Gardens Of The Moon (Malazan Book Of The Fallen: 1) By Steven Erikson

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A few months ago I read and reviewed my first Erikson read and, as many of you who read my humble bloggage will know, I didn’t like it very much. So naturally I was apprehensive starting a massive series by the same author.
But, dear friends, I bit the proverbial bullet and ventured forth into book one of the Malazan series. And goodness me, what a venture it was.

The Malazan series has always been described to me as the height of Epic Fantasy. And the author’s Magnum Opus, so to speak.
Gardens of the Moon throws the reader into the deep and then proceeds to lead them on a vast voyage of discovery. The Empire are seeking more control and with Empress Laseen at the helm, it seems it won’t be long till the world Is in the palm of her hand.
Now, Laseen has her sight set on the City of Darujhistan, the last of the Free Cities of Genabackis. However the disbanded Bridgeburners (a veteran unit of the Malaz army) and an unlikely group of Darujhistan citizens will be moved like pieces around a board by the meddlesome Gods of the world, and Gods can be ever so unpredictable.
It has been described by many to be very much Influenced by Greek mythology.

Gardens of The Moon is the first book that I have read that has made me somewhat grateful to be a slow reader. Every detail is important and even if at first glance it doesn’t appear to be. Im telling myself that the questions I have upon finishing GoTM, will be answered in later books.
Erikson sets up a wonderful cast of characters against a backdrop that has wonderful worldbuilding, and adds a really exciting magic system to the mix. Talking of which, the system of Warrens (a source of magic among other things) felt to me, like a world within a world. And I had a horrible dream in which I was chased through one of these Warrens by a rather creepy sorcerer.
Needless to say that I was absolutely riveted by this book and the cosmic storytelling by Erikson. It has everything a fan of Epic Fantasy would love. Nuances that one will not soon forget and characters that you can really invest in and see the world through their eyes. As I write this I am reading book two (Deadhouse Gates) and I can happily say that I think I shall be spending a lot more time in Erikson’s world.
On a complete tangent, before I read this, I pronounced it Mah-lah-zahn, which makes it sound like a fantasy alternative to the clothing retailer Matalan. I don’t think that is the correct way but it made me, with my silly sense of humor, smile.
I loved Gardens of The Moon and that’s my truth.

This book is available now from Bantam Books

Mage’s Blood by David Hair (Moontide Quartet book one): Review

I do like a nice intricately woven tome now and again. I had heard a lot about this series from Steph (Aka Mogsy) who is one of the reviewers from the wonderful Bibliosanctum .

So when I finished it, my wife asks me if I had enjoyed it? My reply was full of mumbles until i finally said, “I didnt hate it.”

It was only when I let the contents of the story swim around my mind, thinking more on its finer points, did i decide that actually I had just read something that was pretty bloody special. And I stand by this.

So the basis of the story is the lands of Antiopia and Yuros are separated by what appears to be a rather large ocean. Something pretty cool happens each Moontide when the Leviathan bridge rises from the depths to connect to both of these places for trade etc. But  as with all things there are those that are not very happy and the bridge has been used for conquest. So tensions are slightly at breaking point as another Moontide is around the corner. War is at hand.

Amongst all this the story focuses on several different characters and their own trials and tribulations on the build up to Moontide. Antonin Meiros, who is a very old mage is looking for a wife, so he travels to Lakh in Antiopia where we meet his wife-to-be, Ramita but my dear friends, she is already betrothed to Kazim. And then in the North the reader meets Elena Anborn who is the bodyguard of a royal family but yet much more than just a bodyguard. And then we meet Alaron Mercer who is about to take his final exams to lawfully become a Mage in Noros. Alaron is Elena Anborn’s nephew (its worth mentioning that Alaron’s mother and Elena’s sister has a pretty cool name … Tesla. Just thought I would mention that.) And finally one of the stories main antagonists is Gurvon Gyle who seems to be in control of a lot of things and makes life very difficult for Elena and the Javon  royal family, which in turn effects everything else.

This book has been likened to A Game Of Thrones and even though I can see that link I think this is a book that deserves to be read without any preconceived ideas of GoT. As I have mentioned everything is connected and even with things that dont seem to be integral to the storys’ plot, it turns out they very much are. So In this I really applaud the attention to detail that the author has shown. I felt at times this book had elements of grimdark but it was done in a way of emphasis and not in a gratuitous manner, also, I give this book the award for “Sex-scene-that-will-put-you-off-your-dinner.”

The ending of this novel is a proper “Wow!” moment, and rather unforgettable. It really left things nicely for The Scarlet Tides to carry on with.  A smooth but powerful ending.

So if someone were to ask me if I enjoyed Mages Blood now? I would tell them that I certainly did enjoy it and would recommend it to anyone who loves Fantasy. And thats my truth.

You can find out more about the author here

Mages Blood is available now from Jo Fletcher Books 28118-mage27sblood

The City Stained Red (Bring Down Heaven Book 1) By Sam Sykes: Review

 

 

The City Stained Red-

 

If you are not already familiar with the “fantasy legend” that is Sam Sykes, then get thee to a book shop! I had previously read the Aeons Gate trilogy by the same author so was very pleased to hear that another series was to be expected and with the same characters.

Sam Sykes weaves a gritty, twisting and winding staircase of a story. And this novel is no exception. There are dark moments, there are moments in which there is enough destruction to rival the explosions of a Michael Bay picture, and of course all of this sprinkled with a delicious frosting of Sam Sykes humour.

