Reviews by Nickolas

Review

The Burning Isle

Posted: August 19, 2016 by Nickolas in Books We Love Meta: Will Panzo, Dark Fantasy
The Burning Isle

Last week I travelled to Savannah on a business trip and while packing my bag the night before I left I made sure to include the latest ARC I’ve received, THE BURNING ISLE (Amazon) by Will Panzo. My flights were supposed to be short jaunts and I didn’t suspect I’d have much free time to spend reading, but if I’ve learned anything in my 24 years of life it’s this: take a book with you wherever you go because you never know when you’ll be stuck wishing you had one. This maxim came in handy when Delta Airline’s servers went down, sending the whole system into chaos and I spent the next 24 hours in airport limbo. The good news is that I had THE BURNING ISLE on hand and an unexpected surplus of free time to read so that’s what I did. I wound up finishing all 417 pages before I boarded the flight to my final destination.

As bored as a day at the airport has the potential to be any halfway decent book would have been better than nothing at all but fortunately THE BURNING ISLE isn’t just halfway decent — it’s quite good. Like, early contender for debut fantasy of the year good and likely to become a new favorite amongst the grimdark fantasy crowd. Expect to see THE BURNING ISLE on the short list for the Gemmell Morningstar Awards next year.
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Review

Alliance of Shadows

Posted: August 2, 2016 by Nickolas in Books We Love Meta: Larry Correia, Mike Kupari, Techno Thriller
Alliance of Shadows

Disclaimer: Anyone familiar with my reviews will likely know that Larry Correia is my favorite author. 

Once or twice a year a new Larry Correia title hits the shelves and for a brief, shimmering moment everything is right in the world. In this case the title is ALLIANCE OF SHADOWS (Amazon), Book 3 in Larry’s Dead Six collaboration with Mike Kupari. I wasn’t overly fond of DEAD SIX (EBR Review), the first book in the series, but SWORDS OF EXODUS won me over and I’ve been waiting three excruciating years for the conclusion to the trilogy. In typical Correia fashion ALLIANCE OF SHADOWS does not disappoint.
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Review

Angels of Caliban

Posted: July 8, 2016 by Nickolas in Books We Love Meta: Gav Thorpe, Science Fiction
Angels of Caliban

A long, long time ago in a galaxy… here… I read ANGELS OF DARKNESS by Gav Thorpe (Amazon). I’d been reading Warhammer 40,000 tie-in fiction for a short while but this was my first exposure to the Dark Angels. It was more thoughtful and considerate than I was accustomed to for a 40k novel. Don’t get me wrong, ANGELS OF DARKNESS stills packs the heavy hitting action the war-game is known for, but it also delves deeply into the history of one of 40k’s most mysterious factions. It’s been a long time since I read that book but it remains one of my all time favorites set in the grim darkness of the future. ANGELS OF CALIBAN takes place 10,000 years before ANGELS OF DARKNESS, during the Horus Heresy, and fills in more of the details of the I legion’s shameful past. It is also the third novel in the Imperium Secundus subplot of the larger Horus Heresy series, following Dan Abnett’s THE UNREMEMBERED EMPIRE (Amazon) and Guy Haley’s PHAROS (EBR Review).

If you’ve read my PHAROS review you’re aware that I’m a big fan of the Imperium Secundus subplot and ANGELS OF CALIBAN (Amazon) is (probably) the end of that specific era of the Horus Heresy. Unfortunately I feel as though the concept wasn’t explored nearly as fully as it deserved but it’s still a satisfying diversion from the main conflict of the galactic-spanning civil war and ANGELS OF CALIBAN is a powerful (likely) finale to the arc.
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Review

Pharos

Posted: June 28, 2016 by Nickolas in Books that are Mediocre Meta: Guy Haley, Science Fiction, RPGs
Pharos

Continuing my Horus Heresy binge I have another review for you! This time we have PHAROS by Guy Haley (Amazon), Book 34 in Black Library’s massively successful tie-in series. It’s a bit of a leap from my last review given that ANGEL EXTERMINATUS (EBR Review) is Book 23, is set in an entirely different theatre of the galaxy spanning civil war, features a completely different cast of characters, and even delves into different themes. There exists some Horus Heresy novels that can be read out of their numerical publishing order but if you haven’t been following along with the series I would not recommend starting with PHAROS. It’s essentially a sequel within a sequel within a series. It’s sequel-ception! That said, I’ll try not to reveal too much about the book in case you’re intrigued by the Horus Heresy but uncertain about jumping into a series that is currently 38 books long.
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Review

Angel Exterminatus

Posted: June 15, 2016 by Nickolas in Books We Love Meta: Graham McNeill, Science Fiction
Angel Exterminatus

