Tag Archives: Review

Review: Queen of the Night Guild

Queen of the Night Guild (Queen of Thieves 3)

by Andy Peloquin

Reviewed by JMD Reid

Fire has stolen everything Illanna has left to live for. The thief of the Night Guild, a brutal criminal organization, thought her freedom was at hand only to have the hungry flames destroy everything. Now all she wants is revenge.

She wants to find who in the Night Guild betrayed her to their rivals, the Bloody Hand. She will do anything to stop them, even if it means saving what she hates. Illanna has been driven to her limits. A woman with nothing to lose is a very dangerous thing.

Peloquin brings to a close his trilogy with an explosion. The pace never lets up from beginning to end as Illanna reels from one catastrophe to another as she struggles to piece together what is going on, trying to save what friends remain to her, and to get revenge upon those who have destroyed what she cares most for. The brutal world Peloquin created does not let up here in this final stage.

If you’re a fan of fantasy with great world building and mature themes, then you need to read Pelonquin’s writing. He delves into the dark reaches of the human soul to illuminate what glitter can be found shrouded by shadows of greed, depravity, and despair.

If you read the first books in this series, then you will not be disappointed by the ending. And if you haven’t read Pelonquin’s books, then you need to delve into this amazing Indie fantasy author!

You can buy Queen of the Night Guild form Amazon!


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Review: A New Goddess

A New Goddess

by Autumn M Brit

Reviewed by JMD Reid

Bek’kana is drive to do anything to free his people, the Ashanti, from the Goddess Myrrah’s curse. Mad with ambition, he will do anything to cross over into the Spirit World and gain his people, and himself, the power long denied them.

It’s up to our heroes to find stop him from entering the Spirit Gate, the last of the five gates still open. And they can’t close it. To do so would end all life on their world. Somehow they have to find the strength to fight back. And to do that, the need the Ring of Valian.

But the Ring was last seen heading into the Spirit Realm. It is a dangerous place for the living. Lavinia, Darag, Niri, Ria, and their friends will have to risk everything on a gamble that they can find the Ring and stop Bek’kana’s mad ambition.

If they can’t, the Ashanti will enslave their own people. Bek’kana will punish their people with his own race’s curse.

Autumn Brit weaves the thread she’s laid out in her first trilogy and the first two books of this series towards the climax. Everything has changed. Old enemies are now friends, once allies are now bitter enemies. The peoples of the world will all have to work together to bring an end to Bek’kana’s thirst for power.

This book peels back more of her world and reveals the underlining pinning of it. This is such a fast-paced and fun book to read. The stakes have never been higher, and the emotions have never been stronger. If you haven’t started reading Brit, then you need to pick up Born of Water and start reading this amazing series!

Fans of fantasy will fall in love with the writing of Autumn Brit! I can’t wait to see what new and imaginative worlds she’ll create next.

You can buy A New Goddess from Amazon!

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Review: The Dirty Streets of Heaven

The Dirty Streets of Heaven (Bobby Dollar Book 1)

by Tad Williams

Reviewed by JMD Reid

Bobby Dollar (Doloriel to the heavenly host) is an earthbound angel, an advocate fighting to keep souls out of hell. After so many years living on Earth, he’s grown bitter, disillusioned, going through the motions in the never ending contest between Heaven and Hell.

When a soul comes up missing on his watch, everything changes. Never has a soul been lost, and Bobby Dollar has to figure out what’s going on before he takes the fall. Has Hell stolen the soul out from under heaven’s nose or is something even worse going on? And worse off, the new guy is asking questions. With the help of Sam, Bobby’s best friend and fellow angel, and a cast of colorful characters, Bobby will have to ask the right questions to figure out what is going on.

Bobby Dollar will have to dodge ancient demons, sultry femme fatales, and angry Lords of Hell to uncover the secret that may shake the foundation of Heaven and Hell.

The Dirty Streets of Heaven is a classic Noir detective story. You have our bitter, borderline alcoholic protagonist in Bobby, people who should be on his side but he can’t quite trust, bad buys who may or may not be out to kill him, women who can’t be trusted, a macguffin to recover, and a conspiracy to unravel. And all set in the sunny streets of San Jude in the bay area. A modern take on the noir story complete with a fantasy patina.

Williams has created a rich mythology for his war between Heaven and Hell. It is clearly thought out with plenty of new revelations to come on how it all works and the secret war being waged beneath the noses of regular mortals. The same care he puts into his other works is on display here. Form the noir to the urban fantasy elements, Williams balance them all perfectly to make an exciting tale keeping the pages turning and you wanting to find out what’s next.

If you’re a fan of Urban Fantasy, Noir, and good writing, then you need to check out this series!

You can buy The Dirty Streets of Heaven from Amazon.

