Tyrant’s Throne – Goodbye For Now

30317594As I have gotten older I have noticed a change in my reaction to the conclusion of series I love. When I was younger, I would buy final books the moment I could and then power through them immediately, dying to know what happened next. Now, I look at them nervously with a little sadness as I think about how I won’t be getting any more. I usually sit on the book for awhile, savoring the coming end and thinking about all the good times with the series I have had. This was particularly true with Tyrant’s Throne, by Sebastien de Castell, the last of The Greatcoats series. If you have read any of my past posts you will know I absolutely adore this series, and I was terrified to start the finale. On the other hand, once I opened the first page of the book the worries washed away from me as I leaped into the wonderful mind of Falcio val Mond once more.

When we last left our heroes, they had just survived death by the narrowest of margins in a conflict that left their country in shambles. Once again they find themselves the janitors to the world biggest mess, but their country has been broken so many times at this point that the pieces are starting to look unrecognizable. After three internal conflicts, Tristia is now facing its first external conflict: Avares. Their barbarian neighbors to the northwest have raided Tristia for centuries, but an unknown force has united the country under one banner to invade Tristia once and for all in its moment of weakness. While Falcio tries to put Aline on the throne, they must bring together a group of individuals who hate one another to keep Tristia from being wiped off the map.

One of my favorite books of all time is Legend, by David Gemmell, and de Castell seems to have taken a page right out of his magnificent book. An age old threat, coming together to become an unstoppable force that must meet the immovable object of our protagonists. Once again de Castell has raised the stakes of his series with a fantastic new villain, and he has pulled together the threads of his past four books to create a very memorable conclusion. Tyrant’s Throne has everything you love about the previous books; heartbreaking moments, laugh out loud humor, a lovable/hateable cast of characters, a fascinating world, and a fantastic author’s voice. However, Tyrant’s Throne also brings its own voice to the chorus that is the series and presents us with a new and terrible theme: the corruption of Falcio. It was a direction that I did not expect Sebastian to take – and it left a horrible oily slick feeling on my brain while I was reading it (In a good way?). Falcio is so very close to achieving the goal that he has spent his life reaching towards, putting the daughter of his king on the throne. As he gets closer, he finds that he might be willing to break the ideals that he espouses in order to end the conflict once and for all. The exploration of Falcio and his adherance to his own rules was masterfully done, despite the sickening feeling it gave me. De Castell did an incredible job of devising scenarios where there just was no way to win and left you (and Falcio) to wonder what was the best way forward.

As I mentioned before, the final villain is fantastic. It was a perfect antagonist to conclude the series, and it felt like an excellent final foe for our trio. The book has a number of heartfelt moments that hit me hard, and while the book favored less humor than its predecessors due to a more somber tone; the book still had me in stitches repeatedly. De Castell still impresses me with his ability to work profound ideas into such funny characters, and I always love how deep these books can be while also remaining a fun swashbuckling romp. There was very little not to love with Tyrant’s Throne, but I do feel that the final battle was a little less climactic that his previous novels. The series finale sees a shift in focus from our trio of leads to the greater cast as a whole, and while I thought it was masterfully done I liked the tight focus on Falcio more.

That being said, my complaints with Tyrant’s Throne are a small footnote on an essay of why I loved it. The thing that impressed me most was the ending of the full series. De Castell manages to close out his story in a beautiful and magical way that also leaves the door wide open for him to pick the story up at a later date. He manages to do the rare thing of giving our cast full closure on this part of their lives, while also looking to the horizon and paving the way for a return of our greatcoats in the future. Sebastien continues to build his world and reveal new secrets about how it works, right up until the last page. While our trio might be done, the future looks exciting and interesting for our cast – and I would love to come back and see them soon.

So Greatcoats, it has been an incredible journey – and I thank you for allowing me to accompany Falcio on it. While this is certainly an end for the story of our greatcoats, I hope it is not THE end. So I will say goodbye for now and I hope to see your shining hearts again soon. As the door closes on one of my all time favorite series, I will be turning to de Castell’s new book Spellslinger to keep me company. For all of you who have not picked up The Traitor’s Blade yet, well have I got a recommendation for you…

Rating:

Tyrant’s Throne – 9.0/10
The Greatcoats – 9.5/10

The Greatcoats – An Interview With Sebastien de Castell

I had the privilege to trap one of fantasy’s most underrated authors, Sebastien de Castell, in a conversation the other day. In it he revealed some interesting tid bits on both his Greatcoats series as well as his new upcoming novel, Spellslinger. For those of you who have read the novels, hopefully this gives you some more insight into the series. For those of you that have not, I hope it inspires you to pick it up. My reviews for the first three books in the series can be found here and here.

