Category Archives: Joshua P. Simon

Enter The City of Pillars

City of Pillars 1000x1600The City of Pillars
Joshua P. Simon
Paperback $11.99
ebook $2.99

I’d like to thank Joshua P. Simon for the review copy of The City of Pillars as well as his patience. I should have read the book and gotten the review up sooner.

The City of Pillars is the second volume of The Epic of Andrasta and Rondel.  You can read the review of the first volume, The Cult of Sutek, here.

The story takes place not long after the events of the previous book, approximately a year later if my memory isn’t failing me.  It opens with the pair trying to steal a flute from a museum.  Things don’t go well at all.  Instead of the flute, they’re set up and wanted for a number of killings they aren’t guilty of. Continue reading

Introducing Andrasta and Rondel

Cult of SutekThe Cult of Sutek: The Epic of Andrasta and Rondel vol.1
Joshua P. Simon
ebook $2.99 (free on Smashwords as of this writing)
paper $11.99

Joshua P. Simon has proven himself to be a consistent writer of solid, character driven fantasy adventure. His Blood and Tears Trilogy (reviewed here, here, here, and here, interviewed here) was one of my favorite epic fantasy series of the last few years.

Now he’s turned his hand to a story that’s smaller in scope and more personal in nature, the sword and sorcery series he’s calling The Epic of Adnrasta and Rondel.

Andrasta is a woman from a distant country, a warrior who is out to steal a jewel in the Tower of Bashan. Rondel is a minstrel who got caught in the wrong bedroom. They meet in a dungeon when Andrasta is thrown in Rondel’s cell. Of course they escape, and shortly thereafter rescue a young woman named Dendera who turns out to be the daughter of a king. Since Rondel knew the king from his minstrel days, they return her home, hoping for a reward to finance their jewel heist.

Unfortunately, the Cult of Sutek is staging a comeback. They believe in human sacrifice and practice cannibalism. Not the sort of folks you want moving in down the block. Continue reading

The Rest of the Summer

Just a quick note to let you know what I’ve got on my plate leading up to Worldcon. 

Speaking of Worldcon, I’m going to read at least some of the short fiction nominees, as many as time will allow, and give my thoughts.  I don’t think I’m going to try to read all the novels.  The publisher of two of them put a security code of the ebooks that went out in the Hugo voters’ packet.  I don’t appreciate what that implies.  I’m not going to upload the books to a file sharing site.  I’m not a crook, nor do I care to be treated as though I were.  Therefore, I won’t be reading (or voting for) Blackout by Mira Grant or 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson.  I do have some comments to make about this year’s nominees in general.

The Gemmell Awards are a bit later than usual this year to coincide with the World Fantasy Convention.  My review copy of Winter Be My Shield by Jo Spurrier arrived the other day.  It’s on the long ballot for the Morningstar Award.  I’m looking forward to reading it.  I’ll post the review on the Gemmell Awards site and a notice here when it goes live.  After the awards are given out, I’ll post the review here.

I’ve got a number of titles from Pyr.  The ones I intend to review in July are The Doctor and the Kid by Mike Resnick, Kindred and Wings by Phillipa Ballentine, and Wrath-Bearing Tree by James Enge.  Then there’s The Scroll of Years by Chris Willrich and The Doctor and the Rough Rider by Mike Resnick.  Those I probably won’t get to until August.

I’ve had a copy of the conclusion of Joshua P. Simon’s Blood and Tears Trilogy, Trial and Glory on my ereader for far too long.  It’s going to be reviewed within the next four to six weeks. 

I don’t know what order I’m going to read them.  It will depend on my mood and what I feel like reading.  I’m also going to throw in a bit of shorter works, both here and over at Futures Past and Present.  There are also a couple of other novels I’d like to read by the end of the summer.  And somewhere in there, I’ll be reading things for my column at Amazing Stories (TM). 

What I’ve Been Up to at My Other Blogging Gig

I thought I’d list the posts I’ve done over at the Amazing Stories (TM) blog.  I’ll probably do this every month or two in case something I’ve done there catches your eye.

I started out with “Opening Salvo” and “What I Mean When I Say“, both of which were intended to set the tone and the focus.  The former states I’ll be reviewing indie published and small press books, while the latter defined what I mean by terms like “indie published” and “self published”.

Then I started in on reviews.  The first, “Five Military SF Novellas by Five Authors” was a review of a project Kevin J. Anderson put together, Five by Five.  I followed it up by a review of Space Eldritch, “Dead Cosmonauts and Other Eldritch Horrors.”

