Spotlight: Dawn of Wonder by Jonathan Renshaw

Dawn of Wonder book coverThe Awakening: Book 1

Winner 2015 CIPA EVVY awards for Fiction/Fantasy

Current finalist 2015 Writer’s Digest Self Published Book Awards for Genre Fiction

#1 Bestseller in Epic, Historical and Coming of Age Fantasy

Dawn of Wonder by Jonathan Renshaw

When a high-ranking officer gallops into the quiet Mistyvales, he brings a warning that shakes the countryfolk to their roots. But for Aedan, a scruffy young adventurer with veins full of fire and a head full of ideas, this officer is not what he seems.

The events that follow propel Aedan on a journey that only the foolhardy or desperate would risk, leading him to the gates of the nation’s royal academy – a whole world of secrets in itself.

But this is only the beginning of his discoveries. Something is stirring in the land, something more ominous than the rising threat of hostile nations. Fearful travellers whisper of an ancient power breathing over Thirna, changing it, waking it. In the very heart of these stirrings, Aedan encounters that which defies belief, leaving him speechless with terror – and wonder.

You can purchase Dawn of Wonder from Amazon:

Our #SPFBO champion

Over the last few months Fergus and I have read steadily through our five short-listed Self-Published Fantasy Book-Off entries and we are pleased to announce that a winner has been chosen.

Before we announce the winner, here are our thoughts on the four other excellent short-listed titles.

Runner-up: Frotwoot’s Faerie Tales (The Unseelie Court #1) by Charlie Ward

Frotwoot's Faerie Tales coverThe Seelie and Unseelie Courts are at war. On one side: Noble knights, fighting for freedom. On the other: Not-so-noble terrorists, fighting for the right to rule. Caught in the middle: A very confused, very lost teenage boy. His name is Frotwoot Crossley. And he’s about to find out that, somehow, that’s not even the weirdest thing about him…

Our thoughts: We found this to be a charming and pleasantly irreverent story which both older children and teens should love. It is a very well-written story ideal for readers who have already enjoyed The Narnia Chronicles by C. S. Lewis and The Chrestomanci series by Dianne Wynne Jones.

Runner-up: The Penitent Assassin by Shawn Wickersheim

The Penitent Assassin book coverThirty years ago, when Mallor was a child, he was the sole survivor of genocide. Five years ago, while pursuing his revenge he was ambushed and killed. His goddess offered him a chance to return on the condition he became her assassin. Mallor agreed. Now, he is back, in the dank city where it all began using an old identity to hunt down a list of old foes, but thirty-six hours before his revenge would be complete, he learns a couple of things; he has a daughter, she’s been kidnapped by a sadistic magic abuser and the price for her release would not only ruin all of his plans but also kill his goddess. Mallor is nobody’s hero, but can he sacrifice his daughter to save his goddess, or will he forsake his faith and his need for revenge to rescue her instead?

Our thoughts: We found that the darkness that lurked at the edges of this book added greatly to its appeal. The narrative constantly raised questions that we wanted answering, such as ‘who are the dark replicants?’ and ‘who is/was Mallor?’. Full of unexpected happenings, twists and turns this is a very good book with great anti-hero that Gemmell fans will enjoy.

Runner-up: Whill of Agora (Legends of Agora #1) by Michael James Ploof

Whill of Agora book coverIt is the year 5170 in the land Agora, where humans, dwarves, and elves have existed in peace for centuries. Now, however, the human King Addakon has invaded and waged war on neighboring Isladon. The once peaceful Kingdoms of Agora are on the brink of continental war. The Dark Elf Eadon, and his army of Dragon-Elf crossbreeds, the Draggard, threaten to conquer all kingdoms.
Enter young Whill, a nineteen-year-old ranger with battle savvy and untapped abilities. Having spent years roaming Agora and training with his mentor Abram, Whill has become a bright intellectual and a master of combat. What he seeks most, however, is the identity of his birth parents. Instead, he finds a tumultuous terrain and a prophecy placing him in the center of the struggle. Along the way, Whill encounters an equally inspired group of companions that are matched in skill and mission. These include Rhunis the Dragon Slayer, the young Tarren, the fearless Dwarf Roakore, the beguiling warrior Elf Avriel, and the powerful Zerafin. As Whill joins forces, he forges bonds far mightier than their escalating travails. With high adventure and fierce friendship, Whill of Agora will capture your imagination and grip your heart during every super-charged escapade that Agora’s bold and grinning brotherhood embraces.

