Book Review: The Last Sun by K.D. Edwards

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

The Last Sun by K.D. Edwards

Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Book 1 of The Tarot Sequence

Publisher: Pyr (June 12, 2018)

Length: 384 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

It can be a dog-eat-dog world out there—especially if you’re an Atlantean. Rune Saint John learned that lesson early on the hard way, following a bloody coup on his family when he was just a young boy, which tragically resulted in the complete destruction of the Sun Court. Now, years later, rumors about that day still fly among the elites of New Atlantis, who love to gossip about the Sun’s sole survivor whenever the nobility holds their swanky soirees. For even though Rune is still considered royalty, his family’s downfall ultimately cost him much of his status and power, and as such, he and his loyal bodyguard Brand often find themselves doing odd jobs for Lord Tower, the head of another high-ranking house.

But this time, their employer has charged them with a doozy. It appears that Addam Saint Nicholas, son of the powerful Lady Justice, has suddenly gone missing. Tasked to track down the young man, Rune and Brand start their investigation by questioning those closest to Addam, including his family, who may know significantly more than they are revealing. The deeper they dig, the more they also find evidence of foul play and dark magic. And as if that weren’t enough, the case is further complicated when our characters are saddled with an unexpected houseguest, to whom Rune must play guardian. Everything comes to a head when they discover that Addam’s disappearance might have links to the massacre that destroyed the Sun Court, and Rune has no choice but to face the terrible things done to him in the past if he is to uncover the truth to preserve his family’s legacy.

I enjoyed The Last Sun a lot. Everything about it—from its amazing characters and relationship dynamics to the action-packed plotline and incredible world-building—seemed perfectly aligned with my tastes. Still, like most debuts, it had its fair share of flaws, and I’ll be sure to go into those later, but to start, I definitely want to talk about the elements that really worked for me.

First things first: the world-building. Wow. Just wow. I can hardly remember the last time I was this blown away by such sheer magnificent creativity and imagination. I haven’t seen world-building of this caliber probably since Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence. I could easily go on for pages about what impressed me, but the following are some key features that stuck out. One, the story takes place in an alternate world with many similarities to our own, but with the inclusion of magic as well as the existence of supernatural beings. History also differs dramatically, with the Atlantis being a real place (albeit previously unknown to humans) until the continent was destroyed after the Atlantean World War, which revealed its magic and left the ruling families scattered across the globe. Two, these powerful houses are all named after the Major Arcana of the tarot deck, and their nobles are practically godlike compared to mere mortals thanks to their access to and control over magic. Three, as the prince of a once great house, Rune also possesses a good deal of magical power, including a special mental bond with Brand, who takes his role as protector very seriously. Their mental connection means Brand feels what Rune feels, a perk which actually allows them to communicate quite effectively.

Speaking of which, there’s the character development. Rune is a fascinatingly deep and complex character, with a well-crafted back story, and he’s not even my favorite of the bunch (that honor would belong to Matthias). Granted, it’s a heavily male-dominated cast, sometimes with too little variation in the personalities to set each person apart, but I have to admit, this was an extremely entertaining group to read about, with their lively banter and camaraderie. I also have to mention the queer-friendly themes and the fact that the inclusion and representation of the LGBT characters in this book felt very natural and meaningful, as opposed to being reduced to a mere symbolic gesture or selling point. Without a doubt, the characters were the heart and soul of this novel, and I loved reading about their thoughtful and wonderfully subtle relationships.

In terms of criticisms though, I thought The Last Sun suffered from one minor, but not insignificant, problem. Mainly, it almost feels as if there’s too much going on. The plot might be action-packed, but it’s also arguably the weakest aspect of the book, by which I mean it was decent and entertaining, but still paled in comparison to the spectacular world-building and character development. While you had plenty of skirmishes and nail-biting escapades, ironically my favorite parts of the book were always and unfailingly the quieter parts of the novel, when Rune had his moments of connection with other characters. To me, these were the defining moments of the story, worth more than all the action scenes put together. And yet, the latter was what we mostly got, to the point where the idea of another umpteenth battle sequence actually became unbearably exhausting, so that by the halfway mark I was already skimming over a lot of them.

Still, I can’t emphasize how impressed I was at how all the pieces came together. With so many ideas and moving parts, this book easily could have become a disaster, but in K.D. Edwards’ capable hands, The Last Sun instead became a special series starter full of promise and potential. Despite some hiccups, I enjoyed the book immensely, and I’m excited to see what the sequel will bring.

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YA Weekend Audio: Furyborn by Claire Legrand

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Furyborn by Claire Legrand

Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Series: Book 1 of Empirium

Publisher: Listening Library (May 22, 2018)

Length: 17 hrs and 24 mins

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrator: Fiona Hardingham

After I finished Furyborn, the first description to come to my mind was “ambitious”. Told in alternating chapters between the perspectives of two young women separated by a thousand years, this is a novel that demands a fair bit of investment and patience from the reader, though if you do manage to see it through to the end, you might find the payoff rewarding if you’re lucky.

