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Book Review: A Pilgrimage of Swords by Anthony Ryan

Title: Pilgrimage of Swords

Author: Anthony Ryan

Series: Seven Swords #1

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: It is two hundred years since the deity known as the Absolved went mad and destroyed the Kingdom of Alnachim, transforming it into the Execration, a blasted wasteland filled with nameless terrors. For decades, desperate souls have made pilgrimage to the centre of this cursed land to seek the Mad God’s favour, their fate always unknown. Now a veteran warrior known only as Pilgrim, armed with a fabled blade inhabited by the soul of a taunting demon, must join with six others to make the last journey to the heart of the Execration. Allied with a youthful priest, a beast-charmer, a duplicitous scholar, an effete actor and two exiled lovers, Pilgrim must survive madness, malevolent spirits, unnatural monsters and the ever-present risk of treachery, all so that the Mad God might hear his prayer and, perhaps, grant redemption. But can sins such as his ever be forgiven? -Goodreads

The Review:

Pilgrimage of Swords is a breathtaking start to another amazing world from Anthony Ryan.

I think Ryan has a split personality in his writing. One Ryan loves to tell adventurous novels with expansive world building and the sorts of discoveries that leave you in awe and wonder at what you’ve just experienced. This is very much the case with Draconius Memoria (my all-time favorite series). The other Ryan gives you deep, slow-burn character novels where the focus is almost completely on a single POV making his way in the world, as with Blood Song and Pariah. Pilgrimage of Swords falls into the latter category. Even though it’s a novella, he managed to cram a great deal of exploration and discovery within, and I can’t wait to see what sort of cool things we’re going to come across next!

I really didn’t think there would be enough substance in such a short book to win me over, but I was wrong – it was really good. The only thing that perhaps suffered is that I didn’t feel I had enough time to get to know all of the side characters, and even continued to mix a couple of them up until the very end of the book. They didn’t seem particularly fleshed out (or is it flushed out? I could make a case for both words, lol) and after finishing the book, I can sort of see why. But I could’ve gone for a few extra pages establishing character because then I may have felt more invested when stuff started happening to them.

What I liked most about the novella is how most of the cool things about this series were revealed gradually, providing a huge payoff at the end that instantly hooked me into wanting to read on. It seems like many books start out telling you exactly what the characters are struggling with and give you a road map on how they’re going to fix it. This novella is a beautifully written showcase on how to show readers rather than tell them the point of your story. I continue to hold this author in very high regard.

Recommendations: this could actually be a great introduction to Ryan’s works if you haven’t tried him yet. If you love stories with expansive world-building as much as I do, then this one is a must-read! I feel like he’s only just scratched the surface on what this new world has to offer, and what I’ve seen so far is epic!

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Pariah by Anthony Ryan

Title: Pariah

Author: Anthony Ryan

Series: Covenant of Steel #1

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 2/5 stars

The Overview: Born into the troubled kingdom of Albermaine, Alwyn Scribe is raised as an outlaw. Quick of wit and deft with a blade, Alwyn is content with the freedom of the woods and the comradeship of his fellow thieves. But an act of betrayal sets him on a new path – one of blood and vengeance, which eventually leads him to a soldier’s life in the king’s army. Fighting under the command of Lady Evadine Courlain, a noblewoman beset by visions of a demonic apocalypse, Alwyn must survive war and the deadly intrigues of the nobility if he hopes to claim his vengeance. But as dark forces, both human and arcane, gather to oppose Evadine’s rise, Alwyn faces a choice: can he be a warrior, or will he always be an outlaw? -Goodreads

The Review:

Pariah was my most-anticipated fantasy release of 2021. I was so excited… and I wished I’d liked it more.

A couple of things sort of sapped my enjoyment of this book. Things that may not bother others as much as they did me. For starters, the plot felt like it reset itself a couple of times throughout. Just as I was getting settled in with the characters and the situation, it would flip on its head and I’d have to start over again. Momentum in books is a huge component for me, and I didn’t feel as though this one carried any. It kept me feeling distant from the characters and apathetic about the plot. After all, what’s the point in getting attached to a story if we’re just going to flip directions again!

Even if the plot had maintained a trajectory and built on itself better, I still probably wouldn’t have liked the main character. I have come to realize that I crave characters who are catalysts of their own destiny. People who make things happen for themselves and who aren’t content to constantly drift back and forth on the whims of everyone around them. Now, granted, this is a story about an outcast, who understandably has a hell of a time getting anywhere with all of the obstacles in front of him. But to me, that prospect of a challenge can be even more exciting! I saw plenty of opportunities where the main character could’ve made things happen. Opportunities that wouldn’t have changed the story drastically, but would’ve upped my enjoyment considerably. Alas, that’s just not the character Ryan was shooting for, and it left me wanting.

To be fair, this next complaint is just a personal preference thing, and objectively I don’t hold it against the novel. But I cannot stand stories focused heavily on religious zealotry (a little is fine. Here it completely dominated the plot). Compound that with a passive character extremely susceptible to those ulterior machinations, and I found myself at the end of my patience very early on.

But I stuck with it, even though it was almost a DNF at only 50 pages to go. I finally realized I wasn’t interested in seeing what happened to the characters, I disliked the subject matter, and I was most likely going to pass on picking up the second book. It was hard to keep going. But I love this author for so many things that I made myself see it through to the end. There was some great stuff there for those who’ll like the book more than me, but I couldn’t bring myself to care.

