Review: The Justice of Kings

Title: The Justice of Kings (February 22, 2022)
Author: Richard Swan
Pages: 496
Series: Empire of the Wolf #1


An odd thing about this book is that the only character on the cover and the character mentioned in the book’s description as an “unforgettable protagonist destined to become a fantasy icon” is not the main character of the story! It’s certainly an interesting choice and I’m unsure whether or not it is an effective one. Helena, our actual main first-person POV character, is likable and authentic. We see Sir Konrad Vonvalt (the aforementioned coverboy/man) and the story itself through her eyes. It was a tad distracting trying to puzzle out how this served the greater narrative, and I can’t say I ever arrived at an answer.

Luckily, Richard Swan’s writing flows nicely and made for a pleasant reading experience. The murder mystery nestled inside the larger, empire-spanning conspiracy was compelling and left me curious to explore this world beyond what is shown in this specific story. I’m on the fence over whether I’ll continue on to book #2, but this was a solid start to an intriguing new series.

★★★¾

My thanks to NetGalley and Orbit for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Fall of Babel

Title: The Fall of Babel (November 9, 2021)
Author: Josiah Bancroft
Pages: 672
Series: The Books of Babel #4 (Series Tracker)


With the final page turned and the curtain now closed, I’m happy to report that The Books of Babel is one of the greatest fantasy series I’ve ever read. Bancroft’s prose continues to possess a unique flavor with dashes of charm, wit, biting humor, and heart that are unmatched by others in the genre.

Throughout this final book, I cared about certain characters more than others, found some story threads more compelling than others, and preferred the quieter, more contemplative moments to the dizzying action sequences and set pieces. Despite my mileage varying on certain aspects of the novel itself, all of the elements coalesced into something wondrous and satisfying in the end.

We’ve been taken on a wild ride since Thomas Senlin first set foot in the magnificent and mysterious Tower of Babel. And while I’m sad to leave this world and cast of characters behind, I’m excited to see what else can be plumbed from the depths of Josiah Bancroft’s imagination. Frankly, I’d devour whatever he writes next – whether that’s a shopping list, appliance manual, esoteric textbook, or (ideally) a new novel! 

★★★★

My thanks to NetGalley and Orbit for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Jade Legacy

Title: Jade Legacy (November 30, 2021)
Author: Fonda Lee
Pages: 736
Series: The Green Bone Saga #3 (Series Tracker)


Engrossing, unpredictable, and heart-wrenching through to the final page – Jade Legacy is a worthy capstone to an incredible trilogy. I can confidently say that Fonda Lee’s Green Bone Saga is a modern fantasy classic and I feel lucky to have come across such a special series.

Lee’s writing makes everything compelling, even down to the most esoteric matters of the clans’ business empire. And although we’re very familiar with the main players in the warring clans, Jade Legacy further plumbs the depths of these flawed, but captivating characters with an expanded story timeframe and frequent time jumps. This was a smart choice and made for a supremely satisfying concluding book.

There are new avenues Lee could explore in future stories set in this world, but for now I am happy to sit back and marvel at the brilliant trilogy she has crafted. 

★★★★★
SPECULATIVE SHELF STARRED BOOK

My thanks to NetGalley and Orbit for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Jade War

Title: Jade War (2019)
Author: Fonda Lee
Pages: 592
Series: The Green Bone Saga #2 (Series Tracker)


With the characters, world, and magic system already established, this book hit the ground running and increased the complexity and reach of the ongoing clan war. 

I rarely like a second book in a series better than the first, but Jade War is just excellent. It ups the ante and improves upon many of the elements that made Jade City so good. I can’t wait to crack open the ARC of Jade Legacy currently sitting on my shelf.

★★★★½
SPECULATIVE SHELF STARRED BOOK

Review: The Bone Ship’s Wake

Title: The Bone Ship’s Wake (September 28, 2021)
Author: R.J. Barker
Pages: 592
Series: The Tide Child #3 (Series Tracker)


Much like a fireworks show, The Bone Ship’s Wake starts slowly before building in pace and intensity to an epic and explosive finale. It’s a satisfying conclusion to a magnificent seafaring adventure trilogy. 

