Blog Tour ARC Review – The Knave of Secrets

Hello, everyone! This evening I have another review as part of TheWriteReads blog tour for The Knave of Secrets by Alex Livingston. That’s right! Two blog tours in two days. I’m not gonna lie… I’ve been scrambling to get both of these done on time, but it has been a lot of fun, as well. Thank you to Rebellion Publishing and TheWriteReads for allowing me to participate! Now on to the book!

Book Info & Links

Author: Alex Livingston

Print Length: 400 pages

Publication Date: June 7, 2022

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Blurb

A twisty tale of magicians, con artists and card games, where secrets are traded and gambled like coin, for fans of The Lies of Locke Lamora and The Mask of Mirrors.

Never stake more than you can afford to lose.

When failed magician turned cardsharp Valen Quinol is given the chance to play in the Forbearance Game—the invitation-only tournament where players gamble with secrets—he can’t resist. Or refuse, for that matter, according to the petty gangster sponsoring his seat at the table. Valen beats the man he was sent to play, and wins the most valuable secret ever staked in the history of the tournament.

Now Valen and his motley crew are being hunted by thieves, gangsters, spies and wizards, all with their own reasons for wanting what’s in that envelope. It’s a game of nations where Valen doesn’t know all the rules or who all the players are, and can’t see all the moves. But he does know if the secret falls into the wrong hands, it could plunge the whole world into war…

My Review

***Thank you to TheWriteReads and Rebellion Publishing for providing a copy of the book. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***

This was a fun read. There was tons of political intrigue, interesting magic, and intricate world-building. The writing was good, and the narrative style did a great job of setting up the tone of the world. The plot was a bit slow at times, especially in the second quarter of the book, but the excitement of the games and mysteries kept me engaged for most of it.

The world and magic system were probably my favorite things about this book. The political situation was tense, and the history of each nation was fascinating to learn about. The Seminaire brotherhood of magicians was an interesting concept, and I wish even more time had been spent on learning about their order and the magic, and secrets, they held. There was also a wealth of information about the different games of chance played by the people in this world, which I’m sure some people will appreciate. Personally, I wish more time had been spent on the magic and less on the different games. Furthermore, I enjoyed the political intrigue but found it to be quite confusing for the first half of the book because I kept losing track of whose side certain characters were on. Once some of the secrets came out, it all made more sense, but the author’s attempts at showing the different political ties in the first half without any type of primer on the world’s history/alliances really fell flat. All in all, though, the world was fascinating, and I think it has a lot of untapped potential for future stories (if the author decides to make this more than a standalone).

I liked many of the characters, but they all felt a bit two-dimensional. Valen was probably the most well-rounded, and I liked his personality. I enjoyed seeing him become an unlikely hero, and his struggle with guilt about the consequences of his gambling and cheating was probably the most compelling character arc. I also really liked getting a middle-aged protagonist, and the relationship he had with his wife was something I loved reading. They were just so supportive of each other and worked great together while attempting to build their dreams into reality. Many of the other POVs really could have been eliminated. The stories of the two ambassadors felt like filler and a way to impart knowledge about the current political situation. However, as I noted above, they only served to make me more confused, and Ria’s perspective and motivations honestly felt a bit inconsistent. In general, the characters were fun to read, though, and many of them had plenty of great moments. They just all felt a bit wooden.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read filled with interesting magic, espionage, and lots of secrets. The ideas were good even if the execution of all aspects of the story weren’t as great as I’d hoped. Therefore, I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars.

About the Author

Alex Livingston grew up in various quiet New England towns before moving to Buffalo, NY to study English at Canisius College. He writes SFF prose and interactive fiction. Alex is married and lives in an old house with his brilliant wife and a pile of aged videogame systems.

Blog Tour: ARC Review – Reality Testing

Hello, everyone! Today is my stop on the blog tour for Reality Testing by Grant Price, an interesting cyberpunk science fiction novel that asks a lot of important philosophical questions. Thank you to Blackthorn Book Tours for allowing me to participate in this tour!

Author: Grant Price

Publication Date: January 6, 2021

Length: 289 pages

Purchase linkhttps://www.amazon.com/Reality-Testing-Sundown-Book-1-ebook/dp/B08SNP5F34

Read Date(s): May 17, 2021 – May 19, 2021

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Synopsis

Welcome to Berlin. Population: desperate. In the throes of the climate crisis the green tech pioneers are king, and if you aren’t willing to be their serf then you’re surplus to requirements.

