Tuesday, October 21, 2014

On My Radar

Three titles have popped up on my radar for next year. There are obviously more than three titles that I am eagerly awaiting (hello Oracle, House Wars Book 5 by Michelle West AND [hopefully] Destiny's Conflict by Janny Wurts)  but I've just seen covers for these ones and I am excited!

Brian Staveley was for me, the standout debut in 2014. I cannot wait for book two in this brilliant new epic fantasy series, I truly hope it lives up to the wonder of book one The Emperor's Blades.


The Providence of Fire
Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne Book Two
By Brian Staveley

War is coming, secrets multiply and betrayal waits in the wings... The Annurian Empire's ruling family must be vigilant, as the conspiracy against them deepens. Having discovered her father's assassin, Adare flees the Dawn Palace in search of allies. But few trust her, until she seems marked by the people's goddess in an ordeal of flame.

As Adare struggles to unite Annur, unrest breeds rival armies - then barbarian hordes threaten to invade. And unknown to Adare, her brother Valyn has fallen in with forces mustering at the empire's borders. The terrible choices they face could make war between them inevitable.

Fighting his own battles is their brother Kaden, rightful heir to the Unhewn Throne, who has infiltrated the Annurian capital with two strange companions. While imperial forces prepare to defend a far-distant front, Kaden's actions could save the empire, or destroy it.


Book one of Peter Orullian's Vault of Heaven, The Unremembered came out sometime ago, unfortunately it didn't grab me in quite the way I had hoped, for various reasons. However having read his short stories set within the same world, in particular Sacrifice of the First Sheason, my understanding of just where he is coming from has completely changed and I looking forward to seeing where he take the series.  

Trial of Intentions
Vault of Heaven Book Two
By Peter Orullian

The gods who created this world have abandoned it. In their mercy, however, they chained the rogue god — and the monstrous creatures he created to plague mortalkind — in the vast and inhospitable wasteland of the Bourne. The magical Veil that contains them has protected humankind for millennia and the monsters are little more than tales told to frighten children. But the Veil has become weak and creatures of Nightmare have come through. To fight them, the races of men must form a great alliance to try and stop the creatures.

But there is dissent. One king won’t answer the call, his pride blinding him even to the poison in his own court. Another would see Convocation fail for his own political advantage. And still others believe Convocation is not enough. Some turn to the talents of the Sheason, who can shape the very essence of the world to their will. But their order is divided, on the brink of collapse.

Tahn Junell remembers friends who despaired in a place left barren by war. One of the few who have actually faced the unspeakable horde in battle, Tahn sees something else at work and wonders about the nature of the creatures on the other side of the Veil. He chooses to go to a place of his youth, a place of science, daring to think he can find a way to prevent slaughter, prevent war. 

And his choices may reshape a world...


I first came across Mr Polansky when his debut, The Straight Razor Cure, was released in 2011. Unfortunately I got side-tracked finishing the book and only just picked it back up when I saw the cover for this new one. And boy I am glad I did. The Straight Razor Cure is brilliant and I will be reading books 2 and 3 in the trilogy very soon while I wait for this new one.


Those Above
The Empty Throne Book One
By Daniel Polansky

The first in an explosive new epic fantasy series by Daniel Polansky, perfect for fans of Joe Abercrombie and Mark Lawrence.
They enslaved humanity three thousand years ago. Tall, strong, perfect, superhuman and near immortal they rule from their glittering palaces in the eternal city in the centre of the world. They are called Those Above by their subjects. They enforce their will with fire and sword.

Twenty five years ago mankind mustered an army and rose up against them, only to be slaughtered in a terrible battle. Hope died that day, but hatred survived. Whispers of another revolt are beginning to stir in the hearts of the oppressed: a woman, widowed in the war, who has dedicated her life to revenge; the general, the only man to ever defeat one of Those Above in single combat, summoned forth to raise a new legion; and a boy killer who rises from the gutter to lead an uprising in the capital.

Those Above is the first of an extraordinary new fantasy epic by the author of the acclaimed Low Town series that will sweep the reader into a wholly alien, wholly recognizable world of rebellion and revenge, of love and of death, of intrigue and pitiless war.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The World of Ice & Fire - Not Really a Review

THE WORLD OF ICE & FIRE
By George R.R. Martin, Elio Garcia 
and Linda Antonsson

If the past is prologue, then George R. R. Martin's masterwork-the most inventive and entertaining fantasy saga of our time-warrants one hell of an introduction. At long last, it has arrived with The World of Ice and Fire.

This lavishly illustrated volume is a comprehensive history of the Seven Kingdoms, providing vividly constructed accounts of the epic battles, bitter rivalries, and daring rebellions that lead to the events of A Song of Ice and Fire and HBO's Game of Thrones. In a collaboration that's been years in the making, Martin has teamed with Elio M. Garcia, Jr., and Linda Antonsson, the founders of the renowned fan site Westeros.org-perhaps the only people who know this world almost as well as its visionary creator. Collected here is all the accumulated knowledge, scholarly speculation, and inherited folk tales of maesters and septons, maegi and singers.


It is a chronicle which stretches from the Dawn Age to the Age of Heroes; from the Coming of the First Men to the arrival of Aegon the Conqueror; from Aegon's establishment of the Iron Throne to Robert's Rebellion and the fall of the Mad King, Aerys II Targaryen, which has set into motion the "present-day" struggles of the Starks, Lannisters, Baratheons, and Targaryens. The definitive companion piece to George R. R. Martin's dazzlingly conceived universe, The World of Ice and Fire is indeed proof that the pen is mightier than a storm of swords.
________________________________________________________

What needs to be said about this one? Any fan of made up history (Hello! Guilty as charged), and/or A Game of Thrones, is going to devour this history of Westeros and the lands beyond.

