Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Memory of Light and Captain Vorpatril's Alliance

Two reviews to mention today at SFFWorld, one from me and the other from Mark…

Seems as if my reviewing will be at a slower pace this year, because we are in the last week in January and I’m posting only my second book review to SFFWorld (my third overall this year). The book in question is probably one of the more polarizing novels that will be published in 2013 and I found two sides of my brain battling while reading the book and composing the review. Without further ado, here’s my review of A Memory of Light, the final Wheel of Time novel, 14th in main sequence and 15th overall:

A Memory of Light is one of the larger novels in the series, clocking in at just over 900 pages in hardcover and at times, unfortunately, the story feels every bit of those 900 pages. Like all prior Wheel of Time installments, this one begins with a prologue, in this case detailing the fall of Caemlyn, highlighting the heroics of Talmanes, the man who was given command of Mat’s Band of the Red Hand. The early portion of the novel is setting the table for Tarmon Gai’don as it is depicted in the chapter entitled “The Last Battle.” Where the novel succeeds the most, for me, is in the character beats for a many of the primary characters. Rand came across as believable, Egwene’s heroics were possibly the highlight of the novel for me, Perrin’s storyline was a bit drawn, Mat’s leadership abilities in battle were on full display and Lan’s scenes, especially his Crowning Moment of Awesome was just that, awesome. 

Other elements, didn’t work so well, unfortunately. For all the build-up and tension surrounding the return of Moiraine in Towers of Midnight her presence in the final volume was minimal. "The Last Battle" chapter was vaunted prior to release for containing so many words (it is indeed large enough to be a novel unto itself) and so many view points, but ultimately I found it to be tedious. The battlefield movements and elements in this chapter paralleled, to a degree, Rand al’Thor’s more symbolic and metaphorical confrontation with the Dark One in Shayol Ghul. These more philosophical scenes, I found, worked better as a culmination of –some– of the themes of the series .

Mark caught up with the latest in one of his favorite SF series Captain Vorpatril's Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold:

For those versed in the Vorkosigan series, we have come across the titular Captain Ivan Vorpatril before, mainly in Brothers in Arms (the hostage used to draw Miles out) and most recently in A Civil Campaign (with Lady Donna Vorrutyer, an ex-lover of Ivan, who becomes Dono). Ivan is second cousin to Imperial troubleshooter Miles Vorkosigan, often referred to in a joking way by Miles as “Ivan, you idiot!” In Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Ivan is generally happy with his relatively uneventful bachelor's life of a staff officer to a Barrayaran admiral. However, when asked by old friend Byerly Vorrutyer to investigate for Barrayaran Intelligence Tej, a young Jackson’s Whole refugee on a hitlist for a Komarrean crime syndicate, life gets complicated. Ivan finds himself actually held hostage by Tej and her companion Rish, and then finds out that they’re about to be assassinated. Further revelations show that Tej is actually Princess Akuti Tejaswini Jyoti ghem Estif Arqua, whose parents seem to have been killed as part of a coup on Jackson’s Whole. 

This is a lively episode in the Saga. It’s all rather James Bond-ian, but with Lois’s intelligence and humour, both important elements of this series, the series seems regenerated. Because this is not focused on Miles, there seems to be a lot more going on, and Lois takes full advantage of the situation, with Ivan being able to do things that Miles can’t do. .

Monday, January 28, 2013

Cover Reveal Veil of the Deserters by Jeff Salyards

One of the standout debuts I read last year was Scourge of the Betrayer by Jeff Salyards.  Well, he just revealed the stunning cover art to the sequel, Veil of the Deserters on his Facebook page. The artist is Michael C. Hayes and he does an excellent job of depicting action and hero Braylar mace Bloodsounder, the enchanted two-headed flail that lends its name to the series. The young lady is portrayed strongly and unlike many a ladies in cover art, she isn't wearing a chain-mail bikini but appropriate and armor that covers body parts.

Jeff's a cool guy and a terrific writer.  I'm really looking forward to reading this book.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Books in the Mail (W/E 2013-01-26)

A mixed bag of books arrived this week, a few of which are finished copies of ARCs I previously received.

The Eldritch Conspiracy (Blood Singer #5) by Cat Adams (Tor, Trade Paperback 01/28/2013) – Very nearly a year after the fourth book in the series published, the fifth hits bookshelves. Vampires and werewolves run rampant in California in this fifth installment featuring the half-human/half-vampire bodyguard Celia Graves.

Celia Graves was once an ordinary human, but those days are long gone. Now she strives to maintain her sanity and her soul while juggling both vampire abilities and the powers of a Siren.

Not every bride needs a bridesmaid who can double as a bodyguard. But Celia's cousin Adriana is no ordinary bride: she's a Siren princess, and she's marrying the king of a small but politically important European country. She's getting death threats from fanatics who want to see the whole Siren race wiped out—including Celia herself, who is half Siren.

Luckily, Celia is on duty when a trip to a bridal salon is interrupted by an assassination attempt, so everyone survives. When Adriana returns to the Siren homeland to try to prevent a coup, Celia is free to hunt for the terrorists and the vile mage who is helping them (while keeping her eyes open for the perfect maid-of-honor dress).

Assuming the bride and groom both live to see their wedding day, this will be one royal wedding no one will ever forget.

The Departure (The Owner Book One) by Neal Asher (Nightshade books Trade Paperback 02/15/2013) – Start of a new series, unrelated to his popular Polity saga which Mark reviewed upon UK release last year. The only book I’ve read from Neal is The Skinnerwhen it was the SFFWorld SF Book Club selection back inAugust 2005. .



An overpopulated world is under the brutal, high-tech thumb of the Committee. Towering robot shepherds, pain-inducers, and reader guns maintain control over masses of zero-asset citizens, but for the elite this not enough. Twelve billion must human beings must die before the Earth can be stabilized, and the Argus satellite laser network is almost ready.

Waking in a crate destined for an incinerator, Alan Saul remembers only pain and his torturer’s face. But he has company: Janus, a rogue AI inhabiting the forbidden hardware in his skull. Saul intends to stop Argus and get his revenge on the Committee–once he finds out who he used to be.


Abandoned by the Committee, the Antares Base faces extinction. The colonists there will not be returning to Earth nor will they be receiving any additional supplies or support. Unless they are very ingenious, they will run out of resources and be dead within five years.

As if that’s not dire enough, Varalia Delex finds herself caught in a violent power struggle with the base’s ruthless political officers–who see everyone else as expendable. As spilled blood turns the Red Planet even redder, Var discovers that Mars holds very new and interesting ways to die . . . .

The Daylight War (Demon Cycle #3) by Peter V. Brett Del Rey, Hardcover 11/27/2012) – This is one of my most anticipated 2013 book releases, I really enjoyed the first two installments of the series The Daylight War and The Desert Spear

With The Warded Man and The Desert Spear, Peter V. Brett surged to the front rank of contemporary fantasy, standing alongside giants in the field such as George R. R. Martin, Robert Jordan, and Terry Brooks. The Daylight War, the eagerly anticipated third volume in Brett’s internationally bestselling Demon Cycle, continues the epic tale of humanity’s last stand against an army of demons that rise each night to prey on mankind.

On the night of the new moon, the demons rise in force, seeking the deaths of two men, both of whom have the potential to become the fabled Deliverer, the man prophesied to reunite the scattered remnants of humanity in a final push to destroy the demon corelings once and for all.

Arlen Bales was once an ordinary man, but now he has become something more—the Warded Man, tattooed with eldritch wards so powerful they make him a match for any demon. Arlen denies he is the Deliverer at every turn, but the more he tries to be one with the common folk, the more fervently they believe. Many would follow him, but Arlen’s path threatens to lead to a dark place he alone can travel to, and from which there may be no returning.

The only one with hope of keeping Arlen in the world of men, or joining him in his descent into the world of demons, is Renna Tanner, a fierce young woman in danger of losing herself to the power of demon magic.

Ahmann Jardir has forged the warlike desert tribes of Krasia into a demon-killing army and proclaimed himself Shar’Dama Ka, the Deliverer. He carries ancient weapons—a spear and a crown—that give credence to his claim, and already vast swaths of the green lands bow to his control.

But Jardir did not come to power on his own. His rise was engineered by his First Wife, Inevera, a cunning and powerful priestess whose formidable demon bone magic gives her the ability to glimpse the future. Inevera’s motives and past are shrouded in mystery, and even Jardir does not entirely trust her.

