BOOK REVIEW: Nectar for the God

My second round with Mennik Thorn and I am thoroughly impressed.

Cover of the novel Nectar for the God, with Mennik Thorn standing at the front, magic ready in his palm

By Patrick Samphire. Find out more about it here.
427 pages

Only an idiot would ignore his debt to a high mage, and Mennik Thorn is not an idiot, no matter what anyone might say. He’s just been … distracted. But now he’s left it too late, and if he doesn’t obey the high mage’s commands within the day, his best friends’ lives will be forfeit. So it’s hardly the time to take on an impossible case: proving a woman who murdered a stranger in full view is innocent.

Unfortunately, Mennik can’t resist doing the right thing – and now he’s caught in a deadly rivalry between warring high mages, his witnesses are dying, and something ancient has turned its eyes upon him.

The fate of the city is once again in the hands of a second-rate mage. Mennik Thorn should have stayed in hiding.

Taff’s squee rating: 4 1/2 hearts!
What’s inside: The same as what we’ve found in book one! Check out my review here. On top of that, we’ve got Mennik really showing how he messes up – especially around his friends and I really appreciate how his actions have clear consequences.
Trigger warnings: More magical violence with plenty of gore. Tentacles. The setting has little mercy and children are not immune to harm.

After I put down Nectar for the God, my first thought was: Okay, I need the next one. For a bunch of reasons, too. One, I’m fond of Mennik. Two, I’m fascinated by Agatos (it’s people, it’s magic, it’s political intrigue). And three, I really need to see more Captain Gale (and find out how Mennik gets on with her in the next book).

Allow me to show you a little no context Gale:

“But it’s a god,” I said.
She smiled. “This isn’t the first god we’ve dealt with.”

Me:

Anyways! We pick up where we’ve left off in Shadow of a Dead God, and the consequences of Mennik’s actions from prior do not take long to catch up to him. And how does he meet them? Hm. I am going to say he meets a lot of them with inaction. Or at least with procrastination by means of taking on a job which has nothing to do with any of the pressing matters breathing down his neck. It’s that inaction, that avoidance, that helps us see how Mennik really is just a man who is beholden to his fears and his ego. And inaction has consequences, too, you see, and I’m always up for seeing the hero of a story realise with cold dread how they’ve just messed up and that they really have no one else but themselves to blame.

Overall, Shadow of a Dead God shows us more of who Mennik is and what drives him – and what he fears. I might go out on a limb here and say that this book may have had a theme of overcoming anxieties? Or at least face them? I don’t know, I am not very good at pointing out themes, I am mostly just here for the rides and what a ride this was.

What I am good at though (I think, maybe, potentially) is pointing out when a book is a lot of fun. And this one is a real lot of fun. The pacing continues to be tight, the mystery mysterious (but we got clues we can put together ourselves, meaning we get that wonderful AHA!! moment), and the humour has yet to miss for me.

BOOK REVIEW: Shadow of a Dead God

Caution: Works a bit like catnip on Taff.

Cover of the novel Shadow of a Dead God

By Patrick Samphire. Find out more about it here. :3
442 pages

It was only supposed to be one little job – a simple curse-breaking for Mennik Thorn to pay back a favour to his oldest friend. But then it all blew up in his face. Now he’s been framed for a murder he didn’t commit.

So how is a second-rate mage, broke, traumatized, and with a habit of annoying the wrong people, supposed to prove his innocence when everyone believes he’s guilty?

Mennik has no choice if he wants to get out of this: he is going to have to throw himself into the corrupt world of the city’s high mages, a world he fled years ago. Faced by supernatural beasts, the mage-killing Ash Guard, and a ruthless, unknown adversary, it’s going to take every trick Mennik can summon just to keep him and his friend alive.

But a new, dark power is rising in Agatos, and all that stands in its way is one damaged mage…

Taff’s squee rating: 4 1/2 hearts!
What’s inside: A witty detective who cannot catch a break, a finely crafted magic system anchored solidly in its own world, charming side characters (including a young girl who’ll carve out your kneecaps with a knife if you look at her wrong), and a fast-paced and clever mystery to solve.
Trigger warnings: Lotsa magical violence with plenty of gore.

Mennik Thorn can give Harry Dresden a run for his money; not only when it comes to collecting bruises in the name of rent, but also in how he’s hell-bent on doing the right thing. He has undeniable charm. He’s funny. He’s loyal. He’s actually pretty dang good at what he does, but there’s always something waiting to go wrong and challenge him.

Shadow of a Dead God excels not only in Mennik though (which it does, his character type is like catnip for me), but it boasts a lot of intriguing characters on top of that, along with fantastic world-building. Agatos is a carefully crafted fictional city in a setting that feels alive far beyond Mennik’s (Nik’s) story, and the magic system we’re given is just chef’s kiss. And I’m not just talking about the practical applications of it, but also its origin and the consequences it has on society at large. Plus, the Ash Guard? Yeah, they’re probably one of my favourite bits about the book, and I really really really hope I’ll see more of them in the second one (which I got waiting for me on my bookshelf right now). The practical applications of the magic are fantastic, too, and Patrick Samphire has a real knack for writing action sequences that aren’t only thrilling, but which also teach us a lot about the world.

