These Violent Nights – Rebecca Crunden

This book contains:

  • Extreme class segregation and persecution
  • “Ownership” of people similar in some ways to slavery
  • Descriptions of and the aftereffects of genocide
  • Drugging
  • Attempted rape
  • Attempted and completed murder.

Thorn is the primary character we follow for roughly two thirds of the book, however, we also spend about one third following Lucien.

Thorn is a human who’s suffered immense trauma from the Suriia and is hell bent on revenge for the murder of her family while also trying to do her best to protect her “little sister” Thistle. She’s a tough nugget, strong willed, suspicious of all and entirely dedicated to her cause.

Lucien is a Suriia of unknown origins (until the last third of the book) who’s suffered immensely at the hands of humans. Not initially from the same Earth as Thorn is, he’s suffered similar trauma but responds in quite a different way. For him, he’s all about creating a safe space for his family to live out their days without drawing more attention to themselves than they need to.

Thorn and Lucien are battling their own demons while trying to find a better life for themselves and their loved ones. We follow Thorn until she meets Lucien and then go back a bit to get a bit of Lucien’s history until he meets Thorn. And then everything changes, and we learn exactly how intricate everything is, and follow them as they do their best to fix it.

I’ve read and reviewed the entire of The Outlands Pentalogy, and really enjoyed Rebecca’s writing. So when I discovered she’d entered this book into the 2022 Book Bloggers Novel of the Year Award (BBNYA), I thought I knew what I was getting into. But boy was I wrong!

Although I did have mixed feelings about this as I read it. I loved the first third, then was super confused for the entire of the second third and felt betrayed and so conflicted. But then my trust was restored in the final third. If you read this, please give the second third a chance! It will make sense and work out for the best by the end of it!

I promise!

By the very end I was so happy, and while I’d kinda like to know what happens further in the future for all of them, I’m not disappointed in how it ended.

City of Strife – Claudie Arseneault

This book contains:

  • Strong racism and class system themes, depictions and impacts.

Characters

We follow quite a few characters, almost in a Game of Thrones or Wheel of Time level of complexity and interweaving of characters. There seem to be three main groups of characters broken up into the Lower City, the Dathirii and the Myrian’s.

Arathiel, Larryn, Hasryan and Cal are all from the Lower City, all coming from different backgrounds but united in the fact that they’re otherwise excluded from society.

Diel, Jaeger, Branwen and Camilla are part of the Dathirii family who hold a position of power in the Upper City. While in a position of power, they’re different to the other families in that Diel (as the head of the family) can’t stand for injustice and abuse and makes a stand against it, and his family support him.

Nevian, Varden and Master Avenazar form the main Myrian characters, and they almost couldn’t be more different. From the scared and scarred apprentice, the racially hated-should-be-a-slave Head Priest and the sadist crazy man with a ridiculous amount of power.

Arathiel arrives back in Isandor after more than a century away from home, and while he’s changed significantly, much of the city hasn’t. As he finds his place, we meet more and more characters and discover the intricacies of the Isandor society and the individuals who live within it.

As they form bonds and new alliances, the webs weave and strands break as the story develops.

I loved the Wheel of Time and Game of Thrones vibes I was getting almost right from the beginning. While I’m sure following so many characters could be hard for some readers, I love it, especially when you have a world as complex as this.

All the way throughout, as the story unfolds, I found myself being drawn more and more into it and becoming more and more invested in the characters. By the end, I couldn’t wait to get started on the next book. While it’s out, I haven’t had a chance to pick it up yet, but I will DEFINITELY want to come back to this series to keep reading!

There’re 4 books in the series out now, and this is only the first book.

I have my own theories about where this is going to go, but I’ll have to get to the rest of the series to find out!

Zealot – C. Vonzale Lewis

This book contains:

  • Depictions and descriptions of a cult and it’s impacts to the members and their families
  • Description of paedophilia
  • Description and depiction of both protective and ritualistic murder
  • Emotional and psychological control.

