Waiting on Wednesday: The Seventh Perfection


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 16 |

The Seventh Perfection

by Daniel Polansky


Hugo Award finalist Daniel Polansky crafts an innovative, mind-bending fantasy mystery in The Seventh Perfection.

When a woman with perfect memory sets out to solve a riddle, the threads she tugs on could bring a whole city crashing down. The God-King who made her is at risk, and his other servants will do anything to stop her.

To become the God-King’s Amanuensis, Manet had to master all seven perfections, developing her body and mind to the peak of human performance. She remembers everything that has happened to her, in absolute clarity, a gift that will surely drive her mad. But before she goes, Manet must unravel a secret which threatens not only the carefully prepared myths of the God-King’s ascent, but her own identity and the nature of truth itself.


To be published by Tor.com on 22 September 2020

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Review: Sharp Ends by Joe Abercrombie



Sharp Ends

by Joe Abercrombie

Fantasy | 287 Pages | Published by Gollancz in 2016


| Rating |


| TL;DR |

Sharp Ends is an anthology of thirteen stories set in the world of The First Law. With brilliantly dark humour, action packed battles, and frequent blood-lettings throughout, this is a collection which delights in introducing new faces amongst familiar friends and enemies, and is nothing short of a thrill ride from beginning to end.

| Synopsis |

The Union army may be full of bastards, but there’s only one who thinks he can save the day single-handed when the Gurkish come calling: the incomparable Colonel Sand dan Glokta.

Curnden Craw and his dozen are out to recover a mysterious item from beyond the Crinna. Only one small problem: no one seems to know what the item is.

Shevedieh, the self-styled best thief in Styria, lurches from disaster to catastrophe alongside her best friend and greatest enemy, Javre, Lioness of Hoskopp.

And after years of bloodshed, the idealistic chieftain Bethod is desperate to bring peace to the North. There’s only one obstacle left – his own lunatic champion, the most feared man in the North: the Bloody-Nine…

Sharp Ends combines previously published, award-winning tales with exclusive new short stories. Violence explodes, treachery abounds, and the words are as deadly as the weapons in this rogue’s gallery of side-shows, back-stories, and sharp endings from the world of the First Law.

| Review |

Introducing characters old and new, Sharp Ends is a chronological set of short stories that mark events both significant and insignificant, told and untold, from the world of The First Law.

Exciting and darkly humorous throughout, this collection displays Abercrombie’s wit, clever writing style and skilful characterisation as he forges links throughout the Circle of the World. And whilst knowledge of the other novels is not essential, overall enjoyment is likely to be increased by an understanding of the overarching events, backstories and familiar names and faces that comprise much of this anthology.

With a theme of two new central characters running throughout this collection, in Small Kindnesses, Skipping Town, Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd and Tough Times All Over, Shev and Javre prove a brilliant and engaging comedic duo who are thoroughly deserved of a series of their own. And with other favourites including A Beautiful Bastard and Made a Monster, which bring us face to face with familiar and long loved characters, this is an anthology which truly does have a story for all fans.

A Beautiful Bastard

[ Kadir, Spring 566 ]

A Beautiful Bastard takes us to a time before The First Law, when Sand dan Glokta was a swaggering cavalier whose skill was only outweighed by his ego. Told from the perspective of a blubbering and gushing Salem Rews, or Superior Pike as we now know him, this is a brilliant tale of Glokta’s magnificence before his destruction at the hands of the Gurkish. A thoroughly enjoyable and amusing tale, this short story is made all the more brilliant by the knowledge of Glokta’s and Rews’ futures and also features a cameo by Corporal Tunny.

Made a Monster

[ Carleon, Summer 570 ]

Logen Ninefingers returns to Sharp Ends in Made a Monster; a wonderfully brutal tale which showcases his bloody, brutal violence and features almost none of his redeeming qualities. Told from the perspective of Bethod, with more than a few glimpses of Scale, Calder, The Dogman and Curnden Craw, we see the Bloody Nine in all his fearsome glory from the side of those who dread the edge of his sword. A brilliantly bloody tale, Made a Monster provides a glimpse of Bethod’s determination to right his terrible wrong in creating the Bloody Nine.

