Cover art for Robin Hobb's ASSASSIN'S FATE


Del Rey just revealed the cover art for Robin Hobb's forthcoming Assassin's Fate. Can't wait for the conclusion of this series!


This week's New York Times Bestsellers (June 27th)

In hardcover:

Stephen King’s End of Watch remains at number 1.

In paperback:

Stephen King’s Finders Keepers returns at number 14.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can once again download Mark T. Barnes' The Garden of Stones for 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

When the Shrīanese Empire explodes into civil war, fighters of all kinds flock to the banners of their lords. Indris, a skilled swordsman and brilliant sorcerer, seeks to end the bloodshed once and for all. He knows this war is simply a ruse—a power play by a ruling Family desperate to take control of the Empire by any means necessary. Indris cares little for the politics except to see that justice is upheld. But even he can't see the terrible price his opponents are willing to pay to secure their legacy.

A true epic, the first book in the Echoes of Empire series creates a spellbinding new world. With its twisted politics, new races, compelling heroes and villains, and unique magic, The Garden of Stones is a lyrical fantasy on the grandest scale.

And you can also get your hands on the sequel, The Obsidian Heart, for the same price here, as well as the third volume, The Pillars of Sand, here.

Win a copy of Gail Z. Martin's THE SHADOWED PATH


I have two copies of Gail Z. Martin's The Shadowed Path up for grabs, compliments of the folks at Solaris. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

These are the untold tales of Jonmarc Vahanian, hero of Gail Z. Martin’s best-selling Chronicles of the Necromancer series.

Jonmarc Vahanian was just a blacksmith’s son in a small fishing village before raiders killed his family. Wounded and left for dead in the attack, Jonmarc tries to rebuild his life. But when a dangerous bargain with a shadowy stranger goes wrong, Jonmarc finds himself on the run, with nothing ahead but vengeance, and nothing behind him but blood.

Soldier. Fight slave. Smuggler. Warrior. Brigand lord. If you’ve met Jonmarc Vahanian in the Chronicles of the Necromancer and Fallen Kings Cycle books, you don’t really know him until you walk in his footsteps. This is the first segment of his journey.

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam)gryphonwood.net with the header "PATH." Remember to remove the "no spam" thingy.

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!



You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Peter F. Hamilton's Great North Road for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

When attending a Newcastle murder scene, Detective Sidney Hurst finds a dead North family clone. Yet none have been reported missing. And in 2122, twenty years ago, a North clone billionaire was horrifically murdered in the same manner on the tropical planet of St Libra. So, if the murderer is still at large, was Angela Tramelo wrongly convicted? She never wavered under interrogation, claiming she alone survived an alien attack.

Investigating this potential alien threat now becomes the Human Defence Agency’s top priority. St Libran bio-fuel is the lifeblood of Earth’s economy and must be secured. A vast expedition is mounted via the Newcastle gateway, and experts are dispatched to the planet – with Angela Tramelo, grudgingly released from prison. But the expedition is cut off deep within St Libra’s rainforests, and the murders begin. Angela insists it’s the alien, but her new colleagues aren’t sure. Did she see an alien, or does she have other reasons for being on St Libra?

Win a copy of Patrick Hemstreet's THE GOD WAVE


I'm giving away a copy of Patrick Hemstreet's debut, The God Wave, to one lucky winner! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

A team of neuroscientists uncover amazing new capabilities in the brain that may steer human evolution toward miraculous and deadly frontiers in this spectacular debut work of speculative science fiction—Limitless meets James Rollins—that combines spirituality and science in an inventive, mind-blowing fashion.

For decades, scientists have speculated about the untapped potential of the human brain. Now, neuroscientist Chuck Brenton has made an astonishing breakthrough. He has discovered the key—the crucial combination of practice and conditioning—to access the incredible power dormant in ninety percent of our brains. Applying his methods to test subjects, he has stimulated abilities that elevate brain function to seemingly “godlike” levels.

These extraordinary abilities can transform the world, replacing fear and suffering with tranquility and stability. But in an age of increasing militarization, corporate exploitation, and explosive technological discovery, a group of influential powerbrokers are determined to control these new superbeings for their own manipulative ends?and their motives may be far from peaceful.

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam)gryphonwood.net with the header "GOD." Remember to remove the "no spam" thingy.

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

The Wolf in the Attic


I've said it before and I'll say it again. Paul Kearney remains what could well be the most underrated and underappreciated fantasy author on the market today. Best known for his military fantasy and epic fantasy novels/series, The Wolf in the Attic represents a vastly different sort of tale from what he has accustomed us to. It's an enchanting and magical story, akin to the sort of bewitching books Neil Gaiman is known for. This one reminded me of The Ocean at the End of the Lane, yet it resounds with way more depth.

I'm aware that Kearney had doubts regarding this latest work of his, what with it being so unlike anything else he had written in the past. But here's to hoping that The Wolf in the Attic will win him new fans, readers who will then discover the original, compelling, and entertaining backlist which for some reason never garnered him the recognition he rightfully deserved.

Here's the blurb:

1920s Oxford: home to C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien... and Anna Francis, a young Greek refugee looking to escape the grim reality of her new life. The night they cross paths, none suspect the fantastic world at work around them.

Anna Francis lives in a tall old house with her father and her doll Penelope. She is a refugee, a piece of flotsam washed up in England by the tides of the Great War and the chaos that trailed in its wake. Once upon a time, she had a mother and a brother, and they all lived together in the most beautiful city in the world, by the shores of Homer's wine-dark sea.

But that is all gone now, and only to her doll does she ever speak of it, because her father cannot bear to hear. She sits in the shadows of the tall house and watches the rain on the windows, creating worlds for herself to fill out the loneliness. The house becomes her own little kingdom, an island full of dreams and half-forgotten memories. And then one winter day, she finds an interloper in the topmost, dustiest attic of the house. A boy named Luca with yellow eyes, who is as alone in the world as she is.

That day, she’ll lose everything in her life, and find the only real friend she may ever know.

The historical backdrop for this tale is Oxford, England. It's 1929 and Anna Francis and her father now live in Oxford after being forced out of Smyrna by the Turks and rescued by a British ship. The young girl has memories of her sunny and warm birthplace, but now everything is cold and dreary. Greek myths were part of her educations as she grew up, but her father has seemingly turned his back on their previous lives and traditions, and even changed their name so they can integrate into this new, foreign culture. The integration of refugees following the destruction of their homes is one of the main themes explored within this novel and I feel that Kearney did an excellent job weaving this throughout the book.

In many ways, The Wolf in the Attic is a coming of age story of a young girl who is a stranger in a strange land. Poor Anna lives a very sad and lonely life. With only her doll Pie for a friend, she is home-schooled and most of her existence revolves around the house she lives in. While her father holds meetings with other Greek expats and squanders whatever money they had left when they were forced out of their home, Anna explores the house as well as Oxford and its surroundings.

Making an eleven-year-old girl your first-person narrator could have been tricky, especially since this is no YA novel. And yet I found Anna to be a great POV protagonist. Although young and often childish, she is nevertheless thoughtful and insightful. Without her perspective, The Wolf in the Attic would never have been as magical and whimsical. Having her as the only POV character definitely gave the book its unique "flavor."

The only true weakness of this work would have to be the supporting cast. Understandably, with a first-person narrator the entire tale must be shouldered by Anna's POV. And yet, I felt that more depth could have been given to the secondary characters. Especially Luca, who has a great role to play before the conclusion of this story. I feel that fleshing out Queenie and Jaelle a little more could have gone a long way. The same goes for the Roadmen and the Romani and their age-old rivalry. Considering that the publisher found it important enough to include their presence in the blurb, one would have thought that both C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien would have a somewhat important role to play at some point in the story. But they serve very little purpose and could have been changed for any other nameless figures and it wouldn't make a difference.

Weighing in at only 288 pages, The Wolf in the Attic is a relatively short book. The pace is never an issue and all too soon you sadly reach the end. This is definitely the kind of novel you wish would have been longer. I got through this one in just a few sittings.

This one reads more like an historical novel than a fantasy novel at first. The supernatural elements are introduced slowly and are deftly woven into Anna's tale. This is a beautifully written and crafted book, probably Kearney's best one yet in terms of prose. But when Anna's life is turned upside down, all of sudden the mystical elements take center stage and you find yourself in an authentic fantasy story.

