Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I should be writing

Yes, really I should.

As days go today was not the best and I find I am not in a mood conductive to getting work (writing work) done.

However I will sit down at my laptop after dinner and attempt to finish my daily quota.

Speaking of Epic Fantasy I saw a post on A Dribble of Ink today about the cover of a forthcoming title from Tor called The Unremembered, Book One of the Vault of Heaven by Peter Orullian.

I love Epic Fantasy. I know people poo poo it as rehashed and boring - and sure a lot of it is - but I don't mind so much the retelling of a particular story line so long as the writing is good, captures my attention and gives me something fresh.

Naturally I have no idea what The Unremembered will be like but I do like the sound of it. here's the blurb as found on Aidan's site:

The gods, makers of worlds, seek to create balance—between matter and energy; and between mortals who strive toward the transcendent, and the natural perils they must tame or overcome. But one of the gods fashions a world filled with hellish creatures far too powerful to allow balance; he is condemned to live for eternity with his most hateful creations in that world’s distant Bourne, restrained by a magical veil kept vital by the power of song.

Millennia pass, awareness of the hidden danger fades to legend, and both song and veil weaken. And the most remote cities are laid waste by fell, nightmarish troops escaped from the Bourne. Some people dismiss the attacks as mere rumor. Instead of standing against the real threat, they persecute those with the knowledge, magic and power to fight these abominations, denying the inevitability of war and annihilation. And the evil from the Bourne swells….

The troubles of the world seem far from the Hollows where Tahn Junell struggles to remember his lost childhood and to understand words he feels compelled to utter each time he draws his bow. Trouble arrives when two strangers—an enigmatic man wearing the sigil of the feared Order of Sheason and a beautiful woman of the legendary Far—come, to take Tahn, his sister and his two best friends on a dangerous, secret journey. Tahn knows neither why nor where they will go. He knows only that terrible forces have been unleashed upon mankind and he has been called to stand up and face that which most daunts him—his own forgotten secrets and the darkness that would destroy him and his world.


Now that sounds right up my alley! But it's not due until April 2011 /cry.

I wonder if Tor would send me a an ARC? Pan MacMillan distribute Tor locally - I'll have to harass ask my rep.

In other exciting new my hardback copies of The Painted Man and The Desert Spear arrived today. Yes, I've read both books before but I didn't have hardback editions. When Peter V. Brett was in Sydney a couple of weeks ago we had a signing at the store (and I got to have dinner with him too!) and I grabbed a couple of bookplates and ordered my HB copies to put them in. And my copy of The Painted Man turned out to be a First Edition - score!

And tomorrow my new PC is meant to be delivered - now that's exciting!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Born of Empire

US title - Empire's Daughter
From the Archves:

Third Prince Maddyn Kevleren is one of the few members of his royal family who cannot Wield-cannot access the realm of magic. When he crosses the most powerful magician in the empire, he will be forced to set out across the sea to find the new colony of Kydan to escape her revenge...but even the wide ocean may not be enough to protect him.

Although a comparatively small book for the fantasy genre, Brown packs a surprising amount into this tale of politics, families and intrigue. Set in a wonderfully detailed world that revolves around two expansionist empires and their brutal intrigues, Brown flexes his pen and proceeds to present to the reader ideas that are intriguingly different to the flood of medieval fantasy currently in the market. Not that medieval fantasy is bad, mind you, but great ideas in this genre seem to be few and far between these days. In the world of the Kydan Chronicles, political power has been held exclusively by the Kevleren family for over 240 years. Distinct in appearance, the Kevlerens also stand apart from the people they rule by virtue of their gift - the ability to Wield the Sefid, a magical power that is untouchable to most people. But to Wield the Sefid requires a sacrifice, and the greater the sacrifice, the more powerful the Wielding. The Kevleren horde their gift and Kevleren law restricts any marriage outside their family, nor may offspring from unions with non-gifted subjects be allowed to live.

Opening with the crowning of Lerena as the new empress of themighty Hamilayan Empire, the start of her reign is marked with conflict as General Third Prince Maddyn Kevleren defies his family and takes a commoner as a lover. In an effort to prevent disaster, Lerena offers him the posting of Commander on an expedition across the Deepening Sea to establish a colony in the politically troubled land of Kydan, thus moving him far enough away to effectively exile him, while also matching the expansive moves of the empire’s greatest enemy, the Rivald kingdom. Maddyn, Hamilaya’s most gifted military leader, accepts his cousin Lerena’s offer in an attempt to protect the life of his lover, Alway, and their unborn child from both the brutal law of the Kevlerens and from his last lover, the Duchess Yunara, sister to the empress. Beautiful, wilful and unstable, Yunara is the most gifted Wielder of the Sefid. Betrayed in love by Maddyn, she will stop at nothing to avenge her broken heart.

