Sunday, December 29, 2013

Books in the Mail (W/E 2013-12-28) Christmas Edition!

This is a slightly different Sunday post. Since no new review books arrived due to the week between Christmas and New Year's Day being virtually dead in publishing, I figured I’d post the books Santa Claus brought me for Christmas this year. I’m also assigning blame to some people for encouraging me to get these books.


The Company Man by Robert Jackson Bennett (Orbit) – His two most recent (as of 2013) novels The Troupe and American Elsewhere are two of my favorite books of the last few years, this here is his second novel which received the Edgar Award and received a nice review from SFFWorld pal Mark.

A trolley car pulls into the station with eleven dead bodies inside. Four minutes before, the inhabitants were seen boarding at the previous station. All are dead. And all of them are union.

The year is 1919. The McNaughton Corporation is the pinnacle of American industry. They built airships that cross the seas. Guns that won the Great War. And above all, the city of Evesden. But something is rotten at the heart of Evesden.

Caught between the union and the company, between the police and the victims, Hayes must find the truth behind the city before it kills him.


Iorich (Vlad Taltos #12) by Steven Brust (Tor) – I really enjoy Brust’s Taltos novels, as I’ve mentioned recently and I hope to catch up with them, or at least get closer to being caught up, in the coming year.

House Jhereg, Dragaera's organized crime syndicate, is still hunting Vlad Taltos. There's a big price on his head on Draegara City. Then he hears disturbing news. Aliera—longtime friend, sometime ally—has been arrested by the Empire on a charge of practicing elder sorcery, a capital crime.

It doesn't make sense. Everybody knows Aliera's been dabbling in elder sorcery for ages. Why is the Empire down on her now? Why aren't her powerful friends—Morrolan, Sethra, the Empress Zerika—coming to her rescue? And most to the point, why has she utterly refused to do anything about her own defense?

It would be idiotic of Vlad to jump into this situation. He's a former Jhereg who betrayed the House. He's an Easterner—small, weak, short-lived. He's being searched for by the most remorseless killers in the world. Naturally, that's exactly why he's going to get completely involved...

In Iorich, Steven Brust has crafted a complex and intriguing Vlad Taltos adventure.


The Midnight Mayor (Matthew Swift #2) by Kate Griffin (Orbit Hardcover 04/2009) – I really enjoyed the launch book for this series - A Madness of Angels - when it published in 2009. Like the Brust book I received, I’ve been wanting to catch up with this series for a few years.

It’s said that if the ravens ever leave the Tower of London, then the Tower will crumble and the kingdom will fall. As it happens, that’s not so far from the truth…



 

One by one, the magical wards that guard the city are failing: the London Wall defiled with cryptic graffiti, the ravens found dead at the Tower, the London Stone destroyed. This is not good news. This array of supernatural defences – a mix of international tourist attractions and forgotten urban legends – formed a formidable magical shield. Protection for the City of London against… well, that’s the question, isn’t it? What could be so dangerous as to threaten an entire city?

 

 Against his better judgement, resurrected sorcerer Matthew Swift is about to find out. And if he’s lucky, he might just live long enough to do something about it…


The Mirror Prince by Violette Malan (DAW) – I blame this one on twitter (Violette and follow each other) and more specifically Paul Weimer. He and I follow each other, have plenty of twitter conversations, and seem to have about 75% similar reading tastes/sensibilities. He’s always had good things to say about Violette’s work so here goes.

Max Ravenhill thinks he's human . . . but he's wrong. He's been given false memories over and over again by his Wardens, who don't want him to realize that he's been alive for over 1000 years.

Max and his Wardens are Riders -- what humans call Faerie, and back in their Lands Max was the Prince Guardian, Keeper of the Talismans. As the Prince Guardian, Max lost a civil war, and was banished to the Shadowlands, the human country. To prevent his escape, his memory was bound, along with his dra'aj, the magical energy that is manifested in all Faerie. His Wardens made sure that the powerless Exile was not accidentally killed by humans.

The Banishment is nearing its end when Warden Cassandra Kennaby, gets a most unexpected warning that Max is in immanent danger from his old enemy, the Rider who has become known as the Basilisk Prince. Cassandra has personal reasons for avoiding her charge, but when the warning is confirmed by the appearance of the Hunt, she has no choice but to remember her Oath and go to the rescue. As the Hunt closes in, the only way Cassandra can save Max is to risk returning him home before the end of the Banishment. Max finds himself in the bewildering Lands of the People, where nothing, not the Riders or the Naturals or the Solitaries -- not even the Landscape itself, does what he expects. Cassandra and Max they find that the dra'aj of the Lands itself has been waning during the Banishment, and the Basilisk Prince has been growing in power since the time of the Great War. Max's old supporters desperately need Max to prevent the Basilisk from declaring himself High Prince and destroying the natural Cycles of the Lands. But it isn't really Max they need -- it's his true self, the Guardian Prince. Max must decide to give up the only life he knows, in order to become someone else, in order to fight an ancient enemy he doesn't even remember. 

Armageddon Bound (Demon Squad #1) by Tim Marquitz (Self-published) – I blame this one on twitter (Tim and follow each other), the Bastard of SFFWorld and the SFFWorld forums. Folks who have read Marquitz’s books have great things to say about them and this is his first. Tim also contributed a story to the Triumph over Tragedy anthology I helped to edit

Half-devil and miles from anything resembling heroic, perpetual underdog Frank "Triggaltheron" Trigg is the last man standing against Armageddon. As the favorite nephew of the Devil, Frank has led a troubled life, but he'd always had his uncle's influence to fall back on. Now, with God and Lucifer coming to terms and leaving existence to fend for itself, his once exalted status of Anti-Christ-to-be does little to endear him to the hordes of angels and demons running amok in the Godless world. With help from the members of DRAC, an organization of wizards, psychics, telepaths, and low-end supernatural beings, Frank must thwart the pro-Armageddon forces and rescue an angel in whose life rests the fate of humanity. Better luck next time, humanity.




Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson (Dellacorte) – Brandon Sanderson writing superheroes (which one can argue he did in a fantasy setting with Mistborn). I don’t think anything else needs to be said. I shared the press release about a year and a half ago for this one.

There are no heroes.

Every single person who manifested powers—we call them Epics—turned out to be evil.

Here, in the city once known as Chicago, an extraordinarily powerful Epic declared himself Emperor. Steelheart has the strength of ten men and can control the elements. It is said no bullet can harm him, no sword can split his skin, no explosion can burn him. He is invincible.

It has been ten years. We live our lives as best we can. Nobody fights back . . . nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans who spend their lives studying powerful Epics, finding their weaknesses, then assassinating them.

