Kushiel’s Scion Part VI

Elderly Waffles has no idea whats going on.

Elderly Waffles has no idea whats going on.

The Terre D’Ange Cycle by Jacqueline Carey (of which Kushiel’s Scion is Book 1 of the second  trilogy) is one of my all time favorite series. The read along continues! Everyone is welcome to join in. Here is the SCHEDULE for the read along.

This week, I am your host. We’re covering the Chapters 45-52, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1) Imriel spends a night on the island of Asclepius. Do you agree with Imriel that his nature is to be cruel? Do you think of Imriel as a stunted tree reaching for the light?

I think he’s looking at one aspect of his life and seeing it accentuated above his other traits. He has the capacity to be cruel, yes, but he is usually striving to balance it out. So, no, I don’t see him as a stunted tree reaching for the light – I see him as a tree basking in the little light he has been given and making it count.

2) Imriel makes a good go of breaking things off with Claudia. However, throughout this section we have seen how the spark between them is not yet doused. What do you think of Imriel’s lingering desires? Is Claudia telling the truth about her own desires?

I doubt the spark between them only resides in Imriel. So, yes, I do believe Claudia has a desire for Imriel. After all, D’Angelines are known for their prowess and attention to detail in bed. My guess is that she may have had one or two other excellent lovers in her life, and even then, Imriel is probably the best of them all. As for Imriel… well, she’s the only woman he has bedded in Tiberium, so she is familiar. And she’s always up for it. He doesn’t have to romance her. Quite frankly, it’s easy to attain sex. Now, I do believe that their coupling in Luca after Gilot’s death was for comfort.

With that said, I think Claudia is well aware that if she can entice Imriel back to the Guild, or even somehow trap him into being beholden to the Guild, it would be a feather in her cap and would help her rise in the Guild ranks.

3) Imriel reveals his full identity to Lucius and he learns of the legend of the Bella Donna, based on his own mother. Clever, intentional legend building by Melisande, or a fanciful story that built up over time or was borrowed from another legend?

I think this was Melisande that started it. She probably borrowed the basis from some legend and built some of her specifics (like her looks) into it. I bet this made it easier for her to escape. If folks believe that her child was stolen, they would be more likely to assist her. Also, building that legend and now having young ladies pray to the Bella Donna might be useful for something even today. It’s definitely awkward for Imriel.

This reminded me on the La Llorona legend here in the Southwest US. A woman in white who lost her children wanders the river’s edge weeping. Some legends say she drowned them and her ghost is doomed to haunt the river for eternity. Some say she lost her children to a flood.

4) All is not well at the city of Luca. Helena has been kidnapped. The ghosts of the dead walk among the living. Lucius is possessed by his warlord ancestor Gallus Thaddeus. What do you think of this harsh man/ghost?

Gallus definitely harkens back to an older time, doesn’t he?  He’s a harsh, harsh man but he might just be what Luca needs right now to get through this. On one hand, he’s got everyone on food rations right away, he puts every able bodied person to work (nobles on night patrol, women with bows) no matter their station or what is considered proper.

But then there’s the other side – like when he was ready to forcibly marry Helena to first deny her ‘husband’ his legal rights to the city and then simply to cuckold the man. Ugh! So glad that so many were willing to go against him on that one, even if they had to be sneaky and hide behind rules to do it.

5) When Imri and crew return to the Thaddeus Villa with the injured Gilot, Imriel ponders the wonder of women. ‘The courage of women is different than the courage of men.’ Do you agree?

No. It’s situational. Brigitta and Eamonn both come from ‘warrior’ cultures where women are expected to be competent with at least one weapon if not three. So I think Brigitta’s courage is much like Eamonn’s (though he’s been in at least one battle before so he has a little more experience).

However, in most if not all of Caerdicca Unitas, the roles of women are very different than the roles of men. They aren’t expected to handle weapons, to go to battle. They are expected to be at home, tending to the household, perhaps helping a little with a home business, have babies, and be beautiful and charming at dinner parties. So, for most Caerdicca Unitas women, yes, their courage is different from that of their male counterparts.

6) With the city under siege, an older mystery pops up with the arrival of Canis. Why do you think Imriel held his tongue and only told Eamonn?

