Every month a book comes along that is just that little bit special, a book that stands head and shoulders above the others that have been read and reviewed. This book becomes our Book of the Month and below can be seen the winners since the award began in June 2009.
by Josiah Bancroft
Forced by necessity into a life of piracy, Senlin and his eclectic crew struggle to survive aboard their stolen airship as the hunt for his lost wife continues. But the Tower of Babel is proving to be as difficult to re-enter as it was to escape.
Hopeless and desolate, they turn to a legend of the tower, the mysterious Sphinx. But help from the sphinx doesn't come cheaply and, as Senlin knows, debts aren't always what they seem in the Tower of Babel.
"Start this series if you haven't already. I don't think you will regret it. I'm personally counting down the days until I can re-enter the Tower with Book #3: The Hod King."
by Tyrell Johnson
Forget the old days. Forget summer. Forget warmth. Forget anything that doesn’t help you survive in the endless white wilderness beyond the edges of a fallen world. Lynn McBride has learned much since society collapsed in the face of nuclear war and the relentless spread of disease. As the memories of her old life continue to haunt, she's forced to forge ahead in the snow-drifted Canadian Yukon, learning how to hunt and trap and slaughter. Shadows of the world before have found her tiny community - most prominently in the enigmatic figure of Jax, who brings with him dark secrets of the past and sets in motion a chain of events that will call Lynn to a role she never imagined.
"Wolves of Winter is a beautiful, touching and satisfyingly succinct read with a lot to say. The author’s story-telling is captivating; balancing grief, adventure, heart and curiosity within a wonderfully sculpted and realistic world."
by EJ Swift
Paris was supposed to save Hallie. Now... well, let’s just say Paris has other ideas. There’s a strange woman called The Chronometrist who will not leave her alone. Garbled warnings from bizarre creatures keep her up at night. And there’s a time portal in the keg room of the bar where she works. Soon, Hallie is tumbling through the turbulent past and future Paris, making friends, changing the world - and falling in love. But with every trip, Hallie loses a little of herself, and every infinitesimal change she makes ripples through time, until the future she’s trying to save suddenly looks nothing like what she hoped for...
"Paris Adrift is a great time travel story, inventive and at times overwhelming. Hallie is a compelling character to read, as she is not all-knowing and manages to keep her sense of disbelief for as long as possible. Hallie through the book comes to find an inner strength that she didn’t know existed as she faces challenges without a lot of resources. I can’t really express how much I enjoyed this story and look forward to reading more from E. J. Swift soon."
by Vic James
A corrupted city. A dark dream of power. Luke is a prisoner, condemned for a murder he didn’t commit. Abi is a fugitive, desperate to free him before magic breaks his mind. But as the Jardines tighten their grip on a turbulent Britain, brother and sister face a fight greater than their own. New alliances and old feuds will remake the nation, leaving Abi and Luke questioning everything – and everyone – they know. And as Silyen Jardine hungers for the forgotten Skill of the legendary Wonder King, the country’s darkest hour approaches. Freedom and knowledge both come at a cost. So who will pay the price?
"I had to keep reading as I wanted to know what would happen next, whether the rebels plotting to overthrow the established way of life will succeed, or if they will be put down once and for all. There is such a rich history to this series that is still slowly being revealed. I genuinely can’t wait to read what happens next in this entertaining world."
by Rob J Hayes
"The Fifth Empire of Man is amazing. Intricate with stunning dialogue. Expertly edited (I noticed one tiny mistake in these 400-pages). It's surely only a matter of time before one of the big-5 fantasy publishers knocks on Hayes' door. In my mind, Hayes does grimdark better than Abercrombie with characters just as memorable. Be one of the cool kids who reads this series before it gets popular because I guarantee it will. Oh yeah, it's about pirates, mate!"
The Pirate Isles are united under Drake Morrass’ flag, but the war has only just begun. There’s still a long way to go before he’s able to call himself King, and traitors at every turn. The Five Kingdoms and Sarth have assembled a fleet of ships unlike any the world has ever seen and they intend to purge the Pirate Isles once and for all by fire and steel. Revenge, never far from Keelin Stillwater’s mind, is finally within his grasp and he sets sail to the Forgotten Empire. But more than dense jungles and ruined cities await him there. Vengeful gods and malignant spirits now call those cursed lands home, and they are not wisely disturbed. Meanwhile, Elaina Black tries to secure herself powerful allies and the forces those allies can spare. She’s set her course on the throne: either by Drake’s side or over his dead body.
by Ian C Esslemont
After the disappointments of Li Heng, Dancer and Kellanved wash up on a small insignificant island named Malaz. Immediately, of course, Kellanved plans to take it over. To do so they join forces with a small band of Napans who have fled a civil war on their own home island. The plan, however, soon goes awry as Kellanved develops a strange and dangerous fascination for a mysterious ancient structure found on the island.
The chaos in the region extends to the metaphysical planes also as a young priest of D'rek starts to question the rot at the heart of the worship of the god of decay. And back in Li Heng, Dassem, now the proclaimed Sword of Hood, finds himself being blamed for a plague which leads him to a crisis of faith - and searching for answers.
During all this, war with the neighbouring island of Nap threatens, recruited allies wonder at Kellanved’s sanity, and powerful entities take more of an interest in the little mage from Dal Hon. Dancer faces a hard choice: should he give up on his partnership? Especially when the fellow’s obsession with shadows and ancient artefacts brings the both of them alarmingly close to death and destruction.
After all, who in his right mind would actually wish to enter an Elder mystery known to everyone as the 'Deadhouse'?
by Michael J Sullivan
Raithe, the God Killer, may have started the rebellion by killing a Fhrey, but long-standing enmities dividing the Rhunes make it all but impossible to unite against the common foe. And even if the clans can join forces, how will they defeat an enemy whose magical prowess renders them indistinguishable from gods?
