Book Review: Arm of the Sphinx by Josiah Bancroft

Arm of the Sphinx
Genre: Fantasy/Steampunk/Magical Realism
Series: Books of Babel
Author info: http://www.thebooksofbabel.com

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.

Waiting on Wednesday: Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

new-wow
Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Breaking the Spine.
I am waiting for Red Sister by Mark Lawrence, to be released on April 4, 2017.

Red Sister

Here is the blurb:

At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices’ skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist.

But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls as a bloodstained child of eight, falsely accused of murder: guilty of worse.

Stolen from the shadow of the noose, Nona is sought by powerful enemies, and for good reason. Despite the security and isolation of the convent her secret and violent past will find her out. Beneath a dying sun that shines upon a crumbling empire, Nona Grey must come to terms with her demons and learn to become a deadly assassin if she is to survive…

I’m looking forward to this one because:

I’m a huge fan of Mark Lawrence and I’m reading the e-ARC at the moment. It’s totally different from the other books he has written and it’s truly glorious. Even though I have the e-ARC, it would be real nice to have the hardcover copy on my shelf.

What new release are you looking forward to? Share your post in the comments below!

Red Sister Art Contest

that thorn guy

This post is to announce a fan art contest with entries featuring characters from any Mark Lawrence novels. The three best entries will receive anAdvance Reading Copy of Mark Lawrence’s highly anticipated new novel:

RED SISTER

 provided as prize for this competition byACE Books

A random winner will also receive a signed (or dedicated) Mark Lawrence novel, which they can choose from a wide selection, including foreign editions where available.

ttg_artvfa

.

To enter the competition create an original piece of two-dimensional art (Painting, Drawing, Photography, Digital Art, etc) and email it to us by clicking HERE.

We are looking to receive entries featuring original elements conceived and created by you, the artist. Please make sure that your entry doesn’t violate any copyright laws and doesn’t include any copyrighted material, trademarks or logos owned by another party. Your entry mustn’t be a copy of a photo/artwork that you…

View original post 109 more words

That Thorn Guy Second Birthday Interview with Mark Lawrence

A stellar Mark Lawrence interview from Agnes Meszaros, creator of That Thorn Guy (the unofficial Mark Lawrence site.)

There are cat photos in it!
And some exciting news.

that thorn guy

15873517_10154915943217156_8175794778229995361_n-2

It’s been a year since my last interview with you and a lot has happened during this year. I can think of several good things as far as your work is concerned. What were your highlights?

It’s been a busy year. My first complete calendar year as a full-time writer. Let me make a list!

–       Released The Wheel of Osheim to a great reception. The whole Red Queen’s War trilogy now being in print.

–       Finished writing Grey Sister.

–       Started and finished writing Holy Sister, thereby completing the Book of the Ancestor trilogy.

–       Started and finished writing a new stand-alone book called Power Word Kill.

–       Started a new Broken Empire book with an old character. I won’t identify them for fear of spoiling earlier books by naming survivor/s.

–       Started writing for a multiplayer Xbox game. A bit of variety!

–       Won the Gemmell Legend Award…

View original post 3,025 more words

Late 2016 Wrap-Up and Best of 2016

I’m a bit late to the party since I should have done this on December, but life and chronic illness got in the way. I made a Goodreads challenge for reading 25 books, but fell a bit short. Most books I read last year are old school fantasy classics I’ve made a personal goal to catch up with, and only a couple new releases. Btw this is why you shouldn’t ask me to review new releases. Unfortunately I am not one of those people who read 150-200 books a year, my own writing takes a lot of my free time. Here goes my 2016 top ten list:

1. The Wheel of Osheim by Mark Lawrence

The Wheel of Osheim I had been anxiously waiting for this book, since I’m a huge fan of Mark Lawrence, and his was hands down the best book I have read in 2016. See my review.

2. The Mirror’s Truth by Michael R. Fletcher

The Mirror's Truth I had been looking forward to sequel to Beyond Redemption, and it turned out to be more glorious than I expected. Superb characters, excellent prose and a superb grimdark setting, this was definitely the best grimdark I have read in 2016.See my review.

3. Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft

Senlin Ascends I picked this one up after it made it to the SPFBO semifinals and Mark Lawrence recommended it. I normally read fantasy in pre-modern settings, but I have been curious about steampunk and Senlin Ascends turned out to be quite an excellent choice. It’s very different from the usual genre fiction, leaning more towards literary fiction/magical realism, but steampunk to the core. I can’t recommend it enough. See my review.

4. The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

The Eye of The World I have been wanting to get into the Wheel of Time and finally managed in 2016. Never too late to read the Eye of the World! I loved it so much I am planning to re-read already after I finish the whole series. See my review.

5. The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb

The Farseer Trilogy

I will cheat and put the whole trilogy here. I loved these books to death, though it is quite a heavy read and you need to read something funny afterwards to get out of the intense melancholy it gives you. See my reviews for book #1, book #2 and book #3.

6. The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan

The Great Hunt The Eye of the World got me hooked and this book got me addicted to the Wheel of Time. The way Jordan unfolds the world and the characters is truly stellar. The length of the series may be intimidating, but it’s such a great joy to slowly explore the eormous diverse world, you gotta read it to see how awesome it is! See my review here.

7. The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan

The Dragon Reborn Book #3 of the Wheel of Time distinguished itself with the non-Rand POV’s and the impressive character development while showing the plethora of diverse cultures and lands. Matt’s slow character development reaches the level of awesomeness I have a hard time describing with words and the Aes Sedai world has the supreme dose of magic all epic/high fantasy fans will love. Character development and depth in general is some of the best I have read in fantasy to date. See my review here.

8. Road Brothers – Tales From The Broken Empire by Mark Lawrence

Road Brothers : Tales from the Broken Empire This indie published collection of short stories from the Broken Empire explores the various side characters in depth and gives a good glimpse to their background stories. I greatly enjoyed this book, it was like meeting old friends again. See my review here.

9. Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie

Last Argument of Kings I am a huge fan of the First Law Trilogy and this book made a superb ending with fireworks and lots of twists. See my review here.

10.The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin

Tombs of Atuan I am glad to read the first two books of the Earthsea Cycle, and liked this book more than A Wizard of Earthsea. Perhaps it was the gritty, melancholy atmosphere, or the awesome female protag, but Earthsea is definitely a must read for all fantasy fans. See my review here.

Here is my interview with Meriweather and Lillian Asterios

authorsinterviews

Name Meriweather and Lillian Asterios

Age 33, 37

Where are you from: The Ozarks, Arkansas

A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc:

I am a married transgender man with three step children. I write fantasy books with my wife, Lillian. I am also an artist! I work in watercolor, ink, and oil. I studied at Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Fiona: Tell us your latest news?

I just finished a book called “Terminus.” It is in the editing stage right now, and will be out in the spring. I am currently working on the second act of “Terminus,” I see it coming in three parts. It is about the apocalyptic end of the world, as seen through several perspectives– including what happens ‘on the other side,’ in the afterlife as a result of the world ending. I am also working on…

View original post 1,228 more words

Book Review: Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft

Senlin Ascends
Genre: Fantasy/Steampunk/Magical Realism
Series: Books of Babel
Author info: http://www.thebooksofbabel.com

I picked this book up on recommendation from Mark Lawrence and the SPFBO buzz when it made to the semifinals. It didn’t sound like my cup of tea at first (since I prefer pre-modern fantasy settings with lots of magic and epic battles) but I picked it up anyway -interrupting my Wheel of Time marathon- and loved it to death.

Senlin Ascends is a fresh new breath in the genre fiction. If I quote The Wert Zone, “In another universe, Senlin Ascends, which was originally published in 2013, would have already won the Campbell, Hugo, Nebula and Arthur C. Clarke Award.” and I agree with this statement. Senlin Ascends has a steampunk setting, with early modern pistols, airships, goggles and what have you. Steampunk lovers will become fans of it and the sequel, The Arm of the Sphinx.

I think Breaking Bad lovers will also greatly enjoy this book, since the main character is a school headmaster who is trying to survive in a hostile environment full of villains and criminals. He doesn’t become an epic bad guy like Walter White, but there are certain parallels.

The story starts with Senlin and his wife going to the Tower of Babel on their honeymoon trip, only to discover chaos reigns there and Senlin ends up losing his wife Marya in the crowd. He proceeds into the Tower to find her, but discovers the Tower is nothing like what he read in the tourist guides. Each level is a new ringdom, which is a realm with its own rules and unique environment. Some of them are run down, some are pretty and pleasant on the surface but with a dark side. Out of the numerous ringdoms of the Tower, we get to see four in Senlin Ascends and there will be more uncovered in The Arm of the Sphinx. I must say the worldbuilding is amazing and the alien qualities of the ringdoms shows great creativity.

The characters are brilliantly rendered and the prose is exceptional even for the mainstream published books, let alone an indie. The setting was so vivid and the prose so beautiful, I didn’t care the least bit about the lack of magic and fantasy elements. I have given harsh critique to other fantasy books for lacking fantasy stuff, but the steampunk here is so awesome I didn’t miss the high fantasy and magic at all. There are plenty of dark and creepy scenes in this book, which I greatly enjoyed as a grimdark fan. It’s not exactly grimdark, but has a dark atmosphere, with a bit of humor and uplifting moments spicing it up.

Senlin Ascends leans more towards magical realism than genre fiction, with high literary quality, but it’s a compelling page turner with plenty of adventures and intrigue. Josiah Bancroft is a genius for writing a book of incredible literary merit without making it boring for the genre fiction readers. I love Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea books, but most of my bookworm friends found it boring, including a couple of literary snobs. But no one can say Senlin Ascends is the least bit boring or dragging. If they do, they are smoking crack.

I can’t recommend this book enough, all the hype is 100% accurate and the most reputable reviewers of the fantasy scene loved it for good reason.

Josiah Bancroft does fantastic chalk art of his characters, you can check them out on his web site: http://www.thebooksofbabel.com/new-gallery/