Skein of Shadows by Marsheila Rockwell

Sabira is celebrating her Badge Day, when the party is interrupted by news of an important discovery in the expedition to Tarath Marad. However, the news is not all good. Tilde, sister to Sabira’s old flame, Ned, is missing. Sabira is designated as the leader of the rescue mission and sets off to meet her drow guide. But when a dragon attacks her wagons, and her guide acts as if he’s got something to hide, Sabira begins to wonder what she’s gotten herself into.

Skein of Shadows is the sequel to The Shard Axe. Set in Wizards of the Coast’s world of Eberron, it continues the tale of Sentinel Marshal Sabira Lyet d’Deneith, a.k.a “The Shard Axe”.  A name she acquired for the  dragonshard urgrosh she wields with deadly efficiency.  Skein of Shadows takes place about two months after the events of The Shard Axe.

The opening sequence of the book really sets the hook.  Marsheila completely immerses  the reader in the setting and you do not feel like a passive bystander but an active participant in the story.  I could feel the claustrophobic caverns, hear the clash of battle, and most of all, sense the mounting tension of Sabira’s task and the potential large scale repercussions it could have.

We meet up with some familiar faces from the previous book; Elix and Aggar, and some new ones, the most interesting of which is Tilde, Elix’s cousin, and also her deceased partner Ned’s sister.  Tilde and Sabira share more than just a cousin/lover, they share part of a Prophecy that could spell doom  for all of Eberron.

We get to see Sabira move out of her comfort zone a bit.  As a Sentinel Marshal she is used to working alone but this time she is in charge of a group.  The mantle of leadership weighs heavy on her as she is forced to deal with loss during the book.  It was interesting to see how much she cared for the welfare of her group, including the warforged.

I love Marsheila’s writing style.  It is descriptive, painting a vivid picture for the reader, and the prose is tight, with no wasted words.  Each and every word carries the plot forward with maximum efficiency.  No fluff or filler found here folks.   Here is an example of probably the most beautiful battle sequence I have ever read.

“Greddark’s blade flamed, casting hellish shadows as the cavern  walls echoed with the music of battle; the high, ringing tones of steel on steel melding with the lower, more brutal notes of steel on flesh.”

It is not a long sequence in terms of word count but the visual it gives the reader will stay long after the book is finished.  I not only saw the battle but I felt it.

I really like the cover art and I think it is one of the best to date because not only is it a stunning piece of artwork, but it also  captures Sabira’s mood perfectly. She looks pensive, pondering her duty, her loss, and the daunting task ahead.  I did not see the full color cover until after I read the book, but after seeing the color edition I see how well the cover really sets the tone of the book.

Skein of Shadows is The Empire Strikes Back of Eberron.  It starts with a bang and ends with a nuclear explosion.  The force of which will be felt throughout all of Eberron.  Marsheila shows that she has the chops to compete with the best fantasy authors out there and I can’t wait to read more of her work.  Whether you are a veteran of Eberron or just looking for a book you won’t want to put down, read Skein of Shadows, you won’t be disappointed.

This is the first book in the Eberron setting that is centered around the drow.  This coincides with Wizards of the Coast’s new Rise of the Underdark and the new expansion of Dungeons and Dragons Online.

Skein of Shadows will be available in ebook July 3, 2012 from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

This review was of an electronic review copy from NetGalley.

C.S. Friedman’s Coldfire Trilogy Now Available on

If I had to pick one fantasy series as my favorite (and boy would that be hard), it would be C.S. Friedman’s Coldfire Trilogy.  With the exception of the Lord of the Rings, the Coldfire Trilogy is my most read series and the primary criterion I use for all fantasy.  The Coldfire Trilogy is made up of Black Sun Rising, When True Night Falls, and Crown of Shadows, and they are now available in unabridged audio from

The Rose of Sarifal by Paulina Claiborne

Cloaked in mist and layered in magic, the denizens of Moonshae Isles move in secret
circles as capricious rulers vie for power.
High Lady Ordalf wanted her niece, the princess known as the Rose of Sarifal, dead. Instead, the young regent was secreted away by the high lady’s opponents. For years the eladrin queen of Gwynneth Isle has searched for evidence of her niece’s death, and word has finally come in the form of a castaway’s tale. The princess lives on the island of Moray—a mad beauty who leads a nation of lycanthropes.
As long as her niece is alive, Lady Ordalf cannot rest secure in her claim to the throne. Enlisting a band of adventurers to seek out the princess is the
first step toward stemming the Rose of Sarifal and her tide of wolves. Will those heroes see the same threat the queen sees in the beautiful young maiden?

I was anxiously awaiting the release of The Rose of Sarifal because it was set in my favorite place in the Realms, the Moonshea Isles.  The Moonshea Trilogy by Douglas Niles (Darkwalker on Moonshea, Black Wizards, and Darkwell) was the one of the first series written in the Forgotten Realms.  Longtime realms readers will recognize names and places from the previous series but will see that some things do not stand the test of time.