We continue to follow Nicole, picking up almost immediately after Lineage finishes. While she’s gained more confidence, has a stronger sense of herself and her beliefs; there are still huge gaps missing for her that she’s trying to puzzle out.

Nicole formally joins the group hired to find the killers of a young woman and joins the hunt to find all Blood Magick users. As they search, Nicole discovers more and more about her past and her place in the world today while more and more Gods seem to congregate on Tulare Island.

In their search for answers, they discover more than they ever thought possible.

While I really enjoyed this, I didn’t think it was as captivating as Lineage. The main reason for this stems more from the pacing than anything else I think.

It felt like the main story was written, then they realised that some context was missing and found places to shove it in at random points. The end result being that some parts felt like a normally paced book, and others felt like we were trying to shove 3 chapters worth of content into the space of like 3 pages.

It felt weird and made it hard to keep up with each of the details. And for reference, I barely had an issue keeping up with everything that happened in Game of Thrones throughout all the currently published books. I think if the book was a little longer, maybe not spaced over a couple of days, this could have been much better.

I still enjoyed it though!

The action, following along as each piece of info is delivered and figuring out how it all pieces together. That was definitely interesting. I just think I would’ve preferred a little bit more time taken in certain parts to help it flow easier, be easier to remember and also feel more realistic.

Lineage – C. Vonzale Lewis

This book contains:

  • References to, discussions of and descriptions of substance abuse
  • Casual sex with numerous people
  • Attempted murder and the aftermath of murder described
  • Suggestions of cannibalism.

Nicole is the centre of our story and boy is she wild!

Nicole is unapologetically herself in the bluntest, in your face, truthful and persistent way. She has her own thoughts, feelings and opinions and she makes absolutely no excuses for them let alone tries to hide it.

Nicole is not the kind of girl who has a clear career pathway, instead, she jumps from job to job struggling to get by without having to borrow money from her parents. But she can’t let this last opportunity slip through her fingers because it’s the absolute last job she can go to without having to move back into her parents’ place.

But Tribec Insurance has weird vibes right from the get-go and weird things keep happening to her both in and outside of work.

I reached out to Carla to get a copy of this after reading the excerpt in the BBNYA competition because I was just absolutely shocked that it didn’t make it through to the final round. While I can understand how it lost some marks in the scoring (there are some grammatical and spelling errors, but not enough to truly bother me, especially when the story grabs me so utterly) I still can’t believe it didn’t make it through.

By the time I reached the end I was so enthralled I had to skip straight to buying the next book in the series because I needed more. The rollercoaster, the questions left unanswered and the hints of there being SO MUCH MORE to what was going on than what we knew was too much for me. I needed the next one straight away.

Dark Apprentice – Val Neil

This book contains:

  • Attempted and completed murder
  • Assault and sexual assault
  • Poisoning (not trying to kill).

Nikolai and Medea are the main characters, with almost all of the story told from Nikolai’s point of view.

Nikolai is a powerful wizard who’s determined to be the biggest, strongest dark wizard in history. Unfortunately for him, he’s apprenticed to a wizard who won’t teach him and who’s determined to have him learn only things that can help people or pretend to hurt people.

Medea is an autistic (don’t worry, this is explained in the author’s notes at the end so it wasn’t over the top and stupid in the book) mage who’s practically immortal and determined to not train anymore dark wizards. Given her history with apprentices, she doesn’t want to have to kill any more of them.

Nikolai finds out about Medea by accident, but as soon as he does, he’s intent on figuring out how to convince her to take him on as an apprentice. From there, we follow along as Nikolai does his best effort at a “normal” apprentice wanting to learn to try and convince Medea to take him on.

When he finally does convince her, we follow along to Medea’s home and the beginnings of his training to become the strongest wizard he can be.

As I read this, I knew there was something about Medea that wasn’t “normal”, it wasn’t until I got to the authors note at the end that I understood why. What I appreciated and I think many people will, is that Medea is autistic, and rather than describe her as the over the top, media exaggerated type of autistic, Val has gone to the effort to describe her as authentically as possible.

