Book Recommendation: Forge of Destiny

One of my absolute favorite web serials/quests, Forge of Destiny, is getting a Kindle and Audible release on Tuesday, December 22nd. Preorders are already up.

Forge of Destiny: Volume 1 by [Yrsillar, Melody Cheng, Lynn Chang]

You can find the Kindle version here.

And the Audible version here.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Forge of Destiny is a cultivation (xianxia) story, similar to things like Will Wight’s Cradle or Tao Wong’s A Thousand Li. This particular story focuses on our heroine, Ling Qi, progressing and learning about the world around her while attending a cultivation sect, which is basically the equivalent of a magical university, but for martial artists called cultivators. I’m a huge fan of both the style of magic in this setting and the cast of characters (especially Best Snek, which you’ll understand pretty quickly if you read the book).

While this novel is substantial in scope, it only covers a small portion of the web serial(s) – so you can expect more books coming out, and likely relatively quickly, since there’s already a lot of content available in the serial format.

I can’t recommend this one enough. If you’re looking for something similar to Cradle or Arcane Ascension, this should be it.

Quick Recommendation – Upcoming Audio Book

Just a quick recommendation post.

The Brightest Shadow is among my favorite books in recent history, and it’s finally getting an audio edition!

The Brightest Shadow Audiobook By Sarah Lin cover art

Much like my own How to Defeat a Demon King in Ten Easy Steps, The Brightest Shadow is a deconstruction of the stories of heroes and dark lords – but The Brightest Shadow is a much darker take. It’s an incredible story, with engaging characters, a breathtaking world, and a fascinating unique take on a Cultivation-style magic system.

It’s also an absolute doorstopper, which is perfect for audio. I think it’s something like 400k words, or roughly 1000 pages in paperback form. Think one of Sanderson’s Stormlight Archives books – it’s massive. And much like Stormlight, it’s very, very epic.

I strongly recommend it.

If you’re interested, you can find it here.

Updates and Recommendations

Hello everyone, and I hope you’re having a good October so far.

I’ve spent most of the last month working on edits to Book 3 of Arcane Ascension. It’s out with my Alpha readers – the very first people who get a look at it – and I’ll be sending out the next revision to Beta readers shortly. After that, I’ll parse through the beta feedback and get to the professional editing stage in time for a release in December. It’s going to be difficult to get everything done in that time frame, but I don’t plan to delay the launch.

Speaking of launches, Will Wight’s Wintersteel is out today. If you’re not already following the Cradle series, it’s one of my own personal favorites, and I highly recommend it if you’re in the mood for some martial arts fantasy.

If you missed the previous updates, we have a release date for AA3 – December 6th – and the book is up for preorder. The book also finally has a title – The Torch that Ignites the Stars.

We’re also less than a month out from the Kindle release of How to Defeat a Demon King in Ten Easy Steps.

In terms of other things I’ve been working on, my next book release is going to be the third Weapons & Wielders book – Soulbrand. I’m a long way into that, but I barely touched it last month: edits have simply been taking up too much of my time.

I have several other projects slated for the next year or two that I’ve already started on in small ways. Arcane Ascension 4 is already in the planning stages, and I’ve written the first scene of it. (For those of you who don’t know already, Arcane Ascension isn’t a trilogy; it was planned for 6-7 books, although I may still end it on a different number, depending on what it takes for the story to feel complete.)

I’ve also been continuing to work on planning for Wrynn Jaden’s novel: Carefully Worded Wishes. I think a lot of people are going to enjoy this one.

I have a few other projects I’ve been dabbling with, including a LitRPG parody and a couple different xianxia-style novel experiments. I’m not sure when any of those will see the light of day.

I’m hoping to get back into blogging a little more frequently and posting things with more substance, such as preview chapters and deleted content, but we’ll have to see if time permits.

In the meantime, I hope everyone has a great October!

Quick Book Updates and a Recommendation – Cinnamon Bun

Quick book updates first. Arcane Ascension 3 is still in progress and I’m still hoping to get it done by the end of the year. It’s mostly caught up to Weapons & Wielders 3 now in terms of progress completed, since I’ve been focusing on it more. I’m hoping to get it done first, then finish W&W3 shortly thereafter (probably early 2021).