First, we get to meet Rielle. As a daughter of a nobleman, she got to grow up at the palace, becoming best friends with crown prince Audric and his cousin and betrothed, Ludivine. The three were inseparable, until one fateful day during a high-profile horse race, Rielle had to reveal her magical powers while trying to save Audric from assassins, and suddenly, everything changed. For it’s one thing for Rielle to possess power, another to have the ability to perform all seven kinds of elemental magic. It is said that the only people who should be able to do so are a pair of prophesied queens: the Sun Queen, bringer of light and all that is good, as well as the Blood Queen, who will bring death and destruction. To determine which one she is, Rielle is put through a series of dangerous trials to test her magic. If she can’t prove she is the Sun Queen, she will be put to death—that is, if the trials don’t kill her first.

Next up, we have Eliana, whose storyline begins a millennium after the time of Queen Rielle, a figure who has become more legend than reality at this point. After the Undying Empire conquered her homeland, Eliana was left with no choice but to serve her new masters as a bounty hunter in order to keep herself and her family alive. She also has special powers, but because magic is thought to have left the world, she keeps her abilities a secret as not to draw any attention to herself, especially given her chosen profession. But then, her mother suddenly disappears, snatched away like so many other women in the city. While the empire shows no mercy to rebels, Eliana ends up joining the resistance in the hopes that they will help her find some answers, but what she learns is more than she ever bargained for.

First things first: I’ve never made it a secret my struggle with books that utilize multiple timelines, so in a way, I’d known as soon as I discovered the story’s format that Furyborn would be an uphill battle. With two entirely different perspectives in play, there was twice as much groundwork to cover, so not surprisingly, I also felt that it took the book twice as long for it to finally get somewhere. The first hundred pages were perhaps the toughest; things were confusing and vague, huge chunks of the story felt missing, and worse was knowing that this was all likely done on purpose. To the book’s credit, the holes do get filled in as time goes on, though getting to the point where everything finally makes sense can be quite tedious. Add to that, the author attempted to end every chapter on a cliffhanger, which was murder on the pacing, not to mention how watching the resulting plot acrobatics of trying to get this to work while keeping the story interesting at the same time were just downright exhausting.

I also didn’t feel a connection to either Rielle or Eliana. Part of this is due to the format, as one could hardly expect a narrative that’s constantly going back and forth between timelines to be conducive to quickly making the reader feel invested in any one character. And quite honestly, they both just felt kind of bland. Granted, I did find Rielle and Eliana likeable enough, but I also didn’t find anything too memorable about them to latch onto either.

That said, despite what might seem like nothing but harsh criticism so far, I actually didn’t dislike this novel. It had some great ideas, and no doubt the author had an incredible and creative vision for the end result. I just don’t think it quite got there. While the story was interesting, it could have been more. I also didn’t think the book had to be so long, as much of plot was padded with action and other fluff. It was fun, but in the end, not too substantive or meaningful.

All this is ultimately why I cannot give Furyborn more than a middling rating. Sure, it had its moments, and maybe as the series grows it’ll gradually become something more, but as an opener, this first novel was simply too forgettable. It’s a shame because it could have—should have—been more with such a strong premise and original concept behind it, but in the end, there was just something lacking in the execution.

Audiobook Comments: I’d originally debated giving this one 2.5 stars, but in this case, a good narrator made all the difference. I love Fiona Hardingham; she’s one of the best in her line of work, and her performance was able to add just a bit extra to the story.

Friday Face-Off: A Murder Scene

Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme created by Books by Proxy! Each Friday, we will pit cover against cover while also taking the opportunity to showcase gorgeous artwork and feature some of our favorite book covers. If you want to join the fun, simply choose a book each Friday that fits that week’s predetermined theme, post and compare two or more different covers available for that book, then name your favorite. A list of future weeks’ themes are available at Lynn’s Book Blog.

This week’s theme is:

“Murder most foul, as in the best it is.”
~ a cover featuring A MURDER SCENE

Mogsy’s Pick:
The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters

My pick today is a book I read back around the time I first started blogging, but I still remember the premise of it very well, for you see, The Last Policeman would likely be considered a pretty standard a police procedural if not for a huge twist: while everything is taking place, a killer asteroid is hurtling towards Earth, set to end all life on the planet when it impacts in about six months. As you can imagine, everyone is freaking the hell out, though each person appears to have their own way of dealing with the impending apocalypse. Most have ditched their jobs to tackle bucket lists or to reconnect with their friends and loved ones. Others have found religion. Sadly, some chose suicide.

