Tag: epic fantasy

Book Review: Moroda – L. L. McNeil

Good morning everyone! It’s Tuesday… the worst day of the week is over with and today I am excited to be sharing my review of Moroda by L. L. McNeil. I was very kindly approached by her some time ago requesting me to review her book! As I love the fantasy genre (and dragons!) I absolutely said yes.

The timing of my reading Moroda didn’t quite go to plan, so sorry Lauren! I said that I would be reading and reviewing this in October/November… and I started reading this on the 30th November. It wasn’t my best month by a long shot…

So, enough of that! Shall we get on to what I actually made of the book? As always, I’ll get the usual disclaimer out and let you know that whilst I received a free copy of this to review, my thoughts expressed in this review are my honest opinion.

 

Moroda – L. L. McNeil

Goodreads – Moroda

Linaria is a world where dragons are revered as gods, where airships rule the skies, and where war is stirring.

For Moroda, a former Goldstone, her life of luxury ends following her father’s sudden death. When her city is destroyed by a dragon, she and her sister ally with a sky pirate and narrowly escape the carnage—only to find a vigilante from an exiled race has left a trail of destruction everywhere his growing army has travelled. With compulsion at his fingertips, he strengthens his hold over Linaria’s people by stealing the power of dragons. It’s only a matter of time before Moroda, too, is forced to submit.

With war nipping at her heels and danger lurking in her companions and adversaries, Moroda must quickly learn about herself, her world, and the dragons so intent on reducing it all to ash.

2018 SPFBO Semi-Finalist
Shortlisted for the Best Indie Book Awards 2017 – Fantasy.

Moroda is the first novel in an epic six-book saga, following a group of characters as war rages across their world. With pirates and soldiers, smiths and princes, Linaria is a vibrant land with a deeply unsettled past and an equally ominous future.

 

My Thoughts…

Magic? Check. Dragons? Check? Well built, intricate universe in which the novel is set? Check again.

Moroda is a fantastic novel to pick up for anyone who loves a classic fantasy tale. The story begins with Moroda in a tricky predicament in which her world is turned upside down for good. She finds herself imprisoned for speaking her mind against a nobleman with the power to influence others. Then, a dragon attack on her home town sends her and a ragtag group on an adventure to discover the meaning behind recent events and the consequences they will have on the rest of the world.

One of my favourite aspects of the novel is the range of vastly different characters that accompany Moroda on her journey. From a feisty, self-serving sky pirate with a mean attitude to literal royalty, the band of travellers cannot get more diverse! That offers a great insight into the different origins of many of the characters and goes a long way to helping develop the world and background of Linaria.

The BEST thing about the book though was the ending. It’s really hard to talk about it without giving anything away, but I’ll do my best. If the book had a more frivolous/light-hearted conclusion than it did, the book would have had a solid three-star rating. In my opinion, the way events draw to a close – the consequences of the war and power of magic used makes the ending all-the-better! It isn’t a happily-ever-after sort of tale and I love that! It lends a realistic, gritty quality to the writing. Knowing that anything can happen at any time makes you invest in characters more than when you are reasonably safe in the knowledge that everything is going to be okay.

In the interest of fairness and honesty, there is one feature I would have liked to have seen in the book. If Moroda had strayed a little further from some of the overused conventions of fantasy novels, I think this would have been a five-star review instead of a four. I have read a lot of fantasy over the years and I am well versed with its tropes by now. As a result, I really enjoy books that push the boundaries and adopt their own take on the genre.

 

 

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Shelf Control #10 – 22/11/2019

Hi guys and welcome to today’s Shelf control post! Once again I’ll be taking an in-depth look at the next book on my TBR and telling you why I am excited to read it!

As a refresher, Shelf Control is a meme run by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies – a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves! Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up!

For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out Lisa’s introductory post.

 

I am using Shelf Control to look in further detail at the books I have added to the TBR and then listed as keepers in my Down the TBR Hole posts. I talk about why I want to keep the featured book; it also acts as a second sweep for anything that I may have changed my mind about. I have actually deleted a few books doing this sweep. I don’t necessarily own all the books (yet), but I will have a reasonable number of them. I’ve also gone on to read a couple of the earliest books on the list, so this mini-series is proving useful!