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Review: The Crown of Stones: Magic-Bourne

The Crown of Stones: Magic-Bourne

by C.L. Schneider

Reviewed by JMD Reid

Ian Troy has is the only one who can stop his father from creating a magical empire. DdD Reth plans on enslaving all to his will. He will free his people, the Shinree, from one set of chains into another while dominating the entire lands of Mirra’kelan

To stop his father, Troy will have to destroy the Crown of Stones. But to do that, he needs to understand its origins and that of his people. Delving into the past of the Shinree, Troy shall uncover truths lost over the centuries of slavery and catastrophe. But will it be enough to let him defeat his father?

Or will Jem Reth dominate all the lands of Mirra’kelan and usher in his grand ambition to be Emperor.

Everything the trilogy has been building for reaches its peak in this book. Schneider reveals all the secrets of the Shinree past, pulling back the mysteries and giving Troy a choice. The book is packed with action, danger, and suspense. The first person narrative once again propels the book with a sense of immediacy, placing you in the action.

With a bittersweet ending, Magic-Bourne is a satisfactory closing to the trilogy, building towards its climax with a breathtaking intensity. The plot twists and turns but Schneider doesn’t lose her way and guides you to its ending.

This is an amazing series. If you’re a fan of Fantasy, then you should read this book. Plenty of action, plot, drama, and more to satisfy your craving. One last time, we plunge into the world of Mirra’kelan!

You can buy Crown of Stone-Magic Bourne from Amazon!

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Review: Dragon Lightning

Dragon Lightning (Dragon Dreamer 2)

by J.S. Burke

Reviewed by JMD Reid

b01ma1zoj6-01-lzzzzzzzDrakor falls injured onto the ice flow, hurt in an earthquake as he investigated the volcano near his people’s home. The ice dragon realizes that he their home is about to be destroyed. The volcano is nearing its eruption.

Only problem, he’s too wounded to get back to them, drifting on the ice, facing death.

Arak, the dragon dreamer, is excited. Sailing with his fellow gold dragons and his octopodes friends, Scree and Orm, he is on a quest to find the legendary ice dragons, the kin of his people. They live in the cold north and as his skiff sails through ice floes, he realizes he’s on the right track.

But the ice dragons are not what he’s expected and a threat looms that will impact not only the ice dragons but the gold dragons and octopodes. The same volcano that threatens the ice dragons is part of a chain leading south. And the undersea volcano near the gold dragons and the octopodes reef may also be on the verge of erupting.

Arak, his companions, and a new friend will have to uncover the truth of the volcanoes and find a way to protect their people. But those aren’t the only problems facing them. They will have to work together to overcome their goals.

Or they might all perish.

Burke continues her excellent series about dragons and octopodes in her sequel to Dragon Dreamer. The book, written towards elementary students, not only has great characters and life lessons, but is full of real-world scientific knowledge about octopodes, underwater life, herbal medicines, and other facts that enrich her series.

With its focus on community, friendship, and forgiveness, Dragon Lightning is another excellent book for young readers, an adventure story to keep them enthralled and kindle the love of reading in a new generation. If you’ve read Dragon Dreamer (and if you haven’t, why?) then you will love Dragon Lightning.

You can buy Dragon Lightning from Amazon!

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Review: The Darkness That Comes Before

The Darkness That Comes Before (The Prince of Nothing 1)

by R. Scott Bakker

Reviewed by JMD Reid

darkness-that-comes-beforeThe Darkness that Comes Before is the start of R. Scott Bakker’s metaseries The Second Apocalypse. Here he unfolds the rich, grimy world of the Three Seas and beyond. I was hooked with this series right from the beginning reading about refugees fleeing the end of the world and the founding of the Dûnyain. I was intrigued by the history teased before me and glad I found this book in the SeaTac Airport’s Borders.

What follows is a Fatnasy series unlike any I had read. Its roots are firmly in the heroic fantasy that developed over the twentieth century, including Tolkein. There are many illusions and parallels to the Lord of the Rings, but make no mistake, Bakker isn’t copying, he’s twisting, bending, creating a world that is grimy, filthy, myriad in the perversity of human lust, greed, envy, and religious fervor.

When a young man name Kellhus, who unknowingly carries the blood of ancient kings sets out on a quest inot the greater world, it is a familiar story. But Kellhus is a product of two thousand years of breeding by his secretive group the Dûnyain. His intellect is beyond normal men. He has been trained to understand the source of men’s passions. To us world-born, we are but children before him. With cold logic, Kellhus will do anything to accomplish his mission—even dominating an entire Holy War.

