Uncanny Collateral by Brian McClellan – Review

Cover- Uncanny Collateral

Published: April 2, 2019

Publisher: Brian McClellan

Series: Valkyrie Collections #1

Genre: Fantasy – Urban

Pages: 151 (ebook)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Synopsis:

Alek Fitz is a reaper, a collection agent who works for the supernatural elements of the world, tracking down debtors and solving problems for clients as diverse as the Lords of Hell, vampires, Haitian loa, and goblins. He’s even worked for the Tooth Fairy on occasion. Based out of Cleveland, Ohio, Alek is the best in the game. As a literal slave to his job, he doesn’t have a choice.

When Death comes looking for someone to track down a thief, Alek is flung into a mess of vengeful undead, supernatural bureaucracy, and a fledgling imp war. As the consequences of failure become dire, he has few leads, and the clock is ticking. Only with the help of his friend Maggie—an ancient djinn with a complex past—can he hope to recover the stolen property, save the world, and just maybe wring a favor out of the Great Constant himself.

It’s a hell of a job, but somebody’s got to do it . . .


I’m a huge fan of Brian McClellan’s books and this is one I’ve had hanging out for awhile on my Kindle. I actually forgot I had it amongst all the other books on there… Anyway, it was a great short read, perfect for a crappy January weekend. 

This is quite different than his Powder Mage books that most of us know him by but that’s why I wanted to read it!! It’s really cool urban fantasy with a great premise! Alex Fitz is a collection agent for overdue souls. Yeah, people have sold their souls and managed to hang on to them longer than agreed up so he shows up and collects them. He’s a tough dude, being part troll and all and he’s got some wicked Viking-esque tattoos and a ring with a djinn inside. The people he’s collecting from definitely think he’s worse than the IRS.

The aforementioned ‘great premise’ is basically this- Death shows up looking for someone to help out with a little problem. Okay, a big problem that happens to be a bunch of missing souls. Now this is throwing off things in his realm and the accounts are unbalanced and things are going from bad to worse and it would be awkward if the supernatural police force were to get involved. This is where poor Alex gets brought in – he’s ordered by his boss/owner to take care of things. It’s a tough job and he really just wants a little break, but the payout from Death could be pretttty good and maybe answer a few lingering questions he has about his past.

All in all, this was a quick, action packed book that left me wanting more. Fortunately, there is a sequel called Blood Tally that will be available soon! As in February 11 soon! If you need some more urban fantasy in your life you should give this a whirl. It’s quality stuff and would be a great way to try out the sub-genre.

Stacking the Shelves: 12/21/19

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly (or in my case monthly) meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews and it’s all about sharing the books you’ve added to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. You can include books you buy in a physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts, and of course ebooks!


Received for Review:

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Orbit has been very good to me since my last Stacking the Shelves post and (unless otherwise specified) all these great looking books are from them! If only I could take off a week and do nothing but read!

The Light of All That Falls by James Islington

After what feels like forever, the finale to the Licanius trilogy has arrived! It’s a monster of a book and I do hope I can get to it soon.

Blood of Empire by Brian McClellan

This was another of my most anticipated books (and series finales) of the year. I loved Blood of Empire and have already reviewed it – click on the link above to check it out.

Legacy of Ash by Matthew  Ward

And this lovely chunker has been released in digital format, but the paperback print format will be out in April 2020. This is the beginning of a new fantasy trilogy that has great reviews!

The Ranger of Marzanna by Jon Skovron

This sounds like it’s going to be a great book with a strong theme of sibling rivalry. I love the cover and was so excited to receive an ARC!

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Bright Steel by Miles Cameron

This is another one I’ve already read and will have a review up soonish. There are SO many series finales in this haul which is pretty awesome. This was a good one with a satisfying conclusion.

Crownbreaker by Sebastien de Castell

What will Kellen and Reichis do in this final book of the Spellslinger series? Will the shadowblack overtake Kellen? Will Reichis get to eat all the biscuits he wants?

