Bloody Rose: A Review

This book had a lot to live up to as the follow up to Kings of the Wyld.  Taking place 6 years after the events of that novel, this book follows a young girl named Tam who is obsessed with the Bands who travel from arena to arena fighting monsters for entertainment.  Let start with the excerpt right away:

“A band of fabled mercenaries, led by the infamous Bloody Rose, tour a wild fantasy landscape, battling monsters in arenas in front of thousands of adoring fans, but a secret and dangerous gig ushers them to the frozen north, and the band is never one to waste a shot at glory . . . even if it means almost certain death. 

Live fast, die young. 

Tam Hashford is tired of working at her local pub, slinging drinks for world-famous mercenaries and listening to the bards sing of adventure and glory in the world beyond her sleepy hometown. 

When the biggest mercenary band of all, led by the infamous Bloody Rose, rolls into town, Tam jumps at the chance to sign on as their bard. It’s adventure she wants – and adventure she gets as the crew embark on a quest that will end in one of two ways: glory or death. 

It’s time to take a walk on the wyld side.”

First and foremost, this book has a completely different feel from the previous entry in this series, and that’s not a bad thing.  In the 6 years following the events of Kings of the Wyld, the world has drastically changed.  Mercenary Bands are now very much like Rock Stars, with screaming fans and groupies, and taking tours along an Arena Circuit from town to town, killing monsters while fans watch, and then having insane parties afterwards.

The story can best be broken up into 3 sections really.  The first 40% is the final tour of the band Fable, led by the daughter of Golden Gabe himself, Bloody Rose.  Tam, our main character in this entry, becomes Fable’s bard, tasked with following along in their footsteps and chronicling their adventures in song.  The band consists of Blood Rose and her lover Freecloud, Brune the Shaman, Cura the Inkwitch, and their booker (manager) Rodrick.  Tam herself is a likeable character, clearly a girl who wants to see the world and one who, like many, idolizes the Bands and what they do.  The characters are well written, and enjoyable, but not quite as likable for me as the first group.  Brune for me is my favorite however.

This “tour” section of the book, where we get to know the characters, is my favorite part.  Eames has been on record as saying his inspiration was “What if adventuring parties were like rockstars” and this section embodies that ideal.  This is sex, drugs, and glorious combat on an insane scale.  They even have Argosies, which are basically touring vans.  No joke, it’s hilarious.  Also, the band names that pop up during this section are clearly references to 80’s music like the Duran Brothers, The White Snakes, the Men with Helmets, the Iron Maiden, and so on.  You can clearly tell where Eames got his influence in this book way more than the previous one.

The next 30% is the Bands last actual job.  You see, Fable actually takes dangerous contracts, unlike the vast majority of the bands now.  Rather than just plying their trade on the Arena Circuit, they make an effort to take on contracts to deal with actual threats in the wilds.  This makes Fable unique when compared to their contemporaries.  While the idea behind the last contract is interesting, with Fable going after a mythical creature that no one else believes exists, the pace here slows down a bit too much for my liking.  The first section was a blistering pace almost the entire time, and then suddenly it’s like Eames slammed on the brakes and decided to take it slow and steady.  We get a TON of backstory and character development here, which I loved, showing how each member of Fable is broken in some way.  Each of them bears scars and issues from their pasts, even Tam.  However, this part of the book really felt like pure setup for the final 30% of the novel, and while there was a nice twist here that tied the events of this novel together with the first, it still felt a bit too slow and plodding for my liking.  Even if the set piece that takes place here is absolutely amazing.

The final 30% is a roller coaster of emotions.  The pace picks back up and rockets towards the finale, and the book redeems itself well here.  The final battle that takes place is just as much a crazypantsnanners clusterfuck as the final battle in the first one, and again Eames shows his skill with writing by wasting nothing here.  Every moment is described perfectly, letting you visualize exactly what is happening.  Also the ending is perfectly bittersweet, and I loved it.  It tied up the story of the two books nice and neat.

