Book Review: The Path of Flames by Phil Tucker.

I can’t believe I hadn’t reviewed this one here. So here goes…

Here’s my Goodreads review from back in July

This is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, and I’m not just referring to self-published books. I’m referring to all books. This one opened up with a great action scene. Then it proceeded to make me care deeply about the characters. There was only one POV that I didn’t connect with completely, and that was Tharok, who is separate from the rest of the characters.

I loved reading in Audsley’s POV. It’s so much fun to see the scholar type of character getting involved in things so far outside his comfort zone. Tiron was also a great character. His internal conflict was depicted brilliantly.

Early on, it took me a bit to adjust to the author’s writing style. He is fond of longer sentences than you see in most fantasy these days. But once I adjusted to it, it didn’t bother me at all. Books like this show that you can find brilliant books that have been self-published.

Rating: 9.5/10

I will add to this review that Tucker really has a way of writing action scenes that make you feel like you’re there with the character. I was frantically flipping virtual pages. It gave me the same kind of feeling I get toward the end of a Sanderson, Weeks, or Butcher novel, where all the various threads come together into an explosive action scene.

I will also add that I thought the second book was even better. Tucker’s roots in horror really show in that one. There were a lot of scenes that I read with great anxiety in that one. But that’s a review for another time.

This is the kind of story that I think has the potential to be commercial fantasy with a capital C. It’s not great literature, though it is written well. First and foremost, it is a fun story, and it only gets better.

This reminds me…I need to read the third book. I’ve been putting it off because I don’t want to run out of material to read.

Not that that’s a big problem, though. Tucker is a prolific writer. Somehow, he manages to write books quickly without sacrificing quality. I wish I could find a bit of that talent myself.

Indie Book Review: Mist Falcon by Ryan J. Doughan

It’s been a while since I’ve done any book reviews here, but I thought I’d start that up again. I actually read this one a while back and really enjoyed it.

Here’s what I wrote on Goodreads:

Took a chance on this one because I know the author on Twitter (but not in real life). It had generally good reviews, though not a lot of them, so I was a little skeptical going in.

As it turns out, I had no reason to be skeptical. It’s not a perfect book (occasional awkward sentences and minor editing issues), but these issues never pulled me out of the story.

I connected with Aiden and Willem right away. It took me a bit longer to connect with Tako, but his story has a lot of potential to become very interesting in subsequent installments. Rem and Lem were a lot of fun.

The best thing about this book was the action, especially toward the end of the book. I had that frantic feeling reading the last thirty percent. When I get that feeling, I know a book is good.

If I had to take a guess, I’d say fans of Weeks and Sanderson would find a lot to enjoy in this story.

Rating: 9/10

 

 

I’ll see if I can add a bit to the review here. I feel like the biggest strength in this book was the pacing. It rarely let up, and that made it an enjoyable read for me. The characters weren’t the most complex or interesting I’ve ever seen, but I felt like rooting for them, and that’s the biggest thing an author has to do for me to enjoy a book.

If you’re looking to give a self-published author a chance, this book is good option. I feel like it hasn’t been noticed as much as some other self-published titles, and I think that should change.

Book Review: Altar of Influence by Jacob Cooper

Early this year, I ran across a gem of a self-published fantasy: Circle of Reign by Jacob Cooper. I knew the author from the SFFWorld forums, so I decided to give his book a shot. I ended up really enjoying it.

I think I liked his prequel, Altar of Influence, even better. Cooper has done a great job with his characters, his world, and his plot. In this one, he expands the backstory of some of the characters and events mentioned in Circle of Reign.

Cooper has created a world that feels both different and vibrant. There are quite a few characters, but they’re easy to keep track of. The writing isn’t always perfect, but it didn’t bother me. I was so lost in the world Cooper created and in his great ability to write extended action scenes.

I think you can start either with this book or with Circle of Reign. They’re both great reads that prove some self-publishers are doing it right.

Rating: 9/10

Book Review: House of Blades by Will Wight

Here’s another on my list of self-published fantasy gems. I’ve been finding so many of them that it’s kind of weird to keep calling them gems. Clearly, there’s a lot of good stuff out there in self-published land. Is it outnumbered by stuff that’s not so good? Probably. But if you know what you want as a reader, you can find stuff you’ll like. I’ve never bought the whole “wading through tides of crap” argument. Generally, I’ve found it’s pretty easy to separate the crap from the stuff I’d actually like.

I chose this particular book because I found it in my Goodreads recommendations after finishing another self-published fantasy that I really enjoyed (it might have been Mitchell Hogan’s A Crucible of Souls, which is no longer self-published). I’m glad that I gave Wight a chance.

