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 Katherine Addison
The youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed in an "accident," he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir. Entirely unschooled in the art of court politics, he has no friends, no advisors, and the sure knowledge that whoever assassinated his father and brothers could make an attempt on his life at any moment. Surrounded by sycophants eager to curry favour with the naive new emperor, and overwhelmed by the burdens of his new life, he can trust nobody. Amid the swirl of plots to depose him, offers of arranged marriages, and the spectre of the unknown conspirators who lurk in the shadows, he must quickly adjust to life as the Goblin Emperor. All the while, he is alone, and trying to find even a single friend... and hoping for the possibility of romance, yet also vigilant against the unseen enemies that threaten him, lest he lose his throne - or his life.
by Jim Butcher
Since time immemorial, the Spires have sheltered humanity, towering for miles over the mist-shrouded surface of the world. Within their halls, aristocratic houses have ruled for generations, developing scientific marvels, fostering trade alliances, and building fleets of airships to keep the peace. Captain Grimm commands the merchant ship, Predator. Fiercely loyal to Spire Albion, he has taken their side in the cold war with Spire Aurora, disrupting the enemy's shipping lines by attacking their cargo vessels. But when the Predator is severely damaged in combat, leaving captain and crew grounded, Grimm is offered a proposition from the Spirearch of Albion - to join a team of agents on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring Predator to its fighting glory. And even as Grimm undertakes this dangerous task, he will learn that the conflict between the Spires is merely a premonition of things to come. Humanity's ancient enemy, silent for more than ten thousand years, has begun to stir once more. And death will follow in its wake.
"Up, up, the winds and mists call the Grimm and wildcats. Duty, freedom and protection of family, new and old calls, as War blazes and the few and dedicated will be required to preserve the many. Another great series for a master of the genre."
by John Gardner
When Grendel is drawn up from the caves under the mere, where he lives with his bloated, inarticulate hag of a mother, into the fresh night air, it is to lay waste Hrothgar's meadhall and heap destruction on the humans he finds there. What else can he do? For he is not like the men who busy themselves with God and love and beauty. He sees the infuriating human rage for order and recognises the meaninglessness of his own existence.
"Adam Brown claims that 'mostly though, the novel is just Grendel himself, encountering the rainy, stony earth, the indifferent vastness of the sky, the cold of winter... Grendel setting his will against the inevitability of history.' the reality is that the 'truth' of Grendel, the only proof, evidenced in so much literature, is that he is a monster that encourages imagination and rationalisation of humanity’s endless struggle to rise above Nature. No matter what lies within his breost-hord his meaning is 'You stimulate them! You make them think and scheme. You drive them to poetry, science, religion, all that makes them what they are for as long as they last. You are, so to speak, the brute existent by which they learn to define themselves... You are mankind, or man’s condition: inseparable as the mountain-climber and the mountain'. Indeed. Read this novella for it will make you think and define yourself again.'
by Tanya Huff
The centuries-long war between the Confederation and The Others, a group of violent alien species, is over. Intergalactic peace is finally restored. Torin Kerr and her crew of ex-Marine friends have gone freelance using their military experience as guns for hire. But this calm equilibrium cannot last. Someone is searching for the lost weapons of the H'san: powerful tools capable of destroying entire planets. Though the H'san gave up fighting long ago, the reappearance of their weapons would no doubt lead to a devastating war. It is up to Torin Kerr and her team to fix this problem before it explodes. But the more Torin learns about the relationship between the Elder and Younger races, the more she fears war might be unavoidable...
"I was so happy to find out that Torin Kerr was back, she is a conflicted protagonist just trying to find her own peace, but knows at this time she is best off helping other people. She is fully determined to keep her people safe and face the challenges thrown at her. Whether she will get her resolution or not remains to be seen, but as long as Tanya Huff decides to keep writing about Torin I will be ecstatically reading her adventures, as it seems that Torin will be facing some uphill battles in her future."
by Leigh Bardugo
Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price - and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy, Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone. A convict with a thirst for revenge. A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager. A runaway with a privileged past. A spy known as the Wraith. A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums. A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes. Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz's crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction - if they don't kill each other first.
"Six of Crows is a fantastic book, one of the best fantasy heist books going around. It is funny, tragic, witty, silly, murderous, thoughtful and more all in one package. If there is a criticism, it might be that Bardugo tries to cram too much into a single story, but it's not much of a criticism given how adeptly she pulled this story off. YA readers probably had this book on their radar long ago and have probably re-read it a couple of times, so for those people who steer clear of YA for whatever reason, I would highly encourage you to put your prejudices aside and give this book a shot."
by Brandon Sanderson
Waxillium Ladrian has returned to the capital city of Elendel from the far flung roughs. Elendel is crisscrossed by canals and railways and towers reach for the sky but this is still a city of dangers and of magic; Allomancy and Feruchemy can still change the world. Wax faces many more adventures.
"In Shadows of Self you can feel the world, it's mists and people. You can smell the horse leather and the coal in the air and you just want more. "
by Guy Adams
Section 37 is under attack. Toby Greene, a Clown Service agent, is on the hunt. But catching someone whose bodyguard is the relentless Rain-Soaked Bride can be a deadly game. Section Chief August Shining has problems of his own. Under investigation by MI6 and at the mercy of a mysterious entity, has his past has finally caught up with him?
