'Writing for me is not about speeling, grammar or punctuation – that’s why we have editors.... No, writing for me is the ability to capture a story and put it in words.' - Fantasy Muse

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Madness in Solidar

Madness in Solidar: The Ninth Novel in the Bestselling Imager Portfolio (The Imager Portfolio Book 9) by L. E. Modesitt Jr.  

Front Cover



Synopsis


Four centuries after its founding, Solidar's Collegium of Imagers is in decline, the exploits of its founder, the legendary Quaeryt, largely forgotten. The Collegium is so lacking in leadership that the dying Maitre must summon Alastar, an obscure but talented senior imager from Westisle far to the south who has little knowledge of politics in the capital, as his successor. When Alastar arrives in L'Excelsis and becomes the new Maitre, he finds disarray and lack of discipline within the Collegium, and the ruler of Solidar so hated by the High Holders that they openly refer to him as being mad. To make matters worse, neither Rex Ryen, ridiculed as Rex Dafou, nor the High Holders have any respect for the Collegium, and Alastar finds himself in the middle of a power struggle, with Ryen demanding that the Collegium remove the strongest High Holders and the military leadership in turn plotting to topple Ryen and destroy the Collegium. At the same time, Ryen is demanding the High Holders pay a massive increase in taxes while he initiates a grandiose building project. And all that, Alastar discovers, is only a fraction of the problems he and the Collegium face.

The Imager Portfolio#1 Imager / #2 Imager’s Challenge / #3 Imager’s Intrigue / #4 Scholar / #5 Princeps / #6 Imager’s Battalion / #7 Antiagon Fire / #8 Rex Regis / #9 Madness in Solidar / #10 Treachery’s Tools / #11 Assassin’s Price

My Review 


L. E. Modesitt Jr.  is without doubt one of my favourite authors, I have read many, not all admittedly, but many of his works and although, if you are familiar with his books, they are all mostly rather formulaic in structure and plot, but it is a formula that I can never get bored off. It's a formula that is the reason why I first began my love of fantasy - the hero against all odds, uses wit, power and courage to triumph against evil, oh and gets the girl in the end. 

Madness in Solidar follows in the same captivating structure and follows Alastar, who becomes the new leader of the Collegium of Imagers (the ability to create items by focusing their imagination and willpower) at a point where the Collegium is a mess and on the verge of ruin, and more importantly so is the kingdom.

Alastar is tasked by the kingdoms ruler, Rex Ryen, to convince the High Council of Holders (land owners) and the factors (traders) to a tariff increase, so effectively an increase in tax.

Alastar is unfortunately in the unenviable position of dealing with the abject state of the Collegium he was inherited with, the arrogance and greed of the High Holders and Factors, and the erratic, approaching on the crazed behaviour of the ruler Rex Ryen.

In short, it's a frothing cauldron, on the precipice disaster.

For those who have never read his works, L E Modesitt has a rather unique writing style, and if I had a single word to describe it, it would be - mature.
Not to say boring, but Modesitt stories are never simple, but weaved from layers of intrigue, mystery and complexity. There is also a moral learning lesson behind his words. 
His main character's are always thought provoking and intelligent, and Alastar is not different in that sense but he is slightly older than Modesitt's other books. The advantage of that is that Alastar is not second guessing himself or his powers and is confident in who he is and what he can do. I liked Alastar's character, particularly the cold ruthlessness he demonstrated once all avenues were closed off.

I really enjoyed this book and I should add it is not necessary to have read the other Imager books in order to follow the story, as it can stand on its own, but it may broaden your reading experience if you have read the previous books as there some subtle hints that are alluded to in it.

Conclusion


In summary this book is a must for any Modesitt fans and those who enjoy rich fantasy told in a sophisticated style then give this book a try.

Out of 10 stars:


7.5 Stars


Buy it here:


Thursday, 15 June 2017

Soldiers' Redemption

Soldiers' Redemption (First Cohort Book 1) by M. R. Anthony.

