Category: Book Reviews Page 1 of 2

Elsa Bloodstone: Bequest

I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Marvel Heroines book Elsa Bloodstone: Bequest by Cath Lauria, 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 this 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 Marvel Heroines series focuses on the female hero’s of the Marvel universe, the first two books in the series, Domino Strays and Rogue Untouched were extremly good, so I was looking forward to this.

The Story

So I think its best to introduce Elsa Bloodstrone first, she is a monster hunting heroine introduced to the Marvel universe by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. She is the daughter of Ulysses Bloodstone and follows in his footsteps of protecting the world from vampires, demons and monsters. Very much a Buffy type character.

She is British, loves her tea and doesn’t take s**t from anyone, and likes to keep people at a distance, but all that changes when a woman turns up on her doorstep claiming to be her half sister who has had her Bloodstone shard stolen, the Bloodstone being what grands Elsa her powers of superhuman strength, healing and endurance.

The core of this story is less so the adventure they are on, but the relationship between Elsa and Mihaela as they travel across thje world, investigating Ulysses old bases of operation to ensure he hasn’t left anymore Bloodstone shards lying around, lest what could happen if they ended up in the hands of evil doers.

We start off being very distrust of Mihaela, who lacks the same strength and attitude as Elsa and its very much an odd couple kind of relationship, with them constantly at each others throats, in more ways than one!

Mihaelas comments about Elsas attitude and recklessness are meet with very witty, sarcastic and snarky comebacks, even in the middle of a battle. Lauria does an excellent job of getting into Elsas head, we slowly get to see more and more about why she prefers to work alone and more about why she doesn’t want her sister in her life.

Conclusion

This book is really really good, and its refreshing to get a good book about one of Marvels lesser known heroes, and I really hope that Lauria is allowed to continue this storyline as the conclusion sets up some cool possibilities.

The backstory for Elsa and Mihaela is explored very well, so if you have never heard about Elsa before, then you will have no issues enjoying this book.

Overall its a fantastic pulpy adventure with cameos by a couple of other heroes on the trek around the world and a rather cool twist that turns everything around very nicely.

This is a brilliant book, full of background, but done in such a way as to not overwhelm and crammed full of comic book style action.

Solid 5 out of 5 stars from me!

The eBook is released on the 4th May and the paperback hits the shelves on 22nd July.


Poison River

I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Legend of the Five Rings book Posion River by Josh Reynolds, 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 friend with Josh on Facebook, however I am sure for him that’s more about connecting with fans rather than being one of my best buds, that said he is actually a really nice guy.

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

Daidoji Shin is a an aristocrat of the Crane clan banished to the City of the Rich Frog, to serve as his clans trade envoy.

He has a reputation as a wastrel and is considered a disappointment to his family, so has essentially been banished to somewhere he can’t do much harm, along with his faithful, but very put upon bodyguard Kasami.

In this story he is called upon by the cities governor to conduct an investigation into the poisoning of some rice, something which could threaten to destroy the fragile peace between the clans who call the city home.

He is only asked to do this because his clan is relatively neutral, but as it turns out, he actually has a talent for investigation, his habits of wide reading and study all manor of mundane things has made him ideal for the job.

And so he throws himself into the mystery, despite the politics and dangers posed by the clans rivalries, shinobi and the criminal underworld he finds himself embroiled in.

Conclusion

Ok so this book is very typical of Josh’s writing, in that it’s engaging and full of world building.

The novel isn’t just about Daidoji Shin but for me the main character was actually the city itself, rich and literally dripping with detail, you get a real sense of a bustling city, that is essentially a tinderbox waiting to catch fire.

The supporting cast get just as much character development as the main protagonists and it really feels like Josh has had a lot of fun developing a city that he can spend years playing with and developing.

I am hoping that’s Fantasy Flight are going to develop the city as a sourcebook for the RPG as I really want to actually play around with it and enjoy some adventures with pirates and smugglers on the docks!

Daidoji Shin is himself a fascinating character, on the surface, spoiled, rich and cares for nowt but his own pleasure, but in actual fact is an intelligent man, very much in the mould of Sherlock Holmes.

The books is utterly wonderful and I am already looking forward to the sequel, which Aconyte have already sent me.