My name is David Charleston. I’m not one of the Reckoners, but I intend to join them. I have something they need. Something precious, something incredible. Not an object, but an experience. I know his secret.

I’ve seen Steelheart bleed. 

D.G. Yuengling & Son, Inc. (Images of America ) by Robert A. Musson MD with a forward by Dick Yuengling (Arcadia Publishing) – I like beer and Yuengling is my go-to brand of beer. This is a neat book with a lot of historical images of the brewery, various labels and promotional material used over the years. I've already read through this and liked it.

Known as Americas Oldest Brewery, D. G. Yuengling & Son, Inc., of Pottsville has been in continuous operation since 1829. Since its start, Yuengling has been prudently managed by the Yuengling family. Overcoming the 14 dry years of Prohibition, Yuengling persevered due in part to the ingenuity and creativity of its owners and loyalty of its consumers. Unlike many of the regional brewers who were forced to close their doors over time, Yuengling found a niche for itself beginning in the late 1980s. With the introduction of Yuengling Lager and Black & Tan, the brand became a sensation in and around Philadelphia. Popularity of the beverages led to Yuengling being distributed in 14 states, making it the largest American-owned brewery. Through more than 220 historic images, D.G. Yuengling & Son, Inc., tells the story of this legendary American company.


Empire of the Blood by Gav Thorpe (Angry Robot) – I blame this one on twitter at least partially and pornokitsch specifically. I think I recall seeing a post or a tweet from Jared about these books, plus I’ve been very pleased with most of what I’ve read from the folks at Angry Robot and I’m always happy to read a new completed Epic Fantasy series, especially an omnibus. Damn is this is one thick brick of book, you could kill a rabbit with it.

The Empire of the Blood Trilogy Includes:

The Crown of the Blood
The Crown of the Conqueror
The Crown of the Usurper

THE CROWN OF THE BLOOD
He had brought his master's Empire to the furthest reaches of the world. All had fallen before him. Now he longs for home.
But home isn't what it was. Could it be that everything he's fought for all those years has been a lie?
A sweeping fantasy of immense battles, demonic magic and dark politics.


THE CROWN OF THE CONQUEROR
Ullsaard has won the crown
But when he is confronted with a truth too shocking to contemplate, he has to make the impossible choice between power and honour.
And now the real battle has begun in this stunning sequel to The Crown of the Blood, packed with gargantuan battles, demonic magic and treacherous politics.


THE CROWN OF THE USURPER
The stunning conclusion to the epic Crown of the Blood series.


Children No More (Jon and Lobo #4) by Mark L. Van Name (Baen Books) – I’ve enjoyed each of the books in this series I’ve read, going back to the Jump Gate Twist ominibus I read a few years ago, but I can initially blame wanting to read these highly enjoyable SF adventures on liviu from Fantasy Book Critic. Van Name is donating all proceeds from this novel to a charity very important to him.

NO CHILD SHOULD EVER BE A SOLDIER

Jon Moore knew that better than most, having learned to fight to survive before he’d hit puberty. So when a former comrade, Alissa Lim, asks for his help in rescuing a group of children pressed into service by rebels on a planet no one cares to save, he agrees. Only later does he realize he’s signed up to do far more than he’d ever imagined.

Jon’s commitment hurtles him and Lobo, the hyper-intelligent assault vehicle who is his only real friend, into confrontations with the horrors the children have experienced and with a dark chapter from his own past. The complications mount as Jon and Lobo rush straight into the darkness at the heart of humanity to save a group of child soldiers—and then face an even tougher challenge:

When we’ve trained our children to kill, what do we do with them when the fighting is over?


Titan (The Gaea Trilogy #1) by John Varley (Ace) – I’m not really sure where to assign blame on this one as Varley’s work, especially this trilogy which is his most famous work, has come up on podcasts, internet listings of books, and twitter for years but I did enjoy his novel The Golden Globe when I read it on the plane going to Hawai’i for my honeymoon.

Titan is first in Varley’s epic Gaean Trilogy. It was finalist for both Hugo and Nebula awards.

Gaea is a world within a world – impossible, bizarre, an endless landscape inhabited by creatures out of legend. Gaea is a goddess, sometimes whimsical, sometimes malign and always terrifying. But she is also three million years old and her powers are increasingly capricious and uncertain.




Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Tad Williams @ SFFWorld and Brent Weeks @ SF Signal

Last Friday, my latest Completist column was posted to SF Signal, featuring Brent Weeks's Night Angel Trilogy. I read the first two on publication and the 3rd a couple of months after it published. While I've seen some flack on these books, I enjoyed them a great deal.

http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2013/12/the-completist-the-night-angel-trilogy-by-brent-weeks/ 


Yesterday, over at SFFWorld, I reviewed the newest book by one of my favorite authors, Tad Williams.  Happy Hour in Hell is the second novel featuring the angel Doloriel, also known as Bobby Dollar as he tries to free the creature he loves (a demoness) from Hell.  Lots of fun in this book.

http://www.sffworld.com/2013/12/happy-hour-hell-bobby-dollar-2-tad-williams/
Superficially, Happy Hour in Hell is very much a travelogue through Tad Williams’ version of Hell, itself informed by Dante and Milton to a large degree. Whereas the first installment in this series was more of a mystery, Happy Hour is more of a quest tale, with Bobby traversing Hell in the guise of a demon. While Dirty Streets of Heaven set up, initially, a dichotomy between Heaven and Hell only to reveal a Third Way by novel’s end, in Happy Hour Tad Williams shakes up the rule book on Bobby (and the reader) suggesting the rules of Heaven and Hell aren’t quite what they are classically thought to be.

The tour through Hell is truly fascinating; Williams evokes some very gruesome imagery in both the inhabitants of Hell as well as the vast landscapes Bobby traverses. One group of demons he encounters reminded me a bit of the folks in Michael Moorcock’s Dancers at the End of Time sequence which itself is set in Moorcock’s Eternal Champion mythos. A combination of decadence and high societal cruelty marked this particularly strange and ultimately uncomfortable episode in Bobby’s odyssey through Hell. On the whole for Bobby’s journey, I was also reminded of Tad’s own Otherland novels for the layers of worlds explored by the characters. The literary winks nods are all over the place, but don’t weigh down the narrative in the least.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Books in the Mail (W/E 2013-12-21)

Two books this week, both making an appearance in the US two years after having appeared in the UK.
Irenicon (The Wave Trilogy #1) by Aidan Harte (Jo Fletcher Books Hardcover 04/01/2014) –This was originally published in the UK in 2012, it will be hitting US Shelves in April 2014.

The river Irenicon was blasted through the middle of Rasenna in 1347 and now it is a permanent reminder to the feuding factions that nothing can stand in the way of the Concordian Empire. The artificial river, created overnight by Concordian engineers using the Wave, runs uphill. But the Wave is both weapon and mystery; not even the Concordians know how the river became conscious – and hostile.

