It was only after diving into this trilogy that I realized many of Sara Douglass’s books are connected. I prefer reading things in published, if not chronological, order and wish I had known which to pick up first. If you’re interested in Sara Douglass, I’d recommend the following reading order:

Wayfarer Redemption [6]
Threshold [1]
Beyond the Hanging Wall [1]
Dark glass Mountain [3]

Darkglass Mountain contains heavy spoilers for Threshold and Beyond the Hanging Wall, but also refers back occasionally to Wayfarer Redemption in a way that makes me glad I picked those up first. There is also one carryover character from Wayfarer Redemption who won’t have any significance to you if you haven’t read that series first. At this point I don’t believe her Crucible or Troy Game series have anything to do with this world, but I’ve been mistaken before…

Overall, I’m very excited to see how this saga ends. They’re the type of books that you can put down for years and pick back up without missing a beat. They’re very immersive, relaxing reads that have a lot of unique and interesting story elements. While Sara Douglass is not my first fantasy recommend, I definitely think she’s worth a looksie if you like the genre.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames

Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames

Title: Kings of the Wyld

Author: Nicholas Eames

Series: The Band #1

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: GLORY NEVER GETS OLD. Clay Cooper and his band were once the best of the best — the meanest, dirtiest, most feared crew of mercenaries this side of the Heartwyld. Their glory days long past, the mercs have grown apart and grown old, fat, drunk – or a combination of the three. Then an ex-bandmate turns up at Clay’s door with a plea for help. His daughter Rose is trapped in a city besieged by an enemy one hundred thousand strong and hungry for blood. Rescuing Rose is the kind of mission that only the very brave or the very stupid would sign up for. It’s time to get the band back together for one last tour across the Wyld. -Goodreads

The Review:

I read Kings of the Wyld as part of a Buddy Read with my favorite Goodreads group, Fantasy Buddy Reads (where the author even showed up to say a few gracious words – how cool is that?!). This is one of those unique books that got devoured as soon as it came across my radar. If you have any knowledge of my colossal TBR pile, you know that most things that land on it sit there for 5+ sometimes even 10+ years before it gets read. The premise for Kings of the Wyld sounded so interesting, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to read it asap.

The book was hysterical.

And not just mildly amusing, but the kind of funny that still has me laughing at some of the moments several months later. To set the stage, a retired band of mercenaries (who have become old, fat, and in some cases drunk) pull themselves back together to go on a quest. The main character goes reluctantly, and his sardonic attitude towards everything is what gives this book such a strong voice. All of the characters were individualized and funny in their own way (my favorite of which being Arcandius Moog – the gay wizard who’s quite comfortable questing in a onesie, thank you very much), but they all had to put their differences and arguments aside to accomplish their goal. Add to that a ton of nerdy references, and you have one hella fun book!

What surprised me the most was not just the funny stuff, but how equal of an impact the more serious, deeper moments had on the story. They may have been far between, but the emotional investment I felt was just as strong as for a fantasy without all of the humor. It meant to me that Nicholas Eames was in it to write more than just a fun book – he also succeeded in producing one with substance.

I’ve discovered throughout the years that I am a somewhat inpatient reader. There are so many books on my TBR that it becomes increasingly difficult to stop everything and just enjoy each book for the journey it offers. Kings of the Wyld was mostly about the journey – the pacing focused more on character-building and humor than it did the destination (that is, until things got rolling near the end, then it didn’t let up). What I’m trying to say is, Kings of the Wyld reinvigorated my passion for discovering new authors, took me out of my carefully laid reading plans, and made me appreciate the journey for the first time in a long while.

Overall, this is going to be a very easy book for me to recommend. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had customers ask me for a funny fantasy book and all I could do was point out two popular authors whose humor didn’t quite work for me (Piers Anthony and Terry Pratchett… masters of their genre, but not works that I could personally stand behind based on my own experience… don’t be mad at me.) Finally, I have the start to a killer fantasy with tons of humor and substance – one that I can recommend with confidence. If you’re sick of the same old stuff, or are in the mood for a good laugh – Kings of the Wyld is my pick for you!

