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Tag: Grimdark Fantasy

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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Book Review: Valley of the Free (Pandemonium Rising, #0.5) by Michael Sliter

Book Review: Valley of the Free (Pandemonium Rising, #0.5) by Michael Sliter

Valley of the Free by Michael Sliter

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Series: Pandemonium Rising (Book #0.5 of 4)

Genre: Fantasy, Grimdark Fantasy

Pages: 128 pages

Published: 18th December 2019 by Dragyn Press (Indie)


Short, violent, and bloody; this is a good place for you to try Sliter’s writing.

Valley of the Free is a prequel novella to Mike Sliter’s grimdark fantasy series: Pandemonium Rising. The story follows Ferl’s quest for vengeance, and this little novella depicts the conception of the infamous Ferl’s Company. Having read—and loved—the two available books in the main series so far, I can safely vouch that no prior reading of the main series is required. You can enjoy Valley of the Free without any knowledge of the main series; excluding the main character—Ferl—only one or two other characters appeared briefly. In fact, I do honestly think that this is a very starting point for you to try Sliter’s work. Valley of the Free is not as dark/brutal as Sliter’s debut work, Solace Lost, and it’s good to familiarize yourself with his writing style and gritty content first. I would say that Valley of the Free is more attuned to Wisdom Lost in terms of content and quality, which, in my opinion, delivers a more balanced narrative and also encapsulates Sliter’s craft at his best so far.

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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: Best Served Cold (First Law World, #4)

Book Review: Best Served Cold (First Law World, #4)


Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Grimdark isn’t my thing. I prefer my fiction hopeful, with good at its heart even when bad things happen. That being said, I’ll give anything a shot if it’s well crafted, and I’ve read some pretty incredible fantasy novels that throw hope out the window and bask in their darkness. The best in the grimdark business has to be Joe Abercrombie, hands down. He has a way of creating characters and plots that really shouldn’t work for me, but that shine in spite of their dark cores. I loved the First Law trilogy enough that I was actually hesitant to read the standalones set in the same world, because I didn’t see how Abercrombie could possibly top or even match the greatness he achieved with that original plot and cast of characters. I needn’t have doubted him. In Best Served Cold, Abercrombie not only gives us a compelling plot but a wonderfully engaging cast of new and returning characters.

“Good steel bends, but never breaks. Good steel stays always sharp and ready. Good steel feels no pain, no pity, and above all, no remorse.”

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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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Book Review: The Books of the South by Glen Cook

Book Review: The Books of the South by Glen Cook

The Books of the South by Glen Cook

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Series: The Chronicles of the Black Company (Book #3.5-5 of 9)

Genre: Fantasy, Grimdark fantasy, Military fantasy

Pages: 670 pages (Paperback)

Published: 10th June 2008 by Tor Books (US)


Great stories and character development for The Lady, but I still have mixed feelings towards Cook’s prose.

The Books of the South consists of Shadow Games, Dreams of Steel, and a spin-off called The Silver Spike. Same as the previous omnibus, I’ll be doing a short spoiler-free review for each book.

Shadow Games: 3.5/5 stars

The Books of the South begins with Shadow Games, which is the fourth installment in The Chronicles of the Black Company. The story continues with the member of the Black Company marching south to Khatovar, the place of the Company’s origin. During their mission, they’re chased and hounded by a new group of enemies called the Shadowmasters. Croaker is back once again as the main narrator, and honestly, although I’ve gotten used to reading his first-person narration, I also have to admit that I get tired from reading his POV quickly. His cynicism and sarcasm are fun in small doses but not for long. Just to give a bit of data, Shadow Games is 220 pages long in this omnibus, and it took me three days to read it; I usually read around 200 or 300 pages a day. I think what made this book a bit boring was the travelogues. Almost the entirety of the novel is The Black Company marching. That being said, I enjoyed reading the characters development in this book, especially for Croaker and The Lady. The last section of this book was filled with battle and eventually ends with a cliffhanger.

“Every ounce of my cynicism is supported by historical precedent.”

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Book Review: Smoke and Stone (City of Sacrifice, #1) by Michael R. Fletcher

Book Review: Smoke and Stone (City of Sacrifice, #1) by Michael R. Fletcher

ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Smoke and Stone by Michael R. Fletcher

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Series: City of Sacrifice (Book #1 of 3)

Genre: Fantasy, Grimdark Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic Fantasy

Pages: 511 pages

Published: 1st November 2019 by Michael R. Fletcher (UK & US)


Utterly remarkable post-apocalyptic grimdark fantasy.

It’s surreal, but as it turns out, it’s been two years and approximately two hundred books since I’ve read anything new by Fletcher. It’s a serious shame that after all this time, Fletcher still hasn’t received the fame and recognition he deserves. When it comes to grimdark fantasy, I find that George R. R. Martin, Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence, and Steven Erikson tend to be the most often mentioned names; for many good reasons. However, I do strongly believe that Fletcher should be equally ranked as high as them. I am drowning in books to read, but when Fletcher asked me to read and review his newest book, I accepted, started, and finished reading it immediately within two days.

“The fifth age ended in catastrophe and the death of a world. We live now in the sixth age, the age beyond life, the age of apocalypse. We live a nightmare. We are damned souls, doomed to a slow and rotting demise.”—Loa Book of the Invisibles

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Book Review: A Little Hatred (The Age of Madness, #1) by Joe Abercrombie

Book Review: A Little Hatred (The Age of Madness, #1) by Joe Abercrombie

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

A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: The Age of Madness (Book #1 of 3), First Law World (Book, #8 of 10)

Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Grimdark fantasy

Pages: 480 pages (Hardback)

Published: 17th September 2019 by Gollancz (UK) & 17th September 2019 by Orbit (US)


Grim, dark, fun, and glorious; A Little Hatred is irrefutably worth the wait.

Let me begin by saying that although this is a new series in the First Law World and you can technically start your journey into this world here, it’s quite mandatory to read at least The First Law trilogy in order to fully appreciate the intricacies of this book; even better if you’ve also read Best Served Cold and The Heroes. Reading A Little Hatred without knowledge of the previous books would be a similar experience to reading Pierce Brown’s Iron Gold without reading his previous three books or reading Robin Hobb’s Tawny Man trilogy without reading Farseer trilogy first. Do yourself a favor and make sure you read The First Law trilogy first before you start A Little Hatred, I even binge reread the entire trilogy to make sure that I can start this book with refreshed information. Make some time for it, not only it’s a brilliant trilogy, but you’ll also be doing a huge disservice to the book and most of all your reading experience if you don’t do it. On to the actual review now.

“Nothing like being wanted, is there? Wanted by someone you want. Always seems like magic, that something can feel so good but cost nothing.”

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