Review: The Pyres By Dylan Doose.

Hey Bookworms! So here we are my final review for the Sword & Sorcery box set. The Pyres. I read and reviewed the previous novel and novella and you can find those posts (Insert link here) and (Here). Now I started out thinking this would just be a good little freebie to read when I was drinking my tea or coffee in between chores and errands while my kids were at school. I had no real expectations one way or another as before having read the series I had never heard of Dylan Doose. I’ve had mixed emotions through reading these three books and this will conclude what I have to say until I get around to reading more of the series. With that said let me tell you what I thought of this one.

I mentioned when I reviewed Catacombs of Time the first two books left me with unresolved questions that didn’t get answered. Now I went into The Pyres praying for answers. The Pyres takes us once again back to that unlikely trio in the first book. A whole fourteen months after the final events in Fire & Sword. The time jumping between books really rattles me and throws me off a little. When things like this happen in novels I really find it difficult to follow everything that is going on. Thus it took me a while to get to grips with The Pyres.

Theron I have taken a bit of an issue with his character in this one, hes changed he’s colder and harder and not quite the same man as he was in Fire & Sword. Now giving the events in the first book I can see why some personality shift is essential. He went through a lot, he also lost a lot because he did what he felt what was right and noble. Which were prime motivators for his character at that point in the series. He suddenly no longer the same ethical and philosophical man he was in that first book. He’s cold, closed off and distant from his friends and companions and I feel this is quite a leap from how he had been. I think a bit more back story I think a lot more back story into what went on in those fourteen months could really help readers understand why he’s undergone such a massive shift in that time. There’s no sense of his thoughts or motivations as to why he’s distancing himself. Speaking purely as a reader I would have loved more insight into that.

Kendrick he’s also changed there are shifts in his character but I do feel he’s moving forwards from everything rather than back. He’s still striving to overcome the past and when he is recognised for that past in this book I could really sense in the descriptions of his emotions and reactions he’s waiting for some kind of retribution for those actions despite the good he’s done since then. He does seem to take a more laid back stance and following where Theron leads though it’s shown multiple times he’s more than capable of being a strong leader. I kept asking myself throughout this book when Theron was obviously so consumed by his own inner turmoil, why did Kendrick not take control of things. Steer the three of them back upon the bath they had been on?

Aldous is the one that I think has stayed the most steady in terms of how he was in the first books to this one. There are at points where he seems almost as cripled by the loss from the first book as Theron but he seems to bare it better. He doesn’t seem to let it cloud his decision making so much. There is a point in the book though where something in his character seems to snap and he lets the floodgates of his power open and it inevitably turns the tide. I didn’t think that would be the case in this book because it happened in the first book at pivotal moments and thus I felt it was sort of predictable. He does make some bad decisions which seem to land them in this situation in the first place. This is also consistent with his character I feel as compared to Theron and Kendrick he is decidedly less experience with life and fighting in general. I find it sad that out of the characters he seems the least dimensional in this book purely because other than raw power I don’t feel he’s grown as much as maybe the experience he’s had should have allowed him to.

Now one thing I did love that stayed consistent the female character, I say character as we only ever seem to get one main character thats female. Dalia in this book is a strong, fierce and capable woman. Much like Chayse in the first book she’s supported and never really underestimated by those around her. I like the fact that the female characters we do get an indepth look at so far haven’t been damsels in distress. What does annoy me if the fact that they never seem to stick around something always seems to happen to take these bad ass women away. I’d kill for Doose to give us a strong woman who sticks around. I’m holding out hope I still have a lot of the series to read. There’s a few surprises in store for Dalia’s character that I don’t want to give away but it totally rocked me.