Paul Kearney did it again and The Wolf in the Attic is a captivating work featuring a charming and engaging young protagonist who is forced to make important decisions that will change her life.

Definitely one of the speculative fiction titles to read this year!

The final verdict: 8/10

For more information about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


Unfortunately, this deal is only available in the Great White North. But if you live in Canada, you can get your hands on the digital edition of Guy Gavriel Kay's Children of Earth and Sky for only 4.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

The bestselling author of the groundbreaking novels Under Heaven and River of Stars, Guy Gavriel Kay is back with a new novel, Children of Earth and Sky, set in a world inspired by the conflicts and dramas of Renaissance Europe. Against this tumultuous backdrop the lives of men and women unfold on the borderlands—where empires and faiths collide.

From the small coastal town of Senjan, notorious for its pirates, a young woman sets out to find vengeance for her lost family. That same spring, from the wealthy city-state of Seressa, famous for its canals and lagoon, come two very different people: a young artist traveling to the dangerous east to paint the grand khalif at his request—and possibly to do more—and a fiercely intelligent, angry woman, posing as a doctor’s wife, but sent by Seressa as a spy.

The trading ship that carries them is commanded by the accomplished younger son of a merchant family, ambivalent about the life he’s been born to live. And farther east a boy trains to become a soldier in the elite infantry of the khalif—to win glory in the war everyone knows is coming.

As these lives entwine, their fates—and those of many others—will hang in the balance, when the khalif sends out his massive army to take the great fortress that is the gateway to the western world…

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (June 20th)

In hardcover:

Stephen King’s End of Watch debuts at number 1.

Justin Cronin's The City of Mirrors is down ten spots, finishing the week at number 11. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Win a copy of Michael J. Sullivan's AGE OF MYTH


I'm giving away a copy of Michael J. Sullivan's Age of Myth to one lucky winner! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Michael J. Sullivan’s trailblazing career began with the breakout success of his Riyria series: full-bodied, spellbinding fantasy adventures whose imaginative scope and sympathetic characters won a devoted readership and comparisons to fantasy masters Brandon Sanderson, Scott Lynch, and J.R.R. Tolkien himself. Now Sullivan’s stunning hardcover debut, Age of Myth, inaugurates an original five-book series—and one of fantasy’s finest next-generation storytellers continues to break new ground.

Since time immemorial, humans have worshipped the gods they call Fhrey, truly a race apart: invincible in battle, masters of magic, and seemingly immortal. But when a god falls to a human blade, the balance of power between humans and those they thought were gods changes forever.

Now only a few stand between humankind and annihilation: Raithe, reluctant to embrace his destiny as the God Killer; Suri, a young seer burdened by signs of impending doom; and Persephone, who must overcome personal tragedy to lead her people. The Age of Myth is over. The time of rebellion has begun.

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam)gryphonwood.net with the header "AGE." Remember to remove the "no spam" thingy.

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Joshua Palmatier's Shattering the Ley for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Erenthrall—sprawling city of light and magic, whose streets are packed with traders from a dozen lands and whose buildings and towers are grown and shaped in the space of a day.

At the heart of the city is the Nexus, the hub of a magical ley line system that powers Erenthrall. This ley line also links the city and the Baronial plains to rest of the continent and the world beyond. The Prime Wielders control the Nexus with secrecy and lies, but it is the Baron who controls the Wielders. The Baron also controls the rest of the Baronies through a web of brutal intimidation enforced by his bloodthirsty guardsmen and unnatural assasins.

When the rebel Kormanley seek to destroy the ley system and the Baron’s chokehold, two people find themselves caught in the chaos that sweeps through Erenthrall and threatens the entire world: Kara Tremain, a young Wielder coming into her power, who discovers the forbidden truth behind the magic that powers the ley lines; and Alan Garrett, a recruit in the Baron’s guard, who learns that the city holds more mysteries and more danger than he could possibly have imagined . . . and who holds a secret within himself that could mean Erenthrall’s destruction -- or its salvation.

Extract from Rachel Dunne's IN THE SHADOW OF THE GODS


Here's an extract from Rachel Dunne's In the Shadow of the Gods for you to check out, compliments of the folks at HarperCollins. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

A breathtaking talent makes her debut with this first book in a dark epic fantasy trilogy, in which a mismatched band of mortals led by a violent, secretive man must stand against a pair of resentful gods to save their world.

Eons ago, a pair of gods known as the Twins grew powerful in the world of Fiatera, until the Divine Mother and Almighty Father exiled them, binding them deep in the earth. But the price of keeping the fire lands safe is steep. To prevent these young gods from rising again, all twins in the land must be killed at birth, a safeguard that has worked until now.

Trapped for centuries, the Twins are gathering their latent powers to break free and destroy the Parents for their tyranny—to set off a fight between two generations of gods for control of the world and the mortals who dwell in it.

When the gods make war, only one side can be victorious. Joros, a mysterious and cunning priest, has devised a dangerous plan to win. Over eight years, he gathers a team of disparate fighters—Scal, a lost and damaged swordsman from the North; Vatri, a scarred priestess who claims to see the future in her fires; Anddyr, a drug-addled mage wandering between sanity and madness; and Rora and Aro, a pair of twins who have secretly survived beyond the reach of the law.

These warriors must learn to stand together against the unfathomable power of vengeful gods, to stop them from tearing down the sun . . . and plunging their world into darkness.

Enjoy!
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Aro was crying again. Rora put her arms round him, trying to hush him before any of the biggers heard. Showing any weakness in the Canals was like asking for a shiv to the stom- ach. She hugged him close, but it only made Aro cry harder. “I miss Kala,” he whimpered. It was dark, but Rora didn’t need to see: she could hear the biggers rustling, grumbling. She clapped her hand over Aro’s mouth, making him quiet. She could feel his scared breath wheezing over the back of her hand, but she didn’t let him go until she heard Twist snoring. Twist was the mother for the Blackhands pack, and he hated most of the pups he watched over, but it seemed like he hated Rora and her brother extra just ’cause they were new to the pack and Aro cried too much. Rora didn’t want to give Twist any more reason to hate them.

Aro hiccuped and nuzzled into her shoulder, finally quiet, maybe even sleeping already. It was good, if he could get some sleep. Rora couldn’t, not with the water lapping, splashing up through the warped boards. She missed Kala, too, mostly for her house’s solid floor. If she’d had anything to give, she would’ve handed it over for a packed-dirt floor to sleep on, far away from the Canals.

When the sky started to get light, she shook Aro awake and they crept to the edge of the raft, trying not to rock it too much. Aro jumped first, falling on his hands and knees on the canal’s muddy bank. Rora landed next to him and hauled him up, sneaking off before any of the pack woke up and saw them. They stopped a ways away, where there weren’t any rafts nearby, and crouched down in the mud. “I don’t want to,” Aro complained, but Rora ignored him, shoving her hands into the mud and running handfuls of the goop through Aro’s hair. Kala had cut it short, so the mud dried fast, leaving his hair sticking up in near-black spikes. It made him smell awful, but it was the only way to stay safe. She smudged more mud on his face, then pulled him to the canal, both of them peering into the murky water.

It was still like seeing two of herself. Even with her hair long, and Aro’s short and different-colored, their faces were the same. The mud wasn’t that great of a disguise. It just made him look like a dirtier version of Rora. But it was the best she could do. She dunked her head into the water, scrubbing the dirt from her own face and hair with fingertips that weren’t much cleaner. Not that the water was any cleaner’n she was either, but this was as clean as she was going to get with Kala gone.

They walked along the edges of the canal, Aro holding to the back of Rora’s shirt. With sunlight poking down, there were more Scum out and about now, and they all avoided each other like snarling cats. Rora stayed pressed up hard against the wall, staring at anyone who went by, her eyes daring them to attack two pups, while inside she prayed they wouldn’t. You had to be tough, in the Canals, or at least look tough. It was the only way.

“Where’re we going today, Rora?” Aro asked, rubbing the back of one filthy hand at his running nose.

