Thursday, September 29, 2016

A Wizard's Gambit [Book Review]

Genre - Fantasy
Year Published - 2015
Length - 400 (digital) pages
Written by Ryan Toxopeus

Rating: 4 Skulls

Plot Summary:
Thomas, Sarentha, and Eliza will learn that peace never lasts. After fighting for their freedom, wicked forces beyond the Tamorran Empire's borders rise against them. Tamor's king falters when threats of genocide and an undead plague arise. The would-be heroes must fill new roles of responsibility and power to hold Tamor together. When more menaces emerge, each darker than the last, their adventure spans the entire continent. Thomas, Sarentha, and Eliza must make difficult choices and face their darkest fears to uncover their lost history by reviving long-dead wizards. Only by illuminating the past will they be able to step into the future. One misstep could lead to their undoing.

'A Wizard's Gambit' is Book 2 in the Empire's Foundation trilogy.

There is a lot going on in this book!
(dragon attacks, the training of dragon riders, raising ancient wizards from the dead, a zombie outbreak, etc!)
Fortunately, Toxopeus made a smart move writing a couple of short stories, in between books 1 & 2, that help to fill in some of the gaps/questions.
(I definitely recommend reading the novella 'Demon Invasion' before reading this book.) *see my last post, regarding the preferred reading order of these stories*

For those who have already read 'A Noble's Quest' and are fans of the orc wizard Feng, there is a great battle near the end of this book where he faces off with the ancient dragon Fyrsanthemar: the god crusher. (I just had to mention that, as I am still pumped from that battle!)

Toxopeus bookends each book by having the prologues and epilogues tie into past events, which I love, and definitely makes me look forward to the release of 'A Hero's Birth' next year!


Monday, September 26, 2016

'1100 BGW' & 'Demon Invasion' [Double Feature Short Stories Review]

These two individual short stories coincide with the 'Empire's Foundation' trilogy, written by Ryan Toxopeus.

My previous review was 'A Noble's Quest' (Book 1 of said trilogy).

Per the author, the recommended reading order of this series is as follows:

'A Noble's Quest' (Book 1)
'1100 BGW' (Short Story)
'Demon Invasion'  (Novella)
'A Wizard's Gambit' (Book 2)
'Dawn: A Dwarven Creation Story' (Short Story Collection)
'A Hero's Birth' (Book 3 - coming in 2017)

So, following the above order, here are my reviews of the two tales between Books 1 & 2:

1100 BGW [Before God's War]
Genre - Fantasy/Short Story
Year Published - 2015
Length - 21 (digital) pages
Written by Ryan Toxopeus

Rating: 3 Skulls

Plot Summary:
Amurtag and her fellow minotaur farmers are called away from the harvest by the priests. Margaff, their new chief, is making a play for power over all the minotaur tribes using a secret weapon. But when Amurtag questions him publicly, he shares his vision for the future. The question is, will everyone stand by and allow him to take control?

What I liked about this story is that it is centered around minotaurs. Margaff is named their new emperor, and it is his wish to unite all of the tribes and bring peace to all of the races...

Within this story, you also discover that the dwarves may not have been the 1st created race after all, as previously believed in Toxopeus' world. The 1st created race may in fact have been the Aeri - half man/half bird beings, created by the Titans, Air & Earth, to have dominion over the sky and the land.

While not tying in directly with anything that happened in Book 1, this is still an interesting read, taking place in the same world, well before the events in 'A Noble's Quest'.

Demon Invasion
Genre - Fantasy/Novella
Year Published - 2016
Length - 93 (digital) pages
Written by Ryan Toxopeus

Rating: 4 Skulls

Plot Summary:
The demon lord Zeracth has a plan to take an army to the world of Illuma. However, his spawn Glezxnodin has his own plans to save his people and create a demon nation.

Illuma at first appears ripe for the taking, but the world has changed since the demons fled ages ago and many new challenges await them.

I get that demon's true names are most definitely unpronouncable, however this makes for very distracting reading!
(A perfect example: Ffckookckck)
Fortunately, Toxopeus has included a glossary, at the back of this book, that makes the names much easier. (Still, I found myself skimming over the majority of the names, or just coming up with shorter versions.)

Once you become accustomed to the names, you realize that Toxopeus has actually created a really good, intriguing story. One that I believe to be tying in directly to the Empire's Foundation trilogy.

Stay tuned for my upcoming review of Book 2!


P. S. Google's Blogger App is still not allowing me to post pictures of the book covers. (I keep being told, "pictures not found") Unless this issue gets fixed, you will need to read these reviews on my Google+ profile, in order to see the cover art.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

A Noble''s Quest [Book Review]

This review was originally posted on my Google+ profile, earlier this month. For whatever reason, Google's Blogger app was acting up. It looks like the issue has been resolved, however the app is not allowing me to post the book's cover. :(

Here is the review:

Genre - Fantasy
Year Published - 2012
Length - 288 (digital) pages
Written by Ryan Toxopeus

Rating: 4 Skulls

Plot Summary:
Two lumberjacks, Thomas and Sarentha, flee everything they know when Thomas murders a co-worker. In the dead of night, a cloaked noble approaches and offers them a sum of coins they cannot refuse. His sole request is for the pair to retrieve an amethyst from a tomb. From there, they are introduced to Eliza, a spirited and head-strong noblewoman who proves her competence with her skills in diplomacy and combat. Together with Thomas’ strength and steadfastness, and Sarentha’s drive and inquisitiveness, the trio makes an odd but capable group. Their adventures take them across the lands of the Tamorran Empire to witness sights they never imagined. With grand plans in motion, everything hinges on Thomas, Sarentha, and Eliza’s success. Artefacts need to be crafted, alliances need to be formed, and above all, secrets need to be kept. Not even their own allies know every facet of the noble’s quest, and he plays a dangerous game by creating plots within plots. Can the disparate trio hold together throughout their trials? What secret does the noble know that causes him to go to such extraordinary lengths to succeed? Dark shadows blanket the Tamorran Empire, and illuminating those secrets will bring a terrifying truth.

I absolutely loved the prologue to this story, where we are introduced to humanity's greatest champion and hero, Matthew Strongblade.

The book then jumps ahead 450 years later to where we meet best friends Sarentha and Thomas who, after getting themselves into some trouble, are approached by a mysteriously cloaked figure who offers to send the two of them on a quest. Fortunately for us, the two friends, being the adventurous type, accept the offer.

Toxopeus has crafted a fun, well-thought-out, classic fantasy tale that is perfect for lovers of Dungeons & Dragons and for fans of the Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms books.

This is book one of the series, and I am looking forward to reading the next book. As much I enjoy Thomas and Sarentha's adventures (as well as several other characters - namely a "Rager" dwarf named Thurzin) I am hoping for some more stories from the past. (In Toxopeus' timeline, BGW - Before the God's War)