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The world is full of heroes, villains, and all the shades in between. The Bound Folio tells their stories from the tortured childhood of the legendary Blademaster the Sword of the North, to the humble origins of the Queen of the Five Kingdoms, to the death of one of the world's greatest assassins. This anthology collects together eight dark stories of swords, sorcery, and The world is full of heroes, villains, and all the shades in between. The Bound Folio tells their stories from the tortured childhood of the legendary Blademaster the Sword of the North, to the humble origins of the Queen of the Five Kingdoms, to the death of one of the world's greatest assassins. This anthology collects together eight dark stories of swords, sorcery, and seduction from First Earth, the setting of Rob J. Hayes' The Ties That Bind trilogy. CONTENTS "The Sword of the North" - Northborn lordling Derran Fowl has a natural affinity for swordplay. Even so, such a talent cannot contend with an alcoholic father who invites an Arbiter to their estate in order to investigate his own sickly daughter and Derran's beloved little sister, Leesa. Learn the origins of what drives young Derran to begin a journey that ends with the Sword of the North. "The Night Blade" - A tale in which two fabled assassins, one a veteran of the trade, the other a promising upstart, are hired by the same man to kill one another, with the prize being a major contract for a hefty sum. "The Kid" introduces an undersized street rat at the bottom of the pecking order in his small group of famished and thieving orphans. A victim of frequent beatings and constant bullying, learn how he overcomes his enemies in the unfeeling gutters and alleyways of Korral. "The Battle of Underbridge" - Tristan Southerland and his fellow squires intend to get riproaring drunk on a night out. Instead, they find themselves fighting for their lives — and dying — against a pestilent tide of ceaseless foes. "The Merchant of Truridge" - Sirion Tell is married to the perfect woman, and although his father has recently passed, he has inherited a considerable sum and the future looks bright for the enterprising newlyweds...until he crosses paths with the pirate known as Drake Morass. "The Twins" - Irris the Drurr is charged with the protection of royal half-breed twins as they flee to the surface world. In the coming weeks, beneath the open skies, will she be able to lead both small girls to a safe haven? Or will they be caught by human hunters; or worse, their own merciless people, intent on slaughtering the twins merely for being born? "The Mistress of the West" - In the western deserts of the Five Kingdoms, the school of mistresses instructs young girls like Shián how to capture rich and powerful husbands to increase their family's status; however, will the mistresses be able to teach Shián what cost the price of vengeance? "Beck" - An Arbiter of the Inquisition finds herself at the mercy of pirates, taken captive for her magical abilities and used to locate a mysterious treasure. When the treasure itself turns out to potentially be heretical, the Arbiter finds she must make a choice between her duty or freedom.


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The world is full of heroes, villains, and all the shades in between. The Bound Folio tells their stories from the tortured childhood of the legendary Blademaster the Sword of the North, to the humble origins of the Queen of the Five Kingdoms, to the death of one of the world's greatest assassins. This anthology collects together eight dark stories of swords, sorcery, and The world is full of heroes, villains, and all the shades in between. The Bound Folio tells their stories from the tortured childhood of the legendary Blademaster the Sword of the North, to the humble origins of the Queen of the Five Kingdoms, to the death of one of the world's greatest assassins. This anthology collects together eight dark stories of swords, sorcery, and seduction from First Earth, the setting of Rob J. Hayes' The Ties That Bind trilogy. CONTENTS "The Sword of the North" - Northborn lordling Derran Fowl has a natural affinity for swordplay. Even so, such a talent cannot contend with an alcoholic father who invites an Arbiter to their estate in order to investigate his own sickly daughter and Derran's beloved little sister, Leesa. Learn the origins of what drives young Derran to begin a journey that ends with the Sword of the North. "The Night Blade" - A tale in which two fabled assassins, one a veteran of the trade, the other a promising upstart, are hired by the same man to kill one another, with the prize being a major contract for a hefty sum. "The Kid" introduces an undersized street rat at the bottom of the pecking order in his small group of famished and thieving orphans. A victim of frequent beatings and constant bullying, learn how he overcomes his enemies in the unfeeling gutters and alleyways of Korral. "The Battle of Underbridge" - Tristan Southerland and his fellow squires intend to get riproaring drunk on a night out. Instead, they find themselves fighting for their lives — and dying — against a pestilent tide of ceaseless foes. "The Merchant of Truridge" - Sirion Tell is married to the perfect woman, and although his father has recently passed, he has inherited a considerable sum and the future looks bright for the enterprising newlyweds...until he crosses paths with the pirate known as Drake Morass. "The Twins" - Irris the Drurr is charged with the protection of royal half-breed twins as they flee to the surface world. In the coming weeks, beneath the open skies, will she be able to lead both small girls to a safe haven? Or will they be caught by human hunters; or worse, their own merciless people, intent on slaughtering the twins merely for being born? "The Mistress of the West" - In the western deserts of the Five Kingdoms, the school of mistresses instructs young girls like Shián how to capture rich and powerful husbands to increase their family's status; however, will the mistresses be able to teach Shián what cost the price of vengeance? "Beck" - An Arbiter of the Inquisition finds herself at the mercy of pirates, taken captive for her magical abilities and used to locate a mysterious treasure. When the treasure itself turns out to potentially be heretical, the Arbiter finds she must make a choice between her duty or freedom.

