Sunday, March 28, 2010

Books in the Mail (W/E 03/27/2010)

Here’s the semi-regular disclaimer/introduction:

As a reviewer for SFFWorld and maybe because of this blog, I receive a lot of books for review from various publishers. Since I can't possibly read everything that arrives, I figure the least I can do (like some of my fellow bloggers) is mention the books I receive for review on the blog to at least acknowledge the books even if I don't read them.

Sometimes I get one or two books, other weeks I'll get nearly a dozen books. Some weeks, like this week, I’ll receive a finished (i.e. the version people see on bookshelves) copy of a book for which I received an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) weeks or months prior to the actual publication of the book. Sometimes I'll want to read everything that arrives, other weeks, the books immediately go into the "I'll never read this book" pile, while still others go into the nebulous "maybe-I'll-read-it-category." More often than not, it is a mix of books that appeal to me at different levels

So, without further ado, here are the books that reached my doorstep/mailbox/landed-in-front-of-the-garage this past week

Not Less Than Gods (A novel of Company) by Kage Baker (Tor Hardcover 3/23/2010) – This could be Baker’s final novel since she sadly passed away recently. This novel is set in the same universe as the Company novels and stories.

Recently returned from war, young Edward Anton Bell-Fairfax is grateful to be taken under the wing of the Gentleman’s Speculative Society. At the Society, Edward soon learns that a secret world flourishes beneath the surface of London’s society, a world of wondrous and terrible inventions and devices used to tip the balance of power in a long-running game of high-stakes intrigue. Through his intensive training Edward Anton Bell-Fairfax, unwanted and lonely boy, becomes Edward Anton Bell-Fairfax, Victorian super-assassin, fleeing across the Turkish countryside in steam-powered coaches and honing his fighting skills against clockwork opponents.

As Edward travels across Europe with a team of companions, all disguised as gentleman dandies on tour, he learns more about himself and the curious abilities he is gradually developing. He begins to wonder if there isn’t more going on than simple international intrigue, and if he and his companions are maybe part of a political and economic game stretching through the centuries. But, in the end, is it a game he can bring himself to play?

Edward Anton Bell-Fairfax, the idealistic assassin. Perhaps the most dangerous man alive.

The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett (Del Rey Hardcover 04/13/2010) – This is the sequel to Brett’s awesome debut The Warded Man /The Painted Man which I enjoyed the hell out of last year so this one was high on my anticipatron meter. Frustratingly, Del Rey switched design/covers with the second book. It is an improvement; however, and matches the stellar design/art of the UK edition.

The sun is setting on humanity. The night now belongs to voracious demons that arise as the sun sets, preying upon a dwindling population forced to cower behind ancient and half-forgotten symbols of power. These wards alone can keep the demons at bay, but legends tell of a Deliverer: a general—some would say prophet—who once bound all mankind into a single force that defeated the demons. Those times, if they ever existed, are long past. The demons are back, and the return of the Deliverer is just another myth . . . or is it?

Out of the desert rides Ahmann Jardir, who has forged the warlike desert tribes of Krasia into a demon-killing army. He has proclaimed himself Shar’Dama Ka, the Deliverer, and he carries ancient weapons—a spear and a crown—that give credence to his claim. Sworn to follow the path of the first Deliverer, he has come north to bring the scattered city-states of the green lands together in a war against demonkind—whether they like it or not.

But the northerners claim their own Deliverer. His name was Arlen, but all know him now as the Warded Man: a dark, forbidding figure whose skin is tattooed with wards so powerful they make him a match for any demon. The Warded Man denies that he is the Deliverer, but his actions speak louder than words, for he teaches men and women to face their fears and stand fast against the creatures that have tormented them for centuries.

Once the Shar’Dama Ka and the Warded Man were friends, brothers in arms. Now they are fierce adversaries. Caught between them are Renna, a young woman pushed to the edge of human endurance; Leesha, aproud and beautiful healer whose skill in warding surpasses that of the Warded Man himself; and Rojer, a traveling fiddler whose uncanny music can soothe the demons—or stir them into such frenzy that they attack one another.

Yet as old allegiances are tested and fresh alliances forged, all are blissfully unaware of the appearance of a new breed of demon, more intelligent—and deadly—than any that have come before.

