Monthly Archives: March 2017

Timandra Whitecastle reviews TOUCH OF IRON


This week Timandra Whitecastle stops by to review her novel, TOUCH OF IRON. Wait. Is it actually her, or did she send one of her characters or even a book cover to do the review for her? I think we have a real person! Woooo!


I picked up Touch of Iron only because I’d seen the cover on Instagram and Pinterest a few times, and wow, it’s beautiful. But how does the adage go? Don’t a judge a book by its cover.

The blurb made me think that it’d be my standard heroic fantasy fare – legendary sword, questing, multiple points of view, and I was looking forward to it.

But it’s terrible.

The female main character is an awful person. She’s very un-christian, unwomanly, headstrong, curses a lot – the amount of expletives in this book is obscene. Obscene, I tell you! – and nowhere in the book is she described as being beautiful or meek. I don’t get it – it’s as if Whitecastle doesn’t think women have to be sexy in order to have worth, lololol. The way the author wrote her, I’d say that Whitecastle person is pushing her own feminist agenda with Nora.

Whitecastle also shies away from any opportunity of true character development. Nora starts out as a total failure, running away from home with her twin bother because, frankly, she’s very ungrateful, and prone to violent tempers. Mood swings! Lololol. Pretty quickly she gets swept up in the quest for the Living Blade, meeting the male leads, Prince Bashan and Master Diaz. Sadly, Whitecastle lacks the talent to write real male characters as she’s a woman, but she tris valiantly with Prince Bashan. I was not impressed with Master Diaz, by the way – although his back story is like: he has sex outside of marriage and is punished for that for the rest of his life. I liked that part. It was realistic. But Nora? No. No punishment for her. So sad. She never snaps out of her disobedient ways to finally become the paladin I was expecting.

Also the book is really gory. When the violence happens it’s very graphic and painfully drawn out. Why is that, Ms Whitecastle? Why can’t you write aesthetic violence like every other good fantasy author? Give us battles with dragons, nekkid babes in chainmail bikinis, and magical talking blades, not actual hurt and emotional turmoil!

There’s some sexual violence and rape, but alas! never as much as in Game of Thrones, and the fear of rape is never used as a motivation for the female characters – it’s weird. It’s like Whitecastle sees the opportunity to write the strong female lead we can all recognize, but then actively chooses not to.

I honestly don’t see any appeal to this book, other than the cover which is really nice.

And OMG there’s a sequel now?!?


Touch of Iron on

On the Wheel on (releases March 16th)
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Hey folks!

We are back with the latest in the AUTHORS REVIEWING THEIR OWN BOOKS series. Today, Steven Poore pops in to review…wait…no. Like many authors he has foisted the duty on another. This time he sent the book cover in to review if for him.

Well, let’s see what the cover has to say!


Oh hai, sweet readers, please allow me to introduce myself – I’m a book cover illustration of wealth and taste… no, really. Don’t run away…

Pheh. Some folks, you just can’t help. But you, you look reasonable. You look intelligent. You can see there’s more to me than meets the eye, right? Or, like in the front credits of Quincy, will this be an autopsy without an audience?

I know what you want. Grim reapers, bloody swords, hooded men, mountains of corpses. Maybe even a fella with four hands and a stetson, yeah? I see you, with your bloodstained maps, your Viking raiders, and your Anasurimbor Kellhus runes. And who let that damned goat in here? Shoo, get away, gimme some space… sorry about that. Where was I? Yeah, runes. Got none of those here, sorry. Just an alpha male prince with a very big sword, and a young lass. All in bright colours, just like those books you used to read before you grew up and thought that Garion was a bit wet, actually.

Look at those muscles. All that beef. Here’s a guy who lifts. He’s a proper hero. None of those hoods or half-profile silhouettes here. Just a bloody great sword. This chap’s name is Meredith, and he owns it. The book’s called The Heir to the North, and that’s him, that is. He shot a man in CostCo, just to watch him die (OK, so that bit’s a lie, but I’m being creative here, roll with it). He goes through his forms bare-chested, but you can tell that already. It’s making you totes jeal. It certainly makes Cassia’s knees tremble, I tell thee.

