Month: April 2019

Review: Crowfall

Hey everybody,

So I’m a week behind on this review because my wife has had me building things around our house. Although it puts me three books behind on the year, if there was one book I wanted to take my time with in 2019 it was Crowfall by Ed McDonald.


Featured here this glorious cover.

Corwfall is the third (and final?) book in the Raven’s Mark Series. Although I have not done full reviews on Blackwing and Ravencry, those of you who know me personally or follow me on facebook or twitter, know how much I enjoyed the first two books. Blackwing was very good. Ravencry blew my mind.

So when I saw Crowfall on NetGalley, I had to request it.
I did not think I would receive a copy since I’m relatively new to the reviewing scene…





And here we are. On the other side of my most anticipated book of 2019.

So the question remains: How did it hold up?

Well first let’s talk about what Crowfall is about.


Here there be spoilers for Blackwing and Ravencry…probably.


Crowfall (and the Raven’s Mark Series so far) follows the journey of Ryhalt Galharrow, ex-sophisticated soldier turned merc turned agent for an ancient maniacal crow wizard. Upon his forearm is a tattooed raven that on occasion rips itself free from his arm to deliver his master’s instructions.

Comedy ensues.


Misery ensues.

The Misery is a magically corrupted wasteland where Ryhalt finds himself all the time over the course of the books. In fact, in the six years since the end of Ravencry, MFer has just been subsisting on Misery stuff, eating the monsters, and sucking in all that magical filth to right the wrongs of the previous two books.

Become the Anvil, as his arm states.

To make matters worse, Crowfoot (his mystic master and creator of the Misery) has unleashed a new fresh hell on the humans living in the Range in the form of insanity rain.

Imagine acid rain…like LSD rain…that makes you trip balls and die.

On top of that, our old pals the eldritch god-like Deep Kings have tapped into the power of The Sleeper, an even more terrifying and ancient eldritch god….


Like my boi N’Zoth here.

and raised a spirits-damned Deep Emperor.


Not a great time to be a human.

Galharrow (with the help of his compatriots) works to stave off humanity’s destruction while haunted by the ghosts of his past, the hope of his future, and the turmoil of his present.

Bleak times all around.

So…How did it hold up?

Even with Ravencry right up until the end.

Crowfall’s ending sets it just above Ravencry in my estimation.

Which is quite a feat in my mind.

Because I was SO looking forward to this book, I was prepared to be let down.
I shouldn’t have worried.

Crowfall delivers.

McDonald manages to work a substantial amount of worldbuilding into his third book so that a number of the history questions I had were answered. Not all of them. This world feels ancient, and she hides her secrets well. I hope to learn more about her someday.

McDonald’s writing (in Ryhalt’s voice) continues strong throughout, and the philosophical journey the reader takes with Ryhalt over the series is impressive. From cranky man with a deathwish to cranky man with a…lifewish? That’s a thing, right? There is more than enough to convey the story without ever feeling bogged down while painting a grim portrait girded with rays of hope. It’s a large reason I’ll continue coming back to these books in the future. Even when everything seems lost, grim and dark, you believe in Ryhalt. You want him to succeed. He want him to earn his ending.

Spoiler: He does.

Crowfall is a stunning conclusion to the Raven’s Mark trilogy, and for my money the best of the three. McDonald never lets misery leech all of the hope from his audience, and the result is a story that is visceral while also philosophical, unique in setting, and bold in presentation. McDonald never lets his reader sink deeper than his protagonist, and he is always ready to offer a hand through the supporting cast.

Ed McDonald has quickly risen in my list of favorite authors, not only because of his work, but also because he seems a damn fine gentleman. Follow him on Twitter.

I’m currently contemplating a Raven’s Mark tattoo. We’ll see. Crowfoot is a dick.

I’ll leave you with two pictures I thought of while reading…
without context I don’t think they count as spoilers…



If you have not checked out Blackwing, I encourage you to do so.
If you’ve read Blackwing, you’ll need to read Ravencry,
And then pre-order Crowfall.

The Misery loves company.

5/5 evil crows holding knives

canuck the crow.jpgcanuck the crow.jpgcanuck the crow.jpgcanuck the crow.jpgcanuck the crow.jpg

-scritch out.

BTW I googled evil crows…I was not disappointed.


Buy Ed’s books or I’ll peck out your eyes.

Review: One Word Kill

Good afternoon, everyone,

Today I’ll be telling you about Power Word…

oops, I mean One Word Kill by Mark Lawrence.


