Monday, July 24, 2017

New novel in the works!: I WAS A TEENAGED WEREDEER

Hey folks,

I wanted to let my fans know I have a new work in process. I know I should be finishing up all of my existing IPs and not creating new ones but this one is harder than most to ignore. It's about 45K into a 90K novel hard to ignore and that's only been written in the past month.

Specifically, the novel is I WAS A TEENAGED WEREDEER by Michael Suttkus and I. I know what you're thinking, surely that can't be the title but this may surprise you to know I have a tendency to write irreverent funny novels.

In this case, IWATW is another urban fantasy novel. I was pretty bummed about the genre due to the events surrounding ESOTERRORISM and my "divorce" from Ragnarok Publications. Well, now that Esoterrorism is going to be republished and finished as a trilogy with Amber Cover, I feel like I can once more write in the genre. I already took a dip with STRAIGHT OUTTA FANGTON that this novel technically takes place in.

Sherilyn Fenn is the actress who I used as a visual model for Jane.
Jane Doe, yes her parents were cruel, is a young community college student/waitress/weredeer in Bright Falls, Michigan. It's an ordinary rural community with the exception of being home to the majority of shapeshifters in the United States. Divided into clans, she belongs to the shamanistic Cervid who are the spiritual leaders of their people. 

Jane is...not suited for such a position. That doesn't stop her from getting involved when murder strikes their town and she is forced by her best friend to use what little psychic talents she has to help. This leads to uncovering her hometown's terrible secrets and getting chased by far too many monsters that consider her a tasty snack. 

Teaming up with her werewolf bestie Emma, a eccentric FBI agent wizard, and a dragon--she may just survive this situation long enough to solve who murdered the town sweetheart.

IWATW is inspired by my love of TWIN PEAKS, THE SOUTHERN VAMPIRE MYSTERIES, and BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. I hope everyone who loves my other novels will agree to check this one out.

Twin Peaks FAQ: All That's Left to Know About a Place Both Wonderful and Strange review

    I'm a late comer to the TWIN PEAKS franchise since, well, I was twelve years old when the show was initially on the air and it wasn't until recently that I was able to watch it on Netflix. Nevertheless, I have since retroactively devoured a lot of the fandom and its lore. It was a show that had a big effect on my writing and helped create my Esoterrorism, I was a Teenaged Weredeer, and Rules of Supervillainy series. The TWIN PEAKS FAQ sets itself up as the definitive resource on the Twin Peaks series with an episode guide of the show, analysis of the characters, and discussion of both behind-the-scenes as well as on-screen drama. It's more hit than miss, though there's quite a bit of miss in the latter half of the book.

    Basically, when David Bushman is discussing how the show was made or events from the show then he's doing fine. The production was fairly fascinating by itself with a link between Hollywood's favorite surealist and a soap opera writer teaming up to create a megablockuster show which quickly fizzled out but lived on as a cult-classic. We also get discussion of the failed indie movie FIRE WALK WITH ME. David Bushman's love of the series is infectious and he makes a lot of funny little comments that keeps the work entertaining throughout (for the most part). This doesn't attempt to present itself as a serious scholarly work and I think that would have been a mistake for such a quirky series by itself.

    Instead, this is clearly a resource for the fans themselves. I don't agree with all of his conclusions, for example he keeps ripping into James (James Marshall) when I really liked the character, but he was usually right on the money. He also, surprisingly, shies away from gossip with a refusal to tell the story about Lara Flynn Boyle allegedly canning the Audrey-Cooper romance. However, a good chunk of this book is the episode guide and it's an incredibly long series of summarizes which don't really add that much to the story. The majority of people who are buying this book are fans of the series already so some more analysis and less summary would have been welcome.

    Obviously, a lot of this information is now outdated with the existence of Twin Peaks: The Return but it is a humorous novel that covers everything up until that point. The author is entertaining with an irreverent style that makes otherwise dry reading entertaining. Even the Episode Guide, which could have used some sprucing up and commentary to go with it, has enough remarks spread through to keep it from being a bore. Still, the fact so much of the book is taken up with the episode guide affects its overall score. I would have preferred him to keep analyzing the characters and their relationships throughout. Would that have just made it the author's opinion on a popular television show? Yes, but that is why I'm buying it. If I wanted a purely analytical discussion of the show I would have bought THE ESSENTIAL WRAPPED IN PLASTIC: PATHWAYS TO TWIN PEAKS (which I did).

