Friend of the blog, Karl K. Gallagher, best known for his Torchship trilogy of hard sci-fi novels (previously reviewed here), took a swing at the fantasy genre fastball this spring with the release of his Lost War duopoly.  The result is a solid, stand-up triple with much to recommend it.  It’s a wild blend of fantasy and modern adventure in the vein of “Lord of the Flies” meets “Lord of the Rings” with a dash of “Door Into Summer” thrown into the mix.

The core concept of a large troupe of medieval re-enactors whose weekend LARP takes a savage turn makes for a great hook.  The local witch decides that it might be fun to dabble with dark powers, and lurches the entire camp across the nameless void to land in the heart of an actual fantasy world complete with evil sorcerers and tribes of feral orcs.  The initial shock and slow exploration of the new world causes considerable friction among the castaways, and they barely have the time and cohesion to come to grips with the challenges of ironing out the workings of a stable society amid the wilds, building the infrastructure necessary to survive over the long term, and raising the defenses necessary to keep the local wildlife at bay.  Just as it looks like they might make a solid run at survival, the first significant orc attack hits them with the sharp shock of a prison shank. Read More

Yesterday was the 204th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo making this week’s WW post a perfect time to recommend two excellent books and an interview I conducted with author (Waterloo Betrayed) Stephen Beckett.  Always a risky thing recommending books on Waterloo as there have been a multitude of books published on the topic but I feel confident of these two choices.

The first book, Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies and Three Battles by Bernard Cornwell of Richard Sharpe series fame, is one I recommend for those unfamiliar with the battle as it serves as an excellent introduction into both the battle and tactics of the Napoleonic age.  Many books on the battle and this period have been pounced guilty of an overwhelming British point of view but Cornwell’s book does justice to the French point of view and also the usually neglected Prussians, who were essential to the final victory.

I am not a novice when it comes to Napoleonic military history but have to say it may be a little unfair to recommend the book “for those unfamiliar with the battle” because the book was always informative and entertaining and can credit it with revealing some facts and insights I had not previously known.

Wargamers will find the book interesting. Below I’ve copied a passage on the “arithmetic” of cavalry versus infantry in a square.  Before that, for those unfamiliar with Napoleonic tactics think of a game of rock, paper and scissors.  Cavalry will beat infantry deployed in a line but infantry deployed in a square will handily beat the cavalry. Form your infantry in a square in the face of cavalry and artillery will decimate your squares though artillery is vulnerable to both infantry and cavalry if they can reach the guns.

Thousands of horsemen were now struggling to attack the squares, but the arithmetic was fatal to them. Assume that a British battalion had 500 men and made a square of equal sides, then each face of the square would present four ranks of about thirty men each. That makes 480 men in the four sides of the square, the rest are officers or sergeants who are in the square’s centre. Now take one side of the square. Thirty men are kneeling and holding their muskets braced and pointing outwards with fixed bayonets. Thirty more men are crouching in the second rank with their bayonets also bristling outwards, and behind them stand sixty men firing muskets. Thirty men take up about fifty-two feet, which is the width of our notional square, but a horseman needs much more space, well over three feet and closer to four, so only about fourteen or fifteen horsemen can charge at the square’s face. They can come in ranks, but the front rank cannot hold more than fifteen men, and those fifteen are faced by 120 men, half of whom are firing muskets. That is notional.  Squares were usually oblongs, but the arithmetic still holds.”

What I have learned from Cornwell’s book was that luck was on the Allied side. Blucher was almost captured after the defeat at Ligney the day before. He was overrun by French cavalry but an aide covered his uniform, preventing him from being specifically targeted for capture. Also, a French general who followed his orders to the letter could have blocked the Prussian advance for hours at the Lasne River but kept his troops in place.  I’d say those extra hours were the difference between a loss or victory.

On the next page a recommendation for anyone interested in the battle and Napoleonic warfare, from the novice to the expert. At the very end there’s a link to a video on a 15 foot long Lego diorama of the fighting a La Haie Sainte.  Must see. Additionally, there is a link at the bottom of the next page to an interview with author/historian Stephen Beckett. For those with an obsession with the 1815 campaign he’s soliciting volunteers to help with primary documents.

