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on 23 August 2011
Categorizing Liberator's Ruin into a genre is not an easy task. At first my thoughts were it was Steampunk, with the expected Airships. But then as the story goes on steam has little or no place within the book. The technology of the world has more of a mid 20th century feel about it. Maybe a better description would be "Petrolpunk".

The story follows the small country of Illum as it is invaded and swallowed by the Rhivellian Empire, a ruthless, industrial and resource hungry nation. Now you may expect the story to run along the lines of evil empire versus plucky rebels, but this is a cliché that the author has avoided with skill. The plot is a bit more complex than that. The Prologue starts with the invasion and its impact on Illums capital city and royal house. It instantly gives the reader the feel for the might of the Rhivellian Empire. Then the tale is moved on by following a number of characters. Anna (the princess of Illum, now leader of the resistance), Nathaniel (Airship captain and his crew) and Thomas Ras'Kar (High Inquisitor of the Rhivellian Empire and hunter of the resistance).

The writing style is first rate and you are fully engaged with the story and its many characters from the start, while the pace of the narrative keeps you turning page after page. The back drop of this tale is war and occupation by a foreign power, a subject that is common in fantasy and sci fi novels, while also being a current factor in our own recent history. What is uncommon is having an author tackling these issues in a gritty realistic way. There are no punches pulled here and the violence of the war is not sanitised. P.J.Johns has created a believable and enthralling world that reflects our own while still remaining true to its fantasy roots. The author is not preachy and does try to tell us what is right and wrong, what is good and evil. He does a fantastic job of blurring the lines and treating his reader as adults able to make up their own minds. The only down side to this book was the slightly sub standard editing. Spelling errors are not the issue, but the wrong words inserted. I got the feeling that the story was edited by software rather than by a professional editor. Although these errors were noticeable it didn't detract too much from the overall enjoyment of the book. Even the most professional publishers release books with editing issues.

Overall I would be happy to recommend this book as I enjoyed it immensely. It is different enough from normal SciFi/Fantasy to feel fresh and new while being familiar enough to be comfortable. For me the gem of the book is Nathaniel and his pirate crew who were reminiscent of Joss Whedon's "Firefly". It is these characters that I was left wanting more of. I am torn in my awarding 4 stars to this book as it deserves more but the editing issues let it down. If these were corrected then I would be happy to award Liberator's Ruin a full 5 stars.
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on 30 October 2012
"Liberator's Ruin" by P.J. Johns is a book that I found difficult to classify; it initially comes across as a steampunk styled science fiction novel although the feeling is much more twentieth century as petrol, diesel and other forms of locomotion are used in abundance. However, the story is set on an alternate world where a form of alchemy takes place that is more like magic that science and it gives the story a feel more like fantasy than science fiction. Either way, I found the story and the world it was set in to be both intriguing and enjoyable.

The story follows several different storylines with the central plot being based around the country of Illum which has been invaded and conquered by the Rhivellian Empire. The deposed princess of Illum however is determined to take it back with her small collection of insurgents, even if the might of the Empire and its High Inquisitor are standing in her way. At the same time we follow the escapades of Nathaniel, an airship captain who is more loveable rogue than honest trader. Whilst he and his crew try to avoid being drawn into any conflict, his choices soon send him into a collision course with both the Princess of Illum and the Rhivellian High Inquisitor.

I have to admit that I had assumed that the plot would focus around some plucky rebels and their brave and good princess as they try to defeat the mighty and evil empires. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see there was much more to the plot than this and I was never happier to realise that I really didn't like the princess and her rather brutal ways. This isn't a story with a simple form of good and evil, the lines are blurred and it is up to the reader to really decide who is in the right and who is in the wrong. I can't really say much more without spoiling it, but simply put the plot is clever, complex and goes in a direction that I never expected

The various different plots lines were at times both a blessing and a curse. The moving between narratives was used well to ensure that the pace of the story was kept high and that actions and thrills could occur throughout the novel to try and keep the reader hooked. However, at times this jumping around could interrupt part of the story that I was enjoying which was a shame. For example, there is one plot line regarding a fighter in the coliseum that didn't really interest me much so when we would leave an enjoyable escapade of Nathaniel to follow this I found it rather easy to put the book down.

