Kelvin and Elizabeth grew up in different places, both taught that they were the only people to survive the Dark Days; but they start to question their pasts when they hear strange tales that suggest otherwise. When fate brings them together, it creates more questions than answers: Will Kelvin uncover enough of the mysteries in time to free his home from the evil man who rules it? By following an ancient map to the last resting place of the mysterious fourth Founder of Triopolis, he hopes that the information he seeks will be revealed. When an accident forces Elizabeth to flee with Kelvin, they find themselves on a path that leads him home. During their journey, they discover an ancient race of people who have unbelievable powers over the natural world. Will Elizabeth and Kelvin learn how to fight off the evil that threatens their own existence?
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Steel, Blood and Fire is a genre-crossing novel with elements of a fantasy, military, and history as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?
I was, in part, inspired by Glenn Cook’s Black Company series, along with the Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Steven Erikson. So much so that I wanted to try my own hand at it.
I found Vykers to be a very well written and in depth character. What was your inspiration for his emotional turmoil through the story?
Here, I think I was most inspired by Odysseus, and his long journey home from Troy. Vykers has a lot of Odysseus’ arrogance — and deadly competence, as well.
The supporting characters in this novel, I felt, were intriguing and well developed. Who was your favorite character to write for?
That’s a tough one! Of course Vykers is fun to write. But so is Rem, the actor. That character allowed me to poke fun at the acting profession and relive a few of my own foibles. Then there is Spirk, the idiot. I have a special place in my heart for characters who are not quite up-to-speed, for want of a better term. He also provides a lot of the story’s comic relief. Finally, Aoife was enjoyable for me, because she reminds me of my sisters and wife, to some degree. I really liked looking at the story through her Earth Mother’s eyes.
I understand that you’re also an actor and stand-up comedian. How have those experiences helped you write your stories?
I think those things definitely shape my voice as a writer, the way I hear dialogue, and indulge in opportunities to shameless nonsense. But being an actor has also given me a fair amount of experience wielding a long sword, which comes in handy when writing fight scenes.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?
Actually, you have (kindly) review the first book in an existing four-book series. Steel, Blood & Fire is followed by As Flies to Wanton Boys, Corpse Cold, and, most recently, The Abject God. I am currently working on the series finale, The End of All Things, which I expect will to release in late 2018.
On the march, around the campfire, and in the taverns, they tell incredible stories about Tarmun Vykers, the Reaper – how he’s never been cut in battle, how he once defeated hundreds of men by himself, how he exterminated an entire people over an insult. These stories make Vykers seem like a god, but he is a man, an arrogant, ruthless and bloodthirsty man. For all that, he may be the only thing standing between the human race and utter annihilation at the hands of the mad wizard who calls himself the End-of-All-Things. Against this backdrop, smaller, lesser folks struggle to fulfill their own destinies, folks like Aoife, burdened with a secret so dark she is driven to do the unimaginable and seek an alliance with fey powers no mortal has ever encountered.
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Imagine everything you know about reality. Now, throw it all out the window. That is the predicament Jack Griffin is in: trapped in a universe that isn’t his own, brought there against his will by some force of nature unheard of in his world and not understood in the world where he ended up. Here’s the good news: Jack discovers he has magical talent. Now he must use all the resources at his disposal – magic, wit, tenacity, and the little coin that he has – to find a way back to his beloved in his own world. But will he survive this new world? Gods exist, and so does magic. He is an outsider in a country that values nobility above all else. If you’re not from the right family and don’t have the right magical bloodline, you may as well be dirt on the boot heels of the nobles. It’s a different world, but some things just never change. Welcome to the new world.
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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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The Legend of the Three Roses follows a magician’s apprentice and an assassin on a thrilling journey through a new series of books you’ve written. What was the inspiration for this book and the series that follows?
The story contains themes about morality and spirituality that I’ve been thinking about and wanted to “get out there.” My original idea was for a really grand epic featuring several parties all traveling to the same goal for different reasons. It would take place in a grand empire which grew prosperous due to a kind of sci fi concept. I never really took the idea seriously and hadn’t thought about it for a long time until I was suddenly inspired to simplify the story by making it about a boy and a girl, like many great stories. And I must confess, I borrowed a few ideas from some of the recent fantasy books I’ve been reading—things about medieval society and magic wards.
I really enjoyed the medieval setting of the novel. What themes did you want to capture while creating the world your characters live in?