"A Few Words for the Dead was a magical read. The action grips you and pulls you in, the fascinating characters you encounter on the way keep you turning the pages as you share in their adventures and the sheer fun the author had in penning the story. If you want a novel that is an ingenious mix of classical Bond spy atmosphere with a goodly measure of Sapphire and Steel thrown in, look no further than A Few Words for the Dead."
by Simon Morden
A small group of commuters and tube workers witness a fiery apocalypse overtaking London. They make their escape through a service tunnel. Reaching a door they step through... and find themselves on a wild shore backed by cliffs and rolling grassland. The way back is blocked. Making their way inland they meet a man dressed in a wolf's cloak and with wolves by his side. He speaks English and has heard of a place called London - other people have arrived here down the ages - all escaping from a London that is burning. None of them have returned. Except one - who travels between the two worlds at will. The group begin a quest to find this one survivor; the one who holds the key to their return and to the safety of London. And as they travel this world, meeting mythical and legendary creatures, split between North and South by a mighty river and bordered by The White City and The Crystal Palace they realise they are in a world defined by all the London's there have ever been.
"This is a very fast paced book, with intense moments of danger as well as being full of wonder. There are so many things to discover in Down not only geographically but historically. I really enjoyed reading about both Mary and Dalip’s journey."
by Edward Cox
Divided, hunted and short on resources, the surviving members of the Relic Guild are in real trouble. Their old enemy, the Genii, and their resurrected master have infiltrated Labrys Town and taken over the police force. So the Relic Guild must flee their home, and set off on a dangerous journey across the worlds of the Aelfir. One that will lead them to a weapon which might destroy the Genii. Or the whole universe... And forty years before all this, the war which led to the fall of the Genii continues. And what happens to the Relic Guild during that conflict will change the course of their desperate flight.
"The Cathedral of Known Things unveils itself slowly like petals opening towards the shining sun, even if the events of the book become more disturbing. With a shock ending that I wasn’t prepared for Edward Cox has written an engagingly detailed novel that I recommend to everyone who likes mystery and magic. The third part of this trilogy should be out next year and it is definitely one of the books I am looking forward to reading in 2016."
by Margaret Atwood
Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She has only one function: to breed. If she deviates, she will, like dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire - neither Offred's nor that of the two men on which her future hangs.
"I've been meaning to read The Handmaid's Tale for a long time - it's probably one of the most famous dystopian novels alongside Brave New World and 1984, and maybe because it's so well regarded I hesitated to pick it up in case it didn't meet my expectations. I'm very glad I did eventually get round to reading it because it truly is both disturbing and beautifully written."
by Django Wexler
In the wake of the King's death, war has come to Vordan. The new queen, Raesinia, is nearly powerless as the government tightens its grip and assassins threaten her life. Together with Marcus D'Ivoire, she sets out to turn the tide of history. But as all the powers of the continent rise against Vordan, Janus bet Vhalnich and Winter Ihernglass face a bloody battle against enemies not just armed with muskets and cannon, but dark priests of an ancient order, wielding forbidden magic.
"The Price of Valour may be my favourite yet, in terms of sheer enjoyment. There was very little that could extricate me from the pages of this book and the struggles of the characters therein. Marcus and Raesinia's adventures in the capital were wonderfully fun - as were the unanswered and barely hinted-at relationships blossoming within that group of insurrectionists."
by Brandon Sanderson
Leeds is a genius; his mind contains too much information. And to cope it has split his skills off into individual personalities. They crowd his head, and he lives with them in a vast, empty mansion. While he can call on any one of them to solve a problem, he also walks a line across an all-consuming madness.
"Legion: Skin Deep is an absolutely fantastic read, and while I'd like more and more of it, I think I understand why Brandon Sanderson has kept this to be a series of novellas. Maybe, in time, it will be expanded to full-length status (though that would require a lull in the author's absurdly busy schedule of books to write), but in the meantime, I'm content to read these gems whenever they make an appearance."
by Jonathan Stroud
Life is never exactly peaceful for Lockwood & Co. Lucy and George are trying to solve the mystery of the talking skull trapped in their ghost jar, while Lockwood is desperate for an exciting new case. Things seem to be looking up when the team is called to Kensal Green Cemetery to investigate the grave of a sinister Victorian doctor. Strange apparitions have been seen there, and the site must be made safe. As usual, Lockwood is confident; as usual, everything goes wrong - a terrible phantom is unleashed, and a dangerous object is stolen from the coffin. Lockwood & Co must recover the relic before its power is unleashed, but it's a race against time. Their obnoxious rivals from the Fittes agency are also on the hunt. And if that's not bad enough, the skull in the ghost-jar is stirring again...
"Jonathan Stroud writes skillfully, creating a gripping narrative that moves seamlessly from the comfort of home to the thrills and chills of graveyards and haunted houses. I find that the best authors really show their expertise in the tricky second book of a trilogy - a book which in lesser hands only seems to serve as a bridge to the third and concluding installment, but The Whispering Skull can both stand as an enjoyable stand-alone book and also a one that further fleshes out its characters and the world in which it is set."
by Marc Turner
A power-hungry necromancer has stolen The Book of Lost Souls, and intends to use it to resurrect an ancient race and challenge Shroud for dominion of the underworld. Shroud counters by sending his most formidable servants to seize the artefact at all cost. However, the god is not the only one interested in the Book, and a host of other forces converge, drawn by the powerful magic that has been unleashed.
