Read-Along: Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey – Week Two


Welcome to the Kushiel’s Dart Read-Along, where week by week we read and explore the first in the Kushiel’s Legacy series by Jacqueline Carey. If anyone would like to join in with this Read-Along, just head on over to the Goodreads group page and sign up.



| Week Two |

Welcome to the Week Two in the Kushiel’s Dart Read-Along, where week by week we read and explore the first in the Kushiel’s Legacy series by Jacqueline Carey.

After a somewhat slow start in which a number of issues presented themselves, Chapters 17 to 31 of this Read-Along have really upped the ante and have definitely suckered me into the world of Terre D’Ange. Scroll down for sex, magic, politics and murder as I answer a number of questions prepared by Susan at Dab of Darkness.

Be warned – there will be spoilers!


| The Questions |

| 1. |

We get a few more hints of magic or the supernatural in this section. Phèdre sees Kushiel’s visage after Alcuin is injured; Hyacinthe’s mom & he himself both have things revealed via the dromonde; that moment of deep peace at Elua’s statue. What do you think of magic in this world?

The magic in this world appears subtle and strictly low fantasy. In fact, at this point I hadn’t actually thought of it as magic at all. It appears more like the faith and magic woven into our own history, where powerful and painful experiences create religious fervour and experiences of the unknown weave their own magic when no other explanation is to be had.

Phèdre has grown up in service to Naamah, well before she pledged herself, and her faith and beliefs are an intrinsic part of her character – how could they not be when they themselves are descended of angels – so it seems right that, as she undertakes assignations in Naamah’s name, she feels the spiritual connection much more deeply, resulting in visions in moments of pure pain and ecstasy.

As for the Tsingani, the supernatural premonitions that they experience seem more akin to our own folklore and mysticism. I look forward to seeing how this connection to the dromonde, and the subtleties involved in this type of supernatural magic, develops over the course of the novel.

| 2. |

More politics! For those new to the series, what do you make of Baudoin and his mother, the Lioness of Azzalle? For those rereading, are you noticing details you missed before?

The intrigue and politics of Terre D’Ange really up the ante in this section of the novel as we are thrown head first into conflict between powerful houses. And, for me, this is where things really start to get interesting.

As we are pulled away from Phèdre’s previously youthful and somewhat naive experiences in the Night Court, and as we begin to understand the dangerous and calculating game played by the nobility, we are given a glimpse of the power struggles, manipulations and extent to which people will go to bring land, people and houses under their control. And, for all that Delaunay is secretive with his own motivations, it also becomes clear how deeply rooted both he and Melisande are in this deadly game.

Both Baudoin and the Lioness of Azzalle appear fascinatingly flawed and brilliant characters and, although we are only given brief glimpses of their lives and sins, we can clearly see their desire, their power and their guilt. Where Baudoin is the epitome of spoilt arrogance and entitlement, the Lioness is a skilled and powerful manipulator who I am sorry we didn’t get to see more of at the height of her power. I only wonder who will come to take her place…

| 3. |

What do you think of Alciun’s final assignation? Guy’s death? Would Alcuin have been happier, but perhaps less useful, as something other than Naamah’s servant?

At this point in the novel we really see how much Alcuin despairs of his service to Naamah as he risks everything to gather Delaunay’s secrets and complete his marque, resulting in his pain, guilt and sorrow at the death of Guy.

I really felt for Alcuin at this point and it made me question Delaunay and his single-minded pursuit of powerful secrets, when it was so clearly at the expense of Alcuin’s own feelings and wishes. It also made me wonder why, for all Delaunay’s masterful perception, he had not realised how badly this service suited his charge.

With perhaps the exception of Phèdre, it also reiterates the point that children growing up in this world are groomed into positions they neither want nor enjoy and that it really shouldn’t be a choice a child should have to make. Whether out of loyalty or his love for Delaunay, there are infinite ways Alcuin could have repaid any debt to him. Indeed, Delaunay could have tutored him to gather information and secrets in much the same way he does himself, without having to sell his body in the process. At this point, I truly have no love lost on Delaunay.

| 4. |

Phèdre has a new bodyguard – a Casseline Brother, Joscelin Verreuil. What do you think his life was like before this posting? Are you surprised that Anafiel didn’t dismiss him after the confrontation with Childric d’Essoms?

I find the concept of the Casseline Brotherhood very intriguing and would love to understand more about their background, their training and their beliefs. Joscelin Verreuil seems young, untested and inexperienced, but the contrast he provides to Phèdre’s vibrant, sexual and mischievous character is wonderfully done. I’m looking forward to seeing how both his character and his relationship with Phèdre develop over the course of the novel.

| 5. |

We finally meet Barquiel L’Envers. How dangerous do you think this man is? What do you make of his history with Anafiel?

Oh how I enjoyed watching Delaunay squirm under Barquiel L’Enver’s powerful gaze. I am almost a bit worried that I’m enjoying all the villains of the novel far more than those we are supposed to empathise with…

| 6. |

How did you feel about Phedre granting Childric another assignation? Was she right that she owed him a debt?

As a servant of Naamah, Phèdre used her power over Childric D’Essoms to bargain with him outside an official assignation. Therefore, in her view, she still owed him a debt in return for this favour. Her motivations are also not entirely selfless as she also used this experience to feel pain, pleasure and forget her mounting woes at the time. I also particularly enjoyed the stark contrast between the pain inflicted by D’Essoms and the care he takes to ease Phèdre’s pain afterwards.

| 7. |

Alcuin has completed his marque and displays it to Anafiel. How do you feel about the shift in their relationship? Phedre’s response to it?