Any longtime follows of this blog or…life will know I have a soft spot for Mark Lawrence as his Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off is what made me begin to take myself seriously as a writer. Consequently, that competition helped me discover an incredible online community as well as terrific authors such as Josiah Bancroft, Jonathan French, Dyrk Ashton, and a slew of others.

Also, the Broken Empire trilogy (beginning with Prince of Thorns) is one of my all-time favorite reads.

So when the Impossible Times trilogy was announced I was on board before ever reading a synopsis. I’ll buy anything he’s written…and read it eventually (sorry, Red Queen’s War and Book of the Ancestor. I’ll get there).

Before we talk about the actual content, I’d like to have a word about the title…

because it really should be Power Word Kill.


The name was picked from a limited selection by the fans.

They chose wrong.

That’s a small gripe, I know, but I couldn’t help but think about it every time someone talked about Power Word Kill.

Obligatory synopsis courtesy of Amazon:

In January 1986, fifteen-year-old boy-genius Nick Hayes discovers he’s dying. And it isn’t even the strangest thing to happen to him that week.

Nick and his Dungeons & Dragons-playing friends are used to living in their imaginations. But when a new girl, Mia, joins the group and reality becomes weirder than the fantasy world they visit in their weekly games, none of them are prepared for what comes next. A strange—yet curiously familiar—man is following Nick, with abilities that just shouldn’t exist. And this man bears a cryptic message: Mia’s in grave danger, though she doesn’t know it yet. She needs Nick’s help—now.

He finds himself in a race against time to unravel an impossible mystery and save the girl. And all that stands in his way is a probably terminal disease, a knife-wielding maniac and the laws of physics.

Challenge accepted.

So…a group of teenage boys (and a very special girl) play D&D with an eerie 80’s backdrop. The easy comparison is, of course, Stranger Things.

And there is some of that, certainly.

I think a more precise comparison is:

Stranger Things meets Primer with a dash of Terminator…oh and featuring this guy.


Young Conan O’Brien with a machete

I love Mark Lawrence’s writing. For the most part, his prose is lean and direct, giving the reader just enough information to form a vivid image without being over or under-descriptive. Then every few pages, he’ll drop a perfect simile to illustrate a moment and


I love it.

The characters.

Nick is our narrator, and Lawrence tells this story in his voice. Yes, OWK is Young Adult…sorry ’bout it. His understanding of math, the universe, and time travel clearly stems from Lawrence’s own career as a freaking rocket scientist (not that he’s traveled in time that I know of), but he writes with a proficiency that I believe comes from deep understanding. Not that it ever reads as dense or pedantic, quite the opposite actually. When complex themes or paradoxes ares introduced, Lawrence is able to succinctly summarize them in a way that doesn’t feel overly complicated or dismissive in a hokey SFF way.

And I’m leery of Time Travel (and dragons but that’s neither here nor there).

OWK establishes rules and sticks to them (so far as I can tell).

The other characters are mostly memorable: Mia, Simon, Elton, John, Demus.
All fine folks to spend time with.

My one complaint. I really disliked Ian Rust or simply Rust. He’s the Christmas Story maniac. Even as someone who knew a red-headed homicidal nut job in my youth (the kid actually tried to strange me in the middle of a church), Rust was hard to buy.

Yes, I know this was a SFF story concerning time-travel.

But I had a harder time believing Rust.

I realize that it’s just the story (and Scranton isn’t the mean streets of London), but I had a really hard time imagining the teenage weed-dealer turned actual murderer.
I mean, [MINOR SPOILER] he straight up kills a fairly prominent gang leader.
Shouldn’t that guy have had guards or something?
I know he wasn’t freakin’ Scarface, but still…


Not a fan of Rust.

With twenty pages left, I was pretty certain of how things would shake out. There were still a few twists to make it interesting. Heartbreaking ones, if I’m being honest.

Being a time-travel story also means we have a pretty clear idea of how the trilogy will end (because house rules). Some readers might find that off-putting, but I don’t mind.

Journey before destination and all that.

It’ll be really interesting to read Nick’s story going forward especially considering everything he has to do now that…you should just read it for yourself.

Coming off my first session with Dungeons & Dragons 5E, I think it only fitting I give Power Word….I mean, One Word Kill 4/5 D20s.


An interesting concept, a compelling story, and interesting characters make for an enjoyable read. A couple low notes keep it from being something truly special…at least in my book. Without a doubt, I’ll read Limited Wish and Dispel Illusion, and my expectations will be just as high as they were for One Word Kill.

Amazon Prime users can exercise their early read option to receive an advanced e-book or a deeply discounted hardcover.

I have the e-book…I’ve yet to ask my wife if I can just buy it.

I want it.

Consider this me asking, Brandy.

