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Book Review: A Time of Blood (Of Blood and Bone, #2)

Book Review: A Time of Blood (Of Blood and Bone, #2)

A Time of Blood by John Gwynne

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Series: Of Blood and Bone  (Book 2 of 3)

Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy

Published: 18th April 2019 by Pan Macmillan (UK) & 16th April 2019 by Orbit (US)


A fantastic sequel in the Of Blood and Bone trilogy, A Time of Blood is yet another testament to John Gwynne’s extraordinary ability to write incredible stories.

The tone and direction of the narrative stayed true to Gwynne’s approach of escalating the stakes, and ratcheting the tension to a penultimate cliffhanger ending that makes one go “Why are you doing this to me?”

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Book Review: A Time of Courage (Of Blood and Bone, #3) by John Gwynne

Book Review: A Time of Courage (Of Blood and Bone, #3) by John Gwynne

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

A Time of Courage by John Gwynne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: Of Blood and Bone (Book #3 of 3)

Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy

Pages: 672 pages (UK hardback edition)

Published: 2nd April 2020 by Pan Macmillan (UK) & 7th April 2020 by Orbit (US)


A Time of Courage is one of the best final books to a series I’ve ever read in my life. It was truly a bittersweet, satisfying, and masterfully crafted finale to conclude Of Blood and Bone and the entirety of The Banished Lands saga.

Permit me to start this review with words from Gwynne himself:

“So, finally we come to the end of this series, and with it, the end of the Banished Land’s tales. Although Of Blood and Bone is a trilogy that can be read as a standalone series, it is also the final chapter of a longer history that involves the four books from The Faithful and the Fallen series. When read together they form around a one-hundred-and-fifty-year history of the Banished Lands, and a sizeable chunk of my life. Roughly seventeen years have flown by, I think, since lifting my pen and writing down my first ideas. I hope that you’ve enjoyed your time spent here, and that this book feels like a fitting and satisfying conclusion to all that has gone before.”

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Book Review: House of Chains (The Malazan Book of the Fallen, #4)

Book Review: House of Chains (The Malazan Book of the Fallen, #4)

House of Chains by Steven Erikson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

Series: The Malazan Book of the Fallen (Book 4 of 10)

Genre: Epic fantasy, grimdark fantasy

First published:  2002 by Bantam (UK) and 2006 by Tor (US)


There will be slaughter. Yet another apocalypse on Raraku’s restless sands. It is as it should be.

Retribution is at hand for the rise of the Seven Cities rebellion as the new Adjunct to the Empress arrives to lead the Malazan army to face Sha’ik and her Army of the Apocalypse. The Holy Desert of Raraku continues to emanate despair, even more so now than ever after the Chain of Dogs left in its trails the miasma of vengeance and grief.

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Emma’s Best Books of 2019

Emma’s Best Books of 2019

The featured image above was specifically designed by Felix Ortiz for Novel Notions’ Top 20 Lists. 


Ok, I’ll admit it, I’m cheating… my Best Books of 2019 post is a little different from the rest of the Novel Notions team.

It’s felt like a bit of a strange reading year for me, with a lot of study, non-fiction, and comfort rereads. My number is sitting at 164 so far, with a whole load getting that very respectable 4 star rating. However, there have only been a small amount that have truly floored me, that have deserved the 4.5 or the big, shiny 5 star rating. These are the kind of books that stay in your memory forever, that you recommend EVERYWHERE and as often as possible. They’re the ones where it’s almost impossible to stop your eyes from flicking forward to see what’s coming next because you’re so excited to get there. When I made that feeling the criteria for my list, it made things immediately clear. I don’t have 20, I have 10. They were all published this year and I loved them all. I hope you consider giving them a go too…

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Book Review: Legacy of Ash (The Legacy Trilogy, #1) by Matthew Ward

Book Review: Legacy of Ash (The Legacy Trilogy, #1) by Matthew Ward

Achievement unlocked: This is the 100th ARC/Review Copy I’ve read and reviewed!

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

Legacy of Ash by Matthew Ward

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Series: The Legacy Trilogy (Book #1 of 3)

Genre: Fantasy, High fantasy

Pages: 784 pages (UK hardback edition)

Published: 5th November 2019 by Orbit (UK) & 9th April 2020 by Orbit (US)


Legacy of Ash is an epic fantasy debut aptly designed for well-seasoned epic fantasy readers, and I wouldn’t recommend newcomers to the genre starting to start their epic fantasy adventure here.

We all know how it goes; if it’s an epic fantasy debut, the particular book will immediately be advertised as A Song of Ice and Fire or Game of Thrones meets (insert another author/series/book here,) and Legacy of Ash isn’t excluded from that tradition. As much as I often find this kind of advertisement misleading most of the time, Legacy of Ash may have just done justice to this often-misleading claim. Legacy of Ash is an epic fantasy debut with many characters and names to remember, imbued with the hint of huge scope found in A Song of Ice and Fire and action sequences that bear a resemblance to Bernard Cornwell’s.

“The Tyrant Queen’s reign is done, but vigilance remains. For just as the shadows are strongest on the brightest of days, we are never more imperiled than when we think ourselves safe.”

Have you ever heard the argument that prologue sucked and unnecessary? I won’t lie, it’s an opinion that I can’t understand, or maybe I’m just lucky because I haven’t found any prologue that ends up becoming unnecessary to the main story. Prologues have the capability to set the tone, background, and premise of what’s to come in the main story, and Legacy of Ash, the first book in The Legacy Trilogy by Matthew Ward, did this wonderfully; it begins with a prologue that’s integral to the main conflicts that start fifteen years after the prologue.