Small Kindnesses

[ Westport, Autumn 573 ]

Small Kindnesses introduces us to Shevedieh, the best thief in Westport, as her life on the straight and narrow is brought to an abrupt end when a large, red-headed woman washes up on her doorstep. Accompanied by Severard – yes, that’s Practical Severard of Inquisition fame – her life is turned upside down by a job gone wrong, with her small act of kindness ending up her saving grace. This introduction to our recurring characters, Shev and Javre the Lioness of Hoskopp, is a funny, bloody and somewhat grim beginning that paves the way for a strange and wonderful relationship.

The Fool Jobs

[ East of the Crinna, Autumn 574 ]

The Fool Jobs tells the tale of Curden Craw and his dozen as they accept a contract to retrieve a mysterious item of value – a thing, let’s say – from the village of Fox Clan prior to the events of The Heroes. With nostalgic cameos from Wonderful, Whirrun of Bligh, Jolly Yon Cumber, Brack-i-Dayn and Scorry Tiptoe, The Fool Jobs is a funny snatch and grab tale that’s equal parts messy, bloody and hilarious.

Skipping Town

[ The Near Country, Summer 575 ]

In Skipping Town we return to Shev and Javre as they complete a job for Tumnor at The Weeping Slaver. Only there’s something not quite right, the job is more than likely a double cross and it’s high time they skip town. This action-packed and blood thirsty addition is brilliantly brutal and develops the powerful. warrior-like character of Javre as she is pursued by a mysterious and dangerous order from which she has fled.

Hell

[ Dagoska, Spring 576 ]

Hell tells the tale of the Siege of Dagoska from the perspective of Temple, who later features in Red Country alongside Shy South. A brutal, fiery and chaotic tale, Hell captures the dangerous atmosphere of a city under siege and the terrifying arrival of the Eaters.

Two’s Company

[ Somewhere in the North, Summer 576 ]

Two’s Company rejoins Shev and Javre as they meet Whirrun of Bligh on a flimsy bridge over a remote canyon. In a humorous and brutal bout between warriors, the Lioness of Hoskopp and Cracknut Whirrun find themselves treading over familiar, sword swinging ground as they are pursued by both Bethod and the Fifteen. Two’s Company is a funny, engaging and brilliantly bloody tale that could easily hold its own outside of this anthology. 

Wrong Place, Wrong Time

[ Styria, 580 ]

Wrong Place, Wrong Time tells the tale of three somewhat innocent bystanders who find themselves swept up in the wholesale destruction wrought by Monzcarro Murcatto as she enacts her revenge in Best Served Cold. From the Banking House of Valint and Balk, to Cardotti’s House of Leisure and the battlefields of Ospria, no one walks away untouched by The Snake of Talins’ vengeance. Wrong Place, Wrong Time is an exciting and bloodthirsty tale that showcases three brilliant alternative perspectives in the ensuing torrent of chaos, flames and blood.

Some Desperado

[ The Near Country, Summer 584 ]

Some Desperado tells the tale of Shy South before the events of Red Country. As she flees from three bounty hunters armed with nothing but a bag of gold and the clothes on her back, she must use all her cunning to fight, trick and escape her pursuers before she ends up hanging from the gallows. Some Desperado is an action packed, gritty tale which is a wonderful return to a familiar favourite.

Yesterday Near a Village Called Barden

[ Near Barden, Autumn 584 ]

In Yesterday Near a Village Called Barden, Pale-as-Snow is preparing an ambush against a troop of Union soldiers accompanied by Bremer dan Gorst in his position as Royal Observer – a position he’s been forced into after the disaster at Cardotti’s House of Leisure (which appears in Wrong Place, Wrong Time). Written during the events of The Heroes, this story is an action-packed and bloody skirmish told from numerous perspectives and proves that there’s nowhere safe when the swords start swinging.

