The Burning White by Brent Weeks – Review

Cover- The Burning White

Published: October 22, 2019

Publisher: Orbit Books

Series: Lightbringer #5

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 992 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

Synopsis:

The nail-biting conclusion to the Lightbringer series!

Stripped of both magical and political power, the people he once ruled told he’s dead, and now imprisoned in his own magical dungeon, former Emperor Gavin Guile has no prospect of escape. But the world faces a calamity greater than the Seven Satrapies has ever seen… and only he can save it.

As the armies of the White King defeat the Chromeria and old gods are born anew, the fate of worlds will come down to one question: Who is the Lightbringer?


I don’t even know where to begin with this review and as such, it might be shorter than I would normally give a 5 star read. It was just SO much to take in and so many plot threads wound up perfectly. If you didn’t already know, The Burning White is the last book in the Lightbringer series and has been much anticipated by basically the entire fantasy community. This was a brilliant series and I’m so pleased with the outcome and the quality of this book.

The characters remain some of my favorite in fantasy. Kip Guile went from being a fat, scared little boy to a formidable and cunning warrior, not to mention the fact that he might be the Lightrbringer of prophecy. Gavin has surely had some of the most drastic ups and downs in this series and I loved his character growth. His POV was really brilliant and quite touching this time around and it was interesting to see him face down his past and even Orholom himself. The MAIN characters might have been the Guile men, but the ladies in this series really held their own. Tia, Karris, and Tysis were all powerful, intelligent women who were just as unstoppable as their male counterparts and while they were supportive, they didn’t take a back seat.

At this point, if you’ve read the series you know how amazing all five books are. This was an awesome finale with lots of action, peril, and the inevitable heartbreak. The ending was excellent and it had multiple epilogues that were ENTIRELY NECESSARY. I really don’t want to discuss plot at all – I won’t risk spoiling anything!

Overall, The Burning White was exactly what I hoped for. If you’re on the fence about starting the series for any reason, allow me to give you a list of why you should check it out:

  • UNIQUE MAGIC – BASED ON LIGHT
  • PLOT TWISTS LIKE YOU’VE ONLY DREAMED OF
  • ASSASSINS
  • LOVABLE AND HATEABLE CHARACTERS
  • THE AUDIOBOOK HAS AN AWESOME NARRATOR
  • PIRATES
  • CRAZED VILLAINS
  • LAUGH OUT LOUD MOMENTS

*This list is not complete, merely a reasonable selection of reasons you should check out the Lightbringer series. Also, the covers are way cool.

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. 

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.

The Throne of the Five Winds by S.C. Emmett – Review

Cover- The Throne of the Five Winds

Published: October 15, 2019

Publisher: Orbit Books

Series: Hostage of Empire #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 704 (Paperback)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

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

Synopsis:

Two queens, two concubines, six princes. Innumerable hidden agendas. Yala, lady-in-waiting to the princess of a vanquished kingdom, must navigate their captors’ treacherous imperial court.

The Emperor’s palace — full of ambitious royals, sly gossip, and unforeseen perils — is perhaps the most dangerous place in Zhaon. A hostage for her conquered people’s good behavior, the lady Komor Yala has only her wits and her hidden maiden’s blade to protect herself — and her childhood friend Princess Mahara, sacrificed in marriage to the enemy to secure a tenuous peace.

But the Emperor is aging, and the Khir princess and her lady-in-waiting soon find themselves pawns in the six princes’ deadly schemes for the throne — and a single spark could ignite fresh rebellion in Khir.

And then, the Emperor falls ill, and a far bloodier game begins…

The Throne of the Five Winds is the first installment of the Hostage of Empire series, an intricate and ruthless East Asia-inspired epic fantasy trilogy perfect for fans of George R. R. Martin, Ken Liu, Kate Elliott, and K. Arsenault Rivera.


Could this book have been any better? Probably not! The Throne of the Five Winds truly just struck all the right chords for me and ended up being this lovely, enticing, and somewhat saddening beginning to what I think will be a tremendous fantasy series. This book could fittingly have been titled “A Game of Thrones” as well – almost the entire book focuses on the political machinations of the six princes, two queens, two concubines, and countless others that surround the throne of Zhaon. It was far more fascinating than I would have initially anticipated – I expected dense and possibly a dragging pace but that wasn’t the case.

