Knee-Deep in Grit by Adrian Collins and Mike Myers (Editors) – Review

Cover- Knee Deep in Grit

Published: June 30, 2018

Publisher: Grimdark Magazine

Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction

Series: Standalone

Pages: 380 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

Get knee-deep in grit with twenty-five grimdark sci-fi and fantasy short stories from the shadowy vaults of Grimdark Magazine. The top names in dark speculative fiction and the genre’s brightest newcomers bring you stories of war, betrayal, violence, and greed, as anti-heroes and adversaries fight to the bittersweet end.

For the first time, the first two years of fiction from Grimdark Magazine are printed on dead trees and bound together like captive slaves to be read or reread and proudly placed among your favourite tomes on your bookshelf.


I’ve only read a few (like 2) anthologies and as such I’m not really sure how I want to rate this one. I don’t have much to compare it to, so I suppose I’ll babble about it for a few paragraphs like I do for everything else. Knee-Deep in Grit is a collection of all the short stories featured in Grimdark Magazine since its genesis two years previous. You don’t need prior knowledge of any of the author’s works to be entertained by the stories and, as a matter of fact, it may lead you to try out some of the authors.

There is a wide variety of stories here, from scifi to fantasy, but all are considered to be grimdark fiction. Some of my favorites included At the Walls of Sinnlos, A Recipe for Corpse Oil, and Viva Longevicus though I liked most all of them. I definitely want to read more by Michael R. Fletcher though I’m not sure when I’ll find the time – perhaps I’ll have to try out the audio format of his books. I have to say that Viva Longevicus was super creepy because, well, mutant rats were taking over planets in a meat starved vermin horde. So yeah, that’s pretty terrifying. Some of the stories are a little creepy, others just plain dark, but there’s something for everyone who enjoys the darker side of fiction.

Overall I thought Knee-Deep in Grit was a great way to try out some new authors and get an idea as to what to expect from future issues of,Grimdark Magazine. I’ll definitely make a point to check it out more often now that I’ve had a taste! Additionally, I’ll also be adding several of these authors to my watch list so I can keep up with any new releases they might be putting out!

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Waiting on Wednesday: The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme originally hosted on Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. This is a great way to share upcoming released you’re excited about!


Cover- The Ruin of Kings

The Ruin of Kings is a shiny new fantasy series that I saw previewed on Tor.com yesterday, so it seemed the perfect book to feature as my WoW. First of all, I like the dragon on the cover – it looks fearsome. Secondly, we have a long-lost prince that may end up destroying the kingdom. Count me in. I hope he’s actually a villain because I don’t want him to destroy the kingdom because he’s alive and a prophecy said he would – I WANT AGENCY! Anyway, this sounds pretty interesting and I’ll be eagerly awaiting it’s February 2019 release!

Currently Reading: 6/25/18

Cover- Year One

Year One by Nora Roberts

Listen, I’ve never read a Nora Roberts books before because she doesn’t usually write fantasy type stuff so I can make no comparisons here. I’m a little way into the audiobook and it’s pretty great so far. You talk about some serious emotions at the beginning- totally heart crushing stuff!

 

Cover- The Grey Bastards

The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French

I started reading this one last week during my lunch breaks and it’s pretty good so far. I can’t explain it, but I’m kind of getting Mad Max vibes from the setting. It’s kind of awesome, and besides orcs (or half-orcs) are never the main characters! Also, the independently published cover is way cooler than the new one, so I’m featuring the good one.

 

Cover- Empire of Silence

Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruocchio

This book sounds like Rome in space, so I’m moving this forward in the reading queue. Can’t wait to dig into this one in the evenings – it’s way to big to fit in my purse and lug to work.

The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn by Tyler Whitesides – Review

Cover- The Thousand Deaths

Published: May 15, 2018

Publisher: Orbit Books

Series: Ardor Benn #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 784 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

“I’m hiring you to steal the king’s crown.”

Ardor Benn is no ordinary thief. Rakish, ambitious, and master of wildly complex heists, he styles himself a Ruse Artist Extraordinaire.

When a priest hires him for the most daring ruse yet, Ardor knows he’ll need more than quick wit and sleight of hand. Assembling a dream team of forgers, disguisers, schemers, and thieves, he sets out to steal from the most powerful king the realm has ever known.

But it soon becomes clear there’s more at stake than fame and glory -Ard and his team might just be the last hope for human civilization.