Once Arlen and Jardir were as close as brothers. Now they are the bitterest of rivals. As humanity’s enemies rise, the only two men capable of defeating them are divided against each other by the most deadly demons of all—those lurking in the human heart.

The Water Witch (The Fairwick Trilogy #2) by Juliet Dark (Ballantine Books, Mass Market Paperback 02/12/2013) – Second novel in a romance/history/fantasy series. Juliet Dark is the pseudonym of Carol Goodman.

Perfect for fans of Deborah Harkness and Elizabeth Kostova, The Water Watch is a breathtakingly sexy and atmospheric new novel of ancient folklore, passionate love, and thrilling magic.

After casting out a dark spirit, Callie McFay, a professor of gothic literature, has at last restored a semblance of calm to her rambling Victorian house. But in the nearby thicket of the honeysuckle forest, and in the currents of the rushing Undine stream, more trouble is stirring. . . .

The enchanted town of Fairwick’s dazzling mix of mythical creatures has come under siege from the Grove: a sinister group of witches determined to banish the fey back to their ancestral land. With factions turning on one another, all are cruelly forced to take sides. Callie’s grandmother, a prominent Grove member, demands her granddaughter’s compliance, but half-witch/half-fey Callie can hardly betray her friends and colleagues at the college. To stave off disaster, Callie enlists Duncan Laird, an alluring seductive academic who cultivates her vast magical potential, but to what end? Deeply conflicted, Callie struggles to save her beloved Fairwick, dangerously pushing her extraordinary powers to the limit—risking all, even the needs of her own passionate heart.

Exile (The First Book of the Seven Eyes) by Betsy Dornbusch (Nightshade Books Hardcover 01/08/2013) – Launch of an interesting looking fantasy series from a writer who has published a handful of short stories. .

Draken vae Khellian, bastard cousin of the Monoean King, had risen far from his ignominious origins, becoming both a Bowrank Commander and a member of the Crown’s Black Guard. But when he is falsely condemned for the grisly murder of his beloved wife, he is banished from the kingdom and cast upon the distant shore of Akrasia, at the arse-end of the world.

Compared to civilized Monoea, Akrasia is a forbidding land of Moonlings, magic, and restless spirits. It is also a realm on the brink of a bloody revolution, as a sinister conspiracy plots against Akrasia’s embattled young queen–and malevolent banes possess the bodies of the living.

Consumed by grief, and branded a murderer, Draken lives only to clear his name and avenge his wife’s murder. But the fates may have bigger plans for him. Alone in a strange land, he soon finds himself sharing the bed of an enigmatic necromancer and a half-breed servant girl, while pressed into the service of a foreign queen whose life and land may well depend on the divided loyalties of an exiled warrior . . .

Exile is the beginning of an ambitious fantasy saga by an acclaimed new author.

The Eye of the World (Graphic Novel, Volume 3) by Robert Jordan (story), Chuck Dixon (script) and Marcio Fiorito and Francis Nuguit (art) (Torc Hardcover 06/19/2012) – I was collecting this in single issues, I have the first 20 or so and thought it a pretty good adaptation. This here catches up with about where I left off, I think.

With the full permission and cooperation of the Jordan estate, adapted by well-known comics writer Chuck Dixon, The Eye of the World: The Graphic Novel has been hailed as an exciting interpretation of Robert Jordan's classic fantasy novel. It features brilliant interior art by Marcio Fiorito and Francis Nuguit, and stunning covers by Jeremy Saliba and Seamus Gallagher. It collects issues thirteen to eighteen of the comic book.

Rand; his friends Mat, Perrin, and Egwene; the Aes Sedai Moiraine and her Warder, Lan Mandragoran; Thom the gleeman and Nynaeve, the village Wisdom, split into three groups while trying to escape the ancient, dead city of Shadar Logoth, where they are pursued by the deadly Mashadar. A disastrous river crossing leaves Perrin and Egwene on their own—until they meet a mysterious stranger who claims that he and Perrin share a remarkable ability. Meanwhile, Rand, Mat, pose as Thom’s apprentices as they sail downriver on a cargo ship.

Kalimpura by Jay Lake (Tor Hardcover 01/29/2011) – Sequel to Lake’s popular Green and Endurance…, this is the finished copy of the ARC I received back in July.

This sequel to Green and Endurance takes Green back to the city of Kalimpura and the service of the Lily Goddess.

Green is hounded by the gods of Copper Downs and the gods of Kalimpura, who have laid claim to her and her children. She never wanted to be a conduit for the supernatural, but when she killed the Immortal Duke and created the Ox god with the power she released, she came to their notice.

Now she has sworn to retrieve the two girls taken hostage by the Bittern Court, one of Kalimpura’s rival guilds. But the Temple of the Lily Goddess is playing politics with her life.

The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord (Del Rey, Hardcover 02/12/2013) – This is Lord’s second novel and looks to be a winner. In addition to the names listed in the blurb below, I’ll say that superficially, I get an Octavia Butler feel, specifically her marvelous Xenogenesis series.

Karen Lord’s debut novel, the multiple-award-winning Redemption in Indigo, announced the appearance of a major new talent—a strong, brilliantly innovative voice fusing Caribbean storytelling traditions and speculative fiction with subversive wit and incisive intellect. Compared by critics to such heavyweights as Nalo Hopkinson, China Miéville, and Ursula K. Le Guin, Lord does indeed belong in such select company—yet, like them, she boldly blazes her own trail.

Now Lord returns with a second novel that exceeds the promise of her first. The Best of All Possible Worlds is a stunning science fiction epic that is also a beautifully wrought, deeply moving love story.

A proud and reserved alien society finds its homeland destroyed in an unprovoked act of aggression, and the survivors have no choice but to reach out to the indigenous humanoids of their adopted world, to whom they are distantly related. They wish to preserve their cherished way of life but come to discover that in order to preserve their culture, they may have to change it forever.

Now a man and a woman from these two clashing societies must work together to save this vanishing race—and end up uncovering ancient mysteries with far-reaching ramifications. As their mission hangs in the balance, this unlikely team—one cool and cerebral, the other fiery and impulsive—just may find in each other their own destinies . . . and a force that transcends all.

“This fascinating and thoughtful science fiction novel breaks out of the typical conflict-centered narrative paradigm to examine adaptation, social change, and human relationships. I’ve not read anything quite like it, which it makes that rare beast: a true original.”—Kate Elliot, author of the Crown of Stars series and the Spiritwalker Trilogy

Blood’s Pride (Shattered Kingdoms #1) by Evie Manierie (Tor, Hardcover/eBook 02/19/2013) – Debut novel and series launch from Manieri. I’ll be posting a review of this around the pub date and Evie will have a guest blog here.

Rising from their sea-torn ships like vengeful, pale phantoms, the Norlanders laid waste to the Shadar under cover of darkness. They forced the once-peaceful fisher folk into slavery and forged an alliance with their former trading partners, the desert-dwelling Nomas tribe, cutting off any hope of salvation.
Now, two decades after the invasion, a rebellion gathers strength in the dark corridors of the city. A small faction of Shadari have hired the Mongrel, an infamous mercenary, to aid their fledgling uprising—but with her own shadowy ties to the region, she is a frighteningly volatile ally. Has she really come to lead a revolution, or for a more sinister purpose all her own?

This thrilling new epic fantasy is set in a quasi-Medieval Mediterranean region, drawing together the warrior culture of Vikings, the wanderlust of desert nomads, and the oracles of ancient Greece. Evie Manieri's Blood's Pride is an intricate, lush fantasy novel full of taut action, gut-wrenching betrayal, and soaring romance.

Ghost Spin by Chris Moriarty (Del Rey, Trade Paperback 04/03/2012) – Third in the connected trilogy which began with Spin State and continued with the Philip K. Dick award winning Spin Control. I get the sense; however, this novel can stand on its own.

Sometimes a ghost of a chance is all you get.

Award-winning author Chris Moriarty returns to a dazzling cyber-noir far future in this gritty, high-stakes thriller where the only rule is “Evolve . . . or die.”

The Age of Man is ending. The UN’s sprawling interstellar empire is failing as its quantum teleportation network collapses, turning once-viable colonies into doomed island outposts. Humanity’s only hope of survival is the Drift: a mysterious region of space where faster-than-light travel—or something far stranger—seems possible. As mercenaries and pirates flock to the Drift, the cold war between the human-led UN and the clone-dominated Syndicates heats up. Whoever controls the Drift will chart the future course of human evolution—and no one wants to be left behind in a universe where the price of failure is extinction.

