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Publisher's Summary

Becoming a target is never great, but it’s a little worse when the people trying to kill you are technically the good guys.

Gabe escaped the Ether with the ultimate prize, and he thought that meant he was done with deadly cosmic games. But the nightmares infesting his life have different plans, and they’re not asking nicely before dragging him back in. It turns out holding all the power in the universe doesn’t mean much if you have no idea what to do with it.

So together with Heather, he embarks on a frantic race to collect the remaining six Iglas and stave off the coming darkness. And in the process, they discover just how much deeper their problems go. With new threats lashing at them from every side, and old ones tightening their grip, it becomes a contest against chaos to see who will dictate the future of existence: the assorted protectors of Earth, an all-consuming darkness...or a conman who would really rather not.

Blight Marked is the third book in the Ethereal Earth series, an ongoing story about reality, illusions, and all the ridiculous crap in the gray space between.

©2020 Josh Erikson (P)2020 Josh Erikson

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Josh Erikson has utterly upped his game!

A heady concoction of compelling character development, exhilarating action scenes and great pop culture humour, the only thing that made the book even better was Erikson's stellar self-narration.

Now, I can't exactly call myself very well-read in the urban fantasy subgenre, but I've read the more well-known published series like Dresden Files, Kate Daniels and The Iron Druid Chronicles as well as the self-published Heartstrikers.  The first three I would say are more standard urban fantasy fare, while Heartstrikers has a more original worldbuilding. I would say that Ethereal Earth straddle somewhere in between those two spectrums, and differentiating itself with a significantly larger world-at-peril narrative. Hence, the story felt way more epic; as we are dealing with a cosmic power that could completely annihilate all in existence, as well as the power of creation itself.

"I always start with a plan. I just wish I could ever finish with one."

But first, let's talk about our dear main protagonist, Gabriel Delling. Ex-con artist turned magic wielding human being that is not beholden to any rule book. Gabe is way over his head in having to deal with powers beyond his imagination. As a consequence of the ending in the previous book, everyone that is not a friend or part of his team is after him now. And let's not forget the evil god who purportedly was on his side for the greater good (that does sound a bit paradoxical, doesn't it?) From the first book, Gabe has been grappling with his world being turned upside down and inside out. Our reluctant hero has grown a lot into accepting his legacy. While it's true that he may still whine and complain about it, he gets things done. More crucially is how he finally settled into his relationship with Heather as the dynamics between these two characters play such a pivotal role in overall story. Gabe's character growth throughout these three books had been compellingly authentic and endearing. Those CONScience excerpts at the beginning of each chapter continued to be a brilliant addition in fleshing out Gabe's psyche. And possibly could give some of the more popular self-help books other there a run for their money.

"Sometimes the end result of a thing is so much better than the component parts that it really doesn't matter what it was before it fell into your lap. People are the same... except they can continue to improve. I have to believe that is true, and that we can all become what we want without being held back by what we were. There's darkness in all of our lives, right? That doesn't mean we should have to wallow in it”

Erikson evidently exercised a lot of care in ensuring that the characterisation of Gabe takes precedence over just telling an entertaining action-packed story. He is flawed but has a nobility which made him easy to root for. In fact, I wished that he could get a break sometimes as chaos and mayhem doggedly pursue him at every turn. Not to mention the continued presence and machinations of Aka Manah who pretty much was the seed of all Gabe's troubles since book one. I have to say though, Aka Manah is one of the best characters in the series. He has developed beyond the archetypal evil god persona into something more complex, and surprisingly relatable.

"All it really takes to look like a hero is to avoid slouching as you go to save the day. But the point is that you do go, isn't it? The showmanship is just to make sure you get credit for it."

Even though I felt that Gabe's character development took precedence, this does not in any way mean that the rest of the elements of a great story had been compromised. In fact, what made Ethereal Earth such engaging and entertaining books is the right balance that Erikson was able to achieve between characters, plot and worldbuilding, as well as a healthy dose of great humour.  This book is replete with seemingly insurmountable obstacles for Gabe to overcome, which usually come in the form of heart-pounding and epic action scenes filled with all sorts of monsters and creatures, and ultimately the cosmic powers itself. The climax of Blight Marked was one of the most epic I've come across in urban fantasy to date.

"Deep down most of us believe we're frauds. But it's only when we stop believing that it actually becomes true."

What made it all even better was how the characters lived and breathed through the impeccable self-narration. It has now become impossible for me to think of Gabe without hearing Erikson's voice. As such, even though the ebook ARC was available earlier, I waited for the audiobook publication because I was certain I'd enjoy the story more that way. Erikson animated the story in my mind with his dexterous delivery - his character nuances were spot on and the cadences were just right, be it an introspective or emotional moment, or the humourous banter (which works incredibly well), or all the big cinematic action scenes.

