Tag Archives: dark fantasy

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Book Review: Winterset Hollow, by Jonathan Edward Durham

I accepted a copy of Winterset Hollow from the author, Jonathan Edward Durham, for the purpose of review.

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Everyone has wanted their favorite book to be real, if only for a moment. Everyone has wished to meet their favorite characters, if only for a day. But be careful in that wish, for even a history laid in ink can be repaid in flesh and blood, and reality is far deadlier than fiction . . . especially on Addington Isle.

Winterset Hollow follows a group of friends to the place that inspired their favorite book-a timeless tale about a tribe of animals preparing for their yearly end-of-summer festival. But after a series of shocking discoveries, they find that much of what the world believes to be fiction is actually fact, and that the truth behind their beloved story is darker and more dangerous than they ever imagined. It’s Barley Day . . . and you’re invited to the hunt.

my review

Were you traumatized by Watership Down as a child? Well, now you can have that same experience as an adult, with Winterset Hollow. When Winterset Hollow was presented to me for review, is was called dark fantasy. And while there is no denying that anthropomorphized animals is a fantasy element and the book is dark, I’d call this closer to literary horror personally. I’d also call it very good.

The comparison to Watership Down is no doubt no accident. I don’t believe it would have been possible for the author to have written the book without the comparison explicitly in mind. After all, the author doesn’t call it his first book, or even his debut work. No, he calls it his “watershed debut novel.”watershed novelNo accident. I also wondered if Frog wasn’to a little nod to Wind in the Willows. And I wouldn’t even be surprised to find more subtle references too. (Did Rabbit’s twitchy leg have a shadow of Thumper in it?) This is that sort of book, the kind where things mean something. I’ll leave it up to each reader to decide what. I know I have my own thoughts.

But it’s also eminently readable. Eamon was an amazingly relatable character and the friendship between him, Caroline, and Mark was marvelous. I always appreciate platonic, mixed gender friendships and they are surprisingly hard to find in modern literature. There’s some diversity, even in the relatively small cast, and the writing flows nicely.

I did notice a few editing hiccups (like her mouth flew to her cover her hand, which was obviously meant to be the other way and a couple missing or flipped letters/words). But they were more notable in their rarity. This was generally well edited and easy to read.

All in all, I call this an undaunted and unrelenting contribution to the literary genre…whichever it chooses to roost in.

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Book Review: Shadow of the Wicked, by Douglas W.T. Smith

Douglas W.T. Smith‘s Shadow of the Wicked is going to be on Sadie’s Spotlight next week. I didn’t agree to review the book for the tour, but those participating in the tour received a free copy of the book. Since it’s only 107 pages long, I decided to give it a quick read.

Honestly, I found myself in a bit of a pickle. Assuming I would enjoy the book, I had planned to drop the review at the same time as the post goes live on Sadie’s Spotlight—a bit of a 2 for 1 deal. But I turned out not to like it much and I do try not to post bad reviews during a promotional tour. That’s just bad form. So, I’m posting it a week early instead of holding it until the week after.

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Twin brothers–a sorcerer and a warrior–are each tortured for their opposing convictions. Will magick be restored or extinguished?

Magick had once ruled The Three Kingdoms, but now it is banished and condemnable.

Jaromir and Talmage have been imprisoned for different convictions.

Jaromir wakes up chained to a table filled with dread, while Talmage is thrown into an underground labyrinth.

Jaromir has devoted his life to mastering weapons as the Empress’ Guard and forming a secret order to rid the world of magick. His lifetime devotion is useless when his limbs are chained. Unless he divulges the order’s plans. Jaromir is tortured and his body pushed to breaking point but he refuses to betray the order––until his wife is dragged into the room. Jaromir is forced to make a choice between his honor and his beloved wife. Which will he choose?

