Sunday, March 30, 2014

Books in the Mail (W/E 20140-03-29)

Another nice mix of books this week. These Pathfinder novels look like a lot of fun and I need to catch up with some that I've had for a while...

Heaven's Queen (Volume 3 of The Paradox Series) by Rachel Bach (Orbit, Trade Paperback 04/22/2014) – I recently finished the second book (Honor’s Knight) in the thrilling Space Opera / Military Science Ficiton / Urban Fantasy hybrid and this series is turning into an absolute blast. My review of Fortune’s Pawn. This here’s the physical version of the eArch I received in February.

From the moment she took a job on Captain Caldswell's doomed ship, Devi Morris' life has been one disaster after another: government conspiracies, two alien races out for her blood, an incurable virus that's eating her alive.

Now, with the captain missing and everyone -- even her own government -- determined to hunt her down, things are going from bad to impossible. The sensible plan would be to hide and wait for things to blow over, but Devi's never been one to shy from a fight, and she's getting mighty sick of running.

It's time to put this crisis on her terms and do what she knows is right. But with all human life hanging on her actions, the price of taking a stand might be more than she can pay.

The Remaining (Volume 1 of The Remaining) by
DJ Molles (Orbit, Paperback 05/27/2014) – Another in line of Orbit’s self-published acquisitions. This one looks at the Zombie Apocalypse v from through the lens of Military Science Fiction.

In a steel-and-lead-encased bunker 20 feet below the basement level of his house, a Special Forces soldier waits for his final orders. On the surface, a plague ravages the planet, infecting over 90% of the populace.

The bacterium burrows through the brain, destroying all signs of humanity and leaving behind little more than base, prehistoric instincts. The infected turn into hyper-aggressive predators, with an insatiable desire to kill and feed.

Soon the soldier will have to open the hatch to his bunker, and step out into this new wasteland, to complete his duty: SURVIVE, RESCUE, REBUILD.

This gritty tale of survival and perseverance will enthrall fans of World War Z and The Walking Dead.

The Redemption Engine (A Pathfinder Tales novel) by James L. Sutter (Paizo Mass Market Paperback 04/29/2014) – Sutter’s sequel to his very well received debut, Death's Heretic (which I have and still need to read). Sutter is one of the main architects behind Pathfinder.

Get Out of Hell Free! When murdered sinners fail to show up in Hell, it's up to Salim Ghadafar, an atheist warrior forced to solve problems for the goddess of death, to track down the missing souls. In order to do so, Salim will need to descend into the anarchic city of Kaer Maga, following a trail that ranges from Hell's iron cities to the gates of Heaven itself. Along the way, he'll be aided by a host of otherworldly creatures, a streetwise teenager, and two warriors of the mysterious Iridian Fold. But when the missing souls are the scum of the earth, and the victims devils themselves, can anyone really be trusted? From acclaimed author James L. Sutter comes the sequel to Death's Heretic, the novel ranked #3 on Barnes & Noble's Best Fantasy Releases of 2011!

Skinwalkers (A Pathfinder Tales novel) by Wendy N. Wagner (Paizo Mass Market Paperback 04/15/2014) – This is Wagner’s first novel after an impressive list of short fiction, some of which is set in the Patfhinder milieu.

As a young woman, Jendara left the cold northern isles of the Ironbound Archipelago to find her fortune. Now, many years later, she's forsaken her buccaneer ways and returned home in search of a simpler life, where she can raise her young son, Kran, in peace. When a strange clan of shapeshifting raiders pillages her home, however, there's no choice for Jendara but to take up her axes once again to help the islanders defend all that they hold dear. From author Wendy N. Wagner comes a new adventure of vikings, lycanthropes, and the ties of motherhood, set in the world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Weekly Round-Up: Patrick, Sanderson, and Karsak

Some new reviews at SFFWorld this past week, including one from Mark, one from Nila, and one from me.

Mark reviewed Den Patrick's The Boy with The Porcelain Blade, about a week after interviewing Den. Here's a bit of Mark's review:

As we begin the book Landfall is a place in turmoil. The King is clearly insane and so the world is run by people to whom corruption is second-nature. Our main protagonist in this story is Lucien de Fontein, a child of privilege, born into one of the Kingdom of Landfall’s wealthiest families. Although he is an Orfano (some sort of royal bastard child) he has certain benefits. He is nannied, educated and trained to use a porcelain sword in fighting, at which he has some skill.