Our thoughts: We both liked this one a lot, in fact we both thought it was the best-written of the five shortlisted. However, we also felt that lacked its own stamp of uniqueness, the individual elements and concepts that set a fantasy book out from the rest. The story had all the ingredients of a first-rate fantasy tale: a hidden hero, an oncoming war and old secrets long kept. Reading this book brought back memories of old stories we loved, in particular the Shannara and Wheel of Time novels. But in the end this is why it was not our winner. However, we would both heartily recommend Whill of Agora to anyone who is looking for classic fantasy in the vein of Jordan, Brooks and Eddings.

Runner-up: Paladin’s Redemption (Kingdom’s Forge #1) by Kade Derricks

Paladin's Redemption coverPaladin, Traitor, Outcast, Mercenary… Dain Gladstone has been all of these. From childhood he’s been groomed for battle and trained in the Light. When war came he was branded a traitor and exiled for a treasonous act of mercy. To make his way in the world Dain has sold his skills to the highest bidder. But now he’s grown tired of war, tired of fighting for causes not his own, and he’s got a plan. Galena… rumors fly of a great fortune there, one buried beneath the snow-covered mountains, one vast enough to purchase an entire kingdom. Dain isn’t the only one seeking Galena’s riches. Men and elves and orcs all have plans of their own. Fortune has a way of twisting fate and turning the finest of plans on their heads.

Our thoughts: This book begins very well with a grimness to the character, landscape and story which felt fresh. But as the narrative progressed it entered into more common fantasy areas with golden elves, brown elves, orcs etc. providing a fantasy brew of Tolkien, Feist and Word of Warcraft themes, which will appeal to many.

Winner: What Remains of Heroes (A Requim for Heroes #1) by Bavid Denem

What Remains of Heroes book coverLannick deVeers used to be somebody. A hero, even. Then, he ran afoul of the kingdom’s most powerful general and the cost he paid was nearly too much to bear. In the years that followed, his grief turned him into a shadow of his former self, and he spent his days drowning his regrets in tankards of ale.
But now an unexpected encounter casts Lannick upon an unlikely path to revenge. If he can just find the strength to overcome the many mistakes of his past, he can seize the chance to become a hero once more. And with an ancient enemy lurking at the kingdom’s doorstep, he’d better…

Our thoughts: Surprisingly this was not the pick of the bunch after the first chapter. If the book has any flaws they are – in our opinion – found in the first chapter where a couple of major plot elements don’t quite feel right. But from chapter two onwards it was like reading a fantasy pro with years on experience and large publishing house behind them. We both bought into the characters and the story and that is really all it takes – once an author has achieved that with a reader much of the hard work is done. Added to this was a wry humour that worked really well and world building that felt, well, like a real world being described. The book strengthened with each page and was, we felt, the best book we read as part of the self-published fantasy blog-off.

And so there we are, What Remains of Hero is the book we are pleased to put forward to the next round of the competition where we would like to wish David Benem the very best of luck.

And to the four runner-ups: Thank you for submitting your work, we really enjoyed it and both Fergus and myself will be reading it to completion in our own time.
Lee and Fergus, July 2015

The Collectors: Celebrating the 20th anniversary of His Dark Materials

The Collectors book cover imageIt’s been twenty years since the publication of Northern Lights, the first volume in Philip Pullman’s award-winning and highly popular fantasy series, His Dark Materials. It’s hard to believe that so much time has passed isn’t it? And makes me feel a little old…

I loved the first two books in the series, Northern Lights and The Subtle Knife, but was left with reservations regarding the final volume, The Amber Spyglass. I’d always planned to re-read the series to discover what exactly caused these reservations. So when I saw The Collectors available for review on Netgalley I immediately jumped at the chance to read and review it as I enjoyed a previous short story set in same world, Once Upon A Time in the North, so much. And so it proved with The Collectors. The story reminded me immediately that Pullman is a very good author indeed and this is an excellently written and fascinating (if you are interested in the world of His Dark Materials) story and it has made me want to very much read the original trilogy again – and that is exactly what I will do.

