Our recommended books of the month. Page 6.

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.

Ready Player One

by Ernest Cline

I had never heard of Ernest Cline before this book arrived at my door and now I am glad that I have. Having been there at the birth of the home computer revolution, owned a number of those pieces of plastic history that I remember with more fondness than any of my old girlfriends this book can only be described as Geek Porn. Why? Put simply it tickles every bit, pops every stack and loads my drive. It bytes!

12+
9/10

The Crippled God

by Steven Erikson

And so to and end comes what is arguably the best fantasy series ever written. This is of course subject to personal opinion and fans of Wheel of Time, A Song of Ice and Fire and Robin Hobb's trilogy of trilogies (Farseer, Liveship and Tawny) are quite able to put a very strong case forward for their favoured works but few can deny that the quality and ambition of the ten books that make up A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen are unmatched within the genre.

15+
10/10

The Road

by Cormac McCarthy

Cormac McCarthy is one of the USA's most important literary novelists. The Road has been hailed by critics as a masterpiece. This novel paints a bleak vision of a post-apocalyptic America; a land where no hope remains. A man and his son walk alone towards the coast, and this is the moving story of their journey. The Road is an unflinching exploration of human behavior - from ultimate destructiveness to extreme tenderness. Cormac McCarthy has written ten novels, including Blood Meridian and the Border Trilogy series. He has previously won the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

"Work of such terrible beauty that you will struggle to look away. It will knock the breath from your lungs." The Times

"The Road is many things, it is brilliantly-written, poetic, compelling and terrible in its beauty, but there is one thing that it certainly is not, and that is a fun read. It is, in fact, heart-breaking; playing strongly on the reader's basic human instinct to protect their young at all costs and the father’s sense of desperation, dread and isolation are almost palpable." Fantasy Book Review

15+
10/10

Praetorian

by Simon Scarrow

Eleven novels in the Roman series give the proof of the brilliance of what the author has achieved. As a reader, Cato and Macro have as much as place in the pantheon of Roman characters as Falco and Gordianus. Scarrow is as good as Davis and Saylor. Different in style, equal in success. The adventures of Cato and Macro are enjoyable and this latest instalment is as good as the rest. I hope the author continues with this pair for as long as he can.

15+
9/10

The People of the Black Circle

by Robert E Howard

Conan the Cimmerian: he rose from boy-thief and mercenary to become kingof Aquilonia. Neither supernatural fiends nor demonic sorcery could oppose the barbarian warrior as he wielded his mighty sword and dispatched his enemies to a bloody doom on the battlefields of the legendary Hyborian Age. Collected together for the first time anywhere in the world, in chronological order, are all Robert E. Howard's definitive stories of Conan, exactly as he wrote them, as fresh, atmospheric and vibrant today as when they were first published in the pulp magazines more than sixty years ago.

"There is never a dull moment or wasted moment. Never so much as a modicum of tedium. The writing is fluid, exciting and simple. Robert E. Howard has a style that writes itself, a quality that stands, like his creation, a head and shoulders above the rest. There are times when you feel the bones crunch, the sword sing through the air, the flesh rend under steel. I could go on and on, this is a book like no other. If you love the swords and sandals, style of fantasy then you simply must read this. This is the birthplace of many a hero. Many have tried to write Conan stories but none can hold their own against the might of Robert E. Howard." Fantasy Book Review

15+
9/10

At The Gates

by Tim Marquitz

At The Gates is an entertaining read that exceeded my high expectations and is by far the best book in the series. The humour and sexualism has been slightly toned down in the face of some impossible odds, but this is still unmistakeably a Demon Squad book with more than enough Frank moments to make you laugh and cringe at the same time. These books are not for everyone and if you are not a fan of the series, At The Gates is probably not going to convert you. But those who are fans will love this book, rejoicing at getting a second helping of Frank within twelve months.

15+
10/10

The Emperor\'s Knife

by Mazarkis Williams

There is a cancer at the heart of the mighty Cerani Empire: a plague that marks each victim with a fragment of a greater design. And as the geometric patterns cover the skin, so the victims fall under the power of the Pattern Master. The lost prince Sarmin, the emperor’s only surviving brother, lies locked in a hidden room. As the pattern draws closer to the palace he is at last remembered, and now he awaits the bride his mother has chosen: Mesema, a Windreader from the northern plains. She is used to riding free across the grasslands, now she must learn the politicking of the Court is not a game, but deadly earnest. Eyul, imperial assassin, is burdened by the atrocities he has committed, and his advancing years. As commanded he bears the Emperor’s Knife to the desert in search of a cure for the pattern-markings. Conspiracies soon boil over into open violence and the enemy moves toward victory. Now only three people stand in his way: a lost prince, a world-weary killer, and a young girl who once saw a path through the waving grasses.

"By the end of The Emperor’s Knife it is not the characters, their struggles, or the fate of the Cerani or the Felts that will stay with you, but a much broader feeling of having experienced Williams’ story. The Emperor’s Knife is a tale of fear and fluidity, of evolution and ego, and is one that is dictated in a style so visual and penetrating that it will have the Pattern invading your dreams long after the final pages have turned."