The World of A Game of Thrones is staggering in its scope and as rich and complex as the events of the War of the Roses, as treacherous as Imperial Rome and could chew the Borgias' up and spit them out without breaking a tooth.

This compendium work contains full colour artwork and maps, detailed family trees, new material that gives in-depth explorations of the history and culture of Westeros, half of which Martin has written for this book specifically.

It is the definitive companion to this masterwork of modern fantasy fiction and perfect for fans of the books and the TV show.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Clariel - A Review

Clariel
An Old Kingdom Novel
By Garth Nix

Does the walker choose the path, or the path the walker? An epic fantasy adventure, set six hundred years before Sabriel and as rich and compelling as the original Old Kingdom novels.

Clariel is the daughter of one of the most notable families in the Old Kingdom, with blood relations to the Abhorsen, and to the King.

When her family moves to the city of Belisaere, Clariel finds herself at the centre of sorcery and intrigue: a plot is brewing against the old and withdrawn King Orrikan; her parents want to marry her off to a killer; and a dangerous Free Magic creature is loose in the city.

When Clariel is drawn into the efforts to find and capture the creature, she finds hidden sorcery within herself, yet it is magic that carries great dangers.

Can she rise above the temptation of power, escape the unwanted marriage and save the King?

Set approximately six hundred years before the birth of Sabriel, Clariel will delight Old Kingdom fans as well as new readers hungry for epic fantasy adventure.

_____________________________________________________

This book brought with it a heavy dose of nostalgia. It has been many years since I read an Old Kingdom novel, yet they still stand in my memory among the best fantasy books I've read.

Nix is an evocative writer and from the first page it was as though the years between my reading the original trilogy and getting my hands on this - what is technically a prequel, yet also a stand-alone book - had never occurred.

Clariel never wanted to come to Belisaere, the capital city, the only place she felt at home was in the Great Forest but her mother's position as the head of a powerful guild and her relation to the Abhorsen means her wishes are disregarded. She struggles to find herself a place in this new life, but when she is used as a pawn her fury knows no bounds and she escapes to make her own choices.

A somewhat darker novel than the original books, Clariel depicts the Old Kingdom in the glory we had previously only read about and never experienced. And things aren't always as they are recalled in history books. The powerful Kingdom is strangled by hierarchy and social inequality, unrest is rife and self-absorption and a disregard for the Charter all adds to wonderfully a fleshed out world that brings vibrancy and atmosphere to the stage.

Fans of the Old Kingdom Trilogy will find this an exciting addition to the story, those of you new to Nix's work will find it a great place to start.

I hope we continue to have many more adventures in this wonderful world.



Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Abyss Beyond Dreams - A Review

The Abyss Beyond Dreams
Chronicle of the Fallers, Book One

When images of a lost civilisation are 'dreamed' by a self-proclaimed prophet of the age, Nigel Sheldon, inventor of wormhole technology and creator of the Commonwealth society is suspicious. Especially as the dreams seem to be coming from the Void - an area of living space monitored and controlled because of its hugely destructive capabilities. With it being the greatest threat to the known universe, Nigel is determined to find out if human life really does exist beyond its boundaries and if so, what the hell they're doing there.

But when he crash lands on a planet beyond the Void he didn't even know existed he finds so much more than he imagined. Bienvenido, a world populated from the survivors of Commonwealth colony ships which disappeared over three thousand years' ago. Since then they've been fighting an ever-increasingly desperate battle against a space-born predator invading their landscape. The Fallers looks innocuous to begin with and their lure is enticing to any that stray within their path - but they are by far the greatest threat to the continuance of humanity on this planet.

But Nigel soon realises that the Fallers also hold the key to something he'd never hoped to find - the destruction of the Void itself. If only he can survive long enough to work out how to use it...
_______________________________________________________

I began reading Peter F. Hamilton way back in mid-nineties when he was writing the near-future SF detective stories featuring Greg Mandel. To be honest I didn't really get his first foray into Space Opera - the Night's Dawn Trilogy - and I guess that's why it took me so long to return to his work. I did so last year and wow - I wish I'd come back sooner.

I can honestly say that his Commonwealth Saga (consisting of the Commonwealth Saga duology and the Void Trilogy) is at the top of the list of my all-time favourite Space Operas.

The Abyss Beyond Dreams is the first in a new duology set in the Commonwealth universe (squeee!). Nigel Sheldon returns (we didn't see him on the Void Trilogy), along with a Paula Mayo cameo, and is convinced by the alien Raiel to participate in a desperate scheme to infiltrate the Void.

Inside Nigel discovers that humans are not the only species to have been sucked into the Void's strange reality, where the laws of physics are subtly different and strength of mind equates to strong psychic abilities. These humans, survivors and descendants of a lost fleet of colony ships that left Commonwealth space 500 years before (quantum physics plays with the speed at which time inside the Void and time outside the Void move at different paces), are caught in a vicious war against the Fallers, a species of biological mimics trying to wipe them out, and their society begins to breakdown into civil war.

While this is a return to the Void we explored in the Void Trilogy - and if you have read it you know what happens - it is still full of twists and turns and revelations that are genuinely surprising. There is enough closure to end this volume with just enough of a hook to make you want the next book right now. 