I know Imriel is more comfortable being straight with people, but I think he is learning that you don’t have to lie to conceal a truth – you just have to shut up sometimes and not blurt things out. So, I think he finally learned that (thanks to Claudia and her handiwork at the theater) and he wants to know more about Canis in general and specifically why he so obviously followed him to Luca and then dared the army to break into a town under siege.

Other Tidbts:

I’m glad Eamonn and Brigitta appear to be a couple for now. Like two sleeping hunting cats, I think that’s how Imri described them as they slept on a sofa.

Claudia’s insulting Phedre was childish and peevish. I think she totally underestimates Phedre and what she would do if her son Imri went missing or turned up dead, or even badly maimed.

Caerdicci Unitas as a whole doesn’t seem very homosexual friendly and I am glad that Carey built this aspect into the storyline. Ignoring it would be unrealistic. Instead, by building it in and showing both the cultural aspect and how that affects individuals, it really humanizes the situation.

Even though I knew it was coming, I still sniffled over Gilot’s death. It was so hard on Imri and he has to survive this siege and tell Gilot’s girlfriend and kid, and then tell it to Montreve’s household and Phedre and Joscelin. It was very nice that Imriel had him model for the painter before they headed off to Luca.

And here is the current list of participators:
Allie at Tethyan Books
Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow
Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog
Emily at Emma Wolf
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

We also have a Goodreads Group started for SF/F Read Alongs in general, and there is a specific folder for this read along. You are welcome to follow the fun there as well. If you want to be on the weekly email, just leave me a comment or shoot me an email with KUSHIEL’S SCION in the subject (nrlymrtl@gmail.com).

Chapelwood by Cherie Priest

PriestChapelwoodWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrators: James Patrick Cronin, Julie McKay

Publisher: Tantor Audio (2015)

Length: 13 hours 32 minutes

Series: Book 2 The Borden Dispatches

Author’s Page

Note: While this is Book 2 in the series, it reads just fine as a stand alone.

Set roughly 30 years after the events that take place in Book 1 (Maplecroft), Lisbeth Borden is finding retirement lonely and boring. She orders books and papers, adopts feral cats, and keeps up an on going letter to her now dead sister Emma. Then the odd and gruesome events of Birmingham, Alabama catch her eye. Then an Inspector Wolf contacts her and asks her to join him on his investigation into the hatchet murders as he suspects that there is more to it, and also that Lisbeth has had some previous dealings with this particular evil.

While I enjoyed Book 1 more than this book, it was still worthy. Book 1 had all the mystique of the Lizzie Borden historical case tied to it even before I cracked open the cover. This book didn’t come with that mystique, so the story in and of itself had to build the anticipation and it did a great job of it! It’s early 1920s and Prohibition is still firmly in place. In Alabama, we have the True Americans group, which is trying to look a bit more respectable than the Ku Klux Clan and yet still trying to push politics and civil rights in the same direction. Unwed daughters, despite their age, don’t have the legal right to go against their father’s wishes on where to live or work. Essentially, it’s a hotbed of angry, dissatisfied people. Perfect for the summoning of Cthulu monsters.

Inspector Simon Wolf played a very small part in Book 1 but he is front and center here in Book 2. A dear friend of his, a Catholic priest, asks for his aid and he arrives too late to do much for his friend. But he does his best to assist the young lady (Ruth Stevenson) who befriended the priest. He often portrays himself as attached to a police office, but he’s not. No, his office investigates the unusual. Here in Alabama he’s still referred to as the Yank and he has to learn the niceties of Southern hospitality to get along with folks. Wolf is an interesting character being a gentleman, a man who enjoys a good meal, and the owner of a peculiar sense of humor.

Ruth is in her early 20s and is determined to get away from her parents. On the surface, her father is the typical abusive domineering patriarch of the family while Ruth’s mom is this submissive servant of her husband’s orders. She’s tried running away multiple times, but she’s always dragged home. Legally, she can’t go against this because she isn’t married. Her Catholic priest friend helps solve that by finding her a kind (if older) husband. However, Catholics are not accepted by the mainstream Protestant Alabama society. Her father doesn’t approve of Ruth’s elopement to a Catholic Puerto Rican. But what’s more, he joined the Chapelwood church and Ruth was suppose to join too. She’s key to the church’s sinister endeavors. She’s no fainting lily. Betimes she’s scared but she acknowledges that and then pushes on. She also has a strong sense of her personal rights and that makes it ever so much harder for those who want to continue on with their human sacrifices.