15+
9/10

Haven

by Joel Shepherd

This book is the final book of four, so no, I don’t recommend reading it without reading the other three. But all the books have done their utmost to entertain me without resorting to mindless fantasy tropes, and succeeded each and every time to the point that I look forward to the day – not too far from now, I imagine – that I get to go back and reread them.

12+
10/10

Land of Hope and Glory

by Geoffrey Wilson

It is 1852. The Indian empire of Rajthana has ruled Europe for more than a hundred years. With their vast armies, steam-and-sorcery technology and mastery of the mysterious power of sattva, the Rajthanans appear invincible. But a bloody rebellion has broken out in a remote corner of the empire, in a poor and backward region known as England. At first Jack Casey, retired soldier, wants nothing to do with the uprising, but then he learns his daughter, Elizabeth, is due to be hanged for helping the rebels. The Rajthanans offer to spare her, but only if Jack hunts down and captures his best friend and former army comrade, who is now a rebel leader. Jack is torn between saving his daughter and protecting his friend. And he struggles just to stay alive as the rebellion pushes England into all-out war.

"When I put the finished book down I felt it was too short. I was really into the story and would have like to have read more. The ending was, for me, a little to open as in the last few chapters there are so many exciting thing happening that I would have liked there to have been more of a climax, or a cliffhanger ending. I checked out the author’s website and was excited to see a that a new book will be released in October. Land of Hope and Glory was definitely a worthwhile read and I heartily recommend it to fans of alternate history and steampunk." Fantasy Book Review

15+
9/10

Brood of Bones

by AE Marling

Cursed with endless drowsiness, Enchantress Hiresha sleeps more than she lives. Since she never has had a chance to raise a family, she sometimes feels like every woman is pregnant except for her. This time, she is right. From virgin to grandmother, all the women in her city have conceived. One unexpected pregnancy is a drama; fifty thousand is citywide hysteria. A lurking sorcerer drains power from the unnatural pregnancies, and Hiresha must track him by his magic. Unfortunately, her cultured education in enchantment ill equips her to understand his spellcraft, which is decidedly less than proper. The only person uncivilized enough to help is the Lord of the Feast, a dangerous yet charming illusionist. Associating with him may imperil Hiresha’s city, yet refusing his help will allow the sorcerer to leech godlike power from the mass births.

"If you are a fan of fantasy literature and want to read something new and exciting in the genre then you really should read Brood of Bones. It is a book that impressed me in all areas, from the glorious cover to the complex and involving story. I will sign off this review with the words on Steven Erikson: "Ambition is not a dirty word. Piss on compromise. Go for the throat. Write with balls, write with eggs. Sure, it's a harder journey but take it from me, it's well worth it." And I’m sure A.E. Marling would heartily agree with his sentiments." Fantasy Book Review

15+
9/10

The Last Man Standing

by Davide Longo

Italy is on the brink of collapse. Borders are closed, banks withhold money, the postal service stalls. Armed gangs of drug-fuelled youths roam the countryside. Leonardo was a famous writer and professor before a sex scandal ended his marriage and career. Heading north in search of her new husband, his ex-wife leaves their daughter and her son in his care. If he is to take them to safety, he will need to find a quality he has never possessed: courage.

"The Last Man Standing is a must read in the dystopian fiction genre, less bleak but no less moving than The Road and a book that’s ending is nothing short of perfection. A disturbing yet strangely uplifting look at a future we can all only pray never comes to be. A special mention must go to Silvester Mazzarella who has managed to lose nothing in translation and every sentence is precise, crisp and a joy to read." Fantasy Book Review

15+
10/10

The Stand

by Stephen King

First came the days of the plague. Then came the dreams. Dark dreams that warned of the coming of the dark man. The apostate of death, his worn-down boot heels tramping the night roads. The warlord of the charnel house and Prince of Evil. His time is at hand. His empire grows in the west and the Apocalypse looms. For hundreds of thousands of fans who read The Stand in its original version and wanted more, this new edition is Stephen King's gift. And those who are listening to The Stand for the first time will discover a triumphant and eerily plausible work of the imagination that takes on the issues that will determine our survival.

"I first read The Stand in 1989 and I was completely blown away by it. The story, the characters, the tension - I had never read a book of its size so quickly. So, 23 years later I decided to read it again, finding that although I was able to remember certain parts, almost everything other than the memory of loving it had been forgotten. I found it interesting that King himself said, in the forward, that he doesn't think The Stand is amongst his best books, but the one he is asked most questions about. I would agree with the author here as books like It, Salem’s Lot and The Shining are better-written books but there is just something about The Stand, and if the reader connects with it they are in for a thrilling ride." Fantasy Book Review

15+
9/10

This Dark Endeavour

by Kenneth Oppel

In this prequel to Mary Shelley’s gothic classic, Frankenstein, 16-year-old Victor Frankenstein begins a dark journey that will change his life forever. Victor’s twin, Konrad, has fallen ill, and no doctor is able to cure him. Unwilling to give up on his brother, Victor enlists his beautiful cousin Elizabeth and best friend Henry on a treacherous search for the ingredients to create the forbidden Elixir of Life. Impossible odds, dangerous alchemy and a bitter love triangle threaten their quest at every turn. Victor knows he must not fail. But his success depends on how far he is willing to push the boundaries of nature, science, and love – and how much he is willing to sacrifice.