I found this latest development somewhat horrifying. Alcuin was rescued and raised by Delaunay from childhood, they display a father and son relationship throughout the entirety of the novel up until this point, and Delaunay still holds considerable power over his charge. Moving from father and son to lovers makes me incredibly uncomfortable and I almost wish Carey had taken the time to develop a love and bond between them which doesn’t revolve around sex, lust and desire. After all, we can all feel love and loyalty to others without the need for lust or romance. This development does not sit well with me.


| The Schedule |

Week One

[ Thursday 03rd September ]

Chapters 1 – 16 – hosted by Imyril at There’s Always Room For One More

Week Two

[ Thursday 10th September ]

Chapters 17 – 31 – hosted by Susan at Dab of Darkness

Week Three

[ Thursday 17th September ]

Chapters 32 – 47 – hosted by Zezee at Zezee with Books

Week Four

[ Thursday 24th September ]

Chapters 48 – 61 – hosted by Mayri at BookForager

Week 5

[Thursday 01st October ]

Chapters 62 – 79 – hosted by Peat Long at Peat Long’s Blog

Week 4

[ Thursday 08th October ]

Chapters 80 – End – hosted by Lisa at Dear Geek Place

If anyone would like to join in with this Read-Along, just head on over to the Goodreads group page and sign up.


Stay tuned for Week Three of this Read Along on 17th September

What are your thoughts on this week’s instalment of Kushiel’s Dart?

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Waiting on Wednesday: These Violent Delights


Welcome to Waiting on Wednesday, a weekly meme linking Waiting on Wednesday by Breaking The Spine and Can’t Wait Wednesday by Wishful Endings


| Waiting on Wednesday: September 09 |

These Violent Delights

by Chloe Gong


Perfect for fans of The Last Magician and Descendant of the Crane, this heart-stopping debut is an imaginative Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai, with rival gangs and a monster in the depths of the Huangpu River.

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang-a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love . . . and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns-and grudges-aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.


To be published by Hodder & Stoughton / Margaret K. McElderry on 17 November 2020

Amazon Goodreads

 Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Teaser Tuesdays: Tombland


Welcome to Teaser Tuesdays – a weekly feature hosted by The Purple Booker. Expect a new teaser every week!


| Teaser Tuesdays: September 08 |

Tombland

Book Seven of the Matthew Shardlake Series

by C.J. Sansom

Historical Crime Fiction | 882 Pages | Published by Mantle in 2018


“As I ate with my fingers, I thought that even a fortnight ago the idea of living in such conditions would have horrified me. The strange thing was that, despite the heat, with the bracken bed and regular movement, I was feeling better than for some time; my body more like a functioning organism than a disjointed collection of aching parts, though after my recent injury I still had to be careful.

~ Chapter Forty-Five | Page 444 | Tombland by C.J. Sansom


| Synopsis |

England, 1549: Two years after the death of Henry VIII, England is sliding into chaos…

The nominal king, Edward VI, is eleven years old. His uncle Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, rules as Protector. The extirpation of the old religion by radical Protestants is stirring discontent among the populace while the Protector’s prolonged war with Scotland is proving a disastrous failure and threatens to involve France. Worst of all, the economy is in collapse, inflation rages and rebellion is stirring among the peasantry.

Since the old King’s death, Matthew Shardlake has been working as a lawyer in the service of Henry’s younger daughter, the Lady Elizabeth. The gruesome murder of Edith Boleyn, the wife of John Boleyn – a distant Norfolk relation of Elizabeth’s mother – which could have political implications for Elizabeth, brings Shardlake and his assistant Nicholas Overton to the summer assizes at Norwich. There they are reunited with Shardlake’s former assistant Jack Barak. The three find layers of mystery and danger surrounding Edith’s death, as a second murder is committed.

And then East Anglia explodes, as peasant rebellion breaks out across the country. The yeoman Robert Kett leads a force of thousands in overthrowing the landlords and establishing a vast camp outside Norwich. Soon the rebels have taken over the city, England’s second largest.

Barak throws in his lot with the rebels; Nicholas, opposed to them, becomes a prisoner in Norwich Castle; while Shardlake has to decide where his ultimate loyalties lie, as government forces in London prepare to march north and destroy the rebels. Meanwhile he discovers that the murder of Edith Boleyn may have connections reaching into both the heart of the rebel camp and of the Norfolk gentry…

Amazon Book Depository | Goodreads


| Join In |

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Please leave a comment with either the link to your own Teaser Tuesdays post, or share your ‘teasers’ in a comment here!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

 

Music Monday: Hell Is Round the Corner


Music Monday 2

Welcome to Music Monday – a weekly meme created by The Tattooed Book Geek where we share the songs we love, the bands we like and the music we just can’t get out of our heads.


This week’s Music Monday is ‘Hell Is Round the Corner’, the incredible trip-hop track from Tricky. Sampling Isaac Hayes’ ‘Ike’s Rap II’, which also featured in Portishead’s ‘Glory Box’, Tricky’s trademark sound features elements of rock, hip hop, soul, ambient electro and reggae with additional vocals from Martina Topley-Bird.

And if the chill-out vibes weren’t already enough, Tricky, along with Massive Attack and Portishead, has also featured as the backdrop to my entire read through of the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch, making it the perfect backdrop to a thrilling urban fantasy.

Sit back, listen and enjoy!


| Tricky: Hell Is Round the Corner |


| Maxinquaye – 1995 |


What are you listening to at the moment? 