Blight Marked has elevated the Ethereal Earth series to greater heights.  It ticked all the right boxes which make urban fantasy so fun and entertaining, and knocked it out of the park with the superb character work and outstanding audio narration.

3 people found this helpful

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Great book!!

The author is amazing!! The characters progression is one where we all can relate to. The complaining and getting it done part is my forte lol. I cannot wait for the next one.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

Keep up the excellent work

It’s so hard to put into words how great this series is. I’ve been listening since book one came out and have been in love with it since then. If you like a new look on fantasy story’s then pick this up.

2 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

So effing much dialog

Endless dialog. Constantly found myself shouting at the author - "Get on with it!". Just people talking and talking and talking about the same things over and over again. Tiring. Thinking about returning this one. Not sure I care about how it ends. Especially since in the introduction, the author states that he intends to write many more in this series. I don't think I can go any further down this road.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Fan boy here...

I just want to say that I’m continuously impressed by this story and the narration. Josh is a great writer and also a talented orator. If you read/listen to the first two books then you already know and won’t be disappointed with this book. If you haven’t then you really should. It’s unique, funny and fascinating. Character growth continues and the story progression is good without repetition. All around happy with my purchase. If we were on another platform I’d give you my upvote and a gold. Thank you Josh for sharing your beautiful story. If I get a C on my Med school exam for binging your book, I’m totally blaming you haha.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

Can't Get Enough

I'm definitely in this series for the long haul. Erikson (quickly becoming one of my favorite authors) is witty, clever, and incredibly insightful. I can't wait to see what he has in store for Gabe and the gang next.

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Great writing saves this one

Good writing saved this for me. I reached a point that I didn’t care if the hero died. That’s never good. The cast of characters got a little messy and I got lost a few times. I stopped for weeks and went back. Why? The writing is so rich that I just wanted to experience the words. The author has legit talent but I’m done with this hero. He is really too stupid to live.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great addition to the series!

This is the continuing story of Gabe Delling, who is a (former? still kind of?) con man who is now, more or less… uh… the superpowered savior of the world.

After the events of the last book, Gabe and his girlfriend/succubus Heather are in a race to beat the bad guys to a number of super powerful artifacts, which will threaten the entire universe as they know it if left in the hands of evil. The stakes are so high that even the other, less bad but still bad guys are on board to help!

I really enjoyed Hero Forged and Fate Lashed, and thankfully Blight Marked was just as fun as its predecessors. Gabe is a fantastic character, in my opinion, because he’s ridiculously easy to cheer for. Even despite being a con man, he’s still just… a good dude. We see quite well throughout the series how much Gabe grows as a character. I wanted everything good for him, so this adventure, full of lots of ups and a few downs, was quite riveting. His relationship with Heather is often adorable, and I love the dialog between them, especially when it’s full of puns and nerdy references.

A few new characters are introduced here, some of them, like Lauren, were shocking. My favorite was Penny, who is a water sprite whose glamour makes her appear like a child. She has the temperament and curiosity of a child (which can be admittedly annoying at times), but can definitely hold her own in a fight against powerful foes. Recurring characters I liked are back, like Dante the minotaur, and James, the not-so-run-of-the-mill crime boss.

One of my favorite parts of this series are the introductions to each chapter, written as exerpts from Gabe’s autobiography, CONscience. Where most of the book is in the third person, these bits are in the first person, and in each we get some words of wisdom from Gabe, and more or less see him learn lessons as things happen to him. It’s a remarkable bit of character building, and it does a lot to make Gabe intriguing and likable.

Like the two previous audiobooks, Blight Marked is narrated by its author, and Josh Erikson nailed it yet again. I suppose it goes without saying that he would know best where to put emphasis and so on and so forth, but he does a really great job bringing each character to life. Definitely one of the better author narrators that I have ever heard.

So, all told, I quite liked Blight Marked, and I thought it was a wonderful addition to the Ethereal Earth series. Fans of Urban Fantasy that has humans paired up with succubi, minotaur, and evil Zoroastrian gods.

Thanks to the author for the review copy of the audiobook. Opinions are all mine.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Another good book

If you have been reading the series you will enjoy this book just as much. I am wondering where book 4 is going can't wait to see.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Erikson's best yet!

Easily the best of the series so far. This is the wit and universe of Hero Forged punched up with more pace and clarity and the action and stakes of Fate Lashed with way more heart. All packaged with villains who you root for and glorious defenders of Earth and Elfhame who you might not mind if they got killed by evil flesh magic. Many forms of darkness to be opposed externally and a climactic scene with real darkness within.

1 person found this helpful