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Check out steve's favorites of 2021

in no particular order

Steve Caldwell

steve caldwell

I have literally been a fan of fantasy/magic my whole life, with some of the earliest memories I have being my mother stories of brujas and spirits in the town in Puerto Rico where she was born. What really flipped the fantasy switch on full, though, was discovering a battered copy of the Sword of Shannara that cost me 25 cents at the local used book store when I was 11. Its been a long journey since that day almost 40 years ago, and thousands of books later, here we are. Living with my wife, our two non-adult kids, four cats and a vicious attack beast Chihuahua about an hour south of Seattle, I’m glad to be able to share my love of fantasy and science fiction, especially Indie and small press, with anyone who’s interested.

Where to Find Him

Dungeon Crawler Carl by Matt Dinniman

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What it is about?

It’s the most-watched game show in the galaxy!

In a flash, every human-erected construction on Earth–from Buckingham Palace to the tiniest of sheds to all the trucks and cars–collapses in a heap, sinking into the ground.

The buildings and all the people inside, they’ve all been atomized and transformed into the dungeon: an 18-level labyrinth filled with traps, monsters, and loot. A dungeon so enormous, it circles the entire globe.

Only a few dare venture inside. But once you’re in, you can’t get out. And what’s worse, each level has a time limit. You have but days to find a staircase to the next level down, or it’s game over. In this game, it’s not about your strength or your dexterity. It’s about your views and your followers. It’s about building an audience and killing those goblins with style.

You can’t just survive here. You gotta survive big.

You gotta fight with vigor, with excitement. You gotta make them stand up and cheer. And if you do have that “it” factor, you may just find yourself with a following. That’s the only way to truly survive in this game, with the help of the loot boxes dropped upon you by the generous benefactors watching from across the galaxy.

They call it Dungeon Crawler World. But for Carl, it’s anything but a game.
 

Grog by RW Krpoun

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What it is about?

Grog is a brute (half Human, half Ukar) slave raised from birth to fight in the pits for the entertainment of the crowds. He is content with his role in the city, proud of his barracks, and in awe of his owner, the sour Master Horne. Life, by Grog’s reckoning, is good.Then an enigmatic churchwoman enters his life, and Grog finds himself swept from the city which has been his entire world, to travel and learn amid as strange a group as he has ever seen. He knows nothing of the group’s mission, just that his skills are necessary and the quest is ‘a good thing’. But slowly, on this strange journey of both distance and spirit, Grog learns of the goal his new employer pursues, and its role in a troubled world. More importantly, he learns the value, and price, of freedom, and neither aspect is anything like what he imagined.A fast-paced fantasy novel by the author of the popular Dream series (and eighteen other novels), Grog takes the reader on a journey through an embattled Empire and a world in which things are seldom as simple as one expects.

Galactic Outlaws by Nick Cole & Jason Anspach

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What it is about?

 long, long time from now, at the edge of the galaxy…

Seven years after the Battle of Kublar: A young girl searches the crime-ridden gutters of a seedy starport for a hero to avenge her father’s murder. A short jump away, a double-dealing legionnaire-turned-smuggler navigates a treacherous course past Republic lackeys and wanton space pirates in search of an epic payday. And somewhere along the galaxy’s edge, a mysterious bounty hunter waits… for redemption? Or revenge? The voices in his head won’t say which.

It’s sleek starfighters, exotic aliens, loyal bots, blasters, scoundrels, heroes, and powerful enemies in a thrilling adventure that will take you back to that magic place from a long time ago…

Smokepit Fairytales by Tripp Ainsworth

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What it is about?

Looking for something politically incorrect to read that will make you laugh, cry, and possibly vomit? Then this book is for you. Imagine if every smoke pit conversation and weird field talk you’ve ever had was taken and then cursed at for a few hours until it becomes print and you have this book. Like if your favorite war movies and science fiction books got drunk, had angry sex, and ended up with an unwanted pregnancy with a baby was known as Smokepit Fiarytales.
A war story combined with the supernatural in the style of a classical epic to tell a snarky, uproarious, and very poignant tale mixed with an edgy Sci-Fi and fantasy twist to keep you guessing, this book defines the life of enlisted Marine in the most humorous messed up way imaginable.

The Secret King: Lethao by Dawn Chapman

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What it is about?

Kendro, King of the Aonise, can do nothing to prevent their sun from collapsing, consuming their home planet Letháo in a single fiery blast. Running out of time and options, he evacuates the entire population, setting off into the unknown galaxy in four crowded ships. Under constant danger from their ancient enemy, the Zefron, treasonous dissent seeps into his inner circle. Threatened inside and out, Kendro struggles with whom to trust, until a mysterious vision finally brings hope to the distraught King. A new home awaits the Aonise, if Kendro can only unite them long enough to survive the journey

Pangea Online by SL Rowland

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What it is about?