In the average Fantasy, Kellhus would be our protagonist. But he’s not. That is Achamian, the middle-aged sorcerer and spy, an overweight man prone to drink, drugs, and prostitutes. A man whose decades working as a spy has made him cynical of the world. He has drunk with kings and beggars and realizes not much separates them. He is on another mission for the Mandate, his order of sorcerers, to discover if the Consult has any role in the Holy War called by the new Shriah (Pope). Achamian will return to the holy city of Sumna, and to Esmenet the Whore, perhaps the only person who truly knows him.

Politics and maneuvering dominate this book. While there is warfare and action, much of the book is a contest between men seeking to dominate their circumstances, from Emperor Ikurie Xerius who plans to harness the Holy War to restore the glory of his waning Empire to Cnaiür urs Skiötha who seeks to prove himself the best of his nomadic people. And at the heart, Kellhus, the Prince of Nothing and harbinger of the Apocalypse, arriving out of the wastelands. He is one of the conditioned and all will yield before him.

Intrigue, politics, cryptic prophecies declaring the end of the world, philosophy, faith, sin, sorcererous battles, warfare and the battered souls who strive to make sense of their world. The Darkness that Comes Before is both sweeping and historical at the same time is it deeply personal as R. Scott Bakker delves into human nature in all its vagaries, the good and the ill. This series has a rich cast of flawed characters.

You can buy The Darkness that Comes Before on Amazon!

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Review: Call of Water

Call of Water (Elemental Realms Book 2)

by H.L. Burke

Reviewed by JMD Reid

B01ENLPJEI.01.LZZZZZZZIt’s been three years since Lands of Ash and Karvir, transformed into a fire-elemental-like charred, and his family have settled down with Brode and his little sister Pet. The world is peaceful again. When Karvir and his youngest daughter Trea, now on the cusp of womanhood, venture to a nearby town, a pair of travelers changes everything for Karvir’s family.

Eanan and Gabrin had fled the Fire Elementals to islands off the sea and have returned to find the Evermirror, a portal to the Water Elementals. While the Fire Elementals have been driven to their own realm, three other elemental races are out there. The pair want to find allies. And when Quilla, Karvir’s oldest daughter, begins hearing a strange voice talk to her, she is driven to find out, leaving her family behind to join Eanan and Gabrin on their quest.

But Karvir’s not going to let his daughter run off. With Trea and Brode, he sets off to bring his daughter home. But danger lurks. Alana, servant of the Earth Elementals, fears the Water Elementals return. She and her ruthless band will do anything to prevent Quilla, Eanan, and Gabrin from reaching the Evermirorr.

Elemental war again threatens the peace of the world.

Call of Water is a great follow-up to Lands of Ash. Burke expands the scope of her world, introducing us to the Water and Earth Elementals and illuminating the history of her world. It is a fast-paced story with plenty of action and youthful romance. Family, again, dominates the theme of this book with the entrance of Eanan to the story, Karvir’s father-in-law and she skillfully uses the plot to explore the relation of fathers with their growing daughters.

An excellent read and I am eager for Burke’s next entry into the series!

You can buy Call of Water on Amazon!

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Reread of the Darkness that Comes Before: Chapter Six

Reread of Prince of Nothing Trilogy

Book 1: The Darkness that Comes Before

by R. Scott Bakker

Part 2
The Emperor
Chapter 6
The Jiünati Steppe

Welcome to Chapter Six of my reread. Click here if you missed Chapter Five!

 It is said: a man is born of his mother and is fed of his mother. Then he is fed of the land, and the land passes through him, taking and giving a pinch of dust each time, until man is no longer of his mother, but of the land.

—Scylvendi Proverb

and in Old Sheyic, the language of the ruling and religious castes of the Nansurium, skilvenas means “catastrophe” or “apocalypse,” as though the Sclyvendi have somehow transcended the role of peoples in history and become a principle.

—Drusas Achamian, Compendium of the First Holy War

My Thoughts

Bakker gives us some insight into both the Sclyvendi world view and how the Nansur Empire views them. The Scylvendi equate manhood with being completely divorced from his mother. He has left her behind and found a new mother, the land.

As we learned in the last chapter, whenever the Scylvendi tribes unite, an empire dies. No wonder their name has become synonymous with catastrophe the way the Vandals became synonymous with destruction to the Romans.

Early Summer, 4110 Year-of-the-Tusk, the Jiünati Steppes

Cnaiür urs Skiötha approaches the King-of-Tribes and other clan leaders on a ridge overlooking the Nansur’s army. Cnaiür studies the group, half-expecting to hear insults and snide comments thrown at him.

Why would they disgrace me like this?

But he was not a child. He was the many-blooded chieftain of the Utemot, a seasoned Sclyvendi warrior of more than forty-five summers. He owned eight wives, twenty-three slaves, and more than three hundred cattle. He had fathered thirty-seven sons, nineteen of the pure blood. His arms were ribbed with the swazond, ritual trophy scars, of more than two hundred dead foes. He was Cnaiür, breaker-of-horse-and-men.

