Book Review: Shadowblack (Spellslinger #2) by Sebastien de Castell 

…some of the most unlikely group of protagonists you’ll find in the genre. 


De Castell keeps finding new ways to craft good stories. 
The protagonists have their first great adventure, one that will test the limits of their beliefs and strength of character. A 16 year old outcast, a fully matured woman world-wanderer along with a violent, witty, brave but small predator turned business partner set about fighting the forces of evil- from abroad as well as from within. This book has some of the most unlikely group of protagonists you’ll find in the genre. 
The best part of the book is the way in which the author explores other avenues. He does not exactly follow the traditional path of regular Fantasy, deciding instead to focus on the results of choices, the consequences of human actions, and reasons for human behaviour; all the while on a yacht cruise of beautifully crafted writing. 

Book Review- Deadhouse Gates (Malazan Book of the Fallen #2)

…so deep is his detailing of the world that you can’t help but get lost in the sheer vastness and awesomeness.

After about four months of half-reading this book, I’m finally done! 
Deadhouse Gates takes you to another part of the Malazan Empire, to a new set of characters, and an entirely new plot line. It’s almost as difficult to understand as Gardens of the Moon. It starts off seemingly with one major plot thread that dissolves into multiple threads somewhere in the second third of the book. All of the plotlines are incredibly complex, involving a great number of characters, twists, climaxes and other mostly confusing elements. The entire thing seems to be a well jumbled mass of totally unrelated events, seemingly, that are only resolved in the final few pages of the book. 
Events in the book are not necessarily presented in a gradually progressing manner. The writing is such that we do not follow the events per say, but rather the characters. So many things seem to be happening at the same time, which could be rather confusing.
The characters are some of the best in the fantasy genre. They have an awful amount of depth and unpredictability.
The author takes world building to another level with this series. It probably helps that he’s an archaeologist, so deep is his detailing of the world that you can’t help but get lost in the sheer vastness and awesomeness. 
Deadhouse Gates is complex, confusing even but equally thrilling, brilliant… Infact, spectacular.

Jay and Oh- Episode 06- Denial

His hands swiftly close in on my wrists, just as they’re about to undo his fly. He holds my treacherous hand in a gentle but firm grip. 
Pulling away, he releases my hand. He looks at me, surprise in his eyes. 
“I’m sorry, Oye” I say hastily, guilt colouring my words, in my own ears at least. 
He says nothing, instead staring at me with intensity. 
Feeling even more uncomfortable, I stand up, looking around for a hand-bag that isn’t there. Vaguely, I remember I didn’t leave my apartment with my small black leather bag. 
I try to keep the guilt and shame from my voice as I stammer, “I think I want to leave now”. 
Feeling greatly mortified, it runs through my head what I’ve just done, or rather tried to do. I not just only lost physical control of my emotions, I almost lost myself inside of someone who I fully know to be a peril to my emotional state of health. I almost laugh at the irony of it all, him being the one to first pull away, and me being the instigator of the act in the first place. Me! I can’t believe I almost sold myself short. It totally goes against everything I believe in. 
“But you really did want to continue with it, didn’t you” a tiny voice quips from somewhere in my head. The voice has a sarcastic cast to it, almost seeming to smirk at my idiocy. 
I stand up swiftly, making as if to leave. 
“No, stay” he says, his right hand moving to grasp the wrist it held only a few seconds ago. “Why would you want to leave? You’ve only been here a few hours. I haven’t even gotten you something to eat yet.”
He looks around, his eyes landing on his neatly arranged stack of plates and kitchen utensils in a corner of the room. He looks back at me, tugging firmly at my hand until I’m back seated. 
“What would you like to eat, I can make you… ” 
“Really, you need to stop pretending nothing happened just now”. 
“Well, we can talk about it”, he replies. 
“I’m sorry…” I stammer. “I suppose I got lost in the moment. It was a mistake, won’t happen again”. 
“Really”, he arches an eyebrow. 
“Of course. Besides, it was your fault”
“My fault?” He seems truly bewildered. “I wasn’t the one who made the first move. If I remember correctly, I was rudely interrupted in the middle of an important speech”
“So, that’s what it meant to you? A rude interruption”
“No, no” he says hastily. “I mean, you were the one who first planted your lips on mine… ” He trails off. 
An uncomfortable silence stretches for a few seconds. 
“So, did you really mean what you said earlier,” I ask carefully. 
“Every word”, he replies. 
“So…. ” 
“What” he asks innocently. 
“So, what’s the fallout”, I ask. 
“I don’t really know, it depends on you”
“Do you feel the same way about me?”
I avert my eyes. He really can’t… He couldn’t possibly… 
“No”, I say. The voice in my head is screaming yes. 
His expression is enough to bring a physical ache to my chest. He looks stunned, hurt, and ashamed all at the same time. 
“Oh”, he says quietly. ”But…. You…”
“It was spontaneous. As I said, I lost myself. Forget it ever happened”. 
I stand up, straightening the creases on my gown. 
“I’m leaving” I say, sounding more confident than I feel. 
He looks at me, saying nothing still. I wish the ground would open up and swallow me. I feel such shame, such fear, such conflicting emotions as I’ve never felt in my life. I simply can’t give in to this… Not after knowing what he’s done, what he did with…. I can’t bear to think about it. 
I move towards the door, leaving without a backward glance. Somewhere inside my head, the voice is still screaming.

