The Long Way Down

The Long Way Down
Daniel Faust Book 1
By Craig Schaefer

Nobody knows the seedy underbelly of Las Vegas like Daniel Faust, a sorcerer for hire and ex-gangster who uses black magic and bullets to solve his clients’ problems. When an old man comes seeking vengeance for his murdered granddaughter, what looks like a simple job quickly spirals out of control.

Soon Daniel stands in the crossfire between a murderous porn director; a corrupt cop with a quick trigger finger; and his own former employer, a racket boss who isn’t entirely human. Then there’s Caitlin: brilliant, beautiful, and the lethal right hand of a demon prince.

A man named Faust should know what happens when you rub shoulders with demons. Still Daniel can’t resist being drawn to Caitlin’s flame as they race to unlock the secret of the Etruscan Box, a relic that people all over town are dying — and killing — to get their hands on. As the bodies drop and the double-crosses pile up, Daniel will need every shred of his wits, courage and sheer ruthlessness just to survive.

Daniel Faust knew he was standing with one foot over the brink of hell. He’s about to find out just how far he can fall.

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I first came across Schaefer’s name with the inclusion of a more recent novel of his – Sworn to the Night – in the 2018 SPFBO.

Now, I am one of those readers who, on coming to an author with an extensive back catalogue, I has to start with the first. Especially as his website does advise that some of the books overlap through a shared world.

Luckily, I really enjoyed it! What’s even better, is that he has written a lot of books. So, I am going to have quite a few books to read – and what bookworm doesn’t love a large TBR pile?

As with most Urban Fantasy, The Long Way Down was written in first person. There was a time when I actively avoided first person books, and truth be told I can still find myself reluctant to pick them, but Schaefer writes with an assurance that belies this being a first novel. I was instantly captivate and really interested in learning more about Daniel and this world of Schaefer’s world. In fact, I think the description on his sites says it best:

Las Vegas. It’s a city of big winners and bigger losers, where fortunes tumble with a roll of the dice. Under all the glitz and sleaze, though, there’s another Vegas: a city infested by monsters in human skin, drenched in occult corruption. It’s the kind of place where a dash of black magic and a gun could be the only thing standing between you and the gates of hell. The kind of place a man like Daniel Faust calls home.

Faust is nobody’s hero. He’s a card-carrying villain by trade, a thief and sorcerer just trying to make a dishonest buck in Sin City. He doesn’t have to go looking for trouble, though: trouble finds him. Surviving by his wits, he does his best to save the day (if he absolutely has to), save his own skin (preferably), and beat the odds on his way to the next big score.

Reminiscent of Butcher’s Dresden Files, if a bit darker, The Long Way Down is a like a pulpy, noir detective novel – in the best possible way – with a shot of the occult. The action is thrilling and Schaefer’s page turning skills are on point.

I am looking forward to continuing me reading journey into Faust’s world and highly recommend it for lovers or urban fantasy in the P.I. Noir territory.

The First of Shadows

The First of Shadows
The Riven Realm Book One
By Deck Matthews


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How do you kill a shadow?

As a raging storm descends on the Blasted Coast, the crippled young rigger, Caleb Rusk, meets a stranger on the road. Little does he know that the encounter will pull him into a conflict that threatens everything he holds dear—and change the course of his life forever.

Meanwhile, in the Capital of Taralius, a string of inexplicable deaths have captured the attention of the Ember Throne. Second Corporal Avendor Tarcoth is tasked with uncovering the truth behind a danger that could threaten the very fabric of the Realm.

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142 pages
Published by echo Enduring Media
Published on January 22, 2019
Author’s webpage
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I purchased this book.

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For anyone new to the blog and my reviews, you would be forgiven for thinking this was Deck Matthews fan page. It’s not, although I am indeed a fan.

