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Gotrek & Felix: The Serpent Queen by Josh Reynolds (Book Review)

Last year in January we had the first Gotrek & Felix novel after a gap of several long years. The series started off as short stories by William King that were eventually collected into a novel and became a trilogy, then a double trilogy and so on. Eventually, when William King left, Nathan Long was brought in and he enjoyed a good long run as well. But then the series lapsed and all we had for a while were more short stories and even some novellas, although they were primarily written by a new incoming group of authors. It was good stuff. But what we really needed was a full novel, and that’s what Josh Reynolds’ Road of Skulls did.

The new Gotrek & Felix novels, whether those written by Josh Reynolds or David Guymer, are set out of continuity, which means that they are not part of the main series and are set somewhere in between those adventures already published. Road of Skulls, the first in his new set of novels, was an absolute fantastic read and reminded me of why I loved the series in the first place. And now we have the third novel, The Serpent Queen, and it is every bit as good. It features some more out-of-continuity adventures but sets them in the Southlands, in the homelands of the Lizardmen and we see a conflict between Tomb Kings and Vampires. Pretty superb right out of the gate.

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Legion of The Damned by William C. Dietz (Book Review)

As with last year, it seems that at the moment I’m doing well enough with my “25 Series To Read In 2014” reading challenge, where I pick out the aforementioned number of series in a variety of genres and attempt to read at least the first books in each. One of the books that I read for this challenge earlier this month was the first novel in William C. Dietz’ Legion series, Legion of the Damned. Bill is an author I’ve known for quite a while, and even invited on the blog for a guest post. His first Sauron duology novel DeathDay is among my favourite books, and is one that contributed towards my decision to become a writer, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that I hold him in high regard for being an inspiration.

Legion of the Damned imagines a future where humanity has spread out of the cradle of Earth and has built for itself a sprawling galactic empire, ruled by a creepy and perverted and highly schizophrenic Emperor who cares more about his own enjoyment rather than the Empire itself. And one of the fighting forces he has at his command is the Legion, a futuristic incarnation of the French Foreign Legion. A lot of the novel deals with the political drama between the Empire’s various armed forces and the invasion by the technologically superior Hudatha, who have been burning world after world. As a whole, Legion of the Damned has some fine concepts, but it doesn’t always go all the way, and some of the concepts even prove to be troublesome. But it is still a novel I’d recommend reading.

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Black Blade Blues by J. A. Pitts (Book Review)

When you are a reviewer and an avid reader as I am, you always end up with a mountain of books that grows week by week. And you always have an urge to read even more books because you find something that interests you and that you think could be a fun read. This is one of the reasons why I started my “25 Series To Read In ….” reading challenges (2013, 2014), because I wanted to make a dent in that reading pile. Or try to. For this year’s challenge, one of the series I picked is J. A. Pitts’ urban fantasy trilogy Sarah Beauhall, which has some of the most awesome covers I’ve seen.

The first novel in the series, Black Blade Blues, does a great job of introducing the character and setting up the slice of the world that Pitts has created. It is full of some great characters, Norse mythology, runes, dragons, magic, and more. Quite a potent combination. The Norse mythology connection was one of the other reasons why I wanted to read this series, and the reality has borne out the expectations, because Black Blade Blues was as fantastic a read as I was hoping for. Great story, great characters, great twists.

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World of WarCraft: The Shattering by Christie Golden (Book Review)

As far back as I can remember, the first video game that I owned, good and proper, was the Game of The Year edition of WarCraft II: Tides of Darkness. An elder cousin, on holiday from college in US, got me the game and I was hooked on it immediately. It was my first real taste of a fantasy game like this. I finished both campaigns, Human and Orc, in short order (a few weeks or something), and spent several weeks playing the various maps and stuff. It was awesome. Eventually I played the other games too, and then came World of WarCraft in my senior year of college. And it was magnificent. I was exposed to a type of game I hadn’t imagined before, and it was glorious. And I played a paladin as my main, first as a healer, then as dps, then tank, and then whatever I wanted.

