Skip to content

The Self-Published Fantast Blog-Off Post 2: Bloodrush & The Thief Who…

The Self-Published Fantast Blog-Off Post 2: Bloodrush & The Thief Who… published on

About the Contest

The Self-published Fantasy Blog-off (SPFBO) is sponsored by Mark Lawrence and carried out by 10 hard-working blogs. You’ve probably heard of Mark Lawrence. He’s written a few books.

The contests itself is explained HERE.

And the final results of the contest are given HERE.

Galleywampus is not directly involved in this contest. However, I will read and review the ten finalists. And maybe, if we’re lucky, we’ll be invited to officially take part in the contest next year. I know I want a tower of independently published novels myself.

I’ve decided to write two reviews per post.

The first post can be found HERE, and featured Priest by Matthew Colville and Under a Colder Sun by Greg James.

This second post will feature Bloodrush by Ben Galley and The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids by Michael McClung.

The books at the SPFBO are also being rated by the blogs, so I determined to add my own ratings to the mix. I gather that these ratings are on a 1-10 scale. I am comparing these books to my own general preferences, and these preferences tend toward the center. I don’t often assign a 9 or a 10, unless the book truly blows me away. I also don’t assign 1-3 ratings often, unless the book is really, truly something that I can’t find a good thing to say about it. Most of the books I review fall into that 4-8 range.

Reviews

 

spfbo4

Bloodrush by Ben Galley is sort of like those old books about an old world teen coming to the American frontier. I’ve always wondered if I view these books differently because I am on the frontier end rather than the point of origin. But this isn’t quite By the Great Horn Spoon or “An American Tail: Fievel Goes West.” The whole “feel” if this book is nostalgic.

This is a world similar to our own, but the tweaks are intriguing. America is a kingdom, at least in alternative 1867. Faeries are real and they’re not Tinkerbellesque. Spirits of the land, compiling bodies from railroad ties and rails and broken wood, destroy Railroads in America and eat people.

The magic (sorry, magick!) has been deeply considered, and I enjoyed that aspect. Bloodrushing is interesting, and it reminded me favorably of the magic system developed by Brandon Sanderson for Mistborn. Both involve ingesting a substance to obtain specific powers, and both are limited by what the person is capable of turning into a usable result.

Merion isn’t perfect. He’s a kid, thirteen, who has lost a great deal, and then shipped to another country to live with an aunt he didn’t know existed. I understand his perspective. Going from posh England to Middle-of-Nowhere Wyoming is tough to handle. He does whine a fair amount. But I’ve read a lot of YA and children’s fiction, and I don’t think it is more than I see in many of those works.

His aunt, Lilain, is fairly likable, in an eager frontier-woman sort of way. Rhin and Lurker are also somewhat stock, but I feel they overcome their humble origins and add something interesting to the tale. We see a few surprises through Rhin, and surprises always make me happy.

This is a coming of age story. We see a boy become a man here, and the sequel will likely follow the young man into adulthood.

I’m left with a wary feeling for this book in one area, and this is in regard to the native inhabitants to the Americas–the ones settlers forced into smaller and smaller areas while their land was taken away. You know, the Shohari. No, not the indigenous Americans, or “Indians” as some call them, or as they were often called in the 1800s. As far as I can tell, the Native American humans don’t exist here. Rather, there are humanoid inhuman, somewhat more animal than person, beings who take the place of the “majestic savage” here. Considering the amount of dehumanizing that happened to the Native Americans in the real world, it makes me awfully uncomfortable to see them erased and re-imagined for the sake of magical beings. I don’t think this was the intention of the author, but it kept popping into the back of my mind as I read the book.

Overall, I liked it. I liked it a lot. I enjoyed it enough that I picked up Bloodmoon already and will have a full review of that book up, er. Eventually.

Rating: 8.0

 

thief who pulled

The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids by  Michael McClung.

