Waiting on Wednesday: One Dark Window by Rachel Gillig

“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 releases you’re excited about!

I’m excited to see more 2022 releases appearing in my news feed lately – gives me even more great books to look forward to! One Dark Window sounds like a delightfully dark fairytale-like fantasy. The main character joins a quest to save the kingdom from dark magic, but she’s dealing with her own monster (literally) as it tries to overtake her. I am intrigued and will be eagerly awaiting the March 2022 release date!

Currently Reading: 6/21/21

The Maleficent Seven by Cameron Johnston
I couldn’t wait any longer to read this!! I’ve been so excited to get my hands on a copy that I decided to forgo my upcoming July releases and check this out while the enthusiasm is fresh. It sounds like an excellent tale of bad guys saving the world.

An Affair of Poisons by Addie Thorley
I ran out of Audible credits for the month (already) and decided to check out the Audible Plus catalog. This was one of my Waiting on Wednesday features in 2020 (iirc) that I didn’t get to pick up at the time. I don’t know too much about it aside from the fact that the main character is a poisoner and has to team up with the bastard prince. I’m hoping for some YA angst to propel me through the week.

Seven Deaths of an Empire by G.R. Matthews – Review

Published: June 22, 2021

Publisher: Solaris 

Series: Standalone 

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 550 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

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

Synopsis:

A new grimdark fantasy for fans of Anna Smith-Spark, GRR Martin and Mark Lawrence.

The Emperor is dead. Long live the Empire.

General Bordan has a lifetime of duty and sacrifice behind him in the service of the Empire. But with rebellion brewing in the countryside, and assassins, thieves and politicians vying for power in the city, it is all Bordan can do to protect the heir to the throne.

Apprentice Magician Kyron is assigned to the late Emperor’s honour guard escorting his body on the long road back to the capital. Mistrusted and feared by his own people, even a magician’s power may fail when enemies emerge from the forests, for whoever is in control of the Emperor’s body, controls the succession.

Seven lives and seven deaths to seal the fate of the Empire.


Seven Deaths of an Empire is such an appealing title for a book that I couldn’t resist the temptation to pick it up and see what it entailed. The synopsis prepares you for the story, but it doesn’t have the vitality that the entirety of the story holds. It’s also pretty much the fall of the Roman Empire with some magic thrown in for added excitement which is quite awesome. 

As the synopsis so kindly outlines, General Bordan is the aging though well respected leader of the empire’s military. His Emperor has fallen and all he can hope to do is guide the heir and keep them alive until the Emperor’s body and the magical amulet he carried can be returned to the capital. Kyron is an apprentice mage accompanying the Emperor’s body back to the capital from the warfront. He’s learning how the world truly works outside of the safe walls of the capital and honing his magic skills during the somewhat perilous journey. These two characters are the points of view you’ll follow through the story and they have an interesting connection to one another.

The story was definitely a slow burner. It felt like it took a hundred years to get through the first 30%, but after that it really started to pick up and by the end I was wondering if and when there might be a sequel (there will be). General Bordan’s chapters start off with the chaos in the capital as the news of the Emperor’s death arrives and the his son becomes the Emperor-in-waiting. Spoiler alert – the prince is a massively privileged dipshit and I felt genuinely bad for the general. Kyron’s chapters grated on me a little at first, even though they were interesting. He comes off as a whiner for a while and while he doesn’t exactly grow out of that he sort of grows on you. There’s plenty of action, political intrigue, assassination, and several very emotional moments that left me rather speechless. 

While Seven Deaths of an Empire didn’t exactly blow me away, leaving me raving about it for days, I did really enjoy it and found the payoff worthwhile. G.R. Matthews is an author I’ll be keeping my eye on because I’ll be needing news of the next books set in this world, as they necessarily be direct sequels. This sated my thirst for Roman inspired fantasy, military fantasy, and all things remotely political.

Waiting on Wednesday: Age of Ash by Daniel Abraham

“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 releases you’re excited about!