30 review for The Bound Folio

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bookwraiths

    Originally reviewed at Bookwraiths. The Bound Folio returns (or introduces) readers to Rob J. Hayes’ First Earth fantasy world, and like his first trilogy, The Ties That Bind, this collection of short stories is not for the faint of heart. Rather, these tales are grimdark to the core, filled with execution, rape, revenge, cynicism, and brutality. To my mind, all the stories in this collection fit into two very nice categories: the unexpected twist and the shock-fest. The former generally consistin Originally reviewed at Bookwraiths. The Bound Folio returns (or introduces) readers to Rob J. Hayes’ First Earth fantasy world, and like his first trilogy, The Ties That Bind, this collection of short stories is not for the faint of heart. Rather, these tales are grimdark to the core, filled with execution, rape, revenge, cynicism, and brutality. To my mind, all the stories in this collection fit into two very nice categories: the unexpected twist and the shock-fest. The former generally consisting of a straight ahead narrative which concludes in a surprising way, while the latter is all about the death, mayhem, and gore. “The Night Blade”, “The Battle of Underbridge”, “The Twins”, and “The Mistress of the West” are the examples of what I consider twist stories. “The Sword of the North”, “The Kid”, “The Merchant of Truridge”, and “Beck” are the tales which felt like shock-fests to me. None of these shorts are connected in any way, other than they take place in the same world as The Ties That Bind trilogy and showcase some of the characters which appear therein. What Folio does extremely well is deliver a heaping dose of bloody, brutal grimdark for fans of the genre. The scenes of children burning at the stake, men being fed their best friends, husbands watching their wives gang raped and killed, and all the other memorable moments favorably compares to the most hardcore grimdark out there, so those who love that type of dark and gloomy fantasy should be pleased beyond belief. The main problem I had with the collection was more than a few of the stories seemed rather pointless. There would be a lot of buildup, a great deal of foreshadowing of big events to come, but then the story would end abruptly. Usually, the narrative would be wrapped up by a few brief sentences or a couple of concise paragraphs, which did not really deliver the exciting ending which I personally had been anticipating. Not being a true follower of Rob J. Hayes, I picked up The Bound Folio to experience more of his grimdark world and his storytelling style. Both things this collection certainly showed me. After reflecting on my time with these stories, I’ve actually discovered that even as a grimdark fan I still have a level of utter despair that I’d rather not sink to. As ashamed as I am to admit it, I still prefer to have a little bit of light in all my grimdark-ness to keep me motivated to continue reading, and Rob J. Hayes world was a little too realistic and a little too harsh for my tastes, though others might find it to their liking. I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Tracey the Lizard Queen

