epic fantasy

SPFBO Book Review: The Crimson Queen by Alec Hutson

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This is my first review of a fellow Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off participant. I actually picked this book up before it was entered into the competition, but I just finally got around to reading it. I’m glad I did.

Here’s the description:

Long ago the world fell into twilight, when the great empires of old consumed each other in sorcerous cataclysms. In the south the Star Towers fell, swallowed by the sea, while the black glaciers descended upon the northern holdfasts, entombing the cities of Min-Ceruth in ice and sorcery. Then from the ancient empire of Menekar the paladins of Ama came, putting every surviving sorcerer to the sword and cleansing their taint from the land for the radiant glory of their lord.

The pulse of magic slowed, fading like the heartbeat of a dying man.

But after a thousand years it has begun to quicken again.

In a small fishing village a boy with strange powers comes of age…

A young queen rises in the west, fanning the long-smoldering embers of magic into a blaze once more…

Something of great importance is stolen – or freed – from the mysterious Empire of Swords and Flowers…

And the immortals who survived the ancient cataclysms bestir themselves, casting about for why the world is suddenly changing…

The first book in The Raveling, a new epic fantasy saga

Here’s my review:

This was a very good beginning to a series and author I’ll be watching closely. It’s classic fantasy done very well. Fans of The Wheel of Time will find a lot to like here. It isn’t a copy by any means, but it gives the same vibe.

The best thing about this book is the sense of mystery throughout. You get the feeling that there is always something more beneath the surface of every interaction, every place in the world, every revelation. That sense of mystery propelled me through the book.

The characters are mix of the likeable (Keilan, Nel and Xin), the conflicted (Senacus), and the mysterious (Jan and Alyanna). This mixture in the characters really worked for me because it provided a lot of variety and had me interested in every point of view.

I’m not sure what to expect from the magic of this world yet. A lot of it still remains a mystery, but that’s okay. There are definitely a lot of competing factions, both magical and non-magical, that make things interesting. You have immortal sorcerers, demons, magical assassins, paladins that hunt sorcerers. It has a lot of the great ingredients that make me love a fantasy book.

It also had some good action scenes. There weren’t a lot of them, but they were good when they did happen. I won’t quite put them up there with my favorite action scenes, though. I also thought at times that Hutson got a bit too descriptive, but that’s about my only major complaint with this one.

Rating: 9/10

An Update: Sunweaver Book 3, World in Chains edits, and some random thoughts on writing huge epics.

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I’m 71,000 words into the final book of my Sunweaver trilogy. Things are really shaping up nicely as I approach the end. I expect the book to be somewhere between 100,000 words and 110,000 words, making it roughly the same length as the first two in the series.

I’m also busy editing Book 2 of World in Chains. I hope I can get that one in good enough shape to have it out toward the end of the summer or in the early fall. I’ve written the entire series, which is what I plan to do for all my series at the moment.

I may come to a point where I have a series that’s too long for that method to work. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I have Wheel of Time style epics swimming around. I don’t know if I’ll ever get around to writing them, and when I do, they might be shorter series to begin with. I don’t get quite as epic in my word count as some epic fantasy authors. The longest of any of my books is the first draft of World in Chains book 4, which stands at about 170,000 words. That’s nothing compared to one of Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive books.

Within the next week, I should begin the cover art process for Empire of Chains. Hopefully that all goes smoothly, and I have the cover ready by the end of the month. In the meantime, I will likely run through the book a couple more times to check for any typos that have eluded me this long.

Book Review: Hope and Red by Jon Skovron

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I’m going to try to get back into reviewing books. I’ll probably review some big names from time to time, but I’m hoping I can get in more reviews of some of the lesser-known authors out there (both in trade publishing and self-publishing).

In that spirit, I will start with a review of Hope and Red by Jon Skovron. This one immediately caught my attention when I first heard of it because it sounded like something Brent Weeks would write.