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

This Week by Proxy: 31 August – 06 September


Welcome to This Week by Proxy. Join me as I link up with the Caffeinated Reviewer to look back on the past week and see what I’ve been reading, posting, watching and playing!


| This Week by Proxy: 31 August – 06 September 2020 |

Having not had a holiday in over six months, the other half and I made our way to the Lake District on Monday and spent the next four days reading books (or playing on the Switch), exploring the local landscape and visiting remote and ruined castles. It was wonderfully relaxing, completely peaceful and I only wish our stay could have been for just a bit longer.

The weekend, however, was spent picnicking in the park with my stepdaughter, visiting my mum and dad on their narrowboat, and relaxing with many a good book. Brilliant fun all round!

I hope you’ve all had a fantastic week and I will try to catch up on all the posts I’ve missed over the next few days! 


| Books Read |

Over the past week I completed both ‘The Trouble with Peace’ by Joe Abercrombie and ‘The Doors of Eden’ by Adrian Tchaikovsky and still managed to squeeze in a little Pratchett before the end. All different, all brilliant, and all a joy to read from beginning to end!


| Currently Reading |

This week I’m continuing to read ‘The Court of Broken Knives’, a brutal but beautifully written grimdark fantasy epic by Anna Smith Spark. Unfortunately, in my haste to pack my Kindle, I forgot to bring the book with me to the Lake District and I’m a little further behind than I wanted to be. I did, however, manage to pick up a wonderful assortment of books in the Kindle sale and have started ‘Tombland’, the seventh book in the Matthew Shardlake series by C.J. Sansom.

I am also taking part in the Read-Along for Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey, organised by Imyril at There’s Always Room for One More. My Week One post, which covers Chapters 1 – 16, can be found here. If anyone would like to join in with this Read-Along, just head on over to the Goodreads group page and sign up.


| Upcoming Reviews |

Having spent an entire week on holiday (and most of that time spent reading!) I am even more behind on the review front, but will hopefully get a few out in the coming week! Every single one of these books was amazing so expect a whole host of glowing reviews!


| Watching |

Season One of Absentia was both an enjoyable and exasperating experience. Stana Katic was incredible as Emily Byrne and the overall plot was tense and unpredictable, but Nick Durand, Emily’s ex-husband and FBI agent, was an incredibly frustrating character who treated Emily like dirt, had serious trust issues, and couldn’t find a clue if it was stapled to his face.  He annoyed me so much I almost stopped watching altogether. However, I am glad I continued as it did have quite a gripping plot and Season Two is proving a far less rage-inducing experience.

Meanwhile, the other half and I are watching Season Five of Lucifer, which is as lighthearted and comedic as ever, and Season Two of The Boys, which is both brutal and bloody brilliant.


| Gaming |

As the past week has been spent in literary bliss up in the Lake District, I’ve only had time for a few short but sweet games of Apex Legends since our return.


| Posts |

Review: The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor

 

Music Mondays: Gurdy’s Green

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten… Foodie Book Covers

Teaser Tuesdays: Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett

Waiting on Wednesday: God of Night by Tom Lloyd

Read-Along: Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey – Week One

The Friday Face-Off: Cold and Crisp

My Top Ten Games of the Past Two Years


I hope you all have a wonderful, book-filled week!

What have you been reading, watching and playing this week? Have you accomplished any goals?

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

My Top Ten Games of the Past Two Years


Welcome to My Top Ten of the Past Two Years series, where I look back at my favourite books, games and TV series (amongst other things) during my blogging hiatus.


| My Top Ten Games of the Past Two Years: July 2018 – July 2020 |

A long overdue welcome to My Top Ten Games of the Past Two Years!

It had been my intention to post a series of favourites gathered during my hiatus, kicking off with My Top Ten Books of the Past Two Years, but time, work and other commitments always conspired to delay my posts. In anticipation of going on holiday last week, however, I actually finished my gaming post and only had to up my game time for Apex Legends by another thirty-four hours!

As this post has been partially drafted since my return at the beginning of July, there are also a number of games I’ve recently picked up which deserve an honourable mention and will more than likely feature on next year’s list – I’m looking at you Red Dead Redemption 2, No Man’s Sky and GTFO. I’m sure there are also plenty of other brilliant games that I’ve either forgotten or am yet to play so let me know of any of your favourites in the comments.

In no particular order, here are My Top Ten Games of the Past Two Years!


| 1. |

Kingdom Come: Deliverance

Play Time: 174 Hours

Rating


| My Thoughts |

Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a phenomenal open-world RPG set in medieval Bohemia. With interesting mechanics, an expansive and detailed medieval world, a gripping storyline, and some of the best graphics I have seen, every hour spent in this world seems to lead to yet one more. This is quite simply a masterpiece.

Favourite Quest – Poverty, Chastity and Obedience

Favourite Location – Sasau Monastery

Favourite Skill – Alchemy


| About This Game |

Game

You’re Henry, the son of a blacksmith. Thrust into a raging civil war, you watch helplessly as invaders storm your village and slaughter your friends and family. Narrowly escaping the brutal attack, you grab your sword to fight back. Avenge the death of your parents and help repel the invading forces!

Story

Bohemia – located in the heart of Europe, the region is rich in culture, silver, and sprawling castles. The death of its beloved ruler, Emperor Charles IV, has plunged the kingdom into dark times: war, corruption, and discord are tearing this jewel of the Holy Roman Empire apart.

One of Charles’ sons, Wenceslas, has inherited the crown. Unlike his father, Wenceslas is a naive, self-indulgent, unambitious monarch. His half-brother and King of Hungary, Sigismund the Red Fox, senses weakness in Wenceslas. Feigning good will, Sigismund travels to Bohemia and kidnaps his half-brother. With no king on the throne, Sigismund is now free to plunder Bohemia and seize its riches.

