Broken Souls


You may recall that I discovered the Eric Carter sequence in a Daw Books Facebook post last fall. Somehow, up until that point I had never heard of Stephen Blackmoore. Long story short, the kind folks at Daw hooked me up with a copy of Dead Things and I immediately knew that I'd be reading the rest of the series.

If you're like me, with any new urban fantasy series featuring a male lead, I'm always worried that it will end up being a Dresden clone. So I'm pleased to report that three books into this series, although there are similarities between Butcher's Dresden Files and this one, such as a powerful mostly self-taught young magic-user with ex-girlfriend issues, with few friends and plenty of enemies, and with untapped power levels that he is unaware of, who has come to the attention of higher beings who may seek to recruit or kill him, Eric Carter is no Harry Dresden. Like its predecessor, Broken Souls may read like the episodic early Dresden Files installments, yet Blackmoore's novels continue to read more like paranormal and gritty noir murder mystery works than anything else. Again, expect more blood and gore and a somewhat engaging protagonist, but not as endearing as Harry Dresden. Not yet at least. Eric Carter is slowly growing on the audience, but he remains a good-hearthed asshole with a knack for turning every bad situation into a worse one.

Here's the blurb:

Stephen Blackmoore’s dark urban fantasy series follows necromancer Eric Carter through a world of vengeful gods and goddesses, mysterious murders, and restless ghosts.

Sister murdered, best friend dead, married to the patron saint of death, Santa Muerte. Necromancer Eric Carter’s return to Los Angeles hasn’t gone well, and it’s about to get even worse.

His link to the Aztec death goddess is changing his powers, changing him, and he’s not sure how far it will go. He’s starting to question his own sanity, wonder if he’s losing his mind. No mean feat for a guy who talks to the dead on a regular basis.

While searching for a way to break Santa Muerte’s hold over him, Carter finds himself the target of a psychopath who can steal anyone’s form, powers, and memories. Identity theft is one thing, but this guy does it by killing his victims and wearing their skins like a suit. He can be anyone. He can be anywhere.

Now Carter has to change the game — go from hunted to hunter. All he has for help is a Skid Row bruja and a ghost who’s either his dead friend Alex or the manifestation of Carter’s own guilt-fueled psychotic break.

Everything is trying to kill him. Nothing is as it seems. If all his plans go perfectly, he might survive the week.

He’s hoping that’s a good thing.


As mentioned in my previous review, what I probably hate the most about urban fantasy works is that the market demands that they be short and relatively fast-paced reads. Which means that the first few volumes of any series in this subgenre are always stingy on the worldbuilding front. That facet is usually built upon with each subsequent novel, sometimes reaching amazing and unanticipated heights. It's too early to tell whether or not this aspect of the Eric Carter series will echo with the sort of depth that has come to characterize urban fantasy series by authors such as Jim Butcher and Simon R. Green, but it looks good thus far. In Dead Things, Blackmoore did a good job explaining how necromancy works and how Carter can use his powers. The same could be said for his surprisingly powerful magical toys. Trouble is, and that was to be expected, very little was said about how the magical world at large and the theology underpinning it actually work. Making the death goddess Santa Muerte, patron saint of the Narcos, part of the story would likely have important repercussions down the line. The author is more generous with his revelations this time around and it's obvious that having Mayan and Mexican cultural influences add new dimensions to the series mythology and might give the Eric Carter books a somewhat unique flavor if Blackmoore keeps at it. Time will tell.

As I said before, as a do-gooder at heart but with a knack to see most of what he touches turn to shit, Eric Carter is an easy protagonist to root for. Once again, he's a foul-mouthed smartass who gets beaten to a pulp way too many times in the span of such a short novel, but there is still something about him that makes you care for the poor fool. In my review of Dead Things, I envisioned him as Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad, but imagine Jesse as a badass necromancer. Given its pace, the first volume didn't allow for much character development and Carter was an idiot for the most part because he's trying to protect those he loves without realizing that he's alienating them in the process. He has been running from his past for a long time and now it's catching up to him. The ending of the first installment forced Carter to lay low for a while, but now new problems find a way to put him and those he loves in the line of fire. Finding himself in the middle of marital problems between two deities just might be the death of him. On the characterization front, Gabriella makes a nice addition to the supporting cast, and fleshing out Tabitha was also an improvement.

