Audiobook Review: The Shadow Saint by Gareth Hanrahan

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

The Shadow Saint by Gareth Hanrahan

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

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Book 2 of The Black Iron Legacy

Publisher: Hachette Audio (January 9, 2020)

Length: 19 hours 39 minutes

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrator: John Banks

Here’s what you need to know about The Shadow Saint: it is the second book of The Black Iron Legacy series by Gareth Hanrahan, but it doesn’t really follow the tradition of a direct sequel. While the story picks up soon after the events of The Gutter Prayer, the focus has mostly shifted to another set of characters, though a lot of familiar faces from the first book return. Not surprisingly, when it comes to these types of sequels, it’s also common for a shift in tone, and indeed we see a little bit of that happening here. Obviously, your experience will differ based on your own personal preferences, but it was because of this shift that I felt The Shadow Saint was not as strong as The Gutter Prayer, which had a plot and themes that suited me better. That said, this was still a good book and a respectable follow-up. It just felt different, which can be either a negative or a positive depending on your tastes.

Also keep in mind that because this is a review to a sequel, it may contain plot details from the previous book, and I recommend being caught up first if you want to avoid any possible spoilers. In the aftermath of the chaotic events at the end of The Gutter Prayer, Guerdon is left in shambles with a power vacuum waiting to be filled. Amidst the lawlessness left by what is now known as the Gutter Miracle, the area has become a neutral haven for all manner of displaced groups, from roving bands of brigands to exiled saints and other magical creatures. In a move to bring some semblance of order back into their lives, residents of the newly created neighborhood known as New City are gearing up for the upcoming election to gain representation in the parliament.

Found in the middle of all this is Eladora Duttin, a returning character from the first book, who is now a political operative for the Industrial Liberal party working on behalf of Kelkin. While Guerdon is in the process of being rebuilt, the city’s many factions are all vying to gain the upper hand while rumors abound of a godswar looming on the horizon. Terevant Erevesic, newly appointed guard captain, is assigned the task of recovering Guerdon’s god bombs, powerful weapons said to be buried beneath the city which would make anyone who controlled them an unstoppable force. Sliding into whatever role is required for him, an unnamed man only known as “The Spy” also adopts the persona of a refugee named Alic Nemon, whose secret agenda will remain shrouded in mystery until such time that the plot chooses to reveal all.

Since Eladora was one of my favorites from the first book, I was excited to discover she was one of the main perspective characters. As a matter of fact, settling in with our new protagonists was certainly not an issue for me. Instead, I had a difficult time developing an interest in the story, which has shifted heavily into the political sphere and focusing on the destabilizing effect of clashing factions. These themes play a big role in The Shadow Saint, and to put it bluntly, they aren’t the most engaging or entertaining of topics, even with the fascinating setting of Guerdon as a backdrop. To be honest, I’d much rather be reading more about the god and the saints, the rich history of the city, its extraordinary cultures and magic and creatures and pretty much everything that made the first book such an eye-opening experience. But it seems Hanrahan had other plans, continuing at length with the comings and goings within a politically charged New City.

If intrigue and machinations are your bag, I think you will love The Shadow Saint. But if you are like me, having loved the world-building and originality from The Gutter Prayer, then you might end up feeling the elements of magic, action, and lore craft in this sequel are lacking. It’s ironic, really, how I felt that the world-building almost overshadowed everything else in the first book, whereas in this one I couldn’t seem to get enough. Thankfully, I think the more time you spend with the book, the easier it is to feel invested, especially once the new characters like Terevant and Alic start giving you more reasons to care about what happens to them. It helps too that the familiar trio of Cari, Spar, and Rat show up for the last section of the book in their various capacities. This development meshes well with the overall crux of the novel, which relates to the impending godswar, culminating in a conclusion that will make you glad you saw things through to the end.

Ultimately, if The Shadow Saint feels like a slight departure from The Gutter Prayer, that’s because it sort of is. Still, that itself is not a complaint; I think it’s refreshing for sequels to be a little different than their predecessors so that we don’t get a repeat of the same old, same old. However, this time around, the narrative was steeped in the politics of this world, and while this may have added a thought-provoking and suspenseful touch to the story, it also made some earlier parts of the book a bit slow and dull. That being said, sooner or later you do get drawn into the plot, but the sloggier, denser sections also meant things took longer to get off the ground. Personally, I thought the first book was better, but this was a solid sequel nonetheless, and I look forward to see where the third installment will take us next.

