Thursday, 27 July 2017

FANTASY REVIEW: Ravens Mark 1: Blackwing - Ed McDonald

Release Date: 27/07/17
Publisher:  Gollancz


The republic faces annihilation, despite the vigilance of Galharrow's Blackwings. When a raven tattoo rips itself from his arm to deliver a desperate message, Galharrow and a mysterious noblewoman must investigate a long dead sorcerer's legacy. But there is a conspiracy within the citadel: traitors, flesh-eaters and the ghosts of the wastelands seek to destroy them, but if they cannot solve the ancient wizard's paradox, the Deep Kings will walk the earth again, and all will be lost.

The war with the Eastern Empire ended in stalemate some eighty years ago, thanks to Nall's 'Engine', a wizard-crafted weapon so powerful even the Deep Kings feared it. The strike of the Engine created the Misery - a wasteland full of ghosts and corrupted magic that now forms a No Mans Land along the frontier. But when Galharrow investigates a frontier fortress, he discovers complacency bordering on treason: then the walls are stormed, and the Engine fails to launch. Galharrow only escapes because of the preternatural magical power of the noblewoman he was supposed to be protecting. Together, they race to the capital to unmask the traitors and restore the republic's defences. Far across the Misery a vast army is on the move, as the Empire prepares to call the republic's bluff.

Blackwing is a gritty epic fantasy for fans of Mark Lawrence, Scott Lynch and Daniel Polansky.


As an avid fantasy reader, I can't wait to grab a new authors work and see where it takes me whether its a world of extraordinary other humanoids, top notch magic hurling or just plain heroism and there are times when all of them blend together to make something truly spectacular.

Here in this book by Ed, the reader is treated to a principle character who is brusk, cynical against life and of course also drawn by duty to help defend the last bastion of his people. Its well written, has some cracking prose and all round delivered a story that also brought into it elements of danger, political double dealing alongside a desperate stand against those who would see them defeated.

Its real edge of the seat stuff and when added to the possibility of future outings the reader is surely in for one hell of a ride. A cracking debut.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: Oswald De Lacy 3: City of Masks - SD Sykes

Release Date: 13/06/17
Publisher:  Hodder


1358. Oswald de Lacy, Lord Somershill, is in Venice, awaiting a pilgrim galley to the Holy Land. While the city is under siege from the Hungarians, Oswald lodges with an English merchant, and soon comes under the dangerous spell of the decadent and dazzling island state that sits on the hinge of Europe, where East meets West.

Oswald is trying to flee the chilling shadow of something in his past, but when he finds a dead man on the night of the carnival, he is dragged into a murder investigation that takes him deep into the intrigues of this mysterious, paranoid city.

Coming up against the feared Signori di Notte, the secret police, Oswald learns that he is not the only one with something to hide. Everybody is watching somebody else, and nobody in Venice is what he or she seems. The masks are not just for the carnival.


The new Oswald de Lacy novel takes the reader to the city of masks, Venice, as out hero takes a break from England on a journey to the Holy Land, only to find himself embroiled in a murder in the fabulous floating city.

As with the other books, the story unwinds at a pace that is a pure joy to behold, its organic and doesn't feel rushed in any way. Our hero is well scripted and whilst plagued with his "mother" for the journey, we get to see a more mature character who has undergone a series of trials due to his history.

As with the other books in the series the prose is solid, the dialogue more than satisfactory but for me its the characters and the way that they change as well as develop that really has me glued. All round another solid release and one that was definteily a lot of fun to read through.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

EPIC FANTASY REVIEW: Gods of Blood and Powder 1: Sins of Empire - Brian McClellan

Release Date: 09/03/17
Publisher: Orbit


Enter a war-torn world where gunpowder and magic collide

The nation of Fatrasta is a haven for criminals, rebels, adventurers and sorcerers seeking relics of the past. As insurrection grows, only the iron will of the Lady Chancellor holds the capital city of Landfall together.

Yet an ancient power as old as time is rising, and the fate of this young nation now rests in the hands of a spy, a disgraced war hero and a mercenary general with a past as turbulent as Landfall's present.

Sins of Empire is the bold new epic fantasy from Gemmell Award-winning author Brian McClellan.


A brand new series for Brian as we return to his inventive world with this epic opener. As expected from the author, the writing is high octane blood and fire, accompanied with top notch prose as well as characters that seek to not only survive but help shape the future by their actions.

Its got a cracking premise, has a wonderful overall arc and when added to a writing style that really just burst out of left field is showing why this author is becoming a firm fan favourite due to his playing for keeps attitude. All round a top notch title and one that has left me demanding more. Magic.

Friday, 7 July 2017

YOUNG ADULT REVIEW: Vega Jane 3: The Width of the World - David Baldacci

Release Date: 09/03/17
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Childrens


David Baldacci is back with The Width of the World, the third book in the Vega Jane series which began with his instant #1 global bestseller and award-winning YA fantasy debut The Finisher.

This is it. Vega Jane's time. Lied to her whole life, she has broken away from Wormwood, the only home she's ever known, and headed off into the Quag in search of the truth. She battles horrors to fight her way through it, with her best friend, Delph, and her mysterious canine, Harry Two, alongside her. Against all odds, they survive - but arrive into a place that's even worse. Not because deadly beasts roam the streets, but because the people there are enslaved and don't even know it. It's up to Vega, Delph, Harry Two and their new comrade, Petra, to take up the fight against savage and cunning new foe - and their triumph or failure will determine the fate of the whole world.


This is the third book in the series and whilst its aimed at the younger reader market, I have to say for me, that this series is like Harry Potter, good storytelling for readers of all ages. It's got a great lead, top notch prose and brings all of David's strengths to the fore as he lets his imaginationn loose.

Add to this great prose and good pacing which when blended with a lead heroine that you can't wait to spend time with all round brings elements that make a title hard to put down. Really give this series a go and be the one to share it with your young reader, you'll be pleased you did.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

EPIC FANTASY REVIEW: The Sunsurge Quartet Book 1: Empress of the Fall - David Hair

Release Date: 09/03/17
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books


The Emperor is dead - long live the Empress!

Emperor Constant is dead and his rivals are scrabbling for power - but any misstep could plunge the land, already devastated by the shocking outcome of the Third Crusade, into a calamitous civil war.