My only real issue is with that middle 30%.  It dragged at times, and as much as I enjoyed Bloody Rose and would recommend it to fans of the first (I mean, the stories ARE connected, even if it doesn’t seem that way at first) I would not rate this as highly as Kings of the Wyld.  Much like Rose, this book lives in the shadow of what came before.  I give this a 4/5 and if you liked Kings, read this.  It is well worth your time.  You can purchase this on Amazon HERE.  I would not however read this without reading the first, as some events and references would lose their impact.

TN’s Indie Impressions – Siralim 3

Time to take a look at the Roguelike Monster Catching game Siralim 3, a personal favorite of mine.  My only real wish is that the dungeon crawling was first person instead of Top Down, but I think Thylacine is aware of my wishes.  I keep harping at him about it.

Not sure what this is all about?  Check out this post on my Patron (publicly available) to learn more.  Also check out the Indie Impressions category here on my site for all episodes!

I hope you all have a great day and as always thanks for reading everyone and Stay Nerdy!  Make sure to follow me on TwitchYoutubeTwitter, and join my Steam Group and Steam Curator pages!  Pledge to my Patreon!  Spread the word on social media & help me get out there so I can bring even more content to the masses.  You do want more content yes?

TN Talks with the Developer of “Within the Cosmos” an upcoming Sci Fi FPS RPG

Hey everyone!  Terminally Nerdy here with another Indie Dev interview, this time for an upcoming First Person Sci Fi RPG called “Within the Cosmos” which will be releasing on Steam on the 1st of August!  I hope you enjoy this look at the person behind the game!

Continue reading “TN Talks with the Developer of “Within the Cosmos” an upcoming Sci Fi FPS RPG”

Kings of the Wyld: A Review

This has to be the best fantasy novel I have read in a very long time.  I found this book by sheer accident, looking up “Best of Fantasy 2018” lists for new stuff to read.  What I actually found was its sequel “Bloody Rose” which I am currently reading as I write this.  The praise I found heaped on that book caused me to go looking for the first, and here we are.

Kings of the Wyld is very much a “One Last Job” type of story.  It details the final adventure of a band of mercenaries called Saga, a group that is held in high esteem, that bards sing about, that legends are written about.  However, Saga has long been disbanded, something like 19 years at the start of the book, and they are all old men who have moved on with their lives.  Let’s start with the excerpt as always.

“Clay Cooper and his band were once the best of the best, the most feared and renowned crew of mercenaries this side of the Heartwyld.

Their glory days long past, the mercs have grown apart and grown old, fat, drunk, or a combination of the three. Then an ex-bandmate turns up at Clay’s door with a plea for help–the kind of mission that only the very brave or the very stupid would sign up for.

It’s time to get the band back together.”

Our main character is Clay Cooper, and can I just say how NICE it is to see my name (Clay) used for a good guy for a change?  In almost every form of media I have run into, if someone is named Clay / Clayton they are always villains!  Every stinking time!  Further, the way Clay Cooper is described resonated with me. A big mountain of a man, slow and steady, who cares deeply for his family and worries he will never live up to the standards he believes a good person should be.  And inside he holds a monster, a terror he tries to keep under control.  And during fights that monster comes out and it’s a sight to behold in the novel.

The plot of the book is one where Gabriel, aka Golden Gabe, the frontman of Saga turns up on Clay’s doorstep one evening, begging for aid.  Turns out that Gabe’s daughter Rose has run off to form her own Mercenary band and fight against an horde of monsters at a far city called Castia.  And that battle is not going well. Gabe, feeling horrible for getting into a fight with his daughter and causing her to run away, begs Clay for assistance with getting Saga back together, crossing a dangerous wilderness called the Heartwyld, and rescuing his daughter from an impossible situation.

The story is told from Clay’s perspective mostly, and as we meet the other members of Saga, we learn about the history this fabled band had, the things they accomplished and the way people hold them as true heroes.  But we also learn that they are all by and large broken men, whose lives after the band broke up were not always the best.  Matrick, former rogue turned king has found his life to be very hectic since marrying a princess.  Moog the Wizard lost his husband to a disease from the Wyld called the Rot, and seeks to find a cure for it to prove that it can be beaten.  Ganleon, well I don’t want to ruin his reveal but he is a troubled man by and large.  Clay just wants to get things done and get home, away from adventure, and worries that he will die away from his love and his child.  And Gabe, of course, is both a beaten down former shell of himself and a man driven to save the one good thing in his life.

