Category Archives: Fantasy

Fiction with strange or other worldly settings or characters; fiction which invites suspension of reality. Includes: fantasy (Dungeons & Dragons, High Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Epic Fantasy), fables (mythical creatures, like unicorns, faeries, ghosts, Greek and Roman gods, vampires, zombies, werewolves and other were-animals), non-Biblical angels and demons, and other non-sensical or magical creatures or characters.

Year One by Roberts

A strange interesting post apocalyptic novel where a devastating virus kills a massive amount of people in the world and at the same time magic awakens in the world. I’m looking forward to the next novel.

Year One
By Nora Roberts
St. Martin’s Press
December 2017

FYI: NSFW at times, with strong language and a couple of brief accounts of sexuality. Very brutal at times. Lots of apocalyptic violence.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

Secondborn by Bartol

A very interesting book. It appears to be the future, but I’m not really sure.

Secondborn
Secondborn Series Book 1
by Amy Bartol
47North
August 2017

The world is divided into two groups of people. The first born, who hold all the power, and the second born who take care of the first born and fight all the wars. The main character is a daughter of the sword, but is the second born and is literally thrown to the wolves. I liked the book.

4/5 Stars

From the publisher: Firstborns rule society. Secondborns are the property of the government. Thirdborns are not tolerated. Long live the Fates Republic.

On Transition Day, the second child in every family is taken by the government and forced into servitude. Roselle St. Sismode’s eighteenth birthday arrives with harsh realizations: she’s to become a soldier for the Fate of Swords military arm of the Republic during the bloodiest rebellion in history, and her elite firstborn mother is happy to see her go.

Televised since her early childhood, Roselle’s privileged upbringing has earned her the resentment of her secondborn peers. Now her decision to spare an enemy on the battlefield marks her as a traitor to the state.

But Roselle finds an ally—and more—in fellow secondborn conscript Hawthorne Trugrave. As the consequences of her actions ripple throughout the Fates Republic, can Roselle create a destiny of her own? Or will her Fate override everything she fights for—even love?


Mary Asher, the Golden Reviewer, is a founding book blogger for BookGateway.com and has generously provided this review. She describes herself as “an 86 year young great-grandmother and an avid reader.”

Beauty and the Beast (2017) Review

A tale as old as 30 years is retold with almost exactly the same story, visuals and songs. It’s so close to the source material that one is left wondering why we needed a remake of the beloved animated feature.

Belle (Emma Watson) wants more. Gaston (Luke Evans) wants her. The Beast (Dan Stevens) wants to be loved. Le Fou (Josh Gad) doesn’t know what he wants. Lumiere (Ewan McGregor) and Cogsworth (Ian McKellen) want to be human again (sans the song from the stage play of the same name). And we all know how it ends.

So why watch the film at all? It isn’t that clear to me. But there were some things I enjoyed.

Watson and Evans are great in their roles, looking very much like the original characters and acting much the same. [SPOILER] Learning Maurice’s (Kevin Klein) reasons for leaving Paris and where Belle’s mother went was a nice addition. [END SPOILER] I liked that the new material was very close to the source material that I grew up with. Beauty and the Beast was and is one of the most cherished films of my youth and this film didn’t destroy that as happens all too often with other movies from source material from the 80s or 90s (I’m looking at you Transformers, G.I. Joe, Smurfs, A-Team, and so many more).

There were also things I didn’t like, like, [SPOILER] giving the mirror the power to transport was interesting, but left plot holes about why it couldn’t transport Belle and her Father later in the film. [END SPOILER] I dislike that every film that takes place in any other era of time or location has characters with English accents. After all, dear, this is France – so why couldn’t Belle and Gaston have French accents? I dislike that there is a huge castle that can’t be found (because: magic?) until Maurice comes upon a downed tree and then everyone can find it.

I also didn’t like the controversy surrounding Le Fou. It was quite a lot for such a small thing, I thought, all the way until the end, where [SPOILERS] one of the villagers is cross dressed by Garderobe (Audra McDonald) and likes it and then when Le Fou sees the male villager dressed as a woman their eyes light up and a clear zing happens on screen leading to them dancing with each other. [END SPOILERS] What the creators want to add into films is their prerogative, but it is also my prerogative as a parent to determine what my children can watch. I did take my teen daughter to this and asked about her opinion and she said she didn’t pay attention to that part much but did notice it. If that matters to you, as it does to me, it may change how you see the film. The worst part about this addition was that it was a controversy that didn’t need to be there.