You have talked about your inspiration here for The Greatcoats, but I have not seen you mention The Three Musketeers despite many parallels. Did this classic tale provide inspiration for the story?

I think you might just be the first reviewer to notice my avoidance of mentioning The Three Musketeers when asked about inspirations—well spotted!

While the Greatcoats books deal with some of the same themes as Dumas—about friendship and honour and daring—my own writing style is very different, and in fact much more influenced by Noir writers and some of the New Wave sci-fi and fantasy writers like Roger Zelazny than by Dumas or Cervantes.

More importantly, though the Greatcoats series is set in a late-Renaissance fantasy world, like most writers, my stories are ultimately about my time and the issues I see around me rather than about harkening back to some earlier era. I suspect that was just as true for Dumas, writing in the early nineteen hundreds.

On a related note, what are some of your favorite fantasy novels?

The truth is, I don’t read that much fantasy anymore. For some reason it interferes with my writing process. One of my excuses for this is that I think that it’s good for fantasy authors to read outside the genre and bring some of that to fantasy fans to both keep things fresh and grow the field. But it’s equally true that I’m simply too analytical when reading fantasy these days and it interferes with my enjoyment.

That said, I could pretty much always pick up a Robin Hobb book and enjoy it, and the same is true of Steven Brust. For fans of Dumas, by the way, Brust’s Khaavren Romances (the first of which is The Phoenix Guards) are a very well-regarded and genuine tribute to Dumas’ Three Musketeers.

With your three protagonists, Falcio, Brasti, and Kest, it seems like it would have been tempting to go with multiple points of view as opposed to just the one following Falcio. Why did you decide to go with just the one?

I tend to write in first-person because, for me, it feels closest to the heart of the character, and with the Greatcoats, the drama comes not just from the swashbuckling but from knowing exactly what Falcio’s thinking and feeling at the time. I had originally thought of writing a trilogy in which each of the books was told from the perspective of one of the three characters, but I think that would have felt jarring for the reader. Falcio isn’t just the main character—he’s our eyes and ears into the world and his perspective is what gives continuity to the twisting, shifting events of the story.

One of my favorite things about The Greatcoat series is that the greatcoats are never really the strongest, smartest, fastest people in the room. Instead they focus on the law and doing what’s right and it gives them an angle that feels fresh at least to me. Was this intentional or just a side effect of making them traveling lawmen?

The Greatcoats is very much a swashbuckling adventure series—an expression of my own love of that style and sensibility. But the problem with “swashbuckling” (which I define as trying to solve a problem with daring and style) is that it tends to give us unbeatable characters. When those characters lose, the reason is usually pretty weak (I mean, why did character X suddenly lose that fight when we’ve seen him win twenty other ones against bigger odds?) This is why it’s so hard to keep a swashbuckling adventure series fresh. With the Greatcoats, I needed there to be weaknesses in the characters that even they tended not to see—but which the reader could—so that when they do lose, it’s for believable reasons.

The other reason for the way the characters behave is that, for me, anyway, heroism has to have some fundamental purpose. If it’s just about “beating the bad guy” then it’s not heroism at all—it’s just fighting enemies. So one of the issues that perennially troubles Falcio, Kest, and Brasti is why are they getting into this fight, and will it do any good even if they win? In fact, a good deal of Saint’s Blood involves Falcio being challenged on that very question.

I saw that you announced your plans for Spellslinger, a YA fantasy novel about an aspiring new mage. Do you have any plans for other adult fantasy series outside The Greatcoats universe?

That’s a great question—one I wish I could answer.

I have a file on my computer that currently contains 44 different novel and series concepts. Some of them have sample scenes, some are outlines, and some are just vague descriptions of an idea. Some of the ideas are fantasy series, some are mystery, a couple of sci-fi, horror, one historical romance (in my defence, I only came up with it because one of the early test covers for Traitor’s Blade looked like a romance novel), and a few straight literary.

Right now, my focus is on making the Greatcoats into the best possible series it can be—something I’ll want to re-read twenty years from now. I want the same for Spellslinger, which has the added challenge that it’s intended to reach both a YA and adult audience. There’s also discussions going on about what happens next in the world of the Greatcoats. So, when I think about all that, it’s hard for me to internally commit to a whole new fantasy series. I don’t want to write repeats of my previous work, so it might be important that I write a few things outside the genre in order to keep my own brain stretching.

