Category Archives: Fantasy

Retro Book Review – Running With the Demon

More than four years ago, I wrote my first book review for this blog. That was for Running With the Demon, by Terry Brooks. On my YouTube channel, I’ve started a series called Retro Book Reviews, where I will talk about books I’ve reviewed in the past, including how my impressions may have changed and how I feel about them now. Here’s the first one!

If you’ve read this book, what did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below.

Book Review – The Book of Deacon

bookofdeaconThe Book of Deacon

Author: Joseph R. Lallo

Series: The Book of Deacon #1

Genre: Fantasy

Published 2010

Review Copy: Free promotional eBook

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

Goodreads Description

Myranda is a young woman more interested in staying alive than being a hero. Orphaned by a continent-spanning war that has gone on for decades too long and shunned for failing to support it, she has been on the move since she was only a child. One can hardly blame her when she thinks that the chance discovery of a fallen soldier’s priceless cargo is the moment that will change her life. No one could predict just how great that change would be. It will lead her through an adventure of rebels and generals, of wizards and warriors, and of beasts both noble and monstrous. Each step of the way will take her closer to the truth of her potential, of the war, and of the fate of her world.


The Book of Deacon by Joseph R. Lallo is the first book in a classic fantasy series of the same name. It’s a book that has its issues with pacing, lack of contractions in dialogue, and some not entirely well-developed characters, but I did enjoy it.

In the beginning, we have Myranda, a young woman who’s been orphaned and is wandering around the land without much of a direction when she gets mixed up with a sword, a malthrope, and the entire military wanting her. There’s a lot more to the girl than is directly told to us in the book, but it isn’t very subtle foreshadowing. As she gets caught up in all this unwanted attention, her life takes a surprising turn, joining a couple different groups, becoming a student twice, and a cliffhanger?

First of all, Myranda is our heroine. She’s been wandering for a long time, on the move because she’s a pacifist, and people who are against the war are not tolerated. She’s fiery, distrustful, and quick to argue. And she has a talent for magic. Leo, who is a fox-man malthrope, is like night and day. I cannot figure out his character at all, because he isn’t what he seems to be. I still don’t know what’s going on with him. Deacon, the title character, turns out to be a kind of grey magic enthusiast who is your typical intelligent character who isn’t completely accepted. And there’s Myn, a baby dragon who is mischievous, but grows a lot. There’s also a host of masters of their brands of magic who have their own personalities that don’t show much depth that I won’t get into. And then we have the main antagonist, Trigorah, who is an elf with a connection to Myranda. While she’s the antagonist, we see very little conflict, and she doesn’t seem entirely bad.

The story itself has some odd pacing. It’s kind of like it’s being done in three acts. The first act is slow-paced, wandering in a cold winter land, trying to survive. The second act sees a lot more action. The final part is slow-paced again, with a lack of real conflict involving any kind of real danger. The first part didn’t hook me. The second part looked far more promising. The third part slowed down a lot, but I enjoyed it. It was far more lighthearted, though there was still a dark side. It didn’t feel complete, though. But it is a series, and the second book is a continuation.

The world that Lallo has developed is an interesting one. Several kingdoms merged into one and has been waging an ongoing war with the southern countries for decades. Neither side seems interested in ending the war. War is life, and if you don’t like it, you’re an outcast. I personally can’t see how a war that reaches decades can be sustained, though. The demographics of the lands would result in large population decreases and a lack of children. But that doesn’t seem to happen.

The writing style isn’t very polished, as I think it’s Lallo’s first book, but it is perfectly readable. The thing that really stood out for me was the dialogue. It didn’t seem very natural. It lacked contractions, for one thing. As the story progressed, I felt that it got better, but the beginning was a bit rough in that area.

Overall, I give this book three stars. It has a slow start, but picks up the pace later on, and settles into a state of comfort towards the end. I actually enjoyed reading about Myranda learning magic. It felt like there should’ve been more conflict, though. But I guess that’ll happen in the next book, which I have an interest in reading. If you enjoy classic fantasy with a bit of a slower pace, then I recommend this book to you.

Which Fantasy Series Should I Try?

I’m a fan of fantasy novel series. I enjoy going back into worlds that I’ve discovered before, and exploring it more. I’ve read parts of several series, including Shannara, The Wheel of Time, A Song of Ice and Fire, Malazan, and so on. But I always enjoy a new world to explore.

So, I have a poll for you. Please vote for the series you think I should read, and let me know why you chose that in the comments below. This is a long list, and you can vote for multiple series.


Thanks for voting! I’ll definitely use the results to help decide on what I should buy.

Book Review – Deadhouse Gates

deadhousegatesDeadhouse Gates

Author: Steven Erikson

Series: The Malazan Book of the Fallen #2

Genre: Fantasy

Published 2000

Review Copy: Paperback bought new

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

Goodreads Description

In the vast dominion of Seven Cities, in the Holy Desert Raraku, the seer Sha’ik and her followers prepare for the long-prophesied uprising known as the Whirlwind. Unprecedented in size and savagery, this maelstrom of fanaticism and bloodlust will embroil the Malazan Empire in one of the bloodiest conflicts it has ever known, shaping destinies and giving birth to legends . . .

Set in a brilliantly realized world ravaged by dark, uncontrollable magic, this thrilling novel of war, intrigue and betrayal confirms Steven Erikson as a storyteller of breathtaking skill, imagination and originality–the author who has written the first great fantasy epic of the new millennium.


Deadhouse Gates is the second novel in Steven Erikson’s epic fantasy series The Malazan Book of the Fallen. This continues the story that began in Gardens of the Moon. It moves away from Genabackis and on to another continent in an area called the Seven Cities.

There are some familiar faces, but also many new ones. I find that one of the strengths of this book is the characters. It is very character-driven, and has many strong personalities. The cast of characters is very large. Felisin is the younger sister of Ganoes Paran from the first book, and is a major focus here. She has a very strong personality and incredibly defiant. Heboric Light Touch is an intriguing ex-priest who shows some very interesting abilities. We also get to meet Fiddler, Crokus, Apsalar, and Kalam again. They’re all from the first book. Kalam has a focused mission, so we spend a lot of time with him, and I really enjoyed reading his part. Apsalar is going through a lot of changes, while Crokus and Fiddler watch on. These three are still together from Darujhistan. The Wickan Coltain is a military leader, and his quest to bring the refugees of the Seven Cities is the main focus of the story. He’s a rather unconventional leader. The Imperial Historian Duiker is also a major character who is both an old soldier and an observer of the exodus. He is also an acquaintance of Heboric’s. The pair that impressed me the most were the half Jaghut Icarium and Mappo the Trell. The relationship between Icarium and Mappo was absolutely fascinating, and their friendship was powerful. And finally, although she played a small part, Ganoes Paran and Felisin’s older sister Tavore is now that Adjunct. She’ll likely play a much larger part in later books. They were my favourite characters in this book. I loved those two. There are many more characters, but these were the ones that had the greatest impact, I thought.

The world that Erikson created is vivid and realistic. I felt like I was there with the characters. The worldbuilding involved in this series is extensive. The desert of Raraku felt dry and dusty. I could imagine I was there. The way Erikson describes the scenes painted a realistic picture in my mind. The towns and cities all had their own unique character, the landscapes were amazing, and I felt like I could experience the weather. Excellent job.

The story was a bit different than what we saw in Gardens of the Moon. This time, we had more of a journey rather than a battle in one location. I felt like a tourist at times seeing many new places, since they kept traveling. The main focus was on Coltaine’s Army protecting the refugees from the Seven Cities as they were pursued by the rebel commander and former Imperial soldier Korbolo Dom. It was called the Chain of Dogs, which is shown on the maps in the book. There were many battles and many deaths. Kalam had his own mission to go straight to the Empress. Felisin had her sights on her sister Tavore, but she had an even greater destiny. Mappo and Icarium had their own journey, but there was something very interesting about their mission, and it had more to do with Icarium’s sad past. And finally, there was Apsalar, Crokus, and Fiddler’s journey, which led to a few surprises. Many paths crossed, many separated, and many joined together. It was like these story threads were woven together. It’s very intricate and complex, but very compelling.

The Malazan series is proving to be a very good series, and this second installment was incredibly enjoyable. I loved immersing myself in this world, even though it was treacherous and filled with war and death. The thing about this series is it’s dark and gritty. You should expect major characters to die unexpectedly. It’s war, and it isn’t pretty. But what a story it is. I would give this 5 out of 5 stars. It was just that good. Highly recommended.

New Book! Free Book!

One of my regular participants in Authors Answer, H. Anthe Davis, has recently published her third novel, The Living Throne. And to celebrate, she’s giving away a little gift:

Book 1 of the War of Memory Cycle: The Light of Kerrindryr

I recommend you check this book out, The Light of Kerrindryr. It’s the first novel of The War of Memory Cycle, a fantasy series that I’m anxious to start reading myself. Best of all, it’s free for a few days, so I recommend getting it and reviewing it.

H. Anthe Davis is also big on worldbuilding.  This is something I love doing, as well. Her blog has a lot of worldbuilding posts and pages to explore. It’s all very fascinating.

Congratulations on the third book!

Festivals and Music in Fantasy and Science Fiction

On Tuesday, I was treated to this, a very cultural experience. Taiko drums.


A picture isn’t enough? Okay, here’s the video I took.

This was at an agricultural festival, but like many festivals in Japan, it had the staples: taiko drums, traditional dancing, and food stalls. It’s things like these that make Japanese festivals uniquely Japanese.

When developing a world for science fiction and fantasy, culture is very important. Festivals, food, music, dance, clothes, and holidays are all very important in creating a believable and realistic society. It’s something I really enjoy seeing when I read fantasy and science fiction novels.

Considering the books you’ve read, what cultural aspects stand out? Think of specific cases, like the feasts of A Song of Ice and Fire or the music of Lord of the Rings. I look forward to your answers.

Fictional Heroes in Speculative Fiction

Today, my family went an agricultural festival and who appeared? Ultraman! He’s a very popular hero to children in Japan. Many TV series, movies, and public appearances. My daughter wanted to meet him, but we had no time. I got this picture, though.


This had me thinking, in fiction, and particularly in speculative fiction, have there been any instances of fictional heroes in the popular culture of that world? Imagine a superhero story that dwarf children love. He could be called Super Gold Digger. Or an action hero for Vulcans named The Logical Pacifist.

What are some hero names you can think of for popular sci-fi and fantasy novels?

Vacations and Resorts in Fantasy

This is where I am now.






The pictures above are at Tsujido Seaside Park in Fujisawa, the city I live in in Japan. Lots of Palm trees, bright sun, hot weather, and a bicycle park.

In speculative fiction, especially science fiction, there are resorts and vacation spots. A lot of sci-fi has them. But what about fantasy? I’m trying hard to think of any fantasy that includes places like that.

Can you think of any?

Book Review – Blood Skies

bloodskiesBlood Skies

Author: Steven Montano

Series: Blood Skies #1

Genre: Fantasy

Published 2011

Review Copy: Free eBook

Overall Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5

Goodreads Description

In the time after The Black, human survivors of the Southern Claw Alliance clash with vampire legions of the Ebon Cities in a constant war for survival. Earth as we know it has been forever damaged by an arcane storm that fused our world with distant realms of madness and terror. Things that once existed only in our nightmares stalk the earth.

Now, humanity is threatened by one of its own.

Eric Cross, an enlisted warlock in the Southern Claw military, is part of an elite team of soldiers and mages in pursuit of a woman known as Red — a witch whose stolen knowledge threatens the future of the human race. The members of Viper Squad will traverse haunted forests and blighted tundra in their search for the traitor, a journey that ultimately leads them to the necropolis of Koth.

There, in that haven of renegade undead, Cross will discover the dark origins of magic, and the true meaning of sacrifice…

Experience a dark and deadly new world in the debut novel of the “Blood Skies” series from author Steven Montano.


