Tuesday, 25 October 2022

The Children of Chaos by Trudie Skies

Book Title: The Children of Chaos (The Cruel Gods #2)
Author: Trudie Skies
Genre: Fantasy, Gaslamp, Steampunk
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: I beta read this one, but yes, I bought it!

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Plot: Chaos stalks the steam-powered city of Chime and threatens the existence of the gods and their domains.
Kayl swore to protect Chime's mortals from their gods' cruel whims, but when she agrees to represent the mortals of a god long thought dead, Kayl is thrust into a political role that goes against everything she's ever stood for.
As the newly appointed ambassador to the god of time, Quen's goal is clear - protect Chime and the domains by any means necessary. But as the gods make their demands, Quen is caught between his loyalties and his conscience.
To ensure a future for all mortals, Kayl and Quen must unite the gods against the threat of chaos and decide what they're willing to sacrifice for Chime - before the gods choose for them.
For the gods are capricious and have their own divine plans.

What did I think?

This is the second book in The Cruel Gods series, and there are no spoilers in this review!

I was a beta-reader for this book, and I'm friends with the author.

That, however, doesn't change or influence how much I love this series. Besides, my gf bought The Children of Chaos on release day, and is now spamming me with live commentary while reading it. She's loving it.

This book does not suffer from middle-book syndrome and that is all you really need to know, so if you like steampunk/gaslamp and British things like biscuits and tea, go ahead, buy it now, and read this series because it's worth it. I swear.

The world-building. Seriously. The world-building...

Skies created twelve domains, ruled by twelve gods, and inhabited by twelve mortal races. And in this book we get to explore the domains.

I could just see Netflix pick this one up and set each episode in a different domain and I wouldn't care if they just strolled along a path for forty-five minutes because the domains are just THAT interesting.

Each domain is its own little world, worthy of its own stories. They are incredibly developed, original, and display Skies' endless imagination.

The Children of Chaos is a tad darker, definitely dirtier, and is filled with a lot more explicit language.

And that fits the development of the story.

Personally, I don't like Jinx (that's not to say she's not an excellent character), but Kayl and Quen continue to steal the show and my heart.

And then there is Ben, a Diviner that works for Quen, and of all the new characters Skies introduced in this sequel, Ben is my favourite. Why? Read it and find out. Just kidding. It's Ben's relationship with his god that made him so interesting.

The writing is incredibly...British. It's devilishly charming and witty. I adore Skies' prose.

I cannot wait for the next book and as I said further above, give this one a chance, especially now that the first book is a finalist in 2022's SPFBO competition.

You're not mispronouncing scone, are you?

Thursday, 18 August 2022

The First Binding by R.R. Virdi

Book Title: The First Binding
Author: R.R. Virdi
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Source: A hardcover copy from the publisher. Thank you to Jenna Petts and Gollancz. My review is honest.

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Plot: All legends are born of truths. And just as much lies. These are mine. Judge me for what you will. But you will hear my story first.

I buried the village of Ampur under a mountain of ice and snow. Then I killed their god. I’ve stolen old magics and been cursed for it. I started a war with those that walked before mankind and lost the princess I loved, and wanted to save. I’ve called lightning and bound fire. I am legend. And I am a monster.

My name is Ari. And this is the story of how I let loose the first evil.

Thank you to the publisher for my copy. My review is honest.

What did I think?

I've been following R.R. Virdi's inspiring journey for a while now and have been eagerly awaiting this release.

The First Binding is the first novel in a new epic fantasy series, Tales of Tremaine, infused with South Asian world-building elements, and if you've read The Name of the Wind, you will without a doubt compare the two. 

I have been in a reading slump for months, basically for most of 2022, and I was worried that I wouldn't manage to tackle this 800 page book, but the opening drew me in right away, and I rarely looked up to check Twitter on my phone. That's a rarity nowadays.

The opening and pacing in general is slow, and Virdi takes great care to build the characters, world, and plot without rushing, but at no point did I feel impatient. On the contrary, I enjoyed every single tangent Ari, the Storyteller, takes the reader on.

Virdi uses, much like Rothfuss, a frame narrative. At the beginning Ari arrives in an inn, just like Kvothe, and ends up telling his story. Told in first person, The First Binding jumps back and forth between the past and the present, but there isn't just a story within a story, several narratives are woven through the main plot, and I found all of them gripping.

The world-building and magic system are rich and immersive, and Virdi's prose is beautiful, even lyrical at times. Ari is a fascinating character, flawed, troubled, and can't keep his mouth shut, but he's also caring.

There is a magic school (of course) and I'm not a huge fan of that setting or the coming-of-age theme, but this is mostly a novel about stories and storytelling, and the emphasis lies more on the importance of found family, friendship and kindness.

I recommend The First Binding to every epic fantasy fan and am assuming that in a decade it'll be remembered as one of the cornerstones of this genre.