"My assessment of this book is that it is excellent, well written and true to the original. Oppel has captured Victor’s voice in such a way that his journey into the darkness of the original book is both believable and inevitable because of his character and the choices that he makes. I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who has read and enjoyed the original." Fantasy Book Review

15+
9/10

Boneland

by Alan Garner

Okay, this is it, the book that I have been waiting thirty years for. After all this time I finally get to find out what happened to Colin and Susan, Cadellin Silverbrow, Fenodyree the dwarf and the evil Morrigan. At last, Alan Garner has given in to pleas made by legions of fans and written the final part of the Alderley trilogy… or has he?

15+
9/10

The King\'s Bastard

by Rowena Cory Daniells

Only seven minutes younger than Rolencia’s heir, Byren has never hungered for the throne. He laughs when a seer predicts that he will kill his twin. But the royal heir resents Byren’s growing popularity. Across the land the untamed magic of the gods wells up out of the earth’s heart. It sends exotic creatures to stalk the wintry nights and it twists men’s minds, granting them terrible visions. Those so touched are sent to the Abbey to control their gift, or die. At King Rolen’s court enemies plot to take his throne, even as secrets within his own household threaten to tear his family apart.

"There is so much more The King’s Bastard, that if I would continue I would reveal too much of the story. So in short. The King’s Bastard is in my opinion a must read for fantasy fans. It shows a great world, a country in struggle, magical creatures, great characters and brawling action."

15+
9/10

The Eyre Affair

by Jasper Fforde

There is another 1985, where London’s criminal gangs have moved into the lucrative literary market, and Thursday Next is on the trail of a new crime wave’s Mr Big. Acheron Hades has been kidnapping characters from works of fiction and holding them ransom. Jane Eyre is gone. Missing. Thursday sets out to find a way into the book to repair the damage. But solving crimes against literature isn't easy when you also have to find time to halt the Crimean War, persuade the man you love to marry you , and figure out who really wrote Shakespeare’s plays.

"The Eyre Affair shows a great combination of humour thriller, sci-fi, detective and fantasy, in my opinion this book really takes the fantasy fiction genre further. I know I am going to repeat myself but this book is how Thursday would have said it “mad as pants”. It combines some great elements that truly make this book comes to life in more than one dimension. Combining funny and witty dialogues but also numerous literary ideas with the bookworms and names of several of the characters make this a terrific read and should be compulsory for everyone. You won’t regret this."

12+
10/10

Insurrection

by Robyn Young

Insurrection is a great book, even if you’re not aware of the historical underlay of the story. It features betrayal, family feuds, great battle scenes and a very engaging writing style. It shows how Robert the Bruce as a young man grew to be a guardian of Scotland. First having a burden on his shoulders, making wrong decisions and trying to better them and as a higher motive do everything for the betterment of Scotland. As mentioned in the back of the book Robert the Bruce remains more of a grey area and his history is not black and white. Using Robert in this way showed a great versatility in his character and did not require to keep him as he is shown in history. Just to say it again, Insurrection is a great read

15+
9/10

Red Country

by Joe Abercrombie

They burned her home. They stole her brother and sister. But vengeance is following. Shy South hoped to bury her bloody past and ride away smiling, but she'll have to sharpen up some bad old ways to get her family back, and she's not a woman to flinch from what needs doing. She sets off in pursuit with only a pair of oxen and her cowardly old stepfather Lamb for company. But it turns out Lamb's buried a bloody past of his own, and out in the lawless Far Country, the past never stays buried. Their journey will take them across the barren plains to a frontier town gripped by gold fever, through feud, duel and massacre, high into the unmapped mountains to a reckoning with the Ghosts. Even worse, it will force them into alliance with Nicomo Cosca, infamous soldier of fortune, and his feckless lawyer Temple, two men no one should ever have to trust... The past never stays buried...

"If you can’t stand - or don’t like your kids - to read a story in which there is plenty of, gritty violent scenes, swearing, questionable characters and sexual relationships then this isn't your book. Abercrombie’s style is to write a fantasy story in which the characters react like realistic people. You’ll never see a ‘teenage-prodigy’, heroes are non-existent or in for the cash, and there are plenty of crooked and corrupt characters, just like the real world." Brian Herstig, Fantasy Book Review

15+
9/10

To Green Angel Tower

by Tad Williams

Read, be engaged and enveloped in a world struggling to survive. We can only feel pity for those consumed by sadness and hatred, but we fight and strive to live and love.

12+
9/10

Endless

by Matt Bone

After an inexplicable catastrophe on Earth, John Bridgeman is left to scrap out a solitary existence, surrounded by bodies and haunted by the girlfriend he cannot allow to die. His headaches are increasingly debilitating. Even his senses are turning against him: amongst the desolate streets is a light which moves as if alive. The onset of insanity, he assumes, and yet... why does he feel like he is being hunted? John's fate is entwined with that of Crescent: a world teeming with life both human and supernatural, where Spirit storms rack the skies and rumours of a terrible army in the North have the great nations in unrest. Crescent is John's only chance to rediscover the bonds of life and love, but this perilous yet extraordinary world could also lead him to lose everything all over again.