Autism has a spectrum with many ways of presenting in each individual. Where most depictions of autism is very far at one end and exaggerated, Medea clearly sits somewhere in the middle where you can tell that there’s something different to “normal”, but you can’t necessarily quite put your finger on what it is.

In terms of the rest of the story, it was your typical kind of fantasy with twists and turns, magic and some drama. The twist at the end is probably something I should have guessed (I certainly feel like I should have guessed it), but I didn’t so I was shocked when it was revealed. And then the big outburst that happened flipped a switch and it was amazing to see it all come together so well and made me instantly wonder “what happens next?”

Since the second book (Dark Mind) wasn’t out yet when I finished this, I couldn’t jump straight in but I really should ask for a copy because I’m stoked to keep reading!

A Time of Prophecy – Rebecca Crunden

This book contains:

  • Civil war
  • War crimes
  • Human experimentation (without consent)
  • Genocide
  • Murder.

Following Kitty, Nate and Thom throughout the book we’re constantly changing perspectives depending on what’s happening. All three are fighting fit and ready to accomplish anything they set their minds to.

Kickstarting the overall storyline for this book is Kitty being brought back into the Kingdom to stand trial for releasing a strain of the Plague that had no antidote and resulted in millions of people dying. When Kitty goes with them to be interviewed on her part in this happening, she learns the current state of the Kingdom and realises that she can’t continue with her life in the Outlands knowing what’s happening within the Kingdom.

I’m going to come right out with my main gripe about this book.

It needed to be longer.

There, I said it!

Rebecca has created such an intricate, complex world that the events that play out in this book can’t be covered in the same depth as the previous books in the same number of pages. It just doesn’t work.

Kinda like the final Harry Potter book was split into two movies coz they knew they couldn’t do it justice in one movie. This book needed more time than a single book can provide AND give us the same level of detail and quality I’ve come to expect from this series.

So in a way this gripe is also a compliment (because Rebecca has created such a rich world), so you should definitely take that as the positive it is!

I just really wish Rebecca had decided to write a longer final book since we couldn’t make it 6 books given the name of the series (The Outlands Pentalogy). While it’d take longer to read, I definitely think it would’ve been worth it!

A Dance of Lies – Rebecca Crunden

This book contains:

  • Revenge (including psychological torture, physical torture, bloodshed and murder/killing).

Unlike the first three books, this book mostly follows Kitty, but also has moments of following Thom or Nate allowing us to gain perspectives from all three of them during their time in the Outlands.

Kitty, Nate and Thom are building a life for themselves in the Outlands despite Quen constantly attacking them and the others from the Kingdom wanting to return to fight for freedom. As tensions reach breaking point, Riddle and Kitty develop a special bond that has Nate questioning the future of his relationship with Kitty.

Coming straight off the back of A Promise of Return, the pace and drama of this just wasn’t the same. It’s not that it was bad, it’s just that I wasn’t constantly wishing I could stop what I was doing and keep reading.

There were certainly stretches of the book where I felt that way. But to set up for those parts, others needed to be a bit slower, more relationship focused and less adrenaline pumping.

The main reason for scoring this one a little lower was that we’ve gone from following just one character then whole way through, to occasionally swapping perspectives. Being book 4 and the first time this is happening it thew me off a little which also threw me out of my reading zone.

If you go in expecting to suddenly change perspectives a couple times you may not experience that “thrown” feeling quite so much. But I wasn’t expecting it, so it did throw me.

Otherwise, the culmination of all the build up at the end surprised me, drew me in but also left me wondering what was left to cover in the fifth and last book of the series.

A Promise of Return – Rebecca Crunden

This book contains:

  • Torture
  • Slavery
  • Gladiator style ring fighting to the death
  • Sex for information and social advantage
  • Cannibalism
  • Mental suffering.