But then there are those like Hank Palace, a rookie detective who is still out there trying to be the best damn policeman he can be. Currently, he’s investigating the death of a man found hanged in the bathroom of a fast-food chain restaurant, though not surprisingly, most of his colleagues on the force have already dismissed the case as an asteroid-related suicide. However, Hank is not so sure. There are signs of foul play and something about this one feels suspiciously like murder. But with the end of the world set to occur in mere months, our protagonist might be the only cop left in the city who cares enough to uncover the truth.

Time to take a look at the covers! There are a wide range of options this week:

From left to right:
Quirk Paperback (2012) – Quirk eBook (2012) – Czech Edition (2015)

  

Russian Edition (2015) – Portuguese Edition (2015)

 

Polish Edition (2017) – Hungarian Edition (2015) – Romanian Edition (2015)

  

Spanish Edition (2017 – Japanese Edition (2016)

 

German Edition (2013) – French Edition (2015) – Thai Edition (2016)

  

Winner:

I had several that I liked this week, and I tried to show bigger images of the ones that really caught my eye. In the end though, I’m going with the Spanish (2017) edition as my favorite. It’s not the only cover to go the “silhouette” route, capturing an image of the killer asteroid inside the outline (of whom I assume is Hank) as it streaks across the sky. However, I felt this version pulled it off best, because unlike the other covers that attempted the same theme, this one actually shows a bit of the character’s facial features. There’s a hint of melancholy and hopelessness in his expression, but at the same time his upward gaze shows determination, which perfectly captures the mood of the story.

But what do you think? Which one is your favorite?

Book Review: The Mermaid by Christina Henry

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

The Mermaid by Christina Henry

Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Berkley (June 19, 2018)

Length: 336 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

The Mermaid turned out to be a slight departure from the previous fairy tale-inspired books by Christina Henry, delivering a historical fantasy with mythological leanings rather than a dark or horror retelling. The story follows a young mermaid who yearned to see more of the world beyond her watery realm, venturing further and further away from home following in the wake of human ships until one day she traveled a little too far and lost her way. In the waters off a small coastal town in Maine, she became entangled in a fishing net. But Jack, the fisherman who caught her, took one look at her wild eyes and cut her loose, knowing in his heart that she was meant to be free.

But to both their surprise, the mermaid returned to Jack, for she had looked into his eyes too and recognized not only a kindness there, but also a loneliness that she understood. Evoking her magic, she transformed into a human so that she could live on land. After adopting the new name of Amelia, the mermaid eventually married Jack, and the two lived in happiness and love until one morning, he rowed out with the other fishing boats but never made it back.

Filled with grief, Amelia spends the next ten years looking out to sea every day from her rocky perch, never growing older even as the townspeople aged around her. Inevitably, rumors of a beautiful mermaid soon spread and reached the ears of a certain notorious showman in New York by the name of P.T. Barnum. Always on the lookout for strange new attractions, Barnum dispatches his business associate Levi Lyman to Maine in the hopes that the young man will be able to convince this extraordinary young woman to work for him.

It never fails; as soon as the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus shutters its doors, that’s when it seems the world suddenly develops a fascination with P.T. Barnum, because all sorts of books and movies about him are coming out of the woodwork lately. In the case of The Mermaid, the story is set in the period of his life between the early to mid-1840s, or around the time Barnum was first shown the infamous Fiji Mermaid by his friend Moses Kimball, leading to his decision to exhibit the fake monkey-fish hybrid in his museum of curiosities. In this novel, however, Barnum is unsatisfied with a mere “humbug”, desiring something more substantial to show to his audience, and by golly it didn’t matter to him if he had to bully, cajole, or manipulate some poor unsuspecting backwater young girl to play pretend for months on end, he was going to get his “real” mermaid. Needless to say, Henry’s portrayal of Barnum is closer to the figure of the exploitative and shrewd con artist he was purported to be, rather than the charming, big-hearted man he was in a particular musical starring Hugh Jackman.

Luckily for us though, for a woman who has only spent a relatively short time living amongst humans, Amelia is a lot less naïve than Barnum had hoped she would be. I loved that she’s a fighter who realizes that, as much as she adores the world-above-the-sea, human society is flawed and full of injustices, and she’s not about to let herself become another one of Barnum’s “oddities” to be exploited. Very soon, when Barnum realizes that he’s got the real deal on his hands, Amelia knows that he needs her more than she needs him, and she’s not afraid to push back and demand that she be able to work on her own terms. This mermaid knows what she wants and she’s not above doing a bit of her own hard-bargaining to get it, reminding me how much I enjoy stories where pompous arrogant master manipulators are taken down a notch by being beaten at their own game.