Once more in Broken Souls, Blackmoore captures the LA noir setting quite well and he keeps the tale moving at a good clip. So much so that you reach the end in no time. This is a problem endemic to most urban fantasy series, so it's not the author's fault. But as I'm about to finish reading the third volume, Hungry Ghosts, I can't help but feel that these two works could have been a single novel and would have been better for that. Indeed, I'm fortunate enough to be able to jump into the next one as soon as I finish the other. But would I manage to maintain the same level of interest had I been forced to wait a year or two between books given how quickly I go through them? Hard to say.

If you are looking for a gritty urban fantasy series featuring a deeply flawed male lead, the Eric Carter books are for you. There is definitely potential for bigger and better things to come, and it looks as though Stephen Blackmoore has a few tricks up his sleeve. Almost three novels into this sequence and I'm enjoying it more than I thought I would. It remains to be seen whether or not Stephen Blackmoore can up his game and elevate this series to another level, but so far it's been an entertaining read. Urban fantasy fans should definitely give these books a shot.

The final verdict: 7.5/10

For more info about this title, follow this Amazon Associate link.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!



You can download Deborah Harkness' A Discovery of Witches for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. This OneLink will take you to the nearest Amazon site serving your country and you'll see if you can take advantage of this sale.

Here's the blurb:

Deep in the stacks of Oxford's Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.

Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense. Diana is a bold heroine who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos. This smart, sophisticated story harks back to the novels of Anne Rice, but it is as contemporary and sensual as the Twilight series-with an extra serving of historical realism
.

War


Oh boy, where do I begin?

I was concerned about how well Firstborn would stand on its own, given that it was essentially the first half of War, which grew too big to be published as a single book. Hence, I was hoping that Firstborn would be akin to The Riven Shield and thus a worthy addition to the series. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be. Although the seventh installment featured some of the best stuff in the House War sequence, it was also plagued by some of the worse cases of West totally losing herself into pointless extraneous plotlines. Considering how bad Michelle West has been in that regard in her previous works, that was really saying something.

Still, given how she knocked it out of the park with The Sun Sword, I had hopes that she could do it again with War. With all the storylines that have been building up over the course of both The Sun Sword and The House War series, all the ingredients needed for a rousing finale were there.

Alas, this turned out to be West's most underwhelming novel by far.

Here's the blurb:

The eighth and final book in the epic fantasy House War series closes this chapter in a beloved world of magic and political intrigue, where new threats are stirring.

When the Sleepers wake.

Once, that phrase meant: never. The Sleepers were a myth, part of a story told to children. But in truth, the Sleepers, ancient princes in the court of the Winter Queen, were imprisoned in slumber by the gods themselves—in the cold, dark ruins of the ancient city that lies buried beneath the capital of the Empire. And that prison is fraying, at last.

They are waking.

The gods no longer walk the world. There is no power that can stand against the princes when they wake—and the city that has been Jewel’s home for her entire life will be destroyed when the Sleepers walk. There is only one person to whom they owe allegiance, only one chance to halt them before they destroy everything in their ancient rage.

But that person is the Winter Queen; she is not, and has never been mortal. Jewel carries the last of the surviving saplings that might usher in a new Summer age—but all of the roads that lead to the court of the Queen are closed.

Jewel ATerafin has faced the Oracle’s test. She has control of the prophetic powers that she once considered a curse and a burden. She will find her way to the Winter Queen, and she will ask—or beg—the Winter Queen to intervene to save her kind, her House, and everything she loves.

But she is mortal, and time has never been her friend. The demons are waiting to bar her way, bringing battle to the hidden ancient paths on which she must travel. To win, she must face the true meaning of the Oracle’s test, and risk sanity and life to make the choice that has always lurked at the heart of the firstborn’s test.

