Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Review Teaser: Chains of the Heretic by Jeff Salyards

Okay, I've been asked to hold off on a full review until closer to the publication date, but I can't resist leaving you all with a little teaser to stoke your anxiety . . .

Damn! If Veil of the Deserters expanded upon the world and the story of Scourge of the Betrayer, then this one rips it wide open and shoves us headlong into a heap of betrayals. The second book was a textbook example of how you build to a climax - Chains of the Heretic schools the genre on how you successfully deliver it.

Hardcover, 608 pages
Expected publication: February 2nd 2016 by Night Shade Books

Monday, November 30, 2015

(Guest) Fantasy Review: The Untold Tale by J.M. Frey

The Untold Tale, the first book in the Accidental Turn Series by J.M. Frey, is an altogether lovely deconstruction of epic fantasy, portal fantasy, and traditional romantic fantasy - and one that is delightfully entirely self-aware. While other reviewers have labeled it as feminist fantasy, I think that is a mistake. Such a view is simply too . . . well, simple (for lack of a better word). Yes, there are feminist elements within that deconstruction, but they are only a part of the story.

This is such a fun tale, and one that delights in twisting tropes and stomping all over stereotypes. Our hero, young Forsyth, is the traditionally younger, weaker, plainer, stuttering, less heroic brother. An oft-neglected noble and secret spy, he lives in the constant shadow of his stereotypically heroic (and barbarian-bimbo) brother. Really, it is Kintyre who would traditionally be the hero - he is, after all, who the women swoon over - and Forsyth expects his story to be usurped at any time by the warrior, but denying that literary rebellion is the whole point.

Our window into this world is a young woman named Pip, and that is where things get really interesting, She is a Reader from outside the story who made her way into the novel and survived brutal torture to arrive at Forsyth's side. She is a fan of the The Tales of Kintyre Turn, and is constantly surprised at how little she knows about Forsythe - since, of course, he has never been the main character. The whole world-building mythology here of a civilization that exists in literary terms is just marvelous. Frey has a lot of fun with that portal aspect, and even has Pip drop other literary references throughout the novel that only we, as Readers ourselves, have any chance of recognizing. At the same time, she presents us with a medieval fantasy world that is very real - as full of poverty and disease as it is magic and heroism.

Despite the fun, playful elements, and in start contrast to the clever rewriting of fantasy tropes and stereotypes, this is often a very dark story. Do not let the oddity of it fool you. Yes, it is often laugh-out-loud funny, but it is just as often cringe-and-shudder horrifying. Frey demonstrates a true passion for the genre, as well as a deep understanding of what comprises it. The Untold Tale is odd. It can often be unsettling. Once in a while it is even absurd. Yet, it can never be accused of being over-the-top, is never boring, and manages to delight as both an entertaining read and a clever skewering of the genre.

guest reviewed by Sally


About the Author

J.M. Frey is a voice actor, SF/F author, professionally trained music theatre performer, not-so-trained but nonetheless enthusiastic screenwriter and webseries-ist, and a fanthropologist and pop culture scholar. She’s appeared in podcasts, documentaries, radio programs, and on television to discuss all things geeky through the lens of academia. J.M. lives near Toronto, loves tea, scarves and Doctor Who (all of which may or may not be related) and her epic dream is to one day sing a duet with John Barrowman.

Her debut novel Triptych was nominated for two Lambda Literary Awards, nominated for the CBC Bookie Award, was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2011, was on The Advocate’s Best Overlooked Books of 2011 list, received an honorable mention at the London Book Festival in Science Fiction, and won the San Francisco Book Festival for Science Fiction.

www.jmfrey.net | @scifrey


About the Series

An epic fantasy meta-narrative about megafan Pip, who wakes up in the novel series that she’s loved since being a teenager. However, the world is darker, and far more dangerous than she could have ever predicted, especially as the hero is a bigger misogynistic ass than she knew. The Accidental Trilogy chronicles the adventures of Pip in a world whose tropes, clichés, pitfalls and loopholes she can predict and circumnavigate, and what happens when she pulls the characters outside of the comfort of the fantasy world for which they were written.

