Tag Archives: John C Adams

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

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

Blackacre Rising (Ivy Spires #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. 

Loyalties will be tested and lines will be crossed as the fight for humanity wages on in author John C. Adams’ latest entry in the Ivy Spires dystopian series, “Blackacre Rising”. 

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The Synopsis

From Horror Tree reviewer and double Aeon Award Longlister John C Adams comes a disturbing tale of scientific experimentation and sadistic cruelty. The sequel to ‘Souls For The Master’, ‘Blackacre Rising’ features a stunning cover by Fiona Jayde Media.

Leaving the chaos erupting in the Metropolis behind, Gerald speeds north to his cousin Brett Flint’s farmhouse, Blackacre. He is certain that their vehicle is being followed, but returning to the capital with Don and Ivy is simply too risky now that Janus Fidens has taken over the Resistance and declared the pair to be outlaws who have betrayed the Revolution. Arriving at Blackacre, Gerald begs Brett and his wife Radclyffe to shelter Ivy and Don under their roof without asking too many questions about why his young companions have had to flee to the sparsely populated uplands and need their presence there kept secret.

Distraught at saying goodbye to Gerald, Ivy admits how much she has come to care for him since they have been battling the authorities together. They snatch a few moments alone together to say a private farewell before Gerald drives back to the capital, hoping to persuade Janus to drop his pursuit of Ivy and Don. En route, Gerald is followed by the same car that tailed them northwards. Lured into stopping to assist at the site of a road traffic accident, the trainee surgeon is captured and transported to a shadowy underground scientific research facility, where he is disturbed to discover that Sinister Tungsten, sister to his arch nemesis Hendra, awaits him.

In the Blackacre library, Don is welcomed by the Seven. This mysterious group includes the Master he fought to defeat down in the Metropolis, five other strange figures with bizarre powers and, of course, the malignant farmhouse itself. Brett, Radclyffe and their twin baby sons reside in the oddest place Don has ever encountered. He reluctantly agrees to become involved in the Seven’s project to assassinate Dr Luther Honigbaum, who funds the facility where Gerald is being held prisoner and runs the asylum in Austria which supplies its young female test subjects.

Learning how to transport herself from one location to another shocks Ivy. Unlike Don, who has wielded great power his whole life, her skills as an assassin are more practical in nature, and she worries that having shifted safely to Austria she’ll be unable to return safely. Finally, she is ready to undertake her mission to kill the evil man behind the gruesome experiments that serve no purpose other than to gratify the rampant cruelty of Honigbaum and his acolytes.

Meanwhile, the Seven show Don another facility, this time in Antarctica, where equally cruel experiments take place upon men. When the Seven tell him he is too young to witness exactly what it taking place, he uses his unique powers to advance his age by three years so that he is now eighteen. He gladly sacrifices a part of his natural life to rescue the men kept prisoner there and tormented by sadistic experiments with no scientific value whatsoever.

Arriving in Austria, Ivy is horrified to discover that her cover is already blown and Honigbaum lies in waiting for her. He has a sinister agenda of his own and will stop at nothing to eliminate anyone who resists both his sadistically cruel medical research and his repulsive sexual advances. When Brett Flint’s cousin Henry turns up at Ubersneller, Honigbaum locks him up in one of his asylums high up in the mountains to ensure his silence. He has particularly dark designs on Ivy, and is determined that her close friendship with Don will enable him to reach out to his estranged son. Drugged and forced to comply, Ivy is young enough to provide the ageing Honigbaum with everything he wishes. Gerald’s imprisonment ends when Sinistra’s elder sister Hendra returns and the authorities brutally re-establish law and order, but he is no safer with her than with her sibling.

The Review

A truly gripping, intense, and engaging dystopian sci-fi read. The author does a brilliant job of creating a large mythos in this dystopian world rich with a multitude of main and side characters that readers will be able to both loathe and root for. 

Although I had not read the first book in the series, the author writes in a way that allows readers both new and established to be able to delve into this new narrative, as the central characters find themselves split up and fighting brutal battles all on their own. Each finds their path fraught with horrifying trials and monstrous adversaries, all while their own abilities grow and develop over time. 

The story really benefits from a strong character arc for the central protagonists and antagonists. This lengthy read delves into the hardships and struggles each character undertakes in this world divided by class and exposed to horrors unlike anything seen before. In the midst of powers and action, the author really brings about complex characters that readers can identify and support throughout this narrative.

The Verdict

A must-read dystopian sci-fi thriller, author John C. Adams’ “Blackacre Rising” is a fantastic sequel in the Ivy Spires series. Emotionally driven character arcs and action-packed scenes all come together under strong mythology and ends on a cliffhanger that will leave readers wanting more. Be sure to preorder your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

I’m a non-binary author and critic of fantasy and horror.

I review for Schlock! Webzine, the British Fantasy Society and Horror Tree, 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. I’ve been a Contributing Editor for Albedo One Magazine and the Aeon Award since 2016. Before that, I was a Submissions Reader with them.

My debut horror novel, ‘Souls for the Master’, is 99c on Smashwords retailers and 99p on Kindle. Likewise, my debut fantasy novel, ‘Aspatria’, is 99c on Smashwords retailers and 99p on Kindle. The sequel to ‘Aspatria’, ‘Dagmar of the Northlands’, is out now on Kindle and 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 author and critic with raising my kids and caring for a severely disabled relative. I’m always busy!

http://johncadams.wix.com/johnadamssf

Twitter: johncadamssf