Dammar, Leviatan and indeed the Patriarch. These seem to be our three main focus when it comes to the antagonists in this book. We never see Leviathan in this book at least not really but it is mentioned quite a lot toward the end. I want to know what Leviathan is capable and if they can stop him I think that alone may be enough to keep me going despite my issues with the book. Dammar is a god of creation and change mentioned throughout the book. At some point he’s referred to as a demon and he quite quickly becomes a far bigger problem than thought to be. Finally The Patriarch, such a hypocritical character tied to religion The Luminescent in the first book he leads the people in the city of Bravos. Now the The Luminescent are against sorcery, they fear it! This is why Aldous’ father was burned on a Pyre because he sympathised with those who could do Sorcery. I find The Patriarch to be hypocritical because we learn at the coming to the end of the book that he is in fact like Aldous a Wizard. Why would he support something that so obviously wishes to have so many of his brethren put to death for who they are? Once again the lack of motive, and backstory to the character irks me.

My final peeve, since The Catacombs of Time I have wondered where Gaige was going to come into everything. He was sent to find Aldous, Theorn and Kendrick. We see nothing of Gaige until towards the end of the book from a few passages in his POV. I had expected to have him feature far more heavily after we learned so little about him in the first book. While this addressed for me while I was introduced to Gaige in the novella. I would still love to know more about him as a character and the why of him having to find the three main characters. It’s all very thin on the detail and I’m not sure how I should feel about that.

We get introduced to another new female character in this book. Nephite a sorceress from Kendricks past. Yet another strong capable and deadly woman. I’m hoping we see more of her in the books to come, I’d love for one female character to be around for more than one novel. Otherwise this series is going to be very testosterone heavy. Which is something I can not really abide in a book.

I will be reading the other novels in the series when I get a moment to purchase them. I’ll let you all know when I plan on reviewing them I promise.

I’ll see you real soon bookworms.

Stephie X.

Review: Catacombs of Time by Dylan Doose

Hello bookworms, today’s post will be brief because The Catacombs of Time is but a novella and as such there is not much to analyse or report without giving you spoilers. Fire & Sword left me with a lot of questions that I had no answers for so I looked forward to maybe having a few of them answered by this one. I didn’t get those answers not really, I simply ended up with more questions. Now onto my thoughts and frustrations with this one.

Catacombs of Time started with a completely set of new characters and I was dismayed by this. I looked forward to more of Kendrick, of Theron and Aldous I had grown to love them for their various flaws as well as their positive personality traits. That being said my own need to know got the better of me so I read on and while like I say I ended up with more questions than answers I enjoyed the book.

Gaige, the main character for this Novella seems extremely flawed. There is no real description as to what he looks like. All I took away about Gaige from this book is that he is an educated man with a thirst to push the boundaries of science and medicine of his time. That he does not care about the negative opinion that his studies would bring. Finally I also know he is physically disabled by the way of a possibly malformed leg and maybe has some facial deformity due to the constant wear of a beaked mask. I believe there to be only one point in which he does not wear this mask and we get no idea of how he looks underneath.

Some seem more open to his ideas because it seems that he has uncovered ways to save those who have been cursed by sorcery to become beasts. This is how he finds himself in a possibly less desirable place attempting to save a young woman in this method. Sent here by the mysterious Lord Regent he has to save her and take her alive to where she needs to go. Gaige manages this but only just. He loses his assistant in the battle, he is harmed and then eaten by Ghouls.

We see him come to the conclusion of getting the girl to where she belongs and being faced with the Lord Regent who in turn answered maybe only one or two of my questions from the previous book. The others are gone and only he remains of our original heroes. Gaige is given a task to fulfill which he takes and this sees him leaving the actual Catacombs of Time in search of our heroes.

I found this one a little underwhelming. There’s no real answers to follow that first book which got me frustrated. To top that there’s no explanation for why Gaige chooses to do what he does. There’s no real motive for any of it. We never learn who the girl is or why she was important to the Lord Regent though I have my theories as to who she is. All I got out of the book was the confirmation that one of the original main characters was indeed still alive while it is implied the others are dead. The book fell flat for me and again left me with more questions than answers though I did enjoy it still. The characters were good if not as well developed as the first book and the story moved at a good pace. 