Your writing is some of the best humor I have ever read. Does this have to do with your natural author’s voice, or is it something you pushed for in The Greatcoats? For example, will your new series Spellslinger have a similar humorous element and tone?

Part of it just comes from my family background where saying something clever and witty was akin to a competitive sport around the dinner table. But with the Greatcoats the humour is something integral to the main characters—it’s how they deal with the horror around them and the chance that this time one of them could die.

Spellslinger has some of that humour but not in quite the same way. Kellen is sixteen, he’s not as experienced and he’s not as sure of himself. In some ways it’s more fun for me because the humour is more spontaneous and unexpected.

You announced that the 4th Greatcoat novel, Tyrant’s Throne, will be the final about these characters. Yet, as I have read through Saint’s Blood I can’t help but feel the story is getting bigger and more interesting with each book. Would you consider making more novels with these characters or is Tyrant’s Throne the definitive end?

There are discussions…stay tuned.

Falcio’s title is The King’s Heart, what would yours be?

Alas, my friend, that is a secret that goes with me to the grave.

Saint’s Blood – by de Castell-Who-Keeps-Getting-Better

23899193Saint’s Blood is the third book in The Greatcoats quartet by Sebastien de Castell. I have written about both of his previous two novels, Traitor’s Blade and Knight’s Shadow, and ranked them among some of my all-time favorites. They earned this distinction because they are  two of the funniest books I have ever read featuring a lovable cast, exciting plot, heart-touching writing and inventive world. De Castell’s books are written in the style of Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, and to quote myself, “are a story about a group of magistrates called greatcoats who are tasked with traveling the land, hearing the pleas of the people (great and small) and making sure the law is upheld. They are sort of like duelist lawyers if you will.” This third novel in the series continues to build upon this world and takes previously unexplored ideas and characters from the first novel and paints us a brand new picture.

The plot of Saint’s Blood is hard to talk about without spoilers, but know it picks up a little time after the conclusion of Knight’s Shadow as our band of heroes do their best to hold together what is left of the government. As the greatcoats are trying to establish that they are still relevant in the world, a mysterious figure begins a religious crusade to murder the living saints of the world and throwing everything into chaos. With this, de Castell continues to impress me with his ability to expand on small aspects of his world established in previous novels. For example, previously, the only real thing we knew about the saints, or the religion of this world is that there are occasionally individual saints who function as living personifications of an abstract concept; such as the saint of mercy, Birgid-who-weeps-rivers. Much like he did in Knight’s Shadow, de Castell expands these seemingly minor details from previous books into an entire new background for his world that feels natural and well-planned. The religion in the story feels fresh and interesting, as well as being reminiscent of the Templar order that everyone knows. The addition of these details, and a focus on expanding the circle of characters in the story, makes Saint’s Blood feel like it increased the scope and complexity of The Greatcoats universe and gave the story more life.

While there is plenty of new content to sink your teeth into, Saint’s Blood still has at its core all the things that made the previous novels great. The writing is still unbelievably funny and playful, making it just fun to read. De Castell has an author’s voice that makes his prose fun, witty, and unique. On top of this, the story and characters really hit home. With the number of books I’ve read for this blog, I find myself a little jaded when it comes to scenes that are supposed to be emotionally moving. Saint’s Blood was having none of that, and broke through my cynical shell with some of its beautiful and poignant moments. Finally, one thing I really want to give de Castell credit for, both in Saint’s Blood and its predecessors, is his ability to make the mundane incredible. It is impressive to make a warrior cool, but it is even more so to make things like lawyers and craftsmen badass. De Castell treatment of the greatcoats, and their villains, makes the books feel innovative and helps them stand out among his other talented contemporaries.

However, the book was not perfect. There were times when the pacing suffered a little as action ebbed and flowed with little to no warning. Additionally, the writing at times was slightly unclear, and I found myself having to reread the occasional passage to make sure I understood what was happening in a scene. There was one passage in particular where an antagonist seemed to have just fallen out of the scene completely and I could not locate them no matter how hard I looked. Despite these complaints, their impact on my enjoyment of the book was minor and I really only noticed them in hindsight after I have finished the book and put it down.

When I read City of Blades a few weeks ago, I thought it would be unlikely that a book could compete with it for my top book spot for this year. It turns out that those thoughts were premature, and I am going to have to spend a long time considering what books were best when I make my top ten list this year. Saint’s Blood is a powerful addition to The Greatcoats series that made me lament that there is only one book left in the quartet. Do not hold off on picking up this sequel, and if you have not yet read Traitor’s Blade, I highly recommend checking it out.

