What begins as a carefree adventure among siblings turns deadly in a heartbeat when Eisa is left alone following the violent deaths of her loved ones. Snatched from the scene and carried away by what can only be described as a monster of epic proportions, she is left wondering why she was allowed, or perhaps chosen, to live. A story seemingly unconnected to the tumultuous lives of Julian, Roman, Dennah, DaeGeroth, Balin and Gladeus soon becomes much more clearly interwoven into the experiences of all of the them. None of them could have predicted the evils that lie beyond the wide expanses of beautiful countryside they all know so well.
The Winter of Swords, by Aaron Bunce, is a stunning visual of fright-filled fantasy, old world charm, and a wide assortment of well-developed characters. From the moment I began reading of Eisa’s experience in the wilderness, I was swept into a world of creatures and hidden realms from which I found it difficult to separate myself–the hallmark of effective writing. Eisa’s entire ordeal set the stage for some of the most fantastic imagery I have read in a long time. Not many books can boast such horrifying beings so vividly described and so dreaded by even the reader.
Roman, one of the chief characters in Bunce’s work, has the most poignant subplot in my opinion. His backstory tugs at the heartstrings. The scene set by Bunce at the farm owned by Garon is a step-by-step reveal of one heart-wrenching horror after another. It is an artfully written chapter that has the feel of a slow motion movie scene set to an emotionally-gripping score.
Though Bunce’s book is filled with delightfully terrifying images, for me, there was none quite like the scene that takes place involving Julian in the simple town of Craymore. When an author can conjure up a visceral reaction with the mere mention of the sound of a horn in the distance, you know you have found an author to follow. More unsettling than the beastly gnarls was the powerful commandment of the horn’s sounding–wonderfully ominous and capable of provoking a sense of mystery.
Bunce has managed to give readers a novel rich with dialogue. Not every book of this genre is able to carry out a plot so heavy with character interactions. Many books rely on narrative to tell the story, but Bunce is more than capable of telling the tale via characters’ thoughts and exchanges.
While it is solidly based in fantasy, the element of mystery is strong throughout the plot, and that is one of many striking factors in Bunce’s work. Bunce has created a spectacular work of fiction which will appeal to readers who enjoy fantasy with incredible creatures, high drama, and an assortment of strong lead characters.
Pages: 818 | ASIN: B07MCX4CFD
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I immediately liked Asuf the moment I started reading the book. On their hunting spree with Valhelm, the latter confessed how scared he was to hunt. He mentioned that he had heard stories, unpleasant of course and that something could be lurking around the part of the caverns the two were hunting. Asuf shut his partner down, Saying that whatever Valhelm was on was weakness and unacceptable. I like bold characters in books; Characters like Asuf, who are not frightened by minute issues. Though a little bit aggressive, I admired how Asuf demanded respect. He instilled a little fear in Valhelm when speaking, in that Valhelm felt inferior in his presence.
The book gets to be more interesting as one reads on. I like how the society in Igor Valec’s book held authority in high regard. A subject could not address the king in any manner. They had to use the appropriate title when speaking to those at the throne. One could also tell the mood and tone of the subjects Vis a Vis the king.
King Lortar’s reaction to discovering that there was a heathen cult in the kingdom was priceless. How and where was that? I appreciated Valhelm for informing Lortar about this cult. As they were speaking, one could feel Lortar’s concern in his words. He was worried that Valhelm had gone on his own to do the hunting. I enjoyed the conversation that followed as everyone was given a chance to air their views.
Damnation: A Grimdark Fantasy Political Drama is not your average book. Through the story, the author incorporated themes of leadership, family relations, and infighting among members of the same society, politics, and fantasy. Every chapter built on the story and tension of the last chapter, so as you read you always felt like something was about to happen.