And even then, it might be too late.


Not surprisingly at this point, the worldbuilding remains the most amazing facet of these books. As far as I'm concerned, it's also the only thing that's been holding the House War's story arcs together for quite some time now. It's obvious that there is a depth to Michelle West's universe that rivals those of Tolkien, Erikson, and Bakker, and it's a depth that keeps growing with each new installment. Which is quite a feat, in my opinion. Oracle raised the bar in a way we hadn't seen since Sea of Sorrows and both Firstborn and War unveiled new secrets about the firstborn, the Ariani, the Sleepers, the gods and goddesses, the cats, Meralonne, the Oracle, the Winter Court, the Sen, the Cities of Man, etc. All of which added yet more layers to what is already one of the most convoluted fantasy series of all time. Problem is, worldbuilding is only the backdrop of the tale. No matter how detailed and complex that aspect turns out to be, it's all a matter of execution on the part of the author that will allow it to shine or not. And in War, sadly, West fails on basically every level to make the most important scenes/sequences come together the way they deserved. Some of them have been building up since the early volumes of The Sun Sword. And yet, for some unfathomable reasons, their resolution/conclusion almost occur in the background, while the perspectives are focused on low key and unimportant characters as the promised Apocalypse is taking place.

Once again, the characterization is severely lacking. To be honest, with a few rare exceptions, it was terrible. As mentioned, as captivating as some worldbuilding elements are, the poor characterization that leads to bad execution often undermines what should have been key and emotionally charged moments in this grand saga. I mean, it's the end of the world. The Sleepers have awakened. They're laying waste to the capital. Do we have to read about Teller trying to rescue his cat before the mansion is destroyed? Do we have have to read page after page about innocent refugees seeking shelter? Do we need to read so many pages focusing on the evacuation of House Terafin and its staff and servants? As stated in my past reviews, I believe that your mileage may vary depending on how much you are invested in Jewel and her den. What continues to hurt the characterization aspect to such a degree, perhaps because both Firstborn and War were supposed to be one work, is the fact that every single den member suffers from bouts of nostalgia throughout the book. They all reminisce about Duster and the others, for some reason, and these inner monologues go on for page after page after page, killing the momentum of every scene in which they are involved. Over the course of more than 600 pages, they continue to regurgitate their feelings about Duster's sacrifice and the death of the others, which are things we've known since the Sun Sword series. Why Michelle West felt it was important to go through all this again as we approach the end of the House War sequence, after doing it throughout Firstborn and, if we're honest, big chunks of every other Essalieyan book, I'll never know. Holy Hell, it's the Apocalypse and the Sleepers just might destroy everything that everyone holds dear, and we're still talking about Duster? Why? This is the grand finale, when the proverbial shit has hit the fan, and we're still going on about the den's past over and over again. We've known about these things since early on, so why go through it all again ad nauseam? War makes Brandon Sanderson's tackling Robert Jordan's Last Battle feel concise. Okay, maybe not, but you get my drift. Why did Michelle West elect to focus on the den and the "little people" of the realm when all hell breaks loose, I can't begin to understand. I know she wanted the den to come full circle, but to say that it was overdone would be the understatement of the decade. Such focus removed most of the gravitas from scenes that have been foreshadowed for years and years, scenes such as the resolution of the Winter Queen's plotline, and prevented such important moments from helping close this series with an exclamation point.

The pace is better this time around. Given that it's the endgame, it had to be. And yet, at times it feels as though the rhythm is atrocious because you're reading yet another boring chapter about Teller and Finch organizing the House's evacuation instead of reading about the Sleepers and what is more important in the greater scheme of things. For every interesting and exciting sequences, and there are more than a few, West then drags you through yet more tedious and repetitive House business or one of the den's interminable inner monologues.