I could kill any of them—pound them to bloody ruin!–and yet they affront me like this? What have I done?

But like any murderer, he knew the answer. The outrage lay not in the fact of his dishonour but in their presumption to know.

The chiefs all were dressed mismatched armor, looking like they came from a large variety of nations and ages. Some wear Kianene helmets, marking them veterans of Zirkirta. “Only their scarred arms, stone faces, and long black hair marked them as the People—as Scylvendi.” Xunnurit was elected King-of-Tribes.

Cnaiür watches a warrior fire an arrow and realizes they measured distances and were planning the assault without him. Cnaiür rides up and looks down at the Nansur. They were camped on the banks the River Kiyuth and were building fortifications. When Cnaiür first saw the Nansur army digging in on the Steppes, it filled him with anger. Now, he feels foreboding.

Cnaiür demands to know why he wasn’t summoned. Xunnurit, with “undisguised contempt” says he was. There had been instant dislike between Cnaiür and Xunnurit when they met five days ago. Cnaiür states it would be juvenile to attack. The rest of the chiefs murmur disapproval. But Cnaiür’s many swazond demanded respect. Xunnurit disagrees with Cnaiür, saying the Nansur defile the hallowed land. He asks if Cnaiür wants to parlay and pay tribute to Conphas.

Cnaiür wants to wait. To starve out Conphas and force him to attack the Scylvendi out of desperation instead of attacking Conphas on the ground of his choosing. The older chiefs, Cnaiür observed, saw the wisdom in his words. Xunnurit was unimpressed, demanding to know what Cnaiür would do if he found his wife being raped in his yaksh. Attack at once, or wait for a better tactical situation. Sneering, Cnaiür says this is different. Xunnurit asks, if this is what the memorialist tell them.

It wasn’t so much the man’s cunning that shocked Cnaiür as the realization that he’d underestimated him.

Xunnurit’s eyes flashed with triumph. “No. The memorialist say that battle is our hearth, earth our womb, and sky our yaksh. We’ve been violated, as surely as if Conphas had quickened our wives or cracked our hearthstone. Violated. Desecrated. Humiliated. We’re beyond measuring tactical advantage, Utemot.

Cnaiür points out eight years ago at Zirkirta, the tribes feel back from the Kianene, slowly bleeding them, before crushing them. Xunnurit tries to protest that this is different, and Cnaiür asks how this battle can be like a hearth, and not like Zirkirta where patience was practiced. Oknai One-Eye, Chieftain of the Munuäti, points out that the droughts began soon. Herds must be taken to summer pastures. The Scylvendi cannot wait long. Xunnurit jumps on this, pointing out Conphas’s large baggage train he brought. He might be able to last six months.

Cnaiür sees the worry in the other chiefs eyes. To long from away presented many hazards: herds could die, slaves revolt, wives wander, or for northern tribes (like Cnaiür’s), Sranc. Cnaiür realized, even if the others knew it was foolish, the pressure to act swiftly were to great. All eyes turns to Cnaiür.

Had Ikurei Conphas intended this? It would be easy enough, he supposed, to learn the different demands the seasons placed on the People. Had Conphas deliberately chosen the weeks before the summer drought?

The thought dizzied Cnaiür with its implications. Suddenly, everything he had witnessed and heard since joining the horde possessed different meanings: the buggery of their Scylvendi captives, the mocking embassies, even the positioning of their privies—all calculated to gall the People into attacking.

Cnaiür says Conphas has brought all these supplies to fight a war of patience. Xunnurit exclaims, that is why they must attack, before hunger forces the People to disband. Cnaiür disagrees, he plans to wait until hunger forces the People to attack him. Xunnurit mocks him, saying the Utemot are far removed from imperial lands and do not know the political situation. Conphas has grown to popular. The Emperor sent him hear to his death.

Cnaiür, in disbelief, retorts the cream of the Imperial Army is here. The elite cavalry, Norsirai auxiliaries, and even Eothic Guard. The Empire must have been stripped to assemble this host. Xunnurit disagrees, the memorialist speak of other Emperors who did this. Cnaiür points out the current Empire is besieged and could not afford to lose this army. Xunnurit jumps at this. Once this army is destroyed, they could sweep the Nansur Empire, like their fathers of yore. Cnaiür continues his protest, but the others begin mocking him.

Cnaiür could smell it then, the good-humoured camaraderie that amounted to little more than a conspiracy to mock one and the same man. His lips twisted into a grimace. Always the same, no matter what his claim to arms or intellect. They’d measured him many years ago—and found him wanting.