In the midst of this chaos, you’re Henry, the son of a blacksmith. Your peaceful life is shattered when a mercenary raid, ordered by King Sigismund himself, burns your village to the ground. By bittersweet fortune, you are one of the few survivors of this massacre.

Without a home, family, or future you end up in the service of Lord Radzig Kobyla, who is forming a resistance against the invasion. Fate drags you into this bloody conflict and shoves you into a raging civil war, where you help fight for the future of Bohemia.

Massive realistic open world: Majestic castles, vast fields, all rendered in stunning high-end graphics.

Non-linear story: Solve quests in multiple ways, then face the consequences of your decisions.

Challenging combat: Distance, stealth, or melee. Choose your weapons and execute dozens of unique combos in battles that are as thrilling as they are merciless.

Character development: Choose your equipment, improve your skills and earn new perks.

Dynamic world: Your actions influence the reactions of the people around you. Fight, steal, seduce, threaten, persuade, or bribe. It’s all up to you!

Historical accuracy: Meet real historical characters and experience the genuine look and feel of medieval Bohemia


| 2. |

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

Play Time: 161 Hours

Rating


| My Thoughts |

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is an expansive, detailed and thoroughly addictive game which follows the life of a mercenary in Ancient Greece during the Peloponnesian War. It may diverge from the original AC games but it is a worthy contender in its own right. With stunning locations, and a multitude of quests, side quests and DLCs, Odyssey is a game that I couldn’t put down until I completed Every. Last. Thing.

Played As – Kassandra

Favourite Location – Greece (There are too many wonderful locations to choose from!)

Favourite Ability – Rush Assassination


| About This Game |

Become a legendary Greek hero – In a first for the Assassin’s Creed franchise, you can choose which hero to embody throughout this epic journey, Alexios or Kassandra.

Choose your own path – Your decisions shape the world around you with over 30 hours of choice dialogue and multiple game endings.

Fight epic battles – Demonstrate your extraordinary warrior abilities and shift the tides of battle during the Peloponnesian War.

Sail across the Aegean sea – Find uncharted locations, uncover hidden treasures or cleave your way through entire fleets in naval battles.

A Land of myths & legends – Discover a world rich with myths and legends. From ancient rituals to famed statues, come face-to-face with Greece’s legendary figures.


| 3. |

Apex Legends

Play Time: 494 Hours

Rating


| My Thoughts |

Before Apex Legends, Battle Royale style first-person shooters just weren’t my thing, but this game is seriously addictive. With numerous legends, weapons and drop sites to choose from, this is a heart-pounding, infuriating and inexplicably exciting FPS that always has me going for ‘just one more game’.

Favourite Legend – Wattson

Favourite Weapon – Spitfire

Favourite Map – King’s Canyon


| About This Game |

Conquer with character in Apex Legends, a free-to-play Battle Royale shooter where legendary characters with powerful abilities team up to battle for fame & fortune on the fringes of the Frontier. Master an ever-growing roster of diverse Legends, deep tactical squad play and bold new innovations that level up the Battle Royale experience—all within a rugged world where anything goes. Welcome to the next evolution of Battle Royale.

A Roster of Legendary Characters – Master a growing roster of powerful Legends, each with their own unique personality, strengths and abilities that are easy to pick up but challenging to truly master.

Build Your Crew – Choose your Legend and combine their unique skills together with other players to form the ultimate crew.

Strategic Battle Royale – Use your abilities–and your wits–to make strategic calls on the fly, adapting your crew’s strengths to meet new challenges as the match evolves.

Genre-Evolving Innovation – Experience a brand-new array of innovative features that level up the Battle Royale genre, including Respawn Beacons, Smart Comms, Intelligent Inventory and an all-new way to drop into the action with Jumpmaster deployment.

Sweet, Sweet Loot – Drop in and loot up with a host of powerful weapons, diverse attachments and useful armor to protect you in battle. After the fight, collect a wealth of cosmetic options for personalizing your character and weapons, and unlock new ways to show off during the match.


| 4. |

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Play Time: 36 Hours

Rating


| My Thoughts |

Written by Rhianna Pratchett, the daughter of Sir Terry Pratchett himself, Rise of the Tomb Raider is an action-packed adventure game which balances puzzle games with both face-to-face and stealth combat. With a brilliant story, beautiful graphics, and perilous and frozen landscapes, Rise of the Tomb Raider is a seriously addictive adventure.

Favourite Location – Geothermal Valley

Favourite Feature – Challenge Tombs

Favourite DLC – Blood Ties


| About This Game |

Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration includes the base game and Season Pass featuring all-new content. Explore Croft Manor in the new “Blood Ties” story, then defend it against a zombie invasion in “Lara’s Nightmare”. Survive extreme conditions with a friend in the new online Co-Op Endurance mode, and brave the new “Extreme Survivor” difficulty. Also features an outfit and weapon inspired by Tomb Raider III, and 5 classic Lara skins. Existing DLC will challenge you to explore a new tomb that houses an ancient terror in Baba Yaga: The Temple of the Witch, and combat waves of infected predators in Cold Darkness Awakened.

Key Features

Lara’s Journey – Lara uncovers an ancient mystery that places her in the cross-hairs of a ruthless organization known as Trinity. As she races to find the secret before Trinity, the trail leads to a myth about the Lost City of Kitezh. Lara knows she must reach the Lost City and its hidden secrets before Trinity. With that, she sets out for Siberia on her first Tomb Raiding expedition.

Woman vs. Wild – In “Rise of the Tomb Raider,” Lara battles with not only enemies from around the world, but the world itself. Hunt animals to craft weapons and scavenge for rare resources in densely populated ecosystems. You’ll encounter beautifully hostile environments, full of treacherous conditions and unstable landscapes that will require Lara to push her limits to the very edge.

