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The Grimnoir Chronicles by New York Times’ bestselling author Larry Correia is a fantastic series. I just read book three, Warbound, which concludes the story arc started with Hard Magic (Book I), and Spellbound (Book II). The world is an alternate history Earth set mostly in the 1930’s, and is a cross between X-Men and Boardwalk Empire. That’s right, superheroes and gangsters in the 1930’s fighting for the fate of the planet. It’s epic and awesome. I must mention there are airships, pirates, and ninjas—as well as a hick girl from Oklahoma who is possibly the most powerful magic-wielding person of all time. You find out why in book three.

Warbound mostly features a trio of main characters—pictured on the cover: Faye Vierra—the hick girl with the power of teleportation (she’s called a Traveler) who is likely the best assassin ever; Jake Sullivan—a World War I veteran who can manipulate gravity (he’s called a Heavy); and Tokugawa Toru, a samurai (he’s a Brute) who can change the density of matter). Toru is such a great character and he just might be the equal of Sullivan. Toru wields a nasty war club (a tetsubo) and just might end up wearing a suit of really amazing armor. (Hint: the cover artist did a wonderful job). Toru can cause things to weigh almost nothing, which is good for him, and really bad for his enemies as he can swing his tetsubo really fast.

There is so much action in this series and Warbound was off the charts with magic and mayhem. The story arc concludes in Warbound, but I’ve heard rumors there will be at least one prequel, perhaps two, set several years before Hard Magic, likely set during World War I. There will also be at least one short story set in the Grimnoir world featured in one of the many anthologies Larry Correia has on his impressive release schedule.

Spellbound: Book II
Hard Magic: Book I

Warbound delivered on the promises of the first two exceptional novels and tied up all the loose threads, while delivering a bullet-riddled and exciting ending filled with all sorts of wizardry. The characters are a lot of fun and the plot was fast-paced as it barreled toward the final confrontation. The only thing I didn’t like was that President Franklin Roosevelt was cast as a villain along with much of the U.S. government. Correia does have some justification, as it is true that Roosevelt committed a terrible crime and interned thousands of Japanese Americans during World War II—but I found some early parts of the book a little too heavy handed.

Regardless of my own bias, I found myself engaged and inside this book on many levels. The characters and the story pulled me in. I was so intrigued with how the magic unfolded as well, and all the questions brought up in books one and two were answered. The connections made by the characters and the sheer magnitude of the Enemy coming to destroy the world amped up the tension throughout.

I’m a big fan of Correia’s writing and his Grimnoir books are amazing. The audio versions of all three are also quite exceptional. Spellbound won a prestigious Audie Award in 2013 and all three books feature the same narrator, the brilliant voice actor, Bronson Pinchot. Paperbacks of the first two books are out now—as of Sept. 2013, and if you’re an audio book fan, download them now. All of Grimnoir books are available as Kindle eBooks, though you might want to collect a hard cover while they’re still available.

Check out my review of book one, Hard Magic, for more details about this series.

Warbound Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles
5/5 Stars, Highly Recommended

Paul Genesse
Author of The Iron Dragon Series
Editor of The Crimson Pact Series

This is the awesome steampunk anthology I was asked to submit a story to by editor Joshua Palmatier–who is a great writer. His Cracked Throne novel blew my mind. Anyway, I hope this gets funded because I really want to write my story, which will be set in 1800′s Australia. There’s no guarantee my story will be accepted, but I have high hopes.

If you are able, please consider contributing to the Kickstarter. There are tons of great offerings at many price levels, and you can get the antho as an eBook, print book, and also get various other books as rewards.

Here’s the Kickstarter video below or watch it on the official site here.

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Fearless: Powerful Women of History by Zachary Hill

This is a really fun and fascinating book that uses satire and humor to describe more than sixteen amazing women that we should all know about. Young women and girls need to understand that women shaped the course of human history, just like the men who usually get most of the attention.

Fearless: Powerful Women of History is a little like the movie Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, as many of the historical figures actually make appearances in the book, and are interviewed by the author, and his panel of hilarious historical figures. This is history made fun, and reading it is a joy. I think reading this aloud would be hilarious and fun for a family, especially if Mom, Dad, and the kids (aged 11+) took on the roles of the panelists. Some essays are a little gruesome, so read them in advance, but overall it’s fine for most people. The only distraction I had while reading were the frequent typos, but I did read an advanced reader copy, and learned that the next version will be cleaned up.

The author, Zachary Hill, a man with a history degree who is obsessed with researching history, describes in an unscholarly way a few of the famous people we probably already know something about: Joan of Arc, and Jane Austen, but the rest are more marginal figures that have not gotten the attention they deserve. Hua Mulan (Disney made a movie about her) is described in as much detail as we know, and the truth of her life is incredible.