I am unable to resist stories with thieving main characters. Just something about a lovable rogue with kleptomaniacal tendencies keeps me turning pages well into the night and Age of Ash fits that niche perfectly. The synopsis is somewhat vague, but assures that the main character, Alys, has the potential to topple kingdoms with the dangerous information she may acquire. Can’t wait to check this out when it’s released in February 2022!

For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten – Review

Published: June 1, 2021

Publisher: Orbit Books

Series: Wilderwood #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 448 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

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

Synopsis:

The first daughter is for the Throne.
The second daughter is for the Wolf.


For fans of Uprooted and The Bear and the Nightingale comes a dark fantasy novel about a young woman who must be sacrificed to the legendary Wolf of the Wood to save her kingdom. But not all legends are true, and the Wolf isn’t the only danger lurking in the Wilderwood.

As the only Second Daughter born in centuries, Red has one purpose-to be sacrificed to the Wolf in the Wood in the hope he’ll return the world’s captured gods.

Red is almost relieved to go. Plagued by a dangerous power she can’t control, at least she knows that in the Wilderwood, she can’t hurt those she loves. Again.

But the legends lie. The Wolf is a man, not a monster. Her magic is a calling, not a curse. And if she doesn’t learn how to use it, the monsters the gods have become will swallow the Wilderwood-and her world-whole.


I assumed this book would be a Little Red Riding Hood retelling based on the synopsis and cover, but (blessedly) it wasn’t! I’m getting a bit sick of retellings of classic fairytales, but I admit I fall prey to temptation sometimes. For the Wolf is only in the loosest sense inspired by a classic fairytale and that’s mostly based on generic symbolism and naming. 

Redarys is the Second Daughter and as such, she is destined to be sacrificed to the Wolf of the Wilderwood. Red has long ago accepted her fate, if only to protect those dear to her from the burgeoning and deadly magic she carries, so when she turns twenty she gladly readies herself to meet the Wolf. Her twin sister Neverah is less eager to let her sister go and even once Red has gone to the wood, Neve plots to find a way to free her. Red isn’t quite as imprisoned as Neve thinks though, for the Wolf is just a man with an unasked for duty that he must carry out. He is linked to the Wilderwood and struggles to keep the sentinel trees intact and keep the real monsters at bay. Neve’s efforts to free her sister only cause more trouble and reveal the the Five Sleeping Kings are trapped beyond the Wilderwood for a reason. Spoiler alert – it’s not because they were kind and just rulers either. 

I liked that we got POVs of both Red and Neve, given that both are in such different environments and dealing with interesting problems of their own. Neve is trying at all costs to find a way to save her beloved sister without realizing her efforts are hurting her instead. Neve’s desperation leads her to a sect of their religion that is trying to destroy the Wilderwood to free the Kings. Red on the other hand is learning to protect the Wilderwood and getting to know the strange folk that dwell there, for she isn’t the only one to owe a debt. The Wolf is not some fearsome man of legend, but rather a man desperate to fulfill his duty even if that means pushing himself over the edge. I loved the characters, even Neve when she was so clearly being manipulated that it hurt me to read (how could she not see it?). Once I picked it up I was thoroughly engrossed and invested!

I really enjoyed For the Wolf and will now be impatiently awaiting it’s sequel, For the Throne so I can find out what happens next! I expect much doom to be unleashed upon the lands, many gloriously sweet romantic bits, and SUCH TENSION. This might be a new favorite series!

Currently Reading: 6/14/21

Seven Deaths of An Empire by G.R. Matthews
I’ve only just begun reading this and have little idea of what to expect. The emperor is dead and General Bordan must help to secure the heir’s place upon the throne while an apprentice mage has his own POV. It seems Roman inspired and I think it will be a slow yet enjoyable read!

When Jackals Storm the Walls by Bradley P. Beaulieu
This is my grand effort to catch up on this series in time for the release of the sixth and final book in July. The audiobooks are great and bring an already vibrant story to life.