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Book Review: The Burning White (Lightbringer, #5) by Brent Weeks

Book Review: The Burning White (Lightbringer, #5) by Brent Weeks

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


The Burning White by Brent Weeks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Series: Lightbringer (Book #5 of 5)

Genre: Fantasy, High fantasy

Pages: 992 pages (Hardback edition)

Published: 24th October 2019 by Orbit (UK) and 22nd October 2019 by Orbit (US)


Epic, engaging, well-written, and surprisingly full of theology.

Here we are, nine years since The Black Prism was first published, The Burning White—the fifth and final installment in the Lightbringer series by Brent Weeks—is finally out and with it, the Lightbringer pentalogy is officially over. This is one of my—along with many fantasy readers—most anticipated books of the year, to make sure that I’ll be able to appreciate it fully, I even binged reread the series from the beginning—something I rarely do—in preparation. Now that I’ve read it, I have to say that I’m both satisfied and also disappointed with it. Don’t get me wrong, as far as enjoyment goes I’m still giving this book a 4 stars rating; I was engrossed, wasn’t bored, and I finished this 392,000 words tome within five days. However, although I had a wonderful time with this book and series, I can’t deny that I had issues with the way Weeks resolved the series; allow me to dive into that later, but first, I want to elaborate on the parts that I loved as spoiler-free as possible.

“Of all the things that die, hope is the most easily resurrected.”

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Book Review: Oathbringer (The Stormlight Archive, #3)

Book Review: Oathbringer (The Stormlight Archive, #3)

Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 6 of 5 stars.

Series: The Stormlight Archive (Book 3 of 10)

Genre: Epic fantasy, high fantasy

First published: November 14th 2017 by Tor Books (US) and Gollancz (UK)


That Storming genius has outdone himself. Again!

Words of Radiance was easily the best book I’ve ever read, which naturally resulted in some pretty high expectations going into Oathbringer. As much as I’ve tried to dampen it after waiting for over 3.5 years, I just had to accept that it was futile.

Who am I kidding? Sanderson has completely smashed all my expectations by offering yet another best book I’ve ever read.

Is Oathbringer a masterpiece? I certainly think so. Is it a fantasy classic that will stand the test of time and be remembered in the same vein as Lord of the Rings? That might stretch it a bit too far, but only time will tell. I wouldn’t also call it flawless, as it is not. As far as I am concerned, however, it is a singularly brilliant creation which is both epic in its scope and intimate in its soul.

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Book Review: Memories of Ice (The Malazan Book of the Fallen, #3)

Book Review: Memories of Ice (The Malazan Book of the Fallen, #3)

Memories of Ice by Steven Erikson

My rating: 6 of 5 stars.

Series: The Malazan Book of the Fallen (Book 3 of 10)

Genre: Epic fantasy, grimdark fantasy

First published:  2001 by Bantam (UK) and 2006 by Tor (US)


The harder the world, the fiercer the honour.

This in-world quote succinctly explained why Memories of Ice is one of my favourite volumes of my favourite grimdark epic fantasy series.  It is the reason why I even read grimdark in the first place, given that I am so easily assailed by emotions that one wonders why I willingly put myself through such heartbreak. So bear with me throughout this series when I keep waxing lyrical about how humanity manifests its most awe-inspiring qualities in the face of relentless hardship and horrors of a world ravaged by conflict.

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Book Review: Deadhouse Gates (The Malazan Book of the Fallen, #2)

Book Review: Deadhouse Gates (The Malazan Book of the Fallen, #2)

Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

Series: The Malazan Book of the Fallen (Book 2 of 10)

Genre: Epic fantasy, grimdark fantasy

First published:  2000 by Bantam (UK) and 2005 by Tor (US)


For those who have read Gardens of the Moon and thought it was relatively tame for a grimdark fantasy series, Deadhouse Gates will change your mind. This sequel took the series to new heights and was also when I begun to wholly understand Erikson’s opening quote in the debut. The grimness, violence and brutality in this book made me rethink of how I viewed A Song of Ice and Fire.

The events at the end of Gardens of the Moon saw the Bridgeburners splitting up, with the bulk of squad remaining on Genabackis with Dujek Onearm and Whiskeyjack to face the threat of the Pannion Domin. Meanwhile Fiddler and Kalam headed off to Seven Cities, where the Bridgeburners were forged, and which is on the brink of rebellion as the Seventh Year of Dryjhna, the Apocalypse, approaches. When the Book of Dryjhna is delivered into the hands of the Sha’ik, the spirit of the goddess will embody this prophetess and the Whirlwind together with the rebellion will rise.

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Book Review: Gardens of the Moon (The Malazan Book of the Fallen, #1)

Book Review: Gardens of the Moon (The Malazan Book of the Fallen, #1)

Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

Series: The Malazan Book of the Fallen (Book 1 of 10)

Genre: Epic fantasy, grimdark fantasy

First published:  1999 by Bantam (UK) and 2004 by Tor (US)


Gardens of the Moon is the grand overture to The Malazan Book of the Fallen, providing just a glimmer of what this massive, grimdark epic fantasy tale has to offer, which is best described below in the author’s own words.

“Now these ashes have grown cold, we open the old book.
These oil-stained pages recount the tales of the Fallen,
a frayed empire, words without warmth. The hearth
has ebbed, its gleam and life’s sparks are but memories
against dimming eyes – what cast my mind, what hue my
thoughts as I open the Book of the Fallen
and breathe deep the scent of history?
Listen, then, to these words carried on that breath.
These tales are the tales of us all, again yet again.
We are history relived and that is all, without end that is all.”

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