Audiobook Comments: This was a long audiobook, coming in at nearly twenty hours, and I daresay some of the slower sections would have been more of a struggle to get through had it not been for a fantastic narrator. John Banks’ performance was strong and confident, and I think narrators like him possess a certain timbre and tone in their voices that make them perfectly suited to reading dark gritty fantasy.

More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of The Gutter Prayer (Book 1)

Waiting on Wednesday 01/08/20

“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

The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson (July 21st, 2020 by Ace Books)

In my quest for more horror, I stumbled across this one, and it sounds very much the kind of witchy tale I’ve been searching for, set in a fantasy world that’s a bit like The Village meets creepy paranormal coming-of-age. Early reviews are promising, I hope it will be good.

“In the lands of Bethel, where the Prophet’s word is law, Immanuelle Moore’s very existence is blasphemy. Her mother’s union with an outsider of a different race cast her once-proud family into disgrace, so Immanuelle does her best to worship the Father, follow Holy Protocol, and lead a life of submission, devotion, and absolute conformity, like all the other women in the settlement.

But a mishap lures her into the forbidden Darkwood surrounding Bethel, where the first prophet once chased and killed four powerful witches. Their spirits are still lurking there, and they bestow a gift on Immanuelle: the journal of her dead mother, who Immanuelle is shocked to learn once sought sanctuary in the wood.

Fascinated by the secrets in the diary, Immanuelle finds herself struggling to understand how her mother could have consorted with the witches. But when she begins to learn grim truths about the Church and its history, she realizes the true threat to Bethel is its own darkness. And she starts to understand that if Bethel is to change, it must begin with her.”

Most Anticipated Releases of 2020: January to March

Happy 2020! As we get ready to begin another year, it’s time to look ahead to the Science Fiction and Fantasy reads I’m most excited about. Not only is it fun to organize my reading and to make lists, they also have the added benefit of focusing my attention to the highly anticipated releases that I’d like to check out. Every quarter I’ll be putting together a post of my “must reads”, and while I’m under no illusions that I’ll be able to read them all, hopefully I can get to most of them (and also put some new books on people’s radars)!

So here are the books I’m really excited for in early 2020. What are some of yours?

January

January 7 – The Secret Chapter by Genevieve Cogman, Mr. Nobody by Catherine Steadman, The Night Country by Melissa Albert, The Shadow Saint by Gareth Hanrahan, The God Game by Danny Tobey, Chosen by Kiersten White, City of Stone and Silence by Django Wexler

January 14 – A Longer Fall by Charlaine Harris, The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez

January 21 – Bitter Falls by Rachel Caine

January 28 – The Bard’s Blade by Brian D. Anderson, The Other People by C.J. Tudor

February

February 4 – Alone in the Wild by Kelley Armstrong

February 11 – Heart of Flames by Nicki Pau Preto, Dead to Her by Sarah Pinborough, Untamed Shore by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood

February 18 – Twilight of the Gods by Scott Oden, Sword of Fire by Katharine Kerr

February 25 – False Value by Ben Aaronovitch

March

March 3 – Otaku by Chris Kluwe, The Vanishing Deep by Astrid Scholte, Cyber Shogun Revolution by Peter Tieryas

March 10 – The Deep by Alma Katsu, Cries From the Lost Island by Kathleen O’Neal Gear

March 17 – Smoke Bitten by Patricia Briggs, Crush the King by Jennifer Estep, Girls With Razor Hearts by Suzanne Young

March 24 – The Last Human by Zack Jordan, The Return by Rachel Harrison

March 31 – Anthropocene Rag by Alex Irvine

Book Review: Jade City by Fonda Lee

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

Jade City by Fonda Lee

Mogsy’s Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Book 1 of The Green Bone Saga

Publisher: Orbit (November 7th 2017)

Length: 498 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

I’m really kicking myself for having taken so long to pick up and read Jade City. But perhaps it is also a blessing in disguise, because the second book is out now, and this was definitely a story that made me want to pick up the sequel right away to see what happens next. A completely absorbing and compulsive read, Fonda Lee’s adult fantasy debut held me spellbound in its grip from the beginning pages to the very end.