If you want a mystery novel, with snappy dialogue, a rich setting and a cast that you are just desperate to spend more time with, then grab this book.

5 out of 5 Stars

You can buy the paperback and eBook now.


The Qubit Zirconium

I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Keyforge book The Qubit Zirconium by M. Darusha Wehm, 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 Keyforge

The Crucible is a giant word larger than the sun, an artificial planet that is constantly under construction by the the Architects.

They gather their materials by transporting them from other planets and worlds, often bringing that worlds inhabitants along for the ride.

The world contains every environment imaginable, from bustling urban sprawls, to deserts, to jungles, to meadows and everything in between.

The Architects communicate through the ethereal Archons who themselves are completely in the dark about the purpose behind the Crucible.

And so they gather bands of followers, to gather Æmber, a psychic substance that can be forged into keys that unlock the vaults if they architects.

Keyforge itself is a unique deck card game, developed by Richard Garfield, the developer best know for Magic: The Gathering and King of Tokyo.

It’s a really good game, you should go check it out, but I am not reviewing the game here, but I will soon.

The Story

The story sees alien detectives, Wibble and Pplimz, a team consisting of a floating fish and a snappy dressed cyborg, look to clear the name of a former client who has been accused of theft.

The case quickly gets complicated, and the pair find themselves embroiled in a race to find a missing gem that potentially has the capability of utilising the power of the architects and endanger everyone on the Crucible.

The story starts off slow as the detectives, who very much have an odd couple vibe going on, with Wibble being a thrill seeking extrovert and Pplimz being a lot more formal and cautious, travel to a crashed Star Alliance ship to do some basic PI work, and they are doing it more out of boredom than anything else, knowing the client is unlikely to be able to pay them.

The story gradually begins to pick up steam as the pair find a lot of dead ends, which have the advantage of introducing us to more aspects of the Keyforge setting, and soon they find out the item their client is accused of stealing could potentially have the power to destroy the Crucible.

The book picks up pace as they travel to other parts of the Crucible desperate to find the Qubit Zirconium, and whilst it lacks any real action, or overt danger, there is a bit of tension as they conduct the investigation.

Conclusion

The book is ponderous, and that’s not necessarily a bad, thing. I think its set out to give a good introducing to the setting, to really explore the world, and to show us the craziness of life on the Crucible.

I really enjoyed the characters, there were some obvious tropes being introduced, the Star Alliance are a thinly veiled Federation after all, and the Martians are the very picture of the little green men we joke about, but again, the card game is very much about taking obvious tropes and twisting them ever so slightly.

I very much enjoyed the story, but the conclusion did fall a bit flat, it just kinda played out and it didn’t really feel that interesting, it just happened, and the urgency of the situation sort of just fizzed out.

A big thing I like was the normalisation of characters introducing their pronouns, something you rarely see, but I can imagine would be vital somewhere like the Crucible, and there was also an acknowledgment that non-binary people exist, and indeed Pplimz is non-binary themselves.

I do want to see more work around this pair, but I would hope the end is a bit more interesting, as I said, it works, but there is little to make you feel any sense of urgency in those closing chapters.

I am gonna give this book 3 out of 5 stars, I would have given it a 4, but then ending just didn’t excite me anywhere near the way the rest of the book did.

The eBook is released on the 13th April and the paperback hits the shelves on 24th June.


The Deacon of Wounds

I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Warhammer Horror book The Deacon of Wounds by David Annadale published by Black Library, 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 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 Warhammer Horror

Warhameer Horror is a new imprint from the publishers of Warhammer fiction, Black Library, which allows authors to publish the more horrific stories set in the Warhammer: Age of Sigmar and Warhammer 40,000 settings. And lets face it these universes are pretty grimdark and teeming with horror and all sorts of nasty and gribbly things.

The Story

This story is set in the Warhammer 40,000 uiniverse, and is about the world of Theotokos, which is a dying planet, ravaged by drought and now faces a terrible plague, called the Grey Tears.

The only man who seems capable of saving this planet is the Arch-Deacon Ambrose, a charasmatic priest of the Adeptus Ministorium who genuinely cares for his world and wants to make the lives of its people better, unlike the worlds ruling Cardinal Lopez who only cares for personal enrichment.