 

Age of Myth – Michael J. Sullivan

Goodreads – Age of Myth

Since time immemorial, humans have worshipped the gods they call Fhrey, truly a race apart: invincible in battle, masters of magic, and seemingly immortal. But when a god falls to a human blade, the balance of power between humans and those they thought were gods changes forever.

Now only a few stand between humankind and annihilation: Raithe, reluctant to embrace his destiny as the God Killer; Suri, a young seer burdened by signs of impending doom; and Persephone, who must overcome personal tragedy to lead her people. The Age of Myth is over. The time of rebellion has begun.

 

My Thoughts…

What interests me about this book is the breaking of a convention that Gods are immortal; untouchable. How the inevitable conflict that will ensue will pan out interests me. This synopsis is pretty short, leaving a lot to the imagination. There’s just enough there to draw a reader in whilst leaving a lot about the plot unsaid. It makes you want to read it and find out!

Age of Myth is an epic fantasy novel. I would consider myself well-read in the genre at this point; anything that even hints at any combination of overused tropes in the genre is a put-off for me – it isn’t new. What I like about synopsis of Age of Myth is that beyond the whole destiny concept, there is nothing else that would allude to other overused tropes. I’ll have to read it to see if there are others hidden in there.

Age of Myth also has some really good reviews, so I am optimistic that taking the plunge and reading a novel by a new author will have a good payoff!

 

Have you read Age of Myth, or is it on your TBR? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

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First Lines Friday – 15/11/2019

Happy Friday everyone and welcome to today’s First Lines Friday post! If you want to try the opening lines of a book without the bias of a front cover, then this post is for you! Which book am I featuring today?

 

Once upon a time, an angel and a demon fell in love.

It did not end well.

 

Walking to school over the snow-muffled cobbles, Karou had no sinister premonitions about the day. It seemed like just another Monday, innocent but for its essential Mondayness, not to mention its Januaryness. It was cold, and it was dark – in the dead of winter the sun didn’t rise until eight – but it was also lovely. The falling snow and the early hour conspired to paint Prague ghostly, like a tintype photograph, all silver and haze.

On the riverfront thoroughfare, trams and buses roared past, grounding the day in the twenty-first century, but on the quieter lanes, the wintry peace might have hailed from another time. Snow and stone and ghostlight, Karou’s own footsteps and the feather of steam from her coffee mug, and she was alone and adrift in mundane thoughts: school, errands. The occasional cheek-chew of bitterness when a pang of heartache intruded, as pangs of heartache will, but she pushed them aside, resolute, ready to be done with all that.

 

 

I have just finished reading the sequel to this yesterday and I have loved it just as much as this first book! They are so easy to pick up and get absorbed into. I have read other books by this author as well, and all of them have been brilliant! They are all touching, the characters beautifully human and hilariously funny at times.

Shall we find out what it is?

 

Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Laini Taylor

Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

 

Did you enjoy reading the first page of Daughter of Smoke and Bone? Have you read any or all of the series? I’d love to know!

 

 

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Blog Tour Audiobook Review: Visions of Zarua – Suzanne Rogerson

Happy Sunday everyone! Welcome to today’s blog tour post for Visions of Zarua by Suzanne Rogerson. I am actually really excited for today’s post as it is my first review of an audiobook for a blog tour. As always, I’d like to take the chance to thank both Suzanne and Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for my chance to take part in the tour. I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts with you!

 

Visions of Zarua

Two wizards, 350 years apart. Can they save the realm of Paltria from Zarua’s dark past?

An ancient darkness haunts the realm of Paltria.

Apprentice wizard Paddren is plagued by visions of a city on the brink of annihilation. When his master dies in mysterious circumstances, the Royal Order of Wizards refuses to investigate.
Helped by his childhood friend, the skilled tracker Varnia, and her lover Leyoch, Paddren vows to find the killer.

The investigation leads Paddren down a sinister path of assassins, secret sects and creatures conjured by blood magic. But he is guided by a connection with a wizard from centuries ago – a wizard whose history holds the key to the horror at the heart of the abandoned city of Zarua. Can Paddren decipher his visions and save the Paltrian people before the dark menace of Zarua’s past is unleashed?

 

Purchase Links –  Amazon     Audible     iTunes

 

My Thoughts…

Finishing this audiobook in time for the tour ended up coming closer to the wire than I would have liked. Truth is I just don’t listen to audiobooks that quickly… unless I have a looming deadline. I typically listen to audiobooks in the car on the way home, which means I listen to them for around half an hour every weekday.

