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Book Review: Ash and Bones (City of Sacrifice, #2) by Michael R. Fletcher

Book Review: Ash and Bones (City of Sacrifice, #2) by Michael R. Fletcher

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

Cover illustration by: Felix Ortiz

Ash and Bones by Michael R. Fletcher

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Series: City of Sacrifice (Book #2 of 3)

Genre: Fantasy, Grimdark Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic Fantasy

Pages: 661 pages

Published: 1st August 2020 Michael R. Fletcher


Ash and Bones is a sequel filled with battles, narcotics, magic stones—especially obsidian—and moral dilemmas.

“There are two means of convincing a population to police itself: Religion, and Economy. Faith and greed.”

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Book Review: The Burning God (The Poppy War Trilogy, #3) by R.F. Kuang

Book Review: The Burning God (The Poppy War Trilogy, #3) by R.F. Kuang

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

Cover Illustration by: JungShan

The Burning God by R.F. Kuang

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: The Poppy War Trilogy (Book #3 of 3)

Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Grimdark Fantasy, Military Fantasy

Pages: 640 pages

Published: 26th November 2020 by Harper Voyager (UK) and 17th November 2020 by Harper Voyager (US)


Bursting with violence, devastation, death, and profound emotions. The Burning God is by far the best book R.F. Kuang has written in her career so far.

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Book Review: The Fury Yet To Come (The Raincatcher’s Ballad, #0.5) by Steven McKinnon

Book Review: The Fury Yet To Come (The Raincatcher’s Ballad, #0.5) by Steven McKinnon

Cover illustration by: James T. Egan of Bookfly Design

The Fury Yet To Come by Steven McKinnon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Series: The Raincatcher’s Ballad (Book #0.5 of 3)

Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Grimdark Fantasy

Pages: 124 pages (Kindle edition)

Published: 25th June 2018 by Steven McKinnon DBA Vividarium Books (Indie)


This incredible action-packed grimdark novella is free. If you’re a fan of the sub-genre, I highly suggest you take this opportunity to get the book by subscribing to the author’s blog.

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Book Review: Last Argument of Kings (The First Law, #3) by Joe Abercrombie

Book Review: Last Argument of Kings (The First Law, #3) by Joe Abercrombie

Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: The First Law (Book #3 of 3), First Law World (Book, #3 of 10)

Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Grimdark fantasy

Published: 20th March 2008 by Gollancz (UK) & 8th September 2015 by Orbit (US)


I’ve been meaning to read The First Law trilogy for years, after hearing loads of accolades from far and wide across the fantasy bibliosphere. Now that I’ve done so, I could safely say that Abercrombie deserved all those praises, and I’ll contribute by heaping on more of the same.

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Book Review: Before They Are Hanged (The First Law, #2) by Joe Abercrombie

Book Review: Before They Are Hanged (The First Law, #2) by Joe Abercrombie

Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: The First Law (Book #2 of 3), First Law World (Book, #2 of 10)

Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Grimdark fantasy

Published: 15th March 2007 by Gollancz (UK) & 8th September 2015 by Orbit (US)


This is when I start to bemoan about picking up this trilogy so late. To think that I actually met Abercrombie at WorldCon last year before completing The First Law. It was such a travesty of an opportunity, and I’m repentant for it.

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Book Review: The Blade Itself (The First Law, #1) by Joe Abercrombie

Book Review: The Blade Itself (The First Law, #1) by Joe Abercrombie


The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

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

Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Grimdark fantasy

Published: 4th May 2006 by Gollancz (UK) & 8th September 2015 by Orbit (US)


Before anyone gasped in surprise that I’ve not read this excellent grimdark entry by Joe Abercrombie, allow me to provide a little backstory.

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Book Review: Black Stone Heart (The Obsidian Path, #1) by Michael R. Fletcher

Book Review: Black Stone Heart (The Obsidian Path, #1) by Michael R. Fletcher

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

Black Stone Heart by Michael R. Fletcher

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Series: The Obsidian Path (Book #1 of 3)

Genre: Fantasy, High fantasy, Grimdark Fantasy

Pages: 487 pages

Published: 1st April 2020 by Michael R. Fletcher


Insanely brilliant. Fletcher did it again. Black Stone Heart is one of his best works so far, and Fletcher has finally crafted something as good as his Manifest Delusion series with this one.

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Book Review: We Are the Dead (The Last War, #1) by Mike Shackle

Book Review: We Are the Dead (The Last War, #1) by Mike Shackle

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

We Are The Dead by Mike Shackle

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Series: The Last War (Book #1 of 3)

Genre: Fantasy, Grimdark Fantasy

Pages: 496 pages

Published: 8th August 2019 by Gollancz


So much bloodshed and actions, Shackle’s debut is fast-paced, grim, and unputdownable.

I’m very eager to recommend this debut to readers of The First Law World series by Joe Abercrombie and War for the Rose Throne series by Peter McLean. We Are the Dead is the first book in The Last War series by Mike Shackle, and it leans towards the grimdark sub-genre rather than heroic fantasy. “No More Heroes” is put at the top of the cover art, after all. I honestly thought I was super late in joining the party for this great book because it has been six months since this debut was first published, but I must say that I’m surprised that not many readers have read this yet. I hope more readers will give this book a go.

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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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