Saturday 16 December 2023

The Lost War & The Bitter Crown by Justin Lee Anderson


Oh, this series just keeps going from strength to strength. I was lucky enough to receive both volumes in the post for review so got to lose myself in Anderson's worldbuilding for twice the length of time. 

When we start The Lost War the war, as the title suggests, is over and has been lost, there are bandits, demons and disease running riot across the land. For Aranok though there is no time to rest, as King's Envoy it is his mission to restore a deposed Queen and for that he needs to assemble a 'gang' to help him, and as you would expect they all come with their own skills, attitudes and issues. Reminded me of a Grimdark version of The Belgariad - and there's no way I'm not gonna love it. As the twist comes at the end I wondered if I should leave it a while before starting The Bitter Crown but I couldn't stay away. 

So, The Bitter Crown . . . Our heroes have learned the truth they (and everyone else) and to say they are reeling is possibly an understatement. But there is no time to rest, the game may have changed but it still needs to be won. For all the pieces to be in place the gang needs to be split up again and heading in different directions. We get to see deeper into the characters and more of the land and I'm up for that 100%. Throw into the mix battles, magic, politics and a whole heap of "how the hell are they going to get out of it this time" and what you have, in my opinion, is up there on a level with Game of Thrones.

Justin Lee Anderson has gone from self-published author (The Lost War) to an author who was picked up, professionally published and deserves his place at the High Table. 

7/5* (It's my blog so I can do what I want) and one of the best series I've read this year

Thanks to Black Crow PR for inviting me onto the tour and providing me with the review copies (which did not influence my opinions at all - these are all my own.) Please have a look at the posts by the other bloggers on the tour (below) and with a week to go as I write this it's not too late to drop hints to Santa.

Monday 4 December 2023

The Art of Destiny - Wesley Chu


 I was lucky that, when I was invited to review The Art of Destiny there was an opportunity to read the first book in the series, The Art of Prophecy too. It was one of those books that looked just my thing but I just hadn't gotten around to it. Both books arrived, one paperback and one hardback but both looking glorious - I mean, seriously, that artwork is top notch.

 I had the day off, things to do, places to go but I decided to give TAoP a go with my morning coffee. Y'know, just to get a feel of things . . . Well, things didn't get done, places didn't get gone to but half a book was finished in no time. The series reads pretty much like the old Eastern series I used to watch when younger - Monkey, The Water Margin, that kind of thing - and I did see the story in my head (I'm a very visual reader) looking very much like those.

 The general gist for TAoP is that there is a chosen one, Jian, whose destiny is to fight and defeat The Eternal  Khan and save the kingdom. Turns out though that due to poor training and mollycoddling by his assortment of masters he isn't actually any good.

 Enter the elderly Grandmaster Taishi who clears out his whole retinue and starts his training her own way - whether Jian. Think Karate Kid and you won't be far off the mark.

 The Art of Destiny (TAoD) starts up a few years down the line from TAoP and sees our character leads (there are multiple points of View in this series) a bit older, sometimes wiser and basically just "grown".
Jian is no longer the Chosen One but that doesn't stop Master Taishi (still as grumpy, irascible and fun to read as ever) getting a host of other equally elderly Grandmasters out of retirement to help whip him into shape for a mission. He may not be THE Chosen One but he could still be A Chosen One I guess. 

 Where Chu excels here is the conversations, banter, but downs etc between his characters. Don't get me wrong, the world building is excellent and the fights and battles are off the chart but the chat is what makes it for me. I found myself in awe of events only to find myself chuckling or laughing out loud even a couple of pages further on.

 Yes, this is a big chonk of a book but it doesn't feel like one. I lost myself for hours at a time and loved every minute of it.