Sunday, November 28, 2010

Books in the Mail (2010-11-27)

This is the post where I tell my loyal readers what arrived the previous week

Brave New Worlds by John Joseph Adams (Trade Paperback 1/11/2011 Night Shade Books) – Mr. Adams is one of the preeminent anthology editors in the genre, he has a real knack for pulling together great stories on a specific theme.


In his smash-hit anthologies Wastelands and The Living Dead, acclaimed editor John Joseph Adams showed you what happens when society is utterly wiped away. Now he brings you a glimpse into an equally terrifying future — what happens when civilization invades and dictates every aspect of your life? From 1984 to The Handmaid’s Tale, from Children of Men to Bioshock, the dystopian imagination has been a vital and gripping cautionary force. Brave New Worlds collects the best tales of totalitarian menace by some of today’s most visionary writers, including Neil Gaiman, Orson Scott Card, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Ursula K. Le Guin.

When the government wields its power against its own people, every citizen becomes an enemy of the state. Will you fight the system, or be ground to dust beneath the boot of tyranny?

The Horns of Ruin by Tim Akers (Trade Paperback 11/19/2010 Pyr) – This is Akers; second novel and a book that looks like a lot of steampunky fun.

Eva Forge is the last paladin of a dead God. Morgan, God of battle and champion of the Fraterdom, was assassinated by his jealous brother, Amon. Over time, the Cult of Morgan has been surpassed by other gods, his blessings ignored in favor of brighter technologies and more mechanical miracles. Eva was the last child dedicated to the Cult of Morgan, forsaken by her parents and forgotten by her family. Now she watches as her new family, her Cult, crumbles all around her.

When a series of kidnappings and murders makes it clear that someone is trying to hasten the death of the Cult of Morgan, Eva must seek out unexpected allies and unwelcome answers in the city of Ash. But will she be able to save the city from a growing conspiracy, one that reaches back to her childhood, even back to the murder of her god?

Elfsorrow (Legends of the Raven #1) by James Barclay (Pyr Trade Paperback 11/15/2010) – First novel in The Legends of the Raven the second trilogy of James Barclay’s mercenary heroes. As Pyr did with James’s first trilogy, the publisher is releasing this series in successive months

Another action-packed adventure from the new master of fantasy. The Raven travel to a new continent in search of mages to help the ruined college of Julatsa rebuild and find themselves in the midst of an ancient curse—a curse that has unleashed a plague that threatens to wipe out the elven race. Barclay excels with another tale that pitches The Raven against the clock and unseen foes. Full of desperate fights and secret betrayals, the story also fills in more of Balaia's history and delves deeper into the ancient emnities between the colleges. Barclay has created a wonderfully appealing group of heroes, and with every book their history grows and the land they live in becomes wider and richer. This is landmark fantasy in the making.

Shadowheart (Legends of the Raven #2) by James Barclay (Pyr Trade Paperback 12/15/2010) – What I said above, except this is the second in the second series. Like the previous, you can see the great cover by Raymond Swanland.

James Barclay has rapidly established himself as one of the leading lights of the genre with his two linked trilogies starring fantasy's most popular new heroes in many years: The Raven. The first trilogy was the Chronicles of The Raven and introduced the heroes and the world of Balaia. The second trilogy, The Legends of The Raven, began with Elfsorrow which served as an introduction for new readers. Now, with his fifth book, he tests The Raven to the point of destruction and unleashes a savage war across his world as the magical colleges of Balaia tear the land apart in their struggle for supremacy. Barclay has never been scared of killing off favourite characters, and this has given his books their unique edge. Now he threatens to destroy everything they have known. Can The Raven even survive, let alone triumph?

Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht (Night Shade Books Trade Paperback 03/17/2011) – Debut novel and first of a trilogy.

Fallen angels and the fey clash against the backdrop of Irish/English conflicts of the 1970s in this stunning debut novel by Stina Leicht.

Liam never knew who his father was. The town of Derry had always assumed that he was the bastard of a protestant--His mother never spoke of him, and Liam assumed he was dead.

But when the war between the fallen, and the fey began to heat up, Liam and his family are pulled into a conflict that they didn't know existed. A centuries old conflict between supernatural forces seems to mirror the political divisions in 1970s era Ireland, and Liam is thrown headlong into both conflicts.

Only the direct intervention of Liam's real father, and a secret catholic order dedicated to fighting "The Fallen" can save Liam... from the mundane and supernatural forces around him, and from the darkness that lurks within hi

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Books in the Mail (2010-11-20)

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.

This is the post where I tell my loyal readers what arrived the previous week

Yarn by Jon Armstrong (Trade Paperback 12/1/2010 Night Shade Books) – I haven’t read Armstrong’s first book, the predecessor to this one, but it was fairly well received and this looks to continue that treand.

