Book Review: The Shades of Winter by Morgan Smith

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Synopsis:
An aging band of sea raiders set out on one last voyage of revenge, and get a whole lot more than they bargained for.
Tam Isliefsdottir wasn’t planning to end her life in a futile attempt for vengeance, but when your brothers- and sisters-in-arms need you, what can you do? Leaving her son and her granddaughter behind and sailing to the shadowy island of Alvandir, she expected to die gloriously for the sake of her country, her king, and her own reputation.
Nothing is as it is supposed to be, however, and it hasn’t been for the last twenty years. Tam and her Kyndred are in for the surprise of their lives.

Review: The Shades of Winter by Morgan Smith is an exceptional addition to the Averraine Cycle series, and demonstrates why Ms. Smith is one of my favorite fantasy authors. The characters are compelling, complemented by a unique world and inhabitants that entwine into a multilayered plot, entrenching you into a phenomenal story, where you experience every captivating facet with the characters.

The Shades of Winter begins during a late summer harvest in Dyrsholt. Although a necessary task, it’s also tedious: especially for aging sea raiders. This is explicitly so for Tam Isliefsdottir, who relates this fantastical tale from her point of view.

When a ship appears on the horizon, the harvesting halts, and the denizens arm themselves to defend against possible raiders. However, Tam was startled to learn that her Kyndred (brothers/sisters in arms) were sailing into port. After arranging a quick welcoming feast, they meet in the hall for not merely a celebration, but to deliver some astounding news about a raid on a shrine at Heilaegr.

Author Smith provides a fascinating history of the battles, fallen kings, lost comrades, and the state of the current world…and what, if anything, aging warriors can do to soothe old wounds and avenge fallen heroes.

In a world Tam considers made for the young and strong, at times, those more wizened, battle-seasoned, and yearning for past glories, make the most formidable heroines/heroes. With nothing to lose but their lives, Tam and her Kyndred embark on an expedition of vengeance, which escalates into life altering events, unexpected reunions, arcane magic, murder, manipulations, and buried truths resurrected by desperation…not desire.

Morgan Smith has exceptional insight into ancient cultures and ethos, whilst adding her distinctive elan. The detailed sea voyages, attitudes, characterization, and fighting techniques and armaments are impeccable. I appreciate the strong female characters that stood on their own, without the need to lessen the masculinity of the males. They stand on equal footing: in intellect, banter, and battle.

The Shades of Winter by Morgan Smith is an amazing journey with an engaging plot and extraordinary characters. Once the foundation is laid, you’re propelled into a magnificent tale where events and people aren’t necessarily what they appear to be. I can’t wait for the next novel to find out what new adventures are to be had.

 

Book Review: Kurintor Nyusi by Aaron-Michael Hall

KN-Front-SEALSynopsis: As the gods battle in the heavens, darkness descends on earth.

The Keepers of Nine guide the primordial Kurintor warriors protecting the mortal world from the demons of Ashemohn. But after a god’s corruption empowered their demon goddess, Sokka, her manipulations have brought the Kurintor to the brink of extinction.

Can the Keepers of Nine awaken the Kurintor descendants in time to defend the Fifth Kingdom, or will the eidolons Sokka has sent forth destroy them?

It isn’t prophecy, destiny, or a birthright, that will decide the fate of the mortal world.
It is choice.

Review: Kurintor Nyusi is one of the most exciting and refreshing books I’ve read in a long time. The plot was not the usual fantasy fare, the world not like the usual worlds you find in the genre, and the characters…well, it was the characters that made this tale a pure pleasure to read. The author has created something very unique, and this is sure to be an award-winning story.

Through the eyes of these believable and well-portrayed characters, the reader is treated to a wonderfully enthralling experience, seeing the world through their eyes and coming to care for each and every one of them. We feel their emotions, share in their pains and joys. Even the antagonists. Nurisha, Xavion, Qaradan, Zuri, Alyelu and so many more. Yet, while there are plenty of characters, I did not feel overwhelmed at any time while reading this book.

This is fantasy as it was meant to be, not focused on creatures and landscapes, or even on the events, but on the people who live them, and we get to experience it all right along with them. I cannot say enough about how well-written this story is. This is an author all fantasy fans should keep their eyes on, and I highly recommend reading Kurintor Nyusi. I am anxiously awaiting the next book, and if this book is any indicator, the next will be magnificent! It deserves more than a mere 5 stars.

