Mini Review – The Fire of the Fallen

Hello, everyone! Today I have another mini review for you all! The Fire of the Fallen is a book I received from the author before its release back in November. I never got around to reading it before it got published. So, I bought a paperback copy because I felt bad about not getting around to it sooner, especially since I loved the first book in this series so much. As you can see, I finally read it, and I really enjoyed it. If you’d like to see what I thought about the first book of this series, you can find that review here!

The cruel blade of fate takes the bravest hearts first. New heroes will be forged in the fire of the fallen.
The second volume In J. C. Duncan’s breakout Norse saga series
Alternate history – 1117 AD. The first Crusade has torn its way through Denmark, bringing fire and the sword to all who refuse to submit to the soldiers of Christendom. The lords of the west stand astride the ruins of Jutland and turn their eyes eastward across the cold sea, to the homeland of the Aesir themselves.

Ordulf faces the consequences of capture by a Norse warband. Taken to their capital in slavery, he now serves the enemies of the cross, making the very weapons they carry against his people. He faces a terrible choice; to accept his fate, or be destroyed by it.

Reeling from the loss of three kings and a kingdom, the Norse gather in the home of their gods to choose a new ruler and prepare to meet the coming storm. The great host of the crusade will march again, and the people of the North will meet them with steel and shields and the death cries of their heroes.

If you enjoy reading about the Vikings, this is definitely a series you don’t want to miss. The author does a fantastic job of bringing their culture to life through multiple points of view. Ordulf’s story continued here with him enslaved by Jarl Ragnvald, which provided a unique window into life within the lowest rungs of the Viking society. His journey in this book was one of accepting his circumstances and his place within them without losing his own sense of self. It was compelling to watch his struggle finding the balance of belonging to his new group versus doing what was in his own self-interest. He made some choices that shocked me, and I couldn’t help feeling a bit heartbroken for him when things didn’t go the way he expected. Ragnvald’s POV allowed for the continued exploration of Viking politics and what it means to be an honorable Viking warrior. The Christian viewpoints in this book were just as interesting, though. The political maneuvering between the church, French, and Holy Roman Empire in this book was absolutely brilliant to read, and I loved the addition of Bishop Reinhard. He is probably my favorite character in this series now because of his ruthless political acumen and uncanny ability to read and manipulate others to get what he wants. The fights in the book were brutal, and the author made me squirm in my seat with his vivid descriptions of the violence. I also really enjoyed reading all the battle strategies from both sides of the fighting. It made me feel like I was in the planning room before the battle and, then later, in the midst of the fighting. Despite all the great things about the book, the thing I found most interesting was the incorporation of true historical figures and seeing how they might have reacted if history had taken a different turn. While reading, the book felt well-researched and authentic, and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what happens next. Therefore, it easily gets 4 out of 5 stars from me.

ARC Review – Of Darkness and Light

Hello, everyone! I am excited to bring you my review of Of Darkness and Light by Ryan Cahill. I was one of the lucky few who received a physical ARC of this book, which was super beautiful, and I have been eagerly awaiting my return to the world of Epheria ever since I finished book one back in mid-December. Now the only problem is I have to wait so long for book three!

Heroes will rise. Nations will fall.

Behind the towering walls of Belduar, Calen Bryer and his companions stand in defense of the city and its new king. In over a thousand years, Belduar has never fallen. It has stood as a bastion of hope. But the Lorian empire are at its walls once more, and the Dragonguard are coming.

In the North, with Faenir by her side, Calen’s sister Ella arrives at the port of Antiquar. She holds no fear of the unknown. She will see this through, no matter what – or who – gets in her way.

Meanwhile, at the embassy of the Circle of Magii in Al’Nasla, Rist Havel hones his newfound powers in preparation for the trials. Unbeknownst to Rist, he is being watched, measured, and judged. He was not taken into the Circle by chance. There is greatness in him. But great men can do terrible things.

As Lorian forces land on southern shores and Aeson Virandr’s letters of rebellion find their way to the right hands, only the Knights of Achyron see the true danger. The danger that stirs in the darkness. The coming shadow will not stop. It will consume all in its path. It wants for nothing but blood and fire.