I’ve been on somewhat of a Warhammer 40,000 reading binge of late. Or, more accurately, a Warhammer 30,000 reading binge as each of the five titles I’ve devoured in the past month has been set in the Horus Heresy event series. I’m a Warhammer 40k fanboy (I have the Imperial Aquila tattooed on my chest), but I’d taken a few year hiatus from the universe. Now I’m back with a vengeance and there is a surplus of new material to gorge on. The most recent Horus Heresy novel I’ve read, ANGEL EXTERMINATUS by Graham McNeill (Amazon), is the 23rd book in a series that is currently on its 37th installment. The books are penned by multiple authors, and all of the books are connected by larger events and characters but not all are necessarily sequential. It’s a truly impressive collaboration. It’s been ten years since Black Library began publishing the Horus Heresy and a lot has happened since the opening trilogy. ANGEL EXTERMINATUS is perhaps most closely tied to the fifth book in the series, FULGRIM (Amazon), also written by Graham McNeill. ANGEL EXTERMINATUS is also a prequel of sorts to several of Graham McNeill’s books set 10,000 years after the Horus Heresy two of my favorite 40k books: STORM OF IRON (Amazon), DEAD SKY BLACK SUN (Amazon); one of my least favorite: CHAPTER’S DUE (Amazon). In any case, ANGEL EXTERMINATUS is not the place for newbies to start.
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Review

Son of the Black Sword

Posted: August 7, 2015 by Nickolas in Books We Love Meta: Larry Correia, Epic Fantasy, Sword & Sorcery
Son of the Black Sword

As Larry Correia’s biggest fan I’ve been looking forward to his fantasy debut for a while now. If I remember properly he’s been teasing fans, talking about it on his blog for a couple years now at least. Judging by how incredibly large scale Larry’s urban fantasy and alternate history novels have been I’ve been eager to see what he could do with straight up fantasy. I can happily say that SON OF THE BLACK SWORD (Amazon) will not disappoint the Monster Hunter Nation and it will also likely earn Larry a lot of new fans from the fantasy genre.

Here’s the plot synopsis: After the War of the Gods, the demons were cast out and fell to the world. Mankind was nearly eradicated by the seemingly unstoppable beasts, until the gods sent the great hero, Ramrowan, to save them. He united the tribes, gave them magic, and drove the demons into the sea. Yet as centuries passed, Gods and demons became myth and legend, and the people no longer believed. The Age of Law began.

Ashok Vadal has been chosen by a powerful ancient weapon to be its bearer. He is a Protector, the elite militant order of roving law enforcers. No one is more merciless in rooting out those who secretly practice the old ways. Everything is black or white, good or evil, until he discovers his entire life is a fraud. Ashok isn’t who he thinks he is, and when he finds himself on the wrong side of the law, the consequences lead to rebellion, war—and destruction.
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Review

The Grace of Kings

Posted: April 28, 2015 by Nickolas in Books We Love Meta: Ken Liu, Epic Fantasy
The Grace of Kings

THE GRACE OF KINGS (Amazon) by Ken Liu was a pure pleasure to read. Dubbed the “Wuxia GAME OF THRONES” by Wesley Chu, this debut novel is a grand adventure that speaks of Liu’s considerable talent. It’s the type of novel capable of bridging the gap between “pulp” and “literature,” a story that is equal parts fun and cerebral. THE GRACE OF KINGS is an early contender for best fantasy of 2015 and when awards season rolls around again I anticipate it garnering plenty of nominations.

For those unaware of Wuxia, it is a broad genre of Chinese fiction concerning the adventures of martial artists in ancient China. Some notable examples of the tradition include films such as CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON (Amazon) and HERO (Amazon), and games such as Bioware’s JADE EMPIRE (Amazon), which is one of my favorite RPGs of all time. I suspect/hope that THE GRACE OF KINGS will further raise awareness of the genre.

Here’s Amazon’s synopsis: Two men rebel together against tyranny—and then become rivals—in this first sweeping book of an epic fantasy series from Ken Liu, recipient of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards.

Wily, charming Kuni Garu, a bandit, and stern, fearless Mata Zyndu, the son of a deposed duke, seem like polar opposites. Yet, in the uprising against the emperor, the two quickly become the best of friends after a series of adventures fighting against vast conscripted armies, silk-draped airships, and shape-shifting gods. Once the emperor has been overthrown, however, they each find themselves the leader of separate factions—two sides with very different ideas about how the world should be run and the meaning of justice.

Fans of intrigue, intimate plots, and action will find a new series to embrace in the Dandelion Dynasty.
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Review

The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids

The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids

THE THIEF WHO PULLED ON TROUBLE’S BRAIDS (Amazon), by Michael McClung, is what Mark Lawrence’s Great Self-published Fantasy Author Blog-off is all about. This is the third book I read of the batch I was assigned. I saved it for last because I found the cover appealing, the title enticing, and the synopsis intriguing. The overall package is professional and marketable and because of that it stands out amongst the competition.

THE THIEF WHO PULLED ON TROUBLE’S BRAIDS is a little more than 200 pages long but it’s a satisfying sword & sorcery adventure that will appeal to fans of Ari Marmell, David Dalglish, Douglas Hulick, Brent Weeks, and Kelly McCullough.

Here’s the synopsis: Amra Thetys lives by two simple rules—take care of business, and never let it get personal. Thieves don’t last long in Lucernis otherwise. But when a fellow rogue and good friend is butchered on the street in a deal gone wrong, she turns her back on burglary and goes after something more precious than treasure: Revenge. Revenge, however, might be hard to come by. A nightmare assortment of enemies, including an immortal assassin and a mad sorcerer, believe Amra is in possession of The Blade That Whispers Hate—the legendary, powerful artifact her friend was murdered for—and they’ll do anything to take it from her. Trouble is, Amra hasn’t got the least clue where the Blade might be. She needs to find the Blade, and soon, or she’ll be joining her colleague in a cold grave instead of avenging his death. Time is running out for the small, scarred thief.
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Review

Red Rising

Posted: February 18, 2015 by Nickolas in Books We Love Meta: Pierce Brown, Dystopian SF, Young Adult
Red Rising

I originally dismissed RED RISING (Amazon) by Pierce Brown because of the immense level of hype behind the debut. RED RISING was being touted as the next THE HUNGER GAMES, as it seems the majority of Young Adult novels are marketed these days. Being that I consider THE HUNGER GAMES a vastly overrated and underwhelming novel I gave RED RISING a pass. I purchased a copy several months ago on a whim, unwilling to leave the bookstore empty handed. It sat untouched and unloved near the bottom of my To Read Pile until the recent release of GOLDEN SON (Amazon), book two of the trilogy. News of the sequel drew my attention back to the series and I decided to give it a shot.