Everything has a price. Pangea Online is no different.

Esil has spent the past year toiling in the mines of Pangea while the more wealthy traverse its myriad of gameworlds. His luck changes forever when he stumbles upon a legendary Developer’s Chest, containing an invaluable Worldpass, which grants him unlimited travel to all gameworlds.

Now, Esil isn’t just stuck watching as others explore Pangea. He can finally level up.

But his in-game actions have real world consequences and failure online threatens everything he holds dear.

Vampiraz4 Life by CT Phipps

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What it is about?

It’s been a rough year for Peter Stone.

Vampires are not meant to be quarantined and most of the nation is under lockdown. It has been extra hard in the city of New Detroit that depends on tourism not only for its economy but blood supply. With his creator kidnapped, mother dead, and once more exiled to the fringes of their society–he’s ready to call it quits. That’s when he receives a mysterious message from a long-dead friend who tells him that his problems are just beginning.

A mysterious new player in town wants to recruit Peter to help form a supernatural alliance against the oppressive new voivode and his human hunter allies. Unfortunately, Hell itself has sent an assassin against our antihero and even a new set of allies may not be enough to protect him.

Enjoy Peter’s final exciting adventure!

Part of the United States of Monsters universe with the Bright Falls Mysteries, Psycho Killers in Love, Morgan Detective Agency, and The Red Room.

OG-GRIM-DOG the three headed ogre by Jaime edmundson

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What it is about?

Two heads are better than one.
Three can be a real pain in the arse.

We are Og-Grim-Dog!
We have been loved and reviled! We have been the Hero of the Hour, the Darkest Villain, and everything in between! We have saved this world and travelled to worlds beyond it!
You think you can distil the life of Og-Grim-Dog into some words on a page?
When a stranger visits their inn, the regulars are in for a surprise. Did their Landlord really come here from Gal’azu—the dangerous, edgier province to the east? Could it be that his stories, so fanciful and fantastical, were episodes from his previous life?
When their Landlord is persuaded to have his life story recorded for posterity, the surprises come thick and fast. Just like his regulars, you too can learn how a three-headed ogre came to be a hero. Unlike them, you don’t stand to be killed if it all goes wrong…

Dark Seas End by Richard Nell

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What it is about?

Feared pirate and scoundrel ‘Lucky’ Chang has a dirty secret: he loves his crew, and would die to protect them. As he’s dragged from prison to face the dark sea and a dangerous new world, he just might have to.

Zaya, warrior and skald from the land of ash, knows she has a destiny. Having left her homeland with only a knife and a dream of adventure, she finds herself captured by pirates. To discover her fate, and become a hero from the book of legends, she must first survive the sea.

With a monstrous pilot as guide, and an ex-assassin as captain, Chang, Zaya, and the crew of the mighty Prince sail into uncharted waters. There they may find new lands and wealth, as well as glory beyond their dreams, or nothing but their doom.

Set in the same epic world as the award winning Kings of Paradise…this new series from author Richard Nell can be read on its own, or as a continuation of the Ash and Sand trilogy.

The Adventures Of Kirk Rogers: Inside the Moon by CJ Boyle

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What it is about?

An overconfident pilot with a stolen spaceship must fix an alien device before time runs out.The Newtonians came to Earth two thousand years ago looking for a place to call home. Earth was perfect except its Sun had a fatal flaw that needed to be corrected. Once it was fixed, they were free to abandon their ship and leave it to orbit the planet below. Earthlings commonly refer to it as The Moon.For two thousand years, Sheldor was nothing more than a highly intelligent computer program that maintained every function of Atlantis. It was a very boring and predictable job that was the same, day in, and day out. The monotony didn’t bother him, nor was he aware that it was an utterly boring life. He didn’t long for change or wonder when it will all end, he just did his job. It wasn’t until an asteroid slammed into the side of the ship that his life changed in a dramatic way. The damage that followed prevented him from carrying out an important task. A task that would save the Earth below. Part of his programming required him to ensure the survival of the Newtonians and the many generations that followed after them. The asteroid caused a cave-in deep inside a cannon that was supposed to fire photon particles into the volatile sun and correcting its flaw. The cannon required fixing but his figurative hands were tied. He needed someone with enough Newtonian blood to unlock his controls so that he could make the repairs. He was forced to use the satellites in Earth’s orbit to scan the planet below for possible candidates that he could teleport to the inside of the ship. But the process was imperfect.That’s how Laura Rogers ended up inside the moon making friends with a giant spider and a man called The Dangerous One.Kirk always looked after his little sister and he would do anything to find her. Including, steal a spaceship.If you like Star Trek and Star Wars, The Kirk Rogers Series celebrates all things scifi with some familiar themes while having a unique story of its own. Don’t worry, even if you don’t catch all the subtle hints or Easter Eggs, it doesn’t take anything away from the story. I hope you enjoy the series as much as I do, and thanks for reading!