Cassia? Yeah, she’s the support act, right? Look how Meredith protects her, holds her back against danger, how good they look together, how bright and innocent… oi, you at the back, I’ll have none of that muck in this column. Go wash yer mouth out. Anyway, just look at them. It’s like a first-level D&D group, before the slaughter begins – it’s so 1987 it hurts. That sound, that’s you walking away that is, gone to find something grimmer, something darker, with more pillage and less hope, more cynicism, and less bright-eyed naivete, because this is the modern world and hey now, hey now now, sing something doomy to me.

Can’t say I blame you. Just go, walk out the door, don’t turn around now – actually, wait, see, there’s a secret. I’m not what I seem. A picture tells a thousand words, yeah sure, but what if those words ain’t the truth? What if – bear with me here – what if the picture you’re seeing is a fantasy? What if it lives only in Cassia’s head?

That’s not so 1987, is it? That’s practically post-modern. See me strut. I ain’t grim, but I’m sure twisted. I’m like a tribute to all the best fantasy novels of the late 80s and early 90s, an echo of the excitement and wonder, let’s do the quest right here! I’m a cover that dares you to see beyond it.

You want me to talk about the book itself? Hey, I’m just a picture. I just represent. But I say look at the author. He’s all bright-eyed and naive too, starting out on his own quest. He might get a couple of things wrong, play a few bum notes, forget to put any real female characters except Cassia in there at all, y’know, minor stuff. But you know what comes after the bright fairy-tale beginnings, right?

Yeah, that’s right…

The Heir to the North – cover copy

Caenthell will stay buried, and the North will not rise again until I freely offer my sword to a true descendant of the High Kings—or until one takes it from my dying hands!” 
With this curse, the Warlock Malessar destroyed Caenthell. The bloodline of the High Kings disappeared and the kingdom faded into dark legend until even stories of the deed lost their power. But now there is an Heir to the North.
Cassia hopes to make her reputation as a storyteller by witnessing a hardened soldier and a heroic princeling defeat Malessar and his foul curse. But neither of her companions are exactly as they appear, and the truth lies deep within stories that have been buried for centuries.
As Cassia learns secrets both soldier and warlock have kept hidden since the fall of Caenthell, she discovers she can no longer merely bear witness. Cassia must become part of the story; she must choose a side and join the battle.
The North will rise again.

Heir To The North – Out Now!



Epic Fantasist — SFSF Socialist
@stevenjpoore — @SFSFSocial

Author Reviewing Their Own Books: Richard Writhen reviews A KICKED CUR.

This week the mysterious Richard Writhen drops by to review–Oh, wait, no! He’s gone and dumped the review on one of his characters! The sod!


A Kicked Cur: A Waste Of My Time And Yours

by Michael Sirus Meyer, the star of A Host Of Ills

Please give me allowance to preface this essay. I am neither a reviewer by trade nor a writer, and only a sporadic reader; as I rarely find the time. I am an amanuensis by trade, and in the employ of one of the greatest precious metal industrialists that the great realm of Khlarion has ever seen. I am but a layman, if you will understand; so, when I was “asked” to review A Kicked Cur by some raggedy individual that introduced himself to me only by the moniker of “Richard Writhen,” of course I politely declined. However, the persistent bugger hounded my very steps down the badly cobbled streets, and I could not safely sleep in my bungalow on Milbury Street without hearing his wolf-like howls outside my window at all hours of first clock. So, here’s the final review, all ready to be safely sealed and delivered over to the Pylon Press Building. Perhaps you, my dear reader, will find some small modicum of enjoyment in it; which is quite a bit more than I can say for the work being reviewed itself … unfortunately.

To begin with, if you will be so kind as to bear with me, I will relate a little bit about myself. My name is Michael Sirus Meyer, I am indeed a clerk for a great mine-lord, and have been for many years. One Jalas Nadur, originally from the nation far to Khlarion’s southwest, which is named Khunatan, owns practically every active metal mine in the north of the realm, they being interspersed with the Unknown Forest and just south of the mysterious set of island summits known to the citizenry as the Tide Witches. I divide my time between the private sector of Hayderstade, just to the west of Deskordin’s downtown area, which is where I myself am from, as well as the hive-like network of northern caves that yield those materials of great worth and net my boss a good deal of profit; which he might not be able to effectively do, if I may humbly add, without my invaluable services in book-keeping.

