Thursday, October 29, 2015

Stealer of Flesh - Review by S.E.

Stealer of FleshStealer of Flesh by William King
S.E. rating: 3 of 5 stars

Stealer of Flesh by William King
This short set of tales introduces us to Kormak, a Guardian who is essentially an assassin of dark creatures. He is hunting a Ghul across four tales. This begins a series which extends to at least seven entries. This is Sword & Sorcery with a Warhammer feel. It has a lot of ingredients that I adore: mysterious undead creatures, intelligent banter, gritty warfare. It also had a knack for building up great potential only to not capitalize on it or to nullify it. I'll explain: in chapter one, a very silly quote from a dying character was a forced one-liner quote that was out of place; the second tale builds up a companion for Kormak and then puts her in jeopardy in a very interesting way...but chapter three mentions her in passing; chapter three also lets Kormak and Ghul share minds (I am being obtuse to not spoil) so a weird/interesting bond is formed between hunter and prey...and this is not tapped for the rest of the book; chapter four brings us into some ancient ruins with great history and a finale battle...which ends abruptly and without exploration of the ruins.

I enjoyed much of the plot twists and battles, but in the end I was not sure I really knew Kormak well enough to care about his future adventures. I am confident that William King can spin a great tale, and perhaps the remaining set fleshes out this potential.

1. Stealer of Flesh
2. Defiler of Tombs
3. Weaver of Shadow
4. City of Strife
5. Taker of Skulls
6. Ocean of Fear
7. Born of Darkness

Stealer of Flesh by William King Defiler of Tombs (Kormak Book Two) by William King Weaver of Shadow (Kormak Book Three) by William King City of Strife (Kormak Book Four) by William King Taker of Skulls (Kormak Book Five) by William King Ocean of Fear by William King Born of Darkness (Kormak Book Seven) by William King



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Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Broken Sword AND High Couch of Silistra - Groupreads for Nov-Dec 2015


Please join the Sword & Sorcery group this Nov-Dec to read:
2) High Couch of Silistra - 1997 and 2015 by Janet Morris

Of course, we always must have a custom banner made from the covers.  Here are the credits for the montage:

Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword:
1973 Patrick Woodroffe and 1977 Boris Vallejo 1977 (coincidentally)
The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson

Janet E. Morris's High Couch of Silistra, covers by Boris Vallejo (1977) and Roy Mauritsen (2105; includes "Dancing Maenad in a Roman relief" photo by Ana Belén Cantero Paz)
High Couch of Silistra (Silistra, #1) by Janet E. Morris High Couch of Silistra (the silistra quartet book 1) by Janet E. Morris
The Author's Cut versions were just released this year. It is interesting to learn of Janet E. Morris's feelings toward the original cover by Boris Vallejo. I interviewed her in 2014 and she said:
"When I saw the Boris High Couch cover for the first time, I was insulted that anyone could have derived the brass bra and Gucci boots image from my work.- JEM 2014

For the 2015 authors' cut, designer/artist Roy Mauritsen took one photo and plit it over the four covers ("Dancing Maenad in a Roman relief" photo by Ana Belén Cantero Paz)

Silistra Quartet Covers 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Seven Princes by John R. Fultz is Epic, Digestible Dark Fantasy.

Seven Princes (Books of the Shaper, #1)Seven Princes by John R. Fultz
S.E. rating: 4 of 5 stars

Seven Princes by John R. Fultz is Epic, Digestible Dark Fantasy.

The Author Interview was a nice extra in which Fultz acknowledges the authors who inspired him, namely Clark Ashton Smith, Tanith Lee, and Darrell Schweitzer. I found Fultz’s writing to be more accessible than these authors, but less deep/intellectual (in this work); though poetic language is frequent. Seven Princes reads as a Young Adult version of dark fantasy and pays homage to Lovecraft and Howard in many ways. Most characters are archetypal “good” or “evil.” We learn about the land's history via ~7 princes and 1 princess who all come of age together in a tumultuous time. I found most princes to be indistinguishable (most are honorable warrior types). Gammir of Khyrei is not included in the core seven, but emerges the most developed character, and is arguably a prince too.