Carbon credit for sleeping on the job. That’s the offer a dreamtech puts to Mara Kinzig, and she jumps on it. After all, the city ain’t getting any cheaper.

Then somebody changes the deal while she’s dreaming in the tank.

Now Mara has a body on her hands, an extra voice in her head, and the law on her tail. Only the Vanguard, a Foreign Legion of outcasts seeking an alternative path in the dust between the city states, might be able to help her figure out what went wrong. First, though, she’ll have to escape the seething streets of Berlin alive.

My Review

This was a really good book. The pacing was great. There was always something happening or a new bit of interesting information being dropped to keep the reader engaged. The world was captivating and believable as a potential future for the human race on Earth, which was terrifying because it seemed to be the last horrific gasp of humanity before extinction. The author did an excellent job of unveiling details about the world and characters as the story progressed rather than dumping a lot of information at once. However, this approach did make the reading experience somewhat jarring at first with all of the unexplained concepts and terminology. I still really liked it, though, because it became like a puzzle throughout the book to figure out what all the jargon meant. I was especially proud of myself once I learned how to interpret the number system used in the book since I had no idea what it meant at first.

The main characters were fascinating and well-developed. Mara was a mystery with a riveting backstory, and the chapters from her POV were my favorite. The struggle she faced in figuring out her identity after the events she faced was incredibly compelling and kept me hooked until the very end. I also enjoyed the other characters, especially Daniel. It was interesting to see him go from someone always running from the things he did in the past to an individual who overcame his self-blame, took responsibility, and fought back. The freakish way technology was integrated into most of the characters’ lives, and bodies, made each character unique, and seeing the different ways they each related to the tech, especially Mantis and the other underground individuals, was intriguing.

The world and characters were fantastic, but my favorite thing about this book was its ability to make me think about some pretty powerful issues that are facing mankind. It is one of the things I love about this entire genre, and this book pulls it off well. The story posed so many thought-provoking questions wrapped in the guise of the engrossing narrative. What are the potential impacts of a widespread environmental crisis? What is the endpoint of a society/economy that treats people as commodities with value based only what they can produce? How will the continued enmeshment of technology in every aspect of life impact humanity? And most fascinating, what is consciousness, and how does it relate to what it means to be human? This book attempts to tackle them all while also exploring the line between what we can do and what we should do in relation to scientific advancement.

Overall, this book was a thought-provoking, fun ride into a fascinating, yet horrifying, vision of humanity’s future. The characters, technology, and imaginative, well-paced world-building were excellent vehicles for considering important questions about the direction of society. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys science fiction about dystopian futures.

About the Author

Grant Price (b. 1987) is a British-German author currently living in Berlin, Germany. His first novel, Static Age, appeared in 2016. His second novel, By the Feet of Men, was published by Cosmic Egg Books in 2019. His third novel, Reality Testing, was released by Down By Law Books in 2021. His work has appeared in The Daily Telegraph and a number of magazines and journals, and he has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He has taught writing at the University of Gießen in Germany.

BBNYA Ultimate Blog Tour: Book Review – The Lore of Prometheus

Hello! Welcome to my stop on the BBNYA Ultimate Blog Tour for the 2020 BBNYA winner, The Lore of Prometheus by Graham Austin-King. I am excited to share my review of this fantastic book with you all.

Author: Graham Austin-King

Publication Date: 11/30/2018

Length: 287 pages

Read Date(s): 04/07/2021 – 04/09/2021

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Synopsis

John Carver has three rules: Don’t drink in the daytime, don’t gamble when the luck has gone, and don’t talk to the dead people who come to visit.

It has been almost five years since the incident in Kabul. Since the magic stirred within him and the stories began. Fleeing the army, running from the whispers, the guilt, and the fear he was losing his mind, Carver fell into addiction, dragging himself through life one day at a time.

Desperation has pulled him back to Afghanistan, back to the heat, the dust, and the truth he worked so hard to avoid. But there are others, obsessed with power and forbidden magics, who will stop at nothing to learn the truth of his gifts. Abducted and chained, Carver must break more than his own rules if he is to harness this power and survive.