"All to say, I kind of loved this. It was a nostalgic trip back to the realm of High Fantasy that would make the authors mentioned earlier proud. It is a remix, not a 'cover' per se, of all the brilliant storytelling elements that propelled the likes of Belgarion, Raistlin Majere, Steerpike, Pug, R'shiel Tenragan, to name a few, into the consciousness of those who adore this kind of pure fantasy."
by Trent Jamieson
Mark is a Day Boy. In a post-traumatic future the Masters - formerly human, now practically immortal - rule a world that bends to their will and a human population upon which they feed. Invincible by night, all but helpless by day, each relies on his Day Boy to serve and protect him. Mark has been lucky in his Master: Dain has treated him well. But as he grows to manhood and his time as a Day Boy draws to a close, there are choices to be made. Will Mark undergo the Change and become, himself, a Master - or throw in his lot with his fellow humans? As the tensions in his conflicted world reach crisis point, Mark's decision may be crucial.
"Day Boy is a coming of age story set in a world of harsh truths, blood, death and survival. It is a poetic story of humanity, of monsters living in the Shadow of the Mountain, bitter cold and open to the burning of the clear night sky."
by Robin Hobb
Happy endings never last... Years ago, they freed a dragon from the glaciers on Aslevjal. Then they parted ways, the Fool returning to far-off Clerres, while Fitz finally claimed a wife, a family, and a home of his own. Now, betrayed by his own people and broken by torment, the Fool has made his way back to the Six Duchies. But as Fitz attempts to heal his old friend in Buckkeep Castle, his young daughter Bee is abducted from Withywoods by pale and mysterious raiders who leave ruin and confusion in their wake. Fitz must find a way to rescue his beloved Bee. At the same time it is the Fool's fiercest wish to return to Clerres with the best assassin he has ever known, to gain vengeance and justice. Can Fitz bear to take up the tools of his old trade again, even to avenge his dearest friend and save his child?
by Wesley Chu
The centuries-long schism between the Genjix and the Prophus threatens to plunge the whole planet into a new World War. Roen is the only person who can protect a turned Genjix scientist who holds the key to ending the war.
"Apart from the Enzo chapters, I loved every other part of this book. The relationships forged between characters felt meaningful, there was a lot of laugh-out-loud humour, the action set pieces were fantastic, the way in which the actions of the characters contributed overall to the war were observable and tangible, and it was just a lot of fun. I've read that Chu is writing a new trilogy set in this universe, so I am very much looking forward to that."
by Becky Chambers
When Rosemary Harper joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn't expecting much. The Wayfarer, a patched-up ship that's seen better days, offers her everything she could possibly want: a small, quiet spot to call home for a while, adventure in far-off corners of the galaxy, and distance from her troubled past. But Rosemary gets more than she bargained for with the Wayfarer. The crew is a mishmash of species and personalities, from Sissix, the friendly reptilian pilot, to Kizzy and Jenks, the constantly sparring engineers who keep the ship running. Life on board is chaotic, but more or less peaceful - exactly what Rosemary wants. Until the crew are offered the job of a lifetime: the chance to build a hyperspace tunnel to a distant planet. They'll earn enough money to live comfortably for years... if they survive the long trip through war-torn interstellar space without endangering any of the fragile alliances that keep the galaxy peaceful. But Rosemary isn't the only person on board with secrets to hide, and the crew will soon discover that space may be vast, but spaceships are very small indeed.
by Tim Marquitz
What do you do when your life crumbles around you? If you're Frank "Triggaltheron" Trigg you climb into a bottle looking for oblivion. Of course he couldn't even get that right. Alone and adrift, Frank's five month binge is interrupted with a boom. A nuclear one and every bit of chaos and treachery he tried to leave behind comes knocking once more. Caught up in a plot to foment a supernatural revolution, Frank is made into a pawn for both sides. But what does a man with nothing have to lose? Only everything.
"Aftermath is a fantastic Demon Squad novel, one that tells a compelling self contained story while also acting as set-up for the next half dozen books in the series. While it didn't have the emotional gut punches from the first book, it still made me laugh and laugh, and that's one of the main reasons why I read Demon Squad and Tim Marquitz books - to laugh."
by Edward M Erdelac
Georgia, 1864. Camp Sumter, aka Andersonville, has earned a reputation as an open sewer of sadistic cruelty and terror where death may come at any minute. But as the Union prisoners of war pray for escape, cursing the fate that spared them a quicker end, one man makes his way into the camp purposefully. Barclay Lourdes has a mission - and a secret. But right now his objective is merely to survive the hellish camp. The slightest misstep summons the full fury of the autocratic commander, Captain Wirz, and the brutal Sergeant Turner. Meanwhile, a band of shiftless thieves and criminals known as the "Raiders" preys upon their fellow prisoners. Barclay soon finds that Andersonville is even less welcoming to a black man - especially when that man is not who he claims to be. Little does he imagine that he's about to encounter supernatural terrors beyond his wildest dreams... or nightmares.