    Full review at: http://thequeenofblades.blogspot.co.u... 3.5 Stars I wanted to read this series since I first heard about it. Only I am terrible at sticking to a reading schedule. I normally have a plan of what to read next, but I'm just shitty at following these plans through. I was slightly concerned that I would heave to read the entire series to avoid spoilers, but that's not the case at all. This installment is completely stand-alone. Through this you get a tiny window into the lives of these Full review at: http://thequeenofblades.blogspot.co.u... 3.5 Stars I wanted to read this series since I first heard about it. Only I am terrible at sticking to a reading schedule. I normally have a plan of what to read next, but I'm just shitty at following these plans through. I was slightly concerned that I would heave to read the entire series to avoid spoilers, but that's not the case at all. This installment is completely stand-alone. Through this you get a tiny window into the lives of these strange and wonderful characters. Those that are familiar with the series will better understand their motivations, and those that aren't will want to. I certainly do. There were two tales in particular that stood out for me, namely, You Never Forget Your First Time and Black Blood. The former featuring a young woman who learns the true cost of revenge. The latter features an Arbiter, charged with rooting out all heresy in the kingdom, who finds herself tangled up in some pirate business. Both were great in their own ways, but totally different in style. Shows great versatility. The Bound Folio is an outstanding intro into the First Earth, after you read this you will simply have to read the rest in the series. That's the point of anthologies. Introduce the readers to something they have not tried before. And try it you should.

  3. 4 out of 5

    J.M.

    Finished editing the first draft, now in Rob's hands for final review. This is going to be one hell of a great collection for Hayes fans as they await his Best Laid Plans duology. TBF contains some truly powerful stories in his First Earth setting. Finished editing the first draft, now in Rob's hands for final review. This is going to be one hell of a great collection for Hayes fans as they await his Best Laid Plans duology. TBF contains some truly powerful stories in his First Earth setting.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas Hart

    * I received a digital copy of this collection of short stories from the publisher in return for an honest review. I original did not know that this is considered book 3.5 in the Ties That Bind trilogy, otherwise I probably would have read them first. Fortunately, reading the trilogy is not required to enjoy this. First things first... wow! How have I missed Hayes' work long enough for him to have finished an entire trilogy? I have seen his books in bookstores, but the covers have always put me of * I received a digital copy of this collection of short stories from the publisher in return for an honest review. I original did not know that this is considered book 3.5 in the Ties That Bind trilogy, otherwise I probably would have read them first. Fortunately, reading the trilogy is not required to enjoy this. First things first... wow! How have I missed Hayes' work long enough for him to have finished an entire trilogy? I have seen his books in bookstores, but the covers have always put me off. Usually, when the covers are big closeups of warrior-like characters, the story and character development just isn't there. That is certainly not the case here. While the stories are short, they give me the impression that a full length novel would feel something like a Michael J Sullivan book. Great characters, great dialogue and banter between characters, great settings and great twists. Seeing as Sullivan is one of my favorite authors, it is easy to see why I loved this short story collection. Rating anthologies and short story collections as a whole is sort of difficult, since the quality of each story can vary greatly. Because of this, I usually rate each story separately and then average out the rating for the whole thing. "The Sword of the North" 5 Stars. Occurs 15 years before Ties That Bind. Introduces Derran, a character I immediately loved and hope to read more about in Hayes' work. "A Game of Poisons" 5 Stars. Occurs 1 year before Ties That Bind. Introduces an older, retired assassin, now called Alfer Boharn. Another character I wold love to read an entire trilogy about. (After reading this, I immediately went and purchased the entire Ties That Bind trilogy.) "The Kid" 4 Stars. Occurs 5 years before Ties That Bind. I just could not stand the fact that the main character spent 99% of the story referred to, even to himself, as the Kid. Later becomes known as Green. "The Battle of Underbridge" 4 Stars. Occurs 51 years before Ties That Bind. Introduces Tristan Southland. Not a good sign that this happens so early before the trilogy. I really liked Tristan as a young squire and the chances of him living 51 years as a knight, and continuing to be a character I enjoy, are not too likely... "The Merchant of Trubridge" 5 Stars. Occurs 8 years before Ties That Bind. Introduces Sirion Tell and Captain Drake, who I assume will be a big part of the trilogy even though he is never on scene here. I love the story, just not sure where it would go from here. Great reason to read the trilogy and find out. "By My Life and My Bloodline" 2 Stars. Occurs 3 years before Ties That Bind. The only story in the collection that didn't draw me in and make me care about the characters. Not because of the author, it's just not the type of story I enjoy. Centering around a family of half-breeds being hunted by both sides for being born different. "You Never Forget Your First Time" 5 Stars. Occurs 9 years before Ties That Bind. Centered around Shain Crowfeather, a young girl taken to a school of the flesh to be taught the ways to catch a noble's eye and marry well. I loved this story and the twist. The ending left me wanting more and hoping that Shain somehow works her way into a main role in the trilogy. "Black Blood" 5 Stars. Occurs 1 year after Ties That Bind. The only story set after the original trilogy and, I am hoping, before the duology Best Laid Plans. I certainly hope the characters introduced here are in the trilogy. If not, Hayes needs to pump out Best Laid Plans as soon as possible to fill my hunger. Introduces Beck, and Arbiter, and Captain Elaina Black, a pirate. In my opinion, the point of a collection of short stories is meant to give readers a taste of the worlds the author has created and make them want to go out and purchase the author's other works. I did this after reading only the first two tales and now the trilogy, The Ties That Bind, has jumped to the head of my to read pile. (Immediately to be started as soon as I finish this review.) 5 Star collection. Rob J Hayes should be in everyone's to read list.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lara