I can’t say the world “Three Roses” takes place in is an accurate reflection of medieval Europe. I imagine the brick buildings of St. Mannington have a strong, advanced type of cement not found in the Middle Ages, when constructors commonly used mortar. Crossbows also weren’t around, but since this is a kind of make-believe Earth, I felt free to include any kind of invention as long as it was reasonably outdated in the modern world. Medieval Europe was of course a very Christian world, and I imagine many young people were like my main character, Kane, who is nearly pious to a fault. But in spite of being beholden to a religion that promotes peace and forgiveness, Europe was a very cruel place where people were treated like mere commodities and terribly punished. A quick Google search for “medieval torture devices” would definitely show you what I mean!
I always enjoy magic that is well thought out and believable. What decisions went into creating the magic system you use in your story?
The magic system was mostly inspired by a certain video game where potions are toxic. If you drink a potion, you can gain a boost to your stats or immunity to debuffs, but it costs you a little of your health. I never really thought of the possibility of potions being poisonous, and I thought it was an excellent way of keeping magic in check. I never want magic in my stories to be too powerful, because if it if it is, it can lead to story problems. When you have characters seem like gods, they can seem unrelatable and mere tools of plot convenience.
Where does book 2 in The Three Roses trilogy take the characters and when will it be available?
Right now, book 2 is all in my head. It takes place in Lonsaran, the rival kingdom of Kane and Callie’s homeland. They’ll have little choice but to settle there and look out for each other. The good news is that they’ll discover what the Three Roses are; the bad news is that Rainer the assassin is still alive … and he’s thirsty for revenge.
Four years ago, the Son of Man returned to Earth, seemingly to begin a new age of enlightenment. But two years later, he vanished without a trace …
Today, nineteen-year-old Kane Bailey–a nobleman and sorcerer’s apprentice–works and studies in his master’s tower in the middle of his nation’s capital. In spite of making a few mistakes (such as nearly blowing up a spellchamber), he shows the potential of being a great sorcerer. But his dreams of working with magic come to an end when he’s caught in the middle of an assassination attempt on the King’s life.
Upon getting captured by the assassin, Kane is swept up by lofty ambitions, terrible greed, and maddening bloodlust. Cut off from his sorcery, he’ll need to rely on his wits and knowledge to survive, as well as the trust and friendship of a young woman who may be taking on more than she can handle.
And a question lingers: What are the “Three Roses,” and what do they have to do with the impending war?
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A Guardian Falls by Rebecca Tran is a fantasy novel and the second book in the Chronicles of the Coranydas series. In the first novel, we are introduced to our main character Mara, who is seeking revenge after watching her father’s murder. She gives up her privileged lifestyles in order to seek justice. The second starts soon after the events of the first novel, with Mara’s betrothed recovering from his injuries after she has rescued him from her father’s killer, and her self-doubt in her abilities to finish what she has started.
The novel starts well, with a good re-introduction of characters and an update in the current situation. Tran’s writing is easy to follow, and you’re given a sense of the characters as soon as you meet them. Mara is also a likeable main character, and one of the reasons for this is that she is not a perfect or even confident lead. She doubts herself and her destiny throughout the novel, but all this makes for a more realistic and endearing character. It is much easier to empathize with a character who is self-critical and questions themselves, and this makes for an enjoyable read. Mara’s relationships also makes her more likeable. Her relationship with Kess is sweet and you find yourself invested in it – the novel starts with them having been in an argument, but their quick reconciliation is a subtle way to show you the strength of their relationship.
One thing the author does well is her ability to write both long scenes of in-depth dialogue between two characters and epic battle sequences. Both of these will hold your attention, and flow easily. The dialogue is good, and anything the characters say is believable and feels like a true conversation. Similarly, any action is written well, and is not too over the top.
The only problem I found with this novel is the amount of characters there are. It can sometimes be hard to follow so many characters in one book, and occasionally things can become muddled and you start to feel you’re in information overload. However, this does not affect the enjoyability of the novel to a high degree, but it is something you need to concentrate more on as you read.
Overall, this is a well balance book, with a good degree of both action and dialogue that is paced well. You will enjoy both the action sequences and the calmer, more character driven moments. The characters are strong, and our main character is likeable and relatable. The plot is interesting pushed along by some thrilling twists. If you are looking for a good fantasy read then you can’t go wrong with this one.
Pages: 394 | ASIN: B072LJV5Z5
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Jason Hubbard’s new series starts out with The Legend of the Three Roses. This story puts on display the fascinating journey of a young magician’s apprentice named Kane and a female assassin named Callie. Callie has been hired to assassinate the insane king Hugo who is planning to start a war. Callie fails to assassinate the king but manages to escape dragging Kane with her as ransom. After an unfortunate turn of events Kane ends up on the king’s most wanted list. Callie meanwhile has her own troubles running from a crazy assassin. Together they end up narrowly escaping death more than once.