Three’s a Crowd

[ Talins, Autumn 587 ]

Shev and Javre return in Three’s a Crowd after Shev’s lover, Carcolf, is abducted by Horald the Finger as a consequence of the events in Small Kindnesses. In a story laden with familiar faces – Vitari, Lieutenant Forest, Corporal Tunny and Lance Corporal Yolk to name but a few – Shev and Javre must embark on a rescue mission which unveils some uncomfortable truths for the Lioness of Hoskopp.

Freedom!

[ Averstock, Summer 590 ]

Freedom is an extract from Nicomo Cosca’s biography written by Spillion Sworbreck as he accompanies the Company of the Gracious Hand during the events of Red Country. A exaggerated, farcical and glorified narrative ensues which paints Cosca in hilariously flowery and heroic language as his company sack (nay, save!) the hillside town of Averstock. Freedom is a ridiculously funny tale which reads as though Cosca had written it himself.

Tough Times All Over

[ Sipani, Sping 592 ]

Tough Times All Over tells the tale of a mysterious package, which could well be the thing from The Fool Jobs, as it changes hands across the city of Sipani. The narrative is exciting and well written with the POV changing character each time the package is picked up, handed over or pilfered in its journey across the city. Joined by faces both old and new, Tough Times All Over is a fitting end to a brilliant anthology.


 

Darkly humorous with brilliant characterisation throughout, Sharp Ends is a wonderfully witty, nostalgic and exciting look at the stories between stories, alternative perspectives and unrecorded events that make up the Circle of the World.

I highly recommend reading this collection whilst already immersed in the universe of The First Law as each story weaves subtle links and ties through almost every other Abercrombie novel and discovering new connections heightened my enjoyment throughout. Consequently, this literary device may be lost on new readers or those who haven’t returned to Abercrombie’s writing in some time.

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Review: The Man with One Name by Tom Lloyd



The Man with One Name

A Tale of the God Fragments (Book 0.5)

by Tom Lloyd

Fantasy | 68 Pages | Published by Gollancz in 2018


| Rating |


| TL;DR |

Offering a gritty and Western style adventure, The Man With One Name introduces a younger, more sober Lynx before he finds himself a part of Anatin’s Mercenary Deck. Action-packed, exciting and just a little bit on the short side, this prequel is a fitting introduction to a series that always leaves the reader wanting more.

| Synopsis |

Salterin is a town full of fear. Fear and sheep. But mostly fear.

It lies in the north of a principality recently shattered by the Hanese war, cut off from its neighbours and warily watching the advance of winter. Bandits and wolves haunt the woods, but something worse lies within. A monster named Therian has installed himself as lord of the manor and no one is foolish enough to oppose him.

In their hour of need comes a man with one name. A man who will not suffer monsters. Or mutton. But mostly monsters.

| Review |

More than a year has past since the Hanese war, and Therian, a thug and self-appointed lord, has assumed control of the town of Salterin where cruelty and lawlessness now prevails.

Lynx, a drifter and a gunslinger, blows into the troubled town just when it needs him most. Striking up an unlikely friendship with local sheep farmer Sulay, a hardened old woman with a love for herding dogs, Lynx sets out to right the wrongs that fall at his doorstep and protect Salterin from the mounting trouble within.

A troubled town. A strange drifter. A convenient job opening as lawman. In a tale where even the title is an homage to Eastwood and the Western genre, The Man With One Name proves a fun and engaging twist on familiar Western tropes. And with only a hint of the gambling, drinking and debauchery we have grown accustomed to in The God Fragments, this prequel provides both a fitting introduction and an interesting background to Tom Lloyd’s brilliant protagonist.