Front Cover




Synopsis


Captain Tyrus Charing and the men of the First Cohort have fought on the wrong side for as long as they can remember. They have travelled from one battle to the next at the bidding of the cruel Duke Warmont, fighting endlessly for a man they despise. 
Now they want something different. They want to fight for the right people and for a deserving cause. There is hope for Captain Charing and his men – a saviour has come and she needs good, loyal soldiers in order to overthrow the Duke.
As the First Cohort try to pay for the sins of their past, they discover they’ve taken on far more than they could have imagined. They are unbeaten in battle, but the Duke does not care how many die, so long as he stays in power. 
Amongst his generals are sorcerers of great power, and an inhuman brute of callous evil, all of whom are eager to face Charing’s men. 
Soldiers’ Redemption is a brutal and gritty fantasy epic, about strength, bravery and an unwavering determination to beat the odds.

My Review


I like tales of redemption and characters finding hope after despair, and so this book instantly drew me in.

The story follows Captain Tyrus as he commands a group of 500 odd soldiers. They are called the First Cohort and are famed and feared in equal measures. They serve a tyrant called Duke Warmont, and after so long tire, from the endless killing, but they find redemption in the most unlikeliest of circumstances - a young woman, who becomes their saviour.

I found the book very well written and the words flowed nicely. The author did a great job capturing the description, particularly the fighting scenes, which often reminded me of Roman military but thankfully less convoluted. 

Captain Tyrus was a fascinating character, and shrouded in a little bit of mystery. The book was told from his point of view and you got a real sense of the conflict swirling in his mind and the sense of shame and regret of his past, but also the hope to be a better man.
I admired the rapport he had with his men, it was natural and infused with leadership, and I couldn't help but like the character.

As for the storyline I don't want to spoil it by revealing too much, other than to say, I was absolutely riveted by the book until I reached roughly 2/3 of the way in. For me the story just seemed to stall and near the end, it did seem to drag, which I thought was a shame as this book has a lot of potential.]
I was also initially confused with the start of the novel as the story seemed to be told midway through and a good chunk of information missed, eventually after reading a few chapters, I did manage to put the pieces together to form a more clearer picture.


Conclusion


For those who like a tale of redemption and a main character who is not simplistic but more profound in personality, will enjoy this book. 

Overall - even though the book fizzles out slightly near the end - I thought this book holds a lot of promise and I will be reading the sequel. 


Out of 10 Stars:


7 Stars


Buy it here:


Sunday, 14 May 2017

Wild Wastes

Wild Wastes by Randi Darren.

Front Cover




Synopsis


Before world war two could reach its conclusion, the world suffered what could only be defined as a cataclysm.
Legend has it that an experiment failed. Catastrophically so. And when it failed, the center of the United States, from the Sierra Nevada to the Mississippi river became "The Waste", where everything changed.
In The Waste, every fantasy creature, fairy tale demon, or mythological monster exists. From Orcs, to Neriads, Ogres, Trolls, Wratihs, Elves, Harpies, and even Beastmen. They all exist, and all despise humankind.
In the ruins of the west and east coasts new governments have arisen. With new jobs.
Vince is a Ranger, a profession whose sole job duty is surviving in the waste, and taking missions from the Ranger Guild. Be it courier services, escorts, or simply exploring tombs and cities.
Taking up an escort mission, Vince encounters a situation that will shape his life forever onward.
As well as the lives of everyone in North America.

My Review


I wasn't really sure what to expect after reading the blurb. The premise of the book was different, in that it mixes a modern world with fantasy, all in a post-apocalyptic setting. The centre of America has been transformed into a waste which has sprouted fantasy creatures such as elves, dwarfs, orcs etc.
Our main character is Vince who is a ranger, and as the story starts he encounters a female orc who attacks him. After defeating the orc, instead of killing her, he saves her.

The story then follows Vince as he befriends other supernatural creatures (mostly all female) whilst trying to prevent two kingdoms from breaking into an all out war.

I liked Vince as a main character, he wasn't an idiot or weak and made good decisions. There was an added mystery surrounding Vince's past which did leave me intrigued.

I do have to warn potential readers that this book has a heavy dose sex and some violence.

Conclusion


Overall the book is a bit dungeon and dragons, which I enjoyed but I was looking for a quick entertaining read, and not anything substantial. I would say this book is more catered towards young men, but beyond the sex there is an intriguing story at play which kept me interested throughout.

Out of 10 Stars:


7 Stars


Buy it here:





Saturday, 31 December 2016

Review of 2016

Hopefully your 2016 had been a great year, if not then you got 2017 to look forward to, but in the meantime I'd like to review the year in terms of the books I've read and mention the top three standouts. 

