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A. Milton "andyindie" (North Devon)
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Emperor of Thorns (The Broken Empire, Book 3)
Emperor of Thorns (The Broken Empire, Book 3)
Price: £6.40

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Broken Empire Trilogy #3: Emperor of Thorns, 3 Aug. 2013
(This review was originally submitted on The Founding Fields under the username "Bane of Kings". I am posting it under a relative's account as I lack my own personal one).

"A stunning conclusion to the Broken Empire Trilogy. Easily one of the best books of 2013 - and a book that's well worth the wait." ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields

If I had to make a most anticipated list of Novels coming out this year, Emperor of Thorns would be in the Top 5, there's no question about it. Mark Lawrence really impressed me with the first two books in the trilogy, both of which I own in hardback - so that I knew that Emperor of Thorns was always going to be a release day-buy for me. This will explain why I was so happy when I was able to get an Advanced Review Copy, so I'd like to start this review with a massive thank you to the kind folks over at Harper Voyager, and the author himself, so we could work something out. And does the book live up to my expectations? Oh, hell yes. It's easily one of the best novels of the year, and with a year of some excellent books and we're just over halfway through, that's certainly saying something.

[Blurb was originally posted here on the review on the Website]

This is it, then. The last adventures of Jorg. Whilst I'm somewhat sad that there won't be any more Broken Empire novels, as noted by the author himself, prequels or otherwise, it's probably best that it ends at Book 3 rather than becoming an over-bloated series that readers quickly start to lose interest in the longer it goes. However, there is also the danger of a fantasy trilogy ending `too soon' if you get what I mean. But thankfully, Lawrence brings it all to the table with a satisfying conclusion (don't worry, I won't spoil it), that really brings an end to this epic tale that will most surely be among the best fantasy works that I'll read. I loved this trilogy, and I think with each instalment, it just gets better and better.

Emperor of ThornsJorg's character growth is incredible. He's a rather unique main character for a story, often coming across as more of a downright villain than an anti-hero, and indeed - written by almost any other author, he would be. But the character himself is still as awesome as ever, and if you've enjoyed the last two books - then that's what you should come to expect. It's a strong, epic conclusion to the trilogy that really pulls out all the punches, where nobody is safe - and as we're now all used to the major game players involved, Lawrence can waste no time with setting up future events (of course, no time was wasted setting up future events in the previous books as well), and instead create a compelling story that will draw the reader in, and not let up with the breakneck pace that this book moves along at.

The author's characters are well created, complex and far from the standard one-dimensional ones that litter poor novels. You're not going to forget any of them in a hurry, and neither are you to forget The Broken Empire Trilogy anytime soon. It's immense. Unpredictable. Captivating. A fitting conclusion. However you want to put it, the last adventure of Jorg of Ancrath is his best outing yet. Over the course of the trilogy, Lawrence has made himself a name to watch in fantasy, up there with the likes of Peter V. Brett, Brandon Sanderson, Joe Abercrombie & George RR Martin. I can't wait to see what he throws at the reader next, but it's one that I'll certainly be on board for.

VERDICT: 5/5


Hawkeye - Volume 1: My Life As A Weapon (Marvel Now)
Hawkeye - Volume 1: My Life As A Weapon (Marvel Now)
by Matt Fraction
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.09

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars HAWKEYE VOL. 1: MY LIFE AS A WEAPON BY MATT FRACTION - GRAPHIC NOVEL REVIEW [BANE OF KINGS], 29 Jun. 2013
Amazon Specific Information: This review was originally published on The Founding Fields under the username of Bane of Kings. I am simply uploading this review on Amazon under a relative's account as I lack access to my own.