Lynx, an ex-soldier of So Han, is a man with a past who strives to do the right thing even when it could cost him his life or his freedom. As he falls into the position of Salterin’s lawman, a position that reflects both his honour and his affinity for trouble, we are granted a brief but fascinating insight into his character before his association with Anatin’s Mercenary Deck.

With more than a hint of the Wild West, and described with the familiar richness we’ve come to expect from Lloyd’s writing, this novella introduces us to the untamed, rustic lands that lie between bustling towns. And with characters comprising an intriguing array of the good, the bad and the undoubtedly ugly, we are given a fascinating snapshot of those inhabiting this beautifully rendered frontier town turned dictatorship.

With particular favourites in Sulay, a grizzled and feisty sheep farmer, along with her herding dogs, whose lovable and dangerous nature quite often steal the show, this short novella manages to field both interesting characters and maintain more than a hint of the action-packed, bloody and descriptive writing that Stranger of Tempest wields with abandon.

Highly entertaining, if a little short, The Man With One Name provides a fitting, Western style introduction to The God Fragments that is entirely self-contained.  And, after whetting my appetite for a meaty, mercenary caper, I believe it’s high time that I added Princess of Blood to my library.

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Review: To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers



To Be Taught, If Fortunate

A Novella

by Becky Chambers

Science Fiction | 136 Pages | Published by Hodder & Stoughton in 2018


| Rating |


| TL;DR |

To Be Taught, If Fortunate tells the tale of the crew of the Merian as they explore the universe in a quest to understand life as no one yet knows it. Following their passions, their hopes, and their dreams, this is a tale that binds us to their mission in an exploration of exhilarating highs and terrifying lows.

In a narrative suffused with joyful discovery and mounting despair, To Be Taught, If Fortunate warms the heart and sets the soul soaring to the stars.

| Synopsis |

In the future, instead of terraforming planets to sustain human life, explorers of the galaxy transform themselves.

At the turn of the twenty-second century, scientists make a breakthrough in human spaceflight. Through a revolutionary method known as somaforming, astronauts can survive in hostile environments off Earth using synthetic biological supplementations. They can produce antifreeze in sub-zero temperatures, absorb radiation and convert it for food, and conveniently adjust to the pull of different gravitational forces. With the fragility of the body no longer a limiting factor, human beings are at last able to explore neighbouring exoplanets long suspected to harbour life.

Ariadne is one such explorer. On a mission to ecologically survey four habitable worlds fifteen light-years from Earth, she and her fellow crewmates sleep while in transit, and wake each time with different features. But as they shift through both form and time, life back on Earth has also changed. Faced with the possibility of returning to a planet that has forgotten those who have left, Ariadne begins to chronicle the wonders and dangers of her journey, in the hope that someone back home might still be listening.

| Review |

Ariadne O’Neill is an astronaut and flight engineer aboard the OCA spacecraft Merian. After near three decades of sleep, she and her crew awake above their vessel to complete their mission amongst the stars – an ecological survey of exoplanets known or suspected to harbour life.

The development of somaforming has enabled astronauts to adapt their bodies to new environments; to survive crushing gravity, sweltering heat, dangerous levels of radiation and below freezing temperatures. Under the protection of this genetic supplementation, the research team are able to adapt, survive and survey their surroundings in earnest; cataloguing planets, ecological habitats and ensure there is a record of all sentient life.

Written in the form of a communications report to earth, Ariadne condenses the journey and experiences of the Merian and her crew into four equal parts, each telling a tale of discovery and wonder as the crew explore a different planet. These linked journeys are overflowing with worldbuilding and scientific details, both of which form the backbone of this novella and allow Becky Chambers to showcase her beautiful, literary prose – a quite different experience to that aboard the Wayfarer.

The descriptions of the Merian – the inflatable habitat modules, the close internal quarters, the interconnecting spaces – are some of my favourite in the whole novella, and give a sense of home in a vast and endless wilderness. Similarly, the descriptions of somaforming are well thought out and provide a considered explanation for how humans have been able to endure space travel and commence their exploration of new worlds. The science, however, is developed with a light touch and never overwhelms the narrative.