I think this one could have been done so much better though. If only to have a little more history added to how the land came to the call of science and medicine though it feared sorcery. Why Gaige is the way that he is and does the things that he does without much preamble or regret. I’d have loved more backstory and more insight as to the motivations of all the characters for why they are the way they are.

I’ll see you real soon bookworms when I’ll be telling you what I thought of The Pyres the next book in the box set.

Stephie X.

Writing Process

Okay, so writing process. It took me a while to find what works for me. Or at least what works for me right at this moment in time. We are ever evolving and changing as people and one day I might find something that works even better for me than my current set up. But I’ll take you from the beginning when I completed that first manuscript and work on from there. So let’s delve into the creative process of my hectic little self.

That first manuscript I wrote in about four weeks from December through to mid January was written exclusively on google docs. Even the character profiles and the world building had their own little individual google docs. It was a nightmare of tab hopping and it went this way from the first draft and a half. Drafts two and three of that book were also written on google docs.

One day when I was scrolling through pinterest for some inspiration for character profiles. I saw a few lovely little posts about writers notebooks. Now most of the ones I saw had nifty literary quotes and prompts and lovely little nuggets like that as well as stuff for character design and world building. The quotes and prompts in a book I knew wouldn’t really work for me I’m very much a practical person and flip to hat I need and be done with it. So I started with world building and then moved onto my character profiles. Plus anything else needed like descriptions on groups within the world and the like. I’d intended when I’d started that idea to have a notebook per manuscript idea. That didn’t end up happening until later and even then I think I failed twice in keeping everything in one place.

Around draft two I made the change all planning went into the notebook. It was easy, it was good and it worked. Those notebooks are now living in my backpack and go everywhere with me along with a pencil case of essentials. I only write on my laptop when I’m at home either on the couch or sitting at the desk that I share with K in our bedroom. When I am out and about but planning to work on a manuscript I copy that last paragraph typed and work from there in long hand. Then next time I am at my computer I type up all that was written on the go. Maybe doing some minor tweaking along the way.

During draft two I needed something else to do something exciting with planning stages. So I started plotting and then drafting the sequel to that first book. I loved it and it was going well. It got to the  completion draft three of the first book and I had to Beta Readers/Critique Partners M and B. I love them both dearly and they helped me a lot with that draft. That was when I finally had draft four and what I’m hoping is a polished enough MS for that book. I submitted it to pitchwars. I loved entering that competition and it was a learning curve. My book didn’t get any requests never mind picked but it gave me the confidence to think I can really do this. So when pitchwars ended I started to query. With a much better written synopsis in query letter than the one I had submitted for pitchwars in August. A second change I made was when I started on draft four I switched from google docs to use Scrivener to write. I love the programme its pretty good for what you pay for it and their 30 day trial is a real help in deciding before you buy.

I’m on draft three of the sequel to the first book while that one is languishing in a few slush piles down in London. I don’t want to work on that sequel at the moment I just I feel like continuing to  work on that series while I’m waiting to hear back will ruin my chances. So I decided I would do Nanowrimo. That was probably the most insane idea I have ever had. I have attempted Nanowrimo in the past multiple times and failed to keep up during all of those attempts. I don’t know what made me think that this time would be different. Maybe it was the fact that my other two first drafts had been finished in a similar time scale.

 

I used the last few weeks of October to begin plotting out the MG/YA that had been hopping around in my head like a little plot bunny. I wrote a lot after that but I didn’t update regularly on  my website and I’m still about 15,000 works behind where I should be at this point in the month. According to the tracker that puts me at completing the 50,000 word goal sometime in January. This leaves me thinking I’m not well suited to Nanowrimo. I mean I can do the same sort of word count in a month if I’m not actively tracking it. Maybe I just need to focus a little more on the writing and a little less on the tracking of how many words I’m getting out in a day or in a week or in a minute. I probably haven’t helped myself along any by procrastinating and starting a blog dedicated to reviewing the books I read and talking about my writing.  Oh well never mind it’s something else to occupy my time when I’m home alone waiting for P, C & K to return from school and work respectively.