It’s hard to give it a progress percentage, since I’m still evaluating some of the content I may include. The original intent was to try to make AA3 similar in length to the previous books. I like that feeling of consistent length for each novel in a series, but that has major impacts on the pacing: this book really only covers the winter vacation between school years, so it’s much shorter in terms of in-world time. I don’t want the book to feel like it has padding or filler content, so if there’s a logical end point at a shorter word count than the previous books, it may end up being somewhat shorter. (Still not short by any means – “shorter” might mean more like Diamantine, which is 165k words. I still think it’ll be even longer than that, just maybe not quite as chunky as On the Shoulders of Titans was.)

Notably, this may also result in the book feeling like it has a faster pace than the previous books. I have mixed feelings on that; W&W is supposed to be more of my fast paced and action-oriented series, and I don’t want to move AA too far into that direction. I’m still tinkering, so we’ll see where things end up.

Given the current instability in the world, as well as the nature of my own writing, I can’t make any guarantees about a release date – but I’ll say that I’m still aiming for the November to December range and leave it at that.

Next, for those of you who enjoy the LitRPG genre, I have a quick recommendation: Cinnamon Bun.

Cinnamon Bun: A Wholesome LitRPG by [Ravens Dagger]

Cinnamon Bun stars an absolutely adorable young woman who, upon being dumped into a game-like universe, proceeds to mop floors and try to make friends with everyone and everything she comes across (with varying levels of success). It’s an absolutely beautiful subversion of the usual sociopathic style of character you often see in both actual RPGs and RPG-related fiction. Our hero not only recognizes the individuality and value of others, she actively seeks to find non-violent resolutions to conflicts.

In a way, you can think of this as being reminiscent of a game like Undertale, although I’d say the overall flavor of the story leans more heavily toward novels like Threadbare (which I also strongly recommend).

As a LitRPG, it’s a novel where RPG mechanics exist within the universe, which may not be everyone’s cut of tea. They’re pretty light as far as LitRPG mechanics go, though, and I personally found the class and skill advancement systems to be both engaging and thought provoking.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and I’d strongly recommend it.

Book Recommendation – The Brightest Shadow

Anyone who has read my works knows that I enjoy playing with classic tropes. Among my favorites is the classic story of the Hero and the Dark Lord, equal and opposite forces destined to clash and tear the world asunder.

Most of my favorite incarnations of this trope tend to be in the form of Japanese games and literature — things like Maoyuu, for example, which is a love story between the Yuusha (Hero) and Maou (Demon King) of that particular setting. I’ve seen a couple Western stories that tinker with this trope in interesting ways — Mistborn is “what if the Hero failed”, for example, and the Traveler’s Gate Trilogy is “what if someone else from the hero’s tragic backstory village decided to do something about the Demon King himself”.

I’ve written a few takes on this trope myself. An early short story sent to my mailing list was about a geriatric Dark Lord’s surprise birthday, and I wrote a “summoned hero” style story for the Art of War anthology. I’ve even got a secret project on the way along these lines, too.

But, in spite of my general love of – and familiarity with – these tropes, I wasn’t prepared for The Brightest Shadow.

The Brightest Shadow by Sarah Lin shows us a world where humanity co-exists with a different (and sometimes dominant) humanoid species called the mansthein, or, as humans often call them in traditionally derogatory fashion, “deathspawn”.

The “Hero” is a legend of a destined human who will rise to throw off the yoke of “deathspawn” oppression, obliterating the Dark Lord and his foul servants. For some, the Hero is a source of hope, inspiration, and joy.

But for the mansthein — and those humans who are seeking peace between the species — the Hero is something else entirely. They’re a horrifying force of nature, a whirlwind of death, destruction, and insanity that consumes all within its path.

Never before have I seen the legendary chosen Hero depicted so convincingly as a monster. Every hint of the Hero’s arrival filled me not with hope, but with dread.

