Most Popular Reviews 2017: The Last Days of Magic by Mark Tompkins @MLTompkins @PenguinUKBooks @penguinusa

This week, I am sharing the five most popular reviews this year by visits to the blog. Thank you to all of you for visiting and supporting me, and the blog, but most importantly your support for all of the authors I’ve featured.

The most popular review on the blog this year is a book which swept me away into a world of history, myth and magic was The Last Days of Magic by Mark Tompkins. I posted my review for this on 5 April and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Description

What became of magic in the world? Who needed to do away with it, and for what reasons? Drawing on myth, legend, fairy tales, and Biblical mysteries, The Last Days of Magic brilliantly imagines answers to these questions, sweeping us back to a world where humans and magical beings co-exist as they had for centuries.

Aisling, a goddess in human form, was born to rule both domains and—with her twin, Anya—unite the Celts with the powerful faeries of the Middle Kingdom. But within medieval Ireland interests are divided, and far from its shores greater forces are mustering. Both England and Rome have a stake in driving magic from the Emerald Isle. Jordan, the Vatican commander tasked with vanquishing the remnants of otherworldly creatures from a disenchanted Europe, has built a career on such plots. But increasingly he finds himself torn between duty and his desire to understand the magic that has been forbidden.

As kings prepare, exorcists gather, and divisions widen between the warring clans of Ireland, Aisling and Jordan must come to terms with powers given and withheld, while a world that can still foster magic hangs in the balance. Loyalties are tested, betrayals sown, and the coming war will have repercussions that ripple centuries later, in today’s world—and in particular for a young graduate student named Sara Hill.

The Last Days of Magic
introduces us to unforgettable characters who grapple with quests for power, human frailty, and the longing for knowledge that has been made taboo. Mark Tompkins has crafted a remarkable tale—a feat of world-building that poses astonishing and resonant answers to epic questions.

Review

The first time I read the description of this novel I knew I had to read it. My feeling that this book was for me wasn’t to be disappointed as I started reading the first few pages set in our time, an air of mystery swept over the story before Mark Tompkins took us back several thousand years to where the real story happened.

Set mainly in Ireland with some trips around Europe this story weaves magical myth, historical fact, papal legend, and pure fiction to bring together a beautiful yet heartbreaking magical fantasy about how magic left not only Ireland, the centre of all magic, but the world.

Using Goddesses, witches, fairies, vikings, kings, queens, angels, knights, mermaids/men and just about every other creature from legend you could think of without them being out of place or it feeling overcrowded Mark Tompkins has made this feel like a world full of infinite possibility under attack from people who don’t understand.

I couldn’t help but see connection between the way the church were portrayed in this book as pursuing the end of magic and the way over the years they pursued and tortured different groups for things they saw as a threat such as women they called witches, and those from other religions. I think this contrast was on purpose, it certainly wasn’t lost on me and I found many of the papal characters unnerving and in some cases quite sickening!

Our Goddesses on earth Aisling and Anya are twins and between them hold the power of the goddess all the magical creatures worship and follow. They are strong girls and will only become stronger. They each had strengths, Aisling, the fighter, Anya the bookworm and I loved the both for each of the their strengths as I could relate to both.

You know from the title of the book, it’s not going to be a happy go lucky novel. Things aren’t going to go the way you want them to and I’m almost tempted to pigeon-hole this a dark fantasy as it gets pretty grim in places. Despite this I couldn’t help feeling like there was hope, all the way through I just felt like something was going to turn around make things better.

I’m hoping beyond hope that there will be a second book as this was an astounding read. I haven’t read anything like this in, well, ever!

A huge thanks to Mark Tompkins for so kindly sending me a signed copy, I will treasure it. I also thank Penguin for the eARC to read in return for my honest review.

Rating

Book & Buy Links

TitleThe Last Days of Magic
Series: N/A
Author: Mark Tompkins
Genre: Fantasy | Dark Fantasy | Magic
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: 1 March 2016
Review Format: Paperback
Other Formats: eBook | Hardcover | Audio
Pages: 400
BuyAmazon UK | Amazon US | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | SpeedyHen

Most Popular Reviews 2017: Watching Glass Shatter by James J. Cudney @jamescudney4 @CreativiaPub

This week, I am sharing the five most popular reviews this year by visits to the blog. Thank you to all of you for visiting and supporting me, and the blog, but most importantly your support for all of the authors I’ve featured.

