Top Ten Tuesday: Spring TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly blog meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s theme is Spring TBR and here goes mine (though I highly doubt I will manage all of them in spring, it’s more like spring+summer TBR!)

The White Luck Warrior

The Great Ordeal

Ghosts of Tomorrow









I’m planning to finish all of Aspect-Emperor before the next one (The Unholy Consult) comes out in summer. And there’s the grimdark new release from Michael R. Fletcher I will squeeze in, I normally don’t read western fantasy but Fletcher’s Manifest Delusions books were so damn awesome, I will read everything he publishes cause he writes some of the most messed up and complex grimdark characters out there.


The Shadow Rising

The Fires of Heaven

Lord of Chaos









I’m aching to get back to the Wheel of Time world after reading the first 3 books, but some exciting new releases came out and the news of Unholy Consult coming out got me to grab Aspect-Emperor books. I am really dying to read the rest of the WoT!


Danse Macabre

The Falcon Throne

Sword of Destiny









Of course I’m ever the impatient one, which means sometimes I get way too hyped up about certain books and I will grab them before finishing the series I have at hand, no matter how awesome it is. I’m bad like that!

Best Served Cold


I have been meaning to read the standalone First Law world books by Abercrombie since The First Law trilogy felt too short and left me with a big book hangover. This is the first of the three standalone First Law world books.

What is in your TBR? Link to your post and let me know!


WWW Wednesday: 8 March, 2017

WWW Wednesday weekly blog meme

WWW Wednesday is hosted each week by Taking on a World of Words.

What are you currently reading?

The Judging Eye

The Last Wish









The Last Wish, Witcher book #1 and The Judging Eye, Aspect-Emperor Book #1. Both are excellent so far.

What have you recently finished reading?

Red Sister

This was one of the best fantasy books I have ever read. Review coming soon!

What are you planning on reading next?

The White Luck Warrior

This is the second book of Aspect-Emperor, I need to catch up by the time The Unholy Consult comes out!

What have you been reading lately?

The production of a fantasy debut: Interview with Anna Smith-Spark

This one is for writers who want to be traditionally published. There’s a lot of good info and valuable tips shedding light on the whole process. I highly recommend reading the whole interview if you are aspiring to get an agent and go the tradpub way.

Michael Everest

Following on from my interview with Nicholas Eames yesterday, I’ve invited Anna Smith-Spark to talk about the ‘production’ behind her fantasy debut ‘The Court of Broken Knives’, book one of ‘The Empires of Dust’ series. Anna’s already making a name for herself amongst the fantasy community, and her novel, pitched as a favourite for fans of Mark Lawrence and R Scott Bakker, promises to be an explosion of grimdark epic-ness. Back this up with the fact she’s represented by Ian Drury, Lawrence’s agent, and the twitter tag of @queenofgrimdark twitter handle sounds like a challenge to all would be contenders. Heck, if the crown fits, wear it. Or as Jorg Ancrath proves – take it!

So, without further adieu, I introduce, to you ladies and gentlemen, the Queen of Grimdark herself, Anna Smith-Spark.anna-smith-spark-author-photoME: Hi Anna!Before we begin, let’s start with some introductions – who are you, what do you…

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Interview with Mark Lawrence

Great insights from Mark Lawrence about self publishing.
I think SPFBO is a great community service, for helping stellar indie authors get visibility and the fantasy readers find true gems they would otherwise never discover.

I’m planning to read all the finalists and semi-finalists of the SPFBO that are my cup of tea, I have a lot of catching up to do. I’ve read the reviews and added quite a few books to my TBR.

Josiah Bancoft’s Books of Babel is a great example to what kind of gems there are buried in the Kindle store. You can read my reviews by using the search widget.

Anyway, this is a great interview and I highly recommend all my blogger and reader friends to check out the SPFBO.

shona kinsella

This is the first in a series of interviews with people involved in the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO). For any of you who haven’t heard of it, you can read more here but essentially, self-published fantasy writers submitted their book to the blog-off. Ten book bloggers acted as literary agents, working through a slush pile and selecting their favourite. The ten finalists were then read and graded by each blogger until one was selected as a winner. The winning book received reviews on all ten blogs.

