The Game Bird

The Game Bird
By Aidan R Walsh

An evil is growing. The Realm is under attack. A leviathan has risen from the depths and is destroying the fleets that feed Stormhaven.

Stuck ashore and drowning in debt, Captain James Faulkner resolves to hunt the sea monster and claim the enormous bounty on the beast.

Sophia Blake’s life looks effortless. But she carries a secret, an occult curse that is capable of destroying both her and her nation. Sophia knows her time is running out.

The Tallowman is a slowly decaying melding of demon and man. This monstrous assassin is desperate to capture Sophia and will let nothing stand between it and its prey.

As these hunts build to their shattering conclusion, Faulkner and Sophia will be thrown together and forced to confront malevolent forces beyond their imagining. The Game Bird is a swashbuckling black powder fantasy, wrapped around a spine of darkness.

404 pages
Published by Aidan R Walsh
Published on April 3, 2018
I purchased this book.
__

In his debut novel The Game Bird, Aussie author Aidan R Walsh dispenses with the more traditional medieval type setting of most fantasy novels and sets his tale upon the bones of a Regency England stage. I was – at first – concerned this setting would overwhelm the understanding that the book is not, in fact, set on earth. It didn’t. With a sure hand belying the fact that this is his first novel, Walsh allows the story and characters to tell his tale in such a way that while there is a feeling of familiarity to the world, it is very much his own creation.

Set in the city of Stormhaven, and the seas that surround it, The Game Bird tells the tale of Captain James Faulkner, a semi-retired war hero down on his luck since the last war ended and the Kingdom put many of its navy personnel on half-pay. Looking for a solution to pay off his enormous debt he decides to try his luck in taking out a monstrous leviathan that is attacking the traffic of the Kingdom’s shipping lanes, hoping to win the bounty placed on its head to ease his woes. Joining him on this adventure is Sophia Blake, a young lady of standing with a secret she and her father are desperate to keep from society, and the world at large. Unbeknownst to Sophia – or her father – the secret of her supernatural powers is already known by the Tallowman, the nefarious agent of an ancient evil, thought by many to be just a legend. His goal is to capture Sophia and her power for his master, at any cost.

The Game Bird is a swashbuckling, stand-alone tale of high adventure and romance, set in a beautifully realised world. Walsh’s writing is rich in history and lore, which he uses to masterfully colour his world – never once letting the details overwhelm the story and to present us with vivid characters that leap off the page and into your heart. It is a rip-roaring romp blending the sensibilities of Georgette Heyer, Patrick O’Brian and George R R Martin in a page turning read that is sure to find a wide audience.

On a personal note I am disheartened that a book this good was unable to find a home with a traditional publisher. We are exceedingly lucky that Walsh did not give up his quest to bring his writing to the world and that the facilities of self-publishing are quiet comprehensive these days. I highly recommend this book, indeed such are his writing chops that I am sure I would recommend any book by Walsh. I cannot wait for further adventures with these characters – or any characters he cares to introduce – and stories set in this world.

Order it now!

The Shadow of What Was Lost

The Shadow of What Was Lost
Licanius Trilogy Book One
By James Islington

OLD POWERS AWAKEN

It has been twenty years since the god-like Augurs were overthrown and killed. Now, those who once served them – the Gifted – are spared only because they have accepted the rebellion’s Four Tenets, vastly limiting their own powers.

As a young Gifted, Davian suffers the consequences of a war lost before he was even born. He and his friends are despised beyond their school walls for the magical power they wield: a power that Davian, despite his best efforts, cannot seem to control. Worse, with his final test approaching and the consequences of failure severe, time to overcome his struggles is fast running out.

But when Davian discovers he wields the forbidden power of the Augurs, he unwittingly sets in motion a chain of events that will change his life – and shake the entire world.

608 pages
Published by Orbit
Published on May 17, 2017
Author’s webpage
Buy the book

I purchased this book.
__

It took me a while to get into this one but I am glad I stuck with it. Around a third of the way in (for me) it really took off and I couldn’t put it down.

Magic, mystery and a major threat from a long ago war sets the stage for a cast of characters who are a lot of fun to follow as they learn about themselves, the world around and the part they have to play in saving it.

That this is Islington’s first novel is exciting – I can’t wait to see what else he comes up with as he develops his craft. The Shadow of What Was Lost is a fantastic take on the hero’s journey and sure to be enjoyed by lovers of epic fantasy.

As a side note, it’s interesting just how much of an influence the Wheel of Time has been for Islington – don’t get me wrong, he’s created a very different world to Jordan’s and has a different story, but there are a lot of peripheral things that scream WoT. It’s something I notice because Jordan has been a massive influence for me too and my own work, so seeing how this story plays out is really exciting to watch.

Order it now!

Twelve Kings in Sharakhai

Twelve Kings
The Song of the Shattered Sands Book One
By Bradley P. Beaulieu

In the cramped west end of Sharakhai, the Amber Jewel of the Desert, eda fights in the pits to scrape a living. She, like so many in the city, pray for the downfall of the cruel, immortal Kings of Sharakhai, but she’s never been able to do anything about it. This all changes when she goes out on the night of Beht Zha’ir, the holy night when all are forbidden from walking the streets. It’s the night that the asirim, the powerful yet wretched creatures that protect the Kings from all who would stand against them, wander the city and take tribute. It is then that one of the asirim, a pitiful creature who wears a golden crown, stops eda and whispers long forgotten words into her ear. eda has heard those words before, in a book left to her by her mother, and it is through that one peculiar link that she begins to find hidden riddles left by her mother. 

