The Iron Wolves (The Rage Of Kings book 1) by Andy Remic: A Review.

Thirty years ago, the Iron Wolves held back mud-orc hordes at the Pass of Splintered Bones, and led a brutal charge that saw the sorcerer Morkagoth slain.
Now, a new terror stalks the realm. Orlana the Changer, has escaped from the Chaos Halls and is building an army, twisting horses, lions and bears into terrible, bloody hunters, summoning mud-orcs from the slime and heading north to battle the mighty region of Vagandrak where, it said, the King has gone insane…
General Dalgoran searches to reunite the heroes of old for what he believes will be their final battle. But Dalgoran discovers the Iron Wolves are no longer the heroes of legend, and they might just be more dangerous than the invading hordes…

Orcs, evil magic, gore, mutated creatures, and a mad King. Yep, this is grimdark fantasy alright.
The Iron Wolves can only be described as a rock band that have split up through musical differences, so to speak, and are considerably damaged. Ones a drug addict, ones a pit fighter, one kills couples in love, one hates the one that now fights in the pits, and the other tortures people for fun.
Okay, so not a band you would want at your next birthday party.
General Dalgoran seems to be the only one that can hold this wild bunch together, and even then he struggles to stop them from killing each other. But stand together again they must, against the threat of the very, very evil Orlana.
Orlana is ruthless in her methods of killing and no one is off limits. The Wolves are her only obstacle at getting to what she wants and she’s not letting beast nor man stand in her way. One scene in particular involves a rather gruesome meal, that will make the reader put down their lunch, one way or another

As the story progresses each of the wolves has a story to tell through their eyes and the reader gets this sense of how beyond repair they seem to be. Each battling inner demons that have been left to grow inside each of their souls and cripple each of these heroes.
Andy Remic has shown very successfully that these heroes haven’t saved King and Country against the odds, to come out unscathed. The things that the wolves have experienced are beyond horrific, and not just on the battlefield.

Throughout the novel, each fight and subsequent death of a Splice or Orc etc is described in detail. And I do mean every detail. At first, a description of disembowelment in detail becomes part of the shock factor that is associated with grimdark. But as the novel progresses it becomes quite tedious in its over-described form.
As does the ongoing evil deeds of Orlana the Horse Lady.

So did I enjoy The Iron Wolves?

The Iron Wolves is a pure gorefest. It had some very good moments and also some moments where, I’m sorry to say, I lost interest. The endless bickering between the Wolves, and not feeling any attachment to the characters themselves, but not through lack of trying, became a struggle. I wanted desperately to like Kiki and even though she seemed to have moments, in which I thought we made a breakthrough, I was immediately feeling ostracised by her and the others.
I felt at times the multiple view points of characters slowed the story down a lot. There were things that I wish were mentioned at the beginning, and then further explained. It almost felt that the ending was a bit jumbled together with many explanations of different things, mainly to do with magic (or magick), and then tied together to wrap things up, but I was left with a sense of “Where did that come from?”
I really liked the way that Andy Remic made things like Honey, appear dark and dangerous but still alluring, and the splice can only be described as bloody terrifying.
The Iron Wolves is definitely worth a read if only for the gore factor, of which there is blood and guts aplenty. Why not start the new year with a bit of grimdark!

6/10

The Iron Wolves is available from the 2nd of January in the U.K and out now in the U.S and Canada, from Angry Robot. Check out their website at http://www.angryrobotbooks.com and the authors website http://www.andyremic.com

Many thanks to the publishers who provided me with a copy of this book.

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The Year That Was, Through The Eyes Of The Moustached Man

I thought about doing a best-of-list, for this year, but decided not to. So instead I thought I would do a little look back at some of things that (being old or new) have caught my interest in the year 2013. There are probably a few things that I have missed.