The Imperial throne is not the only one in jeopardy. Two brothers, imprisoned veterans of the Crusades, finally return home to find their father's kingdom being plundered - but the price of regaining their birthright will have far-reaching implications for the entire empire.

In the East, Sultan Salim, peacemaker and visionary ruler, faces his greatest challenge as his people demand an invasion of the West in retribution for the Rondian Crusades

And lurking in the darkness, orchestrating both the power struggles and the inevitable conflicts, is a shadowy group threatening to destroy civilisation itself.

Once more, Urte stands on the brink of cataclysm.


Having read David's Moontide Quartet I was pretty excited to return to hs world for the beginning of a new series. As you expect it is filled with a lot of the same things that made his previous series so enjoyable, great characters, solid prose and of course a huge plot leaving you wondering if its going to be possible to fit it all in.

Add to this huge epic combat sequences alongside a lot of political double-dealing maneuvering and all round its a book that really does give. All round its a cracking start and whilst a number of people may think that the book takes its time to get going, please remember that when you're dealing with epic fantasy a lot of the first title is set up to get all the details out of the way so subsequent offerings deal purely with the situation that the cast find themselves in. Always read the second part prior to deciding if the series is not for you and if you wait long enough you could well get it at bargain prices. Magic.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

FANTASY REVIEW: Pathfinder Tales: Gears of Faith - Garbielle Harbowy

Release Date: 04/07/17
Publisher:  Tor US


Keren is a sworn knight of lomedae, proper and disciplined in every way. Her girlfriend, Zae, is the opposite - a curious gnome cleric of the clockwork god, who loves nothing more than the chaos of her makeshift hospitals. When a powerful evil artifact is stolen from a crusader stronghold, both knight and gnome are secretly sent to the great city of Absalom to track down the stolen bloodstone. Sure, they may not be the most powerful or experienced members of their organizations, but that's the whole point - with legendary champions and undead graveknights battling at every turn in their race to recover the stone, who'll notice one young knight and her gnome? All they have to do is stay alive long enough to outsmart a thief capable of evading both gods and heroes.


I love books that take me on a journey so I was more than happy to delve back into the Pathfinder series with this the latest offering. Here in this book the reader is presented with two principle characters who clearly love and have an establshed relationship with each other. They're well thought out, work well and each adds their own individual spiritual as well as personality strengths into the story. They're likeable, well worth spending time with and all round helped give the reader people to care about.

However that said, there are other problems with the story. Firstly I though the pacing was a little bit off, its lulls didn't really do much and as to the higher octane action sequences they never really got out of second gear. Add to this some poor choices with prose and when added to a tale that spends more time setting things up for quite short sequences all round left me feeling flat. A great shame.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

MYSTICISM REVIEW: Calling Us Home - Chris Luttichau

Release Date: 09/03/17
Publisher: Head of Zeus


From one of our most respected shamanic teachers, a blueprint for happiness which interweaves practical teachings, history, anecdote and ancestral wisdom. Alongside consciousness, meditation and mindfulness, shamanism, with its vision of the interconnectedness of all life, is undergoing an unprecedented revival in the western world. With personal stories from the author's 35-year study of shamanism and the earth-wisdom teachings, and clear, practical tools, this book offers a path leading to the transformation of ourselves, of our reality and consequently the course of our lives. It is a life-changing message from the heart of shamanism.

Chris Luttichau shares his teachings on shamanism and earth-based spirituality in workshops and ongoing training groups through the Northern Drum Shamanic Training Centre. He also leads wilderness expeditions.


In a world where we seek to believe in what we can see and feel, there are times when it feels that you want to connect back to older days, when we connected more to the earth through mysticism.

This book by one of the leading names in the field helps bring it to the modern reader so that the information is not only there but accessible in a way that makes sense. It allows you to delve more into yourself and discover your inner peace as well as aiding you relax through escapism of the modern world.

All round its well written, easy to follow and if you're open it gives you that chance to find a way to "speak" to those who have gone before. Definitely an interesting read.

Friday, 30 June 2017

FANTASY REVIEW: The Lady of the Lake - Andrzej Sapkowski

Release Date: 16/03/17
Publisher: Gollancz


After walking through a portal in the Tower of the Swallow, thus narrowly escaping death, the Witcher girl, Ciri, finds herself in a completely different world... a world of the Elves. She is trapped with no way out. Time does not seem to exist and there are no obvious borders or portals to cross back into her home world.

But this is Ciri, the child of prophecy, and she will not be defeated. She knows she must escape to finally rejoin the Witcher, Geralt, and his companions - and also to try to conquer her worst nightmare. Leo Bonhart, the man who chased, wounded and tortured Ciri, is still on her trail. And the world is still at war.


OK I mainly discovered Andrzej after he won the inaugral David Gemmell Legend Award for Fantasy and whilst I've been a fan of the Witcher games, I have been delving into his work. Whilst it may come across as a little clunky at times, I do believe that its down more to translation problems rather than the authors ability to write a story.

In addition to this, I do not quite feel that this is the end of the series (despite what the book says) as there's so many other threads that can be delved into within the world. Anyway, the writing is solid enough, the action sequences reasonable and when you throw into the mix the way that the author likes to add some twists alongside established mythology all round delivers a book that will satisfy fans. If you haven't read any others in the series then don't start with this, go back to the beginning when the world building sets it all up for you. That way you'll get the full flavour and get to see what has made this author so popular.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

GUEST BLOG: Scott Oden

Robert E. Howard once wrote: “There is no literary work, to me, half as zestful as rewriting history in the guise of fiction.” For my own part, I would agree – but with a single caveat. To me, there is no literary work half as zestful as rewriting history in the guise of fantasy. It is well known that some writers spend decades creating elaborate worlds wherein to set their stories, worlds with deep histories, complex politics, eerie religions, and civilization-shattering wars. They reveal these layers chapter by chapter, story by story, until the whole is laid bare. This, some say, is where the artistry of the genre resides – in the painting of a masterpiece on the blank canvas of imagination.

