Category: Reviews Page 1 of 6

Three Swords

I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Legends of Asgard book Three Swords by CL Werner, published by Aconyte Books, so here is the honest review I promised in exchange for the book.

So here is an important disclaimer which is always important to put out there first. I have a casual work contact with Asmodee to demonstrate board games for them in stores and at conventions. Asmodee being the parent company of Aconyte the publisher.

I am going to try my best to not let that cloud my judgement in this review, but I accept that subconsciously it might.

I am also friends with Clint on Facebook, but I suspect that’s more about him connecting with fans rather than being a big fan of mine!

Also I won’t lie, I have looked at other reviews to see what others think, so there may be some influences from them in this book review. If I am going to quote them, I will attribute them. But if I forget to, or something is highly influenced by them, and you think I ought to attribute someone, let me know so that I can.

What is Marvel

Look at this point I would bore you with a bit of background to the game/universe, but lets not, you all know the Marvel Universe, if you don’t have you been living under a rock!

The Legends of Asgard novels specially focus on the Norse mythology influenced Asgard with characters like Thor, Odin and Loki.

The Story

This story focuses on the Warriors Three, at long last, this really is something I have been waiting eagerly for!

Hogunm Fandral and the ever so modest Fandral are helping a rebellion against a tyrant, when they are recruited into a quest to save the nine realms from a dire threat presented by three Sorcerers accross time and space.

Crossing across history and the cosmos itself, the Warriors Three must take down these three sorcerers and seize their living talismans to prevent them from completing their plans.

Conclusion

This book is full of action, from the very start you are involved in battle and it rarely lets up, its pretty much non-stop.

As you can probably guess, the Warriors Three facing three sorcerers, there is a degree of mirroring from their opponents, and this mostly works, but at some points less so, but 90% of the time it does.

The battle against the first sorcerer felt a little rushed but the second and third were much better.

There is plenty of humour in here too, you will laugh when you find out what name Fandral used to be known as. But alas, soon after, you will end up a little upset when you find out why he abandoned that name.

So far the Tales of Asgard stories have all been amazing, and this is the first one that I would say is absolutely anchored in the world of Marvel, as the rest could have passed for stories just of the Norse Gods.

This one absolutely could have been a dibbly dobbly, but instead its an outright corker.

I have to give this book, 5 out of 5.


Three Swords is out now in paperback and as an ebook!

NQ64

Last night myself and Lindsay were invited along to the opening evening for NQ64, a new venue in Newcastle upon Tyne.

The venue provided us with a bunch of game tokens, and two drinks vouchers, but this review hasn’t been seen by them in advance or approved by them.

Now the place was initially pitched to me as a new adult arcade, but to be frank, it’s more of an arcade themed bar than an arcade, and that’s cool, just different to what I expected.

Entering the bar, which is located at 82 Pilgrim Street, opposite the old Bank of England site, which is currently under redevelopment, you come into a large room, this is where the main bar is located, along with a small selection of games, specifically Galiga, Donkey Kong and X-Men.

The bar serves a selection of draught and bottled beers, and video game themed cocktails, but currently no mocktails which is a bit annoying as I am generally a teetotaller.

However I did cave and try a cocktail, I had a Dr Ro Bev Nik, which is a Jack Daniel’s, cherry and Dr Pepper concoction, which was very nice. (I know, I am a terrible example of a Baha’i, but I am still a work in progress).

Further in you come to a room in which there is a central column in which there is located a Mega Drive, Xbox (complete with Duke controllers), PS1 and Game Cube.

There are loaded up with a selection of games to play, but, the Mega Drive was using a widescreen monitor and was forced into 16:9 which made many of the games borderline unplayable, because they were originally designed to be played at 4:3.

The other games in this room include Outrun 2 SP, the only AM2 game in the bar, the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Game, Pac-Man, Space Invaders and some Pinball machines.

In the back are a couple of shooting games, including House of the Dead, a dancing game, a snowboarding game and a couple of others.