I’ve had an amazing time reading this and can honestly say it always put up a fight when I had to put it down to get some sleep. Highly recommend!

(SIN)vik Shielding

Sass and Ass | Hold my non-alcoholic beverage, I am about to do something famously idiotic | Excitable | Dead | Cattish | Dancing on the Devil’s Dance Floor | Sneaky Quiet, quick smiles | Loves rescuing tigers from trees | Barefoot adventure

Sinvik Shielding began her life as a Folly child, a child born at the tail end of one of Trero’s last great Reapings. And folly was what followed her through her life; a life she’s never been under full control of but one she filled to the brim with adventure.

She was a Cad’his, a soul trickster. A profoundly powerful one.

She died a hero.

Now, Sinvik goes by SIN. She’s been the voice guiding (and protecting) Sophya since the girl first drew breath, shielding Sophya from her own Cad’his powers and helping her keep imaginary apart from imagined.

Sinvik is my oldest character, first introducing herself to me when I was a wee tween-Taff. I’m proud of what she’s accomplished in her life and I’m grateful that she’s decided to come back to me in Aphelion, where she’s 50% sass and 50% cat.

You can meet her in Aphelion, my Cyberpunk-lite, soul magic, and zombie apocalypse web serial.

Read Aphelion on Ao3
Explore Aphelion on Campfire

COMIC REVIEW: Root & Branch

It’s Taff Screams time again. Long overdue, too.

Ever wanted to tag along with a beautiful, charming, and absolutely adorkable elf woman on a quest of exploration and discovery? Then Root & Branch by Pink Pitcher is exactly right for you. In it, we follow young Ariana on her search for the Tree of Life, a journey she sets out on all by her lonesome. On her way, she meets hu-mans. And what strange people those are, with strange customs and strange ideas; some friendly and welcoming, others not so much.

I admit I haven’t finished the entire series- there’s a lot to read! :3 -but Ariana charmed me quickly. She’s kind, with an innocent heart and almost naïve (deceptively so) approach to things. Which is why seeing what she’s capable of when the situation calls for it really hecking good, and I cannot wait to see how her journey pans out, how she grows with it, and how the world grows around her.

Yes, in this house we stan Ariana. There’s this particular moment that I passed only recently where she ditches a piece of clothing she’d been given, going back to her a little more revealing outfit. She says, aptly, that The wind misses touching me, and I think that was the moment I probably fell a wee bit in love.

The art style is also real gorgeous, full of unique charm and rich with warm and welcoming colours. Everything feels so lovingly crafted; down from the line art all the way to each panel and even the website frame.

So please, please, go give it a shot if you like something full of heart and adventure and a display of open kindness.

Find it here: Root & Branch
The creator: Pink

Worldbuilding: The Ward

An image of a sphere suspended in a circle by a set of chains.

Vigilance. Protection. Servitude. 

Between the Dawnfall and the Calamity, Trero’s population was left in shambles. 

Civil wars. Warlords. The culling of Sare. A constant fear of another Reaping. And, of course, the dread of the Rain of Fire ending everyone and everything. It wasn’t until a group of nobles and their knights decided to band together and turn the tide against the despair sweeping the lands, that Trero finally saw hope again. 

The (since then fallen) houses of vil Faer and vil Carne are credited to have been at the heart of the Ward’s creation. They’ve designed its crest and coloured its banners and wrote down its first charters. 

The Ward was formed for three reasons:

  • Regain control of the lands after the second recorded Reaping (the Calamity)
  • Prevent the next Reaping and find a way to stop the Rain of Fire
  • Turn the world away from culling the Sare and, instead, control them and put them to work. 

The colours

All of the Ward’s heraldry is designed around their sigil as well as three colours. 

Rich Red: Protection
Vivid Green: Vigilance
Gentle Ocher: Servitude 

If you ask Trindram (or any Sare, really), oppression and terror never received any colours, but remain a part of their creed. 

Organization and Governance

The Ward is an independent group of marshalls spread across every corner of Trero. Their word is law and they bow to no one. Not kings, nobles, or even the once in a while odd wanna-be emperor. 

Divided into chapters, each group has either a specific purpose or is assigned to a particular region. 

Such as:

Knights to the 1st chapter. Designated as the overseeing body of the entire Ward, including the prosecution of their own members who violate their laws.
Knights to the 2nd. Dedicated to preventing Reapings and the prophesized Rain of Fire
Knights to the 9th. The Range’s chapter in the north.

Ranks and how to tell them apart

The Ward has a relatively flat rank structure, beginning with its council made from envoys of each chapter and moving through knight captains, knights, and eventually ending with the Sare under their thumb. Every six years, a steward is elected from the currently acting envoys to take on a governing role.

