Release Day Review: The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden

First of all, Happy Book Birthday, Nicky! πŸ™‚

Isn’t that cover absolutely kickass? The first time I saw it I cheered – I was one of the lucky few who got to read the book a good while ago, and the cover was ad remains (in my opinion) perfectly suited to the tale. So, you’ve got the cool mech holding a cool umbrella over a mischievously smiling little girl; you’ve got the captivating title (which does seem at odds with the cover, but isn’t; trust me on this), and you know that Nicky’s publisher, Harper Voyager, publishes some of the very best SF and speculative fiction available.

(By the by, the artwork for the cover was created by Brenoch Adams, and was designed by Owen Corrigan)

So, what did I discover in the book?

What grabbed my attention from the beginning was how well Nicky handled the balance between excellent characterization and inventive world building. Character-wise, you’re going to meet wildly different folks, from wildly different backgrounds, all exuberantly-chillingly-sympathetically written, all having their own unique ‘voice’ and their own very important place in the tale. You’ll meet a teenager on the cusp of what will probably seem to you to be an incredibly weird manhood ritual, a nail technician working in a beauty parlour with a dangerous and awesome secret, a little girl living in a township, a councilman forced to play two roles and really only enjoying one, a pop star on the verge of a breakdown, and a couple of nifty personal robots. These are the main players, and some of their connections won’t be immediately apparent, while others are connected by a very strange drug. What they do, and how they interact, is the meat of the story (as it should be), and Nicky brings them all to vivid life.

In terms of world building, I discovered a South Africa (or Azania, which could actually be damned cool, should that realize; but has no bearing on the novel) which easily overshadows the South Africa Lauren Beukes revealed in Moxyland. In Nicky’s SA, for example, you’ve got personal-assistant robots and genetically engineered and extremely cute pests – you’ll have to discover the rest. The SA of Nicky’s imagination has moved past all the trouble we’re currently having and, though not perfect, is suffused with hope and a still vulnerable trust; the cyberpunk aspects of this book are bright and beautiful and crazy and exciting, though that keen edge of danger and darkness can be sensed glinting between the details. But there are also aspects of Fantasy to this read, and those aspects have an abiding mythic feel, as if we’ve been given a glimpse of a world of gods and motivations we hadn’t even guessed could exist.

But there aren’t only wonderfully captivating characters and excellent world building in this book – there’s heart, humor, empathy, beauty and ugliness, too. And the action scenes are almost Manga-esque in the crazy-cool epicness. That robot and that little girl? You won’t believe what they’re capable of – and I mean ‘won’t believe’ in terms of, “Oh, wow. Oh WOW.”

All in all, Nicky has created not only a world I would love to read an entire saga in, but characters who feel both known and excitingly unique – if this book doesn’t completely capture you and leave you feeling a combination of excitement and utter exhaustion, then you really should dig up a mad scientist and get him to bring you back to life. At the very least, I’m pretty confident that you’ll agree with me that it’s a cool, wild, awesome ride.

‘The Prey of Gods’ was absolutely brilliant. Read it!

10/10

The book should be available almost everywhere right now (except perhaps the Moon; but Musk’s working on giving us an option to get it there), but here are the links you might need:

Amazon USAmazon UK (pre-order for the 27 July release) – Barnes and Noble

And do check out Nicky’s site, too. πŸ™‚

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

Review: Exile and Nandor by Martin Owton

Hey folks, hope you’re all well. πŸ™‚

Today I’ll share my thoughts on Martin Owton’s ‘Exile’ and ‘Nandor’, a dualogy which focuses on Aron of Darien.

Aron is the title’s exile, struggling to survive in a world in which basically everything except his talent with a sword and his sense of duty has been taken from him.

When we meet Aron, he’s in the wrong place at the wrong time – and pays the price for that by being pressed into the local Earl’s service, which not only launches the first novel’s plot and introduces us to most of the tale’s important players, but also gives us a good understanding of Aron. He doesn’t suffer fools, and yet also doesn’t blindly barge into situations which might overwhelm him. He can be headstrong, but also shows empathy and sympathy. He’s the kind of guy you wouldn’t mind getting to know, and the kind of guy who’ll have your back as your friend. His skill with a sword is cool to behold, and most of the time he knows how to navigate politics and intrigue – but his skills don’t help him when it comes to ladies. πŸ˜‰

‘Exile’ gives us a good view of the world Aron lives in – a distant king who seems to not really give a damn; dukes vying for prestige and honours from said king; scattered towns filled with merchants and men-at-arms; slavers and bandits. There are also magicians, and what’s interesting is that they serve, and aren’t served – it’s a refreshing angle to read, especially in Fantasy.