Perhaps my favorite character in this book though, was Levi. Relatively little is known about the real Levi Lyman, so I think the author had a bit of fun creating a life and personality for him. He made a good ally for Amelia, and later a worthy love interest.

In terms of criticisms, I thought the ending was a bit rushed and filled with forced dramatics. Maybe Henry was just in a hurry to wrap things up, but at least the rest of the story was nicely paced. I also think that the label of “historical fairy tale” is a pretty apt description, though like most books written in this style, this means characterization can be rather archetypal and clichéd, at times even over-the-top or excessive.

Overall, if you were a fan of Christina Henry’s other fairy-tale inspired novels, you will probably enjoy The Mermaid well, bearing in mind that it’s a lot lighter in tone and lacks a lot of the brutality and darkness found in the Alice duology or Lost Boy (some might actually see that as a good thing). It’s more of a historical at heart, with a strong element of myth and magic. If this combination of history and fantasy appeals to you, I would recommend it.

Waiting on Wednesday 06/20/18

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that first originated at Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. Either way, this fun feature is a chance to showcase the upcoming releases that we can’t wait to get our hands on!

Mogsy’s Pick

Mage Against The Machine by Shaun Barger (October 9, 2018 by Saga Press)

You often see a lot of books being compared to Harry Potter, often in the form of “Harry Potter meets ______.” But have you ever seen one described as Harry Potter meets The Terminator? What the hell, this I gotta see.

The year is 2120. The humans are dead. The mages have retreated from the world after a madman blew up civilization with weaponized magical technology. Safe within domes that protect them from the nuclear wasteland on the other side, the mages have spent the last century putting their lives back together.

Nikolai is obsessed with artifacts from twentieth-century human life: mage-crafted replica Chuck Taylors on his feet, Schwarzenegger posters on his walls, Beatlemania still alive and well in his head. But he’s also tasked with a higher calling—to maintain the Veils that protect mage-kind from the hazards of the wastes beyond. As a cadet in the Mage King’s army, Nik has finally found what he always wanted—a purpose. But when confronted by one of his former instructors gone rogue, Nik tumbles into a dark secret. The humans weren’t nuked into oblivion—they’re still alive. Not only that, outside the domes a war rages between the last enclaves of free humans and vast machine intelligences.

Outside the dome, unprepared and on the run, Nik finds Jem. Jem is a Runner for the Human Resistance. A ballerina-turned-soldier by the circumstances of war, Jem is more than just a human—her cybernetic enhancement mods make her faster, smarter, and are the only things that give her a fighting chance against the artificial beings bent on humanity’s eradication.

Now Nik faces an impossible decision: side with the mages and let humanity die out? Or stand with Jem and the humans—and risk endangering everything he knows and loves? 

Spotlight & Giveaway: The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French

***Be sure to check out the end of this post for details on our giveaway for THE GREY BASTARDS!***

As promised, in order to celebrate the release of The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French, today I will be holding a giveaway for my extra copy of the finished hardcover. Here’s why you should be excited about this book: it’s an adrenaline-fueled dark fantasy full of action and adventure, featuring badass half-orcs who ride giant war hogs into battle. It seriously doesn’t get much better than this!

In addition, you might have also heard about the book’s interesting publication history, which is an incredible story of indie success. Back in 2016 before it was acquired by Crown Publishing, The Grey Bastards was a self-published novel that entered into a competition called the Self-Publishing Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO). Out of 300 contestants, it ended up coming out on top, picked as the favorite by a panel of ten fantasy blogs that acted as judges. That year, The BiblioSanctum happened to be one of those blogs, which meant I had the pleasure of reviewing the book and giving it high marks. If you’re curious, you can read my review here.

Below you’ll find the publisher description for The Grey Bastards, which is now available wherever books are sold. I hope you’ll check it out!

A raucous, bawdy, blood-soaked adventure fantasy debut that’s The Lord of the Rings reimagined by way of Sons of Anarchy.

Jackal is proud to be a Grey Bastard, member of a sworn brotherhood of half-orcs. Unloved and unwanted in civilized society, the Bastards eke out a hard life in the desolate no-man’s-land called the Lots, protecting frail and noble human civilization from invading bands of vicious full-blooded orcs.

But as Jackal is soon to learn, his pride may be misplaced. Because a dark secret lies at the heart of the Bastards’ existence–one that reveals a horrifying truth behind humanity’s tenuous peace with the orcs, and exposes a grave danger on the horizon. On the heels of the ultimate betrayal, Jackal must scramble to stop a devastating invasion–even as he wonders where his true loyalties lie.

