Tag Archives: epic fantasy

Vorodin’s Lair (Book Two of the Warminster Series) by J.V. Hilliard Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

An elven princess and a young keeper of the citadel blessed (or cursed) by visions must seek out an ageless sorcerer and escape a fallen keeper bent on revenge as the realm of Warminster teeters on the brink of war in author J.V. Hilliard’s “Vorodin’s Lair”, the second book in the “Warminster Series”.

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The Synopsis

Ominous Omens

Daemus, a low Keeper of the Cathedral of the Watchful Eye, isn’t the only one having visions. His nightmares speak of the ageless sorcerer, Vorodin, who may be able to help. But the answers he seeks may bring him—and the realm—to the brink of war.

Elven princess, Addilyn Elspeth, must discover why she’s receiving visitations from a mysterious creature that shouldn’t exist. She combines forces with Daemus on their harrowing journey to the scholar city of Abacus, where Vorodin’s Lair awaits.

A Plot of Revenge

Their powerful adversary and fallen Keeper, Graytorris the Mad, continues to chase the young Keeper throughout the realm, seeking vengeance against his order while trying to find a cure for his own affliction.

Explore the realm of Warminster, as fantasy and magic mixes with epic adventure and romance. Omens, battles and plot twists await you in the pages of Vorodin’s Lair. 

The Review

This is an epic fantasy just bursting with potential for a live-action adaption. The cinematic imagery layering the writing of this incredible author’s work and the grand atmosphere that brings balance to this narrative felt alive on the page. The balance of magic and sorcery with the iconic epic journey and romance that defines great fantasy series was great to see here, and added depth to the growing mystery surrounding the ageless sorcerer himself.

Yet as with the first book, the emphasis on character development and world-building was the true heart and soul of this narrative. The dynamic that grows between Daemus and Addilyn was fantastic to see here, as was the growing depth to the villainous Graytorris. Combine this with the sheer volume of detail that went into bringing Warminster to life on the page and the mythos surrounding the magic and creatures of this world made this one of the most original fantasy series I’ve read in a long while.

The Verdict

Captivating, magical, and entertaining, author J.V. Hilliard’s “Vorodin’s Lair” is a must-read fantasy novel of 2022 and a great addition to this growing epic saga. The inclusion of Nordic mythos and iconography with this classic sorcery-driven narrative and the engaging story between the two protagonists made me enthralled with this story to the point where I didn’t want to put it down. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Born of steel, fire and black wind, J.V. Hilliard was raised as a highlander in the foothills of a once-great mountain chain on the confluence of the three mighty rivers that forged his realm’s wealth and power for generations.

His father, a peasant twerg, toiled away in industries of honest labor and instilled in him a work ethic that would shape his destiny. His mother, a local healer, cared for his elders and his warrior uncle, who helped to raise him during his formative years. His genius brother, whose wizardly prowess allowed him to master the art of the abacus and his own quill, trained with him for battles on fields of green and sheets of ice.

Hilliard’s earliest education took place in his warrior uncle’s tower, where he learned his first words. HIs uncle helped him to learn the basics of life—and, most importantly, creative writing.

Hilliard’s training and education readied him to lift a quill that would scribe the tale of the realm of Warminster, filled with brave knights, harrowing adventure and legendary struggles. He lives in the city of silver cups, hypocycloids and golden triangles with his wife, a ranger of the diamond. They built their castle not far into the countryside, guarded by his own two horsehounds, Thor and MacLeod, and resides there to this day.

https://www.jvhilliard.com/

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0BDCYMXLY/ref=x_gr_w_glide_sin?caller=Goodreads&callerLink=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.goodreads.com%2Fbook%2Fshow%2F62340190-vorodin-s-lair%3Fac%3D1%26from_search%3Dtrue%26qid%3DyDx4w868v8%26rank%3D1&tag=x_gr_w_glide_sin-20

Dragon Sect: Highcliff Guardians Epic Fantasy Series (Soul Forge Universe Book 2) by Richard H. Stephens Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

As the Queen of the Elves fights to protect her daughter, the growing threat of a powerful and ancient enemy forces a princess to find an ancient dragon in an attempt to thwart a dangerous plot in author Richard H. Stephens’s “Dragon Sect: Highcliff Guardians Epic Fantasy Series”, the latest book in the Soul Forge Universe series.

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The Synopsis 

The Dragon Witch Wraith has returned.