P.L. Stuart

P.L. Stewart

I’m an experienced writer, in that I’ve been writing stories all my life, yet never thought to publish them. I’ve written informally – short stories – to entertain friends and family, for community newspapers, volunteer organization magazines, and of course formal papers for University. Now, later in life, I’ve published what I believe is a great fantasy novel, and definitely worth reading, called A Drowned Kingdom. My target audience is those who enjoy “high fantasy”. A Drowned Kingdom is not “dark fantasy”. It’s written in a more idealized and grandiose style that I hope isn’t too preachy, and not too grim. Still, I’m hoping my book has appeal to those who don’t typically read this type of work – those who don’t read fantasy of any kind – because of the “every-person” themes permeating the novel: dysfunctional familial relationships, extramarital temptation, racism, misogyny, catastrophic loss, religion, crisis of faith, elitism, self-confidence, PTSD, and more.

Many of these themes I have either personal experience with, or have friends or family who have dealt with such issues. I’ve had a long professional law enforcement career, undergone traumatic events, yet been buoyed by family, faith, and positivity. I’m a racialized middle-aged man. I’ve seen a lot of life. Ultimately I want the planned series, of which A Drowned Kingdom will be the introduction, to be one of hope, and overcoming obstacles to succeed, which I believe is my story as well. My protagonist, Othrun, will undergo a journey where he’ll evolve, change, and shape a continent. He’s not always likeable. He’s a snob, bigot, is vain, yet struggles with confidence. He’s patriarchal. Overall, he’s flawed. But even ordinary flawed people can change. We’re all redeemable.

Ordinary people can make a difference, not just fictional Princes. I want that message to shine through my work.

WHERE TO FIND HIM

www.plstuart.com

Twitter – @plstuartwrites

Facebook – @plstuartwrites

check out p.l. stuart's list

in no particular order

Legacy of the Brightwash by Krystle Matar

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What it is about?

Follow the law and you’ll stay safe. But what if the law is wrong?

Tashué’s faith in the law is beginning to crack.

Three years ago, he stood by when the Authority condemned Jason to the brutality of the Rift for non-compliance. When Tashué’s son refused to register as tainted, the laws had to be upheld. He’d never doubted his job as a Regulation Officer before, but three years of watching your son wither away can break down even the strongest convictions.

Then a dead girl washed up on the bank of the Brightwash, tattooed and mutilated. Where had she come from? Who would tattoo a child? Was it the same person who killed her?

Why was he the only one who cared?

Will Tashué be able to stand against everything he thought he believed in to get the answers he’s looking for?
 

we men of ash and shadow by hl tinsley

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What it is about?

Amidst the gas lamp shadows former soldier-turned-mercenary John Vanguard hunts criminals at the behest of his corrupt employer, Captain Felix Sanquain. Shamed by his deserter past and seeking to make amends for his many misdeeds, a chance encounter with Tarryn Leersac – a skilled young would-be-assassin fallen from the graces of high society – leads Vanguard to become an unlikely mentor.

Charged with hunting down the killer of two guards left washed up on the banks of the canal, the further Vanguard delves into the underbelly of the city the more he finds himself entangled in a web of secrets and lies. A prominent aristocrat is missing. Crime lords, con men and harlots run amok and the city teeters on the brink of another revolution.

With his already precarious reputation hanging by a thread, Vanguard must piece together how and why the last war came to pass, find a way to earn redemption for his mistakes and come to terms with the past in a city where few survive, and even fewer can be trusted.



A Grimdark novel with elements of adventure and gaslight fantasy, ‘We Men of Ash and Shadow’ explores themes of redemption, loyalty, and betrayal against the backdrop of a world where survival often means compromising your values.

‘We Men of Ash and Shadow’ is an adult fantasy novel and as such, contains adult themes and language.

dark oak by jacob sannox

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What it is about?

Humanity has finally defeated the Dark Lord, but Morrick fought on the wrong side. Though he was a slave, he is branded a traitor and must earn the trust of new lords in order to return to his family – if they are still alive…

Now that their common enemy is dead, the nobles begin to forget old loyalties, and Queen Cathryn’s realm looks set to plunge into war once more. But there are older and more terrible powers dwelling within the forest, and when they are awakened, Morrick will decide who lives or dies.

dark oak by jacob sannox

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What it is about?

In the remote land of Laskar the seven ruling clans have vied with each other for power for over a century. The son of the Reavesburg Clan Chief, Rothgar, has been groomed all his life for a role supporting his elder brother, Jorik, in leading their kingdom when their father’s time finally comes to an end.

However, the rulers of their greatest rivals, the Vorund Clan, are in the grip of something older and far darker. They have been conquered by evil, a remnant from the time when the gods warred with one another and the world of Amuran collapsed into the Fallen Age.

