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Conflux Convention

I’ll be attending the 17th Conflux Speculative Fiction Convention in Canberra from 29th September – 3rd October, 2023.

I’ll be in the Dealer’s Room – All weekend!!

Book Promo — Cursed Shards edited by Leanbh Pearson with Stephen Herczeg, 29th September, Friday 5.30 pm.

I’ll be on 3 panels:

Entrances to Evil: Doors in Dark Fiction – Leanbh Pearson, Lisa Fuller, Joanne Anderton, Daniel O’Malley. Friday 29th September, 7:30pm.

Ditmar Awards Ceremony, Saturday 30th September, 5pm.

Spirits Abroad – Rebecca Hayward, Leanbh Pearson, Americo Alvarenga, Imogen Cassidy. Sunday 1st October, 12:45pm.

Insatiable – Leanbh Pearson, Zachary Ashford, Aaron Dries (18+), Sunday 1st October, 8pm.

Raganrok : A Witch’s Curse Book Launch – Leanbh Pearson with Zachary Ashford, Monday 2nd October, 1:30pm.

Black Fox and Bitterbind Book Launch – Leanbh Pearson with Louise Peiper, Monday 2nd October, 1:30 pm.

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The Void

Publisher’s Description

A dark tale of self-discovery that will sweep you into a world of swords, secrets, snark, and sapphic love.

Kiera never fit in. Not on her aunt’s farm, not at her boring job, not with her ex-girlfriends. But she hasn’t given up hope of finding that elusive place to belong.

A freak storm leaves her stranded, alone in the office.

When something flashes past the upstairs window, the sarcastic voice in her head, Jiminy, insists it’s a figment of her imagination. But Kiera knows she didn’t imagine the flying pirate ship.

Or the dragon.

If she jumps on board—into a hidden world above the clouds—there’ll be no coming back. Is she ready for the quest of a lifetime, and the dark secrets beginning to unfurl?

Void is the first book in a dark steampunk fantasy series that skillfully blends thrilling adventure, snarky humour, and a sapphic slow-burn romance.


Summary

I recently read The Void (The Fang Ripper Series, #1) a steampunk fantasy novella by Australian author Neen Cohen.

The Void follows protagonist Kiera who lives in present-day Brisbane with allusions made early to her mental instability or repressed memories and self. Kiera lives a ‘normal’ life but the arrival of an otherworldly storm pulls Kiera from what she’d imagined was reality and into a new one of Skyan. Is this the strange connection she’d always felt was wrong with her?

Kiera’s journey into learning her true past begins when Blue crashes his sky ship to earth and the attractive but feminine Zarzy is injured battling an earth-magic dragon. To save Zarzy and prevent the darkly powerful Void from drvouring everything, Kiera must learn quickly as Blue takes the sky ship into Skyran with its floating cities, war and dangerous political machinations that threaten not just Blue and Zarzy who Kiera is undeniably attracted to. Into this complex battles of dragons and opposing invested interests, Kiera begins to learns her own truth.

Review

Cohen introduces a new take on urban fantasy with energetic prose and a mild sapphic romance. There’s a lot to unpack in this first novella and the word-building is fascinating and much more detail to follow. This is a genre-blending series of urban fantasy, steampunk and adventure. Cohen keeps it fast-paced with intriguing characters and innovative concepts.

Conclusion

A recommended new dark fantasy with mild sapphic romance, dragons, airships in a fresh take on urban fantasy!

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The Bridge

Publisher’s Description

Meera and her twin sister Kai are Mades—part human and part not—bred in the Blood Temple cult, which only the teenage Meera will survive. Racked with grief and guilt, she lives in hiding with her mysterious rescuer, Narn—part witch and part not—who has lost a sister too, a connection that follows them to Meera’s enrollment years later in a college Redress Program. There she is recruited by Regulars for a starring role in a notorious reading series and is soon the darling of the lit set, finally whole, finally free of the idea that she should have died so Kai could have lived. Maybe Meera can be re-made after all, her life redressed. But the Regulars are not all they seem and there is a price to pay for belonging to something that you don’t understand. Time is closing in on all Meera holds dear—she stands afraid, not just for but of herself, on the bridge between worlds—fearful of what waits on the other side and of the cost of knowing what she truly is.


Summary

The Bridge by J.S. Breukelaar is an dystopian alternate future – in a world like Australia and not. Similar to the protagonist Meera – part human and not. She is bereaved after the death of her twin sister Kai and suffers survivors guilt. In meeting the mysterious witch figure Narn, who knows more than she says about Meera but shares the loss of her own sister, a strong connection to forged.