Read More

Writing (Kairos): Last night I stopped by the Superversive SF live stream to discuss my new book Combat Frame XSeed: Coalition Year 40. My gracious host and the enthusiastic chat brought up lots of tantalizing questions about the mysteries I’ve planted in the series thus far. I addressed those questions and gave additional clues to those mysteries, which will be revealed in Combat Frame XSeed: CY 40 Second Coming.

We also embarked on an in-depth discussion of plot and pacing. I contend that the latter is derived more from character than from sentence and paragraph level mechanics. See the video for a full explanation and a mini writing clinic.


Awards (REH Foundation): Congratulations to the REH Foundation Award winners! The winners were announced at a ceremony at Robert E. Howard Days in Cross Plains, Texas on June 7th.

Atlantean — Outstanding Achievement, Book (non-anthology/collection)

Winner: DAVID C. SMITH – Robert E. Howard: A Literary Biography (Pulp Hero Press)

FRED BLOSSER – Western Weirdness and Voodoo Vengence (Pulp Hero Press)
DON HERRON and LEO GRIN – Famous Someday: A Robert E. Howard Biography (The Cimmerian Press).


Fiction (Patheos): Machen (The Great God Pan) has had an enormous influence on horror literature. He is a HP Lovecraft without the overt white supremacy and Stephen King with interesting ideas: both tip the hat to the Machen (as they should). Not surprisingly for someone who has poked around in the scary attics and basements of the Christian past, Machen ends up with a more elevated view of sin then one finds in someone like CS Lewis, who experimented with the occult briefly, but had too much philosophy to stay there for long. Read More

Brand new from DMR Books is Byron A. Roberts’ The Chronicles of Caylen-Tor. I have mentioned Roberts’ fiction in the past in Swords of Steel and Swords of Steel III.

The Chronicles of Caylen-Tor is a collection of three novellas along with some appendices. The setting is antediluvian, just before the “Second Cataclysm.”

“The Siege of Gul-Azlaan” introduces Caylen, north man mercenary in the service of the Vyrgothian Alliance. The Alliance is under attack from the Imperium who is methodically attacking and reducing a series of strategic fortresses guarding the Alliance. The fortress of Gul-Azlaan is on the edge of the desert.

What follows is an epic siege with some battle sorcery and lots of sword slinging going on.

“The Battle of Blackhelm Vale” takes place years later with Caylen-Tor, now king of an alliance of northern tribes. Their domain is under threat from Mytos K’unn from the east after a sorceress has usurped the throne and embarked on a policy of imperial expansion.

The neighboring realm of Delania has been overrun and the decision made to resist the passage of Mytos K’unn’s army or not. Caylen-Tor goes to war with some of the tribes choosing to stand neutral.

There is a night attack provoking Mytos K’unn’s army under the general Talus Ebonfyre to go after Caylen-Tor. There is an epic battle at Blackhelm Pass that is sort of like the battle of Thermopylae with a rousing final act. Read More

In the far-distant future, mankind has traversed the stars and settled distant worlds. But no matter how advanced the technology of the future becomes, it seems the spacefaring nations cannot entirely shed their human nature.

Jinto Lin finds this out the hard way when, as a child, his home world is conquered by the powerful Abh Empire: the self-proclaimed Kin of the Stars, and rulers of vast swaths of the known universe. As a newly-appointed member of the Abh’s imperial aristocracy, Jinto must learn to forge his own destiny in the wider universe while bearing burdens he never asked for, caught between his surface-dweller “Lander” heritage and the byzantine culture of the Abh, of which he is now nominally a member. A chance meeting with the brave-but-lonely Apprentice Starpilot Lafier aboard the Patrol Ship Goslauth will lead them both headfirst down a path of galaxy-spanning intrigue and warfare that will forever change the fate of all of humankind.