The Grey Bastards Giveaway

Hopefully, I’ve been able to pique your interest in The Grey Bastards, and because I am such a fan, I want to share the love by giving away one hardcover copy of this amazing book. With my sincerest apologies to our international readers though, due to the high costs of shipping, I can open this giveaway to addresses/residents in the US only. To enter, all you have to do is send an email to bibliosanctum@gmail.com with your Name and valid Mailing Address using the subject line “THE GREY BASTARDS” by 11:59pm Eastern time on Monday, June 25, 2018 and we’ll take care of the rest.

Only one entry per household, please. The winner will be randomly selected when the giveaway ends and then be notified by email. All information will only be used for the purposes of contacting the winner and sending them their prize. Once the giveaway ends, all entry emails will be deleted.

So what are you waiting for? Enter to win! And remember: Live in the saddle, die on the hog! Good luck!

Book Review: Providence by Caroline Kepnes

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Providence by Caroline Kepnes

Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Mystery, Paranormal

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Lenny (June 19, 2018)

Length: 400 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Providence is a very tough book to categorize, and as such, it probably won’t be for everyone. It’s also the perfect example of never judging a book by its cover. Talk about a complete failure to give the reader any idea of what to expect. The more I look at this unassuming cover, the more dissatisfied I feel towards with it, due to how much it undersells the singular and unusual nature of the story within.

The plot of this novel spans quite a few years, following the perspectives of three main characters. Two of them are introduced right away, as we begin the tale in a small quiet town in New Hampshire where middle school students Jon and Chloe grew up as childhood friends. Despite being very different—Jon is the weird and geeky outcast who is ostracized by the other kids at school, while Chloe is pretty and popular—they share a love and understanding only the two of them can show each other. And then one day, Jon goes missing, turning Chloe’s world upside down. For the next four years, she tries hard to keep the faith, believing that her friend is still alive and will come home soon. But after a while, even the strongest hope starts to fade, and in high school, Chloe finally decides it’s time to move on and live her life. The memory of Jon, however, is never far from her mind.

Then, a miracle happens. Jon suddenly resurfaces, shocking the country when he reveals the truth of where he’d been. Kidnapped by an eccentric substitute teacher with an obsession with H.P. Lovecraft, Jon had been imprisoned in a basement since the day we went missing, kept hidden and immobile in a comatose state. But one day, Jon simply woke up, with only a copy of The Dunwich Horror for a clue as to what his abductor did to him, for Jon has become a different person in more ways than anyone can imagine. All grown up now, Jon finds himself in an older, bigger body that is completely unfamiliar to him, but it also appears he has emerged from his ordeal with a terrible power he cannot control. It seems that being in close proximity to anyone he has intense feelings for will inevitably make them go into cardiac arrest, killing them, causing Jon to withdraw from those he cares about. But of course, since he has told no one the truth, that only causes confusion and pain to his family and friends, especially to Chloe, who can’t understand why her old friend has become so distant and cold.

Skip ahead a few years later, and Chloe has become a famous artist while Jon has become a recluse, trying to rid himself of his curse by embarking on a personal mission to track down the man who kidnapped him. But try as he might to keep a low profile, over the years Jon has accidently caused a number of fatal premature heart attacks, catching the attention of a local detective. As the novel’s third POV, Eggs has been obsessively tracking these mysterious deaths for years, and a recent break in the case has given him a new perspective and idea on where to look.

Needless to say, Providence is full of surprises, and not least of them is the strong connection to Lovecraft and his works. Not being familiar with The Dunwich Horror at all, I can’t say for sure how much it inspired this story or whether Caroline Kepnes intended this to be a retelling of sorts, but it is referenced time and time again and becomes important to the character of Jon. Additionally, as with a lot of books containing a Lovecraftian angle, the story gets a little weird, though this merely reaffirms my belief that Kepnes understands what Lovecraft is all about. There was even a particular section, in which Eggs’ wife Lo the English professor tries to explain to her clueless husband why Lovecraft is such a big deal, that made me nod my head as I read a long and think to myself, YES, YES TO ALL OF THIS. While the man has been a controversial figure in life and in death, the ideas and motifs in his writings have resonated throughout literature, especially with the horror community. And of course, because you can’t explore Lovecraft without acknowledging the passionate fanbase, I loved that Providence also included a fascinating look at the subculture of Lovecraft conventions and fandom.

Now, with regards to what I didn’t like so much, my main criticism goes back to my point about this book being difficult to classify. In a way, it’s a little bit of everything: mystery, thriller, romance, horror, contemporary, fantasy—and I’m probably missing a few other labels besides. The point is, it doesn’t fit neatly into any category, and as a result, sometimes things can feel a little messy. Also, if you’re the kind of reader who needs answers, then this not a book for you. There are a lot of things that don’t get explained, so be prepared to go in with realistic expectations and a willingness to roll with the punches. And finally, I never felt truly connected with Jon’s plight with Chloe, because it seemed like so much of his heartbreak was brought on by himself. Well, what do you expect when you run off on someone without a single word of explanation? I feel like so much of the drama could have been avoided if Jon had simply told Chloe the truth (or even just a plausible excuse) from the beginning, especially since such a big deal was made over their super close friendship.