Downstairs are the toilets, a further bar, but this was closed on this occasions. There is a room containing Mario Kart, Tetris, Mortal Kombat 2, Street Fighter 2: Champion Edition, and a couple of others.

On the opposite side of the basement is a larger room, in which you can find Ms Pac-Man, Tim Crisis and Time Crisis 2, a Neo Geo 4 slot MVS, Killer Instinct 2 and Crazy Taxi.


So what did we get up to, we’ll we played games and had a couple of drinks.

I am gonna start with the negatives, the first one, being a biggie for me, was when we got our second drink, a soft drink for both of us, the barman asked if we wanted a pint or half pint, we both said pint, but he pulled out a half pint, when we pointed this out, he swore blind that this was a pint glass, it clearly wasn’t and he wouldn’t believe me that a pint was twice and much, despite me handing over Lindsay used pint glass.

I wasn’t in the mood to make a scene, but that was not great and if we had been paying punters paying for a pint and getting only a half I would be quite angry, I could imagine a pissed up bloke could get very aggressive.

Lindsay loved the blue lemonade which reminded her of the Barr Bubblegum drink she and Megan are huge fans of .

The other criticism and this is very personal, but for me, the golden age of the arcade, at least from my youth was the first half of the 1990s and in particular the games made by Sega AM2, and other than Outrun 2 SP, these games were absent. I would have loved to have seen Virtua Fighter, Daytona USA, Virtua Racing or Virtua Striker. But that’s just me and my love of the Model 2 games!

The place has an emphasis it seems on original hardware, and I couldn’t find any emulated stuff at all, which was wonderful.

The Neo Geo MVS cabinet was in my opinion the best one there, oh my god the joystick microswitches were sublime and heavenly to feel. Best game of Metal Slug I have had in years, especially with the CRT monitor.

Time Cop 2 was fantastic, and me and Lindsay had a great time playing it.

The one slight disappointment was Street Fighter 2, I would have rather have seen The New Challengers or Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo. The cabinet felt well worn, and some of the buttons felt like less good quality replacements and were a bit mushy, but most people won’t notice, and it’s good enough, especially with a few drinks in you.

There is also a cool Photo Booth, which not only gives you a print, but also a download code to allow you to get a digital version, which is really cool.


Conclusion

So would I go back, yeah I think I will, just annoyed I am moving to Hartlepool, putting me further away.

If I were to visit again, it would have to be on a school night, I get the feeling it will be a bit too crowded on a Friday or Saturday and you would struggle to get access to the games.

The prices seem reasonable, a bit more expensive than normal Newcastle bars, but those machines are gonna need a lot of maintenance, and being a chain you expect to pay a premium., and even then it’s not too daft.

The overall aesthetic is really cool, a bit too cool for a nearby 40 year old me, but I didn’t feel too out of place.

So I can absolutely see this being a regular haunt when I am in the Toon, it was a really fun night and other than the one barman who didn’t know what a pint was, it was a great night.


Firewall

I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Splinter Cell novel Firewall by James Swallow, published by Aconyte Books, so here is the honest review I promised in exchange for the book.

So here is an important disclaimer which is always important to put out there first. I have a casual work contact with Asmodee to demonstrate board games for them in stores and at conventions. Asmodee being the parent company of Aconyte the publisher.

I am going to try my best to not let that cloud my judgement in this review, but I accept that subconsciously it might.

What is Splinter Cell

Splinter Cell is a video game franchise published by Ubisoft, they are stealth action adventures endorsed by Tom Clancy. The first game was a breakout hit on the original Xbox, and has led to a series of novels and several sequel games, although there has not been a new game for 9 years at this point.

The franchise revolves around Sam Fisher, and operative for a mysterious NAS organisation called Third Echelon, later Fourth Echelon, and his work to keep the United States safe from various threats.

The Story

This story sees Sam Fisher team up with a new Fourth Echelon operative, his daughter Sarah, ass they work to destroy a sinister threat to the world in the form of the Gordian Sword, a piece of cyberwarfare technology that can bypass any cyber security in existence.