Book Review: Sins of Empire (Gods of Blood and Powder #1) by Brian McClellan

…struggle for power between good, gray and evil characters

A super, super read! 
In Sins of Empire, Brian Mclellan brings his unique magic system to the fore. His brilliant blend of sorcerous Privileged magic, bone and blood magic, and almost-telepathic destructive Powder Mage magic is just stunning. Magic systems simply do not get better than this. This is full blown all-action magic, simply brilliant. 
I must credit the author here for the writing. The language and the expressions is vivid and precise, lending the perfect amount of realism to the literary imaginative of the books. That is, the writing is such that it makes for easy, vivid and stunningly real picturing of events in one’s head. 
Events leading up to the climax are just as engrossing as the climax itself. That the author managed to create such unforgettable characters in just a few pages is a testament to the beauty of this book. 
While the author uses typical fantasy themes, there’s a couple of new elements, elements usually found in such genres as Thriller/Suspense and Detective stories. In fact, the story is a strong blend of themes from fantasy and normal modern fiction. The exploits of Gregious Tampo, the Ice Baron and Michel Bravis bring to mind some of the more fast paced Thriller reads. 
The world building is quite good, for a book that doesn’t focus so much on setting. In a nutshell, the book depicts a struggle for power between good, gray and evil characters, set in a world similar to 17th and 18th century Europe, and featuring more than one unique set of magic systems, with enough action to rival a Bond film, and unforgettable characters.

Jay and Oh- Episode 08- Musings 

When this was all done, she would bring Jane to her knees. Afterall, revenge was a dish best served cold. 

That was the most disgusting thing ever’, said Gold angrily. 

‘Not to talk of embarrassing’, added Zurah. 
‘What made you throw up like that, Jane?’ Galen was a bit more sympathetic. 
‘I’m sorry, girls… I don’t know what happened!’
Zurah looked about to burst open in anger. 
‘What happened!?? I’ll tell you what happened! You embarrassed us in front of all those people is what happened! What the hell was that for?’
Gold was livid with anger. Zurah as well. Galen was a little more sympathetic, but she seemed pissed as well. They’d been in the middle of sweet, juicy gossip when Jane had puked all over the table. The sound of someone vomiting coupled with the confusion and frantic scrambling of the other three girls had drawn the attention of not just the attendants, but the rest of the customers in the shop. The subsequent ten to fifteen minutes had been terribly embarrassing for not just Jane, but her three friends, and the physical mess was the least of it. 
They had had to endure the bemused, mocking, and sometimes sympathetic looks given by the rest of the customers. Apparently, a pretty girl causing such a scene, making such an awful mess was cause for jealous happiness among other supposedly pretty groups of girls in the same vicinity. 
‘I’m sorry, girls’ she said for the umpteenth time. Not that she was particularly sorry. What she was truly sorry for, was letting her emotions get the better of her head. If Galen was telling the truth…
The four girls boarded a bus back to Ikeja, from where they went their separate ways. 
Back in her apartment, Jane began to think. She couldn’t deny that she had a thing for Oye now. But he was dating Nadeen! Galen couldn’t have lied about what she’d seen at Chuks’ party now, could she? 
Oye had been her friend for a while now. She’d started catching feels for him sometime ago, she couldn’t exactly place when. It’d taken her a while to realize that she greatly enjoyed his company. He made her laugh. His compliments had started to mean more to her. She’d become more interested in his relationships with other people, especially female folk. She’d initially denied the feelings, imagining it a fleeting fancy. When it became more intense, she realized she could deceive herself no longer. She really did like him. 
At about the same time Jane was musing to herself in her apartment about what Galen had said and how it affected her own emotional well-being, Galen was thinking similar thoughts.
Oh, they all thought her naive and innocent. Stupid even. But she would eventually prove that she was the cleverest of them all. Especially to that bitch of a girl called Jane. 
Jane always thought she was smarter than anyone else. Always flaunting herself with her know it all attitude, trying so hard to be smart, without a care about the damage her big mouth could cause. Galen smiled to herself. When this was all done, she would bring Jane to her knees. Afterall, revenge was a dish best served cold. 
Galen had closely watched Jane’s expression as the talk had shifted to Oye and Nadeen. It was as she suspected. Jane was interested in the boy. Being quiet and reserved sometimes had it’s advantages. In her case, it had enabled her develop her skills of observation. She could read most people almost like a book, to a great degree of accuracy.
Galen smirked to herself as she remembered how Jane had gone visibly pale after she’d dropped the first bomb. Not that she’d lied anyways. She had actually spotted Nadeen and Oye kissing somewhere. The very sight had turned her own stomach, made her eyes red with anger. 
She’d known Oye for longer than any of the others had, since they’d attended the same secondary school. She would not allow bitches like Nadeen and Jane steal Oye from her. Afterall, he was her property. 
Galen smiled at the thought. He was hers. Even if he didn’t know it yet. He would know. In due course. 
Galen picked up her phone and began initiating the second phase of her plan.

Flash Fiction- A Shocking Blow

His thumbs hurt. He kept playing. He felt like a brilliant Roman general directing troops in battle. It felt so good. So real. He was literally transported into another world.

Thirteen-year old Emeka hurriedly dropped his school bag on the sofa. Firmly in the grip of adolescence, his gangly body oozed from two hours of playing ‘monkey post‘ in school. His team had removed seven separate sets that day. He’d played like star boy Delima Ronaldo, dribbling and scoring with unprecedented ease. In other words, it had been his day. 
It was a Friday, a humid one at that, as his sweltering torso stood in stark witness to. A more mature mind would have felt a great need to shower, to eliminate both the body odor and physical irrition. Not so for Emeka. Young Emeka had something else on his mind. Something more urgent, more demanding, and ultimately more satisfactory. 
Emeka moved swiftly. Outside the small apartment he lived with his mother, he looked around cautiously. Satisfied that there were no nosy neighbors watching, he left the house. 
Anyone watching Emeka sauntering along pothole-ridden Lasisi street would have seen a young schoolboy with a dirt-stained white shirt (untucked in) and badly faded polyester green trousers. If said watcher could zoom in optically, he would see that the underside of the trousers was a scarred mess of hurried patchings with thread and needle. Multiple colours of thread at that. 
Emeka navigated the narrow alleys of Ajetunmobi  community, taking a shortcut to neighboring Ajagun street. His destination was a small shed at the far end of the street, where the gutters were twice as smelly and the folk twice as gruff. In other words, he had come to the Zanga
Emeka ducked into the shed where a number of male folk anywhere between ages 7 and 25 were playing  PlayStation 1 and 2. There were a number of LCD TVs commanding the attention of the guys, most of whom were furiously thumbing away to Winning Eleven 7 and PES 8. By far the most noticeable bunch was a group of shirtless men huddled around a small television. The game operator called the ‘boardman‘ handled both the game pad and the amounts of money handed to him in turn by the others in a gambling game known as Palampa
The entire place had the smell of unwashed bodies, frantic anxiety, desperation and excitement. The air rang with shouts of ‘All money!’ Apparently, someone had won all of the money pooled.
Emeka waited until there was a free slot, then he took a seat beside a rough looking boy sporting tribal marks on both cheeks. In no time, he was thrashing his opponent three-nil.
Time flew. Emeka played more games. He won and lost. He shouted, exclaimed, screamed, hollered in excitement. He kept on playing. He got lost in the bright lights of the TV, the sure movements of the animation as it danced to his commands on the gamepad. His thumbs hurt. He kept playing. He felt like a brilliant Roman general directing troops in battle. It felt so good. So real. He was literally transported into another world. A world of gaming. A world where the gamepad, the TV and his opponent were the only things that were real. So comepletely preoccupied was he with his gaming that he failed to heed the warning of his opponent who’d quickly sighted the danger. It was too late. 
 THWACK!! The guys in the shed winced at the sickening sound of hard, angry palm hitting soft unsuspecting flesh. Emeka flew out of his seat. His mother stood glowering over him. Her expression echoed thunder, and her eyes seemed to spit fire and brimstone. 
‘What did I tell you about coming here?’ she yelled angrily. 
As for Emeka, his mind was reeling from the blow struck by his mother. Such a violent seemed a cruel way to bring him abruptly from his gaming. Coupled with the sheer shock, it was too much for him bear. His mind shuddered, and then gave way. Emeka fainted.

Jay and Oh- Episode05- ‘El Apasionado’

There’s a tiny spot of blood somewhere on his lower lip, where I bit him, obviously. I touch my lips and they’re swollen. 

I am nervous. Oye seems on the verge of telling me something important, something I dread. Certainly not because it’s bad news, but because it makes matters more complex. 

I’ve always liked Oye. Right from when he saved my arse in that Fulani History class three years ago. He seems so…. genuine. Not many guys I know are like that. They all seem to want to impress. They’d go out of their way to give a girl a high opinion of them. Not Oye. He’s not perfect, certainly. He does have the tendency to go on unsolicited rants from time to time, and he’s too quick to help people in need, not realising that they’re using him, most of the time anyways. He’s a really good guy. But that’s not why I like him, after all there are many good guys. 
He nervously licks his lips as he faces me. His eyes are fixed on mine, and he looks like someone who’s about to deliver news of impending doom. 
“I like you,” he begins. “Not just like, but like. Like like. I like you very much”. He says all this quickly, hardly breathing. 
Then more slowly, he continues, 
“You affect me in so many ways, Jane. I really don’t know why I feel this way about you… ” He trails off. 
“I like you so much it hurts. I can hardly think straight when you’re in close proximity. I see your face in my dreams every other night. I don’t know if it’s a passing fancy or it’s obsession. From all indications, the latter is the more likely.”
“Delicious thoughts of you permeate my lungs. If you were white, you’d probably blush at my thoughts of you, if you knew them.”
He pauses, then continues on, 
“There! I’ve gotten it all out. Now you know why I’m slightly uncomfortable around you. Now you know.”
He looks at me like he expects me to say something in return. Actually, I’m waiting for him to say the magic words, to ask…. 
He slowly regains his composure, sitting up straighter. His tone is all serious. 
“I’m sorry if that wasn’t what you expected. If you don’t want to be friends with me anymore, it’s alright.”
I can see the pain in his eyes, the desire, the hunger. It’s obvious he’s scared of it. But what he doesn’t know is that I’ve been waiting for those words for a long while, anticipating them, while at the same time dreading them. 
“Please say something, Jane”, he says. 
It’s all too much for me to bear. Before I can gather my thoughts, my lips are on his, kissing him. He groans, surely surprised. And then, he begins to kiss me back. My hands move to grasp the sides of his face. His tongue is searching, caressing all of the nooks and crannies of the inside of my mouth, and I moan softly with pleasure. 
Lost in the pleasure of the moment, the kiss becomes more intense. It’s not a chaste kiss, the kind husbands give to their wives when leaving home for work. It’s not a telenovela kiss either, the kind with a lot of style and finesse. It’s a hungry kiss. If you’ve a wild imagination like mine, and you’ve ever wondered how a tiger kissing a lioness would be like, this is something close to it. 
Slowly, he pulls away from me. There’s a tiny spot of blood somewhere on his lower lip, where I bit him, obviously. I touch my lips and they’re swollen. 
“That’s my reply. Would you like to try again?”, I ask. 
He looks at me for a split second, and then pulls my face closer, whispering into my ear. 
“Be my guest”. 
Once again, our lips are locked together in a most intense kiss. My hands move of their own accord, pulling off his shirt. He obliges, only pausing for a few seconds to help me get his shirt off. My hands move hungrily around his hard torso. He’s not packed with muscle as you’d expect, what with the speed at which I attacked his shirt. He’s lean, in a hard way, just the way I like it. 
Not satisfied with just his upper body, my hands, the rebellious beasts they are, move lower, searching for his belt buckle, seeking to unleash the beast beneath.