So, enough idle chatter, as my father used to say; and on to the document that I have been asked to review. Again, I am by no means a writer, and have never been able to write creative fiction prose with any real ability. But surely, a narrative can be constructed in a more coherent manner than this. A Kicked Cur attempts to tell the story of three average teenagers who live in the downtown Deskordin area; which I know well, being as I attended college near where the story takes place. They encounter a spot of trouble when they see something that they are not meant to, and are set aflight and run home in order to regroup; bold warriors these are not. I won’t give away much more of the “tale,” if you would choose to call it that, but suffice it to say, they are hard-pressed to come up with a strategem to deal with the problem they encounter, as it involves a blood witch and her three vampire lackeys. The result is so anti-climactic that a scene involving the male teen having breakfast with his father one morning is one of the most suspenseful in the entire piece. And said father mentions Drackhon, another nation that lies dead west of Khlarion, asserting that it is in fact infested with more blood magicians and vampires; this cannot be true, as everyone knows that Drackhon is merely a wide, flat land which is composed mostly of swamps save for a few historical ruins, just some old castles and the like.

Mr. Writhen certainly has quite the imagination, unless he purports to predict the future, something which no human being can do … with any accuracy. Frankly, that’s part of the work’s overall inconsistency. I’m not sure when A Kicked Cur is supposed to be set, it being such a disorganized mess; but his flippant flair and supposition of the day-to-day reality that actually exists in The Great City of Deskordin is, in a word … simply monstrous. Again, I am struggling to not give too much away. But these children wind up in their basement telling ghost stories or the like by lantern light. And there’s this gods awful sub-plot regarding some lawmen … er, sheriffs … hill sheriffs, is it? … that hold their headquarters far to the northeast of the city proper in the lowly sector of Heavenward. And believe you me, this is where this novella is stretched to its thinnest; everyone with any sense whatsoever knows that the area is a mere disreputable hell that no lawman would even set one booted foot in, let alone call home.

A grotesque blot on our reality, it is no more than tens upon tens of square miles of rundown buildings, broken alleyways, burned-out coaches and broken glass … covered by packs of roving vagrants so debauched that they take to eating each other due to the scarcity of food. A horrific place; and that is why the text of this work rings so false. It’s so unrealistic that I can barely write about it with a straight face, let alone relate that to someone in person. Well, nevermind. Suffice it to say, A Kicked Cur belongs on the bookshelf of no sane individual, or on that of anyone with any taste in literature. Frankly, I immediately burned the infernal manuscript that the psychopath had given me when I had finished reading it, damn him and his incessant howling to hell. When I rise to my window, I swear I can see him there, subtly backlit by the sporadic streetlamps. And all of that would be all well and good … but gods, now how do I get this review over to the press …?

Links and Sundry


FB Author page:

Gothdark Speculative Fiction FB Group:
A Host Of Ills:
A Kicked Cur:
The Hiss Of The Blade:

Two other articles / features about Richard’s work:


Richard Writhen’s Bio:

Originally from Rhode Island, Richard Writhen also lived in NYC for about ten years. He has been e-published on several notable sites such as the MightyThorJRS Blog,, and and is the author of three novellas on Amazon KDP; A Kicked Cur, A Host of Ills and The Hiss Of The Blade. Richard also writes short form in the styles of Gothdark, Grimdark, GDSF and Psychological Horror, and will eventually be exploring the weird west.


Ben Galley Reviews His Novel, HEART OF STONE

And the madness continues!

Today we are back with the latest  in the AUTHORS REVIEWING THEIR OWN BOOKS SERIES! The ever dangerous Ben Galley joins us to share his thoughts on his novel The Heart of Stone.

Review of The Heart of Stone

Firstly, allow me to say that I did not like golems before reading The Heart of Stone. After finishing this “book”, I can now safely say I hate them.