But going up against them, is an old foe of Sam’s a former Soviet assassin long thought dead by Sams own hand.

Thus starts a race against time to neutralise the billionaire trying to use the technology to remake the world in his own image, and the blunt tool of his Russian relic!

Conclusion

The book is a very good, whilst Tom Clancy’s actual involvement in the Splinter Cell series, is questionable and the quality of the previous books has been middling, this one has been written very very well.

Given that this is essentially a reboot of the series, being the first installment, novel or game in nine long years, it had a lot to live up to, and I am glad to say I think it pulled it off!

James’s writing is very much in the style of Tom Clancy, and to be frank, very little of his own style shone through. It was a well researched book and felt like a love letter to the Tom Clancy books of old, the main inspiration felt to be the Rainbow Six book he wrote in 1998, but that might be because it was the last Clancyverse novel I read!

If Splinter Cell is to come back, and I really hope it does, then this is a good first step in that journey.

A solid 4 out of 5 stars.


Firewall is out now in both ePub, paperback and as an audiobook from all good booksellers!

If buying online, I recommend the below, but if you have a local indie bookstore and like the physical books, go take your custom to them!


Reign of the Devourer

I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Marvel Untold novel Reign of the Devourer by David Annadale, published by Aconyte Books, so here is the honest review I promised in exchange for the book.

So here is an important disclaimer which is always important to put out there first. I have a casual work contact with Asmodee to demonstrate board games for them in stores and at conventions. Asmodee being the parent company of Aconyte the publisher.

I am also friends with David on Facebook, but I suspect that’s more about him connecting with fans rather than being a big fan of mine!

I am going to try my best to not let that cloud my judgement in this review, but I accept that subconsciously it might.

What is Marvel

Look at this point I would bore you with a bit of background to the game/universe, but lets not, you all know the Marvel Universe, if you don’t have you been living under a rock!

The Story

This story focuses on Doctor Victor von Doom, the ruler of the Eastern European country of Latveria, and is a sequel to last years Harrowing of Doom.

In this story Dooms desire for power and control leads him to attempt to regain knowledge that was lost on Walpurgis Night in the previous book, and with the assistance of the priest turned geomancer Zargo and surgeon Orloff, he searches for a repository of stolen memories and knowledge buried beneath Latveria.

But Maleva Krogh, a former member of Latverias ruling elite has a connection to the Devourer of memories, and is granted the power of the Urvullak, a deadly strain of Latverian vampires who steal the very soul of their victims.

Conclusion

The book is a slow burner, it takes a while to get going, but once it does the action is frantic, and epic.

It’s a very different novel to its predecessor, in that book Doom knew what was coming and was planning several steps ahead, whereas in this book, he was forced to react to the Urvullak who he was not expecting whatsoever.

In the last book you got time to know the main characters in the build up to Walpurgis Night, whereas this book takes place over a shorter timeframe, and you get less of the background. So I would say that the previous book is best read before this for maximum enjoyment.

Zargos inner turmoil is really well written, he is a man who made a choice to deny his powers and take a different path, but now has that choice taken from him. He is tortured inside and he is forced to develop his abilities further to fight the threat of the Urvullak.

Orloff gets a lot more fleshed out as Doom takes her from practising medicine to developing a new science, which is eventually weaponised as she becomes a warrior and potentially Dooms greatest tool in the fight against Krogh.

My favourite part of the book really is Krogh and the Urvullak, they are written in a way that is terrifying and horrific.

What they do is so awful, they way they rip away your soul and transform you into one of them. They feel just as much a threat on their own as they do when amassed as an army.

They are chilling and something like out of a horror film, absolutely petrifying.

This book takes a turn toward horror that I wasn’t expecting, reinforcing Annandale as a writer who is one of licensed fictions best writers of the weird and dreadful.

This book gets 4 out of 5 stars from me!


You can buy the eBook now, and the paperback is available in the US now and will be in the UK on 28th April.