My Review

What I Liked

I can see why this book was the BBNYA winner. It is full of mystery, thrilling action, exciting super powers, and intense psychological themes. The writing was great, with good dialogue that felt natural and pacing that kept me interested throughout the story. I actually lost sleep because of this book because I did not want to put it down to go to bed. The plot was intense, and, throughout the book, I found myself wondering what the author would subject the characters to next.

I liked both of the main characters. Mackenzie’s story was interesting, and I was fascinated by the exploration of how the events of the book affected her psyche. She was portrayed as a strong, capable character rather than a damsel in distress, which I appreciated. However, Carver was my favorite character in the novel, and I greatly enjoyed getting to know him. He was a serious badass but also an absolute mess from being haunted by his past, which was a compelling combination to read.

My favorite thing about this novel was the description of someone living with PTSD. The author did a fantastic job of painting a picture of what goes on inside the head of someone with this disorder. The way he incorporated the flashbacks, hypervigilance, and hallucinations was superb, and Carver’s journey throughout the book dealing with his survivor guilt was very well-written.

I also enjoyed the themes presented in this book. The characters undergo long periods of intense torture, which was difficult to read at times, but allowed for the exploration of many interesting topics. Without going into too much detail because I don’t want to spoil the book, there are critiques of the darker side of human nature paired with examples of how people can overcome extreme adversity and re-purpose trauma into a strength. I immensely enjoyed the analysis of the human condition found throughout the story, which is evident in my favorite quote from the book:

We are each of us insane. Maybe there is no true sanity. All any of us have is the control we cling to, and any one of us can be swept away.

The Lore of Prometheus, loc 5097

The humor in the book is dark, but it works to add some levity to the otherwise morbid situations in which the characters find themselves. Carver’s hallucinations were one of my favorite things about the book because they introduced a great deal of the dark comedy. I also really enjoyed the author’s descriptions of places and environments. I instantly felt transported to each locale by the excellent writing.

What I Didn’t Like

I liked almost everything about this book. However, I had some real problems with the ending. The rest of the book was paced so well, but the ending seemed really abrupt and left quite a few things unanswered. The romance element came out of nowhere and was completely unnecessary to finishing the story. I also felt as if we left behind most of the characters from the first half of the book and never got any resolution to their part of the story. Furthermore, I still don’t understand how the villain did what he did at the end and think at least some explanation of how he reached his goal was necessary. Speaking of the villain, he was the other thing I did not like about the book. There was no information about his motivations, and, while being cruel and creepy, he just came off as one-note with no depth.

Final Thoughts

Overall, The Lore of Prometheus is a thrilling read that I recommend to fans of urban fantasy and/or thrillers. The book’s depictions of PTSD and the execution with which it explores themes related to human nature are some of its biggest strengths. However, the abrupt ending and lack of depth for the villain held the book back from being the best it could be. Therefore, I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars.

About the Author

Graham Austin-King was born in the south of England and weaned on broken swords and half-forgotten spells.

A shortage of these forced him to consume fantasy novels at an ever-increasing rate, turning to computers and tabletop gaming between meals.

He experimented with writing at the beginning of an education that meandered through journalism, international relations, and law. To this day he is committed to never allowing those first efforts to reach public eyes.

After spending a decade in Canada learning what ‘cold’ really means, and being horrified by poutine, he settled once again in the UK with a seemingly endless horde of children.

To date he is the author of five novels, drawing on a foundation of literary influences ranging from David Eddings to Clive Barker.

Website: https://grahamaustin-king.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/GrayAustin

Blog Tour & BBNYA Info

I received this book to read and review as part of the BBNYA tours organized by the @The_WriteReads tours team. All opinions are my own, unbiased and honest. 

BBNYA is a yearly competition where book bloggers from all over the world read and score books written by indie authors. 

If you are an author and wish to learn more about the 2021 BBNYA competition, you can visit the official website (https://www.bbnya.com/) or the Twitter account, @BBNYA_Official. If you would like to sign-up and enter your book, you can find the BBNYA 2021 AUTHOR SIGN UP FORM HERE. Please make sure to carefully read our terms and conditions before entering. 

If you are a book blogger or reviewer, you can apply to be part of BBNYA 2021 by filling out this form (also remember to read the terms and conditions before signing up)! 

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