While the first book in this series remains my favorite, the entire saga is worthwhile and this final book is just the cherry on top of a thrilling and bloody pirate sundae. Sounds tasty, right?

It’s been gratifying to watch these characters withstand both literal and figurative storms and come out better for it, but I am certainly sad to see their adventures come to an end. Although this particular saga is at its close, Barker leaves the door cracked open enough should he ever want to return to tell more tales from the Scattered Archipelago. I would happily sign up for another tour of duty in this world. 

★★★★

My thanks to Orbit for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Notes from the Burning Age

Title: Notes from the Burning Age (July 20, 2021)
Author: Claire North
Pages: 401


This is a book of loss and devastation, what remains, and what grows from the ashes of a broken world. North brings this plausible dystopian world to life with stark imagery and elegant prose. Although the premise has the components of a spy thriller, the story is definitely a slower burn. 

The overarching narrative never quite grabbed me, but the cat and mouse interplay between Ven and his on-again, off-again adversary/captor was really intriguing.

I had not read any of Claire North’s work prior to this novel, but I’ve come away impressed and excited to see what she writes next. 

As an aside, I hope Orbit sticks with Leo Nickolls and Siobhan Hooper for the cover art/design on future books. They did an outstanding job with this one.

★★★★

My thanks to NetGalley and Orbit for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Jade City

Title: Jade City (2017)
Author: Fonda Lee
Pages: 496
Series: The Green Bone Saga #1 (Series Tracker)


Reading Jade City provided a welcome respite from more traditional (and generic) epic fantasy fare. Fonda Lee has crafted a compelling family drama, situated within an intriguing world, with an awesome magic system to boot. There’s plenty of war and conflict to be had here so I’m curious to see how things escalate in the ominously titled sequel, Jade War.

★★★★

Review: Call of the Bone Ships

The-Call-of-The-Bone-ShipsTitle: Call of the Bone Ships (November 24, 2020)
Author: R.J. Barker
Pages: 512
Series: The Tide Child #2 (Series Tracker)


Despite its massive storms, brutal battles, and monstrous fauna, R.J. Barker keeps the characters at the forefront of his world. The ever-evolving relationships between Joron, Lucky Meas, and the Tide Child crew are really wonderful. Specific attention was paid to flesh out the backstories of several background crew members, which allows them to carry the narrative when Joron or Lucky Meas are sidelined. That said, Gullaime the windtalker remains the standout character of the series and it was exciting to see it again and learn more about its species.

Barker absolutely stuck the landing with this second book of the Tide Child trilogy. The Bone Ships was my favorite book of 2019 and this sequel will surely vie for a top spot in 2020. Every moment spent voyaging through Barker’s Scattered Archipelago is incredibly satisfying. I highly recommend this series.

★★★★¼ out of 5

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Obsidian Tower

The-Obsidian-Tower-cover-July-24Title: The Obsidian Tower (2020)
Author: Melissa Caruso
Pages: 448
Series: Rooks and Ruin #1 (Series Tracker)


The mages of Vaskandar have the power to give life to their land and to their kingdoms. Ryxander of Gloamingard is cursed with broken magic that takes life and destroys all that she touches. In order to save her kingdom from an unfathomable threat, Ryx must use her weakness to her advantage whilst holding off a cavalcade of determined interlopers.

I had a really fun time with this book. Each page crackles with magic. Caruso’s writing flows well and moves the narrative forward at a swift pace with a steady stream of action and court intrigue throughout. The world of Eruvia is nicely fleshed out, as well. It helps that Caruso has already written a trilogy in this setting, but she lays out the conflicts, local histories, and magic systems in a clear and digestible way for a new reader.

Ryx is a worthy protagonist with very obvious flaws to overcome. Her humanity and search for connection keep her relatable and easy to root for. While the book’s ending does not offer much closure, there’s enough magic in the pages of The Obsidian Tower to bring me back for book number two.

★★★★ out of 5

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.