But times are changing. Concordian engineer Captain Giovanni is ordered to bridge the Irenicon – not to reunite the sundered city, but to aid Concord’s mighty armies, for the engineers have their sights set firmly on world domination and Rasenna is in their way.

Sofia Scaglieri will soon be seventeen, when she will become Contessa of Rasenna, but her inheritance is tainted: she can see no way of stopping the ancient culture of vendetta which divides her city. What she can’t understand is why Giovanni is trying so hard to stop the feuding, or why he is prepared to risk his life, not just with her people, but also with the lethal water spirits – the buio – that infest the Irenicon.

Times are changing. And only the young Contessa and the enemy engineer Giovanni understand they have to change too, if they are to survive the coming devastation – for Concord is about to unleash the Wave again…

Dominion by C.J. Sansom (Mullholland Books Hardcover 01/28/2014) –This was originally published in the UK in 2012, received the Sidewise award for best Alternate History novel that year. In 2014, it hits US shelves..

1952. Twelve years have passed since Churchill lost to the appeasers and Britain surrendered to Nazi Germany. The press, radio, and television are tightly controlled. British Jews face ever greater constraints.

But Churchill’s Resistance soldiers on. And in a Birmingham mental hospital, fragile scientist Frank Muncaster holds a secret that could alter the balance of the global struggle forever.

Civil Servant David Fitzgerald, a spy for the Resistance, is given the mission to rescue Frank and get him out of the country. Hard on his heels is Gestapo agent Gunther Hoth, a brilliant, implacable hunter of men, who soon has Frank and David’s innocent wife, Sarah, directly in his sights.

C.J. Sansom’s literary thriller Winter in Madrid earned Sansom comparisons to Graham Greene, Sebastian Faulks, and Ernest Hemingway. Now, in the first alternative history epic from Sansom in the tradition of Harris’s Fatherland and Stephen King’s 11/22/63, Sansom doesn’t just recreate the past—he reinvents it. In a spellbinding tale of suspense, oppression and poignant love, Dominion dares to explore how, in moments of crisis, history can turn on the decisions of a few brave men and women—the secrets they keep and the bonds they share.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Books in the Mail (W/E 2013-12-14)

With the year winding down, the review book arrivals at the o' Stuff household have slowed even more.  The lone title to arrive is an eArc which landed on my kindle on Friday night.

Honor’s Knight (Volume 2 of The Paradox Series) by Rachel Bach (Orbit, Trade Paperback 11/05/2013) – This is second book in the thrilling Space Opera / Military Science Ficiton / Urban Fantasy hybrid that I’m enjoying. Well, at least the first installment Fortune’s Pawn.

The rollicking sequel to Fortune's Pawn -- an action packed science fiction novel.

Devi Morris has a lot of problems, and not the fun, easy-to-shoot kind either. After a mysterious attack left her short several memories and one partner, she'd determined to keep her head down, do her job, and get on with her life. But even though Devi's not actually looking for it this time, trouble keeps finding her. She sees ghostly creatures no one else can, the inexplicable black stain on her hands keeps getting bigger, and she can't seem to stop getting into compromising situations with a man she's supposed to hate. But when a deadly crisis exposes far more of the truth than she bargained for, Devi discovers there's worse fates than being shot, and sometimes the only people you can trust are the ones who want you dead.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

First and Last: What's Next? Butcher, Scholes or Redick?

I receive a lot of books for review, I get books as gifts, and I buy books on my own. In short, I’m a bibliophile. Most of you who are reading my blog are aware of this, many of you likely have the same habit. As I've mentioned many times, my reading leans towards Epic Fantasy.

One of the odd occurrences or results of receiving so many review books is that I will often receive series books out of sequence. That is, I will be sent the third book of a four book series without having received the first two books, or on other occasions, just the last book in the series. Scenarios like this have led to this blog post, as three series fit into this category. I've seen good things from quite a few internet colleagues and friends about these three series, which makes plucking the first book of one of these series a bit more challenging.

For Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera I purchased the first installment Furies of Calderon years ago and when the final installment First Lord’s Fury published, it arrived for review. I'm two books away from being caught up with his wonderful Dresden Files, so I'm not sure if I want to get caught up with Dresden before diving into the Codex.


I recently received the fourth book in Ken Scholes’s The Psalms of Isaak, Requiem. I have the first installment (Lamentation) on my kindle and have had this series on the back burner to read for a while since reading the short story, “Of Metal Men and Scarlet Thread and Dancing with the Sunrise,” which is a precursor to this series, way back in Realms of Fantasy in 2006. One quirk on this series is the drastic change in cover art and design after the second book.  I like Chris McGrath's art but the sweeping landscape Greg Manchess did for the first two installments gave the books a more epic feel, at least on a superficial level. It just seems odd to change the look and art of a series mid-stream.



The third author / series to complete today’s Triforce is Robert V.S. Redick and his Chathrand Voyage four book series. This one is odd because I had an ARC of the first book and third book that sort of left my house in one of a few purges (either donations to troops or when I let my gaming group pull books from the unread stacks). As it stands, I currently have the first book, The Red Wolf Conspiracy and the final (which switched form initial hardcover release to trade paperback release) The Night of the Swarm. (Oddly, Redick’s debut was in a poll I ran when I first received it since I wasn’t entirely sure which debut fantasy novel to read).



All that said, anybody have thoughts on which way I should lean for the next series of these three should be pulled from Mount ToBeread? (I am and have been leaning strongly towards one of these for a while).

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Rouaud's The Path of Anger, Scwab's Vicious, and Wallace's The Wolves of Paris

We've got a few new reviews at SFFWorld this week. Heck, ever since Dag revamped the Web site it  has been something of a hotbed for genre content like reviews and interviews.  One of the ongoing "series" at the site is "Authors review Authors." At the title implies, small press/self published authors pair up and review each other's work.

Aside from those regular updates, Mark, Nila, and I have new reviews.

Over the weekend, Mark posted his review of The Path of Anger by Antoine Rouaud, the first installment of The Book and the Sword:

http://www.sffworld.com/2013/12/path-anger-antoine-rouaud/
I must admit my first impression was that this debut Fantasy novel was a book catering to the ‘I know-what-I-like’ reader. Admittedly the cover is very cool, but as we’re looking at a world of knights, Emperors and assassins, I was rather concerned that I’d think I’d read it all before.

How wrong I was.
...

The world is deliberately medieval-esque. It’s rather like the French Revolution of the 1790’s transposed to a more traditional medieval fantasy world. There is magic here, known as the animus, which people can tap into, although at a physical cost.