But when Lopez suddenly dies, Ambrose is thrust into the role of leading the planet, but the choices he makes leads him down a dark path.

Lets start out by saying that this story requires you to have a good gag reflex, as there is a lot of nasty and disgusting body horror, it is after all about a plague. And coming out now in the middle of a global pandemic, you do recognise the panic and fear in the cities inhabitants.

And we get a good look at the Ecclesiarchy, which we really haven’t had like this in quite some time, as a big fan of the Sisters of Battle, I feel like I now have a better idea of how the priest that accompany them work.

Conclusion

This book really tells the story of the rise of Ambrose to the highest office on the planet, and his, and subsequently planets fall from grace. Despite being a relatively short story, is one that is very well handled and works well with Davids writing style.

Ambrose journey from a caring and approachable person to someone so very different, happens in a relatively short period, but it happens in such an incremental way that it feels so very natural.

But I am gonna be honest here, the book has an issue that another reviewer on Goodreads, Jenn, summed up very nicely, we have little grasp of the characters other than Ambrose. We seem to have some amazing supporting characters, but none of them are developed well at all. I think if you added another couple of chapters, it would have elevated the book up quite a bit.

A bit of development of the romantic subplot would have gone a long way, the lass he loves simply can’t be that oblivious to his amorous feelings. and as Jenn said, given is importance to the motivations of Ambrose it felt poorly executed.

The horror is disgusting and very revolting, and at points made me physically gag when reading the book, and the conclusion whilst slightly obvious was handled very well, and still was shocking in the way it happened.

Rating this book is difficult for me, I want to give it a 4, but I am varying between 3.5 and 4.5 because I am just unsure how to rate it given the shortcomings.

Its not a bad book at all though and was very enjoyable, its skin-crawlingly good and I think its biggest weakness is just its slightly too short and compromises were made.

So with that in mind, I recommend this book, its deep on lore and an insight to the workings and politics of the Ecclesiarchy as well as a creepy and horrific tale of a planets doom.

The Deacon of Wounds is out now as a hardback, eBook, MP3 audiobook.


Litany of Dreams

I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Arkham Horror book Litany of Dreams by Ari Marmell, 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 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 in this case revolves around the disappearance of a gifted young student at Miskatonic University as his roommate searches high and low in his friends research for clues to his disappearance, and at the same time struggles against a litany that’s ceaseless in his mind and threatening to drive him into insanity.

The search takes on a new twist when an Inuit search for a stolen relic of his people crosses paths with him, and they find themselves joining forces to get to the bottom of the mystery and unearth a terrifying and ancient horror.

We get to delve a bit deeper into the lore of the Cthulhu mythos in this book than any of the others so far, and we have a very well rounded plot with characters with various motivations joining forces to prevent an apocalyptic event overtaking the world.

Mostly focusing on Elliot and Billy, the story is almost a mismatched buddy novel, crossed with mild horror and a bit of pulp detective thrown in for good measure.

Conclusion

The book was a very enjoyable read and a real page turner, the two main protagonists were very well developed and had just enough of a backstory to keep you interested, but without delving into too much. The motivation of Elliot, felt a little obvious, but when revealed is still highly dramatic and heartbreaking.

Billy seemed a little, well not obvious as to his background, its talked about a lot, the racism he experiences is subtle and all the more awful for that, but his background didn’t come through enough for me, I would have liked to have had this explored a bit more, but he was a very cool character.

Now I do have a negative thing to say, and that is that the female characters felt a tad underserved, we have two, strong and dynamic women in this book, and I felt that none of them got the service they deserved.

The main female character ups and leaves the group in the last quarter of the book and isn’t heard from again, so we have no idea how the events impacted her, or how she dealt with what happened. She didn’t even get in the epilogue and for me that wasn’t good at all.

The other main female character meets a tragic end, and it makes sense for her, what happens to her in the story makes what happens to her in the end seem logical, but with the dropping of the other character from the plot, I dunno, it just didn’t feel the same after I put the book down.

But regardless of this annoyance for me, the book was highly enjoyable and one I read in what felt like record time. The horror is initially slow and building, until the middle of the book when it becomes very real, some of it being almost post-apocalyptic in nature, and some feeling all too close to how things are in the world right now.