While this novel focuses more on the exploration of worlds rather than the characters inhabiting them, there is still a drive and goodness behind Chambers’ creations which give the reader hope and an emotional connection to the narrative. Ariadne, Elena, Jack and Chikondi are interesting yet relatable creations, albeit ones whose jobs are intertwined with their hobbies and their passions. and their unique shared experience aboard the Merian makes for a fascinating read.

There is a simple beauty to Chambers’ writing and To Be Taught, If Fortunate is a unique and memorable novella with a focus on joy and discovery, and the impact of the journey on the crew. Told from the single point of view of Ariadne, Chambers skilfully unravels a meaningful narrative which has been written with nothing short of warmth and love for the human condition and our seemingly in-built desire to explore the stars. This is a novella that seems real, feels real and, though fairly light on the science fiction, is effortlessly engaging throughout.

To Be Taught, If Fortunate can best be described as a love letter to the stars, to space exploration and to the people who make it all possible. It eloquently captures the joy of space travel, the awe of discovery, and new possibilities that can only be imagined a world away from home. While this novella is perhaps not the equal of Chambers’ Wayfarers series, it has a beauty and a charm all of its own that captures the imagination and sets our minds soaring through the universe around us.

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Friday Firsts: To Be Taught, If Fortunate


Welcome to Friday Firsts – a weekly meme created by Tenacious Reader. First paragraphs. First impressions. A new favourite?


| Friday Firsts: July 17 |

To Be Taught, If Fortunate

A Novella

by Becky Chambers

Science Fiction | 136 Pages | Published by Hodder & Stoughton in 2018


| First Paragraphs |

If you read nothing else we’ve sent home, please at least read this. I ask knowing full well that this request is antithetical to what I believe in my heart of hearts. Our mission reports contain our science, and the science is by far the most important thing here. My crew and I are a secondary concern. Tertiary, even.

But all the same, we do have a lot riding on someone picking this up.

You don’t have to rush. The file will have taken fourteen years to reach Earth, and assuming that we have the good luck of someone reading it right away and replying straight after, it’d take that file another fourteen years. So, while we can’t wait around forever, the urgency – like so many things in space travel – is relative.

Amazon | The Book Depository | Goodreads


| First Impressions |

Hot off the heels of finishing the second novel in Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers series, A Closed and Common Orbit, I decided to embark on her stand-alone science fiction novella, To be Taught, If Fortunate.

Having read several disparate reviews for this novella, I have decided to read it with no expectations either way and let myself be carried along whether good, bad or ugly. Having said that, I have developed a somewhat unreserved love for Chambers’ writing and the opening paragraphs are so very intriguing and, as always, so beautifully written that I can’t help but feel like I will love this novella all the same!

What are you currently reading? What were your first impressions?

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Waiting on Wednesday: Tales from the Folly


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: July 15 |

Tales from the Folly

A Rivers of London Short Story Collection

by Ben Aaronovitch


Return to the world of Rivers of London in this first short story collection from #1 Sunday Times bestselling author, Ben Aaronovitch. Tales from the Folly is a carefully curated collection that gathers together previously published stories and brand new tales in the same place for the first time.

Each tale features a new introduction from the author, filled with insight and anecdote offering the reader a deeper exploration into this absorbing fictional world. This is a must read for any Rivers of London fan.

Join Peter, Nightingale, Abigail, Agent Reynolds and Tobias Winter for a series of perfectly portioned tales. Discover what’s haunting a lonely motorway service station, who still wanders the shelves of a popular London bookshop, and what exactly happened to the River Lugg…

With an introduction from internationally bestselling author of the Sookie Stackhouse series, Charlaine Harris.