To Chart The Clouds

I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Legend of the Five Rings book To Chart the Clouds by Evan Dicken, published by Aconyte Books, so here is the honest review I promised in exchange for the book.

So here is an important disclaimer which is always important to put out there first. I have a casual work contact with Asmodee to demonstrate board games for them in stores and at conventions. Asmodee being the parent company of Aconyte the publisher.

I am going to try my best to not let that cloud my judgement in this review, but I accept that subconsciously it might.

So let’s crack on with a review then!

What is Legend of the Five Rings

L5R as it’s often known is a fantasy setting for a series of card games and RPGs originally published by AEG, but now taken care of by Fantasy Flight.

It’s set in the empire of Rokugan which is heavily feudal Japan influenced, with a bit of other East Asian influences, like China and Korea thrown in as well.

It’s a fantasy setting with the usual fantasy tropes of goblins and rat men, but also oni and kitsune too.

The Story

Miya Isami is a clerk in the Cartography Ministry in the capital city of Rokugan who has been developing techniques of triangulation to make more accurate maps, maps based on actual measurements, rather than the artistry of the current maps.

But this isn’t welcomed by her traditionalist superiors who deny her the right to become an Imperial Cartographer.

Following this setback she throws herself into her work and comes across some ancient maps of the border of the Lion and Scorpion Clan lands, and sees the glimmer of something not yet discovered. But when another clerk steals her work, she is crestfallen.

Alas her rival meets a sticky end and when an Imperial Treasurer needs someone to contain a brewing conflict in that same region, he turns to her, sending her on a mission to barter peace between the traditional rivals.

So off she sets with a bodyguard in tow, to try and hammer out a compromise between the two clans, and potential get a chance to prove her theories about an undiscovered valley.

Conclusion

I literally consumed this book in three hours, which is normally very difficult for me with my brain damage, I simply could not put this book down.

The concept sounds dull, but its packed full of action, intrigue and mystery, its a fantastically written story and the way Evan has written his characters gives them real meat and deep personalities.

There is also a trans character in the book and the way he is written about is perfect, an acknowledgement that hey this guy is trans, its rare, but perfectly normal, then the next time it comes up is when he is changing clothes and Miya notices his bindings.

That’s exactly what I want to see in these novels, real representation of LGBTQ characters that is genuinely not their entire personality, but instead a normal accepted part of society, its uplifting to read.

The last act does have a bit of deus ex machina about it, but it still works.

But the best part, its left open for a sequel, which is fantastic!

5 out of 5 stars from me!


To Chart the Clouds is available now as an eBook and Audio Book, and the paperback is out on the 28th April.


School of X

I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Xavier’s Institute anthology School of X edited by Gwendolyn Nix, and published by Aconyte Books, so here is the honest review I promised in exchange for the book.

So here is an important disclaimer which is always important to put out there first. I have a casual work contact with Asmodee to demonstrate board games for them in stores and at conventions. Asmodee being the parent company of Aconyte the publisher.

I also a, friends with one of the authors, Robbie MacNiven on Facebook, although for him that connection is probably more about interacting with fans than anything else, but I did once interview him for Edge 0f Empire!

I am going to try my best to not let these things cloud my judgement in this review, but I accept that subconsciously it might.

What is Marvel

Look at this point I would bore you with a bit of background to the game/universe, but lets not, you all know the Marvel Universe, if you don’t have you been living under a rock!

The Xavier’s Institute novel series is focused on the heroes that attend this school and their adventures and the books in the series thus far have focuses on what would very much be considered b-list heroes, which is good because it allows the authors to do a lot more with the characters than they would be able to do with more established heroes.

The Stories

As this is an anthology I will break down the individual stories and give a few thoughts about them.

Fifteen Minutes by Jaleigh Johnson

A story in which Goldballs and the Stepford Cuckoos get to take centre stage.

Trapped inside their own minds after movie night, Goldballs gets to act out his fantasies about being a silver screen hero, but to break out of it, he needs to get through to Celeste who is finding themselves drifting apart from her sisters.

