Book Review: Wulfgard, The Hunt Never Ends

Wulfgard, Werewolves, Monsters, Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Monster Hunting

By Maegan A. Stebbins. Get the book on Amazon!

In the civilized world of humans, ‘monsters’ have all but passed into legend. But when something goes bump in the night, when people begin to disappear, when a dark mystery begins to haunt even the most peaceful villages, there is only one organization to turn to: the Hunters. The Venatori. Having lived a life of discipline and service, former soldier Caiden Voros finds something even worse than the wars of humans: the monsters that hunt them. Horrors yet unknown even to him and his many scars await in the claws, talons, fangs, and mysterious powers of creatures so far beyond humans that he must dedicate himself entirely to the art of slaying them. Harboring a secret of his own and in a constant struggle to find answers while maintaining his sanity, however, Caiden begins to ask the age-old question… Who is truly worse, the monsters or the Men?

Myths. Legends. Monsters. Knights. Already that’s a winning recipe for me. But add rich characters that make me kick the blankets and go Eeee and you’ve won my heart forever. That’s what Wulfgard has and why I want to share it with everyone.

The Hunt Never Ends follows a veteran of life and war.

Caiden isn’t the New Guy who needs to grow into his boots and fill out his uniform. Figuratively or literally. He’s fought his battles. He’s lived. But all of it he’s done with a burden: He hears thoughts that aren’t his, dreams dreams that aren’t his, and feels emotions that, well, also aren’t his.
Which, to be fair, immediately endears him to me personally. Because jgåöphsd, I’m endlessly fond of abilities like that. They get me to keysmash. More so though, it all acts as real good glue that sticks this collection of short stories together, providing a rising threat as living with this unknown gift/curse/burden gets worse and worse as the stories progress.

Not that it’s the only thing that does!

See, there is one particular thing that I think Maegan really, really excels at. Well, two, actually. There’s her folklore research which she packs into her stories. That’s one of them. But the one that has me hooked on her work are her characters. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about her Big Protagonist or a only briefly mentioned side character. They’re all characters. They have depth and they come alive and I can’t stress enough just how much I’ve fallen in love with them.

So read it and experience them. Give them, and the world of Wulfgard, a chance to make a home in your heart like they did in mine.

Get the book on Amazon!

Book Review: The Graverobber’s Sword

A Dungeon’s and Dragons like adventure with a crude as it gets hero, a dutiful sword, and a lot of heart.

By Jessy Jordan. Get it on Amazon!

The Graverobber's Sword

ZEPHELOUS IS AN INSTRUMENT of destiny, an awakened sword passed from hero to hero to combat the ever-looming threat of chaos and darkness. That is, until its previous wielder met his untimely end without naming a successor. Now it lies in wait, clutched in the death-grip of a friend, waiting for a new hero…

KERA NO-CLAN DOESN’T BELIEVE in heroes, destiny, or sobriety. Spending most of her life running from her past, she has little aspirations beyond her next drink. She spends her waking hours robbing graves and pawning what she finds to fuel her hazy nights, with little consideration for tomorrow. Little did she know that one grave–one sword–would change her life, whether she wanted it or not.

She is now forced to face a destiny that she has been unknowingly hurtling towards, racing against time to face the consequences of her own actions while hating every second of it.

What I expected:

Going into Graverobber’s Sword, I was prepared for a sort of buddy tale shared between a sentient sword who digs destiny and greatness, and his new wielder who doesn’t.

This wasn’t it though.

What I got:

A Dungeon’s and Dragon’s like adventure campaign that occasionally goes off the rails.

While the book starts out as I’d expected and we’re focused very much on Kera and Zeph, it quickly takes a turn before they (or we) can get comfortable. Not saying Kera was anywhere near comfortable. Neither was Zeph. Because hoo-boy, Kera is a mess. And that mess meets Smith and his daughter and then we get to see just how much of a piece of work she really is.

Right about thereabouts, I almost put the book down. Kera’s distrust for others and her absolute disregard for anyone but herself came to a boil and really, really tested me. But then I didn’t — and I got to admit that I admire the author for getting that reaction out of me and convincing me to keep reading anyway.