In all of this though, I didn’t read a WarCraft novel until quite late. A friend in college loaned me The Last Guardian by Jeff Grubb. Knowing what I did from the days playing the original WarCraft and then WarCraft II, it was an enthralling book and I loved it. Soon after, I read Christie Golden’s The Rise of The Horde, which stands as one of my favourite fantasy novels to date. Others have followed so far and recently I got the chance to read Christie’s The Shattering, which serves as a prelude to the events of the World of WarCraft expansion Cataclysm. And I think Christie has another hit on her hands with this. I loved this almost as much as I loved The Rise of The Horde and The Last Guardian.

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X-wing: Mercy Kill by Aaron Allston (Book Review)

Just a few short days ago passed the man who brought me into the Star Wars universe with my first ever novel in the setting, X-wing: Starfighters of Adumar. The writer was Aaron Allston, a man who has given me some great reading experiences with his X-wing novels over the years, and is someone I can pick up unreservedly and know that I’m in for a good time. I wrote about his passing and the passion he inspired in me to get stuck into the Star Wars universe in a post here. If you’ve never read a Star Wars novel before, and only know the broad basics, then I’d say Starfighters of Adumar is a great place to start. It mixes in a cameo character from the original movie trilogy with lots of new characters and presents a very interesting world.

Mercy Kill came out a year and a half ago to great fanfare and great anticipation. The X-wing novels have a great pedigree, first shepherded by Mike Stackpole with his Rogue Squadron-centric novels, and then with Aaron as he began with the Wraith Squadron. I’ve read them all, pretty much, and each of them has been quite satisfying. Among the best tie-in novels I’ve read. Mercy Kill, Aaron’s last fanfare with this universe, proves that it deserves to stand there with the best, whether we talk about Rogue Squadron or Wraith Squadron. It really is a wonderful novel that takes a lot of chances and comes out the better for it.

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The Serpent Tower by William King (Book Review)

It wasn’t until 2010 that I found out that one of my favourite Black Library authors, William King, had been on an extended sabbatical from writing anything for the publisher, and that he had spent time working on and developing his own original series, The Terrarch Chronicles. And it wasn’t until 2012 that I finally read the first book in the series, Death’s Angels. It was a pretty damn good and fun fantasy romp, doing a new take on the typical elf-human relationships within epic fantasy. And it was packed with all the typical William King fun that you’d expect, which was a huge bonus.

However, it wasn’t until January this year that I got around to reading the sequel, The Serpent Tower. And reading the novel made me realise just what it was that I was missing. Because the second novel is every bit as good as the first. In fact, it is quite a bit better! It avoids all the typical “mistakes” of a second novel, the so-called “sophomore slump”, and it is a fun and enjoyable novel to read from start to finish. It also helps that Bill significantly ups the ante, and explores more of this world that he built up in Death’s Angels, and showed a much more awe-inspiring side of it.

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The Thousand Names by Django Wexler (Book Review)

Django is one of the authors that I discovered through Twitter. And I meant to read his debut last year itself, but didn’t really get a chance to do that. Which is why The Thousand Names is one of the first books that I read this year. I’d long been interested in it, especially given the premise and since it had been getting a lot of positive buzz in the part of the blogosphere that I frequent. And that’s actually quite important to me. If my friends like something, then I am much more liable to check it out, just because of all that buzz.

And with The Thousand Names, the first in Django’s The Shadow Campaigns series, I was quite impressed with it. I’ve been noticing, among all the debuts I’ve been reading in the last two years, that the quality is often quite high indeed. Some really talented authors are making themselves known and I feel really excited to say that Django is right up there too. The Thousand Names is easily one of the best novels that I’ve read since becoming a reviewer and thinking about books and stuff critically. So that’s quite an achievement on a personal level, all things considering.

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Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters (Book Review)

Author and artist team of Tim Marquitz and J. M. Martin got together last year to form their own publishing company, the small press known as Ragnarok Publications. As one of their first projects, they launched a kickstarter for an anthology of science fiction and fantasy stories with a very common theme: kaiju. The man with the idea here was Nickolas Sharps, a fellow blogger and writer who had recently seen the movie Pacific Rim and after enjoying the hell out of it, he got the idea to do an anthology about kaiju since it seemed as if the genre was rather sparse in terms of original fiction.

Needless to say, the kickstarter was mightily successful and just yesterday I finished reading the anthology in its entirety. As someone who had a tiny hand in bringing the project together (I suggested some of the authors who were accepted for the anthology), I’m really pleased with the final product. The anthology has exceeded my expectations and I’m quite happy to say that it is one of my most fun readings of the year so far, and we are only like 36 days in! Tim and Nick assembled some great talent for this anthology and their hardwork and that of J. M. has definitely paid off I think.