Igor Valec’s character choice was marvelous. Looking at how the characters were distributed across the book, I have to admit that the author took his time to select which traits to give who. Hirr Valhelm remained my favorite character. Other characters I found interesting include Vost Kon Schmitt, Wiktor Kon Oydrich and Lady Eidi Kon Huss and of course King Lortar. I found the kingdom’s way of dealing with criminals and those who went against the king intriguing.
I recommend this book to everyone who enjoys a good story. The characters in the book are fascinating. The plot is superb and the writing style is amazing. I loved every page of Damnation. The book is action-packed, with suspense, adventure, drama, twists, and turns.
The book is fairly long, at 600+ pages, but this story does not feel overwhelming. I felt that opposite actually, the ending leaves you on a cliffhanger and I wanted more. This leaves the book open for a followup book to start, what could be, a fantasy series with a deep backstory and dynamic characters.
Pages: 644 | ASIN: B07HVHVDDY
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Dark, gritty, and altogether brutal, Steel, Blood and Fire is an archetypal dark fantasy novel. In the first chapter, one of the main character’s hands and feet are amputated, and the story continues in similar fashion from there onward. The setting is fantasy grounded in muddy reality, although there is a vein of consequential magic that adds a little sorcery to this otherwise swords-based world. If you’re familiar with Game of Thrones then you’re familiar with Allen Betchelder’s style; multiple character perspectives, inter-weaved story lines, and a healthy dose of murder. It’s a fantastic modern-style medieval fantasy, and a definite read for any fan of the genre.
When I began Steel, Blood and Fire, my first thought was, “Wow, this is a lot like Game of Thrones.” Then I began to think, “Or is it more of a Witcher book?” As I continued through the novel, I began to decide it was a blend of both. By the end, I thought that perhaps it was its own thing.
The book isn’t afraid to touch on the brutal. In fact, it seems to revel in it. Blood flows freely; rape is the buzzword of the day. It’s a mature novel for sure although it doesn’t quite cross the line, but regularly toes it. A lesser author would have toppled their novel over into prurient pulp.
The writing is well-executed, with the author’s own voice clearly shining through. There is one trap that Allen Betchelder tends to fall into, and that’s the ‘fear of said’. Every other sentence seems to find a new synonym – characters question, murmur, mutter, bellow, but words are never just ‘said’. It’s awkward to read, and tends to draw you out of conversations that should flow naturally.
In any perspective-hopping plot, characters are one of the most important factors. Fortunately, Steel, Blood and Fire features a strong and memorable, if slightly generic, cast. They come off as slightly one-dimensional, particularly towards the start of the novel, and the inclusion of a comedy group of village bumpkins – who of course meet with terrible fates – struck me as being an attempt at generating some frisson with the grim background. Other than those minor niggles, the diversity and depth of the cast begins to truly shine through around the midway point; from here onward they become much more than the sum of their parts.
Despite my above criticisms, I really did enjoy the story, and it quickly became engaging only a few pages in. If you’re a fan of the genre, particularly Game of Thrones-esque fantasy, you’ll certainly enjoy Betchelder’s offering.
Pages: 548 | ASIN: B00AW53RMQ
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Chaste focuses on an evil god and his followers in a remote town that has been overcome with a sickness. Five strangers arrive and all their destinies take a turn. What was your inspiration for the setup of the story and how did that help you create the ending?
My inspiration was vague. I’d had a few negative experiences with churches in the past, when I was a religious man. I had the idea of a small town that had experienced the same thing, the perverting of God’s word, of His ideals and methods. The title of the book came with the inspiration of a town struggling to be pure, but unable to find it. A lot of my books are studies of an issue that I’m dealing with in my life. This was my attempt at making peace with God and church, along with a few other dark issues. And Chaste did give me peace. I think it worked out. This book gave me hope, and I hope when other people read it, they can find a path back to God, or at least a path back to purity.
There are plenty of characters in Chaste that I felt were intriguing and well-developed. Who was your favorite character to write for?