"The best Marvel title currently on shelves at the moment - if you're a comic fan and you haven't read an issue of Hawkeye, you're doing it wrong." ~The Founding Fields

Writer: Matt Fraction | Art: David Aja | Cover: David Aja | Publisher: Marvel Comics | Collects: Hawkeye #1-5, Young Avengers Presents #6,

"The breakout star of this summer's blockbuster Avengers film, Clint Barton - aka the self-made hero Hawkeye - fights for justice! With ex-Young Avenger Kate Bishop by his side, he's out to prove himself as one of Earth's Mightiest Heroes! SHIELD recruits Clint to intercept a packet of incriminating evidence - before he becomes the most wanted man in the world. You won't believe what is on The Tape! What is the Vagabond Code? Matt Fraction pens a Hawkeye thriller that spans the globe...and the darkest parts of Hawkeye's mind. Barton and Bishop mean double the Hawkeye and double the trouble...and stealing from the rich never looked so good."

For me, I was a bit skeptical about a good Hawkeye book, but it turns out - that all my fears were quelled. I owned the first two issues digitally and the first three in print, but that didn't stop me from buying the Trade Paperback when I saw it in Waterstones. It's pretty much everything you could want from a graphic novel, fun - doesn't end on a cliffhanger, worth your money and something that you'd want to come back to reading again and again. It's been so well received by critics in fact, the only person that I know who doesn't like it is fellow book reviewer, Shadowhawk. And whilst I'll admit the unusual art style had me off balance at first, I soon found myself to be really enjoying Matt Fraction's take on Hawkeye, made even more so interesting by the fact that I'd never picked up a Hawkeye comic before - only have ever seen him in Avengers, and the fact that I felt that he looked like a weaker version of Green Arrow never helped matters either.

However, My Life As A Weapon and the subsequent Hawkeye stories that I've read from #9 onwards have showed that not only how good Matt Fraction is, but also - he's challenging, and even beating, Jeff Lemire's incredible Green Arrow series for a high spot on my favourite comics list. It's just incredible. Whilst there may be no ongoing storyarc or mystery, with three one-shots and one two-part story, it allows for an interesting read that's not like your average superhero comic. In fact, whilst there are lot of similarities between Hawkeye & Green Arrow as characters, their books are almost nothing alike. Lemire opts for Dark Knight levels of grittiness, whilst Fraction's Hawkeye has several humorous moments, and the multiple usage of the word "bro", which shouldn't work as well as it did. Also, did I mention that Hawkeye also introduces one of the, if not the best character to come out of Marvel Now! (although technically this title was launched pre-Marvel now!) within the pages, the awesome Pizza Dog, who gets a full issue with the most recently released #11, which is well worth picking up if you've read this volume.

One of the best thing about Hawkeye is its small, returning cast. Books like Avengers and Wolverine and the X-Men have a lot of heroes (and in the latter's case, villains) to juggle through, but Hawkeye is merely limited to three main characters, the aforementioned Pizza Dog, Clint Barton and Kate Bishop, a former Young Avenger who I haven't encountered before in the comics. I understand that she's getting her own Annual in Hawkeye which is released next week, and I'll certainly be on board for that - as Kate is a very strong character in my book, and a great counterpart to Clint himself, who's structured in a very different way to what he is from Jeremy Renner's portrayal of him in Avengers. Whilst it's fair to say that we didn't get to see much of the real Hawkeye whilst he was possessed by Loki in that film, having read Hawkeye, it's safe to say that the character featured here is a heck of a lot better than anything that Renner could ever do, which is why in my opinion at least, I think Renner is probably the only weak spot in an otherwise incredible Avengers lineup. However, back to My Life As A Weapon.

If I ever get around to making a series of awards for the best Comic of 2013, I think Hawkeye or Scott Snyder's Batman will certainly claim it. (Even though this series, like Batman did start previously). I just love Matt Fraction's writing, and Aja's artwork is incredible. I mean, just look at that cover - it's simple, for sure, but it kicks ass. The artwork is one of the strongest things about this book, made even more awesome by the fact that I haven't encountered anything quite like this before. The story is funny, witty - very enjoyable to read, and with the fact that Volume 2 comes out soon, if you're one of the few people yet to read this series, I highly suggest that you jump on board, as it's the best to come out of Marvel Now! as it stands.