But measure is unceasing…

Cnaiür continues to try to reason with them. He explains that Conphas has gambled on the People making the mistake of attacking his fortifications. He is counting on the People to do what they always have done. The only way to defeat him, is to not play his game. To wait. Xunnurit openly mocks Cnaiür now, calling him “Time-killing Cnaiür.” The other chiefs join Xunnurit laughter. Their laughter falters under Cnaiür’s murderous glare. Nervously, Xunnurit says tomorrow they “shall sacrifice an entire nation to the Dead-God.”

The next morning, Cnaiür prepares for battle. He wonders why Conphas had provoked the People. The were fractious by nature, and few things could unite them. Invading the steppes is one way. Conphas had just created a great threat for the Empire and Cnaiür knew all was not as it seemed. Cnaiür could not grasp Conphas’s goal for doing this.

Cnaiür leads his tribe up the ridge, looking down at the lines of the Imperial Army, forming up in phalanxes between the river and their fortifications. Calvary were poised to harass any Sclyvendi crossing the river. Horns blared, and soldiers pounded weapons on shields. Cnaiür studies the assembled Imperial Army and is unsurprised to see them deployed between their camps and the river, instead of at the river. This would change the Scylvendi battle plan.

Cnaiür is startled out of his thoughts by Bannut, his uncle. Bannut wonders why the deployed so far from the river, allowing the People to charge them once they cross. Cnaiür thinks Conphas wants a decisive battle. There will be no room to maneuver once they cross the river. Bannut thinks the Nansur are mad, and Cnaiür remembers the Kianene had tried a similar tactic at Zirkirta and failed. Cnaiür doesn’t think Conphas is mad though. He sends Bannut to find out what Xunnurit wants the Utemot to do. Bannut takes Yursalka, who married Xunnurit’s daughter, with him.

Xunnurit signals the assault. As the Scylvendi ride their horses to the river, Bannut and Yursalka return from Xunnurit. They inform Cnaiür the Utemot are to take the southernmost ford and form up before the Nasueret Column, the Ninth Column. They are rumored to be the best. Cnaiür thinks Xunnurit means for the Utemot to be killed.

The Scylvendi begin to ford and drive back the Imperial Skirmishers. The first to cross began to fire arrows at the Columns while the rest of the Sclyvendi cross. The Utemot cross, and form up before the Nasueret. Conphas allows the Sclyvendi to assemble without contest. Horsehair signals were passed, and the Sclyvendi made ready to charge.

Bannut informs Cnaiür he will be measure today. Cnaiür is surprised that the old warrior would bring up old wounds and furiously confronts him. Bannut says this is the best time to revisit the past. Worries beset Cnaiür, but there was no time to think. “The pilgrimage had ended; worship was about to begin.”

Signals are sent, and the Scylvendi begin their assault. When they reach the Nansur bow range, they charged. Arrows fall on the Utemot and some died. Before them, pikes were readied to meet their charge. “War and worship!” is the Utemot battle cry. A pike takes Cnaiür horse in the chest and he dives off his mount.

The Nansur ranks were unbroken, and his kinsmen died. Cnaiür glanced behind him, expecting to see the second wave of Utemot and saw his tribesmen watching the slaughter from safety. Cnaiür realizes treachery and searches for Bannut. He finds him fighting with a Nansur soldier and Cnaiür kills the soldier with a javelin. Cnaiür demands to know what is going on. Bannut answers, they made a deal with Xunnurit.

Killed you! Killed the kin-slayer! The weeping faggot who’d be our chieftain!”

Horns blared through the uproar. Between heartbeats, Cnaiür saw his father in Bannut’s grizzled face. But Skiötha had not died like this.

I watched you that night!” Bannut wheezed, his voice growing more pinched with agony. “I saw the truth of what”—his body cramped and shook about a wracking cough—“what happened those thirty years past. I told all that truth! Now the Utemot will be delivered form the oppression of your disgrace.”

You know nothing!” Cnaiür cried.

I know all! I saw the way you looked at him. I know he was your lover!”

Cnaiür is shocked to learn his people think he is gay and a weeper. Cnaiür boasts of all the men he has killed, more than any other. “I’m the measure of disgrace and honour. Your measure!” Cnaiür yells, as he strangles Bannut, like a slave, until he dies. Cnaiür grabs his sword and rallies the few Utemot left alive from the charge.

The Nansur ranks advanced and charged Cnaiür his men. Cnaiür kills the first soldier and, in the Nansur “womanish tongue,” demands to know who’s next. Cnaiür continues to taunt and kill the Nansur soldiers, fighting with a feverish skill. The soldiers envelop Cnaiür and his Utemot, but they falter before the ferocity of the Scylvendi. More Scylvendi charge into the ranks of soldiers. Finally, the Nasueret Column breaks and flee.

