Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser – Fritz Leiber (Review)

Fafhrd is a huge Northern barbarian with a liking for strong wine and direct action. The Gray Mouser is more subtle, a slight, lightning-quick swordsman with some crude magical knowledge. Together, they adventure all over the place, stealing treasures, killing monsters (plus a whole bunch of normal people) and seeing strange sights. Their travels take them across vast oceans and between worlds, but tend to start or end in Lankhmar, a city of thieves and wonders, and involve various mysterious sorcerers and dancing girls.

The pair featured in short stories published over a fifty-year period starting in 1939. These stories were hugely influential, being referenced by countless later authors and forming part of the inspiration for Dungeons & Dragons (and therefore countless imitators and successors). Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser aren’t amazingly well-known now, but they’re part of the roots of the fantasy genre.

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Dungeon Born – Dakota Krout (Review)

After being brutally murdered by necromancers, Cal returns to consciousness as a dungeon core – a sentient lump of rock with the power to shape its immediate surroundings. Paired with Dani, a will-o’-the-wisp, Cal sets about stocking his dungeon with monsters and traps so that he can consume incautious adventurers and grow his power.

If the above paragraph sounds familiar to you, then thank you for being such a loyal & observant reader, and apologies for basically re-using the opening paragraph from another review. It’s not laziness though – honest – I just want to begin with the point that this book is incredibly similar to Jonathan Smidt’s Bone Dungeon. Plot point by plot point and archetype by archetype, the books follow the exact same pattern.

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The Swarm – Arthur Herzog (Review)

Everyone has heard of killer bees – a mutant strain of honeybees known for their aggression, killing and attacking humans without provocation. This book, and the film it inspired, are part of the reason for that. In reality, although killer bees are aggressive, they kill only a few people a year.

In The Swarm, two people are dead by page 6. Not content with this initial assault, the bees embark on a campaign of aggression, culminating in their (successful) occupation and pacification of New York. And these aren’t even normal killer bees – they’re a mutation on top of a mutation, with all sorts of new deadly tricks.

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The Cavern – Alister Hodge (Review)

When the opal miners heard strange tapping sounds in the tunnels, they thought it was a subterranean creature stalking them. They called it the “miners’ mother” and left offerings of blood to keep it away. Now the mines are closed, the offerings neglected and a long-dormant creature stirs hungrily in the dark.

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Dangerous Curves – Larkin Rose (Review)

Lacey is an ex-NASCAR photographer haunted by her memories of a fatal crash. Kip Sellars is a troubled NASCAR driver with a bad reputation and a death wish. The two have almost nothing in common except their mutual contempt, lust, and complimentary backstories (both involving witnessing the brutal death of a loved one in a racing accident).

When they are forced to work together to rehabilitate Sellars’ public image, Lacey and Sellars have no choice but to confront both their traumatic pasts and the undeniable attraction between them.

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The Nest – Gregory Douglas (Review)

The small fishing community on Yarkie Island leads a peaceful, picturesque existence, far from the bustle of the modern world. Simple, honest folk lead the same simple lives as the generations before them

The only part of Yarkie that isn’t picturesque is the local dump. Here, modern pesticides have created something far worse than the squabbling rats. Something organised, and hungry, and filled with hate.

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Bone Dungeon – Jonathan Smidt (Review)

After an unjust execution, Ryan returns to consciousness as a dungeon core – a sentient lump of rock with the power to shape its immediate surroundings. Paired with Erin, a celestial fairy, Ryan’s goddess-given task is to challenge adventurers, stocking his dungeon with monsters so that questing heroes can gain experience.

There are complications to this though; Ryan has a magical affinity to darkness (necromantic energy), which is not only totally opposed to Erin’s magic/morals, but also a beacon to higher-levelled evil beings who see him as an ally or a pawn. Living up to Erin’s expectations involves not using the full scope of his power, but living at all means he needs to get stronger, fast.

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