Tag: Josh Reynolds

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.


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.


Wrath of N’Kai

After my review of Tales from The Crucible, Aconyte reached out to set me up with a new copy of Wrath if N’Kai by Josh Reynolds.

So here are some disclaimers which are always important to put out there first. I am a friend of Josh on Facebook, and whilst we aren’t beat buds, we do interact with each other and I consider him a class person, and I have very much enjoyed his work with Black Library.

Secondly I have a casual work contact with Asmodee to demonstrate board games for them in stores and at conventions. Asmodee being the parent company of Aconyte the publisher.

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

So Arkham Horror is not a game I have actually played, I fancy it, but me and the Cthulhu mythos have never been quite on the same wavelength.

I have never read any H.P. Lovecraft books, my first exposure to them was at a small convention in London when I was about 12, it was actually a convention for Corps of Drums, not even speculative fiction.

Basically an older chap was reading a book and it lead into a discussion lead by a BAME person about the issues of racism in his work, and even the chap reading the book was pretty clear that there was some nasty racism in some of his work.

As I said I have never read any, that discussion put me off, but I have read stuff by other authors, never a novel, usually short stories and played games set in the mythos. I have so many Cthulhu expansions for games that one would think I am a huge fan.

I can play all of Munchkin Cthulhu, get all the references and jokes, but as I said never read a single Lovecraft story.

It’s a gap in my knowledge that I am actually going to try and fill, I was recently gifted an audiobook of the complete fiction of Lovecraft, so am considering giving that a listen, but I will admit the racism is something that I will be on edge about.

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 1920 whodunit told mostly from the perspective of master thief Countess Alessandra Zorzi who arrives in the town of Arkham, hired by a mysterious cabal to steal a newly discovered mummy.

The eldritch prologue sets you up for some occult horror, but the book largely steered clear of that, which given that the protagonist is not that familiar with the intricacies of the occult makes sense.

The setting is deep and rich, with gangsters and bootleggers, all speaking with 1920s US slang. It’s a real atmospheric period piece that evokes the days of prohibition, with just a hint of eldritch terror and added tommy guns.

Alessandra herself is a very three dimensional character and extremely well developed beyond the trope of the aristocratic thief. We see her backstory teased out over the book, learning more about her as we go though, and as I said, she is more than just the trope.

Her driver Pepper was actually my favourite character in the story, they have their own secret, although this is revealed early on. They are full of spunk and as mentioned by a gangster they deal with, moxie.

It’s a really fast paced book, that I literally devoured over two sittings, one that got me 20% of the way in and the rest in an evening that kept me reading until 3am! I was just utterly drawn in by the story with its twists and turns.

As I said I haven’t played Arkham Horror, but I have played Elder Sign and I recognised lots of elements of that games story mechanics in this book.

And given my surface knowledge of Lovecrafts work, I did recognise a few little nods to those within the story that will please those who are more familiar.

There is a bit of a creep factor in there, and there were certainly bits that had my skin crawling just a little, but not so much to put me off. It’s very light in terms of horror, which makes it very accessible.

Conclusion

Personally I loved this book, it was a throughly enjoyable story which whilst grounded in the Cthulhu mythos, did not delve into it too deeply, nor did it require me to have more than passing knowledge.

In fact I think if a layperson was to pick up this book and read it, they would get on with it perfectly fine without knowing a thing about the mythos.

This book was great and for me it was a fantastic read. I particularly enjoyed a strong female protagonist who at no point needed any romantic entanglements, and the pulpy 1920s nature of the story was just delightful.

I really hope that the countess and Pepper return to Arkham for some more adventures, this is kind of hinted at, but please Josh, do it!


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