Encouraged by the future offered placement in the Redress Program. Meera finally sees this chance to belong to the Regulars as an opportunity to set aside her past, the grief of losing Kai and finally start living her own life. But be careful what you wish for because all transformations come at a cost and this one might be higher than Meera is willing to pay.

Review

In The Bridge, Breukelaar writes a stunning combination of the fantastic, futuristic and the metaphorical. The division between fate and desire, hope and reality are twisted and spun into an elegant futuristic dystopian fairy tale.

Conclusion

For fans of modern and futuristic fairy tale and folklore retellings and reimagining, contemporary dark fantasy and dystopian settings. A highly recommended read!


** This is my personal opinion and does not reflect any judging decisions **

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The Salt-Black Tree

** I received an ARC for an honest review **

Publisher’s Description

Nat Drozdova has crossed half the continent in search of the stolen Dead God’s Heart, the only thing powerful enough to trade for her beautiful, voracious, dying mother’s life. Yet now she knows the secret of her own birth—and that she’s been lied to all her young life.

The road to the Heart ends at the Salt-Black Tree, but to find it Nat must pay a deadly price. Pursued by mouthless shadows hungry for the blood of new divinity as well as the razor-wielding god of thieves, Nat is on her own. Her journey leads through a wilderness of gods old and new, across a country as restless as its mortal inhabitants, and it’s too late to back out now.

…or accept the consequences of her own.


Summary

Blood may not always prevail. Magic might not always work. And the young Drozdova is faced with an impossible choice: Save her mother’s very existence…

I recently read The Salt-Black Tree(Dead God’s Heart, #2) by US dark fantasy and urban fantasy author Lilith Saintcrow.

The journey of Nat Drozdova continues but she now possesses Spring’s Arcana and is coming into her own Divinity. While she battles internally with the reality her mother has lied to her throughout her entire life, and that she was born simply to allow her mother to assume to divinity on American soil, Nat comes into her own power and makes her own decisions as she travels towards the Salt-Black Tree and whatever ending awaits her there.

She seeks the Dead God’s Heart but what she intends to do with it once she possesses it, she is yet to be sure. One thing she does know-Nat Drozdova is her own Divinity, and if that means battling her mother and Baba Yaga, she will do so.

Review

The Salt-Black Tree is the final instalment in the Dead God’s Heart duology.

Saintcrow’s writing is superb and she provides a thrilling and satisfying ending to her series. The plot is fast-paced while still being insightful to characters development and the detailed world-building. The comparisons to Neil Gaiman‘s American Gods, while relevant on the surface, Saintcrow’s duology blows them away with a darkness and ruthlessness in development and immigration of divinities and human belief which is fresh and bold. This finale is a masterpiece of talented writing while maintaining the integrity of the characters and the world building at the core of in this urban fantasy duology.

Conclusion

A highly recommended read for fans of urban fantasy, Russian folklore and world mythology. A thriller of an urban fantasy and a read!


** This is my personal opinion and does not reflect any judging decisions **

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Steel Victory

Publisher’s Description

One hundred years ago, the vampire Victory retired from a centuries-long mercenary career. She settled in Limani, the independent city-state acting as a neutral zone between the British and Roman colonies on the New Continent.

Twenty years ago, Victory adopted a human baby girl, who soon showed signs of magical ability.

Today, Victory is a city councilwoman, balancing the human and supernatural populations within Limani. Her daughter Toria is a warrior-mage, balancing life as an apprentice mercenary with college chemistry courses.

Tomorrow, the Roman Empire invades.


Summary

I recently read alternate history and steampunk fantasy Steel Victory (Steel Empires, #1) by US author J.L. Gribble.

Steel Victory follows several protagonists including Victory, a vampire and leader of her free city state Limani and her human adopted-daughter Toria – a mage bonded to another mage to form a warrior pair. They are still in training and not yet combat ready but soon must face the realities of war whether they’re ready or not.

Victory is embroiled in the rising of an anti-Fae alliance within the council that governs the city and also within the populous itself. Brutal assaults and banning of Fae individuals from businesses sees injustice and discrimination made plain.

While the Roman army marches on the Limani, Victory is forced to battle on two fronts: a physical war looming and an internal Civil War brewing.

Review

Gribble’s vast world building skilfully uses alternate history and fantasy that is highly detailed while still fast-paced. The clever plot weaves history and magic and is a masterstroke by Gribble.

Conclusion

Highly recommended to fantasy readers, alternate history, occult, LGBTQI and readers who enjoy skilful and vast world-building. A great read!