Next week, I’ll (hopefully) be taking a look at


Most Anticipated Book of 2019 right here.

Until that time,

scritch out.

Review: Ship of Magic

Hey everyone,

As I’ve stated in recent posts, Brandy and I are trapped in the Realm of the Elderlings and escape seems impossible.


Although Brandy is in Ship of Destiny already, I’ve dragged my feet and have just completed Ship of Magic.


Now there are a number of covers for this trilogy…that happens when there are multiple editions (NBD), but the audiobook cover…*shudders*


I don’t know when Seth MacFarlane decided to leave the Orville and become a fantasy pirate, but I have to say…I don’t love it.

However, looking beyond the cover, we find a tremendous story filled with wonder, pain, and struggle – an epic fantasy among epic fantasies.

So…Who likes boats? *laughs awkwardly*

Summary courtesy of Amazon.
Not far from the Six Duchies lies Bingtown, hub of exotic trade and home to a merchant nobility famed for its liveships–rare vessels carved from wizardwood, which ripens magically into sentient awareness.  Bingtown’s Old Traders, their wealth eroded by northern wars and the rapacity of southern pirates, now face an influx of upstart merchants who bring change to a complex society.

The Vestrit family’s only hope of renewed prosperity is the Vivacia, a liveship they have nurtured for three generations.  Now, as old Captain Vestrit lies dying in Bingtown, the Vivacia cuts homeward through the waves, about to quicken into a living being.  The ship carries Vestrit’s daughter Althea and the conniving son-in-law he has named as the Vivacia’s next captain.

But lovely, wild-spirited Althea, sailing the Vivacia with her father since childhood and sharing its half-awakened memories and ocean secrets, has bonded with the ship in her deepest soul.  Joined by Brashen–her father’s first mate, now demoted by the Vivacia’s new commander–she will stop at nothing in a bitter quest to claim its captaincy.

Meanwhile, in the rocky cays known as the Pirate Isles, a ruthless man lusts after his own kind of power.  The pirate captain Kennit, in his scheme to be king of this outlaw realm, has vowed that he will wrest a liveship from its owners and turn it to his own use.  His twisted ambition will bring him into a strange partnership with a boy-priest turned seaman–and into violent conflict with the wizardwood magic of Althea and Brashen.

From the peculiar magic realm of the Others to the bawdy, raucous lair of the pirates, Ship of Magicsweeps a dazzling cast of characters into an epic of terrible beauty and mysterious sorcery.


No one writes like Robin Hobb. Her descriptions have precise the right amount of details without feeling overly dense. These characters are the kind of true to life sorts that make you want them all to achieve their objectives (even the dread pirate Kennit). And the world – my God, the world – is so much bigger than the Farseer trilogy. New revelations are unveiled while new secrets are uncovered.

I tell you, this story has it all: court intrigue, fascinating creatures (hello, sentient sea serpents and freaking POV Liveships), complex characters struggling with relationships and identity, a vast sprawling world so palpable you’ll swear you can smell the salt. Even the occasional info-dumps don’t feel too much but necessary. I understand current readers seem mostly opposed to info-dumps, but it has been a hallmark of the genre for…well…ever. Handled right, it doesn’t need to be a bad thing. In Ship of Magic, I found it extremely helpful.

Unlike every other review I’ve posted this year, however, there were things that knocked me out of the story. I have zero problem with characters experiencing the full-breadth of life – sexuality included. However, I was put-off by a few things. Some spoilers ahead.

1. Kennit’s sexual dominance of his…companion. She’s a really cool character, but they’re initial meeting had me…unnerved. And that’s probably how you’re supposed to feel. Regardless, it bothered me.
2. The detail in another sexual encounter. To be fair, this one was consensual (if influenced by drugs, alcohol, and injury), and I’m no stranger to sex in life or literature. But this was more akin to Joe Abercrombie’s Before They are Hanged (if you read it, you know which one I mean). Not a problem, per se, but I was surprised by the content compared to the Farseer Trilogy. This makes Ship of Magic a little more difficult for me to recommend as opposed to Fitz’s first trilogy.
3. Most plot lines are left with a ton of forward momentum…really all of them. For a current comparison, this is a little like Infinity War. Ship of Magic is Kennit’s story, how he accomplishes his task. It’s bookended by the sea serpent’s story, yes, but our first scene finds Kennit seeking prophetic council concerning his goal. Ship of Magic is how he does it. Not a problem. I just like my stories to be a little more independent. I had to start Mad Ship next despite my growing TBR.