This collection includes:

The Home Crowd Advantage
The Domestic
The Cockpit
The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Granny
King of The Rats
A Rare Book of Cunning Device
A Dedicated Follower of Fashion
Favourite Uncle
Vanessa Sommer’s Other Christmas List
Three Rivers, Two Husbands and a Baby
Moments One-Three


To be published by JABberwocky Literary Agency, Inc. on 31st July 2020

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The Monthly Round-Up: February 2018


Welcome to The Monthly Round-Up. Join me as I look back on the past month to see which books I’ve read, the reviews I’ve posted, the goals I’ve completed and my all important Book of the Month!


| The Monthly Round-Up: February 2018 |

February has been a fantastically busy month but I couldn’t be happier to have returned to Books by Proxy. It’s been wonderful catching up with books, posts and this wonderful blogging community, and I have a whole heap of ideas for the future of this blog – as well as a ‘to-be-read’ pile as big as a mountain!

And with the weather turning into a veritable winter wonderland, I can’t think of a better place to be than being wrapped up in the warmth with a good book!.. Or settled down to write some long overdue reviews!

I hope you’ve all had a wonderful month! 😀


| Books Read |



Spellslinger

by Sebastien de Castell


| February Goals |

To read four books

Status: 4 of 4 Complete

heart

To write a review once a week

Status: 2 of 4 Complete


| Reviews Posted |

The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley


The Hit by Nadia Dalbuono


| Other Posts From February 2018 |

The Month Ahead: February 2018

Tough Travelling: Shapeshifters

Chapter + Verse – The Hobbit: Chapter I – An Unexpected Party

Chapter + Verse – The Hobbit: Chapter II – Roast Mutton

Chapter + Verse – The Hobbit: Chapter III – A Short Rest

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten… Books I Still Haven’t Read

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten… Doomed Romances of Fantasyland

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten… Books I’m No Longer Interested In Reading

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten… Books I Could Re-Read ForeverTeaser Tuesdays: The Grace of Kings + The Hobbit: Chapter I

Teaser Tuesdays: Half the World + The Hobbit: Chapter II

Teaser Tuesdays: Spellslinger + The Hobbit: Chapter III

Teaser Tuesdays: Lois the Witch + The Hobbit: Chapter IV

Waiting on Wednesday: February 07 – Black Mirror: Volume 1 by Charlie Brooker

Waiting on Wednesday: February 14 – King of Ashes by Raymond E. Feist

Waiting on Wednesday: February 21 – The Bitter Twins by Jen Williams

Waiting on Wednesday: February 28 – The Hyena and the Hawk by Adrian Tchaikovsky

The Friday Face-Off: February 02 – Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds

The Friday Face-Off: February 09 – My, What Big Teeth You Have

The Friday Face-Off: February 16 – Groovy Baby

The Friday Face-Off: February 23 – The Staircase

Friday Firsts: February 02 – The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu

Friday Firsts: February 09 – Half the World by Joe Abercrombie

Friday Firsts: February 16 – Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell

Friday Firsts: February 23 – Lois the Witch by Elizabeth Gaskell


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Teaser Tuesdays: June 06


Welcome to Teaser Tuesdays – a weekly feature hosted by The Purple Booker.


| Teaser Tuesdays: June 06 |

Daughter of Necessity

by Marie Brennan

Fantasy | Short Story | 32 Pages | Published by Tor in 2014


“Too late, she will see that it has gone too far. He has coaxed from her words she never meant to speak, implications she cannot disavow. To do so would bring war, and the destruction she sought to avoid. She will have no choice but to acquiesce, for the sake of her people, for the sake of her son.

She will fail, and pay the price of that failure until the end of her days.”

~ 34% | Daughter of Necessity by Marie Brennan


| Synopsis |

By day she crafts; by night she unmakes. Surely somewhere, in all the myriad crossings of the threads, there is a future in which all will be well. Marie Brennan offers an intriguing new spin on a classic tale.

Amazon | 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!