This is fantasy that definitely has a traditional feel to it in some ways. The plot is relatively simple. It’s a training/quest story. On the surface, that makes it sound like a thousand other fantasies out there. What separates this book from many others out there is that Wight developed a fascinating system of magic. In that way, it reminded me of something by Brandon Sanderson. The way he handled his magic also made the training section great fun to read. It wasn’t endless studying of spells. The main character developed his abilities through facing dangerous situations. He didn’t really have any guidance, and that made it all the more exciting.

For most of the book, this was a solid 8/10. I liked it, but it wasn’t blowing me away. Then we hit the last 30 percent or so. From that point on, it was constant action, and I got that frantic feeling I love getting during well-done action scenes. That feeling, combined with some interesting revelations at the end, pushed my rating up to a 9/10.

If you’re a fan of the modern Grimdark movement in fantasy, this story probably isn’t for you. But if you, like me, are longing to see modern takes on classic fantasy, this is a great read. I should warn you that it also might not appeal to you if you’re not a fan of young adult fantasy. While I wouldn’t call this book a YA fantasy, it did feel like one at times. For me, that isn’t a bad thing, as I also love a good YA fantasy.

Overall, I was very happy with this one, and I will read more by Wight. I’m especially intrigued by his newest series. I love the idea of looking at a conflict from both sides.

Rating: 9/10

Book Review: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

Here’s one that I read quite a while ago. In fact, it’s been three years since I’ve read it, so this won’t be too heavy on plot details. Besides, I don’t like to spoil too many things anyways.

This book is a good beginning to the Stormlight Archive, which looks like it will turn out to be Sanderson’s magnum opus. It’s a huge world with a huge story (more than 1000 pages of it, in fact). There’s a lot of good about this book, but at the same time, it’s setting up a much more massive story. Some of Sanderson’s other stuff stands alone (Elantris, Warbreaker, the first Mistborn book). This does not.

It’s also a major time investment and requires you to trust the author before you tackle it. I suggest reading some of his other works first. They’re not as deep and complex as this, but they’re also faster-paced and serve as better introductions to his work.

Now for the good:

This is a highly interesting and complex world. There’s the threat of an apocalyptic war. There are fierce storms that shape geography and wildlife. There’s conflict between and within nations. On top of all that, you have Sanderson’s great magic, though you should be warned that the magic in these books is a bit more mysterious than you’ll find in Mistborn. I’m sure there are rules for it, but it’s been missing for a long time, and so when it does show up, the characters are still figuring it out.

That brings me to the characters. In this book, Sanderson has crafted some of his best characters. Kaladin makes an interesting and conflicted protagonist. Shallan is annoying at times, but she grows on you as you read (and especially in the second book).

I especially found myself absorbed in Kaladin’s struggles. Some of the things he has to endure are truly horrific, and his character journey is a fascinating one to watch.

There’s also a great deal of mystery in these books. Since it’s the first of a ten-book series, you don’t get as many answers as you normally get from Sanderson. I found this mystery added to the book and helped me get through some of the slower sections.

Don’t worry. There is action. Great action. You just have to wait a while for it.

This book continues one of the things I love about Sanderson’s work. He’s not afraid to use common fantasy tropes. He just put his own spin on them. In doing that, he gives the reader something that’s both familiar and different, and that’s the right balance for me. If you’re looking for something that completely avoids tropes, this isn’t the right story for you.

For me, it’s the kind of story that reminds me of why I fell in love with fantasy in the first place. Sanderson writes the modern update of classic fantasy that keeps most in touch with the roots of the genre.

In all, this was a very good book, but it did have its slow sections. For those who are interested, I thought Words of Radiance was truly excellent.

Rating: 9/10

Book Review: A Crucible of Souls by Mitchell Hogan

I’ve found another gem in the self-published fantasy field (though it won’t remain self-published for long). Hogan delivered the kind of fantasy I love reading. Magic. A fast-paced plot. A likeable main character. It felt kind of like if you found a halfway point between Patrick Rothfuss and Brandon Sanderson. Fans of these authors will probably find a lot to like here. And the last quarter of the book is an absolute page-turner. I’m really excited to see where this goes.

Frankly, I’m astonished that books this good end up being self-published. I think it goes to show that there’s a lot of great fantasy out there these days.

The plot of this one looks like something you’ve seen before. Orphaned boy goes on to greatness…yawn. But Hogan separates his story from others like it by making his main character sympathetic and through strategic utilization of other point-of-view characters. They bring new layers into the story, and Amerdan is an absolutely fascinating character. I wouldn’t want to read an entire book about him, but I found Hogan gave him just the right amount of page-time.

Not only is the story great. It also reads like a published book. I can only recall one glaring editing issue, which was really just a place where Hogan forgot to delete a word while editing. I’m not going to complain about that because I’ve failed to notice the same thing in my own books.

Overall, if you’re a fan of the modern update on classic fantasy (think Sanderson, not Abercrombie), this is well worth reading.

Rating: 9/10