Category: Reviews Page 2 of 3

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!


The Head of Mimir

I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Legends of Asgard book The Head of Mimir 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 a young Heimdal and his sister Sif, as they undertake a quest to save Odin, who has been bewitched to remain in the Odinsleep during a war waged by the Frost Giants of Jotunheim.

But the Frost Giants are winning the war, and Odin is desperately needed, as somehow the natives of Jotunheim have an advantage in the war.

Breaking the rules and slipping into the inner sanctum of the Allfather, they discover a great relic is missing, the Head of Mimir, which gives advice and wisdom, having been preserved by Odin.

This story is about the quest of Heimdal and his sister as they travel through out the nine realms to retrieve the Head of Mimir and awake the Allfather.

Its a book as my friend Michael from Track of Words puts it, isn’t Heimdals origin story, but his first steps to becoming who he is in the comics as we know him.

The story has a lot of action, its very hectic and goes at a very fast pace, reminding me of an RPG adventure, but it does focus on Heimdal being a warrior who thinks about how to solve an issue, rather than simply being Leroy Jenkins.

His sister is the counterpoint the that, a warrior who wants to find the problem and kill it. In one part of the book they encounter a legendary creature, and whilst Sif would like to fight it, knowing she has no chance of beating it, Heimdal challenges it to a game, and instead of just playing the game, which he could never win, he pokes at the creatures ego to throw him off.

Conclusion

This is a great book, its a lot better than I expected, and it doesn’t bog the reader down in exposition, whilst I know the stuff about Asgard, this book would be perfectly approachable for someone without that knowledge.

Its a great blend of Marvel fantasy and Norse mythology with a sprinkle of science fiction. And the character development whilst light, is fantastic, plus the sibling rivalry and ribbing from Sif is utterly delightful.

I am really looking forward to the next Legend of Asgard book, Sword of Surtur.

You can buy the eBook and paperback now!


The Harrowing of Doom

I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Marvel Untold novel The Harrowing of Doom 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 his quest to free his mothers soul from Hell.

He teams up with a hermit witch Maria von Helm, as they work to change the rules around Dooms yearly duel with a champion of Hell, so that he might fuse science and sorcery to free the soul of his beloved mother.

But as with all things, there are forces allied against him, in particular an old enemy from before his revolution.

So the story whilst being about Doom, isn’t Dooms story, whilst a lot of it is told from his point of view, you also get the points of view of an enemy who hates him more than any other, his head of security, a priest reluctantly drawn into his web, his archivist and a nurosurgeon.

It would be so easy for David to have just done a story about a cackling mad scientist super villain, but this isn’t that story, instead its a bit more nuanced, its more insightful, giving us a glimpse into Dooms determination to not only free his mothers soul, but to protect his people.

And that’s one aspect of Doom, which is very much out there, he cares for the people of Latveria, yes they are his tools, yes they live in fear of him, but he genuinely cares and wants to protect them, with his rulership even coming over as considerably more liberal than that of his predecessor with trans citizens being afforded equal rights.

Whilst these books do inhabit their own universe in the Marvel multiverse, I think this book, a bit like the previous Domino novel, offers a look at a character is a way the comics, simply don’t manage very easiy.

David has managed to connect me to Doom in a way, i didn’t think possible.

Now if you listen to Edge of Empire, you will know I am not the biggest fan of Davids writing style, but in this novel, he manages to take a huge leap forwards, perhaps its having an editor who knows how the get the best out of him, but its a much easier read than most of his Black Library work. His sentence structures has tended to be so short and sharp, but in this book they flow so much easier than they did in say Ruinstorm.

I know David is an established writer, but over the past three or so years, it feels like his writing has become so much better, I used to be a bit irritated if he got to write a story in a series I was enjoying, but now I look forward to them.

Conclusion

This book works really well, and you know what, one of its strongest points is that it doesn’t even bring in much of the larger Marvel universe, it focuses solely on Doom, with a few mentions of other stuff, I think Richard Reed is mentioned once, AIM gets a couple of mentions.