Frogs in Aspic, Like a Box of Chocolates” was a review of the short story collection, Frogs in Aspic by Keith P. Graham.  Graham was an author I’d not read before this book.  I looked at a sword and sorcery novel next, Morticai’s Luck, in “Swashbuckling with Morticai“.

The two most recent posts both concerned Joshua P. Simon, whose work I’ve reviewed on this site, here and here.  “Three Military Fantasy Shorts” examined three shorter works that fill in some of the backstory in Simon’s Blood and Tears Trilogy.  Then, I followed the review up this week with “An Interview with Indie Author Joshua P. Simon“, which is just what it says it is.  I ask Mr. Simon a number of questions involving his work, how he got started writing, and what it’s like to be an indie author.

I’m tending to focus more on science fiction, since Amazing Stories started out as a science fiction magazine, but as you can see, I’ve included a number of fantasies. 

Check out what’s going on at Amazing Stories.  There’s a lot of great content being put up every day, and I’m not saying that because my name is on some of it.  I’ve gotten behind, so when spring break rolls around in a couple of weeks, I’m going to be playing catch-up.

Steel and Sorrow Delivers

Steel and Sorrow:  Book Two of the Blood and Tears Trilogy
Joshua P. Simon
Trade Paper, $14.95
ebook $3.99 Kindle Nook Smashwords

Joshua P. Simon set himself a high standard with his premier novel, Rise and Fall (reviewed here).  He maintains that high standard in his second novel.

I’m going to avoid giving too many details about the story so that I don’t give away either of the twists at the end of the previous book.  (They were great twists, too.)  The story takes place the next year.  The civil war in Cadonia continues, with rebel nobles trying to wrest the throne from Queen Elyse.  The Hell Patrol and a few loyal nobles are all that stand between her and the traitors, but the mercenaries have their own wounds to deal with, not all of them physical.  On the continent of Hesh, Tobin continues his war of conquest, unaware that a beautiful snake shares his bed.

There’s plenty of intrigue and and betrayal.  The battle scenes, and there are several, are complex and exciting.  Simon has his soldiers do more than use their swords.  The Hell Patrol fights with their brains as much as they do with their bodies.  You can smell the blood, hear the screams, and taste the fear.

I appreciate the addition of maps.  It helped visualize the geography, which I had gotten wrong on a number of points.  The cover art continues to be stark and effective.

The characters grow more complex, and if you’ve read the first book, you know Simon won’t hesitate to kill off major characters, and not always on the battlefield.  This adds a level of suspense you don’t always find in this type of novel.  Their relationships avoid many of the cliches you find in some fantasy novels.  I don’t remember character names well, and I usually have to reacquaint myself with who’s who when I read the second volume of a series, and sometimes when I read the third and fourth.  The characters are individuals here, and I had to do very little of that.

Second volumes of trilogies have the reputation of often being filler between the setup in the first volume and the conclusion in the third.  That’s not the case here.  There is a definite story arc that spans the trilogy, but there are plot lines in this book that are wrapped up nicely.  There are still plenty of unanswered questions, though.  Such as where is Lord Illyan getting his information and why won’t he reveal his source to Elyse?  (I have no idea.)  What was Arine trying to tell Elyse about what was happening at home during the final battle?  (I suspect Gauge has staged a coup, but I could be wrong.  He is my favorite suspect for having sent…never mind.)  And I think Krytien will turn out to be the most powerful mage in years.  I better stop speculating.  Don’t want to give something away unintentionally.

I will say this.  I like this series.  I like it a lot.  Joshua Simon writes solid military fantasy.  If you like the Black Company, you should check it out.  Steel and Sorrow is a featured book at Adventures Fantastic Books.


Well another page on the calendar had turned, and I’m more behind than ever.  Some things never change.  Here’s what I’ve got on the plate for October.  First, sometime tomorrow, I’ll announce the winner of the James Enge book giveaway.  I’ve got a dentist appointment in the morning along with my son, followed by a three hour class, so it might be later in the day before that announcement goes up.

The next novel on the agenda is Steel and Sorrow by Joshua P. Simon.  I’ll probably start it sometime this weekend.  I’ll refrain from saying what novel is after that; I’m going to play it by ear.  I’ve got several I’m going to read this month, but I haven’t decided on the final order.

There are a couple of items that are seasonal in nature that I want to sprinkle in the mix, so I’m not going to lock myself down to any particular sequence.