So, coming in third...

Lost Soul (Harbinger P.I. Book 1) by Adam J Wright.




Bit of a surprise for me actually to pick this book as my top 3 but I really enjoyed the simple and effective writing style, and a main character who you can actually like without the endless eye rolls.

Now second place goes to....

The Russian Assassin: A Max Austin Thriller, Book #1 by Jack Arbor. 



I know this blog is called Fantasy Muse but I enjoy reading other genres, especially action thrillers, and I thought this book was thoroughly entertaining and reminded me a lot of the Bourne series, not in terms of the storyline but relatable in regard to action, suspense and a protagonist you can root for. 

And lastly my favourite book of 2016 goes to....

Hell Divers (The Hell Divers Trilogy Book 1) by Nicholas Sansbury Smith



When I thought back to the books I've read this year, the one that flashed immediately to my mind was Hell Diver. From the beautiful front cover to the last page, I loved how unique this book was. The story captured my imagination and even after finishing the book, my mind kept drifting back to the novel and I can't wait to find out what the sequel will be like. 


------------------------------


I wan't to finish my last post of 2016 by wishing you a successful and fulfilling 2017 and for me, I'm looking forward to reading books that will continue to inspire me to dream new adventures.

I'm ending on a few words I put together...hopefully they might have some meaning for you for the new year to come...

I am fighting for my belief, my purpose. I have conviction and will as strong as an oak against the mightiest of winds, as strong as the rock against the pounding of the waves. You will not break me. You can snap every bone in my body, tear flesh out of by body, but you will not break me. This I promise. This I vow.
Fantasy Muse

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Lost Soul

Lost Soul (Harbinger P.I. Book 1) by Adam J Wright.


Front Cover







Synopsis

Alec Harbinger, Preternatural Investigator 
I’m the guy you come to when your spouse gets bitten by a werewolf, or your honey is kidnapped by a demon. I’m the guy who knows how to save your ass when an evil sorcerer casts a curse on it. 
At least, I was that guy until the Society of Shadows sent me to Dearmont, Maine, a sleepy town that had a zero rating on the supernatural occurrences scale.  
My plan was to spend my days sitting in the office with nothing to do except drink coffee and eat apple bakes made by Felicity, my new assistant. 
But when a woman hires me to find out if her son has been possessed by a demon at a rich kids’ party, and a young man comes to the office insisting he’s been bitten by a werewolf, Dearmont goes from zero to hero. 
Oh, and did I mention that someone in the Society wants me dead?
Time to sharpen the swords and go to work…

My Review


Before I begin, I have to admit that I didn't have any great expectations before reading this book. There seems to be a lot of urban fantasy books nowadays based on a P.I and I have to say most of them are pretty forgettable. It just seems the genre is swamped with a lot of sameness, but the book was going for free on Amazon and I thought I'd give it a go.

So here's my review...


The story centres on Alec Harbinger, Preternatural Investigator, who works for a secret magical society, but he finds himself in their bad graces and as a result has been shunted out to Dearmont, Maine.


The book does follow the same cookie cutter formular as most other urban fantasy novels but honestly I enjoyed it.


And there's a couple of reasons why;

  1. The main one being the main character, Alec. He wasn't the brash, overconfident type that you often find in this genre, nor was he the bumbling idiot that invariably sends you into a fit of groaning due to the stupid decisions they make. Instead Alec, was a strong dependable guy who had some common sense about him. He actually approached problems like someone who's competent because he does it for a living (strange concept I know).
  2. The second reason I liked the book was the simple writing style. If you're looking for elaborate, descriptive passages of text then this book is probably not going to appease you, but I liked how simple the prose was and it read easy. You know sometimes I don't want to think too much when I'm reading and just want to enjoy the story.

Conclusion


If you want a quick, entertaining story based on a likeable character, then you can't go too far wrong with this book. I enjoyed it and now I'm on to the sequel.

Out of 10 Stars:


8 Stars


Buy it here:


Saturday, 24 December 2016

The Russian Assassin

The Russian Assassin: A Max Austin Thriller, Book #1 by Jack Arbor.


Front Cover







Synopsis



You can't go home again... 