But this book stands on its own and really gets you into the character and actually gets you rooting for him, especially given that one of the Marvel Universes biggest villains stands for trans rights!

This felt like it could easily be adapted into a movie in the MCU, its a very strong story and very well written.

You can buy the eBook now, and the paperback is available in the US now and will be in the UK on 7th January.


The Fractured Void

I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Twilight Imperium book The Fractured Void 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

It’s a bit of an interesting one, clearly designed to introduce us in a gentle way to the lore of the game.

It focuses on the crew of the Temerious who are exiled to a backwater system where they patrol and occasionally help look for lost farm animals.

Lead by Captain Felix Duval they encounter a distres signal and end up rescuing a scientist named Thales, who is on the cusp of an astounding breakthrough that would change the balance of power in the galaxy.

Tasked by his commanders in the Mentak Coalition to assist Thales, they end up getting drawn into a cat and mouse game as they are pursued by black ops teams from two other galactic powers.

The book actually does a good job at introducing the setting, I have never played Twilight Imperium, despite it being right up my street, because Lindsay and Megan are unsure about it.

You get a lot of information and background, but it never feels like you get huge sections of exposition, but you do get the needed background. I can now after reading the book understand a lot about the lore of the game and the various factions in it.

The world building is second to none, it feels really well done and it’s an excellent primer.

But I do actually have some criticisms, firstly the books conclusion is kinda hurried, it’s feels too much like a set up for further books, you just know there is more to come, it heavily hinted at, and a big thing is kicked off, but not actually concluded.

I think I would have preferred a cleaner ending that wasn’t a setup for further adventures of Duval’s Devils.

Secondly, the characters for the most part, simply didn’t gel well with me. The heroes felt a little too cliche, we get it, they are raiders and little better than pirates. But it felt like that got pointed out at every opportunity.

The antagonists, well they again seemed forced, they as characters seemed to fit together quite well as an odd couple, but the escalation of their relationship felt a little forced at times.

But one character he did get right was Thales, an utterly detestable person, you just love to hate him and I tell you that you spend the whole book wanting him to get his comeuppance.

Tim does a great job with this character, he really gets you hating him and it really triggers an emotional response.

Conclusion

It was a fun space opera with a nice degree of humour and a good balance.

But I cannot state enough how rushed the conclusion was and how it really felt that little was actually resolved with the open left too open for me.

I want the story to be finished, which means I need to hope this sells enough to warrant a sequel, because it really needs a sequel to finish the story.

Duvals Devils did start to seem more interesting at the end as well, so I kinda want to see how they are developed.

Initially I was thinking of giving this 3 stars, but I ended up settling on 4. The book really makes you feel something, and that is hatred and anger towards Thales, and the writing is so good that when he gets his just desserts, it feels good.


The Last Ritual

I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Arkham Horror book The Last Ritual 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.

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

It’s a 1920s novel as an aspiring artist in the town of Arkham as he tried to piece together the puzzle of several very odd occurrences along with his love interest a talented young writer.

Like the previous novel Wrath of N’kai, which I reviewed earlier this year, it has a very rich setting, and there are subtle crossovers as characters common to the setting get a mention.

But we run across bootleggers, odd job men, butlers, privileged rich kids and impoverished artists, as well as the main antagonist, a renowned Spanish surrealists who wishes to open the gate.

On Goodreads I saw an excellent comment by Taylor Hanson, this book is “Lovecraft meets The Great Gatsby”, and that is as good a term I can think of.

The story is told retrospectively as Alden, our protagonist recites the tale to a young reporter, so there is a lot of foreshadowing to a disaster that left him disfigured and scarred.

The book is much slower and quietier than Wrath oif N’kai, but its suitably unsettling, there is an almost blurring of the lines between the possible, and the impossible, between dreams and waking. The creeping dread of the story is very tangible and when finished with it after a session, I felt a discomfort in my mind.

Conclusion

Personally I really enjoyed the book, it was a creepy, yet enjoyable story which whilst grounded in the Cthulhu mythos, like the Wrath of N’kai did not delve into it too deeply, nor did it require me to have more than passing knowledge.