Other writers invest the same amount of time researching our collective historical past for their stories, learning the deep histories, complex politics, eerie religions, and civilization-shattering wars of the real world. And into the chapters and stories they winnow from history, they introduce magic. Gods made manifest; monsters given life. Thus, if traditional fantasy represents the Dutch masters, historical fantasy would be the equivalent of art restoration mixed with forgery. The historical fantasist does not start with a blank canvas; she works with an expanse that already has color, texture, patina – along with some scrapes and tears and lacunae. In those empty quarters is where the fantasy takes root and grows.

The world of our ancestors is perhaps the richest, most vibrant fantasy milieu ever. It is replete with blood and thunder, with pageantry and pestilence, with good and evil, and with a deep, almost pervasive belief in the mythic, in the supernatural. The Hyborian Age, Middle-earth, the Young Kingdoms, Westeros . . . these are but echoes of this frightening and magnificent world of the past. Of course, not every author agrees. “Fantasy is escapism,” some say. “All that cannot be. All the sweetest unfulfillable dreams and the sweaty sheet nightmares.” The historical past is not these things. It is grim. It is bloody. It is a tapestry of woe against which the life of you or I matters as much as a single grain of sand.

“Yes,” I reply. “But it doesn't have to be.”

As far back as 1931, Robert E. Howard – whose work serves as a pillar of fantasy – saw the potential in the literary mining of history: “I’ve been thinking of writing a tale about him for a long time. And Babur the Tiger who established the Mogul rule in India - and the imperial phase in the life of Baibars the Panther, the subject of my last story - and the rise of the Ottomans - and the conquest of Constantinople by the Fifth Crusade - the subjugation of the Turks by the Arabs in the days of Abu Bekr - and the gradual supplanting of the Arab masters by their Turkish slaves which culminated in the conquest of Asia Minor and Palestine by the Seljuks - and the rise of Saladin - and the final destruction of Christian Outremer by Al Kalawun - and the First Crusade - Godfrey of Boullion, Baldwin of Boulogne, Bohemund - Sigurd the Jorsala-farer - Barbarossa - Cour de Lion. Ye gods, I could write a century and still have only tapped the reservoir of dramatic possibilities.” (Robert E. Howard to Tevis Clyde Smith, August 1931). Draw a thread of magic and the supernatural through this list and you begin to apprehend the awesome promise of historical escapist fantasy.

A Gathering of Ravens, which debuts Tuesday, June 20th, is pure historical fantasy. The world it inhabits is built from our own: the color, texture, and patina of its foundation is indistinguishable from 10th/11th century Western Europe. Its brush strokes, however, have been altered; threads have been drawn from its canvas and replaced by forgeries wrought of sorcery and myth. It is not just our world, but our world where the magic of the Old Ways – and the creatures that sprang from it – are fading, vanishing before the inexorable tide of Christianity. Where silence reigns in the once-mystical places, and where decay has begun its slow and destructive creep. Where ancient trees that once housed spirits are empty, now, rotted husks awaiting the woodsman’s axe.

I could have created this world whole cloth; digested and distilled history mixed with fancy into a secondary world where Denmark, England, and Ireland existed but under assumed names. That would have been easier, actually. But it also would have severed my connection to thousands of years of shared history. There is an innate sorcery to words burnished by time: the Danemark, Britain, Ériu . . . they resound with a weight of antiquity not commonly shared by words of recent make. From an artistic standpoint, this connection to a shared undercurrent of emotion allows the writer conjure more from a scene with less effort. Here, for example, I introduce the city of Badon (modern Bath):

Badon was an ancient city and its stones reeked of blood. Étaín could smell it: a metallic stench like wet copper mixed with the miasma of damp rot and sulphur – a distillate of the decay and violence which diverse hands had worked into the foundations of the city. A thousand years before Alfred the Great forged the West Saxons into a race of conquerors, the legions of Caesar had come into this land and driven out the native tribes, the Britons and the enigmatic Cruithne. Roman axes laid low the tree-garth of Sulis, fierce goddess of the waters, and Roman priests extinguished the eternal flame that had burned since time out of mind in her sanctuary. Cunning in the ways of stone, these Romans had raised walls of ashlar around the sacred spaces; they had carved a forest of marble dedicated to the healing goddess Minerva, and tamed the hot springs by diverting its mineral-rich flow into artificial lakes and fountains.

But as the wagon trundled through the muddy streets, a sulphurous yellow mist pooling in the low places, what Étaín could see of the Romans’ stone-cunning was not particularly impressive. The city’s walls were as ragged as a crone’s smile. Timber baulks shored up crumbling defensive towers, with palisades of rough planking and crude brickwork plugging fissures torn in the walls from the infrequent convulsions of the earth that shook the region. Huts squatted amid the ruins of Roman villas like scavengers, their broken columns supporting roofs of wood and thatch. Underfoot, a slurry of dung, mud, and chaff covered intricate mosaics; their fanciful and half-glimpsed designs bore the heavy tread of Time, defaced by hoof and by wheel and by hob-nailed boot, the spaces left by shattered cubes of glass and stone filled in with the filth of countless years. Herds of cattle meandered through the once-opulent arcades of the Temple of Minerva to graze in the overgrown ruin of some nobleman’s pleasure garden. And on a hillock overlooking the city, Étaín spied a massive fortification, a walled cathedral still partially sheathed in scaffolding. She apprehended this to be their destination, the haunt of the feared Hrothmund, lord of Badon.

Though it describes a real place – Bath in the heart of Somerset, England – the passage is actually pure fiction. It is inspired by the ruins of Roman-era Bath, but no such place existed as it appears in the example, above. This is the sorcery of historical fantasy: to take a jumble of ancient stones knitted together by the power of a name and restore them to life – but not just mundane life. No, the trick is to weave the enchantment of what never was into the fabric of reality, and to do it with all the elegance and prowess of a master forger.

I leave you with one final thought: even if you reject the argument that the historical past is the finest fantasy world in existence, it is the undisputed source of countless worlds. From the splintered kingdom of Arnor to the pitiless mountains of Cimmeria; from formidable Dros Delnoch to simmering Darujhistan; from Winterfell to Luthadel . . . every fantasy world is descended from the one our ancestors helped create: ancient Earth. A world of gods and monsters, whose deep histories, complex politics, eerie religions, and civilization-shattering wars provide, to paraphrase REH, enough action and drama enough to fill countless volumes of fantasy.