Guerilla Combat – Use the environment to your advantage, scale trees and dive underwater to avoid or takedown enemies, configure Lara’s gear, weapons, and ammo to suit your play style from stealth to guns blazing, craft explosives on the fly to sow chaos, and wield Lara’s signature combat bows and climbing axe.

Return to Tomb Raiding – Tombs are back, and they’re bigger and better than ever. In “Rise of the Tomb Raider” you’ll explore huge, awe-inspiring ancient spaces littered with deadly traps, solve dramatic environmental puzzles, and decipher ancient texts to reveal crypts as you take on a world filled with secrets to discover.


| 5. |

Warhammer: Vermintide II

Play Time: 37 Hours

Rating


| My Thoughts |

Warhammer: Vermintide II is an action-packed combat game in which you must join up with others to vanquish the Skaven horde. With a wonderful array of characters with a wide range of builds, alternating skills, talents and difficulties, Vermintide II is an incredibly fun game which is reminiscent of the mechanics for Left 4 Dead 2.

Favourite Character – Victor Saltzpyer

Favourite Career – Witch Hunter

Favourite Quote – “The power of Sigmar compels thee!”


| About This Game |

Warhammer: Vermintide 2 is a 4-player co-op action game set in the Warhammer Fantasy Battles world. Sequel to the critically acclaimed Vermintide, Vermintide 2 is the latest instalment in a franchise best known for its intense and bloody first-person melee combat.

Our five heroes have returned to take on an even greater threat than before – the combined forces of a ruinous Chaos army and the swarming Skaven horde. The only thing standing between utter defeat and victory is you and your allies. If you fall – so too will the Empire.

Fight through endless hordes of enemies together with up to 3 friends in this visceral co-op action experience

Choose between 5 different characters, each with 3 branching careers to master

Evolve your skill and climb the difficulty ladders, from Recruit, Veteran, Champion to Legend

Customize your own unique style of play with 15 different talent trees and 50+ Weapon Types

Explore the war-ravaged lands of a dying world with a wide range of stunning levels to experience


| 6. |

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Play Time: 157 Hours

Rating


| My Thoughts |

An utterly compelling story (thank you Andrzej Sapkowski), brilliant combat, beautiful graphics and amazing DLC, combine to make The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt one of the most brilliant, beautiful and detailed games of all time. This is, most definitely, an undisputed favourite which needs no more introduction.

Favourite Location – Novigrad

Favourite Sign – Igni

Yennefer or Triss – Yennefer


| About This Game |

Play as a highly-trained monster slayer for hire

Trained from early childhood and mutated to gain superhuman skills, strength and reflexes, witchers are a counterbalance to the monster-infested world in which they live.

Gruesomely destroy foes as a professional monster hunter armed with a range of upgradeable weapons, mutating potions and combat magic.

Hunt down a wide range of exotic monsters — from savage beasts prowling the mountain passes, to cunning supernatural predators lurking in the shadows of densely populated towns.

Invest your rewards to upgrade your weaponry and buy custom armour, or spend them away in horse races, card games, fist fighting, and other pleasures the night brings.

Explore a morally indifferent fantasy open world

Built for endless adventure, the massive open world of The Witcher sets new standards in terms of size, depth and complexity.

Traverse a fantastical open world: explore forgotten ruins, caves and shipwrecks, trade with merchants and dwarven smiths in cities, and hunt across the open plains, mountains and seas.

Deal with treasonous generals, devious witches and corrupt royalty to provide dark and dangerous services.

Make choices that go beyond good & evil, and face their far-reaching consequences.

Chase down the child of prophecy

Take on the most important contract to track down the child of prophecy, a key to save or destroy this world.

In times of war, chase down the child of prophecy, a living weapon foretold by ancient elven legends.

Struggle against ferocious rulers, spirits of the wilds and even a threat from beyond the veil – all hell-bent on controlling this world.

Define your destiny in a world that may not be worth saving.


| 7. |

Assassin’s Creed Origins

Play Time: 89 Hours

Rating


| My Thoughts |

Assassin’s Creed Origins combines a beautiful, heart-wrenching story, a vast and beautiful open-world, and an incredibly addictive combat system to create a brilliant game in one of my favourite franchises. Ancient Egypt is conjured in wonderfully atmospheric detail and Bayek of Siwa is undoubtedly one of my favourite AC characters of all time.

Favourite Weapon – Predator Bow

Favourite Location – Alexandria

Favourite Ability – Attack and Push


| About This Game |

Ancient Egypt, a land of majesty and intrigue, is disappearing in a ruthless fight for power. Unveil dark secrets and forgotten myths as you go back to the one founding moment: The Origins of the Assassin’s Brotherhood.

A Country to Discover – Sail down the Nile, uncover the mysteries of the pyramids or fight your way against dangerous ancient factions and wild beasts as you explore this gigantic and unpredictable land.

A New Story Every Time You Play – Engage into multiple quests and gripping stories as you cross paths with strong and memorable characters, from the wealthiest high-born to the most desperate outcasts.

Embrace Action RPG -Experience a completely new way to fight. Loot and use dozens of weapons with different characteristics and rarities. Explore deep progression mechanics and challenge your skills against unique and powerful bosses.


| 8. |

A Plague Tale: Innocence

Play Time: 15 Hours

Rating


| My Thoughts |

A Plague Tale: Innocence is a beautiful and terrifying tale of a world ravaged by plague. This short and captivating game sees Amicia and her brother Hugo flee across France as disease, swarms of rats and the Inquisition vie to capture or destroy them both. Gripping and heart-wrenching with a brilliant narrative, A Plague Tale is nothing short of incredible.

