Look, I'll be honest here - Ricardo Victoria is my buddy. We've sparred it out in gaming sessions over the years - mostly Heroclix, for those who have dabbled. He's come after my X-Men. I've gone after his Superman. War has been waged with a growl and a shake of the dice.
He's also a damn fine writer. If you've ever read my reviews, you'll have seen his books feature. Because they're damn fine. And his new one is out today.
Never judge a book by the cover, they say, but... well, look at this beauty.
The Magick of Chaos is the latest in Ricardo's Tempest Blades series, and I've waxed lyrical about the earlier books in that series on this very blog.
For the first book, The Withered King, I said that trying to contain Ricardo's ideas is "like trying to contain jelly with elastic bands. He's exuberant, he's bubbly - and he's bristling with imagination."
I said: "It's a fantasy epic. No, wait, it's an anime-style adventure. Hang on, no, it's a science fiction escapade on another world. But hold up, here are roots of Ricardo's Mexican heritage. And Celtic myth. And a cartoon team-up of mighty heroes. It is a steampunk extravaganza with a soaring airship. It is science, and magic, and the science that underpins magic. It is tragic, it is witty. It is each of these things. It is all of these things."
What was really impressive to me was the way in which that book built up his team of characters bit by bit, layer by layer, so you were never overwhelmed and always had time to discover these people at their own pace. Lovely work.
And yet it was the second book that really got me. It was still a soaring adventure - but it was also more personal in the way that one of the main characters was dealing with depression.
As I said in my review: "I've been lucky in life, I've never really had to deal with depression personally, but the story spoke to me in the way it reflected what friends have gone through. It shows how characters around Alex deal with his depression - or sometimes how they don't deal with it, perhaps even not noticing it until it's pointed out by others. Sometimes I've been that person, who didn't notice or who didn't know how to react, so this story really hits home."
Dealing with such issues is not common in sci-fi and fantasy, and Ricardo adds a welcome voice to the conversation.
And now comes book three. Out today. It's right there on my Kindle. The paperback copy will be destined for my shelf once it ships here.
Why should you read this series? Because it's fun. Because it's thoughtful. Because in a field that sometimes treads the same old ground, it strikes out along new paths.
...and because you can pick up the first two books for a buck each as I write this.