Imagine The Godfather in an Asian-inspired fantasy setting, and you have a good starting point for the premise behind this novel. We are transported to the city of Janloon, controlled by two rival families—the Kauls of the No Peak Clan and the Ayts of the Mountain Clan. Our main characters are Lan, Hilo, and Shae, three Kaul siblings who have been raised from birth to be loyal to their blood and name, knowing that one day the heavy burden of the territorial conflict will fall to them. But there’s more to the issue than simply who can own the most property or buy the most loyalty; there is also the jade trade to consider, and whoever controls that will have a huge advantage, because magical jade and its ability-enhancing qualities is what makes this world go round.

And really, the world-building in this novel is nothing short of incredible. For instance, just take a look at the vast body of lore and magic systems built around jade. For Green Bone families, like the Kauls, jade is more than a valuable commodity, it is a way of life. Its magical properties allow those who can harness its powers to gain special abilities, increasing their battle prowess and fortitude. There is also a time-honored code of ritual surrounding how a Green Bone warrior can obtain jade, including earning it through study, inheriting it through a family member, or seizing it from an enemy after killing them in battle. The more of these precious stones a warrior wears, the more powerful they become, though too much jade can also be dangerous, its overwhelming effects breaking even the strongest minds. Green Bones must receive special training to fight effectively with jade, as well as to recognize the early symptoms of its negative effects. These secrets are jealously guarded, and as a resource, jade is also strictly controlled by the nation of Kekon, forbidden for use by foreigners. There are even some who are completely immune to jade so that it is impossible for them harness its powers, and these individuals are labeled as unfortunate and unlucky (even though there are plenty of useful jobs these “stone-eyes” can obtain while being highly paid for). A street rat named Bero gives us a glimpse into the black market, showing just how desperate some people can become in their attempt to get their hands on some jade.

But when a new drug emerges, said to allow anyone to wield jade, tensions in the war between No Peak and the Mountain are elevated to dangerous levels. Kaul Lan, the eldest son who has assumed the mantle of the Pillar following the retirement of his grandfather and death of his father, must now prepare to lead his family through violent times ahead. His hot-headed brother Hilo, the clan’s Horn and top enforcer, is standing strong behind him, ready to bring the fight to the Mountain. However, their sister Shae, recently returned from her self-imposed exile, has remained adamant about not being involved the family business even though she would be perfect as the clan’s advisor or Weather Man, especially now that the current one is suspected to be corrupt.

The character connections here, particularly the ones related to family, are delightfully complex and steeped in subtlety and meaning. These relationships are never explicated stated; instead, Lee weaves a cleverly nuanced narrative that shows rather than tells us where all these interactions and associations might be headed: Lan might be too soft-hearted to do what is necessary, Hilo too impulsive to know what is best for No Peak clan, Shae’s hesitancy makes her all but MIA. And meanwhile, in the Kaul-owned academy for Green Bone warriors, their young cousin and adopted brother Anden who is getting ready to graduate and earn his first jade provides another perspective. Technically an outsider, Anden is nevertheless well-loved and cherished. It’s becoming increasingly likely that his class would be graduating into an all-out war, and the time to pledge alliances is now, though Anden isn’t sure how he feels about his family’s mobster politics or the way jade can utterly destroy a mind.

Jade City starts off slow, but in spite of that, the story was never uninteresting or tedious. The novel drew me in by degrees, fascinating me with layer upon layer of world-building before kicking it into high gear once the No Peak/Mountain war heats up. I loved the themes of family, honor and loyalty. It’s also interesting to me how different members of the Kauls viewed the ancient ways of jade and blood, and for some, that may prove to be their undoing in these modern times, where martial tradition has given way to commercialism and profit. Lee’s well-rounded characters feel genuine as they react realistically and sympathetically to the pressures placed upon them. The result is a vibrant mob family drama with plenty of intrigue and action, which overall I found both entertaining and emotionally engaging.

Like I said, I can’t believe I waited so long to read this novel, which has become a new favorite. But at least now I have its sequel Jade War in hand, and I’m looking forward to reading it soon!