The Abyss Beyond Dreams is a superb return to a universe that melds hard SF concepts with fantasy adventure.  Hamilton expands on the unanswered questions of previous books without rehashing old ground, and offers us a fully realised cast of characters, old and new, to be thrown into a thrilling plot of action and intrigue that is his hallmark. It is a gripping tale told by a skilled writer, one who raises the bar for both Space Operas and Epic Fantasy alike.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Gary Gibson answers Ten Terrifying Questions

To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself - where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

- Born in Glasgow, Scotland. Raised in Glasgow, Scotland. Schooled in Glasgow, Scotland. Well, mostly, apart from a few years living in Ayrshire. Or, as I like to think of it, north of the Ice Wall amongst the WIldlings.

What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

- At twelve, I pretty much wanted to be Arthur C. Clarke. Actually, I also wanted to shave my head and wear white robes like the Talosian in the original Star Trek. That’s when I started thinking about writing since I was already sucking up science fiction books like a Roomba in a universe of dust-bunnies. By eighteen, I’d decided I wanted to be Jimmy Page (guitarist in Led Zeppelin) because I’d just moved back to Glasgow from darkest Ayrshire and discovered rock music. The writing took a back seat for a while. But in my mid-twenties, I’d had a kind of Damascene moment and started writing again. By the time I was thirty I’d had a couple of short stories published in pro sf and fantasy magazines.

What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

- That logic and reason will always win any argument. It took a lot of bumps to work out logic and reason are the last things a lot of people ever want to hear.

What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

- There’s no three things. It’s everything, all at once, poured into a single Gary Gibson-shaped mould. But if you kidnapped my dog - that is, if I had a dog - and showed me a live stream of it held over a bucket of piranhas and demanded I answer, I’d pick: Marooned in Realtime by Vernor Vinge, Roadside Picnic by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky, and the Gaia trilogy by John Varley. If I’ve got any influences, it’s those three. Probably.

Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

- It’s a falsity to say there are ‘innumerable’ artistic avenues open to anyone. Well, there are, but whether you’re actually any good at them is another matter. I “chose” to write a novel because it turns out that’s what I’m good at it, it’s fun, and there’s pretty much nothing else I can think of I might possibly want to do with my life.

Please tell us about your latest novel Extinction Game

- I couldn’t just sit down and write a straight post-apocalyptic book, because it’s been done so many times. I needed something extra. A classic post-apocalyptic trope is the Last Man on Earth story, so since I’d been reading up on theories regarding the idea we live in a multiverse of infinite parallel realities, it made sense that there must also be an infinite number of universes in which different people are the last man or woman on Earth.

From there it didn’t take much more than a hop or skip to figure out an interesting story lay in bringing those people together through some technology that allows travel from one alternate reality to another. Why write a book about one world-destroying apocalypse, when you can write a book that by definition includes every single possible apocalypse?

What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

- An immediate desire to send me the entire contents of their bank accounts and the deeds to their homes. I’m not saying I planted any post-hypnotic suggestions in my books or anything, but…

Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

- Anyone who writes what they choose to write, regardless of what others think.

Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

- To produce a book a year; to always improve; to maintain a healthy level of self-criticism that allows me to grow as a writer; to be ambitious, in the sense of never resting on my laurels; to surprise, entertain and delight; to be raised to Godhood and worshipped by milli...ok, maybe not that last one.

What advice do you give aspiring writers?

- To understand that what appears to be failure is instead an opportunity to define and build on your true strengths.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Could you survive the end of your world?

EXTINCTION GAME
By Gary Gibson

Jerry Beche should be dead. Instead, he's rescued from a desolate Earth where he was the last man alive. He's then trained for the toughest conditions imaginable and placed with a crack team of specialists. Every one of them is a survivor, as each withstood the violent ending of their own alternate Earth. And their new specialism? To retrieve weapons and data in missions to other apocalyptic worlds.

But what is 'the Authority', the shadowy organization that rescued Beche and his fellow survivors? How does it access other timelines? And why does it need these instruments of death? As Jerry struggles to obey his new masters, he begins to distrust his new companions. A strange bunch, their motivations are less than clear, and accidents start plaguing their missions. Jerry suspects the Authority is feeding them lies, and team members are spying on him. As a dangerous situation spirals into catastrophe, is there anybody he can trust?


_______________________________________________________________
Could you survive the end of your world?

Jerry Beche has been alone for years after a pandemic wiped out the rest of humanity, his grip on reality is slightly off and both his sense of paranoia and survival instincts are tightly strung. So, one day when he finds a set of footprints on the ground that are not his own, he runs. When he is eventually subdued he is offered an opportunity to join a group searching a multitude of alternative realities and researching extinction events on different Earths.

This book is kind of terrifying with all the different scenarios Gibson presents, anyone with an active imagination (Oh, me! Hello!) will quite probably never look at the stars in the sky, or experience an earthquake, the same way again. And don't get me started on scientists and their various fields of "research"!

Extinction Game is different to Gibson's usual fare of high-tech, far future space opera. It is a post-apocalyptic, reality jumping, techno-thriller, shotgun of a novel that throws you into the action from page one, and presents layer after layer of secrets and hidden agenda. It's great!



Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb

Fool's Assassin
Fitz and the Fool Book One
By Robin Hobb

Tom Badgerlock has been living peaceably in the manor house at Withywoods with his beloved wife Molly these many years, the estate a reward to his family for loyal service to the crown.

But behind the facade of respectable middle-age lies a turbulent and violent past. For Tom Badgerlock is actually FitzChivalry Farseer, bastard scion of the Farseer line, convicted user of Beast-magic, and assassin. A man who has risked much for his king and lost more...