With the Grim Duke in his place, and a tentative pact with the wizard’s guild, the Queen of the Elves’ only real concern is for her rebellious daughter. Or so she is led to believe.

Buoyed by the news of unrest in the land’s largest city of Urdanya, Duke Orlythe’s new wizard attempts to convince him that a path to the coveted Willow Throne lies within reach of someone bold enough to seize the opportunity.

The return of the Dragon Witch Wraith prompts the ailing high wizard to find a way to thwart his arch nemesis before everything South March has fought for is lost.

Oblivious to the dangers of the world, Princess Ouderling sets out on a quest to locate an ancient dragon, in a desperate attempt to save her mother from an inevitable fate.

Should she fail, the Grim Duke will ascend the throne.

The Review

The author did a fantastic job of continuing the amazing world-building that he established in the first book of this epic fantasy series. The almost artistic approach to the writing and imagery the author conjures through this storytelling does a great job of playing to the reader’s imagination. The action felt very balanced with the storytelling itself and made for a well-rounded read.

The thing that really was great to see in this book was the author’s ability to capture the magic and epic fantasy elements of the story, (elves, dwarves, dragons, etc), with the more gritty and heartfelt emotional character development that was found in George R.R. Martin’s “Game of Thrones” series. The mythos and gravitas of the dangers faced in this novel were so captivating because of the creativity of the fantasy genre elements and the emotional pull the characters had on the readers.

The Verdict

Engaging, heart-pounding, and brilliant in its approach, author Richard H. Stephens’s “Dragon Sect: Highcliff Guardians Epic Fantasy Series” is a must-read epic fantasy novel and the perfect next chapter in the Soul Forge Universe series. The entertaining story and mythos of this world and the emotional pull of the characters will have readers invested, as will the shocking final pages that will have readers hanging off of the author’s every word. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Born in Simcoe, Ontario, in 1965, I began writing circa 1974; a bored child looking for something to while away the long, summertime days. My penchant for reading The Hardy Boys led to an inspiration one sweltering summer afternoon when my best friend and I thought, “Hey, we could write one of those.” And so, I did.

As my reading horizons broadened, so did my writing. Star Wars inspired me to write a 600-page novel about outer space that caught the attention of a special teacher, Mr. Woodley, who encouraged me to keep writing.

A trip to a local book store saw the proprietor introduce me to Stephen R. Donaldson and Terry Brooks. My writing life was forever changed.

At 17, I left high school to join the working world to support my first son. For the next twenty-two years I worked as a shipper at a local bakery. At the age of 36, I went back to high school to complete my education. After graduating with honours at the age of thirty-nine, I became a member of our local Police Service, and worked for 12 years in the provincial court system.

In early 2017, I resigned from the Police Service to pursue my love of writing full-time. With the help and support of my lovely wife Caroline and our 5 children, I have now realized my boyhood dream.

https://www.richardhstephens.com/

Dagmar of the Northlands (Gortah van Murkar Book 2) by John C. Adams Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A new heroine arises in the north as the stepdaughter of the Northland’s Jarl is slain, and his killer, her half-brother, takes his place, leading an attack on the kingdom of Gortah while he seeks to rekindle his relationship with his Queen Dextra of Aspatria after a year apart in the epic fantasy, “Dagmar of the Northlands”, the second book in the Gortah van Murkar series from author John C. Adams

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The Synopsis

From Albedo One Magazine Contributing Editor and double Aeon Award Longlister John C Adams comes a delightful fantasy romance featuring brand new heroine Dagmar Strongarm of the Northlands in the thrilling sequel to Aspatria.

Dagmar of the Northlands is edited by professional editor E S Wynn-Rubsam and features a powerfully evocative cover from Fiona Jayde Media.

When her stepfather Konung Thorlak of the Northlands dies, the jarls rally round Dagmar’s half brother Njal and make him their new ruler. Dagmar is disturbed by their ability to do so, when Thorlak fell at Njal’s own hand.

The new konung orders a raid on Gortah van Murkar’s island territory of Orkna to deflect attention from criticism of his rise to power and his treatment of his sister Yeen. Dagmar puts her yearning for romance with close friend Frakkok Warmhearth to one side long enough to join the raiding party, but her sister Ragnhild’s pregnancy from their mysterious house guest Jon, rumoured to be the human form of the Northlands’ Sea God Grunn, is also weighing heavily on her mind. Dagmar’s thoughts often drift back to her homestead, Barnahus, the aptly named House of the Women.