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: A Gathering of Raven's - Scott Oden

Release Date: 20/06/17
Publisher:  Transworld


To the Danes, he is skraelingr; to the English, he is orcneas; to the Irish, he is fomoraig. He is Corpse-maker and Life-quencher, the Bringer of Night, the Son of the Wolf and Brother of the Serpent. He is Grimnir, and he is the last of his kind--the last in a long line of monsters who have plagued humanity since the Elder Days.

Drawn from his lair by a thirst for vengeance against the Dane who slew his brother, Grimnir emerges into a world that's changed. A new faith has arisen. The Old Ways are dying, and their followers retreating into the shadows; even still, Grimnir's vengeance cannot be denied.

Taking a young Christian hostage to be his guide, Grimnir embarks on a journey that takes him from the hinterlands of Denmark, where the wisdom of the ancient dwarves has given way to madness, to the war-torn heart of southern England, where the spirits of the land make violence on one another. And thence to the green shores of Ireland and the Viking stronghold of Dubhlinn, where his enemy awaits.

But, unless Grimnir can set aside his hatreds, his dream of retribution will come to nothing. For Dubhlinn is set to be the site of a reckoning--the Old Ways versus the New--and Grimnir, the last of his kind left to plague mankind, must choose: stand with the Christian King of Ireland and see his vengeance done or stand against him and see it slip away?

Scott Oden's A Gathering of Ravens is an epic novel of vengeance, faith, and the power of myth.


I've known Scott's work mainly as Historical Fiction and in more recent times, I had the honour of watching his FB feed to see him asking questions about this story and seeing how fans would like to see it go as well as garnering suggestions which upon reading, brought a tale to the fore that felt realistic, had great action alongside some top notch sequences that took the reader on a journey in historical times but with an Orc as the principle player.

Its well written, I loved the prose and for me, the action sequences really brought the brutality to life in such a way that it felt like a final solution for the last of his kind. Add to this some wonderful twists, support characters that felt rounded enough to be able to accompany the anti hero alongside kick ass plot and I was a more than happy reader. Top notch.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017


Release Date: 23/03/17
Publisher: Pan Macmillan


From S. L. Grey comes this suspenseful psychological thriller.

Mark and Steph are struggling to move on with their lives after armed robbers broke into their home and brutalized them. Shaken, they decide to get away and leave their troubles behind. A house swap in Paris with a couple they meet online, the Petits, seems to provide the perfect escape. But upon arriving for a week's luxurious break, they find themselves in a festering, run-down apartment. And when Steph attempts to contact the Petits, she gets no answer.

Mark and Steph try to make the most of the trip, but they are unable to relax. After a series of increasingly unsettling events, they decide to return home. Yet when they arrive, neither of them can shake the feeling that there's now something sinister about their own house. As time passes, Mark is terrorized by a series of unsettling visions. But is it all in his imagination or is there a far more worrying explanation . . . ?


I was looking forward to a cracking psychological thriller due to the blurb and what unfurled was a massive let down for me. The concept whilst OK had quite a few problems especially when you sit down and do your maths on what this couple were prepared to do. Back this up with a lacklustre pair of protagonists and I felt that I really didn't care if they lived or died.

Add to this prose that didn't really leap off the page, pace that felt sluggish and all round it was a title that I wish I'd ignored. A great shame.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

CRIME THRILLER REVIEW: The Fourth Monkey - JD Barker

Release Date: 27/06/17
Publisher:  Harper Collins


That’s the Four Monkey Killer or ‘4MK’. A murderer with a twisted vision and absolutely no mercy.

Detective Sam Porter has hunted him for five long years, the recipient of box after box of grisly trinkets carved from the bodies of 4MK’s victims.

But now Porter has learnt the killer’s twisted history and is racing to do the seemingly impossible – find 4MK’s latest victim before it’s too late…


"A criminal thriller that grabs you from the get go and rubs your face in the blood and guts of the killer deed. " is the best way I have of describing this title by JD Barker. After all she really does delivery in a high octane crime novel that really doesn't want to let you go.

As expected the pace is exhausting and with elements like taunting a detective that sets to chase you with your diary are thrown into the mix, you know that its going to have to end in one way. A cracking showdown.

This title for me did it all, it made me emotional with the way that the descriptions took place really adding flavour to the dish, it made you scream internally, it made you emotional and all round more than delivered with a pretty slick arc.

All round a cracker and I tell you now, get this book sooner rather than later, you'll feel a chill even in the summer heat. Magic.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: Eagles of Rome: Eagles in the Storm - Ben Kane

Release Date: 23/03/17
Publisher: Preface Publishing


AD 15. The German chieftain Arminius has been defeated, one of the lost Roman eagles recovered, and thousands of German tribesmen slain.

Yet these successes aren’t nearly enough for senior centurion Lucius Tullus. Not until Arminius is dead, his old legion’s eagle found and the enemy tribes completely vanquished will he rest.

But Arminius – devious, fearless – is burning for revenge of his own.

Charismatic as ever, he raises another large tribal army, which will harry the Romans the length and breadth of the land.

Soon Tullus finds himself in a cauldron of bloodshed, treachery and danger.

His mission to retrieve his legion’s eagle will be his most perilous yet…


I love spending time with the Roman Legion and one of the foremost authors featuring this band of soldiers is Ben Kane. He brings history to life with each outing and whilst this is the end of the road for this particular group of warriors in Ben's world it means that all bets are off and anything can happen.

Ben always bring top notch action to his writing and when blended with a cracking understanding of pace, wonderful prose and of course dialogue that makes it sing, all round gives the reader what they want. I'm sad to see these guys go for now, but also looking forward to seeing what Ben will return with. Great stuff.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

CRIME THRILLER REVIEW; The Legacy - Yrsa Sigurdardottir

Release Date: 23/03/17
Publisher: Hodder


The first in an exciting new series from the author of THE SILENCE OF THE SEA, winner of the 2015 Petrona Award for best Scandinavian Crime Novel.

The murder was meant as a punishment - but what sin could justify the method?

The only person who might have answers is the victim's seven-year-old daughter, found hiding in the room where her mother died. And she's not talking.