Ms. Claiborne gave a unique voice to the realms with The Rose of Sarifal.  It was dark and gritty, and fans of Joe Abercrombie will like this book, with bloody battles, torture, but at the same time some very heart warming and touching scenes.  The characters are not necessarily dark and flawed; many are simple on hard times and looking to make a better way for themselves.

The driving force behind the group is Lukas, the captain of the Sphinx.  All look to him as their leader and follow him (for the most part) without question.  There are a mix of races in the group; human, gnome, elven, shape-shifter, and genasi.  One of the things I like most about this diverse mix was the way they were portrayed.  Their different ideologies and mannerisms were well written into the story.  I especially liked how the genasi was portrayed in an almost alien fashion.  Another unique aspect to the book was how the leShay and the gods were treated.  The leShay are so long lived that one cannot begin to understand their actions and Ms. Claiborne works this well into the storyline.  A few times I was left scratching my head as to why one of the leShay acted in a certain manner, but after looking back through the book it made sense.  Again it added to the alien feel of the race.  The godss Chauntea and Araushnee were portrayed in a much different manner than I have seen in the past.  This was one parts of the book that did not make sense to me, but I think when taken in a Greek context, one could see that the gods are capricious and their ways are not to be understood by mortals.  Again, this was one of the parts of the story that did not work for me.  I would have liked to see their goals explained a little more clearly.

The group is separated early in the book and from there we get to know the characters better.  We discover more of their backstory and how they came to be aboard the Sphinx.  I especially liked the parts dealing with the Savage, the elf.  Long time readers of the Forgotten Realms will notice some pre-Spellplague references.  There are some excellent characterization and dialogue in these sections and which are some of the crowning achievements of the book.

Ms Claiborne’s prose is magnificent and her descriptions were quite vivid. Here is one of my favorite examples, “The drow were beautiful, elves of the black night, eladrin of the shadows.”

I was not pleased with the ending, it did not feel rushed so much as incomplete.  It was abrupt and gave no sense of closure.  I wonder if there was more of the story to tell but due to space constraints had to be left on the cutting room floor.

I enjoyed this book but I do not recommend it for readers new to the Forgotten Realms.  There is quite a bit of history (Moonshea geography, past royalty, and deities) referenced throughout the book that, in my opinion, are critical to the story.  Readers more familiar with the Forgotten Realms may enjoy the book more.  If you are looking for a different kind of Realms book, give this one a try.

Just Keep Weaving by Elaine Cunningham

Just Keep Weaving is a wonderfully eclectic collection of short  fiction from Elaine Cunningham.  The 12 stories range from Arthurian legend, to Adam’s first wife Lilith, to    a nautical ghost story.  There is something for everyone between these pages and the only difficulty that I had was choosing which one I enjoyed the most.  Many of these stories have appeared in various anthologies and Elaine’s website.

Many of the stories had a rather dark tone to them, which I really enjoy.  Elaine is able to convey many complex emotions in few words.

Here are the stories and a brief opinion of each.

Trophy Wife – Lilith, Adam’s first wife, is still plying her trade and taking her revenge on the son’s of Adam, this time as a divorce lawyer.

Ravens – I enjoyed this story because the character reminded me of John Connolly’s Charlie Parker.  Sometimes the bad in you brings out more than just the bad in others.

Dead Men Tell No Tales – This was an interesting pirate themed ghost story with a nice twist.  There was a sense of tension that built throughout the story.

Lorelei – This was one of my favorites.  A very dark tale about war, leadership, and temptation.

Knight of the Lake – The first of two Arthurian tales in this collection.  I enjoyed the crossover of Arthurian lore and the realm of Fairy and how Lancelot began his training.

Hidden Blades – The second of the Arthurian tales, told from Gwenhwyfar’s point of view and introduces the Lady of Shalott.

Burning Bright – While this story was not my favorite it had the most unique point of view, from a cat.

Jack and Jill – An interesting piece of murder mystery flash fiction that gives an interesting twist to the original nursery rhyme.

Maintenance – Another piece of flash fiction that suggests that youthful looks is not always a blessing.

Juniper – Another of my favorites primary because it deals with elves, but the elves in this story are much darker.

The Princess and the Psotnik – A psotnik is an elf or “mischief maker” in Polish folklore.  I would love to read more about the characters in this story.  I think it would make a great full length novel or at least a novella.

She Who Is Becoming – This story combines Celtic and Nordic myths and asks the question, “what do we decide, and what is decided for us”.

I highly recommend this collection, especially to readers of Elaine’s previous works.  I loved the varied themes and I want to track down the various anthologies that many of these stories were originally from.