The characters are by far the best part of this story.  Each one has their moments to shine, their personalities showing in everything they do.  My personal favorite is Moog, who is driven to near obsession to prove that this horrible disease that took his husband away can be beaten.  Clay is my second favorite, and he is unique in that he fights primarily with a badass shield called Blackheart.  Even the supporting cast around Saga are awesome, and we learn a great deal about the world they inhabit and the way things have changed since they last adventured.  This book reads like an amazing dungeons and dragons campaign quite frankly, some of the set piece events that occur made me think of a DM sitting there going “Ok that is an absolute crazypantsnanners idea, let’s try it!” and somehow the party makes the roll every time.

The pacing of the story is near perfect as well.  Every moment, every scene, either expands the world, characters, or moves the story forward.  Its rich in detail but it never gets bogged down in it.  There is also a surprising amount of humor here, frequently between the characters, and it helps make it feel like they are old friends getting back together for one last party before their lives drift away again. Oh and our villain is actually likeable!  In fact, I found myself agreeing with him at times, and I understood how he must have felt living the life he had to in order to survive.

The writing is excellent as well in a technical sense.  Action scenes move forward with a blistering pace, everyone again getting their moment to shine, both the heroes and the villains.  The world building is amazing and if Eames ever put out a Setting Book for say dungeons and dragons I would be hard pressed to avoid purchasing it.  Hell I purchased the sequel and started reading it the INSTANT I finished this one, so hungry was I for more of this world.

Finally, the ending sequence of this book is absolutely batshit insane in the best way possible.  It tied up everything for the story of Saga, and left some mysteries and events open for the Sequel.  Suffice to say, the only complaint I have with this novel is that it ended.  I wanted to learn more about Saga, I want to see how they got together, their early history, the events that made them the men they were in this world.

Hopefully Eames goes back and does a prequel sometime showing just that. I will be there for it, for sure.  This gets a solid 5/5 on Amazon and Goodreads from me, and if you are a fan of fantasy you owe it to yourself to enter the Wyld, and ride with Saga.  You will NOT be disappointed.  I promise you.

Purchase Kings of the Wyld right HERE 

TN’s Indie Impressions – Nova Drift

Another episode of Indie Impressions down, this time the SHMUP known as Nova Drift, a title still in Early Access but shows some promise.  Too bad I am absolutely horrible at this game.  I mean WHOOOO MAN I am badddddd.

Not sure what Indie Impressions is all about?  Check out this post on my Patron (publicly available) to learn more.  Also check out the Indie Impressions category here on my site for all episodes!

I hope you all have a great day and as always thanks for reading everyone and Stay Nerdy!  Make sure to follow me on TwitchYoutubeTwitter, and join my Steam Group and Steam Curator pages!  Pledge to my Patreon!  Spread the word on social media & help me get out there so I can bring even more content to the masses.  You do want more content yes?

The Revival of City of Heroes

Hey everyone, Clay here and I wanted to bring you all a special article.  Some of you might be aware, and some of you may not, but City of Heroes is back in a private / player run server form.  Close in August of 2012, City of Heroes was a well loved Superhero MMO developed by Paragon Studios and eventually acquired (and closed by) NC Soft.

I played it during its life off and on from around the time City of Villains, its first expansion, was launched till right before Going Rogue was released.  I played on the Virtue server, and was a Brute named Rumble Shock (and known as Stomphoof on the forums).  I wasn’t super broken up about the games closure like many fans were as I was sidetracked by World of Warcraft at the time.

How the now player run servers have come into existence is its own story, and I will give you as brief a rundown as I can, but I suggest you check out MassivelyOP and their coverage of the events of the last few weeks.  You can see where everything started right here at this link (https://massivelyop.com/2019/04/15/score-city-of-heroes-emulator-leak/) and at the bottom a full list of all the coverage.  Suffice to say its been QUITE the wild ride.

