Review: The Fifth Empire of Man by Rob J. Hayes

The Fifth Empire of Man is the second book in Rob J. Hayes' piratical fantasy series, Best Laid Plans.

The Pirate Isles are united under Drake Morrass’ flag, but the war has only just begun. There’s still a long way to go before he’s able to call himself King.

The Five Kingdoms and Sarth have assembled a fleet of ships unlike any the world has ever seen and they intend to purge the Pirate Isles once and for all.

Meanwhile, Elaina Black is securing herself powerful allies and the forces those allies can spare. She’s set her course on the throne, either by Drake’s side or over his dead body.

5 of 5 stars!

Your favorite pirate captains from Where Loyalties Lie are back, as well as the vile ones you hate! Drake, Elaina, Keelin, and Tanner continue their efforts to save the Pirate Isles from obliteration. 

While Drake and Tanner fortify local resources, Elaina and Keelin sail separate ways to rally allies in other regions. Things don't go quite as expected, and what's a pirate journey without a detour quest for ancient, hidden treasure?

This book was extremely difficult to put down and I often ignored sleep and other assorted responsibilities for the sake of reading further. I sunk into this sequel easily and felt fully immersed in the experience. 

The final sea battle is intense, with plenty of nail-biting moments and unexpected reveals. The start of the battle loudly proclaims that no character is safe, leaving the reader on edge through the entire sequence.

I knew what I wanted for the characters and I wasn't sure if they'd be able to get there, but it ended exactly right. I'm so satisfied with everything thrown at them and how they stumbled through it. I was pleasantly surprised by how many complex threads the author resolved in this relatively short series. The story brings a wonderful sense of closure topped off with an unexpected lead into what I'm guessing is a future series to come.
If you're looking for an exciting pirate war adventure with traitors, explosions, and heart, this duology is a must! 

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

Interview with Author Ben Galley

Ben Galley's The Heart of Stone has rocked the fantasy community over the past few months, winning Best Self-Published Novel in the 2017 Booknest Fantasy Awards. I'm pleased to have him here today to share his thoughts on writing and creativity.

What inspired your world building process?
The inspiration behind the the world of The Heart of Stone—The Realm—came largely from war-torn Europe during the 1700s, also known as the Gunpowder Age. It was a time of constantly moving borders, strife and battle. The main setting of the story is Hartlund, which is in the strangle-hold of a civil war, and for this I took a lot of inspiration from the English Civil War, where countrymen were turned against each other in a brutal fight over parliament and country. I wanted to portray a vicious environment, where alliances and battle-lines shift constantly, giving a constant sense of uncertainty and betrayal. Hartlund has basically been trashed by years of war, and whatever beauty it once held in its rolling fields and bucolic climes has been trampled and forgotten. The rest of the Realm was inspired by a classic struggle between northern and southern ideals, similar to the later Crusades. Magic doesn’t feature too heavily in my book, nor do other races, so it makes the main character Task—a 400 year-old golem—truly unique and feared.

Who are you writing for and why?
A very good question! I write because I am obsessed with writing, and I enjoy crafting worlds and characters. As for who reads it, of course I care, but I normally write for anyone who might enjoy my stories, which are normally character-driven, multiple POV fantasies. There is no defined demographic I’m actively targeting. I’ve had non-fantasy fans say my books were their introduction to the genre, and so I know to just focus on the strength of the plot and writing, and let the book appeal to whoever it appeals to. I try not to write commercially, as I feel it pigeon-holes me too much, and restricts what I can do with style and structure.

What do you do to recharge your creative energy?
Music is a great source of energy for me, as is planning. If I know where I’m going, I find the writers’ block doesn’t rear its head. If I’m lacking focus, I find that a belter of a tune will give me the inspiration and verve that I need to ignore any doubts or questions. Other than that, it’s important to get enough sleep and get away from the desk when I can. I’m an avid gym-goer, which gives me a good physical break from a very mental and sedentary job.

What reactions do you hope to inspire in others?
Ideally, enjoyment and awe, and maybe some shock thrown in too. As I write within the genres of grimdark, epic fantasy and weird west, my fiction is naturally dark and full of graphic action. At the same time, being very character-led, I want readers to feel thoroughly invested in my characters and their struggles. I also try to balance the darkness with humour, and so a laugh here and there is always something I aim for.

Where is your writing taking you?
Hopefully to a stratosphere of fame and riches previously unheard of… In all seriousness, I am very lucky to have gone full-time on my writing several years ago, and so my goal is to continue doing that, churning out book after book and improving my craft all the while. It’s an incomparable feeling seeing reviews and reader reactions to my books, and that is a constant inspiration to continue with my writing and to keep improving. I’m very lucky to have got where I am with my books, and I can’t wait to see where they lead me next.

Find more from Ben Galley online:
You can find all my books and details at my website,, or you can connect with me on Twitter and YouTube (@BenGalley), or on Facebook and Instagram (@BenGalleyAuthor).

Review: Darkmage by M.L. Spencer

Darien Lauchlin has already lost everything. Now the only thing he has left to lose is his soul.

When his own brother unseals the Well of Tears, Darien is the last Sentinel left alive to defend his homeland. Now he is faced with an impossible decision: either watch everything he knows shatter—or forsake his oath of peace to become an instrument of pure destruction. Accompanied by Naia, a priestess of Death, Darien embarks on a harrowing journey to save the people of the Rhen. But will he lose his own soul in the process?

5 of 5 stars!

Darkmage starts off strong, with an intricate society and an immense level of destruction. The pacing slows down while the main characters regroup. The scope feels too broad at first. It takes awhile for all the pieces to get into position, but once they do, this book becomes nearly impossible to put down. Halfway through, I was enjoying the read, thinking, "Yes, I see why people are excited about this series." Still, I was unprepared for how excellent it would be. The intensity that commands the latter portion of the book is nearly crippling. I felt like the story took me hostage.

The Sentinels are a magical order with the purpose of preserving and protecting their homeland. When Darien becomes the last surviving Sentinel, he has to break their laws in order to fulfill their purpose during an epic war. In an effort to continue the magical legacy, he manages to find an apprentice and tries to squeeze in magic lessons amidst the growing tension of their battle plans. Darien has to make terrible decisions, over and over again. He doesn't do the honorable thing, or the ethical thing, but it's still somehow the right thing. He sacrifices so much of himself, with very little hope or indication of redemption.

The writing encompasses a careful attention to detail that speaks of the author's love of the craft. It's set in an original fantasy world with a vast history, various religions, and old adversaries. The author gives us nothing from the viewpoint of the Enemy, which adds to their ominous reputation and leaves a lot of open questions. Although the included bonus chapter from the sequel, Darklands, indicates the next book delves fully into the Enemy's side of the war. I am excited to read that, and plan to read the series prequel as well.  

I recommend this book to fantasy fans who enjoy sprawling war stories with epic magic, the challenges of a new master-apprentice experience, and tragic characters with intense emotional struggles.

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