  • Envoys and stewards wear two-shouldered, short capes. The colour and embroidery vary based on their chapters. Often, if the chapter belongs to a region, it will include the envoy’s home sigil. 
  • Knight Captains, the highest military rank, wear a short, single-shouldered red cape on their left. This is meant to represent their role as protectors and guardians of all. 
  • Knights, the most common rank, wear the same, except in green, representing the Ward’s constant vigilance.
  • Sare pressed into their service receive a simple, ocher cape which they wear on their right shoulder. Sare with a specific talent, such as Medica, are further identified with their designated colour stitched on the shoulder cape.

Taff Campaign Diaries: Tom and Sinvik

Art Credit: 
Character art by Deltastic and Saph-y.

Of course the campaign is still going! It’ll hopefully be going for a long while and continue to teach me all those exciting things around DnD, such as making maps, writing campaigns, reading rule books until my eyes bleed, and improvising when the players come up with amazing things. Those sorts of things.

In my next blog post I am probably going to be talking about where our lost souls are right now in their development, alongside of a module/adventure review that I’ve got coming up, but before I get to any of this I really, really, really want to talk about Tomakos and Sinvik a little more. Mostly because I just love talking about them and I love them. Individually and together.

Tomakos Drake belongs to Maegan, and he is the main protagonist in her original novel series, while Sinvik Shielding is mine. Together, we’ve been exploring them (and in my case discovering) over the past two years by playing them in various games, such as Star Wars: The Old Republic, Neverwinter Nights, and Dungeons and Dragons Online. It was only a natural progression that they’d find their way into a DnD campaign.

So, what’s their deal in Homebound?

Tom arrives in Ved by ship, packing light. He’s got little more than his armour, his weapons, and his winning attitude on him. Oh, and a cat. Sinvik. His guiding light. His anchor.

She’s not always been a cat. It’s a recent thing. Very recent. And she’s certainly not a cat by choice. Though between an agonising death, her soul being pulled apart strand by strand by a curse, and walking the world on four soft paws? What choice did she really have? Better a cat than dead, even if she’s left with an urge to chase butterflies and to purr on occasion.

The curse is a curious thing. It would have tore her soul apart, if not for Tom’s crafty druid friend, who hid her soul by binding her together with a cat. As long as she stays like that, the curse can’t finish what it started.

But no one has got a clue on how to break it.

Thankfully, Tom will stop at nothing to find the warlock who’d cursed her. Heading to the ass end of everything? Psht. Easy. Not worth the mention. That’s what Ved is and no one argues against it. It’s a little known blob on any map and home to no one of import. Used to be it was at least a somewhat decently peaceful place, though that’s changed. What Tom finds as he disembarks, is a land ill at ease. Pirates nip at its heels. Monsters roam its wilds. People vanish into thin air. And those with means to, they pack up and leave for elsewhere.

Not a big deal though. It’s not like he’s here to settle.

Except he also doesn’t have much of a clue on what to do next, save for a vague signature on a half burnt piece of paper. That’s not a lot of a trail, even for someone as good as tracking as him, and so he seeks help from the local adventurer’s guild. Which is doing about as well as the rest of Ved: terribly. It’s fallen out of fashion years ago, its guild hall good as abandoned and empty, and the only member that it’s got left is an old half elf. Rorrik is his name. And even though he’s half blind, broke, and alone, he hasn’t given up tending the guild hall as best as one man possibly can.

The prospect of Tom coming to the guild, to give it some purpose, is enough to excite the old caretaker, and he quickly promises to help. In return, Tom offers his swords and is promptly sent to check on a long abandoned mine a few hours from the hall. One that, Rorrik says, is filled with kobolds that have been sending small parties to harass him most evenings.

But what Tom finds there aren’t kobolds at all. He’s attacked as he approaches, not by a kobold, but by a man. And once he cleared the only still passable mine shaft, he finds a man-made hideout, not a kobold borrow, buried deep into the hollowed out mountain. It’s far from empty, too, and he’s forced to fight a few more people dressed all in thick black robes.

Venturing deeper, and following a rhythmic, metallic GONG reverberating through the air, he eventually finds a large chamber. In that chamber stands a lit brazier, white smoke billowing out from it. Another man, also dressed in black, stands a little in front of it, striking a metal gong while he mutters words under his breath.

Around the brazier, stand a handful of dazed or unconscious figures. They are all dressed in perfectly white gowns. Spotless. Not a smudge on them. And as the man strikes the gong over and over again, whispered words falling from his lips, white tendrils begin to shape from the smoke and drift towards the people in white.

Tom, thinking he’s stepped into some unsavoury ritual, does what any other good adventuring hero does: he interrupts it all.

And something goes awfully wrong. After a blinding flash of light knocks him on his ass, the tendrils fall away from where they hooked themselves into the figures surrounding the brazier, and they all collapse into heaps on the floor. Which at first isn’t all too bad, since they’re all still breathing. A good thing, overall.

Except then a few of them wake up and hoo boy are they confused.

Tom, on some god’s whim, ended up interfering in a ritual (it’s purpose unknown) that caused a few lost souls to be yanked from their perfectly mundane world into a perfectly chaotic one. And just like that, he’s got more than just Sinvik’s curse to worry about, since what sort of hero would he be if he’d left those poor souls to fend for themselves.

And this, my dear readers, is how Tom and Vik got mixed up with the Homebound campaign.