    In conclusion, this is an excellent book for fans of the series who want a entertaining read right up until the episode guide. That doesn't really offer anything new even with the occassional joke scattered throughout. Unfortunately, that takes up a third of the book.


Friday, July 21, 2017

Hard Luck Hank: Basketful of Crap by Steve Campbell

    HARD LUCK HANK: BASKETFUL OF CRAP is the sequel to SCREW THE GALAXY and returns us to Belvaille Station, the worst place in the galaxy to live. In fact, the station is completely different from the way it was before and there's a significant time-jump from the previous book. Gone are the gangs of Belvaille, who dominated the setting before, and replacing them are soulless corporations that took advantage of Hank's deal with the Confederation in order to produce goods illegal elsewhere but legal on the station.

    I found this to be a clever bit of satire even it's not something that's the central focus of the plot. One of the things which a "pot-advocate" friend of mine fears is that, as soon as the legalities are worked out, corporations are going to destroy any of the local growers who are presently benefiting from its legalization in states like Colorado and Seattle. In the case of Hank, a former professional leg-breaker extraordinaire is now reduced to being a doorman for one of the station's upscale casinos.

    The plot, if you can call it that (Hank's life is more like a horrible series of events he chooses to survive), is a pair of beautiful female assassins hire him to find their missing sister. This is after he trips over a corpse on his front door that he didn't make and can't find someone to pick up. Everything you need to know about Hank can be summarized by the fact he refuses to pay $500 to get a corpse removed from his doorstep and is too lazy to dump it somewhere else himself. Later, Hank is hired by a mysterious black-eyed man called "The Naked Guy" to do a number of bloody deeds across the station. This all climaxes to reveal what is as close to the archvillain of the series and an event which shapes the course of the next five or six books.

    This novel solidifies the "Hank formula" for the most part as it has less plot than the previous book and that's the point. Hank refuses to be proactive unless he's paid to do something and thus events pile up around him that eventually end up being revealed to be all interconnected. Very often, Hank will be hired to do some investigating but, lacking any leads, he ends up taking a second or third job that pays directly. These jobs inevitably involve violence against someone who may or may not be deserving but always end up causing massive chaos.

    I'm a bit saddened Hank's mutant neighbors depart the series at this point since I enjoyed their idealistic/naive perspective on events. I also wasn't sure how I felt about the retcon that Garm is actually from a planet of sexy female assassins. On one hand, it's so outrageous that it fits perfectly with the universe, on the other it's a retcon which disrupts an already-strong character's history. The absence of the mutants opens up more room for Hank's insane inventor friend, Delovoa, who becomes a staple of the series.

    Part of what I love about the books is the covers are actually extremely faithful to what's going on in the book. Hank really does acquire a helicopter chain gun (except there's no helicopter since it's a space station) which fires grenades. That's in addition to dealing with two beautiful Drow-esque assassins who dress completely unlike you'd expect stealthy ninjas to dress. Even Hank's pair of shorts are entirely how he dresses in the book. Garm is also a bit of fanservice on the front which we see on several other covers.

    Is the book any good? Oh yes, it's a wonderful parody of science fiction, detective fiction, and space opera all at once. Hank is probably the worst person in the world you could call for anything resembling "subtle" work but that's why he gets results. It's equivalent to hiring the Dude from The Big Lebowski only putting him in the Hulk's body and making him really violent. Okay, that's actually a terrible description but I'd watch the hell out of that movie just like I enjoy the hell out of these books. Really, my only complaint is I don't think the villain is appropriate for Hank as his revealed backstory is way too over-the-top for this relatively grounded series.


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Court of Broken Knives by Anna Smith Sparks review

      THE COURT OF BROKEN KNIVES is a grimdark political fantasy novel. Specifically, it is one of those novels which follows in the Game of Thrones tradition of the back and forth between various factions for control over a region. I should say this is actually a good deal darker than George R.R. Martin's work (no small feat) in the fact this is a book where there's no House Stark. Instead, it's the story of what would happen if you had only Tywin Lannister, Viserys Targareyn (if he had his ancestor Aegon the Conqueror's martial skill), a half-mad Sansa Stark after years of working as Melisandre, and the Hound as protagonists. As I can summarize best, "this book is dark as **** man."