Meanwhile, Talmage is thrown into an underground labyrinth. Since his parent’s death, he had practiced the art of magick in secret from his brother’s order. Magick had been his savor and his security through his troubled life. No matter what Talmage tried, the ghosts of his past haunt him––especially in the dark passages. At first, he thought he was alone, for one last trial, until familiar voices echo from the shadows.

Both brothers must escape from their wicked fate, identify their outgrown relationship, and swallow their pride before it’s too late.

my review

There isn’t any polite way to say a book isn’t very good. I could try and dress it up, give the review a compliment sandwich, etc. But the bare bones truth is still that this book isn’t very good. Though it’s not labeled as such, I’m fairly sure the copy I read was an ARC and, therefore, hasn’t yet had it’s final mechanical edit. So, I won’t go into grammatical editing. But even leaving that aside, the writing is choppy, repetitive, and often unclear. The characters are un-relatable and, worst of all, none of it is given any true context.The sentence in the synopsis that says, “Magick had once ruled The Three Kingdoms, but now it is banished and condemnable” is pretty much all the world-building you’ll find in the whole novella. What you’re left with is 107 pages of torture porn with no apparent point. I read all 107 pages and still do not know if there was a theme or message. Was I supposed to take something away from this? I sense that Smith meant for me to, but whatever it is it’s too weak to be successfully conveyed. A viscous content editor could maybe beat it into something meaningful. But it’s not there yet. It does have a great cover though.

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The Weight of Blood

Book Review of The Weight of Blood, by David Dalglish

Weight of Blood

I chose David Dalglish‘s dark fantasy, The Weight of Blood from the Amazon KDP list. At the time of posting it was still free.

Description from Goodreads:
When half-bloods Harruq and Qurrah Tun pledged their lives to the death prophet Velixar, they sought only escape from their squalid beginnings. Instead, they become his greatest disciples, charged with leading his army of undead.

While they prepare, Harruq trains with an elf named Aurelia, to whom he owes his life. She is a window into a better world, but as war spreads between the races their friendship takes a dire turn.

Velixar orders them to fight alongside the humans, changing Aurelia from friend to foe. To protect her, Harruq must turn against his brother and fight the killing nature of his orcish heritage.

To side with one means to turn on another. No matter Harruq’s decision, someone he loves will die.

Review:
The Weight of Blood is some serious Dark Fantasy. I mean dark with a capital ‘D’, maybe even dark with a capital D.A.R.K.. It isn’t a comfortable read. There isn’t a lot of joy in it and bad things happen to a lot of good people. I generally like dark fiction, but this one was almost too much for me.

The two main characters, Harruq and Qurrah, can hardly even be called anti-heroes. There wasn’t enough hero in them, Qurrah especially. The only humanity [for lack of a more appropriate term] left in him seemed to be his affection for his brother and even that was contaminated by manipulating Harruq for his own nefarious ends. But still, I could at least relate to Harruq. I could see that in other circumstances he would have been a kind soul, might even have still had one despite his HORRIBLE, CRUEL, VILE actions. He killed children for goodness sake!

Relate to him as I might, I had a really hard time reconciling his personality with his actions. Don’t get me wrong. I understand that this dichotomy between his natural inclinations and the reality of his circumstances was in large part one of the themes of the book. But his willingness to simply do as told by Qurrah was hard to accept.

The book was well written, though I was left with some very basic questions unanswered. I had a lot of trouble deciding what age H & Q were supposed to be, for example. In the beginning I thought they might be children. Their brotherly attachment was so strong that they felt young, since as people age their social circle tends to broaden and those familiar bonds dilute. Their actions and thoughts quickly made it clear that they weren’t children however, but an age was never given. Somewhere between 15-25 maybe. They may even have been twins since their father was only said to have slept with their mother once, but again, this was never clarified.

This isn’t a book I enjoyed, but this isn’t the type of book one reads to enjoy. Enduring the tragedy of it all is part of the experience, part of removing yourself from your comfortable life to remind yourself what another’s life might be like. Having done that, I think I need to go read something light and fluffy, with an unquestionable HEA.