Everything is about to change …

The first book in The Brotherhood of the Eagle series, Hall of Bones begins a tale of epic fantasy, magic and intrigue.

Creation: Humorous Norse Mythology Retelling by Bjørn Larssen

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What it is about?

In the beginning there was confusion.

Ever woken up being a God, but not knowing how to God properly? Your brothers keep creating mosquitoes and celery and other, more threatening weapons. What can your ultimate answer be – the one that will make you THE All-Father and them, at best, the All-Those-Uncles-We-Don’t-Talk-About?

“FML! That answer’s why I drink!” – Odin

The Hidden King by E.G. Radcliff

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What it is about?

Hidden truths. Hidden power. Hidden destiny.

On the shores of a rusty sea, in the streets of a starving city, a young man named Áed scraps to build a life for himself and the makeshift family he loves. Scarred by a trauma he cannot remember, and haunted by the brutal damage it left behind, he has no idea of the courage his future will demand.

When tragedy strikes, a desperate Áed risks a treacherous, life-changing journey in his last chance to save the only family he has left – but an ancient legacy smoldering within him is about to turn deadly. Neither he – nor a kingdom – will ever be the same.

SPFBO SemiFinalist 2020
BBNYA SemiFinalist 2021
BlueInk Notable Book
International Review of Books Gold Seal Book
 

The Sequence by Lucien Telford

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What it is about?

Kit McKee is the world’s leading genetic editor. Having run from an America where she is no longer welcome, she now develops lucrative cosmetic edits to the human genome from her secure laboratory in northern China. She has been working on a side-project in her spare time, keeping it a secret—or so she thinks.

Dallas Ward is a former civilian sub-orbital pilot who now flies contraband for a Hong Kong triad in a ground-effect stealth jet, not as a matter of choice. He has been tasked with a special delivery, this one with a time restriction.

Fong and Woo are two Hong Kong police detectives investigating a series of homicides that appear to take place only during typhoons. The bodies are found to be genetically edited, leading the detectives toward Kit, who has suddenly gone missing.

All three storylines weave together into a fast-paced, near-future techno thriller that raises intriguing ethical questions about genetics and the global distribution of power.
 

The Secret of The Sword by Sean R. Bell

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What it is about?

An ancient bloodline. A powerful enemy. A hidden sword with the power to save or destroy the Earth.

Ian Dekker is a twenty-five-year-old filmmaker and hockey fanatic living a happy life in Toronto, but little does he know his destiny is about to change forever. The arrival of a mysterious letter from his deceased grandfather draws him back to his home city of Montreal, to his grandfather’s old house, where he follows clues that lead him to an astonishing truth. Ian is a descendant of the Pendragons: the family who, in the Middle Ages, established a vast empire in Western Europe, giving rising to legendary figures such as the High King Uther, whose mentor was none other than the great wizard Merlin. However, as Ian learns, King Uther had a jealous sibling named Morgana, who, after living in her brother’s shadow, turned to darkness in order to gain power and exact her revenge. Merlin and Uther managed to trap Morgana inside the sword Excalibur—but now, centuries later, she is on the brink of escaping her magical prison with the help of loyal followers.

This is where Ian comes in. Just like his grandfather before him, Ian must harness his magic and inner strength in order to keep evil at bay. Armed with only his grandfather’s journal, myth comes to life, and Ian is swept into an adventure that takes him across the world and between realms—from light into shadow—as he accepts his destiny. By his side is his childhood friend, Kate, as well as his mother, Lynn, who both help him navigate the mysterious waters of his family history. Ian’s courage and strength are tested as he searches for answers, meeting cruel enemies along the way who use trickery and possession in order to pursue Ian in his quest. In this story, good and evil have the same destination, and only the legacy of a grandson—fuelled by his grandfather’s love and trust—can save the world from complete destruction.

Of Us and Them by T.L. Coughlin

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What it is about?

A fated future burning with danger leads a young girl to uncover a sinister plot.

HAVE YOUR LAST BREATH

Seventeen-year-old Evren was born for one purpose: to serve as a vessel for the Leviathans, an alien species hidden in global dragon lore. She longs to join the secret society who concealed them in history—and as last of the twelve prophesied Paladins, she needs to. With the world in ruin, their unification will signal the Leviathans’ return to Earth to protect humans from their worst enemy: themselves.

But Evren’s ambitions are dashed when a Paladin is found dead. The murder sets her world ablaze and now she must stop the saboteur, or risk destroying a celestial plan millennia in the making. However, finding the truth—and the killer—in a society built on deceit won’t be easy, especially with Evren’s fierce and guarded mother as its leader.

Can Evren salvage what’s left of her fate? Or will dark discoveries make her the next victim?