It’s refreshing to read a light novel not encrusted with 20 years of bad fannish in-jokes. However, Hiroyuki Morioka’s Crest of the Stars was also written at a time when linguistics was a writing craze on both sides of the Pacific Rim, so the book serves as much as a crash course on the Abh language as it does a story. The J-Novel Club translator uses an interesting strategy to minimize this, by bolding sections of the English text when corresponding Abh words have already been introduced to the reader. It’s still jarring, but not so much as the same text half-written in another language. A reader should not have to hold degrees in neologism linguistics, history, psychology or anthropology in order to understand the story. Fortunately, once the exposition-heavy introductions are complete, the interruptions settle to a more manageable rate. But that’s still one massive hurdle, one that many readers might balk at.

On the plus side, there’s a real Vorkosigan Saga feel so far as the story follows Lafier and Jinto on what will become their first mission in an interstellar war. There’s mild Ceteganda influence to the Abh, with a society disrupted by genetic manipulation and a uterine replicator on steroids. Lafier’s obsession with the proof and status of being a “Daughter of Love”, a child created from an act of passion instead of laboratory procedure, is a glimpse at the first cracks in the Abh’s air of supremacy. Neither Lafier or Jinto live up the manic level of Miles Vorkosigan, but then again, few characters do. Jinto displays a pragmatism forced on him as the only non-ethnically Abh noble, a mayfly among elves, while Lafier is a hammer with a strong sense of obligation that weighs heavily on her shoulders–more so than the privileges of her lofty position. Instead of an odd couple, they are complementary and rely on each other’s talents as they speed to warn the rest of the Abh fleet of invasion and war. Read More

The Four Horsemen. The Republic of Cinnabar Navy. The Imperium of Man. Tyler Barron’s Confederation. The Abh Empire. Black Jack Geary’s Alliance. Classic space navies of the past and present loom large in this week’s constellation of the newest releases in science fiction.

Crest of the Stars #1 – Hiroyuki Morioka

In the far-distant future, mankind has traversed the stars and settled distant worlds. But no matter how advanced the technology of the future becomes, it seems the spacefaring nations cannot entirely shed their human nature.

Jinto Lin finds this out the hard way when, as a child, his home world is conquered by the powerful Abh Empire: the self-proclaimed Kin of the Stars, and rulers of vast swaths of the known universe. As a newly-appointed member of the Abh’s imperial aristocracy, Jinto must learn to forge his own destiny in the wider universe while bearing burdens he never asked for, caught between his surface-dweller “Lander” heritage and the byzantine culture of the Abh, of which he is now nominally a member. A chance meeting with the brave-but-lonely Apprentice Starpilot Lafier aboard the Patrol Ship Goslauth will lead them both headfirst down a path of galaxy-spanning intrigue and warfare that will forever change the fate of all of humankind.

Earth Unleashed (Earthside #12) – Daniel Arenson

It begins. The final battle between man and machine.

Earth burns. The Dreamer, a cruel artificial intelligence, brutalizes our world. His robots reduce our cities to ash. His cyborgs march by the millions. Humanity is now an endangered species.

But we still fight!

A band of heroes undertakes a dangerous quest. Some call it a suicide mission. They fly to a computerized world, deep in space, where the Dreamer dwells.

There humanity will face an electric god. There we will fall . . . or rise higher than ever before.

The Eve of War (Ruins of the Galaxy #1) – Christopher Hopper

He’d never do this again.

But she was pretty.

And it was his job to follow orders, right?

Still, this kind of woman was trouble. The type that ended careers. That got Republic Marines killed.

All he needed to do was keep her close and get her to the top of the building. But his gut told him she wasn’t going to make it easy.

That victory cigar was a long day away.

The Feeding of Sorrows (Four Horsemen Tales #11) – Rob Howell

Once is an accident. Twice is a coincidence. Three times is enemy action.

