William is from Sussex, UK.

He has a passion for literature and enjoys reading all sorts of books. His hobbies are numerous and consist of medieval/viking reenactment, writing, karate and of course reading.

The Fires of Vengeance (The Burning #2) by Evan Winter - Book review 07, Mar

“The only path to becoming what others cannot is to suffer what others will not.”


My favourite read of the year, so far.


The Fires of Vengeance is the second instalment in The Burning, by Evan Winter. So far, this series is what I would call a masterpiece. I enjoy most books, but rarely do I have no complaint at all. The Firs of Vengeance accompanies The Rage of Dragons in providing a perfect reading experience for me.


When I started reading this, I expected to love it. But, The Rage of Dragons was so brilliant and had so many unique plotting points that I thought this second instalment would not quite reach its predecessor. I am happy to say that I was wrong. So, so wrong.


Before I continue, this is a spoiler-free review, but there might be a few references to The Rage of Dragons. If you have not read the first instalment in this series, I urge you to stop reading right now, and rather, go and buy it both of these books!


“Keep fighting, and I swear that before it consumes us, we’ll burn our pain to ash in the fires of vengeance”


Whilst The Rage of Dragons is one of my favourite books of all time, I had forgotten some of the intrinsics of the ending, and the roles of some characters as well. But Evan Winter subtly provides a summary throughout the first chapter that immersed me back into this world and had the plot up and running without leaving the reader in confusion. This brilliant crafting of pace would set a precedent for the rest of the book.


The Rage of Dragons was described as having aspects of Game of Thrones and Gladiator. In contrast, The Fires of Vengeance does not revolve so much around arena combat as its predecessor does, but it still maintains the  well-crafted dynamics between the members of Scale Jayyed. Whilst they are maturer now, it is still similar to Anthony Ryan’s Blood Song and Mark Lawrence’s Red Sister in continuing the always enjoyable tale of a group of friends forged through adversity.


Tau’s desire for vengeance is a driving force for this tale, but I love that Winter has provided extra layers that make this more than just a story for revenge. It shows the rifts in friendships, combats social constructs and offers a multifaceted story that is not simply good vs bad. Tau now has increased responsibilities as champion of Queen Tsiora. He continues to seek revenge, but must make compromises to maintain his role. He is faced with a whole new set of trails and tribulations, as he must either prioritise his duty, or his revenge. He continues to be a fantastic central character who acts as the almost continuous perspective.


I read a while back in Petrik’s review of The Fires of Vengeance that he found the rare chapters attributed to other characters to be a brilliant implementation from Evan Winter. I completely agree. It really showed that whilst I love Tau, from other perspectives he can be seen as a fearsome, monstrous figure. It added another layer of authenticity that showed that there are no clear-cut ‘right’ sides, and rather that each force has their own justifiable motivations. 


“Rage is love...twisted in on itself. Rage reaches into the world when we can no longer contain the hurt of being treated as if our life and loves do not matter. Rage, and its consequences, are what we get when the world refuses to change for anything less.” 


Overall, I think it is clear that I loved this story. It is paced perfectly, with a wider array of enjoyable characters. It is punchy, intriguing, thought-provoking and really just everything I yearn for in a read. Epic fantasy at its best. It incorporates the right amount of characterisation and small scale interactions and partners it with shocking action sequences of a massive scale that are written beautifully, conveying the confusion of battle but keeping the reader in the loop at the same time. 




The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway - Book Review 18, Feb

“Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.” 


I read this last Summer, but the review somehow slipped through my fingers. I realised this recently and wanted to rectify that mistake, fore this is a book that is a joy to talk about.


The Old Man and the Sea is a beautiful story contained within 100 pages that made me feel humbled and mesmerised at the same time. Hemingway's prose is just once again incredibly smooth and languid, allowing the character development and scenes of conflict to unravel perfectly. It was written in 1952 and was apparently very progressive given the period, having a huge impact on how literature would be crafted in the future. I have not looked into this enough to know the details, but I imagine this is one of the many reasons Hemingway is such a celebrated literary figure.


