Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Nights Of Villjamur - New Cover

I'm really looking forward to reading this book. The cover is a major improvement over what was originally out on the intarwebs as the cover and looks a bit more like the UK cover. This one; however, has a bit more texture and looks just as haunting.

Of course, I do like the big quote from Mark/Hobbit's review on the back cover of the book, too!

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..

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Weber and Cronin Reviewed at SFFWorld

Two more reviews were posted to SFFWorld this past week, one from me and one from Mark.

David Weber is an author whose work I’ve only recently begun to enjoy and my latest review is the second novel in his epic Safehold saga, By Schism Rent Asunder:

Note: This review contains spoilers for Off Armageddon Reef

As with the previous novel, Weber envisages his story on a wide, epic scale. Although the feel of the novel is that of a nautical/historical fantasy, he provides timely reminders about the true nature of the series – that these humans are alive in the far future and have the looming threat of racial extinction from aliens.

A strength Weber is known for, and on full display here, is his ability to paint larger than life characters in a believable fashion. Cayleb is a figure who could draw comparisons to some of ‘real’ history’s greatest leaders – Abraham Lincoln, Alexander the Great, or even Charlemagne. If such leaders did not once exist, it might otherwise be difficult to believe in a person such as Cayleb.

Mark reviewed a book I received in ARC form last week - The Passage by Justin Cronin:

OK. As you might expect with such a massive tome, it starts slowly. The first 250 pages take their time but they are relentless. In fact, the first 250 pages are probably a novel in themselves. They tell of Crichton-style genetic experiments, of blood-sucking creatures, their development and their eventual escape. We are introduced to Amy Bellafonte, a quiet little abandoned six-year old with unusual Wyndham-esque powers. Her protector is Brad Wolgast, an FBI agent with a closer attachment to Amy than should be. Anthony Carter is a Death Row prisoner given a choice, but an outcome he didn’t expect.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Dragon Reborn - Mat Reborn

My Wheel of Time re-read is continuing as I finished The Dragon Reborn today and damn was it enjoyable. Jordan split up his main characters in this ‘episode’ more than the previous two books and at this point one can really see the individual story threads for the Two Rivers irregulars beginning to take shape.

One thing I continue to discover is what a solid character Nynaeve is. Or at least what a solid character she was through these three books. At this point, her “Three Investigators” team with Elayne and Egwene is proving to be an industrious and, if sometimes stubborn, triumvirate.

Although the novel is indeed titled The Dragon Reborn, very little is seen of Rand. This does not diminish his power by any means. If anything, it shows how powerful a ta’veren he really is. His presence, whether contemplative or exuding power, is the specter that drives everything the action of the book. From Perrin’s wolfdreams, to Egwene’s travels in Tel'aran'rhiod to Mat’s dreams as well.

Rand not being in the book as much really allowed both Mat and Perrin grow as characters. Out from the influence of the Shadar Logoth Dagger, Matt has blossomed into an extremely fun character, a trickster one might say. Although depth was added to Perrin’s character, I wouldn’t hesitate to consider The Dragon Reborn Mat’s novel. He continually says he isn’t a hero, but his actions speak much louder as he continually attempts to do what is right. Another element about that becomes abundantly clear is his amazing luck, whether in dicing or grappling with an opponent falling off of a building.

Moiraine also shows just how powerful and Aes Sedai she is in the concluding pages of the novel. It is in this novel she steps out of the shadow, at least in a small way, from her mentor predecessors in the genre.

When Rand finally proclaims himself The Dragon Reborn, it is a terrifically satisfying scene. The bits we did see of him throughout the novel he was brooding and pained with the power thrust upon him. It was a great moment of realization when he made the proclamation.

One thought was circling through my head as the novel was winding down and now upon reflection. Knowing how the saga has its ups and downs later in the book, I wonder if Jordan ever thought of wrapping things up in this volume. Certainly, there are plot points that converge here that build upon the earlier two volumes. Maybe a few edits here, merging a couple of plot points and Wheel of Time could have easily finished its life here as a trilogy. Granted, a lot of greatness is in future volumes, but would cinematic adaptation ever happen, there’s a very satisfying way to condense things I think. Blasphemy as a WOT fan, I know.

