Toll the Hounds (Malazan Book of the Fallen #8) ★☆☆☆☆

tollthehounds (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Toll the Hounds
Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen #8
Author: Steven Erikson
Rating: 1 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 1299
Format: Digital Edition



I’m really struggling with this.

The Tiste Andii have a big part. Nimander and the young Andii, led by Clip, are on a journey to Black Pearl to pledge allegiance to Anomander Rake. During this journey Clip is possessed by the Fallen god and it is up to Nimander to stop him. Rake himself leaves Black Coral and faces down Hood himself and kills Hood with Dragnipur, thus bringing Hood into the realm of Dragnipur. This allows Hood to bring his armies of the dead against the forces of Chaos within that realm. Rake then faces Traveller, who is revealed as Dassem Ultor, First Sword of the Empire and not only dies in a battle with him, but is killed by Dragnipur as well. This places him in Dragnipur’s realm as well and somehow makes it possible for him to confront Mother Dark and convince her to take her children back.

Karsa Orlong and Samar Dev had been travelling with Traveller and are witnesses.

There is a lot going on in Darujhistan itself. Cutter and others have returned. The remaining Bridge Burners who run a bar, have a contract taken out on them by the Assassins guild. Rallick Nom and Vorcan both recover in the Azath House and get back into the thick of things. Gruntle ends up working for the Trygalle Guild and Mappo takes their services to try to get back to Icarium. Only Mappo and Gruntle get called into the Realm of Dragnipur to help lead the forces of the Dead against Chaos.

The Broken god is also making a play outside of Black Coral to subsume the newly ascended Itkovian, now known as the Redeemer. Using his own corrupted blood, a black addictive druglike sludge, he enslaves the high priestess of the Redeemer and it is up to a former Pannion Domin of all people to defend the Redeemer, who has chosen not to defend himself.

After the battle between Rake and Traveller, and the battle that ensued for control of Dragnipur, Caladan Brood emerged in control of the sword. With the help of the remaining Torrud Cabal, he destroys the sword with Burn’s Hammer, thus releasing all the souls still in existence within the sword.


My Thoughts:

Last time I read this, I called this a bloated piece of crap (to summarize). This time around, I have much more to say.

It IS a bloated piece of crap. At 1300 pages, this easily could have been pared down to 800 or 900 pages simply by removing the monologuing by every character about despair, hopelessness, the pointlessness of existence, etc, etc. I found myself skimming pages at a time and not missing any actual plot points. Erikson becomes as bad as Ayn Rand in Atlas Shrugged with the monologue by John Gault. Erikson gives full vent to his existential beliefs and in all honesty, it is horrible.

Lots of Christian theology and personal philosophy coming up, so be warned.

Sometimes, books can affect us in deep and profound ways. We always hope that it is for the better but sometimes it isn’t. This time around, it wasn’t for the better. Over the last 10 years I have learned that I am particularly susceptible to the weakness of hopelessness and despair. Whether in a sermon or in a book, if the negative is at the forefront, it will bring my spirit down and affect me physically. I can not live without Hope. That is part of why I am a Christian.

Erikson puts forth that Oblivion is the end of everything. Good, bad, right, wrong, all will end in nothingness. You can only witness existence and hope someone else will witness you as well. This directly cuts across the fact that God Himself is our witness. He has always been and He will always be. Oblivion is not the end of God, even though it is the end of humanity who are not saved by Jesus Christ. Our lives are being watched and recorded by God and we are not alone.

Erikson also writes how everything good is essentially pointless since it is tainted in one way or another. God is not tainted. God is Good. Everything good flows from a Perfect God and it IS good because it aligns with His character. Erikson takes everything that is written on our very hearts as good and drags it through a shit hole and stabs it with a rusty butter knife all in an effort to show how it really isn’t good.

Sadly, it wasn’t until I was at the 80% mark that I realized how this was affecting me. My attitude was horrible about pretty much everything and the world seemed grey and blah even while I was objectively having a good time. I could have taken steps to counteract this much earlier if I had realized what was going on. I do plan on reading either Mark of a Man by Elizabeth Elliot or one of C.S. Lewis’s books immediately after this.

