My 52 Week Challenge:
Read and Review 52 Books in 2023...
1. Razored Land by Charles Gramlich - post-apocalypse (not yet published, review forthcoming)
2. The Stroke of Winter by Wendy Webb - mystery (reviewed Jan 11)
3. Feast of Fools and Other Tales - S&S anthology (reviewed Jan 18)
4. Clovel Sword Saga (Vol 1&2) by Gordon Brewer - sword & sorcery (review forthcoming)
5. The Hike by Susi Holliday - mystery/thriller (will review this novel next week)
6. Valengetrix: Ghost of Aratania by J.R. Cason - sword & sorcery (reviewed below)
(I'm a little behind schedule. We're starting Week #9 of the year and I've only read 6 books!)
Welcome to Book Date Monday (even though it's Saturday when I posted this). I think this is Book Date Monday #10 for me (over a period of a few years - I'm very inconsistent, lol). If you want to join the fun, be sure to link to your book reviews and reading updats at some of the following blog hops:
- Sunday Post from Caffeinated Reviewer
- Sunday Salon from Readerbuzz
- Stacking the Shelves from Reading Reality
- And Book Date Monday from The Book Date
+ Laws and Prophecies by L. S. King - sword and planet, book 3 in Sword's Edge Chronicles. I"m just getting started but enjoying getting reacquainted with the characters I met in books 1 and 2. Solid writing and storytelling. She's a friend and you can visit her website here.
+ Back to Zero by Franklin Ard - YA coming of age novel with a bit of supernatural? Backed this project from Kickstarter last year but forgot to read it! I'm about 1/3 of the way in and it's pretty good so far. Content warning, though - a bit too mature for middle grade readers.
+ Reaper Walks the Garden by Gordon Brewer - hardboiled crime mystery. I just read Brewer's "Ray Irish Mystery Case File #1" - Death Stalks the Runway. This is case file #2. I will review them together as they are both novellas. I enjoyed the first one very much, but it's a bit gritty.
+ Also, still reading Blackfoot Dawn by John Legg - western, book 2 in Mountain Times trilogy. I'm about half-way through and it's pretty rough and violent. Language warning as well, which is what I didn't care for in book 1, Winter Rage (reviewed on Goodreads here).
In my TBR Pile...
+ The Song of Sangr by Gustavo Bondoni - sword and sorcery novel. I also want to get to a few other S&S projects in the next few months, including: With a Silken Fist by Tom Doolan; Sinbad and the Great Old Ones by Gavin Chappell; Skallagrim by Stephen R. Babb, along with a few others. My sword and sorcery plate is full!
+ Point of View - Better Writing through Stronger Narrative: Drake's Brutal Writing Advice by Maxwell Alexander Drake - non-fiction book on writing. I actually started this - so I guess it should be in my "currently reading" pile - but I'm putting it on hold for a bit as I have too many books going!.
What tomes are currently taking up space in your house? Drop me a comment.
Now for the review...
Valengetrix: Ghost of Aratania by J.R. Cason (August, 2022, about 140 pages, Amazon affiliate link)
Assisting Val in his quest is a ‘soul’ (ancestral spirit) that lives in the jeweled hilt of the sword he carries. This spirit being, Ashren by name, needs to ‘feed’ in battle, and when it strikes it sucks out the life source of those it defeats, turning the dead opponent into a pile of ashes. This makes for some great action and exciting situations. These are buddy tales, after a fashion, and the dialog between Val and Ashren is sly, witty, and humorous. Some great chemistry between the two.
As for the stories themselves, there’s a nice variety of sword and sorcerous encounters in this short volume – from stealing back a precious medallion from a cannibal chief who worships a snake god to confronting an arctic giant while accompanying a shape-shifter unawares, then on to a pirate fight on the high seas while facing monsters from the deep, before finally arriving back to his homeland in Aratania.
Here’s a quick summary from the book’s blurb, which is quite descriptive and enticing:
In the savage realm of Auropia, lurks a ghost in the form of a man. Valengetrix, exiled from his mysterious homeland, seeks redemption in the eyes of his people as he sets out to retrieve lost relics of the once renowned empire of Aratania. Accompanied by a sentient blade, forged from the soul of an ancient warrior of his race, Valengetrix begins to understand that the price for returning home must be paid in blood and treasure.
…With the aid of his ancestral blade, and the various peoples of this world he encounters along the way, the name of Valengetrix becomes a name widely revered by his allies, and feared by his many adversaries. (According to the author’s notes on Amazon, “this short story series [is] set nearly two millennia before the events in the Legends of Atlameria: Harbinger of World's End.”)
Overall, I enjoyed these serial tales (kind of like an ‘episodic novel’), especially “Blood in the Snow” and “Caught in the Undertow.” The action was strong, the characters well-drawn, the individual plots and monsters and crises were exciting and intriguing. A few of the stories began with a lot of world-building and descriptive set-up, so I had to adjust my expectations a bit and ‘get into’ the setting before being rewarded with the action I was looking for. So I might say some parts were a little slow for me. But again, in general, the collection was a fun and fulfilling find.
As one reviewer on Goodreads notes: “The leading ladies aren't particularly awed by our barbarian hero and have agency other than being love interests. Yes, [this collection has] its share of friendly tavern maids…and gleaming manly thews….” But, it is sword & sorcery after all.
“Ghost of Aratania” ends with Val and Ashren at the city gates of his homeland, and I assume book 2 in this series, “Valengetrix: Lion of Auropia”, will provide continued adventures and wrap up the storyline of vengeance and redemption.
I look forward to reading the second series of stories. I recommend this collection to other S&S fans – or really any fantasy pulp readers who like discovering new worlds and heroes and diving into the high adventures they provide.
(This is Sunday Roundup #9)