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. 

Currently Reading: 12/2/19

Cover- Master of Sorrows

Master of Sorrows by Justin Call

I’ve had my eye on this book since it was released in the UK earlier this year and now I finally have my hands on it! This won’t be released until February 2020, but I’m trying to get ahead on some of my reading. A boy who could be EVILLLLLL… but will he actually save the world? It sounds quite awesome!

Currently Reading: 11/25/19

Cover- Bright Steel

Bright Steel by Miles Cameron

Wrapping up what has amounted to a fine trilogy this week! I’ve really been enjoying this so far and can’t wait to see how things turn out in the end.

 

 

 

 

Cover- The Rise of Magicks

The Rise of Magicks by Nora Roberts

As soon as this is available for download Tuesday I’m going to start my listen! This is another finale to a trilogy I’ve greatly enjoyed. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy a Nora Roberts book, since I never really associated her with the fantasy genre and didn’t know much about her books (thought she wrote romance). I’ve been pleasantly surprised and hope this ends with a bang!

Waiting on Wednesday: The Ranger of Marzanna by Jon Skovron

“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 Ranger of Marzanna

This COVER! The Ranger of Marzanna has a cover that embodies all the things that ten-year-old me loved and that current me still loves. I am such a sucker for the flowing fantasy steed that will surely carry its rider through danger. I’ve not read Jon Skovron’s books before (lack of time) but I will certainly be making time for this lovely, chunky book. Goodreads shows that it will have over 500 pages and I’m for ice trekking ranger chicks, over-powered magic users, and more RUSSIAN INSPIRED FANTASY! The Ranger of Marzanna will be released in April 2020.

Shield of the People by Marshall Ryan Maresca – Review

Cover- Shield of the People

Published: October 29, 2019

Publisher: DAW

Series: Maradaine Elite #2

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 400 (Paperback)

My Rating: 3.5/5.0

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

Synopsis:

The second novel in the Maradaine Elite series blends fast-paced high fantasy and political intrigue.

After stopping Tharek Pell and saving the Druth Parliament, Dayne Heldrin and Jerinne Fendall find themselves on the margins of the Tarian Order: lauded as heroes in public but scorned and ignored in private, their future in the Order hazy. Dayne is given an assignment that isolates him from the Order, and Jerinne is hazed and bullied at the bottom of the initiate rankings.

But it’s a grand holiday week in the city of Maradaine, celebrating over two centuries of freedom and the foundation of the reunified modern nation, and with that comes parades, revelry… and protests and demonstrations. A dissident group called The Open Hand–and their mysterious, charismatic leader, Bishop Ret Issendel–seeks to disrupt the Parliament elections with their message of secession and dissolution.

Despite orders to stay out of the public eye, Dayne and Jerinne are drawn into the intrigue of the Open Hand and kept apart by dark powerful conspiracies that brew around them. Dayne and Jerinne must fight for their own principles, and protect the will of the people as the election is thrown into chaos.


Shield of the People is the second installment in the Maradaine Elite series. I’ve been a fan of the Maradaine universe since I picked up A Murder of Mages a few years back. It’s quite a work of art and has been built so caringly and in such detail! I was quite excited to get my hands on the latest series, focusing on the Tarian Order. 

Dayne Heldrin had his dreams somewhat crushed after the first book and he’s taken on a new post away from the Order’s headquarters. Jerinne Fendall and her reputation both were somewhat battered after the first book and with her damaged leg she is struggling with training. Both she and Dayne are so determined nothing will keep them down for long! Dayne is such a goodie two-shoes that I end up liking Jerinne’s POV so much better. She’s interesting – she has doubts and I think has a more realistic worldview than Dayne. 

The plot has plentiful action, but I wasn’t invested in it. I didn’t really care what happened and there were a few times that I found myself checking to see how many pages were left. Overall this missed my expectations, though not by much. I knew going in to this installment that I didn’t like these characters or their plot arc as much as those in the other Maradaine series. Now don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t a bad book it just wasn’t for me and I’m also comparing it to the other books in the series. These characters are more interesting when interacting with, for example, Satrine and Minox.