** This is my personal opinion and does not reflect any judging decisions **

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A Master of Djinn

Publisher’s Description

Cairo, 1912: Though Fatma el-Sha’arawi is the youngest woman working for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, she’s certainly not a rookie, especially after preventing the destruction of the universe last summer.

So when someone murders a secret brotherhood dedicated to one of the most famous men in history, Al-Jahiz, Agent Fatma is called onto the case. Al-Jahiz transformed the world fifty years ago when he opened up the veil between the magical and mundane realms, before vanishing into the unknown. This murderer claims to be Al-Jahiz, returned to condemn the modern age for its social oppressions. His dangerous magical abilities instigate unrest in the streets of Cairo that threaten to spill over onto the global stage.

Alongside her Ministry colleagues and a familiar person from her past, Agent Fatma must unravel the mystery behind this imposter to restore peace to the city – or face the possibility he could be exactly who he seems . . .


Summary

I recently read A Master of Djinn (The Dead Djinn Universe, #1) by US fantasy author P. Djéli Clark.

A Master of Djinn follows from events of the novella A Dead Djinn in Cairo with the protagonist again being Agent Fatma and joined now by next female agent in Cairo Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, an initially unwanted partner in Agent Haida.

The case the two women are tested against is a deaths of a group of English society men worshipping the semi-legendary magician called Al-Jahiz – famous for allowing the djinn back into the world. But why holy man and supernatural leader would burn a group of socialites to death seems unfathomable. Agent Fatma and Haida don’t believe this returned Al-Jahiz is anything but imposter stirring chaos and resentment in Cairo against the English.

As Fatima and Haida investigate deeper, the dangers around them continue to mount until they must join with the supernatural entity Sitii to face the incredibly powerful Al-Jahiz who commands real power to force all djinn to his will.

Review

P. Djéli Clark delivers a fascinating alternate history of Egypt and European nations circa 1912. The storytelling feels fresh and invigorating and the degree of detail in the complex communities of Cairo and all those who have migrated to earn their fortunes. Sometimes the plot felt as though it had wandered off track into extraneous details and others it didn’t quite seem to answer key questions clearly. Despite that, Clark writes a fabulous and highly unique story with some truly individual characters.

Conclusion

A fast-paced supernatural thriller, alternate history and steampunk read. Highly recommended!!

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Witch King

** I received an ARC for an honest review **

Publisher’s Description

Kai-Enna is the Witch King, though he hasn’t always been, and he hasn’t even always been Kai-Enna!

After being murdered, his consciousness dormant and unaware of the passing of time while confined in an elaborate water trap, Kai wakes to find a lesser mage attempting to harness Kai’s magic to his own advantage. That was never going to go well.

But why was Kai imprisoned in the first place? What has changed in the world since his assassination? And why does the Rising World Coalition appear to be growing in influence?

Kai will need to pull his allies close and draw on all his pain magic if he is to answer even the least of these questions.

He’s not going to like the answers.


Summary

I recently read the dark fantasy Witch King by US author Martha Wells.

The protagonist Kai, a demon prince of the Fourth House called the Witch King who uses his touch to drain the life of his victims to fuel his own magic and life force wakes in a disembodied state to find he has been assassinated. Sacrifices are dragged into his tomb and in this disembodied state, Kai takes possession of a recently deceased sacrifice, drains the life of his captors but spares the life of Sanja, a girl prisoner who’d been taken to his tomb along with the dead. Now back in a body, Kai must find and rescue his companion the witch Ziede from a similar imprisonment. Once Ziede is rescued, the two rely on Sanja to explain the world they have woken into and begin their quest to find and rescue Ziede’s lover Tahren who is separated from them both and unreachable by magic.

The events put in motion by Kai’s search for answers and the quest to rescue Tahren in this newly flooded world, begins a chain of events that uncover lies and deceptions, false friendships and true ones.

Review

Witch King was at its core a dark fantasy but Wells has created genuine characters with dark humour and wit woven throughout. In part a dystopian tale with a water-drowned fantasy world, Wells crafted a unique and plot of deception, friendship, love and loss which added the necessary links to humanity in those who survived the ending of their world – albeit a demon who drains life to survive and swaps bodies, a witch bent on revenge and finding her lover and a mortal child saved from the darkness of the Rising World Coalition and Blessed Hierarchs with their expositors and necromancy magic. In this new world, Wells draws on the darkness and deception that surround the Rising World Coalition where truth and lies can be hard to distinguish. Wells has created a masterfully written story with genuine characters and unique world-building.

Conclusion

A wonderful read for fans of dark fantasy with humour, witchcraft, necromancy and fantastic world-building for a water-drowned dystopian unique fantasy world. Highly recommended!