It isn’t long before Njal is proving himself unfit to lead, and the Men of the North are running amok. Dagmar and her cousin Magnus Broadchest step up, leading the raid on the crofters of Orkna to plunder whatever pitiful treasure the islanders have hidden away. They also do their best to rally the Men of the North’s allies to attack the island’s capital, the towering stronghold of Castle Longhope, before Gortah can get wind of their arrival and send reinforcements to hold this distant outpost of his massive empire.

Dagmar longs to return home and begin a relationship with Frakkok and to ensure that Ragnhild comes safely through the birth of her son. First, she must stiffen the resolve of the Men of the North to fight as a disciplined band within the coalition of forces the Gods have amassed to assist the Northlanders in taking Castle Longhope. With Magnus injured in the earlier raid, and his wound festering, returning home to Barnahus seems further away than ever for Dagmar.

Meanwhile, in his opulent capital Zwaarstad, Gortah awaits the return of his wife Queen Dextra of Aspatria and her much younger other husband Lord Ludwig Berg. The king and queen have been apart for a year following the death of Dextra’s baby son, Crown Prince Aelred of Aspatria, but Gortah has formally demanded her attendance at his fiftieth birthday celebrations, amid continuing speculation in Murkar and Aspatria about the stability of the royal marriage.

Just as Gortah hopes to celebrate Dextra’s return in peace, the Eirans gather an immense warhost and ride for the border with South Eira, Gortah’s possession across the Silent Sea. The commander at Fort Belshan sends urgent word that reinforcements are needed, and Gortah’s youngest son Prince Eugene leads those forces into battle. However, Eugene’s thoughts are clouded on and off the battlefield by tempting visions of the King of Eira’s youngest daughter, Princess Emer o’Eira.

Is the delightful and playful spirit who visits Eugene in the night hours at Belshan a true likeness of Emer in beauty and good nature? Eugene becomes more determined than ever to meet the princess in person and find out. But Emer’s father Domhnall o’Eira is determined that any match with the Murkan prince will be with his eldest daughter, Briana, even if it means breaking her betrothal to childhood sweetheart Chieftain Jarlath o’Cruach.

The return of Benedict Dartelend gives Gortah the thrill of seeing his old lover again after thirty years, but it is tinged with sadness and regret that Benedict has come home to Murkar after decades of ill health to say goodbye. 

The Review

Author John C. Adams has outdone themselves with this truly incredible novel. The author managed to capture the magic and intensity of the epic fantasy genre that fans of Game of Thrones have come to know. The narrative felt like equal parts Game of Thrones and equal parts The Last Kingdom, infusing some Viking-esque story elements and settings that made the world the author created in book one so much larger. The balance struck between the fantasy action found in the grand battles and invasions amongst the kingdoms with the conflicts in politics and how each kingdom differs in its practices and means of ruling made this story so engaging.

The character growth was phenomenal to read. The author was able to create equal parts of new characters and heroes to root for such as Dagmar herself with existing characters like Gortah and Dextra. The romance element of the narrative took these characters in so many different directions, from the LGBTQ romance looked at through Dagmar and Frakkak to the existing marriage of Dextra to both Gortah and the younger and more vile Ludwig was so interesting and heartfelt (and heart-wrenching). The twists and turns in these relationships were only elevated by the growing conflicts within their respective kingdoms.

The Verdict

Larger than life, haunting, and truly entertaining, author John C. Adams’s “Dagmar of the Northlands” is a must-read epic fantasy novel! The author’s ability to world-build and craft powerful and meaningful characters that fuel some truly grand storylines is truly staggering to behold, and this is one epic fantasy series that readers do not want to miss out on if they are missing their epic fantasy fix. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

I’m a non-binary proofreader, editor, reviewer and author.

You can find out more about my proofreading and editing services here:

https://www.johncadamsreviews.com/about

I review for the British Fantasy Society as well as placing reviews and articles across a wide range of blogs and magazines.

I have a Postgraduate Certificate in Creative Writing from Newcastle University.

You can subscribe to my blog here: https://www.johncadamsreviews.com/

My horror novel, ‘Souls for the Master’, my fantasy romance novel ‘Aspatria’ and my fantasy and horror anthology ‘The Red Dawn and Other Stories’ are all free on Smashwords retailers. ‘Dagmar of the Northlands’, the sequel to ‘Aspatria’, and ‘Blackacre Rising’, the sequel to ‘Souls for the Master’ are also available from Smashwords retailers.