As you can see, we have an awesome setting. It’s a slow burn as all the people and aspects get into place. There’s plenty here to intrigue you so I was never bored with the book. Once we have everything in place, the pace picks up. Some of the characters already knew of the human-like monsters, while others have to be brought around to the idea. We even get to spend some time in the head of a former Chapelwood church member who feels the only way to hold off the tide of evil is to take out the designated Chapelwood sacrifices before Chapelwood can sacrifice them appropriately. Yeah. Totally chilling logic. It’s done very well and, as odd as it sounds, I saw why this character did what they did.

This story is a great mix of historical fiction and slow-burn horror. The historical basis made the story that much richer. You can tell the author put quite a bit of research into what was going on in early 1920s Alabama and into understanding how those events and politics and social norms came to be. The horror aspect is not all gore and violence. It’s about things so beyond our understanding that it can push the limits of one’s sanity. It’s not done in some big dramatic way. This isn’t a slasher flick. There’s sound logic and deep thoughts that go into why our characters do what they do, for ultimate good or evil. These characters are complicated and that makes me love or hate them all the more.

Plus the imagery of a 60 year old spinster taking up an axe to save the world is just too awesome!


The Narration: Both our narrators did a great job with regional accents. It required quite a bit of subtlety at times and it made the listening experience worthy. James Patrick Cronin even varied the speeds of his dialogue based on the regional dialect he was employing. Julie McKay’s performance of Ruth was excellent with that Southern sass going on.  

What I Liked: 60 year old Lisbeth is awesome; great historical base for the story; the big scope of these Cthulu-like monsters and their human worshipers; it’s a delicious slow burn filled with anticipation; all the characters are interesting because they are complicated; the ending was satisfying and worthy. 

What I Disliked: Nothing. This was truly an excellent book.

What Others Think:

Smart Bitches Trashy Books

Kim Heniadis

Pop Culture Uncovered


Kushiel’s Scion Part V

Elderly Waffles has no idea whats going on.

Elderly Waffles has no idea whats going on.

The Terre D’Ange Cycle by Jacqueline Carey (of which Kushiel’s Scion is Book 1 of the second  trilogy) is one of my all time favorite series. The read along continues! Everyone is welcome to join in. Here is the SCHEDULE for the read along.

This week, Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog is our host. We’re covering the Chapters 37-44, so be prepared for spoilers below! Sorry again for posting late. Pneumonia is still kicking my butt.

1. Firstly, what do you make of The Guild and why do you think Anafiel declined to join them?  Do you think Imriel should join them?

I think it would be awesome to be one of the controlling heads of the Guild to have access to all that info and power. Or, at least, to be a powerful someone who can trade with the Guild for info and influence.

I think Anafiel rarely did anything rashly, so if he said no to the Guild, then he had good reason. In fact, he may have been approached more than once by them to either join their ranks or ally with them on some matter. I am guessing he repeatedly turned them down. Obviously, you never get to see the whole goat before you buy in this case – you join the Guild at your own peril, knowing that there is probably more than they initially present.

I don’t think Imriel should join them. It’s good that he knows they are there and perhaps in the future he can use that knowledge in some bargaining. However, I don’t think he’s particularly suited to be a spy (he really does like straight forward people and he is pretty much a straight forward guy as well) so it would mostly be about trading favors if he joined the guild – they would give his some info and he would back a certain trade deal, or some such.

2. We have the philosophical debates – how do you think these are going to play a part in the story overall, if at all?

In general, I think they are reinforcing to Imriel that he is indeed a moral person and also they are helping him fine tune his moral compass. I can’t recall if they play any larger role than that. Imri has already lived through events that would make many adults question morality. Now that he is an adult, perhaps he is ready to look more closely at those events with this in mind, based on the philosophical debates he and his friends have been a part of.

3. Claudia – what do you make of her.  Do you trust her?

Obviously, I don’t trust Claudia. She has a few loyalties that reside higher on the list than Imriel – her family, husband, and the Guild (tho I don’t know which comes first). So, there’s always the possibility that one or more of her loyalties will require her to do something that could harm Imriel in some way – perhaps just a little broken heart, perhaps a sullied reputation, perhaps a slit throat.

