Sean Cunningham - Author

Epic adventure. Vivid characters. Amazing worlds.

Category: reading

Servant of Rage by A.Z. Anthony

The Mongol Horde. Warriors armed with rage-powered magic. It’s time for war.

AZ Anthony’s entry into this year’s Self-Publishing Fantasy Blog-Off is Servant of Rage. Set in a fantasy world inspired by Mongol Empire, it follows Subei, hunter for the khan. The heavens open and lightning strikes and Subei hits the cosmic jackpot. The power of the ancestors, magic to make him near-unstoppable – fuelled by a rage that threatens to consume him utterly.

I came to this after reading Conn Iggulden’s mostly non-fictional history of the Mongol Empire. This is a more personal tale of Subei’s struggle with a power that now defines his life, but its set against a familiar backdrop of the conflict between the Mongol-like Ghangerai and the China-like Zhong. Similar to Guy Gavriel Kay, Anthony uses a period from our history to bring a fictional world to life. He does an excellent job capturing the feel of their society and the details of their nomadic existence.

I liked Subei. He has a distinct voice. He’s loyal to his hunter brothers, he does his best, messes up and puts things back together as best he can. I’m curious to see what happens to him next.

Shaman, Healer, Heretic by M. Terry Green

What you don’t get a lot in fantasy or urban fantasy, at least in my experience, is a story in which the main character is a healer. Superhuman demon hunter who can shove her fist through a monster’s ribcage? Yes. Snarky warlock who can incinerate all enemies with green fire? Yes, that too. Defenders, protectors – yes. But not often someone who’s priority is to heal.

I played massively multiplayer online games for several years and in the time that I did so, I gravitated towards the healer roles. Some players like to stand toe-to-toe with the giant bellowing ogre and smash it with their swords. Others prefer to stand back and blast away with an assortment of magic and missiles. Me, I liked to keep them all alive while they did so.

So I was interested when I came across the first novel in M. Terry Green’s Techno-Shaman series. Livvy Lawson is a shaman living and working in LA. She scrapes by while travelling into the spirit world to rescue those who are spiritually ill, or who have had a spell of ill intent cast upon them by another shaman. And then someone unleashes an ancient monster from the dawn of time. Livvie, who just wants to help people, has to do something about it.

I didn’t quite connect with it and I had trouble articulating why until I read the author’s notes at the end. The author has made a point of keeping the book young reader-friendly. YA doesn’t really appeal to me and I think this is the main reason I didn’t connect with it more.

I think it’s a well-written book and if the above sounds good to you, you should give it a try. It deserves the good ratings it gets. If you’re looking for an urban fantasy read that veers away from the usual vampires/werewolves etc, take a look at Shaman, Healer, Heretic.

The Thousand Names by Django Wexler

I tried flintlock fantasy a while ago and didn’t get into it. But I kept seeing Django Wexler’s The Thousand Names crop up and figured I’d give it one more go.

Now I’m hooked.

The Thousand Names is inspired by the Napoleonic Wars. Rather than the usual swords and castles of high fantasy, the soldiers of the Vordanai Colonials are armed with muskets and sabres, backed by the cannons of an artillery team. And while a great deal of the setting is hinted at in this first novel, we begin on the frontier.

The solid Captain Marcus d’Ivoire just wants to keep himself and his Colonials alive. Winter Ihernglass, a runaway, is trying to survive and keep her identity as a woman secret. When the brilliant and enigmatic Colonel Janus arrives and starts the Colonials on a dangerous journey, he challenges both their worlds.

Marcus and Winter are both great characters and a desire to keep reading about them keeps pulling me through the series – I’m onto the fourth book now and I’m definitely on to the end of the series. But the author also does a great job with Janus, slowly creating questions around him that will keep you hooked.

The first half of the book is almost straight-up historical military fiction. Wexler’s wargaming experience shows here, as his battles are crisply and confidently described. I’ve seen comments that sometimes Wexler goes into a touch too much detail at times, but I personally never found this to be the case. It all lent an air of authenticity to what I found to be exciting battles.

And then the magic creeps in: the Thousand Names. A fascinating magic system, well-realised and clearly described. Wexler keeps it small-scale, but when soldiers armed with muskets and sabres go up against those wielding magic, well, things get hectic.

I’ve been recommending these books all over the place. If military fantasy sounds like it might be your thing, if you’d like to try a setting based on a different period of our history, then try The Thousand Names.

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