Book Review: The Brittle Riders by Bill McCormick

RGB Trilogy Color I Synopsis: In a far future, Earth had already been visited by an alien race called the Sominids, who came here for the express purpose of drinking and having sex with everyone they could. When one of their infamous parties resulted in the moon being cut in half, and killing everyone who happened to live there, they quietly left. Their encounter with the Sominids had taught the human race many things, primarily that faster than light travel did not exist. Denied the stars, the human race began to dwindle in numbers and terminate all of their space programs.

A thousand years after that, a scientist named Edward Q. Rohta circumvented anti-AI laws, laws which had been on the books for millennia, by creating organic creatures to provide manual labor. Instead of dying after ten years, as promised in the company brochure, they would develop flu-like symptoms and go into hiding. Eventually, fed up with the mistreatment they suffered at the hands of humans they rose up and killed every man, woman, and child on the planet.

This is the story of what happens next.

The Brittle Riders; Apocalypses are funny that way.

Review: The Brittle Riders (Book I) by Bill McCormick was an unexpected pleasure to read. While I love science fiction and fantasy, it took me a while to immerse myself in this new and creative world. This debut novel commences with a preamble establishing the atmosphere that caused the apocalyptic demise of humankind. We’re introduced to Edward Q. Rohta, who is a brilliantly arrogant geneticist (and avowed hedonist). Since the “Plato Wars,” the creation of artificial intelligence was forbidden. Howbeit, Rohta circumvented that law by developing organic hybrids designed to assist humans. The transgenic beings he created were categorized as pseudo-humans and granted no rights. Rohta continued his research, creating more mutated and intermixed species called gen-o-pods, selling them as international slave labor and sex slaves. After fifty prosperous years, a succubus visited Rohta, stating that her contemporaries had studied humanity and deemed humans unscrupulous and indecent creatures that were a blight on their world. War soon followed.

Once the humans were defeated, the gen-o-pods constructed new communities and rid themselves of anything that was reminiscent of their human creators. However, like in all societies, not everyone desired a world of peace. Instead, they launched a war of their own, enslaving other brands (species) they deemed inferior. Xhaknar and Yontar (super soldiers), devastated the new world, and decimated numerous brands.

So, what happens when a succubus, a wolfen, a badgebeth, a rangka, and a braarb walk into the haven bar for a meeting over a few flagons of skank? No, seriously, that’s what happens. What comes next is an intriguing tale regarding those fringe dwellers of the wasteland, and an unfathomable plan by “the dead one,” Geldish.

The Brittle Riders is a well-crafted and intricate tale about these unlikely ‘heroes’ on a quest to free Arreti (formally earth) from its new, tyrannical leader. Author McCormick interweaves the backgrounds and the histories of their brands into an engaging, multi-layered plot. It isn’t merely a good vs evil story. Both concepts are interspersed with gradations of each, creating a compelling tale that you won’t want to stop reading.

As an added benefit, there’s a meticulous accounting of all brand names and descriptions, as well as the new measurements of time, days, years, etc. I referred to it a few times, but after I was well into the story, I didn’t need it. However, it’s always a pleasure when an author includes such details for the readers’ benefit.

The Brittle Riders is full of multidimensional characters, great battles, and the complexities of seeking new allies amongst sectarian brands to benefit the whole of Arreti, whilst rectifying wrongs of the past. In some places, the prose appeared a tad stilted, but once the story unfolded, it flowed quite well. There’s also some adult content, but not overly so. It’s used to demonstrate the turpitude and maleficence of integral characters. Definitely a “Zanubi” of a story, well worth 4.5 stars.

“La’Kyee Shhak.” You’ll understand once you’ve read it.

Book Review: Going Forth by Day by: Mary Woldering

51nU70ZsCEL._SY346_Synopsis: Marai, a former shepherd who discovered a fallen ‘star’ and was gifted with amazing abilities by the unearthly Children of Stone, has been separated from those he loves. Kept apart by forces seeking to control all of them, they must independently grow to understand their own powers while continuing their journey to wisdom. Will they be reunited? Will Marai rise up and begin to Go Forth By Day? Will those who care for him survive without his guidance and love?

Going Forth By Day, the second book in the Children of Stone series, is the story of Marai’s companions, Ariennu, Deka, and Naibe-Ellit. Through their involvement in the lives of the royalty of ancient Kemet, new alliances form, loyalties shift, and the comfortable lives of some are shaken to their core.

Blending history, ancient literature, mythology, classic archetypes, and personal inspiration, Woldering takes the reader on a speculative and emotional journey through the ancient world with detailed and thought-provoking characters whose stories weave themselves into the tapestry of history.

Review: Going Forth by Day by Mary Woldering is the second installment in the Children of Stone series. As with her debut novel (Voices in Crystal), Woldering delivers exceptional world-building and characterization. The intricate details and setting attest to not only the extensive research, but also Woldering’s delight in immersing her readers and herself into this world.