“Sparrow,” she corrected automatically; he always forgot to use the new name. “To the market. It’s fiveday, so there should be plenty of people round. You wanna beg today?”

“You always get to do the stealing, it’s not fair!” “You’re no good at it.”

“Only ’cause you don’t let me try.” “You’re begging,” Rora said firmly.

The Canals had been built a long time ago to bring in water from Lake Baridi, but they hadn’t been built right. Over the years, the water’d worn down the bottom of the canal, eating away the dirt where the canal makers hadn’t put down stone, and even sneaking under stone in time, the water digging down deeper than it should’ve. The water was down too low for any of the topsiders to know what to do with it, so they’d just decided to ignore all the waterways winding through Mercetta. They’d left the canals to the Scum, who scraped out a living on and around the water. The Scum made paths alongside the new canal bottom with wood planks and pried-up brick and anything sturdier than mud; they’d made the place as livable as they could.

The canal walls were mostly mud now, with brick starting where the canal bottom had originally been, higher up than Rora was tall. She boosted Aro up, and the boy hauled himself onto the ridge of bricks that the water’d left untouched. She had to jump to do it, but she got her fingers hooked over the edge and planted her feet against the soft mud wall, shimmying up to join her brother.

There were fewer Scum up on the high paths, since they were closer to topside, but every once in a while they had to sidestep around one of the other Scum, Rora growling curses and shoving Aro ahead of her. They finally got to the West Bridge and found the ladder—little more than holes where bricks had been pried out of the wall. Rora went up first, tell- ing Aro to hang back in case there was any trouble.

It was a long way up. The people of Mercetta didn’t like having to look at their trash, and the Scum were definitely trash. “Out of sight,” Kala used to say, “out of mind.” A lot of the bricks were crumbling, too, making Rora’s bare feet slip, almost making her scared she was about to fall a few times. As she got closer to the top of the ladder, in the shadow of the West Bridge, she started to hear talking, whispers. There were people, at least a handful of ’em judging by the voices, waiting for her at the top.

“—waiting a hell of a long time . . .”

Shh!”

“Gotta be close.”

“Mace’ll shit if we don’ bring ’im more copper.” “We’ll get more, I’m tellin’ ya.”

Shhhh!”

There were biggers in the packs, too old to be pups but they hadn’t been given any jobs yet, so they had nothing to do but bully pups. They were big, sure, but usually pretty slow and stupid—otherwise they would’ve got a job to do already. All you had to do was be a little faster and a little smarter, and biggers weren’t any kind of problem. Rora tipped her head back and leaned as far away from the wall as she dared, fingers and toes curled tight around the bricks. “Your ambush needs practice,” she called up.

There was rustling and hushing; one of them murmured, “Feck’s an ambush?” and then a head poked out over the top of the wall. A bigger, sure enough, and he was scraggly-looking but with a thick enough face that he probably ate pretty well. Dirty, but no dirtier’n anyone living in the Canals; he might even have seen a real bath in the last year. Still Scum, though, and you could never trust a bigger.

“Hullo, girl,” he called down, trying to sound friendly. “Need some help getting up?”

“That’s so nice of you,” she said, smiling sweetly. “But I think I’m okay.”

The bigger grinned down at her. He was probably trying to look nice, but it only made him look like an animal about to attack. “No, no, let me help.” He stretched an arm down toward her, fingers wriggling. She was just out of reach. “Gimme your hand, I’ll pull you up.”

Rora let go of the bricks with one hand and reached up toward him. When their hands were just about a finger apart, she curled her hand into a fist and slammed it into his palm, crushing it against the wall. Not enough force behind it to do any real damage, but enough to make him yelp and pull his hand back up real quick. He disappeared from view and she heard swearing from above, the others trying to figure out what’d happened. She took their moment of distraction to scramble up the last stretch of the ladder and jump onto solid ground. There were seven of ’em, all biggers, all gathered round the one who’d been talking to her. He saw her around the shoulder of one of his friends, and there was murder in his eyes.

Rora took off running. All she had to do was lead ’em off long enough for Aro to get up topside, then she’d lose the biggers and meet him at their normal spot. She’d done it more times than she could count, and it would’ve worked again if she hadn’t got her foot tangled in something. She went sprawling, scraping her hands, forehead banging against stone, and they caught up to her before she could scramble away.

One of them stomped on her arm, pinning her in place, and another kicked her in the stomach. Groaning in pain, she curled herself into a ball as the blows rained down, one arm still stretched out with the bigger grinding his foot down. She could feel the bones in her arm shifting, twisting, please, gods, don’t break, don’t break . . . A foot, a boot—what Scum could afford boots?—slammed into the side of her head, rattling her teeth, making spots of light dance behind her squeezed-shut eyes. She tasted blood, cried out as a sharp snap echoed through her skull, hot fire shooting down her arm as the bigger twisted his foot, splinters of bone dancing under her skin.

“Stop it!”

The beating faltered, stopped. One of the biggers laughed. “Run back t’ your momma’s tit, brat.”

“Leave her alone!”

Rora groaned. There was no mistaking that voice, even high-pitched and full of fear. “Don’t,” she tried to tell him, but the word came out as a cough, blood splattering from her lips, ribs aching with every movement.

There was more laughter, and the boot tramped down on her arm again. She screamed, and then it was like the worldwas screaming around her, more voices and terror and pain, and a sound like the world ripping in half. Something heavy fell across her, crushing her against the ground. She whim- pered, felt tears sneaking through her eyelids. There was some- thing else running down her cheek, too, running warm and fast and filling her mouth with the taste of iron.

She could hear sobbing, close by. Her? No, not Rora, but her voice doubled, projected back at her. “I’m so sorry, so sorry, so sorry . . .” The weight lifted off her, and she drew in a shak- ing breath, not caring that all her ribs bent and twisted and stabbed. She forced her eyes open, though they tried to stick together, red bubbles dancing at the edges of her vision. Aro’s face loomed before her, face streaked with mud and blood, two clean trails carved down his cheeks as he sobbed. She tried to reach out, to comfort him, tell him everything would be okay, but nothing worked. All she could do was make a sharp wheezing noise, and that only made him cry all the harder. “Rora, Rora, I’m so sorry.” He reached for her, and the world tilted and dropped away in a burning crash.

***

It was night, and she was in Kala,s house again. Too quiet; why wasn’t Kala in the kitchen, singing as she made food? A whimper, a sob, and she followed it to Aro, sitting in a puddle of blood, crying, “She knew, she knew, she knew.” And Kala lay on the floor, twisted and broken, but it wasn’t quite Kala; she had the face of the mother Rora’d never known, and she frowned. “Take better care of your brother.”

“I don’t know how!” Rora tried to tell her, but Kala turned her back and the floor vanished and Rora fell through the sky, Aro falling with her, crying, crying.

Nnedi Okorafor contest winner!

This winner will get her hands on my extra copy of Nnedi Okorafor The Book of Phoenix! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

The winner is:

- Abigail Thomas, from Tampa Bay, Florida, USA

Many thanks to all the participants!

Wolves of the Calla (500th review)


Before I begin this one, I just wanted to point out that this is my 500th novel reviewed on Pat's Fantasy Hotlist! I still can't believe that I've reviewed such an enormous amount of books for you guys since January of 2005! Unreal! Now on to the review. . .

Since Wizard and Glass turned out to be my favorite installment in Stephen King's The Dark Tower saga thus far, I couldn't wait to to find out what happened next! And since I was going on another hiking trip in the Canadian Rockies, Wolves of the Calla immediately ended up in my suitcase!

I never check reviews of a book I'm planning to read for fear of spoilers, but it appears that this fifth volume didn't meet with widespread approval from fans. Which leaves me a little perplexed, for I loved every minute of it. As things stand, Wolves of the Calla is second only to Wizard and Glass in terms of quality, at least as far as I am concerned. I just couldn't put it down. Weighing in at 931 pages, I figured that it would last me for more nearly half of my hiking trip. But the story grabbed hold of me and wouldn't let go. So much so that I finished it this afternoon when I returned from my hike up Larch Valley/Sentinel Pass, just a few short days after I started it.

In my review of Wizard and Glass a few months back, I claimed that I was planning on finishing King's magnum opus before the end of 2016. And given how good Wolves of the Calla turned out to be, with an ending that simply begs you to read Song of Susannah ASAP, it will be hard for me to read anything else. . .