    If my metaphor has gone over your head due to the fact you're not a A Song of Ice and Fire or Game of Thrones fan, allow me to rephrase: there's no heroes in this book. There's only protagonists. Every single one of them has innocent blood on their hands, including children, and it's rarely questionable the world would be better without them. Except, of course, that everyone else in the world is just as awful. For some people, that will send them screaming in the other direction but for others, like me, I found it quite fascinating to read.

    The premise is Orhan Emmereth, nobleman of Sorlost, has decided to mount a coup against the Emperor in order to reform its crumbling hollow shell. This requires sending an army of mercenaries he has no intention of allowing to live on a one-way suicide mission into the palace. Meanwhile, said mercenary group discovers they have a bonafide demigod among them with all the horrific mental problems of an Achilles on smack. Marith is a bloodthirsty psychopath but he's beautiful and capable of great deeds so he more or less gets away with whatever he does, no matter how much damage he does (or because of it).

    Marith, of course, complicates the suicide part of the suicide mission even though he's every bit as much a danger to his companions as his enemies. Rounding out the group is the high priestess, Thalia, is a woman who regularly sacrifices children on altars, who decides maybe there's more to life than being the instrument of a revolting cultural practice. She wants a handsome prince to whisk her away and isn't too particular about the fact the only one available is quite literally an insane murderer.

    The characters are all extremely well-developed with more than just the collection of their flaws. They're all broken people but you understand how the society as well as events have made them this way. Some of them are more sympathetic than others but sympathy is not what Anna Smith Spark asks for. Instead, she merely takes us on a wonderful ride to see who will still be standing when the dust settles.

    Ultimately, the story is more about the journey than the ending. It doesn't matter whether Orhan successfully fixes the Empire because the price for even trying has been his soul. Marith is a person with immense potential who squanders it in decadence and violence. If he actually does achieve anything, why should we cheer him on? Even Thalia is someone who has no real "right" to get a new life since she's done nothing for anyone but her self her entire life. They're all fascinating characters and have a Tarantino-esque quality of being completely unpredictable despite their ruthlessness.

    If you think I'm overselling the antihero qualities of them, trust me, I'm not but that's the appeal of the book. Dark, edgy, and violent storytelling from beginning to end. Definitely worthy of the title "grimdark."


Sunday, July 16, 2017

Deadly Premonition: The Director's Cut review

    DEADLY PREMONITION: THE DIRECTOR'S CUT is a game which is impossible to rate. No, seriously, it's a work of genius that's almost unplayable. The storyline is one of my favorites in video games but the combat sections are incredibly difficult while the controls are deeply wonky. This was to the point of me rage-quitting with the original Xbox 360 version and only picking it up after it was re-leased with changes on a new platform. Unfortunately, they never bothered to release the Director's Cut for Xbox 360/Xbox One, which is ridiculous.   

    The Director's Cut is marginally better but that's only available on Playstation or computer while also not fixing the fact the combat is deeply unnecessary. This is a game which does not actually need a single combat scene in it and would have been far better had it just been a Telltale-style mini-game in a wide-open sandbox. It reminds me a lot of L.A. Noire in many respects, except with far-far worse production values. Eh, this is going to be a hard one.

Francis York Morgan is a great character. Weird, dramatic, and fun.
    Anyway, for the purposes of this review, I'm going to describe the gameplay and story of the Director's Cut but mention where it's different from the original so you can consider this an "all-platforms" review of the video game. You can ask which I recommend you pick up, to which I'll definitely say The Director's Cut but I'm sorry to say even there the bugs are close to approaching, "Watch a playthrough of it instead."


    The premise, framed by a narrative of an elderly grandfather telling a story to his daughter in the Director's Cut, is a direct homage to Twin Peaks. A beautiful young woman in the small town of Greenvale been murdered. In this case, crucified and tied to a tree as a forest goddess. Everyone in town is devastated by the loss and each expresses it in a different way. Due to the nature of the case, FBI Special Agent Francis York Morgan (and his disembodied companion Zack that he talks to constantly) heads to Greenvale in order to lend his assistance to the local authorities.

Emily is an incredible character.
    Francis York Morgan is an erstwhile Agent Cooper mixed with a bit of Fox Mulder and Ben Rosenfield. He's horrifically rude, callous, and prone to making bizarre statements in the middle of solemn occasions. Nevertheless, he's also a man of passionate devotion to making the world a better place by bringing its worst criminals. He's always entertaining to watch and listen to as you never know what he's going to do next.