Regardless, I enjoyed the hell out of the novel, especially the last third or so of it. As I've repeatedly said, it's been well over 10 years since I first read these books so I'm wondering how much my current enjoyment matches my initial enjoyment. Regardless, I'm grasping why I was pulled into these books so much.

I'll be jumping into at least The Shadow Rising before the next WOT break.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Books in the Mail (W/E 03/20/2010)

Another week, another set of books. One big fat one that looks interesting and some others as well

The Passage by Justin Cronin (Ballantine Hardcover 06/11/2010) – This is a big, fat, end-of-the-world novel with echoes of King’s The Stand and McCammon’s Swan Song and probably not coincidentally, the ARC has a big, fat blurb from Stephen King. Mark/Hobbit read the UK version and had good things to say.

"It happened fast. Thirty-two minutes for one world to die, another to be born."

First, the unthinkable: a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment. Then, the unspeakable: a night of chaos and carnage gives way to sunrise on a nation, and ultimately a world, forever altered. All that remains for the stunned survivors is the long fight ahead and a future ruled by fear—of darkness, of death, of a fate far worse.

As civilization swiftly crumbles into a primal landscape of predators and prey, two people flee in search of sanctuary. FBI agent Brad Wolgast is a good man haunted by what he's done in the line of duty. Six-year-old orphan Amy Harper Bellafonte is a refugee from the doomed scientific project that has triggered apocalypse. He is determined to protect her from the horror set loose by her captors. But for Amy, escaping the bloody fallout is only the beginning of a much longer odyssey—spanning miles and decades—towards the time and place where she must finish what should never have begun.

With The Passage, award-winning author Justin Cronin has written both a relentlessly suspenseful adventure and an epic chronicle of human endurance in the face of unprecedented catastrophe and unimaginable danger. Its inventive storytelling, masterful prose, and depth of human insight mark it as a crucial and transcendent work of modern fiction.

Allies: (Fate of the Jedi Book Four) by Christie Golden (Hardcover 5/25/2010 Del Rey) – This is the fifth book in the latest series featuring that troublesome Skywalker clan.

What began as a quest for truth has become a struggle for survival for Luke Skywalker and his son, Ben. They have used the secrets of the Mindwalkers to transcend their own bodies and speak with the spirits of the fallen, risking their very lives in the process. They have faced a team of Sith assassins and beaten the odds to destroy them. And now the death squad’s sole survivor, Sith apprentice Vestara Khai, has summoned an entire fleet of Sith frigates to engage the embattled father and son. But the dark warriors come bearing a surprising proposition that will bring Jedi and Sith together in an unprecedented alliance against an evil more ancient and alien than they can imagine.

While the Skywalkers and their Sith allies set off on their joint mission into the treacherous web of black holes that is the Maw, Han and Leia Solo risk arrest and worse to aid the Jedi imprisoned back on Coruscant. Tyrannical Chief of State Natasi Daala has issued orders that will open a permanent schism between her government and the Jedi Order—a schism that could turn all Jedi into renegades and wanted criminals.

But it is in the depths of the Maw that the future of the galaxy will be decided. For there the Skywalkers and their Sith allies will engage a true monster in battle, and Luke will come face-to-face with a staggering truth.

Secret of the Dragon (Dragonships of Vindras #2) by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman (Tor, Hardcover 03/16/2010) – Like a lot of fantasy fans who found the genre in the 1980s, the duo of Weis/Hickman helped to introduce me to the genre, through their DragonLance and Darksword sagas. This is the second book of their latest collaborative effort – a six book series and the final book of the ARC I received back in January.

New gods are challenging the old high god, Torval, for rulership of the world. The only way to stop these brash interlopers lies with the five Bones of the Vektia Dragons—the five primal dragons hidden away by the dragon goddess, Vindrash, during the creation of the world. Without these dragons, one of the new gods, Aelon, cannot seize power. The only hope of the Vindrasi lies in finding the dragon bones before the followers of Aelon can use them to destroy the old gods. But the Vindrasi gods have a traitor in their midst…

In the land of mortals, Raegar, a Vindraisi turned Aelon warrior-priest, searches for the spirit bones. The gods have a champion of their own—Skylan Ivorson, sea-raider and high chief of the Vindrasi clans, and sworn enemy to Raegar. But Skylan is a prisoner on his own ship. The ship’s dragon, Kahg, has vanished and some believe he is dead. Skylan and his people are taken as captives to Sinaria, where they must fight in a game known as the Para Dix. The fates of men and gods and are dragons are rushing headlong to destruction. Skylan can stop the calamity, but only if he discovers the secret of the dragon.