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley – Review

Published: February 12, 2019

Publisher: William Morrow

Series: Standalone

Genre: Mystery

Pages: 336 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 3.5/5.0

Synopsis:

Everyone’s invited…everyone’s a suspect…

For fans of Ruth Ware and Tana French, a shivery, atmospheric, page-turning novel of psychological suspense in the tradition of Agatha Christie, in which a group of old college friends are snowed in at a hunting lodge . . . and murder and mayhem ensue.

All of them are friends. One of them is a killer.

During the languid days of the Christmas break, a group of thirtysomething friends from Oxford meet to welcome in the New Year together, a tradition they began as students ten years ago. For this vacation, they’ve chosen an idyllic and isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands—the perfect place to get away and unwind by themselves.

They arrive on December 30th, just before a historic blizzard seals the lodge off from the outside world.

Two days later, on New Year’s Day, one of them is dead.

The trip began innocently enough: admiring the stunning if foreboding scenery, champagne in front of a crackling fire, and reminiscences about the past. But after a decade, the weight of secret resentments has grown too heavy for the group’s tenuous nostalgia to bear. Amid the boisterous revelry of New Year’s Eve, the cord holding them together snaps.

Now one of them is dead . . . and another of them did it.

Keep your friends close, the old adage goes. But just how close is too close?


Once again, Lucy Foley has written a cast of almost entirely unlikable characters. If you’ve read The Guest List you’ll definitely see some parallels in this book (or vice versa), so the plot didn’t exactly feel fresh to me. With that pointed out, I still found I enjoyed listening to the audiobook because it does keep you guessing and with the highly flawed cast of characters there is no shortage of murder suspects.

A group of college friends from Oxford go on their annual New Year’s eve trip to a remote hunting lodge in the Scottish Highlands. They can’t stop reliving their college glory days, indulge in their own self importance, and are a rather unlikable group of people who can’t seem to remember why they remain friends this many years later. They’ve drifted apart, but this annual trip seems to bring out roles they played in college – popular girl, hot guy, quiet girl, party girl, etc. The only real new blood are the significant others of two of the Oxford clique and the one poor girl is trying so hard to fit in that it’s a bit creepy and desperate. We also get the POV of the lodge’s hunting guide and the lodge manager. They are the most relatable of all the characters and aren’t a bunch of proud jerks – they just get paid well to put up with them. 

As with The Guest List, the story begins almost immediately with the murder after a brief introductory bit. Someone has gone missing and a blizzard has begun, thoroughly cutting off the lodge from civilization and any hopes of a rescue team. The timeline flip flops back and forth a little which helps to introduce the characters a little at a time and also drops hints about who may have been the victim. The style allows the author to peel away layer after layer and reveal each characters biggest vulnerabilities and flaws. I enjoy guessing who murdered who based off each new little piece of information as it’s revealed.

This was an entertaining read, perfect for a lazy vacation day. I did find the plot similarities to The Guest List (which was released most recently) a little lackluster, but it didn’t give away anything. If you loved this book  and loved the style of story and/or characters, then you would probably enjoy The Guest List (or vice versa!) just as much.

The Coward by Stephen Aryan – Review + Online Book Tour

Goodness, it’s been ages since I’ve participated in an online book/blog tour! I had high hopes for The Coward by Stephen Aryan and gladly agreed when Angry Robot Books reached out and asked if I’d like to participate. If you’d like to check out any of the other tour stops the graphic below has over a month’s worth of exciting stops – reviews, author interviews and more!

Published: June 8, 2021

Publisher: Angry Robot Books

Series: Quest for Heroes #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 400 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4.25/5.0

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

Synopsis:

Who will take up the mantle and slay the evil in the Frozen North, saving all from death and destruction? Not Kell Kressia, he’s done his part…

Kell Kressia is a legend, a celebrity, a hero. Aged just seventeen he set out on an epic quest with a band of grizzled fighters to slay the Ice Lich and save the world, but only he returned victorious. The Lich was dead, the ice receded and the Five Kingdoms were safe.

