Tag Archive | "historical-fantasy"

Gaslight Arcanum: Uncanny Tales of Sherlock Holmes Review

Posted on September 9, 2011 by

I have been a Sherlock Holmes fan for as long as I have been able to read. I have over a dozen books devoted to the Great Detective, and I have spent more than a year working on a series of essays examining the original stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. So it’s no surprise that Flames Rising asked me if I wanted to review a (nearly) all-new anthology of “uncanny tales” featuring Sherlock Holmes. It’s even less of a surprise that I accepted.

In my collection of books, I own a couple of anthologies that take different directions for Sherlock Holmes – one of science-fiction stories, and one combining Sherlock Holmes and the Cthulhu Mythos – so in reading this, I tried to put aside my “slavish fanboy” hat and read them with an eye towards different takes on the Great Detective. In such anthologies, I personally look for two elements: fidelity to the core of the characters and elements of the Holmes canon, and novelty to present a new take or slant on familiar faces. How does this new anthology hold up?


Chronica Feudalis RPG Review

Posted on March 26, 2010 by

The Introduction – or “Translator’s Foreword” – sets the scene magnificently. This is not, we are told, a modern game of mediaeval times but a role-playing game written in mediaeval times by some monks seeking a pastime, an imaginative entertainment. This delightful conceit is continued throughout the entire book, complete with mediaeval-style illustration.

The first chapter, Imagine, describes what the game is about. Beginning with a series of pen-pictures describing dramatic scenes from mediaeval life, the author explains how a group of young monks play a game of ‘Imaginings’ wherein they pretend to be other people: a brave knight or a cunning thief, perhaps.


Wizard’s First Rule Review

Posted on January 19, 2009 by

It is a story of Richard Cypher, a woodsman in a village of the Westland. To him magic was a myth or a legend and he never thought of it more than an afterthought. Then he stumbled across a woman dressed in white named Kahlan and everything in his world changed instantly. He finds out he is the Seeker of legend and he must cross the boundry to fight the evil Darken Rahl.

The good and bad thing about fantasy is that there is a very true formula for how the story is written. It is good because when someone that can truly write gets a hold of it, it can be a magical thing indeed. It is bad because of how predictiable the story can be sometimes. This book had both the good and bad of that equation.

Review by Stacey Chancellor


Arcanum Imperii: A Script for Cthulhu Live 3rd Edition

Posted on January 3, 2009 by

Arcanum Imperii is a Cthulhu Live 3rd Edition script set in ancient Rome designed for a dozen or more players that includes introduction, timeline, prop, and costume information and character stats and bios for more than 30 characters. This download comes with three different variants of the game script — color, black-and-white, and background-free — and each of these comes in low-resolution screen-friendly and high-resolution printer-friendly versions.

Arcanum Imperii is available at the Flames Rising RPGNow Shop.


In the Service of Samurai Fiction Review

Posted on December 10, 2008 by

I’m frankly a sucker for many things — ghost stories and samurai films among them. On discovering the book In the Service of Samurai by Gloria Oliver, I was pleased to discover that two of my passions had been rolled into one package.

In the Service of Samuari tells the story of a young apprentice mapmaker, Chizuson Toshiro or “Toshi,” who is purchased from his master to act as navigator for a strange samurai with an even stranger ship and crew. Cursed and betrayed in life, the undead Samurai and his ghostly men must wander the sea until they have completed their mission. In the end, only Toshi’s wits and determination can help them see it through. The tension of the story grows as Toshi learns to accept his situation.


Epic Role Playing Game Manual Review

Posted on December 9, 2008 by

Holy hell, what a game.

A couple years ago, the folks at Dark Matter Studios released an RPG called Epic Role-Playing. It was a game I enjoyed, found very well-crafted for a first attempt, and ended up giving a generally positive review to. However, one of the complaints I (and several other reviewers) noted was that Epic was too segmented. The original Epic came in 4 parts—the Rules Manual, Bestiary, Book of the Arcane, and Atlas of Eslin (the default setting for Epic, which also listed many of the guilds/profession available). This compartmentalization was likely a big turn-off to many who otherwise may have given the game a try.

Review by Zach Houghton


Random Esoteric Creature Generator Review

Posted on November 26, 2008 by

One of the challenges of any fantasy role-playing game is coming up with new, unpredictable and fearsome foes to tangle with your heroes.