Although I write mostly long fiction, since 2015 I have had stories published in anthologies from Horrified Press, Lycan Valley Press, Fantasia Divinity and Jersey Pines Ink. My short stories have also been published in the Horror Zine, Swords & Sorcery, Sirens Call, Blood Moon Rising, Lovecraftiana and various other magazines.

Every emerging writer needs plenty of encouragement right at the start, and entering lots of competitions early on made a real difference to my confidence to press on with writing longer fiction and think about submitting short fiction to magazines and anthologies in due course. In 2012, I was longlisted for the International Aeon Award Short Fiction Contest for ‘The Visitors’ and again in 2013 for ‘We Can Finish Your Baby’s Brain For You’. My writing was also recognised by the Enrico Charles Literary Award (runner up in 2012) and by the University of Winchester Writers’ Conference in both 2012 and 2013, including a Commendation in the First Three Pages of a Novel category, and other nominations in poetry and short fiction.

I read PPE at Somerville College, and I am a non-practising solicitor. I live in rural Northumberland, UK, and I combine my career as an reviewer and critic with raising my kids and caring for a severely disabled relative. I’m always busy!

https://www.johncadamsreviews.com/

smashwords.com/books/view/944686

Sword & Sorcery: Frostfire (Sword & Sorcery Book One) by Ethan Avery Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A young warrior growing up on the streets must find a way to save his friend from the jails meant for him, while a young woman studying magic struggles when she has no magic of her own in this fantasy-driven narrative studying class systems and destiny in author Ethan Avery’s “Sword & Sorcery: Frostfire”, the first book in the Sword & Sorcery series. 

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The Synopsis

Who’s right and who’s wrong is all a matter of perspective.

Erevan has a problem. He grew up on the unforgiving streets of Bogudos and has the scars to prove it. His friend, however, is stuck in jail because of his mistake. But when a suspicious courier offers him a chance to fix things, should he lift his sword to aid her cause?

Meanwhile, Aireyal has been accepted into the wealthiest and most prestigious magical school in all the land. There’s just one problem. She can’t do magic. But that’s far from the only secret within the walls of Darr-Kamo. And what she discovers might just change the world.

The Review

First and foremost, I absolutely loved the world building in this novel. The classic fantasy and magical elements that one hopes to find in these epic stories was paired so perfectly with the more in-depth and honest approach to class systems and how everyone brings a different and unique perspective to the same situation. I love the exploration of what “good and evil” truly means, which in epic fantasy stories can often be pretty cut and dry. Yet the author elevated this narrative to new heights, and created the right amount of tension and atmosphere to keep the story flowing smoothly and the action feeling intense while creating thought-provoking conversations on how people approach everyday topics of discussion.

The world-building was equally on par with the author’s amazing character development as well. Having not only multiple POVs but storylines running adjacent to one another helped showcase just how vast the world the author crafted was, and allowed the two main protagonists to shine brightly in their own stories. What was also so unique early on was seeing how each protagonist was like a mirror image of the other, with Erevan being more of an act first, think later kind of warrior, whereas Aireyal was more of the bookworm who would often get lost in her own mind. That allowed their individual metamorphosis throughout their narratives to feel equally powerful and great to read. 

The Verdict

Masterful, gripping, and entertaining, author Ethan Avery’s “Sword & Sorcery: Frostfire” is a must-read epic fantasy novel and the first in a brand new series readers won’t be able to get enough of. One of my top picks so far in 2022 for fantasy reads, the author found a great harmony between the world building without sacrificing character growth, and the ability to craft characters that reflected the dynamic and diverse nature of our own world and create new heroes that readers can become engaged with was just truly amazing to read. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy on April 22nd, 2022, or preorder your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Ethan Avery believes in the power of stories. As a child growing up in Ohio, they gave him a chance to see a bigger world, and to hear what life was like for people that didn’t look like him or believe what he did. And now years later, he hopes to do the same for others. For more information on Sword and Sorcery and what Ethan’s writing next, please visit www.storiesbyethan.com 

Eternity’s Mirror (Eternal Chronicles Book 2) by Zachary Hagen Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

As a great evil looms over the world and is threatening to consume it whole, three young heroes continue their quest to the other side of Eternity’s Mirror to find the answers they seek in author Zachary Hagen’s “Eternity’s Mirror”, the second book in the Eternal Chronicles series.

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The Synopsis

Flip the coin and find a whole new world on the other side.