About three weeks ago I came across Matthews via his varkaschronicles account on IG. He is by trade a designer and it shows in his posts which are quite eye catching, not to mention somewhat surreal because if I go off his posts alone, he’s reading, or has read, every book in my own library. That’s what first caught my attention. Then I saw an image of his map for the world – or continent – of Varkas (love me a good map!) So, I went to his website. He had a sample of this novella up and I liked it enough that I promptly pre-ordered it, and bought the two short stories he’d already released. I loved them both (and I am not a huge short story fan) hence the flood of ‘omg, I love Deck Matthews’ on this site recently. It’s true though. I do.

This novella marks the beginning of Matthews ‘Riven Realm’ series (I am unsure at this point how many books are planned, I hope it’s a few because I don’t want to stop reading) and gives us more depth to world of Varkas that he had started to reveal in his short stories. In ‘The First of Shadows’ we meet some great characters that I am very keen to get to know more about. We have the mysterious drifter whose opening scene so captivated me, the crippled Caleb Rusk – my favourite, I can’t wait to see how he grows! – the corporal Avendor, the sage Tiberius, the half-fey woman, Palawen and the Tanner, a veteran of the most recent Frost War.

I quickly came to love all these characters and Matthews has a great sense of pacing. He builds a chapter up, and then cuts you off to start a new one! He’s definitely got that whole ‘just one more chapter’ thing down pat. In fact, if I had started reading this at night, rather than at 11am in the morning, I think I would have been very late to bed!

And teasers. He’s great at teasing you with an idea, with some information that hints but doesn’t fully explain – yet – so you keep going, not just to find the answer but cause it’s a great story.

Matthews is all about the tension. And this only a freaking novella!

But we also have to talk about his endings. I think Matthews does endings very well. I loved the ending of ‘The Melding Thief’, and the ending of ‘The First of Shadows’ – o.m.g GIVE ME THE NEXT BOOK NOW! It is again one of those tantalising snippets that sets up the next book and has you hanging out for more.

If this is what his novellas are like, I cannot wait for him to start writing a Jordan-esque sized Varkas series (or at least ‘full-sized’), because this, THIS, is the type of epic fantasy and writing I live for. A world that is entirely its own. Varkas is a completely different world to earth and while aesthetically you can assign some imagery to a medieval Europe, the culture is clearly different. Honestly, think The Wheel of Time, A Song of Ice and Fire, The Stormlight Archives, even The Forgotten Realms in scope. All the (to me) great fantasy authors do what Matthews has begun to do here.

If you are a fan of Jordan, Sanderson, Brett, Weeks or Martin, then take my advice and get in on the ground floor of Deck Matthews career. I am sure it’s going to be a great ride!

The Melding Thief

The Melding Thief
The Varkas Chronicles – Short Tales 2
By Deck Matthews

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Kelven Strall thought he’d left the life of thievery behind him. Now he’s dying. The black lung ravages his body, and with two young daughters to think of, he makes one last theft. Pursued by the hunters of the Stone Seat, he flees toward home and what’s left of his life—until a chance encounter with the magus known as the Ravenwalker.

He offers Kelven a deal. One last job, in exchange for the Ravenwalker’s help. All he needs to do is sneak the magus into the castle of a rogue sorcerer.

38 pages
Published by Echo Enduring Media
Published on November 09, 2018
Author’s webpage
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I purchased this book.

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This morning I sat down and read The Melding Thief, the second story in Deck Matthews world of the Varkas Chronicles – Short Tales.

I enjoyed it just as much as I did the first, In The Tower of the Witching Tree. Matthews is building an intriguing fantasy world that really want to spend a lot more time in. World building is as big a thing for me as good writing and Deck Matthews is excelling at both for me. It is a short tale so I can’t really talk about the plot without giving too much away, but I while thoroughly enjoyed it all I found the final scene to be beautifully written.

I’m very eager to get my hands on his novella – and am dying for a full length novel. Again Deck Matthews writing is ideal for fans of Brooks, Weeks and Sanderson.

In the Tower of the Witching Tree

In the Tower of the Witching Tree
Varkas Chronicles – Short tales Book 1
By Deck Matthews

Shade is a master of the confidence game.