This was an enjoyable tale. It felt sort of like a western, though it is obviously a fantasy work. The primary character, Amra Thetys, is a no-nonsense, frontier-woman feeling character who happens to be a hell of a thief. She tends to stay out of trouble, but she has a hard time keeping this philosophy when a good friend is murdered. She digs into the motivations and events that led to his death, and from there things get really weird. And dangerous. And fun–for the reader, anyway.

This was easily one of my favorite works from the blog-off. There is enough history and weird powers and secrets to keep things grounded, with enough action and humor to keep the book moving along at a brisk pace. It’s short, but I think it was the right length for the book. And knowing there are more books in the series, I’ve already downloaded the second book from Amazon. I’m looking forward to delving deeper into The Thief Who… stories.

Rating: 8.0

The Self-Published Fantasy Blog-off Post 1: Priest & Under a Colder Sun

The Self-Published Fantasy Blog-off Post 1: Priest & Under a Colder Sun published on

About the Contest

The Self-published Fantasy Blog-off (SPFBO) is sponsored by Mark Lawrence and carried out by 10 hard-working blogs. You’ve probably heard of Mark Lawrence. He’s written a few books.

The contests itself is explained HERE.

The ten finalists are listed HERE.

And these are the ratings given to the books so far HERE.

Galleywampus is not directly involved in this contest. However, I will read and review the ten finalists. And maybe, if we’re lucky, we’ll be invited to officially take part in the contest next year. I know I want a tower of independently published novels myself.

I’ve decided to write two reviews per post. This first post will feature Priest by Matthew Colville and Under a Colder Sun by Greg James.

The books at the SPFBO are also being rated by the blogs, so I determined to add my own ratings to the mix. I gather that these ratings are on a 1-10 scale. I am comparing these books to my own general preferences, and these preferences tend toward the center. I don’t often assign a 9 or a 10, unless the book truly blows me away. I also don’t assign 1-3 ratings often, unless the book is really, truly something that I can’t find a good thing to say about it. Most of the books I review fall into that 4-8 range.

Reviews

priest

Priest by Matthew Colville is an interesting work of fiction. I was often left uncertain about what would happen next. It is a bit like a work of noir, but that isn’t quite right. “A fantasy hard-boiled” is on the cover, and that’s partially what I experienced. It reminds me a bit of an episode of an old crime program, or a locked-room mystery. We know that something happened, and we know the end result. This is sort of a “whodoneit.” We don’t know who did it, or why, or even specifically how it was done. The protagonist isn’t given much to work with.

My biggest complaints, honestly, are that 1) Heden, the protagonist, was often needlessly cruel to the knights, in ways that felt slightly out of character based on some of his previous actions, and 2) he’s terribly obtuse. These areas work as both strengths and weaknesses of the work. I think the book would have been significantly shorter and we would have observed much less of interest if Heden had used this old adage by Epictetus: “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” He wants to swing in, get his answers, and go back to his self-inflicted hermitage. That’s not the job he was asked to do, it isn’t the job that would have simplified his and others’ lives, and it wasn’t what was in the best interest of the story.

The book is not a typical fantasy. It isn’t really a quest narrative, and it certainly isn’t a “coming of age” story. The protagonist isn’t a teen or twenty-something. In these areas, the book is a breath of fresh air. Fantasy isn’t a genre for endless Tolkien revisions.

I enjoyed the work. There are some interesting characters throughout, the mysteries within the forest are intriguing, and I’d really like to step down into that basement. There were parts that remained unwritten, which is fine; there are more books.

Rating: 6.5

spfbo2

Under a Colder Sun by Greg James is a bit of grimdark (or dark fantasy, maybe sword and sorcery) fiction with a Conan-like protagonist in Khale the Wanderer. Not young Conan. Old Man Conan, if he also had sorcery at his disposal and immortality at hand. Khale is a badass. He is more complicated than first laid out for the reader, and I appreciated that complexity. Sure, he’s a “bad guy” but he has layers.