Here's the blurb:

Roland Deschain and his ka-tet are bearing southeast through the forests of Mid-World on their quest for the Dark Tower. Their path takes them to the outskirts of Calla Bryn Sturgis. But beyond the tranquil farm town, the ground rises to the hulking darkness of Thunderclap, the source of a terrible affliction that is stealing the town's soul. The wolves of Thunderclap and their unspeakable depredation are coming. To resist them is to risk all, but these are odds the gunslingers are used to. Their guns, however, will not be enough...

In the first couple of novels, worldbuilding did not play much of a role. Stephen King played his cards way too close to his chest, and readers learned next to nothing about the series' universe. To a certain extent, it felt as though the author was making everything up as he went along and that there were no definite plans as to where the story was going. Everything changed in The Waste Lands and then again in Wizard and Glass, which was good. From then on, it became abundantly clear that this tale resounded with depth.

My favorite aspect of Wolves of the Calla was the fact that King finally put this story back on track and it is now evident that the author knows exactly what he's doing. Though there are no definite hints as to what the endgame will be like, no book moves the tale forward the way this fifth volume does. Revelations about the Dark Tower, the Crimson King, the rose, the various whens and wheres, etc, add several more layers to an already very complex plot.

From the very beginning, as a no-nonsense Gunslinger Roland of Gilead immediately became a fan favorite. But it wasn't until The Waste Lands that Eddie, Susannah, and Jake truly came into their own and took their rightful place in the narrative. It became obvious at that point that all three would play important roles in what was to come. However, Roland's back story in Wizard and Glass relegated them to the background for most of that novel. And now in this fifth installment, the four of them have become a true ka-tet. Meaning that each of them is a POV protagonist and the narrative is pretty much evenly split between their four perspectives. Another thing that I really enjoyed was the fact that all four are now considered Gunslingers and they can unquestionably kick some serious ass. We often forget that Jake is still a child and his relationship with Benny Slightman was at times very touching.

I loved how time is running out for Roland, Eddie, Susannah, and Jake, and how they must help the people of Calla Bryn Sturgis stand up against the Wolves of Thunderclap, yet at the same time the red rose in the vacant lot of New York City in 1977 must also be protected at all costs. Wolves of the Calla is a mix of fantasy, horror, science fiction, and western, and it works incredibly well. The appearance of Father Callahan, a character last seen in King's 'Salem's Lot opens up so many new possibilities and demonstrates once more just how the Dark Tower could be linked to a panoply of other Stephen King novels. The Wolves of Thunderclap's storyline and its resolution offers us quite a few glimpses as to what lies ahead for the ka-tet, and so does the NYC plotline. Not to mention the ending, which opens up yet more possibilities!

The pop culture references and how they were woven into the narrative were quite intriguing. Star Wars, Marvel Comics, Harry Potter, just to name those three, raise a great many questions and it will be interesting to discover how they came to shape the Wolves of Thunderclap in such a fashion.

Wizard and Glass was indeed the best volume in the series and set the bar quite high for what would follow. If anything, Wolves of the Calla sets the bar even higher, even if it's not quite as amazing as its predecessor. Can't wait to find out what happens next!

The final verdict: 8.75/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Django Wexler's The Thousand Names for only 1.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Enter an epic fantasy world that echoes with the thunder of muskets and the clang of steel — but where the real battle is against a subtle and sinister magic…

Captain Marcus d’Ivoire, commander of one of the Vordanai empire’s colonial garrisons, was resigned to serving out his days in a sleepy, remote outpost. But that was before a rebellion upended his life. And once the powder-smoke settled, he was left in charge of a demoralized force clinging tenuously to a small fortress at the edge of the desert.

To flee from her past, Winter Ihernglass masqueraded as a man and enlisted as a ranker in the Vordanai Colonials, hoping only to avoid notice. But when chance sees her promoted to command, she must win the hearts of her men, and lead them into battle against impossible odds.

But the fates of both of these soldiers, and all the men they lead, depend on the newly arrived Colonel Janus bet Vhalnich, who has been sent by the ailing king to restore order. His military genius seems to know no bounds, and under his command, Marcus and Winter can feel the tide turning.

But their allegiance will be tested as they begin to suspect that the enigmatic Janus’s ambitions extend beyond the battlefield and into the realm of the supernatural — a realm with the power to ignite a meteoric rise, reshape the known world, and change the lives of everyone in its path.

Extract from Joshua Palmatier's THREADING THE NEEDLE


Here's an extract from Joshua Palmatier's Threading the Needle, courtesy of the folks at Daw Books. For more info about this title: Canada, USA.

Here's the blurb:

The Nexus—the hub created by the Prime Wielders to harness the magical power of the ley lines for the city of Erenthrall, the Baronial Plains, and the world beyond—has Shattered, the resultant pulse cascading through the system and leaving Erenthrall decimated, partially encased in a massive distortion.

  The world has fared no better: auroral storms plague the land, transforming people into creatures beyond nightmare; silver-white lights hover over all of the major cities, the harbinger of distortions that could quicken at any moment; and quakes brought on by the unstable ley network threaten to tear the earth apart. The survivors of this apocalypse have banded together in desperate groups, both in the remains of Erenthall and in small enclaves beyond the city, scrounging for food and resources in an ever more dangerous world.

  Having survived the initial Shattering, Wielder Kara Tremain and ex-Dog Allan Garrett have led their small group of refugees to the Hollow, a safe haven in the hills on the edge of the plains. But the ley system is not healing itself. Their only option is to repair the distortion that engulfs Erenthrall and to fix the damaged ley lines themselves. To do that, they’ll have to enter a city controlled by vicious bands of humans and non-humans alike, intent on keeping what little they’ve managed to scavenge together.

  But as soon as they enter the streets of Erenthrall, they find themselves caught up in the maelstrom of violence, deception, and betrayal that the city has descended into—including the emergence of a mysterious and powerful cult calling themselves the White Cloaks, whose leader is known as Father…

He is the same man who once led the terrorist group called the Kormanley and brought about the Shattering that destroyed the world!

Enjoy!

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Kara Tremain knelt on the stones at the edge of the creek, reached into the chill water with the shirt she held, and scrubbed it vigorously. Banks of stone and sand rose up on either side of the creek, and a large pool spread out before her where the water ran slower and deeper. A few of the youngest children of the Hollow were splashing in the pool, their mothers or fathers watching from the shore while working on their own laundry.

Kara pulled the shirt out of the current, wrung it, then tossed it into the basket on her left while reaching for another. This one was Cory’s, smelling of his sweat. She breathed in his scent before soaking it, pausing to sprinkle some of the dried soap into its center before scrubbing it again.

The first time she’d done this, her shoulders had ached for a week. Now her arms were tanned and muscled. Someone else had always handled her laundry in Erenthrall, before the Shattering: her mother when she was younger, but after her parents had died at the hands of the Kormanley, one of the servants of the Wielder’s college had seen to it. Same for all of the nodes she’d worked at after that. She hadn’t even noticed when they came to empty the hampers or return the cleaned clothes; the servants had been nearly invisible.

Of course, her mother and the other servants would have had the help of the ley in Erenthrall.

Instinctively, she reached for it. But unlike in Erenthrall, here in the Hollow the ley wasn’t waiting, ready to be used at a mere thought. There was no Nexus, nor any nodes to augment the ley’s power, but the ley was there. She’d managed—with the other Wielders in their group—to stabilize it into its own network, against the wishes of some of those in the Hollow. It had run strong enough to provide the refugees from the Shattering enough heating stones for their tents during the harshest winter months. Kara doubted many of them would have survived, especially during the unnaturally bitter cold snap they’d endured for nearly two weeks at the end of the year. Even then, they’d lost two, and another dozen had suffered frostbite.

Shaking herself, she pulled herself up out of the ley. One of the children splashed her and she snapped the shirt at the girl in mock anger. The girl shrieked and surged away through the water. Smiling, Kara dropped the shirt into the wet basket and reached for another, only to discover she was finished.