In my last review, I was wonderering why so much focus was put on seemingly irrelevant scenes and plotlines when the end of it all was so near. The same can be said of War and that totally killed the novel for me. This book just might be the most lackluster fantasy finale I've ever read. How something with so much promise could end up in such an uninspired fashion, I'll never know. War turned out to be so underwhelming, I'm not even going to read the first 3 volumes for a long time. I simply can't deal with more Jewel and her den for now. The Sacred Hunt will be next. Which is sad, for The Sun Sword was so great. The House War, though it has its brilliant moments, is a pale shadow of its predecessor.

The final verdict: 6/10

For more info about this title, follow this Amazon Associate link.

Quote of the Day

At their core, mages are just academics who found something practical to do with a philosophy degree.

- STEPHEN BLACKMOORE, Hungry Ghosts

For more info about this title, follow this Amazon Associate link.

I've been enjoying this series more than I thought I would so far. Quite refreshing.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (January 28th)

In hardcover:

Rebecca Yarros' Fourth Wing maintains its position at number 1.

Rebecca Yarros' Iron Flame maintains its position at number 2.

Aurora Ascher's Sanctuary of the Shadow debuts at number 3.

Olivie Blake's The Atlas Complex debuts at number 9.

In paperback:

Sarah J. Maas' A Court of Silver Flames is up four spots, finishing the week at number 9.

Sarah J. Maas' House of Earth and Blood is up one spot, finishing the week at number 10.

Sarah J. Maas' House of Sky and Breath returns at number 13.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Katherine Kurtz's Camber of Culdi for only 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. This OneLink will take you to the nearest Amazon site serving your country and you'll see if you can take advantage of this sale.

Even better, nearly all the Deryni installments are on sale for 1.99$ or 2.99$! So you might want to add them to your digital library!

Here's the blurb:

Magic and mysticism come alive in this magnificent historical fantasy from the New York Times–bestselling author of the Chronicles of the Deryni.

Long before Camber was revered as a saint, he was a Deryni noble, one of the most respected of the magical race whose arcane skills set them apart from ordinary humans in the medieval kingdom of Gwynedd.

For nearly a century, Camber’s family has had little choice but to loyally serve the ruling Festils, Deryni usurpers who employed dark magic to wrest the throne from the rightful Haldane liege.

Now, the land suffers under the tyranny of King Imre, whose savage oppression of the human population weighs heavily on Camber’s heart—a heart that is shattered when the despot and his evil mistress-sister, Ariella, cause the death of Camber’s beloved son.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download C.J. Cherryh's Hammerfall for only 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. This OneLink will take you to the nearest Amazon site serving your country and you'll see if you can take advantage of this sale.

Here's the blurb:

One of the most renowned figures in science fiction, C.J. Cherryh has been enthralling audiences for nearly thirty years with rich and complex novels. Now at the peak of her career, this three-time Hugo Award winner launches her most ambitious work in decades, Hammerfall, part of a far-ranging series, The Gene Wars, set in an entirely new universe scarred by the most vicious of future weaponry, nanotechnology. In this brilliant novel -- possibly Cherryh's masterwork -- the fate of billions has come down to a confrontation between two profoundly alien cultures on a single desert planet.

"The mad shall be searched out and given to the Ila's messengers. No man shall conceal madness in his wife, or his son, or his daughter, or his father. Every one must be delivered up." -- The Book of the Ila's Au'it

Marak has suffered the madness his entire life. He is a prince and warrior, strong and shrewd and expert in the ways of the desert covering his planet. In the service of his father, he has dedicated his life to overthrowing the Ila, the mysterious eternal dictator of his world. For years he has successfully hidden the visions that plague him -- voices pulling him eastward, calling Marak, Marak, Marak, amid mind-twisting visions of a silver tower. But when his secret is discovered, Marak is betrayed by his own father and forced to march in an endless caravan with the rest of his world's madmen to the Ila's city of Oburan.

Instead of death, Marak finds in Oburan his destiny, and the promise of life -- if he can survive what is surely a suicidal mission. The Ila wants him to discover the source of the voices and visions that afflict the mad. Despite the danger sof the hostile desert, tensions within the caravan, and his own excruciating doubts, Marak miraculously reaches his goal -- only to be given another, even more impossible mission by the strange people in the towers.