While his tribe cheered their victory, Cnaiür climbed a low knoll to survey the battle. The Nansur camp was already burning, and several columns were isolated from the center. Cnaiür sees chaos at the center. Xunnurit has been pressed back to the river by Eothic Guards and other columns Cnaiür does not recognize. Cnaiür looks for the Kuöti and Alkussi tribes and sees them on the wrong side of the river being attacked by Kidruhil, elite cavalry. Cnaiür spots a perfectly formed column bearing the standards of the Nasueret.

Cnaiür is confused. The Utemot had just routed the Nasueret, so how could they be marching to the north? And Cnaiür was sure the Kidruhil were on the right flank of the Nansur formation, a position of honor, not across the river. Balait, Cnaiür brother-in-law and someone he respects, brings him a fresh horse and tells him they need to reform to strike again.

Something is wrong, though. Cnaiür explains that Conphas has conceded the flanks to the Scylvendi and to hold the center. He had used false banners to trick the Scylvendi into thinking the best soldiers were on the flank, not the center. Balait thinks Conphas means to kill Xunnurit and those throw the People into confusion. Cnaiür disagrees, saying Conphas is to smart for that. Cnaiür studies the battle, trying to figure out Conphas’s plan.

Cnaiür realizes Conphas’s plan. The Scylvendi had deployed their Chorae bowman behind their center. Conphas has either destroyed them or routed them and is now free to unleash a School upon the Scylvendi. Cnaiür tells Balait to flee. From the sky, descended two dozen Imperial Saik Schoolmen who unleash sorcery on the Munuäti. The entire battle was a trap to deny the Scylvendi their Chorae. Cnaiür grabs his Chorae from beneath his breastplate.

As though walking across the back of roiling smoke and dust, a Schoolman drifted toward them. He slowed, floating the heights of a tree-top above them. His black silk robe boiled in the mountain wind, its gold trim undulating like snakes in water. White light flashes from his eyes and mouth. A barrage of arrows winked into cinders against his spherical Wards. The ghost of a dragon’s head ponderously ascended from his hands. Cnaiür saw glassy scales and eyes like globes of bloody water.

The majestic head bowed.

He turned to Balait, crying, “Run!”

The horned maw opened and spewed blinding fire.

Teeth snapped. Skin blistered and sloughed. But Cnaiür felt nothing, only the warmth thrown by Balait’s burning shadow. There was a momentary shriek, the sound of bones and bowels exploding.

Around Cnaiür lies the cooked remains of many Utemot. Cnaiür routs. He spots Yursalka fleeing with a band of Utemot. Yursalka ignores Cnaiür’s cries for help. The Kidruhil begin to fan out and harry the routing Scylvendi. Cnaiür continues to run, reaching the river, and sees Yursalka and the Utemot on the other side. Cnaiür struggles to cut off his armor so he can swim the river, when he is struck in the head and is knocked unconscious.

When Cnaiür awakes, he lies in the river mud. It is night, and Cnaiür hears group of Nansur’s combing the dead for loot and killing any survivors. Cnaiür buries his Chorae in the mud beneath him, smears some dried blood on his face from a corpse, and fills his mouth with mud. When the looters reach him, they think he’s dead and quickly loot his body, moving on.

Cnaiür passes out again, and when he awakens it is morning. The first thing he does is dig up his Chorae. Cnaiür climbs up the riverbank and surveys the battlefield. He realizes the Nansur have humiliated the Scylvendi on their own territory. Anger fills Cnaiür. He had warned the chiefs and they had laughed at him. Cnaiür realizes they were all dead. The Scylvendi had been massacred. The People of Lokung, vengeance made flesh and bone, dead.

And by the Nansur! Cnaiür had fought too many borderland skirmishes not to respect them as warriors, but in the end he despised the Nansur the way all Scylvendi despised them:as a mongrel race, a kind of human vermin, to be hunted to extinction if possible. For the Scylvendi, the mention of the Empire-behind-the-Mountains summoned innumerable images of degradation: leering priests groveling before their unholy Tusk; sorcerers trussed in whorish gowns, uttering unearthly obscenities while painted courtiers, their soft bodies powdered and perfumed, committed earthly ones. These were the men who had conquered them. Tillers of earth and writers of words. Men who made sport with men.

Cnaiür begins to weep, and remembers the accusation of Bannut, that he was a weeper and a faggot. Cnaiür realizes his suspicions these thirty years were correct. His people had secretly hated him and slandered him behind his back. Cnaiür begins to scream out loud at his demons.

Cnaiür’s outburst is interrupted by the sound of voices. Cnaiür deduces that two officers approach. They are Martemus and Conphas. Conphas is explaining to Martemus why his plan worked. Conphas had studied the Scylvendi, reading everything he could find on them. He even had agents steal records from the Fanim. Conphas learned that in thousands of years, the Scylvendi battle tactics have not changed. “The Scylvendi are just as philosopher Ajencis claimed: a people without history.”