When the AI called Cohen ventures into the Drift, he dies—allegedly by his own hand—and his consciousness is scattered across the cosmos. Some of his ghosts are still self-aware. Some are insane. And one of them hides a secret worth killing for. Enter Major Catherine Li, Cohen’s human (well, partly human) lover, who embarks on a desperate search to solve the mystery of Cohen’s death—and put him back together. But Li isn’t the only one interested in Cohen’s ghosts. Astrid Avery, a by-the-book UN navy captain, is on the hunt. So is William Llewellyn, a pirate who has one of the ghosts in his head, which is slowly eating him alive. Even the ghosts have their own agendas. And lurking behind them all is a pitiless enemy who will stop at nothing to make sure the dead don’t walk again.

The Mongoliad Book 3
(Foreworld Saga #3) by Neal Stephenson, Erik Bear, Greg Bear, Joseph Brassey, Cooper Moo,and Mark Teppo (47North, eBook &; Trade Paperback 03/26/2013) – Third installment of the multi-author/multi-volume historical fantasy science fiction epic.

history when a world in peril relied solely on the courage of its people.

The shadow of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II hangs over the shattered Holy Roman Church as the cardinals remain deadlocked, unable to choose a new pope. Only the Binders and a mad priest have a hope of uniting the Church against the invading Mongol host. An untested band of young warriors stands against the dissolute Khan, fighting for glory and freedom in the Khan’s sadistic circus of swords, and the brave band of Shield-Brethren who set out to stop the Mongol threat single-handedly race against their nemesis before he can raise the entire empire against them. Veteran knight Feronantus, haunted by his life in exile, leads the dwindling company of Shield-Brethren to their final battle, molding them into a team that will outlast him. No good hero lives forever. Or fights alone.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Books in the Mail (W/E 2013-01-19)

The batch of arrivals is even bigger this week now that 2013 is in full swing. Have a look, won’t you?

Dead Things by Stephen Blackmore (DAW, Mass Market Paperback 02/05/2013) – Second novel in two years from Blackmore and refreshingly, this seems to be a stand-alone, or at least not blatantly to his first novel.

Necromancer is such an ugly word, but it's a title Eric Carter is stuck with.

He sees ghosts, talks to the dead. He's turned it into a lucrative career putting troublesome spirits to rest, sometimes taking on even more dangerous things. For a fee, of course.

When he left LA fifteen years ago, he thought he'd never go back. Too many bad memories. Too many people trying to kill him.

But now his sister's been brutally murdered and Carter wants to find out why.

Was it the gangster looking to settle a score? The ghost of a mage he killed the night he left town? Maybe it's the patrion saint of violent death herself, Santa Muerte, who's taken an unusually keen interest in him.

Carter's going to find out who did it, and he's going to make them pay.

First Rider's Call (Green Rider #4) by Kristen Britain (DAW Mass Market Paperback 02/15/2013) – I read the first book, Green Rider in this series years ago, and I think I read book two in hardcover release. This is the fourth and (presumably?) final novel in the sequence?

Read Kristen Britain's blogs and other content on the Penguin Community.

The long-awaited sequel to Green Rider, First Rider's Call, and The High King's Tomb.

Once a simple student, Karigan G'ladheon finds herself in a world of deadly danger and complex magic, compelled by forces she cannot understand when she becomes a legendary Green Rider-one of the magical messengers of the king. Forced by magic to accept a dangerous fate she would never have chosen, headstrong Karigan has become completely devoted to the king and her fellow Riders.

But now, an insurrection led by dark magicians threatens to break the boundaries of ancient, evil Blackveil Forest-releasing powerful dark magics that have been shut away for a millennium.

The Red Knight (Book 1 of The Traitor Son Cycle #1) by Miles Cameron (Orbit (Hardcover 01/22/2013) – This one’s getting quite a bit of pre-publication buzz. This seems to be RIGHT up my alley. This is the published/final version of the ARC I received in November, and since then, Mark reviewed it enthusiastically for SFFWorld.

Twenty eight florins a month is a huge price to pay, for a man to stand between you and the Wild.

Twenty eight florins a month is nowhere near enough when a wyvern's jaws snap shut on your helmet in the hot stink of battle, and the beast starts to rip the head from your shoulders. But if standing and fighting is hard, leading a company of men - or worse, a company of mercenaries - against the smart, deadly creatures of the Wild is even harder.

It takes all the advantages of birth, training, and the luck of the devil to do it.

The Red Knight has all three, he has youth on his side, and he's determined to turn a profit. So when he hires his company out to protect an Abbess and her nunnery, it's just another job. The abby is rich, the nuns are pretty and the monster preying on them is nothing he can't deal with.

Only it's not just a job. It's going to be a war. . .

The Death Cure (Maze Runner Series #3) by James Dashner (Random House Teens Trade Paperback 01/08/2013) – Final book of a trilogy (and the only book of the series I’ve received) and reissue of the hardcover I received a little over a year ago. The dystopian series seems well-received and will likely appeal to readers/fans of The Hunger Games.

Thomas knows that Wicked can't be trusted, but they say the time for lies is over, that they've collected all they can from the Trials and now must rely on the Gladers, with full memories restored, to help them with their ultimate mission. It's up to the Gladers to complete the blueprint for the cure to the Flare with a final voluntary test. What Wicked doesn't know is that something's happened that no Trial or Variable could have foreseen. Thomas has remembered far more than they think. And he knows that he can't believe a word of what Wicked says.

The time for lies is over. But the truth is more dangerous than Thomas could ever imagine.

Will anyone survive the Death Cure?

Hunting Daylight (The Night #2) by Piper Maitland (Berkeley, Mass Market Paperback 02/05/2013) – Second book of a paranormal romance series (and the only book of the series I’ve received) featuring vampires

Out of the shadows…

For more than a decade, Caro Barrett has had doubts about the death of her husband, who disappeared while looking for a tribe of day-walking vampires in an African rainforest. Now, their daughter is struggling through her teenage years without a father. Waiting in the wings is an ancient vampire ready to possess Caro’s heart—and to protect them both from harm. And, with her husband declared legally dead, Caro feels it is finally time to move on…

A hemisphere away in a windowless compound, an Ottoman vampire lies dying from a rare blood disease, which has made him vulnerable to the faintest bit of light. Yet he is determined to vanquish its power over him—to feel the sun on his face one last time. And in Caro’s darkest fears he will be lifted into the light of day…

Tuf Voyaging by George R.R. Martin (Bantam Spectra, Trade Paperback Reissue 01/29/2013) – I think this is the final of the re-issues of GRRM’s backlist and probably the one (now that Fevre Dream was re-released) I’ve most wanted to read.

Long before A Game of Thrones became an international phenomenon, #1 New York Times bestselling author George R. R. Martin had taken his loyal readers across the cosmos. Now back in print after almost ten years, Tuf Voyaging is the story of quirky and endearing Haviland Tuf, an unlikely hero just trying to do right by the galaxy, one planet at a time.

Haviland Tuf is an honest space-trader who likes cats. So how is it that, in competition with the worst villains the universe has to offer, he’s become the proud owner of a seedship, the last remnant of Earth’s legendary Ecological Engineering Corps? Never mind; just be thankful that the most powerful weapon in human space is in good hands—hands which now have the godlike ability to control the genetic material of thousands of outlandish creatures.

Armed with this unique equipment, Tuf is set to tackle the problems that human settlers have created in colonizing far-flung worlds: hosts of hostile monsters, a population hooked on procreation, a dictator who unleashes plagues to get his own way . . . and in every case, the only thing that stands between the colonists and disaster is Tuf’s ingenuity—and his reputation as a man of integrity in a universe of rogues.

Imager's Battalion (Imager Portfolio) by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. (Tor Hardcover 01/22/2013) – The writing machine that is a man releases another (sixth overall) in this series and sequel to last May’s Princeps

The sequel to the New York Times bestselling Princeps follows magical hero Quaeryt as he leads history's first Imager fighting force into war. Given the rank of subcommander by his wife's brother, Lord Bhayar, the ruler of Telaryn, Quaeryt joins an invading army into the hostile land of Bovaria, in retaliation for Bovaria's attempted annexation of Telaryn. But Quaeryt has his own agenda in doing Bhayar's bidding: to legitimize Imagers in the hearts and minds of all men, by demonstrating their value as heroes as he leads his battalion into one costly battle after another.