I was over the moon when I was going through the stats to find which reviews nailed the numbers for these posts and saw Watching Glass Shatter by James J. Cudney was number two. James is a good friend as well as being an outstanding author and to see that my review that I posted as part of his blog tour on 16 November was well-received really gave me a big smile. I also chose not to tell him about this post so… Surprise!

Description

After 40 years of marriage, Olivia Glass thought she could handle the unexpected death of her husband, but when Ben’s will reveals a long-held, life-altering secret, she suffers a blow no widow should ever experience.

Olivia learns that she gave birth to a baby who later died in the nursery. Instead of telling his wife what happened, Ben switched the child with another. And as if that’s not enough, Ben’s will doesn’t reveal which of their five sons is truly not hers.

While an attorney searches for the answers, Olivia visits each of her sons to share a final connection before facing the truth that will change the dynamics of an already grief-stricken family. During the visits, Olivia learns that each of her sons has been harboring a painful secret, just like his father.

Olivia challenges herself to re-assemble and save their relationships. But will the secrets destroy their family beyond repair?

Review

Where do I start with this? I still weeks after finishing this novel get riled up with emotion just thinking about it. Olivia Glass, the matriarch of the Glass family has just lost her Husband Ben. At the will reading with her five sons (Five! Seriously who has five kids?!) a secret is revealed from beyond the grave to her alone via a letter. A second letter left for her to pass on to the one son that it pertains to when the time is right.

Her way of dealing with this is to follow Ben’s secretive instructions, keep the sons in the dark, and to visit them all over the next few weeks and spend some time with them, which totally backfires as she discovers, even more, secrets that they are keeping from the family. It’s a big potluck of secrets and lies in this family people!

So, I hated Olivia, seriously hated her. She’s a fantastic character, and she plays her part to perfection. But my God that woman drove me nuts. She’s a control-freak, her need to know everything about everyone and to be the one who decides everything for everyone was infuriating. I swear if my Mum was like Olivia I would disown her, I couldn’t deal with all that bossiness! Wowsers!

The sons though, they are a different story, lets talk about the sons for a bit shall we?

Teddy is the eldest, a lawyer who has worked with their Father. A very serious man and in a marriage that appears to be rocky from our initial introduction to him. I found him hard to connect with for much of the book but I kept thinking there were hidden depths that there were things we weren’t seeing, as his secret unfolds a different side of him unfolds and you see a bigger personality emerge.

Matthew is the character I felt a huge affinity with, I had a LOT in common with Matt and completely connected with the secret he held. I fought his fight with him and was willing him through his situation hoping for him to come out of it. He is a wonderful character and I spent almost every moment he was on the page wanting to wrap my arms around him.

Ethan is training to be a Doctor, he’s the youngest of the brood and came across as happy and loving. His secret is moving. I know someone who went through the same thing Ethan went through and I think that may be why I was so deeply moved by his storyline, it really hit me hard and reminded me of some difficult memories. Ethan has probably the hardest secret to deal with but also the most beautiful and the one most full of love.

Caleb, oh Caleb, I would like a Caleb please. He is adorable, sweet and kind and funny. He’s also been keeping a huge secret from his family for years. I think his secret is pretty darn special, and I wouldn’t mind keeping it for myself as well, but as it’s Caleb secret I’ll let him have it.

Finally, there is Zach. I really fell for Zach, with his tattoos, and Harley. He’s a DJ and just plain yum! His secret is probably the least explosive of all of them, it’s also the one that Olivia gets most hung up on (Mom’s!) He has a wonderful attitude, not taking any shit, with a daughter he loves to the ends of the earth and an ex who he is fighting for custody.

Be warned this is a sob-fest, I cried solidly for the last two hours of this novel, not gentle tears either these were big ugly sobbing tears. Every time I thought I was stopping I turned the page and bam they would start all over. This is an author who doesn’t give us a moment to compose ourselves before dropping another emotional bomb. It’s not all sad though there are moments where I laughed out loud, one scene sticks in my mind and can dissolve me into laughter even now and secured my love of two characters in particular.

Watching Glass Shatter is an absolutely outstanding debut, I couldn’t put it down, I sobbed most of the way through, and I wanted to keep half the characters for myself.

Rating

Book & Buy Links

Title: Watching Glass Shatter #1
Series: N/A
Author: James J. Cudney
Genre: Family Saga, Mystery, LGBTQ, Romance, Mental Health
Publisher: Creativia
Publication Date: 8 October 2017
Review Format: eBook
Other Formats: Paperback
Pages: 297
Buy: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Book Depository

Most Popular Reviews 2017: Made in the Image of the Goddess by Chantelle Griffin @Legacy_Zyanthia

This week, I am sharing the five most popular reviews this year by visits to the blog. Thank you to all of you for visiting and supporting me, and the blog, but most importantly your support for all of the authors I’ve featured.

