Review: Darkrise by M.L. Spencer

Some Bonds Are Meant to Be Shattered.

Darien Lauchlin betrayed his allegiance to the Rhen when he sold his soul to the God of Chaos. Now the unthinkable has occurred: war between Malikar and the Rhen looms on the horizon. As Darien prepares to lead an invasion against his former homeland, he struggles to unite a diverse people who still view him as the enemy. Darien is forced to abandon his former loyalties and confront the tragedies of his past. With the help of Azár, he embarks on a series of trials that will forge him into the Battlemage his people desperately need him to be. But will the price of becoming a weapon be the last of his humanity?

5 of 5 stars!

In Malikar, the Darklands, their culture relies on magic for survival. The global magic field is in danger of collapsing, and if it does, their way of life cannot be sustained. They decide to evacuate to a region where they might have hope of survival, but the only path out goes through The Rhen, a nation who has long seen them as enemies.

Darien will do anything to protect and unite the people he has vowed to save. As the imminent conflict looms, he meets with the leaders of The Rhen to discuss a possible compromise. Will his old friends, now on the opposite side of the field, understand his reasons and negotiate? Can they find an agreement both sides will honor?

In a separate storyline, we follow Quin and Naia as they search for a way to repair the weakness in the magic field and avert the impending crisis of its collapse. If they can succeed, perhaps war can be prevented.

Darien once again has impossible choices to make. The way the characters align, there are hard choices on both sides of the war, and more of them begin to experience something Darien is well-versed in—doing horrible things for good reasons. Both sides commit atrocities for the sake of their own righteousness.

Spencer keeps the stakes high and the tension tight, bringing the reader through new love stories, new parts of the world, giving the characters more reasons to fight, and more reasons to die.

I went immediately into Darkfall, the series conclusion, and I can't wait to see how all this ends.

You can find Darkrise here on Amazon or here on Goodreads.

Interview with Author Ulff Lehmann

Ulff Lehmann is an author of epic dark fantasy. My first experience with his work came when reading Blackest Knights, then I moved on to his first book Shattered Dreams. He's created a large, fantastic world, and was willing to share more about his process with us. 

What inspired your world building process? 
Mythology, History, Realism. Too many fantasy worlds are a patchwork of different influences, with magic been tossed in as well, you have your Aztec, Venetian, German, whathaveyou. But if you look at mythology, every place the characters go to is whichever region the myths originate from. The people of Troy are Greek even though they probably weren’t and didn’t speak the language. The point is, if you have a pantheon that has peopled the world, it will be that pantheon’s creations that people the world, one language etc. I wanted not the ubiquitous Common Tongue, I didn’t want to develop a multitude of languages (of which the reader barely reads anything because we bloody write in English). In the end all that counts is to have consistency, and for that you need an understanding of history. The realism comes when you actually understand history, and people, and context.

Who are you writing for and why? 
Myself, I want to read the stories I want to read, and so I write them.

What do you do to recharge your creative energy? 
Music, mostly. Loud music.

What reactions do you hope to inspire in others?
Other than them enjoying my tales? I honestly don’t know, never thought about it. As I said, I write the stories I want to read. There is no ulterior motive. Afterwards I catch myself realizing I wrote something profound, but while they are my words, and my opinions, I don’t sit down and say to myself “Self, you have got to write something life altering today.” I just write stories.

Where is your writing taking you? 
Two decades ago I would’ve said “To the next bar.” Nowadays, if people like my stories – that’s almost reward enough. Would I like to be better off? Sure! Hell yea! I’d love to not be poor anymore, but I write because if I didn’t I’d probably have killed myself a while ago.


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Review: Shattered Dreams by Ulff Lehmann

Epic Fantasy filled to the brim with Grimdark Reality 

If one looks too long into the abyss, the abyss looks back. Drangar Ralgon has been avoiding the abyss's gaze for far too long and now he turns to face it. 

For a hundred years the young kingdom of Danastaer has thrived in peace. Now their northern neighbor, mighty Chanastardh, has begun a cunning invasion. 

Thrust into events far beyond his control, the mercenary Drangar Ralgon flees his solitary life as a shepherd to evade the coming war and take responsibility for his crimes. 

In Dunthiochagh, Danastaer's oldest city, the holy warrior Kildanor uncovers the enemy's plans for invasion. 

As ancient forces reach forth to shape the world once more, the sorceress Ealisaid wakes from a century of hibernation only to realize the Dunthiochagh she knew is no more. Magic, believed long gone, returns, and with it comes an elven wizard sent to recover a dangerous secret.

4 of 5 stars

Shattered Dreams covers the build up and invasion of a major battle, and definitely has the sense there is more to come. It's the first book of an epic war series and is truly just the beginning.

Drangar Ralgon has been living in misery, ignoring his past. He finally decides to return home to face the violence he took part in two years prior. His journey is full of challenges and enemies. His story is the one on the most personal level, as we see his remorse and struggle to seek the truth of who he is and what he's done.

Most of the other point of view characters center around two sides of a brewing war. There are a few scenes in court discussing the politics of the realm, and we get to know the dynamics of the officers and nobles on both sides of the conflict.

There's a lot of history and religion in the world building. One point of view character is an elf whose people had left the region thousands of years ago. He's returning to collect a missing tome in hopes of protecting what secrets it holds. Another point of view character is a wizardess who has been in a hibernation of sorts for generations. She's highly unusual. By this point in time, there aren't any human wizards, so if she can get a handle on her magical powers, she can be a great advantage in the war.

There's a little bit of everything here—intrigue, battle, deceit, vengeance, love, loss, victory, magic. At times I felt the pacing was slow and had a little trouble keeping up with the different characters at first. It picks up and moves the story forward while building a lot of interesting politics and backstory. I recommend this book to fans of dark fantasy, complex court politics, and epic war series. 

You can find it here on Amazon or here on Goodreads.