The Circle is uniting the countries of Lux Terra. Elior, Nyx, and Opal are finding that some things have changed as the result of their adventures with Michael. Yrahkaz has been tasked with squashing the growing obsession with Michael.

When an important clue to finding Eliam and fixing Nyx’s and Opal’s problems is given to them, they recruit the help of a disgraced magi-technician to get to him, but their initial success is more then they bargained for.

The other side of the Mirror of Eternity is filled with wonders and dangers they never imagined. Will they still be able to prevail against an evil that is bent on devouring them whole, or will they fall prey to its cunning pursuit?

Eternity’s Mirror is the thrilling continuation of The Eternal Chronicles picking up where Eternity’s Well left off. 

The Review

The world-building in this novel is simply incredible. While I am new to this series and I would recommend reading the first book in the series to really be able to capture the backstory and history of these characters, the author did an amazing job of building a story that could stand on its own two feet and a mythos that is rich with dynamic history and storytelling. The way the setting allowed readers to be brought into a brand new world while seeing how magic and sword & sorcery style storytelling could reflect in a more modern world was incredible to see and made the journey feel that much more engaging.

The character growth was spectacular here. The way the author was able to introduce a wide array of characters to help flesh out this growing mythos while also giving more depth to the main cast of characters, both the protagonists and antagonists alike, was beautifully done. The heart of the narrative really did a great job of balancing out the larger, fate of the world dangers with the more personal character struggles, like Elior’s journey to finding Elliam. 

The Verdict

Mesmerizing, powerful, and entertaining, author Zachary Hagen’s “Eternity’s Mirror” is a must-read novel of 2022 for any fans of epic fantasy storytelling. The rich history and mythos that the author has crafted for this world and the hero’s journey theme that can be found throughout the narrative made this a truly engaging storyline, and the promise of another thrilling chapter with an open-ended final chapter made this a story that couldn’t be put down. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Zachary Hagen is a North Carolina based fantasy author and teacher. He lives there with his wife, Claudia, and their dog, Flynn. When he isn’t busy writing his next book or teaching, you can often find him walking around his neighbor hood or up hiking in Hanging Rock Park with his wife and their friends.

From a young age he was enthralled with the world of story. From the stories his parents read to him from his blue bedtime story books (if you know, you know) to the first two series that he read, The Chronicles of Narnia and A Series of Unfortunate Events, Zachary’s tastes continued to develop throughout his years of reading.

The influences for his first series, The Eternal Chronicles, include Christopher Paolini, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and others.

https://zacharyhagenwrites.com/

Keeper of the Jewel: Highcliff Guardians Epic Fantasy Series (Soul Forge Universe Book 1) by Richard H. Stephens Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A young heir to the throne is sent away to be protected from a looming threat, but finds sins of the kingdom’s past may find their way back to her in author Richard H. Stephen’s “Keeper of the Jewel: Highcliff Guardians Epic Fantasy Series”, the first book in the Soul Forge Universe series. 

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The Synopsis 

Something evil lurks beneath the palace.

A phantasm from a darker past makes its presence known to Khae Wys, Queen of the Elves.

Braving the perils of a haunted tower, the queen seeks the counsel of the mysterious Fae, for only they can predict what is to come. A future that doesn’t bode well for her only living child.

In a desperate attempt to save the heir to the Willow Throne, Princess Ouderling is exiled to the only place capable of protecting her. Highcliff, the home of the coveted Crystal Cavern and the dragons that watch over it.

The Duke of Grim, however, has other plans for the princess.

The Review

I absolutely loved this book! The world-building was phenomenal, and the imagery the author infused into the narrative, (both literarily speaking and literally) was superb to see. The use of artwork throughout the book was an inspired choice, as the author was able to give readers a visual representation of the tone and quality of the characters that strengthened the emotional connection readers had for them.

I loved how complex and realistic the relationships and personalities of these fantasy characters felt. While I absolutely love fantasy-driven narratives, some novels can get so heavy with the fantasy elements that character choices and personalities can feel stuffy or disconnected in some way. Yet this author found a great way of making the characters either relatable or realistic enough for readers to recognize. Even protagonist Princess Ouderling perfectly represents the young woman who must undergo a heroic journey and face the past of her kingdom, but also holds that youthful sense of rebellion and need for an identity all her own, which will resonate greatly with younger readers especially.