    Accompanying him is Sheriff George Woodman and Deputy Emily Wyatt who are excellent contrasting characters to Agent York. George Woodman is trying desperately to macho posture his way to solving the case and resents York's presence. Emily Wyatt is the more reasonable one of the characters but more loyal to George than York at the start. Gradually, I really liked the relationship the characters built even as it is transformed by the events of the story into something surprising. If you can avoid spoilers for this game, I heartily recommend you do as I didn't expect a number of the twists.

    The majority of the game is investigating by going to various locations and talking to the peculiar inhabitants of Greenvale. This is the best part of the game and what really should have been left alone. However, the publishers of the game insisted on adding a wholly unnecessary shooting segment where you're assaulted by The Ring-esque ghosts and chased by an unstoppable raincoat-wearing killer. These sections were the worst in the original game but at least aren't completely awful in the Director's Cut. Unfortunately, even there, they get repetitive and reuse a lot of assets.

The game has some RE4 gameplay--which sucks.
    Much like Twin Peaks, the game is a mix of the truly horrifying and the hilarious. The characters are quicky and amusing contrasted to the nightmarish. While nothing occurs on-screen, the game deals with the aftermath of rape and murder as well as systematic child abuse. It's also got sidequests about teaching Emily Wyatt not to blow up her kitchen and a lady who travels around town with a pot who turns out NOT to have anything to do with the plot.

    The game is voiced in some places and uses text in others, probably because this was made on a budget of shoe-string and bubblegum. The graphics are incredibly dated, even with the Director's Cut, but some of the scenes are genuinely beautiful. The character of Emily Wyatt is one of the best designed in video games and is up there with Morrigan and Leliana for my favorite female character looks. It also, notably, says something about the way women are visualized in video games that she's beautiful and sensibly dressed with the only modification to her look being a rather snug uniform.

    Deadly Premonition is full of bugs from top to bottom. There's clipping issues, graphical anomalies, failed loading of environments, and lots of enemies dropping in from the sky as you drive into them. The kind of thing which plague Grand Theft Auto: Vice City rather than a game which should have been built better. This is for the Director's Cut, mind you, and it's not any better in the original game as you can imagine. Running away from the Raincoat Killer is a great and ultra-tense scene the first time you do it, less so by the fourth or fifth.

Anna's murder is a haunting image.
    Oh and the driving is terrible, like a really bad Grand Theft 3 Auto simulator, which a lot of the gameplay resembles as if fused with Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 1 but lacking the charm of any. The game includes a number of strange rules, too, like the fact it is one of the few driving simulators which include the possibility of running out of gas. You also need to sleep and eat in order to maintain York's health. While this adds to the sense of "realism", I'm not sure anyone really benefited from their presence.

    I also have to state the final act of the game, where you're faced with two consecutive boss bosses battles, seems more at home in God of War than Deadly Premonition. This seems like the sort of game where you should have assembled a Maguffin out of a bunch of seeds, a flower pot, Anna's locket, and true love to defeat the villains. It's not the sort of game where you should just shoot the hell out of the bad guys.

These parts are directly riffed from Silent Hill.
    The music almost makes up for all the aforementioned flaws by itself. It's only a comparatively few number of songs and background keys but they're all excellently done. "The Woods and the Goddess", "Greenvale", "Life is Beautiful", and "Main Theme" are all great. Its one of the few soundtracks I would buy of a video game and it's a shame that it's not available to purchase in mp3 format (or CD or any format at all). 

     This game feels like a hybrid of many different gamestyles but doesn't quite have the budget or design to pull them off. In addition to the GTA and Resident Evil elements, you can tell Silent Hill was also a major influence. I really think this game should have gone for something more consistent as a playstyle. Despite this, there's a lot of cute notes like the fact the enemies will become more resistant to specific styles of fighting them like melee weapons or bullets. So, you have to change it up unless you want to expend infinite ammo.

Our erstwhile Pyramid Head stand-in.
     The characters also deserve credit because I can basically name every single character in the game and talk about their biographies. The game takes time to make every person in Greenvale a character and have quirky personalities. It actually made me feel when characters were killed off in-story and want to complete the always entertaining but often inane sidequests. It's one of the few places I'd actually want to live in a video game, horrific murders aside, it's so vividly realized.

    In conclusion, Deadly Premonition is a game I feel should be experienced by every game player. However, its game elements are the worst part about it. It would work better as a mini-series or movie I think. However, I cannot help but imagine a remake of the game with decent gameplay and graphics. It would be....wondrous.


Friday, July 14, 2017

The Delirium Brief by Charles Stross review

     THE DELIRIUM BRIEF is the latest book in the long-running Laundry Saga by Charles Stross. The Laundry, for those unaware of it, is one of the Neo-Mythos stories which have emerged in the past decade or so that has a postmodern take on the Mythos. Peter Clines, Ruthanna Emrys, Anne Pillsworth, myself, and a few others are similar. In the case of Charles Stross, it's combining the stuffiness of being a British Civil Servant as well as computer programmer with the oncoming end of the world by ooogie-boogies.

    I either love the Laundry or I hate it and it's a testament to Charles Stross' skill I'm usually veering between the two because of the emotions his stories bring. I admit, though, to not being a big fan of the previous two novels. They weren't ones I actively hated, unlike THE JENNIFER MORGUE, but they had issues which bothered me long after I finished the story.

    THE ANNIHILATION SCORE had Doctor (Dominque) "Mo" O'Brien as its heroine while doing a unsucessful parody of superhero novels which seemed at odds with the stories' general spy vs. squid premise. It also made numerous controversial choices in portraying Mo as an adulterous spouse to her deeply devoted protagonist husband, which was never going to go down well. THE NIGHTMARE STACKS also veered away from the series' traditional protagonist with a social anxiety suffering hypochondriac having a "manic pixie dreamgirl romance" with an invading Nazi elf woman.

    We're thankfully back with Bob Howard, programmer/demon hunter/civil servant/host for a minor god of evil, once more in the driver's seat. Bob has changed a lot since when he first signed up for field work and has been uncomfortably promoted to management. Unfortunately, that's come right at the time the Masquerade (to cop a term from White Wolf) has officially been broken and the world is now aware of the supernatural. I'm iffy about this action as Charles Stross has chosen to portray the world as less, "nothing will be the same again" and more like the Tyler family from the 9th/10th Doctor era where humanity seems too damned stupid to care about it being real.

    Charles Stross is on the record that The Delirium Brief was strongly influenced by the U.K's choice to exit from the European Union. While the Brexit is never directly mentioned, much of the book is an apocalyptic (literally since it may lead to the end of the world) look at the dissolution of the Laundry in order to have them privatized by American companies. Companies which, in this world, are controlled by a Christian-themed monster cult that combines the worst of eschatology and quiver full doctrine with the desire to end the world by giant monster pyramid on Mars. Honestly, given some of my (as a fellow Christian) relationships with people like this--that's not that unbelievable.

    The book is a fascinating story with Bob having far more trouble dealing with testimonies before Parliament, budgets, and the sudden loss of privileges he never thought would vanish than the many monsters they fate. While I would have liked Bob and Mo to discuss the events of The Annihilation Score rather than simply reconcile their marriage--that's not what the book is about. It's all about the dangers of bureaucracy in the Laundry's world.

    The characters all play off of each other in an interesting way with Bob's terrible ex, Mhari, having become one of the most interesting characters in the story. I was also glad to see the return of Persephone Hazard, the Laundry's erstwhile Modesty Blaise substitute, and how her "blow them up and let God sort them out' attitude plays off against everyone else's doomed efforts to deal with politics in a legal way. When the government is completely corrupt and/or stupid, though, what is your recourse? Especially when the apocalypse is looming? The answer isn't one which someone like Bob can stomach and that's what makes it interesting.

    The action is good, the villains hateable, and the character development good. After the previous two books, it feels like we've returned to the original Laundry Files that attracted me. Could I have used a bit more Bob and a bit less Brexit parody? Yes, yes I could have. Still, I was about to give up on the series and this made me reconsider it. The Laundry Files and Dresden Files remain my two go-to urban fantasy series and I'd hate to lose either.