The Collectors is not just a must-read for lovers of the His Dark Materials trilogy (as it delves into the past of Mrs Coulter) but also a recommended toe-in-the-water for those unsure as to whether they should give the trilogy a go.

I liked it. I liked it a lot. Very atmospheric and edgy.

If you are interested in the His Dark Materials trilogy our reviews can be found on Philip Pullman’s biography page.

Game of Thrones: Book vs Show

Maria Ramos takes a look at the major differences between the books and the HBO series.

Excitement recently brewed for the fifth season of Game of Thrones, which is premièred April 12, 2015. The acclaimed HBO series has been very popular with viewers since its release in 2011 but A Song of Ice and Fire, the series of novels by George R. R. Martin that inspired the show, has been around for much longer. Because the novels contain thousands of pages of in-depth storytelling, it has been a challenge for the show’s producers to capture all of the details of the plot, leading to some major changes.

As the show continues into its fifth season, it is likely to move further from the original plot outlined in the books. This makes it the perfect time to investigate some of the differences between Game of Thrones and the A Song of Ice and Fire series.

(WARNING: some minor spoilers ahead for both show and book!)

A Song of Ice and Fire is an epic fantasy series that currently spans five books. The story begins in A Game of Thrones, the first in the series, when it is discovered that King Robert Baratheon’s children are the product of an affair and are not biologically his own. When the king dies and news spreads that he has no legitimate heir, it leads to a massive civil war as several factions vie for the throne. While the majority of the country is engaged in battle, trouble is brewing in the far North, where the undead Others begin to gather power and threaten all life in the land.

While the show generally follows this plot, there are many details that distinguish it from the novels. Because the show attempts to condense huge volumes into one-hour weekly segments, it inevitably has to cut interesting events that may not serve the purpose of their story arc. Several characters have been cut for this reason; in fact, one of the biggest surprises of last season was the absence of a character many fans were excited to see. While disappointing for some readers, this decision was made in the interest of saving time.

Not all of the show’s changes are due to time constraints. Some are made to alter the audience’s perceptions of certain characters. Those that have never read the books may view Tyrion Lannister as a witty and handsome dwarf with a heart of gold, but this image of one of the series’ most beloved characters doesn’t completely match the novel’s’ portrayal of him. In A Song of Ice and Fire, Tyrion is described as having mismatched eyes and deformed limbs. During the Battle of Blackwater, his nose is completely cut off, making him even more unappealing.

While it is likely that the show chose to make Tyrion more attractive so the audience would be more sympathetic to his plight, Tyrion’s ugliness is essential to his character. The books make it clear that he has been rejected throughout his life due to his appearance, so many fans find it difficult to accept that he is so handsome on Game of Thrones. Tyrion’s behavior in the show is also altered to make him more likeable; in the books, Tyrion kills Shae in a fit of rage, but in the show, she is armed with a knife, making it seem much more justified.

Many fans are concerned with how quickly the show is progressing. The fourth season covered the events of A Storm of Swords, the third book in the series. The next season is expected to involve material from the fourth book, A Feast for Crows. George R. R. Martin’s novels are being released fairly slowly; the sixth book is not expected to be released until 2016. Since George R. R. Martin has already filled the producers in on his plans for the final two novels, it’s likely that the show will soon surpass the books.

Although devoted readers would love to see events in the show unfold exactly as they did in the books, due to time constraints and the nature of film, it sometimes isn’t possible. George R. R. Martin himself has stated that the HBO series is meant to be an adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire, not an exact retelling. Although viewers of the fifth season may not get the exact same experience as those who have read A Feast for Crows, the April 12th première was still full of the excitement and intrigue that fans have come to expect from Game of Thrones.

Our SPFBO short-list

We are taking part in the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off, a competition where we – and many other fantasy websites – receive 25 self-published fantasy books and are given the difficult task of selecting just 1 to put forward to the next stage.

