Still waters run deep

From the #wip

The Merlai are a seafaring folk. Their ships are the fastest amongst all of the Nine Realms of the Broken Continent.

But the Nine Realms, whose mercantile interests they assist, only know a fraction of the true power of the Merlai.

Founded in the Age of Chaos, after the Sundering that ended the War of the Summoner, the Merlai Islands were formed when the land their forebears lived on became cut off from the rest of Ath’may by rising oceans.

But there are many races on Sobia, and not all of them breath the air of the surface. The ancestors of today’s Merlai found assistance from, and in some aces refuge with, the evay of the oceans. This enabled them to survive when they likely would have perished. These sea evay also taught them how to build the ships they still use today, making them the faster, human, riders of the waves in Ath’may.

Daughter of the Empire

Daughter of the Empire
Empire Trilogy Book One
By Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts

Magic and murder engulf the realm of Kelewan. Fierce warlords ignite a bitter blood feud to enslave the empire of Tsuranuanni. While in the opulent Imperial courts, assassins and spy-master plot cunning and devious intrigues against the rightful heir. Now Mara, a young, untested Ruling lady, is called upon to lead her people in a heroic struggle for survival. But first she must rally an army of rebel warriors, form a pact with the alien cho-ja, and marry the son of a hated enemy. Only then can Mara face her most dangerous foe of all—in his own impregnable stronghold.

I come across quite a few readers looking for a book with the kind of noble house politics of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones; and I am always surprised that they haven’t read the Empire Trilogy by Feist and Wurts because, when it comes to Machiavellian manipulations and politics, I haven’t found a more enthralling read.

I guess the greatest difference between the two stories is that Martin’s is set amidst a world reminiscent of medieval Europe, while the Empire Trilogy plays out in Feist’s world of Kelewan, which is very reminiscent of feudal Japan – a world in which ‘face’ and ‘honour’ are the lifeblood of all etiquette and the bench mark of social standing. The playing of politics is called the ‘Great Game’ in the Empire and it is a vicious bloodbath of backstabbing and wheeling and dealing, where the Great Houses can fall and Lesser Houses rise to prominence. And if you cannot play the Great Game, you may find yourself stripped of all you hold dear, maybe even your life.

And it is at this extreme of the Game that we are first introduced to Mara of House Acoma.

Taking her final vows to enter Temple life, the Daughter of the Acoma finds her plans destroyed as she is informed that her family has died and she is the only surviving heir – if she does not take up the mantle of Ruling Lady, House Acoma, its servants and vassals, will all fall into ruin. Unable to turn her back on the ancient lineage of the Acoma, she leaves the Temple before her vows are spoken and returns to the devastated House that her family’s enemies have left her. Without any of the formal political training her brother had received as future heir, Mara must rally the Acoma’s depleted resources and protect her House against not only those who orchestrated the deaths of her father and brothers, but also those who would take advantage of the Acoma’s weakened state. She must navigate a social and political minefield in a world where women are consorts, but rarely the Ruler of a noble House. Using her intelligence, wits and cunning, she slowly reveals she has a greater talent for the Great Game than any could have imagined.

Feist and Wurts have produced a masterpiece of fantasy that I view as a classic. This is a beautifully written book, the prose is fluid and descriptive enough to bring the world to life and the society has been painstakingly pieced together to seem at once familiar, yet alien, without taking away from character development or plot execution. Although this trilogy fits within Feist’s larger Riftwar series, it can be read independently – however, you might find yourself intrigued enough to read more of the authors’ solo work too.


Hose War Book 7
By Michelle West

Jewel ATerafin has never wanted to be a power. What she truly wants, she built in the streets of the poorer holdings. To protect what she built, to protect what she values above all else, she has accepted that power is necessary.

But with power comes responsibility.

Jewel has forced herself to do what would have once been unthinkable: She has surrendered her den-kin, Carver, to the wilderness, because she must if she is to have any hope of saving the rest of her family, and the city in which they dwell.

But she cannot leave him with nothing. Into his hands, she has placed the single, blue leaf that came from the wilderness and the dreaming combined. She doesn’t know what it does or what it was meant to do—but it is the most powerful item on her person, and it is the only thing she can leave him.

That leaf, however, was created to serve a purpose that Jewel does not understand. Nor does Carver, who now possesses it. With Ellerson by his side, Carver intends to traverse the wild Winter in an attempt to reach home—and the people who are waiting for him.

There are those who do understand the significance of Carver’s gift, and the disaster that will prevail if it remains in his hands. But time is of the essence. These lands are not unclaimed, and the Lord of these lands is waking from his ancient slumber.

Nor is the Lord the only threat. Firstborn, demons, and wild elementals are swirling around two mortal men in a storm that threatens to end the only chance the city of Averalaan has of surviving what is to follow.

Michelle West is one of my all time favorite authors.

No West book is a quick read, she layers her stories with nuance and rich characterisation on a set of fabulous world-building and deep history and mysticism.

Now the story that began in 1997 with ‘The Broken Crown’ is coming to a close. One more book in the House War to go and I have to admit I am already anxious about the series ending. There is something comforting in the knowledge that when you finish a book in a favoured series there will be another one coming.

But still, it is also satisfying to read along as the story matures and grows to it’s conclusion.

If you like big, epic fantasy, with gods and demons, magic and history, and stunning prose, then you can’t go past Michelle West.