Rating: 11/10

I was provided an ARC by Netgalley.com in exchange for an unbiased review.

The Best Of 2015

The time has come for ‘Best of 2015’ threads and to reflect on all the wonderful books I enjoyed over the year. This piece will address my top 10 reads published in 2015, but is missing some of the amazing older books I read throughout the year. I read roughly 80 books this year, about half of which (40) were published in 2015, and the following books are my top picks. I found the new releases this year surprisingly less powerful than many sequels. Last year I gave over half the top 10 spots to new releases, whereas this year only three made the cut. It has been a year of very powerful sequels, in particular second installments of series. With that said, let’s talk about some of 2015’s gems and please note that some of the blurbs link to my full reviews of the books.

 

2354736410) Knight’s Shadow by Sebastien De Castell – one of my top five books from 2014 was Traitor’s Blade, the first of the Greatcoat series, for its incredible humor, emotional impact, and great cast. The follow-up, Knight’s Shadow, was a great addition that explored some large growth in the trinity of main characters, while still keeping the same powerful voice and tone from book one. The plot evolved nicely and the general quality of the book stayed consistent with Traitor’s Blade, but there was slightly less emotional impact in the second novel. With two demonstrations of consistent talent I am eagerly awaiting De Castell’s third entry, Saint’s Blood, in 2016.

 

234444829) The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson – The first of the three entries on the list to not be sequels. The Traitor Baru Cormorant is a story of cultural warfare and a young girl whose home is eaten by an oppressive republic in her youth. To fight back, she becomes a cog in the great machine that is the republic and tries to bring it down from the inside. While suffering from some pacing issues, The Traitor Baru Cormorant brought a ton of new ideas to fantasy warfare and is a very different journey than your typical fare. The book has a fast pace start and end, but suffers a little in the middle. Regardless I am looking forward to more from Seth Dickinson.

 

twelve-kings_final-sm2-200x3008) Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley P. Beaulieu – The first of a new epic fantasy based in an Arabian setting. The story follows a girl named Cena, a gladiator in Sharakhai, as she tries to survive in an incredible city ruled by twelve kings in the center of a desert. The book had a very slow start but picked up pace rapidly after the first 20%, continuing all the way to the last page. With Bradley having found his groove I cannot wait to pick up the sequel to see where the story will go.

 

51pmvmp67ol-_sy344_bo1204203200_7) The Mechanical by Ian Tregillis – I read a lot of good historical fiction this year, with The Mechanical taking the win by a small margin. With its original setting, steampunk science, and character growth it was a refreshing read that distinguishes it from its competition. The story of The Netherlands and France has had me looking for historical fiction of a wider subject than WWII or England. The sequel, The Rising, releases next week and I will be picking it up immediately.

 

208838476) The Autumn Republic by Brian McClellan – The only finale to make the list, The Autumn Republic finished off a series I don’t feel close to done with yet. McClellan’s world is gigantic, and with the close of this series I feel like we have only seen the tip of the iceberg. Despite the ending feeling a little too quick, McClellan has finished a series to be proud of that maintains a high quality and exciting ride the entire way through.

 

 

61j8lp2b-eol-_sy344_bo1204203200_5) Nemesis Games by James S. A. Corey – The Expanse novels are rapidly becoming my favorite purchase every summer (as they are released consistently every year in June). This series has now released five out of its nine novels and I have been blown away every single time. Every novel follows new perspectives, new challenges, and pushes the conflicts to new heights. I do not know how Ty Franik and Daniel Abraham are going to top the levels of panic and excitement Nemesis Games gave me, but I have said that about every single release. The books continue to both be a continuation of the greater series, and almost completely self contained at the same time. If you haven’t picked up any of The Expanse series yet, or have been waiting to read more, I highly encourage you to do so.

 

157044594) Firefight by Brandon Sanderson – Published early in the year, lots of people have overlooked this sleeper. Steelheart, a novel about powerless humans hunting super heroes, was a surprise hit with me. I decided to read it on a whim, despite not loving the premise,  and was blown away by the result. That being said, the first novel was very self contained and reached a pretty definite conclusion at the end, giving me a lot of concern where Sanderson was going to take the series or if it could remain good. The fact that Firefight is so much better than Steelheart was very hard to process at first. Sanderson takes his winning formula from book one, and makes it deeper, more intense, and simply a lot cooler. Sanderson’s talent for weird magic is on point with his collection of interesting super powers and the plot has a lot more emotional weight than it did in book one. The finale, Calamity, comes out next February and is one of my most anticipated books for 2016.