According to these beings who look like him yet act differently than anyone he has ever known, Marak has a slim chance to save his world's people from the wrath of Ila's enemies. But to do so, he must convince them all -- warring tribes, villagers, priests, young and old, as well as the Ila herself -- to follow him on an epic trek across the burning desert before the hammer of the Ila's foes falls from the heavens above.

Written with deceptive simplicity and lyricism, this riveting, fast-paced epic of war, love, and survival in a brave new world marks a major achievement from the masterful C.J. Cherryh.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Melanie Rawn's The Ruins of Ambrai for only 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. This OneLink will take you to the nearest Amazon site serving your country and you'll see if you can take advantage of this sale.

Here's the blurb:

A thousand years ago, Mageborns fled prejudice and persecution to colonize the planet Lenfell—pristine, untouched, a perfect refuge for those whose powers were perceived as a threat by people not gifted with magic. But the greater the magic, the greater the peril—and Lenfell was soon devastated by a war between rival Mageborn factions that polluted land, sea, and air with Wild Magic and unleashed the hideous specters known as Wraithenbeasts.

Generations after that terrible war, with the land recovered from crippling wounds and the people no longer threatened by genetic damage, Mageborns still practice their craft—but under strict constraints. Yet so long as the rivalry between the Mage Guardians and the Lords of Malerris continues, the threat of another war is ever-present. And someone has been planning just such a war for many long years, the final strike in a generations-old bid for total power…

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (January 21st)

In hardcover:

Rebecca Yarros' Fourth Wing maintains its position at number 1.

Rebecca Yarros' Iron Flame maintains its position at number 2.

Stephen King's Holly is down seven positions, ending the week at number 15.

In paperback:

Sarah J. Maas' House of Earth and Blood is up two spots, finishing the week at number 11.

Sarah J. Maas' A Court of Silver Flames is up two spots, finishing the week at number 13.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now get your hands on the digital edition of K. J. Parker's The Company for only 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. This OneLink will take you to the nearest Amazon site serving your country and you'll see if you can take advantage of this sale.

Here's the blurb:

Hoping for a better life, five war veterans colonize an abandoned island. They take with them everything they could possibly need -- food, clothes, tools, weapons, even wives.

But an unanticipated discovery shatters their dream and replaces it with a very different one. The colonists feel sure that their friendship will keep them together. Only then do they begin to realize that they've brought with them rather more than they bargained for.

For one of them, it seems, has been hiding a terrible secret from the rest of the company. And when the truth begins to emerge, it soon becomes clear that the war is far from over.

With masterful storytelling, irresistible wit, and extraordinary insight into human nature, K.J. Parker is widely acknowledged as one of the most original and exciting fantasy writers of modern times. The Company, K.J. Parker's first stand-alone novel, is a tour de force from an author who is changing the face of the fantasy genre.


More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now get your hands on the digital edition of RJ Barker's The Bone Ships for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. This OneLink will take you to the nearest Amazon site serving your country and you'll see if you can take advantage of this sale.

Here's the blurb:

A brilliantly imagined saga of honor, glory, and warfare, The Bone Ships is the epic launch of a new series from British Fantasy Award winner, RJ Barker.

Two nations at war. One prize beyond compare.

For generations, the Hundred Isles have built their ships from the bones of ancient dragons to fight an endless war. The dragons disappeared, but the battles for supremacy persisted.

Now, the first dragon in centuries has been spotted in far-off waters, and both sides see a chance to shift the balance of power in their favor. Because whoever catches it will win not only glory but the war.


The Blueprint


My curiosity was piqued when I received the press release for this novel. However, I'm always afraid that such books will turn out to be anti-Trump/anti-GOP manifestos. Some people might be willing to dismiss such works out of hand, claiming that things could never get that bad. And yet, given the recent attack on the Capitol, the Black Lives Matter movement, the various acts of right-wing fucktardness across the country, and the anti-abortion movement in this post-Roe era, it's not difficult to believe that the USA depicted in so many dystopian tales could become a disturbing possibility.