Setting aside controversy, what I liked and what I didn’t I was left with my original question: why make this film at all? I get remaking Cinderella (1950) and the Jungle Book (1967) because they were so long ago at the time of their remakes (50+ years each) and society has changed so much over the course of two or three generations that the originals seem quaint and a little vapid. But I don’t get Beauty and the Beast (1991) or the upcoming The Little Mermaid (1989) or The Lion King (1994). Children today have grown up on these films and they came out when their parents were teens. Plus the stage adaptations are even more recent (and having seen the stage version of Beauty, I’d say maybe better.)

If there were no animated film I would have enjoyed this more. But having loved the original film (and animation) as well as the stage adaptation I just don’t need to see another version of the Tale as Old as Time. Seeing new versions every 10 years isn’t making this story more beloved, just making it more old.

2/5 stars. Language was mostly clean. No nudity or sexuality. Drinking was at a pub and no worse than the animated version. Cross dressing and “gay moment” are briefly seen.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

Department Zero by Crilley

Multiple dimensions, the end of reality and all worlds, plus Cthulhu.

Department Zero
By Paul Crilley
Pyr
January 2017

Harry Priest is a crime scene cleaner. It was as close as he could get to being in law enforcement. He’s called to a scene that defies logic – it’s so graphically gross. He is sent off the scene by Havelock Graves, someone who works for something called ICD (Interstitial Crime Department). When Harry accidentally kills a member of ICD, Graves brings him on as a replacement/ bait and he soon finds himself embroiled in an interdimensional battle to save all of time and space from the monsters written of by H.P. Lovecraft.

Good comedy usually has a funny character and a straight character, but this book has two so-called comedians. Everything they say is sarcastic and rude to each other. By the time I got to the midpoint of the book, I came to believe that Harry and Graves are essentially the same person. And when everyone in the book is equally sarcastic no one becomes likeable. It’s like bad cop, bad cop. One of these guys should have been the good cop. I stuck it out to see how it went – partially because of the inexplicably close relationship Harry has with his daughter and the hope that he and his estranged wife may work things out. No spoilers!

In the end, we have an interesting idea, cool settings, fun gadgets, a main character that is easy to like because of his family, and a lot of cliché writing. If expectations are lowered to this point, then this book can be entertaining. But for the most part, I’d recommend re-writing Harry to remove the sarcasm and give us an “every man” to root for.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Dark Blood by Smith

darkbloodRham Jas Rami is on a mission that only he can do. But he is going to need help. And he is going to have to complete it quickly.

The Dark Blood
by A.J. Smith
Heads of Zeus
December 2016

In the second installment of the Long War, the title moves from Brom (the Black Guard) to Rham Jas Rami (the assassin with uncanny powers) who is the only person who can get past their dark magic and kill one of the Seven Sisters. All the living characters from the first book continue their story as well, including interesting intersections between them as knights confront Free Company barbarians, southern warriors against merchant cities, and the introduction to a new race and participant in the Long War and perhaps the last Old Blood.

What I enjoy about this book is that while characters do rise and some die, they all evolve. They aren’t the same caricatures of fantasy heroes that serve their function and then pass away. They also aren’t morally ambiguous. I love that several characters who are enemies, remain enemies, but join the battle against the dark god who is trying to win the Long War. Why? Because right or wrong outweigh nationality. And good characters are good, bad characters are bad. I find this better and more enjoyable, like Tolkien, rather than the moral mess that Martin has started (but not finished.)

I’m very much looking forward to the third installment. This is epic fantasy in a very well crafted world with characters I enjoy reading about.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Black Guard by Smith

blackguardBrom’s parents are dead, his friends and sister missing, and his home sacked. And he’s too far away to do anything about it.

The Black Guard
by A.J. Smith
Heads of Zeus
September 2016

The Long War has been waged for eons and will continue for eons – unless the Seven Sisters can upset the status quo and win the war for their god. Under their power, kingdoms wage war and established gods find their followers and influence diminishing. By the time the world wakes up will it be too late to stop?

The world of the Long War is suitably small – just three countries, surrounded by waters to the west and between them, ice to the north, sand to the south and unending forest to the east, with a map helpfully included – but also very deep as well. At the start of the saga, Smith gives the reader only information about the three main countries, but as the novel progresses – and the who trilogy – we find a lot more than what met the eye. Additional races, histories and creatures – even more gods – join the war. But the story stays relatable, unlike some “epic” fantasy, by focusing on a core group of characters and their interactions with the war.

Brom, his sister, their friends, and even some knights and warriors of the countries around them give characters that are easy to follow and find yourself rooting for. Unlike Martin’s characters, which this book alludes to on the cover, there are good and evil characters and while death does come it doesn’t come to everyone or in meaningless ways. In this way, I found this series to be superior to the messy, never ending series of books in the Game of Thrones series.