It's also a great introduction to the Marvel Universe, for it's a great place to start if you don't want to catch up on years of backstory - and has an added bonus of that it's sure to become an absolute classic. Top notch.

VERDICT: 5/5

HAWKEYE TPBs: Vol. 1: My Life As A Weapon (#1-5, Young Avengers Presents #6), Vol. 2: Little Hits (#6-11), Vol. 3: L.A. Woman (unknown)
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 2, 2013 10:12 AM BST


Sailor of the Skysea
Sailor of the Skysea
Price: £2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars SAILOR OF THE SKYSEA BY A.C.F. CRAWFORD - BOOK REVIEW [BANE OF KINGS], 29 Jun. 2013
Amazon specific information: This review was originally published over at The Founding Fields under the username Bane of Kings. I'm uploading this under a relative's Amazon Account as I lack access to my own.

"An interesting, confident adventure story that makes my experience with self-published novels continue to be successful." ~The Founding Fields

If you'll remember, earlier this week, I reviewed Alexander McKinney's Keystones: Altered Destinies, another self-published book, and it seems that I got requests to review two in quick succession with Sailor of the Skysea. However, it is clear that right from the start, both are very different books. Whilst McKinney's is sci-fi with a touch of superheroism, Crawford's tale is not quite science fiction despite the fact that the world is a planet that seems to have lost contact with other civilizations and regressed backward to a post-colonial era, and it as a result seems more like a fantasy novel, but not one that you'd come to expect from a genre filled with novels from the likes of George RR Martin, Tolkien and Sanderson. Whilst Crawford may not reach those heights, his first book is a fairly strong read - and it's also something that you shouldn't judge by its cover, for it is far from Young Adult as the cover implies.

"Hardened sailor Ytzak Anan is an outsider. The color of his skin holds him back in a brutal, post-colonial world. And now his dreams of captaining his own ship, along with all his savings, have been stolen by a faithless lover.

Up a mighty river and out to sea once again, Ytzak searches for meaning and a new start. But the cruelties of ruthless men dog his steps, and mysterious forces seem to be guiding his journey for purposes unknown...

In this explosive debut, author A. C. F. Crawford has created something new in the realm of fantasy.

From high-seas adventure to a climactic clash with a malevolent autocrat, from back alley brawls to arcane shamanic sorcery, Sailor of the Skysea explores a mythical world with a truly American feel."

Racial issues are the key theme of Sailor of the Skysea, it has several elements of inspiration from a darker period of American History, but it's still very clearly an fantasy tale in a different setting that you probably won't have seen before in this genre. The post-colonial world allows for a very interesting backdrop, and the various adventures partaken in by the main character is pretty engaging - and the book moves along at a fairly swift pace, with no obvious errors in the writing.

The book itself tells the story of Ytzak Anan, whose upbringing was, well - not very pleasant, to say the least, and despite being a successful fighter, he's had several drawbacks, including a faithless lover and a father who's never there. He's certainly a well rounded character, never quite feeling in a position where he falls into the category of an invulnerable protagonist who seems to gain everything and have the centre of the universe revolve around him, but not really anything that stands out as too memorable or distinctive unfortunately , and the rest of the cast is virtually forgettable - however, that doesn't stop the story from being pretty full with detail, and whilst you might not know enough about ships, Crawford eases you into the world with a way that doesn't really feel like info-dumping, and manages to create a tale that will really draw you in.

The world itself is what makes Sailor of the Skysea unique. The Skysea region feels very unique, with a lot of effort put into its creation. If you have ever read a fantasy novel where you feel like you do not know enough about the world to become fully immersed in the story, then you'll like Crawford's book. The world building is pretty impressive here, and there's never any real global scale threat to the world - but there are several high stakes involved in Ytzak's character, giving Sailor of the Skysea a slightly different flavour from your standard `Great Evil' fantasy.