It felt like it took a little while to get into the book, but I put that down to the fact that I started listening to this audiobook quite slowly. It is no reflection on the book at all because as soon as I started listening to it as much as possible this week, I found myself hoping for a few more minutes at the end of lunch to continue it… or sitting in the car to wait for the next suitable place to pause the narrative.

I enjoyed the split timeline element of the narrative, as I often do in books of this format. In Visions of Zarua, the past and the present timelines complement each other very well. The pacing of each respective story builds to the epic climax of a 350-year-old struggle. The element of mystery to the novel also made an interesting and enjoyable pairing with the fantasy genre. The magical society and divisions within add political intrigue and tension to the relations between characters.

I can’t write this review without talking about our main characters in the novel: Paddren, Leyoch and Varnia. The friendship of these three characters from not-so-different backgrounds really gels the story together. In times of despair, they pull each other through and their complex relationships and motivations play a large part in driving the narrative forward. They each have their own distinct personalities and despite their trials and flaws, you cannot help but love and invest into them.

Lastly, as this is an audiobook, I should talk about Guy Barnes’ narration of the storyline. Can I say, he does a fantastic job of bringing each of the characters, major or minor, to life. Each is distinctively unique in the persona he has given them. The variety of accents he pulls off consistently is amazing too.

I really enjoyed listening to this audiobook and I recommend it to all who enjoy the fantasy genre. I’ll be reading some of her other books having enjoyed Visions of Zarua so much – put it that way!

 

Author Bio –

Suzanne lives in Middlesex, England with her hugely encouraging husband and two children.

She wrote her first novel at the age of twelve. She discovered the fantasy genre in her late teens and has never looked back. Giving up work to raise a family gave her the impetus to take her attempts at novel writing beyond the first draft, and she is lucky enough to have a husband who supports her dream – even if he does occasionally hint that she might think about getting a proper job one day.

Suzanne loves gardening and has a Hebe (shrub) fetish. She enjoys cooking with ingredients from the garden, and regularly feeds unsuspecting guests vegetable-based cakes.

She collects books, loves going for walks and picnics with the children and sharing with them her love of nature and photography.

Suzanne is interested in history and enjoys wandering around castles. But most of all she likes to escape with a great film, or soak in a hot bubble bath with an ice cream and a book.

 

Social Media Links –

Twitter     Goodreads     BookBub     Amazon     Facebook     Instagram

 

Narrator Bio –

Guy or the Big G as he is known to his friends is a London/ Brighton based actor and singer songwriter and producer.

He has recently completed his first leading role in the film Typo out next year and played the role of Alvin Turner in American film Holly Turner also out next year.

Guy only started narrating audiobooks last year and Visions of Zarua is his 2nd. He will be narrating 2 classics this year, Bram Stoker‘s Dracula and HG Wells The Time Machine.

In his spare time Guy is a passionate biker and cigar aficionado and he’ll not say no to a Sierra Nevada beer or two!

 

Social Media Links –

Twitter @guybarnes

Instagram @instaguyaram

 

Shelf Contol #8 – 18/10/2019

Welcome to day 18 of Blogtober and today’s post, Shelf Control! Today I am “enjoying” my last day at work before a fantastic week off. I’ll be spending it with my sister and fingers crossed, enjoying some sunshine.

As a refresher, Shelf Control is a meme run by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies – a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves! Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up!

For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out Lisa’s introductory post.

 

I am using Shelf Control to look in further detail at the books I have added to the TBR and then listed as keepers in my Down the TBR Hole posts. I talk about why I want to keep the featured book; it also acts as a second sweep for anything that I may have changed my mind about. I won’t necessarily own all the books (yet), but I will have a reasonable number of them.

Let’s look at the next book on the TBR!

 

Steelheart – Brandon Sanderson

Goodreads – Steelheart

Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his will.

Nobody fights the Epics…nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.

And David wants in. He wants Steelheart — the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David’s father. For years, like the Reckoners, David’s been studying, and planning — and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.

He’s seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.