"As you will no doubt have already ascertained from the above sentence in bold, I enjoyed Matt Bone's Endless a great deal. I found it to be a skilful and ambitious merging of the epic fantasy and dystopian fiction genres by an author whose writing talents matched their impressive imagination." Fantasy Book Review

12+
9/10

The Blinding Knife

by Brent Weeks

I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a fantasy novel quite as much as Week’s second in his “Lightbringer” series. The reason is that his form taps neatly into the great fantasy series of the ‘80s and ‘90s very well. Essentially the reader follows the waxing fortunes of a young child who goes through character building trials and tribulations on their way to great power, kingship, nobility and generally saving whatever world they are on. It’s a formula used brilliantly by the likes of Feist, Eddings, Weis and Hickman, Wurts, Douglass, Canavan – to name a few. Weeks has reined back in his Night Angel exuberance where the fight scenes got more and more over the top (it was almost a fantasy version of Matthew Reilly’s ‘Scarecrow’) and produced a series with the necessary pace to enthral the reader. Namely… a slow build up.

12+
10/10

One Hundred Years of Vicissitude

by Andrez Bergen

This book is by turns educational, inspiring, traumatic and humorous. It is also one of the best books I have read this year. So, if you are looking for an extremely alternate take on a Christmas Carol this festive period, then Andrea Bergen's One Hundred Years of Vicissitude is an absolute must.

15+
9/10

Blood and Feathers

by Lou Morgan

Alice isn’t having the best of days: she got rained on, missed her bus, was late for work. When two angels arrive, claiming her life so far is a lie, it turns epic, grand scale worse. The war between the angels and the Fallen is escalating; an age-old balance is tipping, and innocent civilians are getting caught in the cross-fire. The angels must act to restore the balance – or risk the Fallen taking control. Forever. Hunted by the Fallen and guided by Mallory – a disgraced angel with a drinking problem – Alice will learn the truth about her own history… And why the angels want to send her to Hell. What do the Fallen want from her? How does Mallory know so much about her past? What is it the angels are hiding – and can she trust either side? Caught between the power plays of the angels and Lucifer himself, it isn’t just Hell’s demons that Alice will have to defeat…

"There are a lot of things going on in Blood and Feathers that I can continue for quite some time still. Like the division of hierarchy in Heaven with the Choirs and awesome powers that they have, but then this would be too lengthy. Blood and Feathers is a great start to a series having a great writing style that got me through this book in an afternoon. Next there is a cast of likeable characters bolstered by their own personalities and a dose of humour, last is the action that forces you to read this book in one sitting." Fantasy Book Review

12+
9/10

The Master and Margarita

by Mikhail Bulgakov

Considered one of the finest creations of Russian literature in the 20th century, The Master and Margarita is an amazing work of fantasy, a love story, a biting satire on Soviet life, and a lot more. Mikhail Bulgakov's last book and crowning achievement, it has been written in secrecy, burned and restored, and banned for decades. Its author, who worked on it until his final days, never saw it in print. English-speaking audiences may fully enjoy Bulgakov's masterpiece.

"The book shows how easy it is to become greedy and cynical, to be unable to see what is happening around you... and if you see it not being able to believe it. The citizens of Moscow are a contrast between what they see and what they want, with Margarita, who in her own way, is a pure soul." Fantasy Book Review

15+
10/10

MetaWars: The Dead are Rising

by Jeff Norton

In an unforgiving future, two warring factions - the Millennials and the Guardians - are locked in a brutal battle over control of an online virtual world called the Metasphere. Jonah Delacroix has always known which side he’s on - the same side as his dead father. But when he assumes his father’s avatar, he learns that things aren't as black and white as he once believed. He’s catapulted into a full throttle race through both worlds - but can he find the truth?

"With MetaWars: The Dead are Rising, Jeff Norton continues the great MetaWars series. The second book in the series focuses more on the consequences that were set in motion by Jonah actions in the end of the first book, producing again a fast pacing and action filled plot but with a side-line. Jeff Norton took, to my pleasure, enough time to add an emotional tinge to the story between Jonah and his father. And in the short time that they got to spend together there was a great mind teaser: Jonah’s father said that the Guardians did not kill him... but then who did? Many questions, got answered but more were raised." Jasper de Joode, Fantasy Book Review

12+
9/10

Dragon Lords Rising

by Lucinda Hare

Anyone who has read the first two books will be glad to know that time is still divided up into amazingly named segments (such as ‘at the hour of the dozy hedgehog’) and that characters still shout, ‘Newt and Toad!’ when surprised. This time round, though, the story is darker and there’s a moment or two (I won’t tell you which ones!) that’ll bring a tear to your eye. I can tell you no more except strap yourself in when riding Stormcracker and keep Two Gulps Too Many away from those honey tablets…

9+
9/10

Dracula Cha Cha Cha

by Kim Newman

What more could you ask for? Dracula meets the Giallo murder mystery and Bond! There is even a 1968 set novella Aquarius as an added bonus. This will chill and amuse the reader, transporting you to a bygone era of cinema and culture. Unmissable.