Like I said, Providence won’t be for everyone, and I must admit to feeling a bit torn on it myself. However, if you’re in the mood for a novel that’s a little offbeat and different, this one certainly fits the bill. An interesting read for sure, and perfect for anyone looking for something completely unique and outside the box.

Audiobook Review: Season of Storms by Andrzej Sapkowski

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Season of Storms by Andrzej Sapkowski

Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy

Series: The Witcher

Publisher: Hachette Audio (May 22, 2018)

Length: 11 hrs and 45 mins

Author Information: Website

Narrator: Peter Kenny

There really is no such thing as a bad Witcher book, just some are better than others. Season of Storms is probably one that I would put on the lower end of the spectrum—meaning I enjoyed it, but compared to the rest of the books in the series, it simply didn’t stand out as much as I’d hoped. While this is the eighth one overall (when you include all the novels and collections), it is also something of a standalone prequel, taking place between the short stories featured in The Last Wish and well before the events of the main saga.

In Season of Storms, readers are given insight into the events occurring just prior to Geralt of Rivia’s fateful visit into the city of Vizima to deal with King Foltest’s striga problem, which was chronicled in what was Andrzej Sapkowski’s debut work, a tale simply titled “The Witcher”. When the story opens, we get to catch up with our protagonist in a quiet seaside kingdom, though in true Geralt fashion, it’s not long before he finds himself embroiled in a spot of trouble and winds up getting arrested and thrown in jail.

Unfortunately, this also means that his swords are taken from him. A Witcher without his iconic weapons? Say it isn’t so! After all, what use is a monster hunter without the tools of his trade? As a result, the main plot of this book mostly focuses on Geralt as he is roped into taking on all kinds of dangerous and daring missions to try and get his swords back. It involves a lot of the elements you would expect—shady sorcerers, political intrigue, monster killing, and sexy times.

In other words, Season of Storms is full of your usual Witcher shenanigans. It means that if you’ve enjoyed the previous books in the series, then there is a good chance that you’ll enjoy this one too. This novel also felt more light-hearted to me, though of course, when it comes to The Witcher, words like lightness and darkness are all relative. Since this one is a prequel, there are quite a few people who haven’t yet made their appearances in Geralt’s life, the most notable of these being Ciri, which does mean the story is generally free of the kind of angst that typically follows her character everywhere. There’s also a general nonchalance and more laidback tone to the story which gives the impression of much simpler times.

In fact, that might be part of the problem. Season of Storms doesn’t really add anything new or special to what we already know of the world or protagonist; everything feels like it has been done before—in bigger, better, and more complex ways. Its status as a standalone prequel might also have a lot to do with this, since the main saga itself is over and done with, leaving this one to feel “tacked on” and apart from the other novels. Whatever intrigues and challenges Geralt has to deal with in this book, they simply pale in comparison to those he has faced in the overarching series. Likewise, when it comes to the relationships he forges, the villains he fights, or the monsters he kills, all of them feel rather like superficial throwaway encounters in the context of this novel.

Does this mean you shouldn’t read Season of Storms? Not at all. As a matter of fact, it might make a good choice if you are new to Sapkowski or The Witcher. While I would still recommend starting with the main series, this book would be an ideal jumping off point to dip a toe into the world if you just want a little itty-bitty taste of the series’ overall tone or writing before taking the full plunge. Plus, it would also make for a nice, light introduction to the author’s style, which can be tough to get on board with if you are not used to non-linear storytelling. Devices like time jumps, flashbacks, multiple plot threads are all employed here, giving new readers a good idea of what to expect from the main saga.

There’s plenty of things to like too, if you’re an old fan—as long as you’re not hoping for big revelations or anything earth-shattering. As a longtime follower of this series, I would describe Season of Storms as a comfortable read, full of references and cool easter eggs you might catch, but it is far from being Geralt’s best adventure. For completion’s sake though, I would still deem it a must-read, and at the end of the day, the uncomplicated spirit of this novel meant that I had a fun time with it.

Audiobook Comments: Obviously, I’m a huge fan of Peter Kenny. I started listening to the audiobooks of this series with Blood of Elves, and because of his excellent narration, I’ve never looked back. Kenny’s voice has an intensity to it that makes it perfect for Geralt of Rivia, and yet he is also versatile enough to portray every single other character, bringing all the humor, magic, and charisma of this series to life.