Audiobook Review: The Queen’s Road by R.S. Belcher

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

The Queen’s Road by R.S. Belcher

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

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Series: Book 1/Stand Alone

Publisher: Audible Originals (December 19, 2019)

Length:10 hrs and 20 mins

Author Information: Website | Twitter

I loved this so much! I’m a big fan of R.S. Belcher, and when I saw that the was releasing an Audible Original called The Queen’s Road, my first thought based on the title was that it might be part of The Brotherhood of the Wheel series. After reading the synopsis though, I wasn’t so sure. While it’s still possible that the book takes place in the same universe (like how the Nightwise series is related), this appears to be a completely brand-new story, introducing a whole new world and a fresh cast of characters.

At the center of it all is Ramon “Ray” Cosa, a young man who has been down on his luck lately but is still trying his best to keep his life running. Almost everyone he loves is dead and gone—including his father, brother, girlfriend—until all that’s let of Ray’s family is his mother Juanita. But even she’s not altogether there now most of the time, having turned to drugs and alcohol to deal with the grief from all her losses. But despite all that, Ray loves his mom dearly, and unfortunately, his enemies know it too. Now Ray must find a way to pay back the money he owes to some very dangerous people, or they will make good on their threat to kill Juanita.

So when a dying stranger comes out of nowhere one night, bequeathing to Ray his vintage Ford Galaxie and a mysterious jeweled ring, our baffled protagonist couldn’t believe his luck. His mom would be saved, and he even has a sweet ride now to make some money street racing. But of course, as Ray will soon find out, some gifts come with strings attached—forever, in this case. It turns out that the dying man was one of the Queen of the Universe’s Rangers, a guardian who travels the network of hyper-space highways that connect all the planets and galaxies in creation, protecting its laws and its people. They are identified by the rings they wear, the very same one given to Ray which will now stay on his finger until the day he dies. Like it or not, Ray is a Ranger now, and he’s got a lot to learn.

The Queen’s Road is probably the most light-hearted of everything I’ve read by the author so far (but it’s still full of grit), and it is also the most bizarre and imaginative. And yet, most of the book’s setting is surprisingly grounded, and here Belcher is once again doing what he does best, creating a realistic urban backdrop which belies an amazing world of magic and wonder that Ray discovers once he meets Chain, an experienced Ranger who ends up being the young man’s mentor. Like portal fantasy, the Queen’s Road is a system that opens doors to infinite possibilities, and the places that Ray visits, the strange and alien beings he meets and their colorful traditions he encounters are as rich as any of those you would find in a sci-fi space opera.

The book also features a lively cast of characters. A war veteran pawn shop owner who knows more about the Rangers than he lets on. Gang members who turn out to be unexpected allies. A so-called savior who sounds more like they could be a super-villain. Inter-galactic rock stars and ambassadors. You just never know who will turn up next. In the middle of it all, Ray is a protagonist you can really root for. He’s not perfect, and at times his dumb decisions and naivete really grated on my nerves, but at least there’s no that question his heart is in the right place. Even after everything he’s lost, he’s still a fighter, maintaining a hopeful attitude and positive outlook on life. He’s very likeable and that optimism managed to win me over quickly.

And the story, oh the story. This really is a perfect one for audio. The pacing is snappy, and even with the third-person omniscient point-of-view and the occasional random switches in perspective, there was no problem with following along, thanks to the superb narration by Kaleo Griffith. His accents and voices for the characters were all spot on, and there was never any confusion of whose heads we were in. This book had everything from humor and action, and even a plot arc involving a heist where our characters had to jump through a lot of hoops (including buying a few crazy services from some interesting people) in order to break an important colleague out of prison. That was probably the most entertaining part of the book, and also my favorite, even more so than the action-packed conclusion where all our heroes come together to save the universe.

But don’t just take my word for it. Listen to The Queen’s Road and discover its awesomeness for yourself. I had a blast with this one, and I hope R.S. Belcher will continue to expand this world with more stories because clearly the potential is there.

Bookshelf Roundup 01/04/20: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads

Bookshelf Roundup is a feature I do every 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 summarize what I’ve finished reading in the last week 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

My thanks to the publishers and authors for the following review copies received, and be sure to click the links to their Goodreads pages for more details and full descriptions!