Hence, it's with an open mind that one must tackle a book like Rae Gianna Rashad's The Blueprint. It's a beautifully written debut with many poignant scenes. The narrative sucks you into this story from the very first chapter and never lets go. Indeed, I brought this novel with me on vacation and went through it in only three sittings. Trouble is, the only way to enjoy this one is to take everything at face value. Truth suffers from too much analysis, or so the saying goes, and Rashad's plot totally unravels as soon as you begin to question any aspect of the worldbuilding and the storylines. As soon as you start to ask why this, why that, very little about this story makes sense.

Which is quite disappointing, for it feels as though the author didn't even try to make the worldbuilding ring true. The cover blurb and the press release both mention that The Blueprint is a novel akin to similar works written by Margaret Atwood and Octavia E. Butler. I beg to differ. In essence, perhaps, but Rashad's debut lacks the sort of depth and the scope of vision that characterize both aforementioned writers' books. Hard to put this novel in such lofty company when it doesn't really have a leg to stand on.

Here's the blurb:

In the vein of Octavia E. Butler and Margaret Atwood, a harrowing novel set in an alternate United States—a world of injustice and bondage in which a young Black woman becomes the concubine of a powerful white government official and must face the dangerous consequences.

Solenne Bonet lives in Texas where choice no longer exists. An algorithm determines a Black woman’s occupation, spouse, and residence. Solenne finds solace in penning the biography of Henriette, an ancestor who’d been an enslaved concubine to a wealthy planter in 1800s Louisiana. But history repeats itself when Solenne, lonely and naïve, finds herself entangled with Bastien Martin, a high-ranking government official. Solenne finds the psychological bond unbearable, so she considers alternatives. With Henriette as her guide, she must decide whether and how to leave behind all she knows.

Inspired by the lives of enslaved concubines to U.S. politicians and planters, The Blueprint unfolds over dual timelines to explore bodily autonomy, hypocrisy, and power imbalances through the lens of the nation’s most unprotected: a Black girl.


The worldbuilding, or lack thereof, is what ultimately sinks this book. At face value, the premise appears to be quite fascinating. As I said, perusing the press release immediately made me want to read The Blueprint. But faced with this new world order, as soon as you begin to question any facet of the plot, everything goes down the crapper. Early on, the Order seems to be comprised of the Bible Belt states and it does make sense. There is talk of a second Civil War, but we never truly discover what took place and why. Then we learn that the Order spans the entire USA, which makes you wonder how the more liberal states in the country ended up joining a far-right military government. What is this Code that replaced the US Constitution? Why would Black girls that are descendants of slavery would now become chattel? Why are young Black girls assigned to a white man to correct her behavior and then send her back to marry a Black army officier and have babies to become soldiers to send to protect their borders and fight wars in Yemen and elsewhere? Why would white men want such concubines? Back in the 1800s, officials and rich planters took advantage of their slaves. But in the 21st century, why would men who can get whatever they desire want such temporary courtesans? Why is Louisiana the only place where such girls can escape and achieve emancipation? What about the 49 other state? What about Canada and other Western countries? Speaking of the Order, on what principles was it founded? The bulk of the action takes place in Texas, yet there is no mention of religion anywhere in this book. In the heart of the Bible Belt, where every unthinkable act is seemingly always justified by faith, how can one explain the total absence of religion in The Blueprint? Why is the Order fighting all these wars in foreign lands? Why? Why? Why? The novel's entire backdrop breaks down as soon as you start asking such questions.

The blurb mentions that The Blueprint unfolds over dual timelines, yet there are actually three of them. The first one focuses on Henriette, the main protagonist's ancestor. The bulk of the story is told through Solenne Bonet's perspective, which is split into her past and present so that we can learn more about her upbringing and how she ended up as a concubine to a high-ranking member of the Order. Personally, I would have liked to get more chapters elaborating on Henriette's life. They are few and far between, and you wonder why they're even part of the tale until the very end. Though I enjoyed Solenne's POV, several sequences felt redundant, which is why I would have preferred to see Henriette more often, if only to provide a better balance between the timelines.