Newly promoted, out of his depth, detective Huldar turns to Freyja and the Children's House for their expertise with traumatised young people. Freyja, who distrusts the police in general and Huldar in particular, isn't best pleased. But she's determined to keep little Margret safe.

It may prove tricky. The killer is leaving them strange clues: warnings in text messages, sums scribbled on bits of paper, numbers broadcast on the radio. He's telling a dark and secret story - but how can they crack the code? And if they do, will they be next?


I love spending time between the sheets with a dark crime novel and when it come to bringing the topography of the land to the fore, there are few better authors out there than Yrsa. I love the way Iceland is brought over to the reader, the harsh landscape, the ever changing weather and of coursse a stoic people that deal with the good and the bad of thier home.

Its a pure delight to read and when Yrsa's dialogue appears it really helps draw me into her story by allowing me to get to know the characters. All round a cracking read and one that will keep me company for some time to come.

Friday, 23 June 2017

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: A Psy-Changling Trinity Novel: Silver SIlence - Nalini Singh

Release Date: 15/06/17
Publisher:  Gollancz


Control. Precision. Family. These are the principles that drive Silver Mercant. At a time when the fledgling Trinity Accord seeks to unite a divided world, with Silver playing a crucial role as director of a worldwide emergency response network, wildness and chaos are the last things she needs in her life. But that's exactly what Valentin Nikolaev, alpha of the StoneWater bears, brings with him.

Valentin has never met a more fascinating woman. Though Silver is ruled by Silence - her mind clear of all emotion - Valentin senses a whisper of fire around her. That's what keeps him climbing apartment buildings to be near her. But when a shadow assassin almost succeeds in poisoning Silver, the stakes become deadly serious . . . and Silver finds herself in the heart of a powerful bear clan.

Her would-be assassin has no idea what their poison has unleashed . . .


I originally read Nalini's work thanks to a friend on a forum (yep, there you go Jade, a mention) who told me I absolutley must read her work. As after all if I liked Kelley Armstrong, then Nalini would soon make a grab for my affections with her work in Urban Fantasy.

What unfurled was a whole set of novels that took me on journey after journey where romance leads the way and at the end of the day, we all know that love is the most powerful force in the universe. (Or if not it should be.)

OK yeah, that made me sound a bit mushy, but I love to be taken on an emotional rollercoaster, I want to see characters break from their comfort zones, to learn what makes them tick and to get under the covers to get to thier emotional aspect.

Here within this title we're treated to a tough kick ass heroine who seeks to recover and get back for vengeance but as she is in rehab we get to see her softer side. One that accompanied by a skin walker works wonderfully well as we get to see all sorts of changes along the way. I'm not going to say its for everyone, but if you want escapism wrapped up with romance and a good solid dose of whupass then give Nalini a go.

The only thing left is to filk a certain teddy bear show: "I wanna be a Were-Bear, like you...." LOL

Thursday, 22 June 2017

FANTASY REVIEW: You Die When You Die - Angus Watson

Release Date: 22/06/17
Publisher:  Orbit


You can't change your fate - so throw yourself into battle, because you'll either end the day a hero or drinking mead in the halls of the gods. That's what Finn's people believe.

But Finn wants to live. When his settlement is massacred by a hostile nation, Finn plus several friends and rivals must make their escape across a brutal, unfamiliar landscape, and to survive, Finn will fight harder than he's ever fought before.

The David Gemmell Award-nominated author of Age of Iron returns with You Die When You Die - an epic fantasy adventure in which a mismatched group of refugees battle animals and monsters, determined assassins, an unforgiving land and each other as they cross a continent to fulfil a prophecy.


I love a story that takes me on a journey and Angus has always done that for me, so I had high hopes with this his latest novel after having loved his Iron Age Trilogy. Thrust into a fantasy world with Norsemen we are taken on a journey of survival against the odds where every battle seems stacked against our hero and his companions.

Its edge of the nails stuff with cracking prose really adding to the tension as we see each event play out. The pace is breakneck, the dialogue solid and for me, its the action sequences that really make this a title that is hard to put down. Finally throw into the mix a lead hero that I wanted to hang around and all in I wa s a ore than happy bunny. Great stuff.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

FANTASY REVIEW: The Fall of Shannara 1: The Black Elfstone - Terry Brooks

Release Date: 15/06/17
Publisher:  Orbit


The first book of the triumphant and epic four-part conclusion to the Shannara series, from one of the all-time masters of fantasy.

The age of peace that has reigned across the Four Lands is now at an end. An army of invaders, wielding a terrible new magic, is cutting a bloody swathe across the far north . . .

The fate of the world now rests on the shoulders of an exiled druid, a conflicted warrior and a young woman struggling to master a powerful magic. As the conflict grows, they will face dangerous adversaries and deadly challenges - and the consequences of their actions will determine the future of the Four Lands.

Through twenty-eight novels written over the course of forty years, Terry Brooks's Shannara series has entranced millions of readers around the world. Now, with the Black Elfstone - the first book in the Fall of Shannara - Terry begins to bring his epic vision to a grand conclusion.


I always have a soft place in my heart for Terry Brooks and his Shannara series, as after David Gemmell, he was an author that I always shared with my Dad. We constantly vied to see who would get the next book first and as our saying went "He who buys it gets first read." (Although to be fair my Dad cheated as he'd nick my book when I went to school and read it for a couple of hours before he had to go to work.)

Each new addition to the series has added flavour and depth and with this new series we get to see the world fall as everything has a lifespan. How this will occur and whether this is a final death knell we'll have to wait and see but we know that the heroes within won't let it go without a fight.

As with his other books we get good solid pace, a good story arc and for me characters I not only care about but want to spend time around. Terry brings his A game with this outing and whilst its going to be gripping whatever happen in the future titles in the series, if this is the true end its going to be the closing of a large part of my life. All round a cracking start and one that will have me on tenterhooks until the final page.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Xeelee: Vengenace - Stephen Baxter

Release Date: 15/06/17
Publisher:  Gollancz


Half a million years in the future, on a dead, war-ravaged world at the centre of the Galaxy, there is a mile-high statue of Michael Poole.

Poole, born on Earth in the fourth millennium, was one of mankind's most influential heroes. He was not a warrior, not an emperor. He was an engineer, a builder of wormhole transit systems. But Poole's work would ultimately lead to a vast and destructive conflict, a million-year war between humanity and the enigmatic, powerful aliens known as the Xeelee.