Lady Komor Yala (called Yala, as her family name is listed first) was chosen to accompany her childhood friend, Princess Mahara, to Zhaon when she was to be married to the eldest prince to secure peace. Yala is intelligent and deadly, having been raised in the traditional Khir fashion whereas Mahara was raised to be a silent figurehead meant to bear children. I loved both Yala and Mahara for their bravery, friendship, and Yala’s dedication to her role as protector and lady. The other women of power in the palace (aside from the second concubine) were dreadful – scheming, cruel things out for their own gain. The princes and princesses were a mixed bag, with some being wonderful and others just as conniving as their mothers and twice as cruel. It was unavoidable that some of the princes found Yala appealing, as she was alluring if not traditionally beautiful, and that was honestly one of my favorite parts of the story. 

Ah yes, the story – it’s one of politics on a grand scale. With the Khir beaten and peace secured, the Zhaon have returned focus to their inner political battles though it may not be as peaceful as they thought. Mahara’s illegitimate brother has become heir and he doesn’t hold the same views on peace that perhaps his father does and he begins his own scheming. The Zhaon prince are either warriors or snakes (and sometimes both) and are trying to outmaneuver one another and it only escalates when it becomes apparent the Emperor is dying. The throne will soon be vacant and one of them will have the opportunity to fill it. There are numerous assassination attempts on multiple characters and there’s enough violence to sate the bloodthirsty reader. No full scale battles perhaps, but the action is certainly there. Though I love a good battle, the truly fascinating parts featured Yala and Mahara (good, since they’re the main characters). Yala is the quiet strength behind her princess and fills so many roles – secret guardian, spy, the fall guy (or girl in this case), companion, and so much more. She’s demure and intelligent and it’s made even better because she could also knife you with her hidden blade faster than you could imagine. 

I can’t fit all my feels for this book into words. It was just SO, SO GOOD and I was taken by surprise at how much I loved it! It saddens me that I have to wait for the next book which will hopefully be released in 2020 because this book ended on such a sad note with so many loose strings. I’m unsure where this will go next and what Yala’s next moves will be and I just want to know if she will be a magnificent and avenging angel. GEEZ.

Grave Importance by Vivian Shaw – Review

Cover- Grave Importance

Published: September 24, 2019

Publisher: Orbit Books

Series: Dr. Greta Helsing #3

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:

A charmingly witty fantasy adventure in the world of Strange Practice, starring Dr. Greta Helsing, doctor to the undead, who must solve a dangerous medical mystery at a secret French spa for mummies.

Oasis Natrun: a private, exclusive, highly secret luxury health spa for mummies, high in the hills above Marseille, equipped with the very latest in therapeutic innovations both magical and medical. To Dr. Greta Helsing, London’s de facto mummy specialist, it sounds like paradise. But when Greta is invited to spend four months there as the interim clinical director, it isn’t long before she finds herself faced with a medical mystery that will take all her diagnostic skill to solve.

A peculiar complaint is spreading among her mummy patients, one she’s never seen before. With help from her friends and colleagues — including Dr. Faust (yes, that Dr. Faust), remedial psychopomps, a sleepy scribe-god, witches, demons, a British Museum curator, and the inimitable vampyre Sir Francis Varney — Greta must put a stop to this mysterious illness before anybody else crumbles to irreparable dust…


I just CANNOT get enough of Dr. Greta Helsing and the adventures she gets sucked into! First of all, I really loved the first two books, Strange Practice and Dreadful Company so I completely expected to love this as well – which I did! It has much the same formula as the others – Greta is abroad, this time temporarily overseeing a mummy medical spa in southern France, when unusual things begin to happen. Her mummy patients are afflicted by sudden blackouts (terribly for mummies – very fragile, you see) and someone is trying to tear a hole in the fabric of reality. No biggie, right?

Obviously I’ve gushed about the characters before, so we’ll go straight to the heart of things – I LOVE these characters. They’re brave, caring, and have their own bizarre senses of humor. They’re the biggest part of why these books have resonated with me so strongly and I’m already plotting to see if a re-read could be in order sometime next year because it’s just such a comfort read. 

The plot in Grave Importance has escalated somewhat since the previous, as happens in many book series. Things start out on a relatively small scale and next thing you know you’re patching holes in reality so the world doesn’t go stark raving mad. All the separate issues in the first two books have impacted the ultimate culmination of events here. Little tears in reality add up in the long run and this is just the final straw. Things escalate, the big guns are called in, and it looks real, real bad for the last 50 pages or so. It was intense, exciting, and morbidly entertaining read. A solid 4.5 stars if you ask me. Not a 5 because it didn’t end in impassioned wailing or shouting and my heart didn’t grow three sizes that day à la Grinch (which would actually be a medical issue).

Should you read this series? Short answer – YES! Longer answer – yes, especially if you’re into weird, dry humor and I think fans of Daniel O’Malley’s The Rook will think it rocks. The whole series was well written and fantastically entertaining while still retaining a solid plot and it had characters you could genuinely care for!! Vivian Shaw is going to be one of those authors whose new books I’ll automatically buy for sure.