Fergus and I approached this task in this way – we read the first chapter of each book and noted down those books that both impressed and engaged us. We then compared notes and found that we were in agreement on 5 titles. They were:

  • What Remains of Heroes (A Requiem for Heroes #1) by David Benem
  • The Penitent Assassin by Shawn Wickersheim
  • Whill of Agora by Michael James Ploof
  • Paladins Redemption by Kade Derricks
  • The Unseelie Court (Frotwoot’s Faerie Tales #1) by Charlie Ward

Mark Lawrence, who has the unenviable task of organising everything, thought it would be a good idea to mention some of the recurring issues we found with some of the entries, in the hope that feedback might prove useful. Should any of the authors of the 21 books that did not make the short-list require any additional feedback please email and we will be able to provide a little more information.

Obviously the first thing that should be mentioned is that Fergus and I like some sub-genres more than others. Some of the books that were submitted were not written with us in mind as their target audience. There isn’t much we can do about that I’m afraid – we simply like what we like. But if the book was well-written with an engaging story and characters it passed the first hurdle.

So here are a couple of snippets from our notes, to give a taste of why some books were passed over.

“Repetition of words throughout chapter, e.g. believe was used 5 times in the first 10 lines” – a reader can be lost as quickly as the first paragraph. I recently read a book which contained 5 similes on the first page – the sky wasn’t just black, it was as black as the deepest level of the largest ocean… and so on.

The complaint that appeared most was that the structure was poor, the writing sub-standard. The first book I rejected read like a bullet-point list, its structure being sentence, full stop, sentence, full stop – there was no flow, no celebration of a beautiful language and it had all the charm of a power-point presentation.

“Dry and uninspiring” was noted down next to a story. This means that after the first chapter we just has no interest in the story or its characters.

Many of the books were rather difficult to read, mainly due to how they were written. It’s not enough to just have a good story, the way in which it is told is of equal importance. Many books were often either under- or over-written, proving it really is a delicate balance. I’ve been running this site for nearly 10 years now and I’ve begun to notice something – many of the best authors have a work history including journalism or editing, jobs where one can become both skilled and comfortable with words. Many have also done a creative writing course. However, what I would find interesting is to be able to read a manuscript by someone like Robin Hobb before the editors got their hands on it. Robin Hobb writes beautifully but how much is natural and how much is thanks to the often under-appreciated skill of editors?

Then of course there comes the problem of having read the book before. I think every author wears their influences on their sleeve but sometimes it’s a little too on-the-nose. If, in the first chapter, you feel like you are reading a re-tread of The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter or Twilight then it is unlikely that you will feel well disposed towards it.

In summary, the books that made the short-list had 2 things in common.

  1. The were written with a fair degree of skill, care and attention to detail.
  2. The story, locations and characters were both engaging and well-written.

When reading the very best stories you barely think about the author behind the work. Ideally the only time you give them any thought is when eagerly getting your hands on more of their work.

Congratulations to the 5 authors who have made the short list and thank you to all who submitted their work. Here are some nice words from Fergus to end on:

Dear Authors,

Firstly, I would like to say it takes courage, dedication and conviction to finish a story and a fearlessness to put it out in the world for others to read. You have accomplished something many dream off, but have been unable to achieve as yet.

Unfortunately, being a competition we can only go forward with the novels that resonated with us. For those who did not make next stage in our decision process, it was a pleasure to have the opportunity to read your work. Confidence, fortitude and belief in your story will see you through and we wish you every success in the future.

Kindest Regards

The Fantasy Book Review Team

Spotlight: After the Fall (an anthology)

Technology has changed the world around us over the last century, and promises even more great things for the future. But what does that future look like without the marvels of the machine age? After the fall of technology, what lies ahead for humanity?

Purchase online – e-book at, paperback at

After the Fall (an anthology) cover

Featuring a new story from Adam Roberts, plus tales from Allen Ashley, Mike Chinn, Caren Gussoff, Amelia Mangan, Stephen Palmer, Rob Sanders, Simon Sylvester and many more.

Ed Ahern

Ed Ahern resumed writing after forty odd years in foreign intelligence and international sales. He has his original wife, but advises that after forty six years they are both out of warranty. Ed has had forty five stories published thus far.