The Xeelee won, but at a huge cost. And, defeated in a greater war, the Xeelee eventually fled the universe. Most of them.

A handful were left behind, equipped with time travel capabilities, their task to tidy up: to reorder history more to the Xeelee's liking. That million-year war with humankind was one blemish. It had to be erased. And in order to do that, a lone Xeelee was sent back in time to remove Michael Poole from history . . .


Stephen is one of those authors whose writing hooks you from the beginning, His prose is wonderful, the pace ideal and when added to an arc that really delivers what you want from one of his titles, all round generates a title that is hard to put down.

Here in his latest title we have a real treat as we get to observe the Xeelee as they try to eradicate a "blip" on thier history by taking out the man who made it all possible. Its engaging and with the authors ability to bring the characters (both human and alien) across makes this more than approachable. The only thing I'll say is remember to read the original novel first (Xeelee: Endurance). You don't have to but you won't get the full flavour or the pleasure by missing it.

Friday, 9 June 2017

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Agents of Mayhem: Gat is Back - Koch Media

Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Our friends at Koch Media, have let us know about the latest trailer for the forthcoming Agents of Mayhem.  We can't wait to get our hands on it and to be treated to the return of our old friend Johnny Gat from Saints Row, means that we're in for a real treat.

Get your fill of Gat in this trailer:

Finally Agents of Mayhem will be released 18th August 2017 from Koch Media.

Get those guns warmed up people,

Gareth and Lady Eleanor

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Kingdom Come Deliverance Release Date and Story Trailer - Deep Silver

Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Our friends at Warhorse Studios and Deep Silver, let us know that this title that we've been watching for quite a while will be out 13th Feb 2018.

We can't wait to see what these developers have in store for us.

Here's the story trailer:

We hope that you're getting as excited as we are,

Gareth and Lady Eleanor.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

VIDEO GAME ANNOUNCEMENT: Strange Brigade - Rebellion

Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Here at Falcata Times we love to find the weird and wonderful and Rebellion seem to have brought all that to the fore with this announcement trailer for The Strange Brigade.

We love the fact that it has a feel of all the old B-Movie Creature Features and can't wait to get our hands on it but here, check out this awesome trailer:

All the best,

Gareth and Lady Eleanor

VIDEO GAME REVIEW: The Surge - Koch Media, Focus

Release Date: 19/05/17
Publisher: Koch Media


Set in a heavily dystopian future as Earth nears the end of its life, those who remain in the overpopulated cities must work to survive as social programs become saturated by an ageing population and increasing environmental diseases.

As the intelligence of technology incrementally increased over the years, many jobs for the human race had been made redundant, forcing Earth's citizens to head out into the suburbs seeking labour, aided by exoskeletons to improve their efficiency. The world of The Surge offers a very grim vision of the future, where the evolution of our technology, our society and our relation with the environment led to a decadent state of the Human civilization.

The Surge features innovative combat mechanics and an original character progression system based on modular upgrades gained through tight, visceral combat.


To be honest, I'm a gamer who likes to take their time when playing, I like to make sure that I don't rush my review and give the game not only a fair play but also allow myself the chance to explore various options with the gear and items before deciding on my favourite combo for my style of play.

So after giving the game a huge amount of time here's what I have to say Firstly before purchasing there are a few things you have to know. The first and perhaps most important is that this is a title in which you will die, a hell of a lot. If you don't like that in a game bypass this title now. Secondly if you're a fan of this type of game and love a Sci-Fi post apocalypic future then this title is all the candy that you can eat and then some.

Yes the camera can be a little clunky in places but that beginning animation where you get set up for your suit is not only gruesome but oddly satisfying letting you know just how much you're going to have to go through.

I was hooked.

I loved a lot of the game, the way that the enemies upped in difficulty, how even the smallest foe could kill you and the way that you had to strategise for each combat prior to taking part, working out how to deal with multiple foes and their strengths and weaknesses. However my biggest gripe was if you found certain fights way to hard, the best you could do was up your power (which only gave you access to more "chip" slots and access to doorways and you have to settle for basic gear and couldn't upgrade it if you found fighting the bosses too hard to begin with.

Its damn frustraing and whilst a good many gamers will give up with their lack of progress it was a game that I did have a lot of fun with all in. Yes it took me a lot of time to get past that initial baddy but the high I got when I finally kicked his ass was immense. All round a solid game and whilst its going to be a marmite title for a good few gamers, I happened to love it. Magic

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

VIDEO GAME REVIEW: Injustice 2 - Warner Brothers Interactive

Release Date: 19/05/17
Publisher: Warner Brothers Interactive


Injustice 2 continues the epic cinematic story introduced in Injustice : Gods Among Us as Batman and his allies work towards putting the pieces of society back together while struggling against those who want to restore Superman's regime. In the midst of the chaos, a new threat appears that will put Earth's existence at risk. Players can play from the biggest DC roster ever offered in a fighting game, from classic fan favourites such as Batman, Superman, Supergirl and Aquaman, to astonishing new villains like Atrocitus and Gorilla Grodd. Battles will take place across arenas that have evolved in scale and span across iconic locations such as Metropolis, Gotham City and Atlantis.


OK, I'm going to be honest here, the main fighting games that I've picked up before were Tekken and whilst many would say that the war for the king of fighters is generlaly won by Mortal Kombat I love a game that gives me not only fun but the chance to compete against not only my other half or the AI but with people the world over.

This title from Warner does not only bring all those elements together but brings it with a flair that I have to say was near perfect for me. The graphics are beautiful, each polygon making it look flawless with each character having multiple costumes and gear items that improve certain traits over others. Yes my review is behind quite a few others, but I'm not a guy to rush through things and wanted to give it a through play through (with multiple characters) in order to give it a fair review.

Add to this great sound with solid voice acting and accompanying music alongside a playable story arc all round gives you a title that was a pure joy to play. FInally add to this great end sequences for each of the characters and all round I was a more than happy gamer. Cracking.