A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie – Review

Cover- A Little Hatred

Published: September 17, 2019

Publisher: Orbit Books

Series: The Age of Madness #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 480 (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 chimneys of industry rise over Adua and the world seethes with new opportunities. But old scores run deep as ever.

On the blood-soaked borders of Angland, Leo dan Brock struggles to win fame on the battlefield, and defeat the marauding armies of Stour Nightfall. He hopes for help from the crown. But King Jezal’s son, the feckless Prince Orso, is a man who specializes in disappointments.

Savine dan Glokta – socialite, investor, and daughter of the most feared man in the Union – plans to claw her way to the top of the slag-heap of society by any means necessary. But the slums boil over with a rage that all the money in the world cannot control.

The age of the machine dawns, but the age of magic refuses to die. With the help of the mad hillwoman Isern-i-Phail, Rikke struggles to control the blessing, or the curse, of the Long Eye. Glimpsing the future is one thing, but with the guiding hand of the First of the Magi still pulling the strings, changing it will be quite another…


JOE, YOU’VE DONE IT AGAIN. YOU’VE WRITTEN A BOOK THAT IS BOTH DRAMATIC AND BLOODY AND I SUSPECT INTENTIONALLY HAS LINES THAT MAKE ME SNORT-LAUGH IN AN UNLADYLIKE FASHION. 

Seriously though, this book was announced and I think the fantasy community lost their collective mind. I mean, if you read fantasy you’ve at least heard of Joe Abercrombie even if you haven’t read his books. And if you haven’t read his books, maybe you should remedy that… unless of course you don’t want to read about Northmen fighting one another, impending invasions, certain invasions, and that rat bastard Bayaz the magician. And that’s just the first trilogy. A Little Hatred is the start of a brand spankin’ new series called The Age of Madness and like the promo says, “The kids aren’t alright”. 

A Little Hatred takes place several decades after the events of the First Law trilogy (I’m guessing around 30 years) and the main characters are the children of the much beloved or beloathed characters from said series. The elegant viperess Savine dan Glokta is reveling in the new industrial age and has made herself a fortune off of investments and financial bullying. Prince Orso is a drunken sot and is honestly a sad excuse for a prince – he needs a rough journey to toughen him up, much like Jezal did. Rikke, daughter of Dogman, is trying to hone her skill with the Long Eye and is training the hillwoman Isern-i-Phail, though that’s interrupted when the North goes to war with itself again. Leo dan Brock, the handsome golden boy is coming to terms with the fact that war isn’t quite as glorious as perhaps it first seemed. Abercrombie has once again written characters that you can both hate and love a little at the same time. They’re so flawed, but in such a realistic way and you just can’t help but sympathize with them even when they’re being SOOOO terrible!

The plot is, well, as I expected epic in scope. Adua has entered the industrial age with all the growing pains that go along with it. Thousands of people have moved to the cities in search of work, housing is in short supply, and the factories that have sprung up have no one to govern worker conditions, fair pay, or rights of any sort. It’s a bloody free for all the common man is rising up against the owners who profit from their endless toil. The Northmen are once again at war with one another and it’s always the same grim cast of troublemakers – Bethod’s sons are rising up once again and the Dogman is left on the defensive along with the Union troops led by Finree dan Brock and her son Leo. Trouble within and without the Union is par for the course at this point, though after multiple wars I think things may finally come to a head once again. Bayaz still has his manipulative fingers in the affairs of the world and has Jezal and Glokta both dancing on puppet strings, though I think both loathe to admit it to anyone but themselves. 

This book was an absolute wild ride from beginning to end. I loved Savine’s POV chapters and she emerged from the fires forged anew, though not necessarily for the better. There were some awkward moments and scenes where I could barely contain my laughter or dismay (sometimes equal parts). I am loathe to give away the meat of the story since it’s such a joy to go in with no idea what’s going to happen. Rest assured, this is Abercrombie gold and I dearly wish I could binge read the whole trilogy right here and now. Alas, though I believe the series is already complete, we must wait for the next installment. One last point – this can be read as a standalone series, HOWEVER, it is so much richer having read the other books and you get a lot more nuance than you would otherwise.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Last Smile in Sunder City by Luke Arnold

“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 Smile in Sunder City

Carrying on with my detective/mystery themed reading list, this week I’m featuring The Last Smile in Sunder City. The main character is a detective for hire with a serious amount of guilt plaguing him… AND THAT’S JUST WHAT I GOT FROM THE SYNOPSIS. I think this sounds pretty cool and the author is actually an actor who starred in the pirate-y tv show Black Sails (never watched, but looks cool). This will be released February 6, 2020 from Orbit and I can’t wait!