Where Gods Fear to Go by Angus Watson

WOW ANOTHER SERIES FINALE. I guess all the authors were trying to wrap things up before the end of the decade. I’m very excited to check this out and see what happens in the West of West.

Wyntertide by Andrew Caldecott

This is the second book in the Rotherweird series. I felt the first book worked well enough as a standalone, so I’m not in a huge hurry to get around to this, but at the same time I’m intrigued. Many thanks to Jo Fletcher Books for the finished copy.

Walk the Wild with Me by Rachel Atwood

This was a lovely arrival from DAW that I had previously featured after getting an eARC. You can check out my review HERE.

The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White

I’ve been so excited for this and received an eARC right before it was released. Thanks to Delacorte Press.

Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett

I loved Foundryside and am STOKED to check this out! Thanks to Del Rey Books for the eARC!

The Sin in the Steel by Ryan van Loan

With a description featuring pirate queens and describing the two characters as being like Holmes and Watson I immediately snagged a copy of this. It sounds fantastic, though it won’t be out until July and it doesn’t even have a cover yet.

My Purchases:

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I won’t go into detail on the individual books, but these are from the various book boxes I’ve been trying out. I love the exclusive editions that these come with – altered covers, sprayed edges, and interior dust jacket art galore!

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These are two books I’ve had my eye on for awhile and decided to pick them up after Thanksgiving. The Flavor Bible is a great reference for what flavors pair well together and Gran Cocina Latina is a monstrous cookbook full of recipes from the length and breadth of South and Central America.

And, finally, here are all the audiobooks I’ve picked up since mid-October. I’ve had such a wealth of new books to listen to and they’ve all been great so far!

Blood of Empire by Brian McClellan – Review

Cover- Blood of Empire

Published: December 2, 2019

Publisher: Orbit Books

Series: Gods of Blood & Powder #3

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 592 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

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

Synopsis:

As the final battle approaches a sellsword, a spy, and a general must find unlikely and dangerous allies in order to turn the tides of war in this epic fantasy tale of magic and gunpowder by acclaimed author Brian McClellan.

The Dynize have unlocked the Landfall Godstone, and Michel Bravis is tasked with returning to Greenfire Depths to do whatever he can to prevent them from using its power; from sewing dissension among the enemy ranks to rallying the Palo population.

Ben Styke’s invasion of Dynize is curtailed when a storm scatters his fleet. Coming ashore with just twenty lancers, he is forced to rely on brains rather than brawn – gaining new allies in a strange land on the cusp of its own internal violence.

Bereft of her sorcery and physically and emotionally broken, Lady Vlora Flint now marches on Landfall at the head of an Adran army seeking vengeance against those who have conspired against her. While allied politicians seek to undo her from within, she faces insurmountable odds and Dynize’s greatest general.


Blood of Empire is by far one of my most anticipated books of 2019 and it 100% lived up to my expectations. There’s nothing better than the conclusion of a series being both satisfying and awesome, particularly one that’s had such extensive world building. The Powder Mage Trilogy was stellar, so upon the announcement of a second trilogy following many of our favorite characters decades later, I was happier than a kid in a candy shop. To have the Gods of Blood and Powder trilogy turn out just as powerfully as the Powder Mage books pleases me immensely as a reader! 

Wrath of Empire left some characters about to enter rather precarious situations and Blood of Empire saw them leaping headfirst into them. Ben Styke, Ka-Poel, and the Mad Lancers were speedily headed for Dynize in an attempt to secure the third godstone. Imagine their surprise when they arrive and find that it’s been found and is in quite a populous area. Madness ensues. Vlora is powder-blind and Olem-less and she’s near to the point of breaking as a result of the two. This made for some rather harrowing chapters, as she lacks the enhancements that made her nigh invincible on the field of battle and she must rely on others to take the big risks. Michel Bravis, former Blackhat and still a spy, was surprisingly one of my favorite characters in the series. His character growth (and change) was impressive and well, he’s a pretty tough dude and is ALWAYS in over his head.