You have two main characters. One of them is a young woman who, as a girl, was the only survivor of a sorcerous attack on her village performed by the emperor’s Biomancers. These Biomancers like to experiment on people, and the empire largely turns a blind eye to these experiments, which are quite disturbing.

These Biomancers were one of my favorite things about the book. It’s a type of magic you don’t see as often in fantasy, and it made me feel that I’d be getting more than just a Weeks clone.

The girl, who comes to be called Hope, ends up being sent to an island where an order of warrior monks lives. The leader of these monks trains her even though they are not supposed to train women, and she becomes quite a force.

The other main character is a charming young rogue who goes by the name Red, on account of the red eyes he gained as the survivor of his mother’s drug addiction. In addition to being a thief, he’s also quite the artist. He comes to play a major role in a slum within one of the empire’s largest cities.

As you can probably guess, their stories end up coming together. Along the way, there’s plenty of action, some good bits of humor, and characters that you want to root for despite their flaws.

It’s also another in the growing list of gunpowder fantasy you see these days. It’s nice to see more and more fantasy moving away from its quasi-medieval roots. Don’t get me wrong. I love a lot of fantasy novels with that setting, but it’s also refreshing to see more varied settings.

I never quite got that feeling I get reading my favorite authors, but this was a very good adult fantasy debut for an author who has written some young adult before. I recently read the second book, and it continues the story quite well, throwing in some interesting new wrinkles.

Rating: 8.5/10

Fantasy Book Review: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

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I’m trying to get more active with this blog, so I’m going to go through some of the various book reviews I’ve written. Next up is one of my favorite authors: Brandon Sanderson

I read The Way of Kings quite a while ago. In fact, it’s been almost five years since I’ve read it, so this won’t be too heavy on plot details. Besides, I don’t like to spoil to 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.

I’ve started working on Fireweaver again.

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Over the last three days, I’ve written about 7,500 words of Fireweaver, the second book in my Sunweaver series. It took me a while to get back in the swing of things, as it had been a long time since I’d written anything in this series. I got very focused on finishing World in Chains and put Sunweaver on the backburner.

I’m hoping I can manage to write at least 1,000 words every day. It’s difficult with school getting in the way, however.

I’m also toying with the idea of writing multiple books at once, but I’m not sure if I want to do that again. I did it once before. It increased my productivity, so it might be worth a try.

For more details on Sunweaver, you can take a look at the page. It’s under my Epic Fantasy Projects menu.

Indie Book Review: Mist Falcon by Ryan J. Doughan

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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.

World in Chains is complete!!!

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Well, the first draft of the fourth and final book is complete. I still have a lot of revision and editing work to do.

For anyone’s who’s been following my blog recently, you’ve seen that I’ve done a lot of back and forth on self-publishing. Well, with the series nearing completion, I decided to go ahead and take the plunge and stop letting fear get in my way.

I’m not expecting to get rich immediately (or at all) from self-publishing. I think I can manage to write enough to keep my readers happy without pushing myself too hard. If I do enter a dark period mentally, I will be sure to keep everyone updated and let them know that I do intend to finish my projects.

Note that I’m not expecting this to happen, but I always find it best to be prepared.

 

As for the series itself, it is four pretty hefty books. The first one goes about 165,000 words, the second 140,000, the third 120,000, and the fourth 170,000. I wouldn’t be surprised if the second and third get longer in revisions.

Most of the series I have planned will probably be shorter than this one, but you never know. I’m just excited to get this out there and ready for everyone to read. This series has been with me in some form for more than 11 years now. With each iteration, I’ve stepped up my game as a writer, and now I think it’s what it always should have been.

I currently have covered are scheduled for this June, so you can expect to see the first book published sometime this summer. I would expect the others to follow at roughly four-month intervals (possibly faster depending on how smoothly edits go and how quickly I can get the cover art done). I may not be able to keep up that kind of schedule indefinitely due to school and work obligations, but I’ll try to be fast (without sacrificing quality, of course).