In the future, I will never read this book again. I also plan on waiting an extra cycle before attempting the next Malazan Book of the Fallen. I’m giving this book the “Worst Book of the Year” tag as well to help remind my future self to never even look at this thing again.


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Stands a Shadow (Heart of the World #2) ★★★☆☆

Stands A ShadowThis review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Stands a Shadow
Series: Heart of the World #2
Author: Col Buchanan
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Flintlock Fantasy
Pages: 481
Format: Digital Edition



The Empire of Mann begins it conquest of the Free Isles. The Empress goes along because she is pissed off about her son dying. The real ruler of Mann, an old magician, sends along a Mannian “Diplomat” (code for assassin) named Che to make sure the Empress never runs from battle or acts like a coward. He also sends along 2 other Diplomats to take care of the first Diplomat once his job is done.

The military leader of the Free Isles goes against all expectations and leads an army into the field to confront the Mannian host. Using even more unexpected tactics, his goal is to slay the Empress and stall the army until winter sets in. The Empress is killed by the Diplomat for trying to run from the fight and the Mannian army is divided as the general and a noble vie for control. The leader of the Free Isles succumbs to the pressures he’s been under and has a heart attack.

Che realizes his life is over since he killed the Empress and begins a running fight with the other 2 Diplomats. He survives and hooks up with a girl from the Free Isles and is trying to start over. He accidentally reveals that he is from Mann and the girl turns him into the authorities.

Meanwhile, Ash, the Farlander from the previous book, is trying to assassinate the Empress himself. He finds out that Che is an ex-Roshun and has betrayed the Roshun and that they are destroyed. The book ends with Ash asking the surviving Roshun to fight the Empire of Mann while he goes on a quest to bring his dead apprentice back to life.


My Thoughts:

If you divide this book up into 100 parts, not even 1 part would be “magic”. It’s definitely Flintlock fantasy, but the magic is so under utilized that I really hesitated to even call it “Fantasy”. It is also very bleak and borders on the Grimdark.

It was written well and at no point was I jarred out of the story. That being said, I also never wanted to “read more” if I had to stop for bedtime or something else.

However, I won’t be continuing this series for the following reasons. The nobles of Mann regularly partake in orgies of sex and drugs and while nothing is graphic, there are enough objectionable things mentioned that I want nothing to do with it. “Magicless” fantasy doesn’t do it for me. Bleak doesn’t do it for me. In general, the whole world and all the characters just leave me feeling very blasé. Blase doesn’t do it for me either, in case you were wondering. Add in the fact that it took me 3 years to even search out the sequel to Farlander and that tells me something too.

Now I just have to decide what to replace this series with on my kindle. I’ve got the Caverns & Creatures series by Robert Bevan or the Dead Enders trilogy by Mike Resnick. Decisions, decisions.


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Thanquol’s Doom (Warhammer: Thanquol & Boneripper #3) ★★★☆½

thanquol's doom (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Thanquol’s Doom
Series: Warhammer: Thanquol & Boneripper #3
Author: C.L.Werner
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 304
Format: Digital Edition



Due to Skaven politics, Thanquol’s success at staying alive and reporting the death of the conjurer from his previous expedition is now a mark against him. Everyone wishes he had died so as to not remind them of the expedition at all.

Now Thanquol must “lead” an expedition against a Dwarven stronghold. He is allied, this time around, with the skaven scientists/alchemists and they have supplied him with a mechanical Boneripper built from the remains of his original one. Unfortunately for Thanquol, he is saddled with another Grey Seer who has secret instructions of his own. And of course, the Alchemists have their own hidden, true agenda.

Turns out Thanquol is simply a diversion for the dwarves to focus on while the alchemists and the other grey seer do their own thing. The grey seer is going after a powerful magical item, the paw of something or other and the alchemists are building a Doomsphere, meant to destroy the dwarven stronghold totally and completely. The fact that it might destroy the skaven city as well is just incidental.

Thanquol schemes how to make use of both of these agendas. He ends up releasing a chaos demon of almost uncontrollable power, by accident, and the doomsphere destroys itself due to the dwarves machinations.

The book ends with Thanquol still alive and figuring out how to survive this latest debacle.


My Thoughts:

This was a decent end to this trilogy. Since this was a spinoff of the Gotrex & Felix series I wonder if Thanquol ends up being killed off in that series? As a skaven, he certainly deserves it!

I’ve been considering why I enjoyed this Warhammer trilogy as much as I did while I haven’t really enjoyed the others I’ve read. Part of it is the humor. Werner does a fantastic job of showing how cowardly, two-faced and constantly backstabbing the Skaven are and it is just really hard to get depressed when reading about their antics. It’s like watching a clown car at the circus. The humor was ironic in nature, with Werner showcasing the worst of the skaven nature through Thanquol but it was so ridiculous that I couldn’t help but laugh. Much like the clown car I mentioned or seeing clowns beat the crap out of each other. Objectively, it is unpleasant, but in the right situation, it is great humor. It mitigated the depressing side of the Warhammer universe. In comparison, Werner wrote some of this book from the dwarves perspective and my goodness, now THAT was depressing. A Book of Grudges, Berserkers who live only to die in battle, a declining population due to birth rates and attrition? Ugh, ugh and ugh.

I was about to give up on the whole Warhammer universe after my run in with Tyrion & Teclis. Thankfully, this turned things around so at least I’ll try another Warhammer trilogy. Bookwraiths has reviewed another Warhammer trilogy by Werner and if my next choice (the Legend of Sigmar trilogy) doesn’t pan out, I might try that. But if I hit 2 stinkers of a series in a row, or they are just too depressing for me, I’ll probably be done with Warhammer.



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An Ill Fate Marshalling (Last Chronicle of the Dread Empire #2) ★★★☆½

anillfatemarshalling (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: An Ill Fate Marshalling
Series: Last Chronicle of the Dread Empire #2
Author: Glen Cook
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 381
Format: Digital Edition



Shadowing the events that take place in Reaping the East Wind, at least for the first half of the book, we see the events that Ethrian set in motion from the side of the likes of Bragi, Varthlokkur, etc. We also see the fallout from Bragi’s decision to force Varthlokkur to deal with Ethrian. Varthlokkur and Nepanthe return to their fortress along with Mist’s children and Varthlokkur swears to Bragi that he won’t help him anymore.

Thus, Bragi must begin ruling Kavelin with brains and soldiers alone. Unfortunately, for him, his wife Inger is plotting against him and he can’t face that. He heads out with an army to take down a rogue Dread Empire general, the one hold out who won’t accept that Mist is now defacto Empress of the Dread Empire. Mist has her uses for this rogue general though and lets him run amok. Mist eventually takes out the general but that is not known to Bragi. He attacks the Imperial troops thinking they belong to the rogue general when in fact they belong to Mist. She was planning on this all along though and wipes out Bragi and his army. All so that the nation of Kavelin, and its neighbors will be fighting amongst themselves.

The book ends with various factions beginning to fight over Kavelin and it turns out that Bragi didn’t die. Now he’s a secret captive of the Dread Empire, a captive who can live in peace and luxury.


My Thoughts:

It was interesting to see the events that take place in Reap the East Wind from another viewpoint. That only took up the first half of the book though, so whenI came to the end of the events and the book kept on going, I was pleasantly surprised.

Of course, that is, until I realized that this was a story about the disintegration of the order that Bragi Ragnarson was slowly establishing in Kavelin. I kept hoping, right up until the end, that things would turn out ok. I should have known better.

Varthlokkur, in abandoning Bragi, showed that he was just as miserable a scumbag as that other magician, on the flying horse and the magic cornucopia thing that we read about in previous books. He watches through his magic mirror as Bragi is apparently overwhelmed and killed but because of his pride, does nothing active. It just goes to show that Cook has an excellent grasp on human nature and how someone who has been hurt by someone else will do, nor not do, all sorts of things because of that hurt.

The other storylines, about the succession, the various heirs (Bragi having had multiple children through his now dead wife and his current wife), the Dread Empire dealing with the Matrangan attack, it all was interesting. Then to find out that Bragi is alive, that made me wonder if Cook was saving him up for something or if it was so that at least one character can live out his days as sop to the readers?

This book was published in 1988. Apparently, the sequel, and the final Dread Empire novel, wasn’t published until 2012. Ouch. Glad I already have it on hand. There is also another book, a collection of short stories, that was released in ’08. I’m on the fence if I’ll be reading that or not. Probably depends on how much I like, or dislike the final Dread Empire book.



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Reaper’s Gale (Malazan Book of the Fallen #7) ★★★★☆

reapersgale (Custom).jpgThis review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission 
Reaper’s Gale
Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen #7
Author: Steven Erikson
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 940
Format: Digital Edition



The Edur/Letheri Empire continues to totter on. Rhulad Sengar, instrument of the Broken God, continues to fight against various champions and continues to die and be resurrected. He is cut off from his Edur family and allies by the Letheri beauracracy and it is really the Prime Minister who is running things.

The champions. Karsa Orlong has a plan and he can’t let Icarium get in his way. But after a confrontation in the streets, he realizes that Icarium has his own plans which do not involve fighting with the Emperor. Icarium unleashes an instrument of magic but something goes wrong and we don’t know if he survives the magical conflagration or not. Karsa faces Rhulad, treats like the boy he is, takes the magical sword and with the help of all the spirits chained to him, forces a path to where the Broken God resides. Instead of killing the Broken God, he simply rejects him and has the blacksmith who made the cursed sword destroy it, along with all the power invested in it by the Broken God.

Gnoll, the Prime Minister, has setup a secret police, the Patriotists. Their end goal is to destroy the Edur, take wealth for themselves and become the rulers in the shadow. Much like any secret police, they end up going to far and with all the other events going, the populace rises up and kills most of them.

Tehol Beddict, with the aide of his manservant Bugg who is the elder god Mael in disguise, continues his economic war against his own people. His goal is to bring down the whole economic system so as to bring about something different that can last. Successful in the end, Tehol becomes the new Emperor.

The Awl, tribal plainsmen, are the latest people under seige by the Letheri. With the arrival of a prophesied leader, Red Mask, who is guarded by two K’Chain Ch’malle, the Awl have a chance of not only surviving but of destroying the Letheri army sent after them. It turns out that the Greyshields were allies of the Awl against the Letheri but the Awl betrayed them and left them to die on the battlefield earlier. Redmask fails and his “guardians” turn on him and kill him for said failure. In his death it is revealed that he was an outcast Letheri and was simply using the Awl to get revenge on Lether. A handful of Awl children survive and are taken underwing by the newly arrived Barghast army which destroys the Letheri army. The two Ch’malle return to their matron, their reasons still a secret.

The Malazans, the outcast Bonehunter army, land on the shores of Lether and begin an invasion. Adjunct Tavore is as silent as ever and nobody in the army knows what is going on. Fiddler speculates that she is simply going after the Broken God and not just Lether. The Malazans split up and fight their way to the capital, only to find it already in chaos due to the Patriotists, Karsa Orlong’s killing of the Emperor, Icarium’s machine gone wrong and Tehol Beddict’s plans. They put Tehol on the throne and are set to go elsewhere, whereever Tavore decides.

There is yet another storyline dealing with a disparate group of Tiste Andii, Letheri slaves, Tiste Edur, Imass, Eleint dragons and the birth of a new Azath House. Dealing with betrayals from long ago, it has no direct impact on the overall storyline in this book and as such, I’m not typing up the details. This “summary” is already longer than most of my whole reviews.


My Thoughts:

My “review” from 2010 is a good 1 paragraph sum up of the book. Obviously, as shown by my summary above, there is a bloody lot more to this book.

While I enjoyed the storyline immensely, I have to admit that Erikson’s philosophy once again ruined what could have been a 5star book. Pages upon pages of selfish mutterings and hopeless thoughts and the dwelling upon of pain and hurt real and imagined, past and future. My main problem is that Erikson is great at pointing out flaws, in people, in situations, in institutions, in laws but then he doesn’t have his characters propose any solutions beyond “I will Endure”. He spends a section using his characters to talk about how the whole of existance itself was nothing but a betrayal by forces of chaos conspiring against each other. If Erikson thinks even half of what he writes, how does the man get out of bed each morning? He writes the true Existential Existance. It is pointless. That is depressing and it really brought home to me how much Hope I have being a Christian. Thank God.

With so much going on, I had to simply sit back, enjoy each section as it was presented to me and not try to put it all together. Even though this is book 7 in the series, Erikson is still just giving us pieces of an overall puzzle that has a lot of missing pieces. Erikson knows the whole picture but is only giving the readers some of the pieces of the puzzle and forcing us to figure out what the whole might look like from the little we do know. Forcing each reader to become a literary archeologist or to give up the series in disgust.

Now, with all of that out of the way…

I still liked this a lot. When the various plots were rolling along, I couldn’t put this book down. The Malazan storyline didn’t start until past the halfway mark and I kept waiting for them to be included which I think took my attention away from earlier parts of the book. There was a Segulah woman as a champion but she never fought Rhulad. She escaped, which kind of disappointed me, as I wanted to see how she would have fared against the Emperor. Karsa was just an obnoxious twit the entire time and it was obvious that Rhulad couldn’t defeat him.

The whole Awl storyline almost more about the mystery of the K’Chain Ch’malle than anything else. For a species supposedly extinct for a million years, they’re surprisingly active. So where have they been hiding out? I also wondered who Redmask actually was. I’m sure there are two sentences in one of the earlier books that explains it but I suspect I’ll just go on the Malazan Wiki and find out. Why do all the hardwork when someone else has already done it?

Aaaaaand I just looked. No other references to Redmask. Just one of those loose puzzle pieces that Erikson likes to scatter about.

While the storylines are interesting and engaging, there is almost no point in saying “this was a good part” because somebody dies in every “good part”. Hence the name of the series. And yet I still read this series for a second time. Not sure if that means that Erikson is actually a really good writer or that I’m just a sick reader who needs help.

This was the last book in the series that I rated highly when I read them initially. I have a feeling that the next 3 will be just as bad the second time around. I am girding up my loins for that.





Temple of the Serpent (Warhammer: Thanquol & Boneripper #2) ★★★☆☆

templeoftheserpent (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Temple of the Serpent
Series: Warhammer: Thanquol & Boneripper #2
Author: C.L. Werner
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 416
Format: Digital Edition



Thanquol is blamed for the loss of the warpstone in the previous book and various skaven faction leaders all plan on killing him. To survive, he goes on a mission with the assassin faction to wipe out the leader of a city sacred to that faction. The assassins were driven out long ago and a race of lizardmen took it over. Now it is up to Thanquol and a small army to penetrate a dangerous jungle, find the city, kill the leading magician and make it back home. Hopefully with loads and loads of loot.

There is a magic toad, who has the power of mathematics from the higher powers, that is orchestrating many strings. In response to the skavens coming to the city, he brings a boatload of humans to balance out the equation and to see what the final solution will be. The final solution? Every single human dies by the end of the book. Almost every single skaven is killed and the lizardman magician dies as well. The toad goes back to contemplating mathematics.

Thanquol gets back to the ship and after a fight with zombie pirates, abandons the ship in a lifeboat and the magic toad magically has it go back to the skaven capital. That is how the book ends.


My Thoughts:

I rather enjoyed this dark fantasy. Having a villain as the main character allows me to root against him and when things fall apart around him, it isn’t a bad thing but a good thing. It also helps that skavens as a race are just despicably cowardly creatures and the author does a fantastic job of getting into Thanquol’s head and showing how he can switch his thought process on a dime. Each skaven is completely self-centered, so what is good is what is good for them at that moment.

I knew that the human storyline was going to be a bloody mess, but I figured the mercenary guy, Graetz Adalwolf, might survive. I did not see him killing himself to escape the attention of the magical toad. Good call though, as that would probably end up having been hell on earth for Graetz. There was only one female human character, so she was the obvious love interest, but it was written in such a desultory manner that it was no surprise when she bites it at the end. In fact, with just a very small re-working, the whole human storyline could have been done away with. But since they provided at least half the blood and entrails, this story would only have been half as fun without them.

Boneripper. Once again, not really a character but a name. Thanquol seems to have quite the limited imagination when it comes to naming his rat ogres, so when they unsurprisingly die in one violent way or another, he just names the new one Boneripper. Bonerippers remind me more of a force of nature than a character. Kind of like a super violent magical spell that Thanquol has, but in the shape of an ogre.

Now, like I stated at the beginning, I did enjoy this. I only rolled my eyes once, right near the end. Some human zombies that the skaven army had encountered takes over the ship that Thanquol needs. Can anyone say “Pirates of the Caribbean”? Sigh. But it did allow the current Boneripper to die and become a food source for Thanquol on his magical boat ride back to his home. Ok, that whole “magical boat ride back home” thing had me rolling my eyes too.

But I still want to read the final book in the trilogy. Considering how I’ve felt about previous Warhammer books, that counts as a stunning success for me.






Reap the East Wind (Last Chronicle of the Dread Empire #1) ★★★☆½

reaptheeaastwind (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Reap the East Wind
Series: Last Chronicle of the Dread Empire #1
Author: Glen Cook
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 259
Format: Digital Edition




Mocker and Nepanthe’s son was held against Mocker’s attempt in killing Bragi Ragnarson. When Mocker failed, Ethrian was thrown into a torture cell. He escaped and came to a desert. There he meets a sleeping god and it’s servant Sahmanan. The god wants a conduit and Ethrian wants revenge against the Dread Empire. They form an alliance and using undead, begin to attack the Empire.

Lady Mist has used her time in Ragnarson’s court to play political games back home in Shinsan. With Ragnarson’s help, she sets in motion a coup to regain the throne of the Dread Empire. She plans on double crossing Ragnarson and destroying the upstarts who stopped the Empire before but Ragnarson wasn’t born yesterday and realizes this. His plan is to get Mist to be queen but with enough instability to keep the Empire from his door for a generation.

Nepanthe, now married to the sorcerer Varthlokkur, is pregnant with their child but can’t let go of the idea that Ethrian is still alive. Varthlokkur won’t try to find his grandson (Mocker was Varthlokkur’s son) and when the issue is forced, it causes a split between Varthlokkur and both Nepanthe AND Ragnarson.

Ethrian is taken over by the god due to his hatred and despair but is destroyed through the combined efforts of both Varthlokkur and the Empire’s magicians. He dies in Nepanthe’s arms.

The book ends with Mist and Ragnarson in control of their respective kingdoms but both are weakened and more fighting is on the horizon. This trilogy is truly the Last Chronicle of the Dread Empire.


My Thoughts:

I was introduced to Ethrian in All Darkness Met back in July ’17 but then I completely forgot who he was due to the prequel duology that I read next. So it took me some time to work out just who this boy was that was so important.

This book felt a LOT darker than the previous Dread Empire books. Part of it was Nepanthe’s giving in to despair and Varthlokkur’s refusal to look for Ethrian. Throw in Lady Mist’s complete acknowledgment that she will destroy the kingdom that Ragnarson rules even though he gave her sanctuary from her enemies and you just end up with a lot of nobodies that you can root for. Ethrian’s slide to the darkside was depressing as all get-out too.

The whole zombie/undead thing was pretty nifty but Ethrian just didn’t have the military experience to make full use of it. The Empire’s general was simply able to outmaneuver him. Shows why the Dread Empire has lasted as long as it has.

Once again there were what I term “skips” where a lot happens in the background but I the reader am apprised of it through a one sentence mention of the fact even while it has big implications for what is going on. That type of thing has to catch me in the right mood for it to work. This time it did. But next time? I might end up savaging Cook for being a complete jackass for using such a plot device. Even being aware that he uses it doesn’t help.

I found the writing to be better than the previous duology. That helped keep my interest, as well as not having those wretched characters, El Murid & Haroun, involved. I’m just waiting for them to stick their nose in in the next book and ruin it for me. I just don’t like those guys.