The characters are a real high point of the novel as I found them all to be interesting, varied and well-drawn out. In addition, the blurring of the lines between good and evil has ensured that there are no real out and out heroes in the book. Every character has their own with various associated strengths and weaknesses so at times the various betrayals that occur can catch the reader completely unaware. The interactions between the crew of Nathaniel's airship were also thoroughly entertaining, the camaraderie, friendship and loyalty was there for everyone to follow.

Overall, I found this to be an enjoyable story that has an interesting and complex plot alongside some very entertaining characters. There is also a clever mix of science fiction and fantasy aspects which should ensure it will appeal to most fans of those genres. Personally, I am hoping that there are future stories set in this universe as I think there are still some unanswered questions and I would love to see what adventures await Nathaniel and his crew in the future.
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on 4 September 2012
I found this novel after a recommendation from a friend.

The tale (or rather - tales - as they weave throughout) is clearly very well thought out and the world PJ Johns has created is beautifully detailed. With the story covering war, revolution, spies, smuggling, fights, the odd bit of sex and characters never totally as they first appear there is enough to keep me interested and reading on late into the night. Although clearly fantasy the described technologies are pitched at exactly the right level - not too far fetched. Characters are developed well but there must be more to come with them (second book sometime soon I wonder?) as there are a lot of questions about them by the end!

I couldn't quite go to 5 stars for the book for two reasons. Firstly I'd have liked to see more information on the world and how some of the imagined technologies work (but I realise that's not for everyone). Secondly the editing wasn't great with the odd spelling mistake or dodgy punctuation but this didn't stop me enjoying the book.

Hopefully a better edited version will be out at some point and hopefully we'll get another book from the same world soon.
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on 29 September 2011
It's hard to know how how to classify this book. It's been called steampunk, which it certainly isn't. It's full of gadgets, yes, but the level of technology is more twentieth century. There are cars, planes, radios, movies and telephones. It makes for a very interesting world; I don't think I've ever read a work of fantasy fiction (including a form of magic) that featured essentially modern technology. A refreshing change.

The story centres around the country of Illum, which has been conquered and absorbed into the Rhivellian Empire. A deposed princess is determined to take it back, but a High Inquisitor stands in her way. And around the edges of this is one airship captain and his crew, just trying to make a living.

The characters are a high point in this story. One thing I liked best about the book is the lack of real heroes. Everyone has an agenda, everyone has their strengths and their moral weak points. My favourites were Airship Captain Nathaniel and his crew; there's a hint of Firefly about this group that's highly appealing. The ending also turns some expectations around, giving a resolution that's something of a surprise. Like I said, there are no heroes.

The book is sadly let down by very poor editing. I noticed typographical errors on nearly every page, and there are areas where the writing needs some tidying up. It says a lot, though, that I thoroughly enjoyed the book anyway. My rating would hover between four and four-and-a-half stars if not for the editing issues. As it is, I give three-and-a-half, rounded up to four.
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on 8 September 2011
Liberator's Ruin essentially tells the story of a small kingdom that had been invaded by a larger neighbor and overthrown. The royal family was ruthlessly murdered. One daughter, however, managed to escape and has dedicated herself to eradicating the foreign invaders from her home country. All she cares about is whatever will help her win her cause.

I really liked this story. I loved how well thought-out this book was, from start to finish. This small country had been conquered by a much larger, much more powerful one. The lone surviving member from the royal family leads a pack of insurgents. It's a constant struggle for Princess Julianna, or Anna as she calls herself now, to stay alive, to continue to hammer at the invaders where it hurts the most. I loved how the author painted a gritty, realistic populace who aren't too terribly concerned that their monarchs had been dethroned, and they are just as happy, if not more so, with this new government as opposed to the old one.