Ten years have passed Kell lives a quiet farmer’s life, while stories about his heroism are told in every tavern across the length and breadth of the land. But now a new terror has arisen in the north. Beyond the frozen circle, north of the Frostrunner clans, something has taken up residence in the Lich’s abandoned castle. And the ice is beginning to creep south once more.

For the second time, Kell is called upon to take up his famous sword, Slayer, and battle the forces of darkness. But he has a terrible secret that nobody knows. He’s not a hero – he was just lucky. Everyone puts their faith in Kell the Legend, but he’s a coward who has no intention of risking his life for anyone…


This is almost a traditional fantasy story, but the main character who’s supposed to be a monster slaying hero is actually just a lucky coward. That whole twist on the eager farm boy trope is what led me to request this in the first place (that and the pretty cover). I couldn’t wait to see what the author would do with this little twist and ultimately, I was delighted with the results.

Kell Kressia was the lone survivor and slayer of the Ice Lich a decade ago and while he may be lauded across the lands as a hero, he feels like anything but. He’s been living out the intervening years on his family farm, tilling the land and sowing his crops, rarely going into town because he just can’t stand the crowds or the attention. The crops aren’t doing so well now, and it’s begun to feel a little, but Kell thinks perhaps it’s just the natural change in weather. Until one of the Kings sends for him and he goes reluctantly to the capitol city for his new mission. He has every intention of making his way north with plenty of money and supplies… and just slipping off into the unknown, never to be heard from again. Until he gets an eager young hanger-on, much like he was ten years ago. He can’t escape his fate (or is it destiny?) so easily now. North he goes with a growing band of companions to see if the source of lingering nightmares has once again returned to the land.

The Coward was what I would consider a classic fantasy story – hero goes to slay a monster – but with the added fun of the hero not wanting to go slay a monster because well, he’s not into dying. I like a reluctant hero and Kell Kressia certainly fits that description. There is more depth to the story than what my brief synopsis explores, so if you like a little bit of kingdom politics then you’ll be pleased to know that’s in the story too. There is a strong religious presence in the kingdoms and they don’t like Kell so much and are determined to have him assassinated. We’ll certainly be seeing more of that in the next book and I’m really looking forward to it!

Overall, I was really pleased with how entertaining The Coward was. The minor characters that get added along the way were fascinating, there was a smidge of romance, a tinge of heartbreak, plenty of action, and so much potential for future books. I’ll definitely be adding Stephen Aryan’s Age of Darkness and Age of Dread trilogies to my audiobook TBR (because that seems to be the only way I can get to older books nowadays).


 

Stephen Aryan is the author of the Age of Darkness and Age of Dread trilogies. His first novel, Battlemage, was a finalist for the David Gemmell Morningstar Award for best debut fantasy novel. It also won the inaugural Hellfest Inferno Award in France. He has previously written a comic book column and reviews for Tor.com. In addition, he has self-published and kickstarted his own comics.

Waiting on Wednesday: Mordew by Alex Pheby

“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 releases you’re excited about!

This is such a strange sounding book that I’ve gone back and re-read the synopsis like four times. Mordew seems like it’s going to be a bizarre story akin to Andrew Caldecott’s Rotherweird books (also the cover art is a bit similar). This is actually (as far as I can tell) already out in the UK, but is being published by Tor Books in the US in September 2021. I’m here for the strangeness! 

*Since it won a literary award it seems to have attracted a large number of non-fantasy readers who didn’t seem to like it much on Goodreads. What exactly were they expecting?

Currently Reading: 6/7/21

The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman
I skipped over requesting an ARC for this book because I was quite overwhelmed with all the other books I had at the time. Fortunately, I can always make time for audiobooks! I don’t know too much about this aside from it having excellent ratings, so I’m gonna discover for myself what all the fuss is about.

The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri
A princess and a priestess unite to overthrow the princess’s brother who imprisoned her. I am INTRIGUED! Plus, it’s set in a world inspired by India and I am here for the atmosphere!