The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn is one of those fantasy books that just hits ALL the right marks. I mean seriously, the magic system is based on dragon poop. Dragons are fed things, they poop it out, and people collect the contents, process it into something called grit and use it to light their homes, blow things up, and summon powerful god-like beings. Oh yeah, it’s also a heist book that’s nearly on par with The Lies of Locke Lamora. If those two factors don’t sell you on this book, then I might be doing this whole review thing totally wrong… or perhaps you don’t read fantasy (why are you here then?).

This is a book that starts one of those action packed scenes that immediately draws you in, despite not understanding characters, plot, magic system etc. Following the epic introductory scene, all of these details begin to unfold – you learn more about Ardor, Raek, Quarrah, and Isle Halavend, the substance known as grit, and the worldbuilding. Essentially, Ardor and Raek are hired by a priest (Isle Halavend) to steal the royal Regalia, which is this fancy headgear and robe get-up made out of dragon eggshells. Why do this? The priest wants them to make Visitant grit, which when activated will summon a Paladin Visitant who will theoretically save the world from the spreading moonsickness. There’s considerably more to the plot than that (subplots, actual details) but I’m not here to summarize it for you, I’m here to review it so you can decide to read or not to read.

One of my favorite parts of this book was the infiltration of the palace by elaborate disguise and false identity. Quarrah simultaneously cracked me up and made me terribly nervous because she would say some wild stuff and was clearly out of her element. She was a burglar, not ruse artist like Ardor who could talk his way out of almost anything. I also liked Isle Halavend’s POV much more than I expected. He was uncovering all these deep dark secrets of the Wayfarist religion as well as government cover-ups and I was constantly waiting for him to get busted or slip up. I did think parts of this book strongly mirrored The Lies of Locke Lamora, but overall it was different enough that I didn’t mind. It’s almost like paying homage to one of my favorite fantasy books ever written and I’ll absolutely recommend this book to those who are looking for something similar.

I loved the magic system – the use of Grit for everything from thievery to lighting lamps to summoning a flaming religious figure is just way cool. I thought it was explained and used well throughout the book and never really felt that there was an infodump with all of the details – it was explained organically through use. There is a glossary at the end with further details if you need a refresher. For the most part, the setting isn’t all that memorable. It’s much more focused on plot and character than describing the intricate scrollwork above the palace doors, so in that respect it was a little flat, but at the same time this book was already long enough without that extra detail. Some of the bigger plot points that were probably intended to evoke a strong emotion mostly didn’t do so. Like, I never wanted to weep but I was going “OH NOOO” on the inside so it definitely doesn’t compete with Scott Lynch’s books in that respect (they made me want to baby cry on several occasions). Overall, this was a great debut novel and a series that I’ll be continuing on with and I think future books will only get better!

Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky – Review

Cover- Children of Time

Published: June 4, 2015

Publisher: PanMacmillan

Series: Standalone

Genre: Science Fiction

Pages: 600 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

Synopsis:

A race for survival among the stars… Humanity’s last survivors escaped earth’s ruins to find a new home. But when they find it, can their desperation overcome its dangers?

WHO WILL INHERIT THIS NEW EARTH?

The last remnants of the human race left a dying Earth, desperate to find a new home among the stars. Following in the footsteps of their ancestors, they discover the greatest treasure of the past age – a world terraformed and prepared for human life.

But all is not right in this new Eden. In the long years since the planet was abandoned, the work of its architects has borne disastrous fruit. The planet is not waiting for them, pristine and unoccupied. New masters have turned it from a refuge into mankind’s worst nightmare.

Now two civilizations are on a collision course, both testing the boundaries of what they will do to survive. As the fate of humanity hangs in the balance, who are the true heirs of this new Earth?


SPIDERS.

SPIDER PLANET.

THERE IS A PLANET FULL OF SENTIENT SPIDERS.

THEY HAVE A LEGIT SOCIETY, WITH RELIGION, TECHNOLOGY, WAR, CULTURE, EVERYTHING.

I LOVED THEM AND I DON’T LIKE SPIDERS.

Oh yeah, there are also humans who occasionally wake up from deep cryo-sleep and they blast around the universe searching for habitable planets, because Earth was destroyed and they’re the last humans.

But really, who cares about their petty dramas when we can have a multi-generational spider-verse that’s way cooler than many other ”unique” societies in sci-fi and fantasy books?

