Below is the review I submitted to the book’s Goodreads and Amazon. If you’ve read the book, but haven’t submitted a review yet, please consider doing so! More good reviews means more sales for the author. With that out of the way, here are my thoughts on Alec Hutson’s The Crimson Queen.
The Crimson Queen is one of those rare and wonderful books that manages to be both unique and familiar at the same time. Wizards, paladins, rogues, monsters, dungeons and treasure are all present and accounted for, so fans of traditional fantasy need not worry. But in addition to these familiar elements are warriors styled after Chinese swordsmen, eldritch abominations, creepy demons, and truly weird and awesome new elements. The worldbuilding here is on point, and every character from the heroes to the villains feels real and fleshed-out. The plot will have you guessing all the way, and the ending was a satisfyingly epic conclusion that sets up the events of the next book smoothly.
One “flaw” I feel this book has is the lack of a cohesive magic system. Magic in this book, is less like Mistborn and more like Dragonlance and Lord of the Rings. You never quite understand the mechanics behind it, but it still remains cohesive and believable. It’s by no means a deal-breaker though, and everything else on offer more than makes up for it. Overall, if I had to sum up The Crimson Queen, I’d say it feels like a more mature, HBO -ified version of the 80’s and 90’s epic fantasy paperbacks. There were certainly whiffs of Wheel of Time and the aforementioned Dragonlance to be had, but the conflict and characters are way more fleshed out in my opinion. Easily a 5/5 recommendation for me, and worth the hype.
Every generation has a handful of people who seem larger-than-life, almost like something from well…a comic book. People who in a strange sort of way, seem almost immortal, in that they bleed into the very fabric of the current culture in a mythic way.
As far back as I can remember, Stan Lee was always one of those folks. Those living, immortal icons who was just always there. Even if you weren’t a big comic book guy, he was a recognizable name and personality, someone who not only created Spider-Man, but was in many ways, a character as well. I’ve always kind of had this suspicion that to Stan, these comic book stories he wrote were almost real to him. Not in the “factually in front of me” sense, but in the “I put a piece of myself in this art” sense. Again, any interview with the man is a sure-fire giveaway. Stan had this wholly unique cadence to him, where the way he talks almost feels like the way he wrote his characters. Very upbeat, with sharp-as-a-tack dialogue and almost super-heroic certainty in what he was doing.
While I’ve always been more of a book reader than a “comic book guy,” I got my start as a writer doing comics. And back when I started doing that, I watched hours and hours of different creators. Jim Lee, Dave Sim, Todd McFarlane…and of course, Stan Lee. And I think the biggest takeaway I got from watching Stan was just how sincere he seemed. He was a person who loved his fans and loved people in general, regardless of their color or creed. He wanted to tell positive stories, to make the world a little brighter…but never to talk down to or pontificate. If there’s two things Stan mans to me personally, it’s love and respect. Love of what you do and who you do it for, and respect for your consumers as thinking, meaningful people.
So rest in peace, Stan. You were always a hero to me.
When I first posted my Self-Published Fantasy Guide, I had no idea just how far self-published and indie SFF lit has come. I still remember a time when “self-published” was synonymous with horrible paranormal romance books and…stranger things.
Yes, this is real. The genre promotion blog of America’s biggest book chain just featured a self-published book. I remember talking to a fairly well-known author who’ll remain anonymous, and having him mention that “indie is the future.” That was not even a year ago, and as far as I can tell, we’re reaching that future at a shockingly rapid pace.
So yeah. The tide has definitely turned, and indie is getting bigger and bigger. I was told by the author Rob J. Hayes that some folks “took notice” of his SPFBO win, which goes to show what a useful tool that is for curating these titles. Which is something to keep in mind if any of you are planning books of your own.
If you haven’t bought any of his books yet, you can check out Rob J. Hayes’ Amazon page here. I recommend his piratical Best Laid Plans books, as they’re fairly unique in the fantasy space. Which is a trend Never Die seems to continue with its chanbara influences. It’s a book I think looks really kickass, and I’m glad Barnes and Noble seems to think so too!
So a while back, before I decided to write prose, I took a stab at writing comics. I made it into a couple of anthologies, and it’s largely thanks to these that I got my start as a writer.
The story is a riff on the classic “teenage boy becomes superhero” story, only said superpowers turn him into a slasher killer! Can Raul Garcia stave off the slow but inevitable transformation into a masked monster? Or can he save a piece of his humanity?
It’s worth noting here that I’m credited as “Alex Moya,” which…is my real name. Yes, Martin J. Ashwood is a pen name. Not for anonymity’s sake, but because I designed some mockup (novel) book covers and the name “Alex Moya” looked like garbage on all of them. Not exactly the most exciting Secret Origin of my author superhero name, but it is what it is.
The Gathering: Horror V will hit comic store shelves soon, so keep an eye peeled for the Red Ripper if you enjoy some horror/urban fantasy goodness. And check out the Gray Haven Facebook page for more info on Horror V and all their other comics anthologies!
So recently, indie author C.T. Phipps was kind enough to send me these two books. I’ve been meaning to check out his Wraith Knight series for some time, and I’ve heard nothing but great things about his Bright Falls series of comedic Urban Fantasy novels. The blurb on the back of Teenage Weeredeer had a masterfully so-bad-it’s-good pun that honestly made me laugh out loud. Think I’m gonna enjoy this one quite a bit.
I haven’t really done book reviews yet on this blog, in part because I’ve taken a bit of time when I read as of late. I used to be a lightning-fast reader, but my own writing projects have kind of taken a bit of that free time away. That said, once I get around to reading these, I’ll be sure to share my thoughts. What little I have read has been awesome so far, and once I finish some of my current epic fantasy reads, I will be checking these out for sure. In the mean time, I highly suggest you give C.T. Phipps’ Amazon Page a looksie. He has everything from Sci-fi, to Spies, to Superheroes to something called Cthulhu Armageddon, so there’s plenty of flavors to choose from here.
In unrelated news, I’ve found the cover artist for my own book! It’s quite exciting stuff, and his work is extremely impressive, unique and old-school, reminding me a bit of Mike Ploog’s work on Lord of the Rings. Much as I like the Warcraft aesthetic in games, I do find this gritter, more down-to-earth AD&D style much more to my liking. And my artist really captures this, but add a modern level of polish that really elevates it to a new level.
So yeah, between this and the books (Thanks, C.T.!) and the recently announced Warcraft 3 Reforged…November’s already shaping up to be a pretty kickass month for me.