"Simply put, Andersonville seamlessly blends the historical and the fantastical to create a magnificent story that entertains and educates without pushing any particular world views or beliefs on the reader. This is a book has gone the extra mile to cater for all readers with varying levels of familiarity with the American Civil War. I loved this book, and I highly recommend it to all fantasy and historical fiction readers."
by John R Fultz
A young warrior's vision-quest unveils an alien city full of magic and mystery. As a tribal rift threatens to destroy Tall Eagle's people, night-crawling devils stalk and devour them, so he seeks the wisdom of the high-flying Myktu. These fantastic beings offer him hope, a chance for rebirth and prosperity, as two separate realities converge. Yet first Tall Eagle must find White Fawn - the girl he was born to love - and steal her back from the camp of his savage enemies. His best friend has become his deadliest rival, and now he must outwit an invading army of conquerors to lead his people into the Land Beyond the Sun.
"The Testament of Tall Eagle is a triumph in storytelling, it has strong and developed characters that are likeable, believable and moral, while fusing two genres together to deliver one of the most gripping and enjoyable science fiction novels I have read in a while."
by Grant Naylor
Rimmer, Cat and Kryten are trapped in a computer game which can transport players directly to the world of imagination, a world where each player can enjoy fabulous success. The only catch is that the game kills.
"Better Than Life builds on absolutely everything that was begun in the previous book. The wordsmithing and various sorts of humour are back in full force (still more in the audio recording with the awesome Chris Barry at the helm) and the plot handles character examination, intensive adventures in space, a rather cynical exploration of humanity and a poignant thread of human redemption with consummate ease. I am only sorry that this remained Grant and Naylor’s final collaborative effort on a Red Dwarf novel, since it really is smegging awesome!"
by Aliette de Bodard
Paris in the aftermath of the Great Magicians War. Its streets are lined with haunted ruins, Notre-Dame is a burnt-out shell, and the Seine runs black, thick with ashes and rubble. Yet life continues among the wreckage. The citizens retain their irrepressible appetite for novelty and distraction, and The Great Houses still vie for dominion over France's once grand capital. House Silverspires, previously the leader of those power games, now lies in disarray. Its magic is ailing; its founder, Morningstar, has been missing for decades; and now something from the shadows stalks its people inside their very own walls. Within the House, three very different people must come together: a naive but powerful Fallen, an alchemist with a self-destructive addiction, and a resentful young man wielding spells from the Far East. They may be Silverspires' salvation; or the architects of its last, irreversible fall...
"This book is wreathed in mythology, magic and mysticism and it is such a compelling read that maybe the book itself is magic. The twist on angels being power hungry was also really interesting, especially as the book never goes into why they have Fallen. I liked how the different kinds of magic were not complementary or even understood by the different practitioners. The House of Shattered Wings is a fantastic book full of sacrifice, vengeance and justice."
by Stephen Jones
Respected horror anthologist Stephen Jones edits this collection of 17 stories inspired by the 20th century’s master of horror, H.P. Lovecraft’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth, in which a young man goes to an isolated, desolate fishing village in Massachusetts, and finds that the entire village has interbred with strange creatures that live beneath the sea, and worship ancient gods.
"Editor Stephen Jones has chosen some of the best writers out there to compliment the third volume in the series and I am so glad that Titan published them again as they are a treasure to those who want to read more Lovecraftian horror."
by Benedict Jacka
Alex Verus is a mage who can see the future, but even he didn't see this day coming. He's agreed to join the Keepers, the magical police force, to protect his friends from his old master, the Dark Mage Richard Drakh. Going legit was always going to be difficult for an outcast like Alex, and there are some Keepers who aren't keen to see an ex-Dark mage succeed. Especially when Dark mages are making a play for a seat on the council, for the first time in history. Alex finally has the law on his side - but trapped between Light and Dark politics, investigating a seedy underworld with ties to the highest of powers, will a badge be enough to save him?
"In the end, I ploughed through this book, oblivious to all external stimuli. There is nothing better in urban fantasy at the moment than Alex Verus, and no one better at writing it than Benedict Jacka."
by Chuck Wendig
Cael McAvoy is on the run. He’s heading toward the Empyrean to rescue his sister, Merelda, and to find Gwennie before she’s lost to Cael forever. With his pals, Lane and Rigo, Cael journeys across the Heartland to catch a ride into the sky. But with Boyland and others after them, Cael and his friends won’t make it through unchanged. Gwennie’s living the life of a Lottery winner, but it’s not what she expected. Separated from her family, Gwennie makes a bold move - one that catches the attention of the Empyrean and changes the course of an Empyrean man’s life. The crew from Boxelder aren’t the only folks willing to sacrifice everything to see the Empyrean fall. The question is: Can the others be trusted? They’d all better hurry. Because the Empyrean has plans that could ensure that the Heartland never fights back again.