Master Forsyth Turn isn't a hero. He's never wanted to be one, either; not since his older brother Kintyre found the enchanted sword Foesmiter and waltzed away from his family, his estate, and his responsibilities to become one – and dumped all of his responsibilities on Forsyth.

And then, raiding the castle of a wanted criminal, Forsyth's men rescue Lucy Piper. A bafflingly blunt woman, oddly named and even more oddly mannered, Lucy Piper claims to know things about Kintyre and Forsyth's lives that she can't possibly be privy to. She crashes into Forsyth's quaintly sedentary life like an errant comet and before he knows it, she has him convinced that he is the only man who can join her on her quest to find a magical gateway back to her far-away home. She drags Forsyth into the kind of adventure that only his brother could have imagined, testing his mettle and forcing Forsyth to confront his own self-shame and the demons, and the bullying that had characterized his childhood. But the Viceroy, Kintyre’s arch-nemesis, is after Lucy Piper and her magical gateway as well. And the truth of why threatens the stability of the whole Kingdom... Perhaps even their whole world.

Lucy Piper might be able to convince Forsyth that he can be a hero, but is it really his fate to defeat the one villain that even the great Kintyre Turn has never managed to best?

Saturday, November 28, 2015

From the Shelf to the Page: This Week in the Ruins

In case you missed any of it, here's what happened in the Ruins this week . . .

Fantasy Giveaway of Opprobrium by Wade Lewellyn-Hughes

There's still time to enter Wade's giveaway, so if you want to get your hands on a signed copy, check out the post above.


Stacking The Shelves and Mailbox Monday are a pair of weekly memes that are about sharing the books that came your way over the past week, and which you've added to your shelves - whether they be physical or virtual, borrowed or bought, or for pleasure or review.

For Review:

The Shards of Heaven by Michael Livingston
The beginning of an epic historical fantasy that rocks the foundations of the ancient world, revealing the hidden magic behind the history we know, and commencing a war greater than any mere mortal battle. 


Boston Lust by Wol-vriey 
From the creator of Boston Posh and Boston Corpse comes Boston Lust, the third installment in the BUD MALONE bizarro detective series! Bud Malone has to find the female vampire preying on Boston's lesbian population. 


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is another weekly meme, this time focused on what books are spending the most time in your hands and in your head, as opposed to what's been added to your shelf.

It's been a busy week at the office, with more than a few late nights, but I've still managed to devour about 80% of Chains of the Heretic: Bloodsounder's Arc Book Three by Jeff Salyards and I can tell you February is going to be a great month for fantasy fans. Obviously, I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll just say this. Deserters are awesome.

What's topping your shelves this week?

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Fantasy Giveaway: Opprobrium by Wade Lewellyn-Hughes

Opprobrium (The Lamentation's End Series Book 1)
by Wade Lewellyn-Hughes

On the island of Merith, the Hansweighn holiday will begin at sundown. The people will feast in honor of the Chancellor’s victory over the magical races of Shallyghal. Unbeknownst to all, this Hansweighn brings a surprise: a vile peril has breached Merith’s Great Barrier and will soon enjoy its own dark feast.

As the sun nears the horizon, adult cadets enter a test designed to remove the less devout prior to ascension into the Chancellor’s Army. Cord Sullivan worries it will reveal his curse, the magic hiding in his bones, a trait worthy of a fiery execution.

Meanwhile, Rorry te Gwirion, a young noblewoman, plans to use the distractions of the holiday to escape Merith and a blackmail-enforced engagement. Only on the continent can she find her sister, whom her father sold into slavery. She and Kylan Nock, a young man interested in the wilder pursuits the seas have to offer—and perhaps a handsome dockhand or two, hope to convince their friend Scarlett Hywel to come along. Scarlett’s innate magic might unlock the secrets of Shallyghal, easing their flight to the continent.

As demonic invaders and their cursed wolfkin rip across the heart of Merith and through its people, the young ones will need help to survive. But, who can they trust? A band of foreign mercenaries comprised of a flirt, a half-ogre cook, two Ukrestian monks, and a peculiar sorcerer? Or their mysterious prisoner?