I would have to say Sob. I repressed a lot of the abuse and darkness from my childhood. When it started coming back to me, it was debilitating and random. It would come back in the middle of a conversation, with a trigger word I didn’t expect. An entire scene from my past would flash before my eyes. When things like that are happening in your everyday life, you feel mad, as if you’re trembling out of control. So I wrote Sob, a woman haunted by shreds of a past she doesn’t want to remember, a powerful woman, a proficient killer, unapologetic in action and methods, but fragile in mind, always a breath away from the horror of her past. Sob healed me. I will always love her for that.
I felt that Chaste delivers the drama so well that it flirts with the grimdark genre. Was it your intention to give the story such a dark tone?
Chaste was originally supposed to be a short story. I was 63 pages in, and barely scratching the surface of the story, when I realized I was writing something bigger. Chaste was an accidental novel. I had no idea what I was doing when I wrote the rough draft of this book. But I had just been through a lot of mind-numbing therapy, and most of me was a raw and open wound. I was not trying to write a dark book. It just kind of happened. When I wrote the rough draft, grimdark wasn’t an idea yet. This was 12 years ago. There was no such term as grimdark. I didn’t even know to call it dark fantasy. It was just a story I was writing. I entered Chaste broken, and when I left it, I was healed a bit. When you’re going through that kind of catharsis, there’s no internal editor. You literally can’t hold back. There were times when I would write a scene, stand up, back away from my computer, fight back a scream and weep openly. Things were being hammered out that there were no rational words for. I was walking a razor’s edge between reality and fantasy, able to speak about my past without talking about my past. Chaste is dark because when I wrote it, I was in Hell, and the character Cheryl dragged me out.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?
My next book is called Mestlven. It, as well, is A Tale from Perilisc. Mestlven tells the story of Sob, after she has put a face on her past, and she can go home. She has been victimized, her world shattered, and now, after Chaste, she knows it. So Sob goes back home to wreak her revenge and fight for her sanity. I went a little mad when I wrote this book. When Sob punished her abusers, she punished mine as well. So look for Mestlven. The soft release date is April 15, 2017.
When her devout parents died, Cheryl turned her back on her god. Years of denial and self-loathing have defeated her. Her life consists of taking orders and succumbing to abuse. A group of strangers stops in Chaste for the night, but an unnamed threat is preying on the town. Tragic deaths have become more and more frequent. Cheryl wants to protect these travelers, expose the evil force, and save her fellow citizens, but she must find a way to believe in hope.
Posted in Interviews
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Stealing the Sun begins in a traditional way, but then takes a turn that defies traditional fantasy story telling. What was your approach to writing this story?
The story developed organically. I started with reflections of traditional fantasy tropes (the elven maid falls in love with the mortal hero; the evil dark lord) and went from there. In some cases I deliberately twisted things (the ‘evil dark lord’ character is female and primarily interested, not in dominating the world, but in escaping from it), but in other cases my feelings about the story, my sense that there was another side to be shown, took over. Once the scene was set and a given character did something, others would react, often unwisely, and in that way they all managed to get themselves in a lot of trouble by the end of the book.
I felt that Stealing the Sun delivers the drama so well that it flirts with the grimdark genre. Was it your intention to give the story a darker tone?
If it bleeds, it leads…
In your other book, Tribulation’s War, the magic in that story was minimal and delivered believably (if magic can ever be believable) as it was in this story as well. How did you handle the magic in this story and how did it evolve as you were writing?
Most of the magic in the world of Stealing the Sun isn’t really magic but science (sort of). I wanted to look at elves, at the way that elves are traditionally portrayed (immortal, unsleeping, able to see in the dark and take sustenance from the sun, able to shapechange) and make those qualities make at least quasi-scientific sense. To be ever-young, it seems to me that a creature would need to be able to shapechange, to get rid of old, damaged cells and regenerate them. When Altir visualizes the “moving spirals and the beads of light” before he shape changes, he’s actually consciously manipulating his own DNA, although he doesn’t know that’s what he’s doing. There will be much more on shapestrength in the later books. The rune-magic of the greycloaks, on the other hand, is something I have never figured out scientifically. Basically it’s just magic, or at least psychic ability, with a good dose of nasty herb-lore mixed in.