Ship of Magic is a LONG book. The audiobook I enjoyed was 35 hours, and I listened to it on double speed. It still felt long. Not too long, mind you…


Two very good things. Like George Washington with an awesome library.

But it’s a long book…and a long trilogy. It’s going to take months before I can get to the Tawny Man trilogy. *Sound of my heart breaking*

I’m awarding Ship of Magic a respectable 4 out of 5 Pirate Ships.


If you’ve made it through the Farseer Trilogy and you want more of the world, do not skip this series. Robin Hobb wrote them like this for a reason. Don’t be that guy who skips ahead for Fitz and the Fool. I think this worldbuilding will be necessary to fully experience the world as Hobb intended.

But don’t go in expecting more of the same.

The writing is different.
The characters are different (mostly *wink*).
The stakes are different.

– scritch out

Next up is:


Followed by


I know I’ve lied about my reading order…I do try.

But this combo, I promise…They’re next.

Unless something happens and my reading slows down again.

In which case you’ll get a review of Umbrella Academy Vol 1 and 2.

That wouldn’t be the end of the world though, would it?


Review: Assassin’s Quest

Hey everyone,

Last Tuesday was a c-c-c-c-c-combo breaker as I did not get this review in on time.

To be honest, completing the Farseer Trilogy left me a little reeling in the same way finishing Wheel of Time did. It seems Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings is filling that epic hole in my chest left behind by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson.

And hoo boy, did I make a wise choice.

Fitz’s journey over these three books is something to behold and it leaves me wondering where Hobb will take him next. I’ll have to wait a while as I’ve been sucked into Liveship Trader’s book 1 despite my promise to read City of Lies next. I’m through 23 of the 35 hours it takes to listen to Ship of Magic and…well…that’s a review for another time.

Now, I want to draw your attention to…


So bastard. Much noble. Very stare.  Wow.

Spoilers Ahead!

Assassin’s Quest picks up right where Royal Assassin left off with Fitz recovering from his brush with death and Regal (again). This time, however, it isn’t only seizures making his life more difficult but LOSING HIMSELF TO THE WOLF. I put that in all caps because it was an insane way to end Royal Assassin, and Fitz believes (early in the book) that it was worse than simply shoving off on the permanent.

In the course of the first few chapters, Fitz manages to sufficiently piss off both of his mentors, Burrich and Chade, enough that they straight GTFO and leave him to his own devices.

Fitz decides to go on a quest to save his uncle Verity and right the Six Duchies…

No… wait…

That’s what I expected him to do. What he decides to do instead is to MURDER REGAL!

The madman goes off half-cocked with Nighteyes, journeys all the way to Regal’s new base of operations, and fails spectacularly. He would have died if not for Verity’s intervention and consequent command to come to him (a Skill command that forces Fitz to…well…go to him).

Here the quest actually begins. Stories of the bastard are spread near and far somehow insulating the real man behind the myths. Along the way, he faces obstacles great and small, assasses some more people, and makes new friends. We discover the ultimate fate of Molly (Bees?), Burrich, Kettricken, Verity, Chade, the Fool, and oh…justa bout everyone else.

By ultimate I do mean in the context of this trilogy by the way. I’ve already encountered one of the above characters in Ship of Magic, but…


I’ll never tell.

Robin Hobb continues to astound with her characters and prose, never easing off the intrigue even when the narrative arc slows. Every character is given understandable and dare I say relatable reasons for doing what they do…And tbh it makes the story that much more heartbreaking and fulfilling.

As Brandy told me when she finished (a month ahead of me btw)…

It ends well…but at great cost.”

And if that isn’t the case with every single one of these books…smdh.

I’m trapped now in this world. Brandy is in Ship of Destiny and plowing forward, urging me on with tidbits and taunts. It’s maddening. I’ll never be free. I’m sorry Sam Hawke. I promise I’ll get to City of Lies now that I’ve technically started it.

In the interim, however, I’m acquired a galley of


And an Amazon first read copy of


And I think those are going to push it back down the TBR. I’ve started the latter and it’s pretty intriguing so far…it’s also significantly shorter than most novels I’ve read this year. Gotta get those numbers up. 1,000 books and all that. Gotta get in as many as I can.

I realize I’ve been doling out 5 star ratings like it’s my job, but how can I give Assassin’s Quest anything less? It’s a classic. I promise I’ll start reading crappy books soon. Or at least ones that I don’t enjoy so much. Maybe.

Despite a slow start, Assassin’s Quest completes what Assassin’s Apprentice started, bringing FitzChivalry Farseer from a humble beginning to a world-changing catalyst. I can’t recommend The Farseer Trilogy hard enough.

5/5 Dragons


-scritch out