I was so pleased to see this one appear, Made in the Image of the Goddess is a self-published fantasy by Australian author Chantelle Griffin and the first in the Zyanthia series, my review was published 27 July. I have the next two books in the series to read and I will get to them soon I hope as this first one was fantastic!

Description

Saranon glanced up at the dragons as they flew overhead. The hour of darkness covered them as she watched on. She waited as Pennie examined the stone. It formed part of the shield locking them inside the camp. Shouts rang out on the other side. ‘Is that Galven?’ Pennie asked.

She nodded in reply. A twig broke on the muddy ground. ‘We have company,’ she said.

A lone sorcerer. Just one, but that was enough to give them away. Pennie ran for fear of being caught, while Tasha stood gazing out into the distance, ‘One day that will be us.’

Enter an epic tale of sword and sorcery. More than two hundred years ago a powerful sorceress freed her people then vanished. As time passed truth turned into myth and myth became legend. The time has come again. Saranon must claim her rightful place before Zyanthia falls.

Review

The first book in the Legends of Zyanthia series, Made in the Image of the Goddess see’s Saranaon take on the powers of the Angeon a powerful sorceror. But at just 15 and having been a captive most of her life she struggles at managing the power and now she is exiled from her home and away from her friends and so she needs to find someone to train her and somewhere to call home.

Her quest see’s her crossing borders meeting new people, and running from and to wizards.

Saranon was a wonderful blend of powerful sorcerer and confused teenager. Chantelle Griffin found the balance between the two so that she didn’t become this cocky powerful kid like can sometimes happen in this novel. She was unsure of herself but over time came into her powers and learned what she needed to do.

Different characters came and went through the book and sometimes I felt some were so fleeting that I hope in future books they come back as I really connected with some of them. Anthony and Jedd were two such characters, they both offered Saranon a lot of help at different points in the story and I felt so connected to them and would love to see them again and see their characters develop further.

Pennie and Jacob are childhood friends of Saranon who I think are destined to play a larger role in her story, Pennie especially seems to have her own motives and these don’t necessarily run parallel to Saranon’s but she is an interesting character and I feel like there is a bigger story surrounding Jacob and his involvement with them both.

Mitch is a wizard, a human who can do magic, and he becomes accidentally bonded to Saranon. but it’s not all sweetness and light and he is a few years older than her.  I really liked Mitch and I’m looking forward to learning more about him, I feel like he has a lot of hidden depths and could be the one person who can do the best job at helping Saranon achieve her potential.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, the fighting, the magic, the dragons it all came together in a wonderful introduction to this world and I am really looking forward to what comes next.

A huge thank you to Chantelle Griffin for my signed copy of this novel so that I could read and honestly review it. I will be treasuring it!

Rating

Book & Buy Links

TitleMade in the Image of the Goddess
Series: The Legacy of Zyanthia #1
Author: Chantelle Griffin
Genre: Young Adult | Fantasy | Epic Fantasy | Sword & Sorcery | Magic | Dragons
Publisher: N/A
Publication Date: 17 March 2017
Review Format: Paperback
Other FormatseBook | Hardcover
Pages:  226
Buy: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Speedy Hen | Wordery

Most Popular Reviews 2017: Skullsworn by Brian Staveley @BrianStaveley @UKTor

This week, I am sharing the five most popular reviews this year by visits to the blog. Thank you to all of you for visiting and supporting me, and the blog, but most importantly your support for all of the authors I’ve featured.

Today, Skullsworn by Brian Staveley is making an appearance. I posted this on 6 May and to this day thinking about it can send me into emotional turmoil. It has all of the elements I look for in a fantastic epic fantasy with the addition of a some exceptional emotion strings that just ripped me apart.

Description

For one apprentice assassin, the clock is ticking . . .

Pyrre Lakatur doesn’t like the description skullsworn. It doesn’t capture the beauty of her devotion to Ananshael, God of Death. And she’s not an assassin, but a priestess. Or she will be, if she can pass her final trial. The problem isn’t killing, as Pyrre has spent her life training for this. The problem is love. To pass the trial, she will have fourteen days to kill seven people detailed in an ancient song, including one true love, ‘who will not come again’. However, Pyrre has never been in love, time is short, and if she fails she’ll be given to her god.

Pyrre’s not afraid to die, but she hates to fail. So a month before the trial begins, she returns to the violent city of her birth, where she once offered an abusive father to the god. Here Pyrre hopes to find love – and end it with the edge of her knife.