                  “You can’t lie to a sword.”

But more importantly to all of this, its about the characters. And as previously mentioned, The City Stained Red sees the Lenk, Kataria, Asper, Dreadaeleon, Gariath, and Denaos tracking down the priest who owes the adventurers gold. And to do this they must enter Cier’ Djaal, the City of Silk. Oh, and do it without killing each other first.

Sam Sykes has taken a city that in theory sounds wounderful in name, but is hell in so many ways. The spiders are the main source of income to the city’s fashas and the poor are very poor. The city devours its own and spits their carcasses into the Souk. There is tension everywhere, on a knife’s edge ready to fall one way or the other, and thats just a glimpse of the Cieer’ Djaal! Oh, and to add a very dangerous weight to tip the balance, a demon by the name of Koth Khapira is trying to return, and his cultist followers are making way for his impending arrival.

“I cant imagine any God would be boring enough to want to know how everything ends.”

The story takes place completely in the confines of Cier’ Djaal and is a very engaging read.  The character POV switches keep the pacing nice and quick and this book definitely had a real nice pace to it. The timing of fight scenes and of the humour is absolutely bang-on. At times there are moments after a bloody big scrap (and I mean bloody) where all seems to be calm-ish and something particularly funny will be said. And this one thing I wanted to mention the humour from the characters is done in an incidental manner i.e no one is trying to be funny. When Gariath says something that could come across as humorous, he isnt doing it because he thinks its funny, he is doing it because he is a large, red dragonman who has little patience for humans and their conversational behaviours, and saying one thing but meaning the opposite. Now to the reader his impatience and abrutness can come across as funny in the way that he does things.

                  “Moustaches are inherently villainous.”

Sam Sykes has crafted a splendid adventure story here, and I really had times where I could not put the book down and forced myself with eyes so tired to read one more chapter, and then another. The diversity between the characters and their voices is fantastic and I noticed that my favourite character changed constantly, (right now its Gariath … Or, Kataria. Doh!) Im very much looking forward to what happens in book two, and as for The City Stained Red there are some moments that you will really not see coming and some that will leave the reader wondering how the characters are going to get through it all. Alive.

 

The City Stained Red is out now from Gollancz and you can find more about the author from his website http://www.samsykes.com also on twitter where is tweets are rather brilliant, so if you are not already following him he is @SamSykesSwears

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.

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

Arbor-cadabra: Magic in Heartwood by Freya Robertson.

Greetings fellow insomniacs! Last week I reviewed the epic fantasy Heartwood by Freya Robertson, and this week the lady herself has kindly done a guest post for SMOAWGMM readers.
So without further ado I shall hand you over to Freya.

Hi, and thanks for having me on the blog today!

As a topic for the post, you asked me about the magic systems behind Heartwood, and whether the gaming I do has any influence on the way I write about magic in my fantasy.

The Lord of the Rings and subsequent novels like Brooks’s Shannara series pretty much covered magic items, and Harry Potter has monopolised the wand waving, Latin-word casting form of magic, so anything written with these features is now seen as a copy. It’s a challenge to find a different way to represent magic in a fantasy novel.

Does a fantasy novel even need magic? I play MMORPGs like World of Warcraft and Guild Wars 2 and tabletop games like Warhammer Fantasy Battles, and magic plays a big part in these. The expansion to the eighth edition of Warhammer called Storm of Magic brought even more emphasis to magic in the game, and I loved exploring the numerous schools of magic with the wizards. Warhammer is great because it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and half the fun is the possibility of the wizards blowing themselves up! But playing fantasy games in all their various forms reinforces the importance of magic in the genre. We can set our story in a quasi-medieval setting, give the characters quests and create maps of vasts lands until the cows come home, but it’s the introduction of some kind of magic system that lifts the story out of being some kind of historical-lookalike and into the fantasy genre.

I decided when writing Heartwood that although I wanted it to be a recognisably traditional epic fantasy in many ways, I also wanted to give it a more modern twist. So it doesn’t have elves, orcs or dwarves, and there is also much more of a gender balance than was usual in the medieval period. The other way I decided to make it different was in the way magic was used.

In Heartwood, there are no magic swords or indeed any magic items, and no wand waving. Instead, the supernatural element was born through my interest in nature religions such as paganism and Wicca and healing systems like Reiki. In the story, the Arbor—the tree at the centre of the fortified temple of Heartwood—controls the flow of energy across the land through its roots, and a major theme of the story is the discovery that the land and the people are in fact one, and the reason the land is failing is because there is war between the various societies. This is also an Arthurian idea, “a king without a sword, a land without a king,” the notion that somehow the citizens of a country are somehow linked with the fertility of the land. Behind this is a veiled reference to global warming and the fact that—now we surround ourselves with concrete—perhaps we have lost the link with the earth that our ancestors once had.

Magic in Heartwood is related to a character’s personal energy, and is linked with the idea that we can affect the living things around us with our energy flow. The people of Anguis discover there is much more to their world than what they see around them, and they learn that the only way for them to keep the land fertile and to hold back the bond that stops other elements from invading is to understand and cultivate their control over the flow of energy through the land.

Freya

Thank you Freya! Heartwood is out now from Angry Robot Books. You can find out more about Freya on her website http://www.freyarobertson.com/ and she can be found on twitter @EpicFreya.