The world of Masalia is a world in transition: a place where we look at the formation of a Republic and the collapse of an Empire. It raises interesting questions, in the same way that the Star Wars trilogy does: when the Empire’s ended, the bad guys have been beaten: what happens next? The reader, and the people within this world, may not like all that they see.

Yesterday, I posted a book that will be on my list of best 2013 books. Vicious by V.E. Schwab is her fist novel for the adult market and is one of the best super-hero/super-villain deconstructions stories I've encountered:


http://www.sffworld.com/2013/12/vicious-v-e-schwab/ Through a non-linear narrative, we learn in the “present” of the novel, Victor has just broken out of prison after serving for 10 years. Initially, his reason for incarceration is not given, but hints leading up to the revelation paint a good picture. The two friends were successful in their attempts to gain super powers, but as a result their friendship is forever fractured.

The first half of the narrative was told mostly from Victor’s point of view, and Eli’s point of view entered into the second half of the narrative, even if it was still mostly from Victor’s POV, with some chapters throughout from the POV of Sarah and Sydney, sisters, one of whom winds up as Victor’s ‘sidekick’ and the other a romantic interest for Eli. Schwab jumped around in time, focusing on the days surrounding the time Eli and Victor conducted their experiments in the hopes of becoming EOs and the days and weeks leading up to their final confrontation. The shortened chapters with intertwined timelines did a fantastic job of building suspense on multiple levels. It seemed a natural way for the story to be told, and I suspect it was one of those tricks that took a great deal of effort to get correct, but felt effortless due to Schwab’s incredible storytelling powers.



Today, Nila reviews Michael Wallace's The Wolves of Paris:

http://www.sffworld.com/2013/12/wolves-paris-michael-wallace/
The Wolves of Paris is a short, fun read of murder, mayhem, and werewolves in 15th century Paris. Told primarily through three main characters; two brothers at odds with each other, and the woman they both love; The Wolves of Paris starts out funny. Not laugh-out-loud funny, but pretty darn close.

Two gate guards, an older, half-blind fellow and his younger compatriot, are freezing as night descends over Paris. The two collect tolls but their minds are decidedly in the gutter, awaiting the appearance of Lade d’Lisle’s bottom as she extends it over the Seine to relieve herself.
...
Michael Wallace writes a dashing tale of suspense, religion, intrigue, with a bit of romance thrown in for good measure. He colors his world with quick and accurate descriptions that keep the story moving briskly while filling out the histories and customs of the land. His characters are well-drawn and likeable, and the situations they find themselves in are touched with equal amounts of horror and humor.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Books in the Mail (W/E 2013-12-07)

Work Done for Hire by Joe Haldeman (Ace, Hardcover 01/07/2014) – As the author of, among other books, the seminal military SF novel Forever War Haldeman is a living legend in the Science Fiction. This novel looks to be a slight departure and more of a modern thriller.

Joe Haldeman’s “adept plotting, strong pacing, and sense of grim stoicism have won him wide acclaim” (The Washington Post) and numerous honors for such works as The Forever War, The Accidental Time Machine, and the Marsbound trilogy. Now, the multiple Hugo and Nebula award–winning author pits a lone war veteran against a mysterious enemy who is watching his every move—and threatens him with more than death unless he kills for them.

Wounded in combat and honorably discharged nine years ago, Jack Daley still suffers nightmares from when he served his country as a sniper, racking up sixteen confirmed kills. Now a struggling author, Jack accepts an offer to write a near-future novel about a serial killer, based on a Hollywood script outline. It’s an opportunity to build his writing career, and a future with his girlfriend, Kit Majors.

But Jack’s other talent is also in demand. A package arrives on his doorstep containing a sniper rifle, complete with silencer and ammunition—and the first installment of a $100,000 payment to kill a “bad man.” The twisted offer is genuine. The people behind it are dangerous. They prove that they have Jack under surveillance. He can’t run. He can’t hide. And if he doesn’t take the job, Kit will be in the crosshairs instead.

Black Dog by Rachel Neumeier (Strange Chemistry, Hardcover 02/04/2014) – Neumeier may be best known for The Griffin Mage Trilogy published with Orbit a couple of years ago, or for a few other young adult novels.

Natividad is Pure, one of the rare girls born able to wield magic. Pure magic can protect humans against the supernatural evils they only half-acknowledge – the blood kin or the black dogs. In rare cases – like for Natividad’s father and older brother – Pure magic can help black dogs find the strength to control their dark powers.

But before Natividad’s mother can finish teaching her magic their enemies find them. Their entire village in the remote hills of Mexico is slaughtered by black dogs. Their parents die protecting them. Natividad and her brothers must flee across a strange country to the only possible shelter: the infamous black dogs of Dimilioc, who have sworn to protect the Pure.

In the snowy forests of Vermont they are discovered by Ezekiel Korte, despite his youth the strongest black dog at Dimilioc and the appointed pack executioner. Intrigued by Natividad he takes them to Dimilioc instead of killing them.

Now they must pass the tests of the Dimilioc Master. Alejandro must prove he can learn loyalty and control even without his sister’s Pure magic. Natividad’s twin Miguel must prove that an ordinary human can be more than a burden to be protected. And even at Dimilioc a Pure girl like Natividad cannot remain unclaimed to cause fighting and distraction. If she is to stay she must choose a black dog mate.

But, first, they must all survive the looming battle.



Friday, December 06, 2013

SFFWorld/SF Signal Weekly-ish Wrap Up: David Anthony Durham and Elizabeth Moon

Earlier this week, Tuesday to be specific, I posted my first review to SFFWorld in a few weeks, David Anthony Durham's The Other Lands. This is the second installment of his superb Acacia Trilogy and after finishing the third and final book recently, stands quite high in my echelon of Fantasy series.


http://www.sffworld.com/2013/12/lands-acacia-book-2-david-anthony-durham/ A prologue illustrates the horrors of the Quota – the pogrom in which children are stolen and used either as slaves and/or their life force is sapped to power the boats, machines, and indeed the lives of the Lothan Aklun, one of the nations in the world. This prologue shows a glimpse of the despair and horrors of slave life and how in an instant, a brother and sister can be torn apart.

...

In each of the first two novels in this series, the incoming leader has goals of ridding the world of the Quota, of slaves, before ascending the throne. A throne, mind you, that both times was gained through violence and the death of the previous throne’s sitter. Hanish Mein wanted to abolish the Quota, but realized how powerful a tool it was to making the world turn. Removing such a foundation proves more difficult than idealistic minds anticipate. Haunting the novel is the specter of Aliver, Corinn’s older brother who was the rightful king of Acacia. His proclamation to rid the Known World of slavery and the mist (an addictive drug used by the ruling class to keep the great unwashed populace in check) is seen by his now ruling sister as a childish dream. While the mist’s hold over the populace was broken thanks to the sorcerous events of the first novel, the Quota is still an unchangeable thing. Corinn seems to embrace the Quota and goes to great lengths to create a new tool to control the populace in the same fashion the mist was used in the past. Rather than an addictive mist, she charges her alchemists to create a wine – the Vintage – which will bring all the people who consume it fully under her sway.