I’d love to hear how you all go about your creative and writing processes. What tools and programmes do you use? How much do you plan and outline in advance or do you do the bare bones and then see where the characters  take you?

See you real soon bookworms.

Stephie X.

Review: Fire and Sword by Dylan Doose.

So in mid October, long before I had made the decision to start this blog I downloaded a book box set. I found it on my daily bookbub email. I told you in the first post a lot of the books I would be telling you about I found through that glorious little website. Anyway, I digress. Onto the books or rather book. I’m only going to cover the first one in this box set in this post because I fear if I did all three I may overload you all on any information.

Fire and Sword by Dylan Doose, its listed as a dark fantasy on amazon which was the choice I clicked upon when I found it through bookbubs. This way it went straight to my Kindle and I didn’t have to worry about fidgeting around with downloading and sideloading. Now it took me a while to get started reading this one because it was around about the time I started preparing for Nanowrimo so I was flitting between plotting and character development and obsessively swiping my finger across my Kindle to turn the page. This should have no reflection on the book, this is purely me wanting to do too much at once and all at once. I will say this before we get into the grit of it, there are interludes before every chapter. I wondered about these, I even found them to make the story drag. But as things progressed I saw them for what they are valuable pieces of information in what happened before all that happens has happened. Things done and said by characters who never truly appear for one reason or another.

There are so many things I loved about this book and so many things I disliked. I loved the character arcs for our unlikely quartet of heroes. Fire and Sword sees Doose bring together some very unlikely people whom by the end of the novel I think fit, compliment and understand one another very well. No one really falls flat on their face as a one dimensional character they all overcome something that makes them a little better than when they started out. What I love about this Fantasy novel is that there is no blushing damsel in distress who is in need of saving. One of our main female characters that consistently appears is just as strong and capable as any of her male counterparts. This I feel is a brilliant step in the world of fantasy novels where I feel all the women eventually need saving by a big strong man. Chayse gave me a strong female character that made me smile, I am unashamed to say I grew very attached to her.

Now while the next three characters are the main focus of everything in this story. We switch a lot between their POV’S once we get going, I found it hard to distinguish one from another at first. Though I don’t think this is for any lack of distinguishability between the voices. I think it is more due to at times the abrupt shift from one to the other. It made it hard for me to sift seamlessly between then and thus sometimes I felt like I had been jolted from one scene and into another without ceremony.

Theron and Kendrick are both of a similar vein, strong capable men who know what needs to be done and how to do it. But their back stories as they shaped them show us how different paths can somehow still lead you to the same place. While Kendrick led a gruesome and may I say violent life. That is not to be said for Theron who seems to have grown up in a relatively happy home and well cared for before pursuing a life of hunting beasts and killing monsters. All this when he could be living a life of luxury and want for nothing. I like Doose’s spin on the rich lord actually willingly getting his hands dirty and working for his means.

Finally there is Aldous, I wanted to dislike him and for the first few pages I did. Then his back story hit. Its tragic and he’s not at all who he seems and this only seems to grow as the book progresses. He’s very much the underdog character. I’ve always rooted for the underdog and I’m not at all surprised I found myself rooting for Aldous. While I wondered many a time where Doose was going with Aldous I found I was never disappointed, The character grew and developed with the challenges put in his path. The fact that he didn’t prove to a typical crass male hero like Theron and Kendrick seemed to be only added to my liking of him. He never once assumes Chayse isn’t capable of all she does just because of her gender. Unlike many of the male characters in the story.

Now moving away from our dear main characters we have the world in which they reside. Its rich and well thought out, the magic has consequences to the users and I find that to be a good addition. I have read so many fantasies where over use of magic has not affected the wielder one iota. This annoys me to no end as I’m a firm believe of the each and every action has an equal and opposite reaction type of person. So I find myself loving that Wizards, and witches or sorcerers or mages. As they are referred to by all these words at some point in the book often feel the effects when the wield magic for extended periods. Or when they wield large amounts in a short amount of time.