And last but not least: look at this GORGEOUS map!

Wednesday, 13 July 2022

Cover Reveal: The Children of Chaos

Thank you to Trudie for giving me the opportunity to show off her cover on this fine Wednesday.

Here's my review of the first book: The Thirteenth Hour

When the saints call, the sinners answer.

Chaos stalks the steam-powered city of Chime and threatens the existence of the gods and their domains. Kayl swore to protect Chime's mortals from their gods' cruel whims, but when she agrees to represent the mortals of a god long thought dead, Kayl is thrust into a political role that goes against everything she's ever stood for.

As the newly appointed ambassador to the god of time, Quen's goal is clear - protect Chime and the domains by any means necessary. But as the gods make their demands, Quen is caught between his loyalties and his conscience.

To ensure a future for all mortals, Kayl and Quen must unite the gods against the threat of chaos and decide what they're willing to sacrifice for Chime - before the gods choose for them.

For the gods are capricious and have their own divine plans.

Artist: James T. Egan of Bookfly Design

Release Date: October 13, 2022
Pre-order Links:
US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B69LCLX1
UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0B69LCLX1

Doesn't it just look GORGEOUS? I cannot wait!

About Trudie Skies: Trudie Skies has been living inside fantasy worlds ever since she discovered that reality doesn’t quite live up to the hype. Through the magic of books, she wishes to share these worlds of hope and heroes with other weary souls. Living in North East England, Trudie spends most of her free time daydreaming about clouds, devouring whatever fantasy books or video games she can get her hands on, and chasing after her troublesome dogs, who would like to reassure you they are very good boys.
Her debut YA fantasy series, Sand Dancer, was published through Uproar Books. Trudie is now writing adult gaslamp fantasy with her new series, The Cruel Gods.
You can chat with Trudie on Twitter @TrudieSkies

Sunday, 20 March 2022

The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi

Book Title: The Kaiju Preservation Society
Author: John Scalzi
Genre: Science Fiction Adventure
Source: Blog Tour (Thank you to Black Crow PR for the copy!)

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Plot: Jamie’s dream was to hit the big time at a New York tech start-up. Jamie’s reality was a humiliating lay-off, then a low wage job as a takeaway delivery driver. During a pandemic too. Things look beyond grim, until a chance delivery to an old acquaintance. Tom has an urgent vacancy on his team: the pay is great and Jamie has debts – it’s a no-brainer choice. Yet, once again, reality fails to match expectations. Only this time it could be fatal.
It seems Tom’s ‘animal rights organization’ is way more than it appears. The animals aren’t even on Earth – or not our Earth, anyway. In an alternate dimension, massive dinosaur-like creatures roam a tropical, human-free world. And although Kaiju are their universe’s largest and most dangerous animal, they need support to survive.
Tom’s ‘Kaiju Preservation Society’ wants to help. However, others want to profit. Unless they’re stopped, the walls between our worlds could fall – and the consequences would be devastating.

What did I think?

Lately I've found it hard to read. Have you seen the world? Bring me a tub of ice cream and let me weep.

Books require focus, a lot more than mindlessly watching Netflix (or worse TikTok), and at the same time they allow the mind to wander (unlike video games.)

I've opened dozens of books in 2022, read a few paragraphs, closed them again.

Along came Scalzi. Finally. I'm not kidding when I say I was really bloody grateful for this book!

I ended up reading the Kaiju Preservation Society in one afternoon. I didn't want to put it down. It was far too much fun. It made me forget about the world, my responsibilities, and I felt like a little kid watching a Godzilla movie at the cinema.

That's all you really need to know.

With his newest book Scalzi offers a vibrant world, dialogue filled with impeccable humour, giant beasts, alternate dimensions, and pages filled with light-hearted fun. The plot moves at a break-neck pace, the characters are authentic and likeable, and the villain is a total prick.

Overall, the Kaiju Preservation Society is silly entertainment much like a popcorn movie but in book-form. Filled with cultural references, and served with a dollop of genuine humour, this read is sure to bring some joy to a rainy afternoon.

Wednesday, 16 March 2022

Spotlight: Princess Ever After

Title: Princess Ever After
Series: The Rosewood Chronicles
Author: Connie Glynn
Genre: Middle Grade (Fantasy; Fairytale)
Publisher: Penguin

Check out the entire series on Amazon UK.

And on Goodreads.

Read my review of the first book here.

I love the covers, they've chosen wonderful colours, and this series looks beautiful on my bookshelf!

Blurb: Ellie is a rebellious princess who is no longer hiding her real identity.
Lottie is her Portman, wishing that she could shield Ellie from the threat of Leviathan.
Jamie is Ellie's Partizan, a lifelong bodyguard sworn to protect the princess at any cost - but has mysteriously disappeared.
Not all of the trio have made it back to Rosewood Hall. Can they be reunited? And at what cost?
With the crown at risk, the stakes have never been higher...