Martemus points out that any illiterate people would be without history. Conphas explains that even illiterate people would change over the years. But the Scylvendi are two obsessed with custom. Martemus thought Conphas’s plan was folly, and only his faith in Conphas kept him loyal. Conphas and Martemus banter about whether Conphas should fully explain his plan. Cnaiür begins to formulate plans on how to murder the pair. Finally, Conphas explains why they won.

As I said, the Scylvendi are obsessed with custom. That means they repeat, Martemus. They follow the same formula time and again. Do you see? They worship war, but they have no understanding of what it truly is.”

And what, then, is war truly?”

Intellect, Martemus. War is intellect.”

Conphas spurts his horse ahead and Martemus follows. Cnaiür hears Conphas order Martemus to collect all the Scylvendi heads. Conphas plans on lining the road to the capital of with spiked heads.

Cnaiür wonders what to do now. The Scylvendi were dead, and Cnaiür lies down amongst them. He remembers the death of his father, Skiötha. Like many other times, the leaders of the Utemot were gathered in the White Yaksh of the clan chief. A blonde Norsirai man, found abandon on the steppes and taken as a slave, challenges Skiötha to a wager. Skiötha is taken aback by a slave challenging him, speaking his name. Cnaiür had a role to play, and asks his father if he’s scared. Skiötha, stung, asks the slave his wager.

And Cnaiür is gripped by the terror that he might die.

Fear that the slave, Anasûrimbor Moënghus might die!

Not his father—Moënghus …

Afterward, when his father lay dead, he had wept before the eyes of his tribe. Wept with relief.

At last, Moënghus, the one who had called himself Dûnyain, was free.

Some names mark us so deeply. Thirty years, on hundred and twenty seasons—a long time in the life of one man.

And it meant nothing.

Some events mark us so deeply.

Cnaiür flees the battlefield under the cover of dark, haunted by the dead.

My Thoughts

Wow, you do not often get barbarians with an inferiority complex. The entire chapter is Cnaiür paranoid about people talking behind his back, making fun of him. Thinking everyone knows the truth that he murdered his father to became the Utemot Chieftain through dishonour. And then, in the midst of battle, to find out just how much his people hate him. To learn that they knew the entire shameful story. Cnaiür had conspired with his male lover to assassinate his father. To the Scylvendi, nothing could be worse.

And then through shear, hateful determination, Cnaiür has thrived as Chieftain. He has slain all rivals. Cnaiür so hates himself for what he did, he constantly strives to prove how great a Scylvendi he is. He has more swazond than any other. He is the greatest Scylvendi warrior. And yet, all that battle prowess is not enough. He is still the “faggot weeper” to his people. Nothing he does will ever change that.

When Cnaiür sees Conphas’s army, he senses something is off. He wants a siege, but the Scylvendi people clearly are not a patient group. The young burn with the anger at what Conphas has done to them: defiled both their holy steppes as well as their captured comrades. The Scylvendi are arrogant. For two thousand years, no army has ever stood up to all the clans united. And never on the steppes.

In the battle, we see why the Scylvendi are so feared by the Nansur. We have Cnaiür and the small handful of Utemot that survived the first charge, all on foot, fighting in a circle and driving back the soldiers. They are so effective that Yursalka can no longer hold back the rest of the Utemot, who charge in and rout the soldiers. That hateful determination of Cnaiür really comes into play here. He’s not going to let his tribes treachery kill him.

And then we see why sorcerer’s are really hated and feared. Once their Chorae bowman are scattered, it takes only two dozen Imperial Saik to massacre the Scylvendi. It is a rout. Every man for themselves. In an hour, the power of the Sclyvendi is destroyed, perhaps to never rise again.

Cnaiür is one of the most complex characters I’ve read in genre fiction. A man combining wild passions and deep intellect. A violent man. A man who has driven himself mad trying to be what his people expect and still is rejected because the harder he tries, the weaker they see him. He has completely buried his true self with who he believes he should be.

No wonder he screams at his demons.

The battle scenes are immerse, putting you into the thick of it, the horror and the smells, the screams and the fear. Bakker understands ancient warfare and the tactics of the steppe hordes from our own world. The Sclyvendi fight like the Scythians against the Romans. The first battle of the Holy War has been fought and one by the Ikurei Dynasty.

The introduction of Conphas talking with his general, Martemus, is a great and hearing Cnaiür’s anaylsis confirmed demonstrates his intelligence. The two have a great back and forth. Martemus is a commoner who rose through the ranks of the army. Conphas almost treats him like an equal, and Conphas eventually confides his plans and explains his actions to Martemus. I also think its great that the People of War were brought done by careful scholarship and understanding war.

War is Intellect,” says Conphas. Remember those words when we get to the end of the novel.