This is a fantastic, fun, deep, and well written epic fantasy more in line with Goodkind, Williams or even Sanderson than Martin. I enjoyed it thoroughly and look forward to the next books.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Isis Orb by Anthony

IsisOrbI really, really loved Xanth. Loved.

Isis Orb
Xanth 40
by Pierce Anthony
Open Road Media Sci-Fi & Fantasy
October 2016

Hapless, a man who’s Talent is to conjure any instrument and make others play them perfectly but cannot play them himself, is minding his own business when he is visited by the Magician Humfrey and invited to go on a Quest. Deciding that he has nothing to lose and a lot to gain he goes to the castle and starts the Quest. Along the way he meets several seemingly (ahem) hapless characters who help. Their job: capture the five elemental Totems and confront the demoness Isis over the Orb she controls. He can then use the Orb to gain what he wants most.

The same puns I remember from my childhood and young adult years are on full display. The exact same ones. Twenty five years later. Some changes are clear though. There are non-stop references to nudity, sex, and [SPOILERS] a goal of losing his virginity to one of the two good girlfriends and one bad girlfriend Hapless will find along the way. [END SPOILERS]. The Adult Conspiracy was introduced in Crewel Lye (1984), which is the 8th book. I only read through the 19th book, where sex wasn’t the sole focus of the books, when I was last in the world of Xanth so maybe this is the norm now. It seemed like the whole point of this story was for the females to show (and allow touching of) their breasts and naked bodies to Hapless and ultimately to fulfil his sexual desires. The Quest is derivative and boring. The whole story seemed (ahem, now it’s my turn) hapless.

Anthony has published at least one Xanth book a year since 1986, mostly every year prior back to 1977, and two books in 1993 and 2013 – and even another scheduled this year! I have very fond memories of the books I read in High School and college, but after the long gap in my reading of the Xanth novels, from 1995’s Roc and a Hard Place to this book, I’m surprised by the quality of the story. I’m left wondering if 1) the books were never very good and I just didn’t know better, 2) Anthony is getting more derivative in his work product as time goes on or 3) the gap may have given me some perspective, like seeing someone for the first time in 21 years and noticing differences that someone who was there the whole time slowly grew accustomed to. Whatever the case, this book is simply not very good.

It didn’t help my enjoyment of the book to read the Afterward first. Anthony actually tells the story of how a young girl sent him almost the whole plot of this book asking him to write it for her. It mirrors so closely what he says she sent that it seems like she should have been credited as co-author! He also mentions, and I remember this from earlier books, he lists all the puns that readers sent in to him. After finishing the book, unlike in my memories of previous stories, it seems like most of the fan puns are simply throw away jokes inserted where he can fit them in regardless of relevance to the story. This whole book is like fan fiction but with the actual author doing it for you.

(Interestingly, Anthony admits in his notes that the change to Open Road Media was prompted because his old publisher, not sure if he means Tor, Avon or Del Rey, didn’t like the fact that he using so much of his fan’s ideas in his novels.)

In the end, I’m moving on from Xanth. I have my memories. There are a lot of really great, funny authors out there. this book, unfortunately, is, in my opinion, at best a pastiche of Anthony’s own prior work.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Emperor’s Railroad by Haley

emperorA slow moving novella that leaves the reader wanting more.

The Emperor’s Railroad
by Guy Haley
read by Tim Gerard Reynolds
Macmillan Audio / Tor
April 2016

UPDATE: The previous version of this review was based on a copy where there were parts of the audio book missing from the recording. The whole fight with the [SPOILERS] dragon was MIA. [END SPOILERS] It turns out there was a glitch in the audio book format causing a large, important portion to be cut out. If you are missing the fight then delete and redownload your Audible book to fix. Trust me, this new (full) version makes a huge difference in the story and enjoyment thereof.

Without giving too much away, [BUT SPOILERS ARE POSSIBLE] this story starts out with Abney, our narrator, and his mother on the road fleeing their home city, which was overrun by the dead (zombies, but slightly different.) Their wagon hit a pothole, broke an axle and their driver, a postman, has broken his neck and passed away. Into this dire predicament rides Quinn, a knight of the “dreaming city of Atlantis.” Quinn agrees to take the two survivors to a settlement north of Charleston in the Kingdom of Virginia.

Along the way we run into a few zombies, a railroad with carts that are driven by teams of animals rather than steam, and a town with hydro-electricity. [CLEAR SPOILERS] At the end there is a battle with the dragon – who is the physical embodiment of punishment by the “angels.” We are left with a lot of questions in the end.