The Verdict

A brilliant, entertaining, and amazingly haunting world of epic fantasy that readers won’t want to miss, author Richard H. Stevens’s “Keeper of the Jewel” is a must-read novel and the perfect start to a brand new fantasy series. What really was great to see was that this book was the first of a new series, but was set within an even greater series the author already has written. Yet the story felt fresh and was able to be enjoyed seamlessly by newcomers while still hitting great story strides with established lands and characters at the same time. It made for such a rich and powerful read. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Born in Simcoe, Ontario, in 1965, I began writing circa 1974; a bored child looking for something to while away the long, summertime days. My penchant for reading The Hardy Boys led to an inspiration one sweltering summer afternoon when my best friend and I thought, “Hey, we could write one of those.” And so, I did.

As my reading horizons broadened, so did my writing. Star Wars inspired me to write a 600-page novel about outer space that caught the attention of a special teacher, Mr. Woodley, who encouraged me to keep writing.

A trip to a local book store saw the proprietor introduce me to Stephen R. Donaldson and Terry Brooks. My writing life was forever changed.

At 17, I left high school to join the working world to support my first son. For the next twenty-two years I worked as a shipper at a local bakery. At the age of 36, I went back to high school to complete my education. After graduating with honours at the age of thirty-nine, I became a member of our local Police Service, and worked for 12 years in the provincial court system.

In early 2017, I resigned from the Police Service to pursue my love of writing full-time. With the help and support of my lovely wife Caroline and our 5 children, I have now realized my boyhood dream.

https://www.richardhstephens.com/

Shadowbane: Age of Aelfborn by Paul Francois Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A young man who witnesses great tragedy must go on an epic quest to save his sister and fulfill his destiny in author Paul Francois’s “Shadowbane: Age of Aelfborn”. 

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The Synopsis

During a time of strife, Megildur must traverse Aerynth to rescue his sister and fulfill a destiny ordained by the All-Father. Finding Shadowbane, the mighty but cursed sword, will be challenging enough for this young Aelfborn. In a world torn apart by treachery and conflict, it is every being, or creature, for themselves.

This novel combines qualities from Lord of the Rings© and Greek mythology, with a few twists on some new races…such as Irekei, Aracoix, and of course, Aelfborn. This is the first novel to reveal the lore behind the epic player versus player game, Shadowbane.

Aerynth exists within a shroud of betrayal and deceit for over 100 years. In this realm of chaos, Megildur finds help from an unlikely pair…a sneaky Shade and a nomadic Nephilim. Can this unique trio bring peace and order to Aerynth, or fall prey to the Terror of Terrors? 

The Review

This was such an epic and captivating fantasy read. This definitely would feel right at home for fans of epic, deep-cut level fantasy storytelling, delving into a world of mythological creatures from all varieties of mythological backgrounds. I absolutely loved this mashup of different cultures and myths to delve into, as well as the author’s use of imagery and atmospheric buildup in the narrative. 

What struck me was the utilization of the hero’s journey for this novel, as protagonist Megildur grows from a young boy desperate to save the last person connected to his family to a leader and hero that is destined to save the world. The author’s use of writing style felt very much like it was written for fans of video games, which was such a breath of fresh air for the genre. From the journey itself feeling like an open-world game to the various creatures the protagonist had to face (or bosses), the stylistic choices of this narrative made this a true standout novel.

The Verdict

A remarkable, entertaining, and epic fantasy novel, author Paul Francois’s “Shadowbane: Age of Aelfborn” is a must-read novel. Fantastic world-building and mythology kept me hooked the entire time, and the cast of characters kept readers invested in the hero’s journey the protagonist found himself on, making this a remarkable story worth diving into. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

By day, Paul Francois is a mild-mannered IT professional. He has been in the technology field for over 20 years. One day, in 2011, he started pondering story ideas until they leaped out of his brain and onto paper…onto the computer to be precise.

Join him as he discovers which genre suits his writing style best. Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Thriller, or perhaps…all of the aforementioned. The road is dreary and his journey long, sit back and enjoy a tale as we travel it together.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0722CDJW2/ref=x_gr_w_glide_sin?caller=Goodreads&callerLink=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.goodreads.com%2Fbook%2Fshow%2F30621959-shadowbane&tag=x_gr_w_glide_sin-20

Aspatria by John C. Adams Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

An invading army and the loss of all her male relatives forces young Dextra to become the Queen of Aspatria, and as she struggles to find her footing as the realm’s ruler, she must contend with an invading army and multiple suitors seeking her hand in marriage to secure the kingdom, all while struggling with her own romantic feelings in author John C. Adams novel, “Aspatria”. 