Making matters worse, court intrigues pursue Quaeryt even to the front lines of the conflict, as the Imager's enemies continue to plot against him.

The Silent Dragon (The Children of the Dragon Nimbus #1) by Irene Radford (DAW Mass Market Paperback 02/05/2013) – Radford returns to her longest and most well-known series with this novel.

In a realm on the brink of war, will an unsuspected heir to the kingdom of Coronnan and to magic long-banished from the land offer the only hope for survival?

Glenndon—son of witchwoman Brevelan and Jaylor, Senior Magician and Chancellor of the University of Magicians—has never spoken aloud. He has no need because his telepathic talent is strong and everyone associated with the University can "hear" him. He can throw master-level spells, but because he will not speak, Jaylor has refused to promote him from apprentice to journeyman magician. Still, everyone knows it is only a matter of time until Glenndon will take his rightful place at the University.

Then an urgent missive arrives from King Darville. The Council of Provinces is near rebellion over the king's lack of a male heir. Rather than see his fourteen-year-old daughter, Rosselinda, married off just to procure an heir, he orders his illegitimate son Glenndon to Coronnan City to become his successor. And suddenly Glenndon's world is in chaos. The man he's always known as his father is not. Instead he is the son of the king. But in this city where court politics can prove deadly and where magic is forbidden, the young man must hide his talents even as he struggles to find his voice and his destiny.

And one slip could see Glenndon, Darville, Rosselinda, and even Jaylor doomed, for the lords and the people fear magic more than potential invasion, legendary monsters, and civil war.

God of War II> by Robert Vardeman (Del Rey Hardcover 02/12/2013) – Second novel based on one of the greatest video game franchises of all time. What’s odd here is that God of War III is already nearly 3 years old and this is just the second book.

All the majesty and mayhem of Greek mythology springs to life once more in the powerful second novel based on the bestselling and critically acclaimed God of War® franchise.

Once the mighty warrior Kratos was a slave to the gods, bound to do their savage bidding. After destroying Ares, the God of War, Kratos was granted his freedom by Zeus—and even given the ousted god’s throne on Olympus.

But the other gods of the pantheon didn’t take kindly to Kratos’s ascension and, in turn, conspired against him. Banished, Kratos must ally himself with the despised Titans, ancient enemies of the Olympians, in order to take revenge and silence the nightmares that haunt him.

God of War II takes the videogame’s action to electrifying new heights, and adds ever more fascinating layers to the larger-than-life tale of Kratos.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson

So, The Towers of Midnight, the PENULTIMATE volume of The Wheel of Time, what can I say about it that many, many, many, many other folks haven’t already said? My opinions, is what I have and can say that may mirror others opinions but still is my own. Like my previous posts about books in the series, this is post is much more of a reaction than a critical review of the book.

While the cover for The Gathering Storm is atrocious, there's a vast improvement in this piece for Sweet.  For the most part, and by the artist's standards on previous volumes, is an accurate depiction of a portentous and momentous scene in the novel.

To the words of the book...In The Towers of Midnight, two of the longest-running plotlilnes finally come to conclusion, which is why I’ve been internally calling this installment “Perrin Stops Whining and Grabs His Balls.” So yeah, after much struggle to accept the mantle of leadership his people have thrust upon him despite his protests, Perrin relents. Like many of the WOT storylines that have seemed interminable over the course of the series, this one had far too many bumps in the road, but the culmination of this as Perrin and Neald forge the power-wrought war-hammer Mah'alleinir in one of the more evocative scenes in the series, which is why, I suppose, the scene was chosen for the eBook cover.

The other, even more interminable, storyline that closed up was Elayne finally taking the throne in Cairhien. Of Rand’s three love interests, I always found her the most boring, to be quite honest. Elayne and her mother were also reunited after Morgase spent quite a bit of time disguised in Perrin’s camp. Surprisingly, I enjoyed many of the scenes where Morgase played an important role – playing the arbiter between Perrin and the Whitecloaks, giving her daughter her seal of approval, and whacking some sense into her dullard sons, though Galad’s character progression worked pretty well here, too. From being an adversary to Perrin to a begrudging and respected ally, I thought, worked pretty well.

While I realize the chapters focusing on Aviendha were important to the Aiel elements of the novel these scenes just didn’t connect with me. I guess one of the other things I’ve come to realize through this re-read and catch-up with The Wheel of Time is that Min is clearly my favorite of Rand’s three ladies.

Rand was more of a tertiary character here and not a POV character, but that made his scenes effective as other characters could see the changes resulting from the powerful scene that closed out the previous volume, The Gathering Storm.

I haven’t even mentioned what most fans of the series were likely most eager to see occur in this volume – Mat’s rescue of Moiraine, especially since the revelation of her letter to Thom in Knife of Dreams. The trailer released featured Moiraine and her parallels to Gandalf led many to believe her disappearance battling Lanfear was not the last appearance of the Aes Sedai of the Blue Ajah. Much of this rescue mission in the land of the *Finns had a creepy atmosphere that would work in a horror novel. The minor backsteps Mat’s characterization took in the previous volume were nearly balanced by his near ‘recovery’ of character voice here in Towers of Midnight

In summation, I really enjoyed Towers of Midnight despite some if its flaws (Gawyn as perhaps the dumbest character, in that he is flat out stubbornly stupid; the continued annoying speech patterns of Bayle Domon and the Illianers) primarily because of Perrin’s storyline (crafting of Mah'alleinir, respect from Galad, his blocking of BALEFIRE!!) and the rescue of Moiraine.

Bring on Tarmon Gai’don!!!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Myke Cole, Hugh Howey, & John Birmingham Reviewed

Back to something of a normal Tuesday post here at the o’ stuff wherein I post links, cover art, and an excerpt(s) of book reviews posted to SFFWorld by some combination of Mark Yon (aka Hobbit in the SFFWorld forums) N.E. White (tmso in the SFFWorld forums, Kathryn Ryan (Loerwyn in the SFFWorld forums) and yours truly. This week’s post brings reviews from Nila, Mark, and me.
While I’ve already posted one book review of a current year/2013 release to, here’s my first book review of a current year/2013 release to SFFWorld and it’s a book that I’ve looked forward to reading since reading the first in the series about a year ago. The book, the second installment of Myke Cole’s Shadow OPS series, Fortress Frontier:

In being assigned to the Forward Operating Base (FOB) Frontier in the world of magic, Bookbinder’s story intersects very quickly with Oscar Britton’s story, specifically the moments when Oscar flees the fortress and goes rogue. Oscar’s actions cause the FOB to be cut off from the home plane, something of a sidebar in Control Point but which takes front-and-center position as a major driving force of the plot. Bad goes to worse when a goblin tribe attacks the severely undersupplied FOB killing Bookbinder’s superior and forcing Bookbinder to become the acting head of FOB. Bookbinder’s magical powers emerging and his ascension to the head of the FOB occurs in just the first third of the novel. In other words, Cole packs a great deal of story into the novel, I found myself drawn into the story immediately.

So, in short, Cole has admirably widened the geopolitical scope of his world in addition to increasing the character lenses through which we as the readers can view this world – a natural and impressive progression. The strength here is that character and world-building are equal parts of the whole and one’s development does not suffer from the growth of the other.

Nila has been following self-publishing sensation (Simon and Schuster picked up his books) Hugh Howey’s WOOL series and continues with the seventh installment Second Shift:

Second Shift begins with ‘Deathdays were birthdays.’ Through Mission, a young porter living in Silo 18, we learn how each life in the silos are linked to another. In the confines of the underground silos, one has to pass on, before another can take their place. Mission learned this the hard way. He lost his mother to a cleaning (the act of sending a silo occupant out into the hostile world to clean and subsequently die) the day he was born, because she hid her pregnancy. This fact haunts him throughout this day - his birthday - and leads him to wonder if he deserves the life he has.

This is where Mr. Howey’s imagination has lead us to the popular world of the silos, where nothing is as it seems, and this latest addition to the series will not disappoint his fans. With smooth, evocative prose, the author brings us closer to old characters (Donald) and continues to introduce new, relatable characters (Mission and the Crow). Plot threads become clearer, while new ones emerge to tease readers along.

Along with an interview of John Birmingham, Mark reviews John’s Without Warning the first in a Tom Clancy-esque SF series:

However, in this alternate history, the saving of the world is not an option for the Americans. You see, without warning (and hence the title) an energy wave has caused the majority of the USA to disappear, with no survivors.

Really does set up a new scenario, doesn’t it?

With such a global event, and as you might expect, there are a broad range of characters having to deal with the issue from a number of different viewpoints.

This is a BIG, meaty, novel, and as you might expect, it has big ideas and a broad canvas from the Iraq War in 2003 to Paris in Europe to Acapulco and Seattle. With America gone as primary peace keeper, the world soon descends into chaos as the remaining nations rearrange themselves in to some sort of new world order whilst the Middle East sees the event as some kind of miraculous, if not divine, intervention.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Books in the Mail (W/E 2013-01-12)

Another week with just a few releases, but with the size of Mount Toberead, I am not complaining.

The Burn Zone by James K. Decker (Roc, Mass Market Paperback 02/05/2013) – James K. Decker is the open pseudonym of James K. Knapp, author of the Revivors, the first of which State of Decay, I reviewed and enjoyed a couple of years ago.

Plagued by overpopulation, disease, and starvation, humanity was headed for extinction—until an alien race called the haan arrived. And then the real trouble began.

It’s been a rough day for Sam Shao. As part of a program that requires humans to act as surrogates to haan infants, Sam has been genetically enhanced to bond with them. So when three soldiers invade her apartment and arrest her guardian for smuggling a dangerous weapon into the country, Sam can sense that something isn’t right. One of his abductors is a haan masquerading as a human, and the supposedly fragile haan seems to be anything but.

Racing through the city slums, trying to stay one step ahead of the mysterious haan soldier, Sam tries to find the man who, in her twenty years, has been the only father she’s ever known. Could he truly have done what he is accused of? Or did he witness something both human and haan would kill to keep hidden? The only thing certain is that the weapon is real—and lost now somewhere in a city of millions.

Fighting the clock, Sam finds an ally in Nix, a haan envoy devoted to coexisting with humans, or so it seems. But what she really needs are answers. Fast. Or else everything she knows—and everyone she loves—will burn..

The Kassa Gambit by M.C. Planck (Tor, Hardcover 01/08/2013) – I recently reviewed this for and thought it OK, but ultimately uneven.

Centuries after the ecological collapse of Earth, humanity has spread among the stars. Under the governance of the League, our endless need for resources has driven us to colonize hundreds of planets, all of them devoid of other sentient life. Humanity is apparently alone in the universe.

Then comes the sudden, brutal decimation of Kassa, a small farming planet, by a mysterious attacker. The few survivors send out a desperate plea for aid, which is answered by two unlikely rescuers. Prudence Falling is the young captain of a tramp freighter. She and her ragtag crew have been on the run and living job to job for years, eking out a living by making cargo runs that aren’t always entirely legal. Lt. Kyle Daspar is a police officer from the wealthy planet of Altair Prime, working undercover as a double agent against the League. He’s been undercover so long he can't be trusted by anyone—even himself.

While flying rescue missions to extract survivors from the surface of devastated Kassa, they discover what could be the most important artifact in the history of man: an alien spaceship, crashed and abandoned during the attack.

But something tells them there is more to the story. Together, they discover the cruel truth about the destruction of Kassa, and that an imminent alien invasion is the least of humanity’s concerns.

The Night of the Swarm (The Chathrand Voyage Book 3) by Robert V.S. Redick (Del Rey Trade Paperback 02/05/2013) – Now that this series is complete, I will be jumping into it. Those whose opinions I respect (particularly Liviu of Fantasy Book Critic) have been praising these books for quite some time.

Robert V. S. Redick brings his acclaimed fantasy series Chathrand Voyage to a triumphant close that merits comparison to the work of such masters as George R. R. Martin, Philip Pullman, and J.R.R. Tolkien himself. The evil sorcerer Arunis is dead, yet the danger has not ended. For as he fell, beheaded by the young warrior-woman Thasha Isiq, Arunis summoned the Swarm of Night, a demonic entity that feasts on death and grows like a plague. If the Swarm is not destroyed, the world of Alifros will become a vast graveyard. Now Thasha and her comrades-the tarboy Pazel Pathkendle and the mysterious wizard Ramachni-begin a quest that seems all but impossible. Yet there is hope: One person has the power to stand against the Swarm: the great mage Erithusmé. Long thought dead, Erithusmé lives, buried deep in Thasha's soul. But for the mage to live again, Thasha Isiq may have to die.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Kassa Gambit at and Triumph over Tragedy LIVE!

My first book review of 2013 is now live at, The Kassa Gambit by M.C. Planck

Also, the Triumph over Tragedy anthology, for which I edited a few of the stories, is now available for sale at All the credit for this thing happening goes to R.T. Kaelin and Sara Chorn who worked diligently despite life trying to prevent both of them from even breathing. I'm pleased to have been a small part of ensuring this thing gets published. 

The anthology is only $6.99 and proceeds go to relief for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. The amazing list of contributors includes Elizabeth Bear, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Michael Stackpole, Michael J. Sullivan, Mark Lawerence, Bradley P. Beaulieu, Philip Athans, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Jean Rabe, Robert Silverberg, R.T. Kaelin, Ari Marmell and many more.  $6.99 folks (eBook only), you really can't go wrong. 

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Books in the Mail (W/E 2013-01-05)

Only one book this week and since this past week was the first full week in 2013, I’ll give the intro-spiel since the last time I did the whole preface to the Books in the Mail post was September 2012 ….

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.

Some publishers are on a very predictable schedule of releases, making this blog post fairly easy to compose. For example, the fine folks at DAW publish exactly 3 mass market paperbacks a month and often, one of those books is a themed anthology of short stories, and most often, they send their books about a month prior to the actual publication date.

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 (i.e. from "this book holds ZERO appeal for me" to "I cannot WAIT to read this book yesterday"). Have a guess in the comments about which book fits my reading labels “I’ll Never Read…” “Zero Appeal” or “cannot wait” "maybe I'll get to it later" and so forth...

Here's the rundown of what arrived either in the mailbox, in front of my garage (where most packages from USPS and UPS are placed) or on my doorstep...

River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay (Roc, Trade Paperback 04/02/2013) – Kay is a magnificent writer, I’ve enjoyed all of what I’ve read by him. This is set in the same world as Under Heaven though it seems as if it could stand on its own.

In his critically acclaimed novel Under Heaven, Guy Gavriel Kay told a vivid and powerful story inspired by China’s Tang Dynasty. Now, the international bestselling and multiple award-winning author revisits that invented setting four centuries later with an epic of prideful emperors, battling courtiers, bandits and soldiers, nomadic invasions, and a woman battling in her own way, to find a new place for women in the world – a world inspired this time by the glittering, decadent Song Dynasty.

Ren Daiyan was still just a boy when he took the lives of seven men while guarding an imperial magistrate of Kitai. That moment on a lonely road changed his life—in entirely unexpected ways, sending him into the forests of Kitai among the outlaws. From there he emerges years later—and his life changes again, dramatically, as he circles towards the court and emperor, while war approaches Kitai from the north.
Lin Shan is the daughter of a scholar, his beloved only child. Educated by him in ways young women never are, gifted as a songwriter and calligrapher, she finds herself living a life suspended between two worlds. Her intelligence captivates an emperor—and alienates women at the court. But when her father’s life is endangered by the savage politics of the day, Shan must act in ways no woman ever has.

In an empire divided by bitter factions circling an exquisitely cultured emperor who loves his gardens and his art far more than the burdens of governing, dramatic events on the northern steppe alter the balance of power in the world, leading to events no one could have foretold, under the river of stars.

Friday, January 04, 2013

The Gathering Storm - Wheel of Time Re-Read

So, my Wheel of Time re-read turned into a catch-up/first read with Knife of Dreams and I realize the last Wheel of Time novel about which I blogged was The Path of Daggers and that’s likely because it was the last one I enjoyed more than I didn’t. That changes drastically with The Gathering Storm, easily the best Wheel of Time novel since A Crown of Swords (a book I enjoyed a great deal more upon my second reading of it).

When it was announced that Brandon Sanderson was handed the reigns of The Wheel of Time to write (at the time) the final book, there was of course a great deal of chattering on the intarwebs, and even more when it was announced that rather than a final volume, we’d have three final volumes with The Gathering Storm being the first of those three.

As with previous volumes, the book debuted at #1 on The New York Times bestseller list. On the other hand, the cover of the book is widely considered not only the absolute worst in the entire series (which is saying a lot if one considers Lord of Chaos and Crossroads of Twilight) or as Adam states: “This is easily the worst cover art put on a book from a reputable, big publishers in the 21st Century.” Thankfully for readers, Brandon Sanderson put his heart into the novel and gave readers and fans of The Wheel of Time a novel they deserved and wanted for years. A novel that resolved one of the major plot points of the series. That plot point of course is the ‘reforging’ of Tar Valon and the White Tower under the leadership of Egwene Al’ Vere (who as of this novel might be my favorite character in the series) as the one true Amyrlin Seat. The Gathering Storm also gives Egwene her total Crowning Moment of Awesome.

Just like the announcement that Brandon was picking up the reigns of writing the series reinvigorated my enthusiasm to revisit the series as it drew to a close, so does that actual book reinvigorate my enjoyment of the series. Nobody is perfect and The Gathering Storm isn’t without its shortcomings. The one pointed out the most, from what I’ve seen, is the character slippage of Mat Cauthon, one of the series’ fan favorites. It is hard to argue that Mat isn’t quite himself; or rather, he takes a few steps back in his advancement though perhaps this devolvement could be seen as reaction to being contained by Tuon for so long.

Rand’s descent into madness continues with every chapter in which he appears to the point he balefires an entire building full of people in trying to eliminate the Forsaken Graendal once he passes his Despair Event Horizon and balefires Semirhage. He continues to become more frustrated, feeling more of a leashed creature put into a box and I can’t help but blame Cadsuane a great deal since she was perhaps the most annoying character in this book for me. I’d slightly warmed to her in Knife of Dreams but here, I couldn’t stand her and like Skylar pushed Walter White with her henpecking in the early episodes of Breaking Bad, Cadsuane pushed Rand into being more of a paranoid jerk-ass. Rand’s character progression throughout The Gathering Storm made the ending of the novel extremely rewarding.

As noted, Mat didn’t seem to work quite as well and while Cadsuane annoyed me that was her character’s intention as I see it. The character who annoyed me the most; however, was Gawyn he really seemed to serve no purpose other than the Annoyer.

All told, I was pleasantly surprised by just how much I enjoyed the novel. I expected that I’d enjoy it, after all, I’ve enjoyed the series as a whole and everything I’ve read by Brandon Sanderson to this point. But more importantly shit gets real and things get resolved. To call Brandon's take over of The Wheel of Time based on this novel a huge success is selling short just how good a job he did with the book.

On to Towers of Midnight next week then A Memory of Light

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

2012 Reading Year in Review

I’ve done this for a few years now (2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006), so in order to maintain the middling credentials as a genre blogger/book reviewer I have, I'm doing it again for 2012.

As I have in the past, I’ll start with some stats… I read (or at least attempted to read) 73 books in 2012, depending on how you count omnibus editions. I say attempted because a few books I simply dropped because nothing about the book compelled me to keep reading. Many of those, 40, were new/2012 releases, but I have been trying to get back into some of the older stuff and the fact that nearly half of what I read was pre-2012 means I did just that.

In 2012, I posted 51 reviews to SFFWorld and 3 to Yeah, I became one of's semi-regular book reviewers in 2012. I've got a couple of reviews coming up in early 2013.

Aside from the regular gamut of current year releases, I did some major catching up with Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time in the lead up to the January 2013 release of A Memory of Light.  I also read through a quite a few books by Daniel Abraham, including The Long Price Quartet in addition to this two 2012 releases.

Here are some stats:
  • 35 can be considered Fantasy
  • 40 2012/current year releases
  • 20 books by authors new to me
  • 25 can be considered Science Fiction
  • 6 can be considered 2011 debuts
  • 3 can be considered Horror
  • 14 Books by women (Not necessarily 12 different women because, for example, I read 4 total novels [one novel and an omnibus] by Rachel Aaron)
All that said, on to the categories for the 2012 … which I think I'll call the Stuffies. As I said last year, this isn’t a typical top 10 or 12 or anything, but whatever you want to call them, here are some categories for what I read in 2011 and what I put at the top of those categories.

Rob’s Favorite Fantasy Novel(s) Read in 2012

2012 was another strong year for Fantasy, with according to Locus Magazine, 215 Fantasy/Horror novels published in 2012. One thing I noticed, in addition to the debuts, was the number of novels which were second/third/etc. installments in ongoing series. This isn't rare, per say, rather the opposite.

With all of that having been said, as I've done in the past, I'll highlight the fantasy novels that stood out to me in 2012

The Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett was not only the best fantasy novel I read in 2012, it is my favorite novel of the year, full stop. It was a powerful novel and I'd even rank it as one of the ten best I've read in the last decade:
Bennett’s style is both subtle and powerful, he doesn’t often beat the reader over the head with blatant imagery or themes. Rather, the hints and pieces he offers the reader work so effectively to build a collaborative engagement of conversation between writer and reader that it proves all the more powerful. We know there’s a big curtain and behind that curtain, lots of pieces and players are moving around while the performers in front of the curtain waive their hands for the audience. In that respect, Silenus’s Troupe is just the front for much larger events and performances, as well as intimate movements and emotions.
Throughout my experience with The Troupe I felt echoes or resonances with a lot of fiction I’ve read or watched over the years that rang very True. Not that Mr. Bennett was repeating the cadence as much as he was adding to the overall song. Some of these resonances include the aforementioned Ray Bradbury, as well as Stephen King (thematically The Dark Tower and specifically Low Men in Yellow Coats), Neil Gaiman, Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind, the television show Lost, among other elements. What Bennett cued into is the veneer that much more is going on behind the curtain than what the reader sees on the page or the audience sees on the stage – a grand chess match between powers people can’t comprehend, let alone even realize exist.

Daniel Abraham is the author I read the most this year, in terms of quantities of books.  If The Troupe was the best novel I read in 2012, then The King's Blood, book two of The Dagger and the Coin is hands down the best Epic Fantasy novel I read in 2012:

Abraham is doing something very fascinating with most of his characters, but the one which I find the most intriguing is Geder Palliako. Through the eyes of most of the other characters, he is cast in a negative light ranging from as insecure to immature manboy to a dark manipulator to a fool to a coward. Through Geder’s eyes, Abraham evokes a great deal of sympathy for his plight, that ultimately, Geder seems to be trying to do what is best for the Prince under his watch and the land the Prince rules through him. His motivations come across as plausible outgrowths, particularly the less-than-savory aspects of his persona – his frustration, his anger, his jealousy, and his inadequacies. I’m not sure quite what Abraham is building with Geder, it is possible he is being whittled into something of a Big Bad for the series. On those aspects, I find a great deal of similarity between Geder and Walter White of Breaking Bad. Both characters are initially meek and weak, both characters struggle to overcome their fears in what might not be the best of fashions, and through various developments grow out of that shadow into something much more menacing. An important stage in Geder’s development is his ultimate reaction to Killian as seen through the eyes of Cithrin.

The notes are familiar, they are successful; these notes are why readers return to the genre again and again. When those notes are struck well, with precision, and with a flair that is a slightly different, yet graceful, tone, then this symphony is wondrous to behold. With The King’s Blood, Daniel Abraham has achieved such a graceful symphony. There’s an excitement to reading a great novel in a genre you enjoy, the pages ratchet up the excitement for what’s come before and what it promises, this excitement is present in The King’s Blood. Every beat of Epic Fantasy that I wish to hear was struck in The King’s Blood and struck with an evocative quality that comes across as a perfect hybrid of inborn talent and precisely honed skills.

Rounding out my top three is a novel from an author whose short stories I've read, but prior to this novel, never any of her novels. The novel is Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear:

Set in a fantasized Middle-East, the novel centers on characters who are at the fringes of society: a young man who is the lone survivor of a vicious battle for succession that took the lives of many his family (Temur) and a young woman setting aside her royal lineage to assume the role of Sorceress (Samarkar). While Temur and Samarkar are the focal characters for much of the novel, fringe characters such as the tiger-woman (an outcast of her tribe) Hrahima or the woman with whom Temur initially bonds emotionally, Edene herself is part of a fringe society. These characters, despite and because of their ‘fringe’ status are powerful and persistent in their motivations and actions. Yeah, that’s right, Bear threw tiger people in as a race of characters, and though Hrahima is a minor character at the moment, through the other characters in the novel, Bear gives her a great sense of power and awe. I hope Bear explores this character in greater depth in future novels, as well as the society from which she comes

It is precise, engaging and powerful. Bear has packed the novel tightly with emotion, romance, characters who are believable and living, conflict both internal on a character level and external in physical battles, to such a degree that the wonder is in her ability to do so much in such a relatively small space. Bear balances the epic scale of gods in a fully realized and living cosmology as real beings with the intimate goals, feelings, and emotions of her human characters as magnificently as any writer plying their trade in fantasy today.

Other fantasies that really stood out to me were:

  • Red Country by Joe Abercrombie - "Red Country is an exciting, entertaining novel; simply one of those books I could NOT put down. It helped me weather the blackout and power outage I experienced as a result of Hurricane Sandy. ... It isn’t clear what Joe will be writing next, but whatever it is, more stories in this world, a tale of Bayaz or frankly anything, I’ll be there. Red Country is easily a top book 2012 book for me."
  • Shadow OPS: Control Point by Myke Cole - "On the whole; however, Control Point is a mostly tight novel that was much more thought-provoking and rewarding than I could have imagined. I keep questioning Britton’s actions, I sympathize with his emotions and I can’t come to a fully formed response of what I think his correct course of action would have been (or rather, what my course of action would have been) – rebel or go along with the system. "
  • The Bones of the Old Ones by Howard Andrew Jones - "Let me get it out of the way, this book is one helluva an adventure. Flying carpets figure prominently in the novel, so what more do I need to mention? O.K. how about a possessed woman, a sorceress who seemingly does a turn of character, thrilling sword fights, giant bear-monsters, spirits and echoes of ancient heroes. Jones does a near pitch-perfect balancing act between character, action, backstory, and narrative flow."
  • The Hammer and the Blade by Paul S. Kemp - "In Egil and Nix, he’s given readers possible long-distant cousins to Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser in that he’s got the large bruiser and short thief duo, as well as the banter between the two. Furthermore, one of the main areas in this world is known as the Low Bazaar, an obvious homage the Fafhrd and Grey Mouser story Bazaar of the Bizarre."
  • King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence - "VERY good, more complex, perhaps more ambitious than Prince of Thorns. ... Still, I enjoyed it a great deal and if the finale, Emperor of Thorns can reach the same levels of excellence, craftsmanship, and imaginative storytelling as either of its predecessor, than I for one will be an extremely happy reader."
  • Caine's Law by Matthew Stover - "Part of what was so great was seeing all the different versions of Caine Stover gave us and while each one was from a different timeline, the trademarks of his biting and uncompromising personality were on full display. It was also great to have another chance to treat with Ma’elKoth, Orbek and some of the other characters of Caine’s past novels."
  • The Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Williams - "What is intrigues me a great deal is the mythology/back-story that informs the ‘current time’ of the novel. The forces of Heaven and the representatives of Hell have the Milton-esque and biblical with more of a modern shell. ... I enjoyed The Dirty Streets of Heaven a great deal and I’m even more excited to see where Tad Williams takes Bobby Dollar in the next two installments."

Rob Favorite Science Fiction Novel(s) Read in 2012

I read a bit more SF in 2011 than in 2012, but the SF I read published in 2012 stood out a great deal.  Two of the three authors appeared in my top 3 for 2011.

David Brin is a living legend in the genre, but I've read very little by him (maybe a short here and there and The Postman).  The novel he published in 2012; however, stands out as my favorite SF novel published in 2012, Existence:
Although the world has suffered catastrophes, like the aforementioned war and a melting of polar ice caps, and changed drastically, Existence is not a dystopian novel even if it is set in a somewhat post-apocalyptic environment. Early on, one of the points Brin makes through his characters and the world-building is that people survive and persevere. Though bad things have happened, people will continue on and adjust. It is both a novel of ends and beginnings, a novel of first contact and a novel that approaches an answer to the question partially framed by the Fermi Paradox “Are we alone in the universe?”

What worked very well for me in making this a believable future was Brin’s method of relaying the world through his characters not in huge dumps of information, though some elements of the ‘current’ world were divulged in sizeable chunks, but rather the inferences and casual mentions of the past events as if it were common knowledge.

Blackout is the final novel of The Newsflesh Trilogy, Mira Grant’s Zombie-Apocalypse trilogy. The second novel maintained the same tension and narrative power as the first and has set the bar high for the concluding volume. Here’s some of what I said about Blackout:
What Grant has done, in a narrative sense in Blackout, is truly enjoyable and fascinating. The point of view narration in the previous two volumes is indeed intact; however, Grant rotates the chapters with the only initial indication being blog quotes from the opposite perspective. That is, Becks is part of Sean’s narrative and when we see a blog quote from her, it signals a chapter from Georgia’s point of view. It’s a rather obvious trick, but still quite successful. I felt that Georgia’s voice in Feed was stronger than Shaun’s was in Deadline, but there’s more of a balance between the two here in Blackout.

I enjoyed the random Zombie novel here and there, but when I read Feed I was totally blown away, which set the bar high for Deadline. That bar was met and with Blackout and the whole Newsflesh Trilogy, Mira Grant has completed what should be considered the quintessential Zombie narrative for the early 21st Century: it raises as many (maybe more) questions about identity, government conspiracies, sanity, science gone wrong, and surviving in a Crapsack World. I found it difficult to put these books aside for the annoying interruptions of life while reading them and highly recommend the trilogy, which stands very, very high on my list of completed series.

James S.A. Corey (AKA Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) round out my top 3 SF books with Caliban's War,  the second installment of The Expanse:
Although the war in the solar system came to something of a conclusion in Leviathan Wakes, tension and potential for greater conflict still exists. The events spinning out of James Holden’s actions on Eros are not without their repercussions. The MacGuffin of these books – the protomolecule – is now on Venus and being observed by the governments/military of both Mars and Earth while an Event on Ganymede similar to the vomit-zombies from the previous novel occurs. It is different enough to throw further speculation about the protomolecule’s nature and the group responsible for the Ganymede outbreak into rampant speculation.

Conversely, the ascerbic Avasarala provides some snarky humor throughout. Her uncompromising attitude is balanced by her interactions with her family. There’s also a good deal of political weaving especially through her character as she interacts with people very high up in the solar system’s hierarchy including a particularly grin-inducing scene with one individual at the novel’s conclusion. I hope to see much more of her in this series as it progresses.

Other SF books that really stood out to me were;
  • Arctic Rising by Tobias Buckell - "For an ecological action-thriller, Buckell more than proves he’s capable of delivering the goods. More impressively, he balances the action pieces with equal amounts of engaging character development and geopolitical intrigue. The novel is broken into short, engaging chapters that make it easy to pick up and difficult to put down as many chapters end in a sort of question/conflict that made me want to keep reading.."
  • Seeds of Earth by Michael Cobley - "a vast-canvas galactic space opera that exemplifies the qualities readers so enjoy in this space opera renaissance – multi-planetary society, dependence on artificial intelligence, alien horde as the enemy, mystical/mysterious alien allies, colonization of humanity, and more importantly he uses these familiar ingredients in a way that is fresh. Cobley packs a lot of ideas and elements into the novel which flows fairly organically."
  • The Lost Fleet Beyond the Frontier: Invincible - by Jack Campbell - "In the end, I found Invincible to be a very gripping read despite a couple of the minor flaws. It should satisfy long-time readers of the Campbell’s series and might even work as an entry point for new readers, though much of the character interaction is informed by their past as recounted in the previous seven novels."
  • Katya's World by Jonathan L. Howard - "In the end, Howard has crafted an engaging, entertaining and thought-provoking novel. Though quite different in accoutrements from the other Strange Chemistry title I read (Blackwood), the same sense of wonder and overall flavor is present – quality story focused on youthful characters in a fantastically plausible setting. Another winner for the imprint.."

Rob's Favorite Debut(s) of 2012

My favorite debut of the year was from Ace books (as it was last year), Myke Cole’s Control Point, the first installment in his Military Fantasy series Shadow OPS which logically posits that if magic were real, then the military would weaponize it, attempt to control, and to codify it:
Myke Cole’s near future saga blends Urban Fantasy and Military Science Fiction, two branches of Speculative Fiction that don’t come together often. The Great Reawakening has taken place, magic is real as are the creatures out of fantasy and myth like goblins and Rocs. The military has permitted (and controls) schools of Elemental magic dealing with wind, fire, water, and earth control. Other ‘schools’ such as reanimating the dead and opening up portals for quick travel, are forbidden. Oscar manifests sorcerous powers in the forbidden school of magic – Portomancy, the ability to open portals allowing for instant transportation to any location. Due to the laws in place, he must immediately turn himself into the authorities. As an officer in the military responsible for bringing in those who manifest out of the public, Oscar has seen what happens to Latents, people such as himself, so he flees and becomes a fugitive.

Gwenda Bond is not unfamiliar to the genre crowd, she's written pieces for Publishers Weekly and Locus.  She's a terrific writer which is why Amanda Rutter and the folks behind the Strange Chemistry imprint were smart to maker her debut novel Blackwood the launch title for the imprint:

In Gwenda Bond’s debut novel Blackwood she takes the historical fact of the disappearance, fills in with some more history, and adds some conjecture of dark magic to the disappearance. All of that is in the background for most of the novel and instead Ms. Bond focuses her novel on Miranda Blackwood, a young lady who works for the local theater and cares for her drunk father, her mother having passed away long before the novel begins.

Miranda often dropped the “frak” bomb when frustrated and references to other geek culture shows abounded. In other words, Miranda’s a girl on whom a younger version of myself might have had a crush. Bond did a very good job of making me root for both of these young kids and making them both outcasts who find common ground.

Rounding out my three stand out debut novels comes a novel from a writer who has made a name for himself  as a short story writer, Saladin Ahmed's Throne of the Crescent Moon:

Where Ahmed excels is with his protagonist, Doctor Adoulla Makhslood. He’s the type of guy you want to have as the ‘crotchety but cool uncle’ at the bar with you to share a drink or at your side should that bar-room brawl occur. We get in the head of Makhslood as he re-examines the decisions he’s made in the immediate past and ponders of how he should best proceed particularly with the Falcon Prince.

The pacing is terrific, as it drew me into the characters heads, I felt the high stakes of the conflict and really wanted these people to succeed. DAW wrapped this enthralling novel with a bright, eye-catching cover by Jason Chan that very much captures the feel of the novel displaying the three primary protagonists fighting a horde of ghuls. Over the course of the novel, I felt resonance between Throne of the Crescent Moon and comic book superheroes, specifically Batman and towards the end, characters in Watchmen.

Favorite Backlist / Book Not Published in 2011 Read in 2012

I'll start off this section with an entire series, Daniel Abraham's Long Price Quartet, which published from 2006 to 2009 in single volumes and was re-released in 2012 in two omnibus volumes:
A Shadow in Summer has many elements in common with Abraham’s fantasy contemporaries – imagined world with echoes of our own, archaic governments that hearken to our past, hints of magic and non-human creatures. Where the novel (and series) differs is in how these elements play together in Abraham’s sandbox. The magic is subtle  ...  So, taking a bit of a step away from the first volume, (in A Betrayal in Winter) Daniel Abraham gives readers what is essentially a fantastically infused murder mystery set in the imagined city of Machi. Though the events in the previous volume were indeed climactic, Abraham’s story illustrates how far ranging the consequences of one’s actions can be.  ...  Abraham jumps another fourteen years between books at the beginning of An Autumn War, Otah is entrenched in his role as ruler trying to keep his nation together. While Otah is busy ruling, Maati spends much of his time in the novel reflecting. Abraham provides a vantage point into the world outside of the cities where the andat have such an impact. ... Even though the first three volumes were intimate and personal in that Abraham’s dealings with characters focused on a relative few characters compared to his genre contemporaries, the stakes increased with each book. The personal aspect; however, is even more strong in The Price of Spring as the feel of the novel comes through Otah and Maati, once friends and allies who have become ideological enemies and are no longer in the same land.

George R.R. Martin makes an appearance on another one of my wrap-up posts, this time for  his classic vampire novel Fevre Dream:

Six years earlier, Anne Rice published Interview with the Vampire and the superficial similarities between the two novels are hard to ignore – both take place in the south, with much of the action focused on a ‘gentleman vampire.’ One of the most fascinating elements to Rice’s Chronicles was the backstory/history of the vampires as a race. Martin does quite possibly a better job in one book with his vampires – we learn of the history of the vampire solely through Joshua’s voice. While this works to a large degree, I find it more successful than Rice’s history more for what is left unsaid and told for Rice left seemingly no stone unturned. A little bit of mystery is stronger than knowing the full scope in this case.

The final book here is Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia.  Sometimes a protagonist is a mirror image of the writer and it comes across as self indulgent or as the dreaded Gary Stu.  While some can say that about the protagonist Owen Pitt, for me, the novel was a blast and I could easily overlook such Gary Stu-ish qualities. I'm pleased that I've got the next two on my kindle in the omnibus edition waiting to be read:

Correia admits to being a fan of B-Movies featuring monsters and that love for such films transfers well to the page he clearly had a lot of fun writing the book. Who wouldn’t want to throw their boss out the window, beat up his dream-girl’s annoying boyfriend, have carte-blanche when it comes to fighting monsters, save the world and get the girl of his dreams on his arms after beating the Big Bad? These audacious elements blared out to me while I was reading the book and I didn’t care because I was having fun reading it.

Monster Hunter International was clearly a book that I was able to enjoy despite (and maybe because of) some of the bombastic elements that if thrown together without some skill, I would have easily dismissed. Another element that helped to make the novel enjoyable was how Correia depicted Owen interacting with his newbie squad and in particular the defacto head of MHI, Earl Harbinger. Where some of the character interaction felt a little less genuine were some of the scenes when Owen and Julie interacted.

MVP Author of 2012

Anybody who has been following my blog for the past year or knows me from the SFFWorld forums should find it as no surprise that this slot goes to…

His 2011 collaboration with George R. R. Martin's assistant Ty Franck, Leviathan Wakes (the first installment of the Space Opera series The Expanse) was short-listed/ nominated for the Hugo Award and The Locus Award for best Science Fiction novel in 2012.  The second novel in that series, Caliban's War, published to nearly as much acclaim. The King's Blood, the second installment of his epic fantasy series The Dagger and the Coin published to rave reviews. and I would be surprised not to see it on awards ballots next year. His acclaimed Long Price Quartet was released in two omnibus volumes in 2012.  Abraham is writing/scripting the comic book/graphic novel adaptation of his friend George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. His urban fantasy series The Black Sun's Daughter hit UK bookshelves for the first time this year and his short fiction appeared in Gardner Dozois's 29th Annual Year's Best Science Fiction anthology.

Favorite ‘New To Me’ Author(s) of 2012

I did a wrap up this earlier in the year and I can't really say much has changed since then so I'll a couple:

Rachel Aaron – I enjoyed the heck out of her The Legend of Eli Monpress omnibus, I've read the fourth in the series - The Spirit War and the fifth/final - Spirt’s End - awaits to be plucked off of Mount Toberead. These are fun, entertaining fantasies that I think would appeal to readers who enjoy Scott Lynch.

Jim C. Hines – I’ve only read one book by him, Libriomancer, but it really stood out to me.  Jim is a smart writer, has one of the best author blogs in the genre, and I've got a few books of his sitting along the slopes of Mount Toberead. 

Favorite Publisher of 2012

For the second year in a row, I have to give the nod to…

A quick look through of this post and it shouldn't be that great a surprise that Orbit Books is the publisher whose books I enjoy the most. For my reading time, no publisher produced books that worked as consistently from book-to-book for me. That is, on the whole, all the books I read published by Orbit worked for me in a big way.

This isn’t to say that other publishers didn’t publish great stuff I enjoyed, just that nothing I read from Orbit fell into the disappointment/clunker/meh category. I can't say the same for the other publishers whose books I read in 2011.

Looking Ahead to 2012

Another shot of Sully to close out the year as she ponders what's to come in 2013. Either that or she sees some deer.

What does 2013 bring?
  • Season 3 of Game of Thrones
  • Season 3.5 Walking Dead
  • The final season of Breaking Bad
  • Man of Steel
  • The Hobbit (part 2)
  • Thor 2
  • Iron Man 3
  • Shadow OPS: Fortress Frontier by Myke Cole
  • The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett
  • American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett
  • NEW NEIL GAIMAN!!! The Ocean at the End of the Lane
  • A Memory of Light the final Wheel of Time (I'm a Memory Keeper for the Philadelphia signing!)
  • Abaddon's Gate the second in James S.A. Corey's The Expanse
  • The Tyrant's Law book 3 of Daniel Abraham's The Dagger and the Coin
Looks like a decent batch of major releases on the small screen, big screen, and page for me. Let's just hope some of it lives up to the hype.