Welcome to the first Bookshelf Roundup of 2020! First thank you to St. Martin’s Press for sending me The God Game by Danny Tobey! I’m really looking forward to reading this book, and I’m thrilled to have a physical ARC, not to mention the cover is so pretty. Thank you also to Tor Books for a surprise ARC of Deal with the Devil by Kit Rocha. This is the first book of a series called Mercenary Librarians, which just sounds like the coolest thing ever. And from the awesome team at Tachyon Publications, I also received Of Mice and Minestrone by Joe R. Lansdale, a short collection of tales featuring two of the author’s most popular characters, the East Texas duo Hap and Leonard.

And much love to the folks at Simon Pulse for sending me a finished copy of Chosen by Kiersten White! Super excited about reading this one, if I haven’t already started by the time this post goes up. With thanks also to DAW Books for sending me the following: Ghost Money by Stephen Blackmoore is the fifth book of the Eric Carter series which I’ve been meaning to try, but looks like I have a lot of catching up to do. Speaking of sequels, The Mistress of Illusions by Mike Resnick is the second book of The Dreamscape trilogy, another series that I’d meant to start but didn’t get the chance to. Too many books, too little time!

Only one audiobook in the digital haul this week, with thanks to Listening Library for a listening copy of Ashlords by Scott Reintgen. I had mixed feeling about his book Nyxia but this one described as “Red Rising meets The Scorpio Races” sounds like something I would like better. Plus, Lauren Fortgang’s involved as one of the narrators, and I’m a big fan.

Reviews

The Caged Queen by Kristen Ciccarelli (4 of 5 stars)

This Week’s Reads

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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: New Beginnings

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:

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”
NEW BEGINNINGS

Mogsy’s Pick:

Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater

First off, my sincerest apologies in advance to anyone who enjoyed this book, because I loathed it with every fiber of my being. But because it was a follow-up to the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy, featuring two of the side characters as they start their new life after high school, I thought it was an apt one to feature for today’s topic. Sinner is a “new adult” novel, following Isabel Culpeper who has left Minnesota for sunny California where she is studying to be a doctor and working part time at a clothing designer’s store. But some things you just can’t leave behind, like Cole St. Clair, the rock star/werewolf with whom she had started a budding romance towards the end of the first trilogy. Cole is trying to start afresh himself after doing a stint in rehab for alcohol and drug addiction, and when he is offered a new gig to star in a reality TV show, he decides to look Isabel up while he’s in L.A.

Why Stiefvater chose to write a spin-off to Mercy Falls focusing on the two most bitter, self-absorbed, and annoying characters from the original trilogy is beyond me, but hey, it’s a new beginning! Let’s take a look at the covers:

From left to right:
Scholastic Press (2014) – Scholastic (2015)

Spanish Edition (2014) – German Edition (2015) – Portuguese Edition (2015)

 

Turkish Edition (2017) – Italian Edition (2015) – Polish Edition (2016)

Winner:

Tough choice this week since I’m not particularly drawn to any of them, but at least the Spanish edition tries to match the style of the original Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy covers. Somehow, the palm tree silhouettes just don’t have the same effect though!

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

2020 Audiobook Challenge

Here we go again! We love audiobooks here at The Bibliosanctum for a variety of reasons, from distraction while doing chores to just enjoying a good story being read by an awesome narrator. We also love to undertake a good challenge, especially when it coincides with our love of reading.

Hot Listens and the Caffeinated Book Reviewer are once again hosting the annual Audiobook Challenge, which is now in its eighth year of running. This will be The Bibliosanctum’s seventh year participating in the event, and we’re excited to see where 2020’s challenge will take us. Below, you’ll see the challenge details as well as the different levels. As you can see, there’s a new goal added this year for those serious listeners who want to try for 100 audiobooks!

If you want to take part, make sure to check out the sign-up page for this year’s challenge, and also head on over to the Goodreads group. We hope you’ll join us!

Challenge Details

  • Runs January 1, 2020 – December 31, 2020. You can join at anytime.
  • The goal is to find a new love for audios or to outdo yourself by listening to more audios in 2020 than you did in 2019.
  • Books must be in audio format (CD, MP3, etc.)
  • ANY genres count.
  • Re-reads and crossovers from other reading challenges are allowed.
  • You do not have to be a book blogger to participate; you can track your progress on Goodreads, Facebook, LibraryThing, etc.
  • If you’re a blogger grab the button and do a quick post about the challenge to help spread the word. If you’re not a blogger you can help by posting on Facebook or Tweeting about the challenge.
  • Updates plus a giveaway will be posted twice during the year. First update in June 30, 2020 and last update in December 15, 2020.