One thing I am going to read a great deal of over the next few months is short fiction.  In the next week, I want to review the premier issue of Nightmare magazine (I’m about a third of the way through now, and it’s great), the new fiction being posted on Black Gate, the anniversary double sized issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies (it’s not live as of this writing, but I have a subscription and have already downloaded it), plus the inaugural stories in Eclipse Online.  Jonathan Strahan was kind enough to send me advance copies of the first two stories, and I’ll be reading those over the next day or two.  Plus I have a number of anthologies and single author collections sitting on the shelves I’ve been wanting to finish.

That’s plenty to keep me busy.

What’s Next

I’ve got almost all of the stuff out of the old house we didn’t have time to pack before we moved.  One more night (~1.5 hrs) should get the rest of it.  Then maybe I can get back to reading, writing, and blogging.  I’ve been reading a novel by Scott Fitzgerald Gray for about a week and a half, which is a long time for this novel.  It’s good, and I’m really enjoying it.  It’s just that I haven’t had much time to read lately, and when I do, my aging body betrays me by going to sleep in spite of my best efforts to finish one more chapter. 

I’m hoping to make it to Fencon this weekend.  It was looking like a done deal, but some things have come up.  I think I’ll still make it.  I really need the break.

Afterwards, I’ve got a novel to read that’s been sitting in the queue for way too long , followed by A Guile of Dragons by James Enge.  This one will have a giveaway associated with it.  After that, although not necessarily this order will be Hard Times in Dragon City by Matt Forbeck, Steel and Sorrow by Joshua P. Simon, and The Black God’s War by Moses Siregar III.  I’ll also be weaving some anthologies and periodicals in the mix as well as a small backlog of titles from Angry Robot that I wasn’t able to read when I intended because of the move. 

All of this is tentative of course, but that’s the general plan.

Rise and Fall Heralds the Rise of a Great New Fantasy Trilogy

Rise and Fall:  Book One of the Blood and Tears Trilogy
Joshua P. Simon
Paperback $14.95
various ebook formats $2.99: Amazon  B&N Smashwords

Seeing as how he’s only published one novel and a few pieces of short fiction, it would be understandable if the name “Joshua P. Simon” were unfamiliar to you.  But if you’re smart, you’ll make note of it and remember it.  If you’re smarter, you’ll buy and read Rise and Fall.

In his author bio, Mr. Simon includes among his influences Robert E. Howard and Glen Cook’s Black Company.  Howard is one of my favorite authors, and the Black Company one of my favorite series.  By divulging this information, Mr. Simon set the bar of my expectations high.  Very high.  The question is, did he meet them?

The answer is “Yes, yes he did.”  While the influences of Howard and Cook are clearly seen by anyone familiar with the work of these gentlemen, Simon hasn’t simply imitated.  He’s taken their influence and made something his own.

The story opens with a mage wigging out and killing vast numbers of people.  Actually, this precedes the opening, which is when a group of mages arrive to deal with him.  The evil mage, Nareash, has acquired a lost artifact, Sacrymon’s Sceptor.  The sceptor increases his power, but it also seems to have made him more evil than he already was.  During the course of the battle, all of the mages are killed along with the king, who had been under Nareash’s control.

There are three principle characters in this novel.   Elyse is the princess who ascends to the throne after the death of her father.  Barely more than a girl herself, she is ill prepared for ruling, to say the least.  Yet she has no choice.  It’s time to grow up, and growing up won’t be easy, especially when several nobles decide to make a play for the kingdom.

Her older brother Jonrell ran away from home twelve years before to escape his father and joined the Hell Patrol, a notorious band of mercenaries.  Now he’s their commander.  After learning of the death of his father, he’s coming home.  And he’s bringing his mercenaries with him.

Tobin is the second son of the chieftain of the Blue Island Clan.  Hated by his brother Kaz, who was appointed Warleader by their father, Tobin is the laughing stock of the elite warriors, the Kifzo.  All he wants is to be accepted by his father.  (Most of the main characters in this novel have father issues.)  His fortunes begin to change when he rescues the shaman Nachun during a raid on a village.

The strength and power of this novel come from the way Simon handles the characters.  In addition to Jonrell, Elyse, Tobin, and Kaz, there are a number of secondary character whose viewpoints the reader gets to see.  Each of them is a real character, with good and bad traits.  The four characters I named in the previous sentence get most of the character development, and develop they do.  They all grow and change.  None of them are remotely the people they started out to be.