    I received this ebook from the publisher through Netgalley. I have not read the author's series, and understand that some of the short stories provide information on the pasts of characters in the full-length books, as well as something of an introduction to characters in some upcoming books. Despite not knowing the world of the stories, I did not feel lost. So, the stories do stand alone, though they might be more meaningful to someone who has seen the characters in another setting. The stories I received this ebook from the publisher through Netgalley. I have not read the author's series, and understand that some of the short stories provide information on the pasts of characters in the full-length books, as well as something of an introduction to characters in some upcoming books. Despite not knowing the world of the stories, I did not feel lost. So, the stories do stand alone, though they might be more meaningful to someone who has seen the characters in another setting. The stories all share the same universe and are dark fantasy. Some very grim things occur to some, and many have painful pasts. This seems to be a pretty unforgiving world. Despite being standalone, there was no info-dump. There were occasional mentions of background information, but just enough to have a broad understanding. In many ways this is a fairly standard fantasy world, with some twists of religion, etc. However, for the most part how the magical and religious side of things work is not relevant. Mostly these are stories of people, relationships, and horrible events that shape their lives. Trigger warning for child and sexual abuse and violence. This is dark fantasy, after all. And the abuse and violence help to explain how certain characters have become so driven or dark themselves. These are short stories, and they don't try to say much, but they so provide little windows into certain peoples' lives. They may explain later personalities, or provide some background to later events. However, they aren't designed for deep introspection. I suspect that knowing characters from the books the stories will be more meaningful as each story is fairly short and most tell only about the activities leading up to one particular event. Several end on cliff-hangers, or have equivocal endings. Overall, I thought it was well-done, and the writing kept me interested and engaged the entire time. I had little confusion and when I did it was quickly cleared up through action or dialogue.