The action is pretty strong, and there are some quite varied fight scenes in here and you never feel like you're feeling the same repetitive sequences told over and over again in a different place. Crawford writes with confidence, compelling the story forward and creating an interesting enough adventure to compel you to keep reading, for there's a satisfying ending, and whilst there is no cliffhanger, there's certainly room for a return to the Skysea region.

VERDICT: 3/5


It Began With Ashes (Wroge Elements Book 1)
It Began With Ashes (Wroge Elements Book 1)
Price: £2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Wroge Elements: It Began with Ashes - Review, 14 May 2013
[This Review can be found originally on The Founding Fields]

"An awesome tale, edge-of-your seats stuff." ~The Founding Fields

If you're somebody who doesn't mind reading the odd self-published book like myself, you could do a lot worse than D.E.M Emrys' epic fantasy tale, It Began with Ashes. It's strong, confident and creates an enthralling tale with likeable characters with their own personalities. The book itself tells the story of coming to accept yourself as who you really are, as well as exploring other details such as character development whilst jostling with world building and some awesome action sequences.

"Peace in Wroge came at a price.

The cost?

War.

Wroge was divided by the Saive War. The Arneuton kingdom enslaved the Keltir clans into their invasion, and swept across the territory, converting and conscripting the weak, culling the strong. Five Years of war, the blood of four races, millions of deaths. The Arneut conquered. The Keltir were released from their imprisonment, but the Vikir and Narz were forever banished from Wroge's borders.

Draven fought for peace. He fought another man's war and paid for his freedom in blood. But even peace comes with its price. Taxes to another man's king. Draven's fight might have ended with the Saive War, but the struggle to afford safety for his family is far from over.

When the Vikir threaten Wroge's northern border they come with a debt of their own. And it's not taxes they're after. They come because of the Keltir's betrayal in the Saive War. They come from blood.

But Wroge's fate won't be decided by ageing warriors and old grudges. The lives of four young men, divided by peace, united by conflict, will shape the future of the war torn land.

`It Began With Ashes' is the story of how life's greatest struggle is to accept who you are - a tale of broken promises, bitter grudges, and brotherhoods bound in blood."

If you have any version of a Kindle, or a way of adapting a Kindle-formatted book to suit your appropiate e-reader format, then you can get a taste of what Emrys' works are like for nothing, in the form of the short story, From Man to Man. The pricing of It Began With Ashes is pretty strong as well, and although it may be short, it's a great teaser for what's to come in this novel, as it picks up from where it left off, exploring Draven, his family and a large dramatis personae that find themselves caught in the midst of an attack from the Vikir, an exiled warrior race. The book itself is great at handling the cast of characters, so that the Point of View switches never seem jarring and they seem to flow naturally.

Kale, Draven's son, is one of the main characters in It Began with Ashes and is a very interesting character to read the POV of, whose experience is harrowed following the death of a young boy his age having been killed by a friend. His character is affected greatly by the death, and you - the reader will be as well, as the book itself establishes a dark tone that will continue throughout.

If you're tired of pages of pages of exposition in your fantasy novels, then Emrys ignores that, getting right to the heat of the action and character development, and you'll quickly find out that a large portion of the book is action dominated, at least half. Don't let that put you off though, because I've already mentioned that there's plenty of character development.

The world building is also something not to be looked down on, with most being compared through conversations with characters as opposed to the narration, with a strong pacing to boot that doesn't feel like it's either too fast or too slow.

There are some people who don't pick up first novels in a series when future issues haven't been released yet, and that is understandable, but with a low price for It Began with Ashes, it's really something that you can't afford to pass by, because despite the fact that there is clearly intended to be future books, the novel can probably be read as a standalone as the book itself doesn't end on a cliffhanger.

So with all of that mentioned, if you're looking for some self-published work for a low price and have an e-reader, then there's no reason why you shouldn't pass this opportunity by.