"I really enjoyed Blightborn, much much more than Under The Empyrean Sky, and it's because Wendig improved on everything I liked about the first book while addressing some of the issues. He increased the complexity of the world and underpinned it with a rich and fascinating history. He introduced a far more compelling overarching plot that I want to see through to its final resolution. He made the characters far more sympathetic and relatable, with a more diverse range of motivations driving these characters in interesting directions. He made me want to drop everything and read the third book, and for me, that is the most important part of all."
by Lucinda Hare
The Grand Master sat back in his chair with his blue eyes closed and sent a small prayer earthwards. The White Sorcerer had returned a little after the hour of the sabre-toothed rabbit, having encountered difficulties no greater than an ageing broom; but the news he brought was the worst possible; their fears justified; the WarLock known as the Black Raven for his totem had indeed returned to his ancient lair in the realm of men.
"In short, this is a book for everyone. Want to enter Hare’s world - pick up this book. You don’t have to have read the Dragonsdome Chronicles to understand this (but they are brilliant - so you really should read them!). The final difference with this book was Hare’s fantastic illustrations - saved only for the front cover of the previous novels, The Sorcerer’s Glen is filled with them - the work of both Hare and local primary school children. Overall: This book gets 5 toffee-wands (out of five!)."
by Jon Wallace
Kenstibec is a Ficial - a genetically engineered artificial life form; tough, skilled, hard to kill. Or at least he was. He's lost the nanotech that constantly repaired him. Life just got real. Just like it is for the few remaining humans in this blighted world - the Reals; locked in a fight over a ruined world with the Ficials they created to make Utopia. And now Kenstibec must take a trip to the pinnicle of our failed civilisation. The Steeple is a one thousand storey tower that looms over the wreckage of London. It is worshipped, feared and haunted by attack droids and cannibals. And the location of a secret that just might save Kenstibec's life.The only way is up.
"Steeple exceeds the first volume of its trilogy in terms of character and plot. It is fast paced with a lot of interesting action set pieces, but it also gives us the time to find out a lot more information about the word before the events in Barricade. Steeple is focused on a smaller geographical area than Barricade and this gives us a better understanding of what is left of the human population and the everyday world that they have to live in. Steeple has really left me wondering what chaos Kenstibec will bring to the third book and Jon Wallace’s imagination has shown me that if the sky’s the limit, Kenstibec will find a way to bust through it."
by Anthony Ryan
Queen Lyrna has survived the bloody siege of Alltor. Now she must rally her troops and take back the capital from the Volarian invaders. But driving her hated enemy out of the Realm will not satisfy her lust for vengeance - she wants to pursue them across the ocean and burn their empire to ashes. To do so, she must place her faith in the Seventh Order: men and women who wield terrible powers, born of the Dark itself. Vaelin Al Sorna would sacrifice his life for his queen - and may yet have to. Only by unmasking the Volarians' mysterious Ally can the tide of war be turned. To this end, Vaelin must travel deep into the icebound north, in search of a man who cannot die - and he must do it without the aid of his blood song, which has fallen ominously silent...
"Queen of Fire is a perfect conclusion to a masterful trilogy. The characters are second-to-none, and though the author requires a bit too much retained knowledge on the part of the reader, it is made up for by relegating such revelations to secondary status behind the lives and outcomes of these characters we have grown to love, admire, and hate."
by Alex Marshall
Twenty years ago, feared general Cobalt Zosia led her five villainous captains and mercenary army into battle, wrestling monsters and toppling an empire. When there were no more titles to win and no more worlds to conquer, she retired and gave up her legend to history. Now the peace she carved for herself has been shattered by the unprovoked slaughter of her village. Seeking bloody vengeance, Zosia heads for battle once more, but to find justice she must confront grudge-bearing enemies, once-loyal allies, and an unknown army that marches under a familiar banner.
"A Crown for Cold Silver reminded me a little of The City by Stella Gemmell in its structure and construct and Joe Abercrombie books in its dark motifs. If you like your Sanderson, Gemmell and Abercrombie then this is the book for you."
by Kelly McCullough
Aral Kingslayer has nothing to lose - and only justice to gain. Torn apart by the death of his goddess, he must avenge her in order to save himself from being lost forever... It’s been nine long years since the death of his patron, Namara, and exalted assassin Aral Kingslayer desperately misses the thrill and glory of being a higher power of justice. Now he is haunted by the ghosts of the past - and by the ghost of the lost goddess herself. When Namara calls upon Aral in a dream to seek justice for her death and the ruination of her temple, Aral must obtain the help of his fellow former Blades and his Shade familiar, Triss, to pursue the vengeance he knows Namara deserves. Even if it means attacking Heaven’s Son - and going against one of their own - in a bloody battle of epic proportions...
"Kelly McCullough’s Darkened Blade caps off a fantastic series of books that have all the speed and flare of Michael J Sullivan, and the depth of David Gemmell and James Barclay. They might be a quick read, and a little less polished than some of those McCullough may be compared to, but the enjoyment factor outweighs almost any criticism you could lay against this fantastic series."
by Peter Higgins
The Vlast stands two hundred feet tall, four thousand tons of steel ready to be flung upwards on the fire of atom bombs. Ready to take the dream of President-Commander of the New Vlast General, Osip Rizhin, beyond the bounds of this world. But not everyone shares this vision. Vissarion Lom and Maroussia Shaumian have not reached the end of their story, and in Mirgorod a woman in a shabby dress carefully unwraps a sniper rifle. And all the while the Pollandore dreams its own dreams.