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: A Kingdom Besieged by Raymond E. Feist [+ a series assessment]

A Kingdom Besieged by Raymond E. Feist

Title: A Kingdom Besieged

Author: Raymond E. Feist

Series: The Chaoswar Saga #1

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Overview: Midkemia’s fifth and final Riftwar—the devastating Chaoswar—explodes in the opening volume of Raymond E. Feist’s spectacular new epic fantasy trilogy of magic, conflict, and world-shattering peril. A Kingdom Besieged is a breathtaking adventure that brings back Pug—first introduced in Feist’s classic debut novel, Magician, and now Midkemia’s most powerful sorcerer—who faces a major magical cataclysm that forces him to question everything he’s ever held as true and dear…including the loyalty of his beloved son Magnus. -Goodreads

The Review:

The end of the Riftwar world is nigh, and I feel an odd mix of relief and elation. I think the series may be ending with a lot of repeating elements, having been dragged on a little too long… but at the same time, it has been nice to come “home” to the author that sparked my love of fantasy.

I already like the Chaoswar Saga better than the Demonwar Saga. It took a while for things to get going and for all the “players” to be reintroduced, but once it did, it had my interest. Feist included an interesting POV from a creature in one of the demon realms, adding a nice bit of perspective to the overall story, which I’m excited to see develop. Overall, A Kingdom Besieged was enjoyable, containing enough nostalgic elements to keep me interested, but not enough to knock my socks off.

I do have a few critical thoughts about these later works, especially concerning character development. Some of the text practically screams with Feist’s desperate desire to stay relevant and a live up to all the great characters he’s written in previous books. Unfortunately, I think he’s going about it the wrong way – instead of taking the time to develop strong new characters, he shamelessly name-drops. He’s trying to build them up by emphasizing how similar they are to their predecessors, but only succeeds in paling them by comparison, at least in my mind. Here’s a badly paraphrased example:

“Oh, you’re a son of the Duke of Crydee? And an archer to boot!! Look how amazing you are! Why, I’d say you have all the skill and bearings that your great Grandsire, Martin, had. Do you remember how amazing he was?? Splitting-image, I tell you!”

And he doesn’t do this just once, but with every new prominent character we meet. It doesn’t help matters that many of these characters are actually descendant from original characters. I admit I’m at the point where I no longer remember (or care) which generation we’re on.

So, despite a decided quality drop in these later books, I still think (at this point) the series is worth finishing, but the final verdict will be told with the last two Chaoswar books. If you haven’t started this series yet, here’s my recommended reading order:

Riftwar 1 & 2 [2] Loved #1!
The first 100 pages of #2 is a struggle – keep going!

Empire [3] Loved!
Riftwar 3 & 4 [2] Loved!
Krondor’s Sons [2] Loved!
Serpentwar Saga [4] Loved!
Riftwar Legacy [3] Didn’t like…
Conclave of Shadows [3] Loved!
Darkwar Saga [3] Liked.
Demonwar Saga [2] Hated!
Chaoswar Saga [3] The jury is still out…

The Riftwar Legacy is a side trilogy apparently based off of a video game. It lacked the sophistication of the other series and had no particular relevance to future books (that I can remember, anyway). I’d skip those. If the Chaoswar ends well, it MIGHT be worth suffering through Demonwar… I’ll let you know lol. ;)

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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The Obsessive Bookseller’s Q&A with Anthony Ryan!!

The Obsessive Bookseller’s Q&A with Anthony Ryan!!

First off, I’d like to thank Anthony Ryan for taking the time to answer my questions, and the publicists at Berkley Publishing Group & Daw for making it happen! I was so excited for this opportunity, as Anthony Ryan has quickly become one of my favorite authors. My questions may not be the most original, or even the most compelling, but they are the things I most wanted to know about this author and his Draconis Memoria series. Hopefully you’ll find his answers as delightful as I did. :)


1. Where did you get the idea for Draconis Memoria?

The inspiration for the series comes from a wide variety of sources, but most especially my reading of 19th century history, particularly the economics of colonialism and the industrial revolution.

2. Which character’s perspective did you enjoy writing the most?

In all honesty I like them all equally for different reasons. Lizanne is a lot of fun because she’s always in motion, once she has a goal there’s no stopping her achieving it. Clay has a rouge-ish charm and a particular way of talking that I always enjoy. Hilemore lets me play out my military adventure fantasies, even though I know I’d probably be pretty useless in a real war.