Over at SF Signal, my latest completest column is up and features the seminal Military Fantasy trilogy by Elizabeth Moon - The Deed of Paksenarrion.


http://t.co/MDiPNBMafJ One of the strongest elements of this trilogy was how that Moon chose to tell the story of Paks, not as the Hidden Heir Chosen to Rule, but rather she who finds the Hidden Heir Chosen to Rule. I liked nearly everything about the three books contained in the big grey/blue book published by Baen. What’s more impressive is that these three books are the first three published by Elizabeth Moon. I think she developed the character of Paks very well throughout the novels and the world came across as quite real, especially because of the solid and believable groundwork she laid down in the first novel Sheepfarmer’s Daughter. If you want readers to believe in the fantastic elements (elves, magic, etc.) the real elements must be authentic and true, it seems Elizabeth Moon takes that statement to heart. I’ve also seen the criticism leveled ad Paks that she’s too perfect, but a lot of her gains and successes are through hard-earned work and some suffering, she gives up part of herself in service to her goals and what she hopes to achieve, especially by trilogy’s end so it isn’t as if she just picks up a magical sword and becomes the greatest sword-wielder the world has ever seen.




Also at SFFWorld, Mark reviewed the latest massive tome edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer, The Time Traveler's Almanac.

http://www.sffworld.com/2013/11/time-travellers-almanac-edited-ann-jeff-vandermeer/
It is difficult to summarize such a tome, and it would perhaps be wrong of me to try. However, like the previous Vandermeer collection, I found old personal favourites (Ray Bradbury, HG Wells, Asimov, Kuttner and Moore, Connie Willis) as well as ones totally new to me (Vandana Singh, Dean Francis Alfar, Rosaleen Love, Karen Haber, Rjurik Davidson). I found stories from authors I liked, but hadn’t read (George RR Martin, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Kim Newman, Eric Frank Russell) and stories I know others will like but left me cold (Ursula K leGuin, Adam Roberts). There are some old ones (Edward Page Mitchell’s The Clock that went Backward, 1881, regarded here as one of the earliest time-travel tales, Max Beerbohn’s Enoch Soames, 1916, EF Benson’s In the Tube 1923), and some relatively new ones (John Chu’s Thirty Seconds from Now, 2011, Adrian Tchaikovsky’s The Mouse Ran Down, 2012). There were some that I forgot nearly as soon as I had finished reading them, even some I disliked. But that is the nature of such an eclectic assemblage: if you don’t like one, there’ll be another along in a minute that you probably will.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Books in the Mail (W/E 2013-11-30)

Since last week was Thanksgiving week, it was a rather slow week here at the home of the 'O Stuff. Just one review book arrived this week on my kindle.

Shadow OPS: Breach Zone by Myke Cole (Ace, Mass Market Paperback 01/28/2014) – Myke’s two Shadow OPS novels Control Point and Fortress Frontier are some of my favorite books published in the last couple of years. This one brings the connected trilogy to a close.

The Great Reawakening did not come quietly. Across the country and in every nation, people began “coming up Latent,” developing terrifying powers—summoning storms, raising the dead, and setting everything they touch ablaze. Those who Manifest must choose: become a sheepdog who protects the flock or a wolf who devours it…


In the wake of a bloody battle at Forward Operating Base Frontier and a scandalous presidential impeachment, Lieutenant Colonel Jan Thorsson, call sign “Harlequin,” becomes a national hero and a pariah to the military that is the only family he’s ever known.

In the fight for Latent equality, Oscar Britton is positioned to lead a rebellion in exile, but a powerful rival beats him to the punch: Scylla, a walking weapon who will stop at nothing to end the human-sanctioned apartheid against her kind.

When Scylla’s inhuman forces invade New York City, the Supernatural Operations Corps are the only soldiers equipped to prevent a massacre. In order to redeem himself with the military, Harlequin will be forced to face off with this havoc-wreaking woman from his past, warped by her power into something evil.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Books in the Mail (W/E 2013-10-23)

A larger than what has been normal batch of arrivals here at the o' Stuff. Mainly, Orbit's November/December releases.


A Dance of Blades (Volume 2 of Shadowdance) by David Dalglish (Orbit, Trade Paperback 11/05/2013) – Orbit really knows what they are doing in publishing series book, ensuring the quick succession of their publishing. This is the second installment of Dalglish’s self-published series.

It's been five long years since the city learned to fear...

The war between the thief guilds and the powerful allegiance known as the Trifect has slowly dwindled. Now only the mysterious Haern is left to wage his private battle against the guilds in the guise of the Watcher - a vicious killer who knows no limits. But when the son of Alyssa Gemcroft, one of the three leaders of the Trifect, is believed murdered, the slaughter begins anew. Mercenaries flood the streets with one goal in mind: find and kill the Watcher.

Peace or destruction; every war must have its end.

Fantasy author David Dalglish spins a tale of retribution and darkness, and an underworld reaching for ultimate power.



Malice (The Faithful and the Fallen Book One) by John Gwynne (Orbit Trade Paperback 11/26/2013) – Gwynne’s debut, published in the UK earlier in the year through Tor UK, receives US release at the end of the year from the fine folks at Orbit. Although the promo material does not mention this is the launch of a series, this is the launch of a series.

The world is broken...

Corban wants nothing more than to be a warrior under King Brenin's rule - to protect and serve. But that day will come all too soon. And the price he pays will be in blood.

Evnis has sacrificed - too much it seems. But what he wants - the power to rule -- will soon be in his grasp. And nothing will stop him once he has started on his path.

Veradis is the newest member of the warband for the High Prince, Nathair. He is one of the most skilled swordsman to come out of his homeland, yet he is always under the shadow of his older brother.

Nathair has ideas - and a lot of plans. Many of them don't involve his father, the High King Aquilus. Nor does he agree with his father's idea to summon his fellow kings to council.

The Banished Lands has a violent past where armies of men and giants clashed in battle, but now giants are seen, the stones weep blood and giant wyrms are stirring. Those who can still read the signs see a threat far greater than the ancient wars. For if the Black Sun gains ascendancy, mankind's hopes and dreams will fall to dust...

...and it can never be made whole again.


MALICE is a dark epic fantasy tale of blind greed, ambition, and betrayal.


