Posts Tagged ‘Matt Spencer’

The Blazing Chief by [Matt Spencer]
Cover to The Blazing Chief

Matt Spencer wraps up his Descembine Trilogy in spectacular fashion, wrapping up the trials and tribulations of Rob Coscan, Sally Wildfire, Sheldon and the rest.

The first part is a bit bloated and drags in places, with the feeling that Spencer had so much he wanted to cram into the book that I’m a little afraid to see what was left on the proverbial cutting room floor. The worldbuilding and detail is highly original, eschewing the typical fantasy standards of elves and dwarves, or their urban equivalents in ghosts and werewolves and vampires. The downside to the originality is that at times stumbles with weaving the backstory into the narrative. If a writer says “vampire” or “werewolf” or “zombie”, you’e got a pretty good idea as to what to expect. But Crimbone? Or Spirelight? It’s going to take a bit to get into it. As a result, there are a number of infodumps that come across as intrusive and overwhelming and wishing Spencer would get back to the action.

And that is where he truly shines – when he cuts loose and lets the action (and blood, and gore) flow. There’s a Robert Howard-esque feel to the violence, less of following each sword stroke and parry, and more for a visceral sense of action and motion. And yes, I’m going to admit a certain bias to that. Some of the gore and viscera at times borders on the gratuitous, as if Spencer is letting out his inner ‘80s splatterpunk self, but it fits with his barbarian type characters – grinning through a veil of blood from their foes.

Spencer also has a more clear-eyed view of his characters this time, the fact that what is viewed as typical heroic (or even superheroic) actions can well be viewed as sociopathic behavior by others, and how some people can be the shining knight and the bloodied berserker all rolled into one. As a result, some of the villains feel like they walked straight out of a death metal album given how how black and gore soaked they can get (looking at you Balthazar).

This is definitely fantasy through a dark lens, at times bleak and hopeless, but it never (in my opinion) goes full grimdark. There are still innocents in this world, and the sides aren’t exactly black on black and at most, the heroes stay a light grey throughout, even when they find themselves at odds with each other.

If you are looking for a fantasy trilogy that’s going to kick you in your teeth, then yeah, this is what you’re looking for.

You can grab a copy at Amazon.

Chapel of the Falcon

Chapel of the Falcon
By Matt Spencer
Damnation Books, LLC

I picked this one up as I thoroughly enjoy Matt Spencer’s other work, the contemporary urban fantasy Deschembine series. This is a bit different, as it follows the adventures of Frederick Hawthorne, bartender and, for lack of a better term, problem solver.

The setting of the book is the smoke of Victorian London, but Spencer doesn’t linger there, setting off for the countryside of as well. Spencer paints a vivid picture, hooking the reader and dragging them in to a myriad plot dealing with witches, pacts, and otherworldly spirits.

Hawthorne’s earthy nature grounds the story well, but my biggest complaint is that very little is revealed about the protagonist. The reader is left with little idea as to why Hawthorne gets involved, other than it’s the end of the world and he kind of lives here too. He comes across a bit as a Victorian era John Constantine, and would fit in well with that trench coat wearing, chain smoking wizard.

As a final note, CHAPEL of the FALCON is not for the squeamish or faint of heart as there is some decidedly visceral imagery played to devastating effect.

4 of 5 stars.

Trail of the BeastThe Trail of the Beast
By Matt Spencer
Damnation Books LLC

Sequels are hard. They need to live up to all the hype of the first book, continue the story, and keep the reader on the hook for the third piece. All while telling a concise story in and of itself.

While “The Night and the Land” (the first book of Matt Spencer’s Deschembine Trilogy) set up the expectation of an epic urban (for want of a better term) fantasy, “Trail of the Beast” is where he delivers. No longer are the main protagonists, Rob and Sally, figuring out their place in the world and with each other. They’ve grown comfortable with each and their lot, and perhaps a touch complacent. It’s this complacency that Spencer upends in dramatic fashion- starting with the abduction of Sally from her and Rob’s new home.

Whereas the first book had a sense of the personal, of a greater conflict encapsulated within the struggles of a few, here Spencer let’s events spiral dangerously out of control. Other players are dragged in. The status quo is dramatically changed, altered, and the very landscape is upended as a result.

Where Spencer is strongest though, continues to be the relationships, the drives, of his main characters. How their actions, especially Rob’s roaring rampage of revenge, affect the larger world is hinted at in places, but the reader doesn’t ever get a full sense of the chaos that’s going on in the world outside of a few hints. Pulling the focus off the characters a bit, going to the bigger picture for context, would probably have been useful to show that not only are Rob and Sally not in Kansas anymore, but the entire world has been irrevocably changed.

Spencer continues to excel at brutal combat situations, and he isn’t afraid to let his characters get as good as they give. The fights are brutal, and gory and reminiscent of the best of Joe Abercrombie and Matthew Stover.

Over all, I highly recommend “Trail of the Beast” to anyone who enjoys a vicious revenge tale, urban fantasy, and stories where another world lurks just underneath the surface of what they can see.

5 out of 5 stars.

I posted a review originally on Amazon for Matt Spencer’s The Night and the Land.

Consider this the extended version.

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