This was a dramatic conclusion with plenty of action, treachery, and epic moments where I couldn’t help but cheer for the characters. I loved that we got to see inside Dynize culture and it really helped flesh out the story even more. We got bits of that in the second book where Michel became part of a household, but the characters being in Dynize was another level. I loved those chapters – so much dirty politicking!! I have one quibble with the whole book and it’s that the ending felt rather hurried, though on the other hand, it was nice to just one shot the bad guy without dragging the whole thing out. I had to go back and re-read that particular section just to make sure I hadn’t misread something. Nonetheless, it was satisfying and the number of epilogue chapters was fantastic – it answered things, though left room for you to imagine how lives might play out in this new world.

My overall opinion of this series is beyond positive and I can’t recommend it enough. This world Brian McClellan has so lovingly constructed for his readers ranks as one of my all-time favorites in terms of creativity, culture, and character. It’s quite something and has made me seek out other “flintlock fantasies” to fill the void in between reading his books. 

Stacking the Shelves: 9/22/18

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews and it’s all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. You can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!


Received for Review:

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The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner

This is absolutely the loveliest cover and the story sounds like a great fairytale. 10/10 anticipation – will be reading soon. Thanks to Redhook for the finished copy.

Timeless by R.A. Salvatore

Well, I’ve never read any R.A. Salvatore, so I guess this will be a first. Fortunately this is the beginning of a new Drizzt series. Many thanks to Harper Voyager for the surprise mail.

Port of Shadows by Glen Cook

What fantasy fan would pass up the opportunity to read new Glen Cook??? I never thought I’d read a new Black Company book after finishing the original series so I’m very excited for this. Thanks to Tor for the finished copy.

Arabella the Traitor of Mars by David D. Levine

I’ve had this book for weeks now and sadly haven’t gotten to it yet! This is such a cool steampunk space-faring series and I can’t wait to catch up. Thanks to Tor for the finished copy.

Priest of Bones by Peter McLean

I’ve been looking forward to reading this for awhile now and I binge read it as soon as it showed up in the mail. Can’t wait to share a review in a week or so. Thanks to Ace for the finished copy.

Charmcaster by Sebastien de Castell

I LOVE these books and I’m glad Orbit has been releasing them in quick succession. Thank you to Orbit for the finished copy.

War Cry by Brian McClellan

Novella by Brian McClellan? Sign me up. A review of this can be found HERE. Thanks to Tor.com and Netgalley for the eARC.

City of Broken Magic by Mirah Bolender

Tor has been rolling out awesome looking books this season! The synopsis for this one is awesome and I hope to get to this one sooner rather than later. Thanks for the eARC Tor!

My Purchases:

Acheron by Sherrilyn Kenyon and All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders were both freebies I picked up during the monthly Tor book promos they’ve been doing. I love the chance to read book I might not have otherwise purchased for myself.

I also picked up several audiobooks since my last Stacking the Shelves, most of which I’ve finished at this point so keep an eye out for reviews. I picked up Interview with a Vampire just to see why it’s considered a cult classic – yuck. I also picked up Smoke and Iron, The City of Brass, and Escaping from Houdini.

In addition, I used my Audible Originals credits (a new feature!) to get The X-Files: Cold Cases by Joe Harris and Emma by Jane Austen.

War Cry by Brian McClellan – Review

Cover- War Cry

Published: August 28, 2018

Publisher: Tor.com

Series: Standalone

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 112 (Kindle Edition)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

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

Synopsis:

On the high plains, war is life.

Teado has been a part of the war effort for as long as he can remember. His childhood was spent in the aircraft and ammunition factories until his power manifested. Now he is on the front lines, fighting the great war as one of the monstrous shapeshifting wizards that are all but extinct after decades of battle.