4. We have lots of possible attempts on Imri’s life, even going so far as to start a student riot – and his own attempts to bring these to a stop.  What do you make to all of it?

With the Guild in play, it can all be rather muddy. Looks like we have Trevalion making a mess of things. I am glad to see that Imriel went with a solution that requires a little more subtlety than his initial blunt force trauma inclination. I think it was brave and very calculated to go to the home turf of the hired assassin and basically buy out the hit on his life. Imri’s got big brass balls, that’s for sure.

I don’t think the student riot was started to cover up an attempt on Imri’s life but I do think more than one person was out there looking for an opportunity to take him down.

5. Two particular characters that I find intriguing are Canis and Piero.  What were your first impressions and how do they differ now?

My opinion of Master Piero hasn’t changed much. He’s a philosopher and a teacher. I like that he points out that for raw teaching an institution isn’t needed and then he lets his students argue the pros and cons of having educational institutions. He was chasing pigeons when we first met him and now he’s trying to coral students and get them to behave like civilized people. I wish him luck.

Canis is the one that has me most intrigued. When I first read this book, I at first dismissed him and his ramblings. But then when Imri kept wearing the pendant and then later Imri thinks he sees Canis on some corner, I started to ponder. Now Imri thinks someone else had his back in the student riot and Canis goes missing for a few days to returned clean and bruised. Hmmm…. the plot thickens!

Other Tidbts:

If someone held a knife to my throat as part of love play (without my permission) I would have a hard time jumping into bed with them again… and yet Imri does just this. Perhaps he feels he has something to prove.

I thought Eamonn’s example of why the winners of a battle or a war are also affected negatively by the whole event. And I also agree with Lucius that you can’t really separate the noble reason for an invasion from the means. It’s interesting to see Brigitta deal with all these arguments.

And here is the current list of participators:
Allie at Tethyan Books
Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow
Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog
Emily at Emma Wolf
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

We also have a Goodreads Group started for SF/F Read Alongs in general, and there is a specific folder for this read along. You are welcome to follow the fun there as well. If you want to be on the weekly email, just leave me a comment or shoot me an email with KUSHIEL’S SCION in the subject (nrlymrtl@gmail.com).

Rosemary and Rue Part IV

rosemary_and_rue_read_along McGuireWelcome everyone to the read along of Seanan McGuire’s Rosemary and Rue, Book 1 in the October Daye series. Anyone is welcome to join us! Check out the info at the end of the post.

This week’s host is Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow. We’re covering chapters 21-END below, so beware of spoilers if you have not read that far. I’m doing the audiobook version (which is awesome) but I apologize now for any misspellings of names and such.

1. On the way to finding Evening’s killer at last, we get to meet the Luidaeg in person. What are your impressions of her, and what do you think of the sneaky ‘deal’ Toby managed to make with her?

Wow! First, I like her cranky, blunt ways. She’s powerful, so don’t let the clutter fool you. Obviously, she’s dangerous but I think she appreciates those who can manage to entertain or trick her (like Toby’s sneaky deal). I bet she has some incredible stories to tell but I also think she’s a little bitter, being the last ancient standing with no real family or friends to commiserate with.

Toby was very daring to do her sneaky deal. I respect her for it but I also worry that it speaks to having a short life span – eventually her daring could get her killed.

The ‘sneaky’ deal seems to cut both ways – both Toby and the Luidaeg each have a question in reserve to ask at some later date. Toby may or may not regret that later, along with all the other futuer favors she’s been passing out in order to save today.

2. Next stop is the Court of Cats, where we see Tybalt in his role as a king, followed by another visit to Lily to finally learn the truth. We get some more evidence of the regard they both have for Toby; in light of previous discussions about Toby’s friendships, what do you make of this new evidence?

One of the things I like about this series, is that Toby isn’t just coming into her powers, she’s not a teen just entering adulthood. She’s been there, done that, and done something incredible to get knighted – and we don’t know (yet) what those things are. So, no, given the little hints we’ve already had about how much Toby’s friends care for her and what she’s done in the past, I am not surprised that both Tybalt and Lily hold her in high regard.

