Dark Fiction Review – Blade of the Destroyer (The Last Bucelarii Book 1) by Andy Peloquin

Blade of the Destroyer book coverBlade of the Destroyer by Andy Peloquin is an exciting new novel in the Grimdark genre. Spectacular fight scenes, wonderful world-building, and an interesting plot all add up to a dark fantasy story you won’t want to miss!

From the Publisher:

The Hunter of Voramis is the perfect assassin: ruthless, unrelenting, immortal. Yet he is haunted by lost memories, bonded to a cursed dagger that feeds him power yet denies him peace of mind. Within him rages an unquenchable need for blood and death.

When he accepts a contract to avenge the stolen innocence of a girl, the Hunter becomes the prey. The death of a seemingly random target sends him hurtling toward destruction, yet could his path also lead to the truth of his buried past?

Characters

The protagonist (I hesitate to call him a ‘hero.’ He’s an anti-hero if there ever was one!) is an immortal and shadowy figure haunting the city of Voramis. Known only as The Hunter, he is an assassin par excellence, plying his trade tactics of disguise, deception and assassination throughout the city. He has a prestige for his wicked abilities, and is rightly feared by those who know him. Think Dexter crossed with James Bond, ritually bound to a cursed dagger that steals peoples souls, and drives the Hunter to kill.

Sadly, the story lacks any positive female characters. The majority of the female characters are either bedded or sold. The only potential female ‘lead’ in the story was back-stabbing in one scene, and used as a human shield in the next.  And there is a tender moment near the end of the story that was beyond the pale for me. I’d have found all this more acceptable if she kicked ass somewhere in the story. Thankfully, the story focuses on the Hunter as the primary character, and double-thankfully written in third-person point of view, although we do get inside the Hunter’s head plenty in the story.

Story

An interesting aspect of the story is the theme of good and evil. There are no clear-cut good or evil characters in the story, and the best example of this is The Hunter himself. His actions show that he is definitely torn between a love for, and hatred of, humanity. His cursed dagger drives him to carry out his ‘job’ as an assassin with a disturbingly detached remorselessness. But he also cares about people, going out of his way to provide food and shelter for some of the more fragile members of society.

I got the sense that his very dualistic mind is sated by both taking care of people and killing them. That nature made him feel very real on the page to me, and that duality is a major plot thread sparking an ending that will make you want to read more in this ongoing series.It’s refreshing to see a hero who isn’t looking to do “good” or “evil” for the sake of either, but looking to find some kind of balance or peace in between. The best part is the writing does not hit you over the head with this. This aspect is felt or experienced rather than spelled out in the story, the mark of a mature author.

The fight scenes are another highlight of Andy’s writing. I’ve read few stories where the action scenes are described with just the right amount of detail. Not enough detail, and I feel cheated out of some swashbuckling. Too much detail, and the story bogs down like a D&D battle against an Undead Tessearact.  The fight scenes in Blade of the Destroyer are a good balance of detail and really well done. This is a good thing for the book, as there are many fight scenes here!

Invulnerable characters always make me wary of a feeling I call The Superman Effect. I never really cared about Superman because I never worried that he would get hurt. So when I started reading Blade of the Destroyer, I was curious if this would be the case, seeing as the Hunter was immortal, healing from any non-mortal wound a’la Wolverine. I was pleased to discover that the author used some clever tricks to get around The Superman Effect. I won’t spoil the story here, but safe to say there are very real threats the Hunter faces, some worse than death.

Worldbuilding

Blade of the Destroyer follows our hero through the depths of the dank and beautiful city of Voramis, a dark fantasy amalgamation of places, some similar to old England, with many fantasy embellishments thrown in.

I liked how the Hunter’s “job” kept him moving through the entire city. Sometimes he would be in disguise, spying on the locals at the tavern, or attending fancy dinner parties. Later, he would don his assassin’s garb and travel from his safe house in the slums, sneaking into the homes of rich targets, and dashing across the rooftops a’la Assassin’s Creed. This allowed the experience of the whole city to be conveyed, not just the Hunter’s neighborhood.

Voramis itself is richly detailed. The oppressiveness of the city is delivered to you via all of your senses. Beyond just the sights, sounds and smells of the city, you experience everything from the tiles on the rooftops to the trash in the lowest alleyway gutter. The writing really fills your senses with the town, steeped in what seemed a stark contrast of rich beauty and abject poverty.

There is very little of the world mentioned outside of Voramis itself, but the ending does imply travel to other areas in future novels in the series. Because Andy was able to do so much worldbuilding with just a single city, I’m excited to read about the wide world the Hunter lives in.