After introducing us to Smith and his daughter and the disaster that follows, the book takes another turn and all of a sudden we’ve got a Quest and a band of reluctant campaigners on our hands. Each member of the group is unique, comes with their own baggage, and they spend the rest of the book unpacking said baggage in mostly very unfortunate circumstances.

By the time the book was over, I’d grown to care for all of them, with Will probably being my favourite. And then I realised there’s a sequel, so I guess I am gonna have to go and check that out.

Bit like you should check out this one.

Get it on Amazon!

Book Review: The Firemage’s Vengeance

This is the third book in the Academy Journals by Garrett Robinson. Get it here on Amazon. And the whole Academy Journals here.

Image result for the firemages vengeance

Hoo boy.

The third book following Ebon and his friends through their exciting (too exciting) life, doesn’t waste any time. It throws us right back into the thick of a conflict that runs so much deeper than personal vendettas.

Haunted by the choices they’ve had to make at the end of The Mindmage’s Wrath, Ebon, Theren, and Kalem are now more than ever in need of a big hug. Seriously. Mages they may be (mages in training, at least – except Theren, she’s scary good) but they’re young still anyway, and yet shoulder a world of secrets and pain.

Which doesn’t get any easier when the Academy is once again under attack, and they’re back to solving riddles and chasing a villain. They take personal responsibility really serious, even with their own heads on the line this time around.

Luckily, they’re not alone. And no, I don’t just mean Mako. Though, yes, Mako is there. Of course he’s there, and IreallywanttoknowmoreaboutMako,okay?

By now, our young heroes gathered a comforting supporting cast around them, from a lover turned rival turned ally, all the way to nobility. And it doesn’t matter how brief their appearances might be, they are all compelling characters that help complete a picture that comes together from a complex set of puzzle pieces.

I suppose that highlights one of the things I’ve truly enjoyed about this series: How everything has consequences and how Ebon’s life, his struggles, are all really just a small part of something much greater.

Firemage’s Vengeance feels like a pot that’s just been about to boil over and really mess up your stove, but then you get there just in time and prevent disaster at the last second. Sort of. Some spilled out and now there’s a stinky crust under the pot, but the worst of it got contained. And also you’ve now got this really delicious mystery food ready to eat later, even if you have to scrape the stove.

… okay, I don’t know where I was going with this comparison. Something about how the book allows for Ebon and his friends to thwart a villain, to save lives, and yet it sets the stage for much greater things to come, things way past the academy’s walls – and so much closer to Ebon’s heart than before.

It’s a great book, okay.

It’s a great series.

If pressed to find something to nitpick, then maybe I’d whine a little about how Kalem didn’t grow nearly as much as Ebon or Theren did, remaining a relative constant voice of reason with a side of coward. Which isn’t a bad thing, to be fair. They needed him. And we needed him, in particular to show us how just far out some of their plans really were.

And that’s it. That’s how much of the Academy Journals we got right now, which makes me a relatively sad Taff, since I’d really like to see how this continues (AND MAKO) right away. But patience is a virtue and all that, so I’m going to try my hand at this and maybe go read some of the other books in the Underrealm setting.

Whiiich you should do, too.

Just saying.

Book Review: The Mindmage’s Wrath

This is the second book in the Academy Journals by Garrett Robinson. Get it here on Amazon. And the whole Academy Journals here.

The Mindmage’s Wrath picks up right where the Transmuter’s Alchemist’s Touch left off, with our young goldbag Ebon and his friends ready to get into more trouble while the Seat around them is still recovering from the final events of the first book.

I liked Alchemist’s Touch well enough already. It was good, it really was, and you know what? This one is Gooder, with Ebon growing into more of himself page by page, and the world revealing itself to us in greater detail chapter by chapter. We meet his sister. See more of his family’s politics, and especially where his aunt fits into all of it.

But you know what’s best? Mako! MakoMakoMako! There is more Mako! I swear I was making little giddy noises every time he made an appearance, and by the end I was convinced he’s my favourite and I’ll be one sad Taff if something happens to him.

Except Mako is, of course, not what this story is about. He’s just someone that Taff gets incredibly excited about.

Instead, this time, Ebon and his friends are faced with a murder in the Academy, alongside with the thefts of dangerous artefacts that could threaten more than just the Academy, but the Seat and the entire world itself. It’s a delightful little whodunit with a healthy sprinkle of more political intrigue around the goldbag families of Underrealm.