In all reality, the human POVs in this book are for the most part very interesting as well, but for vastly different reasons. These humans are on a giant colony ship that is headed towards the spider planet (Kernsworld) in hopes of finding a habitable planet for the scraggly remnants of the human species. What they don’t expect to find is a highly territorial and definitely insane AI/human nightmare that wants nothing more than to blast them to smithereens to prevent any corruption of this experimental world. They reach an impasse and the humans carry on towards another planet only to come full circle in the end. This portion follows a fairly standard plot with some exciting additions like mutiny, religious cults, and wannabe immortals.

The spiders are way cooler. This book follows them from the introduction of a virus that causes them to evolve at an unnaturally rapid pace through to a highly advanced state. The fact that you can go along with their species and society evolving is what makes this portion so darn fascinating. I loved it! There’s warfare against the ants, plague, religious factions… basically it’s a world history, but it zeroes in on a few select spideys in each generation, all of which are descendants of the first spiders to have acquired the virus.

Children of Time is only my second Adrian Tchaikovsky book and it’s so vastly different from the other that I can’t begin to compare them. Needless to say, he has a way to make you feel for characters and high quality writing to boot. I’ve got a third book by him queued up for the near future and can’t wait to see how that compares!

Waiting on Wednesday: Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme originally hosted on Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. This is a great way to share upcoming released you’re excited about!


Cover- Empire of Sand

Empire of Sand sounds like such a fantastic debut novel and I can’t wait to read this! I was lucky enough to get an eGalley from Orbit and might read this a little sooner than it’s November release. The synopsis promises magic, an exciting culture, and a glorious empire full of personal agendas! The few early reviews are very positive and can’t wait to share my opinion as well!

The Mermaid by Christina Henry – Review

Cover- The Mermaid

Published: June 19, 2018

Publisher: Berkley

Series: Standalone

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 336 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

Once there was a mermaid who longed to know of more than her ocean home and her people. One day a fisherman trapped her in his net but couldn’t bear to keep her. But his eyes were lonely and caught her more surely than the net, and so she evoked a magic that allowed her to walk upon the shore. The mermaid, Amelia, became his wife, and they lived on a cliff above the ocean for ever so many years, until one day the fisherman rowed out to sea and did not return.

P. T. Barnum was looking for marvelous attractions for his American Museum, and he’d heard a rumor of a mermaid who lived on a cliff by the sea. He wanted to make his fortune, and an attraction like Amelia was just the ticket.

Amelia agreed to play the mermaid for Barnum, and she believes she can leave any time she likes. But Barnum has never given up a money-making scheme in his life, and he’s determined to hold on to his mermaid.


The Mermaid was a lovely book that basically just made me hate P.T. Barnum. He was such an inconsiderate, money-hungry turd and I felt bad for his associates, his family, and Amelia who became his resident mermaid. That aside, I think the first paragraph of the synopsis is enough to catch a potential reader’s attention. Plus, don’t you want to know why this book made me dislike Barnum so much?

The Mermaid was a really good book and the beginning was really touching. I loved that a mermaid came out of the ocean for curiosity and loneliness and actually fell in love and had a good experience. Her fisherman husband loved the sea just as much as she did and even the villagers protected her fiercely from prying outsiders. It was WHOLESOME. Then Barnum hears rumor of a mermaid along the coast of Maine and sends his rep to bring her back to New York City. Amelia goes of her own accord so she can have money to travel the world and see what the land has to offer and Barnum, being the desperate businessman that he is, tries to manipulate her at every opportunity. But Amelia pushes back and she has her own allies (Barnum’s wife included) and her own mind.

I liked getting both Amelia’s and Levi’s (Barnum’s legal assistant, procurement guy) POV. It was nice to see that Levi was sticking up for Amelia and it was a good way to show Levi’s feelings for Amelia. Much better than having it from only Amelia’s side of things. I also really enjoyed the ending of this book as it didn’t turn out the way I thought it would.

Overall, I’d say this book is worth giving a go, especially if mermaids are your mythical thing. I haven’t read any of Christina Henry’s other books, but they seem to have been well received by the general bookish community. I probably will forgo reading her other books, especially since I’ve never cared for Alice in Wonderland and would doubtless not appreciate a retelling nearly as much as I should.