From the neo-feudalistic slubs, the corn-filled world of Tane's youth, to his apprenticeship among the deadly saleswarriors of Seattlehama--the sex-and-shopping capital of the world--to the horrors of a polluted Antarctica, Yarn tells a stylish tale of love, deceit, and memory.

Tane Cedar is the master tailor, the supreme outfitter of the wealthy, the beautiful, and the powerful. When an ex-lover, on the run from the authorities, asks him to create a garment from the dangerous and illegal Xi yarn--a psychedelic opiate--to ease her final hours, Tane's world is torn apart.

Armed with just his yarn pulls, scissors, Mini-Air-Juki handheld sewing machine, and his wits, Tane journeys through the shadowy underworld where he must untangle the deadly
mysteries and machinations of decades of deceit.

Following up on his highly acclaimed and Philip K. Dick Award-nominated "fashionpunk" novel Grey, Jon Armstrong explodes back on the scene with Yarn.

Demonstorm (Legends of the Raven #3) by James Barclay (Pyr Trade Paperback 1/15/2011) – Third installment of The Legends of the Raven the second trilogy of James Barclay’s mercenary heroes. Like the previous two volumes, this one will have awesome cover art by Raymond Swanland.

THIS IS THE END.... The dragons have gone home, the elves are safe. The Raven have kept their promises. But fate has not finished with them. As the war between the colleges rages on, an old enemy senses that his chance to revenge a bitter defeat has come. Tessaya, Lord of the Paleon Tribes, has waited patiently for his moment and now, with Balaia in flames, he makes his move and unleashes the Wesmen hordes. In Xetesk, his forces scattered, Dystran, Lord of the Mount, faces certain defeat by the Wesmen unless he unleashes the horrfying power of dimensional magics. And Dystran has not come this far to be beaten at the last by a rabble of ignorant tribesmen. And so the veil between dimensions is torn.... And beyond, a predatory evil stirs. Demons catch the scent of countless souls in Balaia. Can even The Raven prevail when the world is coming to an end? A fantasy milestone is reached. James Barclay brings his sensational saga of The Raven to a heart-stopping conclusion.

Darkwar by Glen Cook (Trade Paperback 12/1/2010 Night Shade Books) – Night Shade is continuing to do a superb job of reissuing Glen Cook’s backlist and giving them all the same brand feel with terrific Raymong Swanland art. I’ve now got the Starfishers trilogy and this omnibus to read.

The world grows colder with each passing year, the longer winters and ever-deepening snows awaking ancient fears within the Dengan Packstead, fears of invasion by armed and desperate nomads, attacks by the witchlike and mysterious Silth, able to kill with their minds alone, and of the Grauken, that desperate time when intellect gives way to buried cannibalistic instinct, when meth feeds upon meth. For Marika, a young pup of the Packstead, loyal to pack and family, times are dark indeed, for against these foes, the Packstead cannot prevail. But awakening within Marika is a power unmatched in all the world, a legendary power that may not just save her world, but allow her to grasp the stars themselves...From Glen Cook, author of the "Black Company" and "Dread Empire" novels, comes "Darkwar", collecting for the first time, the stunning science fantasy epic that originally appeared as "Doomstalker, Warlock, and Ceremony".

Surrender to the Will of the Night (Instrumentalities of the Night #3) by Glen Cook (Tor Hardcover 11/23/2010) – This is at least the 6th Glen Cook book I’ve received for review this year. I’m not complaining, because I like what I’ve read by him, but more half of those books are not re-issues.

Piper Hecht’s first and greatest secret is that he knows how to kill gods. What’s not a secret is that he knows how to win wars

Piper Hecht’s secrets make him dangerous, but his skill and his reputation put him in danger—from his enemies, who fear what he might do, or who want revenge for what he has already done; and from his friends, who want to use his military gifts for their own purposes. His sister Heris and his living ancestor Cloven Februaren, the Ninth Unknown, have made Hecht part of their fight against the return of the dark god Kharoulke the Windwalker. At the same time, the half-mad Empress Katrin wants him to lead the armies of the Grail Empire eastward on a crusade against his old coreligionists the Praman.

Meanwhile, all around them, the world is changing. The winters are growing longer and harder every year, and the seas are getting shallower. The far north and the high mountain ranges are going under the ice, and fast. The Wells of Power, everywhere, keep getting weaker. And the old evils, the Instrumentalities from the Time Before Time, have begun to ooze back into the world. As ever, the genius of Glen Cook’s storytelling lies in his common touch: in soldiers who are like real soldiers, in men and women who love and laugh and sweat, with real hopes and real fears, united only in their determination to face the oncoming night.

God’s War by Kameron Hurley (Trade Paperback 02/1/2011 Night Shade Books) – Debut novel from Ms. Hurley, who has published a fair amount of short fiction, and it may be the first of a series, the synopsis sounds pretty interesting.

Nyx had already been to hell. One prayer more or less wouldn't make any difference...