Allen Ashley

Allen Ashley is no stranger to end of the world stories, having edited Catastrophia for PS Publishing in 2010. Allen runs Clockhouse London Writers and is the judge for the British Fantasy Society Short Story Competition. A writer, editor, poet, tutor and event host, his most recent book is Astrologica: Stories of the Zodiac (Alchemy Press, 2013) and has the following titles due in 2014: Sensorama (an anthology) and The Planet Suite (revised version of his breakthrough novel) – both from Eibonvale Press (UK).


Delphine Boswell

Delphine Boswell expresses her love of writing in the words of John Steinbeck, “I nearly always write just as I nearly always breathe.” Delphine has had numerous short stories published, several in anthologies, as well as a chapter excerpt from a dystopian trilogy that she is presently working on and a chapter excerpt from a mystery novel that she has completed. When not writing, she teaches a thesis completion course to university graduate students. More info can be found on her website:


Gary Budgen

Gary Budgen grew up and still lives in London. His fiction has been published in a number of magazines and anthologies including Interzone, Theaker’s Quarterly and Sein und Werden. Recently he has had stories in the Breaking the Rules, Where Are We Going? And the Urban Green Mananthologies. He is a member of London Clockhouse Writers. His website is:


Daniel Carpenter

Daniel Carpenter has had his words on Metazen, Rainy City Stories and was featured in the National Flash Fiction anthology Jawbreakers alongside Ali Smith and Ian Rankin. Most recently his short story “Skin” was a runner up in the Manchester Climate Change Short Story Competition. He tweets at @dancarpenter85 and blogs on


Megan Chee

Megan Chee has lived in Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and is currently entering her first year at Cornell University. She spends an inordinate amount of time dreaming up stories, which has resulted in an unfortunate tendency to mutter under her breath in inopportune situations.


Mike Chinn

Mike Chinn has published over 40 short stories, from Westerns to Lovecraftian fiction; with all shades of Fantasy, Horror, Science Fiction and Pulp Adventure in between. He’s scripted comic strips for DC Thompson’s Beano and late-lamented Starblazer digest; along with two books on how to write comics/graphic novels – which saw translation into several languages. The Alchemy Press published a collection of his Damian Paladin fiction in 1998,whilst he has edited SWORDS AGAINST THE MILLENNIUM (2000) and THE ALCHEMY PRESS BOOK OF PULP HEROES (2012) and THE ALCHEMY PRESS BOOK OF PULP HEROES 2 (2013) for the same imprint. He is presently working on a third volume in the PULP HEROES series, along with a Sherlock Holmes Steampunk mash-up for Fringeworks – in which he gets to send the famous detective to the Moon.


Helen Ellwood

Over the last ten years, Helen Ellwood has had two plays staged, has cowritten and directed two short films, both shown at QUAD in Derby, been a member of the script writing team for two BBC funded docudramas and has had two short stories broadcast on BBC Radio Derby.

Parts 1 and 2 of her co-written fantasy trilogy, Taranor, are available on Amazon. To break this weird run of twos, Helen is writing the third novel of the trilogy, aiming for publication early next year.


Caren Gussoff

Caren Gussoff is a SF writer living in Seattle, WA. The author of Homecoming (2000), and The Wave and Other Stories (2003), first published by Serpent’s Tail/High Risk Books, Gussoff’s been published in anthologies by Seal Press, and Prime Books, as well as in Abyss & Apex, Cabinet des Fées and Fantasy Magazine. She received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and in 2008 was the Carl Brandon Society’s Octavia E. Butler Scholar at Clarion West. Her new novel, The Birthday Problem, will be published by Pink Narcissus Press in July 2014. Find her online at @spitkitten,, and at


David Hartley

David Hartley is a writer, blogger and performer based in Manchester. He writes tricksy tales about strange and wonderful things, some of which have been published, some of which have been banished to the distant reaches of a forgotten computer file. His first book of flash fiction, Threshold, was published by Gumbo Press in 2013 and is available via all good search engines. His blog is and he can also be found on twitter: @DhartleyWriter


Andrew Kells

Andrew Kells has written radio adverts, short stories, scripts, and two novels; and has performed his work at literature events across the East Midlands. He is currently writing a contemporary urban fairytale, as well as developing his successful workshop for younger writers, “Your Epic Starts Here!”, which featured as part of Nottingham’s Festival Of Words and Nottingham Children’s Book Festival in 2013.