The answer lies across the sea in a faraway land populated by a reclusive and dour race who feel nothing but disdain for both Fhrey and mankind. With time running out, Persephone leads the gifted young seer Suri, the Fhrey sorceress Arion, and a small band of misfits in a desperate search for aid—a quest that will take them into the darkest depths of Elan. There, an ancient adversary waits, as fearsome as it is deadly.
"Age of Swords marks yet another entry into evidence detailing Michael J. Sullivan’s captivating storytelling. The characters are beautifully fleshed out, the story flows with a pace that never lets you stop, and yet never borders on frantic or slow. With every addition to this universe, Sullivan proves he is one of the most talented and captivating authors currently at work. It’d be a shame to miss out."
by John Gwynne
The Ben-Elim, a race of warrior angels, once vanquished a mighty demon horde. Now they rule the Banished lands. But their dominion is brutally enforced and their ancient enemy may not be as crushed as they thought. In the snowbound north, Drem, a trapper, finds mutilated corpses in the forests - a sign of demonic black magic. In the south, Riv, a young, tempestuous soldier, discovers a deadly rift within the Ben-Elim themselves. Two individuals with two world-changing secrets. But where will they lead? And what role will Drem and Riv play in the Banished Land's fate? Difficult choices need to be made. Because in the shadows, demons are gathering, waiting for their time to rise...
"I was so happy to venture back into Gwynne's world and mind. Gwynne is a master of his craft and one of the best fantasy writers around right now. With likeable characters, it hits so much harder should bad things happen to them but unfortunately, they do. This is a great place to start or an unmissable next step in Gwynne's majestic tale of Good vs Evil. A Time of Dread is epic, unpredictable and exhilarating with action galore and characters worth rooting for."
by Adrian J Walker
Every dog has its day... And for Lineker, a happy go lucky mongrel from Peckham, the day the world ends is his: finally a chance to prove to his owner just how loyal he can be. Reg, an agoraphobic writer with an obsession for nineties football, plans to wait out the impending doom in his second floor flat, hiding himself away from the riots outside. But when an abandoned orphan shows up in the stairwell of their building, Reg and Lineker must brave the outside in order to save not only the child, but themselves...
"The Last Dog on Earth is a book I would recommend highly as it is at turns funny, disturbing, moving and thought-provoking. Walker is an excellent author who creates great characters and in Lineker he has excelled himself. A dark yet life-affirming book ideal for those who enjoy reading within the post-apocalyptic/dystopian genre."
by TM Lakomy
Taking humanity back to their primordial beliefs and fears, Estella confronts Mikhail’s faith by revealing the true horror of the lucrative trade in human souls. All organized religions are shops orchestrated to consume mankind. Every deity, religion, and spiritual guide has been corrupted, and each claims to have the monopoly on truth and salvation. In a world where angels, demons, and gods fight over the possession of mortal souls, two conflicted pawns are ensnared in a cruel game. The enigmatic seer Estella finds herself thrown together with Count Mikhail, a dogmatic Templar dedicated to subjugating her kind. But when a corrupted cardinal and puppet king begin a systematic genocide of her people, the two become unlikely allies. In a perilous game where the truth is distorted and meddling ancient deities converge to partake of the unseen battle, Estella unwittingly finds herself hunted by Lucifer. Traversing the edge of hell’s precipice, Estella and Mikhail are reduced to mere instruments. Their only means to overcome is through courting the Threefold Death, the ancient ritual of apotheosis—of man becoming God.
"Brilliant book. Dark and beautiful. Some readers who wish to utterly lose themselves in a unique, different fantasy world may not like it though as a lot of what happens here is perhaps scarily believable and familiar. To anyone who follows my reviews, you know I've read almost all the top debuts this year."
by Peter Heller
Hig, bereaved and traumatised after global disaster, has three things to live for - his dog Jasper, his aggressive but helpful neighbour, and his Cessna aeroplane. He's just about surviving, so long as he only takes his beloved plane for short journeys, and saves his remaining fuel. But, just once, he picks up a message from another pilot, and eventually the temptation to find out who else is still alive becomes irresistible. So he takes his plane over the horizon, knowing that he won't have enough fuel to get back. What follows is scarier and more life-affirming than he could have imagined.
"I’ve read a great deal in this genre over the past 30 years and I’ll put The Dog Stars up there with the best. And what makes it a more fulfilling read for today’s audience is that it is current and all the more believable for it. I guess the easiest (and arguably laziest) comparison I can make is to like this book to a cross between Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Stephen King’s The Stand. I should point out that its length is very much the former and not the mammoth size of the latter."
by JRR Tolkien
Painstakingly restored from Tolkien’s manuscripts and presented for the first time as a continuous and standalone story, the epic tale of Beren and Lúthien will reunite fans of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings with Elves and Men, Dwarves and Orcs and the rich landscape and creatures unique to Tolkien’s Middle-earth. The tale of Beren and Lúthien was, or became, an essential element in the evolution of The Silmarillion, the myths and legends of the First Age of the World conceived by J.R.R. Tolkien. Returning from France and the battle of the Somme at the end of 1916, he wrote the tale in the following year. Essential to the story, and never changed, is the fate that shadowed the love of Beren and Lúthien: for Beren was a mortal man, but Lúthien was an immortal Elf. Her father, a great Elvish lord, in deep opposition to Beren, imposed on him an impossible task that he must perform before he might wed Lúthien. This is the kernel of the legend; and it leads to the supremely heroic attempt of Beren and Lúthien together to rob the greatest of all evil beings, Melkor, called Morgoth, the Black Enemy, of a Silmaril. In this book Christopher Tolkien has attempted to extract the story of Beren and Lúthien from the comprehensive work in which it was embedded; but that story was itself changing as it developed new associations within the larger history. To show something of the process whereby this legend of Middle-earth evolved over the years, he has told the story in his father's own words by giving, first, its original form, and then passages in prose and verse from later texts that illustrate the narrative as it changed. Presented together for the first time, they reveal aspects of the story, both in event and in narrative immediacy, that were afterwards lost.