Given its size, what with the novel weighing in at less than 300 pages, there are no pacing issues. True, some of Solenne's scenes could maybe have been truncated or removed completely, especially around the middle when she's considering running away but always finding reasons not to. But other than that, the plot moves at a good clip throughout.

Rae Gianna Rashad's beautiful prose is a delight to read. Though the worldbuilding makes little sense, her narrative is thought-provoking as she explores themes such as freedom, self-worth, sense of self, racism, and sexism through the eyes of Solenne. Had the author worked a little harder to make the backdrop of her debut more believable, I feel that The Blueprint would have been one of the best genre fiction titles of 2024. As things stand, unless you can overlook its major flaws, it can't be anything but a disappointment.

I quickly realized that I needed to stop asking questions if I wanted to enjoy this book. Which I did and in the end I did enjoy it. Still, there's no denying that The Blueprint could have been a much better book. Your mileage will vary. . .

The final verdict: 7/10

For more info about this title, follow this Amazon Associate link.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now get your hands on N.K. Jemisin's The Fifth Season, Hugo award winner, for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. This OneLink will take you to the nearest Amazon site serving your country and you'll see if you can take advantage of this sale.

Here's the blurb:

THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS... FOR THE LAST TIME.

A season of endings has begun.

It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world's sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun.

It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter.

It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester.

This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy.


You can also download Grady Hendrix's The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Patricia Campbell’s life has never felt smaller. Her husband is a workaholic, her teenage kids have their own lives, her senile mother-in-law needs constant care, and she’s always a step behind on her endless to-do list. The only thing keeping her sane is her book club, a close-knit group of Charleston women united by their love of true crime. At these meetings they’re as likely to talk about the Manson family as they are about their own families.

One evening after book club, Patricia is viciously attacked by an elderly neighbor, bringing the neighbor's handsome nephew, James Harris, into her life. James is well traveled and well read, and he makes Patricia feel things she hasn’t felt in years. But when children on the other side of town go missing, their deaths written off by local police, Patricia has reason to believe James Harris is more of a Bundy than a Brad Pitt. The real problem? James is a monster of a different kind—and Patricia has already invited him in.

Little by little, James will insinuate himself into Patricia’s life and try to take everything she took for granted—including the book club—but she won’t surrender without a fight in this blood-soaked tale of neighborly kindness gone wrong.


This week's New York Times Bestsellers (January 14th)

In hardcover:

Rebecca Yarros' Fourth Wing maintains its position at number 1.

Rebecca Yarros' Iron Flame is up one position, ending the week at number 2.

Stephen King's Holly is down two positions, ending the week at number 8.

In paperback:

Sarah J. Maas' House of Earth and Blood is up six spots, finishing the week at number 9.

Sarah J. Maas' House of Sky and Breath returns at number 11.

Sarah J. Maas' A Court of Silver Flames returns at number 15.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Brian McClellan's Promise of Blood for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. This OneLink will take you to the nearest Amazon site serving your country and you'll see if you can take advantage of this sale.

Here's the blurb:

The Age of Kings is dead . . . and I have killed it.

It's a bloody business overthrowing a king...
Field Marshal Tamas' coup against his king sent corrupt aristocrats to the guillotine and brought bread to the starving. But it also provoked war with the Nine Nations, internal attacks by royalist fanatics, and the greedy to scramble for money and power by Tamas's supposed allies: the Church, workers unions, and mercenary forces.

It's up to a few...
Stretched to his limit, Tamas is relying heavily on his few remaining powder mages, including the embittered Taniel, a brilliant marksman who also happens to be his estranged son, and Adamat, a retired police inspector whose loyalty is being tested by blackmail.

But when gods are involved...
Now, as attacks batter them from within and without, the credulous are whispering about omens of death and destruction. Just old peasant legends about the gods waking to walk the earth. No modern educated man believes that sort of thing. But they should...