** This is my personal opinion and does not reflect any judging decisions **

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The New Wife

Publisher’s Description

Bluebeard’s seventh wife is the first to survive his wrath, courtesy of ghostly warnings and the timely intervention of her brothers. The village burns her murderous husband, his crimes laid bare and his wealth passed on to her… but even after his death, Bluebeard’s house won’t allow anyone to leave. All wives—living and dead—remain trapped in their husband’s manor, even as the man who terrorised them proves to be less dead than they had hoped.

Haunted by his vengeful ghost, can the wives find a way to break the curse that would bind them in darkness and torment forever?


Summary

I recently read the novella The New Wife (Never Afters Tales) by Australian dark fiction author Kirstyn McDermott.

The protagonist (following the Blue Beard tales) is a young woman who marries a very rich older man. When he leaves the house for a business affair, he tells her she can go anywhere in the house except his private room in the tower. Driven by curiosity about her new husband, she eventually unlocks the door to his tower room. Inside, she finds the corpses of his previous wives. She also is accosted by their ghosts – each bearing the brutal marks of how their husband killed them.

The key to the husband’s tower, now stained with blood, cannot be cleaned. On the husband’s unpredicted return, the new wife gains the assistance of the other wives’ ghosts and the housemaid skilled in witchcraft to finally end the bloody reign of the husband.

Review

The New Wife has strong characters and supernatural elements in a fascinating new re-imagining of the ‘Blue Beard’ fairytale tropes which is masterfully executed by McDermott. A dark fantasy tale that moves at the pace of a supernatural thriller while staying true to the fairytale foundations. An exciting new addition by McDermott to the fairytale retellings that should be highly prized.

Conclusion

A perfect novella for fans of Angela Carter, fairytale retellings, dark fiction and ghost stories. A fabulous blend of fairytale retelling, supernatural thriller and dark fantasy. A highly recommended read!

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Spring’s Arcana

** I received an ARC for an honest review **

Publisher’s Description

Nat Drozdova is desperate to save a life. Doctors can do little for her cancer-ridden mother, who insists there is only one cure—and that Nat must visit a skyscraper in Manhattan to get it.

Amid a snow-locked city, inside a sleek glass-walled office, Nat makes her plea and is whisked into a terrifying new world. For the skyscraper holds a hungry winter goddess who has the power to cure her mother…if Nat finds a stolen object of great power.

Now Nat must travel with a razor-wielding assassin across an American continent brimming with terror, wonder, and hungry divinities with every reason to consume a young woman. For her ailing mother is indeed suffering no ordinary illness, and Nat Drozdova is no ordinary girl. Blood calls to blood, magic to magic, and a daughter may indeed save what she loves…

…if it doesn’t consume her first.

This is the way to the Dead God’s Heart.


Summary

I recently read Spring’s Arcana by US urban fantasy author Lilith Saintcrow.

Spring’s Arcana follows protagonist Nat Drozdova as she begins a journey and bargain with Baba Yaga to save her dying mother’s life. In return, she must begin a journey to retrieve the items her mother stole and hid carefully across the United States – including the Heart of a God – stolen from Baba Yaga herself, who in turn wrenched it from Dimitri Konesti – the god of thieves.

For Nat, all is new and incomprehensible until she begins to realise her mother lied to her for her entire life and kept her innocent of the knowledge of divinities – including her own mother being the divinity of Spring.

Baba Yaga sends Dimitri to both protect and watch Nat Drozdova as she grows into her power, becoming Spring even as her mother sickens and fades in a hospice and Nat tries to find the items she needs to save her mother. But will Baba Yaga keep her word? Is Nat’s own mother more of a threat to her than the Dead God whose heart she stole?

Review

An intriguing and well-crafted folklore and mythology inspired first book in a duology. Spring’s Arcana is a fascinating read that is authentic and enthralling. The world-building and development of the characters is high quality and SanitCrow delivers a novel that is dark, mysterious and leaves you hungering for more.

Conclusion

Highly recommended for fans of reimagining of folklore, legends and mythology. This is a great urban dark fantasy that is a supernatural thriller and a dark delight. Can’t wait for the second instalment. A must-read!


** This is my personal opinion and does not reflect any judging decisions **

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Appearances: Canberra Geek Markets

I’ll be at the Canberra Geek Markets this Saturday 29 April at EPIC, Canberra.

My stall is located next to the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild (CSFG) stall

Come along and check out comics, books, media and merchandise for all your inner Geek desires!

I’m selling and signing books and have some cool merchandise all available at sale prices!