Yearly Archives:: 2015

Fantasy romance review: ‘Dragon’s Rival’ by H L Burke

September 17, 2015 Review 0

This is the third in the series The Dragon and the Scholar, and the story is blossoming now. It’s focused more on the personal elements than the background plot, but I found this more interesting anyway. The on-again off-again sort-of romance between dragon-prince Ewan and scholar Shannon has reached a critical point, and Ewan’s rival Ryan, another prince, is there waiting for Shannon when things fall apart. Everything depends on Ewan: will he admit his love for Shannon or deny it all to give her a chance of happiness with Ryan?

I’m not generally a big fan of characters who say and do things to protect another character ‘for their own good’. It’s presumptuous and disrespectful not to allow them to make their own decision. But in this case, Ewan has been enchanted (or cursed, perhaps) by an evil sorceress, now dead, to take the form of a dragon permanently. If Shannon chooses to be with Ewan, she gives up all possibility of a sexual relationship and children. There’s also the problem that dragons live longer lives than humans. That’s a heavy price to pay, and Ewan’s actions to push her towards Ryan are very understandable in that context. The tragedy of Ewan’s situation adds a darker shade to an otherwise rather lighthearted story.

The background plot is nothing wildly original, just the usual conspiracy to take over the kingdom. One of the weaknesses of this series, to my mind, is that the characters fall too neatly into the good guy/bad guy boxes. I really like a hero with foibles, or a villain who has some redeeming qualities. That’s how people are in real life, and it makes the story so much more realistic if the characters aren’t simple black or white, but have at least some hint of grey about them. But that’s a personal preference, not a major criticism.

Fortunately, the background shenanigans never come close to overwhelming the story, which focuses firmly on the two principle characters and their troubled romance. A reader would have to have a heart of stone not to root for these two likable characters to get back together, and the author elegantly contrives to ensure that Ryan isn’t left too broken-hearted, either. Very nicely done. Four stars.


A year of self-publishing

September 12, 2015 Publishing/marketing 0

Today it’s exactly one year since I published my very first book. There was cake, there was champagne, there were little sausages on sticks, there was jubilation throughout the land— erm, Ross household. And I was terrified. I’d like to laugh at myself, and say that those days are behind me now, I’m an accomplished self-pubber who can publish without fear, but nope. Still terrified with every book. That one went OK – phew! – but maybe this one will flop? It never gets less than nerve-shredding.

What’s helped more than anything else is the willingness of other self-pubbers to help out with advice and support. When I say I couldn’t have done this without that support, I mean that literally. I’ve made friends on Scribophile, Mythic Scribes and the Kboards Writers’ Cafe who have been consistently generous with their time and advice, and there are innumerable others, authors and bloggers, whose words have informed, encouraged and inspired me. Thank you to all of you.

And now, the obligatory list of Stuff I Learned:

  • – Books don’t sell without promotion (dur, right?).
  • – Promos are fun! And addictive! And sometimes I even make money from them!
  • – Two books sell more than one, and three sell more than two.
  • – Two books make more work than one, and three makes more than two.
  • – Not to panic. This is a long game.

I’ve seen others post numbers from their first year’s sales, and I’d like to do something similar. First the lifetime stuff:

  • Sales: 2,630
  • Borrows: 2,022 (up to June 30th)
  • Pages read: 359K (from July 1st; equivalent to around 400 complete reads)

Monthly sales and revenues are very up and down, but here’s my way of looking at how things are improving. These are my average daily sales/borrows/royalties, split by number of books out:

  • 1 book out: 1 sale/day, <1 borrow/day, $2/day
  • 2 books out: 9 sales/day, 6 borrows/day, $20/day
  • 3 books out: 11 sales/day, 25 borrows/day, 5K pages/day, $46/day

I discovered the virtues of promotion shortly before the release of book 2, as you can probably tell. If anyone still needs convincing that writing more books (and promo!) is the best way to go, here it is. It would be lovely to think that this progression will continue indefinitely, but probably not. (10 books out: $10,000/day! Yay! Er, no…)

And now, on to the next year. And the year after that…

PS To celebrate my first anniversary, all my books are priced at just $0.99 (or equivalent) for the weekend (up to and including September 13th). That’s a worldwide offer from all Amazons. You can also pre-order the next book at the same price. Click the Buy! button up above to link to your local Amazon.



Fantasy review: ‘The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms’ by N K Jemisin

September 11, 2015 Review 0

Right from the start I had trouble with this book. The story is told by Yeine, in a chatty but disjointed style, which hops here and there, jumping back from the here-and-now to fill in some backstory, sometimes abandoning the diversion. I can live with the erratic timelines, although it seems more of an authorial conceit than anything else, but the odd tone is grating. A slightly formal construction will be disrupted by a seemingly modern word, like ‘savvy’ or ‘sicced’. It’s very jarring, and rocks me out of the story at frequent intervals.

And then Yeine herself is an odd sort of character. Her mother, from the ruling Arameri family, married into the northern family of Darr, so-called barbarians, although it isn’t obvious what they do that is any more barbaric than Arameri ways. But when Yeine is summoned to Sky, the seat of the Arameri family, and made an heir and told to fight the other heirs to the death to become ruler herself, she… well, she just seems to shrug and accept it. And in her interactions with other characters, she veers from diplomatic silence to open rudeness, and from violence to meek submission. I couldn’t make her out at all.

The Arameri family have four gods at their command, and they, too, take an interest in Yeine. Again, she simply accepts everything they do. She seems oddly passive for a barbarian girl. And ignorant. She seems to know nothing at all about Sky or its occupants. Did her mother tell her nothing? Do they have no books or other means of education in the barbaric north? Didn’t she want to know?

The big attraction here is the presence of the four captured gods. Jemisin makes them very alien and ‘other’, and I’m a sucker for that kind of skill. The father, Nahadoth, is frightening-alien. Man-child Sieh is creepy-alien. With these two, the male gods, there are strong sexual undertones to their dealings with Yeine right from the start. The two female gods, Zhakkarn and Kurue, are less well-developed initially, although they become more important later.

The plot is minimalist. New heir, finding her way around the city, steering through the choppy waters of family politics, and finding out who killed her mother and why. So lots of ambling around, chatting to this or that courtier or cousin, just happening to stumble onto secrets (yeah, right) and avoiding the amorous intentions of Nahadoth.

I haven’t read as widely in the genre as many reviewers, but even so I found resonances of familiar books here. The three heirs fighting to the death for the right to rule is reminiscent of Daniel Abraham’s Long Price Quartet. The gods embodied but captive, living amongst mortals, reminded me of Brandon Sanderson’s Warbreaker. And the whole business of the orphan who becomes heir, transposed into a new environment, discovering family secrets, feels like one giant fantasy trope.

I understand why people rave over this book. The writing is confident, the plot is not entirely trope-bound and several of the characters are compelling – Nahadoth, for instance, and Dekarta, the current ruler. But so many aspects failed to work for me. The world-building is sparse, for one thing (what are these Hundred Thousand Kingdoms anyway, apart from a striking title?), the disjointed writing style and the contrived seepage of information is irritating, and having gods conveniently to hand means that the magic has virtually no limitations. You want to nip to the other side of the continent for a quick chat with someone? No problem. Worst of all, none of it convinced me.

Yeine herself, drooping her way through her new life, manipulated by everyone and rarely even bothering to put up a fight, was just too stupid for words. And how many times did she find out (too late!) some crucial piece of information that a few simple questions might have unearthed. So basically, the book failed on that point alone: the plot would simply have unravelled like a ball of wool if the characters had just talked to each other. Add in a hefty dollop of tearful angst, villains without a single redeeming feature and a bad-boy love interest who’s quite deliciously dangerous, and this boil down to nothing more or less than a standard romance. It’s very well-written romance, and there are some interesting ideas here, but a little bit of gratuitous torture doesn’t make it any less of a romance.

I didn’t mind the romantic elements at all; Nahadoth was a thoroughly compelling character, and the sexual tension was nicely done. I also loved Sieh. But I hated the overwrought villains, the implausibly violent world, the contrived drip-feed of information, the silly murder-of-the-mother mystery, the eye-rollingly over-the-top god-sex and the ease with which problems could be solved with limitless magic. And despite the difficulty of her situation, Yeine never really sprang to life for me. She was just too placid to be interesting. I really wanted to love this book, but it made me cross too many times. It rates three stars because, despite all the irritations, I kept turning the pages.


Mystery review: ‘The Treasure at Poldarrow Point’ by Clara Benson

September 9, 2015 Review 0

This is the third in the Angela Marchmont series of cozies, and, seriously, I had a whale of a time with this book. It’s got smuggling, a secret room, mysterious tunnels, a missing diamond necklace and anonymous letters, not to mention a number of characters behaving in suspiciously odd ways. The plot is completely preposterous, of course, but the most amazing fun, and a great leap forward from the first two books in the series.

The character of Angela herself is really beginning to shine, now. She’s turning into a wonderful heroine, intelligent and self-confident, with a relaxed approach to her investigations. Angela’s god-daughter, Barbara, is a magnificent side-kick. She’s twelve years old, and has that gung-ho let’s-have-a-go attitude that reminded me strongly of the Famous Five. While Angela is sedately looking stuff up in the library, Barbara is crawling through tunnels, picking locks, hiding in cupboards and creeping round in the middle of night. And it’s so refreshing to see that Angela doesn’t fret about her, having the quaintly old-fashioned idea that children are capable, sensible human beings, perfectly well able to look after themselves.

For anyone with an eye for detail, it probably doesn’t pay to look too closely at the logistics of the plot. There are a number of too-convenient contrivances, and some of the mysteries were very easy to solve. But it was all jolly good fun, a thoroughly enjoyable read from start to finish. And I do hope that a certain character reappears in future books as a romantic focus for Angela. Four stars.


‘The Magic Mines of Asharim’: ARCs available

September 1, 2015 Publishing/marketing, The Magic Mines of Asharim 0

I’m looking for volunteers to read and review  The Magic Mines of Asharim, due out Sep 25th. It features a young woman running away from her past mistakes, two very different men, and a dangerous and ambitious plan. With plenty of magic, as always!

One beta reader said: “LOVED IT. The plot was excellent, and I was hooked from the middle of chapter 1 all the way through. ”

It’s 410 pages long.  If you’re interested, email me with your preferred format: mobi, epub or pdf.

Here’s the blurb:

A fallen empire. A woman with dark secrets. A strange magical weapon.

The glorious Akk’asharan Empire was torn apart by treachery two hundred years ago, its water supply cut off. Now its people are enslaved and humiliated, but they have never forgotten the past, and dream of one day restoring their former greatness.

Allandra’s dreams are more immediate: how to control the powerful magical abilities that are ruining her life. After a disastrous outbreak of power, she’s desperate to escape from justice and find a place to grieve and recover. Perhaps the hidden mines of Asharim can provide a safe haven.

The mines can provide much more than that: not only a way to control her dangerous magic, but a magical weapon that might even restore the fallen empire to its rightful place. But with enemies on her trail, and powerful factions who will do anything to stop her, she will only get one chance. If she fails, the empire’s last hope will be lost forever.

From the magic mines of Asharim, no one emerges unchanged.


Mystery review: ‘What Washes Up’ by Dawn Lee McKenna

August 24, 2015 Review 0

This is the third book in the sequence that started with Low Tide, and the author is really getting into her stride now. Florida cop Maggie Redmond, a divorced single mum getting by and tentatively inching towards a new relationship with fellow cop Wyatt, is a sympathetic heroine. But her life is quietly unravelling, with secrets emerging that draw her into the orbit of local crime-lord Bennett Boudreaux.

As in all these books, there’s a crime-of-the-week, but the main feature is the intricate personal life of Maggie herself and the developments arising from the death of Gregory Boudreaux in Low Tide, which get murkier and more complicated than ever in this installment. The characters are so real, you feel you know them personally.

However, the star attraction is McKenna’s glorious writing style, which is brilliant at the sort of superficial dialogue that hides an ocean of hidden meaning, and also recreates the atmospheric setting so effectively, you’ll feel the sweat trickling down your back, and smell the salty tang of the sea. These are short books, so a good, fast read. Four stars.


On staying connected while travelling

August 23, 2015 Ramblings 0

There are many wonderful perks to living in the twenty-first century, but ease of travelling and a connected lifestyle are two that I love more than (say) ubiquitous coffee shops or fast food. What could be more fun than hopping on a plane and stepping off hours later somewhere jungly hot? Or leaping into the campervan and parking beside an empty beach on Scotland’s west coast? And as for connectivity, I’m one of those people who likes to be permanently online, checking email, reading blogs, catching up on forums and generally chitter-chattering away the days.

It’s when you try to combine the two that things begin to get tricky. Wifi’s not an option on that glorious beach, and unless you’re very careful, streaming a YouTube video from that jungly resort could cost you an arm and a leg. If you’re on holiday, that’s fine. Look for an internet cafe once or twice a week to check email, or simply enjoy being disconnected for a while.

crocodileclips But if you have a business to keep running, it becomes important to find ways to stay connected that: a) work; and b) don’t bankrupt the business. It’s always been technically challenging. When my husband travelled on business in the late 80’s, an essential part of his travel kit was a set of crocodile clips. You had to heave the bed away from the wall in your hotel room, find the phone socket and dismantle it, and then attach the crocodile clips, before you could download your email.

toshibaearlylaptopHe had an early Toshiba laptop, too, which was such a new idea that he once startled a New Zealand government department merely by picking it up and walking across the room with it (presumably they’re more technologically savvy these days).

When I first started my bijou software business in the late 90’s, I only needed to be able to read and send email to keep the business ticking over. If an order came in, I could send an acknowledgement. I could send the software itself on floppy disk when I got home. Once I switched to encrypted keys to unlock the full version of the software, it was even easier – I travelled with a list of keys, and simply emailed one to the customer as needed.

jornada680Things had moved on from crocodile clips by then. In 1999, I had a Jornada, a pocket PC, which had cut-down versions of office software as well as dial-up capability for email. Mind you, it still needed a physical phone socket, and (to my surprise) not all hotels supply phones in the bedroom. I once downloaded my email in the kitchen, while the chefs good-humouredly prepared dinner around me.



nokia_9300iBy 2001, I had a new gadget – a Nokia Communicator. This was a smartphone before the term had even been invented. Like the Jornada, it had cut-down versions of all the basic office software, and – miracle of miracles! – it fetched and sent email without needing to plug into a socket. It needed a mobile signal, but it made me independent of the physical phone system. Oh, the pleasure of leaving dial-up behind! I had two different models of this, and although it’s long gone now (models were produced until 2007), it saw me through to the closing down of my little business.

Now that I’m an author with books published, I find myself back in the situation of needing to stay connected to keep the business ticking over. There’s less to do, apart from obsessively checking sales numbers and rankings, but there are times when I absolutely have to respond to emails or pay an invoice or log in to my author account at Amazon to make changes. And I wanted to be able to carry on writing, even when away from home. Smart phones are wonderful, but they’re still phones, and typing more than a text message on them is a pain. And lugging a full-sized laptop everywhere is a hassle when travelling. So, something bigger was needed, and preferably with a decent keyboard.

asussliderMy first thought was a tablet. In 2012 I bought an Asus Slider, which can be used as a (rather thick) tablet, or, by sliding the screen upwards to reveal a keyboad, acts like a mini-laptop. This worked really well for basic email, internet browsing and so forth, as long as there’s wifi available, and I could type on it, too, so I could do some writing. As an Android device, it offered a mean set of apps, too. But there was one big problem: it couldn’t run Scrivener, my writing software of choice. That meant that my travel plans involved copying parts of the work in progress to a Word document, exporting it to the Asus, and then importing it back with changes later. And restoring all the curly quotes, which mysteriously disappeared. Very tedious.

asustransformerSo earlier this year, I upgraded to an Asus Transformer. This runs on Windows 8, and while it has some issues, it’s light, it has a keyboard (albeit a terribly clicky one) and it runs Scrivener. This has become my writing ‘sandbox’ – a separate machine for the current work in progress. When I travel, I can get email, access the internet, pay invoices and backup my writing to the cloud.

But only if I can connect. And hence the reason for this post. You wouldn’t think it was difficult in this day and age to get internet access anywhere you happen to be. The days of built-in modems and cables have gone, and the era of crocodile clips is far in the past: nowadays everyone has wifi, don’t they?

Well, yes and no. Big hotels all have it, of course, but you might have to pay extra for it. And every rinky-dink little coffee shop offers free wifi, but how secure is it, if you have to pay bills or access your bank account? And then there’s the dreaded login screen: just 5 pages of personal data to type in and away you go.

vodafonemobilewifiThere has to be a better way. So I got myself a mobile wifi gadget. This connects to the mobile phone network, and creates a personal wifi hub for up to 5 devices. I chose a Vodafone model, because they have good UK coverage and they also have the cheapest top up, only £5 for 250 Mb of data. And when it works, it’s as fast and solid as the broadband connection at home. But…

And now I’m going to rant a bit, so grab something solid and hang on tight. The first requirement is a mobile signal, and you would not believe how unreliable this can be. Generally you can get enough signal strength to make calls and send texts, but for data, no, forget that. And it dips in and out randomly. I got very tired of seeing the signal bars at orange or red on the gadget instead of green. I get that there are black spots, but when the signal comes and goes, without any rhyme or reason, that’s very frustrating.

And then there’s the cost. Mobile wifi works on the same principle as mobile phone bills. For pay-as-you-go, there’s no contract fee, so you buy a top-up lump of data, in this case. And off you go until it runs out, and then you top up again. Simple, right? Except that for emails and basic internet browsing, you don’t use that much at all. So you save it for the next trip… or not. Because the stuff expires in 30 days. Yep, anything you don’t use is gone 30 days later. So I pay £5 for 250Mb, use a tenth of that, and then, for the next trip a month later, I have to pay for another 250Mb. This is a real rip-off for occasional users. I’d be happier to either pay more for the gadget up-front, or pay a minimal amount as a monthly ‘retainer’ and have the data last for a reasonable time – a year, say.

But there are some companies that get things absolutely right. Splashtop makes software that allows you to access other computers on your wifi system remotely. So I can be using the tablet downstairs and connect through Splashtop to the main computer on my desk upstairs. Simple and effective. And for a modest monthly fee of £1.22 (around $2), I can also connect remotely. Yes folks, I can sit in my campervan on the west coast and move files around on the computer at home. It needs a fast wifi connection, but given that, it works amazingly well. There have always been ways to connect remotely, of course, but this is surely one of the simplest and easiest.

We’ve come a long way, it’s true, and it’s possible to stay connected wherever you happen to be in the world, with the right technology. And perhaps one day it will all work seamlessly, without annoying glitches or great expense, and we’ll look back on the days of wifi and laugh, as we do now at those early laptops and crocodile clips. But for now, all I can say is: it works brilliantly, right up to the point where it doesn’t. Which is probably true of life in general, actually.


Mystery review: ‘The Mystery of Underwood House’ by Clara Benson

August 21, 2015 Review 0

I enjoyed the first book in the Angela Marchmont series of country-house cozies set in the twenties, but to my mind this one worked a lot better. I didn’t guess the identity of the murderer, for one thing (although that particular character was definitely on my list), and this one felt much more satisfyingly complex. It also features Angela Marchmont, the lady detective herself, as the point of view character, which I think works much better than having her as a side character (as in the first book).

Following her success in the previous murder, Angela is called upon by her friend Louisa to investigate her husband’s family. After his father’s death, a rather peculiar will left money to the four children only for their lifetimes, after which it reverts to the family solicitor. Now three of the four have died in mysterious circumstances. Is it murder? And if so, who is responsible?

This sort of book follows a very predictable pattern, which anyone who’s read any Agatha Christie will recognise. There is an array of suspects with motives, secrets gradually revealed and (possibly) another murder or two before the detective (and reader) works it all out. This is an excellent example of the genre, with a wonderfully literate writing style evocative of the period which makes the read an enjoyable ramble rather than the more frenetic pace of modern murder mysteries. Recommended for those who like their cozies quaintly old-fashioned. Four stars.


Fantasy western romance review: ‘To The Gap’ by Kyra Halland

August 17, 2015 Review 0

Well, that was a ball of fun, and no mistake. I’ve been loving the whole Daughter of the Wildings series, but I positively inhaled this fourth installment, quite unable to tear myself away from it. For anyone who likes a little fantasy served with their westerns, and a side helping of romance, this is absolutely the series for you. Start with Beneath The Canyons.

Silas is a trained mage from Granadaia, sent to the Wildings as a bounty-hunter, catching rogue mages. Lainie is Wildings-born, with untrained mage power, which taps deep into the natural power of the region. Now they’re married and on the run, while Lainie learns to control her power and the two of them avoid mage-hunters and the hostility of Plain folk (those without magical ability). All they want is a safe place to live, and to be left alone, but those are proving hard to find.

In order to make enough money to escape the mage-hunters, they join a cattle drive, and this part of the story was fantastic fun. Dealing with weather, stampeding cattle, river crossings and possible rustlers while trying to keep their magic out of sight provides plenty of entertainment in the first half of the book. But when they encounter some mischief-making mages, all hell breaks loose and things get very tense.

Silas and Lainie are a lovely pair. In most fantasy that I read, I look for characters that are complex and not solely black and white; a little grey makes things more interesting. But here there’s so much old-fashioned charm in these two that I wouldn’t change anything about them. The side characters could do with a touch more depth for my taste, but it’s not really a problem, since it all fits perfectly well with the western black-hats/white-hats style.

The magic is quite complex, and each book reveals a little more about it, and about how Lainie can use it. There’s also some intriguing political backstory going on behind the scenes, which is becoming more significant as the series progresses. I love the fact that Lainie is both more powerful than Silas, and also more inventive (which is logical, given that she’s untrained; she doesn’t know what she’s not supposed to be able to do!). I also love it when they work together as a team.

The ending is a bit of a humdinger, although not entirely unexpected; not exactly a cliff-hanger, more of a can’t-wait-for-the-next-book moment (and it will be called City of Mages! At last we will get to Granadaia, which I’m desperate to see! Write faster, Ms Halland, write faster!). This book is possibly my favourite of the series so far, enjoyable from start to finish, with an awesome mage battle, and Lainie’s little victory near the end a terrific punch-the-air moment. Five stars.


Fantasy review: ‘The Living Throne’ by H Anthe Davis

August 16, 2015 Review 0

This is the third book in the War of Memory series. I’ve already raved at extended length about the awesomeness of these books, so I won’t repeat all that. Suffice it say that if you like your epic fantasy with industrial-strength world-building, compelling characters, a plot that stretches itself over a whole continent and a vivid writing style with just a hint of horror, you should give this a try. Start with The Light of Kerrindryr.

So how does this book stack up against the first two? Surely by now the tale must be hitting mid-series sag and getting bogged down in plot sprawl or weighed down with its own history? It’s true that there are two large books’ worth of the story so far, and a huge array of characters to keep up with. I’ve said before that this is a series that would justify its own wiki, and it would have been useful to be able to look things up from time to time. However, there is a list of characters and a glossary at the back of the book, so that helped.

Fortunately, the author cleverly manages to revise the previous events while still moving things forward. There were a few moments when I couldn’t quite remember the fine detail of some earlier plot point, but only once where I just couldn’t remember anything at all about a character and his previous interactions with our heroes. So although it worried me going in that I wouldn’t be able to remember anything, it really wasn’t too much of a problem.

However, the breadth and depth of the world-building means that there’s an enormous amount of background information: about the world itself, the various flora, fauna and races, the history, geography and ecology of the continent. In the first two books, almost all of this stayed in the background, dribbled out in tiny amounts as and when needed. In this book, there were several places where the action stopped so that the main character (Cob) could be informed of some important piece of history. For the first time, I wondered if the sheer weight of backstory would topple over and squash the plot. And the device of having the Guardians withhold information, just because? That’s really got old. Cob gets mad with them for it, and so do I.

So let’s talk about Cob. He’s the archetypal teenage boy thrust into a position of power, but unlike many such stories, Cob doesn’t really grow into his powers and become a wise and just leader. He gets mad at everyone, even his closest allies, and lashes out when he shouldn’t. And he makes mistakes. This makes him human, and therefore very believable. There has been progress in the growing-up department, but he’s still a long way from wise and just leaderdom. Which is good, because that would be dull.

Of the (many) other main characters, some of them are likeable and some are intriguing and all of them are multi-faceted and compelling. There were one or two that I guess were necessary for plot reasons, but I didn’t find them desperately interesting (Weshker, for instance, or Geraad). Even so, I never got to (say) a Weshker section, and thought ‘Oh, no! Not him again’ as I did for some Game of Thrones characters (Catelyn, I’m looking at you here). And even if I had, one Enkhaelen, complex to the nth degree, would compensate for twenty Weshkers.

The plot in this installment is flimsily constructed around one of those zero-chance-of-success missions, where you know everything is going to go wrong along the way, in spades. And it does, of course, but the ways in which it went wrong still took me by surprise, with plenty of dramatic encounters, some tense episodes amongst Cob’s pals, and a few heart-wrenching moments. And there are revelations along the way that blew my socks off. I thought we’d pretty much got to the root of the main characters, but nope, not even close.

And then the ending. This is epic fantasy in every sense of the word, so the ending was suitably epic as well, with starring roles for every one of the (many) point of view characters. This did mean that the dramatic denouement went on and on and on, with three steps forward and two back. I’m not a huge fan of this kind of grandiose action, but for those who are, this is a perfectly executed example. And, just when you think it’s all over, the setup for the next book in the sequence, and what a setup it is! Awesome.

Another excellent book in the series. Beautifully constructed and written, with a complex plot and compelling characters, emotional depth, and some jaw-dropping revelations – five stars.