“The Random Esoteric Creature Generator” by Goodman Games is sub-titled “For Classic Fantasy Games and their Modern Simulacra.” Simply put, it’s a monster-maker for d20 and similar fantasy
role-playing games.

The 31-page .PDF document is filled with random roll charts to help you design bizarre and unique creatures, giving you everything from size and body shape to special attacks and defenses.

Review by Michael Erb


Ysabel Fiction Review

Posted on November 20, 2008 by

I first came across Kay about three years ago when someone from out sci-fi/fantasy book club chose one of his books. Tigana. It was such a rich and beautiful book that I immediately went out and read the Fionavar Tapestry (a three book trilogy) and really liked it as well. So, I have been waiting for this to come in trade peperback for a while and finally bought it recently.

The story revolved around a fifteen year old boy named Ned. He is from Canada and the son of a famous photographer. They are in France, and on site at Aix-en-Provence’s Saint-Saveur Cathedral.

Review by Stacey Chancellor


The Lies of Locke Lamora Review

Posted on November 17, 2008 by

The one word that comes to mind when I talk about this novel is Revenge. It was with a capital R since it was such a strong part of this read. Almost every plot line could be brought back to this one basic principal. You mess with me or mine and you will pay. It may be tomorrow or even 20 years from now…but it will happen.

Locke is a fun character. I have to admit I love the smart ass characters that even in the face of danger, are still talking a serious amount of trash. It isn’t the smartest plan to say the least, but I do understand it being a smartass myself. But beyond that he is really a well written character. He is in charge of a group of thieves that he has known since he was a child called the Gentlemen Bastards.

Review by Stacey Chancellor


Steampunk Musha RPG Review

Posted on November 12, 2008 by

The good folks at Precis Intermedia have kept their quality streak alive with the release of Steampunk Musha, a “Victoriental Adventures” setting for Iron Gauntlets. It’s nice to see such an excellent gaming system as IG getting plenty of love and support; despite its relatively small size, PIG is providing as much and more support material for Iron Gauntlets than some companies 3-4 times its size are doing for their lines. Steampunk Musha is a good indicator of the high quality of these releases.

My review copy was a pdf, some 122 pages in length. SM (as we will periodically refer to Steampunk Musha) was created by Rick Hershey, with Brett Bernstein and Alana Abbott, and the overall design of the book is one of clarity and ease of reading.

Review by Zachary Houghton


The Random Esoteric Creature Generator Review

Posted on October 17, 2008 by

Our author begins his book by informing us that table-top RPGs are at a crossroads. They are at a point in time where they must make a choice between a new system, something revolutionary and different, and the power of nostalgia, classic systems and tradition on the other. This is an easy assumption to make, casting your eyes about to the RPG market and seeing the 4E update and change in D&D in what seems, especially to outsiders, as very dramatic ways. It is from this premise our author builds his book. I would claim this is his thesis statement; the foundation of the argument for the book. Unfortunately, it couldn’t be more wrong.

Review by Vincent Venturella


The Name of the Wind Fiction Review

Posted on September 22, 2008 by

The name of the Wind is the first book in the Kingkiller Chronicles. The story revolves around an owner of a backwoods tavern named Kote. He is a man previously known as Kvothe, and for the most part he just wants to be left alone. Yet, Kvothe is a man of mystery and legend. A man that if some people knew where he was, would be killed. A man that has does extraordinary things. A man tracks him down and for the first time, Kvothe is willing to have his story told.

This is one of the better fantasy novels I have ever read and definitely the best I have read in quite some time. I can barely believe this is his first novel, since some people can go years and never write something this well. From the moment it started I was hooked into the story and the he told it. I am normally not a huge fan of stories told in first person, but this was masterfully done.

Review by Stacey Chancellor


The Gypsy Morph Fiction Review (Genesis of Shannara)

Posted on September 3, 2008 by

This is the final book of the Genesis of Shannara trilogy. Since I am a huge fan of the Shannara books, I will try to be as unbiased as possible. Although I doubt I can. Things have come to a head in the world.

Angel Perez, a Knight of the Word, lies wounded and recovering from her battle with a ferocious demon. Kirisin and Simralin (elf brother and sister) make the difficult decision to leave Angel to heal and take the Elfstones and Loden stone back to the elvish city of Arborlon.