The protagonists are not particularly likable. These aren’t good guys trying to kill bad guys. These are mostly just bad guys. The motivations are realistic (to the story) and their actions fit their worldviews. I didn’t really have anyone to cheer for, with Khale being the most interesting.

There are some over-simplified characters that feel like they are the archetypes of, rather than depictions of, full-on characters.

The story is written well. While there are some areas that I feel like I’ve read before, there was some new as well. Ultimately, this book wasn’t really my taste. But it is worth a go if the basic concept catches your attention.

Rating: 5.5

[Review] The Love of Danger by Jeremy Zimmerman

[Review] The Love of Danger by Jeremy Zimmerman published on

zimmermanwow

Review

Jeremy Zimmerman’s Kensei is a tightly-plotted, dramatic-comedic YA superhero tale about a kick-ass bi-racial, teen, lesbian crime fighter named Jamie Hattori, who targets baddies in Cobalt City through her ability to communicate with the spirits of places and inanimate objects in the city. As if dealing with her own family, school, and relationship drama wasn’t enough, she has a massive deity problem to handle. If you haven’t read it yet, give it a shot. It’s a fun YA title with a nice crossover appeal.

The Kickstarted sequel, The Love of Danger, continues the adventures of Jamie Hattori. And now we’ve got undead, fascist villains and their robots, plenty of relationship (family, professional, and romance) drama, and Jamie’s new set of skills.

I love the backdrop, with Jamie working in a world already populated by well-known Cobalt City superheroes. Her experience is a bit like being a minor superhero in The Incredibles, but with less family togetherness and more getting smacked around by her racist grandfather. The shared world Zimmerman accesses gives him some interesting characters and events pre-fabricated, a history of conflicts and resolutions, of biases and trust issues that already populate the landscape. We also learn a great deal more about the conflicts and motivations of some of the awesome characters from the first go-round.

The first book gripped me more than the second, but The Love of Danger is an excellent follow-up and I am looking forward to where the series goes next.

 

Links:

Goodreads
Amazon

About the Author

Jeremy Zimmerman is a teller of tales who dislikes cute euphemisms for writing like “teller of tales.” His fiction has most recently appeared in 10Flash Quarterly, Arcane and anthologies from Timid Pirate Publishing. He is also the editor for Mad Scientist Journal. He lives in Seattle with five cats and his lovely wife (and fellow author) Dawn Vogel.

Favorite Books of 2015

Favorite Books of 2015 published on 1 Comment on Favorite Books of 2015

We’ve been in business for only four months at this point.

I’ve (subjectively) read a lot of books this year. My partners here have (objectively) read a lot of books. This particular list will just be my own favorite books published in 2015. Some of the others here would probably add their own opinions on the year, if asked. For example, Wilbanks would probably list Carol Berg’s Ash and Silver as a best book of the year, definitely Robin Hobb’s Fool’s Quest. Erickson would tout Kate Elliott’s Court of Fives, I bet, and Silver on the Road by Laura Anne Gilman is up there.

There are many great books I’ve read this year that were published previous to 2015–like First Light (The Red) by Linda Nagata, Red Rising by Pierce Brown, and Django Wexler’s first two Shadow Campaigns books: The Thousand Names and The Shadow Throne. These books were fantastic, and while there are sequels I suspect I’ll enjoy that came out in 2015, I haven’t gotten to them yet. Mea culpa.

For this list, if a book was previously published independently, but was published this year via traditional publishers, or vice versa, I’ll count the book for 2015.

Until I started this blog, I rarely read a book the year it was published, so most of these are books I’ve read in the last four months.

My personal favorites of the year:

Fantasy:

24611565

Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley P. Beaulieu

The book’s first chapter left me expecting a different book than the one that was described on the cover. I liked the book better as it opened up and the world came into view. As much fun as the pit fight was, I wanted something deeper and more atmospheric than “Gladiator in the Desert” would have delivered. Twelve Kings propelled me forward, forcing me to turn pages while still buffeting me in imagery, flashbacks, and history. Çeda and the Kings have a lot of story left in them, and I’m dying for book two.