On a ravaged, contaminated world, a centuries-old holy war rages. Fought by a bloody mix of mercenaries, magicians, and conscripted soldiers, the origins of the war are shady and complex, but there's one thing everybody agrees on...

There's not a chance in hell of ending it.

Nyx is a former government assassin who makes a living cutting off heads for cash. But when a dubious deal between her government and an alien gene pirate goes bad. Nyx's ugly past makes her the top pick for a covert recovery. The head they want her to bring home could end the war -- but at what price?

The world is about to find out.

Towers of Midnight (Wheel of Time Book 13) by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (Tor Hardcover 11/23/2010) – I’ve not hidden my feelings about the Wheel of Time and will be getting to this book, but not until I finish my re-read/catch-up of the series.

The Last Battle has started. The seals on the Dark One’s prison are crumbling. The Pattern itself is unraveling, and the armies of the Shadow have begun to boil out of the Blight.

The sun has begun to set upon the Third Age.

Perrin Aybara is now hunted by specters from his past: Whitecloaks, a slayer of wolves, and the responsibilities of leadership. All the while, an unseen foe is slowly pulling a noose tight around his neck. To prevail, he must seek answers in Tel’aran’rhiod and find a way--at long last--to master the wolf within him or lose himself to it forever.

Meanwhile, Matrim Cauthon prepares for the most difficult challenge of his life. The creatures beyond the stone gateways--the Aelfinn and the Eelfinn--have confused him, taunted him, and left him hanged, his memory stuffed with bits and pieces of other men’s lives. He had hoped that his last confrontation with them would be the end of it, but the Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills. The time is coming when he will again have to dance with the Snakes and the Foxes, playing a game that cannot be won. The Tower of Ghenjei awaits, and its secrets will reveal the fate of a friend long lost.

This penultimate novel of Robert Jordan’s #1 New York Times bestselling series--the second of three based on materials he left behind when he died in 2007--brings dramatic and compelling developments to many threads in the Pattern. The end draws near.

Dovie’andi se tovya sagain. It’s time to toss the dice.

Catalyst (A Tale of the Barque Cats) by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough (Del Rey , Hardcover 12/7/2010) – This is the third version of this book I’ve received (ARC and Hardcover), so I’ll just repeat what I said last time, which can be applied the next book on this list: I’ll be right up front with this: books about cats are one of my reading cooties* so I will not be reading this one myself. That said, Scarborough and McCaffrey have impressive bibliographies on their own and together, so this book probably has a decent built-in audience. .

*Reading Cooties term thanks to Elizabeth Moon

Pilot, navigator, engineer, doctor, scientist—ship's cat? All are essential to the well-staffed space vessel. Since the early days of interstellar travel, when Tuxedo Thomas, a Maine coon cat, showed what a cat could do for a ship and its crew, the so-called Barque Cats have become highly prized crew members. Thomas's carefully bred progeny, ably assisted by humans—Cat Persons—with whom they share a deep and loving bond, now travel the galaxy, responsible for keeping spacecraft free of vermin, for alerting human crews to potential environmental hazards, and for acting as morale officers.

Even among Barque Cats, Chessie is something special. Her pedigree, skills, and intelligence, as well as the close rapport she has with her human, Janina, make her the most valuable crew member aboard the Molly Daise. And the litter of kittens in her belly only adds to her value.

Then the unthinkable happens. Chessie is kidnapped—er, catnapped—from Dr. Jared Vlast's vet clinic at Hood Station by a grizzled spacer named Carl Poindexter. But Chessie's newborn kittens turn out to be even more extraordinary than their mother. For while Chessie's connection to Janina is close and intuitive, the bond that the kitten Chester forms with Carl's son, Jubal, is downright telepathic. And when Chester is sent into space to learn his trade, neither he nor Jubal will rest until they're reunited.

But the announcement of a widespread epidemic affecting livestock on numerous planets throws their future into doubt. Suddenly the galactic government announces a plan to impound and possibly destroy all exposed animals. Not even the Barque Cats will be spared.

With the clock racing against them, Janina, Jubal, Dr. Vlast, and a handful of very special kittens will join forces with the mysterious Pshaw-Ra—an alien-looking cat with a hidden agenda—to save the Barque Cats, other animals, and quite possibly the universe as they know it from total destruction.

Catacombs (A Tale of the Barque Cats) by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough (Del Rey , Hardcover 01/7/2010) –

In Catalyst, award-winning authors Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough introduced readers to the beguiling Barque Cats: spacefaring felines who serve aboard starships as full-fledged members of the crew. Highly evolved, the cats share an almost telepathic bond with their minders, or Cat Persons - until, suddenly, there is no 'almost' about it, and a particular Barque Cat, Chester, learns to exchange thoughts with his human friend, Jubal. Other cats soon gain the same ability.