While Simon puts his characters through the fire, he doesn’t do it just to see how much pain he can cause them.  They experience joy as well as sorrow.  While pretty dark at times, this isn’t a novel of nihilism.  Instead I found it pretty balanced.

Much of the way Simon develops his characters is through their words.  There’s a difference between writing dialogue that reads like dialogue in a book and writing dialogue that reads like real people talking.  Joshua P. Simon writes the latter.  It’s what brings the characters to life and fleshes them out in this story.

But don’t think that all this book deals with is talking and relationships.  There’s plenty of action, from one-on-one conflicts to epic battles, with sieges and assassination attempts scattered about for good measure along with more than a dash of intrigue.  The supporting cast of the Hell Patrol get their moments, and each of them also changes and grows, most in good ways but some in not so good.  The pace of the battles, particularly as the book progresses is where the Howard influence shows the strongest. I’m glad one night I put the book down before one of the major battle scenes and forced myself to go to bed.  If I hadn’t, I would have been up way to late and then probably been too excited to sleep.

Not all of the characters come together before the end.  There are ultimately two main story arcs that will converge later in the trilogy, although one intersects the other in a way that completely surprised me.  Both arcs end with a twist.  And the twist contained in the final two sentences of the book?  Nicely done, Mr. Simon, nicely done.

A couple of other things I’d like to mention.  First, while I doubt this book was written with the intention of being a YA novel, I would have no problem giving it to someone in the YA or middle grade range, at least not on the grounds of content.  It might be a bit long for some younger readers.  The graphic sex and profanity that make some novels and series unsuitable for younger readers is missing, something I found refreshing after the previous book I read.  If you know a young reader whom you’d like to introduce to epic fantasy, this would be a great place to start.

The second thing that favorably impressed me was the role religion played in the book.  It was an integral part of the lives of many characters, especially Elyse.  The role of religion in pseudomedieval fantasy cultures was mentioned in a post by Theo over on Black Gate the other day as part of a discussion of historical authenticity in fantasy.  Theo has mentioned (more times than I’m willing to look up the links tonight) that one area that tends to get short shrift in modern fantasy is the role religion played in medieval times, objecting to the way it tends to be ignored.  I think he would approve of the way it’s portrayed here.

The only complaint I have was that there was no map.  I would have liked to have seen where Tobin’s home was in relation to Elyse’s.  I’m not sure the  lack of a map wasn’t intentional.  There are strong hints in places that Tobin and Elyse are separated in time as well as in space.  If that’s the case, it has some interesting implications.  I could be wrong.  Nachun says, in the scene in which he – no, I can’t go there.  It would spoil one of the major surprises.

Anyway, I expected I would enjoy this book when Mr. Simon asked if I would like a review copy, otherwise I would have declined to review it.  I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did.  This has been one of the better books I’ve read over the last couple of months.  It’s another indie published book with fine production values: good cover art and copy, well formatted, interesting story.

Oh, and I lied.  There is one other complaint I have.  The second volume won’t be out for a few more months.  Check this one out.  You’ll be glad you did.

The Next Week or So

I’m getting over a sinus infection at the moment, something that isn’t helped by the dust and the wind here on the South Plains.  Unless something major happens tomorrow, I probably won’t be posting anything new until Sunday night or more probably Monday evening.  I’ll be attending ConDFW this weekend and will give a full report when I get back.  I’m also reading Mark Finn‘s updated biography of Robert E. Howard, Blood and Thunder, and Matt Forbeck‘s Carpathia.  They’re both great reads, and I’ll review them next week.  I had hoped to finish one of them in time to write a review before the con, but being sick has slowed me down some.

In the meantime, this Saturday will see the first guest post here.  Author Ty Johnston is doing a blog tour to promote his new book, Demon Chains, the latest in his Kron Darkbow series.  I’d like to thank Ty in advance for his column.  I’ve read it, and it’s good.  Check it out.  And if you haven’t read any of his books, start with City of Rogues, which I reviewed a few months ago.

Coming up after the report on ConDFW, I’ve got commitments to review (not necessarily in this order) Shadow’s Master by Jon SprunkThief’s Covenant by Ari Marmell, The Alchemist of Souls by Anne Lyle, Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig, Trang by Mary Sisson, and Rise and Fall by Joshua P. Simon.  I’ll probably look at some short fiction in the midst of all that, plus the occasional essay.