Category: Book Reviews Page 1 of 3

The Necropolis Empire

I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Twilight Imperium book The Necropolis Empire by Tim Pratt, 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 Twilight Imperium

Twilight Imperium is a much beloved strategy board game published by Fantasy Flight Games that’s currently in its 4th Edition.

First thing to know, it’s very long, my pal Drew, one of the owners of the amazing Meeple Perk, tells me it’s an 8 hour game as a minimum!

Secondly it’s an epic space opera, set in the power vacuum left behind by the decline and collapse of the Lazax Empire, as various races and factions vie for dominance and to become the new galactic superpower.

The Story

The story is about a young girl, Bianca Xing from a remote farming world, whom has spent a lifetime yearning to leave her provincial planet and travel to the stars, but she has a yearning to travel to a certain part of space.

But when her world is annexed by the Barony of Letnev, she is whisked away, told she is the daughter of a scientist of ancient renown, and the heir to a great fortune. But in actual fact, she has a hidden secret hidden within her DNA, secrets that could change the course of the galaxy.

Teaming up with Dampierre a determined Letnev captain, and a crew of treasure hunters turned smugglers, she goes on an adventure to the edge of known space to discover the home world of an ancient civilisation.

This was a big improvement on the last story and in all honesty I expected this to be a continuation of the last story, but its a totally different one with only two recurring characters.

This worked better because there were fewer obvious clichés and it just felt a lot more natural.

Conclusion

As with the Fractured void, this is a fun and enjoyable space opera, just my taste and this is exactly what I needed to read.

There was humour and the clichés that were there, were very well done.

I really struggled to put this book down and was awake until 3am two mornings running because I was just enjoying it so much.

I am really not sure what else to say, its a great read, and even if you have no background knowledge of the game or universe, this is utterly entertaining and wonderful to read.

I know Tim is a great writer and I know I had some mild criticism of his last book, but this seems to have acknowledged all of that, and gone on to produce a better book that takes the good qualities of that and knock it up several notches.

I expected this to be a straight sequel to the last book, but this was a totally different story and it really feels like Tim is doing a lot of world building here, that is really deep and most of all, fun.

More please.

5 out of 5


The Necropolis Empire is out as an eBook on the 3rd August and as paperback on the 14th October.


The Ming Storm

I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Assassins Creed book The Ming Storm by Yan Lei Sheng, 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 Assassin Creed

Assassins Creed is an adventure game franchise published by Ubisoft (One of my Edge of Empire Co-hosts works there as well I should probably mention), and depicts a millennia-old conflict between the Assassins, who fight to preserve free will, and the Templars who desire to bring around peace by controlling people.

The games take place throughout various historical periods, the original 2007 game being set in the era of the 3rd Crusades, and the latest game Assassins Creed Valhalla, set in the Viking Invasion of Britain.

This book is based on Assassins Creed Chronicles China.

The Story

This takes part after the short film, Assassins Creed: Embers in 1526 China and features the female assassin, Shao Jun, who has returned from Europe where she trained with the protagonmist of the second game, Ezio Auditore da Firenze.

She returns to China to fight the Eight Tigers, a group of eunuchs aligned with the Templars in the court of the Jianjing Emperor.

Prior to the novel, the Eight Tigers had all but wiped out the Assassins of China, leaving just Shao Jun and her mentor alive, so this is very much a story about revenge.

Conclusion

Look I wanted to love this book I really did, I am a big fan of the games, but this book just didn’t work, it was not an enjoyable read at all.

There is no real flow to the book as so much technical detail is thrown in, and it just gets so mired in trying to describe every single kung-fu move being used and its meaning.

The narrative changes point of view in a way that makes you have to go back and go right when did this characters point of view come in, I had to reread so much simply because there was little warning when the perspective changed.

It should have been a great action novel and don’t get me wrong, the story itself is really good, excellent in fact, but I struggled to read it, its just doesn’t work.

I hate giving a bad review it hurts me, but I see potential in this book, a round of editing to deal with the persepective changes and some heavy cuts to make the fight scenes flow better and I think that underneath is a good novella.

But it feels like its been padded out to make a novel.

2 out of 5 stars.


The Ming Storm is out as an eBook now and as paperback on the 19th August.