Would I recommend this book, yes, absolutely, its a solid 4.5 out of 5 for me, and to be honest had the epilogue resolved that one characters story arc, it would have been a 5.

The eBook is released on the 13th April and the paperback hits the shelves on 24th June.


First Team

I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Xavier’s Institute book First Team 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 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 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 not an origin story, but you aren’t gonna need to know the background, you do get a decent explanation of the characters. Speaking of which the main character is Victor Borkowski, aka Anole, a lizard type mutant who had a really good upbringing compared to other mutants, and this story sees his dad kidnaped by anti-mutant extremists known as the Purifiers.

Pretty much this whole book is about the b-list X-Men with a little bit of Cyclops and a cameo by Kitty Pryde (The best of all X-Men and I will die on that hill), with Greymalkin, Cipher and Rockside forming the titular First Team. All of these are fan favourites but haven’t really had the exposure to the wider public before.

The story is one about family, a theme familar to those who are X-Men fans, family that is biological, adopted, genetic and forged of friendship. Mutants have often been shown to be more likely to suffer abandonment, being made orphaned or just plain abused, and this really delves into that in the unusualness of Anole having had a normal loving upbringing in an acepting community, despite being both a mutant and gay.

The family bonds we have are so often more than simple blood, they are forged in love and friendship, and this book really gets to the core of that, family is more than blood, and looks at what we would give up when our families are under threat.

Conclusion

This book is a real page turner and is to me seemingly a story in four parts almost, don’t know if that’s important but it felt like the book had four acts almost in which the feeling of the book changed quite a bit, which worked for me.

The featured X-Men are well rounded, you get a good feeling for who they are and what their motivations are, except perhaps Cipher, but I think that is intentional as she is a rather caged and guarded character.

Anole is a fan favourite and for good reason, we know that he was originally intended to commit suicide in the comics whilst struggling to come to terms with his sexuality, but just like the comics quickly realised that this would be a crass and awful thing to do, Anole here is at peace with his secuality and very happy with that part of himself, which was very warming to read.

I also liked that fact that although there were two gay blokes in this story, there was no automatic coupling, they were friends and often in comics and books, where there are two gay characters, they are often forced into a relationship by the writer, but here is a rare example of two gay men, who just enjoy each others company in a non-romantic way, and that to me makes their bond all that much stronger.

The theme of family, is infused into this book so naturally and so well, that it really makes you realise exactly how talented a writer Robbie is, it would be so easy to shove it in your face point to it and make it so obvious that its painful. But instead he has written a book that does this in a subtle way that you don’t realise how much focus the book places on the concept until you get to the epilogue, in that respect its a very well crafted book.

But thats not to say its a perfect book, and my biggest critisism is the villans, although we get some chapters from thier point of view, they feel very one dimensional, they are there, there is no background, they just exist as an obsticle with no real motivation other than hate and greed.

The big bad of the book, is sort of implied to be a mutant, but this is then forgotten about and we don’t actually have an explantaion about him. I know who he is and what his background is, but its not very well explained or expanded upon, which is a shame as the concept of him is, interesting in the comics.

To be frank, he could have been any generic bad guy and it wouldn’t have made a difference to the story which is what annoyed me about this, I feel in that respect Robbie did the character a disservice.

Same with the Purifiers, an existing organisation in the 616 continuity that honestly could have been any generic anti-mutant religious group.

All I am saying is that I think that original creations would have been better, because it really felt like the baddies were sort of not really well served in the story, and that’s not a bad thing, because the focus is and should have been the protagonists.

So in conclusion I am giving this a solid 4 out of 5

The eBook is out now and the paperback hits the shelves on 27th May.


Rogue Untouched

I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Marvel Heroines book Rogue Untouched by Alisa Kwitney, 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 Marvel Heroines series focuses on the female hero’s of the Marvel universe, the first book in the series was Domino Strays, which I really enjoyed, so I was looking forward to this book.

The Story

This is an origin story for our favourite power absorbing mutant Anne Marie also known as Rogue, and this is firmly set in the Aconyte-618 Earth, so its been able to abandon many of the fine details about Rogues 616 backstory and reimagine it in a slightly more modern and interesting way.