There are also essays about: Empress Theodora of Constantinople; the Byzantine Princess and historian Anna Komnene; Queen Tamar of Georgia the Conqueror; the warrior woman Rani Lakshmibai of India; Queen Matilda of England; Roman Empress Galla Placidia; the female “samurai” Tomoe Gozen of Japan (and there’s a separate essay about other Japanese female warriors); St. Olga of Kiev (a brutal woman and her essay is probably PG-13); Caterina Sforza (who kicked butts so far they woke up in the next time zone); St. Teresa of Avila, and more.

Author Zachary Hill’s history blog, MinimumWageHistorian.com has a ton of great information as well. Go there to browse the many topics he’s covered over the years.

Making history fun and engaging can be hard to do, but Fearless: Powerful Women of History succeeds in bringing to light some amazing women who must not be forgotten.

Fearless: Powerful Women of History (110 pages, $4.99 eBook, $5.99 print book)
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Paul Genesse

(No spoilers in this review)

I love this book. The Desert of Souls is exactly what adventure fantasy is all about and author Howard Andrew Jones has written a brilliant novel set in 8th century Baghdad. The novel has been widely acclaimed and now I know why.

Check out the blurbs on Amazon.com from many notable authors. I have to admit I was surprised at all the gushing praise, but this book truly lives up to the hype. I had so much fun reading and loved the esteemed and humble narrator, Captain Asim. He tells us a wonderful and heartfelt tale filled with surprises, magic, sword fights, forbidden love, and describes a fully realized world. The writing is top notch and this is how the very tricky first person point of view should be done.

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Captain Asim’s sword arm and the razor sharp whit of his friend, the scholar Dabir, are all they have to survive and stop a cruel man and his allies from bringing great destruction to the world.

The intricate plot kept me guessing until the very end of the book. The finale was awesome, and wrapped everything up nicely. This is technically a stand alone novel. Fortunately, there is another book, The Bones of the Old Ones. Let’s call it a sequel, but I think it’s a stand alone as well and it’s all about these characters I’ve come to love.

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VIEW BONES OF THE OLD ONES ON AMAZON

There is also a great collection of short stories which started it all, The Waters of Eternity, which I just got for my Kindle. One of the stories is mentioned in Desert of Souls, and I’m really looking forward to reading it.

If you like fast-paced adventure fantasy with great characters and a fun plot, Desert of Souls is a book for you.

 View on Amazon.com
 THE DESERT OF SOULS BY HOWARD ANDREW JONES

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED 5/5 STARS

Paul Genesse
Author of the Iron Dragon Series
Editor of The Crimson Pact Series

P.S. I decided not to give away a lot of details or any spoilers, but if you’d like to read more specifics, check out this great review by Beth on Amazon.

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Review of Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
(minor spoilers)

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed is a classic and delightful adventure novel set in The Crescent Moon Kingdoms—a fantastical version of the Middle-east with an Arabian Nights, or for you gamers, an Al-Qadim feel. I very much enjoyed this fun book and the well-drawn characters. You may have heard of this novel already, as it has received high acclaim and won the 2012 Locus Award for Best Debut Novel. It has also been nominated for a Hugo (award pending at the time of this review) and the author has won awards his short fiction. Not surprisingly, Throne of the Crescent Moon is smooth, the prose easy and natural, not purple or baroque in any way. In my opinion, it’s suitable for ages 11 or 12 and up, but teens and adults will get the most out of it.

The plot is very traditional, no big surprises or twists as a ghul hunt begins and the mystery evolves into something much more dire. There’s a lot to be interested in, despite the small size of the book (only 274 pages) as the setting is so different from the traditional European fantasy world we’ve all seen. These characters are great, and I’ve never read a book with a protagonist like the aging ghul hunter, Doctor Adoulla Makhslood. He’s sixty-something years old, fat, and admittedly way past his prime. None of that matters as he’s got powerful magical skills (he’s a man of God) with a lifetime of experience fighting the dark things in this rich and layered world. Despite all the evil he’s seen and battled, Adoulla has never lost his sense of humor. He is crass, bombastic, and the holy bane of his enemies’ existence. He will punch the charlatan ghul hunters in the face for their impudence, and Adoulla Makhslood is not a man to be trifled with.

The little relationships between the main characters are more than half the fun in this book, and their exchanges are priceless. Adoulla’s young assistant, Raseed bas Raseed, a brilliant swordsman of an honorable dervish order, puts up with the Doctor’s constant haranguing and teasing while fighting his inner battles over his strict moral code and the rigid system of honor.

Zamia Banu Laith Badawi, Protector of her nomadic band, is Angel Touched and can shapeshift into a lion woman (really a girl as she is only about fifteen). Zamia can wreak holy damage upon the enemies of the light, and is sworn to avenge her tribe. She is young, fierce, barbaric and is quite interested in the little paladin, Raseed bas Raseed, who knows he should not have certain base feelings for a nomad girl, for he is a man of God, and must not succumb to the urges of the flesh. Or maybe he should?