"It does get a little too wordy and descriptive at times at the cost of moving the plot forward. Higgins is an undoubted master of words and world building, but I felt this one got a little bogged down in detail at times. I wanted the fast action and excitement of the first two and instead had long-winded descriptions. That is the one criticism of an otherwise flawless and excellently written thriller. Radiant State is a compelling and worthy conclusion to the Wolfhound Century series."
by Kelly McCullough
Aral was an assassin and sorcerer in the service of Namara, one of her Blades of Justice. Then his goddess was murdered, her temple destroyed and her followers slain or driven into hiding. For six years Aral's been living as a jack of the shadow trades, picking up odd jobs on the wrong side of the law and trying to stay out of sight. Now Aral's one time fiancee and fellow Blade, Jax needs his help. The forces that destroyed Namara are on the move again and she needs Aral's help to stop them. Before he knows it, Aral's been sucked back into a deadly assassin's war...
"Crossed Blades picks up a great story, and returns to the polished and fast-flowing writing style of the first book in the series. Kelly McCullough is definitely positioning himself alongside Michael J. Sullivan as a writer to be watched, writing compelling and fast-paced character-driven fantasy with a flair for the magical."
by Claire North
Harry August is on his deathbed. Again. No matter what he does or the decisions he makes, when death comes, Harry always returns to where he began, a child with all the knowledge of a life he has already lived a dozen times before. Nothing ever changes. Until now. As Harry nears the end of his eleventh life, a little girl appears at his bedside. 'I nearly missed you, Doctor August,' she says. 'I need to send a message.' This is the story of what Harry does next, and what he did before, and how he tries to save a past he cannot change and a future he cannot allow.
"The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August is a slow story told sporadically by a man trying to remember all the important things that happened in his 15 previous lives that gradually weaves in and out of Harry's various lives giving you layers of context before accelerating towards a satisfying climax. I thoroughly enjoyed this story and recommend it to anyone looking for a great fusion between literary and sci-fi concepts."
by Pierce Brown
Darrow is a rebel forged by tragedy. For years he and his fellow Reds worked the mines, toiling to make the surface of Mars inhabitable. They were, they believed, mankind's last hope. Until Darrow discovered that it was all a lie, and that the Red were nothing more than unwitting slaves to an elitist ruling class, the Golds, who had been living on Mars in luxury for generations. Darrow infiltrated Gold society, to fight in secret for a better future for his people. Now fully embedded amongst the Gold ruling class, Darrow continues his dangerous work to bring them down from within. It's a journey that will take him further than he's ever been before - but is Darrow truly willing to pay the price that rebellion demands?
"Golden Son is an improvement on Red Rising in every single facet, which is quite a feat considering how much I enjoyed Red Rising. Brown has managed to take all of the cool things we love about action oriented sci-fi, and combine them with wonderful characters and a compelling story that seems to get deeper each time I look back on it. Also, the way Golden Son ended has convinced me that Pierce Brown is some sort of sadistic monster who enjoys seeing our reactions as our favourite characters are taken away."
by DK Mok
When Crown Prince Valamon is impossibly taken from the heart of Algaris Castle, the only clue as to motive or culprit is the use of unknown sorcery. Reclusive cleric Seris is happily tending to his book-infested temple until he finds himself drafted--for political reasons--to the rescue mission. His sole companion on the journey is Elhan, a cheerfully disturbed vagrant girl with terrifying combat skills and her own enigmatic reasons for seeking the prince. Venturing into the wild, unconquered lands, Seris has no fighting prowess, no survival skills, and no charisma, as Elhan keeps pointing out. Armed only with a stubborn streak and creative diplomacy, he must find a way to survive outlaw towns and incendiary masquerades, all without breaking his vow to do no harm. Chasing rumours of rebel camps and rising warlords, dangerous curses and the return of the vanished sorcerers, Seris and Elhan soon discover a web of treachery and long-buried secrets that go far beyond a kidnapped prince.
"There was no love story, save for one of friendship and familial love, and the hero was a girl cursed with destruction. I can safely say that this is one of my favourite stand alone fantasy novels, and that I definitely recommend it to everyone who enjoys fantasy. "
by Ben H Winters
Detective Hank Palace has found sanctuary in the woods of New England, secure in a well-stocked safe house with other onetime members of the Concord police force. But with time ticking away before the asteroid makes landfall, Hank’s safety is only relative, and his only relative - his sister Nico - isn’t safe. Soon, it’s clear that there’s more than one earth-shattering revelation on the horizon, and it’s up to Hank to solve the puzzle before time runs out... for everyone.
"I thoroughly recommend this series to all readers who enjoy excellently written books exploring human behaviour within a pre-apocalyptic setting."
by Peter Newman
The Vagrant is his name. He has no other. Years have passed since humanity’s destruction emerged from the Breach. Friendless and alone he walks across a desolate, war-torn landscape. As each day passes the world tumbles further into depravity, bent and twisted by the new order, corrupted by the Usurper, the enemy, and his infernal horde. His purpose is to reach the Shining City, last bastion of the human race, and deliver the only weapon that may make a difference in the ongoing war. What little hope remains is dying. Abandoned by its leader, The Seven, and its heroes, The Seraph Knights, the last defences of a once great civilisation are crumbling into dust. But the Shining City is far away and the world is a very dangerous place.