As Ceda begins to unlock the mysteries of that fateful night, she realizes that the very origin of the asirim and the dark bargain the Kings made with the gods of the desert to secure them may be the very key she needs to throw off the iron grip the Kings have had over Sharakhai. And yet the Kings are no fools-they’ve ruled the Shangazi for four hundred years for good reason, and they have not been idle. As Ceda digs into their past, and the Kings come closer and closer to unmasking her, Ceda must decide if she’s ready to face them once and for all. 
_____________________________________________________________

I enjoyed this book immensely. I am always on the lookout for new epic fantasy sagas and Beaulieu’s ‘The Song of the Shattered Sands’ looks like it is going to slide in a favoured place on my bookshelf nicely.
Twelve Kings is set in a beautifully realised world with a history as deep and wide as the sands that surround the amber city of Sharakhai. Filled with political intrigue, gladiatorial battles and supported by a half remembered history of blood and genocide, and compelling characters led by a kickass heroine determined to find the secret that led to her mother’s death.
I am very much looking forward to learning more of the new magic system(s) that Beaulieu has been hinting at and of the inter-kingdom politics that swirl around the story like shifting sands. Luckily I’ve begun reading this series when book two is already out and book three has just been handed in to the editors!
If you are a lover of epic fantasy, inventive magic systems, political intrigue and stunning world building then go buy Twelve Kings now!

Blackwing

Blackwing
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 (what feels like) 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 deities in the sense that they are believed by the populace to have created the universe/life/everything but the powers the 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, our main – 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 destroyed. This 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.

Blackwing – Ed Mcdonald’s debut – is a finely wrought novel of grimdark fantasy lightened by sparkling rays of rainbow hued magic and has a weighty sense of history of which only a fragment is revealed in this volume. He 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.

Lotus Blue

Lotus Blue

Seventeen-year-old Star and her sister Nene are orphans, part of a thirteen-wagon caravan of nomadic traders living hard lives travelling the Sand Road. Their route cuts through a particularly dangerous and unforgiving section of the Dead Red Heart, a war-ravaged desert landscape plagued by rogue semi-sentient machinery and other monsters from a bygone age.

But when the caravan witnesses a relic-Angel satellite unexpectedly crash to Earth, a chain of events begins that sends Star on a journey far away from the life she once knew. Shanghaied upon the sandship Dogwatch, she is forced to cross the Obsidian Sea by Quarrel, an ancient Templar supersoldier. Eventually shipwrecked, Star will have no choice but to place her trust in both thieves and priestesses while coming to terms with the grim reality of her past and the horror of her unfolding destiny as the terrible secret her sister had been desperate to protect her from begins to unravel.

Meanwhile, something old and powerful has woken in the desert. A Lotus Blue, deadliest of all the ancient war machines. A warrior with plans of its own, far more significant than a fallen Angel. Plans that do not include the survival of humanity. 
_____________________________________________________
Easy reading with a very cool take on the post-apocalyptic story. Sparks is an accomplished writer with an imagination that is a treasure-trove of ideas and the chomps to mark her as an Aussie writer to watch. 
The melding of superstition, religion and left over technology as magic was brilliant and evocative, I wanted to dive right into that world and learn everything I possibly could about it. But Sparks knows quite well how to dole such wonders out and tease the reader along as the story progresses. I felt the ending was a little rushed but that has less to do with the author and more to do with me. There IS an ending but some threads are still left hanging. Which is good.
I want more. 
When is the next book due, Cat? Is there a title yet? 😀

The Last Mortal Bond

The Last Mortal Bond
The Unhewn Throne
By Brian Staveley

Death is near, armies are gathered, and the future rests on a knife-edge.

The Annurian Empire is losing a war on two fronts – and it’s unclear who is in command. Adare is stationed in the thick of battle and now calls herself Emperor. However, she can’t hold back the nomadic Urgul forces for much longer. She needs her brilliant general, Ran il Tornja, but will he betray her again?

Her brother Kaden is the true heir, yet he’ll accept a Republic to save his divided people. And he faces something even more terrible than war. He’s unmasked Ran il Tornja as a remnant of an ancient race who attempted to destroy mankind. The general plans to finish what they started, and is amassing all the power he needs.

The empire calls on the Kettral, its toughest soldiers, but their order has been decimated. Its last fighters are in disarray, but could they still turn the tide of war? Most disturbingly of all, capricious gods walk the earth in human guise. And their desires could seal the fate of a world.

____________________________________________________________________

Loved it! After a somewhat rough start (mainly because I was unsure that the book was heading in a direction that I would like) Staveley changed my mind about EVERYTHING and I couldn’t put it down.

An awesome conclusion to a gripping debut trilogy. The Unhewn Throne is an epic tale full of politics and machinations, ambition and servitude and with a new and interesting mythology and magic system.

Dark and bloody, The Last Mortal Bond is a masterfully told story by an author whose future works I am very much looking forward to reading.