The plot is mainly about Lucien’s coming of age, written in a style that flitters between the present and the past. Most of his early life, rather like Titus Groan’s in Gormenghast, is centred on one place, in Lucien’s case the city state of Demesne. Here we see Lucien grow and become increasingly independent. He finds himself having to defend himself against some Orfano and ally himself with others, finds himself at odds with some of his tutors and befriends others. In the end he uncovers a grisly mystery, and secrets about his past and his heritage that have been hidden from others for a long time…

I reviewed perhaps the biggest (both in physical size and anticpated) fantasy novel of the year, Words of Radiance, the second installment of Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archive:

Whereas the first novel, The Way of Kings, focused a great deal on the character of Khaladin, Words of Radiance (as has been mentioned by many who’ve read it) is Shallan’s book. She is apprenticing under Dalinar’s daughter Jasnah, learning about the history of the world and essentially practicing the magic of the world. In many ways, Shallan’s journey over the course of this novel reminded me a bit of the journey Daenerys Targaryen has been taking for much of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Shallan’s family is not what it once was, an event in the first third of the novel forces her to travel with, initially, very few companions until she begins to amass followers after making bold promises to them, and she is asserting herself in the world. Through flashback sequences to her life prior to her introduction to the series, Sanderson provides many tragic details about Shallan that inform the person we are traveling with on her journey to the Shattered Plains. The emotional resonance of her past echoes to her “current” journey, helping to make such large and epic novel feel so intimate and personal. As Shallan is a young woman not fully aware of the world at large, we as the readers get to learn about the world anew as she experiences and learns about it herself. This sort of world-building and storytelling is often the strongest kind giving the character a strong tie to the world and here in Words of Radiance, it is highlight of the novel.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the beautiful package/piece of art this book is. The US cover (Tor) is by the legendary Michael Whelan, front interior art is a character study of Shallan by Michael Whelan (above, which in my opinion should be the cover), and back endpapers of a map. Brandon posted all the artwork from the book here. Each chapter has an icon denoting on whom the chapter will focus and scattered throughout the book are full page illustrations which come across as creature illustrations, character studies, and the like. Irene Gallo and the whole Tor art and production team should be highly commended.

Nila continues her review of self-published/small press titles with Chasing the Star Garden by Melanie Karsak:

The book begins in the middle of a race. Lily and her crew are sailing through the sky above London, hot on the heels of her racing nemesis, an obviously better pilot than she because he wins and she doesn’t. Lily does come in second place, which isn’t half bad, but before she can claim her trophy, a man dressed in harlequin assaults her by shoving a long, clothed cylinder down the front of her pants – then promptly plunges to his death.
In addition, though Chasing the Star Garden was an interesting read and had some wonderful airship maneuvers, I never felt a connection to the main character. Lily’s life begins with the strict attentions of a couple of horrendous male guardians. She’s psychologically scarred and becomes an opium addict because of them, but somehow Lily ends up with well-intentioned men around her during this story. Though her love affair with Lord Byron, also a benefactor, might be construed as damaging, he does not demand much from Lily. He seems more of a easy crutch for the author to give Lily want she needs when she needs it.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Books in the Mail (W/E 2014-03-22)

Easily the largest collection of arrivals of the year this past week and the only problem with that is I really do want to read just about every one of them. Here’s the rundown.

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (Tor Hardcover 04/01/2014) – It is something of an open secret that Katherine Addision is actually Sarah Monette. Regardless of the name under which this book appears, it looks quite interesting. Goblin-punk! This is the final/physical version of the eArc I received about a month ago. Since then, I’ve seen nothing but major praise for this book.

The youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed in an "accident," he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir. 

Entirely unschooled in the art of court politics, he has no friends, no advisors, and the sure knowledge that whoever assassinated his father and brothers could make an attempt on his life at any moment. 

Surrounded by sycophants eager to curry favor with the naïve new emperor, and overwhelmed by the burdens of his new life, he can trust nobody. Amid the swirl of plots to depose him, offers of arranged marriages, and the specter of the unknown conspirators who lurk in the shadows, he must quickly adjust to life as the Goblin Emperor. All the while, he is alone, and trying to find even a single friend . . . and hoping for the possibility of romance, yet also vigilant against the unseen enemies that threaten him, lest he lose his throne–or his life. 

Katherine Addison's The Goblin Emperor is an exciting fantasy novel, set against the pageantry and color of a fascinating, unique world, is a memorable debut for a great new talent.

Helix Wars by Eric Brown (Mass Market Paperback 08/25/2012 Solaris Books) – This is a sequel to what I think is one of the most overlooked Space based SF novels of the last handful of years, Helix, which I loved.