"I recommend this book to those that have read many of Tolkien’s works. If you enjoyed Tolkien’s poetry editions, such as Beowulf a Translation and a Commentary and The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún, along with the books set in middle-earth then this will undoubtedly be for you. However, readers who are expecting to just enjoy a prose story will, ultimately, be disappointed with the content here."
by Neil Gaiman
Life moves at a leisurely pace in the tiny town of Wall - named after the imposing stone barrier which separates the town from a grassy meadow. Here, young Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to the beautiful Victoria Forester and for the coveted prize of her hand, Tristran vows to retrieve a fallen star and deliver it to his beloved. It is an oath that sends him over the ancient wall and into a world that is dangerous and strange beyond imagining...
"If you haven’t lost all sense of romance, and are able to still believe in the beauty of stars, Stardust is absolutely a must read."
by Josiah Bancroft
While honeymooning in the Tower of Babel, Thomas Senlin loses his wife, Marya. The Tower of Babel is the greatest marvel of the Silk Age. Immense as a mountain, the ancient Tower holds unnumbered ringdoms, warring and peaceful, stacked one on the other like the layers of a cake. It is a world of geniuses and tyrants, of airships and steam engines, of unusual animals and mysterious machines. Thomas Senlin, the mild-mannered headmaster of a small village school, is drawn to the Tower by scientific curiosity and the grandiose promises of a guidebook. The luxurious Baths of the Tower seem an ideal destination for a honeymoon, but soon after arriving, Senlin loses Marya in the crowd. Senlin’s search for Marya carries him through madhouses, ballrooms, and burlesque theaters. He must survive betrayal, assassination, and the long guns of a flying fortress. But if he hopes to find his wife, he will have to do more than just survive. This quiet man of letters must become a man of action.
"An extraordinary debut that is well worthy of the hype. A beautifully written, highly engaging page-turning masterpiece where I was on Tom's side every step of the way. I'd read Arm of the Sphinx next if I could but as an #SPFBO judge, I'm currently busy trying to find some more gems like this."
by Jen Williams
The great city of Ebora once glittered with gold. Now its streets are stalked by wolves. Tormalin the Oathless has no taste for sitting around waiting to die while the realm of his storied ancestors falls to pieces - talk about a guilt trip. Better to be amongst the living, where there are taverns full of women and wine. When eccentric explorer, Lady Vincenza 'Vintage' de Grazon, offers him employment, he sees an easy way out. Even when they are joined by a fugitive witch with a tendency to set things on fire, the prospect of facing down monsters and retrieving ancient artefacts is preferable to the abomination he left behind. But not everyone is willing to let the Eboran empire collapse, and the adventurers are quickly drawn into a tangled conspiracy of magic and war. For the Jure'lia are coming, and the Ninth Rain must fall...
"Hold onto your fantasy hats, broom sticks and dragons and any hope you had for not falling in love with Tor, Vintage and Noon."
by Anna Smith Spark
They’ve finally looked at the graveyard of our Empire with open eyes. They’re fools and madmen and like the art of war. And their children go hungry while we piss gold and jewels into the dust. In the richest empire the world has ever known, the city of Sorlost has always stood, eternal and unconquered. But in a city of dreams governed by an imposturous Emperor, decadence has become the true ruler, and has blinded its inhabitants to their vulnerability. The empire is on the verge of invasion and only one man can see it. Haunted by dreams of the empire’s demise, Orhan Emmereth has decided to act. On his orders, a company of soldiers cross the desert to reach the city. Once they enter the Palace, they have one mission: kill the Emperor, then all those who remain. Only from ashes can a new empire be built. The company is a group of good, ordinary soldiers, for whom this is a mission like any other. But the strange boy Marith who walks among them is no ordinary soldier. Marching on Sorlost, Marith thinks he is running away from the past which haunts him. But in the Golden City, his destiny awaits him beautiful, bloody, and more terrible than anyone could have foreseen.
"This book truly is grimdark of the highest order with one of the most complex, beautiful and destructive characters ever written. Queen of Grimdark is a pseudonym well earned. If you mixed beauty, darkness, complexity, death and poetry then you would have something that is a lot like Smith Spark's debut."
by Bradley Beaulieu
Ceda, now a Blade Maiden in service to the kings of Sharakhai, trains as one of their elite warriors, gleaning secrets even as they send her on covert missions to further their rule. She knows the dark history of the asirim--that hundreds of years ago they were enslaved to the kings against their will--but when she bonds with them as a Maiden, chaining them to her, she feels their pain as if her own. They hunger for release, they demand it, but with the power of the gods compelling them, they find their chains unbreakable. Ceda could become the champion they've been waiting for, but the need to tread carefully has never been greater. After their recent defeat at the hands of the rebel Moonless Host, the kings are hungry for blood, scouring the city in their ruthless quest for revenge. Ceda's friend Emre and his new allies in the Moonless Host hope to take advantage of the unrest in Sharakhai, despite the danger of opposing the kings and their god-given powers, and the Maidens and their deadly ebon blades. When Ceda and Emre are drawn into a plot of the blood mage Hamzakiir, they learn a devastating secret that may very well shatter the power of the hated kings. But it may all be undone if Ceda cannot learn to navigate the shifting tides of power in Sharakhai and control the growing anger of the asirim that threatens to overwhelm her...