Those are the three main characters, but Doctor Adoulla’s other friends, Dawoud and his wife, Litaz also have point of view chapters. They’re experienced and have been part of the fight for decades, and are quite a good team. Litaz and Dawoud are resourceful and brave supports of the Doctor, and are not easily dissuaded by opposition or obstacles. God has given them each a specific calling in life and they must accept their fate and do their duty.

Doctor Adoulla and his friends all walk through the convoluted and crowded city of Dhamsawaat, ruled by the Khalif who sits on the Crescent Throne. In Dhamsawaat you never know what enemy or friend you might meet, or if the delicious cardamom tea you’re enjoying will be your last. The Khalif’s soldiers might arrest you at any moment, or the Falcon Prince (a lot like Robin Hood) might stage one of his spectacles to show how morally corrupt the Khalif has become. Accomplishing anything takes time and coin, and you have to know the right people, and those people have to know the right magic.

This book is a stand alone novel, a very complete story, but it is apparent that there will be much more in the years ahead from a most humble and blessed writer, Saladin Ahmed. We should all hope for more adventures in the Crescent Kingdoms and beyond, for there are many other roads to walk in this fascinating world.

View Throne of the Crescent Moon on Amazon.com

Paul Genesse

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Queen of Kings by Maria Dahvana Headley is based on a fascinating idea: What if queen Cleopatra did not die? What if she used ancient Egyptian magic to become part goddess, part vampire, part monster, and wreak vengeance upon her enemies? The cover and the description of the book sold me for sure, as I’m incredibly interested in Cleopatra’s story, and the ancient world in general. Fantasy mixed with history is a potent combination if done well, and Headley created a really intoxicating novel.

I enjoyed reading Queen of Kings and finished quickly, as it’s written like a thriller for the most part, with short, punchy chapters that pull you in and force you to keep reading. I found the writing to be quite good, though as a writer and editor myself, I could tell this was the author’s first novel sometimes. A little awkwardness crept into the prose on a few occasions, which was usually brilliant.

Headley chose to use the third person omniscient point of view, which is fraught with danger, and for the most part the author did a very good job with it. However, when you use that point of view, you generally sacrifice something as many of the other reviews of this book have pointed out. In this case, it was sympathy toward the major characters. The point of view shifted so often that it was difficult to really identify or get into any one character’s head and empathize with them. The Roman emperor, Augustus (Octavian), seemed to have the most page time, and I found him to be much different than I had imagined. I thought he was a very intelligent and strategic man in real life, but he was portrayed as a bumbling villain, rather than an astute politician.

Cleopatra herself was the most sympathetic, as was Mark Antony, but they did not have as much page time as I would have liked. The early parts of the book were probably my favorite, though the string of convenient coincidences bothered me a little, but fate was being manipulated the whole time by the gods, so I can forgive that. This is a big story that covers a huge amount of ground. Summarizing large events and time periods is good with the third person point of view, and to tell this story the author had to go in that direction.

I’m really interested in what happens next, and really enjoyed how the author used historical events and her own inspired imaginings to weave this fascinating tale. I loved reading about the witches that Octavian and General Marcus Agrippa recruited to fight Cleopatra: the Norse weaver of fate, the Greek witch who manipulated ghosts, and Usem, from the African tribe of the Psylli, who had power over the wind and snakes. Usem was married to the Western Wind, and she an awesome character as well.

Overall, this book is filled with unexpected and wild imagining, and you have to just buy into the crazy plot and not think too much about the decisions of the main characters. Most of the old myths read just like this novel, and the author was giving a lot of nods to the legendary stories of old, which don’t make a lot of sense if you look at them too closely. The author really went for it, and the plot evolved in directions I was not expecting.

I applaud the boldness of the author and will definitely read the planned sequels (it’s a trilogy according to the author’s note). If you love Greek myths, Cleopatra’s story, wild historical fantasy, and ancient Rome, this is a book for you.

Queen of Kings by Maria Dahvana Headley, 4/5 Stars

Paul Genesse
Author of the Iron Dragon Series
Editor of The Crimson Pact Series

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I watched World War Z tonight and really enjoyed it. (4/5 stars–very tiny spoilers in this post). I love how the amazing book and movie actually go together. The book was impossible to film, and this story adds a really interesting thread to the overall event.

I listened to World War Z on audio book (the 14 hour version) three times (I’ve never actually read it), and I think the movie is a great introduction to the novel, as the movie happens earlier than the book, which is a retrospective look at the zombie war with Max Brooks (the author) traveling around the world interviewing people about what happened.

Anyway, the movie was scary, intense, emotional, action-packed, well-acted (Brad Pitt was awesome), and paid great tribute to the book. The book and movie are very different entities and I recommend that you watch the movie, and then get the unabridged audio book, which is voiced by A-List actors. If you’re a zombie fan, I think it’s better to see the movie before reading the book. I think this is a rare case where the book and movie go great together, rather than clashing so much. The book is better, but the movie was excellent.

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