Queen of Fire by Anthony Ryan

Here is my review of Queen of Fire as posted on my new blog Deviant Worlds.

18405221Blurb: After fighting back from the brink of death, Queen Lyrna is determined to repel the invading Volarian army and regain the independence of the Unified Realm. Except, to accomplish her goals, she must do more than rally her loyal supporters. She must align herself with forces she once found repugnant—those who possess the strange and varied gifts of the Dark—and take the war to her enemy’s doorstep.

Victory rests on the shoulders of Vaelin Al Sorna, now named Battle Lord of the Realm. However, his path is riddled with difficulties. For the Volarian enemy has a new weapon on their side, one that Vaelin must destroy if the Realm is to prevail—a mysterious Ally with the ability to grant unnaturally long life to her servants. And defeating one who cannot be killed is a nearly impossible feat, especially when Vaelin’s blood-song, the mystical power which has made him the epic fighter he is, has gone ominously silent…

Format: Queen of Fire is the third and final book in the Raven’s Shadow trilogy. I am reviewing the Audible format of the novel which was 26 hours and 43 minutes in length, narrated by Steven Brand. The novel was originally published in July of 2015 by Ace Fantasy imprint of Penguin books. The novel is in limited 3rd person POV and spans a few separate character story arcs that were familiar from the previous novel Tower Lord. 

Setting: A portion of the story takes place in the familiar Unified Realm as queen Lyrna and her forces seek to fend off the Volarian army and regain control of their capital and people. Many off her people have been shipped off however to the Volarian Empire and she seeks to cross the seas and rid the world of the Volarian Empire once and for all. The setting changes from the war torn familiar to the harsh and brutal differences of the land across the sea. The setting played a key role in setting the mood for the entire novel. The war is a struggle and it is felt in our characters’ surroundings with harsh accuracy.

Characters: Vaelin is once again back as a main character arc in the story. Where Blood Song was Vaelin’s story, Queen of Fire focuses more on Reva and Lyrna, who head their own POV arcs throughout the novel. I felt time between the three was divided well and each separate tale delved into the costs of war and it’s toll on the three characters. The result was excellent character development. This was surprising to me because the third novel of any series usually expects you to know your characters for who they are and Queen of Fire does a lot to let you see the changes in the characters it presents even in the conclusion of the story. Dialogue between these characters was excellent as ever and Anthony Ryan does a great job making everyone feel and do realistic things. Characters are definitely a strength of this tale.

Plot: War is hell and Queen of Fire represents that well. Although our main characters are some of the best swordsman in the world, the costs of war aren’t lost on them in this tale. Lyrna decides to take unexpected action to the Volarian shores. She gains support through changing the policy’s of the crown’s rule from her father’s tyrannical rule to a more fair and just mindset. As she gains strength, the Empress across the sea proves to be a powerful opponent with deeper resources than Lyrna could have prepared for. While Lyrna and Reva must attack the unsuspecting Volarians, Vaelin is tasked by Lyrna to gather strength and join her for the attack on the Volarian capital. Meanwhile, the mysterious 7th order steps into play to support the Unified Realm and years of mystery come to light. Needless to say, not everything goes according to plan and the invasion quickly becomes a struggle for the survival of the free world.

My Thoughts: Wow. I loved Blood Song for what it was, the tale of a young boy growing under the martial ways of the 6th order to manhood. I then enjoyed Tower Lord for what it was, the severity of the Volarian threat and the development of Vaelin, Reva, Frentus. and Lyrna into even stronger characters. I’ve been rewarded with the series as I’ve went along, every scene building into an epic clash with the Volarians and the way our strong characters will deal with it. Now with having read Queen of Fire, I feel very much satisfied with the way that’s all played out. It was brutal at times, a struggle, and there is much loss, but I like that sort of thing in a novel. I want a novel that is realistic, honest in its presentation, and free from ridiculousness, and that’s what I got. Anthony Ryan is skilled in his craftsmanship and Raven’s Shadow will be a series marked by it’s excellent story telling for a very long time. I’ve really enjoyed this series. I liked the way it closed out and I’m sad to see it go. But it was so very excellent. If you’ve not read Queen of Fire for some reason, you would be doing yourself an injustice not to. This series has quickly become one of my favorites all time and I hope you will enjoy it as much as I have.

Deviant Worlds

Drawing (3)

I’ve been sort of taking a break from Grimdark here lately. I’m sure many of you have noticed the dip in postings over the last several months as well as my attempts to revamp the site and the way I review books. For those of you that enjoy the content I put out, I really appreciate you and your support.