The character of Rogue has been depicted very differently in the many media forms in which she has appeared outside the comics, with only the 90s Cartoon being close to it. In the movies, she was basically Kitty Pryde, but fit into that story they were making.

Here in this novel she is probably a mixture of the comics, cartoon and movies, to form a well developed character, who when we meet her, has no idea that she is even a mutant, and is subsisting as a waitress in a diner. That is until she encounters a handsome Cajun gambler, who brings her into a whole new world.

In this book, Rogue is a character who is unsure of herself, having put her high school boyfriend into a coma, she is just trying to get out of her small town so that she can go to university and study psychology. We get to see her interactions with her friend, neighbours, boss and overly religious aunt, which really does give us a great background for the character.

The story is told in a first person persepective and we really do get to know Rogue, better than I think we ever have before, especially in this early part of her life. We do see the internal trauma she has from the earliest manifestations of her powers, but I do feel like this is kinda put aside in place of more focus on the self-doubt, but another reviewer (Katie Clark) pointed out that having the trauma happen before the events of the novel, allowed us to see her become a more empowered woman, which I agree with.

Conclusion

This book is a very enjoyable read, although parts of the conclusion felt a little bit rushed, and I did like that as well as well known mutants like Pyro and Toad being featured, we also had lesser known ones like Zeitgeist and Nature Girl, and even some mutants who I am not at all familiar with, one of who I think was created for this story.

The Characters are super three-dimensional, there is no wasted characters here, and even those with bit parts feel a lot more fleshed out than I would have expected them to be.

Also the little reference to The 10th Kingdom, made me smile as I thought that was an awesome mini-series.

I think this book deserves a solid 4.5 stars out of 5, and I only knock it down a touch because the ending felt a little rushed and I think another chapter or two would have been appreciated.

There is also nice room in there for sequels, and I really hope that there are some.

The eBook is released on the 4th May and the paperback hits the shelves on 10th June.


The Shield of Daqan

I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Descent: Journeys in the Dark book The Shield of Daqan written by David Guymer 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.

Secondly I am a friend of Davidon 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

This book is honestly a real page turner, I devoured it in two sittings, it really is that good.

Told from multiple points of view like the Song of Ice and Fire books, this really is a engrossing and wonderful book to read, my favourite of Aconytes books thus far.

The book tells the story of the invasion of the Barony of Kell, once the last bastion against the evil from beyond the veil, and now is a shadow of its former self, assailed by bandits and famine. The noble Baron is a leader who cares for his people and he has found himself caught between the trap of feeding his people or defending them, without the manpower to do both. The Barony now faces an invasion of the barbarous Uthuk, led by vile Ne’Krul whose purpose is to bring her demonic masters into reality.

We have the legendary Trenloe the Strong and his Companions of Trenloe, a group of mercenaries, dedicated to protecting the people of the realm, and we are introduced to them as they escort refugees to safety. And the other hero, the holy warrior Andira Runehand, and her band of pious pilgrims, come to confront demons and stop them from entering the mortal plane.

These two heroes find themselves becoming the last hope of Kell, and through separate journeys play a part in an epic and desperate battle to save the world.

Conclusion

Its fun, its exciting, its literally dripping with personality, and what’s more, you need absolutely zero knowledge of the setting. This is a perfect franchise genre novel in my opinion.

Its absolutely character driven and not one scene in the book feels forced, everything feels like its there to drive the characters more, to give more insight to them. The first sitting, I literally devoured 65% of the book because I simply couldn’t put it down, and I only stopped because I actually feel asleep at 4am!

I cannot highly recommend this book enough, the only slight negative, is that this very much feels like the start of an epic series, and I am now desperate for the next book, so David, get writing post haste!

You can buy the eBook now and the paperback gets a release on the 15th April


The Sword of Surtur

I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Legends of Asgard book The Sword of Surtur 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 Tyr the God of War and brother to Thor as he decides to try and outdo his sibling, by stealing Twilight, the sword of the Fire Giant Surtur.

He is joined by Bjorn Wolfsbane, a young hunter, and sister to the Encantress Amora, Lorelei. This team up is really interesting, you have two characters there who have been eclipsed by their more well known and successful sibling and there is a massive amount of envy and jealousy on display.