The Machinery of Light (Book #3 of Autumn Rain) by David J. Williams (Bantam Spectra Trade Paperback 05/25/2010) – Mark/Hobbit read and enjoyed the first novel (The Mirrored Heavens), and the series has been gaining some momentum. I think I may have to go back and catch up with the trilogy although I don’t know that will happen by the time this book publishes.

With The Machinery of Light, David J. Williams completes his furiously paced, stunningly imagined trilogy—a work of vision, beauty, and pulse-pounding futuristic action.

September 26, 2110. 10:22 GMT. Following the assassination of the American president, the generals who have seized power initiate World War Three, launching a surprise attack against the Eurasian Coalition’s forces throughout the Earth-Moon system. Across the orbits, tens of thousands of particle beams and lasers blast away at one another. The goal: crush the other side’s weaponry, paving the way for nuclear bombardment of the cities.

As inferno becomes Armageddon, the rogue commando unit Autumn Rain embarks on one last run. Matthew Sinclair, an imprisoned spymaster, plots his escape. And his former protégé Claire Haskell, capable of hacking into both nets and minds, is realizing that all her powers may merely be playing into Sinclair’s plans. For even as Claire evades the soldiers of East and West amid carnage in the lunar tunnels, the surviving members of the Rain converge upon the Moon, one step ahead of the Eurasian fleets but one step behind the mastermind who created Autumn Rain—and his terrible final secret.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Oath of Fealty, Eclipse, and Hawkmoon at SFfWorld

We’ve been cranking out the reviews lately at SFFWorld, with another three this past week, one from me, one from Dan, and one from Art.

Elizabeth Moon should be a familiar name to readers of Fantasy and Science Fiction. For me, Oath of Fealty is the first book of hers that I’ve read, but based on that experience, it likely won’t be my last. Mrs. Moon launched her career with The Deed of Paksennarion trilogy and this is her return to the milieu after a two decade absence:

Through her characters, Moon makes the world breathe and come alive. The magic is handled particularly well in that it isn’t thrown around as simply another tool or a means to an end. It is treated with respect and in many cases, fear. This is particularly true in the case of Dorrin and her connection to magic. Here, Moon provides a good balance between curiosity and fear – fear of abusing the power, fear of becoming seduced by it, and fear of becoming like the people of her clan who banished her.

While I can’t compare Oath of Fealty to the earlier books set in this world in any way, I can say the book was well written and really had me hooked once Dorrin fully asserted herself as Duke. It was an exhilarating scene and the sense of nervousness Dorren felt was counterbalanced by her own assertiveness when she finally made her power as Duke known to those who challenged it. While this occurred towards the middle of the book, it carried on very nicely through to the end of the novel.

Dan continued his trek through the Strahan-edited annual anthology series with Eclipse Three:

Strahan spends his introduction discussing book covers so we must rely on the back cover blurb to determine this volume contains stories where strange and wonderful things happen – where reality is eclipsed by something magical and new.

Don’t Mention Madagascar, Pat Cadigan
This is what happens when a very determined young woman discovers a photograph of the Rolling Stones as they were in the 1960s, except that the young woman’s mother and aunt are in the picture. The difficulty is that the two women in the picture are as aged as they should be in 2009 and both have been absent from this world for a few years now. The detective work is both lucky and solid as two friends try to run down the reality or lack thereof in the photograph. What they find is magical and new and not quite what they expected.