Monday, 29 May 2017

NEWS: Topps Release Star Wars Universe Sticker Collection - Topps

Hail Mighty Readers and Fans from from a galaxy far far away,
Our friends at Topps have let us know about the new Star Wars Sticker Collection released on the 25th May. Here's what they had to say:

On the 40th anniversary of the very first Star Wars film, Topps, the UK’s leading collectibles company, is proud to present their biggest and most immersive sticker collection yet: Star Wars Universe!

The latest collection from Topps spans all eight Star Wars films from the past 40 years, including the recent Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The collection of Star Wars Universe stickers is the ultimate compendium for collectors of all ages.

Fans will be able to explore the world of Star Wars from the time of the Clone Wars through the rise of the First Order, discovering the history of the Jedi and seductive power of the dark side along the way.

Additionally, there will be added incentives including special foil stickers, die-cut shaped stickers, and even historic movie stickers.

With 344 stickers to collect, Star Wars fans will learn about all the weapons and ships from the franchise including the Death Star, the evil Sith, and the heroic Rebel Alliance.

Louise Ramplin, Entertainment Marketing Manager at Topps, comments: “Star Wars was unleashed to the world and changed the cinematic landscape forever on May 25th, 1977. Now on the 40th anniversary, we are proud to celebrate the thrilling space saga with our biggest Star Wars collection yet. We’re confident the collection will be an instant hit with collectors and movie goers alike.”

The Star Wars Universe collection will be on sale May 25th. Starter Packs will retail at £2.99 including six packets of stickers. Individual packs of five stickers will retail at 50p."

So whether you're a Rebel or with the Republic, nows your chance to get started.

Gareth and Lady Eleanor

Saturday, 27 May 2017

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: Crimson and Bone - Mariana Fiorato

Release Date: 18/05/17
Publisher: Hodder


'A rich jewel of a story, full of desire and danger' - Julie Cohen. A dark, gripping tale of love and obsession perfect for fans of The Crimson Petal and the White.

London, 1853. Annie Stride has nothing left to live for - she is a penniless prostitute, newly evicted from her home and pregnant. On the night she plans to cast herself from Waterloo Bridge into the icy waters of the Thames, her life is saved by Francis Maybrick Gill, a talented pre-Raphaelite painter - and her world is changed forever.

Francis takes Annie as his artist's muse, elevating her from fallen woman to society's darling. With her otherworldly beauty now the toast of London, her dark past is left far behind.

But Annie's lavish new life is not all it seems - and there are some who won't let her forget where she came from...


If you want a story that brings to the modern audience a truly wonderful Gothic adventure with some cracking romance then you have to pick up this title. The principle characters is one you want to spend time around with each chapter giving you the chance to get to know her better.

The writing is crisp, the prose delightful and with the way that the story is character driven all round makes this a real tale of love and loss felt by the reader. All round a magical tale that was a pure joy to spend time with.

Friday, 26 May 2017


Release Date: 18/05/17
Publisher: Gollancz


This groundbreaking new novel from one of the genre's most respected authors is a thrilling mix of science, magic and politics.

In Harmony, only model citizens are welcome.

A perfect society must be maintained. The defective must be eradicated. For orphans like Nico and Twostar, this means a life that's brutal, regulated and short.

But Nico and Twostar are survivors, and when they're offered a way out of the slums, they take it.

Unfortunately, no one told Nico the deal included being sentenced to death for the murder of one of Harmony's most notorious gang leaders.

Or that to gain his freedom, first he must lose his mind.


A new novel from one of my fav Sci-Fi authors who manages to blend into the equation magic, as usual with her work its quirky, has top notch characters whom you love to spend time around alongside a real kickass tale that doesn't let up.

Back this up with solid prose as well as a plot that just keeps giving from start to finish and all round I was a more than happy reader. Here's hoping that Nico and Twostar have many more outings. Magic.

Thursday, 25 May 2017


Release Date: 18/05/17
Publisher: Gollancz


The Photurians - a hivemind of sentient AIs and machines - were awakened by humanity as part of a complex political trap. But they broke free, evolved, and now the human race is almost finished. Once we spanned dozens of star systems; now only four remain, and Earth is being evacuated.

But the Photes can infect us, and among the thousands rescued from our home world may be enemy agents. Tiny colonies struggle to house the displaced. Our warships are failing. The end of humanity has come.

But on a distant planet shielded from both humanity and the Photurians, one hope may still live. The only person who might be able to intervene. The roboteer. He is trapped in a hell of his own making, and does not know he is needed. And so a desperate rescue mission is begun. But can he be reached in time? Or will he be the last remnant of humanity in the universe?


The second book by author Alex Lamb who brings Hardcore Sci-Fi to the fans with top notch twists, cracking prose and of course characters you just want to spend time with. The writing is delightfully crisp, the pace full of lulls and peaks to allow you chance to take a breather and all round the way that the plot is devised the reader will be kept guessing until the final page is turned.

For me this was a cracking read and I can't wait for the next title by Alex, as well as to see what treats he has in store. Get on the train now before the hype hits, you will be pleased that you did. Cracking.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

FANTASY REVIEW: The Kharkanas Trilogy 2: Fall of Light - Steven Erikson

Release Date: 23/03/17
Publisher: Bantam Press


Before the Malazan Empire, there was a time that set the stage for all those tales yet to be told . . .

The winter is bitter. Civil war threatens Kurald Galain for the warrior Urusander’s army has begun its march on the city of Kharkanas. Led by the ruthless Hunn Raal, it intends to cast aside Mother Dark’s consort, Draconus, and set Urusander himself on the throne beside the Living Goddess. Those who would stand in the way of the rebels lie scattered and weakened – leaderless since Anomander went in search of an estranged brother. In his stead, Silchas Ruin resolves to gather the Houseblades of the Highborn families to him, and to resurrect the legendary Hust Legion, but time is not on his side.
Far to the west, an unlikely army musters. It seeks an enemy without form, in a place none can find. And yet Hood’s call has been heard and the long-abandoned city of Omtose Phellack is now home to a rabble of new arrivals: Dog-Runners from the south, Jheck warriors, and blue-skinned strangers from across the Western Sea have come to offer Hood their swords. From the distant mountains and isolated valleys of the North, Thel Akai arrive to pledge themselves in this seemingly impossible war. Soon, they will set forth with weapons drawn under the banners of the living in pursuit of Death itself.
Such events presage chaos, and now magic bleeds into this realm. Unconstrained, mysterious and savage, it begins to run loose and wild and following its scent, seeking the places of wounding and hurt – new and ancient entities gather.
In a world becoming rotten with sorcery, can honour truly exist?


