Book Review: ‘The Dusk Watchman’, by Tom Lloyd

I’ve always thought The Twilight Reign series has been one of the most underrated fantasy series around. I’m not sure I’ve talked to anyone else who has read it, let alone enjoyed it (although as far as I’m concerned, they are the same thing).

In the series in general, I massively enjoy the world created by Tom Lloyd, with the innovative take on elves, as well as the concept of white-eyes, and the expansive cast which includes everything from common soldiers to full-on gods. Alongside this, the system of magic is simple and effective. Many magic systems in modern fantasy books become over-ambitious and spiral out of control such that holes can easily be found, but I really enjoy the ease of comprehension of the system created by Lloyd.

As the conclusion to the series, there is a certain amount of hype for it in my mind. When one combines it with what has been a fantastic series, there is certainly a lot for it to live up to. Its predecessor, The Ragged Man, finishes with a near-apocalyptic battle scene to cap off a book which is one of my favourite fantasy books of all time (up alongside A Memory of Light, The Deadhouse Gates, A Storm of Swords and Prince of Thorns), and the way in which Lloyd continues the story, picking the cast back up after arguably one of the bloodiest battle scenes in fantasy literature is nothing short of amazing.

As well as this the conclusion of the book and therefore the series did not disappoint. It seems inevitable that when I read a series of books, I develop a sense of how it will all end, or at least how I would like to see it end. The last chapters of The Dusk Watchman were completely different to anything I expected, but they did not disappoint. This was a fantastic book, and I will continue to recommend the series to anyone I meet.

‘The Dusk Watchman’ by Tom Lloyd is the fifth in The Twilight Reign Series.

A Resource for World-Building!

I find that with planning and writing both, a map helps me an enormous amount, but have always struggled to produce useful maps myself (having the drawing ability of a toddler). I’ve been playing around with this all day, mapping out my world, and have found it incredibly easy to use. It’s still in alpha phase, so it’s a bit rough, but nowhere near as much as you’d expect given ‘alpha phase’.

Anyway, enough gabbling, here’s the link:
If you sign up for it (it’s free), you should get an email in the next couple of hours to give you access to it.

Happy mapping!

Making time for reading?

This summer, I’ve been trying hard to make time for reading, following three years of what feels like nothing but during the course of my degree. As mentioned in a prior post, I’ve also decided that I need to put myself out there somewhat more. As such I’ve expanded my social networking, to include the wonderful people of reddit, mainly of the /r/Fantasy and /r/Fantasywriters. Alongside this, I’ve endeavored to become an active member of the community of Fantasy Faction, a forum I would highly recommend to fantasy readers and writers both.

All of this has combined to open my eyes to just how many great fantasy books there are which I’ve never heard of, or simply not considered reading. The results have been quite startling. I’ve started keeping a ‘to read’ list, which has grown rapidly, and quickly spiralled out of control. Something I’m finding to be true is that, even without having a job at the moment, I simply cannot find enough hours in the day.

With five hours of training a week, I’m also juggling searching for jobs, writing one book with the aim of 1500 words per day, and editing The Shadow’s Herald in preparation for the second wave of  agency submissions (at roughly 4000 words per day). Part of this juggling is due to the fact that I don’t particularly enjoy editing, and I find that doing a little a day keeps it fresh.

The aforementioned ‘to read’ list is a pretty random blend of recommended fantasy books, the ends of series, historical fiction, and free kindle downloads (only the top 5 are in any kind of order). If there are any suggestions of things to add: please, feel free!