Art (aka Banger) returns to the reviewing game with a look at a classic Moorcock novel reissued by Tor, The Jewel in The Skull (Hawkmoon):

The setting here, an ancient, alternate universe Europe, is reminiscent of Conan the Barbarian's Hyborian world, as are its characters: heroic and brutal, intelligent and savage, clear of conscience and ruthless in its execution. This is the world of Baron Meliadus, ambitious general of the Granbretan Empire; Count Brass, wise and clever Lord Guardian of Karmag, one of the few free cities left in Europe; and of Dorian Hawkmoon, captured rebel leader of the people of Köln, recently annexed to the Granbretan Empire. Eager to conquer Karmag, Meliadus makes a deal with Hawkmoon: if he kidnaps Brass's daughter, the beautiful Yisselda, and brings her back to the Granbretan capital of Londra, Meliadus will restore Hawkmoon as Duke of Köln – subject to the overlordship of Granbretan, of course. To ensure that Hawkmoon keeps up his part of the deal, Meliadus implants in Hawkmoon's forehead a jewel that allows Granbretan to see whatever Hawkmoon sees, and, should they see betrayal, enables them to destroy his mind in an instant, no matter where he is.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Books in the Mail (W/E 03/13/2010)

A big week with a lot of the April Releases from the Penguin Imprints and the late March releases from The Black Library plus some other odds and ends:

The Lost (A Gaunt’s Ghost’s Omnibus [#3]) by Dan Abnett (Black Library 03/39/2010) – Abnett is not only one of the best selling Warhammer authors, but one of the UK’s best selling SF authors, period. This is the third omnibus collecting his best-selling Gaunt’s Ghosts series. I read the first omnibus, The Founding late last year and really enjoyed it.

The Tanith First-And Only are among the most legendary regiments of Imperial Guard and at their head stands Commissar Ibram Gaunt, unflinching in duty and unrelenting in combat. The Lost sees the very furure of the regiment in jeopardy as Gaunt battles the forces of Chaos the Sabbat Worlds, from rescue missions to the horrors of the battlefield, the Tanith First-And-Only must survive extreme dangers or be forever lost.

Hell Fire: (Corine Solomon #2) by Ann Aguirre (RocMass Market Paperback 04/06/2010) –Aguirre is consistent and fast, this is second in her ubiquitous “Urban Fantasy” series.

The second in the thrilling national bestselling series

As a handler, Corine Solomon can touch any object and know its history. It's too bad she can't seem to forget her own. With her ex-boyfriend Chance in tow-lending his own supernatural brand of luck-Corine journeys back home to Kilmer, Georgia, in order to discover the truth behind her mother's death and the origins of "gift".

But while trying to uncover the secrets in her past, Corine and Chance find that something is rotten in the state of Georgia. Inside Kilmer's borders there are signs of a dark curse affecting the town and all its residents-and it can only be satisfied with death...

Directive 51 by John Banes (Ace Hardcover 04/06/2010) – I’ve only read one book by Barnes and it was a few years ago (The Duke of Uranium), this one has an interesting description:

Heather O'Grainne is the Assistant Secretary in the Office of Future Threat Assessment, investigating rumors surrounding something called "Daybreak." The group is diverse and radical, and its members have only one thing in common-their hatred for the "Big System" and their desire to take it down.

Now, seemingly random events simultaneously occurring around the world are in fact connected as part of Daybreak's plan to destroy modern civilization-a plan that will eliminate America's top government personnel, leaving the nation no choice but to implement its emergency contingency program...Directive 51.

The Devil's Playground (The Morgan Kingsley Series #5) by Jenna Black (Dell Mass Market Paperback 03/23/2010) – Urban fantasy series about an exorcist :

Morgan Kingsley, a kick-ass exorcist, can deal with Lugh, the supersexy demon living inside her, but does he have to moan softly during her intimate moments with her mortal lover? Understandably, Brian is reluctant to share the pleasures of Morgan’s flesh with a gorgeous rogue from the Demon Realm.

But personal matters will have to wait when the opportunistic owner of the Seven Deadlies demon club in Philadelphia enlists Morgan’s help in heading off a crisis: It seems that demons have started showing up at the hot spot in alarming numbers and in the unwilling bodies of rough trade club-goers. Morgan is sure that Dougal, Lugh’s sworn enemy, is behind this, but why? To find out, Morgan must summon every ounce of power at her command—or risk becoming just another casualty in an all-out demon war.