15+
9/10

Virals

by Kathy Reichs

All in all I found that this specific combination of supernatural and forensic science worked to it fullest in Virals producing a very engaging, unique and interesting story. This unique blend did greatly appeal to me and I know that it will appeal for a broad younger audience. Now that the Virals have truly grown into their powers... anything can happen.

12+
9/10

The Pilo Family Circus

by Will Elliott

You have two days to pass your audition. You better pass it, feller. You’re joining the circus. Ain’t that the best news you ever got? Delivered by a trio of psychotic clowns, this ultimatum plunges Jamie into the horrific alternate universe that is the centuries-old Pilo Family Circus, a borderline world between Hell and Earth from which humankind’s greatest tragedies have been perpetrated. Yet in this place—peopled by the gruesome, grotesque, and monstrous—where violence and savagery are the norm, Jamie finds that his worst enemy is himself. When he applies the white face paint, he is transformed into JJ, the most vicious clown of all. And JJ wants Jamie dead!

"The Pilo Family Circus is a bizarre exploration of a fantastical world full of killer clowns, highly strung acrobats, and morbidly depressed people who have been sculpted into freaks. I highly recommend this to horror fans, but also to fantasy fans who are looking for something outside of the box." Fantasy Book Review

15+
9/10

Zombies vs. Unicorns

by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier

I’m sure you’re familiar with this typical family dinner scenario: everyone is seated around the table and Grampa- like Grampa always does- turns a perfectly pleasant conversation into a tirade about how under-appreciated unicorns are in modern society because of these gosh-darn kids and their obsession with brain-eating schmucks. Then your mother, a staunch zombie supporter since Night of the Living Dead, slams the meatloaf down on the table and storms out of the room, while everyone else wearily returns to their peas and carrots. Oh wait, your family never does that? And you’ve never heard of the Zombies vs. Unicorns debate? Well, here’s your chance…

"Despite the light-hearted tone of the debate, Zombie vs. Unicorns is a great anthology that contains both humorous and powerful stories. While you may love all the stories, remember: this is war. Which side are you on?" Alison Mirabella, Fantasy Book Review

12+
9/10

Blood and Bone

by Ian C Esslemont

As I (we, I doubt I was alone in this one) so easily predicted, the storylines left dangling from the Malazan Book of the Fallen series are being finished off in these extra books. Or maybe this time extended. This book again is centred on the Crimson Guard and fills in a lot of the questions of the history of K’azz and Skinner and the splitting of the Guard. I was again mesmerized by the story and had fun trying to figure where this story fits into the greater timeline, and guessing who the warleader character really was. But most satisfying to me was the trip to Jacuruku we took. After 15 books, (with a combined reading of about 50x), I was also surprised by the complete lack of knowledge I had of the place. It made me think of my childhood memories of deepest darkest Africa and all the mystery and excitement those words had. And I find myself again waiting for the next book as I am completely on the hook when K’azz was told he would find the answers he was seeking in Assail. Assail! Another mystery name where all I can think of is a lost clan of T’lan Imass; I can hardly wait to see where this goes. And you better write it after dropping an Easter Egg like that Mr. Esslemont.

15+
9/10

John Dies at the End

by David Wong

On the street they call it Soy Sauce, it is a drug that promises an out-of-body experience with each hit, and lets users drift across time and dimensions. But some who come back are no longer human. Suddenly, a silent otherworldly invasion is underway, and mankind needs a hero. What it gets instead is John and David, a pair of college dropouts who can barely hold down jobs. Can these two stop the oncoming horror in time to save humanity? No. No, they can't...

"If you mixed 'Ghostbusters' with 'Shaun of the Dead' and added some abnormal fantasy drugs into the mix then you’d almost be in the right genre for this story. The writer, going under the persona of the main character 'David Wong', makes clear from the start of the book that no one can be trusted; not even himself, even telling us that parts of the story have been elaborated or made up. This makes the story very clever and the reader therefore has no clear idea of what is truth and what is not when they start reading, setting them up very nicely for the question they all want to know - does John die at the end? This lack of trust, along with the weird simultaneous mix throughout of horror and humour is what makes the book truly scary."

15+
9/10

Nights at the Circus

by Angela Carter

Is Sophie Fevvers, toast of Europe's capitals, part swan... or all fake? Courted by the Prince of Wales and painted by Toulouse-Lautrec, she is an aerialiste extraordinaire and star of Colonel Kearney's circus. She is also part woman, part swan. Jack Walser, an American journalist, is on a quest to discover the truth behind her identity. Dazzled by his love for her, and desperate for the scoop of a lifetime, Walser has no choice but to join the circus on its magical tour through turn-of-the-nineteenth-century London, St Petersburg and Siberia.