The other members of the Hollow called out to her as she tucked the basket onto her hip and hiked up the steep incline that led to the main group of buildings, wiping the sweat from her brow as she ducked beneath the limbs of the surrounding trees. Emerging at the top into the sunlight, she cut to the left, between two cottages with women and children working in the small herb gardens. A couple of dogs barked at her, trotting alongside before breaking away. But the small village was mostly empty, the regular tenants—along with those who’d sought refuge here after the Shattering—already out in the fields, sowing the rest of the spring crops.

Kara didn’t know why they were bothering. She intended to repair the distortion that currently engulfed Erenthrall and then return, to reestablish some semblance of the city where she’d grown up. The only reason she’d left was because the city had become too dangerous. Violent groups of survivors had begun killing indiscriminately, while packs of feral Wolves roamed the streets. The quakes, the unpredictable eruptions of ley, and the random auroral light storms only added to the danger.

It had been safer to retreat to the Hollow.

When their wagons had halted on the narrow dirt path that was the Hollow’s only road, they’d found the two elders—Paul and Sophia—waiting for them. Sophia, over half a century old, with the wispy white hair, wrinkles, and age spots to prove it, had stepped up to Allan immediately and welcomed him with a hug and kiss on the cheek, reaching to pull his daughter Morrell into the embrace. Morrell had burst into tears and clung to her. Sophia had stroked her hair, then turned her sharp, intelligent eyes on the rest.

“And who do we have here, Allan? Guests?”

“I’m afraid not. They’re all refugees from Erenthrall.”

Sophia shot him a hard look. “Erenthrall?”

Allan’s shoulders slumped. “It’s gone. Destroyed.”

“Serves them all right,” Paul snapped. “The use of the ley brought them to this. We shouldn’t let them into the Hollow. They should deal with the consequences on their own.”

“Hush, Paul.” Sophia’s voice was soft, but it had an iron core, and Kara realized they already knew about Erenthrall. They would have felt the Shattering, or heard it, even here in the hills a few weeks of hard travel to the northwest.

Paul quieted, but kept his arms crossed over his chest.

“We don’t intend to stay,” Kara had said.

The elderly woman took in Kara’s tattered and road-stained purple Wielder’s jacket, then met her gaze. “I suppose we can make room for a few more.”

The surge of relief from the wagon train behind had been palpable. Kara had dropped her head, tears burning in her eyes. But then Cory had wrapped his arm around her waist and she’d leaned into him, into his strength. She’d heard sobbing as Sophia, Paul, and a slew of other villagers who’d been watching from a distance came forward and led them toward a wide meadow to the west, within walking distance of the village.

Kara now passed between cottages whose residents she’d come to know by name and entered the greenbelt that separated the Hollow from that meadow. A moment later she stepped out of the trees.

Tents were pitched across the entire length of the sward. Toward the back, a group of Kara’s fellow refugees were building a set of cottages, smaller than those in the Hollow proper, but far more permanent than the tents. Two had already been completed, with a third close, and two others mere skeletons of braces and supports. Nothing like any of the buildings they were used to in Erenthrall, but still more solid than Kara liked.

She shrugged her unease aside and headed toward the tent she and Cory had claimed, pushing the basket with the wet clothes through the flap, then crawling in afterward. Setting the basket to one side, she touched the wide, rounded heating stone and reached for the ley. The stone began to warm beneath her fingers. Humming to herself, she began pinning some of the clothes up on lines running across the tent over the stone.

She had just hung the last of the shirts up when she caught movement out of the corner of her eye. Shading her gaze with one hand, she squinted.

Her heart skipped when she recognized Cory. “Why are you not helping in the fields, Cory?” He was moving fast, not quite running. Max, the little mutt who had attached himself to Kara after she’d saved him from a distortion, raced along at Cory’s heels.

They were headed straight toward her.

She reached for the ley, but it told her nothing, and Cory wouldn’t be looking for her if there’d been an accident, he’d be looking for Logan or Morrell.

Which left only one other option.

She tossed the unused clothespins into the basket and tucked it inside the tent. Then she grabbed her purple Wielder’s jacket and shrugged into it, snatching up a water skin.

Cory saw her waiting and waved. Max barked and tore away from him. She knelt as the little dog leaped up into her arms and attempted to lick her face. She fended him off with one hand, his tail a blur.

“It’s the group sent to Erenthrall, isn’t it?” she asked when Cory was near enough to hear. “Allan, Bryce, and the others are back.”

“The sentries report they’ll be here shortly. Sophia thought you should be there to meet them when they reach the Hollow.”

Kara passed him the skin. “Did you run from the fields?”

Cory drank deeply, then wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “Of course.”

Shaking her head, Kara snagged his arm. “You’d better come with me. I’m certain they sent for Paul, Hernande, and Sovaan already.”

They wove back through the tents toward the Hollow, emerging onto the dirt road just outside of the village. Sophia was waiting, Sovaan and Hernande to one side. The elderly woman reached up to tuck a few strands of her hair back behind one ear as Kara and Cory approached.

“Good to see you,” she said. “I thought you’d be in the fields, but I’m glad Cory found you.”

“Laundry day today.”

“The washing never ends.”

They halted beside Hernande, Cory’s mentor, who nodded in greeting. Sovaan, another mentor from the University, merely frowned. Kara had never found out why Sovaan disliked Hernande. They’d been at odds long before the Shattering, and Hernande had merely waved Kara’s question aside when she’d asked, saying it was an old grudge, petty and stupid.

“How goes the work on the new cabins?” Sophia asked.

“Two finished, another close behind. Two more going up now. It will take most of the rest of spring and summer to get them all done.”

“As long as they’re up before winter,” Sovaan interjected. “I nearly froze to death in those tents.”

Kara thought about the two people they had found frozen, but she kept quiet.

Max suddenly began barking, startling her, before he streaked away from the group, down the rutted road, and into the trees. “Max!” Kara swore when the dog ignored her. He vanished, although Kara could still hear him barking. The angry protectiveness in the sound, undercut with a growl, suddenly changed to excitement, and everyone in the group relaxed.

A moment later, they could all hear the creak of a wagon and the shouts and curses of those who’d left for Erenthrall to scavenge for supplies. A figure emerged from the trees, running toward them, his face lined with urgency.

“That’s Jasom,” Sovaan said.

As soon as Jasom saw them, he shouted, “Find Logan! We have wounded!”

Sophia snapped around, but Cory was already rushing to the east. “He’s in the fields!” the elderly woman called out after him.

The rest of them ran down the road toward Jasom as the wagon appeared, the Dog Bryce holding the reins, grim-faced and hard, two others in the back of the wagon, holding on tight. As soon as Bryce saw them, he pulled back on the reins, shouting for the horses to halt, then leaped from the wagon before it had completely stopped.

“Who is it?” There had been at least fifteen members in the group; Kara could see only three others besides Jasom. “Who’s been hurt?”

“Claye. A few others were injured, but not seriously. Terrim is dead.”

Bryce led them around the back of the open wagon. Two men were hovering over Claye’s body, their hands and clothes covered in blood as they pressed down against a wound on Claye’s side to stanch the blood flow. An arrow jutted from his gut, just beneath his rib cage.

Sophia swore as the thick scent of blood struck them all, then heaved herself up into the wagon. “Hold him. Don’t let up the pressure.”

“What happened?” Sovaan asked.

Bryce wiped a hand down his scarred face. “We were attacked on the outskirts of the plains, just before reaching the hills.”

“By who?”

Bryce shrugged. “They rode out of the northeast on horses, hit us hard, tried to take the wagon. Terrim was dead before we knew what was happening. He was driving the wagon. The next thing I knew, I was fighting off two of them while a third was whipping the horses, trying to draw the wagon away. Claye and Allan charged from the side and managed to climb into the back, while the rest of us fended off the others. As soon as they saw their man killed by Claye and Allan bringing the wagon to a halt, they broke off the attack and fled, firing arrows as they left. That’s when Claye was hit. He was an easy target, standing on top of the wagon.”

They all watched as Sophia gently probed the flesh around the arrow. Claye moaned and twisted beneath the touch, and Sophia’s jaw muscles clenched. She sat back.

“There’s nothing I can do. We need Logan.”

“Where is he?” Bryce demanded.