3. How many books will be in the series?

The Draconis Memoria is a trilogy, so one more after The Legion of Flame. The third volume has been written and is with my editor. No decision on what the title will be yet.

4. Do you have any other projects on the horizon?

I’m currently enjoying some downtime but I’m certainly not short of ideas, at the last count there are about fourteen novels in my head waiting to be written. I intend to return to the Raven’s Shadow world at some point, but can’t say when just yet.

5. What does your writing process look like?

I try to stick to a routine as I find forming habits is the best way to ensure a high productivity rate. I start in the late morning by going over the words I wrote the day before which I find useful in ensuring the prose in the first draft is of a decent standard. I then write in 30 to 40 minute sessions throughout the day, drinking a large amount of tea in the process. I usually aim for 2000 words a day but don’t always get there, although for my last book I was averaging 3000 for the final month of writing.

6. Any advice for aspiring writers?

Just the usual: Don’t give up and read a lot. I’d also advise any complete beginners not to get too hung up on word counts. When you’re starting it out it’s more important to concentrate on finishing what you write, however long it takes.

7. Outside of your own, what are some of your favorite books?

I’m a big fan of David Gemmell and his ‘Wolf in Shadow’ is probably my favourite. Robin Hobb is another fantasy author I’ve always admired, particularly her Assassin books. I also read a lot of crime fiction in addition to fantasy, especially James Ellroy, his novel ‘The Big Nowhere’ is brilliant piece of work. Recently I’ve been catching up on Stephen King’s output and thought the Bill Hodges trilogy, which starts with ‘Mr Mercedes’, was terrific.


I still have a US Giveaway running for Waking Fire:

The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan

The publisher has graciously offered up a paperback copy of The Waking Fire for me to give away to one lucky US resident (I’m very sorry to all of my international followers – you guys are important to me too!). To enter, just take a moment to fill out this rafflecopter giveaway form, and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Giveaway Ended – winner has been contacted. :)

US Residents only, please.
I didn’t think this needed to be said, but if you lie about your friendship/following status on any of your entries, all of your entries will be disqualified. #sorrynotsorry
The giveaway will run until Midnight on Thursday, July 6, 2017 MST.

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: The Legion of Flame by Anthony Ryan + GIVEAWAY!

[June 27, 2017] Legion of Flame by Anthony Ryan

Title: The Legion of Flame

Author: Anthony Ryan

Series: The Draconis Memoria #2

Genre: Fantasy

Release Date: June 27, 2017

Rating: 5/5 stars!

The Overview: Empires clash and a fell power stakes its claim in the second in a new series from the New York Times bestselling author of the Raven’s Shadow Trilogy. For centuries, the vast Ironship Trading Syndicate relied on drake blood—and the extraordinary powers it confers to those known as the Blood-blessed—to fuel and protect its empire. But now, a fearsome power has arisen—a drake so mighty that the world will tremble before it. Rogue Blood-blessed Claydon Torcreek, Syndicate agent Lizanne Lethridge, and ironship captain Corrick Hilemore embark upon perilous quests to chase down clues that offer faint hopes of salvation. As the world burns around them, and the fires of revolution are ignited, these few are the last hope for the empire and for all of civilization. -Goodreads

The Review: 

If you start only one new fantasy series this year, make it Draconis Memoria by Anthony Ryan! I thought The Waking Fire was one of the best books I’d ever read, but Legion of Flame was even better!

Legion of Flame was the ultimate armchair adventure! Each chapter was so good, I had a difficult time finding decent stopping points (and as such, stayed up way too late on too many occasions to finish it). Ryan ended each of his chapters with an aggravatingly brilliant hook that just begged you to keep reading (so I did). There was always an abundance of action, adventure, exploration, steampunk, and, of course, dragons. Every element came together brilliantly for, I’ll say it again, one of the best books I’ve ever read.

In both of these books, Ryan takes you on an exploration of this world and allows you to discover its breathtaking histories/mysteries alongside some very memorable characters. This depth of discovery, combined with a very Indiana Jones adventure feel, is truly the magic of these novels and one of my favorite elements. There’s such a sense of wonder with his world-building – stuff that will truly dazzle you. I can’t even begin to guess what he has in store next!

