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: 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.

Pigeon by Daniel Zadow

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Synopsis: For Simon, the plaintive cries of desperation emanate out from him to find a semblance of who he was. In doing so, he calls to the depths within his mind and awakens psychological manifestations that help remind him of his past.

The pigeon visits him and begins to wake up the old Simon by removing the masks, which cover a past made up of something from another world.

On this journey, Simon uncovers all the secrets trailing back to where it all started in Germany.

Review: Pigeon by Daniel Zadow is a complex tale detailing Simon’s misanthropic existence and his esoteric ruminations regarding his life, and innumerable memories of past events that he’s compartmentalized within a layered mind pervaded with obfuscation and dubiety. Facets of his deliberate masking emerge after he’s visited by the spirit of a pigeon who crashed into his window and subsequently died. Through the pigeon, the masks Simon has meticulously incorporated over the years begin to dissipate, revealing versions of interconnected lives, secrets, and objectives. The pigeon, or spirit, edifies Simon’s mind whilst piquing his curiosity and assisting in alleviating the enigmas plaguing him. As Simon reflects on past events and lives, he’s introduced to the Intractable Energy Agency, and rediscovers knowledge that he already possessed, yet suppressed. Through this journey of rediscovery, Simon realizes why he is where he is, and his importance to this world and limitless others. After numerous immersions into past events, characters, and epochs, Simon traces his origins back to Schrödinger and his wave emitter that creates a link-up to the Many Worlds Portal.

Pigeon by Daniel Zadow is an intriguingly outré and multifarious glimpse into the life and mind of Simon Parsons. The stream of consciousness style of the narrative is captivating, propelling you through aspects of varying characters’ existences, spanning epochs, genders, and realms (both physical and metaphysical). Pigeon is definitely a well-written and intelligent narrative detailing events from Arosa, Switzerland, 1920 to New York, 2030. I found myself rereading most of this novel to ensure that I fully grasped the conceptualization that Zadow intended to convey. Pigeon is a compelling read that left me with a few questions regarding the veracities of the mind versus the fabrication inserted to mask or expunge undesirable realities.

Reviewed for Readers’ Favorite

Book Review: Dragonblood Throne by Tom Fallwell

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Synopsis: Orphaned as a young child and growing up alone in the forest, Delina lives a life of isolation; her only companion a saber-toothed panther. Her strange eyes frighten those she occasionaly encounters, so she keeps to herself, until a young, wounded warrior ends up at her doorstep. As she nurses him back to health, she discovers she is more than just a young woman with unusual eyes, she is a dragonblood, destined to become the ruler of Almar.

Now hunted by the dark sorcerer who murdered her father, usurped his throne, and killed all her kin, she must find out how she can release the essence of the dragon inside her to defeat him. Everything depends upon her willingness to embrace her legacy and reclaim the Dragon Throne.

Review: Dragonblood Throne Legacy by Tom Fallwell was a very enjoyable fantasy novel. Delina’s character was well-written as were her motivations for multiple decisions she made throughout the story.

After being isolated for most of her life, she struggles to trust a young warrior that she’d nursed back to health. Although she feels an attraction (beyond physical) to him, her dealings with others makes her extremely cautious. With an unknown past and mysterious eyes, she’s been labeled a witch, and lost most of her family due to the same. Her only companion is a saber toothed panther (Morlok) who has protected her since she was a child.

Once Merrick convinces Delina of impending dangers, she journeys with him and learns more about herself and her family. Not only is she a dragonblood, she’s the rightful ruler of Almar. Now, she must choose to embrace her heritage and become who/what she’s meant to be, or she can reject that heritage and succumb to the forces of Kargoth: the malefic usurper who murdered her father.

Dragonblood Throne Legacy is full of magic, fantastical creatures, and intrigue. There were a few places that caused my brow to raise, but the story as a whole is a good one. All of the expected fantasy elements are present with some new creatures called Malcoraths as well. Author Fallwell redefines what a dragon is, and entwines those aspects into a forward-moving plot.

Being a lover of characterization, I’m always searching for “why” a character displays certain behaviors. I never truly understood Kargoth’s motivations for his abominable acts, but that didn’t take away from my reading enjoyment.

Easily 4.5 stars and recommended for fantasy lovers: young and old.