Behind the seeming miracle is a mysterious cat named Pshaw-Ra, who possesses knowledge and technology far beyond anything the Barque Cats - or their humans - have ever seen. When fear of a virulent plague leads the government first to quarantine and then to kill all animals suspected of infection, Pshaw-Ra - with the help of Chester, Jubal, and the crew of the starship Ranzo - activates a 'mousehole' in space that carries the refugees to a place of safety: Pshaw-Ra's home planet of Mau, where godlike cats are worshiped by human slaves.

But Pshaw-Ra's actions are less noble than they appear. The scheming cat plans to mate the Barque Cats with his own feline stock, creating a hybrid race of superior cats - a race destined to conquer the universe. Yet right from the start, his plans go awry.

For one thing, there's a new queen on Mau: Pshaw-Ra's daughter Nefure, a spoiled brat - er, cat - with a temper as short as her attention span. Pshaw-Ra's other daughter, the rightful queen Renpet, is exiled, running for her life in the only direction available to her - down into the vast catacombs beneath the Mauan desert. Far from receiving the hero's welcome he expected, Pshaw-Ra must use every bit of his considerable cleverness just to survive.

Meanwhile, as usual, Chester and Jubal stumble right into the middle of things, in the process uncovering the lost secrets of the Mauan civilization. But that's not all they uncover. In the forgotten catacombs deep below the Mauan capital, something has awakened. Something as old as the universe. Something that hungers to devour all light and life - and that bears an undying hatred for cats.

Midsummer Night (An Aetherial Tale) by Freda Warrington (Tor Hardcover 11/23/2010) – Warrington is an award-winner whose received a fair amount of praise. I’ll let the jacket copy speak for itself

Asensuous, suspenseful modern fantasy of love, betrayal, and redemption

Decades ago, in a place where the veil between our world and the world of the Aetherials—the fair folk—is too easily breached, three young people tricked their uncle by dressing as the fey. But their joke took a deadly turn when true Aetherials crossed into our world, took one of the pranksters, and literally scared their uncle to death.

Many years later, at the place of this capture lies a vast country estate that holds a renowned art facility owned by a visionary sculptor. One day, during a violent storm, a young woman studying art at the estate stumbles upon a portal to the Otherworld. A handsome young man comes through the portal and seeks shelter with her. Though he can tell her nothing of his past, his innocence and charm capture her heart. But he becomes the focus of increasingly violent arguments among the residents of the estate. Is he as innocent as he seems? Or is he hiding his true identity so that he can seek some terrible vengeance, bringing death and heartbreak to this place that stands between two worlds? Who is this young man?

The forces of magic and the power of love contend for the soul of this man, in this magical romantic story of loss and redemption.

The Raven Queen by John Saul (Spectra Trade Paperback 02/22/2011) – This is a sequel to a book I haven’t read or received

In this dazzling retelling of one of Ireland’s most stirring legends, acclaimed author Jules Watson brings to life the story of Maeve, the raven queen, who is as fierce as she is captivating.

She was born to be a pawn, used to secure her father’s royal hold on his land. She was forced to advance his will through marriage—her own desires always thwarted. But free-spirited Maeve will no longer endure the schemes of her latest husband, Conor, the cunning ruler of Ulster. And when her father’s death puts her homeland at the mercy of its greedy lords and Conor’s forces, Maeve knows she must at last come into her own power to save it.

With secret skill and daring, Maeve proves herself the equal of any warrior on the battlefield. With intelligence and stealth, she learns the strategies—and sacrifices—of ruling a kingdom through treacherous alliances. And to draw on the dangerous magic of her country’s oldest gods, Maeve seeks out the wandering druid Ruan, whose unexpected passion and strange connection to the worlds of spirit imperil everything Maeve thought true about herself—and put her at war with both her duty and her fate.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Greyfriar and Blog-o-versary

Just one review this time ‘round at SFFWorld and it happens to be mine.

But first ... About a week ago, this blog turned 6 years old. Hoooo-leeee crap. I wasn't sure what it would evolve into but I didn't imagine as a result of this and my work at SFFWorld that I would be getting so many books. When I first started, I was reading quite a few comic book blogs and only one or two of those folks are still blogging regularly. Or at least regularly with content that I continue to read.

I guess in blog years, 6 years makes me one of the crotchety old dudes. So stop speeding down my street and keep off my lawn! I moved to a new house, switched jobs about three times and got a dog in the time since I began this blog. A lot of newer blogs have cropped up and far surpassed the consistency and quality of content I post here. Folks like Adam, Aidan, Amanda, Andrew, Graeme, James, Jeff, Kristen, Liviu/Robert/Mihir/Cindy, The Mad Hatter, Mark, and Pat just to name a few.