This is a solid story, very short with barely a wasted word, really enjoyable and a great opening story.

Note, don’t refuse a Stepford Cuckoos desire for karaoke!

Call of the Dark by Robbie MacNiven

Robbie gets to revisit Graymalkin and Anole after the events of First Team, and in the aftermath Graymalkin has developed a fear of the dark.

Forced to wander the depths of the insitues lower levels, he finds himself in a tussle with his darker self, but is he going mad, or is something more sinister going on.

On this story I have mixed feelings, at times I feel its the best story in the collection, and at others I feel its the least. Its the one I have reread the most and I struggle to really figure out how I feel about it.

That’s probably a sign of good writing, but its one I cannot make my mind up over, its likely I will buy the eBook so that I can dissect this story a few more times.

Uncatchable by Lauria Cath

This is a super fun story in which Hijack and Cipher go out for a midnight illegal street race, but discover a hidden secret to the meets.

Finding themselves having to take down a criminal gang in the middle of a street race, the pair save the day.

This is a simple story, but a great one, its very much something that I could picture as a one shot issue with a great premise, X-Men have some fun, but end up taking down the bad guys!

Eye of the Storm by Amanda Bridgeman

Sooraya, Shark Girl and Rockslide get kidnapped by a cyborg who hates humans and mutants alike, they are forced to fight animal robots.

I hate to be negative, but this story is the weakest of the bunch, I think this would have worked better as an individual short story release. I can’t put my finger on it, but it feels out of place here.

Of Dirt and Bones by Pat Shand

Phoebe Stepford starts to break away a bit from the other Cuckoos, having nightmares that force her into her diamond form whilst asleep.

Traumatised by Emma Frost increasingly brutal training sessions, she is sent over the edge and cut off from her sisters.

She ends up accidently killing a goose, and wracked with guilt she buries it in the grounds of the school, but soon the area is overrun by zombie animals!

This is a great story with lots of wonderful horror inspired elements and really takes a look at the trauma that training to be a member of the X-Men can cause.

Kid Omega Faces the Music by Neil Kleid

This is a really funny story and a very different one to the others, and as the last “short” story in the book is perfectly placed.

The story telling mechanism is fantastic, Kid Omega, who as a character, I really dislike normally, is forcing the story into the head of a random person, because he can’t tell it to anyone at the school, so why not subject a random stranger to a telepathic barrage.

Its written as a conversation between Quintin and the reader, and tells how after sneaking off to a film convention, to steal Wonder Boys glasses, Kang the Conqueror turns up and sends him on a merry journey through time.

But the trip has a purpose, as Quintin sees the evolution of another Omega level mutant, Magneto, and gets a deeper understanding of his teachers journey and the evolution of his belief in mutant supremacy.

This story is one of the real highlights of this book, and to be honest makes it worth the cost all on its own!

Depowered by Carrie Harris

This is more of a novella and sees Carrie return to Triage and Tempus, who she wrote about in Liberty and Justice for All (Not yet read this, I missed its eARC on Netgallery and I have struggled with funds for new books recently).

The Schools teachers leave for an urgent mission leaving the students alone, but not for long as Polaris and Mirage turn up seeing the help of Triage and Tempus to try and regain/control their powers after the Scarlett Witch’s muttering of the words “No More Mutants”.

Unfortunately the powers that Polaris still have are out of control and in the chaos caused by a demonstration, they attract a squadron of Sentinels, who invade the school and attempt to apprehend the young mutants.

It also strongly references the time that Tempus spent in the future in which she married and started a family in the Uncanny X-Men, before being flung back to the present destroying that future forever.

This is a great story, a good mix of action, character development and a focus on plenty of characters giving good screen time to several of them.

Makes me want to go any buy Liberty and Justice for All next time I have the pennies!

Conclusion

Overall this collection is worth the money, yeah some stories stand out more than others, but that’s inevitable with any anthology.

It flows well and other than the one story, all fitted quite nicely together, with most characters making an appearance in the final story.