Would our protagonists survive the Hero’s bloody rampage? Was peace possible in a world where the Hero threatens with every breath to tear it asunder?

That, my friends, is our story—

In The Brightest Shadow, our protagonists aren’t Heroes or Dark Lords.

They’re simply trying to find a way to endure the collateral damage between them — and perhaps find a way to give the world some hope of surviving their inevitable clash.

***

With that overview done, let’s get into some details.

The story is third-person, multi-perspective. There are a couple main perspectives, as well as several peripheral ones. The author does a fantastic job of making each perspective feel subtly (or, at times, not-so-subtly) distinct, so we get a better idea of what the head space of each character might feel like.

There are two people I’d consider to be the “main” characters. Both were excellent and easy to read.

Tani is a member of tribe called the Nelee and in the midst of a coming-of-age journey to learn about the world and return to her tribe. She’s a proactive and likable character right from the start of the story, and her comparatively isolated background makes her a great lens through which we can learn about the world.

Slaten is a former swordsman who is attempting to turn his life around by working as a medic…poorly. As the story progresses, he’ll have important choices to make in terms of the kind of life he wants to lead and the people he wants to choose to support.

The characters have interesting dynamics with several other cast members, both each other and including several major supporting protagonists (and antagonists). They both have interesting interactions with the central Hero legend, too, but I won’t get into that in too much detail. That would spoil the fun.

***

For those of you who read my own books for the progression mechanics involved, you’ll probably enjoy this book. Tani, Slaten, and many of the other characters go through training, learn new techniques, and progress in power just like you’d expect to see in my stories or other progression fantasies.

Style wise, the flavor here feels very Cultivation flavored, but with interesting and distinct cultural distinctions within the setting itself. Different cultures treat their training differently, learning different techniques and having different philosophies on how exactly power improvements should work. Reading those distinctions and people experimenting with learning new techniques was a delight to me, and I think anyone who enjoys Cultivation novels will feel similarly.

There aren’t quite as clear of power level tiers as you’d see in something like Cradle or Arcane Ascension, largely because of those aforementioned cultural distinctions. There are clear power differences between characters, and there are some ways to measure them, but it’s clear that those measurements only present one part of the picture. Something like Traveler’s Gate or my own War of Broken Mirrors would be a reasonable comparison.

Personally, I found this style extremely engaging, and I found the clear improvements throughout the story to be very satisfying. In particular, a couple specific techniques proved extremely relevant to the core narrative and immensely important for the development of one particular cast member.

***

I liked Street Cultivation, one of this author’s previous works.

I loved this book. I’m absolutely hooked. The ending was fantastic, and I can’t wait to see what the future brings for this new world.

In the meantime, I’ll just have to hope that the Hero doesn’t doom us all.

(The Brightest Shadow is available on Kindle now and you can find it here.)

Quick Recommendation: The Sword of Kaigen

Just finished reading The Sword of Kaigen by M.L. Wang.

The Sword of Kaigen

This was an excellent book, and I’d generally recommend it very strongly, although with a caveat: it gets very dark. Much, much darker than my books. The warfare in the story has some very grim consequences, and you should be aware that grief, trauma, and abuse are significant themes in the story.

That said, I absolutely loved the character work in this story, and the world building was also excellent. The magic system is very reminiscent of something like Avatar: The Last Airbender, with region-specific magic types, but with some exploration of the darker sides of systems like that existing (e.g. specific cultures having a strong focus on “bloodline purity”).

There are some genuinely heroic characters, but far more shades of grey. The people in the story felt very real, often in sad and brutal ways.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book, but I’d urge readers to make sure they’re up for handling heavy subject matters like war, grief, and abuse before picking it up.

Book Recommendation – House of Ash & Brimstone

Hey all,

A quick update and a book recommendation.

As many of you know, I spent much of my career as a game developer, and I published my first book while I was working at Obsidian Entertainment.

One of my fellow Obsidian designers just launched her own book, House of Ash & Brimstone, and I wanted to mention how much I’ve been enjoying reading it.

