Full review over at Fantasy Book CriticANALYSIS Under A Colder Sun is Greg James dark tribute to Robert E Howard s Conan and perhaps a credible hat tip to Kane by Karl Edward Wagner The story is perfectly set in the grimdark mold and captured my imagination the most among the entire set of books that were in my SPFBO line up The story begins immediately in a land of Colm where Khale is widely reviled and the soldiers sent to give him a royal invitation share the same disgust King Alosse ha Full review over at Fantasy Book CriticANALYSIS Under A Colder Sun is Greg James dark tribute to Robert E Howard s Conan and perhaps a credible hat tip to Kane by Karl Edward Wagner The story is perfectly set in the grimdark mold and captured my imagination the most among the entire set of books that were in my SPFBO line up The story begins immediately in a land of Colm where Khale is widely reviled and the soldiers sent to give him a royal invitation share the same disgust King Alosse has summoned Khale with a request and being that they were once friends, Khale does come to see his friend Tasked with a strange request, Khale agrees, as is his wont however he soon finds himself feeling a strange sensation that he hasn t felt in centuries The other POV characters introduced are Princess Milanda who is a virgin and a simple person Lastly there s also Leste who is a common soldier and completely baffled by the king s orders and deference towards Khale What got me hooked was the main character of Khale, he truly is a villain so as to speak Heinous deeds are his legacy and this story is that of his conversion to an anti hero at best The author makes no qualms that his main character is a vile person and the world is a dark, foreboding one The author perhaps takes a page from Christopher Nolan s The Dark Knight by never quite revealing how Khale acquired his immortality But often we find some characters telling different stories with regards to his ascent towards immortality I found that a nice throwback to the Joker and his several different stories of how he got his facial scars While the author shows the dastardly side of his story with Khale, we are given two good characters in Milanda and Leste The author delightfully explores this dark dichotomy and has Khale s evil balanced by Milanda s earnest nature and Leste s simple minded focus I enjoyed this aspect of the story and often found myself what would happen when they met with each other This story is also on the shorter side and has quite some pace to it There s not much action sequences in the story however the author makes sure that something interesting and deadly is happening throughout the pages There s a tiny thread introduced with a minor character named Timoth that s perhaps to be explored in the sequel One of the major drawbacks of the story is the lack of worldbuilding We are presented with snippets about the land and its history but the readers won t get a true immersive experience as the author never quite reveals much about the world and its denizens Another aspect that perhaps seemed a tad overdone was the darkness of the story and what I mean is that the world is shown to be a desolate one But there s no clear reason shown as to why that might be the case Sure there s proclamations about a blight on the land and some evil slowly taking over but it ssaid than shown CONCLUSION Under A Colder Sun is Greg James grimdark debut and it has many reasons as to why most grimdark fans will like it a lot Of course it isn t without its faults and readers will have to give it a read to see which side they fall towards I enjoyed it quite a bit and would recommend it certainly to all grimdark fans looking for a quick dark read DISCLAIMER I was given an ARC advance review copy of Under A Colder Sun in exchange for a review.Under A Colder Sun is unlike any other book I ve read where the villain is actually the hero This tale is about Khale the Wanderer, who by all accounts, is evil and one should cower in his presence Yet, at the same time, he ends up being the hero But not the hero of fairy tales who saves the damsel in distress by slaying the dragon, no He is a hero who has to do wrong in order to begin making DISCLAIMER I was given an ARC advance review copy of Under A Colder Sun in exchange for a review.Under A Colder Sun is unlike any other book I ve read where the villain is actually the hero This tale is about Khale the Wanderer, who by all accounts, is evil and one should cower in his presence Yet, at the same time, he ends up being the hero But not the hero of fairy tales who saves the damsel in distress by slaying the dragon, no He is a hero who has to do wrong in order to begin making things right Khale is evil, yes, but in the end you will either grow to understand him and accept him as he is, or grow to wish him death Greg James weaves an intricate tale of different characters trying to figure out their purpose in a world of chaos a world that is dying all around them This story is set in a time where you either fight to live or you just give up your soul and die While the story is about Khale the Wanderer, it s hard to forget about one of the supporting characters that also give life to this story Each of these characters have a tale to tell that explains why they are fighting for a better world There is one character whom I fought with, in my head of course, the whole way through She is integral to the story, yes, but she definitely irked me While her view of the world was bleak, she was naive in her thinking of how easily she could fix things that were wrong She had a black and white version of who Khale is and couldn t see past that She was self centered and egotistical Needless to say, she wasn t my favorite character And that there is the beauty of Greg s writing He creates these characters and