'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

Sunday, 23 September 2018

A Gathering of Fools

A Gathering of Fools (Vensille Saga Book 1) by James Evans (author)

Front Cover




Synopsis


A loyal soldier betrayed. A kingdom full of enemies. Can he clear his name and unchain his magic before the Empire cuts him down? 
Marrinek lost everything in an instant. Framed for a crime he didn't commit, the faithful courtier spent two years in prison before a sudden, near-lethal escape. Hunted by his own former allies, the double-crossed magic user journeys to reunite with his wife and get revenge on those who deceived him.
Hiding amongst devious criminals in a seedy underworld, Marrinek unveils a kingdom-wide conspiracy that goes far beyond his own imprisonment. To save all he holds dear and against impossible odds, the soldier must lift the haze from his magic and expose the plot before his enemies strike a fatal blow.
A Gathering of Fools is the first book in the Vensille Saga epic fantasy series. If you like magic and mayhem, dark violence, and heroic redemption, then you'll love James Evans’ immersive world.

My Review


The book follows Marrinek who, after spending almost 2 years locked away for crimes he did not commit, finds himself in a fortunate position to escape. The story then follows as Marrinek attempts to stay free and keep away from his captors.

I haven't read any of the author's other work but the start of the book felt a little disjointed, there were some sentences or words that just didn't read right, and one of my pet peeves is when authors make words more fancier than they should be, but as the novel progressed I'm glad to say that it flowed much better.

The POV changed throughout the book and whilst the main protagonist and his wife were written well, I had little interest in the other characters, I just felt that their segments could have been made more interesting or removed.

There is a magic system in the book with Marrinek being a very talented wielder, and whilst the author explains the system, I honestly can't describe it to you as I'm still not entirely sure how it worked.

Conclusion


After reading this brief review, you're probably thinking I didn't enjoy the book, but I can't say for certain what my thoughts are. 
Maybe the biggest indicator yet is that I bought the sequel soon after finishing it, which is mainly down to the well written and exciting ending.

I would also like to add that the book cover is one of the better illustrations that I've seen in a long time.

Out of 10 Stars


6 Stars



But it here:


Friday, 10 August 2018

The Grey Bastards

The Grey Bastards (The Lot Lands) by Jonathan French.

Front Cover







Synopsis


Jackal is proud to be a Grey Bastard, member of a sworn brotherhood of half-orcs. Unloved and unwanted in civilized society, the Bastards eke out a hard life in the desolate no-man's-land called the Lots, protecting frail and noble human civilization from invading bands of vicious full-blooded orcs. 
But as Jackal is soon to learn, his pride may be misplaced. Because a dark secret lies at the heart of the Bastards' existence - one that reveals a horrifying truth behind humanity's tenuous peace with the orcs, and exposes a grave danger on the horizon. 
On the heels of the ultimate betrayal, Jackal must scramble to stop a devastating invasion - even as he wonders where his true loyalties lie.


My Review


An intriguing book that was bought more on a whim than with any great expectations and after finishing the book, I'm glad to say I took that chance.

The book focuses on the half-orc Jackal, who is a member of a group of orcs (named hoofs) called the Grey Bastards, they are very akin to tribes / biker gangs and there are several other half orc tribes that all reside in a barren place called the Lot Lands.

The story follows Jackal as he struggles to survive amidst internal politics and infighting as well as trying to save his hoof from potential extinction. He is joined as well by his two best friends; Oats, and Fetch - who is the only female member of the the Grey Bastards.

Admittedly I wasn't quite sure about the book and the start of the story felt a bit slow in regard to pace but roughly half way through the book the story really kicks off, finishing with a dramatic and enjoyable ending.

I should also add that I thought the characters were well written, with good depth added to not only the main protagonist but also to the secondary characters. 

Conclusion


A very good read that leaves the book open for further sequels which I will certainly be keeping an eye on, whilst the book started off a little clumsily, the author finished it with a flourish.


Out of 10 Stars:


7 Stars



Buy it here:


Tuesday, 26 June 2018

When Crickets Cry

When Crickets Cry By: Charles Martin.