And Exile also sets us up for book two’s events, in which Aron’s quest will culminate, while bringing to a close certain threads begun in the first book. The book has (and maintains) great pace, is peppered with witty dialogue and serious moments, has an important love story, and features great combat, as well as what reads as well-researched knowledge of the kinds of pre-industrial technology present in Aron’s world.

Exile is old school and enjoyable – it doesn’t reinvent anything, but also doesn’t need to. πŸ™‚

9/10

Nandor, the sequel to Exile -and the book which brings and end to Aron’s tale- picks up nineΒ months after Exile’s end; Aron returns to the family he met in Exile when he receives dire news, and decides to lead a rescue mission, which takes him and the people with him into the kind of dangerous territory only hinted at in the first book. the excellent pacing which made Exile tick along is carried through into Nandor, and the characters are really put through their paces, as they find themselves caught up in a war very few people know about. This war, which is also being fought with terrifying magic, forces Aron to make some truly difficult decisions, and no-one escapes unscathed. I was sad when I ended the book, as that meant that Aron’s adventures were done and that we wouldn’t get to explore more of the world Martin created, but you all know what they say about ‘all good things’, right?

8/10

The books are available in a variety of formats:

Kindle (ExileNandor)

and Hardcover (Exile) (as well as signed editions from Tickety Boo Press)

And do check out Martin’s site for more of his work and an exclusive short story featuring Aron.

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

Review: Dinosaur Valley – The Archaeologists (Book 1) by K.H. Koehler

Hey everyone. πŸ™‚

From time to time I’ll be posting reviews of books I really enjoyed, in the hope that you’ll also check the books out, and this is the first of those reviews.

Long before Jurassic Park was released (both the book and the movie), my parents bought a bi-weekly magazine called ‘Dinosaurs’, which explored the different species, environments, geological history and much, much more of the time of the dinosaurs – plus I got to build a glow in the dark T-rex skeleton; the parts came with the magazine. πŸ™‚ This was when I was in primary school, and it’s what began my fascination with dinosaurs. When Jurassic Park was published, I basically lost my shit. I read the novel three times before watching the movie, and I think I watched the movie -in the theatres- close to six or seven times. I think that JP is the only movie I’ve watched more than any of the Star Wars movies – it completely blew my mind wide open.

So, any novel including dinosaurs needs big boots to fill the footsteps of JP, and while I don’t think anything like JP will happen again (even the sequel, The Lost World, was brilliant, but couldn’t really match up, in my opinion), I do expect writers to know their stuff and to be respectful (or at least cognizant) of dinosaurs and the vast body of knowledge which is constantly being added to.

Dinosaur Valley isn’t JP, but also doesn’t pretend to be, and that’s one of the reasons this novel was so cool. πŸ™‚

It is, above all, an adventure tale, but what it also does is play with certain tropes and upend or change those tropes in entertaining ways. For example, there’s no damsels in distress – there is a gentleman in distress; and though the book is set in what could be considered theΒ Wild West, there’s none of the stereotypical tobacco-spitting, word-drawling, answers-everything-with-a-quickdraw-standoff Cowboy / Sheriff / Desperado amalgamation (even though there is such a character; just not stereotypically so).

Being an adventure tale, it’s fast-paced and fun, with excellent and thrilling set pieces (from characters being stalked and chased by various dinosaurs, to gun fights), peopled with memorable characters keeping the interesting plot ticking along, and if you like a strong, independent female lead, who doesn’t wait for a man to save her, then you’re going to love Anna Rutherford. πŸ™‚

This book launches the series, The Archaeologists, and I’m definitely looking forward to the next book!

9/10

You can order your copies on Amazon, and check out Severed Press’ site for more cool titles.

Until next time,

Be EPIC!