  1. Django Wexler, The Thousand Names, The Shadow Campaign, Book 1
  2. Brian McClellan, Promise of Blood, Powdermage Trilogy, Book 1
  3. Mark Lawrence, Emperor of Thorns, Broken Empire, Book 3
  4. Anthony Ryan, Blood Song, Raven’s Shadow, Book 1
  5. Brandon Sanderson, Well of Ascension, Mistborn, Book 2
  6. Paul Hoffman, The Beating of His Wings, The Left Hand of God Trilogy, Book 3
  7. Scott Lynch, The Lies of Locke Lamora, The Gentleman Bastard Sequence, Book 1
  8. Brent Weeks, The Way of Shadows, The Night Angel Trilogy, Book 1
  9. Joe Abercrombie, The Heroes
  10. Joe Abercrombie, Red Country
  11. Mark Lawrence, Prince of Fools, Red Queen’s War, Book 1
  12. Brian Staveley, The Emperor’s Blades, Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, Book 1
  13. Sam Sykes, Tome of the Undergates, Aeon’s Gate, Book 1
  14. Richard Ford, Herald of the Storm, Steelhaven, Book 1
  15. R. Scott Bakker, The Darkness That Comes Before, The Prince of Nothing, Book 1
  16. David Hair, Mage’s Blood, Moontide Quartet, Book 1
  17. Patrick Rothfuss, Name of the Wind, The Kingkiller Chronicle, Book 1
  18. Michael J. Sullivan, Rise of Empire, Riyria Revelations, Books 3-4
  19. Michael J. Sullivan, Heir of Novron, Riyria Revelations, Books 5-6
  20. Sam Barone, Battle for Empire, The Eskkar Saga, Book 5
  21. Sam Barone, Clash of Empires, The Eskkar Saga, Book 6
  22. Daniel Arenson, Blood of Requiem, Song of Dragons, Book 1
  23. M.E. McNally, The Sable City, The Norothian Cycle, Book 1
  24. Robert E. Keller, Knights: The Eye of Divinity, The Knights Series, Book 1
  25. E.J. Gilmour, The Sword of Light, Veredor Chronicles, Book 1
  26. Kameron Hurley, The Mirror Empire
  27. Jon Sprunk, Blood and Iron
  28. Steven McKay, Wolf’s Head, The Forest Lord, Book 1
  29. Samantha Shannon, The Bone Season
  30. Raymond E. Feist, Daughter of the Empire, The Empire Trilogy, Book 1
  31. Raymond E. Feist, Krondor: Tear of the Gods, Riftwar Legacy, Book 3
  32. Peter Brett, The Painted Man, The Demon Cycle, Book 1
  33. Ben Kane, Hannibal: Enemy of Rome, Hannibal, Book 1
  34. Douglas Hulick, Among Thieves, Book 1
  35. Bernard Cornwell, The Burning Land, The Warrior Chronicles, Book 5
  36. Adrian Tchaikovsky, The Scarab Path, Shadows of the Apt, Book 5

The Storm Unleashed

With The Twilight Empire finished, I put it aside for a few weeks before looking at it again. What happened was that I found myself bored on my commutes to and from work. While reading in the mornings, by the evenings I was more interested in brainstorming, and so returned my attention to The War of the Ancients, planning out the storyboard of the second in the series, The Storm Unleashed. By the time I returned to Nottingham for Rugby League pre-season, I had finished writing the story arcs of three of the four POV characters, to a total of about 70,000 words.

Upon the resumption of my studies, I enjoyed a few weeks of laziness in September and early October, in which I finished a second draft of The Twilight Empire, bringing the total up from 65,000 to about 75,000 words.

Once my studies continued in earnest however, I was forced to devote all my attention to writing non-fiction essays, or researching my dissertation. In the first semester, I wrote essays on JFK and the withdrawal thesis, and the opening of Japan in 1853, which took me in a different direction to my previous studies. The shift from medieval history to modern was not a welcome one, which prompted my choice of dissertation.

Over the Christmas of 2013, I struggled to narrow the focus of my dissertation sufficiently, going through five different ideas in as many days.  By the time I returned to university in January, I had settled on one which had promise however, the one which developed into my eventual dissertation.

Over the next two terms, I wrote an essay on Japanese foreign policy in the 1870s, as well as something far more familiar, in the form of an essay about the reign of William I of England (better known as ‘the Conqueror’). My dissertation, with the title: ‘Salvation and Damnation: an analysis and comparison of Japanese and European warrior ethics’ was finished by the beginning of May, in time for my finals.