Front Cover




Synopsis


A man with a painful past. A child with a doubtful future. And a shared journey toward healing for both their hearts....

It begins on the shaded town square in a sleepy Southern town. A spirited seven-year-old has a brisk business at her lemonade stand. But the little girl’s pretty yellow dress can’t quite hide the ugly scar on her chest. The stranger understands more about it than he wants to admit. And the beat-up bread truck careening around the corner with its radio blaring is about to change the trajectory of both their lives. Before it’s over, they’ll both know there are painful reasons why crickets cry... and that miracles lurk around unexpected corners.

My Review


Ok, so this another non-fantasy book that I'll be reviewing - sorry about that - it wasn't intentional but after thoroughly enjoying 'Send Down Rain' by the same author, I just couldn't help myself and read another of his books.

The story follows, Reece, who used to be a brilliant heart surgeon, but after having suffered an emotional heartbreak, he now lives the life as a semi-hermit carpenter (I say semi, as he's not totally isolated and lives with his brother in-law). However, one day whilst he's visiting his local town he meets a young girl selling lemonade, the encounter changes the course of both of their lives.

This is the second book I've read from this author and I have to applaud his storytelling, Charles Martin writes with so much depth and feeling that he makes you actually care for the characters. He paints such a vivid picture that you feel like you're there with the characters. 

There is a religious or should I say spiritual undercurrent throughout the book, I'm not someone who enjoys a religious theme in their books, however saying that, I honestly didn't feel it detracted from the story, but I would understand if others felt differently.

A slight criticism from me would be that at times the author tended to over elaborate, particularly with the medical information, but was not a major issue for me, as the book was about heart surgery.

Conclusion


A beautifully written story that depicts what life is all about - joy, sadness, pain, regret, redemption, love - this book had it all.

Out of 10 Stars:


8 Stars



Buy it here:


Saturday, 26 May 2018

Send Down the Rain

Send Down the Rain By: Charles Martin.

Front Cover




Synopsis



Allie is still recovering from the loss of her family’s beloved waterfront restaurant on Florida’s Gulf Coast when she loses her second husband to a terrifying highway accident. Devastated and losing hope, she shudders to contemplate the future—until a cherished person from her past returns.
Joseph has been adrift for many years, wounded in both body and spirit and unable to come to terms with the trauma of his Vietnam War experiences. Just as he resolves to abandon his search for peace and live alone at a remote cabin in the Carolina mountains, he discovers a mother and her two small children lost in the forest. A man of character and strength, he instinctively steps in to help them get back to their home in Florida. There he will return to his own hometown—and witness the accident that launches a bittersweet reunion with his childhood sweetheart, Allie. 
When Joseph offers to help Allie rebuild her restaurant, it seems the flame may reignite—until a 45-year-old secret from the past begins to emerge, threatening to destroy all hope for their second chance at love.

 

My Review


Ok, I know this blog is called 'Fantasy Muse' but fantasy isn't the only genre that I read, and I enjoy widening my scope now and again to include fiction, sci-fi, romance, and classics.  Sometimes it does get a bit stale reading the same stuff again and again, and so I enjoy varying it up.

My next review is about Send Down The Rain by Charles Martin - author of The Mountain Between Us: Now a film starring Idris Elba and Kate Winslet). Admittedly I hadn't seen the film, and I hadn't read any books from the author, so what drew me in was the storyline - I guess I'm a sucker for the lonely, isolated protagonist.

The story follows Joseph (Jo Jo), a 62 year old, grizzled war veteran, who lives in isolation after a life of hardship and torment.  After rescuing a young woman and her children, he finds himself back in his hometown, Florida, where he meets his childhood friend, Allie, again.
Allie, has also led a difficult life, and is mourning her second husband who had just been killed in a crash.
Both find each other at a precarious point in their lives and old, forgotten feelings soon rekindle from dying embers.  

Charles Martin writes a tale that is simple and yet complex, and filled with meaning.  He uses uncomplicated words and sentences, but somehow weaves a story that is rich with brilliant character development.  You can't help but find yourself getting drawn in to Jo and Allie's struggle to find happiness.