House of Ash & Brimstone

House of Ash & Brimstone is an urban fantasy novel following Gisele Walker, a half-demon, in a society demons and humans coexist on Earth. I’m not generally a huge urban fantasy reader, but I loved this right from the start – most likely because it opened straight into an arena fight with a minotaur.

I think most people are going to compare this to Buffy, and I wouldn’t say that’s wrong – there are some similarities in terms of the setting vibe, the dialogue style, and the relationship with a love interest. This isn’t a high school series, though, and to me, it’s probably a little closer to what the Dresden Files might have looked like if Harry had been a little less experienced in the first book.

Even more than that, though, the focus on demons gives me a pretty strong Devil May Cry vibe. It’s a little more grounded, with the combat not feeling as anime-like, but I think fans of Devil May Cry’s style of setting would enjoy this.

I just picked up the book yesterday, and I haven’t finished it yet, so I can’t give any detailed analysis of the magic system yet. There is magic, though, and it definitely does have limitations, one of which was mentioned as soon as it was introduced. I’m looking forward to seeing more of that.

I’d recommend the book, and it can be found here.

In terms of my own book status, I’ve sent Diamantine off to beta readers, and I’m working on continuing to edit it,  as well as prep for the third Arcane Ascension and Weapons and Wielders books. AA3 is planned to be my next release.

Updates and a Quick Recommendation

Hey all,

My editor has informed me that I should be getting my notes back on Six Sacred Swords today.

Without knowing the scope of what I need to change, it’s tough to give an exact release date – but I’m reasonably confident it will be before the end of the month. In a best case scenario, it might even be within the next week, but I don’t want to make any promises.

In the meantime, I have a book recommendation.

The Ruin of Kings

The Ruin of Kings is the first novel in A Chorus of Dragons by Jenn Lyons. I was lucky enough to be able to read an early copy, and I absolutely loved it. Early reviews are comparing it to everything from Game of Thrones to The Name of the Wind and Lies of Locke Lamora – and I see elements of all of those in there.

Essentially, it has a Locke-esque rogue protagonist, but he’s telling his own story (Kvothe style), in a setting with a lot of Game of Thrones style political intrigue. There’s a frame story as well, as well as some other narrator fun – but I won’t spoil that. Overall, I’d actually say the feel of the story is probably closest to Locke Lamora, with some amazing atmosphere, characters, and world building.

…and it has footnotes! Footnotes!

I probably shouldn’t be so excited about that, but I am. You’ll see why if you check it out.

If you’re in the mood for a darker epic with tons of interesting characters and intrigue, I strongly recommend this book.

I’ll post another update when I have a better idea of how long my edits are going to take (or possibly when the book is out, if it ends up being really quick).

Updates and Book Recommendations

Hello all,

The most common question I’m hearing these days is about the audio version of On the Shoulders of Titans, so I thought I’d address that. The good news is that publisher is planning to hire Nick Podehl to narrate again, so we’ll have a consistent voice and the same level of quality. The bad news is that Nick doesn’t have any slots open in his schedule until much later in the year. We’re hoping we can work the book into his schedule if he has an opening sooner, but at the moment, don’t expect the audio until around November at earliest.

In terms of my other projects, I’m still primarily working on the third War of Broken Mirrors book. I’d call it about 1/4 written at this point, so I’m making progress, but it’s going slower than I’d like. Switching back to the style of the Broken Mirrors books has been a real challenge for me, but I’m hoping that the book will speed up as I get further in the process.

If you’ve already finished On the Shoulders of Titans and you’re looking for something new to read, I have a couple recommendations.

If you’re looking for something else with an anime-style vibe to it, the Landkist Saga by Steven Kelliher is currently on sale. I’d compare it to Princess Mononoke mixed with Avatar: The Last Airbender.

You can find it here: mybook.to/LandkistSaga


If you’re looking for something else with sorcerers and LGBT romance, I’d recommend taking a look at Sorcerous Rivalry by Kayleigh Nicol, which you can find here: https://www.amazon.com/Sorcerous-Rivalry-Mage-Born-Chronicles-Book-ebook/dp/B07BX7PW1N/



Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy the other books if you check them out!

Best,
-Andrew