A Plea for Help

“It was the want of immortality that corrupted the Ten and made them Devak’sahrin. And it was the last act of Varos Korin’ad to lock them away for Eternity. But in the Sundering the Atresian Plains have become lost to us. All that is left of our civilization is in ruins, poisonous to the touch and over which the fabric of reality is stretched so thin that tears between this realm and the Void are a constant threat. We beg of you; help us.”

  • Shaluay Starmaster Rylak to the Hyla’varic Congress of the Var Imperium, 473 A.S.
Art by Scott Richard

At the end of the War of the Summoners, the Sundering broke the continent of Ath’may in two and destroyed the civilization that humankind had built over ten millennia. The chaos that followed lasted nearly five hundred years before Starmaster Rylak, in an act of desperation, petitioned the Hyla’var to assist the remnants of humanity.

Like many of the races native to Sobia, the Var had turned their backs on the war that the human Sahrin had wrought. It was these Sahrin- the Summoners – who had almost destroyed the world. It was their greed and lust for power that had caused the countless deaths of the Var and other races. The Evay had retreated to their realms and closed the pathways to them, the Aerynai had taken to their sky cities, abandoning the surface world to its fate, and the Xious’bisan had disappeared into their mountain fortresses. Only the Var remained, and it was to them that the leader of the Shaluay Starbinders turned.

For ten days and nights the Hyla’var – the artists and mystics, the elder caste of the Var – debated before finally agreeing to give succor to humanity.

This act was the first of what became the Hyla’varic Congress, and gave birth to the Var Imperium. The Hyla’var directed the Sola’var – laborers, farmers and sometime soldier caste – to assist humankind. The directed their considerable might to cleansing the remnants of the Daemon Horde from the war torn lands, and worked with humanity to build new cities in the changed world.

Days Spent with Melanie Rawn

The Dragon Prince trilogy (or The Sunrunner Trilogy – check out book 1 here) was one of the first ‘adult’ fantasy series I really lost myself in after #dragonlance and before #wheeloftime .

Rawn did a magnificent job with her #worldbuilding , the way she wove her magic system into wider world (I’m not going to spoil) blew my mind. And her characters!!! Princess Ianthe was the original Cersei Lannister. The plots and intrigue are world class.

I spent countless hours lost in these books. I hope my #wip can one day offer the same refuge to others.

Have you read these books? Have you read Rawn’s more recent work? I’m going to have to give them a try I think. Eventually…

Bound by Mark Lawrence

A Book of the Ancestor 2.5 (Short Story)
By Mark Lawrence

This is a 16,000 word short story, primarily featuring Nona, Ara, Kettle, Regol. It should be read between Grey Sister and Holy Sister.

Again, I stress SHORT STORY.

It really is a short story coming in a 49 pages. But if you enjoy Lawrence’s work then you will definitely enjoy this.

To be honest, part of the what happens in it seems rather significant for the next book in the series, and unless Lawrence plans a ‘flash-back’ or info dump I am not sure how he will explain the nature of what has changed between two of the character.

But I am looking forward to it.

Buy this short story – it’s really good!

Blackwing – a review

The Raven’s Mark Book One
By Ed McDonald

The republic faces annihilation, despite the vigilance of Galharrow’s Blackwings. When a raven tattoo rips itself from his arm to deliver a desperate message, Galharrow and a mysterious noblewoman must investigate a long dead sorcerer’s legacy. But there is a conspiracy within the citadel: traitors, flesh-eaters and the ghosts of the wastelands seek to destroy them, but if they cannot solve the ancient wizard’s paradox, the Deep Kings will walk the earth again, and all will be lost.

The war with the Eastern Empire ended in stalemate some eighty years ago, thanks to Nall’s ‘Engine’, a wizard-crafted weapon so powerful even the Deep Kings feared it. The strike of the Engine created the Misery – a wasteland full of ghosts and corrupted magic that now forms a No Mans Land along the frontier. But when Galharrow investigates a frontier fortress, he discovers complacency bordering on treason: then the walls are stormed, and the Engine fails to launch. Galharrow only escapes because of the preternatural magical power of the noblewoman he was supposed to be protecting. Together, they race to the capital to unmask the traitors and restore the republic’s defences. Far across the Misery a vast army is on the move, as the Empire prepares to call the republic’s bluff.

The stage is a grimy city of dust, pollution and decay. It is a place where humanity has been reduced in stature to such a degree (by war and the Misery that lays outside the walls of their home, and whose taints permeates everything) that base traits and are buried only by a thin veneer of skin. The people eke out a meagre living while trying to avoid becoming casualties in what is essentially a war between gods. Or beings of godlike powers. The Nameless and the Deep Kings are never overtly named as deities in the sense that they are not believed to have created the universe/life/everything, but the powers they wield place them so far above mortals the difference becomes moot. It is the type of dark and war-torn landscape that would be familiar to readers of Joe Abercrombie and Daniel Polansky and other grimdark authors.

Unlike many heroes of epic fantasy, Ryhalt Galharrow – through whose eyes the story is told – is a 40 year old war vet and agent of Crowfoot, one of the great powers in the land. He is charged by Crowfoot to protect a noblewoman and discovers a secret that could see his city and those he cares for destroyed. Thus begins a rip-roaring tale of conspiracy, treachery and murder that will keep you on the edge of your seat and guessing until the end.

BlackwingEd McDonald’s debut – is a finely wrought novel of grimdark fantasy, lightened by sparkling rays of rainbow hued magic, and anchored by a weighty sense of history (of which only a fragment is revealed in this volume). McDonald is also particularly talented at creating monsters!

Given Blackwing is a ‘book one’, yet resolves nicely and without any over cliffhangers I am very keen to see where McDonald will take us next.