But when her latest play falls apart, forcing her to flee from the local guards, Shade finds herself climbing through a window at the top of a mysterious tower. What she finds waiting for her will draw into an entirely different sort of game—and force her to confront the pain and loss of her own past.

Published by the author
Published on September 2, 2018
Author’s webpage
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I purchased this book.
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I came across Deck Matthew’s via Instagram on his account @varkaschronicles. He has a great account there, with loads of artistic pics of books – most of which I’ve read and loved, and sketches of characters from his own work as well as maps!

I was intrigued, and promptly stalked followed.

Then he put up a sample of a forthcoming novella on his website. I read it. I was hooked. Pre-order done, I decided I would also give his two short stories ago and today I read the first.

I don’t normally read short stories, I just don’t get them. I want something I can sink my teeth into and stay with it for a week or so. That I actually bought two of them, from an author I had never read before, was saying something.

I loved ‘In the Tower of the Witching Tree’. It is a quick read, but full of life and vivid world building. Combination adventure story/cautionary tale, it follows the thief, Shade, as she enters what she thinks is an ordinary tower, looking for a place to hide from the constables who are chasing her.

I really can’t tell you more about it without giving things away, but Matthews is building a world I really want to find out more about. And hopefully see Shade in some future tales (or novels perhaps?).

If you enjoy works by Sanderson, Abercrombie, Brooks or Salvatore then Deck Matthews is definitely a writer to watch (and read!).

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

Red Sister
Book of the Ancestor 1
By Mark Lawrence

At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices’ skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist.

But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls as a bloodstained child of eight, falsely accused of murder: guilty of worse.

Stolen from the shadow of the noose, Nona is sought by powerful enemies, and for good reason. Despite the security and isolation of the convent her secret and violent past will find her out. Beneath a dying sun that shines upon a crumbling empire, Nona Grey must come to terms with her demons and learn to become a deadly assassin if she is to survive…

512 pages
Published by HarperCollins Publishers
Published on March 27, 2017
Author’s webpage
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I purchased this book.

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I don’t know why it took me so long to get around to reading this one. But omg – it was so good!

I have been a fan (of most) of Lawrence’s work since ‘Prince of Thorns‘ came out. And while this is very different, his ability to grip your attention, ring your heart with feels AND make it pound with excitement has not changed at all.

I also love the way he build magic systems. From my limited understanding it seems he plays with quantum theory and and eastern philosophy and it rocks.

I made the mistake of not having the second book ready to go when I finished this one so be you don’t do the same. You will want book 2 as soon as you finish this one.

And yes, I have ordered book 2!

The Weaver’s Boy by Chris Rosser

The Weaver’s Boy
The Lords of Skeinhold Book 1
By Chris Rosser

A young bard and his master travel to a remote castle in a wild, untamed valley. They uncover a dark secret and set off a chain of events that will alter the fate of two powerful realms.

Owain had waited a year to sing for the Duke of Kas Mendoc. But his master, the renowned Trystan of Langorn, has a change of heart denying him the fame and honour he craves. They journey to Skeinhold Castle in the wild Cae Valley. Bitter and riddled with doubt, Owain wonders if he’ll ever emerge from his master’s long shadow.

Yet Skeinhold hides a dark secret known only to a dying lord and his runaway kin. The veil between worlds grows thin and Owain’s Dreamsight stirs. Who is the Lady of Skeinhold and why does she possess an artefact thought lost? Can Owain and Trystan discover the truth in time or will Owain succumb to temptation?

72 pages
Published by Chris Rosser Publishing
Published on July 1, 2018
Author’s webpage
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I purchased this book.
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I’m not big on novella’s or short stories, this is not because I don’t think they are any good but because I prefer epic novels. The type that are the size of door-stops, that I can lose myself in for weeks. I am very glad I didn’t let that predilection stop me from picking up The Weaver’s Boy by Aussie author Chris Rosser

I really enjoyed it.

The story starts off slowly at first, but the ‘simplicity’ that Rosser employs soon fades into the background as he unveils a story that introduces a world rich in history, politics, religion and power. My favorite things!