Currently Reading: 11/18/19

Cover- Novice Dragoneer

Novice Dragoneer by E.E. Knight

Girl goes to dragoneer school so she can ride a dragon. PERFECT. I’m really excited to start reading this lovely book and hope it lives up to all the good review I’ve seen on Goodreads!

 

 

 

Cover- The Wolf's Call

The Wolf’s Call by Anthony Ryan

I was so backed up on reading earlier this year that I just never got around to reading this before it’s release date. I’ve had an excess of Audible credits and decided it was high time I checked this one out. I did forget that the narrator NEVER changes his voice and always sounds the same – is it a male or female character speaking? You’ll never know…

Highfire by Eoin Colfer – Review

Cover- Highfire

Published: January 28, 2020

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Series: Standalone

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 384 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

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

Synopsis:

From the New York Times bestselling author of the Artemis Fowl series comes a hilarious and high-octane adult novel about a vodka-drinking, Flashdance-loving dragon who lives an isolated life in the bayous of Louisiana—and the raucous adventures that ensue when he crosses paths with a fifteen-year-old troublemaker on the run from a crooked sheriff.

In the days of yore, he flew the skies and scorched angry mobs—now he hides from swamp tour boats and rises only with the greatest reluctance from his Laz-Z-Boy recliner. Laying low in the bayou, this once-magnificent fire breather has been reduced to lighting Marlboros with nose sparks, swilling Absolut in a Flashdance T-shirt, and binging Netflix in a fishing shack. For centuries, he struck fear in hearts far and wide as Wyvern, Lord Highfire of the Highfire Eyrie—now he goes by Vern. However…he has survived, unlike the rest. He is the last of his kind, the last dragon. Still, no amount of vodka can drown the loneliness in his molten core. Vern’s glory days are long gone. Or are they?

A canny Cajun swamp rat, young Everett “Squib” Moreau does what he can to survive, trying not to break the heart of his saintly single mother. He’s finally decided to work for a shady smuggler—but on his first night, he witnesses his boss murdered by a crooked constable.

Regence Hooke is not just a dirty cop, he’s a despicable human being—who happens to want Squib’s momma in the worst way. When Hooke goes after his hidden witness with a grenade launcher, Squib finds himself airlifted from certain death by…a dragon?

The swamp can make strange bedfellows, and rather than be fried alive so the dragon can keep his secret, Squib strikes a deal with the scaly apex predator. He can act as his go-between (aka familiar)—fetch his vodka, keep him company, etc.—in exchange for protection from Hooke. Soon the three of them are careening headlong toward a combustible confrontation. There’s about to be a fiery reckoning, in which either dragons finally go extinct—or Vern’s glory days are back.

A triumphant return to the genre-bending fantasy that Eoin Colfer is so well known for, Highfire is an effortlessly clever and relentlessly funny tour-de-force of comedy and action.


I loved this SO much! I snagged an eARC and I couldn’t resist reading the first few pages… which turned into the first 50 pages and then the whole book. It was immediately interesting and stands out from the fantasy crowd. Lord Highfire, formerly of the Highfire Eyrie is now just Vern, chubby, perennially drunk dragon who lives deep in the Louisiana bayou. He’s hiding out from the modern world, avoiding cameras, satellites, and conspiracy theorists just living his life until this kid called Squib shows up on his doorstep deeply in trouble with a bad dude.

The characters in this book are just fantastic. I mean, if you aren’t immediately intrigued by the idea of a talking dragon in the modern world who watches lots of bad tv, then we probably can’t be friends. It’s great! Squib Moreau is also quite a hoot, being a delinquent swamp kid who just can’t stay out of trouble despite how it hurts his momma. And then there’s this real piece of work named Regence Hooke, a corrupt cop who has his sights set on scoring with Squib’s momma and possible getting Squib out of the picture altogether. This is just wild and honestly I would adore seeing a wild adaptation of this somewhere where the bloody bits aren’t tamed.