One of the most fascinating and enthralling aspects about this book was the setting. It was a captivating reinvention of a medieval city. The old city structure with the different rings based on class, the description of the towers, streets and shops, all keep in line with traditional medieval style. I enjoy fantasy involving magic that is believable, so getting details on how mages worked in this story was fascinating and lends a bit of realism to the story. Hubbard goes into detail explaining the potions that mages need to consume in order to do magic.
Kane and Callie’s characters, while a bit flat in the beginning, develop into dynamic characters that you connect with after the first half of the novel. Both went from immature and impulsive to strong, reliable, and determined. There was a definitively dark streak in the book while dealing with some of the inner rim crime rings that I found fascinating as a contrast to Kane’s more puritan attitude.
One thing that was odd for me was how vague the point of the story is. The title is The Legend of the Three Roses however aside from the mystery of trying to figure out what they are, we learn nothing about them. But this being the first in the series, I’m sure we’ll be learning more about this in future novels.
Overall The Legend of the Three Roses by Jason Hubbard is an enchanting and gripping introduction to what I suspect is going to be a riveting series. Having read other works by Hubbard I think this will live up to my expectations in the next novel.
Pages: 509 | ASIN: B072MFGJLM
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The False Prophet is set in a post apocalyptic America and follows Donald of Fisher, our unlikely hero, as he must confront an army raised to conquer the land. What was the inspiration for the setup to this exciting novel?
The question applies to the first novel, The Stonegate Sword as well as The False Prophet although it is not necessary to have read the first book in order to understand the second. The initial idea was to create a character with a world view similar to present-day America and place him in a society with very different values, such as Medieval Europe. I considered a time-travel approach, but then hit on the idea that in the future the world could enter a second Dark Age. So the main character, Donald of Fisher is a lore-man, steeped in the study of the past from an early age. Then circumstances forces him to take up a sword and take on the role of a warrior. The conflict between the evil figure in the west owes a bit to Tolkien and a bit to the prophecies of the last days in Biblical prophecy. I made no attempt to create the details associated with the Antichrist, except that if the imagery in Scriptures is taken literally, it sounds as if the final battles will be fought with antique weapons. I realize that this could be figurative language, but I decided to take it literally, and that implies, again, that a dark age lies in the future.
The story follows two characters, The False Prophet and Donald of Fisher, which I felt were two contrasting characters. What themes did you want to capture while creating your characters?
The story follows the archetypal “hero’s quest.” Don is the hero and must face adversity. The False Prophet is the anti-hero and he does not actually appear in the first novel, being only a rumor, a malignant force driving the forces of evil. In the second novel, he is revealed to be a ruthless despot of the kind with whom we are all familiar. The Prophet’s armies are the driving force behind much of the conflict that Don must face and overcome, though human frailties (his own and those of his companions) are other obstacles in his path.
There were many biblical undertones throughout the novel. Where do you feel you paralleled the Bible and where did you blaze your own path? And how did that help you create an engaging story?
The story of the novel does have some similarities to the Bible in that the Israelites were often raided by their enemies and the kind of weapons were similar. The military tactics I describe are probably not similar to those used in Bible days, although some of the principles are timeless. The use of walled cities reminds one of the Bible and also Medieval Europe. The political situation in the free cities east of the mountains reminds me of Israel during the time of the Judges, when there was no king, and “everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” The apostasy or falling away from the faith is prophesied in the Bible. The rediscovery of lost technology, for example, cannons, is a new path. The idea of a man of sin arising in the last days is found in the Bible.
The False Prophet is the second book in the Stonegate series. Where does book three take readers?
Book three will take place a generation later. The False Prophet was not destroyed, and the evil in the West rises again. It is up to the children of Don, Rachel, Carla and Howard to bring the saga to its final conclusion. Donald, now a middle-aged man, past his prime, attempts to mount an invasion of the West to overthrow the Prophet, but his attempts are met with disunity among his friends and overwhelming might of his foes. As to be expected, the victory depends on help from a totally unexpected quarter.
Stonegate remains the key, and Donald returns to that great walled city and his beloved Rachel just as the hosts of enemy are also closing in. Part adventure, part love story, this epic saga covers the vast panorama of New Mexico deserts and Colorado Rockies in a possible future that looks very much like the medieval past. But duty, love, courage, and honor remain and are even more important than ever.