 

My Thoughts…

Brandon Sanderson’s fantasy novels are brilliant. There isn’t a book I haven’t rated highly yet. I have already read the first Mistborn trilogy, The Way of Kings from the Stormlight Archives and just recently, Elantris. I feel more than sure that I am going to be reading a lot more of his books, including this one! Steelheart has been on my TBR since January 2016. Not long…

On a serious note, I can see myself picking this up before too long. My enjoyment of Elantris is fresh in my mind. I’m also trying to avoid some of his other works for now, like the remainder of the Stormlight Archives books. Brandon Sanderson is only writing book 4 of 10 at the moment, and once I get into it, I don’t think I’ll be able to wait patiently for the next book as and when they come out.

 

Have you read many books by Brandon Sanderson? Have you read Steelheart or any other books in The Reckoners series?

 

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Book Review: Crowfall – Ed McDonald

I’m really excited for today’s book review of Crowfall by Ed McDonald. Why I hear you ask? Well, only because this is my favourite read of the year!!! So far, at least.

Having read the earlier books in the series, I requested and gratefully received a copy of Crowfall from Gollancz for the purpose of reviewing this epic conclusion to the Raven’s Mark series. I can’t wait to get started, but first, you can check out my review of the previous book in the series, Ravencry using the link here. Once you are all up to date, here are the details, and my thoughts, on Crowfall: –

 

Crowfall – Ed McDonald

Goodreads – Crowfall

Crowfall is a gritty epic fantasy for fans of Mark Lawrence, Scott Lynch and Daniel Polansky.

‘Dark, twisty and excellent . . . Grimdark with heart’ Mark Lawrence

A sorceress cataclysm has hit the Range, the final defensive line between the Republic and the immortal Deep Kings.

Tormenting red rains sweep the land, new monstrosities feed on fear in the darkness, and the power of the Nameless, the gods who protect the Republic, lies broken. The Blackwing captains who serve them are being picked off one by one, and even immortals have learned what it means to die. Meanwhile the Deep Kings have only grown stronger, and are poised to deliver a blow that will finally end the war.

Ryhalt Galharrow stands apart from it all.

He has been deeper into the wasteland known as the Misery than ever before. It has grown within him – changed him – but all power comes with a price, and now the ghosts of his past, formerly confined to the Misery, walk with him everywhere.

They will even follow him, and the few surviving Blackwing captains, on one final mission into the darkness.

 

My Thoughts…

You know that bittersweet feeling of wanting to finish a series to find out what happens, but then not wanting to finish it because then it’s all over? Crowfall is definitely one of those for me. The world, the magic and fantasy setting are truly unique. And the characters have to be some of my favourites. It turns out I’m a sucker for a reluctant, non-altruistic hero.

Grimdark is a genre I want to read more of as a result of this series. I have read a few other grimdark fantasy novels, namely Mark Lawrence’s The Broken Empire series and I have plenty more on my TBR. I enjoy the blurred lines around “heroes” and the amorality of the characters. As a genre, I feel it has a sense of gritty realism – uncertainty as to how events are going to pan out. Classic fantasy has a lot of overused tropes, in my opinion. I want to be worried about my favourite main characters. In dark and life-threatening situations, I don’t want to trust that a character will make it through because they are pivotal to a story. As a reader, I thrive off the danger of knowing anything could happen at any moment… that no one is safe from harm.

Ryhalt is one of my favourite fantasy characters of all time. Before the events of Blackwing and Ravencry twisted him into the man he has become in the opening pages of Crowfall, he already had a sarcastic sense of humour that I loved. He has always had a cynical, pessimistic view of life which fits in so well with the tone of the novels. Corrupted my magic born of death and devastation wrought years earlier, he is far from the ideal candidate to prevent such devastation again.

Crowfall truly is the epic conclusion to this series, and I was hooked on it. I read it from cover to cover in a matter of days and I was absorbed from start to finish! I don’t want to spoil even a single thing so I am trying to comment as little on the plot as possible. All I will say is that I don’t think you will be disappointed. I wasn’t!

Will I be re-reading this series again? Absolutely! The world captured in the pages of these books is truly unique, and one I could re-visit again and again without getting bored.

 

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Audiobook Review: The Painted Man – Peter Brett

It has been some time since I finished listening to Peter Brett’s The Painted Man, so it’s about time that I shared my review of this audiobook! I listened to this back in May/June this year. I started with some mixed feelings, but I’m glad I stuck with it. It grew on me the more I listened to it and the story progressed.

