The Bericean army was in Malabrim for the ninth straight fighting season. Over the past 9 years, Zybaro, the leader of a small band of unknowns, had evolved from his days as a minor usurper of a tiny kingdom. Now, almost the entire country of Malabrim was under Zybaro’s control, and his army was large enough to easily challenge Bericea’s army. Still, Bericea continued its raids into Malabrim, hoping to stem Zybaro’s methodical progress and thwart his tyrannical methods of control. Zybaro had seized village after village, forcing anyone capable of joining his army and enslaving all who remained in deplorable working conditions to supply his troops.
The latest conflict with Zybaro had pushed General Darnon to a decision, one he had resisted making for over a year. Though he still held grave reservations about the Prophecies, he was willing to support the clerics who would attempt the summoning. The details of the ritual had recently been discovered in an ancient tome. The clerics were confident they could bring forth the Summoned Ones of Prophecy, those mysterious beings who would aid Bericea in its time of greatest need.
Darnon also had concerns about the location of the summoning. It would have to take place deeper into Malabrim than they had ventured in many years. And even if the ritual was effective, it would be a great challenge to get the Summoned Ones safely back to Bericea, along with the soldiers sent to protect them. However, Darnon felt that morale was so low, if they survived this battle, he owed his troops the hope the summoning ritual could bring.
Join the soldiers of Bericea and the Summoned Ones through a life-or-death struggle. The Summoned Ones are a college-aged group of friends from a small Kentucky town near the Daniel Boone National Forest who find themselves somehow brought to a chaotic world through magic. Their epic journey will push the Summoned Ones beyond the limits of their endurance. This unlikely group will discover many truths about themselves and experience another world beyond their imagination.
Darryl A. Woods grew up in rural Ohio, and has a huge amount of rural tales from his youth and adulthood that have compelled him into becoming a storyteller. A degree in Systems Analysis led to a day job designing databases, which, when combined with a side business transforming houses with his wife, and evenings and weekends spent woodworking in the family business with his father-in-law, have given Daryl a huge amount of varied experiences - and as a huge fan of writers such as Raymond Feist, Terry Brooks and Brian Jacques, fantasy seemed the natural place for Darryl to write this novel - although it skillfully blends many real world elements alongside the more fantastical.
I'm a huge fantasy fan too - I came to it fairly late, but absolutely love the way elements of myth and magic can be combined with stories of humanity and emotion in order to create compelling stories that genuinely transport the reader to another world. That is quite literally what happens in "The Summoned Ones", as a group of friends from rural America are transported into a lengthy conflict, far away from everything they have known before. "The Summoned Ones" contains many elements of fantasy I love - characters from 'our world' to serve as viewpoints for the reader, a clever system of magic that has clearly been thought out in great detail, and maps! I love a map, and Woods has clearly pictured his world in great detail - helping the reader see exactly what he is intending us to see, and pulling us into the world that be easier.
Woods is a skilful writer, and ensures that he combines world building with action well - the plot flows, and it's easy to keep turning the pages without noticing how the time passes. In terms of characterisation - there are a lot of characters for the reader to get to grips with initially, which could prove confusing, but Woods allows the reader to get to know them all well - although several I imagine are going to have significant developments in upcoming books in this series!
My one issue was in the fact that sometimes plot could slow down slightly when something specific was being explained to the reader - in some cases it felt like the reader could have learned about various aspects throughout the story, as opposed to multiple sections that feel like they're full of expository text. However, this is the first book in a series, and world building is necessary and expected, so it certainly didn't put me off - and will allow future volumes in this series to find their own pace away from the need to explain everything in detail.
All in all - this is a cracking read - a strong fantasy debut and one that combines a range of fantasy ideas to create a world that feels real and compelling to read about. I look forward to further books in the series, and thank both Darryl A. Woods and Emma Welton of Damppebbles for the copy.
Amazon US: https://amzn.to/31HTPbr
Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2Z1mLsY
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-summoned-ones-darryl-
Published in paperback and digital formats by Bresford Ridge Publishing on 29 th February 2020
Does Magic Exist?
Charlie Watson thinks it does and he wants to tell you all about it. Before he was famous, Charlie Watson decided to write a book to share with the world everything he knew about Magic. This is that book. You will discover why Charlie always wears a Top Hat, why his house is full of Rabbits, how Magic Wands are made, how the Universe began, and much, much more. Plus, for the first time, Charlie tells of the strange events that led him from England to the Arctic, to perform the Extraordinary Feat that made him famouse, and he finally reveals whether that Extraordinary Feat was Magic or whether it was just a trick.