The ones that stand out, Eye of the Storm and Call of the Dark do so because the characters don’t feature in that last story, I can’t even recall them being mentioned in them.

And I think that’s why they don’t flow as well, the others build up to an almost Avengers style final story where most of the characters come together to face down the big bad.

But yeah this collection is solid, and I can see it as being something I could easily recommend to someone, its got a lot of characters that see less focus in the comics and other media.

I am going to give it 4.5 out of 5


School of X is out as an eBook and paperback now and you can get it right now!


Far Cry 2 – A Review of A Classic

Far Cry 2 is a game I first played back in 2009, very briefly on the Xbox 360.

I didn’t my last long, it was frustrating and really hard and just felt too much like hard work.

Anyway I realised that though bundles and deals I owned all of the Far Cry games and decided that I had best actually play them!

So I recently finished the original Far Cry, the review of which you can see here.

And thus I cracked on with its sequel, Far Cry 2.

To start with, it’s absolutely and completely different from it predecessor. Whilst Far Cry was a run of the mill Sci-Fi shooter, albeit with a very high difficulty level, Far Cry 2 is an open world game very much based in reality.

So how about we start with the positives.

Even 14 years on from its release, it looks good, the open world of the game is beautiful and very realistic in how it’s structured.

The open needed nature of the game, along with the choices you can make along the way give it a lot of character.

The setting is great, very much one that’s not been explored a lot in video games.

But I have a lot of issues with the game.

It feels very schizophrenic, it can’t decide if it wants to be an action-shooter, an RPG or social commentary about the influence of western mercenaries and blood diamonds in Africa.

And it doesn’t do a great job at being any of those.

If really feels like it wants to be an RPG, it really feels like it wants to encourage you to develop you character. But you never really do.

You get a choice of characters, I chose Frank, but it doesn’t feel as if that choice makes any difference in the game, it feels like it plays the same regardless.

And as a shooter, well this might sound weird but there is too much shooting!

See there are two different factions in the game, not that you would know as they are all, without exception going to attack you as soon as they see you, no matter who you are working with.

When you clear out checkpoints, within minutes they are repopulated, and the limited carrying capacity for syringes, the games health packs, mean that sometimes, you get stuck, unable to go back to a checkpoint for fear of the shootout, but unable to go forward for lack of syringes when you face the inevitable shooting.

So for me, I think this is a game that has a lot of potential, but never quite meets it.

So that leads me onto my conclusion.

This is a game that could really do with a remake, and I mean a full in remake, with the RPG elements enhanced, so that for example, when you clear out a checkpoint, you can reman it with the faction you are working with.

I would love to see the militias of the two factions treating you differently depending on how you have played the game.

Anyway let’s get away from what I wish the game could be and onto what the game is.

The game was fun, but difficult, perhaps too difficult. The story was interesting, but the big bad guy was a little generic.

This game sets the foundations for what the series becomes, and in a way it’s groundbreaking.

So I am gonna award it 3 out of 5.

I had the settings at the maximum possible and was getting 60fps constantly, it never dipped or got higher than that.

Hardware

  • CPU:- Ryzen 5 5600X
  • RAM:- 32GB
  • GPU:- RTX 3070
  • Resolution:- 1080p

Assassin’s Creed – Review After Replay

So I have decided after my recent play though of Assassins Creed, which you can see on YouTube, to give you a review.

First off let me give you a bit of background to my relationship with Assassins Creed. I first bought the game when I got a PlayStation 3 on release, and I actually ended up trading it in very quickly because it felt dull and repetitive.

But about a year later I was given it on Xbox 360 and it was a very different beast, it was a lot more enjoyable and the reason for that was achievements.

Those dull repetitive things now became things I wanted to do because I wanted the achievements, I spent a lot of time in that game trying to score as much G as possible.

And the story got me hooked as well, and it still is a very good story.

Anyway so how does it hold up from a modern perspective, well it’s a bit middling.

The game still looks good, I think games of that generation still hold up today and frankly are comparable to those on mobile phones and even the Switch, yeah the textures are a bit meh, but it still looks amazing.

The score is wonderful and very atmospheric, but the speech of the NPCs is very repetitive, which is think is a result if the limited size of the DVD media that it was released on for Xbox 360, and it didn’t really take advantage of the Blu-Ray disk for PS3.

Gameplay is still good, but the initial complaints still stand, it’s dull and repetitive and I can see why Ubisoft have not remastered this game, it would need more than some HD textures to improve it, it needs a whole remake.

The crack is that doing the game without achievements, although I did have some to collect still, makes it a much less enjoyable game, because it feels like you are doing the exact same thing over and over again.

Yeah it set up the franchise, but it is, absolutely not a classic, if anything it’s a bit of a disappointment in retrospect.

It just doesn’t stand up to modern standards, but the green shoots of what would come in the sequel are there and waiting to be improved upon.

Assassins Creed as a franchise has come a long way, and this was that first step.

Flawed, but with its own charm.


Scoring this game is difficult, I love the story, Altair is an engaging character, it looks good and the score is evocative.

But the gameplay gets boring very quickly.

So I have to give the game 2 out of 5.

Hardware

  • Xbox Series S
  • Xbox Controller
  • 1080p

Witches Unleashed

I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Marvel Untold book Witches Unleashed by Carrie Harris published by Aconyte Books, so here is the honest review I promised in exchange for the book.

So here is an important disclaimer which is always important to put out there first. I have a casual work contact with Asmodee to demonstrate board games for them in stores and at conventions. Asmodee being the parent company of Aconyte the publisher.

I am going to try my best to not let these things cloud my judgement in this review, but I accept that subconsciously it might.

Also I won’t lie, I have looked at other reviews to see what others think, so there may be some influences from them in this book review. If I am going to quote them, I will attribute them. But if I forget to, or something is highly influenced by them, and you think I ought to attribute someone, let me know so that I can.

What is Marvel

Look at this point I would bore you with a bit of background to the game/universe, but lets not, you all know the Marvel Universe, if you don’t have you been living under a rock!

The Witches were a trio of magical users who were supporting characters in some fairly older titles. The team is Jennifer Kale, Topaz and Satana who were put together by Dr Strange to counter the Hellphyr and get it back into the Tome of Zhered-Na. They had a series back in 2004 I think.

They are joined by Johnny Blaze, the Ghost Rider and Jennifer’s cousin.

The Story

Johnny Blaze managed to get himself stuck in Hell, and in his escape he let Lucifer, the Prince of Lies out, but shattered into 666 pieces.

Now its the duty of the Ghost Rider to hunt down the fragments and send them right back to Hell.

Finding his way to Salem, Florida, Blaze detects something different about this fragment, and he decides to seek the help of a local coven of witches, who just happen to consist of his cousin Jennifer Hale, guardian of the Tome of Zhered-Na, Topaz, an empath, and Santana Hellstorm, a half demon of hell.

Realising that the fragment of Lucifer is in the body of a Kale family member, the sister Lefay and Johnny Blaze, turn to some extreme means to try and find the fragment and send it back to the underworld.

Conclusion

When I started this, I was a bit concerned that it would require quite a bit of background knowledge about the magical world of Marvel, but Harris does an amazing job of spoon feeding what we need at the exact time we need it.

There is lots of exposition, but it feels just right, its never too much or too little and I think the judgement was just right.

Now if I am honest the pacing isn’t something I am a fan of, the story takes a long time to get started, but then the finale does feel a little rushed.

I don’t know the confrontation with Lucifer just felt like it needed more build up, but the writing of that battle was absolutely incredible it felt very fluid and dynamic and with Lucifer using his powers to push the group of heroes to their limit.

It really was a very well written and descriptive climax with the most unexpected of endings.

The Witches get only the smallest time in the main Marvel comics and its great to see them getting the attention they deserve here, and this is the amazing thing about the Aconyte books, they take characters who only get bit parts and expand them out into amazing novels.

This book I am going to give a score of 4 out of 5.