Books:

There have been so many great book releases this year, and many that I have not yet had the chance to get round to a large proportion of this years book releases as well as last years.
Throughout this year I have read so many great books and have also re-read some of my favourites (Book Of The New Sun by Gene Wolfe, being one) as well as some classic Gemmell (Rigante series) and Robin Hobb’s Fools Errand. Also I began reading (at long last) A Song Of Ice And Fire by George R. R. Martin and am currently at book three (and still waiting for my copy of Storm Of Swords part 2 to arrive) Gemsigns by Stephanie Saulter, Your Brothers Blood by David Towsey are two of my very favourite reads this year, but there are other reads that have also been fantastic, and I look forward to reading more from the authors that have created them. One book that I finally got around to reading was Sabriel by Garth Nix, part one of the Abhorsen trilogy. This a book I highly recommend and one that I will be re-reading very soon. Another novel that has made a very big impact on me, is The City’s Son by Tom Pollock. Although, not released in 2013, is still a novel that can only be described as wonderful and alters how we view our surroundings. I somehow forgot to mention the magnificent Heartwood by Freya Robertson, that got me through a difficult time, but also a very enjoyable read, with amazing worldbuilding and awesome characters. I somehow forgot to also mention books 1 and 2 of the Everness cycle by Ian Macdonald. All I can say about Planesrunner and Be My Enemy is. Read them! You won’t regret it. Airship duels! Nuff said.

Films:

As for films I’m very, very behind with this years releases. Although there have been some films that I have seen for the first time this year and have made a big impression on me: Calvaire directed by Fabrice Du Welz- a Belgian horror film and the tragic documentary that was released this year- Blackfish- about the controversial Seaworld, and the tragic plight of the Orcas that are used for entertainment and are taken from their natural habitat and separated from their young. I urge anybody to watch Blackfish. Another film that *is* from this year is the 2000AD fan film Judge Minty, which I highly recommend for 2000AD fans, and fans of the film Dredd, (which I am yet to see). I finally got to see Trollhunter directed by Andre Øvredal- a horror/fantasy set in Norway. Its a relatively low budget horror, but its a fabulous film and magnificently done. If you are a fan of the film Monsters directed by Gareth Edwards, then Trollhunter is a must see.

T.V Shows:

As for t.v shows. The 50th anniversary of Dr. Who (Day Of The Doctor), was absolutely fabulous, and I am looking forward to the regeneration, however, I will be sad to see Matt Smith leave the show. I also started watching Hell On Wheels, which I thoroughly enjoy, I liken it to a somewhat old west style- Person Of Interest, which is another show that I feel goes from strength to strength. I never got round to watching Atlantis or Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D but I will at some point. I’d like to see some new Sci Fi television shows in 2014 that are awesome and don’t get prematurely cancelled.

At the beginning of this year I started my humble blog. In which I share what I’m interested in, which mainly involves lovely, lovely books
I absolutely adore reviewing SFF books and writing blog posts about all sorts, and couldn’t imagine not doing it.
in finding my feet in the depths of the SFF blogosphere. I have come across some amazing people. From bloggers, podcasters, authors, and artists, to editors and beyond. All the individuals that are the spokes of the wheel of the SFF community, and I’m proud to feel part of that wheel.
Yes we are all aware of the individuals and issues that lurk in the dark side of the community, but on the whole, the SFF community is a nice place to be, and the majority of people are, to be frank, awesome!
If you want book/film/game/comic recommendations, you got it. You need help with your blog or podcast? Or tips on how to write that epic fantasy tome, its yours.
Everyone is there for one another and there to help each other.

One of many things I love about the SFF community is that it is a journey of discovery for all involved, not unlike an SFF story, in which the characters discover hidden kingdoms or Extra Terrestrials on their own path of discovery.
It truly is a wonderful thing.

So I would like to say a big thank you, to everyone in the community for making me feel a part of it and for joining me and others on their own quests, into the wonders of genre. I look forward to further adventures into genre with you all.

I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a fantastic New Year. And here is to swords and spaceships, monsters, and magic.

Review: Empire In Black And Gold (Shadows Of The Apt book 1) by Adrian Tchaikovsky

The city states of the Lowlands have lived in peace and prosperity for decades: bastions of civilization and sophistication, protected by treaties, trade and a belief in the reasonable nature of their neighbours.
But Meanwhile, in a far-off corners, a warlike Empire has been devouring city after city with its highly trained armies, its machines, its killing Art … And now its hunger for conquest and bloodshed has become insatiable.
Only the ageing Stenwold Maker, spymaster, artificer and statesman, can see that the long days of peace are over. It falls upon his shoulders to open the eyes of his people, before a black-and-gold tide sweeps down over the Lowlands and burns away everything in its path. But first he must stop himself from becoming the Empire’s latest victim.