3. Now for the final reveal! Devin ‘fesses up, and Dare is killed defending Toby… Was any of this finale what you’d expected? What do you make of Devin’s reasons for killing Evening?

OK, so while I was hoping Devin would turn out to be a bad guy so that we could at least get him out of Toby’s bed, I expected him to be someone’s minion and not the mastermind. Still, it was satisfying to see Toby figure it out and then decide to do the hard thing and take him out. No Court of Fairie for him!

I think we’ve all seen those movies where someone is really fearful of growing old and dying so they will do anything to prolong their life – even stories like the Fountain of Youth. So, when I think of how long Changelings last and how much longer they have to think about their demise, well, I can see how a self-centered prick like Devin would want desperately to get his hands on the Hope Chest and have some control over his ultimate destiny.

4. The hope chest is given over to the Queen at the end of the story. In light of what we’ve seen of her and the potential power that the hope chest has (regardless of what it does), do you think this was the right thing for Toby to do?

Well, I don’t think she had much choice. Too many knew she had it and the Queen could order or strong arm just about anyone into giving it to her. While I don’t like the idea of her having the Hope Chest because she doesn’t come off as the most stable person, I am sure she has many, many other powerful items in her keeping. This might simply be one more drop to the lake of power she already has.

Other Tidbits:

Mmmm…. Blood Tea!  Not so yummy as one might think.

I really felt for Julie, tho I didn’t like her blaming Toby. It’s like all those years of friendship went right out the window. But I have to consider her nature, that of both fae and cat. When I consider that, I can’t see Julie reacting any other way.


Info on the Read Along

You can catch the weekly questions and links to folks’ weekly posts over at our GoodReads group SF/F Read Alongs. We’re gearing up for a read along of Book 2! Have a look around and you’ll see we have other upcoming SFF read alongs planned. As always, you’re welcome to be lurker, a commenter, or do your post.

Giveaway & Interview: J. J. Sherwood, Author of The Kings Series

J.J. Sherwood  AuthorFolks, please give a very warm welcome to J. J. Sherwood, author of Kings or Pawns, Book 1 in the epic fantasy series The Kings. She’s kindly given us a very fun interview. Also, don’t miss the iRead Book Tours link to more interviews, guest posts, reviews, and giveaways! Don’t forget to check out the giveaway, linked at the end of this post!

Would you rather have a dragon, or be a dragon?

Definitely human—then I’d still get the benefit of flying and fire and all that wonderful dragoness without the downsides—you know, dragon slayers and lack of fingers and being an awkward size.

Unless I could be a dragon who could turn into a human. That’d definitely be the winner.

It’s time for you to host the book club. Who do you invite (living, dead, fictional, real)? And what 3 books will you be discussing?

Alexander the Great—I mean, I’ve had a crush on him since I was a kid and he could be there so I could oogle him with a proper excuse. Next, John Quincy Adams—he swam nude in the Potomac River every day so that pretty much clinches him as fascinating. And St. Francis of Assisi—he was the first Italian poet, stripped naked in the middle of the town square when his father demanded he return the money he stole for a poor church. He was a definite eccentric, and also as a bonus, was supposedly dashing…

Ok, so we would read no great intellectual masterpiece like Shakespeare or A Tale of Two Cities: I think we’d just discuss the Bartimaeus trilogy by Jonathan Stroud. It’s my favorite series and you can’t just read ONE. That’d be a crime.

If you had to choose someone to rescue you from the jaws of certain death would it be a superhero, supernatural creature, or a space alien?

Superhero and he would be Spiderman. And as he whisked me away into the sunset he’d make a dreadful pun.

Myths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy fiction affecting human cultures today and how?

Hm. This is a thinker and while I gave myself a whole thirty seconds to consider, I came up with nothing. I think “affecting human cultures” is a strong phrase when compared with unicorn hunts. But I wish that we all had an excuse to spend a Tuesday night hunting dragons. So while I don’t see it affecting people’s actions in the grandest sense, I do believe it promotes inspiration and imagination across the world.

SherwoodKingsOrPawnsReality in my fiction: how important is it? Lengthy travel, cussing, and bathroom breaks happen in real life. How do you address these mundane occurrences in your writings?