Emma Lannie

Emma J. Lannie grew up in Manchester and now lives and writes in Derby. Her work has appeared in a number of anthologies and journals, and her first short story collection Behind a Wardrobe in Atlantis was recently published by Mantle Lane Press. You can read some of her stories (and ramblings about time travel, buildings, and naps) at


LD Lapinski

LD Lapinski is a writer of fantasy, science fiction and short story flash.She recently completed her MA in Creative Writing at Nottingham Trent University. She is currently working on her first novel. @ldlapinski


Amelia Mangan

Amelia Mangan was born in London in 1983 and currently lives in Sydney, Australia. Her writing is featured in many anthologies and magazines, among them X7: An Anthology of Seven Deadly Sins,No Monsters Allowed and Worms (all ed. Alex Davis), The Bestiarum Vocabulum andPhobophobias (both ed. Dean M. Drinkel), Blood Type: An Anthology of Vampire SF On the Cutting Edge (ed. Robert S. Wilson), and Attic Toys (ed. Jeremy C. Shipp). Her story, “Blue Highway,” won the first annual Yen Magazine Short Story competition in 2013, and was published in Yen #65.


MP Neal

MP Neal writes speculative fiction, mostly fantasy, science fiction or suspense where the characters at the centre of the story are often under threat. Her short stories, published or about to appear, are entitled “Last” in Strange Fortune (Knightwatch Press) and “The Unbinding” soon to be available in an anthology After the Fall (Boo Books). She has just finished her first novel The Dark Age. She is a mother who started out as a space scientist before becoming a writer. Her website can be found at


Stephen Palmer

Stephen Palmer is the author of eight novels: Memory Seed (Orbit 1996; Infinity Plus ebooks 2013),Glass (Orbit 1997; Infinity Plus ebooks 2013), Flowercrash (Wildside 2002; Infinity Plus ebooks 2013), Muezzinland (Wildside 2003; Infinity Plus ebooks 2011), Hallucinating (Wildside 2004; Infinity Plus ebooks 2011), The Rat And The Serpent (Prime Books 2005; Infinity Plus ebooks 2012) and Urbis Morpheos (PS Publishing 2010; Infinity Plus ebooks 2014). His eighth novel, the surreal and fast-paced Hairy London, is published as a paperback and an ebook in 2014. His short stories have been published by Spectrum SF, Wildside, NewCon, Unspoken Water, Rocket Science, Solaris, Theakers, Boo Books and Eibonvale, with more forthcoming for 2014. He lives and works in Shropshire, UK.


Adam Roberts

Adam Roberts is a writer and academic who lives some way west of London. His latest books are Jack Glass (2013), Twenty Trillion Leagues Under the Sea (with Mahendra Singh; 2014) and Bête (2014).


Rob Sanders

Rob Sanders is the author of six science fiction and fantasy novels, as well as numerous short stories, novellas, audio dramas and comics. His fiction has appeared on the New York Times Best Seller list and has won national writing competitions. He lives off the beaten track in the small city of Lincoln, UK.


Cameron Suey

Cameron Suey is a California native living in San Francisco with his wife and daughter. He works as a writer in the games industry, and along with several other talented writers, won the WGA Award for Videogame Writing in 2009 for “Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.” His work has appeared on the Pseudopod Podcast, several anthologies including A Quick Bite of Flesh and Historic History, and is featured in the first issue of Jamais Vu: The Journal of Strange Among the Familiar. He can be found on the web at, where he writes about writing, horror, and other influences, and on twitter as @josefkstories.


Simon Sylvester

Simon Sylvester is a writer, teacher and filmmaker. He has written more than a thousand flash stories on Twitter and his first novel, The Visitors, will be published by Quercus Books in June 2014. Simon lives in Cumbria with the painter Monica Metsers and their daughter Dora.

Tom Hiddleston reads J. G. Ballard’s High Rise

High Rise audiobook coverYesterday saw the release of the audiobook edition of High Rise, J. G. Ballard’s unnerving tale from 1975 of life in a modern tower block running out of control.