Mood:- In Agony
Caffeinated Beverages Consumed:– 4
In My Ears:Chicken Wing Song – Leo Moracchioli
Tabletop Game Last Played:- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Fluxx
Video Game Last Played:- Forza Horizon 4
Book Last Read:- The Necropolis Empire – Tim Pratt
Movie/TV Show Last Viewed:- Parks and Recreation
Current State of Projects:- Blackstone Fortress Explorers about 50% Done

Death’s Kiss

I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Legend of the Five Rings book Death’s Kiss 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.

In the last book Poison River his talent as a detective was discovered as he foiled a plot to bring the cities various factions to war.

And since then it seems he has become a very in demand fella, and the owner of a theatre (which he did sort of get burnt down). And when a powerful friend asks him to investigate the circumstances of a murder in another city.

The murderer is in custody and her execution is called for by the family of the man she killed, but the local magistrate is holding her as he attempts to figure out why the incident occurred as he tries to avoid the two families from coming to blows in the street.

With a woman’s life on the line, Shin throws himself into the case and ends up getting caught up in a sinister plan by a group of revolutionaries that wish to change the empire forever.

Conclusion

I am gonna put my cards on the table here, and say that whilst I liked this book, I felt is should have come further down the line.

The City of the Rich Frog was so well established in the last book, so well developed with an interesting cast of background characters who made it so deeply interesting, that I really missed that in this book.

Don’t get me wrong, Josh did a wonderful job in establishing a new city and new characters, but I just didn’t gel with them as well as I did those from the previous book.

He has set up some interesting possibilities for future books however with this novel.

Again we continue that Holmesian tribute act that Shin is, and it’s a very good one, the case may be straightforward but Shin needs to understand the why, not simply the how. He tenacity not only leads to a resolution that’s best for all the families.

I really enjoyed this book, knowing what happened did lend the twist as we tried to figure out the reasons for the crime, because they really do matter, and whilst there was some general predictability, it wasn’t glaringly obvious.

Instead the book makes you feel smart as you go “ahh I think I know”, then leads you to they why, what giving it’s all a bit of a twist.

This novel felt a bit more pulpy than the last one, not a bad thing, but it was an easy and enjoyable read that was hard to put down.

Josh has built a very interesting little corner of Rokugan and I really want to spend more time there.

I am actually currently thinking about perhaps running an RPG campaign in the City of the Rich Frog, I am that enamoured with the work Josh has done.

It’s 4 out of 5 for me and I only drop a star because I feel like the characters life in the City of the Rich Frog needed more development before he went elsewhere.


Deaths Kiss is out as an eBook on the 1st June and as paperback on the 19th August.


Mask of Silver

I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Arkham Horror book Mask of Silver by Rosemary Jones, 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 Signthe cooperative dice game.

The Story

Like the rest of the Arkham Horror novels, its set in the 1920s specifically 1923 and sees a silent movie being produced in the town of Arkham by horror director Sydney Fitzmaurice (who in my head is Nathan Lane, not sure why, just is).

His costume designer Jeany Lin is the protagonist, and her sister Renee Love is Sydney’s muse and star. Sydney has relocated his company to his home town of Arkham where he is going to film a movie filled with thrills and the occult that will make a fortune for the studio and perhaps a lot more.

The story is a very slow burner, with the majority of the book being character development and just sight hints at the horror to come.

There is a lot of background on the production of silent movies, which in itself is fascinating, you can really tell that Jones has done her research and the book is grounded in realty, which makes it all the more creepy.

As things go wrong and the behaviour of Sydney just isn’t right Jeany investigates his past to discover what is going on in the mansion, why people are being hurt during the production and why does the silver mask haunt her dreams.

Conclusion

This is a slow paced book, but it’s deliberate and thoughtful, a very clever plot that is woven together so very well.

The main characters are well rounded, and extremely believable, the background players less so, but there is enough there that they aren’t just window dressing.

Arkham itself doesn’t my really feature too much as the story is set mostly in the Fitzmaurice mansion on French Hill, with the occasional trip to a nearby diner.

But there is a truly creepy atmosphere in the story, and it makes your skin crawl just a little bit.

Jeany is a wonderful protagonist and she offers a real insight into the contribution of Chinese-Americans to early cinema, a contribution that Jones suggests you read up in the notes after the story.

The end in a way felt rushed, but in many ways was not at all, it’s quite old fashioned in that the book builds up the story and characters so that you care about them, and then concludes quite explosively!

This was a book that I really really enjoyed and it’s a shame it took me so long to read it, but I really do highly recommend it.

A solid 5 stars from me!


The eBook and paperback are out now!


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 universe, 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.


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