Neglected Merge by Eve Koguce

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What it is about?

“Neglected Merge” is an inspirational thought-provoking futuristic fantasy romance novel. The story of fated lovers developed against a backdrop of a new post-apocalyptic world painted in bright tones. A fortuitous meeting of Tauria, an independent woman living in one utopian-style world, and Doron from high society of the other world, is destined to be the new beginning for both worlds.

Tauria, aged 32, lives in the society that seems to believe that happiness is a universal concept. People, who had survived the near apocalyptic experience, have built a whole new world full of pleasure and easiness. It is designed to make everyone feel happy every minute of their lives. Work brings satisfaction, hobbies are encouraged, relationships are supposed to bring out only positive emotions. Does it matter that things that don’t fit into the general happy pattern get discarded and disappear? Things like friendship and commitment. Things like true love. It is supposed to be enough with lightness and never-ending joy.

But there are two worlds now. They are forced to exist side by side. Can they find a way to live together?

The Chinese proverb says: “When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills.” What will the people of two worlds, so utterly different and at the same time so similar, choose?

maria blackrane

Maria Blackrane was born in upstate NY. She discovered a passion for writing when she was six years old and started writing stories about the adventures of people and their pets before she moved on to more twisted subjects later in life.

She studied history and anthropology and took creative writing classes as electives. Her favorite genres to read and write are horror, darkfantasy, and grimdark. She works in social services during the day and in her spare time loves foreign shows and movies, she’s a horse rider, wine witch, sushi gobbler, sometimes-yoga enthusiast, and collects dead things.

Her first novel, girl power dark fantasy Blood, Fire, and Death is currently in the editing and polishing stage. She also has a bunch of short stories floating around searching for homes. Feel free to send a message for a request for review, preferably indie or self-published grimdark, horror, or fantasy and sci-fi on the darker, grittier, more extreme side.

WHERE TO FIND HER

Twitter: @Mblackrane
Instagram: @maria_blackrane
Readerly: @maria_blackrane

maria's favorite book of 2021

The Stone Knife by Anna Stephens

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What it is about?

A fantasy epic of freedom and empire, gods and monsters, love, loyalty, honour, and betrayal, from the acclaimed author of GODBLIND.

For generations, the forests of Ixachipan have echoed with the clash of weapons, as nation after nation has fallen to the Empire of Songs – and to the unending, magical music that binds its people together. Now, only two free tribes remain.

The Empire is not their only enemy. Monstrous, scaled predators lurk in rivers and streams, with a deadly music of their own.

As battle looms, fighters on both sides must decide how far they will go for their beliefs and for the ones they love – a veteran general seeks peace through war, a warrior and a shaman set out to understand their enemies, and an ambitious noble tries to bend ancient magic to her will.
 

THE HOUSE OF SACRIFICE BY ANNA SMITH SPARK

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Marith Altrersyr has won. He cut a path of blood and vengeance and needless violence around the world and now he rules. It is time for Marith to put down his sword, to send home his armies, to grow a beard, and become fat. It is time to look to his own house and to produce an heir. The King of Death must now learn to live. But some things cannot be learned.

What it is about?

Marith’s power is growing. His empire stretches across half the world, and allies are flocking to his banner to share the spoils of war. With Thalia ruling at his side they are unstoppable.

But Marith is become increasingly mentally unstable and their victories cannot continue forever.
 

The City We Became, by N.K. Jemisin

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Every great city has a soul. Some are ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York? She’s got six.

What it is about?

Five New Yorkers must come together in order to defend their city.

Every city has a soul. Some are as ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York City? She’s got five.

But every city also has a dark side. A roiling, ancient evil stirs beneath the earth, threatening to destroy the city and her five protectors unless they can come together and stop it once and for all.

RED SISTER BY MARK LAWRENCE

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A bloodstained child of nine falsely accused of murder, guilty of worse, Nona is stolen from the shadow of the noose. It takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist, but under Abbess Glass’s care there is much more to learn than the arts of death. Among her class Nona finds a new family—and new enemies. 

What it is about?

The international bestselling author of the Broken Empire and the Red Queen’s War trilogies begins a stunning epic fantasy series about a secretive order of holy warriors…

At the Convent of Sweet Mercy, young girls are raised to be killers. In some few children the old bloods show, gifting rare talents that can be honed to deadly or mystic effect. But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls.

A bloodstained child of nine falsely accused of murder, guilty of worse, Nona is stolen from the shadow of the noose. It takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist, but under Abbess Glass’s care there is much more to learn than the arts of death. Among her class Nona finds a new family—and new enemies.

Despite the security and isolation of the convent, Nona’s secret and violent past finds her out, drawing with it the tangled politics of a crumbling empire. Her arrival sparks old feuds to life, igniting vicious struggles within the church and even drawing the eye of the emperor himself.