I suppose I should do the decent thing and give you an overview of plot before I get into the bedrock of my review.

After a few cryptic preludes, we are introduced to some sort of stone beast as he steps off a boat into a war-torn country called Hartlund, which is painted to be as bleak as a medieval industrial estate in winter. The blurb hints at the beast being a kind of war machine, and after some brief and even bleaker world-building, we see what he’s capable of as he’s thrown straight into glorious battle against an enemy called the Last Fading. The story unfolds from there, the golem struggling to adjust to this new war, despite living through a hundred of them already. He’s been given the task of winning the civil war for the humans, and yet all he wants to do is be left alone.

What “author” Ben Galley has tried to create here, in an attempt to be boulder than his last series, is an emotional story of discovery and humanity, told through the glowing eyes of a cynical yet enrapturing, distinctly non-human character.

Unfortunately, what Galley has written instead is a 400-page treatise on how much a golem can moan about its lot in life. When Task, the golem, is not grumbling his way through battle, or complaining about his living conditions, or the noise level of a war-camp, he’s questioning his betters – us humans. The cheek of it. Instead of being poignant and revealing of human nature, it’s like the plaintiff’s script from a 17th century Judge Judy episode.

Let’s look at the characters. Task is already at rock bottom when he arrives in Hartlund. He’s a statue of cynicism, and not very fond of us lovely humans. He’s almost too good to be true. He’s immortal (ugh), and practically indestructible unless you pull out his witty tongue (ugh again). Who knew stone could be so verbose? Above all, he’s just rude. He’s been bought fair and square by the Truehards – the royal side of the civil war – and he’s been made to fight wars all his life, so what’s his problem? What has he got to complain about? This is the issue with magical creatures, IMO, they are too full of themselves. I’d rather take a dragon that knows its place any day of the week.

He’s sullen, he’s ungrateful (even though they give him a pen to sleep in… a whole pen to himself!) and he even complains when he has to crush a skull or two. He’s a real sourpuss, and most of the time I wanted to slap him across his granite face, and say, “Cheer up! It’s only been four hundred years of brutal servitude!”. He’s a truly igneous sod, taking everything for granite.

There’s a lode of far more interesting characters in the book, and each have their own sections in the story between the golem’s complaining. These are some classic fantasy characters right here. Completely original. There’s a stable girl. A mercenary knight. A crotchety old lord. A wonderful gem of a general. A scheming politician. They’re all trying to get along with the dignified business of battle, and this golem keeps ruining their days by refusing to get on being the war-slave he is, thinking he deserves “better”.

The world is described in rich “detail” through Task’s eyes, which I thought was boring. I found myself substituting my own, frankly better, world in place of his laboured descriptions. We see a glimpse of some far flung places, but most of the book is set in the rainy, wintry monochrome of Hartlund. The way that Task describes it, you would have thought a civil war had been raging here. I imagined a glowing country, rich, friendly and bucolic, but through the golem’s eyes we see endless rolling hills, tumbledown villages, wastelands, skeletal trees and fields of bones. It really eroded my enjoyment. You might enjoy that sort of thing, but if you want dose of depressing landscape, I’d recommend watching a drone fly around Chernobyl instead.

Now, some people might like this raw and grim kind of POV, where you “feel” like you’re fighting alongside Task through every blood-drenched fracas, or taking each tuff step across his bleak Hartlund with him, but I for one found it far too… realish. Where are the fairies, the unicorns? The wizards and simple struggles of good and evil? This is supposed to be fantasy, damn it, not Fifty Shades. That also reminds me of another gripe: there are no sex scenes in this book. None whatsoever. (Minus another star for that. If I had one hope halfway through this book of a saving moment, it would have been exploring non-human coitus.)

So, in summary, if you like the sound of a whining, nine-foot golem searching for retribution and justice, whinging his way through a perfectly good war, making profound yet unfounded philosophical comments on human nature, and stubbornly flinching away from his duties like a child, then The Heart of Stone is the right book for you. I hear it’s out for pre-order, or whatever. Enjoy.

The Heart of Stone is available on Amazon

To Find More Ben Galley…