Favourite Location – The University

Favourite Projectile – Ignifer

Favourite Villain – Lord Nicholas


| About This Game |

Follow the grim tale of young Amicia and her little brother Hugo, in a heartrending journey through the darkest hours of history. Hunted by Inquisition soldiers and surrounded by unstoppable swarms of rats, Amicia and Hugo will come to know and trust each other. As they struggle to survive against overwhelming odds, they will fight to find purpose in this brutal, unforgiving world.

Story

1349. The plague ravages the Kingdom of France. Amicia and her younger brother Hugo are pursued by the Inquisition through villages devastated by the disease. On their way, they will have to join forces with other children, and evade swarms of rats using fire and light. Aided only by the link that binds their fates together, they will face untold horrors in their struggle to survive.As their adventure begins… the time of innocence ends.

Characters

Amicia De Rune – At just 15 years old, Amicia is already a strong woman, independent and physical, trained by her father in the art of hunting. She had little contact with her brother while they were growing up, but soon their bond will be keeping them alive.

Hugo De Rune – The younger Hugo is a frail child of just five years, afflicted with an unknown disease that has kept him locked in his room for much of his lonely childhood. He has little knowledge of the outside world, but prefers even its dangers to his previous confinement.

The Inquisition – As war and sickness engulf 14th Century France, the Inquisition pursue the De Rune children for unknown reasons, out to capture their younger targets. Lacking the strength to defeat fully-grown knights, Amicia and Hugo will require guile and stealth to escape.

The Rats – Rats swarm in uninterrupted waves throughout the territory of France. In the plague-ridden villages, countryside and battlefields, this uncontrollable and voracious mass advances relentlessly devouring everything in their path. Only the light of the flame seems to slow down this swarming menace.


| 9. |

Warframe

Play Time: 237 Hours

Rating


| My Thoughts |

This free to play, sci-fi action game is expansive and detailed with a huge variety of warframes, weapons and companions to choose from. The storyline is interesting, the combat and abilities are wonderfully creative, and the movement is so fluid that it’s hard not to expect other game characters to bullet jump or sprint across levels.

Favourite Warframe – Trinity Prime

Favourite Sentinel – Helios Prime

Favourite Location – Lua


| About This Game |

Choose your warframe – With more than 30 Warframes, each fully customizable with their own unique abilities, you can create the perfect Warframe for you.

Assemble your arsenal – Katanas. Crossbows. Flamethrowers. Expand your Arsenal with more than 300 diverse Weapons, then modify each one to match your playstyle.

Experience fast-paced combat – Slice and dice through hordes of enemies, or go in guns blazing, or sneak your way in — the choice is yours.

Explore open worlds – Explore, discover, fight, and fly in massive open landscapes within Warframe.

Fluid parkour movement – Seamlessly leap, slide and glide through capital ships and underground compounds with a robust movement system.

A solar system in ruin – In the far-future world of Warframe, grotesque clones and capitalist machines dominate our solar system. Fight back against greed and corruption as you explore 18 worlds filled with techno-organic horrors.

Squad up – You don’t have to work alone. Invite three friends or fight alongside the 38 million strong in our Tenno community.

Ninjas play free – Warframe is entirely free-to-play. With no barrier to entry, there’s nothing to stop you and your friends from joining our world. Welcome to the Origin System, Tenno.


| 10. |

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Play Time: 38 Hours

Rating


Continuing the narrative of Rise of the Tomb Raider, Shadow of the Tomb Raider is another brilliant addition to the franchise which sees Lara venturing to the tropical regions of The Americas and to the lost city of Paititi. With brilliant challenge tombs, puzzles and combat, and beautiful graphics and locations, I only hope it won’t be too long before before another Tomb Raider is underway.

Favourite Location – San Juan

Favourite Mission – Via Crucis / Mystery of the White Queen

Favourite Challenge Tomb – Howl of the Monkey Gods


| Back of the Box |

n Shadow of the Tomb Raider Definitive Edition experience the final chapter of Lara’s origin as she is forged into the Tomb Raider she is destined to be. Combining the base game, all seven DLC challenge tombs, as well as all downloadable weapons, outfits, and skills, Shadow of the Tomb Raider Definitive Edition is the ultimate way to experience Lara’s defining moment.

Survive and Thrive In the Deadliest Place on Earth: Master an unforgiving jungle setting in order to survive. Explore underwater environments filled with crevasses and deep tunnel systems.

Become One With the Jungle: Outgunned and outnumbered, Lara must use the jungle to her advantage. Strike suddenly and disappear like a jaguar, use mud as camouflage, and instill fear in enemies to sow chaos.

Discover Dark and Brutal Tombs: Tombs are more terrifying than ever before, requiring advanced traversal techniques to reach them, and once inside they are filled with deadly puzzles.

Uncover Living History: Discover a hidden city and explore the biggest hub space ever found in a Tomb Raider game.


Stay tuned for my follow up posts:

My Top Ten TV Series of the Past Two Years 


What have been your favourite games of the past few years?

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

The Friday Face-Off: Cold and Crisp


Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme here at Books by Proxy. Join me every Friday as I pit cover against cover, and publisher against publisher, to find the best artwork in our literary universe. Check out Lynn’s-Books for upcoming themes!


White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi


Welcome to the Friday Face-Off where this week we’re comparing covers with a cold and wintry feel!

Fortunately, I had spotted White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi whilst writing another blog post and it was a perfect and beautiful fit for this week’s face-off.

This week’s offerings are the Picador 2009 cover versus the Picador 2010 cover with artwork by Jon Klassen. Take a look and see which one is your favourite!