"There are so many facets to Angela Carter’s stories that it is hard to find a place to start discussing them. This is a book written about the cusp of the 20th century, where so many things were promised and hoped for and so many changes happened. This story focuses on two people, bound together because of a newspaper story: Jack Walser, the journalist sent to write a story on Sophie Fevvers the “aerialiste extraordinaire”, to find out whether she is fact or fiction, as instead of being a typical trapeze artist she has wings that allow her to fly through the air. Angela Carter has written a fantastical microcosm of life in this book." Fantasy Book Review

15+
9/10

The Feathered Man

by Jeremy de Quidt

In a German town, long ago, lives a tooth-puller’s boy called Klaus. It isn’t Klaus’s fault that he sees his master steal a diamond from the mouth of a dead man in Frau Drecht’s lodging house, or that Frau Drecht and her murderous son want it for themselves. He has nothing to do with the Jesuit priest and his Aztec companion who turn up out of the blue looking for it, or the Professor of Anatomy who takes such a strange interest in it. No, Klaus doesn’t want any trouble. But when he finds himself with the diamond in his pocket, things really can’t get much worse – that is, until the feathered man appears. Then they become a matter of life… and death.

"The story is both terrifying and tender, it looks and the very best and worst of human nature and shows another plane of reality that is so frightening. There is so much plot crammed into this book and yet is flows so wonderfully that you don’t at anytime feel overloaded or like you’re being left behind, it just all works so beautifully. As for the characters, well there just isn’t a weak one amongst them. You look at the book in your hand, not a tome by any stretch of the imagination, just a nice hand sized book and think “how on earth does all that fit in there?” but it does and perfectly so." Fantasy Book Review

9+
9/10

The Aylesford Skull

by James P Blaylock

The Aylesford Skull is for me a piece of art. James P. Blaylock has created a truly magical story, where most authors who write steampunk go for a direction of a more bold and brash steampunk setting he takes on another route by writing a more or less common story but elevating it with hints of steampunk and a supernatural aspect into it. For me it is truly magnificent display of how to elevate a story to the next level. It is a great story fully accented by enough hints of steampunk and magic.

12+
10/10

Wool

by Hugh Howey

The world outside has grown unkind, the view of it limited, talk of it forbidden. But there are always those who hope, who dream. These are the dangerous people, the people who infect others with their optimism. Their punishment is simple. They are given the very thing they profess to want: They are allowed outside.

"Written in a warm style that never attempts to get too clever, this is the kind of terrific read that's both respectful towards and transcendent of its own genre." Sydney Morning Herald

"Howey cranks up the suspense and tension, making this one of the most gripping and profound sci-fi novels I have read. All I can say is get a copy and read it before it hits the big screen." Daniel Cann, Fantasy Book Review

12+
9/10

Epic: Legends of Fantasy

by John Joseph Adams

From the creation myths and quest sagas of ancient times to the megapopular fantasy novels of today, this quintessential anthology of epic fantasy is adventurous storytelling at its best. With rich and vibrant world building, readers are transported to antiquated realms to witness noble sacrifices and astonishing wonders. Gathering a comprehensive survey of beloved stories from the genre, this compilation includes stories by such luminaries as George R. R. Martin, Robert Jordan, Terry Brooks, Ursula K. Le Guin, Robin Hobb, and Tad Williams. Inspiring and larger-than-life, these tales offer timeless values of courage and friendship in the face of ultimate evil and express mankind's greatest hopes and fears.

"Epic: Legends of Fantasy is an anthology that would fit nicely upon the shelf of any fantasy reader. John Joseph Adams should definitely be congratulated for managing to get the rights to all of these fantastic stories. If you haven't read some or any of these authors before, then this anthology (with the exception of Le Guin, Williams and Elliott) will definitely help you to decide whether or not you should pick up other works by these authors." Ryan Lawler, Fantasy Book Review

12+
9/10

The Four Realms

by Adrian Faulkner

Half-vampire Darwin stumbles across a corpse on the streets of London, and in a pocket discovers a notebook in a mysterious language. Divided between human ethics and vampire bloodlust, Darwin finds himself both condemner and saviour of a race who’ve never considered him one of their own. Now, he must try and lead the survivors to sanctuary in New Salisbury before Mr West completes his genocide of the vampires in his quest to obtain the book… Maureen Summerglass is eighty-two years old, and a prisoner in her ramshackle home. She is afraid to let people enter in case they discover the oak door in her cellar. Threatened with homelessness and retirement from her job as a gatekeeper between worlds, Maureen breaks protocol when the death of a close friend is covered up… and enters the city of New Salisbury to search for his missing notebook. There, she discovers a world unlike the one of myth and fairy tale she imagined, and instead one of black market economies, brand names and tuk tuks. As she investigates, not only is she in extreme danger, but discovers she may be the first human female able to use magic…

"The Four Realms throws the reader in at the deep end, challenging them to sink or swim. Those that swim will be treated to a rich and vibrant tale with a decidedly dark underbelly. I recommend this book most fully to those who are growing bored with the fantasy genre, those who are tired of reading derivatives of the classics they once enjoyed. If I had just one sentence in which to pass on my recommendation to another reader, I would say, "Imagine an action-packed fantasy book co-written by J. R. R. Tolkien, J. K. Rowling and H. P. Lovecraft - and then throw in some vampires, angels and demons, plus a healthy dose of science fiction then you should have an idea of what to expect from The Four Realms."" Fantasy Book Review

15+
9/10

Without Warning

by John Birmingham

March 14, 2003. In Kuwait, American forces are lock and loaded for the invasion of Iraq. In Paris, a cover agent is close to cracking a terrorist cell. And just north of the equator, a sailboat manned by a drug runner and a pirate is witness to the unspeakable. In one instant, all around the world, everything will change. A wave of inexplicable energy slams into the continental United States. America as we know it vanishes. As certain corners of the globe erupt in celebration, others descend into chaos, and a new, soul-shattering reality is born.

