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Solace Lost (Pandemonium Rising, #1)

Solace Lost (Pandemonium Rising, #1)

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

Solace Lost by Michael Sliter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A brutally gripping story tinged with despair; Solace Lost is a character-driven grimdark fantasy debut that earned its title mercilessly.

Solace Lost is Michael Sliter’s debut; the first book out of five in the Pandemonium Rising series. Before I begin my review, I strongly urge that you read this novel only IF you’re a grimdark fantasy enthusiast. I don’t usually include content warnings in my review but I feel like this book truly warranted one; as it involved a minor spoiler, I’ll mention it at the end of my review.

The main story in Solace Lost follows four main characters: Fenrir, Merigold, Hafgan, and Emma. Ardia is on the brink of a civil war and these four distinctive characters will have their fates intertwined, for better or worse. As I mentioned before, this is utterly a character-driven story and its main strength lies mostly within the characterizations. Each main character has different personality traits, and the inner voices given by the author to these characters made them feel real. Living up to the grimdark genre, none of the main characters can simply be defined as good or bad. The only character that started out as good and kind-hearted was Merigold. That too, for only a while before atrocious things happened to her and she found her life completely turned upside down. I won’t go as far as saying that I loved these characters but I did find myself totally invested in knowing about their journeys. This was especially true for Fenrir and Merigold’s POVs; they dominated the plot of this book and I found their storyline to be the most engaging out of all the characters.

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A Time of Dread (Of Blood and Bone, #1)

A Time of Dread (Of Blood and Bone, #1)

A Time of Dread by John Gwynne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Sometimes the only answer is blood and steel.”

I have very mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I loved getting to revisit the Banished Lands, which is among by favorite fantasy worlds. On the other, seeing the way this world has changed in the over a century since the events of The Faithful and the Fallen (TFatF) was painful. But that’s part of the point.

While Gwynne’s original series set in the Banished Land had a lot of warring and sadness and character deaths, I wouldn’t call it grimdark. There was a hopefulness to the story that in my opinion negated that genre. However, I would say that this first book of the followup series is undoubtedly grimdark. The brightness that managed to shine through in the first series isn’t present here, which made me sad. That said, I get the reasoning behind it. The world that the cast of TFatF fought for has been preserved, but at a high price. It has been undeniably altered, and not for the better. Looking back on the events of the first four books, this alteration saddens me because it makes the fight feel like it wasn’t worth the cost. But that’s not true, and I’m hoping that in the second installment of this followup series, we’ll see a bit more of the hope that defined TFatF.

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Kings of Ash (Ash and Sand, #2)

Kings of Ash (Ash and Sand, #2)

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

Kings of Ash by Richard Nell
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Kings of Ash triumphed over its predecessor in almost every possible way.

Kings of Ash is the second book in Richard Nell’s Ash and Sand trilogy. It’s the sequel to the highly praised Kings of Paradise, but the fans of the previous book don’t need to worry about stumbling into the infamous middle book syndrome here. Kings of Ash surpassed the previous book’s quality and it can all be boiled down to one reason: this is Ruka’s book. I mentioned this in my review of Kings of Paradise: “Ruka’s POV was easily one of the best anti-heroes POV I’ve ever read in grimdark fantasy,” and I stand by my words, even more so after reading this installment. Kings of Ash is a different kind of book from its predecessor; it’s much more character-driven. Almost the entire narrative was told from Ruka’s POV and I’m incredibly satisfied by this decision. Nell offers a deep exploration of Ruka’s character and it makes the storyline feel more intimate. More importantly, this storytelling style shows Nell’s greatest writing strength as an author – his characterizations.

“A lioness cares nothing for the shriek of jackals, old woman. Now hear this, and hear it well—if she had raised me to hate, I would kill you and all your kin, and no man or god could stop me.”

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Seraphina’s Lament (The Bloodlands, #1)

Seraphina’s Lament (The Bloodlands, #1)

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

Seraphina’s Lament by Sarah Chorn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A brutally remarkable and captivating Holodomor-inspired fantasy debut.

Seraphina’s Lament is Sarah Chorn’s debut and it’s the first book in The Bloodlands trilogy. For the purpose of targeting the right reader for this book, I’ll start by saying that if you’re not a grimdark enthusiast, you might either want to skip this, or at least prepare yourself for some dark and heavy moments. As for its premise, check out the official blurb on Goodreads/Amazon, the author did a great job setting the stage without spoiling anything.

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Forge of Darkness (The Kharkanas Trilogy, #1)

Forge of Darkness (The Kharkanas Trilogy, #1)

Forge of Darkness by Steven Erikson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Forge of Darkness displayed Erikson at the top of his prose but unfortunately, the book was bogged down by too much too much too much TOO MUCH philosophies.

Before I get to that though, let me just say that it’s quite baffling that there’s a list that recommends starting Malazan from Forge of Darkness instead of Gardens of the Moon. I’ve read and loved the main series but this novel took the cake for being the most difficult to get into. If I haven’t read the main series, this would be at best a 2 stars read. I’m not kidding, the saving grace of this novel was Erikson’s prose and the knowledge on what the characters will do in the future, this is only possible if the reader has read the main series, Malazan Book of the Fallen.

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Skullsworn (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, #0.5)

Skullsworn (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, #0.5)

Skullsworn by Brian Staveley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Absolutely marvelous. Not only Skullsworn is Staveley’s best work so far, it’s also one of the most well-written books I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.

Skullsworn is a standalone prequel to Staveley’s Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne trilogy; focusing on Pyrre Lakatur—one of my favorite characters from the main trilogy—as she faces her final trial to become the Priestess of Ananshael, the god of death. To pass her trial, Pyrre has fourteen days to kill the seven people depicted in an ancient song, including the one she loves / someone who will not come again. The main problem in this trial for Pyrre isn’t the killing itself, but love; she isn’t sure if she’s ever been in love or whether she knows what love is. If she fails to find someone to love—and then kill—she will fail the trial and die in the hands of the Priests of Ananshael. Pyrre isn’t afraid of death but she hates failing, and hence, she returns to the city of her birth, Dombang, in the hope of finding love and ending it with her blade.

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