Levels

  • Newbie (I’ll give it a try) 1-5
  • Weekend Warrior (I’m getting the hang of this) 5-10
  • Stenographer (can listen while multi-tasking) 10-15
  • Socially Awkward (Don’t talk to me) 15-20
  • Binge Listener (Why read when someone can do it for you) 20-30
  • My Precious (I had my earbuds surgically implanted) 30+
  • Marathoner (Look Ma No Hands) 50+
  • The 100 Club (Audiobook Elite) 100+

Mogsy’s Goals

I blew through Marathoner in the 2019 challenge so I think it’s a goal I can achieve again this year. The 100 Club will probably be out of reach, but it’ll be interesting to see how close I can get!

Do you listen to audiobooks? Will you try doing the audiobook challenge this year? Let us know your thoughts!

Waiting on Wednesday 01/01/20

“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

The Sin in the Steel by Ryan Van Loan (July 21st, 2020 by Tor Books)

Happy new year! Looking back at my reading especially in the latter half of 2019, it appears I need to step up my consumption of Tor Books. But it’s looking like the publisher will be roaring back in 2020 with releases like The Sin the the Steel that sure know how to catch my attention. Steampunk fantasy and pirate adventures? Where do I sign up?

“A sparkling debut fantasy set in a diverse world, featuring dead gods, a pirate queen, shapeshifting mages, and a Sherlockian teenager determined to upend her society.

Buc and Eld: She’s a brilliant former street-rat, with a mind that leaps from clues to conclusions in the blink of an eye. He’s an ex-soldier, her champion and partner-in-crime. No…not in crime—in crime-solving.

In this fast-paced, action-driven, second world fantasy, the teenager and the veteran are the Holmes and Watson of a world where pirates roam the seas, mechanical engines can change the tide of battle, mages speak to each other across oceans, and earthly wealth is concentrated in the hands of a powerful few.

The Kanados Trading Company hires Buc and Eld to restore the flow of sugar—a source of power and wealth in Venice-like Servenza—from the Shattered Coast. Buc swiftly discovers that the trade routes have become the domain of a sharp-eyed pirate queen. All Buc has to do now is sink the Widowmaker’s ship.

Unfortunately for Buc, the gods have other plans.

Unfortunately for them, so does Buc.”

Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read For The First Time In 2019

How often have you said to yourself, “OMG! Why did it take me so long to read <insert author’s name>’s books?!” For me that feels like a very frequent occurrence which is why I love today’s topic – and why I’m also happy to be making another one of these lists, this time for 2019.

Also note that I’ve mostly featured authors who have been writing for many years, or already have several novels/short stories out, otherwise this would be a very long post! I also won’t be naming any debut authors today, because I already made that list.

Garth Nix

Since Angel Mage was my first time reading Garth Nix, I really had no idea what to expect. With the exception of his Old Kingdom series, his books have always given me the impression of being skewed towards younger, Middle Grade readers, which was why I was surprised at the maturity and richness of this one. I’m not just talking thematically, or the world-building either; even the writing style was very lush and complex, closely resembling the tone of literary classics. And no wonder. For this novel, Nix was clearly inspired by Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers. However, the incredible world in which the story takes place feels highly original and unique, filled with a vast trove of magical lore to die for. As this fantasy world is also heavily based on angelic magic and iconography, there’s a lot of background information and detail to get across, making this a very tricky and dense book. I’m not surprised to hear Nix is known for being a master at world building, as evidenced by the amount of thought and effort which must have gone into creating the setting. All in all, I really enjoyed my first book by Garth Nix and would definitely be open to reading more by him in the future.

Suzanne Young

From the moment I picked up Girls with Sharp Sticks, I found myself drawn in by its spell and mysteries. Right away we’re thrust into a setting of what is ostensibly a school, except I was seriously weirded out by the major Stepford Wives vibes and surreal attitudes of its students. The young women in this all-girl elite boarding school are all beautiful, poised and well-behaved—unnaturally, painfully so. Their bizarre curriculum includes subjects and activities such as “Growing a Beautiful and Prosperous Garden”, while their report cards employ a scale to measure their level of obedience. The mostly male teaching staff have a creepy tendency to get too handsy and seem all too comfortable in taking advantage of the girls’ eagerness to please, hiding their true intentions behind patronizing smiles and empty warm words. So, exactly just what the hell is going on at this so-called “Innovations Academy”? The need to find answers was what kept me turning the pages. I would take a look if you enjoy intense dystopian stories, but personally, what I loved best about this novel was the strong character relationships and reading about how these amazing young ladies banded together to support and protect each other.