Discovering secrets of elves, dwarves, satyrs, and piks in the shadows, they learn why it is imperative to the entire world of Cyr that they reach the continent.



As part of his holiday push to get Opprobrium into as many hands as possible before the end of the year, Wade has generously offered three (3) lucky winners a copy of the book in their choice of formats:

Signed hardcover (USA / Canada / UK only)
Signed paperback (USA / Canada / UK only)
Mobi format e-book (Worldwide)

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Born and raised in Arkansas, Wade Lewellyn-Hughes has always been a fan of “geeky” things. He collects action figures, binge plays video games, and watches new and old cartoons. In elementary school, he wrote his first "book" and never really stopped dreaming up new stories to tell. During his attendance at the University of Central Arkansas, he put some of the characters and ideas out there, but never took any serious steps toward publication because writing was not considered a viable career option. After graduating with his Bachelor's Degree, he moved to Seattle, Washington, and finally realized writing is his passion, financially responsible career options be damned.

Using some of the characters in that tale from college, he began writing OPPROBRIUM, a fantasy adventure of friendship and discovery. With the full story laid out in his mind, Wade has committed to following the adventures of the characters from OPPROBRIUM through a series called the Lamentation's End. This will include seven novels and a series of novellas along the way that will detail backstories of secondary characters.

Currently, he is writing one of those novellas, working his day job, and unpacking from his recent move from Los Angeles to Montana with his husband.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

From the Shelf to the Page: This Week in the Ruins

In case you missed any of it, here's what happened in the Ruins this week . . .

#SPFBO Review of Bloodrush by Ben Galley

#SPFBO Review of  A Soul For Trouble by Crista McHugh

#SPFBO Review of Under a Colder Sun by Greg James

Thriller Review of The Mercenary's Bounty by CJ Davis

Fantasy Review of Dragonborn by Maeghan Friday

Fantasy Review of The King’s Justice by Stephen R. Donaldson


Stacking The Shelves and Mailbox Monday are a pair of weekly memes that are about sharing the books that came your way over the past week, and which you've added to your shelves - whether they be physical or virtual, borrowed or bought, or for pleasure or review.

For Review:

Dragon Hunters: The Chronicles of the Exile, Book Two by Marc Turner
Once a year the fabled Dragon Gate is raised to let a sea dragon pass into the Sabian Sea, to be hunted by the Storm Lords, but one of their own has ordered the gate to be sabotaged, while assassins target the Storm Lord dynasty. 

The Sexorcism of Amber Holloway by Caspar Vega
An old school pulp romp provided you've never been to an old school. A crass adventure story your grandfather would enjoy if your grandfather was a thirsty anorexic sex wizard.


Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding
I came across a discussion thread the other day talking about fantasy novels that had an Indiana Jones flair. Most I had already read, but this is a new series I'm excited to jump into.


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is another weekly meme, this time focused on what books are spending the most time in your hands and in your head, as opposed to what's been added to your shelf.

Okay, I have been patient long enough. I've caught up on my release date reviews. I'm on a good pace for Mark Lawrence's Great Self-Published Fantasy Blog-off. I'm finally free to indulge myself, to pick up the beautifully thick ARC that has been starting me in the face, and ready to crack the spine on Chains of the Heretic: Bloodsounder's Arc Book Three by Jeff Salyards.

The cover blurb promises that "What Braylar What Braylar, Soffjian, Arki, and the Jackals discover beyond the Godveil will shake an empire, reshape a map, and irrevocably alter the course of history," and I like the sounds of that!

What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, November 20, 2015

#SPFBO Review: Bloodrush - A Soul For Trouble - Under a Colder Sun

For the first time in months I am caught up on my release date reviews, with not a lot of new fiction on the calendar for Nov/Dec, so I've started diving into the finalists of Mark Lawrence's Great Self-Published Fantasy Blog-off. While I had only planned to tackle a pair of titles for the month, one was rather short, and the other was a quick read, so I decided to slip in a third.