The scope is epic in time and geography, but it is not Tolkien like. Do not expect elves, dwarves, or orcs here. Just giants, and colossal serpents, and lots of magic. This is part of the series “Books of the Shaper” and Shaping is sorcery. There is “good” magic and “evil” magic, that involve “shaping” elements; only the “bad” magic is explained (it requires blood; let’s hear it for vampirism and necromancy!), but the good magic just requires thought apparently.

Despite not having a fully explained magic system, the “shaping” in the story was really how the land was shaped over time via cyclical good/evil struggles. The pacing did fluctuate as other reviewers have noted. The opening chapter is a worthy stand-alone short story and is an outstanding foundation for the rest of the book. The last 150pages would have been better if it was stretched out—lots of epic battles that deserved more pages! For a 500page novel, this read very fast. I am compelled to read the next two: Seven Sorcerers and Seven Kings. I recommend this to those sword and sorcery readers who normally read short fiction (avoiding series of thick books).

Seven Princes (Books of the Shaper, #1) by John R. Fultz Seven Kings (Books of the Shaper, #2) by John R. Fultz Seven Sorcerers (Books of the Shaper #3) by John R. Fultz

The seven princes:
1. Fangodrel of Udurum half-human scholar
2. Tadarus of Udurum half-giant warrior prince
3. Vireon of Udurum half-giant warrior prince
(Princess Sharadza of Udurum)... she’s a sorceress
4. Lyrilan of Uurz … a scholar
5. Tyro of Uurz … a human warrior prince
6. Andoses of Shar Dni … a human warrior prince
7. D’zan of Yaskatha … a young human warrior prince

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Friday, October 2, 2015

Anemogram – Engaging, Eerie Mystery

anemogram.anemogram. by Rebecca Gransden
S.E. rating: 4 of 5 stars

Anemogram – Engaging, Eerie Mystery

All is mysterious in anemogram by Rebecca Gransden: the obscure/cryptic title (technically a graphical display of wind speed), the ghostlike protagonist, and the poetic writing and evolving story. Gransden employs Mystery to drag you into the protagonist’s journey. “She” is a roaming, young girl. Her history and motivations are unclear. Is she a human orphan? A sprite or spirit guide? Angel or devil? The wind itself? Whatever she is, it seems she is out to harvest stories from abject people, but it is equally possible she has chosen us the “reader” to engage.

It is a dark weird tale. The characterization is compelling; strangely, most of the revealing conversations occur during eating. There is a constant tension between innocence and impending darkness which is played expertly, and intellectual readers may consider this as a homage to the classic The Heavenly Christmas Tree by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1876, available online via the Gutenburg project). Keeping this from a 5-star rating, is the denouement. With all the mystery presented, I did not expect to have all things explained, but I did expect more. The climax brings the right characters to the right place… and I really craved about one more chapter’s worth of the journey. This is an ambitious, well done debut novel. I look forward to more from Rebecca Gransden, especially if there is a follow up to anemogram. This is an excellent tale that will appeal to several genre readers: fantasy, mystery, thrillers.

Excerpt:
“…she turned and headed across open wasteland, into the domain of the sun and its cherishing death. She bobbed up and down and held out her white dress, spinning and drawing in the warm air. Her legs were cherubim podgy and she moved like an electrified hamster. The wasteland contoured down a textured valley which in turn vaulted into the distance and away. She stood in its open magnificence, its blanched earth under the blue-white sky of God. Everything in the distance; she would play unseen. She left her giggles behind her as she took off running. The ground flattened like an ancient seabed and she took her little body over it. She forgot her feet as she chased her own arms down. The surrounding landscape stayed static and true as she fed her hunger for abandonment…”


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