Tom HiddlestonRead by Tom Hiddleston (best known for playing Loki in Thor and The Avengers) the audiobook is set within the concealing walls of an elegant 40-storey tower block, the affluent tenants are hell-bent on an orgy of destruction. Cocktail parties degenerate into marauding attacks on ‘enemy’ floors and the once-luxurious amenities become an arena for riots and technological mayhem.

We are massive fans of Ballard (who isn’t) and Audible have very kindly supplied us with a 25 second clip to whet your appetite.

Credit: Audible Studios, 2015

For more information on this audiobook, visit Audible UK.

Spotlight: A Time of Kings by Sean Moran

First in a planned trilogy, A Time of Kings takes places 600 years after the fall of the Roman Empire, in an alternate history when the descendants of Arthur Pendragon reign over half of Western Europe. On the eve of the wedding of Prince Arthur to the daughter of the Byzantine Emperor, a usurper emerges to challenge the Pendragons and the world. Meanwhile, Merlin searches for answers to an ancient mystery.

A Time for Kings book cover

Sean Moran is a hardworking, creative, and driven individual with a passion for writing. He has been writing since he knew how and before that, a child storyteller in the oral history tradition. A lover of history and student of the world, Sean currently lives and studies at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US. buy button buy button

Competition: Win a copy of The Devil’s Detective by Simon Kurt Unsworth

The Devil's Detective book cover imageWelcome to hell… … where skinless demons patrol the lakes and the waves of Limbo wash against the outer walls, while the souls of the Damned float on their surface, waiting to be collected. When an unidentified, brutalised body is discovered, the case is assigned to Thomas Fool, one of Hell’s detectives, known as ‘Information Men’. But how do you investigate a murder where death is commonplace and everyone is guilty of something?

Those lovely people at Penguin Random House UK have given us 3 copies of The Devil’s Detective to give away. The competition is open to UK residents only  and here is how you can enter:

Simply tweet @FanBooRev with the name of the book you are currently reading and as many words from the first chapter as you can fit into 140 characters. For example:

@FanBooRev The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his…

The competition will close this Friday (March 6, 2015) and winners will be notified via Twitter and their UK mail address will be requested, so that a winning copy can be dispatched.

Good luck to all who enter.

For more information on The Devil’s Detective and its author Simon Kurt Unsworth, and to read an excerpt, visit the Del Rey UK website.

My most anticipated novel of 2015

I’ve been asked to select my most anticipated novel of 2015, to be included in a special feature on the tombola Times, The Top Ten Book Releases of 2015. I thought this might be difficult, very difficult. It wasn’t, it was incredibly easy and took less than ten seconds. The novel that I am most eager to read this year is Fool’s Quest, the second instalment in Robin Hobb’s Fitz and the Fool series.

Fool's Quest cover image

Often, when you look forward to the second book in a trilogy/series it is because you have enjoyed the previous instalment so much. But that doesn’t tell the full story here; it goes much deeper than that. You see, Robin Hobb has been writing wonderful novels set within the Realm of the Elderlings for twenty years now. I have, like Fitz, grown from a child, to a teenager, and now an adult with children of my own. The novels have been a constant and enjoyable part of my life and I’m hoping that the journey will continue for some time yet, particularly if the books remain as good as Fool’s Assassin, the predecessor to Fool’s Quest.

So why are they so good? Well, characterisation and story/plot stand out for me. As an author Robin Hobb takers her time, to me she doesn’t seem to feel the need to progress a story as much as en-richen it, adding layer upon layer of back-story and delicately placed details that build worlds and peoples both believable and vibrant. And these characters are just like us, they are flawed and they are very human. And in the previous book she literally took my breath away, causing me to re-read a certain page to make sure I had indeed read what I thought I had read. I can’t remember the last time that had happened.

I am confident that thousands of fantasy fans are similarly impatient for this novel’s release but if you are in the position of not having read any novels in the Elderlings series then I envy you – you have a glorious journey ahead of you and I would like to point you in the direction of Assassin’s Apprentice, the first novel in the Farseer Trilogy. And from there the directions would include the Liveship Traders, Tawny Man and Rainwild Chronicles.

Roll on August 2015 and may the journey never end.