On a shelf in his den sits a triptych carved in memory stone of a man, a wolf and a fool. Once, these three were inseparable friends: Fitz, Nighteyes and the Fool. But one is long dead, and one long-missing.

Then one Winterfest night a messenger arrives to seek out Fitz, but mysteriously disappears, leaving nothing but a blood-trail.

What was the message? Who was the sender? And what has happened to the messenger?

Suddenly Fitz's violent old life erupts into the peace of his new world, and nothing and no one is safe.

_______________________________________________

A decade or so has passed in the Kingdom of the Six Duchies and FitzChivalry Farseer, bastard son of the royal line and former king's assassin, has taken on a new identity away from court intrigue with his wife Molly.

As Tom Badgerlock, he has little need of his Skill magic or, with the passing of his wolf companion, that of his Wit. That is until a mysterious messenger arrives, only to disappear before she can deliver her message, leaving a trail of blood.

Given how long it's been since the last Fitz and the Fool book, Hobb's leisurely introduction back into this world is welcome. Not only does the telling of the story remain true to the pacing of previous nine volumes (that are collectively referred to as the books of The Realm of the Elderlings), it works as a smoldering fire that slowly has new fuel added to it until it is suddenly a roaring blaze again.

The story is deceptively simple yet complex. Hobb's connection to the character of Fitz is evident, it feels like the last ten years between the books have never happened, that it was only yesterday we last saw the world through Fitz's eyes and while things have changed as they are wont to do, they are still comfortingly familiar.

This book is filled with heartache and joy, tension and foreboding, and anyone who fell in love with FitzChivalry Farseer in the Assassin's Apprentice will fall in love with him all over again. The highs and the lows are achingly crafted and so very real it is hard to imagine that Withywoods, the Six Duchies and indeed Fitz himself, do not actually exist somewhere.

This book is one of the best of the year. It is Hobb at her best and I came to the end all too soon. The books of Fitz and the Fool - all of them - are pieces of a masterpiece and one of the most important works in modern speculative fiction.

Thankfully Hobb is not a writer to take years to complete a book so hopefully we will have the next volume sooner rather than later.

Order it now!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Master of Whitestorm - a review

A bit of a flashback review here. I've recently 're-read' this book on audio and was inspired. Janny Wurts is one of my top 5 favorite authors ever.

Master of Whitestorm
By Janny Wurts

Korendir’s name was the stuff of legend ...

Man of mystery ... deadly mercenary ... obsessed adventurer ...

From a life of misery, chained as a galley slave under the whips of the marauding Mhurgai, Korendir contrived an escape against impossible odds, only to gamble his hard-won freedom against ever more deadly stakes—in a world endangered by elementals, shape-changers, demons and perilous wizardry. Even Haldeth, fellow captive at the oar and his only accepted friend, can not understand what drives Korendir to repeated risk. But the hazardous tasks serve a madman’s hope, to build an unbreachable citadel.

Yet, can any fortress wall be enough to disarm the inner nightmares that ride the Master of Whitestorm with the cruelty of a death-wish?
_______________________________________________________

In the words of Stephen R. Donaldson Janny Wurts is 'a gifted creator of wonder'. Not one to follow a well-trodden path of tropes, Wurts blazes new trails with her stories and always, always links them irrevocably with human resilience and spirit. The Master of Whitestorm is a standalone novel of towering brilliance, each chapter revealing layers and startling depth and a clear and natural unfurling of story that is as thrilling for its surprises as it is for how all the pieces fit together.

Janny Wurts is one of the most lyrical writers I know and her brilliance with word choice and naming is close to unmatched. Words are chosen and sentences constructed precisely and with the care of a painter (which she is also) choosing colours to create a visual masterpiece. While Wurts’ storytelling demands an investment of time and concentration, the payoff is always worth it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Falcon Throne by Karen Miller

The Falcon Throne
The Tarnished Crown Book One
By Karen Miller

Nobody is innocent. Every crown is tarnished.

A royal child, believed dead, sets his eyes on regaining his father s stolen throne. A bastard lord, uprising against his tyrant cousin, sheds more blood than he bargained for. A duke s widow, defending her daughter, defies the ambitious lord who d control them both. And two brothers, divided by ambition, will learn the true meaning of treachery.

All of this will come to pass, and the only certainty is that nothing will remain as it once was.

As royal houses rise and fall, empires are reborn and friends become enemies, it becomes clear that much will be demanded of those who follow the path to power.

A major new epic fantasy begins.




______________________________________________

Steeped with history and a vibrant sense of setting The Falcon Throne straddles the duchies of Harcia and Clemen. Once a unified Kingdom it is now a shadow of its former glory as warring dukes have ridden the land to the brink of ruin. In the midst of an uneasy peace we begin tale of Roric who overthrows his cousin to take the throne of Clemen for the good the people; and Balfre, heir to Harcia who will go to any lengths to assume absolute power and resurrect a kingdom centuries dead.

Amidst the tension that leads to war The Falcon Throne also tells the tale of the orphaned son of the murdered duke, the rightful heir to Clemen, who is nurtured on tales of the bastard cousin who killed his father and stole his crown. A crown it is his destiny to reclaim.

Miller has stretched her wings with this book and soared high to bring us a tale worthy of any fan of Martin's A Game of Thrones, Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind or Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora.

Filled with passion and vigor The Falcon Throne is an epic historical fantasy of kingdoms and dynasties, princes and pawns, and a shadowy power who pulls strings behind the scenes to topple one empire and raise another. I highly recommend it!