Last Song Before Night by Ilana C. Myer

Last Song Before Night

This was a lovely book with a lot of imagery and complicated, broken, and unexpected characters. It is a hard book to describe without giving things away. The book explores love, desire, obsession, faith, power and sorrow. I think many of those who enjoyed Twelve Kings would enjoy this book. It stands alone quite well, though I’m hoping for future chronicles in this world.

Urban Fantasy

22609306

Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
This is much more of a love story than I expected. The magic here involves music. Early on, I was left wondering if there would actually be any magic in the book, but then BOOM, there it was. I enjoyed seeing how the book evolved. I felt shadows of other “teens learning magic” story lines, like the movie The Craft. And the leads are not always likable–they are flawed, as we all are, but flawed in ways that sometimes repelled me from them. A certain magic did flow through this book, though, and I enjoyed it for that.

22295304

Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older
This was a creative work of young adult urban fantasy. I liked the magic and how it was used by those who were deeply a part of the neighborhood, and how it came across in art and music, much how culture is retained through the arts. The mythology of magic is really well done. There are some genuinely scary moments, particularly for the age group the book aims for. The characters are realistic in many ways, and some of the scenes were beautifully rendered. I have a few issues with the antagonist and his motivations. But I think I understand the decisions Older made and why he made them.

Science Fiction:

22733729

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

If you’ve been missing Firefly and character-driven books about wacky characters, this might alleviate some of your pain/craving. It was just a hell of a lot of fun. The book also does one of the things that I think science fiction is uniquely situated to do–delve into what it means to be “human.”

23395680

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

My only complaint is that one word here is particularly overused, chum. Otherwise, this is a sort of epistolary novel, based entirely around illustrations, text messages, manuals, reports, and the like. It’s extremely innovative and clever, and that goes a long way in my book. There is a strong relationship thread running throughout, and the book has some pretty brutal scenes for a “YA” novel. I’d call this just a novel, myself. If you’re a fan of space zombies, unreliable narration, young love and realistic teen emotions, this is a book to try out. You might want to try it on a color-device, though. My Kindle Paperwhite couldn’t do the art justice.

Steampunk:

17403559

The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher.

I’m already a Butcher fan, so that helped the book hit my “to read” list in the first place. I’ve read a few Steampunk series I liked, but most Steampunk has left me underwhelmed. This book is more Alera than Dresden, so if you’re hoping for Dresden aboard a flying ship, you won’t get that. The characters are interesting, the plot is well-woven, and the technology is mixed with some sort of crystal magic, which makes for a fun read. It would make an excellent “lost Final Fantasy” game circa 1995.

Grimdark

23287202

Beyond Redemption by Michael R. Fletcher
I’m new to this “Grimdark” thing. I’ve read and enjoyed Martin and Abercrombie, and I’ve seen them listed under that header. But I haven’t enjoyed a lot of the other works that are given to the sub-genre. This one I liked, and the author asserts that he just set out to write a fantasy novel. He’s new to the grimdark crowd, too. It will be deemed grimdark regardless; people love to label things. I feel like saying it is “grimdark for those who don’t like grimdark” but more importantly, it’s just a damned fine book,and transcends easy labels like the works of Abercrombie, Lawrence, and G Double-R Martin. It captures the grim and dark nature of the subgenre, but doesn’t feel excessive to the point of covering the plot and characters with a blanket of impenetrable gore. This book takes the philosophy of “perception becomes reality” and cranks it to 11. It’s an ambitious high-concept premise, and Fletcher delivers on that premise.

Novella, Novelettes

25667918

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Interesting more for the concepts introduced than the plot-line, Binti is a thoughtful science fiction work. This book does an excellent job of looking at what makes a person “other” and how several characters deal with this. The book took a shift early on that I didn’t expect, and I thought the book did a lot in so few pages.