More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Sword of Destiny (Anthology)
Review of Blood of Elves (Book 1)
Review of The Time of Contempt (Book 2)
Review of Baptism of Fire (Book 3)
Review of The Tower of Swallows (Book 4)

Review of Lady of the Lake (Book 5)

Mogsy’s Bookshelf Roundup: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads

Bookshelf Roundup is a feature I do every other weekend which fills the role of several blog memes, like Stacking the Shelves where I talk about the new books I’ve added to my library or received for review, as well as It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? where I round up what I’ve read since the last update and what I’m planning to read soon. Mostly it also serves as a recap post, so sometimes I’ll throw in stuff like reading challenge progress reports, book lists, and other random bookish thoughts or announcements.

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Received for Review

Ahhhhh it’s a huge explosion in my mailbox this week! My thanks to the publishers and authors for the following review copies received. For more details and full descriptions of the books, be sure to click the links to their Goodreads pages!

My thanks to Orbit Books for the following: A finished copy of A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe by Alex White, which I’ve already been hearing some great things about. I can’t wait to dive in. Also a couple unsolicited but no less exciting ARCs of Rosewater by Tade Thompson, which is being reissued by Orbit this fall, as well as Competence by Gail Carriger, the third book of the Custard Protocol series starring the daughter of the protagonist from Parasol Protectorate.

My thanks also to Pyr Books for sending me an ARC of Keepers by Brenda Cooper. I love the author’s books, and this is the sequel to last year’s Wilders.

From the wonderful folks at Titan Books I also received review copies of The Synapse Sequence by Daniel Godfrey, who is an author I’ve always wanted to read, as well as A Demon in Silver by R.S. Ford, the first book of a new grimdark trilogy called War of the Archons. Earlier in the week, The BiblioSanctum took part in a tour for this book, and in case you missed the author’s guest post we hosted, you can read it here!

I was also so excited to receive a finished copy (actually, I got two!) of The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French, with thanks to Crown Books, the traditional publisher who picked up the book after it won the 2016 Self-Publishing Fantasy Blog-Off. I am so happy for the author, because this book is just amazing and needs to be shared far and wide. As such, I’m planning to hold a giveaway for my extra copy next week, so be sure to keep an eye out for that.

Next up, another surprise arrival, this time courtesy of Simon & Schuster. I don’t know much about We Begin Our Ascent by Joe Mungo Reed, only from what I’ve read from the publisher description. But it sounds like a mix of themes, exploring the dramas of a young family caught between love and ambition. Not my usual genre, I’ll admit, but it does sound interesting.

With thanks to Tor Books, I also received a finished copy of Starless by Jacqueline Carey. It’s one of my most anticipated books of the year, and I plan on starting it later this week. In fact, since I’m drafting this post in advance, by the time you see this, hopefully I will already be well into the story.

And this is another nice surprise: Sweep: The Story of a Girl and her Monster by Jonathan Auxier is categorized as a Middle Grade fantasy novel, following a 10-year-old chimney sweep in 19th-century England who accidentally creates a golem made up of all her favorite things. The story sounds so sweet and magical, I just might have to make time for this. My thanks to Amulet Books for the ARC.

I was also thrilled to receive a finished copy of The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay from the awesome team at William Morrow. I didn’t love the author’s last book, but I’ll always read anything he writes. Here’s hoping I’ll like this one better.

And this next one is a new experience for me. I’d never received an unsolicited physical copy of an audiobook in the mail before, and this one even included some swag! Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier is a mystery suspense thriller which also came with, appropriately, a jar of cinnamon candy hearts. It’s described as a story about three best friends–one who was murdered, one who went to prison, and one who never stopped searching for the truth–and now that my interest has been piqued, I’m dying to listen to it. My thanks to Macmillan Audio.

And huge thanks to Nightshade Books/Talos for sending me a bunch of goodies this week! An Argumentation of Historians by Jodi Taylor is the latest installment in The Chronicles of St. Mary’s series. However, this is the ninth book in the sequence and I’ve only read the first so it looks like I have a lot of catching up to do. And speaking of catching up, The Soldier by Neal Asher is another book set in the author’s Polity universe, but since it kicks off a new trilogy, I’m crossing my fingers that I might actually be able to jump into this one without being too confused. The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Three edited by Neil Clark is the latest anthology of buzzworthy stories from the best and biggest names in the genre. And I’ve had The Reign of the Departed by Greg Keyes on my wishlist for a while, so I was really happy when a copy arrived!

Courtesy of Subterranean Press, I also received an ARC of Kingdom of Needle and Bone by Mira Grant, also known by her real name of Seanan McGuire. I swear she is really churning out the books these days!

And finally, with thanks to the kind folks at Berkley I received a finished copy of The Mermaid by Christina Henry. I’ve already read this one and I enjoyed it, so stay tuned for my review next week.