"There is a truism in the reading of the Vagrant, that people are the same regardless of whether they are Demon tainted or not, that they will survive by any means and resist even when the idea of hope is just that - a dream long forgotten, secreted away within their heart. Why are these concepts true? Because we are human and Newman has captured this attitude and portrayed it well."
by Kendall Kulper
Sixteen-year-old Avery Roe wants only to take her rightful place as the sea witch of Prince Island, making the charms that keep the island's whalers safe and prosperous at sea. But before she could learn how to control her power, her mother - the first Roe woman in centuries to turn her back on magic - steals Avery away from her grandmother. Avery must escape before her grandmother dies, taking with her the secrets of the Roe's power. The one magical remnant left to Avery is the ability to read dreams, and one night she foresees her own murder. Time is running short, both for her and for the people of her island who need the witches' help to thrive. Avery has never read a dream that hasn't come true, but a tattooed harpoon boy named Tane tells her he can help her change her fate. Becoming a witch may prevent her murder and save her island from ruin, but Avery discovers it will also require a sacrifice she never expected. And as she falls in love with Tane, she learns it is his life and hers that hang in the balance.
"Ideal for readers wanting a coming-of-age story in a deeply involving setting with plenty of drama and emotion."
by Sebastien de Castell
Tristia is a nation overcome by intrigue and corruption. The idealistic young King Paelis is dead and the Greatcoats - legendary travelling magistrates who brought justice to the Kingdom - have been branded as traitors. But just before his head was impaled on a spike, the King swore each of his hundred and forty-four Greatcoats to a different mission. Falcio Val Mond, First Cantor, with the help of fellow Greatcoats Kest and Brasti, has completed his King's final task: he has found his Charoites - well, one at least, and she was not quite what they expected. Now they must protect the girl from the many who would see her dead, and place her on the throne of a lawless kingdom. That would be simple enough, if it weren't for the Daishini, an equally legendary band of assassins, getting in their way, not to forget the Dukes who are determined to hold on to their fractured Kingdoms, or the fact that the heir to the throne is only thirteen years old. Oh, and the poison that is slowly killing Falcio. That's not even mentioning the Greatcoat's Lament...
"Knight’s Shadow is a killer read that had me in my chair until 3 in the morning. And while I look forward to seeing Sebastien de Castell grow more as a writer, he’s already well on his way to being a favourite."
by Tim Marquitz
Escaped from prison and back in his own body, life has taken a turn toward the domestic for Frank “Triggaltheron” Trigg. His days are filled with diapers, formula, and baby farts, and he wouldn’t have it any other way. Of course it couldn’t last. A raid on Frank’s home threatens his family and throws his life into chaos. He scrambles to survive, his enemies growing more numerous at every turn. Pushed into a corner, Frank must find a way to fight back before his world is razed to the ground, taking everyone he knows with it. And it’s only Monday.
"Collateral Damage is a big step forward, one that addresses the criticism of recent books while also paving a clear path forward. The story had a tight plot from start to finish, cool enemies for Frank to fight, it made me laugh, it made me emotional, it was still a lot of fun, and it left me wanting more Demon Squad right now."
by George RR Martin
Among the scattered islands that make up the water world of Windhaven, no one holds more prestige than the silver-winged flyers, romantic figures who cross treacherous oceans, braving shifting winds and sudden storms, to bring news, gossip, songs and stories to a waiting populace. Maris of Amberly, a fisherman's daughter, wants nothing more than to soar on the currents high above Windhaven. So she challenges tradition, demanding that flyers be chosen by merit rather than inheritance.
"Windhaven may be one of the best fantasy books I’ve read in the past two decades, but that surely makes it one of the best fantasy stories ever told."
by Pierce Brown
The Earth is dying. Darrow is a Red, a miner in the interior of Mars. His mission is to extract enough precious elements to one day tame the surface of the planet and allow humans to live on it. The Reds are humanity's last hope. Or so it appears, until the day Darrow discovers it's all a lie. That Mars has been habitable - and inhabited - for generations, by a class of people calling themselves the Golds. A class of people who look down on Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought.
"Red Rising is a book that deserves all the hype it has been receiving. It is not a perfect book, the start can be hard to get into, and parts of the final act seem to be unnecessary at best, but there is so much awesome in this book that I find it easy to look past the faults. Red Rising is a book that has stayed with me for days after I finished reading it, and it has been a long time since a book had such an impact on me."
by Joe Abercrombie
Sometimes a girl is touched by mother war. Thorn is such a girl. Desperate to avenge her dead father, she lives to fight. But she has been named murderer by the very man who trained her to kill. Sometimes a woman becomes a warrior. Fate traps her in the schemes - and on the ship - of the deep-cunning minister Father Yarvi. Crossing half the world to find allies against the ruthless High King, she learns harsh lessons of blood and deceit. Sometimes a warrior becomes a weapon. Beside her on her gruelling journey is Brand, a young warrior who hates to kill. A failure in his eyes and hers, he has one chance at redemption. And weapons are made for one purpose. Will Thorn forever be a tool in the hands of the powerful or can she carve her own path? Is there a place beyond legend for a woman with a blade?