I should have jumped aboard the first car of the RED RISING bandwagon when I had a chance. I absolutely devoured Pierce Brown’s debut — reading for hours at a time, even skipping dinner in order to finish the book during a frenzied four-hour reading binge. I’ve read a lot of good books lately nothing on the level of RED RISING in a long, long time.
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Review

Trial by Fire

Posted: January 29, 2015 by Nickolas in Books We Love Meta: Charles E. Gannon, Military SF
Trial by Fire

Chuck Gannon’s FIRE WITH FIRE (EBR Review) was easily the best science fiction novel I read in 2013. The first book in the Tales of the Terran Republic series would be right at home on a shelf amongst the hallowed Golden Age classics. FIRE WITH FIRE is a cerebral thriller – Caine makes his fair share of thrilling escapes – but the real draw to the story is the depth and intellectual complexity that Gannon brings to a First Contact scenario. As a follow-up, TRIAL BY FIRE (Amazon) is no disappointment.
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Review

Soda Pop Soldier

Posted: October 10, 2014 by Nickolas in Books that are Mediocre Meta: Nick Cole, Science Fiction
Soda Pop Soldier

As an Advertising/Public Relations major and a lifelong gamer, Nick Cole’s SODA POP SOLDIER (Amazon) immediately appealed to me. The premise of the novel revolves around professional matches being waged online over choice advertising real estate in the real world. Told from the first-person perspective by a character known only by the gamer tag PerfectQuestion, SODA POP SOLDIER is pitched as Call of Duty meets Diablo. The gaming segments of the novel deliver on the action packed promise of the book’s description. Unfortunately the sections of the book that take place in the real world lack the same punch.
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Review

Dead Things

Posted: September 9, 2014 by Nickolas in Books We Love Meta: Stephen Blackmoore, Urban Fantasy
Dead Things

A few pages into Stephen Blackmoore’s DEAD THINGS (Amazon) I realized I would want to start reading the sequel immediately after finishing so I took a risk and ordered BROKEN SOULS (Amazon). Having finished DEAD THINGS I now recognize this was a wise decision. Yay me! Based off the cover alone my eyes would have likely skipped past this novel on a store shelf — there’s nothing wrong with it but there are a hundred trillion other urban fantasy novels with Christian McGrath covers and who has the time to sift through them all? Thankfully, DEAD THINGS comes with a recommendation by M.L. Brennan, whose American Vampire series turns me into a squealing fangirl. I enjoy Brennan’s work because she diverges from the typical hard-boiled style urban fantasy. I enjoyed Blackmoore’s novel because he embraces it with aplomb.
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Review

Veil of the Deserters

Posted: June 17, 2014 by Nickolas in Books We Love Meta: Jeff Salyards, Dark Fantasy
Veil of the Deserters

VEIL OF THE DESERTERS (Amazon) is the sequel to SCOURGE OF THE BETRAYER (EBR Review) by Jeff Salyards, a Sword & Sorcery novel that earned a spot in our Best of 2012 lineup. The first book in Bloodsounder’s Arc unexpectedly blew me away (so much so that I read it and reviewed it twice) and I’ve been waiting for the sequel ever since. In the time that has passed I’ve read a lot of books but SCOURGE has managed to remain vivid in my imagination.
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Review

Half A King

Posted: April 22, 2014 by Nickolas in Books We Love Meta: Joe Abercrombie, Fantasy, Young Adult
Half A King

HALF A KING (Amazon) by Joe Abercrombie is one of the most hyped novels of the year. Check out some of the author blurbs and you’ll see what I mean. Patrick Rothfuss, Rick Riordan, Robin Hobb, and Brent Weeks are among the fantasy heavyweights heaping praise on the novel. When Abercrombie first announced HALF A KING I was anxious. He’s my second favorite author and my very reason for returning to the fantasy genre, but I couldn’t see how well his brutal wit and grim perspective would translate to a YA novel. You’ll no doubt notice that this review has been filed under “Books We Love,” but it didn’t start out that way.
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Review

Phoenix Island

Posted: November 15, 2013 by Nickolas in Books We Like Meta: John Dixon, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Phoenix Island

John Dixon’s PHOENIX ISLAND (Amazon) first came to my attention when I heard that a Young Adult novel has inspired a new CBS television series starring Josh Holloway (LOST) and Marg Helgenberger (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation)– before the book had even released. It seems that with the recent success of the THE HUNGER GAMES series (Amazon), studios have been aggressively pursuing the next big YA property. Of all the YA novels that have been optioned PHOENIX ISLAND is the first I’ve heard of to get picked up for TV–and before it has had a chance to gain a fanbase no less! It’s enough to get a reader excited, that’s for sure.
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Review

Swords of Exodus

Posted: October 29, 2013 by Nickolas in Books We Love Meta: Larry Correia, Mike Kupari, Techno Thriller
Swords of Exodus

Been a long time! Miss me? Of course you did, what a stupid question. Well a new Larry Correia book is out and you couldn’t expect me to pass up an opportunity to read/review it now could you? Another stupid question – I’m Correia’s biggest fan. But, of all Larry’s books DEAD SIX (EBR Review) has probably been the one I’ve liked the least. That’s not to say that DEAD SIX is a bad book, but I didn’t consider it up to Larry’s standards. It was fun and action-packed but the writing was a little rough around the edges, the collaboration between Correia and Kupari wasn’t seamless, I wasn’t sold on the characters, and I couldn’t find any merit in either of the romantic relationships. That said, I wasn’t discounting the series as the second half of the novel runs a whole lot smoother than the first. I’m quite pleased to say that SWORDS OF EXODUS by Larry Correia and Mike Kupari (Amazon) is infinitely better.
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Review

Nexus

Posted: June 25, 2013 by Nickolas in Books We Love Meta: Ramez Naam, Techno Thriller
Nexus

I’ve been suffering a bit of a reading slump of late. I’ve got plenty of awesome material to pick from and a complete and utter lack of motivation to read. Maybe it’s the summer heat? Regardless, NEXUS by Ramez Naam (Amazon) has shattered that lethargy and cleansed it in napalm. Optioned for a film by Paramount and Darren Aronofsky, NEXUS is probably the best book of 2012 that I’ve read in 2013. It’s a perfect summer beach read, a stimulating near-future thriller loaded with equal amounts action and speculation. NEXUS offers human characters, real (scary) science, and deep ethical dilemmas. This fiction debut is the contemporary evolution of cyberpunk: the future isn’t about virtual reality but augmented reality. Pardon my drooling, I had a blast reading this.
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Review

Warbound

Warbound

WARBOUND (Amazon) is the third entry in New York Times Bestselling Author, Larry Correia’s urban fantasy epic, Grimnoir Chronicles. Though Larry has suggested the possibility of future books set in the Grimnoirverse, WARBOUND wraps up the particular story arc began with HARD MAGIC (EBR Review), an all-time favorite of mine. This is the first time Larry has concluded a series, and so I greeted WARBOUND with much excitement and a degree of reservation. As Larry’s fans are well aware, this man knows how to kick off a series with flair – but would he be able to end one in a similar fashion?
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Review

The Twelve-Fingered Boy

Posted: April 26, 2013 by Nickolas in Books We Like Meta: John Hornor Jacobs, Horror, Young Adult
The Twelve-Fingered Boy

I enjoyed John Hornor Jacobs’ THIS DARK EARTH (EBR Review) so much that I had to read more of his work. Fortunately Jacobs has two other published books on shelves – the southern gothic, Lovecraftian horror of SOUTHERN GODS (EBR Review), and the YA Horror THE TWELVE-FINGERED BOY (Amazon). I’m eager to start SOUTHERN GODS but I couldn’t pass the opportunity to read a Young Adult book about a kid with twelve fingers that has a form of telekinesis.
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Review

A Once Crowded Sky

Posted: April 19, 2013 by Nickolas in Books We Like Meta: Tom King,
A Once Crowded Sky

I’ve read comics since I was a kid but I could hardly be called a devoted fan. I’ve always found it too difficult to keep up with the individual arcs – there were no comic shops nearby and so there were great periods of time where I was out of the loop. Having recently moved to the city it has become easier to get my hands on comics but I much prefer graphic novels as it’s a much simpler way to follow the story. Modern comics cost far too much to sample a wide variety of characters and half the pages seem to be filled with advertisements. It’s for all these reasons that superhero novels appeal to me so greatly. Currently it’s an under-tapped genre and so it’s quite exciting when a new author enters the fold. A ONCE CROWDED SKY (Amazon) is Tom King’s debut novel – a superhero story with literary sensibilities.
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Review

This Dark Earth

Posted: April 2, 2013 by Nickolas in Books We Love Meta: John Hornor Jacobs, Horror
This Dark Earth

If there is one thing you Elitist Book Reviews followers are aware of about me, it has got to be the number of things I don’t like in fiction–and how good authors can subvert these preferences and make me eat crow. So in another installment of “Things Nick Hates” I present you (drumroll please) zombies. I’m sorry, but they bore me. I used to like them and I still hold onto the belief that THE ZOMBIE SURVIVAL GUIDE (Amazon) and WORLD WAR Z (Amazon) are some of my favorite books of all time. Still, there is a saturation of zombies (sort of like the over abundance of vampires a couple years ago) and I find it tiring. There are only so many things you can do with zombies and it would take something different to interest me in another piece of undead fiction. THIS DARK EARTH by John Hornor Jacobs (Amazon) is that “something different” and it served to remind me how much I used to love the sub-genre.
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Review

Fire With Fire

Posted: March 22, 2013 by Nickolas in Books We Love Meta: Charles E. Gannon, Science Fiction
Fire With Fire

I can’t stop smiling. It’s been far too long since I’ve read a good Science Fiction novel. Once my go-to genre, Science Fiction has taken a back seat to Fantasy of late. Charles E. Gannon’s FIRE WITH FIRE (Amazon) absolutely falls under the definition of good Science Fiction. It is a novel that has reminded me just what it is that I love about the genre and it has ensured that I will be following Gannon’s work closely in the years to come. FIRE WITH FIRE sets a great many things in motion, signaling the start of what I assume will be a sweeping SF epic.
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Review

In Search Of and Others

Posted: February 27, 2013 by Nickolas in Books We Love Meta: Will Ludwigsen, Science Fiction, Anthology, Short Fiction
In Search Of and Others

Short stories are not my cup of tea but at the behest of a close friend I decided to check out Will Ludwigsen’s short story collection IN SEARCH OF AND OTHERS (Amazon). This friend assured me that Will was a talented author and suspected that I would appreciate his fiendish wit. And so once again I took a step outside my comfortable bubble of security and exclusion to try something different. It’s becoming apparent that I should clear my mind of preconceived notions because IN SEARCH OF AND OTHERS struck a strong emotional cord.Read the rest of this review »

Review

Age of Voodoo

Posted: February 19, 2013 by Nickolas in Books We Like Meta: James Lovegrove, Military SF, Science Fiction
Age of Voodoo

Happy New Year all! I hope you’re having a good one so far. I humbly present you James Lovegrove’s THE AGE OF VOODOO (Amazon), the latest installment in the legendary godpunk series. This time around readers get to delve into the lesser known world of voodoo or vodou. And you know what they say, “Where there’s voodoo there are sure to be voodoo zombies!” Somebody says that… right?
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Review

Earth Thirst

Posted: February 12, 2013 by Nickolas in Books We Like Meta: Mark Teppo, Urban Fantasy
Earth Thirst

Vampires? Vampires! Grab the stakes and garlic, this sub-genre isn’t dead yet. Don’t mind me, I kid. Vampires are never going away and Mark Teppo’s EARTH THIRST (Amazon) rejuvenates a tired concept. Teppo’s vampires are of the crunchy granola, tree hugging variety. Don’t confuse the Arcadians for hippies though, the stewards of the Earth come heavily armed.

The Earth is dying. Mankind poisons the soil and pollutes the air. The Arcadians, vampire stewards, are fighting a losing battle against hyper-industrialization. Silas is a soldier, he follows orders – even when those orders lead him onto the open seas with a group of protestors trying to save the whales. Things quickly go awry and Silas finds himself cut off from support and running for his immortal life. Now he will have to get to the bottom of a mystery that could destroy everything he loves.
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Review

Andromeda’s Fall

Posted: December 4, 2012 by Nickolas in Books We Like Meta: William C. Dietz, Military SF, Science Fiction
Andromeda’s Fall

Military Science Fiction, oh how I’ve missed you. In the never ending journey to expand my interests I find that I have neglected my favorite of all genres. The recent release of Halo 4 had me jonesing for a military sci-fi fix. Fortunately, around that time the notorious William C. Dietz asked if I would be interested in reviewing ANDROMEDA’S FALL (Amazon), the latest Legion of the Damned novel.

This marks my first Legion of the Damned novel, and it tells the story of Catherine Carletto, a wealthy socialite. In the blink of an eye Catherine’s life is turned upside down when the Emperor’s sister makes a bold power grab. In order to consolidate power and excise the threat of rebellion the newly crowned Empress has the dead Emperor’s friends and supporters assassinated. Catherine’s and her family fall under this category. Orphaned and on the run, Catherine enlists with the Legion under the alias Andromeda McKee.
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Review

American Sniper

Posted: November 23, 2012 by Nickolas in Books We Like Meta: Chris Kyle, Non-Fiction
American Sniper

Nonfiction! What is this black magic? You all must be thinking that I’m a pretty contradictory person. I don’t read books about dragons. I love James Maxey’s GREATSHADOW (EBR Review). I don’t read anthologies. I love ARMORED edited by John Joseph Adams (EBR Review). Now I’m going to tell you that I don’t read nonfiction. Ever. But it turns out that I really liked AMERICAN SNIPER (Amazon), written by Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice. An autobiography about a Navy SEAL? Well if you’re going to read nonfiction you might as well read the most exciting nonfiction available.

Chris Kyle served as a Navy SEAL during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Kyle and his platoon were part of some of the thickest fighting the US Armed Forces were involved in, from pacifying Fallujah to cleaning out Sadr City. AMERICAN SNIPER is an unapologetic, patriotic, and personal look at the conflict in the Middle East from the perspective of a special forces sniper.
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Review

Mind Storm

Posted: November 13, 2012 by Nickolas in Books We Like Meta: K.M. Ruiz, Science Fiction
Mind Storm

The description of MIND STORM by K.M. Ruiz (Amazon) would have you believe that is a story about Threnody Corwin, a soldier-slave of the Earth government. Well, it is and it isn’t. As it turns out Threnody is really more of a supporting character than a primary protagonist. The story is really about Nathan and Lucas Serca and a family feud that has the potential to burn the world to cinder. MIND STORM is what you get when you take the hard-edged, dystopian Science Fiction of Richard K. Morgan’s Takeshi Kovacs novels and spice it up with some psychic powers.
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Review

A Guile of Dragons

Posted: October 31, 2012 by Nickolas in Books We Don't Like Meta: James Enge, Epic Fantasy
A Guile of Dragons

I’ve been meaning to try out James Enge’s work for some time now. I’ve seen some high praise (there is a blurb by Lev ‘effin Grossman on the cover for instance) and so my expectations were high when I cracked open A GUILE OF DRAGONS (Amazon). This novel is a prequel to Enge’s Ambrose series and I saw that as a perfect opportunity for a beginner to jump in. As a book filling in some background detail for a beloved series fans may be satisfied. For those yet to be initiated this may not be the best entry point.
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Review

Blackbirds

Posted: October 26, 2012 by Nickolas in Books We Love Meta: Chuck Wendig, Urban Fantasy
Blackbirds

For a guy who scoffs at the urban fantasy genre I sure have been reading a lot of it lately. Doyce Testerman’s HIDDEN THINGS (EBR Review) for instance. Now I have to add Chuck Wendig to the list of authors that I need to keep an eye on. BLACKBIRDS (Amazon) is a dark, profane, blistering read that takes an unromantic premise and makes it even more coarse and filthy than you’d suspect possible.

Miriam Black surrounds herself with death. Should her skin make contact with your own she will get a psychic vision detailing your exact time and manner of death. For years she fought to save lives but there is no stopping fate and now she subsists as a vulture, surviving off the remnants of those who pass away. That is, until she meets a truck driver and sees his demise, a horrible murder. But before his death he calls out a name, her name. Now Miriam will try anything in her power to circumvent the natural order.
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Review

The Diviners

Posted: October 19, 2012 by Nickolas in Books We Love Meta: Libba Bray, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
The Diviners

It’s too soon to be declaring any book as the best of the year in any category. But! It can be said that THE DIVINERS by Libba Bray (Amazon) is pos-i-tutely one of the most enjoyable and promising of 2012. This is an urban fantasy, historical fiction, mystery epic that accessible to young adults while still managing to be entertaining to an older audience. Finding the rare gem like this is the very reason I read.

Evie O’Neill has been shipped off to live with her uncle in New York City. The exile is intended to be a punishment but Evie sees only opportunity in the bright lights of the Big Apple. The city is full of potential and Evie’s uncle is only concerned with managing the The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult – jokingly referred to as “The Museum of Creepy Crawlies.” Life is good until the police seek Uncle Will’s assistance with solving a series of occult-based murders. Evie has a very unique and unnatural gift that may enable her to help catch the crazed killer…if the killer doesn’t catch her first.
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Review

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Did you read VARIANT (EBR Review) by Robison Wells? If you answered, “Yes” then by all means read on. If you answered, “No” then STOP. Just stop. Go on Amazon and buy a copy, read it, and then you can come back to browse this review. VARIANT is one of the best YA books of 2011, far superior to the YA fiction behemoth that is THE HUNGER GAMES in my not-so-humble opinion. Now here is the highly anticipated sequel, FEEDBACK (Amazon). I’m going to try and give away as few spoilers as possible but if you haven’t read the first book please check out our review of VARIANT instead of continuing on.
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Review

Hidden Things

Posted: September 14, 2012 by Nickolas in Books We Like Meta: Doyce Testerman, Urban Fantasy
Hidden Things

I’ve been on a bit of an urban fantasy kick of late. So much of the genre is about gritty, inner city vampire staking that HIDDEN THINGS by Doyce Testerman (Amazon) registered to me as an original. HIDDEN THINGS isn’t urban fantasy so much as a modern rural fairytale. It features folkloric fantasy creatures (dragons and satyrs instead of vampires and werewolves) and tells a moral story. I found this novel approach endearing and as a result I quite liked HIDDEN THINGS despite some flaws.

Calliope’s partner has been declared dead. The police are investigating the matter and suspect foul play. Calliope knows little of the case Josh had been working but refuses to accept that he is gone for good… because she has a message on her answering machine from him that was taken two hours after his alleged demise. Now Calliope must travel to Iowa in search of answers with hopes of finding her ex-lover/best-friend/business-partner. The only clue she has is a warning, “Watch out for the hidden things.”
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Review

Monster Hunter Legion

Posted: September 3, 2012 by Nickolas in Books We Love Meta: Larry Correia, Urban Fantasy
Monster Hunter Legion

It’s that time of the year again folks. That magical time signaling the announcement of another book release from the reigning champion of urban fantasy. May I humbly present to you MONSTER HUNTER LEGION (Amazon), fourth book of the New York Times Best-Selling series written by pulp fiction juggernaut Larry Correia.

Disclaimer: Larry Correia is my favorite author. I am a Monster Hunter/Grimnoir Chronicles fanboy. This does not, however, mean that I will ever give Larry a free pass when it comes to a review. I am a critic first and foremost and I do not believe in coddling authors. That said, MONSTER HUNTER LEGION is Larry’s most flawless book to date. Not my favorite of his novels, mind you, but certainly the most complete and substantial.
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Review

Gone Girl

Posted: August 16, 2012 by Nickolas in Books We Love Meta: Gillian Flynn, Mystery
Gone Girl

I don’t often read outside of my comfort zone. I love Science Fiction and I love Fantasy and not much else holds my interest. Every once and a while though I’ll take a risk and venture outside my safety bubble. GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn (Amazon) was recommended to me with infectious enthusiasm. It wasn’t my usual cup of tea, but the premise was perplexing and so I decided to give it a shot. WOW, I am so glad I did not let this one pass me by.

On the morning of Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary she goes missing. As the investigation gets rolling evidence leads the police and the public to suspect the obvious: it’s always the husband. There is more to the story than Nick Dunne will let on but does that necessarily mean he is to blame for the disappearance of his wife?
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Review

Blood and Feathers

Posted: July 30, 2012 by Nickolas in Books We Like Meta: Lou Morgan, Urban Fantasy
Blood and Feathers

Thank you, oh thank you Literary Gods! I was terrified that BLOOD AND FEATHERS by Lou Morgan (Amazon) would turn out to be Twilight with angels standing in for vampires. Why read on with the threat of a sparkly-vampire guillotine hanging over my head? Well in case you hadn’t noticed I have become a big fan of Solaris Books. So far this is a publisher that has done little to steer me wrong. Oh and there is a quote by EBR favorite, Sarah Pinborough that goes a little like this…

“Dark, enticing and so sharp the pages could cut you, Blood and Feathers is a must-read for any fan of the genre.”
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Review

Darksiders: The Abomination Vault

Posted: July 20, 2012 by Nickolas in Books We Like Meta: Ari Marmell, Fantasy
Darksiders: The Abomination Vault

I’m one of those guys that plays video games for the story. I much prefer a solid campaign over online multiplayer any day of the week. For this reason I am a huge advocate of tie-in fiction. I love to delve deeper into characters and events that are barely touched upon while playing the game. When I caught word of a prequel novel to the Darksiders franchise from THQ my interest was piqued. When I saw that it would be penned by Ari Marmell, author of the YA Widdershins series, I was sold. May I present you, DARKSIDERS: THE ABOMINATION VAULT (Amazon).

There exists a vault containing weapons of unimaginable power. The vault remains a legacy of the atrocities committed by the Nephilim. Of the four Horsemen, the last surviving Nephilim and protectors of the Balance, only Death is aware of its being. Now an unknown enemy strikes from the shadows, intent on acquiring the weapons stored within the vault and unleashing a wave of destruction across Creation. Only Death, with the assistance of his younger brother War, has the ability to prevent the coming catastrophe.
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Review

The Drowned Cities

The Drowned Cities

Young Adult fiction has really evolved from what it used to be. There are a lot more options than there were when I was a kid. It’s not just the scope of books that has increased but the depth as well. Authors are examining mature themes that really didn’t seem so present years ago. Then again it could just be me, but I really don’t remember any YA books that examined the plight of war refugees in dystopian societies. I have to applaud authors like Paolo Bacigalupi for writing books like THE DROWNED CITIES (Amazon). Teenagers do not like being condescended to in the least and THE DROWNED CITIES offers some very dark, adult themes.
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Review

Scourge of the Betrayer

Posted: June 29, 2012 by Nickolas in Books We Love Meta: Jeff Salyards, Dark Fantasy
Scourge of the Betrayer

The Sword & Sorcery sub-genre is currently the most important facet of my reading life. This is the sub-genre that got me back into Fantasy after a five year hiatus where I read nothing but Science Fiction. With that in mind, I take the authors and novels of this genre very, very seriously. At first glance SCOURGE OF THE BETRAYER by Jeff Salyards (Amazon) failed to catch my eye. I didn’t find the cover immensely appealing (don’t give me that look, we all judge books by their cover) and the synopsis sounded like somewhat standard fantasy fare. At second glance, however, one might notice a quote by an esteemed fantasy author, comparing this novel to the works of Joe Abercrombie and Richard K. Morgan. Name dropping of that caliber is the surest way to stroke my curiosity.
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Review

The Mirage

Posted: June 22, 2012 by Nickolas in Books We Love Meta: Matt Ruff, Alternate Historical Fiction
The Mirage

At first glance THE MIRAGE by Matt Ruff (Amazon) struck me as irreverent and offensive. I was offered a chance to read the book for free through the Amazon Vine program and I passed it up. A couple weeks later I ended up coming across a review of THE MIRAGE that made me pause and think. From there the desire was planted and I ended up purchasing a copy, reasoning that even if it turned out to be a terrible novel at least I could write a scathing condemnation of it. As it turns out, not only is THE MIRAGE an excellent novel, but it is also everything a thriller should be.
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Review

Hush

Posted: June 8, 2012 by Nickolas in Books We Like Meta: James Maxey, Heroic Fantasy
Hush

Being a book critic is sort of like getting to experience Christmas at least once a week. Getting books from your favorite authors months before release is the gift that keeps on giving. Earlier this year I read GREATSHADOW by James Maxey (EBR Review), and despite my cynical reservations it blew me away. Now we have HUSH (Amazon), the much anticipated sequel that I had to wait excruciating months for. Months! With great excitement I started reading about the most original and colorful fantasy world I have encountered in recent memory.

HUSH picks up almost immediately after the events of GREATSHADOW. If you haven’t read GREATSHADOW please stop with this review and go buy it. Otherwise you may encounter some spoilers, though I will try to keep those to a minimum.
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Review

Redshirts

Posted: June 1, 2012 by Nickolas in Books We Love Meta: John Scalzi, Science Fiction
Redshirts

Once upon a time I read OLD MAN’S WAR by John Scalzi (Amazon) and it became my favorite book of all time. That said, REDSHIRTS (Amazon) has much more in common with Scalzi’s ANDROID’S DREAM (Amazon) than it does OLD MAN’S WAR. Sometimes a book is worth losing sleep over. Some books are basically begging to be read in one sitting. REDSHIRTS is one of these books.