25250075

In Midnight’s Silence: Los Nefilim: Part One by T Frohock

Look, this series is a serial of sorts. I feel that the five (or however many there end up being) parts of this series, though put out as short fiction, would make a cohesive novel. I enjoyed both of the first two parts, and I can’t wait to read part three. The book has excellent atmosphere, deals with dark themes in a kind way, and features an intriguing story behind the angels, demons and nefilim. I’ve seen a few other books that were meant to be fantasy detective fiction, but this fits the noir feel better than most of those.

Review: In Light of the Blood Giant by A. D. Fosse

Review: In Light of the Blood Giant by A. D. Fosse published on

FCoverJP

About the Book

In Light of the Blood Giant
By A. D. Fosse
Genre: Animal Fantasy; Science Fiction; Dystopian; Apocalyptic
Superluminal Press
Publication Date: November 13, 2015

A. D. Fosse delivers a darkly different futurist fantasy. Offbeat, subversive, and richly grotesque. The apocalypse just got weird…

Long after the death of humankind came the Hive. Then rose the Blood Giant bringing chaos and the end. Now the Earth is done and all that remains are the discontinued: those the Hive deemed unworthy of evacuation.

Dusk is addled and abandoned. His only concern now is deciding how best to die. The only thing he knows for certain: he aint gonna be sober when extinction finally takes him. Yet hope hides in the strangest of places. And soon Dusk finds himself responsible for more than simply his own destiny.

Great. Another thing to love and lose.

Review

This is an odd one. I mean that in a good way. Mostly.

After humans abandon the earth completely, escaping the impending expansion of the sun from a yellow dwarf into a red giant, shuttling off into space to find a way to live, the swarm of rats came up, out of the depths of the earth and started their own civilization. Then, even the rats, evolved and intelligent and now with useful stomach pouches, realize that the earth isn’t habitable for much longer, and most of them–the ones who are pure or worthy, anyway–leave the earth as well.

This is where the tale begins–with a drug-fiend rat named Dusk, left behind by his betters to die. One of the strengths of Fosse’s tale is that his lead character is not human. This allows for some dark events–for example, a lead human character whose first “onscreen” acts are shooting drugs and eating some infants wouldn’t be likable. For a rat, we’re left remembering that rats aren’t people. They have their own societal norms, acceptable practices, and biological drives. Dusk isn’t especially likable to begin with, even aside from the drug dependency and the “ratricide.” But after his drug-aided consumption of several young rats and subsequent loss of consciousness, he awakens to discover that one of the tiny-tails is still alive. Having been abandoned to the earth’s destruction, Dusk doesn’t see much reason to try to save the infant. But he does feel that the little rodent deserves a better death. His feelings alter and change, we eventually see more of his past, and we see a different future than he imagined. The protagonist isn’t static by any means.

In some ways, this book is a bit like The Road meets The Rats of NIMH as told by a British version of a beat-generation author–William S. Burroughs, maybe. We meet some other interesting characters along the way: a sociopath called only “the Snowy,” a pure white rat who hasn’t dropped his job from before the establishment left; Astral, a black rat who is in dire straits when we meet her; some mysterious rats wearing masks, other rats that shave their heads and have a bone to pick. The setting seems to be (if I parsed it correctly) continental Europe and England, each owning about half of the book.

This book is non-traditional in every sense of the word. We even shift to several other third-person semi-limited points of view toward the end of the book, leaving Dusk behind for a brief time when the action is thickest.

On the critical side, this book could use another run of edits. There are several missed spelling errors, some areas that need clarification, and some metaphors that don’t fit the time, setting, or characters . Another set of eyes could bring this book from a flawed mid-draft of an intriguing concept to a hell of a book. I’d love to see the book get a deep combing through by a professional editor. In the meantime, I worry that this is a clever work that might be passed over by readers who don’t want to work so hard to get to the dark (but hopeful) story and characters underneath.