Also a demon army has approached the elvish city and is on the verge of attacking it. Findo Gas, the highest ranking demon leads this army and he is determined to crush them.
Review by Stacey Chancellor


Jeff VanderMeer “Steampunk” Interview

Posted on July 18, 2008 by

So, what is “steampunk”?

“Cool stuff, rich language, invented – reinvented — science,” says James Blaylock, a pioneer of steampunk and author of the novel, Lord Kevlin’s Machine. “Steampunk [a sub-genre of science fiction] offers a great deal of what is most flamboyantly, eccentrically, visually, and adventurously interesting about the Victorian era and its curious scientific hopes and speculations.”

The recently-released anthology Steampunk, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, clatters and clinks with gadgets, airships, and forty-foot tall steam-powered men. The thirteen stories and novel excerpts contained in this collection are enhanced by a preface, an introduction, and two essays.

The editors themselves are no strangers to strange fiction. Ann VanderMeer is an editor for Weird Tales and Jeff VanderMeer is the World Fantasy Award-winning author of Shriek: an Afterword as well as a collection of linked stories, City of Saints and Madmen, both set in the imaginary world of Ambergris.

Interview by Jeremy Jones


Cursed Empire RPG Review

Posted on July 11, 2008 by

This is a review of the second edition of the game with the name altered from Crimson Empire, which the earlier edition was titled, due to a dispute with Lucasarts. Cursed Empire is a small, independent press game written by Chris Loizou and presented enthusiastically and comprehensively at many UK conventions. This is a weighty book and obviously a labour of love for the creator whose enthusiasm for the game is obvious and infectious. This makes me feel bad about criticizing the game given that it’s such an obvious and singular labour of love, but there are significant problems with it.

Review by James ‘Grim’ Desborough


Complete Chronicles of Conan Review

Posted on March 19, 2008 by

This is it, all your Conan stories all in one spot accompanied by an able and long article on the author, a nice long introduction to the world of Hyboria and a smattering of black and white art – both endpieces and plates – to bring some of the old feel of the mystery magazines back in. This is what it says on the tin, a full on compilation of everything Conan behind a nice looking inlaid cover.

Review by James ‘Grim’ Desborough


Lies of Locke Lamora & Red Seas Under Red Skies Fiction Review

Posted on March 12, 2008 by

These two novels of what will likely be a septology (or more, I believe there’s a prequel coming) of novels by Scott Lynch are a sort of Renaissance fantasy world with more than a passing nod to the Venetian merchant princes of history and the ensemble cast crime movies of the modern age. I would call it ‘Oceans 11, with Wizards’ but that wouldn’t be entirely fair since, while there is magic, it’s rather low key magic for the most part, subtle and sinister rather than ‘Kablooie!’. These first two novels cover the rise, fall, recovery and then fall again of master thief Locke Lamora and his companions, most particularly the educated brute (and Locke’s best friend) Jean Tannen.

Review by James ‘Grim’ Desborough


Serenity (Novelization) Review

Posted on December 10, 2007 by

The plot is exactly like the movie. The movie is good, so the book is good by default. It’s definitely a page turner. De Candido’s style is largely free of literary flourishes. It’s as if he literally transcribed Joss Whedon’s screenplay verbatim while tossing in only a few extras. Story-wise, I thought that the book could have gone into a little more depth than it does. However, it does elaborate a bit on the battle of Serenity.


Flames Rising eBook Shop Updates

Posted on December 2, 2007 by

You can now search by publisher at the Flames Rising eBook Shop. This includes lots of fiction and comics (in addition to all of the RPGs). Basically all of the publishers from the various OneBookShelf sites are now listed in one handy spot. For example, all of David Moody’s Autumn tales from Infected Books and […]


Legend of the Five Rings – 3rd Edition Review

Posted on December 2, 2007 by

While its another dicepool system the roll-and-keep and the exploding dice seem to focus people’s attention on the game pretty well and make rolling the dice unpredictable enough to be exciting. Combine this with ‘raises’ (extra risk for extra effect) and the mechanics fairly naturally lend themselves to skilled characters using a bit of flair and expertise rather than simply hacking away.


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