Andrew Dahl, Ensign of the Universal Union, has a problem. He has been assigned to the capital ship Intrepid, a ship with an alarmingly high casualty rate for low ranking crew members. Recognizing a terrifying trend relating to away missions, Dahl and his friends seek to discover the origin of the trouble plaguing Intrepid. As death draws ever nearer, Dahl must race against fate to save himself and his friends from a most assuredly gruesome demise.
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Review

Nocturnal

Posted: May 22, 2012 by Nickolas in Books We Don't Like Meta: Scott Sigler, Urban Fantasy
Nocturnal

NOCTURNAL by Scott Sigler (Amazon) is a most curious creature. In all my years of reading I can’t remember coming across a book quite like it. This isn’t because NOCTURNAL features some brand new theme or idea, but because it is a book that showcases Sigler’s evolution as an author and still manages to be an inferior novel than its predecessors. Considered to be Sigler’s most ambitious novel to date, NOCTURNAL is a supernatural police procedural with a score of highs and lows.

Monsters lurk in the ruins of San Francisco’s past, striking out at night to hunt for those who won’t be missed in order to sake their blood thirst. Homicide detective Bryan Clauser is drawn to this dark secret by a crop of serial murders that bear chilling resemblance to his own twisted dreams. With his partner, Pookie Chang by his side, Bryan must uncover the mystery of Marie’s Children and the shadowy vigilante known as Savior who kills the killers with supernatural strength.
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Review

The Liminal People

Posted: May 8, 2012 by Nickolas in Books We Love Meta: Ayize Jamal-Everett, Urban Fantasy
The Liminal People

Superheroes are extremely prevalent in pop-culture at the moment. It seems that half the books in my To-Read Pile feature some form of super human shenanigans. With all these options it takes a lot to rise above mediocrity and offer something truly gripping. Ayize Jama-Everett has written a book that does just that. THE LIMINAL PEOPLE (Amazon) is a supernatural crime thriller that reads like NBC’s failed television drama Heroes meets the hit action film Taken starring Liam Neeson.

I make the comparison because when I’m reading a review, comparisons often catch my interest and help me form a basis on which to start considering whether or not I should fork over the cash. THE LIMINAL PEOPLE undoubtedly reflects shades of Heroes and Taken, but in the end it eclipses both.
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Review

Armored

Armored

If you know me then you know I absolutely hate short stories. If you don’t know me: Hello, nice to meet you, I hate short stories. I hate all short fiction really, novellas and poems and such. I took a fiction writing course and it was all about writing short fiction. I hated that too. But! If there was ever an anthology I was ever going to enjoy it had to be ARMORED, edited by John Joseph Adams and published by Baen. A whole collection of stories solely based around my favorite science fiction concept – power armor. With a foreword by Orson Scott Card and an unbeatable roster of authors from Dan Abnett to Brandon Sanderson to Tobias Buckell, ARMORED (Amazon) could be the military SF Promised Land. So how did it fare? Read on.Read the rest of this review »

Review

Infected

Posted: April 18, 2012 by Nickolas in Books that are Mediocre Meta: Scott Sigler, Horror
Infected

Growing up I watched this horror movie called Frailty with my mom. The movie had no cheap scares or gore, but every night for of the following week I had nightmares that eventually led to me sleeping with a light on for years to come. Ever since then it seems as though horror flicks just can’t phase me. Directors are too focused on the gore-factor to see what is really important. The psychological thrills. INFECTED by Scott Sigler (Amazon) promised to be a mind bender, a truly terrifying read. Promises aside, it doesn’t quite deliver.
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Review

Age of Anansi

Age of Anansi

Continuing in the tradition of James Lovegrove‘s exceptional Pantheon series comes the e-novella AGE OF ANANSI (Amazon). This is a story that breaks away from the Military SF nature of the previous novels, though it does remain true to the thematic roots.

Dion Yeboah is a successful criminal defendant, a man with the keen ability to bend the law in his client’s favor but never break it. One day, however, the trickster god Anansi pays Dion a visit and offers him a deal he cannot refuse. At Anansi’s behest, Dion travels across the Atlantic to participate in a multi-pantheon trickster god free for all in the United States. The competition is stiff and if Dion wants to keep his head he will have to rely on his precision honed wits to overcome the likes of Loki, Set, and even the infamous Coyote.
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Review

Thief’s Covenant

Posted: April 4, 2012 by Nickolas in Books We Like Meta: Ari Marmell, Fantasy, Young Adult
Thief’s Covenant

Well it took me far longer than it should have, but I have now finished THIEF’S COVENANT by Ari Marmell. THIEF’S COVENANT (Amazon) is a short (and satisfyingly) breezy read, but finishing up final projects for school has really cut into my reading time. I am pleased to say that I have been having relatively good luck with my reading endeavors lately, and the debut of Widdershins does not disappoint. In a YA market saturated with dystopian settings it’s nice to read one set in a fantasy setting.

Meet Adrienne Satti, also known as Widdershins. Street urchin, turned aristocrat, turned thief, Widdershins has led a rough life. Orphaned at a young age, Widdershins has known both poverty and high class. Having returned to the shady alleys from whence she came, Widdershins has established herself as a daring thief but will her street smarts be enough to save her from the dark conspiracy brewing in the depths of Davillon?
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