The Helix: a vast spiral of ten thousand worlds turning around its sun. Aeons ago, the enigmatic Builders constructed the Helix as a refuge for alien races on the verge of extinction.

Two hundred years ago, humankind came to the Helix aboard a great colony ship, and the builders conferred on them the mantle of peacekeepers. For that long, peace has reigned on the Helix. But when shuttle pilot Jeff Ellis crash-lands on the world of Phandra, he interrupts a barbarous invasion from the neighbouring Sporelli, who are now racing to catch and exterminate Ellis before he can return to New Earth and inform the peacekeepers.

Eric Brown returns to the rich worlds he created in the best-selling Helix with a vast science-fiction adventure populated with strange characters and fascinating creatures.

Talus and the Frozen King by Graham Edwards (Mass Market Paperback 03/25/2014 Solaris Books) – This looks like a fun historical mystery and that cover sure is a beaut. This could be the start of a series for Mr. Edwards, the book has been generating some good word of mouth

Meet Talus – the world’s first detective.

A dead warrior king frozen in winter ice. Six grieving sons, each with his own reason to kill. Two weary travellers caught up in a web of suspicion and deceit.
In a distant time long before our own, wandering bard Talus and his companion Bran journey to the island realm of Creyak, where the king has been murdered. From clues scattered among the island’s mysterious barrows and stone circles, they begin their search for his killer. But do the answers lie in this world or the next?
Nobody is above suspicion, from the king’s heir to the tribal shaman, from the servant woman steeped in herb-lore to the visiting warlord whose unexpected arrival throws the whole tribe into confusion. And when death strikes again, Talus and Bran realise nothing is what it seems.
Creyak is place of secrets and spirits, mystery and myth. It will take a clever man indeed to unravel the truth. The kind of man this ancient world has not seen before.

The Oversight by Charlie Fletcher (Orbit (Trade Paperback 05/06/2014) – This one has comparisons to Neil Gaiman and Susana Clarke on the back, which could be interesting.

"Only five still guard the borders between the worlds. Only five hold back what waits on the other side."

Once the Oversight, the secret society that policed the lines between the mundane and the magic, counted hundreds of brave souls among its members. Now their numbers can be counted on a single hand. When a vagabond brings a screaming girl to the Oversight's London headquarters, it seems their hopes for a new recruit will be fulfilled – but the girl is a trap.

As the borders between this world and the next begin to break down, murders erupt across the city, the Oversight are torn viciously apart, and their enemies close in for the final blow.

This dark Dickensian fantasy from Charlie Fletcher (the Stoneheart trilogy) spins a tale of witch-hunters, supra-naturalists, mirror-walkers and magicians. Meet the Oversight, and remember: when they fall, so do we all.

Full Fathom Five (Craft Sequence #3) by Max Gladstone (Tor Hardcover 07/15/2014) – This is the third novel in Gladstone’s fantasy/legal thriller hybrid sequence. I have the first book, but not the second..

On the island of Kavekana, Kai builds gods to order, then hands them to others to maintain. Her creations aren’t conscious and lack their own wills and voices, but they accept sacrifices, and protect their worshippers from other gods—perfect vehicles for Craftsmen and Craftswomen operating in the divinely controlled Old World. When Kai sees one of her creations dying and tries to save her, she’s grievously injured—then sidelined from the business entirely, her near-suicidal rescue attempt offered up as proof of her instability. But when Kai gets tired of hearing her boss, her coworkers, and her ex-boyfriend call her crazy, and starts digging into the reasons her creations die, she uncovers a conspiracy of silence and fear—which will crush her, if Kai can't stop it first.

Full Fathom Five is the third novel set in the addictive and compelling fantasy world of Three Parts Dead.

Irenicon (The Wave Trilogy #1) by Aidan Harte (Jo Fletcher Books Hardcover 04/01/2014) –This was originally published in the UK in 2012, it will be hitting US Shelves in April 2014. This is the Hardcover/final copy of the ARC I received in December.

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

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

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

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

Promise of Blood (Book Two of The Powder Mage Trilogy) by Brian McClellan (Orbit Hardcover / eBook 05/06/2014) – Second book in the series, the first of which I thought was the best fantasy debut novel I read last year.

When invasion looms, but the threats are closer to home…Who will lead the charge?

Tamas’ invasion of Kez ends in disaster when a Kez counter-offensive leaves him cut off behind enemy lines with only a fraction of his army, no supplies, and no hope of reinforcements. Drastically outnumbered and pursued by the enemy’s best, he must lead his men on a reckless march through northern Kez to safety, and back over the mountains so that he can defend his country from an angry god, Kresimir.