There is a lot of reminiscing about the past from Joseph which I felt added to the story, instead of making it more tedious.  There is a few twists in the plot which I honestly didn't expect, and whilst a little surreal, they served their purpose and kept me riveted to the book.
The actual romance between Joe and Allie, felt a little instantaneous at first, but as the plot furthered you understood why - they complimented each other. 

There's an overall theme of remorse and forgiveness painted throughout the book which Martin evokes quite vividly.  It couldn't help but stir in me the message that life should be lived on a gamble and not filled with regret. 


Conclusion 


A book that is packed with substance, an endearing romance, plot twists and action (that includes Mexican cartels).
Simply put, for those who enjoy a good tale, then I can't recommend this book highly enough.


Out of 10 Stars:


9 Stars




Buy it here:


Saturday, 28 April 2018

The Great Hearts



Front Cover




Synopsis



Imperator. A word synonymous with fear, pain, loathing and, for a chosen few, the sharp end of a blade. The voice of the Emperor, an Imperator is the perfect weapon, skilled in combat, politics and strategy and moulded by years of punishing training. They are the hidden assassins, the enforcers of the Emperor’s will.  
They are the hunters of the unknown.  
Calidan Darkheart is an Imperator, a self-professed killer and an adept hunter of the creatures that most citizens of the Empire do not realise exist.
Together with his hulking companion Cassius, he hunts the beast that slaughtered their home village. 
Pity those who find themselves in their path. 
Calidan and Cassius were bright young boys, living peaceful, happy lives in a remote mountain village, until the day everything changed. Once the screams have subsided, and with the horrors they have seen embedded in their minds, they embark on a journey of survival, fraught with danger, strange magic and dark deeds. Unbowing and undaunted they push forward, striving for power, making lifelong friendships along the way, and above all else, discovering the truth behind the magnificent, mythical Great Hearts.  
Young Calidan is a boy full of hope and courage, driven by the past but not ruled by it.
Old Calidan is a bitter and twisted killer of monsters and men, his past haunting his dreams.  
This is his story.


My Review


After reading the blurb, it got me excited, more than most books I've read recently, and while I can say I'm looking forward to the 2nd book, my initial level of excitement didn't quite materialise into the same level of enjoyment.

The story is about 2 boys living in a tribal village, whereby they are suddenly attacked by a band of ruthless killers. Their entire village is slaughtered, but the 2 boys manage to escape. Through luck and skill they survive, and the rest of the story follows their path to revenge as they grow and become stronger. 

The book is told in a journal type format, similar to The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. I don't normally enjoy those type of books, but this books does a good job in blending the past with the present, and it wasn't totally focused on the past.

The first half the book had me hooked and I couldn't stop reading. It had been awhile since I was so engrossed in a book and so I was a little disappointed that the 2nd portion of the book didn't continue in the same rich form.
I'm not saying it was a dramatic fall in quality but I felt the storyline shifted in a wholly different tangent which I didn't expect or admittedly enjoy. I don't want to spoil it but to say that for me it just didn't work for me.
Another reason was that I couldn't quite fathom the tone of the book; the story started very dark and graphic, which I thought set the tone for the rest of the book, but then it shifted to almost child like innocence for majority of the book, with the occasional dramatic shift in maturity, I have to say it left me confused - like reading Harry Potter mixed with Game of Thrones. 

I thought the characterisation of both boys were done really well, and as it was told in Calidan's first person you got a real sense of his character and his special relationship with his 'cat', Seya, who I thought pretty much stole the show (if you're a cat person then you'll enjoy this book).


Conclusion


A very well written book and despite my issues with the story, it was still enjoyable and well worth a read.

Out of 10 Stars:


8 Stars



Buy it here:


Saturday, 21 April 2018

ONSET: Stay of Execution

ONSET: Stay of Execution by Glynn Stewart.