Hellsreach (Space Marines/Warhammer 40,000) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden (Black Library Trade Paperback 05/05/2010) – Dembski-Bowden’s first WH40K novel received a nice bit of praise, this is his third published novel October.

When the world of Armageddon is attacked by orks, the Black Templars Space Marine Chapter are amongst those sent to liberate it. Chaplain Grimaldus and a band of Black Templars are charged with the defence of Hive Helsreach from the xenos invaders in one of the many battlezones. But as the orks numbers grow and the Space Marines dwindle, Grimaldus faces a desperate last stand in an Imperial temple. Determined to sell their lives dearly, will the Black Templars hold on long enough to be reinforced, or will their sacrifice ultimately be in vain.

Dragon Soul by Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett (Bantam Spectra Hardcover 06/08/2010) – Third in a steampunk-fantasy series featuring dragons made of magic and mechanics. The author team impressively jumped from trade paperback to hardcover with this volume.

With just two novels under their belts, young writers Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett have established themselves as two of the hottest new stars in fantasy. Havemercy introduced readers to a brilliantly realized world riven by an intractable war between the kingdoms of Volstov and Ke-Han—a war in which the great dragons of Volstov—deadly hybrids of machine and magic—and their equally fierce human riders were all that kept the dark sorcery of Ke-Han at bay. In Shadow Magic, Jones and Bennett brought the common humanity of the opposing sides to life in an adventure that showcased once again their talent for creating not only fantastic settings but vivid characters to inhabit them.

Now Jones and Bennett are back with their most accomplished novel yet, featuring the return of two beloved characters, the brothers Rook and Thom. When the war was at its height, there was no fighter on either side who could match Rook for sheer arrogance and skill. Only Rook could ride the great dragon Havemercy, whose savagery and bloodlust matched his own. Thom could not be more different. Bookish, diffident, reserved, he yearns for his brother’s approval—yet fears he can never earn it.

With the war over, and an uneasy truce holding between Volstov and Ke-Han, it seems the perfect opportunity for the long-lost brothers to forge a bond by taking a trip together. At least, that’s how it seems to Thom. Rook hasn’t given a rat’s ass about anything since the end of the war, his brother included, and he’s not about to start now. Not when the one thing he loved in the world—Havemercy—lies scattered inpieces across Ke-Han.

Then Rook and Thom discover that someone is buying up bits of the fallen dragons, including Havemercy. Though the dragons are dead, the magic that powered them is not—and if that magic and the technology created to harness it should fall into the wrong hands, the fragile peace could shatter. An agent from Ke-Han, a sorceress from Volstov, and a group of desert tribesmen are all in the race, and the future rests on whoever gets there first. But all that matters to Rook is that someone is desecrating his girl, so he vows to leave no stone unturned in laying her to rest—and taking his revenge.

Warriors edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois (Tor, Hardcover 03/16/2010) – I read and reviewed this a few weeks ago and without a doubt, it is an essential anthology for fans of the genre. This is the finished version of the ARC I received in January..

From George R. R. Martin’s Introduction to Warriors:

“People have been telling stories about warriors for as long as they have been telling stories. Since Homer first sang the wrath of Achilles and the ancient Sumerians set down their tales of Gilgamesh, warriors, soldiers, and fighters have fascinated us; they are a part of every culture, every literary tradition, every genre. All Quiet on the Western Front, From Here to Eternity, and The Red Badge of Courage have become part of our literary canon, taught in classrooms all around the country and the world. Our contributors make up an all-star lineup of award-winning and bestselling writers, representing a dozen different publishers and as many genres. We asked each of them for the same thing—a story about a warrior. Some chose to write in the genre they’re best known for. Some decided to try something different. You will find warriors of every shape, size, and color in these pages, warriors from every epoch of human history, from yesterday and today and tomorrow, and from worlds that never were. Some of the stories will make you sad, some will make you laugh, and many will keep you on the edge of your seat.”

Included are a long novella from the world of Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin, a new tale of Lord John by Diana Gabaldon, and an epic of humanity at bay by David Weber. Also present are original tales by David Ball, Peter S. Beagle, Lawrence Block, Gardner Dozois, Joe Haldeman, Robin Hobb, Cecelia Holland, Joe R. Lansdale, David Morrell, Naomi Novik, James Rollins, Steven Saylor, Robert Silverberg, S.M. Stirling, Carrie Vaughn, Howard Waldrop, and Tad Williams.

Many of these writers are bestsellers. All of them are storytellers of the highest quality. Together they make a volume of unforgettable reading.

Tongues of Serpents (Temeraire #6) by Naomi Novik (Del Rey, Hardcover 07/13/2010) – This is the sixth book of in Novik’s popular Dragons-in-Napoleonic-War series. I read the first three when they first hit shelves a few years ago (His Majesty's Dragon, Throne of Jade, Black Powder War) and enjoyed them. I haven’t yet returned, but perhaps soon:.

A dazzling blend of military history, high-flying fantasy, and edge-of-your-seat adventure, Naomi Novik’s Temeraire novels, set in an alternate Napoleonic era in which intelligent dragons have been harnessed as weapons of war, are more than just perennial bestsellers—they are a worldwide phenomenon. Now, in Tongues of Serpents, Naomi Novik is back, along with the dragon Temeraire and his rider and friend, Capt. Will Laurence.

Convicted of treason despite their heroic defense against Napoleon’s invasion of England, Temeraire and Laurence—stripped of rank and standing—have been transported to the prison colony at New South Wales in distant Australia, where, it is hoped, they cannot further corrupt the British Aerial Corps with their dangerous notions of liberty for dragons. Temeraire and Laurence carry with them three dragon eggs intended to help establish a covert in the colony and destined to be handed over to such second-rate, undesirable officers as have been willing to accept so remote an assignment—including one former acquaintance, Captain Rankin, whose cruelty once cost a dragon its life.

Nor is this the greatest difficulty that confronts the exiled dragon and rider: Instead of leaving behind all the political entanglements and corruptions of the war, Laurence and Temeraire have instead sailed into a hornet’s nest of fresh complications. For the colony at New South Wales has been thrown into turmoil after the overthrow of the military governor, one William Bligh—better known as Captain Bligh, late of HMS Bounty. Bligh wastes no time in attempting to enlist Temeraire and Laurence to restore him to office, while the upstart masters of the colony are equally determined that the new arrivals should not upset a balance of power precariously tipped in their favor.

Eager to escape this political quagmire, Laurence and Temeraire take on a mission to find a way through the forbidding Blue Mountains and into the interior of Australia. But when one of the dragon eggs is stolen from Temeraire, the surveying expedition becomes a desperate race to recover it in time—a race that leads to a shocking discovery and a dangerous new obstacle in the global war between Britain and Napoleon.

Nights of Villjamur (Book #1 of Legends of the Red Sun) by Mark Charan Newton (Bantam Spectra Hardcover 06/29/2010) – Mark/Hobbit read and enjoyed this when it published in the UK Last year , and has garnered quite a lot of positive buzz since then. I’m really looking forward to this one.

Following in the footsteps of writers like China Miéville and Richard K. Morgan, Mark Charan Newton balances style and storytelling in this bold and brilliant debut. Nights of the Villjamur marks the beginning of a sweeping new fantasy epic.

Beneath a dying red sun sits the proud and ancient city of Villjamur, capital of a mighty empire that now sits powerless against an encroaching ice age. As throngs of refugees gather outside the city gates, a fierce debate rages within the walls about the fate of these desperate souls. Then tragedy strikes—and the Emperor’s elder daughter, Jamur Rika, is summoned to serve as queen. Joined by her younger sister, Jamur Eir, the queen comes to sympathize with the hardships of the common people, thanks in part to her dashing teacher Randur Estevu, a man who is not what he seems.

Meanwhile, the grisly murder of a councillor draws the attention of Inspector Rumex Jeryd. Jeryd is a rumel, a species of nonhuman that can live for hundreds of years and shares the city with humans, birdlike garuda, and the eerie banshees whose forlorn cries herald death. Jeryd’s investigation will lead him into a web of corruption—and to an obscene conspiracy that threatens the lives of Rika and Eir, and the future of Villjamur itself.

But in the far north, where the drawn-out winter has already begun, an even greater threat appears, against which all the empire’s military and magical power may well prove useless—a threat from another world..

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