Last to Rise (Rojan Dizon Book Three) by Francis Knight (Orbit Trade Paperback 11/26/2013) – Third in the sequence with began with to Knight’s interesting debut novel Fade to Black, which I read and enjoyed earlier in the year.

The towering vertical city of Mahala is on the brink of war with its neighboring countries. It might be his worst nightmare, but Rojan and the few remaining pain mages have been drafted in to help.

The city needs power in whatever form they can get it -- and fast. With alchemists readying a prototype electricity generator, and factories producing guns faster than ever, the city's best advantage is still the mages. Tapping their power is a risky plan, but with food in the city running out, and a battle brimming that no one is ready for, risky is the best they've got...

The spectacular conclusion to the adventures of Rojan Dizon, which began with the thrilling fantasy debut Fade to Black.




Dangerous Women edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois (Tor, Hardcover 12/03/2013) – This is the second themed anthology from this power-house duo on the shelves this year. I read (and enjoyed) Old Mars from them and this one has a very impressive line-up including a number of my favorite writers including Joe Abercrombie, Jim Butcher, and George R.R. Martin. This thing is huge, a dead raccoon was under the package containing the book; I only noticed the raccoon after moving the package.

All new and original to this volume, the 21 stories in Dangerous Women include work by twelve New York Times bestsellers, and seven stories set in the authors’ bestselling continuities—including a new “Outlander” story by Diana Gabaldon, a tale of Harry Dresden’s world by Jim Butcher, a story from Lev Grossman set in the world of The Magicians, and a 35,000-word novella by George R. R. Martin about the Dance of the Dragons, the vast civil war that tore Westeros apart nearly two centuries before the events of A Game of Thrones.

Also included are original stories of dangerous women--heroines and villains alike--by Brandon Sanderson, Joe Abercrombie, Sherilynn Kenyon, Lawrence Block, Carrie Vaughn, S. M. Stirling, Sharon Kay Penman, and many others.

Writes Gardner Dozois in his Introduction, “Here you’ll find no hapless victims who stand by whimpering in dread while the male hero fights the monster or clashes swords with the villain, and if you want to tie these women to the railroad tracks, you’ll find you have a real fight on your hands. Instead, you will find sword-wielding women warriors, intrepid women fighter pilots and far-ranging spacewomen, deadly female serial killers, formidable female superheroes, sly and seductive femmes fatale, female wizards, hard-living Bad Girls, female bandits and rebels, embattled survivors in Post-Apocalyptic futures, female Private Investigators, stern female hanging judges, haughty queens who rule nations and whose jealousies and ambitions send thousands to grisly deaths, daring dragonriders, and many more.”

Friday, November 22, 2013

Double Duty at SF Signal (SFFWorld not Forgotten!)

I haven't had much activity reviewing at SFFWorld in the past couple of weeks for a couple of reasons.

First, the books I have been reading, David Anthony Durham's spectacular Acacia novels are large and take a lot of my attention.  The first one is  re-read which I mentioned last week that I initially reviewed in 2007. As I'm reading second novel The Other Lands, the story continues to keep my attention in a very powerful way whereas other books which have taken as long for me to read fell to the wayside. I short, as I've said before, Durham is a great storyteller.

Secondly, I've been doing weekly Orphan Black posts for Tor.com as I mentioned in my last blog post.

Thirdly and fourthly, depending on how you choose to count it, I've had a couple of things go live at SF Signal this week.  Wednesday, the Mind Meld Paul Weimer invited me to give thought to: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Genre Series: Series vs. Standalones; Ones We Abandoned; Ones We Returned To.  Here's a bit of what I said (and of course I mentioned Acacia):

Of course there are series that I read immediately upon publication of a new book in the series: George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (though I re-read the whole series when each book publishes), any series that Tad Williams has published or will publish, and more recently Myke Cole’s Shadow OPS books, Peter Brett’s Demonwar cycle, and since reading her latest as Rachel Bach, any series Rachel Aaron writes, and so on and so forth…


Yesterday, the latest installment of my column for SF Signal, The Completist went live wherein I pull from a decade plus time laps since reading Jeffrey Ford's Well-Built City trilogy to try to expound upon the books powerful virtues.


https://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2013/11/the-completist-jeffrey-fords-the-well-built-city/


These novels should not be dismissed for their short length, as the three combined are smaller than many fantasy novels with which they share shelf space. The combination of literary weight and breadth of imagination on display in these three novels (frankly, all of the work I’ve read by Jeffrey Ford) is nothing short of brilliance. At the intersection of Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror lies The Well-Built City, enter at your own risk, but the rewards will spoil you for other fantasy, for nothing is quite like it.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Orphan Black Rewatch Comes to a Close

My time with Orphan Black has come to a temporary close, as the final episode "Endless Forms Most Beautiful" re-aired on BBC America this past Saturday, November 16. As such, my final recap / breakdown was posted to Tor.com on Monday.

http://www.tor.com/blogs/2013/11/orphan-black-rewatch-endless-forms-most-beautiful


I knew I enjoyed the show when I watched with my wife during its first run, but I think I enjoyed it at least as much during this second viewing. Knowing a lot of what happened allowed me to pick up on a lot of the recurring themes, hints/foreshadowing, and points laid out in all of the episodes, like how often Sarah was told she was lucky to have Kira. 

I really must point out what a fantastic job the production editors did with each of my posts. They managed to get the absolute perfect screen shot for each post and each point I wanted to be highlighted in my recaps. A few of the commenters, as I point out in the last breakdown post at Tor, helped me view the story/show a bit differently than I initially did.  I realized that maybe, as much as I may have had a crush on Alison, that she was not handling her situation in the best fashion.

So, all I have to say at this point about the show itself (considering I spouted quite a bit about each episode and had some thoughts overall) is I am greatly anticipating the second season when it airs in April 2014. I will add that it was a little jarring, at first, to see Dylan Bruce (the actor who portrays Paul Dierden) on Arrow (another terrific show) this season.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Books in the Mail (W/E 2013-11-16)

A few books this week, two from the fine folks at Tor: one an electronic ARC another the physical copy of the book.

Fortune’s Pawn (Volume 1 of The Paradox Series) by Rachel Bach (Orbit, Trade Paperback 11/05/2013) – This is the “final” published copy of the ARC I received in August. I’ve since read and reviewed it and thoroughly enjoyed it. It is somewhat of an open secret that Bach is a pseudonym for Rachel Aaron, author of the very entertaining Eli Monpress fantasy novels. I’m really looking forward to this book.

Devi Morris isn't your average mercenary. She has plans. Big ones. And a ton of ambition. It's a combination that's going to get her killed one day - but not just yet.

That is, until she just gets a job on a tiny trade ship with a nasty reputation for surprises. The Glorious Fool isn't misnamed: it likes to get into trouble, so much so that one year of security work under its captain is equal to five years everywhere else. With odds like that, Devi knows she's found the perfect way to get the jump on the next part of her Plan. But the Fool doesn't give up its secrets without a fight, and one year on this ship might be more than even Devi can handle.



Homeland by James L. Cambias (Tor Hardcover 01/28/2014) – This is the debut from Cambias and is a Hard SF novel about first contact. Cambias has been publishing short fiction for over a decade in various places.

On the planet Ilmatar, under a roof of ice a kilometer thick, a team of deep-sea diving scientists investigates the blind alien race that lives below. The Terran explorers have made an uneasy truce with the Sholen, their first extraterrestrial contact: so long as they don’t disturb the Ilmataran habitat, they’re free to conduct their missions in peace.

But when Henri Kerlerec, media personality and reckless adventurer, ends up sliced open by curious Ilmatarans, tensions between Terran and Sholen erupt, leading to a diplomatic disaster that threatens to escalate to war.

Against the backdrop of deep-sea guerrilla conflict, a new age of human exploration begins as alien cultures collide. Both sides seek the aid of the newly enlightened Ilmatarans. But what this struggle means for the natives—and the future of human exploration—is anything but certain, in A Darkling Sea by James Cambias.

Bloodstone (Rebel Angels Book Two) by Gillian Philip (Tor Hardcover 11/19/2013) – Second in Philip’s four-book set.

Bloodstone is the second novel in Gillian Philip’s critically acclaimed Rebel Angels series, debuting in the United States for the first time.

For centuries, Sithe warriors Seth and Conal MacGregor have hunted for the Bloodstone demanded by their Queen. Homesick, and determined to protect their clan, they have also made secret forays across the Veil. One of these illicit crossings has violent consequences that will devastate both their close family, and their entire clan.

In the Otherworld, Jed Cameron, a feral, full-mortal young thief, becomes entangled with the strange and dangerous Finn MacAngus and her shadowy uncles. When he is dragged into the world of the Sithe, it’s nothing he can’t handle until time warps around him, and menacing forces reach out to threaten his infant brother. In the collision of two worlds, war and tragedy are inevitable, especially when treachery comes from the most shocking of quarters….

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Worthy of a Second Read - Acacia Book One: The War with the Mein by David Anthony Durham

This review of Acacia Book One: The War with the Mein by David Anthony Durham is a first for me, I’m writing a second review of a book I reviewed in the past (June 2007 when this book first published) so it will be interesting for me to tread over ground I’ve previously trod. On to the review, which is more of a reaction than a review actually…

http://www.sffworld.com/brevoff/373.html
Cover Art used on ARC
otherwise unused
When Acacia Book One The War with the Mein first published in 2007, it was to a great deal of buzz for a couple of reasons. One, Durham had a Literary-with-a-capital-L pedigree; his fiction had won and / or was nominated for a couple of awards. Two, Durham is a writer of color and Epic Fantasy is a genre dominated, to a large degree, by old white dudes. In other words, on the surface, he was bringing a very unique perspective to a genre that rests heavily on familiar tropes and story elements. Underneath the surface is a superb novel on many levels.

The War with the Mein opens on a kingdom during a gilded age during its waning days, King Leodan is old weakened, but keeps up a façade for his children whom he loves above everything; he wishes them to see only the beauty in the world. When the king is murdered in full view by an ancient enemy, the children soon learn of the truth behind the thin façade their father was projecting. The prosperity of Acacia has been built on the backs of slaves and its own citizens who are addicted to a drug, the mist, the monarchy uses to keep the populace under control.

The king’s plan upon dying was to scatter the children across the world so they could learn about the world outside without the rose tinted glasses afforded them by their station as royalty. Of course, not all goes to plan and eldest daughter Corinn is left behind to be slave and concubine to Hanish Mein, leader of the nation who brought down King Leodan.

Cover Art
UK Edition
Durham tells the novel in three major parts, introduction of the Arkan family, scattering of the Arkan family across the Known World, and their return to claim their birthright as heirs to the throne. The eldest son, Aliver, arrives in an untamed land of Talay where he rises through hard work and challenges to become a mythic hero; youngest son Dariel becomes a privateer/pirate under the name Spratling, and youngest daughter Mena barely survives her journey and finds herself on an island where she’s proclaimed to be the reincarnation of a powerful bird goddess, Maeben. As mentioned, Corinn is left behind and her relationship with Hanish is fascinating to watch unfold as she develops feelings for the man who tore her world asunder.

Of the Epic Fantasy novels I’ve read (and I’ve read quite a few), Durham manages to pull off the myth come to life better than any of them this side of Robert Jordan. He taps into the intersection of the collective unconscious of myth and power of trope to evoke a resonant tale in this first installment of Acacia. Reading the book felt like reading a powerful myth that informed a society.

In my earlier review of the novel, I may have been tad too tough on the book, in terms of Durham’s supposed info-dumps. On second reading, I did not get a sense of that at all and was fully swept up in the tale he was telling. 

I also, on this second reading, was able to get a better feel for the structure of the novel. Re-reading it, I realize how similar the first third of the novel; essentially, the set up; is to the setup of many other fantasies. However, just when the reader is lulled into that familiarity; BAM! Durham upends the playing table and lets the story roll down a new path of his own making. On a somewhat more granular level, each chapter is just long enough to consume in relatively brief settings so a sense of reading accomplishment is gained, and with that a great feel of progression in the story is accomplished. By novel’s end, Durham achieves resolution with each of the four siblings, but left me wanting more with the implications of how the story was resolved.

Full spread of Mass Market Paperback
I think I’ve made it pretty clear that Epic Fantasy is my favorite branch of Speculative Fiction and when done right, when the familiar elements are imbued with fresh flavors, it is what I like the most. With The War with the Mein, David Anthony Durham has done it all right and launched what looks to be a great fantasy saga. (As of this writing, I'm about 1/3 into the second novel in the trilogy, The Other Lands.) The conflict of different ideologies, rather than black and white good v. evil; the feel of the story as an evolving, living myth (which happens to be the title of the third portion of the novel); ancient powers of sorcery reawakening; monstrous creatures; adventure; etc., all come together so well.

In short, this book was well worth the second read and I highly, highly recommend it.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Books in the Mail (W/E 2013-11-09)

Just one lonely book this week arrived for review...


Fiddlehead (Clockwork Century Series #5) by Cherie Priest (Tor , Trade Paperback 11/12/2013) – The fifth and final book in Preist’s popular and steampunk acclaimed series. Another rollicking alternate history from Cherie Priest’s series which began with Boneshaker.

Young ex-slave Gideon Bardsley is a brilliant inventor, but the job is less glamorous than one might think, especially since the assassination attempts started. Worse yet, they're trying to destroy his greatest achievement: a calculating engine called Fiddlehead, which provides undeniable proof of something awful enough to destroy the world. Both man and machine are at risk from forces conspiring to keep the Civil War going and the money flowing.

Bardsley has no choice but to ask his patron, former president Abraham Lincoln, for help. Lincoln retired from leading the country after an attempt on his life, but is quite interested in Bardsley’s immense data-processing capacities, confident that if people have the facts, they'll see reason and urge the government to end the war. Lincoln must keep Bardsley safe until he can finish his research, so he calls on his old private security staff to protect Gideon and his data.

Maria “Belle” Boyd was a retired Confederate spy, until she got a life-changing job offer from the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Pinkerton respects her work, despite reservations about her lingering Southern loyalties. But it’s precisely those loyalties that let her go into Confederate territory to figure out who might be targeting Bardsley. Maria is a good detective, but with spies from both camps gunning for her, can even the notorious Belle Boyd hold the greedy warhawks at bay?

Friday, November 08, 2013

SFFWorld Round-up: Bach, Dalglish, Robertson, Paolini, and Wexler

Another round up of what's been posted to SFFWorld in today's blog post....

Last week, I posted my review of a contender for my favorite Science Fiction novel of the year, Fortune's Pawn, the first Paradox novel by Rachel Bach:


Devi meets and interacts with the motley crew of the Glorious Fool, – Captain Caldswell, who runs the ship with near military precision; Rupert who is “just a cook” (not); the bird like aeon pilot Basil who literally navigates from a nest; the tall lizard-like xith’cal doctor Hyrek (right, a doctor from a race which enjoys the taste of human flesh); the captain’s daughter Ren who is protected by Rupert; Cotter, the other security mercenary who joined the ship with Devi; and Mabel, the ship’s engineer who has the longest relationship with Captain Brian Caldswell; and Nova, who oversees the ships diagnostics. . Amidst this backdrop, the Glorious Fool is a trading vessel, not unlike the Serenity of Joss Whedon’s Firefly. Of course, we’d have very little story if the vessel were a simple trader. The character with whom Devi has the closest relationship as the novel progresses is Rupert; he is the love interest. He is the unconquerable man who doesn’t give into Devi’s charms immediately; Rupert is initially something of a stonewall. If anything, he may be a little too perfect. The romance between the two takes up a significant portion o

f the narrative energy.
...
I was a fan of the Eli Monpress novels written under the author’s real name Rachel Aaron, so when I learned she was shifting to space-based science fiction (so far, these books seem an equal mix military science fiction, space opera, and adventure SF), I was excited. That excitement was fulfilled. In the Eli Monpress novels, Aaron played with some genre conventions, but here writing as Bach she does much more upending of the genre tropes. For starters, the protagonist is a woman where a majority of protagonists in military SF have been male. That said, Devi is as aggressive on every level of her character as any male protagonist who preceded her in the genre. She goes after the men she wants, goes after the targets at which she aims, and tackles just about every obstacle in her way. She names her weapons and her power armor. Point being, she’s larger than life and in your face and I felt as if I got along well with her voice.

Mark had a look at self-published sensation turned newest Orbit fantasy author, David Dalglish and his fantasy novel, A Dance of Cloaks:


As a debut book in the series, A Dance of Cloaks is a ting-out-the-stall’ kind of book, where the reader is introduced to characters and places that it is clear will all be developed later, and undoubtedly with paths that will cross at some point. There are quite a few different characters to follow here, some major, others minor, but who may become more important later. Of the families, much of the plot deals with the life-changing events around two main characters. In the Trifect group, Alyssa Gemcroft, is the main heroine, the heir to the Gemcroft family fortune, used as a political device by her father Maynard, available for marriage to the right suitor. As you might expect, she rejects this.

...
Whilst the characters are nothing really new, and the plot admittedly rather generic, this is a book that revels in, and can be enjoyed for, its familiarity. With such a book, a reader does not need to spend time wrestling with deep concepts or revelatory stylistic touches. Readers can be assured that what they expect is what they get, to enjoy the plot developments as they happen, feel engaged with a story that uses straightforward language and enjoy a tale that basically is done well. Its purpose is to entertain.

Most recently, I reviewed Freya Robertson's debut novel, Heartwood. Robertson also recently provided SFFWorld with a guest post. Here's the cover, link, and review snapshot:


Robertson introduces many of the players at this gathering including the Holy Knights of the Heartwood, elite defenders of the Arbor as well as the many nations gathering to meet for a potential halt to hostilities. The protagonist, at least for the first third of the novel, seems to be Chonrad, a man who tried but was unsuccessful at becoming a Holy Knight and is sent to represent his nation at the Congressus. The Knights are led by Procella, a woman with whom Chonrad feels a great connection. Other knights include Beata, another female knight and Dean at Heartwood; twins Gravis and Gavius. Additionally, members of other nations, such as Fionnghuala of the Hanairean and Grimbeard, of the Wulfian where war rules all and men just take women are introduced.

...
What started as a novel with great potential conflict and interesting, if familiar, world and story fell under the weight of info-dumps and backstory. I liked the characters, I liked the world, but after the ample world-building in the first third of the novel, I felt ready for the story, particularly since it seemed to be pointed in the direction of multiple quests, to move at a more brisk pace. With each of the quests the characters were split up to undertake, we learned more about the characters. Too many weighty details are revealed about the characters by the characters themselves as inner monologue to allow for narrative the move along at a good pace.

We've also got some new interviews, including:


Thursday, November 07, 2013

The Completist: Greg Keyes's "The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone"

Yesterday, John at SF Signal post the latest edition my latest Completist column, this time featuring Greg Keyes's Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone, a series I enjoyed thoroughly as I read when each volume published.

http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2013/11/the-completist-greg-keyess-the-kingdoms-of-thorn-and-bone/#comment-137031


For reference, here are the links to each of the books in the series I wrote for SFFWorld as well as the interview I conducted with Greg (via telephone) at the launch of The Briar King




Wednesday, November 06, 2013

New Template, Version 6

About eight months ago, I changed the template on my blog so naturally, I'm changing it again today.  While the previous template looked pretty nice, I realized after reading quite a few books on my kindle, I like reading white/light grey text on a black background. Also, I don't like the way my sidebar was hidden in the previous dynamic view of the blog. 

This current design is very close to what it was prior to the change over in March. Yeah, I know, I'm a little obsessed with the Red and Black color combination, but the colors  happen to be from my alma mater and my favorite NHL team, the (currently terrible) New Jersey Devils.

So, here it is, the 6th iteration of my blog.  I'll also show off one of the signatures I received at NY Comic Con last month, Elizabeth Bear's signature on Range of Ghosts.