Our recommended books of the month. Page 7.

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.

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

NOS4R2

by Joe Hill

Victoria McQueen has an uncanny knack for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. When she rides her bicycle over the rickety old covered bridge in the woods near her house, she always emerges in the places she needs to be. Vic doesn’t tell anyone about her unusual ability, because she knows no one will believe her. She has trouble understanding it herself. Charles Talent Manx has a gift of his own. He likes to take children for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the vanity plate NOS4R2. In the Wraith, he and his innocent guests can slip out of the everyday world and onto hidden roads that lead to an astonishing playground of amusements he calls Christmasland. Mile by mile, the journey across the highway of Charlie’s twisted imagination transforms his precious passengers, leaving them as terrifying and unstoppable as their benefactor. And then comes the day when Vic goes looking for trouble… and finds her way, inevitably, to Charlie. That was a lifetime ago. Now, the only kid ever to escape Charlie’s unmitigated evil is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx hasn’t stopped thinking about the exceptional Victoria McQueen. On the road again, he won’t slow down until he’s taken his revenge. He’s after something very special —something Vic can never replace. As a life-and-death battle of wills builds — her magic pitted against his — Vic McQueen prepares to destroy Charlie once and for all… or die trying…

"NOS4R2 reads like a thriller at times, it is a totally gripping and satisfying read, expertly constructed and brilliantly executed. This one is a triumph." Fantasy Book Review

15+
10/10

The Never Pages

by Graham Thomas

The Never Pages is a very odd book to behold – there's no blurb on the back, no author announced on the front and it actually looks like an old journal. It tells us the story of Mr G____, a Dream Investigator who is travelling through the Never Realm in order to find his lover Lucy and answers from a mysterious man called Brekker. When you begin reading, that is all you know. Mr G____ is an Investigator, and as such approaches everything in a very methodical and detailed way, taking note of every single thing in his journal. This can, at first, be quite distancing – everything is presented in a very clinical way. Slowly details about Mr G____'s journey emerge, and as he grows as a character you begin to like him more and more, until his journey becomes your own.

"As you can probably tell from my gushing words, I really enjoyed this book. I wasn't sure what to expect when I began reading, and the first few chapters can take a little while to settle into if you question the what/why/how too much, but once you let go of these conventional storytelling techniques, The Never Pages can take you on a most fantastic journey."

12+
9/10

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