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Month: March 2019

Wrath (The Faithful and the Fallen, #4)

Wrath (The Faithful and the Fallen, #4)

Wrath by John Gwynne
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Masterpiece.

Mark my words, if this series ever gets adapted into a television series with the same production value given to Game of Thrones, it will create a myriad of fan bases all over the world. Watch out George R. R. Martin, while you’re waiting for the breeze from the Winds of Winter to come, John Gwynne has appeared out of nowhere and he has conquered the genre; the apprentice has become the master.

Wrath is, in my opinion, the best out of the four books in the series, which means the series always got better with each installment and with its completion I’ve decided to include John in my list of favorite authors of all time. That makes him one of my very few auto-buy authors; along with Brandon Sanderson and Joe Abercrombie, I’ll be content with buying every book they write.

“It will be a dark day, a bloody day, a proud day, for this is the day of our wrath.”

I’ll start off my review with two simple questions.

1. Does this series provide something new to the genre?

No, almost every single plot device here has been done before.

2. Is it good?

No, good is a really huge understatement. It’s damn near perfection for its genre.

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Forever Fantasy Online (FFO, #1)

Forever Fantasy Online (FFO, #1)

I received an advanced reading copy from the authors in exchange for an honest review.

Forever Fantasy Online by Rachel Aaron and Travis Bach.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Excellent characters, an engaging story and geek humour. What more can one ask for?

Forever Fantasy Online is one of my first LitRPG novels, but thanks to the powerhouse couple of Rachel Aaron and Travis Bach, it will not be my last. I will start by talking just a bit about my experience with RPGs as this will provide some context for my review. While I had been quite a geek during my younger days, my RPG days (via books and PC) ended over two decades ago, and I did not have any exposure to multi-player online RPGs. Neither have I been in the anime scene to appreciate the inspiration of this trilogy, which is a hugely popular anime series called Sword Art Online.

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Ruin (The Faithful and the Fallen, #3)

Ruin (The Faithful and the Fallen, #3)

Ruin by John Gwynne
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Intense, brutal, gory, poignant, epic, and filled with love and vengeance; John Gwynne simply can do no wrong

“Two for vengeance. One for Love.”

Ruin, the third book in The Faithful and the Fallen series is a great example of how a penultimate epic fantasy installment ought to be written. This was even better than its predecessors; making this the best book in the series so far.

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Sing, Unburied, Sing

Sing, Unburied, Sing

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Literary fiction is very hit or miss for me. I’ve read quite a few that I desperately wanted to like, but I just couldn’t. There’s this level of pretension found in the writing of many such titles that I find difficult to stomach. However, I have been fortunate to find some absolutely gorgeous books in the genre, a handful of which are now among my very favorite books on the planet.

“Sometimes the world don’t give you what you need, no matter how hard you look. Sometimes it withholds.”

So where did Sing, Unburied, Sing fall in this mixed bag of a genre? While it doesn’t rank among my favorite books ever, I did very much enjoy it. There’s something about reading a novel that shares your life in some way, whether that entails a shared heritage or setting or lifestyle, that just speaks so deeply to readers. For me, that comes in the form of novels set in the American South. Ward writes stories firmly rooted in the South, and though this was the first of her novels I’ve read, it won’t be the last, because she does a phenomenal job of capturing both the beauty and the repugnance of the rural South.

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Uncanny Collateral (Valkyrie Collection, #1)

Uncanny Collateral (Valkyrie Collection, #1)

I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Uncanny Collateral by Brian McClellan
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Uncanny Collateral is an entertaining, fast-paced urban fantasy novella that packed a surprising amount of character development for its size.

McClellan was best known for his Powder Mage trilogy which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. His ongoing Gods of Blood and Powder trilogy which is based off the same world is reputedly even better than his debut efforts but I’ve yet to read them; something which I intend to rectify sometime in the future. If this novella was anything to go by, his writing now has an even more natural and practised ease that flows and ebbs with the story. In Powder Mage, the writing was slightly clunkier in the first book, but improvements were noticeable as we progressed to the third one.

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The Ninth Rain (The Winnowing Flame Trilogy, #1)

The Ninth Rain (The Winnowing Flame Trilogy, #1)

The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Incredibly hard to put down and absolutely captivating, The Ninth Rain is classic high fantasy transfigured with a unique voice.

Jen Williams’ debut fantasy trilogy, The Copper Cat, was a grand fun-filled adventure with great characters that I’ve grown to love throughout the three books. In my review of The Silver Tide, I commended the author in crafting a modern high fantasy tale that was her own instead of emulating the increasingly popular grimdark sub-genre. As much as I loved The Copper Cat trilogy by the end of it, I can put my hand to my heart now and say that without a doubt The Winnowing Flame is going to top that easily.

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Valor (The Faithful and the Fallen, #2)

Valor (The Faithful and the Fallen, #2)

Valor by John Gwynne
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

‘War has erupted in the Banished Lands as the race for power intensifies’ and with that eruption, comes a well deserved 5-stars rating.

I gave huge praises to Malice, it was impressive but Valor, the second book in John Gwynne’s debut series was incredibly better than its predecessor. I included both Malice and Valor in one of my all-time favorite lists; that’s two out of four books of the series already. Judging from the quality progression of the series, I strongly believe the second half of The Faithful and the Fallen will follow that notion.

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Fire and Blood (A Targaryen History, #1)

Fire and Blood (A Targaryen History, #1)

Fire and Blood by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A good and unnecessary comprehensive historical overview of the Targaryen Kings.

The aesthetic of this book is gorgeous; easily one of the most beautiful books I own. I mean it, the cover art of both editions are stunning, the typography inside the book is beautiful, the font used (Centaur) was easy to read, and most of all, Doug Wheatley’s artworks were simply spectacular to look at. As for enjoyment factor, I really wouldn’t call this an enjoyable read, it was more like a homework reading that I gladly imposed upon myself on my own will. This book took me almost three weeks to read; that’s an extremely long time for me to spend reading on a single book. For a bit of comparison, I finished reading The Crippled God (385k words) in four days and Oathbringer (450k words) in six days.

Picture: King Aegon I On Balerion the Black Dread by Doug Wheatley

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Interview with M. L. Wang

Interview with M. L. Wang

Hi everyone, Petrik from Novel Notions here. Today I’m bringing you an interview with M. L. Wang, the author behind Theonite series and the recently released standalone, The Sword of Kaigen. If you somehow missed it, I have read and reviewed The Sword of Kaigen with extremely high praises. To simplify my praises, The Sword of Kaigen hits a lot of new milestones for me:

  • Number one favorite self-published book.
  • Number one favorite standalone fantasy book.
  • One of my favorite books of all time
  • It’s literally the only standalone fantasy novel I would rate 6 out of 5 stars if possible.

Yes, that’s how much I loved it! You can check out my review of The Sword of Kaigen on the blog or Goodreads and I hope it will convince you to order and read it as soon as possible. Now, without further ado, here is my interview with M. L. Wang!


  1. Hi, M. L.  Wang! Thank you for doing this interview with me. Please tell us a bit about yourself, your newest book, and the main inspirations behind your work.

Thank you for having me!

I got started in self-publishing with my Theonite Series (now two books long), which combines some of my favorite genres, including magic school, alternate history, and superheroes. Growing up biracial in the weird tangle of racial tensions that make up the USA, I was always morbidly fascinated by racism, prejudice, and the mechanisms behind oppression. This gave rise to what is probably the most distinct feature of the Theonite universe: the planet’s inverted racial hierarchy, with a West African empire having dominated the globe and Europe being the most devastated of its many former colonies. Readers of Theonite, whatever their background, are intended to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.

My newest book, The Sword of Kaigen, is a military fantasy that takes place in the Japanese-inspired corner of the Theonite universe, thirteen years before the events of the main series. The Sword of Kaigen spawned from the few-sentence-long backstory I provided to explain the Matsuda family’s anti-Ranganese tendencies and to inject some WW2-esque tragedy into Duna’s history. The middle two Matsuda brothers’ names, Hiroshi and Nagasa, are extensions of that idea, implying national trauma (heavy-handed, I know, but I was in high school when I came up with it, okay? My metaphor game was in its adolescence).

In its original form, The Sword of Kaigen was a serialized story that I released to my newsletter subscribers in monthly installments beginning in 2017. When I realized that my little ‘novella’ had exceeded 100,000 words, I decided to complete the story and publish it as a proper novel. Part of the reason I got so carried away with The Sword of Kaigen was that it presented a convenient excuse to play with a lot of things that had a place in my heart but not in the already very busy Theonite series—Japanese martial arts, Chinese martial arts, complex adult characters, Buddhist and pre-Buddhist Japanese religious symbolism, big battles, and a more personal inverted history.

I’m alive to write this story because, in 1937, in a Jiangsu Province village outside Nanjing, a Japanese bullet missed my great grandmother when she bent down to get a cooking pot. Certain events in The Sword of Kaigen harken back to the Nanjing Massacre, holding true to the guiding principle behind the Theonite universe: the mile walked in another’s shoes. What if you had been on the other side? What if it had been your family?

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Elevation

Elevation

Elevation by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Gravity is the anchor that pulls us down into our graves.”

Elevation is not your typical Stephen King book. First of all, it’s a tiny thing clocking in at fewer than 150 pages. Compared to most of King’s published works, that’s insanely short. He does have some wonderful novellas and short stories, but when a man known for publishing doorstoppers like IT, 11/22/63, Under the Dome, and The Stand publishes something that can be read in a day, it seems like a pretty radical difference. Second, this is not a horror story. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely strange, but it didn’t strike me as horror. Instead, it was bittersweetly moving, focusing on friendship and its ability to get us through even the toughest of times.

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