Picador 2009 | Cover #1

Picador 2010 | Cover #2

Artwork by Jon Klassen


| The Friday Face-Off: Winner |

Both these covers are beautiful, simple and follow a similar theme. The Picador 2009 cover works in paper cut silhouettes with fruits, paintings and skulls hidden amongst the branches of the trees. The darkened house sits comfortably in the shade of the trees with the white trees shadowing the black in the foreground.

The wonderfully witchy typeface that graces both covers stands out in bold red on the Picador 2010 cover. The composition is a darker, more dramatic and more atmospheric version of the 2009 edition – The trees are tall, spiny and angular; the sky is a smokey, leaf blown off-white; and the house with its singular glowing window emerges from the dark, dark ground. As lovely as the 2009 cover is, it doesn’t come close to the more sophisticated and infinitely more creepy 2010 cover.

Which cover wins your vote this week? Have a cover of your own? – Post the link below!

Amazon | Book Depository | Goodreads


Next week’s theme is:

Patterns

A cover featuring a pattern

Remember to check Lynn’s Books for upcoming themes


| Links |

Tammy @ Books, Bones & Buffy

Lynn @ Lynn’s Books

Mogsy @ The BiblioSanctum

Steve @ Books and Beyond Reviews

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Read-Along: Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey – Week One


Welcome to the Kushiel’s Dart Read-Along, where week by week we read and explore the first in the Kushiel’s Legacy series by Jacqueline Carey. If anyone would like to join in with this Read-Along, just head on over to the Goodreads group page and sign up.



| Week One |

Welcome to the first post in the Kushiel’s Dart Read-Along, where week by week we read and explore the first in the Kushiel’s Legacy series by Jacqueline Carey. If anyone would like to join in with this Read-Along, just head on over to the Goodreads group page and sign up.

The first novel in the Kushiel’s Legacy series has got off to a rather slow start but, while I’m not fully invested in Phèdre or the Night Court just yet, I am keen to see how the narrative unfolds in this popular fantasy read. This week Imyril at There’s Always Room For One More has some juicy questions to kick off the Read-Along in which I’ll discuss the elements of the narrative I enjoyed and those that weren’t entirely to my taste.

Be warned – there will be spoilers!


| The Questions |

| 1. |

You know it’s an epic fantasy when it starts with not only a map but a list of Dramatis Personae. How do you feel about this approach to beginning a new story? Do you read the character list or use it for reference along the way?

I am always here for a map, and the more of them the merrier!

I don’t often read through Dramatis Personae, unless I am starting a subsequent book in a series and need a bit of a refresh, but I have no problem with either starting or ending a book with one, especially when there are so many characters with incredibly florid names.


| 2. |

What are your first impressions of Elua and his Companions, and of D’Angeline culture? Are you comfortable with the way in which Jacqueline Carey has re-imagined the world?

This romanticised and dreamlike take on our world is interesting and detailed, if a little too idealised. There is an incredible amount of information to take in at this stage, and the florid language only serves to add another layer of complexity to a world which is already verging on the confusing for this first time reader.

| 3. |

Phèdre’s story begins in the Court of Night-Blooming Flowers. What are your thoughts on the Court, its adepts, the service of Naamah and the earning of marques? What House would you patronise – or belong to?

The Court of Night-Blooming Flowers is one of the most confusing, disturbing and interesting aspects of this novel so far.  The Night Court is described in such a way that it seems as though it is the centre of noble society – a society seemingly made entirely of courtesans. Now I understand this is probably confusion on my part but, apart from the vaguest hints, where are all the other citizens? What do they do when they don’t belong to the Night Court or use its services? I know there’s only so much that can be put into these overlong opening chapters but I found this lack of clarity very confusing.

I also found the aspect that children grow up to serve Namaah and are essentially groomed to join one of thirteen houses of the Night Court incredibly disturbing and off-putting. While the children, Alcuin and Phèdre included, do make their own choice to serve Namaah when they ‘come of age’, and I’m all for sex positivity, it is a choice bred of grooming, psychological manipulation and a lack of worldly knowledge and I’m not entirely comfortable with that. There also seems to be much buying and trading of flesh between houses which amounts to little more than slavery. These aspects of the novel make me incredibly uneasy and I find Phèdre’s obsessive desire at such a young age, and the desire of numerous adults for those who can only be considered children, unbelievably disturbing.

| 4. |

Guy, Alcuin and Phèdre are all devoted to the mysterious Anafiel Delaunay. Do you think he deserves their love? For first time readers, what are your theories about his past – and what do you think he is trying to achieve?

Both Alcuin and Phèdre seem content to blindly follow Delaunay to the ends of the earth, even though his motives are most certainly not clear at this stage. He  treats them well, or as well as you could treat someone you’ve bought with the intention of controlling, but he is not entirely honest and his protégés most definitely hero-worship with little thought to the reasons behind their purchase.

| 5. |

What do you make of Phèdre’s choice of signale?

Phèdre’s choice of signale is both sad and beautiful. To have but one true friend in the world who doesn’t require anything in return for that friendship highlights what a lonely existence children of the Night Court lead. I am all here for Phèdre and Hyacinthe’s honest, beautiful and roguish friendship.

| 6. |

Last but not least, the big week one check-in: now that you have seen a Showing and witnessed Phèdre’s first assignation, are you still in?