Beneath a dying sun, Nona Grey must master her inner demons, then loose them on those who stand in her way.

THE STONE KNIFE BY ANNA STEPHENS

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For generations, the forests of Ixachipan have echoed with the clash of weapons, as nation after nation has fallen to the Empire of Songs – and to the unending, magical music that binds its people together. Now, only two free tribes remain.

The Empire is not their only enemy. Monstrous, scaled predators lurk in rivers and streams, with a deadly music of their own.

As battle looms, fighters on both sides must decide how far they will go for their beliefs and for the ones they love – a veteran general seeks peace through war, a warrior and a shaman set out to understand their enemies, and an ambitious noble tries to bend ancient magic to her will.

What it is about?

The international bestselling author of the Broken Empire and the Red Queen’s War trilogies begins a stunning epic fantasy series about a secretive order of holy warriors…

At the Convent of Sweet Mercy, young girls are raised to be killers. In some few children the old bloods show, gifting rare talents that can be honed to deadly or mystic effect. But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls.

A bloodstained child of nine falsely accused of murder, guilty of worse, Nona is stolen from the shadow of the noose. It takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist, but under Abbess Glass’s care there is much more to learn than the arts of death. Among her class Nona finds a new family—and new enemies.

Despite the security and isolation of the convent, Nona’s secret and violent past finds her out, drawing with it the tangled politics of a crumbling empire. Her arrival sparks old feuds to life, igniting vicious struggles within the church and even drawing the eye of the emperor himself.

Beneath a dying sun, Nona Grey must master her inner demons, then loose them on those who stand in her way.

THE TROUBLE WITH PEACE BY JOE ABERCROMBIE

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Unrest worms into every layer of society. The Breakers still lurk in the shadows, plotting to free the common man from his shackles, while noblemen bicker for their own advantage. Orso struggles to find a safe path through the maze of knives that is politics, only for his enemies, and his debts, to multiply.

The old ways are swept aside, and the old leaders with them, but those who would seize the reins of power will find no alliance, no friendship, and no peace lasts forever.

What it is about?

Conspiracy. Betrayal. Rebellion.
Peace is just another kind of battlefield…

Savine dan Glokta, once Adua’s most powerful investor, finds her judgement, fortune and reputation in tatters. But she still has all her ambitions, and no scruple will be permitted to stand in her way.

For heroes like Leo dan Brock and Stour Nightfall, only happy with swords drawn, peace is an ordeal to end as soon as possible. But grievances must be nursed, power seized and allies gathered first, while Rikke must master the power of the Long Eye . . . before it kills her.

The Breakers still lurk in the shadows, plotting to free the common man from his shackles, while noblemen bicker for their own advantage. Orso struggles to find a safe path through the maze of knives that is politics, only for his enemies, and his debts, to multiply.

The old ways are swept aside, and the old leaders with them, but those who would seize the reins of power will find no alliance, no friendship, and no peace, lasts forever.

The Chrysillium Tree, by Laken Honeycutt

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An enchanting blend of adventure and lore, sacred trees and found family, The Chrysillium Tree is an adult fantasy story about the struggle for freedom amidst tyranny and remembering forgotten magic.

What it is about?

There is a language beyond words, in the forests and sacred places, if we can remember how to listen…

Separated from her family and her homeland, Mæve Faolái struggles to navigate her new life in the Palace of Light. With the cruelty of her abductors, and the lecherous advances of a Crown Prince lurking around every corner, she longs for freedom and to find her parents.

The Keeper’s Codex, by A.D. Wills

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What it is about?

For twenty years, Ethril has seen peace since the War of Regions tore through the country. But now, an unseen hand tugs at the hidden threads of fate across the world.

Starting the adventure of your dreams, meeting new friends, and getting tangled up with the conspiracies of some shadowy overlords. Not a bad start for Caden’s seventeenth birthday.

When Caden and friends find themselves the target of these overlords known only as the Divines, they’re left with two choices; Bow in fealty, or challenge the very rule of the world, and maybe have some fun along the way.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world watches on with the looming Summit of Leaders, gathering the world’s most combustible political elements in one room.

In the frozen north, The Dracus seek to end their generations-long feud with the oppressive Dragons. But they face a choice that could change everything.

Calaera readies herself to step in to oversee the capital with her Father, King Dreymond, departing for the Summit. What awaits her is anybody’s guess.

Keeper of the Fallen, by Alyssa Lauseng

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What it is about?

“The spirits have placed a very important task in your hands.”

A massacre. An escape. Sonika could have been a warrior and a leader if she hadn’t been ripped from her homeland as a child. As the last of the Okami, she will never stop fighting for her right to live.

Stalking the shadows is the only world Kulako knows. Heart filled with hatred, death by his blade is inevitable, but who he is beneath that darkness longs for something else.