You got the gist of the story reading the previous two paragraphs, but if you want a bit more detail keep on reading. Squib works odd jobs around town and whilst on the bayou, he sees Regence Hooke murder a man and overhears his plans to take over the drug highway. Regence finds out someone was listening, goes after this unknown person, and encounters something strange (Vern the dragon saving Squib). Squib and Vern work out a deal through so Squib doesn’t squeal about seeing a real live dragon and Vern has someone to bring him vodka and cereal in the middle of nowhere. Things escalate with Regence, violence ensues, and does much dark hilarity. This book was absolutely something else – it was hilarious, disturbingly reminiscent of the Swamp People tv show, and just awesome.

I would definitely recommend this to fans of unique urban fantasy, dragons, and the now-adult fans of the Artemis Fowl series. Eoin Colfer has transitioned from YA to adult fantasy with much aplomb, though that’s a pretty fancy word for a book such irreverent humor. Just read it, it’s in a league of its own and has no comparison that I can make.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Last Uncharted Sky by Curtis Craddock

“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 Last Uncharted Sky

It’s pretty early to be featuring The Last Uncharted Sky since it won’t be out until August of 2020, but you know what? I love this series and I was so excited to see it had a cover and synopsis already that I couldn’t wait to share it! The cover is beautiful, yet so unlike the previous that I didn’t recognize it until I saw the authors name. Musketeers, magic, and treasure all make for an exciting read!

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo – Review

Cover- Ninth House

Published: October 8, 2019

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Series: Alex Stern #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 458 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Synopsis:

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.


Darlington is the angstier, adult version of Richard Campbell Gansey III but without the bee allergy and Alex Stern is like Blue Sargent but with slightly more magic and possibly a death wish. FIGHT ME. Darlington is also the most interesting part of the book for the first 75% but then Alex gets way cool and the STAKES ARE RAISED, NOW WHERE IS THE SEQUEL. 

That could be the entire review, but I feel like that would be cheating you guys, you know? Like, how fair is that? So vague, yet so intriguing.

First of all, I’d like to say the audiobook is quite stellar and worthwhile, especially since there’s a cool little interview with Leigh Bardugo where she reveals an interesting fact that is related to the story. This is a book where the narration really brings it to life and perhaps make what would have been a good-ish book into a pretty cool book that I’ll definitely be reading the sequel to.

I think I summed up the characters pretty well in the first paragraph, but I’ll give some background on them now. Alex Stern can see grays, which are spirits of the deceased, aka ghosts. This gift brought her to the attention of Important People at Yale University, who offered her admission and a full scholarship if she would just join their secret society. This is all in spite of the fact that she was the lone survivor of a multiple homicide, is/was a drug addict, and most royally screwed up her life. What a second chance! Once at Yale she meets Daniel Arlington (Darlington) who is to be her mentor in the secret society, called Lethe House. Darlington (and now Alex) are meant to be the police for the eight other secret societies on Yale’s campus that produce the wealthy, the talented, and the ambitious people of the world. They each have their own unique brand of magic, some/most of which is disturbing. Like, borrowing people from mental wards to read the stock market trends in their viscera. *WHAT* *WHY* Lethe House is present at all events involving the other societies to ensure rules are followed, no more hobos are killed, and nothing goes wrong. Theoretically.

In theory, this book should be everything that could be interesting in a book. Magic in the modern world, secret societies, a collegiate setting, etc. It was interesting, but it did take awhile for me to really get into it and even then it took me awhile longer to find Alex Stern to be anything other than sort of bland. Darlington saved this book – his POV was interesting from the start and his absence was even more attention grabbing. He’s so totally not in Spain, but where is he? The mystery portion of this book (ie, who killed the girl and were the societies involved?) did keep me reading longer than I would have if the book solely relied on me liking Alex Stern. I did like her by the end and I will absolutely be picking up the sequel on release day. 

Overall, Ninth House was a win for me, with reservations. I felt the ending was a bit rushed and unexpected. Yes, it was a mystery/horror book but you know, clues are a thing and being able to smack your forehead and go “WHY DIDN’T I SEE THAT SOONER”  is how these things should go. It shouldn’t be me going “GOLLY, THAT WAS OUT OF THE BLUE, WHAT THE HECK”. Between this, and the blandness of the characters towards the beginning, this is only getting four stars from me.