Back to regularly scheduled programming, my latest review which is Clay and Susan Griffith’s first book in their Vampire Empire series, The Greyfriar:

The Vampire Empire is set in the year 2020, 150 years after Vampires have come out of hiding to wage war on humanity. The vampires have taken over a good portion of Europe and driven humans to the equatorial regions since vampires don’t deal well with warm weather. The novel begins when Princess Adele’s airship is taken down by vampires on the way to meeting her betrothed Senator Grant, a larger than life American who killed quite a few vampires over the course of the war. Although Adele is reluctant to marry this man, she realizes the marriage will unite the two human nations under one banner which would give humans a better chance at fighting the war against the Vampires. Fortunately for Adele and the hopes of humanity, the mysterious Greyfriar comes to save the day and rescues her from the vampires.

The authors smartly show both sides of the vampire-human war. While this doesn’t necessarily paint the vampires in any better a light, it doesn’t make them an unknowable evil. Through character conversations, the Griffiths reveal a backstory for the vampires that doesn’t differ entirely too much from the commonly accepted as the vampire myth with a few exceptions. For example, the aforementioned aversion to warm weather is a logical enhancement to the myth. However, what was interesting was the mention of vampire children, and vampire women birthing vampire babies. Clearly, there is something more to be told here of the origins of the vampires.

In the end, I enjohed the novel, but I couldn’t help but compare it to E.E. Knights Vampire Earth saga, which works for me more so than the Griffith’s efforts. At least one book into the series.

Also, that image above does NO justice to the physical book as foil stamping and 'real life' coloring compared to a jpeg, in this case, is worlds apart.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Books in the Mail (2010-11-13)

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, 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

Vortex: (Fate of the Jedi Book Nine) by Troy Denning (Hardcover 11/11/2010 Del Rey) – This is the sixth book in the latest series featuring that troublesome Skywalker clan. I’m waaay behind on my reading of Skywalker history, with the last book I read in the SW universe being the final New Jedi Order novel.

In a stunning turn of events, Luke Skywalker and his son, Ben, joined forces with members of the Sith armada sent to kill them—and turned their combined might against the monstrous being Abeloth, whose power was causing young Jedi Knights to go seemingly insane. But with Abeloth gone and the Knights sane again, the Sith reverted to form, making a treacherous attempt on Luke's life.

Luke and Ben have no time for retaliation. A new and even more insidious threat is rising, one that endangers not only the Jedi but the entire Galactic Alliance. Unless the Skywalkers survive to sound the alarm—and to pass along the secrets they have learned about Abeloth and the Sith—the galaxy will suffer as it has never suffered before. But the reinforcements they need remain grounded on Coruscant, where the political battle of wills between the Jedi Council and Galactic Alliance Chief of State Natasi Daala has reached a boiling point.

Now Luke and Ben must go on the run, taking along the inscrutable—and dangerous—Sith apprentice Vestara Khai. With a host of Sith warriors in hot pursuit, the Skywalkers soon find themselves trapped on the moon Pydyr, caught between their former allies and a mob of angry Fallanassi. A new truce may be their only hope. But can a Sith ever be trusted?

With the Jedi's most famous father-and-son team outnumbered and outgunned, the countdown to galactic disaster has begun—and time is running out!

Dead Men Walking (WH40K/Imperial Guard) by Steve Lyons (Black Library Mass Market Paperback 12/15/2010) –Zombies in Space!

When the necrons rise, a mining planet descends into a cauldron of war and the remorseless foes decimate the human defenders. Salvation comes in an unlikely form – the Death Korps of Kreig, a force as unfeeling as the Necrons themselves. When the two powers go to war, casualties are high and the magnitude of the destruction is unimaginable.

Helfort's War Book 4: The Battle for Commitment Planet by Graham Sharp Paul (Del Rey, Mass Market 11/23/2010) – This is the fourth book in a Military SF series and I haven’t read the first hree books.

It was insane, it was suicidal, it was wrong -
and by God he was going to do it.

The Hammer Worlds have Helfort exactly where they want him. The ultimatum is brutal and precise. Unless the Federated hero surrenders, the Hammer World's prisoner Anna Cheung - the only woman Helfort has ever loved - will be handed over to a bunch of depraved troopers to be violated, then executed by firing squad.

Helfort can obey, or he can do what the crew proposes: sail his three frontline dreadnoughts into the Hammers' stronghold Commitment Planet, liberate Anna and the rest of the POWs held captive there, and continue the fight in the jaws of the enemy. Helfort's decision? Bring it on!

House of Reckoning by John Saul (Ballantine Mass Market Paperback 11/23/2010) – Saul is a brand name suspense/horror writer – a guaranteed New York Times bestseller. This is his latest mass market paperback release

For more than three decades John Saul has haunted the New York Times bestseller list–and readers’ imaginations–with his chilling tales of psychological suspense and supernatural horror. His instinct for striking the deepest chords of fear in our hearts and minds is unerring, and his gift for steering a tale from the light of day into the darkest depths of nightmare is at its harrowing best in House of Reckoning.

After the untimely death of her mother, fourteen-year-old Sarah Crane is forced to grow up quickly in order to help tend her family’s Vermont farm and look after her grieving father, who’s drowning his sorrow in alcohol. But their quiet life together is shattered when her father is jailed for killing another man in a barroom brawl and injuring Sarah in a drunken car crash. Left in the cold care of a loveless foster family and alienated at school, Sarah finds a kindred spirit in classmate Nick Dunnigan, a former mental patient still plagued by voices and visions. And in eccentric art instructor Bettina Phillips, Sarah finds a mentor eager to nurture her talent for painting.

But within the walls of Bettina’s ancestral home, the mansion called Shutters, Sarah finds something altogether different and disturbing. Monstrous images from the house’s dark history seem to flow unbidden from Sarah’s paintbrush–images echoed by Nick’s chilling hallucinations. Trapped for ages in the shadowy rooms of Shutters, the violence and fury of long-dead generations have finally found a gateway from the grave into the world of the living. And Sarah and Nick have found a power they never had: to take control, and take revenge.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Books in the Mail (2010/11/07)

t was pretty big week here at the o’ Stuff household for review book arrivals.

Alien Tango (Kitty Kat: Alien Super-Being Exterminator Book 2) by Gini Koch (DAW Mass Market Paperback 12/7/2010)

It's been five months since marketing manager Katherine "Kitty" Katt started working with the aliens from Alpha Centauri, and she and Jeff Martini are getting closer. But when an experimental spacecraft is mysteriously returned to the Kennedy Space Center, Kitty and the rest of her team are called in to investigate. Now the team must survive murderous attacks, remove a space entity from a group of astronauts, and avoid an unhinged woman with a serious crush on Kitty's high school boyfriend. And that's all before evil masterminds decide Kitty's extermination is vital.

The Wolf Age (Morlock the Maker #3) by James Enge (Pyr Trade Paperback 10/22/2010) – I read the first Morlock novel, The Blood of Ambrose, which didn’t completely work for me at the time, but I thought Enge was somebody who I’d want to try again. Even thought this is one of those popular "hooded figure" covers, I like it quite a bit.

"Spear-age, sword-age:
shields are shattered.
Wind-age, wolf-age:
before the world founders
no man will show mercy to another."

Wuruyaaria: city of werewolves, whose raiders range over the dying northlands, capturing human beings for slaves or meat. Wuruyaaria: where a lone immortal maker wages a secret war against the Strange Gods of the Coranians. Wuruyaaria: a democracy where some are more equal than others, and a faction of outcast werewolves is determined to change the balance of power in a long, bloody election year.

Their plans are laid; the challenges known; the risks accepted. But all schemes will shatter in the clash between two threats few had foreseen and none had fully understood: a monster from the north on a mission to poison the world, and a stranger from the south named Morlock Ambrosius.

The Greyfriar (Vampire Empire Book 1) by Clay & Susan Griffith (Pyr Trade Paperback 11/08/2010) – I’ll be posting a review of this one in a week or so, but the short of it was I enjoyed the book despite its predictability. Here’s the back cover copy:

In the year 1870, a horrible plague of vampires swept over the northern regions of the world. Millions of humans were killed outright. Millions more died of disease and famine due to the havoc that followed. Within two years, once-great cities were shrouded by the gray empire of the vampire clans. Human refugees fled south to the tropics because vampires could not tolerate the constant heat there. They brought technology and a feverish drive to reestablish their shattered societies of steam and iron amid the mosques of Alexandria, the torrid quietude of Panama, or the green temples of Malaya.

It is now 2020 and a bloody reckoning is coming.

Princess Adele is heir to the Empire of Equatoria, a remnant of the old tropical British Empire. She is quick with her wit as well as with a sword or gun. She is eager for an adventure before she settles into a life of duty and political marriage to a man she does not know. But her quest turns black when she becomes the target of a merciless vampire clan. Her only protector is the Greyfriar, a mysterious hero who fights the vampires from deep within their territory. Their dangerous relationship plays out against an approaching war to the death between humankind and the vampire clans.

Vampire Empire: The Greyfriar is the first book in a trilogy of high adventure and alternate history. Combining rousing pulp action with steampunk style, Vampire Empire brings epic political themes to life within a story of heartbreaking romance, sacrifice, and heroism.

> Sword Woman and Other Historical Adventures by Robert E. Howard (Del Rey Trade Paperback 01/25/2011) – Del Rey is making every effort to ensure ALL of Howard’s fiction is in print, this is their latest offering.

The immortal legacy of Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan the Cimmerian, continues with this latest compendium of Howard’s fiction and poetry. These adventures, set in medieval-era Europe and the Near East, are among the most gripping Howard ever wrote, full of pageantry, romance, and battle scenes worthy of Tolstoy himself. Most of all, they feature some of Howard’s most unusual and memorable characters, including Cormac FitzGeoffrey, a half-Irish, half-Norman man of war who follows Richard the Lion-hearted to twelfth-century Palestine—or, as it was known to the Crusaders, Outremer; Diego de Guzman, a Spaniard who visits Cairo in the guise of a Muslim on a mission of revenge; and the legendary sword woman Dark Agnès, who, faced with an arranged marriage to a brutal husband in sixteenth-century France, cuts the ceremony short with a dagger thrust and flees to forge a new identity on the battlefield.

Lavishly illustrated by award-winning artist John Watkiss and featuring miscellanea, informative essays, and a fascinating introduction by acclaimed historical author Scott Oden, Sword Woman and Other Historical Adventures is a must-have for every fan of Robert E. Howard, who, in a career spanning just twelve years, won a place in the pantheon of great American writers.

The Warlord's Legacy (Corvis Rebaine Book 2) by Ari Marmell (Bantam Spectra Mass Market Hardcover 01/25/2011) – The first novel in this series, The Conqueror’s Shadow, caught me by surprise early last year. I enjoyed the novel a lot more than I expected I would so the sequel is quite welcome:

Corvis Rebaine, the Terror of the East, a man as quick with a quip as he is with a blade, returns in this highly anticipated sequel to Ari Marmell’s acclaimed The Conqueror’s Shadow, a debut hailed for its refreshing take on dark fantasy and surprising flashes of sharp, sarcastic wit. Now Marmell raises the stakes in a story that has all the humor and excitement of its predecessor, plus a terrifying new villain so evil that he may well be a match for Rebaine himself.

For let’s not forget how Corvis Rebaine came by the charming nickname “Terror of the East.” Certainly no one else has forgotten. Corvis Rebaine is no hero. In his trademark suit of black armor and skull-like helm, armed with a demon-forged axe, in command of a demonic slave, and with allies that include a bloodthirsty ogre, Rebaine has twice brought death and destruction to Imphallion in pursuit of a better, more equitable and just society. If he had to kill countless innocents in order to achieve that dream, so be it.

At least that was the old Rebaine. Before he slew the mad warlord Audriss. Before he banished the demon Khanda. Before he lost his wife and children, who could not forgive or forget his violent crimes. Now, years later, Rebaine lives in a distant city, under a false name, a member of one of the Guilds he despises, trying to achieve change nonviolently, from within the power structure.

Not even when the neighboring nation of Cephira invades Imphallion and the bickering Guilds prove unable to respond does Rebaine return to his old habits of slaughter. But someone else does. Someone wearing Rebaine’s black armor and bearing what appears to be his axe. Someone who is, if anything, even less careful of human life than Rebaine was.

Now Baron Jassion, Rebaine’s old nemesis, is hunting him once more, aided by a mysterious sorcerer named Kaleb, whose powers and secrets make him a more dangerous enemy than Rebaine has ever known. Even worse, accompanying them is a young woman who hates Corvis Rebaine perhaps more than anyone else: his own daughter, Mellorin. Suddenly Rebaine seems to have no choice. To clear his name, to protect his country, and to reconcile with his family, must he once again become the Terror of the East?

Wicked City: The Scarlet Clan (Wicked City) by Hideyuki Kikuchi (Tor Seven Seas Mass Market Paperback 11/09/2010) – Kikuchi is a big name in Japan and is more famously known for the popular anime and manga Vampire Hunter D.

The child conceived by the mortal Taki and the demoness Makie, fellow Black Guard agents whose job it is to preserve the peace between human and demonkind, is about to be born. Many see the upcoming birth as a sign of hope that the child will bring together the demon and human worlds in a new era of lasting peace. For the Shu family, however, which thrives on chaos and destruction, this is the last thing they desire.

The infamous demon mob, silent for thousands of years, will stop at nothing to prevent this child from entering the world. With magic snake handlers and fire-spitting demons at their beck and call, the Shus throw everything they have at Taki and the Black Guard in order to stop an event that has been predicted for centuries

The Barsoom Project (Dream Park #2)by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes (Tor Trade Paperback 11/22/2010) Sequel to the author’s popular Locus-nominated novel Dream Park:
Nothing is what it seems at Dream Park, the state-of-the-art amusement park of the future, where customers live out the adventures of a lifetime. What nobody counts on are double agents and live ammunition in the place where dreams and death come true.

Thirteen Years Later (The Danilov Quintet #2) by Jasper Kent (Bantam Spectra, Trade Paperback 02/07/2011) – The venerable Hobbit has reviewed this one for SFFWorld earlier in the year and is a big fan of the writer. He and Pat (he of the Fantasy Hotlist) conducted an interview with Mr. Kent about a month ago. Here’s the back cover copy of the book:

Aleksandr made a silent promise to the Lord. God would deliver him – would deliver Russia – and he would make Russia into the country that the Almighty wanted it to be. He would be delivered from "the pestilence that walketh in darkness ... " and "the destruction that wasteth at noonday ... the terror by night..."

1825, Europe – and Russia – have been at peace for ten years. Bonaparte is long dead and the threat of invasion is no more. For Colonel Aleksei Ivanovich Danilov, life is peaceful. Not only have the French been defeated but so have the twelve monstrous creatures he once fought alongside, and then against, ten or more years ago. His duty is still to serve and to protect his tsar, Aleksandr the First, but now the enemy is human.

However the Tsar knows that he can never be at peace. Of course, he is aware of the uprising fermenting within the Russian army – among his supposedly loyal officers. No, what troubles him is something that threatens to bring damnation down upon him, his family, and his country. The Tsar has been reminded of a promise: a promise born of blood, a promise that was broken a hundred years before.

Now the one who was betrayed by the Romanovs has returned to exact revenge for what has been denied him. And for Aleksei, knowing this chills his very soul. For it seems the vile pestilence that once threatened all he believed in and all he held dear has returned, thirteen years later…

Love and Rockets by Martin H. Greenberg and Kerrie Hughes (Daw Mass Market Paperback 12/7/2010) – The monthly-themed DAW anthology is about romance in space and has an introduction by Lois McMaster Bujold.

Space...the final frontier. Or is it? Many say there's no frontier more forbidding than a romantic relationship between a man and a woman. But what if one's a human, and the other's an alien? Here is an original collection of space opera stories where authors take love (unrequited or not), on a spaceship, space station, or planetary colony, and add enough drama, confusion and mayhem to ensure that the path to true love-or short-term infatuation-is seldom free of obstacles.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Reviews-Aaron, Barclay, Leiber, Newton

Another batch of reviews have appeared at SFFWorld over the past few days, two from Mark, one from me, and one from Art.

I’ll lead of with Mark’s review of the latest novel from James Barclay’s Elves: Once Walked with Gods:

For the uninitiated, the mere mention of the word ‘elves’ may bring up thoughts and images of Tolkien’s Legolas and a calm peaceful, thoughtful people. However, I won’t deceive people here. Frankly, James’ guerrilla group Elves, the TaiGethren, would have Legolas and his band of merry men and women for breakfast. Underneath the initial seemingly passive culture there are vicious, savage and downright nasty characters. And they are angry.

As you might expect from James, the tale is presented with speed and with precision – no bloated account, this one – and there’s enough conspiratorial double dealing to keep the reader happy. And as previous readers might expect, James’ action scenes, of which there are many, are also very well done, fast moving and vivid. Elves are not afraid to use their nails and teeth when needed in combat!

My review, is of a book that received great acclaim upon its initial publication in the UK in 2009 - Nights of Villjamur by Mark Charan Newton:

Throughout the majority of the story, Newton straddles the line between genre tropes – from the murder mystery, to the sense of magic and non-human creatures, to lost technology, to royal families – it is pretty clear Newton had fun making this tasty stew of a novel. Like Vance and Wolfe before him, Newton uses the far future setting to great effect, blurring the lines between science and magic so much that they could be one and the same. The strange non-human creatures, which include garudas, winged birdmen who act as sentries for Villjamur; the aforementioned rumels, which seem to be a lizard-like people; and the Dawnir, seemingly godlike in their possession of all technological and arcane knowledge, serve to further give the story a sense of weird, fantastical otherworldliness.

Art ‘s review is of a classic book by a genre legend, Our Lady of Darkness by Fritz Leiber

Fritz Leiber wrote a book called Our Lady of Darkness in 1978 (it would go on to win the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel that year), and in 2010 Tor has reprinted it in trade paperback (it's also available as an ebook). It could be categorized under a variety of genres, including mystery, thriller, horror, dark fantasy and urban fantasy, but here is another category, one that is very close to my heart: it is a book about books.

Our Lady of Darkness is a gripping mystery filled with darkly fantastic elements, but what I love most about this book is how it serves as a tribute to the rich literary heritage of both the city of San Francisco – a mist-swirled "megapolis" rendered in a gothic beauty reminiscent of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's London – and the horror fiction of Bierce, Smith, M.R. James, Arthur Machen, and H.P. Lovecraft, whose works are invoked as frames of reference throughout the novel.

Mark’s other review is of a debut novel, The Spirit Thief by Rachel Aaron

What is the winner for me here is the tale’s engaging tone. It’s light, fun and not particularly deep nor dark. It plays with the genre in a style that was reminiscent to me of early David Eddings. For many, that’ll be recommendation enough.

To the tale, then. Eli Monpress is an Errol Flynn type hero, a swordsman, renegade wizard and thief with the ability to talk to inanimate objects (that have once lived) and persuade them to do his bidding. This leads to his undoing at the beginning of the tale, but he manages to escape Allaze Prison faster than you can say ‘With one bound, he was free!’ Now rather bereft of funds, he then apparently kidnaps and holds for ransom Henrith, the King of Mellinor.