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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars102
4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 25 October 2013
A good start to new fantasy series

An interesting setting with a good religion/magic belief system.

I did notice a few hints from H.P.lovecraft sneaking in but thats got no bearing on the feel of the book - its not horror its definitely aimed at fantasy.

An eons old religious conflict erupts into life as the sisterhood of the seven switch from support of one god to another long dead god seeking ressurrection.
As nations fall under their sway men die and nations crumble - all to kill the last few with the blood of the gods in their veins.

An interesting fantasy debut - and one to watch.
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on 30 June 2015
A well written fantasy book, with good characters and a realistic world... well as real as a fantasy world can be ;)

It took a while to get going, but when it does... it's worth the wait!
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on 3 November 2015
Interesting tale of mythical creatures and their interaction with "man". Tale of battles and skirmishes that p l says out when the Witches decide to resurrect the worship of their God
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To be honest this is a fantasy book that I had some trouble getting into. It didn't feel as smooth as it could have been but as the story developed I became more and more engrossed in this wonderful inventive world by AJ Smith. It is a story of a great many twists, has some solid prose and when added to a supporting cast of interesting characters really makes this a starter for a fascinating series.

Yet all said, for me, it was the principle characters that stole the show, they were fully rounded, had some great flaws alongside strengths and when added to what I would have thought of as realistic points of view took this book to a new level. All round a solid start and I'll definitely be watching out for the second title in the series to see what lessons are learned alongside having the chance to check that the second book curse doesn't strike.
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on 25 July 2015
Fantastic all round, bring on book two and however many more make up the series. Great characters and interlinked storylines, will definitely be back for more
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on 16 April 2016
If you like Game of Thrones then this will be an easy read. Can be a little slow at times but we'll worth a read cannot wait to start the second book.
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on 25 July 2013
I read the kindle edition of this novel on the back of the book hype and reviews that can be located all over the internet. I loved the sound of the author taking years and years to create the fantasy world and storyline so wanted to get stuck in and couldn't wait for the release of the hardback edition.

I genuinely liked the novel but in all honesty it did drag in places (especially the middle of the book), the final quarter of the story however picks up with action and plot twists and left me with a hunger for more.

I appreciate this is the first book of a vast series so I have given this review 4 stars instead of 3 stars as I think the new authors work will pick up and the story will become more action packed and epic but this first novel just needs a boost of adrenaline.

My other gripe was the 'so called' vast world the author has been creating for the past decade which seemed some what basic and claustrophobic. There are three races of humans who all worship different Gods and for many years have seemed to get along together, however there are 7 enchantresses (witches) who have different ideas and want to stir up trouble in the name of a Dead God and finally in the background there are a weird race of 'dark elf like' creatures who remain hidden in large numbers within forests and very little is known about them, that is basically it? This just seemed very rudimentary to me and I expected a little more from an author who has supposedly devised a master plan for his fantasy series over decades, but lets not forget there is obviously much more to come (at least I hope there is).

I will be reading the next novel in this series as the majority of the book was enjoyable and easy reading, I genuinely liked the main characters and emphasised with them but this story definitely needs beefing up and requires more plot twists, action and adventure !
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on 1 July 2013
The Black Guard is simply put the best dark fantasy book I have read in years. The characters are realistic and hard talking, the monsters are cthulhuian (a particular favorite of mine) AJ Smith has clearly been influenced by Lovecraft and Barker. There is some character death but he does not seem overly obsessed with killing all his characters (unlike some other current fantasy authors. The world is very believable and there is the definate sense that much more is going on than meets the eye. I can't wait for the next episode in this saga.
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on 23 March 2014
I will be honest here, I almost consigned this book to the bin. At 20% in I had become fed up with all the info dumping back stories... I bought another book and read that instead... then came back to this one. And I am glad I did. The middle section picks up the pace and the story really moves along with blood, guts and excitement. The ending is good though there was a death that I lamented and didn't see coming from the description - perhaps it was just handled too blithely and without the emotional weight I'd expected.

Worth reading and enjoyable. I'll pick up the next one to see how it develops.
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on 9 May 2014
The central plot of the book is more or less exactly what the blurb on the front of the book says - George R.R. Martin meets Lovecraft. It's this imaginative world and main plot which saves this book from the many flaws in the writing. You're given more details of this grand plot and some mysterious beings and races at just about the right amount at a time to keep you reading.

There's a little of the same uncertainty as in Martin's books about which side is going to win in each encounter - just enough for there to be some dramatic tension.

Unfortunately while the writing is fine at some points it never approaches the quality of Martin or Lovecraft - and in some of the worst parts is just poor and below even the average writer.

Some of the main characters lack the depth, complexity and contradictions which make Martin's characters seem real. While some of the dialogue is fine, at other times some of the characters seem like what a modern American would sound like if they were role-playing a medieval knight, Arab or dark age viking - and role-playing them badly.

The worst line is probably when a viking style character shouts "incoming" when his company is under attac by catapults - that temporarily broke the atmosphere in the same way that Warhammer 40K authors sometimes do when they insert modern American military phrases like "shock and awe" into sci-fi books set in an alternate universe.

For at least two characters you are pretty much made to read their life history all at once in several pages in a row - and not written well - the first time you hear of their existence. This is given in far too much detail too. There should have been less detail and just the main points gradually revealed in conversations or their thoughts as the book progressed.

Some smaller details in the book also make little or no sense. At one point a ruler kills one of his nobles in front of the rest with no reason given that seems sufficient to even explain the killing and not only do none of them blink an eye at this, the dead man's daughter stays utterly loyal to her father's killer.

Overall though I did enjoy this book. While the writing is nowhere near Martin's standard the main plot and the races and cultures involved are imaginative and interesting enough that they kept me reading to the end and i'll look forward to the next book coming out in paperback.
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