They Mostly Come Out at Night is a case of judging a book based on its cover. I bought this and the next three books in the series literal years ago, because I thought that the cover art was gorgeous. And there they have sat since I pulled them from their packaging. I very randomly decided this week that they had wasting away, unread and thus unloved, for more than long enough. I’m glad I did, because I ate up this little book in two sittings and enjoyed my time with it. …
Greetings, everyone! Adam here, and I’m thrilled to announce Novel Notions’ participation in the cover reveal for Rob Hayes’ hardback edition of THE LESSONS NEVER LEARNED, book two of The War Eternal series. Let me turn it over to Rob to discuss the backstory of how these stunning hardback editions came to be.
Here we go with something a bit fancy. To mark the 2nd anniversary of The War Eternal (I still can’t quite believe it’s been 2 years already), I decided I wanted to give Eska some nice hardbacks. I don’t know about anyone else, but I love collecting hardbacks. There’s something a bit different to owning a book that solid. But I didn’t just want to use the old artwork. I wanted to make these books a bit special. So I commissioned Felix Ortiz and Shawn King to bring whole new art to the books and to splash some new colour on the series.
If you’ll indulge me a short story, it all started with this image.
This was the original concept for Along the Razor’s Edge Felix produced so long ago now. I loved it. I loved it so damned much. But in the end we decided to go with something a bit more traditional for the covers. But I’ve never stopped loving that original version. So when I approached Felix with the idea for the new hardbacks, I told him I wanted them done in that style. He took it as a challenge.
For the new THE LESSONS NEVER LEARNED cover, I told Felix I wanted three major components. The first was Eska looking a bit older and wearing some badass armour and wielding a couple of swords. The second was Ssserakis (the demon) looking no less scary, but more of an ally than an enemy. And the third was lightning because book 2 would not be complete without lightning! We played around with a few different colour schemes, and in the end settled on blues and greens. So I present to you all, the jacket cover for the The Lessons Never Learned hardback.
But that’s not all. The case of the hardback is also printed with the naked artwork and the book’s tagline on the back done in the same bespoke font that Shawn created for the titles. I’ve also completely reformatted the interior for as professional a book as I can make.
The hardbacks are available now from Amazon and probably some other online retailers.
And I sell signed copies direct from my website. But please be aware international postage is currently a bit ridiculous.
And, of course, I have to remind you all here that The War Eternal series is continuing this year. SINS OF THE MOTHER (book 4) is releasing on May 3rd. And DEATH’S BEATING HEART (book 5) is coming in December.
Check out our advance review of SINS OF THE MOTHER. You can also find the cover reveal for ALONG THE RAZOR’S EDGE from our friends over at FantasyBookCritic, and the cover reveal for FROM COLD ASHES RISEN at FanFiAddict here.
Cover art illustrated by: Chris McGrath
Relic of the Gods by Philip C. Quaintrell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: The Echoes Saga (Book #3 of 9)
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, High Fantasy
Pages: 526 pages (Kindle Edition)
Published: 1st June 2018 by Quaintrell Publishing (Self-Published)
An epic and action-packed conclusion to the first arc of The Echoes Saga.
“I will teach you what I can in our time together but, ultimately, it will be your actions that define you, that guide you to your place in the world.”
I received an advance copy of this novel from the publisher, Orbit Books, in exchange for an honest review.
The Stardust Thief is the first in what is sure to be a solid, atmospheric new fantasy trilogy. This is Abdullah’s debut novel, and I found it to be a strong, well written story with compelling characters and an enchanting setting. A new riff on the classic tale of The Thousand and One Arabian Nights at its core, The Stardust Thief carves a new path into uncharted territory while still beautifully honoring its inspiration. I’ve read very little Arabic-inspired fantasy, but this book made me thirsty for more.
“Death in a free land is better than life in a gilded cage.”
The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy, Horror
Pages: 304 pages (Hardcover Edition)
Published: 2nd August 2022 Tor Books (US), 18th Aug 2022 HarperVoyager (UK)
The Book Eaters is a feast of a story, with an aperitif of supernatural mystery, an amuse-bouche of family politics, three courses of contemporary Gothic horror, a vintage bottle of vengeance and a well-earned finale where diners get their just desserts.
Devon is a book eater, part of a race of supernatural entities that consumes tomes while absorbing the knowledge they contain. Devon is raising her five-year-old son Cai, who is not a book eater, but a mind-eater: he must sustain himself by feeding on the brains of others. This process is more vampiric than zombie: the feedings imprint the victims’ personalities upon Cai, so this five-year-old must contend with multiple identities constantly fighting for control of his mind.
Female book eaters are rare, so Devon’s Family—and the other Families of book eaters across modern day United Kingdom—arrange temporary marriages between Houses for procreative purposes. Eater women are used as little more than birthing cows before being forcibly separated from their children and moved onto the next marriage. It’s a patriarchal society full of empty promises and it’s horrifying.
The narrative structure of the book divides its time between Devon’s past, alternating chapters with present day Devon and Cai on the run. Dean is a brilliant world-builder, farming out just enough bits of information along the way to help fill in the gaps of Devon’s early years while helping the reader understand her motivation and goals in the present timeline. Not all is as it seems.
Everyone is a monster in this book, and they are all terrifying. Flashes of Atwood’s The Handmaiden’s Tale rears its ugly head as Devon’s desperation becomes agonizing and palpable. One of my favorite themes of the story is how painful love can be, and this is a driver of so many of Devon’s major life choices, which sometimes lead to ruin. But throughout it all, there is a sliver of hope for a way out. All the years of terror and loneliness and desperation might lead to freedom and companionship with a side order of vengeance if her wild plans could somehow fall into place…
The Book Eaters is one of my top reads of the year. It is atmospheric, it is brutal, it is exciting and emotional, and I planned my evenings around it. It tackles themes of identity, parenthood, the dark side of love, the importance of hope and sacrifice, and what it means to grow up different. It resonated hard with me. Highly recommended.
The Shadow Glass is a love letter to kitschy fantasy movies from the 80s. If you’re a lover of movies like Willow, The Never-Ending Story, Labyrinth, and especially The Dark Crystal, then you need to get your hands on this book. Its pages are populated with puppets come to life, a quest to save a dying fantasy realm, and a ton of pop culture references. While I loved the idea behind it, the actual execution of this story left me a bit unsatisfied, but it’s a book that I think is going to make a lot of my fellow nerdy 80s babies extremely happy. …
A Mirror Mended by Alix E. Harrow
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Series: Fractured Fables (Book #2 of 2)
Genre: Fantasy, Fairy-Tale, Fable, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 144 pages (Print Edition)
Published: 14th June 2022 Tordotcom (US), St Martin’s Press (UK)
The Queen’s gambit.
Endings. Who needs ’em? Not Zinnia. Not her own, at least, though she’s perfectly happy tripping through dimensions and rewriting fairy-tale endings for all the Sleeping Beauties across the multiverse. For five years, Zinnia has spent her free time on rescue missions without much self-reflection. Although Zinnia has survived her health scare, she hasn’t started living her own life yet. She has chosen to embroil herself in others’ lives, in other worlds, even at the cost of her best friend. Can’t stop, won’t stop.
Multiverse wires get crossed, magic mirrors get magicked, and Zinnia ends up face to face with an evil queen from one horrifying version of Snow White. How did she get there, and why? And so what if this queen has smoldering good looks behind her wicked, witchy gaze?
What follows this near-death, meet-cute is a tale of redemption, of facing your future, of growing up and finding what home truly means.
Harrow’s prose is as elegant as ever, with sharp humor, cutting social commentary and clever dialogue. However, one aspect where I felt this book to be lacking was the story itself. The plot bent some of its own rules to get the story where it needed to go, and some problems resolved themselves out of luck and convenience. It wasn’t what I’ve come to expect from a Harrow novel, of which I have a very high bar set.
Small story grievances aside, this book serves as a lovely companion piece to A Spindle Splintered and a fine sign-off for Zinnia and friends. Even if this is the last we see of Zinnia (for a while?), I am eager to read any other fairy-tale multiverse stories Harrow might have knocking about. A Mirror Mended was a pleasure to read, chock full of romance, adventure, snark, and joy. You’ll be hard-pressed not to finish it without a smile on your face.
“Ash fell from the sky.”
So opens The Final Empire, and I was hooked from that very first sentence. When I first read it, I considered Mistborn one of the best fantasy trilogies I had ever read. Upon rereading The Final Empire seven years later, I can tell that my opinion there isn’t going to change. I can’t choose favorites among Sanderson’s Cosmere; I love every world he’s introduced, and have loved every book in he’s written in the Cosmere so far. However, I do think there’s something truly special about the world of Scadrial and the magic systems it introduces. And that’s not even getting into the wonderful cast of characters, the heist planning, the philosophy, and the fight for freedom. There’s so much to love about this book.
Sins of the Mother by Rob J Hayes
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Series: The War Eternal (Book #4 of 5)
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Dark Fantasy Horror
Pages: 352 pages (Kindle Edition)
Published: 3rd May 2022
And you thought your family had issues.
Eskara Helsene—along with Ruka and Tomas Piety—is one of my favorite narrative voices in fantasy fiction. She’s unafraid to be completely vulnerable to the reader, volunteering all the times she has failed, and for the catastrophes that lie square on her shoulders. Yet she balances her shortcomings by sharing wisdom that is hilarious, insightful, and always brutally honest. Her complexity and unpredictability have pulled the reader through wildly exciting adventures through the first three books. Book four is no different – in fact, it raises the bar for a finale of which I cannot begin to think of what it could contain. Thankfully, we won’t have to wait long to find out.
Twenty years have passed between books three and four, and due to Eska’s accelerated aging process, this means our protagonist is now a one-armed woman who is approaching senior citizenship. Not your typical fantasy lead, and it was refreshing to read about the different challenges she faced on her journey. Other major themes addressed include found family versus blood relations, managing depression, redemption, racism, and faith.
One of the best things going for this series its engaging narrative structure. Throughout the entire The War Eternal series, Hayes has written Eska as the omnipotent storyteller, relaying her life’s history to the reader. Throughout the series, Eska dropped bombs like, “… it was the second biggest mistake of my life,” or “if I had only known I’d never seen them again, I would have done xyz differently.” Tantalizing clues of the future were dropped, and hints of major plotlines were casually, maddeningly inserted, which made me want to race through the pages to understand it all. Well, now that we’re at book 4, all the little things she had been alluding to have finally come to fruition, and they are paying healthy dividends.
There is a structure to many of the chapters where the first section focuses on what happened during the time jump, and the rest of the chapter takes place in present day. So, we’re really catching up on three separate timelines: early, hinted-at plotlines from the first few books, plus the missing twenty years, and finally the events of the present day. When they all finally converge, it’s a truly momentous occasion. Emotional, powerful, magical stuff, with huge repercussions. Can’t get much huger. Trust in this.
I’m left with a giant ‘what now?’ at the end of this volume, and it’s a great feeling, because it feels like both a cliffhanger and also a massive resolution to many storylines all at once. Hayes has crafted a triumphant return to The War Eternal series with Sins of the Mother. I’ve been reading Hayes’ work for several years: Best Laid Plans, First Earth, Mortal Techniques – and Sins reinforces The War Eternal as my favorite of the bunch.
Hi everyone! Wow, Middle Grade March was a very full month of reading for me. Aside from the fact that that MG books tend to be easy and fast to read, most of the ones that we’ve chosen to buddy read for the month of March were very enjoyable as well. In total, I’ve managed to complete 11 novels this month, which was quite a record.
I didn’t only read Middle Grade this month, as I was working towards finishing two adult series – The Winternight Trilogy and The Riyria Revelations, as well as continuing with some classic (horror) short stories from Edgar Allan Poe and Ray Bradbury. I also couldn’t resist picking up a self-published stand-alone fantasy novel which everyone was raving about on social media, and I’m so glad that I’ve done so because it was definitely one of my Books of the Month. Yups, I couldn’t pick between two novels for BotM.
So let’s get the show on the road shall we?
NB. Books are rated within its genre.