Thom is the brother to Nate (A History of Madness follows Nate, and he’s heavily included in A Touch of Death) and Complement to Kitty (A Touch of Death follows Kitty, and she’s heavily included in A History of Madness) and a master of words. He’s a politician through and through and has been since he was a child.

Finding ways to advantage his loved ones is something he’s done his entire life, it’s natural for him. Yet there is so much more to him than just making sure his brother and Complement are safe and happy.

Picking up from near the end of A Touch of Death, we follow Thom as he’s caught breaking into restricted government buildings and brought to the King for judgement. From there we follow him throughout his torturous days until he’s reunited with Nate and Kitty (the ending of A History of Madness) and then continues from there as he tries to build a life in the Outlands.

Hearing Thom’s story, how he became who he was, made so many small pieces of his personality that showed in the first two books make sense. He’s a fixer. He needs to make sure those around him are happy, healthy, and safe and if doing so also sets him up for advantage later, all the better.

While I wasn’t expecting the relationship he developed with Charles (purely because this part of his personality wasn’t really mentioned in the first two books), after hearing about his earlier life it made sense. When you’ve only known someone to be straight, it is a shock to discover that’s not the case. For me personally, so long as it makes sense for the characters to suddenly change (and in this case it wasn’t sudden, we just didn’t have the full backstory before this book), I don’t care.

In this instance, Thom’s sexuality played a major part of the storyline and therefore made sense. So I have zero issues, instead, I found it added value, complexity and depth to several characters that enhanced the story overall.

Compared to the previous two books, this is definitely bloodier and gorier. But I found I quite liked it!

Sometimes you need the blood and guts to break up other genres and every part of that added thrill and adrenaline to my reading experience and set me up to want to dive immediately into the next book.

Shadow of a Dead God – Patrick Samphire

This book contains:

  • Attempted murder, multiple times
  • Mass murder
  • Psychological manipulation
  • Corruption.

Mennik (Nik) Thorn is our main mage. Given he’s the main character one would think that he’s a mega powerful mage, but nope. He’s an average to below average mage of dubious origins who can’t seem to do anything right. And he’s meant to be the hero?

Nik is sitting his butt up doing a shitty job he hates but he desperately needs to help him pay the bills. Then his best friend, also of dubious origins, drags him back into the underworld where from there, everything that can go wrong, does go wrong.

As the story got deeper and deeper into the shit, it got better and better. Every time something seemed to get worse for Nik, it got more interesting, and more and more questions got raised. I mean, how many times can you change who you think the bad guy is in a single book?!

Not to mention the interplay between Nik, Sereh, Benny, Mica and Meroi was classic. The way their various personalities, loyalties, humour, knowledge and skills made for such an interesting story.

Then of course there’s the magical element that underpins the whole story. How are some mages so powerful and some not? How do ghosts exist? How do dead gods work? How do gods even die?

And then there’s the ending!

It’s got me wanting the next book so bad!

Continue to read further down to find out about the author.


I received this book to read and review as part of the 2021 BBNYA competition and the BBNYA tours organised by the TWR Tour team. All opinions are my own, unbiased and honest.

BBNYA is a yearly competition where Book Bloggers from all over the world read and score books written by indie authors. If you are an author and wish to learn more about the BBNYA competition, you can visit the official website www.bbnya.com or twitter @bbnya_official.

The sign-ups will soon be open for the 2022 BBNYA competition, be it for authors to enter their books, or for bloggers wanting to be part of the new panel, so keep your eyes peeled!!


Author Bio

Patrick Samphire is the author of the adult fantasy novel SHADOW OF A DEAD GOD, as well as the middle grade novels SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB and THE EMPEROR OF MARS. He has also published around twenty short stories and novellas.

Patrick has been writing stories since he was fourteen years old and thought it would be a good way of avoiding having to sit through English lessons at school. He was absolutely convinced that he would be famous by the time he was eighteen, but sadly, even infamy has eluded him.

He lives in Wales, surrounded by mountains, with his wife, their sons, and their cat. When he’s not writing, he designs websites and ebooks.

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