Silver Borne (Mercy Thompson Book Five) by Patrica Briggs (Ace Hardcover 3/30/2010) – I gave the fourth book in the series a try last yearand I just didn’t connect with the book. The series is a huge hit and consistently hits the best seller lists

All-new action in the #1 New York Times bestselling urban fantasy series

When mechanic and shapeshifter Mercy Thompson attempts to return a powerful Fae book she'd previously borrowed in an act of desperation, she finds the bookstore locked up and closed down.

It seems the book contains secret knowledge-and the Fae will do just about anything to keep it out of the wrong hands. And if that doesn't take enough of Mercy's attention, her friend Samuel is struggling with his wolf side-leaving Mercy to cover for him, lest his own father declare Sam's life forfeit.

All in all, Mercy has had better days. And if she isn't careful, she might not have many more to live...

Spellwright (Book 2 of he Spellwright Trilogy #1) by Blake Charlton (Tor Paperback 03/02/2010) – Considerable buzz and chatter has preceded the release of this anticipated debut.

Nicodemus is a young, gifted wizard with a problem. Magic in his world requires the caster to create spells by writing out the text . . . but he has always been dyslexic, and thus has trouble casting even the simplest of spells. And his misspells could prove dangerous, even deadly, should he make a mistake in an important incantation.

Yet he has always felt that he is destined to be something more than a failed wizard. When a powerful, ancient evil begins a campaign of murder and disruption, Nicodemus starts to have disturbing dreams that lead him to believe that his misspelling could be the result of a curse. But before he can discover the truth about himself, he is attacked by an evil which has already claimed the lives of fellow wizards and has cast suspicion on his mentor. He must flee for his own life if he’s to find the true villain.

But more is at stake than his abilities. For the evil that has awakened is a power so dread and vast that if unleashed it will destroy Nicodemus... and the world.

Mind Games (The Disillusionists Trilogy #1) by Carolyn Crane (Bantam Spectra Mass Market Paperback 03/23/2010) – An author with an alliterative name writes about an alliterative heroine, whose occupation/description is alliterative as well. This is a mix of superhero fiction and urban fantasy/paranormal romance that sounds a bit different:


Justine Jones has a secret. A hardcore hypochondriac, she’s convinced a blood vessel is about to burst in her brain. Then, out of the blue, a startlingly handsome man named Packard peers into Justine’s soul and invites her to join his private crime-fighting team. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime deal. With a little of Packard’s hands-on training, Justine can weaponize her neurosis, turning it outward on Midcity’s worst criminals, and finally get the freedom from fear she’s always craved. End of problem.

Or is it? In Midcity, a dashing police chief is fighting a unique breed of outlaw with more than human powers. And while Justine’s first missions, including one against a nymphomaniac husband-killer, are thrilling successes, there is more to Packard than meets the eye. Soon, while battling her attraction to two very different men, Justine is plunging deeper into a world of wizardry, eroticism, and cosmic secrets. With Packard’s help, Justine has freed herself from her madness—only to discover a reality more frightening than anyone’s worst fears.

A Magic of Dawn (The Nessantico Cycle Book Three) by S.L. Farrell (DAW Hardcover 3/23/2010)– This is the third and final book in Farrell’s acclaimed trilogy, the first of which, A Magic of Twilight, was the February Book of the Month in SFFWorld’s Fantasy Book Club:

The last chapter in the epic "richly imagined world (New York Times bestselling author George R.R. Martin)" of The Nessantico Cycle

Kraljica Allesandra sits on the Sun Throne of a much-diminished Holdings empire, while her son Jan rules the rival Coalition of Firenzcia. The schism between them threatens to tear apart the realm when they need solidarity the most. Facing powerful threats, from the rising influence of the Numetodo sect to the fundamentalist preacher Nico Morel-as well as the army of Tehuantin from across the sea- Allesandra and Jan must each find a pathway to survival for themselves and their people.

Nebula Awards Showcase 2010 edited by Bill Fawcett (Roc Trade Paperback 04/63/2009) – This would be the annual anthology collecting the stories from the previous year nominated for the Nebula Award:

The year's best science fiction and fantasy in one essential volume.