I’m still reading copious amounts of fantasy, but it hasn’t really been Grimdark. I’ve been using The Grimdark Review as a sort of niche Grimdark site but I noticed I’ve started to turn away from reading and posting Grimdark fantasy and turned more to Epic fantasy and other types in the same genre. I love fantasy and I will never be tired of the genre, just need some high fantasy with the Grimdark every once in a while.

So, I decided a place for all those other books to land was in order. A place where I can post about the latest Star Wars novel I’ve read or high fantasy novel or sci-fi tome. I don’t want to blow up The Grimdark Review with a lot of random books in the genre as that wouldn’t really make it The Grimdark Review, feel me?

So I created Deviant Worlds, a catch all site for fantasy news, interviews, science fiction novels, Star Wars, contests, a little bit of everything. I want to post more frequently and don’t want to fall out of touch with the blog. Deviant Worlds will be updated regularly and I hope you will join me over there as well. The Grimdark Review will live on, but I need a break from the grim darkness in favor of some of the other great stories out there.

You can check out Deviant Worlds at deviantworlds.blogspot.com

Feel free to follow and I hope to see you all there!

Heir of Novron Part 2- Percepliquis By Michael J. Sullivan

s-typeopts13Not gonna lie, I had a lot of high expectations going into this one. The previous five novels in the Riyria series had forged a very special bond for me with these characters and I really needed their plot lines resolved in a justifiable way, a good amount of closure. I came away from the final book very pleased.

Percepliquis is much more intense than the previous books in the series because the stakes are much higher than ever before. With elves invading the empire, the empress trying to figure out whats been left to her, and the need for the heir to rise up and command victory the stakes lay on Hadrian, Royce and other heroes to delve into the ancient city of Percepliquis on a quest to save mankind.

The connections between books throughout the series have been strong. But in this last tale, it showed an even more impressive coordination with the previous novels as there were several mysterious and obvious connections I hadn’t realized were taking place that all came together in really interesting ways. I’ll reread the series not only because I thoroughly enjoyed it, but also to reread and understand all those little hints and connections I missed the first time around and was surprised by in the end. If you haven’t given Riyria a try I don’t know why you’re reading this. If you haven’t gotten around to that last book for some reason, it will be the book that left all others behind it and give you solid closure to a wonderful series with Hadrian and Royce.

BlackStar_400x400BlackStar_400x400BlackStar_400x400BlackStar_400x400BlackStar_400x400 Simply Amazing.

Heir of Novron Part 1- Wintertide by Michael J. Sullivan

s-typeopts13Wintertide, the first book of The Heir of Novron and the fifth book of the Riyria Revelations, takes place a few weeks after the end of Rise of Empire. Arista, the princess of Melengar, is still held in prison by the Imperialists and is charged with witchcraft and treason. Degan Gaunt, the nationalist leader is also held there and as the heir of Novron he is searched for by Royce and Hadrian. When the two mercenaries catch wind of his location, how can the Imperials hope to interfere?

Wintertide moves at a much faster pace than the previous novels in the series. What seems like another prison break situation by Royce and Hadrian quickly turns into some of the most surprising and interesting twists I’ve read so far in the series. I had no idea what was going to happen next and once that climax hit, I found myself on the verge of shouting out loud.

The story also takes a darker tone at times than what I’ve seen before in the series. These moments really helped to develop the characters involved in a much different way. By no means am I inferring that this book deviates from the tone of the other books in its entirety, but simply the characters are really pushed to their limits with challenges and emotional hurt along the way. It was these opportunities that really stuck out and this novel was another great entry into the wonderful Riyria series.

Michael J. Sullivan’s writing is top notch. He frequently created dialogue and character situations that were very realistic in nature with characters that are humorous at times and brutally serious at others. The writing in the novel was masterful with a tricky plot mixed in with new and old characters that both break the mold of traditional characters and redefine them. At no point did I feel I was treading on old ground in terms of a wonderfully written fantasy novel.

I would recommend Riyria fans continue to read the series if they put it down or were distracted. I would also recommend this book to lovers of Epic and High fantasy as well as fans of non-traditional characters.

BlackStar_400x400BlackStar_400x400BlackStar_400x400BlackStar_400x400BlackStar_400x400 I loved it!

Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie

902715The sequel to Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself is a tighter and more action packed continuation of the first novel. The book primarily follows three groups: Inquisitor Glokta as he is ordered to defend a city against the hordes of an enemy empire while attempting to find a traitor that plots against the crown. Major West as he is ordered to oversee the idiot prince Ladisla’s forces and keep the prince from doing something overly rash. And Bayaz’s group of misfits as they search for a certain object of power that will see an end to the terrible war between the Magi that governs the course of history.

