Heir of Novron by Michael J. Sullivan

 

For my review of the first in this series, Theft of Swords, click here. And for my review of the second book, Rise of Empireclick here.

The New Empire intends to celebrate its victory over the Nationalists with a day that will never be forgotten. On the high holiday of Wintertide, they plan to execute two traitors (Degan Gaunt and the Witch of Melengar) as well as force the Empress into a marriage of their own design. But they didn’t account for Royce and Hadrian finally locating the Heir of Novron—or the pair’s desire to wreak havoc on the New Empire’s carefully crafted scheme.

 
Heir of Novron is the final part in Michael J. Sullivan’s Riyria Revelations. It is an omnibus consisting of the final two books in the series, Wintertide and Percipliquis. Wintertide is in many ways the climax and conclusion to many of the series’ main plotlines. Answers start to come thick and fast, amid twists and turns which are liable to give you whiplash.

For the most part, Wintertide is a book focused on Hadrian, with Royce and particularly Arista taking a backseat to a lot of the action. We get to see Hadrian in some really entertaining scenes. Wintertide is Sullivan’s biggest Riyria book yet (until Percipliquis) – it’s packed with action, tension, revelations and a lot of darkness. But cutting through this is the humour. It’s not overdone, but I’d say this is the funniest book in the series, as well as being the tension filled climax it needs to be.

Percipliquis, on the other hand, is as dark and twisted as you’re likely to ever see Sullivan become. It’s a difficult book to review without spoilers, as most of what happens is related to the overall mythology of the world which Sullivan has layered in since the start of Book One. If Wintertideties up the plots of books three and four, Percipliquisharps back to Theft of Swords and the history of Elan. It’s not clear until you reach this point how Sullivan has lined up his pieces, all ready to come together for this final book. Royce and Hadrian are very much at the centre of the novel, but this time they are not alone. Nobody is left hanging in Percipliquis– everyone has their part to play. It’s a huge book, but the pages move ten times quicker.

Sullivan answers everything and ties up the series with an amazingly tight ending. There are moments of joy, sadness and even Myron the monk gets his moment to shine. More so than any of the other books in the series, Percipliquis is like classic fantasy – a quest novel with elves and dwarves, wizards and dragons (kinda). But don’t let that stop you – the difference here is that behind everything is a rich tapestry of worldbuilding, careful plotting and characterisation that Sullivan has been careful to line up throughout the series, meaning no matter how clichéd it may look on the outside, there is always a shock coming round to smack you in the face.

Heir of Novron is that rare beast in fantasy: a great endingto a six book fantasy epic. It’s an ending that feels well justified and foreshadowed to near perfection. Royce and Hadrian have come a long way together, and this is the ending they deserve. A fantastic conclusion to one of the most entertaining fantasy series in recent memory.
 
 If you want a deep, engrossing read that’s nothing but entertaining at every step, please give the Riyria Revelations a go. It’s the story of two thieves who become embroiled in an epic story to save the world. What more could a fantasy fan want?

The Written by Ben Galley

His name is Farden. They whisper that he’s dangerous. Dangerous is only the half of it. Something has gone missing from the libraries of Arfell. Something very old, and something very powerful. Five scholars are now dead, a country is once again on the brink of war, and the magick council is running out of time and options. Entangled in a web of lies and politics and dragged halfway across icy Emaneska and back, Farden must unearth a secret even he doesn’t want to know, a secret that will shake the foundations of his world. Dragons, drugs, magick, death, and the deepest of betrayals await.

 
I found this book thanks to the clever online campaign of the author and self-publishing guru, Ben Galley. I don’t normally mention this in reviews but if you are thinking of self-publishing check out his Shelf Help segment of his website, www.bengalley.com.

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but, well, how can you not be intrigued by that cover?

Anyway, onto the book.

It’s been described as ‘Sin City meets Lord of the Rings.’ I don’t know about the Lord of the Rings comparison, but the world Ben has created certainly has a dark underbelly, rife with hallucinogenic drugs and crippling magic.

We follow Farden, a reluctant hero forever running from the shadow of his uncle, as he travels the length and breadth of Emaneska to prevent a dark and malevolent evil being unleashed on the world. Farden is flawed, damaged goods, but far from beyond redemption.

The story starts with a bang and rarely lets up. Farden is thrown from one confrontation to another and, in the best tradition of Fantasy, more often than not magic (or magick in this case) is used to blast a way clear. Farden contends with werewolves, vampires and, of course, dragons. This is definitely a book for fans of the fantasy genre, especially if you like the action heavy with magic and mystical creatures.

The best part of the story for me was how well Ben made these creatures familiar, yet different enough to avoid the more obvious tropes of the genre. The hierarchy of the dragons was particularly fun. The relationship between the dragons and their Siren riders is brilliant and honestly made me jealous I wasn’t a Siren!