When Zuul-led thugs attack members of the Queen Elizabeth’s Own Foresters leaving the Lyon’s Den, the battles on Cimaron 283133-6A and Peninnah become enemy action, not simply mercs fulfilling contracts. What the Foresters don’t realize is that these attacks have been planned for years as part of an even larger series of plots aided by members of the Mercenary Guild.

Unlikely allies appear, including a Peacemaker who doesn’t like being used, an electronic intelligence specialist with a past that’s heavily redacted, and the strangest recruit in the Foresters’ history, but will their aid be enough against foes who seek the unit’s complete and utter destruction? And more importantly—who is funding the intelligence specialist’s special toys?

Answers will be found as the Foresters battles across the stars and in alien jungles—but will the answers only bring more questions?

Only two things are certain. Alliances will shift. And sorrows will be fed.  Read More

Last week marked the end of an era for the Castalia House blog. Alex said farewell after almost three and a half solid years of weekly blog entries. He provided a service reviewing an older piece of (generally) pulp science fiction. Planet Stories was a favored magazine for him to discuss, a magazine often hated by science fiction critics and historians. He found worth in many of those stories.

It is not often you get someone with the work ethic of Alex producing every week. Finding a steady blogger is hard. I have seen my shares of blogs come and go including some that flamed out in a few months. He was able to balance other projects with taking the time out to read a pulp story and do a write up for it for around 175 weeks in a row. Give him a big round of applause.

Thank you Alex.

Part I discussed Paracelsus’ gnomes and this post details my attempt to find the underlying myths that influenced his gnome concept.  His statement in A Book on Nymphs, Sylphs, Pygmies, and Salamanders, and on the Other Spirits* that he didn’t like the name “pygmie” for earth dwellers as the name had “been given them by people who did not understand them” reveals that his gnomes were not wholly original.

The difficulty in researching Paracelsus’ influences is the lack of written documentation on the old beliefs. Paracelsus lived, learned and wrote in the century after Gutenburg developed the printing press and books were a rare luxury for a small literate population. My guess is the thought of publishing low brow fairy tales and commoner’s myths did not cross anyone’s mind and the relatively limited runs of books were reserved for religion, the classics and popular plays.

I had two avenues of research. Initially, I tried the primary sources searching for clues in Paracelsus’ own writings (this post). When this proved fruitless, I turned towards 19th century documentation of the old fairy tales. Over time, tales that were passed down verbally would change to suit the storyteller’s preferences which were molded by the culture in a certain time and place. Despite that the general essence of fairy tales / myths remains showing a remarkable resilience . Example is Snow White and other popular tales such as Jack and the Beanstalk. My assumption is that description of dwarfs, elves and other mysterious folk captured in the 19th century retained essential characteristics of these folk over the centuries and these essential characteristics predated Paracelsus. I’ll explore that in Part III.

* Information about this book in Part I. An English translation can be found as one of the four treatises in this book.

Primary Sources –

On the Minder’s Sickness and Other Minter’s Diseases

I was fortunate in that the Four Treatises book mentioned above contains Theopharastus von Hohenheim’s (Paracelsus) On the Miner’s Sickness and Other Miner’s Diseases. I dove into it searching for references to gnomes, pygmies or earth mannikins. A significant portion of the text explores the causes of miner’s illnesses in which much of the blame can be laid on the various “spirits” found underground.  It turns out that these spirits are not non-material entities with malicious intent but a gas or essence emitted by the various ores that proved harmful to human beings. There is a little ambiguity in the definition of spirits and this was probably purposeful. There was a strong religious belief that many maladies were caused by demons or malicious entities. Paracelsus was exploring the boundaries between his religious beliefs, the dominant religion of the time, and his personal observations.

This doesn’t help in trying to find what influenced his thinking on gnomes but it does give insight into his “spirit men”.  Originally, I was in error in thinking of spirit in a mystical sense. His spirit men were obviously elemental representations so their spirit designation is more physical than mystical. Of all the spirit people only the salamander gets a mention:

“Therefore know that the transient corpora make a peculiar air in the element fire, with which one can also maintain oneself, just as with the ordinary air which we receive. This is proven by the salamander, which does not maintain itself with the air by means of which man lives, but by the air which is peculiar to the fire. In the power of the element the salamander has its breath, and outside f the fire it has no life.” 

There is a chance I missed a reference to earth dwellers in the text and will keep looking but in the meantime I found another passage that sounded promising:

“The one body is that of the inhabitants of the earth; for this I recommend the Archidoxa and the books Paramiris.” 

Off topic but of interest that Paracelsus believed the different minerals in the earth grew in a manner similar to plants. “The seeds of the metals and the minerals have been sowed in the earth” and “They have their fall and their harvest in order to sprout sooner or later according to the arrangement of the godly order“.



Inhabitants of the earth sounded promising and I started the search for the Archidoxa and the Paramiris books. It turns out that Paracelsus was referencing his own works.  An online English translation from an early 17th century book can be found here.  The book description from the 1660 copy:

Paracelsus, his Archidoxis comprised in ten books : disclosing the genuine way of making quintessences, arcanums, magisteries, elixirs, &c : together with his books of renovation & restauration, of the tincture of the philsophers, of the manual of the philosophical medicinal stone, of the virtues of the members, of the three principles, and finally his seven books of the degrees and compositions, of receipts and natural things / faithfully and plainly Englished, and published by J.H., Oxon

At this time I cannot find references to the spirit people as the Archidoxa is concerned with alchemy. As with his use of the word “spirits” I believe that in his quote “the one body is that of the inhabitants of the earth” inhabitants does not refer to spirit people but was used more in line with “composition”.  A modern translation of the meaning (vice literal translation) may read “the one body that is of the minerals of the earth“.


Textus Paramiri

Detailed references on the “books Paramiris” can be found in The Hermetic and Alchemical Writings of Aureolus Philippus Theophrastus Bombast of Hohenheim, Called Paracelsus the Great, translated by Arthur Edward Waite and printed in the 1890s. The Paramiri were an ongoing series of essays and books concerning the composition of the human body which Paracelsus summarizes here:

 "First, however, it had to be pointed out how man derived his origin from sulphur, mercury, and salt, regarded as metals. This I have sufficiently indicated in 
the Paramirum.."

No mention of gnomes I can find.



Paracelsus was influenced by existing folk lore but it is hard to pinpoint the exact nature of that influence.  Paracelsus’ concerned himself with medicine and alchemy and he used his spirit people to help explain phenomena and to supplement his exploration of elements. He definitely wasn’t interested in the mythology of his spirit people and used them in a rudimentary scientific manner. What I find amazing is the power of the ancient tales. He borrowed from folk tales and essentially re-purposed the old pygmies and earth manikins as his gnomes only for the gnomes to be re-purposed back towards myth and fantasy by those with a similar interest as mine.

I may have missed a reference to spirit people in the Archidoxa and quotes from the Paramiri but the role of Paracelsus’ spirit people had nothing to do with his interest in alchemy or medicine.  As we discovered in Part I, they were used by God as guides to humanity. In the gnome’s case, as a marker that natural resources were available in the region.  Even Paracelsus’ dwarves, monstrous offspring of the gnomes, were created by God to remind humanity of God’s powers. In the dwarves case, they weren’t put on Earth to guard resources, craft them or being monstrous, cause sickness to miners but to remind humanity:

This must also be understood to mean that although we are from Adam yet there are people who are not from Adam, such as giants and dwarfs who are greater and stronger than we. It also means that if you shall not do honest work, God can exterminate you in the root and let you all dry out like fruit on a tree, and create other people thereafter“.

 Thanks to commenter Alastair M who at the end of Part I let us know about Paul Ernst’s short story, The Microscopic Giants. From Alastair M’s description Ernst’s mannikins were very true to the original.

I hope others may be able to find hints and clues in the texts linked to above.











Animated Cartoons ( When CBS ordered a series based on the latest trend, fantasy role-playing games, perhaps they didn’t know what awaited them. Debuting on Sept 17, 1983, Dungeons & Dragons (inspired by the game created by

Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, and published by TSR) came to air already surrounded by controversy. The game’s use of occult imagery wasn’t the only factor disturbing parents groups. Some even declared it a literal danger to young people.




Art (Black Gate): Tim Kirk, another artist who has had a major professional career, was nominated for Best Fan Writer 8 times in the between 1969 and 1977, winning the Hugo in 1970, 1972, 1973, 1974, and 1976. It would be fair to say that for me, coming into contact with fandom in this period, my image of “fan art” was formed by Tim Kirk’s work, along with two more artists who won for their 1970s work, William Rotsler and Alexis A. Gilliland. (Not to slight the excellent Phil Foglio, but for whatever reason his art didn’t enter my consciousness until later. And Alicia Austin, four-time nominee and 1971 winner, was and is a favorite artist of mine, but for her professional work.)





Fiction Release (DMR Books): DMR Books is proud to present our next release: the picaresque fantasy novel The Road to Infinity by Gael DeRoane. It will be available in digital and trade paperback editions very soon (within the next few days), and the classic size edition (6.5” x 4.25”) should be released before the end of June. Read on for more:

Poised on the brink of manhood, young Aran Dyfar makes a rash and momentous decision that will either elevate him to glory or seal his doom. Read More

If you are a fan of classic Weird Tales fiction, you will encounter poetry by the H. P. Lovecraft circle if you delve deep enough. Poetry was a part of “The Unique Magazine.” An average issue would contain two to three poems. If you bother looking at the poetry of the Lovecraft Circle, you will find details adding to the whole overall Mythos.

Fedogan & Bremer Books has been a favorite small press publisher for the past 30 years. The very first item produced in 1987 was an audio cassette of H. P. Lovecraft’s Fungi from Yuggoth. John Arthur read Lovecraft’s sonnets with great background music by Mike Olson. I picked up that cassette in the early 90s and played that a lot in my old 1990 Pontiac Grand-Am. Later I got that performance on compact disk (which is in my current car).

F&B produced a new version of Fungi from Yuggoth in 2016. This time William E. Hart reading with background music by Graham Ploughman. Ploughman’s music is more of a background symphonic soundscape compared to Olson’s keyboard melodies.

Last year, F&B produced c.ds of reading of Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith. A few months ago, Donald Wandrei’s Sonnets of the Midnight Hours & Other Poems was released.

I am a big Donald Wandrei fan. I exchanged a few letters with him in the 1980s before he died. In some ways, from a technical standpoint, he was the best writer in Weird Tales. He had a command of language that few possess. Many of his stories were cosmic science fiction. You could place many of his stories somewhere between H. G. Wells and H. P. Lovecraft. Some consider Wandrei’s legacy as a poet. Read More

“I will enjoy speaking with the architect of HALO’s success.” 

The four XSeed pilots exchanged glances. “You probably won’t.”

Before the asteroid drops, combat frame battles, betrayals, and ultimate victory of the Systems Overterrestrial Coalition (SOC)–described in the first Combat Frame Xseed novel and the Coalition Year 2 (CY 2) short story–Senzan Kaimura discovered something in the Martian ruins. When he used this secret to turn Elizabeth Friedlander into the self-proclaimed Goddess of the World, Sekaino Megami, he birthed a monster that terrorized humanity–a monster that lived on past Megami’s death. As new intrigues threaten another SOC-launched cleansing of Earth, the Human Liberation Organization strives to free Earth from SOC control.

How can you fight a monster, but by creating one of your own?

The Brussels HLO cell, led by Tom “Arthur Wake” Dormio, is an unusually effective cell, costing the local SOC governor nearly 50 officials and ten million credits in damage. During one of their raids, they receive a strange message which leads them to a mysterious benefactor–and four of the most powerful combat frames ever. Equipped with these series 100 XSeeds and aimed at both the SOCs and Megami’s monster, these partisans rampage against the SOC forces, easily taking down all opposition by their oppressors. But a growing unease builds among the XSeed pilots, as Arthur Wake might just be a monster as well. Read More

Steampunk knights, bloodthirsty pirates, chi-cultivating dungeons, and isekai samurai feature in this week’s roundup of the newest releases in fantasy.

Cirsova: Summer Special 2019 – presented by Cirsova Publishing

The Ghost of Torreón By EDD VICK and MANNY FRISHBERG
A strange experiment gone wrong has granted Professor Rigoberto “Beto” Caminante an extraordinary power—the ability to “ride” radio waves!

The Bullet From Tomorrow By MISHA BURNETT
A mysterious visitor claiming to be from the future has a simple job for Private Investigator Butch Norton: sabotage an airplane to prevent World War III!

A young sorcerer’s apprentice steals a starship from his master… only to be pressed into the service of a pair of space hussars to undertake a perilous quest!

Bleed You Dry By SU-RA-U
A simple news assignment—talk to the reprobate son of an aloof dying billionaire—leads one small-town reporter down a trail of death and madness!

The Last Fortune of Ali al’Ahmar By REV. JOE KELLY
No search for treasure is ever easy, but the hoard of a legendary pirate sought by a shifty client steeped in sorcery may prove tricky for even Sudah’s tough crew!

An interstellar war has spilled onto the planet Halcyon, where humanity finds an unexpected ally in their fight against an alien race and their sinister masters!

The Coming Chaos (The Elder Stones Saga #4) – D. K. Holmberg

Altered and augmented by his increased connection to the metal lorcith, Haern must use this ability to protect the women he’s brought with him from the dangerous city of Dreshen. A series of attacks suggests a control over metal even Haern might not be able to withstand. Worse, the source of the attacks might be closer than he knows.

Daniel’s search for the remaining stone brings him to a surprising place. Once there, it becomes increasingly clear how little they know about the stones—or how to protect them. Answers require he learn how to master aspects of his powers that have been beyond him, but are essential for what is to come.

Lucy begins to suspect another threat that rivals even Olander Fahr. Learning more about this threat requires she chase the one person she fears most. If she can’t find and face the Architect, they won’t know what Olander Fahr intends in time to stop his plan.

Separated from the Great One, Ryn wants to understand her blessing, but she’s tasked with much more. Searching for answers reveals a deeper divide within the Ai’thol. As emissary, she shouldn’t be the one to fix it, but in the Great One’s absence, she might be the only one who can.

Crossbones & Crosses – edited by Jason M. Waltz

Pirates & Crusaders, ahoy!

Hoist your banners, unsheathe your blades, kiss your crosses, and search for booty across the seas and the sands! More of the age of steel than shot and no fantastical elements, this is a lineup of the strongest of swashbuckling historical adventures. Gritty, dangerous, and bloody tales of the past, realistic without being nihilistic.

The anthology kicks off with a rousing foreword by swashbuckling and sword-and-sorcery guru Howard Andrew Jones. This is followed by 3 sections of adventure: 7 tales each of pirates and crusaders, and 3 tales combining the two. Sections contain stories by current bestselling authors, up-and-coming authors, and classic tales from 1910. Epic verse and song round out each section of historical action.

There’s never been anything like this. It’s a massive tome of piratical and crusading adventure you’ll be delighted to read!

Darkening Skies (Path of the Thunderbird #1) – eden Hudson

Ji Yu Raijin is happy to live out his life serving his school, cultivating his life force, and learning the Path of Darkening Skies, an ancient and noble warrior art—until the day comes when he has to choose: remain true to the teachings of his path and allow his art to die out or commit an unforgivable sin and save the world.

Second princess Shyong San Koida was born the only cripple in a dynasty of powerful warriors. With a broken life force, the only way Koida can contribute to her family’s empire is by sealing a strategic alliance to a barbarian leader with her hand in marriage. But hidden forces within the court conspire to stop the union and obliterate the Shyong San dynasty at all costs.

At the intersection of the servant boy and the princess’s stories lies a secret, malignant art bent on destroying not only them, but the entire world. Read More