The Falcon Throne is due for release on August 26th - preorder it now!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Bound by Alan Baxter: A Review

Bound
Alex Caine Book 1
By Alan Baxter

Alex Caine, a fighter by trade, is drawn into a world he never knew existed - a world he wishes he'd never found.

Alex Caine is a martial artist fighting in illegal cage matches. His powerful secret weapon is an unnatural vision that allows him to see his opponents' moves before they know their intentions themselves. An enigmatic Englishman, Patrick Welby, approaches Alex after a fight and reveals, 'I know your secret.' Welby shows Alex how to unleash a breathtaking realm of magic and power, drawing him into a mind-bending adventure beyond his control. And control is something Alex values above all else.

A cursed grimoire binds Alex to Uthentia, a chaotic Fey godling, who leads him towards chaos and murder, an urge Alex finds harder and harder to resist. Befriended by Silhouette, a monstrous Kin beauty, Alex sets out to recover the only things that will free him - the shards of the Darak.

But that powerful stone also has the potential to unleash a catastrophe which could mean the end of the world as we know it.
___________________________________________________

An entertaining and driven urban fantasy thriller from Aussie Alan Baxter, Bound is full of martial arts, magic and monsters.

This is the first book in a series of indeterminate length (although I believe he's been contracted for 3 books so far).

Baxter takes the reader on a roller-coaster ride as the world Alex Caine, our hero, knows changes before his eyes and he is introduced to the world of magic that hides in the shadows all around us. Becoming bound to an ancient and malevolent power the learning curve that Alex has to get a grip on is a steep one, and the pages fly as the reader is dragged tightly behind him as he crosses the globe trying to rid himself of the curse and find his centre in a suddenly unknown world.

This is a page turning dark fantasy that doesn't shy away from sex and violence and the the underbelly of society. Filled with guts, passion, determination and the will to survive Baxter has delivered a great romp of a novel and I'm looking forward to see where he takes Alex Caine next.

Bound is due for release on 01/07/14

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Pillars of Sand: A Review

The Pillars of Sand
Echoes of Empire
By Mark T. Barnes
BUY IT

Prophecy declared that corrupt politician Corajidin would rule the ShrÄ«anese Federation, even become its new Emperor—and sinister magic has helped him defy death in order to do it. But his victory is not assured, thanks to clashing rival factions that hinder any attempts to unify the nation. Though he has taken increasingly brutal measures to eliminate all obstacles in his path, the dark forces supporting him grow dangerously impatient. And the harder they press, the more drastic Corajidin’s actions become.

Soon, only his most powerful adversaries will stand in his way: Indris, the peerless swordsman and sorcerer who has long fought to end the Federation’s bloody turmoil; and the warrior-poet Mari, Corajidin’s own daughter and the woman Indris loves. Fate has torn them apart, forcing them into terrifying personal trials. But if Indris can bring to bear the devastating knowledge of the Pillars of Sand, and Mari can rise up as a rebel leader, Corajidin’s enemies will rally—and the decisive battle for the soul and future of the ShrÄ«anese will begin.

This epic tale of intrigue, love, and betrayal, painted in the blood of allies and enemies by Mark T. Barnes, concludes the Echo of Empire trilogy that began with The Garden of Stones and The Obsidian Heart.
______________________________________

When I get to the last book of a series I am passionate about, I always have mixed feelings. I am jubilant to get my hands on the new volume, and sad because it's the last.

We have come now to the end of the Echoes of Empire, the debut trilogy from wunderkind Aussie Mark T. Barnes.

You have no idea how much I want more. Ia, the world in which Barnes' epic saga plays out, is immense. While many genre authors are talented world builders, Barnes, who may well stand on the shoulders of giants has become, to my mind, a giant himself. The world of Ia lives and breathes. It is rendered in vivid technicolor and wonders and horrors lurk at every turn. I am so enraptured that I just want to pry Barnes brain apart and scoop out everything he's ever thought about it... or maybe just steal his notes (hello, coffee table encyclopedia with full colour illustrations please!). For me it is a joy to read and to spend time in such a wonderfully and lovingly crafted creation. You can tell Barnes takes this seriously, that he isn't happy to settle with a ripped off medieval Europe on which to stage his tales. And when/if he does borrow from our past it is reinterpreted with stunning vision and imagination. The sheer number of details that are thrown 'haphazardly' (they really aren't haphazard) are mind-boggling.

Yeah, yeah I know. I am gushing.

You want me to tell you about the story? Pfft. Go and buy it!

In The Pillars of Sand the various threads of books one and two come to head, revelations abound and battles ensue. There are many kickass fight scenes - Mari is amazing - and Indris... well he finally has to embrace the power that is his birthright and finds out exactly what that birthright is. Squeeeeeeeeeeeeee! It is so worth the wait.

The worst part however is that the book ends.

And knowing that Barnes has another 6 books plotted to continue the next arc in Indris' journey is torture. But that's not all he has planned so... it's now a waiting game.

Don't read these books expecting Barnes to hold your hand through the telling. We hit the ground running in The Garden of Stones and it's up you the reader to pay attention to the details that are presented to get your bearings. Anyone who has read Erikson will have no problem, and those who loves epic fantasy - of the truly epic, complex and stunningly crafted kind - then you will love this and, I think, anything else Barnes cares to write.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Prince of Fools: A Review

Prince of Fools
Red War Book 1
By Mark Lawrence
BUY IT

The Red Queen is old but the kings of the Broken Empire fear her as they fear no other. Her grandson Jalan Kendeth is a coward, a cheat and a womaniser; and tenth in line to the throne. While his grandmother shapes the destiny of millions, Prince Jalan pursues his debauched pleasures.