Review

I don’t even know where to start with this review, I don’t think a book has affected me so deeply, has got right into my heart and torn it out the way this has in years. I felt completely broken by this book by the time I finished it. Was a mess of tears trying to battle my way through the final pages not quite believing the direction the book had taken and how it was ending.

Skullsworn is a standalone novel connected to the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne series, which having now read this I am deeply ashamed to have not started, and will be rectifying at the first opportunity I get. Our main protagonist is Pyrre, a trainee Priestess of Ananshael, the God of Death. These Priests and Priestess’ are known as the Skullsworn more commonly outside of their order, although Pyrre makes it very clear this is not a term of endearment in her eyes and it doesn’t fully represent just how her devotion to the Ananshael works.

She’s at the end of her training and must complete a trial to become a full Priestess, kill seven very particular types of people and nobody else within a two week window, this is not something she has an issue with, she is a trained assassin. But the final person is an issue, it is must be someone she loves, except she has never loved anyone. So travelling to the city she was born in Dombâng, with her Witnesses Kossal and Ela, she pursues the only man she has ever come close to loving in the hope she can rekindle their relationship.

Ruc Lan Lac once a professional fighter and now Leader of the Greenshirts is the man Pyrre intends to pursue and kill once she falls in love.

Now this book had the set up for everything a girl like me who loves fantasy and romance could possibly want, a beautifully in depth fantasy world with some of the best world building I’ve encountered in a long time, I could smell the different parts of the town as I read (and honestly didn’t want to some of the time, nope really didn’t want to) I could perfectly see the areas travelled to they were so perfectly described. And yet the characterisation wasn’t let down at all for this. The characters were given ample time to build their stories, with the romance element worked on the way I love although in true fantasy fashion nothing went the way I would expect it to!

Some of this book was funny, some of it was sad, some of it was heartbreaking, some of it was beautiful. There were many life lessons, some we definitely shouldn’t bring into our world! I love Ela who was the Priestess who aside from being a Witness to Pyrre was also a guide to her and she spent a lot of time talking and offering her advise much like a big sister would.

The fighting wasn’t cut down on because of the more unusual angle of the story, there was the expected amount of swordplay, blood and carnage throughout the book with it starting very early on. Pyrre accidentally triggers a rebellion with horrendous consequences in her quest to fulfil her trial which is thrilling.

I recommend this book highly, as highly as I possibly can. Now I’m still piecing myself together so I need to find those pieces of my soul if you please.

A huge thanks to Brian Staveley and Tor UK for the eARC so that I could read and honestly review this novel.

Rating

Book & Buy Links

TitleSkullsworn
SeriesChronicle of the Unhewn Throne #0
Author: Brian Staveley
Genre: Fantasy | Epic Fantasy | Romance
Publisher: Tor UK
Publication Date: 20 April 2017
Review Format: eBook
Other Formats: Paperback | Hardcover | Audio
Pages: 320
BuyAmazon UK | Amazon US | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | SpeedyHen

Most Popular Reviews 2017: Blackwing by Ed McDonald @EdMcDonaldTFK @gollancz

Over the next five days, I will share the five most popular posts this year by visits to the blog. Thank you to all of you for visiting and supporting me, and the blog, but most importantly the authors I’ve featured.

First up is Blackwing by Ed McDonald, this review was posted as part of the blog tour on 25 July. I’ve been lucky enough since reading the book and publishing the review to meet Ed and he’s a fantastic bloke. This book has a sequel coming in 2018 which I’m very excited about.

Description

You think you know Misery? You’ve not seen anything yet . . .

The republic faces annihilation, despite the vigilance of Galharrow’s Blackwings. When a raven tattoo rips itself from his arm to deliver a desperate message, Galharrow and a mysterious noblewoman must investigate a long dead sorcerer’s legacy. But there is a conspiracy within the citadel: traitors, flesh-eaters and the ghosts of the wastelands seek to destroy them, but if they cannot solve the ancient wizard’s paradox, the Deep Kings will walk the earth again, and all will be lost.

The war with the Eastern Empire ended in stalemate some eighty years ago, thanks to Nall’s ‘Engine’, a wizard-crafted weapon so powerful even the Deep Kings feared it. The strike of the Engine created the Misery – a wasteland full of ghosts and corrupted magic that now forms a No Mans Land along the frontier. But when Galharrow investigates a frontier fortress, he discovers complacency bordering on treason: then the walls are stormed, and the Engine fails to launch. Galharrow only escapes because of the preternatural magical power of the noblewoman he was supposed to be protecting. Together, they race to the capital to unmask the traitors and restore the republic’s defences. Far across the Misery a vast army is on the move, as the Empire prepares to call the republic’s bluff.