I think it’s extremely essential in fiction—especially in fantasy. We are often weighed down by the wonder of magic and fantastical creatures, so normalizing the world with a (brief) description of a lengthy travel coupled with a few choice “realistic” descriptions (not to mention a bathroom break or two), can go a long way to make the reader feel like they have both feet in the world. The key is to not make such mundane things boring.

What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

Worst job: working as a cashier at a craft store. It was like grating my forehead against a cheese grater. I frankly can barely tolerate any actual paid work outside of writing. Except cleaning up other people’s messes. You will PAY me to scrub your toilet bowl and vacuum up cat fur? SOLD.

And that totally isn’t sarcasm.

No really. I’m serious.

If you were sent on a magical quest which other 4 fantasy authors would you take with you?

Oh boy oh boy. Nancy Varian Berberick—beautifully poetic, Jonathan Stroud—clever and funny, Mark Lawrence—original and funny, and Margaret Weis—one of the primary reasons I write high fantasy today!

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you chose to do?

Well, I use to want to be a lawyer. Or go into politics. You know, something where I could argue all day long. Now that I’ve gotten married, I think a house wife would about do the trick, too.

In this age of publishing, self-promotion is really necessary for the author. What do you enjoy most about advertising yourself and your works? What do you find most challenging?

Generally I find interviews to be a challenge. I mean, the ones that ask me the standard twenty questions. Sometimes I feel like stabbing my eyes out with a pencil when I’m asked “where were you born?” for the 50th time. This one, however, has been a blast.

But the thing I love most of all is the cosplaying we do for the series at conventions. Not only do we have the opportunity to meet new people, but we get to stalk around in fantastical armor while we do it.

Don’t miss out on more interviews, guest posts, reviews, and giveaways on the blog tour

SherwoodKingsOrPawnsBook Description for Kings or Pawns:

J.J. Sherwood’s debut novel KINGS OR PAWNS: THE KINGS, BOOK 1 is the first in a high fantasy epic series sure to please fans of both the science fiction and fantasy genres.

The year is 8994 P.E., and the city of Elvorium is corrupted—rotted to the core by the machinations of depraved politicians. With his father dead and the country facing a rebellion, Price Hairem becomes the king of the elven world of Sevrigel in one of its most turbulent points in history.

Young and daring, Hairem is determined to eradicate the corruption festering in Elvorium’s self-serving and all-powerful council, which thwarts his best intentions at every turn. But Hairem’s problems are far more sinister¬—and deadly—than merely political. The loyal members of the council are being savagely murdered by an assassin loosed within the city—an assassin whose brutality knows no bounds. Outside of the city, the Lord Saebellus wages a vicious rebellion against the capital. He has been thwarted thus far by the brilliant General Jikun, and Hairem is certain that the general can crush Saebellus.

But instead of continuing the campaign against the warlord, the council orders Jikun’s army to be split, sending him on a mission that furthers only their own wealth and power. Jikun knows that the council’s demands will leave Elvorium vulnerable to an attack from the formidable warlord. Although Saebellus has been recently defeated, he is far from vanquished. As corruption and death threaten to tear the city apart from within, the rebel Saebellus seizes the opportunity to lay siege to Sevrigel’s eastern capital and unleash his most powerful weapon yet: a demonic beast that neither weapon nor magic can kill. With the elven world crumbling around him, Hairem is grasping for his own power to fight against the forces that threaten Sevrigel.

Will Hairem overcome the council’s scheming and duplicity? Can General Jikun defeat the warlord Saebellus? Will this be the war that finally brings Sevrigel to its knees? KINGS OR PAWNS offers action, intrigue, mystery, and suspense—a thrilling story that will leave readers hungry for the sequel, Heroes or Thieves, to be published in February 2016.

Buy the book:  Amazon   Barnes & Noble

J.J. Sherwood  AuthorAuthor’s Bio:

J.J. Sherwood lives in Ohio with her husband and four near-identical cats. KINGS OR PAWNS is J.J.’s widely anticipated debut novel, and is the first book of The Kings quartet. The series is set in the high fantasy world of Aersadore, home to hundreds of characters who all clamor for J.J.’s attention. To learn more about the trials and tribulations of General Jikun and King Hairem, visit StepsofPower.com. J.J. Sherwood will be at the tenth Fandom Fest Comic Con in Louisville, Kentucky this coming August 7th-9th.