The magic system isn’t complex by any means, but it is fun and consistent with good drawbacks. It’s not used as a get out of jail free card at any point.

The mythology is interesting, with tantalising hints as to what might be to come and daring you to try and figure out why certain things are happening.

There were some predictable twists which fell slightly flat, though they add up to a good and satisfying ending.

Sadly, there are some spelling and formatting issues with the e-book version which Ben has acknowledged and plans to correct once the series is complete.

Despite that, this is a very good read and an excellent look into this debut series. Ben has created some enduring characters that have to work hard to succeed and battle to be the better person. Nothing comes easy in this hard world, where magick must be permanently written in your skin and you have to fight for the right to love who you want.

P.S If you’re a fan or graphic novels, Ben has just run a successful kick-starter campaign to turn The Written into one. Keep an eye out!


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About the reviewer:

Alex can be found in the rolling hills of Oxfordshire, splitting his time unevenly between fighting crime and raising two little boys (which is surprisingly similar). When he does find a spare moment he crams it full of fantasy or basketball, and due to rapidly ageing knees it’s mostly fantasy these days. He’s trying to learn the writing craft through sheer bloody mindedness and dreams of the day he has to do nothing else. If you’re so inclined you can watch him stalk writers on Twitter – @shep5377

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

“This book pleased every geeky bone in my geeky body. I felt it was written just for me.”

                                                                                                                        Patrick Rothfuss

In Ready Player One, Ernest Cline creates a future not as bright as we may anticipate and not as unlikely as we may wish. It’s the year 2045 and all the oil and gas is burnt up. We have a big, worldwide energy crisis going on, accompanied by a drastic climate change, famine, poverty, diseases and wars, fought over the last resources this planet has to give.
The only thing that makes life bearable for most people is the OASIS, a massive globally networked virtual reality where they spend most of their time.
Ready Player One is a dystopian novel where Cline uses common tropes in a new and imaginative setting. The hero is a poor, disillusioned orphan boy, who has to overcome big struggles to finally save the world. But his weapon of choice is not a magical sword, but Eighties pop culture geek knowledge. On his (virtual) travels he meets a (kind of) princess, but neither is she the prettiest girl in town, nor does she need any saving.
Five years before the story takes place, James Halliday, the single owner of the OASIS, dies. And since he didn’t have family to pass ownership of the OASIS on to, he prepared a massive contest known as an “Easter Egg Hunt”, promising the winner the ownership of the OASIS. To win the contest, one had to know a lot about Halliday, who was a massive nerd, who grew up in the Eighties. He had a C64, an Atari, played Dungeons and Dragonsand loved Monty Python, Star Wars and Back to the Future.
You can imagine what happened next? Yep. Massive. Eighties. Revival. Surge.
Five years later, nobody believes that the first key can be found. Until the lead character, Wade Watts, manages exactly that. But now, Wade has a problem. A big one. This feat makes Wade the most wanted man in the world. And while he’s hunting for the egg online, others are hunting him in real life.
Cline’s characters are complex and realistic with their little quirks and weaknesses. The main characters in particular are believably written and each have a personal history, making it easy to follow why they act the way they do.
The only exception is the level of their geekiness. It is not believable that somebody watched Monty Python’s Holy Grail 157 times over the past six years (and that they can even remember that exact number).
We don’t have a virtual reality like that (yet), but a piece of our lives already takes place online and Cline writes about all the interesting, fascinating or even dangerous situations that may develop there. Like finding friends on the internet – sometimes as a character, created for a special game. Or the dangers if your personal data gets in the wrong people’s hands, or like falling in love and someday having to face that person in reality…
Ready Player One is a page-turner with an amazing pace. I wasn’t able to put it away and I’ve reread it not even half a year after first reading it. You normally don’t read SF? No problem. All you need to enjoy this book immensely is having been a kid in the Eighties or Nineties. It’s a roller coaster ride through Eighties pop culture and full of innovative, cool and funny ideas. Go read this book, you won’t regret it.
And may the force be with you.
 
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About the Reviewer: When Christian Abresch was fifteen, he stayed home to write a fantasy book instead of going with his parents and brother on vacation. More fantasy novels, poems and short stories followed in the years to come and since each was less crappy than the one before he hopes to get published someday. To keep his fingers on the pulse of fantasy, he loves browsing Fantasy-Faction with its articles, reviews and forums even though it caused an unnatural growing of his TBR, which worries him. Christian lives with his girlfriend and an imaginary cat in Berlin. Follow him on twitter: @xiaiswriting.

Giveaway: Signed King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

The second book in the Broken Empire series, Lawrence takes his young anti-hero one step closer to his grand ambition.