gives them life, gives them meaning, a reason to exist You will either love his characters or hate them Either way, you are in for a great story Under A Colder Sun is definitely a fantasy story meant for adults Greg James does not sugar coat his words He tells this story as the characters dictate and are meant to live There will bestories about Khale the Wanderer, as his story is not told in its entirety in Under A Colder Sun Under a Colder Sun is one of the books that made it through Mark Lawrence s SPFBO contest, so you already know that the quality of the writing is at the very least passable.Up until now I ve been relatively impersonal with my reviews, focusing on the writing and plot This review will be a temporary detour from that into the realm of ranting, feel free to stop reading now.When I heard that this work referred to itself as grimdark, I suppressed a shudder Usually this translates to reasonable wo Under a Colder Sun is one of the books that made it through Mark Lawrence s SPFBO contest, so you already know that the quality of the writing is at the very least passable.Up until now I ve been relatively impersonal with my reviews, focusing on the writing and plot This review will be a temporary detour from that into the realm of ranting, feel free to stop reading now.When I heard that this work referred to itself as grimdark, I suppressed a shudder Usually this translates to reasonable work of fantasy with shoehorned shock scenes I m not a fan of grimdark.The biggest problem that faces Khale the Wanderer is not the self proclaimed genre he s swinging his sword through, or even a character in the book Instead it s Kane, the Mystic Swordsman.Kane is an immortal and often immoral amoral killer who has been cursed with living forever through the history of the Earth.Khale is an immortal and often immoral amoral killer who has been cursed with living forever through the history of the Earth.I think you re beginning to see where I m going with this.The biggest difference is that Kane was written over 40 years ago by Karl Edward Wagner, a respected editor and writer of some of the best fantasy and horror in literary history.So it would be charitable of me to say that Greg James has borrowed wholesale from the likes of both Wagner and Howard in both setting and style There is the slim possibility that James was unaware of these writers, but it s so slim given the nature of the text that I will not give him the benefit of the doubt.Khale casts a repugnant and divisive figure throughout the work and is the centrepiece for the majority of it Whether you enjoy the book or not is entirely dependant upon your appreciation of the character.I couldn t It was impossible to read about Khale without thinking of Kane to the point of distraction.Also, this is clearly a Sword and Sorcery homage, and I feel that calling it grimdark is disingenuous marketing.I would like to point out before ceasing this review that the author can write solid fantasy and I appreciate the genre he s actually working in, hence the three stars, I just wish he d have been less blatant with his influences.Khale could have been to Kane what Logen Ninefingers is to Conan, but unfortunately it wasn t to be This book could easily have been a 5 star I m sad it didn t because I really enjoyed reading it.The book has a good pace, although the beginning was a bit strange But after that it completely hooked me in The prose has very creative, superb moments like chapter 16 Also, it felt very much alive with its descriptions of the rotten world of Khale But the author sometimes broke this effect by feeling the need to spoon feed us with some information or how a character was feeling, despite being This book could easily have been a 5 star I m sad it didn t because I really enjoyed reading it.The book has a good pace, although the beginning was a bit strange But after that it completely hooked me in The prose has very creative, superb moments like chapter 16 Also, it felt very much alive with its descriptions of the rotten world of Khale But the author sometimes broke this effect by feeling the need to spoon feed us with some information or how a character was feeling, despite being obvious for us to imagine it or having it shown a bit ahead anyway.That said, I really enjoyed the writing, you could clearly see brilliant lines of unedited thought that were the product of sudden insights that made me pause in wonder for various minutes before resuming reading Again, chapter 16, for example, really enjoyed that one.In the beginning I frowned at Khale s absurdly overpowered spells abilities and everyone being extremely afraid of him without knowing nothing of him, but when he thinks tells of his life it s amazing Khale becomes a character that is so much bigger than life in a good way But the other two characters show some problems for the characterization 1 A character has her father killed and is kidnapped by Khale She is furious and hates him right away Next chapter a day or two after they are chatting like nothing happened and she even gains sudden fighting abilities despite her background Worse, after this chapter, she thinks of his power and strength, dreams of losing her virginity with Khale and even masturbates thinking of him It may have been something related to his past, but it was a bit surreal Unless the author went for Stockholm Syndrome, not unreal considering the sheltered and innocent life of the character, but I really doubt that was the intention.2 Another character is starving for days, then quickly and swiftly kills half a dozen men with her sword and goes on without breaking a sweat WhatTo make matters worse, she is so hungry that a few lines later she almost collapses The book does try to build those characters a bit, and you can even see the paths the author tried to create