​Connect with the author:  Website   Twitter   Facebook  Goodreads


Prizes: ​Win 1 of 20 copies of Kings or Pawns – print or ebook (mobi or ePub) (USA & Canada). Just click on the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway!

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Kings or Pawns by J. J. Sherwood

SherwoodKingsOrPawnsWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Matthew Lloyd Davies

Publisher: Silver Helm (2015)

Length: 14 hours 18 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Kings

Author’s Page

Set in a Tolkienesque fantasy world of elves, humans, and centaurs, some strive to do what is right while others seek to take what they can with might. Young King Hairem, whose father was recently slain and much of the Old Blood fled from the city of Elvorium, starts off ruling with a gentle hand, trying his abilities to subtly manipulate the long corrupted politics back into some semblance of decency. Meanwhile, the warlord Saebellus threatens to take over Elvorium, the Council pushes for war with the Centaurs, and an assassin creeps through the city taking out politicians. Hairem definitely has his hands full.

I listened to the audiobook so please excuse any misspellings of names and places.

This book starts off rather slow, setting the political stage and letting the reader get to know the world and characters. At first, the book jumped pretty quickly from one character to another and this made it hard for me to get attached to the characters. But then things settled down with King Hairem and General Jikun as the main characters. They are opposites in most ways. One is young and untried and still idealistic; the other is a more worldly person, a bit jaded, and definitely not pious. I very much enjoyed how these two have to build mutual respect and trust.

The cast is littered with mostly male characters, being human, elven, and helven. Navon is Jikun’s right hand man, but he has a nasty little habit that is scorned by all and punishable by death even though it can save a life or two in the heat of battle. Sellemar comes into the story late but his presence really livens things up. Quite frankly, the story was pretty slow moving until Sellemar offered his assistance and knowledge of certain secrets. He’s a rather cranky bad ass. I like that I am still not sure of his motivations; he’s complicated.

Sadly, there are very few female characters in this book and mostly, they are underutilized. Ilsafel is the daughter of a powerful Elvorium politician and the love interest. Alvena is a mute lass that works in the castle and has a secret crush. Kivervy is a huntress from Jikun’s home town who we spend very little time with and who has to be saved while on a hunt. There’s probably a mother or sister tossed in here or there. All the plot decisions are made by male characters. While this holds true to traditional epic fantasy, it is the 21st century and I have come to adore a more gender balanced approach in fantasy literature.

The first half of the book was pretty slow going. The big baddies of the book were almost like ghostly boogiemen – talked about, feared, but rarely seen on stage. Eventually, we get to meet a few centaurs, but it’s brief. The feared mighty warlord Saebellus doesn’t make a presence until the last quarter of the book. I think this slim and trim approach to the adversaries made it hard for me to fear them and hence to fear for the safety of the characters.

On the plus side, the last sixth of the book has the ladies taking on larger roles, they have more lines, and take a few more actions. Sellemar has his role and that adds action and deeper questions. By the end, it’s clear there is much more to the plot and there have been deep-laid plans. Not everyone makes it out alive! If the first half of the book had been even half as good as the second half of the book, I would give this story a full five stars.

I received a copy of this audiobook at no cost via the book tour company iRead Books in exchange for an honest review.

Narration: Matthew Lloyd Davies did a good job. He had a variety of accents that helped keep the myriad of characters distinct.  I really liked the young teen girl voice he picked for the internal monologues of the mute Alvena. He did great as Jikun, especially when Jikun was rightly angry at something.

What I Liked: Politics in my fantasy; centaurs!; Sellemar and his constant complaining; young King Hairem and his idealism; Jikun’s jaded view of the world; Navon’s troubling secret; not everyone makes it out alive!

What I Disliked: Very few female characters; the ladies are underutilized; the first half of the book is pretty darn slow.

What Others Think:

Check out the iReads Book Tour for more reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!

Kushiel’s Scion Part IV

Elderly Waffles has no idea whats going on.

Elderly Waffles has no idea whats going on.

The Terre D’Ange Cycle by Jacqueline Carey (of which Kushiel’s Scion is Book 1 of the second  trilogy) is one of my all time favorite series. The read along continues! Everyone is welcome to join in. Here is the SCHEDULE for the read along.