Going Forth by Day opens with Marai’s wives: Ariennu, Deka, and Naibe-Ellit, awaiting the return of their beloved husband. Mariai’s sojourn to commune and study under the Great Count Prince Hordjedtef is nearing its end, or so his elder wife, Ariennu, believed. With the Children of Stone’s silence, and recent turbid visions, the sister wives have grown trepidatious. That trepidation amplifies when the inspector priest, Prince Wserkaf, arrives at their home with a contingent of peacekeepers.

After receiving some perplexing instructions from her stone, Ariennu prepares her sister wives for a journey that will alter every aspect of their lives.

Going Forth by Day details the sister wives’ disparate lives after an inimical separation and numerous perilous circumstances. Ariennu contemplates their futures, and attempts to decipher the Children’s warnings, whilst maneuvering into positions to impede their enemies’ plans, thus reclaiming their lives. Howbeit, the power, position, and manipulations of their ‘captors’ isn’t so easily surmounted.

Rife with magic, compelling characters, betrayals, enigmatic prophecies, and awakenings, Going Forth by Day is a fascinating read, laying the foundation for the final novel, Opener of the Sky. I can’t wait to read the climactic end to this diverse and enthralling epic trilogy.

Book Review: Darkrise by M.L. Spencer

DarkRise Synopsis: Darien Lauchlin betrayed his allegiance to the Rhen when he sold his soul to the God of Chaos. Now the unthinkable has occurred: war between Malikar and the Rhen looms on the horizon. As Darien prepares to lead an invasion against his former homeland, he struggles to unite a diverse people who still view him as the enemy. Darien is forced to abandon his former loyalties and confront the tragedies of his past. With the help of Azár, he embarks on a series of trials that will forge him into the Battlemage his people desperately need him to be. But will the price of becoming a weapon be the last of his humanity?

Review: Darkrise by M. L. Spencer is the fourth book in this unique epic fantasy series (counting the prequel, Darkstorm). If you’re looking for a satisfying conclusion in this novel, you’ll have to wait until the next book (maybe). If you’re seeking an enthralling epic adventure comprising the fantastical elements you love, Darkrise is that and more.

Darkrise continues from where Darklands ended. Malikar and the Rhen teeter on the brink of war if a peaceful solution can’t be achieved. Darien Lauchlin, revered as a hero by some and an enemy to others, is entrenched within a battle not only between civilizations, but also within himself. Regardless of his moral conflicts and waning integrity, he’s determined to ascertain a peaceful solution and stand as a bridge between both worlds. Howbeit, his desires are incongruous to those of his new oath and master. Darien struggles with retaining his humanity, whilst striving to protect it. In doing so, numerous aspects of his life must change as he realizes that in order to attempt the impossible, he must surrender to the unthinkable.

It wouldn’t be a Rhenwars novel without the beloved, misunderstood, and flawed, Quin Reis. He’s continuing his efforts to aid Darien on a separate, perilous journey of discovery and strife. Even so, there’s some interesting facets of his personality that are brought forth along with more insight into who and what he is. Can a touch of humanity deliver him from the turbidity encompassing his soul? One can only hope. As one of the most intriguing characters in the series, Quin Reis never ceases to sacrifice himself for others and continuously advocates for causes that are beneficial to the whole. I do love that numerous so-called ‘demons’ in this series comprise more rectitude and ‘goodness’ than those proclaiming morality and righteousness. Furthermore, those purporting other cultures as savage, display the very barbarity they assign to their nemeses.

With a few darker undertones than the previous novels in the series (at least to me), Darkrise comes closer to having a grimdark edge. Conflicted characters, demons, hell-hounds, magic, torture and war, are all interwoven into a compelling tale that I didn’t want to end.

The one thing that perplexed me was the sudden aberrant behavior of an essential character. Throughout the series and especially in this novel, he remained unflinching and cold (as he should). Even after proclaiming his ‘blood-thirst’ and elation at decimating his enemies (or friends…he’s like that), it completely changed when the opportunity presented itself. It was contrary to everything that he is and previously demonstrated. Perhaps, this aspect was needed to augment another character’s purpose and significance. He certainly benefited from this reversal in characterization. I can’t wait to read the next novel and see.

Darkrise by M.L. Spencer is a captivating read with relatable characters that you’ll care about. The world is richly drawn, enhancing the epic experience. Definitely recommended.

The Outcast by Mukul Rana

Review: The Outcast by Mukul is a high fantasy that opens during an intermittent peace tethered by a brittle filament. That filament is shattered when the king of Britia beheaded a prophet conveying unfavorable news regarding his people’s future. After the prophet’s pronouncement, the king waged a war against his Viking enemies, ordering the deaths of every pregnant woman.

The Outcast by Mukul is an extremely fast-paced story with a plethora of mystical, fantastical, and historical elements. The author introduces characters quickly with images and short biographies inline with the text. With mysterious rangers, corrupt kings, deities, ents, shifters, dragons, and lore, there’s something for everyone in this action-packed tale. Some of the modern day vernacular was a bit jarring, but not enough to keep me from enjoying the story and these uncommon “heroes’” quest to discover more than they previously knew existed.