Former KGB assassin Max Austin's peaceful life in Paris is shattered when his mother's imminent death brings him back to a world he only wants to forget. Before he's even unpacked his bags, a brutal act of terrorism sends Max running for his life and forces him to uncover secrets about his father's past to save his family's lives.

Max's sister and nephew become pawns in a game that started a generation ago. As Max races from the alleyways of Minsk to the tony neighborhood of Zurich, and finally to the gritty streets of Prague, he must confront his past and come to terms with his future to preserve his family name.

If you like intrigue, twists, and high-octane excitement, you'll love this tight, fast-paced adventure, starring Jack Arbor's stoic hero, ex-KGB assassin-for-hire Max Austin.


My Review


This thriller is based on an ex-KGB assassin, Max, who on the behest of his sister, is coming home from Paris to see his dying mother but just as he arrives a bomb goes off, killing his whole family save for his sister and child.

The remainder of the novel focuses on Max as he pursues those responsible for his families tragedy whilst trying to uncover the reason why they were targeted.

I've read a few hitmen/assassin type books and I have to say this is one of the better ones. I enjoyed the quick, efficient style of Jack Arbor's writing and the story flowed easily from one plot to the next. The action scenes were well described and Arbor kept it simple, which I appreciated. 

As for the main character, Max, I thought he was a superb protagonist. He was good at his job, but he wasn't infallible, and whilst I obviously didn't expect to see him killed off, I got some suspense on whether or not he'd be able to rescue/protect those he cared about. 
Another point I liked about Max was that he wasn't narcissistic or egotistical - I've read my share of books where authors portray their main character's as the next coming of James Bond, which invariably involves nothing more than endless skirt chasing and posing.

Conclusion


If you're into your fast paced action novels with a healthy dose of mystery then this book will be perfect for you.

Jack Arbor's a talented author who I'll be keeping an eye on.

Out of 10 Stars


8 Stars


Buy it here:


Thursday, 15 December 2016

The Wolves of War

The Wolves of War by Greg Curtis.


Front Cover






Synopsis

Briagh has a secret. He's a morph. One born with the gift of changing shape. He has another secret too. He's also a thief. A genuine cat burglar. 
Meanwhile Elan has her own secret. Despite pretending to be a bardic warrior she's actually the Princess of Abylon. And she too has a second secret. Her entire family is mad. 
Her father and brothers are unfit to rule. Her mother is not dead as people believe. Instead she's become the psychotic wolf mother, whose pack has been killing and devouring the people of the city for a decade.
And then there's the Court and their little secret. They rule the Kingdom of Abylon even though they do not have the right.
Secrets are useful things. They allow people like Elan and Briagh to live normal, even comfortable lives. They allow a kingdom to be governed by those who do not have the authority. They make life for the people of Abylon possible. 
But when their secrets are revealed, none of those things may hold. And when the wolf mother is the reason for that revelation – it may be war.

My Review


For those of you who who follow my blog will probably know that I am a huge fan of Greg Curtis. If you didn't, then you do now. I've read most of his books, and I enjoy the formular he uses in his stories - the quite, reclusive main character, shunned by society, who has talents that requires him to become a hero to his people. I guess I'm a sucker for those types of storylines.

Moving on to this book, the main character is Briagh who is a Morph, born with the ability to change shapes. He is also a thief that has a tendency to run when the going gets tough.

The other main character is Elan, Princess of Abylon. She is a fierce, strong willed woman who wants to kill all Morphs due to the tragedy that befell her family.

The storyline follows both Briagh and Elan who become involved when a crazed woman leading a pack of wolves begins to attack the city of Absynth. 

I guess I had high expectations before reading this and I certainly wouldn't say I was let down but I have to admit it's not one of Curtis's best works. The storyline for me felt a little bit fanciful and did not flow as well as his other books. 

I did however like the main character Briagh, he had a bit more backbone than what you usually get and was enjoyable to read. As for Elan, she had a remarkable personality (basically a psychopath) and one I won't be forgetting in a long while. It was nice to get that contrast between Briagh and Elan.

Conclusion


If you're fan of Greg Curtis then you know what you're getting into, and this book naturally follows his previous novels, and whilst not his best, you still get that satisfying feel.

If you haven't read his books before then I would suggest trying his other novels first like 'The Godlost Land', 'Banshee Hunt' or 'The Lady's Man'.

Out of 10 Stars


6 Stars


Buy it here: