Category: Book Reviews Page 1 of 5

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!

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!


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


The Rebels of Vanaheim

I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Legends of Asgard book The Rebels of Vanaheim by Richard Lee Byers, 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 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 Heimdall and Uschi, a captain of the Valkyries that we met in Richards previous book, The Head of Mirmir, and they are going on a lovely holiday to their home realm of Vanaheim, a sister realm of Asgard run by god of the harvest Frey.

But in amongst some family drama, they come up against a curse of shape shifting draugr. But when a family member falls under the curse, there is a race against time to deal with the zombie menace, but the crisis of the undead is just one aspect of a greater conspiracy.

The story is frankly, excellent, and the best thing is, that if it didn’t have Marvel on the cover, you could have easily thought that this was a fantasy novel set in the world of the Nordic gods.

There is a mystery running throughout the story linked to the miraculous draugr rune swords provided to the Vanir from the forges of the dwarves.

Conclusion

Like his last book, this is presented as a fable told to a young girl to help her navigate a life problem, which I think is really good as it helps set it up as a tale from Asgards past.

Its a highly enjoyable read, I devoured it in two sittings and just really loved the story, as I said, its strength is how much it draws on Norse myths and swirls it round with the existing Marvel lore.

In the hands of a less skilled author, it could be meh, but Richard has taken this and turned it into a fantastic tale that I just could not put down.

5 out of 5 stars!


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


The Gates of Thelgrim

I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Descent: Journeys in the Dark book The Doom of Fallowhearth by Robbie MacNiven, 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.

Secondly I am a friend of Robbie’s on Facebook, and whilst we aren’t best buds, we do interact with each other on occasion and I consider him a class person.

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’s is Descent: Journeys in the Dark

Simply put Descent: Journeys in the Dark is good old fashioned dungeon crawler whose linage goes all the way back to Heroquest.

Based very much on the Doom board game published by Fantasy Flight Games, you can see influences from across the gaming hobby, with bits from Space Hulk and Lord of the Rings being identifiable.

It’s set in the world of Terrinoth, a setting shared with Runewars, Runeage and a few other games and RPGs published by Fantasty Flight Games.

It’s a high fantasy universe and you will recognise many of the tropes and races seen in other similar fantasy style settings. It’s not particularly unique, but it is fairly well developed and interesting.

Descent is the dungeon crawler game in that universe, with one player being the evil overlord of the dungeon and the others taking in the tiles of the hero’s.

For a dungeon crawler, let’s be honest it’s one of the best out there, and the only reason it’s not in my collection is that Lindsay and Megan aren’t as enthusiastic about high fantasy as I am!

The Story

Like Robbie’s previous Descent novel, this is comfortable and familiar feeling whilst at the same time being interesting and exciting, which is a hard trick to pull off.

The great Dunwarr city of Thelgrim has closed its gates to all, something which is unusual and has stranded refugees fleeing the wars overtaking Terrinoth.

A mysterious patron hires three adventurers to travel to great city under the mountain and figure out what is going on. Raythen a thief and a drunkard son of the city is reluctant to go back, and the Runewitch Astarra and her polar opposite the Deep Elf called Shiver can barely stand to be in the same room as each other, but the rewards on offer to each of them, convinces them to put aside their concerns and figure out what the crack!

But there is more to this quest than they first realise, not only do they have to deal with each other but they find themselves dragged into the politics of the city and its various factions, but must also confront a growing threat beneath the city itself.

The Story

This book is very good and is an extremely engaging read, I read this and it felt like being in the middle of a Heroquest game or an RPG adventure.

The character development was something that stood out for me, the protagonists weren’t simple archetypes but were fully fleshed out personalities with plenty of backstory that’s revealed as the plot advances.

The relationship between Shiver and Astarra was a particular joy, this oil and water pair start off having an extremely antagonistic relationship, but this gradually thaws throughout the book and in the end they form a very strong bond that is extremely satisfying to see.

There are some fantasy clichés in the story, but these are less of a crutch and rather feel like they are there to make sure the story is assessable to as wide an audience as possible.

The dialogue is snappy, the banter is genuinely quite funny and absolutely what you would hear at most RPG tables, the world building is excellent and the descriptive writing is first rate, in fact the last part is so good, that in a section with a bit of body horror, I genuinely found myself feeling a bit sick.

I would very strongly recommend this book to any fantasy fan because it hits all the right notes, and is a great standalone book with little dependency on any previous knowledge of the franchise.

4.5 out of 5 stars.


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


Triptych

I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Xavier’s Institute book Triptych by Jaleigh Johnson, 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.

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 focued on the heroes that attend this school and their adventures and the two books in the series thus far (disclaimer I never actually read the first one yet) 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 Story

This is an interesting story which focuses on Fantomex, a super soldier who at one point was three distinct brains in one body, but when those brains are separated due to catastrophic injuries, they are each given their own bodies and go their separate ways.

The main character of this book, the core Fantomex, is left the most injured and is taken by his external nervous system, the bio-mechanical E.V.A., to the Xavier Institute in Canada, where he is healed and brought back into the world, all too aware that he is missing two thirds of what he was.

A lot of the book is Fantomex coming to terms with what he feels is a diminished body and skill set, as some of his abilities are with the other members of the Triptych.

Feeling weaker, he tries to push those trying to help him away, despite the best efforts of Emma Frost and Cyclops to make him find a place in the world.

What follows is his attempts to find out what his other selves are up to, and what we get is a cat and mouse chase involving fine art and nanotech, and at the heart of it, is a young mutant, who like Fantomex, is still trying to find her place in the world.

Conclusion

To start off this book has taken me most of a month to read due to my having a lot of issues with sleep, so its been a while since my last review.

But this book is a fairly solid story, lets face it, we have all been in a place where we have needed to rediscover who we are, and I know I have had that again quite recently.

So its great to see how the author has really delved into the self-doubt and questioning that plagues us all in those times, but she shows that for Fantomex, and for most of us, there is a light at the end of the tunnel and you can get there, so in that respect, the book is quite hopeful in its theme.

The four characters who are focused on in this book, deal with their identity crisis in very different ways, and the individual journeys to figuring things out are very different.

I am not sure how to summarise it, I just like that the book was all about figuring out ourselves, and that the journey is just as important as the destination, where shortcuts simply don’t work.

The LGBT aspect of the book is also great, with Avery being very much out and proud, but in, an ordinary way that probably feels more natural than you see in many other places.

To be honest that is something Aconyte have been good at, making queerness normal, not a plot point, just part of a character that feels right and not forced. It takes great skill to do that, and Aconyte have picked authors who just manage this flawlessly.

So how would I summerise this book, well frankly, if you have ever found yourself in a situation in which you feel like you have to question, anything about yourself, this is a book you will really relate to.

Four stars out of Five.

The eBook is out now and the paperback hits the shelves on the 3rd February.


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