About the Author:

Connie Glynn has always loved writing and wrote her first story when she was six, with her mum at a typewriter acting as her scribe.

She had a love for performing stories from a young age and attended Guildhall drama classes as a teenager. This passion for stories has never left her, and Connie recently finished a degree in film theory.

It was at university that Connie started her hugely successful YouTube channel Noodlerella (named after her favourite food and favourite Disney princess). After five years of publicly documenting her life and hobbies to an audience of 900,000 subscribers on YouTube, Connie closed the book on the Noodlerella project in a bid for more privacy and to pursue her original passions in the performing arts.

Connie now writes music and fiction full- time. Follow Connie on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr @ConnieGlynn

Tuesday, 8 March 2022

Undercover Princess by Connie Glynn

Book Title: Undercover Princess (Rosewood Chronicles)
Author: Connie Glynn
Genre: Middle-Grade Fantasy
Source: Blog Tour (Thank you @WriteReads for including me in this tour.)

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Plot: When fairy tale obsessed Lottie Pumpkin starts at the infamous Rosewood Hall, she is not expecting to share a room with the Crown Princess of Maradova, Ellie Wolf. Due to a series of lies and coincidences, 14-year-old Lottie finds herself pretending to be the princess so that Ellie can live a more normal teenage life.

Lottie is thrust into the real world of royalty - a world filled with secrets, intrigue and betrayal. She must do everything she can to help Ellie keep her secret, but with school, the looming Maradovian ball and the mysterious new boy Jamie, she'll soon discover that reality doesn't always have the happily ever after you'd expect...

What did I think?

To celebrate the release of the fifth book in the Rosewood Chronicles, I've finally read the first one, Undercover Princess.

This is a whimsical and engaging Middle Grade adventure that I would have gobbled up as a ten-year-old.

Personally, I found the writing a bit clunky in places, but the story more than made up for it.

The characters are likeable. The protagonist is one hard-working Lottie Pumpkin (yes, that is her name!) who has been accepted to attend a prestigious boarding school on a scholarship. That's where she meets Ellie.

Ellie is the kind of character I love. Rebellious, sassy, laughs in the face of authority, and causes trouble wherever she goes.

Their blossoming friendship is one of the highlights of this book.

My favourite part was the setting. Rosewood Hall is quintessentially British, and I adored the quaintness of the gothic boarding school. It reminded me of curling up with Enid Blyton novels as a child.

I'd recommend this series for children aged 10-14, who enjoy both Harry Potter and The Princess Diaries - I'm showing my age here, whoops.

Undercover Princess is essentially an adorable fairytale with princesses and fencing. What's not to like?

Monday, 6 December 2021

An Altar On The Village Green by Nathan Hall

Title: An Altar on the Village Green by Nathan Hall
Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy (grimdark)
Source: Kindle Unlimited

Plot: My faith called me to become a Lance. My compassion drew me into one of the fallen lands. Through my connection with the Chained God, I alone can find and destroy the Horror that stains the land.
Death can no longer chain me.
But I couldn’t have imagined the madness waiting for me in this village. I’m not sure my faith can withstand the secrets I’ll uncover. Or that my compassion can survive the violence to come. This Horror may swallow me whole.
Death can no longer free me.
A creature stalks in the dark. Buildings burn. People die. An altar has been built on the village green.

What did I think?

As an avid Bloodborne...addict, this was one of the best books I've read in 2021. I'm not exaggerating, this book made me feel...things.

At times, it felt as though Nathan Hall had written this book specifically for me. Admittedly, that thought is a bit creepy, but...somehow this book was exactly what I wanted it to be.

The prose is exquisite (truly), the world-building while definitely inspired by the Dark Souls games is unique, and the atmosphere, oh the atmosphere...

I breathed this book! I lived this book.

It's rare, at least now that I'm an adult and my brain is racked by the constant reminders of endless responsibilities, that a book simply absorbs me.

I didn't want to look up, I didn't want to stop!

The pacing is...a bit like playing a Dark Souls game. You have to work for it, but the payoff is absolutely worth it. This isn't a book to be devoured in a few hours, it's to be relished, slowly, while sipping something warming.

The only slump I found noticeable was shortly after the halfway point: the pacing had slowed, my initial excitement died down and just for a brief moment, I found myself...dare I say, struggling?

By that point the protagonist had died a dozen times and was one or two deaths away from being consumed by madness, and it occurred to me that perhaps...perhaps Nathan Hall had slowed the pace on purpose.

Right at that point, my mindset mirrored the protagonist's. Frustrated, itching to try again, itching to succeed. Onwards! What a book!

Whether you're a fan of the Souls games or just like dark atmospheric fantasy, do yourself a favour and give this one a try.