I find the time taken to travel by the characters, versus the methods of travel to be believable given the setting of the book. This is something I also find is often overlooked in books that aren’t set in a modern type setting where travel is quick and can sometimes be pretty instantaneous.

There are beats and monsters in their world and I love this there are things that are dangerous that they fight and there’s real stakes for what is to happen. Our heroes never seem to come away unscathed from a fight with a foe. Sometimes these injuries are more serious than others but there wins seem to come at a price as I think all things should. No one likes a fight so easily won. I will say some of the outcomes from their fighting I find a bit hard to believe. A few times a character has come away with an obliterated or broken knee from a mere single blow and not always has that blow been delivered with some kind of heavy weaponry.

Now while we have covered the reality of the stakes of great battles and fighting beasts and monsters there is something to be said for this book. As it wears on it becomes gruesome in its descriptions.  Now I’m not one fore gore I never have been there’s a reason I literally could not bring myself to watch the walking dead. It gave me nightmares. So do most gory things. Now while this had gore in spades, to the point I actually gaged multiple times and at one point wanted to throw up in my own mouth. It was manageable I suffered nor intrusions to my peaceful sleep because of it. Though I really do feel if there had been no gore, or it had been toned down the story would not have been the same. I remember gasping at one moment and going ‘oh god that was f#@king awful.’ K looked at me with raised eyebrows and asked what I was whining about. Now he liked the walking dead he likes blood and guts and gore. But even he winced when I read the part aloud that caused the reaction in me.

Now there’s the main plot and our main antagonist and this character is amazing. Operating from the shadows and using other minor antagonists and antagonistic points from various members of our quartets past to further their own means. All these subplots and minor antagonists along with the beasts fought and still to be fought combine to make the overall plot of the story compelling. I find it hard to stay engaged if a story simply plods on at the pace of a stubborn mule. I have two books not even halfway read that do this. Now Fire and Sword has its moments where pace is slow where Doose builds up our characters a little more. These slower points I feel lead us to our faster paced moments and truly set the scene.

Now I’ve mentioned the blood, guts and gore of the book. I’ve mentioned in passing battles and the fighting of beasts and monsters. With things like this there comes a lot of death. Nothing ever comes out all rosy. This book keeps true to situations like that and people die. Lots of people die. A few of these deaths had my eyes pricking suspiciously and my nose stinging as if maybe Chayse herself had thumped me in it. Yes I am one of those bookworms who gets emotionally invested and properly bawls when a character I care about dies. Think just about every single Potterhead when J.K Rowling killed off Sirius, Hedwig and Lupin. Of course there are more examples but that suspicious prickling in my eyes is back. 

We end with Theron going off on his own and ending the whole thing with a resounding defeat at yet more costs to himself. On the whole in Fire and Sword our characters come away from their battles throughout the book very much changed. I’d like to think they come away changed for the better but only time will tell over the following books if that is actually the case.

Next Review will be the Catacombs of Time. A Sword and Sorcery novella by Dylan Doose and the second book in the Sword and Sorcery box set!

See you real soon bookworms

Stephie X.

A Little About Why I Started This.

Reading, its something all of us do everyday. It’s almost as easy as breathing. You’re reading this, whether you sought out this blog or happened to stumble upon it during the endless time scrolling the internet. You may have read an email for work, or that text from your friend or loved one reminding you of some plan or other. It’s part of our everyday lives. But, how many of us simply read for pleasure? Do you read to unwind or is it simply part of the everyday grind, a thing you must do as an inevitable part of your day?

I’m one of those people who would sooner pick up a book than flick the switch on the TV. It annoys my fiance to no end these days. The amount of TV shows we have fallen behind on in the past year because I have retreated back into my love of books. There are some he simply shrugged his shoulders and carried on watching without me. Ones he knew that my interest in was waning anyway. Others, ones I had been watching long before we met, that I had introduced him to. Well they fell by the wayside after I fell back in love with the written word. 