***Thank you to the author for providing a copy of the book! My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***

This book was fantastic! I enjoyed the first book of this series. So, I expected to like this one too, but this one took things to an entirely different level of awesome. The writing, pacing, world-building, and characterization were all superb! I loved the way Cahill brought the battle scenes to life with vivid, gritty imagery that made me feel like I was in the middle of the action. I was a little worried at first about the chonky length of this book since I tend to lose focus with longer books pretty easily, but the worry was for nothing. The pacing of this book was intense and kept me absorbed by this story. I felt on edge from beginning to end, always wanting to know what would happen next.

The world-building in this book added so much awesome stuff to the pre-existing knowledge of Epheria and its history. The world of the dwarves was explored in greater detail and included some mysterious political intrigue to keep things engaging. The Knights of Achyron were utilized in a big way here, and I loved learning about them and getting a lot more Soul blade action than in the first book. Many of the characters traveled a lot during this book, which meant many new, interesting locales were explored, expanding the world considerably. I also really enjoyed getting to learn more about the Circle of Magii through the eyes of Rist. There was just so much new information included in this book it is impossible to do it justice in a review. Most importantly, all of it was introduced organically through the eyes of the characters, which kept things feeling exciting rather than seeming like a history/civics lesson.

My favorite thing about this book was the characters and the relationships forged in this story. There were so many characters and different POVs I honestly lost count of them all. This can often be confusing, but Cahill managed to pull it off spectacularly, and his masterful use of each of the POVs was a huge part of why the pacing of this book worked so well. My favorite characters from the first book, Calen and Rist, were still some of my favorites here, as well. Calen’s journey was a very difficult one, and he very quickly had to become a leader without knowing exactly how to do so. He struggled with it throughout the book, especially the guilt related to all the people who died in his name (and there was A LOT of death in this book…so, don’t get too attached to characters). He changed quite a bit from the dark things he experienced, but through it all he endured. His bond with Valerys grew substantially, and I really loved seeing the two of them grow together in navigating the difficult emotions they faced in response to everything that happened. Rist’s story was interesting despite being a smaller part of the book, and I’m now worried that he might end up on the wrong side of this war, which breaks my heart to think about. Although, he did fold the pages of his books instead of using bookmarks, which means he’s a monster in hiding anyway…right? Just kidding…though, not really.

I came to love so many other characters in this book too. I won’t be able to talk about all of them in this review, but I want to highlight a couple of the other storylines I really enjoyed. First, I absolutely adored Vaeril. I would die for that elf. Seriously. The growth of his friendship with Calen was absolute perfection to read. Second, the relationship between Farda and Ella surprised me because it added a level of depth to both characters that was somewhat lacking from the first book. It was an excellent example of the strength of the characterization in this novel and the skill of Cahill at writing the subtle dynamics of relationships.

Overall, this was a fantastic sequel. If you like epic fantasy, this is a series that is not to be missed. I’m excited to see where the series goes next, especially after all the cliffhangers this book ended on. The ending gave me chills (even if it was a bit predictable), and I can’t wait to see the ramifications of it. Therefore, I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars and would rate it even higher if I could.

Indie Spotlight – Arigale: Spite In the Spirit

Hello, everyone! Today I’m bringing you a spotlight of an indie book I’m looking forward to reading in the near future. The author is looking for reviewers and readers to get the word out about the book. So, if it sounds like something you’d be interested in reading, use one of the links below to purchase the book or contact the author to see if you can get a review copy.

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My 5 Favorite Indie/Self-Pub Reads of the Year (So Far)

Goodreads Synopsis:

A thousand years in the future, the last of humanity live inside the walls of the totalitarian Kingdom of Cutta. The rich live in Anais, the capital city of Cutta, sheltered from the famine and disease which ravage the rest of the Kingdom. Yet riches and power only go so far, and even Anaitians can be executed. It is only by the will of the King that Nate Anteros, son of the King’s favourite, is spared from the gallows after openly dissenting. But when he’s released from prison, Nate disappears.

A stark contrast, Catherine Taenia has spent her entire life comfortable and content. The daughter of the King’s Hangman and in love with Thom, Nate’s younger brother, her life has always been easy, ordered and comfortable. That is, where it doesn’t concern Nate. His actions sullied not only his future, but theirs. And unlike Thom, Catherine has never forgiven him.

Two years pass without a word, and then one night Nate returns. But things with Nate are never simple, and when one wrong move turns their lives upside down, the only thing left to do is run where the King’s guards cannot find them – the Outlands. Those wild, untamed lands which stretch around the great walls of the Kingdom, filled with mutants and rabids.

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