As the dramas in her family play out, a revolt against the ruling Kevleren family in Rivald forces Lerena to confront a threat not just to that branch of the family, but Kevlerens everywhere. With twists and turns that keep you guessing, Brown has produced a gem of strong characters and vivid locales in a world bordering on a type of alternate industrial revolution.

This is a tale that delights in the unexpected and begins really well - uinfortunately, for me, Brown took his suprises to far and I was very disappointed with the end of the book. So much so I have yet to pick up book 2. I'm not sure I will.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

In Passing

From the Archives:

When mirror twins Seth and Hadrian Castillo travel to Europe on holidays, they don't expect the end of the world to follow them. Seth's murder, however, puts exactly that into motion. From opposite sides of death, the Castillo twins grapple with a reality neither of them suspected, although it has been encoded in myths and legends for millennia. The Earth we know is just one of many 'realms', three of which are inhabited by humans during various stages of their lives. And their afterlives. In the tradition of Philip Pullman and Ursula K. Le Guin and inspired by numerous arcane sources, the "Books of the Cataclysm" begin in the present world but soon propel the reader to a landscape that is simultaneously familiar and fantastic.

The Crooked Letter by Sean Williams is a prequel to The Books of the Change trilogy and sets out to explain how the world of the previous trilogy came to be.

As a huge fan of the previous trilogy, I was really looking forward to this book, but I was disappointed. While the ideas are great and it does answer some questions, I found it rather confusing and lacking the same vibrancy of the earlier series.

The best part of the book was the last quarter. Nevertheless, fans of the previous trilogy should enjoy this book and the tale of how magic returns to the world.


The second book in a fabulous trilogy of power and violence, love and hatred, slavery and the call to freedom.

Shana is sent to the marble mines of Ashua. She is the top gladiator in Vechwer but has angered too many influential people. Eventually escaping, she raises an army against those who feed her people to the dragons. Sukaal Veskesh, an Ashuak provincial governor and military leader who is trying to bring reform to relations between the Jaru and the Ashuak, is nearly defeated by Shana’s band.

Sukaal’s moderate stance is obliterated when he is posted elsewhere, and his replacement institutes the cruel and violent rule that had been in place before Sukaal came…crucifixion is a new and even harsher punishment for the Jaru people.

And the dragon priests of Ashua are looking after their own interests…they believe Alwyn is the key to finding the Genesis Stone, the stone the priests have promised to recover from the Alfwyn for the dragons. And time is running out for them all…

Passion (The Ashuak Chronicles #2) by Tony Shillitoe, picks up where Blood left off. The author throws the reader back into the crumbling world of the Ashuak Empire. The story continues to chart a course through blood thirsty imperial politics, as Sukaal Vekesk faces hidden enemies to his moderate reign as military governor of Sekesu.

Without a doubt, this second novel in the trilogy is just as exciting as the first. Shana, the legendary Jaru gladiator, though enslaved, continues her plans to avenge her brother’s murder. Alwyn, the teacher, learns more of the Dragon Priest’s magic than the Dragon Priests know themselves. And all the while, the wheels set in motion by the Great Dragons to find the Genesis Stone and their ancient enemies the Alfwyn, continue to turn towards a brutal climax. I love this series!


Monday, September 20, 2010

It's not you it's me

The Chathrand - The Great Ship, The Wind-Palace, His Supremacy's First Fancy - is the last of her kind - built 600 years ago she dwarves all the ships around her.
The secrets of her construction are long lost. She was the pride of the Empire. The natural choice for the great diplomatic voyage to seal the peace with the last of the Emperor's last enemies. 700 souls boarded her. Her sadistic Captain Nilus Rose, the Emperor's Ambassador and Thasha, the daughter he plans to marry off to seal the treaty, a spy master and six assassins, one hunderd imperial marines, Pazel the tarboy gifted and cursed by his mother's spell and a small band of Ixchel.
The Ixchel sneaked aboard and now hide below decks amongst the rats. Intent on their own mission. But there is treachery afoot. Behind the plans for peace lies the shadow of war and the fear that a dead king might live again. And now the Chathrand, having survived countless battles and centuries of typhoons has gone missing.
This is her story.
I was recently told, for a second time, to read The Red Wolf Conspiracy by my friend Karen.

She loved it and couldn't stop singing it's praises. I had looked at it before and passed it by, and while Karen is a great mate it's only about a third of the time that we actually enjoy the same books. That should have been my second warning.

But I went ahead and bought it, and I've made my way through 88 pages but can do no more. It's just not my cup of tea.

It's not at all poorly written, in fact it has the kind of prose I would normally get excited about. It's packed full of world building and references to historical events that are scattered like pieces of a broken puzzle readers have to find and piece together.

It has some strong characters and very cool , obscure references to what is obviously technology but now lost to the current civilisation. And I really like that kind of thing.

But unfortunately it also set in the equivalent to... oh I don't know, the late 1600 hundreds? There is gun powder and great navies that are 'expanding the empire' and doctors with 'medical marvels' and the progression of science. There are proper deportment schools for young ladies of a certain class and great trading houses with aristocratic patrons/owners or benefactors and... and it gives me hives.

I just can't do this time period, I could barely do The Pirates of the Caribbean, and certainly not 2 - I haven't even bothered with 3! Chris Evans utilised this setting in the Iron Elves series and I was able to get into that.

The setting wasn't nearly as thickly depicted, as strongly accented in the story as it is in Redicks book. And I just can't get through it, which is a shame because I am sure it would be a great story.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Archives

Are getting a spring clean... so to speak.

Because I ahve been so lax in getting posts up I am now reaching into my own reveiewing past and shaking the dust off some old faves... these don't fair too badly (given I dislike being told I have to write a review rather than just writing one because).

So, The Seige of Arrandin review has just gone up, more will follow.

I have not stopped writing new material, it's just sometimes weeks a can go by what with running the shop and doing my own work before I can get something up.

So in the meantime.... enjoy, new books are great but there are some older titles that are still well worth a read too.

An oldie now

... but well worth the read if you can find it. I wrote this reveiw many many years ago, and while it is more flowery than I (like to think) I write now it still represents how I feel about Herniman's work.

The tyrannous ambition of the Emperors of Lautun has all but swept away the ancient traditions of the Six Kingdoms, and the gentle harmony of the elder gods of the Aeshtar is being uprooted by the advent of the imperial Vashta faith.
When an army from the barbaric Eastern Domains brings sudden war upon their borders, the leaders of the Lautun Empire struggle to bury their own differences and counter this new threat. It falls to High Councillor Rhysana and her fellow Magi, aided by the priests and knights of the old religious Orders of the Aeshtar, to hold the strategic city of Arrandin until such time as the Emperor Rhydden and his armies can arrive to drive the enemy back.
Meanwhile, Rhydden discovers that warships have begun to burn and pillage along the coast, as the powerful God-King of the South makes his own bid for the lands and wealth of the Lautun Empire. The imperial armies are faced with the prospect of having to fight two wars on separate fronts.
As the Easterners advance, and the border manors fall through treachery and dire battle-magic, the survival of Arrandin rests on the slender hope that Rhysana and her friends can find and awaken the legendary magical defences hidden somewhere within the city. But the growing fear of the Magi and the Aeshta Orders is that the demonic forces accompanying the invading Easterners herald the return of a far more ancient and deadly adversary, banished from the world over fifteen hundred years before.
Marcus Herniman has written the type of tale where you are instantly thrown into a fully realised world; it has history, depth, character and a weight behind it like few first novels that I've read. With a scope that rivals Erikson's Malazan books and Feist's Magician, this tale blends both High Fantasy Adventure with a real social commentary as conveyed by characters who are both human and believable.

The story opens with terrifying assaults on the border manors of the Empire of Lautun. The dark magics of the Eastern Wizards overrun defences and barbarian armies are swiftly camped around the walls of the city of Arrandin. The Lord of Arrandin seeks help from the Council of Magi and the Emperor, and so begins the adventure. In the border city of Arrandin and the coastal city of Ellanguan, Herniman weaves his tale around a small group of core characters.

Political in-fighting and manoeuvring is enacted in the court plots of the Houses Noble, spilling over to the bitter rivalry between the priesthoods of the elder gods, the Aeshtar, and those of the newer gods, known as the Vashtar. Emperor Rhydden, himself a follower of the Imperial Vashta gods, moves his subjects - allies and opponents alike - with the ease of moving pieces on a chess board. With dubious intent, he commends the military Orders of the Aeshtar and the Council Magi, of whom he has a deep-seated mistrust, ahead to Arrandin's aid while he gathers his own army.

Kellarn, a scion of the House of Dortrean, becomes entangled in the plots of the Souther Empire. In Arrandin, the High Councillor Rhysana leads a team of magi in search of a key to the ancient magical defences of the city. There she discovers that even the lofty heights of the Council of Magi do not provide defence against treachery and intrigue, from both within and without, and that beneath the surface of the Easterner invasion lies a darker, older menace.

Packed to bursting with characters you can both love and hate, this story is set in a world that is new and hauntingly familiar. More than one writer has fallen beneath the weight of their own creation when world building, but in the delivery of his first published work, Herniman pulls it off and more. There is fine attention to detail and the natural rhythm and eloquence of the writing deftly handles the complexities of the story, encompassing an ease of style - a voice - that is often the hallmark of more experienced writers.
Marcus - you have got to do more writing :-/

Monday, September 13, 2010

The start of something exciting...

And I am very pleased to say that about something written by Brandon Sanderson (at last).

The Way of Kings
Stormlight Archives #1
By Brandon Sanderson
Buy it

Roshar is a world of stone and storms. Uncanny tempests of incredible power sweep across the rocky terrain so frequently that they have shaped ecology and civilization alike. Animals hide in shells, trees pull in branches, and grass retracts into the soilless ground. Cities are built only where the topography offers shelter.
It has been centuries since the fall of the ten consecrated orders known as the Knights Radiant, but their Shardblades and Shardplate remain: mystical swords and suits of armor that transform ordinary men into near-invincible warriors. Men trade kingdoms for Shardblades. Wars were fought for them, and won by them.
One such war rages on a ruined landscape called the Shattered Plains. There, Kaladin, who traded his medical apprenticeship for a spear to protect his little brother, has been reduced to slavery. In a war that makes no sense, where ten armies fight separately against a single foe, he struggles to save his men and to fathom the leaders who consider them expendable.
Brightlord Dalinar Kholin commands one of those other armies. Like his brother, the late king, he is fascinated by an ancient text called The Way of Kings. Troubled by over-powering visions of ancient times and the Knights Radiant, he has begun to doubt his own sanity.
Across the ocean, an untried young woman named Shallan seeks to train under an eminent scholar and notorious heretic, Dalinar’s niece, Jasnah. Though she genuinely loves learning, Shallan’s motives are less than pure. As she plans a daring theft, her research for Jasnah hints at secrets of the Knights Radiant and the true cause of the war.
Ok, so previously I have not enjoyed Sanderson's novels. But I did, for the most part, enjoy the work he's done to date on completing the Wheel of Time.

So when I heard the big announcement about the Stormlight Archives ten book deal I was unimpressed. Particularly with the early 'gushing' of some people and his own disingenuous blogging about the praise and his being unworthy of it (all the while repeating it) on his website - now I have to admit that reading authors blog post can cause a lot of misunderstanding, so I was in fact prepared to accept that I have misinterpreted the tone(s) of those postings and move on.

To which I began to harass my Hachette rep for a reading copy - and subsequently a got a 400 odd page (incomplete) early manuscript - having seen that the book was coming in at 1008 pages I was pretty sure that the manuscript I was given wasn't the finished product. So I was very good and held off even looking at it until Daniel was able to bring in for me the finished product a week before general release (and yes I have only just finished - hey! I did have WorldCon in the middle of it all you know).

I really enjoyed it.

It travelled very well through three main story lines, as seen through the eyes of three different characters and I was bored with none of them, although I did find his 'jumping back in time' chapters for Kaladin really irritating. This in turn, however, made me think a lot about the momentum of narrative. Thanks Brandon!

Unfortunately my favourite character - Shallan - had the fewest chapters :-( And I must admit for the first time ever I skipped chapters to get to the end of her chapters before going back.

The setting is inventive, but as ever with Sanderson’s work I found the inventiveness almost too much like a ‘look at me, I am so clever and original’, because ultimately – but for the great storm’s that sweep across the land – this story could have been told in any ‘traditional’ setting (read medieval) just as well as it was in this one. Too much emphasis seemed to be placed on what was ‘different’ about his world rather than the storytelling, which was enjoyable in and of itself.

There were parts of the story that seemed to be added in for no real purpose other than to demonstrate just how diverse Roshar is, and how different it is to anything else you might have read to date. If they were being used to set up or foreshadow some future event – which I suspect they might be – then I have to think they were wasted efforts because either they didn’t get resolved in this book or they are going to be picked up in the next. And given we’ve just read 1008 pages I am not confident that they will have as much ‘punch’ in a future book as they would have had in this one.

But for all that I thought the book was great; I have been doing a lot of hand selling it in the store and it’s really inspired me to keep pushing forward with my own work!

I’m glad Sanderson is going to finish the Wheel of Time before we get the next instalment of the Stormlight Archives but I am also a little annoyed because – damn it! – I want book two now!