"The pacing in With Blood Upon the Sand is great, it is very descriptive and yet never boring. You really get a sense of fear for the characters wellbeing, not just physically, but emotionally. The story is very inventive with lots of twists making it heart-rending. Çeda’s story has a long way to go and I can only imagine that we are in for a tempestuous ride, especially with how the book ended on such a fantastic cliff-hanger."
by Dario Cannizzaro
After the sudden death of his best friend Neil, involving a 6-foot giant crow and quite some Tequila, Lou’s life takes an unexpected turn towards the impossible. As Lou discovers his unwelcome gift to see Neil’s ghost, he starts to question his sanity; but the real challenge is just coming up. Mallory, a self-proclaimed medium, offers her services to help Neil pass over. Drunk on spirit, lust, and hope, Lou agrees to perform a ritual, which, unforeseen, leaves him alone to face death. Not any death, but his personal one; a skinny, sarcastic anthropomorphic embodiment of his end-of-time which - who? - goes by D. Summoned during the ritual, D will help Lou in the search for Angelene, Mallory's twin sister, the only clue to finding the medium-at-large, and reverse the ritual. The strange duo begins a road trip from dusty interstates to lousy strip clubs, during which they’ll have time to know each other and discuss the meaning of life, love, and what does it mean to be mortal. Will our unconventional couple find Angelene, and persuade her to help in the search for Mal? Will Lou be able to save his friend Neil, or his own soul for that matter? But more importantly: will he make peace with his own Death?
"I would recommend this to fans of Neil Gaiman, particularly those who enjoyed the Sandman and Death comic book series’. Obscure constructs such as death have been personified, and the everyday world has been bombarded with the fantastic. However, that’s not to say that Cannizzaro writes like Gaiman; he is funnier for one and the structure of this book is far less regimented. This book is humorous, tragic at heart and, most of all, strangely perceptive. I recommend it most highly."
by RJ Barker
Girton Club-Foot, apprentice to the land's best assassin, still has much to learn about the art of taking lives. But their latest mission tasks him and his master with a far more difficult challenge: to save a life. Someone, or many someones, is trying to kill the heir to the throne, and it is up to Girton and his master to uncover the traitor and prevent the prince's murder. In a kingdom on the brink of civil war and a castle thick with lies Girton finds friends he never expected, responsibilities he never wanted, and a conspiracy that could destroy an entire land.
"The writing style, to begin with, was unusual. I cannot put my finger on why exactly. It took me about a chapter and a half to understand the flow and appreciate what was being written here. I know it is difficult to write a story in the first person that is truly emotionally engaging yet Age of Assassins definitely is. This story is completely self-contained. The culmination is perfectly composed and the majority of the seeds that have been planted come to feature in the finale... but not all. This is a trilogy so of course there are some loose threads but the majority of these are implied throughout the background rather than at the forefront of the narrative. The epilogue sets things up brilliantly for Blood of Assassins. It is the perfect mix of fantasy and mystery. A stunning and mysterious debut outing where we follow deadly assassins that may be tracking an assassin who is even deadlier. Highly recommended."
by VE Schwab
The precarious equilibrium among the four Londons has reached its breaking point. Once brimming with the red vivacity of magic, darkness casts a shadow over the Maresh Empire, leaving a space for another London to rise. Kell - once assumed to be the last surviving Antari -begins to waver under the pressure of competing loyalties. Lila Bard, once a commonplace but never common thief, has survived and flourished through a series of magical trials. But now she must learn to control the magic, before it bleeds her dry. Meanwhile, the disgraced Captain Alucard Emery and the Night Spire crew are attempting a race against time to acquire the impossible, as an ancient enemy returns to claim a crown and a fallen hero is desperate to save a decaying world...
by Sebastien de Castell
Falcio val Mond, First Cantor of the Greatcoats, is on the brink of fulfilling his dead King's dream: Aline is about to take the throne and restore the rule of law once and for all. But for the Greatcoats, nothing is ever that simple. In neighbouring Avares, an enigmatic new warlord is uniting the barbarian armies and even worse, he is rumoured to have a new ally: Falcio's old nemesis Trin. With the armies of Avares at her back, she'll be unstoppable. Falcio, Kest and Brasti go racing north to stop her, but in those cold, treacherous climes they discover something altogether different - and far more dangerous: a new player plans to take the throne of Tristia, and the Greatcoats, for all their determination and skill, may not be able to stop him.
"If I could recommend one series from the last five years that I hold up as the most action-packed and emotionally-riveting, I would be hard-pressed to look past Sebastien de Castell’s The Greatcoats Quartet."
by Mathias Malzieu
Edinburgh, 1874. On the coldest night the world has ever seen, Little Jack is born with a frozen heart and immediately undergoes a life-saving operation. But Dr Madeleine is no conventional medic and surgically implants a cuckoo-clock into his chest. Little Jack grows up different to other children: every day begins with a daily wind-up. At school he is bullied for his 'ticking', but Dr Madeleine reminds him he must resist strong emotion: anger is far too dangerous for his cuckoo-clock heart. So when the beautiful young street-singer, Miss Acacia, appears - pursued by Joe, the school bully - Jack is in danger of more than just falling in love... he is putting his life on the line.
"I found The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart to be a beautifully written and enchanting adult fairy tale. A lovely little novel and I would recommend it readers who also love Tim Burton’s films."
by Ed McDonald
The republic faces annihilation, despite the vigilance of Galharrow's Blackwings. When a raven tattoo rips itself from his arm to deliver a desperate message, Galharrow and a mysterious noblewoman must investigate a long dead sorcerer's legacy. But there is a conspiracy within the citadel: traitors, flesh-eaters and the ghosts of the wastelands seek to destroy them, but if they cannot solve the ancient wizard's paradox, the Deep Kings will walk the earth again, and all will be lost.