"All in all, Without Warning is a gripping, edge of your seat stuff that you can easily read instead of going to the cinema to watch an action movie, it is delivered right there in front of you. This book never goes dull for a moment and actually puts you to thinking “What if?” The thought experiment of John Birmingham has paid out fully. And it leaves you on quite the cliff-hanger, another great book to be recommended." Jasper de Joode, Fantasy Book Review

15+
9/10

Falling Kingdoms

by Morgan Rhodes

In a land where magic has been forgotten and peace has reigned for centuries, unrest is simmering. Three kingdoms battle for power… A princess must journey into enemy territory in search of a magic long-thought extinct. A rebel becomes the leader of a bloody revolution. A Sorceress discovers the truth about the supernatural legacy she is destined to wield. It's the eve of war. Each must choose a side. Kingdoms will fall.

"I do have to restrain from telling about too much of the story, it is quite a comprehensive story that reads away easily. But that does show a bit the plainness of the story, though this is not a bad thing at all, it actually makes this book 100% suited for the younger audience. Morgan Rhodes has with Falling Kingdoms definitely made a solid entry into this genre producing a very interesting epic fantasy book that will appeal to younger and older readers alike. It is filled with both action and compelling scenes that truly make the pages of this book come to life." Jasper de Joode, Fantasy Book Review

12+
9/10

Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier

by Myke Cole

Okay, I'm almost done gushing. Fortress Frontier is an excellent book, one that hits all the right notes for me. There might be a few people this type of book doesn't work for, the military jargon might be a little off-putting to others, but for those who like action packed military fantasy, you are in for a treat.

15+
10/10

Taliesin

by Stephen Lawhead

It is a novel where, as you read the author's next books, you later come to understand he is both learning and developing in his creative writing. Lawhead is naturally gifted at portraying the romantic, spinning enthusiasm, adding hyperbole to what is already legend. He does it well. Yet, it is done at the pacy exasperation of the mundane action and narrative that is necessary in any novel. The book begins well, ends well. The middle seems, at times, to be a necessary bridge between the former and the latter. If the start and the end are each a golden city, then the bridge is plain, lacklustre... necessary. The language of the author reflects this haste to cross from one to the other which is why Taliesin is not a perfect offering. At its heart, it is a novel about new beginnings, of legends come to life, of the romance between two people of different nations. It is a prologue to the next six novels and, as one of many versions of the Arthurian legends, worth reading by anyone who adores the fantasy genre.

12+
9/10

1984

by George Orwell

George Orwell's dystopian masterpiece, Nineteen Eighty-Four is perhaps the most pervasively influential book of the twentieth century, making famous Big Brother, newspeak and Room 101. 'Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past'. Hidden away in the Record Department of the sprawling Ministry of Truth, Winston Smith skilfully rewrites the past to suit the needs of the Party. Yet he inwardly rebels against the totalitarian world he lives in, which demands absolute obedience and controls him through the all-seeing telescreens and the watchful eye of Big Brother, symbolic head of the Party. In his longing for truth and liberty, Smith begins a secret love affair with a fellow-worker Julia, but soon discovers the true price of freedom is betrayal.

"1984 is not only a classic of dystopian fiction, but one of the most influential works of fiction ever written." Fantasy Book Review

15+
10/10

Hemlock Grove

by Brian McGreevy

The body of a young girl is found mangled and murdered in the woods of Hemlock Grove, Pennsylvania, in the shadow of the abandoned Godfrey Steel mill. A manhunt ensues - though the authorities aren't sure if it's a man they should be looking for. Some suspect an escapee from the White Tower, a foreboding biotech facility owned by the Godfrey family - their personal fortune and the local economy having moved on from Pittsburgh steel - where some suspect that biological experiments of the most unethical kind take place. Others turn to Peter Rumancek, a Gypsy trailer-trash kid who has told impressionable high school classmates that he's a werewolf. Or perhaps it's Roman, the son of the late J. R. Godfrey, who rules the adolescent social scene with the casual arrogance of a cold-blooded aristocrat, his superior status unquestioned despite his decidedly freakish sister, Shelley, whose monstrous medical conditions belie a sweet intelligence, and his otherworldly, sexy control freak of a mother, Olivia. As the crime goes unsolved and the police seem more and more willing to believe any outlandish rumour, Peter and Roman decide the only way to save their own skins is to find the killer themselves. Along the way they uncover local secrets and designs that are much bigger than some small-town murder.

"This is for those who want their horror laced with sex, violence and things better left unexplained." Cat Fitzpatrick, Fantasy Book Review

15+
9/10

Days of Blood and Starlight

by Laini Taylor

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a new way of living - one without massacres and torn throats and bonfires of the fallen, without revenants or bastard armies or children ripped from their mothers' arms to take their turn in the killing and dying. Once, the lovers lay entwined in the moon's secret temple and dreamed of a world that was a like a jewel-box without a jewel - a paradise waiting for them to find it and fill it with their happiness. This was not that world.