“Cory ran to fetch him from the fields. But we can move Claye to Logan’s place, get him set up on the table.” Sophia clambered down from the wagon. “Hernande, get fresh water from the creek. Sovaan, get the fire started. And Kara—”

“Fresh linens.”

Sophia nodded. “Go. The rest of you, bring the wagon as close to Logan’s as possible and then help me carry him inside.”

Sophia continued giving orders, but Kara ran toward Logan’s cottage behind Sovaan. They burst through the outer door into the inner room, the scent of crushed herbs and medicine overpowering. Sovaan moved around the table in the center of the room to the hearth, muttering under his breath. Kara cut left and swung open the main doors of the massive cabinet against one wall. Linen was stacked to one side, and she pulled out the first few sets of folded cloth, snapping them open and beginning to tear them into strips. She felt a tug on the Tapestry from Sovaan, and firelight spilled from the hearth.

She had a respectable pile of bandages when the door cracked open and Sophia rushed into the room, holding the door while Bryce and the other two men carried Claye’s limp figure inside and set him on the table. The Dog groaned, but Kara could tell he was nearly unconscious. Sophia shooed Bryce aside and ordered the others to continue putting pressure on the wound. Kara immediately handed over the torn cloth, then continued to rip the material into additional bandages. With the amount of blood she could see, Logan was going to need them. Both Sovaan and Bryce had retreated, backs up against one wall, uncertain what they could do to help.

“Where are the others?” Kara asked.

Bryce’s eyes were focused on Claye. “What others?”

“Allan, Glenn, the rest of those that went with you?”

Bryce stared at her a moment, as if he still hadn’t heard, then blinked and shook himself. “We handed over some of the supplies for them to carry, to make room in the wagon for Claye, then we sprinted out ahead of them. They should be coming into the Hollow shortly.”

“Did the attackers follow you?”

“I left that to Allan and the other Dogs. Ask him.”

He turned toward the door.

“Where are you going?” Kara asked. The Dog stopped at the entrance, half turned. “Someone needs to tell Terrim’s wife that he’s dead.”

Then he was gone, replaced by the bright sunlight of midday.

Kara stood stock still, a hot ache in the center of her chest. She’d forgotten about Terrim in the rush to help Claye.

Hernande appeared in the door. He heaved two buckets of water up onto a smaller table set off to the side of the door, some of it sloshing onto the floor. He panted, his dark complexion tinged a deeper shade of red.

“I’ll be fine,” he said. “I should have brought the buckets one at a time.”

Kara didn’t have a chance to answer as Logan entered. He took in everything with a quick glance.

“Everyone out,” he ordered, his voice deep and booming. He shifted to the table, two others coming in behind him. One of them was Morrell, Allan’s daughter. “Even you, Sophia. I’ll handle it from here. You’d only hover and be in the way.”

Sophia gave Logan a hard stare, which he ignored, already intent on his patient. Sniffing, she pulled back and let Logan and Morrell take her place. “We’ll be waiting in the meeting hall.” She ushered the others out before her, snagging one of Kara’s unused cloths to wipe her hands clean. Morrell took Kara’s place with a worried frown.

Kara gripped her hand and squeezed. “Bryce said your father was fine.”

Morrell gave her a relieved smile, then began tearing more bandages.

Kara stepped outside, exhaling harshly as tension sloughed from her shoulders. Sovaan, Hernande, and Sophia were standing with Cory, waiting for her. A few other members of the Hollow had gathered to see what the commotion was about.

“Will he be all right?” Hernande asked quietly, one hand stroking his scraggly beard as he contemplated the small cottage. A ragged bellow came from the open doorway, and Kara flinched.

“It’s hard to say. The arrow hadn’t penetrated that deeply. Thankfully, it was close to his side. I know there was a lot of blood, but he hadn’t yet passed out, which is a good sign. It will depend on whether Logan can get the arrow removed and the bleeding stopped.”

“Where did Bryce go?”

“To tell Sara that her husband is dead.”

“And the others?”

“Left behind to travel on foot.”

Hernande nodded. “Then there’s nothing we can do but wait.”

“Agreed.” Sophia paused long enough to eye the Hollowers watching, then announced, “The expedition to Erenthrall was attacked on their way back, and Claye was wounded. Logan’s seeing to him now. If you’d like to make yourselves useful, I’m certain Jasom could use some help unloading the new supplies from the wagon.” She lifted one eyebrow meaningfully. Those who’d gathered started, with some guilt, then began to disband.

Sophia shook her head, mumbling, “Gawkers and gossips, all of them,” under her breath, before heading to the long stone building that served as the village’s meeting hall. Kara and the others followed. “I don’t like the news that there’s a group operating so near the foothills, especially one proficient with the bow and arrow.”

“It does mark a change in tactics,” Hernande agreed.

“And a shift away from the city.”

“What do you mean?” Sovaan asked as they entered the meeting hall. Sunlight poured in through the windows in shafts, revealing rows of seats scattered in the center of the room, tables shoved up against the walls, and a raised platform at the far end. A few of the decorations left over from the harvest festival months before remained—sheaves of grain tied with ribbons, gourds, cornstalks, a few dried flowers. The wooden floorboards creaked underfoot as they moved down the center of the room toward the platform.

Sophia began pulling wooden chairs into a rough circle. “After the Shattering, most of the people who’d lived within Erenthrall returned to the city, even with all of its dangers. Or they fled to some of the outlying towns, those connected to the ley lines near the city.

“Nearly all of you came from the University or were Wielders before. You were taken from your homes, from your families and familiar surroundings, and thrust into studies at the college or the University, exposed to new things, new ideas. Most of those in Erenthrall would have grown up and lived within only a few districts. Being forced to abandon everything would be terrifying.”

“Yes, yes.” Sovaan waved a hand impatiently. “So they returned to Erenthrall. Or as close as they could get. What’s your point?”

Sophia’s mouth pinched in annoyance. “My point is, now they’re leaving again. Why?”

“There isn’t enough food.”

All of them turned toward the still-opened doors, where Bryce stood in silhouette before moving deeper into the room. His entire stance radiated tension, danger. He reminded her of the Dogs combing the streets before the Shattering, following the Wielders, following her.

“The entire city has changed. It’s dividing up into sectors, each controlled by different groups—the Temerite enclave to the northeast, the Gorrani to the southwest, others. The Wolves have expanded into new territory. We heard them toward the end of our excursion. Allan was hunted and only escaped by going into the distortion and hiding out.”

“Is he alright?” Kara asked.

“A few cuts and bruises, nothing serious.”

“And how did the expedition go?” Sophia asked.

“It’s getting harder and harder to find anything of worth, especially food. There isn’t much that hasn’t spoiled in the parts of the city left unclaimed.”

“Which is why people are leaving,” Hernande said. “If they aren’t part of one of the main groups, then they’re running short on supplies. They’re being forced out, like we were.”

“And the attack on our wagon near the foothills means it isn’t only the city that’s dangerous. It’s spread to the plains.” Bryce sank into a chair and leaned forward. “They’re beginning to form larger, more organized groups in the towns surrounding the city. Our safe little haven here in the Hollow isn’t so safe anymore. We need to come up with some defenses. We need to protect ourselves.”

“We have sentries—” Sophia began.

“Four!” Bryce interrupted in frustration. “Watching the most obvious paths into the valley! That isn’t going to cut it. We need to come up with something better—scouts, patrols, expand the ranks of those who can fight beyond the few Dogs in my group. We need to protect ourselves before one of these bands find us and attacks us here on our own turf!”

No one moved, facing each other across the rough circle of chairs.

Then Sophia shifted uneasily. “The Hollowers aren’t going to like that. We settled here to escape violence and the misuse of power.”

“Would you rather let the thieves and brigands overrun us all?”

“We’re deep enough in the foothills that I don’t think we’ll have to worry about it immediately,” Hernande said as Sophia stiffened. “But it is something we’ll have to consider as people become more desperate. Bryce is right: this valley is not easily defended.”

Sophia’s body didn’t loosen, but she said nothing. It was clear to Kara there would be resistance from the original Hollowers.

“What about the distortion?” Kara asked.

“What about it?”

Kara shot Bryce a black look. “Has Erenthrall’s distortion changed at all? Does it show any signs of weakening? We won’t be able to return and rebuild Erenthrall if the distortion collapses and destroys everything inside before we find a way to heal it.”