Darkness

Graphic fight scenes abound. Slavery, child slavery, and graphic child deaths are all here. Make no mistake, this is grim, and this is dark. This is Grimdark, not Disney!

The darkness surrounding the Hunter himself is a mystery, and the ending of this story sounds like only the beginning of the Hunters quest for an inner resolution.

Between the world, the main character and the plot, there is plenty of grim darkness in Blade of the Destroyer to appease any fan of the genre.

Judgement

Blade of the Destroyer is an excellent Grimdark novel for those who like their worlds richly dark and fantastic, their stories packed with action, and their heroes anti.

Twitter Review

Check out the new Grimdark novel, Blade of the Destroyer by Andy Peloquin! http://amzn.com/B012EI9M4A

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Marvel’s Ant-Man Makes Interesting Promises (and Apologies?) Regarding Female Superheroes

Ant Man Movie PosterFor such a small movie, Ant-Man carries a lot of weight.

As someone who grew up on a steady diet of Marvel comics, it’s hard not to be a fan of the Marvel series of movies. The latest entry, Ant-Man, did not disappoint. In fact, it had all the light-hearted, actiony fun of Guardians of the Galaxy. Disney would be proud.

But as someone who enjoys (and writes) kick-ass heroines in my fiction, it’s hard not to be ticked off at Marvel (and DC, and Hollywood in general) for leaving the ladies on the back burner. Sure, Black Widow, Rogue, Storm, Gamora, Scarlet Witch, et al. are definitely included, and they do kick ass, but by now it’s blatantly obvious they are in supporting-roles-only, and they don’t get their own movies.

Fans have been begging DC for a Wonder Woman movie for over a decade now. Instead Warner Bros coughed up Catwoman. And Marvel isn’t helping.

Hey Marvel, where’s Dazzler?

Hey Marvel, where’s Zatanna? [Read more…]

Reflections on 4th Street Fantasy Convention 2015

Fourth Street Fantasy Convention 2015

Photo by Sean Berry

I’ve attended the 4th Street Fantasy Convention several times over the last five years, and I have to say, this year was the best year yet.

Topping the list of what makes 4th Street awesome is Janet Grouchy, (who actually only gets grouchy if you don’t pick up after yourself.) With several hundred people attending 4th Street, I don’t know how she manages to make me feel special every time I go, but she does. 4th Street is lucky to have such an awesome dose of Southern Hospitality in human form.

But there are many other things which make the 4th Street Fantasy Convention a must-go for writers of all types. [Read more…]

Dark Fiction Review – A Circus Of Brass And Bone

Calamity! Adventure! Steampunk! Apocalypse!

Full Disclosure: Abra Staffin-Wiebe is a fellow member of the Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writers’ Group, and I made a contribution to her mothers treatment (see below for details) and in return Abra wrote a bit-character appearance of me into the story.

A Circus Of Brass And Bone Book CoverA Circus Of Brass And Bone is the first novel by author Abra Staffin-Wiebe, publishing under Abra SW. The story takes place in post-Civil War America, in a world without electricity. Rather, Fire Aether powers anything that isn’t run by the low tech of steam. This alternate reality is filled with strange and wonderful inventions like Bone aether (for healing wounds), and aether-powered-mechanical war elephants.

The Loyale Travelling Circus and Menagerie is at sea when they discover their ringmaster murdered, (by one of their own) which is the least of their problems. An apocalyptic aether storm rolls across the world, and the story begins with Chapter One: Everyone Dies. 

When the circus docks in Boston, they discover a third of the population has been wiped out, crops are tainted and most aether technology devices are ruined or unstable at best. People are showing symptoms of exposure to the aether storm and what exactly is making all that noise in the woods?

Crossing a steampunk (aetherpunk?) version of The Stand with Carnivàle, A Circus Of Brass And Bone is a rag-tag exploration and adventure by a cast of colorful circus characters in an alternate reality turned upside-down by calamity and devastation. 

“In such desperate times, what use is a circus?” [Read more…]

Email Security

Conrad Zero Tech Advice For AuthorsI thought everyone knew that email is NOT a secure method for transferring sensitive information.  Apparently not, because at Company X (where, by day, I’m the mild mannered Draconian I.T. Overlord) one of our employees hit the roof when Accounting asked him to verify sensitive account information… via email.

Could be worse – she could have asked him over the building P.A. System.

But honestly, email is not secure. Oh, I know you’re thinking, “But Zero, I’m using https for everything! I run Tor and Disconnect through a proxy service over my neighbor’s wifi! It can’t get any more secure than that, right?”

