Review: The Heroes (First Law #5) by Joe Abercrombie

The HeroesThe Heroes by Joe Abercrombie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Heroes is the fifth-book in Joe Abercrombie’s First Law World. This is an Epic Grimdark series that sucked me in from the very first book and hasn’t let go.

Best Served Cold, the fourth-book in the series, is one of my favorite books of all time and while I was excited to move forward in this world, I was also a little nervous. How could anything live up to that?

The truth is, this didn’t surpass Best Served Cold as far as my enjoyment went, but it was still a bloody brilliant story more than worthy of a 5-star rating.

At its heart, this is a story of war. The players, the action, the strategy, the outcome and the aftermath. We examine portions of each. I loved that it felt like a giant game of chess; moving players around the board, shuffling up alliances and allegiances.

The war is between the Union and the Northmen, lasting for three brutal days, that feel like many more to all involved.

There were a few shocking things that happened toward the end of this that I absolutely was not expecting. Abercromie definitely succeeded in giving me more than one solid jaw drop moment.

I’m really looking forward to continuing on in this world.

Abercrombie’s world-building is a masterclass on how to draw the Reader in. The cast of morally-grey characters is fantastic. It’s like a Grimdark Soap Opera. They’re bringing the drama, each and every installment.

I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys Epic Fantasy, particularly Grimdark fans. There’s so much delicious content here to sink your teeth into. A must read series!

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Review: Boys In the Valley by Philip Fracassi

Boys In the ValleyBoys In the Valley by Philip Fracassi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Boys In the Valley is a classic Horror story; an absolutely delightful scarefest that gripped me from the start.

In the opening scene, we meet a young boy on the night that he loses both of his parents and his home in one bloody tragedy. The violence of this scene aptly sets the tone for the entire story, tense and atmospheric.

From there, we find ourselves at St. Vincent’s Orphanage for Boys, a self-contained parochial orphanage and school set in a remote valley in Pennsylvania.

It’s the early 1900s and being in such a location makes for a dire lifestyle. The boys at the orphanage, under the careful watch of several priests, grow their own food and only ever socialize with one another.

There are occasional supply runs to a distant farm, but only one of the priests, Father Andrew, and one of the older boys, Peter, ever go. For the rest of the boys, the grounds and the orphanage make up their entire world.

On a dark and dreary night, as all the boys lie in their bunks in the dorm, they hear a disturbance below. Someone has come seeking help from the priests.

It’s a group of men, one of whom is badly injured. The injured man is raving, dangerous, he has occult symbols carved all over his body. As the priests attempt to aid him, he dies suddenly, releasing an ancient evil with his last breath.

The boys upstairs aren’t privy to these events, but as the doors to their dorm room suddenly burst open and the cross hanging sentry above their door falls to the ground, many can feel a shift in atmosphere.

Soon a few of the boys begin acting strangely. They’re suspicious and mean, bullying in ways they never attempted before. They begin forming groups and taking sides.

Peter, the oldest and golden boy of the orphanage, an aspiring priest, becomes the unofficial leader of one side, as another boy, Bartholomew, leads the dark side.

As the tension rises, so does the danger and before the innocents can even wrap their minds around it, all hell breaks loose at St. Vincent’s. It’s chaos.

Fracassi transported me with this story. I loved the historical feel and the remote setting was so well done. I felt like I was there in the dark and the cold. I literally felt cold and I read this during one of the hottest weeks of the years.

That’s a damn good story.

It scared me. There were scenes, particularly in the beginning as it begins unfolding, that got my pulse-racing. I was simultaneously horrified and delighted.

This felt like a treat to read. There are no tricks, or gimmicks. It’s just a well-told, well-plotted, well-developed, atmospheric, engaging and creepy tale. A story that could be told just as easily around a campfire, as read in the silence of your own room at night.

It’s got that epic good-versus-evil feel, but stripped down to a fluid Lord of the Flies meets The Exorcist combination.

I would absolutely recommend this to any Horror fan, particularly if you are creeped out by things like religion and kids. If you are, this will play right into your sweet spots.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor Nightfire, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I’m really excited to pick up more from this author!

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Review: Dead of Winter by Darcy Coates

Dead of WinterDead of Winter by Darcy Coates
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Dead of Winter is the perfect Summer Chiller to make your blood run cold on a hot day.

If your air conditioning isn’t keeping pace with the heat, look no further, this novel will cool you down quickly!

In this story we meet Christa as she embarks on a two-week vacation in the Rocky Mountains with her boyfriend of around six-months, Kiernan. Christa is a woman haunted by her past and this vacation is a big deal for her.

Kiernan has been such a blessing in her life and she feels like she has a little more courage with him by her side. Kiernan is from the area near the mountains they are visiting and Christa is excited to see a place that is so special to him.

As they are making their way to the remote lodge on the tour bus, along with eight other guests and their guide, inclement weather makes the conditions less than an ideal. A fallen tree blocking the road ends up stalling them further.

As the guide breaks the tree down to move it out of the way, Kiernan and Christa hike up a nearby ledge to get a private peek at the view.

In the worsening conditions, the couple get separated and the next thing Christa knows she is awakening in a cabin, groggy and injured, with Kiernan no where in sight.

As the roads became impassable, the group was forced to take shelter in a tiny rustic cabin they found not far from where the bus is stranded.

They were lucky to find Christa, but the search for Kiernan will have to be put on hold until morning. Their new quarters are tight and claustrophobic, with very minimal supplies. This is not going to be easy.

The group settles in and try to come up with a plan for escape, but they might as well be the last people on Earth. They have no means of communicating with the outside world, and even if they could get a signal out, how could rescue even get to them?

In the middle of the night, their guide goes missing. The next morning the group is shocked to find his decapitated head hanging in a tree just next to the cabin.

Fear and paranoia runs high, as each in the group realizes there may be a killer amongst them. As bodies start dropping, the suspect list grows smaller. Who will make it out of this vacation from hell alive?

Dead of Winter is a fun read. This is the second Darcy Coates book that I have read. The first was a DNF because I was bored, so this one is a huge improvement over that.

I am an atmosphere girlie first and foremost and Coates absolutely delivered in that category here. I loved the secluded location, the claustrophobic-feeling cabin and the cold, uninviting wilderness surrounding them.

I also enjoyed the unlikable cast of characters being thrust together into tight quarters. These were people who probably otherwise wouldn’t have been socializing with one another, but fate brought them together and they had no option than to try to work together.

I also enjoyed their interactions. As the tension rose and people’s paranoia started to kick in, I found how they were relating to one another really believable. I think Coates did a great job with the psychology behind it all.

For me though, in spite of the fact that it was action-packed, I did feel like it went on a little too long. There were some sections that dragged, or felt repetitive, when I was just wishing to move forward a little more quickly.

Additionally, I felt that it was pretty clear who the killer was and why, so it made certain reveals a little less impactful than I think the author was intending. I was hoping for a bit more suspense to carry me through to the end.

With this being said, I don’t necessarily need to be surprised to have fun with a story and I still enjoyed this one a lot. I thought the level of violence and body horror was perfect and as mentioned above, the secluded setting was fantastically done.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking for a chilling, intense, cold-weather Horror-Thriller story.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Poisoned Pen Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I am excited to read more from this author!

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