The Synopsis

Aspatria

After all her male relatives are killed in battle when the Eiran army invades Aspatria, AETHELINGA DEXTRA (18) is forced to take the throne of her country. The ruling council, the witan, choose her in preference to her surviving bastard half-brother CENWULF DARKWATER (18).

In the early days, with her reign still uncertain, Dextra accepts the need to marry a powerful prince to lead Aspatria’s fyrd into battle and to secure foreign alliances to support Aspatria. GORTAH VAN MURKAR (48) brings his youngest son, PRINCE EUGENE (18) to her capital to arrange a match. They are not the only members of royal houses heading to Brewchester hoping to win the hand of the Dextra of Aspatria.

Dextra refuses marriages offer from KHAN NICHOLAI (20), ruler of the Albins, and CROWN PRINCE JOHANN VON RELIATRA (15). She is not compatible with Gortah’s son Eugene and tells the Murkan king so at once. However, Dextra is very taken with Gortah’s adopted nephew LORD LUDWIG BERG (19).

The situation is soon complicated when Dextra insists upon staying true to her country’s heritage by taking two husbands. As he guides her through the early days of her reign, her admiration and regard for Gortah grow but he is incapable of overcoming his objections to her marrying twice.

Under Gortah’s tutelage, and despite her grief at the sudden loss of her father, uncle, brothers and cousins in war, Dextra’s confidence as a ruler grows. The young queen learns to bring the witan round to her point of view and rely on their advice as she establishes herself as a fair and strong ruler of Aspatria. The council stands behind her and she soon blossoms into the role of queen.

Dextra marries Ludwig on the night before battle. Gortah leads the fyrd into war with the Albins to expel them from Aspatria. The fyrd beat their foe back but Gortah finds himself laid low by witchcraft. The fyrd return to the capital and speculation intensifies that Gortah will marry Dextra and become her second husband. As Gortah recovers from his illness, Dextra’s position is made harder by his behaviour towards her. The spells cast over him make him overtly sexual and she is accused of already having been intimate with her august suitor and being pregnant with his illegitimate child. Dextra’s stepmother Queen Maureen is the prime suspect as the search for Gortah’s attacker intensifies.

Eugene heads to South Eira to lead the Murkan army in defending the border garrison of Dunath. Meanwhile, the Murkan fort at Belshan in South Eira is attacked by an army of ghost ships sent by the King of Eira’s mother.

Reliatra move their army through the mountain pass at Nordweig and enter South-East Aspatria to attack the burh at Westkennet. As the queen’s husband, it is Ludwig’s job to lead the fyrd in battle but he is captured. Back in Brewchester, Gortah overcomes his reservations about being the second of two husbands and proposes to Dextra.

Gortah sneaks into the Reliatran camp to rescue Ludwig and takes PRINCESS NOTBURG VON RELIATRA (18) prisoner. The feisty warrior is held as security until her father OTTMAR VON RELIATRA (40) can raise two million marks as compensation for his wrongful invasion of Aspatria.

Even though they are now engaged, Gortah is still struggling to overcome his reservations about being Dextra’s second husband. She remains concerned about how Gortah will respond if Ludwig fathers a son with her before he does. Will the powerful monarchs be able to settle their differences and find happiness together? Or will war between Murkar and Aspatria become inevitable? 

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The Review

What an intricately plotted and massively built-out fantasy world! This was an exceptional fantasy read, blending the political intrigue and rivalries of Game of Thrones with the brutality and action of Vikings. The author did a great job of finding a balance between integrating well-known medieval-style fantasy world-building and crafting original settings and characters that make the world of Aspatria feel alive. 

The vast cast of characters was a sight to behold. The evolution of main characters like Gortah and Dextra was so well-rounded and engaging as a reader to delve into, while the blend of magic and realism in this fantasy realm heightened the drama between the characters, as well as the heart-pounding action and suspense as each character’s massive arc played out. 

The Verdict

A memorable, mind-bending, and emotionally-driven fantasy romance novel, author John C. Adams’s novel “Aspatria” is a must-read epic fantasy. The readers will be instantly drawn in by the gritty and brutal war that opens up the novel, and be drawn in as the romance and emotions between Dextra and the men hoping to win her heart play out on the pages, creating engaging and entertaining drama that is impossible to put down. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

I’m a non-binary proofreader, editor, reviewer and author.