OK, so maybe you weren’t thinking that. Maybe you weren’t even understanding that. My point is, you can add all the security you like to your computer and your internet connection, but those are just pieces of the whole problem, and small ones at that.

Trouble is, after the mail leaves your email service provider, it bounces all over the bloody interwebs in what can best be described as a worldwide game of Marco Polo crossed with Chutes and Ladders before it arrives at the recipient’s inbox. During that trip, it’s trivial for any waypoint on the internet to snoop on the data en-route (called ‘sniffing’) or even make a copy to take offline and hack at later. There are programs ready-made to do this, so it doesn’t even take programming skills. (The programs are called scripts, and people who use them are called script kiddies, btw…)

So I thought it would be prudent to remind everyone of the postcard analogy: [Read more…]

New Dark Fiction – The Whisper Jar by Carole Lanham

The_Whisper_Jar_Book_Cover_2015

If you’re looking for a quick, dark, well-writ-read, look no further. My sister in darkness, Carole Lanham (USA Today Bestselling author of The Reading Lessons) is re-releasing her awesome collection of short stories – The Whisper Jar.

The revised version of The Whisper Jar includes creepy pictures and a new cover which out-creepifies the old cover, and that is no small task.

Review of The Whisper Jar

The following is an excerpt from my original review:

The Whisper Jar blends dark and sometimes paranormal situations into the really-real everyday world with clever writing, an Edgar Allen Poe sensibility, and a splash of Neil Gaiman’s Fragile Things. Carole Lanham writes in her own carefree but intuitive voice. Audiences will slip into these short stories as easily as they would a warm bath, only to be surprised at how quickly the waters deepen. Those looking for a variety of dark character studies, whimsical situations and disturbing relationship dynamics will enjoy The Whisper Jar.

Check out the full review here: Dark Fiction Review: The Whisper Jar by Carole Lanham

The Whisper Jar on Amazon.com

The Whisper Jar is available on amazon.com in ebook format for only .99 so go check it out!

The Whisper Jar by Carole Lanham

The Critique Process

At the recent meetup of the Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writers Group, we talked about critique. The discussion was divided into three parts:

  • tips when giving critique to others
  • tips for receiving/processing critique, and using crit in your writing process
  • critique groups

Here are my notes and observations from the discussion, and you’ll find the full video of our discussion at the end of the this post.

Giving Critique To Others

There Are Different Types Of Critique You Can Provide

[Read more…]

Free Ebook – Social Media Secrets For Authors

Social_media_secrets_for_authors_coverWhile wandering the AWP Conference, I met Amy Quale from Wise Ink, a Minneapolis-based business offering creative and publishing services to independent authors.

One of the tools Wise Ink is using to promote their business is a beginners-level book titled “Social Media Secrets for Authors ” written by Wise Ink founders/editors Dara Beevas and Amy Quale. The book covers “The Big Four” of author social media: Blogging, Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads. If you’re an author who is just starting out, and don’t have these four social mediums locked down, then I highly recommend this book. It has action plan checklists, ideas for blog posts, and is essential ‘Social Media 101’ for new authors.

You could buy the book on amazon, or you could sweet-talk Amy like I did, and get one for free. But if you’re not devilishly charming like me, well… I’ll let you in on a secret:

  • Did I mention they are giving the book “Social Media Secrets For Authors” away for FREE on their website?
  • Did I mention they have other great free author resources?
  • Did I mention these free author resources can be found at http://www.wiseinkpub.com/author-resources/

I guess I just did. What can I say? I’m really generous with other peoples’ things.

While you’re enjoying all the great free wisdom Wise Ink has to offer, don’t forget to friend them up on Twitter and Facebook. . If you need help with Planning, Editing, Publishing or Marketing your work, check out their website:

Wiseinkpub.com

You can also check out their blog at Wiseinkblog.com

What is a Drabble?

What Is A DrabbleDrabbles are growing more and more popular. I’m seeing more and more drabble compilations, and I’m seeing more and more publisher calls for drabble-format fiction.

So what is a Drabble anyway?

A Drabble is a 100-word fiction story. Exactly one hundred words. No more. No less.

I’ve had several drabbles published over the last year:

[Read more…]

Reflections on AWP 2015

The ‘Largest Literary Conference in North America’ comes to Minneapolis

AWP Conference 2015The Association of Writers and Writing Programs (or AWP) holds a conference each year in a different city. Minneapolis, MN was lucky enough to be chosen this year to host the ‘largest literary conference in North America.’ Approximately 13,000 people attended.

What’s the AWP you ask? Good question. From their website: [Read more…]