Until he gets entangled with Snorri ver Snagason, a huge Norse axe man, and dragged against his will to the icy north. In a journey across half the Broken Empire, Jalan flees minions of the Dead King, agrees to duel an upstart prince named Jorg Ancrath, and meets the ice witch, Skilfar, all the time seeking a way to part company with Snorri before the Norseman’s quest leads them to face his enemies in the black fort on the edge of the Bitter Ice.

Experience does not lend Jalan wisdom; but here and there he unearths a corner of the truth. He discovers that they are all pieces on a board, pieces that may be being played in the long, secret war the Red Queen has waged throughout her reign, against the powers that stand behind thrones and nations, and for higher stakes than land or gold.
_______________________________________________________

You've probably heard me wax lyrical (or try to ) about Mark Lawrence before. You could even go so far as to say I am crushing on his authorial brilliance. And that would be very true. Lawrence has a vivid style of writing. It is smooth and compelling, he says much while actually writing (compared to the mammoth tomes I usually read) little.

This is the first book in a new series set within the same world as his Broken Empire trilogy. Yet for all that, while the stage is the same the story - and character of Jalan Kendeth - is different to that of the Prince of Thorns (aka Jorg Ancrath). And that's a good thing. Who wants to read the same thing all the time? However, beware, for all that you can tell you are read a Mark Lawrence book it is very different...Until it twists and turns on the pages right before your eyes and... but I don't want to give to much away. You're going to have to read it.

In three books Mark Lawrence has taken himself from being a 'rising star' amongst the new writers of the genre to firmly positioning his place in the firmament. I urge you to get on board and start reading him now.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Shards of Time: A Review

Shards of Time
Nightrunner Book 7
By Lynn Flewelling

The governor of the sacred island of Korous and his mistress have been killed inside a locked and guarded room.

The sole witnesses to the crime-guards who broke down the doors, hearing the screams from within-have gone mad with terror, babbling about ghosts . . . and things worse than ghosts.

Dispatched to Korous by the queen, master spies Alec and Seregil find all the excitement and danger they could want-and more. For an ancient evil has been awakened there, a great power that will not rest until it has escaped its otherworldly prison and taken revenge on all that lives. And only those like Alec-who have died and returned to life-can step between the worlds and confront the killer . . . even if it means a second and all too permanent death.


_______________________________________________________

Lynn Flewelling has been publishing novels since 1996 to great acclaim. I wish I could say I have been following her work all that time but I only had the pleasure of discovering her brilliant novels a few years ago. Luckily for me that meant I have a solid body of her work to make my way through. She is the author of the Tamir Trilogy and critically acclaimed Nightrunner series, of which The Shards of Time is book seven.

Unfortunately it is also - for now - the end of an era, as she wraps up the story of fan-favorite spies Alec and Seregil in a novel that contains all the action, intrigue, political skullduggery and magic that have made the books such an enduring part of the genre.

These are great books and I highly recommend them. Flewelling is a brilliant world builder and these books are perfect to lose yourself in.

I am very keen to see what she brings us next.

Shards of Time

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Boy with the Porcelain Blade: A Review

The Boy with the Porcelain Blade
Erebus Sequence Book 1
By Den Patrick

An original and beautifully imagined world, populated by unforgettable characters.

Lucien de Fontein has grown up different. One of the mysterious and misshapen Orfano who appear around the Kingdom of Landfall, he is a talented fighter yet constantly lonely, tormented by his deformity, and well aware that he is a mere pawn in a political game.

Ruled by an insane King and the venomous Majordomo, it is a world where corruption and decay are deeply rooted - but to a degree Lucien never dreams possible when he first discovers the plight of the 'insane' women kept in the haunting Sanatoria.

Told in a continuous narrative interspersed with flashbacks we see Lucien grow up under the care of his tutors. We watch him forced through rigorous Testings, and fall in love, set against his yearning to discover where he comes from, and how his fate is tied to that of every one of the deformed Orfano in the Kingdom, and of the eerie Sanatoria itself.
_________________________________________________________

Wow. This book impressed me a lot. Hugely atmospheric, it reads like a cross between the gothic feel of Mervyn Peake set within a grotesque caricature of Renaissance Italy. It has a decadent decay within it's pages and is filled with a sense of mystery that is utterly gripping in a fascinating world.

The king is insane and has withdrawn from society to his private Keep. His steward, the Majordomo, rules in his stead, while the Great Houses of the aristocracy hatch plots and jostle for power. And amongst them all are the Orfano, the misshapen 'witchlings' who are abandoned on the nobles' doorsteps at birth.

Our guide into this world of Machiavellian conspiracies and mysteries is Lucien de Fontein, one of the Orfano. Born with no ears, he has grown up hated and feared, and trained in the art of the sword. The novel opens on the day he is to face his Final Testing, which will allow him to graduate from the titular porcelain blade to a steel weapon.

The Boy With The Porcelain Blade alternates between action sequences of Lucien fighting for survival and flashbacks to his youth. Patrick teases out revelations in each flashback and ends every action scene on a cliff-hanger in such way that the novel is always a riveting read.

If you enjoy Scott Lynch, Robin Hobb or Patrick Rothfuss you will be lost in The Boy With The Porcelain. Den Patrick's writing is rich with detail, an ornate style that fits perfectly with the baroque setting, while fast-paced plotting ensures it doesn't get overwhelmed with nuance.