Book Review: Melokai: In the Heart of the Mountains by Rosalyn Kelly

51NpZ0clkbL Synopsis: Legendary warrior Ramya has successfully ruled as Melokai for longer than most. Prosperous, peaceful, and happy, her people love her. Or so she thinks.

Ramya’s time is up. Bracing herself for the gruesome sentence imposed on all Melokais who have served their purpose, she hears instead a shocking prophecy.

Is the abrupt appearance of a mysterious, eastern cave creature the prophesied danger? Or is it something darker, more evil? And what of the wolves? Will the ferocious war with their kind oust her from power?

Suddenly Ramya must fight threats from all sides to save her mountain realm. But while her back is turned, a conspiracy within her inner circle is festering. Ramya and her female warriors must crush an epic rebellion before it can destroy her and devastate her beloved nation.

She thinks it’s the end, but it’s just the beginning…

Review: Melokai: In the Heart of the Mountains by Rosalyn Kelly is an engrossing, dark and diverse fantasy that propels you into the world immediately. The cover alone promises an epic read, and author Kelly didn’t disappoint.

In the opening, Melokai Rayma is accompanied by her counselor and Head Scholar, Chaz, to entreat the Stone Prophetess Sybilya. Each Melokai ruling the matriarchal society of Peqky serves for a decade, and then a new Melokai is elected. After which, the departing ruler’s tongue is removed and they’re banished from Peqky. This isn’t a prospect that Rayma or her counselors relish, since their fates would be the same, save the banishment.

Rayma visited the stone goddess each week for her ruling, but instead of proclaiming Rayma’s rule at an end, the goddess remained silent. As a result, Rayma had ruled two years longer than any other Melokai. Howbeit, this visit would be different. The stone goddess spoke a prophecy that will inexorably alter the Peqkyians future.

Although bemused by the prophecy, Rayma continues to lead her people and make great strides to improve the lives of her denizens as well as lessen the severe treatment of the pleasure peons (PGs). Regardless of some opposition, she is loved by her people and surrounded by loyal counselors and warriors. Or is she?

The Peqkyian society is also intriguing. Most inhabitants display catlike features and also communicate with their feline companions. In the times of Xayy, a thousand years past, men had a place of ruler as the Melokaz. However, after the then stone prophetesses cursed them, that changed, and now the males (peons) are considered lesser citizens, and nothing more than a means to procreate and provide physical pleasures. Unfortunately, if males can’t demonstrate their ability to provide the latter, they are disposed of in a most horrific way. The PGs (male pleasure givers) existence is better than most other males. Notwithstanding the threat of castration and an excruciating death if they can’t satisfy their female summoners, they live and are treated modestly well.

Another interesting (and relevant) element is the Peqkian children. Women can choose a soulmatch if they feel connected to a certain male. Evenso, once they birth children, they’re taken to a communal pen. Naturally, with the use of PGs, women are pregnant often, and Peqkian law mandates that no child can know their parents and vice versa. “Mothers” have positions in each pen facility to rear and teach these children until they reach the appropriate age (fifteen). If the young boys can’t pass a ‘usefulness test,’ they are disposed of immediately.

With the dire implications of the prophecy, distrustful allies, warring wolves, and a banished, foreign Trogr (Gwrlain) arriving in the city, fealties are wavering, and the brittle filament tethering the Peqkian together could shatter at any moment.

That’s quite a bit to absorb, but it’s merely the tip of the iceberg. Author Rosalyn Kelly has created a vividly intriguing world pervaded with new species, deities, talking animals, concepts, great battles, and milieus that immerse you in this epic world whilst tickling every fantastical desire to satiate even the finickiest of readers. With numerous sub-plots, betrayals, manipulations, and intricately scrupulous treacheries, you’ll barely have time to catch your breath.

Melokai by Rosalyn Kelly effectually whisks you through multiple lands and societies (not all human), and a huge cast of interconnected characters. With the sexual content and brutalities, it’s intended for mature readers and not those unfamiliar with dark or grimdark fantasy. I don’t have an issue with such content when it’s used for characterization and along with the plot…not in place of one. Melokai is the former, and I was captivated from page one, and can’t wait to see what’s next revealed…especially with Sarrya, V, Artaz, and Gwrlain. What appears to be an end will certainly be a new beginning.
Easily 4.5 stars.