In Adro, Inspector Adamat only wants to rescue his wife. To do so he must track down and confront the evil Lord Vetas. He has questions for Vetas concerning his enigmatic master, but the answers might lead to more questions.

Tamas’ generals bicker among themselves, the brigades lose ground every day beneath the Kez onslaught, and Kresimir wants the head of the man who shot him in the eye. With Tamas and his powder cabal presumed dead, Taniel Two-shot finds himself as the last line of defense against Kresimir’s advancing army.

Veil of the Deserters (Bloodsounder’s Arc Book Two) by Jeff Salyards (Night Shade Books Hardcover 05/03/2014) – I reviewed and was quite impressed with Jeff’s debut and the launch of this series Scourge of the Betrayer when it published at the end of 2012.

Braylar is still poisoned by the memories of those slain by his unholy flail Bloodsounder, and attempts to counter this sickness have proven ineffectual. The Syldoonian Emperor, Cynead, has solidified his power in unprecedented ways, and Braylar and company are recalled to the capital to swear fealty. Braylar must decide if he can trust his sister, Soffjian, with the secret that is killing him. She has powerful memory magics that might be able to save him from Bloodsounder’s effects, but she has political allegiances that are not his own. Arki and others in the company try to get Soffjian and Braylar to trust one another, but politics in the capital prove to be complicated and dangerous. Deposed emperor Thumarr plots to remove the repressive Cynead, and Braylar and Soffjian are at the heart of his plans. The distance between “favored shadow agent of the emperor” and “exiled traitor” is unsurprisingly small. But it is filled with blind twists and unexpected turns. Before the journey is over, Arki will chronicle the true intentions of Emperor Cynead and Soffjian.

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Vol. 8 by Jonathan Strahan (Trade Paperback 04/10/2014 Solaris Books) – Strahan’s inclusive, seminal best of the year anthology moves to Solaris Books, where Jonathan has published a few of his popular themed anthologies. I really like the fact that he doesn’t separate Fantasy from Science Fiction with this annual book.

The best, most original and brightest science fiction and fantasy stories from around the globe from the past twelve months are brought together in one collection by multi-award-winning editor Jonathan Strahan.

This highly popular series is released in the UK for the first time with this edition. It will include stories from both the biggest names in the field and the most exciting new talents. Previous volumes have included stories from Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Cory Doctorow, Stephen Baxter, Elizabeth Bear, Joe Abercrombie, Paolo Bacigalupi, Holly Black, Garth Nix, Jeffrey Ford, Margo Lanagan, Bruce Sterling, Adam Roberts, Ellen Klages, and many many more..

Unclean Spirits (A Gods and Monsters novel) by Chuck Wendig (Abaddon Books Trade Paperback 05/05/2013) – Chuck launched a urban fantasy series for Abaddon with this book. The series seems a darker, more in-your-face take on what Gaiman did with American Gods. In other words, sign me up!

The gods and goddesses are real. A polytheistic pantheon—a tangle of gods and divine hierarchies—once kept the world at an arm’s length, warring with one another, using mankind’s belief and devotion to give them power. In this way, the world had balance: a grim and bloody balance, but a balance just the same. But a single god sought dominance and as Lucifer fell to Hell, the gods and goddesses fell to earth. And it’s here they remain—seemingly eternal, masquerading as humans and managing only a fraction of the power they once had as gods. They fall to old patterns, collecting sycophants and worshippers in order to war against one another in the battle for the hearts of men. They bring with them demi-gods, and they bring with them their monstrous races—crass abnormalities created to serve the gods, who would do anything to reclaim the seat of true power.

Friday, March 21, 2014

SFFWorld/SF Signal Link-Dump Friday (Decker, Carey, Ashura)

Over the last couple of weeks, I've had a few things posted on SFFWorld and SF Signal.  Last week, my review of James K. Decker's Fallout, an excellent follow-up to his superb The Burn Zone.  Fallout successfully builds on its predecessor and makes me want to read more about these characters and the world:

So, what can a review offer when holding back on a lot of the plot description? Well, I can say that Fallout is an excellent follow-up to what I thought was one of the more enjoyable (and surprising because of the comparably small fanfare prior to the release of the novel) SF novels I read in 2013. Decker takes everything he did previously and turns it up to eleven. Seeing the world through Sam’s eyes is not a pretty thing, society seems on the fringe of survival, the future is an unclean world, and trust is something she has little spare change for in her wallet. Her ‘father’ Dragan has taken up with a woman whom Sam distrusts and dislikes. Sam’s trying to strike a balance with Vamp; Sam knows he has romantic feelings for her but she’s afraid to let him get too close.
Although the novel is set primarily in Hangfei, in taking the story to that theoretical 11, Decker expands the conflict and issue of the Haan to a global scale. Nations outside of China are mentioned as problematic, particularly America. Implications are not only relegated to Hangfei in China, elevating Sam’s plight and actions above a personal issue.

Over at SF Signal, my latest Completist column was published featuring a novel split into two books for publishing purposes.  A haunting, dark, and beautiful tragedy, Jacqueline Carey's The Sundering:

The Sundering Duology (Banewreaker and Godslayer) tells the story of the powers of the “dark” struggling against the powers of “light.” A bright force loved by many, with a dark enemy many look upon as the epitome of evil. Prophecy, elves, an ancient powerful wizard, a youthful bearer of a powerful object, and a dark army of ogres may sound familiar, but that is the beauty of what Ms. Carey is laying out in this novel — familiarity laced with something new. Indeed, this is the essence of much of the best High/Epic Fantasy today, readers know the generalities of the territory in which they tread, it is the magical spin with which the author presents the story that can make the story/novel rise above its peers. The Sundering definitely rises above its peers. On the surface, The Sundering seems, and only on the thin surface, another Tolkien-inspired saga of Good versus Evil, or rather Evil vs. Good.
The Sundering is very much a tragedy, especially considering the protagonist is a “villain” and this is essentially told through the Lord of the Rings framework. That said, the prose and writing is elegant, and an experience I did not want to cease. Her ability at creating real characters is excellent. This novel, with the dark cloud of war driven by motivations muddied with changing points of view, resonates with today’s world.

Nila reviewed Davis Ashura's debut novel A Warrior’s Path – Book One: The Castes and the Out Castes,. (David has been hanging around the SFFWorld forums for a few years under the Radone moniker):

Mr. Davis Ashura’s debut novel, A Warrior’s Path – Book One: The Castes and the Out Castes, is told from the point of view of several characters. The first we are introduced to is Rukh Shekton and his cousins out on their first, their virgin, mission across the monster-ridden spaces between protected cities. Their caravan is about to be attacked by those monsters, the Chimera, creatures cobbled together from different parts of other animals by an insane god, Suwraith. The troop, hundreds strong, prepare to outrun the Chimeras. They discard their wagons and any gear not necessary for survival. Scouts are dispatched and a small contingent sent back to Asoka (their destination) to relay events.
I picked up and put down this book several times, intending not to continue reading it. Once I got past the first few sections, I’d been inundated with so much backstory and world-building, I simply kept reading because I invested so much energy trying to keep all the names straight, I thought I owed it to myself to just keep trying.

I’m glad I did.

Mark and I helped to host a part of Brandon Sanderson's UK blog tour and Den Patrick made a stop to tell SFFWorld about the world of his new novel, The Boy with the Porcelain Blade.

Also at SF Signal, Patrick Hester did a podcast interview with Jeff VanderMeer about his new Southern Reach Trilogy, which is getting a staggered release throughout 2014 and Paul Weimer reviewed the kickstarted Kaiju Rising anthology edited by Nick Sharps and Tim Marquitz (which I backed).

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Book in the Mail (W/E 2014-03-15)

Just one book this week here at the o' Stuff compound. A big nice, looking book at that.

Mirror Sight (Green Rider #5) by Kristen Britain (DAW Hardcover 05/06/2014) – I read the first book, Green Rider in this series years ago, and I think I read book two in hardcover release.

Karigan G'ladheon is a Green Rider--a seasoned member of the elite messenger corps of King Zachary of Sacoridia. This corps of messengers, each gifted with a brooch of office that imparts a unique magical ability to its wearer, was founded over a thousand years ago during the terrible time of the Long War.

During that spell-fueled war, Sacoridia was besieged by the sorcerous armies of the Arcosian Empire, led by Mornhavon the Black. When Sacoridia finally triumphed, Mornhavon resorted to dark magic that rendered his twisted spirit immortal. Determined to keep the realm safe from this terrifying enemy, multitudes of Sacoridian magicians sacrificed their lives to build the immense D'Yer Wall, imprisoning the dangerous spirit of Mornhavon in Blackveil Forest, which uncontrolled magic had mutated into a perilous and unnatural place.

For over a thousand years, the magic of the D'Yer Wall protected the people of Sacoridia, but as the centuries passed, memory of how the wall had been built was lost as a traumatized nation turned its back on magic. And when a malicious entity cracked the massive wall, there were none left who knew how to repair it. Desperate to regain the knowledge and repair the ever-expanding breach in the wall, agents of the king scoured the kingdom for magical relics and information. Finally, in a last-ditch attempt to gain time, Karigan, whose Rider brooch enabled her to "fade"--sometimes traversing the layers of time and space--was able to catapult the spirit of Mornhavon into the future. But how far into the future was anyone's guess.

Realizing that this might be their only chance to enter Blackveil and examine the tainted peninsula, King Zachary sends Karigan and a contingent of Sacoridians beyond the wall, along with an equal number of Eletians--the immortal race that eons ago lived in what is now Blackveil Forest. But in addition to the unnatural dangers of the forest itself, Karigan and her small delegation have been followed by a secret rebel sect--descendants of the original Arcosian invaders, and during a showdown between these two groups, Mornhavon suddenly reappears.

In the magical confrontation that follows, Karigan is jolted out of Blackveil and wakes in a darkness backer than night. She's lying on smooth, cold stone, but as she reaches out, she realizes that the stone is not just beneath her, but above and around her as well. She's landed in a sealed stone sarcophagus, some unknown tomb, and the air is becoming thin.

Is this to be her end? If she escapes, where will she find herself? Is she still in the world she remembers, or has the magical explosion transported her somewhere completely different? To find out, she must first win free of her prison--before it becomes her grave. And should she succeed, will she be walking straight into a trap created by Mornhavon himself?

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Books in the Mail (W/E 2014-03-08)

Three books this week here at the o' Stuff, a very familiar name, two books launch a series and the other is the second in a series I hadn't previously known

Midnight Crossroad (A Novel of Midnight Texas) by Charlaine Harris (Ace Hardcover 05/06/2014) – With her series of Sookie Stackhouse novels concluded, Harris launches a brand new series, another fantasy/mystery hybrid.


From Charlaine Harris, the bestselling author who created Sookie Stackhouse and her world of Bon Temps, Louisiana, comes a darker locale—populated by more strangers than friends. But then, that’s how the locals prefer it…

Welcome to Midnight, Texas, a town with many boarded-up windows and few full-time inhabitants, located at the crossing of Witch Light Road and Davy Road. It’s a pretty standard dried-up western town.

There’s a pawnshop (someone lives in the basement and is seen only at night). There’s a diner (people who are just passing through tend not to linger). And there’s new resident Manfred Bernardo, who thinks he’s found the perfect place to work in private (and who has secrets of his own).

Stop at the one traffic light in town, and everything looks normal. Stay awhile, and learn the truth...

The Wicked by Douglas Nicholas (Emily Bestler Books, Paperback 03/25/2014) – Sequel to Something Red.

The mesmerizing and highly anticipated sequel to Something Red transports readers to the harsh and enchanting world of thirteenth-century England, where a group of unlikely heroes battles an ancient evil.
In the critically acclaimed historical fantasy Something Red, the young warrior Hob, his mentor Jack, the mystical Irish queen Molly, and her powerful granddaughter Nemain travelled far and wide, battling shapeshifters, sorceresses, warrior monks, and otherworldly knights. Now, a new type of evil has come to reside in a castle by the chilly waters of the North Sea. Men disappear and are found as horribly wizened corpses. Warriors ride out and return under a terrible spell. Only Molly, with her healing powers, can save the people from a malevolent nobleman and his beautiful, wicked wife. As all are drawn into battle, the young Hob and his adopted family must vanquish the dark powers before they themselves are defeated.

An unforgettable blend of fantasy, mythology, and horror, The Wicked is just as chilling, beautifully written, and historically rich as Something Red, drawing readers into a world both magical and haunting—where nothing is ever as it seems.
Grunt Life (A Task Force Ombra Novel) by Weston Ochse (Solaris Books, Paperback 04/29/2014) – Ochse, author of the popular Seal Team 666, series launches a brand new series with this novel.

This is a brand new Military SF series from Weston Ochse, an experienced military man and author.

Benjamin Carter Mason died last night. Maybe he threw himself off a bridge into Los Angeles Harbor, or maybe he burned to death in a house fire in San Pedro; it doesn’t really matter. Today, Mason’s starting a new life. He’s back in boot camp, training for the only war left that matters a damn.

For years, their spies have been coming to Earth, mapping our cities, learning our weaknesses, leaving tragedy in their wake. Our governments knew, but they did nothing—the prospect was too awful, the costs too high—and now, the horrifying and utterly inhuman Cray are invading, laying waste to our cities. The human race is a heartbeat away from extinction.

That is, unless Mason, and the other men and women of Task Force OMBRA, can do anything about it.

This is a time for heroes. For killers. For Grunts.

A brand new military SF series takes a footsoldier’s-eye-view of the battle with an alien infestation. In the vein of 'Aliens' on Earth, Grunt Life sees a serving US military man bring a dose of reality to the threat from the void.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Review Round-up W/E 2014-03-07 - Harris, Hines & Patrick

The last half of that title sounds like a law firm, doesn't it?'s a recap of the week (or so) that was for book reviews/interviews at some of the internet places where you are most likely to find me...

A little over a week ago, we (specifically Mark Yon) interviewed Den Patrick, author of the forthcoming novel, The Boy with the Porcelain Blade:

Has Boy with the Porcelain Blade always been planned as the first in a series? 
Den: Very much so. I wasn’t even sure there would be a second novel at first. As I wrote Porcelain I decided what would happen in book two of The Erebus Sequence, and that it would have a different protagonist. Book three has two female protagonists.

At one point I understand the book was being called The Boy with the Porcelain Ears? Is that true? 
It is. The feeling at my publisher was that ‘Ears’ felt too weird and literary. I’m perfectly fine with people thinking I’m weird. I’m weird for a living, but we didn’t want to chase off fans of traditional fantasy. The novices are given ceramic blades in Landfall, earning steel blades upon their eighteenth birthday, so the title change wasn’t too much of a stretch. Much of the novel is about childhood and coming of age, which is a fragile time where mistakes are made and things get broken.

I reviewed Joanne Harris's wonderful mythpunk novel, The Gospel of Loki for, which tells the Norse mythology from Loki's Humble point of view:

Harris captures the essence of what we as the reader would hope the trickster god would sound like. He is charming and forthcoming (to an extent), and honest in the fact that he admits he is telling this story from his point-of-view as the Humble Narrator. While he seems as if he is coming across honest and genuine, there’s also a sense that Loki isn’t telling the full story.
One thing Harris’s novel brings to light from the classical Norse myths, and an element that has taken a back seat (especially with the popularity of the Marvel Cinematic universe, which features Loki and the Norse pantheon) is that Loki is not the only being whose morality is grey and who is not fully honest. Though not as much of a trickster as Loki, Odin is certainly not completely forthcoming; he hides the truth even if he doesn’t lie. Much of Loki’s story comes across as a long-con to extract revenge upon the Asgardians for disliking him, demeaning him, treating him like a cur, and blaming him for all the bad things which happen over the course of the story. While he may be responsible for some of the things, they blame him with no evidence, just because he is not one of them.

Most recently, Mark Yon, Mark Chitty (the new guy at SFFWorld, but who has been part of the online community for a few years), Nila White and I did a round-table review of Jim Hines's Libriomancer, the launch of his Magic ex Libris series:


Mark Y: For me most of all it was the clear love of books throughout that won me over. Libriomancer is a book that makes you want to pick up other books, or it did me, anyway. Anybody else feel the same way?
Nila W: Hmmm, not really. It seemed more of an action-adventure story for me, rather than a homage to all the books he mentioned. Though I was impressed at how well all the story elements tied together with book history.
MarkC: To be honest, it made me feel like I haven’t read enough books. Hines clearly loves books, and he mentions so many throughout the novel that I kept on thinking that my reading history is woefully inadequate to get all the in-jokes. But it did make me want to expand my reading.
Rob B: Like Jo Walton’s Among Others, Libromancer made me want to read more, especially the books Jim mentioned in the story and more of Jim’s books. In short, I found it to be a great advertisement for the joy of reading the fantastic.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Locke & Key: A Post-Mortem and Coda

So on Friday, Alpha & Omega the final installment of the Locke & Key re-read I’ve been “curating” at was posted. Go on, take a look if you dare:

... and welcome back.

Reading through this series has been one of the more enjoyable reading experiences I’ve ever had. I am long-time comic book reader (I remember buying comics on at the stationary story next to the PathMark where my parents went food shopping just as the cover price jumped to 75¢) and I am a long-time reader of genre having read Stephen King's novels when I was in middle school.

In other words, it might be fair to say that I have some emotional investment in Locke & Key.

There have been landmark comic series over the years; you all know them and the names behind them. But it isn’t always the case that I have been able to discover them at the ground level. For example, by the time I realized what Watchmen was, the thing was bound together in a trade paperback. Sandman was something at which I arrived near the tail end and only looked at askance in my days of reading mostly capes and tights stories. I arrived The Dark Knight Returns long after it was in its 12th trade paperback printing.

Other recent stories I came to early are Y: The Last Man and Fables (both of which are landmark stories on their own, with Y: The Last Man being one of the definitive Post-Apocalyptic tales in comic book form), but Locke & Key is something different for me. Maybe because Stephen King was the first “adult” writer I read voraciously and Joe Hill is his son. But I think it is mainly because Locke & Key is such a marvelous story.

As I said in my introduction post to the re-read, I was reading in single issues through the first three storylines (Welcome to Lovecraft, Head Games, and Crown of Shadows) and decided I wanted to wait to read the series in collected format. So as the series was winding down and in preparation for the re-read at, I re-read the first three storylines of the story and was even more impressed on my second read. What I plan to do in the future is re-read the whole series now that I’ve seen it to full completion.

Being well-read or at the very least conversant with the darker side of the fantastic helped to inform my reading of the series, but it isn’t a necessary thing to enjoy the story to its fullest. The story is so rich with emotion, resonance, and great storytelling that it both embraces its horror/fantasy roots and transcends them to be something of its own.

The boys (Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez) have other stand-alone stories set in the same world of magic keys and Lovecraft. The first is Guide to the Known keys, which is a journal-like entry detailing various keys created by the Locke family over the years. That stand-alone issue also included. This issue also features a story very reminiscent of Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland* and tells the tale of a sick boy in the Locke family and the crafting of the Moon Key, which allows the bearer to open a window to the Moon and visit with people have passed on from this world. It is a very touching story and one that hints at the type of bittersweet/heartwarming aura surrounding much of the main storyline’s conclusion.  This story is collected in Joe Hill's Terrifyingly Tragic Treasury Edition.

*as it turns out, Gabriel Rodriguez is providing the art for the Eric Shanower scripted Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland

The other stand-alone is Grindhouse and feels like it could be an episode of The Twilight Zone if it aired on HBO. Set in the maybe the during the Depression, the story is almost like a twisted horrific version of the classic Bugs Bunny short, “Bugs and Thugs” wherein Bugs “helps” a gangster from the law. Of course, this being the Locke family in Keyhouse Manor things are quite so nice, rape is threatened, guns are pointed. A nice touch is that one of the young children is named Owen (a likely homage to Joe’s brother) and there’s a Corgi dog. Rodriguez’s art is a slightly different than what we’ve come to expect in the main storyline and that, coupled with the lettering, gives the comic an EC Comics / horror feel.
Joe Hill and Gabe Rodriguez have indicated there very likely will be more stories about the Locke family and their keys. Based on the hints and tidbits in Clockworks and the two standalones, the soil is quit fertile for more stories.

As it the six volume Locke & Key story stands right now, Joe and Gabe’s name in the pantheon of great comics storytellers is right up there with Moore (who has had many artistic partners, but most famously Dave Gibbons) and Neil Gaiman (equal number co-conspirators, but most famously Dave McKean).

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Books in the Mail (W/E/ 2013-03-01)

Here's the weekly run-down of review copy arrivals here in the middle of New Jersey...

The Red Knight (Book 2 of The Traitor Son Cycle #1) by Miles Cameron (Orbit (Trade Paperback 03/11/2014) – The first one in this series The Red Knight didn’t quite work for me despite the good buzz (Westeros thread of pre-SFFWorld thread, Mark Yon’s review).

Loyalty costs money.

Betrayal, on the other hand, is free.

When the Emperor is taken hostage, the Red Knight and his men find their services in high demand -- and themselves surrounded by enemies. The country is in revolt, the capital city is besieged and any victory will be hard won. But the Red Knight has a plan.

The question is, can he negotiate the political, magical, real and romantic battlefields at the same time -- especially when he intends to be victorious on them all?

Thief’s Magic (Book 1 of The Millennium’s Rule Trilogy) by Trudi Canavan (Orbit, Hardcover 05/13/2014) – Canavan has sold more than 2 million of copies of her books. This latest seems an interesting magic-punk series, with magic powering machines. This might be an interesting book to give her a try

In a world where an industrial revolution is powered by magic, Tyen, a student of archaeology, unearths a sentient book called Vella. Once a young sorcerer-bookbinder, Vella was transformed into a useful tool by one of the greatest sorcerers of history. Since then she has been collecting information, including a vital clue to the disaster Tyen’s world faces.

Elsewhere, in a land ruled by the priests, Rielle the dyer’s daughter has been taught that to use magic is to steal from the Angels. Yet she knows she has a talent for it, and that there is a corrupter in the city willing to teach her how to use it – should she dare to risk the Angels’ wrath.

But not everything is as Tyen and Rielle have been raised to believe. Not the nature of magic, nor the laws of their lands.

Not even the people they trust.