Front Cover




Synopsis


The Vampire War is over.The United States is reeling.The Masquerade is fragmenting.The Apocalypse is here… 
The long and bloody war with the vampires in the United States has finally ended, thanks to the efforts of the vampire Arbiter and ONSET Commander David White—and a nuclear explosion on American soil.The final battle proves harder to conceal than hoped, however, and a series of high profile incidents end any chance of hiding the supernatural. Suddenly the world is faced with the fact that it is both more wonderful and more terrible than humanity ever realized. 
But as the US Government struggles to adapt to this new reality, old enemies have set into motion plans that could render humanity’s struggles irrelevant. There are those beyond the Seal who were once Gods…and they want their planet back!

My Review


This is the fourth book in the series and for those who haven't read the other proceeding books then this review will probably leave you lost.

I'm a big fan of Glynn Stewart's Onset series and after the ending of the third book, I was excited to continue the story.

The fourth instalment picks up immediately from the third and Commander White continues to be as resolute and heroic as any superhero. 

There is a rather big shift in trajectory from the other books in that the whole world have come to learn that the supernatural exist and the story deals with the fall out of such discovery and there's also a small thing about an impending apocalypse. 

Whilst the book is around 300 odd pages long, there is a huge amount of things going on, and the plot never rests. Whilst that made it a quick read, I didn't quite get the same level of enjoyment as the other books. The main reason being that there I didn't feel there was enough depth to the storyline and characterisation - which I can understand given the frantic pace of the book - and in the end it felt slightly hollow to me.

But don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and I really hope that Glynn Stewart continues the series as there is so much potential in terms of storyline.

Conclusion


If you've read the other books in the series then I don't even need to sell it to you. Whilst not Stewart's best, it still sits comfortably better than most other supernatural books. 

For those who haven't read the Onset series, and you're a fan of urban fantasy, then you're missing out on a collection of books that are fun, action packed, filled with heroic characters and provides that little escapism that we are looking for.

Out of 10 Stars


7 Stars


Buy it here:


Saturday, 3 March 2018

Reaper's Awakening

Reaper's Awakening: Book One of The Essence Chronicles by Jacob Peppers.

Front Cover




Synopsis


Cameron Shale is a Harvester, an agent of the Church whose duty is to save the kingdom’s people by gathering the essence of those chosen to be sacrificed. He does his saving not with a surgeon’s knowledge, or a Priest’s prayers, but with the sword. They call him a murderer. They call him the Reaper. His kind are hated—and he more than the rest—but they are also necessary.

For there is evil waiting, a plague ready to wipe out all those in its path, and it is only with the essences of those sacrificed that it is held at bay. They survived it once. They will not survive it again. But when a shadowy figure known only as Memory emerges leading a rebellion against the Church and king, Cameron is forced to ask questions about a past that has haunted him his entire life. The kind of questions that can only be asked with steel. The kind that can only be answered in blood.

My Review


An interesting sounding story, and generally I thought the book was good, not excellent but good, with potential.

The story follow Cameron Shale, a Harvester, who works for the Church to do their deed. At the start of the story, Cameron is a stoic, devout and loyal man to the Church, but as the book progresses, doubt begins to grow.

I thought the story was interesting, but admittedly a little confusing to follow initially. The pieces did come together near the end. The main protagonist, Cameron, was done well, and his character was defined, but I did feel the other characters were less so.

Conclusion


Overall I thought the book has potential and I enjoyed the twists in the story. The ending sets up nicely for the sequel which I will be keeping an eye on.

Out of 10 Stars:


6 Stars

Buy it here:


Sunday, 21 January 2018

The Son of the Morning

The Son of the Morning: Book One of The Nightfall Wars by Jacob Peppers.


Front Cover






Synopsis

Fifty years ago, the nightwalkers appeared, creatures of shadow and darkness, thirsting for blood and death. Thousands died and the kingdom of Entarna was brought to its knees. Then the Chosen came, six men and women endowed with powers by Amedan, the God of Fire and Light. The Chosen joined with the kingdom’s armies and together they managed to defeat the night’s creatures. At least for a time. 
Alesh, servant to Chosen Olliman, the greatest of Amedan’s priests, knows well what the darkness holds. He saw it, as a child, when his father and mother were killed, and he was left with a blackened, festering scar that refuses to heal.  
The day wanes and the night comes again, but when those chosen to protect the kingdom are unable or unwilling to help, when the fellowships of the past have crumbled, it is left to an orphaned servant—a man many believe to be cursed—to stand against the rising darkness.