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Review: Skinshaper by Mark Gelineau and Joe King



Skinshaper

An Echo of the Ascended – Ferran Book Two

by Mark Gelineau and Joe King

Fantasy | Novella | 102 Pages | Published by Gelineau and King in 2016


| Rating |


This book was received from Netgalley in return for an honest review

Rend the Dark was an impressive venture into the darker and more disturbing aspects of Aedaron, a multi-faceted world which has been compiled through varying genre perspectives in the Echoes of the Ascended series. With its sequel, Skinshaper, we are once again transported into the darkest reaches of this world where a veritable army of abominations lie in wait to repulse, disturb and delight fans of this darkly epic – and short – work.

Mark Gelineau and Joe King have, once again, hit the mark with this brutally fantastic tale which doesn’t shy away from taking its protagonists to hell and back, resulting in what has become my favourite Echo to date. Epic in its telling, horrifying in its creations, and bloody brilliant in its execution, Skinshaper sets the bar in this latest thrill ride from these masters of the fantasy novella.Barricades broken.

A mining town empty.

One survivor swings in a cage, waiting to die.

Ferran’s tattoos burn as horrors near. They should run. They should seek help. But to save a few, they must journey deeper into the heart of the nightmare to face an ancient foe.

Following the death of his friend Hillion, and the terrifying events of Rend the Dark, Riffolk finds himself travelling in the company Ferran and Mireia, two Acolytes of Talen. As they wander from town to town, Riffolk’s eyes become opened to the dark and nightmarish creatures which pervade Aedaron. The Ruins, twisted abominations who seek the destruction of all that is good and pure, have once again taken hold in the land.

When Mireia’s powers draw them to a seemingly abandoned mining town, an encounter with a single survivor leads their small company down a dark path into the heart of the mine. But the vile horrors which await them in the shadows are going to be anything but easy to vanquish, not for a man wracked by his own cowardice and guilt, not even for those with the strength of Talen on their side.

From the world at large to the confines of the mine, Gelineau and King have carved out a cold and brutal world where humanity is neither the province of monsters nor of men. Where Elenor’s storyline depicts the wheels of justice in motion, Alys’ the divisions of class, and Roan and Kay’s the legacy of honour; Ferran’s storyline highlights all that is dark and terrible in Aedaron. Through horrifying descriptions and brutal action, Skinshaper is a short, sharp shock to the senses.

In a narrative which highlights the brutality and inhumanity of the Ruins, their wilfully destructive and grotesque natures are used to convey their absolute evil. This world of horrors, where the creation of abominations maximises both physical and emotional pain, once again reveals the darkest side of Aedaron and the inherent danger all our protagonists face. The Order of Talen, though a beacon of strength in these dark places, as yet seems small and incomparable to the sheer strength and determination of the Ruins, lending this novella a distinctly unpredictable feel.

The continuation of Ferran’s storyline however, if anything, brings us closer to Riffolk. He is our laymen and anchor point to this sub-series of novellas, asking the questions which allow us to comprehend the world and allow Ferran and Mireia, along with the Order of Talen, to retain an element of mystery. However, Ferran remains almost a closed book throughout Skinshaper, his enigmatic nature maintaining a level of intrigue which speaks of future revelations, whilst Mireia’s character is elaborated upon for an explosive conclusion which leaves the reader in great suspense.

Skinshaper is a small, self-contained adventure which has been brought to life by its detailed but terrifying world, interesting and complex characters, and a thoroughly gripping storyline. This novella, like its predecessors, succeeds in deceiving the reader by its length and, as always, is delivered with beautiful but concise prose. With eight Echoes under their belt, Gelineau and King have proven that their fast-paced and compulsive format is anything but tired, and have delivered an impressive round of sequels which have hit the mark every time. 

With this fast-paced read, one which grips the imagination and disturbs with its terrifying creations, Gelineau and King have captured the spirit of its predecessor whilst elaborating upon it in spectacular fashion. Skinshaper is a powerful, if somewhat horrifying, addition to the Echoes of the Ascended series which I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend. 

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