The pacing in which the murder mystery unravels is great, and I liked how the reader is given a chance to piece things together themselves, which gives us a chance to scream at Ebon from outside the pages if we figure it out first.

Again, I’d love to recommend this book. It’s a great follow up to the first one, sets us up for great things to come, and please can I have more Mako?

Book Review: The Alchemist’s Touch

This is the first book in the Academy Journals by Garrett Robinson. Get it here on Amazon. And the whole Academy Journals here.

The Alchemist's Touch: A Book of Underrealm (The Academy Journals 1) by [Robinson, Garrett]

Ebon is an (at times painfully) shy sixteen-year-old boy, who has lived a sheltered life under the thumb of his wealthy and cruel father. His family name carries a lot of baggage with it and seems to be universally feared, though we don’t quite find out why. Not yet, anyway.

Oh, and he’s an Alchemist. Errr, Transmuter, sorry. Except he never got to practice his magic, since that was just one of those things his father forbade him to do. Right along with growing a spine, apparently. Or speaking up. Or having an original thought. Really, his dad is a dick.

Poor Ebon. But hey! He gets his greatest wish, that one thing he’s dreamed of for so long and is allowed to attend the Academy, where he promptly tries to play catchup since he’s about six years late to the party. It’s okay though, ’cause for some reason the benches and stuff in the room made for ten year olds fit him, too. Or maybe he was just awkwardly squeezed into them and had to hunch the whole time. That’ll do a number on the posture.

Ebon is… a little inconsistent at times, though it sort of makes sense, considering how he’s so far behind on being allowed to be himself. Fortunately, he manages to make friends at the Academy relatively quickly. He also makes enemies though, naturally. In particular there’s one going by the name of Lillith, and I admit that their rivalry (if that is what we want to call it) is probably the only thing that I didn’t enjoy much. It came out of no-where and felt just a little too unreasonably cruel and “Ha ha, high school kids, amirght?

Are we really that horrible to each other? Wait. Don’t answer that.

His friendships, on the other hand, feel well deserved and organic, and I liked both Theren and Kalem reasonably well. Ebon, of course, needs them both, and it isn’t until long that he’s swept into a conspiracy hatched by his father. Or so we are led to believe, because there are still questions unanswered by the end. Even for Ebon, who decided to try and unravel the mystery, his two friends by his side.

It goes reasonably well. Sort of. Kind of.

Overall, I liked this book, though I am finding it a little hard to place? It’s not a story about a magical academy, for one. Even though it takes place in one. It’s also not really a coming of age sort of story since Ebon has still so much room to grow. It’s also not one entirely about personal growth in his craft, considering he barely manages two proper spells throughout the entire thing. Adventure? Kind of? Maybe? Mystery? Hmmm, getting there. A bit of political intrigue?

Alright, it’s probably all of the above. Plus, it’s just generally a really nice read. I’m glad I picked it up.

… and, just for the record, my favourite character in the whole thing is Mako and I want to know more about him. Which one of the reasons why I will keep reading through the series, hoping to uncover more.

Short Story Review: Blackberries and Snow

By Lacey over at allnightwriting
Read it here.

It’s hot today, going to be hotter tomorrow, and now the sky is an unbroken field of haze that burns the throat as it goes down and reeks of charred wood and burnt rubber.

I‘ve never reviewed a short story before, so I am not entirely sure where to start or where to end, especially with this particular piece. There’s a lot packed into so few words, and it all comes together under the unkind heat of a world turned hostile by rampant climate change. Which, now more than ever, is a topic that very much resonates with a lot of us. Worries us, even. Though while that is a tangible theme, the story didn’t leave me feeling grim and hopeless. No. Rather the opposite. 

I feel the string that ties me to these people, to my home, acutely this morning. It’s alive, vibrant, and hooked so deeply into my heart that it’s going to hurt when I pull away.

Blackberries and Snow is a a beautiful, short eco punk story that follows a young woman in her steps over the threshold of her childhood home, and out into an uncertain, but hopeful future.

I like it, okay. I don’t really know what else to say. Lacey’s writing has always drawn me in, and I love how she doesn’t ever let us lose hope, or get lost in the darkness of an inherently dark theme.