Blackwing is a gritty epic fantasy for fans of Mark Lawrence, Scott Lynch and Daniel Polansky.

My Review

I’m rarely completely speechless after finishing a book, I normally have a lot to say good or bad, but Blackwing left me utterly gobsmacked. It’s taken me a week to digest the book and work out how to even start writing this review. This is not a bad thing, Blackwing is an epic novel that grips you from the first page and is thoroughly extraordinary throughout.

Told as a first person narrative by Ryhalt Galharrow, we learn about his world and the people in it. It’s a harsh and desperate world with cities built around a dank and desperate desert like land called the Misery. The Misery is not somewhere you would want to go willingly, it conjures hallucinations, there are creatures that even your nightmares couldn’t conjure up and it’s the land of the Deep Kings.

The Deep Kings are all powerful, almost god-like magicians that can raise men from the dead, the drudge, these are their killing machines, their army and they are lethal. They have mage-like beings called Darlings (I love these names) which are scary as anything, and then there are the Brides, women that capture men under their spell with strong pheremones then swell up into gargantuan beasts (ick I feel sick again).

The Deep Kings want to capture the Cities from the Nameless. The Nameless are also god-like magicians, who created the Misery by the way, and who help protect the humans although they have their own selfish agendas and the humans can certainly become collateral damage. To protect the humans and the cities surrounding the Misery from The Deep Kings they’ve built a huge contraption called Nall’s Engine, and so we get to the grit of the story because a woman Galharrow knew as a boy, Ezabeth, reappears in his life with a theory about hall the Engine is broken and so begins a fight to unravel a tightly held political conspiracy with him on the wrong side.

The world building in this novel is outstanding, you feel like you are completely immersed in the world at all times and the imagery is vivid and so beautifully real, even when it’s not at all beautiful which lets face it is most of the time! The characters although always told from the one point of view are still described with a clarity which is bewitching and it’s easy to pick out favourites.

I’ve seen this book described as Grimdark but I just didn’t feel comfortable popping it into that pigeon hole myself. It’s pretty grim at times and it’s pretty dark yes but I felt like there was a lot of hope and that there was something far more epic fantasy about the way it flowed and pushed through. (I’ll get 50 comments disagreeing with me now)!

Nenn is Galharrow’s right hand man, except she’s a woman, a tough cookie, I actually imagined her a lot like Brienne of Tarth except tougher, yep I said tougher! She is loyal and straight talking, but can also fight tough and hard. I really liked Nenn and the way she fought unashamedly.

Galharrow’s other close ally on his team is Tnota, he does all of his navigating in the Misery, and is probably a bit too old for the fighting but he is just too damn good not to have on your team. A much more pleasant person to have around than Nenn, it’s like they are both the sugar and spice in Galharrow’s team.

Ezabeth and Galharrow were meant to be married as youngsters before life went pearshaped and they went their separate ways. Ezabeth is now a spinner, essentially a mage and she is powerful. I’m not going to say much more because talking about her gives too much away. But I do want to say how much I liked her, she is such a strong clever character. Ed McDonald has really written some epic women in this book I really loved how strong they were, they were equal to the men, could fight as well as the men, and I loved this.

And Galharrow, oh Galharrow, I did it again folks, I loved him so much, he was such a nice bloke! A true antihero who captured my heart the more I read. A troubled alcoholic, who would give his left leg if it would help someone he cared for. He is loyal to a bloody fault especially to Crowfoot, the Nameless who is in charge of the Blackwing. He has love in his heart, but also hate and sadness and bitterness. He is tortured and angry. He is strong, and weak. He is human.

Ed McDonald has definitely pulled out all the stops with this book and it lives up to all expectations. This is a book for all fantasy fans and should not be missed.

Sending a huge thanks to Ed McDonald and Stevie at Gollancz for the ARC so that I could read and honestly review this novel.

Rating

Book & Buy Links

TitleBlackwing
SeriesRavens Mark #1
Author: Ed McDonald
Genre: Fantasy | Epic Fantasy | Sword & Sorcery | Magic
Publisher: Gollancz
Publication Date: 27 July 2017
Review Format: Paperback
Other Formats: eBook | Hardcover
Pages: 384
Buy: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Waterstones | Foyles | Book DepositorySpeedy Hen | Wordery