"I have only praise for this series and for Days as well. It is written masterfully and filled with poetic lyricism that tricks you into believing you are reading a classic. The book is melancholy and the pain of the characters is etched into the pages that after you put the book down you find yourself hovering in dark corners, muttering to yourself about the cruelty of the world. But don’t let that put you off from reading what will become a classic in literature in the decades to come, for sure. I am eagerly awaiting book three. Mrs Taylor! Bring it on!"

12+
10/10

Ack-Ack Macaque

by Gareth L Powell

In 1944, as waves of German ninjas parachute into Kent, Britain’s best hopes for victory lie with a Spitfire pilot codenamed ‘Ack-Ack Macaque’. The trouble is, Ack-Ack Macaque is a cynical, one-eyed, cigar-chomping monkey, and he’s starting to doubt everything, including his own existence. A century later, in a world where France and Great Britain merged in the late 1950s and nuclear-powered Zeppelins encircle the globe, ex-journalist Victoria Valois finds herself drawn into a deadly game of cat and mouse with the man who butchered her husband and stole her electronic soul. Meanwhile, in Paris, after taking part in an illegal break-in at a research laboratory, the heir to the British throne goes on the run. And all the while, the doomsday clock ticks towards Armageddon.

"Ack-Ack Macaque shows just what is possible by combining new idea and creating a unique world and a set of characters, a monkey, who would have guessed! Gareth L. Powell will be an author to look out for." Jasper de Joode, Fantasy Book Review

12+
10/10

Zoo City

by Lauren Beukes

I found this book really throws you into the deep end, leaving you guessing at the full extent of the how the world Lauren Beukes creates is different from our own. Zoo City, set in Johannesburg, invites us into the lives of the undesirables that the majority of the population like to pretend do not exist. But if they have to acknowledge them they will do so to blame them for all the world’s problems. At the same time, although you are thrown into the deep end it doesn’t mean that you’re frustrated as you’re given just enough information to keep you intrigued. Which gives you enough time to connect with the lead character Zinzi December, the so-called heroine of the novel. Zinzi is a survivor who has a talent for finding lost items for people and she ends up getting dragged into a hunt for a missing person, and that’s where her troubles begin…

"Of course – being a fantasy review site – this isn’t a gritty crime novel. Although you will not find wizards or goblins here, what you will find is an intriguing “what if?” urban fantasy story that gives a twist to the contemporary world we live in. If I forgot to mention before, this story involves animals and magic, that fits into the world of Zoo City. As well as inviting questions as to why people who are different from the norm are treated in different circumstances." Fantasy Book Review

12+
10/10

The Sacred Band

by David Anthony Durham

All in all, this is an excellent end to an often overlooked trilogy. For me it is the equal of many out there and fully deserving of a read by lovers of fantasy. It contains many elements one expects in fantasy: magic, kings, queens, warring tribes, near immortal races and countless others. As a side note, it is great to have a summary of the previous two books in this book - and if like me you don’t won’t to wait until a series is completed before reading all the books in one go – then this is a great plus to get one back up to speed with what’s gone on before. I do wish summaries will one day be made mandatory in fantasy series – wishful thinking. Anyway, this is one of my favourite fantasy series of the last few years.

15+
9/10

No Return

by Zachary Jernigan

On Jeroun, there is no question as to whether God exists--only what his intentions are. Under the looming judgment of Adrash and his ultimate weapon--a string of spinning spheres beside the moon known as The Needle--warring factions of white and black suits prove their opposition to the orbiting god with the great fighting tournament of Tchootoo, on the far side of Jeroun's only inhabitable continent. From the Thirteenth Order of Black Suits comes Vedas, a young master of martial arts, laden with guilt over the death of one of his students. Traveling with him are Churls, a warrior woman and mercenary haunted by the ghost of her daughter, and Manshep, a constructed man made of modular spheres possessed by the foul spirit of his creator. Together they must brave their own demons, as well as thieves, mages, beasts, dearth, and hardship on the perilous road to Tchootoo, and the bloody sectarian battle that is sure to follow. On the other side of the world, unbeknownst to the travelers, Ebn and Pol of the Royal Outbound Mages (astronauts using Alchemical magic to achieve space flight) have formed a plan to appease Adrash and bring peace to the planet. But Ebn and Pol each have their own clandestine agendas--which may call down the wrath of the very god they hope to woo.

"I haven't read a book this deep in quite some time. No Return is a book of contrasts, a book that not only shows the extreme ends of an argument, but all the shades of grey in between. If you are looking for a fun Sunday afternoon read then you might want to keep looking, but those who are looking for an entertaining yet challenging book, I think you will love No Return." Ryan Lawler, Fantasy Book Review

15+
9/10

Avilion

by Robert Holdstock

This book also shows the evolution of Robert Holdstock’s writing, especially if you were going to read Mythago Wood and Avilion in that order. I felt that the book flowed really well, whether it was because of the familiarity of the characters or knowing that this was closure to a very good series, but I felt satisfied with this conclusion.

15+
9/10

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