Behind enemy lines, Teado’s special operations platoon plays a deadly game of cat and mouse, sabotaging and demoralizing the enemy. But food is scarce. The enemy has pushed their main forces back further and their requests for resupply have gone unanswered. They will make one last dangerous bid for survival and, maybe, change the course of the war forever.


I find that most novellas, while entertaining, just don’t quite satisfy like a full length novel. In some ways that is just as true in the case of War Cry. From what I can find, this is a standalone so it isn’t going to give you the same depth as if it were going to be a series or if it were an addendum to a larger world that already existed like the Powder Mage novellas. But that’s ok and here’s why.

War Cry is fascinating stuff – it’s set in a world that’s is technologically equivalent to World War II but with the added bonus of magic. The magic isn’t particularly unique and features shapeshifters, illusionists, and fire summoners though it was really interesting to see how McClellan incorporated types of magic users into the more modern warfare. The story itself was extremely gripping and I actually really liked the characters from the beginning. The nature of novellas is that the reader is dropped into a situation with pretty minimal explanation of the world and current events, but in this case it wasn’t a big deal.

War Cry may be one of the best novellas I’ve read and I would absolutely read a full length series set in this world. I have so many questions that I need answered! I read this in a single sitting because it clocks in at a mere 112 pages, so I would pick this up in digital format (personal preference).

Wrath of Empire by Brian McClellan – Review

Cover- Wrath of Empire

Published: May 15, 2018

Publisher: Orbit Books

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Gods of Blood and Powder #2

Pages: 656 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

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

Synopsis:

The country is in turmoil. With the capital city occupied, half a million refugees are on the march, looking for safety on the frontier, accompanied by Lady Flint’s soldiers. But escaping war is never easy, and soon the battle may find them, whether they are prepared or not.

Back in the capital, Michel Bravis smuggles even more refugees out of the city. But internal forces are working against him. With enemies on all sides, Michael may be forced to find help with the very occupiers he’s trying to undermine.

Meanwhile, Ben Styke is building his own army. He and his mad lancers are gathering every able body they can find and searching for an ancient artifact that may have the power to turn the tides of war in their favor. But what they find may not be what they’re looking for.


Without a doubt, Wrath of Empire was one of my most anticipated books of 2018. I absolutely loved the return to the Powder Mage world in Sins of Empire and knew this would be a stellar follow up. Hands down, this book was at least equivalent to Sins of Empire and as soon as I finished reading I started checking on the status of the third book. 10/10 would read again. And again, but definitely in audio because Christian Rodska has a gloriously perfect voice for these characters.

Since the Dynize invasion of Fatrasta the focus has narrowed to fighting the Dynize and finding the godstones, meaning the vendettas and strife from the first book have subsided somewhat (though I doubt they’ve entirely disappeared in some cases). Vlora and Ben Styke have coordinated their efforts and are searching after the godstones while Michel Bravis has remained in occupied Landfall and is searching for an informant called Mara. This is as bare bones as I can make the plot – Brian McClellan has woven and intricate, adrenaline roiling story and I won’t do it any justice by trying to explain it here. Rest assured, it was fantastic and I simultaneously wanted to get to the end as quickly as possible and wanted it to never end. I feel like that’s one of the best compliments I can give to a book because it indicates that the story is 100% gripping from beginning to end AND that something about it, whether it’s the characters or the plot or something else entirely, make the reader not want to let go. I most definitely considered going back and re-reading Sins of Empire as soon as I finished this one, but I really need to keep to a schedule.

Wrath of Empire provides the reader with a broader view of Fatrasta than was provided in Sins of Empire, and this is largely due to the fact that our characters are now on the move. Vlora and the Riflejacks are headed north, towards a mountainous region wiith a thriving gold mining community – can you say wild west vibes? Styke and his Mad Lancers are headed towards the coast with Ka-poel in search of the other stone and stopping along the way to settle old scores. Did I mention that I love little Celine? She helps to humanize Styke by being the daughter he never had, making for some really touching moments between the two. Michel has the privilege of remaining in Landfall and fulfilling his role as a supporter of the Red Hand, aka Taniel, which leads him into something of a pickle. He’s a terribly interesting character, though I couldn’t begin to pick a favorite here as each of the POV characters is phenomenally written and not at all dull.