"This is quite a dark story full of gritty and macabre deaths aplenty with a good, but not an overwhelming amount of adrenaline fueling action. Certain sections are superbly intense though and this book is highly unpredictable. It features twists, betrayal, political disputes and half the time when I thought I had analysed where the story was going, I was then blindsided or completely shocked by a revelation. The publisher stated that this as being "gritty epic fantasy for fans of Mark Lawrence and Scott Lynch" and I cannot disagree."
by Diana Wynne Jones
When Vivian is evacuated from London in 1939, she expects to be staying in the countryside. Instead, she is whisked away to Time City – a place that exists outside time and space. It is a strange and remarkable place, where technology rules – yet important events of both past and future are marked by the appearance of mysterious Time Ghosts. Here, a Time Patrol works to preserve historical events – but unknown rogue time-travellers are plotting to take control and are stealing the wards that protect the city. If they succeed, Time City and History as we know it will both be destroyed. Jonathan and Sam are convinced that Vivian can help to save their home – for, astonishingly, she appears as a Time Ghost herself in a forgotten part of the city. But how can she possibly know what to do, when the important event hasn’t even happened yet?!
"Whether you’re a vintage Wynne Jones fan or are discovering her books for the first time as I was, whether you’re an eight year old more interested in reading than socializing, or indeed a thirty four year old still more interested in reading than socializing, Time City is absolutely worth a visit."
by Django Wexler
As the roar of the guns subsides and the smoke of battle clears, the country of Vordan is offered a fragile peace... After their shattering defeats at the hands of brilliant General Janus bet Vhalnich, the opposing powers have called all sides to the negotiating table in hopes of securing an end to the war. Queen Raesinia of Vordan is anxious to see the return of peace, but Janus insists that any peace with the implacable Sworn Church of Elysium is doomed to fail. For their Priests of the Black, there can be no truce with heretics and demons they seek to destroy, and the war is to the death. Soldiers Marcus d'Ivoire and Winter Ihernglass find themselves caught between their general and their queen. Now, each must decide which leader truly commands their loyalty--and what price they might pay for final victory. And in the depths of Elysium, a malign force is rising--and defeating it might mean making sacrifices beyond anything they have ever imagined.
"The Guns of Empire serves to further cement Django Wexler as one of the best authors currently writing, and his work as truly spellbinding. I am as excited and eager for the next book in the series as I am any author’s work, and am secretly pulling for a deus ex machina plot twist to save at least one of the characters from being stone dead."
by Mark Lawrence
At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices’ skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist. But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls as a bloodstained child of eight, falsely accused of murder: guilty of worse. Stolen from the shadow of the noose, Nona is sought by powerful enemies, and for good reason. Despite the security and isolation of the convent her secret and violent past will find her out. Beneath a dying sun that shines upon a crumbling empire, Nona Grey must come to terms with her demons and learn to become a deadly assassin if she is to survive...
"The finale of this story was utterly breathtaking. Nona is one of my favourite characters in fiction. Lawrence has created one of the most engaging fantasy worlds that my mind has allowed me to visit."
by John Gwynne
Events are coming to a climax in the Banished Lands, as the war reaches new heights. King Nathair has taken control of the fortress at Drassil and three of the Seven Treasures are in his possession. And together with Calidus and his ally Queen Rhin, Nathair will do anything to obtain the remaining Treasures. With all seven under his command, he can open a portal to the Otherworld. Then Asroth and his demon-horde will finally break into the Banished Lands and become flesh. Meanwhile Corban has been taken prisoner by the Jotun, warrior giants who ride their enormous bears into battle. His warband scattered, Corban must make new allies if he hopes to survive. But can he bond with competing factions of warlike giants? Somehow he must, if he's to counter the threat Nathair represents. His life hangs in the balance - and with it, the fate of the Banished Lands.
"If you follow the frequency of my reviews then you will be able to analyse that I have devoured the stories from John Gwynne's fantasy epic saga, The Faithful and the Fallen, at an inhuman pace, and the reason for this is that they are spectacularly envisaged works of art."
by Connie Willis
For Kivrin Engle, preparing an on-site study of one of the deadliest eras in humanity's history was as simple as receiving inoculations against the diseases of the fourteenth century and inventing an alibi for a woman traveling alone. For her instructors in the twenty-first century, it meant painstaking calculations and careful monitoring of the rendezvous location where Kivrin would be received. But a crisis strangely linking past and future strands Kivrin in a bygone age as her fellows try desperately to rescue her. In a time of superstition and fear, Kivrin - barely of age herself - finds she has become an unlikely angel of hope during one of history's darkest hours.
"One of the major reasons I read speculative fiction; possibly the major reason, is to see beauty in darkness. To see flawed, real and decent human beings up against vast, incomprehensible and alien situations and see them triumph. Doomsday Book is a book with no gigantic battles, no sweeping events, and very little by way of actual villains, a small, intimate story of a tiny medieval village, one traveller a long way from home, and her mentor's efforts to help her. Yet, it is one of the most truly compelling books I've read for a considerable time and one I wouldn't hesitate in recommending."
by John Gwynne
The Banished Lands are engulfed in war and chaos. The cunning Queen Rhin has conquered the west and High King Nathair has the cauldron, most powerful of the seven treasures. At his back stands the scheming Calidus and a warband of the Kadoshim, dread demons of the Otherworld. They plan to bring Asroth and his host of the Fallen into the world of flesh, but to do so they need the seven treasures. Nathair has been deceived but now he knows the truth. He has choices to make; choices that will determine the fate of the Banished Lands. Elsewhere the flame of resistance is growing - Queen Edana finds allies in the swamps of Ardan. Maquin is loose in Tenebral, hunted by Lykos and his corsairs. Here he will witness the birth of a rebellion in Nathair's own realm. Corban has been swept along by the tide of war. He has suffered, lost loved ones, sought only safety from the darkness. But he will run no more. He has seen the face of evil and he has set his will to fight it. The question is, how? With a disparate band gathered about him - his family, friends, giants, fanatical warriors, an angel and a talking crow - he begins the journey to Drassil, the fabled fortress hidden deep in the heart of Forn Forest. For in Drassil lies the spear of Skald, one of the seven treasures, and here it is prophesied that the Bright Star will stand against the Black Sun.