No Return
No Return
by Zachary Jernigan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No Return - Zachary Jernigan - Book Review, 4 April 2013
This review is from: No Return (Hardcover)
This review can also be found on the Founding Fields under the username Bane of Kings. I am using a family member's account to post my review as I lack an Amazon account myself, because otherwise - I'd buy too much books.

"An awesome novel with some great world building and some strong characters - Zachary Jernigan is an author who you want to watch out for." ~The Founding Fields

No Return is a book that's been on my TBR list for a while and when I got around to reading it, I was pleasantly surprised by the way that Zachary Jernigan had written this book. It's varied, intense and very violent - Jernigan's got the action certainly nailed in this debut. It's got some great worldbuilding and boasts not only some cool ideas but also some very awesome characters that will keep you entertained whilst you're reading this book. If you're looking for a well written debut in the first half of 2013, then you can't go far wrong with Jernigan's No Return.

"On Jeroun, there is no question as to whether God exists--only what his intentions are.

Under the looming judgment of Adrash and his ultimate weapon--a string of spinning spheres beside the moon known as The Needle--warring factions of white and black suits prove their opposition to the orbiting god with the great fighting tournament of Danoor, on the far side of Jeroun's only inhabitable continent.

From the Thirteenth Order of Black Suits comes Vedas, a young master of martial arts, laden with guilt over the death of one of his students. Traveling with him are Churls, a warrior woman and mercenary haunted by the ghost of her daughter, and Berun, a constructed man made of modular spheres possessed by the foul spirit of his creator. Together they must brave their own demons, as well as thieves, mages, beasts, dearth, and hardship on the perilous road to Danoor, and the bloody sectarian battle that is sure to follow.

On the other side of the world, unbeknownst to the travelers, Ebn and Pol of the Royal Outbound Mages (astronauts using Alchemical magic to achieve space flight) have formed a plan to appease Adrash and bring peace to the planet. But Ebn and Pol each have their own clandestine agendas--which may call down the wrath of the very god they hope to woo.

Who may know the mind of God? And who in their right mind would seek to defy him? Gritty, erotic, and fast-paced, author Zachary Jernigan takes you on a sensuous ride through a world at the knife-edge of salvation and destruction, in one of the year's most exciting fantasy epics."

So No Return, a novel that is yet again, hard to pin down into one genre - crossing between science fiction and fantasy and Jernigan has pulled off the mix in a very believable way - the sci-fi elements never feel too out of place and neither do the fantasy elements of this book. I think my favourite thing about Jernigan's debut is probably the setting, the planet of Jeroun - one that is watched over by a god with unclear intentions for his people. The worldbuilding is immense in this book and we get a great ambitious look into what makes the world tick. Characters adapt to the setting that the world can throw at them and it doesn't feel like a standard fantasy world at any point in the novel's 320 pages.

The book itself focuses mainly on a core cast of characters - Vedas, a skilled fighter and a member of the Thirteenth Order, Churls - a Mercenary followed by the ghost of her dead daughter and Berun - the construct, boasting mighty strength but limited to performing the tasks of his creator - all have a key role to play in No Return and are another strength of the book itself. They're three dimensional and are very enjoyable to read about. Other characters who are also present in this debut are the two mages Ebn and Pol, and are also characters that are very intriguing to read about.

Whilst this book is one of the more enjoyable ones that I've had the pleasure of reading so far this year, No Return does suffer from a couple of flaws. Firstly, the pacing isn't spot on. There are some elements that I think dragged out a bit too slow when we were following Vedas, Berun and Churls' journey across the continent to get to the celebratory games, it just seemed to take too long for my liking even if I can understand why this portion of the book is fast paced - after all, journeys take time. And the climax is also not as strong as the rest of the book was, but that barely dampened my overall enjoyment of the book and I will be sticking around to read more that Jernigan puts out when I can. This is a book that adult readers of either fantasy or science fiction should enjoy, as there are some scenes here in this book that I do not recommend for a younger audience.

VERDICT: 4/5


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