My review of The Empire of Ashes: The Draconis Memoria #3 by Anthony Ryan

The sheer span and scope is mind-boggling - in a good way. In a GREAT way, in fact.

I still can't get my head wrapped around how Ryan was able to put together such an expansive story with so many characters and information and keep it fascinating page after page. To me it's like part military history text of World War II (and I love that stuff), part steampunk novel, and part grand epic fantasy, all made to work in a way I would have previously thought impossible. This series, and particularly The Empire of Ashes, carries us through breathtaking campaigns all over the world, by land, sea, and air, while also describing the fascinating political, economic and technological military industrial developments akin to both that WWI and WWII - but add to that dragons, sea monsters, magic, and armies of the undead. I'm simply amazed. More so because the characters never get lost. They're front and center all the way through.

Speaking of the characters, I can't remember a book where they were more complex yet interesting. Ryan's ability to craft them and bring them to life is masterful - particularly in that we see our hero's sometimes do terrible things, and the most despicable characters at times do the most wonderful things - and most times when we least expect it. Friends can become our worst enemies, and enemies can become the most stalwart allies. It just feels real, but still with that sense of fantastical wonder we all crave.

As a final note: Without giving anything away, hats off and a deep bow with an ear-to-ear grin for the name given to one of the aerostats (from one of my favorite television shows of all time). Hint hint, nudge nudge, say no more...

My review of The Wolf of Oren-yaro by Kay Villoso

Thrilling and touching, a personal tale with the scope of kingdoms.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was a refreshing change of pace for me from the military sword and sorcery or urban fantasy I usually read, reminding me of the more introspective narrative feel of The Goblin Emperor, which I loved, but with more action, which I greatly appreciated. Villoso can weave a yarn and make us care in a way I haven't experienced in a very long time. Read it and weep - and cheer at the same time.

My review of Bloodwitch: A Living Blade Novella by Timandra Whitecastle

Jaunty yet eerie and frightening at the same time. Bloodwitch sucks you in like quicksand in a nightmare and doesn't let go.

How Timandra Whitecastle manages to pack so much in a novella, I have no idea. When I think back on the story, there as many main plot points and events, with the same stakes, as most novels I've read that are five times as long. What starts out as mischievous young people conning folks by using magic in a simple boardwalk game becomes a magic school mystery becomes a terrifying end-times fantasy-horror novel. It's somehow very present and relevant, yet feels very much like a dream. Yeah, I know, but I mean it. Give it a shot. It won't give you nightmares. I promise...

My review of I Was a Teenage Weredeer by Charles Phipps and Muchael Suttkus

Trueblood meets Nancy Drew in this snarky urban fantasy with rapid-fire dialogue and action.

I enjoyed the hell out of this. It's YA, but that doesn't bother me at all. I read everything, even grade school and teen. It's where I find half if not more of the most interesting stories and characters, to tell the truth. There's nothing childish or naive about IWATWD, though. The characters are interesting and savvy, with a great sense of humor, and some quite new and refreshing. The story has harrowing and some downright creepy moments, and flies along, with the twist and turns of a detective novel--but with shapeshifters (and wizards, or that matter). When it comes right down to it, it's just plain a hell of a lot of fun. This is a series I could see going on and building momentum for a dozen books or more.

Readers note: The Kindle eBook copy I read was riddled with errors. Dozens upon dozens of them, in fact. I normally wouldn't bring that up. Hell, I find them in my own books months after publication, and for some reason, even trad books have more and more errors these days (yet nobody ever talks about that, God forbid), but there were enough here to throw me out of the story nearly every other page. HOWEVER, I have been informed that this was an editor and publisher's error that has since been rectified, which makes me very happy. I'd hate to see such a fun book lose credibility because of it. So, read it with confidence, and enjoy.

My review of Arm of the Sphinx by Josiah Bancroft

Even more fascinating than Book 1. Prose and imagination that will set your head spinning in the best way possible. Bizarre, bold, and beautiful.

I was a pretty early reader of Josiah's first book in this series, Senlin Ascends, well before his trad deal, and was blown away by his prose, unique story and setting, and unfettered imagination.

Hard to believe for me, but I found Arm of the Sphinx to be even more fascinating. The characters are fleshed out in unexpected ways, new intriguing characters are introduced, the setting gets even more bizarre, and plot is even more bold. And more - he courageously wades into dangerous waters with choices in perspective (POV). Some call it "head-hopping," and nearly always derisively. I say 'Huzzah!' Witness it done by a true master of prose, and if you still don't like it or see its merit, well, sorry about that. I for one applaud experimentation, the different, the new (and the old made new again), the avant garde, if you will. Even if it doesn't work, I always greatly appreciate the attempt. In Bancroft's case, though, it works. It ALL works.

Now I'm dying to get my hands on The Hod King... DYING...