Al Burke

Al Burke

Al has written, among other things, a fantasy novel, theses on morality and freedom, a hell of a lot of book reviews and covered football (as in gridiron) for many years. He's a fan of philosophy, mythology, and generally anything considered nerdy. He also writes book reviews on

Legacy of Steel (Legacy Series #2) by Matthew Ward 22, Nov

How do you follow up an excellent start to a series such as Legacy of Ash? Well, Matthew Ward has the answer. Write a better sequel. Yes, in my amateur opinion, Legacy of Steel is a more than worthy addition. Viktor is missing, the council can’t seem to agree on anything, allowing the Parliament of Crows to wreak havoc in the city. Just for good measure, the Hadari haven’t quite picked up and gone home. Instead, they are attempting to finish the job. That’s the plot, but there is so much more to this book than that. You can read the bumpf for more info.

The writing is superb throughout, the descriptions are crisp and the dialogue feels very natural. Ward adds to his world, adding new factions that generate more interest and plot strands. The world is harsh and there is an overarching darkness that pervades every scene. However, not all is grim - Ward adds humour (and some great laughs) throughout which is an essential element. In my amateur opinion, humans will find humour in the darkest of times, and any fiction book that lacks humour, lacks humanity. 

This leads me to the characters, which are without a shadow of a doubt the best thing about the series. We have gods, demons, magickers and more and every one of them feels real. The author does a great job of making each character not just believable, but likeable. Case in point - in Legacy of Ash, Ebigail Kiradin, was my favourite character despite her being the Big Bad (not a spoiler). Each character is different, dealing with their various issues in differing ways. What stands out most is that while there are perceivable “enemies,” their motivations are justifiable and it’s hard to fault them. When the line between “good and evil” (meh!) is blurred, it makes for a far more captivating story and the Legacy Trilogy is building up to a stellar ending. Legacy of Light is sitting on my desk awaiting reading. When I power through my TBR and get to it, I’ll let you know. 


Horns of the Hunter (Tales of Luah Fail #1) by Frank Dorrian Book Review 06, Nov

Last, but certainly not least. Horns of the Hunter is my final SPFBO read for 2022 and it’s a good one. Deeply rooted in Celtic mythology, this is a dark and gritty tale of revenge and the lengths some will go to for love. For the record, it’s not a romance. 

Naith is a warrior, renowned for his efforts against the Fomhoire, but has been ostracised for challenging those under the king's protection. Luw is a hunter, one who takes care of the forest. When he discovers that both he and Naith love the same woman, he decides to get rid of the competition. The problem is that he is not in the same league as Naith as a warrior, and both make questionable choices to come out on top.

This is the crux of the book, but it’s bloody and action-packed. It’s hard to refer to either as the “hero,” as their choices are hard to justify and their motivation is purely selfish. Of course, while this rules it out of the banner of epic fantasy, we feel some sympathy for these lovestruck fools who will do almost anything to win their “prize.” This woman, Sile, is quite the enigma. Is she the free woman she claims to be with no ties to any man, or does she have an ulterior motive? 

This book is well written, entertaining, and keeps you guessing to how things will go until the very end, and even then you may be surprised. This may be last review, but it was not the last one I read. I saved it for last as it was my choice to move on the next stage of the contest. I can assure you though, while it was my favourite, it was a really close decision. Maybe sometime I’ll release the pecking order. Or maybe not.


Heir to the Sun, The Chronicles of Parthalan #1, Jennifer Allis Provost 17, Oct

And on to review number 5 for SPFBO8, a YA novel with some teeth. This contains a lot of standard fantasy tropes such as elves and fae, but the author does a fine job of weaving an interesting tale. The Fae, self-proclaimed children of the gods, are being imprisoned, tortured and raped by demons who are helped by the human king of the land. Asherah, one of the imprisoned Fae, leads a jailbreak and then begins to free other Fae from different camps. When she learns of the King’s involvement, she goes to the Elf King, who rules the land. While the King wants to help, he also wants Asherah for himself, but will her unwillingness affect his decision?

I have to be honest, I find the earnestness of YA dialogue to be somewhat stiff, and this was no different here. However, this is a matter of personal taste, and this story has a lot going for it. Asherah was the most interesting character, having a mantle of leadership thrust upon her, despite her reticence about taking over. She takes the role on though, leading raids to free more fae and building what is becoming her army. Some I neglected to mention in the spiel above are Caol’nir and Alluria. Caol-nir is a temple guard, tasked with guarding the brides of a god (whose name eludes me). The brides' role is to bear the children of the god, but for their otherwise chaste behaviour, they are rewarded with magical powers. Of course, Caol’nir and Alluria fall for each other, with Caol’nir risking his life by spending an unwarranted amount of time with Alluria. Will their relationship cost Caol-nir his life, or will Alluria give up her power to be his? 

Both story strands are worth your time and, despite the pace slowing at times, the book is enjoyable and has many standout moments. While the author is well established, I believe this entry into SPFBO will earn her some new fans, win or lose.