It started when my hands began to hurt a lot more than they used to. I couldn’t quite hold my paperbacks for as long as I would have liked, and eventually I pestered him into getting me a kindle for my birthday. That tiny little amalgamation of metals and plastics has made my reading so much easier. Though like every good bibliophile nothing will ever truly beat the feeling of the pages, the smell that is so uniquely books. Paper and ink.  But with two kids, two cats and a house to run there wasn’t much money for books. I wasn’t working much because of my pain levels and it sucked we were relying on mainly his income. While we had food, a roof over our heads and everything important we needed, we didn’t have much money for the luxuries. Books weren’t a priority so I very rarely bought them whether they were physical copies or ebooks.

I discovered http://www.bookbub.com a free website where you can find so many titles for free or even drastically cheap. I found a lot of books that I have really come to enjoy through them and a lot of them were free at the time I downloaded them to my kindle. I went on to buy other books from authors I have found through Bookbub and have very rarely been disappointed by a title or author. I’ll talk about some of those books in other posts later on down the line.

Then around this time last year I’d finally left my job about eight month prior because of my bad health. I was getting bored, there wasn’t a lot to do with the kids at school and nursery. So I was reading even more. Sometimes devouring a whole book in a day, it had become a little bit insatiable. I was rambling on about this plot twist, that character. Family and friends looking back on it now were looking at me like I was a little crazy. But then again I always got rather invested in the fictional worlds on the pages even from a young age. Don’t believe me? I’ll introduce you to my mother I was an endless source of exasperation for her when I was a kid. I’m surprised she doesn’t have shares in waterstones because of the amount of books she has bought me over the years.

So I was in a reading frenzy still a lot of these books, all mostly ebooks were bought cheap or free after endlessly scrolling Amazon, Kobo and Bookbub. Then Christmas came and I got money and a few smaller gifts from my mum and my fiances mum. All the money I got went onto Amazon gift cards and I spent nearly all of that, maybe close to £100 on books. I seriously do not regret it though looking at that figure I may have to admit I have a problem. Those books saw me through from around Christmas day, to mothers day here in the UK which is in March.  But also between Christmas and the beginning of January, reading hadn’t become enough of a distraction. Things started to float around in my head characters I wish I could see in books, ideas for plots and then without really thinking about it I started to write. Within four weeks I had written close to 60,000 words and I loved that first draft like it was my third born child. In a way I still do though it’s matured now and be redrafted four times, maybe more. I’ve queried that book to agents and publishing houses a few times and I’m still nowhere close to seeing it in print like I decided I wanted to after I finished the second draft.

I’ve worked on other things since I finished the final draft of that book. I started the sequel to it and I’m onto the third draft of that and I feel good about it. I also started for Nanowrimo a MG/YA fantasy novel. Though I like to procrastinate and get distracted and I’m seriously thinking I’m not going to complete Nanowrimo this year. But thats okay I’m having fun writing and I’m having fun reading. I’d love to see my words out there someday for people to read and enjoy and maybe even earn a little money from them. When that happens I’ll be happy to see a goal I have long aspired to completed. To see my words out there for others to enjoy.

But while I wait for that day I thought why not blog, so I can write. Something other than fiction for the days when I want to write but the imagination doesn’t quite want to work. So I’ll share my experiences of writing with you all. My thoughts on the books I have read, where I found them how much or how little I paid for the pleasure of reading it. But most importantly, I’ll give you my honest opinion on it. Always if I thought it was amazing and the best thing I’ve read to date I’ll say so. If it was a bit of a lemon I’ll tell you that to, If I absolutely hated it I promise to tell you! But I’ll always urge you to read it for yourself because my taste is not the only one and what I enjoy and dislike may not be the same for you.

I’ll see you all real soon.

Stephie x.