We learn from Martemus, that he, and by extension the army, only followed Conphas on this crazy plan because he had faith in him. Now that Conphas has done the impossible, destroyed the Scylvendi threat for decades to come if not permanently, the army will be even more loyal. Emperor Ikurei should watch out. History shows that ambitious general with the armies loyalty can take an emperor’s throne.

And finally, we have mention of the story set out in the prologue. The Dûnyain have reentered the tale. Thirty years ago, Anasûrimbor Moënghus had passed through Utemot land. From what we saw with Kellhus and Leweth in the prologue, it must have been child play for Moënghus to seduce Cnaiür and use him against his father. Moënghus would not only need to escape the Utemot, but would need safe passage through the rest of Scylvendi lands. The Dûnyain are amazing fighters, but not even they can take on hundreds by themselves.

Click here to continue on to Chapter Seven!

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Review: The Extraction List

The Extraction List

by Renee N. Meland

Reviewed by JMD Reid


B00V8KADEY.01.LZZZZZZZIn the wake of an economic collapse in the United States and a plague that devastated Europe, the world is a darker place. Crime is rampant in the US, particularly juvenile crime. When Riley’s brother is killed by gang violence, her mother goes on a Crusade to save the children. The Parental Morality Act is passed, and Riley’s mother is the face of this controversial legislature. If a parent is found unfit to raise their children for committing a crime, unemployment, alcoholism, or many other reasons, their children are placed in a boarding school run by the government.

Children live in fear of the day government agents will come and take them. When Riley’s name ends up on the extraction list, despite her mother’s prominence, she is forced to flee. Riley is plunged into danger as her mother and her mother’s friend Bo make contact with a guide, a man who sneaks children and their families out of the country. Cain is a dangerous man, but will he be enough to guide Riley to safety?

This young adult novel is a fast-paced read, thrusting you into the dark, dystopic future. What starts as a good idea, to save children, spirals so far out of control. Claire, Riley’s mother, is forced to confront the horrors she helped create when she championed the Parental Morality Act. The writing flows swiftly, leaving you wanting to keep turning the pages. This story is unflinching when tackling the world that Riley is put into.

The Extraction List is a great read, illuminating the problems of depending too much on the government to change behavior of its citizens. Change through force will never be lasting change. And force is the only tool the government has at its disposal. So be careful the power you give your government. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel.

The Extraction List is avalable from Amazon.

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Review: Born of Water (Rise of the Fifth Order Book 1)

Born of Water (Rise of the Fifth Order Book 1)

by Autumn M. Brit

Reviewed by JMD Reid

81vG6hkWFyL._SL1500_On the night of the summer solstice festival, Niri, an acolyte of the Church pf the Four Orders, hunts through the streets of to find the girls he had witnessed during the ceremony. The girl had shone with potential—she was an Elemental. And Niri had to find her. Niri was a water elemental, like all elementals, she was raised by the Church, taken from her family at a young age. And if she doesn’t find this girl and returns empty handed, she knows her punishment will be sever.

But when she finds Ria, the potential, with her best friend Lavina and Lavina’s brother Ty, Niri can’t bring herself to ruin this girl’s life. But when a group of armed men accost the group, Ria uses magic. Not elemental powers, but the forbidden arts that had caused a war a thousand years ago.

Panic fills Niri. She knows that the Curse, a shape-changing beast bred to hunt down mages, is even now coursing from the Temple of Solaire to hunt them down. Niri can’t stand by and let this young, innocent girl be killed and flees with Lavinia, Ria, and Ty by boat, sailing south to the lost Temple of Dust where, according to a message from Niri’s mentor, answers might be found.

Born of Water is a fun read. Autumn sets the stage right from the beginning, putting you in Niri’s panic mind as she searches the city for Ria while reflecting on the cruelties the Church of the Four Orders is capable of committing. When she decides to betray her order and join the youths in flight, you understand why.

The journey is full of much bickering. Niri is the oldest, but she’s barely an adult, and Ria and Lavinia are teenagers. Their flight is punctuated by teenage squabbling and angst that seems quite real, but can be a little tiresome.

But the book really shines with the magic, from the way Niri’s eyes cry tears of lavender when she works magic, to the battle between elementals. The action scenes are crisp and imaginative, with some creative uses of the powers. The book has a level of adrenaline through much of it that keeps you reading, wanting to find out what new obstacle the band of four will have to contend with as they sail the world. And while the teenage angst can be annoying, it fades as the four work through their problems.

If you’re a fan of fantasy and great world building, then you’ll love Born of Water. I can’t wait to start reading the sequel, Rule of Fire. Born of Water is a great foundation for a fantasy series!

You can buy Born of Water from Amazon. Follow Autumn on twitter @Weifarer and check out her blog.

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