Where is Atlantis? What are “Angels?” What exactly is the dragon? How do the Angels control the dead and the dragons? Why are there knights with swords when guns exist? Very little is answered here. And in fact, this novella is one of two (later in 2016) intended, it seems, to whet the appetite of this new fantasy world centered on the exploits of Quinn. Like an old fashioned Western film, the hero rides off at the end, but unlike a Western, there is clearly more to this story. [END SPOILERS]

When I read the description of a post-apocalyptic world with zombies, angels, dragons and knights I was intrigued. It’s more than that though. It’s methodical, slow paced and at worst times prodding and at best wistful. We don’t know much about what happens prior to or after this story, but we get an interesting primer into what to expect going forward. As Abney says in his final words, “I know that out there Quinn carried on his search. What was he looking for? I don’t know. It bothered me for years that I never found out. I guess I made my peace with that. Maybe he found ’em. Maybe he didn’t. Whatever fortune did to Quinn, wherever he went and why I’m sure as the good lord is enthroned in Heaven that someone, somewhere knows what happened to Quinn next… if you find out, stop by my grave and whisper it to the earth when you come home. It will be much appreciated.”

Note about the reader (audio book version): Reynolds does an outstanding job on his Virginia drawl and slow, methodical narration. The complexity of his gravelly and at times gentile voice worked really well as the voice of an older Abney. Very easy to listen to.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Off to be the Wizard by Meyer

Martin was a completely normal geek. Until he found a hidden program and became a god.

Off to be the Wizard
Magic 2.0 #1
by Scott Meyer
narrated by Luke Daniels
Brilliance Audio
March 2014

The hidden file was on a hidden server and looked completely harmless. It seemed to contain random numbers and words, but Martin’s habit of searching for himself turned into the discovery of a lifetime. Or well, all life times. His name was there. And with some fidgeting and problem solving so was his age, weight and height, and – interestingly – his bank account balance. After thinking he was going crazy when messing with his height in the machine and seeming to actually change height, he changed the amount in there and checked. His bank reflected what the file said. In fact, everything in the file changed “reality.”

Quickly finding ways to shut down aging and making himself impervious to injury, he decides to make his life easy – way easy – by giving himself a lot of extra money. Of course, banks and the Fed have questions when bank accounts start getting money with no deposits. So they come a calling leaving Martin the option of trying to explain this to them or running to a safe place and time. He chooses England in the middle ages.

Thinking he would wow the residents of the first town he comes upon he quickly finds that he isn’t the only “wizard” who had the idea to go back and time and live like a king. He just happens to be the most recent hacker to find the file. Navigating friends from foes, keeping the “wizard” powers secret and living life as he wants to is going to be hard but with almost unlimited power, money and time, Martin looks forward to the challenge.

This very funny book, similar to Robert Asprin’s Myth books, with interesting comedic characters that exist mostly for the silliness of living in a Matrix-type world that they can control. Whether Martin defeats the evil [SPOILER] Merlin [END SPOILER} or not isn’t really the point. It’s the journey rather than the destination. And I enjoyed every minute of this laugh out loud journey.

A NOTE ABOUT THE AUDIO: Luke Daniels does a great job with differentiating voices, pacing of sentences, evenness of volume and – importantly – in comedic timing. His voice still comes into my head at times during the day, “Marrrtiiiin!” Excellent job.

The Deavys by Foster

DeavysI wanted to read this book for two reasons: 1) Alan Dean Foster has a great reputation and a long list of books, and 2) somewhere in the press for this book it was mentioned that Foster would use puns ala Terry Pratchett or Pierce Anthony. Within the first few pages, though, it didn’t matter who the author was – this is no Discworld or Xanth. In fact, for most of the book I was bored.

The Deavys
by Alan Dean Foster
Open Road Media Teen & Tween
February 2016

Simwan (pronounced “Someone”), his two and a half sisters (one phases in and out of physical reality) and their cat go on an adventure to find the “Turth” which was stolen and taken to [MILD SPOILERS] New York. The four kids (I count N/Ice as a person even if she isn’t always around, and yes, that is the terrible name of the third sister) and the cat travel to visit their uncle (a zombie) to start looking for the Crub, who they think is behind the theft. Along the way they come across several bad guys, none of whom are interesting, and good guys, ditto. They go to a place, do some stuff, somehow fight off terrible and powerful monsters (as four kids under 16 and their cat are known to do) and … well if you really want to know how it works out you can suffer through the book if you like. I’m not happy that I did. [END SPOILERS]

The book isn’t punny or funny. It’s long winded, hard to read at times (see above names for examples), and not that interesting. The idea that someone stole the Truth could totally be a great Xanth novel, but Anthony is busy writing much better books than this. I really hate saying all of this about the book. But it’s the Truth (there, I found it for you.)

I recommend you pass. Especially if you are looking for a funny, and fun, book.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.