 

233463353) The Price of Valour by Django Wexler – The Shadow Campaigns keeps creeping up my lists the more and more I think about it. The third installment of five, The Price of Valour is proof that Wexler can learn from his mistakes and has no shortage of imagination. The Thousand Names, Wexler’s debut, was an incredible flintlock fantasy about a remote military campaign that was fast, exciting, and surprising complex. Its sequel, The Shadow Throne, was an attempt to expand the world from the first book and double the cast. While The Shadow Throne had a metric ton of new things I liked, it also felt like it lacked the exciting pace and style of Wexler’s Debut;however, The Price of Valour has it all. With the pacing and intensity of book one, and the amazing cast from book two, the third Shadow Campaign novel is the strongest so far and continues to unravel the gigantic web of mystery that covers the series.

 

220552832) Half the World by Joe AbercrombieHalf the World is the strangest book on this list to me. The second novel of The Shattered Seas trilogy, it stands miles above its prequel and sequel. Half a King (book one) and Half a War (book three) were both good Abercrombie novels (for those of you who know what that means) but neither is close to the level of Half the World. The second novel follows two perspectives, Brand and Thorn, that play off of one another in a truly magical way. It is the story of two people finding their place in the world, realizing who they are, and going on a journey. I have never seen better use of multiple perspective and the book led me on a emotional roller coaster from start to finish. This book is definitely one of Abercrombie’s finest pieces of writing.

 

91ishiycq1l1) Golden Son by Pierce BrownRed Rising is a really enjoyable book. It simultaneously steals all the things that are good from series like The Hunger Games, Game of Thrones,  and Ender’s Game while also creating both an imaginative and original setting and an exciting plot. It could simultaneously be described as a guilty pleasure, and an imaginative look as space colonization and class segregation. Red Rising had a pretty damn good thing going for it at the end of book one, and sets itself up to just reuse the incredibly powerful formula again in the sequel Golden Son… and then Pierce Brown decided to throw all of that momentum out the window and go in a completely different direction. The result is a book that felt like a massively different experience from Red Rising with the connecting theme being that both books are incredibly good. I was so confused as to why Pierce Brown would ditch his Red Rising gold mine until I was 10% in and read the entire book in one sitting. This book made me feel like a child again, discovering the wonder of reading for a first time and blowing my mind at every twist and turn. The finale, Morning Star, comes out in February and I highly recommend you check the series out.

Knight’s Shadow – A Thick Second Chapter in a Heartfelt Story

I like to think of myself as a fairly harsh critic. I think I have an eye for good world building, character development, plot, etc. and I think I am very fair in how I assess different books perform at these various metrics. That being said, I have noticed an interesting effect when I read a certain kind of book. I find that I am much more forgiving, and much more inclined to give a good review, to books that give me a funny and happier tone. That is not to say that the books are without sadness and suffering, and that is not to say that I prefer books with lighter tones than darker. I just feel that if you are going to tell a story that is really depressing all the time, you have to really nail it or I am going to be harsh. On the other hand, as long as I am laughing and smiling you can pretty much get away with murder.

That being said, allow me to introduce you to Knight’s Shadow by Sebastien De Castell. This lovely book comes all the way from Europe, where the author originally published both it, and the previous installment. I believe the US version should be available shortly, but I feel that the UK cover art (on the right below) is worth ordering overseas for (cost me almost nothing extra).

US art                   UK art

Knight’s Shadow is the second installment of the Greatcoats trilogy, a story about a group of magistrates called greatcoats who are tasked with traveling the land, hearing the pleas of the people (great and small) and making sure the law is upheld. They are sort of like duelist lawyers if you will. In Sebastien’s world, the job tends to take the form of telling all powerful dukes to stop oppressing some lowly peasants. So as you might expect, the life of a greatcoat is not easy. What originally drew me to the book is it takes a lot of influence from Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers (which you should read if you haven’t). The book follows the travels of three specific greatcoats, and documents their relationship and trials. The books are laugh out loud funny, and the dynamic of the three greatcoats is honestly unmatched for me outside of the gentleman bastards from The Lies of Locke Lamora.