    The ending is a huge game-changer for the entire setting and relies a lot on continuity points from the previous books. We see the return of characters I thought were permanently out of the story. It also bodes dark things for the future of the story. I was a bit disappointed the ending was the Laundry resorting to the same tactics which characters from a Michael Bay movie would involve but, otherwise, this was an excellent urban fantasy thriller.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Where Loyalties Lie by Rob J. Hayes review

     I was privileged enough to get a Advanced Reader's Copy of WHERE LOYALTIES LIE by Rob J. Hayes and feel like it'd be a good time to mention what I think of it well ahead of everyone else. Bwhahahaha! Yes, my book review will determine the fate of its success. You know, if anyone remembers what I said when it's released in may.

    This book is a sequel, of sorts, set in the same world as Rob J. Hayes THE TIES THAT BIND series. Despite this, while reading the last book will enrich your experience, it is not necessary to appreciate what is inside. This works entirely on its own as a standalone story of roguish pirate Drake Morass and his decision to try to build a nation out of the various pirate fleets which exist inside the seas of the Known World.

    This impressive ambition is fueled by the fact he's managed to get to the top of his game as a pirate and con man but has recently lost his most lucrative con (being the lover to the Empress of China's equivalent in the setting) as well as winning the enimity of the world's most dangerous inquisitor. Drake has the seed money and contacts to become a king, sort of, but he has the problem that everyone knows him as a scheming treacherous bastard. To that end, he has to recruit a number of individuals who might actually be able to persuade, with sincerity, pirates to believe in a dream of a nation of their own. The fact Morass doesn't remotely care about the prospect save as a means of entitling himself is one of the books ironies and underscores the author's cynical views about causes.

    Comparisons to Pirates of the Carribean are inevitable with the fact this is a supernatural pirate story with the calculating lead and his more straight-laced associate Keelin Stillwater. In fact, the similarities highlight the differences as Drake only has a heart of gold if he ripped it out from someone else's chest. He's charming, yes, but in the same way a snake is and the book makes no bones about his sociopathy. Keelin, by contrast, is desperate to be a good man but the fact he's a pirate makes all his attempts at righteousness ring hollow. The fact he wants a measure of redemption through leaving his current long-time pirate lover for a more "innocent" girl also shows the fundamental hypocrisy at the heart of his desires.

    Tanner Black, the book's primary antagonist, is an interesting take on the mythological Blackbeard. While Edward Thatch may have had his downer points, he wasn't the embodiment of cruelty and causal horror which Rob J. Hayes has created in his "villain." The irony of the character is he's right about everything, particularly that Drake Morass is going to get them all killed for his own ambition. His mind is an interesting place to be as well since his treatment of his daughter and son approaches Tywin Lannister levels of abuse (then passes everything but Tyrion's "moment") yet believes he loves them. By the end of the book, it was definitely my desire to see him destroyed as I can say about few fantasy villains--even though I hated Drake in a "love to hate" sort of way.

    My favorite character in the book is probably Elaina Black, though, who has much of the appeal of the literary Asha Greyjoy and would very much work as the star of her own novel. Elaina desperately wants to please her father and be with her lover Keelin in a life of blood, sweat, and rum but this just isn't in the cards. Neither man is worth her devotion and it's clear she probably would be the best Pirate Monarch-but there's the issue of both her gender as well as her father's untrusworthinss standing in her way. Also, sadly, the fact she'd rather help those she loves than rule herself.

    Make no mistake, despite the Caribbean-like environment, this book is grimdark. There's a horrifying scene in the book where a major character is "punished" which strips away any pretense the antagonists are decent people while the protagonists have the benefit of merely being slightly less monstrous. If you don't have a stomach for George R.R. Martin levels of violence and angst then this might not be the book for you. Fans of the Ties That Bind, for example, may remember that Drake was a VILLAIN in the previous book and did something most would consider irredeemable.

    Even so, there's a kind of jolly (roger) energy to the book which propels its story forward. Even though we, the audience, know this is all a con, it's very easy to get swept up in the idea of a nation for the underdogs. The historical pirates of Nassau had the belief they could create an equal society for all before their dream collapsed due to, well, piracy being a poor method of creating a nation. It's really more of a supplementary income sort of thing unless you're Francis Drake at least. There's a good sense of humor to the book, too, which contrasts nicely against the somewhat grim protagonists of his previous book.

    In conclusion, I strongly recommend this book and consider the duology (yes, I read the sequel too) to be Hayes' best work and up there with Mark Lawrence as well as Joe Abercrombie.