In some ways The Weaver’s Boy is akin to the Goethe’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – although there is not a broom or bucket in sight. Rather it tells the tale of Owain, a young apprentice (I thought bard at first, but this is soon revealed to be a bit of a misnomer) on the cusp of manhood.

As is the want of many an apprentice, Owain is eager to race ahead in his training, faster than his master will permit, and feels a restlessness and some small resentment at being ‘held back’. So, when the opportunity to learn of the secrets his master keeps him from is presented by a beautiful woman, The Weaver’s Boy becomes a story of temptation and a rite of passage.

And as we learn of the world around him, Owain learns the true depth of his gift, and his own worth, crossing the threshold to adulthood and beginnings of wisdom.

The Weaver’s Boy is a wonderful introduction to an exciting new Aussie voice in speculative fiction. I am very eager to read the next book and to discover more of this world that Rosser has created – and to follow Owain on his next adventure.

I’m hooked and I highly recommend it! 

An Echo of Things to Come

An Echo of Things to Come
The Licanius Trilogy Book Two
By James Islington

As shadows rise, a darkness awakes

An amnesty has been declared for all Augurs – finally allowing them to emerge from hiding and openly oppose the dark forces massing against Andarra. 

However, as Davian and his new allies hurry north towards the ever-weakening Boundary, fresh horrors along their path suggest that their reprieve may have come far too late.

Meanwhile, Caeden continues to wrestle with the impossibly heavy burdens of his past. Yet as more and more of his memories return, he begins to realise that the motivations of the two sides in this ancient war may not be as clear-cut as they first seemed . . .

608 pages
Published by Oribt
Published on January 30, 2018
Author’s webpage
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I purchased this book.
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An Echo of Things to Come is a big book. Huge. Which is just my cup of tea. Second book in the Licanius Trilogy there were actually times that I felt I was reading the final book because SO MUCH HAPPENS; and Islington moves you at an ever increasing pace towards what feels like a conclusion – and it is, of a sort, but it is more the ‘end of act two’ and set up for act three.

Islington does a great job of spreading his wings in this novel and clearly puts into play the lessons learned while writing the first book. The story closely follows the main characters of book one, Davien, Wirr, Asha and Caedan, – and if you have not read that you may be a little lost as there is no hand-holding or rehashing of what’s gone before here. Islington does a masterful job of keeping the readers interest across all four threads with the stories balancing out in a complex dance of wave-like tension, one thread rising while another lowers.

And while each of these stories has interest and merit, the standout – for me – is Caedan’s story.

Caedan’s journey to regain his lost memories is simply marvelous. Islington uses flashbacks to allow Caedan and the reader to live the revelations rather than just reciting them to us dryly. It is a great use of the flashback device (one that often annoys me, but not here). In fact is almost ‘time travel’, given we are looking back over millennia and it deepens the readers understanding of what went before and what is happening now in terms of the current timeline plot.

Davien’s, Wirr’s and Asha’s journeys are no less interesting and serve to anchor the story in the ‘now’. Through their POV’s we see the plans made by Caedan’s alter-ego of the past begin to come to fruition and see firsthand just how the foretelling gift of the Augurs moves players across the story like chess pieces.

The pace really starts to crank up in the final third of the book, all the threads rushing towards their  climax – as I said earlier, it often felt as though we were coming to the end of the final book such was the sense of progression in the story. All in all, Islington has written a stellar novel of epic fantasy that ticks many of the boxes for me. I can only see him getting better as he continues his journey as a writer and I am keen to see where he goes next.

An Echo of Things to Come suffers from none of the middle book syndrome that so many other second volumes in a trilogy do. It is a fast paced tale of magic, mysterious, politics, back stabbing and prophecy as we explore the idea of closely our view of identity is molded by our memories. And while Islington does use many familiar tropes he is also using a very cool device with Caedan (no, not the flashbacks) that I do not believe has been widely used in epic fantasy before and offers a very really feeling of ‘something new’. If you are a fan of Robert Jordan or Brandon Sanderson you will surely love this.

Order it now!