The Half-Killed, Quenby Olson

It becomes apparent from the opening of The Half-Killed that Quenby Olson is a master of mimicking Victorian prose. I would wager that she is so good, so authentic, that she could fool the literati of the time. She sets up the prologue of The Half-Killed in second-person point of view, potentially the only clue that this isn’t a…

The Gutter Prayer, Gareth Hanrahan

The Gutter Prayer. It sounds dark, and messy, and brimming with meaning. It sounds like the last whisper of the dying before darkness shrouds the eye. As far as evocative titles go, this is one of the best, and the gorgeous cover, the kind that catches the eye and demands to be gazed upon, only…

Aching God, Mike Shel

The tendency to pigeonhole Aching God as a simple Dungeons and Dragons adventure is tempting (not that such efforts should be cast aside because many a good story has come from the table-top). Shel’s debut has all the trappings of a role-playing game: there is a band of adventurers, each with a different skill set; there are monsters to slay…

The Hod King, Josiah Bancroft

How does a fantasy book reviewer critique a work that he unabashedly loves? Do I try to make up bad things about Josiah Bancroft’s newest Book of Babel? Do I scour it for the tiniest typo and the smallest grammatical error simply so I don’t come off as an advertisement for Orbit Books? I mean, I guess…

Orconomics, J. Zachary Pike

Satirical fantasy has never been my sub-genre. I like Terry Pratchett (no way I’m getting through this review without mentioning Pratchett, so might as well get it out of the way), but not in the devotional way of many of fantasy connoisseurs. I get it.  There’s no denying the clever writing and imaginative world-building, but for whatever reason…

The Boy Who Walked Too Far, Dom Watson

Note – This review originally appeared at Fantasy Book Critic as part of the SPFBO contest of 2018.  Defining fantasy, as a genre of literature, is one of the trickiest things in this industry. There are so many sub-genres now, as well as decriers of genre who insist that everything should simply be called literature,…

Blackwing, Ed MacDonald

Blackwing feels like the love-child of The Black Company and Dark Souls, but potentially grimmer than either (an impressive feat). On paper, this is my dream combination. The Black Company is one of the best anti-hero fantasies ever written, and Dark Souls is likely the best fantasy video game series ever made. This should make…

The Emperor of the Eight Islands, by Lian Hearn

It seems so obvious to merge fantasy with Japanese folklore, and yet so few authors have done so. Fantasy is historically seldom translated, however, so even if there had been a slew of Japanese fantasy books, I likely wouldn’t know of them. That Lian Hearn is a British woman living in Australia is possibly the…

The City of Brass, S.A. Chakraborty

I need to admit something right away – I had a song from Aladdin playing in my head almost the entire time that I read this book. I partly blame myself for watching that movie about a million times as a child, and partly blame author S.A. Chakraborty for creating a character called Prince Ali…

Traitor’s Blade, Sebastien de Castell

To my great shame, I have never read The Three Musketeers. I have seen and loved multiple movie versions, despite the poor quality of said adaptations (except for “The Man in the Iron Mask,” which is dope). The myth of Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and little baby brother d’Artagnan is one I hold close. I will…

The Thousand Names, Django Wexler

The Thousand Names is something unique in the fantasy genre (at least in this reader’s experience). There is a common piece of advice about writing fantasy that goes something like – look at current the niches within the genre and then see how you can create your own. There are fantasy mysteries and thrillers, mash-ups…

The Black Company, Glen Cook

The Black Company was first published in 1984. This is 12 years before A Game of Thrones is first released and 15 years before Gardens of the Moon. It is six years before The Eye of the World starts The Wheel of Time saga. If you told me that Robert Jordan, George R.R. Martin, and…