"Half the World is a fantastic book that clearly demonstrates Abercrombie's proficiency in the fantasy genre. Half a War cannot come soon enough."
by Mark Charan Newton
The monarchies of the Royal Vispasian Union have been bound together for two hundred years by laws maintained and enforced by the powerful Sun Chamber. As a result, nations have flourished but corruption, deprivation and murder will always find a way to thrive... Receiving news of his father’s death Sun Chamber Officer Lucan Drakenfeld is recalled home to the ancient city of Tryum and rapidly embroiled in a mystifying case. The King’s sister has been found brutally murdered - her beaten and bloody body discovered in a locked temple. With rumours of dark spirits and political assassination, Drakenfeld has his work cut out for him trying to separate superstition from certainty. His determination to find the killer quickly makes him a target as the underworld gangs of Tryum focus on this new threat to their power. Embarking on the biggest and most complex investigation of his career, Drakenfeld soon realises the evidence is leading him towards a motive that could ultimately bring darkness to the whole continent. The fate of the nations is in his hands.
"I highly recommend you get your hands on a copy of Drakenfeld. Mark Charan Newton is an author who is not afraid to try something new, and I believe he is pushing the boundaries of what fantasy can be in exciting ways. I don't think it strictly falls into "New Weird" territory like his Legends of the Red Sun books seemed to, but it is refreshing to read a style of fantasy that I have not read before."
by Den Patrick
Ten years have passed since the disappearance of Lucien and his protégé, the young swordsman Dino, is struggling to live up to Lucien's legacy. Sworn to protect the silent queen Anea as she struggles to bring a new democracy to Demesne, Dino finds himself drawn into a deadly game of political intrigue as the aristocratic families of Landfall conspire to protect their privilege. Always ready to prove himself as a swordsman Dino is anguished to discover that in order to fulfil his vow he must become both spy and assassin. And all the while the dark secret at the heart of Demesne is growing towards fulfilment.
"The Boy Who Wept Blood takes us further into the world of Demesne and has many interesting twists and turns which keeps you interested in Dino’s dilemmas. It is utterly fascinating how this world has come together and I really enjoyed the fact that although this is a sequel, it has jumped ten years into the future with a completely different protagonist. This could be seen as risky, but in fact gives us a wider understanding of Landfall. I cannot wait to see what happens to Landfall in the following book in this sequence. Whether the next book will be a direct continuance or something completely new, only Den Patrick knows at this time."
by Brian McClellan
Field Marshal Tamas has finally returned to Adopest, only to find the capital in the hands of a foreign power. With his son Taniel presumed dead, Tamas must gather his beleaguered forces and formulate a plan to defeat the Kez - no easy task when you're outnumbered and can't tell friend from foe. The army is divided... With their enemy bearing down on them, the Adran command is in disarray. Someone, it seems, is selling secrets to the Kez. Inspector Adamat is determined to flush out the traitor, but as the conspiracy unravels, he will learn a horrifying truth. And all hope rests with one man... Taniel Two-Shot, the powder mage who shot a god in the eye, is on the run. He possesses the sole means of defeating the Kez, but to do so he must evade treachery at every turn. If he fails, Adro will fall.
"Make sure you check out the Powder Mage Trilogy, if you haven’t already, as it’s one of the top 10 books to come out this decade."
by Jonathan Stroud
Glam killed the monster of Shadow Vale-but he also died in the fight. Now Glam's ghost has come back and he's worse than the monster ever was... Barrington Stoke specialise in books for reluctant, struggling and dyslexic readers.
"With a scary cover image from artist Siku, showing ghostly Glam ready to fight the monster, there are interior illustrations in ink drawn by the same artist in a shonen manga style. Jonathan Stroud's The Ghost of Shadow Vale is the perfect read near a roaring fire with a slice of cake and a hot drink. All Barrington Stoke novels are designed to be dyslexia friendly and other titles are; The Goblin of Tara by Oisin McGann, Young Merlin by Tony Bradman, Thor and the Master of Magic by Kevin Crossley-Holland and Samurai by Ian Beck."
by Benedict Jacka
Alex Verus is a diviner who can see probable futures - a talent that's gotten him and his friends out of many a tough scrape. But what happens when someone doesn't want Alex's help? Alex's friend, the life mage Anne, distanced herself from him when she found out about his past as a Dark apprentice. Now she's in serious trouble, but wants nothing to do with him. Alex has to start wondering if Anne's problem is really with him - or if there's a secret she's trying to hide. On top of that, rumours are swirling around London that Alex's former master may be back in town. Alex has no idea what his agenda may be, or who it involves...
"More than simply recommending Hidden, by Benedict Jacka, to you, I want to use Hidden as a reason that you should be reading the entire Alex Verus series! Beautifully written, with characters wrought wholly in three dimensions that tug at your heartstrings and make you angry, this series is the current high point for urban fantasy – no questions asked."
by Charles de Lint
When asked to choose his “very best” stories, Charles de Lint went directly to his fans, who helped him select this collection of timeless, magical tales. From his beloved Newford to the streets of modern Ottawa, these stories take you effortlessly to a place where mystery and myth are right next door.
"Charles de Lint, a fantasy author who has left the same mark on the genre of myth and legend much as the likes of Sir Thomas Malory, Christian Anderson, Grimm, who has found them hiding away in Ottawa’s twilight, turned oral tradition into words on a page and allowed us to remember them all again."
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