I've been a fan of Stevens since I read the original Malazan title and with each subsequent book I knew that I was onto something truly wonderful as the characters were not only vibrant but the storyline had wonderfully woven twists, beautifully create prose and of course was so full of colour alongside characters you cared about that it was perhaps one of favourite series of all time.

I love complicated aspects in some fantasy and when its done well it really does give the reader something that they can not only get thier teeth into but generates a hell of a lot of thought as we all try to work out what events will transpire as well as seeing how certain things have been revealed due to the previous books.

However I have to say that whilst I love the fact that Steven has returned to the complex world, I feel that this book left me thinking what the hell for most of it. It was a real struggle to get through and whilst it does have a lot of work and detail within, its the delivery aspect that really has let me down as I feel it was more of a tell rather than show, almost using the book as a way to develop tension for future outings whilst just filling it with dialogue that serves more as a filler than anything else.

All round, not a favourite for me and whilst I will read the next part as I love the Malazan series I just hope it really makes up for this tale that I felt could have been heavily edited with a certain amount of chat slashed in order to let the reader see more than having them sit there praying for top notch action to kick in.

Monday, 22 May 2017

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Transformation 3: Infinity Engine - Neal Asher

Release Date: 23/03/17
Publisher: Tor


Infinity Engine is the third and final novel in the Transformation series, by bestselling science fiction author Neal Asher, following Dark Intelligence and War Factory.

A man battles for his life, two AIs vie for supremacy and a civilization hangs in the balance . . .

Several forces now pursue rogue artificial intelligence Penny Royal, hungry for revenge or redemption. And the Brockle is the most dangerous of all. This criminal swarm-robot AI has escaped its confinement and is upgrading itself, becoming ever more powerful in anticipation of a deadly showdown.

Events also escalate aboard the damaged war factory station where Penny Royal was constructed. Here Thorvald Spear, alien prador, and an assassin drone struggle to stay alive, battling insane AIs and technology gone wild. Then the Weaver arrives - last of the Atheter, resurrected from a race that suicided two million years ago. But what could it contribute to Penny Royal's tortuous plans?

And beyond the war factory a black hole conceals a tantalizing secret which could destroy the Polity. As AIs, humans and prador clash at its boundary, will anything survive their explosive final confrontation?


I've been a fan of the author for years now and to be honest, if there's one thing I know, its that I've never been really disapointed by him as each book gives me cracking storytelling backed up with characters that I not only love to spend time around but cheer as they scrape through each personal struggle whethers its physical or mental.

Here in the final part of the Transformation trilogy you have a tale that is carefully wrapped up, has magical universe building and of course evenly matched opponents vying for supremacy. Its been a top notch journey and when backed with skills that have been hard earned over multiple books all round demonstrates that whilst this is a top rated book that the best is perhaps yet to come from this author. Magical.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Luna 2: Wolf Moon - Ian McDonald

Release Date: 23/03/17
Publisher: Gollancz


Corta Helio, one of the five family corporations that rule the Moon, has fallen. Its riches are divided up among its many enemies, its survivors scattered. Eighteen months have passed.
The remaining Helio children, Lucasinho and Luna, are under the protection of the powerful Asamoahs, while Robson, still reeling from witnessing his parent's violent deaths, is now a ward - virtually a hostage - of Mackenzie Metals. And the last appointed heir, Lucas, has vanished from the surface of the moon.
Only Lady Sun, dowager of Taiyang, suspects that Lucas Corta is not dead, and - more to the point - that he is still a major player in the game. After all, Lucas always was a schemer, and even in death, he would go to any lengths to take back everything and build a new Corta Helio, more powerful than before. But Corta Helio needs allies, and to find them, the fleeing son undertakes an audacious, impossible journey - to Earth.
In an unstable lunar environment, the shifting loyalties and political machinations of each family reach the zenith of their most fertile plots as outright war between the families erupts.


Ian is an author who not only an author who brings books in on time for fans but an author who has managed to create many believable worlds as well as bringing characters that you just love to spend time with.

In this, the second book in the Luna series I loved the way that whilst we think that the more advanced we get the better we become, Ian manages to prove how the nature of mankind is still at the forefront of the detriment of human development. Its a cleverly crafted title, has some great prose and of course characters that feel believable enough for you to care about their fates.

Back this up with a cracking arc and the chance to revisit the lunar wild west and all round I was a more than happy reader. Definitely a guilty pleasure for me and one I'm going to savour with a reread of both titles shortly. Cracking.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

VIDEO GAME REVIEW: Prey - Bethesda

Release Date: 05/05/17
Publisher:  Bethesda


Prey is a first-person sci-fi action game from Arkane Studios, creators of the award-winning Dishonored series. In Prey, you are the first human enhanced with alien powers aboard the Talos I space station. Improvise and innovate as you fight your way through the alien infested station in your search for the truth Cosmonaut Shotgun Starter Pack Pre-order Bonus: Fans who pre-order Prey will receive the exclusive Cosmonaut Shotgun Pack. The pre-order bonus consists of Morgan Yu's family heirloom Margrave shotgun and tools to fight threats aboard Talos I including: three Neuromods players can spend to acquire new abilities, two Medkits, a Fabrication plan to create Shotgun Ammo, a starter kit for building tools and weapons, and a unique upgrade to help players preserve their limited resources


OK, so I'm not the first to get a review up, however to be honest I'd rather get it up later and have had a ton of fun playing it and not having to feel rushed rather than lose a lot from having to speed through which to me means yo u don't get the full flavour.

Prey has a lot going for it, provided you like a lot of the mechanics from the two Dishonored titles (which I do.) The weapons are varied and to be honest my fav was the Huntress Boltcaster, OK it does no damage but as a distractor and a means to hit buttons that I couldn't reach really was a lot of fun.

There's a lot to see, a lot to do and when you can face a lot of surprises from disguised Typhon within atmospheric scenary all round made this a lot of fun for me. Finally add to the mix great sound, solid graphics and a good story all round made me a happy gamer.