Currently Reading: 6/18/18

Cover- Sufficiently Advanced Magic

Sufficiently Advanced Magic by Andrew Rowe

This has been in my Audible recommendations for months AND it came in 2nd for the SPFBO so I decided to check it out. I realllllly like this book and I’m glad to see a sequel has already been published! I would 100% play a video game based on this book and I would love every second of it.

 

 

Cover- By Fire Above

By Fire Above by Robyn Bennis

I’ve been carrying this book around in my purse for days, so I’m actually going to finish it this week. I enjoyed the first book and expect this one will carry on with the same quality.

Waiting on Wednesday: Seven Blades in Black by Sam Sykes

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme originally hosted on Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. This is a great way to share upcoming released you’re excited about!


Cover- Seven Blades in Black

I’ve never read a Sam Sykes book, but now is probably a good opportunity, right? Seven Blades in Black is his newest forthcoming work and it sounds AMAZING. The main character is one of the most powerful mages and she walks into the wastes, with only weaponry and a list of names belonging to (I’m assuming) those she wants to kill. I admit I’m not a huge fan of the cover, mostly because it looks like a random dude’s face was cut and pasted on, but it’s not a big deal. The book sounds so good that the cover could just have no design whatsoever and I still might buy it. This is scheduled for an early 2019 release date at the moment.

The Oddling Prince by Nancy Springer – Review

Cover- The Oddling Prince

Published: May 15, 2018

Publisher: Tachyon Publications

Series: Standalone

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 288 (Paperback)

My Rating: 3.5/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

In the ancient moors of Scotland, the king of Calidon lies on his deathbed, cursed by a ring that cannot be removed from his finger. When a mysterious fey stranger appears to save the king, he also carries a secret that could tear the royal family apart.

The kingdom’s only hope will lie with two young men raised worlds apart. Aric is the beloved heir to the throne of Calidon; Albaric is clearly of noble origin yet strangely out of place.

The Oddling Prince is a tale of brothers whose love and loyalty to each other is such that it defies impending warfare, sundering seas, fated hatred, and the very course of time itself. In her long-awaited new fantasy novel, Nancy Springer (the Books of Isle series) explores the darkness of the human heart as well as its unceasing capacity for love.


I’ll be honest, The Oddling Prince was mostly a cover based request… It was just so pretty and the synopsis did intrigue me a bit too. I wasn’t sure what to expect going in to this one since I’d seen both rave reviews and others that described it as boring. I can see both sides of the argument here and didn’t feel strongly either way.

Aric a prince in Northern Scotland and his father is laying upon his deathbed, at least until a mysterious stranger rides into the castle yard. This stranger is Albaric, who is a prince of the fae and Aric’s half-brother. Albaric saves the king (his father) from the enchantment put upon him by the slighted fae queen and all should be well. Except it is not. While Aric and Albaric immediately click, their father dislikes Albaric immensely and is hostile to the point of violence in some cases. This book primarily focuses on Aric and Albaric’s growing brotherhood and how they handle their father’s treatment of them and his changed personality since his miraculous recovery.

The Oddling Prince is written in a very classic fantasy style – think a style similar to Tolkein- rather than the more modern prose that most fantasy authors are using. Also, while not lacking in action, it’s certainly not the main focus of this book, which focuses far more on the relationships between our characters. I think these two factors are the biggest reasons why people are less than happy with this book. I personally didn’t mind that there was less action than in many fantasy books and this ended up being a leisurely read. My gripe with this book wasn’t so much the book, but rather Aric’s father. I couldn’t stand his character and felt like he was being a jealous a-hole and super paranoid, especially since both Aric and Albaric were clearly good hearted.

I liked that this book defied my expectations for Aric and Albaric’s meeting. I expected the usual immediate rivalry between the half siblings, but to my pleasant surprise they hit it off and became inseparable. Their interactions tended to be melodramatic at times but it worked with the storytelling. The Oddling Prince had a strong Celtic lore influence and it ended just as strangely as these tales tend to do.

This was a book that I liked but it didn’t grip me the way other books have in the past. That being said, it was well written and quite different from what’s being published in the mainstream fantasy field presently. The ocean scene at the end has quite a few people puzzled, but I thought it was a nice ending and a scene that I would like to see illustrated. This is a great book to break up the monotony of reading the same ol’ stuff all the time, but it definitely won’t be a good fit for everyone.