for them, but it wasn t enough for me and some changes felt too abrupt.I actually felt bad for how things ended for those two characters.There are books you think why they didn t cut 100 or 200 pages This is one you think Damn it, why this ended so fast Why it didn t had100 or 200 pages This is a good compliment, in a way It even made me curious to read the works that inspired the author, the Kane from Karl Edward Wagner If this book had a bittime on editing revising to eliminate unnecessary telling and hadtime developing the three characters, even one or twobattles, this would have been easily 5 stars Such beautiful writing and vivid atmosphere that tingled at my imagination Shame that the characters have the depth of my pinkie toe, and the sub plots are about as clear as the mud and grime that coat each chapter One might call this 200 page novel gritty for the sake of being gritty I call it a missed opportunity at giving us a great piece of Dying Sun Fantasy.2.5 Stars. Finalist of SPFBO Read the full list of finalists here Khale an immortal, evil warrior guy is hired by the King of Colm to take his pure, virginal daughter Milanda to a city of sorcerers, where she will be sacrificed in exchange for keeping Colm from being invaded for a little while.Thoughts on the plus side, this is a short read and the writing itself was solid, if at times it could have used athrough edit However, I felt this book l Finalist of SPFBO Read the full list of finalists here Khale an immortal, evil warrior guy is hired by the King of Colm to take his pure, virginal daughter Milanda to a city of sorcerers, where she will be sacrificed in exchange for keeping Colm from being invaded for a little while.Thoughts on the plus side, this is a short read and the writing itself was solid, if at times it could have used athrough edit However, I felt this book lacked depth in most areas The characters were one dimensional, what character growth they had was unrealistic or abrupt, the worldbuilding was kept to a minimum and what worldbuilding there was seemed to put being gritty above making logical sense There was nothing that made me care about or be interested in the characters or stakes and I could see from a mile away that this was all going to end horribly, so no surprises there.Maybe hardcore grimdark fans might want to give it a go, especially if you can pick it up for free like I did, but in general I can t recommend.Verdict 3 10 Content warning view spoiler explicit and detailed threats of rape as early as the first chapter hide spoiler A Grimdark Fantasy Adventure set in a world of Darkness and Chaos Khale the Wanderer dark warrior of legend, a reaver with a demon s soul King Alosse ruler of Colm, willing to risk everything to save his city and its people Princess Milanda an innocent, kept pure since birth, unknowing of her fate Neprokhodymh the cursed city of sorcerers where Khale must make a choice that will scar him for life, or fall into darkness forever INCLUDES BONUS SHORT STORIES Timestone and Each Dawn, I Die Under a Colder Sun is one that I thought I might not really enjoy in the beginning It starts off with people seeking out a fierce warrior with a reputation for darkness and violence, on behalf of their king Alosse , because the kingdom is in trouble and Alosse thinks that Khale can turn the tide of war It started out dark, and while I have no problem with dark fantasy, it seemed in the first few chapters to be a book likely to go grimdark for grimdark s sake A wartorn country, soldiers enteri Under a Colder Sun is one that I thought I might not really enjoy in the beginning It starts off with people seeking out a fierce warrior with a reputation for darkness and violence, on behalf of their king Alosse , because the kingdom is in trouble and Alosse thinks that Khale can turn the tide of war It started out dark, and while I have no problem with dark fantasy, it seemed in the first few chapters to be a book likely to go grimdark for grimdark s sake A wartorn country, soldiers entering a bandit camp seeking a man with a lousy reputation who might be the kingdom s last desperate mixed blessing hope The tone set by the first few chapters didn t make me feel downtrodden, it just made me feel like I didn t really want to read another crapsack world.But I pushed through, and pretty much once the first couple of awkward chapters are out of the way, the story picks up very quickly, and the true quality of the book begins to show.Alosse tells Khale to kidnap his daughter Milanda and take her to Neprokhodymh, as a sort of sacrificial offering for the power to save his kingdom Khale and Alosse have a history together, one that was kept secret, and as a last request from one friend to another, Alosse tells Khale to kill him Naturally the dead king s loyal soldier, Leste, takes exception to this and vows to take revenge on Khale for the murder Milanda isn t exactly happy about being kidnapped or the death of her father and she s stuck in the awkward position of despising Khale for his actions while needing him for safety in a dying world she s never really set foot in before.The world that James sets up is a fascinating one The gods that people worship are gods of death and decay, each of them having their spheres of influence as gods do, and the world around them is corrupt and rotting, full of darkness that grows You don t get to see the full effect of all of this, because the story is relatively short, but in a way I found that to be satisfying in its realism To explainthan had been explained would have required some info dumps that likely would have been quite out of place, but the world still feels complete enough to havestories told in it Things aren t always what you expect, good people can do bad things, and vice versa, and there s enough of all of this to keep you reading, wondering what the next reveal will be.The book s shortness is its downfall, though aside from what seems like a really interest corrupt world, much of the rest of a story s scaffolding goes underdeveloped The characters felt to me as though they had little motivation to do half the things they did, beyond the story needing them to They didn t feel very fleshed out, though the seeds of some amazing characters were definitely there Khale was the most developed of them all, which makes sense given that it s really his story, but there were enough other characters around that had such potential that I wish they d been given the same treatment.That and the ending, I suppose, which has a huge reveal thrown at the reader with pretty much no lead up or explanation I don t want to go into too much detail for fear of spoiling a lot of the story for interested readers, but it felt both over the top and anticlimactic at the same time, giving the impression that it was a rushed ending and detail was left out that possibly the author didn t realize I understand that can be a tricky thing to manage in writing, since what makes perfect sense to the one telling the story who is aware of all the details might not come across very well to a reader who doesn t really have access to the author s brain It may just be me, I may have missed something along the way that made the ending makesense, but from a personal standpoint, it just came out of left field and was a bit of a wtf moment.But really, for such a short book, and after a lackluster beginning, I ended up pleasantly surprised If dark fantasy is your thing, then you ll probably enjoy your time spent with Under a Colder Sun, which contains the main novella plus two short stories Khale is a man with a dark and legendary past who is interesting to read about, the writing is pretty good and contains a Skyrim reference that made me chuckle aloud , and overall it was a pretty decent short book Received for review as part of the SPFBO I need a drink after finishing this The story is dark, extremely dark and never quite explained as to why the world is so dark I disliked the main hero , Leste The only person in the book who can be considered a hero and I found her a pig headed naive person who needed a good slap The other characters at least suited the situation in which they lived.The ending I have mixed feelings on On one hand it looks like Leste character might improve in the next book On the other wooh that was a br I need a drink after finishing this The story is dark, extremely dark and never quite explained as to why the world is so dark I disliked the main hero , Leste The only person in the book who can be considered a hero and I found her a pig headed naive person who needed a good slap The other characters at least suited the situation in which they lived.The ending I have mixed feelings on On one hand it looks like Leste character might improve in the next book On the other wooh that was a brutal ending Loyalty, he thought, the first and the worst of all sins.But Timoth had come to accept that common men, rich and poor, lived to disturb and upset the world around them.But beware the men of this world above all things They have a darkness born to them that not even the Gods can fathom I know this because I am its root and seed.I really enjoyed this book It s super short just over 200 pages , so this review won t be terribly long.It basically follows Khale, a very not so honorable man, that i Loyalty, he thought, the first and the worst of all sins.But Timoth had come to accept that common men, rich and poor, lived to disturb and upset the world around them.But beware the men of this world above all things They have a darkness born to them that not even the Gods can fathom I know this because I am its root and seed.I really enjoyed this book It s super short just over 200 pages , so this review won t be terribly long.It basically follows Khale, a very not so honorable man, that is tasked with escorting a princess to be betrothed There s a lot of little things going on in all that, but I don t want to spoil any surprises.The world feels like it s just emerging from a post apocalyptic event Left in the lands between cities are areas of great danger, full of monsters and erratic storms that can rip your skin off It s very dark and lonely For my taste, it was nicely developed No huge info dumps which I always appreciate It was rolled out with story.The characters range from an overly honorable Leste of the King s guard, to a sheltered princess, to a very dark man with a very dark past To my surprise, I enjoyed them all While the princess is new to the outside world, she s a tough girl, and her strength in the face of all she learns is pretty easy to get behind Leste is also a character you want to support She s the good gal in the story Khale is a mixed bag There s a few tiny sentences that can stir up some sympathy, but overall he s a killer, and he likes it Even so, I found him interesting and layered nicely I guess being cursed to immortality can make a guy see things differently, and James did a nice job showing us the impact on Khale.The writing is nice, the pace enjoyable, and the shortness makes this a quick read There s some dream parts that are a bit hard to follow, and sometimes I had trouble imagining what was happening in a handful of scenes None of it took away from the story.This was close to being in my LIKED category, but what moved it into LOVE was it s darkness, interesting world but lacking complication that would otherwise slow down the plot, and characters that ranged all along the likable scale It moved enough that I never had a problem picking it back up Overall, if you re looking for a darker, fast read, I highly recommend this book You can see this and other reviews on my website