While, for me, this was something of a slow start which wades through much of Phèdre’s childhood in excessive, flowery detail, the incredible number of good reviews from so many respected reviewers means I am more than happy to stick with it in hope that the narrative will soon start to kick off. I’m also looking forward to enjoying the story from Phèdre’s adult perspective as I find the childhood sexualisation and servitude somewhat disturbing.


| The Schedule |

Week One

[ Thursday 03rd September ]

Chapters 1 – 16 – hosted by Imyril at There’s Always Room For One More

Week Two

[ Thursday 10th September ]

Chapters 17 – 31 – hosted by Susan at Dab of Darkness

Week Three

[ Thursday 17th September ]

Chapters 32 – 47 – hosted by Zezee at Zezee with Books

Week Four

[ Thursday 24th September ]

Chapters 48 – 61 – hosted by Mayri at BookForager

Week 5

[Thursday 01st October ]

Chapters 62 – 79 – hosted by Peat Long at Peat Long’s Blog

Week 4

[ Thursday 08th October ]

Chapters 80 – End – hosted by Lisa at Dear Geek Place

If anyone would like to join in with this Read-Along, just head on over to the Goodreads group page and sign up.


Stay tuned for Week Two of this Read Along on 10th September

What are your thoughts on this week’s instalment of Kushiel’s Dart?

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Review: The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor



The Ashes of London

Book One of Marwood and Lovett

by Andrew Taylor

Historical Fiction | 496 Pages | Published by Harper Collins in 2016


| Rating |


| TL;DR |

As the Great Fire rages and the utter devastation of London becomes ever more apparent, murder, mayhem and conspiracy abound. In order to protect both himself and his father, James Marwood must solve the unfolding mystery as it cuts dangerously close to both home and the crown.

Wonderfully descriptive and incredibly evocative throughout, The Ashes of London is a feast for the senses that had me guessing to the very end.

| Synopsis |

London, September 1666. The Great Fire rages through the city, consuming everything in its path. Even the impregnable cathedral of St. Paul’s is engulfed in flames and reduced to ruins. Among the crowds watching its destruction is James Marwood, son of a disgraced printer, and reluctant government informer.

In the aftermath of the fire, a semi-mummified body is discovered in the ashes of St. Paul’s, in a tomb that should have been empty. The man’s body has been mutilated and his thumbs have been tied behind his back.

Under orders from the government, Marwood is tasked with hunting down the killer across the devastated city. But at a time of dangerous internal dissent and the threat of foreign invasion, Marwood finds his investigation leads him into treacherous waters – and across the path of a determined, beautiful and vengeful young woman.

| Review |

A raging inferno. A mysterious young woman. A cold-blooded murder. As the Great Fire consumes all in its path, James Marwood, the son of a former traitor and a government clerk, becomes embroiled in murder and conspiracy as a body is pulled from the ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral. With the circumstances surrounding the victim’s death going well beyond the inferno, and talk of dark and dangerous conspiracies abound, Marwood must unravel a mystery which comes uncomfortably close to home.

Written with historical and atmospheric detail, The Ashes of London weaves a tale of freedom, murder and rightful vengeance amidst the flames and destruction of The Great Fire of London. Six years have passed since Charles II returned to the thrown and the pursuit of those who sentenced his father still holds the country in a vice of fear and distrust. As tales of murder and violence emerge from the ruins of the city, it becomes ever more apparent that a dark and dangerous conspiracy may be gaining traction in the heart of London itself.

Amidst the crumbling ruins of the old city, a tale of old enemies, bitter betrayals and freedom emerges as the protagonists, James Marwood and Catherine Lovett, vie to survive in the death throes of the old city and escape the sins of their fathers. From the raging inferno and crumbling city, to the ensuing fear and chaos, Andrew Taylor has written a rich and evocative novel which breaths life into the 17th century and conjures an atmosphere of tension, fear and suspicion.

With Utopian visions of Christopher Wren’s London, and the frightening, desolate comparison of a devastated city, the true strength of The Ashes of London is the evocative quality of Taylor’s writing as Restoration England comes to life. The plot steadily winds its way through these stark descriptions, which in no way hinders the tension developed in the ensuing chaos, to portray a city of profound corruption, excessive greed and unexpected optimism.

James Marwood, our first-person point of view character, is a likeable and interesting protagonist who finds himself in a number of hopeless situations as he hunts for a killer across the crumbling ruins of London. Whisked into plots far beyond his control, he must jump to the whims of his masters whilst protecting his ageing and ailing father who, as an ex-prisoner of the crown, often lets slip his treasonous views to the detriment of both himself and his son. As the narrative weaves a complex tale of treachery and murder, James must skilfully navigate both the dangerous streets of London and the upper echelons of society.

In alternating chapters, the story shifts from the first person perspective of James Marwood to the third person perspective of Catherine Lovett, daughter of a puritanical traitor. Cat is a gifted and unusual female (for her day), who whiles away the hours drawing and reinventing London under the watchful of eye of her aunt and uncle. But all is not as it seems in their household as Cat undergoes cruel manipulation and abuse at the hands of her family. Strong, forceful and fiercely independent in a world where she has few friends, Cat is a character whose traumatic life spurs her to live, to survive and to pursue those passions which give her both hope and a reason to live.

Andrew Taylor has written an incredibly vivid tale which relishes in detail, description and atmosphere. As James and Cat’s narratives circle one another in a tense and skilfully plotted tale, their stories converge in a satisfying conclusion which leaves neither king nor pauper untouched. With characters portrayed with as much verve as the city itself, The Ashes of London undoubtedly proves that Taylor’s reputation for both historic and crime fiction is unashamedly deserved.

The Ashes of London is a beautifully detailed and skilfully written novel which had me guessing to the very end. With a narrative paced by its descriptive and atmospheric journey through London, this is a novel to be savoured as the lines between good and evil, right and wrong, and noble and ignoble are hopelessly blurred.

Amazon Book Depository | Goodreads

Follow my blog with Bloglovin