  6. 5 out of 5

    C.T. Phipps

    Rob J. Hayes was my introduction to grimdark fiction. Well, actually, no, it was George R.R. Martin but saying, "He's the guy I first read that I realized was grimdark fiction after I read the books everyone else read and loved" is not a very good opening for a review. Hayes wrote The Ties That Bind trilogy which is best described as what you get if you combined Quentin Tarantino with Conan the Barbarian. Rob J. Hayes style is to get a bunch of foul-mouthed quirky oddball murderers, criminals, Rob J. Hayes was my introduction to grimdark fiction. Well, actually, no, it was George R.R. Martin but saying, "He's the guy I first read that I realized was grimdark fiction after I read the books everyone else read and loved" is not a very good opening for a review. Hayes wrote The Ties That Bind trilogy which is best described as what you get if you combined Quentin Tarantino with Conan the Barbarian. Rob J. Hayes style is to get a bunch of foul-mouthed quirky oddball murderers, criminals, and complete scum with a couple of sympathetic qualities then set them loose on something very similar to the Hyborian Age.Much like Quentin Tarantino himself, Rob J. Hayes' work isn't for everyone as the majority of characters are irredeemable but they're entertainingly irredeemable. The good will suffer, the bad profit, but the truly evil will probably get themselves killed in a dreadfully grand guginol fashion. This is the embodiment of grimdark to me so I was eager to plow into an anthology collecting the stories of minor characters from his trilogy. So, what did I think? The Bound Folio is everything I expected it to be with a dozen short stories chronciling characters both virtuous and heinous. You can always tell which are the most moral of the cast as they're the ones who are going to suffer most. Some of the stories are prequels to characters from his upcoming Best Laid Plans series which leaves their tales open-ended but most of them, thankfully, have a coherent beginning, middle, and end. Fair warning: horrible stuff happens in this book with no apologies, remorse, and a maniacal glee from the author like some sort of evil god but it's usually to the greater service of the story. This is hard R fantasy and that's what you should expect when reading this man's works. "The Sword of the North" Master swordsman and aristocrat Derran Fowl has a sickly sister who often makes pointed observations about her family. When she makes one too many notes about her father, he summons the Inquisition to investigate her for witchcraft. There is no good ending for the Sword of the North as he makes a bold but fool-hardly plan to rescue her. This is probably my favorite short story of the bunch as the characters are realistic and the situation gradually goes from a generic seeming fantasy tale to one of a nightmare. The ending was particularly powerful as while it promised future stories, it also served as an excellent critique of heroic narratives. "A Game of Poisons" Two fabled assassins are hired to kill one another as part of a test by a rich client. Unfortunately, for him, the two have more in common with each other as seasoned professionals than they do with the fool who hired them. This is probably the most Tarantino-esque of the stories with two hardened criminals taking a moment out of their day to shoot the breeze before getting down to the old-fashioned ultraviolence. I liked both of the characters and felt the ending was appropriate in a set up which could have gone either way. "The Kid" An urchin living at the bottom of the social ladder finds himself in a position to better his fortunes, if he's capable of casting aside any lingering humanity or loyalties in the process. This is a story which I enjoyed even if I had mixed feelings about it. It does a great job, however, of showing you just what a dog-eat-dog setting this place is. "The Battle of Underbridge" A pair of squires are just trying to get drunk and laid one evening when they find themselves on the wrong end of an invasion by the undead. I liked this story because it's from the perspective of people just trying to survive a fantasy battle against utter evil than actually doing anything about it. It also reminded me just how bad and twisted magic was in this setting. "The Merchant of Truridge" An old fashioned vengeance narrative. Sirion Tell finds out his father has been fencing goods for pirates and when he tries to get out of the business, finds himself and his wife hideously wronged by the pirate Drake Morass. A warning that this story contains sexual assault, albeit nothing graphic. I really liked this story as Sirion Tell finds his vengeance disgusting and horrifying rather than satisfying but still tries to get it because it's the closest thing to justice which exists in this world. Watching him try to play the part of the cold-blooded badass while being just a man mourning his wife is entertaining yet moving. Interesting, Drake Morass is the protagonist of the upcoming Where Loyalties Lie, despite this and the third book of The Ties That Bind establishing him as he's a less redeemable character than Swift. "By My Life and My Bloodline" A pair of half-human children try to live normal lives in a world where both sides of their race want to destroy them. This is a story which, sadly, only seems to be getting started when it ends. I am, however, intrigued by the mythology which is talked about and look forward to reading more about it in the main story. "You Never Forget Your First Time" Shian is training at the school of mistresses to become a high class courtesan. Hating her teacher and wanting revenge, she decides to seduce her husband in order to gain some measure of revenge. Unfortunately, this runs into some cultural taboos the girl from the desert is unaware of. This is very different from the other stories in the book and yet the ending makes it all the better. "Black Blood" A straightforward adventure where an Arbiter of the Inquisition finds themselves captured by pirates then recruited to recover an ancient book. This doesn't have the twists or turns of previous stories but is still very entertaining. I also love both characters who will show up in Where Loyalties Lie. In conclusion, if you're a fan of Rob J. Hayes' work or this will be your introduction to it, I strongly recommend this anthology. It's not the best fantasy anthology I've ever read (that's Blackguards) but it's still damned good and a good appetizer for the upcoming Where Loyalties Lie. 9/10

  7. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    A great collection of sword and sorcery tales. Hayes writes beyond his years, and if you're a fan of his previous work you adore this book. A great collection of sword and sorcery tales. Hayes writes beyond his years, and if you're a fan of his previous work you adore this book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Miriam Michalak

    A super collection of stories from Rob J. Hayes First Earth world.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie - Books Less Travelled

    **I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review from the NetGalley** Cover: Love it! Rating 5 Stars Overall: Action packed and well written Characters: Imperfectly human, perfect! Plot: Exquisitely grim and gritty! Page Turner: Yes Series Cont.? Yes! Recommend Yes! This book was made up of six short stories, told some of the side characters in Rob Hayes The Ties That Bind Us series. I have not read the other books yet, but this one was brought to my attention since it was on NetGalley. I plan t **I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review from the NetGalley** Cover: Love it! Rating 5 Stars Overall: Action packed and well written Characters: Imperfectly human, perfect! Plot: Exquisitely grim and gritty! Page Turner: Yes Series Cont.? Yes! Recommend Yes! This book was made up of six short stories, told some of the side characters in Rob Hayes The Ties That Bind Us series. I have not read the other books yet, but this one was brought to my attention since it was on NetGalley. I plan to read the others soon! "The Sword of the North" - Not my favorite, but as a first story it didn't bother me. I think it works well to get you into the dark and dirty world that Hayes has created. Score: 3 stars "The Night Blade" - One of my favorites, I enjoyed seeing the assassins size each other up. You really don't know what to expect from either, and that makes their story all the more irresistible! Score: 5 stars "The Kid" - Again not my favorite, but I did enjoy it. I liked The Kid, but his tale is sad, and turning him into a monster as life deals him a heavy round of bad luck. Score 3 stars "The Battle of Underbridge" - This was another one that I really enjoyed. I always enjoy a good knight's tale, and this was no exception! Score 5 stars "The Merchant of Truridge" - When it started, I hated this one. But loved it at the end! This one was another that was filled with emotion, the less than pretty kind. But it was so well written it takes you on a roller coaster of ups and downs! Score 4 stars "The Twins" - I enjoyed this one, but it was the most difficult to keep up with. Having no knowledge of the world, I had to rely on what the story gave. It was good, since I was able to understand enough to enjoy the story, but because it's about a race of creatures unique to First Earth, there was some confusion at the beginning. Score4 stars "The Mistress of the West" - I wasn't sure what to feel about this one. It sounded intrigue, but it wasn't until I got into it that I really started to like it, but then it took a turn and sucker-punched me in the gut! This is also the only one that I was able to guess what happened, but I was still left unprepared when it did! Score 4 stars "Beck" - This was my second favorite, or tied as my favorite! I loved the characters, and again they were fun, dangerous, and unpredictable! Just the way I like them! Full of danger, and questions, it is a great end to this book, and leaves me excited to find out more about the characters of First Earth! Score 5 Full review, giveaways, and other book news can be found on my blog: http://adventuresthruwonderland.blogs...

  10. 5 out of 5

    Koeur

    https://koeur.wordpress.com/2016/06/2... Publisher: Ragnarok Publishing Date: June 2016 ISBN:9781941987605 Genre: Fantasy Rating: 4.4/5 Publishers Description: The world is full of heroes, villains, and all the shades in between. The Bound Folio tells their stories from the tortured childhood of the legendary Blademaster the Sword of the North, to the humble origins of the Queen of the Five Kingdoms, to the death of one of the world’s greatest assassins. Review: I usually am not in to short stories du https://koeur.wordpress.com/2016/06/2... Publisher: Ragnarok Publishing Date: June 2016 ISBN:9781941987605 Genre: Fantasy Rating: 4.4/5 Publishers Description: The world is full of heroes, villains, and all the shades in between. The Bound Folio tells their stories from the tortured childhood of the legendary Blademaster the Sword of the North, to the humble origins of the Queen of the Five Kingdoms, to the death of one of the world’s greatest assassins. Review: I usually am not in to short stories due to the truncated effect yet may have turned a new leaf after reading The Bound Folio. Really well done. Each story was compelling and quickly binds the reader with a depth of characterization tied to compressed movement within an incredible story line. Really makes you want to read all that this author has to offer. “SO WHY YOU NO GIVE 5 STAR!!!” Short stories are too abrupt to give novel length review ratings. In this case I can almost guarantee that his other work will bury you deep into the night.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Vicki Orton

    Dark fantasy tales that show the best, the worst and those in between: A fantastic introduction into First Earth If you haven’t discovered Rob J. Hayes, this may be a good place to start as The Bound Folio provides short incites in to his dark fantasy world. The book begins with an overview of each story and how it fits into the timeline of First Earth; some are set before Hayes’ debut trilogy The Ties That Bind, some are set after it and just before his pirate duology, Best Laid Plans (Fans of H Dark fantasy tales that show the best, the worst and those in between: A fantastic introduction into First Earth If you haven’t discovered Rob J. Hayes, this may be a good place to start as The Bound Folio provides short incites in to his dark fantasy world. The book begins with an overview of each story and how it fits into the timeline of First Earth; some are set before Hayes’ debut trilogy The Ties That Bind, some are set after it and just before his pirate duology, Best Laid Plans (Fans of Hayes will no doubt recognise a few of the characters from The Ties That Bind trilogy), which is a fantastic addition to the beginning as it gives context to how everything fits in to Hayes’ world. Similarly the addition at the end of an explanation about the God’s of First Earth was a brilliant look into the world and a teaser of what is to come. The Sword of the North A good origin story for a character that is only briefly mentioned in The Ties That Bind, but you get the impression is somewhat of a legend in First Earth. This tale introduces us to Arbiters (if you have not previously read The Ties That Bind trilogy) and the aftermath of their judgment, which in this case creates an infamous Blademaster. I’d love to read another story about Derran Fowl (the Sword of the North) to find out what exactly went on for him to gain his formidable reputation. A Game of Poisons This story answers the question what happens when assassins; one an old legend, the other a younger, confident highly skilled individual, face off. You find yourself empathising with the old assassin, Alfer, as he is dragged back into a world he’d gladly leave behind. Hayes creates fantastic tension centering on Alfer not knowing if he is about be killed and, more specifically, the humiliation of being a technique he once used. I particularly enjoyed the humour of the two assassins reminiscing about previous kills during the build up to the story’s climax. The Kid I have to say this is my least favourite of all the stories to feature purely because I dislike the main protagonist, the ‘Kid’ so much as he also features in The Ties That Bind trilogy and is such a nasty little piece of work in it. It, however, was nice to have a back-story for him and to see what made him in to some an annoying and heartless person. This tale definitely highlights the grim reality of life if you are not lucky enough to be one of the Blooded. The Battle of Underbridge Fighting an army of the undead is a plot often found in dark fantasy, but Hayes still manages to inject a unique perspective on this regular feature. The story is seen from the perspective of squire type characters who, when not trying to avoid their Knight masters at the local inn, are winding each other up. They are forced into the classic ‘fight of their lives’ as they face off against a formidable foe and in this we see Hayes’ talent for writing a good battle, whilst injecting interesting character and camaraderie development and, giving the raw view of the brutality of it all. The Merchant of Truridge This is a story goes from a happy idyllic scene of a rich newly marriage couple who have inherited what appears to be a simple merchants business, to the darkness of blood, gore and a tale of vengeance. We see the main character, Sirion, find out that his father was not as clean as he first thought and through inheriting his business, he’s opened himself up to a world full of violence and death. Again we see a brilliant evolution of a character and a change in personality, as Sirion learns the way of thieves and begins his murderous rampage and quest for revenge. By My Life By My Bloodline This tale focuses on the ‘not quite human’ Drurr who we were previously led to believe were one of the evil races in First Earth, but actually turns out they are just as civilized and have their own unique society just like the humans. This story focuses on two half breed twins and ties into the lore of First Earth as there is the telling of a story to the twins from the warrior tasked with getting them to safety; I really enjoyed this ‘story within a story’ aspect due to that extra incite aspect. Again, Hayes writes a fantastic, strong female lead to this story and injects his usual humour into dark situations. You Never Forget Your First Time One of the things I absolutely love about this story is the evolution of the main character, Shian, from being scared and inexperienced in all aspects of the world (she grew up in the desert so has a culture shock at the School for Mistresses) to becoming a confident, intelligent woman, who knows exactly how to get what she wants. Hayes deals with the subject of female sexual experience, specifically the learning of how to be skilled to the level of being a mistress, well without it becoming uncomfortable reading. A fitting introduction to the Queen of Five Kingdoms. Black Blood This was one of my, if not my favourite story in the whole anthology; a good old fashioned swashbuckling tale with the twist of a bit of necromancy chucked in there for good measure. I loved the humour Hayes injects into this tale and the exchanges between Beck and Elaina, yet another example of Hayes’ skill for writing strong female characters, are brilliant. I’m looking forward to more from these characters, especially Elaina; a female pirate who isn’t afraid to show she just as strong, if not stronger than the men, in Best Laid Plans. I absolutely adored this book and all of the individual stories and I’m looking forward to meeting (and re-meeting) these characters in Hayes' future works in First Earth.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    I liked the majority of these short stories by Rob J Hayes. I say, 'the majority' because there was one that didn't appeal to me, and one that didn't give quite enough information about the race of the characters involved, but otherwise I enjoyed them. If the stories here in this free collection are anything to go by, then I shall be looking up Rob J Hayes for future reading. I like the way he's set the scene for a number of different characters, it leaves a great deal of scope for future tales, I liked the majority of these short stories by Rob J Hayes. I say, 'the majority' because there was one that didn't appeal to me, and one that didn't give quite enough information about the race of the characters involved, but otherwise I enjoyed them. If the stories here in this free collection are anything to go by, then I shall be looking up Rob J Hayes for future reading. I like the way he's set the scene for a number of different characters, it leaves a great deal of scope for future tales, which I assume was the general idea. I say give these a try while they're free, you never know, you could discover your next favorite writer of Fantasy right here!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Tom Loock

    First of all, this is a collection and not an anthology because all 'stories' are by the same author. Second, a fair few of those are obviously 'outtakes', scenes cut from a longer narrative that do not even form a complete story. I absolutely love Hayes' excellent 'Ties That Bind'-trilogy and recently also gave five well-deserved stars to his grimdark novel 'City of Kings', but this collection is scraping the barrel. There are a few morsels, some promising characters I have not encountered yet, b First of all, this is a collection and not an anthology because all 'stories' are by the same author. Second, a fair few of those are obviously 'outtakes', scenes cut from a longer narrative that do not even form a complete story. I absolutely love Hayes' excellent 'Ties That Bind'-trilogy and recently also gave five well-deserved stars to his grimdark novel 'City of Kings', but this collection is scraping the barrel. There are a few morsels, some promising characters I have not encountered yet, but overall this book is - sadly - not recommended.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Steven Carter

    Nice collection of highly enjoyable short stories in the author's world. Nothing I'd call grimdark but one scene in one story was particularly brutal and difficult to read through but pretty tame. Tales deal wth lots of typical western fantasy tropes. Lots of fun with magic, pirates, assassins and such. Nice collection of highly enjoyable short stories in the author's world. Nothing I'd call grimdark but one scene in one story was particularly brutal and difficult to read through but pretty tame. Tales deal wth lots of typical western fantasy tropes. Lots of fun with magic, pirates, assassins and such.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    It's been several years since I read the Ties that Bind trilogy and maybe if my memory of the books had been fresher I could have better connected to the characters. The only story I really liked was the last one, seeing Elana Black and Arbiter Beck interact is always a good time but there just wasn't enough there. It's been several years since I read the Ties that Bind trilogy and maybe if my memory of the books had been fresher I could have better connected to the characters. The only story I really liked was the last one, seeing Elana Black and Arbiter Beck interact is always a good time but there just wasn't enough there.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Vanucchi

    Awesome author I remember reading The Ties That Bind trilogy after first seeing it on a "best" list. Not on any massive poll conducted by who knows but one based on public opinion. It was amazingly good and I became an instant addict concerning this author. This one was really good too, just some of the stories didn't really seem to have much of a point. But for the most part it was really enjoyable. Could be better for some, as my attention span is a bit frazzled. Either way I would recommend th Awesome author I remember reading The Ties That Bind trilogy after first seeing it on a "best" list. Not on any massive poll conducted by who knows but one based on public opinion. It was amazingly good and I became an instant addict concerning this author. This one was really good too, just some of the stories didn't really seem to have much of a point. But for the most part it was really enjoyable. Could be better for some, as my attention span is a bit frazzled. Either way I would recommend this book.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Reader73

    Rob Hayes is awesome.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Dan Stinton

  19. 4 out of 5

    Emily Burnham

  20. 4 out of 5

    Bryan Hagaman

  21. 4 out of 5

    Chris

  22. 5 out of 5

    Will

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Gardner

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cyber

  25. 5 out of 5

    Brian Mcclain

  26. 5 out of 5

    Carlyle Laurent

  27. 4 out of 5

    Bearblitz

  28. 4 out of 5

    Graeme Carlyle

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jason

  30. 4 out of 5

    Marcelo

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