When a twist of fate forces their lives to collide, their choices may be enough to hold back the merciless coils of the Giahatio.

But not even the will of the Gods can stop the will of the Emperor.hat awaits her is anybody’s guess.

Melokai, by Rosalyn Kelly

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What it is about?

A ruler betrayed by those closest to her. A young warrior with fearsome powers. A ruthless matriarchal land on the brink of destruction.

 

Legendary warrior Ramya has successfully ruled as Melokai for longer than most. Prosperous, peaceful, and happy, her people love her. Or so she thinks.

Ramya’s time is up. Bracing herself for the gruesome sentence imposed on all Melokais who have served their purpose, she hears instead a shocking prophecy.

Is the abrupt appearance of a mysterious, eastern cave creature the prophesied danger? Or is it something darker, more evil? And what of the wolves? Will the ferocious war with their kind oust her from power?

Suddenly Ramya must fight threats from all sides to save her mountain realm. But while her back is turned, a conspiracy within her inner circle is festering. Ramya and her female warriors must crush an epic rebellion before it can destroy her and devastate her beloved nation.

She thinks it’s the end, but it’s just the beginning…

Melokai is a grimdark epic fantasy packed with unique creatures and beings, blood-soaked action and brutal battles. It’s a sweeping tale of dark intrigue and conspiracy, forbidden love and sex, powerful magic and hardened warriors.

With intricate worldbuilding, a diverse cast of complex characters, and a fast-paced plot told from multiple narratives, this gritty adult fantasy will appeal to readers of George R. R. Martin, Mark Lawrence, Anna Stephens and Joe Abercrombie.

Empire of the Vampire, by Jay Kristoff

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What it is about?

THE INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES, USA TODAY, AND WALL STREET JOURNAL BESTSELLER

From New York Times bestselling author Jay Kristoff comes Empire of the Vampire, the first illustrated volume of an astonishing new dark fantasy saga.

From holy cup comes holy light;
The faithful hand sets world aright.
And in the Seven Martyrs’ sight,
Mere man shall end this endless night.


It has been twenty-seven long years since the last sunrise. For nearly three decades, vampires have waged war against humanity; building their eternal empire even as they tear down our own. Now, only a few tiny sparks of light endure in a sea of darkness.

Gabriel de León is a silversaint: a member of a holy brotherhood dedicated to defending realm and church from the creatures of the night. But even the Silver Order could not stem the tide once daylight failed us, and now, only Gabriel remains.

Imprisoned by the very monsters he vowed to destroy, the last silversaint is forced to tell his story. A story of legendary battles and forbidden love, of faith lost and friendships won, of the Wars of the Blood and the Forever King and the quest for humanity’s last remaining hope:

The Holy Grail.

Whitney Reinhart

Whitney Reinhart is a reader, writer, sometimes editor/coach currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing because she believes every one has at least one story to tell. She lives (for now) in eastern Arkansas with the world’s smartest man and two Siberian Huskies posing as study buddies. Her work can be found on PocketFiction.co.uk and Fleas on the Dog. . 

WHERE TO FIND HER

Visit her website, meanderyme.com, for links, book reviews, writing tips, and sign up for her monthly newsletter, Wanderings

whitney's favorite book of 2021

black borne by l.l. farmer

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What it is about?

An Immortal Demon Hunter.

Born into slavery in New York City, Neema has fought demons for nearly 300 years. So she thinks she knows everything about the demon world.

Until a gathering of demons leads her to a recent murder. And the murder points her to a fifty-year-old missing persons case.

As Neema races to uncover the truth, she soon learns that what she doesn’t know might not kill her. But there are some fates worse than death.

Ryan Howse

I’m funnier without context.

Okay, you want context.

I’m a mid-30s nerd, married, with two kids. Also two cats–Cathulhu and Necronomicat.
I like, in no particular order, tabletop gaming, board games, arguing over books, ancient history and religion, and puns.
I’m unconundrum on reddit.

Authors Page

Twitter

ryan's favorite books of 2021

the past is red by catherynne m. valente

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What it is about?

Catherynne M. Valente, the bestselling and award-winning creator of Space Opera and The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland returns with The Past is Red, the enchanting, dark, funny, angry story of a girl who made two terrible mistakes: she told the truth and she dared to love the world.

The future is blue. Endless blue…except for a few small places that float across the hot, drowned world left behind by long-gone fossil fuel-guzzlers. One of those patches is a magical place called Garbagetown.

Tetley Abednego is the most beloved girl in Garbagetown, but she’s the only one who knows it. She’s the only one who knows a lot of things: that Garbagetown is the most wonderful place in the world, that it’s full of hope, that you can love someone and 66% hate them all at the same time.

But Earth is a terrible mess, hope is a fragile thing, and a lot of people are very angry with her. Then Tetley discovers a new friend, a terrible secret, and more to her world than she ever expected. 