Normally, I don’t go for horror, and this one nicely doesn’t dwell too much on gore, but its absolutely there but mostly happens off screen.

The conclusion felt like it came too quickly, and I did find his efforts to find a missing person in the last couple of chapters, a little lacklustre considering what they meant to Alden.

I would recommend this book, its certainly an entertaining read and does get the heart pumping.


Doom of Fallowhearth

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

I am gonna be upfront about this, the book is at the same time, familiar and comfortable whilst still being new and innovative. It’s contradictory but it works.

The basic plot is that a band of adventurers are reunited to try and find Lady Katheryn the daughter of the rulers of one of Terrinoths baronies. She had been sent to the northern frontier town of Fallowhearth to learn how to rule, and prepare her to take up her mother’s position.

The adventurers are three of the Borderlands Four, characters who fit common tropes, yet subvert them in very interesting ways. There is the human rogue, who just wants to go back home and sit down, the dwarven alchemist who is mainly interested in blowing stuff up and the orc pathfinder who is the levelheaded leader of the pack and probably the most sensible of them.

The tone of the story is gritty and dark, it’s a very modern take on the old sword and sorcery story from my youth. There is certainly a shared history between the characters, and some bitterness, weariness and regrets too, and whilst we don’t exactly get a full and complete backstory, we don’t need it because it feels so natural.

This story is a tale of revenge and love, and asks the question, how far would you go for someone you love, how deep would you go?

Conclusion

This is a surprisingly emotional story and parts of it literally had my heart crushed, and I was moved to tears as well.

This is generally a very by the numbers story and you pick it up and start it thinking it’s gonna be just a pulpy fantasy adventure. But it’s not, it’s deeply emotional and shows that a good writer and make a familiar and well trod genre, fresh and invigorating.

I’d also loved that we had some really good normalised LGBT representation in there, which felt very natural, very right and fitted so well with the story.

Solid 5 out of 5 stars.

The book is released out now in North America and available in the U.K. on the 26th November.


Curse of Honor

I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Legend of the Five Rings book Curse of Honor by David Annandale, 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 David’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.

I am gonna get the big bit out the way first, if you listen to Edge of Empire, you will know I am not a big fan of David’s writing style. Frankly I find it difficult to process and it’s very short sentences which doesn’t give the best flow for me to read.

But he is good at weird stuff, which in Warhammer translates to stuff to do with the warp. I also think he is best when writing shorter works, such as novellas and short stories.

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

The story has two main protagonists, initially we have Haru, the heir to the castle of Striking Dawn, and frankly he is a bit of an incompetent warrior.

He discovers when leading a caravan to the castle, a hidden city outpost of the Shadowlands, and in a desperate attempt to prove himself a worthy heir, leads a disaster out expedition to purge the city.

Our second protagonist, Barako, the object of Harus desire, is a more level headed warrior, a woman who wishes only to serve the castle and protect the greater empire. She is a great character with a strong sense of duty, I really love that about her.

When Haru is returned to the castle, well then we get some bad things happening, which leads us into a horror whodunit, with a twist, which to be honest, I kinda saw a mile off.

The story has a heavy horror element, and this is something David is really good at, and yea the sentence shortness was a bit irritating, but I have to say, he is getting better as a writer, he really is.

Not that I could ever write of course, but unlike with some of his earlier work, I couldn’t put this down once I picked it up and read it over a couple of days.

The descriptions of the hidden city were really good and very much put you there in its weirdness and I got a real good feel for Striking Dawn.

He also had the characters kept very much on edge, with absolutely no time to rest, and I found myself feeling their grief, anger, despair, rage and exhaustion.

Conclusion

I won’t lie, I went in with low expectations, L5R was never really my bag, and as I said, David writing doesn’t usually click with me.

But I have to say, it’s an enjoyable read, very well written, very engaging and very well edited, with a nice flow to it.

I kinda want to know what happens next at Striking Dawn.

Solid 4 out of 5 stars.

The book is released on 6th October.

I will be reading The Death of Fallowhearth next by Robbie MacNivan, I had intended it to be The Head of Mimir, but that has expired in my NetGallery account.


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