The Boy with the Porcelain Blade

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Lascar's Dagger: A Review

The Lascar's Dagger
The Forsaken Lands Book 1
By Glenda Larke

FAITH WILL NOT SAVE HIM.

Saker looks like a simple priest, but in truth he's a spy for the head of his faith. It's a dangerous job, and more lives than merely his own depend on his secrecy.

When Saker is wounded by a Lascar sailor's blade, the weapon seems to follow him home. Unable to discard it, nor the sense of responsibility that comes with it, Saker can only follow its lead.

It will put him on a journey to strange shores, on a path that will reveal terrible secrets about the empire, about the people he serves, and likely lead to his own destruction.

The Lascar's dagger demands a price, and that price will be paid in blood.
______________________________________________

For those of you who have been patiently waiting for a new novel from Glenda Larke your wait is finally over.

Set in a fantasy world that is more akin to the 17th Century in technology and feel than more usual medieval, Larke weaves a cunning tale of religion and the machinations of empire, as great trading fleets discover and exploit new lands.

An absolute master of world building Larke combines the greed for riches to be found in a burgeoning spice trade with native magics and the politcs of religions at war. She has the gift of George R.R. Martin to create an immense world through throw-away lines and character histories that just grows in the background until you are living and breathing a while new world as though you were actually there.

With astounding ease Larke weaves plots twist and turn, and driving tension abounds as characters leap off the page. Glenda Larke is master storyteller. If you have never read her before then you have a load of great books to get through and this is a very good place to start.

Read her. Now.

The Lascar's Dagger

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Skin Game - a cover

Skin Game
Dresden Files #15
By Jim Butcher

Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, is about to have a very bad day….

Because as Winter Knight to the Queen of Air and Darkness, Harry never knows what the scheming Mab might want him to do. Usually, it’s something awful.

He doesn’t know the half of it….

Mab has just traded Harry’s skills to pay off one of her debts. And now he must help a group of supernatural villains—led by one of Harry’s most dreaded and despised enemies, Nicodemus Archleone—to break into the highest-security vault in town so that they can then access the highest-security vault in the Nevernever.

It’s a smash-and-grab job to recover the literal Holy Grail from the vaults of the greatest treasure hoard in the supernatural world—which belongs to the one and only Hades, Lord of the freaking Underworld and generally unpleasant character. Worse, Dresden suspects that there is another game afoot that no one is talking about. And he’s dead certain that Nicodemus has no intention of allowing any of his crew to survive the experience. Especially Harry.

Dresden’s always been tricky, but he’s going to have to up his backstabbing game to survive this mess—assuming his own allies don’t end up killing him before his enemies get the chance….

_____________________________________________________________

I'm kinda looking forward to this one... ;)

Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Traitor's Blade - a review

Traitor's Blade
Greatcloaks Book 1
By Sebastien De Castell


Falcio is the first Cantor of the Greatcoats.

Trained in the fighting arts and the laws of Tristia, the Greatcoats are travelling Magisters upholding King's Law.

They are heroes.

Or at least they were, until they stood aside while the Dukes took the kingdom, and impaled their King's head on a spike.

Now Tristia is on the verge of collapse and the barbarians are sniffing at the borders. The Dukes bring chaos to the land, while the Greatcoats are scattered far and wide, reviled as traitors, their legendary coats in tatters. All they have left are the promises they made to King Paelis, to carry out one final mission.

But if they have any hope of fulfilling the King's dream, the divided Greatcoats must reunite, or they will also have to stand aside as they watch their world burn...
__________________________________________

Something new and a little different is the debut from Sebastien de Castell.

If you like swords and duels and intrigue and betrayal and all for one and one for all you are gonna love this.

De Castell tells his story in a fluid, inviting prose. It is much more a 'classic', adventure-style fantasy mixed with the grittier, darker fantasy of Joe Abercrombie and Mark Lawrence, than the chunky epic fantasy's I normally go for , but a fun read just the same. With its 'musketeers' feel I almost imagine this would be the type of fantasy novel that Dumas might write.

De Castell has a great wit, melding sarcasm and humour, a dashing sense of style, I would hazard a guess, as dangerous skill with the sword as he has with the pen.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Half A King - cover

I'm a little late with this one but can I just say - I am  loving this cover!

Not sure if this is for the US or the UK, or both, but regardless this is the one I want on my bookshelf.



Covers like this make me try and imagine what the cover for my book will look like... I have no idea. I hope it's a cool as this though.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Mark T. Barnes answers Ten Terrifying Questions!

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself - where were you born? Raised? Schooled? 

I was born, raised and schooled in Sydney, Australia. Nothing terribly exciting, or controversial. I'm the eldest of five children, raised in a loving and supportive environment, so there's not a lot of baggage associated with my upbringing. My parents saw that I was creative at an early age, and encouraged me to explore that part of myself--along with my studies, and sports.


2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

When I was twelve I wanted to be a pilot, because I loved the idea of flying. When I was 18 I really had no idea, being conflicted with the various choices of university, and work. I ended up drifting from thing to thing until I ended up in IT when I was 20. At 30 I think I had my head screwed on better, and was managing teams of people working in the human space of an IT outsourcer, as well as some of the creative elements of services and solution design. I loved the people element but did the job because it was lucrative. :)  Nothing particularly philosophical about that. I was living with my partner at the time, and she and I just wanted to have the money to do whatever we wanted to do. I was writing, or drawing, in various capacities throughout those years: I've always done something creative.