An annual commemoration, the Nebula Awards are presented by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America to those members whose imaginations refine and re-define the infinite storytelling possibilities found within the genre. The Nebula Awards Showcase represents the best of the best in fantasy in one indispensible collection.

This year's compilation includes stories by:
•Ursula K. LeGuin
•Catherine Asaro
•John Kessel
•Nina Kiriki Hoffman
•Harry Harrison, this year's Grandmaster

Touched by an Alien by Gini Koch (DAW Paperback 04/06/2010) – Paranormal Romance meets Alien/monster hunter.

How can a sexy marketing manager join forces with an Alpha Centauri male in Armani to save the planet-using hairspray, a Mont Blanc pen, and rock n' roll? Easy...

She's Touched by an Alien

Marketing manager Katherine "Kitty" Katt steps into the middle of what appears to be a domestic dispute turned ugly. And it only gets uglier when the man turns into a winged monster, straight out of a grade-Z horror movie, and goes on a killing spree. Though Kitty should probably run away, she springs into action to take the monster down.

In the middle of the chaos a handsome hunk named Jeff Martini appears, sent by the "agency" to perform crowd control. He's Kitty's kind of guy, no matter what planet he's from. And from now on, for Kitty, things are going to be sexy, dangerous, wild, and out of this world.

Nagash the Unbroken (Warhammer Time of Legends) by Mike Lee (Black Library Mass Market Paperback 02/23/2010) – Mike Lee is one of the bigger names in the roll call of Warhammer writers and this is the second in his look back at the old world of Warhammer.

The powerful necromancer Nagash, having suffered defeat on the battlefield at the hands of the priest kings, is forced to lick his wounds in the mountains of Nehekhara. Over time he rebuilds his strength and finds new allies in the skaven, mutant ratmen that live beneath the earth. In his new lair of Cripple Peak, the necromancer discovers something dark and powerful - warpstone. Coveted by the skaven, this magical rock could make the evil Nagash unstoppable... The Time of Legends series continues with the second book in the Rise of Nagash trilogy, an epic story of power and revenge for all lovers of dark fantasy and the World of Warhammer.

Starfinder (Book 1 of The Skylords by John Marco (DAW Hardcover 04/06/2010) – This is the mass market paperback version of the book I received twice last year. The book/series (Skylords) has a steampunkish feel, but is also a coming of age story. The book might have more of a YA appeal than his previous work. I enjoyed the book quite a bit, here’s part of my review:

Steam trains and electricity are rapidly changing the world. Moth of Calio is obsessed with the airships developed by his friend Fiona’s grandfather Rendor, and dreams of taking to the air one day like his heroes, the Skyknights.

But not everyone is happy to see humans reach the skies. For thousands of years, the mysterious and powerful race known as the Skylords have jealously guarded their heavenly domain. But Moth and Fiona are about to breach the magical boundary between the world of humans and the world of the Skylords.

WWW: Watch (WWW #2) by Robert J. Sawyer (Ace Hardcover 04/06/2010) – I read the first in the trilogy (WWW: Wake) last year and liked it VERY much, so I’ll be definitely jumping into this book:

Sixteen-year-old Caitlin Decter was born blind. But, thanks to an implant in her head, she can now see the real world—and also see webspace, the structure of the World Wide Web. There, she’s found a nascent consciousness, which she’s helped bring forth, letting it, too, see the world for the first time.

The consciousness takes the name Webmind. Caitlin’s parents know about it, and so does WATCH, a secret US government agency that monitors terrorist activity on the Web (violating civil liberties as it does so). Caitlin is convinced that Webmind is benign, but her parents are afraid the public will view Webmind—which can now crack any password and read everyone’s email—as Big Brother.

Caitlin discovers that WATCH is on to them. She figures the best way to protect Webmind is by having it prove its benevolence to the world by eliminating all the spam from the Internet.

But Caitlin’s boyfriend accidentally reveals the secret of Webmind’s structure to WATCH. Armed with that information, the government tries to wipe out Webmind. Caitlin travels into webspace, helping Webmind overwhelm WATCH’s computers by redirecting all the billions of intercepted spam messages at them.

Webmind really is trying to help humanity, but Caitlin knows that they’ve only bought a little time. The dark forces of the government—the real Big Brother—will try again to wipe Webmind out. But Caitlin is determined to triumph: she’ll show them that her Big Brother can take their Big Brother.

Flesh and Iron (A Bastion’s War Novel / Warhammer 40K) by Henry Zou (Black Library Paperback 03/30/2010) – Zou is a newcomer to WH40K, this being his second book. The first received a fair amount of praise, plus this being a prequel has pushed it up the to-read pile

There are reports of an uprising on the planet of Solo-Baston. Indigenous forces are rebelling against Imperial rule, led by the mysterious 'Dos Pares.' Amidst the conflict, the 31st Riverine Imperial Guard are dispatched to seek and retrieve a vital piece of weaponry, but find themseleves beset on all sides by hostile forces. And what they orginally thought wasd simple tribal warfare soon reveals a much more sinister activity. Henry Zou's latest novel serves as a prequel to Emperor's Mercy and delivers non-stop action and mystery in the grim worls of Warhammer 40,000

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Wolves, Ecplipses & Lightning - Three Reviews @ SFFWorld

Lest my review be the only posted at SFFWorld this week, Mark and Dan put up some nice reviews as well

First off, is Mark’s review of Wolfsangel by M.D. Lachlan:

It’s quite refreshing to read a book that dips into other pantheons from the usual. There are elements here that you will recognise from Norse mythology, if you know it: for others it will be a pleasant surprise. There’s a wealth of background available for a writer to dip into, and it’s clearly something M.D. expects to use in future books in the series. The ending is not too surprising, though fairly self contained, if you want it to be.

Consequently, despite being a little spoiled for me, as a Fantasy debut this is a fine novel and one for me that punched above its weight. Consequently, I suspect it will do very well. As is often the case with a good read, despite the fact that I knew what was going to happen in the end, I finished the book caring about the characters and wanting to know what happens next. That is a good sign.

Dan reviewed Eclipse Two edited by Jonathan Strahan the second in Strahan’s annual original anthology series:

Strahan describes this volume as a collection of stories, tales built around a good idea that is complete; one that opens, builds and then delivers some kind of pay-off at its conclusion. It is not structure he’s after but whether there is a story to be told and the authors get it done by the time they’re finished. He wants a story that is immersive, that sweeps him away into that world for as long as it lasts, or makes him think differently about something. So, let’s see what that means:

Mark also reviewed Red Lightning by John Varley, sequel to his earlier reviewed John Varley novel Red Thunder:

As I had hoped, this is an interesting novel with many of the pleasing attributes of the first. It is, in simple terms, Red Thunder: the Next Generation. The tale here moves on from Manny, Kelly, Dak and Travis to the teenage prodigy of Manny and Kelly. Now living on Mars and helping run Manny and Kelly’s Red Thunder Hotel, the tale is told in the first person by their son, Ramon (Ray) Garcia-Strickland.

As a reader, it felt good to revisit and continue on from Red Thunder. More pleasingly (for me) Jubal is less important than previously, though he is still an important character. This means that we get less of his irritating Cajun accent, which really didn’t work for me in the previous novel, as I spent more time trying to decipher his speech in writing than enjoying the plot.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Warriors edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois

I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of one of the most highly anticipated anthologies of the yearWarriors edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. One of the reasons for such a high level of anticipation is the inclusion of The Mystery Knight a brand new short novel/story set in GRRM’s A Song of Ice and Fire milieu:

These days, George R.R. Martin is primarily (and deservedly) known as the author of the massively popular and acclaimed A Song of Ice and Fire saga. Long before creating the world of Westeros, he had a long career in the genre as an editor of anthologies and the long running Wild Cards series. One of Martin’s long-time colleagues and friends has probably the best reputation for anthology editing – Gardner Dozois. The two have gathered an eclectic mix of writers from all genres to tell stories about, you guessed it Warriors. Settings that evoke Ancient Rome, World War II, Planetary Romances, and a certain land within Seven Kingdoms.
Out of the Dark by David Weber takes place in what is analogous to modern times, with one exception. The Earth has been invaded and an attempt by the aliens has been made to subjugate and assimilate Earth into its Galactic Empire. The story begins in a somewhat off-putting manner as the galactic empire has an almost futuristic human feel to it. By story’s end, Weber delivered a terrific ending to a compelling story. This gets my vote as favorite story in the anthology.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Book(s) in the Mail (W/E 03/06/2010)

Only one book this past week, which usually means tye following week will be big…:

Shadow Prowler (The Chronicles of Siala #1) by Alexey Pehov (Hardcover 2/23/2010 Tor) – Something about this book reminds me a bit of Scott Lynch with a few other ingredients thrown in. The author is very successful in his homeland of Russian having received multiple awards for his novels.

An army is gathering; thousands of giants, ogres, and other creatures are joining forces from all across the Desolate Lands, united, for the first time in history, under one, black banner. By the spring, or perhaps sooner, the Nameless One and his forces will be at the walls of the great city of Avendoom.

Unless Shadow Harold, master thief, can find some way to stop them.

Epic fantasy at its best, Shadow Prowler is the first in a trilogy that follows Shadow Harold, the legendary thief of Siala, on his quest for a magic Horn that will restore peace to the Kingdom of Siala. Harold will be accompanied on his quest by an elfin princess, Miralissa, her elfin escort and ten Wild Hearts, the most experienced and dangerous fighters in their world...and by the king's court jester (who may be more than he seems...or less.)

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Geosynchron - Best Read of 2010 Thus Far

After a brief absence of my reviews at SFFWorld, I posted a new review last night, a book that will easily make my best of 2010 list and is at the top of it right now. Geosynchron by David Louis Edelman. I loved the book, love the trilogy and am curious about what David’s next work will be. There’s something about Caprica that mirrors the sensibility and vision of his trilogy that I really like:

One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about Edelman’s writing throughout the trilogy is how he straddles the line between plausible futuristic technology and a sense of history bordering on myth. Between the lost time preceding the era of the novel, and the legendary family of the Surinas, Edleman has informed his world with an authentic and seamless sense of history. When characters talk of the Surinas, it is with reverence. When Natch begins to see visions of the deceased Margaret Surina, the feeling Edleman elicits is revelatory, almost like an epiphany. It comes across both mysterious and profound, and ultimately effective..

The novel does have it all – tight and dramatic conflicts, engaging and organic thematic elements, the highest of high stakes, and solid characterization. The trilogy has these things too, but over the course of the trilogy and the world Edleman’s developed it becomes easier to appreciate what he’s done. I’ve remarked on the clarity of future vision in the Jump 225 Trilogy, what makes it work so well is how seamless it feels when reading the story. The characters don’t simply populate the world David has created, they are an essential and organic component of the world. The two elements work hand in hand to form a holistic and elegant storytelling experience.

Mark also reviewed a couple of books last week:

Red Thunder by John Varley:

So: the plot isn’t particularly new, the characterisation of smart heroes (and heroines!) is a common enough theme and the plot may be a tad unrealistic in places (getting $1 million to fund your experiment is not that easy, these days) but somehow it works. There’s an enthusiasm, a can-do, a hopefulness that we can make things right that runs through this book. There’s a comfort that, in the end, it all turns out OK.

For the Heinlein fans there’s a wealth of little homages. For example, Manny and Jubal are two well known names for Heinlein characters (see The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Stranger in a Strange Land for starters.) They’re not overt and don’t spoil the tale, but they are fun to spot.

His other review is White Tiger by Kylie Chan:

The humour throughout is generally well done, a difficult thing to pitch right. However, in counterpoint, there is a nice tension throughout the book that keeps things moving, both a sexual tension between the leads and also a growing concern over whether John manages to deal with his many issues, including Emma. The action scenes, of which there are many, are very well done and I suspect would be appreciated by many a martial-arts devotee. Even if you don’t know all the terms (like me) the fights are fast-moving, very exciting and surprisingly visual.

Most of all I enjoyed finding out more about the Chinese pantheon of gods and demons, who have a habit of being visited by (or drop in on) John. It was delectably different from the usual Celtic or Norse deities in Fantasy novels.