“How in hells should I know? I’m not a damned Wielder.”

Shouts rang out from outside the meeting hall.

“Sounds like the rest of the expedition has returned,” Bryce muttered.

Kara almost pursued her questions about the distortion, but dropped the topic with a shake of her head. She rose and moved to the door, along with Hernande and Cory. Outside, the rest of those in the Erenthrall expedition were straggling in, some of them carrying the supplies Bryce had thrown from the wagon to make room for Claye, others helping a few wounded. Those in the Hollow rushed forward, taking the supplies and setting them aside or offering up water skins. A few of the expedition collapsed to the rutted road, their exhaustion evident in the lines of their faces.

The last stumbled in, with Allan and two other Dogs at their back. Kara sagged in relief. “I’ll go get Allan.”

Hernande caught her arm. “No need. He’s headed this way.”

The ex-Dog had seen them standing in the doorway and, after saying something to the other two Dogs, he moved toward the meeting hall, accepting a skin from one of the boys.

“Claye?” Allan asked as soon as he was within range.

Hernande nodded toward the healer’s cottage. “Logan is working on him now. Bryce already informed Sara about Terrim.”

Allan’s shoulders sagged. He looked weary, dark smudges under his eyes. Kara noticed a few new cuts on his face, mostly healed, and the yellowed remnants of fading bruises.

“Did anyone follow you?”

“Not as far as I could tell. They retreated onto the plains, to the east.” His glance shot over Kara’s head, to the others waiting inside. He thrust his chin forward. “We should join them.”

They shifted back into the room.

“Did they attack again?” Sophia asked immediately.

“No, and no one followed us into the foothills.” He looked toward Bryce. “Have you told them about the city?”

“About the Wolves, yes. I tried to convince them to increase our defenses, but they’re being stubborn.”

Sophia bristled.

Allan grabbed a chair and settled in with the rest, slinging the bag he carried over one shoulder to the floor. “What about the quakes?”

Hernande and Cory glanced toward each other.

“Quakes?”

“They haven’t ended. You may not have felt anything here, but they’re continuing in and around Erenthrall. We felt one on our way out, strong enough to collapse a few buildings.”

“We thought the earth was settling. Stabilizing.”

“I don’t think so.”

Hernande leaned forward. “We’ll have to take a look at the sands again, see if the ley has been disturbed.”

“Does it matter?” Sovaan demanded. “If the city has run out of supplies, then why would we want to go back?”

And there it was, what Kara had feared since the discussion began.

“We have to go back.”

“Why?”

“Because we have to heal the distortion. We have to repair the damage that we caused.”

Sovaan straightened in affront. “We didn’t cause this damage. The Nexus exploded because of the Baron and his Prime Wielders and the damned Kormanley. We are simply suffering the consequences. I say we leave the city to the Wolves and the scavengers, let them tear each other apart. We can start fresh here. The Hollow has everything we need.”

Sophia cut off Kara’s response. “The Hollow barely had enough food to feed those of us originally from here this past winter. We certainly didn’t have enough to feed those of you we took in. We survived on what was gathered from Erenthrall.”

“I thought that’s what the new fields were for,” Sovaan countered, “to grow enough food for all of us.”

Sophia’s eyes narrowed. “Crops and harvests are anything but certain. Weather, disease, drought—any of it could destroy everything. We need those supplies from the city. Besides, I don’t recall us agreeing to let you stay here long-term in the first place.”

Allan reached for his bag. “The city provides more than just food. I found these in an apothecary.” He pulled out a few small bottles and handed them around.

Sophia gasped as they reached her. “Logan would kill for this bottle of seranin alone. And I ran out of devil’s claw before the Shattering.” She clutched the small vial close to her chest. “It helps with the arthritis in my hands.”

“I don’t understand,” Kara said. “I thought you’d already raided all of the apothecaries in the uncontrolled areas of the city. Where did you get these?”

“Inside one of the shards.”

It took a moment for it to sink in, but when it did Kara’s eyes widened. “You pulled these out of the distortion?”

“The Wolves trapped me close to the distortion. The only way to escape was to go inside. But the pack’s leader—a man half-transformed, like Hagger—set the Wolves on watch around the shard, waiting for me to come back out. I was forced to move deeper into the distortion to bypass them, and along the way I found the apothecary.” He pulled out a glass jar of peaches. “Along with this. There was enough food in that shard to last us a few days, perhaps a week. None of the others in Erenthrall can reach it.”

Hernande was chewing on the end of his beard now, head bowed in thought. “Is there another way to gain access to these supplies?”

“I can take someone into the distortion with me, but getting them in and back out would be unpleasant.”

“That’s not what I meant. We’ve been discussing how to heal the distortion. While we all agree we don’t have enough Wielders or mentors to take it down all at once, what about healing a single shard at a time?”

Kara drew breath to protest, but paused.

They’d never considered healing it piece by piece.

She glanced up at the others, all waiting expectantly. “It might work. But we’d never be able to heal the entire distortion this way. There are hundreds of shards, if not thousands. It would take too long.”

“What could go wrong?”

“Distortions are delicate. Any change in its configuration, like the removal of a shard, could cause it to unbalance. We may unwittingly set off its closure. And then everything and everyone currently trapped inside would be killed or destroyed. We’d never be able to recover the central part of Erenthrall.”

The group grew somber.

“It doesn’t matter,” Bryce said abruptly. “We can’t pin all of our hopes on the crops. And we can’t count on remaining hidden here in the foothills, not with these groups arming themselves and venturing out onto the plains. We need those supplies trapped in the distortion, and we need to start work on defending ourselves here, at the Hollow.”

“What do you propose?” Sophia asked.

Bryce stood, reaching for the bag Allan still held. The ex-Dog handed it over.

“We need to send some of the Wielders, with protection, to Erenthrall, to see if they can get at the supplies in the shards. As for the Hollow, I don’t have enough Dogs here to protect it fully. We need to start training some of the others to fight. With swords, bows, anything else we can find. Crops will be worthless if we get raided.”

He slung the bag of medicine and food up over his shoulder and headed for the door. “I’m going to hand this over to Logan and then go to my tent. It’s been a long, bitter few days.”

They watched as he stepped outside and turned left, out of sight.

“He’s right,” Allan said grudgingly. “The attack on the wagon only emphasizes what we saw in the city. We need better defenses.”

“Paul won’t like it,” Sophia said. “Nor some of the others. They’ll claim that the only reason we’re at risk is that we took you in, and we should kick you out now.”

“These groups would be coming whether we’d come here or not. Would Paul and the rest rather wait to have their throats slit one night, when one of the groups finds the Hollow? Because that’s what will happen eventually.”

Sophia’s lips pursed at the gruesome image. “No, I suppose not.”

“Then I suggest you start training people how to wield swords and handle bows.”

The elderly woman still appeared resistant. “I’ll have our trackers start drilling those interested in archery. At worst, we could always use additional help with the hunting. And I’ll tell the rest they can go to the Dogs for training with swords if they want.”

“Good.” Allan turned to Kara. “You need to speak to the Wielders and figure out how to heal one of the shards. I don’t want to wait too long before returning to the city.”

Kara contained a surge of excitement. They’d become too complacent here in the Hollow. They needed to begin work on retrieving Erenthrall before that complacency spread. “I’ll meet with them right away. Working to heal a few shards may give us an idea of how to heal the entire distortion, something we haven’t thought of yet. We won’t lack in volunteers, even if Erenthrall is still dangerous.”

“It’s still dangerous. Perhaps more so than before the Shattering.”

Win an Advance Reading Copy of Anthony Ryan's THE WAKING FIRE


I'm giving away my Advance Reading Copy of Anthony Ryan's The Waking Fire to one lucky winner! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Throughout the vast lands controlled by the Ironship Syndicate, nothing is more prized than the blood of drakes. Harvested from the veins of captive or hunted Reds, Green, Blues and Blacks, it can be distilled into elixirs that give fearsome powers to the rare men and women who have the ability harness them—known as the blood-blessed.