3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

That people should be treated for who they are and what they do, rather than judged on gender, religion, sexual orientation, skin colour, or any of the other ridiculous measures that have been put in place over the years. Treat people with kindness and respect, and help those less fortunate than yourself. Simple human values.


4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

Way more than three.  :) Most of my influences are from books or films, as they informed the kinds of stories I write. Dune, by Frank Herbert. Homer's Iliad and the Odyssey. Beowulf. Weaveworld and Imajica by Clive Barker. The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe. The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin. Most of Shakespeare's tragedies . . . I think anything that demonstrated a sense of grace, integrity, honour, kindness, and wanderlust in the characters.


5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel? 

Because I'm judgement impaired?  :)  No, I chose to write a novel because it was, for me, the best way of exploring the stories that I wanted to tell. There's a beauty in language, and the way it can transport us, that I find compelling.


6. Please tell us about your latest novel The Obsidian Heart…


The Obsidian Heart is the second in my Echoes of Empire series. It's a story of adventure, action, magic, and love, set in a sweeping world with rich history and cultures, and intense political machinations. Like The Garden of Stones (the first book), it's both character and story driven. Unlike a lot of fantasy, it has strong, motivated female characters who hold positions of authority and influence. I've never understood sexism, so chose to make women and men equal in all ways in my books.


7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

I'm writing to entertain. I hope that people can, while reading my work, forget their troubles and engage with a different world, interesting characters, and be curious enough and excited enough to want to keep turning the page. Forward, preferably.


8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

That's a long and varied list. The ones I admire most are those who've told brave stories, and dared to challenge what the genre looked like: people who wrote something different, and people who wrote something that challenged their readers. I think we stagnate if we remain still for too long, and speculative fiction should have us speculate on different worlds, cultural mores, histories, gender roles, etc. Amongst the people I admire are Frank Herbert for Dune, which is still one of my all time favourite books for its scope, vision, and depth. Gene Wolfe for his Book of the New Sun (and other work), where his use of language and world building is exceptional. M. John Harrison for Viriconium, for the same reasons as Gene Wolfe. Steven Erikson, for the depth of his world building and his bravery to drop readers in the deep end from the beginning: China Mieville for the same reasons. Joe Abercrombie for the way he writes such great characters, some you love and some you love to hate. George R.R. Martin, for his getting his work on the small screen, and helping publishers realise that readers do want something big and complex that they can get lost in. Neil Gaiman for his ability to move between genres, and keep his readers engaged as he does so. Clive Barker not only for his talent and originality, but for his openness about his life and how he lives it. There are more, but I would be writing this answer for a while.

To be honest, anybody who puts finger to keyboard, and places themselves in the public domain with their work, has my respect and admiration. It's a long, difficult and competitive road that authors are on. To get where they are is a triumph of determination and talent in and of itself. Self published authors are included given how much effort they go to, to develop and promote their own work. Being published is a great feeling but there's a lot of work to get there.


9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

To see some of my work on television within the next few years. Any television producers reading this, please feel free to get in touch with my agent.  :)


10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Be persistent, be patient, and grow a thick skin. There are a lot of writers published, with more waiting. Your work is going to be compared to a lot of different authors: it's the nature of things. Because one person doesn't like what you've written, doesn't make it bad. It means that the person in question prefers other work, so don't take it personally. The same goes for agents and publishers. They need to be passionate about a project before they'll put time and money behind it. Write often. Read widely. Get better at your craft. Learn from those who've paved the way before you. And write what you love!

Thank you for playing.

Thanks for asking, Mark! Any time. It was my pleasure.
____________________________

Read my reviews of The Garden of Stone and The Obsidian Heart.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Dreamwalker - a review

Dreamwalker
By C.S. Friedman

All her life Jessica Drake has dreamed of other worlds, some of them similar to her own, others disturbingly alien.

She never shares the details with anyone, save her younger brother Tommy, a compulsive gamer who incorporates some aspects of Jessica's dreams into his games. But now someone is asking about those dreams...and about her. A strange woman has been watching her house. A visitor to her school attempts to take possession of her dream-inspired artwork.

Why?

As she begins to search for answers it becomes clear that whoever is watching her does not want her to learn the truth. One night her house catches on fire, and when the smoke clears she discovers that her brother has been kidnapped. She must figure out what is going on, and quickly, if she and her family are to be safe.

Following clues left behind on Tommy's computer, determined to find her brother and bring him home safely, Jessica and two of her friends are about to embark on a journey that will test their spirits and their courage to the breaking point, as they must leave their own world behind and confront the source of Earth's darkest legends ? as well as the terrifying truth of their own secret heritage.
______________________________________________________

C.S. Friedman is one of my favourite authors. A vivid world-builder, she has the knack for reaching into the dark heart of humanity, pushing past the thin layer of the mundane and exposing the fantastic beneath. And making those things that raise the hairs on the back of your neck seem very real.

This is Friedman's first urban fantasy, she has written both epic fantasy and science fiction previously, and it is utterly compelling. It stands with one foot in our world and the other in one totally different. But that's one of the joys of speculative fiction right? It is also her first foray into that ever shifting plane that is 'Young Adult'.

But don't let that put you off, if indeed it does. Dreamwalker is still very much a Friedman book with all the intricate plotting and precise pacing, well-developed characters, and the fantastic prose. And naturally, as it's Friedman novel it's more mature, more serious, and a bit darker than many YA novels you are going to come across.

It is also amazing and going in my 'keepers' bookshelf alongside all her other work.