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Author: Petrik Leo

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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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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Malice (The Faithful and the Fallen, #1)

Malice (The Faithful and the Fallen, #1)

Malice by John Gwynne
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Do you ever have this feeling, just after you finished reading the first book of a series, you knew immediately there’s a huge potential for the series to become one of your favorite series of all time? Malice, the first book in The Faithful and the Fallen quartet by John Gwynne is one of those rare cases for me.

What started out as a simple classic tale of Good vs Evil ended up being not as simple as I thought. As the story progressed, the story evolved darker gradually while keeping the theme ‘Good vs Evil’ at its heart. Has this theme been done before in the past? Yes, more than a million times already. Will I ever get bored with it? No, never. It’s my favorite kind of story; it’s the essence of the majority of epic fantasy books, video games, and movies. What this theme requires to reach greatness has always been a touch of creativity, to make the story unique, make it the author’s own story to share and this, John Gwynne did phenomenally.

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Soulkeeper (The Keepers, #1)

Soulkeeper (The Keepers, #1)

ARC provided by the publisher—Orbit—in exchange for an honest review.

Soulkeeper by David Dalglish
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Soulkeeper captivated my attention with its seductive storytelling. My inner bookworm is gratified to find another fantasy author’s backlog to go through; I can’t say the same for my bank account.

David Dalglish is not an unfamiliar name to me. For the past two years, I’ve occasionally seen his Shadowdance and Seraphim series being reviewed with positive ratings on bookish social media. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get around to any of his work despite being interested in them—especially Shadowdance. Soulkeeper, the first book in The Keepers trilogy, is my first experience reading Dalglish’s work; I loved it, so I know it definitely won’t be the last.

Devin Eveson is a Soulkeeper, a priest and a healer who travels through remote villages. When a mysterious and deadly black water appears and washes over the land of Cradle, the veil between worlds is torn, causing a return of ancient magic and forgotten races. The story revolves around Devin and his unlikely new companions as they try their best to adapt and survive the changes caused by all the new unprecedented dangers and situations. Here’s the good news I’m sure you want to hear: the execution of the story is even better than the premise. From the first chapter, I was immediately pulled into the solemn, melancholy, and dark mood of this world. The narrative has a voice that’s so compelling and addictive, imbued with resonating topics such as the nature of humanity, death, afterlife, and faith; all of these elements combined in a way that made it difficult for me to put the book down.

“I have studied history extensively, Tommy. Any force for good, if capable of evil, will inevitably be used for evil. It’s just the nature of humanity.”

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Six Sacred Swords (Weapons and Wielders, #1)

Six Sacred Swords (Weapons and Wielders, #1)

Review copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Six Sacred Swords by Andrew Rowe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Continuously fun and light-hearted in tone, Six Sacred Swords was a great beginning to a new spin-off series by Andrew Rowe.

Six Sacred Swords is the first book in Weapons and Wielders series by Andrew Rowe. It is unknown at the moment how many books are planned for this series, but one thing for sure that you should know is that this series serves as a prequel to Rowe’s Arcane Ascensions series; a series I highly enjoyed. Some of the most dominant elements in Arcane Ascensions are the intricate magic system, the magic school setting, the tests, and the dungeon crawlers. Six Sacred Swords is both different and similar to Arcane Ascension by excluding the magic theory and magic school setting; focusing the narrative on the fun adventure, video games dungeon-crawler aspect, and anime-esque battle scenes. At the same time, this series serves also as a sequel series to Rowe’s War of Broken Mirrors; I haven’t read this one. That being said, rest assured that you can definitely start your journey into Rowe’s imagination by starting with this book.

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Balam, Spring

Balam, Spring

Review copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Balam, Spring by Travis M. Riddle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A serene and enjoyable slice-of-life fantasy with whodunit element.

When I was first offered Balam, Spring to review by the author, I wasn’t sure when I was going to read it. However, hearing that Final Fantasy IX (Final Fantasy is one of my top favorite gaming franchise of all time) was the main inspiration for this book, I immediately pushed this to become one of my priority read. Balam, Spring belongs heavily in the slice-of-life fantasy genre. For those of you who don’t know about this genre, you can search the meaning online but I usually relate slice of life to the depiction or exploration of characters normal life; most of them dealing with daily or uneventful activities. Although I’m quite a fan of this genre in anime format, I’m pretty sure this is the first time I attempted reading a slice of life novel. Because of this, I feel like the only way I can explain my feelings about this book properly is by dividing my review clearly into what worked and didn’t; by correlating my experience of reading/watching a slice-of-life story.

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The Rage of Dragons (The Burning, #1)

The Rage of Dragons (The Burning, #1)

The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

The Rage of Dragons is a blazing African-inspired epic fantasy debut that was so possessive of my attention, it simply wouldn’t allow me to read anything else until I finished it.

This book was originally self-published and released in September 2017. Honestly speaking, I have seen and known about this book since then but the book wasn’t able to move up the monstrosity that is my TBR tower for some reason. However, its acquisition by Orbit, which resulted in a brand new gorgeous cover art done by the ingenious Karla Ortiz, is a total cover seller—look at the Zulu shield and the intricately apt mural in the cover!—that practically screamed “Buy and read me now” to me, and so that’s what I did.

“I’d rather live with a thing done poorly than do nothing and always wonder how things could have been.”

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Holy Sister (Book of the Ancestor, #3)

Holy Sister (Book of the Ancestor, #3)

ARC provided by the publisher—Ace—in exchange for an honest review.

Holy Sister by Mark Lawrence
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Holy Sister is an incredibly powerful and satisfying conclusion to one of the best trilogy I’ve ever read.

I won’t lie, a week ago I started rereading Red Sister mostly for the purpose of satisfying my completionist nature and eventually putting Book of the Ancestor into my “completed series I’ve read” list. However, the incredible of rereading Red Sister made me incoherently excited to continue with the series and here I am now. I have binged read and reviewed the entire series within a week, and I can say with confidence that this series has become one of my favorite coming-of-age fantasy series of all time.

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