My Review

My second review of the year, and in quick succession too, I guess I must be on a roll.......anyway on to the review.

This book in many ways reminds me of The Painted Man Novel by Peter V. Brett. The premise is very similar for those who have read the book, in that once night fall descends, monsters begin to roam the land and the only defence is light.

The main protagonist is called Alesh, who is an apprentice / servant to a powerful priest, called Olliman. The story starts of fine but really picks up once the city revolts. After that the pace quickens and you fly through the pages with action.

There are two other main characters, and their POV switch often, which stunted my enjoyment a little bit at first, but the pieces started to come together near the end and you got that 'a-ha' moment. 

A word of warning, the book is deceptively - for me at least - more violent than I had assumed, but I liked that, it wasn't the tasteless violence you see in books nowadays, but rather added a mature edge to it.


Conclusion


I really enjoyed this book, and I can't wait for the sequel. If you're looking for a darker fantasy, with an interesting story that's similar to The Painted Man Novel by Peter V. Brett, then this is a must read.


Out of 10 Stars:


8 Stars




Buy it here:

Amazon US

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Lady of the Forest: Robin Hood & Marian

Lady of the Forest: Robin Hood & Marian, Book 1 by Jennifer Roberson

Front Cover




Synopsis



As the gates of Ravenskeep swing open and a young woman flees into the primeval depths of Sherwood Forest and into the arms of the man she loves, a saga of exceptional power and remarkable passion begins... 
He is Sir Robery Locksley - the heroic nobleman who has turned his back on all he knows to embark on a dangerous quest for justice in an England torn apart by treachery, betrayal, and war.
She is Lady Marian of Ravenskeep - the proud, defiant knight's daughter who leaves her sheltered life behind to join a shadowy band of outlaws who follow no law but their own.
Robin Hood and Maid Marian - their love has belonged to legend for centuries, and now it belongs to us all, stunningly brought to life by the masterful pen of a truly gifted storyteller. Against a medieval tapestry of color and pageantry, Jennifer Roberson has woven a rich, sweeping tale of a woman whose courage and passion could forever alter the destiny of that mist-shrouded land of lore we know in our hearts and see in our dreams.

My Review


I am a little embarrassed that I haven't posted since July of last year. All I can say is that I've been busy and also a part of me wanted a break, but I am back and hoping to post at least once a month.

And so moving on to the book. I've always been interested in the famous tale of Robin Hood (I've watched the Kevin Costner film a few times) and Jennifer Roberson is the author of one of my favourite books, Tiger and Del, and so it seemed like a match made in heaven.

Unfortunately it didn't quite end up like that. 

The story follows Robin (Robert of Locksley), who has returned from imprisonment by Saxons whilst on crusade and Marian, who has just learned about her father's death who was also on crusade.

The book has other familiar characters, Sheriff of Nottingham DeLacey, Guy Gisbourne, Big John, Friar Tuck etc.

The biggest gripe that I have with the book, is how much inconsequential words flood this book to make it 600 odd pages long. I struggled to read through it, as every characters thoughts and actions were described in painstaking detail. Roberson also structured the book so multiple POV were exchanged within the same passage of text, which just adds to the intricate book.
As a result the plot seemed relatively short and by the end of the book, I felt that not a lot had happened.


Conclusion


It wasn't all bad, and if you take away all the flowery passages then you are left with a half decent book, that despite all the faults I've just described kept me hooked to the end. Jennifer Roberson is without doubt a talented author and I am sure I will read more books from her.

So my advice; if you are a desperate Robin Hood fan, then this book will offer you some pleasure, but otherwise, one to miss.


Out of 10 Stars


5 Stars


Buy it here: