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Kellanved’s Reach (Path to Ascendancy, #3)

Kellanved’s Reach (Path to Ascendancy, #3)

ARC received from the publisher, Random House UK, in exchange for an honest review.

Kellanved’s Reach by Ian C. Esslemont
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Kellanved’s Reach was a great continuation to the story behind the rise of Kellanved and Dancer, and the beginnings of the Malazan Empire.

Judging from the direction of the narrative in this book, I strongly doubt that this would be the end of the series (which was marketed initially as a trilogy). Compared to the previous books, the number of character POVs in the third book had more than doubled. There were multiple storylines told from the perspective of all the different warring city-states within the continent of Quon Tali. Arising from these were several new characters being introduced. While most of these individuals will have significant roles in the later Malazan books, their respective subplots at in this book seemed largely detached from the main story. There was one character whose nickname was yet to be known by the end of the book, and it made me want to tear my hair out. I was certain that he’s a prominent person in the later books, but his character development at this stage did not provide sufficient clues.

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Deadhouse Landing (Path to Ascendancy, #2)

Deadhouse Landing (Path to Ascendancy, #2)

Deadhouse Landing by Ian C. Esslemont
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Deadhouse Landing was another fantastic novel in this prequel trilogy of two of the most notorious characters from the Malazan series.

This sequel continued to expand on the origins story of Dancer and Kellanved, by bringing us to the infamous Malaz Island – where it all began. For readers of Malazan, some of the names in the Dramatis Personae were enough to make one incredibly excited for what’s in store. It was so hard for me to write this review without giving away even the smallest detail, which might diminish the impact of the “Aha!” or the “OMG, it is HIM/HER!” moments. These names alone aren’t actually spoilers in its truest sense. Nonetheless, my take is that a Malazan fan will derive more delight from reading these prequel books without prior knowledge of whom among the Old Guard might be featured.

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Skysworn (Cradle, #4)

Skysworn (Cradle, #4)

Skysworn by Will Wight
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Holy moly, this series was seriously fun and addictive!

I was initially planning to read an ARC for a soon-to-be-released book, but temptation drew me to start Skysworn instead, which I duly finished in just over a day.  Verdict: Will Wight has a new fan.

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Blackflame (Cradle, #3)

Blackflame (Cradle, #3)

Blackflame by Will Wight
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

I think I am finally in love. Blackflame was a fantastic continuation of the Cradle series.

Integrating the fascinating Eastern-inspired worldbuilding and magic-martial arts system with better characterisation, Blackflame was easily the best book in the series so far. Even though I’m still not wild about the main protagonist, Wei Shi Lindon, I was growing more invested in what his future may bring. At the end of Soulsmith, Lindon found himself being given one year to train and advance in his sacred arts in order to fight an opponent that is way more powerful. Lindon seemed to be the typical underdog character who kept defying the odds through a combination of sheer drive, ambition and a bit of providence. Notwithstanding, one can’t help but be curious to see how his story will pan out.

“Sometimes the game is rigged against you, and your only option is to flip the board.”

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Soulsmith (Cradle, #2)

Soulsmith (Cradle, #2)

Soulsmith by Will Wight
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

A worthy sequel that expands on the worldbuilding and magic system, Soulsmith delivers on the promise of an engaging and fascinating story of epic powers inspired by Far Eastern martial arts.

Outside of the Sacred Valley in pursuit of advancement, Lindon came face-to-face with his destiny as he encountered powers beyond his imagination. The most powerful amongst the clans and Schools within the Valley are mere children compared to the dime a dozen Golds that can be found in the Desolate Wilds. As expected, and I don’t believe it to be a spoiler to say so, Lindon did manage to level up in his powers. How that happened, though, is the part where I will not deign to reveal.  Safe to say, it was far from painless.

“The sacred arts are a game, and your life is the only thing you’ve got to bet. You want to move up? This is what up looks like.”

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Dancer’s Lament (Path to Ascendancy, #1)

Dancer’s Lament (Path to Ascendancy, #1)

Dancer’s Lament by Ian C. Esslemont
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

My first 5-star rating this year, and it’s a Malazan book.

I love the world of Malazan, and the Malazan Book of the Fallen stands as my favourite grimdark fantasy series. However, these are not books which one can pick up to read for ‘fun’. Not only were the worldbuilding complex and the cast of characters extensive, but the prose was also dense and philosophical. Moreover, the narrative frequently messaged dark and bleak themes. To be honest, it felt like work sometimes to read MBOTF, albeit work that I thoroughly enjoyed.

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The Gutter Prayer (The Black Iron Legacy, #1)

The Gutter Prayer (The Black Iron Legacy, #1)

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

The Gutter Prayer by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

A truly extraordinary debut, The Gutter Prayer strikes an intense chord with its powerful worldbuilding, vivid imagery and evocative prose.

Two things about this book caught my attention. Firstly, the blurb which indicated that the main characters comprise three thieves (I have such a weakness for stories with thieves). And then, my co-blogger’s review which raved about the dark worldbuilding. And I’ll admit that the gorgeous cover was a huge draw as well.

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Master of Sorrows (The Silent Gods, #1)

Master of Sorrows (The Silent Gods, #1)

ARC received from the publisher, Gollancz, in exchange for an honest review.

Master of Sorrows by Justin Call
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Master of Sorrows was a remarkable debut which I simply cannot put down.

This book recalled so much about what I loved about classic epic fantasy and yet felt modern.  The author has quoted David Eddings as his earliest favourite.  Having read and loved Eddings’ works myself, I can definitely see the influences from The Belgariad in this book; a prophecy, Gods and a coming-of-age tale of a young man destined for greatness. Except, in this case, that greatness may lie in the path of darkness instead of light.

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Unsouled (Cradle, #1)

Unsouled (Cradle, #1)

Unsouled by Will Wight
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

I have heard great things about Will Wight’s books. If Unsouled was just a taste of what the Cradle series has to offer, I will say those praises are well-founded.

Cradle is an Eastern-inspired fantasy with complex worldbuilding and a cool magic system that reminds me of the Chinese martial art genres of wuxia (heroic) and xianxia (immortal). The narrative follows a young man, Wei Shi Lindon, an Unsouled who was not allowed to learn the sacred arts of his clan in the Sacred Valley. There are myriad paths that a sacred artist can follow, utilising the core of their soul to employ and control the vital aura; forces of the natural world. This power from the soul is called madra.  Through various means of progression, which includes training, ingesting elixirs and spirit-fruits, a sacred artist can level up from different stages of madra mastery and strength from Copper to Iron, to Jade and then to Gold. There are also magical artefacts, or Treasures, which also range from those that can be wielded by the lower-ranked sacred artists to those that can only be powered by stronger madra.

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Rejoice: A Knife to the Heart

Rejoice: A Knife to the Heart

Rejoice: A Knife to the Heart by Steven Erikson
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

With Rejoice: A Knife to the Heart, Erikson holds up a mirror for all of humanity.

The Earth, when seen from space, shows no borders.

A First Contact story that examines the path of the human race on Earth, Rejoice nails some very brutal truths about humankind at large; where humanity is heading to and what awaits us in the future without intervention. Once again, Erikson offers up a stunning philosophical discourse, albeit one that is less allusive and hitting much closer to home as compared to his epic fantasy masterpiece, Malazan Book of the Fallen.

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