This book had me so full of emotion by the end – particularly during the final chapters of Vlora’s POV. The adrenaline was flowing and I thought my head might pop off – dude, she is so awesome. Those that think the fantasy genre lacks strong women have clearly never read Brian McClellan’s books. These ladies crush it. Also, I had an AWWW YISSSS moment when a few familiar faces from the Powder Mage trilogy show up. All this being said, I highly recommend this book, this series, this author. If you liked the Powder Mage trilogy, check out Sins of Empire because it’s a spot on winner, and it may still be on sale in eBook format! If you like a bit of military with your fantasy, unique forms of magic, and/or ton of action you might just like this. I’ll be (im)patiently waiting for the release of the third book, which I hope will be released around this time next year.

Stacking the Shelves: 5/12/18

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews and it’s all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. You can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!


Received for Review: 

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Wrath of Empire by Brian McClellan

This is definitely one of my most anticipated sequels of the year and I’m absolutely DEVOURING this book. It’s so good and I’m super grateful that the folks at Orbit sent this over!

A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising by Raymond A. Villareal

I don’t know too much about this book beyond the synopsis, but it sounds pretty wild. I think it will be a fun read and a nice break from heavy, serious fantasy. Thanks to Mulholland Books for sending a finished copy.

By Fire Above by Robyn Bennis

I enjoyed the first book in this series and am looking forward to checking out the sequel soon. Airships and battles oh my! Thanks to Tor Books for sending a finished copy.

The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn by Tyler Whitesides

This book gives me Locke Lamora vibes and if it’s half as good as that, it will be a good book indeed. Thanks to Orbit for the ARC.

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

RBJ has a new fantasy series coming out in late summer and I was fortunate to snag an eGalley of it! Foundryside promises to be an exciting new adventure and I expect it will be as unique as the Divine Cities trilogy.

Eden Conquered by Joelle Charbonneau

I TOTALLY missed that this was even coming out next month! I really liked the first book, Dividing Eden, and hope the quality remains. Thanks to Edelweiss and HarperTeen for the eGalley.

My Purchases:

The Empire’s Ghost by Isabelle Steiger

I really wanted to read this book when it released last year, but didn’t have the opportunity – that’s what Audible credits are for! This was a pretty good book and I’ll be posting a review in the near future.

Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan

Another audiobook purchase – decided to check it out before watching the tv series. It honestly was pretty boring, but I’ll check out the tv show anyway. Review forthcoming.

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

I decided to snag the audiobook after seeing so many glowing reviews for this book. I’ve already started listening and I’m hooked already!!!

A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas

I almost forgot I bought this!!! It arrived and I read it in a single sitting. It’s under 300 pages and is supposed to be a bridge between the first three books and the next arc of the series. Review forthcoming.

Currently Reading: 5/7/18

Cover- Wrath of Empire

Wrath of Empire by Brian McClellan

I’m actually putting some other reading on hold because I’m so excited to start this book. I have high hopes that Wrath of Empire will be just as fantastic as the first in this new trilogy and just…. EEEEEK!!!! MUCH ANTICIPATION.

 

Speaking of putting other reading down… I’m really struggling to get into 84K by Claire North and will be putting it on hold for the moment. I’m about 100 pages in and will try to go at least another 100 before making any final judgement calls.

Top 5 Reviews of 2017

Now that 2017 has essentially come to a close for much of the world, I figured I’d go ahead and share the 5 reviews that received the most views on my blog this year.

5. The Holver Alley Crew by Marshall Ryan Maresca – 87 views

4. Free the Darkness by Kel Kade – 91 views

3. Red Sister by Mark Lawrence – 96 views

2. Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan – 112 views

1.  Sins of Empire by Brian McClellan – 358 views