  

 

    

Onto the digital pile, there’s just one ebook for me this week. Liath Luachra: The Swallowed by Brian O’Sullivan is the second book of the Irish Woman Warrior series, but can be read as a standalone. You might remember the first installment when it was covered on The BiblioSanctum as one of the titles from our initial batch of books in SPFBO 2016. When the author contacted me earlier this week to see if I would like a review copy of this sequel, I gladly said yes. Thanks, Brian!

And now for a parade of audio listening copies! From Macmillan Audio, I received By Fire Above by Robyn Bennis. I also have a hardcover of this, but of course I just couldn’t resist the audio. I listened to the first book last year and loved it, and the narrator is Kate Reading, who is awesome. With thanks to Hachette Audio, I received A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising by Raymond A. Villareal, a thriller about a virus that sweeps the world, turning people into something more. From Audible Studios, I received The Singularity Trap by Dennis E. Taylor, who of course also wrote the super fun Bobiverse trilogy, so I have a great feeling about this one. From Serial Box Publishing, I received Born to the Blade by Michael R. Underwood, Malka Older, Cassandra Khaw, and Marie Brennan. I’ve been looking forward to this serial for a long time, and now that all eleven episodes of the first season are almost out, I can finally take a look.

With thanks to Harper Audio, I also received a copy of Awakened by James S. Murray with Darren Wearmouth, a supernatural novel about an underground horror that becomes unearthed by a new subway line in New York City. And finally, courtesy of Random House Audio, I received a couple of video game tie-ins: Minecraft: The Crash by Tracey Baptiste and World of Warcraft: Before the Storm by Christie Golden, which I’m psyched to read in anticipation of the upcoming Battle for Azeroth expansion.

Reviews

A list of my reviews posted since the last update:

Bring Me Their Hearts by Sara Wolf (4.5 of 5 stars)
Before Mars by Emma Newman (4 of 5 stars)
City of Bastards by Andrew Shvarts (4 of 5 stars)
Artificial Condition by Martha Wells (4 of 5 stars)
Brief Cases by Jim Butcher (3.5 of 5 stars)
The Hollow Tree by James Brogden (3.5 of 5 stars)
The Memory of Fire by Callie Bates (2.5 of 5 stars)

Roundup Highlights:

Interviews & Guest Posts

A huge thanks to the authors who stopped by The BiblioSanctum this week!

Guest Post: “Worldbuilding on the Fly” by R.S. Ford

What I’ve Read Since the Last Update

Here’s what I’ve managed to “unstack” from the TBR since the last update. Tons of reviews coming up!

   

   

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Have you heard of or read any of the books featured this week? What caught your eye? Any new discoveries? I hope you found something interesting for a future read! Let me know what you plan on checking out. Until next time, see you next Roundup!:)

Friday Face-Off: Riders

Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme created by Books by Proxy! Each Friday, we will pit cover against cover while also taking the opportunity to showcase gorgeous artwork and feature some of our favorite book covers. If you want to join the fun, simply choose a book each Friday that fits that week’s predetermined theme, post and compare two or more different covers available for that book, then name your favorite. A list of future weeks’ themes are available at Lynn’s Book Blog.

This week’s theme is:

“Live in the saddle. Die on the hog.”
~ a cover featuring RIDERS

Mogsy’s Pick:
Beyond Redemption by Michael R. Fletcher

I actually had several options when it came to books this week, and went back and forth on them until I finally decided to settle with Beyond Redemption because of what an awesome book it is. Konig, a twisted madman, is bent on creating a god, and a young and innocent little boy named Morgen is being groomed for the honor, to be sacrificed once it is determined he is ready to Ascend.

However, before his Ascension could come to pass, Morgen is stolen away by three wretched thieves: Bedeckt the old cantankerous warrior, Stehlen the bloodthirsty kleptomaniac woman, and Wichtig the pompous egomaniacal sociopath who fancies himself the Greatest Swordsman in the World. Konig is left with no choice but to send his dastardly henchmen after the trio of brazen miscreants, hoping to salvage his plans before pure, innocent Morgen is forever corrupted by his kidnappers. Anything can happen in this wild, dark tale of cat and mouse, but one thing is guaranteed – there’ll be a body count numbering in the hundreds and a whole lot more blood and guts spilled before this is done.

And with that, let’s look at the covers!

From left to right:
Harper Voyager (2015) – German Edition (2017) – Polish Edition (2017)

  

Winner:

There are fewer choices to choose from this week, but that’s okay because I already have a clear favorite. HELLO, it’s Richard Anderson, baby! The artist’s gritty style is perfect for the tone of this grimdark fantasy, and you can also easily make out the identities of the riders if you’ve read the book. For more insight on what an amazing cover this is, I would highly recommend checking out the following blog post by author Michael R. Fletcher on the making of this beautiful piece of art. It’s a fascinating read, and highlights again why I love this cover so much.

But what do you think? Which one is your favorite?