My brief explanation (a TLDR as it were) is this: Around April 15th a leak was done by a member of a hidden City of Heroes server, that had been run in secret since the original games shutdown.  The server was at the time of the leak a near perfect copy of the game at its closure WITH things that Paragon Studios was working on also having been released such as the Sentinel AT.  The leak caused a massive outcry of rage and sadness (warranted if you ask me) that eventually caused the Server code to be released into the wild publicly.  At this point, you yourself could look up and run your own solo CoX server if you were so inclined using VM Ware, and since the leak a few server groups have appeared.  There is the 4chan run server group under the /coxg/ banner, the Homecoming server group which has 4 permanent Shards running (I play here on Everlasting) and I believe Reddit is working on one and there may be one or two more that I am not fully aware of.  There is also a ton of drama between the three major groups, most of it stirred up by Reddit and /COXG/ in that Homecoming is not providing them enough assistance or aid.  Again, check Massively for the full insanity of that entire mess, and draw your own conclusions in regards to who is in the wrong as its really all a matter of opinion at this point.

Further, none of these servers are officially endorsed or sanctioned by NCSoft, who still hold the license to the property.  However, at the time of writing this (May 8th) NCSoft has ALSO not said a single word about these rogue servers.  Because of this, these servers could be shut down at any time legally.  However, because the server code and ability to run your own servers is out in the wild, NC Soft will never truly be able to put the cat back in the bag as it were.  The nature of the internet precludes that possibility.  Also the Titan Network is apparently in “talks” with NCSoft regarding all this in the hopes that community run servers will be greenlit.

Now that we got the background out of the way, I wanted to talk about my own experience with the game since its revival, and why I have been enjoying it.  I mean, this is a 15 year old game, brought back from the dead through code necromancy and shadowy tactics.  And let me tell you something: the games age does show.

I have played both other Superhero MMOs on the market (Champions Online and DC Universe Online) and neither one could grab me.  The combat in both, the way powers were handled, hell the writing and storylines just never meshed with what I was after.  Champions Online’s tone and style is all over the place for example, and its combat with its builder then spender setup just bored me to tears.  DCUO had you playing second fiddle the entire game to established heroes and villains rather then working with them, and the way it did powers was dull.

I was not sure how I would feel about CoX, having not played it personally for something like 8 to 10 years.  I had few memories of it, mostly of Rumble Shock my main (a Super Strength / Willpower Brute) and a few about some Bots mastermind I had but could not even remember the name of.  I remembered spending time hanging with Brou, a real life friend of mine who moved on to CO (and is a bonafide celebrity in that game now) but beyond that?  I couldn’t really remember much at all.

I followed the instructions I found on the SCORE / Homecoming Forum as to how to get started, downloaded the Tequila Launcher, and started messing around.  And I fell in love.

This game does show its age.  Visually its blocky, even with the experimental graphic settings that make the game Cel Shaded turned on and everything cranked to its maximum.  Your hands dont even have digits but are basically just giant single form mitts.  It looks like a more advanced PS2 game honestly.  The effects are solid though, and the weight of your attacks feel good.  Also the music is great, and flows well as you cruise around the various areas in game.  Visually and Audio wise, its a solid game but nothing groundbreaking overall.

What surprised me was how fast I remembered how to play the game.  I quickly set my Brawl attack to auto fire (there is no auto attack by default), popped my Inspiration Tray out and put it where I always had it (bottom middle of my screen) and increased my power tray to 3 full bars on the lower right, with the Enhancement inventory opened.  Then I popped the Map out and put it under my health bar.  It was like I had never left the game…10 years later.  I also updated my keybindings for Strafe and Turn based on how I prefer it now as well.  It was bizarre honestly, a feeling that threw me off.  While the world had been updated since I had last played with Going Rogue, and the ability to be a Praetorian, the actual way I played had not changed.