The writing is absolutely brilliant throughout the entire novel. Characters are sketched with unique ticks that give them a very human quality and immerse you with vivid images and descriptions. Dialogue is realistic and often times I found myself thinking that I would say something similar if I were in the same shoes. Combat scenes are vivid and some of the best action sequences I’ve read in fantasy to date as Abercrombie seems to capture the small scale/large scale play by play. And above all, every character is dirty and flawed. The good have bad traits and the bad have good traits. There is no cut and dry with characters and as I read I was always surprised by what unexpected actions a character might take when I pegged them to be one way or another. It really is brilliant writing and storytelling here.

As a sequel I really think it surpassed its predecessor in quality. I did enjoy the first novel to quite some extent, but I found Before They Are Hanged to be a much better story in just about every way. Unlike the first novel, there were no character sections that I would have prefered to bypass (an issue I had with the fencing tournament of the first novel). All parts of the story were fascinating and speckled with all the elements of a compelling story. It’s dark and bloody with enough humor and surprises that it should keep you on your toes and turning pages. A truly good read.

Recommended for fans of Dark, Grimdark, and generally more gritty fantasy. Not recommended for people who enjoy lighthearted tales or fantasy tropes.

BlackStar_400x400BlackStar_400x400BlackStar_400x400BlackStar_400x400BlackStar_400x400 I loved it!

Blood Song by Anthony Ryan

13569581Blood Song is Vaelin Al Sorna’s tale as he learns the craft of war from the warriors of the sixth order order of the faith. He forges friendships and overcomes huge obstacles as he becomes a proficient warrior of the faith and a servant of the tyrannical and deceptive King Janus. Over the course of the novel, the story progresses from when Vaelin was left at the gates of the sixth order house at a very young age until many years later when Vaelin is waging wars on the realm’s enemies.

Along the way Vaelin overcomes tragic loss, romance, war, and tries to hunt the master manipulating the strings. Blood Song immersed me in Vaelin’s tale from start to finish and left me utterly yearning for more. There are few books that can have such a strong pull on me as Blood Song has had. I am not usually one to reread a book once finished, but for Blood Song I will make an exception.

What made Blood Song such a phenomenal read for me was a couple of different items. I was first and foremost captured by the writing. I’d not heard of Anthony Ryan before this novel but his craft with the pen exceeded my expectations. I thoroughly enjoyed the way the story flowed and the story had such depth that I felt fully invested in the outcomes. The worldbuilding was another unique strength for this tale. The history is very well fleshed out in the story and culture plays an important role in the society of the realm. Anthony Ryan uses his background in history to create a living breathing world that added a special dimension to the good characters and story. With all the good pieces in place, I can easily say that this is one of my favorite all time fantasy novels.

Recommended for all readers of fantasy. I would specifically recommend this for lovers of Epic and Grimdark fantasy and possibly even Military fantasy fans.

BlackStar_400x400BlackStar_400x400BlackStar_400x400BlackStar_400x400BlackStar_400x400 I loved it!

Night of Knives by Ian Esslemont

Night of Knives is the first published novel by the Malazan co-creator Ian Esslemont. It’s 458394premise takes place before the prologue of Gardens of the Moon, the first instalment of Steven Erikson’s Malazan book of the Fallen. The premise of the novel is Laseen’s ascension to the Malazan throne through knife in the back maneuvering coinciding with a once in a generation Shadowmoon that causes hounds of shadow to roam Malaz City wreaking havoc on any caught out in the dark.

The main characters of this tale are Temper and Kiska. Temper is a military veteran and capable warrior and Kiska is a stereotypical teen hoping to make an impression on the Malazan soldiery within the city with the hopes of joining. They share POV time with one another and though they are not fleshed out with much authorial strength, they are still given enough background that I was able to care enough for them to continue turning pages.

This particular Malazan novel does not have the strength or complexity of Erikson’s Malazan book of the Fallen tales, yet it is still a valuable read to Malazan fans. As Laseen’s ascension is an important aspect of Erikson’s series it is a recommended read for any Malazan fan. I personally was able to look past some of the weak storytelling and flaws and found it to be a pretty enjoyable read. The key for any Malazan fan picking this one up is to separate Erikson from Esslemont in your mind and love the novel for what it is, the all important tale of Laseen taking over in an intense night of assassins and hounds of shadow.

The novel does have several intense and triumphant moments and I did enjoy it enough to finish it in only a few sittings. I do think Esslemont has a simpler style in the storytelling department and I am eager to see what some of the lengthier sequels to his work have in store. Although the writing pales in comparison to Erikson, the story was well thought out and certainly compliments what is already there with the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

Recommended specifically for Malazan fans or people interested in getting their feet wet in the Malazan universe without the commitment. 

BlackStar_400x400BlackStar_400x400BlackStar_400x400 It was okay.


The very best of fantasy.

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