As an indie reviewer with BFS, I have come across some excellent self-published work (as well as excellent books published by small presses) and this competition fascinated me. I love the idea behind it and the recognition that self-published does not mean a book is not worth reading. I was really excited when Mark Lawrence agreed to be interviewed about setting up and co-ordinating the…

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Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Most Charismatic Fantasy Characters


Top ten tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish but they are on a winter break and this week is a freebie. I had a talk with a friend about how I love charismatis characters and how some books would be so much better with such. So I am going to list my top 10 charisma lords & ladies this week.

1. Fëanor from The Silmarillion

One of the earliest ‘grey’ characters with no moral compass whatsoever, he is perhaps one of the most badass characters Tolkien has created. LOTR characters have nothing on this guy, trust me on that one. He made the legendary silmarils that drove everyone into batshit insanity and stood up to Melkor aka Morgoth, the most powerful of the Valar at the time, with a zero fucks given attitude:

‘Get thee gone from my gate, thou jail-crow of Mandos!’ And he shut the doors of his house in the face of the mightiest of all the dwellers in Ea.

He took on an army of Balrogs without fear, not to mention he single-handedly changed the fate of the entire world along with the race of elves. He is the reason elves moved to the Middle Earth in the first place.

2. Jorg Ancrath from The Broken Empire

Not going to lie here, I hated his guts at first, but he became one of my all time favorites by the time I finished Prince of Thorns. Oh boy. That young man racks up serious charisma points where is lacking in the moral compass department. He is a legendary badass in every sense, broken and messed up as he is.

“Dear lady, I killed them from youngest child to oldest woman, and when I was done I blunted three axes dismembering their corpses. I am Jorg of Ancrath–I burned ten thousand in Gelleth and didn’t think it too many.”

This quote may not quite do it on its own, but when you read it in the context of the book, it makes your jaw drop. Seriously. He isn’t all that bad, though. You gotta read the books to see for yourself.

3. Jaqen H’ghar from A Song of Ice and Fire

My friends know he is my biggest book crush along with Fëanor. Now you know, too. He has a very small part in the saga but boy is that man dripping charisma and leaving a trail of it as he walks. Tom Wlaschiha playing him on the TV show naturally added +50 charisma points. He is one of the few characters I fangirl about with my BFF on a constant basis.

4. Nona Grey from Red Sister

If you love Arya Stark, I can say she has serious competition now. Nona is taken from the gallows by Abess Glass of the Sweet Mercy convent when they are about to hang her for the attempted murder and severe maiming of a 7 foot something giant of a pit fighter who happens to be the son of the richest and most powerful nobleman of the empire. And she is nine years old in the beginning of the book, go figure what a little badass she is. Nona gets bullied, beaten within an inch of her life and picked on all the time in her new life, but her inner strength and perseverence is mind-blowing. And her intellect too. She is one of the most charismatic young female characters ever. You think Hermione is great? You ain’t seen nothing yet!

5. Sand dan Glokta from The First War Trilogy

Once a dashing cavalry officer and star fencing champion, Sand dan Glokta is now a hideous, broken cripple working as an Inquisitor for the King’s Inquisition. He tortures criminals and traitors for a living and he has developed an exquisite torture-interrogation style after he has been tortured in the Gurkhul prison and got slowly mutilated into his current crippled form. His sharp intelligence, gallows humor, cynical and bitter attitude and extreme cunning combine into a huge vat of charisma and make him one of the most memorable characters of modern fantasy literature.

6. Alica Kendeth from Red Queen’s War

One of my favorite charismatic female characters, she is a side character in the series but when she makes an appearance, she steals the show. She is one tough cookie whom all the big rough dudes fear and for good reason. She isn’t a tyrannical bully, no. She was a ruthless warrior and kickass strategist in her youth, and she is a charismatic no-nonsense grandma in her old age.

7. Mara from The Empire Trilogy

Mara was my first all time favorite female fantasy character, and she is the epitome of charisma. Her political intrigue skills are second to none. In fact I am missing her so much I can’t wait to re-read these books. She is not a badass shieldmaiden or anything, but boy can she beat everyone with her incredible wits and glib tongue!

8. Drizzt Do’Urden from The Forgotten Realms

R.A. Salvatore’s iconic drow character is featured in a load of books but I linked the first trilogy in the reading order. You must have already noticed I have a thing for morally ambiguous, broken, stone-hearted male characters, but Drizzt as the ultimate good guy with a heart of gold is the exception to the rule here. I’m quite the fangirl always surfing Deviantart for Drizzt fan art and post it around to share with my friends. Drizzt with his dual scimitars and his magical black panther Guenhwyvar will always have a special place in my heart.

9. Arakasi from The Empire Trilogy

Mara’s spymaster is not exactly a grey character, but since I have a thing for well written spies and assassins, I’m a big fan of this dude. He is a creation of Janny Wurts (as she stated in numerous interviews and Reddit AMA’s) and the best spy character I have read in fantasy to date. He is not just a badass spymaster, but also a complex character with a traumatic past and emotional conflicts.

10. Anasûrimbor Kellhus from The Prince of Nothing

A lot of people hate this character, but I find him quite charismatic, even though he is a horrible person. Thing is, you don’t realize he is horrible until much later. He isn’t exactly the type I’d fangirl about, but the charisma is there. Most everyone loved the barbarian Cnaiür dude, but the barbarian killing machines are so not my thing. Kellhus is a heartless bastard but he has superhuman qualities, cold and supreme intellect, and mind-blowing manipulation skills. He is one of the grimdarkest of grimdark characters out there.

Who are your favorite charisma lords? Let me know in the comments!
I hope some of y’all have some common with mine, I want to know I am not alone!

Guest Post by M.D. Presley: All Fantasy is Cultural Appropriation

All Fantasy is Cultural Appropriation. In the Best Possible Way.

Cultural appropriation is seldom said with a positive connotation, and for good reason. Because nothing is more offensive than seeing suburban kids dolled up in hip-hop attire, or idiots donning red wigs and drinking themselves to oblivion because it’s Saint Paddy’s Day.

I think we can all agree that for both those examples punishment is in order. Preferably corporal and with extreme prejudice. You know, because of their extreme prejudice.

But in the case of the fantasy genre, cultural appropriation is necessary; a cultural and historical shorthand aimed at the audience that actually forms our sub-genres. And, unlike the examples above, in fantasy the cultural appropriation shows appreciation for the chosen culture because fantasy authors add a little something extra to it to make it their own.

Because, like it or not, all fantasy authors are actively appropriating, even if they’re not aware of it. Mainly because, with perhaps the exception of Urban Fantasy, authors simply do not live in the time period or culture we use as the basis to build our worlds upon. Yet we take cultures and histories and reshape them in our own graven images, and it’s from this appropriation that the fantasy genre as a whole is defined.

Don’t believe me? Well consider what the average reader thinks of when they hear a story belongs in the fantasy genre. Nine times out of ten they’ll envision a vaguely medieval setting with a large dose of European cultural parallels: Stories of castles and knights, swords clashing against armor with loads of milords, thees and a smattering of thous. To the vast majority of readers, fantasy as a genre is decidedly Euro-centric with maybe an elf or dragon thrown in.

Subtlety was not exactly Howard’s strong suit in his European cultural appropriation.

Subtlety was not exactly Howard’s strong suit in his European cultural appropriation.

And for the most part, they’re correct, as the sub-genres of High Fantasy, Epic, Heroic, and Sword and Sorcery all reflect a medieval flavor with strong overtones of Europe; because the seminal works in these subgenres were largely written by Europeans drawing from their own culture and history for inspiration. They chose European settings and medieval time periods because that was what they knew, and over time those cultural and historic anchors became cornerstones of the sub-genres.

In short, sub-genres are defined by which culture and history is being appropriated by the author, examples including Gunpowder Fantasy, Gaslight Fantasy, Arabian, Wuxia, Steampunk, Prehistoric, Mythic, Arthurian, Portal and Fairy Tales. As soon as a potential reader sees what sub-genre the book belongs in, s/he instantly know what to expect in terms of cultural and historic parallels within the story. Because the cultural and historic appropriation works as a shorthand for both author and audience to find each other and share their similar interests.

The other aspect in fantasy that keeps our cultural appropriation from being the decidedly bad kind comes down to each author inserting their own fantasy conceit into the appropriated culture and history. It’s this introduction of the unnatural that makes it fantasy rather than alternative history.

Some authors wear their fantasy conceit, as well as their cultural/ historical influences, on their sleeves, such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, or Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. Others, like Lord of the Rings, are subtler with their medieval England reinterpreted with the introduction of elves, dwarves, and wizards. Game of Thrones keeps the same basic English cultural cornerstone, but then adds other real-world cultural parallels with the definitely Mediterranean influenced Dorn or Bravos. And still others, like Avatar: The Last Airbender, eschew Europe altogether and draw heavily from Eastern influences.

Audiences expect a certain cultural and historic parallel to anchor their experience to this new world fantasy authors are tossing them into, so authors should use this expectation to their advantage. For my Gunpowder Fantasy novel The Woven Ring, I leaned into my appropriation with my first words from the blurb: “A fantasy re-imagining of the American Civil War…” This was a conscious decision on my part to orient any potential readers to the expected culture (American), historical (1900s), and thematic parallels (Civil War) from the onset and let them know what they can expect when they enter my world.

And, for the week of Feb 20-24th, they can expect to get the Kindle download for free. So download a copy lickity split.


The famous quote is “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” but the lesson I take from it (“appropriated,” if you will) is “those who do not know their history are doomed to write bad fantasy.” Because, consciously or not, fantasy audiences crave a sense of authenticity in regards to the appropriated culture/ time period. So it pays to not only be consciously aware of what time period you are appropriating as an author, but to research it extensively so as to give your audience that sense of authenticity. Little details like the style of dress or food at the time go a long way in creating this and are appreciated by the audience, even if they’re not consciously aware of it.

That said, your personal fantasy conceit you’re interpreting your appropriated culture through should not be ignored either. So while it’s nice to know specifically what style of armor your knights would wear to be historically accurate, the story should never suffer from being beholden to the details.

I mean, this is fantasy after all.


Author Bio:

MD Presley is a screenwriter, blogger and occasional novelist… which basically means he’s a layabout. But feel free to check out all his incoherent ramblings at, or on the facebook at

Download your free copy here:

Book Review: Arm of the Sphinx by Josiah Bancroft

Arm of the Sphinx
Genre: Fantasy/Steampunk/Magical Realism
Series: Books of Babel
Author info:

This is the second book of Books of babel, here is my review for the first book, Senlin Ascends.

Thomas Senlin’s desperate search for his wife Marya continues and the exciting adventure picks right up where it left off in Senlin Ascends. Now we get to discover the dark side of the tower and get inklings on what kind of purpose it may be serving, more facts of the complex political intrigue and the wars between the ringdoms.

Bancroft takes us to more ringdoms in this book, and they get more bizarre and alien as we climb. Worldbuilding shines here as it does in Senlin Ascends. Each ringdom has its own strange rules, machinations and political schemes, each one a new world if its own.

Arm of the Sphinx features non-Senlin POV’s and we get to see quite a lot from the eyes of the other characters. Getting a whole different perspective of Iren after seeing her as the invincible brute from Senlin’s eyes was great. Voleta’s POV chapters were quite entertaining to read and her relationship with her little pet is adorable.

Many of the mysteries from Senlin Ascends get solved and new mysteries emerge, and we get to meet some enigmatic new characters along the way.

One of my favorite things about this book was the little snippets in the beginning of each chapter, just like Senlin Ascends, and they make some of the best quotes from the book.

All in all, this book is a Steampunk wonder of high literary quality, featuring incredible adventures, top notch character development, beautiful scenes, entrancing imagination and, I must mention, supplemented with marvelous artwork on the author’s site and Instagram account. I highly recommend clicking the author web site and checking out the artwork. I am very much looking forward to the release of the third book, The Hod King. I can’t recommend this series enough, it’s one of the best indie gems that came out of Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (SPFBO) contest and I must thank the bloggers and Mark Lawrence for bringing this awesome series to the spotlight.