And jealously also has a nice role to play in the story too, as both Tyr and Bjorn find themselves drawn to the bewitching Lorelei, which has rather big consequences for Asgard.

Mostly taking place in Surturs realm of Muspelheim this book draws very heavily on Norse mythology, probably more so than the comics. In a way a lot of it reads as a love letter between Clint and Norse culture, as he really brings it to life, in a Marvel way of course.

Tyr is a character than in Marvel, should be one of the greatest and most powerful heroes, but has always taken a back seat, and that’s the same for the books primary antagonist, which makes for an interesting dynamic.

The feelings of self-doubt and envy that Tyr feels throughout the book, really make you connect with him, in a way that I never have been able to in the comics.

Frankly this is the best story featuring Tyr that I have ever read, and I have read quite a few of the comics in which he features. You really feel like he has so much potential if only he had gotten the right writer, something I think has now been corrected.

There are pacing issues, which is the only downside, some sections of the book seem to drag a little, whilst other move at a pace so brisk that I had to go back and reread to see if I missed something.

But given that’s my only complaint, I think that’s pretty good.

Conclusion

This is a an extremely good book, not because it’s an epic tale of a sons quest to prove himself to his father, but because it actually makes you sympathise and actually identify with a Norse god.

The two big twists in the book, well one was obvious, but well executed, the other, well that one was a big surprise and really good.

You can buy the eBook now and the paperback gets a release on the 18th March


The Night Parade of 100 Demons

I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Legend of the Five Rings book The Night Parade of 100 Demons by Marie Brennan, 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 trips of goblins and rat men, but also oni and kitsune too.

In the Empire there are several great clans, made up of various families, and in this novel we focus on the Crab Clan, who are considered the least cultured of all clans.

Their task in life is to guard the rest of the empire from the taint of the Shadowlands on the Carpenter Wall.

The Story

Chaos has broken out in the isolated Dragon Clan village Seibo Mura, when during full moons, vicious demons rampage throughout the village, causing havoc, destroying buildings and killing villagers.

The Dragons send the samurai Agasha no Isao Ryotora to investigate the situation in the village, but an unexpected helper has arrived in the form of Asako Sekken of the Phoenix Clan.

Lets get this out the way, I have seen criticism in other reviews that the novel doesn’t have much action and the demons don’t actually feature that much, well if that’s what you want, this book isn’t for you.

This book is one that focuses on the spiritual, so it delves into the Kami, guardian spirits, demons, holy rituals and prayer. Its deeply engrained in Japanesse spiritual culture and is heavily based on the Hyakki Yakō. Not all that surprising as the author is a folklorist and anthropologist.

There is also an almost spiritual procedural investigation aspect to the story, as the pair figure out what exactly is going on in the village by interviewing the inhabitants and researching the background of the demons.

The characters are, well I will be honest, its hard to get into their heads at first. They both have secrets to hide, and they both try their best to solve the mystery whilst keeping those secrets hidden from the other. They are a bit of an odd couple, Rytotora is serious and sombre, a very straight character who despite his humble background, embodies the very nobility of the Samurai.

Sekken on the other hand is more laid back, care free, a scholar who prefers to spend his time reading rather than doing, and gives off an aura of only being there because its a break from his boredom.

The story alternatives between their points of view which is interesting, and there is a frustration that they clearly are attracted to one another but both too caught up in the whole idea that the other wouldn’t be attracted to them that you can almost tear out your hair.

And that leads me to another point, the fact that Aconyte have been very good about putting queer characters in their books, front and centre, with no song and dance about it. LGBTQ characters in their books are part of life, they exist and there is a wonderful, almost ordinary way in which they are presented.

Conclusion

I actually really loved this book, but I will be honest, it wasn’t the characters which drew me in, it was the background.

The fascinating and rather beautiful way that Marie has presented the culture and world of Rokugan drew me in and kept me turning the page.

The characters whilst mildly interesting really took a backseat to the wonderful world of L5R and this for me would be a better background read for anyone wanting to get into the RPG than any other background book as it makes the world really come to life.

Solid 4 out of 5 stars.

You can buy the eBook now and the paperback on the 15th April!


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