Miles Cameron

I’ve always felt like I missed out on something big when it comes to Miles Cameron, not having read his Traitor Son Cycle. And while that series is still on the to-read list, when I found out about Cold Iron, the first book his new series called Master and Mages, I saw it as the perfect opportunity to finally experience this author’s work for myself and see what the fuss is all about. As such, I had no idea what to expect when I started this book. I was a little surprised to find strong throwback vibes to the classic fantasy stories in which the humble farmboy leaves the sheltered confines of his remote village to go to school and explore the world, only to stumble upon a greater destiny than he ever imagined for himself. Remarkably, there is a decent amount of freshness despite all the well-worn tropes, in part because Cameron never takes them to the point where they feel superficial or misused. He also includes themes that contemporary readers can relate to, while being careful not to cross the line into overtly discussing current issues. To put it simply, Cold Iron is a good start. The biggest challenge in writing the first book of an epic fantasy series is always the balancing act between the elements of world-building and the overall plot. On the whole, I believe Miles Cameron accomplished this goal.

Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Technically two authors, but these talented ladies make up an incredible writing team, having penned three successful thrillers together. I loved You Are Not Alone, though it is also quite a bit different from the typical thrillers I enjoy. Nonetheless, I got what I was looking for: an intriguing concept, a delicious mystery and edge-of-your-seat suspense. Our story begins with an introduction to Shay Miller, a young woman in her early-30s living and working in New York City. Like most urban millennials, she relies heavily on the transit system to get around, but one morning she witnesses the grisly suicide at the subway station. The event traumatizes her, making her fear travel on the subway, and not least because she tried to save the jumper but failed. From the police, Shay finds out that the woman who killed herself was named Amanda, and thus an obsession was born. Looking up everything she can about the other woman’s life, Shay cannot get over the similarities between them. She finds out the address of Amanda’s old apartment to leave flowers, then shows up at the memorial service. By all outward appearances, Amanda was happy, had a good job, and was surrounded by friends. What could have possibly driven her to suicide?It was my first book by the writing duo Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, but I’ll probably be going back and checking out The Wife Between Us and An Anonymous Girl after this.

Marko Kloos

Normally, I would have trouble reading an “afterwar” book. After all, it’s hard not to wish you were reading about the actual war instead of the aftermath, when all the fighting is done and all you’re left with is the tedious cleanup. But not so when it comes to Aftershocks. Marko Kloos looks at the question of “what now?” through the eyes of four very different but equally engaging characters, each of them providing a unique and interesting perspective. Military SF is a tough genre for me to begin with, but I was eased into the narrative with Kloos’ smooth writing style and his ability to make you care about the people you are reading about. And that, in essence, is why Aftershocks worked so well for me. I loved Kloos’ world-building and how deeply everything felt connected. Our characters don’t live in a vacuum; they exist in a complex network of social and political interactions, with the environment affecting their actions and decisions. This to me is what good military SF is all about, not just long-winded descriptions of high-tech weaponry and war strategies. Yes, this book had its share of action and violence, but it was also balanced with incredible story development and character building. The setting gave me a sense of a living, breathing universe, one full of feeling and meaning, and all of it made me want to know more.

David Wellington

For readers who love movies like Alien or The ThingThe Last Astronaut will likely scratch a particular itch. David Wellington is also a well-known horror writer, so it’s not surprising that after a while the story takes a sudden and drastic turn down this path. If you’re seeking a more traditional tale of alien first contact, this book might not be for you, but on the other hand, readers looking for a skin-crawling, claustrophobic and eerie journey through some psychologically dark and disturbing places will probably want to check this one out. Stepping into unknown territory, the characters will encounter sights both strange and nightmarish, some of which have clear signs of influence from sci-fi horror cinema. I also enjoyed the way this story was structured, with Wellington going for a rather cheeky approach to its presentation. Namely, he has injected himself into the book, playing the role of dutiful chronicler writing about the mission as if it has actually happened, hence why we sometimes get the occasional “interruption” from a few of the characters themselves, wishing to expand upon something in the writing or to clarify a point. The overall atmosphere was delicious, and I found parts of quite immersive and at times downright terrifying.