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In this novel; passion, danger, and the madness of King Kynneth are spreading across the land, and Christa’s legend is at the center of it all. What was one thing that got you excited about writing the 3rd book in your Atriian Trilogy?
I was anxious to see how Christine would fare against crazy Kynneth and his formidable infatuation. And I was especially curious to see how she would resolve her greatest dilemma of all, her forbidden desires for Hannen Fallier.
Christa stays true to her headstrong nature and is prone to ignoring advice she doesn’t want to hear while making risky decisions. How do you think her character has developed throughout the trilogy?
As a young woman, Christine felt the world was pitted against her. She was defiant and unruly, and prone to distancing herself from others to avoid further rejection. When she finally lets down her guard, her trust is brutally betrayed, and she is left bitter and broken. When she becomes a mother, I believe her focus shifts. It’s no longer herself she is trying to protect. She is fierce in her resolve to keep her children safe. I believe her headstrong nature, her grit and determination, are the very traits that keep her alive on Atriia, and that ultimately forge her into a legend.
The cover art for the Atriian Trilogy has been fantastic. What decisions went into the art direction?
I wanted to depict the characters as I envisioned them, to capture the image of the fierce fraigen dropper with his menacing mask and toothy tattoo, Christine with her ravishing red hair and piercing blue eyes, Lor Zeria with his sensuous mouth, and King Kynneth with a gloating glare in his eyes that could only mean trouble.
This being the third book in the Atriian Trilogy, how do you feel about the series coming to a close?
It’s been bittersweet. I’m afraid I’ve grown much too attached to many of the characters. It was a fantastic journey, and though there were horrific moments that broke my heart, I’m sorry to see it end.
Do you plan on continuing these characters in another series or are you working on something different?
Currently, I’m working on a completely different series, but one never knows. Mayhap somesol Becca and Bixten may have a tale to tell.
He is King Kynneth, hungry for power and bent on revenge. He means to rule the world of Atriia and to claim Christine as his own.
Will he conquer the world? Will he conquer Christine? Or does fate have other plans?
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The Reaper opens with the revelation that the King of Akala is missing, and the new Queen, Leah, is now in power. She meets with President Inaeus Janu of Shaweh to offer a peace treaty that brings their long war to an end. Janu suspects the Queen is a figurehead and focuses on the mysterious Lialthas who seems to have an undue influence over the Queen.
In the meantime, refugees from Akala reach the city-state of Shaweh seeking asylum. The group includes the missing King Darius, his half-sister Moriene with the child Hannah in tow, General Victor Ikharson, and Sefas, once called Meddiah when he was an Empty One. They are shadowed by the black-clad Zacharias who used his magic to help them escape from Lialthas. When the Akalan’s gestures of peace turn out to be empty promises, President Janu and the Akalan refugees are whisked to a secure location as war resumes.
This is the second book in the Fallen Conviction series, and it wasn’t hard to catch up when the asylum-seekers told their story to Janu. This gave me the chance to get up to speed on the plot if you haven’t read the first book.
The interplay between Darius’ group of refugees and the leadership of Shaweh are the primary drivers of the plot. Character-driven stories are a big draw for me, and the author has a knack for showing the complex, often antagonistic relationships between all of these strong-willed characters. My favorite characters in this book were Moriene and Sefas, who were once under Lialthas’ control. Both escaped his grasp and recovered from being “Empty,” yet both still seem to be fighting the battles of the past.
I also enjoyed the high-tension setting. Being locked in a bunker with people you don’t like but are forced to trust is hard enough, but if that trust is tested, things are going to get violent. The situation erodes when Zacharias reveals that there’s something even worse that Lialthas out there, and they may not be able to stop it.
The first thing that struck me about The Reaper was the unusual formatting. At first, I thought it was a typesetting error, but it became clear that the line numbering was meant to give it a scriptural feel. Some of these passages have archaic sentence structure with rhyming words at the end of sentences, but it’s not always consistent and that can be frustrating for those expecting poetic meter. However, the nod to scripture isn’t surprising because gods and religion play a major part in this story.
Don’t assume that because this is written in poetic language that it won’t be exciting. This is a place where magic and technology that we would recognize today are both present, where battles are fought with WMD strikes as well as mind-bending magical attacks. War is gruesome, and the author doesn’t pull his punches when it comes to violence and mayhem. In this world, magic is fueled by blood, fear, and suffering, so whoever wields this power must harm others in order to succeed.
If you’re looking for a novel that offers both a unique style and a reading experience that challenges and defies “the usual” in fantasy, give this book a try.
Pages: 340 | ASIN: B06XRS3SFD
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