Tuesday, 22 November 2016

5 of My Favourite Fantasy Book Covers

Book covers are a big thing. They're important and not just for making books look all purty. They serve to pull in browsers. They're the opening words in a conversation. A cover makes you pick the book up and read the back cover, the back cover makes you check out the first page, the first page makes you shout “TAKE MY MONEY!” at the cashier.

So with that thought in mind, here's 5 of my favourite fantasy book covers. They do not necessarily belong to my favourite fantasy books and are in no particular order. You may pick up on a theme throughout this blog.

1) Black Lung Captain by Chris Wooding 

Actually I'm going to include all of the Ketty Jay covers in this one because they're absolutely stunning. So much so I even contacted the artist, Stephan Martiniere, but my personal pockets are not nearly deep enough for a commission.

Some of you may know how highly I regard Chris Wooding and the Ketty Jay series is easily one of my favourite fantasy series I've ever read. Imagine a more steampunk version of Firefly with magic, demons, and some of the most compelling characters you'll ever love and hate.

I could gush a bit longer on my love for the series but instead I'll just recommend you all read them right now.

2) Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley P. Beaulieu 

This is actually the French cover of the book and the only one I'm going to include in the list as I'm just not that impressed by the other versions of the cover. This one, however, by Marc Simonette, is simply stunning. Honestly, I have serious cover envy every time I look at this one.

Twelve Kings... is an interesting fantasy tale set in a desert country (which is what attracted me in the first place). It's fast paced with a ass-kicking female protagonist and hints at a much larger story I'm looking forward to reading. If Bradley is reading this he should definitely send me an ARC of Blood Upon the Sand (Book 2 of the Shattered Sands).

3) The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch 

I'm going to include Red Seas Under Red Skies in this one as well as both covers are gorgeous, but this cover for The Lies of Locke Lamora is simple yet stunning. It's evocative and mysterious. Unfortunately I can't find a website for the artist, Benjamin Carre.

The Gentlemen Bastard series is a fun set of tales about a couple of master thieves as they perform complex heists, learn to sail, and discover that there is more to the world than meets the eye... and they're well and truly mixed up in it. It was without a doubt a bit of the inspiration behind my It Takes a Thief... series, though I went a bit lighter, fluffier, and steampunk-ier.

4) The Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne by Brian Stavely

I honestly can't decide which of the three covers I prefer. They are all wonderful and the artist, Richard Anderson, knocked it out of the park. The style gives a detailed vague look at characters that I love.

The Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne is an epic fantasy yarn with the fate of humanity in the balance. I haven't actually finished the series yet because I find it a bit full of fluff. Fans of Lord of the Rings and A Song of Ice and Fire will likely love it though.

5) Last Song Before Night by Ilana C. Myer 

I didn't realise this until writing this blog but it's another cover by Stephan Martiniere and I am most certainly a fan. It's bright and evocative and full of light and hope. From the blue of the sky to the architecture to the petals on the wind, this cover is stunning.

I must admit I have not yet read the book, though it is on my TBR pile, so I can't say what it's about. Instead I'll throw the blurb below.

Long ago, poets were Seers with access to powerful magic. Following a cataclysmic battle, the enchantments of Eivar were lost–now a song is only words and music, and no more. But when a dark power threatens the land, poets who thought only to gain fame for their songs face a task much greater: to restore the lost enchantments to the world. And the road to the Otherworld, where the enchantments reside, will imperil their lives and test the deepest desires of their hearts.

6) The Fifth Empire of Man by Rob J. Hayes 

OK. I know I said 5 but I figured I could put one of my own covers down at the bottom and no one would notice... I think I got away with it. The cover is by Alex Raspad and I think it's gorgeous. Definitely my favourite of my own covers so far.

In case you weren't aware The Fifth Empire of Man is the second book in my Best Laid Plans series and is a fantastical piratical adventure. Early readers have described it as Pirates of the Caribbean meets Joe Abercrombie.

So that's my list of favourite fantasy covers. It's not complete by any means but you can probably find a pattern in the types of cover I like. So which covers have caught your eyes recently? Comment below and let me know.

Rob J. Hayes is the author of the acclaimed The Ties that Bind trilogy and the upcoming Best Laid Plans duology. You can find out more on his website here.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Review Blog - Wraith Knight by C.T. Phipps

Wraith Knight by Charles T. Phipps

Artwork by Alex Raspad... who also does my book covers. We love Alex.

Apparently it's customary to note that I received an ARC version of the book in return for an honest review. I also received that ARC about a year prior to release and I'm reliably informed that those pesky typos and what not have been cleaned up.

On a personal note this was one of the first ARCs I was given to read... my Kindle is now full of the damned things.

So Wraith Knight is the story of Jacob Riverson. Jacob was the greatest hero of his age and a shining light against the darkness... right up until the big bad dark lord guts him like a fish. The end. Well, not quite. Jacob wakes up a few hundred years later only to discover the big bad has been using his body (and possibly soul) as a weapon against the forces of light. In short, after being brutally cuddled to death by sharp objects, Jacob was turned into a Wraith Knight (see Ring Wraith). But the surprises aren't quite done for poor Jay-Jay and he's reliably informed by the big bad itself that evil kinda lost the war on purpose because the big bad was just a bit bored of being the big bad. But it's OK, because humanity is a vile species and there's always another war just around the corner. Oh, and the world needs evil so the big bad has volunteered Jacob for the role. No auditions necessary. And that's pretty much where the book starts.

We follow along with Jacob and his growing (and shrinking) collection of super friends (I say this literally as everyone with a name seems to have a super power of some sort) as they attempt to right the wrongs of the world by becoming... evil.

So I described the book as “A mix between Lord of the Rings and World of Warcraft with more epic battles than a 40-man raid.” (Yes. I was there at the beginning. I killed Ragnaros and it was glorious). And there sure are epic battles. The pace of the book is so fast that every time Jacob goes anywhere, there's someone to fight. Add into this a poorly defined magic system and you'll soon find that anything goes in the battles. Sometimes there's swords, sometimes there's magic, sometimes there's monsters. And just when you think the battle is over, the action refuses to relent and Jacob find himself thrown into more conflict.

It's obvious from the get go that Charles has put a lot of thought into the world he's created and there's plenty of lore to back up the action with frequent flashbacks to Jacob's... life (read past) and his journey takes us through much of the world so we get to discover a lot about it. He's obviously borrowed from a lot of well established worlds in terms of monsters and other sentient races, but usually puts his own slight spin on them.

The plot is fairly straight forward (at least at first glance) and Charles does a good job of internalising the struggle Jacob faces between wanting to be good and realising that the only way to be good is to be a little bit bad... or a lot bad. Sometimes the world is so messed up it needs an iron fist... I'm fairly certain Dr Doom said that.

I have a couple of issues with the book. First off is the main character himself. I struggled to get a good sense of who Jacob was and not just because he struggles with that question throughout the book. He feels a little inconsistent at times. One moment he's dour and resentful of the life and unlife he has led and the next he's flirting with anything in a skirt and cracking jokes. He moves on from the love of his life with a couple of tears, despite proclaiming her to be the love of his life, because... another woman presents herself to him. It all added up to me struggling to empathise with him.

The other issue was the superfriends were a bit too superfriendly. Maybe it was an attempt by Charles to subvert a trope but the three main cast were far too quick to start swearing oaths to each other left right and center. It felt very forced. They all went from acquaintances to besties in a matter of moments.

So I give Wraith Knight a solid 3 stars. It's a fast past action fantasy romp that sits in the lighter side of the grimdark tent.

And see, my review is pretty much spoiler free. I even got away without mentioning the big twist at the end...

Rob J. Hayes is the author of the acclaimed The Ties that Bind trilogy and the upcoming Best Laid Plans duology. You can find out more on his website here.