But not many know the truth: that the lines of drakes are weakening. If they fail, war with the neighboring Corvantine Empire will follow swiftly. The Syndicate's last hope resides in whispers of the existence of another breed of drake, far more powerful than the rest, and the few who have been chosen by fate to seek it.

Claydon Torcreek is a petty thief and an unregistered blood-blessed, who finds himself pressed into service by the protectorate and sent to wild, uncharted territories in search of a creature he believes is little more than legend. Lizanne Lethridge is a formidable spy and assassin, facing gravest danger on an espionage mission deep into the heart of enemy territory. And Corrick Hilemore is the second lieutenant of an ironship, whose pursuit of ruthless brigands leads him to a far greater threat at the edge of the world.

As lives and empires clash and intertwine, as the unknown and the known collide, all three must fight to turn the tide of a coming war, or drown in its wake.

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam)gryphonwood.net with the header "WAKING." Remember to remove the "no spam" thingy.

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (June 13th)

In hardcover:

Justin Cronin's The City of Mirrors is down ten spots, finishing the week at number 11. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Joe Hill’s The Fireman is down eleven positions, ending the week at number 19.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!


You can now download Walter Jon Williams' Hardwired for only 0.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Earth lies prostrate beneath the lash of the Orbital powers, and Earth’s Balkanized nations have no choice but to let the Orbitals plunder their remaining wealth. Below the zone of Orbital control, buttonheads, panzerjocks, dirtgirls, and hustlers scramble for their ticket out of the gravity well.

But now, if the criminal underworld and the guerilla underground can join forces, there is a chance to shift the balance of power— in a war fought on the ground by hardwired commandos, in the air by high-flying deltajocks, and by genius hackers in the neural interface.

As Roger Zelazny said, “Hardwired” is a tough, sleek juggernaut of a story, punctuated by strobe light movements, coursing to the wail of jets and the twang of steel guitars— glittering, nasty, and noble— and told in a style perfectly suiting its content. It has all of my favorite things— blood, love, fire, hate and a high ideal or two. I wish I’d written this one.”

Fall of Light


Never before have we had to wait this long for a new novel by Steven Erikson. Four years is a long time between installments for the author, which made Fall of Light the most eagerly anticipated fantasy novel of 2016. In this house at least.

And although Forge of Darkness differed in style and tone and did not feature the sort of convergence that always allowed Erikson to cap all of his novels off with style, there was more than enough secrets, questions, and revelations within its covers to satisfy even the most demanding Malazan fans. I was expecting nothing less of this second volume, which is probably why it turned out to be such a disappointment.

Fall of Light was the most difficult Malazan book to get into since Toll the Hounds. Yet unlike that novel, whose ending featured a mind-blowing convergence that totally saved it, the second installment in the Kharkanas trilogy doesn't have that kind of pay-off at the end. Unfortunately, the first part of Fall of Light moves so slowly that I had to pause reading it twice, first to read R. Scott Bakker's The Great Ordeal and then Mark Lawrence's The Wheel of Osheim. Things get better in the second portion of the novel, true, but it's not enough. I'm sad to report that Fall of Light is Erikson's most disappointing Malazan work to date.

Here's the blurb:

It is a bitter winter and civil war is ravaging Kurald Galain. Urusander’s Legion prepares to march on the city of Kharkanas. The rebels’ only opposition lies scattered and weakened - bereft of a leader since Anomander’s departure in search of his estranged brother. The remaining brother, Silchas Ruin, rules in his stead. He seeks to gather the Houseblades of the Highborn families to him and resurrect the Hust Legion in the southlands, but he is fast running out of time.

The officers and leaders of Urusander’s Legion, led by the ruthless Hunn Raal, want the Consort, Draconus, cast aside and their commander to marry Mother Dark and take his place at the side of the Living Goddess. But this union will be far more than simply political. A sorcerous power has claimed those opposing Mother Dark: given form by the exiled High Priestess Syntara, the Cult of Light rises in answer to Mother Dark and her Children.

Far to the west, an unlikely army has gathered, seeking an enemy without form, in a place none can find, and commanded by a Jaghut driven mad with grief. It seems Hood’s call has been heard, and the long-abandoned city of Omtose Phellack is now home to a rabble of new arrivals: Dog-Runners from the south, and Jheck warriors. From the Western Sea strange ships have grounded upon the harsh shore bearing blue-skinned strangers to offer Hood their swords. And from mountain fastnesses and isolated valleys of the North, Toblakai arrive to pledge themselves to Hood’s seemingly impossible war. Soon, they will set forth – or not at all – under the banners of the living. Soon, weapons will be drawn, with Death itself the enemy.

Beneath the chaos of such events, and spanning the realm and those countless other realms hidden behind its veil, magic now bleeds into the world. Unconstrained, mysterious and savage, the power that is the lifeblood of the Azathanai, K’rul, runs loose and wild - and following its scent, seeking the places of wounding and hurt where the sorcery rushes forth, entities both new and ancient are gathering . . . and they are eager to feed.


Once more, Steven Erikson's worldbuilding remains top notch and was by far my favorite aspect of this book. As was the case with Forge of Darkness, even though this second volume raises a panoply of new questions and provides very few answers, discovering more and more regarding that distant and mysterious past is utterly fascinating. Revelations concerning the Thel Akai, the Jaghut, the Dog-Runners, the Eleint, K'rul and the new Warrens, Draconus, and much, much more, prove yet again that the Malazan universe resounds with more depth than any other SFF environment ever created.

On the other hand, the characterization is the facet that leaves the most to be desired. I felt that Forge of Darkness unfolded through the eyes of a great many disparate characters, a lot more than I felt was necessary. Only time would tell, I opined, if such a high number of POV protagonists was indeed required in order to convey the story in full. Fall of Light demonstrates beyond a shadow of a doubt that this tale suffers from so many different perspectives. This enormous amount of points of view bogs down the narrative and often brings little to the overall story arc. Moreover, every single character goes through unending bouts of introspection, and it appears that they all have their own thoughts on the rise and fall of civilization as we know it. There is so much introspection in this book that it makes R. Scott Bakker's The Darkness That Comes Before feel like a page-turning thriller. Yes, it is that bad. The Thel Akai plotline and the one focusing on Prazek and Dathenar are meant to provide comic relief from the dark and depressing undertones that imbue the entire novel, but they fall short and come across as a bit silly, all things considered.

If you can see beyond all that self-examination, philosophical meanderings, and soul-searching, there are a number of storylines that stand out from the rest of the pack. Chief among them would be the Jaghut and Hood's war on death, K'rul's revelations regarding what spilling his blood has engendered, the Hust Legion, the Shake, Anomander Rake's quest, as well as Draconus' apparent love for Mother Dark and its repercussions. But in the end, Fall of Light suffers from way too much contemplation and from its Shakespearean style and tone.

The pace is atrocious. There is no other way to put it, and its a world away from the sort of rhythm Erikson has accustomed us to in the past. The author usually starts slow, gradually building up the plotlines, and then going all out for a mind-blowing finale. Virtually all the Malazan installments were like that, so fans have come to expect such structure from Erikson. With Forge of Darkness, it was the complete opposite. The book featured a strong beginning, and then an even stronger middle portion. Yet instead of the exciting ending that we have come to love, Erikson came up with a somewhat weaker and anticlimactic ending. Fall of Light follows a different pattern. This one features an interesting but slow-moving beginning, a so-so middle portion that gets better as we get closer to the end, and a decidedly lackluster ending that fails to save the book.

This mostly has to do with the fact that the long-awaited civil war showdown against Urusander's Legion doesn't take place per se. Instead of making the great battle a part of the narrative and thus ensuring a grand and rousing finale, Erikson elected to briefly summarize it. Given the fact that the majority of the plotlines from the last two installments all led to this confrontation, failing to make this engagement a part of the narrative pretty much killed the story and robbed the ending of any emotional impact it was meant to convey. Hard to believe that Steven Erikson made such a decision, as few speculative fiction writers can come up with such amazing action sequences and battl scenes.

In the end, Fall of Light features too much introspection and too little action. The tale moves forward at a snail's pace and offers too little in terms of pay-off at the end. As such, it is Erikson's weakest Malazan book to date and a major disappointment. Let's hope that the final volume will be a return to form for the author. . .

The final verdict: 6.5/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe