Friday, August 26, 2016

Review: Spellbreaker

Title: Spellbreaker
Author: Blake Charlton
Pages: 480
ISBN: 9780765317292
Series: Spellwright #3
Publisher: Tor
Published: 23 August 2016
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher

Buy it from:
The Book Depository

Leandra Weal has a bad habit of getting herself in dangerous situations.

While hunting neodemons in her role as Warden of Ixos, Leandra obtains a prophetic spell that provides a glimpse one day into her future. She discovers that she is doomed to murder someone she loves, soon, but not who.

Leandra’s quest to unravel the mystery of the murder-she-will-commit becomes more urgent when her chronic disease flares up and the Ixonian Archipelago is plagued by natural disasters, demon worshiping cults, and fierce political infighting. Everywhere she turns, Leandra finds herself amid conflict.

As chaos spreads across Ixos, Leandra and her troubled family – her misspelling wizard father Nicodemus Weal and dragon-of-a-mother Francesca DeVega – must race to uncover the shocking truth about a prophesied demonic invasion, human language, and their own identities–if they don't kill each other first.

Words have power. Nowhere is it more important than in the world of Spellbreaker where the truly unique magic system revolves around language, prose and syntax and the fluidity of the magical language itself. Spellbreaker kicks off with one hell of an opening line that sets the stage for a narrative that just keeps growing in scope and intrigue:

"To test a spell that predicts the future, try to murder the man selling it; if you can, it can’t. That, at least, was Leandra’s rationale for poisoning the smuggler’s blackrice liqueur."

Set well after the events of Spellwright and Spellbound, the first two novels in the Spellwright trilogy, the story focuses around Nicodemus Weal, his wife Francesca and their daughter Leandra as they try to ward off the coming of The Disjuntion, a prophesied demonic war that would bring about the destruction of all human language. Their dysfunctional relationship provides a painfully intimate glimpse into their internal struggles as they each try to come to terms with their own unique nature and the consequences of the divergent, often conflicting paths they take to try to make the world they live in a better place. Paradoxically it is their love for each other that cause them the most pain.

"Every soul existed and acted within the eternal and pressing instant of now, and then—to make existence bearable—wrote a story to connect past, present, and future."

While Spellbreaker is the third novel in the Spellwright trilogy it also acts as a a good entry point for new readers. There are enough flashbacks and explanations of previous events to quickly clue in new readers although the backstory can be quite baffling at first. I'd definitely recommend starting with Spellwright if you are interest in getting a more comprehensive look at the truly stunning magic system.

As the story progresses the conflict escalates both in a political and personal sense and there are lots of surprising revelations along the way. The ending is touching and unexpected. Sometimes prophecy doesn't need to turn out the way we expect it to...

The most remarkable thing about the entire Spellwright trilogy is the fact that Blake Charlton not only overcame his struggle with dyslexia, but that he managed to use it as the cornerstone for creating an epic fantasy series filled with vibrant, complex characters living in a world shaped by the wonder and power of language. (And who doesn't love a good pun!)

The Verdict:
Spellbreaker is a compelling read with a unique magic system, captivating characters, impeccable worldbuilding and the ability to surprise you with its emotional impact and insight into the human condition. You can read this as a standalone novel, but I'd highly suggest you pick up the entire trilogy. It's magic!

The Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Thanks to Desirae from Tor for providing the review copy.

Other sites participating in the Spellbreaker Blog Tour:

Fantasy Book Critic
The Arched Doorway
Dark Faerie Tales

Monday, August 22, 2016

Review: Poison City

Title: Poison City
Author: Paul Crilley
Pages: 400
ISBN: 9781473631595
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Published: 11 August 2016
Genre: Urban Fantasy /Crime
Source: Review copy from publisher

Buy it from:
The Book Depository

The name's Gideon Tau, but everyone just calls me London. I work for the Delphic Division, the occult investigative unit of the South African Police Service. My life revolves around two things - finding out who killed my daughter and imagining what I'm going to do to the bastard when I catch him.