"This is one of the top 15 books I have ever read. It did everything that an author should aspire to present to a reader. Mythical, magical, intense, brutal, poignant. If you are reading this and have not started The Faithful and the Fallen, stop being silly."
by Jonathan Stroud
Lucy has left Lockwood & Co. A freelance operative, she is hiring herself out to other agencies – agencies that might value her ever-improving skills. But now Lockwood needs her help. Penelope Fittes, leader of the well-renowned Fittes Agency wants Lockwood & Co. – and only them – to locate and remove the ‘Source’ for the legendary Brixton Cannibal. It’s a tough assignment. Made worse by the tensions between Lucy and the other agents – even the skull is treating her like a jilted lover! What will it take to reunite the team? Black marketeers, an informant ghost, a Spirit Cape that transports the wearer, and mysteries involving their closest rivals may just do the trick. But not all is at it seems. And it’s not long before a shocking revelation rocks Lockwood & Co. to its very core...
"This is a grisly tale, in the best possible way. You’ll jump, laugh, be moved and be left wanting copious amounts of tea and biscuits. What else can I say? It’s brilliant, just as expected, just like every book I’ve read by Stroud. The scariest thing of all though is that the next book might just be the last... Please say it ain't true."
by Genevieve Cogman
When it's your job to save the day - where do you start? Librarian spy Irene has standards to maintain, especially while on probation. And absconding from a mission via a besieged building doesn't look good. But when her escape route home goes up in flames, what's a spy to do? However, it seems Gates back to the Library are malfunctioning across dozens of worlds. Worse still, her nemesis Alberich is responsible -and he plans to annihilate the Library itself. Irene and assistant Kai are posted to St Petersburg, to help combat this threat. Here Alberich emerges, as Irene tries to save her friend Vale and foil assassination attempts. Then one incredibly dangerous opportunity to save the Library emerges. Saving herself would be a bonus…
"This is not just an admirable follow up, but an author in complete control of her talent and her characters. The Burning Page is not only hard to put down, it’s hard to walk away from."
by John Gwynne
The Banished Lands are torn by war as the army of High King Nathair sweeps the realm challenging all who oppose his holy crusade. Allied with the manipulative Queen Rhin of Cambren, there are few who can stand against him. But Rhin is playing her own games and has her eyes on a far greater prize... Left for dead – her kin have fled and her country is overrun with enemies – Cywen fights to survive. But any chance of escape is futile once Nathair and his disquieting advisor Calidus realize who she is. They have no intention of letting such a prize slip from their grasp. For she may be their one chance at killing the biggest threat to their power. Meanwhile, the young warrior Corban flees from his conquered homeland with his exiled companions, heading for the only place that may offer them sanctuary. But to get there they must travel through Cambren, avoiding warbands, giants and the vicious wolven of the mountains. And all the while Corban struggles to become the man that everyone believes him to be – the Bright Star and saviour of the Banished Lands. Embroiled in struggles for power and survival, the mortal world is unaware of the greatest threat of all. In the Otherworld, dark forces scheme to bring a host of the Fallen into the world of flesh to end the war with the Faithful, once and for all.
by Jon Wallace
‘My nanotech is dead. By definition I am no longer Ficial. On the other hand I don't experience your emotions. That makes me inhuman. Like I said: neither one nor the other.' Caught in a world that is too busy destroying itself to care for anything except how to exploit the weak, Kenstibec is the ultimate outsider: he used to be invulnerable but now he's just a killer with no-one to kill for. But when the old world is ending everyone needs a reason to live, someone to live for. Kenstibec is on a quest. A quest that will take him across a freezing ocean and into the cold heart of a new world order.
by Katherine Arden
In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, a stranger with piercing blue eyes presents a new father with a gift - a precious jewel on a delicate chain, intended for his young daughter. Uncertain of its meaning, the father hides the gift away and his daughter, Vasya, grows up a wild, wilful girl, to the chagrin of her family. But when mysterious forces threaten the happiness of their village, Vasya discovers that, armed only with the necklace, she may be the only one who can keep the darkness at bay.
"When I finished the last page of The Bear and the Nightingale, I was exhausted. Not in a bad way, but it really is an emotionally draining novel. So much of the story is very personal and Ms. Arden does an excellent job of making you emotionally invested in the characters. It is truly a testament to Ms. Arden’s skill in her craft that she can create such a wonderful reading experience."
by KS Turner
This world and all worlds are fated to end. The prophet, Jychanumun, has tried to prevent it. He has spent millennia walking between life and death to find a way. The powerful Shaa-kutu have tried to prevent it. They have fought with wits and weapons and given their all. Despite their best, nothing seems capable of stopping the formidable Arrunn from completing his final fateful move. So, can Tachra change that fate? Tachra stands between shadow and light. She has no tools or weapons, only the Earth power and true-vision. Perhaps her fellow humans will ascend to greater knowledge and unlock a new discovery. Or, if she can decipher the Book of Fate, perhaps that will hold a key to saving them all. But when that last prophecy comes, will she make the right choice?