As much as I don't like assigning a number or a star value to a read, it's the only fair way for 10 of us to objectively compare the finalists. So, with that said, my trio of reviews . . . in ascending order . . . are as follows:

As much as I liked the setting of Bloodrush, with a faerie-infused old west frontier, I have a really hard time finding anything new or engaging in coming-of-age tales. To Ben Galley's credit, there's enough violence, gore, and profanity here to counter the YA feel, but we're still talking about a story that's centered around a moody, obnoxious 13-year old kid who is just as often wise-beyond-his-years as he is suitably-foolish.

Tonmerion (Merion) Hark is the son of the murdered Prime Lord Hark, forced west across the Iron Ocean to the very brink of civilization in Fell Falls, Wyoming. Far from home and denied the luxuries of a life of prestige, he's also far from friends and family - with a 12-inch faerie named Rhin as his only company.

What we have here is an imaginative alternate history novel wrapped in the trappings of both the western and fantasy genres. Galley makes good use of that genre clash, inventing a system of blood magic that's rather intense, and offering us monsters like the railwraiths. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to overcome the weaknesses of Merion as a protagonist. In addition, the narrative was often awkward and uneven, with an annoying habit of changing POVs within a scene.

Paperback, First, 480 pages
Published December 16th 2014 by BenGalley.com

Given that it's more a romance novel with fantasy elements than a fantasy novel with romantic elements, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed A Soul For Trouble. This was a very quick read for me, and one that I found to be a lot of fun. Crista McHugh has a comfortable sense of narrative style, a good grasp on her characters, and a flair for witty dialogue. It's not a laugh-out-loud type of story, but one that I found myself smiling over on a regular basis.

Arden (Trouble) Lesstymine is not just the only blonde-haired, blue-eyed soil in town, but she's also a witch. As a result, she's used to getting more than her fair share of attention, but nothing could prepare her for becoming the next vessel of Loku, disembodied god of chaos. On the one hand, she gets to wield his god-like power but, on the other hand, she's slowly losing her mind. Of course, it doesn't help that she has suddenly acquired a Knight of Gravaria as her sworn protector, become the sworn enemy of a dangerous necromancer, and found herself the object of a Prince's obsession.

As much as the love triangle between Trouble, Dev, and Kell drives much of the action, I liked all three characters enough to roll with it, and the insanity angle, with Loku's insanely funny (and brutally inappropriate) running commentary pulls it altogether. There's a lot of cheesy romance and overt sexism to the tale, but it's all clever and self-aware, not quite satire but clearly deliberate. It's a fast-paced tale, and one that I breezed through in just a few nights. Sure, it could have used a few more action sequences, and I would have like more in the way of mythology or world-building, but it was still a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Kindle Edition, 343 pages
Published April 2nd 2012 by Crista McHugh

Take a very grimdark sort of tale, put an uncomfortably dark anti-hero at the forefront, and you have the basic recipe for Under a Colder Sun. I've read a lot of fantasy, and I do tend to enjoy the darker side of the fantasy genre, but even I was a bit shocked at what Greg James pulled off here.

Khale the Wanderer is a man who would be the villain in any other tale. He's "a reaver with a demon’s soul" who is equal parts warrior and bandit . . . a rapist and a murderer. He is an ugly sort of fellow, deeply flawed, and amoral - a man who willingly does evil, but does so for the right reasons. Princess Milanda, the young woman he's charged with escorting across the land, is your typical sheltered innocent, but she grows and evolves (rather sadly, it must be said) as the story moves along. Her protector, Leste, is an unusual sort of woman, a trusted guard who possesses far more luck than skill.

There were a lot of dreams and memories here that tugged at the overall pace, but James is a strong enough author to carry the read through those soft spots. I was concerned with how the novel might progress, once the novelty wore off, but this was a solid sword and sorcery story, set in the grimdark mold. It could have used a bit more world-building, but I loved what we were told about the magic and the mythology. Similarly, the characters could have used a bit more depth, with a few lighter aspects to balance out the tale, but they fit the world.

I'm still not sure how I feel about the ending, and I kind of like that. It was suitably over-the-top, but this is one of those stories that just leaps into the climax without warning. In addition, it's a story that relies on a huge twist/reveal to justify that climax, but even if I didn't see it coming, it made sense in hindsight.

Kindle Edition, 215 pages
Published August 28th 2014 by Manderghast Press