Suzanne Palmer

If you’re ever in need of something to brighten your day or give you a nice shot of energy after you find that a string of heavier, ponderous books has sapped your all your motivation, Finder by Suzanne Palmer is exactly the kind of pick-me-up the situation calls for. It’s nothing too deep or fancy, but it sure as hell gets the job done. This was a boatload of fun, no other description really required. It’s the kind of book where you can let your thinking mind take a backseat while you break out the popcorn and indulge in a breakneck, high-octane space adventure. But most impressively, despite all the nonstop action, Palmer still manages to set aside some time for world-building and character development. Then, there’s the humor. Featuring a mixed bag of genuinely laugh-out-loud comedy combined with a healthy dose of groan-worthy jokes and cheesy slapstick, this novel is guaranteed to have something for everyone. The lightness also keeps this one from becoming too gritty and dark amidst all the explosive violence and action. All told, Suzanne Palmer has brought to life a surprisingly developed and well-layered space adventure, considering how strong the emphasis was on delivering fast-paced action and thrills. Finder also clearly shows that making the jump from short stories to long form fiction is not a problem for the author.

Snorri Kristjansson

I’ve wanted to read Snorri Kristjansson for a while, and I’ve had his Valhalla Saga on my reading list ever since I first heard it described as a Viking historical fantasy replete with longships plowing the glorious waves and lots of bloody axe battles. So when I found out about Kin, the first book of his Helga Finnsdottir series, I was a little surprised at the departure. No epic clashes on the battlefield here, nor bloodstained tales of Vikings burning, raiding, and pillaging their enemies. Instead, what we get is this rather moody and domestic little murder mystery taking place on a quiet 10th century Icelandic homestead, and well, I can’t say I’ve ever read anything of its kind before. It’s undoubtedly an unusual direction to take when it comes to the topic of Vikings, but I can’t say it wasn’t interesting or refreshing. In fact, I had a very good time with the novel and found it to be a fun and engaging read. It’s true there are a lot of characters to keep track of, but if you enjoy family drama, then this will be your type of book. I suppose that’s what drew me in. This isn’t a fast-paced story by any means and there’s not much action to speak of, and in many ways, a book like Kin shouldn’t have worked for me, but it did.

T. Kingfisher/Ursula Vernon

This was my first experience with Ursula Vernon, who is writing here as T. Kingfisher, but it certainly wouldn’t be my last! The Twisted Ones was a fun novel featuring the perfect blend of humor and horror, with the first element provided mainly in the form of the main character’s incredibly infectious voice, while the second came via the setting’s creeptastic atmosphere. You’ve got an old house in the middle of the woods, filled with decaying trash and other ghastly things like scary baby dolls. Meanwhile, the locals also know better than to go wandering among the trees, for it is said the laws of reality work differently here, and unwary travelers might suddenly find themselves stumbling through a veil into another world. Not to mention, the woods is home to monsters—strange, grisly creatures made from dead bodies and grinning skulls. Be sure not to let the cheery, affable nature and tone of the narrator fool you into thinking this is a light and airy novel, because this one was downright CREEPY. To be sure, finding this balance between fright and fun was the best surprise, and what I loved most about this book. Highly recommended if you’re looking for a spine-chilling read this season that’s also tremendously entertaining.

E.E. Knight

Novice Dragoneer feels like a book I’ve read before, in one incarnation or another. And if you’ve read a lot of coming-of-age fantasy, books feature magic or warrior schools, or stories about dragon riders, then there’s a good chance this is going to feel very familiar to you too. But that’s certainly not a criticism. I for one love a good adventure that has a bit of everything, and even with its more derivative elements, I found this novel delightfully entertaining. E.E. Knight has been writing for a long time and he knows what appeals to readers. We have the scrappy underdog protagonist who is fighting for a coveted position against students who are more privileged, and I also love that the training scenes that involve the requisite unpleasant tasks that all lowly initiates must do as a rite of passage. All the typical roles you would expect were present, including the hard-ass instructors and nasty bullies. Like I said, this is the type of novel where you pretty much know what you’re getting into from the get-go, but boy was it a lot of fun, and I’m glad I got to try this author’s books.