Stacking the Shelves: 6/15/19

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 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!


Woops, it’s been like two months since I’ve done a Stacking the Shelves post so I’ve got just a few books to share with you guys! Also, it’s distinctly possible that I might forget a book since it’s been so long and I’ve been uncharacteristically unorganized.

Received for Review:

20190609_090231

A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay

A new GGK book is always good news in the fantasy world and this one was excellent. You can check out my review HERE.

The Wolf’s Call by Anthony Ryan

Anythony Ryan is returning to the world of Vaelin al Sorna and there are no complaints from me! I do hope Vaelin stays the main focus in this series. Many thanks to Orbit for the ARC!

Howling Dark by Christopher Ruocchio

The first book in this series really awed me last year and I’m looking forward to checking out this one as well. It’s quite the tome. Thanks to DAW for the ARC.

The Girl in Red by Christina Henry

This is actually my current read and it’s like Cormac McCarthy decided to rewrite The Road with a fairytale influence. Thanks to Berkley for the finished copy.

Unraveling by Karen Lord

This book had a very intriguing synopsis, but wasn’t quite the book for me. You can check out my review HERE.

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Queenslayer by Sebastien de Castell

This series has continual been a joy to read and I’m looking forward to reading this installment soon! Orbit always send such great books.

Fray by Rowenna Miller

I seriously need to climb my way out of this ball pit of unread books and get on to reading this one. I must see if it’s a good as the first and hopefully get some resolution!

The Gameshouse by Claire North

This is a collection of novellas that I’ve been wanting to read for a few years but it kept getting pushed down my TBR. It was really cool though and I’ll have a review up soon!

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Now for my latest acquisitions that all arrived in the same box yesterday! Thanks to Ace, DAW, and Berkley for sending these over

Beneath the Twisted Trees by Bradley P. Beaulieu

The finished copy of this is just lovely and I hope it’s as good as all the previous books!

Salvation Day by Kali Wallace

This sounds really fascinating – viruses, mysterious ships, etc. Don’t think I could have gone wrong with this one.

Priest of Lies by Peter McLean

Let me just say, this book was FANTASTIC. I couldn’t wait any longer and read the eARC I had, so the review won’t be long in coming!

Crowfall by Ed McDonald

This may be one of the books I was most excited about getting. This will be the conclusion to the Raven’s Mark trilogy and I expect Ed McDonald to wow me with his writing once again.

My Purchases:

My audiobook pace had slowed down for a bit (especially with The Clockmaker’s Daughter) but I’m back on a roll now! I’ve flown through both Skyward and The Wicked King and am currently devouring Sorcery of Thorns. Keep and eye out for reviews in the near future.

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I also received my lovely finished copy of Age of Legend yesterday! Michael and Robin are the most efficient and communicative Kickstarter users that I’ve ever seen. The book arrived well packed and in excellent condition and now, since I read the digital copy already, this can join it’s brethren on my shelves.

Sixteen Ways to Defend A Walled City by K.J Parker – Review

Cover- Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City

Published: April 9, 2019

Publisher: Orbit Books

Series: Standalone

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 384 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

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

Synopsis:

A siege is approaching, and the City has little time left to prepare. The people have no food and no weapons, and the enemy has sworn to slaughter them all.

Their only chance rests with a colonel of engineers – a despised outsider, a genius, a master of military and political strategy with the wrong color skin. He is the City’s only hope.

But nobody, rich or poor, wants to take orders from a jumped-up Milkface. Saving the City from itself might be more difficult than surviving the coming siege.


I’d never read a K.J. Parker book prior to this one so I had no idea what to expect other than what little the synopsis gave me. What I got was a wildly entertaining book with a narrator that both kept me on my toes and in stitches from laughter.

Orhan, Colonel of the Engineers, is one of the first to realize something dreadfully wrong is going on in the Empire and by the time anyone listens to him, the city he’s in is under siege and no one can save them. Orhan is the ranking military man in the city and is in charge of the defenses when an army shows up on the doorstep. No need for excessvie detail here – if you’ve been reading fantasy (or history for that matter) you know how things work in a city under siege. The book is basically his firsthand account of how things went down and as such it’s heavily influenced by his personality and humor. I loved every page of it and thought it was downright hilarious at times without lessening the severity of the situation.

I don’t have a whole lot to say about this book other than to highly recommend it to fantasy readers who want a good Roman influenced siege book that doesn’t have a fusty old narrator. There were a few delightful plot reveals that I won’t dare discuss further in order to avoid spoilers. This has left me with a great impression of K.J. Parker’s writing and I look forward to checking out some of his other books – recommendations would be appreciated!