I have two friends. The first is my boss, Armitage, a fifty-something DCI from Yorkshire who looks more like someone's mother than a cop. Don't let that fool you. The second is the dog, my magical spirit guide. He talks, he watches TV all day, and he's a mean drunk.

Life is pretty routine - I solve crimes, I search for my daughter's killer. Wash, rinse, repeat. Until the day I'm called out to the murder of a ramanga - a low-key vampire - basically, the tabloid journalist of the vampire world. It looks like an open and shut case. There's even CCTV footage of the killer.

Except... the face on the CCTV footage? It's the face of the man who killed my daughter. I'm about to face a tough choice. Catch her killer or save the world? I can't do both.

It's not looking good for the world.

Paul Crilley’s Poison City is the fantastical love child of Supernatural and a Lauren Beukes novel. Part urban fantasy, part crime novel it's a pure twisted reading delight. Set in Durban, South Africa, the rainbow nation has gained an octarine hue filled with magic and populated with a vast array of supernatural creatures. Our protagonist, Gideon Tau, works for The Delphic Division, the occult investigative unit of the South African Police Service. When a vampire is brutally murdered Tau is drawn into an investigation that could shatter the fragile truce that exists between Nightside and Dayside. More importantly, he might finally be able to uncover the identity of his daughter’s killer...

Poison City is filled with a cast of memorable, snarky characters. Gideon Tau is not your typical hero. Haunted by the death of his daughter he is a broken man struggling to deal with loss; his only true purpose is his quest for justice. He sees ‘n job that needs doing and then simply does it. His spirit guide, Dog (just ‘Dog’) is the perverted spiritual successor to Discworld’s Gaspode - a quite literal boozehound. Dog loves nothing more than getting drunk and watching TV, only occasionally deigning to provide a helping paw. Oh, and he seems to love fire a bit too much... And lastly there’s Armitage, the no-nonsense head of the Delphic Division, with a wicked sense of humour she is overly protective of her domain and doesn’t suffer fools easily.

It soon becomes apparent that in this dark, morally corrupt world there are larger forces at play. Tau’s relentless search for his daughter’s killer drives him to a point where he has nothing left to lose. Utterly despondent, his choices lead the world to the brink of disaster. As a sharp counterpoint to those who wash away all memory of their wrongdoing through the services of sin-eaters, Tau takes responsibility for his actions and claws his way back from the dark abyss to redeem himself, but redemption always comes at a price. A price Tau might not be willing to pay...

The major theme in Poison City is corruption in all its forms. There are corrupt politicians and officials, the law is perverted for personal gain, even people's beliefs are corrupted and ultimately humanity itself proves to be a corrupted blight on the world.  You’ll never be able to look at humanity in quite the same way again. It turns out that even in a world filled with supernatural creatures, humans are still the greatest monsters.

Crilley’s prose brings the world to vibrant life. Durban and surrounds take on a life of their own, even if you have never been there before it feels familiar. Crilley manages to infuse that distinctly South African feel into the world. It’s tough to describe, but as a native South African it just feels like home. The world-building is brilliantly executed. Every action has consequences and there's always a price to be paid. I loved the fact that magic (shinecraft) takes such a toll on its users. Akin to addiction it alters the wielder in irrevocable ways with sometimes fatal results; that’s something that you seldom see in most fantasy novels. I also particularly enjoyed the multitude of supernatural creatures roaming the world. Drawn from various cultures and mythologies they added an unusually diverse layer to the world. The very dark and twisted take on religious mythology also came as an unsettling surprise. I don't think I've ever come across such a dark interpretation before.

The nail-biting conclusion is utterly satisfying while still leaving ample room for a sequel. Make no mistake, after reading Poison City you’ll definitely want to return to this world over and over again. I definitely can’t wait for the next adventure and hope to see more of Dog (and Tau) soon!

The Verdict:
Paul Crilley’s Poison City is the fantastical love child of Supernatural and a Lauren Beukes novel. Part urban fantasy, part crime novel this is a pure twisted reading delight. You’ll never be able to look at humanity in quite the same way. Highly recommended! Just be warned that it does get quite dark.

The Rating: 7.5/10 (Great)

Thanks to Kelly from Jonathan Ball Publishers for the review copy.