In a rich, distinctive world that mixes magic with technology, who could stand against mages that control gunpowder and bullets? PROMISE OF BLOOD is the start of a new epic fantasy series from Brian McClellan.

Winner of the David Gemmell Morningstar Award for Best Debut Fantasy.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download John Gwynne's A Time of Dread for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. This OneLink will take you to the nearest Amazon site serving your country and you'll see if you can take advantage of this sale.

Here's the blurb:

A race of warrior angels, the Ben-Elim, once vanquished a mighty demon horde. Now they rule the Banished lands, but their peace is brutally enforced.

In the south, hotheaded Riv is desperate to join the Ben-Elim's peacekeeping force, until she unearths a deadly secret.

In the west, the giantess Sig investigates demon sightings and discovers signs of an uprising and black magic.

And in the snowbound north, Drem, a trapper, finds mutilated corpses in the forests. The work of a predator, or something far darker?

It's a time of shifting loyalties and world-changing dangers. Difficult choices need to be made. Because in the shadows, demons are gathering, waiting for their time to rise...

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Richard Swan's The Tyranny of Faith for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. This OneLink will take you to the nearest Amazon site serving your country and you'll see if you can take advantage of this sale.

Here's the blurb:

Action, intrigue, and magic collide in the second book in an epic fantasy trilogy, where Sir Konrad Vonvalt’s role as an Emperor’s Justice requires him to be a detective, judge, and executioner all in one—but these are dangerous times to be a Justice . . .

A Justice’s work is never done.

The Battle of Galen’s Vale is over, but the war for the Empire’s future has just begun. Concerned by rumors that the Magistratum’s authority is waning, Sir Konrad Vonvalt returns to Sova to find the capital city gripped by intrigue and whispers of rebellion. In the Senate, patricians speak openly against the Emperor, while fanatics preach holy vengeance on the streets.

Yet facing down these threats to the throne will have to wait, for the Emperor’s grandson has been kidnapped - and Vonvalt is charged with rescuing the missing prince. His quest will lead him – and his allies Helena, Bressinger and Sir Radomir – to the southern frontier, where they will once again face the puritanical fury of Bartholomew Claver and his templar knights – and a dark power far more terrifying than they could have imagined.


This week's New York Times Bestsellers (January 7th)

In hardcover:

Rebecca Yarros' Fourth Wing maintains its position at number 1.

Rebecca Yarros' Iron Flame maintains its position at number 3.

Stephen King's Holly is up one position, ending the week at number 6.

In paperback:

Sarah J. Maas' House of Earth and Blood returns at number 15.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Nnedi Okorafor's Shadow Speaker for only 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. This OneLink will take you to the nearest Amazon site serving your country and you'll see if you can take advantage of this sale.

Here's the blurb:

Deluxe, expanded edition of an out-of-print early novel from Africanfuturist luminary Nnedi Okorafor, with a brand-new introduction from the author.

Niger, West Africa, 2074

It is an era of tainted technology and mysterious mysticism. A great change has happened all over the planet, and the laws of physics aren’t what they used to be.

Within all this, I introduce you to Ejii Ugabe, a child of the worst type of politician. Back when she was nine years old, she was there as her father met his end. Don’t waste your tears on him: this girl’s father would throw anyone under a bus to gain power. He was a cruel, cruel man, but even so, Ejii did not rejoice at his departure from the world. Children are still learning that some people don’t deserve their love.

Now 15 years old and manifesting the abilities given to her by the strange Earth, Ejii decides to go after the killer of her father. Is it for revenge or something else? You will have to find out by reading this book.

I am the Desert Magician, and this is a novel I have conjured for you, so I’m certainly not going to just tell you here.


This week's New York Times Bestsellers (December 31st)

In hardcover:

Rebecca Yarros' Fourth Wing maintains its position at number 1.

Rebecca Yarros' Iron Flame is down one position, ending the week at number 3.

Stephen King's Holly maintains its position at number 7.