Insect-kinden, Orthopters, And a world on the brink of destructive change. Strap yourselves in; its one hell of a ride.

At the beginning of the book we are introduced to the ageing artificer, Stenwold Maker. Stenwold is a beetle-kinden who, after the fall of Myna, spends seventeen years readying himself and the Collegium for the invasion of the black and gold Empire- the Wasp-kinden. Stenwold’s fears of a wasp swarm enslaving the lowlands, go ignored by his elders, but still he seeks to make them see what is going on beyond the Lowlands. He is a man without compromise and, Mr Tchaikovsky, has crafted a character full of intrigue and mystery. There is something about Stenwold, in which you just know he has something up his sleeve, and knows a lot more than he let’s on. Stenwold reminded me of one of my favourite fictional spies, David Audley, in the way he appears to be always observing the board, but never gives his next move away.
Stenwold recruits participants in the Duellists club from the Collegium, to help him gauge what the Wasps and their militia are up to. These include his niece, Cheerwell Maker (or Che), and his foster-daughter Tynisa who is Spider-kinden, as well as the Dragonfly, Salma and artificer apprentice, Totho.
Things quickly escalate when Stenwold’s life is endangered, and the decision is made to find out what the sneaky Wasps are up to. And Captain Thalric, Wasp-kinden soldier and member of the mysterious Rekef Is aiming to remove Stenwold from the game and to stop him interfering with the Empires plans.

Stenwolds group of duellists, (now turned spies) are thrown into a world of danger, mystery and treachery. No one knows who to trust, and the Apt and Inapt don’t all get along, shall we say. Tynisa, Che, Salma, and Totho rely on their friendship and Stenwold’s guidance to get through this. The Collegium four, (as I’ve named them), grow over the course of the book and reading how the characters are continually adapting to their surroundings and circumstances, is very exciting. I especially enjoyed the character of Tynisa, who for me, has many layers, and Mr Tchaikovsky shows some of those layers in a subplot regarding her character and another, in what could only be described as emotional.

Mr Tchaikovsky, has created a stunning world in which not everyone sees antennae to antennae.
I was gripped from start to finish and loved the way that technology- like airships, automotives, repeater crossbows, and more developed weaponry, were not just placed in gratuitously but became part of the world and belonged there.

All insect-kinden have something that is known as the Art for example the Dragonflies and Wasps (among others), can take flight with the help of them summoning their art. Other examples of the Art are the Wasp’s deadly sting-bolt.
The way the art is described is that it is totally different from magic, (something that the Apt cannot believe in or comprehend), whilst the traditions of the Inapt (such as the Moths), have built their lives around it to some degree.
What fascinates me is that to anyone, an insect-kinden unfurling their art-wings would be deemed as magic, as would the sting-bolt be. Yet the two couldn’t be more different in this world that Mr. Tchaikovsky has built. This is defined by the character’s attitudes toward art and magic I.e especially Che’s thoughts and opinions.
Another aspect of Empire In Black And Gold is the idea of progress. What is it? And how it is achieved, or should progress be something that one should leave to happenstance! As opposed to making it happen for better or worse. For example, is building machines of all kinds infringing on the natural progression of things, or is the natural progression of how the world works, hindering it? The Apt vs the Inapt. To build or to let grow. Each of the races ideals, to how the world should work, conflict with one anothers. Not to mention, some of the races have harboured years of contempt for others. And with the threat of war looming ever closer, this attitude is not about to change quickly.
However, that’s not to say it won’t.

Now the heightening threat of an Empire In Black And Gold, leaves the Lowlands with a choice, “Unity or Slavery.”

Adrian Tchaikovsky has written a superbly crafted and well written novel, full of adventure, mystery, danger, that grips you from page one. An unique story of epic proportions and insects that would give Gil Grissom (from C.S.I) an absolute field day. Everything about this book I adored, and wanted to learn more about the characters and how they grew and dealt with events that occurred.
All I can say is, the Apt and Inapt await you! This book is a must-read and I cannot wait to read more.

9/10

For more information about the author and for awesome extras, check out http://www.shadowsoftheapt.com. Adrian can also be found on twitter @aptshadow. This book is available now from Tor UK.
Thankyou to the publishers for providing me with this book