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Monster Academy: I Will Not Eat People (Book Review)

Matt Forbeck, one of my favourite SFF authors, has a new book releasing today. I Will Not Eat People is the first book in his Monster Academy trilogy of young adult novels which he has written as part of his 12-for-12 writing program. It was his writing challenge for 2012, where he did four kickstarters, one for each trilogy, and was to write a book for each month of the year. Due to delays, some outside his control, he wasn’t able to complete the challenge in the same year, but now the overall project is finally seeing its completion. Monster Academy is the fourth trilogy, and it is off to a great start.

I’ve enjoyed all of Matt’s work that I’ve read to date, some thirteen or so novels at the least, and with each book he has impressed me even more. I find the idea of Monster Academy really fun and seeing the execution of it last month was really fun. The humour is always front and center with this book, but that’s not all of course, and just as with the previous trilogies Dangerous Games and Shotguns & Sorcery there is a strong sense of a murder investigation here, which is thrilling.

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Revelation and Dust by David R. George III (Book Review)

If I remember correctly, the last Star Trek novel I read, prior to James Swallow’s quite good Cast No Shadow last year in June, was some time in 2004 and it was one where the author focused on Spock and his relationship to a niece or some such character who was coming of age quite soon and was intended to be married off soon after in a bit of family politics. So its been a long time, to be generous. Cast No Shadow really got me in the mood for getting back to the setting however, and around the same time I rewatched The Undiscovered Country for like the umpteenth time. Soon after I heard that there was going to be a new series of Star Trek novels, part of a multi-author series and that the first book would be set in the DS9 continuity.

I could not have been more excited, to be honest. All the Star Trek shows, yes even Enterprise which I enjoyed quite highly and have rewatched multiple times, were good and the fact that DS9 was a very action-packed series was all the better. What I didn’t expect when I began reading Revelation and Dust however was all the changes. And there have been many of them. But at the same time, with an almost fresh cast of characters, I found that I did enjoy the novel quite a bit and that I’m really keen to read more. More, more, more.

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Advent Review #24: Dune – Messiah by Frank Herbert (Book Review)

It is quite fitting that I post this review today. I’ve just finished watching a movie that had me really emotional in its final act, and Ive been going through some rough times lately which means that my emotional bar is pretty low at the moment. And yet, this is the holiday of good cheer, and its the day of good cheer too, what with Santa dropping by shortly to deliver some Christmas presents for people who believe. In many ways, Frank Herbert’s sequel to his award-winning, critically-acclaimed and completely untraditional Dune is perfect reading material for Christmas because of what it symbolises.

I’ll admit that three weeks back is the first time that I ever read Dune: Messiah. Since my high school library never had the book (the one copy we did have was extremely battered and completely unreadable as a result) and I never went back to read it for some reason. Always skipped it when I read the other books. Then last year I listened to the audiobook from Macmillan, and I was blown away by how poignant it was. The second half of the book really hits you hard with the emotions, and it never stops, even unto the end when you turn the last page. Its a novel about sadness and hope and a resurrection of sorts even. Easily one of the best books I’ve read this year, comparable to to Dune itself.

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Advent Review #18: The Straits of Galahesh by Bradley P. Beaulieu (Book Review)

Bradley’s Lays of Anuskaya series was on my radar this year thanks to all my Night Shade Books reading last year and it ended up going on my “25 Series To Read In 2013″ challenge. When I read the first book earlier this year in February, I was quite struck with the scope of the world-building and with the characters. Not to mention the fact that I loved the (inspired-by) Russian setting, despite sometimes getting lost with the names and the familiar names. The Winds of Khalakovo is definitely one of my favourite books of the year and Bradley one of my favourite authors.

The second novel, set some time after the events of the first novel, goes further with the world-building and deals in concepts and cultures and locales that we did not see in the first book. That gets some automatic points from me, for sure, because I love that aspect in a second or third novel. Fleshing out the setting created and introduced in the first book is one of the most important things in a sequel that I look for, and Straits of Galahesh is enjoyable for that fact. But, some of the characterisation and the pacing did suffer this time around, so it wasn’t as smooth sailing as the first book.

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