 

About the Author

Author close
A. D. Fosse is a physicist and science communicator from the East Midlands of England. His brain is rarely elevated more than five feet and eight inches from terra firma, though his thoughts are wafting somewhere in the clouds.

He is younger than some and older than others.

His first novel In Light of the Blood Giant, continues to be elusive to read whilst driving.

Links

Twitter
Facebook
Amazon
Publisher

blood giant banner

This tour was organized by Sage’s Blog Tours.

Review: Best Left in the Shadows by Gelineau and King

Review: Best Left in the Shadows by Gelineau and King published on

bestleftintheshadowscover

About the Book

A Highside girl. Beaten. Murdered. Her body found on a Lowside dock. A magistrate comes looking for answers. For justice.

Alys trades and sells secrets among the gangs and factions of Lowside. She is a daughter of the underworld. Bold. Cunning. Free. When an old lover asks for help, she agrees. For a price.

Together, they travel into the dark heart of the underworld in search of a killer.

This is the third novella from Gelineau and King. In their ongoing, over-arching series, Echoes of the Ascended, there are four distinct series under the Echoes of the Ascended banner, all taking place in the same world. Each has a different feel. The first three series, those featuring Elinor, Ferran, and Alys take place somewhat around the same time. The fourth, which is a YA series that begins in December, jumps us back five years and follows Roan and Kay, along with the protagonists from the other three series.

It’s an unorthodox approach, but I applaud the audacity of the creators. And there is no reason that books with different influences shouldn’t take place in the same world. I would be interested in reading a grim, monster-hunting novel in the Harry Potter world, or the hard-boiled detective novel lurking in the streets of a city in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series.

We reviewed the second novella, Rend the Dark, HERE. It’s a monster-hunter driven book. It fits along the basic concept and feel of works like the movie Van Helsing, or Rick Yancey’s YA title The Monstrumologist, or heck, the video game Bloodborne.

The first novella, Reaper of Stone, which we reviewed HERE, had a high-fantasy face, and followed Elinor as she became a Reaper.

Review

This third novella, Best Left in the Shadows, is an interesting fantasy noir title; in some ways, it feels like a police procedural. Castle in Riften, maybe. It is, at heart, a detective novella. But it owns the setting and trappings of your typical urban city fantasy work. Don’t confuse that with “urban fantasy” because this is not UF. The setting shifts from the docks at night, to narrow alleyways, sewerscapes and waterways, and a seedy brothel.

Alys trades in information and favors. Due to a shared, complicated past, she assists a magistrate in the investigation of a murder on her local turf. She’s not usually the sort to help the authorities, and it isn’t good for her reputation. This provides some good conflict between the protagonists.

I do wish that the work was longer. Novellas fall into an interesting space between short stories and novels. Short stories, the good ones, make every word count. Novels have the ability to stretch out scenes, build atmosphere and tone, give us foils and time enough to live there. Novellas don’t provide the length to feel lived in, nor staccato precision. I want to live in these works long enough to fully understand the characters, setting, magic system, monsters and creatures and politics. I suppose that’s why it is good that these novellas continue on.

This is one of those stories that left me thinking, “I want to play this video game.” I enjoyed the overall tone, setting and character sketches. Conceptually, this is the best fit for me as a reader. Ultimately, though, I think I’ve enjoyed Reaper of Stone the most of the first three entries. But the first three novellas have combined into an intriguing patchwork quilt of story. And I’m excited to finish the short edge of the quilt with book four in December.

Best Left in the Shadows was released on 11/15/2015, and is available in E-book HERE.

The series

About the Authors

Mark and Joe have been writing and telling stories together for the last 25 years. They share a love for the classic fantasy tales of their childhood. Their Echoes of the Ascended series brings those old epic characters and worlds to new life.

Author Links

Website
Facebook
Twitter

Primary Sidebar