To reach greatness you must step on bodies, and many brothers lie trodden in my wake. I’ve walked from pawn to player and I’ll win this game of ours, though the cost of it may drown the world in blood…

The land burns with the fires of a hundred battles as lords and petty kings fight for the Broken Empire. The long road to avenge the slaughter of his mother and brother has shown Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath the hidden hands behind this endless war. He saw the game and vowed to sweep the board. First though he must gather his own pieces, learn the rules of play, and discover how to break them.

A six nation army, twenty thousand strong, marches toward Jorg’s gates, led by a champion beloved of the people. Every decent man prays this shining hero will unite the empire and heal its wounds. Every omen says he will. Every good king knows to bend the knee in the face of overwhelming odds, if only to save their people and their lands. But King Jorg is not a good king.

Faced by an enemy many times his strength Jorg knows that he cannot win a fair fight. But playing fair was never part of Jorg’s game plan.



This is our first ever giveaway on Wilder’s Book Review, and what an amazing prize we have for you to win! We have one HB copy of the brilliant King of Thorns (2nd in the Broken Empire Trilogy) by Mark Lawrence, signed by the author to giveaway.

For the chance to win this awesome book we just want you to answer one simple question:


Why should you win this book?


The giveaway will run through Friday 1st March. Answer in the comment thread of this post and I’ll pick a winner at random on Saturday 2nd March.

This is an International Giveaway! 

Remember to leave either your email address or Twitter username in your comment, otherwise I won’t be able to get in touch with you and the prize will go to someone else.

And the funniest answer might just get a little something extra – so be creative with your answers!

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You can find Mark Lawrence online at his blog – here.
Or follow him on Twitter @mark__lawrence

The Painted Man by Peter V. Brett

This one starts with a farmboy.

Arlen Bales lives on a small farm with his parents, near the small village of Tibbet’s Brook. He’s quite a bright and cheery kid, despite the world he lives in. In this world, darkness brings demons – they sprout from the earth at night like natural killing machines, and come in various guises. Fire demons are the hunters, the dogs in the pack. Rock demons are the muscle – the sheer, terrifying brute force. And they are only the beginning. When Arlen’s life is shattered by this plague of demons he has to make his way out into the world, and in doing so, force himself into becoming the hunter, making the demons his prey.

So far, so ordinary. For fantasy, anyway. And that’s where this one falls down for me. I read all the glowing reviews, saw the rabid fanbase and slowly, The Painted Man rose to the top of my reading pile. I knew it was a “farmboy versus the world” story, but assumed it would be a completely fresh and original take on a tired old trope. But, mostly, it really isn’t. There is no truly shocking twist, no sudden reveal that I didn’t see coming. The Painted Man’s biggest disappointment, for me at least, was that it never really shocked me as a reader. Its plot just seemed very unoriginal.

But, that’s not to say this isn’t an exciting read.

Brett’s writing is fast paced, the characters are always interesting and despite the tropes, it’s a well-developed setting. The plot may be fairly uninspired, but the overarching demon infestation and the history of the world is what’s really interesting here, making me hope Brett explores this further in later novels. Although it perhaps feels geographically small, the level of world-building here is genuinely excellent and heaps layers on to a book which would otherwise be fairly forgettable.

Brett also has an interesting way of structuring the novel. We follow Arlen up to a certain point in time in his life and then jump to the second major POV character, Leesha, way back around the same time we first met Arlen. Brett then does this again with the third POV, Rojer. It’s perhaps not a structural choice which everyone will enjoy, as arguably it robs the book of its sense of urgency when Brett cuts from the climax of one character arc to start another. But I found it worked and helped build the whole book to a fairly memorable ending.

The other element which deserves a positive mention is the magic system. It’s as basic as it comes – paint symbols on the ground and they will help protect people from demons. Sure, there is a little more to it than that (and hints at bigger things to come) but essentially it’s Demons vs Symbols (Wards). It’s so basic, so D&D that it shouldn’t work – but it really does. A lot of this has to do with the atmosphere. Brett has created a novel that is based on fear. Fear against the demons, fear against the night itself. Ultimately, the demons are deliberately simple – they represent fear itself. And the only way people can fight this fear is with literal symbols, and the faith they have in the power of these wards. It’s a deceptively simple system that drives everything in the book. Everything is based on fear and attempting to overcome it.

So overall, The Painted Man was a bit of a mixed bag for me. Nothing about it sings of originality, but Brett’s writing helps lift it above the majority of other “farmboy saves the world” stories. The world he’s created is an exciting one to read about and it sets up what could be a far more original sequel – something which I plan on reading very soon. For all that I found uninspired about The Painted Man, I enjoyed reading it and the pages flew past – so it must be doing something right.