Review – The Past is Red by Catherynne Valente

An Interview with Catherynne Valente, Author of The Past is Red

the mold farmer by rick clypool

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What it is about?

From the author of Leech Girl Lives comes a novella of cosmic claustrophobia and workplace survival horror. It’s the story of Thorner, crushed under the weight of an alien occupation and also a refrigerator; of his family and campmates and fellow workers on Weckett’s mold farm; of the nglaeylyaethm and their masks and pets. It’s the story of people in intolerable situations, faced with untenable choices, in an appallingly cruel society-a fanciful tale of the distant future. 

Review- The Mold Farmer by Rick Claypool

Beth Tabler

Elizabeth Tabler runs Beforewegoblog and is constantly immersed in fantasy stories. She was at one time an architect but divides her time now between her family in Portland, Oregon, and as many book worlds as she can get her hands on. She is also a huge fan of Self Published fantasy and is on Team Qwillery as a judge for SPFBO5. You will find her with a coffee in one hand and her iPad in the other. Find her on: Goodreads / Instagram / Pinterest  / Twitter

beth's favorite books of 2021

in no particular order

Paternus: war of the gods by dyrk ashton

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If you know me at all, I am a hard-core fangirl of this series. I it is badass, and this book has some of the best fight scenes I have ever read. 

What it is about?

War of Gods is the highly anticipated conclusion to the critically acclaimed, award winning epic urban fantasy series, The Paternus Trilogy.

From Africa to Asgard, to an invisible island in the Pacific and the Bone Road of a forgotten world, Fi and Zeke must come to grips with not only their newfound abilities but also who they are – and accept what they are becoming: wielders of ancient and dangerous powers, warriors, and maybe even heroes. But the end of worlds is coming, and time is short.

Titans will clash. Gods will battle. Monsters will swarm.

Can Peter and the Deva possibly defeat their age-old enemy in the face of overwhelming odds against them? There’s only one way to find out.

CRY HAVOC, AND LET SLIP THE GODS OF WAR

Review – Paternus: Rise of the Gods by Dyrk Ashton

Review  – Paternus: Wrath of the Gods by Dyrk Ashton

 

kings of the wyld by nicholas eames

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This series is pure rock and roll. The only book I have ever read that I hummed AC/DC while reading it. 

What it is about?

Clay Cooper and his band were once the best of the best — the meanest, dirtiest, most feared crew of mercenaries this side of the Heartwyld.

Their glory days long past, the mercs have grown apart and grown old, fat, drunk – or a combination of the three. Then an ex-bandmate turns up at Clay’s door with a plea for help. His daughter Rose is trapped in a city besieged by an enemy one hundred thousand strong and hungry for blood. Rescuing Rose is the kind of mission that only the very brave or the very stupid would sign up for.

It’s time to get the band back together for one last tour across the Wyld.

Review – Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames

Master Artificer by Justin Call

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Eleni put it best, “Master Artificer is like riding a bike downhill that is on fire.” It is a hell of a ride, and oh so lovely and dark. Warmed my little grimdark loving heart.

What it is about?

The fabulous sequel to 2019’s hit debut novel: Master of Sorrows.

Annev has avoided one fate. But a darker path may still claim him . . .

After surviving the destruction of Chaenbalu, new mysteries and greater threats await Annev and his friends in the capital city of Luqura. As they navigate the city’s perilous streets, Annev searches for a way to control his nascent magic and remove the cursed artifact now fused to his body.

But what might removing it cost him?

As Annev grapples with his magic, Fyn joins forces with old enemies and new allies, waging a secret war against Luqura’s corrupt guilds in the hopes of forging his own criminal empire. Deep in the Brakewood, Myjun is learning new skills of her own as apprentice to Oyru, the shadow assassin who attacked the village of Chaenbalu – but the power of revenge comes at a daunting price. And back in Chaenbalu itself, left for dead in the Academy’s ruins, Kenton seeks salvation in the only place he can: the power hoarded in the Vault of Damnation . . .

Review – Master Artificer by Justin Travis Call

Red in Tooth and Claw by Ryan Howse

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Ryan is a member of the BWG team and a good friend of mine. However, when I review I tell the unvarnished truth. This is probably the most sensory book I have ever read. You can feel the ice crack under your feet, the cold wind chapping your lips, and the inescapable dark coming up behind you. It is incredible. 

What it is about?

A brutal wilderness.

Hungry, plague-ridden animals.

A winter so cold it snaps wood.

Chemosh, a scout imprisoned by the enemy, agrees to lead the way through this wilderness for his freedom. But both his knowledge and his resilience are put to the test, not just by the wilderness, but by the chaotic, violent man he guides. A man he must rely on if they are to survive.

Review – Red in Tooth and Claw

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