Stealing the Sun has some interesting people that have their character flaws, but they’re still likable. How do you go about creating characters for your stories?
Characters come to me organically, without much planning involved. They seem to already exist by the time I get to them. I create a world and situations that contain conflict, and out of the conflict comes the sort of characters who fit with that world. Sometimes the characters who seemed like supporting cast end up having the strongest voice – Altir originated as a secondary character in a short story. In the next book, The Dark of the Sun, someone who didn’t get his own point of view in the first book insisted on telling his side of the story. I like characters who have different facets, who have flaws and strengths, who have a past – I’m not particularly interested in innocent coming of age characters, or one-dimensional villains, either to read about or to write.
When is the next book in the Sun Saga series due out?
The Dark of the Sun and A Red Morn Rises, the second and third books, are available now. There may be a fourth book to come.
Disinherited from the throne he believes should belong to his clan, rejected by the woman he loves, estranged from his father and uncertain of his place in a war-torn world, Altir Ilanarion searches for his path. Meanwhile, his kinsmen scheme and plot to overthrow their rival and regain the throne — but all the while, the Liar’s servants lie in wait.
Posted in Interviews
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Altir Ilanarion is a young man from a proud family. Once, his grandsire was High King, but his eldest uncle ceded the throne to another and disinherited his heirs. Invaders now scourge their lands, killing everything in their wake, tearing down forests and laying waste to their holdings. Altir ventures into to the neighboring land of the Greycloaks, hoping to make allies against the invaders, and in the process, falls in love with the Greycloak King’s daughter.
Kovannin Ilanarion, beloved of Altir’s uncle Tiano, is the most talented craftsman and diplomat of the Western people. His greatest wish is to see his lover retake the throne of the High King for his clan. He plans to forge alliances against the High King, using both his silver tongue and his skill in crafting weapons of war.
Stealing the Sun began in a familiar way. At first, it seemed to be the story of a young man defying his father in order to save the lives of his people and win the woman he loves. But the author, Kyri Freeman, took unexpected turns with the story that defy the traditional sagas of high fantasy. The book flirts with the grimdark genre without being utterly dark and devoid of hope. The author doesn’t shy away from portraying the characters honestly. Altir and Kovannin are sympathetic protagonists, but their ingrained prejudices and ambitions often blind them to folly. That tension, along with thrilling battles and action, kept me flipping pages.
The world building here is very clever. The author does a masterful job of describing both the physical and political landscape through the characters’ eyes. It’s also obvious that the People are not human. Though their physical description is human-like, there’s an almost too-subtle clue that they are quite different. There are other beings in this world as well; the Woodfolk, and Wighten, who could be either allies or enemies, and the Blankfaces and Draugar who are bent on crushing everything in their path.
One thing I liked about the book is that magic is known, but it is mysterious and rare. The People use weapons to fight; there are no mages flinging spells into battle. The Greycloaks use runes, but they are incomprehensible to the Western people, who have no inkling of their use or meaning. The magic in this book is subtle, appearing in dreams, or manifesting during times of great need. In short, the magic is magic, and it’s handled in a way that makes it special.
There were a few things that didn’t quite work. One concept that wasn’t fully developed was the significance of “the Nine.” This is an important plot point, with both nine gods and nine worlds mentioned without any explanation. Though the People mention cruel gods, rebirth and death, that particular bit of world building is a mystery. There’s also a particular feature of the Greycloak’s keep that seems ominous and important, but wasn’t elaborated on at all. I am hoping that it’s touched on in the rest of the trilogy.
Overall, Stealing the Sun is an action-packed story, with flawed and interesting characters. It has all the intrigue, politics, romance and betrayal that fantasy readers expect, along with twists in the narrative that are entirely unexpected. I look forward to the rest of the series.
Pages: 444 | ISBN: 1499638132
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