The longer I played, the more I remembered.  I remembered how to attack, tab target, and how to slot enhancements and even which enhancements I should generally use.  I remembered how to handle my endurance, what each color of inspiration did, and so on.  I remembered how to tell enemy types apart based on name color, and which types of enemies should be focused on over others.  I recalled how toggles worked and all that jazz.  It was like I had never left the damn game.

I created a couple characters, trying out new power combinations that had not existed when I originally played the game, and I eventually created a Radiation Melee / Willpower Brute named Toxic Shock on the Everlasting server, a Beast Mastery / Storm Summoning Mastermind named Hexenwulfe, and a Dark Melee / Willpower Brute named Nova Black.  I even have plans for a Wind Control / ?? Dominator eventually, although I have not settled on a secondary for him/her yet.

As I have played more and more since the full release of the Homecoming servers, I have figured out exactly what it is that makes me enjoy CoX over CO and DCUO.  First, there is the pacing in combat.  CoX is SLOW.  Almost glacier at times in its pacing.  You have to activate each power, there is a delay as the animation winds up, and then the power fires off.  You can even get animation locked, unable to get away if you hit a button too fast.  While this might bother many people for some reason in my older age now I find it enjoyable.  It feels methodical, and it feels less like a button masher and more about planning.  Do I queue up the big heavy blow or the faster lighter hit?  If I queue up that attack with the long animation will I get hit and die?  Or can I get it off before the enemy hits me?

Further, the customization both in costume and in powers is second to none even now.  You have complete control over how your hero or villain looks visually, with various costume parts and auras to use.  While I personally tend towards simplistic costumes with clean designs, I have seen some stellar stuff out there running around in Paragon, and some very silly stuff.  But its the power system that really takes the cake.  Let me explain.

You start out in character creation by choosing your powers Origin, and if they are a Hero, Villain, or Praetorian.  This determines your starting zone, essentially, although with the Going Rogue content being enabled you can switch sides.  Praetorians have their own unique storyline and then choose Hero or Villain at the end of it.  Your power origin determines the kinds of Enhancements you can use (which are basically your gear) but beyond that is just a flavor mechanic.

Next you choose your fighting style, and then your Archtype.  Your Archtype is basically your class.  The options used to be Hero and Villain specific (IE Tankers were Heroes, Brutes were Villains) but again, Going Rogue removed that.  You can be things like the Mastermind, Brute, Tanker, Scrapper, Defender, Controller, Warshade, Arachnos Widow, Stalker, Dominator, Corrupter, and a few more.  Each one has a list of Primary and Secondary power sets you can then choose from to make your unique hero.  Every Primary Powerset, and Secondary Power Set, can be combined.

For example, Brutes have access to the following Primary Powersets and Secondary Powersets.  You can choose ONE of each (one Primary, one Secondary) to make your character.  The Primary ones are Battle Axe, Broad Sword, Claws, Dark Melee, Dual Blades, Electrical Melee, Energy Melee, Fiery Melee, Katana, Kinetic Melee, Psionic Melee, Radiation Melee, Savage Melee, Staff Fighting, Stone Melee, Street Justice, Super Strength, Titan Weapons, and War Mace.  Thats 19 Primary Power options, each one containing around 9 individual powers.  Then you have the secondary options for Brute which consist of Bio Armor, Dark Armor, Electric Armor, Energy Aura, Fiery Aura, Invulnerability, Radiation Armor, Regeneration, Shield Defense, Stone Armor, Super Reflexes, and Willpower.  That totals 12 Secondary options, again with 9 individual powers in each.  That means you have a total, for Brute alone, of 228 possible combinations (19 x 12).  I have 2 Brutes as I mentioned before, one being Radiation Melee with Willpower, the other being Dark Melee and Willpower.  But I could just as easily have done Dark Melee and Super Reflexes, or Electric Melee and Invulnerability.

That is an INCREDIBLE amount of variety in a single class, and there are a grand total of 14 Archtypes in the game, with a variety of powersets in each one, plus you have Power Pool sets which anyone can take, plus Patron Powersets and Ancillary Powersets of which each hero or villain can take one of each!  The sheer amount of variety here in how you approach and build your character is astonishing.  It also helps that every power set combo CAN work within the confines of the game.  Some are better then others at certain playstyles, but all of them are viable.  I have ideas runnin through me head of all the different kinds of characters I want to make now that I never got the chance to try years ago.

Returning to City of Heroes and its world has quite honestly been a treat.  I am enjoying my time on the Homecoming server, and while the drama surrounding the servers and the community split is painful to see its also expected as some people just want to cause trouble.  I am curious as to the future of these servers however, and how NCSoft is going to react, and how things are going to shake down from here forward but I am confident that City of Heroes will be playable now in one form or another for years to come.

If all else fails, I can always just run my own VMWare Solo Server at home privately for myself.  I play MMOs solo mostly anyway so I wouldnt miss much other then watching the chatter of the other players.

If you want to play City of Heroes yourself, consider the Homecoming server cluster.  You can find the instructions on how to join right here on their forums. You can also look up the /coxg/ servers on Google, and Reddit is working on one as well.

Make sure to follow me on TwitchYoutubeTwitter, and join my Steam Group and Steam Curator pages!  Pledge to my Patreon!  Spread the word on social media & help me get out there so I can bring even more content to the masses.  You do want more content yes?

 

Captivity, The Memoirs of Abel Mondragon Book 1 – A Review

This is going to be a fairly short review, simply because the book (novella, really) is pretty short as well.  I picked this up because I know the author from twitter, and decided to finally give him a shot after the absolutely HORRIBLE book that was King of Ashes.  Dear god that book is still making me angry.  ANYWAY!

This is not the worst nor the best thing I have ever read.  Its solid average work, and I enjoyed my time with it for the most part.  Let’s start with the Excerpt from the Amazon page:

Abel was forced into a world of magic and mystery when he and his brother were abducted from their humble farm. Now, he begins a lifelong struggle for sanity and survival as he learns how to harness new and bizarre magical abilities while trying to piece together just why he was chosen by his captors, the Covenant of the Grey Raven.

My issue with this book centers on the pacing.  The book is told as a retelling from the main character Abel’s point of view, and early on the book moves incredibly quickly with very little time given to actually learn, connect, or grow to understand Abel himself.  At the start its established that he has, in essence, a perfect existence. He is a talented chef who can make anything, better and faster than anyone in quantities too great for most to handle.  He is near top of his class with only one student better then him who is also his clear “love interest”.  His mother loves him, he has a great connection to his brother who also loves him, and his father encourages him but is a tad distant.  However, all this is TOLD to us, not shown.  We never get examples of the love between the brothers or from his mom,  it’s simply stated “I have a great connection to my brother who runs a farm” for example.  Its spelled out for the reader, and done incredibly fast.  I just found that I couldn’t connect with Abel in this early introduction, and when the inevitable horrible things began to happen to him, seemingly without reason (or explanation to Abel OR the reader) I really didn’t feel anything for him.  I couldn’t bring myself to care beyond going “Well that’s kind of messed up I wonder why they are doing this to him?” and that’s just because, again, I am not given time to get to know the character.  It’s hard to care about someone you barely know when reading a novel.

However, as the book went on I did start to finally get a sense of Abel as the pacing slowed down.  A kind soul, in a horrible situation, with a past that may not be as clear cut as he originally thought it was.  It took roughly half the book before I finally started to connect with Abel and in a book this short that might be a deal breaker for some.  This is one of those cases where the phrase “It gets better” applies, although I am not a fan of that sort of thing personally.  I prefer things to hook me early and keep me going.  The 50% mark is also where things really start to pick up, with hints at Abel now being more then what he was at the start showing up.  Also it’s around this point that we start being SHOWN rather then TOLD things about Abel’s past, with one instance involving a little girl in a market as Abel sells cookies, and another instance between Abel and his brother regarding a sheep who has to be put down.

The writing is well done in a technical sense thankfully, with good use of word choices and such (but limited world building because again the book is pretty short), and once things finally start to get going and the greater picture starts to form things do in fact get interesting.  Overall it’s a solid beginner entry from an indie author but not something I could see myself coming back to and rereading later as I might do something by Sanderson, Riordan, or Butcher for example.  I cannot say much more about this book without spoiling things, but I can say I did not feel like I wasted my time with it.  It was a good palate cleanser between denser reads for sure.  The quick pace is both a blessing AND a curse in that regard.  On the plus side the cover art is damn good for an indie book.  Frequently they are a mess but this one is just a good solid piece of art.

Also, I will give it this: It’s got an ACTUAL STORY TO IT, as well as being part of a series!  Thank baby Odin.  I can at least promise you that if pick this book up to give it a try, you will at least get a full story contained IN this book PLUS the possibility of a continuing narrative should you give Book 2 a try.  I personally, however, am not sure I want to try Book 2.  Perhaps down the road if I need another palate cleanser / short read I will give it a shot.  I am also not sure it’s worth $5 as it stands.  It might be better priced at $2.  But for a first outing I can honestly say I have read MUCH worse stuff in my time, and this is a pretty decent, if average, story.  On Amazon and Goodreads I am giving this 3/5 stars.

If you want to pick up the book yourself (Support Indies people!) then you can do so on Amazon RIGHT HERE

The Storm Runner – A Review

I love mythology.  Legends, heroes, gods, monsters, all of it.  I have since I was kid, when I read stuff like Beowulf and the Odyssey in middle school on my own.  I dare say that mythology is what got me into fantasy really, the idea that there are these powerful forces and things out there from ancient time.  Suffice to say, when I ran across Rick Riordan and his Lightning Thief when it first released, I found myself entranced.

Since then I have devoured all his books, and a few months ago I started checking to see when his next book was coming when I discovered his new “Rick Riordan Presents” imprint, which he created to help feature new Young Adult authors who wrote similar stuff to him, books with a focus on modern mythology.

The Storm Runner is the first one from that Imprint that I decided to grab, and I am glad I did.  This book is an excellent read, start to finish, with a good focus on Maya mythology and features exactly what I was hoping for: A spunky hero, gods, monsters, sarcasm, sacrifice, and heroism.  Also it was a lot darker then what I figured it would be.  Now, there will be a minor spoiler further in the review, so if you want a TLDR summary here it is: Go buy this book if you like any of Riordan’s Demigod stuff because it fits right into that world.

Let’s begin my review, as I always do, with the amazon excerpt:

A contemporary adventure based on Maya mythology from Rick Riordan Presents!

Zane Obispo spends every day exploring the sleeping volcano in his backyard. “The Beast,” as he calls it, is the one place where he can escape other kids, who make fun of him because he has a limp and walks with a cane.

After a twin-engine plane crashes into The Beast, a mysterious girl named Brooks shows up at Zane’s doorstep, insisting that they meet at the volcano, where she will reveal a terrible secret. Zane agrees, mostly because beautiful girls like her don’t usually talk to him. Brooks tells him that the volcano is actually a centuries-old prison for the Maya god of death, whose destiny is directly tied to Zane’s. No way, Zane thinks. He’s just a thirteen-year old nobody, and destiny or no destiny, he wants nothing to do with any of it, especially some god of death.

But Brooks opens his eyes to the truth: magic, monsters, and gods are real, and Zane is at the center of an ancient prophecy that could mean the destruction of the world.  Suddenly finding himself entangled in a web of dangerous secrets, Zane embarks on a quest that will take him far from home and test him to the very core.

Feisty heroes, tricky gods, murderous demons, and spirited giants are just some of the pleasures that await in this fresh and funny take on Maya mythology, as rich and delicious as a mug of authentic hot chocolate.

So this story is centered our Zane, a young boy living in New Mexico with his mother and uncle.  Zane is fairly unique in that he is a disabled protagonist.  One of his legs is shorter than the other, and no one has ever figured out why.  Because of this, he walks with a cane and its explained that he is frequently bullied by other kids in school.  When the story starts, he is finishing a year of home schooling and facing the prospect of having to go to a private Catholic school.  He is generally accompanied by his 3 legged Boxer / Dalmatian dog named Rosie, who I adored.

Oh, and he has a Volcano in his back yard called the Beast.  Yes, really.  And it’s important.

I felt for Zane.  I grew up being bullied nearly constantly myself, although mine was due to my weight and hobbies at the time.  I understood him and his contrary nature, his need to prove himself and his desire to avoid school.  He is incredibly well written all things considered.  He does end up having to go to school, meets a girl named Brooks, and then things start going off the rails really quickly.  Turns out, according to Brooks, that Zane is not quite human.  He is a supernatural, and is destined by prophecy to unleash the ancient Maya God of Death Ah Puch from where he was imprisoned.

Now, here is the little spoiler I do have to mention.  This particular event occurs about 20% of the way through the book.  SPOILER ALERT: Despite everyone around him trying to stop it, Zane does indeed release the God of Death and even makes a bargain with him in an effort to save those who cares about.  And the rest of the story is all about Zane, Brooks, and Zane’s uncle Hondo’s journey into the world of Maya Mythology in an attempt to STOP Ah Puch from getting revenge, and also along the way finding out just who Zane really is.  It’s an adventure and a half and my only real complaint is that it eventually ended.

Also, I am STILL very very upset about Rosie.  The author knows what she did.  And yes, it all ends up ok at the end but I AM STILL MAD.  YOU KNOW WHAT YOU DID CERVANTES!

Anyway!  This book is just completely fantastic.  What surprised me was how dark it got at times.  While Riordan’s own work features dark / adult bits at times, Maya mythology itself is actually pretty messed up.  I mean, it’s a mythology borne from a culture that involved human sacrifice, so I am not surprised that its monsters and gods are not very pleasant at all.  It almost felt a little like a Horror Fantasy book at times.  The descriptions of several of the horrible demons from the Underworld alone were freaky, as was the depiction of an area called “The Old World” later in the book.

The characters, by and large, are all awesome as well.  Zane’s uncle Hondo is a personal favorite.  A janitor at night, Hondo is a huge pro wrestling fan and goes full on nuts when trying to help his nephew throughout their journey and I adore it.  My only real issue is with Brooks.  Now, Brooks is written great and everything and she is consistent, but I don’t like her as a person.  She frequently holds information back from Zane in an effort to “protect” him, but all she ends up doing generally is making things worse.  Zane is a contrary sort of person, and he clearly wants all the information before making decisions, but when people refuse to give him that, he attempts in general to prove them wrong.  I have the same tendency and it does get a person in trouble, so folks like Brooks, who always hold things back, irritate me to no end.

The pace of the story is also excellent. There is no waste here, every section has a purpose to either let us know about the characters more, or about the world they inhabit, or move the story forward.  It’s all just good stuff.  I also like the portrayal of the Maya Gods in this quite a bit.  Ah Puch is…creepy, scary, and horrible all at the same time while also being smooth as silk.  Thankfully, the book is also a complete story despite also having a twist ending / surprise ending during the Epilogue, which was a welcome addition!  Also, as a note, I did not expect the twist at ALL I was completely surprised, and I am betting you will be as well.  And it perfectly sets up the sequel.

Suffice to say I am eagerly awaiting the sequel to this, and there is a sequel coming.  So if Ms. Cervantes reads this and wants to give me an advanced copy I would not say no.  Just saying!  You can purchase The Storm Runner on Amazon HERE, and I rated this a 5/5 on both Amazon and Goodreads.  Also if this is the quality I can expect from other “Rick Riordan Presents” titles I am in for a treat I can promise you that. There is already books involving Hindu mythology and Korean mythology out that I aim to get to at some point!  Also the Korean Mythology based on, Dragon Pearl, is Fantasy Sci Fi?  That’s wild!

State of the Nerd & Patreon Q&A for May 2019 – 3 Months till Gen Con!

News?  Yes news.  And info.  And details.  And all the good stuff you come to know and love along with my Patreon Q&A!