The eBook is out now, and the paperback will be published on the 17th February.


Mood:- Frustrated
Caffeinated Beverages Consumed:- 5
In My Ears:- That Don’t Impress Me Much – Shania Twain
Tabletop Game Last Played:– The Horus Heresy
Video Game Last Played:- Horizon Zero Dawn
Book Last Read:– Witches Unleased – Carrie Harris
Movie/TV Show Last Viewed:- The Masked Singer
Current State of Projects:- Nowt on my desk!

The Cult of the Spider Queen

I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Arkham Horror book The Cult of the Spider Queen written by S.A. Sidor, published by Aconyte Books, so here is the honest review I promised in exchange for the book.

So here is an important disclaimer which is always important to put out there first. I have a casual work contact with Asmodee to demonstrate board games for them in stores and at conventions. Asmodee being the parent company of Aconyte the publisher.

I am going to try my best to not let that cloud my judgement in this review, but I accept that subconsciously it might.

Also I won’t lie, I have looked at other reviews to see what others think, so there may be some influences from them in this book review. If I am going to quote them, I will attribute them. But if I forget to, or something is highly influenced by them, and you think I ought to attribute someone, let me know so that I can.

What is Arkham Horror

Anyway that put to one side, let’s look at this book, by first looking at the game Arkham Horror which is a cooperative game, originally designed by Richard Launius, and is now in its third edition which was released in 2019.

It’s published by Fantasy Flight Games, a subsidiary of Asmodee, and is set in 1926 in the town of Arkham, Massachusetts. Each player takes on the role of an investigator, who are working to stop the Ancient Ones, eldritch horrors which lurk in the void beyond space and time.

It’s a 1-6 player game and you work together to gather clues and defeat the evil of the Ancient Ones and save the world.

As I said I haven’t actually played Arkham Horror but I do own its spin off Elder Sign the cooperative dice game.

The Story

Like the rest of the Arkham Horror novels, its set in the 1920s, and this novel sees a side character from Sidors previous Arkham Horror novel, The Last Ritual, head off an adventure to the Amazon after a silent movie star turned documentary director who has been missing for a year.

It starts off with the reporter receiving a mysterious film reel in the mail, with a simple note: “Maude Brion is very much alive!”, and sets him off on a journey of deception to fund an expedition to the Amazon in search of the missing starlet, gold, and the mysterious Spider Queen.

As the group he puts together makes their way up the Amazon river, nightmares start to become real and they begin to realise that this is a journey that they might never come back from.

Conclusion

Oh wow, where do I start, this book is thus far the best of Aconytes Arkham Horror offerings, despite mostly not being set in Arkham at all.

The setting is just dripping with little details that really blend the Lovecraftian Horror and the Jazz Age together in such a way that its almost impossible not to visualise it in your mind.

For example, Iris just excludes glamour and sophistication, even with her descent into madness, I imagine a Gal Gadot type of appearance for her, and Ursula is a kickarse gal who won’t be confined by the gender norms of the era.

The description of the monsters and horrors brought forth by the fools tampering with the passages between worlds, make your skin crawl and this novel see the introduction of more Cthulhu mythos aspects than any of the other novels thus far, with the Men of Leng playing an interesting role.

The writing style is wonderful, descriptive and flowing, and manages to blend the styles of Lovecraft, 1920s pulp novels and modern storytelling.

The atmosphere that’s built up plays off fantastically and whilst the conclusion feels deflated (because the characters are, not the story itself, but that connection to them is very real), it leaves open the door for other stories exploring some of the characters.

Aconyte have really hit the ground running and I have been reviewing their books since they started, I am a little behind, but their stuff now makes up the majority of my reading, and this takes the quality level up again.

5 out of 5 stars, no question


Also I won’t lie, I have looked at other reviews to see what others think, so there may be some influences from them in this book review. If I am going to quote them, I will attribute them. But if I forget to, or something is highly influenced by them, and you think I ought to attribute someone, let me know so that I can.


You can buy the eBook now and the paperback gets a release on the 17th March


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