This is very weird. I’ve been boasting Draconius Memoria as my all-time favorite fantasy series ever. Like, compared to literally every other series I’ve read, DM comes out on top. #1. The very best. The one I won’t shut up about.

So not enjoying Pariah makes me feel like I’m going to get kicked out of the Anthony Ryan fan club. I hope not. I still wildly appreciate this author, and I will continue to be excited about new books he has coming out… just maybe not Pariah’s sequel, Martyr, due out next year.

Recommendations: okay, so I didn’t love this one, but I still think it a book others will really dig. If you liked Ryan’s slow-burn character-driven novel like Blood Song and don’t have the same reading quirks I do about character roles, plot structures, and religious zealotry, then you’ll probably enjoy this a lot more than I did. Also, don’t read what the book is about before diving in. The overview does what I hate most and gives major spoilers for things well into the book.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Empire of Ashes by Anthony Ryan

Title: Empire of Ashes

Author: Anthony Ryan

Series: Draconis Memoria #3

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

The Overview: For hundreds of years, the Ironship Trading Syndicate was fueled by drake blood–and protected by the Blood-blessed, those few who could drink it and wield fearsome powers. But now the very thing that sustained the corporate world threatens to destroy it. A drake of unimaginable power has risen, and it commands an army of both beasts and men. Rogue Blood-blessed Claydon Torcreek, Syndicate agent Lizanne Lethridge, and Ironship captain Corrick Hilemore, spread to disparate corners of the world, must rely upon the new powers and knowledge they have gained at great price to halt its forces–or face the end of all they know. -Goodreads

The Review:

Empire of Ashes solidified Draconius Memoria as one of the best series I’ve ever read!

For me this book started out with a bang and didn’t let up until the whirlwind finale. So much action and conflicts coming to a head that I wouldn’t recommend venturing into the last 25% if you have to get up early the next morning. This isn’t the kind of book easily set aside.

My favorite part was the convergence of storylines. This multiple POV series is unique for me because I feel equally drawn to all of the characters. It made for an amazing read because no matter which perspective had the stage, I was enjoying the ride immensely. Seeing how each person’s tale ended was particularly satisfying, as was the conclusion. I was really nervous this final book was going to be a letdown after how hard I’ve been fangirling for the series. It had a lot to live up to, and I’m so happy to report that it delivered.

As you would assume, this final book focuses more on action and conflict than exploration. The discovery of so many breathtaking places in the first two volumes is what helped solidify this series as a favorite. However in Empire of Ashes exploration is set aside in favor of action, conflict, and momentum. I missed that component a little, but at some point I guess it had to end (maybe I’m most upset that it ended at all – I want more!!). The story also contained quite a few answers to some burning questions I’ve had throughout the series. I find that the more I know, the more I want to discover. I’ll just throw it out there that this world is screaming for a prequel trilogy – there’s so much cool stuff packed into the histories that I feel we’ve only just scraped the surface thus far (Anthony Ryan, please write more!). :)

Let’s talk a minute about the dragons (or drakes, if you want to get picky). I absolutely love how well this series portrays dragons. Every aspect of their existence on this world and how it’s in conflict/harmony with humanity was in line with my favorite types of dragon stories. They’re not magical or ethereal, but their raw bestial attributes makes them feel magical, but still like the type of beings that could exist in our world. It might be funny to call them “realistic” dragons, but that’s how my dragon-obsessed mind thinks about them and why I loved them so much. Add to all of that practical uses for their blood (in the same vein that metals are useful to humans in Sanderson’s Mistborn series), and consider me sold.

Overall, Empire of Ashes had a lot of expectations to hold up to, and I’m thrilled it met all of mine. I’m still kind of reeling from the ending, but I’m certain that these gorgeous hardcovers will have a place of honor on my favorites shelf from here on out.

Recommendations: this series has quickly become my #1 recommend for fantasy readers, especially those who love dragons. It’s a cool flintlock fantasy that promises adventure, excitement, and intrigue at every turn. It is among my personal favorites and has the Obsessive Bookseller’s official stamp of endorsement. ;)

I’d like to thank Berkley Publishing Group, Anthony Ryan, and NetGalley for the chance to read and review an early copy of Empire of Ashes. It was my most anticipated release of 2018, and you seriously made my year! :)

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Coming Soon: Empire of Ashes by Anthony Ryan

Title: Empire of Ashes

Author: Anthony Ryan

Series: Draconis Memoria #3

Genre: Fantasy

Release Date: July 5, 2018

The Overview: For hundreds of years, the Ironship Trading Syndicate was fueled by drake blood–and protected by the Blood-blessed, those few who could drink it and wield fearsome powers. But now the very thing that sustained the corporate world threatens to destroy it. A drake of unimaginable power has risen, and it commands an army of both beasts and men. Rogue Blood-blessed Claydon Torcreek, Syndicate agent Lizanne Lethridge, and Ironship captain Corrick Hilemore, spread to disparate corners of the world, must rely upon the new powers and knowledge they have gained at great price to halt its forces–or face the end of all they know. -Goodreads

Nik’s Notes:

Empire of Ashes is my #1 most anticipated release of 2018 – AND IT’S ALMOST HERE!! This trilogy conclusion has the power to solidify Draconis Memoria as one of my all-time favorite series (no pressure). I love the characters, I love the dragons (drakes), and I love the expansive adventure I go on every time I pick up one of these books. If Empire of Ashes is even half as good as the previous two novels, I’m in great shape. I can’t wait! :)

Who else is excited for this one??

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