The first book was a fairly straightforward story of the three greatcoats setting off on a quest and trying to complete it. The plot was not the most original, but the hilarity of the dialogue and the genuinely likable characters more than made up for it and helped the book rise to one of my favorite series. I was surprised to see that Knight’s Shadow actually did a lot to make the book less cliche than its predecessor, while also maintaining the clever wit and great dynamic. However, while it made serious headway compared to Traitor’s Blade (book 1), it still is not taking home any awards for most original plot. In addition, the characters are little deeper, have better motivations, have been fleshed out better. On the other hand, this might just be because the book is much longer than Traitor’s Blade, and had more room to work with.

In the end, Knight’s Shadow’s major appeal still comes from the laugh-out-loud funny dialogue and the heartwarming characters that make you smile and cheer. The witty humor is kept fresh and fun throughout this second chapter of the story and helped me move past the few contrived and cliche moments. At the end of the day, the only way to describe these books is that they are simply a good time. If you are looking for something to make you smile, laugh (sometimes cry), and bro out then I recommend this book for you.

Knight’s Shadow Rating: 8.5

The First Post – Part 2: Hidden Gems of Fantasy

In contrast to part 1, below are a few unknown and under-read books that are phenomenal. I will likely do longer reviews of each of these to give them more justice in the future, but for now here is a blurb:

Heroes Die (The Acts of Caine) – By Matthew Stover

When people ask me if there are any good Fantasy/Sci-Fi crossovers, I hand them these books. Welcome to Overworld, a fantasy world that Sci-Fi actors teleport into in order to broadcast fantasy adventures as live entertainment to a futuristic Earth across dimensions. Now I know that sounds awesome, and it is, but it is not even the best thing that makes these books so good.

Matthew Stover is one of a few authors I have read to get a really interesting and expansive character cast. These perspectives include a self absorbed violent anti-hero, an abusive father, a cripple, a loving mother/father, the young, the old, a tyrant, the list goes on. It is a really unique reading experience that honestly gave me a chance to put on the shoes of people I never really had a chance to before, while also being incredibly action packed with an amazing plot and really well done fights. If you are looking for an original story mostly following an anti-hero, this is for you.

Traitor’s Blade (Greatcoats) – By Sebastian De Castell

For those of you who haven’t read Alexandre Dumas, I implore you to give him a shot. His literary classics like the Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers are amazing stories and you are often introduced to very pared down versions of them when you are younger. There is a lot to enjoy in their more full stories.

Someone who seems to agree with me is Sebastian De Castell. Traitor’s Blade clearly draws inspiration from The Three Musketeers, but carries most of the weight of the story on its own. The relationship of the three main characters is what makes the books special. It feels like you are reading a description of friendship. The dialogue between them is laugh out loud funny and makes your heart swell constantly. If you want to read a tale about you and your best friends fighting the world, this is for you.

Retribution Falls (Tales of the Ketty Jay) – By Chris Wooding

Who here likes Firefly? Ok you can all put your hands down. We all love Firefly, and we all wish it got its full run. Well…. how about something just as good to fill that hole in your heart? With how popular Firefly is I am always surprised at how few people know about these books. The Tales of the Ketty Jay are a series of four books that tell the stories of a crew of individuals on a ship. There is a captain with a sorded past, and a female crew member with a dark supernatural secret… and at this point many of you are assuming it is a rip-off.

Except the Ketty Jay does a lot differently than the Serenity and it makes for a very different experience with that same Firefly flavor. The crew is more dysfunctional, with each of them having a well developed reason to be on the ship and away from society. The society itself is much more deeply explored, and more time is given to the historical conflicts. In addition, I feel like the books do a much better job hitting that “western” feel because they avoid outer space, and stick to trans-continental airships duking it out wild wild west style. If you loved Firefly, you will likely love this series.

Malice (The Faithful and the Fallen) – By John Gwynne

This book is clever. I think the premise is pure brilliance and the execution is almost as good. Everyone has read the “farmboy destined to be king” story, where an unlikely individual is unbelievably gifted and must go on a story of self discovery to come into his power. But what if there were 6 destined farmboys, they all thought they were the figure of destiny, and one of them was actually in fact  the anti christ?

The story is about an age old vague myth that tells of the coming of both a bright and black sun, one to save the world, and one to end it. In a rare turn of events, instead of the protagonists vehemently denying that they are gods gift to the lands, the opposite happens and multiple people think they are the good sun. Except, one of them is the dark and doesn’t realize it. After reading so many stories about reluctant heroes, the breath of fresh air that is this book really appealed to me. If you are looking for a twist on the classic epic fantasy I highly recommend it.