Both books incorporate multiple POVs and they were all equally exciting to read about. Each character was perfectly placed to give us a grand picture of what’s transpiring, and I triple-dog-dare you to pick a favorite – they’re all deserving of the title. If forced, I’d say Lizanne struck a chord with me the most because her personality has a lot of duality, making her very interesting to read about.

Let’s talk about dragons for a minute. The dragons are incredibly well-conceived in this series. So far, their role has been much stronger than I’d dared hope – it truly is a dragon book. I love the varieties, their importance to the human populations, their significance in the story, and, most predominantly, how well they’re being represented. Ryan manages to keep all the things that I think comprise great dragons while simultaneously amping them up with his own twists. They’re brilliant! And if this wasn’t already one of my favorite books for story, characters, and world-building alone, it would be for the dragons.

So because of the amazing characters, seamless blend of fantasy and steampunk, exciting adventures, page-turning plot, and killer use of dragons, Legion of Flame is perfection. I plan to recommend it as often as I can!

I’d like to think Berkley Publishing Group, Anthony Ryan, and Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review an early copy of The Legion of Flame!


The Waking Fire Giveaway!

The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan

The publisher has graciously offered up a paperback copy of The Waking Fire for me to give away to one lucky US resident (I’m very sorry to all of my international followers – you guys are important to me too!). To enter, just take a moment to fill out this rafflecopter giveaway form, and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Giveaway Ended – winner has been contacted. :)

US Residents only, please.
The giveaway will run until Midnight on Thursday, July 6, 2017 MST.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett

The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett

Title: The Desert Spear

Author: Peter V. Brett

Series: The Demon Cycle #2

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

The Overview: The sun is setting on humanity. The night now belongs to voracious demons that prey upon a dwindling population forced to cower behind half-forgotten symbols of power. Legends tell of a Deliverer: a general who once bound all mankind into a single force that defeated the demons. But is the return of the Deliverer just another myth? Perhaps not.

Out of the desert rides Ahmann Jardir, who has forged the desert tribes into a demon-killing army. He has proclaimed himself Shar’Dama Ka, the Deliverer, and he carries ancient weapons–a spear and a crown–that give credence to his claim. But the Northerners claim their own Deliverer: the Warded Man, a dark, forbidding figure. Once, the Shar’Dama Ka and the Warded Man were friends. Now they are fierce adversaries. Yet as old allegiances are tested and fresh alliances… -Goodreads

The Review:

With every passing week since finishing The Desert Spear, I find myself more and more dissatisfied with it. Something about many of the elements within the story just aren’t sitting right with me, and I’d be the first to state that I’m getting really tired of every other character having a backstory that includes rape, incestuous rape, and sodomy. I don’t know if Brett is trying to make a grander point on who the real “demons” are, or if it just gives him kicks to write about that stuff, but I think it’s too much. Furthermore, it’s not even the sheer volume alone that bothers me, but the forgiving attitude towards the rapists.

And here’s where you’re going to raise an eyebrow at me – I thought a good portion of the book (that following Jardir – whose POV I actually liked more than most) could’ve been a lot grittier. O_o? What Brett says happens in this hostile desert society and what he shows happening were on opposite ends of the spectrum. Not that I want to read about that stuff in detail, but from an analytical standpoint, the inconsistency drove me crazy.

So here I sit, complaining of an issue with subject-matter while also kind of saying that other parts weren’t as graphic as the story required. Do you get an idea of why it took me so long to compose this review? I think the crux of the matter is that, no matter which end of the spectrum I’m considering, I had issues with a lot of things.

That said, and to be even more contrary, I actually enjoyed the process of reading a lot of this book. I find the demons fascinating, and every scene that gave me a glimpse into their true nature provided me that spark I needed to keep reading. I am morbidly curious to see where all the human storylines are going and am hoping to come out of this series with a lot more satisfaction than I got out of The Desert Spear. Now that the story is finally starting to clip forward, I find myself somewhat reaching for the third book… but I may wait a few more weeks to give myself time to simmer down.

Overall, after this mess of a review, all I can say is: I’m enjoying the good elements of the story enough to continue on, but would be hard pressed to recommend it because of all the negative ones. ;P

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes