Monday, November 15, 2010

Sea Beggars

From the Archives:

The Mark of Ran
Sea Beggars Book One
By Paul Kearney

The world is dying, seemingly forsaken by its creator. Mankind schemes, plots and wages wars across it, forgetting that another race once dwelled here. To some they where Angels, exiled for a long-forgotten crime; to others they were demons…

So starts the first book in Kearney’s new series, a tale woven with an eloquent style that is hard-edged and gritty. Set in a decaying world filled with legends and fragments of a glorious past, Kearney introduces his readers to fantasy on the high seas, the continent of Umer being a collection of islands, large and small - rather than the forest filled land masses we are typically presented with, although there are those too – separated by huge tracks of wild oceans and brutal seas.

In Rol Cortishane veins runs the blood of the Elder race. Driven from his home, Rol seeks refuge in the ancient citadel of Michal Psellos, where he is trained to be a killer of men, an assassin without pity. After years spent mastering the art of murder, Rol defies Psellos and returns to the high seas.

Kearney is one of the best writers of British fantasy around. His prose is consistently of the highest standard. His use of language is concise, yet vivid - in one paragraph he can paint a picture that would take another author a page to describe. His dialogue intelligently adds to world building, scene setting and distinctive characterisation. In a story set over a period of years, Kearney’s character development is dynamic, clear and, most of all, realistic. The plot itself is tight and never stagnates or wastes pages on unnecessary sub-plots; it is completely driven by character action and resulting consequence that meld together in a snowball effect, taking you on a breathless ride that avoids ‘traditional’ fantasy quests.

This is the beginning of Cortishane’s story. A tale in which he journeys across the breadth of this teeming, wicked world and finds a legendary Hidden City where the desperate and the dispossessed fight for survival. This is the first of the chronicles of Rol’s great voyages, and those of his compatriots; a band of outcasts who took to the wide oceans of the world when every nation of the earth set its face against them. Ussa’s Orphans they were called, the Beggars of the Sea...

Though it is a comparatively short novel for the epic fantasy market, so much happens you could swear you’d read a book twice its size. It’s fun, original and enthralling, and sure to appeal to fans of Steven Erikson, R Scott Bakker, Glen Cook and even George R R Martin. This book is a must for serious readers of fantasy fiction.

What I'm Reading

So. I was reading Corvus by Paul Kearney - and I inend to finish it - but my rep from Random House got me a bound manuscript of Stonewielder by Ian C. Esslemont and I just have to read that.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Urban Fantasy - noir

Jack Nightingale Book One
by Stephen Leather

'You're going to hell, Jack Nightingale': They are words that ended his career as a police negotiator. Now Jack's a struggling private detective -- and the chilling words come back to haunt him. Nightingale's life is turned upside down the day that he inherits a mansion with a priceless library; it comes from a man who claims to be his father, and it comes with a warning. That Nightingale's soul was sold at birth and a devil will come to claim it on his thirty-third birthday -- just three weeks away. Jack doesn't believe in Hell, probably doesn't believe in Heaven either. But when people close to him start to die horribly, he is led to the inescapable conclusion that real evil may be at work. And that if he doesn't find a way out he'll be damned in hell for eternity

I loved this book Loved it.

At the height of my untreated sleep apnoea I was given a proof of this to read by my (then) Orbit rep Amy and i practically read it in a night - was a big deal for me at the time because I was barely able to stay awake for more than five minutes if I attempted to read.

Mix some Harry Dresden with John Taylor, add a dash of Felix Castor and you come close to the type of character that is Jack Nightingale - and the secretive world of magick he inherits from a father he didn’t know he had. This is a tightly woven novel with a high-speed plot that kept me up very late; Leather offers urban fantasy packed with devil worshippers and the darker side of the Occult, grounded in solid police procedure and told with a fine flair for dramatic tension.

My current Orbit rep Robert was foolish enough to tell me that book 2 - Midnight -  will be out soon and that he will have an ARC for me. I've already called him about that once since he said it... i wonder how much of a nuisance I will make of myself *looks innocent*.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Last Stormlord

In celebration of the release of Stormlord Rising in the UK this week, here's my revew of the preceeding volume:

The Last Stormlord
Watergivers Book One
By Glenda Larke

It’s rare that a fantasy novel sets itself up in a world so obviously influenced by the idea of climate change. Usually such issues are left for science fiction. Yet in her latest blockbuster, Larke sets herself firmly in territory that few fantasy novels have dared to tread. Rather than traipsing through a ‘medieval’ past, she reveals a bold, original world that could possibly be our future, albeit one without technology.

In a world where water is more precious than gold, the men and women who can sense its presence, and manipulate it at will, hold the ultimate authority and political power in the land. The Stormlords are an aristocracy of Rainlords of varying ability who administer the distribution of water and rule by right of water-sensitivity, rather than talent for government. The Cloudmaster, the highest ranking Stormlord, has powers that enable him to draw water vapour from the ocean and send it across the desert, where the clouds it forms break upon distant mountains and rain down into massive cisterns, sending water back to the cities on the coast. When the current Cloudmaster lies dying, without an heir to bring water to the desert land, he sends his Rainlords out in search of any child who shows the potential of a ‘water sensitive’, even if it be a child of the poorest of Quarters. But not every Rainlord wants to bow to another Cloudmaster, and so starts a power-play that will change the face of the Quarters and their Rainlords forever.

Shale, an uneducated Gibber boy who displays a powerful water talent, may be the Quarters’ best hope for survival. But before he can be found, he is stolen away and his whole village slaughtered - man, woman and child. Terelle, a slave girl purchased to be a handmaiden in a brothel, runs away to discover she has talent with water that not even the Rainlords understand. As water becomes increasingly scarce, the coastal cities are threatened by drought. The tribesmen of the Red Quarter see a chance to finally rid the Quarters of Rainlords and bring back the time of Random Rain.

The common link in Larke’s novels is her ability to craft worlds that are vibrant and vivid, immersing us in a world that has depth and substance in a way that few writers can match without bogging down in ‘info dump’. This story is no different and I think is her best work to date. That she can also tell a sweeping saga that runs the gauntlet of human experience, immersing us – quite disturbingly at times – in that white water rapid of joy and despair, unmistakeably marks her as one of Australia’s best speculative fiction writers and one you should not miss.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

And this was only the beginning!

The Innocent Mage
Kingmaker, Kingbreaker #1
By Karen Miller

Enter the kingdom of Lur, where magic is wielded by few and others are imprisoned if they dare try. The Doranen have ruled Lur with magic since they arrived centuries ago after fleeing Morg, the mage who started a war in their homeland.

To keep their lands safe the Olken - Lur's original inhabitants - are forbidden to use magic. Any Olken who breaks the law will be executed. Gar has come to Lur's capital city to make his fortune. He finds himself working in the royal stables and in time becomes a mediator between the Olken and the Doranen. Soon, he will have enough money to return home and set up his own fishing fleet.

But there is unrest among the Olken. It has been prophesied that the Innocent Mage will be born, and the Circle is dedicated to preserving the magic of the Olken until the saviour arrives. The Circle have been watching Gar, and as the city streets are filled with Olken rioters, his life takes a new turn...


Ms Miller weaves a delightful tale, bringing a distinct style, flare and sense of drama to her first fantasy novel.

In the Kingdom of Lur the Doranen, an elegant, magic-wielding race have brought an age of peace and harmony to the native inhabitants, the Olken. But while they use their gifts and more advanced society to rule for the benefit of both the simpler Olken and themselves, the Doranen hide in their history a dark secret. The kingdom they left behind was devastated by a war of black magic’s and the survivors, who have taken refuge in Lur, seek to forget the legacy of the evil mage Morg that stains them. In an effort to protect themselves and the Olken, the ancient Doranen constructed a wall of glistening magic and light, cutting off all access to the outside world and the horrors they left behind. In return for the protection of their kingdom, the Olken have abandoned their own traditions of magic; but the Olken have secrets of their own.

A secret society known only as ‘the Circle’ holds safe the forgotten Olken magic, and a prophecy awaits the coming of the one called the Innocent Mage; destined to save their world from destruction if he retains his innocence, or to herald its doom if he falls.

From the sweeping vistas of Restharven Harbour, the tale unfolds as a young man, Asher, leaves home in search of his fortune, only to find himself saving a prince and taking a position in the royal stables. This is traditional fantasy at its best as Miller masterfully weaves Asher’s struggle with his own self worth, and his practical nature against the demands of prophecy and magic. While Asher rises to fame and fortune, the Circle watch him from the sidelines.

Abounding with vivid characterisations and contemporary dilemmas, Miller adds a strong human touch that is lacking in many books of more standard fantasy fare, while marrying the tale to a forward-moving plot with a momentum that carries the reader into the small hours of the morning as they find themselves having to read ‘just one more chapter’. (I write from experience!)

Miller’s debut is a blockbuster story crafted with a strong sense of wonder and told with whimsical charm. I have no doubt that all readers will be left wanting more when Book One reaches its astounding conclusion.