This week, Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow is our host. We’re covering the Chapters 28-36, so be prepared for spoilers below! Sorry for getting this up late – was in hospital for pneumonia for nearly a week.

1. The aftermath of Imriel’s night at Valerian House takes a bit of a dark emotional turn… What did you think of what happens between him and Phedre? Did it surprise you at all?

I think Carey did a little foreshadowing about this when Mavros and Roshana came for their summer visit to Montreve. Imri is Kushiel’s Scion (tho he doesn’t really grasp that yet) and Phedre is Kushiel’s Chosen. They aren’t blood related. She’s likes a good whipping and he has these dark desires to whip someone for sexual pleasure that he’s still wrestling with. I think sooner or later this had to be acknowledged between them and it couldn’t really be acknowledged until Imri had had an experience such as he did at Valerian House.

Of course, Phedre loves him first and foremost as a son and nothing is ever going to come of it. I do think it took some thinking for Imri to realize that, but once he did, things were well between him and Phedre again.

2. We go from this scene to Imriel’s decision to leave Terre D’Ange and visit Tiberium, and he doesn’t waste much time arranging the trip – though he does make time to say some goodbyes, and to confront Barquiel L’Envers. Any thoughts about this encounter – or his meeting with Sidonie?

Barquiel makes me laugh once again – ‘I like your hair’ (totally paraphrasing). Everything is a kind of chess game with Barquiel. I think he has more respect for Imri now that Imri thwarted (mostly) his attempt to smear his name with treason and also got his fired (albeit quietly). Imri didn’t give into to a young man’s fury to demand a duel either.

So no sex as a goodbye for him and Sidonie. So sad. But maybe for the best. While young men often have stamina, they lack finesse. Besides, if they had entangled their limbs, it would have had to be a quickie due to the guards starting to wonder what was up. Also, I doubt Imriel would have been so quick to jump into bed with Claudia in Tiberium if he had recently bedded Sidonie. As it was, it was a tangle of complicated emotions for both of them.

3. Next stop is Tiberium, and Imriel quickly catches up with Eamonn! What do you think of the University setting, and Eamonn’s taste for studying philosophy? Do you think it will help Imri in any way?

The University setting is wonderfully eccentric and full of conflicting notions on how to teaching and just what teaching is. I don’t have to like every aspect of it to like the setting.

Eamonn picked a most interesting teacher and I think it is a good choice. He teaches his students to think, not simply what to think. I like that the teacher doesn’t have all the answers and he knows it.

Already, I think the entire experience is helping Imri. He’s experiencing life without everyone knowing who he is and without having to search for double meanings in every conversation. I think the teacher’s lectures and group conversations are already showing Imri how to think in new directions.

4. An old mystery deepens as Imriel searches for information on Anafiel Delaunay – and appears to find more than he bargained for… What did you make of Claudia Fulvia?

Claudia definitely enjoyed the romp, no doubt about that. Imri was a bit of a fool to so easily let his guard down and I am sure he will beat himself up about that more later.

I honestly don’t recall how much Claudia knows about covertcy or about Delaunay. Obviously, she knew just how to disarm and relax Imriel, but I don’t think that would take too much talent in these circumstances. Of course, now we have to always ask ourselves how much is she lying or withholding from Imriel.

Other Tidbts:

Imriel’s name means the Eloquence of God, according to Phedre, which I think is quite beautiful.

I liked that Joscelin was solid and understanding about Imriel’s need to go off to college. I was a bit surprised that Ysandre didn’t send a few men at arms (even in disguise) to watch over him.

What I wouldn’t give for a good garum!

I was surprised that the inns and ale houses/wine shops serve little to no food and that walking the street is your best way to find dinner.

Brigitta seems very proud of her heritage (nothing wrong with that) but she’s a bit prickly when it comes to others being proud of their heritage and also of how events fell out a generation ago.

Cannis and his beggar’s wisdom.

And here is the current list of participators:
Allie at Tethyan Books
Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow
Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog
Emily at Emma Wolf
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

We also have a Goodreads Group started for SF/F Read Alongs in general, and there is a specific folder for this read along. You are welcome to follow the fun there as well. If you want to be on the weekly email, just leave me a comment or shoot me an email with KUSHIEL’S SCION in the subject (nrlymrtl@gmail.com).