Author Mike Russell was born in 1973. As a child he enjoyed daydreaming, art, and writing strange stories, and as an adult he enjoys daydreaming, art, and writing strange stories...
His books have been described as Strange Fiction, Weird Fiction, Weird Lit, Surrealism, Magic Realism, Fantasy Fiction...but he just likes to call them Strange Books.
Mike is a full time author, and grows his own potatoes
Magic tells the story of Charlie Watson - a famous magician who has finally decided to tell all about his relationship and history with Magic. Famous for an incident in the Arctic, he regales the reader with tales of the first magician, an upside down top-hat, and a glimpse behind the scenes in a wand factory.
Charlie encounters magic, love and mystery throughout, and he speaks to the readers with an open, friendly voice that kept me engaged throughout. There are various twists and turns throughout, and Charlie is a handy guide through them for the reader - he's a hugely engaging character, and his distinct voice rings clear throughout.
In keeping with Mike Russell's previous work, and with the ethos of his publishing line, this truly is a Strange Book - but that strangeness is combined with heart and humour - quirky characterisation and an intriguing plot ensure that "Magic" is certainly strange - but also hugely readable and extremely enjoyable.
Strange Books are a beacon of individuality in the publishing world - long may that continue!
What happens when a closeted jock, a scrawny nerd, and a pair of bratty cheerleaders develop superpowers in a small-town high school? can they stop a pair of super-powered classmates hellbent on reshaping the student body in a darker image? Or will teen angst, jealousy, and ill-timed romance doom them all?
Steven Bereznai is a former magazine editor, recreational water polo player, fan of science fiction, avid TV viewer, and author of a wide range of books - several of which have been reviewed here at ThePageisPrinted.
I'd wanted to read "Queeroes" for some time - having loved both "I Want Superpowers" and "How a Loser like me survived the Zombie Apocalypse", I was really keen to read the author's earlier work - especially as I'm such a big fan of the superhero genre in general. Luckily, Steven was kind enough to send me copies of both "Queeroes" and the sequel "Queeroes 2", and I spent a happy weekend transported to yet another clever, funny and moving world that Steven Bereznai has created.
This is a man who knows his pop culture - and Queeroes is set in a high school, meaning that Bereznai is free to explore the various tropes, cliques and groups that come with such a setting. He does so with great care - peppering his pages with knowing references and nods to existing works, but always keeping things fresh - he's not an author who relies on tropes but instead utilises them when needed to great effect. His character voices are spot on too - reminding me of my teenage years, but also bringing to mind witty, quippy high school environments such as those in which beloved pieces of pop culture like Buffy and Clueless were set. All in all, "Queeroes" blend the everyday with the fantastical in a way that's both original and hugely readable. Bereznai is a skilled author who constantly produces work that combines heart, wit and plot to make for brilliant reads. His love for pop culture blended with sheer skill for writing mean he's an author who I always enjoy - and the Queeroes series will take you head first into a brilliantly realised world full of high school drama, earthshaking battles, and high school drama.
Of course I want to be like them. They're beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.
And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.
One terrible morning, Jude and her sisters see their parents murdered in front of them. The terrifying assassin abducts all three girls to the world of Faerie, where Jude is installed in the royal court but mocked and tormented by the Faerie royalty for being mortal.
As Jude grows older, she realises that she will need to take part in the dangerous deceptions of the fey to ever truly belong.
But the stairway to power is fraught with shadows and betrayal. And looming over all is the infuriating, arrogant and charismatic Prince Cardan . . .
Holly Black is an American author, probably best known for "The Spiderwick Chronicles" which she writes with author Tony DiTerlizzi. Here she begins a new Young Adult Fantasy trilogy - set to continue with a second book in 2019 and a third in 2020. However, worlds full of faerie's, intrigue and strong female characters are ten a penny at the moment, so does "The Cruel Prince" have the staying power to hook audiences in for the long run?
In short - it's a yes. Holly Black isn't messing around here - she pulls the audience into her story with a brutal attack, before delving into a complicated and cleverly built fantasy world that the reader can't help but be pulled into.
This isn't for young audiences - the plot is violent, adult and impressively complex - leading the reader into directions that are utterly unexpected - not least the fantastic ending that leads things wonderfully open-ended for the sequel.
It's in character that Black excels here - every single one encountered in "The Cruel Prince" is layered and complex - no stereotypes here but three-dimensional characters who breathe life into the pages of this novel. Jude especially is deliciously complex - not always likeable and not always understandable, but always hugely readable and a strong, compelling and driven lead who I'm sure readers everywhere will be loving.
With brave world building, complex characters and an intriguing plot all piled into one novel, this is a huge success - "The Cruel Prince" is sure to fly off the shelves upon its release, and I for one cannot wait for the sequel. Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.
When Anita Naakka jumps in front of an oncoming train, her daughter, Norma, is left alone with the secret they have spent their lives hiding: Norma has supernatural hair, sensitive to the slightest changes in her mood–and the moods of those around her–moving of its own accord, corkscrewing when danger is near. And so it is her hair that alerts her, while she talks with a strange man at her mother’s funeral, that her mother may not have taken her own life. Setting out to reconstruct Anita’s final months–sifting through puzzling cell phone records, bank statements, video files–Norma begins to realize that her mother knew more about her hair’s powers than she let on: a sinister truth beyond Norma’s imagining.
Sofi Oksanen is a Finnish writer and playwright, and has published over five novels - "Purge" and "When the Doves Disappeared" the best known in the English speaking world
It’s 1592. Europe is in chaos. Religious factions have torn the region apart and witch-hunts have become a part of everyday life.
In the Company of Wolves follows three groups of travelers – a fearless female pirate roaming the North Sea, a priest and his wife escaping to England to avoid persecution, and a young thief from the slums of Germany looking for a better life. Each has a different reason for venturing out in such tumultuous times – fear, greed, family secrets.
Is the Werewolf of Bedburg still alive, roaming the countryside and killing innocent citizens? Many believe he’s still out there—that religious and political leaders have forsaken the truth in their cunning quest for power.
As each traveler searches for individual answers, these three seemingly separate stories converge in a place which may hold the key for them all. Based on true events involving one of the deadliest witch trials in European history, this tale of adventure, mystery, and the search for truth reminds us that, ultimately, no one is safe . . . in the company of wolves.
"In the Company of Wolves" is the sequel to "Devil in the Countryside" - a book I reviewed earlier in 2017 (review here). An intriguingly dark true story given the historical fiction treatment, it was a compelling read that blended excellent characterisation with a dark, genre-crossing plot. Cory has returned to that world and those characters in "In the Company of Wolves" - and it's a read that's just as compelling as the first.
In fact, it appears to me that Barclay has really hit his stride in "In the Company of Wolves". The interactions between characters seem more natural, and the pacing is fantastic, with the switching of viewpoints allowing for a huge amount of brilliant cliffhangers to crop up through out the course of the book. The distinct viewpoints are interesting enough that, whilst I was left eager to know what had happened to a character, I wasn't too annoyed when I was torn away from one journey and showed another - especially as, for a lot of the book, the individual chapters are rather short - allowing for a swift and interesting read that keeps the reader moving through this dark and dangerous world at considerable speed. It's a nice touch, and reminded me somewhat of the Victorian Penny Dreadfuls - dark stories told in quick, easily readable snippets.
A real draw of these books is that Barclay shines a light on historical events that have been all but forgotten - and shining a light on the "Trier Witch Trials" makes for immensely fascinating reading. The characters drawn from history are brought to life with considerable skill, joining the already impressive fictional creations of the author in order to guide the reader through dark, dramatic but ultimately incredibly well researched historical events
Things feel a little unfinished towards the end - but I'm sure they'll be resolved well in Book Three, which I'm already looking forward too! Thanks to Cory for the copy - and make sure to pick up "Devil in the Countryside" first in order to make sure you know what's going on!
Beginning with Moby Dick: The Rise of the Undead (Part One), Tex Daw chronicles the passage of two men on board the Pequod, a whaling vessel poised on the edge of a world that is about to change forever. Haunted by the riddle of the vampire’s dance, each of the men is transformed, and the world is made anew…
Tex Daw is a digital collage artist, a tai chi practitioner, and an avid BMX rider. He is currently living in Vancouver, BC, Canada, and is a keen instagrammer – follow him @texdaw.
In the last ten years or so there have been a wave of reimaginings of classic tales with supernatural elements – the unexpected popularity of”Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” beginning a flood of titles that included my personal favourite (in terms of titles, I’ve yet to read it – )”Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters”. Some of the books were okay, some were no more than cheap cash-ins that failed to stay true to the original, so the trend seemed to die down a little – a fact cemented by the recent box office bomb that was the film adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”. So, when I received a copy of “Moby Dick – The Rise of the Undead”, I can’t deny that I was a little concerned about what kind of read it would be…
Thankfully, it’s really very good indeed.
Moby Dick, in it’s original form by Herman Melville, is already a very strange, gripping read, filled with giant sea creatures, strange prophecies, lost coffins and rampant homoeroticism. Tex Daw has taken all of the elements that make Moby Dick a great read and amped them up somewhat – but he’s done so with great respect for the original text. As a result, this is very fun read – a dark and moody adventure peppered with the supernatural, the subterranean, and gallons of seamen (pun very much intended!). It’s no light read either – the prose is at times elaborate and clever, with some very amusing phrases and snippets of dialogue really brightening the book up.
If you like men, whales, the sea, or simply fun takes on old classics, “Moby Dick – The Rise of the Undead” is a fun and thrilling read – bring on part two!
The Genetic Wars that turned most of the planet into a wasteland are over. The so-called “dregs” (short for “DNA regulars”) and superpowered “Supergenics” now live separately from each other: the Supergenics in the shiny towers of Jupitar City, the dregs across the river in the squat concrete buildings of the boroughs. But Supergenic children are still born to dreg parents, and under repressive laws must be sent to live with their own kind. To find these special few, every teen faces their Testing Day. When her turn comes, socially isolated Caitlin Feral is determined to Manifest superpowers. If she fails, she faces a lifetime of loneliness and drudgery in the boroughs. But how much is she willing to sacrifice to be the supergirl she’s always wanted to be? And when she uncovers dark secrets kept by both sides, does she dare start another war to reveal the truth?
Author Steven Bereznai is a Toronto based author and Travel Writer, who has previously published three other books, as well as having his short stories featured in various anthologies, and articles featured in a huge amount of publications. An avid water polo player, registered hypnotist and pilates instructor (not all at the same time. I hope), he’s also a keen fan of comics and superheroes – something that serves him extremely well in this tale.
“I Want Superheroes” is a book that manages to find a rather unique balance – the world is a dark, grim, dystopian one with very little light, but a lightness can be found in the characters, and, in rather touching scenes, their escape into the world of comics and superheroes. These characters live in a world inhabited by superpowered beings, but face injustice and mistreatment every day so it’s rather fitting then, that several of the characters find their escape in the fictional comics that once filled their world – comics that bear a very strong resemblance to those we read in our own Universe. Despite the huge popularity of superheroes in our media today, comics still rarely get acknowledged as pieces of literature, despite some storylines (the Dark Phoenix Saga and God Loves Man Kills are two of my favourite examples), being far better than many oft quoted works of classic literature – and modern graphic novels like “Persepolis” and “Safe Home” helping prove that the comic industry can give a huge amount more than many people may give it credit for. Comics are used here both as an influence and a catalyst – and Bereznai’s comic book knowledge shines through.
Caitlin is a strong lead character – her actions make a lot of sense, and Bereznai dares to take her to perhaps a slightly darker place than the lead is often put in in Dystopian YA books. In addition, she’s a layered, flawed and well developed character – intelligent, driven and talented enough to be a compelling character who stands above others, but normal enough to be relatable to the reader. Other characters too provide interesting counterpoints to Caitlin’s story – Normand in particular is both memorable and, as the story develops, an extremely intriguing character whose motivations are far more complex than one may feel initially. Bereznai writes teenagers well – even growing up in a dark world, they maintain the same complex feelings that regular teenagers do, and the author understands these. Older characters don’t just serve as antagonists or wallpaper here either – Caitlin’s mother is given an emotional backstory and hugely understandable motives, making her a character I’d be keen to see more of in future books. The characters being so well drawn really lifts this book above a lot of other YA books, and they work extremely well alongside the clever, surprising plot, and the general world building that Bereznai has done. In fact, the world he’s built is such a compelling one – similar to our own and yet so, so different, that I’d definitely like to read about how it came to be, and how it’ll change going forward.
Original, thrilling , and packed full of brilliant characters who take the reader on a twisting, turbulent adventure, “I Want Superpowers” is an entry to a universe that, no matter how dark or dystopian, I’m extremely eager to return to.
Every ninety years, twelve Gods return as Young people.
They are loved.
They are hated.
In two years, they are all dead.
It’s happening now.
It’s happening again.
So, I am a huge comics fan – I have been ever since I was a child, and for years my comics appreciation revolved solely around the X-Men – finding a home in that bunch of mutant misfits was a huge part of my growing up. Back in 2011, a new writer call Kieron Gillen came aboard as the writer of the flagship X-Men book, and his writing was so, so good, that I was compelled to seek out his other work. “Phonogram” is a fantastic piece of brit-pop centric fantasy, “Young Avengers” an amazing look at growing up told through super heroics, and a run writing Loki for “Journey Into Mystery” that, with the help of a certain Mr Hiddleston, has put Loki front and centre as a compelling anti hero in the Marvel Universe. So, I was understandably hugely excited when I read that he would be teaming up with his regular collaborator Jamie McKelvie for a new book, “The Wicked + The Divine” The Social Book Co were kind enough to send me a copy to review.
Does it live up to my impossibly high expectations?
Yes. Oh yes.
“The Wicked + The Divine” is a dizzying ride of a book, but a strong cast of characters make it a compelling and fun ride for the reader, even if you’ll spend most of the time on the edge of your seat. The twists here are so big, and so surprising, that there’s a strong chance you’ll be left open mouthed whilst reading. “Fandemonium” collects issues six to eleven of the comic, as well as some bonus supplementary material, most of which is in the form of stunning artwork. This is really the second arc of the book, so by this point the reader, and the characters, are fully entrenched in the mysteries surrounding the characters. Laura is a fantastic lead, and it’s always rather nice to see a 17 year old written as, well, a 17 year old. Issue Six contains a compelling two pages that don’t just explore the character, they also hit pretty hard at what it feels like to be a teenager, in a surprisingly quiet and effective manner. Characters only briefly met before, like Inanna and Cassandra are expanded upon in these issues, and the plot ricochets along at a breakneck pace, that still somehow allows the characters time to breathe and grow.
Of course, no comic would be complete without artwork, and Jamie McKelvie is genuinely one of the best comic book artists around today, without a doubt. Every character is distinct, the fashion and design is superb, and some issues ( in this case Issue 8, when Laura discovers the true extent of Dionysus’s powers), are stunning. Like tear out the pages and stick to the wall of an art gallery stunning. There’s such life in this world that they have created, such kinetic energy, that it’s truly, truly astonishing.
Compelling, clever and current, “The Wicked + The Divine” is easily one of the best comics being published today.
The Yorkshire city of Willingsley is full of straight-shooting, gobby northern folk going about their day to day lives, with their love affairs, their health problems and all of life’s other nonsense grinding on day after day. And then suddenly, monsters come to town and people start dying. At the center of it all is Eric Mayfair, a twenty-something who a year ago was facing imminent heart failure. Fatal. Terminal. That’s what the doctors said. And then, miraculously, Eric got better. He doesn’t know how. No one does. All he knows is he has a new heart, a great black leech of a thing embedded in his chest that no one else seems to see. Then someone close to Eric is murdered and, in his search for answers, Eric uncovers an unseen world of monsters, dark powers and deadly secrets.
I love a good urban fantasy. Don’t get me wrong, I love fantasy of all kinds, but there is something immensely satisfying about seeing places and situations you know transformed into dark corners full of magic and monsters, and characters that remind you of people from your life plagued with surprising powers and treacherous secrets. I’m fairly used to seeing dark urban fantasy set in the South of England, but the North still seems ripe for exploration – and author Steven B Williams is the man to do it.
The setting is a huge part of this story – the Northern town that the Yorkshire dwelling author creates is so fantastically drawn that any one who has been a town like it will instantly feel both at home an uneasy – this is that run down town you know, just with added monsters. It’s fitting too then that the characters are instantly recognisable – as someone who grew up gay in a Northern town, Eric’s experiences are immensely familiar. The other characters too, feel incredibly real – they never slip into stereotype or caricature, but remain fleshed out throughout. In fact, the characterisation is a huge strong point here – even the smaller characters are developed enough to make the reader feel that when these bit players leave the pages they head straight into fully fleshed out lives. Dee in particular was my favourite of these – a job centre worker planning for a wedding, who is swept into the chaos that is Eric’s life.
Plot wise, the strong characters are thankfully complimented by an equally strong plot, with themes of grief, acceptance and romance carefully threaded together. Eric slowly discovers that he is part of a strange new world – and the rules and mythology of this new world are seeded well here – there is a lot to take in, but it never overwhelms, and I’m eager to see it expanded in future books. Characters and concepts are seeded for the future, but the arc for this book still remains a satisfying one with a thrilling climax. It’s also an adult tale – nothing too explicit, but it’s a brave book that combines fantasy with characters who grapple with grief, loss, and depression – and yet still maintains a light and pacey tone that keeps one turning the pages over and over again.
As a new voice in fantasy, Steven B Williams is one to watch out for, as “Heartsnare” is an enthralling ride of a read. In this brave new world where fantasy can be found taking up increasingly more space in bookshops, it’s a treat to stumble across something as original, as exciting and as well written as “Heartsnare”. A must read, it’s out in October – so get preordering today!