Mr. Johns' book follows several different storylines, whether we are accompanying Anna on a raid, or are with the dashing captain Nathaniel as he's rescuing damsels in distress, or are with the High Inquisitor as he plots how to destroy the insurgents once and for all. I love any fantasy story that creates its own technology and does an adequate job explaining how it works, what the components are, etc. This story is no exception. I won't give too much away only to say that I can't wait for commercial availability of the lightmass engines!!!

I found a few critiques that bothered me with this story. There were quite a few fragmented sentences used throughout the book. I came across typos, which I could easily overlook. I found that some of the speech quotation marks were missing, making it difficult to follow some of the dialog. Difficult, but not impossible. But one of the oddest things I found was that sometimes there was a completely different word in place that shouldn't be there, almost as if the spellchecker suggested the wrong word. That tripped me up a few times, but still, in the overall scheme of things, it didn't do that much to detract from the story. The one character that bothered me the most was Anna. I was beginning to think that I was the only one who was thinking she was flat-out cold hearted, not at all how a princess should act. Yes, she's been through hell, and yes, she just wants to rid her kingdom of the invaders. However, I though her cold demeanor was a bit too cold at times. But, that's how the author wrote the character. Wait 'til you get to the end.

I feel that with another coat of polish on this story, I could very easily give it 5 out of 5 stars. As it is, I still plan on reading it again! Good job Mr. Johns!
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on 11 October 2011
Liberator's Ruin by P.J. Johns was a wonderful book. It takes place in a world of interesting technology. It has a bit of a steampunk feel to it, but there is not the steam driven technology that is required for that genre to truly fit. The truly unique feature of the world is a mineral that is used in what are basically anti-gravity engines. That is what allows the giant airships to rule the skies and even enables floating island colonies.

There are some wonderful characters in the book, my favorites being Nathaniel, Fran, Grekhis, and even Thomas. There are several story lines active through the book following the different characters and no surprise I enjoyed Nathaniel's crew the most by far. They have some great interactions and all seem to be good people despite the morally gray area that many of their jobs fall in.

I despised the character Anna. Now that seems bad, but in reality I think it reflects very well on how she was written. If I was apathetic to her it would show much less depth to her character, however I wanted terrible things to happen to her.

Liberator's Ruin is an extremely enjoyable read and well worth the .99 that it costs for a copy.

Review copy provided by the author.
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on 23 April 2012
Really just want to correct a couple of points that reviewers have made.

(1) The book has been edited and while I started reading the first edition I did finish on the second and it is MUCH improved.

(2) The ending...

When I started reading the first few pages I thought "Star Wars" but it was early and I hadn't breakfasted. When I read it I saw the similarity drop away quickly as the emphasis changed and the characters shifted.

And I thought the ending was near perfect. As my wife said harking back to my earlier parallel "Star Wars as it SHOULD have been written!"

In fact I saw a degree of plausibility about the evolution of the story that was totally lacking in Star Wars.

An excellent read that I will review properly on my blog later. Watch out for more from this author.
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on 12 September 2011
I received this book as a free copy for review

I actually want to give this 4.5, curses for not allowing half stars!

A great book, not really sure that this is my genre, am still not, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. A great bunch of characters all with their own flaws that left me wondering to the end who was the good guy or "the least corrupt" of them all.

The only slight downside (dropping half a star) was for the ending, it just didn't sit right with me... I must confess I can't offer an alternative or even say what I though was wrong. Cop out I know but it doesn't didn't feel right.

The writing style made the book more enjoyable, just the right amount of detail for a non-techy mind such as my own. The story was told from many perspectives, engaging in each before nicely intertwining the threads.

Good book!
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on 9 May 2011
A great debut from Johns with this action packed, emotion filled fantasy novel. I applaud how he has paid such attention to detail whilst keeping the momentum of the story going along the way. Incorporating an imaginative fictional world with delicate characters that hold their own unique personalities throughout; integrated in such a way that it leaves you begging for the next sentence, the next paragraph, and the next chapter. Johns creates some stunning imagery, neatly describing the many and various locations. The action sequences are well written and the violence is occasionally gruesome. Well worth the money!!
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