You can find out more about my proofreading and editing services here:

https://www.johncadamsreviews.com/about

I review for the British Fantasy Society as well as placing reviews and articles across a wide range of blogs and magazines.

I have a Postgraduate Certificate in Creative Writing from Newcastle University.

You can subscribe to my blog here: https://www.johncadamsreviews.com/

My horror novel, ‘Souls for the Master’, my fantasy romance novel ‘Aspatria’ and my fantasy and horror anthology ‘The Red Dawn and Other Stories’ are all free on Smashwords retailers. ‘Dagmar of the Northlands’, the sequel to ‘Aspatria’, and ‘Blackacre Rising’, the sequel to ‘Souls for the Master’ are also available from Smashwords retailers.

Although I write mostly long fiction, since 2015 I have had stories published in anthologies from Horrified Press, Lycan Valley Press, Fantasia Divinity and Jersey Pines Ink. My short stories have also been published in the Horror Zine, Swords & Sorcery, Sirens Call, Blood Moon Rising, Lovecraftiana and various other magazines.

Every emerging writer needs plenty of encouragement right at the start, and entering lots of competitions early on made a real difference to my confidence to press on with writing longer fiction and think about submitting short fiction to magazines and anthologies in due course. In 2012, I was longlisted for the International Aeon Award Short Fiction Contest for ‘The Visitors’ and again in 2013 for ‘We Can Finish Your Baby’s Brain For You’. My writing was also recognised by the Enrico Charles Literary Award (runner up in 2012) and by the University of Winchester Writers’ Conference in both 2012 and 2013, including a Commendation in the First Three Pages of a Novel category, and other nominations in poetry and short fiction.

I read PPE at Somerville College, and I am a non-practising solicitor. I live in rural Northumberland, UK, and I combine my career as an reviewer and critic with raising my kids and caring for a severely disabled relative. I’m always busy!

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/687737

Thread of Souls: Book II – Ash & Thunder by Scott and Ashley Roepel Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A deadly new threat to Soleia rises in the cover of a massive storm, and the Phantom Five find themselves questioning one another’s loyalty as they seek refuge and help within the empire’s capital in authors Scott and Ashley Roepel’s “Thread of Souls: Book II – Ash & Thunder”. 

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The Synopsis

The adventuring group known as the Phantom Five journey to the empire’s capital to warn of the threat against it. But instead of a welcome reception, they find a city wrought with deception. The royal children are missing, murders happen overnight, and the group’s own loyalties are questioned. Worse, their one contact in the capital, Unol’s Shadow Guild, has marked her as a traitor. All the while, rumors spread of a great storm over Soleia hiding a monster within. And as their attention is divided in a world crumbling into chaos around them, Jade knows the clock is ticking on her visions. If she doesn’t make it to Oceala soon, everyone in her city will die.

The Review

A fantastic new chapter in this growing fantasy saga, the authors have brilliantly given readers a lengthy epic fantasy that balances intricate character development with big-time mythology. The protagonists of this series, the Phantom Five, once more take center stage, and their evolution throughout this narrative is engaging to say the least. It was fascinating to witness the twists and turns the authors took their heroes, from the noble Zok to Unole and Jade, and even took the time to give each protagonist their own chapters and time to explore their motivations clearly.

The mythos is what always drives me and my passion for epic fantasy series like this. I loved the inclusion of so many known supernatural creatures, but the created mythology that the authors put together of this new land and the world overall was fantastic to see come to life on the page. Imagery played a major role in this story, the writing doing an excellent job of crafting the narrative in such a way that the characters and world came to life in my mind. 

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The Verdict

A thrilling, haunting, and entertaining new chapter in this growing fantasy world, authors Scott and Ashley Roepel’s “Thread of Souls: Book II – Ash & Thunder” is a must-read fantasy book. The perfect second chapter of this growing universe, the twists and turns the author takes readers on, including the identity of the book’s latest threats, makes this story so engaging for fans of this genre, and a cliff-hanger ending will leave fans breathlessly awaiting the next chapter of the series. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Scott and Ashley Roepel are a husband and wife team of writers, creators, and travelers. They are co-founders of Tal & Ru Travels LLC which is focused on entertaining and engaging content. Deep lovers of fantasy, the two of them are avid D&D players and content creators.

https://talandrudungeonloot.com/

https://www.instagram.com/talandrutravels/