Blood Skies, the first novel in the Blood Skies series by Steven Montano, is an interesting take on the vampire genre, combining it with witches and warlocks, zombies, and a post-apocalyptic world.  At first, I was thinking this was going to be a typical vampire story, but it surprised me.  I wasn’t expecting it to be a quest style dark fantasy story.

Cross is a relatively inexperienced warlock in the Viper Squad, but he’s with his friend and fellow soldier Graves.  Graves is quite laid back, and it seems he’s the only one who acts like that.  Cross, and later, his sister Snow, are powerful magic users with different types of magic.  They are both a bit uptight, though.  Cristena comes along, and as she is another witch, she has her own set of impressive magic.  I found her to be a bit of a mystery at first, but later on, her character showed through very strongly.  But I didn’t like her at all.  I liked Cross, Graves, and Snow, though.  On the other side of the war are the vampires, though we only really get to know one of them.  And we also have Red, the main antagonist.  Even through the entire book, I still wonder about her motivations.  I feel that not everything was revealed in this book.

The plot is a rather straightforward quest to stop Red, basically.  It involved a lot of magic, guns, and lots of death.  Incredible amounts of death.  And I mean you shouldn’t get too attached to the characters because there’s a good chance he or she will die.  I enjoy the quest type of story, so this was a nice trip for me.  We get to see different lands, different combatants, and different dangers, but the constants are Cross and Graves.  However I found some of the deaths were a bit unnecessary.  There’s one battle in particular that seems completely unnecessary for the story at first, but I could see why it was important for the advancement of the story.  The story does come to a conclusion, but there are still some open threads that are most likely continued on in the following books.

The setting itself is richly described.  It had a dark atmosphere, and I felt like it must be cold and dreary there.  The world is a post-apocalyptic Earth somewhere in North America (an American city is mentioned, actually), but it’s been merged with another world filled with vampires, zombies, and other horrors.  Montano does a great job at describing the world, but I wanted to know more.  What about outside the Southern Claw?  What’s the rest of the world like?  Maybe we’ll find out later.

The magic system is very interesting.  Men and women are different, and their magic is also controlled differently.  Each mage has his or her own spirit that they are in constant contact with, and it’s as if they are an extension of themselves.  You’d have to read it to understand.

Overall, I found this to be a very interesting idea.  I wasn’t expecting much, as I’m not a fan of vampire stories, but I enjoyed it.  It was a dark fantasy with elements of vampires, zombies, and steampunk.  With an overall rating of 3 1/2 out of 5 stars, it’s a solid recommendation from me.  It’s fun to read.

Realism in Speculative Fiction

As a reader of speculative fiction, I get to discover what life is like in worlds that aren’t yet possible or can never be possible.  Science fiction and fantasy are two of the main genres of speculative fiction, and while they’re both looking at life that’s different than what we know, they are very different from each other.

When looking at realism in speculative fiction, you have to think about what is possible and what is impossible.  For what is possible, you’re likely looking at future technology and science that we haven’t quite figured out yet.  For what is impossible, you’d be looking at magic and wildly alien life that we can’t imagine would ever exist.

In science fiction, it’s easier to rely on realism, especially if you have a solid knowledge or background in science.  Or maybe you’re just really good at winging it.  But for people like me, realism in science fiction is quite important.  I feel like it could be real.  I want silence in a vacuum, I want accurately described motion in a spacecraft, I want well-described conditions on planets.  Books that screw around with the science and make it rather unrealistic turn me off.  I read a book that got artificial gravity generation all wrong with a spinning space station.  Unfortunately, the gravity was toward the centre of the station, rather than away from centre.  It was backwards.

In fantasy, realism is less of a concern, especially when magic is a major factor.  However, there are a lot fantasy novels that rely on realism, and in this case, it’s the realism of battle, tactics, politics, and human nature.  There are some great books out there that do this, and as a result, they tend to be quite gritty and dark.  This pulls me into the story so strongly, I feel like I am really there, can smell the air, feel the wind, and see the trees, sand, or sea.  I love that level of realism.

How do you feel about realism in speculative fiction?