The Old Man and the Sea serves as a literal story on one level, as well as crafting an extended metaphor where Santiago’s isolation and loneliness is symbolised by the sea.


The majority of this tale emerges from one specific fishing escapade where The Old Man struggles to capture a giant marlin, which would be the most impressive catch of his experienced life. During the days the proceed in this great conflict, Santiago enters a dream like state that causes a tangential stream of consciousness that we as the reader follow.


“No one should be alone in their old age, he thought.”


Again, as I said in my review of For Whom the Bell Tolls, Hemingway has a really wonderful prose that exudes an almost mythical quality that mirrors the strain of the mind his protagonist faces.


Throughout this novella, Santiago faces all kinds of tribulations, on a physical and mental standing. He loses many. But what makes him such an endearing and beautiful character is his indomitable spirit. 


“But man is not made for defeat," he said. "A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”


The Old Man and the Sea says a lot about human nature, and about the grim realities of life. The Old Man is shown to have lost a lot, but he knows that that will only become more extreme if he loses his optimism. Despite recent failures in fishing and his now lonely lifestyle, he continues and presses on. It reminds us as the reader of the fickle nature of life, but also the importance of resilience, even if failure is inevitable.




The Councillor by E.J. Beaton (Book Review) 16, Feb

Firstly, thank you to Julie Crisp who sent me an early digital copy of The Councillor to review. This did not influence the opinions shared in this review.


This is a gripping story with fully developed characters, beautiful prose and a fresh approach to the fantasy genre that was a joy to read.


The Councillor is a debut novel by E.J. Beaton, in what I believe is designed to be a duology. It is a Machiavellian fantasy tale that offered me something completely new and fresh. It is dominated by political intrigue, unique characters and a well established world. This is a book where you do not know what is going to happen, and then when the penny drops, it all makes sense. That feeling when you put all the pieces of the puzzle together was amazing.


“Strength without swords.”

“How does one conquer without a sword? Without a weapon?”

“The real leader conquers with her mind.”


One of the many strengths of this story is the prose. It is rich, but stripped back as well, in what I thought was a perfect style for the tone, in dripping bits of information slowly, whilst allowing the plot to progress. There is a lot to take in, but E.J. Beaton brilliantly avoids unnatural exposition, and expertly implements it into the story.


My favourite part of this story was the characters. Rarely have I had the pleasure to journey through a story with such developed, refined and believable characters, from the central protagonist and PoV, Lysande, to the supporting cast of Derset, Litany, Luca Fontaine and many more. Accompanying this, their dialogue was masterful, and managed to relay their motivations and personalities wonderfully. If for nothing else, you must read The Councillor for these figures!


“Confidence before the nobility. Humility before the people. Books had a strange way of making themselves useful in your life, words sprouting up when you least expected them.”


The plot of The Councillor is driven primarily by political intrigue, interactions and the acquiring of information, where Lysande tries to discover who murdered her Queen, and who to choose as the next ruler. This is done in a way that builds the tension from page one all the way to a huge climax at the end. And when I say ‘huge’, that is what I mean. The story erupted into an epic scale in one of what is only two action sequences, with an immersive, shocking bang. The only factor that pulls this from being a perfect read is that there was probably a small part in the middle third that I thought was focused more on the bigger picture, when I was just yearning for more of those wonderful character interactions. But that by no means is a bad thing, it means that it was great, but just dipped from brilliance temporarily.


‘Oh, you could tell yourself that you were doing it for the people and you could turn the pages of tracts in your mind, making all the connections to justify it, but it was still a ladder, stretching up into mist, the top obscured. For the people — the other side of that coin was the people for oneself.’


The Councillor has been advertised as a Machiavellian fantasy. And indeed it is! It is full of brilliant political intrigue and twists and turns throughout. But, whilst this is great, I would say that the shining light of this debut is the characterisation. It is some of the best that I have had the pleasure to read in fantasy. Each character is fleshed out, fully developed and acts in ways that complies perfectly with their motivations. It was wonderful to read.


The Councillor comes out on March 2nd. I would recommend this to most fantasy readers, due primarily to the fantastic characters and overall new approach to the genre that was so fresh and engaging.