If you enjoy fast-paced adventure novels with a few recognizable characters and concepts, you’ll probably enjoy The Outcast. The ending will leave you wanting to know more.

Chosen of Trees and of Talons by Jeff Pryor

Synopsis: Hope is a fragile thread. Imprisoned for over four-hundred years, the Arneisian people tenuously held onto that thread. Generations were born and generations died. Sons were Chosen and given to the sorcerers who imposed the chains of slavery on their people, hoping the one foretold would Return to lead them from their prison. The thread of hope is tested as a new group of boys is Chosen. Their secrets will free the Arneisians or break that thread forever. The survival of a magical forest is in the hands of a young brother and sister. A father refuses to accept their destiny, and fights to protect them from the dark creatures who hunt them. A husband and wife only hope to reunite as he leads an army while she attempts to uncover spies for her king. Their futures, as well as the fate of kingdoms, hang in the balance as a boy fights to fulfill his destiny amid the gathering storms of war.

Review:  Chosen of Trees and of Talons by Jeff Pryor is an impassioned epic fantasy with a multi-layered, in-depth plot encompassing a complex world filled with intriguing characters, creatures, and magic.

Chosen of Trees and of Talons begins after a devastating war. Once the Arnesians were defeated, their king, Je’Hail Mulnaro, had to surrender his life along with his wife, and last Truthseer in exchange for his people’s survival. Although they’d foreseen that The Ones (their enemy) wouldn’t hold true to this agreement, it was the only chance to save his people. After insuring his children were hidden and safe, King Mulnaro prepared a journal and a few magical objects he hoped would aid his people in the future to free them from The Ones and the darkness they serve.

Chosen of Trees and of Talons by Jeff Pryor is an extremely detailed tale with a host of characters. The story is told from numerous points of view throughout the world. After the initial betrayal and the imprisonment of the Arnesians, we learn what The Ones’ plans for these once powerful people are. If they can find a prophesized child amongst the Arnesians, they can unleash the true darkness. In order to do this, they ‘choose’ young men each year from their prisoners that show a particular magical ability. Over the centuries of the Arnesians imprisonment, The Ones have bastardized history, filling the past with alternate facts where the Arnesians were evil aggressors and The ‘goodly’ Ones barely survived their genocidal attempts. Most Arnesians hate their ancestors for these evil acts and praise The Ones for allowing them to live, and giving them the opportunity to redeem their people.

Chosen of Trees and of Talons is far too complex with the different guilds, kingdoms, beasts, sentient forest, magic users, mythos, and betrayals to do it justice in a short review. It was an engrossing read with numerous interesting characters both ‘good’ and ‘bad.’ I’ll be looking for the next novel to see what’s become of some of my favorite characters and creatures alike.

Reviewed for Readers’ Favorite

The Grey Mage by Aidan Hennessy

The Grey MageSynopsis: Before he was the Archmage, he was the Exile…

Driven from his home and made a slave, Aelzandar flees his captors in an unknown land. As the natives turn against him and threaten his life, he is saved by a mysterious cadre who dwell in the Tower of the Magi.

Welcomed into this brethren, he is introduced to their enigmatic master, the Grey Mage Cassian. In this place, Aelzandar feels at peace for the first time in decades.

Aelzandar’s tranquil new life is short-lived when a discovery in the tower destroys this utopian society and drives a wedge through Aelzandar’s new comrades. Deserted by his students and friends, Cassian looks to Aelzandar for help, but what can one slave do against the power of the divine?

Review: The Grey Mage by Aidan Hennessy pulls you in immediately with the pursuit of an escaped elf, Aelzandar, by his Qardleean slavers. Though a short read, The Grey Mage isn’t lacking in action, well-defined characters or interesting plot developments. It’s a novella you could read in one evening and want to read again.

After Aelzandar encounters two spellweavers, Donal and Pedr, he’s both grateful and bemused. He wasn’t accustomed to mere human barbarians being blessed with such abilities. However, he learns that their master, Cassian the Grey, sent them to liberate him and escort Aelzandar to his tower (which is an ancient ruin of Eldaran elves) where Cassian teaches his students the Art. During a cursory meeting with Cassian and his paramour Vanaja, Aelzandar agrees to remain as the “school’s” cook in exchange for his lodging. But when he’s invited to an excavation in the west wing, some extraordinary developments unfold that shape the remaining story and his future. A secret room, a powerful relic, and an ancient evil manipulate a few to conquer the many. A battle of good vs evil ensues and the victor isn’t necessarily predetermined.

With fast action, relatable characters, secret portals to a forbidden land, and magical battles, The Grey Mage by Aidan Hennessy is an enjoyable and engaging story. There weren’t any huge plot twists or surprises, but it didn’t need them. It was an intriguing read with a satisfying end. I’m looking forward to more.

Reviewed for Readers’ Favorite