Since the end of my undergraduate degree, The Storm Unleashed has been completed, coming in at roughly 100,000 words, although with a lot of need for additions and revisions.  The Twilight Empire has also been through its third draft, and then renamed The Shadow’s Herald, once the connotations of using the words ‘Twilight’ and ‘fantasy’ in the same sentence were pointed out to me.

Due to the fact of my current unemployment, I’ve been able to get The Shadow’s Herald into a state such that I’ve sent it out to 5 literary agencies. In the last month, I have received 3 replies, including 2 form rejections. The one non-form rejection I got however was very encouraging, with the writing itself being praised, if not the total length, and the less than amazing explanation of the synopsis.

Book Review: ‘The Final Empire’ by Brandon Sanderson

It’s taken me a very long time to get round to a well-loved series of books. I have to say, I can see what all the fuss is about. The twist on the usual interpretation of fantasy is very refreshing – the idea that the evil overlord (the ‘Lord Ruler’) is in control, with the main characters being the rebels.

The magic systems as well (those of ‘Allomancy’ and ‘Ferochemy’) are unlike anything I have read before. By virtue of its sheer innovation therefore, the story is one of exploration of a new world, complete with histories and cultures. For me, a self-confessed world-builder, I found such an exploration incredibly interesting.

The plot itself, while starting a little slowly, does build up momentum, and by about the halfway point, I found myself pulled along by the political intrigue. While a book including political intrigue seems bound to be compared to Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, the sort found in The Final Empire is far more accessible and perhaps more understandable, if less subtle. By the time I reached the last five or so chapters, I was unable to stop myself from continuing. The twisting nature of the final chapters was so unexpected that I was forced to re-read them more than once, and I still ended up shouting at the book – always a good sign for me.

In short, I would definitely recommend the book, and feel that it certainly lives up to the hype. Writing immediately after finishing the book, I do feel however that this high praise comes only off the back of the conclusion of the book. The slow initial sections are inevitable when introducing a new world, and I feel they were dealt with as well as can be hoped for.

‘The Final Empire’ by Brandon Sanderson is the first book in The Mistborn Trilogy. 

Book Review: ‘The Weight of Blood’ by David Dalglish

A very simple read. Not a bad thing in and of itself, but when combined with some clear editing mistakes, it does detract from the overall quality of the book.

While the characters, storyline and setting are entertaining, it is for the same reasons they were when Tolkien wrote them. That is to say, they are very cliched. The whole idea of orcs being brutal, as well as inherently bad seems a little old-fashioned, and overdone. At the same time, the portrayal of elves as being at one with nature -as well as all being aryan archers- is a similarly well-used idea in modern fantasy. This however, is just my personal opinion, and I know that other people like it.

Alongside this however, I did finish the book, and in only a week or so. The plot kept up at a decent pace throughout, such that when combined with its simple writing, the book is very readable. That said, I probably won’t buy the next in the series.

‘The Weight of Blood’ by David Dalglish is the first book in The Half-Orcs Series.

The Twilight Empire (since renamed The Shadow’s Herald)

Following my exams at the end of second year, I began to look seriously at getting published, with In the Shadow of the Storm in mind specifically. One of the first things I read however, was that as a debut author, I stood a far better chance of making my way through the process with a standalone book. As established in one of the prior posts, the sheer size of The War of the Ancients story arc meant that it would near 600,000 words in size by the time it was finished.

As such, I began looking at ways in which I could write a story set in the world I had established, so I wouldn’t have to start completely from scratch. With this in mind, I began to plan my standalone, tentatively titled The Twilight Empire. A premise which had been hinted at in the first book, combined with the use of the Jesterka, a simple, reptilian race I had created gave me a story.

By stark contrast to In the Shadow of the Storm, I put extensive planning into The Twilight Empire, structuring chapter outlines and properly developing characters before I even started writing. It was a technique I had used through my second year at university to write my historical fiction essays, with the result that once I finished the planning stages of the novel, I was able to actually write the novel relatively quickly (given I was still working the same 9-5 job as I had the last summer). The first draft, of some 65,000 words, was completed in less than 3 months.