"I have been highly impressed by Turner’s trilogy throughout. I’ve loved the ambition, the attempt to bring something fresh to the genre and I’ve also liked the style, the pacing and the thoughtfulness imbued throughout the work."
by Vic James
A modern Britain. An age-old cruelty. Britain's magically skilled aristocracy compels all commoners to serve them for ten years - and now it's the Hadleys' turn. Abi Hadley is assigned to England's most ruthless noble family. The secrets she uncovers could win her freedom - or break her heart. Her brother Luke is enslaved in a brutal factory town, where new friends' ideals might cost him everything. Then while the elite vie for power, a young aristocrat plots to remake the world with his dark gifts. As Britain moves from anger to defiance, all three must take sides. And the consequences of their choices will change everything, forever.
"In the end I was left emotionally spent and wanting another book to read immediately so that I can find out more about this amazing world that Vic James has envisioned. Extremely impressed is all I can really say. I recommend this to everyone regardless of what genre is your favorite. Even though it would be classified as Dystopian, the story is so well-written and compelling that any reader can appreciate and enjoy it."
by Roald Dahl
"A true genius ... Roald Dahl is my hero" David Walliams
"Terror, wonder, love of language and hints at a wide and fantastic world, The BFG has it all. I can only echo the BFG's words about his own favourite book, Nicholas Nickleby by Darlse Chickens: "I is reading it hundreds of times and I is still reading it and teaching new words to myself and how to write them. It's the most scrumdiddlyumptious story"." Fantasy Book Review
On a dark, silvery moonlit night, Sophie is snatched from her bed by a giant. Luckily it is the Big Friendly Giant, the BFG, who only eats snozzcumbers and glugs frobscottle. But there are other giants in Giant Country. Fifty foot brutes who gallop far and wide every night to find human beans to eat. Can Sophie and her friend the BFG stop them? Let's hope so - otherwise the next child a gruesome giant guzzles could be YOU.
by Helene Wecker
Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master, the husband who commissioned her, dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York in 1899. Ahmad is a djinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop. Though he is no longer imprisoned, Ahmad is not entirely free – an unbreakable band of iron binds him to the physical world.
"The Golem and the Djinni is first rate historical fantasy fiction which makes you care deeply about the characters and instils and eagerness and a need to find how it will all end. It is a wonderful debut novel that brings to life a 1899 New York every bit as atmospheric as the London Conan Doyle created for Holmes. This is a book that consistently delights, a charming love story with pleasing emotional depth."
by Edward Cox
Labrys Town, home to a million humans cut off from the rest of the universe, has been invaded. Those who protected it have been deposed. The Relic Guild are scattered across the worlds of the Aelfir. Many of them are dead or dying. The Genii control everything. The war is almost over. Clara, a young woman barely able to control her werewolf side, has seen her friends and mentors killed in front of her. She is the last hope for Labrys Town. But someone else is watching...
by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
Lifelong friends, they went their separate ways. Now they are together again, though each holds secrets from the others in his heart. They speak of a world shadowed with rumors of war. They speak of tales of strange monsters, creatures of myth, creatures of legend. They do not speak of their secrets. Not then. Not until a chance encounter with a beautiful, sorrowful woman, who bears a magical crystal staff, draws the companions deeper into the shadows, forever changing their lives and shaping the fate of the world. No one expected them to be heroes.
"Today’s generation of teenagers would say you do not understand magic if you have not read Harry Potter. Yet, every generation should understand that they are not the first to tread in dreams of magic and if you love Harry, then you will love Dragonlance."
by Jon Skovron
In a fracturing empire spread across savage seas, two people find a common cause. Hope, the lone survivor of a village massacred by the emperor's forces, is secretly trained as a warrior and instrument of vengeance. Red, an orphan adopted by a notorious matriarch of the criminal underworld, learns to be an expert thief and con artist. Together they will take down an empire.
"Superb fantasy packed with daring pirates, brave warriors, intelligent thieves and revolution. Hope and Red is a phenomenal read with something for everyone – I can’t wait for the next book in the series."
by Justin Cronin
In life I was a scientist called Fanning. Then, in a jungle in Bolivia, I died. I died, and then I was brought back to life… Prompted by a voice that lives in her blood, the fearsome warrior known as Alicia of Blades is drawn towards one of the great cities of The Time Before. The ruined city of New York. Ruined but not empty. For this is the final refuge of Zero, the first and last of The Twelve. The one who must be destroyed if mankind is to have a future. What she finds is not what she's expecting. A journey into the past. To find out how it all began. And an opponent at once deadlier and more human than she could ever have imagined.
"If you have already read the first two volumes, you probably need no encouragement to move on to the third. If not, you can be sure that this is one trilogy whose conclusion is in no way a let down, and seen as a whole, is a truly exceptional work, and one which I suspect will be joining [The Lord of the Rings] and the [Duncton Chronicles] on my frequent rereads list, quite astounding for something which I initially thought would be "a fun zombocalypse"."
by GS Denning
Warlock Holmes is an idiot. Frankly, he couldn't deduce his way out of a paper bag. The only thing he has really got going for him are his arcane power, the might of a thousand demons and his stalwart flatmate. Thankfully, Dr. Watson is always there to aid him through the treacherous shoals of Victorian propriety ... and save him from a gruesome death every now and again.
"I have to admit to laughing a lot reading this, and I haven’t laughed like this for a long time. If Conan Doyle wrote literary masterpieces, this was a true guilty pleasure and enormous fun. I understand Denning is already working on the next Warlock Holmes adventure, and I predict this will be a very popular series."
by Benedict Jacka
Alex Verus has a magic shop in Camden, London, and an uncanny ability to see the future. But suddenly everyone can see Alex's future. Because the Mage's Council of Great Britain just named him a traitor and ordered his death in seven days' time, and there's no way anyone can get out of that. Alex's friends - Luna and the other apprentices he's taken in - are tainted by association. They'll be marked for death too when the ruling comes into play, and Alex becomes locked in a race against time to save them. But with only seven days to work with, will he have time left over save his own skin?
"Benedict Jacka books, no matter how far into the series we progress, remain must-reads for anyone reading this review. Benedict Jacka writes books that I can’t put down, turn aside, or sleep on. They must be read immediately, and I am left an emotional wreck once they finish, knowing that I have to wait months until I can return to the company of some of my favourite characters."
by VE Schwab
Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city, a grisly metropolis where the violence has begun to create real and deadly monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the inhabitants pay for his protection. August just wants to be human, as good-hearted as his own father but his curse is to be what the humans fear. The thin truce that keeps the Harker and Flynn families at peace is crumbling, and an assassination attempt forces Kate and August into a tenuous alliance. But how long will they survive in a city where no one is safe and monsters are real...
"This is an intriguing start to a new series, there are a lot of questions about who ultimately benefits from the truce ending, will it be humanity or the monsters?"
by Michael Crichton
On a remote jungle island, genetic engineers have created a dinosaur game park. An astonishing technique for recovering and cloning dinosaur DNA has been discovered. Now one of mankind's most thrilling fantasies has come true and the first dinosaurs that the Earth has seen in the time of man emerge. But, as always, there is a dark side to the fantasy and after a catastrophe destroys the park's defence systems, the scientists and tourists are left fighting for survival...
"This is definitely a modern classic. This is the book that I recommend to anyone that asks me for a book to read. There are very few books that I can actively read over and over again and still find them as amazing as I did the first time I read them, and this is definitely one of those books."
by Mark de Jager
Stratus wakes alone, with no memory of his past. All he knows is his name and that he is not human. Possessing immense strength, powerful sorcery and an insatiable hunger, he sets out across a landscape torn apart by a war, as a dark magic drives the world to the brink of destruction. Disoriented and pursued relentlessly by enemies, he will have to learn what he truly is, or risk bringing the world into ruin...
I for one am eager to read more from the author – newcomer Mark de Jager. As a writer he has a flair for this type of story, and I can see him taking the character of Stratus far. If you enjoy the likes of Joe Abercrombie, this is definitely a book to check out and an author to keep an eye on.
- Fantasy Book Review
by Daniel OMalley
THE CHECQUY: A centuries-old covert organization that protects the nation from supernatural threat. THE GRAFTERS: A centuries-old supernatural threat. After centuries of rivalry and bloodshed, two secret and otherworldly organisations - The Checquy and The Grafters - are on the verge of joining forces, and only one person has the supernatural skills - and the bureaucratic finesse - to get the job done: Myfanwy Thomas. But as a wave of gruesome atrocities sweep London, ingrained paranoias flare, old hatreds ignite and negotiations grind to a halt. It is up to Myfanwy to find the culprits before they trigger a devastating, all-out, supernatural war between the reluctant allies.
"Stiletto will make you laugh out loud and cringe in horror, but will never leave you bored. Whether you’re a fan of urban fantasy, London, or whether you just enjoy good writing, Stiletto must make an appearance on your bookshelf, electronic or wooden, soon. This is definitely one of my favourite books so far this year, and I can’t wait for more."
by Brian Staveley
The Annurian Empire is losing a war on two fronts - and it's unclear who is in command. Adare is stationed in the thick of battle and now calls herself Emperor. However, she can't hold back the nomadic Urgul forces for much longer. She needs her brilliant general, Ran il Tornja, but will he betray her again? Her brother Kaden is the true heir, yet he'll accept a Republic to save his divided people. And he faces something even more terrible than war. He's unmasked Ran il Tornja as a remnant of an ancient race who attempted to destroy mankind. The general plans to finish what they started, and is amassing all the power he needs. The empire calls on the Kettral, its toughest soldiers, but their order has been decimated. Its last fighters are in disarray, but could they still turn the tide of war? Most disturbingly of all, capricious gods walk the earth in human guise. And their desires could seal the fate of a world.
"For anyone who maybe read the first book and didn’t think much of it, or for those who simply haven’t gotten around to The Last Mortal Bond yet, I recommend you drop whatever you are doing and pick it up. Brian Staveley writes a story that is inescapable in its tragedy and beauty, covering peaks and valleys both literal and literary, and leaving you intriguingly haunted by what we have witnessed."
by Bradley Beaulieu
In the cramped west end of Sharakhai, the Amber Jewel of the Desert, Çeda fights in the pits to scrape a living. She, like so many in the city, pray for the downfall of the cruel, immortal Kings of Sharakhai, but she's never been able to do anything about it. This all changes when she goes out on the night of Beht Zha'ir, the holy night when all are forbidden from walking the streets. It's the night that the asirim, the powerful yet wretched creatures that protect the Kings from all who would stand against them, wander the city and take tribute. It is then that one of the asirim, a pitiful creature who wears a golden crown, stops Çeda and whispers long forgotten words into her ear. Çeda has heard those words before, in a book left to her by her mother, and it is through that one peculiar link that she begins to find hidden riddles left by her mother. As Çeda begins to unlock the mysteries of that fateful night, she realizes that the very origin of the asirim and the dark bargain the Kings made with the gods of the desert to secure them may be the very key she needs to throw off the iron grip the Kings have had over Sharakhai. And yet the Kings are no fools - they've ruled the Shangazi for four hundred years for good reason, and they have not been idle. As Çeda digs into their past, and the Kings come closer and closer to unmasking her, Çeda must decide if she's ready to face them once and for all.
"Bradley Beaulieu has written a beautiful novel that is intricately detailed without ever feeling overly complicated. The characters, of which there are many, are well written and their lives feel whole, even the characters who may only be seen in a chapter or two. Each character is given a role that will further Çeda and Emre's story. There is a rich mythology flowing through the story and I really enjoyed the history of the Twelve Kings and how, even they are not as harmonious as you would imagine. This is a story that shows how important the narrative you tell will affect your own standing in the world."
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