 

The Painted Man – Peter Brett

Goodreads – The Painted Man

As darkness falls after sunset, the corelings rise—demons who possess supernatural powers and burn with a consuming hatred of humanity. For hundreds of years the demons have terrorized the night, slowly culling the human herd that shelters behind magical wards—symbols of power whose origins are lost in myth and whose protection is terrifyingly fragile. It was not always this way. Once, men and women battled the corelings on equal terms, but those days are gone. Night by night the demons grow stronger, while human numbers dwindle under their relentless assault. Now, with hope for the future fading, three young survivors of vicious demon attacks will dare the impossible, stepping beyond the crumbling safety of the wards to risk everything in a desperate quest to regain the secrets of the past. Together, they will stand against the night.

 

My Thoughts…

I really enjoyed this audiobook overall, but I do confess that I found the beginning slow. The early chapters of the book introduce Arlen, Leesha and Rojer and their respective lives in the small towns of their birth. The reason I found the book slow-going is because each character perspective reiterates the same idea for each of these individuals (okay, in slightly different ways), but we’re basically told the same thing three times. This took at least a few hours to set the scene (and set it again, and again…), so I think it makes up the first 20% of the book.

What do we learn from that first 20%? Humans are dependent on magical wards to protect them from dark creatures, known as corelings at night. Those who live in the small towns and outskirts of the cities have primitive technology. Disaster lies only around the corner for them. And finally, humans are as good as enslaved by their fear.

Then Arlen decides to do something about it and the whole book significantly improves from there. He has seen the devastation these beasts can cause but seeks to find a way to fight back. Arlen is the most developed character of the book, followed by Leesha. Unfortunately, Rojer felt like a late and underdeveloped addition. I wanted a little more from him to balance the story out.

I really enjoyed the concept of the magic and the wards to protect, or fight, against the corelings. It’s only a simple one, but it was executed well. There is sufficient development from the fear-ridden society present at the start of the book, both sufficient to pad out the storyline of the Painted Man, but also to lay the foundations for the remainder of the series.

Despite the slow start I will continue with the series. I think there is a lot of potential to explore the vast world constructed in The Painted Man even more, which the second book seems to do.

 

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Shelf Control #7 – 04/10/2019

Welcome to day 4 of Blogtober and today’s regular feature post, Shelf Control! I am going to be sharing both Shelf Control and First Lines Friday posts throughout October. In light of the recent hiatus I have had to take from these posts due to other blogging commitments, it will be good to get back on track!

As a refresher, Shelf Control is a meme run by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies – a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves! Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up!

For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out Lisa’s introductory post.

I am using Shelf Control to look in further detail at the books I have added to the TBR and then listed as keepers in my Down the TBR Hole posts. I talk about why I want to keep the featured book; it also acts as a second sweep for anything that I may have changed my mind about. I won’t necessarily own all the books (yet), but I will have a reasonable number of them.

It’s week five, so let’s look at the next book on the TBR!

 

Good Omens – Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman

Goodreads – Good Omens

According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (the world’s only completely accurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner.

So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon—both of whom have lived amongst Earth’s mortals since The Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle—are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture.

And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist . . .

 

My Thoughts…

I love Terry Pratchett’s writing – a fact I think I have already established having read no less than eighteen books of his now. Yeah, that many…

I have more mixed feelings about Neil Gaiman. I have read two books of his to date and whilst one was okay, I really didn’t like another. It’s probably the most popular book he has published too. I can see elements of American Gods in Good Omens, like the stand-off between good and evil etc. I think Pratchett will provide the humour in this partnership; something I felt was missing in American Gods. The lighter tone will sit a lot better with me, or so I am hoping.

Despite my mixed feelings about one of the co-authors, I am still looking forward to reading this book. Many of my friends have read the book and rated it highly, so I am sure I will enjoy it too!

Have you read Good Omens or is it on your TBR? What do you think of it?

 

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Author Interview: Brian McLaughlin

Hi everyone and welcome to today’s interview post with Brian McLaughlin! If you haven’t already checked out yesterday’s book review of Thran Book 1: The Birth, here is a link so you can do so!

I want to hand over to Brian without any preamble, so, shall we get stuck in?!

 

How did you discover writing as a passion?

 

Brian – It goes back a quite a long time, but didn’t take the form of writing, per se. It started around the age of 13 when a friend introduced me to Dungeons & Dragons. By age 15 I had evolved into the dungeon master role and never really relinquished it. I had a solid group of friends and we played through high school and college which lasted almost 9 years. As a dungeon master I wasn’t writing prose, but I was creating adventures all the time which required worlds, creativity, and the art of “telling” a story: describing situations and features to the players, building tension and managing outcomes. I look back at that time as training to become a writer. Towards the end of that period I did begin writing a story, but I only managed 50 pages or so before I moved on to other things in life. However, it planted a seed. From there adult life took over and I embarked on an 18-year hiatus from D&D and anything close to writing. So that leads me to the true answer to your question. I’ve had a great career in business (mostly supply chain), but there was a brief time in 2012 where I found myself in a job that I didn’t find very challenging or rewarding. I remember consciously deciding that if I couldn’t get fulfillment from my work, then I would try to get fulfillment and a sense of accomplishment from some other activity. So, in June of 2012 I literally dusted off the old manuals and began creating the world of Thran with the intent of writing a novel and solving my fulfillment/accomplishment void.

 

Rebecca – I’ve never actually played Dungeons and Dragons. I spent my teenage years playing Dragon Quest, which is much like the format of the group in Thran. More recently than that though, I played countless hours on The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. It’s essentially a single player version, but you pick your character type and traits which are similar to the characters and factions in the book too.

 

Brian –When it comes to fantasy role playing games, I think you could make an argument that Gary Gygax and TSR really pioneered the genre. Each variation that came after it embellished and tweaked the basic system. The classes and monsters were all familar. In a way it’s not much different than Thran or any work of fantasy fiction after 1970; they all were inspired by D&D.

 

 

Obviously, Thran has alot of overlaps with modern fantasy role-playing games. Are you an avid gamer? What did you play growing up?

 

Brian –Well, I think I answered this question above, but we dabbled in all sorts of role-playing games. The Middle Earth role playing game comes to mind and there were a variety of games we played sporadically but we always returned to D&D. I would still classify myself as an avid gamer as I like to play chess and other strategy-based games on the computer or an app. I even play DDO (Dungeons & Dragons Online) with my adult children which works our great since we can do it from wherever we are!

Rebecca – As I mentioned above, I’ve been a gamer since a teenager really, although I have a lot less time for it now with working full-time and managing my blog in my free time. When I do get a spare hour or two, my current game of choice is Minecraft! It’s quite easy to play as there isn’t too much in the way of storyline or quests, but you can be creative and stop/start as and when.

 

Brian – I’ve dabbled with Minecraft, but world building makes a fun game and Minecraft obviously fits that niche nicely. I grew up on games like pools of radiance which is like the great-great grandmother to Baldurs gate which is a turn based game. So I’m partial to turn based games to this day. Hearthstone has been a favored past time and recently I’ve been playing Dota Underlords. Both are addicting!

 

 

The story has a split narrative between present day and historical events. Which did you enjoy writing more and why?

 

Brian –That’s like asking which of your kids you love more! 😊 Of course, I enjoyed writing both narratives, but for different reasons. If you pressed me, I will say the Anthall narrative, in book one, is more compelling for the reader because it’s a tragic story and focuses on one individual (rather than a group) and his dark journey. We feel for him, or at least I do, because of the choices he’s forced to make and his struggle with his identity. I’ll also say this: in book II I have really enjoyed writing about the “current” narrative because some of the twists and surprises I set up, but probably weren’t obvious or appreciated in book one, are starting to get revealed which draws you more deeply into that narrative. Okay, I love them both! 😊

 

Rebecca – If I had to pick a favourite, I would say I enjoyed the Anthall storyline a little more than the present day. It gives a lot of context to what’s going on… and well, I’m a sucker for all things that contribute to epic world-building.

 

Brian – I’ll be interested to see what you and other readers think of Book two. As you know, when I tell people Thran is an epic story, I’m not kidding. It’s 650 pages long, and I spend a lot of time building the characters and planting seeds. If I can get an ah-ha moment or two from readers, or even better: an “I didn’t see that coming” moment, I’ll feel really good! The world and characters are complex – they just don’t know it yet…the readers AND he characters!

 

 

There is a very extensive map of the world of Thran on your website, https://www.worldofthran.com. How far along in the narrative did this come into creation? Has it helped you with your writing?

 

Brian – Actually, the first thing I did was create the world. Before I wrote the first word, I drew the map with the detail you see today. I also created the pantheon of gods, the calendar, and how I wanted magic to work. Speaking of magic, a lot of people forego the material requirements when they play D&D (we did back in the day) because it’s a little burdensome, but for the world of Thran, I thought the material component would add a nice level of detail and also tied in with the concept of the gods granting the spells – so the material component acted like a sacrifice when required. Another aspect I determined from the start was the dialog. I didn’t want the dialog to be too “fantastical”. I felt that in order to keep the passion of the dialog relevant, I would sacrifice the “historical” aspect and go with more of a modern diction, including the curse-words which I felt strongly needed to stay current. When someone curses, it’s usually trying to convey a deeper context to the situation. It makes serious and tense situations more serious and tense while also making lighter moments even lighter. Using a “made up” or substitute curse could never convey to the modern reader the nuances of the situation and might just feel cheesy. However, in order to make the dialog feel a little different, aged so-to-speak, I used a little trick I came up with: never use contractions. The reader might not have noticed, but if the dialog was read out loud, it would become obvious. The map and all the other foundations I created up front helped me conceptualize the story.

 

 

As an author, what advice would you give to anyone looking to write a book and get published?

 

Brian – Funny you should ask! The journey for writing, editing, marketing, and publishing has been such an educational journey that I started organizing what I’ve learned and seriously considering writing another (much shorter!) book about it. My advice for writers:

  • Writing
    1. Create an environment that inspires you and limits distractions. The routine will help you establish a rhythm and promote creativity.
    2. Give yourself a word count to hit each day or each week, depending on how often you can write. Give yourself a little reward for hitting the count, and if you can blow it away – even better! There are gonna be many days when you can’t hit the count. Find the right balance – where it’s achievable, but not a gimme.
    3. Find software for writing a novel. I used Scrivener and that has been very good. It helps me keep everything organized and easy to find for reference, not to mention it can create all the file types you need for your ebook. There are other software choices out there, so just do a little research.
  • Editing
    1. Editing is a money game. It depends what you can afford. If you have the money a good editor can help you immensely, but for most Indie writers that’s not going to be an option, it wasn’t for me.
    2. If having an editor is not an option, you will almost certainly need help proof-reading and correcting grammar. I hired a professional to proofread Book I and they corrected a ton of stuff. I used a service called Reedsy, and it worked out fine.
    3. Family and friends. Let anyone who wants to read help with editing. I still find issues with Thran Book One today, so it feels like a never-ending process.
    4. It will never be perfect, so eventually you will have to publish the book!
  • Marketing – How do you get anyone to actually read your book!? That’s such a difficult task! LOL.
    1. Social media
      1. This is a great way to build a following but doesn’t translate into sales very well. It’s also time intensive. You need to post once per day, but not too much more than that, and so building a following takes time unless you have a celebrity connection.
    2. Book reviews & Bloggers
      1. Getting your book reviewed is very important. Paying for reviews is less impressive, but if you have to it’s better than nothing.
      2. Voracious Readers Only
        1. I found this to be a very good platform. It connects readers and authors and is how I am building a solid email list
      3. Amazon, Barns & Nobel, others
        1. This comes down to money. My experience is that Amazon has the cheapest advertising, essentially free if you do KDP, and best tools for promoting your book.
        2. I have been in KDP (amazon exclusive) so I have access to the promotional tools, but I am going to try without it for a bit and work other platforms in order to reach a wider audience.
  • Publishing
    1. I didn’t go down the traditional path, but it involves finding an agent and then submitting your work to a lot of publishing houses.
    2. I do know this:
      1. Cover
        1. You’ll need to hook up with an artist unless you can create a cover yourself, which I think would be rare. Today’s art world is ruled by digital art, and depending on the size of your book and the number of pages, it’s not an easy job getting the cover just right.
      2. If you decide to go the traditional route – DO NOT self-publish first. Everything I read, most publishers won’t work with manuscripts that are already published. So if you go the traditional route – find an agent and go from there.
      3. Self-publishing
        1. eBooks
          1. These are pretty straight forward, you just submit them to the site, pick a royalty program and you’re off…well, you still need a cover.
        2. Hard copies
          1. You definitely need a cover and it needs to be very exact in the dimensions of the cover which includes the spine and the back art.
          2. Actually printing books.
            1. I haven’t cracked the code yet on this. Printed copies are very expensive unless you’re willing to invest in quite a bit of inventory.
            2. Amazon is the best. They print on-demand and ship it direct, so no inventory and their printing costs are 30% lower than any other place I found searching the internet.

Rebecca – You have already covered a lot of ground in your experience and it’s invaluable to other hopeful authors out there! I really hope you do publish your advice. No doubt it will come in useful for a lot of people!

 

Brian – Amazon, like they have in so many other ways, has broken down the traditional walls to getting a book published. Which is great, but there isn’t any great manual for new writers to reference. So when someone writes a book, the feeling is like: “now what?” There are soooo many choices out there it creates an analysis paralysis. I hope I can help a few people out!

 

Thanks again to Brian for taking the time to conduct this interview! If you are interested in getting a copy of Thran Book 1: The Birth, the links to purchase are available in my review post!

 

 

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Book Review: Thran Book 1 – Brian McLaughlin

For day 2 of Blogtober I am sharing a book review of Thran Book 1: The Birth, which was sent to me by Voracious Readers Only in exchange for review. Thank you to them and to the author, Brian McLaughlin, who I have been working closely with lately. In addition to today’s review, I will also be sharing an interview with Brian tomorrow. In that post we talk about the fictional world of Thran, the influences behind the book and Brian also shares some of his knowledge and experiences in publishing.

That’s for you to look forward to tomorrow! Today’s post is all about the book, and my honest thoughts on it.

 

Thran Book 1: The Birth

Goodreads – Thran Book 1: The Birth

Set in the mythical world of Thran, a young warrior named Brutal Mixnor sets out on an adventure to uncover the truth about his father’s mysterious disappearance after a battle years earlier. Some longtime friends and new acquaintances join him in his search, each with their own reasons for braving the danger-filled wilds of the Cruel Pass. Follow the young adventurers and watch as their powers grow, along with the strength of the enemies they encounter. Discover the complex, imperfect, characters of all races, comprising the full spectrum of alignments (good, neutral, and evil) that weave their way into and out of the story, leaving their mark on the reader as the world of Thran is pushed towards cataclysmic war and suffering.

For readers familiar with the role playing game Dungeons and Dragons(R), Thran Book I: The Birth will feel like a warm wave of nostalgia washing over you, and the unfamiliar will get a glimpse of what it’s like to be immersed into the heart of an adventure that transports you into a world where magic abounds and almost anything is possible, but nothing is certain. Visit https: //www.worldofthran.com/ to learn more about the world of Thran, including: character portraits, the world map, the pantheon of deities, and more!

 

Purchase Links:  Amazon UK     Amazon US

 

My Thoughts…

When I say Thran is an epic fantasy book, I am not kidding! At 655 pages, this novel stands its ground in the fantasy genre. If you enjoy role-playing games you will recognise the format of the narrative and character types. The structure of the narrative is like Dungeons and Dragons, or perhaps a more modern example, Dragon Quest.

One of the biggest factors that I judge fantasy novels on is the world-building. It was very clear to me from the beginning that a lot of work has gone into developing the world and framing the narrative. The detail illustrates an advanced world, without being excessive or stalling the storyline at any point. This is consistent throughout so the pace of the narrative and balance between action/information is achieved.

The only place I would suggest that there was a little too much detail for me is in the combat scenes. It’s probably a matter of personal preference, but I envisage these as being a little punchier (excuse the pun!) What I will say is that evidently Brian has sequenced these out before committing pen to paper. I was a lot more interested in the continuation of the plot and development of the storyline, so I confess I started to skim-read some of these.

I really enjoyed the dual timeline structure and the narrative of Anthall, perhaps slightly more than the present-day narrative. This contributes to a lot of the historical side of the world-building, and there are subtle ties to the present-day if you can pick up the clues! Having the two intertwining storylines breaks up each storyline so as not to become too lengthy. It makes a refreshing change to read the different perspective. It is too early for what I think will be a complex storyline to be experienced by one set of characters without a rushed conclusion.

I am interested to see how the storyline will pan out throughout the rest of the series. Thran Book 1 provides a strong foundation to a unique fantasy tale and there is plenty more to explore in the world of Thran.

 

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